Tuesday, March 27, 2007

P4E.016 More of God and Less of Me

"Often, we don't feel the need to be involved unless there is a crisis."
Mark Hamilton, Life Partners

"Trauma opens your eyes to what is going on around you."
Marianne Hamilton, Life Partners

My natural emotional/relational state is one of detachment. Trials force me out of that detachment. When faced with obstacles or trials, my natural (ungodly) response is to get angry, impatient and frustrated. I always wondered why I should 'consider it all joy' when I encountered 'various trials' (James 1).

As I search Scripture I'm realizing that the trials offer me an opportunity to be slooooowwww to anger and thereby gain wisdom (Proverbs 14). The trials provide me with a chance to resist the temptation to sin. (Another word for 'trial' is 'test.') When I respond in my natural way, I build my flesh, I detach, I get callous and worldly. It hurts. If I pass the trial successfully, I build my spirit. I become more aware of my emotions and relationships. I become more involved.

I see that anger, impatience, frustration and detachment are my natural, ungodly state. They harm my own spirit, other's spirits and my relationships with others. In contrast, patience, wisdom and involvement don't come easily, but are an indication that I am drawing closer to God. This is a good thing for me and those closest to me, because we experience more of God and less of me.

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

P4E.015 Bombproof

"Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest."
Jesus (Matthew 11:28)

My wife and son are horseback riders. They've recently been watching a DVD by a horse trainer named Clinton Anderson. In one of the beginning exercises, Anderson stands by the horse he's training and begins to throw the long lead line over the horses back. This (like almost everything) startles the horse a bit. Anderson pulls the lead back and throws it again...and again. He throws the lead around the horses legs. As the horse moves away from him, Anderson follows it. As the horse might move towards him, he puts his hand in the horse's face and wards him away. Anderson keeps at this until (to me, amazingly) the horse stands calm and un-flustered by the lead line being thrown over his back, around his neck around his legs. When Clinton Anderson is training a horse in this manner, he makes the horse look at him. He doesn't allow the horse to "disrespect" him by looking away while he's training the horse. Throughout the training, Anderson is gaining the horse's respect, through the knowledge that no harm will come to him while his trainer is around.

After watching, my wife and I were talking about the demonstration. She said "It makes sense. If you're going to take a horse out on the trail, he should be bombproof."

By "bombproof," my wife meant unshakable, doesn't react when unexpected things arise, steady, stable, trustworthy, strong. You get the idea?

I'm interested in all of this because I think it has a corollary in my spiritual life. How many times have you heard someone (even a pastor) say, "Don't pray for patience because you'll just be asking for trouble..." I'm getting to the point where I think maybe we should be praying and expecting to be tested.

Sometimes I feel like God might be throwing a lead line all over me. Testing me. Trying to get me to be "bombproof." It's when I realize that He's doing it for my own good, that no harm can come to me while He's near, that I can calm down and be like Christ to those around me. Strong, stable and trustworthy when other's are weary and heavy-laden.

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

P4E.014 The Voice of the Human Spirit

"Emotions are the voice of the human spirit"
Ken Nair - Life Partners

Men are traditionally encouraged to ignore or suppress their emotions (excepting anger, impatience and frustration). In fact, our male entertainment idols can be stereotyped as stoic, impassive, emotionless (except for anger, impatience and frustration) and violent. It seems that every culture has some version of this male quality. From the "inscrutable" Asian to the "stiff upper lip" of the English we put forward the "poker face" as a character trait to be modeled, imitated and almost demanded (You're not going to cry are you?).

Even our Christian culture has devalued emotions. Remember the image of the train in the Four Spiritual Laws tract? The engine bore the label "FACT" followed by the coal car labelled "FAITH" and finally the caboose of "FEELINGS". We've been taught not to trust them. They are fleeting. We shouldn't pay them much attention.

The problem is this: Our ways are not God's ways. Isaiah 55:8 says "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD." While we naturally cast them aside as a "female weakness," God vaunts emotions as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..."

If we are to become spiritual leaders we must become familiar with the fruit of the Spirit as well as other emotions which may be hindering our own growth and those who may be following our leadership. More to follow...but in the mean time, remember...There's no crying in baseball.

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

P4E.013 Taking the Sword From My Hand

"...I felt His words take the sword from my hand..."
Judah Ben-Hur about Jesus Christ

In the past, I have been politically active (at least in my mind). I've taken vocal, dogmatic positions on all the controversial issues that, to me, seemed based in reason, fairness and justice. I find myself changing in this area. I want to be clear to you that these changes are personal. I don't believe that everyone has to believe the way that I do now. I'm just sort of journalling now, setting down my reasons for where I'm at in my thinking. So if you agree with me great, and if you disagree, that's great too. I'd like to hear from you either way...

In P4E.008 I wrote "If you think that Christ came to fight for "truth, justice and the American way" you are confusing Him with a fictional superhero." I want to follow up on that. The premise is this: In the grand, cosmic scheme of things, Christianity is not patriotic. It is not un-patriotic. If you will, it is "a-patriotic."

American politics has become more and more extreme. In the supercharged heat of the political moment I, as a Christian, have been swept along into the fray. I believe Christians have been used for both "conservative" and "liberal" agendas.

In Jesus' time, a Jewish insurgency hoped to throw off Roman domination. Both His followers and adversaries thought that Jesus might be the One to lead them in the overthrow. Therefore, His opponents came to Him to trick Him into giving Himself away by asking Him if the Jews should pay taxes to Caesar. His answer, "render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's" made them marvel. Jesus was contrasting the relevance of the physical versus the spiritual.

The Enemy is real, he is the ultimate Deceiver and he has diverted my attention from the actual war front. While I am engaged in what I perceive to be a battle for "truth, justice and the American way," I am diverted from the spiritual battle for my own soul and the souls around me.

In the 13th chapter of Paul's letter to the Roman church, he also encourages them to "be in subjection to the governing authorities." Why does he use the word "subjection"? I believe it's because contending for or against the "governing authorities" is irrelevant in the individual spiritual context. In the 14th chapter, Paul exhorts the Roman church to self-examination and to refrain from judging one another. And, in the 15th chapter Paul prays that we might be unified in Christ. "...of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." THAT'S important.

My involvement with American politics has brought me to a place that Paul described to Timothy. I have become like one who "is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions,and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain." Paul tells me, as a man of God, to flee from such things and to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.

Scripture says I am (or should be) engaged in a SPIRITUAL battle. THAT'S the important battle. It's an individual battle. In that sense, I truly am an "army of one." The physical circumstances are only analogies for the REAL spiritual warfare. My politics and patriotism seem small when compared to the spiritual battle.

For my part, until I have any personal credibility at home, I feel vulnerable to the criticism of hypocrisy for taking on the world's problems without tackling the spiritual/social injustices that are going on right under my own roof!

So to close the circle on "truth, justice and the American way," God is truth. I can expect no justice here on earth, but I leave room for God to be just. In His sovereignty, God will have His way. I've experienced great relief, freedom and contentment in getting to this place. In just "letting go." I wonder what you think?

Peace, Kim