The most valuable gift we can give to one another is the gift of listening. But once the period of listening has been realized we have a decision to make. It is always good for the listener to clarify what they’ve heard, but eventually both the listener and the sharer should make goals in order to move forward.
Making goals to move forward in no way means the information shared has not been taken seriously.
Repeating the same information over and over again does not help get your point across, but keeps you stuck in the past.
Making goals to move forward can be scary. Doubts can creep in, fear can put a freeze on moving forward.
Moving forward is absolutely necessary for the healing journey to begin.
*I know from experience that the deepest damage, pain, and trauma is healable.
If you are someone needing to heal from trauma, let that trusted listener help you make some goals so you can begin your healing journey, so you can begin to move forward, one step at a time.
Chances are that person (whom God can lead you to) may have come through the exact same thing. The listener is not going to reveal that right away, because your healing process isn’t about what everyone else has gone through. Your healing process is about you, your very real suffering, how valuable you are, and how possible it is to make strong choices moving forward.
I often imagine myself as one of the first disciples Christ called…drifting into shore in a fishing boat, and finding a stranger waiting there. Hearing him speak my name as if He’s known me my whole life, calling me to follow him and leave everything behind.
How is that different than Christ calling someone to faith today? We don’t get to see him in the flesh, but we can hear him, and we know He is alive and well.
And here’s something even more mind blowing to consider, was Christ not calling us at the same time He called his first disciples? It just took a few more years for our ears to hear him. “Simon/Peter, Andrew, James, John………Cindy” (Matthew 4:18-22). Was He not calling us before the earth was formed (Ephesians 1:4)?
Many times when I face challenges and expect Christianity to be easier, I think of Stephen (another of Christ’s disciples), full of the Spirit, speaking to the crowd with such passion and love. He died that day, stoned to death, but saw Christ, standing at the right hand of God – waiting for Him in the sky (Acts 7).
How is my responsibility any different than Stephen’s? I too want to be ready to speak when the Spirit leads. Should I expect a safer outcome?
What does it mean to be called? What does the Bible say about the chosen children of God? John 1:12, Romans 8:19, Galatians 3:26
These word pictures and questions inspired me to write a song for our Church’s One Hundred and Twenty Fifth Anniversary, June 24th, 2017 at First Baptist in Olds, Alberta.
I could have written something about God’s faithfulness and our church’s longevity, however I thought it prudent to celebrate the privilege of being chosen, the cost of being a follower, and the joy of being an active part of the body of Christ.
Long after hearts were hard, barraged by the world’s lies
Sweet Mercy had another plan in mind.
Though the journey faltered in temptation and despair
The prayers of the warriors compelled me on from there
Weak in my marrow but mighty in His might
Sweet Mercy kept the vigil day and night
And where the rage died, the peace grew
And where the sorrow tried to drown me, the joy broke through
Sweet Mercy, Sweet Mercy, Sweet Mercy
The lineage of hatred determines not your name
The blanket of oppression has no stake or claim
Though you’ll remember and mourn from time to time
Sweet mercy has another plan in mind
My past does not define me. Does yours? Look at the message of the Gospel and how Christ transformed lives. He still transforms lives today with His sweet mercy. He forgives. Have you forgiven yourself?
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize to which God has called me heavenward in Jesus Christ” Philippians 3:13, 14
Going on a holiday is all about finding rest – an internal rest. But even in those moments of almost complete abandonment, there is reflection.
-The joy in the sweet reunion with family and friends, and in the celebration of new and beautiful surroundings.
-The peace in the departure from focused routines and checklists.
-The opportunity to meditate on character, and relationships, and ample room for prayers of thanksgiving, for all the good God has done and continues to do.
There is space for questions, and re-evaluations about the place you are planted.
It would be absurd to think each time one bends towards the sun (a new destination), that one’s roots be moved as well.
Knowing we are rooted in God where ever we go is a holiday in itself.
But wondering….”are we growing where we’re planted, or are we just planted?” This is the question? This is the deep reflection and stirring in my heart.
After having had the privilege to sit in some SBS Bible classes at the YWAM base in Maroochydore, QLD, Australia, and witness their example – I’ve been challenged to learn more (Hebrews 5:12-13).
Is it to be accomplished here where we have settled into familiar soil? Are their ears to hear? Is their evidence of fruit? Does God have a new work for us here, or a work for us in a new field? Does God have a fresh wind, and refining fire for exactly where we are?
