Hope Lives in Forgiveness

Thanks to the insights of some prayer warriors, I was recently confronted with an ugliness in my soul. A spirit of unforgiveness had settled within and kept me from living in joyful peace.

After a time of confession and intense prayer, by God’s grace, I was able to release the pain that led to the unforgiveness. Peace came as a blessed byproduct.forgiveness clouds pic

The experience reminded me once again of the importance of forgiveness, and of how difficult it is to actually step through that door.

In order to forgive, we first have to be willing to feel our pain and grieve it in a healthy way. We also have to realize that the problem isn’t just about our suffering but it’s also how we perceive what has been done to us – and who did it.

Sometimes we have to forgive ourselves. Sometimes we even have to forgive God for allowing such pain into our lives.

But as long as we live in the bitterness of refusing to forgive, hope stalls and with it, the energy to move forward. We become stuck in whatever action caused the pain. We relive it and each time we pick up that grudge, we carry a heavier burden.

We become victims rather than victors and the ugliness inside will eventually seep into our souls and even our bodies. We can, literally, kill ourselves with bitterness and hate.

The news reports lately have reminded us how far we still have to go to find true acceptance of each other. America suffers from the grief of lost lives, damaged reputations and questions about injustice.

It is a blight on our land and an attack against the very soul of a country that was founded on colorful demographics. Although I don’t understand all the nuances of what has happened, I do feel the grief of families who have lost children, store owners who have watched their businesses burn and stereotypes profiled unfairly on both sides.

I know how easy it is to allow our pain to gnaw through the goodness God has granted us and to refuse to show grace to each other. One side of my family tree is decorated with Cherokees who were forced to march from North Carolina to Oklahoma. Thousands of men, women and children died along the Trail of Tears. The tragedy was so intense, even the soldiers who were ordered to carry out this debauchery wept.

Yet the Native Americans still thrive as a people, proud of their heritage, artistic in their pursuits and determined to seek a better livelihood for their children. It has taken several generations of honest confrontation, better laws and yes – even some national apologies to make peace happen.

I personally know some of these beautiful people from the Sooner State who learned how to forgive the past and moved into a place of mutual respect with those who stole their land.

We all make mistakes. We stumble and fail. We disappoint God and ourselves and yes – sometimes we make life-changing errors. But somewhere in the road back to sanity, we have to find a way to learn from the experience and not do it again.

I believe one of the stepping stones in that road is labeled forgiveness. I wish we would give it a try.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo

 

The Secret to Our Family Peppernuts

When a family is dealing with Alzheimer’s, holiday memories often center around the good times and particularly – food. One of my favorite memories is making peppernuts with Mom.Peppernuts

The smell of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon merged together with enough flour to break my arm when I stirred the giant bowl full of dough. We started on the peppernuts right after Thanksgiving when the kitchen was the warmest room in the house and the Oklahoma winds howled around the window frames.

Mom added the ingredients while I stirred, again and again. More cups of flour – practically an entire sack full. The recipe called for a “stiff dough” – no definite measurements.

But Mom knew exactly when to quit adding flour as she pinched off a piece of the dough and handed it to me. “Not too sticky,” she said. “You have to be able to roll it into a tiny ball.” Even now, I know exactly when to stop adding ingredients and begin making those tiny Christmas treats.

Peppernuts (“pfeffernusse” in the traditional Mennonite German lingo) are a phenomenon that traveled with my ancestors to America. With the traditional Christmas spices, including pepper, they taste great with coffee or tea. And with time, they harden into tiny bits of yumminess that will last for years in a glass jar.

Each family seems to have its own recipe. Some add anise, to give a distinctive licorice flavor while others focus on more of the spiciness. Our family was the latter as we doubled the spices for each single recipe.

It takes an entire day to make peppernuts, but that is one of the secrets to their flavor. Those of us who make them know the time and effort required. So they are a gift of not only taste but also of quality.

I often make mine while listening to Christmas albums and revel not only in the music but also in the memories of family life. Dad, sitting in his recliner, his head turned to catch every note from the violins on the stereo. Mom with her wooden spoon in hand, directing the work in the kitchen. My siblings sprawled next to the Christmas tree, reading books or dreaming about the presents soon to be bought and wrapped.

After the peppernuts baked, we stored them in giant jars. Then as Christmas neared, we transferred them to smaller jars and wrapped colorful bows around the lids. The mailman, the piano teacher, the school teacher, friends and other family all received peppernuts every year.

And now…I bake my peppernuts and think about the past…about the changing of seasons and the traditions that still endure.

The secret to our family peppernuts? Double the spices and triple the love.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1