The Rest of the Story (as of March 2013)

Most of the people reading this “update” will have read of our story in “I Choose to Forgive: An Intimate Journey with God” which chronicles my journey of forgiveness after the murder of our eldest son. God had brought complete freedom from hatred, bitterness and resentment through the power of forgiveness. You may remember my “acts of forgiveness” in obedience to I Peter 3:9 and the correspondence that has followed. All of this is incredible, but it seems to be only the beginning of the wonderful story God is writing in our lives.

Over the years since Tim’s death and my journey of forgiveness began, God has worked a miracle called freedom in my own life and the life of our immediate family. Each one had their own steps to take on the journey and sometimes the way seemed very dark indeed. Praise Him, all of us have come to the same place now. We’ve all forgiven the murderer. Most of us have had a some sort of a correspondence with him. We are all experiencing the freedom that only forgiveness can bring.

For the murderer, it has been quite a momentous journey as well. He has accepted God’s forgiveness and is now a child of God. My brother has actively worked with him to grow in Christ. Contact has been made with his children and other members of his family. The best way I can describe this journey is the change thinking about him. Here is the progression in my relationship to him. He began as a murderer. Nothing of worth in him. Only evil. Producer of pain. Over time, I my thoughts of him grew into calling him a monster. I dismissed him as a person. Surely God didn’t love monsters!

As I’ve written in “I Choose to Forgive,” God confronted me with the commandment to bless (1 Peter 3:9) this person who had hurt me and my family so badly. One of the first “blessings” God called me to give him was to pray for him by name. When I engaged in earnestly praying for him by name, I couldn’t deny that Christ died for him. He wasn’t a monster, he was a man loved by God as much as I was loved–or as much as God loved our son. And now? This murderer. . .monster. . . man. . . is my brother-in-Christ.

Murderer. . .monster. . .man. . .child of God. That is the story and power of Easter! I’m writing this on “Good Friday”–the day we remember Christ’s death on the cross and eagerly await the Resurrection. This is why Christ died and why He lives–to produce this kind of transformation!

In the months since the release of the book, God has touched hundreds of people through the reading and telling of this story. I hear regularly from people whose lives have been transformed through obeying God to forgive, as God in Christ has forgiven you. It is both humbling and terribly satisfying that God would use my story to His glory. My book is published in multiple languages and I’ve spoken in many countries about the power of forgiveness. God is at work. I’m am amazed.

But the journey isn’t over. God continues to write the story.

The correspondence has continued between myself and this “Martin.” He remains in prison, but his spirit is free. He has used my book as the basis for his first “mini-sermon” in prison. He readily shares my book with the other inmates and guards. He has made me a “mini-pulpit” from light-weight wood for my Bible. He asked me to use it whenever I tell “our story of forgiveness.” He writes that he loves me–and I can fully accept it. Last Christmas he wrote,“Your family is my only family now.” It is God at work.

In the spring of 2012, God gave me a view of the future. This “vision” wasn’t expected or sought after but it was confirmed by my husband having a very similar one at the same time. We were standing and singing a simple song of gratitude to God (Jesus, Thank You by Pat Sczebel) in our little inner-city church. As we repeated the phrase, “Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table,” a clear picture began to form in my mind. At first was me–a sinner and enemy of God–now invited as a beloved child to His table. Like a kaleidoscope, the picture kept changing as we continued to sing. Next it was my dining room table, replete with my husband, our children, their spouses and our five granddaughters–a scene that we’ve enjoyed many times. This time there more people sharing this meal. I clearly saw that seated with us was the man who killed our son, his children and grandchildren! The final frame clearly showed that Jesus Christ was standing at the head of the table. Amazing.

Once enemies–of God and of each other–now celebrating together at the table of our Lord! I do not know if God will allow this to ever happen in “real life” but I know it was a clear promise from God that He continues to work in our lives and in the life of this “Martin’s” family. I have shared this vision with “Martin” and we are praying that it will be fulfilled.

The power forgiveness and the reconciliation that can only come of God. Steve Saint says, “God never wastes a hurt if we allow Him to write it into our story.” God is writing a story that can only be written by Him. Only He deserves the praise and the glory. I do not know what may be next in this story, but I am confident that it will continue to be amazing.

 

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The Story Continues

I viewed the completion of writing my journey of forgiveness in the book I Choose to Forgive: An Intimate Journey with God” as an ending destination for me. Little did I know that God had so much more planned. First, the book went international immediately–without any effort on my part. Requests to publish this message on forgiveness have come from nearly every continent. Amazing. Then, the speaking requests began, many of which I’m unable to fulfill, such as the ones in Pakistan and Rwanda. But, a demanding speaking tour was undertaken through five countries of Europe when the German book was released. This spring there is a possibility of speaking engagements in French-speaking areas of Europe. Again, I’m amazed.

By far, however, the most amazing (there is that word again!) part of this continuing journey is in the relationship I have with the murderer of my son. This person, whom I once identified as first a Murderer and then a Monster, had become not only a Man for whom I prayed and corresponded, but my Brother in Christ! He now often writes of his love for me and my family. He once claimed we were his only family now, as he has lost contact with his blood family since being in prison. In his prison cell he fashioned a small, table-top podium on which I could place my Bible whenever I tell “our story of forgiveness.” He is using my book about his crime. . . and God’s forgiveness to testify to other inmates.

