Real Apology

by Melissa Parkhouse

Have you ever been hurt by someone and when they apologized to you, it felt sort of flat and empty?  And the “I’m sorry” simply wasn’t enough for you?  There are really good reasons why that is!

How many times have you heard (or used) the following phrases? “I’m sorry if I hurt you.” “I didn’t mean to ________.”  “I could have done a better job.”

On the surface, they look like an apology, but they miss the mark because of these key points: they are surface level and they do not value the experience of the other person.  The words “I am sorry” do not carry weight unless it is paired with a heartfelt confession of wrongdoing.

Why is this important?  Because as believers we are called to live in the light!  Our sin nature wants to hide things, minimize personal harm and avoid looking at the ugly things in our lives.  Confession and repentance (fancy Christian words for apology) are critical aspects of our walk with Jesus and with others!  Confession, the acknowledgement of sin, and repentance, the turning away from the behaviors and attitudes that caused the issue, are what allow us to walk in freedom.

Ken Sande, author of The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Conflict has outlined 7 crucial steps in creating an effective apology.  He calls them “The Seven A’s of Confession.”

Step 1: Address Everyone Involved

An effective apology will not try to hide or minimize the damage caused.  If your actions caused hurt, pain or misunderstanding to more than one person, you will need to go through all of these steps with each person involved.

Step 2: Avoid using the words: “If, but and maybe”

Why those words in particular?  Because they are always attached to excuses, justification, or minimizing.

“If you hadn’t done that thing, then I wouldn’t have responded the way I did.”

“But you did this…”

“I guess maybe I shouldn’t have done that.”

Do any of these sound convincing to you?  I sure hope not!  The problem with using excuses or justifying ourselves is that we are trying to avoid blame.  Yes, the other person may have had something to do with the issue, but that’s not the point!  You are apologizing because you value the relationship more than being right.

Step 3: Admit Specifically

Ok now we’re getting to some nitty-gritty, ugly, heart-stuff.  When we admit specifically we are naming and owning the attitudes and actions that caused harm to the person.

Pause and think about it:  Are you starting to see a trend here?  In order to apologize effectively you are going to need real humility and spend some time searching your heart beforehand.  A genuine apology triggers genuine forgiveness and reconciliation (which are fancy ways of saying the authentic restoring of relationships).  If you want real restoration in your relationships, you are definitely going to need Jesus to help you.  Ask Him to show you the ugly places in your heart that caused the problem, repent and ask Him to heal you.  You can even use these 7 A’s of Confession in talking to the Lord about things you want to change in your life!

Ok, back to admitting specifically.  I’ve noticed in my own life that the real reason I don’t want to admit specifically what I did wrong is because I don’t like looking at these things about myself and I am embarrassed by them.  When I bravely choose to own exactly what I did wrong and shed light on those dark places in my heart, I am opening a door to my own life change, and a door for healing in the relationship.  It’s painful, but it’s worth it.

Step 4: Acknowledge the Hurt

This step walks hand in hand with admitting specifically what you did wrong.  Take the time to express sorrow for hurting the other person.  If you have taken the time before the Lord to look at the attitudes and behaviors that hurt someone, you will have also had time to consider what that felt like to the other person.  Talk about it!

Whew!  We made it through the first four steps.  If you have made it this far in your apology building, well done! We’re done right?  We can just ask for forgiveness and call it good right?  Nope! There are two more important steps before we can get to asking for forgiveness.

Step 5: Accept the Consequences

Ouch.

Pause for a moment and consider this:  Do we apologize because we want right relationship?  Or do we apologize because we want to avoid the consequences of our actions?  Real repentance doesn’t avoid consequences.

And the hardest part of this step, is many times, you don’t get to decide the consequences.  The person who you hurt might want to set up boundaries that change the dynamic of the relationship, or you may need to pay to cover the cost of or replace a damaged item.  If you are willing to do some heart work before hand, you can keep this in mind, “This relationship matters to me, so I am willing to do whatever it takes to make it right.”

Step 6: Alter Your Behavior

An apology is empty unless it is accompanied by authentic life change.  Do you have a plan in place for how you are going to modify your behavior?  Share this with the person you caused harm to!

