Waiting For An Answer

As I laid in my bed with the covers pulled closely to my face, my body exhausted, my mind frantic, my thoughts mixed with everything from the daily to-do’s to intense emotions about life’s purpose. I’m not sure why at 12:00am on a work night my mind started to go there, but it did, and I had to deal with it regardless of the late hour. Life lesson # 101: If you don’t allow your mind the time to ‘deal with stuff’, it will make time with or without your permission, and it’s usually unexpected…12:00am happened to be when it needed to voice it’s concerns.

Frustrated and exhausted, I was taunted with negative thoughts around my sense of purpose. My insecurities were heightened and I began to feel sad. I focused on the pitfalls and rejections, the lack of control and ongoing lack of respect. One negative thought turned into another and another and another until my pillow was dampened with tears. My desperate desire to sleep turned into a cry for help. I knew that the lack of sleep heightened my feelings – inadequacy in particular. At the same time, I was fully aware that I didn’t have to soak in negativity. Despite my intense emotions and lack of sleep, I still believed that God could help. I whispered, “God, help me please…” Those few words gave me the courage to mutter my next prayer: “Remind me of my identity and calling and let me sense Your love for me.”

Silence.

My prayer had no reply. I waited with hope in my heart. I focused on the rising and falling of my chest with each breath.

Silence.

After an hour I finally fell asleep with no answer to my prayer.

The alarm rang sooner than I wanted it to and I was forced to return to my routine. That morning I left very little room for my emotions to surface, simply because I had to keep to a schedule which didn’t allow for it. With tired eyes and a humbled spirit I faced the day, and as fate would have it, it quickly turned into ‘one of those mornings’. One issue led into another, and I thought to myself, “If this is a sign of what’s to come, I may be in trouble.”

Annoyed and under-slept, I bent down to put a running shoe on a tiny foot. As I knelt down with the shoe in my hand, little did I know that my prayer was seconds away from being answered. I placed the running shoe on the tiny foot and as I was lacing it up I heard Jesus say to me, “I washed the disciples feet.” God knew exactly what I needed to hear and why. For months I had felt disrespected, looked down upon, dumb and undervalued, but in that moment I was reminded of my identity to serve. Jesus, having the greatest title in the whole Earth, ‘the Son of God’ bent down and washed His disciples feet. Feeling like I had a title but being placed in the least desired position I had carried feelings of disrespect for months. Jesus didn’t have to announce his title to others in order to show that He was important and respected. He knew deep within His being that He is the Son of God. Yet, He was not too important to bend down and wash feet. Jesus is completely sure of who He is and never shies away from His identity. He lived a recklessly bold and humble life.

God’s words to me, “I washed the disciples feet” echoed in my heart as a reminder of who I am and how I am to live.

I am His daughter and I am loved. I may have a title and the least desired position and feel like I spend most of my days tying shoes and zipping zippers, but if Jesus bent down to wash feet then who am I to say that tying shoes is above me. I am not what I do but the attitude in which I do what I do. I am not just ‘a shoe-tyer’, I am a servant. I have not come to be served but to serve.

 

IMG_1732

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God  something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above ever name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”                                    

                                                                                                                            Philippians 2: 5-11

 

Set Free By A Glance

Overwhelmed with stress, I was set free by just one empathetic glance from a friend.

It was one of those days. Chaos was on the rise.  It wasn’t just my small world – it was all around me. With only a quick moment to spare I walked past my co-worker friend in the middle of her own chaos. We exchanged glances and only a few words, but in that moment there was a kind of empathetic understanding and a sense that ‘we’re in this together.’ Life’s load lifts when we are surrounded by those people who, with a glance, can shift our outlook and help us to ‘just breathe.’

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

There are a few magnificent people in my life whose very passing-by generates feelings of peace and love. They don’t even have to open their mouths and say a word. They truly are the peacemakers of this world. They are those people who grab ahold of what is good and positive. They don’t ignore the looming harsh reality of stress and pain but shine bright and bold beams of positivity into it. Where stress and pain dim your sparkle (all that makes you feel alive) they change your outlook and, even if it is just for a moment, refresh your spirit.

