Thursday, 7 December 2017

How To Find Joy When Your Heart Isn't Quiet


Silence can be complicated.

There’s the silence of fear accompanied only by the clippity-clop of your galloping heart.

There’s the eerie silence that is heard in the dead center of a fierce storm.

But then, there’s the other silence.

The one that is found as a mom gazes into the eyes of her newborn baby… or when lovers linger long in each other’s eyes.

Yep, silence is tricky. Sometimes a friend, sometimes a foe.

And sometimes just on the surface.

You know that kind. The one that sparkles and shines while proudly stating that all is well with you.

The one that others see, that sometimes even you believe is real.

But deep down in your heart, it is not quiet. The truth screams to you – ‘this silence is just a farce’.

Discomfited by the disharmony, your spirit longs for more… for when there’s no quiet within, no matter how calm and bright it looks on the outside, you can’t be content… happy… free of cares… joyous… you get the point.


Joy. My one word for 2017.

This year as I trudged along amidst the ups and downs, I tried to focus on joy… an even keeled joy that remains through tears and smiles. By God’s grace, I came to realize that that kind of joy comes only by surrender… by forgetting who I am and bowing down before the King of this world.

But the silence of surrender is not always quiet.

Sometimes, it is accompanied by striving… an unrest that says, ‘I’m still not sure I can trust you’… a desire to hold onto control... a not fully letting go type of surrender. Perhaps in some way a failure to fully grasp the peace that was offered that first Christmas. 

A few years ago, I broke with tradition and put up a white Christmas tree. I’ve never been a fan of white Christmas trees, but that year I felt drawn to one. The colour - a sign of surrender -  was symbolic to me. All decked out in apple green and turquoise with pastel lights my tree twinkled and glowed beautifully. To crown it all, I printed out, coloured and pasted on my walls… the words… 'peace', 'joy', 'hope' and 'love'. It was perfect, and despite gentle prodding from my husband, those words remained on my walls for years.  

As I lived out my messy life, my eyes would be drawn to those words, ever-present reminders of the fruits of surrender.  

But just a couple months ago, following Hurricane Irma when I found the pieces of those same words strewn across my ravaged home, I wondered - how quiet is my surrender. Will I accept good and not 'bad' from my father? Or will I be at ease, content even when.

As I held the ragged scraps of paper, the tears streamed down my face, and I pondered those four words and their inextricable link.  Could I experience this joy, hope, peace and love in the silence of my night? Am I like a child weaned from my mother trusting God to provide as He sees fit? Is my spirit quieted and calmed despite the turmoil around? Am I able to enjoy God’s gifts even in the mess?

That last one – joy in the unrest - has been a challenge for me.

But I’m learning, dear friends, about the link between quiet and joy. About the quiet that shatters my silence... strips away my need for control... and shushes the noisiness of my doubts. About the quiet that wraps me in the assurance of a Love that knows no bounds... a deep, personal love beautifully displayed in my Saviour's humble birth, His sacrificial death  in my place, and His unending desire for my good. 

The kind of quiet that seeps deep within and hushes my restless heart.  

Those words jump off the wall and into my heart… 

The striving  stops.

Peace flows, hope abounds, love is shared and joy spills over.

The even keeled joy that I longed for… the one that remains even when the tears are falling… the one that starts at Christmas and lasts the whole year long… the one that is rooted in love and intertwined with hope and peace. The one that makes silence your friend, because deep down in your heart you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it is well with your soul.

Joy.

My prayer for you, dear friend, is that in the midst of your silent night... you'll look up and see the God who knows our imperfect, noisy surrender, our shaky desire to bow down, and still showers us with His love. That you'll allow His love to break into your silence, quiet the unrest within and spill over as joy. 

A joy that lasts the whole year through.

Blessings,

Carlie

Somewhere in Your Silent Night by Casting Crowns

Monday, 20 November 2017

Are You Thankful For Your Scars?


Those stubborn spots. They just wouldn’t go. 

