New Year’s Resolution: Forgive

New Year’s Resolution: Forgive

We are on the brink of a New Year and in typical human fashion New Year’s resolutions are abounding. Whatever it may be–cut the carbs, exercise more often, volunteer regularly—we are committed to make the change, to parallel the newness of the season to newness in our lifestyle. I won’t go into how many resolutions actually fail within the first few weeks, but I challenge you to take one on that will change you from the inside out: Resolve to forgive.

I challenge you to walk into the new year free from of the burden of debt—spiritual debt—holding people to pay a price for which they cannot. I challenge you to release them of whatever ill or wrong they have done and in doing so free both yourself and the perpetrator.

 

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Forgiveness is a Powerful Force

 Sometimes we don’t realize the effect of holding on to stuff. Yet forgiveness is a powerful action; it frees the soul to breathe and receive good from God. I like the God’s Word® translation which reads:

“If you forgive the failures of others, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” ( Matt. 6:14)

Forgiveness cleanses the soul of ill intentions and foul moods. It helps to deliver us from the toxins brought on by the stress of the burden. Yes, that’s right, we feel better. We will be free from a useless task of the heart because harboring wrongs lead to nowhere.

The Unforgiving Heart

Like pathological disease our harboring will not be contain to just that one offense or even several offenses. An unforgiving heart will develop and even at the height of our successes we are never truly at peace because of something we have not let go. You may say “I am perfectly at peace.” But we are not at peace with God. And without His peace, we truly do not have it. A different interpretation of Matthew 6:14 reads:

“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. (Matt. 6:14 Msg)

 

 

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Our goal is to be more like Christ, to love unconditionally. When we refuse to forgive we truly distance ourselves from Christ. I mean after all, he came to earth just to forgive!

A New Start

I challenge you to start with a fresh clean heart for the incoming year. And forgive yourself; we often hold ourselves to a higher standard than even God does. Throw often the baggage of dead things and launch a new start and live.

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

I’m off on a tangent again running around on a Saturday because I promised my daughter a new phone, I promised myself I’d get a bunch of gifts for my youth group and they’d all be personalized because…well they are really great kids and I want to make tomorrow’s Christmas party– special.

So off to the store I go and of course the machine is down at the phone store and I run around trying to find a different store with a deal equal or better than the original one I was getting after which, I get caught in the parade traffic on the way to the plaza to pick up those individualized gifts. Now I am spent both mentally and physically and I just want to go home and settle down with a nice big piece of German chocolate cake. But I can’t. I still have a lot of shopping to do.

This has often been my Saturday, but after feeling run down too often by the time Monday morning rolls around I’ve learned to cross things off of my list of to-do and focus on the moral of the story—the point of it all.

Watch the subplots

Too often we add too much drama, run in too many directions with more subplots and story twists than I even want to remember. Often the main story gets buried.

I suppose the first questions are this: do you know what the main story is? Is the story relevant or interesting enough to carry itself? Often times we add to the story because we don’t have confidence that the story as it is will hold up. This does not mean that subplots or even parallel plots will not enhance the story, it simply means that the story is solid and that anything else will only add to the depth of the original and not take over.  If you find that you have a takeover element you may want to consider what is most important—the main story or one of the others—you may be surprised.

Complicated vs. Simple

Buying personalized gifts did not mean in depth conversations with parents or running to every mall in the mid-state to find the perfect gift—it mean simply that I thought about each child—that was the focus, that was the main thing. And for sanity and time sakes, most of them got gift cards. They were very pleased because someone was thinking of them.

The Importance of Self-Discipline

The Importance of Self-Discipline

I hate to be told I can’t do something, in other words put under restriction because I was not able to abide by more liberal rules. For example dietary restrictions: I’ve consumed too much salt over the years and now my allowable sodium intake is suddenly stripped down to mere granules or the time I was practically put on bedrest during my pregnancy because I couldn’t grasp the meaning of the term, Take it Easy.

I don’t know anyone who likes these kinds of restrictions but often they are necessary when we don’t harness our desires. It seems a ridiculous statement: I can’t control myself! Yet, if we look back at many of our past failures, past mistakes most come down to our unwillingness to tell ourselves ‘no’.

Temper Tantrum

I believe God has given us all the ability to reject those urges, to deny ourselves something that or body or soul wants, all, of course, for the greater good. How many relationships would be saved, disasters averted and dreams realized if only we could have made a temporary sacrifice for a better, more permanent reward?  Yes, I know that hindsight is 20/20. But as Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better you do better.”

