ONCE WHEN I WAS CRUEL IN THE HALLS OF RIDER HIGH SCHOOL

Psalm 23 was written by a sheep. Sheep have shepherds, and so the mighty warrior, the slayer of Goliath, accepted and approved by the whole nation, acknowledged that he is merely a sheep who finds his internal peace from his intimacy with the Great Shepherd.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

            I wonder if our biggest source of pain in this world is that we want. We want what we don’t have, and the problem of wanting arises when we forget who we are, and we chase after shadows. We are the sons and daughters of a Loving Father, Who wired us to enjoy feasting at the Table of All Things Infinite. But instead we crawl under the table to chase after the shadows of the finite.

            We are programmed in the spirit for eternal pursuits, but we live in an earth-suit that is designed for finite pleasures. But God planned this, perhaps for a purpose. He wired us both spiritually and physically, so that we would have natural desires that, when attained, would taste only like shadows. Thereby, He could show us that shadows are never as satisfying as the taste of the Infinite. It’s HE that we were made to want.

            These material cravings we speak of in formulas like “money, sex and power.” But what we are really wanting are the spiritual pilings of our foundation: Acceptance, Approval and Meaning.

            In grade school, I can remember some of my wants in life. Being skinny and weaker than the other boys, I wanted to be more respectable, which would count for Approval, which would mean that I’m Acceptable, which would give my life more Meaning.

            In junior high I wanted the same, but the stakes were higher. The rewards were greater, and the losses more painful.

            By the middle of high school we all seemed to settle into the caste system, and everyone pretty much knew his or her place in school. Which left many of us wanting for more popularity (Acceptability), recognition (Approval), and romance (Meaning).

            To move up the caste-system, you hoped for a moment of glittering brilliance. One day, I remember Randy wanting for Approval, but I did something that today I’m mildly ashamed of.

            Randy came dressed in red, white and blue one day, from his tennis shoes and socks, to his jeans, and his suspenders that outlined a flashy shirt. It was an outfit that I imagine he spent the night before laying out on his bed, and matching up everything for a great splash of pizzaz in the school hallway. Once he arrived, he had to find someone in his same caste system to start the stadium wave of approval. The morning bell had not rung, yet, and so we freshmen were crowding the halls and acting, well, immature, I guess. (Ms. Jones told us sometime that year that we were the most immature freshman class she had ever seen.) As I came down the hall, chasing behind Jimmy Miley, Randy stepped out in front of me and said, “Hey, Carter!” With my downward peripheral vision I could see his thumbs were accenting his suspenders, and that his posture was saying, “Look at my cool ensemble!”

            From only steps away, my peripheral vision saw the splash of color, but I kept my eyes focused on his face. I did not give him an up and down look, to take in his snazzy presentation, for I knew that’s what he wanted. His whole bodily presentation said, “Look at me and give me an oooohh and an aaaahh.”

            In one of my more cruel moments in life, I quickly but politely snubbed him without him even knowing. Since I was chasing after Jimmy, I very kindly and with great syrupy friendliness said, “Hey Randy, good morning!” and I kept on moving. I stared him straight in the eye. I said it as kindly as I could, so he wouldn’t know I was actually ‘dissing’ him. I kept on moving —oh, so innocently— as if in my hurry I was failing to notice what he wanted. Oh, but I knew what he wanted, and I left him standing there feeling foolish for not receiving the grand gesture of my Approval he sought. I disrespected the poor fellow without me having to bear his scorn later!

            Do we still set ourselves up for let-downs, disappointments, and disrespect, when all we wanted was Approval and Affirmation from shadows? What we think we desperately need, God has designed us to find in Him. Our fulfillment comes from Him being our Shepherd. When the Lord is my Shepherd, I am healing on the inside, and I’m putting my material desires in check.

Can I really be a sheep with no wants?

I’m still working on this. You, too?

 

-Carter

 

Remember Who You Are, Don’t Lose Your Soul On Facebook

Someone made a good point the other day on Facebook with a question. Has anyone ever changed your mind and made you switch your political party because of their cogent and convincing post? Of course, not. If someone criticizes my political perspective with a grocery list of statistics, or makes an ad hominem attack on people who believe like I do, will I then bow to their overwhelming FB presentation and change my political leanings? Of course, not. I bet it would be safe to say that no one has ever changed anyone’s vote or party affiliation through a so-called argument on Facebook. But that sure doesn’t keep some from trying, huh?

            Truly intelligent people are not spending their time in life making political points on Facebook. Because they are intelligent! But truly spiritual people can lose their freedom in Christ if they get suckered into responding to opposing ideas on Facebook.

            Here’s the issue: We are living in a time of such polarization that we don’t just dismiss our opponents, we demonize them. They become our enemies, and we open our hearts to become embittered toward them, toward “their people” in Washington D.C., and we allow a critical, judgmental spirit to rule us. This puts us in a prison, and we lose our freedom in Christ.          

            Here’s the truth: In general we do this —perceive people as enemies— not because of who they are, but because of who we are. When you demonize someone for their ideas, you tend to write more and longer responses on Facebook. This is a reflection that the other person now has control over you, and you have lost your freedom in Christ. You are not free to love, because you are now filled with this other person’s anger.

You are caught up in all of this useless activity

because of WHO you are choosing to be at the moment.

 

            If you have to defeat liberal Christians, or bash conservative Christians; if you have to argue that gays are ruining the world, or that all Christians are homophobes; if you have to argue that Obama was a communist, or that Trump is a white supremacist; if you have to argue that the media is biased, or that only Fox News lies . . . if you have to put everyone in their place and argue for your righteous truth-claims, then are you “telling” us that you have a need to be validated, to be seen as “holier than thou?”  Are you “telling” us that you are a bully or a coward, because you were once bullied into cowardice. Or is it that you have lost your soul in your anger?  Have you landed yourself in a prison of bitterness, fitting with the story from which you have never healed. Your mind will not be set on things above (Col 3:2), and you will swerve from the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14).           

