Law is a Transitory Solution – 2 Corinthians 3:1-4:6

Reality: Law is a transitory solution. Law was needed for humanity to survive long enough to grow past survival of the fittest into living in community. (Sumerian Code 2100-2050 BC; Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi circa 1760 BC; Hebrew Torah 1330 – now; Twelve tables of Roman Law 450 BC)
But law, by its set in stone nature, becomes a tool of condemnation, a way of labeling and separating people even within a community. Law protects people and property, but does not nourish the spirit needed to create a community of love.
Paul says, “Only in Christ is the veil of condemnation (by the law) removed.” Without knowing in heart and mind that we are loved unconditionally, we have no way of getting free of the need to earn and prove our value, often at the expense of others. Since in reality “All fall short of perfection” (the glory of God), no matter what we accomplish or how good we become…..it is never enough. Generally, this leads to settling for believing that we are “better than” another person, another group, another race, another nationality, even another religion. Instead of recognizing our shared humanity, we see people as the “Other” in order to feel good about ourselves. (Pharisees)
But when freed by recognizing the glory (love) of God in Jesus, we begin to become transformed into His image by God’s Spirit within us.
When we acknowledge Jesus as both our Redeemer and as our Lord, we have found the source of grace to grow free to be servants of all. If we continue to go to that well of grace there is less and less need to outperform, have power over, label, or reject others in order to feel better about ourselves. Unfortunately, it’s a big “IF.”
We are all imperfect and all loved as we are. As we grow in our belief in that, we realize “That we are not competent in ourselves. Our competence comes from God.” We do not have to prove anything. Jesus proved with His life and death that we are of infinite value, as servants not only of God, but of ALL others. (Radical inclusivity)
The gospel displays the love (glory) of Christ, who is the image of God. Christ who did not cling to power or importance, but walked in our skin and learned from others, and grew in wisdom and openness to God within, but also accepted failure, rejection, pain, and death for our sake, so we would know we don’t have to earn, win, achieve, anything in our short span here on earth.
All we are called to do is to admit our limits, focus on God’s love for us expressed in Christ and pass it on in whatever ways God gives us.

The Mystery of Suffering

Eileen:

Neither self validation nor self criticism matter. My significance come from who-I-am-as part of a much larger whole, God. And that includes both my good and bad parts. There seem to be only two ways that we know this experientially: prayer and suffering.

Originally posted on Laughter: Carbonated Grace:

These are quotes from Job and the Mystery of Suffering by Richard Rohr.
When suffering comes to you (and sooner or later it comes to everyone), don’t search for any special method of prayer. Just be.

Just sit and accept your cross: accept it totally in the depth of your being. How terribly anguishing, but terribly powerful this method of prayer is. There are many different experiences of suffering, but whatever yours is, don’t try to escape it. Don’t fight it. Just sit with your cross.

Rohr says, To be human means to be imperfect and in process. Grace brings us out of the question of why we are suffering to the amazing recognition, “My life is not about me.” This is the great and saving revelation that comes only from the whirlwind, and we are never ready for it…………We are a continuation of the incarnation, a continuation of the…

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Reflections on Important Values and Who in History and in our Personal Experience Embody Them.

Preparing a class on 2nd Corinthians that I will be teaching in a few weeks. Got to thinking about who embodies my personal concept of Christ in history in the Common Era.
I was a bit surprised when I settled on Gandhi. But also know from reading, that Gandhi was a pretty rotten husband and father. Kind of makes me understand why Jesus never got married. I suspect that most great men have had long-suffering families. Perhaps great women also, though in history many of them became nuns and prioresses since that was the only role where women had freedom, respect, and a certain amount of power.
Recently I both read and heard another person say that today’s most popular idol is our self. We’re number one. Our opinions, our belief system, our needs, our desires, our loves, our country, our talents, our goals, our values are more important than anyone else’s when it comes down to making choices. And the end justifies the means when it comes to protecting those.
One of my blog posts brought some rather strong disagreement when I included the bible in a list of possible idols. I really value the bible and look to it for insights, challenges, encouragement and grace. I consider the bible good, but not God.
There are other people than Gandhi,leading smaller lives focused on family and the people they come into contact with, that I consider Christlike. In my past I’ve known a pediatrician, a nun teacher, and an ex nun facilitator that stand out particularly in my memory. They seemed to actually be able to put caring about others first, to be able to admit their own limits and be open enough to others’ very different opinions to be stretched by them, and amazingly to both affirm and challenge others without diminishing them.
I’d love to hear what you value in humans and who in both history and in your personal lives embody those values.

