Here’s why I didn’t write a blog post today . . .

I planned to write a blog post but my friend and I stayed up late talking . . . really late.

We laughed, talked about the past, what God has taught us, our greatest faith challenges, and the future.

I enjoyed it . . . a lot.

Can I suggest something? Put something aside and spend some extra time talking to a friend soon.

You’ll be glad you did!

friend

What you say about your past impacts your future #ForgivenessFriday

If you would’ve asked me to describe my hurt, I would have replayed the entire event, the people involved, and consequences . . . in detail. I now feel sorry for the people who had to hear me tell my story. In my mind, the event was my hurt.

Here’s the summarized version of the story I was telling:

“I sensed God calling me to plant a different kind of church in the same town. However, my best friend misunderstood my intentions and didn’t support me. I am hurt by our broken relationship.” 

I told that story for more than three years. It was exhausting but I couldn’t stop telling it.

What I didn’t know was my story was sabotaging my desire to forgive.

Every time I opened my mouth and retold my story, I triggered negative emotions sending me backwards. It was maddening!

How about you? What’s the story you’re telling about your past hurt?

your story

Did you know for every event, you create a story? You are telling a story right now about your past pain. Even if you are not telling anyone else your story, you are telling yourself a story.

What story are you telling? It’s important to know.

Three reasons it’s important to know the story you’re telling about your past:

1) Your story reveals your heart

Like an MRI reveals the internal details of your body, your story reveals the internal condition of your heart.

“. . . for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” -Luke 6:45 (NIV)

My story told everyone that I was still hurting and I believed my hurt had no purpose.

Your story is your heart’s MRI. So monitor your story.

2) Your story affects your life 

Every time you tell your story you feel those same strong emotions again.

Our memory banks are categorized. Since I filed my story in the mental category of “hurt”, every time I recalled this event, I had immediate access to all of the other “hurt” memories filed nearby. So the thought of my story triggered a lot of strong, negative emotions.

Not only does “misery love company”, miserable memories love company.

Your story affects your life.

3) Your story imprisons you

Your story could alienate you from friends and family. Your story could be reminding everyone that you are still an injured “victim”.

Your story may make and keep YOU a victim. Like adding steel bars to your own prison cell, every time you tell your story as a victim you further isolate yourself from others.

Your story may feel comfortable and familiar but it could be your enemy!

What story are you telling people about your past? Write it out! (Don’t write the story you wish you were telling but the story you’re really telling.)

Why write it out? Two reasons:

1) You need to see your story in writing. You feel and hear yourself tell your story regularly but you never get to see it. Seeing it on paper may help you more objectively view it.

2) You give yourself a starting point. Writing it out now gives you a starting place from which we will move forward. Remember, your story reveals the condition of your heart. So as your heart heals, you will look back on this story and see the progress.

Here’s what I challenge you to do today:

> Write your story out in one paragraph that best represents how you’re currently telling it. Not the story you wish you were telling but the one you’re actually telling. Try keeping it to one paragraph. It may be hard but it will be worth it.

> Let a friend know that you’re choosing to stop telling your story for the next week or two weeks and allow them to help you with that commitment.

Next Friday we’ll talk about how to write a new story. In the meantime, STOP telling your past story as a victim because it impacts your future and your ability to forgive.

#ForgivenessFriday aims to unleash forgiveness in people’s hearts. (Click HERE to read the beginning of this series.)

Lessons from Dallas Cowboys Training Camp – Day 1: Don’t underestimate the value of a fresh start

Do you feel mediocre or insignificant?

You’re not alone. Yesterday I drove by a field full of mediocre millionaires as they practiced their craft hoping to finally become champions. It was Day 1 of the Dallas Cowboys Training Camp.

The Cowboys were the definition of “middle of the road” last year when they finished the season by winning exactly half of their games. The were a non-issue in the playoffs.

Maybe you feel like you are “middle of the road” and are a “non-issue” in your leadership, in your relationships, or in your future all because of your past.

The Cowboy’s entire organization showed up as if last season is history. It is. They are beginning a brand new year and approach it as if they have the same opportunity as the other 31 NFL teams to win the Super Bowl. That’s the beauty of a brand new season.

Picture via USA Today

Picture via USA Today

For the past few months everyone within the organization penciled this date on the calendar knowing that’s when everything starts over. Think of it as “NFL Grace”.

(I shared HERE why I think churches should leverage this cycle in ministry.)

Why don’t you personally do that? Pick a day (maybe today) and decide that on that day you will begin a new journey headed in a new direction.

Set your goal, change what needs to change, put a system and team of people in place to encourage you along the way, and then start your new season with gusto!

Whatever your past, today can be the beginning of a fresh start!

Beginning today, become the kind of Dad/husband, Mom/wife, Pastor, Leader, person you’ve always wanted to be.

Here’s to fresh starts and Super Bowls!

Can you forgive someone who is deceased? #ForgivenessFriday

Is it possible to forgive someone who is deceased?

