Please, Even A Smile Helps

He is there on the same street corner every morning on my way to work. I’ve glanced at the sign then quickly turn away in disgust. A few days ago, after I had looked away yet again, I took the time to ponder my reaction to the words on that sign and to ask myself, “Why?” What does it really cost me if I just give him a smile? One human to another? Did I even consider this disheveled, dirty, matted hair and beard, type of man, a human at all?

I delved a bit further into the motives of my heart and that’s where Jesus met me to allow me to sense my own shame and wickedness. This homeless man is not really the problem. It is my own selfish, unyielding heart. God accepts me just as I am, and he accepts the homeless man just as he is. He has compassion on us all, and perhaps even more so on the Epic-homeless-guy-signhomeless, drug-addicted, alcoholic, abusive child molesters–because they have hit rock bottom and feel their desperate need for rescue day after day. They are incredibly shamed by people like me who look away. And all he wanted from me was a smile.

Why exactly do I look away? Is it because I am afraid he will make a connection with me, expecting me to now give him some money? Or am I not willing to listen when the Holy Spirit speaks to me about the fact that everything I own is his to do with for his own glory and praise? I think of the Scripture verse, Matthew 19:21, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor; and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” I don’t believe God is literally telling each of us to give all we own to the poor. He is speaking to the condition of our hearts. He knows we won’t give the homeless so much as a smile; he also knows we won’t part with even an occasional dollar. We are so quick to judge the poor and homeless, even though we don’t know their stories. God, alone knows their hearts, and he listens to their heart’s cry.

How sad we would be if we looked to God for help and he turned away from us in disgust. In fact, he has already done that. He turned away from his only Son when he was nailed to a cross, dying for our sins. He could not look upon the man he loved more than any other human being because all our shame and garbage was taken from us and heaped upon Christ, in exchange for his righteousness. So, next time you see that same sign, beckoning for a smile, try giving him one and perhaps you will see God smiling in return. And if God puts it upon your heart to help in some way, do it.

That’s worth smiling about!

Medication Blues

O

GOD.

MY

MEDICATIONSpill-bottles-4

ARE

NOT WORKING.

I

WILL

GO

MAD

WITH

SAD.

I’M

EXHAUSTED.

I

HAVE

LOST

MY

MARBLES

AND

MY

BALANCE.

PEOPLE

ARE

PICKING

ME

OFF

THE

FLOOR.

MY

BRAIN

IS

LAYING

BESIDE

MY

BODY.

EVERYONE

STARES.

 

Paradox of Full: When We Think We Are, We Aren’t

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I recently read a blog that contained an excerpt of The Heidelberg Confession. I had to pause for reflection as I read:

“Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”

What is my only comfort in life and in death? I can with all assurance say that I believe the answer above is my confession. But my life experience will show that I have not experienced the truth of those words. Not here, not now. I believe there is a future day when I will be with Christ and my fullness in Him will be realized. But can I experience that fullness now? Can you experience that fullness now? Perhaps. But our potential is blocked by the madness of sin in our lives. The sins that have been committed against us and the sins we have committed against ourselves and others. And these sins, at times, confuse the signals in our brains and cause us to feel empty when we really aren’t. I over-eat to compensate for my emptiness. While I have never been morbidly obese, the eating behavior is still present. It is hard-wired in my brain and tells me that eating is a pleasurable activity and I can feel full any time I want. Of course this is not true and many other people would attest to that, because we have to keep eating more and more. So, what is happening here is at the root of desire.

Every living thing on the planet has been given the gift of desire. Desires drive us toward fulfillment. We desire to be full or to be filled. We are motivated to seek fulfillment over and over. Why? Because we also experience emptiness. When we are empty we look for something to fill us again. We don’t like the feeling of emptiness, so we seek to be filled. This is good desire.

While our desires are common,( need for food, water, intimacy, etc) the expression of those desires (what we desire, where we desire, and with whom we desire) are as varied as each individual. Our past experiences, our culture and our families, in many ways, shape the expression of our desires. While the desires themselves have been declared by God to be “good,” sin and suffering has affected every part of our being as humans and that includes our desires.

The paradox is this: We attain to be filled here and now, and while we can have some fulfillment we can’t have it all. Everytime we engage in eating or sexual relations, sports, recreational activities, building our families, worshiping God (collectively or individually), we have to keep coming back to be filled and filled again. Because we get empty. We don’t like empty. And this is especially true of people who have been abused or are experiencing abuse of some kind.That is because their brain has lost the ability to recognize their own feeling of empty and full. So,some turn to sexual promiscuity, or they develop eating disorders, or eat more than their body can metabolize. They turn to drugs or alcohol to escape the unavoidable emptiness that is so much a part of their life.There is a heightened desire, almost a feeling of desperation to be filled all the time, but they cannot attain it.

Here is the solution: Since we can’t avoid emptiness on this side of heaven, we can choose to be grateful for the feeling of emptiness because it ultimately brings us to the only one who can fill us completely. He fills us with His Spirit for this life He has called us to. Everytime we feel empty we are reminded that we are totally dependent on God for our food, for our health and for our joy in living. Yes,on earth, we need to be filled over and over again. Because we belong to God and He has given every provision for us to come to Him for filling, we can know that in Heaven we will be filled with Himself and we will have no need for any other fulfillment. He is the Bread of Life, the Living Water and the Door by which we will enter into an eternity of riches that have been promised to anyone who is acquainted with physical and emotional hunger in this life. There will be no more cravings or hunger of any kind.

I want to leave my emptiness behind me. I want to be filled by the Spirit of the living God. I can give myself wholly to the Christ who emptied Himself so that I could receive His fullness. The Heidelberg confession lets us realize this dependence on the finished work of Christ, for our fulfillment now, and at the time of our death when we are finally emptied of this body that we carry on earth. Come with me on this journey, together we will discover the endless provisions of an Almighty God!

Below the Rafters

I think I am beginning to understand what bipolar depression is all about. On the good days I feel very very good. On the bad days, I feel very very bad. Most of the time I am somewhere in between and were it not for the medication keeping me in that place, I am afraid that death will someday win. I want to be healthy and live a productive life. Sometimes that seems within my grasp and other times I am overwhelmed by my own desperation as it slips from my grasp. I have suicidal ideations, but so far I can’t call my spirit from my body. It will not yield because it is not mine to yield. When I am in this pit, only God can pull me out.

 

Body swaying below the rafters,

Rafters

now spent.

I peer from above

upon a woman I once knew well.

At least, I thought I did.

I hated her.

 

Weakness and fear,

the constant companions

of her mind and soul.

She knew not the invisible God

Who could save her.

Not really.

 

She had idols of her own making.

Functional gods.

Wanting them to save her from her own self-destruction.

They could not.

 

Before I fly away,

I will peer once more

at the body swaying below the rafters,

now spent.

Kitchen (A Reflection of Christmas)

Masquerade of gypsy fortune-tellersWhyDinner

Come one by one

Gazing into their crystal balls

As if to find the answer

To that all-important question

“What’s for dinner tonight?”

Am I the one you seek, or do you seek another?

(Jesus may this moment be speaking this to your emptiness)

Who else but a mother and Jesus

Can satisfy our bellies and our souls?

Strange.

Satiety may be found

In the world’s kitchens

and a manger.sylviahensel_yourhearthismanger_1