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How do we forgive?


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#1 Nina

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 05:06 AM

Ksenyia's recent post about forgiving is so true and prompted me to start this thread because I encountered two temptations recently and I have been pondering about forgiveness. First, it was someone from my past who did many things to hurt me, however I started forgiving her and started to ask God to help me and last year finally I thought I had forgiven her completely, fully and I was at peace. However this year she did something again and my ego flared up and I understood that my forgiveness had not been complete. :( The second case was someone I admired and respected much but who continuously and even publicly was humiliating me. I forgave her many times and felt pity and compassion for her, and she even asked forgiveness because she understood her words were hurtful. However we ended up not talking to each other anymore after a very insensitive comment she made. Now I know I have a huge problem because I m not humble, but I wonder what do you all do to fully forgive someone? What is the Patristic teaching to make forgiveness easier? How can we forgive completely? Maybe also Ksenyia can offer practical advise about what helped her forgive. Thank you. Later on I can also share what my SF told me however I need to hear first how friends here have overcome this issue.

#2 Irene

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 06:58 AM

The trouble is with us human beings is that it is just so hard to see the big picture. We read of the Saints who forgave those who did terrible deeds against them and others around them. They did this with love and this may seem quite impossible to us. (I feel there is another thread on this subject where someone asked how can they truly forgive a person who has harmed someone they love such as their wife or daughter or a child.)

Believe me when I say that it is far easier to forgive those that harm us than those that harm our loved ones.

Yet it is so much more important for us to forgive than for the other person to be forgiven. I know people that have burned with rage not just for years but for decades because of a "wrong" done to them and it is nothing in the scheme of things, it is nothing when you think of the terrible attrocities that are committed against the innocent all around the world.

But we know this, in this age of global media, we all know about the suffering that others endure. So to bring it back to ourselves How do we learn to forgive?

Forgiving does not mean that you have to keep putting yourself in the firing line. To become a true Christian we are told to remove that which causes us to sin. Remembered wrongs and recurring anger are no good for us. So, step one: if at all possible, forgive and then distance yourself from the person, not coldly, just politely. If this person is a family member this is difficult if not impossible.

Step two: Remember, that people who hurt can be doing it out of habit, weakness, knowing no better, being brought up in such a way that they can not imagine the other person's point of view. People learn to consciously or subconsciously "push our buttons", they can be clever at doing exactly what it is that will cause us to feel pain, but not necessarily deliberately.

Step three: To forgive another you must pray for them, Father Averky (reposed) taught me this, and he was right, it does work. Sometimes the wrong is so terrible that it is hard to even think or speak the others name, so to pray for them is an ordeal, an ordeal that you must try and force yourself through.

Step four: Start to pray even before you start to get upset with another. For example: If you get upset when you see them and you know there is a possibility that you will see them where you are going. Pray and keep the prayer in your heart the whole time, if you get distracted and stop praying, just start again as soon as you realise this. If you must talk to them on the phone regularly, cross yourself when you hear the phone ring and if it is them that is calling, pray quietly to yourself the whole time, (Lord Have Mercy). Turn on the CD player with Orthodox Chant to calm your nerves. Change the subject if they start to go to the place where it will hurt. etc.,

Step five: Accuse yourself. Think while he/she has done "x" to hurt me, I a believing Orthodox Christian who knows better have done (whatever sin) that hurts God.

I hope that all makes sense, that is my path to forgive another such as it is.

In Christ
Irene

#3 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 08:21 AM

A few years ago I was in a position where I could not forgive someone for doing something that was very unfair to my husband.

I told my priest about the fact that I couldn't find it in me to even speak to this person (a family member) and asked him what I should do.

The priest asked me if what this person was saying was true.
When I replied in the negative he then told me to act as if I had forgiven this person i.e. start communicating again.

He told me that forgiveness will come in its own time.

It worked.

The formula :

1. Evaluate the situation objectively. Did you do something to provoke the other person? Are you entirely blameless? Examine your own actions first.

2. If you can honestly decide that you are not to blame for what is happening, then the next step is to ACT as if you have forgiven the other person.

3. The "feeling" of forgiveness will follow.

Your emotions do not come first. Your brain, then your actions, and finally your emotions.

During the whole process I prayed to God and let Him take control of the situation.

Effie

#4 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 08:51 AM

from the infirmity of not forgiving: BE OBEDIENT TO whatever your Spiritual Father has told you to do! You have a choice of healing quickly or healing slowly ....

I know this thread will generate much advice but our advice will send you on a slow path towards healing ... all you need to do (to overcome this or any passion) is be obedient to your Spiritual Father (literally) and that will heal you perfectly and as God intended for you to be healed ... I think, the answer is as simple as that.

