Posts Tagged ‘integration’

Painting: Age of Wisdom by Alphonse Mucha, 1938.

Painting: Age of Wisdom by Alphonse Mucha, 1938.

At one point, several years ago, I actually started a small home group and bible study called “Wisdom Seekers;” that’s how serious I have been over the years in my quest for wisdom. And yet, the truth has been here a along, in a single phrase : ask, but without doubt.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt . . .  [James 1:5-6a]

It’s not that God would discourage doubt since it can mean a person is truly seeking for truth, particularly when that doubt surrounds a destructive lifestyle, an act of violence, or downward spiraling behaviors. That kind of doubt, the questions that give a person pause before repeating oneself. That doubt is healthy and could be life-changing.

But there are other kinds of doubt; and those of the believer who questions God’s sovereignty. These doubts are usually an inability to integrate one’s circumstances with faith or a tendency toward wanting to “run the show.”

Integration, in my mind, is a form of acceptance that God is God, no matter what is happening in our day to day lives, God is in the midst of it, there is purpose in it, and our journey has been so directed. This is a lot easier to talk about than live, particularly when it involves illness or unexpected trauma. I understand, for myself, this is somewhat theoretical. However, I do have experience in deep disappointment and that point of view is also lack of integration (lack of surrender to the moment). It could come out of the sorrows of a failed marriage, children making dangerous or troubling choices, etc.

The second, a controlling personality or sensibility, is equally dangerous (and I am guilty here as well), when we “disagree” with God’s plan and try to move things along. Old Sara (Abraham’s wife) is a prime example, when she gave her maidservant, Hagar, to her husband to have a male child [Genesis 16], in an attempt to fulfill God’s promise for children as numerous as the stars in heaven. This “let me help God” syndrome is not wise. Besides scripture warning us that God’s way is usually not the human way [see Isaiah 55:8-9], the entire New Testament confirms that the new covenant is a paradox at best. It’s usually the opposite of what we think it should be (e.g. turn the other cheek, love your enemies, give the second cloak, an so on).

James (that is, the human brother to Jesus), writes that wisdom is available for the asking, given generously and without disapproval – in other words, don’t feel bad about asking for it. If you need help applying what you know about faith, about God, about love, about hope, about anything that God has spoken to you through scripture, through prayer, or teachings, then by golly, ASK!

And so, this is what I am doing today. I am asking God in public, “give me wisdom” for this day and every day, to speak well and with love, to stop judging others, to embrace truth, to pray for others, to give generously, to trust God in all things. Open the wisdom gates dear God, dear Christ., dear Holy Spirit. Pour it upon me that I might serve you well.

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Acts 7:22, 25
Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action… Moses thought that his own people [Israelites] would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.

I know what it means to be between two worlds… or more. I am a first generation American. My parents arrived in this country in 1951 and, as most immigrants do, they looked for a community of Latvians. They ended up in Indianapolis, Indiana where over 2500 Latvians had settled. Over the years, the Latvians built a community center and had various civic and religious organizations. But, when my father died, we were somewhat ostracized from that community and I never understood why and until much later in life.

You see, my mother is only half Latvian and half German. Her mother was German (as well as her step-mother), and in the end, her sympathies and traditions were more rooted in Germany. She had even “re-patrioted” to Germany before the war, a common practice by anyone with any German heritage. My parents actually met in Germany where my father was a prisoner of war and my mother worked as a translator because she was tri-lingual (German, Latvian & English).

In the end, within that Latvian community in Indianapolis, her Germanic roots and her widow status caused many a cold shoulder. As a result, we gravitated to the American society.

But that was not a smooth assimilation either. We were still foreigners. English was actually my second language as we primarily spoke Latvian in the home until after my father’s death. We were definitely different. My mother had a heavy accent and she had some eccentric ideas to say the least.

We lived between those two worlds, trying to juggle them. We attended events and made friends in both worlds, but we never felt truly a part. My brother and I finally chose one community over the other: we chose to become as American as possible and for many years, we both cast off our Latvian heritage.

My daughter, recently adopted from Russia as a teenager, is going through similar struggles. She doesn’t really fit into either world. Her Russian friends (and extended biological family) see her as a traitor of sorts for moving to this country and her American high school is less than embracing, mocking her accent and loopholes in cultural and language norms (by students as well as teachers). Her pain is palpable.

Moses was raised as an Egyptian… but he was an Israelite. He thought he would be embraced by the Israelites when he discovered his lineage and his background. They did not. His solution was to run away. He went to Midian and raised a family there. His solution was to cast aside both cultures and start over. I can understand that mindset.

