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Newsletter #1 January 2011

New Year’s Resolution: Forgiveness

The holiday season is filled with numerous celebrations with family and friends.  These days are followed by a list of reforms we make for ourselves affectionately called “new Year’s Resolutions” to lose weight, live a more healthy life or to save more money.

This year, let us add a much more meaningful resolution tour list – a willingness to forgive.  Grudges, resentments, self-defeating habits and negative feelings are barriers to a healthy, productive life.  Positive thoughts like joy, happiness, achievement, worthiness and fulfillment have positive results like enthusiasm, well-being, energy and love.

On the other hand, when we have the negative thoughts of judgment, unworthiness, mistrust, resentment or fear, we produce negative results like tension, anxiety, alienation, anger and fatigue.  Our thoughts and our feelings result in our behaviors.  When we change our thoughts, we change our behaviors.  It is good to remember that the word anger is just one letter short of danger.

The majority of patients who are in a hospital today are there due to personal life choices.  People with a positive outlook on life live healthier lives.  You can make yourself sick or well by the habitual thoughts you think.  Negative thoughts of hatred, bitterness, criticism and revenge drain the body and mind of the energy needed to succeed. 

They are like a parasite sucking our own blood and livelihood.

For example, a good way to send your blood pressure and heart rate soaring is to talk about a person who betrayed you.  Research is confirming what many have suspected for a long time.  One way to improve our health is by our willingness to forgive.

Many people find it hard to forgive others because they were taught erroneous messages about forgiveness.  Forgiveness is not forgetting, is not condoning or excusing someone.  Forgiveness is not the same as smothering conflict or tolerance.  We can still hold someone responsible for their actions and we can still fell angry.

Forgiveness is personal empowerment and spiritual healing.  At some point in our life, we reach the decision that life could be better.  We realize that what we have done in the past is not making us any happier, healthier, or more successful.  We decide to make a conscious choice to heal ourselves by examining the hurts in our lives and learning how  to let go.

I enjoy facilitating retreats on “The Joy of Forgiveness” which are mini journeys to healing wholeness.  I have dealt with just about every issue possible over the years.  People who have been hurt as a result of divorce, incest, abuse, addictions, or discrimination can learn how to “let go” and forgive as a gift of personal empowerment to themselves.

During these retreats, the participants proceed through six stages of forgiveness with a variety of activities.  Keeping a journal of their thoughts and feelings each step of the way adds to the success.  Each person discovers how everything that happens is a new beginning.  If you really want something to happen, it is not too late to set new goals.

For many people the hardest person to forgive is one’s self.  Our society is really good at putting guilt trips on us.  We fill our thoughts with “if only” or “I should have” statements.  Learning how to accept and forgive one’s self is a key to happiness and contentment.

Not forgiving is like a cancer that eats away at your own body.  The whole idea of forgiveness is putting yourself back in the driver’s seat and not allowing someone who hurt you to live rent free in your head.  In other words, if you do not forgive, you hurt yourself more than the person who hurt you.  You forgive as a gift to yourself.

This year, make a New Year’s resolution to make peace with your past, so you can go on with your life.  Remember” Forgiveness is good medicine.

Newsletter # 2 February 2011

Learning to Forgive Oneself

Most of us have grown up hearing the Scripture “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  While the majority of people have been taught to put the emphasis on how we should treat others, the last two words seem to be often omitted from the whole concept.  One big question is what happens if we treat others the same way we treat ourselves but do not like ourselves.

Lots of problems could develop if we don’t treat ourselves very nicely.  If we are full of bitterness, jealousy, resentment or lack confidence, this attitude is what others see and feel when they are around us.  We need to love ourselves as God loves us.

The same concept is true when we look at the subject of forgiveness and see it as a two-way street.  For too many people, the hardest person to forgive is one’s self.  Our society is really super good at putting guilt trips on us.  For children, shame is one of the most destructive emotions according to psychologists.  Children who live in positive, caring environments have a better chance of feeling good about themselves as they mature.  Adults who heard a lot of criticism in the absence of unconditional love have a more difficult time with acceptance and forgiveness.  They have a harder time accepting an apology from others and believing that God can truly love them for who they are.

Scriptures speak of God’s willingness to forgive us.  Therefore, it is paramount for us to learn to accept His forgiveness and to forgive ourselves.  Since we are human, we are bound to make a number of mistakes.  One thing each person can do is to process his/her thoughts and actions in order to learn something from the experiences.  There are a number of actions one can chose to take that can help develop the inner peace and freedom from past hurts. Learning to forgive yourself is a first step.

