16 Nov 2014

Don't lose your 'ask-ability'...because you lose sight of God.

Dr Luke, who recorded as carefully as he can the events and words of Jesus included fourteen parables. In a few he prefaces the stories Jesus told by stating the purpose of the telling; like in chapter 18 -

Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up ~ Luke 18v1 
What intrigues me about this parable is how it ends.

For years I have heard this parable taught to me as a young person that this is about persistence. We must be persistent. 

But the ending -

However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? ~v8
 is too drastic for a lesson on persistence.

No, this parable is about how we lack persistence.
It is a story that reveals how quickly we stop asking, how impatient we get for answers, how soon we resort to other sources for help.

Yes, our faith is often shaky, filmsy and short-breathed. It is a hyper-ventilating that resolves when we sense helps or solution nearing. It is a faith that may not be present when Christ comes looking out for it for we have traded it in for answers, fixes and escape routes.

God help me out of this mess...now!
Why aren't you giving me a mate?
How come others are prospering?

These cries are genuine, as is that poor widow's need for justice. In the parable, Jesus contrasts how a callous, godless human judge would - out of a desire to get rid of this vexation - do something for the widow. This are his words:
"Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me." ~ v4b-5

He couldn't care less about God or her. He cared for himself; and that is how the widow will get some reluctant help.

Jesus immediately contrasts this with God:

"And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though he bears long with them?" ~ v7
God will settle scores for us.
God also bears with our cries for help.
Will Jesus find faith on earth in the end?

When we add these elements up, we see that this is a parable about whether we will persist in trusting God for justice when things go bad. It is about whether we will lose our ask-ability, because our asking is an outcome of our longing, and where we choose to turn to for answers.

The widow was convinced that her help would come from that judge and so she goes to him persistently.

Soul, sometimes God takes a while to show up.
Many times, his silence is shattering to us.
We wait long and it is easy to lose our desire to ask, to question if the asking is valid, to wonder if there are easier ways out.

You and I hand out the ipads and phones too quickly to quiet our restless kids.
You and I dish out answers too fast in the face of pain, suffering or ill-logic.
You and I are not God.

With God, there is a bearing with us.
With God, there is a definite outcome.
With God, there is a caring, involved justice system.

God does not distance himself. He does not operate on cold logic. He does not simply use some pre-determined formula.

In fact, this parable is dealing not so much with our asking - for our needs, what we call Petitions. It is talking about justice, about asking for the great and grand themes of life ala Les Miserables. It is about supplication, and intercession. In the closing days of human history as we know it when things get really rough, God calls us to remember His Justice and cling on.

And perhaps our asking for the daily stuff of life is deepening our capacity to trust God for the stuff that ultimately matters in eternity.

Soul, in your asking -
over days - you find your energy sapped.
over weeks - you see questions surface.
over months - you feel your heart breaking.
over years - you find your soul changing shape.

You come to a place beyond words. You sit in a spot where feelings seem suspended. You walk around like a bit lost, needing a home to rest in. 

This is when you will come to a fresh sighting of God; you are about to come alive in ways you never knew existed before.

So don't lose your ask-ability, because you are about to gain a fresh vision and a new lease of Life.

And when Jesus returns, you will run with joy into His broad arms that will scoop his faithful friend up!

*Scripture taken from NKJV & for a a list of the parables Jesus told {click here}.

10 Nov 2014

How to do the Will of God when your thoughts, feelings and behaviour are all in a jumble

Some days I can almost hear those gears grinding in my mighty teen's head as we talk about life, love, annoyances, boys (often a subset of annoyances), God and so on. Of late, she has become rather fascinated with the notions of personality and human psychology: what makes us do what we do? When you are as old as I rather am, you will forget you walked this road before as a teen - the one marked with so many signage it was plain confusing.

But then we reached some spot where we breathe, feel the wind, come alive, go a-ha!

credit: Michelle Nyat-Teoh

Somewhere in my university days I remember learning about CABs. We all move around in CABs, not the taxi variety but in a mobile unit made of our Cognition, Affections, and Behaviour. If you prefer, we are the ego sum of our Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviour (speech and actions, silence and non-action). It was hugely helpful moment when the lights came on for me. However, the psychology prof did not really tell us which of the three came first. So we were largely left to sort the sequence and pieces out and many days as a young woman, that is pretty hard stuff when your mind tells you one thing, your heart another and you may out of cowardice, peer pressure or sheer momentary insanity act yet another way!

