Are you there
behind the window?
A soul in limbo
The pane is dark
Your mood is too
Ah, Come outside outside
And touch the view
Plants and trees
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
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 to 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.
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 burgeoning 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 be 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, possess 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.
Colossians 3:11 “…where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.”
I wonder if we Christians have understood just how radical the forming of new relationships through God’s outpoured grace is? God is not just going about saving souls. His heart from the beginning of time was to establish a new kind of family from every ethnicity; love bonds the world had never before witnessed. In Paul’s letter to the believers in Colossae he writes about God’s family on earth which he calls the body of Christ. He proudly proclaims that the uncultured and uncouth barbarians belonged together in the same family with the wealthy intellectually driven Greeks! He mentions uncircumcised gentiles and Jews being invited to sit at the same table. Slaves, especially, were to be treated with respect and dignity, as family. To most this was preposterous. To Paul this equality was the fulfilment of God’s original strategy.
Nowhere do we see it more clearly than in Jesus dealings with his own earthly family. Remember the answer given by Jesus when told his concerned mother and brothers wanted a word outside with him? ‘And who are my mother and my brothers,’ he said? His next phrase was about to radically realign relationships on our planet. ‘And looking around at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, “Here are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father, that person is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:34) This was cataclysmic. With those few words Jesus extended the family beyond Abraham and bloodlines! Jesus pulls us all in and throws out the divisive narrative of difference.
To take it further you might remember the time that Jesus appeared after his resurrection to a couple of friends. They didn’t even recognise Him! The account says He appeared to them in a different form to teach them to recognise Him by the spirit and not by appearance. Jesus also spoke of coming to us in the form of a stranger and complimented our willingness to take him in. (Matthew 25:35) The Lord comes to us through those who are as different to us as foreigners, but like Paul reminds, He is all and in all.
Here’s a simple truth for you to embrace today: The universe tends toward diversity! God loves diversity so much that he made every last one of us different. God knows we need the uniqueness and freshness that each one brings to us. We too, like God, are free to love the creativity that diversity brings. Instead of buttressing ourselves within our own lines of sameness and like-usness, we are permitted, even encouraged, to step out and learn from each other. Be open and expectant! That is such a different posture from the closed stance we were taught which is based on fear. Next time you are in a church or meeting that is not your own look around and say to yourself proudly, “This gathering is more than a belief in the same God, these people are family!”
The apostle Peter revealed that God is building something big and beautiful out of all of us, Anglicans, Baptists, Brethren, Coptics, Catholics, Charismatics, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, and the hundreds of other kinds of Christians. We are each “Living stones to make a spiritual house.” 1 Peter 2:5 Can we plumb the depths of that sentence? Each rough-edged stone is being fitted. We are not certain how it all will look in the end, nor do we have to. That’s the glory of God. We are pretty sure, though, that the family of God, imperfect as we are, was made to teach the world the beauty of unity in diversity. We haven’t always done such a good job at this, have we? Lets keep at it!
“Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God?”
You might not have given much thought to this question lately but it’s a good question. I’d rather live by a good question than a bad answer. In case you were wondering, it’s a question from the Bible. Paul wants to bring to light what should be obvious, that what we have and who we are should be understood as sheer gifts from a generous God. See if you can hold your breath and read this entire blog before exhaling! If you are a speed reader you might be able to, but most of us can’t last long without oxygen. And this invisible air we breathe second by second is gifted to us without cost by another much greater than you and I. You wouldn’t be reading this blog without that perpetual supply of that oxygen! So, no room for entitlement or conceit because life, every part of it, is a gift.
So back to the question, what’s the point of Paul’s asking? To not live by a bad answer: Conceit. Conceit doesn’t recognise gifts. The next step is obvious, too. It doesn’t recognise a giver. I found out that the more I knew the more I knew I didn’t know! So I decided trusting a God I believed was beautiful and generous, albeit cloaked in mystery. I found out I didn’t need to throw away my head to believe and I could give thanks. I simply trusted my heart and let my heart’s response inform my head. Realising that all of life is a gift made trusting the guiding hand of God become easy. That’s not a bad place to start this New Year, by enjoying the generous giver, God.
Now after the weirdness of 2016 lots of people are afraid that 2017 is going to be a harder year yet. Those crazy U.S. elections didn’t help much, right? Add to that the big bear Putin flexing his Russian muscles and aligning with the Syrian tyrant to destabilise the middle east even more than it was. And those poor polar bears so used to running around on ice at this time of the year now find themselves swimming, a lot. It’s a weird world. Not to mention that our personal worlds are full of variables too. Will we lose our jobs, our health or one of our loved ones in 2017? God forbid! Yet even if this were to occur, there is reason to not give up hope.
Though the future may seem out of our control, there is an obvious certainty that we can trust: God is bigger than we. He hasn’t lost sight of us nor control of our universe. It doesn’t mean you and I won’t have to face some hard situations. We will. And hanging tuff through that can mean being a part of the white knuckle club! Yet, humbly, I assert to you that our lives and our days are safe in God’s past movements, present moments and future mercies. We, all of us, are on a trajectory towards greater goodness, healing, wholeness of the likes that will last for an eternity! So take a big deep breath, now exhale, and know that where that breath came from, is the greatest gift of all, God himself.