Search by Keyword Here

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Emancipation by Forgiveness

My grandfather used to say “Remember that forgiveness is not for the offender, it is for the offended.”

For many, forgiveness is a tender subject.  Why? Well, to begin a discussion about forgiveness, it will inevitably resurface feelings associated with someone’s offense.  Whether you are the offender or the offended, forgiveness is the key that will unlock the cell and loose the emotional chains that unforgiveness uses to bind you.  Let’s face it, at some point everyone will need forgiveness, because none of us are perfect.  The challenge arises when we forget that, with God, forgiveness is not merely recommended, but required, and the measure that you give to others is what will be given to you.  When you learn to truly forgive, you realize you freed a prisoner, only to find that the prisoner

My grandfather’s statement is a consummate reminder that once we understand the power in forgiveness, we can learn to master our enemies, our circumstances and ourselves.  I once asked my grandfather “what does it mean to forgive someone?”  His reply is still the basis for my definition of forgiveness to this day.  He said “when you allow God to avenge the wrong someone did in His time and in His way, you have forgiven them.”  It was amazing to me that he didn’t say that you forget what happened or that the hurt feelings go away or that you allow the person to regain a position in your life.  It is about releasing the need to be somehow a part of their revenge.  Whether you desire is to be the catalyst, facilitator or the audience to the retaliation for what someone did, that jealousy for revenge is what keeps you bound to the offense.  If you are bound then you are controlled and if you are controlled, that means something has power over you. 

So is there anything mastering you?  If so, how long are you going to allow that person or event to have control?  When you harbor unforgiveness – sure, you may move on, but you don’t have control, the feelings are merely suppressed.  It is not realized until you have to again face memory of the offense.  God knows this concept all too well and I am convinced that it is why he tells us through Paul in Romans 12:19 that “…vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord…”  Forgiveness is so important to God that He requires that we forgive others so that He can forgive us and as mentioned earlier, at some point, we will all need forgiveness.

Considering these words, I strain to understand why anyone would not want to be free from the captivity of unforgiveness.  Maybe they think that it is a sign of weakness or maybe they don’t want to face it and hope the painful feelings just go away.  Truthfully, it takes courage, maturity and strength to forgive.  Mahatma Ghandi once said “the weak can’t forgive; forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”  Listen, no one is saying that forgiving is easy, on the contrary it is difficult many times, but there is truth in the old saying “either forgive it or relive it.”  My prayer for you is that you grasp the power of forgiveness and when needed you have the strength to use it to break the chains that bind.  Forgive your friends, forgive your enemies and don't forget to…forgive yourself.  Be Blessed.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sticks and Stones

My grandfather used to say “Insults and encouragements are only comments until you own them, then YOU give the words power.”

Many would argue that there is power in words. Although words can be used to make things happen, the true power is not in the words themselves, but in the ownership of the person receiving the words. My grandfather’s statement addressed a vast spectrum from the discouragement of insults, to strength of encouragement. It is not as much what is said that counts, but what action is applied to the words that makes the true difference.

I remember growing up; we would play the “snaps”, which was nothing more than an insult contest. No one was safe and any imperfection that you had or were perceived to have was exploited for the amusement of anyone within ear-shot. It didn’t matter what was said about me or even my “mama”, every comment was laughed off in jest and rebutted by a more stinging comment back to my opponent. However, when a snooty little rich kid in my school called me a derogatory name…well those were fighting words. Believe me, there were more vicious insinuations in the words I heard playing the snaps, but I didn’t give the words any power – they were just comments. Granted, there was a different intent from the other kid, but it was still me who gave his words power by owning the insult.

On a different side of the same line of thought, growing up I heard a lot of encouraging words. Even the wise constructive words of wisdom my grandfather would impart - were only comments - unless I owned the action that gave them power to make a difference in my life. I wish that I could say I don’t make mistakes, especially when I know better, the truth is that I could even read the bible from cover to cover, but unless I follow the wisdom in James 1:22 and be a doer – mistakes are inevitable.

My post back in February titled “What Did You Say” focused on the action behind the words you say. This post is the reflection in thought of that concept and addresses the power in the words that you hear. The consistency is that we can’t get too hung up on words positive or negative; it is that action that we apply to them that give them the ability to make a difference. So what do you do with the words you hear? Do you empower them to positively affect your circumstances, or do you buy in to the degrading comments that people use to try and bring you down? My prayer for you is that negative words are taken with a grain of sand, like sand on a beach it is everywhere, and has little value. However when you receive words of encouragement, you take them with a grain of valuable salt, own them, and use them to flavor your life. Be Blessed.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Be Still

My grandfather used to say, “There is a major difference between being still and doing nothing.”

