Tune in for discussion on Friendship

I have an opportunity to join Parker J. Cole’s internet radio broadcast tomorrow.  We will be having a range of discussion on non-familial relationships. We will examine various aspects of friendship and healthy relationship. If you wonder what I sound like or care to tune in for a discussion on the topic please join us at: Parker J. Cole: Friends and Others at 1:00 PM central time.

 

Good Friday: God’s answer to suffering

Good Friday. This day is a day unlike any other day in the course of human history. This day changed everything. This is the day God demonstrated the depth of His love. This is where God entered into the world of suffering, experienced the depth of what this fallen world has to provide regarding pain. He gave himself to such horrendous suffering so that there may be reconciliation. There are many who use the existence of pain and suffering to dismiss God. Some even consider a God who allows for the varied depth of pain to be a psychopathic despot lacking in love for allowing such. Love is then defined as sparing others from pain. Yet, in such thinking, there is a failure to grasp that God in his actions lead mankind a chance to be truly spared from pain. He took on pain so that in the grand scheme, any can be freed from the pain and suffering. Actions were given to change everything. It required God in the flesh, surrendering self to pain and depth to create a way. So he did meet that flawed definition of love, sparing others from pain. Yet, what God did was not a temporary answer but provide a chance for complete wholeness. Sure, the impact in this life, in this time, in this world of pain is not always immediately observed, but when you look beyond and past the temporary conditions we face, the reality of the depth and restoration provided at the cross is incredible. God gave us an act of love that brings us beyond the pain, beyond the suffering, and makes all things right.

Mother’s Day: Honoring Mother- Rising Up and Calling Her Blessed

Today is Mother’s Day. It is the day in this culture that is set aside to Honor Mothers.  It is a day where we are encouraged to express value to mothers. In general the concept is to honor those who you are a child of and those who you have children with.  The day is one in which Proverbs 31:28 (ESV) “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” is practiced. The verse covers both those who you are a child of and those who you have children with.  In context that verse is referring to what occurs in the life of a virtuous woman as described in Proverbs 31.  Honestly, most mothers fall short of the standard described in Proverbs 31.  There are things done that hurt and cause pain and miss the standard of virtue. Yet, even so, there is the need to honor. There is the need to attend to that which is of virtue.  The actions described in Proverbs 31 are really about proclaiming the virtue and giving witness to the good things, the virtuous actions.  It is really giving acknowledgement to the good that has been done.  

Personally, this writer does not yet have children. There are hopes, plans, and dreams of the same.  Yet, on this day, with no children yet, there are words to say to life up the woman who will one day share the joy of bringing children into the world. There is honor in the steps she takes while awaiting the time of bringing children into this world. Admittedly each day the time gets shorter, but the time taken is of worth and value so that we both may be of virtue in raising children.  So, this writer is proclaiming that his wife is a woman to be praised and valued.  I honor her.

Now, as to this writer’s mother; there has been no one who has more impact on the man I’ve become then her. She engaged in much care and nurture. There were many actions taken that shaped my life course and development.  She is even the one who identified and encouraged my life call and profession. She sacrificed on many levels to ensure that me and my brother had what we needed.  It is certain, that my awareness of what she poured into my life is only partial for many things actions taken that were well beyond the awareness of a child (and yes, even beyond awareness of an adult child.)  My mother did so much to love and build me up that it is need of honor and this writer greatly appreciates what she is done.  My mother is one to be honored and blessed for the value of what she put into my life is beyond measure.

Now, for the readers of this post, please take time to consider the mother’s in your life.  Praise them and rise up and call them blessed. Do so today, and do so beyond such days of cultural expectation. Find the things of virtue and honor that shaped you, and make it know, for as you bless, you in turn are blessed. 

