Practicing Forgiveness as a Choice

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

There is a paradox when it comes to forgiveness. If someone has done something that has hurt us deeply, then they are the person whom we have to decide whether we will choose to forgive. At the same time, because they have wounded us deeply, it often feels like they are the last person we want to, or should, offer forgiveness. 

In yesterday’s reflection, Jake Owensby poignantly described his struggle as a new parent to forgive his abusive father for the pain he had inflicted during his childhood. Jake’s anger and resentment blocked his ability to forgive his father, and only after he sought spiritual guidance did he realize this, and could began to let go of his resentment.

Jake’s story of forgiveness is personal and thus unique, yet all of us have stories of how we have been bruised by life. Perhaps we weren’t injured by our parents, but if we live long enough, someone will hurt or betray us, and we will then have the same choice that Jake had. We will then decide whether to hold on to our hurt and resentment, or begin the process of letting it go, and doing what we can to mend what is broken.

This week’s reflections will explore the theme introduced by Jake, that forgiveness is always a choice. Will we hold on to our resentment or guilt or will we begin the hard work of letting go of it so that we can forgive and heal ourselves and, perhaps, mend the relationship? 

Making It Personal: What is your response to the quote from Jake? What thoughts do you have about “Forgiveness is a choice”?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

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The Third Sunday Of Lent

 
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Reflection by The Rt. Rev. Jake Owensby

Our now-thirty-year-old son, Andrew, was still a toddler. My wife Joy and I loved being exhausted rookie parents. Students were quickly filling my intro philosophy classes, so the prospects for tenure looked great. Home life and career couldn’t have been more rewarding.

And yet, a persistent resentment, punctuated by episodes of sadness and self-doubt, pulled at the threads holding the fabric of my life together. My past was unraveling my present.

My parents had divorced two decades earlier. My abusive father had used me as a pawn to injure my mother. Effectively isolated by my father’s manipulations, my mother had only me to lean on as she endured her own fear, outrage, and misery. This all left an enduring mark on ten-year-old me.

I wish I could say that by the beginning of my fourth decade I had gained admirable perspective. But that’s not true. I remained angry with both my parents for different reasons. And while forgiveness presented itself as the only reliable path to peace and sanity, the art of navigating that sometimes tortuous way eluded me.

Eventually, I sought spiritual guidance from a priest whom I barely knew. 

“I can’t forgive my parents,” I told him. 

He paused and then asked, “Can you ask Jesus to forgive them?”

In hindsight it’s clear where he was leading me: “Can you recognize that the brokenness they caused in you arose from something broken in them? Can you desire for them the same wholeness that you seek for yourself?”

Paradoxically, his question showed me that my healing involved receiving God’s forgiveness for my unforgiveness. I had developed the habit of coping with pain by resenting the one who hurt me. Even though others were accountable for the initial injury to my heart, the spiritual practice I had developed was dismantling me from within. I needed to unlearn the practice of resentment and replace it with the practice of forgiveness. For my own sake.

Jesus made this point with his disciples. Reflecting on the suffering that Pilate’s cruelty and a freak accident had visited on two groups of innocent Galileans, Jesus urges them to repent. External circumstances can bring us to our knees. But the internal motions of our heart and mind and soul can shatter our lives from within.

Forgiveness has nothing to do with giving others a pass for destructive behavior or being someone else’s doormat. Instead, a forgiving soul recognizes that the world has battered and bruised us all, and still chooses to focus on doing what it can to mend what is broken.


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

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Living Well in Thought, Word, and Deed

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

We pause again here to look back and integrate what we have learned during the past week. Mildred Reyes introduced our theme and practice for the week when she wrote about the importance of making time and space in our lives for practicing self-acceptance and forgiveness toward ourselves.

A core thought, found throughout our Living Compass wellness programs, is that “you cannot pour from an empty cup.” When we fail to practice regular self-care and renewal, our spiritual and emotional cups soon become empty, and we have little to share with others. This is true when it comes to forgiveness, as well. We will find it hard to offer forgiveness and acceptance to others if we are not regularly practicing forgiveness and acceptance toward ourselves.

