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forgive painting

Forgiveness is a lovely thing to witness. Having led more than a few Restoring Your Heart (RYH) groups, I’ve had lots of opportunities to watch the forgiveness process as it unfolds in people’s lives. The following is one such story.

I know we have all experienced forgiveness at one time or another. Maybe by giving it or receiving it ourselves. Or perhaps been a witness to someone else giving it or receiving it. We’ve all learned about it, studied about it and most likely, struggled with it.

One of the most encouraging and unexpected times I saw forgiveness in action was in a RYH group I led many years ago.

Margie was about 45 years old when I met her. She had joined a RYH Processing Pain group that I was leading in a local church.  Margie, myself and five other women met together for two hours each week to go through the RYH Processing Pain workbook and share emotional hurts from the past. The purpose of the group is to better understand our childhood, grieve our hurts and come to a place of forgiveness. It’s a healing process. During the three months of meeting together in a safe environment, the group members generally form a close bond with one another. Margie’s group was no exception.

A little history on Margie. Margie grew up in a strict home. Her parents were cold and stoic, and as we went through the lessons together Margie told us how they frequently called her stupid and ugly when she was a child. She was neither, by the way.

Not surprisingly, Margie married a man who didn’t treat her much better. She was accustomed to being put down and although she didn’t like it, it was “normal” to her. One day, when Margie’s sons were close to high school age, Margie’s husband left her…for another man. And although in many ways Margie was glad he left, the way he did it confirmed everything her parents had told her about who she was, ugly and stupid.

When we started the RYH group, it was clear that Margie had an enormous amount of animosity towards her ex-husband. The lessons in the first half of the workbook are focused on childhood but Margie had a hard time staying with her childhood issues. She wanted to vent about her ex-husband at every session. About a third of the way through the workbook, Margie realized the process was moving towards forgiving those who had hurt us. She became very agitated and announced that there was one person she could never forgive…her ex-husband.

Everyone in the group validated Margie’s feelings, confirmed that she had been mistreated, and comforted her in her hurt and anger.

Fast forward to the end of the workbook, just past the forgiveness part. Margie walked into the group session that night and she looked radiant, seriously glowing. She was happy and excited. She looked like a different person.

“You will never believe what has happened to me!”

Of course, we all wanted to know. Margie looked so beautiful we wanted whatever had happened to her, to happen to us as well.   “What? What?”

“I have forgiven my ex-husband! I don’t know how it happened! I never thought I would forgive him! But I have and I feel SO FREE!! God is so awesome!”

During the process of Margie acknowledging her pain and grieving her losses, she was able, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to forgive. It not only changed the way she felt, it literally changed the way she looked. That night I actually saw the beautiful face of forgiveness.

If Margie’s story has encouraged you or perhaps touched something deep within your own story, and you would like to see and experience the healing power of forgiveness in your life, learn more about the WDA Restoring Your Heart Ministry at  www.RestoringYourHeart.com.

 

Orucho_group

In 2005, a land dispute erupted in the Mount Elgon region of Kenya’s Rift Valley. The corrupt local militia, “Sabaot Land Defense Force” began raiding villages, extorting bogus “taxes”, killing civilians, and currying favor with local politicians. Over the next three years, the SLDF was implicated in the death of at least 600, and the displacement of over 66,000 people. In 2008, Kenyan security forces launched a major military operation against the SLDF, killing its leader and effectively halting its progress.

Harrison NgotaWDA trainee Harrison Ngota was living in the region at the time. He reports, “In December of that year, it was registered that more than 600 women had lost their husbands to the conflict. We listened to stories of torture and rape from the pastors and leaders present.”

Last month, WDA trainers Mary McKeever, Willie Ruth Johnson and Kathy Heid conducted a discipleship-training seminar for over 50 pastors and leaders in that area. Working off Mary’s foundational teachings on discipleship and a session on forgiveness based on the book As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda, Willie Ruth and Kathy each taught a session on forgiveness as well. Harrison Ngota writes, “This was the most interesting part, drawing so much attention, [leading to] brain-storming sessions. It is very difficult to render forgiveness. SLDF intimidated the population, raped and stole property at will, collected “taxes”, and administered their version of justice. Hundreds of people have been burned out of their homes.”

Mr. Ngota goes on to say, “There is a need to ‘go the extra mile’ and equip pastors and leaders on the ground. Most spiritual leaders have a strong, sincere desire to shepherd and guide disciples to maturity. But unfortunately, few leaders have been equipped to accomplish the task of ‘presenting people mature in Christ.’”

Orucho_groupWDA remains committed to providing training and resources to Christian leaders in Kenya. Our prayers are with the pastors and leaders of Mt. Elgon as they navigate the fallout of recent violence in their region.

If you are interested in becoming an international trainer for WDA or would like to support WDA’s international ministry, please click here!

 

Since I rarely watch TV, I don’t know how to turn on or control the TV. I am also fairly oblivious to most pop culture. On this particular night, however, I was sitting in the living room with my husband who was watching what I call “the angry Stock Guy.” The Angry Stock Guy has a button-down shirt, sleeves rolled up above his elbows, looks mad and yells about stocks. He probably gets paid big bucks for this. I was on the sofa checking my e-mail.