Never Wanted to Go to Heaven

I never really wanted to go to heaven; just wanted to make sure I avoided going to hell, if there was one.  The problem was that my personality likes diversity and change.  I just couldn’t imagine any kind of heaven I would enjoy for eternity.  (Eternity sounds like a very very long time.)

After a conversion from agnosticism complete with an experience of the unlimited, no conditions love expressed in Jesus, I felt pretty sure there was a heaven that would work for everyone, even me.  But I still couldn’t imagine it.

Some years into my spiritual journey I had an experience of such intense and enormous joy, that from then on I was much more excited about going to heaven and not so concerned with the details.

My brother and I were traveling together and the experience was so overwhelming that we each simultaneously asked God to stop it for fear we would actually explode.  I won’t go into much detail, because I think these experiences come about differently for everyone.  We both experienced a moment of great clarity in which we felt, saw, heard  and were a part of a crowd around Jesus singing praise in the presence of God.  After sharing with one another, we decided that what we had each experienced was very similar, but also realized that there was no way to measure or compare.  We both experienced as much joy as we were each able to bear at that point in our lives. So, whether it was an ocean of joy or a cup of joy simply didn’t matter.

Over the forty plus years since then, I have come to believe that the capacity for experiencing joy and the capacity for accepting suffering are linked. I don’t know if there is a cause and effect relationship or just some sort of spiritual law of balance.  My instinct says that joy is the grace that gives us the freedom to accept heart break without dulling the pain through anger or depression or an addiction (even one to doing good or working constantly.)  But my experience also has been that in accepting the painful darkness of sorrow, I find the peace that passes understanding. And that peace is quiet joy.

As the psalm says, “But then comes the morning, yesterdays sorrows behind.”

The Trap of Depression

I need to start with a disclaimer. My struggle with depression and the things that have helped me may not help anyone else. And there may be things that would have helped me more. I also believe that we are born with different chemical balances and that stages of life like puberty, pregnancy, and change of life can cause balances to get more out of whack for some people.(How’s that for medical terminology.)
Also, when the chips are down, I do believe deeply that I am loved, just as I am, by the only One who actually makes much difference at my stage of life and that means I know I am not alone when down in the pit of despair.

Depression is the emotional equivalent of an abscessed tooth. Self-hatred is a judgement and judgment is like cement that sets emotion into stone.The one thing about emotions is they are normally changeable, but self-hatred for being depressed locks us into the depression.

Those of us who have high, possibly unrealistic, expectations of ourselves and of life are vulnerable not only to depression, but particularly to a sense of failure and inadequacy that triggers self-hatred.

Depression is painful. And pain of any kind both saps our energy and centers us in on ourselves. (Remember the abscessed tooth.)

My first step for getting out of the mire of depression is to accept it. That doesn’t mean wallowing or giving up hope. It means accepting the reality of it, like we would an excruciating toothache, and cutting ourselves some slack by prioritizing and minimizing our obligations to the world. When we first experience the darkness of despair, we may need to stop our everyday world and get off for a time, but as we learn coping skills
we can lower our expectations and at least continue functioning in areas of our strengths. Eventually, if we get smart enough, we quit trying to give 120 % in our up times, so in the down times we can just slow down the pace a little and cope.

I’m convinced some of the problem is cultural, patriarchal, in fact. In the old hunter/warrior society emotions were considered weakness. We have to shut out empathy to kill a deer or a person. When we have to do these things to keep our family, village or tribe alive, we learn to compartmentalize our feelings. I’ve noticed that generally men handle women’s anger much better than our tears. I’ve known husbands that told their wives to stay in the bathroom to cry. I knew a seasoned Army Staff Sergeant, a veteran of two wars, who asked to be transferred from a safe cushy posting to a dangerous no frills one, because all his officers were women and they cried at Staff meetings. I could understand his reaction, but couldn’t help but wonder if all the officers in the various armies sat around crying would it cut down on wars?

