Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Heart's Cry

"Teach me Your way, O Lord,
          that I may walk in Your truth;
          unite my heart to fear Your name."
                         (Psalm 86:11, ESV)

The first time I read this verse out of the ESV it struck me in a way it never had before. The words were just different enough from what was familiar that I listened again.

David is the writer of this psalm. He is calling out to God for God to hear and answer him. David praises God's love, forgiveness, compassion, and faithfulness.

David is often referred to as a man after God's own heart and I think this verse from Psalm 86 is a glimpse into why. David want to know God's ways and he wants to walk in them. He wants a heart that worships God alone.

There's a few things in this verse that stood out to me as I have reflected on it.

"Teach me Your way, O Lord . . ."

This is a request to know God's ways. Our requests often become more of a "God, please bless my plans," rather than asking God what His plans are for us. But, it is when we are seeking God's ways that life is what God created it to be.

". . . that I may walk in Your truth . . ."

Walking in God's ways is the way to live the life He desires for us to live. The way we know God's truth is to seek Him and ask Him. God wants us to walk according to the truth, not according to the lies we so easily believe. We have to regularly ask God what His truth is so we can replace the lies we've been living by with God's truth.

". . . unite my heart to fear Your name."

I love the use of the word "unite" here. It's a picture of many things that have been going in different directions being brought together as one to all go in the same direction. That direction being to worship God.

These words are often my heart's cry. That God would bring together all the parts of me that are running in different directions. It's easy to let everything go, but there is great value in bringing it all together with God.

I don't know about you, but the more I reflect on this verse, the more it becomes my prayer.

"Teach me Your ways, O Lord,
          that I may walk in Your truth;
          unite my heart that I may fear Your name."
                         (Psalm 86:11, ESV)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Understanding Who God Is

Lord is it possible to get this far
And just now understand Who You are?
I'm feeling foolish yet relived as well
Cuz what I bought before I just can't sell
("Wishful Thinking" by Mercy Me)

The first time I heard the song that those words begin, they stuck.

They resonated with me. Because they are words I could share of my journey in the last year and a half. I've been a Christian since I was a kid, but recently I have discovered so much more of Who God is.

It seems that it is easy in our humanness to get things about God confused. In our efforts to explain and understand things, we make God out to be someone He is not.

We don't always do it intentionally. Often, it happens without us trying to do so.

And then we're left with mixed up and confused ideas and pictures of Who God is.

So, what do we do? How do we better understand Who God is?

I've discovered the answer is incredibly simple and incredibly challenging all at the same time.

We simply come to God and admit we don't understand. We ask Him to teach us Who He really is. And we seek to get to know Him better.

But that is challenging as well, because we have to admit we don't know it all. And that goes against everything we naturally do and our culture tells us we should do.

We can't get to know God better, unless we're willing to come to Him and admit we need His help to know Him better.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Courage to Tell Your Story

"Courage is telling our story, not being immune to criticism. Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection." (Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, pg. 53)

When I first read those two sentences, I had to go back and read them a few more times. The truth of them really began to sink in.

The more I serve God in the ministry He has called me to, the more I realize how much people are longing for real connection with others. They want people to know who they really are, not just know the person they put out there on Facebook or Twitter.

But they're also afraid of being vulnerable. It's a risk to share your story, but, it's only when we have the courage to share all of our story that we can experience real connection. We have to be courageous enough to risk vulnerability.

In the book, The Gift of Imperfection, Brene Brown describes that authenticity this way,
"Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen." (pg. 49)
When we choose authenticity, we are choosing to risk being vulnerable. It's a courageous choice we make.

And I believe it's the only choice we can make if we're going to fight against the loneliness of our culture. If we continue to just hide behind the fa├žade of our social media accounts, we will remain lonely. No one will really know us and we won't really know anyone else either.

Sharing our story - the good and the bad - will require courage on our part. But it is when we choose to take that courageous step to be authentic that we discover the things that connect us to other people in a meaningful way.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Free to Sing, Dance, Love, and Live

"Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you've never been hurt; and live like it's heaven on Earth." (Mark Twain)

I love watching kids play. Before the world comes in and them they have to be serious about life. Before they are hurt or betrayed for being who they are. They have a freedom and an innocence about them that I often wish I still had.

