The God who is unseen, but not powerless

We want a God who is obvious, don’t we? We long for the sign, the grand miracle, the writing on the wall. Show us, God, and we’ll follow, we say. Be obvious to us!

And yet the Invisible God chooses to be unseen. Read through the Sermon on the Mount – Jesus says over and over again, “our Father who is unseen.”

It is on purpose that God is unseen. It is an attribute.

But why would anyone want to worship a concealed God? What use is it to us?

First of all, do not mistake God’s hiddenness for powerlessness. Consider instead that his choice of unseen-ness is for our benefit.

God has a bent, favour, for the victim, the needy, the poor in spirit, those who are unseen themselves. His focus of attention is on the meek, the mourning, those who are out of sight behind doors, barriers and masks, hiding in corners and closets. These are his people.

Remember that the invisible God is a pursuing God and he finds us in the hidden places. A hidden God is moving through the byways and alleyways and jimmying back doors. Might we run away from an obvious God, should he come to us in a flash and a bang or in his heavenly fame and accompanying entourage? In our need, shame and despair, we don’t want to be pulled onto a stage, we want our wounds to be tended.

The God who is unseen sees us.

What a precious thought this is – that he would cloak himself in pursuit of us!

But, you say, I’ve been hidden for so long!

Be found – stay right where you are. In fact, move to your hidden places. Go to the closet and behind the closed door to pray – these are the prayers that are rewarded by an audience with God. Open your heart to your own shame and sorrow that you might see God right there.

Be seen by him. He’s with you as we speak. Be blessed by this poverty of spirit, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.

And then what? God is not altogether secret. He outsources his glory to those who have been found! He affirms our value and purpose by giving his radiance to our faces, by contracting his goodness through our lives. His power is on display through the stunning transformation of those who have been found by him.

YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. Jesus said it himself.

You no longer live in darkness, but in his light. You no longer belong to death, but to life. He has moved you from hiddenness to a spacious place.

Now, let’s make God obvious – in our lives, unseen Father, be glorified.

Surrender

I have watched a few of my spiritual elders pray with palms up, hands open. It is a posture of relinquishment of the thoughts, ideas, expectations, assignments, outcomes – the good along with the bad – that one holds dear; and of openness to hear and receive the will of God in exchange.

When I myself pray hands open, I notice that my body is not comfortable here. There is a tightness in my forearms and my fingers have a mind of their own to curl up into the doubled fist I’ve prayed with for much of my life. It is more comfortable to clench my hands together and bend inward than it is open up my body, which is to say a lot more than words could about how I have approached prayer for much of my life.

I am more comfortable to entreat than to release; I’d rather be knighted by God than available to him.

God in his goodness has accepted my prayers, no matter my pose, but it has occurred to me that there is perhaps a maturation process in our posture of prayer just as anything develops with time and practice. It is the new believer who is just coming into the knowledge of God’s loving kindness who might brace herself in prayer, heart and hands. She may not yet be sure how she will be received. The believer who knows their Lord can anticipate a joyous and eager reception every time, no bracing needed.

Here’s a problem and why I haven’t slidden so naturally into relinquishing prayers though I’ve been a pray-er for decades: I like my own goals and plans. I get a high off envisioning outcomes and impact (and must be a sucker for punishment as I experience disappointment in equal parts).

Over the last few years, there have been a series of unfortunate events with those close to me, of which COVID has been a nasty post-script. A couple of which you may know – my mother’s illness and John-Mark’s breakdown – because I have or J-M has shared with you. There have been others that have necessarily remained private, but are no less concerning and wearying.

I have done a lot of pleading these past few years. Help me! became a well-worn phrase. At a point, I couldn’t clench my fists anymore, I was too tired, laid out. That’s when I experienced the Lord as the “lifter of my head.” He graciously invited me to take the weight off and put it all, everything on him. I was out of options and drawn to his beauty besides. I surrendered.

I soon came to treasure the gorgeous rest of giving things over to him – all my weariness, my pain, my confusion. I ran to him in prayer for more and I was delighted to discover there was no expiry date or time limit on his goodness. It remained an open invitation to unburden myself. A most surprising discovery was that the world did not fall apart when I did. I really took advantage of this. I started to get uncomfortably real with my emotions. I was off-script and unhinged and often there were just groanings. And would you believe the Lord was not only permissive about all of this, but His Spirit was groaning with me. This was Holy work.