One of the greatest examples of this concept occurred during a visit to my child’s Pediatrician. I don’t know many children who like getting shots, in fact, I can’t think of a single one. The mere sight of a needle tends to send children in a panicked frenzy. While other children were crying, squirming and wriggling in their chairs, I noticed one little girl sitting calmly in her father’s lap. Other parents were directing their children to stop moving or to be quiet, the father of this child calmed her with five simple words – “it’s OK, just be still.” When she received her shot, she cried briefly and then returned to her calm state as her father carried her out in his arms.

Like any of my grandfather’s sayings, this icon of wisdom has the depth and width of the Grand Canyon, when you consider its truth within your circle of circumstance. Whether you are in a tempest of life or enjoying one of life’s moments of pleasure, understanding the difference between the absence of action and stillness will enable you truly understand the meaning of words like trust, relax and even faith. You see, doing nothing is about your level of activity, but being still is about your state of mind and the peace in your heart.

Doing nothing is unproductive when the circumstances of life cause anxiety and stress. Like the lesson in my post “The Ratio of Life” doing nothing is a waste of time and time is something that you can’t recoup once it is gone. On the other hand, a lot of activity such as worry, pressure and frustration are just as unproductive because it is “doing nothing” to assist in the resolution to your concern. However being still is vastly different. When you are still, you have done what you can do to affect your situation and now it’s time for patience, for reflection and positive focus, or simply, time to apply your faith. Maybe you are not in a challenge of life, maybe you just need to take a moment to be still and count your blessings, enjoy the majesty of God’s creation or the peacefulness of a moment, before continuing with the demands of daily life.

The gospels tell a story of Christ calming a tumultuous storm on a boat with His disciples with three simple words, “Peace, be still”. Do you find it curious that he didn’t direct the wind to stop blowing, or for the waters to calm down? The “awe” in the power displayed is that He affected nature’s state of being, not merely what it was doing. What do you do when you have turmoil in your life and you have done all you can do? Where do you search when peace is what you need to find most? My grandfather’s quote brings to mind the words in Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.” Knowing that God’s track record of love and faithfulness is my hope for an uncertain future, it allows me to climb up in the lap of my father, take a deep breath – release a slow exhale and just be…still.

Be Blessed.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stress Relief

My grandfather used to say “You can’t control everything, but you can pray about everything. Do what you can with the challenges of today and for tomorrow…trust God.

Would you like to relieve some of the stress in your life? Well, pay careful attention to the wisdom in these words and I am confident that, if applied, it will enable you to avoid some of the worry that constantly aims to rob you of your peace. You see, it is not merely the inherent stress associated with life that causes us mental and physical strain, but the pressures created by our own perceptions, conclusions and misunderstandings that lead to the unnecessary and avoidable stress that inhibits our ability to truly enjoy life to its fullest.

A survey conducted by the APA (American Psychological Association) revealed that 1 in every 3 adults experience extreme stress with 15% reaching their “stress high” for up to 15 days out of the month. It goes on to reveal that 48% experience health related issues due to stress and 43% either overeat or eat unhealthy foods due to stress. Those who smoke and drink alcohol - 47% and 17% experienced an increase in their consumption during periods of high stress, respectively.* Here is something that I have come to understand, everyone’s stress is different and affects them in different ways, but a key “first step” to reducing and dealing with your stress more effectively is realizing where your stress comes from and how much of it you can avoid.

It was one of those moments where I was stressing over a few different things when my grandfather offered this life line of wisdom, and as usual, the lesson has helped me to evade unnecessary stress in my life over the years when I apply it in the face of potential pressure. The opportunities to worry are endless; a money issue, work pressures, family and relationship challenges, the list goes on and on. The real question is how much of it can you really control? In the book of Matthew (verses 25 – 34), Jesus personally reminds us that basically, you can’t change a thing by worrying about it. We can only see life in the moment we are in, God sees what has happened, what is happening, and more importantly, what will happen. So the better question is do you trust God with your future?

What my grandfather wanted to convey with this quote was the need for me to understand that God is in control, whether I believe it or not, in fact he would often shorten the quote to just two words…”Trust God”. Much like my post “Dance Lessons” sometimes God allows challenges in our life to bring us closer to him. My post “The Ratio of Life“, reminds us that life is only 10% what happens but 90% what you do about it. The stresses and storms are inevitable, but it is how you handle them that will determine how heavy and how long you experience them. Head over to the archives and check them out, it may only take you five minutes. My prayer for you is that you begin to grasp tightly to this life line of wisdom when the tide of life’s pressure rises. Put your worries and trust in God’s hands, so that after the storm has passed you see that you still stand on a rock of hope in Him. No one said it would be easy, but I can attest that it works. Be Blessed.

*Resource - Hitti, M. (2007, October) Web MD: "1 in 3 Adults Feel Extreme Stress" Retrieved from

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Secret to Success

My grandfather used to say “The hardest part of being the best_________, is your own self control.”

