Sunday, July 4, 2021

God's Help over Self Help (Revised)

I picked up a self-help book recently.  It began with an inspirational story, then moved to a bunch of platitudes then began to instruct me on how I could find my authentic self by focusing on myself more and beginning to getting to know myself better...  Let me clearly state that while this may have some value, self-awareness is beneficial, it is not the ultimate to the secret to finding your true self.  The assumption is that it is buried deep inside you and if you concentrate hard enough you will find yourself.  This is not true.  Sin has obscured your perception of who you are.   Even at your best, you do not know your true self.  It is not somewhere to discover internally, if you dig deep enough. 

The hope of self-help is that if you just try harder you will succeed.  This is false.  When you are dealing with a sin issue you need the power of grace to overcome your fear and compulsion to hide.  Your compulsion to reject his way and to create an identity that you believe will meet the standards of others is so ingrained that supernatural transformation is needed from your creator.  You cannot do this by yourself.  The same effort that got you there cannot get you out.  It is you plus the power of God through the Holy Spirit that will help you rebirth the true self in you.

How do I discover my true self?  Since it was lost in your choice to take control and handle things yourself, it begins with submission to your creator.  You must go back to where you started.  It is found in connecting to the ultimate source of life and love.  God, your transcendent, loving creator grieves your confusion, loss, and pain.   He wants to embrace you show you yourself in that embrace.  He wants to love you unconditionally.  He wants you to rest in that love so that you can quit feeling the need to pretend and disguise your true self.  He wants to affirm you and show you that he made you exactly the way that he intended.  When you connect to Him you will begin to experience a level of growth and awareness unsurpassed.  It will result in what you were seeking by focusing on yourself.  It will give you confidence that allows you to be yourself and choose not to hide or create a mask when you are with others.  It will bring the satisfaction and fulfillment that you have been seeking, even if you didn't know exactly what you were seeking.  So while you can get some benefit from self-awareness, don't forget that your Creator knows you best.  He is a logical place to begin.  It is the relationship that opens the door to real growth.  It creates an exchange of love that you need.  Like the prodigal in Luke when he sees your move toward Him, He comes running to meet you(Luke 15:11-32).

Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Pitfall of Expectations

Expectations are natural and normal to our lives.  I expect a great meal when I go to a BBQ house and when they deliver, I am gratified with the meal. You expect your car to start in the morning and according to its condition it probably delivers.  Expectations whether they are of yourself, others or of institutions or organizations can fail to materialize.  Sometimes your expectations will be fulfilled, but as you travel your journey you will also have expectations that do not occur as you anticipated.  When I got married I anticipated a lifetime partnership, but as my life unfolded I got a divorce.  I have had jobs that I expected to work out perfectly only to find out that I was mistaken.  So expectations can go either way.  There is a rock ballad that has a chorus, “Hold on loosely…”  This is good advice regarding expectations.  When you apply them to people you can be very disappointed.  Since you have little to no control over most people you are taking a gamble when you play the expectation game.  The odds may be in your favor or not.  But the point is that it in human relationships there are no guarantees.  Expectations whether they are of yourself, others or of institutions or organizations can

In the false self this can be very difficult.  When your ego self is disappointed it can choose to rage, depress, confront, attempt to force compliance to your expectations or adapt your behavior.  Since the false self is based out of your ego it does not know how to deal with not getting what it wants or expects.  It only knows how to want.  It never can accept or deal with reality.  In fact it creates its own reality.  I know you are acquainted with people who have little self-awareness and live their lives in their own unreal world  Their whole existence is lived inside the bubble that their ego and expectations create.  It is a delusional and not does not resemble reality.  They may get glimpses of reality now and then, but if it is unpleasant or does not fit their expectations they reject it.  When facing a breach in expectations the false self creates a mask that either pretends it is met, that it does not matter, or that

The true self can deal with reality.  It desires to live without self-deception and can deal with life when reality and expectations do not match.  Even unpleasant reality is better than pleasant deception.  The trues self does not need to deceive itself to survive.  Though you may not like what it see, you do not choose the option of creating a false face to cover their disappointment or to pretend and avoid facing reality.  If a person is in the true self and doesn’t meet the expectations of others it recognizes this and looking at the facts copes with it in a way that is in reality.  That may be ignoring the dissonance, talking it out, accepting it, and living in the present realizing that you will never live up to the expectations of others.  Randy Alcorn used to say at a meeting I attended monthly with he and other pro-life leaders,  “We live our lives before an audience of one.”  There is only opinion that matters in eternity. 