Step 7: Ask for Forgiveness

Genuine apology is a very vulnerable experience.  You bring your heart attitudes and actions before God and before another person, repent specifically and acknowledge the damage.  Once you’ve done that, you may ask one thing:  Will you forgive me?

Why this is important:  Sometimes when we apologize we expect for other people to simply accept are apology and be ok with it.  Unfortunately, that is an unfair expectation.  If we have truly acknowledged the hurt we caused to someone, then we need to give them space and time to process that for themselves.  We cannot demand an instant restoration of relationship.  Out of humility, we can ask for forgiveness and, if it’s not offered right away, we can wait patiently, trusting that God will help heal their hearts as well.

An apology is not a say-it-once-and-it’s-over process, it’s a first step in a journey toward healing.  But, if you will take the time and make sure that your apology contains these seven ingredients to an effective apology, you might be surprised by the outcome!

To purchase a copy of Ken Sande’s book, The Peacemaker, click here.

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Thoughts on Christmas

by Barb Rawalt

Don’t wait for Christmas to celebrate CHRISTMAS!

Christmas – that GOD came to our world, our wildly-dysfunctional world, our needy world.

He came in the Person of His Son, to:

– REDEEM the ‘Hostages’ (those in any kind of captivity)
*Redeem means He paid the payment needed for release!

– RESTORE the Broken  (anything that’s broken, splintered, un-whole)

– RETURN His children Home to their true Daddy, GOD.

Don’t miss Christmas! Celebrate, and RECEIVE, what He has done!

Turn Down For What?

by Melissa Parkhouse

Noise.

It’s pervasive.  Intrusive.

It’s so much a part of our daily lives that we don’t realise what we are hearing anymore.  We’ve dulled our senses to tune it out.

A few years ago when wind storms knocked out power throughout most of our city for 2 days, I was struck by how quiet it was!  Inside a home with no furnace running.  No electricity buzzing.  No appliances humming…

Just.  Silence.

With no power there was a different kind of silence too.  No TV.  No internet.  No email.  No distractions.

We live in a culture today that demands immediate attention at all times.  TV’s become the background noise to our existence.  Commercials get louder and more invasive.  Smart phones create immediate access to billions of bits of information at a moments notice.  They buzz.  They chime.  And all those the little red notifications of “look at me now! I demand your immediate response!”  Friends can text instead of call.  Exchanging brief moments of interaction for real connection.  We are distracted by everything that is vying for our attention.  And we are held prisoners by the demands of the lives that we have built.

But is this the kind of environment that the human heart was designed to flourish in?

Over and over throughout the life of Jesus we see him withdrawing from crowds, and even his disciples, to be still and pray (Luke 5:16).  He would withdraw from crowds, he would head out into the wilderness, he would find lonely places, so that he could be alone with his Father.

Even Jesus had to be intentional in creating space to hear from God.

So why don’t we?

There are several reasons we run toward noise and away from silence:

1. Silence is Confrontative.

Being still with only the company of yourself can be scary.  We often keep the noise level high because we don’t actually like who we are.  Stillness gives us time to evaluate the inconsistencies in our lives- and that can be downright painful!  We choose busy over growth.  We choose avoidance over change.  We choose noise to mask the discomfort of our existence.

2. We’re in Pain

Chances are there isn’t a person reading this blog who has not suffered pain in one way, shape, or another.  We are highly aware of the sting of rejection, the painful embarrassment of shame, the sharp stab of guilt, or other forms of assault that have damaged us to the core of our being.  When we’re in pain, we want to escape it.  So we choose our drug of choice: chronic busy-ness, technology additions and overpacked schedules.  We create elaborate, busy lives to stay far away from the pain in our hearts.

3. We’re Afraid

What will you discover if you were to put down the computer and just be still?  Are you afraid of what you will find?  Will what you discover force you to change?  Change is uncomfortable but it is absolutely necessary to live the life that you were called and destined for!

The other aspect of fear is we are afraid that if we set aside time to be still and listen and perhaps lean into the Lord, that He won’t show up.  That He does speak, but not to you.  That lie is straight from hell and designed to keep you far away from your loving Father.  The testimony of Scripture is that God is the God who loves to speak to his children.

