Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Find your Magic

I recently watched the Marvel movie, “The Eternals”.  In one scene one of the demi-gods was struggling to learn how to understand and control their newfound powers.  While this is all fantasy and doesn’t reflect my theology, it got me thinking about the uncovering of your true self.  Rather than focus on the Herculean struggle that it can be this thought, it changed my perspective completely.  It can be difficult, but it is also the biggest adventure of our journey.  The rewards of living in your true self are very real.  Your “magic” as the quote refers to is your ticket to freedom, life, and fulfillment.  Once you connect to your creator and live a life of intimacy with Him you will find a whole new level of existence.  Your cooperation with Him and submission to His plan will bring you into harmony with your life journey.  Like an alcoholic describing his process of becoming sober, it is difficult, but the process is worth it. 

This shift is very important.  When you live with masks and pretend your life does not work.  When you begin to uncover the person that God created you to be you will find life more abundant.  The submission to Him and the courage to be unapologetically yourself is to live in intimacy with your creator and to embrace his will for your life.  It is to experience the joy of belonging.  It is to discover your place in the healthiest, most loving family there is.  It is to find the peace that passes all understanding.  That is why the focus on the outcome is so important in this process.  You may have to face and process things that you wanted to avoid.  You may have to acknowledge things about yourself that cause you discomfort and pain.  You may end up dealing with many complications in relationships as you begin to transition into your creator’s image of you.  You will experience a great release from bondage and experience liberation at a level that is unprecedented. 

Like most spiritual processes this is an ongoing activity.  Satan is ready to bring back the bondage and chaos if you succumb to the temptation to pretend.  It is as close as a single decision to pretend.  The chilling effect on your spirit will come quickly.  Like all sin, it is actually more natural than living righteously.  It will feel better because you are in control of the process and you know the territory.  The chaos and bondage will return and even that will feel more natural than freedom.  So remember, this is an ongoing effort that will require vigilance and awareness.  This is a lifetime journey, so don’t become oblivious and apathetic.  Listen to the voice of your creator.  He will guide your steps.

 

Friday, October 29, 2021

In The Meantime

The meaning of the title is a very old phrase from the 14th century.  It means” in the intervening time” or the time in between something and something else.  I recently struggled to write anything because my mind was occupied and I could not focus on anything but life itself.  I was in the “meantime” or the time between.  You live your life in that space.  You have experienced one thing and you are waiting for something else.  You are in between the events of your lives just waiting.  You can begin to view this as wasted time or unproductive time, but you are wrong.  God uses these times in your life often to speak.  You must be in a place to listen, but he is preparing you for the next thing.  In his moments of intimacy with you in prayer and meditation, contemplation and prayer he speaks.  He comforts, he encourages, he admonishes, and he prepares you.  Any relationship needs quiet moments to catch up and to process.  God wants to spend time with you!  He wants to hold you in his arms and reassure you about whatever is causing you to struggle and doubt.  It is often in the meantime when you think nothing is happening.

Satan wants to rob you of this time!  He wants it to be a time of doubt and struggle.  In the quiet, you can hear the voices and feel the emotions.  It is a fertile time for your doubts to take root and to despair.  It is a fertile time for despair to take root.  Any good that this time can produce can be prohibited or erased.  Satan does not want you to experience the intimacy of this time.  He wants to drive a wedge between you and your creator.  He will do anything in his power to steal the potential of these times.  He does not want increased intimacy between you and your creator.  It threatens his schemes.  The only answer is to snuggle in and relax with Him and begin to prepare for whatever is on the other side of this lull in the action.  Pay attention to the cues that are occurring.  If you don’t quiet down and listen you may miss them. 

I grew up in farm country in central Indiana.  I had the chance to watch the cycle of corn that grew all around me.  In the winter, when the fields were fallow it would have been a mistake to assume that they were not doing anything productive.  The farmers knew that the soil needed a periodic break to replenish the nutrients.  There would be the danger of stripping the soil and making it less productive or not productive at all if it were not allowed to rest.  There were seasons that a farmer might plant nothing in a field and let it remain fallow.  You too need seasons of rest to replenish your resources.  Trust the God of the journey to guide you in the process.  Don’t struggle and miss the benefits of the season.  You will return stronger than ever ready to do “every good work”(Hebrews 13:211-23) if you allow Him to lead!