                                                                    


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Servant or Master, Your Choice

 

On this earth, you are housed in your physical body.  You have five senses that give you a constant flow of input.  This is your creator’s gift to aid you in experiencing the physical world around you.  They help you feel the cool breeze of the ocean or the warmth of a lover's hand in yours, experience the delicate flavors in hickory-smoked ribs, hear the nuances of sounds in the notes of a live blues performance.  They are also an early warning system to the smell of smoke in your home, the view of flashing lights ahead of you driving, and the sour taste of outdated milk.  All of these are gifts from your creator.  They add dimension and depth to your day-to-day experience of life.  They enhance every moment of your life experience. 

Both the true and false self utilize the input of the senses very differently.  The false raises the senses to a place of idolatry. Your life bends and contorts to somehow feel comfortable and or to avoid experiencing you want to avoid.  It will create illusions to help you feel accepted even to the point of total compromise.  The false self about survival and the present moment.  It is about pleasure or the avoidance of pain. 

I was an Eagle Scout.  I spent my early adolescence camping and experiencing the outdoors.  I can remember the smell of the smoke, the sound of crickets, the taste of breakfast cooked on a fire, and the skyline dotted with fireflies glowing as bright as the stars in the night.  I celebrated a unique view of God and life on those outings.  They were transformational in my faith and my perspective of life. 

The true self uses the senses as information points of truth.  While they can deceive, properly used they are signals that guide you to truth and open doors of self-understanding.  When you grieve, they help you understand your relationships and values.  When you hurt they point to areas of your life that need healing.  When you celebrate, they point to things that you value.

The biggest difference in the use of senses between the true and the false is whether they are servants or masters.  They are great servants and poor masters.  They are not universally true.  They do point to truth.  I experience depression.  In my life, my depression is like an indicator light on my life engine.  It tells me that I am tired, or overwhelmed, or just lonely.  It is a trigger that allows me to monitor my well-being.  In no way is it accurate as a point of information.  It simply gives me an early warning of something, whatever that something is.  Again it is a great servant and a poor master.  It does give me a point of action.  I have a choice at the moment that it occurs to act.  I can shift my thinking, my physical location or simply be aware and wait for it to pass and miss the opportunity.

Following your senses as a guide will never lead you to God’s best for you.  To live in the true self you will be required to experience pain and discomfort.  It will require you to face the uncomfortable truths.  It will reveal things that are uncomfortable.  None of them will be pleasurable to your senses.  But they will continue your journey of self-understanding.  God teaches you through each one of these things, but only if you are paying attention.  So the choice is yours. 

 

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Unknown Known

 One of the realities in living in the true self is living the in the unknown known.  I know this seems contradictory, but it is not.  There are many unknowns in life.  They cannot be avoided.  While some things may seem secure and knowable even this is an illusion.  The assumptions that you make can be misplaced and you only find out now that it fails you.  This is not to depress or disillusion you, but rather to guide you to the reliable place to lay your trust.

So what can be known?  What can we have faith in confidence in?  We can have confidence in our relationship with the transcendent God of the universe.  It is not confidence in a person or circumstance.  It is not in material or physical.  It is not in our own effort or ability.  It is squarely out of your control.  Your relationship with your God is referred to as faith.  It is a trust firmly placed in the trinity.  It is a faith that rests in the promise of who he is.  It is the promise of a future that is in His hands.  Even the unknowns of your life are known as your rest in Him.  Does this mean that you are on “Easy Street” or will have no difficulties?  Of course not.  Nothing can make those guarantees.  It means that the unknowns are held in his hands.  He is the Known that answers all the unknowns.  He is now a lucky charm or a rabbit’s foot that ensures the future.  It is a relationship with your creator and Father that assures you that no matter what occurs in life, his presence will never leave you or forsake you.

