Mental Trips and Traps

Photo by Laurenz Kleinheider on Unsplash
Photo by Laurenz Kleinheider on Unsplash

As someone who has been ‘chief over-thinker of them all’, I quite often get caught in these mental activity ‘traps’. These ‘traps’ send you on mental ‘trips’, kind of like the worst vacation you can imagine, an all-expenses-paid trip to misery between your ears!

Here are a few traps I’ve come up with over the years. Maybe there are more!

1. The over-planning trap. God says it will be OK, the Bible says that he has given me a hope and a future, but my mind runs away with all the things that could possibly go wrong. This is an example of faith in the negative.

2. The possible-conversation trap. The Bible says we will open our mouths and he will fill them. Instead, our minds go, ‘what about if they say this? Or that? What will I say then?!? and on and on. This can also be an example of faith in the negative: I must plan for every verbal outcome!

3. The ‘what if I forget?’ trap. We want to hear from God! But sometimes when we DO hear from God, we’re afraid of forgetting. Maybe you wrote it down in your journal right away, but the same situation comes up next year and it was totally forgotten!

What happens if you forget?

The Holy Spirit will remind you!

Holy Spirit is absolutely, completely patient and will do whatever it takes to remind you of whatever was said before! We don’t have to worry about the future any more – God has us in his hands.

He is not ‘I was’, ‘I will be’, he is ‘I AM’. Always. In every moment. He stands outside of time–time was created for us! We can live in the present moment, not having to dip into the future or the past!

4. The ‘what did I do wrong?’ trap! People will react funny sometimes to things you say or write. They’ll have a weird facial expression (which may mean anything from ‘I disliked that’ to ‘I have to poop’) or they’ll take whatever you said and go off on a weird tangent. You can’t control people. We are all fundamentally strange! We are uniquely designed, and live in a unique set of circumstances, with a unique upbringing! Nobody is ‘normal’! And that’s OK!

This goes along with:

5. The ‘over-analyzing what I said or wrote’ trap! You’ve proofread it ad nauseam, hit ‘Enter’ and committed your blog or Facebook post to the Internet, and now, hoo boy, it’s time to think about what you just wrote! How could it be misinterpreted? Did I use that phrase right (even though I looked it up on Google twice)?

It’s time to ditch that fear. Holy Spirit says it’s done, it’s done! Maybe it will need revision later as you get more revelation or learn to hear HS clearer! But that’s all right. Sometimes we have to hit Enter and just trust God!

Or, sometimes, we have to just say what needs to be said, and trust God for the outcome! I have worked in technical support for years, and one of the things about customer-facing jobs is that you have to often say uncomfortable things to the customer like, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t support this,’ or ‘I’m sorry, you don’t have a support contract,’ things like that! Sometimes we have to say what we are told to say (by our bosses or by Holy Spirit) and just leave the outcome to God!

Beloved, we can stop our minds and rest in Christ, knowing that he will carry us. Our lives are meant to be ‘better than Eden’: we have an advantage Adam didn’t have, namely, God within us! Our lives should manifest Edenic fruit! And they will! But we need to be in tune with the mind of Christ, which we already own! This is our inheritance: calm, well-balanced minds, free of fear and worry, fully resting, abiding, and trusting in God.

Don’t overthink things! I know this is easier said than done. I have had to stop myself and say, out loud, ‘no!’ when my mind gets carried away. We can shut down this fruitless activity in our heads and let the Lord make us lie down in green pastures!

On Mystery

Photo by João Silas on Unsplash
Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

I’m not sure that anyone really understand what being ‘born again’ or ‘born from above’ really means, or entails.

For me, I was one way, I prayed a ‘sinner’s prayer’ in a typical Evangelical church, and then I was a different way. Completely changed.

Some people never have an experience like this. I’ve heard of folks growing up in Christian homes who basically always believed, so there wasn’t a ‘conversion experience’, per se.

The Apostle Paul had an interesting experience (Gal. 1:15-16) where he reports Christ was revealed as already having been in him. I don’t pretend to understand his perspective on the whole thing, except that the mystery of salvation is indeed, something mysterious, and probably much deeper than we know.

Was I ‘saved’ when I prayed the sinner’s prayer?

Or on the Cross when we were co-crucified with Him?

Or ‘when Christ was crucified before the foundation of the world’?

I don’t know. It might be all three. Maybe there are degrees to this thing.

Whose faith was involved? Jesus’ faith? My faith?