I had tried a soft damp cloth and had wiped hard. And then with only slight reservation, I had whipped out the sponge, and using the rough side had scrubbed as vigorously as I could, but still they persisted. As a last resort, I had scraped at them with my fingernails. It was an all-out pursuit to recapture the original unscathed beauty. But it was not to be. 

The storm had passed, and the scars were there. Not to be removed, no matter how hard I tried.

As I sat there with my damaged planner in hand, noticing the scratches that I had made in my attempt to restore it, I remembered why I had chosen it and even more why I had rescued it from the rubble of my home. 

I have always loved planners, but could never justify the expensive ones that I left mostly unused. This one was different, simple and inexpensive with no frills or thrills, yet pretty and functional. There was no pressure to use it or impending guilt if I left it unused, just a welcoming invitation penned in gold across its soft delicate cover. 

Despite the storm damage, those same words were still clearly visible amid the spots and scratches and once again held my attention.

2018
Let love guide your heart,
Let GOD lead the way

Now, as I meditated on those words, my mind swirled and whirled with thoughts of scars and their untapped beauty. I thought about all the ways we collect scars and the extreme measures we often go through to rid ourselves of them.  And I thought about the Love that never leaves our side.


Have you ever been wind-blasted? If you’ve been through any 'storms' in this life, you know you don’t come through untouched. 

Following the passage of Hurricane Irma, the walls and floors in my home were covered with debris - broken banisters, planks of galvalume, splintered tree branches and upturned furniture. But beyond that obvious top layer that could be raked and cleared was a more insidious layer splatter-painted on the walls. Stuck right on. Leaves and other debris. A constant reminder of the force of wind that had pummeled us. A deep-set layer that is not easy to clean.

Isn’t it like that in our lives? With the deep layer of scars splatter-painted on our hearts caused by numerous 'storms'.  It is this layer… the one we wish was not there… the one we hope no one sees… the one we can’t clean ourselves… it is this layer that makes us painfully aware of our need for a Saviour. A Saviour who sees the scars… the deep crusty layers… yet loves and accepts us as flawless.

So, as I look at my bruised planner, still beautiful and useful, I’m reminded of my scars -the ones caused by mistakes made, and plans gone askew, by loss lived out and fears unchallenged, and I see their beauty despite the pain.  You see, these scars of mine pull my gaze back to my Saviour, the One who pulled me out of the rubble and saw beauty in me. The One who wiped me clean… a clean I feel already but not yet. The One who showers me with His 'all-consuming, heart-pursuing, Grace-extending, never-ending love'. A Love that surrounds me no matter what I’m going through, where I’ve been, or which scar I’m trying to scrub away.

This week as we list out what we are thankful for, I pray that we don’t forget our scars, for as much as they keep us dependent on our Saviour’s love and faithfulness, they are still beautiful and useful.  

Blessings, 
Carlie

Monday, 6 November 2017

When You Are in a Desperate Search for Safety

As I peered over the edge of the dinghy, I could feel the fear surging up in me.

It was the best fishing spot they told me, but all I could see was the wreck way down below. There it lay, silent yet menacing, a constant reminder that someone before me had failed to sense the danger of this deceivingly calm spot. As an innately fearful child, who still could not swim, sitting in a tiny vessel in the middle of the deep untamed ocean was hardly my favorite place to be.

But, although my insides screamed ‘get me out of here’, I took a deep breath, held on tightly to the seat and tried my best to remain calm.

Perhaps because I knew that even though I could potentially fall overboard, sink to the depths of the sea and be lost forever (and yes that’s exactly how I imagined it), I also knew that my dad or older brother would do anything to protect me. Their very presence in the boat… right next to me made me feel safe.

Safe in the presence of danger.

What makes you feel safe?

I’ve been thinking a lot about safety recently.