I want to be near people who with their entire being choose to listen without judgment and see the good even in chaos.  I also want to be one of those people.  Like the bright twinkling stars in the night sky I want to offer hope from the chaos.

star

“Men and women who have lived wisely and well will shine brilliantly, like the cloudless, star-strewn night skies. And those who put others on the right path to life will glow like stars forever.” Daniel 12:3 MSG

Thank God for people who kick you out of your reality, whether it be negative thoughts or life’s tough stuff.  Here’s to the radiant beams of light in my life.  Keep shining brilliantly!

You’re Not Alone

As I write this, I am alone. I have been alone for a good while. I wake up alone, eat alone and spend my evenings alone. Not to say I don’t make small chat with neighbours and have meaningful conversations with my co-workers…but I am currently without the company of a companion. I still text my friends and of course, my husband, who is away for a few weeks fulfilling a dream of his. Although I am not emotionally alone, I am physically alone without the company of a companion.

It’s alright though! I’m alone. I’m okay…but it seems as though the world prefers pairs. I’m positive that any person without a companion desires a loving partner to wake up to, eat meals with and enjoy all the pleasures life has to offer. Sometimes we find ourselves alone and without a partner for whatever reason – break-up, divorce, death, or we just haven’t found that special someone. It’s okay!

My sister has learned how to embrace and overcome being without someone at different points in her life. I’m happy to say that she’s with a fun-loving Australian and is very content having a committed companion. She recently reminded me that while I was without my husband for Thanksgiving this year, last year at that time she was alone. Her advice, although it was given to only our family, was passionately directed at a larger audience, “Why should I stop my life just because I’m alone? If I want to do something, I’m going to do it!” She’s braved many holidays without a companion, gone to different events alone and has travelled all over the world on her own. While the world prefers pairs, my sister didn’t put her life on hold because she wasn’t ‘paired’. Instead, even with a broken heart that longed for genuine love, she boldly lived life. She’s a fighter in a world ‘paired off’ and sought adventure over being housebound. She sought opportunity and welcomed new friendships, and despite her wounds from past relationships trusted that love would come her way.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted. And saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

I, unlike my sister have only been alone a few times in my life. I have never travelled on my own. I did eat at a sit down restaurant alone. It felt weird but I braved it. When I found myself away from my loved one I wanted to embrace my sister’s determined attitude to do what you want to do even if you’re on your own. So I did! It was a Friday night after a long work week, and I had been invited to a surprise Birthday celebration. The friend that invited me worded the invitation “I know that your husband is on tour but wanted to see if you wanted to come to a little surprise party.” I did! I thought to myself, I have two options: sit at home, do some work and maybe watch a movie, or get dressed up and go to a party. I chose the second option. I purchased a gift, picked out an outfit, put some make-up on and headed over to the party. As I entered the house (alone) I heard these words spoken in a loud voice: “Where’s your husband?” She went on to say that she would never go anywhere on her own. As you can imagine, I’m standing awkwardly in the doorway at a party with a group of people I ‘kinda’ know and feeling like I was ‘no one’ without my husband. A rush of thoughts entered my mind: “Was it alright that I came on my own? Do I not have as much value unless he’s with me?” I know my friend had no intention of hurting my feelings, but it really made for an awkward evening where people needed to asked me, “How are you holding up?”

I’m alone. I’m okay.

When I find myself alone I know that I am not truly alone. God is near. He is that needed comfort that settles all the insecurity that comes from being alone. He is a comfort that embraces me with confidence to brave eating alone at a restaurant, going to a party alone and sitting alone in my house. He is a comfort that allows me to let go of the ‘presentable me.’ I wash off my make-up, put on my PJ’s and throw my hair back in a pony tail and simply let go. He is a comfort that welcomes my words without judgement and truly ‘gets it.’ In a world that prefers pairs I’ve found the finest partner. God is with me always. I am never alone.