But that was years ago. I am glad I remember my clumsy years. It certainly reins in my tendency to run out of patience with the mighty teen and lead me down a more compassionate path. While I still believe that difficulty and hardship are wonderful gifts when one is growing up to develop grit; I also see that her battle is a different one. Grit is still needed from her; but it is called forth in other ways. Figuring out who one is has never been an easy thing to do, rich or poor. Very few embark on it with honesty and courage and so many fall by the wayside and settle for living up to some handed down dream or limit themselves to circumstances.

My hope is that my own journey can be a legacy and a sort of trail for her to learn how to make her own.

According to the famous Myers Briggs temperament analysis, I score higher on Thinking than Feeling, which is to say I process my information more through my brain than my heart. I was happy to hear that having grown up in a spiritual tradition that was distrustful of fickle human emotions and also seeing first-hand the crazy damage to congenial relations when emotions ran feverish and words and bamboo poles were wielded to inflict hurt {that's right, my maternal grandma you do not trigle with}.

So my CAB had a huge large captial 'C' that drove the way forward, or so I thought.

What the psychology prof did not also address is what happens when God gets involved. So let me tell you: He stalls the cab. My thinking hit a limit.

Without the Thoughts to control the other bits; I found my Feelings staging a mutiny and my Behaviour sometimes surprising!

For others I have seen, it has been Good behaviour, Outstanding Performance, Fantastic Feelings that have ruled the day. But sooner or later, they hit a limit. We cannot sustain our self-constructed worlds. God lets some disrepair, disorder, disruption take place. It can lead to pretty depressing states. But it is the only way we are jolted out of our self-life. In the Silence when what used to work doesn't, we find our Selves deconstructed and if we dare, a truer more real self will emerge.

You see, there is one more component the prof didn't talk about because he didn't study it in graduate school: the Imago Dei - made in God's image. You and I, thus created and designed operate not only with Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviour; we also have this mysterious bit that still defies location today, called the Will. The Will is the power house of direction and action. We can think and feel and act but until we will something, the power doesn't come through. 

I love him -
can be a thought. O what a lovely thought. But it can remain all but within our brains.
can be a feeling. Such a sweet feeling. But it vaporises quickly enough when a contradictory feeling comes along.
can be an action. Great acts can even arise from this but they need to be sustained...
Thought, Feeling and Behaviour gathers at the gate waiting for the Will to muster them and say -- 
I will love him! 
The question is, will I? Will you? Why yes/no?

So I realised the deeper Q is this: what wills you? Why should the Will awaken and assert over the rest? The answer is that there is A Higher Will that you and I pursue and seek to obey. It is what we say in the prayer Jesus taught

Our Father in HeavenHallowed by Thy NameThy Kingdom ComeThy Will be doneOn earth as it is in Heaven...

I can almost see a valley full of Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviour now gather in amazing numbers bearing arms and waving signs that say 'no way!'.  I hear protests of :
do you have any idea what i have gone through, my mind remembers every detail...
my heart is still in so much pain
look, this is just not me, I simply don't do this

I wait out the clamour a bit. I let the self-evident results play out as the Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviour begin to show signs of disunity. The great army disintegrates in smaller camps rife with conflict. The memory is hazy, the feelings are going hither and thither, and the behaviours are deepening in crisis.

I read a Psalm slowly. At first, the three continue with their murmuring... but they quieten down, and when I read this, they snap to attention ~
"Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
all you who hope in the LORD." ~ Psalm 31v24

I go back to the start of the Psalm now that they are quiet, and read again:

"In You, O LORD, I put my trust,
let me never be ashamed;
Deliver me in Your righteousness.
Bow down your ear to me,
Deliver me speedily;
Be my rock of refuge,
A fortress of defense to save me...
For you are my strength.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
You have redeemed me, o LORD God of truth...
You have considered my trouble;
you have known my soul in adversities...
My times are in Your hand..." ~ Psalm 31v1-5 (NKJV)

As The Thoughts back down from their haughty place, as the Feelings are soothed with a salve that reaches deep, and as my Behaviour stops flaunting its self-righteous label, my Will arises afresh and commands them to move in concert to the baton held by the One who knows best. I am ready to act in love.

2 Nov 2014

Ignore the war and lose the battle

Maybe this applies only to me. 

