When No One Understands the Pain

My workweek was experientially rich. I could say “rough”, but I am going to choose the word “rich”. In my line of work debriefing is mandatory. In most cases a debrief means communication between two people in order to process confidential and often challenging  information. This communication practice, in my work setting, is to help me process what I’ve heard, and to help me leave the information in God’s capable hands.

This week I didn’t get the chance to debrief so I wrote instead. As I wrote down each experience a new realization came to the forefront of my mind. Sometimes, even when we are able to debrief with someone we are often still left with an unexplainable unsettledness deep inside. Why?

Even when the hearer is listening, a part of the speaker’s heart is never heard. I am not saying those whom I have talked to in the past have not heard me. I am not saying those who have talked to me have not been heard. I am realizing that as mere human beings, we are incapable of doing what only God can do. We cannot hear the heart. We hear sound bites only.

As I watch my adult children growing and learning and developing in their unique vocations I see a similar frustration across the board. We are family. We have genetic commonalities, personality similarities. Our faith heritage contributes to the way we experience this world as well. But despite our kinship, as we come together to share our deepest concerns, there can still be unseen tension. This tension or inner frustration isn’t because we don’t love each other. It exists because we cannot hear one another’s hearts like only God can.

No matter how much we love each other, there is a limit to our hearing and our understanding. I often think of this song lyric “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus….”

If I could give my husband anything, if I could give my children anything, if I could give my friends anything – it would be these words:

When no one understands debrief with God – He hears your heart.

Better still, before we look for someone to understand – go to God first.

Climbing Mountains?

I don’t like climbing mountains, so I was surprised to find I am a mountain climber. The rocks are life’s challenges. The sheer height is fear of failing. The climbing gear is my relationship with Christ, and His Word. And the climb? My continuous choice to overcome.

I was looking for useful tools the other day for a friend who is fighting depression, and came across a podcast by John Piper (his youtube channel is Desiring God). Thanks Julie for suggesting it.

As embarrassing as it is to admit – I can’t remember which bible verse he quoted, but He tells us the best way to overcome depression is to gaze at God. At first I scoffed “oh come on – it can’t be that simple.”

You never want to give people advice that you can’t take yourself, so I pondered John’s words.

I didn’t understand.

“How do I gaze at You?” I asked God.

And then I sat very still and quieted my thoughts and waited. An answer came. You gaze at God by not staring at the world.

I personalized “the world”. What did that represent for me? I had been watching mystery/crime television, when I could have been playing music, or writing, or even resting. The information consumed left me feeling fatigued and restless. Images of struggle and death were the last flashes before I fell asleep. Not something a mountain climber needed to reach the summit.

A light bulb moment, fuel for the fire, energy for the climb! If you find yourself slipping, if you find yourself stuck, if you recognize you are out on a limb going no where – perhaps some reflection is needed on what or whom you’ve been staring at?

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” Matthew 6:22 (NIV)

Guess what? I skipped television tonight and wrote instead, as well as visited with some friends. Our conversation was very focused on….you guessed it, my best friend. tonight I think we’re going to be mountain climbing in my sleep:)

 

 

Even Adults Aren’t Grown Ups

Disappointment…

I can remember the first time I realized that even adults aren’t grown ups.

For a long time I couldn’t understand why people older than myself were treating one another so poorly. Didn’t they know better?

As a child I began to see that one’s past could very well have something to do with present behaviours. That realization helped me to develop a compassion. I began to separate the behaviour from the person, albeit not all the time.

When that exercise fell short I came face to face with my need for divine intervention. I needed someone who could give me strength and wisdom beyond my human capabilities, someone who could help me forgive others for their short-comings, and someone who could help me forgive me for mine. I needed God, and believed He wanted to help.

With God’s help I am growing up more every day. I want to be an adult that my children and grand-children can look up to.

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”(Romans 5:5)

 

 

Moving Forward

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.

We are cheering you on!

One of the Chosen

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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.

“One of the Chosen” first draft

Verse: 1

I find myself dreamin’ from time to time,

how destiny called this heart of mine.

I hear the soft shuffle of sandals in sand

and reach out to take his hand.

His voice is familiar but I don’t know why,

He asks me to leave all I’ve known behind

I follow his footprints, and the Sea disappears

I awake to find I am here.

Chorus:

Here standing on tomorrow’s shore

Called to follow those who’ve gone before

To take up my cross, to give up my life

I am One of the chosen the body of Christ

Verse Two:

I think of Stephen summoned to speak

The surge of the Spirit and the crowd at his feet

The smell of the dirt mixed with his dried blood

the stones where he once stood

And that voice so familiar saying ‘well done’

Christ in the clouds at the right hand of God

Stephen closes his eyes, and the world disappears

I know why I am here

Chorus:

Here standing on the alter floor

Called to follow those who’ve gone before

To rescue the lost, relinquish my life

I am One of the chosen, the body of Christ

Bridge:

We are the chosen the body of Christ

Few are called indeed

May we follow our Lord with all His might

and reveal this mystery

Congregational Choruses

Here standing on tomorrow’s shore

Called to follow those who’ve gone before

To carry our cross, to give Him our lives

We are the chosen, the body of Christ

Here standing on the alter floor

Called to follow those who’ve gone before

To rescue the lost, relinquish our lives

We are the chosen the body of Christ

©Cindy Palin/June 9, 2017

Our Past Does Not Define Us

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lyrics by Cindy Palin

Sweet Mercy

Emerging from a long line of sorrow and of rage

Curious as a child, who invited it to stay?

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

Song written by ©Cindy Palin/November 22/06

Growing or Just Planted?

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Be Loved, Part II

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

Palin lyrics/Google Images

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.

©Cindy Palin November 2005

Quick to Pour Out, and Slow to Consider….

I woke up with worship on my mind.

“Not a bad way to wake up”, I thought.

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.

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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.

Louder Than The Lies

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).