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Pray, by Sanctus Real

This song captures exactly what is on my heart the last few days.

Pray, by Sanctus Real

Lyrics (courtesy of K-LOVE)

I bow my head to pray, I don’t know what to say
I’m not sure how to fix the things I’m dealing with
I’m in a desperate place, I need to share the weight
But I just don’t know how, to let it all pour out

Though I’m silent, my heart is crying
‘Cause I was made to come to You

So I pray
God I need You more than words can say
Right here in this moment
You know my heart, You know my need
You know every part of me
So even if it’s just to speak Your name
I’m gonna pray

I failed to find the time, but You’ve been calling out
I let the days go by as if I could live without
But it’s gotta be here now, I won’t be pulled away
Cause it’s just You and I, so let the world around us fade

As I pray
God I need You more than words can say
Right here in this moment
You know my heart, You know my need
You know every part of me
So even if it’s just to speak Your name
I’m gonna pray
I’m gonna pray

Father, I’m in a desperate place
Father, I know You can bear the weight
Father, Take me in Your arms as I speak Your name
I lift my hands and pray
I lift my hands and pray

You know my heart, You know my need
And every single part of me
So even if it’s just to speak Your name
I’m gonna pray
I’m gonna pray

You know my heart, You know my need
You know every part of me
More than words, You want my life
Take it as an offering

Emotional emptiness

IMG_3271.JPGThere is a litmus test for indicating what our primary concern is, and it tattles on me every time I get the hollow feeling in me that I have now. When I am fulfilled it is because I have turned loose of selfish fear and embraced God’s provision and grace. When I am feeling empty, it is because I am clinging to something I either cannot have or am afraid to lose. Fear or faith – those are the only two choices that really matter, and they present themselves at every single crossroad.

Working this current fear all the way through looks like this:

  • I resent (Person X) for intentionally avoiding me.
  • This relates to my personal pride, sex relations, my sense of security, and my fear of rejection and abandonment.
  • How have these emotions displayed themselves in defective character? I have been abrupt, impatient, insensitive, demanding, and generally crappy to live with.
  • What are natural responses to behaviors like the ones I have perpetrated? Repulsion. A person so victimized would be wise to limit interactions with such a hurtful character, and might do well to come up with creative alternatives to spending time with me. This is the very behavior I resented in the first place, and it stings to recognize I promoted it.
  • There is one solution: stop the cycle. The more I react in the natural way, the more of the natural reaction I can expect. This insane cycle requires a supernatural solution. That’s where grace comes in!

Grace reminds me that I have been forgiven a whole lot worse things than just giving somebody a cold shoulder, so I can forgive a chilly breeze when it comes across my cheek, and I can do it without the wounded baby passive aggression that seems to come so naturally to me. It means I should be able to suck it up and be supportive of my wife, who may have something completely not me going on in her life right now and, in her own spiritual sickness, might just need a little quiet reassuring rather than selfish demanding.

Holy Father, today, give me grace to forgive, strength to serve without expecting in return, and faith to believe in a better day.

“The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 68).

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The OCD in me wants to point out that this is my 1000th post, but I don’t feel much like celebrating.

Today,  in the “Evening” portion of today’s entry in Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, I found something that speaks much better to my approach to food, substance, or behavioral abstinence than I ever could. (Yes, I read ahead today.) The reference is to the vow of the Nazarites to abstain from wine, but it is strangely parallel. The excerpt is included below in its entirety.

“All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk.”
Numbers 6:4

Nazarites had taken, among other vows, one which debarred them from the use of wine. In order that they might not violate the obligation, they were forbidden to drink the vinegar of wine or strong liquors, and to make the rule still more clear, they were not to touch the unfermented juice of grapes, nor even to eat the fruit either fresh or dried. In order, altogether, to secure the integrity of the vow, they were not even allowed anything that had to do with the vine; they were, in fact, to avoid the appearance of evil. Surely this is a lesson to the Lord’s separated ones, teaching them to come away from sin in every form, to avoid not merely its grosser shapes, but even its spirit and similitude. Strict walking is much despised in these days, but rest assured, dear reader, it is both the safest and the happiest. He who yields a point or two to the world is in fearful peril; he who eats the grapes of Sodom will soon drink the wine of Gomorrah. A little crevice in the sea-bank in Holland lets in the sea, and the gap speedily swells till a province is drowned. Worldly conformity, in any degree, is a snare to the soul, and makes it more and more liable to presumptuous sins. Moreover, as the Nazarite who drank grape juice could not be quite sure whether it might not have endured a degree of fermentation, and consequently could not be clear in heart that his vow was intact, so the yielding, temporizing Christian cannot wear a conscience void of offence, but must feel that the inward monitor is in doubt of him. Things doubtful we need not doubt about; they are wrong to us. Things tempting we must not dally with, but flee from them with speed. Better be sneered at as a Puritan than be despised as a hypocrite. Careful walking may involve much self-denial, but it has pleasures of its own which are more than a sufficient recompense.