FullSizeRender-1

“In fact, God isn’t far away from us. In God we live, move, and exist.” Acts 17:27b-28a

 

Embrace the Silence

The pause between words in a conversation can stir up awkward jitters. We make like we’re okay with the awkward pause with a “hmmm” or a nervous scratch, or worse, make an off-topic comment about something in the room – “That’s a nice lamp!” Prolonged quiet isn’t always welcomed. Whether we’re with others or alone, quiet is often the sound most hard to embrace.

Quiet is usually shared only with a few very privileged individuals. Very few relationships are comfortable without the constant noise of technology or each other’s voices. Not having understood the moment I was quite guilty of interrupting a beautiful, silent interaction with the common “What are you thinking about?,” forgetting that BE-ing together was more needed than conversation. This silent social exchange got me thinking. Is BE-ing with God more needed than continuous chatter? Am I missing out on a deep connection with God by constantly feeling the need to talk?

Jared Brock, author of “A Year of Living Prayerfully” recalls an encounter in Taize, France, “It was a deep silence, broken only occasionally by a sneeze or cough. It was so beautiful to share prolonged silence with hundreds of brothers and sisters. In a world that competes for attention, that always has an agenda to push and a point to prove, it was incredible to share a moment of silence with a large group of people. For a small moment, we weren’t talkers and speakers. We were transformed into listeners and hearers.”

When we are transformed into listeners and hearers our agendas change, our hearts soften, we let go of trying to do everything and fix everything and welcome God’s voice into our souls. “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” (Psalm 37:7a) What if God simply needs us to ‘BE’ in order to for us experience His presence, hear His voice and for Him to ‘act’ in our lives?

I’ve chosen the word ‘BE’ to describe the silent interaction between God and us because BE-ing is an active verb (like all verbs) that requires little to no movement, but requires that we fully engage the moment. This verb/act could quite possibly be more difficult than exercising at the gym for an hour or studying for a test. You’d think that remaining still would be an easy task but it’s far harder than you can imagine. It’s even more difficult to centre your mind and emotions in the moment.

BE-ing takes on the posture of stillness (e.g., sitting, laying, kneeling) in which we allow ourselves to become aware of our breathing, let go of our stresses and welcome God’s presence and voice. During this time we will be inclined to muster up emotions or feel like we need to tug on God’s heart by telling Him all our troubles. BE-ing is the quiet act of welcoming God and trusting that He knows what’s going on in our lives.

In trying to practice the fine art of BE-ing I’ve found that ongoing busyness unintentionally but forcefully pushes pain and unsolved issues to the hidden corners of my soul. It’s only when I sit in solitude with no agenda, those buried emotions rise to the surface and the ultimate test becomes whether or not I’ll allow God to comfort and repair the “worn out me” or quickly find something to keep me busy.

If I can embrace the uncomfortable silence and stillness long enough, my body unclenches and begins to move with the simple life-force rhythm of my breathing. Every exhale feels like I’m shedding layers of relentless pressure “to do.” Weight lifts off one breath at a time, and I sense God vying for my soul. I become aware of my size in comparison to the universe and although I feel small, I know I am deepening my connection with God by simply BE-ing.

In a world that prides itself on busyness, it’s very difficult to not be doing something. We somehow have equated prolonged periods of BE-ing as lazy and unproductive. Productivity doesn’t only look like work and busyness. Although BE-ing may appear unproductive, there’s something incredibly restorative about it. What we may need more than a busy productive day is a productive silence! Let’s rearrange our outlook to value BE-ing just as much as doing. Embrace the silence!

birch

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31       *pic by @strbye

 

Living Prayerfully – http://jaredbrock.com

 

Risk of Insecurity

This has to be the loftiest of topics I’ve tried to tackle. It’s been weeks of reading, pondering, praying and experiencing and I’ve realized that the topic of insecurity has many angles – one too lofty for just one blog post. I felt the need to analyze my own insecurities because, quite frankly, I don’t like feeling insecure. Insecurity feels like isolation and judgement. It holds me prisoner to enjoying life, to believing I have purpose and prevents me from truly feeling comfortable being ‘me’ in social settings.