1 Peter 2:2 “like new born babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.”
I saw the lovely trio skipping down the street one Saturday morning. More like the little ones were skipping, while dragging their mom along behind. I’m not sure how we struck up a conversation. She was asking for something in particular and I must have thought I could help. I set a time with her to come by her place.
She had given me her number and I called first. The morning it worked for me to go for a visit the sky was overcast and grey. Most of the snow had melted but the earth looked like a dirty carpet. I could hear the brittle ice snap, crackle and pop under my shoes as I approached her building.
I rounded the corner in the sidewalk, and thought I saw God’s little angels painting the earth white again. They were dressed in nothing but summer lace crinolines and black rubber boots. They were hopping on the tiny patches of ice left over from yesterday’s melt, and giggling with glee each time a new crack cried out. They didn’t notice me at first, but I saw the door to their apartment wide open, flapping in a north wind. I could see their breath crystals in the air, and I could see mine.
Quickly, but gently I introduced myself and scurried them inside. Thankfully they remembered my face from our previous brief encounter. Their mother was on the phone, standing at the end of the stairwell. I could hear her deflecting verbal punches from who knows who on the other end of the line.
I glanced to the right where nothing but a large mattress lay on the living room floor. My eyes dared glance to the left where a years worth of dishes and dried food decorated the kitchen counter. Their Momma looked up from the phone, smiled and waved me in to sit down.
I can’t remember what it was I was doing there, but the memories of that morning never fade, and the words we shared gave more insight into her world. Here is the second verse to yesterday’s song “All We Need”.
Winter’s arrived, I find her girls out in their dresses
The look she wears can make you question how she stresses
She married far too young and craved herself a family
Only to starve to death from the silence inside
She’d never harm a flea, but she’ll break on empty
All she needs, all she needs is to be loved.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard it
It’s not the last time I’ll see
It is the all too familiar – calamity.
Where do we find this kind of love?
How do we grow this kind of love?
How can we be this kind of love?
All we need, all we need, all we need is to be loved.
Once songs were chosen and emailed off to the different worship team members, I sat at the breakfast table and wondered “what next God?” Every day is an open window, a portal to new lessons waiting to be learned.
By the end of the day I wasn’t sure what it was I was supposed to learn. “I may have been better off staying inside with a closed door.” I muttered under my breath.
But there in the middle of an absent answer – was the answer itself. Every phone call, every errand ran, every conversation had been riddled with obvious pain. Maybe it wasn’t obvious to everyone, but I could feel it. I could hear it in their voices. I could see it in their body language, like a crippling disease. As I witnessed and embraced my beloved (those who Christ has blessed my life with) I too felt my bones weaken, and my spirit faint, and knelt to hand my anguish over to God. Prayer was the lesson. Prayer was the answer that always leads to action.
For the addict whose name was the same as a biblical warrior – I prayed for the Holy Spirit to intervene, so that he too could march around his walls of Jericho, and conquer his demons once and for all.
For the mother, I thought of Jochebed, Moses’ mother and how she too had to let go of her son unwillingly, and watch a stranger raise him. I asked the Holy Spirit to comfort her, and remembered Romans 8:26 “In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
And for a friend who is always struggling to make ends meet I thought of the Israelites wandering in the desert, afraid for how they were going to find food and water. God had given them manna with instructions on how to collect it and use it to keep their bodies fueled, but in their disconnect they squandered it and the food spoiled. Their wandering cycle lasted for 40 years and many died on the way to the Promised Land. I prayed for my friend, for the power of the Holy Spirit to help her look up and take hold of God’s provision, and so break the generational cycle, which threatened to end her life and the lives of her children, and their children.
And for me, I cried out to God that I would get up off my knees and act out His compassion, as Christ and the early church exemplified (Acts 2:43-47).
As I wondered just how much we should give, and where the balance should be the words “poured out” tumbled out of my mouth.
Isaiah 53:12b “…..because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Let us be quick to pour out what He has given us, and be slow to consider ourselves.
Recently, building with Shelter Canada in El Salvador, I noticed one of the family’s relatives had a television in their nearby home. I was immediately reminded of a dear friend of ours who visited a Zulu Chief in South Africa. Upon his arrival he noted that the Chief was watching Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “terminator” role on television. Even more recently I was having a discussion with someone in my own neighbourhood regarding a prominent Hollywood celebrity who works as a bounty hunter.
All of these observations, and subsequent conversations have something in common. Each occurrence was in the midst of an impoverished reality, people needing homes, food, education, facing life threatening situations. I ached at the thought of the pseudo reality many have chosen to live in. I grieved at the realization millions of souls around the globe are influenced by false truths that offer no real food for their spirit. Many of the messages streaming into our minds are negative and violent, encouraging a tough and calloused approach to life.