We all know the story. God called Moses back to lead his people. God had prepared Moses for this task, specifically by placing one foot in each culture.

Someday, my daughter will discover the power of living and surviving the challenges of two cultures.

For myself, I have been more like Moses and I escaped into a different third world: the Christian world… a culture, up until recent years, all its own. But, like Moses, I feel God calling me back to integration.

I cannot run from the pain of my past. It is all part of who I am and who God wants me to become. All of the choices, the mistakes, as well as the victories and successes, are part of today. Those experiences made my today.

I choose wholeness for myself today… for my daughter… and for anyone who has struggled with any separation within.

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John 9:28a; 34a
Then they [the chief priests] hurled insults at him [the formerly blind man] and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple!” … Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple!…”

I confess, I love to be around people who are really smart. I am intrigued by their knowledge and enjoy learning something new each and every day. It’s one of the reasons I read so much.

But the way in which someone hurls his/her knowledge around can be intimidating. In fact, there are folks who use knowledge as a sledge hammer. Little do they know that knowledge flung about like that becomes diffused, unfocused and useless. People stop listening.

In one of the books I’m reading, “Why We Make Mistakes” by Joseph Hallinan, the author maintains that as people (particularly men) collect information, the more confident they become to the point of actually becoming over confident. And in that over confidence, they begin to make mistakes.

The chief priests were over confident. They thought they knew the whole story. They could not integrate anything new. They could not integrate the miracle. They began making unfounded accusations. They were grasping at straws.

There is usually a moment when I go from appreciation of a person’s knowledge and intelligence to total intimidation. I think that moment happens when I hear or see or sense the other person is espousing his/her views with such certainty that there is no room for other possibilities. It’s a lack of humility.

Lord, don’t let me become this kind of person. Keep my heart and mind open to the miraculous. Keep my mind and heart open to the evolution of your spirit in our world. Keep me humble.

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John 17:20b-21a; 22b-23a
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their [followers] message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. … I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.” [Jesus praying]

How can anyone read this text and not wonder what all this indwelling is about? I think it’s quite mystical really. It’s not a feeling. It’s not something we can see. We cannot “know” if the indwelling has happened. This is strictly on faith.

For those who believe that life is more than our 3-dimensional world, the leap is not as difficult. In fact, it’s really the whole point. If we ask Christ to live within, it’s a done deal. This is not a real estate transaction where the Spirit comes in, takes a look around and says, “not interested, too many issues.” If we ask, the Spirit comes.

The next process is developing a relationship with the indwelling Spirit. We have to learn the language of love, hope, and trust within. This takes time. And that journey is different for each person. I find it a wonderful, yet sometimes disturbing, mystery. It’s simply not that easy to do.

Often, people will develop their own personal word picture to assist them in the discovery process. I remember, at one time, I pictured myself as a child who was walking on one side of a stream while Jesus walked on the other. I was looking for a bridge. It was my first foray into the Spirit’s guidance.

The most effective way to enter into process is through prayer. But too often, we turn prayer into a personal monologue. It’s too much like talking to Santa Claus: I want this and this and please do this and don’t forget this. After thirty years, I still fall into that trap. In recent years, I have taught myself to practice being still and listening more (within).

In fact, all of the spiritual practices are intended to help us in our indwelling journey; not only prayer, but also communion, reading of the Word and other challenging texts, worship, music (food for the ears), personal expressions of creativity, providing “food” for the eyes through beauty, meaningful community experiences, meditation, contemplation, time in nature and natural settings, service to the poor, widows & orphans, loving neighbor, practicing hospitality… just to name a few. These are all ways of learning about the operation of the Holy Spirit within.

But, if we don’t participate in spiritual practices regularly, we can become numb to the presence within. It’s like living in a foreign land. If we don’t use the language of Spirit, we can lose our ability to understand it. All can be regained, but it takes commitment and desire.

Today, I pray for mindfulness of Christ’s indwelling. I embrace the mystery. I accept the mystical nature of this union.

With what other practices do you experience the indwelling Christ?

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Luke 19:10
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

So often when we talk about “the lost,” Christians are referring to people who have not accepted Christ. But I think there is more. Jesus came to seek the lost parts of ourselves as well and to redeem what we have lost.

I think humankind has tremendous potential. But, by the choices we make and roads we take, much is lost. We lose our giftings. We lose our talents. We lose our ability to love. We lose our ability to hear and see God.

Reintegrate me.

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