This is an on-going, ever developing story. ONLY GOD could have written this script! Amazing!

Stay tuned!

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The Response in Pakistan

The first “Launching Event” for the Urdu translation was held in Karachi, Pakistan on 11 February 2012. The response was amazing. This is from Eric Sarwar, the coordinator of the Urdu translation.

I can’t express my feeling in words about the successful and first launching in Karachi. It’s such a pleasure to share with you a great joy of launching ceremony and blessing which we experienced on this event. Ir was ecumenical gather of Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Presbyterians and Evangelical churches. More that 100 participants attending this beautiful event.

Scholars, theologians, writers and teachers from various institutions commented on the importance of both books. But “I Choose to Forgive” moved the readers and commenters so much that they called you “Mother Mary of this Century” who forgave her son’s murderer and specially pointed that forgiveness is the DNA of our Father.

One participant suggested and commented that we need to organize teaching seminar on forgiveness by using this book and need to teach common people through these gatherings. The lady from St. Joseph Convent girls’ college and a man from the Evangelical Literature book shop were so much moved by reading and commenting on your book that they had tears in their eyes by sharing their thoughts about your book.

Poets recited beautiful poetry on the Passion and the Tehillim Worship Band filled the evening with songs of Passion and the devotional Psalms.

I am really feeling humble by writing, translating and publishing your book and blessed by this project to become a channel to share the message of love and forgiveness through these books. It is the first launching in Karachi and we are expecting a big turn out for the other four launching events in Pakistan.

Kindly join us in prayer for the rest of the events and distribution. I hope you will consider the teaching seminars in Pakistan on forgiveness, based on your book some time in Pakistan as this nation needs forgiveness and to be forgiven.

Thanks for your prayers and blessing!

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An Endorsement from a director of a counseling center, Dr. Clay Barnes.

Deeply personal, biblically anchored, I Choose to Forgive is a succinct documentation of one woman and mother’s journey through grief, anger and resentment to forgiveness and healing.  In a matter of a few short chapters Dr. Collard has revealed the painful process of loss, grief and ultimately the journey of forgiveness that can allow a grieving mother to confront and forgive a senseless act of violence perpetrated upon her son.

 

I am most impressed that Dr. Collard was able to communicate in two and a half pages the horror of learning that her son had been murdered while trying to help a colleague out of a difficult situation.  In the space of these pages she is able to communicate the tragedy without getting mired down in the gritty details or trying to sensationalize any aspect of the story.  She introduces the “characters” of the book with respect and anonymity, protecting identities of all involved.

 

The chapters then move quickly and directly into the meat of the book:  How can one possibly forgive this kind of senseless act of violence?  Dr Collard proposes that, not only can it be done, she walks through her own process of understanding that it is a journey that must be taken if she is to move forward in ministry and in life.  Reading the book, one can sense the struggle of the author and understand this book, though short and clear, is not trying to present some simplistic formula.

 

I found the book to be long enough to communicate what needed to be and short enough to recommend to any client struggling with the issue of unforgiveness.  I believe this little book can be a valuable addition to any counseling library and recommendation list.

 

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The Unthinkable Has Occurred

Correspondence with the murderer of my son has become a “normal” part of my forgiveness journey. Strange, isn’t, that such a relationship could ever be considered “normal?” But, in God’s Kingdom, living according to a very different definition of “normal” is to be expected. It is Jesus who tells that we are to “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:44). We’re told to feed and clothe them (Romans 12:20). It was the Biblical command to “bless those who offend you” (I Peter 3:9) that revolutionized my own journey of forgiveness. Unthinkable. Yet, God commands it. . . and empowers it.

As a result of the publication of my book, I Choose to Forgive, I’ve heard so many stories from readers whose lives have been transformed by choosing to forgive. The stories of pain and abuse have been heartbreaking, but the joy that comes through as the freedom of forgiveness is experienced cannot be adequately described. Praise God.

However, it was a letter from the murderer of my son that has been the most remarkable to me.I had a copy of my book delivered to him in the California prison where he is incarcerated. He read it immediately. His initial response was one of sorrow and repentance. But a few days later I couldn’t help but laugh when he wrote, “I want to thank you again for sending me your book. It is truly inspiring, and is already proving itself very popular with inmates and others as well.” UNTHINKABLE. . .this man is sharing this book within the prison! This book that describes his horrible crime and my long journey of learning how to forgive. Only God could cause this to happen! The unthinkable made “normal.” Amazing.

Only God knows what eternal blessings will come from this. This is His book. I’m on this journey at His direction. He is at work in the lives of everyone involved with the death of our son, as well as in the lives of the readers. May He receive all the glory!

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Is God Good?

When tragedy occurs, the question often is stated, “How could a good God allow this to happen?” The implication is that God must not be good if pain is allowed. I know I honestly questioned this when our son was murdered.

How do you answer this question in your own life situation?

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