Tag Archives: Spirituality

Out of Exile: Day 29 – Listen

I live about a mile south of a freeway. I don’t think much about it. I never hear it. But some days in the summer, if I sit outside and I’m quiet and think about it, there it is. I hear it. It’s this constant hum in the background.

I hear a lot of things when I’m quiet. If I focus on bird calls I hear all kinds of birds I didn’t even know were out there. 

To be told to “be quiet and listen” is almost offensive to people who expect a solution to every problem.

That’s what happens when you stop to listen: you hear things you don’t normally hear.

If you want to return from exile, you need to learn to be quiet and listen. There are so many things to think about when you are walking the desert, far from where you ever imagined you’d be. You think about:

  • all the mistakes you made to cause you to end up in exile
  • all the people who did you wrong and the ways you hope they get theirs
  • all the worst case scenarios and how life will never be good again
  • all the Bible verses that you were “claiming” but didn’t come to fruition
  • all the plans to take back your life and show people who no one can put you down

With all that going on in your mind, it’s hard to be quiet. Sometimes we call our obsessive thinking “prayer” because we direct a lot of our thinking at God. I’m not so sure it’s prayer if it’s just you venting without giving God equal time to speak back.

If you want to return from exile it’s important to learn the discipline of silence. Turn off your obsessions. Stop judging yourself and/or others. Stop planning. Stop regretting. Just shut it all down and create space in your mind for new thoughts.

I read Henry Cloud say that 90% of our thoughts every day are the same as yesterday. We just keep rehashing them. We need to cease thinking to create space for new thoughts. Better thoughts.

Richard Rohr talks about silence as a form of prayer:

Prayer is largely just being silent: holding the tension instead of even talking it through, offering the moment instead of fixing it by words and ideas, loving reality as it is instead of understanding it fully. Prayer is commonly a willingness to say “I don’t know.” We must not push the river, we must just trust that we are already in the river, and God is the certain flow and current.

Sometimes we try to hard to fix our situation. We are desperate to gain back control. But maybe that’s one of the big reasons you ended up in exile: God wants to show you that you are not in control. He is. Rohr continues to explain…

…the way of faith is not the way of efficiency. So much of life is just a matter of listening and waiting …It is like carrying and growing a baby: women wait and trust and hopefully eat good food, and the baby is born.

To be told to “be quiet and listen” is almost offensive to people who expect a solution to every problem. I’m not saying there isn’t a solution to your exile. I’m just saying that the solution to your exile probably isn’t in your brain when you first get there. That’s one reason you ended up there in the first place. You need to make room for God to reveal new things to you. Before he can do that, you need to create space through silence.

How good are you at silence and listening? What keeps you from it? What can you do to create that kind of space in your life?  Join the discussion by leaving your thoughts below. Consider sharing this post on Facebook. Thanks.

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Out of Exile: Day Seven – Embracing Your Dark Side

Welcome to this 40 day journey. I am working to help you (especially pastors) understand your losses and overcome them. Too many pastors live in denial of their losses and it eventually undermines their ministry.

pastors

Called to Exile

I left off on Day Six talking about Abram. Abram was most likely excited at God’s call to move to Canaan. He was full of hope with visions of changing the world for God. But when he got to Canaan he was met with two unexpected companions: Canaanites and famine. He didn’t see that coming.

No sooner does he arrive that he feels compelled to leave Canaan.

Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. Genesis 12:10

I wonder if you’ve ever done that…left some place soon after you got there? The “famine” was too great.  It’s disillusioning. You believe God is personal and he speaks to you. But when things didn’t line up like you thought you “heard” you didn’t know what to do. Sometimes it’s easier to just leave and start over. 

We are all Abram before God transforms us into Abraham. 

That’s what Abram did. But look what happens when he gets there. It’s as bad as Canaan, only in a different way. He’s afraid that pharaoh will kill him and take his wife so he tells his wife:

Please say that you’re my sister. Then everything will be alright for me, and because of you I will live.  Genesis 12:13

 This is a nice way to say, Please prostitute yourself to save my butt. Pharaoh was always looking to add another beautiful woman to his harem, and that’s what he did when he saw Sarah.  Abram did two things that he probably never thought he’d do: lie and sell out his wife.  How could this happen? What could drive him to do such things? Exile.

Exile puts you to the test and brings out your dark side. That’s one of the main reasons we hate it so much. Not only do we hate the Canaanites and the famine, we hate seeing the ugly way we respond to our new situation. We like to think we are better than that; we are above that. This is where many people turn to denial to salve their pain. But the bold and the brave embrace their dark side and invite God to do his work in them.

