faith

screamscream

faithquestionhuddled“Why aren’t you writing?” I haven’t been here much and there is much to tell. That question was asked of me three times in one day. I am not sure I have an answer that makes sense. I guess I really don’t know. Suffice it to say, it has been a difficult year for me. I don’t say that to whine or get sympathy. I say it so that you understand that I have been working diligently to process a downhill slide in a shit storm. I have been exhausted and beaten and unable to process out loud. I think I am ready to begin the exploration of my heart more closely. Feel free to peek.

In AA, our topic today was based on Bill’s story. Bill talks of the need for faith 24 hours a day. Seriously? That seems like bullpoop to me. I cannot imagine the discipline it would take to say you are plugged into God all the time. I have heard there are no atheists in foxholes, do you think there are man of faith sitting on the toilet? I don’t buy it. I was in church last evening. I sat and listened to the pastor talk about our need to do this and that. He spoke of a list of should do’s and repented about his shortcomings. After he said what I needed to do for the 20th time, I left.

I pondered what I was being whispered. Could I be missing something? I don’t believe in coincidences, so why was I being reintroduced to the need for faith? I went back to the foundation. What is Faith? Can you really have more faith or is it all or nothing kinda of thing? I am told that faith the size of a mustard seed is all I need. What about 1/2 a mustard seed? Will God like me more if I have 3 seeds? If faith is that small, is it possible to have it 24 hours a day?

It occurred to me that I have been defining Faith as following a religion, rather than a relationship with God. What is seems to me is that both sources were mistaken about faith. Faith is not something that has to be worn around like a Miss America banner or that should be accompanied by a list of ‘have to’s’ or ‘need to’s’. “Religion is for people afraid of going to Hell, Faith is for those of us that have been there.” Anne Lamott. Faith is the realization that you have been saved from yourself, and you didn’t do it. Faith is leaning into God, it is nothing more than a shift of weight. When your heart aches. When you don’t think you can take another step. When the storm moves in and all you can do is huddle into yourself. When you scream out at night. Faith is when you scream out to someone and know there is someone there.

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apple, smapple

I am a huge fan of CS Lewis. He defines sin as anything that separates us from God. I have decided that there is an intentional sin and unintentional sin. the unintentional sin is when you simply dont know better. Like as a child. There are children that are born without pain receptors. This sounds like a great thing, doesn’t it? The problem, as I understand it, is that they will cause dramtic harm to themselves, absent-mindedly. They will chew their fingernails into the skin, stopping only for bleeding. They will put their hands on a stove and remove it only for the smell of burning flesh. The point being, they don’t have the clues to when they are harming themselves. The lack of knowledge isn’t their fault, they weren’t given the same resources as others. There are some people that just don’t learn some of the nuances of right and wrong. This is like unintentional sin. It is the result of twisted thinking, blindness, or niavete.

If all humans were simply an image of Christ, then the distinction would have occured even in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve must have sinned unknowingly prior to the “apple incident.” I think Adam probably ate a grape in the supermarket while shopping for vegetables. I am sure Eve did a ‘California slow and go’ while riding a horse in the rush hour traffic. They had premarital sex, which some describe as a egregious sin, but since there was no one around to marry them and they had never heard of the concept, it seems this might have been an unknowing sin.

The intentional sin isn’t necessarily a slight against God, but rather a knowing separation. It is knowing the apple is forbidden, but eating it anyway. Picking the apple was deliberate, biting it was passive rationalization. They are equivalent in the eyes of God as both are removed from the garden. One results in pain and fear, the other in hard work and frustration.

 

My long winded explanation is that most anything can become an obsession. We can bite the apple of anything–most humans have something like this–cleaning, money, possessions, intimacy, whatever. When it gets to the point that it controls us, that the obsession becomes twisted and deliberately destructive–we are addicted. Eve had no chance of escape from the serpent. The serpent didn’t really convince her head, he twisted her heart. The only hope for her is to address the fear and pain honestly and completely. Thats the same with any addict–willing, honest, and open mindedness.

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fan

In my apartment. I walk in and absent-mindedly flip the light switch on the right wall. I have plugged in a standing lamp and a fan to the outlet controlled to the switch. The light turns on and I can see the small but cozy apartment. It is a hot day and I leave the windows open most days. The apartment is warm and the air stale. It takes me a moment to recognize that the fan did not go on. I back step and flip the switch off and on. It doesnt go on. Stubborn and a little frustrated, I do it several more times. It dawns on me that the light worked, so the problem is probably not in the switch or outlet. I am momentarily glad that I am alone, so no one saw. I walked to the wall and checked the plug and cord. I unplug it and switch it with the light cord. The light still works. I push the rotating button a few times and shake the fan. In the end, I remember that I turned it off a few days ago. I push the button and it works. Despite the embarassment, I am relieved and content.