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Destiny

The word destiny is a form of the word destination.  It challenges the idea that we live a purposeless, meandering, pointless existence.  It projects a life that is leading to somewhere specific.  To me the thought that in His kingdom that I have a destiny and am heading for a specific destination is comforting.  The devil would have me believe that this life was random and that I was a victim of the chaos of the events around me.  He would have me seek meaning, identity, and direction from schemes of my own making.  He knows my nature of needing answers to the big questions and tries to misdirect me from reality.  But I know that my destiny is found in my creator.

This is a comforting thought in the chaos of life.  Though there is a plan and destination, the way is not straight and will have difficulties.  I will struggle to make sense of things.  I will not comprehend all the twists and turns that are in the path of my journey.  This confidence in my creator gives me a sense of purpose even in difficult moments.  It gives me stamina when I feel like giving up.  It gives me faith when I begin to doubt.  It gives me perspective and direction when I get lost and lose my way.  God is faithful to remind us when we lose that sense of destiny when we begin to forget.

The phrase “be strong and courageous” is repeated to each of the patriarchs when God began to sense that they needed a reminder.  Your destiny will require the best of you.  It will require all of you.  It will require strength and courage.  It will test you.  By its very nature, it will demand that you put away your masks and work out of reality.  It will be based on your unique gifts and skills.  It is what you are created for.  That means no confusion of identity.  No rejection of yourself or your creator will be allowed.  How can you walk in your destiny if you reject the giver of that destiny and the very skills it will require.  It is not possible to be weak and remain faithful to your true identity.

Your destiny is also a form of promise.  When Satan tries to discourage you, it stands as a stake in the ground to remind you that he is lying and cannot be trusted.  Remember that his job is to “steal, kill and destroy…” (John 10:10), while God promises “life and life more abundant” (John 10:10).  When Satan speaks he deceives.  That is his “natural language (John 8:44).  Your destiny stands whether you feel it or not.  It remains in Him as His promise to you and your future.  It may not be visible at this moment.  It may not seem to be moving fast enough.  One of my profs in college used to say, “God’s clock keeps perfect time.”  He does know what he is doing even the way may seem chaotic.  His promise remains even though the way is not without obstacles.  The power of His promise shows up uniquely when the way is difficult.  When the way seems dark and the obstacles rise ahead of you remember, your destiny is intact.  Your creator and the one who made the promise are still working on your behalf.  He has not forgotten you.  Remember to hold tightly to His hand so he can lead you through.  He will not let you fall.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Moments of Truth

When you think about the process of revealed truth from the father regarding your identity it is easy to romanticize the process.  You imagine some soft whisper from the father in a state of contemplation.  While this may for some on occasion it is just as likely to occur in a moment of struggle and chaos.  It is often in a moment failure and is very messy.  While the outcome may be stellar the process is not pleasant.  Uncovering your masks and the deception in your life is not something that you look forward to.  The reality is that you do have areas of need and they will show up when you least expect it.  There never is a great time to look your issues in the face.  

When you see yourself honestly you will often grieve at the realization of the sin and struggle.  The impact of your selfishness and sin will naturally bring repentance.  You will not excuse your behavior.  You will recognize it for what it is.  You will see your lack of trust and assertions of independence in a new perspective and begin to submit and trust.  Humility becomes more and more natural because you gain an accurate picture of yourself.  Repentance becomes a way of life instead of an intrusion.

God is able to infuse his power into your life and use you in new ways.  Your capability will become greater and greater as he does things through you.  You can become a channel of his power and grace.  But the journey begins with submitting to the process and experiencing the discomfort and tears of these uncomfortable moments of truth.  Even when they are difficult they will spur you to grow in your journey.  Even when the truth does not float down like a feather as you make your journey.it is not a stranger to you if you are open to truth.  The nature of the journey is one of connecting to the source and allowing Him to lead you on a journey of transformation and truth. 