In next month’s article, I will share a number of ideas on how one can learn to forgive his or her self.

Newsletter #3 March 2011

Ways to Forgive Yourself

Since we are human beings, we are bound to make a number of mistakes over the years.  Yes, some of them are more serious than others.  All of us have learned that nothing can change the past.  The time wasted drinking, doing drugs, gambling, engaging in risky behavior , over spending the credit limit, or caught up in a lousy marriage can not be gained back.  The one thing each person can do is to process his/her thoughts and actions in order to learn something from the experience.  Then you can promise yourself a better tomorrow.

There are a number of actions you can choose to take that can help you develop  the inner peace and freedom from past hurts that you are longing for and learning to forgive yourself is a first step.

You need to continually remind yourself that you did the best you could with what you had at the time.  Maybe you didn't have the finances needed or the perfect job.  Maybe you couldn't spend as much time and energy on a project as you would have liked.  Maybe you had a personality conflict with someone at work or in school.  Perhaps you missed a golden opportunity because you were too shy or fearful to go for it at that time.

Recognize that it is time to get off of your "pity pot" and put aside your self righteous resentment. The expression "pity pot" comes from the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  The expression refers to someone who sees himself as a helpless person who has no power at all.  Everyone experiences misfortunes of some type.  Accept the fact and get on with life.  Stand on your own two feet and begin to take responsibility for your actions.


Be honest with yourself.  Stop blaming others and playing games of self deception.

Be willing to take more risks.  The fact that you have been hurt before doesn't mean that everyone is out to get you.  There are more good people in the world than lousy.  Allow yourself to open up and  love others.

Take care of yourself: physically exercise at least 4 times a week, eat nutritional meals, get plenty of sleep, and practice some R & R weekly; mentally -use it or lose it -- read, play games that require thinking; emotionally practice some sort of meditation, yoga , or tai chi to listen to your inner self.

Think positive thoughts and fill your mind with healthy living habits.  No one would choose to live in a latrine or garbage bin yet millions choose to fill their minds with junk watching trash on TV or in movies.  Only when you choose to eliminate negative, destructive thoughts from your mind will you be able to truly practice self love.  When we dwell on the negative, we send out bad vibes to those around us.

Accept the support others offer you.  Allow them to encourage and help you.  If you don't have someone close you can trust, find one of the many support groups who can relate to your situation.  Someday, when you feel strong again, you will be able to reach out and support someone else in return.

Recognize and celebrate your strengths.  Learn to accept compliments.  Take pride in yourself and know that you are of value.  God made you!  Use your strengths to help wipe out any feelings of jealousy you may be harboring. The first classmate I ever envied was the first one to die - a suicide.  As time passes on and I continued to make comparisons I realized that life in the long run hasn't always been as bad as imagined. 

Read biographies - learn how others have coped with various life situations.

Count your blessings!

Last but not least, develop a firm foundation with a strong faith.  There are numerous different religions.  Find one that will allow you to connect to a Higher Power.  Accept God's grace.

An unwillingness to forgive keeps us living in the past and cheats us out of a more beautiful tomorrow.  It is time for you to stop putting a guilt trip on yourself and start accepting the fact that you are human so that you can begin to enjoy life.  Start to practice healthy choices.

Newsletter #4  April 2011

The Days are Long but the Years are Short

There are days when we can feel like pulling our hair or screaming because nothing seems to be going right.  The kids are driving us nuts and we think it will be a miracle if we make it through the day.  Then, before we realize it, we stand back and observe as one of them starts Kindergarten, then high school, celebrates another birthday or some other momentous occasion and we think, "Where did the years go?  My baby is growing up."

Any attempt to avenge a wrong, whether real or perceived, is one of the leading causes of violence in today's society.  At home or in a school setting, when the act of forgiveness is taught and practiced , a welcoming environment ensures the safety of our children.  Until all of our children are safe, none of them are truly safe. We can teach children to realize that the power to forgive is within themselves.  One of the best gifts they can give themselves is to learn to forgive those that have hurt them.

A retreat participant shared these thoughts on forgiveness: "It reflects to me what forgiveness is.  From the rush of feelings that a person experiences when he/she has been hurt, to the relief and happiness that same person experiences when he/she realizes that he/she has the power to forgive the person who hurt him/her."