The Celebrity ApprenticeAfter responding to some e-mails, I noticed that my husband was asleep and Donald Trump had taken over where the Angry Stock Guy left off. Celebrity Apprentice, if you don’t know, is a competition between a group of men and a group of women, all famous, who want to please Donald Trump and raise money for their charity of choice.

As I watched the drama unfold, I realized several things. One, to my chagrin, I am really interested in watching this show and I am annoyed when it is interrupted by Tornado Warnings. Two, I have never heard of three-fourths of the celebrities competing. Three, the men are handling themselves really well and the women are acting like spoiled, loud children.

As I watched, I was analyzing my feelings and thoughts. (That’s what counselors do; it’s automatic.) I noticed that when the men were being filmed and were discussing their strategy, I felt peaceful. When the women were on, I felt anxious. I wanted to say to the women, “Why are you so cut throat? Why are your feelings getting hurt? Why can’t you just play nice together?”

About halfway through I realized that the reason for the difference in attitudes and interactions was the way the team leaders handled themselves.

Penn JelletteThe team leader for the men was a guy named Penn Jillette, who is apparently a famous magician. His regard for his team members was obvious. He took charge with quiet, strong authority. He placed people in roles perfect for them. He treated each person with respect. There was no sniveling, arguing, backbiting or dissension on his team. At the end, when Donald Trump asked him whom he would fire from the team if he had to, he reluctantly named two team members, explained why and then apologized to them for having to remove them. When one of the men responded angrily, Penn Jillette turned to him and said, “I understand, you are absolutely correct and I hope you will forgive me.” Then, when they went “off camera”, which is not really off camera, Penn Jillette again apologized to both men and asked for their forgiveness. He actually used those words, “Please forgive me.” He modeled humility and regard for others.

At this point, I was pretty impressed with Penn Jillette. Here was a famous person with a small ego and a strong character.

I wanted to know more about Penn Jillette. I wondered if he was a follower of Christ. So, I googled him. I was sort of surprised when I read that he is not only NOT a follower of Christ, but he is an avowed atheist. I guess I was surprised in a sad kind of way.

But like some atheists, Penn Jillette has left room for God. He confesses, “I am an atheist because I don’t know.” And I realized that what I was seeing in Penn Jillette was still the image of God. Penn’s inner sense of right and wrong was obvious and the way he related to people was a clear reflection of God’s values. Whether Penn Jillette knows or not, it is obvious that he is created in God’s image and he is reflecting that image more clearly than some of us who profess to be followers of Christ.

So, Penn Jillette, I will be praying for you. To know.

And I will be trying to reflect God’s image to others as well as you have.

And I wonder, if someone who doesn’t know reflects God’s image so well, how can we who do profess to know, do a better job as image bearer’s?
How do people see God’s image reflected in you?

(By the way, the men won the competition.)

Once I actually “saw” forgiveness. With my own eyes. In person!

Dove with Olive BranchMost of us have experienced forgiveness one way or another, given it or received it. Been a witness to someone else giving it or receiving it. Learned about it, studied about it, struggled with it. I am going to tell you about the time I saw forgiveness. It was amazing!

Margie was about 45 years old when I met her. She was a member of one of the first Restoring Your Heart groups I led. It was a group of about 6 women who met together for a couple of hours once a week to go through a workbook and share emotional hurts from the past. The object is to understand our past, grieve our losses and heal. Usually, during the three months of meeting together, the women grow very close to one another. Margie’s group was no exception.

A little history on Margie. Margie grew up in a really strict home. Her parents were cold and stoic, and as we went through the lessons together Margie told of how they frequently called her stupid or ugly when she was a child. She was neither, by the way.

Not surprisingly, Margie married a man who didn’t treat her much better. She was accustomed to being put down and although she didn’t like it, it was “normal” to her. One day, when Margie’s sons were close to high school age, Margie’s husband left her…for another man. And although in many ways Margie was glad he left, the way he did it confirmed everything her parents had told her about who she was, ugly and stupid.

When we started the group sessions, Margie had an enormous amount of animosity towards her ex-husband. The lessons in the workbook are focused on childhood but Margie had a hard time staying with her childhood issues. She wanted to vent about her ex-husband at every session. About a third of the way through the workbook, Margie realized we were aiming towards forgiving those who had hurt us. She became very agitated and announced that there was one person she could never, ever, ever, ever forgive…her ex-husband.

Everyone in the group validated Margie’s feelings, confirmed that she had been mistreated, and comforted her in her hurt and anger.

Fast forward to pretty close to the end of our workbook, past the forgiveness part. Margie walked into the group session one night and she looked radiant, seriously glowing. She was happy and excited. She looked like a different person.

“You will never believe what has happened to me!”

Of course, we all wanted to know because we wanted it to happen to us as well.   “What? What?”

“I have forgiven my ex-husband! I don’t know how it happened! I never thought I would forgive him! But I have and I feel SO FREE!! God is so awesome!”

When Margie acknowledged her pain and grieved her loss, she was able, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to forgive. It not only changed the way she felt, it literally changed the way she looked. That was the night I actually “saw” forgiveness.

If Margie’s story has encouraged you or perhaps touched a nerve in you, and you would like to see and experience the healing power of forgiveness in your own life, learn more about the WDA Restoring Your Heart Ministry at www.disciplebuilding.org.