Learn To Live In The Present

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Do you know what happens when we choose to ignore forgiveness and instead choose to hold to anger and grudges? Instead of living in our present moment and enjoying life, we end up living in the past. Everything we do is coloured by what happened weeks, months or even years ago. That’s no way to live! Being stuck in the past is part of what makes you feel trapped. It’s time to stop being stuck in the past and to learn to live in the present. Embracing the idea of living in the here and now is another tool that

Focus On The Growth

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So far much of what we talked about has been very negative. Yes, the end goal has been increased peace of mind and happiness, but to get there, we had to wade through all the ugly stuff first and work hard at forgiving it. Welcome to Day Twenty Eight of 30 Days to Forgiveness! While that’s certainly a big part of the story, it isn’t all of it. In any situation, no matter how ugly or sad, there’s almost always something good, or something good is coming out of it. Do you want an example? As I was being wheeled

Take Responsibility For Your Own Part

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In the last post we talked about being kind instead of being right. Using an example from my own life, I showed that it’s possible for both parties to be “right”. Seeing the situation from the other’s perspective can help us understand when we might not have a monopoly on being right. Welcome to Day Twenty Seven of 30 Days to Forgiveness Today we’re going to take it a step further. Today I will suggest that you start to take responsibility for your part in whatever must be forgiven. Hey, don’t run away yet. This isn’t about ‘blame’. Remember how

Don’t Go To Sleep Angry

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Have you ever heard someone tell you that the secret of a happy marriage is to never go to bed angry? It’s good advice. The logical addition to it is that you should stay up and fight – well, maybe not fight, but at least do something about it. Welcome to Day 22 of 30 Days to Forgiveness!

An argument just before bedtime is really a recipe for a rotten night’s sleep, which I’m sure you already know. If you go to sleep seething with anger or crying in frustration, your subconscious is going to have all sorts of unpleasant stuff to play with during your dreams.

Before going to sleep at night, forgive everyone for everything.

That’s easy to say, isn’t it?

Well, it’s the recipe for a great night’s sleep.

You will sleep better and your subconscious will be dialed into love and forgiveness. That will help strengthen your resolve and your new habit of forgiveness.

So just how do we go about doing this?

Here’s one little trick that we have at our home – there’s a list of topics that are never allowed to be discussed within the first or last hour of the morning. In other words, don’t get into politics, dig around on your ex’s Facebook page, make a snarky remark about how you’d pay less taxes if your spouse wouldn’t lose receipts (cough, cough, I promise to get more organized this year). It doesn’t mean you never talk about these things, but just not as the day is beginning or ending.

So what do you do as the day ends?

Before you go to bed, or while you’re lying there, waiting to go to sleep, think about your day and explore how you feel.

If you find yourself angry, or even annoyed about something, do what you can to make your peace with it.

Think about the positive aspects of what’s happened, or even in your life in general. It’s possible that what you’re angry about probably wasn’t as earth-shatteringly important as you initially thought. Do what you can to make your peace with it and find your joy and happiness before you go to sleep.

If you’re having a hard time letting go, try writing a letter about it. You aren’t going to sleep anyway, so get out of bed and grab some paper or open up your computer. Address your letter to the person you’re angry with and pour out your heart. You don’t have to actually send it or share it and in many cases you probably shouldn’t. In my experience, anything you write while furiously angry should be kept private!

The simple act of putting it all down on paper is often enough to lighten your burden. It will also help you let go of your anger and make your peace.

In the last post, I wrote about the three types of prayer. How would these work in a situation like this, when it’s time for bed and you are stomping mad?

Vocal prayer is probably the one where you’ll start. If you think you’re going to surprise God with your anger and desire for vengeance, guess again. Read Psalm 94 and realize that you probably have nothing on the fury and righteous indignation of the Psalmist!  David ends this angry prayer with a firm statement that God will destroy his enemies. Eeek!

Seriously, you won’t upset God with your emotions, not even if you’re angry at God. Trust me on this one – I am still blessed and loved by Him and there was a time in my life when I literally prayed “I hate you! When I die, I’m going to get to Heaven one way or another and KICK you! Stop wrecking my life.” (Okay, that’s another post all together, isn’t it?)

Vocal prayer can help you get those feelings out. Cry, scream, fall on your face – I’ve done all of these.

