The Fully Lived Life

On the Meaning of Life, Love and Pink Hair

»Posted on Oct 9, 2015 in The Fully Lived Life | 0 comments

I have to confess something: I’m turning 50 in a few weeks. But I’m not going down without a fight. Just sayin’.

No, it’s not a mid-life crisis (although my friends and family may differ in their opinion). Actually, it’s a glorious season in my life. Because I think I have finally grown up. I think I have learned to stop chasing the brass ring, the pursuit of “success” that meant I had finally arrived; that people approved of me; that somehow I was worthy.

Now, I measure much more carefully each moment in my life, and I choose to treasure the good gifts that God has given me. I choose to give priority to the people in my life, the relationships that enrich my life. I think, if I can love them well, would that not be a life well lived? If I can truly represent the love of Jesus to those around me, would that not be a life of success?

Family

Just a few weeks ago, I heard a pastor preach about a soldier in the Bible. I can’t remember the soldier’s name or where the reference is in the Bible, because, frankly, that’s a reality of turning 50. But hey, I’m still going to talk about this story because as a junior senior, I’m allowed to ramble on about what I want to talk about. But I digress. So this soldier was well trained and all set to go out to battle. He was ready to DIE for the king. But when he presented himself to the king, the king sent him out to guard his lentil field. The LENTILS. Because apparently the king loved his lentils.

Field

That got me thinking. How many lentil fields have I bypassed in my pursuit of success, wealth, and the BIG call? Have I lost sight of what is important to God? Even in my desire to do the BIG thing for God, have I forgotten to do the “small” thing that God wants me to do? In my heart, I so want to live full out for Christ. I feel many times that I would DIE for him. But what if he just wants me to guard his precious lentils?

I gotta be honest with you. Being an author and speaker who has been on national TV, it’s hard not to count the numbers. How many books have I sold? How large is the audience I’m speaking to? How many followers do I have on social media? How often have I let the NUMBERS define my success, that somehow I matter more if I reach more people?

Turning 50 is a time of reflection as I’ve likely passed the point where I’ve lived more years than I will live. It’s causing me to think about my life, about my values and what I’m going to invest the rest of my time in doing. Now, I think… if I die in obscurity but have taken good care of God’s lentil fields, then maybe, just maybe, I have lived a life well lived.

So what about you? Have you allowed time to pass you by without stopping to reflect? Are you sleepwalking through life? STOP now, and choose to THINK about your life, before too much time passes you by. Will you watch this video now and think about what God may be stirring in your soul?

 YouTube Preview Image

Oh, and what I said about not going down without a fight? Let’s just say it involves a few things I’ve chosen to do to demarcate my glorious step into my 50s.

pink hair

Soli

By the way, the meaning of Soli Deo Gloria? Glory to God alone.

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Soul Rescue

»Posted on May 27, 2015 in The Fully Lived Life | 3 comments

Have you found yourself sleepwalking through life? Are you soul weary? Do you long to fully live but don’t know how? 

Wherever you are in life right now, there probably have been many unexpected turns along the way.  Maybe you aren’t where you thought you’d be, however you first dreamt your life would be. Instead, the realities of your life may be keeping you stuck, unable to break free no matter how hard you pray. Maybe you feel completely overwhelmed by life’s demands, weary beyond belief and wondering where all your hope has gone.

Or you may know you’re blessed, that you really have a “good life” and are very fortunate, but you may still have lost your joy in it. You go through dreary daily routines, fulfilling your duties to your family, work and God, but your heart is dry. Where is the passion and joy within the unending gray monotony of life? This “good life” you have steals your right to complain, so you “suck it up” and keep trudging along. 

Or maybe you’re like me, and deep down, you know that there’s something blocking you from the full life Jesus promised you. You know God probably wants you to deal with it, but you don’t have the time, or the energy, or the courage. Or maybe you just don’t even know where to begin to rescue your soul. Whether it’s unresolved trauma, fear, self-sufficiency or – as it was for me – an inability to fully trust a God who has allowed so much pain and suffering in your life – isn’t it time to allow the Rescuer of our souls help us break free? 

We all try to ignore the emptiness of the soul. But there is something inescapable within each of our souls that hungers so painfully that we can’t even begin to put it into words, something so deep it won’t go away no matter how hard we try. As David said in Psalm 42:1-2, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God”.

We aren’t meant to live a dead life. A superficial life. A life oblivious to the stirrings of our hearts. For it’s only in that mysterious depth of our souls that we sense there’s something missing that’s core to life; it’s a painful awareness that we must finally acknowledge and reach into and find God.

