A Clear Lens to Look Through

First thing this morning, leaving my driveway to take my son to school, I realized my visibility through my windshield was quite poor.  My windshield had a dewy blanket left on it, and the problem was that my car is, let’s say, less than perfectly clean.  I turned on my windshield wipers, they swiped back and forth only to smear more and more filth across my windshield, causing less visibility, defeating my need and purpose.  Then I pressed the button to spray the washer fluid, only to smear even more and cause even less visibility.  Have you experienced this before?  Or, just me?  🙂

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I’m in a class currently that is challenging me to think about the mindsets that I view my relationships, my ethics, my purpose, and my daily tasks through.  What is my lens?  How is my visibility?  How often do we trudge through our day only viewing the moments we live in with an entitled, selfish, inward focus?  To be honest, I believe that we do more than we realize.  I do, sometimes automatically, and my emotions signal me.. feeling irritable, short fused, or even sorry for myself. Let’s look at a simple, little heart checklist:

  • Am I defensive and immediately annoyed anytime someone disagrees with me, questions my viewpoint, or has criticism for me?
  • Do I gossip?  We all know when we do, and we justify as we do it.
  • Do I dismiss my own weaknesses or sins with little justifications inside, only to look at others with more condemnation?  (I was tired, lonely, sad, had a bad day, not treated right, etc.)
  • Do I have a woe-is-me attitude?  No one else understands me, and no one else tries as hard as me, and no one else appreciates me…
  • Do I expect other people to be interested and enthralled with my pursuits, but don’t show similar interests for theirs?

It’s a start to cleaning our windshield!

There are many more reflective questions that we could add to this list, but intentional heart prodding helps us find a starting point.  Selfishness and an entitled lens leads to losing our clear visibility directing our needs and purpose.  We don’t see others, or ourselves in the light of who God created us to be when we allow only our self-gain to direct our pathways.

So, how did God create us to be?

Quite simply. . . To Love and Glorify Him. To Love Others.

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”

Matthew 22:37-38, ESV. 

Changing our visibility doesn’t just happen with only acknowledgment, it happens when we work on it; accepting responsibility and making changes.

What are some ways we can do this?

Give God each moment of our day.  We are His creation, His children, and the display of His image on this earth.  Choose to reflect His Character.

We must know His character; What He says about us, others. We must continually sink deeper and deeper in the knowledge of His love.  How do we know?  We begin by studying God’s word, and processing it out with others who seek and follow Him.

Be grateful. Notice the mass amounts of blessings and surprises of grace in each day.  The sunrises, smiles, good meals, friendships, and so much more. Not only should we count them, but we should act.  Say thank-you.  Tell God and others about our appreciation.  Cultivate a culture of gratitude in your soul.

Practice otherness.  Tip your waiter or waitress. Be kind and attentive. Fill out the survey form for the store employee who asks you (literally takes 5 minutes, and you know you *have time* to spend that on Facebook) it may give them a raise eventually or needed kudos from their place of employment.  Let someone into your lane.  Volunteer.  Spend time with others.

Be Wholehearted.

Our Creator said that it’s better to give than receive.. He also said that what we do for the least of these, we do for Him.  He knows us! He made us.  When we function this way, it not only benefits others, but it gives our soul true peace.

Check out this article that really is insightful for us! 7 Scientific Benefits of Helping Others

If we don’t check and change our lens for the way we view things, trying to fix things on the surface level will be difficult, tiring, and frustrating.  This can lead to, “Look at all I do for everyone else!”  And, that is not true gratefulness and loving others, right?  That’s just more about ME.  Just smearing the dirt more on my windshield.  Checking the very motives and conditions of my heart and then acting on it, gives it all a good cleaning… giving me the visibility I need.

Hope you find this encouraging, it’s definitely all been working overtime on this old heart, and I wanted to share with you.

(By the way, I plan to wash my car tomorrow for those concerned!)

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let’s communicate for love’s sake

My tongue often reflects my heart.  The Bible tells me that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).  My heart often is self-serving, and my tongue reflects that!  I often write it off, even to myself, with disguises and masks.  Recently, I’ve thought much about difficult conversations that are loving, and why they seem soo difficult to have. We seem to find it way easier with conflicting views to sit far off and throw lashes with our tongues to others who think like us on the topic, or whine and complain to our friends — rather than speaking face to face to HEAR their thoughts and SHARE our thoughts with true love to the one with whom we don’t see eye to eye.  Promoting unity involves honest, real conversations and authentically listening.  Putting my heart out there.  Caring more about true love for all than just “love” of my self.  Selfish-love that worries how I look to others, or critical that the other won’t care about my side of things (and certainly me not caring about their point of view), or worried about how I’ll be perceived…. which actually can’t be love…. cos all that’s fear based. There’s no fear in perfect love.

