Blog, God + Spirituality, Personal Growth + Wholeness, Relationships

Be patient, life and love take time to unfold

Here’s my favourite mug. It says a whole bunch in just a few words,

Patience_mug

“Adopt the pace of nature… her secret is patience.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the quality of patience that is inherently present in nature. Nature takes it’s time. It remains in step with the seasons of the year, the seasons of life, and it carries on and embraces the pace of life that its Creator has given to it.

I could learn a lot from observing nature in more depth. Couldn’t we all?

These days, with my mind pondering the life of patience, I am reminded of a wonderful man named Ron Rolheiser who wrote an article back in December of 2009. I have carried a photocopy of his article that my mother took out of a newspaper back in 2009 and mailed to me when I lived in New Zealand.

The photocopied paper is lovingly creased and crinkled from repeatedly reading it and carrying it in my Bible all around the world. I wanted to share these treasured words with you now. They have challenged me, convicted me, humbled me, yet also inspired me and encouraged me to continue on in the school of patience, which lasts a lifetime! ~Alison

 

Be patient, life and love take time to unfold

By Ron Rolheiser

Scripture and Christian tradition emphasize that Jesus could only be born out of a chaste womb, just as Christian spirituality emphasizes He can only come to full bloom inside of a chaste heart. Why? Why this emphasis on chastity?

Chastity needs to be properly understood. For too long we have had an overly narrow and mostly false concept of chastity. Chastity is too commonly identified with sexual abstinence and sexuality is then seen as something that, in itself, militates against chastity and spirituality. But chastity is not the same thing as celibacy; indeed it is not even, first and foremost, a sexual concept. Someone can be chaste but not celibate, just as someone can be celibate but not chaste. My parents were not celibate, they gave birth to a large family, but they were wonderfully chaste persons. The reverse can also be true. Someone can be celibate but far from chaste.

What is chastity? We are chaste when we stand before the world, others and God in a way which allows them to be fully themselves without letting our own impatience, selfishness or unwillingness to remain in tension violate their reality and their natural unfolding. What is meant by that?

Allow me to present three images for this:

1. In her book Holy The Firm, Annie Dillard shares this story:

One evening, alone in her cabin, she was watching a moth slowly emerge from its cocoon. The process was fascinating but interminably slow. At a point she lost patience and needed to get on to other things, so she picked up a candle and applied a little heat to the process. It worked. The added heat sped up the process and the moth emerged more quickly from its cocoon, but, since a natural process had been interfered with and unnaturally rushed, the moth emerged with ill-formed wings which didn’t allow it to fly properly. A fault in chastity led to stunted growth.

2. The move Sense and Sensibility, based on Jane Austen’s classic novel, presents its leading character, a woman played by Emma Thompson, as someone who is asked to carry an extremely painful tension for a long time, one having to do with unrequited and unconsummated love. She has no one with whom she can really share her pain and her circumstance requires her to carry on as if she was not carrying this pain. She carries that tension for a long time, sublimating her pain into a graciousness that she extends even to the very persons who are the source of her tension. Only after a long time is the tension finally resolved and her forbearance in not forcing an earlier, premature resolution, her willingness to carry the tension to term, helps bring about deeper life for everyone, not least for herself. This is the essence of chastity.

3. After the Italian spiritual writer Carlo Carretto had spent a number of years living as a hermit in the Sahara desert, he was asked what message he would give to the world if someone asked him the question: What, in your solitude and prayer, do you hear God saying to those of us who are living active lives in the world? Carretto replied, God is saying: learn to wait, learn to wait for everything — for love, for fulfilment, for consummation, for God! Learning to wait, giving God and life the space to unfold as they need to, is the very essence of chastity.

In a number of his books, Nikos Kazantzakis, both fondly and bitterly, makes this assertion: God, it seems, is never in a hurry, while we are always in a hurry. He’s right: Life unfolds according to its own innate rhythms which try our patience and it will not let themselves be rushed, except at a cost. Life and love demand both the time and the space within which to unfold according to their own internal dictates. Whenever, because of impatience, selfishness or our unwillingness to stay inside a tension, we short-circuit that process we, in slight or deep ways, violate their reality.

Chastity is the virtue that invites us to live in patience, to wait, to respect what’s other and to carry tension long enough so that the other can truly be other and gift can unfold precisely as gift.

The word sublime takes its root in the word sublimation. Nothing can be sublime unless there is first sublimation. Nobody gives birth to a baby without a long period of gestation, nobody writes a doctoral thesis in two hours, nobody creates an artistic masterpiece without long hours of sweat and labor, and nobody becomes a heroic individual without carrying the unbearable tension. Cinderella only got to go to the ball after she had spent sufficient time in the ashes. Jesus only got to the glory and freedom of Easter Sunday by first sweating blood in the garden.

