Don’t forget to forgive…

January 17, 2020

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Jack Freed used this quote –

“Not the power to remember, but the very opposite, the power to forget, is a necessary condition for our existence.”  (Sholem Asch)

That may well be good advice; however, it is the power to forgive that is a necessary condition for true peace. Forgiving others is a key point in the prayer that Jesus left with his disciples – The Lord’s Prayer.

I have posted here a few times about how amazing the nightly news stories are about people who have been the victims of injustice or sometimes even savage violence saying that they have forgiven the perpetrators. They didn’t forget, but they are able to move on with life because they were able to forgive. Not surprisingly, many of those stories involve church members who suffered some atrocity or wrong while at church.

The first step to forgiving is to put whatever it is into the perspective of time. In most cases, one can say, “It happened, but it is over.”  So, put it behind you in time and then focus upon dealing with your feeling of the need for retribution. We often her people say that they are seeking justice; when, in fact, they are seeking payback. They seem to think that they will find peace in the fact that someone goes to jail or in the payment of some amount of money. Neither really brings the closure or peace that forgiving brings to the situation.

All of us have the ability to forgive, even if we can’t forget. Not being able to forgive most often means that we hold on to not just the pain of the event, but the feeling of the need for retribution. We keep a score to settle in our minds. That sense of need for payback keeps open the wound of the original incident, rather than allowing the wound to heal. We see life as a zero-sum game in which we need to inflict some sort of pain back in order to cancel out (zero out) our own pain.

Perhaps a better way to keep score is to see our ability to forgive as the means to zero-out things. We need to be able to forgive ourselves as well as others in order to avoid living in a negative state of mind. The Lord’s Prayer tells us to ask for forgiveness for our trespasses (sins) as we forgive the trespasses (sins) of others towards us. If we can do that to zero out the bad things that we do to ourselves or the things that others do to us, then we are left with only the good things in life to remember. That is a much happier place to reside than the dark pit of despair and vengefulness into which not being able to forgive leads.

As you start out today, think about the trespasses of others against you that you may be holding onto and focus not upon retribution but on forgiveness. Maybe saying the Lord’s Prayer will put you in the right frame of mind. At least you will have the comfort of knowing that you have asked for forgiveness of your own transgressions, and that is a great start to any day.

Don’t forget to forgive.


Doubts and second thoughts…

December 23, 2019

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog had this headliner quote – “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt.”  (Rene Descartes)

It is almost a rite of passage that the young doubt almost everything as they mature. For many this occurs while they are in High School or maybe in College. They doubt or question everything that they were told by their parents as children. A major catalyst that kicks of this period of soul searching is the independence that most children become aware of as they hit their teenage years. As they are trusted by themselves more and maybe become more independent for things like transportation and money they also recognize that they no longer seek the opinion and approval of their parents for every decision that they face. That independence includes making decision about what is right and wrong in day-to-day life. That quickly escalates into doubting, or at least calling into question, decisions that have been made for them by their parents.

Often that period of doubting includes questioning their religious beliefs. Some are able to separate the religion part from the faith part of their beliefs, but many are confused by the interplay of the two. In that period of rebellion against prior parental decisions, regular attendance at church often goes by the wayside. Sometimes the faith of the young adult becomes muddled in the doubts about the practice of religion. The rush to feel free of the requirements of particular religious practices or dogma can leave the questioning young mind adrift, with nothing to anchor their faith and no way to put it into practice. Fortunately, most have second thoughts about completely abandoning their faith along with the practices of their specific religion.  Sometimes that leads to experimenting with various alternative religious practices. Some seek an alternative in Buddhism or other non-Christian religions, but most eventually find a way to rationalize the practices of some practicing religious group with their faith.

