Monday, January 31, 2011
I'm standing at a crossroads between being a good enough Christian (which isn't Christianity at all) and maturing into the likeness of Jesus.
Here's the thing, there is the illusion of what will come should I choose maturity; deep satisfaction and joy. I say illusion because I won't really know it till I choose it and it is alluded to in Scripture and the book 66 Love Letters.
But here's another thing I've come to realize, what is in the here and now is the illusion and the reality is on the other side, the side God calls each of us to.
There's this picture in my head of where I'm standing ~ I'm on a hill looking over a vast wasteland full of thorns, boulders, steep hills to climb, you know . . . . the things that cause suffering along the way of life. But though this land is challenging, there is the other side and it is reachable. Once there I know I'll turn around, and looking back at where I am now, I'll see what I've been living in, this world as we know it which seems fun and light and full of good potential, will seem so dark and useless and I'll know I've made the right choice.
We think we're living in reality now and over 'there' is the illusion only to be reached when we die and hopefully get to heaven. But the truth is this is the illusion and 'there' is truth.
Why would we think otherwise? This is what we see, hear and touch, this is life which we're taught to get through by living as best we know how, doing good to others along the way, keeping the 10 commandments, working hard to earn our living etc., the stuff most sermons are full of. But what we're not taught is how to live life God's way and it's not the above.
Here we have the illusion of happiness, love by others is something to be sought, fulfilling work is is to be found and the pursuit of satisfaction and relief from whatever troubles us is the goal of living in this world; have a good time, feel good, do good and it will all be ok. The truth is, we have the illusion of love here, satisfaction and feeling good is just the surface of what we will experience once we reach the other side.
Right now though, living in this illusion of Good Enough, it's the most difficult choice I've ever had to make, to leave, to enter into suffering to reach a destination of eternal joy and deep happiness, the kind of deep contentment and security that is not changed by circumstances. That cannot be attained here, still . . . though it seems an easy decision, it is not. There needs to be an encounter with Jesus that transforms. Take Peter for instance. This is my take on this . . . . he lived with Jesus, watched Him perform miracle after miracle, heard Jesus teach, but Peter did not have an encounter that transformed him. After Peter denied knowing Jesus and met Jesus along the road, that was the encounter that transformed him into someone who suffered persecution and asked to be crucified upside down as he was not worthy to be crucified as Jesus was.
I look at the apostle Paul, he was living as he was taught and life was going along just great. He had status in the church, he was likely well off having everything he desired, then had an encounter with Jesus and life was changed. He left Good Enough and entered into a life of suffering. But if you read further we see he not just suffering, now there was deep joy and satisfaction because he was living God's way.
Take a look at Matthew, the tax collector. Once he had his encounter with Jesus, he was transformed and lived life much more abundantly.
I'm also beginning to get a glimpse of what an abundant life is about also. Right now we live a life of fear thus surround ourselves with self-protective measures. We are hemmed in by so much and don't even realize it.
All this to say, I'm realizing this journey of my life is not about the here-and-now, it's about the reality of God, of Eternity with God and the joy that's mine when I choose to live life outside of the illusion of the 'good' life here and in the best life found in God's reality.
It's not easy but it's worth it.
Blessings . . . . Journey Girl
Friday, January 21, 2011
When first we practice to deceive" Shakespeare. I wonder where he learned the truth of that!?!
I have recently found myself embroiled in a tangled web which has become a royal pain in the 'you-know-where'!!
I"m reading another blog called Truthworks: http://truthworks.org and found the following . . . . it's about Grace, which means the Power of Christ to do God's Will.
". . . . a proud man is determined to live in the power of his own self will, to decide his own way, on his own terms – even if he is attempting to serve and please God.
But a humble man places no confidence in the flesh; for he knows that Jesus is the true Vine and that we, apart from Him, can do nothing.
Anyone who seeks to justify themselves with God on any terms other than those provided by God exclusively in and through our Lord Jesus is a man, or woman, who by necessity is “fallen from grace.” That is to say, they are outside the provision of Christ’s power. For Jesus will not empower anybody to succeed apart from God’s will.
