Wednesday, December 27, 2017

You grieve how you grieve

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

WHEN we lost Nathanael I’m sure there were some, perhaps many, who doubted the grief journey we were on. Maybe we grieved too well for some people. All I know is that our grief journey was normal and appropriate and only what it could be for us.
We were simply gifted with the ability to live our reality. We had both grieved deeply before. Grief wasn’t new to us. And the prayers of others, combined with our faith, that God could heal Nathanael at any time if He wanted to, helped very much sufficiently enough. The Lord was our Shepherd, and we had no lack. And yet God also gifted us to enter very deeply into the realm of our sorrow. We were always able to be vulnerable and transparent as persons, as a partnership, and with other people, and we remain amenable to that capacity to this day.
That season of loss gave us an appreciation of a fact, though, which is something that merits stating.
We all grieve differently, and nobody should be judged for the way or the length of time they grieve. There are no rules to adhere to and no verifiable standards with which to checklist in recovering from loss. It can be said of nobody that they are good at it. If people suffer well they are gifted that grace from God, usually as an advent from bitter life experience. We can, of course, help the process by being courageously honest by plying faith. And nobody can legitimately say, ‘get over it!’
There is no right or wrong time to do anything when in grief; only what you know in your heart is right. You can’t grieve the wrong way, so long as you do grieve.

If you’re sorrowful to the point of frequently not wanting to go on you’re not weaker than the person getting on with their life after a month or two. If you’ve lost your life partner and the pressure is on to sell-up, don’t be pressured. Allow the process of grief to be respected. Don’t feel guilty. (There is too much unwarranted guilt.) Make up your rules, as they only apply to you anyway. The best piece of advice I ever received was ‘be gentle with yourself’, for God made you, and if anyone should respect you it should be you. So, be encouraged, the grief won’t last forever. We all grieve differently, and nobody should be told they are doing it wrong.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Being Led by the Holy Spirit

Photo by Lennert De Ryck on Unsplash

CONSCIOUS contact with God, together with the will that obeys His voice, is the process of being led by the Spirit.
I had it happen to me very recently in visiting a shopping precinct. I felt God’s hand lead me out of one store and into another. Was it for any discernible ‘faith’ reason? No. I just got the sense from the aimlessness I was experiencing in the first store to leave it, without hesitation, and continue walking in tune with the Spirit. For me, being led by the Spirit is decisiveness. That decision was not mine; it appeared to be mine, but Someone Else was in control; a subtle yet significant difference.
Being led by the Holy Spirit is a paradoxical awareness. It isn’t initially a cognitive awareness. It isn’t something we think up. It is revelation. It occurs to us that we feel a sense for, or an absence of, peace. It’s a thing to be trusted. The Lord speaks in terms of the inaudible knowing. We hear (inaudibly), we know, and we move in nearly the same moment.
Defying explanation, discerning the Holy Spirit is something of an imperfect art. But then this is nothing about a foolproof way of knowing God, for the Lord is at best a mystery.
Being led by the Holy Spirit is a flow of discerning wise action and having the courage to act on primary faith-guided impulses. These are impulses set apart from our own desires. They can only be called impulses because there is a lack of thought about going with them. It is pure trust of awareness. Being led by the Holy Spirit is hence the willingness to act with discernment and spontaneity in ways that please God.
It is the role of the disciple of Christ to learn how to trust the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

