Forgiveness Recovery Style #ForgivenessFriday

My friend Connie Wellik is a Wife, Mom of 6 and Grandma of 7. 

For 22 years she served on the Lead Team at Bible Fellowship Church. She directed Women’s and Children’s Ministry, Lay Counseling, Support Groups, and for 10 years prior to retirement, led the Care, Recovery, and Community Outreach Ministries.

Connie continues volunteering in the Celebrate Recovery program as Worship Leader and facilitator for the Sexual Issues group for women every Thursday night. Her passion is to help hurting people from all walks of life embrace the healing power of a Christ-centered recovery. 

Connie Wellik

I remember the first time I did a “forgiveness list”. It was part of a “Step Study” in my Celebrate Recovery Program. A Step Study is a 9-12 month commitment to a weekly sharing of homework with 10-12 others, focused around the Eight Principles of St. Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount – Jesus’ most famous sermon, and the 12-steps of Recovery.
Principle 6 states: Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me, and make amends for harm I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others.
Happy are those who are merciful to others. -Matt 5:7
Happy are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. -Matt 5:9
Celebrate Recovery: “We are told to forgive because God has forgiven us. The Bible also says, Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate with one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32, NIV) We all stand in need of forgiveness and mercy! In the model prayer, Christ taught us to pray, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” 
 
I have been a Christian for most of my life, and I know what the Bible says about forgiveness and making peace – but I never knew the process of forgiveness until Celebrate Recovery. Like most people, I just thought “the past is the past, so just move on”.  I never thought to evaluat all my past relationships to see if there was un-forgiveness, resentment or bitterness lingering in the closet of my soul. I was in deep denial about how the painful relationships of my past were still affecting all my current relationships, as well as keeping me enslaved to patterns of relating that were unhealthy and damaging to others.
 
So as I “inventoried” my past relationships, I discovered that there were several people I needed to forgive. That inventory was excruciating! I had prayed “search me O God, and know my heart. See if there is any deceitful way in me and reveal it so that I may be free to embrace Your forgiveness.”  God answered my prayer!  Fortunately, I have discovered that He did not overwhelm me with every person I needed to forgive in that first inventory. It has taken many other Step Studies and 17 years of recovery to deal with the rest!
 
Principle 6 deals with three main actions we must take in order to know the freedom that forgiveness brings, and we must accept God’s unconditional forgiveness. Jesus paid for all sin for all time when He died on the cross.  He exclaimed from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). If you believe this fact and accepted the free gift of forgiveness Jesus offers, then you are forgiven for the sins you have committed in the past, the sins you did today, and all the sins you will commit in the future!  This is the good part of the good news! Now you are able to take the steps of forgiving others. The “Steps” include the following instructions (with my notes)
1. You must forgive everyone who has hurt or harmed you.  
Yes, there is a difference between hurt and harm.  For example – eating and drinking is pleasurable, but  too much can be harmful…you can develop a host of health problems and not even know it!  On the other hand, a surgeon’s scalpel will result in a world of hurt – but that pain will result in purging the defective and healing the body. Pain is part of the healing process. This reminds me to keep my inventory balanced. There are people who enabled me, lied to make me feel better, thought they were helping me by drawing me into questionable lifestyles, but it was harmful to my soul. I had to forgive even the “nice” people who thought they were doing the right thing but were definitely not. On the other hand, there were those who spoke the truth, even when it hurt. My reaction to the pain this caused prompted me to ask THEM for forgiveness! (that is the “amends” step, another post!)
 
The most difficult to forgive were those who perpetrated abuse and neglect against me as a child.  Principle 6 reminds me that forgiving those who have harmed me in this way no way excuses the harm done against me. Forgiveness allowed me, however, to be released from the power that they had and continued to have over me.  I was instructed to write out my forgiveness to my perpetrators in detail.  Because I no longer had contact with them, I read this to someone I trusted to keep my story confidential (my sponsor). I have no words for the relief and freedom I felt as I confessed what had happened, and verbalized my forgiveness out-loud.
 
2. You must forgive yourself. 
I felt that the guilt and shame of my past was too much to even think about, let alone forgive. I learned to cover-over the shame with compulsive work-a-holism and other addictions to avoid dealing with it.  This is what God says about the darkness of the past – “Come, let’s talk this over! Says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool! If you will only let me help you” (Isaiah 1:18-19 TLB).  Until I was able to forgive myself for the shameful ways I had lived-out my past abuse, I would continue to defend, excuse and justify my actions, or blame others for my hurtful behavior.
 
3. You may need to forgive God! 
I had a very distorted view that somehow God had made me defective, and because He allowed the abuse to happen, He was not to be trusted.  I had to realize that because God gave everyone free-will, it was the choice of my perpetrators that were responsible for the abuse, not God.  In fact, God has redeemed my pain to such a degree that I am able to be more compassionate and loving to others who have experienced the shame of addiction as a result of past abuse. 1 Peter 5:10 says, “After you have borne these sufferings a very little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to share in his eternal splendor through Christ will himself make you whole and secure and strong.”
 
