Brokenhearted

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By virtue of being alive, and living any length of time, there will come a point when you experience the agony of a broken heart. Its initial impact brings you to your knees as soul-searing pain rips repeated and relentless at your insides. Bewildered and vulnerable, you struggle for air as internal bleeding threatens to overcome you.

This wasn’t the way it was meant to be.

Betrayal, sickness, death, abuse, neglect, broken relationships, and broken dreams can bring the kind of heart-sickness that tears strips off our faith, hope, and trust. Such is the devastation of brokenness that at times we fear we are impossibly damaged.

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Hope deferred makes the heart-sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.  ~Proverbs 13:12

A positive attitude, an improved meal plan, a lengthy holiday, a workout regime, a self-help program, a new hobby, the numbing effects of substances—or another’s body—are all Band-aids. And we are so accomplished at finding fixes and fillers that we think it’s helping. And maybe it does, for a time, but a broken human being is a difficult thing to fix.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Enter the healer:

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~ Psalm 147:3

We go to great lengths to mend ourselves, often ignoring the one who was sent for this very purpose and the only one qualified for the job. We can wander in the wilderness a long time, thirsty for something we can’t put our hands on, trying to fill a God-shaped hole that nothing else fits. When that emptiness, sadness, or brokenness threatens to swallow us alive, Jesus is there. He was always there.

He is the saviour, healer, counsellor, and lover we’ve needed all along. He’s the only one able to take the fragments of our once tender heart and piece it back together so we can begin to trust, live, and love again.

I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.  ~ Jesus

Jesus meets us in the middle of our pain, our brokenness, and loneliness. He doesn’t expect us to fix ourselves. We can’t anyway. We’ve already tried that. But until we accept that we are irreparably broken—unfixable apart from Jesus—we can’t be repaired.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  ~Psalm 34:18

Like us, Jesus experienced all of this messiness while on earth. He wasn’t immune to betrayal, sickness, death, abuse, neglect, broken relationships, and the broken dreams of others. He came to stand with us in our brokenness to heal us, to love us, to point us heavenward, and then to die for us.

Once we’ve experienced the devastation of brokenness, it feels impossible to entrust our heart to another again. It’s much easier to close ourselves off in an attempt to protect ourselves for fear of being hurt again. This protective measure leaves us cold, angry, distant, and joyless. We become untouchables—the walking wounded—never really opening ourselves up. It takes an act of courage, and a measure of faith to love again.

Hearts are a notoriously fragile but remarkably mendable. Entrusting your heart to Jesus—the only one who is fully faithful—will not only secure your eternity, it will secure your heart for the here and now. You are loved by God, fully, unconditionally, endlessly. You cannot be unloved, abused, neglected, or left by Jesus, no matter what you do or fail to do. His is a forever kind of love.

He has said: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Hebrews 13:5

God’s love gives us the boldness and strength to love others, more purely, more patiently, more unconditionally, and more fully. Even if that love isn’t reciprocated, even if others are incapable of loving you the way you’d like to be loved, even if you are mistreated. God gives you the faith, hope, and love to overcome your own messes and brokenness and love others in theirs. There is beauty and abundant life on the other side of brokenness, and it’s gifted from Jesus.

“I am the way, the truth and the life.” ~ Jesus

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  1. Have you ever felt so brokenhearted you feared you could never mend?
  2. Bring your brokenness to Jesus, and trust him to heal you.

Learning to Fight

My husband and I learned how to fight. This seems like a bad idea, but there are some substantial advantages to mastering techniques for conflict resolution. By virtue of being human, there will always be possibilities for disagreements with others. It seems marriage is full of such opportunities.

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Ralph and I have been married for twenty-six years, but while dating, we had to overcome contrasting upbringings and approaches to conflict. I was raised in a polite British philosophy where I often heard, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” In theory, this is rather lovely, but when applied to conflict resolution, it results in generous amounts of “sweeping things under the rug”.

My husband’s family is German. They got things out in the open, forgave, and moved on. During a conflict, my silent treatment, or disappearance from a tense room, shut down communication. Eventually, I saw that my tactics were ineffective, and began communicating by facing things head-on. Generally, for most things to improve, it takes undoing poor habits and mastering new ones. Such was the case for fighting well.

Whether a spouse, family member, colleague, or friend, we will be confronted with opportunities to fight and forgive well. When we face disagreements, or experience hurt at the hands of another, it’s easy to become offended and get angry. The key is to not grow embittered, carry that wounding around with you, or worst of all, shove it under the rug.

Fight for relationships that are worth fighting for. Instead of withdrawing or rebutting with silence, develop the habit of forgiveness. This doesn’t mean we excuse the behaviour or pretend it didn’t happen. We acknowledge the wrong done, communicate how it made us feel (if possible), and then forgive—independent of whether an apology is offered.