My worst Christmas ever and how God redeemed it

2004 was a weirdly hope-filled, growing, expanding year for me in the most part, but there were still elements of hangover from the previous year. Overall, the year was a solid eight-out-of-ten. It was the year I heard God call me out of secular-life-for-me into ministry-for-Him. It was also a year where I grew so much as a father into the new life my family was thrust into.
But the days of December 24th – 26th I encountered a new rock bottom.
Now you have to understand that, at this stage of my life, rock bottom experiences were neither unusual nor uncommon. Grief had defined and punctuated much of the previous fifteen months — even despite the joy and hope that I received from church and my relationship with Christ.
December 24th, 2004 was a long day — you know one of those days when you’re incredibly expectant that God is going to move. The day felt like two or three days, and the Christmas service at church was to end that day. This day my expectations proved to be grounded in a ridiculously false hope. I was crushed. I ended the day in the upstairs portion of the church beside myself in grief, awash in tears, watching below as people gradually left after the service; I was angry with myself, with certain others, and not least with God. Because I was in church leadership, and I had access to the building, and I kept quiet enough, I waited until everyone had gone and then I left the building — when it was pitch black. I felt humiliated — a fool.
That Christmas Eve night I did not sleep well. I was haunted by a particular theology that divorced Christian men and women often wrestle with.
Christmas morning is something I’ll never forget. My girls and I opened our presents together on a foreshore section of our nearby beach. However joyous they were did not help my mind, which was contorted in many machinations made up by the enemy of attack. I felt like a loser and my mind resembled a mush of hopeless and unhelpful loops organised against me.
Enter the worst hours of all. My daughters returned to their mother, I spent a couple of hours roaming as if dazed under the blazing Australian sun, walking alone, on and near a beach that was completely bereft of human presence.
Until two Jehovah’s Witnesses met me along the path.
It is the queerest thing that God has so often done over my walk with Him — He uses the most unlikely of people to help. The two JW’s asked if I was okay… I said, not! They pastorally cared for me the best they could, quickly discerning that my conundrum lay in the theology of remarriage. They showed me Scriptures that I had long pored through — they gave me some stated hope that I could marry again. But this was only the beginning of the enigma I faced. In truth, this aspect of was only a part of the overall paradox that was my overall lived experience at the time.
I drove home and spent the afternoon alone. Outside for a while, then I slept for a long time.
Alone on Christmas day, I am unsure if there is any conscious experience that could be worse.
I had decided within one day that I was leaving the church that had so embraced me — such was the extent of the humiliation I felt. Yet it was totally my own doing. I was spiritually exhausted.
One of the elders in the church, a mentor of mine, called at the end of the day. Within a short time, he had convinced me not to leave the church, and the following morning my redemption was complete when my pastor breathed fresh life into my eventual false hope — but not being ready to let go of that forlorn hope, I am convinced, even today, it was right for him to do this. In smiling and saying one simple thing, I heard acceptance and hope, both what my soul craved.
Within the space of 48 hours I experienced the ecstasy of an exhilarating expectation, despair when those faint hopes were dashed, and God’s redemption at the kindness and care of my brothers in Christ.
It could be our worst Christmas, but there is always hope of God’s redeeming us. And if it is the worst Christmas, hold out hope for good Christmases for they are sure to return.
Make a home in your heart for hope to grow for when despair strikes its ruthless blow. When hope is home, hope is ready.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Peace and Patience – God’s Answer to Prayer

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

SAMUEL Rutherford (1600 – 1661) delivers two concepts entwined in one, regarding God’s immediate answer to our prayer.
“How shall we know when our prayers are answered? Hannah knew it by peace after prayer.”
“Patience to wait on God until the vision speaks is also an answer.”
One is the provision of peace, a soul-kind-of-knowing without understanding, and the other is the provision of patience, which is faith enough to wait as long as required for the promise to be delivered.
Both patience and peace are attainments. This is how we know our prayers are heard and answered. God’s answer to our prayers is nothing truly about ‘yes’ and ‘no’ as if God’s Word is to be like ours, simply our ‘yes’ being yes, and our ‘no’, no.[1] Perhaps God doesn’t even communicate on normal human terms, but responds to our groans, and from groans come His glory.[2] But God gives us something tangible, if that can be said spiritually, as we pray in faith, and in the humility of surrender.
Peace comes as an answer to a prayer prayed faithfully, in trust that God is able, and, if He wills it, He will bring our soul-stated wishes — which we may have no iota of an idea about until He reveals them — to pass.
Patience is that incredible tenacity that makes a trial seem easier than it should be; a grace given to us to endure the trial we couldn’t imagine persisting through in our own strength. God proves real and present because of the power we experience that is beyond us. And that is the fruit of prayer.
God answers prayers powerfully through His provision of peace and patience. Such attainments mean we can leave what we prayed for to Him.
How utterly good God is that He answers our prayers in the immediate sense by giving us patience and peace.