If you are determined to do your own thing, then the Lord will oblige you by stepping aside and leaving you to do it on your own. The expression, fallen from grace, does not mean “losing your salvation” (as some have erroneously concluded); rather, it means, quite frankly, “losing your sanity!”
This goes along with what I'm learning in the book 66 Love Letters and choosing to live out of a 'scum' or 'holiness' perspective . . . . but according to this, we have the Grace, the power of Christ to do God's will, we have the power of Christ to choose to live in holiness. This is not to say it will be easy to choose what is right in the face of a difficult challenge when all we want is relief from our present situation. But, take it from me, choosing relief over what is right leaves one feeling like SCUM! Again, take it from me, it's not worth it!
In referring to the above 'tangled web' I wanted relief and allowed myself to be persuaded it was 'ok'. The moment I entered into dialogue is the moment I 'fell from grace', which means God removed His 'grace' (the power of Christ to act in holiness) and He let me have that momentary relief. However this 'relief' has brought many hours of agonizing processing, losing my sanity as above, and I now want nothing more to do with the whole thing.
No worries, I have rectified the situation, but it has taught me a lesson I won't soon forget. When we find ourselves trying to justify our actions, or trying to navigate around the truth to make it work, we will find ourselves tangled in a royal mess. Although we may not get the immediate relief we are seeking from our current situation, we will feel the immediate emotional relief and peace of mind from choosing holiness over a scummy choice.
Here's to choosing the narrow path of holiness, here's to the power of Christ to do God's will (grace) and here's to the peace of mind and heart that comes from making that choice.
Blessings to each of you as you stare down the temptation to choose scum response and choose to live a life of holiness.
Girl on a Journey of peace and holiness. Not that I've attained it, but I'm ever hopeful.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
As I walked along I noticed one part of the sidewalk had been completely cleared of any snow at all, the sidewalk was clean and as the law dictates, I could tell where his property began and ended.
My immediate thought was 'this is the difference between following the letter of the law and grace' because the homeowner did what the law required, but grace would have taken the time, if possible, to clear the sidewalk on either side of his property.
Here's to all those who offer grace and goes beyond the letter of the law.
Blessings from a Girl on a Journey!
I think as Jesus hung on the cross, He looked at humanity said, “On behalf of all the people who sinned against you and hurt you, I’m sorry it happened to you. I’m apologizing to you by paying for those sins against you. Please forgive them.”
Then I think Jesus turned to God the Father and said, “Father, on behalf of these sinners here, I’m sorry for all the sins they committed and I’m apologizing to You for them by hanging on this cross. Please forgive Me on their behalf as I carry their sin. And Father, please forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”
So that’s why I think the cross was the biggest apology ever.
Now, when someone hurts me, I imagine Jesus on the cross, saying, “Brenda, I’m sorry they hurt you. This should never have happened, but I hung on the cross to apologize for it and to lead you in the way of forgiveness. Because of the cross, I will take the hurt and offense from you. Will you forgive them and be free of this?”
You see, as Jesus hung there apologizing to the Father, He was saying, “Father I know they tried to apologize and make things right by all their sacrifices, but You and I know that didn’t work. So here I am, making apology for them.
When I imagine Jesus looking at broken humanity from the height of the cross, I see tears running down His face and that’s when I hear Him saying, “I am so sorry you’ve been hurt like this, but I’m paying the price for their sin against you, will you forgive them?”
When I think of Jesus on the cross paying the price for all sin, it makes it much easier to forgive the person responsible for hurting me. However, when I don’t forgive I’m hardening my heart and looking into the eyes of the gentlest Man that ever lived and say, “No it isn’t enough, the hurt is too bad for me to forgive.”
Really? The hurt is too bad? In the face of Jesus hanging on the cross AFTER all He endured before the cross, in the face of all his pain, I say my hurt is too bad to forgive? I make a mockery of His pain and suffering. I minimize the depth of pain He suffered as He took the weight of sin and disease from all humanity on His pain wracked body and say, “It isn’t enough, they don't deserve it.”
