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: February 2014

Picking the Scab

Not long ago I read a quote from Albert Haase, a Franciscan priest that has stuck with me. “Forgiveness is the limitless choice not to  pick the scab, not to become entangled in the grudge, not to stoke the fires of anger and resentment by hugging the hurt or announcing it to others…. We often hug the hurt and pick the scab because it makes us feel powerful and intellectually right.”

It has stuck with me for two reasons.  The first is my personal resolve to live a lifestyle of forgiveness.  At times it has been hard. It is a choice I have made.   The second reason is the sorrow I feel for believers who are not living a lifestyle of forgiveness.  Without exception they will have a negative and critical spirit.  They just are not fun being with.

Men have you been picking a scab?  I assure you that you are going to be given many opportunities to practice forgiveness, especially with those who are close to you.  There is nothing that will keep you more humble then the relationships you have within your extended family.  We often forget that keeping a grudge alive will take a lot of emotional energy.  The more we invest in a grudge the more we will be sapped of our emotional stamina.  I prayed years ago, for grace to be a loving, caring and open man as I become old.  I have seen too many men as they age, become individuals who are really not a joy to be around.  They have little to give emotionally to others because much of their emotional energy has been turned inward as they pick the scab. Ask yourself if you are going to be fun to be with as you age.

Men one of the greatest gifts you can give your family, is to be a man who lives in forgiveness.  That does not mean that you become some kind of “wimp” but rather that you are a person who can love and accept others with all their faults, especially when you feel misunderstood, rejected or even betrayed.  If we cannot offer forgiveness, it is always helpful to ask, “What am I gaining by stoking the fire of resentment?”  I know in my life, it has often been due to my self-righteous need to feel justified and vindicated.

Always remember that forgiveness is a choice we make.  Sometimes it will be costly.  But as men of integrity we can choose to offer forgiveness as a selfless gift with no strings attached to those who are closet to us.  Listen again to what Father Haase has to say. “The daily recommitment to this gift-giving shows the stuff of our soul and the intention of our heart.  Even though the gift might simply lie in our heads….over time we will find it gradually making its way down to our hearts, where it loosens resentment and frees us from the past .”  His advise, “recommit to that decision on a daily basis until your heart softens and you are set free from the grudge.”

Missing your life

Walker Percy asks in his novel, “The Second Coming,” “is it possible for people to miss their lives in the same way one misses a plane?”  Here is a one of Percy’s characterization of his main character Will Barrett. “Not once in his entire life had he allowed himself to come to rest in the quiet center of himself but had forever cast himself forward from some dark past he could not remember to a future which did not exist.  Not once had he been present for his life.  So his life had passed like a dream.”  In other words, he did not pay attention to himself.

It is natural for men to live on the surface of their lives, building their tower of success,  constructing their view of who they think they are and what they do in the world.  We can create illusions regarding ourselves that do not fit reality.  True reality takes us beyond the surface, and leads us into our souls. Men, this is where we really live.  Here we find the good, the bad and even the ugly.  Here we find the truth about ourselves.   But our ego, as it goes about creating a false self, resents reality.  Why?  Because it does not want to face the Truth.  But remember reality is based on the truth.  Without the truth we are building on shifting sand. Jesus warns us, “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand” (Matt. 7:26).  There will be “a great crash.”  Our illusions can not stand up to reality.

Thomas Moore has observed, “nothing is more challenging, nothing less sentimental, than the invitation of spirit to become who we are and not who we think we ought to be.”  Of vital importance is the awareness and confidence, that as we take the journey into our souls, to learn more about our real life story. Here the Lord meets us. “But if God himself has taken up residence in your life,” writes Paul, “you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him.  Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about.  But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells – even though you still experience all the limitations of sin – you yourself experience life on God’s terms….When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life.  With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!” (Rom 8:10-11 – The Message)

So my advice men, is not to be afraid of the “inner journey.”  It is the Spirit of God who calls you to pay attention and listen to what your life is telling you.  This is your true story.  A lot of it, we would rather not know nor experience.  But Jesus waits for us in these realities.  He waits for you with an embrace of love and mercy.  He sees who we are as his child.  He enables us to face our shame, self-doubt, self-hatred and guilt.  Don’t let your life pass like a dream, never having become fully alive to who you are.

