Feel Alive

This week, floods of love tears flowed at different moments as my sister brought the sweetest life into many lives. That little girl is so loved. For all of us who love her fiercely – we are most alive when we love – we were all made to do it. For her, she is developing in dynamic ways as her brain senses showers of care, fond words and gentle kisses. People don’t outgrow the need to feel loved – although some of us would like to. We would like to do it on our own, to need no one – strong and independent … but we cannot thrive in a life like this. We weren’t made for it.

During this weeks hospital fiasco, one busy nurse stepped out of her way several times to extend care, conversation and love to my sweet sister. There was something exquisite about her ability to extend such remarkable compassion and sweet sensitivity in the midst of a stressful shift on the ward. Yes, she knew the love of an unfailing Father – she knew it personally and intimately. The kind that meets a person in the morning and infuses energy, and gratitude. The kind that heals and holds and does not disappoint. That love is available to all – but only some recognize, believe and receive it.

Some days, you wake up in the morning with energy, zest, gratitude and enthusiasm. On other days, mornings are slow, heavy and hard. You can’t buy soul-vitality. It’s so costly that it can’t be sold, and so valuable that nothing compares.

Everyone wants to feel alive. More than new things, money, fame, marriage, positions, or power – what we all really want is to wake up in the morning and feel alive. This is the life God intends for His people.

Social scientists and psychologists are pumping out life formulas for people to experience meaning and connection left right and center because so many societal and personal problems are attached to the desperate cry all people walk around with … Author Erwin Raphael McManus says that all people are walking around desperate to be loved.

Brain scientists from a Health and Lifestyle Report say that a thriving brain needs love as much as it needs nutrition.

Anne Voscamp writes, “Live everyday like you are terminal because you are. Live every day like your soul is eternal. Because it is.”

The truth is – if we don’t feel loved – it’s mighty hard to feel alive. When a person feels loved – brain lights switch on and revitalizing chemicals go coursing where they need to awaken some sweet soul satisfaction. When a person feels rejected, alone, isolated, unwanted – their ability to love is halted.

Simon Senik teaches that organizations and movements throughout history thrive when people invest their heart power and believe in a vision … when they know why they are doing what they do. When this happens, people come alive and life changes – for individuals and societies.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

I will not forget the love of that nurse – she who has learned where to find what everyone wants. To feel alive. To know love. To make Him known.

 

Does God Want You To Be Happy?

It’s been said that happiness is fleeting and that joy is deep down and lasting. Joy is a choice and happiness an emotion. Some suggest happiness is trivial and should not be pursued. After all, joy is spiritual while happiness is, well … not.

For North Americans, happiness sits at the top of the “want list.”

So, what is happiness anyways? Why does everyone want something so badly that doesn’t seem to last?

We want what we can’t have. We can’t have real happiness without Jesus.

The Hebrew word in the Old Testament for happiness is ashre, translated as “well-being,” “flourishing,” and “happiness.” This word carries the idea of someone experiencing authority, peace and rest in God. It is used through the Psalms and Proverbs to describe the happy state of those who know God. Tim Keller teaches that happiness is indeed an emotion or a feeling and it happens deep down in the soul. Bible scholar Jonathan Pennington writes, “This flourishing can never occur fully apart from a proper relationship with the creator God.”

For those who want some, listen … Jesus shouted nice and loud for the crowds gathered near the mountain just off the shores of the Galilean Sea… Can you hear Him?

“You’re happy when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God …”

“You’re happy when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re happy when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re happy when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re happy when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re happy when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re happy when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re happy when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. – Matthew 5:3-10 msg

Recently, I went along with a brave girl to deliver cards to elderly friends with words from Jesus scrawled inside. The words were gems of hope and produced happy hearts. What stood out to me though, weren’t the smiles of the elderly, but of that girl … that selfless girl who has been spending days in palliative care with her family as cancer wages war against her dad. Her warm smile. Her peace. As we walked out of the building – she smiled wide with tearful eyes and said, “That made me so happy.”

Happy is she. No one can steal that kind of happy. No one can explain it. Everyone wants it because it makes smiles in the wasteland. Jesus’ famous echoes from the Mount take us right to it. It’s there waiting for us.