If forgiveness is an ongoing battle for you, I highly recommend Celebrate Recovery. You will find a step-by-step walk through the process of forgiveness with the bonus of having others to encourage and help you along the way.
Celebrate Recovery meetings are located in thousands of churches throughout the United States and in 36 other countries around the world. Click HERE for locations.

5 reasons to avoid a small group

5 reasons to avoid a small group

1. You don’t have time

2. You don’t like small talk

3. Relationships are messy

4. You don’t want new friends

5. You’re afraid

5 reasons you should join anyway

1. You might be the encouragement someone else needs

2. You may face an unforeseen challenge soon & need encouragement

3. God said we need each other (Heb. 10:24)

4. You’re less likely to fall

 5. You’re more likely to grow spiritually

 

Summary: Forming community can be hard but it’s worth it!

My small group at a recent dinner

My small group having dinner together recently

5 Reasons you won’t forgive #ForgivenessFriday

You won’t forgive because . . . 

. . . you won’t surrender your rights to get even.

. . . you won’t release the victim mentality.

. . . you think forgiveness is something it’s not.

. . . you want to forgive but don’t know how.

. . . you’re emotions are in charge (anger, self-pity, sadness, guilt).

forgive pic

“Why do people surrender their tomorrows to the unfair pain of their yesterday? The total answer lies buried somewhere in our primitive need to protect our pride, in our trembling fear of feeling weak, and in our moral instincts for justice, all mingled together as a raw passion to see he who wounded us wounded in equal measure.” –Lewis Smedes (The Art of Forgiving)

How about you? What keeps you from forgiving?

My life in 5 tweets

I see doctrinal positions and pithy philosophical witticisms on twitter constantly. The beauty of twitter is it encourages brevity.

I thought it’d be fun to compose a tweet that represented each season of my faith. Sort of a brief review of my own spiritual progression.

twitter

Tweet #1: God is good and He loves me. 

This would have been my childhood tweet. (Thankful for parents who planted those seeds.)

Tweet #2: God is good and He loves me. God wants to use me. 

My teenage years tweet.

Tweet #3: God is good and He loves me. He wants to use me despite the brokenness (mine and the worlds). 

My tweet during my 20’s and early 30’s as I discovered more brokenness.

Tweet #4: God is good and He loves me. He wants to use me but the journey won’t be easy. 

My tweet during my 30’s. My faith grew through providential (but difficult) circumstances.

Tweet #5: God is good and He loves me. He wants to use me. The journey won’t be easy so I must lean on others through regular, intentional community. 

My current “tweet”.

That was fun . . . for me.

What tweet would describe your faith right now? (For you non-tweeters remember that you’re limited to 140 characters or less.)

The 4 best books on forgiveness I’ve ever read. #ForgivenessFriday

When you need to forgive but don’t know how, reading a helpful book can be super helpful.

Here are the four forgiveness books I found most helpful (in no particular order) and most influenced the writing of my book on forgiveness:

forgiven

The Forgiving Life by Robert Enright

The Art of Forgiving by Lewis B. Smedes

Forgive For Good by Fred Luskin

As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda by Catherine Claire Larson

How about you? What’s your favorite book on forgiveness?

Stop comparing yourself. Sing your song.

I compare myself to others. “Does he have more than me?”, “Are they better off?”, “Are their kids smarter?” are just some of the questions on my exhausting comparison treadmill.

Do you constantly compare yourself with others?

I’ve recently discovered that I’m not the only person who struggles with comparison. One of my friends Laurie shared some of her story with me. I asked if she’d write a guest post for us today.

In addition to being a committed follower of Christ, gifted musician, and creative, Laurie is blessed with three kids, seven grandkids and has been married to her best friend Gary for 48 years.

laurie mccoy

Let me just begin by saying that this is a work in process for me. I don’t want to sound like I have this all figured out – or that I think I have it all together, because I don’t. But, I will tell you a little about my journey.

The struggle with comparison really began for me when I was a young wife and mother in my thirties, with three small children. I was trying desperately to keep things in order, to keep all of my plates spinning at the same time. Yet, no matter how hard I tried, I was in a bit of a frazzle. I arrived everywhere I was going just a little bit late with at least one child in tears.

I became focused upon comparing myself to other mothers, and I fell hopelessly short. This friend’s house was always neat, and her kitchen counters sparkled. That friend’s children were better behaved and always beautifully dressed. Another friend always looked put together, with toenail polish matching her lipstick.

I couldn’t keep up with the toys and shoes and little piles of jackets and socks that seemed to collect in the family room. My kitchen counters were always sticky, and my floors looked like I had three kids and two dogs running through the house all day. My friend’s homes were neater, more creatively decorated, their children better dressed, their family incomes higher, their clothes far more stylish, their marriages happier – and on and on.

In every area of my life, I became focused on comparison, and I fell short. From my perspective, I was a mess as a wife, a mother, and as a musician.