Newsletter #5  May 2011

Oxygen Masks (Filling your own bucket)

Sacrifice is a significant word in our vocabularies.  One of the biggest challenges for many people is how to take time for personal leisure and relaxation without feelings of guilt.  We live in a workaholic world with multiple stresses.  Too frequently, even our children are not even allowed to be carefree kids anymore but are continually being taxied from one activity to another.  We are expected to please others without any regard to our own health and happiness.   In order to meet the demands of family, work, and community expectations, we keep dipping into our personal buckets to dish out love and support and encouragement to all of those around us.  The problem is that our bucket only holds so much.  Therefore, every time we dip into our own bucket to dish out something to meet someone else's need, our bucket becomes one cup less.  If we continually dip out of our bucket without taking the time to refill it, the bucket soon runs dry and empty.  Then there is nothing left to give.  In order for us to keep filling the buckets of others, we must be able to replenish our own bucket.

Anyone who has ever flown knows the mandatory speech by heart.  The stewardess is required to tell us about the emergency procedures like locating the exits and what will happen if the plane loses its air pressure.  The most crucial line is what to do if we are traveling with children or someone who is elderly or handicapped.  You are to put on your own oxygen mask before trying to help someone else apply theirs.  Anyone who does not follow these direct instructions runs the risk of passing out before he/she has been able to help anyone else.  It is crucial that you tend to your own needs or else you will be useless to anyone else.

Taking time to refill your own bucket is the same concept!  You must take care of yourself before you can effectively take care of anyone else.  The healthier we are, the better equipped we are to love and support those around us.  Taking care of yourself is good advice for everyone!

 Newsletter #6 June 2011

TRUST

Can you remember how you first experienced a loss of trust?  The realization that not everyone or everything is always open and above board?  As a parent, I can vividly remember the first time our son gave us "the look."  Like other kids, Gregg loved video games.  The first video game was a guy known as Pac Man.  Gregg was just a pre-schooler at the time.  It seems like overnight, there machines popped up everywhere.  Whenever we walked into a place that had a Pac Man machine, Gregg's eyes would light up and he'd rush up to the machine and start playing with the levers.  All sorts of lights would be flashing and there would be weird and fascinating sounds.  As he twisted and turned the knobs, Gregg thought he was making all of those actions happen.

Neither Rick or I came from a family flush with money.  Like many other parents with young children, we didn't have extra money to be spent on playing video games.  So, out of economic necessity, we just let Gregg fool around having fun with the dials.  One day that all changed.  As he stood there, manipulating the controls, a teenager walked up to the machine.  Guess what!  This teenager did the most amazing thing imaginable.  He stuck his hand into his jeans pocket, pulled out a quarter, and he inserted it into the Pac Man machine.  All of a sudden, the machine started doing actions that Gregg had never before seen.  His eyes grew as big as saucers.  Then, as he stood there watching, Rick and I could actually observe his little mind to into high drive.  We could see the wheels turning as the brain cells started to process what was happening.  Then the light bulb lit up like a Christmas tree.  He looked over at his dad, back at the machine, over to me, and back to the machine.  Everything fell into place as he put it all together.  He knew that we knew Pac Man could do all this stuff but hadn't told him.  Years ago in the movies, the late James Cagney was noted for the infamous line, "You dirty rat!"  And that is exactly the look that we were getting.  Although Rick and I had been saving a lot of quarters, life was never quite the same after that day.

All of us have experienced the feelings of trust and distrust.  Sometimes peple deliberately do something to hurt us.  There are other times when it can happen quite innocently.  Are you harboring ill feelings toward someone right now?  Is there someone you don't think you can trust any more?  Try to stop and process their motives.  Where were they coming from and why did they do what hurt you?  Was it deliberate, or could it have been unintentional?  What about the times you have said or done something that caused others to lose their trust in you?  Maybe it's time to consider giving them a second chance.  Ultimately, try striving to reach the goal of reconciliation.


Newsletter # 7  July 2011

Somebody Hurt You

Somebody hurt you and you cannot forget it.  You did not deserve the hurt and it went deep enough to lodge itself in your memory.  Most of us find that the pains of our past keep rolling through our memories and continue to resurface from time to time.

Forgiving is love's toughest work and love's biggest risk.  Our sense of fairness tells us people should pay for the wrong they do, but forgiving is love's power to break nature's rule.  Hurts are often very personal and can go deep.  When you feel this kind of pain, you have a wound that can be healed only by forgiving the one/s who wounded you.  Hate eventually needs healing.  Hate is a malignancy that hurts the hater more than it hurts the hated.  Hate is like a parasite sucking our own blood, not theirs.  Hate is a sign that we are sick and need to be heatled so we can be well.  The longer we hate, the harder it is to heal us.  Thee acan be no inner peace as long as we are filled with hate.  Forgiving is the ony way to be fair to ourselves.  forgiving stops the reeuns of pain and heals the memory.

