Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Soul vs. Heavenly Wisdom

It is a real conflict that goes on in our souls. As a Christian I sometimes think that I have it all together, that I have all the answers. I could not be more wrong. It did not really click in my mind till I was reading a lesson in the book of James. Everything in me wants to find my own pleasure. I will do anything to get what I ultimately want. Selfish ambition has me tied naturally. 

I will spend ample amounts of time pointing out the faults of those I love just to justify myself. Even when it is possible that I might be right about their mishaps, it does not mean I have a right to place myself above them. It does not mean that I have a right to feel superior or get what I want after trying to win an argument. It does not mean that I am going to be taken advantage of or misused. 

What does it take for me to not let my behavior fall under the trap of this world? Where can I obtain a wisdom that is not of this world? The world likes to point out mistakes. It fights with revenge, anger, and jealousy just to make sure that it is the one that is RIGHT. God has a wisdom that does no such thing. Despite what may be true about our condition, God chose to love us. He chose to come to the earth, die, and redeem us. He came to the slaughter like a lamb, not fighting. 

So when I feel jealousy, anger, or the fighting words clinging to my tongue, I need to reevaluate. I have to stop trying to protect myself and let God do His job. I have to stop making myself happy and let God give me joy. I have to stop fighting, bickering, judging, hating, coveting, and being angry. In reflection it is strange really. I used to have open anger in my life, but God has shown me that the anger and selfishness runs deeper. It is not just the anger that is out of control in our lives that gets the best of us, it is the anger than we can control.

We can go about our day seeming normal, but in all actuality we are intentionally having thoughts of discontent towards others. We cannot stop because we do not want to stop. It is not the kind that blows up, it is the kind that ruins relationships slowly over time. In my own revelation, I plead with all of you to take the time to seek a higher wisdom. One that stops the confusion about us and allows us to reach out to those that have angered us. God wants to show us that we really have no right to point out anyone else's sin. We all fail. We all are human sinners. We are scum. The gift we have been given we do not deserve. None of us do. The love that God gives us, is the kind of love that is given to those who are undeserving. We need to stop defining what love really is and just GIVE.

This is the conflict of our souls. To be of a higher calling instead of a worldly ambition.

Monday, November 17, 2014

His Laws in Unlikely Places

I don't know about you, but I get stuck. I spend a lot of time trying to unfold what dead works and faith are and how we are actually supposed to live out our lives as Christians. I agonize over ideas so that people will know that being a Christian is more than doing or more than confessing. Hours upon hours are spent spinning thoughts in my head, trying to figure out how to explain to those, that have been wounded by "Christianity", that it really isn't what it seems.

Those elementary principles that we first learned need to be set aside. We  don't have time to sit around and discuss what they all mean, because we know what they are deep down. I think that what we are afraid of is a lack of hope. Can we believe that God will come through with His promises? God did not have to make 2 oaths with us so that He could avoid lying, just in case. He does not lie. Oath or no oath. He wanted to give us an assurance that what He says He will do, HE WILL DO.

Stop spending time trying to figure out a deeper meaning to those basic principles and just believe them for what they are. Don't get hung up on them and think that if we stop discussing them or openly enforcing them, that they are nonexistent. Believe that they will become a part of your life just as much as the forgiveness you have been given moves you to celebrate. The more that we follow Christ, the more those principles will shine on their own. 

Where Christ goes, we can also go. When He goes before the Father, we too have access to His presence. We can be steadfast, strong, and sure of what God has in mind for our lives. We just have to believe His promises. We have to stop being stiff-necked and get out there. We have to let Christ come in, melt us, and mold us. How else can the sin leave our lives? Do you believe that we can be perfected in Christ?

What I have seen is that God reveals Himself in the most unlikely places. His laws and His love unfold where no one else can unfold them. How it all works together is smooth and effortless. When we desire the life that God has designed for us, we are amazed at not only what He has done for us personally. We are awed at what He has done in others' lives. How simple He changes the heart. How effortlessly He moves the Spirit through our sin-sick lives. Through Him all things are possible. 

So when we spend so much time in discussion, let it be about moving forward in our faith. Let it be a moment discussing with God our desire to be changed. Let us put ourselves aside and let Him do what He has planned to do all along. Those blessings He talks of will become evident. The power He will give you will blow you away. Let Him produce in you the fruits of His labor. Let the law of His love work.

Hebrews 6

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Mind Exercise

Come with me for a moment and see what it is like for me when I run. It takes me a while to get myself motivated. I wear the gym clothes, put in the ear buds, tie my sneaker laces, and get myself out the door. Oh but before I even dress I have been prepping myself all day long. I think about the time of day at which I will run, where I am going to make my 2 mile loop, what hills or valleys will I fight. I drink at least 32 ounces of water throughout the day for hydration and to avoid cramping. I eat a good meal that also gives me energy, at breakfast and lunch. So when I walk out the door the only thing that I have to fight, is me. That mind of mine will play tricks that I cannot avoid.

