Sunday, October 22, 2017

Why grief isn’t depression and one thing you can do about it

Photo by Jonatán Becerra on Unsplash

HAVE you ever visited a psychotherapist once, never gone back, and realised it was the best hour you could have ever spent? I’ve had one of those experiences. And the older gentleman taught me the difference between depression (which I thought I had, but didn’t) and grief (which I had). Sure, I was depressed, but…
Being depressed is intrinsically part of the grief process, and that can form into clinical depression,[1] but importantly, the basis for the depression is the grief. Typically, when the grief is attended to, we recover. It takes months, if not a year or three or more, but we do recover if we’re being honest — if we’re wrestling with our stuckness.
Grief can feel like clinical depression, but thankfully we have a reason for being so depressed. Not all depression has such rationale.
About grief, pain is an indicator of reality; an important factor in not simply our plummeting, but a pivotal feature in our recovery as well. Especially when there’s more pain involved in remaining stuck than breaking free and moving forward.
“… pain [is] necessary to know the truth, but we don’t have to keep the pain alive to keep the truth alive.”
— Mark Nepo
Loss is etched in truth we cannot get away from. It leaves us stuck in a truth that has held us, embodied in love or a state of being we found so acceptable it came to be part of us.
Even though grief isn’t depression it certainly is possible that it could open the door to an extended season of life where we do have clinical depression. But one thing that can free us is knowing and remembering what started the cycle in the first place — an event, a sequence, a tipping point.
That event may have been a catalyst. It may have brought all our burdens to bear at once. It could have caused a breakdown, and a deconstruction of our identity.
Additionally, often grief leaves us with unanswered and unanswerable questions. It takes time to accept the hard things we cannot change. Grief is a journey of acceptance.
And grief certainly does challenge and change our identity. But the truth remains the same. When we can accept that truth as a reality and the pain is gone — though it will always remain as a sad reality — that is when our grief stages are complete.
Even in acceptance, reality bears scars of a pain that once was, a reality we know was once so real.
One thing we can know about grief is it is more tangible than classic clinical depression. One thing we can do about it is, embrace the future with such meaning from the past.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

One thing they never tell you about loss

Photo by whoislimos on Unsplash
THERE are so many dynamics and nuances and variables in loss. But one thing remains the same. Grief is a phenomenon that changes us irrevocably.
And there is but one choice — to go in the direction of one of two destinations: to move into the new life beckoning or to stifle its flow. Inevitably, even as we move willingly into that new life, there are also many days when we cannot and will not move forward. Indeed, we could not. And yet, grace permitted growth on freer days.
One thing about loss is inevitable. We must move. We cannot remain the same.
This article is about this solitary idea:
Loss feels like the end when truly it qualifies us to begin.
Of course, loss is something we never desire and can only detest. Why me? Why this? How this? When will this nightmare be over? How long, O Lord? Why do so many around me have no idea? What did I do wrong? Why this loneliness? When will the pain finally abate?
Loss feels like the end. It feels like life should not be this bad. Unconscionable pain.
A cosmic collision of emotional meteorites. Inherent unpredictability. Scary possibilities. Faint hope, if ever. Despair lurking. The end, favourable.
So many know these states of being. Loss is crushing.
But few it seems know the power entwined in the second part of the idea. Few other than those who accept the things that can only change.
Loss forces the abandonment of what no longer works. We’re forced to find a new way. We hope for a return of the peace we had, and surreptitiously God ensures we begin a quest for the new life — what we think is a return to the old. The old life no longer works, and even in mid-bargain, because we may not yet be able to accept it, we’re forced to create something new.
No one ever tells us this second part, because unless we experience it, it seems so outlandish. But it is true, alright!
Loss feels like the end when truly it qualifies us to begin.
That beginning can indeed be heaven. Not that we wouldn’t have what we lost back. We would. One thousand times so. But we see the purpose in loss when we’re compensated spiritually.

