Deck the Soul with Boughs of Forgiveness

by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio @DrMaryAnnDiorio

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will…give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins…”   Luke 1:76-77 NASB       

CHRISTMAS!  The word evokes many feelings, depending on our experiences. For some, Christmas is a happy time, filled with beautiful memories and joyful expectations. For others, Christmas is a depressing time, a season one wants “to get over with” as quickly as possible because of bad memories associated with this time of year.

Having ministered to people for many years, I have come to the conclusion that depressing memories at Christmas time are most often related to problems of refusing to forgive. Hurts from the past become more pronounced during the Christmas season, but the reason those hurts still affect us is that we have not let go of the bitterness associated with them. In short, we have not forgiven the people who have hurt us.

Why do most people have such a difficult time forgiving? I believe the main reason is that they do not understand what forgiveness really means. So, what is true forgiveness?

LET’S LOOK FIRST AT WHAT FORGIVENESS IS NOT:

  • Forgiveness is NOT letting someone off the hook.
  • Forgiveness is NOT condoning evil.
  • Forgiven is NOT being a doormat.
  • Forgiveness is NOT having to trust again the person who hurt us.
  • Forgiveness is NOT a feeling.
  • Forgiveness is NOT an option.

NOW LET’S LOOK AT WHAT FORGIVENESS IS:

  • Forgiveness IS taking the person who hurt us off of our hook and placing him on God’s hook, then praying that God will have mercy on him.
  • Forgiveness IS acknowledging that evil was done but choosing to bear the consequences of that evil without retaliation.
  • Forgiveness IS taking charge of our emotions.
  • Forgiveness IS setting boundaries with the person who hurt us, even refusing temporary or permanent interaction with that person, if necessary.  An example would be a wife who is being beaten by her husband.
  • Forgiveness IS a decision.
  • Forgiveness IS obedience to God’s commandment to forgive.

No matter how badly we have been hurt, we must choose to forgive. It’s the best thing we can do for our own well-being. Refusing to forgive is unhealthy for us. It chains us emotionally to the person who hurt us. Forgiveness breaks that chain and sets us free.

What better time is there than the Christmas season to forgive those who have hurt us? Paul wrote the Ephesians: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32 NASB). The very essence of Christmas is the truth that God forgave humanity through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Who are we not to forgive when God has forgiven us?

So this Christmas, let’s forgive! But not just forgive. Let’s ask those whom you have wronged to forgive you. As the Word of God tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV). As long as we are on this earth, it is never too late for the healing forgiveness brings.

May we all forge happy memories this Christmas as the power of forgiveness sets us free!

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Deck the Soul with Boughs of Forgiveness – @DrMaryAnnDiorio on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Marianne DiorioAbout the author: Dr. MaryAnn Diorio loves God, people, children, and dogs, in that order. She is passionate about story and its power to transform the human heart. Dr. MaryAnn, as she is affectionately called, writes compelling fiction that deals with the deepest issues of the human heart. She and her husband Dominic are the blessed parents of two wonderful daughters, a fantastic son-in-law, and five precious, rambunctious A Christmas Homecoming (Christmas Holiday Extravaganza) by [Diorio, MaryAnn]grandchildren. Find out more about MaryAnn at http://maryanndiorio.com/.

For a heartwarming, compelling story on the power of forgiveness, you may wish to read MaryAnn’s popular novella titled A Christmas Homecoming,  available in electronic format for your Kindle, Nook, or iPad.  To view the beautiful book trailer, click here.

Join the conversation: When has forgiveness set you free?

 

Called to be Generous

by Louise Tucker Jones

Blessed are those who are generous… Proverbs 22:9 (NLT)

 My son, Jay, is a Sonic Coke-a-holic. His day is not complete without his Sonic Coke, so I take him every day after lunch. Jay is an adult with Down syndrome and thrives on routine. This one started years ago. Truthfully, I enjoy our outings, and most of the Sonic crew loves seeing his beaming smile. But once in a while, we are served by someone who is in too much of a hurry to appreciate Jay’s exuberance. And sometimes we wait for service a little too long, and I’m tempted not to give that extra tip in my hand.

Then God prompts me to remember the word He dropped into my spirit months ago. GENEROUS. Then I can’t refuse a tip just because I’m impatient. And it isn’t just Sonic where the Lord expects my generosity. He’s challenged me with a whole new meaning to that word.

I’m to be generous in every walk of life, not just in the financial realm. I often hear the Lord remind me to be generous with praise, encouragement, love and kindness. To offer a helping hand without being asked. To compliment one who isn’t expecting it. To be gracious and generous to those unlike me, even if they seem rude.

