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Tag: forgiveness

change of heart

change of heart

Change of heart book coverThis last Sunday, I shared some of Jeanne Bishop’s story in my sermon entitled, Be the church: forgive often. In April, 1990, Jeanne’s pregnant sister and her sister’s husband were murdered in their home by a sixteen-year-old neighbor. Ms. Bishop has just published a book entitled, Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy, and Making Peace with My Sister’s Killer, chronicling her journey toward forgiveness and toward the call to move beyond forgiveness into reconciliation. You may find more information about the book at

You may also read more about Jeanne Bishop’s story in this Chicago Tribune article: Woman touched by violence believes in murderer’s redemption.

the healing power of forgiveness

the healing power of forgiveness

Marie Roberts is the widow of the man who entered the Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, thirteen days ago, taking ten young girls hostage and eventually killing five before taking his own life. On Friday, she released an open letter to the Amish community through her pastor. The text of her letter follows …

To our Amish friends, neighbors, and local community:

Our family wants each of you to know that we are overwhelmed by the forgiveness, grace, and mercy that you’ve extended to us. Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. The prayers, flowers, cards, and gifts you’ve given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you.

Please know that our hearts have been broken by all that has happened. We are filled with sorrow for all of our Amish neighbors whom we have loved and continue to love. We know that there are many hard days ahead for all the families who lost loved ones, and so we will continue to put our hope and trust in God of all comfort, as we all seek to rebuild our lives.

living witnesses … witnesses to life

living witnesses … witnesses to life

From today’s news outlets …

By Michael Rubinkam: In Amish village, forgiveness lives

Just about anywhere, a deadly school shooting would have brought demands for tighter gun laws and better security, and the victims’ loved ones would have lashed out at the gunman’s family or threatened to sue.

But after the slayings of five children in a one-room schoolhouse, the Amish people in Nickel Mines urge forgiveness of the killer.

“They know their children are going to heaven. They know their children are innocent … and they know that they will join them in death,” said Gertrude Huntington, an author on the Amish from Michigan and an expert on children in Amish society.

“The hurt is very great,” she said. “But they don’t balance the hurt with hate.”

By Chris Francescani: “Shoot Me First,” Amish Girl Said to Ask

The oldest of the five Amish girls shot dead in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse is said to have stepped forward and asked her killer to “Shoot me first,” in an apparent effort to buy time for her schoolmates.

Rita Rhoads, a midwife who delivered two of the victims, told ABC News’ Law and Justice Unit that she learned of 13-year-old Marian Fisher’s plea from Fisher’s family.

What’s more, Fisher’s younger sister, Barbie, who survived the shooting, allegedly asked the gunman, Charles Carl Roberts IV, to “Shoot me second,” Rhoads said.

“They were amazing,” Rhoads said, “absolutely amazing. There was a tremendous amount of calm and courage in that schoolroom.”

“Marian, the oldest one, did ask to be shot first,” Rhoads said. “The faith of their fathers really was embedded in them.”

This is genuine faith! living faith! faith that is more than window dressing, faith that is more than a self-serving security blanket. This is faith that transforms human character, substantial faith that is passed on from one generation to the next, faith that has moved well beyond fear and foreboding, faith that is a living witness to the grace of God, faith that is a witness to the preciousness of life in all that God has made, in every creature God has made, in every human being made in God’s own image. This is love in action: love for neighbor, love for enemy, love for God that means what it says!

O God, be merciful to the families of the girls who have died. Be merciful to the family of the man who took their lives. And be merciful to us whose faith is so often tentative and timid and disengaged …

fighting terror … a different way

fighting terror … a different way

“I realize now how precious life is,” said Anthony Aversano, whose father, Louis, was killed in the World Trade Center. “How I fight the terror in me today is to live my life well.”

That quote comes from a Los Angeles Times account of the witnesses called yesterday by the defense team for Zacarias Moussaoui. Each of the six witnesses provides powerful personal testimony of a journey from grief to forgiveness, from fear to faith, of living the truth of Paul’s admonition in the letter to the Romans: Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good. They give me hope!

The article begins this way:

Defense attorneys for Zacarias Moussaoui on Wednesday presented their own group of Sept. 11 victims, whose message of forgiveness was strikingly different from what had been heard in the courtroom so far.

None of the half-dozen defense witnesses — parents who lost children, a wife missing her husband, a son without a father — was asked whether the jury should spare the life of the admitted Al Qaeda terrorist. They spoke instead of the changes in their lives over the last 4 1/2 years and their refusal to, as one put it, “get caught up in a whirlpool of frustration and sadness and anger.”

Whereas family members testifying for the government had described broken lives and monumental despair, those called by the defense said they were finding ways to move past their grief …

Read the entire article: Families of 9/11 Victims Testify for Moussaoui, Los Angeles Times

transforming memory

transforming memory

We are a product of our memories …

I heard someone make that comment a few days ago. It’s true. We do not encounter the present moment with a “clean slate,” but with the blessing and the burden of our memories. Our memories shape the ways we interpret and react to the situations we encounter. And our memories direct our steps. We try to create or find situations that will duplicate our good memories and we try to avoid situations that may duplicate our bad memories.

When we accumulate enough of one or the other, they become solidified, as it were, into a mindset, an outlook, a way of being. Enough good memories encourage us to welcome the future with open arms, expecting more. But enough bad memories make us fear the future and despise the present.

So how do you change a mindset? Are we prisoners of our memories — good or bad?

Memories cannot be altered, but the way they are put together may be. A mindset is not the product of the memories themselves, but of the way we interpret them, the way we retell the stories. That is the key — storytelling. The story is the means of making sense of the memories, of understanding and assimilating their meanings. But we can learn a new story! We can retell our old stories in new ways!

That is what forgiveness is about … not changing the past, but changing the way we feel about it, changing the way we think about it, changing the way we tell its story. I once was lost, but now I’m found! Faith is about learning to see ourselves through the eyes of Jesus, of learning to see ourselves as Jesus sees us, of learning to love ourselves as Jesus loves us.

We cannot change our memories, but they may become good memories as we begin to comprehend the “big picture” of our lives and see the hand of God at work from beginning to end. It’s a good story … with a most happy ending!

good people

good people

I have been privileged to know some good people in my lifetime:

  • people who fight to defend other people’s rights
  • people who say “I forgive you” … and mean it
  • people who seem never to tire of serving friends and strangers
  • people who believe in a project and support it wholeheartedly … and don’t care about who takes the credit
  • people who can be passionate and articulate about their faith without drawing attention to themselves
  • people who live their faith in decisions about lifestyle, investments, career, politics, social life
  • people who teach their children about social justice
  • people who tell their children about Jesus

I have been so blessed to know some good people in my lifetime …

as we forgive our debtors

as we forgive our debtors

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors …” We pray these lines from the prayer Jesus taught his followers in worship just about every Sunday. “As we forgive our debtors …” And sometimes, that means money. Yes, money!

I was delighted to hear this week of the commitment of the G8 nations to forgive some $40 billion worth of debt of the eighteen poorest nations in the world. The eighteen include: Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Yes, some of the debt-forgiveness is conditional, tied to political correctness and tied to compliance with cetain economic standards, but it is still forgiveness! Debt-forgiveness can take a terribly heavy monkey off the back of these nations and allow them the freedom to move forward with social and economic development, not simply to mark time or slide backwards because of crippling payments on accumulated debt.

This is a good act! This is a compassionate! It may be well overdue … but forgiveness is always timely!