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Inner Peace

HPIM0524I just finished a book titled  A Testament of Devotion by Tomas R. Kelly.  In this book Thomas spoke freely of how to connect, spirit to spirit, to the Creator.  His words were so lulling so peaceful, that when I would finish a section, I would feel at peace with the world.  In his first chapter, Kelly states, “Protestant emphasis, beginning so nobly in the early Luther, has grown externally rationalistic, humanistic, and service minded.  Dogmas and creed and the closed revelation of a completed canon have replaced the emphasis upon keeping close to the fresh upspringins of the Inner Life.”  In recent years, I have struggled to have a meditation and devotion time be a consistent part of my life.  As a mom of four, it seems like I don’t even have time to pee, much less the take time in daily devotionals.  So yeah, maybe I am a product of that line of thought–that doing is more important than meditation with the Spirit.

I must confess that I long for that inner peace and joy from being in tune with the Spirit that Kelly spoke of.  I read such authors as Kelly and Wayne Dyer, hoping to obtain that peace.  However, I really want a book to tell me how to obtain peace while a toddler is yelling, “mom, mom, mom, mommy, mom, momma, mommmmmyyyyyy . . .”

“What!”

“Nothing.  (giggle)  I love you.”

Sweetness laced with frustration.  All this happening simultaneously while I am trying to cook dinner and carry on a conversation with my oldest daughters.  Are all these peaceful of spirit people, do they have all this stuff coming at them?  I don’t know anyone who could keep inner peace while being pulled mentally and emotionally in 20 different directions.  Except Ann Voskamp.  I think she may be on to something.  The rest of us are struggling with “praising Jesus one minute and screaming at your kids the next.” (Lysa Turkheurst, Unglued).

So I do.  I keep the house clean and raise my children; try to be a good wife and mother and a woman of God all in the same breath.  I am normal.  But I desire a relationship with everyone around me that is beyond ordinary, including my creator.  I just don’t know how to accomplish that.  Maybe I am expecting too much from myself at this stage of my life.  I don’t know.  I just feel like I am falling short.  But then there is grace.  Grace from God and Grace from those around me.

I am rambling, so back to meditation and living life fully.  There are a few things that help me to be at peace and feel more connected to my creator.  I will share them with you:

1.  Get up before the kids and have time with God. Read scripture and pray or journal.   This is soooo hard for me, but it starts my day with peace, which spills over into the rest of my day.  I literally have to go to bed as soon as my pre-schoolers do in order to do this.

2.  Get organized.  It amazes me how much physical clutter around me translates to emotional and spiritual clutter.  I stay at home with my children, and I am trying out a schedule for us.  So far I am really liking the results.  It is a work in progress.  I just have to careful not to make everything into a “check off the to-do list.”  I have to remember to enjoy the moment.

3.  Simplify.  It seems like something is going on in our life all the time that we “must” attend.  A birthday party, a sleepover, extra curricular activities.   This is why Shabbot is so important.  Take time to rest.  It is okay to say “no” sometimes to request.

Those are my tricks.  What are your tricks for finding inner peace?  Please share.  I really need more advice than I am giving.  

Sticks and Stones

My daughters who are three and four years old are into a stage of name calling.  “You’re a tiny baby” one of them will say.  Of course, the other then retorts with, “No, you’re the tiny baby.”

This eventually leads to the one who is younger by only a year running to me and saying, “Elle is calling me a tiny baby.”

Usually this ends in me reprimanding them both for name calling.  Lately though, I have taken it to a different level.  My first tactic was to say something along the lines of, “Well, mommy says you’re a big girl.”  But then, after a few times of saying that, it dawned on me:  What does my youngest daughter, Caroline,  believe about herself?  She seems to be so easily swayed by either my definition of her being a “big girl” verses her sister’s definition of her being a “tiny baby.”  So I changed my tactic again.  When Caroline would run to me with the latest name she had been called by her sister Elle, I would stop and ask her, “What does Caroline believe about herself?”  At first this conversation required prompting, as Caroline would just look at me like I had two heads.  “Does Caroline believe she is a tiny baby or a big girl?”

“I’m a big girl,”  she would exclaim.

“Then you don’t need to worry with what your sister thinks or calls you,” would be my reply to her.