[1] Matthew 5:33-37.
[2] Romans 8:18-30.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Supporting your church through change you disagree with

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

THE DECISION’S been made, you’ve clearly not been consulted, but now you’re being ‘informed’ (i.e. told what you’re to do — support the church through change). The die is cast. The stage is set. Nothing will change the course chosen. Is this situation familiar to you?
No matter how many are for the change occurring, it feels like the leadership is stubbornly forging ahead despite the probability of casualties and collateral damage. Like in a lottery competition, the ‘judges’ have had their say and no correspondence will be entered into.
You’re left in a precarious situation. What do you think and how do you respond?
I’ve experienced this first-hand. In fact, I’ve been in situations where I felt on all sides of the conundrum of change simultaneously, seeing its impact yet its potential at one and the same time. And, I have to say this, I’ve seen what it does to a church when there wasn’t full support for change. And unfortunately — not that I saw it at the time, mind you — but I’ve been part of opposition. Usually because of my concern over the treatment of people. At times like this I’ve seen the enemy have more of his way than he ever ought to, and the enemy ought never have his way when it concerns the church. Yet, who is the church made up of? Humans, broken, wounded, sordid, prideful, ambitious, and easy-to-hurt humanity.
Anyone has the capacity to be used by the enemy — all sides of any argument — and the mark of the enemy in terms of church is division.
What if your church stood united or fell divided based solely on your call — on your decision? Because that is the reality. Stand united and Jesus’ church thrives. Engage in sedition and at least a portion of the church falls. Its name is discredited. Its potential is limited. It falls far short of Christ’s glory.
When we choose to support our church through change we don’t agree with, we trust God at a higher level than what we were previously capable. We trust God enough to journey maturely through ongoing dissonance. And we can only do that when we love His church more than our own or others’ agendas.
Love God and we love His church. Love the church and we love God. The two are synonymous.
We’re allowed to disagree with our church leadership provided they have our support, and, provided there is the maturity in leadership to accept and even embrace disagreement, all should be well.
Church leadership should spare space for diversity of viewpoint, but the membership ought also to stand faithfully behind its leaders. Leaders who lead humbly are easier to trust.
Church leadership deserves and requires our trust. But church leadership serves the people of God as well as God.
It does help if church leadership understand how powerless it can feel to be on the receiving end of change.

Only ever a moment away from the revelation of who I am

FOLLOWING a woman out of the shopping mall and entering a pedestrian crossing behind her I hear her say, “thanks for stopping, buddy!” A person had just passed over the crossing and should have stopped, but didn’t.
Suddenly God shows me a vision of when I was that driver, when, through a moment of inattention, I failed to stop when I should have — nothing hazardous, sure, but anything other than polite and respectful. Times when I have been in a hurry.
In that moment, God showed me who I am, who she is, and who that anonymous driver is — sinners who judge others for the very things we ourselves do!
We, in our humanity, are destined for conflict, because we demand rights for ourselves that we’re not willing to give all the time to others. Sheer madness. Do for me that which I reserve the right not to do for you. No wonder the world is in such disarray.
I thanked God for the instantaneousness of the revelation He gave me, so I was prevented from leering at this other guy. Whether the faux pas was intentional or not, the failure to stop for a pedestrian was simply a reminder of what we’re all capable of; and what so many of us have either done or will do in future. How could I judge him?
This situation reminded me of how important following God is. We’re ruined without His standard to strive for. Even as followers we so frequently get it wrong. Especially as His followers we’re enabled to see our folly and, hopefully, repent of it.
In a world of ‘Do for me that which I reserve the right not to do for you’, we have the choice to do for others as we would wish them to do for us, without requiring them to return the favour.
The best gift God gives, anytime, is His revelation of the truth of who we are; sinners in need of the moment’s saving. We need His revelation if our relationships are to work.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

2017, how have you treated me?

