FULL LIFE – JOY AND SORROW

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Treasured dreams, weathered hearts;

The Spirit’s stream and call to light,

Eyes aglow, hands applaud,

Shades now drawn on frozen sod.

Beneath the snow the seed remains,

Beckoned forth by the sun’s flame.

Feet that stumble,

Hearts now humble Hands held out, a quickened step;

The soil is rich beneath Doubt’s death.

 

Written by Robyn Pollock

In honor to God as she hears His voice

July 9, 2008

P.S. I am not the only writer in the house – not even the best writer in the house. Thank you for this Sweetness! 

Grief with No Regret

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“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

Most of the time when we bear the emotion of mourning or sorrow we don’t automatically experience a sense of blessing – anything but. Mourning is usually associated with some kind of significant loss or pain that leaves us in a place where “normal life” is de-railed for a season or may in fact never be the same again. How can Jesus say we will be blessed or happy when such loss has taken our breath away; when there is a tangible physical, emotional and spiritual emptiness we call a broken heart?

Paradigm shift….

A major construct of the Kingdom of Heaven is that its citizens now have the capacity to look at life in a whole new way. There is a vantage point which allows us to see things unseen; to see our circumstances with a new lens; to see what is painful as a curiously rich blessing. As Tevye once said, “Unheard of … absurd… unthinkable” and yet Jesus insures it to be so. It is part of our inheritance – the promise of God – when I am drowning in sorrow there will come a consolation.

However, there is a common response we must fight when feeling grief – avoidance. None of us would look forward to some major loss in our lives and so we often do whatever it takes to minimize the pain instead of allowing ourselves to walk through it (Psalm 23). In saying that mourning creates a blessing Jesus seems to be telling us that it is okay to embrace the pain because on the other side of it will come peace; peace that comes directly from the hand of God, our Comfortor (John 14; 2 Corinthians 1:3ff; 1 John 2:1ff). 

So what triggers mourning? Most of us would commonly experience this emotion at the death of a loved one – a marriage partner, a child, the slow agony of cancer or some sudden “senseless” catastrophe that throws us into an indescribable state of shock and emotional paralysis. Jesus said that even here – in the “valley of the shadow of death” – He will provide a quieting comfort.

Yet there are other losses we are subject to as we go through this life – broken relationships, physical distance from a loved one, layoffs, the vitality of youth, those times when it seems God is far away…. In all these times of loss and confusion God is mysteriously present and doing a work in our hearts that leads us to a new stillness and peace. Let’s expand this promise further.

In Scripture one of the most common times we see the emotion and “practice” of mourning is in a time of fasting or repentance from sin. This leads us to understand that when we sin and break fellowship with God (and one another) it is “normal” and expected that we would experience a sense of grief and loss. In the “healthy believer” there is a pain that should occur when we sin, telling us that something is not right. Compare that to our physical bodies. Ultimately pain is a gift from God giving us understanding that certain actions are not wise or that a part of our body is need of healing. Without pain we would have a hard time taking care of our bodies or getting the help we need to heal…. So it is with our souls when we do things that are spiritually unhealthy for us. The resulting sensation of pain is a good thing intended to help us go forward in facing the process of healing.

Here’s the problem. We do not see pain as an ally and therefore we do whatever we can to avoid it. We minimize or ignore our sin in an effort to avoid the anguish of reconciliation. We don’t mourn so we never really receive comfort. Instead we turn to all kinds of “comfort foods” to fabricate relief while the tumors of our brokenness are left to invade our whole being. This is especially tragic when we as believers try to take short cuts away from repentance. Somehow we unwittingly tell ourselves, “I am saved by grace; Jesus has finished His work in me so I don’t have to pay attention to the pain I feel or create in another.” Or, “I feel bad but I will mask that pain by signing up for one more committee, go to one more church service, mission trip or “old folks home”. Then I will be painless and comforted….

Who do we think we’re fooling?

Paul makes clear referenceto a “godly sorrow” in 2 Corinthians 7:5-13. For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever. Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. By all this we are encouraged.”

Notice how Paul models for us the facing of pain. He admits to having “no rest” but look how God cared for him in the sending of his good friend Titus. Paul could say with Jesus, “Blessed are the ‘harassed’ for God sees them and will come alongside them.”

