Monday, January 16, 2017

To Forgive=To Forget--Part 2 The How To

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Without forgiveness, the hurts of our lives cling to us like the smoke wildfires.

We burn each time we finger the seared surface.

God knows our pain. After all, He forgave the unpardonable. Upon the cross, after brutal torture despite His innocence, Jesus said, "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do." If He forgave, so can we.

How?


Four Ways to Achieve Forgiveness


1.               Make the decision to forgive. Alcoholics and drug addicts must admit their shortcomings in order to find sobriety. Likewise, in overcoming unforgiveness, we must decide this is something we will do. The anguish won't necessarily go away instantaneously, but over time, it will fade.

2.               Every time you replay the offense say, "I forgive." At first you'll sound like a broken record. Eventually, you'll find you're "forgiving" less and the memories will distance themselves from your life.

3.               Don't expect the perpetrator to change. You are the one who needs to be healed. Other people are responsible for their own lives.

4.               Talk to a trusted friend. This person must be a proven confident, not simply anyone who is within earshot.

5.               Talk to a counselor. Broken friendships, insults, misunderstandings and other petty things can heal by themselves. However, for the monstrous issues, you need a trained professional be it a church pastor or a psychiatrist. Do not be ashamed to reach out for help.

6.               Use your experience to heal others. We've heard of people who have started self-help groups, inspired legislation or simply have become mentors to those suffering the same heartache. By giving to others, your own sorrow can be calmed.

I've used each of the above and can attest to their efficacy. With forgiveness, the welt of a scar might remain, but the pain doesn't.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

To Forgive=To Forget--Part 1

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Author's note: If you've experienced severe trauma like incest, rape, murder, or other egregious harms, please see a counselor. Still, the path to YOUR healing is forgiveness.

Jesus Showed the Ultimate Example

Jesus was the quintessential perfect man. Still, having done no wrong, the Jewish elite betrayed him. The Romans brutalized him. Once hung to die, they mocked him and gambled for His clothes.

How did Jesus respond? "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

If He gave such a response, how much more should we?

I'll forgive, but I'll never forget

How many times have either we said, "I'll forgive, but I'll never forget"? or heard another person speak the line? In truth,  forgiveness brings forgetfulness. I can attest to the truth of this through many crises in my life.

For example, a particular church I attended years ago had hurt me severely. For the most part, now, I can only remember the fact of the hurt. Specific details of all my wounds have been buried with Christ.

But a composite tale goes something like this: We believed in prophecy, and I'd been told repeatedly that I'd sing the song of the Lord. I'd been taking voice lessons, so I asked to join the music team. Anyone who knows my nuclear family knows the music gene hid from us from the moment of conception. However, in this case, my heart was pure. I needed to figure out how to sing in public if I'd see the word of God come to pass.

Things went well until the sound man turned off my mic.

Ouch!

I got mad. Talked to him, one on one. And to my mind, that was it.

One day I was called into the pastor's office. Once there, I discovered, this wasn't a friendly visit, a pat on the back, a "I'm proud of you for being such a big girl doing everything in your power to fulfill the word of the Lord."

Nope.

The sound man also had been summoned, and both the pastor and he chastised me for being insulted. A few days later, the music minister kicked me off worship.

I only remember this because I use the illustration to either poke fun at myself or to explain a typical reason why this church and I weren't a good fit.

However, at that time, anger and grief and shame and indignation and all those wonderful works of the flesh rose up in me.

When you forgive--you forget


I told the Lord, "I forgive."

And clearly He spoke to me,  "If you truly forgave, then why do you keep rehashing it?"

From that point on, I began to work hard at forgiveness. 

Through time, the pain and insult dissipated.

How? You know I'm glad you asked. Next week I'll give you some ways to do just that.

In this instant, I found the wrongs done to me vanished from my memory. It's held true in my relationship with this body of believers, in forgiveness of my father, in the pardon toward dear friends who have remained friends and not become enemies. My husband, in my memory, has never done me wrong because any hurts he's caused have been forgiven.