And then, once you’re ready for it, pull out Scripture that speaks to where you’re at and spend some time in meditative prayer. Focus on that and work on bringing your anger under control. As I said, work through the Psalms. Just make sure that you read the entire Psalm you’ve selected instead of settling in on the angry parts that are often found at the beginning.

If you’ve calmed your mind, you may be ready to spend some time quietly enjoying God’s love.

As I said, it’s not as though you were going to sleep anyway!

A few hours of restful sleep without those negative thoughts floating around in your head is better than eight hours of tossing and turning, seething and stewing. And that will set you up for a much better day when you wake up.

Give it a try and see if you don’t become a much happier and more pleasant person when you start to refuse to go to sleep angry.

Forgiveness Really Can Be A Daily Choice

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How is your journey to forgiveness coming? I hope you’re finding my semi-daily musings helpful, but more importantly, I hope you’re making progress. Welcome to Day Twenty of 30 Days to Forgiveness!

Forgiveness is a matter of habit, as strange as that might sound. You need to practice it daily and consciously for it to become an ingrained, habitual part of your life.

Embracing forgiveness isn’t always easy. It doesn’t come naturally to us and it takes a while to learn how to turn feelings of anger and resentment into those of love and peace. We’ve already discussed how this a process that takes time and how we need to work to form those emotional habits.

New habits are a funny thing.

Bad ones seem to appear out of nowhere, with that occasional bowl of ice cream in the evening turning into a big bowl every night. How did that happen?

But when it comes to forming healthy new habits, we must actively make it a daily choice.

Forgiveness is a matter of habit, as strange as that might sound. You need to practice it daily and consciously for it to become an ingrained, habitual part of your life. That means reminders – daily reminders, preferably early in the morning – that you are choosing forgiveness.

I love quotes, especially those that are done in what they call word art. Just as I surround myself with photos of my beautiful children throughout the years, I also surround myself with inspirational words and quotes. They are on the walls around my desk, on my laptop screen and even on my bedroom mirror.

Coming up with a personal mantra or affirmation can be another great tool. This could be a Bible verse or simply a statement that you are a loving and forgiving person. By getting in the habit of reciting it every morning, or even several times throughout the day, you can’t help but stay on track.

While I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, I do love music, and I choose to fill my playlist with songs that remind me of my values and choices. It’s easy to get distracted by the world’s negativity and to get tied up in it. I’m pretty careful about my musical choices, by the way. Not the type of music so much, but the lyrics. Music seems to cement words into our brains very effectively – quick, sing the ABC song – so what we listen to matters a lot.

As we talked about before, keeping a journal is another great daily exercise that will help you continue your journey of forgiveness. Knowing that you will be writing about your thoughts and experiences later on in the day will keep forgiveness front and center on your mind. Of course, journaling first thing in the morning is another great option and a good way to focus on your mind on this important endeavor.

No matter what tool, technique, or gimmick you use, make it a point to remind yourself to work on forgiveness daily until it becomes second nature. This 30 Day Challenge is of course another helpful tool. With daily email reminders (provided you signed up for email reminders, which I hope you did) and these blog posts, forgiveness will never be far from your thoughts.

A short little reminder is often all it takes to continue to make the daily choice to forgive and build a brighter future.

Forgiveness is a matter of habit, as strange as that might sound. You need to practice it daily and consciously for it to become an ingrained, habitual part of your life.

Gratitude Can Help You Forgive

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My life is full of things for which I’m grateful. From my family to my wonderful new (and at the same time very old) house, a church fellowship where I am loved and accepted and of course the fact that I have a loyal and wonderful readership, there are many great people and things in my life. Welcome to Day Eighteen of 30 Days to Forgiveness.

As a brain cancer survivor, I can even include my life and the fact that I’m (relatively) healthy and well. All surgery has risks, and doctors are careful to inform you ahead of time, but before surgery I was warned that any outcome in which I was breathing would be considered a success. Nine years later I am doing far more than “just breathing”!

When we spend time taking note of everything for which we are grateful, and we consciously express that gratitude, our entire manner of thinking starts to shift.

If you take the time to think about it and make a list, I am sure that you will come up with many wonderful things for which you are grateful. One of the most popular Question of the Day topics on my Facebook page is when I ask people to name three things or people for which they are grateful.

And I will ask you – if you’re willing – to take a moment and tell us some of your gratitude list in the comments.

Too often we take these blessings for granted.

In our world today, gratitude sometimes seems to have become a lost art. People are focused on the negative, fixated on what’s happening next and very, very busy.

