Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Mildewed Canvas

Art by Katerina Mihnuk (Ranizza)

"The eye can see what we have in common or focus on what keeps us apart.  And the heart can feel what joins us with everything or replay its many cuts.  And the tongue can praise the wind or warn against the storm, can praise the sea or dread the flood.  It's not that there are no differences - the world is made of infinite variety - rather it is the seizing of differences, the fearing of differences, that keeps us from feeling grace."  - Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

It amazes me how much our minds, as great and mystical as they can be, are the most profound instruments of torture if left unattended.  So often my mind has been the source of my greatest turmoils.  It's not exclusively circumstance or the behaviors of others, but the complications of life that cut me the deepest are edged with the serrated blade of my own cognitive demons.

How do you know when your mind is in a healthy state of awareness and discernment as opposed to when it is being controlled by spiritual forces of wickedness?  Take Mary Magdalene for example.  Scripture tells us that Jesus cast out seven demons from her.  I wonder what those seven demons were.  There's no way of knowing for sure, this side of life, but could she have been more like me than I originally thought?  I must confess, that over the last six months, I've found myself more and more drawn to her.  It's as if we have a shared back story and narrative.  It's as if I've known her all along and am just now rediscovering her.  At times, its even as if she is me and I her.  How similar our trials.  So it isn't that far of a stretch for me to imagine that maybe her demons where less of the flesh and more of the mind.

Quite recently, a close friend of mine pushed me to the brink of myself.  Life's circumstances are heart-wrenching these days and my mind has been in overdrive with worry, anxiety, fear, doubt, insecurity and lack of self-confidence.  This friend began to come at me, strongly, and unceasingly.  I felt berated and under extreme attack.  My heart shattered, my breathing quickened, my tears burned.  I couldn't understand how someone I cared for so deeply could be so mean and relentless with personal attacks and vicious scrutiny.  I laid on the floor in a mound of melodramatic matter and lost my mind.  After some very difficult moments, my friend was able to explain to me that they were not coming after me, but after what they claimed to be the spiritual forces waging war in my mind.  The ones that seek to destroy me and haunt me with my past, with my arsenal of baggage, with my brokenness.  My friend said they were calling out these voices to let me go and give me peace.  I was stunned, a bit freaked out and extremely emotionally spent.  What in the world was going on?

I'm not sure how to articulate my perspective on spiritual forces of wickedness.  Up until this point, I had one perspective.  Now it seems I've developed a cracked window opened slightly for exploration.  When I said I lost my mind, I meant it.  But differently.  I often terrorize myself with "what-ifs" and doubt.  I'm my own worst enemy and by far my most malicious critique.  I've done more harm to myself over the years because of my inability to love myself than anyone else could ever think of.  Joyce Meyer's refers to this as the Battlefield of the Mind. can be a blood bath.  But on the floor, feeling completely alone and rung out, I lost my mind.  There was a sense of peace.  I lost the mind, even if just in that moment, that was controlled not by the grace and love of God, but by the fires of something that seeks to kill.  It's an interesting fact of spirituality.  The closer you get to center, the closer you get to God, the hotter the desert.  It's spiritual warfare.  But I can choose to surrender to God and the peace to be found in those arms or I can choose to "dance with the devil in the pale moon light."  My soul can choose to focus on what is whole, what is of God, what is real...or it can perish beneath the weight of a thousand what-if's.  It's the fearing not the seizing that keeps us from feeling peace and grace.

Mind over matter?  Maybe if we lost our minds, gained our souls and relied on God, we could experience the joy of the endless possibilities that lay within the artists brush.  What we can be is not yet seen but in the eye of the one who is creating us.  Don't let your mind mildew the canvass.

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hello Again

It's been awhile...

