Forgiveness

I just added a book to the “What I’m recommending at the moment” tab above.  This is the second time I’m reading Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace.  I have benefited from many of his books.  This book is about forgiveness, full of stories and full of hope.  A book that gently cuts you to the heart.  Philip is never one to skirt around the difficult questions, and that’s why I appreciate him so much.  I may not always agree with him, but I admire his courage.

A couple of excerpts:

Charles Williams has said of the Lord’s Prayer, “No word in English carries a greater possibility of terror than the little word ‘as’ in that clause.” [“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”]

Henri Nouwen, who defines forgiveness as “love practiced among people who love poorly,” describes the process at work:

I have often said, “I forgive you,” but even as I said these words my heart remained angry or resentful.  I still wanted to hear the story that tells me that I was right after all; I still wanted to hear apologies and excuses; I still wanted the satisfaction of receiving some praise in return–if only the praise for being so forgiving!

But God’s forgiveness is unconditional; it comes from a heart that does not demand anything for itself, a heart that is completely empty of self-seeking.  It is this divine forgiveness that I have to practice in my daily life.  It calls me to keep stepping over all my arguments that say forgiveness is unwise, unhealthy, and impractical.  It challenges me to step over all my needs for gratitude and compliments.  Finally, it demands of me that I step over that wounded part of my heart that feels hurt and wronged and that wants to stay in control and put a few conditions between me and the one whom I am asked to forgive.

“Still she wept”

I received many kind words yesterday on the anniversary of my brother Tim’s death.  I thought I would share those from two dear friends in the hope that they many console any of you who have lost a loved one.

I remember my mother talking about the death of her brother, Tom, in World War II on the battlefields of France.  It had been 40 years, and still she wept.  The great losses in life, those people God makes in his own image and likeness and gives to us in love, I think are right to always mourn.

If time has done anything, it deepens our grief.  The longer we live, the more fully we become aware of who they were to us and the more intimately we experience what their love meant for us.  (Henri Nouwen)

Of course, we do not mourn as those who do not know Christ and place our hope in Him . . . but we also know that Jesus wept.  And we take great comfort in that.

Songs, music, good feelings

Most years as I approach the Feast of the Nativity, I feel fairly “emotioned” out.  This year seems to be no exception.  There’s been a lot going on on the home front.  It was good to read this meditation from Henri Nouwen, to be reminded that celebration and thanksgiving really are not about emotions and feelings, but about something way beyond them. 

Somehow I realized that songs, music, good feelings, beautiful liturgies, nice presents, big dinners, and many sweet words do not make Christmas.  Christmas is saying “yes” to a hope based on God’s initiative, which has nothing to do with what I think or feel.  Christmas is believing that the salvation of the world is God’s work and not mine.  Things will never look just right or feel just right.  If they did, someone would be lying . . . . But it is into this broken world that a child is born who is called Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, Savior.  (The Road to Daybreak)