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Posts Tagged ‘outer self’

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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The good work is transformational. God initiates that good work and the Holy Spirit contributes to its continuance in partnership with me. The part that I play is my unique contribution. The light is pure while I am the nicked, scratched, yet functioning crystal prism.

Philippians 1:6
. . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

The good work is polishing the glass, repairing the damage, making my vessel a more accurate expression of what is within.

Sometimes I lose my confidence that God is still working within me to transform me. But then, in brilliant moments of clarity or flashes of understanding, I see Truth. My role is to embrace my life and all that has been given to me, the challenges as well as the joys, the hardships and the plenty, the health and the disease, all of them are my share of the good work.

As I hold fast to the unwavering inner light, that one and only Holy Spirit, I can give that hope (also called the blessed hope) to others. I have never been moved by the salvation message regarding some heaven or hell of the future, but I am sure of the power of God to fill a life today to stand against all things, from the tragedies of Job, to the ravages of war, or the blindness of greed and ambition.

This is the hope of glory: the Light within working goodness outward.

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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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If love is a type of submission, as I believe it is, then that is the best place to start with this controversial passage about wifely submission. You see, if ALL are to submit to one another, why must the “wife to husband” submission be “greater” or more submissive as some people imply?

Ephesians 5:22, 24
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. . . . Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

I’m still taking baby steps when it comes to loving as Christ loved others. Here’s my theory: if I can love/submit to my husband a fraction of what Christ models for me to love/submit to everyone, we’ll have a transformed marriage.

The same habitual sins I experience with others in my daily life are magnified at home. For instance, if I judge others, even people I don’t know in the grocery line or sitting in a restaurant, is there any surprise that I judge those closest to me?

Probably, the love/submission relationship was supposed to be easier with our mates, after all, we’ve made a promise to love them, to cherish them, to stand beside them through joys and sorrows, to create families, to build a microcosm of the Church (i.e. Body of Christ). Instead, we build mini-cultures that reflect the culture in which we live. In some families, that means an environment of greed, ambition, violence, mistrust, disease, and manipulation.

I missed something along the way and forgot that my own husband is “sacred other.” He is Holy Spirit illuminated too. And that is the One to whom I am to submit within him. It is not the veiled man, but the core that is holy. And it is the core of man that is more than worthy of love and yes, even submission.

Some of his veil I caused. When two people hurt each other or become estranged in any way, the darkness covers the light within on both sides. I have been looking through two layers of sin: my own and his.

It’s a uncertain business to begin peeling the layers of “outer self” in a relationship while the other is fully clothed and protected. But I am pretty sure that “outer me” cannot love/submit to anyone in the way of Jesus.

Today, I have intention and mindfulness with love and submission for the Holy Spirit.

(FD 9)

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