Gardening Refreshes Us

The weather has been nice these last few days on the west coast of Canada and I took advantage of this nice weather to do a bit of gardening. The flower beds needed some cleaning up and it is my habit to add some good layers of mushroom manure as a top-dressing. This keeps the weeds down, the moisture in, and feeds the perennial plants the nutrients they need. In addition to this the top-dressing makes the beds look spick and span, pleasing to the eye.

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A Glad Heart

It is each of our responsibilities to nurture a glad heart within ourselves.

A glad heart is a barometer and its also a buffer.

A glad heart tells us when we are being true to ourselves or when we are not.

A glad heart is the oil of life that makes living sweet.

Without a glad heart we become brittle and even caustic.

Without a glad heart our words and our manner no longer bless others and our favour on earth becomes lost.

Everything begins to dry up and atrophy.

We want glad hearts.

We must nurture glad hearts.

First in ourselves, then in others.

This begins with the simple question, “What makes me glad?”

By what am I refreshed? Where do I find joy? How am I delighted?

Make your list – seriously.

Nurturing a glad heart requires a commitment on the one who owns the heart and it requires intentionality to care for said heart.

It’s not something you can be without this year.

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A Reinvention

I’ve reinvented myself a few times over. From fearful and shy to settled and leading requires a few changes to one’s inner core along the way.

And as I’m looking ahead at 2014 it occurs to me that another reinvention is necessary. While the foundation is well laid within my own life and the life of Capturing Courage International the necessary and expected increase requires my own growth first and foremost.

This is the same for all of us. What has gotten us to today will not get us to the tomorrows that we want. Each new phase of life requires an expansion within our heart and mind. Our internal capacity is, after all, what grows our life.

My own process of inner growth always begins with identifying the parts of myself that I am not happy with. Where am I holding back? What still frightens me? What parts of my life are still not quite working?

I take hard looks at the outward identifiers of relationships, finances, daily habits, health, and more. What do these tell me? What have I been not wanting to see or admit?

And then I begin asking even more questions:

  • What might growth look like in this area?
  • How might I like that to be?
  • What small changes will create big shifts?
  • If I made one change in this area that would make a difference in all the other areas what might that one thing be?

Key to all of this is refusing to rush to conclusion.

Rather, we hold the questions open for some days, letting them settle in and through all the layers of our being. Questions like these will tap into our inner gut if we refuse to satisfy them too quickly with our own best wisdom.

We gather all possibilities, all brainstorming is laid out, and we wait.

Visioning then begins. How might I like to see myself? What would that particular shift do for me, how would it impact my life?

And in my mind’s eye I see myself with this new skill or that new confidence. I envision the changes I want to see, I may even feel the changes in my emotions and the way my body reacts to things. I then leave my visioning in my mind’s eye. I back away and allow my mind and will to go after what I want. Emergent energy takes over.

This process is easily 50% of the work alone. It is not so much the precursor to work – it is much of the work. Where most rush to change the outward those who take the time to shift the inner picture will end up with growth that sticks.

This is how I’m spending the last days of 2013 – I’m hanging out with myself in the depths of my own thoughts, in curiosity I am questioning, envisioning, and moving towards my own best future.

And as 2014 moves along I’ll add my own best efforts, due diligence, disciplined hours, healthy habits, and hard work to the mix, and we shall see how things have turned out a year from now.

Change of Pace

It’s been a few days since I’ve last written. The last couple of days have been a shift into silence and sanctuary. Ensconced at my family’s home on Mayne Island, with a bit of a head cold, has brought my productivity to a m-u-c-h-slower-p-a-c-e.

I’m a big believer in following the natural rhythms required by body and soul, mind and spirit. As much as possible we must become okay with both working hard, playing hard, and then resting hard.

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Into The Presence

There is wealth everywhere. Most anyplace we focus our attention has riches untold. Manners of being from others that bless us and usher us into the presence of our King if we will just take a moment.

Two such riches were released this week. Perfect accompaniments to the holiness and thick scent of the Lord pressing down upon us this Christmas season.

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Longing

Longing, what do we do with it? That ache, the ache you carry, how do you carry it, honour it, invest it, live with it?

Longing is hard work.

So hard in fact that many shun the work. Many rush to fill longing with less-than options, with quick fixes and veneers that keep ache away.

I’m dealing with deep longing myself  these days. A strong, quiet, yet shouting-at-me ache.

I know others who are dealing with longing. Caught by an ache that as yet is unfulfilled but just won’t go away. There is no reprieve.

In fact, it grows stronger.

Longing seems to be a lost art form requiring honesty and recognition, faithfulness in the secret spaces of our souls and with great strength and courage.

Longing grows capacity deep within us. Before longing we have these ordinary hearts, ordinary lives, and while there is nothing wrong with ordinary its not always up to the hard task of longing and of aching.

Longing takes us beyond ourselves, beyond our normal, beyond our comfort, beyond anything we’ve ever known.

Longing only asks of us that we carry it. Like a woman pregnant an investment is made in the very core of our being that in turn affects everything else.

Longing demands to be recognized, acknowledged, reckoned with.

Once longing takes hold of us there is no turning back. Longing brings us to courage. It breaks us. It stands us on a sheer cliff where the only option is to keep standing. We will not jump but there is no way back.