That is why the Messiah can only be born from a chaste womb and come fully to life only inside of a chaste heart. Christmas allows for no shortcuts.

 

 

Blog, God + Spirituality, Guest Posts, Relationships

Foundations in Relationship: Intimate and Private Conversation – Part 2 of 2 [Guest Post]

Spike continues part 2 of his guest articles on the foundations of relationships. Today, he’s got some awesome stuff to share about the importance of privacy and intimate conversation in the most important relationship of your life. It really challenged me and stirred my heart. May it do the same for you. Check out Part 1: Trust, if you haven’t read it yet.


Relationship_Conversation

 

I had contacted Alison about sharing something on her blog and after discussing it with her, I sat down to write. Since God has been teaching me a lot of great things lately, I figured it would be easy. But, the longer I sat and stared at my computer screen, or flipped through my journal, or read through passages that God has me studying He began to nudge at my heart. He was getting my attention. And He was making it known what my real intentions were. I was about to share the private, secret things that He was sharing with me and, in doing so, I was only looking to glorify myself. It was as if I were betraying Him and sharing the intimate details of our relationship to the world.

“But Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.”
Luke 2:19, NLT

“But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night.”
Psalm 1:2, AMP

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].”
Psalm 91:1, AMP

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he knows and understands My name [has a personal knowledge of My mercy, love, and kindness—trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never forsake him, no, never].”
Psalm 91:14, AMP

These verses are all about building an intimate relationship with God. In the time we spend with Him, we are spoken to intimately. God loves it when we seek Him privately. Again, think about it in the context of our relationships with others. When you’re dating or married, there are many conversations you have with that person that are not for sharing. Those conversations are based initially on the trust that you built at the beginning.

Our God is all about relationships. He wants to have an intimate, candid relationship with us and He wants us to be able to share the love He shows us. Remember, even through our direct, blatant coming against Him, He still trusts us.

One of the key things from this is to hold on to the stuff that God speaks over us in our private worship of Him. There are times when God will speak to you and some of the things He says are not for sharing. Sometimes, even when we are so excited and energized by a word that God gave us, it’s best to keep it in your heart. Let it seep into your heart and your mind. Do as Mary did and keep it in your heart so that you may think about it often. It’s in that place of private intimacy with the Lord that He will return blessing to us.

I love what the Amplified Bible says about, well, everything, but especially about prayer.

“But when you pray, go into your [most] private room, and, closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open.”
Matthew 6:6, AMP

Wow, just WOW! God, the Unseen, will see what we do, how we respond to Him, how we come before Him, in secret. And, in return, He will reward us in the open! Doesn’t that just excite you? God does this because He knows our hearts. God knows that the life we live, when we are alone, will immediately reflect the life we live publicly. He doesn’t want us to be people who, in public, worship Him and proclaim His name but, in secret, we still find ourselves slaves to personal sins and bondage. No, He wants us to live the freedom of worshiping Him in public and in private.

I urge you all to seek the Lord candidly. Don’t hold back. If you’re angry, vent to Him. If you’re happy, celebrate with Him. Let Him comfort you and speak to you. I love to worship and pray as I drive around because I can speak however I want and I know that it’s just God and myself. He wants you to communicate with Him day and night. Never cease to talk to God. He is always listening. Let Him love on you but keep that love in your heart so, even in your darkest hour, you can remember and meditate on how He loves you.

The song “You Know Me” from Bethel Music speaks so deeply to me and I hope these few lines will speak to you, too:

You know when I rise and when I fall,
When I come or go, You see it all.
You hung the stars and You move the sea.
And still You know me
And nothing is hidden from Your sight.
Wherever I go, You find me.
And You know every detail of my life.
And You are God and You don’t miss a thing.

Let that resonate with you, that God knows every detail of your life and He doesn’t miss anything. He is the one who hung the stars. He is the one that moves the sea. Yet, He will still meet you where you are, just as you are.

 


About the Author:

SpikeMartinez_PicSpike lives in the San Antonio, TX area and delights in his bovine neighbors. He seeks to reach out to San Antonio through prayer and the arts. He hopes to find a job where he will never have to shave again. You can find Spike online on his Website.

Blog, God + Spirituality, Guest Posts, Relationships

Foundations in Relationship: Trust – Part 1 of 2 [Guest Post]

Today, I’m happy to introduce a new guest writer, Spike Martinez! Spike hails from Texas and is here to share his infectious heart for God, specifically today in the area of building a solid foundation of trust in the most important relationship of your life. [Check out Part 2: Intimate and Private Conversation]


Foundation_Trust
[Photo Credit: Creative Commons, Text Edits: Alison Lam]

I am a fairly open person. If anyone approaches me and asks me a personal question, I am most likely to give them an honest response, no matter what the subject matter. I believe in being transparent before others. It gains the trust of people; it helps them to understand that I’m human, too.