As healing and wholeness were inevitably restored, I fooled myself into thinking that we would return as things were between God and me, that I would, once again, dutifully bow my head and grasp my hands and start to make my petitions. I thought my healing meant that I was strong enough to go back to old patterns, without fully understanding some of those patterns are what had contributed to my burnout – to take things on myself, to set the agenda.

Gently, the Lord has been nudging me to keep returning and even lingering in the place of surrender, to develop those muscles of open-handedness, to have confidence in God with the assignments and the outcomes. He has been faithful in the most difficult of times, might I trust him with all?

My one word for this year is surrender. In past years, when I picked a word I’ve thought long and hard about potential personal transformation and possible impact, set complementary goals and resolutions. This year God placed the word in my open hands.

Thanksgiving – We Can Get It Wrong

Two Biblical stories come to mind when I think of Thanksgiving. And they are both cautions that we can get it wrong.

The first is the story of when Jesus was travelling through a village and encountered ten men who had leprosy. They stood at a distance from him because they were considered “unclean” – their disease was highly contagious and without cure. They pleaded with Jesus to heal them calling out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!

Jesus instructed them to go before a priest to show themselves clean. They obeyed (though it would be an act of faith as they had no evidence yet of their healing). On the way to the temple, they were healed.

Of those ten men who were healed, only one came back to thank Jesus. In that same loud voice he’d used to practice his lament of “unclean” and to plead with Jesus for his healing, he now used to praise God. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. Of the ten, he was also the one who was most unlikely to thank Jesus as he was considered a foreigner, a Samaritan. Jesus asked him where the other nine were. “Were not all ten cleansed?”

What might a newly healed person do rather than thank the one who healed him? I can imagine that if it were me, I might run directly back to my friends, and family, my old life, the things I’d missed. Or perhaps I’d get started on the things I wanted to do, but thought I never could. Maybe I’d mistakenly think that I’d brought about my own healing for I had sought out Jesus, I had gone to the priest, and therefore Jesus was simply party to it.

This illustrates the danger of missing the point. How often have we forgotten to be thankful to God because we’ve credited our own efforts or have been distracted by our own purposes.

Thanksgiving is our reminder to run full speed to Jesus, praise him with our loudest voice, and offer our deepest thanks to the one who saves us.

The second story is the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector told by Jesus. A Pharisee was a religious leader and among the Jewish elite, known for their piety. The tax collector was considered lowest of the low in society, often crooked, with a poor reputation. In this parable, both the Pharisee and the tax collector went to the same temple to pray. The Pharisee stood in a prominent place and thanked God that he was not like others, going so far as to use the tax collector to compare against his own self-righteousness, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.

The tax collector, however, stood at a distance, “would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.‘”

Jesus told this story to illustrate that it is the repentant sinner, not the self-righteous leader, who was “justified” (meaning he was “acquitted” from his sins in the eyes of God).

Our Thanksgiving efforts can have us esteeming ourselves and not only miss the point of God’s involvement, but faithlessly ascribe ourselves righteousness that belongs to God. The penance of the guilty sinner is worth much more to God.

We do this when we become comparative in our circumstances or think “at least” I am not like [fill in the blank]. Don’t be deceived, comparison is not an act of gratitude, it is the act of exalting ourselves and often happens when our heart is the least grateful.

By these two stories, I am challenged to realign my heart to an authentic thanksgiving. The first is to remember the Lord who saves, heals and restores, acknowledge his saving power, and centre him in my story of transformation.

The second is to recognize that gratitude is the opposite of comparison. The greatest gift the Lord has given to me is himself. It is Jesus who justifies, forgives, restores. The gift of his redemptive love is available to all and is best accessed and transmitted through a posture of thanksgiving.


*Jesus Heals Ten Men With Leprosy is found in Luke 17:11-19; The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is found in Luke 18:9-14.

Be Free to Grieve

Be not consoled and feel no need to be consoled.
 
This quote is from the book, The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It was spoken by the Elder Zosima to a woman weeping uncontrollably over the death of her child, who so desperately wishes for her child in her arms again. The woman has previously only received cheap sympathy from those who wish her to stop being so demonstrative in her grief.
 
I understand that Dostoyevsky grieved over the death of his own son just prior to writing this book, which might explain the potent empathy of such a statement.
 
We can be hard on our grieving selves. I know I am. I have experienced deep grief, most recently over my mom’s illness (Lewy Body Dementia) and the loss of her vivacious presence in our lives. I’ve been especially inconsolable during COVID as I consider her isolation, an added hardship.
 