If you walk in humility these moments will be easier.  You will learn to kneel at the feet of the truth giver and submit to the adjustments that are required.  He will lead you to the things that are the obstacles to what he is doing in the moment.  He knows what you need and will put them in a sequence that matches your needs at that moment.  This will be a lifetime process.  It will flow naturally through your relationship with your creator.  Pray that He will show you who you really are and accept His truth.  He will be faithful.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Excuses, Excuses

One of the behaviors that plague your effort in your journey toward authenticity and living in your true self is making excuses.  An excuse about some misstep or bad choice deflects responsibility.  It avoids addressing the issue by giving a reason for your action.  This behavior avoids truth and gives cover to bad behaviors.  I have done many things that were regrettable.  For some, I have made excuses and tried tp justify them.  I have learned that assessing my behavior, accepting responsibility and learning from my actions is a better way.  It helps me overcome whatever issue I have uncovered and kept me honest.  It is important to live in this truth to maintain your authenticity and minimize self-deception.  You need to face yourself squarely to avoid this hiding behind the hollow logic of excuses. 

The true self recognizes its faults.  It reckons with reality.  It learns and grows.  It does not allow room for hiding.  The false self helps you remain in the dark.  It feeds the lies and hides behind the masks of excuses.  The truth will be right ahead of you, and you will sidestep it for your more comfortable explanation It will enable you to be pacified, excused, and avoiding reality.  It is an effective but destructive practice.  It creates another world that you can live in.  It is a place of nonreality that pacifies you and keeps you feeling safe in your own little bubble of non-reality.  It avoids all chances for growth.  These only come with an honest assessment of yourself, at least as honest of an assessment that you can have at that moment. 

A final factor that either increases or decreases your susceptibility to falling for this is the people you are surrounded by.  If you are surrounded by truth-tellers they keep you anchored in reality.  The truth must be spoken in love, but it is still spoken(Eph. 4:15).  Sometimes this is referred to as co-dependence.  Bad company will say what you want to hear or worse accept and believe your excuses.  They will not make you face reality and may even be deluded themselves.  They will derail your quest toward an authentic life as well as discourage any real self-reflection.  False friends encourage the false self.  They themselves are usually living in the false self and you are both pretending for each other.  That is a tragic situation.  It is a life of pretense and illusion.  It is truly tragic.

The choice to take the journey toward life and true self begins with embracing truth at all costs.  Only the bright light of truth can keep you grounded on the foundation of reality.  Excuses only perpetuate the false illusions that you are projecting.  As a believer who trusts the creator, you accept the truth as his words.  You welcome his voice and trust him to guide you.  You expect to hear from him, and it is not an intrusion.  

Monday, August 16, 2021

Shedding your Demons and Damage

The price of living in the true self and enjoying an authentic life is also a choice to face your demons.  The word demon is a great description of my subject.  In this context, demons are areas of your that are damaged and that you refuse to resolve.  You build walls and choose to avoid them.  They form areas of your life that are off-limits to God and everyone else.  They create areas of pretense that lead to living in the false self.  They set up an obstacle to any effort to becoming the person that your creator created you to be.  They are demons in the sense that they are used as a tool of the Devil himself in his effort to derail your quest to embrace your true self and to become the unique, beautiful, and gifted person that you were created to be.  After they sinned Adam and Eve could not face their Creator (Genesis 3:8).  Their response was to hide.  They could not face what they had done and who they had become.  They were afraid and were ashamed for the first time.  This shame is not unlike your failure to deal with your own damage.  You would rather hide than face whatever you are avoiding.  This leads to a life of avoidance that is toxic and false.  It kills life and creates continual pretense.

So what is the solution?  It begins with recognizing these areas as you encounter them in your journey.  They will be sensitive areas that resist exposure.  Like a splinter in your finger, they will need to be dealt with but painful to approach.  While the end result is healthier, they will cause pain or discomfort because of their very nature.  Your pattern of avoidance may have ended, but the issues are still difficult.  When you choose to move forward to heal regardless of the struggle you reclaim ground that the devil has had in your life.  You can begin to recover parts of your life that have been hiding behind a protective wall. 