So simple of an argument, but yet, so relevant.  Even as adults, we often let other people’s opinions of who we are, what type of person we are, what we are good at, what we are not good at define us.  We have to remember though, that everyone’s perception of who we are is influenced by who they are and the lenses of life through which they view the world.  Those lenses are colored by their own past, things people have said to them, their own views and life experiences.  Any remarks they would make you is from their own perception.

So if someone should tell me, “Holly, you are horrible.”  I should not give much credence to it.  It is just their perception. On the same token, should they say, “Holly, you are wonderful.”  It should not matter.  It should not matter because I should have my own definition of who I am.  If I have one editor tell me I am a good writer, yet another tell me I need to give it up.  Who do I believe.  I believe what I am told from the Spirit of God — He tells me to write.  So I do.  Sticks and stones.  .  .

This was a struggle for me for a long time.  I have many journal entries where the phrase, “Who am I?” is doodled in the margin.  I had no sense of myself.  I went to college in my thirties to try to find myself.  I allowed my paranoia of what other people thought of me define me.

Through it all, I kept hearing the voice of God calling on gentle breezes, “You are mine.”  For a long time I argued that of 6 billion people on Earth, God could not possible know who I was.  I was wrong.

A voice that said, “You are mine, and I am calling you to me,” persisted.  For many years I did not allow myself the believe the voice of God telling me I was of value.

“I am calling you to me, and you are to be a light bearer to others.”

No way.  Not me.  You got the wrong person.  I can’t be a light bearer.  I have too much darkness in me to bear light,” my thoughts would reply back.

Slowly, and through a couple of traumatic events, God revealed Himself to me.  He does know my name and He does believe that I am of value.  I have worth to Him.  So much so, that He has pursued me for years.  He has been patient with me.  Through listening to what God believed about me, my definition of who I am started to change.  Casting Crowns song, “The Voice of Truth” became a mantra for me.  If I believed God was truth, I had no choice but to submit my own beliefs to be in alignment with His.  I had to believe for myself what God believed of me.

I am worth fighting for.

I am worthy.

I am a light bearer.

I make mistakes.

He delights in me.

He raised me up.

I am valuable.

I am loved.

What do you believe about yourself?

The Beauty of Perspective

It is a beautiful picture, isn’t it?  But I can’t help but wonder if the people who live inside the cabin can see the beauty.  Not because they can’t see it, but because they are too close to it.  You see, this picture is taken from across the lake, where there is perspective.  You get to see the grandiose picture of everything from a distance.  You can see how everything is working together.

But what if you lived right there is the cabin; what would your perspective of this picture be?  I would imagine that it is the view that most of us have.  The view of not being able to see the forest for the trees.  You would be so close to it, that when you looked up, all you could see is the few colored leaves right before you.  Your perspective would be cut off, leaving you with only what is in front of your face.

I think our lives are like this picture.  From a distance and with some perspective, one can see the Beauty of God’s work all around us.  But when we are so close to ourselves we can only see what is right in front of us–the complications, the demands, the overload.  That is not to say that we do not see the Beauty in our own lives.  I think we do.  But like the people in the cabin, I think we can only see small snippets of what is directly in front of our faces.  We see the flower, or feel the wind blow across our face or the warmth of sunshine.  We see the smile from someone in the Target line who says, “go ahead.”  But it is hard to truly the orchestrated Beauty of our own lives and what is happening within.  For example, I have a friend who does not know what the next day holds.  But God has provided faithfully for her from day to day.  I can see the Beauty of God’s fingerprints all over her life right now.  I would imagine though, all she can see is the stress of worrying about how she is going to make it through the next day; where money is going to come from for her next trip to Kroger.

I know I have trouble seeing the Beauty from a distant perspective in my own life.  Sometimes I can see it when I look back on events in my life, but not until enough time has passed to give me that perspective of distance and being able to see the whole picture, but even then, my own emotions shade the memories with their own color variations.  I want to pray for to be able to see my life with perspective of the Beauty that is within it.  I don’t want to miss out on the huge, beautiful picture because all I could see was one small section of my life.  I want to see The Artist at work.

 

We are Light

Worldwide, there are many different religions and belief systems.  Oddly, we use the differences in these beliefs to set ourselves apart from other sects of humanity.  Yet, when we come down to it, much of our beliefs worldwide have the same basic beliefs: Be good to others;  There is a higher power; Love each other; value life.

