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: March 2017

My Mother

Camille Paglia continues to offer me “food for thought” as she reflects on the feminist movement in our day.  She is not afraid to be critical of other feminists.  I thought of my mother, while recently reading her observation of  women in the 20’s and 30’s.  “The bold new women of that period did not insult or denigrate men.  They admired what men had done and simply demanded the opportunity to show that women could match or surpass it.  One of my persistent quarrels with second-wave feminism is how male-bashing became its default mode from the start.  Movements often attract fanatics or borderline personalities, and that’s exactly what happened.  Too many damaged women with bitter gripes against men took over feminist discourse.”

My mother and for that matter, my mother-in-law were strong women.  My mother used to tell me, “Alan, I am not a shrinking violet.” During the depression she cared for herself and sister alone. My memories are of my mother during the 40’s and 50’s.  My parents ran a “ma and pop” grocery store in a small town in northern Michigan (Negaunee).   She had to work hard, carrying a lot of responsibilities, beside being a mother and housewife.  She lived with the heart ache of  alcohol in our family.  She was the religious glue in our family of four (one sister).  She gave me the “tough love” I needed.  I credit her with toughening up my “soft” side, helping me to become a man.

I have often referred to the “father wound.”  But we also have to come to terms  with our relationship to our mother.  Like many men I was “overmothered.”  My mother set the emotional tune in our family causing me to  internalized a “female mode” of feeling.    In my 20’s and 30’s I found healing for my masculine soul with the emotional bondages I had  from my “emotionally strong” mother.  I learned to honor my mother and love her for who she was, a strong, willful and caring woman.  In this regard I remind every man reading this blog to honor your father and mother.  It is vital for a good life. “Honor your father and mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Deut. 5:16).  I thank God for my strong mother, along with a wife who is “ascending” in her new feminine strength.  I also see unique feminine strength in my daughter and two daughter-in-laws.

Referring to her new book, “Free Women, Free Men,” Paglia contends, “women can never be truly free until they let men too be free – which means that men have every right to determine their own identities, interests, and passions without intrusive surveillance and censorship by women with their own political agenda.” I say a hearty amen. This is  a very insightful observation concerning gender relationship in the days to come.  Simply put, we men have to do our own inner work in become secure in our masculine soul, while allowing women to find peace for themselves.  Strong, secure men and women are the hope of the future in the gender wars

Here is my advise.  First, find healing for our masculine soul in the company of other men and mentors.  Secondly, celebrate the uniqueness of male and female in the image of God.  Thirdly, show “servant love” and compassion for women wounded by other men and fourthly, on the behalf of men be willing to ask for forgiveness for how men have treated women in the past.

The Burning Log

This spring I am in the process of burning piles of downed trees and branches, which are the result of last summer’s big storm.  It takes time to tend each fire, so that all the bigger pieces of wood burn properly.  It gives me time to sit by the fire and engage in contemplative prayer.  I often reflect on the image of the Holy Spirit as the fire of God.  John the Baptist, in referring to Jesus said, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matt 3:11).  On the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out on the disciples, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each them” (Acts 2:3)

These verses makes clear that the person of the Holy Spirit is like fire within us.  I am continually reminded of the image of a  log of wood being burned in the writings of St. John of the Cross, as I tend my fires.  St. John referred to the Spirit as, “a living flame of love.” Spiritual director Wayne Simsic observes, “He [John] compares the soul to wood that remains unaware until it encounters fire.  At first it smolders, revealing just how damp it is.  Eventually, though, the fire transforms the log into itself; the soul becomes flame, and all it activities issue from this intense fire of union with the divine.”  “All the soul’s infirmities,” writes St John, “are brought to light; they are set before it eyes to be felt and healed ……just as dampness of a log of wood was unknown until fire applied to it made it sweat and smoke and sputter.”

Here are some thoughts from watching all those logs being burnt.  First, the intensity of the fire.  The fire, the Holy Spirit of God, abides in your heart.  You aren’t going to get more fire. There already is fire in your belly.  The question is, “What are you doing about the fire?’  You can open yourself to this unquenchable flame within, or you can ignore what is burning within you.  Jeremiah said God’s Word, “is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot” (Jer. 20:9). Joy comes in release not containment.

Secondly, the image of wood getting all carred, turning black and smoking, before it become a bright flame.  This is the image of the Holy Spirit showing us all the darkness still left in our hearts. All that sputtering and hissing of the log is the work of purifying going on in our souls.  But remember that this is “a flame of love.” There is no  short cut to becoming a flame burning for the Lord.  The darkness has to be brought to the light and healed.  It can get ugly and uncomfortable at times.  But there is no other way.

Thirdly, as the fire blackens the wood burning on the outside, the log is transformed into a flame as it burn from within.  The fire of God’ s love purifies our egos. It then ignites our minds, words, wills and actions.  God yearns to set us ablaze.  As we open ourselves up to this divine love, we discover a fire being ignited in us.  As Albert Haase observes, “God initiates the process of spiritual transformation by throwing a divine spark into our lives.  God then waits for our response.”

