Making Room: Expand My Heart

by Brian Vander Haak


Here in Taiwan the homeless are less visible than back home in the US. You do not see tarp villages or tents in unexpected places. This is perhaps due more to the mild climate than anything, or maybe it is evidence of the lack of access to stuff to accumulate? Here they sleep in the parks and underpasses and disappear in the morning without a trace. Most beggars on the street either sit with eyes downcast or crouch in a bow with their foreheads on the pavement. These shame positions make it easy for us. We can drop a few coins in their cups without any awkward eye contact, the need to say anything, or even to acknowledge their existence. We make room in our budget and open our wallets, but do not need to make room in our hearts and open our lives to them even for that brief moment of contact. We drizzle a little pity on them, but do not develop empathy. Compassion, I suppose and depending on your own definitions, lives somewhere in between pity and empathy but that, too, fades as we move along to our favorite restaurant or back to our comfortable home. Out of sight; out of mind.

Pope Francis addressed this issue by saying it is good to give to a beggar, but we should not think that giving stops with our cash. We should not move on “without looking at the person, and without stopping to talk, to understand what they really need.” To truly make room for them in our hearts and lives. Which really means making room for Him. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25). You know the rest. If we do not make room for the “least of these,” we are not making room for Him. Serious stuff.

Having a new grandson has again proven to me the elasticity of our hearts. Our ability to love, symbolized by this blood pumping, life-essential organ in our chests, can expand exponentially to embrace someone new without losing any capacity for those we already love.

Lord, please expand my heart daily and forgive me if I complain that it is uncomfortable.  

Listening Through Lent: Fields of Our Hearts

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

In the grave they laid him, love whom men had slain,
Thinking that never he would wake again.
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green,

Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain.
Quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Thy touch can call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
~John Crum

The ground is slowly coming to life again;
snowdrops and daffodils have surfaced from months of dormancy,
buds are swelling,
the spring chorus frogs have come from the mud to sing again
and birds now greet the lazy dawn.

Everything, everyone, has been so dead, so hidden;
His touch calls us back to life,
love is come again
to the fallow fields of our hearts.




Made Alive By His Love

“Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

1 Corinthians 15:55-52


In my favorite scene from The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, the Skin Horse and the Rabbit are lying strewn about after a playful afternoon, having a conversation about nursery magic…


                  “What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit… “Does it mean having things buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

                  “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become REAL.”

                  “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

                  “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are real you don’t mind being hurt.”

                  “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

                  “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”


I know it may seem like little more than a silly children’s story, but to me, this nursery magic feels oddly reminiscent of a deep truth in the Christian life. The Skin Horse is tattered, worn, used up and washed out, but there is no sadness in his condition; he doesn’t mourn for his former glory or angst over his decrepit state. Rather, the Skin Horse has passed beyond such corporeal concerns, to a place where he cannot be harmed or wrecked by anything tangible. He sees with eyes focused beyond the physical, to the heart of a thing, for he has been made Real by love.


So too should we train our eyes to the truth beyond the here and now. We will suffer disappointments, hurt, frustration, pain, anguish, anxiety, illness, suffering, and ultimately death, but in light of God’s great love for us, all of these sufferings are powerless. The beatings and blows of this life cannot damage our souls. When we become truly alive in Christ, such that our hearts will His will, there is no sting in death. Christ has conquered the grave, and by his grace and mercy we can rejoice with him in His victory over the death. The closer we walk with Him, the deeper we know that nothing can harm us, for we are His beloved and He is our God. May we learn to become Real by relinquishing the things of this world and grabbing hold of the Kingdom, where we will eternally rejoice in His resurrection and all things shall be made new.

~Norma Hilary Mulhern

Lenten Observance: Comfort My People

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  – Isaiah 40:1

Heidelberg Catechism Q. and A. 1

  1. What is your only comfort in life and death?
  2. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ . . .

By now, with sixty years and more in my rearview mirror, I have watched and waited at the bedside of my father and then, ten years later, my mother as each by death passed from this life.  They had both lived well and long and were faithful followers of Christ.  Yet death for each was a battle, and those of us children present at their sides sought to comfort the dear one who was dying.  The sustained grip of hand on hand, the caress of the forehead, the moistening of dried lips and mouth with cool water, the soft yet firmly spoken words of love—we were intent to comfort:  you are dear to us, all will be well, we will be together yet again . . . . Then, as one by one they passed beyond our labor to comfort and we were left bereft and alone to witness the flash-freeze pallor of death, we sought comfort for ourselves.

Thus when God speaks comfort to his people through his prophet Isaiah, we are more than ready to identify ourselves with that people.  We have witnessed death’s hard labor, our hearts have been torn by separation from those we have loved, we carry within the purses of our own souls the wages of sin even as we await the final, fatal payday, so God knows we crave comfort.

God commands his prophet Isaiah in this verse to bring comfort. These words are presented to us not as mere wish or fond hope. They are the certain words of command, albeit as Handel draws it out in the opening recitative of The Messiah, a command steeped in lyric beauty. Ah, but is there any basis in reality for such words with their plaintive beauty?  Or is such comfort simply empty promise of a long-gone prophet? Right here is where the Incarnation is in full play.  It is in Christ, the Ancient of Days become babe who grows to manhood to embrace the cross, that God himself has delivered comfort to us and made us his very own.  On account of his mercy our wish is his command. We by faith are made his dear family, his children, his brothers and sisters—and he alone is our comfort, in life and in death.

~Dan Gibson


Christ Comes to Us to be Love

A  Christmas   Poem

Cloistered within the confines
of Mary’s womb,
Light was entombed in darkness.

Bound within that frame
of fetal flesh,
finiteness cloaks the infinite.

What manner of love is this
that begets the impossible,
and confounds our imagination?

What Sovereign fierce love this
to send an only son,
made helpless in the hands
of his own creation?

The power of such love
is found in weakness,
for it was not the strength of nails
that held him to the cross,
love, it was, that held him there.

~Pastor Jack Matheis

What Love Looks Like

What does love look like?
It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.
That is what love looks like.

What love doesn’t look like:

it is not the Hollywood version
or the red carpet glittery gowns
or the fancy jewelry

it is not mostly uncovered magazine cover girls
or hooking up when it feels good
or a serial monogamy relationship of three months

it’s not an online status declaring “in a relationship”
or a choreographed and photographed proposal
or the designer wedding gown

it isn’t precisely planned conceptions
of predetermined gender and genetics
or discarding the imperfect

Love looks like
and sacrifice
and mercy
and selflessness
and forgiving grace

It looks like Him.

~E. Gibson