Perhaps it’s having been touched by unexpected and searing loss and change and feeling the need to run. Perhaps it’s just watching the news or reading the headlines in a world that seems intent on self-destruction. Perhaps it’s feeling helpless in the spate of natural disasters that seems to be stalking us. Perhaps it’s the mom instinct in me that knows no limits when it comes to keeping my children safe. 

Or perhaps it’s a combination of all.

Whatever it may be, it has brought safety front and center in my mind, and as I reminisce on those childhood fishing trips, I’m reminded that we get to choose which ‘fishermen’ we have in the boat with us. You know those persons (places, things or ideas) that we surround ourselves with… that may not necessarily cancel out the danger but that make us feel safe. 

We get to choose them.

Maybe, for you, it’s the well-paying job, the nice neighborhood and the two-story home, the lump sum in the bank and the retirement plan that help you sleep at night. Maybe it’s the car you drive and the friends you keep, or the idea that if you work hard and plan well you should get by without too much of a scrape. Maybe it's a clean bill of health on your last medical check-up. Maybe it’s your skill set and the decisions you make that in your opinion set you apart from ‘other’ people. Or maybe it’s just 'your' pattern of normal – the predictability of the usual - that makes you feel safe.  

Each of us have our own unique combination - a precarious balance of the pursuit of safety in the presence of danger.

But sometimes… just sometimes so drawn are we to safe that without even realizing it safety becomes an idol in our lives.  We fall prey to its sweet seduction.  It’s as if we’d rather have safe than have God.

So, my friend, I pause now to ask you, which fishermen have you chosen? Who or what do you pursue with your whole being in your unending quest for safe?

Just like in my childhood fishing trips I know the choice matters. Choosing my dad and brother, both experienced fishermen with the desire, ability and skill to protect me, was a wise choice. Choosing my sister, one even more terrified of the wreck than me, with neither the skill or the ability to save me would have been a very foolish choice.

I’m looking intently at all my foolish choices right now and I’m rediscovering the only wise choice.


You see, despite all the chaos surrounding me, I just can’t shake this feeling that I have -

'There’s only one Fisherman that can really keep me safe- my Father in heaven'. 

It’s an anchor of truth that keeps me safe in the presence of ubiquitous danger.  


It’s a hope I wish to share, because I know that I’m not the only one… not the only one in a desperate search for safe.  

So, I’m leaving you with a few key verses that I’ve been meditating on. Verses that remind me of God’s plan for my eternal safety. Verses that sprout like green leaves after the storm, and replenish my hope with the promise of life.

I pray that these refreshing verses will help to steer us as we choose which fisherman sits in the boat with us, and that our choice will be one that ensures our eternal safety.


Blessings,

Carlie

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Salvation is found in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 2 Timothy 4: 18



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I Have This Hope - Tenth Avenue North


Monday, 28 August 2017

Focus on the Passengers, Not on the Road


I don’t know when it started... my obsession with driving from the passenger seat.

I want to say that it was one of my husband’s infamous wrong turns that started it. That instead of staying right, we turned left. And that the resulting time lost and inconvenience piqued my interest and heightened my senses.

But that wouldn’t be honest.

For no matter how many times we’ve made a wrong turn, we’ve always found our way again, and besides my husband seldom makes wrong turns.

Wrong turns may be a bit inconvenient, rob us of precious time and even are a bit unsettling, but usually they are no big deal.

Usually.

And that’s just the thing. When you’re in unfamiliar surroundings and you make a wrong turn, you’re never quite sure where you’ll end up... right there at that moment you have no way of knowing just how bothersome or even dangerous this turn off might be.

And the not knowing... that’s the part I don’t like.

You see I like to be in the know. Like to know where I’m going and how to get there.

So this summer, as we vacationed in Orlando, I might not have been the driver, but my eyes were on the road. 

Just in case... you know, just in case the driver [my-great-with-directions-husband] failed to pay attention and made a wrong turn.

It’s like I felt somehow that my involvement... my focus on the road... my well-timed nudges would prevent any unnecessary and unexpected detours.

But God has a way of teaching us big truths in the little moments of life, and He had one in store for me this summer.

