Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Redemptive Power of Highlights

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10 (ESV)

We all have those moments in life that let us know we matter. It might be something someone does for you to let you know you’re valued, or it might be a little gift you give yourself. As 1 John 4:10 says, we matter to God, and I think sometimes the biggest gift we can give ourselves is allowing ourselves to matter. To treat yourself to something for no other reason than that doing so is important to you.

These gifts to ourselves are little “redemptive moments,” and the title of this post comes from one I had a few weeks ago. Since I got out of the Canadian military last year, I have not been entirely happy with my appearance in general and in particular my hair. (This may sound weird coming from a straight, male pastor, but bear with me.) I grew it out long (almost shoulder length), and then went short again back just before the summer. When you haven’t had a say in your appearance for so long, it can be frustrating trying to decide on something you actually like. Anyways, I had the idea to change my hair colour a little. Nothing drastic. I just had some thoughts about what might look good and I wanted to play with it a little.

Now you have to understand that in the South, as both a man and a minister, this is not something that is normally done. When I first raised the idea with my wife a few months ago, she was decidedly against it.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I’ve started a new job, I’m trying to support my wife in her ministry, and I’m also trying to focus on our marriage and preach when I can. On many days, the question of how much “me time” I could get was better phrased as “How little sleep do I want to function with tomorrow?” Don’t get me wrong. Everything I mentioned was and still is important. As a husband, it is my job to be there for my wife. The point is that sometimes it’s easy to feel like you only matter for what you can give to others and not in and of yourself, and I was very quickly getting to that point.

So I raised the question of highlights again with my wife. As crazy as it might sound, it was to be my way of saying “I matter. Here is something I want to do just for me.” And you know what? She was OK with the idea, and I went ahead with it, and it turned out better than I expected it to. For the first time in a long time, I’m actually happy with how I look. If you’ve ever had one of those moments where you felt like God was giving you permission to do something for yourself, just because it was important to you, you’ll know what I’m getting at.

For you it might be something else. It might be as big as taking a break you desperately need, or as simple as reading that book or watching that movie you’ve been wanting to see for a while. Whatever it is, ask God about it. You never know when the answer is going to be yes.

What kind of foundation do we have?

This post is a bit of a confession on my part.

As a bit of background, I started a new job a few weeks ago, and it has slowly come out that I am a pastor. As one might expect, this has lead to a lot of interesting conversations, and more than a few surprises. Chief among these is that, as a Canadian living in the South, I grew up hearing about the Bible belt and how there is a church on every corner and pretty much everybody down here goes to church. While I have found there to be a great deal of truth to these stereotypes (there’s not a church on every corner, but there are a lot of them, and a lot of folks do go to church, although not always for healthy reasons), the biggest surprise has been to discover through my job that not everyone has a healthy view of who Jesus is and why the Bible might be considered a trustworthy source of information on our situations in life. Even those who identify as “Christian” have views that make me stop and think. There are a lot of very different ideas and perceptions of Christianity at play in the world today, and some of them will show up where you least expect to find them.

Now let me stress that I am not trying to encourage or force anyone into a box when it comes to who Jesus is and how He cares for you. I have my beliefs, and I’m pretty sure you have yours, and I want to be respectful of that. That being said, as a writer I cannot in good conscience talk about how Jesus is the hope and love that we need when we’re longing to be comforted in our darkest hours, and how He is the only one who ever really satisfies, without exploring how we can know that to be true. I can tell you that from my own experience, but if this is really true then there should be more to it than that.

As one of my job trainers said the other day, “I love to ask how come? How come Jesus? How come Jesus and not Mohammed? How come the Bible and not the Koran?” It’s easy to take those questions further, too. Why not New Age beliefs? Why not Buddhism? Or best yet, why not just whatever works for you?

Those are the kinds of questions I want to look at here in addition to the questions I’ve already been working through over the last month. I firmly believe that Jesus is the hope that we long for, and that He is the only one who can love as fully, in the midst of all our hurt. I will continue to explore those topics, but I also want to build an honest foundation for those beliefs. Like I said, if all of this is really true, and I believe it is, then there is so much more to explore.

What are we so afraid of?

The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water,
    but a man of understanding will draw it out. (Proverbs 20:5, ESV)

If you think of the deep parts of the oceans, there’s a lot more to them than just what you see on the surface or at shallower depths. There are deep currents that flow through the oceans of the world, running for thousands of miles without ever coming anywhere near sunlight. I remember reading when I was younger about scientists discovering life at the bottom of the ocean, at depths where it was supposed to be impossible for life to exist, which underlines for me that there is so much down there that we don’t understand, and more importantly, so much down there we have to really work at to even see.

Our hearts are the same way. As Proverbs 20:5 tells us, “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water,” and just like deep water there is far more to our own hearts than meets the eye. There are currents that flow deep through our hearts, bringing us to act in ways we don’t understand and can’t explain. There are areas in our hearts we don’t want to go to, and areas that are extremely difficult for us to get to. Places in our hearts so deep that we’ve forgotten life ever actually existed there.

I can certainly understand pain and hurt keeping us from areas in our hearts. I have many areas like that in my own heart that hurt too much to even visit. In this post, however, I don’t really want to focus on those areas. Going back into those areas in our hearts will come as Jesus leads and as we are ready, and I have no desire to rush that process for anyone. What I’d rather focus on are the less hurtful areas. The things that nag us in the middle of the night, or the things that we just have to have but don’t have a clue as to why.

I can share many examples of times in my own life when I’ve done something I’ve regretted and later wondered why I did that. I’ve been angry for reasons I’ve never understood, and I’ve been sad, too. I’ve wanted things so bad, and yet I could never tell you why. (Case in point: After I got out of the military I spent over a year growing my hair out, much to the consternation of my wife. Even now I’m not sure I could give a satisfactory answer as to why doing so meant so much to me.)

I’d wager we all have places like these, places in our lives will undo us if we’re not careful. As with the ocean, currents will carry you somewhere whether you want them to or not.

So the big question is, what are we so afraid of? What is it about the deep places in our hearts and in our lives that makes us reluctant to explore them? I have to admit here that I don’t have answers for these questions in my own life, and that being the case I’m not even going to pretend to have answers for your life, too. All I’m trying to do here is raise the question and make us reflect in hopes that that will be enough to nudge all of us a little closer to the deeper areas of our hearts.

What are we so afraid of?