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!

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“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.

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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.

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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.

God Is Enough or So We Say?

During an insightful conversation about relationships I caught myself whispering the possibly overused words, “God is enough.” The main topic of the conversation was the idea that we all have ‘holes’ (a.k.a. brokenness) and we can’t expect someone else to fix us. How can one broken person fix another broken person? Two halves do make a whole, but two ‘whole’ people make for a healthier relationship. I couldn’t help but comment, “…well faith can help fill the holes.” And to that my friend said, “…but even that isn’t enough.” Wait! I’ve been told that, “God is enough! He is all you need!” How is faith not enough?

When you think about it the words “God is enough!” seems to imply that we don’t need anything or anyone else to fulfill our desires and fix our pain. In my opinion, this is an isolating way to approach fulfillment and healing.

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Dare I say that if you’re human, you bear the scars of life. We all carry hurt, unfulfilled dreams and fear caused by the choices we’ve made, as well as non-choices made on our behalf. Our ‘holes’ or brokenness propel us into one of two directions. First, brokenness invades our self-worth causing us to make poor choices in our relationships and prevents us from believing we can accomplish our dreams. Second, brokenness makes us aware of our fragile need for repair.

We may know people or be that broken person who either is or has been in unhealthy relationships. If God is enough, he can heal our brokenness alone. Right? This seems to be true with a story of the Samaritan woman with five ex-husbands and a current partner. I’ll be the first to make the assumption that anyone with five ex-husbands has a bad track record with men and I’m certain she’d be nursing wounds (John 4).

The day the Samaritan woman met Jesus at Jacob’s well she got more than just water. In and out of relationships, the Samaritan woman lacked wholeness. However, the day she encountered Jesus, who was well aware of her brokenness and knew her every need before she made mention of it, gave her the gift of ‘living water’ welling up to eternal life. To me, this story seems to confirm that ‘God is enough’ to heal brokenness…but I’m still feeling challenged by friend’s comment that “even faith isn’t enough.”

God in His nature is three-in-one (God, Jesus & the Holy Spirit). He does nothing in isolation but consistently in partnership. Our very nature is the reflection of partnership – “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:26).

Formed from dust and given life through God’s own breath, Adam becomes God’s partner to help work and care for the Earth. You’d think that if ‘God is enough’ than there would be no need for anyone else to be apart of Adam’s life. With God, Adam had all that he needed…or so it seemed. If God were enough for Adam than why did God say, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). Let’s not forget Adam wasn’t alone at the time when God said this. Adam had every living creature on Earth to keep Him company and not to mention God Himself. Yet God points out the fact that, he is alone. So instead of using the ‘dust and breath method’ to create a suitable partner for Adam, God causes Adam to fall into a deep sleep and then takes one of his ribs to form Eve. “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23). A simple surgery couldn’t replace nor repair Adam’s missing rib instead that ‘missing part’ takes on a different form – a partner named Eve.

If God were enough then Adam would have been fit to be alone. This was not the case. God saw that it was necessary for him to have a partner. Honestly, this would lead us to believe that God is not enough and we need human relationships to have a sense of wholeness and belonging. Although I’m still uncertain of drawing the conclusion that ‘God is not enough’ because it sounds incredibly contrary to everything I’ve been taught.

Whenever I hear the words ‘God is enough’ what I really hear is you shouldn’t rely on friendships, family or romantic relationships; forget relying on pastors, fellow Christians or anyone else for that matter. Not a single person in this world can fill your holes or repair your brokenness, no one but God. This is an isolating way to approach wholeness. God does nothing alone yet we are expected to rely on God alone to repair us and make us whole. Personally, I think it’s a dual effort of us relying on God in addition to relying on each other.

You see Adam had God and needed human relationships. The Samaritan woman had human relationships but didn’t know God personally. If love is what we need, than God is love and He is all we need…yet His love alone is not what makes us complete. Loving one another completes God’s love in us (1 John 4). Within the statement ‘God is enough’ we find the triune God at the centre of our fulfillment and the overflow or connecting point that closes the gap is human relationships.

The possibly overused words ‘God is enough’ doesn’t imply that we shouldn’t rely on human relationships. It implies that God will satisfy our deepest hunger and thirst in life and will overflow our lives with relationships where we will see His reflection and where His love is completing us (John 6:35).

 

 

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!

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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.