Being an introvert who also appreciates the company of others, I often find that most people around me seem to be very secure. They confidently spout whatever comes to their minds, and people listen to them. Insecurity seems to reveal itself in one of two ways:  withdrawal or overcompensation. When one feels insecure he or she either withdraws from a social situation completely, or will go out of their way to let everyone know that they are important in some way, shape or form.

I don’t think we begin as insecure people. Rather, external circumstances trigger feelings of inadequacy. Reflecting back on my teen years I can pinpoint a fracture that occurred in the way I saw myself. While standing in a circle with a group of friends talking, I piped up to give my opinion but was quickly shut down by an older guy friend. Being the impressionable teen that I was, my friend’s comment not only cut me out of that conversation but developed in me an insecurity. I started believing that as a girl my opinion didn’t matter – a lie that impacted much of my teen years and early adult life. I feel as though most of us have a story where we at one point authentically felt inner security but some circumstance challenged or replaced that inner security with insecurity.

Being human puts us at risk of insecurity. It starts as a comparison exchange that impacts our thoughts, potentially resulting in a long list of life inhibitors: envy, fear, disbelief in what God says about us or has called us to, or an attitude that says, “I can do it on my own” (lack of trust in God and others), to name a few. Whether it’s a social comparison exchange as one person/group actively places themselves in a position higher than you, or a self-perceived comparison exchange has you feeling inadequate, insecurity inhibits you from being your authentic self.

Your “authentic self” is a broad term. I’m in the process of re-discovering my authentic self (and as long as I’m alive I’ll be in that process). I know that I will never truly feel myself unless I’m connected to my Creator. I’m most secure when I feel loved, as I’m sure that’s true for all of us. I’m reminded that God is love. He is love and He loves us. His love reminds me that I am not a mistake or a blip in human history, but I am chosen.

“From all eternity, long before you were born and became a part of history, you existed in God’s heart. Long before your parents admired you or your friends acknowledged your gifts or your teachers, colleagues, and employers encouraged you, you were already ‘chosen.'” – Henri J. M. Nouwen

The disciple Peter seems like the most sure of himself in the bunch. In the middle of a storm at 3:00 am Jesus terrifies His disciples by walking on water towards their boat. After reassuring them that they needn’t be terrified, the over-confident (possibly more trusting) Peter wants to join Jesus by walking on water and he does…until the world around him looks less secure. As he begins to sink, Jesus immediately reaches out and grabs him (Matthew 14:22-33). Outside circumstances make us doubt who we truly are, our potential and our purpose. Even though we doubt and sometimes respond to our insecurities by withdrawing or over-compensating, Jesus immediately reaches His hand out to us and tells us to have faith in what He says to us and about us.

Instead of allowing external exchanges and inner lies crush your authentic self, grab ahold of your Creator’s hand and allow Him to remind you of your worth.

Being human puts us at the risk of insecurity. Insecurity taunts you with what you don’t have, tempts you to over-power and over-spend, isolates you, crushes your spirit, and it’s the root of evil and destruction in the world. But insecurity also keeps you aware that “it’s not all about you!” There will always be someone more popular, more educated, more successful than you. Being human puts us in a place to find security in the hands of our Creator who truly loves us and doesn’t want us to live in an insecure world of comparing.

St. Lucia

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again.” Jeremiah 31:3

 

 

My Frame Is Frail

Although my frame is fit to the untrained eye, to the friend it’s frail.

Weakened by the weight of life I find solace in silence, sin and splendor.

My being vibrates with the pace of life sending desperate signals out to still the intense motion.

Quickened by stress in the atmosphere, the vibrations intensify, depleting any inner peace.

My frame appears intact but one touch, and it could crumble to dust.

