Monday, October 20, 2014

Enough Already

I'm signed up to receive in my inbox an Enneathought every morning. If you don't know the Enneagram (or want to learn more about it), go here. I have gained so much clarity and self-knowledge from learning my Enneagram type--a seven, with a six-wing by the way! 

The Enneagram is a kind of personality test. It is a helpful tool to deepen understanding of one's impulses and behaviors, though inherently it is limited to only certain facets of our being (i.e. - our personality, or ego). No such test can describe our deepest Self, our souls, who we are in God/Christ/Spirit.

All prefacing aside, this was my Enneathought the other day:  "I now affirm that there will be enough for me of whatever I need."


Because they are tailored to my particular personality type, my Enneathoughts have a way of cutting through all of my neuroses, tendencies, anxieties, fears, and internal commentary, and stating the truth I need to hear (and state myself).

So, this affirmation has become my prayer the last few days.

I now affirm that there will be enough for me of whatever I need.

Said another way, I already have all that I need.

But it's so hard to believe this, when all throughout the day I am being told otherwise. I am being convinced that I need all the distractions so readily available to me at any given moment.

I am buying into the belief that who I am at the present moment is not quite enough. I have to get a little more, acquire more possessions, more facts, more insight. I have to master a technique, in order to control the outcome. I must do this and do that. I leave home in order to search for the meaning and stuff of life. I do until all the doing is done. Then, if I have time and strength and patience for it, I can rest and be.

Though sometimes I convince myself that I am the worst offender, I can't believe I am alone in this. We are products of such a culture, whether we are aware of it or not. 

My personality gets hooked on this stuff. My mind performs the rat race with astonishing speed and agility.

But I am more than my personality, more than my Enneagram type. I am more than my mind performing these tasks. 

I am a heart. 
I am a soul. 
God is in me. 
I have enough. 
I am enough.

Can I convince myself of this truth?
Do I really believe that I am enough? Not that I am self-sufficient (another deception handed to us), but that I have enough within me?

Can I go beyond the point of convincing and believing to arrive at faith and trust? Trust that God is seeking me; faith that God has found me; trust that I need not leave home to find what I have been persuaded is necessary; faith that all I have ever needed or will ever need is already mine in God.

As Jesus shared with Martha, "There is need of only one thing." 

Martha is busy being hospitable--milling about cooking and cleaning, making a clean space for her guest. On the outside at least. 

But Mary has shown another kind of hospitality--inner hospitality. By sitting at Jesus' feet (and not helping her sister with the chores), Mary has demonstrated what it means to create a space for God in the home of her heart.

Poor Martha. I am just like her. I am convinced that my doing is of utmost importance. That, once the doing is done, I can rest and be. 

Can I make the switch--from doing to being first? To see that what is truly necessary, what is required of me, is my heart. 

Can I come to trust that the one necessary thing is already within me? That I don't have to go out looking for it? That I don't have to acquire it? That I don't have to perform it in a certain (perfect) way?

There is need of only one thing. 
I already have all that I need.
There will be enough.
There is enough.

Thanks be to God.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Testing the Spirits

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world."(1 John 4:1)

Test the spirits.
Sound advice for anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Testing the spirits is truly the work of discernment.
Once upon a time (in the not so distant past), I used the word "discernment" quite a bit. Probably because I thought I knew what it meant. Or at least because it seemed like a good word to use, especially in my line of work and in talking about my calling.

Discernment, to me, looked like plotting something out, weighing pro's with con's, gathering information and analyzing the heck out of it.

But now I know this is really not discernment at all.

Discernment, or testing the spirits, is not something to be achieved with our heads.
Nor is it something I can do with my theological training and degrees.

Testing the spirits is not an intellectual endeavor; it is an exercise of the heart.
Such a practice calls us to a deeper place within each of us.

Discerning the spirits requires of us to access our own spirits. You test spirit with spirit.

What sets apart a spirit of God?

The author of 1 John continues, "If we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit." (vv. 12b, 13)

Once again, I am drawn here to the remarkable simplicity of life:  love or fear.
That's it, really.
On the surface, things may look a lot more complicated than that. But the essence is not.

Love is open. Love is large. Love can handle difference. Love sees past separation to unitive connection. Love listens. Love is hopeful and imaginative. Love is true.

Fear is closed down and closed off. Fear is small. Fear is on the defensive. Fear seeks to separate, divide, distinguish, judge. Fear argues. Fear is desperate and restrictive. Fear is false.

***There are many who would disagree with me on this. Who preach that love cannot be completely open, that there must be limits, boundaries, lines that demarcate the sinner and the saved. Who would see the task of "testing spirits" as God's permission for them to practice hard and swift judgment over and against another. I would argue, however, that when you boil it down, this impulse is nothing more (and nothing less) than fear.

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love." (v. 18)

Test the spirits. Is it love or is it fear?

Some spirits may refuse to be dissected, may refuse these black-and-white categories of love and fear.
These spirits dwell in the gray, wavering and amalgamating love and fear.

Could any of us honestly say that we have achieved perfection in love? That we are completely void of any fear?

We are all gray creatures.

And so, we are not in the business of condemning one another. Instead, it is our task to discern through  prayer what is love and what is fear. It is our work, our calling, to remove the many masks that fear hides behind--security, keeping the peace, maintaining the status quo, comfort, convenience--and examine what lies beneath.

Test the spirits, for there are many false prophets among us. Those who seek to convince us that violence is the only choice; that war is inevitable; that poverty and hunger cannot be eliminated; that we can do nothing and play no part in the healing of the world; that opening our courts and churches and laws up to love is wicked.

Faith, hope, and love are not the playthings of the naive or the weak.
Faith, hope, and love are not the tools of the intellect.
Faith, hope, and love are the only things that abide, that remain, that will last forever when all fear and falsehood is stripped away.

Test the spirits that go out into the world.
Test the spirits that live within you, competing for your time and energy.
Test the spirits with the Spirit of God, given to you.

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-discipline." (2 Tim. 1:7)

With this Gift, we test the spirits. We discern the Spirit's work in the world, and we join ourselves to love. Amen.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Forget Me Not

God, when I forget you, forget me not.
When I turn away, turn not your face away from me.
When I refuse to hope, do not hold out hope in me.
When I fail to trust in you, trust in me.
When I fill my day with distractions, do not stop calling to me.
When I convince myself that I cannot, be my strength.
When I neglect you, abide with me.
When I leave no room for your voice, call to me still.
When I am spinning out of control, be my solid ground.

It feels impertinent to ask this of you.
For I will always fail you.
Even now my mind strays,
Even now my heart is pulled away,
Even now my body refuses the stillness of prayer.

And yet, you call to me, "Ask."
You implore me to "Seek."
You long for me to "Knock."
You are eager to gift me with such.
You are the Giver, the Given, and the Gift.

Just as the dying beggar pleaded of the Given,
Remember me when you come into your kingdom.
Forget me not, O God.