Gradually, I began to doubt my self, my creativity, and began to reject musical opportunities out of fear of failure. I was crippled by the lens of comparison through which I was looking at my life. And then, a woman in our church whose life and ministry I greatly respected took me aside and said to me: “Laurie, God designed you with the gifts and abilities that you have because He intends to use you. If you stifle the creative voice that He has given you, who will sing the songs He has for you to sing?”

I went home from my time with her and wrote in my journal, “God created me to be me because He intends to use me.” And that was the beginning of understanding for me.

When I became the mother of three children, God didn’t make a mistake. I was the one God had designed to be the mother of these three little people, not my friend with the shiny kitchen counters. I began to understand that I needed to stop looking at the other mothers in my life, and begin looking at the needs of my children and how I could best help them.

When God placed in me a heart for worship and a love of music, it was not a mistake. It was His purpose to use the voice He had given me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this the past week or so – and I realized that in comparing myself constantly with other women, other mothers, other musicians – seeing only their strengths and my weaknesses – I was kind of like a violin who decided one day that it did not like being a violin at all. In fact, it was completely disgusted with being a violin. It didn’t like the way it sounded, or the way it looked. It didn’t like that it was made of plain old wood. And so it said to it’s maker: “I hate the way you made me! I’m dull and brown, and I can only make these annoying string sounds. I no longer want to be a violin. I want instead to be a trumpet. A trumpet is all golden and shiny and gets to stand up in the orchestra and make these bright beautiful brass sounds. I just have to sit on my owner’s shoulder and depend upon a bow to make me play. You made a mistake. You should have made me a trumpet.” And the maker said to the violin. “But, if you become a trumpet, your voice will be gone from the orchestra. No one but you has your voice, and that sweet sound would be lost. I have a trumpet already, and it is beautiful, but I don’t need another one. If you were to become a trumpet, who would sing the song that I have written for you to sing?”

You have searched me, Lord, and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue Lord, you know it completely… For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

I am learning that there is only one whose life I can fully look up to, only one whose life I should seek to emulate, and that one is Jesus.

They will never pay you back #ForgivenessFriday

Your offender will never pay you back. Your offender will never pay you back.

Carrying a grudge is heavy but the worst part is the unhelpful expectation that your offender will some day pay you back.

Surrendering to God’s story means you give your offender what they don’t deserve: Forgiveness.

The common approach is “you owe, you pay.” God’s approach is “you owe, I’ll pay.” (Matthew 18)

pay off the debt

Ask yourselves these questions:

What pain have some of your heroes endured?

What strengths do you have that will help you pay off their debt?

Who will benefit from you paying off this debt?

How will they benefit?

How would your life be better if this debt was removed?

Your offender will never pay you back. What will you do about the debt?

“Thank you Coach Garrett”

Jason Garrett was about to sign my 8-year-old son’s helmet. Lincoln was somewhat excited but I was elated. So I whispered in Lincoln’s ear, “Make sure you say, ‘Thank you Coach Garrett’”.

Jason Garrett

After Jason’s Garret signed Lincoln’s helmet Lincoln quietly whispered, “Thank you.” I could tell Lincoln wanted to obey me but no one else was saying “thank you” so he felt like he was entering unchartered territory.

Then I handed Jason Garrett a football. After he signed it I confidently said, “Thank you Coach Garrett”. Immediately, I heard an echo as Lincoln followed my example and loudly said, “Thank you Coach Garrett”. Jason Garrett smiled, looked at Lincoln and said, “You bet son!”

Telling people what to do creates a whisper. Showing people what to do creates confidence.

As a parent, I’m learning showing is better than telling. (BTW, I love people and churches that do more showing than telling.)

Re-writing your story opens the door to forgiveness #ForgivenessFriday

Last Christmas our family vacation went south fast! We were driving in the snow at Yosemite National Park when our suburban slid off the road and we eventually broke two brand new sets of snow chains.

That night we made it back to our cabin and decided to share our experience on Facebook. But we faced a dilemma. Our day included some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen and I experienced some of the most frustrating moments ever. We had to choose the pictures that told the story of our day.

Broken snow chain laying beside rear tire

Broken snow chain laying beside rear tire

Bridal Falls in the distance

Bridal Falls in the distance

Yosemite #2

Driving up to Yosemite

Yosemite #1

Ginger (my wife) at foot of Yosemite Falls

When you tell the story of your past, you are choosing “pictures”. Choose wisely. Choosing the wrong pictures hinders forgiveness (we talked about that HERE last week).

God wants you to leverage your past for His glory (2 Cor. 1:4-6).

Today, I want to help you rewrite your story as an overcomer and include purpose for your past pain. This will help you reinforce and maintain forgiveness.

Using the word HOPE, write out your new story in one paragraph.

> H Write your “hope” sentence. (This is the personal hope you originally held before your hurt.)

> O Write your “observe” sentence (You observe that every hope includes the possibility of failure.

> P Write your “positive” sentence. (You recognize some of the positive things God has produced in your life as result of your pain.)

> E Write your “enduring” sentence. (Re-establish your enduring goals and values.)

Once you have your new story, tell it to someone. “Own” your new story as an overcomer.