The quote from Desmond and Mpho Tutu is a perfect summary of what we have been reflecting upon this week. Read it again slowly, and then reflect on what it says to you in the “Making It Personal” section below.

Making It Personal: As you reread the quote, what stands out for you? As you think back over the reflections for this week, as well as your own notes, what thoughts and feelings were most important to you? What do you think about having a conversation with someone about what you are learning? Is there something you have done, or some action that you want to take, as a result of what you are learning?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

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Practicing Forgiveness with All Your Mind

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

Mildred Reyes began our week with the quote above from Henri Nouwen. It reminds us that forgiveness takes time and requires patience. This is true whether we are talking about forgiving ourselves or seeking to forgive, or receive forgiveness from, others. 

If, for example, we have struggled with forgiving ourselves, or if we have struggled with some form of perfectionism, we cannot just snap our fingers and make that go away. Learning to be patient with ourselves regarding any changes we are trying to make is one expression of self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. And learning to trust God’s timing in all of this is a reminder that our capacity to forgive, both ourselves and others, is a spiritual process that flows from God’s love and forgiveness of us, as Mildred so beautifully reminded us.

Forgiveness is also about the willingness to wait patiently. Our timetable for forgiveness, or dealing with our stuff, is not determined by us, but by divine timing. … How will we invite God to gather us under her wings where we can wait patiently, practice forgiving, and love with our whole being?

Making It Personal:Do you ever struggle with impatience when it comes to forgiveness? In what ways do you connect being able to forgive with God, and with your faith? How do you respond when your timing and God’s timing for forgiveness seem to be out of sync?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

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Practicing Forgiveness with All Your Strength

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

I struggled with perfectionism for much of the first half of my life. It started early in school and carried over into youth sports, and then into my young adult life. I attached my self worth to achievement and thought that the more perfect I was the more I would be loved.

I learned in midlife that perfectionism is rooted in a lack of self-love and that as a child of God I am already loved for simply being who I am. I don’t need to earn that love and acceptance, and I can’t do anything to lose it. This is the lesson the Prodigal Son learned when he returned home after having squandered everything his father gave him.

Social media has many wonderful aspects to it, but one downside is that it can fool us into thinking that other peoples’ lives are perfect, or at least that they are happier and more successful than we are. If we are not careful, the constant and unrealistic comparison of our “insides” to the “outside images” from the lives of others can fuel perfectionism in ourselves. 

The advice contained in the quote from author Roy Bennett is the perfect prescription for a healthy way to embrace our imperfect selves. “Embrace being perfectly imperfect. Learn from your mistakes and forgive yourselves, you’ll be much happier.” I know the truth of this myself as I have been much happier ever since I embraced that I am, and always will be, perfectly imperfect. 

Making It Personal: Have you ever struggled with perfectionism? Do you find yourself comparing your life to others and feeling that some aspect of your life is not quite good enough? What helps you if or when you struggle with perfectionism, or comparing yourself to others? 


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

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Practicing Forgiveness with All Your Soul

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

As people of faith, our desire and capacity to forgive ourselves is grounded in God’s love and forgiveness for us. We can practice greater acceptance and forgiveness of ourselves, as well, because we know that God fully loves and forgives us. As the words from 2 Corinthians state, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God.”

Have you ever felt uncomfortable receiving a gift from someone? Maybe the gift was an expression of thanks for a favor you did and you felt the gift was far more than necessary. Or you may have felt that what you did was not really deserving of a gift. It can feel very awkward trying to graciously receive a gift that we don’t feel we deserve.

We may feel something similar when it comes to receiving the gift of God’s forgiveness. We may feel like we don’t really deserve to be loved or forgiven by God. This thinking creates a self-defeating loop because if we struggle to love and forgive ourselves, it is hard for us to receive others’, including God’s, love and forgiveness. 

Making It Personal: Has there ever been a time in your life when you struggled to receive and truly feel God’s love and forgiveness? Are you experiencing this in any way in your life now? Examine your response to the passage from 2 Corinthians: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” How might this passage help you more fully receive God’s forgiveness?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

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Practicing Forgiveness with All Your Heart

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

In my work as a pastoral psychotherapist I encounter two different ways people have trouble forgiving themselves. The first has to do with something specific that a person has done for which they are having trouble forgiving themselves. Quite often they feel deep regret about how they have hurt or betrayed someone, or how they have betrayed a core value within themselves. 