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Whispering behind backs, blanket statements thrown out there targeted to make someone “hear” me without actually reaching out to them personally, indirect communication and using God to justify “me” and “my” agenda is manipulative… again there’s my fear clinging to a silly control that is really just an illusion, right?

We can’t control others.  And even if we could, would that be love?  I can’t make you hear me, and you can’t make me hear you.  But, true love is the bridge that is only capable of connecting us.  Unifying our hearts.

True love gives a patient ear.  A kind response.  Even if we disagree… love can be kind.

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True love doesn’t brag, protect its ego, or become jealous.  It doesn’t have to win the argument.. it wants to win the trust of the other person.

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True love doesn’t dishonor others.  (Ouch!)  It never shames or disgraces another.

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True love isn’t angered, and it doesn’t make a list of all the wrongs to shake in the face of the other.

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True loves gets excited to share truth!  It doesn’t let things go by that are “not” ok… True love reaches out to restore that which needs a new perspective and breathe new light and hope.  True love confronts when needed, with a beautiful aim to build up.

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True love protects, hopes, keeps going, and trusts God – cos He’s the one actually in control.

True love never fails.  God’s love will never, ever fail us. 

So, you may be like me sometimes, and say… “This is impossible.  You don’t know my situations.  You don’t know how impossible this really is.”

And, you are right.  I don’t know your story, as you don’t know mine.  But, what I do know is that with God… this is possible.  I believe that with all my heart for you and for me.  And, how He shows you will be a miracle designed for you, and it will bring peace to situations that you right now feel like can never be resolved.  The first step is to trust Him.  Trust and obey.  As we know His love, and as we sink deeper and deeper in the vast, overwhelming love of our Father – We know love.  And, as we love others, the love becomes more and more real and known to us.  What a beautiful cycle to be in, right?

Divisiveness destroys, but love restores.  Last time I checked, my God was in the business of restoration.  It’s what He does.  Give it up to Him.  Be brave and kind when you speak up.  Be quiet and still to hear Him.  Reach out and talk to others about conflict and various perspectives.  I can’t know your story, unless you share it. Please be brave, it’s yours, and it’s meant to share. Let’s give each other the opportunity to put one another’s shoes on and walk around a bit.  Unity comes as God fuses us together as one.  One body that represents Him.  His way is vulnerable, honest love and connection… So let’s seek His ways.  Mine don’t always work the best.  😉

Bible References:  I Corinthians 13:4-8; 1 John 4

the fruit — post 6

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“When a person is good from root to branch, he does not need to be told to be good. His goodness grows like fruit on a tree…..” John Piper

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4, (ESV)

Seek the source.  Know the source. Experience the source.

the fruit — post 5

IMG_9529I think we can all relate to a moment in our life when an unexpected or undeserved kindness changed the course of the moment we were facing.  A bad day turned good by the kindness of a generous, smiling face assisting you with the flat tire change, and a big umbrella (when you had forgotten your own) in the rainy night.  A warm hug, a cup of coffee and a shoulder to cry on when you’re sad, and words won’t do. Checking out at the grocery story, children crying ready to leave and THEN you rummage through your purse, short the right amount of change and you see the lovely lady in line behind you present a nickel and a big smile, “I’ve been there before, too, “she reassures you.  Oh, these beautiful daily kindnesses!  How they can shape our days!  And, not simply our days, but our very lives. Not only to receive, but in the act of giving.  I was reading an interesting article by a Dr David Hamilton who suggests five side effects of kindness, 1)Kindness makes us happier, 2) Kindness gives us healthier hearts, 3) Kindness slows ageing, 4) Kindness makes for better relationships, 5) Kindness is contagious.  Life changing stuff, friends.

So, how is kindness defined?  One of my very favorite writers/speakers is Dr Tim Keller, gives us this definition in his expository study of Galatians;

Chrestotes = kindness, which is an ability to serve others practically in a way which makes me vulnerable, which comes from having a deep inner security. Its opposite is envy, which leaves me unable to rejoice in another’s joy. And its fake alternative is manipulative good deeds, doing good for others so I can congratulate myself and feel I am “good enough” for others or for God.

