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Although I have blithely gone through life thinking I knew how to ask for forgiveness and to sincerely apologize, my adult children have attempted to correct this delusion. They tell me I am terrible at apologies. So I have searched for some direction in this matter to no avail – sort of a “if you don’t know I can’t explain it!” What no win situation. And yet, God answered their prayers today when I received a recmendation from another blog
And here I quote the salient points:

1) I’m sorry for…: Be specific. Show the person you’re apologizing to that you really understand what they are upset about.

Wrong: I’m sorry for being mean.
Right: I’m sorry for saying that nobody wants to be your friend.

2) This is wrong because…: This might take some more thinking, but this is one of the most important parts. Until you understand why it was wrong or how it hurt someone’s feelings, it’s unlikely you will change. This is also important to show the person you hurt that you really understand how they feel. I can’t tell you how much of a difference this makes! Sometimes, people want to feel understood more than they want an apology. Sometimes just showing understanding– even without an apology– is enough to make them feel better!

Wrong: This is wrong because I got in trouble.
Right: This is wrong because it hurt your feelings and made you feel bad about yourself.

3) In the future, I will…: Use positive language, and tell me what you WILL do, not what you won’t do.

Wrong: In the future, I will not say that.
Right: In the future, I will keep unkind words in my head.

Now let’s practice using positive language. It’s hard at first, but you’ll get better. Can anyone think of a positive way to change these incorrect statements?

Wrong: In the future, I won’t cut.
(Right: In the future, I will go to the back of the line.)

Wrong: In the future, I won’t push.
(Right: In the future, I will keep my hands to myself.)

Wrong: In the future, I won’t take your eraser.
(Right: In the future, I will ask you if I can borrow your eraser.)

4) Will you forgive me? This is important to try to restore your friendship. Now, there is no rule that the other person has to forgive you. Sometimes, they won’t. That’s their decision. Hopefully, you will all try to be the kind of friends who will forgive easily, but that’s not something you automatically get just because you apologized. But you should at least ask for it.

As a teacher, I know that asking for forgiveness puts the offender in an uncomfortable and vulnerable place of humility. However, this seemingly obvious yet widely underused phrase is very, very powerful for both the offender and the offended. It is the key to reconciliation and often the first step in restoring friendship.

I also know that the second item, “This is wrong because…” is powerful in changing the longer-term behavior of the offending child. Forcing the child to put themselves in another’s shoes will increase empathy and help them understand better how they have hurt someone else. This exercise in trying to see themselves from someone else’s perspective can be very powerful.

I don’t know about you, but now that I have read the directions. I have a whole lot of phone calls to make and letters to write. I wish I knew this 40 years ago! Thank you CuppaCocoa.com.

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The children stole the show at our church today. One child was excited to find an Easter egg in the toilet. Another had trouble getting up the stairs with her long, lovely Easter dress. But the scene stealer was a two year old who thought sitting in the circle on the floor with the pastor was an invitation to play Duck, Duck, Goose!” At one point, he looked out and saw the congregation and proceeded to say “Hello everyone!” followed by “Where are you Mommy? “. Soon he just had to go find her but then returned to the “stage” with his hands turned up and out proclaiming “I’m back!”
Which just may have been the most understandable declaration of Christ’s return from death that I have ever seen. Certainly it was the most entertaining.
The central message of our faith is that in the midst of the darkest hour on earth when evil seemed to have overpowered all that was good as Christ Jesus died a cruel death, just a few sunrises later he proclaimed “I’m back!” And one day we too will return from the many deaths of this weary world resurrected and whole.

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God in the flesh

Just yesterday, this sweet thing happened to me.  I was picking up an Rx from Target and this mom and her 2 year old girl went past me.  The little girl shouted gleefully “Hi!”. With giggles.  Then she said to her Mom.  ” I like seeing her!” and kept on giggling. Made my day.

