I’ve been away for three days of retreat. Actually it was a training, but for me, the two are often the same. The teaching this week on empathy, presence, and listening touched my heart. In reflecting on core longings, trauma, and grief, I became painfully aware that all three equally occupy my heart. What I love most about my time away is how it awakens me, not only to my need but to His care. It puts me back in touch with the truth that what I need most, He is eager to give. 
Everyone that seeks will find.
Everyone that asks will be given. 
These truths get buried in the busyness of life, yet they are always awaiting my rediscovery. In seeking, I find. In asking, I receive.  

Healing is a Journey

I participated in a small group training this weekend. It was a training for leaders on how to care for the hurt and broken. I have been on the healing journey for many years and yet I am far from unbroken. I have a story, and I have struggles. Over the two and a half days I was there, I received much needed care for both. As a caregiver, it is rare for me to open myself to the care I need, but I did. In the safe environment of the group I was in, I not only reconnected to my heart, which I’d numbed, I reconnected to God whose kindness I’d long ignored.  

The teaching provided through the training was powerful. I discovered, and was reminded of truths that both comfort and challenge. Even more importantly, I experienced the truths being taught firsthand, through the group I was in. To talk about helping the hurt and broken is one thing, but to be broken and helped is quite another. For the two days I was there, I experienced the rich blessing of each one.  

Finally, the power of stories was reinforced. God is in every story and struggle. We are all on a healing journey, and we all need care along the way. 

Father, thank you for meeting me this past weekend, and for the reminder that you are in each moment. Even when I am absent, you are there, waiting, beckoning me to tune into and enjoy what you have for me. Amen

Left Behind

A favorite quote from a favorite author: 

“A part of you was left behind very early in your life; the part that never felt completely received. It is full of tears … You have to bring home the part of you that was left behind. That is not easy, because you have become quite a formidable person … Your grown-up self has to become very childlike, hospitable, gentle and caring so your anxious self can return home and feel safe.” 

Henri Nouwen

I love this quote by Nouwen. It speaks to my own journey of healing. There are parts of me that were left behind early in my life. Sadly, they have remained “lost” to me for longer than I care to remember. In “exile” they languish without honor or nurture. Nouwen reminds me of the importance of finding, welcoming, and receiving with grace, these tearful parts of my self. 

Father, help me to welcome with grace, all parts of me, and more than that, to treat them with the gifts of generous care and gentle restoration. Amen 

Healing Conversations

It happens all the time. You’re talking with a friend. They share a struggle from their life. On the outside you’re composed, but on the inside, you’re anxious and uncertain. The truth is, you don’t know what to say. In moments like this, practice loving wisdom and simply listen. If you want to go beyond that, here are four guidelines for having conversations that heal. 

Hear their Story. Everyone needs to name their hurts and unfold the painful narrative of what they’re experienced or had to tragically endure. If it is the only thing you do, providing a safe place for your friend to share his hurts or tell his story is in itself healing. 

Enter their Suffering. Don’t back away, give advice, or quote the Bible at them. Don’t retreat from your friend’s anguish or nervously change the subject. Instead, enter into it with them, and with respectful curiosity, invite them to share more. 

Acknowledge their Struggle. Speak to what you hear. Acknowledge how difficult it must be to walk in their shoes, and then affirm their courage to struggle well. 

Lead them to Safety. Ask “Would it be okay if we prayed?” If they give their consent, lead them in a brief prayer that will carry them to the safest place on earth, to arms that never forsake. 

Just remember the acronym (H.E.A.L.). It is a tool I created to promote healing conversations with hurting people. You can compress this process into a five-minute conversation, expand it into a two-hour meeting, or turn it into a weekend retreat. 

If you want to learn more about H.E.A.L., let me hear from you. 

Hurry Sickness

I’ve always thought of myself as laid back and relaxed. It’s my style. Yet, the pace of ministry is anything but laid back. There’s always one more need to fill, question to answer, or heart to mend. Lately, I’ve noticed that when people have approached me for help, they often begin by saying:

“I know you are busy but …” 

I wonder if when I’m with people that I’m really with them? Is it their experience that I’m in a hurry to be somewhere else? I hope not, but I fear it is true.

Paul Tillich once observed that “the first duty of love is to listen.” If that is true, then I need to slow down long enough to listen. Is my heart centered and at rest or is it filled with clutter and worry? 

These questions hit close to home, especially when I consider how much Jesus accomplished without ever being in a hurry. He made time for the woman at the well (John 4) and made a hurried and worried Martha slow down so she could experience His presence (Luke 10:38-42). He wants the same for us. 

Like Martha, my heart is often restless and burdened. I need help from the one who promises to rest my hurried heart (Matt. 11).

Lord, today, help me to slow down and not run ahead. Help me to walk beside you and with others. Help me to tune into your presence, so that I might be fully present to others. Amen

Heaven’s Rest

Its early morning and I find myself with a dilemma. I’m tired. Instead of going to the gym to workout, I’d rather go back to bed. Even so, I throw on my hoodie, grab my gym bag, and head out. As the door closes behind me, I am reminded of one of life’s enduring truths.

Life is difficult.

I realize this is not an earth shattering insight, but it is an important one. I confess, certainly as a young person, but even now as an adult, I find this truth difficult to accept. Whether sports, graduate school, or important relationships, effort is required. Even so, there is a part of me that wants a world where things are not hard, where I’m taken care of, and where exhaustion never wins the day.

The Hebrew writer spoke of a day, and of a time when this kind of rest will be ours to enjoy (Hebrews. 4:13). It is the rest that Jesus promises to those who walk with Him. This side of heaven, we experience it in part, as live toward and yearn for the day when we will enjoy it fully and forever. 

And so on mornings like this, when I would rather just stay in bed, and when I want life to be effortless and easy, I take comfort in the fact, that maybe its not laziness after all, but simply a longing for the rest that Jesus promises. 

One day, things will be easy and without effort. But not today. And so as I face the day, God, please give me a measure of the rest I will one day enjoy in full. 

Our View of God

As a young person, I belonged to a small church of a dozen or so people, most of whom viewed God as a judge, eager to dispense justice, and reluctant to show grace. J.M. Henson wrote a hymn that we sang on a fairly regular basis. It was entitled, “Watching You.” Some of the lyrics are as follows:

All along on the road to the soul’s true abode, There’s an Eye watching you; Every step that you take this great eye is awake, There’s an Eye watching you. Watching you, watching you, Ev’ry day mind the course you pursue; Watching you, watching you, There’s an all-seeing Eye watching you.

Honestly, I never liked this hymn, but it captures the picture I had of God at that time. Instead of a loving Father, I pictured God as a big eye in the sky, looking down with a scowl, but never a smile. 

How do you view God? As a great eye in the sky, watching your every move, eager to accuse you, or a loving father with eyes that dance with kindness and delight? If we are to heal our faulty pictures of God, we need look no further than to Jesus himself. He is our picture of God (Jn. 14:9). In him we see the Father’s true face. 

Father, reveal yourself to me afresh each day. Help me see you as you are, not as I falsely imagine you to be.