Weakness is a pool of whirling waters where sin and glory convene: one grips me like a rope and rock tethered to my feet, pulling me to the floor of the deep; the other exasperates and jolts my body into flight, reaching for air and a hand to grab.

It elevates my weakness and with a firm grip rescues me, turning my struggle into a cleansing bath of redemption.

The warmth of the hand I hold makes my cold drenched body rise like steam reaching to the heavens.

waterfront

 

Walking To Stand Still

My mornings always start out the same way:  get ready for work, eat breakfast and walk the dog. Each morning I pass by the same children at the bus stop, say hi to the same neighbours also walking their dogs and watch the same cars pull out of their driveways on their way to work. Day after day, month after month and even year after year, I seem to be stuck in the same routine along with my neighbours. Sure, some mornings someone may be running late or working from home or out of town, but most of the time ‘life’ seems to run itself nicely.

As I walk my dog on the same path each day, from time to time I think about this man. I know – that’s quite general. The man I’m referring to happens to live about a 7-hour flight away from me in Paris. I’ve had the opportunity to visit Paris twice now and loved every minute of it. Since I’m creature of habit, for my second visit I stayed at the same hotel as the first time. It was a quaint hotel within walking distance to Sacre-Coeur (a beautiful Cathedral with a view of the city and a lovely spot to sit in the evening with red wine and a baguette). Every morning while on my way out for a full day of sight-seeing, I would walk past ‘the man,’ right outside my hotel sitting on his belongings with a can to collect money. He was a larger gentleman with dark hair and a beard. If I could guess, I would say he was in his late 40’s or early 50’s. From time to time people stopped and chatted with him. One day a young mother with her daughter stopped to talk to him. Although I couldn’t understand the conversation, it appeared to be a casual check in that I found fascinating. The young mother wasn’t afraid and didn’t even come across as judgmental. She simply chatted with him as she would a store clerk or postal worker. Once she received answers to her questions she was quite happy to give ‘the man’ money. I, on the other hand, passed by him each and everyday and never made conversation (partly because my French is grade school quality) or gave him any money. I did give him some extra food one day and he seemed grateful.

Despite having visited a city with so much beauty and history, this man seems to pop in my mind more than the Louvre or the taste of French red wine and baguettes (yes, wine tastes better in France!). I’m intrigued by the thought that while we are worlds apart, we both repeat our personalized routine day in and day out. While I wake up, get ready for work and walk the dog, he wakes up, walks over to the hotel and sets himself up for a day of collecting. I’m sure that if I were to travel to Paris again I’d see ‘the man’ in the same spot he was in five years ago.

I can’t begin to make the connection between my life and his. I may not be begging for money but my soul begs for healing. Like ‘the man’ I also feel stuck in life. I think about ‘the man’ often because I wonder what it would take for him to do something different and if he’ll ever get off the streets. It reminds me that just as much as routine can be safe and calming, it can be equally terrifying. There seems to be ‘something’ that ropes us in and traps us into a vortex where years can go by and we’ve got nothing to show for it. I know life is more than just a bunch of thrills. Christmas can’t be everyday. Date Night isn’t seven days a week – hence the name ‘Date Night.’ Epic vacations or parties surely aren’t a weekly occurrence for most people.

Rarely do we take the risks needed to make changes in our lives. I’m a complete sucker for routine, and when I find something I like or that works for me I stick with it…but my life needs a shake up from time to time. I’m talking about the shake up that pushes you to take healthy risks – risks that shake up the soul, stripping the routine called ‘life’ and generating a new way to approach our existence. I’m not talking about a complete disregard for routine but rather within the routine gain a new approach to our existence. To risk is to think differently, do differently and be a more passionate and fulfilled person.

sacre

Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when we look back everything is different. – C.S. Lewis

So what will it take for my Parisian friend and I to make a change? Truly, we need to experience a severe discontentment with unhealthy routine. Then we can embrace the ‘new’ by regaining trust in the social systems, people and God. We do this by altering our thoughts and seeing ourselves in a new light (not as a beggar or someone with an inability to commit). Finally, we need to commit to a new routine.

