Forgiveness Is A Gift Worth Giving

If you’ve lived any length of time, you will have the opportunity to forgive. It isn’t the easiest thing about life.

As we approach Christmas Day, many will be exchanging gifts. Sometimes there are gifts you can’t wrap and put under the tree. To forgive someone is a gift that is priceless and it is worth doing.

I wish I could do a better job at being quick to forgive. It’s hard. When we are hurt or wronged, we want the other person to pay for what they have done. Time is an enemy of forgiveness. When something is not forgiven, it often turns into a grudge and roots continue to grow deeper inside of us. It’s difficult to let things go.

If there is someone you are estranged with, make the effort and give the gift of forgiveness. It won’t be easy and it won’t always be a feel good moment. Forgiveness does you as much good as it does the other person. Don’t wait until someone is on their deathbed before you decide to forgive. That’s cheap forgiveness. Forgive while you still have the opportunity to redeem the lost time.

For most of my adult life, I was estranged from my parents. We couldn’t seem to agree on how I should live my life. We would try to reconcile but unresolved issues always came up to cause problems. My mother went to her grave holding her grudge. My dad reconciled with me during the last months of his life. Yeah, it still upsets me. It never had to be this way.

Forgiving isn’t always perfect or neat. It’s one thing to forgive but it’s another when you try to get past the offense. It takes time and patience. Sometimes you can ask someone to forgive you and they might refuse to accept it. That’s hard. In those cases, you can only do your part in forgiveness. You can’t force the other party to accept. Just be patient. Sometimes it takes time for it to sink it or sometimes it may never be returned. It may never be quick with tears and a hug.

We are too easily able to simply write people off. If they hurt us, we shut them out of our lives. That’s sad. Sometimes the offense is a misunderstanding or assumption that was made. There are also times when the hurt is legitimate. There are some things that are difficult to forgive. The problem with unforgiveness – whether it is legitimate or not – is that it becomes a dark place inside of you. Unless you deal with it, it will be a problem with other relationships you have. Trust is hard to achieve again. Offenses from one person becomes an assumption against others.

Don’t let forgiveness take root inside of you. Be willing to forgive – and if you are the offending party – be willing to ask for forgiveness.

I have had relationships in my life when it was a forgiveness standoff. One side was waiting for the other side to make the first move. That’s so ridiculous and frustrating because all that this does is waste time. Time is lost because of pride in waiting for the other side to make a move to forgiveness. Some people hold onto the anger and bitterness because they feel like it punishes the other party. Our bitterness keeps the other party on the hook.

The Bible says that, if possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

Honestly I don’t know how it is possible for someone to forgive some things such as child abuse or other vile things that happen in our world. It’s not always easy or possible.

We also shouldn’t assume it isn’t possible in order to avoid the unpleasant step in forgiveness. If there is something that we should be good at doing, it is to be good at forgiving. We have many opportunities to do it. From the woman opening her car door and dinging my car to the years-long severed relationship with a relative. It’s never easy but doing so doesn’t make you a weak person. We should certainly deal with the issues and hold people accountable when it is possible but also look for the common ground and way to forgiveness. There isn’t a statute of limitations for forgiveness.

I will also tell you a secret, people always say “forgive and forget” but you won’t magically forget the offense when you forgive. It isn’t possible to suddenly have something erased from your memory but forgiving and forgetting means that you don’t continue to hold that offense against someone or remind them of it. This is the hardest part of forgiveness.

Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ into the world. God sent Him here as a way to repair our relationship with Him and forgiveness for our sin. If God cared enough about forgiveness to send us Jesus, shouldn’t it be important that we give the gift of forgiveness to others?

Forgiveness = Letting Go

Ball And Chain In PrisonForgiveness is a part of life. We all have an opportunity in life to be forgiven or to forgive someone. In some situations, forgiveness is hard and not so easy to do. When you forgive someone, you also have the responsibility to forget. Now while it isn’t possible to wipe out your memories, you must pardon the past hurts and wrongs that have been done to you.  As difficult as it is, we have to let things go if forgiveness has a chance.

When we are wronged or hurt, our natural response is to seek retribution for it. We need to resolve those hurts. To forget means that we stop seeking it. Going back to revisit situations and moments when we were hurt only reopens those wounds. If we ever want to heal those wounds, we have to move forward. We have to leave the past in the past.

