Canaans Rest

Canaan’s Rest represents a quiet place “set apart” for the purpose of hearing God's voice, growing in intimacy with the Lord, and being renewed in soul and spirit.

Month: August 2009

Relaxing in the Father’s presence

Most men I have known over the years have had difficulty with the idea of  “unmerited favor.”  As men we are wired to initiate and achieve.  We get what we deserve.  So it becomes a real stumbling block to come to the realization that we will never be able to earn God’s favor.  This becomes exaggerated, if we have had a poor relationship with our earthly father.  There are men who spend their entire careers trying to please their absent or distant father.  When a young boy is not affirmed by his father as his masculinitydevelops, the spirit of a young boy goes searching for acceptance.  Grown men will be motivated either unconsciously or consciously to prove their manhood to their  fathers.  But as I have had to tell many men; you probably will never get the affirmation that you are looking for from your earthly father. 

The good news is that we do not have to earn our heavenly Father’s love.  His presence in our lives, brings us the affirmation we need in our masculine soul.  We must always remember that the Father’s love reflect his character.  His character does not reflect our behavior, whether we are responsibile or irresponsible.  Our behavior is secondary.  Behavior does not increase or decrease God’s love for us.  Our sin does not change  the way God loves us. Similar to a parent who is disappointed in a child’s behavior, but in no way loving that child less, God’s love is not dependent on our behavior.

This deepening awareness over the years has allowed me to “relax” in my Father’s love.  Whether I am good or bad, I am daily able to fall into the loving arms of my Heavenly Father and know that all things will be well.  If I image God being disgusted, disappointed and anger with my behavior, I would not be able to relax, that is, come to rest in His love.  This was a struggle for me much of my adult life.  I felt that I have to try harder to be better, getting caught up in “performance trap.”  As a pastor, this was an built in occupation trap.   Pastors are supposed to be good.  The result was that I would be more focused on my efforts.  Any obedience on my part would be based more on fear then love. 

Being able to let go and just relax in God’s love was out of the question.  Surrender would mean coming to rest and relaxing in God’s loving presence.  But if I thought that God was preoccupied with my shortcoming and failure, I would not be at ease in his presence.  Only as I have come to accept myself as I am not as I should be, have I come to relax more in God’s presence.   Real self-knowledge, that is knowing the good, bad and ugly about myself, begins by looking at God and seeing how he sees me.  God sees me first through the eyes of love.  This the basis of my identity.  David Benner observes, “And identity grounded in God would mean that when we think of who we are, the first thing that would come to mind is our status as someone who is deeply loved by God.”  The depths of this statement has allowed me to relax in my  Father’s love and his acceptance of me.  What a relief it is to know that God knows me as a sinner, but that my sin does not suprise him.  Sin does not reduce his love for me.  I am “a beloved sinner.”   Even though I fail, I can still relax in His loving embrace of me as his “beloved.”

The Well of Grief

Sometime ago I read this passage in Andrew Comiskey’s book, “Strength in Weakness.”  I had never run across this insight regarding the masculine soul.  It spoke to something deep in my own soul.  He observes, “I believe within most men lies an ancient, deep well of grief and regret.  It rumbles with the ache of unexpressed suffering.  And in our silence and isolation, the pain fuels our striving and addiction.  We thus live in the darkness of unexpressed affliction.” 

The reality of a deep well of grief helped me to conceptualize what I had been experiencing for many years.  All the diseased emotions and images stored in my heart, were not all connected to anger. I began to realize that what I often thought was anger, was really grief.  Richard Rohr calls this grief, “unfinished hurt.”  “The grieving mode” is different from the fixing, the controlling mode or even the understanding mode of life.  I have found in my own life as well as the lives of many men, that we were not told or had modeled for us a male mode of feeling that helped us to grieve.  Letting go of hurt will takes time, as we learn to grieve out the pain and hurt.

Usually in the company of others brothers in Christ, who have some maturity in their spiritual walk, men are able to learn to grieve out their pain.  I find it very helpful for men to learn to distinguish the male mode of grieving from that of the feminine.   I learned a male mode of feeling from my mother, as have many men I have shared with over the years.  Father was more like a shadow when it came to expression of heart felt emotions.  This prevented me from accessing what was unique to me as a male.  It took some years for me to be able to go into the well and identify the grief I had stored there

What we must not do is remain silent.  Larry Crabb in his book, “The Silence of Adam” observes that Adam complied with the disobedience of Eve, by remaining silent.  Crabb give this warning about silence: “Since Adam every man has had a natural inclination to remain silent when he should speak…Men are uniquely called to remember what God has said and to speak accordingly, to move into dangerous uncertainty with a confidence and wisdom that comes from listening to God.  Instead, like Adam, we forget God and remain silent.”  Many men feel alone, isolated from meaningful relationships.  We have a hard time to break out of our prison of solitary striving. 