Reflections on Brennan Manning: A Teacher of God’s Love and Grace

Today 4/13/2013 news that Brennan Manning left this life on 4/12/2013. He was a man of God, a disciple who now has moved on. Yet, he was a teacher of much controversy. The top of the controversy was that he taught “contemplative prayer” with use of things like emptying thoughts and repeating words. This controversy exists and is out there, yet, I have no question that in He was a true follower of Jesus the Messiah. His teaching and from what I understand even his life was fractured and flawed. He knew fully what it was to experience God’s grace. Yet, he is really know different than any other disciple of Jesus. He tought things wrong, he did things wrong, he was flawed. Yet, he knew what it was to be loved by God. He was a teacher and preacher of God’s love. His messages focused on deepening the understanding of God and His love. This is true for me.
I heard Brennan Manning speak at Church of the Open Door in Minnesota two or maybe three times. When he spoke his words and presence displayed and shown the love of God. His words touched to the very core. I do not remember his words or his teaching at that time. I do know what he taught and spoke of on those days changed me. He gave words that brought closer awareness to the love of God. He taught in such a way that got beyond the fractured images I had of God the Father and God used to touch hurt and pain and let God’s love in. God used this man. And for that I am grateful. He served and was used by God and he touch my life and many others. There are a great many quotes out there that demonstrate the truth he taught. It is important to note in God’s economy the words of Love and truth have far greater impact than the things we speak that are flawed, dangerous, or destructive. Truth and love always have greater effect. In closing this article I am posting some Brennan Manning quotes that demonstrate the Truth and Love that he taught that impacted so many.

“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”

“In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.”

“God is love. In human beings, love is a quality, a high-prized virtue; in God, love is His identity.“

“God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be.”

“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ, & I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”

“Christianity was not some moral code; it was a love affair, & I experienced it first hand.”

“If we conceal our wounds out of fear & shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”

Love is all we need

All_We_Need_Is_LoveLove. It is a simple word. It signifies something we all so desperately want but it is also so very lacking.  Love is the most talked about subject within our culture and everything point to a significant relationship and subsequent children as the apex of love.  Yet, ultimately none of us get it. We fail to grasp love.  We all wanted be care for and are hurt when we are not.  We all desperately want to be loved and to love. It is at the core of humanity. It is why we take on pets for example, to love and be loved.

 Yet, ultimately we fail to grasp love and are really far from it. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves provides a definition of love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Our experience of love falls far of that definition.  Here is the reason. The definition involves no focus on self. It is looking outward toward the welfare of others. The essence of love is found in Philippians 2:3 (ESV) Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.   When we love we are emptying of self. We are giving of self. We are focused on the welfare not of self, but of others.  However, we are ever self-focused.

We are wrapped up in our perception of being loved and are quick to voice when we are not engaged in behavior that is perceived as caring or loving. When we get upset, we do so when someone else has failed to engage in looking out for our welfare and did or said something we find lacking.   Such a response is even followed suit in understanding and rejecting God.  Many who reject God look at pain and suffering in the world and their own lives and conclude that a loving God could not allow such.  So they reject God. Some in that rejection will push simply engaging in looking out for the welfare of others.  The refrain is “all we need is love.” Simply look out for others and make the best world today.  Yet, lost in it all is the day to day agony when that desire of love falters.

 The fact is God does look out for our welfare. He never fails.  The rest of us fall far short.  So, yes we all need love, and love is what we all need, but if you separate that love from the author  and source of love it is but illusion. God is the only one who provides full care and love. Yes, the love does provide limits and structures, not out of cruelty, but in understanding what we need and what hurts us. We see that every day with parents and children, choices made and limits set for their welfare often in spite of great protest. Sure, any one of us can demonstrate love to others. We can do good too others apart from God. We can make the best out of life. Yet, it is making the best of what we can. But that falls far short of a life submitted to God, the source and author of love. And none of us have a grasp on God’s love. Our understanding is limited.  Yet, as you grow in understanding God, love grow. Love for God, self, and others. It comes as you grow and as you understand and grow the wounds and hurts from the damages of living life heal and allow true forward movement that in turn demonstrates the care for others found in demonstrating true love. We need love. We need God. You cannot separate the two for God is love.  So yes, all we need is love and that need is only found in God, who is love. So God is what we all need, for God is love.