In my next article, I will address how and why people hurt us.


Newsletter # 8 August 2011

Why do People Hurt Us

Many of us can get our feelings hurt fairly easily.  When that happens, human nature can take over to protect us from further harm.  Too often our defenses can stop us from asking hre important question, "Why did the person choose such an action?"  There are many reasons why people may end up hurting us.  In this newsletter and in next month's, I will mention a few them.

Sometimes it can merely be by accident or totally unintentional.  When my mother died, I received a number of beautiful sympathy cards.  Unfortunatly, one of them was signed with only a first name and had no return address on the envelope.  Since I knew more than one person with this common first name I could not respond with a thank you.  To do so would have been running the risk of an uncomfortable or embarrassing situation. Have you ever experienced a situation similar to this?   Stop and think!  Is there a time when you could not properly respond to someone or might have hurt someone unintentionally due to the lack of information?

Sometimes people hurt us because they think we deserve it.  Maybe they think you aren't doing your share of the job or project or that you are taking too much credit for the amount you have done. If you are getting your feelings hurt while on the job or find yourself in an uncomfortable situation while working on a project, stop and take a look at your performance and your input.  How might others be responding to what you are or are not doing.

Too often, people hurt us with what they consider their good intentions. Sometimes we may say something to someone with the idea of "helping" them when in the long run the words are taken in a different way and the message back fires.   Many find it difficult to choose the correct words when someone is experiencing a rough time.  For example, when a woman has a miscarriage, she is experiencing a real death.   But sometimes instead of offering sympathy, someone might respond with something like "You are young and can still have another baby" or "It was for the baby's good" or "It was in God's plan." What she (or couple) really need to hear are words of comfort.  Anytime someone loses a loved one, he/she needs compassion and support.

Sometimes a person has no choice because rules or guidelines must be followed.  Over the past several years, I have served as a local or state officer of various organizations. While serving as the president, I have personally found myself in situations of being forced to take a position or a particular action because I had to follow the rules.   Several people have gotten very upset with my at various times because he/she wanted me to say or do something that I was not aloud to do.  Have you been in a situation where you had to follow a path you didn't like?  Have you gotten angry and hurt with someone who had no choice in the action taken?

In my next article, I will continue to describe various ways people can hurt us and try to help you look at the other side of the coin.

Newsletter # 9  September 2011

How People Hurt Us

There are many reasons why others may hurt us.  In this article I will continue to list some more of these reasons.

Remember that childhood game of "telephone" played at parties?  Everyone would sit around in a circle, one person would whisper something in the ear of the person next to him/her and the message would go whispering around the circle.  How often did the message at the end sound exactly like the one at the beginning?  Rarely!!  Communication is a big, really big factor in our relationships.  More often, than not, it can be a matter of miscommunication or a lack of communication.  Someone did not get invited to an event; another did not get included in a project.  Who was suppose to contact who was not clearly defined and the line of communication fell short.

Years ago, close friends of mine managed church camps.  Everyone who attended a camp or retreat at their location were impressed with their care and attention.  One week-end, however, noone spoke to them or said anything to anyone.  For a couple of days, my friends were confused about what was happening.  It wasn't until Sunday, when the Bishop realized he had failed to let them know that the intent of this week-end's camp experience was to be a week-end of silence and meditation, that they understood.  As all of the participants were leaving on Sunday afternoon, everyone was very generous with their compliments about the food, the accommodations, etc.  A few words from the embarrassed Bishop would have saved the day! 

As a result of our being verbal people, too often we don't take the time to read, study, and listen to the whole story before putting in our two cents worth.  When someone only hears and interprets part of the information, lots of damage can occur.  Our national Media too often presents only part of a story or their version of the story.  As a result, false stories get passed around so much that the wrong story ends up becoming reality for many.  Stop and think about the time/s when you have forgotten to pass on the correct message or have accidently left someone out of the loop.

The domino effect often can result in hurting people who do not deserve it.  Because we are human and nobody is perfect, mistakes do happen.  When someone bungles a job, others are affected.  Personal problems are a dramatic example of spill-over and easily hurt friends and family.  When someone gets hooked on alcohol, drugs, gambling or any other addiction, everyone close to that individual suffers.  An addict inflicts pain on everyone who loves him/her and there is litttle anyone can do until the person hits rock bottom and is ready to leave denial.

One of the most painful hurts is when people develop different goals or relationships that result in their going different directions.  When someone outgrows another person or stops having the same interest, changes occur.  Marriages, careers, moves to a new location will effect our contact time with others.  Almost always, at least one person is left behind feeling lost and lonely while the other person is moving on to new adventures and opportunities.