This choice is courageous.  It is choosing life rather than death.  It is a choice of health over illness.  It is a choice of cleansing over infection.  It is finally a choice of freedom over bondage.  It is the removal of an obstacle to living with no hiding or masks.  There will always be the temptation to retreat behind them again.  Sin is an addiction that doesn’t let go easily.  I urge you to be courageous and pay attention in your journey.  If you pay attention and stay Spirit aware He will lead you to all truth and show you the places that need the exposure of the Son to be cleansed.  You will experience greater and greater freedom.  Your effort to remain mask-free will get easier as you uncover the layers of deception that you have created.  Your spirit will become lighter and grow to experience freedom at a new level.  This begins with trusting Him enough with your hidden parts to let Him do His work in you.  

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The Fear of Living as your True Self

Your rejection of who you are as created by God reveals more than you or I may care to know.  Under the surface, it exposes a deep fear of not being good enough in the eyes of our peers.  It is tragic because it is a rejection of the unique, precious, valuable being that you were created.  That is traded for a common, unoriginal, pretense that is based on your perceived expectations of others, stated or not.  The loss to both you and to the Christian community at large is unimaginable. 

You are endowed by your creator with skills and gifts that are specifically provided to the body through you.  You belong to the Kingdom as a son or daughter and an heir.  God has created for you a specific place in the grand scheme of the universe.  Fear only paralyzes you while the enemy of your soul works to redirect you and to discourage you from trusting your creator.  Your identity becomes a reflection of the perceived expectations of your peer group.  If you truly accept your identity as a creation of the Creator of the universe and created for a specific role in His Kingdom it radically changes your life.  It answers many questions of purpose, value, and role in the universe.

Satan would rather keep these very questions unanswered so that you wander from one thing to another attempting to answer them.  You will settle for a life of pretense and insecurity.  Satan is the accuser(Revelation 12:10), the deceiver(Genesis 3:4-5), and a liar(John 8:44).  His goal is to steal, kill and destroy(John 10:10).  The next passage is especially relevant to the fear that I mentioned earlier.  He appears as a “roaring lion”.  His roar is intended to scare you into rejecting who you are and into what he and everyone else wants you to be.  A lion roars to intimidate its prey.  You and I are warned to be alert because he is “seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8).  He is stalking you and desires to take your life and replace what is real with counterfeits.  Fear is one of the greatest tool in his scheme to do so.  He knows that once you have experienced what is real and ultimately fulfilling that his offers will be less compelling and will not tempt you.  

Sunday, August 8, 2021

The Need for both the Mystic and the Theologian

The mystics, and I consider myself in that category, sought after relationship with God through surrender and the practice of various spiritual exercises to increase intimacy with God.  This lead to the development of specific practices such as Christian meditation, contemplation and the practice of silence.  Many of them historically cloistered and lived in community or even practiced isolation in a hermitage.  It makes me different sometimes and has been the latest development in my own spiritual life.

I recently had some time with a pastor who was the opposite of me in style.  While he would agree with many of the things that I profess, he is also what I would classify as a theologian.  He is very concerned with orthodoxy and a black in white biblical focus.  We had a great discussion on a variety of topics of faith and it was very productive.  It was apparent after our time together that we viewed the world through a different lens.

In reflecting on our time together I realized how much mystics need theologians.  Both are essential to maintain balance and orthodoxy.  Our faith must be based on scripture first.  While a mystic provides the soul and passion of the gospel, the theologian provides the guardrails.  The church has been fighting heresy since the book of Acts.  The early centuries of the church were rife with unbiblical teaching that had to be corrected.  The Church Counsels were held to settle orthodoxy and correct error.  The standard remains the test of how any teaching or practice lines up with scripture.  Your spiritual experience is not the authoritative standard for truth.  Man is very capable of instituting heresy into faith with great enthusiasm without testing it against the Word.

