Monday, April 30, 2012

An Addict's Truth

On self-control and sober minds

Sobriety, in contemporary vernacular is equated with the absence of drug or alcohol’s influence.  Its antithesis implies the giving over of one’s faculties to outside influence.  To surrender one’s person to the control of an altering substance. 

This morning, I read a beautifularticle about an obvious, physical addiction.  Heather Kopp, the author of SoberBoots, likened the addict’s state to that of a zombie:  the shell of a person, utterly lifeless, and bent only on destruction.  I want to take nothing away from that gripping, devouring experience of these physical addictions (be they porn, alcohol, or drugs); yet today, as I read Titus 1 and 2, her description made me wonder at spiritual addictions.  The combination this morning made me wonder at the difference between the words “self-control{NIV} and “sober minded.” {ASB} 

I’ve stood in many a room and introduced myself as thus:

                “Hi, I’m Jen.  And I’m an addict.  I am recovering from:…”  The list went on ad nauseum.  But, I wasn’t the stereotypical addict, utterly given over to substances; at least not on the outside.  However, in truth, I can look at my life and see where I have given control of my mind, my heart, and my life to things [people, ideas] outside of me.  Things outside of the Holy Spirit.

If you’re still reading, and thinking, “oh, good, this post has nothing to do with me,” might I humbly ask you to step back for just a moment.  And take a hard look at your days, at how they’re spent.  What’s the first thought in your head in the morning?  The last before you go to sleep?  What is the pervasive theme of your ruminations? 

Ask yourself:

What am I allowing to control me?

Is it my physical appearance?  Is it how I think others perceive me?  Is it my bank account or my bills?  Is it my home, my kids, my spouse, my long-distant family, my local friends, the politics in my churches, social media, politics, sports?  Is it serving God or his people?  Is there anything that has transformed who I was designed to be into a zombie’s mindless pursuit of the very object of my desire? 

Addiction’s a tricky thing.  If it’s not the obvious, external kind, then we can rationalize, justify.  We can even spiritualize some of these addictions.  If the expression of ours doesn’t look like the bum on the corner, or the zombie in Kopp’s blog, we dismiss it.  But that’s the deception.  The prideful “I’m better than those people.”  And it’s a lie. 

I can say this because none of us have arrived.  None of us so is completely given over to God’s graceful love that we are utterly unencumbered by this world and its passions.  All of us have something standing in the way of perfect communion with our Heavenly Father, in the resplendence of absolute Christ-likeness.  And whatever that thing is, that’s our addiction.

Because it is that which controls us. 

But God…

But Christ is the freer of captives, the healer of the broken, the answer to addiction.  Ask him to show you what’s making you a zombie.  Ask him to help you overcome it.  Ask him to help you stay sober-minded, not allowing your addiction to control you anymore. 

Ask Christ for sobriety.  Sobriety from this world and its vain pursuit.  There is no shame in admitting that you are not sober-minded, nor self-controlled.  Run head-long into Christ.  He always meets each one of us wherever we are.   The humble pursuits of a closer, deeper devotion to him is the cure for the addictions and distractions we all face.

The sober-minded pursuit of Christ, and Christ alone, requires self-control.  Perhaps therein the connection lies.               

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Wall Flower, Set Free

Yeah, I know.  I said I was falling off the face of the earth. 

And I am.  Or I will.  In just a moment; because a girl’s gotta come up for air sometimes; if only to remember why she’s holding her breath in the first place.
First, I have to admit something.  I’m slowing realizing that when I voice my opinion that doesn’t make me divisive.  I used to think that; that I had to go along, keep my mouth shut, and smile while rolling with the punches.  Because that’s what good, cooperative, submissive, quiet-spirited, humble Christian women do.  But, now, I know that my opinion (first grounded in the Truth of Scripture, then tempered with winsome grace, and finally hemmed in with Love, presented in the spirit of unity), might just be what’s required of me in that moment. 

The whole, for a time such a this idea.

A beautiful woman I’ve had the pleasure of being mentored by [in the days when our schedules gelled better], and whom I subsequently follow on all the appropriate social media outlets, wrote the following guest post for in.a.mirror.dimly, entitled, “Well-Behaved Women Won’t Change the Church.”  And like so much that Kathy Escobar does, it’s a work of art; a salve to my spirit and a respite for the creeping weariness.  Read it.  It’s honest, it’s encouraging, it’s my gentle push outside of my comfort zone.  Because, like Kathy, I can play the good-girl very well. 

Or, at least I could…a lifetime ago.

But now, I see that the suffocating silence hurt.  And while I’m bound to fail [as we all are, while clothed in this dying flesh], I am permitted, even called, to do it anyway.  My piece to is do what I am led.  And when I fail, own up to it and ask forgiveness; make amends when possible, and help rebuild or restore if I’m allowed.  But I have to start with doing. 