This story is here to help everyone called by God. We are all Abram before God transforms us into Abraham. Exile is what enabled God to call Abram his friend.

What has exile exposed in your life? Take a minute and comment at the very bottom of this page.

Also, please share this on Facebook so other people in exile will find some encouragement.

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Forgiveness Tops the Top Ten List in 2012

Forgiveness was a prominent theme in my top ten posts for the past year. That should be no surprise since many of my posts were written along with my new book, STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships, which has a lot to do with forgiveness.Forgiveness

If you think of it, a lot of our discontent in life comes from broken relationships. What if we all committed to become forgiveness experts this year? How much better would our lives be as a result of that commitment?

The posts appear in order of popularity:

  1. Forgiving Yourself – Consider the Lie
  2. Forgiving Abusers – Eight steps to freedom
  3. The Spiritual Implications of Brene Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability
  4. What Does the Bible Say About Shame?
  5. Ten Ways Denial Numbs the Pain of Shame
  6. Regret Proof Your Life With Better Decisions
  7. Forgiving Yourself: Five Reasons You Should
  8. How to Be Forgiven
  9. Why Can’t I Forgive?
  10. Defining Forgiveness: Five Things Forgiveness is Not (part three)

I hope some of these posts helped you this past year or will help you in the months to come. Consider sharing them with a friend.

Here’s to better relationships in 2013!

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God Comforts Devastated People

Do you ever wonder how God feels when you’ve totally screwed up your life?  I love the Bible because you don’t have to wonder.  Story after story tells you what God thinks: God comforts devastated people.

devastated

God comforts devastated people.

One story is about Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was destroyed, people were killed, and the rest of the people were taken to live in captivity in Babylon, modern-day Iraq.

As you can imagine, the people were devastated. They were sick that their rejection of God had caused them to self-destruct, but worse than that, they were convinced God had broken his covenant with them. They felt abandoned by God. 

Do You Feel Disregarded by God?

In fact, the Bible tells us one of their complaints. They say…

My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God. Isaiah 40:27

Israel was at fault.  They disobeyed God for generations and wondered if God would ever have anything to do with them again.

You might feel the same way… like you messed up and now you are on the outside looking in. You worry that God has washed his hands of you.

When people go through hard times, they wonder, Does God care?  

God Comforts Devastated People.

God answers that question. He speaks to his prophet, Isaiah, telling him what to tell his people:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. Isaiah 40:1,2

God tells Isaiah to comfort the people and speak tenderly to them. Those are good first words aren’t they? I’m glad God’s first words weren’t “Tell them to get their act together!” The word “comfort” literally means to “cause to breathe again”. The worst was over and now they could breathe again.  God hadn’t abandoned them.

Maybe that’s what you need to hear today. Maybe it’s time for you to breathe again. God doesn’t want to condemn you. He wants to speak tenderly to you and help you start over again.

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The benefit of NOT forgiving yourself

Forgiving Yourself

Forgive Yourself

This is part four in my series on how to forgive yourself. Track back to read more. Today I want to look at two factors that keep you from forgiving yourself.

What are you getting by not forgiving yourself?

One day I was teaching a small group about God’s forgiveness and the question came up about self-forgiveness. A girl said she couldn’t forgive herself.  She said, “Remy, I don’t have any trouble believing that God forgives me. I just can’t forgive myself”.  I’ve heard this many times. I started to give her my standard answer but then out of the blue a question came to me.   I asked her; “What are you getting by not forgiving yourself? In other words, “What benefit do you receive by not forgiving yourself?”

She looked shocked, like she was “busted” or exposed by my question.  She paused a minute and said; “If I forgave myself I’d feel the need to change my lifestyle. By not forgiving myself it’s like I have permission to feel sorry for myself and use it to justify using drugs.”

Bingo. The clarity that she got in that moment was amazing.  My question caused her to see the truth behind her inability to forgive herself.  The truth was; she wasn’t unable to forgive herself. She was unwilling to change her lifestyle and the forgiveness issue was simply a good “cover” or excuse.  My question helped her see the true issue and forced her to deal with the question; Do I really want to change?

Since that encounter I often ask that question of people who can’t forgive themselves. The truth is; many times people are “getting” something by not forgiving themselves.

If you are having trouble forgiving yourself could it be that you are receiving a benefit that forgiving yourself would cause you to lose?  If you are willing to reflect and be honest you might find the real reason that you have trouble forgiving yourself.

I have two more posts about forgiving yourself. Consider subscribing to this blog so you don’t miss them.

Question: What other benefits do you think people might get from not forgiving themselves? Leave your comment below.

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