As you travel your journey you will experience many questions.  Your faith and hope will be tested.  The Word of God is your source to test all things.  It provides the precious promises for whatever you need.  It provides the confirmation of his faithfulness and character.  This will provide an anchor for your soul when you are tested.  Another consideration while secondary in many respects is our own theological filter.  If your theology differs than scripture, then you have bigger issues.  But there is great value in measuring your experience in light of your theological framework.  A final standard in measuring your experience is against historical Christianity.  The early church fathers and historical Christianity remain a great value in assessing your experience.  Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us that, “…there is nothing new under the sun.”  All Christianity is indebted to the work of the early church leaders who defined the faith we inherited.  They faced many tests that challenged the scripture and early church tradition.  They were the closest to the era that Jesus actually taught.  The reality is that your experience is likely not new and there is a biblical precedent that has value.  It is important to respect each of these.  In your journey it will be easier to have guides who have come before.  They give a path that can offer great guidance.  Finally remember, it all begins and ends in scripture.

 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Noise Pollution

One of the challenges that you face in your journey toward wholeness and truth is the volume of deception and the author of it, the devil, is 120 decibels the same as a running chainsaw.  His messages are so loud that they cannot be avoided.  Truth is most often found in the quiet.  The prophet Elijah needed to hear from God.  After a great wind that was so strong that it tore up mountains, an earthquake, and a great fire he still did not hear from God.  He finally hears God speak “in a still small voice” (a whisper is at 10 decibels). 

For this reason, the only way to hear God is to invite the quiet.  Stop all the noise and invite the silence.  This is not always easy with the routine you may have and in your effort to meet the expectations and responsibilities that you have.  To stop the noise is a choice.  It can even be an uncomfortable choice when you are getting started.  There may be voices that the noise helps you avoid.  Self-talk can be vicious when it is quiet.  You may have echoes of critical voices that have spoken into your life.  You may prefer the noise.  But it only masks the issues that are coming up. 

The only way to quiet the voices and move toward wholeness is to confront the voices and learn to enjoy the silence.  When you do you can hear the voice of God!  He can comfort you and tell you the truth about your identity.  This will eliminate the discomfort and create moments with God that are unforgettable.  He will comfort you and quiet the voices and negative self talk.

Thomas Merton encouraged Christ-based meditation and prayer.  He lived in solitude in a cabin in the hills of Kentucky near the abbey that he served.  He like you had voices to quiet but experienced a level of communion that allowed him to write very personally about God and his presence.  He was able to teach with a level of personal experience when he spoke of God’s presence.  He is not extraordinary.  This same level of communion is offered to you.

It is a deliberate choice to enter into silence.  It rarely happens without intentionality.  You may feel that there is no opportunity for this in your life.  If that is the case you must take control of your life and create the space.  Every one of us can carve out fifteen or twenty minutes if we are intentional.  The reality is that you need to do this.  It is not optional if you want to remain healthy.  In creation, God included a sabbath rest as a pattern for you.  He loves you and like any love relationship, you will make time for those you love.  Satan is the author of the messages that discourage this.  He does not want you to pause and connect with your creator.  He knows that when you pause and listen that you are one step closer to reality.  He has to keep you on the treadmill to keep up the illusions.  As long as you believe the lie that you cannot stop that you will not uncover his deception.

I want to clarify any misunderstanding as well.  While general meditation can be helpful, this is specifically focused on scripture and has the purpose of connecting to God.  It is not for the purpose of some inner tranquility although that is a byproduct.  Scripture promises that if you, “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”  Like the father of the prodigal, he is waiting at the end of the road for you to come home (Luke 15:19-20).  Brennan Manning used to say, God not only loves you, he likes you!  This is a powerful truth.  Spend time with the Father, He is waiting and He likes you.  Whatever you have thought that is different than this is a lie.  He is not going to condemn you or hurt you.  He desires to spend time with you.  Meditation and prayer are a good start to hearing his voice.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Transcendent Truthteller

I recently heard a phrase from a speaker that stuck in my mind.  He spoke of repentance as “agreeing with God.”  This reminded me of Thomas Merton.  The false self has a pretty high opinion of itself generally.  The idea that you are sinful and need a savior does not fit his view of himself.  You have a fundamental disagreement with reality.  In agreeing with God you are agreeing with his reality and not the twisted view of the ego.  You are shedding the deception of the enemy and accepting the truth.  You are trusting God’s assessment of yourself and rejecting the lies and masks that you have created.