For longing opens the soul and mind to possibilities we once never dreamed of. Where before we didn’t know what we didn’t know, now we’ve had a taste and we cannot un-know it.

Longing increases.

I myself once rushed to satisfy longing quick as a wink. I refused to remain in the longing, to taste the ache. Today, these last few years, I’ve come to see that longing is in fact an art-form. It’s a skill to hone and craft and grow.

And rushing to fill our longings won’t hone or craft or grow anything.

And in the rushing we deny longing. In the rushing we push away the work done in aching.

Yet all good things of this world have been set in place by someone who ached, by someone who longed and invested themselves in the hard work of that longing.

There are no instant transformations or freedoms or giftings. There are no miracle ministries or immediate fruit.

Everything we know has been preceded by someone willing to carry ache, to invest in longing, to bear the weight and the pain of it.

This work done in the secret spaces of our lives will reap a harvest at the appointed time. But we cannot rush it. Cannot force it. We simply must bear it.

Carry it well.

Surrender to it.

Allow it.

Come under it.

Let it change us.

What are you longing for today? What ache are you carrying?

Know today that there is nothing wrong with you. In fact, you are about as alive as they come. Longing is the seed-bed of profound things.

It all begins here.

Train Station

We were waiting at the train station. We were about halfway through the trip, had been in Mutarara for a couple of days and were now heading to Yaminga. The train was expected about 10:30 pm. We had arrived at about 5pm, just before the sun was about to set.

This enabled us to find a place to wait amongst the many others there. At least 100 people were doing as we were. The station was quite large and with a cement pad, railroad-tie benches, and no roof. There was a light that shone down once it got dark, but other than that our only comfort came from the fabric cloths we had brought, and thankfully I had my sweatshirt with.

At first the wind blew hot for as the sun set the surrounding rock hills gave off their heat that they had stored that day. It had been a scorcher. I’d spent most of the day in Mutarara laying on a mat in the church just trying to stay cool (sorta being the operative word). And so it had been strange to in the midst of searing heat ensuring that my sweatshirt was ready for the night.

The plan was to board the train about 10:30 and to travel through the night to Yaminga, arriving about 6am. It was therefore imperative that we try to catch a bit of sleep as we waited. My sweatshirt became my padding under me and my backpack made for a pretty good pillow. In this way I could also ensure that it wasn’t snatched while I slept. I figured my head made a pretty good guard dog.

The time went by. At first I couldn’t sleep. I’d had one of my few coca-cola’s earlier that evening and there was no sleeping for me. So I settled into holding the little one so that her Mamma could sleep a touch. The men took some walks, bought us buns and water, and I later learned that Whisky had even taken a quick bath in the nearby river for refreshment.

Sleeping in fits and starts is an interesting way to pass a night. And while sleeping on rail-road tie benches is unique it wasn’t all that different than the mat on concrete or dirt floors that had been our beds for more than a weeks time already. Railroad ties were surprisingly comfortable in fact.

All around was the chatter and busyness of people. There were the young people laughing and flirting with each other. The occasional drunk man made his bit of declaration to anyone who would listen. Boys of 10-12 years old had gathered to sit near me (this happened everywhere I went).

It must have been about midnight that the chatter finally stopped and we all became quiet for a time. Women nearby spread out their blankets on the concrete floor and stretched out for a good nap. Men sat and nodded off with heads askew. Children curled up next to parents.

At some point in time as I was asleep something ran across me. It is one of my mortal fears, to have some cockroach or spider of rodent run over me while I’m sleeping. But as I woke with a quick gasp and thrashing of my hand to speed its run I realized with quiet satisfaction that my worst fear had happened and I was still alive to tell about it. I was making progress.

The fellows had a bench nearby and took turns stretching out and getting in full sleeps. Mamma and I were next to each other on our bit of bench and as the night turned deeper and the possibility of mosquitoes became greater every once in awhile I’d feel the soft thump of cloth on my body and face as she waved away anything that might be bothering me.

I’d gotten used to this by now. And as I lay there half asleep and with my eyes closed I simply smiled at her care. Of course, I couldn’t go to sleep with her whacking at me, but nonetheless I said nothing and simply appreciated her heart over me. Later in the night she put one of her cloths on me as a blanket. This too I was used to, and so I simply kept on ‘sleeping’ as she tucked me in.

One of my greatest concerns some years back as I was entering into this work was the wondering who would care for me as I cared for many others. As I poured out for many who might pour into me? Well this trip it was Isabel. She diligently took my care in hand, often to an embarrassing extent, yet nonetheless did indeed minister to me. I could not discount the Lord’s provision over me through her. With all the travel and ministry that we undertook in a two week span I am certain I would not have fared so well without her.

So there we were at the train station, waiting and waiting. Now during all my time in Mozambique I never had a watch or means by which to tell time. I learned that the sun set at 6pm each night, and so I could gauge time by that but most often I was a little clueless. Therefore after it seemed that some time had passed I asked Daniel the time. His reply, “Seven minutes to Four”.

I was astonished.

Anyway, we spent the entire night at the train station. Over twelve hours, sitting, laying, curled up, stretched out (sorta) on those railroad-tie benches. It was, all in all, quite the adventure. And I’m not sorry for the experience in any way.