Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Equipped but Inadequate

I am special. I know I am! And if I don't feel I currently am, I'll make myself special! I'll go to school. Get the best grades. If I can't get the best grades I'll work hard elsewhere and get the best job. I'll get that job that people admire; the one that demands respect. I'll make money; plenty of money. Money will buy me the respect. And for now, I'll adorn myself with the nicest cloths. I'll be trendy and attractive. Besides, it makes me feel good. My Facebook profile will show me at my best. The way I want people to see me: popular, smart, deep, spiritual, motley! I'll find a spouse who fits the mold better than you could draw up. Beauty beneath their brains - they'll lift me up all the more. A pristine family that projects "perfect normalcy". And finally I'll drape my weakness with the cloak of personality! I'll impress, woo, captivate, and entertain. I'll "inspire", perplex and even lead. I'll command your attention and that of neighbors, friends, clergy, employers and employees, the strong, the wealthy, the poor, the weak and even the innocent bystander!
Yes! I am special or at least I will make myself special. You'll see........
"Be still and know" Ps 110. Take a moment. Be at ease child. Release yourself. Vindicate yourself from the loathsome fear of inadequacy. You are special! You are! You are special and I have seen it! But....not because of what you've done or can do. No it's because of what He's done. You are special because you are God's child. Wait! Don't go! Don't lose focus! "God's"!! Think for just a moment of who we're talking about! God: the thing that “made” everything! The creator, the only being not constrained by time, not only the all-powerful but Power itself! Not the king of a country, or a continent, not even the earth but the King of everything. Yes, you are indeed special. Very special. Because you are the son of that Creator. That Power. That King
You were reborn and dipped into His Spirit and it filled you. You eat His Body and drink His Blood. There is now a Light that lives in you. Let that light so shine before man! No! Don't cloth your weakness. Don't adorn your body. Don't try and "make" and "create" yourself! “For [I] created your inmost being. [I] you knit me in my mothers womb” Ps 139:13. Anything you do will only cover that Light! And slowly with more and more concealers the light will be smothered! Yes, you will still be God's child...but no one will know it. You will cease to be, special. 
Instead, rip off anything that may disguise your connection to the King. Face your fear of going out and being naked and without "worldly" covers. Allow, for once, yourself to be you. The "you" that He created - that He knit. For that realness and truth is better than anything you can make yourself into. For when you are most truly you, you will realize that you are not naked but instead well equipped. Well equipped for that task at hand.

2 Corinthians 3: 4-6

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Shots Fired!

Socrates: “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”
…yeah whatever dude.

As I was driving to work the other day (on my way to a 3-11pm pediatric ER shift) I was overcome with the feeling, no the realization, that “I know nothing.” Before I could question the thought, I was also visited by its relative “I control nothing.” Believe me, I tried to ward off the unpleasant house guests but they settled in and made themselves at home in both my logic and my emotions.
So where did they come from? I knew exactly where. You see I have responsibilities (no different that those of anyone else) that my conscience will never let me avoid or dismiss. And when those responsibilities are threated by the volatile, cancerous situation that continually challenges everything that I believe (also, no different than that of anyone else)  …well the result creates a moment of decision.
But this is ME we’re talking about—I know everything and I can handle anything. I can stop, assess, and act “accordingly” in every situation. I can put the world and its problems on my shoulders without losing a step. I’m a control freak: what isn’t in my hands makes me anxious because I’m not the one controlling it! How and why could I all of a sudden feel like this?!

At this very moment I was staring down a barrel loaded with the world and all of its very real concerns. Mixed in were my own conscious nagging responsibilities and all together fused with my particular “volatile and cancerous” situation! I was vulnerable. I…could..n’t…handle…it! It was too much. Not in a dramatic or hysterical way! Lol I wasn't a blond girl who got the wrong drink at Starbucks but I had a calm, honest awareness of my own limitations. I was defenseless in front of a complete firing squad of situations and problems that I thought I was handling. And it was too late. The shots had already been fired. The results of the world’s difficulties and the consequences of evil (both mine and of others!) were all traveling towards me in the form of shotgun pellets primed to ravage my spirit and psyche. And here we arrive, together, at that moment of decision that I brought up earlier.
Now, since you know exactly how I was feeling, I promise, no more dramatic analogies!