Life in the true self is based on that very relationship.  It rests in the fact that you know your creator and are known by your creator.  It is about him, not about you.  It is about confidence in Him and not anything else.  That allows you to rest no matter what you see coming.  I have experienced many moments that visible certainty would have been desirable, but I would rather have confidence in Him.  Back in the first paragraph, I addressed the reality that your perceived security is often misplaced.  But you can be assured that any trust put in Him is not misplaced.  Your true self knows it can rest.  It does not have to strive or struggle.  You are safe in the reality that you know the creator and he knows you.  So even your unknowns can be known. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Perpertual Death

 I was recently listening to Richard Rohr in an online course that I downloaded.  He used a phrase that has stayed with me since.  He was speaking of Jesus command that we have to die to live.  It is in the gospels multiple times and can be confusing or misunderstood.  He made the statement that as Christians were “perpetually dying”.  It reminds me of the scripture that adds the word “daily” after this command.  It is the ego self that drives the insurrection against your decision to die to self.  The ego wants to live and fights the spirit for rule.  The false self that depends on the ego will tell you all the reasons that surrendering your will to God is a bad idea.  All the fears that haunt you and motivate your creation of masks in the first place will make a full-scale assault on you.  If you listen to all the noise and interference you will never commit to voluntarily giving up control.  The false self and the ego will always demand control.  Your false self truly believes that only you can be trusted to control your surroundings.God created you and knows that with his help you can be restored.  It requires that you “perpetually die” to your will, your desires and your whole self.  The promise is that you will gain your life if you do this.  

The true self can express itself when you kill the sources of the false.  It can thrive in the soil of God’s love and acceptance.  The true self has room to experience its full expression when choose to allow him full control.  This control is never perfect.  That is why we die daily.  It is a choice to surrender our self to Him every day.  To surrender to your creator is the most logical and safe choice.  The belief that somehow you can do better than he can is ridiculous.  Remember that when you hear the lies from the deceiver.  Trade your masks for His reality.  He will reveal aspects of the real you a little at a time.  Through that relationship with him your identity and purpose will gradually become clear.  But it is an everyday decision to die “perpetually” to who you have created to embrace who He created you to be.  Do it today and every day!  It will give you life and life more abundant.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The Westminster Catechism and Authentic Living Forever

 The Westminster Catechism was approved in 1646 by the Church of England.  It was drafted and revised by the Scottish and English theologians for 3 years.  Its purpose was to write a simpler presentation of the beliefs of the church for use in teaching its members.  It is formatted in the form of question and answer.  The first question was the most important and most basic.  It was, “What is the chief end of man?”  The answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

This is a powerful confirmation for the attitude of the believer who desires to live authentically in their true self.  Man finds his highest sense of purpose when he lives to glorify God.  You are destined to be a part of His plan to usher in His Kingdom.  His plan is for you to enjoy Him for the rest of your existence on this earth and beyond.  This is akin to Merton’s view of your existence.  When you are in union with your creator cooperating with Him and drawing your identity from Him it is the path to fulfillment and eternal life and satisfaction.  This is truly “enjoying Him forever” as stated earlier.  It is only possible if you embrace Him and learn to embrace your true self.  He is ready and willing to join you in your journey.  

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Demands of Authentic Living

 In his book, “No Man is an Island” Thomas Merton speaks of the demands of living in your true self.  He states that it requires that you and I, “go beyond the limits of my own egotism”.  In Christ I find myself, but it requires that I lose the masks and false selves that are not a part of His will.  You can only find yourself in Him.  As your creator he knows you inside and out.  He designed you and knows the purpose that you are designed for.as a part of His Kingdom.  When you attempt to find your own purpose it is based on ego and you create masks and you end up deceiving yourself as well as others.  You create your own fantasy based on your desires or what you perceive will please others.  It is an illusion and has nothing to do with reality.  Your true self demands that you deny yourself and enter into union with transcendent god and creator. 

