Sunday, July 23, 2017

Turning Difficulty Into Purpose

DIFFICULTY has no purpose in our lives until it becomes a purpose. Think about it. Difficulty will otherwise cause us to be frustrated and miserable if we don’t agree to be motivated by it.
The test comes when we’re next tempted to lose our cool. Not that turning difficulty into purpose is anything about perfection; it certainly can be about progress.
This is about the gospel power latent in our everyday lives. By latent I mean dormant. It remains latent as long as we go back to our habitual responses of frustration and resentment in response to difficulty. But this latent gospel power is unleashed with spectacular effectiveness when we face our difficulty and make it our purpose; to accept our life, especially the ugly bits.
This is centrally about accepting the lives we’ve been given. It’s about debunking the silent wishes to have another life, or another person’s life.
It’s about making the most of the life we have — making our purpose to live our lives for the quest of our purpose.
The moment we begin to truly accept the life we have, including what perplexes us, we enter chaos with a newfound peace. We no longer need to resolve anything unless we resolve to make situations better because we can.
This is a wisdom we can apply with great effect to any facet of our lives.
As we accept a thing we cannot change, suddenly there is gospel power in our lives to live with the conundrum. And often the next step is God’s healing grace, as the miracle of acceptance falls over us. All for a life that turned its difficulty into its very purpose.


Healing the Soul’s Inherited Wound

LONGING for perfection, we strive and struggle all our lives never understanding why we can’t reconcile a gnawing ache within. It’s a God-shaped hole we’re trying to fill our own way. And it never works. Fortunately, there is a way.
“None of us are the blessed virgin Mary. We, with the best of intentions, are all going to pass on some of our garbage to our children.”
— Richard Rohr
A better way of describing the concept of original sin is to rename it inherited sin.
It was passed down the line. Our fathers and mothers gave it to us unknowingly. We give it to our children. And it’s inevitable. It’s why we shouldn’t resent our fathers and mothers for any reason. It’s also why our children cannot blame us for the damage we inflicted on them, and why we should not feel guilty. We did our best, just as our parents did their best. All wounds are wounds. It’s all about what we do with it; the wound.
Our opportunity is to take our wound and make it a sacred wound, as would be the case if we went through some sort of indigenous initiation.
Healing the inherited wound is so simple it’s profound. But it means understanding something that may take some time accepting. We must forgive. All those who have hurt us. All those who hurt us today. All those who will hurt us. And especially forgiving those who believe we have something yet to do to receive their forgiveness.
Healing the inherited wound is about tackling our demons of bitterness and resentment. It’s about forgiveness. Nothing else matters. Forgiveness transforms our wound making it sacred. And nothing can overcome us when we’ve done that. This is Jesus’ abundant life. Jesus’ joy is ours.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Just When We Thought We Were In the Clear…