I go out and start my run. I feel pretty good initially but then a third of the way through the first mile I get this cramp. I get discouraged because I drank all that water earlier. I keep going. Somehow the cramp works itself out and I am able to stand straighter. Then there is the hill that I prepared myself for. I climb it with my heart pounding. My chest gets so tight that its hard to even inhale. I begin to slow down, my steps small. But I keep going. I know that at the top of the hill, it evens out. I know that if I just keep going I will know that I conquered.

Finally I reach the top of the hill and my heart rate slows, I can sort of breathe again. I smile thinking about how I got through that without stopping. I start to notice the birds singing and fluttering in the trees, the breeze is light and cooling. Then after a while I become extremely warm. The sun starts to get in my eyes and I cannot see. Sweat is beading on my hairline and its dripping down my back. It's hard to breathe again. Not because of a tight chest but because the breeze stopped and the air is stagnant. I am almost to the end. The grade is just a slight climb and I must fight from stopping. And to think that I am not even racing anyone else. I am just trying to fight myself. I know that I want to get to the end.

Spiritually, this run is real. I know that at the end I will see Christ. His peace for myself is like a cool drink after sweating it out in the sun. My mind fights more battles than my body ever will. The exercise that I make it go through is harder to find or see. What I have found is that taking care of our minds spiritually is just as important as working our bodies physically. Being mindful of what we make it do, crucial.

1. We have to give our minds a purpose and a use. It needs to know what will happen, so when anything does happen, it knows what to do. Getting it ready beforehand is where the beginning of overcoming mental blocks, illnesses, and devastation will happen more frequently. We have to create a strategy. Work out those details so that when the struggles come, we are ready.

2. We have to get real serious in our attitudes about this. The quality time we spend prepping our minds will get us far. Letting God come into our lifestyles and examining our characters is rather revealing and makes us squeamish. We, easily, want to be set on fire and go crazy with our discoveries but what the Holy Spirit wants to do is balance us out. Our minds need to be steadfast and earnestly thoughtful. Not just moving on a whim. It is a deep awareness of God's presence.

3. We have to focus our desires on the grace we have been given. Cherishing that grace with our lives. What is that grace? It is an unmerited help from our Creator given to us so that we may be created anew. We are restored to a better, higher, and more worthy place. How did we find out about this grace? When we found Christ.

Being completely changed spiritually is powerful. It explains the gospel of Christ. We go through our lives living with the bad habits and behaviors like we are stuck. What the Word is speaking to me is that taking on that grace and being changed means a lot of soul searching and mind work. It means that it is possible to overcome ourselves. It is possible to have a character more in line with who Christ is.

The battle is real, but the strategies are endless.

*Based 1 Peter 1:13

Thursday, November 6, 2014

In The Middle, Together

Sometimes words are too much. They undo a moment completely visualized. Like a bubble of pleasure that has been popped. It's that elephant in the room that you cannot avoid. Without words, we can sometimes truly experience life. I used to visualize sensations in my mind as a child. They were strictly black and white images of textures. Like soft, prickly, smooth, silky, coarse, etc. For a split section I could see touch. Strange really, but I also know that I can put feelings into words. So what then is so strange?

Creatives go places that street smart people do not understand. They over analyze their emotions, compositions, and actions. Each time is one more step towards perfection and one more step towards being bored of that perfection. It is an unending cycle of always finding, searching, and showing others what could not be seen before. We may come across as cranky, flighty, moody, and overly exuberant. We feel dead inside when nothing interests us. Others tell us its just a phase, but for now it feels like eternity. When the ball really gets rolling it is usually because we discovered our own path and weren't looking down another's.

I know that I am not good at reading people or really making light conversation. I cannot take a hint and sometimes I am too blunt. Not with what needs to be said, but what has already been understood. There are two ways that I can go. Either I consider myself superior in my difference or estranged. What have I done to fit myself into society? How has being creative really benefited life?

Like falling, light weight, into the arms of someone strong, I have found myself in Divine arms. Where God places me I cannot deny. How awkward I may be or not be He uses me despite myself. I might not understand everything, but I can tell you what it feels like to be human. How the heart, instead of stopping, pushes up against the chest and gives a little climb in the throat. It is tight and shoots electricity across the limbs, but all the while I know the center of its core. You might see just a couple wet leaves, but I see the way they curve and reflect the light.  Or how the colors around hug what seems to be crumbling.