  In looking back over this blog, I realize just how disconnected I've been over the last year +.  To say that things in life have gotten a little chaotic would be like calling the Eiffel Tower a building.  Needless-to-say...chaotic is the understatement of the world.  I'm sure over time, I'll hash all of that out in one way or another, but for right now, I'm back.  I'm glad to be back.  I've missed it, really.  Funny how life can seem to get the best of us.  When we're not looking, little by little, we start to put away the things we enjoy and replace them with work thinking this is what we are expected to do.  In the process, we, little-by-little, begin to eliminate pleasure and joy.  Of course, one must take into consideration whether or not what you're doing is in fact an activity that will bear fruit, but assuming that it is, what a pity to pack it away because we are pleasure-phobes.  We are so guilted and shamed by factions of our culture for doing anything that involves enjoyment and the self.  Why is it that we believe we must be self-sacrificial and unhealthily so in order to be "good" people?  If the Lord's greatest commandment was to love and sub-section C says we are to love ourselves (love your neighbor AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF), then why do we fail to heed this part of the GREATEST if it doesn't exist?  As if loving God and self are mutually exclusive, or loving neighbor and self are mutually exclusive?  Christ doesn't say to choose which one we'd like to do.  He says we are to do all three when living out love.  But, and I'm speaking very loudly on behalf of my own struggle here, why do we struggle so much with where the line is between self-love and selfishness?  Why do we punish ourselves for taking 15 minutes to laugh, or read a book, or stop and tickle our children?  Are we humans or machines?  Were we not made in the image of a God who fully and completely created the human need for joy?  Do we think God doesn't understand pleasure?  Why do we keep from ourselves that which God intended for us?

  On another note to that, my sermon for this weekend is on worrying.  I think it goes hand in hand with this idea of pleasure.  Do we force ourselves into pits of worry and anxiety

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Picking Up the Change

Yesterday after service, I found myself engaged in a variety of different conversations.  At one point, I was standing beside the line for lunch and I saw the sweet face of my son barreling down the corridor.  Excited to tell me all about Sunday school and hand me his papers, he suddenly dropped his little metal tin.  Some months back, Ham made a collection box out of an old mint tin.  Each week after receiving his allowance, he places 10% in his tin to bring to church on Sunday morning.  When coins are found around the house, they rarely hit the piggy bank, but instead find their way directly to the tin.  As you can then imagine, one of his favorite things about Sunday mornings is bringing his tin and “emptying it so he can fill it up again.”
            When the tin hit the tile, the top opened and out spilled his collection.  With arms filled with papers, his little eyes expanded instantly and looked at me with piercing helplessness.  What else could I do but stop what I was doing and hit the tile?  While on the floor picking up the change, I noticed I was not alone.  Several others stopped, even got out of line, to bend down and lend a hand with Aidan’s change.  Soon it was together again, back in his tin and safely in his pocket.  As if nothing had ever happened, he was off running to play with other children and I was back to conversations.
            As I looked back in reflection over the day, this moment stood out to me.  How kind, I thought, of people to help my son.  What a great example of lending a hand, a gentle witness, a dose of TLC.  But then it expanded a bit more for me.  For some, it seems all we have collected has hit the tile floor and spilled out upon the ground.  With arms filled to the brim, we look around a bit helpless wondering what in the world we’re going to do.  There are those who will stand back and watch, hoping for the best.  There will be those who will scoff at the inability to keep from dropping and spilling our collection…maybe we didn’t hold on tight enough.  There will be others yet who will, standing from their perspective, offer advice and direction.  But there will be those who will hit their knees beside us and help us pick up our change.
            These days, it seems like there is change everywhere we look and at points it seems the change is all over the tile.  We can choose to confront change in a variety of ways, but the most effective is the one that results in action.  Whether it be our change or someone else’s, when we hit our knees and pick up the change, we are no longer standing back starring at it in helplessness.  Instead, we are actively seeking to collect change and in Ham's case, mine too, to give it to God.  I’m grateful for the kneelers who stopped to offer themselves in a way that helped my son pick up the change.  The change on the tile may not be of our choosing, but the way we carry on, the way we pick it up and hand it to God, is what transforms who we are. 
Whose change are you helping to pick up?  Whose helping you pick up your change?  As a body of Christ, are we are all on our knees together, picking up the change together, so that together we can run again, laughing with joy?  It’s not change that makes life difficult, it’s the attitude we choose to bring to the tile.
            And sometimes…it’s the exact change God needs us to surrender to in order to bring God the most glory.

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