I won’t lie to you. This is hard. Very hard.

Many times we are misunderstood or there are misconceptions about things that led to the hurts. We may never be able to explain those things.  This is something that is very difficult for me because I have always felt like I had to explain or justify things but the reality is that you can’t always do it.  Honestly, it stinks but if forgiveness is going to have a chance to gain any momentum, you just have to learn to let it go.

We can’t force ourselves to have amnesia and forget things but we can push them away to the past and not let it hinder our efforts in the present and future of our relationships.  We all say or do things that hurt people.  We all will have regrets in life.  There isn’t anyone that will get through life without regrets.  We go through life making decisions – some good and some bad – that we have to live with the consequences of those decisions.  We also hurt people.  Most of us do not intend to hurt people but somehow we will.  That’s just a fact of life.

Some relationships with people are hard.  We have a choice as to whether we will make the effort or let those people go.  Is the relationship worth working for or is it best for both parties if we go our separate ways?  Those are some difficult choices we have to make.  I have had to make those choices.  Some where easy choices and some were painful.  Sometimes you have to rebuild the bridges you have burned along the way.

No, forgiveness isn’t always easy.  In fact, most of the time it isn’t.  Sometimes you simply have to eat the hurts and wounds for the good of the relationship.  I can tell you from personal experience that the longer you allow a severed relationship to go on, the harder it is to repair.  Sometimes it becomes an emotional game of chicken where one side waits for the other to make a move.  One side feels justified in waiting for the other party to ask forgiveness first.  This game can go on for years.  Sometimes neither side blinks while the wounds grow larger.

One thing that came to my mind one day as I was praying about a situation in my life.  I wondered if I should make a move or not.  While I was wrestling in my mind about it, the thought came that “doing the right thing is never wrong”.   That pretty much settled it for me and I let go of the stubbornness of who was going to make the effort first.  Now when I say “doing the right thing” that means letting it go.  I had to remember not to try to justify or explain my actions.  I made it simple.  I let it go.

Does it feel good to let it go?  No, it absolutely doe not.  I’m sure I surprised you with that answer but I have to be honest.  It’s like pulling off a bandage on a wound very slowly.  Letting go is the first step.  You take it one day at a time.  I’m sure it will get easier and that time will help as we put one emotional foot in front of the other.  Is it work?  Yes, I’m afraid it is but I think it is worth it.

The past is the past.  The only way to redeem the past is to move forward.  We do not have a time machine that can go back and change even one second.  When can only make the next second in our lives better.  While we have to let go of the past, we still must deal with the consequences of what has happened.  Forgiving is good but it doesn’t work if we are waiting for someone to disappoint us and bring up the past to add to anything new.  We have to give people another chance but not another chance to disappoint us.  If we sincerely do our part to make things better, that’s all we can do.  We can’t live in fear of repeating the past.

The Bible doesn’t use the phrase “forgive and forget,” but the implied concept is one of continual forgiveness without holding grudges. That is, when you forgive someone, it’s like you’re giving them a clean slate. Why should we give anyone a clean slate? Because God does. He pardons our sins and overlooks everything we do against Him so that we can gain an eternal inheritance. “He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love.” (Micah 7:18)

Letting go is the key that unlocks the door to forgiveness.


The Power of Redemption

Icanonlyimagine_1200w_tnAt times I can be a very emotional person.  There are times that I cry.  There, I said it.  Something like that is hard for a man to own up to but as I sat in the movie theater Sunday wiping away tears from my eyes after watching the movie “I Can Only Imagine” the power of redemption overtook my emotions.

I wasn’t the only one.  I heard many sniffles from the people around me.  We were all taken in from the emotional workout we had just experienced from watching the story of Bart Millard of the Christian Music group MercyMe.

As I think about this movie, I can tell you that as long as there is a God there is a chance and a hope for redemption.  I’m just crazy enough to believe that.

Forgiveness is hard.   Let’s be honest.  In fact, I think it is the hardest thing that a person can do.  The only way it can truly work is from both sides.  It is especially difficult if you are the person who was wronged to let go of the hurt and the memories that are burned into the scars of your life and to set the offender free.  We don’t like pardoning people.  Not in this day and world that we live.  We want people to pay.  We want revenge.  We want them to hurt as badly as they hurt us.  We don’t want to hear about forgiving anyone or cutting someone loose.