When loss gives us something we never had before, we don’t so much resent the grief as understand what God can do with it.

Friday, October 13, 2017

When a 4-year-old grieves the loss of a sibling they never had

DIVERSITY of experience is the fullness of life. We will all grieve losses at various points in our lives. Here’s one glimpse into ours. One that took us by surprise early one recent evening.
Sitting at the kitchen table, a bizarre conversation takes place.
Our four-year-old, without understanding what he’s saying, says playfully, “I want to kill you, Dad.” One of us said, “That’s not very nice. If Dad dies he can’t come back…”
Suddenly, our son paused and then he broke down saying, “I want Nathanael to come back and he can’t come back.” We looked at each other not really knowing what to do other than sit there with him. His sobbing was intense for a minute or so, but he was soon placated and redirected emotionally. He also had a similar emotional reaction a day or so after, and it seemed that he was missing not having a younger sibling as many of his peers do.
Grief is a confusing subject for a four-year-old, obviously. It seems that at his age and stage it’s the issue of having a younger sibling that is poignant at present. Because some of his schoolmates have younger siblings, he has made the connection that he had a younger sibling but no longer does. He misses what he never had.
When it comes to Nathanael, it seems our four-year-old initiates conversation a lot more than we do. We don’t avoid it, but he is talked about more often than we plan to talk about him. And this aspect of not having a younger sibling is the current nuance of grief that our four-year-old is transitioning through.
Our son is learning to live with grief in stages at his own pace. And he will grow in understanding with our support.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Son, you would’ve been turning 3 soon

EXTINGUISHED now is the deep pain of our loss, yet what has replaced it is the precious void we share together as we remember our son.
Often, we talk about how old he would be, and we particularly miss him not being the loyal little brother to our now four-year-old.
Gone is the pain. Yet, the mystery remains, and ever will do. The rollercoaster ride is over, and it’s only the memories that endure. Sometimes we’d love to step back into the tremulous breach. To hold him just once more. Thankfully, acceptance has been God’s gift for our healing.
As my wife embraces the soft teddy bear bearing our son’s birth year (2014) she smiles with a mixture of giddy pride and reality’s sadness. Acceptance is the right noun describing her gait.
We understand the gravity of loss, but not only that, it’s the reach of loss that accosts us all. One in four pregnancies are lost. And loss, of course, occurs within the myriad milieus of life — death, sure, but divorce, job loss, unrequited dreams, and trauma, to name just a few. There are so many who have their own story. Ours is not unique. Although it is remarkable, every story of loss is equally remarkable.
And still there is the memory of our son, Nathanael. He ages with us in our hearts as we age. Never will his memory leave us. He lives with us, as long as we live.
I write about these types of personal things for a few reasons, not least for my own therapy, and to encourage others who’ve experienced loss to partake in therapy’s expression, as well as those presently on their journey of grief. I often wonder if it’s helpful or even appropriate to share so publicly, but I also see the role of my ego not wanting others to think I’m profiting out of our loss when I have such thoughts. I cannot control what others think or how they attribute my motives for sharing. What I can do, however, is be a voice breaking the silence regarding loss. I can share in good conscience, trusting it’s God’s will to do what I do.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Reaching into God as He Reaches into us