The irony is that we don’t deserve to be forgiven either for our sin. The tragedy we don’t often understand is that forgiveness isn’t about the person who hurt us, about who deserves what or about letting them off the hook, it’s about us. It’s a gift from the Father given to set us free. Jesus will never let go of the sin done against us unless there has been full repentance and forgiveness from all parties. He will hold them accountable till the day of judgment. But, unless we forgive them, we will be ‘hooked’ to that person forever and it will have a toxic, poisoning effect on us all our lives. It will affect us physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially. It will affect our future relationships with everyone we are involved with. Most of all, it will affect our relationship with God the Father. He will not be able to forgive us our sins because we have not forgiven those who have sinned against us.
Close your eyes for a moment. Now think of one thing that someone has done to hurt you. Did someone betray your trust? Did they lie or gossip about you and hurt you? Did someone treat you unjustly? Have you been abused emotionally or physically?
Imagine you are looking at Jesus hanging on the cross. Imagine He is saying to you, “I am so sorry this happened to you. I’m hanging here for your sake. I’m hanging here to pay for that sin against you. Will you accept what I’m doing here as payment enough? Will you forgive them and be free?”
That’s the way to freedom and it’s wonderful. As you accept what Jesus did on that cross and forgive those who sinned against you, you will feel the weight of that sin fall away from you. We were not designed to carry such weights and that’s why Jesus said, “All who are weary and heavy laden, give me your burden . . . and I will give you rest.”
He alone can carry the weight of sin.
We were meant to live in the freedom Jesus bought for us on the cross.
My prayer is that you choose to begin the road to recovery via the gift of Forgiveness
Blessings, Girl on a Journey
When we have not forgiven and truly dealt with past hurts inflicted upon us by others, we talk about it all the time. It's an incident, or incidents, which for some has happened a very long time ago, yet it fills their minds and conversations today as though is were a recent occurrence.
Here's the thing, if we don't forgive and let it go, leave it in the past, not only does it weigh us down today, but we drag that offense into our futures where it affects everything we do, every relationship we have and takes us down into bitterness. That offense or hurt does not diminish in time, it grows and grows until one day it explodes out of all proportion hurting ourselves even more, and affecting those around us, breaking hearts and destroying relationships.
How incredibly sad that is. We've been given a most wonderful gift from God, called Forgiveness, but when we hurt that is sometimes the last thing we want to consider, when it is the first thing we ought to do.
I believe we have either been mis-taught about the value of forgiveness or have misunderstood God's gift of forgiveness, so allow me to share my view. I don't believe forgiveness is for the 'other' persons benefit as much as for our own.
Contrary to popular belief, forgiving 'them' does NOT let them off the hook for the hurt they inflicted upon us, they will still be held accountable for it . . . . Since we are all accountable for our own words and behaviours . . . . we must forgive them or we will be accountable for holding an offense. Thus, having done what we know to do, we leave 'them' to God for what they did.
Jesus said we ought to forgive 70 x 7 . . . . HUH??? I've thought about this a lot over the years and this is what I've come to believe this means. Take my former marriage, it lasted 25 years and there were a lot of hurts for me in those years (please note I'm talking about my side, I'm sure he has his side of which I cannot speak of) which built up into quite a lot of undealt pain. When I began the road of recovery, I began forgiving him for each memory that came up which caused me pain. I refer to it as the 'sting' of pain. Each time I felt that sting, I would pray, "Father I choose to forgive 'him' for . . . . ", and would let it go trusting God to cleanse the wound. But, next thing I know the memory would be triggered by something and I would feel the sting again. So I forgave again for the same thing. This pattern was repeated for each memory over and over until there was no more pain upon remembrance of the incident.
That's a LOT of forgiveness!!! It took me 8 years to finally get the sting out of every memory of bad stuff between us, but I know it's over. I can recount any one of those memories now and it is just a thing that happened, there is no pain involved any longer. Hallelujah and thank You God!
But here's another thing, forgiveness has got to become a lifestyle for us. Just because the past has been dealt with between him and I doesn't mean he has no power to inflict fresh hurt by today's behaviours, he does. So when I feel a fresh sting of pain, I have got to be vigilant in choosing to forgive him for the fresh occurrence. However, he does not have the power to hurt me as my X-husband any longer, he has become like any other person who has the ability to hurt me today ~ cool eh? The past has been laid to rest and I live in today.
