Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A prayer on this Ash Wednesday

 Many thanks to Rachel Held Evans for posting this prayer by Thomas Merton on her blog, as we start this Lenten season:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always,
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone

I'll be using this link during Lenten season for a daily prayer. What are you doing—or not doing—to remember Christ's sacrifice?

Friday, February 17, 2012

You can change your thinking...right now

I talk a lot with people about the choices they make in life. Inevitably, talking about a person's choices means talking about a person's thinking. (As she thinks, so is she...) And this is usually how the conversation goes:

Pastor Suzie, I don't know what to do about "X."

OK. What would lead you to make that choice? Where is that coming from?

I don't know. But I'm just afraid I'll make the wrong choice and screw everything up.

Yes. But what are you thinking that makes you see things that way? 

I'm thinking I'm...going to fail, I'm unworthy or unlovable, I'm about to get hurt, [you fill in the blank.]

There is a reason we quote 2 Corinthians 10:5 a lot. A verse in which Paul is defending his ministry, informing the church in Corinth that we, believers, are to take EVERY thought captive to Christ. This verse came alive for me years ago sitting at Schuler's bookstore cafe in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with my friend Colleen. It's actually one of my more vivid memories.

She said: "At any moment I can choose to begin thinking differently than I do right now."

Scha-zaam! I will never forget what she said or the way in which she said it. It was one sentence that connected so many of the dots in my life.

I have struggled with physical challenges, and depression, and hurts, and boundaries, and lost relationships, and searing grief, and infertility, and losing a job. You know, the usual. And being highly introspective—many times I would get stuck in my mental-hamster-wheel. (To be honest, a couple counselors have winsomely asked me mostly the same questions I now ask others.) But today, sitting from where I sit, knowing that I am created by a God who knows me intimately, that His Son, Jesus, paid a price so exorbitant to set me free from my self-addiction, I have been given a choice. Pursuing God on his terms (not the terms of others) and accepting His love always leads me into truth. Anything that is not of him is a lie. And as I grow on this long journey toward heaven, He will teach me how to choose healing and truth. He will show me how to begin thinking differently at any moment, to actually put on the mind of Christ.

That changes my thinking, over and over again. And changed thinking leads to changed choices.

It's not a miraculous, once-in-a-lifetime epiphany. Though, some of us, like I did, experience amazing ah-ha moments. It's a gradual revealing of the infinite love of our heavenly Father toward us, his Spirit filling us, his presence so gently shining the light into all of our brokenness. A soul-transforming love that begins to permeate our thoughts, dramatically influencing our choices, and healing us from the inside out.

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Proverbs 4:23, NIV

What about you? Have you seen a clear link between your thinking and your choices? What is holding you back—or setting you free?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The wisdom of addicts

I cannot tell you definitively that those who are addicted are wiser than the average bird. (Though in general, I think they are smarter than most.)

I can only tell you that those who are in voluntary (and proactive) recovery from their addictions have taken a self-awareness pill. They have taken the pill, drank the self-awareness koolaid, if you will, and so they tend to drill down to the essence of their problems in record speed. It is the first of 12 steps that initiate this process: admitting I am powerless to help myself.

And given the fact that most of us struggle or have struggled with some kind of addiction—pride, food, nicotine, drugs, lust, codependency—you name the crutch, it would follow that all of us could choose the path to greater self-awareness.

Especially when Jesus enters the picture, and gives the hope of a new heart for the old one, delivering on his promise to make all things new

Each Sunday night I plop down on a couch facing six or seven women who are recovering from drugs and alcohol and we talk about recovery and what Jesus has to do with it. Some weeks, what comes out of their mouths stops me dead in their tracks. This week was one of those weeks.

Wise words erupted, intertwined with stories of utter brokenness and redemption:
  • "Things are a lot less painful when you're sober."
  • "Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers."
  • "And I said, 'Oh, God, sometimes you talk too much.'"
See what you can learn in one short hour-and-a-half Bible study sitting on an old couch?

  • Our addictions are meant to dull the pain—and they end up intensifying it.
  • Unanswered prayers, the ones we beg most to be answered "our way" often bring benefits: brokenness and healing we can't even conceive of in the middle of life's mess.
  • God is speaking, warning, guiding, instructing, and we sometimes quench His Spirit, try to quiet His voice, to our detriment—and sometimes, to our destruction.
That's it. That's what I learned from 7-8:30pm last Sunday night while the rest of the world was eating nachos and watching the Superbowl. I think from now on I'll call our weekly visits "Sunday School," the very best kind, where Jesus teaches me words of wisdom from those who are wise enough to know they are broken, and smart enough to believe Jesus can do anything.

Your turn: Do you have someone in your life whose deep self-awareness and brokenness has instructed you? What have you learned from them?