Posts Tagged ‘wholeness’

Once upon a time, there was a river and on each side, a single tree stood bearing fruit and healing. The only way I can imagine it is as a great giant tree straddling the flowing waters. In a way, it makes a type of cross, the vertical tree whose limbs reach to the sky and roots into the ground, while the river acts as the horizontal uniting creation. Both are needed to heal our land, our souls, our earth.

Revelation 22:1-2
 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

A river is dynamic. It is constantly changing as it flows with new waters replacing old. It manipulates the environment, shaping the ground to its own plan. It appears to meander, curving through the landscape, but really, it’s just touching more and more of the earth. It’s in a constant state of flux. It cleanses itself. It is a type for love.

A tree is fixed. It doesn’t really walk about like the trees in the Lord of the Rings. It is solid within the parameters of its designated location. It can grow fatter, taller, and deeper. There is a stubbornness in a tree, quite similar to the stream. It does not give up easily. In my own yard, lightning struck and damaged a very old beech tree. The tree people came and sawed off all of the branches but one that stuck out awkwardly from the top of its mutilated trunk. And yet, it lives on, from season to season. It is a type for life.

Love and the will to live, two of the most powerful forces in the universe. These are both gifts from God and they will not be taken away from those who desire it. The key is to experience them both, for one needs the other, intertwined forever.

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I’m not paying enough attention. I know there are upright people around me; there are folks who are choosing each day to turn away from the selfish choice and seek peace. Have I become so jaded that I only see the mistakes, the falling short of a person?

Psalm 37:37
Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.

I place the bar very high for myself and as a result, I tend to give too much credence to the dark voice within who points out my failings, my trips, my secret heart. As a result, I appear to do the same to others. Sorry ya’ll.

It’s time to look with different and gentler eyes. It’s time to mark and consider the good moment, the brave choice, the intentional moments of others. It’s time to look for them and to celebrate them.

At work, I can praise my staff for a job well done, but I don’t offer much encouragement to regular people around me, from my kids who struggle each day to navigate their world to my husband who has become too familiar, a presence who has lost his uniqueness, but has become a habit instead. Like being on auto-pilot, I am not looking for the evidence of good choices, conscious choices, dauntlessness.

Who do I admire? Not for their successes in the world, but for their courage to walk the narrow way of faith, to hold fast to the paradoxes of Christ, to live humbly, to seek peace by turning away from self camouflage, to practice transparency and authenticity. I want to celebrate them.

Keep me mindful today that I might see.

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From Holy Card Heaven online Collection

The Israelites were set to enter the promised land when Moses gave one last sermon (since he was not going with them) in which he warned them of the slow falling away that would probably happen. And yet, he also promised a God way to stop the downward spiral.

Deuteronomy 4:29
But if from there [Canaan] you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

So many times, I have not recognized my own descent into old habits and ways.

How often have I successfully achieved my weight loss goal and then, slowly crept right back up again to the old weight or worse, a higher weight. I lose my tenaciousness after the goal is met. I stop paying attention. I listen to the wrong inner voice that gives me permission, “just this once” or “a little won’t hurt.”

But this same thing happens spiritually. When I experience those divine highs, it is often easy to lose sight of the way that got me there.

God is not the one who is far away. I am the one who turned aside. I lose my focus and become engaged in something along the side of the road. And soon, I am heading down a side path, picking up crumbs along the way, curious where it will lead even, but ultimately I end up in some brambles and the trail that looked so clear at first, is indiscernible.

At that point, what to do? I look up and see I am in uncharted woods. How do I seek God at that point “with all my heart?” What does that look like? When I am in chaos or depressed or caught up in a situation or relationship that is overwhelming, what is next?

That is the moment in which I must choose how to give up. But which kind? Will I give up to the moment and keep doing what I’ve been doing? Will I say, “what’s the point of trying anymore?” Will I eat the next ten pounds in resignation? Will I stay in an abusive situation? Or is there a different way to give up?

Seeking God with the whole heart and soul is a type of submission, a giving in, a giving up to a higher authority. It’s confessing my inability to fix, solve, or extricate myself from the moment.

This is the most dangerous juncture. This is the prayer point that can change everything — or not.

Each time I reach this point, the fear is almost overwhelming. If I really give this up to God, what will my life be like? Will I be the same person? What if I have to become a missionary and go to Africa or Uzbekistan or something like that? Will I have to sell everything and live with the poor in India? If I give God my heart and soul, will I turn into some right-wing Bible-thumping narrow-minded extremist?

Goofy, right? I’m just saying, that’s how my mind careens when I’m faced with true change. But, of course, it’s not like that at all. When I do pray in this letting go way, when I confess my weaknesses and my self-destructive choices, when I hand my “out-of-control” to God, slowly and methodically, the downward slide stops. Breath. And a new way is illuminated, sometimes dimly, sometimes in bright neon. But God’s promise is a faithful one.

Seeking God with my whole heart and soul is a prayer of confession and discovery. Like the prodigal son [Luke 15:11-31], my eyes are opened, and I am able to start the walk home, one foot after another. I become the small child who is learning how to walk, each step I take toward the arms of grace is a victory. And the angels rejoice.

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If there’s anyone out there who seeks suffering, raise your hand. That’s what I thought. The view of suffering put forth so strongly by Peter is one of the reasons “suffering” has been elevated, in some circles, to holiness. I can’t line up with this completely.