My friend Kim recently shared her incredible story of forgiveness with me. I hope it touches you like it did me.

Kim MaynerI experienced anger toward my dad who was an alcoholic. He died 23 years ago.

Growing up with an alcoholic/addict was absolutely ugly and awful. We never knew what the day was going to bring. I remember praying a lot that my Dad would come home on time and not be drunk. If it was past 6:30 it was time to go hide. My dad was not a mean drunk, but the fights that ensued were violent, ugly and impossible to get away from.

We moved a lot because my Dad lost a lot of jobs and couldn’t pay the rent/mortgage. Many times growing up there wouldn’t be enough food in the house to feed us. I started working in the cafeteria in 4th grade because we would get a free lunch.

My dad would take me on drives sometimes and stop at a bar called The Elbow Room. He would leave me in the car and say he would be just a few minutes and come out 6 hours later drunk.

When I found out he was in the hospital dying I was pregnant with our daughter Kayla who would never meet him. I prayed he would talk to me when I got there. That he would tell me he loved me, that he would say he was sorry, that he was proud of me. None of those things happened and he died 2 days later. I couldn’t say anything at his memorial, there was not one good thing I could think of to say.

All my feelings were bottled up inside me until my 35th birthday, when I had a break down. I went to counseling and my counselor suggested I write him a letter. I sat down and wrote page after page of my hurt and anger. At the end of that letter, I finally forgave him. Obviously, he never saw this letter, but it wasn’t for him, it was for me. A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and my heart after that. Forgiveness is needed to heal our hearts, to let go of the power that we give others.

If you are struggling with forgiveness and hurt, Forgive! It’s for you.

Kim Mayner has been married to her husband Jeff for 28 years and has 3 adult children. In addition to owning three Burger King franchises in Ventura County, Kim is a small group leader in our church and a force of constant encouragement for all who know her!

The FASTEST way to build the Kingdom may be your church building

Last week I stood inside the most beautiful auditorium I’ve personally ever experienced. I was standing inside the Air Force Academy Chapel in Colorado Springs, CO. The stunning facility became a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 2004.

Air Force Academy Chapel

But I couldn’t believe my ears when one of the staff members answered my question. The staff member told me that, despite the thousands who are stationed at the USAF Academy, less than 10 people attend services at the 1,200 seat protestant chapel each weekend. It has become nothing but a breathtaking museum. Wow! Isn’t that sad?

A magnificent facility just sits there everyday making zero Kingdom impact. Tragic!

Additionally, thousands of churches today are equally tragic. Other than Sunday morning, church facilities often just sit there everyday making zero Kingdom impact. Tragic! It must break God’s heart to see useful buildings sit empty all week.

If you have a permanent facility, the fastest way to build the Kingdom is to open up your building for others. Here are a couple of ways to quickly impact the Kingdom:

Allow a church planter to use your facility on a Saturday or Sunday night. (As a former church planter, I was surprised by how resistant most pastors are to rent their facility on an off night.)

Allow community organizations to use your facility. (Currently, our church has 26 local non-profit organizations occupying our entire campus throughout the week. I love the message this sends to our community. We are here FOR THEM.)

Leveraging your building for His Kingdom means you can’t over decorate it, you can’t over design it, and you can’t over own it. It’s His. Let Him use it with and without you.

Let’s eliminate the museums and become generous Kingdom builders.

Will you begin to look for opportunities to build the Kingdom with your building?

Wanna forgive? Rewrite your story #ForgivenessFriday

Fred LuskinProfessor Fred Luskin is the Director of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects and he wrote the eye-opening book Forgive For Good which I highly recommend. In this interview with me, Dr. Luskin explains why rewriting your story is an important part of your forgiveness process.

#ForgivenessFriday aims to unleash forgiveness in your heart. (Click HERE to read the beginning of this series.)

Dr. Luskin, one of the reasons I carried a grudge for three years is because I was convinced that people didn’t appreciate how badly I was hurt. However, you write that all hurt has a “personal” and “impersonal” aspect. How does making this distinction help me forgive?

Personal describes the story we tell to cement the fact we are wounded. Impersonal understands everyone gets hurt and many people have suffered as we have. Both points of view are true. When we are stuck in one point of view too often we suffer. First from victim hood….second a lack of empathy and connection to others pain.

I was guilty of blaming my offender for my feelings and for things that went wrong years after the original hurt. You write that blaming our offender prevents forgiveness. Why is that? Is blaming our offender different from holding them accountable?

They are not accountable for how we feel. That is up to us. They can be punished for what they did….but they are not the ones who currently create our experience of the event and how our bodies and minds react in the present.

You write, “The kind of story you tell determines how it affects your life.” How does simply telling our story a certain way impact our ability to forgive?

The story is our reality. There is nothing apart from the story. A change in story is a change in the reality of the experience. Forgiveness is a changing of the story…..generally from victim to a kind of heroic overcoming of adversity.

story

So how do we learn to tell our stories in a healthy way?