A second way I encounter people seeking forgiveness is more general in nature. These people usually can’t identify anything specific they feel bad about having done, but live with a pervasive and chronic sense of not feeling good enough, a sense that they have just never quite measured up to some internal or external standard. Further exploration usually reveals that this sense of not being good enough is related to their having internalized this message growing up, whether in their home or from the surrounding environment and culture in which they lived.

No matter the origin of a need to forgive ourselves, the path to healing is the same. First, we need to acknowledge both to God and, if possible, to someone else we trust, the real pain of not feeling worthy and of our need to forgive ourselves. Opening our hearts in this way creates an opening to receive God’s forgiveness and to begin to “let the burden go, and walk out into a new path of promise and possibility.”

Making It Personal: Have you ever felt your past was a “jailer” that prevents you from being free to enjoy your life in the present? Do you currently experience either way of forgiving yourself described above? If so, what has helped or what will help you to forgive yourself?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Practicing Forgiveness Toward Ourselves

 
Living Well Though Lent - Living Compass
 

Reflection by Scott Stoner

Mildred Reyes wrote in yesterday’s reflection about her experience of going on a silent retreat. Her candid description of why she felt the need for a retreat is something with which most of us can probably identify.

Lent provides its own season for us to go on an inner retreat, and your commitment to read and reflect using this devotional each day is one way to honor your soul’s need to be connected with God in a quiet and intentional manner.

When we make time to connect with God, we will often receive guidance. For Mildred, she felt God was saying to her, “Be gentle, forgive yourself, and do not be afraid to wait.” I believe there is a connection between the guidance she received to accept and forgive herself, and the unease she was experiencing that led her to go on a silent retreat in the first place. Often when we are feeling stressed, distracted, scattered, and overwhelmed, it is because we are feeling driven by an underlying feeling of not being good enough. Practicing acceptance and forgiveness toward ourselves will be our focus and practice for this week, and we will explore how it is the foundation of our emotional and spiritual wellness. We will also examine the idea that it is difficult to forgive others if we are not able to forgive ourselves. 

Making It Personal: Can you identify with Mildred’s experience, feeling distracted, scattered and a bit lost, and in need of some time away to re-center yourself? If so, how do you or how might you make some time to reconnect with yourself and with God? Do you see a connection in your life between the ability to forgive yourself and your emotional and spiritual wellness?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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The Second Sunday in Lent

 
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Reflection by Mildred J. Reyes

Each day, I wake up with a grateful heart because I know that God is creating something new in me despite being a sinner living in a fallen world tainted by sin. In this season of Lent, we contemplate the passion of Jesus, take time for self-reflection and examination, and we repent and ask for forgiveness. Now, I am not the first nor will I be the last to say that practicing forgiveness is not an easy process—it can be a long and hard one—but it is not impossible, either.

Recently, for the first time and out of pure need, I participated in a silent retreat because I felt that my world—mind, heart, and soul—was overwhelmed with stuff that had reached an unmanageable state, and that there was no strength left in me, or so I believed. I found myself feeling distracted, scattered, and lost, unsure of what lay ahead. As I got in the car, I thought about how I would spend my time in silence. I was prepared with my bagged lunch, journal, coloring pencils, walking shoes, reading materials, and openness and willingness to welcome God’s voice in the midst of utter pandemonium. 

Just like we heard about Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem in today’s Gospel, I began my silent retreat grieving the unmanageable overflow of stuff that was imprisoning me from being free. How can we turn our regrets into something good, I wondered? As I walked the vast fields, sat by the pond and watched gentle ripples move across the water’s surface, and listened to the birds chirping, it came to me: “be gentle, forgive yourself, and do not be afraid to wait.” 