5PM on Friday July 18, 2014, I strolled through the door clutching flowers for my wife, and her parents’ demeanour said it all. The moment stood still. As I swung the door open it was as if the air changed. My father-in-law said, “Sarah needs you in the bedroom, Steve.” Immediately I knew something had gone horribly wrong. Seconds before I opened the front door I was mistakenly of the belief that no news was good news. Well, ‘news’ had now been received — the direst news — news you’re never prepared to receive.
You never forget moments like these. They linger, imprinted on the psyche, like the moment, the place, the situation we were in, when and where we all learned about the September 11 attacks.
We were already in worst-case-scenario land, but this diagnosis of our baby of 22-week’s gestation was as bad as it was certain. There was no escaping the reality we were plunged into. Sitting at the end of our bed, in shock, tears salting our cheeks, searching Google, hands shaking typing out searches and scrolling, trying to find out what this Pallister-Killian Syndrome was that our baby had. It was surreal. For the second time in eighteen days our world had been utterly highjacked, and those interceding days, as well as those that were to come, were an emotional and mental roller coaster ride.
We did our research even as we were rocked. We couldn’t just sit and do nothing. We were blessed at that time (within hours) to reach out to the Pallister-Killian Syndrome Foundation of Australia, and had received contact from them less than one day later. Seven days later we met the family of the Foundation’s president face-to-face. They lived in our capital city and only twenty minutes away! They treated us as family from moment one. We were in contact with the global PKS-Kids group and found the support of their community a blessing, too. We were being informed at light-speed. When all the hope you have is information you take it with gratitude! Suddenly there was a care that seemed perfectly at accord with our circumstance — parents who had experienced much of what we were facing.
But those minutes the news of our baby’s diagnosis came in we were shell-shocked. We had thought we were in the clear, which possibly made the news harder, but there isn’t a time when you’re prepared for such news; a diagnosis that renders hopeless the chances of your unborn child’s life being normal even if they were to survive.
What We Learned
Grief leaves its markers throughout the rest of our lives. Life never returns to what it was like nor should it — that is perhaps the greatest loss. What we lost meant too much to leave us unaffected. Important dates, as in this present situation, can become cherished anniversaries that form a healthy identity of oral tradition where God’s faithfulness can be tracked and therefore praised. But I acknowledge that markers can also continue to be incredibly painful.
We also learned something that Dr Rod Wilson recently put into words. That is, anguish is not so much an invitation to hopelessness, but to hopefulness — that pain necessitates the search for hope. Pain challenges where we place our hope. We have never seen anyone fail to restore their lives who kept faithfully searching their way through their grief process. There really is no other option if we wish to be restored to hope. The empowering thing is that we who grieve are at the centre of our own destiny with God who is always there.
Finally, we have learned about the inevitability of loss; that grief sweeps its way through our lives at some point or other. Nobody enjoys it. None are spared of it. All are surprised by the ferocity of it. God’s purpose in it? To call us beyond the source of our hopes and into Him who is hope’s very source.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Precise Reason We May Rejoice In Our Grief

My wifes photo, she calls Last Light


LET’S use a different word than suffering: grief — it’s the effect of loss, and suffering essentially is the condition of grief.
The reason we may rejoice in our grief is this. There is only one real way to come into the experience of God’s Presence. The contemplative moment. When eyes and ears and heart are opened, having been pried open by the circumstances of loss, a moment when with the denial, bargaining, anger and depression there is an openness to believe God is there, that He is good, though we can explain it not, His Presence is made known to us. It’s literally a single moment when God passes by as He did with Moses. It’s the empathy we feel that no human being can explain or replicate, but just is. And, suddenly, there, in the midst of an enigmatic anguish, we sit having encountered what many believers never do, because they’re never taken to, or they commonly resist, such depths.
Anguish facilitates faith through personal crisis, but only when we believe God will meet us in our grief.
God ought to be the answer when there is no answer. And He is.
We rejoice in our grief by the fact that our lives testify to the hope that lives in us despite our pain. We have experienced the risen King and we’ve been blessed by truest conversion in His way, because He works to resurrect us, not saving us from pain, but glorifying Himself in us as we endure it with a hope that we can neither understand nor explain.
The grief we find from such revelation, however, is so few attest to what we’ve experienced. That can cause us to doubt the very miracle that, and the God who, resurrected us.

Take this as confirmation. There are others who have experienced what you have; the joy at peace within you in spite of your pain. Many may misunderstand. We can appreciate their logic. But God defies logic, and it takes faith to believe and receive. Choose Him in your grief and He will choose to come close to you.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