My spiritual walk is much like that fan. I walk into occasions with God and absent-mindedly flip the switch. The light is always there, but I often forget to let the breath of God work through me. When I recognize the air is stale and unmoving, my first impulse is to blame the switch. I wonder why I have been forsaken. I try different things to ignite a passion that is already there. Befuddled, my next thought is to blame the outlet. I think that the mesage is not getting to me correctly. Perhaps it is the pastors, or the denomination, or the church. Perhaps it is the religion over spirituality. I unplug and replug into different situations. The results are the same. So I shake myself violently. I begin to think that there must be something wrong with me for having doubt. I must not have enough faith or love to be of use to anyone. The self-condemnation can get pretty ugly.

The soft voice speaks to me. I get a ‘God wink.’ I am reminded to be honest, open minded, and willing. The fan is turned on and I get to share a Holy Wind with the world around me. My job is not to be the power, or decide which direction to blow. My job is not to worry over the outlet so much. I only have to not block the Sunlight, not obstruct the Spirit.

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the wheels on the bus…

I am standing on the edge of a highway. The cars whip by. The trucks lumber by. One particular day but for no particular reason, I jump out in traffic and try and stop the cars and trucks. The reactions vary. I can see the faces of the other drivers and I read their emotions. They range from amusement to rage. Some of thee cars hardly hesitate at all. They might swerve slightly as the drive on. The drivers talk on cell phones or flip me the bird. Others do stop and some find another route. Most that stopped, anxiously await the time that they can restart their commute and path. No matter how long I hold up my traffic guard stop sign, the traffic will continue and soon swamp me in a flood of motion.

Another day, I decide to ignore the traffic. I decide to visual the traffic as something different: fluffy clouds floating across the sky. As I step out to be amongst the clouds, inevitably I will get hit by a car or truck. It probably wont feel like a fluffy cloud.

I can acknowledge the traffic exists. I can let it be itself and learn to accept it. I can’t change it, but I can change how I approach it.

As I try different methods of addressing the traffic, I develop a fear. I decide to avoid the traffic all together. Better yet, I will avoid the highway. I will just stay home and watch Judge Judy, secretly thinking they are getting what they deserve. Soon, even the noise of the highway on a TV show will flood me with panic.

The vehicles are my thoughts. The drivers are my emotions. Regardless of my approach to them, they are there. They whiz by and leave an impression, an effect. If I try and stop them, sooner or later they return, sometimes more fierce than before. If I try and ignore them, I am assaulted by the horns and generally hit by the reality. They scream to be noticed. I can try and run and hide, quaking. The moment will arise when I realize I am also running from living.

I pause on the shoulder of the highway. I accept the cars are there, the emotions driving them. I acknowledge them. I trust that I am not the cars, I am not the drivers. They don’t identify me and they can’t hurt me unless I try to control them.

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who are you?–gonna need a retina scan

I am, how are you?

I am known by a list of labels: Father, Doctor, Ex-husband (which has many more labels associated, unfortunately), Son, Brother, Follower of Christ, etc. I understand the need to put a fix on who I am and what I am about. It is hard to know someone without a point of reference. We are conditioned from birth to hear and accept these labels, wether good or bad. We are a boy or girl. We are a good eater, bad sleeper, average growth, and developmental ahead individual. We do well in school, fight with anyone, hard worker, jock, freak, slut, prude…. These labels attach to our soul like a fungus, invading our heart and mind with a fetid stink of rot. Because even when positive or desirable, they become a sign we wear around our neck. It serves the purpose of identifiers, but it blocks the light. I am not saying those are valuable or even evil. I am saying that if it becomes something that separates us from the light and Light, it begins to crumble us. The labels become more important than the journey.

For the longest time, I have listened intently to the labels. I absorb what is said. I hear the words, and automatically assume them to be true. Sometimes, they are. Sometimes, they are ones I cherish being. I revel in that name. Sometimes, they are not real and not helpful in growing into the Light. Unfortunately, I am not conditioned to reject the labels. I absorb them. They are a corrosive thread in the fabric of life.

I am talking about identity. I have gathered my identity from these labels. I add them up and believe the sum is what makes me unique. I can work to release a label, or ignore it. I can claim it and celebrate it. Unfortunately, none of them are real. The labels are addendums to who we are. They are given to us by humans. Once it becomes the primary sense of self, we have abandoned the Love of God. We have created an idol out of a list of words. Our true identity is the God Spark that was breathed into us. It is what God says we are and dreams we will become. When our identity comes from God first, the labels become choices.

