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Posts Tagged ‘inner self’

promises of GodJust a quick look in Google yields a number of websites people have created to lay out a full list of the promises of Christ, primarily based on things Jesus said, such as John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” [Of course, that verse seems to be a combination verse, a promise and a consequence. Or are they the same?]

Near the end of the book of Joshua, it is written,The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. [Joshua 21:44-45, NIV] Most of these promises dealt with the land and conquering the pagan peoples who lived in those lands. All was fulfilled in that time. But we know how the story goes; not long afterward, the people jettisoned the plan and the covenant once Joshua passed and the last of the generation that saw God’s miracle-working power from Egypt to the promised land.

We are no different.

The words are still out there for us to embrace. The promises are still real and concrete. But we hedge our way, like the story of Eve and serpent, we hear these words instead, “Did God really say . . . ?” [Genesis 3:1b] Really? Did God promise this or that? Did Jesus really mean . . . isn’t it more likely that . . . ” And on and on and on we go, further afield of the simplicity of the gospel, either making it too complicated or too simplistic and in both cases, opening a door for doubt and confusion.

Today, I read on Facebook of a woman who was struggling with someone who questioned the “race” of Jesus. Was he white? Was he black? And so on. Is this a worthwhile discussion? Does it do anything for our faith? Or, is it just a surface issue that bypasses the central truth? Also today, I attended a funeral of a 19 year old daughter of a family friend and my own adult daughter was surprised how the young woman in the coffin did not really resemble the girl she knew. I had to remind Lily, the body is but a shell and it is the Spirit that gives the human body dynamics and life. Hannah was no longer there.

Painting by Jonas Gerard

Painting by Jonas Gerard

So it is with all things of God. The promises of God may appear to be about outer things, land and so on, but in reality, they are about the inner truth, the inner person, the relationship between my “self” and the God who lives in us through Christ. God’s promises are about eternity and living outside and beyond the body, the truly promised land. The enemies we face are the challenges of 3-D life: sin and selfishness, distrust and fear, evil from without determined to destroy the good within.

If only we . . . well, I can’t speak for you . . . if only I could engage fully in the truth of the fulfilled promise. It’s all done, completed from the day of Joshua to the day of Jesus, also a Joshua, who fought for my salvation and won. It is finished.

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I understand the command to pray, or to “call out” to God; I understand “asking” for help; I understand the concept of blessings and the intent of intercession. I know there are answered prayers and there are unanswered prayers. I know it is implied and implored. It is a discipline and a state of being. It is a foundation of faith. I know these things. And yet, my prayer life diminished. I am hollow in prayer. My prayer has become relegated to the emergency and no longer the essence of my day and breath. I was there and now I am not. I was deep and now I am shallow again.

I was floating in the deep waters. I am back in the sand and it is low tide, the water of life seeming to retreat.

I have not recovered from the ending of my project in study and prayer and writing. That held me close but once the regimen was removed, my house collapsed. There is a sorrow now in me. And flagging sense of loss once more. An attack of remorse and disappointment that is hard to shake.

I skied up and down some great mountains and hills and my momentum kept me going for a long time. But now, I am on a wide plateau and there is no motor, no synergy, no muse, no battery pack. There is only the craggy rocks before me with no guide wires. I am looking for the first hand hold, the first leap, the first small goal to reach in order to begin with a sense of possibility.

To do first. . . to pray . . . to read . . . to serve . . . to wait . . . ?

Like an alcoholic who was doing so well and then drinks again, so have I been. There is nothing left but to slog back again to authentic sobriety, which for me, is authentic spirituality.

I took a vacation from my inner self, expecting the connection to remain open and instead found my inner spirit roaming like my cell phone, and now, out of power. Plug in, sure. But to what first?

I think it’s prayer. I think it’s stillness. I think. Breathe. Breathe.

Just a little worried. This time.

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Self-control runs as a theme throughout the first two chapters of Titus. Was it the crowd he was teaching or did he have his own impetuous streak? Self-control requires working knowledge and understanding of oneself in order to initiate change. . . . along with a lot of grace.

Titus 2:11-12
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, . . .

The problem comes when I confuse self-control with controlling others. I know I can be a control freak and unfortunately, I tend to put too much effort into governing my outer environment and not enough energy toward my inner landscape.

I write a great deal about choice and working from the inside out to effect real transformation, and yet, it’s never been clearer to me that self-control is a state of mind and body that must be present as well.

I can’t do it my own. Maybe others can “count to ten” before speaking or take three deep breaths or snap a rubber band on the wrist as a reminder. None of these work for me.

I must depend on wild grace, the kind that covers a multitude of sins, the kind that flourishes in the chaos of my missteps and mistakes, the kind that works like a steady breeze off the ocean.

Sometimes self-control is not about “holding back” the angry shouts or demonic manifestations when my kids continue to put clean laundry on the floor or leave dirty dishes all over the house or go to bed with every light still on downstairs. Sometimes, self-control is about focus. It’s about narrowing the vision, intentionally putting on blinders, and working the moment.

There have been occasions when I have entered true Flow (developed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi), it’s a single-minded immersion that harnesses complete attention and energy. It is in these times that self-control is moot, it is not some additional requirement or add-on. I don’t have to “reach” for that self-monitoring state because it comes naturally within the Flow.