I don't know if sharing this journey of forgiveness helps you in your own situation, but I hope that whatever past hurts litter your life, you can find freedom through the gift of forgiveness.
I wrote a piece on forgiveness which I'll post next. It's called The Greatest Apology Ever . . . . I hope you accept the challenge of letting God free you up through forgiving others. It really is worth the struggle and work involved in recalling and dumping each hurt. The freedom to enjoy life anew is tangible and oh so good!
Blessings to you on your Journey of leaving the past in the past, walking into the future unencumbered and free.
Monday, January 17, 2011
Let others write of battles fought
Of bloody, ghastly fields
Where honor greets the man who wins
And death the man who yields
But I will write of him who fights
And vanquishes his sins
Who struggles on through weary years
Against himself, and wins
He is a hero stanch and brave
Who fights an unseen foe
And puts at last beneath his feet
His passions base and low
Who stands erect in manhood’s might
The bravest man who drew a sword
In foray or in raid
It calls for something more than brawn
Or muscle to o’ercome
An enemy who marcheth not
With banner, plume, or drum
A foe forever lurking nigh
With silent, stealthy tread
Forever near your board by day
At night beside your bed
All honor then, to that brave heart
Though poor or rich he be
Who struggles with his baser part
Who conquers and is free!
He may not wear a hero’s crown
Or fill a hero’s grave
But truth will place his name among
The bravest of the brave.
Very early on, the question was asked 'what does Holiness look like in this situation?' which is the question we are to ask ourselves when something comes up that causes us to 'want to' respond out of our old selfish (a.k.a. scum) nature. In asking this question, we are choosing to ask that age-old question, ~ what would Jesus do? For, of course, Jesus would respond in Holiness right?
It's one thing to say I want to choose a Holiness response as Jesus did, it's a whole 'nother thing to do it, especially when I want to do something and I know God is asking me not to in order to accomplish something else in the life of another whom He has caused my path to cross lately (I know, it sounds convoluted). God has a plan for this other person's life and that supersedes my desire to do my own thing. But, I have to admit, it bites!
This is now where my response is either a scum and totally selfish response, or is a Holiness response. And . . . . it doesn't end there.
I have chosen to set aside the thing I wanted in favor of Gods request, but I know God is watching to see how I will handle it. In the doing of it, will I begrudgingly act the self-sacrificing martyr to His Great Cause and let everyone know of my great disappointment OR will I go about my daily activities trusting God to work it all out and hope I can do this thing I desire another time.
Truth be told, He can always find another person to be involved in this person's life if I opt out. But it's my character which is at stake here and He's watching. He has given me this opportunity, now comes crunch time, how will I respond?
Let me bottom line it for you: Will I go about my daily life happy and contented or mopey because I didn't get my own way? Will I take this opportunity to grow in character, to be 'other' focused, to value the soul of another as more important than what I want or will I whine about it all?
Philippians 2:3 says: "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves".
As for understanding what God is doing . . . . Isaiah 55:9 says: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." Although I don't know what He has in mind for this other individual, or me in the long run, I trust His plan is for the good of both of us. I also acknowledge it's a Grand Scheme of which I know only a small part.
Blessings to you all as you struggle with your own character issues. It's not easy but it is good.
Girl on a Journey
PS: Should you have read this and now wonder what it is I wanted to do, PLEASE DON'T ASK!! It's now a thing of the past :)
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
There is something to be said about being content in solitude but it's hard to explain. I think only those who have found that illusive quality will understand. I'm reading through Ecclesiastes and the corresponding chapter in 66 Love Letters and read this: “until available pleasures, legitimate and illegitimate, moral and immoral, no longer satisfy or even bring more than temporary relief to your empty soul . . . . until time with friends doesn’t energize you as it once did . . . . until the drama, passion and activities of church become lifeless and dull . . . . until you have nowhere to turn for the satisfaction of your soul’s desire, not to the Bible, not to prayer, not to music, not to friends, not to church” and this is where I am. I've been here before and remember the peace and contentment of my own company ~ it's good, amazingly good. I'm going to post an article I wrote around 2000 which explains it best, but I have to say I'm happy to be back in this space.
In thinking about solitude, I wondered what it's role has in the life of Christians.
