I Lost Something…


He had no idea, its just what everyone did, and he decided to do it better. The people around him encouraged him too. The applause was gratifying. Day by day, week by week his following grew. It seemed that he could do no wrong. When I talked to him, though, it felt like I was talking to a caricature on a film set, like he was playing a role and he had to follow script. The success script. The I-have-it-all-covered script. But something seemed a little off. This man was like a fortress, built piece by piece, and it was formidable. But when I went to go through the door to take a look inside there was precious little to be impressed by. Just a lonely little boy running around with his toy soldiers and no one to play with.

I asked him who were his heroes. He looked at me as if that was a strange question. He had none. Well, maybe the president of America, but he wasn’t going to admit that. “You know,” he said, “My home here is one of the most desirable properties in all of Los Angeles and yesterday it was full of journalists asking me about my wine cellar, my taste in cigars, my cherry wood floor and my cars. Not one asked about me!”

“Did that bother you?”

“God, man, I dunno. Not until now.”

“Well, I am sure you worked hard to get it all, it’s nice, but what if you had to….let’s say ‘let go of it all,’ would you be a different person afterwards?”

“Man!” He shot back, “You ask the hardest questions!”

“Well here is another one, who would you be without the castle and its gardens and it’s cars and it’s hefty value price?”

“Now you are going for blood, man!” He laughed. “I guess I’d be one miserable ass.”

“Ah, I love the honesty! Can I be honest too?” I looked for the nod before I continued,  “It seems to me that instead of you owning all this great stuff, the great stuff owns you. You’ve become a caretaker of the stuff, they help pay you compliments, tell you how great it is to have them in your life and then, that’s all. In the meantime you forgot you and who you are!”

“Bullshit!” He yelled, loud enough to bring forth the butler from the kitchen. “You called me sir?”

“No, no, well, maybe, bring us a couple glasses of Chardonnay, chilled.”

“Yes sir, right away!”

Turning back to me he looked a little less certain, “You know, I think you touched on something that I need to look at a little more closer. I think I have become what I thought I was told to become by everyone else and I did it and now I don’t even know anyone intimately. I don’t even know myself, really. Oh, I know I am good at performing, at making heads turn and it solicits praise. I get journalists asking to write a story about my success all the time. But I lost something in the process.” He paused and blurted a quiet, “Me. ”

The conversation was going deep faster than I had anticipated. I didn’t know what to say next. I heard myself just say, “It all starts by letting go. Let go of your security, let go of your fear of being less than, let go of your need to be better than, and you might find your true self and find out that he’s actually a great guy worth loving.”

“I don’t know”, he replied, “Letting go sounds a lot like dying. Is there going to be life after this slow death?”

I shook my head in a yes movement. “You’ll find yourself, I think, to be more alive than you ever have. Maybe you’ll even find God somewhere in there too.”

He slumped into a massive brown leather chair, “Now, this is getting my attention!”

 

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Healing


Honestly, I am confounded by those who approach the way of God’s blessing with narrow formulaic thinking. We love simple formulas and in the process reduce God to a magic dispenser who responds to the right confession of our needs and wants ‘in His name’. But a very simple study on the different methods of Christ’s healing will show you that he didn’t like doing the same thing over and over. He didn’t want to be franchised.

So, let’s get to it, a quick survey from my sunday school days tells me of a mysterious-full-of-surprises Jesus. He really is a ‘winking’ Savior! To one, blind, he says, “Go wash in such and such pool.” It washes the blindness away. To a group of lepers he meets on the road, he tells, “Go to the temple and chat with the priest there.” Out of the ten healed only one returns to say thanks! He actually spits on one blind guys eyes! Glad we don’t use that messy method today. Imagine you doing that while sick with a cold! Another woman doesn’t even really pray, she just simply squeezes behind Jesus as He is teaching and yanks the bottom of His robe and is healed. Then there is the deaf man that was brought to Jesus. They begged him to touch him. Jesus pulls him away and sticks his finger in the ear and grabs his tongue and screams ‘Be opened!’ Of course it worked, this is Jesus, right! Finally, there is the case where Jesus actually uses spittle in the dirt to make some mucky substance and puts the goo in the blind man’s eyes. Once more there is a miracle.IMG_2322

We could go on and on talking about the variety of God’s blessing hand. What are we to learn from this? Yes, he heals by a word, sometimes by laying of hands, and even from strange methods to show us to never limit God to one sure-fire way to move in our lives. Faith is important, but it may not be the only factor, after all Jesus did raise some dead people who didn’t ask for a thing! So when it comes to receiving a blessing I think we don’t need to use formulas or special words. Surprisingly, the only prayer we actually have recorded was from someone asking for a miracle for his son was, “I believe, help me in my unbelief!” Not quite the faith-confessing-undoubting response you would expect. His son was healed!

