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: December 2013

It’s a Man’s World

Every once and a while I run across a short article that just makes “plain sense” in this mixed up culture of ours.  One areas of great confusion is the stereotyping of the male and female roles.  While men have generally failed relationally to meet the needs of women  in our culture, I think the feminist have gone too far in their pained reaction .  So I was pleasantly surprised to read an article by Camile Paglia in “Time” magazine regarding some of her thoughts on men in our culture

Here is some of what she had to say.  “Is it any wonder that so many high-achieving young women….find themselves n the early stages of their careers in chronic uncertainty or anxiety about their prospects for an emotionally fulfilled private life?  When an educated culture routinely denigrates masculinity and manhood, then women will be perpetually stuck with boys, who have no incentive to mature or to honor their commitments.  And without strong men as models to either embrace or (for dissident lesbians) to resist, women will never attain a centered and profound sense of themselves as women.”

That in my humble estimation is a profound insight into our cultural confusion.  With the relentless pounding men have taken in our culture, men are fleeing emotionally and relationally, behaving as “boys” (think of the beer ads during football games).  They simply don’t want to grow up. A cultural vacuum is produced in which there are no male models standing up to the destructive winds of culture.  As a result women suffer for our immaturity. But we read in Genesis 2:15, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Primary responsibility was given to the man.  But man needed help.  God said, “It ‘s not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion” (Gen 2:20). In other words, men need help, not competition or “mothering.”  Male and female are to work together.

So I say to every may reading this blog, “Stand on your own two feet” and be a man, giving those feminist something to talk about.  They are dealing with “real men.”  Take the cultural mandate given to you by your heavenly Father, and with courage and grace fulfill your mandate.  I have always taken this seriously, while failing more then I would like to admit.  But by God grace, I will stand.  With all my heart I want to finish strong. But here is what I need to  remember.  First, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Cor 12:10).  Secondly, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Eph. 3:12).  Thirdly, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit’ (Ps 34:18)

So what does this mean for every man reading this blog?  First, in the strength of Jesus you can stand.  Yes, you can stand.  Secondly, you can take your stand with confidence.  Your heavenly Father will never leave or forsake you. Thirdly, God knows the struggle of your wounded and broken heart. Yes, there are times when it gets real tough. But your heavenly Father knows your pain.  He is the healer of broken and wounded hearts.

The Irrational Season

I appreciate the words from Madeleine L’Engle’s poem “After Annunciation” when I think about the confused state of Christmas in our culture.  These words in particular help me understand our confusion: “This is the irrational season/ When love blooms bright and wild/Had Mary been filled with reason/ There’d have been no room for the child.”  The conception and birth of Jesus is God’s initiative going beyond anything we could dream of.  This is God getting involved in the particularities of life.  As Eugene Peterson puts it, “Birth is painful. Babies are inconvenient and messy.  There is immense trouble in having children.  God having a baby?  It’s far easier to accept God as the creator of majestic mountains, the rolling sea, and the delicate wild flowers.”

The Incarnation, God becoming a human being for the sins of the world, is the heart of the gospel in my understanding of the story.  I  take time during each  Advent season to just think about what God did when he came as the baby Jesus.  It truly brings a spirit of worship and awe.  A key to our sharing God’s  story in our day, is to keep the conversation on Jesus, who was God and man in human form.  Yes, it may seem irrational, but it is the truth.  He is God come in the flesh, the savior of the world. “So the Word became human, and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.” (John 1:14).  So men we have lots to celebrate about at Christmas

However, a recent Pew Research center poll found that while nine in ten Americans say they celebrate Christmas, only one half of Americans view Christmas mostly as a religious holiday.  Another one third viewed it as more of a cultural holiday. Young adults were less likely to believe in the virgin birth.  A total of 66% of adult between 18 and 29 believe that Jesus was miraculously begotten by God, compared with 76% of all other adults.  So it seems that we also have a vital message to share with others, in a culture that is losing the meaning of Christmas. So instead of being caught up in “the Christmas wars” we should simply be telling the story of what really happened.  It is still the good news

One other thought about this “irrational season.”  C.S. Lewis talked about the incarnation as an “invasion.”  The Son of God came as an infant baby to invade enemy territory.  He live of obedience to his Heavenly Father.  He defeated the devil.  Our enemy has no authority in our life.  Listen to these words from The Message. “When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God.  God brought you alive – right along with Christ. Think of it!   All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross.  He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets:”(Col 2:13-15).  So go and celebrate your liberation during this “irrational” season.

“What are you after?”

In the first chapter of John’s gospel, we find two of John the Baptist’s disciples beginning to follow Jesus.  “Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What are you after?'”  That question remains throughout the rest of John’s gospel, suggesting that beneath everything else there is a search taking place.  At the end of John, Mary Magdalene, encounters the risen Lord.  Jesus asks her the same question, “What do you  want?”  With deep affection, Jesus says, “Mary.”  As we journey with Jesus our heart longs to be addressed in a similar manner.  Think of the most intimate relationship that you have.  Doesn’t it go far beyond word and thoughts, to matters of the heart.

Prayer is a personal relationship with the Lord, involving our head (thoughts) as well as our hearts (affections).  When prayer does not touch our hearts, we will offer niece, religious words to the Lord. This results in a  tendency to be talking with ourselves rather than God, because we not speaking from our hearts. Men, we need to allow God to touch our hearts.  What we need most is to hear God’s voice within saying, “I love you.”  “Nothing will heal us more and nothing will make us more bold before life’s mystery and goodness than hearing those words from God.  Our very capacity to love depends upon it” ( Rolheiser).

