Truth Imprisoned

Some chaotic thoughts on Mark 6:14-29
The disciple’s work in your name was making some noise. King Herod heard they had been sent by you and were doing wonders. Herod had a curious heart, a heart intrigued by the preaching of John the Baptizer. John spoke truth to Herod, pointed out the ways he was not living correctly. Herod didn’t like this, but he couldn’t deny he wanted to hear more of what John had to say, because he knew John was holy and righteous. Did Herod think keeping John in prison, safe from Herodias, made him a holy and righteous?

He kept the truth locked up, close by, controlled. Didn’t heed it, but toyed with it. Keeping it safe salved his conscience. Herod had the truth killed because of his pride, but couldn’t silence it’s influence upon him. When he heard of Jesus and the work the disciples were doing, the same fear, curiosity and guilt arose.

How am I (you) like Herod? How do I (you) attempt manage God’s truth? How do I (you) keep God’s truth in prison; nearby so I (you) can listen to it when I (you) want, and shut it up when it gets too close? How does this fool me (you) into believing l am (you are) righteous?

God, I take great heart knowing your truth cannot be imprisoned or killed. My pride cannot silence it, you persist in chasing me, poking me, stirring my conscience. We know the end of the story for Herod, even at Jesus’ trial, he was still seeking truth and not recognizing it even though it was staring him in the face. God, I don’t want to be like Herod, your truth trailing me, and me being blind to it or trying to force it to coddle me and my vanities.

Truth, I know there are areas in my life where I heed you, others where I put you in prison. Break free, Truth. Chase me down. Stare me in the face. You do not serve at my beck and call. “If I make your word my home I am indeed your disciple, I will learn the truth and the truth shall make me free.” So be it. Amen.

Will you join me in setting truth free so we can be set free?

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MM 7/4/15 dive into love

Hello dear ones, It’s been a long time. I have been (and still am) unpacking boxes and settling into our new home. It’s been a very different experience than previous transitions, I don’t feel giddy, I feel stable and move through the tasks of the day with calm and patience. I expected to feel silly with newness. And my soul has felt flat. But I continue to trust that God is good and this home is good and my life is good. Pray for me as I do you, that we will know the joy of the Lord in our every day.

MM 7/4/15 dive into love from Debby Bellingham on Vimeo.

God and ‘Pharaoh Fear’

But Moses said to God, “Who am I?”

God had a plan to deliver his chosen people from the Egyptian political machine that held them captive.

God is the same today as he was then, he observes our misery, hears our cries, knows our suffering and comes down to deliver us, bringing us to a good place, a broad place; a place of freedom.

Moses is the man God assigned to implement this deliverance plan. Moses, though, was a man who lived in bondage. Although not enslaved by the Egyptian taskmasters, as was his Jewish brothers and sisters, an even worse oppressor, one that lived within him held him captive. Fear.

Like Moses, “Pharaoh Fear” and his taskmasters hold you and me hostage. Our personal prisons, created by fear, look different in each of our experience. But what is the same for all of us, Moses included, is that God’s promise, realized in Jesus Christ, releases us from every captivity. This includes the prisons that fear and its various taskmasters create.

God had a plan to set his people free and it required Moses to return to the place he’d fled, challenge the most powerful man in the world, and go back to an environment where he felt insecure and inadequate. No wonder he resisted God’s request. “Who am I…?” was his gut reaction. He had come to know himself as his fears had defined him and speaks from this sense of identity. “I’m not enough for this task.”

In setting us free, God begins with the basics. We’ve come to believe lies about our true identity. Our past may have taught us that we are powerless, without a voice, unnecessary and perhaps even the reason for trouble. Such beliefs keep us from experiencing the liberty that God intends. These statements are not what God says about us.

Pause for a moment and consider the beliefs you hold about yourself that keep you captive and living in fear…

The interesting way God has of correcting these wrong beliefs is not through words or cognition. “I will be with you” is the antidote offered for Moses’ fears. The presence of God is the healing and restorative means of addressing our inaccurate self-assessments.

Words or arguments will not convince you of the truth. You do not need to know more correct and proper information. When these lies bully you, and you cringe in fear because of them, it is only in clinging to the presence of the God who promises to be there that will give you the power to act in freedom.

It is not a mind game, it is not positive self-talk that empowers you to operate from a sense of freedom. “I am capable, I am enough…” It is bringing these imprisoning lies before the God of love that causes them to melt away and be replaced with God’s truth spoken over you.