One of the best things you can do for your personal and  spiritual growth is turn down the noise level in your life. That doesn’t just mean volume, it also means turning down distractions, interruptions and busy-ness in favor of creating space in your life where you can have quietness, stillness and focused attention on the Lord.  So I challenge you.  Turn down the noise level in your life.  For the benefit of your entire being, turn it down.

You might discover that you not only like it, but that your life begins to flourish as a result.

Here is a short list of things you might try as you work on turning down the volume level of your life:

1. Clear some time in your schedule.

Is everything on your schedule absolutely necessary?  Take some time to sift through the essential and non essential things on your to-do list and weekly schedule.  Block out time for stillness.  Put it on your calendar and schedule things around those times you have set.

2. Turn off the technology

Shut off the TV.  Turn off the music.  Walk away from your computer screen.  Turn your phone off.  Log out of social media. There is nothing in your life that is so urgent that you cannot leave each one of those technologies alone for an hour or more each day.  If you struggle with doing that, I challenge you to evaluate your addiction to the technology in your life.

3. Turn off the push notifications

You are not at the beck and call of a digital device.  You can decide when you want to check your email or social media page.  The urgency goes away when you don’t have chimes, vibrations and little red icons demanding your attention all the time.

4. Set some healthy boundaries

If your schedule is overpacked because you have a hard time saying no to people, it’s time to lovingly stop saying yes.   It’s important to be clear on your boundaries so you can determine who has access to your life and how much. That’s not mean or unChristlike, it’s wisdom!  Make a list: Who will I always give time to?  That should be a pretty short list and definitely should include God, time for yourself, your family and a few key friends.  Everything else can work around a reasonable schedule in your life.

Turn down for what?  Turn down for the benefit of your soul.  Turn down, to learn a new way of being.  Turn down, so you can connect with the Lover of your soul.  Turn down, so you can gain life.

Sons & Daughters

by Melissa Parkhouse

I want to share a testimony this week:

I was feeling distant from God and wanting to be closer to Him.  So I came up with all these strategies and things I could do to close the distance I felt between God and myself.  I had all these elaborate, frankly legalistic, plans for what I was going to do to fix things- modify my behavior, change things up, just so that I could once again feel closer to Jesus.

Have you been there?

“I’m going to do more bible study!”  “I’m going to fast!”  “I’m going to DO all these things to EARN the attention of my heavenly Father.”  As I wrestled with this distance I was feeling in my heart I FINALLY cried out to God and this is what he spoke to my heart:

“Daughter, all you had to do is turn.”

It made me think about a story in Luke 15, about two sons who didn’t know how much their father loved them.

The first son, the younger son, left home and squandered his inheritance on unfulfilling pursuits, hoping that it would solve some ache in his heart.  He ended up broke and feeding pigs- And he concluded that it would be better to return home and beg to be a slave than to expect that his father would care for him in his mess… So he heads home to beg for a place as a slave in his father’s household.  Check out how his father responds:

Luke 20:15 says this, “And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him”

Are you like the younger son?  Have you made mistakes and committed wrongs and you cannot imagine God the Father being willing to take you back until you’ve cleaned yourself up?  Would you rather work for a place in your heavenly Father’s household than accept his love and compassion for you?

There is another son in the story that you need to know about:  The older brother.  Your standard first born, extremely responsible, he worked diligently for his father and you wouldn’t have a clue that something was wrong until you see how he responded to his younger brother’s return.  His immediate response was accusation:  vs 28

“ ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’”

And the father’s response is powerful: “Son, everything I have has always been yours.”

You can continue reading this story for yourself in Luke 15…

Are you like the older son?  Striving to do all the right things and keep up appearances?  Do you fear that you won’t measure up, so you keep hustling to earn your place in God’s heart?
Now let me ask you this:  Did the father’s love change for either of his sons?

No.

So what happened?

They didn’t believe that they truly were his beloved sons.

Beloved sons want relationship with their father.  They don’t fear when they mess up and they don’t keep their father at arms length by perpetually performing well in order to show how valuable they are.

Beloved sons receive the love of their father and are confident of their place in his heart.

This week I forgot my place in God’s heart as his beloved daughter.  So I behaved like the older brother, trying to earn the love and affection of my Heavenly Father.

I needed to be reminded of the Father’s love for me.