Photo by Jin Hyeong Kim on Unsplash

FREQUENTLY I am asked questions like, how do I get closer to God, pray better, know I’m praying enough, know I’m saved. These all sound like different questions. But there is a commonality of answer:
“It is foolish to think that we will enter heaven without entering into ourselves.”
― Teresa of Ávila (1515 – 1582)
Let’s keep ‘heaven’ within the present discussion in the frame of the here-and-now. The Teresa quote certainly applies to one’s journey through revelation to repentance to redemption of the ‘me’ according to the plans and purposes of God — to the ends of the overall destination — being saved for heaven.
But let’s spend some time musing about something more proximal:
the heaven that is God’s Presence, now.
Here’s a proposition to work with:
To the extent that we reach into ourselves we allow God to reach into us. We know God the best we can when we allow Him to make us known to ourselves. We can only be intimate with God if we’re intimate with ourselves.
Sounds easy on the surface of it. But it’s a tumultuous journey to enter and embark upon. Mainly because it’s dry and unstimulating at times. At other times it’s humiliating; our pride hates identification; honesty’s a price to be paid. And there are certainly times when the upward climb is so taxing we’re sorely tempted to give up. The spiritual journey inward to the heart of God is an arduous pilgrimage.
We never experience all the love God has for us until we face all the truth He knows we’re yet unaware of. God loves us with the truth. At a pace we can cope with.
It’s a journey of the Spirit by prayer, which is communion in Him, which is connection.
The spiritual journey is one of being drawn on the one hand; of surrender on the other.
We’re drawn because our hearts want to be drawn. God has won us. There is no longer any conscious resistance, but that doesn’t mean there is surrender. There is still possibly unconscious resistance, or we may be conscious of resistance to surrender that’s within us but we don’t know why.
It’s frustrating when we crave closeness with God and He seems still so far away.
One way of overcoming this is to simply enter into ourselves; to gather insight through reflecting over our experience. To tap into our psyche, into what drives us, our sin, our desires that become demands and then move into the realm of idol worship.
Trust God. He will enter the cauldron of that contemplative space!
As God begins to speak to us at a soul level we get information about where we’re at on the journey. The destination is irrelevant. Willingness to be is key.
The less we try, the more we trust, the better our intimacy with God’s Presence.
Reaching into God occurs as God reaches into us. As we attain communion, He searches us, we see His truth about us, we experience His grace, and in His love, we grow.

And we begin to discover answers to the sorts of questions we have for God.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

How my counsellors helped me in my deepest grief

READING a touching and true little compendium of grief reminded me that I had one more chapter to write of my own. To my counsellors…
I adore you, I salute you, I thank God for you. For without you I possibly wouldn’t be here to write this. Without your gentle God-led intervention, I would be a different person, and I’m simply glad today that I am who I am, due in no small part to you. You were God in skin to me at a time in my life when God had to be real.
My deepest grief involved a period of complete mental breakdown, emotional collapse, and physical catatonia. On one such occasion. My counsellors were there. In the most unfathomable pain, I usually hid myself away, alone with God, and wept bitterly. And my counsellors didn’t bang on the door, nor did they harangue me with phone calls. They let me agonize those agonizing hours the way I needed to agonize them. They dignified the need I had to experience pain I could not otherwise escape. The hardest pain, I found, was dealt with alone. Not that my counsellors didn’t witness me at the end — they did. My starkest days were incomprehensibly dark, lonelier than I can even fashion words for today, and bottomless when fear felt like I was constantly falling. My counsellors were there. Through the tortuous minutes and the arduous months. Through the months that strung together to comprise a full year. Through the occasions where pain would return as a thief in the night to torment me. My counsellors were interminably available.
What did my counsellors do? They sat there in their lounge room with me, and, as I repeated the same sad, sullen and hopeless stories, they simply listened, only interjecting when it was respectful to do so. And I did repeat my stories; sometimes day after day after week after month. Not once did they say to me, “Come on, you just keep repeating yourself… it’s no good for you… stop it!” No. They made space for me to say what I needed to say, again and again, over and over, even when I was sick of saying it, and they still kept listening. Not judging others, not giving advice, not attempting to fix the situation, because it couldn’t be fixed, advice was superfluous, and judging was futile.
Who were my counsellors? I can and will name them. They were my mother and my father. In spite of the sheer temerity of that season, we grew closer through the strength they loaned me through a love that gives its all. They gave their all to my support. Not once did I feel unsupported. Not once did their support miss the mark. They travelled the season with me. Sure, I had other mentors and sponsors, but not counsellors like this. See how blessed I have been?
Some might think, “Well, you’re a grown man [at that point, mid-thirties]! Snap out of it and stop being such a Mummy or Daddy’s boy! Toughen up!” I will always see it differently, and am unashamed. Not only did it take guts simply to endure that period of my life, I think it took a special kind of humility to accept help from my parents. Knowing them, they wouldn’t have had it any other way. Love is no burden. It does what needs doing as if what seems an unreasonable sacrifice were no sacrifice at all. For this, I’m so proud of my parents.
So how did my counsellors help me in my deepest grief? They sat and listened to me repeat my laments ad nauseam as much as I needed them to sit and listen. They never tore anyone down, but each time they lifted me up, not through their words, but through their presence.
It is now exactly fourteen years ago since the worst day of my life. Amazingly, until that day, the previous worst day of my life was exactly fourteen years before that — to the day. I am glad today was just a normal day.