 

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theranadamson

I am a puppy at a Halloween costume party. People show up in masks and costumes to enjoy the frivolity. I am not currently understanding the language spoken and am unsure the reason for the masks. Occasionally, someone looks over at me, either with pity or with joy. Some remove a mask to talk to me in jibberish. For many, there is another mask underneath. I wonder if the masks they wear are as unending as the boy with 10,000 hats. There are people that remove the mask and it is just them underneath. I ponder the significance of wearing a mask at all, but it as least interesting not to be looking at a dead president. Rarely, someone strolls in without a mask. I have known this person and have seen the face before. I know in my head I can trust my feelings and reaction. Unfortunately, my heart…

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the puppy and the mask

I am a puppy at a Halloween costume party. People show up in masks and costumes to enjoy the frivolity. I am not currently understanding the language spoken and am unsure the reason for the masks. Occasionally, someone looks over at me, either with pity or with joy. Some remove a mask to talk to me in jibberish. For many, there is another mask underneath. I wonder if the masks they wear are as unending as the boy with 10,000 hats. There are people that remove the mask and it is just them underneath. I ponder the significance of wearing a mask at all, but it as least interesting not to be looking at a dead president. Rarely, someone strolls in without a mask. I have known this person and have seen the face before. I know in my head I can trust my feelings and reaction. Unfortunately, my heart has been tricked and lied to so many times, I hesitate…

The masks are not uncommon or unexpected. I have met very few people who don’t ever wear one. I secretly have often wondered if at night they put one on and dance naked in the moonlight. The masks are defenses. They were originally made to keep us safe. They distanced us from the hurt we had felt. The masks aren’t evil or even wrong. They just are. When I was younger, my Dad told me that I was a chameleon. He meant it as a compliment. He was saying I could fit into any group and have something to talk about. I really could. I had a roladex of masks and would thumb through them deftly. I could even pull the old switch-a-roo in the middle of a conversation and admonish someone, or ridicule them. There were times that I would wear 2 or 3 different masks at the same time. It was exhausting, but I felt like I always fit in. As I have aged, I embarked on a journey to be authentic. I wanted to stop running and escaping from the emotions I felt. I wanted to be alive. I wanted to be whole.

Like that fabled boy, as I removed one mask, the next one would appear. There were variations: different size, more feathers, etc. But there was always another mask. My pursuit continued. There were times that I thought I had finally revealed my true face when someone would lob a harsh comment or reject the image they saw. If the person was close to my heart, I would immediately pick up a new mask. There were times I would let my head and heart unite and I would be without a mask. It was like riding a motorcycle without a helmet: free, exhilerating, and yet somewhat dangerous. The vulnerability was too much all at once. The puppy was exposed, confused, and injured under the feet of distracted and hidden party goers. I hid.

I am learning discretion. I remove the mask more cautiously now and there are very few masks. I have sat down with each one and identified its’ use and meaning. I thanked it for how it has protected me. I voiced my appreciation for its’ services. Then I set it aside. In reality, some of them are tenacious in their protection efforts and try to sneak back in. More than once, I have found my face stuck in one like the puppy in a paper sack. I sit down and restart the process when I recognize it.

I would not suggest this process to anyone. Let me qualify, I would want to warn anyone doing this process that it is extremely painful. When the masks first began to be removed, I was rejected by loved ones. Not intentionally, I don’t think. It was subtle. I heard them say, “It is just a phase.” I listened as they said, “This isn’t like you, you are…” The voices behind the masks uttered, “When he gets his feet under him again, he will be normal again.” I was unsure who I was, the mask or the face. Later, as you enter the party with no mask on, the crowd barks as excitedly as the puppy. It is strange and unfamiliar. Most cannot handle the exposed, true person. It is very hard to talk to a face when you are wearing a mask. The opposite is true as well, it is hard to talk to a mask with your face exposed. You are left with a decision, persist in the journey or run and hide. This is that moment in recovery that so many pick up a drink. This is that time in healing that so many resort to anger or abandonment. This is that time in mental illness that so many resort to suicide.

I am at that point that I have a mask or two. I have become deliberate in using it. I use it when necessary. I prefer to be without a mask, and to see how others respond to my true self, but there are those that really just want to judge, condemn, and hurt. So, on goes the mask.

In the words of the great philosophy group, Oingo Boingo, “Who do you want to be today?”

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boom–now what?