And here is the biggie. Be generous with forgiveness.

Wait! Does that really fall under the umbrella of generosity? Yes, it does. God expects me to give forgiveness generously. And here’s what I’ve learned. Many times, the hardest person to forgive is myself. Yes. Me. It’s the little things. It’s the big things. Heart-breaking things.

Everything from eating midnight snacks while trying to lose 10 pounds to losing a friend whom I had planned to call to an unexpected death. I too easily pronounce myself guilty and assault my spirit with negative comments.

“What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t I listen to my instincts?”

Perhaps you can identify. Sometimes we’re perfectionists. We don’t allow ourselves to make mistakes and pile on accusations when we do. We don’t think of it as egotistical. In fact, we often feel we just didn’t listen well to God. We prayed then made a wrong decision so it must be our fault. And sometimes that’s true, but other times it’s simply being human.

But no matter which, we need to offer the same forgiveness to ourselves that we give to others. We are not on the same spiritual plane as God. We don’t have all the answers. We will make mistakes and when that happens, we need to quickly forgive ourselves, whether we think we deserve it or not.

I can’t imagine King David thinking he deserved forgiveness when his selfish actions caused not only the death of a faithful warrior but also that of his own baby boy (2 Samuel 12). And I wonder if Peter berated himself when he became frightened and began to sink while walking on water to meet Jesus (Matthew 16:29-30).

 The lame, the blind and the sick begged Jesus for healing, but left with more than a healthy body. Why? Jesus forgave their sins as well, just as God forgave David and Peter. As people who want to follow Him, we need to cultivate forgiveness in our hearts—by remembering the grace of God.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) God’s extravagant love frees us to accept ourselves, with all our faults, as well as others. It also produces a grateful heart that is open to all kinds of generosity. Even forgiveness.

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Called to be Generous – insight from Louise Tucker Jones on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Louise Tucker Jones ProfileAbout the author: Louise Tucker Jones is a speaker, columnist and author of four books, including The Gift of Christmas. Her poignant life stories will touch your heart or tickle your funny bone. Having a son with Down syndrome, Louise writes extensively concerning people with special needs, co-authoring the Gold Medallion award-winning book, Extraordinary Kids. Married to Carl for 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands. LouiseTJ@cox.net http://www.LouiseTuckerJones.com

Join the conversation: Do you have trouble forgiving yourself?

Secondhand Forgiveness

by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty

“Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it.’” Romans 12:19 MSG

My daughter Cricket came home from second grade in tears. Again. Her teacher had rebuked her in front of the class for asking another girl for help with a math problem. Cricket felt humiliated and stupid. And it wasn’t the first time.

Because of a learning disability, Cricket had difficulty with some subjects, particularly math. I’d already spoken to the teacher – new to the school and extremely harsh in her control tactics – about Cricket’s special needs.

Cricket began tearfully wrapping herself around my leg at school drop-off. I had to pry my sobbing child off my leg and force her into the classroom. My fury flared toward this insensitive teacher. I simply could not forgive what she’d done to my previously happy little girl.

I knew that secondhand forgiveness is important to Papa God, but my angry heart balked.

Like secondhand smoke afflicts innocent bystanders, secondhand forgiveness is necessary when somebody hurts someone you love. The injured person may forgive the offender, but you continue to harbor resentment indefinitely. And like cigarette smoke, unforgiveness pollutes and corrodes internally.

Secondhand forgiveness is especially hard for us mama bears when somebody messes with our cubs. Our protective instincts kick into overdrive. And we tend to hold grudges far too long.

We forget that that how we feel has nothing to do with forgiveness. We forgive as an act of the will, because Papa God asks us to, not because we feel forgiving. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV). 

But in the throes of furious indignation, how do we carry out this biblical mandate? Let’s unpack this verse:

  • Be kind to one another. Our kindness as Christ-followers isn’t dependent on anyone else’s behavior. We don’t wait for someone to be kind to us; we show them how it’s done. Kindness is similar to forgiveness in that we don’t necessarily have to like someone to be kind to them. Writer Samuel Johnson said, “Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.” Likewise, we can forgive someone whether we like them or not. But we might end up feeling quite differently when we’re on our knees.
  • Be tenderhearted. Heart tenderness is the willingness to enter someone else’s world and share in their suffering; it’s the step beyond kindness, usually motivated by compassion.
  • Forgive one another. Forgiveness is the element essential to finding inner peace. Resentment is poisonous; the poison gradually spreads and chokes out the Son-light within you, leaving dark bitterness in its place. Forgiveness isn’t about changing someone else; you don’t have the power to do that. It’s about changing something within you. You don’t have the power to do that either, but Papa God does.
  • Even as God in Christ forgave you. To truly forgive others as the Lord forgives us, we must tap into our Savior’s vast supply of supernatural grace (undeserved favor). He specializes in grace – He proved that at Calvary, when Jesus willingly paid the price for our sins and died in our place. He forgives you for your wrongs and wants you to do the same for those who wrong you.

