Still The Mind

Still The Mind

Lord, I give you my creased brow and my gritted jaw. I hand over the rock in my stomach and surrender my fretful thoughts…how did I get in such a stew?

It starts like this…I met Amanda last summer. She’s a Canadian teacher who works with severely disabled kids. In particular, she described the ones who are permanently altered by their mothers’ alcohol abuse in pregnancy. They have “an abnormal appearance, short height, low body weight, small head size, poor coordination, low intelligence…and are more likely to have trouble in school, legal problems, (and) participate in high-risk behaviors.”[i] Her students are volatile, and can bite or turn violent in a heartbeat.

still willingAmanda has to enter her classroom wearing a Hazmat suit.

That one glimpse of the human condition can sink my boat for days, weeks, and then perpetually on a low simmer.

God, how can I trust You when suffering falls on the innocent? How can You bear the sorrow…

“But for the joy…”

His words distinctly interrupt my thoughts—if I’m paying attention.

Yet, God speaks in mysteries. I pondered that phrase for a while. It echoes what is written in Hebrews—“who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.”[ii] He’s promised a time when all things will be restored…where each life is sacred.  

It always comes down to a choice between despair and faith. Or I can limp along, still tormented in limbo.

Let me explain from a different angle.Continue reading

Bake The Cake

Bake The Cake

A cargo ship crossing the ocean came upon what seemed to be a deserted island. A line of smoke told otherwise. Maybe someone was stranded. The captain went ashore in a smaller boat and found three huts. A ragged-looking man appeared in the doorway of one.

Tropical island landscape“Are you and others stranded here?” asked the captain.

“Nope, it’s just me,” said the man. “I live here.”

“I see.” The captain scanned the other two huts. “And what’s this second hut for?”

“Oh, that’s my church,” the man said.

The captain eyes grew wide as he slowly nodded. “And the third one?”

The man shifted his feet in awkward silence. “Well,” he said in hushed tones, “that’s my former church.”

My father told me that joke. What a laugh we had! Often, our discontent with church has something to do with us!  Who knew! No fellowship of believers is ever going to be perfect.

Black and white grunge image of a teen girl cryingHere’s another take. A young man I know felt deeply frustrated with the dating scene. He’d gone out with several very nice girls. After the initial electricity of a new relationship, the girlfriend became too dependent, making the young man her entire world. Expectations felt suffocating. He didn’t have freedom to do things with friends without a pouty girl giving him the silent treatment. These girls weren’t bad partners—just undeveloped in their sense of personhood.

In the same way, we can put heavy expectations on the church and our pastors, priests, and ministers, creating a black hole that can never be filled. Many who serve in pastoral positions try hard to be all things and end up bone weary. Menschenmenge beim jubelnPeople with unmet needs shift from church to church, and some actually work the system.

It comes down to our own relationship with God.

Is it underdeveloped? Are we fledglings in our capacity to know God?Continue reading

Arrested Development

Arrested Development

I started composing this post while half asleep this morning. You know, that lucid state where your mind is active, but you’re not yet awake?

A random image formed in my mind’s eye. I believe it came from God. I pictured a man’s spirit floating like a vapor, contained by his body. His spirit actually looked compressed—as if created to be much larger than his human body.

hands holding the sun at dawnOur physical bodies serve as temporary housing for our spirits. That much is obvious. But what captivated me was this: while we’re here on earth, God wants us to develop a large spirit, full to the brim, and even overflowing. Yet many have an emaciated spirit, locked away, and kept on a limited diet.

The Bible talks a lot about humans having a soul, a spirit, and a body. These terms are commonplace throughout Scripture. Hebrews 4:12 distinguishes our souls as something different from our spirits, though some use these terms interchangeably.

John Paul Jackson teaches that the soul is our mind, our will, and our emotions. Our spirit, on the other hand, is where wisdom, conscience, and communion with God are found. And of course, our body is our body.  Without going into any complex theology, I do believe two important things:

Depressed woman on a benchFirst, that the soul needs “saving” and healing. A sin-sick soul displays what we are without God.

And second, that we experience God mostly through our spirits. God is Spirit and communes with us through our spirits.

Why are these two points important? Because, to the extent that our souls are damaged and our spirits remain undeveloped, we don’t have very good “receivers” in terms of hearing God.Continue reading