Simplicity

I need to make a confession to the men who read this blog.  As I relate to older men of my age, we are aware of the generation gap that exists between our children and grandchildren when it comes to “electronic devices” such as the computers and smart phones.  My wife and I have been experiencing significant stress in adapting to our new cell phones, along with the electronics in our new Highlander.  It has truly complicated our lives.  Literally, I had to go for a prayer walk and get back to my center, which, of course, is the awareness of Jesus in my life.  I found myself getting “grumpy” and negative.  I just wanted to go, hide and “throw in the towel.”

This personal saga that my bride and I have weathered really got me to thinking of how complications in life get us off center.  Life was so much simpler and easy to manage when we didn’t have to deal with matters of  “digital age.”  But now with all the electronic “wizardry” involved, both my wife and I are experience frustration, confusion, impatience and a lack of peace.  We rarely get on each other’s nerves, but that was we even happening.  The sense of peace that comes from Jesus’ presence was absent.  The mood was frustration, along with a sense of helplessness, as though we were caught in a web with no way out.

Men, what are the things that get you so distracted that you lose your focus on Jesus.  “Simplicity” is a vital practice in keeping us centered in Jesus.  Simplicity is not being a simpleton, but rather the expression of one who as the proper focus.  Their life is centered in Jesus.  At a deep level their desires are for him alone.   Judy and I try to live simply, that is, having a lifestyle that does not distract from our focus on Jesus. But we can get off center.  Paul said of his life, “I once thought things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.  Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage.” (Phil 3:7-8)  Simplicity is reflected in a life that sees everything as “worthless” compared to knowing Christ.

Years ago I read of an old Shaker hymn that has stuck with me and now has become more meaningful.  “Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free, ’tis a gift to come down where we ought to be.”  Notice the being simple is a gift.  We can’t accomplished it.  Jesus ignites a desire for him in our hearts.  When we yield our life to Jesus, he gives us a heart that is focused on him.  We also are gifted with freedom, along with the ability to “come down where we ought to be,” that is, to get our focus back.  Thankfully, Judy and I have our focus back on Jesus and not the electronic stuff.  But it will continue to be a challenge.  How are you being challenged in your focus?

Manly Action

Several years ago researchers at UC Berkley set out to test what they called the masculine overcompensation thesis, the theory that when men sense threats to their manhood they respond by exaggerating their gender traits.  They found, “that when men faced the implication that they were somehow not men, they tended to increase their support of war, homophobia, male dominance, ‘purchasing an SUV'” and other stereotypical behavior.  Women did not respond the same way.  The implication is that women feel less threatened in the culture.   The conclusion wrote one observer was, “the more manly you act, the less manly you probably are.”  I ask the question, “Doesn’t that put men in a double bind.”  How do you act manly in a god given way?

I agree that a lot of men, including Christian men, in our culture feel threatened.  How are Christian men to deal with this double bind  of  “the more manly you act, the less manly you probably are.?”   Threatened men are going to act out in some  unfortunate “macho ways.” Many more are going to remain passive and silent, resigning themselves to a gnawing resentment, not knowing who they were created to be as a man.

But men who follow Jesus have a choice, even when threatened and questioned about their manliness.  Men, I can not stress enough the need to get our mind and heart off of what the culture thinks of men and get our eyes on Jesus.  He is and will continue to be our example and measure of what it means to be a man.  The way out of the double bind is to see Jesus as our example in being able to be both “tough and tender.”  When threatened look to Jesus.

The New Testament presents the Son of Man as the True Man.  Jesus’ manhood subverted the manly man stereotype of the Greco-Roman world, which had such a  low regard from women.  Jesus’ manhood was one of humiliation, service, and crucifixion.  Jesus took on the form of a slave (Phil 2:5-11).  So true manhood for the follower of Jesus is measured first of all not by courage or strength, both of which are important, but rather by self-sacrificial love for the other.   “Servant love” expressed through servant leadership is the key to dealing with the double bind of the Berkeley research.  Such love expresses great courage and strength.

So men here is my advice.  Don’t let anything in the culture cause you to get your spiritual eyes off of Jesus.  Surrender to him, follow him, desire him, and learn from his example.  Remember you have his very presence with you to give you guide and help.  In our day we need to heed the warning of Paul. “Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double talk.  They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything.  They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings.  But that is not the way of Christ.” (Eph 2:9 – The Message)

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