But being open and honest with God is a totally different story.

My sister and I were driving from Dallas to San Antonio a few years back and, on the way, she said to me, “God wants to tell you something. Pray and ask Him what His favorite shoes of yours are.”

Weird, I know.

So, I sat in her car, listening, praying, waiting and waiting. And, when God spoke, He said, “I love your bare feet.”

It was in that moment that I understood one of the characteristics that God created me with: being open. I have always felt so comfortable sharing with people about my life, my testimony and my struggles. Even when I wasn’t walking with the Lord, I told people that I wasn’t. But, despite my ability to be open with others, I wasn’t able to be fully open and honest with God.

The Lord earnestly wants us to fully trust in Him. But, just like our relationships with people, how can you trust someone if they can’t trust in you? I know that if I come before the Lord with all of myself –my hurts, my celebrations, my conversations, my slip ups— it will help me to build trust in God when I can feel Him comforting or celebrating or communicating with me. In turn, the Lord builds trust that He can speak candidly to us because, if we are telling Him about every moment of our day, He will know our hearts.

We all know that God knows everything that happens to us and that none of it will come as a surprise to Him. He knows what we are asking for before we even ask. However, just as our relationships with others are built on communication, so our relationship with the Lord is built on constant and honest communication. We must also understand that, as we are trusted with something, there also comes an expectation of privacy.

God will trust us with His Word, His Promises, and His People but, only if we are exemplifying that trust in our lives to God. Think about this: If someone you knew well were to come into your home and openly, blatantly steal from you, would you continue to trust them?

Now, think about this: We openly, blatantly ignore, rebuke, come against, steal from and turn away from God. Yet, He is still willing to trust us with His word. I don’t know about you, but that resonates with me. The Ever-Present, Living God still wants to speak to me, no matter what I’ve done to Him. God will always forgive us because He loves us and He knows that, when we finally decide to give up, He’ll be right there, arms open wide, waiting for us.

It’s in that moment, when we step out and trust in the unknown, that our faith is dramatically expanded.

“Come,” He said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Mark 14:29-31, NIV

Peter started with an immense amount of faith and trust that, if he were to step out of the boat, he would not sink –he would walk like Jesus, upon the water. But, as Peter was bombarded by the wind, the waves and the storm that surrounded him, he began to doubt and he began to sink. Even in our worst storms, our deepest valleys and our driest deserts, trusting in God will get us through; it will build our relationship with Him so that, when we come out on the other side, our faith is pure, tested, and strong.

“Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. BUT let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, SO THAT you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.”

James 1:2-4, AMP

Trust me, when I say, that God will test your heart. He’s looking for our response to situations. Will you continue to keep your eyes focused forward, toward His kingdom? Or will you let the storm around you distract you and overwhelm you? That’s why, in the Word, it says in Proverbs 3:5-6,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.”

Fully trusting in the Lord is a challenge to our faith. Even when the world around us falls apart, I know I stand on a firm, solid foundation and I will not be crushed. That’s the trust that God wants us to live in.

[Check out Part 2: Intimate and Private Conversation ]


About the Author:

SpikeMartinez_Pic
Spike lives in the San Antonio, TX area and delights in his bovine neighbors. He seeks to reach out to San Antonio through prayer and the arts. He hopes to find a job where he will never have to shave again. You can find Spike online on his Website.

Blog, God + Spirituality, Personal Growth + Wholeness, Relationships

Life is 100% about the Heart

bibleheart

This past year or so, God has been trying to get my attention. Big time. He completely interrupted my entire life in order to get my attention.  To stop me dead in my tracks so I’d finally listen.

What has He been trying to tell me?

Well, He’s been trying to tell me that life is all about the heart. It’s not just partially about the heart, but 100% about the heart. And He cares about the heart. He cares about my heart. He cares for me.

In the Scriptures, it speaks of God’s priority of the heart:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height… the Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

God looks 100% at the heart. He doesn’t just look partially at the heart. The heart is the whole point. It’s us human beings that tend to mix up the percentages. In the back of our “mind”, we think that surely God must look “partly at the appearance and outward fruit” and then “partly at the heart and what’s going on internally” (because this tends to be how WE look at people, if I’m to be quite honest!) But God seems to be saying that that is a human thing to do, but the way He does it is to look only at the heart. And that’s a paradigm shift for us humans!

According to God, everywhere I have gone in this world, everything that I have ever done, and anyone I have ever come in connection with, has always been and only ever been about the heart. If our hearts are disconnected, stranded, orphaned, independent or starving for the oxygen of God (His love) then we have nothing to give, nothing to live on, and certainly no good fruit to bear.

It’s hard for us to accept that if something was not done from a “right heart”, that the entire fruit of the action is rotten. We try and salvage every last drop of our “human effort” and call it worthwhile, yet God will say that something is rotten if done with the “wrong heart”. I will state it again: this is a paradigm shift! It requires repentance which is simply a change of mind, a change of perspective!