What our Expectations, Boredom, Frustrations and Cravings are Saying About Us

INNER experiences of God are a long way away for the dualistic either/or thinker. Yet we all suffer such a dilemma of being. Continually. Over our entire lifespan. We’re fortunate to get even one glimpse of the kingdom of heaven, because we’re so restricted to the capacities of the mind. Yet if we don’t get there, we have no chance of the Kingdom settling in our hearts. But there is hope. Contemplative prayer is the hope.
Experiences of the raw Presence of God are rare, let’s be honest. And our dualist, competitive thinking, our constructs of cognition that become us, is the chief blocker. Our thoughts are the sum of our preoccupation with the past and our worries/hopes for the future. We don’t know how to be present.
Because being present is very uncomfortable and not very rewarding to stay in.
Our expectations grow amid dreams that will never be our reality. Shocking to read those words. Horrid. Boredom is the space we occupy when we’re not consumed by thought of the past and/or future. Frustrations emerge from many unconscious drives that continue to remain unmet. Cravings never cease, even if we abide in entertaining hope of perfect sanctification. But there is hope. Contemplative prayer is the hope.
What we need to do is recognise the truth. In our thinking we’re far from God’s Presence. Only in the deliberate and definite process of mental letting go is there the ability to admit our dependence on reducing life to expectations, attributions of boredom, falling into frustration, and the guilt-cycle for cravings. These are saying we’re weak mentally, and the only reparation is to engage in contemplation. That is the way to the unbeatable serenity that accepts what it cannot change.
A most productive prayer, therefore, is to pray without thinking, all throughout the day. To simply observe life without judgment, cognisant of God. Prayer at its root is communion with God. Without thought. Simply observing life without judgment, in awe of God.

Friday, July 7, 2017

What I Know But Can Never Explain

FOR me, grief demands expression. And yet I can never fully comprehend nor succinctly communicate its mystery, which is so fitting. Still, there are myriads of caricatures of life made in the image of grief — showcased through articles, books, videos, testimonies, real lives, etc — both rousing and heartbreaking, not to mention countless shards of emotion evoked between which splinter off without recognition or acknowledgement.
Strangely, until now I have never recognised that there is a song that expresses how we experienced the ambiguous loss of losing Nathanael in 2014. The song by Roma Waterman, I Was Carried, communicates remarkably what we felt occurred to us. Not that we weren’t susceptible to the depths, to the stresses of an arduous season, nor the incomprehensibility of the lament we faced continually. I am amazed I never recognised it until now. But its lyrics are powerfully true to our experience of loss with Christ.
We were carried in the arms of a Stronger Man. Somehow in being carried over it all we experienced something majestically real and ultimately eternal even in the brokenness of it all. How can we possibly grasp such things?
God often grants the grieving their evocation of experience, commensurate with their trust; clarity comes with their preparedness to ‘go there’, which is the reward we get for having the pluck to go there. And at the very same time there’s the equal-though-opposite reality: we cannot digest the ugliness of grief. It is insoluble to life. Yet life cannot come without it.
When it comes to empathy for the grieving it’s okay to not know what to say. The courage of a simple acknowledgement to say it means a lot. Everyone ought to know that loss renders us all completely undone, no matter our part in the story. Honesty is power, because courage cuts through inauthenticity.
Grief is something I know a lot about — by experience, observation, and study — but it’s something I’m no closer to explaining. Because it doesn’t need explaining. Another thing I know, however, is that expressing our grief (and what we’re learning) helps. It heals us for the day and the time, knowing that such healing is relevant and palpable only for the moment, such as how faith works. It only works as we work it.
But I’m satisfied. (Too bad if I wasn’t!)
There’s peace in leaving a mystery as it is, whilst feeling free to give expression to it.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Day That Changed the Course of Our Lives

Reflecting in Busselton. Nathanael's First Heaven Day weekend, 2015.