Practice and a desire to heal.

You share research which shows that forgiveness is literally good for our health. In what ways is unforgiveness bad for our health?

Leads to increased stress which has numerous and global health implications. Leads to helplessness which has immune impact. Leads to lowered efficacy which can impact healthy eating and exercise patterns.

For the person reading this who’s been stuck in unforgiveness for years, what encouragement/hope would you offer them?

Simple practice of relaxation and changes in story will change your experience of the wound and improve your health and well being.

If you’re looking for a practical process to help you rewrite and retell your story, I recommend Forgive for Good. It helped me rewrite my story accurately but in a healthy and healing way.

Fred Luskin’s bio:

Ph.D., Counseling and Health Psychology, Stanford, 1999

M.S., School Psychology, San Jose State University

B.S. Psychology, State University of New York

Fred is a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Sofia University.  He is the Director of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects – a series of research projects affirming his forgiveness training methodology. He has taught and lectured on forgiveness worldwide and has been featured for his forgiveness work in many major media outlets. Fred is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Nationally Certified School Psychologist. He also holds a California License as an Educational Psychologist.

Fred is the author of Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Healing and co-author with Ken Pelletier, Ph.D. of Stress Free for Good : 10 Scientifically Proven Life Skills for Health and Happiness.

Failure to Remember

One of the biggest obstacles in my spiritual growth is not forgetting but failing to remember. Can you relate? I haven’t forgotten that I’m on a temporary journey that one day leads me Home. But some days (especially Mondays) I look down and fail to remember.

forget

Remember the wild party thrown by the Israelites in Exodus? They made an idol made from their earrings!

They were turning their back on the God who had just:

Handed down 10 miraculous plagues

Delivered them from Egypt by parting the red sea and drowning the Egyptian army

Personally provided a daily breakfast of manna

Provided water from a rock

Put on the ultimate fireworks show at Mt. Sinai

Yet, when their leader (Moses) disappears for 40 days at the top of mountain, they blow it all! Why? Did they forget? No. They failed to remember. There’s a difference. Failing to remember is a choice.

Whatever your circumstances, a perfect God thinks YOU are “to die for”. You already know that. Today, don’t fail to remember that.

Here are more examples of Failure to Remember thinking (FTR) vs. God’s truth (GT).

FTR: “When I think about myself, I don’t like ________.”

GT: “You’re perfectly made in My image.” (Gen. 1:27)

FTR: “I feel guilty.”

GT: “I am faithful to forgive and cleanse”. (1 Jn. 1:9)

FTR: “Does God really care for me?”

GT: “Nothing can separate you from My love.” (Rom. 8:37-39)

FTR: “My successes make me valuable.”

GT: “My Son makes you valuable.” (Rom. 5:1-2)

FTR: “My failures and brokenness make me unworthy.”

GT: “My Son makes you worthy.” (1 Cor. 6:11)

FTR: “The cost to redeem me was too high.”

GT: “You are worth it.” (Jn. 3:16)

Whatever you do today, remember God.

12 Lies about Forgiveness #ForgivenessFriday

lies

I can’t forgive because . . .  

. . . they need to pay. Forgiveness is not forsaking justice.

. . . I don’t feel like forgiving. Forgiveness is not a feeling.

. . . I don’t trust them. Forgiveness is not trust.

. . . that would soften the seriousness of their offense. Forgiveness is not mitigating.

. . . they are still hurting me. Forgiveness is not permission.

. . . they will never learn. Forgiveness is not enabling.

. . . they haven’t apologized. Forgiveness is not waiting for an apology.

. . . that would be weakness. Forgiveness is not weakness.

. . . I can’t forget. Forgiveness is not forgetting.

. . . I still hurt. Forgiveness is not dying emotionally.

. . . I’m still angry even after praying to forgive. Forgiveness is not a one-time prayer.

. . . we can’t have a relationship again. Forgiveness is not reconciliation.

Which lie has been holding you back?

The best way to invest the 2nd half of 2013

Today you begin the “2nd half” of the year. How’d the “1st half” go?

Did you increase your dependence on God? If you answer “no”, there’s still time to change that in the “2nd half”.

Here are three ways you can increase your dependence on God for the rest of the year:

dependence

 1. Go public with your dependence on God

It’s easy to “check your faith” at the door when you’re at work or hanging out with certain people. Resist that temptation. Let people know that you’re dependent on God in a way that makes sense for your personality and your job.

How can you begin publicly communicating your dependence on God?

2. Leverage what you have for others 

Your blessings aren’t just for you. Jesus leveraged His perfection to save us.

What do you have that you can you begin leveraging for the sake of others?

 3. Remember where you came from, where you are, & where you’re going.

It’s tempting to over-identify with our circumstances (good & bad) isn’t it? Remember, you’re a broken person who’s best feature is a redeeming Savior who makes you beautiful before God.

What circumstances are you over-identifying with (job, relationship, finances, hurt)?