So why is it so hard for me to be real and share my true feelings?  Well, here are some things I have found out for myself.  First, I make my relationship with God too complicated.  I preform rather than relate.  The truth is that if I have  trusted in Christ as my Savior, he already lives at the deepest place in me (His Spirit witnessing with my spirit -Rom 8:16), far beyond my understanding.  So he knows more about me then I do about myself, while loving me unconditionally. So I don’t have to hide, I can be real.  Secondly, life has taught me as a man to withhold my true feelings and affections, for fear of being hurt.  But God, who is merciful, isn’t going to hurt me. He waits for me to be real.  Thirdly, I have always  put on my best “religious face” when I think I am relating to the Lord.  What happens is that I end up talking to myself.  How unreal can I get? If I can’t share my heart with God, then I will not be able to receive his love for me.  Isn’t that what an intimate relationship is all about.

I know that I have stepped  into some deep water.  My burden for men reading this blog today is that you can have an intimate relationship Jesus.  I’ll make it as simply as I can:  1) You have a father who delights in you, 2) You have a Savior who is your friend (John 14:15) and 3) you have the Holy Spirit who is your helper (John 16:12).  So relax, be honest, share your whole heart with the Lord, and allow him to love you.  He waits for you to come home to him.  I know this is a daily practice for me.

Faith vs. Anxiety

Is it true that anxiety rather than doubt could be understood as being the opposite of faith in our walk with God.  I certainly can see this as being true in my journey.  If I pay attention to my soul life, anxiety and fear, gets a grip on my soul more often than doubts about my heavenly Father.   This quote from Ronald Rolheiser as made me do some soul searching.  “What opposes faith is not so much worry about this or that particular thing as worry that God has forgotten us…that there is every reason to fear and be anxious because, at the core of things, there isn’t a benevolent, all-powerful goodness who is concerned about us.”  Oh, yes!!!  The dreaded thought that I am alone, adrift on the sea of life, not sure how I will make it through the next passage.

Is there a fear that at times on the journey God seems to have slipped of the radar screen?  “It is this kind of anxiety,” observes Rolheiser, “the deep fear that we have been forgotten, that pushes any of us to make as assertion of our lives.”  In other words, we take matters into our own hands, rather than trusting, because deep inside we are not confident that God will come through for us.  We become anxious and fearful.  “This anxiety is the opposite of faith.  It is not so much the fear that God doesn’t exist, as the fear that God does not notice our existence.”

Here is what Rolheiser has to say about faith.  “What faith gives you is the assurance that God is good, that God can be trusted, that God won’t forget you, and that, despite any indication to the contrary, God is still in charge of this universe.  Faith says that God is real and God is Lord and, because of this, there is ultimately nothing to fear.  We are in safe hands.  Reality is gracious, forgiving, loving, redeeming, and absolutely trustworthy.  Our task is to surrender to that.”

So there you have it.  I usually don’t quote another author as much as I have in this blog. But it seems to me, that in our day of so much uncertainty regarding the future stability of our culture, along with the brake down in trust of our public institutions, we all need to reminded that our heavenly Father is in control and that he can be trusted.  I close with the image of God as a loving, caring parent.  This image comes from Isaiah 49:15, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”  Men, God has not forgotten you.  His very presence dwells within you.  He is loving you intimately in this very moment.  Our posture is that of awareness and coming to rest in his love.

alexithymia

Now there is a word you probably never heard before.  I came across the word when I was reading Rhett Smith’s book, “What it means to be a man.”  Here is the paragraph.  “Many boys are taught to be so proficient at burying their exuberance that they manage to bury it even from themselves.  Recent research indicates that in this society most males have difficulty not just in expressing, but even in identifying their feelings.  The psychiatric term for this impairment is alexithymia. Ron Levent estimates that close to 80% of men in our society have a mild or severe form of it.”

I confess to having the major symptoms of this impairment.  It has been a long journey identifying and becoming comfortable with my feelings, even though on the Myers-Brigss inventory I score highest on “feelings.”  I have spent years denying some of my deepest feelings, even before God. (How silly, but true).  I have justified how I feel, while blaming others or a particular circumstance.   I have not expressed myself honestly, but rather have tried to be “niece and spiritual.”  I could say more, but you get the picture.  Each man reading this blog has his struggle based on his personality type, family history and the arrows caught in his heart.

But the point is, our feelings are real.  They are a part of who we are.  They are telling us what is going on in our soul.  They are like “the red light” on the dashboard telling us to check on the condition of our soul.  Men lets face it, we are full of a real “stew” of emotions.  David was a man of God who struggled with his emotions in a very open before others and God. He recorded his struggle in many of the Psalms.  Listen to David –  “‘Mum’s the word,’ I said, and kept quiet.  But the longer I kept silence the worse it got – my insides got hotter and hotter, my thoughts boiled over; I spilled my guts.”  (Ps 39:2-3 – The Message).  If we do not “identify” and “befriend” our emotions they will “boil over” in harmful ways.

So what do we do?  Well, a lot could be said.  I want to highlight one aspect that I have struggled with on my journey.  That is being honest with God about my emotions, especially in prayer.  The reality is that God longs for intimate fellowship with me.  He knows the chaos of my soul.  Nothing surprise him about my “soul condition.”  He simply waits for me to be honest with my feelings in relationship to my daily life and my relationship with him.   Men, tell God just how you are feeling.  Don’t come to him telling him what you think he would want you to say.  One of the keys for continual healing in my life is the relief I have found in being about to be honest before God.  It is in honest prayer that I can begin to sort out my feelings.  Remember God loves you passionately and unconditionally right in your “stew.”  He is right there observing it all.  Let him in to help you sort it all out.

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