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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

anxietyHistorically, I have not been an anxious person but when I checked the definition, I recognize a build up of some anxiety over the last few months, understandable I suppose, as a relatively new widow. The future carries a lot of unknowns that have generated emotionally charged days. Anxiety is a state of mind created from an expectation of future threat. I get that, totally, as they say. But I am told, instead:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [Phillipans 4:6-7, NIV]

The essential information here is that anxiety can be pushed back successfully, but not by trying to “not be anxious.” Instead, I am encouraged to actively transfer my anxious feelings into and onto the Holy Spirit, that Presence within, that gift of God, who is willing to apply a strong filter. The future is still unknown and filled with dangers even, but a God perspective minimizes its impact and ability to cause actual anxiety.

It’s important to ask for help. That’s where the prayer part fits in.

grief angelI believe God is actually OK with me learning how to handle some difficult situations (as part of maturing). The more time and energy I spend with God, the more I am able to walk with God, be more like God, and dwell in the Presence of Christ’s Spirit. But, it’s important to keep tabs on this relationship. My tendency has been to blunder along and convince myself that I can do it all, I can manage, I can handle hard feelings and I can make lots of decisions, all the while working full time and running a household (at least, what’s left of it). That’s the old me who used her busyness and quick thinking and “bull in a china shop” approach to everything in order to side-step the anxiety, a fear of failure, overwhelming loss and grief.

That will not work this time. I have discovered that I, too, can drop into a kind of general malaise that manifests as anxiety that is peppered with muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue, and problems in concentration.

So, I’m asking God. Right now. I’m asking for that transcendent Jesus to go to work now. Thanks.

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chameleonBack and forth I go over this scripture from Paul about being “all things to all people.” More than likely, he is referring to his ability to accommodate various beliefs and behaviors by being non-judgmental and that’s a good thing, but then I can envisage a mis-use of this passage to assert we should blend in and not rock the boat. It’s all a bit of a fine line.

I act weak to the weak, so I can recruit the weak. I have become all things to all people, so I could save some by all possible means. All the things I do are for the sake of the gospel, so I can be a partner with it. [I Corinthians 9:22-23, CEB]

Honestly, I’m not sure Paul could have blended in anywhere anyway. He was so opinionated and seemed to step on toes wherever he went. I’m just sayin.’

Jesus is really the role model for this scripture. He never changed his spots and yet, he engaged each person and group fully. He allowed people to be who they were in that moment and the by-product was that they recognized his authenticity. I could imagine him walking into a bar and hanging out and although he would be drinking water, he would be available without condemnation.

When serving outside our comfort zone, it’s important to be secure in our faith without reserve, but also realize that every journey is different. But we must learn to “look” to the spark of human within, the spark that is waiting for the flame of the Holy Spirit, for all of humanity is waiting in one form or another [Romans 8:19] for the personal revelation of God. In this way, we are all the same. Our outward selves and circumstances are often a poor reflection of the core within.

The real chameleon is the spirit within who can melt into a unity with the essence of Other.

I see you. See me. I see you. See me.

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There was an old game show called “You Don’t Say” in which contestants would try to figure out the missing word and thereby get points. At the end of the show, the M.C. would invite people to come back to watch the next show because, “It’s not what you say that counts, but what you don’t say.” We sometimes carry this idea along in life.

stillnessOur God gives you everything you need, makes you everything you’re to be.
You need to know, friends, that thanking God over and over for you is not only a pleasure; it’s a must. We have to do it. Your faith is growing phenomenally; your love for each other is developing wonderfully. Why, it’s only right that we give thanks. [II Thessalonians 1:1b-3, The Message]

We live in a culture of having and so often, despite our best efforts, it’s hard not to want what others have. We are constantly inundated with images of nice cars (mine’s 10 years old and counting), perfect figures with amazing clothes (I’m on a perpetual diet and shop thrift stores), and high-powered tech toys (I just got my first personal laptop from a pawn shop). How do we keep our eyes from roving the commercials and ads (not just on TV, but everywhere). Their message is clear, what you have is not enough.