Day in and day out a disabled man was carried out to beg in front of the temple gates. On their way to afternoon prayer at the temple, John and Peter spot this man begging. Although money may have seemed like the solution, Peter addresses the root of the man’s poverty and tells him, “I give you Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” With the charge “walk” Peter extends his hand, pulls the man up and the man’s feet and ankles become strong. Walking, jumping and praising God, the once crippled man goes into the temple courts and every eyewitness is filled with wonder and amazement (Acts 3:1-10).

What changed this man’s routine of begging? Healing! God healed him! Routine may be triggered by self-perception, poor health or circumstances, but every so often routine needs to be analyzed, shaken up and God needs to revive us to new health.

I have this weird thought-connection to ‘the man’ in Paris. It’s almost like I have this intel: “I know where you are and what you’re doing. I wish we’d both change our path from time to time. You’d get off the streets and have a job, a home, and loved ones around you, and I’d regain trust in areas of my life where I’ve lost it.”

‘The man’ serves as a reminder to me to ask myself what is healthy routine that serves me well, and what routine in my life is a result of hurt, self-worth or over-comfort. I too want to hear the charge “Walk!” and change my course. And with the helping hands of others be pushed into a place of praise where those around me notice a life drenched in love and purpose.

Caught Off Guard – An Epiphany

Inspiration came to me in the strangest of ways. At the time I had no idea something incredibly insignificant would trigger such a response in me. It was a Friday (the best day of the work-week) and I had a scheduled meeting and needed to arrive early. It was one of those mornings where I was rushing. My mind was racing with what I needed to say during my meeting and the long and ever-rotating To-Do List (2 items get done and 3 more are added on). As I bailed up stairs with three bags balancing between my fingers and shoulders, I noticed this bug. Now, it’s not at all uncommon to see bugs in my building, but I had never seen this type of bug before. It was about an inch long and stood almost as tall from the ground. It had a hard shell and antennae. Nonetheless, I wasn’t about to kill it or classify it – I didn’t have time for that! The poor thing was moving very slow and appeared to be lost. I remember thinking, “Oh boy this little lost bug is going to be trampled in 45 minutes time when the herd of people arrive. Good bye little bug!” and off I went to prepare for my meeting.

The day went on. It was busy and full of ups and, let’s say, ‘stresses!’ At around 2pm I was walking through the herd of people and noticed ‘the bug’ again. I couldn’t believe it was alive. It made its course all the way to the end of the hallway and somehow never got trampled. Its head was facing the wall and it looked like it was desperately trying to find its way home (wherever ‘home’ was?). The way the bug was positioned it appeared as if it was trying to ignore the herd of people and go unnoticed, waiting for just the right moment to turn around and find an escape out of the chaos. Poor thing!

burst

Why did I take notice of a bug that day? First, rarely does a bug go unnoticed. We tend to have the same innate, jerk-response to all bugs: AHHH! Kill it! On this occasion there was no jerk-response, and frankly I have no idea why that little ugly-looking hard-shelled bug grabbed my attention. I know God sometimes speaks in weird and fantastic ways and can use the oddest things to speak to us. For some strange reason I had compassion on this little bug. It was lost and really lacked the ability to scurry like those gross centipedes do to find a quick escape. The poor thing had only travelled 100 feet in about 5 hours. Looking at the bug face-first against the wall I couldn’t help but relate to it: trying to go unnoticed and feeling very vulnerable in a herd of potential bug-crushers.

Is it weird for God to draw my attention to one of His tiny (and somewhat less-preferred) creatures? No, not at all! Jesus told His disciples to look at the birds as they are a reminder that we are valuable and God takes care of us; and to look at the flowers as they are a reminder to not worry about our appearance (Matthew 6:26-28). If Jesus directs His disciples’ attention to birds and flowers, then I’m sure that poor little bug became my object lesson for the day.

