‘Perfect’ Writing – Pen in Hand

Franciscan priest,  Father Richard Rohr said that ‘the demand for the perfect is the greatest enemy of the good.’ He believes that ‘we grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right.’ I am getting old and humble enough to agree with this perspective. Don’t get me wrong there is still much in me that rises up and wants to do things perfectly and try to prevent failure, at least failure as I define it to be. Father Rohr goes on to say, ‘ By denying their pain, avoiding the necessary falling, many have kept themselves from their own spiritual depths-and therefore have been kept from their own spiritual heights.’ OUCH!

So Father, it is ok to fail!? It seems this concept is unheard of in our culture of giving praise where it is not due, awards where they are not earned, passing grades when a failure has occurred and overall a building up of brokenness without solid ground underneath. I am all about encouraging others to be successful or know that they matter but empty praise seems to exacerbate what is missing inside of people. John 12:43 says,’ for they loved human praise more than praise from God.’ I think this search for perfection in everything we do has taken our sight away from the One who made us and has created huge expectations in people to be perfect and in turn to make us feel the same way.

As I started  with pen in hand this is not the direction that I initially imagined my writing would go today. Isn’t this often the way it goes and it is a good analogy for how God wants to work through our failures. I had an idea and God spun it in a different direction, for what reason I don’t know and maybe I never will but I just give Him the glory that anything comes out at all. I know that I have missed out on many spiritual depths and heights by trying to write perfectly and then not writing anything. My fears of failure and just as much of success have kept me stuck in the mire of what ifs and should have beens. The ever elusive perfection taunts me with non-production and the gift of writing that God has given me has laid dormant for longer than necessary.

I have had the privilege for the past few weeks of attending a creative writing class at the lifelong learning centre. It is to my delight that I help to bring the average age down and get to glean from such experience. I joined the class specifically to get my creative juices flowing again. Since I launched this blog in the middle of this class you could say the mission was accomplished but it has become so much more than that. It has been an opportunity to be ‘naked’ per se with vulnerability to read the words God gave me to write. As other writers can relate I’m sure, a part of your soul gets imprinted along with the words on the pages and so it feels a little transparent sometimes. I have been richly blessed each week to hear the stories of so many creative people who have lived so much life. And not just the length of life but the breadth and depth of it as well. I feel like I know each one just a little bit as they have shared through reminiscing and laughter, experiences and loss, hurts and healings, love and lessons. Through their gift of writing their hearts have come to life.

They have encouraged me in their joint ‘nakedness’ to keep writing, to keep telling the stories and sharing all that God has given me and carried me through. It will not always be perfect, and I definitely will fall and that is just ok because I know that in my weakness, God is strong. And it is not about me, is it?

What area of life are you demanding perfection in? What pain are you trying to avoid? What do you need to die so that life may spring up in its place? ‘ Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. ‘ John 12:24 I promise it only hurts a little bit but the rewards are great and lasting.

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You Talked to the Monk?

Do you know when you get so tickled by something that you giggle everytime you think about it after it happens? My son, Owen and I were telling my husband, Wade about a story from school. Owen’s class has had some bullying and damaged relationships so their teacher/school arranged for a retreat to try and repair some issues. The day after the retreat Owen’s teacher told him that the leader shared that he liked that Owen kid. As we relayed this story to Wade, he said to Owen, ” You talked to the Monk?” We immediately cracked up not knowing that Wade was uncertain of the retreat set up, thinking maybe it was lecture style more than interactive. (side note – the leader was actually a monk in training).

God reminded me of this story as I was preparing for this entry about joy. Joy as defined by dictionary.com is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness or rejoice as a verb. Some things that bring a feeling of great pleasure to me and make me rejoice are: Jesus in me, Jesus healing hearts, my husband, my children, friends, my family, babies, baby bunnies, thunder, lightening, rain, walking in the rain, walking, stories that make me giggle, laughter, love, writing, listening to others, spontaneous adventures, my church, smells of spring and summer, flowers, butterflies, sunrises and sunsets… I realized as I began this list it could be quite endless but you get the picture.