I haven’t had anyone advise me to stop, I’ve done that to myself. I have not wanted to be interrupted by grief. I want my heart to stop raising the issue already. I want to be “normal.” I want to rally my energies to keep going. Instead, I add to my grief a cruel judgment that, because of my inopportune emotions and the way they can level me, I have become ineffective and I’m letting myself and others down.
 
This statement – be not consoled! – rather gives fresh permission to let grief do its cleansing work, let it run its course without interruption, honour the loss, even make room to do so. It miraculously gives hope and courage while imposing neither.
I plan to self-administer this merciful advice – I did today – and share it with you too, as I suspect we all have our share of grief we’re trying to contend with.
Suppress it no further. Be free to grieve.

High-Rise Life | The Neighbours Above Us

We have a new neighbour above us. He whistles on the balcony.
 
In the past 5 years, the apartment above us has changed hands numerous times. We know a new set has moved in by the new noises and smells.
 
At first there were the young men who played video games and watched movies at dangerously high decibel levels. J-M knocked on their door, “Listen guys, I love Star Wars too, but…”
 
There were the weed smokers, who were like clockwork. At 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., we knew to close the windows.
 
After that were the ones who partied till the wee hours Thursday, Friday & Saturday and threw up every Friday, Saturday & Sunday morning. That was a regular call to security. “I know,” he’d say, a little defeated, “I’m on my way…” From time to time, I felt bad calling security and would knock on the door myself (sleeplessness makes you ornery) only to hear bottles crashing and stumbling and loud shushing. They never came to the door, but they always stopped the noise.
 
There was the young family with the crying baby. We didn’t mind, other than to wonder if it would be too intrusive to offer to take the baby for a while and give them a rest?
 
The saxophonist who played/practiced Careless Whisper daily made all my urban apartment dweller dreams come true.
 
Then there was the man who was always using his tools and treating the apartment like a workshop. Ceaseless drilling, sawing, and hammering. J-M eventually had to go up when water started coming through our ceiling. Admittedly J-M tried to get a peek at what this man might be making and could see nothing. The man simply said he was fixing a leak.
 
We got used to the one with the bouncing ball habit, but I had to go Mama Bear on the one who was verbally abusive with his girlfriend.
 
And now a whistler. I like it. I hope he stays.

23 Years Together

Today J-M and I celebrate 23 years of marriage.
This might be our most significant anniversary yet as it marks the threshold of being married as long as we were unmarried.
J-M were having a conversation about what we might say is “different” about our marriage since those early years because we sometimes carry the delusion that we’re the same two young, naive kids. But then we find ourselves examining each other’s moles – “does this look normal to you?” – or going to bed early to read and are confronted with the reality that we are, indeed, aged and aging.
So it has been a fun exercise to consider how we’re different than when we first began.
There are the obvious things like how we’ve both gained a middle-aged middle and are surprisingly OK with it. We did some quick math to figure out that J-M has gained an average of 3 lbs per married year and my average is 2. (Having said that, we might wish to slow that pace if we project into our 60s, and make our own efforts to flatten the curve, so to speak.) We were both recently greatly amused to discover, while swimming at the public pool in our neighbourhood, that neither of us can possibly sink. Like, if we do nothing at all, no moving of limbs, “standing” stock still in the deep end, we simply bob, nose and mouth above water. So I’d call that a wonderful, life-saving discovery.
There have been many marital victories to celebrate along the way, like reducing frictions in our everyday life, finding ways to enjoy each other, supporting each other through stress, for example. As each year passes, we “get” each other more. I am particularly tickled when, in a fight, we help each other recall the words we need to argue our point.
One stand-out win for us a few years ago was discovering the answer to J-M’s obnoxious snoring was related to sleep apnea. He now has a CPAP machine and sleeps silently. I feel a little like I saved J-M’s life. And he has saved mine in various countless ways. It turns out some life-saving efforts can take months of sleepless nights and dark days to do so.
Besides milestones like moving, having children, changes in career, etc, there have been two significant points of growth in our marriage. The first was around year 6 or 7. We seemed to be checking off all the “right” boxes: careers, children, home, vacations… but there was a mounting restlessness. Surely, we thought, acquiring possessions and status or relational compatibility cannot be prime objectives of marriage; there had to be more. It was in that season that we challenged ourselves to live out our faith in Jesus, to listen in and hear what God was saying to us about why he’d brought us together and how to live out his purposes in our lives. I credit our beautiful community of friends who inspired us in this way. Such “living out of faith” took our family to live in Ghana for a time and for J-M to move from teaching to pastoring and for me to be open to lead alongside J-M in various ways. Our life became a life-giving spiritual adventure.
The second point of growth was a about a decade later, 18 years into marriage, we were going through many stressful things in life and ministry, changing jobs, moving, difficult things happening in friends and family’s lives that were taking their toll on our marriage. I have said that this is the year my marriage vows had to kick in (for J-M it was Year One). For the first time, I understood the temptation of wanting to leave. We seemed to perpetually be at odds with each other. I learned what it meant to love even when you can’t feel it and not let feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness take root and split up our oneness. Again, it took sleepless nights and dark days.
We said hard things to each other, we got counselling, we learned to pray for each other and we made it out the other side. I might even say, we were better for it (though I would have slapped you had you told me that in the moment). As I write, I’ve never been more (giddily so!) in love with J-M. Which is to say that a hard season can be the seedbed of beautiful growth.
I know that our marriage doesn’t look like everyone’s and I also know, having worked in family law and in ministry, that marriage can be a place of great and unresolved pain. I believe it is one way, but not the only way, that God works his life-saving activity in and through us. It will certainly uncover your “stuff” built out of survival or selfishness. It will not fix you. It will change you.
I just asked J-M if he’d recommend marriage and I’m thrilled to report that he didn’t hesitate to say yes. I asked him why and he said “because you learn about yourself, you learn about grace, you learn about faithfulness and you get to have fun.”
And there you have it, he’s always been more succinct than me.
Happy anniversary, J-M. You are the love of my life. Let the adventure continue!