I thought of how clear it is to hear from God and see the things He shows us in solitude. I thought of how busy our lives are and how we are so distracted by our interaction with the world we live in, and how we need to stay in solitude to keep balanced. Henri Nouwen says in his book “Making All Things New”, “without solitude, it’s virtually impossible to live a spiritual life.” Jesus life is an example of one in solitude, both in choosing an outward time and place of quietness, but also in living His daily life in solitude.
I thought of how we find life in revelation from God, and when we leave the place of solitude, to go about our daily lives, we must not allow solitude to leave us. We stay in our place of solitude even though we are out and about.
Not only is solitude a spiritual place, it’s really only found by withdrawing and being alone physically. In solitude we come into the presence of God naked and vulnerable with nothing to show, prove or defend. I think in the beginning, one can only find solitude by being alone, facing and working through the loneliness. But, when solitude is truly found, then loneliness is not so painful as it once was.
The biggest obstacle in finding solitude is choosing to enter into the pain of being alone and lonely. To choose to be alone, when all around you are enjoying good fellowship with friends is not something many people would even think of doing. Why would they? We don’t like pain, and look for any way to escape and get busy again. Going into solitude only removes our outer distractions. When alone without books to read, TV to watch, people to talk with and phone calls to make, it brings us face to face with our inner chaos, and that can be disturbing and confusing. Our inner doubts, anxieties, fears, unresolved feelings of anger and conflicts manifest themselves fully, and we discover our outer distractions were very useful in shielding us from our inner noises.
We set up outer boundaries to protect ourselves; our time, who we spend it with, what we do and don’t do. When we resolve to enter solitude, we must also set up inner boundaries to protect and keep sidetracking thoughts from distracting our inner solitude. Faithfulness is very important in developing solitude, and eventually we discover we don’t want to miss that time alone with God, and we find ourselves missing it when it is absent. We then discover we value it more, and begin to choose it over things we used to do which were once of high value.
Solitude and the treasures found within are real and tangible only to those who have found it. Trying to explain it is not easily done.
If I were to tell someone, whose life is happy, busy and filled with good friends, to choose to be alone until it becomes painful, to press through the terrible depth and pain of loneliness until they break through into a wonderful, deeply satisfying place, they would think I was nuts.
They would question me about that “wonderful” place – what will they find? I could only answer; a life-giving quality only they can identify once they find it. I could tell them I know it’s feeling to me, but that it’s different for everyone. Nouwen says that is where we begin to taste the beginning of joy and peace.With such ambiguous answers, would any choose to pursue solitude? How could I describe it to anyone so they could catch a glimpse enough to whet their appetite for it? Would that illusive explanation be enough to keep them through the sometimes long but always painful struggle to get there? Or, during the pain, would they want to quit and find relief by going out, and doing anything just so they aren’t alone? And, should they leave, such a choice will only alleviate the momentary discomfort and prolong the journey. Oh yes, in that explanation, would I tell them that once the journey is begun, they can’t turn back, get out or stop? It’s a simple, though not easy way to free us from being slaves to our preoccupations.
Who would even begin such a journey as this? It promises pain and agony with a reward of some illusive quality or state that only they will know when they’ve found it.
Today people want absolutes, sure answers and guarantees. Such things as trusting by faith, is what Christians hear and read about, but choosing a painful journey without proof of finding anything tangible is still a foreign concept to many Christians. Only those who have found the treasures of solitude will understand these rambling thoughts of mine!
Once solitude is broken through to, and its’ wonderful discoveries are made, it ceases to be (exist) only in being alone or lonely. It then becomes a state of being that can be taken anywhere you go. You are in that state of solitude no matter what crowds you are in, no matter what turmoil surrounds you, no matter the state those around you are in. It is truly, the only place of peace. It’s the Secret Place of Psalm 91 and it’s going to cost you to find it. It won’t be easy, but its’ value is worth pursuing at any cost.
It’s where you discover you have Hinds feet and Eagles wings. It’s where Peace reigns and Wisdom and Understanding dwell. It’s where you know you are always heard, even when you don’t utter a sound.
I hope you find the blessings of solitude . . . . Journey Girl