Monday, October 2, 2017

A world that won’t understand, and a God who will

WHAT a Jesus-legacy Jean Vanier has given to the world. Compassion, gentleness and kindness ooze from his lips resplendent a heart ablaze with the love of Christ. This, on loneliness…
“To be lonely is to feel unwanted and unloved, and therefore unloveable. Loneliness is a taste of death. No wonder some people who are desperately lonely lose themselves in mental illness or violence to forget the inner pain.”
― Jean Vanier
Immediately my mind is thrown into the cauldron of a recent shooting disaster, dozens dead, several hundred wounded. I wonder instantly the mental state of the shooter. What on earth is going on in someone who will bring about such destruction? Sure, there will be those who wish to strike down such sentiment. Compassion for a mass-murderer? Easy to say for someone who hasn’t lost one of those precious ones who so innocently died very prematurely! Fair enough. How on earth do we reconcile such loss. We cannot. Not this side of eternity.
Yet, the Father in Jesus forgave even Barabbas. Only the Father knew his story.
Only the Father could judge, and that judgment was compassion, because He understands the entire backstory. There is always a backstory.
And still, I, in my humanness, can barely conceive how God could be compassionate in forgiving such evil. Fortunate for us all that — in Christ — He doesn’t count our sin against us.
Or, what about the elderly lady I encountered in the Nursing Home recently, obviously ailing from a pejorative neurological disease. My nearest proximity was her cue to break down in desperation to leave. I prayed with her, but the loneliness of her being shut in beyond hope in this life is just incomprehensibly sad. And we must leave that as it is. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can acceptance of harsh realities come. Transcendent of our own understanding.
What if we were to sense the loneliness in another individual, and simply attempt to meet them there. To just be there with them. Not try and fix anything. Just listen if they want to speak, and to hold the tensions of the irresolvable kind. To allow them the dignity of non-engagement. The sanctity of silence, which doesn’t seem to us to be much of a ministry. Funny how when we move aside the Holy Spirit often moves in.
The moment a lonely person is met they encounter the Spirit of the living Lord. It’s a dynamic engagement promising nothing but delivering everything words cannot.
The Holy Spirit does all the work of our spiritual ministry. All we need to do is be prepared to be His vessel as He points Himself toward the broken.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Lonely – Overwhelmed – Sad – Tired – (LOST)