Freedom from Envy

Have you ever been envious of someone else, whether mildly or severely so? Wanting what some else has, looking like someone else looks, doing what someone else is doing?
Even now you might be able to think of that thing, person or circumstance you desire so badly and believe you deserve. You might know the wrestle in your soul and the pain in your heart too well. You might be familiar with the place in your body where the envy resides – it can knock the wind right out of your lungs, it might sit like an anvil on your chest, or smother you with its weight.
The main activity of envy is to build up a wall between you and those you are envious of. You can resent and even hate the other because of what they have which you don’t.
Envy puts itself in the place of loving relationships, mimicking a caregiver or comforter, nursing the very wounds it inflicts. If you don’t have those things your heart longs for, at least you have your envy.
Even in the throes of our envy, our soul is enlightened from time to time that this is neither healthy nor a beneficial way to live, to say the least. We are then tempted to free ourselves from envy in the following ways.
One primary way to perhaps ease the ache of envy is to acquire the things or circumstances our heart wishes to have. Work harder for wealth, sell ourselves for prestige, lose ourselves for love. Envy begins to control our purposes as we aspire only to acquire.
Another way is to try a prescription of reverse comparison and think of the ways we are better off (at least!) than others. Perhaps if we got in this mess by weighing our circumstances against others it can also be the thing that frees us! Criticism works well here – not to actually elevate ourselves, but to feel elevated. We will seek out poverty in others to cure ours.
Or we might choose to avoid all those things, people or circumstances that might arouse envy in us. This is the (momentary) balm of isolation where we simply don’t have to think of it because we have put on our blinders. We are willing to deceive ourselves that isolation is better than deprivation.
Each of these tactics, however, only serve to feed the dragon of envy within us. With each self-appointed “solution,” we will find instead that envy has become our master as it shapes our purposes, diminishes our identity, and destroys relationships. We are no longer free, we are enslaved.
Blessed are those who do not struggle with envy, but more blessed are those who are freed from envy – for it is by God’s grace that we become free.
There is a way to live humbly and sit among (without owning) that or those which we once deemed enviable and be internally glad, even uplifted.
This is the freeing activity of faith in Jesus. Not only can he release us from the chains that bind us, he can show us how to destroy this enemy of our soul.
Be free from envy by believing in Jesus’ power to free us and trust him with our circumstances. When we are in his care and aligned in his love, ALL IS AS IT SHOULD BE for he promises – not a life of comfort! – but that we are led with kindness by a God who loves us. He has purposes for us beyond acquiring items or positions that belong to others. He has relationships he has ordained and appointed to us, which he will reveal in his time. This is foundational to freedom from envy – our life need not look like others and it is the Lord’s to determine.
What does is take on our part to so utterly trust him that envy can no longer take hold? Be free by confessing our envy to the one who can rid us of it. It is a sweet offering to the Lord that we would release to him that which has kept us from him.
No matter how much we want to be free from envy, this can be difficult for us – all surrender is. As humans, we do tend to enjoy feeling wronged and left out. What pleasureful pain it is to think that we deserve and even need what others have. Releasing this “right” to what we deem we are owed, or the “injustice” that we don’t have what others have, is a simple, but an almost impossible step except by God’s grace.
But when we do, we find ourselves not only at peace in our circumstances, but also able to love more freely even–especially the very people we once hated by our jealousy.
From there we can express gratitude for our circumstances (and sometimes this is the pathway toward our confession). Build the discipline of thanking God for everything good you have. You will develop your spiritual eyesight to see God’s goodness in places you didn’t before think to look, for our preoccupations blind us.
For the believer, everything has purpose and points us to God’s power and goodness. We will be delighted to discover that those things we once envied we can look with new awareness and see that they can keep us from God’s goodness.
Once you have tasted God’s goodness, it becomes the thing our heart longs for and those things we once envied become dull and undesirable. We can even wonder at our own foolishness for having placed these things as a priority in our lives.
Once freed, don’t be surprised by the visitation of envy from time to time and in the most surprising ways for this life of freedom is a pilgrimage. But envy is a tool of the devil to sift your soul. It will whisper to your heart that you are worthless and your circumstances are purposeless. It will tell you sweet lies that you have been left out, forgotten, or deprived. Nothing could be further from the truth, but until your soul grapples with envy by God’s grace, you will not know the abundant true and beautiful goodness of the Lord meant especially for you and enough for all of us.
Be free!

