Have mercy on my Thoughts

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God
Have mercy upon me, a sinner.

As I was driving to Abilene, Texas to have a procedure done by a back surgeon. I tried to keep my mind off the surgery by allowing myself to just float from one topic to the next. The problem with this type of thought surfing is that it can be a perfect time for the Evil One to attack.

As I drove mile after mile, I first struggle with the directive of Jesus to love our neighbor as yourself. I have always had trouble with this. I believe I need to love my neighbor a whole lot more love than I love myself because I really do not love myself that much. So my thought surfing lead from one negative thought to another about the phoniness, the sinfulness, the foolishness, and destructiveness of my life for the past five decades. As I thought, the depression I began to feel deepened.

So then my mind went scapegoating. My first focus was the dubious character and malevolent activities of my former district superintendent. I could write some really dark stories based on my thoughts about her. But of course, thankfully,  came the conviction followed by the prayer of seeking forgiveness that added to the proof of just how stupid I can be. The Lord knows all about my feelings and I need to leave my thought on her with him.

The next target drifting into my thoughts were others that were involved in destroying my ministry (if you could call it that) and who forced me into poverty, horrible physical injury, and create in me the desire to sue them.  I serioisly prepared to do this and had ample evidence to win but I back down because that is what they would do so I thought. In reality, God just said no. Well, I least I did on thing right, I think. But these thoughts and all their negativity would not stop and I was getting close to complete despair as I drove. Not a good place to be.

I felt I had only one hope. Repeating the Jesus Prayer. So I began: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner, breathe out. Breathe in, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner, breath out, repeat. Again and again I developed the intentional rhythm and focus to continue this prayer for 40 miles until I reached the surgery center.  The dark thoughts were gone and I felt a bit a peace while I waited for my turn to be sedated and injected.

Every day of my life is a battle against my thoughts. Every day is a battle but the awareness I gain is both painful and redemptively truthful. I am an intuitive and likely function mostly under the seer/lover archetypes so I lean to the addictive which produces much of my negative shadow.

Being in this state gives me an awareness of when I am being played by politeness and conventionality. I can sense when people really do not want to be around me and I do not want to be anyplace when I am not wanted. This means I need to be sensitive to expectations that will not be fulfilled and not become to upset by those I bore or worse. They are not the ones to be scapegoated. The only scapegoat I have for my current state is my self.

Until I work through the mental mess and psychic potholes in my life I am going to be very vulnerable to attacks. I will be fighting my thoughts. I will be easily wounded and more self depreciating. But I know, as the pilgrim discovered, there is a prayer for this and every situation that changes the direction of thought to the One who can handle all that comes.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God
Have mercy upon me, a sinner. Amen

 

That Brighter Day

When dreams are filled with nightmares
And your thoughts are filled with dread
When you think that no one really cares
And you hopes are all but dead
You still can find some peace of mind
You still can find a way
To look beyond this world to find
A future with a brighter day

The struggle to surrender to righteousness is not a simple as making a decision. Anyone who believes otherwise is entering the realm of self delusion. The truth is that it takes hard work to move beyond the cheap grace of today’s prevision of good news. Salvation is a moment by moment process that is continually being attacked by a nature that is like completely corrupt. As Scripture rightly says, “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.” (Rom. 3:10-12 NRS)

I am sick of those who say only focus on the positive. Focus on the power of redemption as if it were a form of magic that mystically transforms us into beings of light. Yes, focus on redemption, but understand the way to righteousness depends on God’s righteousness and a continual process of reflection, discernment, and decision. Repentance means going the other direction and this direction is the narrow road. “For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:14 NRS)

One of the deadly sins is that of apathia or sloth which is a failure to carry out one’s spiritual  responsibility. It is to take the easy path of painless religion, convenient religion, the social religion that deceives and deludes. It is a path the requires very little and has the mantra, free grace.

I believe we can grow in our faith but the road is more like that of Abraham, Job, Paul of Romans chapter seven and Jesus rather than Joe knows church. At least for me, the path of righteousness only comes when I do not trust myself, do not feel empowered or secure, but when I reflect on the battle between my old nature and the powers and principalities. It is painful. It is filled with times of seeking to move from self loathing to fear and trembling. Yet, this struggle is worth the reward that is promised. It is worth a future with a brighter day.

When dreams are filled with nightmares
And your thoughts are filled with dread
When you think that no one really cares
And you hopes are all but dead
You still can find some peace of mind
You still can find a way
To look beyond this world to find
A future with a brighter day

Spiritual Direction?

I wonder in my limitation
How stark can darkness be
For even though I seek the light
I find it is darkness who chases me

Time after time darkness catches me
And I pay the most terrible cost
And even though I see the light
I feel as if I am lost

 

In our current days of disconnect and distraction, of comparison and consumption, seeking to grow in one’s faith can be exceedingly hard.

Now there are plenty of books, manuals, videos, and people claiming to be gurus who promise to lead us toward a deeper relationship with Christ, but I cannot help but wonder if they are the blind leading the blind. Perhaps they have been so deluded in their own reality, so deceived in their pseudo locutions of spiritual insight that the have crossed over into the fantasy of self-deception.

There are times I wish I could talk with someone who lived in the years between the story of Malachi and Matthew. What was it like when God went silent? What techniques did the spiritual gurus of that time offer?

There are clues in the likes of Simeon and Anna. They were old. They had an expectation and were wondrously surprised when God came into their presence. It is the living in the hope and expectation that sustained them. A faith developed through the Scriptures they had and the hope they came to embrace in their hearts.

I strive to read every book I can on spiritual direction and the “Christian” spiritual experience of every noted mystic I can find.  By Christian, I mean that which is based on the good news of the incarnation of God that has been preserved and believe by the faithful in all times and places. For me, Christian is a word meaning follower of Jesus who has made the commitment to be a disciple who tells others of the birth, life, death, resurrection and promises made by Jesus.

I put emphasis on the word “Christian” because much of what is passed off as spiritual direction today is much like current politics, swinging either to the fringe right or the fringe left.  I just left an organization that was started by Christian spiritual directors and has now drifted into a hodge-podge of eclectic psychology and new age magic of which I have no desire to be affiliated. On the other end are the Trump-ites whose idea of spiritual direction is MAGA, stockpiling arms, and building walls for the glory of Jesus.

Most of my life I have been trying to find those paths which we lead me closer to God. I am convinced the harder I try, the more difficult the journey gets. I am becoming more and more convinced that the more you try to find and follow the light, the more you attract the darkness. I have also discovered that I am no match for this darkness.

So,

I wonder in my limitation
How stark can darkness be
For even though I seek the light
I find it is darkness who chases me
Time after time darkness catches me
And I pay the most terrible cost
And even though I see the light
I feel as if I am lost