ANNUS horribilis: the horrible year. That was 2016 apparently, given the amount of celebrities who died. Queen Elizabeth II hailed 1992 as annus horribilis.
2016 was personally my most difficult year yet (eclipsing even 2003, and earlier 1984), and, I think because of my recent experience, I’m sensitive to those who have had a lamentable 2017. I’ve heard a few people say their 2017 has been an annus horribilis.
How has 2017 treated you?
Perhaps it was a year where great change was thrust upon you, where one massive life change brought with it a ripple of uncertainty. Maybe the year consolidated the perception within you of disappointment and heartache. Possibly the year was great; hopes were exceeded, and a breakthrough moment came to define your life. Perhaps there wasn’t anything to write home about — though I doubt it.
Years are a neat way of categorising our time on earth. Life is short, yet the years are long, which is a paradox that the mysteries of life never quite explain.
If 2017 was an especially tough year, what did you learn, and what are you going to do about it in 2018? Could it be that notwithstanding how tough the year’s been, God has equipped you with confidence because He has shown you your endurance?
Will next year bear any fruit from what was sown this year? I know my 2017 did not realise some of the hopes I had even for 2016, yet I know unequivocally that I’m on a good path. I’m yet reminded of those heroes of the faith in Hebrews chapter 11 who, though they were faithful, died before the Promise was realised in their lives (verse 13).
Now is the time to take a moment to reflect over poignant questions. Now is the time to make peace with the past so we may look forward with hope for a joyous present and future.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Grieving exchanges honesty for healing

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

DO it now or do it later, either way the work of grieving just must be done. That’s what I’ve heard so many times.
The transaction involved in grieving a loss is honesty given for the receipt of healing. Honesty is exchanged for, and is prerequisite to, healing. In grief, be real.
The opposite transaction is to delay grieving through denial. To not be honest about it. To go out of our way to avoid its confronting reality. To turn from how life is.
Honesty, in the final analysis, is a wisdom for life, and a grace from God, that cannot be discounted. The capacity to be honest, to ply the courage to grieve our losses, is a gift, for those who are honest often say they can do little else. When honesty can be the only way, we simply must praise God — He made us in such a way as to inherit the wisdom of faithfulness. Not everyone enjoys the gift, but all can ask for it, and God always grants wisdom when we ask sincerely.
Honesty can certainly make things harder initially. It’s often a risk to trust. Especially where others are concerned. Honesty requires courage, which in this case is faith.
Grieving is certainly an up-and-down journey where sudden unpredictable plummets into the pit of an abyss become the norm. Every single time we’re blindsided we need to try to remember that even though the pain is interminably tormenting it is normal. The courage that calls us to accept this blesses us. We’re being honest, and strength is being added, even if it feels we’ve never been weaker.
God goes throughout our whole lives hoping to get our attention. And with grief our self-sufficiency is stalled. When we finally discover our power is insufficient, we turn to Him and find His power was always enough. Then honesty is all we can do.

In every recovery, honesty is the forerunner to healing. God repays our humility to honour the truth, adding within our plight His divine help. It’s always enough.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A love so great that great be our desire to love

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

JESUS is what love is all about. He cut through every boundary of stuffy selfish bureaucracy to establish an everlasting way to love on earth.
The King came in Jesus, and the Kingdom came in Jesus. The King came and so did the Kingdom in love.
Jesus was a love so great he healed at the risk of riling the ruling Jews going against their legalistic application of Sabbath. He overturned cultural norms and welcomed children, talked with women, touched lepers, and spent time with the despised. He chastised the ruling classes for their oppression of foreigners, widows, and orphans. He told stories that sent shockwaves through the culture by revealing to the culture how corrupt the culture had become. Ultimately, Jesus was a love so great that he ran with it headlong into crucifixion; the vitriolic pride of the powerful had been piqued. Love often gets the raw end of the deal in this world and in Jesus’ case love got him killed.
His was a love so great it resounded against his prevailing culture. He routinely put others first. He regularly said and did things that none of us would do.
His is the perfect standard of love.
But Jesus’ love — a love so great — compels us to greatly desire to love like he did. We fall short of it even in the doing it, but, as we greatly desire to love like he did, we resolve to continue to keep our love on. And God shows us what we can achieve is a comparative lot.
Love is visibly positive, patiently kind, not ever threatened and non-threatening, embodying faith and hope. It believes for the best and endures when tested.
Love is too high a standard for any human being to meet with consistency, but we strive for it because we love our Saviour.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tenderness at a child’s rebuke