Oddly, most Psychologist would embrace these same thoughts and beliefs for ones well being and happiness.  Those who are spiritual in nature as opposed to religious would also agree to these things.  Dr. Wayne Dyer is wonderful in his books on spirituality in bringing in beliefs from all around the globe to support how to be happy.  I have read several of his books and have been amazed at how Dr. Dyer is so knowledgeable in regards to thoughts worldwide.

Recently, my husband brought me home a book he had purchased for me titled The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book by don Miguel Ruiz.  In reading this man’s spiritual wisdom, I can not help but be stunned by how biblically based it seems to be, although it is from a place far away.  His thoughts sound something like a sermon which could easily be backed up scripturally.

The first thing that Miguel Ruiz speaks of in his introduction is who we are in relationship to God.  How we are God-like and made in his image of light.  That we are light because God is of light.  I was amazed at the parallels to the creation story this has.

It has been quite the challenge for me to believe that I am one made of light.  That I am made in the image of God, and therefore God-like.  I have spent the majority of my life trying to be good enough, only in recent years to realize that I am His, regardless.  Not only am I spawned out of the image of God, but God has a purpose for me, even if that purpose is simply to praise His name.  But no, it is more, I am to bear light to others, and be a light-bearer to others.

There we go with those images of light again.

But Miguel, in his book, says that, “Everything in existence is a manifestation of the one Living Being we call God.  Everything is God.  . . .and the true us is pure love, pure light.”

It makes sense.  If we are of God and God is light, then we have to have that light within us as well.  The problem is that I don’t think we allow that light to shine though because of the human condition.  We are tired, or sick, or we have been rejected or ridiculed too many times to risk showing our light one more time.

The following chapters of The Four Agreements seem to promise how to overcome these obstacles.  I will get back to you on that.

Who am I?

“The B-I-B-L-E, that’s the book for me. I’ll read and study and then obey, the B-I-B-L-E.”

I wonder how much of my theology as a child was shaped by songs such as this? It states that we should read, study and obey. But what does that mean? To my child’s mind, I took it very literal. To obey translated into: be good, don’t do bad things. God is good, so you be good.

The problem was that I could never seem to be good enough. Not that I didn’t try. I did. I tried so hard to be good. It is just that I would mess up. As a young child that meant things like not making good grades. As a teenager, that meant defying my parents and doing things they had told me not to do. As an adult, well, I became very prodigal.

Although I knew the story of the prodigal, unlike the son, I felt I couldn’t return home–spiritually speaking that is. I had too much shame. Or maybe I just needed to tuck my pride between my legs. But for whatever reason, I didn’t feel like I could be accepted in the church. It was like there had been this good-bad line drawn in the sand and I had crossed it. And once I crossed it, there was no going back.

I had spent all this time trying to be good enough and failing at it. It was all about me trying. I was seriously struggling with this issue of being good enough when one day I heard the song, “Who am I” by casting crowns on the radio. Here are the lyrics:

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart

Not because of who I am
But because of what You’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I’m calling
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling
And You’ve told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

Who Am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again
Who Am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me

I am Yours
Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
‘Cause I am Yours
I am Yours

I wanted to understand “how the Lord of all the earth, would ever care to know my name?” Why would God care to know my name? I really wanted to know. There was no way I believed God knew who I was. Then the chorus of the song came. “Not because of who I am/ but because of what you’ve done, Not because of what I’ve done/ But because of who you are! Those words stuck with me and I wrestled with them for months to come.

“What do you mean it is not because of what I have done!” my mind screamed back at the radio. “You just don’t know what all I have done.”

I later downloaded the song and listened to the lyrics over and over again until the message rewrote the theology of the song I learned in my youth about obeying.

It isn’t because I had obeyed or not obeyed, it is because of the nature of God and who He is! It has nothing to do with me at all. It is not about me or anything I can do to earn my way into knowing who God is and getting Him to know my name. It is about accepting that, “I am Yours.”

When you realize the gift that those lyrics state, then you can not help but to lay down at the foot of the throne and weep because mercy you did not deserve has been given to you. You in turn, want to do what is right because of who sits on that throne. You want to show grace and mercy just as grace and mercy has been shown to you. That is what Christianity is about–showing grace and mercy. Remember that during your day today and be grace and mercy to those whom you meet.

By the Way, if you want to see the YouTube video of casting crowns, you can see it here:

A Good Shepherd

In Christianity, we use the terms “flock” and “shepherd” to describe who we are in relation to Christ.  We are sheep following our Good Shepherd.  In the western world, when we herd animals, we typically do it from the rear of the flock.  We flank the herd to the left, then to the right, until they go where we want them.  We drive them.  If we apply this form of “shepherding” to our religious beliefs, we may view Jesus as someone who drives us from behind.  Someone from behind who has a whip in order to make us, the sheep, go in the right direction or to do the correct thing.

