Sunday, August 20, 2017

Life’s purpose lived through the eternal perspective

IMAGINE this. You see no point to life. Imperilled by pain and stress and fear, finding it difficult to go on, but for the thought tomorrow will be different, you decide not to give up. Somehow, deeper down, you know that faith tells you there’s reward for never giving in.
Little do we realise in these moments of torment that we’re alive, walking the earth, as eternal beings, imprinting ourselves upon the history of life. A bigger purpose fills our reality.
We cannot see. But what if we did see just a little beyond our present constraint? What if we could see the echo of our being throughout the realm that is yet coming; that what we do in this life, our responses to all the terrible things that occur to us, has an abundance of significance.
Faith speaks forth from the age of the ancients and it reaches further into the future telling us what we’re becoming. Our task is to connect with that which God has spoken.
We know nothing of what is to come, in the glory of its reality, and yet science (of simply one set of explanations) speaks of God’s majesty woven all through life.
Why then do we doubt the resounding goodness of the Lord our God?
What possible loss do we incur by believing upon the goodness of God; that we’ll be handsomely rewarded for the crosses we bear in this life; for the stresses, the struggles, the tumults, and the haranguing we’re required to endure?
No, there is no loss incurred at all.
What if every bad thing we bear in this life has a direct reward in eternity? Makes every pain and stress and fear worth bearing. Such faith transforms our thinking and peace is ours. And we have significant help.
My son is in the picture above, but he’s not seen because the foreground dominates. I know he’s there and that fact makes a world of difference to how I view the photograph.
We need to view life in the same way, and not be encumbered by the visible foreground of our struggles. We need to see God in the background; a view that isn’t possibly visible unless by faith.
But we may choose to see it.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Thankfulness when life is Disbelief

WHEN you’re overwhelmed of feeling, you don’t have enough minutes in the day, be thankful you have no shortage of purpose.
When life has you cornered, every which way defying sense and rationale, be thankful you have the mental capacity to attempt its comprehension.
When loss wreaks havoc amid a life you’re learned to say goodbye to, be thankful for the new life coming which one day you’ll be thankful for.
When cords of lament break over the bow of your typically rock-hard constitution, be thankful that God has His ways for getting your attention.
When relationships disappoint and people ghost you, be thankful that you’d not learn the depths in forgiveness otherwise.
When you bear the baggage of a life riddled with regret, be thankful that the best can truly be yet to come.
When decisions cast you yet again into the path of danger, be thankful that God is so gracious that today is a fresh chance at comfort.
When finances are low or non-existent and you worry for the coming hour, be thankful for the resources you have, and God’s provision, to get through.
When mental illness plagues you like nobody would bother to imagine or conceive, be thankful God has shown you how hard life is for many people.
When work is hard and you don’t know how you’ll survive it, be thankful that God is with you, especially in this.
When pain abounds and overflows in dilapidations of despair, be thankful that others that you love don’t suffer like you do.
When life seems impossibly hard, be thankful God asks not more of you than the godly who have gone before you.
When disbelief overwhelms for what you’re currently facing, be thankful you can keep walking through it.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

How can we be FREE when we cannot SEE?

CONSTRUCTION projects will inevitably prove one thing: no matter how good the instructions are, there will always be re-work. This I found out afresh as I assembled a basketball goal set recently.
I quickly got to thinking there’s so much complexity in a set of technical plans, that even someone with a trade ticket like myself is bound to miss details. And several times I did — only to pull apart and fix what I’d put together.
This specific illustration is real to life.
Our minds and hearts and souls cannot absorb the wisdom that God has set into motion in our individual contexts. We don’t have a chance of absorbing all the truth before us, because we simply do not see.
We do not see why our dreams falter and why our losses are meant to define us. We can only see with our eyes, and we do not like discomfort of any kind — we cannot see its use unless we believe it’s beneficial, i.e. by faith.
We do not see the reasons why there are roadblocks ahead — whether literal or figurative. We yell at the drivers ahead of us (or if we’re more refined we fume) without having the foresight that there’s a delineable cause of the delay ahead. It’s not just their ‘poor’ driving!
We do not see the life experiences, the hurts, the reasons for others’ dysfunctions, and we’re so quick to judge and criticise. The dualistic (either/or, win/lose) mind is our perpetual nemesis. Because we do not see. We do not hold opposite tensions well. We don’t see how our influence impacts on others negatively, because we cannot see the effect it has on them.
We do not see the faults of those we favour, and we downplay our own faults, proving once again that we do not see. And yes, everyone plays favourites. Because we do not see.
We do not see how much we do not see in communication; we’re laden with assumptions. The outcome is conflict, and conflicts are more likely to confuse our relationships into irreconcilable differences because we just do not (or too rarely) see the purpose, process or goal of conciliation.
We do not see the problems of others we would otherwise envy. Everyone has problems no matter how much we deny them. Comparison and curation of image are two sides of an insidious cycle in our social-media-dominated world.
We do not see how important it is to invest in some lives and not in others or in activities that reap little reward whatsoever. Because we do not see we lean on our own understanding.
And we do not see how technical plans actually translate into a finished machine. We’re destined to ‘have a go’ only to find out we got it wrong… again!
We do not see God. We cannot see Him in His entirety in life. We try to see Him, but we do not see Him in life, or in our lives, anywhere nearly enough as He is there.
Because we do not see, we’re destined to need to learn. And that fact has its purpose. God has designed life full of learning opportunities — humility producing moments.
If we wish to be free
we need to first acknowledge we cannot see.
That compels us to trust God
for the insight and foresight we do not yet have.
Bible verse for reflection:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
— Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

