How do we dignify the pain?

I commend to you today this excellent message with the same title as this post. It was given by my good friend Livie Sanchez (pictured here with husband Tony) at church this morning. Of course, if you are a complementarian you should listen to it in private :)

Healing Friends

I sense that this will be a rough post to write. It is a followup to a post that I wrote in February titled Wholeness. In that post I wrote about some people at church and their reaction to my wife Ann being in a wheelchair.. I spoke about how some folks.. even though they are well meaning.. come across as condescending and a bit annoying when they obsessed about my wife being healed.

Well recently, when Ann was in the hospital for an extended 38 day stay, I began to experience a new kind of phenomenon.. many people came to me extolling the Lakeland Revival telling me that Ann should watch it and maybe God would heal her over the TV or Internet.. no joke.. it is what some told me. For those of you who aren't familiar with this revival you may want to check out Lee Grady's article on it.. my friend Jason also wrote about his experiences in Lakeland. This post however is not about Lakeland but about how people have reacted to it.. and in specific how I am internally processing their reactions.

I want to say first and foremost that I unequivocally believe that God heals today and that my wife and I pray daily for her healing.. and for some reason (I am not always this way) I believe that Ann will rise up out of that chair and walk without assistance.

That said, I have to say that I have grown so tired of people giving me advice that costs them nothing.. it has become more than an annoyance. It is like someone coming up to an overweight person and telling them of a great Christian weight-loss program.. or speaking to someone who is really hurting and giving them a bunch of Christian cliches about overcoming trials.. it is insensitive and annoying.. it comes across to me like this passage in the book of James:
If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
Yet, on the other hand, lately I have been thinking about this encouraging passage of scripture:

One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, He said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you." The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts? "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins have been forgiven you,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? "But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,"--He said to the paralytic--"I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home." Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God. They were all struck with astonishment and began glorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen remarkable things today." (Luke 5:17-26)
I love this passage.. it speaks of the love that these men had for their friend.. their faith moved them to act.. their love caused them to overcome obstacles.. they got their friend to Jesus in a very unique and personal way.. and it says that Jesus saw their faith.

We have a few friends such as these.. friends that will be there for Ann (and for me) with more than charismatic ramblings and advice.. and we feel blessed because we do.. even if we do have to contend with the ramblings of a few others. Growl :)

Being True to Your Heart

Today's post comes to you compliments of Kim Allen, of While Kim does not use the bible to make her points, I find many of her ideas consistent with living a life consistent with God's spirit Who lives inside of us. I hope that you enjoy it.

Without thinking about it, point to yourself. You probably didn't point to your head. Rather, you pointed to the center of your chest, the area around your heart.

And the reason most of us do is evident in the way the word heart is used in just about every culture and language around the world: Follow your heart; speak from your heart; in your heart you know. All metaphors for the authentic you!

Being true to your heart is the formula for living the life you want. You're fulfilled, content and at peace. You feel care, appreciation, love, joy, compassion, kindness—heart-felt emotions that not only feel good, but are good for you, too. Is it any wonder we all live for the moments our hearts come alive?

A good first step is to sort through all the should's, could's, and would’s that can get in the way of hearing what your heart wants you to know:
  • What matters most to you?
  • What's important to you in your professional and personal life?
  • What motivates you to do what you do?
Setting intention to live more from your heart is the equation for adding meaning to life, rejuvenating spirit and creating a sense of well-being.

How can you live more consistently from your heart? Listen and let your heart be your guide.

Awesome Creation

"Man has made many machines, complex and cunning, but which of them indeed rivals the workings of his heart?" -Pablo Casals

This quote came across my eDesk this morning and got me to reflecting, with awe, about God's creation. Whether you embrace theistic evolution or merely accept the idea that God formed Adam out of the dust, you have to agree that we are wonderfully made.. humanity is an amazing creation. When I think about the functioning of our hearts and brains.. I am simply in awe of it all. It reminds me of this passage:

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
Made in God's image.. no wonder our hearts are without rival!