I hope that this post will stir the soul of men as they read about silence.  If you can identify with the well of grief and the presence of unfinished hurt in your soul, I would encourage  you to come to Jesus and ask him for the grace and strength to brake through the barrier.  A very helpful practice would be to seek out another brother in Christ who will hear your story or you might want to join a group of guys who are willing to go into the well together and proccess the pain.

Being the Beloved

In my last post I talked about the need for men, “to just sit there” learning to receive the love of God.  It seems to me that this is a good metaphor for wildmen.  Instead of thinking more about God or doing more for him, we need to learn the practice of sitting before the Lord.  If this is not your practice, begin by just spending only five minutes in quiet before the Lord.  Another way of saying the same thing is simply learning “to be.”  To be who you are before the Lord is to accept yourself as you are – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Until you come to the inner awareness that God love you “in your stink” you will have a hard time believing that God loves you.  So don’t hide who you are.  Let God love you for who you are.   He loves you as you are not how you should be. There is absolutely no substitute for your personally hearing the loving, healing Word, giving you the affirmation that you are Abba’s child. 

Allow God to address you as his beloved.  At his baptism Jesus received the assurance that he was the Father beloved.  “And as he was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased'” (Luke 3:21-22).  There is within the heart of each of us an inner voice of love that says, in the words of Henri Houwen, “‘You are the Beloved of God!’ I want you to claim your belovedness.”

The greatest trap in our daily life is that of self-rejection, doubting who we truly are.  Because we don’t know our true identity in Christ we go searching for others to tell us who we are and attempt to find our identity in the things we accomplish and the stuff that we acquire.  Our heart goes on a continual search for identity.  Nouwen says, “Self -rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that declares we are loved.  Being the beloved expresses the core truth of our existence. We are loved as creatures with both limitations and glory.” 

Remember men our true identity is in Christ, that self-in-Christ that we were destined to be from all eternity.  “Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!)  He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son” (Eph. 1:6 – The Message).  Our true personhood is a gift from God, it is not our creation.  As David Benner has observed, “We are tempted to create a self, rather then receive the gift of our self-in-Christ.”  Your true self in Christ is not a self of your own making  but a discovery, a gift give to us as God’s beloved.  So again, I strongly suggest the practice of spending time alone with God, so that you can hear the Father addressing you a unique person – His beloved Son.

Just Sit There!!!

In my last post, I shared the difficulty we have as men in being able to receive love and in particular the love that God has for us. Remember, first and foremost, God loves us. Men are wired in their DNA to be initiators, while women are generally more inclined to be responders. The natural inclination of an initiator is to do something, while a responder is more inclined to be open to receive. So to tell a man to just sit there and receive, without doing a thing is difficult. I can not say it strongly enough, men, “you need to sit there and receive.” God loves us. It is first and foremost sheer gift and grace. It is out of the realization of this sheer grace, that we go forth and do the works of God. But first we have to sit and take in the love of God.

So how does a man do this? It is quite simple. I suppose the simplicity of the practice of receiving God’s love is one of the greatest obstacles for us men. Part of the struggle comes in our learning to comprehend, what Leanne Payne calls “the unseen real.” The unseen real is greater than physical reality. The transcendent God who is totally other, desires for us to know and experience his love. Men, God wants to be known in love. A key phrase from the historic spiritual tradition, that for years, I had a hard time grasping, was that “knowledge comes through love.” I am now beginning to understand that learning to receive love goes far beyond anything that I can comprehend about God. In this knowing He is speaking to my soul, beyond my understanding. I am learning to simply sit there and receive.

A key verse in learning to receive the love of God is found in Psalms 27:8, “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, I will see.” This is a seeing with the “eyes of our heart.” I often recommend that a man simply sit in a chair for five minutes, imagining Jesus looking at him in love. It can be helpful to literally turn your face “up and out” to Jesus. Remember Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:7). The spiritual insight of ” not seeing with but through the eyes” is important in this practice. In “seeing with the eyes” we project our misconceptions on reality, where as “seeing through the eyes”, allows reality to enter the soul. “Fantasy comes from seeing with the eye, from reflecting in your eye what is outside.  Reality can only be seen by looking through the eye.  With Christ we look through rather than with”  (Malcolm Muggeridge).  In just sitting there we are learning to allow the reality of God’s love to penetrate our hearts. We are learning to love the great realites outside ourselves. We are learning to “set love in order” in our lives, by allowing God to love us. Then in return we learn to love God with all our hearts.