A freedom because no one has told them they have to look or act or be a certain way. An innocence because no one has betrayed them or wounded them deeply yet.

They naturally do what Twain says in the quote I opened with. They dance, sing, love with nothing to hold them back.

When I see that, I want more of that in my life. I long to be able to go back to that time in my life. It seems like a much easier way to live.

Instead, I hesitate to dance because someone else is watching and I don't want them to judge me because of how I look when I dance. I sing softly and only when no one else is around, because I've compared myself to others and decided I'm not good enough. I struggle to love precisely because I've been hurt by people I've loved. I hold myself back from fully living because I know the pain of this world.

And I judge other adults who don't seem to be confined like I am. I long for the freedom and innocence of a child in my own life; while at the same time, I judge others who seem to have found it as adults.

The unfortunate reality of living in a fallen world. Of living in a world where things don't always go as they should. A world with pain, betrayal, shame, loneliness, fear.

The Good News in all of this is that we can get to living in freedom. God has provided a way for that to happen again. And it is what He desires for us to experience.

We can take the pain, betrayal, shame, loneliness, fear, and anything else we struggle with to Him and He will take from us if we let Him. In it's place, He offers us unconditional love, grace, and acceptance.

He lifts the heavy burdens we have been carrying. He breaks the chains that have held us back. He opens prison doors that have kept us contained. He speaks the truth to heal our woundedness.

Our part is to come to Him. We have to take those things to Him and let them go. To allow Him to touch those broken and hurting places so He can heal them.

It's not always easy to do this. But it's always worth it.

Then we can walk away with the freedom and innocence of a child again. We can begin to:

"Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like we've never been hurt; and live like heaven is on Earth." (Mark Twain)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Joy of Being Honest About our Brokenness

Are you honest about the brokenness in your life? Do you have a place where you can be honest about your brokenness? Do you think that there is a joy that can come from being honest about your brokenness?

It seems that this week is a week of returning to posts I wrote near the beginning of this blog. I was reading through some of my older posts and was struck by one that I wrote on February 28, 2009. I was asking questions about whether we could be honest about our brokenness in our churches.

Do you think you could walk into your church, get up on stage, and tell everyone about your brokenness? Is this acceptable in our churches? Outside of baptism and testimony times, do we allow ourselves to be this honest with one another? Have we made it taboo to admit our brokenness in the church? Have we become masters at image management in the church?

I've been reflecting on those questions. And, on what my experience has been with my church recently regarding being honest about our brokenness.

My answers to those questions are very different know than they were in 2009. I know I have a ways to go in this area. It's not always easy to be honest about my own brokenness. But it is a journey that looks different for me than it did before.

Almost 15 months ago, I was walking into a weekend retreat called Encounter God. I wasn't sure what to expect. But, I found it to be a valuable weekend in this journey in my life. We got honest about our brokenness that weekend. And it started a journey that has continued.

It is only when we get honest about our brokenness that God can come in and heal that brokenness. We have to drop our image management and be willing to admit that we don't have it all together. If we never reach that point, we will never be able to allow God in to heal us.

The way I ended the post that prompted these thoughts, still resonates with me today. As I reflect on these words, I see that God is working on making the church I get to call my place to belong exactly what this is. We're still on the journey of learning to be honest about our brokenness and it is a beautiful one.

The church should be a place that welcomes broken people with open arms. That allows people to be broken in their midst. And that points broken people to the truth and healing found only in Jesus Christ and our surrender to Him.

The church should be a place that welcomes broken people with open arms. That allows people to be broken in their midst. And that points broken people to the truth and healing found only in Jesus Christ and our surrender to Him.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Faith of Convenience or a Faith with a Cost?

I was going back through some of the first things I posted here, and was challenged again, but something that I wrote near the beginning of having this blog. I had been watching one of my favourite TV shows at the time and something one of the character's said had stuck with me. When I read it again today, I was again struck by the comment.

Here's most of the post that struck me from October of 2008. (You can find the original post here.)