It’s hard I won’t lie.  I have always been passionate about defending myself when I have been wrongly accused.  I can get pretty worked up about it too.  I don’t like to be wrongly accused but it happens.  It’s not right or fair.  Life isn’t fair.  If we live and we feel we will most assuredly be hurt by someone.  I know you don’t like reading this and I honestly don’t like writing it.

Redemption is hard.  We want people to pay.

In the movie, Dennis Quaid plays, Arthur, the abusive father who tries to make things right with his son, Bart.  Bart has a hard time dealing with the change in his father.  His father is at a loss on how he can possibly make up for the years of hurt and pain he caused his son.  Sometimes we all have relationships that have gone past the point of no return.  The hurts run deep.  So deep that there is no possible way to make up for it.  Unfortunately none of us have a time machine that can go back and correct the hurts we have caused in the past.

So what does God expect from us?   Well, you’re not going to like this but He expects us to forgive – and not just one time either.  He’s also not into the “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” rule.  When Jesus was asked about this He said 70 x 7.  So, in other words, we are ALWAYS supposed to be good at forgiving.  Let me say that God also expects us to use our brains too and not keep put ourselves in a position to where we have to forgive someone that is taking advantage of us either.  If someone keeps stealing from you at some people you need to forgive them and stop giving them money.

God is kinda big on forgiveness.  We also hear the other part that is usually tagged onto this and that is forgetting.  Letting it go.  Now that’s a hard one to digest isn’t it?  Love is the key to letting things go.  It has to be.  If you don’t let things go then there is no forgiveness.

Sometimes the forgiveness never comes and the other party dies.  What then?  Are we doomed forever in the land of unforgiveness?  No.  Even if the deceased person is no longer here, we still must deal with it.  Some suggest getting a chair and talking it out as if the other person is sitting there.  I’m not sure if that works or not but we must do what works to resolve it.  We hold onto things way too long and it messes up every other relationship we have with people.  We hurt so we unintentionally hurt others when we don’t deal with it.  Get it resolved one way or the other.

What if the other person is unwilling?

That’s a hard one.  Maybe you want to redeem your relationship but the other person does not give a thought about it and has no interest in it.  All I can tell you is to let it go on your end and be open.  Never shut the door.  Believe in the power of redemption.  You know, if one thing I learned from the movie is that God is always working and sometimes we never see what He’s doing in people or how He’s working behind the scenes.  As hard as it is for us to believe that God does not give us a report of what He’s doing, He’s doing what He wants and will work in whatever way to bring redemption.

Yes, I’m crazy enough to believe that.

I am an emotional guy.  I can’t help it.  That’s who I am.  I believe that redemption is possible.  It’s hard to believe it when you can’t see it happening.

It’s true that there are some relationships that are never restored but, as the old hymnal goes – “We’ll Understand It Better By and By”.  As long as there is a God, there is a hope for redemption.


A Prodigal Christmas Story

Picture1Today I am releasing a Christmas short story called “A Prodigal Christmas” which is available for a nominal fee on

“A Prodigal Christmas” is the story is about Austin Shelton who is a successful sports writer for the Atlanta News Press. His father is the Reverend Bobby Joe Shelton who is a TV minister. They haven’t spoken since his mother’s passing. Austin receives a letter from his father which seems to end all hope at any reconciliation. Just when Austin gives up hope, he finds an old family Christmas portrait. Is it possible that this portrait could be the key which unlocks a Christmas miracle?

As I watch the Hallmark Christmas movies, my wife said that I should write a Christmas story.  Unfortunately, you can’t always just sit down and write a story without some good inspiration behind it.  They say that writers should write what they know.  I know this story and the emotions that are the foundation of the story.  The inspiration for this story came upon me one night last week and I could not sleep until I had written it.  So at somewhere around 2 a.m. one morning, I typed this entire story out on my iPhone then tweaked it over the next couple of days.