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Ralph and I – 2010

Forgiveness is a loving act both toward ourselves and others. It’s saying, what you did hurt me, but I refuse to let it rule me. In a fearless act of love, you forgive and in doing so, it’s as though you’ve covered over their fault so that it’s no longer visible. It’s probably the only time it’s a good idea to cover up something. In the meantime, you’ve secured your freedom. You’ve freed yourself from the weight of carrying anger and bitterness and can move forward in soul-settled peace.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

This courageous and almost contradictory behaviour—just as learning to fight appears at first glance—brings us close to the heart of God. Christ’s death meant we were loosed from sin and fully forgiven. When we behave in like manner, laying ourselves down for others, and beautifully offering a cover of forgiveness for their shortcomings, we are behaving like our Father in heaven. Here’s some helpful instruction: 

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous… If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?… Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

Forgiveness doesn’t mean giving others a license to repeatedly mistreat you. You still need to set healthy boundaries and remove yourself from toxic people or harmful situations. Forgiveness simply means you release offenses, and, as a result, remain free from others’ baggage.

Forgiveness isn’t easy. It’s not a one-time effort either. For me, forgiveness often looms like an unscalable mountain threatening to block my journey. But nothing worthwhile happens without fighting for it, or at least applying focused effort. Sometimes we need to reset our default button to bypass unhealthy mindsets or patterns of thinking.

It helps to remember that we needed mercy too. And don’t we continue to need it? We aren’t faultless. There will come a time when we hurt another—either purposely or unintentionally—and what a relief it is when this same forgiveness is extended to us. It also helps to remember we’re forgiven by God who never reminds us of our sins. The least we can do is love the same.

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  1. Make a list of those you haven’t forgiven.
  2. Pray and ask for God’s help to forgive.
  3. Go the extra mile and bless them (wish well for them).

 

 

 

A New Year’s Blessing

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Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. I would hazard a guess that you can easily name a few of your own. As this new year starts afresh, I want to embark from a place of thankfulness. As I leave 2018, I feel blessed to have witnessed my first-born wed and to welcome a new daughter into our lives as a result.

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I’m thankful to have seen my youngest go off to school for the first time where the transition, after homeschooling, was seamless. I’m thankful my novel is now in the midst of its second edit. I’m blessed to have ended the year surrounded by family and friends I hold near and dear. Such priceless blessings.

The start of a new year brings a sense of hope and wonder. Anything is possible. New adventures await. So as you enter 2019, I wanted to pass along this blessing I wrote a while back in hopes that it will stir your faith and rekindle your heart to God.

A New Year’s Blessing

I bless you this year, that you would rise up and give your Maker the first fruits of your time. May you draw close enough to hear the sound of his voice, the breath of his gentle whisper into your soul, the gesture of his hand beckoning you to sit awhile and listen to things too wonderful for you, yet meant for you alone.

As a child longs to be gathered onto his father’s lap, to be dandled on his knee, to be comforted, may it be your irrepressible desire to draw in close to the Lord. As a lover longs, with a full heart, to be with their one true love, may the Lord’s love likewise overwhelm you, fill you, and warm you with a burning desire to remain in his presence.

May you remove yourself from the entanglements of the world, the snares and numerous enticements that war for your time, affection, and very soul, and come away to be with the Lord. Jesus made a way for you to enter the Holy of Holies, “for the veil was torn in two” (Mark 15:38). So it was that the physical barrier that separated us from God was removed.

May you enter boldly (Heb 10:19-25) and lay your offering – your very life – at his feet. In that secret place, may you be devastated by his love, utterly undone in the presence of Almighty God (Isa. 6:1-8). May you be transformed, renewed, washed, filled, as a love deluge washes over your soul, cleansing away the soul-silt and rocky barriers that prevent you from being both cleansed and moving forward.

May you leave that place carrying the aroma of God, like incense, with a lingering cloud around you; the very scent of heaven saturating your skin, spirit, soul. May you be ushered into the places you are to tread, where those nearby would stop and lift their faces, and breathe deeply of God’s love, goodness, and mercy that is affixed to you.

May you leave that holy place confident of his abundant love for you, filled to overflowing with his outrageous love, so you will likewise love others without limits and barriers. May you walk in the knowledge of the miraculous things of God, fully expecting his kingdom to come on earth, your faith bolstered by all you have heard and seen, so that nothing can convince you otherwise. For you have lingered in the presence of God and will never be the same.

May you have the desire to return again and again, that action would replace longing, so that you dwell in the secret place, humbling yourself in his presence. Jesus being your intercessor, may you enter freely, fully, and often, so that your iniquity be taken away, and your sin purged (Isa 6:6), that you may be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12:1-2), in the world but not operating by the world’s system (John 17:14-16), and set apart to speak to the nations (Jer 1:5).