JULY FIRST. Three years ago, today. A harmless enough scan, the results of which would propel a ripple of ambiguous grief through our lives for four months until the gravitas of loss finally broke our world late on October Thirty.
Heading into that ultrasound room held no fear for us. We were there to get pictures to show off with our family and friends. We had no idea what was about to beset us. Clueless.
The teary sheen in the doctor’s eyes together with his frank words made our dire situation all too clear. We left those rooms that day in utter shock, carried, I am sure, by God’s very Spirit.
Sitting at home later that day it dawned on me. No words of consolidation made any difference (except to interrupt the sanctity of despair we could not escape). The intent of family was good. But it made no impact. Shock is numbing. Suspended animation, with no shape of bliss. If only people would sit and say nothing. Allow the awkwardness of the moment its shallow victory. If only. You recognize how hard that is, of course, when you’re the one God has charged to help. But God’s help is always simpler than we think. Still, we sat and then thought of something that needed to be done, and we’d do it. There wasn’t much to say other than attempt to make meaning of disaster — an impossible task. Every loop of thought, within every feeling, lay a conundrum.
But today is special. Not a lot has gone right for us as far as our plans are concerned these past 1096 days. But have we learned some brutally deep lessons! About us, about others, about mystery and compassion, about the truer nature of life, and not least about the faithfulness of our Creator and Redeemer.
Life is not about what goes right or wrong according to our own comfort. Life is about accepting the stark realities we cannot change. It leads us into vistas we’d not otherwise see. Today I can visit the memory of that July First Twenty-Fourteen day and know God was there, saving us, thwarting the enemy who sought to destroy us. Today I can say, we got through. By the grace given us and through the prayers of you, the saints. Today, though much is left unreconciled, I can love my wife and family and friends with a better love than ever.
People have often asked me whether writing about Nathanael helps. You never truly let go of those you lose. We never truly ‘get over’ it. It will never ‘go away’. (Sorry if that makes you feel uncomfortable; me speaking about it.) So, writing memorials of our memories is a sacred way of keeping their memory alive. I no longer see such a thing as writing about our loss as indulgent. There is only beauty to behold.
So, together, your losses and ours. Let’s behold them together.


Monday, March 13, 2017

True Hope Enters Only As False Hope Departs

HUMANITY is utterly dependent on hope. We all derive hope from somewhere. We all place our faith in something. Not all hope is healthy or productive.
It can be difficult to discern whether the hope we hope upon is a hope that will stack up at crunch time. One thing for sure, however, is once hope is gone — I’m talking all hope — a new never more vibrant hope may finally be allowed to make its long-awaited entrance. Requisite with surrender.
This can only be explained as the hope of God — hope that is stripped of every scaffold with which to attach false and failing hopes.
When we lose something uniquely valuable in life it feels we’ve lost everything. But there’s one thing we gain in losing it all. A fresh start. An unadulterated hope. Courage to begin again. To recommence life in a way that God designed us to live from the beginning. To hope in the only Source that can never disappoint.
Some, maybe many, of us will never truly believe in God until we’re desperate enough — when we need to hope, finally we hope with complete abandon.
Hope, when to hope is all we have left, because there is no other hope.
Back’s against the wall stuff. Nothing left to attach vain hopes to. Nothing else works. Only the true hope of Christ does. And it requires the fullest surrender, not to men, but to God’s leading Spirit. Then, and only then, do we realise that His Spirit is real, alive.
Hope, when to hope is all we have left, because there is no other hope. Think about it like this. We only grow beyond the gravitational pull of the forces that hold us in old and sick patterns when we have the courage to get past dated trajectories.
The Blessed Hope in Jesus Christ works. He heals and restores. But only if we let Him.
Hope works when we have no hope left but to hope. Then we find such a hope is the only true hope.
When we need to hope, we hope!
Only as we’re forced to relinquish a long list of false hopes do we then see the one True Hope, which is all we’ll ever need.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Wisdom in the Wind and the Destinations of Leaves