Musing on Facing Threats and the Care of God

Personally things have been emotionally draining the past week. Emotions have been raw and anxiety has come easily. The reason for the anxiety is related to some current ongoing threats of loss. Things important to me are at risk. It does not really matter what the risks are, but they are there. However, the things that are at immediate threat are the potential loss to the state of Minnesota if politicians do not approve a stadium. The other threat is to our dog’s health and well being. She developed a cancerous skin tumor that most likely is benign. However, it is still a threat and anxiety producing. See, these are things that personally there are deep care and attachment. When what we care about is at risk, our emotions become volatile with anger and anxiety there easily. Questions come about whether these things that are cared for have too much importance or the care has reached the point of idolatry. Yet, idolatry comes when things cared for are things from which we draw life. They become so important that nothing else matters. God created us to love and care. He wired us to develop attachments. God has given us directions to deal with such threats. Psalms 55:22 (ESV) sates “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” And 1 Peter 5:7 (ESV) states
“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” The verses shows a simple step. Turn over what we care about to God and trust him. God will see us through whatever the threat. God does not promise that there will not be loss. God promises to sustain us, and to look out for our welfare regardless of what happens. God simply directs us to present our request to him. Philippians 4:6 (ESV) states “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” We are directed to ask God about the things we care about but have an attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude. Thanksgiving is important here, because God gave us things to care about. Be it a pet, be it a sport team, be it family or whatever else we care about. God gave us these things. So whether there is loss or the ability to continue to care, we are to be thankful for what God has given and allowed. Loss may or may not happen, yet what God has given is good. Yet, God allows threats and difficulties. Life is an ongoing battle with pain, suffering, and loss constantly lurking. God directs us to stand firm and endure. He asks us to submit to Him, to acknowledge Him, to depend on Him. When we do so, he will sustain us and at the right time, raise us up, not because of anything of our own regard, but because we turn to Him. It is easy to get lost and distracted in the things we care for and we can easily make them more important than God in our life. However, the treats of loss are not related to anything out of proper alignment, rather such times allow us to evaluate and examine where our affections lie and what we look to for life and strength. Even when nothing is out of alignment, God still allows for loss and tests, for it draws us to Him and allows Him to work and show us His love for us, by working as He will in the matters that we care about. This is why God wants us to direct our request to Him and depend on Him, for it gives Him opportunities to demonstrate His love for us. Whatever the results God shows He cares for us. Romans 8:28 (ESV) states “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” God does not promise that everything goes according to our will, just that He works it all out for good. The good ultimately comes from God demonstrating His love and care in whatever way he will in the circumstances of life and what we care for. God works when we give him opportunity to do so, and that work is ultimately building us up in His love, whatever may occur. So, in my life there may be loss, or loss may be stayed. Yet, God will be faithful in all. That being said my requests before God is for the football team to remain in Minnesota and for my dog, Bella, to not have her life in jeopardy due to some cancerous skin cells. Yet, whatever happens God will demonstrate His love for me, because He does care for me, far greater than my care for a sports team and a pet.

Valentine’s Day Musing: Some thoughts on love

Today, 2/14/2012 is Valentine’s Day. It is a day where love is celebrated. It is day special attention is giving to doing what we believe will let those around us we care about know how much we care. We express love in a variety of ways through words, deeds, and gifts. Every person wants to love and be loved. It is something deep within each of us. God created us in His image, and thus the giving and receiving of love is part of who we are. The moments we experience of love, the moments we give love reflect God. Sadly, our love is imperfect and clouded in our own wants and desires. We love, not simply to love, but to be loved. When we fail to experience love in the ways we perceive we should be loved, we get hurt. Even when experience a touch of love, it does not satisfy. It is not enough. None of us are capable of loving as God loves, we all falter. None of us love purely or are purely loved by anyone else. We all have a skewed view of love.

