Sunday, August 24, 2014

Process vs. Content

Often times I feel that we get hung up in the content, when the process may be speaking more loudly.  Take a therapy session for example.  A client may say lots of things, or may be venting, and what they are venting about may be of less significance then their need to be heard.  Or take therapy with children as another example, the session may be full of play, full of laughter, and not full of much dialogue.  But the process of play may have spoken louder to the child than any amount of words could.  As yet another example, take my relationship with Charissa, my wife.  If she has a hard day she may need to vent, and my response to her content may be much less helpful than my being present with her in her process.

In my own relationships, I don't want someone who wants to teach me so much as enter on this journey with me.  I desire people to live by me side by side, walking on to the truth, in honesty, in asking the hard questions, in reflection, in growth, in good times, in bad.  This one of the reasons why I like music so much, it doesn't judge, it just is.  I get to listen to others pouring out their hearts, connect with it, resonate with it, let it affect me.  I may never meet the artist or musician, but for that moment, we connect.  Music encourages not to worry about the end result so much and just enjoy the moment.  Music is mysterious, encourages me to enter into mystery.  How is it that the sound coming out can affect me so?  To me the question isn't as important as just letting it speak to me.

If we think about growth in the spiritual life, or in life in general, I believe the topic of process vs. content can be relevant too.  I believe in the spiritual life, we need both good content and process.  Content might teach me accurate theology, but process helps me to incorporate this theology into my life.  Process gives me the freedom to try out a new idea, to see the results and to learn from it.  God himself is the content, and the way he interacts with us is the process.  Growth happens through the process of gradually trusting him more, of gradually letting his grace speak into deeper parts of our lives, of making this grace more and more our home, more and more the grounding of our being.  It isn't a one time thing, it's a life long journey of growing character.  And if we allow God to speak to us through the process, it can continually refine the content we believe.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fear Not

We're not meant for fear, we are meant for freedom.  Fear closes us off, makes us worry.  Freedom opens up greater space for us.  Freedom sings into our souls and takes us to places we've never been.  Freedom is but a taste of the ultimate freedom to come.  When seeking God, we need not look back over our shoulder, for God wants us to enjoy life.  God is big enough to hold us as we are, to lead us onward into the mystery we all crave.  Life is good, God is good.  When we're free, we need not worry about how to categorize or use this feeling, being present with God in the moment is enough, and we are changed by it.  We need not be shackled by fear any more!  My inner critic is lying!  I need not shame myself to try and reach some pure position, I need not worry.

If we adapted this attitude towards ourself and others, I believe it changes everything.  All of the sudden, my goal is both your freedom and mine.  I'm less combative, less trying to persuade you of my beliefs, more trying to awaken the presence of God in you.  And not by shame, not by manipulation, not by deceit, but by honest and true presence and love.  Society, each people group, counselors, pastors, leaders, everyone, should be about freedom for each other and for ourselves.  Satan cannot set free, he can only bind.  This is how we know that each freedom is from God.

In the experience of freedom, my attitude has greater gratitude.  I'm more spontaneous, more open, and my troubles seem to slide off of my back.  Being present with freedom is honoring to God.  Also, if I'm free my actions will be more my own, less a reaction to some outside force.  We need not fear freedom, need not fear enjoyment, for these are gifts from God.

Life, is gift from God.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Giving and Receiving

When I give to someone else, a space is automatically opened in me that is capable of receiving.  In loving others, I'm more capable of accepting love from God.  This works the other way too.  Accepting love from God, makes me more capable of loving others.  We are meant to both give and receive.  This life was not meant to be lived in a vacuum.  What I do affects others, and what others do affect me.  We need practice in both giving and receiving.  As we practice, our capacity to hold love is grown.  When we give of ourselves to another, we gain the capacity to reflect on that, to grow from it, to pray about it, and to assimilate into ourselves what we've learned from it.  The same goes for receiving.  When we feel close to God, especially blessed by him, it gives us the chance to reflect on that, and then to make decisions on how to let it affect our actions and lives.

