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: September 2013

You got it all

Remember the parables of the hidden treasure and the priceless pearl.  From The Message  –  “God’s kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser.  The finder is ecstatic – what a find! – and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field.  Or, God’s kingdom is like a jewel merchant on the hunt for excellent pearls.  Finding one that is flawless, he immediately sells everything and buys it” (Matt 13:44-46).  In the first instance the treasure is found accidentally, the second after an intense search.  The result for both is great joy.

Men, do you at times struggle wondering about the presence of God in your life?  In the gospels the kingdom is the manifest presence of God in the earth and in our lives.  The message of the two parables is that either by accident or after a serious search is the kingdom is found.  The response was is to sell everything to gain the treasure.  The kingdom is here in the presence of Jesus.  We don’t have to stumble into kingdom reality or search frantically for the presence of  Jesus.  Jesus tells us in Luke 17:20-21 that the kingdom is within us.  “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”  In other words, you have it all in Jesus”.

One of our default modes in our spiritual journey as men is the manner in which we feel we must work to attain God’s presence  In the presence of a loving, caring, and generous God, we feel we must perform to measure up. It will never be enough.  Well, this is not a kingdom principle. No, when you open your mind and heart to the Lord Jesus, he comes in and fills you with His presence.  You have fullness.  There is no more to get. The kingdom presence is the presence of eternal life  now.  Jesus told the woman at the well, “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in the a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 7:13).  The well is found within.

As men it is so easy to be involved in our “salvation improvement projects.”  But remember it will never be enough to attain what you search for.  It is all found through the mercy and grace of our Lord, making the riches of the kingdom available without string attached.  Paul worked as hard as anyone to get it all.  But in the end he had to say, “Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant – dog dung” (Phil 3:8).  Yes, all your efforts to attain end up being “dog dung.”  You receive it all through grace.  You have it all.  It is a matter of becoming aware of what you have in Jesus.  So relax and learn to receive what is already in you.

Risk or playing it safe

As you may have noticed, I will often quote from “The Message” version of the Bible.  While I agree that The Message should not be our primary study bible, I find that it speaks truth into my life in new and fresh ways.  Today I want to refer to Luke 19:26  from The Message.  “Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of.  Play it safe and end up holding the bag.”  The NIV reads as follows. “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

This Message passage got me to thinking again about how easy it is to slip into “the passivity mode” in my primary relationships, especially with my wife.   Larry Crabb in discussing relational masculinity, observes that a man reflects God, “by remembering what is important and moving into a disordered situation with the strength to make an important difference.”  So failure in relational masculinity would imply neglecting what is important, not wanting to enter into the chaos of intertwining emotions with the strength that is unique to me as a man.  Wow!  Does that relate to any man reading this blog.  Going back to the passage from The Message, I have a choice.  I can risk or play it safe and get left “holding the bag.”

So what is a man to do?  It looks pretty obvious.  Remembering what is important, that is, my wife and her emotional needs, I need to risk my life and jump into what I call “the soup of emotional relationships.”   Men let me say it as gently, yet as firmly as I can, you need to risk entering into what Crabb calls the “disordered situation.”  Your wife and those close to you, need your strength.  You are unique as the man, reflecting to glory of God in a manner different from your wife.  She needs your strength; not your passive sideline indifference

You need to know that you will not find your strength, by being passive, by fleeing from the disorder.  NO, you have to enter into disorder.  That’s how you grow and find your strength.  As you enter the chaos your weakness and vulnerability will be exposed.  It it then that  we  cry out for mercy, asking for help in our weakness.  “God, help me navigate this disorder I feel with my wife.” God will give you what you need.  You will begin to find your strength in Him.  You will not grow in your relationship, on the sidelines.  You will find yourself, “holding your own bag,”  alone, not connecting with others.

Carrying Our Wounds

In my last post I referred to the arrows that have been placed in our souls, due to painful circumstances and relationships encountered on our journey.  These wounds, which we would rather neglect, can fester for years, resulting in emotional pain that men try to bury.   These wound need to be acknowledge, so that we are able to carry them gracefully not painfully.

The Psalmist knew how to pray over his  pain. “I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.  All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you” (Ps. 38:8-9).   If  we neglect to embrace the greater story of God’s love for us in the midst of our wounds, we can become trapped in our own small, dark, and painful story.  We need to let the light of God’s love and grace shine on those dark inner wounds we have tired to hide for years.

Richard Rohr points out that in our limited story, “our wounds can make us embittered victims…..The Christian way is to embrace our wounds and accept them as the price of the  journey.”  We do this, when by faith we allow Jesus into our story of pain.  His larger, redemptive story relating to our pain then becomes part of our story.  In the process we are able to accept and integrate our wounds into our story. “The healing lies in the fact that our wounds no longer defeat us or cause us to harm ourselves or others.  Wounds become our daily offering to God, and they develop in us compassion toward the weakness of others.” (Rohr).  Julian of Norwich has said, “our wounds become our honors.”