Dear Father, today, empower me to live within the parameters of Your providence, and to tread firmly and confidently in it rather than gingerly on its margins.

Warring with Flesh

flesh vs spiritI get very critical of myself for not being unified enough, for being duplicitous. There are two notes left on my bathroom wall staring at me every morning. One is of Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you,” and the other is Psalm 86:11, “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth: give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” They serve to remind me that, whatever progress I have made, I haven’t arrived at “finished” yet. Sometimes that realization can be overwhelming. There are days like today, when my defects and failures seem bigger than my goals, dreams, purpose or personal value. Even as I write just now, I recognize that I am merely listening to the wrong voice – the accuser rather than the Redeemer.

I still struggle with Step One, afraid to introduce myself at meetings as “a compulsive overeater” without clarifying that I am “gratefully recovering” or some other such disclaimer. I am not who I was. I am constantly being remade by a loving Creator. So how do I acknowledge what I was with the tendencies that still haunt me while being faithful to look forward to the work being done in me without feeling as though I should have two faces?

The Apostle Paul, the great missionary of the early Church, struggled with this too. The “New Testament in a Year” reading for today was Romans 7, known for Paul’s description of this inner battle. He concludes it saying, “So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin” (Romans 7:25b, NRSV). Apparently, as long as we are draped in the tent of these physical bodies, we are sentenced to drag around with us the tendencies that come with being made out of meat: craving, lust, inflammation, death and decay. There will be a point at which we are liberated from them though, and it is that Independence Day for which I now prepare. The more I live according to the Spirit today, the less alien I will be on the day of spiritual deliverance, and more at home I will be in my new accommodations. Heaven isn’t about the place anyway, but about the Host.

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25a, NRSV)

 

20140726-083952-31192187.jpgLast night while I was trying to sleep after a day filled with failures and character defects in full bloom, it occurred to me that maybe my Tenth Step work needs some help. I opened Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, the original AA one.

Before I turned to Step Ten, I finished reading the rest of Step Seven, the chapter my home meeting group didn’t quite get through last week.There I found the one statement in the book to which I was introduced years before my coming to program, and which I still see as the book’s primary highlight (although I am infinitely grateful for the rest of it too):

The chief activator of our defects has been self-centered fear – primarily fear that we would lose something we already possessed or would fail to get something we demanded. Living upon a basis of unsatisfied demands, we were in a state of continual disturbance and frustration. Therefore, no peace was to be had unless we could find a means of reducing those demands. (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, “Step Seven”)

That passage was originally introduced to me by a marriage counselor in session. Maybe he sensed I was an addicted person and maybe this trouble is just common to all humans, but my unsatisfied demands were a chain around my neck then and perhaps they still are. My closest relationships are where they most readily reveal that they remain cinched around my throat. The links of anger, hurt feelings, disappointment, and inadequacy pinch and tear away flesh under the weight of fear, and I am powerless, by myself, to cast them off.

Step Ten told me, however, that

…no one can make much of his life until self-searching becomes a regular habit, until he is able to admit and accept what he finds, and until he patiently and persistently tries to correct what is wrong.” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, “Step Ten”

The Our Daily Bread devotional today, written by Julie Ackerman Link, was based on a reference to Isaiah 17:1 and 11, and said in part:

Apart from God, the work of our hands will become a pile of ruins. But when we join with God in the work of His hands, God multiplies our effort and provides spiritual nourishment for many.

The devotion closed with a quote from Jesus Christ:

“Without Me you can do nothing.” —Jesus (John 15:5)

Dear Father, today, I confess that I have been running along on my own way without enjoying my fulfilling relationship with You. As I wandered, I began to feel the grip of Self and it’s defective character choking me and my other relationships. Thank You for the reminder. Forgive my selfish ways, Lord, and deliver me from them. I am so helpless without You. Please lead me in Your Way, so I don’t run ahead of myself again. I willingly submit to Your guidance.

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