Through much prayer and Papa God’s grace, both Cricket and I forgave the insensitive teacher, although she left the school after three months due to extensive personal problems.

Forgiveness becomes a little easier when we realize there’s always something going on beneath the surface of other people’s lives that we can’t see.

Say, my friend, is there someone who needs your secondhand forgiveness today?

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Offering Secondhand Forgiveness When Someone We Love is Hurt – @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

*Adapted from Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms by Debora M. Coty with permission from Barbour Publishing.

deboracoty

About the author: Debora M. Coty lives, loves, and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband, Chuck. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Her newest release is Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Join the conversation: When have you had to offer second-hand forgiveness?

Kinda Kind

by Kaley Rhea

We try to teach our children to be kind—to share and to say gentle words and to play nice, right? But between you and me, fellow grownups, we can be some real sass-mouths to each other.

As a culture, we’re inclined to celebrate the zingers: the quick come-backs, the smart insults, the comic teasing. Something in us loves to shout, “Ohhhh! Apply cool water to that burn!” after a particularly glorious comeback. After all, it really is all in fun.

The problem is that cheeky comebacks can too easily become a habit. We look to “score points” in our verbal exchanges with hardly a conscious thought— and attempting to honestly encourage someone feels like trying to do calligraphy wrong-handed.

But Ephesians 4:32 does tell us, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted…” (NASB) As a parent, what could be sweeter than seeing your kiddos show kindness to each other? Growing up as the middle child of five, I was always rewarded by the looks on my parents’ faces when I made any effort to be kind to my sibs. When we were tenderhearted to each other, our parents glowed. It changed the entire atmosphere of our home.

Have you thought how you can bless your Heavenly Father lately? Be kind. Be tenderhearted. While there may be awkwardness or an odd feeling of vulnerability in replacing glibness with kindness, it is an opportunity to show sweetness toward Jesus Himself (Colossians 3:17).

I think sometimes a kind person can leave the impression of saccharine-sweetness or even weakness. But let’s be clear: kindness doesn’t lie or flatter or overlook sin. In fact, sometimes confrontation is the kindest thing to do. Psalm 141:5 (ESV) says, “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” Replacing truth with feel-good-isms is no kind of kindness at all. It’s more like apathy, in fact. But kindness does require approaching someone in love with the understanding that I am not superior. That their struggle could just as easily be mine. Kindness dismisses the desire to put someone in their place and instead asks the Lord to use me however He wants in that moment, that I might encourage them to victory in Christ.

There is something a bit sinister in habitual teasing, in that it tends to keep things on a superficial level. It’s difficult to share personal struggles or meaningful victories with someone whose tendency is to laugh things off or call things out. So even if sharp but funny insults are the popular thing, they’re not generally the thing for which people are thirsting. We may celebrate the wit of the jokesters, but we’re drawn to the hearts of the kind.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that kindness is a lesson reserved for children. It’s massively important. It’s a command. And it’s impossible to do well without the help of our tirelessly kind and merciful Father. Kindness is evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in us. If you find yourself defaulting to clever put-downs or brush-offs, ask Him to change your mind. Ask Him to enable you to bless Him by blessing others with your words and actions today.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

Adapted from Messy to Meaningful.

Kaley Rhea

About the author: Kaley Rhea is a St. Louis-area author and one half of the mother/daughter writing team behind 2017 Christian romantic comedy Turtles in the Road (along with the hilarious Rhonda Rhea). She also makes up one third of the writing team for the just-released non-fiction book Messy to Meaningful: Lessons From the Junk Drawer (co-written with Rhonda Rhea and the fabulous Monica Schmelter). She’s unclear on how fractions work, but if Rhonda Rhea is the common denominator, Kaley is pretty sure that makes her like five-sixths of Monica Schmelter. Or something like that.

Join the conversation: Has someone’s kindness ever made a difference in your life?

Photo by Kiana Bosman on Unsplash

Congratulations to our first week winner: Allyson King!!

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