Shame – your fault or your fate?

Remove Shame – Cleanse the lepers: restore to community (part one)

What a great favor God does to those He places in the company of good people!  -St. Teresa of Avila

God’s tending the garden of our soul sometimes requires isolating and eliminating dangerous weeds or pests that would choke the life out of the growing flowers. To protect the healthy, there are times when the sick need to be quarantined to prevent the spread of disease. Take leprosy for an example.

The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.   Lev.13:45,46

In Jesus’ day leprous people were allowed to go to the temple to worship, but they had to go in first and stay until everyone else left and they had to sit in a special space separated from the rest of the worshipers by six feet.  A very lonely, isolating existence. Not their fault, just their fate.

This is why cleansing the lepers was high on Jesus’ to do list. He came to remove anything that isolates and separates us from a healthy community and life-giving relationships.

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-17

Notice that these ten, outcasts of society had formed a community of their own, The primary mark of their inclusion in this group was that they were excluded from their regular family and society. Community happens. Jesus touches us in a way that allows us to leave the “unclean” community and live amongst the family of the “clean.”

In part two we’ll talk about the nature of a life-giving, shame removing community.

(This material is taken from the Shaped at the Garden Retreat. For more information about this retreat see the events page or contact me directly.)

A Return to Trust

..demons love darkness and hiddenness. Inner fears and struggles which remain isolated develop great power over us. But when we talk about them in a spirit of trust, they they can be looked at and dealt with. Once brought into the light of mutual love, demons lose their power and quickly leave us.         Henri Nouwen The Road to Daybreak

Return to InnocenceRaise the dead: animate and reenergize what once was alive

(part three of four)

OK, we’ve established that unhealthy fear equals death and wise trust equals life. So how do we cooperate with life? How do we return to trust?

We are bound to trust, what matters is who and what we trust. From this decision point comes either death or life. Jeremiah 17:5-10 announces our reality.

5 Thus says the Lord: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. 6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

We are not cursed because we trust in mere mortals and flesh and blood, rather because we trust in mere mortals and flesh and blood we are cursed. That’s reality. People will always disappoint us. Depending on imperfect people to meet our needs will leave us empty and dry. Others are busy trying to get their own needs satisfied, they cannot offer us the complete nourishment and relief we need to thrive.

This first step in learning to trust is to admit and repent of this practice. (Repent means to think about things in a completely different light and as a result of this new thinking, change our habits and our practices.) Such a repentance also makes room for true relationships to grow. When I quit seeing you through the very narrow lens of being the answer to a particular need of mine, I can see the whole of you. You are not my fix, you can become my friend.

7 Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

Trusting the Lord is born out of remembrance. Returning to what we know is true. God is faithful. God’s salvation is thorough. God provides streams of living water that hydrate and nourish our lives. Even in difficult seasons of life, we’ve witnessed God’s provision. Recall and re-experience what your life was like when your heart was turned away from God, remember the darkness? the lostness? the fear? Remember the joy of being found, of coming home. God never changes. He is always and constantly loving and good. Practice trusting this and act accordingly.

As I mentioned before, God is a god of reality and the truth is that fear is deeply embedded in our psyche and our being. We may mentally agree with the Biblical statements about God being all loving and good, yet we cannot generate a feeling of security and confidence in God’s trustworthiness. This is not news to God! The next step of learning to trust addresses this issue. It is a difficult process and may take most of our life to accomplish. We must allow God access to the areas of mistrust in our hearts and souls.

9 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse— who can understand it? 10 I, the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

It’s like your soul is a piece of saran wrap that has been rolled up into a ball. It is practically impossible to smooth out, doing so requires great patience and persistence. Both of which God has in abundance. Slowly, steadily the Holy Spirit will enter a place of fear within your experience, shedding light on the ways you distrust God, offering an invitation to trust. The decision is yours, to trust God or to trust yourself; you will bear the fruit of this decision.

Practical steps of implementing this trust will be addressed in the next and final installment of the article Return to Innocence.

(This material is based on the Shaped at the Garden retreat. For information about this retreat contact me or refer to the upcoming events section.)

Healing

Restore to Health – Cure the Sick: Relieve hindrances to wholeness (part two of two)

If we plant a flower or a shrub and water it daily it will grow so tall that in time we shall need a spade and a hoe to uproot it. It is just so, I think, when we commit a fault, however small, each day, and do not cure ourselves of it.

– St Teresa of Avila

Sin followed Adam and Eve out of the Garden, ready to pollute humankind and the world. A reading of Genesis 4 shows how quickly and thoroughly sin gained control: envy lead to jealousy, which lead to murder, which lead to toil, which resulted in sore muscles, blisters, cuts, creating sources of infections, disease and ultimately death….you get the picture.