Meet You in This Deep Place

God wants to meet you in this deep place, in the inner recess of your heart to meet him there face to face to change your life. He wants to bring you back to life, to know you intimately so that you may know yourself in his love, as he first created you to be. He wants to free you and take over fully because he knows best how we were created to live—completely surrendered to him. For then he knows you will experience the extraordinary in your life, the full life that is his perfect will for you. A life lived fully. 

Take the time now to watch this video as I share about my journey towards soul rescue. And listen to what God is saying to you as you watch.

Come and see. Our Father is inviting you to A FULL LIFE with him.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? 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 how 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. (Matthew 11:28–30, The Message) 

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Hope and Healing for Relationships

»Posted on Jul 9, 2014 in Family Life, Marriage and Relationships, Personal Growth, The Fully Lived Life | 0 comments

frozen hearts

 

Healthy Relationships: Hope and Healing for the Frozen Heart Syndrome

A few months ago, I was watching the Disney movie Frozen, and it struck me that the characters struggled in many of the same ways that we do too. (Sorry, as a psychologist, one of the hazards of my job is the tendency to interpret everyone, including animated characters!)

One of the main characters is Queen Elsa who has the power to turn everything and everyone into ice. But because this power can cause harm to others, she chooses to protect her loved ones by withdrawing completely to a solitary and cold mountain top where she is going to live on her own for the rest of her life.

There’s a scene on the mountain where she’s singing about how she can finally be herself without fear, that she’ll be fine on her own, that she doesn’t need anyone – that she’s finally free. But there’s also deep sadness underlying her story because she will always on her own. She may be “safe” but she can never experience love and relationship.

Do you know what was underlying her decision to be alone?

FEAR.

In the real world, fear is often what underlies problems in relationships – it’s often why we withdraw but it’s also why we attack in anger and push people away – we want to protect ourselves from pain – we’re afraid of the pain of rejection, abandonment and hurt. Some of the angriest people we know are lonely – but they can’t face the pain of their aloneness so they keep their hearts hard and push people away with their anger – they keep their hearts frozen.

Or some of the most loving and caring people are also lonely; they fill their time with nurturing others but when it comes to their own emotional needs and pain, they bury their hearts. They, too, have frozen hearts because they never expose their own emotional vulnerabilities – they’ve shut down their own needs to focus completely on others – it’s safer that way, right? That way you can guarantee that people will remain in your life, that they will always need you and “love” you for what you do for them.

The Frozen Heart Syndrome

It’s what I call the frozen heart syndrome – not because you’re cold or calculating but because you’ve shut down your heart to protect yourself. If I don’t feel, I won’t hurt; if I don’t love, I won’t lose; if I’m not vulnerable, I won’t be rejected.

But that isn’t the way that God has wired us to live – we are created for mutual and intimate relationships – created for connection to God our Father and with each other. At the end of the movie, Frozen, the moral of the story is that freedom isn’t in solitude or withdrawal but in love – which has the power to heal and save. Don’t you love how biblical Disney movies can sometimes be?

You have been created to love and be loved. You have been created to be in intimate relationships with God and with others. Don’t let fear stop you from embracing this truth and pursuing healing so that you can live the life of true freedom and joy that God intends for you. Yes, relationships can be a source of great pain – I see that daily in my office – but it is also the means by which God teaches you about his love and grace and forgiveness.

Heal your Heart

What do I mean about healing your heart? It means making the effort to reconcile your issues, triggers and unresolved baggage. If you’ve never taken the time to examine how your past experiences and upbringing affect you, I can guarantee you that it’s impacting your life today – and likely not for the best. Beyond examining this, how aware of you of your “hot spots” — the people and experiences that trigger strong, negative emotions in you? And how much time and effort have you put into moving towards healing, forgiveness and resolution?

One truth that is clearly outlined in the Bible: God created us to be in relationship: with himself and with others; God DESIRES intimacy with us and he’s also given us other intimate relationships to help fill our hearts and our longings for love and connection. When these relationships sour, our sense of well-being can sour as well; filled with hurt and maybe with rejection and aloneness as well, we pull inward to protect our hearts. Distancing begins to happen – we begin to fill our emptiness with other things like work, entertainment, addictions – temporary satisfaction that soon becomes emptiness again.

