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pursuing the upward call with fear and trembling

just a 44 year old man seeking to share my meanderings with the world at large or the blogosphere at small

Monday, August 24, 2009

The In Between

In the beginning God...... a very easy line to understand. God as defined would create the beginning. The end is Come Lord Jesus!!!! Once again, easily understood. It is what's in between the beginning and the end that gets all muddled and discombobulated. We have a starting point, and we know how the ending is supposed to go, just seem to find so many wrong turns and obstacles that keep the journey from being steadily pursued, at least in my case. I have been reading Larry Crabb's book *Inside Out* about personal transformation. A very good book with a lot of wise insight and understanding. He makes the point that alot of us will not experience deep lifechanging results because we lack the willingness to face and confront the pain that stands in the way. Self-protection is an antithesis to love and as much as we choose the former as opposed to the latter, then we will fail to accomplish deep change.

On a forum i like to participate on, i asked a question about the interrelationship between thought/feeling/faith. Can they exist apart from one another??? For me, feelings have tended to be the starting point when it comes to fear. In high school one time I had smoked pot with a few friends. Thankfully i didn't do it many times lol As Iwalked home, i felt my heart begin to beat faster,which caused me to fear i might have a heart attack or something. i started to run home,which made my heart beat even faster and my mind more anxious. I somehow laid down and was able to calm myself and fall asleep. The effects of the pot gradually went away. Anytime i have felt a change in my body that somehow feels foreign or threatening in anyway, my thoughts race rapidly into fear of the worst happening. I try to focus on God and prayer, but mostly i freeze in fear and just hope i don't die. That has been my experience of dealing with the onset of feelings and how thoughts and faith interreact.

As i said in previous post, my grandma modeled fear and anxiousness before me. i also saw a lot of scary movies which were too graphic for my sensitivity level and imagination. i think these instances played a big role in my response of fear to pain and any kind of discomfort aswell as the notion of death. It was accepted that my dad went to heaven when he died as my family and extended family were catholic, but it wasn't talked about or discussed really. I recieved instruction in catechism about God, but it was in a culture/rote response type way as opposed to a relationship with God through Jesus and His Word. I say this as a reflection on my own experience, not to judge anyone or Catholicism in any way.

i have sought self-protection as a way to handle lifes difficulties alot of the time. I have been able to have a good level of self-awareness and vulnerability, as well as compassion and genuine desire to help and care about people. I have had an extreme self-centeredness as well though, in that i have locked myself up internally anytime the threat of deep pain or suffering came my way,except for when i actually had something bad happen like the croup,pneumonia or my heart troubles. For some reason, i can handle the worst thing better than smaller things which may lead to the worst, at least in my imagination. i am learning in a more personal way to let go of self-protection and let love reign. Jesus is always present and accepting me in love, even when i am hurting and struggling, be it physically or emotionally. I have known that intellectually a long long time. i have known it experientially as well, but have so often felt unable to let the reality of His presence flow between the intellect to the emotions freely. Recent events have helped that to happen a lil more. Learning that He is much more patient than i am or ever will be as well.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Struggling With God-personally

This has been interesting for me to focus on just what aspect of the struggle to take on. My heart situation has been a focal point of course, and has helped bring some clarity through the fog that all too often occurs. It is crazy to me how I can get so narrowly focused with my struggles within to think i am alone in any of them, doesn't matter what they are. Somewhere along the way i have taken on a kind of perfectionism which acts like its own persona rrgardless of how delusional the whole notion of perfection might be.

I have always had a split between my thoughts and emotions and how i process them both. For me, i was able to latch on to the truths of God and His Word early on, but how to handle when resistance or doubts came upon me, and how to carry out certain actions have been like a huge chasm separating me from my thoughts many times. I grew up as a Catholic and had a very strong catechism class which laid down the basics of knowing God and Jesus, at least within a catholic framework. There were underlying dynamics which occurred within my family though. My dad had an ongoing battle with skin cancer even before i was born. His mother, my grandma, was an alocholic and for some reason viewed me as her favorite grandchild and did not hide this at all. She was extremely overprotective and had many fears and antisocial leanings, which I picked up on she lived in our house and helped raise me, being the closest one to me a large part of the time.

I state this as a way to look back for insight into struggles i have even to this day. God is good and to be trusted implicitly,yet He let cancer gradually ravage and eventually kill my dad at a very young age. My grandma worsened in her alcoholism and destroyed her liver. Where was God during this??? Why was he silent??? I am sure i had alot of questions in my mind back then, I think i may have squelched them wanting to avoid upsetting my mother after all she went through as well as trying to be more grown-up and handle tough things as a mature boy.