God did demonstrate pure love. We find that love at the cross of Calvary where God in human flesh took on all of human suffering and frailty and providing the way that can save all those that accept His love, truly. Yet, some how we do not really grasp that love. Even those who have believed that God expressed love in such a way so as to enable relationship with Him, we fail to grasp. God’s love is far greater than we can comprehend. We get focused on what we experience. God often feels like this great “other” who lives a “way up there” and fails to act. Thoughts come to mind that if God is love, why does he seem so distant? Why is he not active in the world to reduce the pain we experience? Why does he allow bad things to happen. We does he not prevent unloving actions. Why does he not stand in way of all evil? How can God stand in the midst of great pain and sadness without doing anything to relieve it? Wouldn’t real true love always give what is right and never generate or allow pain? We just do not grasp love at all.

What we fail to grasp, is love is not about the momentary, the instantaneous. Love is not about getting what we think we need. Love is not about being flattered and showered with all that is good. No love is the giving fully of all in the midst of where we are. God has given us words to know love is not really about all that feels good. We quote those words often, they are used in weddings and even included in Valentine’s day cards. Take a good read over 1 Corinthians 13 and pay particular attention to verse seven. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” That verse does not speak to the absence of difficulty or pain. It does not speak to giving others whatever they think they want. The verse speaks of giving a covering, holding firm, building up in the midst of pain, moving forward in the midst of whatever may be happening. Good, bad, or ugly love bears, believes, hopes, and endures. Love is persistent in all times and circumstances.

While our understanding and grasp of love is flawed, what we do grasp and experience reflects God who is love. Not our twisted concept of love based on whatever we think is best for us, but rather love that knows each of us intimately and knows what benefits us, knows even how what we experience will enable us to grow in love. He knows each one, each moment of failed love. He experiences that pain. He knows the depth of the failures in love, yet still what is of love is greater. God has shared that the impact of love in our lives is far greater than any wounding. For in God’s love is all safety, all security, and there is no lack even if we do not experience it in the now. So take time to think about love, think about the people God has brought in your life that touched you for the good and enabled you to experience love, even if you did not get it at the time. Seek to grow in love, for compared to God, our love is but of a child and driven of self but a time is coming when we will mature in love and demonstrate that to others. Our actions of love, however imperfect, always matter.

Christmas Eve Musing: On Christmas Past- Memories & Honor with Joy & Sorrow

Once upon a time a man wrote a story where a person looked at impact of Christmas past, present, a future to the point it changed his life and led to repentance. It is a story that captured the hearts and minds of many. In praying about what to write this season the focus on Christmas past, present, and future is what developed in my mind. See this Holiday; these days have become a very important day for the Church as a whole. Like a certain character in a book if each of us takes time to reflect on the past, present, and future elements of Christmas there will be impact that can lead to change.

Christmas it is a day that is meant to be a celebration and remembrance. It is a season that reminds us and focuses on what God has done and given in the gift of the Incarnation. A reflecting when God came to earth with a plan to reconcile all willing to receive to him, bringing peace on earth, goodwill toward men. Christmas as we know it today developed over time and a variety of stories and actions that have become part and parcel of the day. Now it is noteworthy, that God did not initiate this holiday itself. This celebration does not actually fall on the exact date of Jesus birth. Rather, it has become simply a day set aside where the focus is on what God has done. It is a day to think, learn, and look back on Jesus being born, coming to earth with His mission. It is a day in which Thanksgiving and Honor is given to God almighty. God’s act of love is remembered and acts of love are demonstrated to others. Those acts then create more memories and traditions that ultimately serve to Honor God.

Each family has traditions. Some remain consistent over time. Some fade as life changes. The traditions develop around memories of the ways love was demonstrated. In general we repeat the things that brought present memories to us, so that those we love can have a similar experience to our own. We care and give because we love. Sure, not all that has occurred on this Holiday is pleasant, pleasurable, or joyful. Sometimes there are hard and difficult times. Traditions end. Times change. Death and suffering take their toll. Yet, there are the memories formed and memories created. Even the hard times have moments of significant meaning for each individual. For God is always at work demonstrating His love, showing that He is now accessible and with us, because of the gift He gave of Himself that this Holiday commemorates and gives honor. And how we have been impacted by God and others has lasting impact. Otherwise none of us would have traditions. What we do we do because of what we have received for we act based on what we have received, hoping others receive similar.