I’m personally convinced that tears are a healthy release for tension and possibly one of the reasons women outlive men.

However, life goes on even when our every movement is like wading through quick sand and having to make even the smallest decision sets off panic. If we had an actual abscessed tooth, we would cut ourselves some slack and so would the world. But at this point in our culture, unless we are hospitalized, we and the world expect us to continue just as we usually do.

Some of us seem to be born with personalities that see possibilities, usually ideal scenarios, not necessarily based on life’s realities. We are not always easily identifiable, we may take on disguises such as Goth attire or metal appendages and flaunt the dark side to hide our fragile dreams of being heroes and our inner fear that there are no heroes.

Sometimes, we hide behind sarcasm or cynicism.

But, the truth is almost all humans are ordinary. We aren’t qualified to be extraordinary or called to save the world.

We are called to give a cup of water to the thirsty, a smile of welcome to the outcast, a hug to the discouraged, a piece of art to call attention to the beauty of the world, or a poem to remind us of others’ suffering, a song to soften hearts, laughter to lighten heavy hearts, even the gift of our honesty about our own failures to share our freedom to be a fallible human with others.

The list goes on and on and doesn’t require heroic measure or extraordinary talent.

I seem to have been born one of those with big dreams, high hopes, and many ideas. Unfortunately, I am lousy at detail and loathe the boredom of repetition, so my dreams and ideas remain just that, dreams and ideas. I’ve always hurt for others, worried about the whole world, and still sometimes have to work through the paralysis of depression when I can’t fix life for those I love who are in pain. It has taken me a long time to admit that it was hubris to think I could save the world or anyone in it. And that struggling with that delusion kept me from doing what I actually can do.

I used to not go to funerals because I couldn’t think of anything miraculously healing to say and feeling others’ sadness sent me into depression. Then, when my own father died, I realized that each person there represented someone that cared enough to come and that it truly helped me to know that his life mattered to others. They didn’t need to say anything.

My son, Tommy, when he was about three, taught me that you don’t have to say anything to help people feel loved. He would be doing his little boy thing and would suddenly stop and come over smiling to pat my hand or shoulder and then just go right back to what he was doing.
I called them “Tommy pats” and eventually when I saw a rainbow or caught all the green lights when running late, I called those, “God’s Tommy pats.” And even now, Julian and I will often stop and give each other a smile and a “Tommy pat.”

Once, when I was overwhelmed by fear of the lifelong consequences of a bad decision by one of my children, I poured out my heartbreak to my friend Paige. She simply wept with me. It’s hard to describe how much that helped me. Someone cared enough to feel my pain with me. I wasn’t alone inside it.

So, what I finally know now, is that when I am depressed because I am not extraordinary or heroic and even perhaps have lost it and made life darker for someone else, I can humbly do the ordinary. And if we all do these little things, no one will go thirsty, or be alone in their sorrow, or feel unloved. And we all, even the depressed, will experience the reality of the Psalm that says, “But then comes the morning, yesterdays sorrows behind.”

Birthday Reflections: 77 is a Very Good Number or Killing A** Holes Would Make Jesus Cry

Over all it’s been a reasonably productive, though challenging year. The challenge of moving has been a bit of a bummer, but the advantage of it being such a drawn out, tiring process is it has helped us become eager to get moved, instead of just needing to move.

Also, my faith has been stretched by the process and that’s a good thing. I realized recently that what I used to think were tests of faith (which I usually failed!) are instead a stretching of our faith as part of the journey. Hopefully, each time we are stretched, we make it a little longer before we have to pray, “I do believe. Help thee my unbelief.”

I hit a couple of areas where I realized that I would have to change or I was going to totally fail in some of the most important areas of my life. And then I discovered that accepting that I need to change is the hard part, once I want to change, the grace comes.

Realized also, that out of fear of alienating people I love, I often downplay how important Jesus is in my life. So much bad stuff has been done in his name and his role warped into a fear of hell thing rather than a love that frees us, that it is hard to find words that aren’t a turn off to describe what an amazing human being he is, how powerful his resurrection can be in our own lives, and that he is literally still here for us.

