Renaissance of the Heart

I sense something new is happening; something that feels fresh in the midst of great pain, sadness, confusion, heartache, and shattered dreams. I feel an aliveness, and a connectedness to my own heart, to others, and to God. Perhaps this life and freshness I’m experiencing has always been there. Maybe this life and connectedness has been numbed by the inescapable and yet sometimes self-created busyness of life. Or maybe the internal and external pressures in this life have had its own numbing impact. I sense much more though, that slowly the numbness settled in bit by bit as dreams dried up and seemingly vanished as if they were dust in my hand blown away by an unexpected wind. Perhaps these heart desires will not always be deferred; and possibly these dreams will not always remain shattered and may one day be resurrected. 

What is interesting about pain and loss though, is its ability to unravel the threads of our life, and to quickly whisk away the rug from underneath us; while at the same time seemingly able to make us feel more in touch with our own heart, and in touch with the sadness, joy, and love in the faces of those around us. How does one explain this inextricable contradiction; experiencing pain, loss, and sadness, side by side with joy, love, and connectedness. Perhaps this is partly what “being human” means. Nevertheless, these moments, months, and years of pain and loss have created an unexpected renaissance in my own heart where I presently feel closer and more understood by God as a Father.

My prayer is that you experience, even if for a moment, your own renaissance where you feel connected, understood, and grounded in compassion for yourself in the midst of your own experience of pain and suffering.

As his dearly beloved, Father God understands us and the confusion of it all.

And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. ~ Romans 8:17

 

The Confusing Mystery of Love

~ “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30

In our experience of suffering, loss, and pain, where the feelings of confusion, frustration, loneliness, and lostness linger; it is natural to try to gain a sense of normalcy, understanding, and control. It is also natural to want to figure out what is happening, to hide, to escape, and to try to fix ourselves. Often these experiences reveal areas in our lives that need love and healing. We begin to come face to face with our brokenness, insecurity, weaknesses, and fear. In an attempt to alleviate our desperate circumstances many of us turn to seminars, books, conferences, sermons, music, speakers, scripture, and even God in a frantic attempt to find a way through and a way out.

In the last couple of years, I have come to experience my own brokenness, my own sense of lack, and an identity that feels quite fragile. I have searched endlessly for freedom, for breakthrough, and I have worked tirelessly to find the inner healing and wholeness that I believe God has promised. In the confusion, frustration and exasperation; looking for answers and for relief, I have cried out to God, like I am sure many others have as well. Perhaps you find yourself somewhere here as well.

“What are the next steps God?” ……  “Beloved you need my love”
“What conference do I go to God?”  …… “Beloved you need me to love you”
“Where do I find wholeness God?” …… “Beloved it’s about your identity”
“Where do I find my identity God?” …… “Beloved you will find it in my love.

“How do I find you? How do I experience your love?”

“Beloved I want to hang out with you. If you hang out with me you will find all that you need and all that you are looking for. Let me teach you what it uniquely means for you to come hang out with me. Come find and experience the love, acceptance, security, safety, and rest I designed you for. Beloved come hang out with me.”

Often God will guide us to counsellors, mentors, seminars, retreats, and many other impactful experiences to bring the breakthrough and restoration, that we desire and need. However, it is unlikely that God will guide this way at the expense of an intimate relationship with him. He knows our propensity to want a formula, a set of steps, and a set of guidelines rather than fully lean into risky intimacy with him. To be known in relationship risks being rejected and left feeling even more alone. A formula or set of steps allows us to avoid this risk; which is why God’s invitation to intimacy and relationship can feel frustrating and confusing. It means we have to admit that we need love, that we are needy, and that we truly can’t do it on our own. We are opened to experience our weakness, insecurity, and anxiety, which is often unsettling and uncomfortable. Love in relationship asks us to risk and open our vulnerable hearts so that every part of us may actually experience love.

For many of us control of our life, our circumstances, our thoughts, and our feelings has given us a sense of safety, and in many cases has helped us survive. In the desire to fix, control, escape, and just be done with the pain already; God’s invitation to intimacy, love, and relationship with him can be a confusing mystery.