But after hours of deliberation and conversations searching for a solution to a series of various and festering issues I was through! As I looked over everything and as much as I honestly wanted to put in the effort and necessary sacrifices to rectify everything, I couldn't; I didn't know how to. There really didn't seem to be solutions. The ironic and annoying component was that regardless of everything I’d been taught (and that I teach!!!), the way I’ve been raised and properly taught to think, and the stability I’ve been given through my faith, I was fresh out of ideas.
But strangely………I was not worried.

How could I be? The shots had been fired and I was very literally on my knees and done trying to fix everything on my own. And the truth of the matter was that although God did not do all this, He was with me through all this. And He didn't want me to fix it. I “knew” it to be true that He was with me but so long as I was the one handling my problems, how could I really “know” that He was there? I can’t stop the imminent damage of the gunshots inching ever closer towards me. NO, He had to let me exhaust all of my own methods and then wait for me to realize that He was the managing. Hey, Socrates, I don't know jack man! But it’s ok because God does! And to me, “God Willing” is a much better solution than whatever I had to offer. And same goes for everything else in my life, particularly my future. I can’t possibly know and try to dictate the direction my life takes. It’s impossible for me to assume the results of my “good” and “bad” choices. It’s even hard to assume that those more experienced than me can truthfully give good guidance. I don't say it out of arrogance but because for them to lead successful lives then at some point they must have arrived at the same conclusions of “I know nothing.” Right?

And as the feeling of “I knew nothing” and “I control nothing” settled in, it was obvious that it was actually God who had intentionally carved a niche for them in my heart and mind. My poor problems could not longer handle my involvement! They needed “my weakness so that His strength could be perfected.” And now, He is finally ready to use me. You see I’m writing this in the peaceful moments that I have after the shots have been fired. None of the issues that I “spoke” about have been resolved and the sound of their consequences are still raging in front of me.  But I’m not worried. Instead I’m humble. Lol not because I want to be but because I have no other option. I have become a malleable piece of clay waiting for my Potter. I am a blank slip of paper waiting for my Scribe. I have laid down flat, face to the ground because I can no longer stand on my own.

But that's the way He wants me. Because so long as I’m lying down the enemies bullets can't touch me.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Luke 15:1-7

            I’ve found few things more difficult to endure than the deviation of a childhood friend from the course that we both set out on. There was a time when we both walked in the same Light but at some tragic juncture, something changed. There is also the case of meeting a long gone companion of another who also has split and chosen to walk a separate path. And still, there are those sheep who although have never been exposed to the Shepherd’s voice would recognized it if He called.
            There are instances when I wonder what exactly the Shepherd is doing to retrieve His single lost sheep. On the rare occasions in which I am not a "prodigal" sheep and I am instead praying for a lost friend, I cannot seem to find my place in the parable? Am I of the blessed ninety-nine who can be trusted to graze on their own? Or am I the lost sheep who has no business pleading for the Shepherd to go after His missing creation? For if I too am lost then my cries are far from His ear.
            Or even still, am I the one who is supposed to go and seek out the lost member of my herd? As a servant of the Shepherd, it is important to recognize that I am always and simultaneously a member of all three parties: I have been entrusted to the church (the ninety-nine), I do frequently go astray (the lost sheep), and I am at times responsible for seeking out a missing member of my community. Yet I have neither the skills nor the tools required to reach out to the lost for I too have questions, doubts, and sins that distance me from the Shepherd. Even if I was so inclined to go out on my own to try and retrieve a lost member, I have been previously told that the sheep know His voice.
            Yet again, as a servant I have come to the realization that although I was lost and found, I now have the luxury of pressing on with Christ as He seeks out His own. Yes, I now walk with Him in solitude as He calls my friend back to His flock! The joy for a servant lies not in simply finding and returning missing members of the church BUT in walking daily with Christ as He (not I) calls. We are together, alone and free to converse about MY sins, my doubts, and my concerns. So long as we are walking together I am protected from my lusts and I really can feel His closeness. We walk silently until I first raise my voice to Him. I ask, and then I listen. I confess and then He embraces. The mountains and the cliffs that we encounter together are the moments when He shows, or rather, proves His power to me.
The further the missing sheep lies, the longer our time together and the more exclusive time I have with my Shepherd.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Peering through the Window