Now while we have these traditions that touch us, ultimately each of us has our own personal memories. For ultimately any looking at the past is very personal. We are able to look at the joys and pains; the elation and grief. For in this world there is always good mixed with bad. Even the celebration of Christmas demonstrates that fact for we live with Christ-center thoughts and traditions and the other stuff. Good and bad. Those we love express the love, but they fall short. They may give what they can with good intention or be focused on self; or more often a combination of both. Now here is something that is special. This Holiday focuses on God loving and giving a gift unlike any other. God gave the only good and perfect gift: a gift of both Joy and Sorrow for God came to be with us, be among us to suffer greatly so that we may be reconciled to Him and enter relationship with our Creator. Now just as God’s perfect gift bring mixed emotions. So do our experiences and memories. We are touched in many ways with good and bad; love and pain. Each of our lives and stories are different. Each person has a unique Christmas past; ways that you have been impacted by others. Ways gifts have built you up. Ways actions have results in fears, defenses, and barriers. We all have them.

Initially when started writing this story the though was to perhaps share a memory of joy, disappointment, and even sorrow. Ask me in person and will gladly share stories. This article though is really to encourage personal reflection. Embrace the pleasant and painful memories. Embrace both the Joy and Sorrow and let each impact how you interact with others in this time and season. Identify, recognize, and remember what has gone on and see where God is working. Then give God glory and honor in your actions. Take time this season to grow in relationship to God and others as you remember your Christmas Past for whatever it is, look and you will find God’s love reflected, in both the best and the worst. And as you enter those memories and your Christmas past let “Hosanna’s” spring forth and the refrain of the Angels take root “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will to men.”

#wcaacc: Day Two summary thoughts: Changing perspectives lead to actions that can change perspectives

Day two at the World Conference of the American Association of Christian Counselors was a day the provided challenge. The key words for me were that of being engaging in changing perspectives. Now of course the questions is what is the meaning in those words and how does it related to what God stirred within me today. These thoughts are ongoing musings that are not so much about any specific teaching but a bringing the thoughts together into a perspective on what God is showing me today.

The thoughts are that each and everyone of us see things from a perspective. God has worked and operated in our life and reveal Himself to us. We have understanding. Yet, our understanding of God, mankind, self, and relationship is partial and limited. We all have growth needed in one way or another. Some growth and healing from hurt and pain. Some growth in moving into what God has called and helping others move into what God has called. God has given each of us gifts and perspective. Our eyes and ears, and hearts and minds God has opened to certain views. We need to grow in what God has given us and ask God to open our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to a broader view.

We can easily settle for what we think we already know. We can have a knowledge that can even develop into pride and arrogance if we let it. God though has ways of shaping us in particular seasons. What God does one day and in one persons story is not necessarily the way it is for the next. God engages as He does in our lives. And while God does not change, the relationship varies in accordance with the individual not in relativistic or pliable way, but in a relational way in correspondence with how He designed us. He knows our individual design intimately and what we need for growth.

Now here is the deal, God interacts with us in a relational manner. He gives us His love. We reflect what God does in us. We take what He has done and reflect it to those around us. “We let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify God in heaven.” The reflection is a simple small light compared to the brightness of God’s glory. An encounter with God brings weight and the vision is never the same. And each of us, regardless of where we are have a response to the weight and brightness of God’s glory. There is no way we can grasp it all at once, so He gives us different and varied perspectives and lets us reflect. Each of our lives and actions are a story of revelation much like those who came before.