Not true.

contentmentThe truth, the real truth underneath all the trappings of pretend, is that each person has all the raw materials for the life God intended. We have been given a variety of gifts and abilities, families and friends, circumstances and challenges, and they all add up to a life designed to building up the human spirit within. If we agree to walk it. The path is not easy, but if we take our own way, the road only becomes longer, more complex, and yes, even more difficult.

“Come to me,” Jesus said, and “I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28]. As I am in God, God is in me, and you are in me and we are in God [paraphrase of John 17:21].

Within God understanding, it doesn’t matter whether I am as good looking as another woman or as rich or smart or talented. It doesn’t matter if I am a Queen or a housemaid, a teacher or a writer, an athlete or a businesswoman. I am walking out a life within and hopefully, using everything I’ve learned along the way, I can be united with Christ.

And for this reason, I can give thanks for everything. Even this.

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Photo by Wayne Karberg

Photo by Wayne Karberg

I know just enough about “cultivating” anything that it’s hard work. Last summer, I had my first 10×10 vegetable garden. Just getting the dirt right was huge and honestly, somewhat costly. So, when I ask God to “teach me” how to do something, I understand there’s going to be work involved. I’d like it to be a fairy godmother thing, but it’s not.

Teach me your way, Lord,
so that I can walk in your truth.
Make my heart focused
only on honoring your name.
I give thanks to you, my Lord, my God,
with all my heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.  [Psalm 86:11-12, CEB]

So, what will this teaching look like?

Since I probably don’t naturally comprehend the “way” of God, I mean, not really, there will be nudging, I’m sure, and correction. I don’t like correction. Honestly. It’s not that I think I’m perfect (although some of my issues come from trying to be); I get defensive all the time as though getting suggestions for an upgrade or recommended modifications to my behavior means I’m worthless. Where did that black and white response originate?

Okay, along with adjustments to my path, I will also need to learn how to focus. Great. Back in the day when multi-tasking was the buzzword, I was golden. But now, the latest and greatest productivity gurus are recommending single focus, laser vision, and essentialism. Guess what? God expects the same kind of focus. Over the years, I have had a few of these intense experiences; I have been in God’s Presence, and when I was, the excess baggage fell away. It’s a form of “flow,” but spiritually-based.

And yet, despite those wonderful encounters, it’s not my norm today. So, for me to learn God-flow, I must be much more intentional. I will have to actually say “no” to some of my favorite peeps and activities. That’s where the teaching/learning will start. I get that. I can’t expect to center on God’s presence while running from one meeting to another, one commitment to the next. In this week alone, I will have worked or volunteered or attended an event every night of the week in addition to my clocked in 37.5 hours.

energizer-bunny-downPart of me is running from the grief, I know it. Another part of me is caught up in the momentum, like a wind, and I’m not sure how hard the landing will be if I stop flying, so keep going, the energizer bunny is back. But the cost?

Here is the correction: I took on Lent with a vengeance, as though participating in Photo-a-Day or Praying the Hours or creating a devotional or blogging every day here, would focus my energy, my heart, my soul, and mind on Christ. And God has blessed those efforts, but they are not the stuff of “being still” with God.

This is how I know. We are promised: if we spend time in God-flow, thanksgiving will burst forth naturally. And why? Because, when we are in that flow and experience the wonder, magnificence, and holiness of God, we are inspired to appreciate God’s Presence. An authentic response to God in Earth and God in Me and God in Thee is thanksgiving and praise. God is God, the Alpha and Omega, who was and is and is to come. Thanks be to God. Make that real in me.

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underwater with godHow can I get better at prayer? I know the answer, more or less. Nike gives me a hint: “Just Do It!”

But what makes a good pray-er? What makes my prayer better than yours or even better than the one I prayed yesterday? It’s not just quantitative. But, if I pray more often or longer, will that make me a prayer warrior? God forbid if I’m back to navigating the challenges “praying continually.” On one website, I read that a prayer warrior is one who prays continually (sigh) AND prays effectively!

Now, that’s another challenge. Unfortunately, I’m most people might assume that the primary measure would be answered prayers or well-timed prayers. No surprise, there are websites that have the “12 secrets to praying effectively” or “15 steps (with pictures) to pray effectively” and so on.