For fun, to discuss this deeper, page 78 of St Silouan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony:

... every Christian ... when faced with the necessity of finding a solution consonant with the will of God, makes an inner rejection of all his own knowledge, his preconceived ideas, desires, plans. Freed of everything 'of his own', he then returns his heart to God in prayer and attention, and the first thought born in his soul after such prayer he accepts as a sign from on high ...


However, since we are not as pure as St Silouan, p79:

... in the Church another course lies open to us - to seek out and obey the counsels of a spiritual father. This is what the Staretz himself did, considering the humble path of obedience to be the most trustworthy of all.


... he firmly believed that because of the faith of the one who turned to him, the spiritual fathers council would always be the right, beneficial, pleasing to God. His confidence in the efficacy of the sacraments of the Church and the grace of the priesthood were the more confirmed after, ... , he saw the spiritual father, Staretz Abraham, transfigured 'in the image of Christ' and 'ineffably radiant'.


We can be sure that the council of our Spiritual Father is the Will of God, since in Genesis 19:17, the Lord was merciful to Lot and told him to "Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed." Lot, on the other hand, did not immediately embrace the Lord's direction and thinking there was a better solution, he says (v19):

" ... I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die." (v20): " ... this city [Zoar] is near enought to flee to ... please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live."

I love this! It is ME in every confession! The priest tells me to do X and my rational mind says .. "BUT" so Pater ends up saying ... "ok, well then ...".

You see, the Lord gave Lotd "favour" and allowed him to go to the city of Zoar, instead of the mountains.

What is interesting, is that after spending the night in Zoar - the very next morning Lot leaves for the mountains because he was afraid to dwell in this town! (one can not know exactly what it was that Lot experienced in Zoar) - He ends up dwelling in the cave exactly as the Lord initially had told him to do.

So, it clearly proves to me that the only advice we really need on the "end destination" lies in the hands of our Spiritual Father ... taking the "matters into our own hands" to solve a problem, well, God will permit it because he is love but ultimately the solution to this problem is the "way" God intended for us to be saved ... it just a question of whether we want to waste our time in Zoar or go straight to the mountain!

xxxx

#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 08:52 AM

There may be instances where people who offend us are actually being used by the forces of evil to tempt us, particularly if we are engaged in some good. The wrong is not then really from those people. Where we recognise that such is the case, we can forgive the people concerned without great difficulty, and wonder further if, perhaps, we have been similarly used when we have given offence.

#6 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 09:22 AM

Now I want to share my personal formula:

1. Blame yourself; somewhere you are to blame before they were to blame.

2. Pray to God to enlighten you to understand how you are to blame ...

3. Take the blame to confession and participate in frequent Holy Communion - nothing beats the power of the mysteries ...

4. Follow your Spiritual Father's comments.

5. Frequently read from the Psalter/Holy Bible. An entire week could be devoted to why praying/reading the Psalter and the Holy Bible are the best distractions ... but I have found that it works not just on your own soul but on the soul of the other person too - another mystery not explainable.

6. Keep your mind distracted from "negative thoughts" - call to mind saints, like St. Dionysios of Zakynthos or St. Thomayi etc, and reflect on their life and how they succeeded in forgiveness. Your mind forgets what the initial "hateful" thought was and over time a feeling of compassion starts to grow ...

7. Remember Matthew 11:12: ... "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."

I dont know how to explain this one but Wrestle with God and beat him in the fight ... to get the fruit/the virtue (which is the opposite to the sin) you "fight" the "good fight" to show yourselve a worthy athlete ... even if in baby steps ... act like a Fool in this fight; foolishness achieves much more than the logic since it attacks the demons and not the person!

What are the demons expecting you to do? React in the opposite manner!

#7 Nina

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 12:42 PM

Thank you all. It is very good advise and very interesting to see what angle everyone takes.

Irene, you caught one of my week spots. You are right that distancing is the best part. I do not distance myself, but at first I continue to pursue harmony/peace and end up hurting myself even more. Because I do not want a broken something in my heart I instantly forgive the person and then when the other one continues to hurt me and I continue to forgive at some point I reach the point of no return and then my ego just would not know how to forgive any more.
Thank you. The rest of advise was very good advise also and I will try to incorporate it.

Effie. Yes you are right that brain should be first, however it is so difficult for me. As I mentioned even when my brain and heart thought I had forgiven in the first instance, I still got tempted when I heard things she has said again. And what makes it harder is when you have done so much for someone, prior to the hurting they gave to you. But thank God they are not family so I can avoid contact.