In that wisdom, I was reminded that Jesus teaches us that unconditional forgiveness and compassion toward penitent hearts requires our participation. It requires waiting, trusting, hoping, and being willing to change. In order to move toward being free, we first need to practice forgiveness by saying “I forgive you, and I ask for forgiveness” over and over to those who have harmed us, to those we have harmed, and then, most important of all, forgiving ourselves. No matter the level of adversity or distractions in our lives, we can trust that God is compassionate, tender, and understanding. She will lighten us with her love, grace, mercy, and redemption, if we but only acknowledge her presence. In forgiving, we free ourselves to move forward, transforming our old selves into the new life that Christ has given us. Then we will begin to see beauty where we didn’t before, and we will become more joyful because we now know God’s infinite love and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is also about the willingness to wait patiently. Our timetable for forgiveness, or dealing with our stuff, is not determined by us, but by divine timing. I draw inspiration from Henri Nouwen, who wrote, “The spirituality of waiting is not simply our waiting for God. It is also participating in God’s own waiting for us and in that way coming to share in the deepest purity of love, which is God’s love.” How will we invite God to gather us under her wings where we can wait patiently, practice forgiving, and love with our whole being? 


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Living Well in Thought, Word, and Deed

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

Today, as we do each Saturday in this devotional, we pause to look back and integrate what we have learned during the past week. Trawin Malone introduced our theme and practice for the week when he wrote that one of the impediments to being able to forgive is that we all face the temptation to protect ourselves. In Sunday’s reflection he asked us a question that we have been thinking about throughout the week: “How does the temptation to protect our power, possessions, and prestige keep us from forgiving ourselves and others?” 

We are examining the idea that forgiveness is complex and often is connected to powerful emotions. As you interact with the material in this devotional you may find yourself experiencing thoughts and memories that you haven’t considered for a long time. This is normal and helpful and may reveal new opportunities for you to consider forgiveness. 

While the quotes and writings being offered in this devotional are important, what is even more important are your thoughts, memories, and learnings as you relate the material to your own life and your own journey of forgiveness. 

Making It Personal:Looking back on the readings for this first full week of Lent, as well as your own notes, what thoughts were most important for you? Did you, or do you intend to, have a conversation with someone about what you are thinking? Is there something you have done, or some action that you want to take, as a result of what you are learning?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Practicing Forgiveness with All Your Mind

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho are the authors of the one of the most inspiring and helpful books on forgiveness: The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World. Desmond Tutu is a South African Anglican bishop who is well-known for his work confronting and helping to dismantle apartheid in South Africa, the work for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. 

The quote above is from this book and because it is so powerful, I’d like to share the whole quote as a part of today’s reflection. These are profound words and so please take some time to reflect on them in the “Making It Personal” section below.

The quality of human life on our planet is nothing more than the sum total of our daily interactions with one another. Each time we help, and each time we harm, we have a dramatic impact on our world. Because we are humans, some of our interactions will go wrong, and then we will hurt or be hurt, or both. It is the nature of being human, and it is unavoidable. Forgiveness is the way we set those interactions right. It is the way we mend tears in the social fabric. It is the way we stop our human community from unraveling. 

Making It Personal:Slowly reread the quote from The Book of Forgivingand then notice what word or phrase stands out for you. What do you think of the idea that it is unavoidable that we will hurt each other? What do you think of the idea that it is forgiveness that sets things right, and mends the tears in our social fabric?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Practicing Forgiveness with All Your Strength

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

There is extensive research proving that chronic, unresolved stress affects us both emotionally and physically. Some doctors estimate that fifty percent of visits to a general physician are connected to stress presenting as physical symptoms. Stress takes a toll on our immune system and on our overall physical well-being.

There are many causes of stress. One that relates to our practice this week is when we are carrying unresolved grudges and resentments. When we do this, we often think we are protecting ourselves or somehow are gaining “the upper hand” by not being willing to forgive and let go of our resentment. The truth is that when we hold on to anger, we are ones who often suffer. When we do not forgive, it hurts us to the point that our physical health can become compromised. 

What is true about the possible health consequences of not being able to forgive others also holds true when it comes to not forgiving ourselves, or not being able to ask for someone’s forgiveness when we have hurt them. At the same time, our mental health can also suffer when we are not able to forgive. Clearly, our peace of mind is negatively affected and our lives are diminished if we are trapped by unforgiveness. 