Does my belief, or lack of belief, somehow affect the outcome?

A lot of people give pat answers to these question, without really thinking how much mystery is involved here.

 

Mystery is beautiful.

 

Mystery can be frustrating to those who insist on doctrinal surety, who demand that everything be put in neatly-organized theological boxes, with strict guidelines.

But, as has been said many, many times, God refuses to be put in a box.

God refuses to be strictly categorized.

God is way, way too mysterious for that.

And that’s OK.

 

We have Jesus.

 

We have Jesus, so we can see what God looks like, how he feels, thinks, and behaves.

We can see the character of Jesus. We can see what he did after his life on earth, through the letters of Paul.

We can see what Jesus is still doing, today, right now.

But there is so much beautiful mystery out there.

Study! Study the Scriptures. There’s always more to learn. Don’t be ignorant if you can help it. Learn, and be diligent to teach others.

But leave room for mystery.

Nobody *really* knows how all this works.

And that’s OK.

The Plans God Has for Us

Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash
Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

Jeremiah 29:11.

I’ve heard several folks go on and on about how this scripture doesn’t apply to us, it’s only for Israel, blah de blah.

Well, let’s reverse it and see if it still applies.

‘For I *don’t* know the plans I have for you, says the Lord…’

Well, crap. God doesn’t know the future any more than we do?

We’re screwed already.

Dare I continue?

‘…I don’t have plans to prosper you…’ or ‘…I have plans for you to be broke and miserable…’

Well, that just makes me feel all fine and dandy right there. Again, screwed.

‘…I have plans to harm you…’ or ‘…you’re on your own when harm comes…’

Yep, sounds like Jesus right there, doesn’t it?

‘…and there is no hope for you, and no future.’

Now I ask you, does ANY of that sound like Jesus?

No.

God is confident in our future. Why? Because we have the Holy Spirit in us.

God has plans to prosper us. ‘Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be healthy, even as your soul prospers.’ “But that’s just Paul!” Shush. It’s the Holy Spirit praying through Paul.

God doesn’t plan to harm you. He’s determined to protect you. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Look up New Testament scriptures on protection if you don’t believe me.

God has hope for you. Why? Christ is within you. “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

God has a future for you. “Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” And also, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

So let’s not get overzealous with saying which scripture applies where. If a friend (or enemy? Frienemy?) is dogmatic about Jeremiah 29:11, remind them of the converse and see if it applies us, under the New Covenant, under Christ. If any of those negative things I started with applied to us, we’d be messed over.

But Christ is good, and we have the Holy Spirit, and “…all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich).

Be blessed today. God’s got you.

Thoughts on Thought, Part 2

‘Evil’ thoughts…where do they come from?

There’s no one particular source.

‘From the desperately wicked heart!’ an Old Testament scholar might write. And they’d be correct. In a sense.

‘From demons!’ a Charismatic preacher might claim. And they’d be correct. In a different sense.

‘From other people!’ an occultist might say. And they, too, might also be right.

There’s no one particular source for the crazy, random, just-plain-bad stuff that pops into our heads from time to time.

Some unfortunate people latch onto these thoughts and think, ‘well, if I am thinking these bad thoughts, that must mean I’m a bad person!’ Right?

Wrong

You’re not a bad person. You’re created in the image of God, forgiven and redeemed by Christ on the Cross, and made holy.

Your sins, whatever evil you’ve done or thought, has all been washed away. Sin, as a ruling entity over your life, was crucified with Christ 2,000 years ago.

It is finished.

Your thought life will become cleaner as you learn that those thoughts are not yours.

You have a new nature: righteous, perfect, and holy.

Where do the evil thoughts come from?

Who cares?

They’re not you. You’re the temple of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual fruit grows from healthy trees, and you are a healthy tree planted in good soil.

Value the good, holy, and pure thoughts. Learn to let go of those that are beneath your standing as a son or daughter of God.

Let them go. Breathe.

It’s going to be OK.

Thoughts on Thought, Part 1

Photo by Laurenz Kleinheider on Unsplash
Photo by Laurenz Kleinheider on Unsplash

Human thought is funny.

We can’t control every thought that pops into our heads. Nor can we always discern the source. I believe our minds are somewhat permeable no matter how much attention we give them.

Mindfulness is where it’s at. We don’t necessarily need to look at a thought and wonder, ‘where did this come from? Is it a demon? Is it me? Is it something else?’

What we need to do is learn to let go of such thoughts.

