Are we there yet?…

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“Those who think that they have arrived have lost their way”. Henri Nouwen. 

Many people think that because of their spiritual conversion they have arrived. They assume they have the right answers and they are living on the right side of the tracks. 

When did we get it in our heads that we have arrived. What made us think that way or gave us that outlook on life especially when dealing with others. When did we become “know it alls”, when in reality we know nothing in comparison to who Jesus really is. 

Do we really know his heart and understand his mind, yet still live the way we do. What a misrepresentation? I often wonder how much we grieve His heart by our “know it all” attitudes when in reality we missed it and our own understanding blinds us from seeing clearly. 

1 Corn 13 says: For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 

Even our earthly minds in the spirit on this side of eternity can’t fully contain or understand the greatness of God. Some things we just have to wait to comprehend when we are face to face to get that clear vision of God. But His example is always Love in the here and now. 

I love this chapter because it should humble us. It says I can speak with tongues, I can have the gift of prophecy and understand all the mysteries and all the knowledge, I can have faith that move mountains and I can give all that I have to the poor but if I don’t have LOVE, I have NOTHING. 

I have done nothing and accomplished nothing. I have not arrived, I have missed the mark, I am on the wrong side of the tracks, if I CAN’T SIMPLY LOVE in its full capacity. 

So even though we have done all these things and we think we have arrived and we can’t love we have actually lost our way. 

The greatest of these is LOVE, We have work to do within ourselves.

The Mirror of God..

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We all have a soul. Every person that breaths has a soul but we are not the same. Our souls are at different stages of being transformed and at different rates, but our souls are constantly being formed. This takes practice and opportunity. 

God enters our lives and there is soul transformation. When the Spirit of God works and moves and sometimes we are in awe of the things we do. As God moves and works we are not the person we used to be. 

But there is conscious work on our part for this to take place. We must be living a life followed by the example of Christ. 

How did Jesus walk the earth? What were his characteristics? Are we displaying them in our “transforming lives”? 

Reflective thoughts: 

In becoming more Christlike can others say:

1). “I always feel loved when I’m around them” 

2). “I never doubt they love me”. 

Christ never changed towards people depending on his circumstances, whether they were good, bad or indifferent. His character stayed the same. 

This made me think of my soul and what’s inside and am I treating others in general the same, with love. As Christians in order to be growing, changing, transforming in our souls, we need to be practicing spiritual development to be formed in Christ. 

Question of the day:

What’s in your soul? What would a more loving you look like?

Our lives should reflect Christ in every area. Not only to family, friends, and loved ones but also to the homeless, the poor, the unruly neighbor, the ones that don’t look like us, the stranger at the store, the bothersome coworker and to all. 

Christ didn’t specify or restrict His love, He died for all.

Learning to create boundaries…

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As a parent, we always want what’s best for our children. Regardless of how good, reckless or indifferent they are, we long to see them all prosper, do well and have the best. 

A couple weeks ago when my daughter returned home (leaving her relationship), I was happy, somewhat relieved and hope that it was for good.

But we can have all the hopes and goals for someone, they must want it for themselves in order to achieve it. 

As I watched her for a couple weeks, I was turmoiled, (and I know she’s dealing with a lot mentally, emotionally and physically) I saw patterns and behaviors that wasn’t healthy and needed addressing. As I procrastinated (because somehow in my mind if I faced her behavior, I didn’t want to pressure and send her back to the dysfunctional relationship) but, it was creating tension in the rest of the household.

I prayed, I worried, I prayed, I procrastinated, I prayed some more. Then after waiting for God to speak in the appropriate moment, my husband and I had the crucial conversation. It bought such peace to me. 

Yes, sadly she decided to return to the broken relationship. Not sure what did it whether it was our rules and expectations, the starting over, the hardship, who knows… 

Although we loved her unconditionally and it breaks our hearts, we couldn’t allow her patterns to bring such upheaval to our home. We are here to help as much as we can but also where its healthy. 

What God was showing me in all this…. 

1. I cannot fix the things He can: if I have truly surrendered her to him, no matter how long it takes and how much it hurt, I have to let him do the work with and within her and remove myself completely.

2. I need to face, handle and deal wit things head on: don’t fester on things that hinder me, things that disrupt my healthy head space, even if it’s putting the things and people I love dearly, in check.

3. Don’t procrastinate: don’t wait to do what’s right, don’t wait when I get the promptings and procrastinate out of fear. God will always have my back, move in faith. Peace follows. 