Those hearts that feel alone. Those minds that think they are above the rest. Here is my position. The one idea that took me the longest to understand or even put into words, was the idea of connection. Unleashing what I know and running into the dark toward something that tastes familiar but feels so unreal. It takes faith. Reaching out to another soul requires forgetting everything that you thought made sense and meeting in the middle of two realities. It is not about what you think is right, logically. It is making a whole new sense outside of yourself. We can force our own ideas into the picture, but it will never get us to where we want to go.

Ok, so to make it more visual it goes something like this. You have a blank canvas in front of you and another. It is wide, long, and even deep. You have your own tools that you have used in the past, and they have theirs. You both stand there looking first at each other and then at the blank canvas. You have several choices. Tear it up, put all of your own paint all over it so there is no room for theirs. Stand blankly as they seem to be enjoying twiddling around on the whiteness. They could be inviting you or you could be doing the same, but what needs to happen in order to BOTH create unity and togetherness is to make a new picture. Once combined you will discover a reality that takes you to another level. It adds dimension to your once alone world, gives adventure to your own structure, and joy where you didn't think it would be possible.

Creative or not, we all need to meet in the middle sometime or other. All these images are what I see and am willing to share with you. What you interpret in these images is completely up to you. I cannot make you feel what I feel in them. I cannot force you to like them even like I do. What we do as creatives is add another dimension to your life. What I hope for those in other paths of life, is that you will share what you have so we can paint a new picture. Together.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Golden Bells of Prayer

Misinterpretations can more often than not, get us farther away from Christ. No matter how innocent it may seem, it happens. I am so guilty of these moments. I either take someone's word for it or I remain steadfast to a thought I had YEARS ago, as a child. Taking even just a small moment to grow and mature, can unfold so many amazing discoveries that make Christ even closer. He becomes real.

As a child I remembered the stories taught to me in church. In particular,  I was struck by the duties of the high priest in the Most Holy Place in the wilderness tabernacle. At first I thought him to be pretty lucky to be in the presence of God. He got to go into ALL the rooms. He also had this garment he wore that was different than all the other priests. It had beautiful stones and gold woven fabrics. But there was one thing that made me fear this position.

The High Priest had these bells attached to the hem of his garment that would sound as he walked about doing his duties. I remember putting two and two together that if the bells stopped ringing inside the Most Holy Place, that meant that he had died in the presence of God and needed to be dragged out by the rope wrapped around his ankle. I knew that there were all of these rituals and ceremonies he had to go through to make sure he was presentable in God's presence, but it all just made me put God in this place. Somewhere far, fearful, looming. I didn't hate God for this apparent punishment, but it did make Him seem far fetched. Unreachable. I feared God as a ruler, nothing more.

Well today I learned something new about those golden bells that I never really thought about before. I was reading up on the garments that the High Priest wore, trying to get a better understanding of what Christ is as our High Priest. A  lot of symbolism in there, its amazing! Anyways, I wanted to understand what the symbolism was behind the bells. In reading our church's  commentary on this part of Exodus, it got me to thinking about the real purpose of the sound that echoed through the walls of the tabernacle. It started out by explaining that the bells were able to be heard outside the walls of the sanctuary. The people of Israel were constantly aware of his duties being performed. Before I could even go further in the rest of the description, I felt this sudden rush of comfort! A closeness that I had not understood before. The sanctuary was not left to be a mystery to the outside or even to me. 

The commentary gave such a good description of what I was beginning to feel. It talked about how Israel heard the bells and it brought them into contemplation of the whole process. They could be a part of the ceremonies, even though they could not SEE what was going on. They knew the man inside the sanctuary who was going before God with their sins and was making intercession. They could visualize within their minds what was happening. 

Today, Christ is our High Priest. He goes before God as a man, with compassion in His heart and a responsibility on His shoulders. He is there to remind God of what we are to Him and what He has done for us. As we stand outside the courts of God waiting for His return, we can come boldly in faith before Him in our hearts. We can see through faith what He is doing for us, though we do not deserve any of it. We do not have to fear that God will strike Christ down in the Sanctuary, for Christ is the Perfect Sacrifice and High Priest. Not a sin has He commited. 

Those little gold bells are there to remind us that we have a way to our Father. Though we cannot see Him yet, we have Someone who is going before Him for us. All our petitions and confessions are presented with utmost care. What are the gold bells in our lives today?

I would have to say that it is prayer and faith. Those two things are what bring us closer to God. It makes Him reachable. Compassionate. Forgiving. Full of understanding. How amazing is His love? Just taking moments in our day to grow and know what He is actually trying to offer is life changing. You have access. I have access. We are sons and daughters in His court. He knows that in our sin His presence could kill us. He has offered a way to Him despite our situation. How amazing is His love, that He would want us to participate despite our position?

We are the jewels on His breastplate, the treasures of His heart.