Words That Both Pierce and Heal

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No one speaks words so anointed as this one—
words that both pierce and heal,
words like lilies dripping with myrrh.

(Song of Songs 5:13 TPT)

A woman told me how excited a doctor was when he diagnosed her mother with an extremely rare disease. He was quite proud of himself.

“The problem,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes, “was that he could offer no cure. She died soon after.”

Living under religious laws is like that. Performance-based religious systems are quite good at telling you what you are doing wrong and why, but without empowering grace to change the heart, well, nothing changes. The law is like a doctor who can tell you what you’re dying of, but can’t fix it.

I have learned that truth hurts, especially when I’ve been avoiding it for too long. But I’ve also learned that unlike people who have knowledge without power, the Lover of my soul never puts his finger on a pain in my heart that he doesn’t intend to heal. Like a surgical laser, His words both pierce and heal and the result is always greater freedom.

For if you embrace the truth, it will release more freedom into your lives. – Jesus

 

Keep Pouring Out Your Unfailing Love

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But you, O Lord, your mercy-seat love is limitless,
reaching higher than the highest heavens.
Your great faithfulness is infinite,
stretching over the whole earth.
 
Your righteousness is unmovable,
just like the mighty mountains.
Your judgments are as full of wisdom
as the oceans are full of water.
Your tender care and kindness leave no one forgotten,
not a man nor even a mouse.
 
O God, how extravagant is your cherishing love!
All mankind can find a hiding place
under the shadow of your wings.
 
All may drink of the anointing from the abundance of your house.
All may drink their fill from the delightful springs of Eden.
 
To know you is to experience a flowing fountain,
drinking in your life, springing up to satisfy.
In your light we receive the light of revelation.
 
Lord, keep pouring out your unfailing love
on those who are near you.

(Psalm 36:5-10 TPT)

Where Can I Hide?

 

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Have you heard the expression, “I was so embarrassed I could have crawled into a hole?”

I learned to hide when I was a child. I didn’t play hide-and-go-seek. My game was just called hide. Some kids hide to avoid punishment. I hid to avoid the look of disappointment on adults’ faces. Whether it was true or not, I felt I could never measure up, that I was not good enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough, or talented enough, or hard-working enough.

I hid so well that a science teacher once insisted I was not in his class when my parents went to a meeting to check on my progress. I was in his class. Second row from the window. Fourth seat. I’d been there all year. I was hiding in plain sight. I just knew how not to attract attention. I felt weak in the subjects of math and science. I didn’t want him pointing that out.

Those feelings chased me into adulthood. Periodically, I strived to find recognition, then, accosted by my weaknesses and fearing the look of disappointment again, I vanished into busyness, or study, or books containing stories of other people’s more interesting lives. I stood behind a window where I could see out but no one could see in, because I knew how to stay in the shadows.

One day a little boy arrived on our doorstep. He clutched a plastic garbage bag containing everything he owned. The exhausted social worker who nudged him into the house had “packed” for him. This little boy (I’ll call him Davey) showed me what attempts to hide must look like to God.

After a few weeks of living with us, Davey began to relax and play like the other children. Eventually, like all children do, he pushed the rules. Something broke, something spilled, someone cried – the usual stuff that happens in a house full of kids. When the mini-crisis settled we realized Davey was gone.

We searched, we called. We called loudly, gently, insistently and desperately. We searched places everyone in the house and in the neighbourhood had already searched. The sun was setting and the wind was turning cold. I checked the basement one more time before calling the police and the social worker to report a missing child. In the corner of the utility room, behind the furnace, a corner of plaid shirt moving ever so slightly caught my eye.

“Davey?”

Silence.

“Davey, I know you are there. Come out now.”

The space was so small I couldn’t get close to him.

“Davey, I need you to come out now so I can make sure you are okay.”

Silence. Then a faint whimper.

“Don’t hurt me.”

My heart broke. He didn’t know us well enough to trust that we would not beat him. He stood motionless all day in a hot, dusty, spider-infested corner because he feared our reaction. That’s what experience taught him before he came to our family. Only kindness demonstrated consistently by someone who genuinely cared about him could change his ideas about his value and the existence of a safe place.