Every coin has two sides and every situation always has at least two sides.  When you think over the times and the ways your feelings have been hurt, try and see what the other side might look like and where the other party was thinking at the time.  If you still feel you were wrongly hurt, it is time for the act of forgiveness to take place.  The topic of forgiveness will continue as months go by.

Newsletter # 10  October 2011

Words Have Meaning

In one of the earlier articles I mentioned the childhood game of "Telephone" and how our messages can result in miscommunication.  Another important lesson we all need to learn and practice is the fact that our non-verbals can carry a deeper meaning than our actual words.  The way we speak, the sound of our voice, and our body language speak louder than the words we are speaking.  For several years, I was a member of the Ames International Partner Cities Association.  Rick and I have also been volunteers with IRIS (Iowa Resources for International Service).  We have hosted both students and adults from several foreign countries.  The meanings of words and gestures often carry totally different messages in different cultures.  When we travel to another country, we listen carefully to our tour guides who will direct us things to say or not say to avoid potential embarrassing situations.

I grew up in a church that taught lots of Bible study.  As one requirement of Confirmation, each one of us had to memorize the books of the Bible and their order.  As an adult, I regularly attended a Monday evening Bible study for several years.  Deacon John knew Hebrew, Arabic, and Greek languages.  It is amazing what I not only learned but had to relearn about the content and messages of the scriptures.  The definitions of numerous words have totally different meanings when you learn what they really were in the original language.  One of the main reasons why so many people today have such varied and different points of view in religion is because too many people are thinking and applying our modern day interruption of words instead of getting the correct meaning for the time and language in which they written.

Our words can be positive and uplifting or they can be negative, hurtful, even insulting.  If all of us would take time to speak in positive messages, we would all be a little bit happier.  What message is your voice sending?

Newsletter # 11  November 2011

Life is Not Always Fair

While sitting on top of the world, a new principal - young, inexperienced and insecure - was hired.  I had struggled long and hard to put myself through college and worked to get a good teaching job.  I became a topnotch popular teacher and was an active member of the community.  I brought innovative new ideas to the system, started a great summer school program, and promoted arts and recreation for the young.  But the new principal ended all of my success because I was an active member of the NEA (National Teacher's Association).  Filled with bitterness, I left the district, finished my master's degree and discovered a new promising cateeer.  As a result, I discovered a whole new exciting adventure.  The Chinese symbol for crisis has two partswhich stand for danger and opportunity.  Today I am fulfilling my passion by helping others learn how to forgive their past hurts in order to live a better tomorrow. Each time life slams the door in our face, God opens a window for a new adventure.   Remember: Everything that happens is a new beginning.

Newsletter #12  December 2011

If only

There are numerous reasons why the word life has the big/little word "if" in the middle.  As we go through our lives our experiences give us opportunities to make many choices. As we age we are pleased with a lot of these choices we have made.  On the other hand, few people can look back on the years without having some second thoughts.  After all, we know that hind sight is better than fore-sight.  Right?   God gave each one of the right to have free will.  Unfortunately, we sometimes have regrets over some of the choices we have made.  Then we catch ourselves living in the "If only" stage of life.  If only I had been richer, prettier, smarter, had a better job, a different car!  If only I had exercised more, eaten more nutritionally, quit smoking!  The list goes on and on. 

The first cousin to "if only" is "I should have."  I should have spoken up and said more or I should have kept my mouth shut.  I should have listened better.  I should have seen it coming.  I should have worked harder.  Another list goes on and on.  Stop and think about the decisions you have made or chosen not to make over the years.  Take out two pieces of paper and at the top of one write the words "If only" and at the top of the other piece write "I should have."  Then take a few minutes to write down a list of the statements you have made over the years in each column.

Life presents us with many choices and opportunities.  Some of them we will like and others will leave us feeling sorry for ourselves.  But as mentioned in an earlier article about forgiving ourselves, we need to learn to acknowledge that we are human and everyone makes mistakes.  I started this year writing an article about New Year's Resolutions.  A good way for us to end the year is to decide to replace the negative language of "if only" and/or "I should have" with a positive statement.  The next time you catch yourself starting to say one of these negatives, choose to start your thoughts with "Even if ______."   For example, instead of saying "If only my best friend hadn't moved away" you can say something like "Even if my friend moved away we can still visit each other, write or e-mail each other to stay in touch."   People who don't enjoy their jobs can ustain themselves with thoughts  like "Even if this isn't the best job, I can do my best and work to develop a good reputation that will help me get a better job."