Yet it is my sense that this confusing mystery of love in relationship with Father God is where I will discover my true identity and experience lasting rest, peace, and joy. 

~ “My beloved- come home, come home to me. My son, my daughter bring those places to me, those places within you that need my love. Bring home those hidden places within you, the mistakes, the failures, those thoughts, those feelings, and the shame; bring them home to me. My beloved I know you fight to accept these places are a part of you; I know the places that you either do not like and even wish were not there, and I know how embarrassed, isolated, and lonely you have felt. My son, my daughter- you are my beloved prodigal. Come home and let me embrace you in tenderness and gentleness. I love you. ~

 

 

 

Out of Hiding

It has been a long time since I shared here- and as I write I wonder if I even remember how to write. fromhisheart.ca has been a gift for me to open up and share my ongoing journey of navigating the Father’s heart, and the ongoing story of the Father navigating mine. At times this experience leaves me feeling revealed and intensely vulnerable, especially when the journey ventures into difficult areas.  Since my last post there have been many days as I put my head to the pillow, I feel bruised, battered, and tired by life and the struggle within. Sometimes God has a way of using life to reveal what is hurting, wounded, and broken within, forcing these pieces to rise to the surface that more of us may experience our good Father and faithful companion Jesus.

In this time I have become more aware of my restless striving to change circumstances in life and within. I find it interesting how participating with what God is doing can quickly and quietly change into striving, apart from the Father’s abiding presence. Upon this reflection my heart began to break with compassion for the countless others striving in ministry, in church, and for those who have had to take a break.As I poured out my own heart to God, the song “come home” by Bread and Wine began playing in the back ground- and a picture of the Prodigal Father embracing me his Prodigal Son rose in my mind.

The story of the Prodigal Son written in Luke 15 is often talked about in the context of the rebellious son, who then returns to his Father after a life of sin, to be showered by his Father with unconditional love, kindness, and forgiveness. This has often been my own experience as well. However, in this moment and other moments like it, I realize that my drifting as the Prodigal Son has been subtler.

Perhaps this is true for many people, that our wandering is less rebellious and subtler, in a best attempt to be faithful. Somewhere along the way as we participate with God in following his voice as his beloved son and daughter, we begin to rely more on our own efforts and energy. We again eat from the Tree of Knowledge, rather than the Tree of Life. At times we begin to believe that it is up to us to fulfill God’s promises, to operate in the gifts and passions that God has placed deep within, and to produce our own “Christian” success. We can attempt to prove to ourselves and to others that “I am alright”, and that God is actually up to something. Quickly we begin to sag under the heavy burden of continually showing visible evidence of our “Christian” progress and growth.

Rather than resting in our Father’s promise that he will finish the transformation and healing that he began (Philippians 1:6); sometimes we strive to live by rules and principles found either in the Bible or within our own Christian culture. Even in the freedom of the Holy Spirit and his grace, we can feel a pressure to manufacture our own love, joy, peace, patience etc. When I drift into this place of striving I begin to drift away from my Father’s loving embrace. I hide the places within that feel painful, embarrassing, and shameful; and I hide them from my Father who desires to love and embrace these places as well.

Our Prodigal Father, who is also the Good Shepherd pursuing his precious lost sheep in the parable just before; is calling softly; shouting loudly; and inviting gently…

~ “My beloved- come home, come home to me. My son, my daughter bring those places to me, those places within you that need my love. Bring home those hidden places within you, the mistakes, the failures, those thoughts, those feelings, and the shame; bring them home to me. My beloved I know you fight to accept these places are a part of you; I know the places that you either do not like and even wish were not there, and I know how embarrassed, isolated, and lonely you have felt. My son, my daughter- you are my beloved prodigal. Come home and let me embrace you in tenderness and gentleness. I love you. ~

 

Found by Love

Recently traveling home after work one night, as my iPhone shuffled music in the background, the song “When Love Sees You” by Mac Powell came on. Something deep within me was quickly awakened; a desire to be noticed, known, and loved as I was in that moment as well as in every other moment in my life. As I allowed this song to touch deep places within me, Psalm 139 began to wash over my mind and heart as well. As I continued to make my way home, I just continued to play this song on repeat, and speak Psalm 139 over myself, over my heart, and over my mind, doing my best to allow Father God’s love to soak into every part of me.