I was watching Season 10 of M*A*S*H after I got home from work. In this particular episode, Father Mulcahy (the company priest) is talking to a soldier who has gone AWOL from his unit. When things go wrong and the soldier turns on Father Mulcahy with a rifle, Father Mulcahy utters these words while trying to talking to talk the soldier down: "A faith of convenience is no faith at all."

I think that we often do have a faith of convenience. We are willing to call ourselves followers of Christ so long as everything is going right. But, as soon as things get hard or someone says something disparaging about Christians we no longer claim the Name.

Why do we do this?

We know that it's not right . . . that we have not chosen a faith of convenience . . . but a faith that costs us much. Yet, it is so easy to fall into a mindset of only following it when it is convenient.

I don't want to just have a faith of convenience, because that really is no faith at all. I pray that this is not what you want for yourself either. We need to be willing to have a faith of inconvenience . . . a faith that is costly!

I was reminded again today, as I read this post that choosing to follow Jesus isn't about making life easier or more comfortable. It's about choosing to follow Jesus even if life isn't easy or comfortable at that moment.

We weren't called to a faith of convenience. We were called to a life of sacrifice for the sake of others. A life of service - rather than looking to be served.

It's not an easy way to live. It's not the way we naturally live, or the way our world tells us to live. But it is the way that we are called to live. And it is the best way to live in the end.

Do you have a faith of convenience? Or is it a faith with a cost?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Greater than the one Living in the World

Twenty one hours of driving one way.

Ten days later . . . and twenty one hours of driving back.

Required lots of music to be enjoyed. Music of all kinds. Some CDs got played more than once. On one of those CDs, I was struck by the lyrics to many of the songs . . . talking about the life we've been called to live once we have been made new in Christ.

One of those songs has continued to run through my head as I've returned to work.

The lyrics for the chorus are:

"Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed
When others say I'll never be enough
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world
In the world, in the world
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world

In the midst of the busy-ness and the challenges of life, it can be easy to forget that truth. When things are not going as planned, we get discouraged and can feel overwhelmed. Those are the moments when we can find it easy to forget that the God we serve is greater than the one who is against us.

1 John 4:4 says, "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

Today, I leave with you the encouragement that our God is greater than anything that our enemy, the devil, can through our way.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Own Your Story

"Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we will ever do." (Brene Brown, "The Gifts of Imperfection")

The first time I read that quote, I had to go back and reread it a few times. It's straightforward on the surface, but as I continued to read and reread it, I realized the depth of it.

When we own our stories, it means we take the whole of it and acknowledge it as ours. Rather than hiding from it, we take it for what it is. A bit later in the introduction to the same book, Brene Brown writes this,

"Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running form it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy - the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light." ("The Gifts of Imperfection")

We own our stories, when we allow God into every area of our lives. When we go to those places we would rather not go and allow Him to speak the truth into them. It is when we allow God into those areas of our lives, that we are able to own our stories - the story that God has played a part in and wants to continue to be a part of.

We have to allow God into those dark and vulnerable places in our lives. We have to take the risk to do that. And when we do, God's light shines from our lives in a way that others notice.

It takes courage to own your story, but it's worth it.

How are you doing at owning your story?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

God's Plans or Yours?

I've noticed that sometimes when you think you have a plan in place, God changes things on you. Because He has a different plan. And often a better plan than the one we had - even if we don't see it as better at the time.

I took a break from posting here with the plan that I would do some writing and planning for upcoming posts here. That isn't what happened. I wrote a bit, but not the way I had planned. Some things that will come in future posts were planned, but not as detailed a plan as I would like.

As I think about it, I can see that God had a different plan. He wanted me to spend the time I would have spent writing with my family. We were together the way we were for only a short time and if I was focussed on writing, I would have missed some of the moments we were able to share.

It's not that I didn't do any of what I had planned. I just did less of it than I had planned. And that was God's plan.

It's something I seem to be continually learning. That God's plans aren't always mine. And when I choose to live a life that is surrendered to Him, He has permission to change my plans anytime. My job is to follow Him where He leads - even when it isn't the way I had planned it to be.

What about you? How do you do when God comes and changes your plans?