CONNECTION was the elephant in the room of what was missing. I looked into the mirror and hated who looked back at me. I hissed at that image. I shrieked, not comprehending what was going on.
I sought connection but embraced distance. I hunted light but entered darkness.
I heaved uncontrollably for several seconds, and then, feeling pathetic, I laughed at and cussed at myself. I felt I was going insane. But the insanity of it was feeling conflicted; estranged to logic yet calculatingly cynical at the same time. I was self-destructing.
Two hours later I was fine. Not brilliant. Not as happy as could be. Just better. Defeated, but better. My hope quotient had improved a significant though slight ten percent.
I have experienced this cycle of events many times in my life — acute situational burnout, followed by meltdown, then complete emotional letdown, following a mental breakdown.
During such times I’ve felt abysmally lonesome, overwhelmed beyond any momentary conciliation, flat-out sad, and worlds tired. The personification of spiritual attack. Such a state usually came with the build-up of too many conflicts; the perfect storm of myriads of tasks to do and too many people to see, and especially during relationship upsets.
Thankfully, these days, what I’ve described here is a comparatively rare event. But it’s never unwelcome. I’ve learned that feeling lonely, overwhelmed, sad and tired isn’t a state to be judged, but empathised, the quicker the better.
I recognise that not everyone feels lost. Some people never feel like this. But I also know there are many more people that suffer feeling lost than care to admit. We all seem normal until you get to know us! And yet, how encouraging to know, in feeling lost, we’re not alone.
There are redemptive qualities in being lost.
Until we’re lost we cannot hope to be found. Recalling the Lord’s great love, He finds us afresh in our sincere calling out, “Help me, God!”
Until we’re lost we don’t know how far we’ve walked away from God. And in simply doing an about face, we fall into His unfailing arms.
Until we’re lost we don’t appreciate the simplicity and the healing need of surrender.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A vision of those last living moments

EVEN amid a semi-migraine experience, flashes before the eyes, a loss of visual equilibrium, God gave me a paradoxical vision: my last living moments.
Suddenly what flashed before the eyes of my heart was the irredeemable fact: living, breathing, sensing, life was fading in the final seconds. Sorrow filled my soul’s gaze. Yet I was caught up in something myriads higher. A profound depth subsuming me. Being absorbed into the Eternal.
Sadness came for the fleeting glimpses of those Id not said goodbye to: my wife, my daughters, my son, my parents, my brothers and my friends.
Sadness yet wholeness for that Something Bigger. Somehow understanding filled me and my sight for the entirety of life was perfected but completely without ability to explain it.
As God took me into Himself I began to feel the absence of corners and sides and boundaries and of beginnings and endings. I was coming into what is, always as it has been and will ever be. And everything not of God ceased to exist.
Finally as I understood this simply as a vision, God caused me to be thankful. I was grateful in accepting the extension of His moments. More breaths ahead. Possibilities ahead to enjoy God and all of the things He blesses me with.
These final moments were not the end, but the beginning of the broadening  and burgeoning of awareness.
Ends inspire fresh beginnings while there is still life and hope. Be open to beginning again and hope for the stars. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

5 experiences of existential pain we must get used to

THE ABYSS. It’s where God wants to take us. Not for our harm, but for our good. Not for no reason, but for a purpose. And we only realise this when we stumble on it by accident having been forced to go there by the cruel circumstances of life.
One experience of going to the abyss will teach us more about the purpose of life than ten lifetimes without it.
Yet it is denial or flight or attack of myriad sorts — our fear of pain — that causes us to resist the sort of pain that has life as its core.
Yes, inside pain is the irrefutable core truth — don’t resist it or resent it and we come to the end of ourselves, and hence the beginning of God.
Only in the abyss do we learn how quickly we reach our creative limits. Only there do we ever begin to contemplate life lived as a possibility; that comfort and the absence of pain may not be the objects of life.
Sitting in that place of pain may not make us able to bear the pain any better, but it can teach us that life is not centrally about avoiding pain, but in the ability to hold it close without it making us bitter.
But inevitably we need to experience the sharpness of bitterness to experience the folly of it. It seems a viable response to pain, but it takes us away from contentment.
Five experiences of existential pain we must get used to are:
1.      Frustrations that are common to life that cause us to become overwhelmed cognitively, emotionally, spiritually. Learning to accept what we cannot change will help us to accept those experiences of being overwhelmed, and that pain is mastered.
2.      Grief outbound of loss. Life when it is analysed is a long series of grief events, but it’s only the major iterations of grief that promise to crush us sufficiently to cause us to surrender enough to learn by being humble enough to be taught.
3.      Anxiety that is common of a normal human’s experience presents us with a pain that estranges us from the bond of connection. When we learn to stop judging our everyday anxiety we bear it and suddenly it is no longer a problem for us, and we can explore the thinking behind it in order to challenge it from a healthy, productive creative space.
4.      Understanding that sadness and sorrow have their cherished place in the human experience. Nobody likes being depressed, but in our depression we master depths of understanding we never would otherwise. See how even depression can have a deeper life purpose?
5.      Time moves forward and onward, always, all the time. We lament the passing of time and seasons of past. It’s normal. Rather than simply staying in a place of despair, we have the opportunity to revisit those places and bear our understandings as real in our experience. And those times we cannot bear to think we ever had are gone. In this regard, time is inherently redemptive.
Pain has its purpose in teaching us the deeper matters of the realities of life.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Valuing of Awkward Listening Silence