No, happiness is not shallow or superficial. It is deeply spiritual – in fact, it’s born in the Spirit – in the very place your life is connected to Christ through the cross – if you believe the cross was enough. Through relationship with Him. This kind of happy is starkly durable. Paul writes about it saying, “Happy are those who are declared righteous without working for it…” – Romans 4:6 NLT paraphrase

Kay Warren says, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of the details of my life.” Maybe joy and happiness are not that different after all – maybe choosing joy – a settled assurance – brings feelings of happy – peace and rest.

 

Gleaning Meaning

The top five regrets of the dying:

  • I wish I hadn’t worked so much.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish I had let myself be happier
  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

-The Guardian by Bronnie Ware

Everyone wants to do something on earth that matters.

You were created for this.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  

The purpose of your life is to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. To bring justice and mercy to all the broken parts with your very own hands. This is a big commission.

“And what does the LORD require of you? To Act justly to love mercy…” – Micah 6:8

This doesn’t mean you need to feel pressure or be all-important…

“Walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

 This doesn’t mean you need to be exhausted…..

Jesus says, “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch up I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Yes, you can work towards big things while taking a real rest.

We weren’t made to carry life alone – we were made to thrive in collaboration. Scripture shows us how it’s done…

King Joash took on a mighty project saying, “Repair whatever damage is found in the Temple.” The project sat dormant and hopeless for 23 years before wise strategy was applied and the project thrived.

Success exploded when many were involved. Many were empowered to use their skills and contribute. Many took responsibility. Many had a voice. Many invested in the project and the initiative thrived for God’s glory. People lived with deep down Godly meaning, they accomplished big things, and no one needed to carry the burden alone.

While the building of projects and initiatives is important-

God always cares more about the building of people and relationships then he does about the building of buildings, projects or initiatives.

Love God. Love people. Bring justice and mercy to earth and do it humbly – in genuine relationship with others. This is how we can Glean Godly Meaning, live in joy with lightness of heart, while accomplishing mighty things for God’s Kingdom.

Generations after King Joash restored the Temple, King Josiah restored the temple again. This time, he followed the systems established during the time of King Joash that worked so powerfully and effectively – and the project was completed with ease. May we heed the wise advice those who have gone before us … may we listen to the regrets of the dying – each one wishes they had lived valuing people and relationships more.

We don’t just avoid this because we are busy, but relationships take work! They take some building. It’s through this building that God’s Kingdom comes and we glean lasting meaning. Love God. Love people. Bring justice and mercy to earth, humbly – through relationship with others. This is how we can live in joy, with lightness of heart, while accomplishing mighty things for God’s Kingdom.

Lean Right

“The problem is that everyone has these expectations of me, and then I feel like I have to fulfill those expectations for people to like me. It’s exhausting!” This week, these were the words of a beautiful teen girl getting brave and honest about her hopelessness.

I have certainly felt that way in my life. I know that others have too, because this summer, Sisterhoodyxe asked women of all ages to vote on the 3 most common ways women and girls feel hopeless right now in our culture. We want to shine hope for women and girls right where it is needed most. Voted number three was the topic: Traditional vs. Liberal Woman.

When it comes to fulfilling the role of a woman, traditional or liberal or otherwise, is there a right way to lean?

As my new friend spoke, I felt a burning passion to dig into the pages I profess as “Living hope” (The Good Book) and experience it, and spread it.

The book itself is one big story. God’s story of redemption. Redemption means to purchase back what was lost, or to atone for wrongdoing. I know this. I’ve heard this. But what does this mean for girls and women today?

In John chapter four, Jesus has walked a long distance. His dust stained feet and parched mouth have had enough of the journey. The land is dry and the well is hope. The Samaritan woman is there at midday. Odd. Only an outcast would saunter to the well in the scorching heat.

Jesus, tired human Jesus, has ordained this moment in his unmatched divinity. He knows her, and He sees her as no one else can – he sees her as she cannot see herself.

Jesus doesn’t see her defined by the cultural divide, her devastating divorce trail, or her isolation. Jesus is not bound by time – He sees vividly, like it was yesterday, when He crafted woman in the Garden with infinite affection and understanding. He didn’t only sculpt her physically, but he breathed his very essence into her, uniquely.