WORK is good for us, even if we don’t enjoy it. It’s one of the purposes of our lives — to enjoy our work. Work teaches us wisdom.
I’ve found God teaching me such a wisdom in the work of sweeping, sucking and blowing leaves. Most times I come back two days later and the leaves have returned. Sometimes it’s two hours, and worse when it’s two minutes. (Perth, Western Australia, is one of the windiest cities in the world.)
Whenever someone tells me that they would prefer work like mine — blowing and sucking leaves — over their more nebulous work, because they’d actually see results for their work, they may well forget how short-lived the results are. Instead of seeing results in my work, many times God has tested me with the futility of it.
But such work is not futile even if it seems so. There is wisdom over the horizon beyond futility.
Whenever we do anything in life that seems futile, we’re simply a step from frustration.
And that’s where purpose is birthed: on the cusp of something like frustration. In frustration we’re only a moment from God — or an eternity away.
The ultimate purpose in frustration is to teach us something: that we have less control over the physics of life than we’d prefer.
Knowing the leaves are coming back need not cause frustration, but awareness of our place in life. This physical life runs according to physical laws.
Frustration is futility. But it is equally an invitation into acceptance of that cannot be changed.
Such is the wisdom of God nurtured within; whenever we agree with incontrovertible reality.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Questions I’ve Found Useful in Unravelling Anxiety

Managing anxiety is a complex topic, and simplistic answers don’t cut it. By asking questions, like those of the following, may give some insight, and could prove a worthy investment of time. I’ve found them of benefit, personally.
1.      Using concrete terms, what does my fear feel like at present?
Naming the sources and components and manifestations of fear is mastery of anxiety. It leads us on a journey for the truth, and such a search can unearth gold.
2.     How is this anxiety actually affecting me? Is it in my mind or is it affecting my body? Or both.
Become mindfully aware of the type of changes anxiety induces means we begin to measure the personal cost. List the differing indicators.
3.     When is this worse? Early in the morning upon waking, during the day, or evening?
Having noticed the patterns in how anxiety hits and shapes mood helps us strategise around how to mitigate vulnerable parts of the day.
4.     What or whom is giving me the perception that I’m being pursued?
Knowing what or whom is making us feel fearful is an important awareness. It could be one or a bunch of things. We only learn if we make a study of these things. Write them down.
5.     Where is the anxiety pointing me? Do I feel I’m sliding deeper or coming out?
Discovering the trajectory of our anxiety helps us track our progress, as well as know when to call for help. There’s no shame in asking for help, and indeed that’s wisdom.
6.     What can I do today to get out of my mind by focusing on something else?
Even if we can only get out of our minds and distracted onto life for a few moments several times a day, we’ve achieved something.
7.     Where is the role for hope in the strategy for living today?
Hope is such an important thing, and when anxiety comes into full effect, hope can seem vanquished. But hope can be resurrected through planning and doing things we’re looking forward to. We have sound hope when have three or four things per week that we’re looking forward to.
These are only a sample set of questions on a topic that could yield a thousand.
Learning about our anxiety cannot make it worse, but it can make coping with it better.
Add your question in the comments.

Learning the Indispensable Lesson of Patience

When I started a particular role, I had no idea how God would use it to fashion the character refinement I need right now, for character refinement is a right now kind of thing.
In one word, patience. It continues to be an indispensable lesson through which God speaks.
Not that I see myself as principally impatient. But there are nuances of patience that are sometimes sadly lacking in me. I’m patient with the people I help, for instance. But I have been very impatient in the case of some interruptions and disruptions.
Here’s a story. Delivering meals to a ninety-five-year-old, I had to walk about 200 metres from my delivery van. I help her get the meals inside and then she asks for a menu. (I hadn’t thought about bringing one with me!) It’s nearly forty degrees Celsius (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and I will need not one more trek, but at least three. As I walked back to the van I began to complain. My heart was turning red. And immediately I knew it. What is worse than complaint? The ugliness of soul that must be borne in that mood. And it was my fault, which enigmatically made me more frustrated.
Isn’t it maddening, debilitating, and ultimately futile, when we kick against the goads of life? Yet, we all tend to rail against God some way or other. In this situation, I was complaining even in the knowledge it was making matters worse. Then, finally, comes the opportunity of resolve: PATIENCE, now. Not in five minutes. NOW.
I’ve had to learn the old-fashioned hard way, over several months, that God has His purpose in interruptions and disruptions, even if I still don’t like it. And no amount of frustration can reconcile that purpose. Frustration only leads to the promulgation of confusion, and that is the path paved with the bricks of becoming overwhelmed. Anger tips into sadness, which can end in tears, and finally the long way around to peace. And if anger doesn’t lead to surrender it follows that we may end up violent. Never good!
Patience is a direct route to peace, because it surrenders what is outside its control.
Patience is taking one’s opportunity to hear God speak into a situation of complaint.
Hear God say, “Ease up, you’re making much more of this than you have a say over.”
Patience is wisdom that borrows insight from hindsight, making it foresight.