The eye is the lamp of the body. It is by the eye that the mind is able to receive the world. Continuing so: if the eye then is flawed, the mind will have a faulty perception of reality, and still, if the mind is flawed, then the mind will create and store within itself hidden falsies. If these distorted assertions were individual disconnected premises that had no bearing on a man’s soul then the mistaken view of the world would be excusable. The issue then arises from the understanding that it is through the conception of these distortions and the process by which they were conceived that the voice of the Designer is dulled. The accumulation of wrongful perceptions of the world, of others, and of the self creates an unstable foundation for a person’s existence. The weak foundation is built on with more bricks until the structure entirely collapses. But if it is the relationship between the eye and the mind that allows for the processing of the external world, by what system if any does the external world process the internal being?
The physician-writer responds in perfect medical and philosophical terms when he say: “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). He acknowledges that within the confines of the heart are stored what has been accumulated from the world. He then asserts that it is through a man’s words that this accumulation, mixed with his perceptions, is reciprocated. It is at this juncture that our job begins. Through a man’s words, the educated and loving listener can learn and detect the motivations of the soul, the misconceptions about the self and the world, and the potential diseases of the mind. In speaking about the parable of the talents, our late Patriarchal Father, Pope Shenouda III, says: “the mind is a ‘talent’ that can be ‘lost’. In the case of sin, there is found within the mind a wrongful understanding.” He continues: “The mind is not stable.”
It then becomes our job as servants and stewards of truth to uncover the flawed systems of perception in those whom we serve: by listening. By listening we are able to peer through the window of the heart and see deep into the concealed layers of a struggling soul. By listening we can not only detect the impairments of individual thoughts but also the process by which these thoughts are wrongfully collected and formulated. Listening, understanding, and conveying understanding becomes for us the vehicle by which the “doctor” can “reach” the “patient.”
Hearing the specific word choice, the ordering of ideas, and the tone of voice, the listening poses the question: “Why does he chose to say what he is saying in this manner?” Watching the patient is equally important: “based the hands, the posture, and the facial expression, what is the confidence level contained within his own words? Does he believe his own words or does he seeks attention?” Attention can even be paid to those thoughts and ideas that are skipped, omitted, or briefly touched on by the speaker: “Why did he not say…? Was a thought glanced over for the sake subtly or embarrassment, or maybe because of some unknown fear?” Over time the good listener can begin to uncover the idiosyncratic use of the patient’s language, emotion and movement. It is only at this point where the listener can speak; speak in order to first break down the collapsing building in a safe way and uprooting the unstable foundation.
Seeing, hearing, and detecting the inner unconscious conflicts, the hidden distortions, and the faulty association, is a difficult task that was laid upon us. It is a slow process requiring much time and persistence. Fortunately, along with being the “True Physician,” He is also the perfect teacher-listener.
But as important as all this may be, something is still more pressing. The question bodes: who now can preform these acts on themselves?
Who can listen and detect their own faulty conceptions of the world?
Who can hear the mind suppressing the spirit for its own gain?
Who of us can detect the body when it attempts to protect itself from the uneasiness of service and the help for other?
Who is able to attend to the “craftiness of the mind” when it yearns to fall into sin?
More… Who can listen so closely to their own thoughts that they can retrace the Designer’s thoughts deep within the soul uncovering His voice within us?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