You see, despite my watchful, controlling gaze, my husband did make a wrong turn. And you know what? Yes, it was a bit inconvenient and caused us to arrive later than we had anticipated, but it was all right... no big deal.

Furthermore, he drove several times without the ‘security’ that my presence assures (smile – who am I kidding?) and he was quite fine. Got where he was going ‘in one piece’ as we say.

It was then that it dawned on me.

Maybe I can just relax. Take my eyes off of the road.

And let me tell you. It was work. It’s not easy for a control-girl to release the reins.

But I tried.

And as I relaxed, I realized something.

Instead of multitasking... splitting my attention here, there and everywhere (but mainly on the road), I was able to focus solely on my daughter. We joked and laughed, enjoyed the passing sites and had a refreshing conversation.

It truly was a delight.


And that got me to thinking... about my spiritual life.

As a Christian, I’ve long since handed the wheel over to God, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still try to drive from the passenger seat.

I keep my eyes fixed on the road... because you know - I know where I want to go and I know how I want to get there.

And I try to let Him [God] know, as often as I can that I don’t like wrong turns.  Don’t like the inconvenience and the time or pain it takes to get back on track... back on the path that I think I should be on. 

But Jesus... He’s whispering to me – ‘Focus on the passengers, not on the road.’

It’s like he’s saying, ‘I know where I’m taking you, and I am the way to get there. Trust me. Don't let the destination you dream of distract you from the heart of the matter. Focus on the passengers. Be my hands and feet.’

It’s advice that’s playing over and over in my mind as we get ready to start our sixth year homeschooling. A journey that hasn’t necessarily followed the path I had in mind... I can tend to focus on the road... on the destination I have planned, but God is whispering – ‘focus on the passengers, let Me do the driving’.

It’s the hope-filled wisdom I will need in the nitty gritty of the daily grind. When my eyes are fixed on the road, and the wrong turns come - when life doesn't unfold as I imagine it should - I will need to remember Who's driving and focus on the passengers.

I will need to remember my role as God’s ambassador... to show Him to a hurting people... fellow travelers along the way. I will need to see interruptions as opportunities to minister for Him.

I will need to simply love them like Jesus.

And the ‘wrong’ turns? They are not really wrong. They are filled with purpose and designed by God to draw me closer to Him... and make me more like Him.

My head knows this, but my heart says - it's scary... scary not knowing when a 'wrong' turn can occur or which road it will take me down, but God... His plans for me... for my children are perfect. And His presence never leaves me. 

So... I can trust Him because ultimately I know what He wants for me. And it is good.

What about you?

Are you a passenger driver or have you handed over full control?
What road are you so focused on that you forget the passengers?
Are you missing opportunities to love them like Jesus?
Why not take a moment to reflect today, and trust God to do the driving.


Grace and peace to you,
Carlie


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Bible verses for Meditation

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3

Be imitators of God, therefore, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ  loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant sacrificial offering to God. Ephesians 5: 1-2

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13:34


Monday, 14 August 2017

Shattered Mirrors & My Messed Up Mercy


When it comes to mercy, I wish I could be more like a river, but sometimes I’m just a trickle.

Perhaps, it has something to do with the broken 'trinkets' I lug around.

Take for example, my magnifying glass. It works incredibly well... except that it’s broken... the focus is all off.

Huh? That doesn’t make sense to you? Well, allow me to explain.

In moments when I encounter the folly of another wandering soul, another sojourner on this journey of life, I whip out my magnifier. With preposterous focus, it highlights the flaws and faults of the unsuspecting culprit until they loom literally larger than life. 

Yet, when I turn this same lens back on me, it has a [not] surprisingly opposite effect. With 20/20 vision it shines the spotlight on my ‘rightness’ while any error on my part fades out of view.

Any logical person can sense that something is awry with my trusted magnifier, but I stubbornly hold on to it. Why wouldn’t I? It strokes my ego just so.

