Saturday, September 27, 2014

Slow Flying Remains an Adventure

September 27, 2014

Dear Friends,

Being willing to communicate with God in a candid and straight-forward fashion is one characteristic of a mature faith-based relationship. I am deeply grateful for Walter Brueggemann’s studies of the Psalms and the way in which Brueggemann's work makes clear that in the Psalms God and His people are unfailingly honest with each other.

Tact, however, is another matter entirely. 

David, for example, in fierce conflict with his enemies, says to God (Hubbard paraphrase), “You have seen what is happening, God, and you have been silent; You haven’t said a word. You have stayed away—You haven’t even come close to the battle. Now, God, stir yourself up, wake up and come help me.” [Psalm 35:22, 23.]

David had no doubt that God could manage the situation, but David’s problem, as he perceived it, was to get God’s attention. Lots of faith here, but telling God to wake up and get a move on and come be God-present in the battle is not exactly the epitome of tactful diplomacy!!  

I was talking with a friend this week about the amount of energy required to pursue a Spirit-directed life. In an unguarded moment, I said “You know, sometimes God wears me out.” 

My friend laughed. 

However, she is a new friend and herself still somewhat new in the faith-life. Later, remembering this context, I wondered if, after she got home, my friend considered calling me to explain that Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 

When I see her again, I will try to remember to revisit my comment and be sure that she understands what I meant.

In the meanwhile, I want to raise with you the issue of energy in the context of faith-based living. 

Does your deliberate faith-based life sometimes leave you tired? How much energy does your faith life consume?

As I have thought about this, I have decided that my relationship with God and my participation in the Kingdom Work takes enormous energy—so much in fact that if it were not that God Himself serves as the energy source the faith-life would not be possible.

Fortunately, God doesn’t run out of energy. Sometimes, however, I run out of strength to channel it. 

In these last months I have come to cherish Isaiah 40:28-31 all over again in new ways.  Share with me God’s promise:

Have you never heard or understood? Don’t you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Still flying although my feathers are thinner.

See you next week.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Wholeness Submitted to the Spirit

September 21, 2014

Dear Friends,

When a reader takes time to post a response to something I have written I am very pleased. It is always helpful.

Last week’s reader response raised the issue of our learning to distinguish the voice of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit speaks into our inner world.

For the practicing Christian, hearing and obeying the Spirit is the central response of discipleship. Spiritual maturity can be thought of as the development of ears that hear, eyes that see, and hearts that obey the Spirit’s leading.

But in order to gain an authentic maturity with full potential to hear and obey the Spirit, we must learn to know our inner world, and to develop an integrated whole person that then can choose to hear and respond to the Spirit’s voice.

It is interesting to note the emphasis Jesus placed on whole-person response.  When the lawyer asked Jesus about the requirements for life with God, Jesus answered his question with a question. 

“What do you think?” Jesus asked.

God wants me to love Him with all my heart, all my soul and with all my mind, and all my strength, and love my neighbor as myself,” the young man answered promptly.

“You’re right,” Jesus responded, “Now go and do what you’ve said.”

Paul’s letters to the early church carried a parallel whole-person emphasis. Writing to the believers at Thessalonica, Paul said, “Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until that day when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.” [1 Thess. 5:23. NLT]

But wholeness in the biblical sense requires more than piling body, soul, and spirit one on the other like a stack of blocks. It requires knowing the differing aspects of our body/brain responses and integrating them into a whole person. The whole person, acting out of this integrated self, then both discerns and responds to the Spirit.

Being fully human is more than body plus soul; it is an intricate intermingling of parts.  Madeleine L’Engle spoke about this process of integration in “The Irrational Year,” (The Crosswicks Journals, Vol. 3).  She wrote: “heart into mind, mind into heart.”