4. I need boundaries: for me to walk healthy in mind, body and soul I need to create boundaries in my life in general. Knowing when to say yes and no is essential to me staying focus on His will for my life. Boundaries are important to my well being. 

5. Stay United: stay in unity especially with my spouse, if we are to run this race and run it well and move forward, we must be one. A house divided cannot Stand. 

So, she will be returning and it breaks my heart. But, I will be praying, and waiting on the Lord to grab hold of her heart, to draw her to Him, to hold her in His everlasting arms and show her that only His Love is unconditional and that He is all she needs. 

“Trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths”.

Listen to Yourself..

“There are two extremes to avoid: being completely absorbed in your own pain and being distracted by so many things that you stay far from the wound you want to heal” Henri Nouwen (The Inner Voice).

One factor that makes the voice of the soul so difficult to hear is that its cries come out sideways: through our emotions, our choices, our thoughts, our relationships, and even our bodies. One of the most helpful ways to become aware of these sideways symptoms is to ask ourselves: when our soul has been neglected, what tends to emerge? How do you think, feel, act or relate?

Symptoms of soul neglect: self-absorption, shame, apathy, toxic anger, physical fatigue, isolation, stronger temptation to sin, drivenness, feelings of desperation, panic, insecurity, callousness, a judgemental attitude, cynicism and a lack of desire for God. 

Taken from “Discovering Soul Care” Mindy Caliguire

Reflection: As I read this I started to do an inventory of my life for the past couple of months to present. I started reflecting on family deaths during covid, family, marriage, work, people and all the specific moments that I felt hiccups in my thoughts and my behaviour. Yes!!! One of my symptoms of soul neglect is my thoughts… boy can they run wild when not in check or fully aligned towards the presence of God. 

Although I felt other symptoms I think my thoughts played a significant part in developing my “sideways emotions” like anger, feelings of desperation, feeling alone, etc. Not to say that those feelings were wrong or not accurate to what was happening in my life but my reflections are: How did I get here? How did I handle the situation?  What was the outcome? Was my feelings even appropriate to the situation? Would I have handled it differently if I took my eyes off the problem for a moment or if I was fully in tune and connected with God would I have responded differently?

Sometimes we do ignore the soul thinking we can separate it from the mind and body yet function in our everyday lives and not have an eruption of some kind. We need to realize when we are running near empty, when our soul is in the danger zone. We can never drive a car on empty, we fill up when we see the indicators go on because we know it will do harm to the vehicle and cost us more in the long run. 

Our souls are the same when we aren’t connected with God. When we allow ourselves to run low, when we step away, and when we avoid, the outcome is soul-damaging. We not only need to stay connected but we need to be present before God (in mind, body and soul), we need to be still (quiet enough to listen in solitude), we need to be aware of what our souls are crying out for and we need to be attentive to the voice of God as He speaks to us to get back on track to a healthy place to restore our mind, body and soul. 

My soul needs silence and solitude, to sit in His presence and let Him do the talking and restoring. 

What has your soul been crying for lately? Do you know?

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Be the open you

Models of Life (The Authentic “Hero”)

We can receive great encouragement from the way others live their lives. This is particularly so when we see them giving expression to values to which we aspire. 

Nouwen states: We need to model those we would not readily classify as heroes …. laying down your life means making your own faith and doubt, hope and despair, joy and sadness, courage and fear available to others as ways of getting in touch with the Lord of Life.

The model promotes the vulnerable leader. It elevates authenticity above power and influence.

My Reflection: Over the course of my life I’ve had a few people in my life that I seemed to admire or idolized as models. Whether it was their courage I saw, their boldness, achievements, prosperity, charisma, or education, that list can go on and on. But were they really vulnerable with me? Did I only see the strong side of them? Were they authentic when it came down to the realness of life… They won’t.

This made me think of how eager we are for a hero, a guide in our lives and how dangerous it is when we focus only on the efficiency and accomplishments of others. What image are we taking away and how do we build a life of our own only on the strong characteristics of others and not the broken side. How do we live out that perfection? What have we learned? 

When I first came to my church, I heard my pastor use the word “vulnerability” alot. And he lived it out from the pulpit. He shares his life and his brokenness. In Spite of all the perfect models I’ve had in the course of my life, I listened and envied him. You see, I wished I had that open space to just be me in all my faults and failures. To put myself out there unashamedly, with all my brokenness and feel ok because I am whole in Christ and not have to live in the “bubble of perfection”. We often learn “don’t show the brokenness”.

