Thursday, November 24, 2011


You have struggled to receive gifts in the past,
because you thought of yourself as unworthy. 
You did not see that it is the generosity of
the Giver 
that makes a gift what it is, not the worthiness of the receiver. 

I have taught you that your heart opens 
on hinges of gratitude 
to receive My gifts of love. 

The simplest way to receive “every spiritual blessing” (Eph 1:3) 
is simply to say Thank You. 
In this you display the confidence that you already have 
all that I have promised you, and you receive in full measure
all the promises that are yours in Me.

If you say, “I’m not worthy” or “this cannot be, it is too much”, 
when I extend my hands to you, 
then your heart is deceived by doubt 
and you live as if you do not have My Gift.

This is why I urge you on 
to ever more exorbitant displays of gratitude 
in response to My Grace, 
because only gratefulness aligns you 
in the flow of my incredible generous giving. 

And so My giving and your receiving of this love, this Spirit, this Righteousness, this Divine Life that I pour out into your heart (Rom 5:5) makes you worthy of the gift.

In Thanksgiving, your heart participating in the Great Thanksgiving 
that the whole universe is involved in, 
you discover that you are worthy of My love 
because I made you to be a receptacle of glory:
My love for you, My life flowing through you.

I invite you to ask with thanksgiving (phil 4:6-7) 
because in gratitude you demonstrate such confidence in Me 
that you discover that you already have more than you could ever ask or imagine.
You have Me. 
You have My power working deeply and gently within you.

Knowing this in an intimate way, you have My peace as well. 
Peace flows from knowing that I am for you; I am love; 
I am powerful enough to accomplish all that I desire. 
More than anything else I desire you, 
and I have you as my own.

You are more than you know

Your worst moods are not a problem for Him
in fact they lead to your deepest moments of communion.

Eventually the swing from light to heavy will come full circle
and you will find yourself far above the line, basking in heavenly light.

Keep seeking the face of your spirit, 
asking your heart what she knows,
and you will find Jesus there again and again, without fail.

Enjoy the fountain, 
bathe in the light, 
drink the air in
dance and run free 
like you have all the energy you need
because you do.


(Sorry this is a long one. I know it needs to be pared down and edited, but for now I'm just posting it because I don't want to hide it. I want to be real and open about my story, my journey. I appreciate comments and suggestions about how I can improve the writing --Charles).

So my family is driving in the car after working out at the YMCA. I’ve just been mean to Dawn, because she is commenting on my driving, so I’m commenting back, defending myself, criticizing her, saying things like “I hate it when you do that!” or “Please, just stop talking!” more loudly and with more passion than I am aware of.

From the back seat my 3 year old son Leif quietly offers this gem:

“Daddy, do you want me to teach you not to hurt people’s feelings?”

Ouch, that hurt. I felt like my flesh was instantly unmasked, just sitting there, exposed for how I was hurting my little boys and my wife with my words, my attitude, my angry tone of voice.

Do you ever have an experience like this? You catch yourself in the middle of saying something in front of your child, (or perhaps a friend or spouse) acting like they’re not really that sensitive so you can get away with it, and then you realize that they really are taking it all in, emotion, attitude, words and all, and they’re being wounded by it? I’ve been mortified more times than I care to admit by what Leif learns from watching me.

But what if the outcome of such a situation is not meant to be condemnation or shame, but a gentle nudge in the direction of true love? Surely, Jesus is using Leif to teach me how much I do hurt people’s feelings, just by my attitude and tone of voice and the words I say. This is something about my flesh that I was blind to until this little boy, a sensitive lightning rod of emotion, came into my life.

He is so vulnerable, so easily hurt, that I’m forced to see myself constantly, to hear how my words sound in his ears, to see the response on his little face when I even begin to raise my voice, or say something cynical or angry or extreme, which I do more than I’d like to admit.

Oh Lord Jesus, how patiently you are teaching me not to (walk after the flesh)hurt people’s feelings, through the emotions of this little boy that I hurt so easily. And how it hurts me to see this, and how it benefits me to learn this, and how this discipline is for my own good, and how I rejoice to experience the love You have for me as you teach me to trust You for my life and identity, to trust You to be Father in and through me, and not in my own ability to be a father. I get most angry when I am most afraid, and I get afraid when I’m anxious about my family’s safety, provision, and my performance in my role as the father and leader. But, I am never alone in this, and for that I’m grateful. I get to be a father with the Father Himself expressing His love through me. And even when I mess up that’s when I need to feel Him expressing His love to me the most.