You are not your thoughts. I used to identify myself with the way I thought, so I would have good days and bad days. If my thinking was mostly positive that day, it was a good day. If not, it was a bad day.

I had a lot more bad days than good, while I was thinking that way.

—-

Centering Prayer is a meditative practice that helped me a bit with this. In CP you spend 20 minutes a day (or ten, or however much you can manage), in doing nothing but letting thoughts go. A thought comes, you let it go. Another thought comes, you let it go.

I didn’t stick with Centering Prayer for very long, but it did help with the mindfulness factor.

I learned to value being instead of thinking. Breathing, and just living, instead of relying on the ping-pong of neurons in my skull.

—-

I spend a lot of time in the intense presence of God. Sometimes it’s so intense I feel inebriated. Other times it’s more subtle.

When God resolved my loneliness problem, it was in the presence of such concentrated Presence, what I would call a spiritual ecstasy, that a negative way of thinking broke, and I was able to discern the mind of Christ.

(I see the mind of Christ as being not merely a condition of thought, but a spiritual place that we can ‘live, move, and have our being’, as well as a continuously-available source of reference to our actual, in-Christ selves.)

—-

Now, when a thought comes my way, I can detect whether it sounds like the mind of Christ or not. If it doesn’t feel right, I let it go past me.

Sometimes, particular thoughts are more insistent than others.

But I see those thoughts as being outside me, not inside, and I don’t let those thoughts control me any more. I hear the thoughts either knocking on the door politely, or banging on my door violently, but whether subtle or insistent, I ignore them and turn inside to the presence of God, and the thoughts go away. I stayed at peace while the intruding thought made itself known, and I rejoiced when it left.

—-

There is an adage, ‘you can’t stop a bird landing on your head, but you can prevent it from building a nest in your hair.’ We can’t entirely prevent strange thoughts from popping into our head. What we CAN do is be mindful of such thoughts, and refuse to let them wreak havoc in our lives.

More on this later.

The Palace

‘We live in a house made of thoughts’, I wrote down, thinking it profound.

Then I had an experience that made me discard all that nonsense.

I used to think that my thoughts were me. No more!

Thoughts of worry, fear, doubt, all of that nonsense, it’s just noise. Like the buzzing of bees or a dinner party I can’t wait to leave.

I retreat into a quiet room inside myself and shut the door.

I look around. Papa, Jesus, and Holy Spirit are there. Nothing else that I could see at that moment.

What else is there?

As I look, I discover a palace inside. The noisy room that I thought was inside me, is instead outside.

I begin to explore the palace. The chandeliers especially fascinate me—I’ve always liked chandeliers.

It reminds me of a dream I had once: a hidden warehouse I found behind a garbage dumpster. Racks and shelves full of ‘hidden treasure’ to be discovered.

Now I know that the garbage has been dealt with, and that this palace has been made from those materials.

No one else can go here. This is my mansion, my retreat, my paradise within.

How did I find this palace?

Presence.

I learned to abide in Christ.

I learned about the mind of Christ, how he thinks.

The mind of Christ is a calm, sound, well-balanced mind full of peace and joy.

When thoughts buzz around my head, when bad dreams bother me, I remember: those thoughts, those memories, those are not me.

The real me rejoices inside. The Trinity rejoices in me. The peace is inside. I forget about the noise and abide in Christ.

I wish I could lead you to your own internal palace. Maybe I will spend the rest of my life helping lead others to theirs.

Pioneers

Photo by Edward Virvel on Unsplash
Photo by Edward Virvel on Unsplash

One of the things I’ve been lately is lonely. Really lonely. I have plenty of friends on Facebook. In real life? Not so much. It’s been difficult!

Someone pointed out to me tonight that I am a pioneer, which is often a lonely place. Trailblazers, path-cutters, go ahead alone, with a few others at time, to make the path straight. My friend Dusty said, “Just imagine all the shit our kids won’t have to deal with religiously, because we walked this lonely path before them…even though we’re not alone…[our] Father is with [us]. Even though the work’s been done from the foundation of the Cosmos… it hasn’t been lived out… never been seen… never been watched… never been full experienced or realized… and so… we cut the path…”

I’m into mystic Christianity, meaning, among other things, that I embrace and abide in the tangible presence of God…not that I’m always consistent or good at it, mind you, but line Brother Lawrence and others before me, I work with the Holy Spirit to live in the midst of that joy that is a fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace…I want to live in all of that, all of the time. I want to be glowing with the presence of God, for others to experience God because He is inside and around me to the point where it’s obvious to everybody that something is going on. People healed in my shadow, people touched by the presence of God just because I walked in the room…that’s what I want. And that’s where we’re going, He and I, together.