Andreas, he he he. I am not that holy that the evil forces will do things through other people against me. he he he. I think it is more just our fallen nature in this fallen world.

VV of course I follow the advise of my SF but that doesn't mean I can't learn from others. You did not have to convince me to be obedient to my SF he he he. So do not worry. But you are right that Confession and Holy Communion and prayer are some of the powerful arsenal against such temptation.

But I still wait for other practical ways and esp Ksenyia's on how she managed to forgive after so many years. Also it is not that I think of this hurt non stop (at least consciously) but there are things which remind me now and then.

#8 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 02:15 PM

Over and over and over again, because PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.

Forgiveness, like salvation, is not a one-time occurance. It is a life-long activity.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain.

Herman the Pooh

#9 Father David Moser

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 02:55 PM

what do you all do to fully forgive someone? What is the Patristic teaching to make forgiveness easier? How can we forgive completely? Maybe also Ksenyia can offer practical advise about what helped her forgive.


Forgiveness is not a feeling - it is a choice. In fact forgiveness is a continual choice. Once you decide to forgive, then you begin to act towards as though the offense were no longer there. You may still feel the irritation that the offense had caused, but each time it arises within you, you simply respond by saying, "yes, but I have forgiven that" and set those feelings aside. Each time the irritation or the remembrance of the wrong tries to assert itself, you choose again to forgive and set the remembrance of the wrong aside. Forgiveness is a continual choice and "fully" or "completely" forgiving someone is not accomplished until the end of your life - for each time the temptation to take offense, to judge, to become angry you choose again to forgive.

Fr David Moser

#10 D. W. Dickens

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 03:44 PM

My priest talked about this as part of his homily yesterday. he said a good practical way was when the offense entered your mind, to immediate pray for the salvation of the person you are having a hard time forgiving.

It really turns you mind down a different street.

He has, in the past, also said something equally profound. That is, we don't forgive someone once for each evil, but rather we may have to forgive them many times, each time we are reminded of the evil. Do not think that because you remember the evil and feel the pain of it, that you didn't "really" forgive them last time, but rather you must simply forgive them again. And again. And again.

#11 Nina

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 04:13 PM

Ah now I get it! Thank you Father David, DW and Herman for articulating it in a such way because I really had thought that since the memory came back I hadn't forgiven them. I see this is the trick, so I wold give up thinking that I can not forgive since I have done all things to forgive and still the irritation comes back (as Father David explained). Ok this is very very good help! Thank you! And about praying about people who hurt me, yes I do pray, I light candle at church, I give their names for Proskomide to the priest/monasteries; I have started my prayer by praying for those who have hurt me first, and also I have begged God to make them Saints. This is why it bothered me so much when the memory would come back that I even asked God to make me forget. Although this has happened to some extent with the first person, it was so much hurt that the rest of the hurt hurts still.

What my SF said to me is that what others do we can not control and we can only control what we do. Also he told me to pray very much during the times of peace so I am prepared in times of temptation. Also he said that all the brokenness that surrounds us exists because we all must heal the relationship with God first - this is done by prayer, participating in the Holy Mysteries and reading Bible and the Fathers.

#12 Nina

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 08:04 PM

I was reading something about St. John of St. Francisco today and came across this quote and it was an eye-opener since I also remembered the part in Ksenyia's story where she mentions that her heart was crying out for help to Panagia and Christ: "Help me."
And when I read this quote it was a wow moment, about how in this temptation also we can do nothing and can't forgive without God's help.

Nothing comes without effort. The help of God i always ready and near, but it is given only to those who seek and work, and only to those seekers who, after putting all their powers to the test, then cry out with their whole heart: "Lord, help us."


St. Theophan the Recluse

#13 Peter S.

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 09:11 PM

Forgiveness is not a feeling - it is a choice. In fact forgiveness is a continual choice. Once you decide to forgive, then you begin to act towards as though the offense were no longer there. You may still feel the irritation that the offense had caused, but each time it arises within you, you simply respond by saying, "yes, but I have forgiven that" and set those feelings aside. Each time the irritation or the remembrance of the wrong tries to assert itself, you choose again to forgive and set the remembrance of the wrong aside. Forgiveness is a continual choice and "fully" or "completely" forgiving someone is not accomplished until the end of your life - for each time the temptation to take offense, to judge, to become angry you choose again to forgive.

Fr David Moser


This makes sense to mine experiences. I had forgiven someone and even felt good about it. Then later I was confronted by someone (the evil One?) which said that I couldnt forgive or even take revengance. So I must fight with him if I want to. I am happy it is possible to forgive again. Seven times seven. And happy that in the end we can find true peace, consolation and rest.