Only when we recognize the times our bodies are crying out and acting like spoil brats can we learn to hush the voices within. The key is to spot when a tantrum is brewing and prepare our answer to the outburst with a resounding: ‘No’. No to another hour of T.V. when we have a synopsis to write, ‘no’ to another slice of cake or pie because ultimately it makes us sluggish or sleepy and unable to complete the tasks at hand.

When we practice no we tell our bodies who is in charge. We feel more confident because we are now controlling those things which were once controlling us. It is not easy. It takes time to get a grip in each area of our lives, but ultimately it is our responsibility to do so. God has given us that control and using it wisely it is one of the keys to living an ultimate life.

 

Writing Fiction: Make the Payoff Worth the Wait

Writing Fiction: Make the Payoff Worth the Wait

Growing up, my mother had a habit of getting the biggest kick out of a funny story halfway through sharing it.  With tears streaming down her face and completely breathless she’d try to finish it, but simply couldn’t—it was just that funny. We’d all wait patiently because everyone wanted to be a part of a good, rolling-on-the-floor-can’t-catch-my-breath kind of story. We got the first part and surly the ending would have us in the same state as she. And finally she’d pull he self together long enough to finish it. There it was. We’d waited for her to get to the rolling-on-the-floor-can’t-catch-my-breath part. But something was wrong. We weren’t laughing. What should have been the funniest part wasn’t all that funny. The pay-off, the moment we’d waited for was…not worth the wait.

And then again, perhaps it was the build-up. Perhaps that had been too much because often the stories were at the least mildly amusing. If she’d simply chuckled or giggled or smiled broadly we probably would have enjoyed the fact that it was kind of funny. But as a kid, it felt like a setup as if she’d led us to believe, by her gut-wrenching laughter that the story had more meat than it actually did.

And it happens often in fiction writing and movies. How many times have we read a story or watched a movie and the stakes were so high for the protagonist until we were sitting with fists clenched and eyes widened wondering what would happen next? How in the heck was she going to get out of this? And that’s a good thing. It is the hope of all of us that we will engage at such a high level the reader or viewer will forget that these are fictional characters and that their suspension of disbelief will be at its height. But it’s a serious thing to take a reader to the top of a cliff and then…then…the ascension is only a two-foot drop. When a reader trusts us with his time, energy and efforts it is important to engage until the end and make the payoff worth it.

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One approach I have tried to use is to visualize the end of a conflict—exactly how does this turn out? And then I work backward, building from that pivotal moment. This is something you can do with each conflict all the way through the major one near the end.

The first time I saw The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith, I remember halfway through thinking, “Will this guy ever catch a break?” It seemed that scene after scene was nothing but pure struggle and heartache. But at the end when his Gardner gets the intern stockbroker position out of a plethora of applicants you rejoice with him and feel pure elation. This position, this payoff was worth it the wait. This job will take him places he’d only dreamed about. It was difficult to obtain and highly unlikely. And now standing there at the top possessing a position coveted by so many is a payoff worth the wait for him–and for us.

It the payoff isn’t sufficient perhaps you will need to rethink whether the story is worth telling—at this point. Maybe, just maybe a bigger payoff is lurking around the corner.

 

Every Story has Already Been told–except for yours

There is nothing new under the sun the saying goes. Nothing. Everything has been said, seen and done. What is the point? The point is the uniqueness of you–the priceless one-of-a-kind—you.

The problem is we often look at others and covet their experiences or their ability to deftly convey their experience. I believe that each generation has an collectively—as well as its individual voice. The cry of a generation is often thematic and we may not realize what they were trying to convey s until the time has passed. We look back on the 60’s and late 70’s and say that was the hippie generation or the 80’s as the Me generation. But today, now for those stories may be reflective of the times.  Your voice is filled with all of the idiosyncrasies of your time, culture and experience. It cannot be duplicated.

It is unavoidable that you will be influenced by those who have gone before (remember nothing new?) but those that will hear or read your story will be filled with fresh wonderment. God’s beautiful creative power allows us to relive the past without living in the past. A new generation needs to hear your voice. An old generation needs to be reminded of this story.

So do not try to duplicate but reach into your depth and express what God has given you, exactly as he has given it to you. You may be surprised at the results.