Young children tend to accept without questioning what their parents tell them. For a while, both Santa and God are real to them. The belief in Santa may be the first childhood beliefs to be discarded, along with fairies, goblins, ghosts and witches. Eventually the religious beliefs that were given to us by our parents are also discarded. At that point, either we develop our own, new beliefs, based upon our faith; or, we continue searching for meaning in life. How many times have you heard a younger person say that they are still trying to “find myself”? What they are searching for is something to have faith in; something to replace that childhood faith that they discarded. The good news is that most are found again by the Good Shepard and their faith is restored. One side benefit of having those doubts or second thoughts about your faith as an adult is that the conviction of your beliefs becomes much stronger when made as an adult.

Maybe you went through that process of questioning your faith as a youth, or maybe some traumatic event later in life caused you to have doubts about God and your faith in Him. Maybe you asked the question, “How could a loving God let this happen to me?” Instead, you should be thanking that loving God for helping you get through that event. Whether you realized it at the time or not, you turned to Him in that troubled time; because, in the back of your mind, you realized that He was the only one there with you and the only one who could help you.

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

I believe that the same can be said about our faith. Doubting or questioning your religious practices doesn’t necessarily call your faith into question, but does usually cause you to examine it Examining your faith does not kill it and can make it stronger by stripping away the man-made parts of religion that may be troubling you. In the final analysis, your faith starts with the relationship that you have with God. What trappings of religion you want to embrace from that base is up to you. As long as that remains the foundation of your beliefs, you have nothing to doubt.

Have a great Christmas by putting the Christ part first. No doubt.


Look for the door today…

December 2, 2019

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote – “Every wall is a door.”  (Ralph Waldo Emerson) 

Life often throws things at us that appear to be walls – things preventing us from moving ahead. In bad times, it can feel like the walls are boxing us in and closing in on us. All of these times are opportunities to look for the door that Emerson alluded to in his quote.

Yesterday I wrote about dealing with crises and I have posted more than once about problem solving. A key to both is seeing that there is a door, an opportunity, in every wall that life throws our way. So, instead of sitting there moaning, “woe is me” in hard times, one needs to start searching for the door in that wall and figuring out how to open it.

If you ever watched the old Price is Right show, you know that they often presented contestants with multiple doors. They would tell the contestant that behind one of the doors was a really great prize, but behind the other(s) was a bust. The contestant then had to choose a door. Sometimes we are presented with multiple doors in the walls that life throws at us. We know that one of the doors will lead to a good outcome, but that some of the doors could lead to even bigger trouble. Many are frozen in place by the choice and are unable to get through the wall. Some just continually choose the wrong doors in life and sink deeper and deeper into trouble.

Wouldn’t life be so much better if you had help finding the doors in your walls and then choosing the right one to go through? There is a cute cereal commercial running right now in which a father advises a young girl about to ride off on her bicycle to make good choices. We are not told where she is going or why, nor do we get any insight into the choices that she may have to make. Life is like that. We don’t know what choices we will be faced with today or how many walls may be thrown up in our way. The things that we can do is to set out with the thought in mind that we will make good choices and find he doors in whatever walls we encounter. Just taking the approach that we will find the door in those walls is our first good choice of the day.

So, where is the help in all of that? Maybe it is in pausing at the start of each day to say a little prayer, a prayer that God helps you make good choices throughout the day. That gives you a sense of confidence that you are not alone in facing those walls and the courage to pick a door and go through it. You are not asking God to solve all of the problems that come your way, but rather to give you the wisdom and courage to make good choices and find the way through those walls.

Don’t stand there lamenting that you have hit a wall…find the door to your future today. Ask for God’s help and the door will appear.


Don’t imprison yourself…

November 12, 2019

In a post to his blog recently, Jack Freed used this quote from Lady Gaga – “Fame is prison” He went on to relate that Gaga can no longer enjoy life in public because she is always hounded by fans or paparazzi. In a sense, her fame has served to imprison her.  Almost all starts come to that conclusion, once they have achieved the fame that they so fervently chased for years. Some have found that going out in disguise, especially in big cities like New York, is still possible.