So, in reflecting what God has revealed we in turn touch others. For we have no other choice but to do so, because an encounter with God and his interacting with us in ways that are relationally true, there is no other response but to engage others in love and truth with what God is doing. For the Love of Christ, how he has touched us pulls us to in turn share with and engage others. In other words, we are compelled by Christ’s love. We engage in being who we are in line with what God has done and gifted. We then become salt and light, answering Gods call where we are. Not for the point of some great transforming of this temporary world, but to draw others toward a change in perspective about God to the point where they may yet choose to surrender self and become a member of God’s Kingdom. Yet, not just a member but an adopted child. Blessed only because of who God is, which gives us the opportunity to draw others toward there own encounter with the great, mighty, and heavy God of glory.

#wcaacc Conference Day One: Re-establishing Focus

 

Today the start of the World Conference for the American Association of Christian Counselors was a day that served as a good start. God already has been at work showing me, reminding me, and teaching me what I need to know today. My story and journey here is unique as it will be for the 7000 other counselors and ministers of varying forms. Each situation and story is different and what God has to teach at some levels is the same but for each individual it is different, for he created us each unique. For me today, the day was about renewed focus.

 

My day started with Dr. E. John Kuhnley with a training related to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. So the conference started for me with examining those who at a core have a disorder in focus. It was interesting that in the course of the training the comparison was made to vision loss and the nature of “corrective measures.”

 

The journey of the day continued with a training sponsored by the Society of Christian Psychologists about the Problem of Evil and Suffering in Christian Counseling. It was a time focusing on the essence of dealing with the suffering around us and those we encounter. The lecture and conversation centered on who God is and how we impact others. An awareness of God being beyond our grasp and when interacting with others, we are not about the answers but the coming along side to encourage healing and growth. The thoughts that stuck with me are related to being okay with the “I do not know” followed by having a grasp of the function of suffering and what happens when we do face the suffering of this fallen world. So in other words, we may never understand the meaning of what happens to us related to the pain and suffering we encounter in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We don’t have to understand. Ultimately suffering serves a purpose in each of our lives. Each story is unique and different and of the course we learn what there is to learn and grow deeper from knowledge to understanding. As we walk the path in thing enduring faith, God brings to further clarity at times His calling and path. Something that path is different than expectations as dreams shatter. Yet, God works, as He wills and works, in each life, for each story.

 

 

 

The day wrapped up with the opening plenary session. Before either Dr. Tim Clinton or Lois Palau spoke worship was lead by Charles Billingsly. He made a statement “The world is all of us. The only thing that separates us is the blood of the lamb.” Dr. Tim Clinton then spoke on the growing importance of faith and spirituality in counseling. He touched on Colossians 1:27 with emphasis on the last portion of the first “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” He went on to state “It’s personal. It is all about you and what God wants to do through you.” He then challenged each of us to ask God to do something special which may be a renewed calling, a being strengthen to fight, to simply do what matters before God.

 

For me the night ended with Lois Palau talking about the mysteries of union with God, the human condition, and communion with God. The emphasis was about God being with us, within us. That each day we need to start with our focus on God and Jesus in surrender. We need to abide in Him. One profound statement was “That along as God is in us, we are the power of God wherever we go.”

 

 

 

So in summing up my thoughts on this day. For me it was renewed focus. We each can easily lose focus. We can lose sight of the basics. We live in a fallen world and have a fallen sin nature. We are no different than anyone else. We are all in the same boat. The difference that exists, exists because of what God did in suffering for us. He suffered and died so that we may be made free and lived. This freedom is not to do what ever we determine but to enter into God’s Kingdom and follow His way. It is only in being aligned with God that we are whole. God moves in each of our lives in ways beyond our limited understand. We all have a a unique story. It in involves joy and sorrow. Yet, in that each of us have a path and calling. We are enabled to walk the path God puts before us because of His strength, for He is with us. Whatever we do, whatever steps we take, whatever moving forward, comes becomes of God in us. And this is the focus. Whether in plenty or want that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

 

Well those are my thoughts and summation for this first day of the conference and what God is doing. Take time to ask God to help your focus and see what He wants you to see. Accepted what you do not know and trust in God alone. For only in Him is there any strength.