Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Truly Yourself

"It doesn’t make sense to call ourselves ugly, because we don’t really see ourselves. We don’t watch ourselves sleeping in bed, curled up and silent with chests rising and falling with our own rhythm. We don’t see ourselves reading a book, eyes fluttering and glowing. You don’t see yourself looking at someone with love and care inside your heart. There’s no mirror in your way when you’re laughing and smiling and happiness is leaking out of you. You would know exactly how bright and beautiful you are if you saw yourself in the moments where you are truly yourself." - Anonymous

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Time for a journey of forgiveness

"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies." - Martin Luther King Jr. 
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”


Forgive yourself.

Today, take the hurts you inflicted, take the pain you caused, take the words that cut, take the hearts you broke, take them and bring them along with us on a journey. 

As we walk, look and remember the harm inflicted by this baggage you carry. Remember and let the guilt drive your heart to seek the forgiveness of your fellow hikers, who are staring at their own baggage as we go on this journey. Look up and see their faces - take time to weep and mourn as we cross the river, to repair and reconcile as we walk through the fields, to laugh and hug under the mighty branches of the oak tree. You may find that your baggage gets lighter as we go. 

Together, we have reached the campfire. There's a man waiting for us with a smile and some marshmellows. He stretches out his arms into a warm embrace, and his pierced hands wrap themselves around your heavy burdens. 

I've felt shame in his presence before - perhaps you feel it now too - as you hand over your baggage. You fear that He will see it and reject you. That you will be turned away from the campfire, from the warmth and love and truth that emanates from every ounce of this man's being. 

Do not fear - He has been waiting with joyful expectation for you.

I have given him my baggage before. He opened it, and as he saw the luggage inside, he hugged me and began to cry. And as we cried together, we threw each piece of my baggage into the fire. Piece by piece, until it was dissolved in the flames.

And then He whispered in my ear, "My child, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Listen as your fellow hikers cheer. Together, we will throw our baggage to the flames, piece by piece, and watch the flames grow higher into the night. We will dance, we will sing together by the light of the flames, renewed in our strength as our burdens are lifted. 

And we will remember our weaknesses. We will remember the strength of our God's grace, of the consuming fire of His forgiveness. And we will hold hands together in strength and forgiveness, knowing the flaws in each other and embracing each other in friendship as we work through them all together, centered in the love of Jesus, on this slow journey of life.

It is a beautiful thing to work through the flaws of community together - knowing that there is some good in the worst of this group of hikers, and some evil in the best of this group. Each one of us must commit to pull the planks from our eyes, to see our own faults and insecurities and self-doubts, before we muster the strength to point to the others. The church is but a community of broken people, looking towards a God who forgives them and loves them in spite of these flaws. Humility is the bridge that binds us with a God who - in his perfection - was brought to his lowest point to release us from the broken rules, the broken relationships, the broken hearts. Humility can give sight to the blind, sound to the deaf, a voice to the dumb.

May it find you tonight. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Prayer for all the Jesus feminists

The following is an excerpt from Sarah Bessey's (oh so wonderful) book Jesus Feminist:

"I call you to joy, friend.

I set you apart in your right-now life for the daily work of liberation and love. Proclaim the Kingdom of God with your hands and your feet and your voice to every soul in your care and influence. May your soul long for prayer and for the Scriptures, may you keep secrets, may you give away your money, may you share your meals, and may you sit alone in silence outside under the sky and be satisfied. May you change the bedding in the middle of the night without anger after yet another childish accident, may you hold babies and comfort the dying and be the voicr of knowledge tempered with grace and wisdom, and may you never forgot how to sing and be silly. May you make room in your life to be inconvenienced and put out, and may you be Jesus with skin on for a few people
 May you be fearless, and may you eat good food."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Admitting our faults

There is great significance in admitting our faults and mistakes.

I am the type of person who hates to be told I have done something wrong. I get all defensive, my chest gets a bit puffier, my eyes get all evil, and I get all bitter because someone's actually caught onto the fact I'm not perfect. How dare they.

I like to build the facade of perfection around me. I have a checklist of items that I hope adds up to creating this mask of perfection - volunteering, intelligence, loyalty to friends and family, time reading my bible, giving money to charity, etc. It's a nice checklist, don't you think?