My usual method for my needs looks a little like this: I thank God for life, all of it. When I am sick I asked for a quick recovery. If it is bad I ask friends to join me in praying. If I am not healed, I don’t complain or beg. I don’t try to conjure up more faith. God heard me the first time. My biggest need is to let go of my thoughts on how something should be done. God’s ways are not necessarily my ways. That’s an understatement! And physical healing isn’t the only issue I face. I have financial needs, relational challenges, needs of others that come across my path… and in all these things I ask for peace. Faith sometimes isn’t a way to avoid, escape or walk away from the problems of life, but the power to walk through with graciousness, confidence and love.

Hope this balanced perspective is helpful.

Come Outside


Are you there
behind the window?
Staring out
A soul in limbo
The pane is dark
Your mood is too
Ah, Come outside outside
And touch the view
Plants and trees
Lush greenery
Beckons your heart
To play, be free free free

Ah, there you are in the garden
Sweet birds sing, the fragrance surprises
Let’s stay out here
Till new hope arises

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Trust My Lead?


Unless you trust you can never lead. How tough it is to trust unless you are willing to be vulnerable.  We can all breathe easy when we see your humanity, you’re quite like us.

Generosity is the highest gift of all. Yet if you scrunch your face and give lectures on how lucky ‘we are’ as you give, how lowly we feel. Receiving without your cheerfulness is like flossing teeth, duty slides painfully over the gums, some bleeding, but we got er done!

It’s hard to be a true community when you have more to complain about than good things to say. Ideally we’d all be perfect. Realistically we drown in expectations. Gratitude becomes but platitude.

It’s hard to innovate in the midst of hungry wolves. Don’t snarl, please, or rip my reputation in pieces if I fail.  I am taking a risk by pouring new wine in old wineskins, new ideas usually rip the status quo skins.  Musty status quo wine just doesn’t upset us nearly enough, sadly.

It’s feels wrong to put on this ‘man-o-God’ stage mask just because you want me to ‘wow’ the crowd. I know it fills seats, puts money in the plate, but I want my true voice to be heard. I am being vulnerable again. Can you still trust my lead?

You can only fly when you feel trusted! “I believe in you” becomes ‘The sky is the limit’. It’s easy todance be at peace when we give our best, especially when no one is watching and evaluating. The bonds of love are strengthened when you show a little vulnerability too. It’s simple to walk in harmony when we leave our judgments at the door and see through eyes of grace. It’s easy to be real with you when you’ve been real with me.

And I want your true voice to be heard. It is easy to hear you speak truth when I know you speak it without forcing me to see it or to change.

These are the rhythms of a good or bad dancing partner.

Beauty and the Soul


There is beauty and purpose in each season. Who can deny the delight of witnessing the renewal of nature itself when gusts of warmth bring on the leafgreenburgeoning colours of delicate flowers and tree buds release their fingers towards the sun. We all love it when summer’s lengthy light entices us into taking long nature walks in short sleeves and lazy days abound around waterfronts and barbeques, and oh, the glorious sunsets. Who among us hasn’t ooh-ed and aah-ed as the sight of the bold reds, golds and oranges of autumn begin to herald the end of summer’s green. And then there is the season that gets the least love, especially if you are Canadian where complaining about dark cold days is a national pastime, winter. Yet even winter’s bleak skies and frigid climes has its beauty and purpose.

My soul has seasons too, though not always chronological. Soul-seasons seemingly can’t leafredbe rushed and suddenly change with little forewarning. Spring for the soul is about clean slates, fresh starts, and discovery! Summer is strength, delicate strands of hope taking form. It’s watching with confidence our projects and confidence grow. Fall is maturity, seeing our investments reach their prime. But winter, we are not so sure what benefits to the soul winter brings. It seems life is put on hold. It’s the biblical equivalent to the dry desert.

Looking back to one of my hardest soul-winters I remember the shame I felt during an illness that took months to recuperate from. My veins were alternately pierced and arm tied to an IV pole that dripped antibiotics and salt solutions for ten days into my system. I worried about the expectations of my peers and employers. I could not perform as I had in the past. It was humbling. I was sure that my ‘net worth’ was descending . I tried hard to speed up the process of healing, get myself going again. But my body and mind wasn’t ready for it yet. I think God was trying to teach me, “Slowly I am with you always.”