Most of us will never be famous, so we need not worry about the problems that Lady Gaga and other stars have; however, many create a prison of sorts for themselves based upon just the opposite cause – anonymity. Being anonymous is especially easy if your move to a new town or area. It is also relatively easy to become anonymous if you are a shut in. Over time, people forget about you and you may start to forget about other people. You have imprisoned yourself, somewhat by choice.

People with whom I talk who volunteer for the Meal on Wheels program that delivers meals to shut-in senior citizens tell me that the recipients often talk their heads off during the delivery, because the Meals on Wheels person may be the only person that they ever see. That is sad, but not unusual and not limited to just those shut-in seniors.

Many people, of any age, imprison themselves by remaining anonymous in their communities. They may get out of the house to go to work and back, but never seem to have time to meet anyone local. In this modern age of air-conditioned houses and lawn services to mow the lawn, it may even be rare to see them outside. That sometimes leads to the stories that we see on the news about a person dying and their bodies not being discovered for days or weeks. They were anonymous and thus not missed.

It is easier than you think to end your anonymity, without flipping over to the problem that Lady Gaga pointed out. You don’t have to become famous, you just have to be engaged in your community. Going to church is a great start. Church people tend to be friendly and you will quickly make new friends. Volunteer in the community. There are also tons of volunteer opportunities in every community – things like driving for Meal on Wheels or perhaps serving as a docent in a local museum. Join local organizations. All communities have local chapters of clubs like Rotary International, the Lions Club, the local Chamber of Commerce (you can be an associate member, even if you don’t have a business), the local society for the arts, and many more. Find a club or organization that focuses upon something that you are interested in, join and get involved. Many clubs or organizations may have members who are willing to pick you up and drive you to and from meetings, so even “shut-ins” can participate.

All of those ideas and more require that you not only join whatever organization it is; but also, that you attend meetings, volunteer for events and otherwise commit your time and efforts to the organization. The side benefit is that you meet other people and you are no longer anonymous. You have freed yourself from that prison.

The bottom line is that you hold the key to the prison of anonymity that you may have built for yourself. Get yourself out there and meet people. Have a great day in the crowd.


What is your goal today?

November 5, 2019

In a world seemingly oriented to goal setting and daily To-Do lists that seem to dictate our use of time, Dyer’s advice seems to be most appropriate. In fact, if you threw away your current To-Do list and just wrote down “Be a better person today than I used to be”, you will have recorded the most important thing that you could spend your time on today. It is a goal, which will help you accomplish all of the important things that you need to do today.

Some people find that it is helpful to wear a little bracelet with the initial WWJD – What Would Jesus Do – as a reminder to them to be a better person. You could have one that says WSID – What Should I Do – that would be just as effective, if it reminded you to be a better person.

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote – “My goal is not to be better than anyone else, but to be better than I used to be.”  (Wayne Dyer)

One way to focus upon that goal is to stop and say a quick little prayer – “Lord, help me be a better person today than I was yesterday.” Your mind will take over from there, as God puts thoughts in it about how you can accomplish that goal today. You may see things and people that you overlooked yesterday and you will react differently. You may make better decisions today, because you are more conscious of the need to think things through better and perhaps apply better standards against those decisions. Your personal relationships may improve because today you take the time for a warm greeting or a hug; whereas, yesterday you just hurried on by that person.

A side-benefit of focusing upon being a better person is that you won’t end up with a case of the coulda, woulda shoulda’s at the end of the day. There will be no need to say to yourself, “I coulda said ‘Hi’ to Sally, who looked like she needed a greeting”; or “ I wish I woulda ask Mary how her mom is doing “; or I coulda stopped and ask Joe how is wife is doing with her breast cancer treatments”. You won’t have those regrets at the end f the day because you did stop and interact with those people. You were being a better person today than you might have been yesterday. And, didn’t that fee great?