Monday, February 20, 2017

May as Well Give Hope a Try

Spiritual deadlock. Then God breaks through. Subtly, though decisively. God seems to say, no-tongue-in-cheek, “You may as well give hope a try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain in hoping forward of the present moment, no matter how daunting the near future may look.”
It was as if He spoke those Words into my spirit implicitly, as if I could discern what He had said through the spiritual transition I had experienced.
I’d had just three hours’ sleep, yet I woke up with a resolve to do what I could each moment. Not much effort required. No need for extraneous, beleaguering thought. But I only realised through the benefit of reflecting in the present and via hindsight. I had presented with a confidence that belied my tiredness. I was service-oriented, able to desire the best result for others I was serving, without effort. It was as if God had revived me from the inside out. And, I had not expected it. A hope returned is a peace regained.
Of course, like many Christians have, I’ve experienced this rising-from-the-ashes-resurrection many times. It proves the hope we hold to is real. It ushers into truthful existence, that, metaphorically speaking, while there are tears in the night, joy returns in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
The fact is, no matter our circumstances, it does us no ultimate good ever to complain incessantly, or to focus on the negatives. Not that we’re judged for staying in the doldrums. We simply remain there, that’s all. But to press forward into the burgeoning reality of our hour, hopefully, is really the only viable choice.
And, it is a choice — to do what can be done. To effuse light rather than perpetuate darkness, even if darkness is all we see and feel.
Pushing past the darkness is but a decision of faith away. But what underpins all this is the movement of God massaged within the nodules of our spirit. We can no more ‘try’ to have hope than we can achieve it in our own strength. So, ‘trying’ is a dichotomy. It will lead us to an oblivion of despair. Yet, giving hope a try is staying positive no matter what is coming.
It is far better to pray, to be still, to take the pressure down, to desire God move, rather than to move out in our own frail wisdom.
God’s revelation is pure in the fact that hope is a light that returns to the mind, as it moves the body freer, healing the heart.
Hope returns inbound of prayer, having richly desired and sought it. As it breaks through as fresh light, it offers itself to us, as we true believers keenly embark.
Evidence of a hope returned: life is no burden. The mind free, the heart unrestrained, a hope returned, is a peace regained.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Finding Hope When Nothing’s Working

