Sunday, January 11, 2015

Waging war against the law of my mind

Search for the LORD and His strength; continually seek His face. Psalm 105:4

So although I am not reading quite as much as I had imagined on this thus far very loosely defined sabbatical, I did begin Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk that focuses on helping people build, strengthen and heal their relational connections in their family, in their work, with the guy walking down the street.  And the foundation that Silk builds upon is the idea of choice, based on God’s love for us, for me, in that He chose me. He chose to love me while I was still a squirming distracted sinner doing my best to hide from His gaze.

 “I choose you.” This is the foundation of true, lasting relationships. It is the foundation for God’s relationship with you. As Jesus declared to His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you...” Jesus chose you in the most difficult of circumstances. He chose you while you were in sin, while you were His enemy. You can be sure that His end of relationship with you does not depend upon your choice, but entirely upon His choice.

If all our relationships are based solely on our natural impulse to return liking for liking, then we’re going to have problems. Liking is a conditional state—it changes.

For example, when people get married, their vows are all about what they are going to do. “I will love you. I will protect you. I will serve you. I will be faithful to you, no matter what.

In order to be able to make and keep commitments like this—commitments to enduring, intimate relationships—you need to be a certain kind of person. You need to be a powerful person. Powerful people take responsibility for their lives and powerful people choose who they want to be with, what they are going to pursue in life, and how they are going to go after it.

And I sure know that all of this power does not come from within.

Search for the LORD and His strength; continually seek His face.  
And I wrote the chorus from the closing song at church last night on my wrist with a fine line blue marker, so I wouldn’t forget my prayer: Illuminate the way.

And the sermon was an introduction to the book of Philippians, strong on historical details about two battles between Brutus and Octavius for all of us Julius Caesar teacher types and photos of ancient churches, but certainly not the traditional three-point sermon. But one point was enough this week’s meditation: Peace is the fruit of God’s grace.

And the Julius Caesar reference reminded me about the last time I was in New York City and Dre took me to a production in the Dumbo set in a women’s prison which quite honestly and without a doubt the most amazing artistic anything I have ever witnessed. And this week I head back to New York City for a quick pick-up-Uncle-Jim-who-isn’t-doing-so-well-and-bring-him-back-to-Tucson visit. And even though I am aware that New York City can be a lonely place to live, somehow it is a place that always reminds me of This Choice that The Everlasting God has made.

And this is what I wrote, just a year ago:
And the point of all this, besides writing it down before it floats out of my mind, is that I saw thousands and thousands of faces in just a few short days. Nameless to me. Neither here nor there. A quick glimpse and gone. 

Yet I basked each step of the way in the peaceful declaration of He is Mine. She is Mine. And the oft-repeated line of the essays, well there were several...Am I better than my worst moment? being one of them. But another is the truth, There but for the grace of God go I.

And as I bumped into loved ones all over these islands, I was reminded of our made-in-the-image-of-Godness.  And knowingness. As in the number of hairs on my head knowingness. Each and every soul. Even the ones with stories recorded in this book of abject brokenness.  We are all broken. We are all wretched.

And who am I to accuse? God himself declares us not guilty! Who, then, will condemn them? Not Christ Jesus, who died for us while we were yet sinners? 

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Because of Him we have the hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

When we let this freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."

And as I get ready for NYC and do laundry and write down phone numbers and addresses and make carpooling arrangements for Jin Chang and rides to the airport for me, my prayer is May I be filled with Your strength. A powerful person.

And last week I watched Nicole teach her new class at a neighborhood middle school, a Language Arts class of exceptional education kids that has pretty much made a long string of substitute teachers feel powerless.

But man, I watched Nicole step into her class with power. And Silk pretty much describes her classroom management style: Powerful people do not try to control other people. They know it doesn’t work, and that it’s not their job. Their job is to control themselves.

As a result, they are able to consciously and deliberately create the environment they want to live in. They don’t try to get people to respect them; they create a respectful environment by showing respect. They deliberately set the standard for how they expect to be treated by they way they treat others. As they consistently act in responsible, respectful, and loving ways, it becomes clear that the only people who can get close to them are those who know how to respect, be responsible, and love well.

And when I modeled a little lesson plan on sensory language with paper folded into four boxes (with both a hotdog and hamburger fold) filled with specific setting details, at the very end I had the kiddos fold the paper back up into quarters and then fold the middle corner down into a triangle and then open it up again so that there was a little diamond right in the center of the graphic organizer. And I gave a little talk explaining about how all of the sensory specific details of what things looked like and sounded like and smelled like fit together to create a mood or tone.

And they were told to write a word in the center to describe the mood of their Language Arts class.

And every one of those kiddos, in each one of the classes, after a year of hapless substitute teachers and worksheets and only one week of Nicole and her paints and silks and lit candles, wrote words like “Happy,” and “Calm” and “Peaceful,” in the center of their papers.

Thus, dear LORD, my prayer for today, for this week, for ever, May I continually seek Your face, and may I likewise bring this peace as I bask in Your strength and Your grace each step of the way.