But know that the persistent human need that is built into all of us is for someone to love us – our need for relationship is even more powerful than our need for food. The interesting thing about relationships is that we interpret what happens and how others respond to us by our early childhood experiences and the conclusions we made based on those experiences.

Part of understanding our past relationships isn’t to blame our parents (many times, they really did the best they could with the tools they had) or to feel bitterness over things we cannot change, but to understand WHY we respond the way we do to today’s relationships. Facing your past isn’t about blaming your family but about taking control of your present and future.

It’s very common when we encounter difficulties in our current relationships to get angry at those people in our lives and to blame their failure to love us as we need to be loved – it’s true, they likely play a role in our relationship dysfunction. But more importantly, our difficulties are also shaped by our response and what’s going on INSIDE of us – the good news about this is that we have control over this and can make healthy changes, whereas we can’t make others love us more or better.

Your Relationships can Change for the Better

As you understand more about yourself and your relational style, you can make the conscious choice to stop responding the old way; you can also track your “hot buttons” and chose to stop those patterns. But it takes awareness first, then a willingness to change, then allowing God to give you the capacity to change. Without that awareness and conscious decision to change, we will continue to repeat the same cycles of hurt for the rest of our lives.

The good news is our early attachment experiences don’t have to sentence us to lifelong relationship difficulties. With God’s help, we can overcome the self-defeating patterns of our relationship struggles. People raised with a pattern of abuse or abandonment may start to see why they’ve struggled in relationships for years, which may trigger pain.

But if you feel any connection between this and what you’ve been experiencing, I urge you to pursue compassionate Christian counselling. Attachment injuries often requires the safety of a therapeutic relationship to resolve and heal. Deep wounds are not something spouses can fully help with, or even close friends. While your loved ones can play a very important role in your healing, attachment injuries create insecurities that can push loved ones away and demand too much from them which only exacerbate insecurities about rejection.

Time with God is essential to healing, yet often the tangible warmth and care of a listening ear with wisdom and encouragement can help us experience God’s love. One of my personal mandates as a caregiver is that I represent tangible love to others so they can deeply experience it and begin to internalize it.

In therapy, often for the first time, clients are able to begin changing over time, little by little, through a healthy relationship with their therapist. They begin to heal and develop the emotional capacity (and re-wire their neural pathways) to connect well to others. Research bears this out with the science that’s rooted in God’s complete design. Whether you choose counselling or not, opening our hearts to others and sharing our painful secrets and wounds with one another is vital.

God is Love-Crazed for You

If God’s words of his love for you don’t feel real to you, consider whether you have allowed the hurtful experiences in your life to dictate your loveworthiness. I know I have. Do you see yourself as a reject or a misfit? Do you see yourself as unlovable?

If there’s pain in your heart as you hear my words, consider whether that pain has attached itself to you through wrong conclusions you have made about yourself. When you feel rejected or unworthy of love, you must be careful not to take on these misbeliefs as part of who you are. God never intends us to suffer because of believing lies. He is a God of Truth. Therefore you must see these pains as false, so that they don’t paralyze you or prevent you from loving and being loved.

God is love-crazed for YOU. He created you to love and be loved. You. And me. That is your destiny and your identity, regardless of how life may have tried to convince you otherwise. Fight for this truth. It’s almost impossible for us to anchor ourselves in the truth of our identity as our Father’s Beloved, especially given the competing din and lies we hear in the messy, painful and broken pieces of our lives.

Stop right now and listen to the words of your Father: You are My Beloved Stop right now in the middle of the busyness of your life; put aside all of your neuroses, self-doubts, self-rejection and anxieties. Pause long enough to listen to the words of your Father: You are My Beloved.

Let this truth be the source of your healing and the key to all your healthy relationships.

 

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Pursuing the Full Life

»Posted on Mar 17, 2014 in Inspirational, Personal Growth, The Fully Lived Life | 0 comments

still waters

Be Still

The busyness of life, the din of competing demands, the pressures of responsibilities and the seduction of pleasures all shout loudly to drown out the quiet voice of our Father inviting us to his heart.

Oh, we may sense the emptiness in our soul, but what do we do? We fill it with more stuff, more activities, more busyness, more distraction. That is not the way we’ve been designed to live, and so our joy and peace will always fall short and we will always be hungry: “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’” (John 6:35).

In our time-starved, increasingly cluttered and hyperactive culture, we have become so conditioned to instant gratification and fast-paced, adrenaline-driven activities that we’ve lost the art of patience; we’ve forgotten (or never learned) how to cultivate relationships with others; we rarely slow down enough to enjoy the gift of life, or savour the beauty of our world and the joys of loving others.