If I could sum up what I have learned in the last year or so of changes and struggles of the heart, I would say with all seriousness:

“Take care of your heart!”

The foundation of this statement is that God Himself has a heart and therefore He cares for your heart! He made your heart, so He is the only one who knows how to make your heart truly flourish and thrive. So, let God take care of your heart! Let Him interrupt your life in any and every way possible, if it means He’ll finally be able to get a hold of your heart, breathe life back into it and do wonderful and glorious things with it.

It says in Proverbs 4:23,

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (NIV)

Another version sheds more light on it,

“Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (KJV)

I know we’ve heard this verse used so often in the context of relationships… and people have used it more as a warning and a caution in not pursuing intimate relationships.

I’m coming to learn that it isn’t about putting a wall around your heart and refraining from intimate relationships. Nor is it saying, ‘Don’t you dare let any one (especially someone of the opposite sex) get access to your heart!’

No, it’s more about coming to understand that your entire life depends upon the health of your heart! The state of your heart matters! It really matters!

The health of your heart is a life and death thing!

God would send His only Son to earth to walk with mankind to show us just how important He values the heart, and how the heart is central to all matters of humanity.

The Law that God gave to Israel was never meant to be a pathway to life, but more of a way to expose the state of our hearts apart from Him and how much we are desperately in need of a Savior to transform our heart and bring it back to life! The Law exposed the heart. And everything Jesus did exposed the state of the human heart. This was His supreme intention!

God so values the state of the human heart! He cares for your heart!

So, when the Scriptures say to “guard your heart” or “keep your heart”, it’s said more as a charge to us to remember to let as much oxygen (God’s love) into your heart as you possibly can, because your heart will die (and your life–YOU—will die) without it, without Him.

So, Proverbs 4:23 is saying something more like,

“PRIORITIZE YOUR HEART OVER ALL THINGS IN THIS LIFE, because your whole life is an overflow of the health and wholeness of your heart!”

Or put another way,

“THE TOP PRIORITY OF YOUR LIFE IS TO OPEN YOUR HEART TO THE LOVE OF GOD and then, out of the overflow of His love in your heart, you must open your heart to others! Your life depends on it! You were meant to receive love and then give love out!”

It does your heart NO GOOD to shut it off, wall it up and guard itself from love. That’s insane! Your heart was made for love! It was made to be full of love. It was made to have an overflow of love to give to others!

Love is the currency of your heart and you are bankrupt without it.

To guard the heart is not to wall it up. Actually, it is the opposite. It is to let your heart be free to love and to tend to the fullness and flourishing of your heart.

So, go ahead and guard your heart: guard it from death! Guard it from losing the ability to feel, to love and to give! Guard your heart from heartless, numb living. Guard your heart from hard-heartedness, cynicism, jadedness, skepticism, bitterness, unforgiveness and apathy and all the life-killing poisons that threaten to block it up and shut your heart down.

I charge you to take care of your heart!

You were made to have a soft heart. A tender heart. A forgiving and gracious heart. A believing and hopeful heart. A heart full of life! Full of love!

God really cares for your heart. Boy, have I ever learned this. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way (or the real way, let’s say), but I’m so grateful and I wouldn’t take it back for the world. Yes, God would interrupt my entire life, to show me all the ways that I was ignoring the health of my heart. The life of my heart. The well-being of my heart. He would divert me onto a whole new path, in order to show me how much He cares for me, how much He cares for my very own heart.

God is not a God who kills the heart. He is a God of life! A God of the heart! He brings the heart to life! And I can see that what He is doing in my life right now is orchestrating all the circumstances and relationships in my life to bring my own heart back to life, and to bring it into the fullness of my heart’s destiny! A heart that looks and beats and loves just like His! A heart made in His image! And God has a heart that is fully alive!

This is good news. Such good news.

Even though it hurts, and even though pain is involved in the transformation (whoever said heart surgery was a pleasure?!) it is bringing about something good and beautiful.

Our Creator adores and cherishes and honours and tenderly cares for the human heart. He cares!

I pray for your heart right now. I pray that you would allow God to take you through the process of softening and tenderizing your heart.  I pray that you would take your sticky hands off your own heart and let Him hold your heart. Let Him open up those areas that have become calloused and hardened and dead.

Trust Him with your heart. He’s the best one to tend to it!

The Holy Spirit Himself will be the walls of your heart. You don’t have to put walls up. You don’t have to be the guard over your own heart. He will spread His wings around your heart and He will guard you.

You are then free to simply love, which is what you were made for.

I pray blessings over you as you take steps forward into living 100% from the heart.

 


[Photo Credit: © CreationSwap/Marian Trinidad]