Thursday, August 14, 2008
Church Basement Roadshow from Steve Knight on Vimeo.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
We can take control out of God's hands and try to plan everything in our lives to the nth degree. I do this a lot. I do believe in planning, but anxiety creeps in when I stress a lot that something will go wrong. That's the piece that I need to surrender to God.
Life is scary. The future is unknown. No matter how hard we try, we cannot control everything in our futures. Reading devotionals like the one below have helped me remember to calm down and enjoy the ride. Also, meditating on particular verses has helped me recenter my focus:
- Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
- Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, have been called according to his purpose."
- Psalm 46:10 : "Be still, and know that I am God"
I will go before you
and will level the mountains;
I will break down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. (Isa. 45:2–3)
God’s imagery of going before us lets us know that he desires us to go on a journey. This is not so frightening. Most of us are aware that the Christian life requires a pilgrimage of some sort. We know we are sojourners. What we have sometimes not given much thought to is what kind of a journey we are to be taking.
Not realizing it is a journey of the heart that is called for, we make a crucial mistake. We come to a place in our spiritual life where we hear God calling us. We know he is calling us to give up the less-wild lovers that have become so much a part of our identity, embrace our nakedness, and trust in his goodness.
As we stand at this intersection of God’s calling, we look down two highways that appear to travel in very different directions. The first highway quickly takes a turn and disappears from our view. We cannot see clearly where it leads, but there are ominous clouds in the near distance. Standing still long enough to look down this road makes us aware of an anxiety inside, an anxiety that threatens to crystallize into unhealed pain and forgotten disappointment. We check our valise and find no up-to-date road map but only the torn and smudged parchment containing the scribbled anecdotes and travelers’ warnings by a few who have traveled the way of the heart before us. They encourage us to follow them, but their rambling journals give no real answers to our queries on how to navigate the highway.
(The Sacred Romance , 127–28)
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I have realized that I feel the need to always be productive. This tendency of mine recently caught my attention with the fervor over the Olympics. I was trying to understand it (I still am). I watched some of it with my family, as they had it on, but I didn't watch the opening ceremonies because I didn't know the Olympics had even started. Some of my family was shocked I didn't know who Michael Phelps was. I don't get the draw to sports. I've never been a person who has been into sports. I prefer the arts.
As I was watching the Olympics, I was trying to justify my disinterest, and the first argument that came to mind is that at least the arts are functional. They move us, they reveal God's love and beauty in the world, they are means of expression. I don't see any of that in sports (maybe it's there and it's not my means :) ).
Again, coincidentally enough, I got the devotional below the same day. It reminded me that life does not always have to be functional. It can simply be beautiful. Life can simply be because life itself is beautiful.
Yet I fight against this idea every day, trying to find another way to be functional in every second of my day. Why? If I'm functional, I get more done, allowing me to have a better chance at being perfect, and therefore believing I am acceptable. Slowing down and simply accepting God, God's beauty, and myself is remarkably relaxing and connects me to God more. It's hard to do, but I'm trying to do it. Have you ever had this experience of trying to make everything functional?
I (John) just let out a deep sigh. That we even need to explain how beauty is so absolutely essential to God only shows how dull we have grown to him, to the world in which we live, and to Eve. Far too many years of our own spiritual lives were lived with barely a nod to beauty, to the central role that beauty plays in the life of God, and in our own lives. How could we have missed this?
Beauty is essential to God. No—that’s not putting it strongly enough. Beauty is the essence of God.
The first way we know this is through nature, the world God has given us. Scripture says that the created world is filled with the glory of God (Isa. 6:3). In what way? Primarily through its beauty. We had a wet spring here in Colorado, and the wildflowers are coming up everywhere—lupine and wild iris and Shasta daisy and a dozen others. The aspens have their heart-shaped leaves again, trembling in the slightest breeze. Massive thunderclouds are rolling in, bringing with them the glorious sunsets they magnify. The earth in summer is brimming with beauty, beauty of such magnificence and variety and unembarrassed lavishness, ripe beauty, lush beauty, beauty given to us with such generosity and abundance it is almost scandalous.
Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. Stop for a moment and let that sink in. We’re so used to evaluating everything (and everyone) by their usefulness, this thought will take a minute or two to dawn on us. Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. Which is to say, beauty is in and of itself a great and glorious good, something we need in large and daily doses (for our God has seen fit to arrange for this). Nature at the height of its glory shouts, Beauty is essential! revealing that Beauty is the essence of God. The whole world is full of his glory.
(Captivating , 23–24)
Monday, August 11, 2008
In seeming confirmation of this suspicion, I received this devotional. It concludes with the point that we often are fighting all the time, suggesting that we are likely fighting against God, and we need to surrender. I think that is often true. We can fight against God when we try to do it our way, and surrendering is the only way to get true freedom.
However, how do we know if we are truly fighting against God? What about fighting against the world, evil, or even ourselves?
We can surrender ourselves to God and still fight and get exhausted from those fights. I would think Martin Luther King, Jr., surrendered his life, but he was a fighter, not against God, but against the world and evil. Mother Teresa fought for the things she believed in and surrendered her life for. She had some clear struggles of faith. Was she fighting with God? Not necessarily, but possibly with herself. Martin Luther, too, struggled with his faith, and I would argue he, too, was fighting against himself, not God.
My fighting usually relates to perfectionism. I beat myself up when I make a mistake. I have to get things right and constantly do and do and do (can anyone relate?). One could make a legitimate argument that I need to surrender these things to God. Well, one response could be easier said than done. At the same time, my experience of these fights do not seem to be as much related to surrendering these activities to God (I don't have huge confidence in my ability to do them without God's help), but to fighting against a belief I have about myself.
Perfectionism is not always about doing it yourself. For me, I think it relates more to having to be perfect in order to be valuable and simply "okay." Interestingly and coincidentally (are there coincidences), there was a good post today examining the difference between perfection and wholeness.
I recently listened to Ransomed Heart's The Good Heart again. I highly recommend it to everyone. In listening, I realized that while I believed that Christ transforms our hearts and makes our hearts good once we accept Him, I have not fully accepted that belief and integrated it into my life. I act like I have an evil heart, therefore I must act with as much perfection as possible in order to show that I'm not all that bad. It's a failing model that never achieves its goal, or at least the goal doesn't last long, if achieved.
In this case, it doesn't seem to be as much about fighting with God as fighting with myself about my views of myself... Has anyone else experienced this same thing? How do you handle it?
Friday, August 8, 2008
On the heels of yesterday's post, I'm feeling a bit of an attack on any joy I may have. Actually, while writing this, I'm realizing how much of a directed attack it seems. One of the core points of Ransomed Heart and John Eldredge's works is that there is spiritual warfare that aims directly at our hearts. I must admit that I have struggled with the idea of a conscious, intentional evil at work, but Eldredge's comments matched with experiences such as this make for some interesting considerations, to say the least.
Yesterday, I talked about two things specifically that have brought me true joy: my wife and my clients. Last night, I had a dream that Laci died in an atomic bomb attack. I survived somehow. Pretty unrealistic dream, I know, but it has still affected me throughout the morning.
Then I was faced with comparing myself with others. Again. I tend to do that often. I always feel like I have to do more. I have to make the spiritual insights that will change millions of lives. Only then will I be worthy. Having only one or two degrees of minor separation from some people who are well-known and influential, I often question my own path. Am I doing enough? They're so much more important than me.
A few minutes ago, though, I remembered another revelation that hit me a couple of months ago. If you've been reading this a while, you'll know my first professional publication was finally published. Particularly for where I am in my career, this is a big deal. Many people may read it. It's my opportunity to share great wisdom with the masses (yes, I'm being a bit facescious, but the point stands). I should be flying high. Yet I wasn't. I got a nice thrill when I opened the mail with the book in it. It was fun bragging to family and friends, and I got many pats on the back and congratulations. But it faded fast. Real fast.