Men we have no trouble finding help for our physical wounds.  But our spiritual and emotional wounds are a different matter.  We hide from them, while they go on creating difficulty in our relationships.  Remember that Jesus is our healer.  “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” (Mat 8:17).  My strong encouragement is to let Jesus into your whole story, which includes those painful arrows.  It will take time for the healing to come.  But in time they will become part of your redemptive story.  You will be able to talk about the arrows, while giving  thanks and praise to God for the healing.

Matthew West in his song “The Healing Has Begun” expresses this well:    “There is a world full of people/dying from broken hearts/holding unto their guilt/thinking they fell too far/so don’t be afraid to show them your beautiful scares/they’re the proof, you’re the proof.”

The Shy Male Soul

Parker Palmer got me to thinking about the male soul, when he compared the soul  to a “wild animal.”    “Like a wild animal,” observes Palmer, “the soul is tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy and self-sufficient; it knows how to survive in hard places…..yet despite its toughness, the soul is also shy.  Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush, especially when other people are around.”  This imagery is very real to me since I encounter white tail deer daily on my walks.  The deer will flee from intruders.  The only exception is the male deer during the mating season.  He will often stare me down up until the last moment, and the flee into the safety of the woods.

I think we can all agree that the male soul is shy.  We have learned to be self-sufficient, seemingly resilient and even tough minded.   But when it comes to the secrets of the soul we are shy. Ask most wives if this is not true.   The years of painful arrows from others that get lodged in our souls, cause us to be shy.  We hide our pain, often forming  deep wells of grief, that we fear will spill over into our personal relationships.  Similar to the wild deer, we have learned to flee into the “underbrush” of silence, rather than work through our pain with others.   This tendency to flee is a sign of our weakness.  We are not able to process our inner pain, so we head to the woods in fear of being exposed.

So what is a man to do?  Let me make a few suggestions.  First, and foremost, come to a trusting relationship with your Heavenly Father, that you are deeply loved.  Listen to Jesus prayer on our behalf. “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (John 17:28).  This love is literally poured into our hearts.  “……God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5).  Remember God loves you not as you should be, but just as you are.  He is loving you in you well of grief.  As I have said many times on this blog, “You have just sit there and receive the love.”

Secondly, with a firm hold on the objective truth of God’s Word and assurance of  the guidance of the Holy Spirit, allow yourself to begin to taste the pain and sorrow in the well of grief within your soul.  Allow yourself to go down into the realities of your story.  It will not be easy.  The only way that you will process your secrets is by coming to know them.  Thirdly, if at all possible find a trusted “soul friend,” who will loving and patiently listen to your story.  This friend can help you expose, verbalize and then integrate your experience of pain.

What I am suggestion is not the normal “male thing” to do.  I know from experience.  But how else will the shy male soul learn to show up in those important and intimate relationships, except through the practice of coming out of the “woods” and sharing with a trust friend.  I only wish I could sit down with each man reading  this blog, and help them come out of the woods, into light and freedom there is in Christ.  “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Ps 18:18).

A-Rod

It is that time of year when the pennant races heat up, and the long baseball season starts getting  interesting.  But as baseball fans we have also had to content with the saga of A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees) and the possibility of be suspended for 211 games because of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).  Columnist David Brooks has this to say about the story.  “One of the mysteries around Rodriguez is why the most supremely talented baseball player on the planet would risk career to….take performance-enhancing drugs?….self-preoccupied people have trouble seeing that their natural abilities come from outside themselves and can only be developed when directed toward something else outside themselves….locked in a cycle of insecurity and ….self-validation, their talents are never enough, and they end up devouring what they have been given”

There is no doubt it, A-Rod is stuck on himself.  We call that being a narcissistic, based on the Greek myth of Narcissus, the proud young man who saw his reflection in a pool and fell in love with it.  Narcissus was unable to break away from his own gaze, and eventually died by the side of the pool.  Men, the spirit of narcissism is found in the very air that we breath.  It is easy to get stuck on ourselves.  The whole consumer culture based on aggressive advertising is aimed to fulfill the wants and needs of number 1.  Just sit back and reflect on the ads directed at the male ego in advertising during sports program.

To loosen  the grip of narcissus in my life I must be vigilant in recognizing its presence in my life.  First, honestly and humbly I must admit the deep narcissist streak in myself.  I am naturally turned in on myself.  I have to admit with the prophet Jeremiah, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it? (Jer 17:9)   Secondly, I must deeply and humbly confess this tendency to turn inward and focus on myself.  I need to make the testimony of the Psalmist my own. “Then I acknowledged  my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Ps. 32:5).  Thirdly, I cry out for God to be merciful to me so that I might have grace to look outward to him and others.  I pray the Jesus Prayer often throughout the day.  It is a great prayer to get your focus off yourself and onto the Lord.  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on my a sinner.”

I have yet to see a narcissistic man who is happy and fulfilled in who he is as a man.  There is no inner peace and rest in God; always a striving for something more, whatever that is.  It is God who lifts a man up.  Remember the words of Jesus at the end of the story of the tax man and the pharisee in Luke 18:9-14. It was the tax man who cried out, “God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.”  “This tax man.” said Jesus,  “not the other, went home made right with God.  If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself ( Luke 18:14 – The Message).

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