Paul also points us to understanding that there is a sorrow that leaves no regret – that will never leave the cancer of sin untreated. Any other attempt to heal ourselves – worldly sorrow – only leads to relapse or a diminished ability to sense pain/hurt. “And the final condition of that person is worse than the first” (Matthew 12:45). It is when we choose not to hide like Adam and Eve or David (or Mark) that we will experience the healing and calm God seeks to provide. Go ahead, let yourself mourn and lament over your inadequacy to live righteously and see if God will not raise you up (James 4:7-10).

So, is there mourning in marriage? Most of you will be nodding your head yes as I ask this question. For most of us it didn’t take long for us to experience broken expectations that we brought into our marriages. On one level this makes sense as the collision of two people coming together as one necessarily forces us to adjust and say goodbye to what we had pictured marriage to be. Usually this is a good thing as many of those hopes were about satisfying some selfish urge within. We soon learned that God loves to use marriage to teach us how to lose our self-preoccupation for the sake of another. We had to say goodbye to some things we thought would be ours in marriage. We had to mourn the old visions to welcome the new and better ones.

But many of us have had to mourn the loss of the good visions and have wakened laying next to someone who has hurt us severely. Instead of a “knight in shining armor” who would be there to protect your honor, he has ridiculed and embarrassed you. Instead of someone who sees your strength, she points to your weakness and her disappointment in you. Instead of being faithful to you and seeing you as beautiful and sexy, he looks elsewhere for a safe yet hidden “love”. You had hoped to do ministry together but she has not grown in faith and still needs “milk not solid food”. You both hoped for a “best friend” but now you just tolerate one another. There is much to mourn over! Some of us lie in a worldly grief scratching and clawing our way from day to day or seem unable to move forward at all. Others of us just get out. Tragically more of us have the same mailing address but live a thousand miles apart. The heartbeat of our marriage is barely traceable.

Jesus!

Really Jesus! If I mourn for my broken marriage You will comfort me? I don’t know. “I believe; help me in my unbelief.” The years of hurt have left me numb, unbelieving that it could ever be different; that she would see me as she did once upon a time; that he would still look at me with passion and tenderness; that together we would look to You in praise and joy. Lord, help me today to bury my old hopes and dreams along with the emptiness I feel at home right now. Let me know the comfort of a new vision that allows me to love her/him as You have loved me. Teach me to fall to my knees and kiss Your feet so as to receive the comfort that leaves no regret. Today I will mourn with you, allowing You to bear this burden I cannot and as I grieve I will believe I am in the perfect place for healing – by Your side. 

“Biblical holin…

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“Biblical holiness and personal transformation depend on how Christ becomes really present in His followers’ lives and how He makes a real difference there, to such an extent that a man who once loathed lepers (Francis of Assisi) would go out of his way to embrace and even kiss one. In such a life, Jesus is a genuine reality, a dynamic force, that goes way beyond belief…. Jesus and Paul spoke of people who are benevolently invaded by and radically available to God…. That’s why every healthy, growing believer should experience God every day – His presence, His power, His wisdom.” Gary Thomas, “The Beautiful Fight”

“I want to know Christ and the power of His rising….” Philippians 3:10

Poor in Spirit – Rich in Marriage

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I have been reading Eric Metaxas’ book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and I must say that Bonhoeffer has become a type of hero to me. I have been intrigued how God took a man of great intelligence, affluence and “worldly opportunity” and transformed him into a man of humility, power and utmost passion to live out the teachings of Scripture; all this in one of the darkest periods of human history. Though far from limiting his attention to the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7), Bonhoeffer was especially captured by the radical life style Jesus calls us to in these passages. Providentially God had recently drawn my attention to the power of this text in a community group I have been leading. All this to say I hope now to consider how this pathway of Scripture could make some pervasive changes in my life and marriage. I want to enter into a season where I consider the implications of these familiar verses and pray that Jesus will take them off the page and into my heart, hands and feet. Will you join me?

“When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:1-3).

As I think of the few pages we call the Sermon on the Mount they cause me to think of the common terms of our recent past – “counter-culture” and “paradigm shift”. Most of what is said here drastically defies the natural grain of my human inclinations.