Identify your biggest negative thought and think over how you can replace it with a positive statement.  A good way to end this year is to put aside negative thoughts so that you can begin the new year with positive thoughts and feelings that will result in positive behaviors.  Replace the "if" in your life with a great resolution for a better year ahead.

Newsletter #13  January 2012

Another New Year

      As we begin another year I wonder how all of you did with last year's resolutions.  Did you accomplish what you planned?  Do you feel better off now than you did a year ago?  When I began writing a monthly newsletter for my web page, I hoped the articles would reach out to many others and would help them look at the whole topic of forgiveness in a new and different light.  I asked everyone to access where they are now and where they would rather be on the journey to wholeness.  This month I want to encourage each one of you to do two things.  First of all, go back over the twelve newsletters I have written and take the time to think over what "rang a bell" as you read them.  Then think about what changes you tried as a result of pondering the concepts.

     The second thing I want to ask you to do is do a friend or a relative a favor and tell them about my web page.  Lots of other people are dealing with an issue or hurt they are feeling.  Hopefully the articles will also help them to accomplish the goals they have set for themselves for this new year.

 

Newsletter # 14 February 2012

Is a Hurt Resurfacing this Holiday?

     Recently we finished a season of several holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve.  Were these happy occasions for you or did some old uncomfortable feelings resurface?  Now we are about to celebrate Valentine's Day, a time when we are to think of those whom we love.  Unfortunately, the holidays are a time when many people have to face other people or situations that remind them of a hurt they may still be feeling.  Just because these feelings are ignored most of the year doesn't mean there is healing.  One of my favorite quotations is from John Powell who wrote "When you bury feelings, you bury them alive."  Maybe one of these suggestions may offer you some help for those times when you find yourself in situations where there are unresloved hurts.

Try to look at the situation from the other person's point of view.  We are human and all of us make mistakes.

Communicate with the other person and let him/her know you were hurt.

Consider the possibility that the person who said or did something hurtful might need help.  Depression, alcoholism, and other problems can strike any family.

If you are the person who did the hurting, think about how you can go about asking the other person to forgive you.  And remember that sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself.

Newsletter # 15  March 2012

Leap Year Celebrations

Growing up I had a neighbor who liked to joke about how she was older than her grandmother.  Some people celebrate the fact that they were born on this special day while others find it a real hassle.  Updating their personal files in this age of computer data recording has caused some of them problems.  How we approach any particular day is a matter of our attitude.  Our attitudes and our feelings result in our behaviors.  We have the power to choose how we want the day to go.

That is also true regarding how we approach the whole topic of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is personal empowerment.  If we want to be in control of our own lives and our own destinies we must learn how to let go and forgive.  Not forgiving is like a cancer to our own body.  For millions of people, this month is a time of Lent.  Lent can be viewed like a journey that is 40 days long.  Journeys can experience different ups and downs, smooth highways and detours, varying weather conditions, and various destinations.  But we can prepare for whatever happens along the way.  What do you think your life would be like if you chose to go on a journey to wholeness?  Many people think of Lent as a time to give up something as a sacrifice.  Instead of "giving up" chocolate or some other thing you enjoy, this year try letting go of some bitter and resentful feelings and giving up a grudge you have been holding for a long time.  This Lenten season, celebrate the gift of giving and receiving forgiveness.  If we are really lucky maybe while we are forgiving someone else, somebody will be willing to forgive us too.

Newsletter # 16  April 2012

Spring Cleaning

For many people, spring is a time for an annual house cleaning.  For years, I have had the habit of cleaning every square inch of our house from top to bottom.  Since we moved to this "new" and different house last September, I am not sure how this annual project will get accomplished.  There is a big difference between everyday straightening up the place and those times of heavy-duty cleaning when I move the furniture around.  Years ago when we had a live Christmas tree, I seemed to be able to still find pine needles in April!

Spring brings with it a sense of renewal.   Spring is a time for cleaning out and throwing away or donating items we discover we no longer need or clothes that no longer fit.  At the same time, we can view it as a time for getting rid of old habits that do not serve as well and putting on new ways of thinking.  Many of us have just experienced another season of Lent and Easter or Passover.    Lent was a time when we were able to realign our thoughts and our actions.  We can choose to see things differently; to take another look at our we are living our lives.

Perhaps one of the most significant ways we can change our thoughts and actions is in the way we approach the topic of forgiveness.  Our lack of insight and/or communication can result in our becoming critical, intolerant, and unforgiving.  Our faith says that we are bound to forgive. Passover is a time when Jews remember how God saved them.  For Christians, Good Friday was the day Jesus forgave those who hung him on the cross.  As you are spending time doing some spring cleaning this year, take time to express our faith by including a little forgiveness - of others and yourself.