Slowly he challenged me to get there….I’ve come a long way and still going. I even wondered why in the first place did I even idolize those individuals, why were they my models? 

Being vulnerable is scary. But the freedom in being you, the freedom in letting go of your past, the freedom in not being ashamed, letting go the guilt, the judgement and the self condemnation and walking embodied in the love of Christ is priceless! I’ve learned that to be me I must be vulnerable. I must be open with my life to be any kind of light or hope for others, open for Christ to fill me and use me. To come out the box that the enemy had me so nicely wrapped in, thinking I had to be perfect to come out. We don’t have to be!!

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Standing in the battle

So I took a walk this morning just for some quiet time with God and as I opened up my devotion it was titled “My Own Needs”, “Facing our lack of freedom”. As I sit looking over the lake, I find it’s so funny how in the midst of what we’re going through God always speaks to us through something or someone. Just yesterday I was telling a friend “I wish I can escape with everything that’s going on in the world”. 

My daughter recently moved back home with a baby. My house already has three teenagers that will be doing school remotely, my husband’s office is shutting down permanently because of Covid,everybody is at home, full house.!! 

Where do I escape… in the midst of every need around me it became my concern to fix everyone or take care of everyone else’s needs while neglecting my own needs.  I’m so good at putting my feelings in a box or on hold to cater to everyone. 

“Is this going to be the time when you give me insight into the chains that bind me and the courage to throw them off”. Nouwen.

The devotion stated: “it is easy to be so involved with the needs and concerns of others that we have no time or resources to face our own needs. In fact helping others can sometimes be a way of avoiding having to face the struggles within, these are strong words. But they are appropriate. For we are less free than we are prepared to admit. We are often still bound by  false values of our upbringing: by the hurts and rejections experienced in our past; by our own compulsions and false guilt; by the unrealistic expectation of others or ourselves, and by the unresolved issues in our lives or in our relationships.

That was on point…. God still speaks!!

My Reflection: John ch. 8:32 says, then I will know the truth and the truth shall set me free. And I thought What is that truth and how does it apply to me?  Is it the truth about myself? The truth about my family? The truth about external factors that surround me? The truth that I am not actually free and what that looks like for me? What holds me bound and the truth to face it? Do I need time and space to process? Do I need time to pull myself away from my current situation to reflect and go to God in prayer? To have the courage to take on all the things set before me. Do I need to re-adjust myself to fully embrace the truth of God, the truth in his word, the truth that He has set me free, that freedom is fully living in Christ, spending time with Him, so that He can direct my path, so that He can show me the way. God can be that escape, He can be that reservoir that river of life when I feel so drained. 

What truth do I need to embrace today? The truth in His word and the truth around me.  

I need courage to get in the game to stand boldly and fight,  peace for the outcome-whatever that looks like, and the armor of God to stand firm against every power and principality that seems to be rising up against me.  

Standing on the promises of God…

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Let the will of God be your life….

No Return: Giving oneself to God

“When you leave the world to give yourself to God, there is no return.” Nouwen

Questions to ponder…

Can we only give ourselves to God by leaving the world? Or, conversely, do we only give ourselves to God by immersing ourselves in the concerns of the world? Or can we do both at the same time: immerse ourselves in the issues of our time and yet be sufficiently detached that we do not seek worldly power? 

What does it mean to give ourselves to God? Is it the same as giving ourselves to the service of the church? Or can it also mean a secular vocation? Is it a life of prayer? Or life of obedience? 

Do we really give ourselves to God? Or are we also self-seeking? Or self-serving? What does it mean that  “having given ourselves to God there is no return”? Are we bound to our commitment? Will God not let us off the hook? 

Reflections

As I read James 4:4 it said “what causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  I self checked my heart and the things that I want, the things that I see others have and desire, and the feelings that stir in me when I want the same things. Is it unrealistic to want them or have them at that point in time in my life and present circumstance? Is there envy and jealousy accompanying those thoughts?

Why are we so unsatisfied? What brings us contentment at the place we are right now? At this point in time, what are my motives regarding the things that I want or the things that I want to do?  Is it to satisfy the way I feel, to please people, or simply to say yes I have done or achieved that.  

What fuels those desires?  Scripture says to “submit yourselves to God”.  That statement may seem so hard and unattainable when our desires rage to be satisfied. Scripture says “God opposes the proud”, we must resist the devil and his temptations, to wash our hands and purify our hearts and not to be double-minded. 