Humankind’s commonest handicaps – #1 we CANNOT see

CONSTRUCTION projects will inevitably prove one thing: no matter how good the instructions are, there will always be re-work. This I found out afresh as I assembled a basketball goal set recently.
I quickly got to thinking there’s so much complexity in a set of technical plans, that even someone with a trade ticket like myself is bound to miss details. And several times I did — only to pull apart and fix what I’d put together.
This specific illustration is real to life.
Our minds and hearts and souls cannot absorb the wisdom that God has set into motion in our individual contexts. We don’t have a chance of absorbing all the truth before us, because we simply do not see.
We do not see why our dreams falter and why our losses are meant to define us. We can only see with our eyes, and we do not like discomfort of any kind — we cannot see its use unless we believe it’s beneficial, i.e. by faith.
We do not see the reasons why there are roadblocks ahead — whether literal or figurative. We yell at the drivers ahead of us (or if we’re more refined we fume) without having the foresight that there’s a delineable cause of the delay ahead. It’s not just their ‘poor’ driving!
We do not see the life experiences, the hurts, the reasons for others’ dysfunctions, and we’re so quick to judge and criticise. The dualistic mind is our perpetual nemesis. Because we do not see. We don’t see how our influence impacts on others negatively, because we cannot see the effect it has on them.
We do not see the faults of those we favour, and we downplay our own faults, proving once again that we do not see. And yes, everyone plays favourites. Because we do not see.
We do not see how much we do not see in communication; we’re laden with assumptions. The outcome is conflict, and conflicts are more likely to confuse our relationships into irreconcilable differences because we just do not (or too rarely) see the purpose, process or goal of conciliation.
We do not see the problems of others we would otherwise envy. Everyone has problems no matter how much we deny them. Comparison and curation of image are two sides of an insidious cycle in our social-media-dominated world.
We do not see how important it is to invest in some lives and not in others or in activities that reap little reward whatsoever. Because we do not see we lean on our own understanding.
And we do not see how technical plans actually translate into a finished machine. We’re destined to ‘have a go’ only to find out we got it wrong… again!
Because we do not see, we’re destined to need to learn. And that fact has its purpose. God has designed life full of learning opportunities — humility producing moments.
We do not see God. We cannot see Him in His entirety in life. We try to see Him, but we do not see Him in life, or in our lives, as He is there.
Bible verse for reflection:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
— Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Why our thoughts are the most dangerous thing about us

I THINK, therefore I am, said enlightenment thinker RenĂ© Descartes. In at least one sense that’s profoundly true. Our unconscious thoughts and our unguarded conscious thinking are attributable for the mental maladies we possess, rippling out into our feeling states that can send our emotional wellbeing into a world of turmoil.
Proverbs 4:23 says we ought to guard our hearts, for it’s from there that our lives spring.
Everything we are, all we do, and everything we become seems to stem from our thinking. It is the absolute source of who we are. Our thinking drives our feelings. A circular pattern develops.
Some of the dangerous patterns of thought we enter into include; either/or thinking (if one is right, the other must be wrong); destructive thinking (“I’m useless, no-good, idiotic, worthless, helpless…”); narcissistic thinking (“I’m too good, look at me, and worth more than anyone…”); and, conspiracy thinking (“I don’t trust anyone…”)
Thinking is powerful because it leads us to take actions in accordance with how we feel. There are dangers in acting out of thoughts that are untrue. The fact is we’re bombarded by unhelpful thoughts all the time. Thinking is only an ally for us where it leads us to act according to the truth.
A good response to dangerous thought patterns is become aware of them, and then, with intent, decide to change our minds, or to literally repent, or turn from that thinking.
So, the AA plan kicks in. First, we must become aware of our thoughts, auditing them to determine if they’re destructive or not. Second, we can then choose to act on our awareness to conform not to the patterns of worldly thinking, but to renew our minds.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Jesus Key to Wholeness and Healing

