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I have a friend who has been deeply hurt by someone important in his life.  And knowing what happened to him it is very easy to sympathize with his pain.  What she did was very hurtful and his anger was justified in some ways in the beginning. I think anger is a very important and necessary part of the grieving and healing process, for a time being.

But lately we’ve had some conversations about it and he’s still angry.  It been several years in fact since the original events happened.  And now every encounter with her is colored by the original events.  I recently asked him when he would let it go and he said several times, “I just can’t forgive her.”

When someone says, “I can’t forgive that person,” it’s easy to assume that they mean, “I won’t forgive.”  And sometimes this is true.  But I was thinking about times in my life that I have felt that way.  And I now wonder if the statement is more often a truly ironic statement.  I wonder if at these moments when I was essentially saying I won’t, I was really meaning I can’t.

Because how often do we really practice forgiveness?  Even as a church?  When a leader falls aren’t we more likely to crucify him than restore him?  When someone “falls” do we really take Jesus at his word when he said, forgive seventy times seven?

Forgiveness is just not a paradigm in which the world (and often the church) lives in.  We practice saying, “I’m sorry,” but how often is this for expediency because we need something from the other person or we don’t like people being mad at us.  And when the offense is high enough, thus seriously jeopardizing our reputation, it is just as easy to abandon the relationship.

Forgiveness essentially means, “to leave behind.”  But to leave offense behind means abandoning the very thing that allows us to be angry in the first place.  And the anger just feeds our desire to strike back harder the original offense.  And if we’ve never practiced forgiveness, how are we going to be able to do it when it is really required in our lives.  So without the understanding of how to forgive, we are essentially locked in a state of oppression…of our own free will.

Forgiveness requires love.  It requires stepping into our own humanity and seeing with eyes of compassion.  It means letting go of our right to remain wounded for the sake of sympathy.  It means stepping into our own maturity as human beings and seeing the person who hurt us as infinitely more valuable than any harm they could do to us.

And it is so easy for us to say, “Come on. Isn’t that a little hyperbole?  Isn’t that stretching it a little too far? But this is exactly what Jesus did on the cross.  He took the posture that no matter what we could do to him, we were still worth it.

I use to always get bent out of shape when I would read the way Jesus approached forgiveness.  He said things like:

14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)

That’s just harsh. But what if Jesus understood that if we can’t forgive others we’re creating a standard that we will then use on ourselves.  Or that the standard we are using on others is indicative of the standard we are already using on ourselves.  Doesn’t forgiveness then essentially mean to release the very thing that is killing us?

And so when someone says, “I can’t, is it more restorative to approach them with an understanding that they are truly stuck, that the statement is indicative of something deeply troubling in their life?

Interested in your thoughts.

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Most of my healthy human relationships are those that have forgiving boundaries of interdependence and mutual respect for dignity.  In these relationships diversity and differences are celebrated in a way that leads to creativity and admiration for the best of that person.

Most of my unhealthy relationships are those that I seek to be validated from or to be fixed by.  In these relationships I am needy, demanding and sometimes a jerk.

I’m trying to live in the former.

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About a year ago I began this blog with the intent of simply journaling my own exploration with this thing called Missio Dei. This is what I have learned so far.

– I really love the relationships that have come from this blog.  These are my explorations and musings but when you participate you give me a great gift of your thoughts as well.  Thank you.  I value these conversations more than you all will ever know.

– I miss people who comment a lot and then disappear.  Kind of like a friend that you have a great beer with and then they move away.

– I am a writer, but it was in the practice of writing every day that I became aware that I am a writer.  Since I started at sixteen, I’ve written two books, six screenplays, two plays, and a thousand essays for school.  But it was this blog that made me aware of how much I love to write.  The discipline has made me aware of my foibles (I hate editing), my joys (I love conversations), the richness of thoughts and ideas, and the blessing that comes from hearing how God has impacted our world.

– I can see how people can really love blogging and really loathe it, or become tired of it.  There are days when I have nothing to say, and days when I can’t stop writing.  Thank God for the scheduled publish date and drafts.  I have too many to count now and when I’m stuck I take a peek back into what I was thinking two months ago.

– Thank God for free photosiStock, even thought its much more professional, was beginning to cost me a small fortune.

– There is a cost to thinking out loud.  People can misunderstand me or even jump to significant conclusions that I didn’t say.  I never thought I would have to write this post.

– Exposing my thoughts to the public has made me very aware of the cost and consequences of doing so.  I had significant consequences show up in my life because of this blog.  And this has made me ask some very important questions in my life about what I believe and the cost of doing so.  It has grounded my thinking by requiring me to ask if I really believe what I say.  And I do.