Being Able to Receive

You might think that the title of this post is rather simplistic. But I want to tell you, men, that the ability “to receive” is very difficult for us. We are wired to accomplish and succeed. Our culture conditions us to believe that we get what we deserve. We have to earn our place. By our effort we gain our reputation and place in culture. So the whole business of “receiving” is not easy. This becomes especially difficult in relationship to our heavenly Father. I don’t know about you, but I can very easily get into “the performance mode,” with a focus more on how I am doing rather than how God really sees me. I now know more than ever, that He simply loves me for who I am, created for intimate relationship with him.

I consider the ability to “receive” God’s love into my heart the biggest discover in these ten years of the journey. I John makes it clear and simply: “God is love” (I John 4:8). First and foremost God loves you. I love this quote from Brennan Manning, “The revolutionary thinking that God loves me as I am and not as I should be requires radical thinking and profound emotional readjustment.” As a blogging community of wildmen, that could keep the conversation going for sometime. Here is another quote. This one is from David Benner. Let this roll around your head and heart for a time. “It is not the fact of being loved unconditionally that is life-changing. It is the risky experience of allowing myself to be loved unconditionally.”

I believe this blog community could have a very helpful dialogue about the love of God. I assume most the men who read this blog as “churched’ guys. They know the words of the faith. They have done a lot of the stuff. But to be honest, they do not feel loved by God. It has not gotten into their “soul” that God really loves them. Remember men, as we dialogue about love, it has nothing to do with deserving and earning. As a matter of fact love has already been poured into your hearts, waiting for you to discover what is already there. “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom. 8:5). So there you have it, men. Love waiting to be discovered by wildmen who are discovering their soulfulness.

Coming Home

The spiritual life is one of continual coming home to the Father.  Years ago I read this quote from Henri Nouwen’s little book, “Making all things new.”  “The whole purpose of Jesus’ ministry is to bring us to the house of his Father….He came to lift us up into loving community with the Father.”  Our coming home to the Father is a spiritual discipline that each of as men need to cultivate.  We are away from home, when we are away from our soul.  So have lost their spiritual address, not having a sense of who they are in Christ.  Practicing the presence of the Lord, is remembering that the Lord dwells within our hearts.  Here we find our unique spiritual address.  This is the hidden life of God within.  Paul reminds us, “For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3)

As men we can live very comfortably in the surface of life.  We can be in the words of Richard Rohr, “circumference people with little access to the center.”  The boundaries of our lives can be confused for the essence.  The result is that we spend our time thinking about God and doing things for God, rather then having a relationship with God.  Many men know there must be more, but they do not know how to access the reality of a loving relationship with God.  For that to happen, men need to sink with their minds into their hearts.  Then our knowing will be more than information about and descriptions of who God is, becoming instead a knowing that is participatory and transformational.  If our knowing is not personal, then God thought of as ”out there,” an object of our thoughts, rather then “being within,” known as personal friend and savior

Albert Haase, a Francisican priest, has written a wonderful book on the spiritual life entitled, “Coming home to Your True Self.”  He quotes Meister Eckhart as preaching that “God is at home.”  Home for Eckhart means within the soul.  Paul wrote to the Galatians, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).  Men, think of it, if you are a believer, who has trusted Christ at the core of your being, whether you are conscious of it or not, there is a intimate communion taking place with God.  Coming home is being awakened to this inner reality.  Haase quotes Catherine of Genova as saying, “My me is God.”  Wow – wrap your mind around that thought!!

Yes, God is at the center.  It is up to us to become aware of this presence within.  Remember the issue is not the absence of the presence of God, but our lack of awareness.  Getting used to the presence within will at first take some discipline.  With your will, you will need to continually come home to the Father, through Jesus, by the work of the Spirit.  For me it is always helpful to remember that the Spirit is doing His work within my soul, as I ask Jesus to bring me into the presence of the Father.  This is a continuing practice throughout the day. In this practice we can be reminded of the words of Jesus, “I will not abandon you as orphans” (John 14:18).  Rather he said, “All who love me will do what I say.  My Father will love them and we will come and make our home with each of them” (John 14:23).  Wow!! There you have it.  The Father and the Son live within each of us.