ONE of the key skills of listening is silence, allowing awkwardness its cherished place in relationships.
In the awkward silence is space where God works in liberating truth from guarded lips, as a person courageously trusts the caring moment.
How few relational interactions feature the space of silence? Too few. Too many exchanges occur when both parties insist on having their say, neither listening to the intent, motive and message of the other.
But entering the silence is simply the art of one person agreeing to say nothing until the right time comes. This person may have a simple question to ask — that’s all.
There is power in that one question. Could be five words. Could simply be one.
As something is said in rigid simplicity power emanates from that word.
The opportunity to lay one pregnant sentence into the communication is only available when we listen sufficiently through silence, communicating through body language and gestures where at all possible.
If we ever wish to have a transformational interaction, to cause someone to think, to encourage someone to heal, to show empathy, we must trust the silence within which the ministry is to occur.
We put off the desire to give them our advice. We leave home the truths we believe will help. The words of distraction remain in the car or in another room. Focus and attention comes in the silence.
And in the silence, listen for the Spirit. He needs no words of our assistance. The Spirit will communicate something in the awkward listening silence. Remain there.
Listening has such value in communication, and many times more listening that trusts the awkwardness in silence.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Two Rare Expressions of Wisdom – Both and Neither

DIVISION is the way of the wise in a world where God is pushed far into the nether regions of thought. We hear so much these days about the Left and the Right, about Conservatives and Liberals; as if everyone must be painted into one or the other corner.
It is almost impossible to stay neutral. And it is rare indeed for people to opt for both or neither side — with diligent intention.
The wisdom of both is a proposition of taking appreciatively all views. It respects all views because partialities are a non-issue. The heart is at peace. And a person has no reason to bend their integrity into the shape of coercion.
When we employ the wisdom of both most people look at us as if we’re nuts. Fun, isn’t it?
Likewise, the wisdom of neither takes the option of bowing out as a conscientious objector, which is every bit as active as non-violent resistance. Neither enjoys the option of opting out in an age where the vocal minority seem everywhere (on social media at least).
But the wisdom of neither transcends merely staying quiet on social media. It actively seeks to be free of a view. It treats having a view as a distraction to other, more important matters of life.
What a masterstroke it is when we choose one of these two options in any and all situations, agreeing to support the ethic on both sides or to completely withdraw all mental and emotional investment.
If we’re given to the stress of arguing the point, or we hate being thwarted, the wisdom of both or neither can help us feel greatly empowered in a Kingdom way.
In a contentious world, what Kingdom wisdom there is in choosing neither or both sides. Try it and see God free you.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Overcoming anything through overcoming yourself