Monday, January 2, 2017

Best New Year's Resolution

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23:34

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain
If Jesus forgave his murder, how can we not forgive others?

I have a guarantee on how to make the world better. MUCH better.

It's New Year's and nearly half of us make resolutions. Of that half, only 8% stick.

Oh yuck. I can hear you groan. Why bother if such a minuscule number of resolutions stick?

 But if 8% of the United States gave forgiveness as their resolution, can you imagine how many lives would be redeemed?

You tell me it's easy to forgive Uncle Fred for putting nuts in the turkey dressing this last Christmas even though you're deathly allergic to them and had to eat a cream cheese sandwich for dinner. Uncle Fred's a good guy.

But what about...
  • the friend who stole your boyfriend?
  • the drug dealer who tricked you into years of addiction?
  • the sister who embezzled the family inheritance?
  • the brother who raped you, the stranger who murdered your best friend, the__?
Yes. Forgive them.

Forgiveness doesn't say the deed was justified, that things are peachy. It NEVER insists you have an association with that person if the fault was egregious. Nor does forgiveness demand the person not pay for his or her crime.

What forgiveness does is set you free. 

  1. You have lower stress.
  2. The person no longer stalks you in your mind, in your thoughts, in your psyche.
  3. It lessens not only psychological pain, but your physical pain, as well.
  4. It lowers your blood pressure.
  5. It extends your life

Forgiveness isn't always easy--put it is possible.


My latest novel, The Poison We Drink, explores the power of forgiveness. Unforgiveness, and its attendant bitterness, is a poison we drink hoping our enemy will die.

Buddha likens it to holding a coal hoping to burn the perpetrator.

Forgiveness is not about the other person. It's about setting you free. Imagine how much more beautiful the world would be if 8% of us forgave.

In the weeks to come, we'll explore how to forgive.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Others Can't Fix You

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.  Ex. 20:2-3


By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

My Christmas was wonderful--just Neil and me and Facetime with Sarah and family. Of course, Neil got me the most perfect gifts. For those who follow me on Facebook, you know I got a toilet seat and brush--asked for in serious jest and happy to be received.

Still, Christmas time is always hard for me, as it is for many people. For many, now that it's over a new desolation sets in.

This is often the hardest time because we've put our faith in others. And, as always, others have issues and turning to them to fix our own problems never works.

This past Christmas proved it for a lot of us. Arguments broke out, white elephant gifts were exchanged, the ham dried out, Uncle Marvin got drunk and you were left to clean up the Christmas mess.

Worst of all: Everyone left. You're alone. The excitement's gone. Anticipation has ended. Nothing remains except for New Year's and resolutions you're going to keep this year.

Yep. You will keep them.


Only God Can Fix You

  1. Others don't know you the way He does.
  2. Others don't love you the way He does.
  3. Others are broken--how can the broken fix the irreparable?
  4. Others will leave you alone. God never will.
  5. Others change their affections. God is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow.
I beg you all, enjoy Christmas (and Valentine's Day and St. Patty's, and...). Make your resolutions.

But to find true happiness, to fix your broken lives, only one person can save. I hope you've met Him.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Gifts: What We Got For Christmas


And I will put enmity 
            Between you and the woman, 
            And between your seed and her seed; 
            He shall bruise you on the head, 
            And you shall bruise him on the heel.” Gen. 3:15

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Most important thing about Christmas? What we got.

Christmas presents are a lot like us--wrapped up bright and shiny. Beautiful bows and trinkets adorn the packages. They glitter under the Christmas tree.

Then we unwrap them and find a Christmas sweater two sizes too big, a waxy candle shaped like a Santa or a glow- in-the-dark toilet seat. We've all gotten the white elephant disguised as a pretty gift.

And that's pretty much a metaphor for us. Or at least me.

I can wrap myself up with Christian words. I smile and agree to wash dishes after the church dinner. I volunteer my time to work on the Board of Habitat for Humanity. However, inside, something's broken.