Making It Personal: What is your reaction to today’s quote? Have you ever experienced a sense of freedom when you have been able to forgive? Can you think of a time in your life when not being able to forgive someone else, or yourself, had a negative effect on either your physical or emotional well-being?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Practicing Forgiveness with All Your Soul

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

The Soul quadrant of the Living Compass includes Spirituality as one dimension of wellness. For Christians, our spiritual understanding of wellness is grounded in the life and teachings of Jesus, as well as the other teachings of the Old and New Testaments. 

Christian teachings about forgiveness completely align with our theme this week of practicing forgiveness as a way to overcome our natural tendency to protect ourselves. Jesus, of course, modeled this in the fullest way possible in his life and in his death. 

The passage above from the Message describes well the heart of the Christian life. We are not in the driver’s seat. Suffering is part of what it means to be alive and self-sacrifice is the path to finding our true selves. All of this is quite countercultural in a world that defines the way to finding our true selves as more about building up and protecting our own egos.

We cannot practice forgiveness from our egos; a deeper practice of forgiveness must be rooted in the soul, in the depths of our spiritual lives. The ego’s agenda is to divide and protect, while the soul seeks to transcend and include. The ego insists on being in the driver’s seat, while the soul is humble enough to realize its need for God to be in the driver’s seat. 

Making It Personal: Take a few moments and reflect on the scripture at the beginning of this reflection. What do you hear when you read it? Does it make you uncomfortable or do you find it reassuring? What do you think about the idea that deeper forgiveness must come from the soul and not from the ego? 


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Practicing Forgiveness with All Your Heart

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

The Heart quadrant of the Living Compass focuses on two aspects of wellness: Handling Emotions and Healthy Relationships. Forgiveness clearly touches on these two areas of wellness, as well as on our practice this week of our need to overcome a tendency to protect ourselves in order to be able to both forgive and seek forgiveness. 

Today’s quote reminds us that holding on to anger when someone has hurt us actually causes our emotional well-being to constrict. Anger makes us smaller, while, as the quote goes on to say, the process of forgiveness stretches us and forces us to grow beyond our comfort zone. 

As we discussed yesterday, this is all quite complex. There are times when being able to be angry is a sign of growth and healthy empowerment. But there are times when our anger is unconsciously acting to protect us and even unconsciously trying to punish another. Trying to hurt someone who has hurt us by giving them the cold, silent treatment or refusing to connect in any way with them would be an example of the kind of anger that makes us smaller. Making the harder choice to work on forgiveness and possible reconnection means that we will have to give up our self-protection in order to grow. 

Making It Personal: What role to you see forgiveness playing in your life in the two areas: Handling Emotions and Healthy Relationships? How might moving toward forgiveness impact your emotional life and your relationships?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Practicing Forgiveness to Overcome Our Natural Tendency to Protect Ourselves

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

Forgiveness is multi-faceted and is something that touches every aspect of wellness, including spiritual, emotional, relational, and physical. 

Given the complexity of the topic of forgiveness, each Monday for the next six weeks we will introduce a different dimension of forgiveness to reflect on as a focus and spiritual practice for the week. This will be based on an aspect of forgiveness addressed by one of our guest writers in that week’s Sunday reflection. 

Yesterday Trawin Malone reflected on the biblical reading assigned for the first Sunday in Lent where Jesus is facing temptation in the wilderness. Near the end of his reflection he asks us this hard question: “How does the temptation to protect our power, possessions, and prestige keep us from forgiving ourselves and others?” Based on this provocative question, our practice for this week is focused on the aspect of forgiveness that requires us to examine and overcome our natural tendency to protect ourselves. 

If someone has hurt our feelings, one way we might protect ourselves is by simply distancing ourselves from that person. Sometimes this may be the appropriate response, but at other times it could be that we are protecting ourselves by holding on to a grudge when a healthier, more vulnerable, choice would be to have an honest conversation with the person to begin the process of forgiveness.

Making It Personal: How do you see the theme of forgiveness connecting to the idea that we need to overcome our natural tendency to protect ourselves? Have you ever held a grudge as a form of self-protection? Are you holding on to one right now? If so, is there a different choice you would like to make?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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The First Sunday in Lent

 
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Reflection by The Rev. Dr. Trawin Malone

Frederick Buechner, writer, novelist, poet, autobiographer, essayist, preacher, and theologian writes, “To forgive somebody is to say one way or another, ‘You have done something unspeakable, and by all rights I should call it quits between us. Both my pride and my principles demand no less. However, although I make no guarantees that I will be able to forget what you’ve done, and though we may both carry the scars for life, I refuse to let it stand between us.’”