Even though I’ve been lonely lately, the pioneer idea ‘clicked’ with me. I’m sure God will send others to run with, but if not, I have Him, and sometimes that’s all we need.

Music that Matters: Barnabas (Introduction)

For the first band in my series, I’ve chosen Barnabas, a Christian heavy metal band from the 1980’s.

But first, the music.

No Freedom, off of Approaching Light Speed, circa 1983.

I first heard about Barnabas through my friend Jerry Wilson, who interviewed Nancyjo Mann, Kris Klingensmith, and Gary Mann in his book, God’s Not Dead And Neither Are We: The story of Christian alternative rock’s pioneers. But I didn’t really listen to Barnabas until after I friended Kris K. on Facebook. His writing style appealed to me, along with his stories of life in a rock band, so I decided to take a listen.

Initially, I didn’t like them.

I heard a few snippets on YouTube and it was OK, but heavy metal is not my go-to genre; my CD collection is filled with progressive rock, electronic music, and Americana.

But after reading more about Barnabas over a year or so, I decided to take the plunge: I bought their five albums and the rarities CD from Boone’s.

I listened through each album twice, per Kris K’s recommendation. And I liked what I heard.

Barnabas is not just heavy metal. Nancyjo Mann delivered some great vocals, and the band was fantastic. Loosely speaking, Barnabas is a heavy metal band, but here and there you’ll hear blues and a ballad or two.

Barnabas was never boring.

Alas, history, and certain preachers, were unkind to Barnabas, and the fame they deserved eluded them. Rather than telling their story again, I’ll point you to the three best sources for Barnabas history: Wikipedia, Jerry’s book, and the official fan page.

In 2019, it’s a great time to become a Barnabas fan.

Whereas their catalog before was spread across multiple labels and reissues were of varying quality (usually poor), their albums are all now available in well-made remastered editions, complete with the original cover art, short essays, and lyrics. (They aren’t true remasters, as the original master tapes are long lost–but they still sound great!) You can purchase these from Boone’s Overstock.

Sadly, their music is not available via Bandcamp or streaming platforms yet. (Drop by their Facebook page and give them some gentle encouragement in that area, won’t you?) But you can listen to the non-remastered releases on YouTube:

Find Your Heart A Home

Hear The Light

Approaching Light Speed

Feel The Fire

Little Foxes

Next up: A full exploration of their first album, Hear The Light.

Trust The Process, Enjoy The Walk

Trust the process.

I know most ‘grace people’ don’t like the word ‘process’, but what else do you call it, when you are learning things daily, and you have to walk through it over time?

Every day, you get to learn more about:

how God is good…

how God has the best intentions for you, and his best intentions are better than you can imagine…

how God is absolutely trustworthy, and…

how God is absolute love. Always.

The Christian ‘walk’ is just like…a walk. Walks take time. You have your own personal ‘road to Emmaus’ to walk with the Holy Spirit.

Enjoy the walk. Trust the process.

Living From My Deepest Desires

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

I am learning to live from my deepest desires. Holy Spirit has been asking me, and showing me, what I REALLY want down inside.

I want to be healthy in both mind and body. This body is a temple. I’m finding that deep down inside, I want to take care of it. And Holy Spirit is showing me little changes I can make on a daily basis, to do just that.

I want healthy relationships with family, friends, and those who will become my friends in the future. This has involved rooting out certain unhealthy beliefs and prejudices that were hindering me from growing closer to others.

Deep down inside, I want to be financially healthy. I want to be able to give abundantly and save money in a healthy way, not just be a consumer and CONSUME EVERYTHING. I might even find myself selling things. That would be a miracle. 🙂

Rooting out the Law, the legalism that has plagued my mind for years, along with Gnosticism, has been key here. I’m not making new laws. I’m finding my true desires and going along with them. That’s a HUGE difference. I am not disciplining myself. I am becoming more disciplined by tuning in to what it is I REALLY want. I believe that these things will work out this time, because I am proceeding from love (for myself and others) instead of being problem-focused. Sure, this takes some walking out and working out. But I believe I’m on the right path.

I bless you in your journey to discover your deepest desires, and to walk in them. Let God show you what it is you truly want. It will involve love. It will involve peace. It will involve generosity. It will involve joy.