“Oh what’s this guy doing? Again? Now?”
Whether its snowing, raining, or the temperature is sub-freezing he’s out there every morning. He and many like him are so common that they sometime “become part of the scenery.” I find that I notice him more when the weather is terrible and I’m in my car shivering. Bothered by the weather, frenzied by the list of tasks to complete before the day’s end, and confused by the seemingly contradictory action of running in “terrible weather,” I drive by hoping my tires splash water on him because he’s doing what I can’t.
Ok, so maybe I’m not that dramatic about the whole situation but it needs to be said that this runner has something that a lot of us don’t: consistency. Over time he’s developed and cemented this routine into his life. Regardless of the weather, regardless of what he “needs” to do on that day, and regardless of what may be going on in his life, you know that at 8:27 in the morning you can catch him rounding the corner on your way to school or work. Granted he may enjoy running but there are undoubtedly days where he wakes up and running with an injured leg in the cold weather, knowing that I’m out to splash him with my car, is not high on his list of “likable activates.” So why do it?
The answer lies hidden within a fact about the human psyche. The day this runner gives into his laziness, the stresses of life, or the weather he will then repeatedly allow his mind to fool him into skipping more “run-impairing-days.” But if today, when there is ice cold rain falling, he has plantar fasciitis in both heels, and he has a crucial meeting at work, he does actually manage to overcome his very rational excuses to “just skip today,” he will forever be able to overcome any obstacle the stands in direct contradiction to his routine.
And our spiritual lives are no different. In the Lent we need to spend time both creating new routines and solidifying weak ones. We should tell ourselves “No! I don't care how late it is, how much I have to do tomorrow morning, or how tired I am. I decided I’m going to do … and I’m going to do it.” Conversely, the first time we fall into a particular or new sin (in the Lent, but more likely at any point in our growth) it is catastrophic because it was often something that we never expected to happen. The horror is that we then become even more susceptible to falling into the same mistake a second or even third time! We become increasingly more desensitized to our own failure every time we fall. “No. I don't care how tempted I am by this sin, how ‘different’ this situation is from the ‘other’ times, or how undetectable this action will be. I decided I wouldn’t … and I’m not going to do it.” The goal when it comes to confronting sin in Lent is to return us to our original, or even “baptismal,” state.

But on the day where we forgo the routine, we are chopping at a sapling. When a seed is planted it takes a lot of time and “nurturing” before it sprouts and shows “life.” If during this crucial and equally sensitive time you take just one swing at it with an axe you could permanently eradicate the young tree. You then need to exude more effort replanting the same “seed” and again wait for it to take root. Too often in our spiritual lives we do this; before we allow our daily practices to become—daily practices, we let ourselves slip. Over time, a young sapling, the routine, will indeed grow thicker and stronger and spread its branches and roots into different dimension of our lives. If I can expand the analogy even further: over time the same tree may even “bear fruit;” fruit that will sustain us during trying times and fruit that others can tastes of for their own.

What’s the best way to do this? First: Don’t think long term. Think: “Today. Today I will accomplish...” and let tomorrow “worry about itself.” If you do what needs to be done today, then tomorrow will be the same. Second: Do it even if you don't feel it. So often I’ve let myself escape nightly prayer because I know I’ve misused the day, fallen into sin, or am just “too tired” and have no emotion towards God. Doesn't matter. Stand up and pray anyway. Sprinkling drops of water onto the seed is better than leaving it dry. Granted, tomorrow I may need to correct whatever made me feel this way but habit building is as much about repetition as it is about the practice itself. Third: Don't look for results so soon. This is one of the more difficult obstacles to overcome. There is no reason to treat a seed like a full grown tree and equally a young tree may not have ripe fruit. It takes a lot of time and conscious effort to build fruitful habits and we should not cease trying simply because we don't immediately feel or notice their effects.