Newsletter #17 May 2013 Butterflies

Newsletter #17 May 2013 Butterflies

Butterflies
May 2013 Newsletter

One of the ways that I celebrated Lent this year was by participating in a CEW (Christian Experience Week-end). When we arrived at the campsite, each participant was given a nametag with her name and a sticker of a caterpillar placed in a corner.

From Friday evening through Sunday afternoon, we heard from a number of Christian women who gave talks on a veriety of topics. Each talk was followed by discussion and a related activity. It was a wonderful time to get in touch with one's spiritual side and to be challenged on how well we were living our lives as we are meant to live.

On Sunday, we viewed a video showing th life cycle of the butterfly, a process knon as metamorphosis. Each egg becomes a caterpillar which spins a chrysalis. In time lapse automation, we watch as the butterfly emerged from the chrysalis after a long struggle. An interesting fact is that if someone decided it would be a humantiarian thing to help it along by cutting the chrysalis so that the butterfly could emerge more quickly, their "kind" act would actually mean sure death for it. You see it is that long, slow struggle that results in the butterfly having the strength to fly.

This is the second time that I've seen this video and each time visions of our son have appeared in my mind. What kind of school experiences did you have? Several unfair events happened in his secondary days. As a kid who started out as ranked #1 in his class, he barely made it through high school graduation as a result of these unjust events. Consequently, he chose to skip college and enter the military. While I, as a mother, wasn't too thrilled with his dicision, it turned out to be a real positive, After his Army years, he became a 4.0 Honor Society member in college and today is a very successful young man. He has a great job, is happily married, and last week, presented us with our third grandchild.

At the end of the conference, each of us was presented with a new nametag; This one with a picture of a butterfly replacing the caterpillar. While it was terrible having to watch our son go through these awful experiences, I can now realize that like the struggle the caterpillar must experience to emerge as the beautiful butterfly, it was these earlier struggles that Gregg had that helped him to become the man he is today.

As you observe the butterflies this spring, recall their life cycles. Then see if you can relate in some way how some past experience may have helped you become the person you are today.

Newsletter # 18 June 2013
Grace

Few songs have been recorded and sung by more artists than Amazing Grace. It is one of  those hymns that the majority of people actually know well enough to sing during a church service. If you like to Google, you can read two very interesting verisions of the story behind its writing.

What is your first thought or image when you hear the word Grace? My mind immediately pictures a dear friend named Grace. Some people's names just seem to describe them perfectly. Everyone who knows her would agree that no other name could ever do her justice. Her beatiful smile lights up any room she enters. Her marvelous sense of humor and positive approach to life wins friends everywhere. But her "grace" and composure hide the political and racial discrimination she experienced as a young women. Born a Japanese-American, her world changed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor when Pres. Roosevelt authorized the incarceration of more than 110,000 citizens. Today, at the age of 92, she keeps a schedule that puts me to shame! In mid-May she came to Winterset to tell her story: it was her 7th program that week. She is upbeat and positive. Many are amazed that she holds no bitterness. One of the chapters in the book I wrote tells about Grace and how she is totally forgiving.

St. Paul began many of his letters with the words: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Simply put, my friend Grace is a living example of how grace is God's personal gift to us to help us. There is nothing we have to do to earn it but we must embrace it. This month, try to focus on how you can add more grace to your life by forgiving someone (or yourself) and accepting God's gift to increase your feelings of peace.
Newsletter #19 July 2013
Les Mis

As mentioned previously, Rick and I enjoy musicals.  Our favorite is Les Miserables which is based on the book by Victor Hugo.  We've seen several versions of both the movie and stage productions.  It is probably the only major musical which I've paid to see multiple times.  Although I have poor eyesight and am a slow reader, I spent weeks reading the whole book.  Les Mis is the story of  ex-convict Jean Valjean and his valiant struggle to redeem his past.  Unjustly sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread to help feed his starving sister and her family, he is finally released an angry man out to get even with the world.  Labled an ex-convict and finding work hard to obtain, he eventually spends one night in the home of the bishop whose act of charity brings back to life his dead soul.  This is the beginning of his metamorphosis into an honorable cititzen. 

But he is constantly pursued by the officer Jovert who incarnates the very essence of moral conformity.  He is the blind defense of established social norms.  Most of the story evolves around his meeting with a woman named Fantine and becoming the guardian of her daughter, Cosette, after Fantine's death.  Cosette had been living with the Thenardiers who were wicked people taking advantage of the poor Fantine.  The whole book describes his constant struggles escaping these foes.