I watched another wee young lad learn that shame didn’t need to keep him from his daddy. He loved being outside and he played with the intensity of an athlete developing strengths and pushing the limitations of his body. The problem was that he frequently pushed the limits of how long it would take him to take a break from play and run to the bathroom. One day, as his daddy and I chatted we realized he had also disappeared. I started to panic.

“Don’t worry,” his father said. “ I know where he is.”

I followed him down the hallway to the bedroom.

“Come on out, son,” he said, sticking his head in the closet. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”

When the little boy messed up (and from the smell we knew he had messed up badly this time) he slipped away and hid from the one person who loved him most and the person who was prepared to clean him up, give him new clothes, and send him out for a fresh start. His daddy was dedicated to preparing him to become all he was meant to be. He wasn’t going to give up on him. The child didn’t need to hide.

I realized that fear of disappointing my heavenly father had also marred my relationship to him. I was afraid of him. I was afraid of harsh punishment. I was afraid of abandonment. I hid. I hid from him rather than face possible rejection. I didn’t think he would have grace for me.

How that must have hurt him. I didn’t understand who he really was.

David, the singer/song-writer and soon-to-be king, wrote about realizing that hiding from God was not only useless, it was impossible.

Where could I go from your Spirit?
    Where could I run and hide from your face?

God is not repulsed by our smelly messes. That’s a lie that those who have rejected God out of fear that he will reject them have been feeding us since the first time we understood that we did something wrong. The truth is God comes looking for us.

There is no place we can go to hide from his Spirit. This is absolutely not in a God-is-going-to-get-you-you-miserable-sinner way. This is in a way that understands our weaknesses and offers to clean us up and give us direction and a fresh start. He’s a good, good father.

If you fear responding to God’s call for a closer relationship because you are afraid of disappointing him, or that there is harsh punishment awaiting you, someone has been lying to you. That is not who he is. Jesus came to show us what he is like. He is relentlessly kind and has always planned to adopt you. Your relationship doesn’t depend on creating an illusion of sinless acceptability. He already knows everything about you and your stinky messes and he still loves you! He wants to be close to you.

Take the risk of rejecting the lie. Come out of hiding and let yourself be loved. You are the one he hopes for. He longs to be your good daddy — the perfect father who will never hurt you — because he loves you.

 

Irrelevant

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To be a Christian who is willing to travel with Christ on his downward road requires being willing to detach oneself constantly from any need to be relevant, and to trust ever more deeply the Word of God.

– Henri Nouwen

The scent of autumn leaves reminds me of growing up in the foothills of southern Alberta. Unlike other areas of the country where the fall is a gradual transition from the heat of summer to the cold of winter, the season change on the edge of the Rockies comes with sudden expected, yet unexpected changes. It’s like the weather is playing tennis and constantly challenging the other player to guess which way it’s going to go.

Autumn in the foothills tends to arrive with a thud. On a Tuesday – or a Friday just before a long weekend when the first sleet blows around your head as you are filling up the gas tank for a trip to Grandma’s house. An hour later the world shifts from gold and orange to white and grey as the snow takes aim at your windshield.

There is something about the anticipated suddenness that makes sweet days full of rich colour and warm breezes that smell like tea leaves all the more precious. I always feel a sense of urgency to get outside and breathe in the vibrancy of change in the autumn. Come away. Remember this moment. It may have to hold you for a while.

A common theme in my dreams is a knock on the door and an invitation to come away. Sometimes I’m told to pack my bags and get to the airport. One time I dreamed I was in a cabin near the mountains when I heard the knock on the door. When I opened it I saw a man on horseback. He held the reins to another horse, saddled and waiting for me.

“Come away with me,” he said. “I have something I want to show you.”

It always takes me a while to figure out that the person who beckons me is Jesus. He looks different, but he always feels kind and safe. In this particular dream we rode all day to a high place on the edge of a cliff where we could see for miles and miles. In real life, I was becoming bogged down in the details of dailiness. I needed to come away to see the bigger picture – a grander vista that included a sense of time beyond my own house.