So, after you’ve checked yourself in the mirror; but, before you go out the door on the way to work; stop and say that little prayer – “Lord, help me be a better person today than I was yesterday.”

I promise you that you’ll end up better than your were at the end of thre day.


Show your love with actions –

November 3, 2019

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote – “The hardest thing is to take less when you can get more.”  (Kin Hubbard)

When we are young, it seems to be even harder not to grab for more, more, more. I remember as a youth sitting there trying to eat all that I had taken at dinnertime and my mom’s admonition that my eye’s were bigger than my stomach. I can also recall going to those “all-you-can-eat” smorgasbord places and gorging myself. Eventually, my stomach became bigger than my eyes, but that’s a story for another post. I did become more able to moderate things as I grew older and that helped get rid of most of the bigger gut.

I suppose it’s quite natural for the young to lack any sense of moderation, much less be ready to make conscious efforts of sacrifice. Sharing is something that needs to be taught to young children and begins the learning about moderation and sacrifice in life. Later, and often in church, the young are taught to give a portion of what they have to help those less fortunate than them. So, perhaps today’s quote could be modified to read, “The hardest thing is to keep less when you can give more”.

We have just kicked off our stewardship drive at my church, which is our annual church donations appeal. This is certainly one of those things to which my modified quote could be applied. Each year we get a little card that shows us what percentage of our income we should consider giving to the church. It also highlights the concept of tithing, giving 10% of what you earn to the church. That’s where most people have the hardest time keeping less and giving more. Yet, there are people who do that and who find that they get along just fine on the 90% that they keep. In fact, many say they’ve never been happier or felt like they had more than when they giver that 10% back to God first.

I can’t claim to be there yet, but as I consider how much I can increase my giving to the church this year, I find it less difficult to keep a little less and more fulfilling to find a way to give a little more. God has provided for my family and me and I have become less focused upon what more I can get in life and more concerned about what more I can do for others in life. Giving to the church is just one channel through which we can all give back and help others. Volunteering with various non-profit groups in the community is another.

Find a way in your life to keep less and give more, even if it is only of your time. I think you’ll find life to be much more satisfying at the end of the day (or of life) when you spend more time giving than taking. The bible tells us –

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:16-18

Feel the Love of God, take action and give generously of your possessions and your time.


Stay focused…

October 24, 2019

I seem to be stuck on the topic of finding a way to move on in life, but it is important enough to write about again.

A post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog some time back used this quote – Fix the problem, not the blame – Unknown

As I scan the posts to various social media sites that I belong to, the advice in that little quote seems to go unheeded most of time. Perhaps it is just human nature to try to find out who, or what, to blame for whatever happens, especially things that happen to us. Obviously, it can’t be my fault, so I need to find someone else to blame for any misfortune that befalls me.

An unfortunate side effect of losing focus on the problem itself, in the search for someone or something to blame, is that we often don’t benefit from learning from the problem. Instead of increasing our wisdom and making sure that the same thing doesn’t happen again, we focus instead on finding a scapegoat upon which to heap the blame for our misfortune. This exonerates us from taking responsibility for placing ourselves in the situation that caused the problem and for the poor decisions that we may have made during the incident. The knee-jerk reaction that “It’s not my fault” almost always leads us to find someone else, or something else, to blame.

So stop yourself, the next time you go into reaction mode by asking “who did this to me” or “what caused this” and turn your focus instead to “what can I learn from this?” There is another saying that applies here –

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you. – Brian Tracy

A big part of mastering the changes that occur in your life is keeping focus upon the problems and not on trying to fix the blame for things. Don’t waste your time on blame fixing, you’ve got enough to do to controlling how you react and working to fix the problem.

Besides eliminating wasted time, you may find that staying focused on the problem makes it much easier to just put things behind you and move on with life, when you don’t look for someone or something to blame. It happened, it’s done, it’s nobody’s fault, what can you learn from it? Then get on with life.

Have a wonderful and focused day!