But the truth is that I am not perfect. That I make mistakes all the time. I probably call myself an idiot about 5-10 times a day because I think of something I've done (or just currently did) and think, "Opps, I hope they don't hate me."

I used to hide those mistakes. Those parts of myself that would ruin my facade of perfection. I thought people would see the ugliness inside of me, the darkness that I was hiding and go, "Aha! I caught you", and tell everyone.

But I believe this in itself is a great mistake, because my unwillingness to show people my errors is actually my unwillingness to be vulnerable with people. To say, Hey look - I am actually human like you.

There is great humility required to admit our mistakes. We must suffer the consequences for them, we must make amends, we must move forward and say, Let's try not to do that again. It's embarassing, it's messy, it's easy to shove under the rug and pretend as if it never happened. But courage comes in our admission of fault and the responsibility required to step up and confess.

The bible says Pride comes before a fall, but God honours the humble. Perhaps it is because the humble recognize their own position at the foot of the cross. They are already fallen - in a prostrate position before Jesus, and remember first how much grace they themselves need and that it is the same grace everyone else needs. No one is better or worse, and having that attitude gives us the chance to love people no matter the cost, to suffer for them (or because of them), and to serve them with a heart that knows no boundaries.

We are marred with mistakes. And God finds beauty in showing them freely to the world and letting everyone see how He is pouring into you through them.

In the words of the sultry voiced Leonard Cohen, "Ring the bells that can still ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

Monday, June 9, 2014

Faith like marriage

It's a beautiful thing to meet a new Christian. They are so excited to be living for God, they want to live inspiring lives, love with an uncompromising love. It is so beautiful to see and I always look at them, and feel even further inspired to go back to God and get equally excited about him too. Because I know they've just met the love of their lives and I have the same chance to experience this great love too.

But at the same time, I see many "old-time" Christians who seem less excited about their faith. They aren't in wonder or ready for an adventure. They are comfortable, perhaps. Or they know about the much greater journey ahead of the honeymoon phase.

Faith reminds me a bit like marriage. There is the "dating" phase - you're learning more about the person, getting all giddy and romantic, but still deciding if this is the person you want to commit your life to for the rest of your life. This would be classified as the "seeker" stage - you're looking more into this Christian faith thing and wondering if you believe it and want to be part of it. Then there is the wedding and the honeymoon. You're both floating on air and everyone around you sees it. You pretty much are little balls of sunshine, glowing and beaming with happiness wherever you turn. This is the immediate stage after accepting Christ.

Then comes the marriage itself. And it seems to go in two directions.

There will - guaranteed - always be hardships in marriage. There's going to be times of sadness, mourning, fighting, confession. And it's the valleys that sober you to the cost of the relationship - which there is one. We cannot go through life without understanding that the very best things, the things that make us worthy of ourselves, are the ones that have some cost to them.

And this is where the dividing factor happens.

There will be some that leave the marriage. They grow distant, they make choices they shouldn't, things grow old to them. Off to a new adventure - they say - leaving behind something that could have been oh so beautiful, however costly it may have been to work on the repairs.

And then there are those who stick it out. Who work it out. Who celebrate their 10th, their 20th, their 35th, and then their 50th wedding anniversary, the whole time knowing that it was worth it. That in this - they have found something worth the cost, worth the hardship, and worth the love that comes out of working through it all. Recommiting their life to them over and over and over, and saying I do, every day of their life.

What a beautiful thing that is!

Friday, June 6, 2014

On sincerity and helping others

Sincerity drives, fills up, feels, knows.

It is surprising how often I question a person's sincerity, their genuine motive behind a compliment, a question, an action, a word. I'm sure others do the same for me.  They should.

I've been thinking back to a Thoreau quote lately from his book Walden, where he says "Rather than love, money, or fame, give me truth." (Sorry for any error - quoting from a flawed memory here) He goes on to say that he sat at a banquet with a large feast and company, but walked away hungry because he heard no truth. No sincerity in conversation.

An invisible mask is never invisible. It is felt - deeply and surely - by everyone around us. It leaves the heart empty, and wondering if the one-sided attempt for real conversation was worth initiating in the first place.

I've realized that some of my favourite people, the people that fill my heart with warmth and smiles, are the ones that are sincere. Often, they are also the wild ones, the innocent ones, the sarcastic ones, the ones that people see as abrasive and rude, or just a bit strange, but I think they are pretty darn awesome because at the end of the day, I trust them to be honest and sincere with me about what they think. They fill me up. I understand and trust them in a way that I can't for someone else.

