Monday, August 25, 2008

Battle with Shame

I felt significant freedom on Friday and Saturday because of the Lord's victory in my heart. Sunday (yesterday) was more difficult because of three instances where shame undermined me.

The first instance was from an "honest mistake." But this mistake made me feel very stupid inside; I don't allow myself to make mistakes - not like that.

The second instance was a sinful response to the first bout with shame. I chose sin as a way of comforting myself against shame. Surprise! didn't work, and resulted in more shame.

The third instance involved food, and eating too much unhealthy stuff at dinner. I have alot of issues of food, namely oftentimes FOOD = SHAME for me. It's almost like I'm swallowing shame, taking it inside me. As it adds fat to my body and appearance, it almost guarantees it's continual existence. Every time I look at myself I feel shame.

I'm trying to apply my newfound identity to this shame, but it's far more difficult. I'm having difficulty getting hold of "shame" to release it. It's something assumed, a way to interpret the world. Before I know it, I'm a slave to it.

One thing I need to do is be more prayerful and thankful with food consumption. I need to visualize it as imbibing the grace of God through Christ, feeding my body and soul, nurturing my "loved by God" identity. I can't allow myself anymore to thoughtlessly imbibe shame (here we are, back to the idea of nurturing truth, starving lies).

Somehow I also need to allow grace toward myself to make mistakes, and turn to the Lord for comfort instead of degrading practices that degrade my sense of self and God through sin and shame.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Loved by God - 2

As I continue to reflect on my vision, I have received more clarity. Now that the "wall" is down, the memorial that has taken it's place is the cross. It stands as an ever-present reminder of the truth of being "loved by God."

Just as the wall grew with feeding, so the cross grows in my experience through nurture. It's influence spreads throughout my soul, covering parched and barren parcels of land with grace and life.

A couple of notes about nurturing (true for both the lie and truth) -
1. I nurture an idea when I make conscious agreement with it.
2. I nurture an idea when I act as if it were true.

The last thing I wanted to mention is that when I was having the vision it was clear to me how lacking we are in Christian community at what some have called, "healing prayer." Walking with one another through a vision like this, appropriating God's power and God's message to the images of our hearts. By God's grace, he walked with me through this, and I am starting to feel a calling to be that kind of brother for others.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Loved by God

I had a powerful experience this morning during my "quiet time." The past few days I've been feeling increasingly sorrowful but not sure why specifically. Yesterday the sorrow became focused as I was pressed against what felt like an overwhelming wall.

I intrinsically knew this wall to represent a core truth of my soul: "No one will ever love you." Not really, not for who I am; not without my manipulation or coercion. I have believed this for as long as I can remember. I know because I have never really felt loved, even when I have clearly been loved by others. I quickly rationalize away any expressions of love toward me as insignificant, or the result of a slick marketing campaign that my false self (what Brennan Manning calls "the impostor") has put forth.

As I sat with the intense pain (and occasional waves of anger) of this "wall," I felt helpless. It was far too big and strong for me to knock it down or scale it. I hoped that if I stayed with it long enough and cried out for help from God, something would happen. It felt like a wall that had grown all around me until I was completely entombed.

Slowly I felt a phrase rise up within me: "it is a lie." It repeated itself in my head and heart until it became a shout. IT IS A LIE!!

Suddenly the wall/tomb shattered with the visible arrival of Jesus. He placed a memorial in its place with the words written on it, "Loved by God."

I felt all the anger and pain ebb away as he calmed my emotions and caressed my heart. He spoke several things to me (not word for word):
- he was proud of me for standing against the lie
- he gently, tenderly warned me against feeding the lie with self-hating acts and disciplines; such as lust, overeating, etc.

I knew that the fight wasn't over forever, but a significant battle had been won by Christ, and I felt free. Freer than I have felt for a while. More free to love without regard to response.

I also knew that just as certain practices fed this lie, I need to indulge and feed the truth of my being "loved by God." Too often I allow myself to go down paths of thinking that assume the lie. Most of the time it isn't even challenged (probably because I'm so familiar with it).