On searching our hearts and doing justice

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23

“Search me, God…” is one of the most powerful, transformative requests we can make.

We are asking the Lord to mine the contents of our hearts and reveal to us the ways that we are operating out of our selfish compulsions and unconscious motivations. These, left unevaluated, lead us to indulge our prejudices, distort our perspective, keep us out of alignment with God’s will, harden our hearts, contribute to injustice.

To ask God to search our hearts is to admit that we need his help to see ourselves truly and to bring about change.

Human introspection can be a healthy posture, as we give serious thought to our behaviours, but we inevitably run into two problems. The first (and primary) problem is that we do not have capacity to see ourselves fully or accurately. This means we’re inclined to feed our biases and remain unchanged. The second problem is that, should we see and confront the offensive parts of us, we do not have capacity to resolve these things and we can become stuck and/or overly absorbed with the task of self-discovery (either overwhelmed with guilt and shame or obsessed with exploring our own complexities or both).

It occurs to me, particularly in light of racial tensions, that we desperately need the Lord’s help to search our hearts.

Blindness to our own sinfulness has done damage to ourselves and others in ways we can’t fully know, but, once in a while, we catch a glimpse when a friend or acquaintance dares to confront us about it. If we haven’t built up a discipline of godly self-reflection, such confrontations can level us. We’re keen to defend ourselves and/or dwell on our guilt – both responses leaving us unchanged and ineffective.

The white community is facing criticism. Black family, friends and acquaintances are daring to confront us about it. We’re being asked to do some serious self-reflection as it relates to the way we operate (whether consciously or unconsciously) in the world.

Search me, God, and see if there is any [untrustworthy] way in me.

Can I be trusted?
* to listen
* to care
* to operate without agenda
* to bear witness
* to speak the truth
* to offer genuine help
* to see beyond my own perspective
* to put another’s interest above my own
* to be equitable
* to make the effort

When my heart’s contents are uncovered by the Lord, I see that I, indeed, cannot be trusted.

(If ever I have listened, cared, operated without agenda, spoke truth… it has been by the grace of God through Jesus and the power of his Spirit.)

Though this is a painful revelation, under the supervision of the Lord who has searched my heart, there is no need for denial or defensiveness because the one who revealed it can be trusted. He is all things Truth, Goodness and Beauty and he leads me in the way everlasting. As I repent of my offensive ways and surrender to him, I am guided toward transformation, to become more like Jesus.

Aligned with God’s will, our hearts soften, our prejudices are replaced with his Love, our distorted view with his Truth, and by his Beauty we become free, equipped and empowered to tackle injustice.