There are many things that Leif has said to mimic me, and the realization of how my words form and affect him, his flesh, catches me again and again. The other day, our neighbors Chihuahua’s ran out into the street and proceeded to snap at my heels for about the hundredth time. I chased them off with a menacing yell, and then I heard Leif exclaim, “I want to kill those dogs!”  Hmm, wonder where he heard that. My own words and angry tone come back to haunt me through the mouth of my little boy.

I have seen that when I walk after my flesh, in front of my children, it wounds them, and it forms their flesh at the same time. There is no avoiding this ineluctable process, because I will, at times, walk after my flesh either in frustration, or anger, or anxiety, and then suffer the consequences of my choice by seeing their little faces respond with anxiety, or anger or fear or worst of all, just feeling hurt and lost.

Now, I could beat myself up over this and try harder than ever to avoid walking after the flesh, but that might be just another flesh trip, right? It ends with me trying harder to get it right so that they don’t get messed up. It’s a catch 22 because the harder I try, the more fearful I get about messing up and the more I act out of the flesh in response to that fear.  I have seen that nothing sets me off as a parent as quickly as the exposure of my failure as a parent. So where is the learning, where is the growth, where is the positive side of all this? How is this causing me to take more seriously my need to rest in Christ and allow Him to conform me to His image so that I naturally walk in the Spirit?

It’s kind of like Pavlov’s dog experiment really, or the mouse who gets shocked when he reaches for one piece of cheese, and not when he reaches for another. Every time I speak I get to see the reaction in Leif’s face, and he’s too young to cover up his reactions and emotions at this point in time. He hasn’t developed that adult numbing reflex that helps us defend ourselves against the harshness in each other’s voices, faces and words, so he responds sensitively to everything. Or maybe its simply the callousness of ignoring how other people react to our words, because we don’t want to notice or think about what we sound like. Perhaps you know what it’s like, you’ve been around someone when their flesh is showing, and they’re totally unaware of it, just going along making a fool of themselves, decimating everyone around them and not caring. Or maybe you, like me, have been this person.

So what is this teaching me? Jesus is teaching me both how callous I am to the emotions of anger and stress that are depicted in my own voice and face, and how readily I numb out when somebody else displays anger, worry or stress. Of course in my job as a counselor, I try to be very sensitive to what people are feeling as they speak, more sensitive sometimes than they are themselves. God brings many people to me who are out of touch with their emotions, and His journey for them is often to help them feel safe enough with Him to actually feel what they feel. When someone gets angry in my presence, of course I’m uncomfortable, but I’m also kind of glad for them, because they’re getting in touch with something they need to feel so that they can move through it. We’re looking to discover emotions and thoughts that they have masked from themselves. But with Leif, there is no mask yet, or very little mask, so I get to see him react and respond to me in a very sensitive way. I also get to encourage him to be okay with his emotions, even as he learns how to respond to them in ways that demonstrate a trust in God’s love rather than a sinful bent toward satisfying his own fleshly need to get his needs met.

What is my take away? Well, there are several things.

Life without a mask can be very painful and frightening, as anyone can see by looking at a child in pain.
When my own mask gets ripped off by seeing my child’s reaction to my anger, I have a chance to step away from this flesh and trust Jesus to live through me.
Leif will learn to wear a mask, to mask his feelings and protect himself, no matter how hard I try to be sensitive to his needs and teach him not to cover up.
Jesus offers me the chance to release Leif and his heart and his future into God’s hands, even while I retain the role of loving father, teacher, and unfortunately, source of many of Leif’s flesh patterns and habits.
Jesus also offers me the chance to take off my mask and be real about what I’m feeling, to stop numbing out and risk the fear and pain of intimacy. Only in the presence of Jesus is this something safe to do, because I am a new creation in Him.
I can rest in my secure identity and don’t have to be afraid to remove my mask, let myself get hurt and show it.
In other words, I can be open with Leif and Dawn and Owen about what I’m feeling, without worrying about the consequences of those feelings, but trusting Jesus to have us all right where He wants us on this journey.
Of course this also means that the safer I feel and know myself to be, the more I can find appropriate ways of expressing my feelings without attacking or pretending, but opening my heart to my family in honest moments of vulnerability.
If I could be real from my heart when Dawn comments on my driving, I might learn to admit that I’m not the greatest driver, I do make mistakes, and be thankful that God keeps us all alive by His provision anyway.