The book we read, by a local author
AS I read a story to my son during his bedtime routine, I received a sharp albeit respectful rebuke. All I had said was the street, “Riverbank Close.” It did happen to be “Riverbank Rise,” so he simply said, “Riverbank Rise!” to which I said, “Yes, that’s what I said,” not thinking. “No,” he said, “you said Riverbank Close!” “Yes,” I said, having given it further thought, “you’re right, I did get it wrong.” There was no gloating in him as he heard me say that, just the body language of thankfulness that he had been heard.
I stood corrected. I granted him the fact that he was right and promptly acknowledged it.
There have been times when, as a father, I would have said, “Now, that’s enough of that, remember who is Dad (i.e. the boss… and the boss is never wrong)!” Times when my pride has risen up and demanded ‘respect’.
And how just would that have been had that happened? How many times have we cut our children off simply because they were right, yet we couldn’t accept their letting us know? How many times has pride won the order of the day, only for the children to have to wear the sting of injustice again? Sure, it’s happened to us all and, if we’re parents, we’ve all probably executed those same injustices.
A parent engages in powerful parenting when they overturn power structures in the execution of justice against themselves to advance truth; to say we’re sorry when we ought to be; to give the benefit of the doubt; to elevate truth above our ‘right’ to misuse our power.
In the situation above, how could it be fair other than to acknowledge he was right and I was wrong? It cost nothing to be honest, and in being honest I was able to express my gratitude for having been corrected.

Children learn justice best through their experience of it in their own homes.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Words and the weight they carry

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Words carry the power of death or life, cursing or blessing. 
Words are powerful. 
Choose them wisely. 
Account for them.
Reflect and, where necessary, repent.
Stories, too, are powerful.
Words strung together create stories.
Stories curse or bless, breathe life or death.
We have stories about ourselves AND others.
With our words and our stories, we’re executing a destiny.
Protect people, don’t persecute them, with words.
Prophesy God’s Word over yourself.
He is a marvellous promise keeper.
Find God’s words that fit nicely, and adopt them as His words for you.
Drink that Living Water.
Eat that Bread.
Such is drink and food for life and blessing.
Words are truly insidious. We speak them with such freedom, but freedom can have illogical lack of restraint. String the same four or five words together often enough and, there, you have a story.
The reason I write these things is more for the negative than for the positive. It’s why I write death before life, cursing before blessing. It’s because we more routinely say what we say without first checking it for validity, because we can, because we are undisciplined, because we cannot tame our tongue (See James 3).
Stories such as “I’m no good at [fill in the blank],” or “I hate such-and-such a group or ideology,” or “What you think means less than what I think, because I think so.”
We much more rarely hear of stories that promote others in a positive light. No, negative words and stories are used as the default way of communicating damaging beliefs we have.
When we have the option of life — to speak words of breath and hope — why would we speak words of any other kind?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Precious little moments, surreal little wonders