One of my grandchildren was laughingly telling me about a teen girl who got into a loud argument with someone at school and shouted, “You better be glad that I love Jesus, cause I’d wipe the floor with you if I didn’t.”

It was a funny coincidence her telling me that, because on the drive to spend the day with her I had been thinking that if I hadn’t experienced knowing Jesus and his love, I doubt if I would have made it to fifty, never-the-less seventy-seven. And as weak, difficult, and selfish as I still often am, I would be a whole lot worse.

One of my favorite things I’ve read on facebook lately was a woman’s response to a friend telling about her child being made fun of at preschool because he thought the other children were cruel to cut up worms. Her response was: “Tell him that there are a lot of A** Holes in the world. And the best thing to do is ignore them, because killing them is illegal and also it would make Jesus cry.”

And I think it would. And I am glad of that, because let’s face it, there’s some A** Hole in all of us.

Guest Post: Breaking The Low Mood Cycle

Eileen:

Loved this because, “Been there; done that.” It sounds simplistic, but actually is a good tool to break habitual cycles. Also, something a depressed teen-ager can relate to well enough to use it.

When I used to get trapped in a bad cycle of “I hate my boring life and I hate my selfish boring self,” I put slips of paper in three glasses. One glass labeled, Boring Necessary Tasks. The second labeled, Kindnesses to Others. And the third named, Attempts at Creativity or Totally Worthless Fun.

I drew randomly from first BNT and when that suggestion was accomplished, I drew and accomplished one from KTO, and then finally from the third, my reward group. Often accomplishing the first two unblocked my creativity.

I had two sets of these groups: Level One involved only a tiny bit of energy and time for each suggestion. Level Two took a larger investment of both.

On struggling through mud swamp days, I started with Level One and then moved on to Level Two. (Or not.)

Originally posted on Captain Awkward:

Image: a cheerful orange blob monster is chatting to a friend using a speech bubble containing a question mark and exclamation mark. The friend is a grumpy grey blob monster who looks away expressing grumpiness. Its speech bubble contains a grey scribble.

Hello friends! It’s Elodie Under Glass here with a guest post on Low Moods.

I particularly want to thank Quisty, Kellis Amberlee and TheOtherAlice  for their kindly help in reading and editing this piece. It would not have existed without their care, support, compassion, and wonderful editorial abilities. They are truly remarkable humans! (edited: And thanks to the radiant and patient NessieMonster, who let me come to her city and follow her around, burbling insensibly about this post, for far longer than most people would have.)

So recently, I went on a Stress and Mood Management course, and I thought that you all might enjoy sharing what I’ve learned.

This post is something of a correction/update to Adulthood is a Scary Horse, a post for the Captain which I was never quite satisfied with. It really crystallized for me on this course, in our…

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The Big Four of Mental Healing: An Inner Journey, Counseling, Medicine and Grace

My degree is in psychology, with some graduate courses in learning disabilities and training in administering, interpreting and leading workshops on the Meyer’s-Briggs Type Indicator. But I have never done any counseling, so what I have to say needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
I have had counseling at some crises times in my life. Some of it was not helpful at all, but some actually helped enough to bring about major change. To me, Psychology often seems now aimed at putting a label on people and experimenting with pills until either some pill works more than it hurts, or they get over whatever it was on their own!
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been helped by pills, but I’ve been helped as much or more by reading, working at developing inner awareness, and getting feedback from a counselor. There was a face book post about pills not curing anything, but helping us keep it together enough to work through our inner conflict. That resonates with me. Though I do recognize that in the case of some serious mental illnesses, pills are a critical part of keeping personal demons at bay. Although chemical imbalances may play a part in our problems, along the way we have usually learned responses to life that no longer work for us. Sometimes it takes changing our chemistry, our mental attitudes and our habitual behaviors.
One of the problems I, and many others, have is that our first response to the outer world is emotional. We operate on a feeling level. We are capable of using logic and reason, but that is not our first response. (And sometimes, not our second or third or……)

All too often we identify with our feelings. We are sad or happy, PERIOD.
From our viewpoint there is no end in sight. This makes any feeling seem overwhelming.
Whether it’s despair or pure joy, if you feel/think it’s going to last forever, that’s delusional thinking and it’s going to seriously handicap you in dealing with reality.
We have to learn to tell ourselves,” This is just a feeling and feelings change.” That is the nature of feelings, when we don’t get stuck there by delusional thinking. Our emotions and our reason need to hold hands, look each other in the eye, and talk!
Henri Nouwen speaks to this, “Don’t identify with your feeling. It is not the whole of you. Instead pastor it gently.”
And that takes grace.

