Lenten Devotional – Fri, May 12: MERCIFUL

Now the Beatitudes take a turn. Who are the merciful? They would seem to have some power. Some agency. Some choice.

What is mercy anyway? John Stott says, ‘Mercy is compassion for people in need.’ Another scholar substituted the word kind in lieu of merciful. The Message’s contemporary wording of the Gospel reframes this Beatitude as ‘You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.’

The Barnes commentary says those who receive this Beatitude are, ‘those who are so affected by the sufferings of others as to be disposed to alleviate them.’ Jacques Philippe expands these ideas. He writes, ‘The fifth Beatitude concerns all aspects of mercy, of course, not just forgiveness. It applies to those forms of the goodness, love, benevolence, patience and mutual support to which the New Testament so often summons us.’

Are we self-less in our mercy and caring? It’s okay to feel good about caring. As humans, we’re less likely to act solely for idealistic purposes. It helps when we’re rewarded by feeling good about what we’re doing.

That experience of satisfaction — of gaining a sense of purpose — plants the seed to continue in such a direction. Martha Stortz explains it this way, ‘So often love begins in narcissism: the heart turns in on itself. But over time grace straightens your tightly coiled affection so that it reaches beyond the self to another and then through the other to God, the source and spirit of all loving.’

Of course, it is also essential, over time, for our small acts of mercy to be separated from any expectation of appreciation or acknowledgement from the one who receives our kindness. Not all people on the receiving-end of kindness and compassion are able or willing to accept it or give thanks for it. Being merciful, in conditions where people are unable to reciprocate, or even acknowledge the efforts we make, can be exhausting. Ask any care provider in difficult settings such as homeless shelters, mental health units, nursing homes, and other such places.

At such times, we must lean on the ethical choice we’ve made, and find our strength and resilience outside the compassionate exchange. For Christians, this comes from leaning on Godself. Jacques Philippe says, ‘Thus, to be free and happy, we must have the courage to tell ourselves “No one owes me anything.” Not those who harmed me, because I’ve forgiven them, and not those to whom I’ve done good, because I want to love them freely.’

This cultivation of resilience, of being able to offer mercy even when none can be returned to you, mirrors the blessing itself. We have been given this blessing, without any way to earn it or deserve it. It is given out of a deep and holy love.

Our first choice is to open ourselves to this blessing. Accept it as the gift it is. We didn’t ask for it. We didn’t expect it. Some of us may continue to think we don’t deserve it. By now, during Lent, hopefully you’ve been honest enough with yourself to realize that each of us — you and me — urgently needs mercy. Here it is, being offered. — Rev Gail

MEDITATIONS:

There is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can’t otherwise see; you hear things you can’t otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us. ― Bryan Stevenson

A rabbi should not despair if people do not do as much as they should. Every parent has that with children. God is merciful. — Louis Finkelstein

Every merciful act to the needy, the suffering, is as though done to Jesus. — Ellen G. White

Mercy manifests itself as forgiveness, and forgiveness is the glue of human community. — Martha Stortz

He was so benevolent, so merciful a man that, in his mistaken passion, he would have held an umbrella over a duck in a shower of rain. — Douglas William Jerrold

One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest. — Maya Angelou

Challenge or Question: When do you experience opportunities for daily acts of kindness or compassion? Pay attention to chances to extend this grace to others throughout this season, so that it becomes a habit. If you’re living remotely, can you find ways to show compassion anyway, through different forms of communication?

Saying I’m Sorry, making amends, seeking and offering forgiveness: themes from Detective Gamache’s final sentence (handled as a prayer)

Never forget the nine most important words of any family-
I love you. You are beautiful. Please forgive me. – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Any good apology has 3 parts: 1) I’m sorry 2) It’s my fault 3) What can I do to make it right? Most people forget the third part. — Unattributed

Remember, we all stumble, every one of us.
That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand. – Emily Kimbrough

How can I tell you
That I love you, I love you
But I can’t think of [the] right words to say

— Cat Stevens

It’s sad, so sad, Why can’t we talk it over?
Oh, it seems to me, That sorry seems to be the hardest word

— Elton John
I’ve been tryin’ to get down, To the heart of the matter
Because the flesh will get weak, And the ashes will scatter
So, I’m thinkin’ about forgiveness, Forgiveness
Even if , even if you don’t love me
— Don Henley

You gotta go and get angry at all of my honesty
You know I try but I don’t do too well with apologies
I hope I don’t run out of time, could someone call a referee?

‘Cause I just need one more shot at forgiveness
— Justin Bieber

Questions to consider:

  • What is the difference between saying “I’m sorry” and apologizing? What makes an apology meaningful?
  • How do you understand ‘making amends’?
  • On the other side of apologizing and making amends, is the process of forgiveness. Is it helpful to think about forgiveness as a path or a journey, rather than as a finite, one-time act?

Apology Is More Than Saying I’m Sorry.