Sliding into a depression is ugly. Enduring anxiety can feel an infernal torment. And a double-whammy is overwhelming. Being overwhelmed gives me, at least, the impression that nothing’s working; that everything in life is crashing and burning. Logically it’s not that way at all, but we can get to the point where it feels like this.
There’s always a lot of inner dialogue going on whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed. Although awareness is usually a Godsend, knowing that it’s the noise within my own head, however, doesn’t help me much. In fact, the more conscious I am of it, the more overwhelmed I can feel.
When we can’t get out of our own minds there are a few avenues we can slide down — panic, at one end of the spectrum, for one; despair, at the other end of the spectrum, for another.
Somehow, we need to find hope, because hope opens the door to joy and eventually peace. Hope also encourages us to apply faith. Hope infills panic with calm, and it augments despair with patience.
I’ve found that when my mind is obsessing about overwhelming matters I need healthy diversions of focus. The best of these is connection through sharing vulnerably with caring others. Provided we have these people in our lives, and we utilise them, these connections give us the ability to share honestly and receive the encouragement of reassurance. They balance our negative self-talk with encouraging truths we need to hear.
On a practical level, knowing we need healthy diversions of focus is one thing; achieving same is clearly another thing altogether. It can feel an impossibility to do. If nothing else, if you’re reading these words, please know you have someone (among the many who do) who understands how confounding it is.
It’s encouraging when we know there are others, too, who suffer for having no simple way of negotiating such confused messes.
But this is a real hope:
When we believe in the power of sharing honestly with caring others
we find those people help relieve our burdens.
In addition, when we trust someone
who cares for us with our struggles,
those struggles diminish
and our minds and hearts are helped.
And if we ever feel we’ve overburdened people with our problems, we can try to find a few equally caring people who we can spread the load with.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Journeying Into Springsteen’s Badlands Wisdom

Badlands, you gotta live it every day
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you’ve gotta pay
Keep pushin’ until it’s understood
And these Badlands start treating us good.
(chorus of the song, Badlands, by Bruce Springsteen)
Philosophy peddled as rock music. Listen into the words and melody of this 1978 Springsteen classic and in it is a worldly way to live this life that can be juxtaposed with the biblical way of living this life.
Springsteen has written this song for the common battler. It’s an important song with an ever-poignant title. Whoever lives the life of truth knows that reality makes most of us feel the ways the song talks about.
The only way to enjoy this life is to embrace it,
the Badlands as they are.
So many of us seem won to a dream that seems ever out of our grasp. As if to avoid the Badlands, the life as we know it. Badlands tells us not so much to give up on the dream, the calling, but to stop waiting, to not waste our time waiting. John Lennon said life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans. Making plans incessantly is the easiest way to miss this life. We ought simply to live it.
The nature of life is it seems dog eat dog. Poor men want to be rich, the rich want to be kings, and kings aren’t satisfied until they rule everything. But the gold of life is in the lessons we learn. These are the things we can count as real blessings. They show us the product of our progress, the only real possession.
Faith, hope and love rate this mention — that one day they might elevate him high above these Badlands. The promise of eternity believed and enshrined within. What other hope is worthy of our faith in this oft-difficult life? Other than the snippets of joy that come from the simplest gratitude.
It’s no sin to be glad we’re alive. It’s a blessing. The notion that’s deep inside us all is we need to feel we belong wherever we feel God has set us; this, to be glad to be alive.
We may feel there are still too many looking straight through us — ignoring us. We may see more those who reject us than accept us. These are common problems, though not impossible to overcome.
These Badlands are treating us good if we see their role, which is to teach us about life, specifically, our lives.
This is what I think the song is saying in sum:
This life, if it’s the life of learning,
Satisfies only the seeker,
And in becoming meeker,
Satisfied are we in our yearning.