For most of my life, I've struggled with the white elephant stomping my soul--even during my years as a Christian. Something in my life made me believe I still had to earn God's favor. Maybe it was my Catholic faith that taught me no sin could ever be erased and thus we spend time in Purgatory. Maybe it was a dysfunctional childhood and my unwillingness to talk to others and discover the world didn't function much better. Or my mistaken concept of humility--put yourself down whenever complimented?

From the very beginning of time, God prepared His Christmas gift. Last week, I said Psalm 103 should be part of the Christmas cannon. This week, it's Genesis 3:15

God's Gifts to Us:

  1. We are redeemed.
  2. We are forgiven.
  3. We do not have to do anything to earn it except unwrap the gift and claim it as our own.
If we accept this gift, guilt, suffering, condemnation--all the things humankind struggles with--will be healed.

I guarantee it.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Gifts: The True Blessing of Christmas


Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle. Ps. 103:4-5

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Christmas. The only thing that matters is gift-giving.

Yep. That's not a typo. I mean every word of it, but probably not the way you're thinking.

It's the gift given to us. Again, not as you're thinking.

Like everyone else, I've made many boo-boos in my life. How many? 

Blogs are supposed to be short, so I can't enumerate them (however, inventorying my sins would give me blog topics for the rest of my life.

Some sins have been small. Still, despite their size, they're quite damning. Those are probably the things I'd tell you about. Others have shamed me, and I spent my long and grace-filled life hiding them from the world at large.

But now, Christmas comes, and I recall the true meaning of Christmas--getting gifts: 

  1. Jesus pulled me out of the pit. I wholeheartedly believe I would have been a suicide had I not given my life to God. Lately, He's been healing the core of my soul, and it is divine.
  2. God gave me a wonderful life. I have a loving family, terrific friends, and interests that fill my days. Sometimes, they're too full. For the first time in my life, I have to turn down social engagements.
  3. I find joy where I'm planted. My home in northern New York sat among some of the most beautiful scenery the United States offers. In East Tennessee, the beauty and the climate and the economic benefits make each day a joy. Can you imagine waking up each morning and seeing the glory of where God planted you?
  4. My youth is restored like an eagle's. Although chronologically I'm older, I feel like the youth I share my Bible study with. Everything is exciting. I'm learning new things. My youth is definitely reanimated.
Psalm 103 has been my meditation and the above two verses are only a fragment of the psalms richness. It's one I believe should be part of our Christmas message.

Truly, we've got the best gift of all. What gifts has Jesus given you this year?

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Relieve Holiday Stress in God's Eden

A distant view of Angel Falls before we walked out on the rocks
Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; (Gen. 2: 8-10)

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

In this crazy season, we need to find a Garden of Eden--a place where we discover peace and the wonders of God.

For my friends and me, hiking the Smoky Mountains or the Big South Fork bring us to God's doorstep.

My hiking buddies love the little things--the smallest of wildflowers, a "face" in a rock or a funny shaped shelf fungus.

I'm a big picture, sweeping vista sort of gal. Perched on a rock face with a bird's-eye view of vast valleys or tumbling water is as close to heaven as I'll get in this lifetime. Top it off with the sun on my skin and wind ruffling my clothing, I feel God.

Take a chance. Climb out on the rocks and see what God has done
God created a perfect world--in the beginning. 

Man messed it up with sin. Not only do we destroy our habitat with our destruction of one another, but the material lust, best exemplified during Christmas.

Take time, both in this season, and in life, and find the world God created for us to love and enjoy. It doesn't have to be in the grandest of mountains or the vastest of beaches. It can be on your front porch, snow-shoeing through the Adirondacks, a walk through an arboretum or along a boardwalk.

Find your Garden of Eden
God created healing in nature.

Take a moment. Explore. Feel God in the brush of wind on your cheek, the nip of cold on your nose, the fragrance of frost and woodsmoke.

Where is it that you find God in nature? 

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