I understand better now that slow invisible change, both in us and in the way we see life, usually happens in seasons we dislike the most. Of course I still tend towards trying to rush my exit out of desolate dry seasons, cutting cold seasons, brown ground barren seasons and enter the seasons of colour, freshness, warmth and growth. We feel shame and quite useless (almost dead) in our winter seasons. That’s when we need to step back again and let wisdom speak. She whispers to us to embrace the moment, live into the now, leafbrownpossess or be possessed by the renewing power of winter! Let love lure you into the next newness.

The more I think about the rhythms in our lives, the more I realize that God’s steadfast love is the common denominator in each season and his mercies are new just the same. In his time He makes lasting beauty to break forth through the darkness or dryness or the disappointment.

A wise man named Thomas Merton said, “Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.” That’s something to hang onto! Go back and read that phrase again. The slow growth of maturing beauty lasts longer because it’s roots have gone deeper in the soul. Not long ago someone said to my wife, “You have changed and it is remarkable!” I began to reflect on that a bit and smile inside because I saw it too. Often we are unaware of the changes happening inside of ourselves until someone else notices. Until then we don’t properly appreciate the inner coherence of beauty being matured in us.

There is a process to any growth and it entails the mysterious miraculous. We are not simply mellowing out with age, no, God forbid! We are becoming more like original goodness in our soul and adding beauty to the world.  Like the crushing of grapes, it helps to remember that the juice will one day miraculously become like fine wine! It’s a slow but real process. Stop for a moment today and reflect on what is being planted in your soul these days.

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One more, Give me One More!


I am not a movie buff, but when there’s a good movie I want to see it. So a few nights ago my wife and I watched a movie recommended to me, Mel Gibson’s movie “Hacksaw Ridge” Like most modern war movies the carnage of war is portrayed realistically. There is a lot of blood and intestines, death and wounded soldiers. There was a memorable scene when the untried young men had to climb ropes up a formidable rock cliff to attack the well dug in and waiting enemy (Japanese). You could feel the fear in the young men as they ascended knowing well the battle awaited and survival would be more of a miracle than a given!
The heroism of one man, Desmond Doss, is unforgettable. Because of his family hardships as a child so well portrayed in the first fifteen minutes of the movie and his Adventist religion, he vowed to never touch a gun. When he enlisted and declared his conviction to not kill another human, he payed dearly for it. His mates and commanders mocked and socked him! Against all odds he avoided court-marshall for insubordination.
hacksawThen came the day when the freshly trained platoon had to go to Japan and fight. He was now a bonafide medic, the favourite target of enemy snipers. When night fell after that first day of carnage, the Americans came under attack again at dawn and had to retreat off the ridge down the cliffs. Doss would not leave. He was overcome with compassion for all the wounded left to die on the ridge. Where that courage came from, I don’t know, but it kept him from fleeing. “One more life,” he kept muttering. Those were the unforgettable words of a praying man as he went into the dark to find comrades too seriously wounded to help themselves. He even saved a few Japanese soldiers!
His passion is not easily forgotten by the viewer.  “Let me save one more life, please Lord,” he pleaded. And save he did… over and over and over. Miraculous. I cannot remember the exact amount he rescued at the risk of his life, but it was so many that the whole platoon previously antagonistic towards him, put him equal to angelic status! Before going out to do battle again the next day they practically begged Doss to pray first. “We are not going without Doss! No way!”
Films like this are so poignant and need to be viewed. The world today is a ridiculously dangerous place, full of tragedy, it is selfish and me-centered. World peace would almost seem like an impossible dream. I didn’t grow up in the World War eras, but of recent memory we have witnessed the terrible 9/11 and tyrants like the Gaddafis and the Husseins and now worse, ISIS. Killing in the name of god, is not new, but it gives those who sever heads, burn live victims, rape and pillage a sense of false righteousness, as well to salve their ruined consciences. Crazy. Tragic. Sad.
mom8yrsoldAs someone who saw the emotional scars and heard stories from my mother who lost both parents in World War 2, I cry out against the savagery of war! I pray that there will not have to another Hacksaw Ridge and  Normandy’s and Juno beaches, etc. I know I am just one unknown blogger with a few faithful readers, but oh, can’t we all speak out and reject the idea of violence as a legitimate way of shaping our world? And to all those wounded and rendered homeless without a hope by these ridiculous wars, lets be like Doss and pray…”One more, Lord, give us the courage to save one more!”