This helps clarify what Salvation is.  It is accepting his view of yourself and asking him for help in your need.  Salvation becomes establishing a relationship with the transcendent truthteller.  It allows you to begin to see reality and see the world and yourself as you really are.  This is a total change in your perspective and must occur to enter into reality.  Unless you know you need him, a relationship with him is an option.  Once you see the truth you know you have to have him for soul survival.  You realize that it is not about you and that you are not self-sufficient. 

After many years on this journey, I realize that am dependent on Him for all that is good in my life.  I can only make a mess without His help.  When I trust in Him, he leads me to all truth (Jn 16:13) and keeps the reality about myself and the world around me intact.  He clarifies my vision and exposes my deception.  He shows me the path ahead and gives me a realistic perspective as I navigate the journey.  It is the key to my survival as I travel the rugged path of life.  When I was in High School, I traveled to Ecuador on a missions trip.  My journey took me on a road trip into the Andes Mountains.  When I looked out of the bus window all I could see was a view of the thousands of feet below and could not see the road at all.  I had no choice but to trust the driver.  He could see the road ahead and had been down that road before.  Your journey will take you to places that are treacherous and fraught with danger.  Your saving grace will be the presence of your savior speaking the truth and keeping you firmly in reality.  It is your only hope in navigating the path and not slipping off the road. 

Each one of us needs the truth spoken by the transcendent truthteller.  It all begins with agreeing with Him” and acting on that truth.  He promises to be there for you the whole way of the journey and to lead you safely until your last breath.  “He will never leave you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:8).  The Psalmist David says with confidence, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” (Psalm 23:4).  This confidence comes from knowing and trusting the truthteller.  He will be with you.  You have no reason for fear.

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Expection of Fairness

 One of the issues you face is processing the events in your life.  In each of you from childhood expect there to be some sense of fairness in life.  You expect everyone will be dealt an even hand.  This is really an impossible expectation for God to accomplish.  Each of you has a unique path to follow in your journey.  Some suffer greatly, others avoid suffering, some experience great loss, others avoid grief, some live in material ease, others face a life of financial struggle, some have good health, others experience pain and physical suffering.  This is the nature of life.  This creates a crisis for the false self.  The need for control and to manage things will fail.  The True Self is submitted to the creator.  It can accept whatever occurs and lean the light of His presence to make it through the darkness.  This does not remove the suffering and impact of events.  It does provide the needed resources to make it through anything. 

You like everyone around you experience things that defy explanation.  Lewis B Smedes in his book, “Forgive and Forget; Healing the Hurts we do not Deserve” says that these events are deep, personal, and unfair.  These things often have a lifelong impact on your life.  The question of WHY is a part of this process.  It is not really a profitable exercise, but it is a natural and normal part of the process.  There is often no satisfactory answer for these events.  Cancer or some other terminal disease is never fair.  It is always tragic and full of suffering.  Accidents and There is no logic or predictability about life generally.  While you attempt to manage your life, so many things are out of your control.  Your task is impossible in the end.  There are many reasons that things occur.  You may be a victim of your own choices (or not).  You may be the victim of the choices of another.  Regardless of the cause, you can count on His presence.  You cannot manage your life like a project at work.  You must learn to respond in a healthy way to whatever occurs.  In moments of crisis and unpredictable events you can count on God’s character and presence.  He will be with you.  He will never leave you or forsake you.  This promise is repeated multiple times in His word. Each of you are on a different journey, but his promises are relevant no matter what.  But as a spoke of earlier, it is not managed or fair.  You are promised in Hebrews 4:16 “grace and help in time of need”.  So while your quest for fairness is destined to fail, His presence will stand with you in your journey.  That is something that you can count on.