Random Blog Clay Feet: November 23, 2007
Feel free to leave your own comments or questions. If you would like to be in contact with me without having it published let me know in your comment and leave your email address and I will not publish that comment.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Taking Heed to My Spirit

As I am going through some of the familiar emotions and experiences that are somewhat unique to holidays I am trying to be more observant as to what is going on inside myself and learn how to better respond to typically triggering situations. I am hoping that maybe I am maturing enough and have learned enough about how to act like myself to maybe be able to have a different response and potentially different outcomes this year than what usually happens. That is not to say that there is not enormous pressure to react and fall into the same rut and routine and role that has been ingrained in my family for many years. Many of the same triggers and assumptions are still in place and unfortunately still have a great deal of influence inside of me. But I do not want to go on being a pawn in the hands of the false gods that have ruled inside of me for so many decades. I want freedom to become a reality enough that it becomes attractive to others who observe a difference in my attitude and actions.

Today's reading from My Utmost was a perfect fit for my current circumstances right now and one that I need to maybe even frame and hang on my wall where I could read it quite regularly. It addresses probably the weakest area of my life that I struggle with and that God has been working to shore up and repair for many years – my generational inheritance of a negative spirit and a fault-finding, critical view of others.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Psalm 123:3.

The thing of which we have to beware is not so much damage to our belief in God as damage to our Christian temper. “Therefore take heed to thy spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” The temper of mind is tremendous in its effects, it is the enemy that penetrates right into the soul and distracts the mind from God. There are certain tempers of mind in which we never dare indulge; if we do, we find they have distracted us from faith in God, and until we get back to the quiet mood before God, our faith in Him is nil, and our confidence in the flesh and in human ingenuity is the thing that rules.

Beware of “the cares of this world,” because they are the things that produce a wrong temper of soul. It is extraordinary what an enormous power there is in simple things to distract our attention from God. Refuse to be swamped with the cares of this life.

Another thing that distracts us is the lust of vindication. St. Augustine prayed—‘O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.’ That temper of mind destroys the soul’s faith in God. ‘I must explain myself; I must get people to understand.’ Our Lord never explained anything; He left mistakes to correct themselves.

When we discern that people are not going on spiritually and allow the discernment to turn to criticism, we block our way to God. God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.

Chambers, Oswald: My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year. Grand Rapids, MI : Discovery House Publishers, 1993, c1935, S. November 23 (emphasis mine)

As I read this my mind immediately connected with an observation that became clear to me yesterday that is more evident when people get together for holidays. I have observed that when there is extended time together (or even alone sometimes) when there is little to do and it seems we are simply waiting for the “big event” to happen, like a big meal or opening presents or..., that the down-time creates a sense of uneasiness, boredom and a feeling of irritation begins to grow inside that becomes an atmosphere that is ripe for increased conflict between loved ones. This is harder to notice because the external reasoning for getting together is ostensibly to share more love and affection for one another through the traditions and routines of a holiday. But ironically the holidays that we suppose are going to enrich our relationships too often become flash points of unresolved tension and opportunities for new misunderstandings to create dissension and pain in our relationships.

This aspect about holidays has led me over the years to almost dread them myself. On the one hand I deeply crave time together with those I want to deepen my love with but at the same time this repeated experience of potential conflict and pain makes me afraid. Some people's solution to this problem is to fill the time with all sorts of planned activities so that there is reduced time for conflict. That may work to some extent and may even be helpful to a point, but it also can be a means of trying to control those around us against their will or be a means of filling the time with lots of shallow externals that allow us to hide from the deeper issues and fail to truly deepen our bonds of affection.

When I read today's Utmost I realized that this is one of those “tempers of mind” that distracts us from God. His Spirit is present during these times to mediate and bring about reconciliation, which is the special gift that God wants us to experience if we will pay attention to the condition of our spirit and ask for His intervention. I long for deeper internal bonds of love with my family and those God is bringing into my life. I am tired of being a source of pain and negative feelings to those around me. I am tired of this heavy weight of instant fault-noticing that my mind has been wired to use in viewing others. I want a different outlook renewed in the image of heaven that notices the good things about others first, instead of after strong effort and struggle. I want to have a humble, forgiving, accepting, caring spirit that feels natural instead of feeling like I have to force myself to think that way.

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NRSV)

God, I choose to cooperate with this work of Yours in me. Make Your work of reconciliation more clear in my mind and fill me with a spirit of gratitude and appreciation for who You really are and what You are doing. Help me to live in Christ and demonstrate more openly the effects of Your reconciliation in my life and spirit and relationships. Teach me how to be a reconciler myself drawing others to Your magnetic love for all of us.