Two days ago, I was in a doctor’s waiting room. On one end sat a young mother and father with weeks old twins. Across from me sat two good old boys talking about fishing and exuding all the stereotypes that go with their good old boy image from an Appalachia back woods. Then they looked over at the parents and very lovingly encouraged them as parents while at the same time lauding the single mother that raised their children, calling them saints. It was such a mixture of messages but what came through the most clearly was an almost holy respect for the vocation of parenting. As they shared their wisdom on parenting with this young couple, I couldn’t help but become a little misty eyed. Our shared humanity is a sacred trust.

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The Tongue

I have the good fortune to have daily phone contact with my mother. We can talk for hours and not remember much about it. The point isn’t the content but the pleasure of one another’s company. Mom is 87 years young or as my grandson said, “that’s my Greatgrandma! She’s really, really old but she’s still alive!”
One of the things we share is a love of books. Once in awhile we will be so impressed with a book that we just have to send it across the 700 miles that separate us. The latest one was The Healing by Johnathan ODell. In both of our assessments it is one of the best books we have ever read, out of literally thousands. I share this one quote to peak your interest:

“A flapping tongue puts out the light of wisdom”

The Healing by Johnathan ODell

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“The universe has no beginning or end, and God is entirely present within every particle of it.”

Excerpt From: Eben Alexander, M.D. “Proof of Heaven.” Simon & Schuster

This book was recommended to me by a fellow patient in a waiting room of my doctor’s office. I did not expect to like it but curiosity won out. What is different about this book in comparison to other Near Death Experience memoirs is that it is written by a skeptical scientist and it is not beholden to any religion or philosophy. In part, it describes the experience of union with God that I sometimes have experienced in meditation in the past decade. Please read it with an open heart.

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I have a confession to make. I am naturally a very judgmental person. Not in the usual ways one might think of but rather in any given situation, I know exactly how things ought to be. Sounds ridiculous I know but I am a natural born fixer. You’ve heard the saying “if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail?”. Well, if one is a fixer, everything looks like it needs fixing. This is quite an exhausting way to live. One would think that having a chronic, energy sapping illness would have cured me of this “dis-ease” but no. Now I still see most things as needing fixing but know I can no longer attempt the fix. To counteract this foible of mine, I have been intentionally looking at others as beautiful creations of God, perfect just as they are. This has proved quite delightful.

Today, I went to my gym for my own improvement. I do a series of water exercises. As I came to the pool, I asked the gentleman in one lane “Can I share this lane?”. He smiled as he said “Of course!”. Immediately I heard my Grandmother’s voice in my head saying “May I not can I”! As soon as I crossed paths with the gentleman I apologized and said “I should have said may I”. It turned out he was a retired grammar teacher! What are the chances? I think this little joke on me is a reminder to see myself as also beautiful and just as I am meant to be, for purposes beyond my need to know.

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I happened to read and hear the musings of two aging spiritual giants this past week: The Rev. Billy Graham and The Rev. Gardner Taylor, both men in the 80’s. Graham is featured in this week’s Newsweek and Taylor was interviewed on PBS Relgion and Ethics Newsweekly Each man spoke of a similiar regret in life. This is my interpretation of their regret: that they did not spend more time in simply being in God’s presence. In Taylor’s words:

Taylor keeps busy, but in recent years, he says he’s begun to practice what 19th-century British pastor Alexander McLaren called “sitting silent before God.”

Rev. TAYLOR: This is not praying, it is not reading, it is just opening oneself. It’s a mystic kind of thing. But we do so little of it, and we who preach are likely to engage ourselves in so many things and to neglect that aspect of being open to what God has to say. And I wish to heaven I had practiced this more early on in my ministry.

Graham speaks more of a desire to have studied more but returns each night when he wakes from a restless sleep, to repeat the 23rd Psalm. The writer describes Graham this way:

“A unifying theme of Graham’s new thinking is humility….I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have.”

I’m about three decades short of these men’s years and likely eons short of their wisdom and paltry in terms of effectiveness in ministry. But I certainly do know of what they speak. The sweet priviledge of simply sitting in God’s presence is something that doesn’t have to wait until we leave this earthly realm. God longs for us to just be present and life becomes so much less chaotic and confusing when we do.

Simply put: Either embrace the Mystery or be destined to confusion.

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