Yes, there are times when we must take a break from a relationship—with a toxic person or system. Sometimes circumstances dictate that the break lasts a lifetime. However, how we stay connected then becomes extremely important. Do I allow my emotions or the emotions of the other determine the course of the relationship? Or can I stay connected by taking care of myself, leaving the door open for a time when we are both healthy enough to reconcile? 

I wonder if Jesus had this in mind as he went to the desert to be tempted by the deceiver (Luke 4:1-13). The deceiver says to Jesus, “Stay connected to me; don’t trust yourself.” Jesus responds to each temptation from the foundation of his core values—the Word of God. Jesus refuses to be deceived. Yet, he stays connected: to God, to himself, and to the other. 

Haven’t we all at one time or another in our lives been deceivers? Haven’t there been times when I have, either in the course of protecting my power, possessions or prestige—the three things with which the deceiver tempted Jesus—consciously or unconsciously been the deceiver of another human being? 

In the Gospel, the deceiver runs away—quits the relationship. Wholeness with ourselves and with another person means that we don’t quit. Forgiveness means being made whole. Being whole personally. Being whole with the other person. Whatever form it takes, forgiveness brings wholeness to the relationship. 

Forgiveness means remaining connected—connected in a way that transcends our emotions and reactivity. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Make us whole. 

On this first Sunday in Lent, and for the rest of this Lenten season, perhaps our wholeness will come about as we move toward forgiving ourselves for self-deception and connecting once again with our true selves in God. 

How does the temptation to protect our power, possessions, and prestige keep us from forgiving ourselves and others? 

Who quits first? Who connects first?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
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Living Well in Thought, Word, and Deed

 
Living Well Though Lent - Living Compass
 

Reflection by Scott Stoner

Each Saturday this Lent we will take a few moments to integrate and reflect on what we have learned during the week. This first week is a short week because we began with Ash Wednesday, but it is good to get in the habit of using the space provided here for Saturday reflections and to internalize what we have learned.

As we explore the theme of Practicing Forgiveness with All Your Heart, Soul, Strength, and Mind, we will find that forgiveness is a process that involves several stages. The first stage has to do with having new thoughts or insights about forgiveness. Next, we often find that we want to have a word/conversation with someone about our thoughts. It may be someone with whom we want either to seek, or to offer, forgiveness, or we may be reading this devotional with others and want to discuss with them what we are learning. The final stage of forgiveness is often some kind of action that we are ready to take to finalize or outwardly demonstrate the forgiveness.

This process of thought, word, and deed will be repeated each Saturday and so today we invite you to make note of your thoughts, words, and deeds related to what you have learned this week about forgiveness in the “Making it Personal” section below.

Making It Personal: Looking back on the readings for these first few days of Lent, as well as your own notes, what thoughts were most important for you? Did you, or do you intend to, have a conversation with someone about what you are learning? Is there something you have already done, or some action that you want to take, as a result of what you are learning? How does that make you feel?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
Living Well Through Lent 2019
Join Group
 

Forgiving with All Your Heart, Soul, Strength, and Mind

 
Living Well Though Lent - Living Compass
 

Reflection by Scott Stoner

The power of the liturgy for Ash Wednesday is grounded in how directly it addresses both our mortality and our need for forgiveness. Remembering that we are dust and to dust we shall return has a way of putting things in perspective. It is in the context of our mortality that we are reminded that the time to seek forgiveness and strengthen our relationship with God and others is now. 

The season of Lent has different meanings for different people. For many, it has a positive meaning in that it provides a context to go deeper in one’s faith journey. For others, unfortunately, the season of Lent has a negative association because it has been connected with guilt and shame. This negative understanding of Lent is captured in a response I have heard more than once: “I have decided to give up Lent this year because I am tired of making myself feel bad.”