As his gaze meets the eyes of the woman at the well, hope stirs stronger than any well could contain. He offers her water that satisfies and He knows it originates back in Eden. It comes from his original intentions for her – it comes from the soul connection Jesus creates by His blood between woman and Jesus. Redemption.

He remembers weaving her heart uniquely and calling her Ezer kenegdo. Some have translated this name as “helpmate” or “helper.” When He named her, God did not think, “lesser”, “subordinate” or “servant” as some in our culture do. This name is used over 20 times in the New Testament and always refers to a powerful kind of help and rescue – In fact, God named woman after himself. In the Old Testament God is called Ezer kenegdo when he shows up big to help the Israelites fight a fierce battle. This is a warrior name and reflects the powerful heart God gives woman. The word Kenegdo implies she is equal to Adam, an equal support. She is not the same as Adam, but carries a unique expression of God’s image as woman.

Jesus looks at the woman at the well and sees Ezer, woman – created to be and feel empowered. He sees the Samaritan woman as beloved creation – he sees her weary eyes…. He looks at her and thinks: I made you to be Empowered. This is my redemptive work on earth, to remind you who you are, and to help you live as such.

But would she be brave enough to LEAN right? To LEAN right into Jesus? To really listen? He says…

Let your heart be seen … He tells her everything she has ever done. He knows the heart-design that is made to live transparently – and thrives when it does not hide in shame. After all, there is no shame in Eden. Even though this is uncomfortable for her, He reveals the truth of her wrongdoing – and tells her it’s ok to face the truth about her own life. She is more powerful than she thinks.

Examine your heart … He tells her that deep satisfaction can only be found when true worshippers will worship in Spirit and truth. It is never about where one worships, but how… In Eden, God’s goodness was known and felt and never doubted. The woman at the well would be able, through Jesus to feel His goodness by the blood of Jesus. She could know unfathomable love and experience fulfilling connection to God. She is more powerful than she thinks.

Accept the truth in your heart … He tells her that He is the Son of God, the awaited Messiah. Jesus remembers that He created Eden to be void of deception. He created her to trust Him fully and know Him deeply – when she does this, she will experience vitality… But He does not choose this for her … Because Choice is Empowerment and allows for authentic relationship and love… There is more power available to her than she knows.

Nourish your heart … Jesus goes on to say that his food is to do the will of God, and he recognizes that the Samaritan woman at the well had the choice whether or not to nourish her heart – because he created her that way – with choice. She can make choices that bring them closer – or put distance between them. He knows that eternal satisfaction is found in her intimate connection to Him – after all, this is what she was created for. She can choose to LEAN in to Jesus, to let her heart be seen, to examine her heart, to accept truth and to nourish her heart one choice at a time. This LEANING would lead her to experience an inner satisfaction that nothing could compare to… But the choice is hers. She has great power, Ezer.

As she chooses to “Lean Right” into Jesus, she need not worry about the women who abandoned her, or those who continue to judge her. They would be coming to the same well in the cool of the evening – she need not be offended. She need not be angry with them, she need not feel self-conscious, or hide in shame. She need not feel or act powerless. As she chooses to “Lean Right” into Jesus, she is empowered to bring change on earth as she was uniquely created to do. She, the weary and tired woman at the well, runs wildly to Samaria and chooses to speak powerfully, boldly and passionately about the goodness of God. Redemption is happening in her own heart – and she is empowered to bring God’s Kingdom to Earth so that others can have it too. This is the satisfying sweet drink of leaning right into Jesus. Freedom. Empowerment.

 

Couraging

This week, countless graduates mounted distinguished caps on their heads with pride – ready to pursue purpose. One of the most common grade twelve graduation themes is: Follow Your Heart. We live with heart when we live with purpose. Deep down – everyone wants this.

This year, I taught a student I will never forget – Tim. On the first day of class, I was spilling with enthusiasm for an exciting year ahead of standard deviation and Pythagorus’ theorem … (don’t ask me why Tim wasn’t sharing my excitement). Tim was having none of it – and refused to open his book. I asked him what was wrong. My over-the-top-first-day-teacher-enthusiasm died fast when he angrily said – LOOK – I am the kid that never passes anything so I don’t try – and I won’t be trying … You should know that about me. I am just putting in my time, but I will fail. I always do.