Adelaide Oval, 29 October 2017

“MUM, when I’m an adult I want to marry you,” I heard my son say to my wife as I washed dishes and she helped him brush his teeth for bed.
In that moment I wondered what her response would be. I was curious. Then I heard her say, “Sorry darling, but you can only be married to one person, and Mum is married to Dad.” Then I chimed in and said, “But you could marry someone like Mum.” The conversation continued for a few more moments, but we could tell these concepts were hard for him to absorb. But he was absorbed!
These are the precious moments of our lives. Like all parents, we want a record of these events of innocence, as they occur in all little children’s lives and ought to be celebrated.
Only minutes earlier my son wanted to help me make coffee and I fobbed him off, and even as he walked away dejected, I brought him back and said, “Sorry, Dad didn’t speak very kindly to you then, did he… can you help me make my coffee?” — a moment redeemed! Life is full of emotionally pregnant moments.
There are times when we watch our son playing in the backyard or at the park or in his play area and we marvel at his creativity. But if I’m honest, I’m usually preoccupied with the events and plans in my life and I miss most of these moments, even when I’m present. It’s those times where God reminds me to refocus and claim the moment, so I have less regret in the future.
It’s like the myriad precious moments in my girls’ lives as they grew through their childhoods. So many memories to cherish. So many memories of having simply been present. And so many missed moments.
The older I get the more I think that at some point I will have to leave all this behind; the people, the events, the memories, and the possessions, which pale in significance.
Our family is a precious gift we’re given, to hold and nurture and protect. Our children hold in their beings the precious genome of character we sow into them today, in this season, which is fleeting. Soon, all too soon, they will be the parents and grandparents. When our son will be married!

Life. Be present. Make the most of the precious little moments and surreal little wonders.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The biggest miracle ever

Photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash

GRACE interrupts and realigns a life in the simplest, starkest and subtlest of ways. It makes the most massive difference, ever. By grace I mean, the sudden realisation that God has done it all — His love has smashed open and clears away every darkness this life seeks to condemn us with.
The biggest miracle happens on the smallest stage —
one person’s life at a time.
When God gets through, it is His glorious and marvellous work for all to see — for all those who can see how marvellous and glorious His work is… on His masterpiece.
Spiritual healing is far more important and significant, and therefore bigger in the scheme of a life, than physical or mental or emotional healing. For several reasons. Here are at least three. First, the physical, mental and emotional states are existential. They’re passing away. Only our spiritual state truly has eternal matter and matters eternally. Second, possibly the only way we receive holistic healing that covers the physical, mental and emotional states is through spiritual healing. Third, physical, mental and emotional healing all involve some aspect of knowable science, yet spiritual healing involves divine intervention through the intercession of faith. Spiritual healing is solely dependent on God, which is why faith is so important and significant in life.
Here is the key difference spiritual healing makes:
First, spiritual healing is evidenced via the insight a person has of truth as it resides in the reality of their life. Suddenly there is a capacity and a willingness to be honest. Humility becomes them. What others do or don’t do is now of much less consequence. There is a sincere, efficacious internal locus of control.
Second, spiritual healing is evidenced via love. A heart change has taken place and the person lives for others, not in a selfishly self-effacing way, but in a way where there is authentic spiritual joy in their service. They operate for Kingdom rewards and they begin to avoid and shun the rewards available in this life.
Third, spiritual healing is evidenced in faith emergent in a hope that this world cannot extinguish. It is the heralding magnificence of this spiritual capacity that the more crushed a spirit-filled person is, the more faithful God ultimately shows up in their life.[1]
All this from one ongoing miracle:
the acquisition of Grace that only comes
as God’s gift, for which we can take no credit.
As an assemblage, then, the subject experiencing the biggest miracle ever begins to repent continually — such is now their lifestyle — they cannot help turning back to God. Their relationships are buoyant, reconciliation occurs through apology and recommitment, because this one person is filled with light. Through this one person, the Holy Spirit begins to have dominion, within them, and also outwardly as others experience their unique divine light. And the glory is God’s alone.
When grace interrupts our lives, others begin to win, as we’re no longer a threat to them, and neither are they anymore a threat to us. When others begin to win, God wins, and that is how our victory is procured and assured.
In this we can know this is the biggest miracle ever: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) When a person grasps the reception of that truth, we see what no human being, corroded by sin, could ever do. God has saved us from a life of death unto a life abundant in life! Then we follow with passion, tenacity and commitment, the only one we were always meant to follow — Jesus.