EVERY thorn in life can be overcome, literally or spiritually. We can learn to transcend it or acquire the patience to tolerate it.
Most changes we wish to initiate and attain take much more effort and work than we first realise. Until we get close to our goal, having smashed that glass ceiling. Then God shows us the fact; we are overcoming. Every step until that momentous point is one trudging, begrudging step up the hillside after the other.
Only by faith will we get to the top of the mountain to run down the other side.
God blesses nothing more emphatically than the hard work we put in toward reaching our goals. And the truth is we’ll need to fail several times at some big goals before we’ll succeed.
Can you see now how failure is integral to success; that without failure there can be no ultimate success?
God blesses us through the diligence we display for taking the ultimate responsibility for our lives. If we don’t, who will? We must be the ones who grasp the opportunities time allows. It’s all that matters in the long run. What we do and who we are.
Taking responsibility is the key to achieving all growth in the spiritual demographic.
We overcome by overcoming ourselves, by surrendering our plaintive power that makes us feel important to a power that overcomes through our weakness.
When we get out of our own way we begin to see that, all along, we have been the barrier, and then we understand the power of change. Change comes from within.
When a challenge comes ask, can I transcend this or must I learn to tolerate it?

Monday, August 28, 2017

50 Years Ago, When I Was 30

IMAGINE borrowing from the future to invest in your present to make your past better than it could have been.
Gifted a vision — two actually — and fifteen years apart — and joining them together. That’s what this is.
Living a carnal life at thirty-five, not truly walking with the Lord at all, I harboured some substance dependences. Little did I know at that point, but the following year my life as I knew it would end and a new life would begin; the literal turning of my world upside down.
Standing at the end of my driveway, inebriated and puffing on a stogie, God gave me a vision of myself as a near-eighty-year-old. It left me feeling well in my soul.
I got the distinct sense that God was saying “your 77-year-old self will thank your 30-something self for the decisions you’re making (or are about to make) now.” Wow. The problem was, though I was trying very hard to address the issues in my life, I was delaying the action I needed to take to realise the vision. I was getting nowhere. I was deluding myself and I knew it!
As history would reveal I never did take that action. So, God did something to get my attention. He changed my life. And the only hope I had of restoring what I had was to make a new life for myself, beginning with quitting alcohol.
The second vision occurred recently. At the eightieth birthday of a person esteemed by my wife and I, someone who received their PhD close to the time I was born — fifty years ago, when they were thirty — a person who has taken an interest in our family, us, me. The vision imagined the work forward — fifty years of service — of that momentous occasion. From age 80, much diligence and faithfulness, sees a rich legacy. A life very assiduously lived.
If only at age 30 we could receive the gift of our eighty-year-old’s thanks for taking the initiative to work hard at the purpose God’s given us?
It’s a long road, life. So wise to borrow insight from the length of years while we’re still young. Ask God that He might gift you with the ability to see forward so as to impact now.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Serenity via the Gratitude-Honesty Paradox

DAYS of spiritual torment where our soul screams ‘REST!’ yet we cannot attain it create motivation more than ever to find serenity — tomorrow. Here is one way; a practice for each day:
Find thirty minutes (or ten if you’re that pressed for time) of pure uninterrupted time with God praying contemplations of gratitude.
Simply breath thoughts in and out; the facts-of-state and the facts-of-being you’re grateful for.
Facts-of-state are possessions we have outside ourselves, whereas facts-of-being are possessions within. All these possessions are spiritual, i.e. nothing material in and of itself. Such prayers are pivotal to get our day underway in warding against frustration and complaint.
Then, on the opposite side of the spiritual equation, give yourself another thirty minutes (or ten if you’re that pressed for time) per day to just be honest — where you don’t need to be grateful.
You may find it good to voice these sonnets of truth to another person provided they simply listen. Or, being alone before God, voice them aloud so you can hear yourself saying these things.
The problem I’ve found with seasons of being grateful is that the bubble bursts at inopportune times and I’ve felt rotten that I couldn’t remain complaint free for any length of time. We have about one lengthy season in us, then God makes the sustainment of gratitude harder, because we would get conceited otherwise. Think of Paul’s theology in 2 Corinthians 12.
Balance in the spiritual life is key. Making time to be intentionally grateful is as important as making time to be ruthlessly honest. We need both. And how good is it when we can be grateful and honest at the same time.