So often our aspirations can be self-serving. We must scrutinize ourselves that we are not slandering one another to get there, judging others to be self seeking and that we are  not stepping on each other to be self-serving.

Scripture reminds us that we do not even know what would happen tomorrow. It tells us, our life is “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” and that we should say “if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that”. This means my own wants, desires, goals and needs, must be before God. That my thoughts, my will, my aspirations, all that my mind possess should be intertwined with the will of God for my life and not be self-seeking and self-serving.

What’s inside your heart?….and so the journey begins…,

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I choose to walk in freedom!

Boy do I feel like God is speaking to me through my devotions these days as I’m in my battlefield….

Devotion snippets: But there is nothing wrong with being put in a box, and with not being able to acknowledge that we are developing different priorities or concerns or admit that our resources have run dry…. Maybe I was slowly becoming a prisoner of other people’s expectations instead of  man liberated by divine promises….. We need to guard the gift of individual freedom so that we can continue to grow beyond the expectations of others.

What the word says…????  (Gal ch.5)

For it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…You are running a good race, who cut in you from obeying the truth?…  You, my brothers and sisters, you are called to be free…..Love your neighbor as you love yourself….Live by what the Spirit says…. Since we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit. 

  How does it apply to my life…????? 

Do not be burdened by my circumstances nor the things of this world. I am not a slave to my situation or things happening around me. A reminder that if I am running the race alongside Christ, all things will work out as long as I stay connected in listening to the voice and the prompting of the Holy Spirit and not the voice of confusion. 

Stand firm!! we are fighting the good fight, we are fighting a battle that requires us to be fully present mentally and physically in order to win the race. 

Listen when the Holy Spirit prompts and compels you to act.

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It’s for the long haul..

I felt so overwhelmed for the past couple of days and I have been feeling overwhelmed and heavy with everything that’s going on in the world with the violence, with racism as a person of color, and with just things in my personal life. And yesterday I stopped in the middle of the day and I took a walk because my mind felt so bombarded by all the challenges I see before me. 

This morning, as I opened my devotion the topic was: “New Energies”- Finding endurance for the long journey’. I am thankful that God still speaks and His ways.

 I am always eager for change and I get very despondent when there is no change. I long to see things strive towards the better and when that does not happen it tends to physically, emotionally and mentally drain me out. “Finding an endurance for the long journey”

One thing that stuck out to me said, “only change based on careful reflection should you allow us to new places”. To me, this simply meant in spite of how I feel all the emotions and thoughts that’s raging through my mind, with everything in me wanting the capability to change situations as I see them is that I need to sit down, ponder and carefully reflection the now, the present, to step away from my inner self, to step outside the box and look inside the box with the lens of God before I am so eager to move into a new direction hastily. 

Matthew 16 spoke to me:

 1).The Pharisees and the Sadducees demanded a sign so they questioned and tested Jesus. A lot of times we demand a sign. It’s the not knowing the outcome that influences our attitudes and behaviour in our situations and our behaviour and attitude towards God. In the moment we forget that God is the alpha and Omega, we forget that He knows and sees the outcome of it all, and that he works all things out for those who love Him. We forget to seek first His kingdom and we try to fix things in our own human strength. God doesn’t need my help. 

2). Jesus said to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and the sadducees: watch out for the things that are brooding and rising up around me, that can move my focus and attention away from Him. Stay the course. 

3). You of little faith: have faith that God will see me through that long journey. God’s is around for the long haul. Jesus is all that I need when He is all that I have. 

4). We must suffer many things but suffer well! Yes it will be painful, yes there will be tears, yes the waves will come but rejoice He is alive and He still moves stones.

God will triumph…

I Just read this:
The urgency of injustice could not be greater than when it is experienced every day. Until our hearts allow this ordinary daily reality to enter our lives with some degree of the same empathic force it would if the injustice were against us or against those we most love, then the chances of a more just world become very dim.

As I think about this, with a heavy heart I wonder where did we go wrong? Why do we keep going down the wrong road? In light of all the deaths, hurt and pain as a nation we just experienced by Covid, aren’t we not moved to unity, compassion, togetherness? What will it take?

I am convinced that a man’s heart is desperately wicked and without Jesus there is absolute no hope for mankind. As Henri Nouwen says we are nuclear man, prone for self destruction and to everything among as well.

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