But why did I need to notice that little helpless bug? Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Mark 4:9). When we open ourselves up to hearing God speak to us, He will speak. God speaks to us all the time. Sometimes it’s a small quiet voice, so we have to allow ourselves to see the things that go unnoticed. He may use the bright colours of our screens and the flashy messages in media, but sometimes it’s the tiniest things that speak the loudest.

Second, (I know this may sound odd) empathizing with that bug made me reflect on parts of my life – feeling of trapped, looking for my home, trying to get somewhere but unable to, all the while not wanting to get trampled by others.

One little insignificant bug caught my attention in the midst of a very busy Friday and held a mirror up to my face making me realize that I too feel trapped, wandering and unable to find home and simply wanting to be ignored by the ‘bug crushers.’ An epiphany, nothing more! It came with no answers, just a straightforward identification of underlying emotions – a first step to the process. Caution: life is full of many unnecessary attention-grabbers and awfully slim on soul-searching reflection. So look a little closer!

Sometimes God wants us to see beauty, other times he wants us to empathize, and He occasionally wants us to address our current situations and emotions by allowing us to see ourselves in something insignificant like a poor little bug.

bunny

Look closer!

Happiness – a fervent pursuit and fleeting fulfillment

Sometimes we can appear to have it all but lack the one thing we desire the most: happiness. I recently ran into a successful friend who on the exterior seems happy, but within a short few minutes she let me know that she’s actually not happy. How often do we give off the appearance of happiness without having an ounce of it? Happiness cannot be bought or achieved yet it is a result of a purchase or an accomplishment. It is temporary but a necessary pleasure of the human experience. If only happiness could be a constant state of our existence then we would cease to chase it with purchases, achievements or experiences.

After much personal soul searching, I realized there are two types of happiness – the first is fleeting and the second is named ‘true happiness’ that is seemingly disguised as maturity. The first type of happiness is the rush you get during the beginning stage of a romantic relationship. True happiness may be likened to the second year of dating. It is less rousing and is more of a mature admiration of what you have.

The pursuit of happiness is a ceaseless endeavour lasting a lifetime. Although we, from time to time have allowed true happiness to make its appearance in our lives, we tend to spend most of our energy on the pursuit of the first type of happiness – the type of happiness experienced through a purchase, an adventure, a crazy party, a celebration and so on. This type of happiness is a result of all these things, yet it is a momentary emotion, and within time leaves you hungering for more.

True happiness is a conscious choice rooted in gratitude. It’s seeing and experiencing happiness in the less momentous things in life. It’s appreciating a conversation with a friend, enjoying a decadent meal with family, a robin perched outside your window or the overzealous kisses from a dog. It is also the adventure, the crazy party, the celebration and so on. It is the result of embracing both the ‘big event’ and the everyday occurrences. When the party is over and you’re back at home alone, the joy leaves and you long for the next ‘big event’ to give you that ‘happiness high.’

Once we’ve experienced the ‘happiness high’ or as C.S. Lewis says, once you’ve tasted joy you’ll want more. “I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is” (C.S. Lewis in Surprised by Joy). We mistake the thrill of a new purchase or an epic weekend for joy/happiness but as time passes the feeling slips away. Thinking we have control over generating our own happiness is a deception at its finest. Joy is never in our power but always begins with our choice.

In wanting to discover what the Bible has to say about joy, I noticed that Jesus talks about having full and complete joy. This idea of having full and complete joy doesn’t fit with my experience of fleeting moments of happiness. How does one have joy that is full and complete? It obviously isn’t based on emotions since they are conditional on favourable experiences.

Right before Jesus suffers, He talks about joy – complete joy. Jesus tells His disciples that they will see Him no more and yet they will see Him again. That they will experience grief but the grief will turn into a joy that no one can take away. They will have this relationship with Him where they can ask for anything in His name and receive what they’ve asked for and that their joy will be complete (John 16:16-24). Complete joy is rooted in a shared experience of trust and love. The Father loves Jesus, Jesus loves us and we experience complete joy when we remain in His love by obeying the command – “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). Complete joy is found in a relationship that isn’t without grief but requires trust and obedience.