I’ve always been one to love inspiring words, quotes and ideas and flashy phrases like “FOLLOW YOUR HEART” … but looking into Tim’s defeated eyes – and knowing that feeling of defeat in my own life at times, it got me thinking: How do we actually experience courage and inspiration that leads to change? Tim needed more than a pep talk – and I recognized that sometimes, so do I. I think we all do.

So if not a pep talk, then what do we really need to live with heart?

For graduates, it seems purpose is all about what we DO in life … I bet every grade twelve grad is sick and tired of that question … What are you going to DO next year and for your career?

My Question for graduates is not what you plan to do but instead, who are you going to BE? I believe that the answer to this question is the key to whether or not you will find purpose and deep down lasting joy.

The thing is: It’s easy to plan what you want to do – but HOW do you PLAN who you want to BE? How do you plan to follow your heart?

To live with HEART is to live with courage…

A person’s ability to live with courage is the number one indicator of how successful one’s life will be. (Success defined as a fulfilling job, sufficient finances, personal fulfillment and happiness) It’s not intelligence, talent, or charisma. It’s your ability to be courageous!

What is courage? “Mental or moral strength to withstand fear and adversity.”

I used to think that courage was something some people had and others had less of when in fact– Courage is PRACTICED. Dr. Brene Brown calls courage a verb – it’s something we choose to do! Verbs end in ING. we can actually PRACTICE couraging.  By choosing to do it, we build it. Mental strength can be built like a muscle… over time… with practice.

Physical strength is built in the gym. Mental fortitude is built in the mind.

So as I thought about Tim… and my own desire to get couraging, I got a mirror in the classroom and scripted the famous quote “Life is like a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it.” If Tim believed he could pass, he would. If he didn’t – he wouldn’t.

The mirror was more for me than it was for students. (Mostly because I thought – if I am supposed to get any learning going in this classroom, I’m going to need all the courage I can get!). Every day we practiced couraging. One author says there are five characteristics of courage – As a class, we focused on one characteristic each day of the week.

  1. GRIT – Motivation Mondays

“You have a choice – you can throw in the towel, or you can wipe the sweat off your face” – Unknown

  1. INTEGRITY – Tell-All Tuesdays

“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” – Brene Brown

  1. JUSTICE – World Wednesdays

“Small things done with great love will change the world.” – Mother Teresa

  1. THANKFULNESS – Thankful Thursdays (Default brain setting)

“The happiest people do not have the best of everything. They make the best of everything they have.”

  1. FREEDOM from fear

“Fear is much more a limitation than having no arms or no legs.” – Nick Vujucic

We take inspirational words like “Follow your heart” and bring them to life by choosing to practice couraging.

To all grade twelve graduates, at your ten year, twenty year or thirty year class reunion … It’s not going to matter so much what you have done. Picture yourself – it’s going to matter who you have become. Are you joyful? Fulfilled? What kind of a life you have chosen to build? You don’t build a life with designations and titles – although they may be a very important part of the equation. You build purpose-filled life by living with heart.

So to all 2017 Grads, may you choose to..

  1. Worry more about WHO you are than what you DO.
  2. Choose everyday to practice courage – especially in the small things
  3. Choose to live with GRIT, INTEGRITY, JUSTICE, THANKFULNESS and FREEDOM from fear.

And may you be surprised by the JOY that grows big and the ways you impact the world.

Oh yeah, I should tell you – This week, Tim passed the math class. He said on the last day of class that he went from being the failing guy to the passing guy. He didn’t talk so much about the credit he earned, but about who he had become. He chose it. He built it.

And tomorrow when he wakes up – He will get to choose again. And so will you. Because the reality is we are all going to mess up sometimes – we will slink back and make mistakes.

Everyday offers a new choice – we can simply read inspiring quotes like “Follow your heart” Or we can actually do it – one practicing moment at a time. It doesn’t matter what labels we’ve worn, or what you chose yesterday. Today, we all choose new.

Finally, people aren’t meant to produce courage – but to practice it. Keep your faith. If you look to God to provide the courage and you commit to practicing it – you will be amazed at your own ability to follow your heart through this life!