Your heart must be convinced, not just your mind.

This is when freedom is experienced.

Pockets of Paradise

God desires our communities to be safe places where one can live in intimate relationship with God, with self and with others. Genesis 2:25 describes the quality of such a fellowship beautifully and poetically, “And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”

A gathering of God’s beloved children should be characterized by people who are “naked and not ashamed.” Wow! Of course I am speaking metaphorically and spiritually, but consider with me the definitions and implications of what it means to be naked and not experience any shame in the context of community.

Although Adam and Eve were literally naked, the Hebrew word translated naked also means a person without pretense or uniform. Police officers wear uniforms so they can easily be identified. A police uniform tells you how to relate to the person wearing it and what you can expect from them. The uniform defines the role they’ll play in your life and how you should interact with them. You don’t know the person behind the uniform, you don’t even care about the person behind the uniform, your relationship with them is defined by the role they play.

When physically naked, there is nothing covering your body, your beauty and your flaws are seen by all. To be naked spiritually and relationally is to be yourself, without pretending to be someone you are not, or hiding within the safety of a role you play. It’s “what you see is what you get”, no pretense, no hiding, just guileless authenticity.

And (here’s the kicker) this person, in their absolute nakedness feels no sense of shame. Shame is the feeling that follows disappointment of opinion, hope or expectation. They are purely themselves and have complete confidence that who they are will not disappoint in any way. There is no shadow of doubt cast on their personhood, they live from a place of sufficiency, value and acceptance.

I think of my grandkids when I think about this type of unashamed nakedness. Eliza and Jack both jump out of the bath and run around in naked exuberance, unaware of their bodies, conscious only of joy and life. This is the experience God desires for us in our communities. To live with one another in the freedom that unselfconscious nakedness would allow. Imagine outposts of Eden where God’s kingdom is realized, where brothers and sisters can live together Naked and Not Ashamed. This is paradise!

What are your thoughts about this concept? Do you have any place where you experience the type of community described in Genesis 2:25?

Facing Truth

truth road sign arrowReorientation toward truth 

God made you you on purpose, and God needs you to be you. In order to live from the freedom of your God given identity, you will need to replace the lies that you have come to believe about yourself with God’s truth concerning you. As Jesus said, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

So how does this happen?

  1.  Identify the lies that hold us in hiding. See herehere  and here for help in identifying these lies. 
  2. Replace with lies with God’s truth. For more help read this post  A Return to Trust.

In my last entry I shared some of the lies that have held me captive. “I am powerless, there is no hope.” Here is how these lies can be replaced with truth. It’s not an easy process, sometimes it helps to have a trusted spiritual director who can walk through this with you. I’d be honored to walk with you through this exercise. Contact me if you like.

Identify an inciting incident – Prayerfully recall a specific incident from childhood that typifies how you began to believe the lie. My lie was a sense of powerlessness, yours will most likely be something different. On a family camping trip, when I was around seven years old, I was holding my mom’s hand as we walked on a small dam across a tiny creek. It was a hot day and the pond the dam created looked so inviting and cool. My mom kept saying, “Don’t go in the water” as she would push me toward the pond with a smile on her face. It was very confusing for me. I kept trying to not go in the water because that is what she told me to do. Her words said one thing, and her actions said another. I didn’t know which to obey.

Experience the feelings related to that incident – Revisit the scene in your imagination, let it come alive and get in touch with what you felt at the time.  I felt confused. I wanted to do what was asked of me, but I couldn’t determine which demand I should obey: to stay out of the water or to let my mom push me into it.

Messages/tapes that play – As a result of such incidents what messages does your subconscious hear and live by? Any decision I make will be the wrong one. I’ll get in trouble whatever I do. 

Vows I make (beliefs I hold) – What is your response to these messages? How have you determined to act in response to their demands?  I will not make any decision on my own. I will keep still and let others decide for me. 

Impact of vows – How has keeping this vow, holding these beliefs impacted your life? – I’m indecisive, passive, untrusting. I don’t know myself, I blame others for my failures. 