Friday, February 10, 2017

God Compensates for the Worst by Redeeming for us the Best

The world hates suffering. None of us like it. But it is necessary for the better things to come. But that isn’t a theology many, if anyone, in our day will be comfortable with.
Something happens to us when we suffer. Coming quickly to the end of our own strength, we realise how much we took life for granted when it was easy. Or, without suffering, how pathetically ill-equipped we were to live a good life. When we suffer, our whole internal, personal, private world has imploded and there’s nothing we can do to fix it. Actually, the more dire and untenable the situation, the better.
Suffering is by nature irreconcilable, and no Christian can reach anywhere near their full potential unless they have experienced such a pitiable, back-against-the-wall reality.
Suffering is the greatest enabler of the single-path journey. It leaves us no choice but to travel earnestly in the fear of the Lord. Having no option open to us but faith, suffering compels and propels us forward in knowing faith is the only way, no matter how hard it is. Any compromise into supposedly easier journeys ahead are rejected no matter how easy or appropriate they would seem to be.
By suffering the only way God can help us,
He compensates us by giving us
our purpose and abilities to achieve it.
In suffering, we’re driven past our normal responses of ambivalence into unprecedented territory. Finally, God has us in a position that rivals the great white throne judgment. From there, there’s no choice open to us, because there’s a truth to be told.
Suffering forces us to acknowledge the harsh truth, and live with it in such an unescapable way that we must get better. Suffering wakes us up from our spiritual slumber and makes us cling to God more ardently than ever.
It is from this standpoint that God gives us the dream we’ve long awaited, together with the gifts He’s prepared in advance for us to have.
Through suffering the only way God can help us, He somehow makes up for the pain we endured, giving us a special purpose, and gifts to help us execute that purpose.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Expect Life to be Hard and it gets Easier

The easiest way of making life easier is to redefine what we presently think is hard.
If we think something is hard we won’t enjoy that thing, unless we see the purpose or benefit in doing or enduring the hard thing.
If we expect life to be easy, we’re soon disappointed. Expecting life to be easy is the commonest insanity. But, where we anticipate life to be tough, life is suddenly made much easier because our expectations are right-sized to reality. For life is easy for nobody.
Yet reality is an authentic friend to all
who ply courage and humility; who love truth.
Life is tough, always has been, always will be. But when we accept life is tough, it gets easier.
Surely a purpose of life is to endure hardship better so we’re able to experience more joy. The opportunity we all have is to recalibrate how we perceive difficulty. The more prepared we are for a range of difficulty, the more resilient we will in fact be.
Recalibrating our perception of difficulty has got to be about faith, even for the irreligious.
Faith has this direct benefit. It trusts that enduring hardship makes us stronger, more resilient, mature persons. There’s a payoff for our sacrifice of endurance. When we believe something good compensates us for enduring something hard, our actual experience of life is made easier, because we see the purpose.
We can do anything if we see the purpose and agree it’s worthwhile. And in faith there is purpose in enduring misfortune well… to struggle well.
That’s faith. It trusts that enduring adversity is good, for it knows that there’s no other sane option. And when faith is vindicated, we redeem what goodness and growth would not be ours otherwise.
When immersed in the sea of difficulty we either sink or swim. Because there’s no point in sinking we choose to swim.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Liberation or Captivity

CHOICES. We all have choices. An everyday choice that we all have for our mental health’s sake is whether we choose for liberation or captivity.
By our thinking, we come to be.
By our intentionality, we have our being, whether we allow ourselves to become captive to negative thinking or we choose to debunk what can only see us strewn.
Sustained mental health via the strength of resilience isn’t simply about saying the words, but it’s about thinking the actions out into reality.
We connect good thinking with energy that comes from belief that resists captivity. That compels us to act in faith. Acting in faith is done trusting that results will come, and they do always, eventually.
So, do we choose:
-         The tyranny of the blues or the triumph of life, for it is ours?
-         To give into exhaustion or to execute the wisdom of saying no to unreasonable demands?
-         To worry about the coming days after this one, or to stay in this moment of the coming hour?
-         To question others’ motives and their sedition, or to rearrange our thoughts in giving them the benefit of any doubt, which they very well deserve?
-         To stop making comparisons with others, and to start comparing with Jesus, alone?
-         To break the chains of a self-imposed oppression, or to allow the chains to bind ever tighter?
-         To delay important decisions until such a time we’re mentally composed, or to make choices we could otherwise sorely regret?
-         To spend our time with our loved ones, or to waste time on a pipedream that means we must neglect family?
-         The wondrous curiosity of joy, or the choice to extend sorrow?
By our choices we sink to depths we cannot rise from or we rise from depths we’ll never sink to again.