Sincerity bridges a crucial divide between you and another person: Trust. And I do believe this is the starting point for any kind of deep, real relationship - whether it be friendship, family, or your present or future teammate in marriage.

Here's one more thought: how sincere are you to someone on the street, in need, in fear, on the margins (sic). Are we pretending to be counsellors, aides, "fixers" to help them with their problems, or are we sincere about the fact that we're no better than them in any sense and just as broken. That if we had lived their same experience, with the same sinful starting point all of us share, we could and would probably be in the same spot. We may have more money, and perhaps the strings tying our broken heart pieces together are laced a bit tighter, but we are the same. We are human. We are broken. And we need to be sincere about it. Not superior.


I'll be working on it.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Need only accept myself

I am learning
That it is more
To accept yourself
As you are
And be content with
Whatever situation
That comes your way
Standing firm and tall
Through the beaches
And the hurricanes
Than to base
Your own
In the arms of another
With one cut
Or silent pause
Could pull up
Your roots
And drag down the tree

I've found new soil.
Where roots grow deep
And support
Comes not only
To me
But to the ones I love

i am no longer
a graft
on your vine

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Finding our way to Fairyland

“There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it. And they do not know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way. One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life. On that day the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over. Henceforth they must dwell in the common light of common day. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again; and blessed are they above mortals. They, and only they, can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned and from which we must evermore be exiles. The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.”

L.M. Montgomery, The Story Girl

Golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath

“Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps . . . perhaps . . . love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.”

L.M. Montgomery

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Prayer for Humility

A Prayer for Deliverance from False Desires and Fears:

...Dear Jesus, grant me the grace
to desire that others might be more loved than I,
that others might be more esteemed than I,
that in the opinion of the world,  others may increase and I decrease,
that others may be chosen  and I may be set aside,
that others may be preferred to me in everything,
that others may become holier than I, provided that I, too, become as holy as I can.

- Common Prayer, Shane Claiborne, Jonathon Wilson-Hartgrove

Monday, February 24, 2014

God's in front of me everyday.

"C.S. Lewis once surmised that each person is created to see a different facet of God's beauty - something no one else can see in quite the same way - and then to bless all worshipers through all eternity with an aspect of God they could not otherwise see." - John Ortberg

"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them." - Thomas Merton

I see God in front of me everyday. I see His face, His character, His joy, His tears, His vulnerability, His encouragement, His power, His love, in the pieces of Himself that he has planted in the people who enter my life. Whether they know it or not, the image of God is implanted in each and every person on Earth. And what a beautiful treat when He makes Himself known through each of them, in their stories, in their perspectives, in the ways that they worship, the care they pour out, the wisdom they share, the delight they bring.

Not all seeds have the soil, the sunshine and the water to grow. But it does not mean that the seed is not present, or that the face of God is not evident in them. I can still see beauty in the souls of people who don't know Christ - but I see a soul who has yet to realize its full worth and potential and meaning in the eyes of a Creator, a King, a Redeemer, and a Father who loves them so deeply and wants them to plant their roots in Him, to graft themselves into the vine - who is Christ. Indeed, God is waiting anxiously for the seed to bloom, and what a beautiful thing it is when they do!

I have felt so blessed lately to find God so present in my life, through friends, through family, through the churches in my city that are living out the gospel. I see God in all of them, and am humbled and a bit in awe of how He is so present in my life.

I find it easy to get overwhelmed - to think that decisions and leadership and big life events are all only in my hands. It's easy to get conceited, to not listen to others and forget that you are not the only one with important things to say. My goal has become to let others become more, so that I can become less. And it is incredibly difficult - like a wanna-be-gardener without a green thumb - but keeping that in mind does certainly put a different lens in my glasses,

When we forget to listen, when we lose sight and recognition of God's face in others, we are actually not respecting & turning away God. He's chosen people to show Himself through. They are His body, and it is healthiest when all its parts are respected, supported, encouraged, loved, and fully brought into community in equality with one another.

And so we can never say that God is not visible. He's in the face of everyone around you, and what a beautiful - albeit broken - reflection they are.

You may have to look just a bit more carefully and be a bit more patient before it all becomes clear. But you can count on the fact that He's there, waiting for the seed to blossom.