I Wanted To Be Jewish (Overcoming Obsessions, Part 1)

This morning a couple of songs from ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ were in my head. I reflected on Twitter that I hadn’t watched the movie since my ‘I wanted to be Jewish’ kick about a decade ago.

One of the worst flaws of my personality is the tendency towards obsession. Through the years I’ve been, by the grace of God, able to tame that tendency somewhat. I’ll walk you through some of the faulty logic here, and perhaps this will help you if you recognize this tendency in yourself. Or perhaps you’re a Christian who is obsessed with ‘Jewish roots’ and need a kick in the pants.

More after the break. Continue reading “I Wanted To Be Jewish (Overcoming Obsessions, Part 1)”

The Pain of Becoming

Today’s music is actually a whole album, Anjunabeats Volume 12. by Above & Beyond. Because it’s a trance album where all the songs flow into each other, it doesn’t make sense to just link to one track. Here’s an Amazon purchase link.

51JQHobFsaLI’ve been reading several books lately of a self-help, philosophical nature, and while they have been both informative and entertaining, I won’t link to them because they’re also painful to read, at least for me.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with Christian meditation, working on focusing my mind and thoughts, rather than living life with my brain wandering everywhere. It’s helped lift me out of the funk I’ve been in lately, which is good, and a lot of times I will get insights from the Holy Spirit as to why things are the way they are in my very complicated head, or a better sense about life.

One of the things I realized today is why reading some of these self-help books is so painful is that perhaps they’re not intended for me. Maybe they’re painful to read because they don’t fit a certain pattern that God established for my life. He says he is making us like Christ, but ‘Christ in me’ looks different than ‘Christ in you’, as expressed through our unique personalities and emotional makeup.

One problem is that I’m unsettled in my identity and I don’t feel successful in life, so I latch on to someone who seems self-assured and is successful, then I wonder why their approach to life doesn’t seem to work for me. There’s probably a reason for that: I’m not that person, and I suspect that for me, self-assurance and success is going to look very different.

I don’t know what I’m becoming; I’m still in that ugly stage where it feels like, at times, I don’t know which way is up. Maybe, just maybe, that confusion is OK. As I learn to focus through meditation, that extra step that helps me keep centered in the Spirit, I believe things are getting better, slowly. But I have to let go of the idea that I am going to look like other people, that my success is going to be the same as theirs. Sure, I can grab some helpful pointers here and there, but God isn’t making me into that person. He’s recreating me according to my original intended design, reducing the complicated to the simple, turning pain into peace.

 

Pressure

Today’s song is Pressure by Billy Joel, off of his album The Nylon Curtain.

Over the past week I’ve been struggling with various pressures that I haven’t found a solution for yet. My career, politics, world events, being able to afford college for my kids, just a lot of stuff piling up and overwhelming me at times.

yyyyyAs always, the solution remains: withdraw and recharge. Spend time in God’s presence. And take care of my health.

Modifying my diet hasn’t really happened yet, but I am getting more exercise, and that helps. I’ll definitely be healthier after I finish allergy treatments–I’m having to take shots because I have been sick most of the year due to allergies, and that kind of pressure never helps you think clearly. Getting adequate sleep also helps, and I haven’t done a very good job of that as of late.

I don’t have much to offer in this post, and I apologize for that. Stress has been getting the best of me lately, and it’s more important than ever that I take my concerns and fears to God. I hope you’ll do the same. He’s the only one who knows how to fix whatever problems you have, or get you through the problems to the other side.

Productivity vs. ‘Productivity’

Today’s song has absolutely nothing to do with the title, it’s just a song I like. In case you can’t see the player, the song is Swoon by Imogen Heap, off her album Ellipse.

Let me tell you about spiritual disciplines: I suck at them. Very badly.

‘Quiet times’? My mind wanders or I fall asleep.

Bible reading? Only when I’m looking up a verse when I’m writing, or reading along with the lessons in church.