This statement has the potential to change the way you view everything that matters in life. It remains one of the greatest “Ah-ha” moments I have experienced and I try to apply it's wisdom on a daily basis. I believe that to understand this statement is to unlock and open the door that leads to the realization of your goals and dreams and as I have found, it is the greatest gift of advice you can give to those you want to succeed.

What is it that you want to be? I am not only speaking of the “superstar” level wishes, but the most basic of goals that you have for yourself. For me, it’s to be the best dad and husband I can be, sometimes, I want to be a great at a sport or an eloquent writer, and other times I just want to be a good listener or simply a good example to the people around me. What I find is my greatest challenge to achieving these everyday goals on a regular basis is…well…me. Like most everyone, I am always on my mind; what I want, I need or think that I deserve – my rights or my opinion; we all have an open ended ticket for the “me” train. The truth at the core of my grandfather’s statement is simply this: to achieve what you want it takes hard work, and often times that hard work is controlling yourself.

The biographies of millionaires, pro athletes, business gurus and people who have changed their world tend to have a consistent theme; hard work and sacrifice. It is a great thing to have dreams, passions and faith, but as James 2:20 states “…faith without works is dead.” But even work, if not directed toward a goal can become wasted energy, like raking leaves in a hurricane. If hard work is the door you have to go through to get to your dreams, then discipline is the door knob and sacrifices are the hinges that allow that door to open.

In my grandfather’s statement that begins this post, there is a blank behind the word “best”, it is there for you to fill in what it is you want to be. As you fill in that blank with the thing you want to become, ponder this; what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve it? How dedicated are you to becoming what you yearn to be? Are you willing to sacrifice your comfort, your pleasures, even your freedoms (as described in my post ‘Your Master Called Freedom’) to be the best? My prayer is that you embrace the sacrifices, the hard work and moreover the discipline and self control it takes to achieve your dreams. Take the time to apply them on a daily basis to be the best “you” that you can be. Remember that discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments and hard work is the road that leads to success. Be Blessed.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Your Master Called Freedom

My grandfather used to say “Be careful that your freedoms don’t become your master.”

In this July 4th holiday season, I wanted to bring to light a quote that has everything to do with your freedoms. This country enjoys freedoms that are the distant envy of other countries and some freedoms that others pray never embeds itself within their borders or their home. I was fourteen years old when I heard this ironic yet enlightening anvil of wisdom and unfortunately saw the tragic consequences of not heeding such poignant advice. It was an eye opening statement that helped me reconsider my youthful definition of freedom.

Let me illustrate this with a story of a friend of mine, for the sake of anonymity, we will call him ‘Willy”. Willy had just turned 21 and he was spending the summer at his relative’s home which was near my grandfather’s house where I spent my childhood summers. Willy was one of the most natural basketball talents that you would ever witness. Dunking effortlessly, shooting 3-pointers like they were lay-ups and moves as smooth as silk dribbling the ball; he was truly the Lebron James our little home town. Willy was working with my grandfather this particular summer during his college break and at lunch we were discussing our plans for the evening. Willy was excited that now he was free to drink alcohol, legally, and he was going to go out with some friends to celebrate his birthday and his new found…freedom. My grandfather offered this quote to him and explained that although he was “free” to drink alcohol because of his age, he should reconsider whether it was something he really wanted to engage in with so much promise in his future.

Willy politely dismissed the warning and cited various people that we all knew, including his own dad, who drank and his hopes that it would help usher in his manhood and redefine his peer group. My grandfather further elaborated on his quote highlighting factually that each of the people that Willy mentioned had been unable to stop their drinking thus far. Careful not to spread stories of anyone’s detriment, my grandfather encouraged Willy to ask each of his mentioned “idols” one question; 'what was the worst thing that they had done, because of their drinking?' He insisted that Willy should ask before he began drinking. I am not sure if Willy ever asked or what happened that night, because Willy never showed up for work again, but what I do know is that he was eventually kicked off of the basketball team and out of college due to issues that were rooted…in his drinking problem.

Here is what my grandfather knew, just because you can do something, doesn’t make it a good thing to do especially in the absence of moderation. So many people defend their ability to get involved with an activity or a vise (usually addictive ones) as a freedom, not understanding that once you are engaged in it, you become bound to do what you felt so “free” to do, but now can’t get “free” from it. What about you, is there something in your life that has you bound? Is there something that you should exercise your freedom to say “no” to, versus your freedom to indulge? My prayer is that you do, as I do when I apply my grandfather’s quote introspectively. Question the things you do, if one seems to be a challenge, try to stop doing it for 30 days straight. If you can great, maybe there is no issue, but if not, maybe you should seek help from experienced counsel, considering the wisdom in John 8:32, so you can become free from it. Also remember that God is never so far that He cannot save and He is closer than you think…waiting for you to call on Him. Happy 4th of July, may God bless those who have sacrificed so that we as a nation can be free. Be truly free and be blessed!