In that moment I realized that enjoying the powerful simplicity of scripture, and offering a fresh invitation for others to enjoy scripture, was presently more impactful than any fresh insight I could be given for the week.

These words and my fumbled description of my experience may or may not resonate with you. Still my hope is to offer you a space away where you are able to play this song, or any other song that is special to you, and allow the music to wash over you again and again, while the words from Father God’s heart found in Psalm 139 saturate you. I hope your are reminded that you are his beloved child who is seen, known, wanted, accepted, and loved as you are.

“You have searched me, Lord,

and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you."      
~ Psalm 139:1-18

Finding Rest in Surrender

When life is not flowing smoothly, when dreams and desires have been put on hold, and when life feels like it is fraying at the edges, our natural inclination is to take back control in our mind and in our heart. Many of us try to figure out how to fix the external or internal issues that are plaguing us. In a natural attempt to exit the pain, the struggle, and the uncertainty we look under every rock, look at every angle, read numerous books, attend countless seminars, and talk endlessly to family and friends looking for answers and relief.

Many of our struggles and burdens are painful, heavy, and real. Often we are convinced that we are alone, reaffirming our fear that Father God has left us to figure out life. I have often been in this space, feeling alone, scared, and isolated, not able to put thoughts or words to the fog and despair I am feeling, wondering where my freedom and joy disappeared to.

Thankfully God is faithful, and keeps his promise that he has never left us, and that he will never abandon us. Father God reaffirms his unbreakable bond with each of us individually reminding us we are not alone, we are not orphans, but that we belong to him. Jesus, who has never stopped holding our hand, reminds us of his presence and re-invites us to surrender all that threatens and overwhelms. Even in the midst of feeling overwhelmed, undone, alone, and isolated, complete surrender is often one of the most difficult things to begin.

Usually my beginning place is surrendering to the reality that I don’t even know how to surrender, or what to surrender. I surrender to the reality that I don’t even know if surrender will help my situation. Admittedly at times I have to surrender the reality that I am unsure if my Father is trustworthy and safe. Something cool happens though as we surrender the realness of our lives to God. We are not only released from the burdens that our Father never asked us to carry, we are also reminded afresh that our Father is indeed good, and that Jesus actually cares and has never left us.

In the experience of surrender, we are able to joyfully and painfully admit our weakness and fragility. Sometimes we fall into the terrible illusion of performance and the old law of trying to manufacture our own success, goodness, joy, happiness, niceness, and everything else that we deem “positive” and “spiritual”. Surrender pierces this terrible and burdensome lie, liberating us from the unrelenting restlessness of controlling and fixing our life, and we begin to be reconnected into the freeing reality that it is Jesus who holds our life, our dreams, and our desires. As we surrender to the Father's love, our situations, emotions, thoughts, expectations, worries, fears, insecurities, weaknesses as well as our dreams and desires are held securely in his love; and our restlessness begins to dissolve. Surrender really is the antidote to the restlessness within.

Jesus simply says to all of us who are weary and tired “come and I will give you rest”. In his presence we learn to accept our humanity and ask for our humanity to be kissed by Divinity. What a wonderful, gentle, tender, and compassionate invitation from Jesus, where no impatience or condemnation are hidden within his invitation.

~ “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30

The Journey out of Christmas

Though Christmas and New Years likely seem long past, as regular life has picked up it’s pace; the positive and enjoyable, as well as the difficult experiences from Christmas and New Years still reach into the present moment as the New Year begins, which is why I decided to post this blog now.

The gospels describe a whirlwind of excitement and joy, filled with accounts of angelic visitations to Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah. A spectacular group of angels would also appear to shepherds declaring the wondrous news of the birth of Jesus, whose very name means God with us. Throughout the centuries songs and sermons have been written celebrating the momentous arrival of Jesus, where God entered into our desperate world to rescue us with his love. What I noticed; however, was another side to the story that has often not been given much attention in the midst of the joy and celebration.