Peter

#14 Irene

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 10:29 PM

I was reading something about St. John of St. Francisco today and came across this quote and it was an eye-opener since I also remembered the part in Ksenyia's story where she mentions that her heart was crying out for help to Panagia and Christ: "Help me."
And when I read this quote it was a wow moment, about how in this temptation also we can do nothing and can't forgive without God's help.


Those "wow" moments are great. It's like standing listening to the Gospel, a passage that you have heard and read over and over, so familiar but suddenly you get hit with how it applies to you here and now. Suddenly you have understanding of something that has been troubling you. I love those.

#15 Mary

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 02:00 AM

Nina, you don't have to be a saint in order to experience what Andreas mentioned, in his post #5. You just need to make up your mind to change on small detail in your life. It happened to me this morning, and I'm saying this, because you certainly know I'm no saint. I've been trying to wake up earlier so I can pray before everyone else wakes up. But, every time I do, so does my son. He wakes up to read. And he likes to read in the same room as I like to pray. It is the only peaceful room in our house, so we're all drawn to it. I told him he can't have the room till I'm done praying. And I try to get done sooner, so when he wakes up, the room is free. But I'm never early enough. This morning, he got so angry that he could never have the room, and said all kinds of things he shouldn't say. I didn't get angry. I got hurt. I sat and cried, instead of praying. But the whole time I cried, I felt it was the devil, and not my son, who had cursed me. Somehow, in my heart, I know that is true.

Anyway... sorry for the long story.

About forgiving... I've tried many different methods. Before orthodoxy, my concept of forgiveness was limited. But I still had to forgive, because when these people came to mind, I'd have a panic attack. I got to the place where I could imagine meeting them, and not feel any pain. After that, I would imagine that they were in need of my help, and I was able to help them. Helping someone, is very impersonal... you just meet a need, and you move on. That's all. But, I never thought I'd be able to enjoy their company again, and I never tried to imagine a scenario like the past, when we used to spend time together. However, just before I got tangled up in orthodoxy, God gave me an opportunity to meet these people again. And I was surprised, when I saw them, I could not remember anything, and I was actually excited about seeing them. We had lunch together, and they even invited me to their home, I went and had a good time... almost like we used to... I say 'almost' because I had moved on. I knew there were some things that I could never trust them with... like - my heart. But that's ok. My heart isnt' for everyone. I think I've learned to value my own heart a bit more. =)

Recently, I have caused someone to be resentful towards me. The other person does not want to talk about it. I cannot think of what I've done that's so unforgivable. However, as I thought about it, I wondered if that person, perhaps felt as if they've invested much in me, and perhaps they see me as ungrateful. I don't know. I only know that we all invest time and energy and even our hearts in others. But, however much we invest in someone else, it won't come close to what Christ has invested in us. So, just as He has given us free will to reject or accept His gifts to us, so we too, should allow others the freedom to accept or reject what we pour into them. Also... what we do for others, is just like planting a seed... we cannot make it grow, nor can the person. Only God can make seeds grow. So, we shouldnt' be upset, when we see no fruit for our labor. Especially when it involves another person. We can't even force fruit to grow in our own hearts! They're all gifts from God. Without Him, nothing will grow. For us, or for them.

Knowing all this doesn't do me any good though, and when someone behaves in a way that is immature, I get offended and I start asking 'why'? and 'how could they even think of such a thing?'... so, I try harder now, to not ask those stupid questions. Chances are, even they don't know why. And if they do... then it's their responsibility to go to confession, it's none of my business. My business is with God. My responsibility to others, is to first, keep myself from causing harm, and maybe someday I can even do kind things for others.

Forgive me for rambling on. I guess, in a nutshell... the way I forgive, is to give everyone permission to be as inconsiderate and insensitive and immature as possible. And since most people aren't that way, they all start to look like saints to me!

Oh, before I stop rambling, I have to tell you something else. I was writing down all my misery on a piece of paper, so I could burn it. Then, I wrote down a verse. Normally, I have trouble memorizing verses that I want to memorize. And the only verses that stick in my head, are the ones that I don't try to, or don't want to memorize. Anyway, this was the same... the last judgment - when Jesus says: "I was naked, and you clothed me." I don't know why it came to my mind. But I wrote it down. And as I did, I suddenly started to wonder, if maybe, there was more to this covering up than just the surface fabric for the body... it is easy to give someone clothes to cover up their body. But... it is so much harder to cover someone whose weaknesses have been exposed. But sometimes, in our own pain, we keep uncovering the person who has hurt us. And I think, this exposing of someone else, is far worse than the actual wrongs that they have done. I don't know, if that's a proper interpretation. But whether it is or not, I know I"m guilty of uncovering others this way, whether in front of someone else, or in my own mind when I replay what happened... time to destroy all my mental media equipment!