Prayer? I don’t have a set time for prayer. I pray all day long. (Usually the prayer is, ‘help!’)

Every weekday, I get in my car and the question is, what will I do that morning? Listen to a book or listen to music? Usually the answer is pretty obvious, it’s whatever is less painful. I don’t know if this will make sense, but it’s like the explanation one of the main characters gets in the book and miniseries 11.22.63: when you’re about to change the past, you just know it. It’s like you’re pressing against an invisible wall.

Every morning and afternoon I face that anxiety. I need to learn. I need to grow up. I need to study. Every day I am powerfully reminded of how ignorant I really am, how much I don’t know, and it’s very frustrating, disappointing, and even causes anxiety. Medicine helps with the anxiety, but the feeling is still there. I always feel like I have to be learning something.

613+MSjGDRL._SL1500_A lot of times, I’m some what dismayed to learn that the answer is: listen to music and just spend time in the presence of God, praying in tongues or to myself or out loud or whatever. When I say ‘dismayed’, I mean that my rational mind is disappointed because it thinks, ‘I’m not going to learn anything new.’ Deeper inside, I know, yes, I might not gain intellectual knowledge, but I might just glean something from the Spirit. It’s a tension I experience daily.

Spending time in the presence of God is never a waste of time. I know that from experience. A lot of times I’ll gain a lot from simple questions or impressions that come to mind while I’m spending that time sort of doing nothing, just letting my mind wander and spirit fly free. It’s weird how it works. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” ‘In him we live and move and have our being.’ ‘We can do nothing without him.’

I can’t say when I learned to ‘abide in the presence of God’, to borrow some Charismatic church-speak. When I was living through my tormented years, an unhelpful church leader said, ‘Well, just crawl up into Daddy’s lap and spend time there.’ This made no sense to me. I was constantly torn apart on the inside because of my schizophrenic belief system: I was bad and good at the same time, and I just. could. not. get. free. from. sin. No matter what, I was constantly tormented inside. Have a bad thought, cast it down. A few minutes later, have another bad thought, case it down. I was constantly having to do that, and it was making me mentally exhausted all the time.

A few years later, I learned that that stuff wasn’t my fault. I got free from the schizophrenic belief system: by grace I have been saved, I have been made clean by Jesus’ words. ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for me, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.’ Set me free, past tense.

I also got treatment for an anxiety disorder, which also helped tremendously, along with about six months of counselling to get my head clear, and I’m doing much better now.

Another thing that removed a lot of the tension was giving up on a ‘ministry mentality’. Since I had a ‘prophetic word’ back in 1997ish, I always believes I was going to be a pastor or preacher or something. I don’t remember what the minister said word-for-word, but the basic gist was that I would be preaching and speaking the Word. Maybe that’s coming true in a sense right now, in that I’m finally able to write things almost daily that hopefully help one or two people. The problem was all of the churches I filtered through after that, especially one we went to for over ten years, which were really high-powered and focused on activity. Find your calling, do your calling, now now now. The problem with that is, even going through ‘The Purpose-Driven Life’ and books about vision and purpose, nothing seemed to some to pass. I was still in dead-end jobs and all my attempts to minister to anyone fell flat. This is probably a good thing, because I was really, really screwed up by then, but this remained a pressure in my mind and caused me to do a lot of dumb things, including prioritizing ‘ministry goals’ above family, for almost 20 years.

Concerned about spiritual disciplines? Don’t be. Learn to spend time in the presence of God first. If you don’t know how, ask God to show you. He’s remarkably good at making himself heard. You most likely won’t hear a voice from the sky. It’ll be a simple idea. Or maybe you’ll get an inkling to start asking for things because you suddenly believe. Maybe you’ll feel more peaceful than before. Embrace that.