Jesus also came in the midst of great pain and loss. The ruler at the time felt threatened by the arrival of Jesus, and he gave orders for the murder of all the young boys in the area, as the gospel of Matthew describes. In the midst of the celebration described in the gospels, there would have also been countless families in immense despair and confusion as they grieved the loss of their sons. Year after year this time would be marked by Joseph, Mary, the shepherds and many others with feelings of joy and thankfulness; and yet there would be countless families who would also mark this time with painful remembrances of loss, grief, and despair, their wounds becoming fresh again.

You see, each of our experiences, whether joyful or painful, is found within the gospel Christmas story. Some may have enjoyed Christmas and New Years surrounded by friends and family. This time for many was likely filled with laughter as new memories were created, and perhaps where past memories were remembered.

However, for others it is the painful side of the Christmas story that is more relatable. Christmas and the holidays was only another reminder of an existing experience of loneliness and disconnection. Maybe this time was a fresh reminder of painful losses, losing a husband, a wife, a sister, a brother, a son, a daughter, a father, a mother, or a friend. Maybe you have lost dreams, a job, or even lost direction and hope. Losses seem to come in so many ways. Maybe the loss is fresh; perhaps the loss grows older and is relived year after year. The holidays have a cruel and harsh ability to bring our eyes back to the great vacuum left by the loss, and the emptiness and barrenness that is left behind.

If you find yourself struggling with the pain, despair, and the ache of loss this year, your story and your experience is truly part of the Christmas story, and therefore your pain, loneliness, disconnection, loss, and grief matter and is important. Your experience, your story, your tears and your despair is close to Father God’s heart, as was the experience of all those who lost their sons that first Christmas night.

~ A cry was heard in Ramah - weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead. ~ Matthew 2:18

Theology of a Good Hug

Years ago if you were to ask family or friends- they would affirm that I did not like to be touched let alone hugged. It wasn’t until my days in bible college that I learned to let people in. Naturally I did not come by this learning eagerly; rather I was forced out of my non-hugging comfort zone. You could ask some of my close friends and they likely would all have a good laugh picturing my awkwardness in being hugged. These same friends likely would also point out that I had to be dragged out of my comfort zone to receive a hug. Who would think that it would take a residence of Christian men in college dorms for me to learn how to hug.

I learned quickly that a hug not only took me out of my physical comfort zone, but also out of my emotional comfort zone. This was not one moment, but several moments over a period of time as my panic and feelings of anxiety and awkwardness dissipated. You see a hug has a way of breaking down physical and emotional barriers allowing love, affection, appreciation, and affirmation to enter into previous unknown and untouched areas in our emotions, experiences, and lives. A timely embrace from someone safe forces us out of isolation, out of the background, and into increased vulnerability where we have to admit, accept, and appreciate that we need others and that there are places that we protect that need love too. A hug breaks down these defenses and allows love in.

There is also some good science behind the benefits of appropriate and safe physical touch, such as hugging. Everyone experiences feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress either briefly or over a longer period of time. These overwhelming and distressing feelings can be brought on by many different external and internal circumstances, which cause our bodies to produce stress chemicals readying us in a crisis. However these same chemicals can also cause long-term damage to our bodies, our heart, and to our brain. Remarkably an embrace such as a hug for as little as 20 seconds, not only reduces the stress chemicals, but also releases healthy bonding chemicals (love) that begin to repair the emotional and physical damage done by longer term stress, fear, depression, and anxiety.  When we feel safe and loved, we are more likely to share the areas of our lives that have been hidden and yet in most need of embrace and love. Who thought a hug could have been the emotional KEY that our creative Father God embedded in our very DNA.

Go ahead and try it out- and not one of those wimpy 5 second pat on the back hugs- that just won’t do! Our good Father literally has wired us to receive love into our most fearful and vulnerable areas. We are created for connection just like in the very good image of our perfect Father.

~ “God said, “It’s not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion.” ~ Genesis 2:18
 ~ God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature.” ~ Genesis 1:27