But in the Eastern world, where Jesus was from, shepherding takes on a whole new meaning.  To be a shepherd is not one who forces from behind, but one who leads from the front.  A shepherd is with his sheep 24 hours a day, leading them, letting them graze, taking them to water and looking out for predators.  The shepherd does not drive from behind, but leads from the front.  He knows each sheep by name, their likes and dislikes.  The shepherd who leads from the front knows when one of the sheep is missing or is something feels out of place.

For years I had the western view of shepherding in my mind as I associated it to religion.  Religion was something that pushed me from behind, or I was punished for doing the wrong thing.  In my mind, the gates to heaven looked more like two boulders with a narrow opening between them.  It was in my mind’s view that the sheep God separated as His on the Day of Judgement would have to pass through those narrow boulders.  It never dawned on me that God would lead us through first and show us the way.  I only pictured Him driving us from behind and chaos ensuing.

In this picture that was in my mind, I would get into heaven, but only as one of the herd.  I would kinda slip in with the older sheep who were better known to have done good deeds and I would just slip on in with them.  I would slip in, and there would be no reason for the shepherd to even know my name.

I was so wrong; my fears were wrong.  God does know my name.  In fact, He is involved in the details of my life.  It is hard for me to understand how, but I know it is true.  He leads me from the front, and I want to follow and go where He goes.  He is a shepherd who watches over His sheep.

Now, that is not to say bad things do not happen.  People try to reconcile the bad in our life by God punishing us or to teach us a lesson.  I don’t believe that.  What I do believe is that we live in a broken and fallen world where evil exists.  This evil is out to get us at any cost, and it will heap heartache upon us.

Evil shepherds us with fear and doubt.  The fruits of the Holy Spirit shepherd us with hope, joy and peace.  The Father leads us from the front and goes before us.

In Luke 15 Jesus tells a parable about a shepherd who has one little lost sheep.  That shepherd worries over the sheep and goes out to find it.  When the shepherd finds the lost sheep, he puts him around his neck and carries him home.

We have all been lost at some point in our life.  Some of you may be in a lost place today.  If you feel lost, I want you to know that God is grieving over and worrying over you being lost.  But remember, a sheep is easier to find when it bleats and asks for help more than the sheep who is quiet.  And it takes time and effort on your part to come to a place of Beauty.  You have to yearn for Beauty, and you get there by following the shepherd.

Celebrating God

 

I stepped outside this morning, coffee in hand.  It is simply part of my morning routine to take step out onto our deck, take in a deep breath of morning air and stretch.  There is just something to morning air, that when one takes the time to breathe it in deeply, fills you with contentment and anticipation of the days events.  Fredric Bonhoeffer, in his book “Life Together” stated “at the dawn of every day stands Jesus.”  That is how I greeted my morning on this particular day.

There was a sharp breeze that made the tree tops rustle and groan with constant swaying.  The air was drier, crisper than usual; something that is a great relief from our usual humidity where even the morning air feels thick.  The sky bright, the light pure,  all these things in combination gave the day a personality of humor, excitement and anticipation as one feels when about to be gleefully tickled.

As I took in another breath of morning air I raised my face and hands to the sky in a gesture of both greeting and thanksgiving to the Most High.  “How should I celebrate you today?” tumbled out.  I was jolted by the question, even though it had been spoken by my own lips.  At first startled, but then realizing it was a legit and serious question.  “How WILL I celebrate You today?”  I often praise,give thanksgiving, even consciously try to reflect His greatness,  . . . but to celebrate Him — not in Him, but Him alone.

What does it mean to celebrate?  The question wrestled within me.  How is that different from joy, rejoicing, worship?  I think of parties with overwhelming happiness, re-unions of loved ones who had been apart.  I think of the word tribute.  Is that what life is truly supposed to be — To give tribute to.  Is my life a daily tribute, a celebration of Him?

I reflect back to the words of Genesis and the meaning behind the words “made in the image of God.”  One way to translate this from the Hebrew is that we are not made in his likeness, as much as we are made as a tribute to Him.  Am I a tribute to Him?  Is my life a tribute to Him?  Yes.  I am called to be His image bearer.  I am called to reflect His beauty.  I am called to reflect His light into a dark and broken world.  — How do I celebrate you today?