If you’d like to read more of Kathy’s posts, she blogs here.  She’s a wife, mom of five, co-pastor at the Refuge in Broomfield, and a great lady to take a walk around a lake with.  And she’s helping me find my voice and expand my joy, for the glory of God.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

But not today

There are so many thoughts flinging themselves about my mind right now; their incessant buzzing and clanging making me long for a pause, for a stop to time.  All I want to do it sit down and pull each one out, sort through them like brittle albums, and breathe fullness into them, giving them a life on paper. 

But not today.
Today’s tasks, which are also yesterday’s tasks that rolled over having been left undone, have mounted against me as a warring army, throttling my gates and testing for weakness in my fortifications.  And yes, right now, there are many.

Who doesn’t have days like that?  Who doesn’t have weeks like that; or even seasons, when your to-do’s so far outpace the time we have that they swallow up the entirity of your focus, energy, and even breath.

That’s what grace is for.  Among other things.

In a few short weeks, I’ll be on the other side of finals, and likely drunk with the substantial amount of time I will have at my disposal.  It happens every year.
But until then, I must buckle down, put my head in my books and not look up.  I must let certain things fall by the wayside, like cleaning and cooking and makeup and play-dates and friendly coffees.  Not because I want to, nor because I am lazy; but because

                There are only so many hours in the day.

And so, I’m claiming grace for the next three weeks.  Grace for a messy house.  Grace for too much take-out.  Grace for hastily thrown together children; and an abject lack of activities with them.  Grace for basically falling-off-the-face-of-the-planet (which is the vortex also known as the library). 

                And that is okay.

I will try to put up a few thoughts, what I’m learning through my Greek studies or in my Old Testament class, or even just a blog that someone else has sent me to get me through these next twenty days.  But know that in my head and my heart, I’m storing up all these things to come back and share…after a short while.      

Grace will see me through to the other side.  I look forward to seeing you there, too.

Monday, April 9, 2012

On languishing

Idyllic moments, spent languishing in the warmth of light, the edges soft and tinged gold with frequent recollections.  We all have those days, the ones where all is right with the world.  When life is easy and joy abounds.

But moments like these can be fleeting.  And become slanted with the striving of replication.

I wonder what it was like with Jesus, in the days of his incarnation.  The days when he visited friends, laughed, walked, ate, and slept among this tight group.  I wonder if, after the first resurrection day, the disciples spent their quiet moments recalling his voice, his laugh, the weight of his hand on a shoulder.  I wonder if, even with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, there were moments, in the still watches of the night, when they thought about what life was like before Easter.  If they missed it, if they longed for what they’d known before.  If, in spite of the indwelling, those amber-tipped memories kept them going more than they should have.      

Sometimes, I think we do just that.  We have a close moment with Jesus; we are unabashedly aware and immersed in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  And we live on that moment, letting it carry us, for longer than we should.  We let the memory of that moment feed our spirits, and instead of straining forward, we rest.  We slow.  We become stagnant. 
But that’s not what Christ asked his disciples to do.  They were to press forward, to live on the current and immediate presence of the Holy Spirit; not rest on their memories of the Incarnation.  And so, too, He requires his followers now to press forward.  Keep going, keep moving toward him.  When we have a moment with Jesus, with the Spirit, that is so other-worldly we can’t forget it, we are right to treasure it.  We are right to pull it out, and let it warm us in times that are weary and dark. 

But we shouldn’t rest on it so long that we grow weak from leaning too much on it.  Jesus calls us ever forward, ever toward him, ever deeper into his love.

Today, I recognize that I have spent too much time leaning on what was before.  Today, I recognize that the impetuous of Easter is forward motion.  Today, I recognize that I am to hold close those tender moments, to save them for when the road is too hard; but I am to press ever on.  Seeking other wanderers, offering hope to those in need of rescue, giving love to those who have been long forgotten by fellow sojourners. 

Today, I rise to action, out of love

because HE ROSE. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Judas' Kiss

It’s a dying world.  Rotting.  One could get lost forever in this darkness. 

The proof is in the media; whatever brand you choose.  The headlines alone cause me to question so much…

The week, the Officer has seen things, perpetrated against the most innocent, things that won’t make it to the front page; it makes me wonder how anyone can hope in a place so thick with evil. 

Yet, there was a time not so long ago that I kept company with this ever-present darkness.  Matched its step as a friend.  Breathed the same tempo, like a lover.  Synchronized my heart with this evil that has overcome the world.  Believed the lies, veiled my eyes to truth, and walked deep and long into the wilderness.    

It is always Good Friday that recalls this waywardness in me.  Its recollection brings sorrow.  The remembrance of what my place in the King’s house actually cost.  The price Christ paid, to wade into my desolation; and rescue me from my self-wrought destruction.      

But in meditating on the truth of the cross, hope is found.  There is nothing that the cross doesn’t cover.  Nothing too dark, too weighty, too horrible for Jesus to forgive. 

His blood is enough.  

For me.  For you.  For anyone who asks, who turns their face from the dark and asks to be let into the light.  The ransom has been paid.  You are free, if only you so desire. 

In order for the greatest act of creation to occur, the most grievous depths of despair and darkness had to be reached first.  Death.  Grief.  Separation.  Crucifixion. 

Then life.  Glorious, miraculous life.  For this is the hope and promise of the resurrection.