During the holidays much is said about being with family and enjoying the holidays with those that we love.  For some, relationships aren’t so good.  Words are said, deeds are done and decisions are made which strain the relationships we have.  In this story of an estranged father-son relationship, it depicts both sides of the strife that often occurs.  While it’s quite cliché to say to each one to “forgive and forget” the act of making the effort becomes the obstacle that neither side can overcome.

A “prodigal” is a characterization of someone who is reckless or wasteful with something.  In the Biblical account of the Prodigal Son,  a father has two sons. The younger son asks for his inheritance and after wasting his fortune, becomes destitute. He returns home with the intention of begging his father to be made one of his hired servants, expecting his relationship with his father is likely severed.

When we are wasteful with the years of a relationship, there is a void in our souls.  Nothing can fill it except a reconciliation of the severed relationship.  In spite of all our reasons for it whether our reasons are legitimate or not, nothing can cure it like forgetting the past which has passed and birthing a new relationship.

It is my hope that this story will give people the nudge they need to reconcile with a family member or friend at the most magical time of the year.

To purchase and download a copy for only 99 cents, click the link below:

“A Prodigal Christmas”

Waiting For The Prodigal

The-prodigal-son-Photography-by-Nigel-CoxSome relationships we have in life are hard and, at times, we have people who choose to walk away.  In the Biblical story of the prodigal son, the son wanted his inheritance so he could go out into the world and have fun.  His father gave it to him and let him go.  When the son had wasted everything and found himself working in the pig pen, he came to himself and returned home to a father who ran to meet him when he saw him returning.

We like that part of the story.  But what if the prodigal doesn’t return?

Sometimes we have people in our lives who become the prodigal son.  It doesn’t necessary have to be a son.  The prodigal to us can be a father, mother, friend or spouse.  It isn’t easy to play the role of the father of the prodigal son because waiting is hard and requires patience.

Sometimes the prodigal doesn’t return.  That’s the part that hurts us the most.  We may keep waiting for the person to come to themselves and return to us but sometimes they never do.  Pride can do things to people.  Pride is the enemy to restoring relationships.  One side waits for the other to give in and the standoff turns into an emotional game of chicken.

As a person who has often found himself in the position of waiting for that prodigal person to return, let me give you some helpful tips.

  1. Never give up hope.  I try to always keep my end of the relationship open and never close the door.  This, my friend, is really hard to do.  Hope is the only thing that can help you in the waiting.  Sometimes hope is all you have.
  2. Pray.  This is something you need to keep going and never let it get old.  Pray for the person.  Ask God to be your help in these times.  I often ask God to talk to the person’s heart for me since there is nothing I can do to help.
  3. Don’t force the person to come back to you.  I know people who like to use manipulation or drama to force people to do what they want but this isn’t a good way to do it.  I have always been a person that wants to fix things but sometimes there is absolutely nothing you can do to fix it.
  4. Realize that people make their own choices.  People will do what they want to do.  If they want to do it bad enough, they will.  I have often said that if I sudden became a Powerball winner that people would suddenly want to return to me.

I think one lesson to learn from the story of the Prodigal Son is the reaction of the father when he saw the son returning home.  The Bible says that the father RAN to greet the son and even threw a party for him.  Are you serious?  We are sometimes harsh when someone does decide to return to us in that we want to make them pay the emotional bill for what they have done to us.  If we are waiting for someone to return to us, we should be as anxious as the father and cancel any and all debts we feel that they owe us.  We shouldn’t be waiting with a list of things to hold them accountable for.  If we are waiting for them to come back we need to act like we want them back and forgive the debt.  We don’t have to make it an issue.

I will be honest and say that this waiting is not easy.  There are days that I don’t feel like running and welcoming the prodigal person to return.  We can’t let feelings dictate what we do.  Feelings are fickle and not always consistent.  They can change with the weather.  We have to find a steady place and remain solid in spite of how we feel.   We have to anchor ourselves and be solid in the process of waiting.

Someone once told me that it is as simple as just forgive and forget.  Well, sometimes it isn’t that simple for some relationships.  Both sides have to be willing to do it yet, sadly, it turns into a standoff waiting for the other side to blink.  When the prodigal son returned home the father threw a party to celebrate his son’s return.  I don’t think there was anything held back.  If you really want the prodigal to return, you will celebrate without holding anything over their heads.

So, as you wait, think of what could happen.  Cling to the hope you have and never give up.