In my life I am called into His presence. He is calling me and asking me to use and give my life in a way to glorify Him.  I am to celebrate Him by accepting the dance He has designed my life to be.  There is a dance which He has choroagraphed just for me.  dance a dance that will glorify Him.  Angela Thomas describes it as God wanting to sweep you into His arms, lead the dance, and you respond with your life.

I think back to Disney’s movie “The Sword and the Stone.”  There is a scene from this movie where the child, Author, comes into Merlin excited that he has been promoted to the level of squire.  He expects Merlin to be excited for him.  Instead, Merlin shows frustration asking him, “a squire?  That it it?  A squire?  You are excited over being a squire?”  Author is heartbroken.  Merlin is angry.  But Merlin is not angry with him because he is squire, he is angry with him because Merlin wants so much more and knows Author is capable of so much more.  Author is selling himself short of who he really is.

I think that is often how God sees me.  I am excited over my small accomplishments.  I become excited, and my Father who has made plans for me shakes His head at me because he has much greater things planned for me.  He has plans for me that are wonderful, and I settle for the trivial.  I am happy, and settle for being just a squire.

But I am afraid to accept His invitation.  Fear as usual grips me. I want to stand on the side-lines and watch someone else dance.  I also want to accept the dance, and I want it to be beautiful. — but I am so afraid.  What if I stumble? What if I appear foolish, or what if I do not represent Him well?  What if I do not succeed in bringing Him glory, praise, and honor?  He promises me that He will lead, and that it will be beautiful if I will trust His steps. He made this dance with me in mind. It is a dance that is designed to show off my strengths, and hide my weakness.  I try to accept, but in my fear I create a few of my own steps and trip.  It creates more fear and I try to step away, out of His arms; but reluctant to let me go, He tilts my chin toward Him so I can hear Him whisper, “It is ok, try again.”  And I do.

Prayer:

“Father, help me be trusting enough to let you lead my life dance.  Help me be brave enough to accept.  Some of the steps are tricky and I am scared of falling!  Although you will be my lead always,  right now be a very strong one until I learn the steps well enough to dance without you whispering the exact moves into my ear.  Thank you, that until that time, you will carry me in a way that no one will know how badly I tremble with fear.”

 

Taken through the Fire

A few weeks ago our pastor spoke on the topic of God sending the trials of life in order to refine us and bring us back to His.  I really didn’t know how to accept this message, as it is a hard one for me to swallow.  He took his message from Joel 2:21-27.

“Don’t be afraid, my people!  Be glad now and rejoice because the Lord has done great things.  Don’t be afraid, you animals of the field!  The pastures will soon be green.  The trees will again be filled with luscious fruit; fig trees and grapevines will flourish once more.  Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem!  Rejoice in the Lord your God!  For the rains he sends are an expression of his grace.  Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring.  The threshing floors will again be piled high with grain, and the presses will overflow with wine and olive oil.  The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost to the stripping locusts, the cutting locusts, the swarming locusts and the hopping locusts.  It was I who sent the great destroying army against you.  Once again you will have all the food you want and you will praise the LORD your God, who does these miracles for you.  Never again will my people be disgraced like this.  Then you will know that I am here among my people of Israel and that I alone am the Lord your God.  My people will never again be disgraced like this.”

In this passage God admits to sending the many swarms of locust to plague to land.  God also promises to replenish the land of all that has been taken from it.

Personally, I have a hard time with this passage.  Does that mean that all our trials are of God in order to refine us?  Or does God just use our trials in order to refine us?  As I like to say, “God can phoenix anything!”  No matter what horror you are going through, God can bring beauty from ashes.

The reason I have such a hard time with this concept is because of the personal trials I have been through.  I can not fathom that a God who loves me like a father would intentionally cause me such pain with depth of my depressions.  Why would He do this? — To bring me closer to Him? — Even if that was the end result, I can not fathom Him doing such things intentionally.

As a parent, I know my children are going to go through hard times that I am going to have to lead them through.  Although I try to teach them that the eye to the stove is hot, not to touch it, at some point I am going to have to nurse a burn.  But I would never force my children to touch the eye of the stove just so they would learn a lesson.  However, I would be there to make things better and to walk with them, should they decide to test the waters.  But I would never intentionally cause them pain.

