50 Shades of Ego

shadesWhen my oldest child was born my mother would look at her and say crazy stuff like, “Babies are just pure selfishness! They’re so sinful; all they can think of is themselves.” It was this mindset, based on her ‘Christian values’, that formed the standard in which she raised me. I know that’s convoluted, and I in no way wish to place blame, but it gives some context for how my formative Christian experience shaped and affirmed the false self in me.

To begin with, my egoic specialness was identified with being sinful and inherently bad. I’m almost certain my mother thought I was the spawn of Satan. As I grew older, my ego discovered that it could also be special in the church if, instead of being pure selfishness, it became outstanding Christian goodness. I became a youth leader and eventually a pastor’s wife. In the Pentecostal circles I inhabited as a young person there could be no higher spiritual achievement for a young woman than to be married to a pastor. I had arrived.

And thus, my false self’s passive need to be special symbiotically joined the church in myriad ways. Oh, the (mis)adventures we’ve had.

Today, I find myself re-entering the context of church after a sabbatical. In my time away I explored other mystical paths and integrated new perspectives into the growing expansiveness of my spiritual repertoire. I’ve spent time in communities with no defined doctrines or sacred agendas, just simple unconditional love and acceptance.

I’d somehow drawn the conclusion that upon re-entering the church I would easily assimilate my fresh understanding into church life and something new and wonderful would just kind of instantly manifest for me.

I could not have been more wrong.

As a matter of fact, had I known before hand what I was getting myself into, I don’t think I would’ve agreed to Jesus’ invitation back into ‘the fold’! That’s not to say I was tricked; I’ve been a willing participant with the freedom to leave at any time.

My biggest challenge has been that my false self or ego is still trying to fill its old role of being special within the context of church. When I attend on Sunday morning or join up with a midweek small group, ego arises in me, nuanced with various shades of judgment, anger, frustration and self-righteousness. Ugly, ugly, ugly. It’s as if a mischievous toddler just walked up to my beautifully crafted masterpiece of ‘enlightened self’ and scribbled all over it with a crayon.

Could it be that the Divine is gently proposing I rework my sanctimonious showpiece, starting with a thick coat of primer? Seems so.

Jesus, give me the courage to walk in the humility you so graciously demonstrated, to be open to the reshaping of your Spirit in me, not clinging to what I’ve created myself to be, but in the openness and vulnerability of my True Self in you. Let me be a freshly primed canvass. This time, you be the paintbrush.

“Love does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Nuance

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Fearless Authenticity

basejumpWe were talking about Sunday school experiences in our childhood. One person contributed that he didn’t spend much time in Sunday school because he was often kicked out. There’s nothing like somebody else’s story to help trigger memories of your own…

As a child, I was kicked out of everything: school, music groups, kids clubs, Sunday school. You name it. The reason? I lived out of my truth regardless the cost. In Christian school we were awarded a ‘character trait’ poster at the end of every year. I got ones like ‘fearless’ and ‘thorough’. I can still remember the sound of the entire audience laughing when they called mine out. I guess you could say I had a reputation.  Nonetheless, the price was high in the 80’s when corporeal punishment still existed in schools and churches. A much worse fate awaited me at home. (trigger warning)

I grew up in a family where babies were beaten for crying or waking up at the wrong times and children were dragged out of their beds in the middle of the night for violent reasons. For me the solution was simple, learn to dissociate from the body and live my truth anyway. The result was a lot of hiding under the basement stairs and spending time in the forest. It was in those places where I would meet Jesus and experience Holy Spirit in ways that were more real than anything I encountered in the physical world.

As the years progressed, I learned to live with the incongruency of outer compliance because I finally caught on that my chances of survival were greater if I kept my soul hidden. I’ve never disconnected from Holy Spirit. Jesus has always been a faithful companion and guide. The pure, unconditional love and intimacy I’ve experienced with the Father is not worthy of words.

My biggest challenge in adulthood has been returning back to that place of complete and wild abandon in my spirit. It’s there. I feel it in the forest, on my mountain bike or with people I trust deeply. But much of the time I withhold. A lot. I don’t want to be perceived as rebellious or a heretic or worse. I am not fearless like I once was.

The western world, with all its controlling institutions, has not made space for people like myself…and perhaps you also. Maybe you’ve felt it though; a growing dissatisfaction amongst the intuitive masses. Many of us are no longer content with just wandering in the forests or hiding behind our blogs.

It’s not easy going into the places that make me feel uncomfortable, the places where I’m constantly confronted by the battle between my ego and my spirit. While I’m fairly good at helping others with their issues, I really don’t know how to share my true self with people that live out of a different paradigm than I do.

The path I’m on is certainly not easy, but the way for my children is somewhat easier. My kids have always had the freedom to live from their truth in my home. It might seem unconventional and it’s definitely anti-institutional, but we’ve made it a priority that they always lead with their human spirits and tune into Holy Spirit. Their egos come up with some pretty interesting stuff too, but how can you learn to distinguish between the two if you aren’t given the freedom to make mistakes in a safe environment?

Holy Spirit works in weird ways that I’m quick to judge as ‘wrong’, especially in other people’s lives. Keeping my mouth shut and allowing Spirit to do its thing in others, and even more so in myself, is a lesson I’m doomed to repeat. God grant us grace to love and forgive ourselves that we might be empowered to do the same for others.