Songs about saying I’m Sorry, expressing Regret, seeking Forgiveness, experiencing Grace & Mercy:

Pop, rock, hip hop, country, indie, metal, blues:

Religious/Christian rock, pop, Gospel, ballad, country:

Being Sorry, Making Amends, Apologizing, Seeking Forgiveness

Sacrifice is at the heart of repentance. Without deeds, your apology is worthless. — Bryan Davis

Would ‘sorry’ have made any difference? Does it ever? It’s just a word. One word against a thousand actions. – Sarah Ockler

Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past. – Tyron Edwards

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you. — Lewis Smedes
  In some families, please is described as the magic word. In our house, however, it was ‘sorry.’ – Margaret Laurence

Nothing is easier than to condemn the evildoer, nothing is harder than to understand him. — Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Before we can forgive one another, we have to understand one another.Emma Goldman
The best apology is changed behavior. Apologies are not meant to change the past; they are supposed to change the future. — John Farrar

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. – Paul Boese

True remorse is never just a regret over consequence; it is a regret over motive. – Mignon McLaughlin

Accept everything about yourself – I mean everything, You are you and that is the beginning and the end – no apologies, no regrets. – Henry Kissinger

Apologies only account for that which they do not alter. – Benjamin Disraeli

The ability of a person to atone has always been the most remarkable of human features. – Leon Uris

You can make up a quarrel, but it will always show where it was patched. – Edgar Watson Howe

The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway. – Henry Boye

Forgiveness Project: What is Forgiveness?

… forgiveness means many different things to different people. It is deeply personal, often private and far from the soft option many take it to be … often forgiveness is difficult, costly, painful – but potentially transformative.

  • Above all, forgiveness must be a choice because to expect someone to forgive can victimize them all over again. Forgiveness is also a journey and not a destination: in other words it is rarely a one-off, fixed event or a single magnanimous gesture in response to an isolated offence. It is part of a continuum of human engagements in healing broken relationships.
  • You can forgive small acts or big acts; acts against an individual , or a group, or a god. Such acts may or may not be crimes, for example adultery or betrayal.
  • Forgiveness is often considered the mental, and/or spiritual process of relinquishing resentment, indignation or anger against another person for a perceived offense, or ceasing to demand punishment. It is quite separate from justice (meted out by the state through the courts or some other delegated authority). But forgiveness does not preclude justice.
  • … forgiveness can be a useful life skill which can liberate a person who has been hurt, releasing them from the grip of the perpetrator. It is connected with acceptance and moving on. Some have said forgiveness is ‘giving up all hope of a better past.’ In this sense forgiveness is also an act of self-healing, rather than an act of kindness towards someone who has hurt you.
  • In some contexts, forgiveness may be granted without any expectation of compensation, and without any response from the perpetrator (for example, you can forgive a person who shows no remorse or a person who is dead). In other contexts, it may be necessary for the perpetrator to offer some form of acknowledgment, an apology and/or reparation in order for the wronged person to believe they are able to forgive,
  • Finally, forgiveness does not condone or excuse the action. It is a gift from one individual to another. It is therefore debatable whether institutions, governments or nameless officials can actually be forgiven. Some say that with extreme offenses while you may forgive a person for what he or she has done, the act itself remains unforgivable.

Certainly, if somebody is really apologetic and takes responsibility—“My bad. I really hurt you. No excuses.” Then forgiveness is easier. It’s not just bad because you got hurt, but I did something wrong. When someone says, “I’m sorry because you’re hurt,” well, that can make the person who’s been injured feel at fault because they were hurt. That’s an offensive kind of apology. It’s different when you say: “Boy, I did wrong, independently of whether or not you got hurt. I also see how that wrong has impacted you, and I’m sorry for that.” So there are two steps—“I did wrong, and that wrong hurt you.” Then the next step is, “Since it’s my responsibility, what can I do to make it better for you?” That’s a true apology, and that makes a real difference. — Frederic Luskin


From What’s Really Behind ‘I’m Sorry’ Versus ‘I Apologize’& How To Move One — Good Men Project

When you’re saying “I’m sorry,” a sincere apology usually includes the following:

  • a detailed account of the situation
  • acknowledgement of the hurt or damage done
  • taking responsibility for the situation
  • recognition of your role in the event
  • a statement of regret
  • asking for forgiveness
  • a promise that it won’t happen again
  • a form of restitution whenever possible

Making Amends – Learning from the Twelve-Step Program

Making Amends in Addiction Recovery … Step Eight and Step Nine … call this approach “making amends” (full article on Betty Ford site)

  • Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Below, experts at Hazelden Betty Ford’s Connection™ recovery coaching program answer frequently asked questions about this reconciliation process and why it’s so vital to addiction recovery and spiritual health.

What is a Direct Amend?

In Twelve Step recovery from alcohol or other drug addiction, a direct amend refers to the act of personally addressing issues with people who have been harmed by our behavior or our treatment of them. The practice involves going back to those individuals to acknowledge the harm or hurt we have caused them and demonstrate our changed ways in order to provide them with the opportunity to heal. Whenever possible, a direct amend is made face-to-face rather than over the phone or by asking someone else to apologize on your behalf.

What’s the Difference Between Making Amends and Offering an Apology?