In the story of Job, a man of utmost faith, has everything taken away from him.  In this story God and Satan have a conversation where God allows Satan to test Job.  Job 1:12 “All right, you may test him,”  The Lord said to Satan.  “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.”  So Satan left the Lord’s presence.”

Afterwards, Job looses everything including his home, servants, cattle and even his seven children.

I personally have always thought of God more in this sense:  that God does not stop things from happening, but later restores what was taken from us.  God allows things to happen and then uses it for His own purposes.

So, I am back to struggling with the passage in Joel.  Does God purposefully cause the refiners fire?  Or are our struggles just a result of us living in a fallen world to which there is pain and suffering?  I have always believed that God did not cause my pain, but gladly would he make Beauty from my ashes.  But maybe I am wrong about this.  Maybe we do have a God that puts us through the courses of life in order to bring us closer to Him — to make us wiser, more pure of heart.

What do you think?  Does God intentionally cause us grief in order to bring us closer?  Does He just make Beauty from our Ashes?  Does He, like in the story of Job, turn His back and let things happen and then use it for His own good?

What’s your stage of Spirituality?

From Abba’s Child, by Brennan Manning:  (One of my favorite books)

“A while back Roslyn [my wife] and I took a day off and decided to play in the French Quarter here in New Orleans.  We roamed around Jackson Square sampling gumbo, inhaling jambalaya, and finally stopping at the Haagen-Dazs shrine for the piece de resistance— a praline-pecan Creole hot-fudge sundae that induced a short lived seizure of pleasure.

As we turned the corner on Bourbon Street, a girl with a radiant smile, about twenty-one years old, approached us, pinned a flower on our jackets, and asked if we would like to make a donation to support her mission.  When I inquired what her mission was, she replied, “The Unification Church.”

“Your founder is Doctor Sun Myung Moon, so I guess that means you’re a Moonie?”

“Yes,” she answered.

Obviously she had two strikes against her.  First she was a pagan who did not acknowledge Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.  Second, she was mindless, witless, naive, and vulnerable kid who had been brainwashed by a guru and mesmerized by a cult.

“You know something , Susan?”  I said.  “I deeply admire your integrity and your fidelity to your conscience.  You’re out here tramping the street doing what you really believe in.  You are a challendge to anyone who claims the name ‘Christian.’ ”

Roslyn reach out and embraced her, and I embraced the two of them.

“Are you Christians?”  she asked.

Roslyn said, “yes.”

She lowered her head and we saw tears falling on the sidewalk.  A minute later she said, “I’ve been on my mission here in the Quarter for eight days now.  You’re the first Christians who have ever been nice to me.  The others have either looked at me with contempt or screamed and told me that I was possessed by a demon.  One woman hit me with her Bible.” “

Think on this for a minute and ask how you would have responded to Susan.  Why as Christians do we not tend to reflect God’s love?  I think Brennan Manning’s response is the exception, not the ordinary response.   However, I think it should be the standard response from Christians.  We are here to discover and then reflect God’s love.  How can we do that if we are hitting someone else over the head with a bible, either figuratively or literally?

I personally think it has to do with what phase we are on in our journey.  Peter Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality  states that there are six stages of faith.  Stages one through three deal with awareness, learning and serving.  Then Peter says we hit The Wall.  The Wall is where we challenge our faith, usually through some crisis in our life where we are stuck at some “Dark Night of the Soul.”

Once we emerge from The Wall, Scazzero says, “we are free from judging others.”  Then we go on to stages four, five and six which deal with learning to be transformed into God’s Love.  This is the place we need to strive to be in Christianity.  We need to see each other with the value of the soul.  However, Scazzero also says that not everyone does not make it to the other side of the wall.  Some Christians live their whole life in stages one, two or three.  The wall is uncomfortable and they retreat to a former place of comfort.  I think this is a major problem.  So many of us do not mature after hitting our wall.  We choose to stay where we are comfortable  (back to the pool of Bethesda).

So how do we get to the latter, more mature stages?  Do we have to hit a wall?  I think we have to at least question our relationship with Christ and the Father.  Although that questioning often comes during crisis, perhaps one can come to that level of questioning without having crisis.  When you come out of the wall, you define yourself as one loved by Christ and that you must be a reflection of that love.  Gone is the judgmental notions of those who are of different religions, the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill.

Have you hit the wall in your spiritual journey?  Have you come out on the other side?  How are you different now?  How would you respond to Susan, the Moonie?