I have talked on these things before, but i look through a different lens now especially realizing the fragileness of my own health at this point. I have learned and experienced Gods love and goodness across the span of life, but those early wounds have been buried and submerged in ways, even though i found ways to talk about them in various times past. I have always managed to be my own worst enemy in dealing with my weaknesses before God. There is this image of fearlessness and boldness and unflinching obedience and holiness i have somewhere in my head which has acted more like a whip than a positive encouragement to me on how to please God, and i still am not sure of its origin. i know Martin Luther had a very similar struggle when he was a monk until he came across Romans and the idea of being set free by faith. I still wonder how he was able to gain the total release of feeling he had to DO something to please God or that his actions were the basis and evidence of his commitment and love for God???

i hope to write more on this more fully. Sometimes what goes on in your head does not translate as intended to the page. Hopefully this is intelligible and makes sense to you readers. God has been good and genuine in leading me through this time of real vulnerability physically. I hope I can see and follow as He leads me to be free of the internal chains i have let bind me far too much.He IS an awesome God and i want to enjoy Him more and more fully!!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Struggling With God- our self

Pain and suffering is a huge dimension to cover, could well spend a lifetime on it. In thinking more about it I decided to focus on an undercurrent in that mix-ourselves. Pain and suffering have been such a big deal because they impact directly upon our very selves. Once the beginning of life begins within a mothers womb, a self has been created. As soon as that self is removed from the womb and delivered into the outer world, it will begin to consciously experience all that is involved in life, though at first in very minute doses.

many studies have been done over time to chronicle childhood development. Are we born a *tabula rasa* or *blank slate*??? I think theological/philosophical views underscore the answers to this question. Notions of original sin come into paly as well. Babies are inherently selfish by nature i would venture because they have no ability to do anything other than express their wants and needs. Freud said our earliest desires are, *i want what i want when i want it and i want it right now* That seems to be a genuinely accurate depiction of babies. Of course many may seem stuck at that stage forever no matter what age they reach, but that is a whole other ballgame lol.

Self vs God. I think this is the landscape or canvas upon which life is painted,drawn or any metaphor you choose. Who is God?? How does He reveal Himself?? How do i know what kind of God He is??? What involvement does He want with me??? These and dozens of other questions will revolve within our minds as we continue to grow and develop. The Bible lays claim to being Gods authoritative Word and revelation of Himself to all creation for all time. How you view this claim and respond to it causes major ramifications for struggling with God every day of your life.

Some people are very self-aware and cognizant of multiple variables around them, some barely have enough consciousness to wake up and get out of bed, if that. We all have multilayers to ourselves, some genetic,some environmental,some of our own choosing. We all have differing gifts,weaknesses,strengths and abilities,including how we view and relate to God. An atheist or agnostic will view God entirely separately from a christian,jew or moslem. An entire host of differences on viewing God exists amongst christians,jews and moslems, which must be infuriating for those who vociferously declare there is only ONE correct way to view and relate to God!!! Talk about a struggle???!!!??

This has just been an overlay, hope to dig into more specific details in more posts. I want to leave this one with a teaser though- what if we struggle within ourself with God so much because within our self is the nature which is called satan or adversary?? And only God can give us a new nature from Himself with which to overcome this battle?? i have talked on this before but it was awhile back. Contemplate just who satan is and let me know your thoughts. Thanks for stopping bye. :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Struggling With God-Pain & Suffering

All of us are theologians and psychologists and philosophers, we all just don't have degrees declaring us proficient in them. Descartes famous cogito elucidates that by being conscious we think and thus we engage in the activity of these abovenamed disciplines,just cannot avoid it. Some of the most thorough and intensified dialogues have been had over the attempt to understand pain and suffering in realtionship to God,I still am compelled to offer my thoughts all the same.

Pain and suffering seemingly appear when God declares to adam and eve the consequences of their having chosen to do what He had forbade them too,eat of the tree of the knowledge of good & evil. Adam would suffer in working to sustain life and till the soil, Eve would suffer in bringing forth children to multiply the human race. Aside from natural disasters like floods,earthquakes,storms as well as disease, alot of pain and suffering seems to be manmade. Cain killing Abel was the first known murder,which stemmed from jealousy and envy. Rodney Kings words would have been wise to be heeded from the very beginning-can't we all just get along??

Pain and suffering vary in degree from person to person. Some have extremely high thresholds of pain,others incredibly low. Physical,emotional,psycholgical,spiritual pain. is any worse than the others??? For me, though i have dreaded and feared severe physical pain for most of my life, emotional and spiritual pain are far worse. The imagining of some unknown pain coming upon me has been a terror which has ravaged my inner being far more than any physical manifestation ever could. Funny thing,even though I have feared physical pain for so long,almost everytime i have actually encountered it in reality, it has been far less worse than my imagination made it out to be. Crazy thing there.