Sound

Should My Ego Educate Yours?

arguingThe question was asked in church the other day, “If someone doesn’t believe in sin, how can you help them see its reality?” My stomach turned. I could feel something in me push back at that this, but I wasn’t quite sure what. As I took time to unravel it, this is what I discovered…

I’m a mediator. It’s not just my job, it’s who I am. Not that I do it perfectly, but it’s my role and my personality in this fleshly existence. I do make judgements, because it’s my egoic nature to do so, but many times I sense a check in my spirit when I have. That check is an invitation back into neutrality and openness with Holy Spirit.

One of my biggest hang-ups with church and Christians in general is this idea that it’s our moral duty to educate others on what the truth is. I’ll address that duty in a moment. First, let’s talk about what usually happens when my ego decides it should tell someone else’s ego that their perspective is wrong and mine is right. Naturally, people get defensive. As soon as you put someone on the defensive, you’ve lost the argument no matter how good or valid your points are. You might’ve proven your rightness to yourself and other like-minded individuals, but you’ve most certainly pushed the other person further away from seeing your take on the truth.

Truth is not revealed to others by egos educating egos, because our flesh-nature is completely out of touch with God and doesn’t know God. Therefore, truth isn’t revealed through opinions, arguments and apologetics. Truth can only be revealed through the Holy Spirit or that part of me that’s deeply in tune with the Spirit called my human spirit.

Here’s the paradox: your human spirit will never feel the need to educate someone on truth. It will only serve to point them to the Divine for revelation. When we walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control, people will naturally be guided to the Spirit when they’re around us and they’ll find their answers there. They’ll also own these revelations because they received them directly from the Source.

When I’m coaching someone or working with parties in dispute, it’s never my place to tell them why I might perceive that their ways are flawed. Trust me, I wouldn’t be very successful with that approach! My job is simply to ask questions and share positive insights that’ll help them understand themselves more deeply and that lead them to God for answers.

I Am Not the Holy Spirit (And Neither Are You)

Do you know how many times my ego has secretly thought it knew exactly what someone needed to hear from God (moral base and apologetics included) only to find out later I was completely off track?! I’m embarrassed to say. Think about how many biblical characters made what seemed like bad choices to begin with, only to have it revealed later that they were on the paths that were right for them? Jonah, David and Paul come to mind…just to name about 1% of them.

My children have probably taught me this lesson most deeply. That’s because I judge them more than anyone else, poor dears. Most people jump to the conclusion that kids can’t adequately hear from the Holy Spirit in order to make good choices for themselves. Christian parents tend to take on the fear-based role of being some sort of replacement or interpreter for the Divine in their kids’ lives, telling them how they should behave or think according to God. (Hint: anything you do out of fear is not of God.) In many cases, kids are more in tune than we are. We just don’t give them a chance to demonstrate this.

These days I try to teach my children through imparting principles and concepts, not should’s and shouldn’ts. I try not to interfere with how Spirit is leading them. This lends itself to a lot of judgement from nearly everybody because it’s not a popular child rearing method in the Western World. Fortunately, I don’t mind what people think much anymore.

The bottom line is this:  I am not the Holy Spirit. You are not the Holy Spirit. But when we are in sync with the Spirit and living out of the fruit that this life-style yields, we will always be helpful to others in the best way. You’ll know when you’re walking in righteousness because you won’t feel angry, fearful or like you have to prove a point, you’ll just feel awesome and full of unconditional love!

Replacement

Your Life is A Prayer

prayer

“Your faith has made you well!” That’s what Jesus told people after they had experienced a healing in his Presence. The idea here is that these healed people already believed they would be healed even before it happened. They had faith. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. Faith is a lifestyle.

So what is prayer then and what has it got to do with faith? Well, I suppose it has to do with how you pray. If faith is the assurance of things hoped for, then why do so many people pray for what they don’t want? For example, “Please don’t let me get sick” or “Please don’t let him lose his job” or “Dear God, help things to not get worse for them.”

Seriously? People never came up to Jesus hoping to not get a bad thing. They came expecting and knowing they’d be healed. As a matter of fact, Jesus didn’t even take the credit. He said YOUR faith has made you well.

People who experience divine healing live in assurance and expectation of miracles. It is a way of being and not just something that they set aside 15 minutes in the morning for. I love that old Keith Green song, “Make My Life A Prayer to You.” What an awesome concept!

Whether we realise it or not, everything we think and do has the same power that intentional on-your-face prayer does. Jesus explained that even if you have a sinful thought it’s the same as doing that thing. And so it goes with all other thoughts: if you think it, it is the same as doing it or asking for it. Your life is a prayer.

What are you really asking God for by the way you think and live?

Grow Up!

How often do we hear ourselves blaming the events and circumstances in our lives on the actions of some other person or institution…or maybe even the devil? It’s easy, isn’t it? Have you ever wondered what it would look like to take 100% responsibility for every thought in your mind and every word that escaped your mouth? Some people call this ‘mindfulness’. The scriptures repeatedly admonish us to take responsibility for our thoughts, to keep them set on things that are pure and good and that by doing so we will be cleansed and renewed.

Cleansed and renewed, eh? Sounds kinda like healing to me…healing that comes from faith, which is the assurance of things hoped for! And so it comes full circle, folks. Your life is a prayer, whether you like it or not. What is your life praying for? What are your thoughts and actions really petitioning God for?

Here’s a challenge: try carefully paying attention to all your thoughts and words for one day and transparently journaling all the things you are praying for; good or bad, intentional or unintentional. What changes do you need to implement in the Prayer of Your Life?

May you be blessed to be a blessing!