This last Sunday we took communion together.  Communion is beautiful symbol of the good news of sonship.  When we were far from God Christ came and shed his blood so that not only would we receive forgiveness of sin and eternal life, but adoption into family.  So if you’ve run away from your heavenly Father and find yourself in a mess, or find yourself striving instead of resting in the Father’s love for you, today take this moment to be reminded of this:

You are the apple of his eye and the delight of his heart.  He has endlessly longed for and pursued you from before time began. He saw you as so valuable that you were worth sending his Son Jesus to save YOU.

Take a moment and, agree with the Father by faith- “I am your beloved son.  I am your beloved daughter.”

And turn your heart to the Father…

God is Healer

by Vicky Hull

God heals, and there is no doubt or question in my mind that He does.  Who God chooses to heal is not a mystery to most of us, but when people start getting healed, the faith of others is revealed and belief in Jesus becomes a high priority.  Over the years, I have seen many people have been healed from multiple ailments and experienced healing first hand, with myself as the recipient and years later as the person praying has been greatly encouraging.

Several years ago on a cold icy morning while trying to catch one of the kids before leaving on the school bus, my feet came out from under me on the way down the icy step and my bottom and back were very sore for over a month.  Thinking everything was fine, a trip to the hospital was not necessary in my mind but walking a little easier and being more careful was the answer.

A couple of years went by and life was back to normal, when one day the back pain began and progressively become worse.  After dealing with the pain for a while, the time had come to visit the chiropractor. The ex-rays revealed a previous break on the bottom bone of the spine.  My thoughts immediately went back to the icy steps when the doctor asked me when it was broken.  A broken back would explain all that pain from two years ago. Once the adjustments corrected the problem, the doctor said any time I lifted anything heavy it would have to be adjusted again.

Several years later, a new problem stemming from the broken back came up, at least one day a month my bed held me captive due to severe pain. After spending a couple of years missing at least one day of work each month, symptoms becoming more frequent, desperation set in.  One Sunday in February 2012, after the preacher was done with his message, the prayer team came to the front of the church to pray for people.  At this time my back was recovering from one of its down times, so I went forward for prayer.  One of our elders, Ron and his wife Virginia, were available so approaching them for prayer was easier than ever! The couple asked what the need was and they began to pray and anoint my head with oil.

The healing was not instant, or maybe it was that day,  but Monday was when it hit me that my back did not hurt anymore!  My husband had been unable to touch my lower back for years due to the pain, but this day was different, he was able to rub it for the first time in years!  Since that day there are no limitations on what I can do, or lift, and it has not given me another problem since then.

Our God is so faithful and He loves us no matter how imperfect we are!

Have you ever heard the term “Hurt people hurt people”? Well this week another part of that was shared at youth group, “Healed people heal people”. Only God can heal people but when He uses one of us to do the praying to usher in His healing, what a blessing it is.

On Wednesday nights our youth group meets and the leaders have the opportunity to love on the kids who attend, it blesses the leaders, as well as the kids each week. Although last Wednesday was no different than any other youth meeting to start with it, became one of the most unforgettable to several of us!

Jarrid (our youth leader) had begun the night as usual by sitting everyone down and welcoming the kids to youth group.  After the introduction, he explained the game or team building project for the night, and the kids moved from their chairs to the activity.  I was sitting in a chair to the side, and one of the kids approached me and said one of the other kids needed me. There was a girl who was on crutches from an injury from cross country running and had no feeling in her leg. The girl was struggling with the crutches and was quite frustrated with the entire process of using them.

Starting out the conversation with a big hug, I asked what she needed.  She asked for prayer for strength to get through her injury. After asking what happened to her leg, she said it was a pinched nerve causing her leg to be numb.  So we started praying for healing and strength. After praying, I asked her how her leg felt; she put some weight on it and said it was tingling. She became more expressive as her excitement grew.  Watching her face as her healing was being revealed to her was priceless. She began to laugh and cry and laugh some more. Handing me the crutches sparked a burst of energy as she ran out into the hall telling everyone about how God healed her leg!

Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed”.  

My prayer is that God will wake up the world with signs and wonders of his goodness and faithfulness so that no man will turn away from him ever again.

Amen.