I did come back to Leif a day later and ask him about the event in the car. Of course I had already apologized right away, and chastened, began to alter my tone, and my heart attitude, but I asked him about his comment and what he meant by it.

“Leif, you said you would teach me how not to hurt people’s feelings. Can you tell me more? What did you mean by that? How are you going to teach me not to hurt people’s feelings?”

And then he gave me one of those wonderful blank looks that 3 year olds are capable of, remembering the event, and his own words, I guess. Then he said, quite matter of factly “I already did.”

I looked at him and said, “Yes, I guess you did. I guess you did teach me something about how not to hurt people’s feelings.”

It happened again when we were mountain biking. I said something harsh to Dawn. Outwardly I was just being a know it all. She got stubborn about it and I got even harsher in response. Leif cried out again, “Daddy, you shouldn’t be mean to people.” and that brought me up short again. My first thought was, why doesn’t he notice that Dawn is also being mean to me? and then, well, he’s right, I am being mean, and for no other reason that I’m holding onto my right to be right. So I let it go, and apologized.

Once again, Leif and I discussed this scene a day or so later as we rode together in the car. I apologized for being mean to Mommy, and thanked Leif for helping me to see what I was doing.

 And then Leif said this, “I was just listening to Jesus and that’s what He told me to say.”

Uh, really? Did he just say what I think he said? My heart kind of leapt up at those words because I want nothing more than for Leif to listen to and know Jesus. Deeply moved I said, “that’s really good Leif. Thank you for helping me to listen to Jesus. I’m so glad that you know how to listen to Him.”

And he closed the conversation with these words, which I hope to always carry in my heart:

“I always listen to Jesus because Jesus is my friend forever.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In Their Own Words

 Celebrate with me the powerful transformation that God is working in people’s hearts as He shares His Grace through my life.

Here are words from the latest Grace Life Conference attendees:

I honestly feel like this is the first time I’ve understood how my relationship with the Holy Spirit can truly be that of freedom.

The powerful, biblically based truths presented in this conference are life changing. I can only trust and anticipate that God will do a work in my heart – not conjured by me but fully created by His perfect will for my life.

The vulnerability of the instructors made it very real and much easier to translate into a practical experience.

Outstanding! 2 of the best days of my life.

GMI has had a profound impact on my personal life and professional life as well. I am grateful to receive the gift that Christ so dearly paid for. (Professional Christian Counselor)

Charles and Tim did an awesome job, especially in speaking from their hearts and sharing their testimony and personal life struggles.

Learning about my identity in Christ and that He accomplishes His work in me has set me free and allowed me to participate in the abundant life (zoe life) Christ offers.

I also taught the Grace Life Workshop, here are a few comments.

First a pastor:

I want to thank you for your ministry to me during the Grace conference and the Grace workshop. I expected the workshop to be helpful to me, but what I experienced was so much more. I would not be exaggerating by calling it life-changing. My very concept of God’s posture towards me as His child was reshaped, forever! Thank you for the gifts you gave to me in our brief time together!

and a lay counselor:

. . . when I learned this was a “workshop”. . . I did not want to share my story or my flesh. I thought I had already dealt with that. Then when I did share, it was completely liberating and I found out what total surrender truly means! It was life changing – yet again. Thanks so much!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

 I want to overhear angelic wonderings
about who we are
discover demonic deceptions
about what we think we ought to be doing,
and trust that even if I can't find the courage
to say them out loud,
in my spirit I do utter those things
that are too deep for words
into the ear of the only Genius, the Poetic One,
who searches the hearts
and schemes all Glory
for Himself, though us,
just to astonish the angels.