I believe that God is the ultimate example of giving and receiving.  He is totally open to receiving from us, is inviting us to share who we are with him at all times.  And he is the perfect giver, always pouring himself out to us, always available, always advocating for us, always calling us toward transparency and nakedness in him.  Reflecting on the character of God can help me with both my giving and receiving.  Also, reflecting on the Trinity can teach of this balance as well.  In the Trinity, God is perfectly given to the other parts of the trinity and also receiving from them as well.  This is done freely, joyously, spontaneously and without reservation.  Meditating on this can help these characteristics become part of me.  For as each part of the Trinity is giving to the other parts, God also generously gives to us as well.

In reflecting on the Trinity, the dualistic mind and either/or thinking is enveloped in love.  It is given the freedom to let its guard down, to accept something without totally understanding it.  In this light, thoughts are less controlling, more accepting.  We are invited into a bigger grace, a more spacious place.  Also, reflecting on the Trinity can help giving to others become more natural.  It becomes less something I muster up, more something a natural part of my demeanor.  And then the gift given, opens me up to greater gift from God, to receiving from the divine.  I feel this is the purpose of community, namely bringing out God's image in each other and in our lives together.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Gift of Relationship

My wife is a mirror for me.  In light of the love she has for me, in light of our relationship, everything I do matters.  My decisions affect both her and I.  Now I have a choice, I could become bitter about this, or I could use this mirror, this reflection of my actions, to shape and mold me.

Like the marriage relationship, all relationships are a chance to both give and receive.  In this mutuality growth and change can happen.  If I let those around me speak into my life, I may broaden my perspective to see a little more how they see.  Relationship is gift, and though it may be challenging at times, we are called to community.  We are stronger together.  What I lack, my sister can contribute.  Where I fall, another will be strong, and in their strength can help me back to my feet.  I feel that true relationship is a chance for intimacy, a chance for transparency.  Relationship at its best accepts us for who we are, allows us to share our deep hurt, and then strengthens us by presence in the midst of our hurts.  There is no notion of separate sin, of sin that only affects me and not my brothers.  I am bound by the image of God to those around me, and what I do affects my ability to be present for others.  We could see this as an incredible burden, or as it is, pure gift.  I get to share with those around me.  I am bound to them, and them to me.  We one is strong, we celebrate, when one hurts, we cry with them.  In this way, God is honored.  For God aches when we ache, and is joyous when we are full of joy.  We didn't ask for this sort of love, this love that pursues us to the ends of the earth.  This love that makes itself vulnerable to us, is affected by us and is always available to us.  In the same way, I should let those around me affect me.  This shows people that they matter, that they are real, that someone is willing to feel with them and for them.  It helps to answer the question for them, "Does anyone really care about me?"

I work as a mental health counselor.  I see it as my job to find the strengths already present in people and bring these into focus, to bring them out more clearly.  Anything besides this, is telling people what to do, is trying to form people in my mold.  Remember, Jesus came to set us free, I must follow his example.  As a counselor, I want to let people tell their story.  I want to honor their story as unique, precious and true.  More than intervention, people need a listening presence.  Once I have gained their trust, once I've proven to them that this is their time, not mine, than I have a platform to speak truth into their lives.  But never truth forced, only offered as invitation, and at the same time offering them the choice to accept it or not.  All truth is offered in such a way, it must be accepted, can't be forced.  In this sort of compassionate relationship, a person can gain the confidence to explore topics.  I believe that in this sort of exploration, truth can be experience, faith strengthened.  And it comes not through doctrine, not in telling people the right answers, but through open, trusting and compassionate exploration.  I hope that I have true beliefs, but these beliefs must be tempered by, informed by, and grounded in love. They also must be open to being wrong, or at least incomplete.

The personal work I do will directly affect the way I relate to people.  If I broaden my ability to accept God's love, then I will automatically broaden my ability to love others.  Relief from my fears will translate into a greater capacity to help relieve the fears of others.  In this way, no personal growth is lost, none without meaning.  Refining of myself will always increase my capacity to help, to be present, to love.  And then my loving of others, will greater increase my refinement.  And in this way love grows, pulls us upward, until Christ is all, and in all.