Posts Tagged ‘Ephesians’
[11MAY2012] Confession | Square Peg vs Round Hole
I have confessed from time to time on this blog that I go through seasons of being “disturbed.” I get this sense of soul indigestion or something; it’s somewhat difficult to describe or explain. I’ve been in one of these seasons for a couple of weeks now…still somewhat in it, since I’m trying to be transparent about it. I don’t think it is a “bad” thing and it is certainly nothing that erodes or even gnaws at my faith, but I much prefer the placid waters, gentle breezes, and blue sky faith over the choppy sea, misty gale force winds, and stormy-thunder sky faith. The tranquil faith is the kind I can do in my sleep with both hands tied behind my back, while the other entails that I work tenaciously and sometimes round the clock to answer the questions in my heart, chokehold the doubts, and rebuke the fear that would shipwreck my joy.
I think one of the most important lessons about these seasons is to recognize them for what they are; they are messengers of the soul. I’ve often referred to them as “dashboard lights.” Regardless of what the seasons are called, I do not believe they can be ignored, at least not without serious repercussion. David Benner writes about this occurrence in his book Spirituality and the Awakening Self; he writes the following insightful words:
In addition to whatever other functions psychological symptoms may serve, they do bring us information about the state of our inner self. That nagging depression or low-level anxiety, or the case with which we lose our temper or are tempted to despair—these are all messengers from our depths that have been sent into consciousness to tell each of us that all is not well in our soul. However, if we ignore or silence the messenger, or refuse to open the letter they bring and attend to the issue they are point us toward, we are doomed to allow the inner problem to worsen and simply postpone the crisis that is eventually awaiting each of us.
The past couple weeks I’ve spent “opening the letter” and “attending the issues,” at least I have been trying. It takes time and discernment to figure some things out, especially when the message isn’t so obvious. In the end, after all the extraneous indicators have been distilled to their lowest common denominators, the message resolves to learning to trust God, growing in patience as we wait with Him, and acting with faithful obedience to the things we know He desires of us. As simple as all this sounds, our spiritual journeys and the tests that we encounter along the way can become incredibly complex at times…and if that is not enough, the complex situations are sometimes divinely shrouded in discernment evading stealth technology. In other words, God does not make it easy on us to figure out the soul disturbances and/or what we are to do about them, so we wrestle.
What I’ve realized once again is that God has a unique calling on my life, of this I am sure. I continue to find myself the square peg and all my furniture is made with round holes. I keep wanting to rush out and get new furniture, but the Holy Spirit continues to stay my hand. I ask myself and the Spirit, if my edges should be shaved that I might be more comfortably fit to the round holes… to which I sense the Spirit saying “Trust Me. Wait with Me.” So, I’ll stay square… and it ain’t easy when you’re surrounded by round holes, but it is the season I’m in and I’ll trust the God who remains always with me.
I was comforted as I was talking with Jesus today and He replied to me through His Word from Ephesians to remember that I am united with Christ. I am holy and without fault in Christ. I am adopted into the family of God and my sins are forgiven. I am “showered” with wisdom and understanding from God. His (God’s) plans for me will not be thwarted because I am identified as His very own. He also gives to me the Holy Spirit. Nothing can change or take this away because He (Jesus) is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come (Ephesians 1:1-14, 21). And so, square peg is comforted…still a little stormy on the inside, but I’m not dictated by feelings; I am just made aware by them.
Spiritual Practices–3–“Imaginative Prayer”
I started a series just prior to the Lenten Season to share some of the spiritual practices that have been so helpful in my own Christian journey, but have not posted in the series during the past two weeks. I thought I’d change that today and add this installment on imaginative prayer as a spiritual practice.
What is it?
I suppose even the sound of imaginative prayer kind of sounds oddly curious with the ideas it may conjure, so let’s define what it is before we discuss the practice itself. Pastor and author Greg Boyd provides a very simple working definition for us by writing that imaginative prayer is “simply thinking about God in concrete and vivid ways.” Imaginative prayer has been a part of the cycle of prayer and spiritual disciplines for hundreds of years. It is said that imaginative prayer was the inspiration behind St. Francis of Assisi’s encouragement to people for creating the nativity scenes during Christmas, to imagine Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus as real people like we are. Later, it was St. Ignatius of Loyola who introduced imaginative prayer as a regular part of the disciplines he organized into the Spiritual Exercises that are now the foundation of the Ignatian tradition.
Why do we need it?
We live in an age that is technology and information driven. Global media and the internet have changed the way we learn, work, and are entertained. News and information are literally at our fingertips as are television sitcoms, virtual reality games, and movies on demand. I believe this has had an atrophying effect with our ability to learn and process information in the way of critical thinking, and ultimately, making the things we learn a part of who we are. Think about it. It used to be that people were story tellers; information and history were transmitted orally. In this process, the storyteller (transmitter) would relate the information or narrative using their own words and embellishments creatively becoming the story, so their audience-hearers (receivers) would be drawn in with interest to listen to what was being told. In this process there were few, if any, visual aids… consequently, the receiver’s brain would begin to fill in those details, adding faces to characters, adding background information like weather, noises, voice inflections, color, personality, and on and on. All of this brain work and activity created neural pathways and tunnels which resulted in memory and detail in the transmission of the story. The bottom line was this: the receiver-hearer remembered and incorporated the story or information as their own because it had actually become a part of who they were. This is not something that happens for us much anymore. Today, most of the visual work has been done for us in the form of video games, graphic novels, and high-budget special effects in movies and TV. There is little if any reason for us to “fill in the blanks” with our imagination…all the blanks have been filled for us. In our current age, books are more likely to be used for information gathering as opposed to retelling history. This can create a problem for the Christian. It has been my experience that many of the Christians I have met are “hunter-gatherers.” They read the Bible for information purposes, perhaps without even realizing it since we have been groomed by our culture this is the primary function of books. Imaginative prayer helps us to engage the Bible as story, as the narrative that it is… in this function it becomes more than history. It becomes our-story. This is why we need imaginative prayer.