JESUS’ foundational teaching, underpinning everything of the character of God in Him, pivoted around reconciliation — bundled in myriad forms of the Hebrew shalom. Completeness, sanctity, forgiveness, acceptance, inclusivity, not least formational and foundational, the reconciling of humanity back to God.
Let’s focus on the concrete term of forgiveness to ground the concept of reconciliation:
“Forgiveness comes as a struggle for a way of life.”
What on earth can this concept mean? Forgiveness is the hardest thing we will encounter on this earth. This is because life binds us within relationships. Bitterness is a common human temptation and experience. It is a challenge for every human being to overcome. Hence the Saviour’s message. What Jesus came to preach we have to take to heart and apply. It works.
Forgiveness is the struggle we enter when we want Jesus’ way of life. And Jesus will complete us through the struggle, in the learning and application of surrender.
The truly broken people I meet have the same story — rejection early in their lives they couldn’t seem to ever reconcile. It seems a cataclysm they cannot resolve. And they stay broken. They cannot surrender it to Jesus. It’s the opposite for those who have wrestled with and overcome their brokenness. Theirs is the dimension of wholeness and healing, to every corner of their lives, because they forgave. Because they made an ongoing practice out of reconciliation in every part of their lives. And yet, the paradox is this: we, you and I, are at times broken as we are at times whole. Forgiveness comes as we struggle for a whole way of life.
Jesus is the key. The Man. His teaching. The topic of forgiveness. The concept of casting away the world’s faulty and broken logic, of ‘justice’, for a bigger dream. A dream only God can found and ground within us. And now is the time. Now, while blood pumps through your arteries, whilst oxygen courses through your body to nourish your cells so those neural pathways might make those connections. Now, whilst familial brokenness wreaks its cancer through our and others’ lives. Before death takes a person beyond the reach of our reaching out.
Now.
A person. A situation. A bitterness unreconciled. Identify it now as God’s Spirit puts His finger on it.
Transcend it.
Ditch the fallacy that it’s your right to hold them to the wrong. Embrace the fact that forgiving their wrong is your key to making it right.
If forgiveness comes as a struggle for a way of life of wholeness, we could agree we want that way of life whatever the cost. And we know in faith that God’s blessed shalom stands as the reward for giving up every shred of resentment; that the person and situation be utterly unshackled from the moorings of our antipathy.
The vision we may have is one of us blessing them with a love we have never previously given to anyone. For, this love is the love of God giving to this person what they can only imagine is God-inspired. We see in this vision the actual melting away of grief even in the action of giving our love away.
Forgiveness is a daily process, a practice never to be mastered, only appreciated for the value it tips back into our lives.
Jesus came to teach us to forgive in order that He could heal us.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The 50-Year God Deposit received in full

RECENTLY, a dear friend of mine prayed that there might be a rich deposit made by God in me to mark my turning 50. It was a prayer that coalesced with God’s own voice which I’ve been hearing for some time. And it just may be you, too, have been hearing Him speak this thing, all-be-it unconsciously.
God has been showing me two different things over the past few years — my gift and my shadow. That gift He has given me is a compensation for what I’ve been through. But the shadow is the dark, human, sinful side of that gift that protrudes when I take my eyes off Jesus.
My gift is this: God gave me a passion and equipped me for joining others on their journey — “to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to mourn with those who mourn,” as Romans 12:15 puts it. I know my gift is to be used to unlock or facilitate victories of connection, where the Divine Presence is felt in human experience, where there is the discovery of deeper truths, where encounters of contemplative and transformational spirituality take place. And reconciliation is usually the purpose for which people come to be served by me. It’s a ministry that is seamless and involves me just being me.
My shadow is this: my flesh (my ego) gives me a similar passion, but the passion, when it’s directed awry, is skewed back toward myself; where my shadow protrudes into my life I need to be loved, accepted, understood, appreciated, praised, respected. I look outward to leaders and peers for these things, instead of upward to God and inward for reflection. I don’t typically seek these things from those I serve, but validation is sought from those whose influence (I perceive) is typically greater than mine. God certainly knows I need these victories of connection. But I can go about them the wrong way, looking to humans to do what only God can do.
That’s the difference between the gift and the shadow; the gift prevails effortlessly, because God is in it and being used by God as gift is always a pleasure. It doesn’t seem like work at all. But just like humans would be cursed to labour at and after the Fall, the shadow toils relentlessly to get what it can never have. The shadow enters futility, but the Divine embodies the gift.
The first fifty years has been about receiving the nucleus of the message. The next portion is about acquisition, more and more; piquing the awareness of the shadow’s protrusion as it becomes the mastery of poise. But I will never fully be there.
I thank God for the awareness of, and increasing mastery over, the shadow that will always be there. I thank God because I need God.
Thank God for your gift, and be open to your shadow.