“Find God Within and Love Her Fiercely.” (Unknown.)

We are in the process of moving with all the sorting and prioritizing that goes with downsizing.
So when I ran out of stamina for bending and lifting to pack things, I started going through 30 + years of journals. I have already found quite a few quotes I liked and that I have seen confirmed in the intervening years.

“Ministry is often a confrontive service, taking away the false supposition that there should be no pain or suffering.”
“Hospitality gives space for the other to find their own soul. It takes away the illusion that wholeness can be given to another.”
“Don’t identify with your feelings, they are not the whole of you. Simply pastor them gently.” (All three from Henri Nouwen, I think.)

“Important consequences are often side-effects: A bee gets honey, so nature gets pollinated.” Buckminster-Fuller

“Perfectionism and the stress it causes make small achievements feel larger.”
“Admit that no one, including you, can please everyone.” My paraphrase of some others’ ideas.

“Use suffering to end suffering. Welcome it, because it alerts us to our own inner needs or illusions and frees us by helping us to face and accept reality.” Sadhana

Reading my journals from the eighties, I can see some ways I have changed. Back then I was struggling unsuccessfully to even love, never-the-less, like myself. Now, I realize that I still don’t like me very much, but because I have come to know with all my heart that I am loved by God, I do actually love myself. And that has freed me to love others that I don’t like very much. I’m thinking this may be enough. Perfection is best left to God”

One of my most cherished beliefs has been that we are capable of growth, of spiritual evolution. So as I read my journals, at first I found myself thinking….yes, I love more deeply now, in spite of the reality that loving people more and loving more people brings more heartbreak along with the joy. And then I decided that I was also more honest, since I am not as addicted to pleasing everyone. And remembering how little stress it used to take to paralyze me, I felt pretty sure I’ve grown stronger. And I definitely stick with people and and goals through the disillusionment stage better than I used to. (Please realize I am not saying I do any of these well; just better than I used to manage.)

But then I realized that I’m still the same wus I always was. The difference is that now I admit it and I waste less and less time trying to solve everything with my own limited strength, wisdom, and ability to love the unloveable.

I know more and more what Paul meant about praying unceasingly. He meant it literally. And in weak moments when I have trouble praying with much faith, I gather prayer support from all the praying friends and family I can rally.

Though it’s been a long and sometimes difficult journey, as I look back across the decades, I get glimpses of a somewhat meandering path, but one that seems custom designed to get me to my final destination.

Jeremiah, an Eeyore With Faith

I used to avoid reading the prophet Jeremiah. He seemed so negative, a real downer. But I’ve come to realize that he would make a great character in a modern novel. He has such a complex and conflicted personality.
Babylon’s long siege has brought terrible suffering to Jerusalem and its army is now battering the gates. Good old Jeremiah is loudly proclaiming, “Babylon is gonna win! They are going to haul King Zedekiah off. You might as well all defect and get it over with, because you can’t win. This is God’s retribution. You brought it on yourselves.”

Jeremiah’s really great for morale in a war zone.

But at the same time the Lord also tells Jeremiah to buy his cousin’s land officially, in front of witnesses, for the time when God will return Israel to Jerusalem. That would be like buying an ocean front house in Florida in the middle of a full scale hurricane.

And Jeremiah puts both his money and his mouth where his faith is; he not only buys the land, he begins to proclaim that God will make a new covenant with his people. Jeremiah tells anyone who will listen, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I will put my law within them. I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people.”

This is a serious leap of faith for Jeremiah. Even though he cares deeply about God’s people and really hurts for them, he has no illusions about their track record. But he goes on record that God’s love can accomplish anything, not just reverse the fortunes of war, but change hearts.

Jeremiah is like an Eeyore with faith. He has no illusions about life or people, but God is his bottom line.

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