How do we do it?
There are a number of ways that we can practice imaginative prayer. One way is to imagine yourself in the story as you read or hear it. Take for instance the story of Zacchaeus who was a tax collector in the days of Jesus (Luke 19:1-10), take opportunities as you read or remember the story to imagine yourself as Zacchaeus. What would motivate you to want to climb the tree to see Jesus; what would you be hoping to see; how would you respond/feel if Jesus called out to you? Imagine yourself one of the people in the crowd as you watch this story play out; what would your range of emotions and thoughts be? What would you have thought at first about Zacchaeus and how would you respond to his change of heart? Imagine yourself as one of Jesus’ disciples… Imagine yourself as Jesus… Why would you notice Zacchaeus? The scenarios are many and each of them introduce a new dynamic to the story and help to open up the opportunity for revelation and hearing the voice of God in the midst of the narrative. I have found this way of praying through the Bible to be one of the most formative practices in my disciplines.
Several years ago I started to incorporate this practice as a regular part of my Bible reading. It has since become an extension of how I read and pray through the Bible. I have taken a portion of the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians and I “imagined” how the Armour of God passage may have been inspired in the mind of Paul before it was written in his letter. This exercise ultimately has forged the reality of this passage into the essence of my being. Whenever I read this portion of Scripture, I think about this scene… whenever I feel weathered, withered, and wilted in my spirit, I often think of this rewritten and imagined prayerful recounting of this passage. Almost always, I come away from my recollection encouraged, exhilarated, and empowered. The following is from Ephesians 6:10-18):
Dusk was upon us as night was rapidly falling. As I walked through the encampment weaving my way through the activity, my eyes caught the glow of an oil lamp through the open flap of one of the tents. I glanced toward the light to see one of the soldiers sitting slumped with a tired and weary posture. He must have sensed my staring at him for he looked up directly at me and our eyes locked…in that moment it was as if I had peered into his soul. I could read the years of effort in his eyes, the struggle of battle worn into the wrinkles of his face…the despair that told of its triumph in the weariness of his posture and the fatigue that celebrated the dominance over his muscles. I was somewhat shocked at what I saw and for a moment looked away from the soldier. It was at that moment that my eyes caught another sight; I focused on the banner of the regiment and began to scrutinize the crest that was emblazoned upon it. The crest of the banner and what it represented stood in stark contrast to the soldier with whom I had shared gazes. I stood reminded of who I was and in whose power I was kept and thought to remind my brother-in-arms of the revelation that had befallen me. I called out to my comrade as I strode toward his tent; “10my brother, be strong in the Lord and in his awesome supremacy! 11Clothe yourself fitting the warrior that you are in the perfect armor of God and you will find yourself fully prepared to take a victorious stand against all of Satan’s wicked plots and plans. 12Be reminded regardless of what your mind and body may tell you, the battles we wage are not of this earth and cannot be fought in measures born of flesh and of blood; no…we war against the rulers, against the authorities, against powers and principalities of this shadowy world and against the spiritual forces of iniquity and wickedness in places between heaven and earth. 13Knowing this, it is of the utmost importance that you dress yourself fully in the armor of God, for in this way when the day of evil comes, you will not be moved…and when you have done all that you possibly can do of yourself, you will still not be moved. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of God’s truth and His promises buckled firmly around your waist, with the breastplate of His righteousness in place to shield your heart. 15A good soldier knows how important his feet are and this case is no different, therefore be sure you are shod with the readiness that comes from the truth of God’s peace. 16We aren’t done yet; you must remember your shield, it is the representation of faith which can quench and repel all of the vicious assaults of the wicked one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the promise and the truth of God. 18And pray continually under the guidance of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit under all circumstances with all of your prayers and requests and always remember to pray for all of the brethren. With all of this in mind now, be sober and at the highest state of awareness. Be ever vigilant and constantly reminded of who you are and whom you serve; ours is the Living God.” I placed my hand upon his shoulder as I turned to leave, and caught his gaze once more…his eyes now shown with a passionate fire and the muscles in his jaw, steely and resolute. As he stood, his hand touched mine and he said to me with a firm voice; “Yes, my friend, ours is The Living God.”
Try this exercise the next time you sit down to read your Bible, you might find that it brings a whole new dimension to your time spent in God’s Word…you may find that it becomes life-changing.
(Spiritual – Sleepwalking)
As we journey this life, how many are sleepwalking through it?
How many of us live in a Matrix existence created by the media and the moguls of consumerism?
How many of us live in the nightmarish dream of our own individualism and ambition?
Are our thoughts of things that matter eternally… kept at bay with slight-of-hand distractions by the enemy of our soul?
Every time you attempt to awaken from your slumber of soul… are you rendered again, unconscious by the pied-piper of the American Dream?
We groan in the pangs of our own rebirth; terrified of what lies on the other side
We are strangled with anxiety and fear at the thought of losing control…as if we ever were in control in the first place; crippled with the illusion of our own self-sustaining power
We wrestle with shaking the slumber and cobwebs of confusion from our Intellect, the Master-mind of man, who with steely grip and maniacal tyranny controls the passions of our heart
Will we ever awaken?
Can we break free from the narco-hallucinogenic bondage of the adamic self?
A Rescuer beckons us; with kerygmatic boldness, His Spirit calls:
“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Awaken O Sleeper, Awaken.
“..everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is…” Ephesians 5:13-17