But as the scripture states, “If you lose your life, you will save it.  The life you save is the real you.  It is the one that is in union with your transcendent creator.  It is the one that experiences the joy and satisfaction of real fulfilment.  It is the one that has great joy in His presence.  The psalmist states, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are your works, And that my soul knows very well.  (Ps. 139:14).  My prayer is that you find that level of awareness of your value and uniqueness.  It is that you experience that union that brings daily affirmation of it.  It is that you too enjoy the satisfaction and fulfillment of working and living in the authentic individual that you are created to be.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Haecceity

 

The term haecceity comes from a Catholic theologian, philosopher who proposed that everyone of us was made from a unique “this” and not “that”.  In Latin it literally means thisness.  The emphasis was that each part of creation is unique.  It is made of “different stuff” than all other people and things.  Merton added the idea that nature also part of allowed is idea is a reminder that you are unique from every other person by design.  When you dig a little deeper believed that the very substance that you are made of is different than the substance that I am made of. 

People who do not believe in their uniqueness and value are the normal and not the exception today.  There is an epidemic of this issue in our society.  People assume that they are the same as everyone else.  The theory of evolution denies your uniqueness and confirms your sameness.  The only difference that is based your circumstances and life experience.  Scotus’s belief that you are specifically designed for His purposes.  You are no accident.  You are perfectly fit tor the task that he has set aside for you to accomplish.  Your hair color, body type, gifts, aptitudes and more are predetermined for a specific plan by your creator.  You are an intentional “this” as mentioned in the former paragraph.  You fit in a specific place in His kingdom.  This truth is a celebration of you!  The psalmist David states that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made”.  You have a calling and a purpose assigned by the almighty transcendent creator.  When you discover and function in that purpose you experience fulfillment and eternal satisfaction.

The enemy of your soul would rather have you spend your existence in meaningless pursuits and activities.  He would rather have you thrashing about attempting to find significance.  In that effort he wants to misdirect you into pretending you are something that you are not rather than discover your true self.  God wants you to experience what it really means to be you and to become who you were meant to be.  This begins with a choice to join Him in union and allow that relationship to define who you are.  You will have consistent moments of clarity where you see who you are and learn new aspects about yourself.  But the choice is up to you.  Either maintain that mask or begin to step out and risk being yourself.  It is worth it.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Fear or Confidence

 When trying to decide your degree of authenticity and your comfort with your true self scripture gives a simple test.  Do you live in fear of the opinions of others or do you have a sense of confidence about who you are and whose you are.  When you live with confidence and face relationships with that same confidence it is a sign that you are in that zone.  The kind of confidence that I am speaking of flows from your relationship with God the Father.  That union leads to a sense of faith and trust that God created you and knows what he is doing. 

When you live in fear of others it flows from a sense of inadequacy and low self-worth.  This is the opposite of God’s opinion of you.  It is living a life detached from Him and dependent on your effort for any sense of competency.  It is basing your value on the value that you perceive that others place on you.  It is a means of survival.  This flows from a deep pit of self-doubt and robs you of the confidence mentioned earlier.  It is an assessment based on comparison to others.  You will never experience a sense of competency because there is always someone better.  The opinions of others are accepted as all truth.  Your source of validation is completely external.  There is no way to experience any peace or any sense of intrinsic value with this method of valuation.

When you live with a confidence based on a secure, settled relationship with Abba Father you are free to base your value and worth on His opinion of you and can stand when called to compromise your true self.  You can recognize your value in His eyes.  When you realize that who you are is a deliberate choice of your loving Father who transcends the universe it will change your whole perspective.  You have a place in His universe that transcends the opinions of others and the voices of your self-doubt.  This is who you really are and when you know it, you can stand in confidence.  There is no authority of others to assign your value because you are His and he created you.  This is your true value. 