The beauty of this fruit of the spirit, and all the fruits of the spirit the verses in Galatians listed, is that this outflow does not rely on our ability, it is a flow from the spirit of God which resides in us!   Dr Tim Keller, also reminds us; “In normal religion, the motivation for morality is fear-based. In gospel Christianity, the motivation is a dynamic of love…And now, Paul spells out just how we grow in character through this new dynamic. And his headline is: We grow as we battle…To be “led by the Spirit” (v 18) is to change, and be changed, to be the people we want to be. The Spirit-fuelled development of Christ-like character is liberating, because it brings us closer to being the people we were designed to be, the people our Spirit-renewed hearts want us to be…We are saved by faith, not by growing fruit; but we are not saved by fruitless faith. A person saved by faith will be a person in whom the fruit of the Spirit grows…The fruit of the Spirit has internal roots. It is not about traits or characteristics. It is about a change much deeper than that. Think about an apple tree. Do the apples on the tree make it alive? No – if you tied apples onto a dead tree’s branches, that wouldn’t make it alive! The apples don’t give life; they are a sign that the tree is alive. But the life produces the fruit; not the other way around…It is worth looking closely at each aspect of the singular fruit of the Spirit (v 22-23):”

What kindness our Saviour has freely, unexpectedly, and undeservingly shown us!  Just ponder that for a moment, search Him out, talk to Him about where you are right now.  When He appears in our life, everything changes. Stay connected to the source.  Dig your roots deep, deep, deep into His loving kindness.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Titus 3:4-7

the fruit – post 4

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Stay steady, my friend.  One day at a time, one choice at a time, one prayer at a time.

“The opposite of impatience is not a glib, superficial denial of frustration. The opposite of impatience is a deepening, ripening, peaceful willingness either to wait for God where you are in the place of obedience, or to persevere at the pace he allows on the road of obedience—to wait in his place, or to go at his pace.”

John Piper

“For God alone my soul waits in silence;
    from him comes my salvation.
 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”

Psalm 62:1-2

 

 

the fruit — post 3

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This is an excerpt from a sermon by Christian Cheong, from the Kim Tian Christian Church based on John14:25-27. It resonated with this heart, and I hope it does for you too, my friend.

“We all need peace, but what give us peace really?
Is peace just an absence of any trouble or problem?
Is peace just an atmosphere of quietness or serenity?
The world defines it this way. It has to do with the surroundings.
If you are strolling along the path in Botanic Gardens and not downtown Orchard road, you would probably say it’s peaceful.

If peace is the absence of any noise, problem or trouble, then peace is a product of the surrounding.
–Yet when we look at what Jesus said here, this is not what true peace is all about.

WHY DO WE NEED TO PRAY? – because only in Jesus can we find true peace.
If Jesus says, “peace I leave with you…” – it means He is the SOURCE of peace.
If He says, “my peace I give you…” – it means He is the GIVER of peace.
If He says, “I do not give to you as the world gives…” – it means only in Jesus can we find true peace – something that the world do not have.

In order words, it has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with the surrounding or to what is happening in our world today.

• His peace is different from the world, and something you can’t find in the world.
• No wonder Paul says it is a peace that surpasses understanding!

What is the practical implication of all these:
• If you’re worried over some things, anxious or disturb, and you needed peace in your heart – you have to turn to Christ. That’s the only way.
• You may find some sense of comfort by hiding in a quiet, serene place, but you’ll never find true peace. Emotionally you may feel good, but only Christ can give us true comfort and peace.

No wonder Jesus needed to say this – the disciples really need it.
• They were about to face the greatest shock of their lives – Jesus would soon be arrested and crucified.
• Their Master for 3 years will be taken away from them forcefully.
• They would be left on their own, for the first time… without a teacher, a guide, someone whom they have depended upon for 3 years.

The disciples need to know that NOTHING has gone out of control.
• You see, everything will look like a defeat to them. They are defeated.
• Judas managed to betray Jesus, he won. The soldiers arrested Jesus without a fight. The people succeeded in killing Jesus.
• Circumstances tell them it’s a FAILURE.

They need to understand – and we need to understand that today – that nothing has really gone wrong in the eyes of God.
• Everything was in God’s plan. Everything is still in God’s control.

BELIEVE IN THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD

What Jesus says is very true. Only He can give us peace.
• Why – because only God is in control of all things.
• If God can handle this whole universe, He can handle your problems.
• If He cannot, He is no God. Then we’ll have no guarantee of peace.

If we believe that God is Sovereign, then we have nothing to fear.
• Man cannot find peace because he is not in control.
• We cannot control the circumstances, we cannot control the future.

• It would be so nice if we can plan our future and everything works exactly as we have planned it. We love to feel that we’re in control but the truth is we are not, and we’ll never be.

So we need to look to the One who is in control.
• We need to learn to LET GO and LET GOD.”

Emotions, Memes, and Three Treasures of Joy

screemI’m perusing Facebook, when BAM! There it is.  A cleverly worded meme, complete with lovely background image, and 782 previous shares telling us of its validity.  “You choose happiness today! You have no one to blame but yourself! Happiness is a daily choice!” You’ve probably seen them too, maybe even shared them, or created them in a loving attempt to encourage and recreate your journey to help others. But I’d like to share a perspective from my heart, and I hope it speaks to yours.

First, a thought on happiness.  Happiness is an emotion. A feeling. An instinctive God-given gift to us as a result of thinking patterns, hormones, core beliefs, and experiences.