Relive incident with Jesus – Prayerfully re-imagine the inciting incident but this time Jesus is there with you. What does he say/do? How does he act? Notice your feelings as you re-experience the event. How does what you learned of him in your scripture study impact the outcome of this scene? Jesus walks behind us on the dam as I cross it with my mom. I know he’s there. When my mom begins to tease me by issuing conflicting messages, I hear Jesus behind me saying, “You are not crazy for being confused. Your mom is teasing you, she’s trying to be playful. She’s not trying to harm you. Relax, you can trust your instincts.” Jesus then comes between us, puts his arms around our shoulders and we all jump into the pond with surprise and laughter.

Go to the source

courseWe’re winding down the exploration of “Who am I?” in our series The New/Old where we look at old familiar topics God wants to make new. Let’s recap:

You were given biological life by the grace of God, and you were taught how to handle this gift by the influence of your parents and culture. Of course, your own temperament played a part in how these lessons were incorporated and interpreted, but for the most part you were passive in this process, you received and responded.

But now you are becoming your own agent of choice. You are wise enough to go to the source. Ask the creator of life to teach you how to live. You have much to unlearn and much to learn about this life you are seeking. God will be a faithful teacher. Jesus is your model, your instructor and friend. In the past you looked to tutors who were less faithful and true –

  • parents who, although they loved you the best they were able, did not love you perfectly and placed expectations on you that squelched your spirit, you learned to hide your true life.
  • the church, intended to train you in the love and freedom that is yours as a beloved child of God, instead taught you the life of a slave; filled with shame and rules that must be obeyed out of fear, you learned to hate your true life.
  • relationships, meant to provide the experience of intimacy, acceptance and mutual respect, instead convinced you that only perfection in body and personality could be desired and honored. Knowing your own imperfection and discovering flaws in the other eliminated the possibility of connection, you learned to wear a mask to conceal your true life.

You looked to these teachers to give you life, but they delivered death. Each death dealing “lesson” you learned, each disappointment you suffered created a wall that surrounded your true self and separated you from the source of life, God’s love. But God’s love was not content with this divide, so the trinity conspired to break down this wall of separation. The flesh and blood of Jesus eliminated this barrier and you have been brought near to the God of life. God’s grace has returned you to the place of a student, ready and eager to learn. And now Jesus will teach you. Forget what lies behind and attempt to maintain the posture of a little child who is learning things for the first time…

With you on the journey,

Debby

My hero, the leper (a prayer)

(Occasionally, I feel compelled to share with you from my personal prayer journal. This one I fearfully offer. Be gentle, you’re holding my heart.)

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Matthew 8:1-3

Lord, the way this leper trusts you has always amazed me. He models detachment. He’s a leper, he desires to be made clean he knows you have the power to do so, yet, he doesn’t demand it or hold you ransom. He strikes no bargains; just lays his request before you and lets you give him what you will.

Boy, that’s hard. In theory, he’s my hero and I want to follow his example. But in reality I am attached to the outcome. I want to write useful material for your people. You could use me if you choose. I kneel before you, risking my request. Give words through me or not. Help me remain at your feet.  Amen.

*Epilogue*

God, you are quick to respond. You spoke practical things I can do to remain in the trusting position for which I long. It seems God says the same thing over and again to the Israelites (and by extension me.) I guess they needed to hear it more than once. Their hard hearts needed retraining, new ways of being and believing. So does mine.

In summary, from Deuteronomy 7:

  • God will give you success. Success for me is measured by my continued listening during my prayer time, capturing the words in my journal and sharing them with my friends. I can cooperate with God by faithfully showing up each morning, and without self-judgement offer the words formed in my heart.
  • You must destroy existing idols, you’ll suffer unnecessarily if you don’t. Among the idols I must destroy are perfection, competition, jealousy because others seem more “successful” than I am. I can pray that God uproots this prideful selfishness and grows humility and love in my heart.
  • You are God’s chosen, not because of your strength or beauty (inflated ego) but just because God loves you. I am not the best writer, but I express the impressions the Spirit of God has written on my heart. I am loved and chosen by God, I do not need to impress others or myself.
  • You have been set free to obey, do so and blessings abound. Like God’s word which does not return void, God speaking through my unique voice will be a blessing, at least to me, if to no one else, because I have been faithful to God’s call for me.
  • Do not focus on your lack (deflated ego), but on God’s power. I am not the worst writer, God has given me gifts of communication and opportunities to practice and hone my skills. It is God’s grace and love that works in me and flows through my writings.

Amen

Sound familiar? Does it resonant with your experience? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

With you on the journey,

Debby