Think of amends as actions taken that demonstrate your new way of life in recovery, whereas apologies are basically words.
In active addiction, our actions and intentions aren’t aligned. For example, we might intend to go to a friend’s birthday party but, in actuality, we fail to show up for the event. While we might apologize later for missing the party, our apology consists of words rather than actions or changed behavior.

In recovery, our actions and intentions are aligned. An example would be telling someone how sorry you are that you stole from them and actually giving back what you took.

Are There Times When Direct Amends Are Not Advisable?

Yes. Step Nine states that we make amends “except when to do so would injure them or others.” We don’t want our actions to cause further damage, harm or stress. Also, we might owe amends to people we can’t reach. In those cases, we can make amends in a broader sense by taking actions such as donating money, volunteering our time or providing care.

It’s also important to take great care when making amends to someone who is in active addiction because our primary responsibility is to safeguard our own health and recovery from substance abuse.

Should I Try to Make Amends with Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Hear From Me?
No matter how much you feel the need to make things right, forcing another to meet with your or hear from you is not part of the Steps. When those we’ve hurt are not able or willing to accept our amends, we can still move in a positive general direction by taking intentional steps to be of service to others.

How Will Making Amends Help my Recovery?

Taking these actions helps us to separate ourselves from the disease of addiction. We come to understand that we are good people with a bad disease. Step 8 and Step 9 help us to move out of the shame we have lived in, shame that feeds the cycle of substance use and addiction. We strengthen and reinforce healthy recovery whenever we do our part to repair relationships or reach out to others with support and understanding.

What If my Attempt to Make Things Right Goes Wrong and Things Get Worse?

It’s important to have a plan in place before you reach out. We can’t know for certain how another person will respond—or even how the interaction might affect us emotionally. So be sure to talk with your sponsor and/or support group about your plan in the event you would need support. Remember, this is a Twelve Step process that can provide a platform for healing, but the person you are reaching out to may not be at the same place in healing as you are. We are only in control of our part—making and living the amends. We cannot control how others respond, whether they will forgive, or whether they will hold onto negative feelings or resentments.

Should I Work on Step Eight Alone?
Generally speaking, people work through the Steps of Alcohol Anonymous with an addiction treatment counselor and/or sponsor. You can also turn to AA’s Big Book and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (the 12×12) for guidance specific to Step 8.

When first writing your list, don’t worry about including everyone you have wronged. Start by listing the people closest to you. Over time, as you strengthen and deepen your recovery from alcohol or drug addiction, you will undoubtedly revisit Steps 8 and 9 many times. Eventually, you will find you are making amends day by day through the positive actions you routinely take in living by Twelve Step principles.

What is the Best Way to Make Amends?

There really isn’t a “best way” for everyone. You need to find the approach that works best for you. Talk with your sponsor or others in your recovery community about what has worked for them. If your actions match your intentions and you reach out in person, you are doing the next right thing to right past wrongs. It’s simple, but not easy. And remember, if you are feeling ashamed about mistakes made and damage done during your using days, you are not your disease.

How Soon Do I Start to Make Amends Once I am Sober?

There isn’t a set timeline for working Step 8 and Step 9, so you might want to ask your sponsor and recovery support network for their insights about whether you’re ready. In Twelve Step recovery, your pace is your own to determine. No doubt, you will experience challenges and setbacks along the way. But by prioritizing your recovery on a daily basis and doing whatever that next right thing might be for you, you will keep moving forward in living a life of good purpose.

Reflections on boldness, mercy & grace: themes from Hebrews 4

How will you come boldly into the presence of God, of Love? What does it mean, for you, to trust that you will receive the help you require, if not the help you desire, even if you cannot possibly merit it? Have you ever felt such a moment, being utterly loved and supported? Have you ever offered that sort of love and support to someone else? What sort of grace, or help, do you need?


How does the Meadow flower its bloom unfold?
Because the lovely little flower is free down to its root,
and in that freedom bold.
— William Wordsworth (excerpt)

Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute –
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated —
Begin it, and the work will be completed!
— John Anster (excerpt) translation of Part One of
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s“Faust”

On Boldness

Dream a big dream, a bold dream. Don’t play conservatively between the 40 yard lines. Don’t just play it safe. — Robert Kraft

Fortune befriends the bold. — Emily Dickinson

Be bold, be brave enough to be your true self. — Queen Latifah

Shine like the whole universe is yours. — Rumi

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Feeding the Mind: Books, Films & Conversations in our Community

  • Take a survey about books & themes that interest you to read and explore with Jackson Community Church. Help us offer programs that feed your mind & soul.
  • Upcoming book discussions: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, Tue, March 20, 4:30pm @ Jackson Library
  • Upcoming film screenings: “404 Not Found” about teen homelessness in NH with soup supper on Fri, Mar 23, 5-7pm @ Gibson Senior Center & “Cyrano deBergerac” film & discussion on Sun, Apr 29, 3-6pm, Whitney Community Center

Continue reading “Feeding the Mind: Books, Films & Conversations in our Community”

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