This devotional approaches Lent differently, with a positive mindset, one that is described in the words of Psalm 51—read in the context of the Ash Wednesday liturgy—“Create in me a clean heart, O God and put a new and right spirit within me.” The goal of Lent is not to make us feel bad, but rather to renew our spirits. It is similar to the reason people choose to exercise on a regular basis—to renew themselves and make themselves stronger.

Making It Personal:When you think of observing the season of Lent, are your thoughts positive, negative, or neutral? What has your history been of observing this season? If at end of this season of Lent you are to experience a renewed spirit, what might that specifically look like for you?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
Living Well Through Lent 2019
Join Group
 

Forgiving with All Your Heart, Soul, Strength, and Mind

 
Living Well Though Lent - Living Compass
 

Reflection by Scott Stoner

The quote above is from the closing words of Jennifer Baskerville-Burrow’s reflection and they serve as a perfect invitation to our Lenten journey. I recently asked a group of people what they thought the difference was between going on a trip and going on a journey. The group was unanimous in their response. They said that going on a journey implies that you are changed internally by the experience, whereas going on a trip does not necessarily create such a change within us. Given this distinction, it makes perfect sense for Jennifer to frame Lent as a journey because in this season we seek to be changed by deepening our connection with God, our neighbor, and ourselves. 

The word salvation means healing and comes from the root word salve, as in something that you put on a wound. Jennifer wrote in her reflection that she hoped our Lenten journey would lead to healing, both of ourselves and our world. All journeys are from one point to another, and as we begin our Lenten journey, we invite you to reflect on the point from which you are starting by reflecting on the question in the “Making it Personal” section below.

Making It Personal: As you begin your Lenten journey, what are your hopes for this experience? Is there any dis-ease or lack of ease in your life right now for which you seek healing? If so, might that dis-ease be related in any way to the theme of forgiveness that we will focus on in this devotional?


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
Living Well Through Lent 2019
Join Group
 

Ash Wednesday

 
Living Well Though Lent - Living Compass
 

Reflection by The Right Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows

In a time that seems to be defined by extremes, “extreme polarization” and “extreme violence” come to mind, I’ve been pondering the notion of “extreme forgiveness.” The Litany of Penitence which is part of the Episcopal Ash Wednesday proper liturgy strikes me as an opportunity to seek God’s extreme forgiveness for all the wrongs we have done or in which we have been complicit.

Last year I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Eva Kor, a survivor of the Holocaust and the twins experiments of Dr. Mengele. She and her sister Miriam were imprisoned at Auschwitz for nine months in 1944 and subjected to medical experiments in the “Blood Lab.” A native of Romania, Kor was liberated from Auschwitz and lived in Israel before marrying her husband and settling in Terre Haute, Indiana, where she still resides. Though she was more than a witness to the horrors of the Holocaust and has had life-long health problems resulting from her ordeal, she eventually found radical forgiveness as her path to true liberation and, in her words, release from victimhood. She did not want evil and hate to define her life. Nearly 50 years after her imprisonment she interviewed and then wrote a letter of forgiveness to Dr. Hans Munch, an operator of the gas chambers that killed so many. Now in her 80s, Ms. Kor speaks to adults and children about her experience and journey to such extreme forgiveness. 

There is no doubt that forgiving so radically requires deep maturity, grace, and mercy. Eva Kor says, that for her, the forgiving brings the healing. Though she doesn’t approach her extreme forgiveness from a place of spirituality and mindful of the Christian complicity in the Holocaust, I believe her story has something to offer those of us who observe the season of Lent. Lent is our time to be intentional about taking stock of the most broken parts of our lives and our world as we seek forgiveness for our sins of omission and commission. In the era of #MeToo, rampant gun violence, Black Lives Matter, and so many other structural ills in our society, it may be too much to imagine writing a letter of forgiveness to someone who has caused us pain or done violence to us. It might be beyond our fathoming to recount the pain, let alone forgive. It may seem too extreme. And yet … Jesus, who had an enviable well of forgiveness to draw upon even as he hung from the cross, continually calls us to the Way of Love and new depths of grace, mercy and liberation. There are many paths to liberation and extreme forgiveness is but one. However we get there, may this Lenten journey lead to the healing of ourselves and our world that allows resurrection, not evil, to be our defining story. 


Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP FOR LENT, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

 
Living Well Through Lent 2019
Join Group