– My favorite post was half written while pulling weeds and almost never got published because I wondered if it would be taken wrong.  Then Steve mentioned it and it blew up into my all time post.

– People don’t read blogs on the weekends, at least not mine.  No worries though.  Monday is the biggest day and slowly flows down from there.

It’s been a great ride so far.  I can’t wait to see what this next year brings.

Much love to you all.

Jonathan

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A True Friend

This looks like a movie I want to really see. (ht)  And it got me thinking about what really is a true friend.  Is it someone we’ve known all of our lives, or someone we’ve just met yet seem to connect so well?  Is it someone who blows smoke up our arses when we need it, or is it someone who can bring clarity to our lives?  Is it someone who is just like you, or someone whose contrast reveals your own qualities?  Or is it someone who sees something special within us and works to brings out that?

Who is the one person who brings out the best of you?

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Sometimes it’s really hard to have hope.

Yesterday I got to sit down with one of four friends that I have been praying for for 15 years. Peter (not his name) has been a lifelong drug user, been convicted of a felony and spent a year in prison, and has been homeless a lot the last year. He’s always on the verge of “ending it” wondering out loud so someone will rescue him. His family almost always does, providing him with a warm meal and a bed to sleep on until he finds an alternate. He even has a job that has rehired him, no exaggeration, at least 100 times over the last fifteen years.

His sister told me the family decided to do an intervention and place him in rehab. Peter was cool with this, telling everyone this was the final time, that he needed to get sober. Sad thing is I heard these exact words from him four months ago, and a year ago, and every time I’ve seen him over the last ten years.

His family spent the last two days trying to get him in a county rehab program but they didn’t have an open bed, so he had to wait…and wait…and wait. Two days passed and no bed. But this time ended up being part of God’s plan to get the family together for those two days and just sit and have some painful conversations.

And one sister said, “I’m afraid to hope for you.”

Think about that statement for a second. This is a family that has stuck it out for 44 years with this guy. They refused to give up on him. But every time he came around it stirred up some very painful possibilities. What happens if you are lying to us? What happens if you do this rehab thing and then go back to your crap? You’re asking me to invest in hope, in the possibility that God can show up, and I don’t know if I can anymore.

For some strange reason, his sister decided to bring him over to my house and we got to talk. And I know that this two day pow-wow with his family got him really thinking. If they didn’t believe in him who would? He had destroyed every other relationship in his life. This was it. And for the first time we got to really talk…deeply and honestly. No BS. And for the first time he listened. I don’t know why. God moved. We actually prayed and got to some serious root issues regarding trust and the work of the enemy in his life to produce significant lies about God’s love. Something broke. For the first time, Peter could see that he was worth fighting for. He was released. We cried…a lot. It was the first time I have seen him cry.

And to be honest I almost didn’t get to experience this moment. I knew he was there and almost didn’t come home. I was afraid to hope. I was afraid that if I invested in him one more time he would squander it. I almost missed the amazing gift God wanted to give me by participating in his restoration.

And then I began to realize how God must feel when we walk away. For some reason, he just doesn’t give up hope. He’s the Father who waits on the edge of the porch, with one eye on the end of the road. I need that in my life.

Please know that no matter what the pain, don’t give up hope.

Listening: The Cure For Pain by Jon Foreman

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What’s the scoreboard in God’s Kingdom? How do we know that the kingdom is really showing up in our lives?

We want to know the score don’t we. We want to know how we’re doing. We want to know when things are bad and when things are good. We have an adversary. But do we know the score?

And when a scoreboard is involved, we like numbers. And the temptation is to think that the number is people who show up on a Sunday. Some people call this butts in the seats.  But if this is true, if the point is really about the number of people in the crowd, why did Jesus turn up the heat when the crowds got bigger? Why did Jesus let people walk away?  I’ll say it again, Jesus spent three years with 12 people.

I would offer the number to look at is restored relationships. Are our relationships growing and developing? Are they expanding rather than contracting? Are they deepening rather than evaporating? And restored relationships is only possible when we practice love and trust. They are only possible when we engage restoration with our own Heavenly Father, to first be loved.

What’s your scoreboard look like?

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Laughing At Ourselves

I have a friend in my life who makes me laugh absolutely every time I see him. He’s hysterically funny. And his humor is often centered in making fun of himself or doing some caricature that is hilarious. In a crowded room he can take over, capturing people’s attention.

And I realized that his power is the hidden ability to communicate brokenness in a way that we could accept. He was reflecting back our own absurdity, silliness and humanity in a way that we could laugh at. But he was allowing us to laugh at him instead. It always reminded me of the class clown at school who always grabbed the attention. We all secretly wished we could be him even though we could NEVER do what he did.

Humor has always been man’s best medicine because deep down we know that it’s true.

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