My world ended. It wasn’t as loud as I thought it would be. I originally thought it was imploding more than exploding, but I have seen the shrapnel injuries since then. Sometimes, I get people who will wave the injuries like flags. I often have wondered if confronted with a life changing event, would I be the type that took it with a sword in hand and charged or one who would stand firm and fight? It turns out, I fainted.

God answers prayers. About 6 years ago, I entered into a new relationship with God. My simple foxhole prayers were not satisfactory and were keeping me away from God rather than drawing closer. I thought I was relating. I thought I was growing in my relationship to the Creator. I went to a church building. I gave to charity. I said the right words. I even prayed, usually to feel better from a hangover, or to win the lottery or something. The only real prayers I had at the time was to  help me make my marriage better or let it end. The other was to help me be effective in my job as a doctor and to enjoy it or let it end. In hindsight, you need be careful what you pray for.

My world has ended. The post-apocolypse period has been an eye-opener. After the bomb went off, people scattered. There were two different radiation zones. The first were the people that fell on the ‘forget-you’ side. There were those very close to the blast that immediately rejected any contact with me. They expressed an intense hate, it radiated like radioactive heat from them. My wife was amongst that group. Some of the neighbors, trying to support her, fell in that group. My pastor and his wife. This group condemns me as completely bad. There is no redeeming quality in their eyes. I have no chance. The judgement was quick, final, and lethal.

There was a zone around the first that paused briefly. They asked a question or two, but already had answers in their head. I don’t understand why ask questions unless it was just to make them feel better. One of this circle was my sister. I offered to tell her the story. It took her several days to listen. When she did, she couldn’t hear it and said she didn’t beleive me. Someday, maybe. Another was a dear friend. I see her four kids, gave her a job, our families have camped together. I really thought we were close. She changed doctors before even talking to me. She never asked a question other than, “How could you?”

The next zone were people that originally were neutral but turned away slowly. There are a multitude of these. Some ask questions and make decisions, some just don’t have the guts to confront and request information. After getting swamped by the radioactivity, one of my daughters fell in this group. I havent got to talk to her or see her in a few months. That has been the hardest part of this.

There are those around that zone who desire to be involved. They speak loudly and talk of the horrors of the blast and radiation. The cluck their tongues and wag their heads. They are really uninvolved but speak as though they are pivotal.

The other side of the coin are the antiradiation group. There are those who heard and felt the blast. They speak on the horrific scene honestly. However, they also support unequivocably. They speak the truth and act out the Truth. They forgive as they have been forgiven. You would think this would be people of a church building. It isn’t. It is people of a broader reality, the Church Universal. They are not necessarily doing it because they think they have to, but because it is a natural response for them. My brothers and Dad fall in this group. There are several others as well. This group defines for me what intimacy is really supposed to be. It defines love. This is the group that I can see Namaste. I get a chance to have someone hold a mirror up and point out the God Spark in me. They go on to show me the fire created within me and caution me as to how I am extinguishing the flame.

I am told there will be a group that slowly understand that every story has three sides: yours, mine, and the truth. I have yet to recognize anyone from this group. There has been no attempt at reconciling or discussion yet, but it is early.

The final group is akin to those around the radiation group. They are vehemently in support of me. They talk about the evils of my former life and situation. They will hear no argument as to my mistakes. They are loud, but largely unhelpful. My goal isnt to shun who I was, but rather grow knowing that I blew it up.

God answers prayers. I begged to be relieved of my burdensome life. I asked for a life situation that wanted to change and grow. I asked to be content and happy, even if that meant destruction of the castle I had built. Well, I got that answer. I am not saying God caused bad things to happen, I don’t beleive that. I am saying that God is present with me even when I blow it. He is the inner most person in both zones. He unequivocally is with those hurt by my shrapnel. He is firm in his realistic support of me.

My world ended. As I approached the table, I knew it was over. I knew it would end badly. The soft but accusitory words from the person asking questions did little to relieve my anxiety. I fainted and slid to the floor. At that moment, my life ended and a new one would have to be constructed. I find myself looking back to the structure in ruins with remorse and longing. I know I am not welcome there and it is uninhabitable. I look ahead to nothing and have to catch my breath in anticipation of letting God build a new one with my hands. When I let the anxiety drip away from my fingertips, and the God Spark grow like it is supposed to, I can dream.

It the end of the world as I know it, and I feel fine…

 

 

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got a light

Had a dream last night and I have been feeling it hump my brain all day. I wonder if we are born as a little teacup candle. We have a little light, given by God, as a pilot light for our soul. It rests on the little saucer, the human form we are given to use and utilize. The light gets encouraged and discouraged throughout our lives. We have the winds of stinking foul breath telling us we are not worthy. We have the driving rains of discontent. We have soft fresh breezes of God’s whisper. We have the spring sprinkle of Grace. They all have the chance to fortify or destroy, depending on our reaction to them.