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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

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“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

God’s Voice Sometimes Sounds Like A Trusted Friend

After a few messages back and forth Steph and I arranged a quite spontaneous but perfectly orchestrated evening. We began our evening with dinner at a community food program at a local church. The region puts on the dinner while the church lends its gym for the event. A group of volunteers prepare and serve the food. We sat at table #1 which I was told is always called last. I guess they must go by the verse ‘the first shall be last.’ Steph and her mom are regular guests at the program and are very familiar with both the volunteers and guests. When I arrived I was greeted with smiles and generous portions of casserole, caesar salad, veggies and even a slice of pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Although I didn’t have much of a chance to chat with Steph during the meal, I discovered that I had more connection to the guests at my table than I thought.

After our meal we said our goodbyes to our tablemates and volunteers and headed off to chat, just the two of us. The coffee shop we planned on going to was closed for renovations, so we decided to go for a long walk instead. As we headed towards the walking path behind her complex, Steph pointed at a car pulling out of the parking lot with people she believed to be drug dealers. It makes her unhappy and she’s uncertain about how to interact with them (which is completely unlike her very friendly personality). Steph is like a ray of sunshine that warms even the coldest person, cracking the ice to call forth a smile.

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“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” Isaiah 55:1a

As we start our walk under a beautifully lit sky, Steph, with intense emotions, answers the question, “Do you hear God’s voice, and if so, what does it sound like?” She tears up as she explains that God is her everything. He is someone that she talks to all the time. When she was 15 years old God would speak to her during worship services by giving her pictures in her imagination. She would see pictures of Jesus and her sitting on a cliff or riding a Vespa. She said it was God’s way of telling her that together they would go on adventures. To me it’s this magnificent reminder that God loves us like a friend. He finds joy simply by being with us, whether it’s sitting side by side or going places together. God uses our imagination to speak to us.

Steph’s friendship with God and these vivid pictures contribute to her honest dialogue with Him. She doesn’t shy away from her emotions and from time to time will ask God, “Why am I so angry today?” Knowing that God will reply, she’ll wait for an image in her mind. Sometimes the root of her anger is from a past experience. She will then ask God for wisdom and will receive a sense of resolve. I know what’s it’s like to wake up angry, but unlike Steph I may not address the emotion by asking God what’s causing my anger and for help to resolve it.

As we reached the end of the path and turned around to walk back home, Steph began to dive deeper into ‘God being her everything’ – the statement that triggered much emotion at the beginning of our walk. You see, at dinner before we entered the gym to get our meal we were given a name tag. Steph didn’t need to tell the volunteer her name, as she was a repeat guest. Steph has that warm, friendly personality that makes anybody and everybody feel welcomed and special. Although her name tag read “Steph”, she admits that ‘poverty’ was a word that defined her for many years – something she wore as a label. She didn’t go into much detail about her upbringing other than she is 1 of 8 children and often did not have the money and resources needed for everyday life. Not only did her family lack the resources, she also struggled with the poverty mindset. For her, money was strength. Without it she felt powerless.

God, on the other hand, used money to strengthen her faith and test her obedience. Having a passion and natural ability for acting Steph spent four years and $25000 to become a professionally trained actress. She pursued acting but with the need to pay off student loans she had to move back into her complex with her mom. During this time she felt called to attend a ministry school in California. She lacked the financial means to attend the school but within two weeks she had $5000 given to her by friends and was able to go. She was living on about $20 a week for groceries and during a church service God asked her to give it all away. To her, money meant power (not to mention food) and without it she would be powerless. After many tears and wrestling with God, a close friend helped her obey God’s voice and Steph gave her only $20 away. Moments later God blessed her with $1000. She shared what God had done and more people received financial blessings. Money is power but there are two types of investments: one fattens you up and makes you selfish, and the other strengths your faith and builds God’s kingdom. “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17). This investment was the latter.

During the year Steph spent at ministry school God’s voice was heard in a stronger tone. She said, “The more you hear God’s voice and act on it in faith the clearer and more consistent it becomes.” I asked her a tough question: “Now that your working a 9 to 5 job, does God still speak to you in these extreme ways?” To this she replied, “God still speaks but sometimes it looks different for different seasons. God says ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘wait’.” Today, God says to her, “Wait!” Steph still has dreams to act and to be married, but a lot of her life looks different than what she’d thought it would.

mushroom

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”         Matthew 6:26

God speaks to Steph. His voice is heard in the flowers and skyline during a rough day and felt through the tenderness of a close confidant. To Steph, God is her everything!

I have to admit I could have written so much more about our conversation. I was incredibly humbled and personally challenged by Steph’s unashamed willingness to talk to God like a friend and to give everything she had when all she had was enough for a week’s worth of food. I’m reminded that God doesn’t see our frustrations or questions as nuisances but wants us to draw near through honest dialogue.

*pics by Steph

Awakened By Silence & Song

via Daily Prompt: Chaotic

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

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