Les Mis is the magnificent story of how escaped convict Jean Valean becomes hero and saint. It is a  story of redemption and sacrifice.   It is the ultimate story of forgiveness and how he learned to forgive everyone.  His message was there is scarely anthing else in the world but that to love one another.  We must forgive everyone.  God knows better than we do what we need.  Because things are unpleasant, that is no reason for being unjust toward God.

This month's message is to encourage you to think about someone who has been a nemesis of yours in life and to focus on how forgiving that person might help bring love and redemption into your life.





Newsletter #21
Lent

Looking for something to give up for Lent?
Give up resentment and become more forgiving.
Give up hatred and return good for evil.
Give up complaining and be more grateful.
Give up pessimism and become more hopeful.
Give up worry and become more trusting.
Give up anger and become more patient.
Give up pettiness and become more joyful.
Give up gloom and become more joyful.
Give up doubt and turn to God.

Summer 2014
Baggage
For many people, summer is a time for vacations.  Since my husband likes to drive, most of our vacations have been by car since he retired.  This gives us more flexibility seeing things off the beaten path and saves us the hassle of flying.  In late July, however, we are going on a trip that requires airline travel.  This means we will need to check in with the airline about the new regulations regarding our baggage.  The cost of each suitcase and number we can take seems to vary with the airlines.  It pays in more than one way to travel light!

This can also be an advantageous tip when it comes to thinking about how we deal with our daily living.  Too many of us go around carrying another type of baggage .  Take a piece of plain paper and draw the outline of a large suitcase.  Too often we continue to carry the pain of something that happened in our past and it stays with us in the present.  More often than not, this pain can be the cause of other kinds of problems.  Our relationships with others are usually affected by our past experiences with people and how we feel we've been treated.  The size of the hurt does not matter.  What does matter is that you were hurt and felt the pain in some way.  Take out the suitcase you have drawn and write inside it a list of all the past hurts you've experienced.  Name the people who have caused you pain.  List all of them, past and present.  Think about the feelings of bitterness, abuse, deception, rejection, and hostility.  Fill the suitcase with all of the pains you've been carrying around with you. 

Don't forget the institutions along with the people.  How we feel we've been treated by others in the various systems (the courts, banks, schools, churches, government, organizations) also will effect our relationships.  Unfortunately, this baggage can weigh us down and result in giving us a negative view of life.  We can end up wasting too much time, money, and energy carrying this heavy suitcase around.  In my next article, I will address ways to learn how to "let go" of this excess baggage in order to live a more productive life.

By the way, maybe it might be interesting to think about who are the people in your life who would want to put you inside their suitcase.

P.S.  Most of the retreats that I have been facilitating lately have been for a particular group.  I am now in the process of lining up my retreats for the coming months.  I have also received requests from a few who would like to attend one but haven't had one close to them.  I'm planning on holding one here in Winterset close to my home.  If you are interested in attending a retreat, please send me your name, address, phone and send to me (skhoenig@hotmail.com).  Please put RETREAT in the subject line.
ADVENT  DECEMBER 2014
One Little Letter

As Christmas draws closer, most of us are busy, busy sending Christmas cards and buying those special gifts. Some of the cards we receive are from some people from our past and it is our annual way to get caught up on what is happening in their lives.  Rick and I have moved around several times in our lives so our list of "old" friends seems to get longer as many of them have also relocated. I grew up in a home that was decorated in every room with Christmas so it is natural for me to do the same.   For several years, we have collected numerous items that say "JOY" and they can be found all over the house.  There are even a few big ones outside.  Our house is easily the easiest one to recognize in Winterset. If you are ever in our area, feel welcome to knock on the door and get the tour.   The collection, of course, started as a result of my retreats and writing my book The Joy of Forgiveness.

The letters J O Y have a much deeper meaning: "J" is for Jesus, "O" is for others, and "Y" is for yourself.  With all the hype going on about the holiday and the material side, it is important for us to remember the true meaning of Christmas.  The season of Advent can help us prepare our minds to accept that God's Son came to us.  The difficulties of life can make us bitter or better.  What a huge difference that one little vowel can make on how we appoach life and choose to live.  As we celebrate the Advent season this year, let us prepare our hearts to accept God's forgiveness, and to change our ways.  We can choose to receive God's healing grace and bring JOY to our lives.    MERRY CHRISTMAS!  Have a JOYFUL holiday!

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