Practicing Forgiveness within Our Families

 
Living Well in Through Lent - Living Compass
 

Reflection by Scott Stoner

Conflict and opportunities for forgiveness within families have been around as long as there have been families. So it is not surprising that two thousand years ago Jesus told of the conflict within the family of the Prodigal Son. This story speaks to us because we can identify with each of the three primary characters: the younger brother who is in need of forgiveness for the mistakes he has made, the father who has the opportunity to demonstrate forgiveness and unconditional love, and the older brother who feels slighted and taken for granted. 

When we experience hurt within our families, we have the same choice as the older brother. Bill Miller describes this choice when he writes that if he so chooses, the older brother can “stay angry, distant and judgmental.” Or he can choose to embrace “his long-lost brother and join the celebration, forgiving everyone, especially himself.”

Throughout our lives, we have countless opportunities to practice forgiveness within our families, and so this week we will focus on this as our theme, learning more about what forgiveness and reconciliation might look like within our closest relationships. 

Making It Personal: Think of times when you have identified with each of the three characters in the story. Have you ever been blessed to receive forgiveness and unconditional love within your family? Have you been able to offer this 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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The Fourth Sunday in Lent

 
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Reflection by Father William “Bill” Miller

Pig Pods, Dancing Dogs, and Bitter Brothers

When I moved to the island of Kauai from Texas, a veterinarian friend came to visit. I took her to tour the Kauai Humane Society (the island animals call it a “five-paw resort!”). One goofy-looking fellow was so happy to see us that he ran up and pressed himself against the chain-link fence. The Humane Society could tell us only that they found him wandering by the side of the road. He’d either left home for some reason,or never had one. We took him outside. His exuberance was uncontainable! He began to dart and dance, joyfully leaping toward the heavens, pausing only to lick my face. My friend examined him and pronounced him physically fit and psychologically sound. “Whatever he’s been through,” she said, “all is forgiven. He’s happy to be alive. This guy’s a keeper.” 

So I kept him. I named my new Texawaiianpoi dog (mutt) Nawiliwili Nelson. Wilibecame my best friend. His love for me was unconditional, his faithfulness unwavering. His unbounded enthusiasm for life, which I loved, occasionally did land him in trouble, like the day he ran across the street and into the second-grade classroom at Wilcox Elementary, or the Sunday morning he knocked over a lady at my church simply because he was happy to see her. But no matter what he got himself into, it was easy to look past Wili’s faults because I knew he would look past mine. Whether I was gone for thirty minutes or thirty days, Wiliwould wait for me at the front door. When I walked in, his happy dog dance catapulted him straight into my arms. 

When his special-needs doggie brother, Sinbad, was adopted, Wilinever grew weary of showing him how to be a dog. Even when we moved to New Orleans and a pit-bull, Mahalia Jackson Queen Liliuokalani, came to live with us, Wiligreeted her with open paws. His attitude reminded me of the One who made both of us—eternally happy to welcome us home.

When the religious zealots of his day (purebreds) judged Jesus for hanging out with real people (mutts), painfully aware of their own shortcomings, Jesus shared a powerful story of a young man who demanded his inheritance early, just so he could sniff out the greener grass he thought was far from home. He had a good time—for a little while. But he ran out of money, meaning, and everything that matters. He got a part-time job feeding pigs. He was so hungry that he even craved the pods the pigs were eating. He came to his senses and set out for home, determined to seek his father’s forgiveness and work off his debts like a hired hand. 

What he didn’t know was that his faithful father had waited by the front door the whole time. While he was still far off, his father saw him, flung open the door, and ran full-speed to greet him. He nearly knocked him over! His dad threw a big party and barbecued his tastiest cow. Everyone danced and celebrated. Everyone, that is, except his bitter big brother. The elder brother assumed that, because he had never strayed far from home, his dad owed him something. He was mad at his dad for not throwing hima party. His dad embraced him and assured him of his love, reminding him that when anyone returns home, when one who never thought they could be forgiven, is not only forgiven but given a fresh start—it’s time to party!

We don’t know the rest of the story, but I hope, for his sake, he came to his senses. I hope that rather than staying angry, distant and judgmental, he eventually embraced his long-lost brother and joined in the celebration, forgiving everyone, especially himself. I hope that he danced. I hope that he danced with the joyful exuberance of someone who had finally found a way home.


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 take time once again on Saturday to reflect on what we have learned this past week about forgiveness, and specifically about our theme for this week, that forgiveness is a choice. 

The Gospel passage provides a helpful lens through which to look at our theme for this week. In this short parable, Jesus is making the point that one of the cornerstones of being a Christian is living a life that bears the fruits of Jesus’ teachings. One of the cornerstones of Jesus’ teaching is forgiveness, and so every time we make the often-difficult choice to forgive, we can be encouraged that we are bearing the fruit that Jesus desires for us to bear.

We are halfway through Lent now and we at Living Compass pray that your Lenten journey is bearing the fruit that you and God desire. We hope that you have experienced insights and growth in multiple areas of wellness—spiritual, emotional, physical, and relational. Rest assured that there is still plenty of time left in Lent and ample opportunity for all of us to grow in our understanding and practice of forgiveness.