But after having listened to hundreds of people, especially women, I think I am not the oddball here.

Negative Thoughts.

It is a very real battle, part of a war of cosmic proportions. I know, it sounds 'normal' when the circuitry goes -
He's gone and done it again
Hiaz, I don't think this is going to change
What to do...this is the way church is..
I'm not good enough 
Some self-doubt is good or we would all be obnoxious pompous pigs {sorry, pigs, writers love alliterations}. But, when it comes around, lurks in your mind, sneaks into your conversation, lingers in your memory -- and it makes you or worse, someone else smaller -- it is time to take action. Yes, it is time to take all your ammo out and shoot it to smithereens. {My son will be very proud of me for such decisive, drastic thoughts; he the one who wants to blast road-hogs into space}.

In particular, I am talking about those closest and dearest to us. We see their spots: soft, weak, blind, gross... and it is easy for us to pick on those spots like we are scratching an itch. It is honestly, quite effortless. Plus, we get plenty of help from the Enemy who has a deep fascination with disintegration, destruction and discouragement. If you and I can experience any of these within our bosoms and in our relationships, it is success for him.

God designed us to live in relationships. This is how we learn who we are and become who we can be. In the ~
the give-and-take,
the forgiveness,
the letting go,
the learning to respect and to gain respect,
the drawing of boundaries and the breaking of rules

-- we uncover our personhood and thrive as humanity and community.

Nothing wrecks us like isolation, accusation, and condemnation. With all our best devices and ideas, these trio lurks close by because it is not the media that connects us but the Master.

So much of my life would be different if the Master did not have his say. I can see the debris of broken trust, the fall-out from half-truths, the abject brokenness of abandoned projects of life. But thankfully the Master had his say.

So you and I; we risk, reach out, restore, and release.

There is a horrid battle going on right now in the Middle East. It is a familiar battle of frustration, disenchantment and a different dream wanting expression. The observers and critics all say it is a battle that can only be won if there is enough political will and commitment. Just striking from the air won't do the job. It will cost us heavy. But the alternative? A continual bleed that turns up in a new spot? I don't know if it can be finally stopped due to the ideological and religious roots of such movements. But it is instructive for us. The battle is expressing a larger war of ideas and ideals.

In a sense all our battles too arise out of a clash of ideas and ideals. So out of a sense of frustration, of feeling like we are overpowered, of a lack and a desire burgeoning to break the ground...come our harsh words, impatience, and weary thoughts - all expressions of a larger war where we have not learnt to find peace, contentment and suck the marrow of life. Instead our hearts are tossed hither thither by ideas and pictures that tantalise and lure us away from what we do have; keeping us in a forever 'I don't have enough' mode. We have not submitted our hard-won ideas and ideals to the Master. No wonder we cannot hear him -

The Master says to us we are strong enough with Him to bear the tough stuff of life. Where people are concerned; this means they will never be enough for us. Yes, our longing and hunger for love is so great it needs a Great Lover to meet it.

The Master calls to us to keep waving that crazy banner of hope that there is Glory right here to be had. Where people are concerned; this means we never give up seeing them in God's light so that we choose to believe and trust rather than to doubt and distrust.* 

Nearly everyday, those Negative Thoughts would try to occupy me. They come sometimes in legion and spread out mats all ready to have a picnic! Regrettably, I am able to write this precisely because I have sometimes failed to bat them away with a mighty Word. This is what happens then:

him: .....
me: (gruff)....
him:... ??...
me: ...(still gruff)...
him: (wiser now)..wait a minute, how is this related?...

If only this was a preamble to a warm heart-to-heart that led to hugs and kisses. No. More often that not, it just exhausts us!

If we really held on, we won't be adrift

I woke up this morning to a Negative Thought. {they are very impolite; they never ever knock but barge right in}. By now, I know better. I take out my broom and sweep it away. Out! Damn thought! Then I go sit with the Master. My mind and heart soon fills with far superior things and occupations. I want to pray  and build up the very person I began the day with odious thoughts about. I become aware of their struggles and needs, and tender thoughts fill me.... I have stopped reducing him/her to his/her weakness but is seeing the person.

Fellow woman-soul (& the men who care), remember there is a war, so be armed; and you won't lose this battle.
*this does not apply if the person has a compromised mental capacity or has repeatedly hurt you. Please see the police/a counselor.