But then I read these words:

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.
Your ways, God, are holy.

    What god is as great as our God? [Psalm 77:11-13, NIV]

It’s not about me and what I say or do. Effective prayer is connecting with a Holy God, surrendering to the Presence of God within, conversing with, in, and through the Holy Spirit, by calling on the mediation of Jesus, the Christ, who makes it all possible.

God is Holy. I cannot “move” God or convince God or manipulate God. I am, however, invited to learn of God and to delight in God.

Righteous Father, even the world didn’t know you, but I’ve known you, and these believers know that you sent me.  I’ve made your name known to them and will continue to make it known so that your love for me will be in them, and I myself will be in them.” [John 17:25-26, CEB]

Just so.

Right now, prayer feels like I’m trying to sit on the bottom of the pool. I’m holding my breath. I’m treading water. I’m working hard. But the goal is to float and eventually, even breathe (total trust). Easy does it.

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holy_spiritFellowship has become a worn out word in Christian circles. Mostly, I am reminded of the 3 F’s: food, fun & fellowship. This was, for many years, the promise of the church. Fellowship meant talking and sharing and hanging out together. Then, in the eighties and nineties, believers started using “fellowship” as part of their new church names: Word of Life Fellowship, Bible Fellowship, Grace Fellowship, and Christ Fellowship, just to name a few. In more recent years, the word “Community” has replaced “Fellowship.” But the intent is the same, but now it’s Casseroles, Crusades, and Community at Christ Community Church, Grace Community Church, Bible Community Church, and so on. And why? To communicate how friendly we are, accessible, and inviting.

But the real fellowship, the one that counts, is the one we have within and with the Holy Spirit through Christ Jesus. You want authentic fellowship with others, then you’d better have fellowship with God in Christ.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. [I John 1:3-4, NIV]

This relationship is deeper and more intimate than the 3 F’s. It’s familiarity through undivided attention and conversation. It’s intentional. It’s persistent. It’s a priority.

Some people realize it’s prayer. But you can call it fellowship if you like. You can also call it meditation, or centering, or contemplation. As long as it’s the Holy Spirit that’s been invited into the core of yourself.

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Stockphoto by Jessica at Deviant Art

Stockphoto by Jessica at Deviant Art

The essence of the Christian faith is very simple: love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. “On these two commandments hang the law and the prophets” (so written in Matthew 22:38). And yet, most of us are not very good at this kind of loving. Whether we have been faithful followers of Christ for many years or newly minted converts, these two commands trip us up every time. And for this reason, I look forward to intentional times of reflection and self-examination to refresh my focus, whether it’s a retreat or a study or season. Yes, for this reason, I observe Lent each year.

For 2015, I have compiled a devotional for Lent (see Links), with a series of readings and scriptures for meditation. And by meditation, I mean, to read through the selections slowly, to consider, not only their meaning, but their application to present circumstances and faith.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” [II Chronicles 7:14, NIV]

Within this scripture lives a promise for me (and any believer) which I have read often but I haven’t actively pursued. Why? Because a chase for humility has always been a fear-laden prospect for me. I have blanched at the thought of some inevitable loss or pain that might manifest as part of the humbling “package.” Humility comes with a cost, I think.

And now, here I am, in grief and recovery from the death of my husband. Intellectually, I know his passing had nothing in particular to do with my lack of humility but, at the same time, I see everything in the light of him gone. For, you see, I am humbled by the unexpected turn in our family’s resources and relationships (we lost a breadwinner, a husband, a father, a brother, and an uncle). Only his parents escaped this sorrow, for they preceded him into that place we call heaven.

praying22I am humbled by the outpouring of love from my friends, my church, my colleagues, my neighbors, and even, quite honestly, strangers too. I am humbled by the unexpected journey I face. I am humbled by the years that have passed and how I took them for granted. I am humbled by the steadfastness and nearness of God, the whispers of the indwelling Holy Spirit, as well as the memories and message of Christ Jesus. But more importantly, I am humbled by the call to pray. Really.
And for this reason, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” [Psalm 27:13, NIV]

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