Then I compare a client I terminated with about the same time. By the end of our very short number of sessions, she was crying that our time was over and that she was so grateful to me because for the first time in her life, she believed in herself, which was more important than her graduation. That was the hardest termination I've had to date. And that conversation has stuck with me for months now. It is for those reasons that I do what I do. It is those conversations that keep those of us in the psychological field going. This is my calling.
The problem is I forget. We all often forget things like this. We get side-tracked. Our focus gets changed. We believe other things are more important. We lose sight of our humanity and the humanity around us. And then we die. As Eldredge has said, that's the goal of the Accuser.
I doubt this struggle is over for me. I don't feel fully resolved from this particular instance, anyway. However, I will try to remember. God showed me today that He will come in and remind me, too. I just have to be open to being reminded. And I think we should have ways of reminding ourselves often. Interesting how finding ways of remembering is such a central motif throughout the Bible...
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Reflecting on this, I realized that I have come to live the same way, trying to survive life and make the best out of it that I can instead of discovering and enjoying true joy. I realized that a lot of my perfectionism, organization, and Type A personality comes from fear. If I don't make sure everything's perfect and in order, everything is going to collapse. But if I keep things going, then there's a chance I'll succeed.
Interestingly, I don't really believe that I'll succeed if I just try hard enough. I actually don't believe it was me who made myself successful. And I don't mean that in a pseudo-humble "good Christian" way of "It's God, not me." Honestly, most of my successes have been a surprise and usually in spite of myself. I had no plans to actually attend UC Berkeley; I thought I would be attending UC Irvine. Then I visited, and I knew Cal was supposed to be my school. I had hopes of having the opportunity to graduate early, but did not plan it. I took classes that sounded interesting in order to find my major, but making sure they would fulfill requirements. To my surprise, I fulfilled almost all my general ed requirements my first year, making it easy to graduate a year early. My internship that I'm starting next month was absolutely dead last on my interest list. I almost didn't apply. Then I interviewed and fell in love with it. I'm thrilled to be going to Loma Linda every day for the next year and am convinced I am supposed to be there.
These are just some of the "big" examples of things working out excellently in my life. Yet I still worry. I still have to stay busy. I have to keep doing things. If I'm not doing something, that must mean I'm lazy and therefore I'll fail. At what? I dunno. Even what I'd be working for is not what brings me true joy ultimately. I do get joy working with clients and seeing transformations. Yet I don't have to be well-known and perfect and do all the prestigious things in my field to do that. In fact, those things could hinder helping others, my true calling.
What has helped me in the last half day of thinking about this is remembering joy. True joy. When was the last time I felt it? Do I even remember?
The instance that sticks out the most is one morning a while ago when I woke up before my wife. We were cuddling and our kitty came up, snuggled, and fell asleep purring. I was with my girls. I felt like I could stay there forever. If that's the joy that God wants for us all our lives and I have the opporuntity to have it if I just slow down enough to accept it, why do I focus so much time and energy on making sure everything else is planned and lined up to the nth degree so I have no time for myself and my family?
Monday, August 4, 2008
The relevance to the blog is that this dinner theatre is actually a ministry of a local church. There were Christian items in the theatre, like free Bibles, and they mentioned that they were ministry, but that was the extent of the "traditional" explicit ministry. As they stated many times during the night, their goal was to make the night as enjoyable as possible.
And enjoyable they made it. It helped us connect better to one another and experience the Incarnational love of God through our hosts (and other guests who congratulated us on our anniversary).
So often we think of ministry as needing to include an explicit preaching of the Gospel or some sort of aid to someone who is in obvious financial, physical, or spiritual need. A dinner theatre isn't exactly that, but that's why I think is so awesome that it is a ministry. It does fill a need. It does touch people's lives. It is a clear example of Incarnational theology. And we need more of it.