Joy comes from the Greek root word chara (pronounced khar-ah’) meaning to be exceedingly glad or the awareness of God’s grace and favour. If I was counting on my happiness from these things, it could rise and fall with the circumstances or the people. True joy is not dependent on circumstances. It is an abiding sense of happiness that is the result of hope, faith and love. The joy I receive from the things on my list are the result of knowing God’s grace and favour and that all good gifts are given by Him. Joy is a consequence of having an intimate relationship with Jesus.

I have been listening to teachings of Graham Cooke lately and they are blowing my mind with his spiritual truths. Joy rises up in my spirit as the truth of his message hits me.  I highly recommend any of his teachings posted online. One of the things he says is that the fruit of the spirit is in us already, we just have to practice using it. Galatians 5:22 ” But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” I don’t believe there is any coincidence about the order of this list, the gifts are anchored by love and self-control but joy is the result of knowing God’s love and showing it.

The word joy appears in the Bible 214 times. We can swallow the exciting words about joy in the Word like Psalm 16:11, “You have made known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Woohoo, these are sweet promises from God, or Psalm 71:23, “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you – I, whom you have redeemed.”

What about the passage Hebrews 12:2, ” Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the Joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.” Ok we reason, this is Jesus, the Son of God and even though he was fully human, he was without sin and He knew His purpose was to bring salvation and restore people to God’s heart. His joy was knowing what was to come when He fulfilled His purpose.   

How about us? How do we reconcile a passage like this one, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” This one needs a little bit more saliva to make its journey. It is not just joy either, it is pure joy or free of any contamination the definition clarifies. To completely swallow this word, we need a bit more fullness. Verses 3 and 4 continue, “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Ahhh a purpose in this paradox. Graham Cooke describes this as two conflicting ideas contained in the same truth. How do trials and joy mix together in one truth? Joy rises in persevering with God through life and trials and our faith is matured and strengthened. I think the trick is to seperate the pain associated with trials and trust the process even if you can’t see the end of it.

I know this is not easy in our own strength but we need to fix our eyes on Jesus as we walk through any trial. He promises in John 16:33, ” I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” So live life, choose joy, practice it until Jesus comes back. You never know if you will get to talk to a monk 🙂

 

 

 

Shameless Freedom

Now that the birthing process is over and baby announcements were distributed, I thought I had better explain how Shameless Freedom was conceived.

This fall it will be 13 years since I chose Jesus to be my Saviour and my life has never been the same. Now keep in mind that i lived 34 years before I made that decision and lived some life that wasn’t always upright. Among other things this included; sexual promiscuity, partying and divorce. It was at the point of being a single mother of 3 and desperate for life to be different that I discovered my need for Jesus.

I will be forever grateful for those who were obedient to showing God’s love to me and revealing Him through their actions. This list included my Mom’s incessant prayers for 7 years after she found Jesus, a friend who talked about God, friends who invited us to church, and the one who invited me to the women’s event that changed my life.

Now, did Jesus die on the cross to forgive my sins and give me eternal life? Absolutely. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Did my old sin nature die and now God sees me through my Jesus filter? Absolutely. Jesus died as us, Colossians 3:3 says, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” A divine exchange took place at the foot of the cross.

Are the broken parts of my soul/old man/ flesh gone? Never to arise again? Absolutely not. The second I take my eyes off of Jesus, my old behaviour can and does rise up again. Sanctification is a process, albeit a painful one sometimes. This is a daily process of death and rebirth. We become more like Jesus by putting Him on, not by peeling away the bad and getting to the good. This is a process of maturing that happens as we love one another, Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Transformation then happens as our weaknesses become our strength.