My dream saw the teacup and an intense desire to become a firelight. It feared the wind and rain and began to build walls around itself. The saucer became a dish. As the fear grew, metal planks were laid across the top. They were hinged to the edge on one end and stretched past the middle of the cup. Side by side they were placed, around the circumference. The loose ends stacked upon each other creating a ragged mountain in the middle.

I dreamt there was a sea of these cups, each protecting itself from the others. I saw the occasional flicker of light before a child had finished the isolation project. I heard the winds, felt the rains. I watched as cup after cup was sealed shut. I then noticed a small unassuming man in the far corner of the room. He wore overalls and had a ring of keys. A ring is an understatement, it was a hula hoop. We wore it around his neck, tucked under one arm. The hoop was filled with keys of all sorts and sizes. He would mount one cup and deftly set to work at the hinges. He would rummage through the keys, insert and turn. The metal bar would lift off the stack and fling open. The man would grin, shuffle to the right, and repeat the procedure. Bar after bar would open, cup after cup would be completed.

I ambled over and peered inside an open cup. There was no longer a candle present. Instead it was a galaxy of stars. It was infinity and beyond. I felt as though it would never end, and I would never end. I felt myself pulled into the eternity. As I stared at the Holy Fire I was seeing, the universe sized soul, I began to make out something in the distance. I saw a little girl, holding a candle. She stared at the stars around her and grinned.

We are that teacup light. As we grow as a child we respond to the, “No”. We shrivel from exploration and mirth. We grow up trying to please and set an identity that reflects are parents desires. The cup forms. For some it cradles, others it protects. And for some it limits. Into adolescence and then adult hood, we hear judgement and condemnation. We fear. We feel the emotions that we were protected against. We venture out into a world of closed off tins, hoping to share light with someone else. When we hurt, when we fear, we add protective bars across the top. We close ourself off.

Jesus is that man in the overalls. He delights in showing us the right key to begin the process of opening our life coffins. Freed from the hurt and pain, we fling off the rods. Each one opens. When we have been closed and opened again, our experience allows us to take part in eternity. We attract others. We glow with the Firelight we dreamed we could be. We shine like God dreamt we could be.

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RECIEVE

The newborn in the NICU will shudder with loud voices, but doesn’t flinch with the alarms going off in the crib next to them. The infant will focus in on the crumb lost in the shag carpet, but blocks out the word, “No.” The toddler stares at the TV and has learned to ignore their name being called. The child explores the universe and forgets to clean their room. The teenager has learned to unplug from the world with video games, headphones, and TV. The college student crams for the test and then drinks or drugs to escape the pressure. The adult is remote.

Our world is cluttered with sound bites. We have 10 second bursts of connections. I have watched people at the gym. They stare and dream. They try and approach the object of their desire. They smile, maybe quip. They have 10 seconds to make an impression. They flash their peacock feathers and hope. Hope dashed by the deafness hidden behind the earbuds. Dating sites encourage sifting through piles of pictures with a like or dislike. The flashes are based entirely on a 2 dimensional picture taken by a well meaning friend for your approval. It says nothing, it is a singular sense attraction. It means nothing, and yet millions seek some sort of connection daily.

How do we react? We shut down. I should speak for myself. I started by ignoring the alarms of life. I would see other people implode, explode, and die. I ignored the fire alarms, the specific warnings to be cautious. The orange barrels set up by God Himself seemed to zip by as I sped along the highway of life, seeking ‘more’. I focused on the crumbs of success, money, fame, fortune, affection, intimacy, etc. The crumb held my attention. The life around me, intertwinned with the gloriously clean and warm shag carpet of life faded from my vision, I forgot what was important. I neglected the life in favor of pursuing the crumb. I could not hear God whispering, “No, that isn’t what I have for you. I have so much more.”

I chased knowledge. I went to medical school. I read a book a week. I got a masters in theology. I am signed up for a PHD in counselling. I love the intricate nuances of life. I like to think and talk. I wax philosophic. The room in my head is a mess. My garden of thought is overgrown. I grew into a remote adult. I had spent a lifetime escaping from the noise of life, I could no longer hear living. I could no longer select the specific noise I wanted to ignore. I had lost the ability to recieve love.

Recieve Love. The love that shines through the infant who giggles at the sound of your voice. The love that glows in the in the child laughing as you wrestle on the shag carpet. The love that clammers for attention from the teen who just wants to be heard. The love that radiates from the adult looking for connection in a connection-less world. The love that springs forth when the whisper says, “I have so much more for you.”

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