Sitting in the hospital at night, I had all kinds of notions run through my head. Thousands of people killed in an instant by earthquakes or monsoons,millions killed by a ravaging disease for which there was no antidote at the time,people killed bya man who randomly chose to fire a gun for crazy thoughts in his head. Babies dying stillborn in a womb,bombs killing people in countries torn by war,people basically lifeless just existing with no visible signs of conscious awareness. The list could go on and on. Why all this???? Why was my heart still beating even though so diminished??? What keeps our lives going and someone else dying???

God is big enough to listen to these queries. I think He may even relish them,as it shows a desire to seek understanding and closer relationship. Mystery abounds to me about all this,and ultimately He is love and will make everything alright. Hope to hear what you think of these struggles within yourselves.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why Struggle with God?

Had a hard time deciding on what to call this post. I want to do a round of posts touching on what makes it hard to just trust and obey God & know He is love. There is wind of a new reformation blowing more & more as i survey the blogosphere & other places. A lot of discussion on transformation and breaking free from worn-out and dysfunctional patterns of relating to God.

God declares Himself love. He defines His very nature & character as love. Jesus is the exact representation of God in flesh and is love. Jesus said God as Father surely knows how to give good gifts to His children, way more than any human father does. I write here as a firm evangelical, but wanting to explore from a place where I struggle with understanding God even as I reside within His kingdom. There are many I see on blogs lately proclaiming a new freedom of leaving legalism and lawkeeping behind as far as relating to God. The institutional church and its rules & regulations on how to *fit in* are seen as void of the real zest which His Spirit supplies, and a shackle which fails to let Jesus followers experience the life He so longs us to have in Him.

i see and recognize the validity of these critiques, but often the ones saying them spent many years to come to the point where they now discover a newness of which they had not fathomed before, and they question those who may still not be where they are in how they view realting to God. Calvinist doctrine states God is utterly holy and unblemished and cannot tolerate even a hint of sin. He is all powerful and by virtue of being so, He can choose to save anyone He chooses, and also condem anyone He chooses. Their view holds Jesus came only for the *elect* Whoever they may be. Talk to people holding this view in chatrooms or forums and they will say they hope they are *elect* but cannot know for sure till they enter eternity. Wow. Quite a precarious way to live knowing eternity is forever isn't it???

If God is love, and I believe He is,why would He do such a thing as to make beings whom He chooses to let die and suffer simply because He can??? Is not His mercy more a testament to His character than His power??? Mercy triumphs over judgment His Word states. Jesus forgave those who crucified Him on the cross, the worst of all conceivable sins, why then would anyone state in strict terms that He came to save only a special *elect* and the rest of us can just go to hell??? I feel like Spock here, logic rejects this notion.

I have much more in considering pain and suffering and consequences, but those will be dealt with in other posts. maybe one good thing about my heart issues, God helps me cut through the junk a lil more easily to seek and grab hold of Him in more intimate ways, even as I battle myself to do so. Why do you struggle with God??

Saturday, August 08, 2009

God is in Control

A very solid and comforting truth to be sure isn't it??? To believe God is in control??? At first blush,any believer would echo these words as being foundational to life. If you look deeper though, are there variables at play underlying this statement??? God is in control - of what??? Is he in control of circumstnaces,people,choices,nature??? Just how does He control??? Does He place limits on His control???

Calvinist theology,in its most extreme form, would take God & His control to the nth degree. I find difficulty with this, such as, did God control the serial killer in killing his victims & then himself??? Did God control the people who died from various pandemics across history??? See the problem here when you determine God is in control of everything??? It seems He had to make provision for freewill in some capacity or else freedom & responsibility, as well as love,grace,forgiveness & repentance have no real meaning. How can love exist if all we are doing is exactly what God determined in advance He would make us do,no matter what???

There is always a tension between theology & experience. I think they are 2 sides of a coin & need each other to make a whole. Theology can become stale & stodgy and kept away from daily living, and experience can become focused on everyones existential longings and private understandings that contact is lost with the rich history of what has taken place across the spectrum of life. I hope I am making sense here.

My struggle with fear can be linked back to this question. If God is in control, why have any fear??? Several reasons come to mind. The disparity between His nature & my own. The mystery inherently present in faith. His Word covers the entire course of human existence from even before we were created. He is sole Supreme Being and has all power to act as He chooses. He declares Himself to be Love. He has shown He is love by His actions, most notably His giving of Jesus. He can take and give life as He wills, because He is the Author of life. Many things happen though which let the reality of mystery and inability to comprehend Him fully as being our common experience. The examples i listed early on are ones which point to an inability to grasp the why and how of His control.

