Breaking a Sweat

When Jesus says, “love the Lord your God with all your…mind,” I am fully tuned in.

“Love God with my thoughts and intellect? Dude, I’m there.”

Of course, that’s not the whole verse. See, Jesus also tells us to love God with our hearts, souls, and bodies. But like many other Christians out there, I tend to focus on the one I’m best at.

12_82_70---Firewood_webFor instance, I’m not too keen on working out. Or physical labor of any kind, for that matter. Despite a lifetime of experiencing the blessing of work. When I lived in Colorado, we would chop wood and there was something wholly invigorating about it. The pine chips scattered about. The other guys raising their axes high in the air, and then bringing them down like swift justice on the logs standing on end. The sound. The air. All of it came together to make for an experience I enjoyed, in spite of blisters and sweat and aching muscles.

But that was, unfortunately, a mountain-top experience. That’s not how I lived throughout the other 6 days of the week, and it is certainly not how I live now. In other words, I don’t love God with my body.

But it’s not just an issue of neglecting some aspect of my relationship with God. It’s about exhausting other aspects.

I’m reading four different books right now. Four. And those are just the ones I read apart from preparing for my class lectures. Not to mention the blogs, the articles, and the countless journals I read all in an effort to think Biblically and thus love God with my mind. Of course, my mind won’t be of any use if it’s mush.

This business of loving God requires us to labor in more than one area. Simply breaking a mental sweat, or a physical one, will not bring us into true intimacy with Christ. We have to strive to be whole people.

I John puts it like this:

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

We have to get rid of the darkness. Any maybe that means working out for 20 minutes each day, Or reading a book. Or honestly dealing with our emotions. Whatever it is, God will show up when we do. And that’s encouraging.

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The Sacred Pathway

Intellectuals draw near to God through their minds. – Gary L. Thomas, The Sacred Pathway 2000

A friend sent me a link recently to a very interesting assessment (you can go hereto take it yourself). The concept is a simple one: examine some of the personality traits that God has created you with, and use those to determine if certain forms of personal worship might be more conducive than others.

The form that I received the highest score on was intellectual. While that doesn’t surprise me (I’ve often been accused of over-thinking), I noticed something peculiar. I scored evenly in almost all other categories (18 being my lowest and 24 being my highest).

This is a sunset that I have grown to treasure over that last year. It reminds of the many that I have overlooked.This doesn’t mean I’m holier than anyone, but it leads me to a certain thought: my personal philosophy is encompassing much more than I would have ever anticipated. 10 years ago, mysticism was something I saw as silly. Now, its something that fascinates and convicts me. Charismatic worship used to frustrate me. Now, it touches me and reminds me how glorious it is to praise God. I spent most of life fighting traditions and rituals, only to now crave them in my own day to day existence.

All this means, what exactly? I will probably never be the master of anything. I won’t be a religious crusader, nor a social activist. But hopefully, regardless of my lack of specializing skills, I will have a robust and overflowing relationship with the Lord that will pour into every aspect of my life.

I like the sound of that.

Heavenly Father, I know I have squandered my time fighting and arguing about things I did not understand. And now, You have seen fit to illuminate my soul to those very things in order to rebuke, and change me. I thank you that I am so often wrong, and I praise Your perfecting work that is happening in me everyday. Teach me Your ways, oh Lord. In Jesus’ Precious Name, Amen.

Claim it

One of the things that I think we, as Christian, lack is the ability to lay claim to our mistakes. We are often eager to point them in others, or apologize for our mistakes if we get caught. But when it’s just us and God, or even us and a small group of brothers and sisters in Christ, we tend to avoid actually claiming our sin.

Admit we’re not perfect? No problem. Tell a story of how we had a struggle, small as it may be, and declare God’s goodness? Sure! Say our private sins out loud and tell others that we don’t know how to overcome? Well, not so much.

Of course there are people and communities out there in which this isn’t a problem. But all in all, we’re much more eager to discuss atonement or sanctification than we are to speak about our inner darkness. Rohr says this is one of things that keeps us from truly thinking, as God built us to do:

The only way you can contemplate is by recognizing and relativizing your own compulsive mental grids—your practiced ways of judging, critiquing, blocking, and computing everything. This is what we are trying to do by practicing contemplative prayer, and people addicted to their own mind will find contemplation most difficult, if not impossible. Much that is called thinking is simply the ego’s stating of what it prefers and likes—and resistances to what it does not like. Narcissistic reactions to the moment are not worthy of being called thinking. Yet that is much of our public and private discourse.

I’m certainly guilty of this. Only this past week, I was frustrated with others and God had to reveal to me that I commit the very sin which was bothering me. I am addicted to my own mind. I am not open minded, and above all else, I demand the privilege of defending myself (whether I am right or wrong).

This, of course, is not the Spirit of God. There is a time for defending oneself, but this is not it. There is a time for declaring my opinion, but again, this is not it. This moment is the one where God exposes the darkest corners of my soul, and He declares, ”Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.”Paul said everything, every little secret, can be seen once God shines His light on it.

That’s what happens when we’re open to God’s rebuke.

What do we do when this happens? Confess. Name it. Claim it. Let not one more moment go by where you do not boldly say, “God, I have seen the darkness, and it is in me!”

The more we do this, the closer we’ll be to God. And the better our relationships with others will bloom.

Oh Holy Father, clear my mind of all that prejudices me; shine your light on the sins I don’t acknowledge. Teach me to reconcile my thoughts with Yours. Pour out Your love for others through me, O God. Give me the fragrance of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ.

Troubled

I don’t have every answer in life
But I’m trusting You one day at a time
Cause You can make a weak heart stay alive, forever
And this is where heaven and earth collide
I lift my hands, I give my life
This is how my weary heart stays alive
Sanctus Real, “The Redeemer”

These lyrics speak of a lot of thing in a short space. Today, they’re uplifting for me.

This week has seen a number of things come across that make me weary. A friend in desperate need of help. Impending loneliness as my wife and son travel to our hometown. Students who see in me nothing more than someone who is “out to get them.” And on the other hand, students who share personal things that make me grieve for a generation of young people who are getting lost in the mire of life. Add on top of that a daily witness to hypocrisy and slander being done to the name in the of Jesus, about which I can do nothing.

It has become so tiresome, I almost didn’t get out of bed Friday. Then, I slept awfully last night. And right now, I feel the effects of something invading my body, rendering me tired and fairly worthless.

And yet, there is a light ahead. It’s not Spring Break, although I will definitely enjoy that.

I’ve been studying the Gospel of John for school, and quite separately, I’ve been studying Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet for work. I’ve noticed some things, which I hope to elaborate on throughout the coming weeks, that remind me of why I am here.

God has not only given me new life, but He’s shared His beating heart with me. No matter how the world around me may break, I have been shown that healing is out there. It’s the only real comfort sometimes. There is hurt and brokenness around me, and God is not ignoring it. This is, of course, how my weary heart stays alive, by staying connected to the beating heart of God. This may mean that I cry when my students tell me about emotional crises in their lives. This may mean that I feel helpless when friends are hurting. This may even mean that I feel heartbroken for people I’ve never met who are suffering halfway around the world. But these wounds…these rips in the fabric of life…they can be mended.

I John 3:16 whispers in my mind in times like these:

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

As I lay awake at night, and hear these words, I thank God for a soft heart, and all the pains that come with it. It reminds me, again, that hope is never far off, not matter how troubled the world around me may seem.