Too busy, as the old saying goes, to stop and smell the flowers.

There is much to be said for actively appreciating the positive and living in the present.

Here my readers nod and raise an eyebrow in confusion, wondering what in the world this has to do with forgiveness.

It all comes down to your frame of mind. You see, if you’re focused on negativity, busy-ness and complaining, fretting about what’s next and worrying about what you need or want or … any of that, really, you are not at all in the right mindset to practice forgiveness.

When we spend time taking note of everything for which we are grateful, and we consciously express that gratitude, our entire manner of thinking starts to shift.

It becomes much easier to appreciate what we have and focus on the positive in our lives. As a result, we find it easier to let go of negativity, and that includes the pain, anger and need for revenge that we may be feeling.

Have you ever noticed this in your life?

It’s one reason we confuse sadness, caused by events in our lives, with clinical depression.

What I mean is that, in the normal course of our days, good and bad things happen. When something good happens, it is normal to react with happiness. (And the flip side is true – it’s completely normal to feel sad when bad things happen. It’s just not normal to dwell on it forever.)

When we are happy and grateful, it’s harder to become down and depressed. It’s harder to be angry and we’re more likely to forgive and move on.

Of course if your brain patterns and chemistry have shifted and you are suffering from clinical depression, it will take more than happy thoughts to get you healthy again. Clinical depression is a serious thing and needs proper medical care.

Think of it this way – healthy eating and exercise may help prevent the onset of diabetes, but once you have developed it, more serious intervention is required. The same with depression.

But for the rest of us, those who are experiencing the normal range of emotions, responding with sad feelings when things go poorly and feeling happy when they go well, why not look at gratitude as another great tool in your forgiveness toolbox? Start using it in an intentional way.

One of the very simplest ways to get started is to count your blessings. When you wake in the morning and as you go to sleep at night, give thanks. Be specific! One of the things that I have taught my children is that, when they can think of no other words to pray, “Thank you, Father God” is always sufficient.

When we give thanks with a grateful heart, our mood improves and forgiving becomes easier. If we look at the grace and mercy that we have experienced in our lives, while still acknowledging that we, too, have caused pain and harm, it becomes much easier to extend that same grace and mercy to others.

It really doesn’t matter what your life looks like right now. If you stop and look for it, you will find a lot to be grateful for.

One moment in seared into my mind forever.

Remember how the surgeon told me that success would be any outcome in which I came out alive? That was a pretty low bar to meet – brain surgery is dangerous. In fact, since the tumour was sitting right between my parietal and occipital lobes, she said it would be a success if I came out alive but with no vision and an inability to communicate properly or remember things.

Cheery thoughts when going into surgery.

Anyway, what you might not know is that our life was very rough at the time. We rented a geared-to-income apartment and accessed the food bank about once a month. Not only that, we were struggling with some major legal – and obviously, health – issues. To say our life was rough is actually an understatement. It was during this time that Psalm 27 became my go to affirmation and I memorized it. “Though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident …”

And so, in the middle of all of this difficulty, I was diagnosed with a large astrocytoma (brain tumour) that was just starting to turn aggressive.

When I opened my eyes after the surgery, sleepy and sedated, my first thought was “I’m alive!” and then I drifted back to semi-consciousness. My next clear thought, which brought me very much awake, was

I’m alive and I can SEE!

That’s when I started bullying my poor nurse to let me get out of bed because there was a life to be lived.

With that said, my memory is terrible now and I’m very grateful for notes and lists and digital calendars! And if I ever tell you to put something down on “that … um … that flat thing where we eat”, or if I suggest that you put the leftovers in the dishwasher and take the laundry out of the freezer, please don’t laugh too hard. Yes, I sometimes forget every day words. And people I see often. And names. The list goes on.

I have become used to hearing ‘Oh, don’t you remember …?” because usually, no, I don’t.

Maybe your list is going to start with that. I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful for my vision. I am grateful for lists because my memory is awful! I’m grateful for people who love me even when I forget what a table is called. I am grateful for universal health care. I am so very grateful for Dr. Schneider and her team.

Dig down and have fun with it. Make a list as long as you can possibly make it. Write it out and stick on a wall where you can see it every day.

Give thanks with a grateful heart.

When we spend time taking note of everything for which we are grateful, and we consciously express that gratitude, our entire manner of thinking starts to shift.