Well... I've finally quit rambling. Please forgive me.

In Christ,
Mary.

#16 Paul Cowan

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 03:26 AM

...respond by saying, "yes, but I have forgiven that" and set those feelings aside.
Fr David Moser


For me, I have a way of resolving within myself, though at times it takes longer than others, the pain of wrongs or rememberances of it.

I say to myself, What this person has done to me, I have done this exact same thing to others and even justified I was right in doing it. How can I be angry at this person when I am truly THE worst of sinners.

In a few minutes, the anger passes and I can start working on my past behaviors and make amends to those I have harmed in the past. I hate it when God makes me face myself like this. It is painful and self-realizing I know I have to clean up through repentence. Here I go through my day all nice and comfortable and someone ticks me off and I spend the next few days apologizing to family and past acquaintances how I hurt them. Glory to God for all things. Dang it!

Paul

#17 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 05:32 AM

Forgiveness is not a feeling - it is a choice. In fact forgiveness is a continual choice. Once you decide to forgive, then you begin to act towards as though the offense were no longer there. You may still feel the irritation that the offense had caused, but each time it arises within you, you simply respond by saying, "yes, but I have forgiven that" and set those feelings aside. Each time the irritation or the remembrance of the wrong tries to assert itself, you choose again to forgive and set the remembrance of the wrong aside. Forgiveness is a continual choice and "fully" or "completely" forgiving someone is not accomplished until the end of your life - for each time the temptation to take offense, to judge, to become angry you choose again to forgive.

Fr David Moser


Yes, this is basically what my "papa" told me. Thank you Father David for elaborating on it. First the mind. Then the action. The "feeling" of forgiveness comes last.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if whenever anyone wrongs us, we could just say "I forgive you" and immediately a wonderful, warm feeling of forgiveness floods us. It doesn't work this way. We need to say the words to ourselves - to decide to forgive. And then to act on this decision.

Effie

#18 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 05:35 AM

For me, I have a way of resolving within myself, though at times it takes longer than others, the pain of wrongs or rememberances of it.

I say to myself, What this person has done to me, I have done this exact same thing to others and even justified I was right in doing it. How can I be angry at this person when I am truly THE worst of sinners.

In a few minutes, the anger passes and I can start working on my past behaviors and make amends to those I have harmed in the past. I hate it when God makes me face myself like this. It is painful and self-realizing I know I have to clean up through repentence. Here I go through my day all nice and comfortable and someone ticks me off and I spend the next few days apologizing to family and past acquaintances how I hurt them. Glory to God for all things. Dang it!

Paul


Something that works for me Paul is to include the person who has wronged me in my prayers. This also works for people I am envious of. Or angry with.

Effie

#19 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 05:44 AM

Ah now I get it! Thank you Father David, DW and Herman for articulating it in a such way because I really had thought that since the memory came back I hadn't forgiven them. I see this is the trick, so I wold give up thinking that I can not forgive since I have done all things to forgive and still the irritation comes back (as Father David explained). Ok this is very very good help! Thank you! And about praying about people who hurt me, yes I do pray, I light candle at church, I give their names for Proskomide to the priest/monasteries; I have started my prayer by praying for those who have hurt me first, and also I have begged God to make them Saints. This is why it bothered me so much when the memory would come back that I even asked God to make me forget. Although this has happened to some extent with the first person, it was so much hurt that the rest of the hurt hurts still.

What my SF said to me is that what others do we can not control and we can only control what we do. Also he told me to pray very much during the times of peace so I am prepared in times of temptation. Also he said that all the brokenness that surrounds us exists because we all must heal the relationship with God first - this is done by prayer, participating in the Holy Mysteries and reading Bible and the Fathers.


Nina, in my own instance the memory of what this woman had done did keep coming back but I found that after I did what my "papa" told me to, the memory had lost its sting. I remembered it when I read your post. She is family and therefore someone I need to have a good relationship with. That sounds cold I know, but a stranger you can ignore, not a family member. I can even say that I love her now. This is the result of God's grace.

Effie

#20 Nina

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 07:47 PM

Nina, you don't have to be a saint in order to experience what Andreas mentioned, in his post #5.
In Christ,
Mary.


Well Mary, I am ill and you can't make me take all the medicine that is out there available. I will take what works for me and speaks to my soul or ego to be subdued. Sorry but Father David's counsel did it for me. So thanks a lot.

PS and obviously with what you describe in the rest of your post you have become a saint.




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