Search me, God.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.
2 Corinthians 7:10-11

On Learning to Listen & Doing Justice

Last year I dedicated the year to learning how to listen. I didn’t set out to become informed, my purpose was to understand the process of listening better. My hypothesis (and eventual conclusion) was that listening is a spiritual practice that can change us and change our world.
What I learned is that listening is hard and painful work – as it requires setting aside one’s ego – and it doesn’t come naturally.
Despite my taking a formal coaching program, self-educating (reading everything I could on the topic), studying scripture, going on listening retreats, praying to become a better listener, and attempting in every conversation to make space in my heart for the opinion (and thus, pain) of others, I found it extremely difficult to listen if I didn’t also aspire to humility.
I’m sure you could ask any therapist who has spent the day listening to clients that this is a discipline that requires the building of strength and stamina. It can leave one exhausted if one attempts to jump in the deep end of listening where they haven’t waded before. You can feel depleted, bruised and ready to give up.
I think of the listening many in the white community have committed to on behalf of their black and first nations friends and family. I think of men who have listened to women in the suffrage or #metoo movements. I think of the times that those in power have listened to those who are marginalized. Some will jump in and then come up for air quickly feeling exhausted/battered. Others will immerse in listening and become powerful agents of change. The difference is in how they’re listening.
Discovering that humility is a core ingredient to listening well, I’ve had to pay attention to the moments where my ego wants to talk back. You’ll recognize it’s calling cards, “but” or “what about.” These words are a pretty good indication that you are no longer listening because your ego has been bruised (guarding your conscience against being pricked).
I aspire to the impossible task of never being personally offended. I fail at this miserably almost daily, but I still make this commitment as I never want to feel victorious over my hurt feelings. I believe that personal offence is the greatest barrier to listening well to others.
And, as a follower of Jesus, I am free in Christ. I have no need to defend myself for he will do it. Which leads me to my next point.
The other key ingredient to listening well is listening to a source that refreshes you and gives you strength. Often we mistakenly want to receive that from the one we’re listening to. I noticed when listening to my black friends this past week, I wanted them to say in one form or another, “good job for listening.” This is neither their role nor the source of strength for our listening.
I read this tweet this morning (which may well have inspired this post): “You’ll go crazy if you spend all your time analyzing the depths of evil without gazing at the beauty of God.” (Pastor James T. Robinson III, Pastor of Bridge Church NYC @jtrob3)
Now analyzing and listening are two different things, but the point is that there is much we are listening to that is troubling and listening itself can trouble us. Being troubled is good and necessary for change. But being troubled can distract us from being effective if we spend our time nursing our wounds. We must receive replenishment and build the discipline of listening.
Listening to the Lord gives us rest and peace and is the primary voice of wisdom, strength, love to lead us toward shalom*, which is, I would say, the greatest goal of listening.
There is much to say on this topic (a year of learning about listening made me see I had only begun). May I suggest we include learning to listen as part of the work of our listening. Don’t give up on it too quickly for there is transformation in the places where we persevere in listening.
Let me leave you with this most refreshing passage for listeners from Proverbs 2 (emphasis added):
My child, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.
𝙏𝙝𝙚𝙣 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙬𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙧𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩𝙚𝙤𝙪𝙨𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙟𝙪𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙘𝙚
𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙚𝙦𝙪𝙞𝙩𝙮, 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙮 𝙜𝙤𝙤𝙙 𝙥𝙖𝙩𝙝;
𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙬𝙞𝙨𝙙𝙤𝙢 𝙬𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙚 𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙝𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙩,
𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙠𝙣𝙤𝙬𝙡𝙚𝙙𝙜𝙚 𝙬𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙗𝙚 𝙥𝙡𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙖𝙣𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙨𝙤𝙪𝙡.
Listen well. Be Free.
*Shalom, meaning (taught to me and our church by my pastor husband) being in right relationship with God, each other and creation. He’ll be happy to know I listen to him from time to time. ;-)

Activism as Worship

A word of freedom to believers: activism is a type of worship.

We love God by standing up for righteousness in hostile places.*

Few people want to lose friends, influence, or privilege, so we subdue our voices instead of speaking up for justice. But this is the risk of effectively following Jesus. Some won’t understand and will reject you; others will be freed by it. There will be sorrow and great joy in siding with freedom.

For some of us, activism is a temperament. For others, activism is obedience.

Be challenged to consider your role in loving God in this way and BE FREE to do so.

“Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”
Proverbs 24:11-12

Free people free people.


*Quotes from Gary Thomas’ Sacred Pathways – learn more about activism as a worship style/way to love God by reading this book and/or consider the examples throughout scripture: Moses, Elijah, Elisha to start.