Doing Something About It

Today’s song (click here if you can’t see the player) is ‘Bad Body Double’ by Imogen Heap, off the album Ellipse. It’s a strange little song, because the speaker is essentially talking to herself as if she had a split personality, thinking about the things she doesn’t like about herself (‘a little extra weight on the side’, for example) as if those things were attributes of someone else.

For the longest time, I’ve been packing on the pounds as if I was deliberately trying to fatten myself up for the slaughter. My desk job is literally killing me, but so is the habit of eating bad-for-me things all the time and not getting enough exercise.

Last week I came to a sudden realization that what I am doing is committing slow suicide–I know that I’m killing myself and doing it deliberately. At that point, I had to decide: do I want to live, or do I want to die?

The answer before was obvious: I was depressed. I didn’t value my life because I didn’t enjoy it. I was worried about my wife and kids, sure, but I was also miserable, and while I would never have done anything to deliberately sever the silver cord, I was essentially doing that anyway in a slow manner.

So I’ve made a few changes. But I’m doing it my way, and that way means the fun way. My brain is wired in what I think might be a slightly hedonistic way: if it’s not fun, I generally won’t do it. So I’m making it a sort of game, ‘gamifing’ it, if you will. Do I need to eat those M&Ms? Can I shave a few calories off by not eating the fries? Can I fit in some more exercise somehow? And when I successfully resist the temptation to eat more, rather than rewarding myself with food, I’m rewarding myself with the understanding that every little bit I do now is an investment in my future: a thigh gap, the ability to wear XL or 2XL shirts again, not feeling exhausted all the time, et cetera.

But this didn’t happen because of any effort on my part. Jesus said that ‘in myself, I can do nothing.’ And he only uses the ‘weak and foolish things’. Being weak and foolish and recognizing that is essentially what qualifies me for miracles. And a ‘miracle’, in this instance, is a change of thinking.

In order to change our thinking (metanoia), we have to rely on the Spirit to work within us. Often God’s voice sounds like our voice, a clever, new idea in our head that is the answer to a problem. Those sudden ideas, or sudden surprising questions that pop into my head, are things that I value, and something any believer should value.

How To Change The World, Right Where You’re Sitting Now

This morning I caught this tweet by Dan Scavino, Donald Trump’s campaign manager. See if you notice the key phrase.

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To punctuate the point, a second tweet came out a few minutes later, using the same phrase:

movement2

Did you catch the phrase? Continue reading “How To Change The World, Right Where You’re Sitting Now”

Healing and Invisible Walls

This is what I feel like today.
This is what I feel like today.

This is the first article I’ve seen anywhere that gets healing right, in my estimation:

In both Evangelical and Charismatic circles, evangelism often looks remarkably like business sales.

  • Establish a need – “You are headed straight for eternal, fiery torment. You need help”
  • Pitch the main benefit – “By accepting Jesus, you can avoid eternal, fiery torment.”
  • Sweeten the deal – “But wait, there’s more. God answers prayer (for healing, finances, relationships) so you will have a better life.”
  • Always be closing – “Would you like to pray this prayer and avoid fiery damnation?”
  • Don’t waste too much time on any one pitch – there are too many souls that need saving.

In this context, healing ministry tends to be part of the salvation sales pitch. It tends to be less personal and more “how can we reach the most people”.

There are upsides and downsides to this perspective, but regardless of one’s opinion on the matter, it makes sense to have an “I don’t know” theology on healing when our goal is maximum reach and “results aren’t guaranteed”. It makes sense to keep our expectations of healing vague when we can’t predict the outcome and salvation is the primary objective.

The rest of the article is fantastic, too, and I recommend it highly.

I’m thinking about healing today because I’m coughing out my lungs due to bronchitis. Thanks God for medicine. But I’ve always been taught healing as a sort of magical thing that happens when I do x. Doesn’t matter what x is, it’s usually something that’s not sustainable. Have so-and-so pray for you, he’s really anointed. Give more money. Pray more. Read your Bible more. And the list goes on. Continue reading “Healing and Invisible Walls”