Is my heart fully convinced of my position as a believer and all that Jesus has given me? Absolutely not yet. There are parts of me from old behaviour and teachings or lack of it that I still need Jesus to transform in me. It is written in my biography that I took the first two sections of Elijah House teachings. I love one of their sayings, “We evangelize the unbelieving parts of the believers heart.” I know I am in process, do I know that I have been redeemed and justified, washed clean as though I’d never sinned, Absolutely. I also know I am far from being like Jesus and this awareness of my sinfulness allows me to rest in the fact that He loves me too much to leave me this way. “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Yes I know, get to the conception story…Ok one last one – did I realize or think about the fact that Jesus not only died for my sin but for my shame until I took Elijah House? Absolutely not! 1 John 1:9, ” If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from ALL unrighteousness (emphasis mine).” Shame has been a binding factor in my maturation as a child of God. Guilt is – I have done something bad, Shame is – I am bad.I have worked from that perspective since I was a little girl.  My eyes have been opened to this truth and I truly feel this is an epidemic in our society. So many things are fueled by shame based behaviours and wanting approval. This will be healed as we learn to seek approval only from the One who created us.

So as I was given my mission statement a few years ago – To encourage and enlighten others in the freedom and forgiveness of Christ, it occurred to me in some of my healing, that it is not just freedom but shameless freedom! He died for it all!!! I will leave you with this promise from God’s word that gives me much hope for my future and I pray it does for yours as well. “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” Isaiah 61:7

Brokenness Amidst The Beauty

IMG_20140604_085755 IMG_20140604_091618 IMG_20140604_093503 IMG_20140604_093317 IMG_20140604_093829                 As I stepped outside, the scents assailed my nostrils with the fullness of life after an all night rain. My face tilts upward, embracing the sun’s warmth and I enter into the heavenly smells of fresh cut grass and perfumed blossoms. The pictures above tell the story of my walk today, and of how God awoke my spirit to the brokenness amidst the beauty. Romans 1:20 clearly speaks of what I experienced today, ‘ For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.’

Everything that I saw, smelled and felt on my walk I knew was from Him, there was no reason or excuse to think otherwise. It began with the baby bunny that hopped across the road in front of me and despite his instincts, sat very still as I moved in closer for a picture. I continued on through my regular pathway down streets and through parks and by the first lake. Its stillness only disturbed by flirting ducks and a slight breeze. As I rounded the corner my eyes were overwhelmed by the contrast of the flowering crabapple blossoms making a carpet beside the green grass littered with yellow dandelions.

I breathed deeply as I made my way down the streets and came upon the next lake paths. Facing the lake was a bench covered in bouquets of flowers. As I moved closer I saw it was a memorium for a young man that had died tragically at the age of 17. Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of his passing. I sat and wept and prayed for this family as I felt the burden of their loss. I cannot even imagine losing a child. I know how my heart has broken watching my children experience traumatic things but I can’t even relate to the incredible loss of a child. I imagined this place may have been a refuge for this family when their son was alive. A place they may have experienced the glory of new life in this season, sitting on that very bench. Now it is just a place that serves as a reminder at the attempt to keep alive the memories of someone very precious.

Out of the corner of my tear filled eye, I caught a movement and looked to see a mama duck and her 9 ducklings huddled together. The park is teeming with life while still containing brokenness as the bench represented. Life goes on despite our desire to freeze frame it sometimes. I remember after I lost my Mom, I wanted to scream as life folded in, STOP, don’t you know what has happened! As the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote, this too shall pass, and it does, eventually. No one can walk the path of grief for us, or tell us for how long our hearts will feel broken. I do know that new life brings hope and that as we continue to experience God’s invisible qualities through all He has made, the healing does come. I know that as I gave him my mourning, joy did come in the morning, eventually.

As I finished my walk around the lake, a family of geese appeared in the rushes. Papa hissed at me despite my distance so I quickly snapped my last picture and turned around. A new appreciation welled up inside of me as I imagined how the Papa who lost his son would have wanted to protect him and so I prayed that he would be comforted and have a knowing that he did all that he could do. And I prayed that our all knowing Papa God would comfort that family and put their hearts back together and that all of this new life in this season would whisper some kind of hope to them.  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5.

Who do you know that needs comforting or encouragement today?