Knowing God is in control is hopefully a wonderful truth to gain peace & comfort from, but not one to take for granted or to let be a way we disengage from living out the call to be servants & doers of love & good deeds as He gives us life. I hope to seek to be more proactive in carrying out acts of loving service simply because He is in control!!!!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Theology Miley Cyrus Style

No there is nothing wrong with your eyes, the title of this post is exactly what you see. Miley Cyrus says some plainly profound theological truths in her song. Always gonna be another mountain,not about how fast i get there...... its about the CLIMB!!!!! Right on Miley!!!!

Life is a lil precarious right now. I went into the hospital once again for heart problems. I have a combo of congestive heart failure,atrial fibrillation and diabetes. A few years ago my cardiologist said my heart was working at 35%. A few months ago, it was down to 25%. Now just the other day, I was told it is at 15% Do you see a pattern here??? I have been very upfront about my fear of death ever since i started this blog. How it has been a monkey on my back for so long & how I have wanted to turn it over to God & be free of it. I think God has a lot different way of doing that than I.

I sat in my hospital room and contemplated that my life could be ending soon due to my heart just giving out. So many different thoughts. Not wanting to make my mom see her son die after having lost her husband. Not wanting to leave my sister,nephew & niece. Not wanting to be stuck in a way where I feel I left without making it through the hopes,dreams & desires deep in my soul of which I want God to lead me to explore & journey through. So much time,effort & struggle to have a relationship with God & Jesus, share it with everyone around me, and also battle to deal with my inner conflicts which led me to turn against & act in ways & have thoughts which resisted and refused to surrender to Him as I believed I should & He wanted me too.

So many lives in this world, so many different avenues they take,even when stating they want to follow a commom path & journey. My heart is fragile now. It could stop any second, I try to not think about that. I may not be able to work anymore as i have been and have to go on disability. I may suffer severe fiancial crises. Somehow, in all this upheaval, God is helping me to stand and persevere without going off the deep end. Somehow, I cling to a hope that no matter what I go through and how painful or rough it may be, He will be present and with me all the way through. Ever since my dad died I have inwardly fought to AVOID pain & suffering of a physical kind. No way but by His grace & love could I give up that pursuit and actually accept whatever comes my way.

Yes Miley, it's about the CLIMB!!!!! WHOOHOO!!!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Have This Attitude

I never truly realized just how impacted we all are by weather conditions till this past week. I live in Portland Oregon where anything over 85 is considered hot pretty much and we are used to almost year round rain. We experienced 100+ heat for 4 days straight here and I have NO AIRCONDITIONING!!! When i walked outside from my job at 4:30 I felt like i had entered a sauna, dry,heavy heat. My body responded immediately,especially my heart and I couldnt wait to get to my moms place & relax in her centralized a/c apt!!!! I don't know how people in arizona or nevada stand it!!!

The title of my post reflects on the verses which tell us to have the attitude of Jesus, which was one of humble service. Put others before yourself. I have often meditated on those verses over the years & have enjoyed their message. It just hit me how easily I get off focus on this though. I let past choices and problems become present by reanalyzing them and going over & over them in my imagination. Why did i do that, why didn't do I do this, how could i not have been stronger and on and on. I find it easy to lock myself into self-punishment for past sins, but is that the attitude of Jesus???? Is there something about doing that which seems to provide an escape, though a dysfunctional and weird one, from present struggles I find difficulty facing???

I talked to a friend about how easy it is for us to lose track and wander in either the past or the future and not find our way to being active in the present moment. Very strange us humans at times. Relationship with God,following Jesus, the deepest desires of our heart and what we so intensely ache for, and at the sametime so easily distracted and thrown off by physical discomforts,emotional hurts and other desires we have inside us. Another side of it is to become so selfhating we can't let go and relax in His love and grace because we feel like we are getting off easy or something. Grace can't be fully experienced & enjoyed, thats for heaven right??? I speak of my crazy neurotic mind here. I love to study the Bible and come up with lessons,sermons,stories and questions designed to encourage and inspire others to draw closer to God & experience Him deeper & more intimately, but lose the transfer of it onto myself so much over & over.

My heart trouble has been letting me experience a reality of my own mortality in ways my imagination has run wild over most of my life ever since my father died. God has helped me learn lil by lil through it, and has been helping me to see past my blindspots more hopefully. I do want moment by moment to seek to have this attitude of Jesus, especially when it seems so hard to find for whatever reason at times. Let go of myself and just rest in Him. Let that reality be actualized moment by moment day by day.