A character’s persona, and imaginary world, whether on television, in a video game, music video, or novel – offers the observer an escape from reality, a reality that may be very difficult. This escape is only temporary. Reality is always right around the corner.
What kind of real food do we need to be sharing with one another so our lives have purpose, and meaning, and hope? What kind of truth can we be living out loud to help our loved ones, and neighbours get up every morning and seize the day? With God’s help truth can be louder than the lies.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
From the moment I was seated, I mean packed like a sardine in a tin tube, I could feel it, the overwhelming pressure to push a button, flip a switch, plug a cord in. I had faint recollections of my decision to abstain from technology on the trip, so faint I found myself with my ear buds firmly planted and fashion television boldly taking me where no dress had gone before, all before the plane had plotted its course for El Salvador.
And then it happened. My conscience rap, tap, tapping on my heart. What is it I’m afraid of Lord? Afraid of too much silence and what You might reveal? Afraid of possibly hearing You speak? Afraid of peace and serenity, the sound of the wind?
That’s what I want, to challenge our cultural norms, to analyze and discern before I completely forget what Your voice and creation sounds like, before I become just one more robotic speck in an endless drone of white noise.
I pulled my ear buds out, shut my phone completely off, and tucked my belongings back under my seat in front of me. I looked out the window at the clouds and waited…. We’re so conditioned to watch the computer, clock face, or phone screen that we’re missing the sky, we’re missing You.
Here I am Lord, in seat 36B. You have my attention.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” Psalm 139:22, 23.
[clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Not until I had children did I realize my limitations were grossly underestimated, and my opinion of myself was highly overrated.[/clickandtweet]
On one specific occasion, after losing my cool, I threw myself on my knees beside my bed and cried out a very desperate prayer.
“Lord, if I can’t get it together, if I am going to keep losing my temper, then I need you to take me home and give my children another mom.”
I waited. Nothing happened. Several years passed and still nothing happened or so I thought. I guess I expected to be gone in a puff of smoke right then and there, and for God to replace me with ‘I Dream of Jeannie’.
He did replace me, everyday, I just couldn’t see it. By his love and grace, and patience I am no longer the same person I once was. The process has been slow, which reminds me of the other thing I’ve discovered – my absence of patience.
I am less of an emotional roller coaster today, probably because I get sleep, and my grown up kids let on like I wasn’t half bad.
But just when you think you’re getting a handle on parenting, the clock strikes twelve, and your kids have to parent you, grey hair ‘n all.
This morning I got out of bed at a snail’s pace. A thirteen hour drive will do that to you. But it was all worth it. Like Bryan Adam sings “You’d shoot the moon, put out the sun, when you love someone”, and we love our children and grandchildren.
It was all I could do to make sure I was clean, and in fresh clothes before I snuck out to the dollar store, incognito I might add (sunglasses). There I bought stickers for a package I needed to mail to an associate, and more stickers to mail to my grandchild.
As I left the store I was remembering how hard it was to greet each day with a smile when my children were really small. I was thankful for my precious miracles, but exhausted all the time. And you know that phrase, “Choose Joy”? Well it’s easier said than done when you don’t have a second of peace and quiet. [clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]My slogan was far less noble[/clickandtweet], “choose a chocolate bar behind a locked bathroom door”.
I glanced to my left as I crossed the parking lot and noticed a teacher who taught me in elementary school. Back then I didn’t like her much, but it wasn’t her fault. I was a kid who thought the sun should rise and set on my every whim.
But now, well now is different because as Paul says in 1 Cor. 13:11, “I once thought like a child, reasoned like a child”. Thanks to Christ’s faithfulness, and the work of the Holy Spirit in me, I no longer think or reason the same, and I can hear God’s voice above my own.
Even though I was tired just thinking about how tired my daughter was, I could feel God nudging me. I stopped short in the parking lot, and turned around and went up to my teacher, and shook her hand with a boisterous “good morning, and how are you?”
Like myself, and like my daughter, who is now a mother too, my teacher is a mom as well, and bottom line – a valued person. The seasons have changed, but our maladies are much the same. Her fatigue is different, but is still fatigue. Maybe her sanity is challenged with the quiet, rather than the noise. Maybe she finds it hard to choose joy when nobody really needs her anymore, or so it seems.
And we do need each other. As I hopped in my vehicle I whispered a prayer, “Lord Jesus, send someone to greet my kids with compassion today, where ever they may be”.