May the winters of your soul melt away, the rains disappear, the flowers blossom within your spirit, and your life.

Blessings to you this new year, in the name of Jesus.

Amen.

My beloved spoke, and said to me: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come. ~ Song of Solomon 2:10-12

Christmas is a Love Story

 

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This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. I’d like to enjoy every moment, yet it’s easy for it be sabotaged by being too busy and distracted—a general theme at any time of year, but especially at Christmas.

There’s the shopping, the preparations, the parties, the presents, the dinners, and time with family. All of this can be lovely (except maybe the shopping), but it can also be stressful and exhausting.

The high hopes surrounding this one day can add a lot of pressure too. I typically have a picture of how this day will shake out. I should fully engage in each moment and live out of the peace and joy ever at my disposal, but it’s easy to enter Christmas exhausted and exit it disappointed when the hype failed to match the event. I wonder if Jesus’s mother struggled this way too.

Mary had anticipated her son’s birth, and then, nearing her due date, she endured a 90 mile trek on a mule’s back to register for a census in the town of her husband’s ancestors. But the hardship didn’t end there. You know the story. When they arrived in Bethlehem, there were “No Vacancy” signs everywhere. In the Christmas rush, they must have neglected to arrange an Airbnb.

At this point, I’d be on the verge of a meltdown. Between the pregnancy hormones and “this is not what I thought it would be” emotions, my husband would be walking on eggshells. Some cross words would likely spill out to the effect of: “I thought you were dealing with this!” and the atmosphere would worsen. As expected, he’d go into fix-it mode and a stable would be a less-than-ideal solution.

It’s interesting that this first Christmas resembles our Christmas. Frenzied and imperfect. I think that’s exactly how God planned it. The census, the stable, and all that surrounded the birth of Jesus was marked by hardship. Could God be trying to show us something?

The God of the universe could have provided ideal circumstances, ensured his son be born in a palace with a grand feast prepared to fittingly celebrate the king’s birth. But in his deep compassion for humanity, not only did he come humbly in human form, he experienced all that we experience, and more. If you wonder if God can understand your pain, think of Jesus—God in the flesh.

Christmas is really a beautiful love story. It’s the continued story of God declaring his massive love and faithfulness to us. It’s him seeking us, finding us, living among us, and ultimately dying for us. It was part of his plan from the beginning. All part of his extravagant love.

It’s my prayer that we replace the scurry and worry and find lasting joy in Jesus. That our hearts will be more full than our tummies. That despite the pace we will find peace. That we will love as God does: completely, unconditionally, and sacrificially.

But most of all, I pray that we will have a deep understanding of how fully we are loved. Know this: God send his son to be born to die for you. You matter that much to him. He made a way for you, amid all your personal struggles, failures, and pain, to receive the gift of salvation through Jesus.

This Christmas, I pray you’ll take hold of this life-changing, eternity-altering, heart-healing gift, and unwrap a new life in Christ.

Merry Christmas from my home to yours!

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” 

John 15:12-13

 

 

 

 

 

 

The God We Didn’t Know

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Sketch of Napoleon crowing himself. ~ Drawing by David, kept at the Louvre.

I’ve noticed that a lot of animosity hurled toward God is misdirected.

God has become the cosmic scapegoat for many misdemeanors of mankind. He’s the fault of others’ failings. The illness for the ills injected by humans upon humans. The ugliness freely deposited by others. And this blame drags heavy, like the cross he staggered beneath and heaved up the hill to his death; unjustly accused even then.

Let’s be honest, humans are notorious for redirecting blame.

How could God allow children to starve? we exclaim as we dab our mouths, rub our bellies, and declare how stuffed we are. How could God allow women and children to be abused? while our insatiable appetite for pornography helps fuel the multi-billion dollar human trafficking industry. How can God allow mass genocide? as we welcome the supposed savior and then keep silent to save ourselves. How could God allow the homeless to freeze overnight? as we cross the street, lock our doors, and add an extra blanket to our beds.

Our hostility towards God can also be fueled by former hurt. We may have been wounded by those who should have known better; some who even claimed to know God. With that layer of proximity, there can be a propensity for the hurt to spill over and affect our perception of God. Sometimes we purposely distance ourselves from God in the aftermath of such disillusionment and disappointment, ascribing undo blame and fearing to love a God whose people behave so poorly.

But abuse and neglect, hatred and homicide, others’ judgment and exclusion, is not a reflection of God’s nature, but more accurately a picture of people who have forgotten who he is. Perhaps they never really knew him in the first place, or what they do know of him, they dislike or disregard. Possibly they prefer to pick and choose the parts they can accept and reject the rest. In all truth, often we’re so caught up being the ruler of our own little kingdoms that we sacrifice others in our self-coronation. So caught up, in fact, that we don’t really understand who God is, and often could care less.