Sometimes, no — usually, in the come-away dreams the timing is sudden and inconvenient. I’m not ready. I don’t want change right now, thank you very much. I’ve settled in. My things are scattered around in places I can’t remember and packing my bags is stressful. I don’t know where I’m going or what I will need.

I’m learning to pack lightly. Last time I was told to leave my books behind. Another time I was told to leave my all-season clothes behind because new clothes would be provided when I arrived at the destination.

“Where is the destination?” I asked.

“You’ll see.”

I had another get-ready-for-a-trip dream recently. I don’t want to go. I’m comfortable here in this place in my life. I’m gathering ideas to write about in my journal. I think they’re relevant. People seem to like them and I receive encouraging feedback.

Today I am packing for a real trip and I don’t know what to take and what to leave behind. The flowers are still blooming in my garden in B.C. but the forecast is for snow in southern Alberta and the mountain passes tomorrow so we are leaving early. The season is changing sooner than I anticipated. I’m scheduled to have surgery for cancer at Foothills hospital on Friday. That means parting with bits of my body that up until now have been quite relevant to me. This trip is more challenging than some. I would much rather ride beside Jesus on a white horse than on a white gurney.

“Come away with me, ” he says. “I have something I want to show you.”

This much I know. He has always been kind. I have always been safe with Jesus, even in some very scary circumstances. I have always (eventually) been grateful for the things I have learned on this life journey. There is still so much to learn about who God is and about who I am and why I am here.

I hear a knock on the door. I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. Maybe a few hours, maybe a few years. I don’t know. All I know is that the voice I love is calling and I must go.

 

Reaping in Joy

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I heard an old man tell the story of when he was a young man. He remembers coming back to his village in Eastern Europe after an army of invaders destroyed property and took sacks of wheat for themselves. They had a few precious hidden sacks left, but not enough to feed themselves and plant a crop for the next year without great hardship.

“We cried over every seed we sowed,” he said. “What if the crop failed? What if the soldiers came back? Would the sacrifice be worth it?”

When this same ethnic group came to Canada they were in the habit of sacrificing their own comfort to invest in the future of their children. They had learned to sow in faith. Sometimes they sowed financially and gave money to care for others when it hurt to do so. Sometimes they stood up for honesty and doing the right thing when it was not to their immediate advantage. Sometimes they chose to plant kindness when they were misunderstood and thrown into the category of enemy by new neighbours who assumed if they spoke the same language as Hitler they must be Nazis. (Meanwhile, in the Old Country Hitler’s troops were killing their former friends and neighbours.)

I don’t know that I could have continued to be kind under such circumstances. Certainly not everyone in that community did, but some pressed on. When elderly friends told me about being harassed as children during the second world war they recalled the advice, “Turn and walk away. They do not yet know who you are. Don’t let them push you into becoming who they think you are.”

This week I have been thinking about the scripture, “They who sow in tears will reap in joy.” I have a new understanding of the verse. The tears are not about weeping over the pain a situation causes. The tears are about the personal struggle to take that tiny bit of love and kindness I have and be willing to bury it in the dirt where it will not be seen or appreciated and may not grow the way I plan. The tears are about denying my “rights,” choosing to not take the easy short-sighted way but rather to have faith that in the long-term God will raise up something greater. A harvest of love. A storehouse filled by righteousness and kindness.

Can I admit that I find it much easier to defend myself with a sharp defensive retort than a  determination to go about quietly doing what I believe God has shown me is right? When I’m judged, and condemned, and tarred with the same brush as “them” on the “them and us” scale I long to be understood by people who have no intention of listening. That’s when I want to harden my heart, give them a name (usually ending with “ist”), and write them out of my life.

Today I hear the wisdom of those who have suffered much worse than a few insults, and who developed character that demonstrated the ability to forgive and to show love. If I know who I am in Christ I will not need the approval of loud people with microphones or Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Don’t let anyone push you into becoming what they accuse you of being. Sow with a view to righteousness. Reap with kindness.

I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
and you will harvest a crop of love.
Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
for now is the time to seek the LORD,
that he may come
and shower righteousness upon you.’

(Hosea 10:12 NLT)