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Fu and Wishy

You must be curious about the title of my blog.  “Fu” and “Wishy” were playful, intimate terms Judy and I had for each other during our courting days.  Judy was “Fu” and I was “Wishy.”  How we got those names is a long story.  Towards the end of our two weeks on the beach at South Padre, I got the idea of writing one of these heart shaped expressions of our love for one another in the sand.  Here is what I wrote.  “I love Fu/ yes I do/ This is true/ Love Wishy.”  Others came by and had various responses to an “old-timer” writing in the sand.  So why do I bring up this incident?.

It has to do with my passions. Proverbs 5:18-19 – Message tells us,  “Bless your fresh-flowing fountain!  Enjoy the wife you married as a young man!  Lovely as an angel, beautiful as a rose – don’t ever quit taking delight in her body.  Never take her love for granted.”  That day on the beach I was enjoying the company of my “fresh-flowing fountain” that has been at my side for 51 years.  I was reverting back to our early days of courtship as we walked the beach hand in hand.  I often say, “My wife is like good wine, it gets better with age.”  My regret is that often I, “take her love for granted.”  I am asking the Lord to help me enjoy each day that I have with my “rose” since we are in the fourth quarter of our journey together.

I am thankful for that day on the beach when I spontaneously  got the idea of expressing my affection of my “bride” in such a public manner.  It was evidence that the flame that was lite over 50 years ago was till burning for my wife.  I identify with the words of Paul when he says, “But if they [unmarried men] can’t manage their desires and emotions, they should by all means go ahead and get married.  The difficulties of marriage are preferable by far to a sexually tortured life as a single” (I Cor. 7:9 – Message).  I say “Amen.” My testimony is that only by the grace of God has the flame continued to burn for my wife.  Like many of you I have to guard my heart from wandering away from my wife.  I have found over the years that the more I expose my passions  in the light of the Lord, the more they can be directed towards my wife. I lived for years in shame regarding  these passions.  I never let them see the light of God’s love and mercy.  Men, don’t hide with your passions in those dark places of lustful fantasy.

Do you find delight and joy in the wife of your youth?  How bright is your flame?  “So guard your heart, remain loyal to the wife of your youth (2:15),” advises the prophet Malachi, in his lament on the destructive nature of divorce.  There are men who live with their wives in “emotional” divorce. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty….So guard your heart, do not be unfaithful to your wife.” (Malachi 2:16).  There are probably men reading this blog, who know they are living in emotional divorce.  Let it convict you that it can overwhelm your wife with cruelty.

My advice, open those dark places in your soul where you entertain lustful thoughts for other women to the gaze of the Lord.  Once you do, you will be surprised that God love you right there in your stink.  Give your struggle to him.  Ask him to direct your passion to the wife of your youth.

A Sin-Sick Soul

Francois Fenelon, a 17th century French archbishop, has helped me over the years on my spiritual journey.  He had this to say about the soul.  “In order to make your prayer more profitable, it would be well from the beginning to picture yourself as a poor, naked, miserable wretch, perishing of hunger, who knows but one man of whom he can ask or hope for help; or as a sick person, covered with sores and ready to die unless some pitiful physician will take him in hand and heal him.  These are true pictures of our condition before God.. ….your soul is infinitely more sin-sick than that sore stricken patient, and God alone can heal you.”

I assume that most men reading this blog have not been told they have a “sin sick” soul.  The “lukewarm” believers in the Laodicean church, who said, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing,” are described by Jesus as  “wretched, pitful, poor, blind and naked”  (Rev 3:16-17).   When you are lukewarm, you  neglect the health of your soul and become sin-sick.  Speaking to the Pharisees, who assumed they were spiritual healthy, Jesus observed, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”  We are “sin-sick,” in need 0f the great Physician, who “took up our infirmities and carried our diseases” (Matt. 8:17).

The Psalmist was very aware of his needy soul. He described it as being thirsty.  “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?” (Ps 42:2).  He is describing a withered landscape in which he is longing for relief.  He is aware that only God can satisfy his thirst.  Remember Jesus said, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13).  The invitation is to come.  “”The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’  And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Rev 22:17).  So in simple terms – admit your neediness and come to Jesus to find relief.

The Psalmist also talked about yearning for God.  He knew his deepest desires were for God.  “”My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Ps. 84:2).  A loud vocal crying for God is implied.   In Psalm 6:3 the Psalmist declares, “My soul is in deep anguish.  How long, Lord, how long.”  Men, take time to monitor your inner life.  Learn to slow down to hear what your soul is telling you.  Below the inner chatter is the deep longing of your soul for fellowship with God.  It is like a “soul-ache.”

Pay attention to your soul.  This means taking some time to just wait.  In Ps 130 the Psalmist begins with a cry for help. “Help God – the bottom has fallen out of my life!  Master, hear my cry for help!  Listen hard! Open your ears!  Listen to my cries for mercy” (Ps 130:1-2 – Message).  Then he adds, “I pray to God – my life a prayer – and wait for what he’ll say and do.  My life’s on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning ” (vs. 5-6).

Men, it is in the waiting that healing comes to a sin-sick soul.  “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” (Ps 23:1-3)

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