And like any relationship, fraught with misunderstanding and confusion, fault lines and frayed edges, unscalable distance and disappointment, so too is our relationship with God. It’s difficult to know someone we’ve never really encountered or regularly spend time with.

This world, and all that’s in it, is a gift. As with all gifts, after they’ve been given, it becomes up to the receiver how they’re treated and maintained. God generously gave and let us be the caretakers. He offers help if we make room, but so often it’s too crowed in the kingdom of one. That’s when things tend to get ugly.

But every now and then, we make room and let Him in, and we begin to see beauty, and truth, and love.

We begin to realize that:

The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”  ~ Psalm 145:8-9

We learn that:

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  ~Lamentations 3:22-23

We hear that:

“The LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.”.  ~Deuteronomy 31:6b

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”

~Psalm 68:5

When we encounter and accept the truth of God’s surprising love, both our heart and outlook is altered. We are sorry for our failings. We understand how we’ve misplaced blame, and learn to face our faults. Our relationships begin to shift, and instead of exploiting, we look at all the things he entrusted us with a little differently. Some of the things that formerly preoccupied us fade in significance. God’s gentle, patient, kind, healing, and unconditional love propels us, and as we grow stronger, we in turn help strengthen. Beauty ensues and love stands a fighting chance.

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1. In what ways have you blamed God for the failings of others?

2. In what ways have you contributed to another’s pain or misfortune? Ask God for forgiveness, for the strength to change, and, if possible, make restitution.

3. If you sense you’ve never really known God, He is just a prayer away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Kind of Impact Are You Making?

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A precious offering from a student: a reminder of the little hands I held and also helped teach how to print their names.

This past Tuesday, I spent my last day in the kindergarten class. At the end of the day, just before nineteen little humans trundled off for home, I was inundated with colourful masterpieces and priceless hugs. Working to hold back tears, I received their affectionate gestures. The teacher commented on the impact I’d made after being in the class just over a month and added, what if it had been a full year as he had hoped.

It begs the question: what about an entire lifetime?

Within such a lifetime – composed of one day piling on top of another – there exists the opportunity to make a day-by-day, moment-by-moment difference. Some of those difference-making impacts will be the result of a cognitive choice or disciplined action, but there will be many that won’t. Some impacts will occur without you giving them a second thought; the mere result of you being a living, breathing human with the potential to leave an imprint on other human beings, for better or for worse.

I think to myself, what sort of impact am I making? Am I helping or hindering those around me to be the best versions of themselves? Do my words and actions encourage and build others up, or tear them down? Am I using my resources, including my time, finances, skills, and gifts to make a difference, or am I selfishly expending them only on my personal comfort?

Some may not think it matters, but I prefer to think it does. As a child, whenever we visited somewhere, my mom used to instruct us to leave it better than when we arrived. I think that applies to people as well as places. We can leave a person better than we found them. Our exchanges, no matter how small, can leave a positive or negative impact. The ability to shift the atmosphere is ever at our disposal.

It’s easy to grumble about poor service, complain about a coworker to another, treat a server poorly, or lose it entirely. But how much greater is a simple smile, a kind word of encouragement, a well-placed compliment, a small offer of help, a show of affection, or an extension of forgiveness. All of these can make all the difference. You won’t often know the mountains another is scaling in the midst of climbing your own, but at every handhold there exists the opportunity to make that assent just a little kinder and more manageable.

Beyond all this, there’s the impact in eternity, which, though temporarily invisible, will one day be all there is left, and all that matters. Not that we do these things for gold stars. We do them out of the outflow of love and forgiveness that we each have the opportunity to receive and extend. But make no mistake, everything, whether seen or unseen, applauded or ignored, matters.

I’ll leave this last thought: Be the person your dog thinks you are, the person your family wishes you were, and the person God made you to be!

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

~ Luke 8:17

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  1. In what ways are you leaving people better than you found them? In what ways could you stand to improve?
  2. Look for opportunities this week to make a difference.

Strong & Free

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Right before the Canada Day long weekend, along with a sizeable crowd of hardcore people, I completed an exercise challenge called Rebellion. At the party to celebrate our achievement, I bought this t-shirt. The saying on the front resonates with me. The two obvious reasons are that it includes words from Canada’s national anthem (the country of which I officially became a citizen 33 years ago), and secondly, by working out and completing the challenge, I grew stronger and free from indulgences that might otherwise keep me off track. But a less obvious and deeper meaning for me began 29 years ago at age eighteen. Continue reading “Strong & Free”