The image of coming home has been very helpful for me in practicing the presence of the Lord.  As I have learned to be attentive and aware of my soul, I come to a greater assurance that I am not orphaned.  How about you?  Do you feel orphaned at times on your journey.  The spiritual practice of continually coming home can be of significant help.  Visualize yourself coming home throughout the day, as you become aware of your heart and the reality of God living in and with you.  If you need help, the simple practice of placing hour hand over your heart can be benefical.  But always remember in this practice that while you are paying attention to your soul, your “faith look” is always up and out to the one who is continually communicating his loving word to your soul.  

The image of coming home has been very helpful for me, in practicing the presence of the Lord.  As I have become more attentive to my soul I have the assurance that I am not orphaned.  By the way, that means the good, bad and ugly found within. (More about that in another blog).  How about you?  Do you feel orphaned at times on your journey?  The spiritual practice of continually coming home can be real help.  Visualize yourself coming home throughout the day, as you become aware of your heart and the reality of God living within you.  But always remember in this practice, that while you are paying attention to your soul, your “faith look” is always up and out to the one who is continually communicating his loving Word and Presence to your soul.

Split Between the Head and Heart

Most of us realize that we live in a post-modern era, in which there has been a great reaction to enlightenment thinking, with its focus on rational thought.  Knowledge is valued for being descriptive and instrumental.  It is valued for giving  information or filling a utilitarian purpose.  But today “the grand rational narratives” are viewed as inadequate because we have lost the language of the soul in the process.  Today there is a cry for personal and participatory knowledge.  There is a sense that we have lost our souls.  Men are asking, “there must be more to who I am then just being a thinking person.”  Men today are discovering their “masculine soul.”  They are looking for personal, participtory knowing that is transforming for the soul.

One way to visualize the disappearance of the masculine soul is to understand the split that enlightenment thinking has produced between the mind and the heart (or soul).  There is a great need for the mind and soul to be brought back into balance.  Rational thinking needs to be balanced and complimented by the intuitive and imaginative capacities of the soul.  For men to practice the presence of God and become aware of him in every day life, they will have to regain their capacity to intuitively and imaginatively  apprehend and encounter God.  Intuition is the capacity to receive that which is from God, while our imagination is like the projector that help us to grasp what is perceived by the intuition. 

The head and heart are brought together when we come to realize that God is much bigger then our thoughts of him.  We realize that for us to see and hear that which is real but unseen, we will have to depend on the capacities of our heart.  We slowly learn this process when we slow our minds down and sink into our heart and there be still before the Lord.  While we are going inward, it is critical to remember that our faith gaze is always up and out to the our Father who is always sending his healing and affirming word to us.  Our part is to listen and learn to receive.  For some of us that will take a significant process of unlearning.

Walking Alongside Ourselves

The ministry of Leanne Payne has been of great benefit in my spiritual growth as a male.  I have  learned a great deal of what it means to be masculine before God.  I am sure as I continue to write about the wildman on this blog, her ideas will become more apparent.  She has written several important books on healing.  For now I will only mention two: Crisis in Masculinity & Healing Presence.  She makes the point that we have forgotten our souls.  The soul belongs to “the unseen real.”  That which is not seen or understood with our minds is more real then physical reality.  Men have a difficult time with this truth because we want to control and understand.  God dwells by His Spirit in our soul or heart beyond our control and full understanding.  The presence of God is not a feeling, experience, or a thought.  It is reality.  God welling at the center.  C.S. Lewis suggests that we can envision God’s presence as being heavier than matter.  “God’s presence is radiant like gold, heavy like lead, molten like lava.”  God’s presence with gives us a sense of being.  It is God who affirms us in our maleness, giving us a strong inner place from which we can come forth like Lazarus from the tomb, into real life.

 For most of us men, we are unaware of this reality within.  We are to busy going around and aroung in our minds.  I love the phrase from Payne when she talks about “a man walking alongside himself.”  This means a man really does not know himself, but is continually searching for others or circumstance to affirm and recognize his masculinity.  Only God can give that to a man.  What is needed for the healing of our masculine soul, is the awareness of God at the center, in our hearts.  As men we need to learn the practice of becoming aware of God’s presence at the center.  This entails listening with our spiritual ears and learning to see with our spiritual eyes, so that we can hear that which is “inaudible” and to see that which is “invisible.”  We need to learn the practice of going with our minds into our heart and there being in the presence of God.  There we learn and discern the healing Word that God is continually sending forth. 

Much of the blog will be devoted to this practice of going with our minds into our hearts, so that we might see with the eyes of our heart.  I cannot stress the value and importance of Paul’s prayer in Eph 1:18-19, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

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