Making It Personal: As you look back on the past week, are there are particular thoughts you want to be sure to remember? Was there a conversation you had with someone, or is there one you want to have, regarding the understanding that forgiveness is a choice? Finally, is there anything you have done, or want to do differently, based on this teaching?


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

In last Sunday’s reflection, Jake Owensby shared that the turning point in his decision to forgive his father was the spiritual counsel he received from a priest about his resentment. This wise priest encouraged Jake to think about the brokenness in his father, pain that no doubt contributed to his hurtful actions. 

There is a saying that “hurt people, hurt people.” It is often the case that people who hurt others have been hurt themselves. Reflecting on how someone else’s brokenness is often behind their hurtful actions in no way excuses the behavior, or that the person gets a pass for what they have done, but it does expand our perspective and understanding.

Becoming aware that it is often a person’s brokenness that causes them to hurt others or even do things that hurt themselves, while not excusing their behavior, does often soften our heart when thinking about the pain that has been caused. It is much easier to choose to forgive with a softened heart than with one that is still hardened by anger. 

Choosing to practice forgiveness toward someone who has hurt us because of their own hurt begins to break the cycle of “hurt people, hurt people.” When we are hurt, we can choose to pass that hurt on to another, or we can make the sometimes more difficult choice to forgive, thus ending the cycle of injury. 

Making It Personal:What do you think of the idea that “hurt people hurt people?” Have you experienced that, either with another person or with yourself? Have you ever found it easier to forgive yourself or someone else because you realized that their, or your own, brokenness was a factor in the hurt that was caused?


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

Yesterday we explored one answer to the question—“Why make the choice to practice forgiveness?”—is because our faith calls us to do so. Today we focus on a second reason: practicing forgiveness is good for our well-being. Jake Owensby wrote in Sunday’s reflection that in addition to his faith being a reason for forgiving his father, there was another reason, too. “I needed to unlearn the practice of resentment and replace it with the practice of forgiveness. For my own sake.”

According to the website for the Mayo Clinic, a world renowned academic medical center, the benefits of practicing forgiveness include:

            •  Healthier relationships
            •  Improved mental health
            •  Less anxiety, stress, and hostility
            •  Lower blood pressure
            •  Fewer symptoms of depression
            •  A stronger immune system
            •  Improved heart health
            •  Improved self-esteem

This is quite an extensive list that points directly to how practicing forgiveness is not just a gift we give to the person we forgive, but is also a gift we give to ourselves. 

Making It Personal:How did you respond to the quote above from St. Francis? What do you think about the list of benefits of practicing forgiveness from the Mayo Clinic? Think and/or write about a time when you experienced any of these benefits after you let go of resentment and forgave someone or forgave 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.

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Practicing Forgiveness with All Your Soul

 
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Reflection by Scott Stoner

If forgiveness is a choice, then it follows that at some point we will ask, “Why make the choice to practice forgiveness?” The reflections for both today and tomorrow will respond to this question, exploring two different motivations for choosing to forgive.

As people of faith, our first answer to this question is that our faith teaches us to do so. Jesus offers numerous teachings on forgiveness, including the one above from the Gospel of Matthew. The message here could not be any clearer: when it comes to forgiveness there is no keeping score; we are to offer forgiveness without ceasing. 

Jesus’ teachings about forgiveness flow directly from his radical teachings about love, where he calls us not just to love those who love us, but to love our enemies, to love those we find extremely challenging to love. Extending this to forgiveness, Jesus calls us to forgive, even when it’s difficult, even when we don’t necessarily feel like it. 

Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness also calls us to honest examination, like when he asks, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). Sometimes it is our own resistance to letting go of resentment that becomes a log in our eye, blocking our ability to see that forgiveness is a choice. Jesus goes on to ask us to remove the log in our own eyes so that we can more clearly see the way of love that is the way of Jesus. 

Making It Personal: How strongly does your faith guide your choice to practice forgiveness? Have you ever made a hard choice to forgive, not because you felt like it, but because you felt called to do so by your faith? Do you see a connection between the scripture that speaks of the log in our own eyes and choosing to forgive? 


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

Robert Enright is one of the leading researchers on forgiveness, and is the founder of the International Forgiveness Institute. He is also the author of Forgiveness is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope. On the website of the Institute he offers the following definition of forgiveness:

“When unjustly hurt by another, we forgive when we overcome the resentment toward the offender, not by denying our right to the resentment, but instead by trying to offer the wrongdoer compassion, benevolence, and love; as we give these, we as forgivers realize that the offender does not necessarily have a right to such gifts.” 

In this definition, we clearly see that forgiveness is a choice. When a person chooses to let go of their right to be resentful, they can begin the process of forgiveness. This is a choice because it involves making a conscious decision to deny the “right to the resentment.” 

The definition goes on to say that to offer compassion and love to someone who has offended us is to offer that person a gift. And, as with any gift, forgiveness is always a choice; it is always a gift we can choose to give or to withhold. 

Making It Personal: Reread Robert Enright’s definition of forgiveness. What stands out for you as you read this? Does this definition connect with your own experience? Do you think it is missing anything? 


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 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.

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

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.

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

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

 
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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.

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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:

 
Living Well Through Lent 2019
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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:

 
Living Well Through Lent 2019
Join Group