            If I spend all my life trying to prove that others are wrong, then who will be around one day to tell me when I am wrong. My greatest growth in life came when I discovered that I really didn’t have the relationship with God that I thought I had. I was forced out of my own flattering opinion of myself, and came to know that God’s grace worked its best in me when I was weak and humble. God is opposed to the proud (James 4:6) . . . and, well, that might be a sobering thought for all of the “I’m right!” crowd on Facebook.

            Be wise, my Christian friends. We are entering a trying time here in the USA. We actually do have enemies, people who want to hurt us for our ideas. They don’t just think we are wrong-headed. No, they believe that we are evil! But wanting to attack back and “set them straight” says more about who you are, than about who they are.

            You can be involved in politics or postings if so led.  But righteousness is still the same whether it is the first century or the twenty-first century. Jesus says, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). How can you do that? You can’t, but He can. It’s by grace through faith.

            The gospel of Grace transforms your interior condition (at the level of Identity) to move you to love your enemy, to refrain from angry postings on Facebook, and to pray for the co-worker, classmate, family member, or neighbor who believes differently from you.

The greatest of these is love (I Cor 13:13), love from a pure heart (I Tim 1:5).

            You might be disagreed with, held in contempt, or even slandered. Others might be offensive. Others might be ugly. But they, too, are unhealed from their back-stories.

            Wouldn’t it be great to be healed and set free from needing to prove any thing. I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live (Gal 2:20) . . . so I have nothing to prove.

            Who do you want to be?

 

– Carter

CHILDHOOD FEAR, ADULT NUISANCE; Confronting Your Imagination

Did this happen to you in life?  Did you get scared as a child over something that caused you to create an “icon” in your imagination, an image that still sits on the desktop of your mind today? 

Let me illustrate. When I was about four years old, we had a puppy on Hughes Street in Wichita Falls.  It was a dark winter evening when my mom and sister went out the back kitchen door to feed the dog.  I tagged along this one time, and as we stepped out the door my sister innocently said to my mom, “I wonder it that man will be out there, again.”  Suddenly I was scared.  I thought to myself, “What? A man?  There’s a man out there?  Are we in danger?”  I got scared. You see, the night before there was an innocent man minding his own business down the side street, under a street lamp. It was not scary, at all.  But I did not know the context of my sister’s innocent question. It caused a fear to rise up in me, and thoughts of murder, stabbing with a knife, or some such danger that I had heard on the television came to my mind. Seriously.

It created an “icon” in my mind: a dangerous dark figure who was going to “get me.” It haunted me again, later in life.  In the sixth grade, we did three-dimensional art work inside a shoe box for art class.  Remember those?  The art piece by Joey F. was the same thing: a man he saw out his bedroom window, smoking under a lamp post.  Scary! 

Many of us have these “icons” in our minds. Some might be from our flesh, and some might be God letting us know that this “icon” has some kind of control over us.  These “icons” become “vain imaginations” that need to be torn down, as they keep us from receiving the knowledge of God (2 Cor 10:4-5).

What can we do to get rid of these “vain imaginations?”  Let me tell you about a fun experiment we did on a Pure Heart Weekend a few years ago.

One weekend Deanna revealed that she is often tormented by old memories from her childhood, memories that were scary and left her terrified at times as a child. One Halloween, she said, when she was a small child no more than 5, she either saw this for real or she imagined it: she has in her mind the scary memory of a skeleton riding a mini-bike down the street.

Now, before you laugh, remember your childhood. Most of us, when we were small children, heard our family talk about something scary, or we saw something scary, and our mind created a frightening “icon.” We made up an image in our mind that can remain even today. Deanna had such a memory, and from her childhood this “skeleton on a mini-bike” had tormented her often.

            On that weekend, she said if her husband were out of town, she would feel fearful and alone at night. At such a time, her adult fear and worry would trigger old childhood memories with similar emotions, and Deanna would recall her childhood memory of the skeleton. The old childhood dread would be stirred up. Now you understand, as an adult she did not imagine that this skeleton was outside her house on the mini-bike! No, no. It’s just that her momentary fear as an adult was compounded by the arousal of her old, familiar childhood fear. She would feel more fear than she needed to.

            At the retreat, I had her get down on her knees to pray. We prayed to the Father, thanked Him for her union with Christ, for the mind of Christ, and for resurrection life with its authority and power. Then I told Deanna to command that “imagination” in her mind to come present itself. We paused a moment. I asked, “Can you see the skeleton on the mini-bike?” She waited a moment, then she said, “Yes. I see him.”

            “Is it riding around on the street?”

            “Yes.”

            I said to her, “Walk out into the yard with authority. Scream at that skeleton like you would command your disobedient dog, and tell him to get over here.   Tell that skeleton that you are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, that you have the mind of Christ, and that you have authority over him, that he is no longer going to harass you and scare you!”

She yelled at the imaginative icon. There was a pause, then she told me what happened: “He came over, and as he approached he got smaller and smaller. He got so tiny, he was trembling. When I told him to ‘Get out of here!’ he shot-off like a rocket, out of sight! He’s gone.”

With that, Deanna and the Holy Spirit took authority over that imagination in her mind.  Feel free to try this at home.

 

-Carter

(Tell me how you need help with the renewing of your mind. I’ll try to provide help in future blog posts.)