Finally, this is all based on your love relationship with Him.  It flows from the love affair that you have with your creator.  The whole basis of your confidence if the love you have experienced in union with Him.  The power of His valuation is in that relationship.  It is the defining basis of all that you are.  Your identity is defined by what He believes about you and not what you feel about yourself. 

You and I will spend a lifetime trying to fully realize that reality.  It is a process of filtering the lies that you have collected and replacing them with His truth.  The Holy Spirit is faithful to reveal the deception and to show you what is true.  With each correction you become more aware of who you really are.  This is the process that you will experience if you are open and remain in union with the source of truth.  Welcome to the journey.  Walk in faith and confidence knowing that you are His and that He has set your value and created you for a time like this. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Beware of the Trade Offs

Choosing to where a mask instead of living a life of authenticity is a natural choice.  Choosing to reject a growing relationship with your creator and taking charge even seems wise.  These seem like effective strategies to avoid pain, rejection and to meet the expectations of others.  Self-protection on the surface seems necessary.  On deeper examination this strategy is self-destructive.  The consequences lead to an illusionary life.  Thomas Moore speaks of this in terms of “forgetting”.  He states that we forget who we were and who we might be.

The first thing we forget is who we were.  Masks are powerful things.  They can become real to us.  We buy into our own illusions.  The past informs us.  The false self you create by design buries any reality and negates any growth.  It is an avoidance of truth and attempts to distances you from pain.  Your new persona (or mask) is escape from reality and the creation of an illusion.

The second thing we forget according to Moore is “what we might be”.  The journey of life is revealing new things to us every day.  If we live in reality we will be continually discovering new aspects of our true, authentic self.  The cost of pretense is the loss of the future.  God has created you with great potential and over your life you will experience new elements of “what you might be” gradually.  The excitement of the gradual revelation of new things about yourself is part of the wonder and fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.  You have a special place in that plan.  But you cannot grow from a defensive posture.  In your created, illusionary world the false self closes the door to self-awareness.  It specializes in self-protection.

These two traps are places of deception and pretense.  There is no advancement and no reality.  You are cut off from the source of all insight and self-knowledge.  You are alienated from Abba Father.  He is the source of all truth.  Your alienation and self-protection cuts you off from all reality.  This are the true trade offs of your choice of pretense.  Your choice of faith in and union with the transcendent, creator God and the revealer of all truth allows life, fulfillment, and revelation to flow.  You open the door to relationship and life.  So the choice is yours.  The trade-offs are real and costly.  Faith is the only healthy choice.  The faith to join in union with your creator is the beginning of a love affair that will bring growth and fulfillment for the rest of your life. He is waiting for you with open arms.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Excuses, Excuses

You and I tend to shift responsibility when we make bad choices.  When it comes to the choice to create a mask and reside in the false self we do the same.  It is an impulse that must be avoided.  It is another act of deception that leads you further from the truth about the beauty of you!  When speaking of this Merton states, “It is the fault of the person who consents to the illusion, who finds security in self-deception…”  To be clear, if you are avoiding something it is probably difficult and unpleasant   You do not create illusions about things that are easy.  When you face the possibility of being rejected it is easy to attempt to become something that you are not.

Merton continues his quote.  He says that we are not willing to, “answer the secret voice of God calling him to take the risk of faith outside the protective limits of his five senses.”  The choice is clear, to live a life of illusions or to risk the exposure of faith.  The risk of rejection is real.  Some people may judge you and have expectations that you may never meet.  But the drastic choice to move to a life that is not real will cripple you!  You will have an imaginary life with little or no growth.  It is a choice to defer growth.  The issues that might drive change have been effectively neutralized.  The masks that you establish will deter any self-reflection, self-knowledge or self-awareness.  

It is a courageous choice to listen to that voice that will lead you to risk it all.  It a call to trust your creator fully and let Him show you who you are.  It is a choice to be real, authentic and true.  It is a choice to reject deception and illusion.  It is a choice to live rather than simply survive.  It is a choice to embrace life and experience fulfillment.  It is a choice to fully enter into a union with God.  It is a choice to invest it all into a love affair with your creator that gave his life for you.  It is a choice!