Is it possible to have Flow in the things of God? Is it possible to combine Flow with Grace? Something to think about.

By the way, I’ve started thinking about “grace” as “wild grace” because I see it capable of taming the worst of situations, of embracing the most unlovely, of breaking down the highest walls. There is an abandon to Grace that gives me hope in every circumstance.

There is nothing I can do that can’t be met by Grace. And so, perhaps that’s all I can do today is wrap myself in it so that control is flow.

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Book by Sheena Iyengar

Here is the duality of living and walking the faith: first there is the inner journey, bringing the life within into the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit; then, secondly, the outer journey, walking out the behaviors of the Way and choosing to “do good.”

Titus 2:6-7a
Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. . . .

I wish this dual walk was more linear. You know, get the inner life in order and only then, venture out into the world. But it’s not like that. We must live in both worlds at the same time and apply what is learned within along the way. I suppose the ideal is reaching a point when the inner and outer lives are meshed into one and they operate seamlessly. Good is no longer a choice but a state of being. God is good.

Instead, I must remain conscious and aware; I must choose to be good.

The other day, I went to the optician to order new glasses after several years of wearing the same frames. To be honest, the idea of changing my appearance so drastically was a little daunting. I even thought about bringing a friend or one of my teenagers to help me pick out the frames. But then, I knew, if I did that, I would muddy the waters of my decision-making. Fortunately, I had the best optician. He helped me pick a small group of frames, six or so. Then, I sat down and he presented me with two. Between those two, I had to choose one. And so forth, from one pair of choices to the next. It was hard but doable.

And then it occurred to me this morning that “doing good” is very similar. I can’t make a global choice to do good, but as my day unveils, I can handle choosing between two possibilities.

Our culture overwhelms us with the cereal aisle of choices and it’s difficult to know which way and which one. Many in the current generation of teens and twenty-somethings are frozen by the panorama of options. They live in a country where anything is possible, or at least, this is what they have been taught. But they haven’t been taught how to choose along the way.

I am no better. Historically, I have been a “Jill of all trades” and the master of none.

Today, I will bring the array down to a manageable level. And as I look at those choices today, I will ask myself, which one is good.

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When I was in acting school, we used to always talk about “the work.” Those in the know used this term to describe the art of acting. It’s a multi-layered process that most people would not recognize because it’s a good deal of interior work. This is not dissimilar to the work of the believer.

I Thessalonians 1:3
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

It takes awhile to realize that the interior self is working, perhaps harder than the outer self. It takes awhile to recognize that self within and cooperation with the Holy Self (or Spirit).

John Sandford (former director of Elijah House and the author of Transformation of the Inner Man and Healing the Wounded Spirit) speaks of the slumbering spirit, our personal spirit in an unconscious state. Waking up is work too.

For Paul, the work stems from faith, love and inspiration. These fuel the work.

They require exercise.

I cannot do the work if I haven’t learned about the job, its requirements, and its parts. There are mentors out there who have been working at it for quite some time. Some people call them Spiritual Directors or Counselors or Ministers or Priests. They are around to help us learn the work.

But, in the end, it’s up to me to wake up in the morning and start my day, to seek out my Partner, and to embrace the challenges this day will bring with hope and love and faith.

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I have always thought of the armor as something from the outside in, as though I pick it up somewhere along the way and put it on like a coat. But now, I think the armor comes from within because it is built on and out of faith and trust.

Ephesians 6:10-11
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

A visual that comes to mind is passwords. A new trend is to have a little “effectiveness” bar next to my entry and depending on the sequence of letters or numbers I enter, I get a rating. The power of the password is judged as weak, medium, or strong. I create my own choice of password and the company is merely letting me know how effective it will be to withstand the machinations of Internet evil: hackers, identity thieves, and the like.

In life, it is the practice of my faith and trust that will determine my ability to use God’s armor effectively. There are some other words, along with practice, that come to mind: diligence, stubbornness, confidence, knowledge, and self-awareness. These are also needed to hold fast to faith.

Oftentimes the darts that come from the outside are small and annoying, but the accumulation of them can be debilitating. Think of poor Gulliver and Lilliputians when they initially tie him down with ropes and hold him fast, despite the fact they are only 1/12th the size of a regular human. We must give due diligence and engage God in all areas of life, even the little things.

Stubbornness may not be the right word, perhaps it’s determination or persistence, but in any case, it’s holding fast to the faith in the face of “oncoming traffic.” (Just be sure you’re not going the wrong way on a one-way street.) It’s swimming upstream. It’s engaging the paradox. It’s giving room for miracles.

Confidence because faith must be all in. That kind of confidence comes from a full commitment to an idea along with complete understanding. Now, I’m not talking about bravado that looks down on others or puts out a false impression of strength. Authentic confidence does not require loud talk or scare tactics or bullying. Confidence comes from knowing.

Which brings me to knowledge of God. As I build my knowledge of God, of God in Christ, of Christ and the Holy Spirit in me, then all the other things begin to fall into place.

I cannot put my head in the sand if I want to practice slipping into this armor. I have to be aware of who and where I am today and what is immediately ahead of me. I must connect, with an open heart, to the Spirit within. Like sweat that pours out of me on a hot day, to protect me, so does the armor of God emanate from the Spirit storehouse within.

(FD 14)

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