I need to indulge myself in the reality of being "the disciple who Jesus loves." I'm not yet sure how to do this, but I hope it will become clearer over the coming days.

Thanks be to God.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fighting the Wrong Battles

The Lord spoke to me yesterday that I am like a mighty warrior who has been deceived into fighting the wrong battles.

I immediately thought of Prince Rilian (King Caspian's son in the Narnia book, "The Silver Chair) who was bewitched into fighting for the wrong side (the witch of the underworld).

When I attempt to fight battles of the mind and soul with fleshly strength (devoid of God), I am the deceived warrior fighting for the wrong kingdom; when my identity is not grounded in God or his love, I fight for affirmation that is already mine. Most of the false battles I fight are fighting for what I already have (but don't believe or appropriate).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Some Thoughts on "Calling"

I was asked this morning by a friend how I was processing my sense of vocational calling. To be honest, I have tried to avoid thinking about it. It's been a painful subject for me for several years now.

Oh, how I wish for the naive days when I thought doing a "spiritual gifts test" and/or "personality profile" would give me direction with regards to calling! It was all so clear in Bible College; I am gifted as a teacher and encourager, a pastor-teacher; therefore, I am called to be a pastor!

My sense of calling lies among the rubble of my shattered dreams. I feel shelved, like my gifts are either a cruel joke or just a waste of space.I risked alot to come out to Louisville to attend Seminary #2 to pursue my "calling," which ended in a trainwreck of the soul.

I don't know if I can ever go back to that kind of life, where you sense a call and pursue it. I don't know if I can trust God enough for that. If pursuing my "calling" can lead to such rubble and pain, what else can happen?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

From Head to Heart: Barrier #1 (Language)

More reflections from Robert McGee's book mentioned yesterday-

God overcomes the language barrier in the Scripture using metaphor and imagery. For example in Exodus 3 He teaches us about the word "Holy" by using a burning bush. This is what it means to be set apart by God for his purposes.

This is why the role of the imagination is so vital in the Christian life. Without imagination, we pass by the narratives of Scripture and of our world without much thought as we look for principles and propositions that will bring clarity to our confused world. Our greatest need is not clarity; it's relationship.

Metaphor gains access to our hearts through the back door, bypassing many of the obstacles that exist between the head and heart. This is often why movies and novels can stir us so deeply.

So, to undermine the barrier of language, I need disciplines that engage the imagination in this subversive work of the metaphoric. Guided imagery prayer is one example of this; disciplines of reading good novels (like Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia) and watching good movies that stir our hearts, paying attention to what is stirred in us so that we can be attentive to God in it.

The Singing God

I've listened to this several times, an amazing sermon by Dr. Sam Storms on Zephaniah 3.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Yet will I trust in Him

Hab 2:4, “the righteous will live by his faith.” (NIV)

Hab 3:17-19 (NIV)
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.

As I read this expression of Habakkuk’s faith I was dumbfounded. How could anyone trust God so completely? A current paraphrase might be:

Though the economy crumbles and gas prices soar,
Though the store shelves are bare and my cupboards too;
Though there is no gas in my car and no family left,
Though there is no source of income or sign of provision;

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD. I will be joyful in God my Savior, for the Sovereign LORD is my strength.

I long to be able to trust like this. I have been reflecting on the barriers that exist between my head and my heart in light of Robert McGee’s book, “From Head to Heart,” which I recently (providentially) found at a thrift store for 35 cents.

One of the first barriers he discusses is that of language, and how the Christian words we know and use rarely reach our hearts. These include words like “Holy” and “Grace.” One of the things that resonated deeply with me was his thought that when we suffer, we often stop trying to know God and instead start demanding that we understand him. We basically want to restore a sense of control through nailing down God’s motivation in his choices for our lives (whatever his role in causation is – either he causes or allows things to happen).

I soon was convicted of this. I have stopped trying to get to know God for who he is in himself; I only want (no, demand!) to know him in order to explain what has happened to me so that there can be some therapeutic benefit. What is need is to kneel before God in humility, confessing my lack of understanding, letting go of all demands and embrace trust.