I Peter 4:1
SO, SINCE Christ suffered in the flesh for us, for you, arm yourselves with the same thought and purpose [patiently to suffer rather than fail to please God]. For whoever has suffered in the flesh [having the mind of Christ] is done with [intentional] sin [has stopped pleasing himself and the world, and pleases God], . . . [Amplified]

I believe, for those who are suffering now, today, these words are a comfort. There is hope, then, in suffering, there can even be a purpose and reward, in some space/time. The people of Peter’s time were suffering deeply, whether by poverty or by persecution. Times such as those must be endured with a respect for their existence–an acceptance of what is.

There is no doubt in my mind, that a person of faith who has gone through agony of the body, has little energy for anything else. Like the “refiner’s fire,” it will remove every useless thing, every useless thought. Endurance is an energy suck. Hope is the best fuel for sustaining oneself in a flood of pain.

I understand all of this.

But the greater part of me wants to fight suffering, not my own, but that of others. I want healing for them. I want renewal and restoration. I want “manifested hope” through wholeness.

As long as I am strong and healthy, then I have a job to do on behalf of those who are not. I must have the courage of Abraham who negotiated the release of the faithful from Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:33pp). I must be bold like Elijah who believed the rain would come (I Kings 18:45) and then later, believed the fire would come (II Kings 1:10), because God is faithful. I must be persistent like the parable of the widow and the judge (Luke 8:1-8).

Because I believe we are called to partner with the Christ to materialize heaven on earth, then wholeness is part of that equation. Can I bear it? Can I believe in the face of pain and sorrow, loss and despair? I must.

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I have already written about seeing the invisible as well as the Invisible God. Hebrews 12 prescribes another piece of the process: Holiness.

Hebrews 12:14
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

I think it’s a little like being color blind. The closer I come to holiness, the more expansive my color wheel, my prism. When my eyes are clouded by 3-D things, problem mentality, and “what about me?” syndrome, I’m putting myself into a black and white world.

The movie Pleasantville, or even the Wizard of Oz, dramatically captured this difference. Colors look more vivid when they are juxtaposed against shades of gray. Don’t get me wrong, artistically, I love black and white, whether its movies or photographs, but I am talking about a different kind of non-color here. I’m referring to a non-holy world that is flat with unrelenting sameness.

To see God through the lens of holiness, we are promised the universe and that is hinted at through the glory. In American Sign Language, the gesture for holiness is a large arch over the head with the fingers fluttering.

But of course, the real challenge is entering the holy place. I’d say there is a type of nakedness this is a prerequisite for entry, not just the shedding of our outer layer of clothing, but also the skin of expectations and labels and the outer muscles of self-determination. We started walking away from the holy place the first time we said, “No, I want to do it myself.”

I cannot touch the holy because it’s not here in this world.

Holiness is wholeness (completeness, synchronization, transparency); it’s the paradox of loving those who should not be loved, living from inside out, choosing peace over violence, forgiving the unforgivable, mirroring Jesus, and echoing the Holy Spirit.

Wholeness is also brokenness. What is broken? the hard heart, the frozen spirit, the rigid memory, the fear of death.

Holy seeing is not for the faint-hearted. It takes courage and imagination to see what we do not recognize, to see and not identify, to see and embrace.

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People who are regularly used of God in miraculous ways do not need to talk about it. It’s the one-shot Sally’s who go on and on about the marvel. I’ve been guilty of this myself–not good.

II Corinthians 12:5-6
I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.

It’s not that the miracle didn’t happen. It did. And certainly, to be on the receiving end of a miracle is worth shouting about.

But I’m talking about the messenger, the hands that were laid on the sick, the prayer that was said for wholeness, or the advocate who placed the petition at the foot of the cross. This is the one who must learn and walk in humility and silence. It’s a most difficult road.

I am sure Paul was used in a vast array of miracle-working ways. Some of these incidents are shared in scripture, but I’m guessing many are not. Clearly, he was anointed by God and sent by Christ. He knew and understood the temptation to boast of such things. He saw the results of this boasting in others. It became a separation between the purity of the Spirit moving through the healer and human pride.

We are all called, as vessels of the supernatural, to bring light, healing, and wholeness to those around us. This was the plan all along. Christ within.

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” [John 14:11-12]

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That’s me still: acting like a mere mortal. Basic. Common. Plain. Simple. I’m working on the complicated stuff, but truth is truth and I’m still displaying mere mortal signs: jealousy and quarreling to name two.

I Corinthians 3:3
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men [and women]?

Are there really people out there who don’t quarrel and behave jealously? Are they able to let go of what they want and allow the other person to have it? Are they able to let go of control? Are they able to state their opinion without an attitude, without demand, without guile? Can they trust unequivocally? Can they rejoice with those who have more, deserved or undeserved?

What is the opposite of a mere mortal? I assume it’s a saint? I’ve always had trouble with that label. Peppered throughout the New Testament, it’s a way of referring to the devoted and the believers. It’s more than just being “nice” or “kind” or “good.” A saint is a position of holiness. Some denominations set aside the “really” good ones and put their stories through all kinds of tests and research to qualify them, canonize them, and then broadcast them. And yet, Paul seems to use the word more blithely: believers as saints, followers as saints, beloved as saints, dead believers as saints.

It’s easier to find evidence that I’m a mere mortal than it is to find evidence that I’m a saint. Maybe today, eh? Maybe today I can declare it my “saint’s day.”

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