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I am moved every time I hear this song.. to think about folks that are lonely.. folks that are really hurting.. folks that have lost their way.. folks just like me that need a friend.. dear Jesus pour out your grace in us and through us.. help us to befriend someone who is lonely today.

The Grace of Wrath

In her excellent (and brief) Christianity Today article, titled The Grace of Wrath, Carolyn Arends paints a picture of wrath being an expression of God's love. Here are a few excerpts from it:

When Evan Almighty hit theaters last summer, some evangelicals worried that elements of the movie were sacrilegious. One of their particular objections got me thinking.

In the film, God (played by Morgan Freeman) claims that people miss the point of the story of Noah's Ark because they think it's about God's anger, when really it's a "love story." Some Christians saw that statement as an offensive distortion of the Genesis account of God's wrath. Their protest left me pondering what I suspect is a fundamentally important question: Is there any story about God that isn't a love story?
God is love, BUT God hates sin. How does one hold those two realities in tension? I unconsciously developed a theology that intermittently had God the Son and God the Father in a good cop, bad cop routine, with the Holy Spirit stepping in as a sympathetic parole officer.
My understanding began to change when I read Baxter Kruger's depiction of God's wrath as his love in action his emphatic "No!" to anything that leads to our destruction. That perspective flipped a switch for my husband and me. If our daughter stepped into oncoming traffic, she might perceive our reaction (screaming "No!" and yanking her out of harm's way) to be harsh and unloving. But in reality it would be an expression of our fiercest and purest love. Is that how it is with God?

What if God's wrath is not a caveat, qualification, or even a counterpoint to his love, but an expression of it? What if God grieves sin less because it offends his sensibilities, and more because he hates the way it distorts our perceptions and separates us from him?
There are some pretty hard bits in Scripture. It is difficult to frame, say, the saga of Sodom and Gomorrah as a love story. But if we truly believe that God not only loves, but is love, we must believe there is no action he can take that is not animated by love.
God is love, SO God hates sin. We are loved with a holy love that cries "No!" again and again to the things that destroy us. We are part of an epic love story, and what we all need desperately is to know the Author better.

Read the two page article here.

Friend of My Wounded Heart

I was listening to Wayne Watson's Friend of a Wounded Heart on my Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir CD the other day. As I listened I thought about how relevant the words were to me. So here are the words with my reflections interspersed:

Smile, make them think you're happy
Lie, and say that things are fine.
And hide that empty longing that you feel
Don't ever show it, just keep your heart concealed.

Once upon a time in my life I lived like this. I hid my deep-seated pain and disappointment with God and with life. The devastation of my first wife's death drove me into hiding.

Why are the days so lonely?
I wonder where, where can a heart go free?
And who will dry the tears that no one sees?
There must be someone to share your silent dreams.

The journey out of my pain was a road filled with quiet desperation and tears. It was very difficult to share my pain with friends - I hated it when I lost it in front of them.

Caught like a leaf in the wind
Looking for a friend, where can you turn?
Whisper the words of a prayer
And you'll find Him there, arms open wide, love in His eyes.

Somewhere along the journey prayer and worship helped me process the pain rather than supress it. I began to understand that I need to walk through my pain rather than circle around it.

Jesus, He meets you where you are.
Oh, Jesus, He heals your secret scars
All the love you're longing for is Jesus
The friend of a wounded heart.

Secret scars - wow, that is so descriptive of that season in my life when I hid my pain and put up a hypocritical brave front. I was hurting so much but didn't want anyone to know.. I was so afraid of my pain.

Joy, comes like the the morning
Hope, deepens as you grow
and peace, beyond the reaches of your soul,
Comes blowing through you, for love has made you whole.

A deepening hope has taken, and is taking, residence in my inner man. I am realizng that experiencing joy involves becoming content with where I am, with my trials, and with unanswered prayer.. His love is making me whole.

Once like a leaf in the wind
Looking for a friend, where could you turn?
You spoke the words of a prayer
And you found Him there, arms open wide, love in His eyes.

These words are impossible to understand if you have not experienced the majesty of His acceptance and forgiveness. If your heart is wounded today try whispering the words of a prayer.. maybe you will find the friend of your wounded heart.