And similarly (and possibly as a result as well) we fail to connect with God: we somehow believe that if we spend a quick hour a week at church that somehow our lives will change. People are disconnected and marriages and families are breaking down because no one has time or patience to invest deeply in what really matters, especially in our friendship with our Father.

Instead, it begins with drawing close enough to hear God’s whisper, closing the door if necessary to shut out the noise, going outside if that’s what it takes to escape the distractions. And it grows as you spend more and more time with him, opening your heart to him and letting him see yours.

God’s a Whisperer

Do you hear that? It begins with drawing close enough to hear God’s whisper. It also begins with opening up your heart to the possibility of a dynamic relationship with your Father, and the hope that he wants to be in communion with you. It doesn’t have to be dry, distant, formulaic, legalistic or superficial.

Have you ever developed a close friendship with anyone without spending time together, sharing your hearts, listening to each other, and enjoying laughter and the pleasure of each other’s presence? Why then do we think we must follow some rules, go to church, read our Bible, and pray our list prayers to somehow have an intimate relationship with our Father, that somehow that’s how we can know him and be known?

God Longs To Spend Time with Us

If we start with the premise that God longs to spend time with us, can you let that truth sink deep into your heart? And would that change your perspective enough to encourage you to make time for your Father? The truth of God’s love and longing for us is woven throughout all of Scripture, and his actions since the beginning of time continue to echo that truth.

Lest you measure your relationship with God based on the number of times he speaks to you, please hear me: hearing God speak to you happens more as you become aware of it—but focus on doing life with God and inviting him into the inner recesses of your heart, all the good, the bad and the ugly and trust that he is there, interested in you and willing and speaking to you as your heart is made ready to hear. Prepare your heart to hear by presenting yourself to him, regardless of the outcome.

It’s also about savoring God like a delicious feast, taking time to enjoy all the subtleties of his flavors. Sometimes it’s just about hanging out with your Father for the experience of being together without any deep dialogue.

Being Alone with Your Best Friend

There is no formula for developing a close friendship with your Lord, but being alone with our Father moves us from head knowledge of his love for us to real and experienced felt knowledge. It takes us from dry theology to a knowing deep in our soul.

And time alone with our Father is so worth it—it is life-giving, life-illuminating and life-changing. No one can communicate that to us but the One who knows us completely and loves us without reservation. Until you spend time alone with God, you won’t experience this truth for yourself. And he does that in private, just you and your best friend alone. Quiet yourself for a moment, and I promise you, God will meet you there.

You hear that? God will meet you there. This is key to living your life as God created you: if you were looking for the secret to happiness or the key to eternal youth, this is it. This is the true FULL life, something we all so desperately need but so often miss in our frantic pursuit of all the substitutes.

Stop and listen. Pursue the full life that Jesus wants for you.

To read more about this, check out The Fully Lived Life: Rescuing Our Souls from all that Hold Us Back.

 

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Dreams to Change the World

»Posted on Mar 10, 2014 in Inspirational, The Fully Lived Life | 0 comments

God Rigs Our World

Do you believe God has rigged the world so that fullest life only works when we embrace risk and live by faith? This is good news because all our own attempts to find a safer life, to live by the expectations of others kill our soul.

Safe is not how we were meant to live.

How often do we lose sight of this? As we traverse through all the toils and dangers of adventuring with God, there is so much to bring us joy and delight as we choose to pay attention and notice. I know for myself. I struggled to understand the extravagance of God and instead pictured a life of following him to mean only sacrifice, suffering, and deprivation. Don’t get me wrong—there are no guarantees that we will avoid suffering. God has warned us we will have trouble (John 16:33).

But if I choose instead to focus on the experience of the ride, notice the beauty around me and the simple pleasures he is showing me, if I delight in a life that’s lived in full communion with my Father—then perhaps I will be living a life that is exactly as he’s created me to live.

 The Dangerous and Unpredictable Flow

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a life of adventure with our Father. I refuse to return to my life of drudgery and safety. I choose instead to live a life of journeying on the wild, unpredictable and dangerous rapids of a life lived fully for God.

Even as I choose this life, I am realizing that maybe this river I’m in, this risky, dangerous, powerful, unpredictable raging isn’t the dangers of life but a representation of God’s Spirit—powerful, dangerous, beautiful, implacable, forceful—yet breathtakingly beautiful. Being in the flow of his Spirit is scary and unpredictable—yet deeply adventurous and fulfilling, the way life is meant to be lived. Don’t fight it—go with it. Being in the flow is the point. Being in the flow is the adventure—and along the way, there will be many experiences and encounters.