Anger equals murder (5:21-26)… giving is a secret that draws no attention to the giver (6:2-4)… don’t worry about tomorrow (6:25-34)… one can do many miracles and still not enter the Kingdom of Heaven (7:21-23).

As a result of these “shifts” there is needed a clear surrender to a power not my own. Obedience to these words of Jesus demands that my “self” or “who I am” is fundamentally reshaped so as to look like the One I am to imitate. Can we dare to imagine what our homes would look like if we began to implement a full scale application of this text? What would our communities look like? Our churches? In spite of past failures and ridiculous self-centeredness, I still choose to dream of my relationships being fashioned by these words. Jesus, make it so.

The first shift is Jesus declaring that we are blessed if we are poor in spirit or blessed if we know our absolute dependence on God. Happiness comes when we are humble and willing to place others ahead of ourselves (Philippians 2:3). In this teaching it is not so much the mind that needs to make a shift – it’s the feet. Most of us would agree that humility is a tremendous character quality to have. It is quite another thing to put it into play. As you have heard me say before, I am regularly shocked at how self-preoccupied I can be. It is a daily… hourly battle for me not to slide back down into the mire of Mark. Yet, I have hope because I am at least aware of how desperately I need Jesus and I think this is the key to this teaching. Blessed are those who are familiar with the fact that they bring nothing to the table; they have nothing to bargain with; no resume to qualify them. If one would seek to be “happy” they must begin here.

Now how to apply this “shift” to marriage – where the rubber meets the road? It is here in everyday living where we are best sculpted. The need for the surrender of self and servanthood toward the other is ever before us. It is here where we have our greatest opportunity to submit and practice the impoverished way of life. As I come to God with nothing but my broken heart, will I do the same with Robyn? As Jesus calls me to be last in relation to Him, will I give Robyn every opportunity to see me as her servant – making her first in the “kingdom of our home”?

As Robyn and I were just now discussing this quality she reminded me that it is one thing to write/talk/practice humility when the tensions are minimal and manageable in the home; it’s quite another when there is disagreement or job deadlines and the kids are yelling in the back seat – “He’s looking at me!!!” It is in these moments when the flesh is most likely to rise and dominate. Yet it is here where we must become the most “emptied” of what we want. There are few things that we must stand up for and demand. Most of the differences that occur in marriage – or any relationship are of little consequence. Why do we insist on a “declaration of war” over such petty matters? Why? Because we have not made this fundamental shift to become destitute of spirit. We have too rarely experienced the blessedness of being second.

Do we not understand that when this “beatitude” is in practice we have entered the realm of heaven? Think of how “heavenly” it would be for all of us to practice putting others before us; intentionally looking for ways to honor those closest to us. Oh the blessing we would know and the satisfaction of doing marriage and life just like our Daddy does. We would know the joy of having done what we were made for. It is a promise from God that as we practice poverty we will begin dwelling in the Kingdom and that Kingdom will be ours – “I confer on you a Kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me… (Luke 22:29).

“Oh that God would give me the thing which I long for! That before I go hence and am no more seen, I may see a people wholly devoted to God, crucified to the world, and the world crucified to them. A people truly given up to God in body, soul and substance! How cheerfully would I then say, ‘Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.’” John Wesley

O Lord, what a challenge! But what delight we have known when we have been obedient to this teaching. Cause us to be broken and willing to leave our arrogance at the door. Help us to put a smile on our lovers face as we step aside and open the door for one another. Lord, let me be first – first to give a cup of cold water in your name; first to wash the feet; first to forgive and build bridges; first to give a “soft answer”. All this so that You may truly be foremost in our lives and glorified. Amen

QUOTE (Teresa of Ávila) – Mar. 28

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I am exactly where God has intended me to be. Will I be still there?

A DEVOTED LIFE

Teresa of Ávila

“May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing that you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into our bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and everyone of you.”
~ Teresa of Ávila

In honor of Teresa of Ávila, a Spanish Mystic and Carmelite nun, who was born on this day in 1515.

Resources:
This Day in History 28th March 28
Teresa of Ávila>Quotes

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