[1] This quote highlights the gospel reverse-reality available as a ‘spiritual reality of being’ for the Christian:
“Yet those that be against us,
so far are they from thwarting us at all,
that even without their will
they become to us causes of crowns,
and procurers of countless blessings,
in that God’s wisdom turns their plots
unto our salvation and glory.
See how really no one is against us!
— John Chrysostom (349 – 407)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Replacing guilt with compassion

Photo by Rachel Walker on Unsplash

GUILT is a common emotional response in the family context — parents for children, siblings with each other, children for parents, etc.
The core of the issue relates to when we cannot influence or control others and where we feel responsible for them. Correcting both these errors is about accepting the limitedness of our influence, that control ought not to be our goal, and that we cannot ever be responsible for other people — no matter who they or we are.
They have their own will and they will make their own mistakes, and who is to say we’re right in our judgments? Oh, the myriad times we thought, in our data-poverty, we were so right, when we were actually dead wrong!
The tenet of this advice is to come back to what we, ourselves, are responsible for.
We feel guilty on the one hand when we feel responsible for others, when we fail them, yet on the other hand we judge them when they don’t meet our expectations. Neither they nor we can win, and the relationship has the eventual object of losing and loss. Such a dynamic can only propagate negative attributions and emotions, where feelings of betrayal and bitterness abound.
It would be better to free ourselves and the other person/s, acknowledging we’re not responsible for them, nor are they responsible for us.
When finally we’re free of this burden of discharging an impossible or an unlikely duty, we’re enabled to feel compassionate. The taint of guilt is gone, and the love is enhanced.
Healing deep family wounds is about replacing guilt with compassion by understanding what we’re responsible for as opposed to whom we’re responsible to.
Love offers those we love the opportunity to make mistakes with our permission and blessing of compassion.

Replace guilt with compassion so judgment and condemnation can make way for peace.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

8 situations where God speaks to me in unexpected ways

Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash

ENTERING a pedestrian crossing behind a woman, I hear her say, “Hey, thanks for stopping, buddy!” A person had just passed over the crossing and should have given way. For a moment I was as aggrieved as she was. Then God spoke to me.
God spoke to me how He usually speaks to me — in an unanticipated way.
He reminded me of the ways I think and live and judge situations wrongly.
Times when I notice:
1.                 a car not give way to me, I often hear God remind me that I’ve done that several times myself — usually without intending to. And so, His reminder of my hypocritical nature stops that judging thought in its tracks. I have more empathy for the humanness in people operating a motor vehicle.
2.                 another Weinstein-gate story hit the news, as I experience anger toward such men, God highlights my propensity to have my glance drawn toward attractive women. I may not act on my desires, but I do think inappropriate thoughts. Again, in my hypocrisy my Lord speaks. I’m slower to condemn the fallen.
3.                 someone being ridiculously harsh on themselves, a memory flashes before my eyes of my proclivity to do that. Sure, as a pastor I find it ridiculous how self-condemning people often are, yet so too do I struggle with that from time to time.
4.                 a person parading a faith-system different to mine, by way of attempting to convert me, God shows me how I think — ‘don’t they know I’m devoutly Christian — like, how dare they!’ Then, I’m shown how quickly I evangelise when given the opportunity. Is it my right to speak of my faith and not theirs?
5.                 someone doing something I would never do… He helps me remember the truth. Like Peter said he would never deny Jesus, I imagine myself never betraying the Lord; yet I am a Barabbas. And still the Father does not condemn me or them, He only loves us. I’m no better or worse than they are.
6.                 a person make a silly moral error, and not pick it up, God opens my eyes to the situational blindness that hampers many of my moments. He shows me how He speaks, and through the Holy Spirit’s direction, I confess and repent the best I can to make things right again. I begin to have compassion on my brother or sister. I pity them perceiving their fault, yet I know it is good for them to know the truth.
7.                 a troll on social media, and I begin to think how crude and evil the person is, before God shows me how rude my communications have occasionally been. He then shows me again, a fundamental truth, how hurt people hurt people. I can pray especially for the person who cannot see why they should be courteous and respectful. Remember Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
8.                 my wife’s impatience with me ticks me off, and, if I listen in carefully enough, the Holy Spirit shows me my own coarse dealings with her at times. It’s good to know how she might feel through knowing how I feel. God motivates me to be gentler.
It’s hard living the authentic Christian life when truth lands on the runway of our awareness. But that’s the dependable Voice of our faith counselling us through gentle though firm rebuke. We only grow when we listen with humility.