Lest you think that a life of adventure isn’t for you, that somehow God only has big plans for “important” people, consider the ordinary, common people God has chosen throughout the history of humanity: He picked an unknown teenage girl to bring his Son into the world; He chose a simple fisherman to be the “rock” upon which his Church was built; he chose a young Jewish girl named Anne Frank to teach us about the suffering of his people during the Nazi occupation; he picked a dairy farmer’s son in Billy Graham to bring the gospel to millions of people worldwide. God doesn’t choose only those who are smarter, more gifted or more eloquent than you are. God chooses us regular folks.

But there is a catch: God looks for people who are willing to live on the edge—people who have a deep longing for a life of significant impact. People who believe that he can and will do the impossible through them. People who are willing to be foolish for God, who are desperate to see God move profoundly in this fallen, broken world of ours, who long to see their dreams come to fruition—dreams to change the world. Is this you?

To learn more about how you can change the world, read The Fully Lived Life: Rescuing Our Souls from All that Holds us Back.

 

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Finding God in our Winter

»Posted on Mar 1, 2014 in The Fully Lived Life | 0 comments

The Coldness of Winter

Have you been experiencing the pain of winter in your life? Do you sometimes feel as if God has turned his face away? Are you struggling to understand God’s purposes in your suffering?

Winter can seem all-consuming and never-ending. In it, we can experience a terrible, terrifying aloneness. We feel abandoned. Rejected. Isolated. This is the shape of the soul in winter. To survive through winter requires great fortitude because it can be hard labour.

But consider that it’s hard labour that’s needed and restoring in its own way—the work of praying, pruning and waiting, all in preparation for the fruit that is to come in springtime. Winter can be an incredible time of faith building, a time of walking by faith and not by sight, a time of clinging to the certainty of things hoped for and the assurance of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). There is no better soil than winter time for growing an enduring faith that withstands the worst storms that life can throw at you. Even when it feels like God has turned his face away from you.

And the pruning…to be stripped bare—naked, fruitless, ugly—right down to the core of our roots. To have everything revealed in all our unsightly glory. To realize how much deadwood we are holding onto because of our fears of letting go. But as every gardener knows, the harder you prune—if done right—the more luscious and bountiful the fruit will be. Winter then becomes a season where God does some of his best creative, revealing work. A mutilation that’s really a cultivation of beauty.

And it’s in winter—during the long, hard, cold months—that our roots grow deep and strong. It’s being battered by the harsh storms that our faith takes hold in the deepest ways—becoming unshakable and unmoveable. And when you’re forced to wait on God, that’s when you’re driven to keep believing even in the face of his silence, because you have nothing else to hold onto.

The Gift of Winter

Can you begin to understand the gift that God is giving you through your winter season, hard as it was to believe there could be anything good about this dark and cold time of your life? But when everything is stripped away and you come before God, naked in your longing and sorrow, you will find your rest and strength and sustenance in him. And most freeing, a heart in winter is supposed to lie dormant so that it can rest and be nurtured. The burden of responsibility lightens in this season and there comes a release to do things you can only do in winter, and to cease doing things that cannot be done in winter. And so, a time to pray, prune and wait on God—and a time to rest.

Digging Deep

Where are you in your story? Are you in a season of winter, or dying to old things? Has God brought you into a place of darkness? Trust him today to reveal the hidden treasure that can be found in this darkness. Regardless of where you are in your story, there are times in all of our lives when we must open ourselves to seeking God with all our hearts, times when he brings us to a place of “death” in some aspect of our lives, so that we can pause and pay attention to him. When we recognize we have no ability in our own strength to change or affect the events around us, we are in position to hear from God. And if you’re currently in the winter season, give yourself permission to grieve with God, to walk through the darkness of your pain, so that you open yourself up to the redemption of your story. Do that, please, I urge you.

Are you hungry for a personal encounter with God? Then take the time to allow him to sweep away the dead things in your life and in your soul. If you’re in winter, prune hard. Cut away the dead things in your life, both spiritually and also practically—what activities, tasks, relationships are draining the life away from you and producing no fruit?

And if you’re ready to do this work of pruning and you want to pursue the full life God has promised you, you can find out more in The Fully Lived Life: Rescuing Our Souls from all that Hold Us Back.

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