The joys, privileges, and responsibilities of discipleship require rigorous resistance to fragmentation, and ongoing commitment to obedient wholeness.  Dualism—head or heart, soul or body, limbic system or cortex—is a distortion of the true nature with which God has endowed us. And we must learn head into heart, soul into body, limbic system into cortex; heart into head, body into soul, cortex into limbic system—learned wholeness, then, obedient wholeness placed under the Spirit’s leading.

Nobody said it was easy.

See you next week.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

I Don't Know Why I Didn't Come

September 14, 2014

Dear Friends,  

From time to time my father would remark that the more things change the more they are the same. As a child I thought that was nonsense. I now know better. 

This week I experienced an interesting example of this odd pattern in life that prompts me today to do more thinking about the subject of last week’s blog. Last week I talked about the resistance (and bewilderment) people sometimes display in response to information from the deep inner centers of the brain. 

It amused me to point out that long before neuroscientists were talking about the limbic system, people were describing in grass-roots music (country western, in this case) their frustration in managing information the limbic system provided.

I used as an example a 1945 country-western jukebox favorite titled “Detour: Muddy Road Ahead,” in which the song writer wailed with characteristic nasal melancholy about the terrible things that had happened in his life journey as a result of his failure to act in response to a detour sign.

The lyrics indicated that the writer had seen the sign, but had acted as through it were not there, or as though he had not understood the message, and trouble had certainly resulted. 

The lyrics made clear that the detour sign at issue was not an actual wood and metal highway sign, and the muddy road was not a literal unpaved country lane, but that the heart-ache, nevertheless, was all too real.

This week I experienced a seasonal attack of house-wifery impulses and while sweeping, I bumped a cabinet and knocked a CD to the floor. When I picked it up I saw that it was Norah Jones’s album “Come Away with Me.” 

It had been roughly a decade since I purchased that CD (c 2004), and I had not played it for several years. The CD appeared to offer more interesting possibilities than housecleaning, so I sat down to listen.
The first track is titled “Don’t Know Why I Didn’t Come” (Jesse Harris). 

Riveted by sound and lyrics I listened to the first track several times, back to back, sweeping forgotten. There is a haunting quality to Jones’s voice, and sheer artistry in her piano, but it was the lyrics that caught me, mind into heart.

I waited ‘til I saw the sun
I don’t know why I didn’t come
I left you by the house of fun
I don’t know why I didn’t come
I don’t know why I didn’t come
When I saw the break of day
I wished that I could fly away
Instead of kneeling in the sand
Catching teardrops in my hand
Something has to make you run
I don’t know why I didn’t come
I feel as empty as a drum
I don’t know why I didn’t come
I don’t know why I didn’t come
I don’t know why I didn’t come.

A sixty year span of time with everything different—style of music, harmonic structure, rhythms—both the music and the singer four wildly innovative generations beyond that detour sign. But for all the differences, something the same—that same sense of bewildered sadness, that same sense of choice made by necessity beyond rational logic, beyond explanation. 

Words are inadequate to describe music—music embodies a space where language cannot come. But the underlying human dilemma carried by the music caught the attention of the brain centers in my cortex. Those centers do have language, and they clearly said something like this:

“See! There are those irrational limbic center responses again. If this person foolishly kneeling on the sand at sunrise was there crying but couldn’t explain why she was there, then what is the matter? Is this upset-ness because she did not go, or because she does not know why she did not go wherever it was she didn’t go? And if she couldn’t think of a reason to stay where she was, then why didn’t she go? Anytime those limbic signals are taken seriously, trouble results. You would think that people would learn.”

I listened to myself, but my Watcher (conscious self-monitoring) is not always biased to the cortex point of view. The Watcher understands the value of logic, but understands something of its dangers too. There are times when the logic and language centers of the cortex display a distinctly narcissistic tendency and insist that all human wisdom centers in them.

Thinking with you that encouraging the Watcher (conscious observer of self-functioning) to keep an eye on the function of both the cortex and the limbic system might be wise.  Perhaps in the end that’s what discipleship and maturity are all about.

See you next week.