True happiness is a mature acceptance of finding joy and gratitude in all things. It makes its appearance in the temporal events like vacations and celebrations but disappears unless true happiness sweeps in through gratitude. The type of joy that completes us is found in the One who loves us beyond anything we can even fathom. Jesus promises that His love will fill our hungry hearts. Complete joy isn’t perpetual bliss void of discontentment but it is the assurance that you’re loved. So that even in discontentment your heart may be reassured that God’s love isn’t just an overused phrase (God loves you!) but an emotional refuelling of your soul that comes in the form of gratitude and the kindness of others. His love completes us and His complete joy is found in a relationship of trust and obedience.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses

sandmartin

“He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only.” – C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

*pics by author

Awakened By Silence & Song

There’s nothing quite like collective silence. Whether you’re standing at a school Remembrance Day assembly as the Last Post is played on the bugle, or the moments before communion is served at church, there’s something special about collective silence. Silence makes some people feel awkward. At the same time, it has a way of tapping into our vulnerable parts. It’s the means in which the soul speaks, and is heard. Collective silence is usually an intended experience, therefore, is less awkward and intentionally taps into our soul.

I had the opportunity to experience collective silence during a concert of one of my favourite singer-songwriter artists. When we arrived at the venue we were shocked to find out that we would not be sitting in the theatre seats. Instead, we were ushered onto the stage to a table only a few feet away from the very intimate make-shift stage. It was everything I dreamed of – a dimly lit room with a sea of small tables, each with a candle. The small stage faced the audience and their backdrop was the imperial-looking empty theatre seats. The room glowed with crisp white, blue and orange spot lights that illuminated the dancing dry ice high above the stage.

The well-planned atmosphere set the tone for what I was about to experience. Like most fans, when you see your favourite band you feel the excitement more intensely minutes before the band arrives on stage. I was in a happy place – anticipating certain songs and elated that I got to share this experience with my loved one and a room full of fans.

After the opening artist exited the stage and the crowd had a few minutes to stretch, the moment I was waiting for had arrived. There was no grand entrance. He was dressed quite casual and addressed the audience like friends. The first few chords synchronized with the warm whispers of his voice called us in. The crowd’s excitement was not concealed, and after the first few songs the largely generational crowd clapped (which was most appropriate for this artist – it wasn’t a chanting, screaming, moshing type of band). As the evening progressed I became mesmerized by the collective silence. The music generated the silence. It created a sense of awe. To me, it felt like the music danced on my soul. I feel a lot. Usually it’s the emotional response to daily stresses, but not tonight. Tonight the music tapped into the depths of my unattended emotions. His musical stories played in perfect unison by each band member entered my space and danced. The mournful melodies matched with honest lyrics and the strikingly somber bowing of the violinist swayed back and forth on my soul. Those pure emotions of joy and sorrow surfaced and met each other in a dance. Together with strangers, silent and in awe, my soul experienced the dance. I felt connected to the stories not entirely because of firsthand experience but in an empathic manner.

portland

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

In the silence, I wondered if the crowd was experiencing what I was experiencing: the resuscitation of emotions through song. “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). In my emotionally parched world, I experienced a wonderful array of emotions during the concert. Was it a spiritual experience? Yes, without question. God was present in the collective silence, in the stories sung and harmonious melodies of each song. My soul thirsted for connection and an emotional awakening, and I found God.

I love it when musicians are all right when a crowd responds with silence. I know sometimes musicians call for ‘response’ and seem to feel insecure during silence. To me, when music is so inspiring, silence is a golden sign of respect. Collective silence is a powerful means of connecting us with each other and our forgotten emotions.

donovan

 

 

To you Donovan Woods, I say thank you for your accessible and beautifully sorrowful songs that aren’t depressing, but awaken long-lost emotions and make them dance.

Donovan Woods

*photos by author