Emotion is defined by Webster’s in this way: /əˈmōSH(ə)n/ “an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate or the like is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.”  

This tells me:

Emotions are real.  

Emotions are necessary.

Emotions are a natural response.

We can work to control our thoughts and help guide our emotions, but we cannot control our emotions themselves. They are a response, like pain receptors in our physical body that tell us when we touch the curling iron, “Watch out! That’s hot! It will burn you!” Our emotions work the same way. Anger, used in a good way, can help us allocate justice when things aren’t fair. Sadness helps us grieve when we’re lost in this tired, difficult world. Happiness helps us celebrate the good, wonderful things in our lives. Like it or not, all of our emotions are gifts that work for us. God gave us this marvelous way to guide us in our soul journeys.FullSizeRender (60)-001

Personally, when I see cleverly worded memes that tell me to “Choose Happy Today,” I’m brought back to some of my
darkest hours. Days that were rugged and broken, when legitimately sad things were happening. Days when, on top of the emotions I was experiencing, I added on shame. Shame that told me I wasn’t a good enough person, or that something was wrong when I couldn’t shake the sad feelings and trade them for the happy. I wore a smile, and tried to ignore the looming sadness. But I needed the sadness. I needed to allow myself to wash and splash some of the pain and loss down my face with cleansing tears. I needed the sadness to help me process the sad things I was experiencing so I could move forward. Through the support of loved ones, and God’s grace-filled guidance, that happened for me during those days.

Maybe today you’re in that place. Life can be such a struggle. Emotions surge high and crash low, and sometimes, if we battle against them instead of leaning into them, they seem to overtake us. And maybe like me, you’ve found yourself overwhelmed in the storm of struggle. As we identify and acknowledge the need to sort through our feelings, we can begin to look at what’s at the core. And yes, vulnerability and being real with oneself can take courage, but the freedom is glorious as we lay bare before our Father, sharing our deepest pains, our greatest fears, and even our happiest moments. We are created to “bear one another’s burdens,” (Galatians 6:2) so please reach out, my friend. You were not made to walk alone. Sometimes this process will show you the need for help from friends, family, counseling, mentoring, loving groups, and maybe medical professionals. Please don’t be ashamed! Support is one thing we all can share with one another. One of the most freeing things ever spoken to me was, “Just take the next right step. That’s all you need to do.”

sunsetcaymanHappiness is an emotion that is so pleasant to have. I mean, who doesn’t like good things felt and experienced? But even on days when I’m feeling the loss, fear, or hurt that some experiences afford, and happiness is far away, precious joy is always there. I’m so grateful that I can trade my shiney, “perfect” mask for vulnerable, honest, real me resting in each step found in my Saviour’s care.  Not me choosing to be happy…. Joy finding me.  Joy that helps me see these emotions as gifts, and offer them up to God to discover how I can grow as I acknowledge His design in emotions for me.  

Three special ways that joy has impacted me through my journeys:

1) Joy has given me tranquility.

A contentedness that sings to my soul, “All is well.” Storms come and go, that is assured, but His love is always with me. Where He has me today, I can be assured His grace is with me. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phillipians 4:11-13)

The waves can’t drown me, for He is holding me.  Even when I can’t feel it, He is there.

2) Joy has given me freedom from guilt and shame.

I fail, and I grow weak. Physically, emotionally, and mentally I can’t be all things at all times, and I have loads of limitations. And that’s ok.  Because, “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

Praise God, I don’t rely on me; my hope is in Him.

3) Joy has given me deep, deep delight, and pleasure indescribable.

The more I see His love for me, the more I rest in Him, and the more I experience His love in the most secret places of my heart, the more deeply I delight in every moment I have to know Him.  The darkest days are easier to face as I feel the close presence of my Saviour.  “And though you have not seen him, you love him, and though you do not see him now, but believe in him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

I can’t explain it all, but my heart knows well His Love.steppingstones

Friend, you are on my heart today.  Don’t let the weight of those cleverly worded memes, or your own fears keep you from reaching out and working through your experiences today.  Emotions are a gift, and a signal that attention is needed. Find the precious joy of steadfast tranquility, freedom from guilt, and deep, powerful pleasure as you embrace this journey.

 

All you have to do in this moment is take the next right step.  

If you are reading this, and need help right now, or have had thoughts of complete hopelessness, please reach out. Call a loved one, or one of the confidential contacts listed below. You are loved, and there are many who want to share your burdens, just as many of us have had our burdens shared.

To Write Love on Her Arms

https://twloha.com/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1 (800) 273-8255

National Child Abuse Hotline

1 (800) 442-4453

National Domestic Abuse Hotline

1 (800)799-7233

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network

1 (800)656-HOPE