A broken magnifier would be bad enough, but what’s even worse is the shattered mirror I tote around. If it weren’t so splintered, I could see the truth about myself. A clearer more accurate focus would be achieved. You know, one that shows that of all the sinners I am chief. (1Timothy 1: 15-16) But no, so broken is it, that I don’t see myself at all. What’s worst? It’s been so long, it’s as if I’ve even forgotten what I looked like... forgotten the scars I try to hide.

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  James 1: 23-24

This combination... magnifying the faults of others while not being able to get a good look at myself, leads to the biggest problem of all. You see, the broken shards of my mirror have allowed my ‘me-toos’ to leak right out of the bag. That inclusive sentiment... the one that comes alongside my brother - my friend... that whispers ‘I understand’ - ‘I walk the same road’... that softens, welcomes and loves with open arms.... GONE... slipped right out of my heart without me even realizing it.

I think of the prodigal son... how much he had screwed up... how much he didn’t deserve the reception he got. With my ‘if you know better, do better’ justice scale, I am the older brother. I do not welcome this brother of mine. My scale, which vacillates between mercy and judgment, tips towards judgment.

But, maybe it was the gaping hole caused by judgment that convicted me... made me realize that something was wrong. Something needed fixing and I needed help.

As the older brother, I, too, was in desperate need. I, too, need mercy. With my goody two shoes checklist personality type, perhaps it just took me longer to realise it. 


So, I started first with the magnifier. Since the focus was totally off, and it was never intended to be used this way, I took it right back to the Manufacturer. Thankfully it was still under warranty. Yay for lifetime protection! 

When I got it back the difference was astonishing! Now all I could see were specks in my brother’s eyes while large planks and logs were floating around in my eyes. (Matthew 7: 3-5) And that wasn’t all... as much as I tried to keep it locked in his direction, it kept pulling away, steering away from us and up toward God, it just kept refocusing on the amazing attributes of God and all that He has done for us. (1 Timothy 1:16) I didn’t even remember it was supposed to work this way. It’s like it was shouting to me... reminding me ‘it’s not about you... or him... or her... it’s all about God’.

My new mirror is even more amazing. It doesn’t show the reflection I’d expected... the one that the world tells me is there. The one I believe I would have seen before. Rather, it’s like I’m seeing double. For each time I peer into this mirror I see not just me but us... I see us, as we really are... chosen and cherished children of God. I see the ‘gold leaf’ of Jesus’s blood that beautifully paints over our cracks and flaws. The scars we don’t have to cover up when our story merges with God’s beautiful story of redemption... but that open our hearts to receive and give mercy.


And just like that, I 'see' the truth... the shocking ridiculous truth that God continually offers me mercy. Me, the older brother, the one who doesn't show mercy well. Sometimes though, I find it hard to receive it. I mean, when you stop to think about it, I really don’t deserve it. And I have this scale, you know, and it tips towards judgment... even for... no especially, for me.

But wallowing in judgment is not a pleasant place to stay... and God calls to me. Reminds me that I’m fully known yet loved by Him.  So I reach out, and I feel it, too. The beautiful shock of a welcome party I really don’t deserve.

I feel mercy. 

I become the younger brother... the one fully aware of my transgressions and overjoyed by the sweet taste of mercy

And that helps me to understand... that my dear brother... sister... husband... friend and I - we’re in this together. We walk this path together. We all make missteps, sometimes intentionally, and we all need mercy. It’s a true ‘me-too’ moment, and my ‘justice’ scale tips to the side of mercy.

And then it dawns on me... maybe I don't need to carry a scale at all. Maybe that's not my calling.

My trickle of mercy widens, and I am enabled to be merciful just as my Father is merciful... and it is beautiful.


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What about you?
Do you find it hard to receive the mercy God, our Father, offers?
Are you towing around broken gadgets and scales that mess up your mercy?
There is hope, my friend.
God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.
May we freely receive and freely give.
And may God make us rivers of His mercy.


Thankful for His mercy,
Carlie