In Genesis 6 we read that sickness and wickedness has so consumed the earth that God decides to start over.

And sin also starts over. Noah and his family are barely out of the ark when sin/sickness resumes. Noah gets shamefully drunk, passes out, exposes himself, and his son takes delight in bringing attention to his fall. It goes downhill from here.

God’s next address of sin’s spreading of sickness and death must be the death of death; and it is. Jesus Christ takes death into himself and removes its sting.

Illness and injury may still be experienced in our world, but it is not the final chapter.

When Jesus heals a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath (Mark 3), he is expressing God’s intention for our healing. “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?”  Obviously, a withered hand is not a matter of life or death, the man had survived to adulthood with it. Yet Jesus equates the man’s manageable disability with harm and death. He gives him a whole hand, restoring him to goodness and life.

God’s heart is the same today as it was on that Sabbath in the synagogue. God desires to restore to wholeness and health your every disability, even if it is slight and you’ve learned to live with it. Spend a few minutes speaking with God about your withered hand. To what part of you does Jesus want to bring healing and wholeness?

Healing begins with diagnosis, naming your disease. (Did you ever notice that disease can be spelled dis-ease?) It continues with a specific treatment plan consisting of gratitude, persistent exposure to the light, community support and gratitude, exposure to the light, community support and gratitude….

Gratitude. It is God’s love that makes you aware of the sin that keeps you sick, God brings it to the surface so it can be addressed.

Exposure to the light. Offering your sin/sick area to God, asking for the power of the Holy Spirit to heal and correct. Every time you notice a flare up, return to God with a confession of your need for healing, not an accusation against yourself or against God. Maintain a spirit of humility and gratefulness.

Community support. As Henri Nouwen says in Road to Daybreak, “..demons love darkness and hiddenness. Inner fears and struggles which remain isolated develop great power over us. But when we talk about them in a spirit of trust, they they can be looked at and dealt with. Once brought into the light of mutual love, demons lose their power and quickly leave us.”

We will not know complete healing and restoration until perfection in glory, but it is God’s heart to begin that process now, that is part of the good news – heaven is near, now.

(This article is based on material from the “Shaped at the Garden” Retreat. For more information about participating in this retreat, contact me or refer to the upcoming events page.)

God’s health care initiative

Restore to HealthCure the sick: relieve hindrances to wholeness (part one of two)

He showed me also the condition of a soul in sin, utterly powerless, like a person tied and bound and blindfold, who, though anxious to see, yet cannot, being unable to walk or to hear, and in grievous obscurity.       St. Teresa of Avila

God continues to tend the garden of your soul by addressing the issues that hinder health and wholeness. (See post “How does your Garden Grow?”)

With Adam and Eve’s choice in the Garden, sin was unleashed and its death march began. Its outcome is sickness, disease and destruction. Its intention is separation from health, wholeness and life. It has had untold centuries to advance in its destruction. But hear the good news, with the intervention of Jesus Christ sin can now be turned back.

In sending out his twelve disciples with the instruction to cure the sick (Matthew 10:7), Jesus reveals God’s heart toward the people God loves. God desires to restore us to a vital, energetic, whole and healthy life.

The disciples following Jesus around saw him do this very thing. He touched people and their sight was restored, spoke to them and they were no longer lame. Now with the sending of the twelve, Jesus is initiating God’s plan to continue the work of curing and healing. The Holy Spirit is in the business of restoring you and me to health.

God’s given advances in medicine address a lot of the physical healing that needs to be corrected. (Sadly, not all.)  But in this essay, I’d like to consider the healing God desires for us in our spirits, minds and hearts.

***

After the fall we see sin’s first “sick” outcome – “self-focus”.

Before the fall Adam and Eve’s attentions were focused on God, they knew God’s voice and God’s presence. They walked with God and with each other in the garden with complete ease and delight. (Genesis 2:25:  “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”)

After the fall their gaze shifted, they noticed themselves, they became self aware. They saw they were naked.  They’d always been naked, they just weren’t concerned about themselves previously. With self-knowledge came self-consciousness; shame and fear entered the picture. (Genesis 3:8,10: “The man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God…I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked.”)

Before, God had been the focus of their attention, now self became their primary focus. Self became the reference point of all relationships. Self became the center of the universe. Self had to be protected. Threat was now an option. Mistrust entered the scene.

This process blossoms into pride, an independence from God and others, that leads to a whole series of hindrances to wholeness….in your life and in the lives of others.

In part two of this article we’ll follow Adam and Eve out of the garden and see what sicknesses sin has up its sleeve, ready to unleash.

(This article is based on the material from the “Shaped at the Garden” retreat. For information about participating in this retreat, contact me or look at the upcoming events page.)