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I have sensitive feet. Whenever I go to the beach, I always wear sandals or shoes. I watch so many other people running around with bare feet and walking over sand and rocks and I can’t imagine.

But, the time to be extra careful when you have sensitive feet is if you are walking barefoot in the dark in your own home and you have grandchildren.

No matter how much they clean up and you clean up afterward, the random lego or piece of some farm house or something is going to jump out and you are going to step on it. Go into the kitchen in the middle of the night for a drink of water and you might get… Ouch!!

Walking in the dark can be dangerous.

But, no matter how careful you are, you can get hurt walking in darkness.

The Bible talks about walking in darkness.  Especially comparing walking in darkness to not walking with God.

Take Proverbs 4.

The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,

which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.

But the way of the wicked is like total darkness.

They have no idea what they are stumbling over.

When we aren’t follow God’s ways, it is an invitation to stumble along a lot in life.  And you can get hurt along the way.

But, there is something else that can happen when you walk in the darkness.

You can get lost.

I was recently camping with Greg up in Yosemite. We hiked North Dome. I had never been to this campground before and for one thing, there are no lights at night. So, when I have to go to the bathroom it is wise to bring a flashlight. I didn’t need no stinking flashlight! I found the bathroom, but when I set out back to our campsite, of course I go the wrong way. I end up wandering in the complete opposite direction into some other campsites in the middle of the night.

When you walk in darkness, you can get lost. Like the familiar passage from Isaiah 9 says,

The people who walk in darkness

will see a great light.

For those who live in a land of deep darkness,

a light will shine.

Yes, when you aren’t following God’s ways you can get hurt and you can get lost.

This is why God uses a pillar a fire to guide the Israelites in the wilderness. This is why my Yosemite salvation is similar.  NEXT SLIDE

I am saved because Greg loves fire, and I so I just stopped, and looked for the brightest campfire. Sure enough, the campfire above all campfires leads me home. Greg builds a beacon!

Here he is he just preparing for the evening.

This time I learned two things.

One is, you can get lost walking in the darkness. Follow the light.

The second thing I leaned is the next time I had to go, the forest behind the tent is just fine.

But, you can get hurt walking in the dark and you can get lost.

ME

When have you had a problem with darkness?

(More insight from Dr. Jim Wilder on holiday blues and what can be done. Read the prior posts)

God designs ways that make it possible to join with him and make progress in addressing attachment pain. For instance, if you are missing someone, try doing the things you think they would want to do during the holiday. Fir example, if grandma has died, bake her favorite cookies. Decorate like she would decorate.

Remember, all good attachments are an expression of God’s love to us. As I receive the love of God, I can become the love of God for others, and I can carry on the love and goodness that God placed in that person, the one I miss so much, even if they are no longer here. When I share the love and joy they shared, they are here.

Whatever was good about them can be shared by me.

And when your dreams don’t come true with some of those around you who aren’t glad to be with you, take that to God. Ask him. God you made me. How are you dreaming for me, God? Who do you want me to be? Who do I want to be? Listen to how he answers. Get a sense of what he might be saying.

Now, if you are being physically hurt or damaged you will need to remove yourself from the relationship for any healing to occur.

But, if it is just an unhappy relationship, it is mainly because you are not being the person you really like to be.

Just be who you are. Your best true self. Go back to acting like the person you would be if you were loved and cared for. How would you act if you were treated like you want to be treated?

Be that person. Go ahead and act like yourself.

Oh, and one more thing. If your pain isn’t too overwhelming, then what if your dream is to start joy in low joy places? That is God’s dream for every one of us. Grace is when God puts his people in the middle of the parts of the world that could use extra joy.

If our dream is to show up in some low joy places where we bring a bit of joy to the world, there’s a chance to grow joy in a way that people don’t really ever dream of. And when you think about it, some of the people we admire most are those who bring joy in low joy places…

ME

When we act like we would act if we were treated like we want to be treated, how might that change the way others see us?

Yesterday, we looked at attachment pain. Because of how our brains are wired, there is no built in solution to turn off attachmentIMG_8279 pain. When we try to just forget about it and pretend it doesn’t matter. This is the Bah humbug approach.

Sure enough, you can eventually convince your brain that you don’t care. Trouble is, your brain will disconnect the thinking part from the feeling part. You will still have attachment pain, but you won’t know it. Then you’ll ask yourself, Why do I feel so blue this Christmas?

With attachment pain, we have little or no control over our defenses. So, we still dread getting together and we look for ways not to meet.

This also, has something to do with our dreams.  We all have dreams about what life should be like. We have been dreaming since we were little.

“I am going to dream about having joy when I grow up. I’m going to be happy. Jesus puts joy in my heart. Everyone will like everything about me. I will be popular and people will be happy I am there.”

Nothing bad happens in those childhood dreams.

But, when we grow up, our dreams don’t all come true. If our joy is dependent our dreams coming true, we will be disappointed. And when we have a high degree of attachment pain, everything is filtered by it.

We see kids having joy during Christmas and are full of joy…usually.

But, what about if your child dies or your child is sick? What if you want children but are having infertility issues? What seems to bring everyone else joy, those happy children, isn’t bringing joy for you.

Alright, nice bit of Christmas cheer I’m bringing, huh? Well, God gives us a way to experience joy even during the pain. Next…

ME

Have you or someone you know, had a hard time at Christmas when every around you seems happy? What was it like?

IMG_8200It’s that time again. We are set to experience the most hectic month of the year for most of us. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We can’t wait for the holidays. Or maybe we dread this time. Or, chances are, we are somewhere in between. But, we all have hope that this is going to be the best Thanksgiving ever. The best Christmas ever. And then when we actually spend Thanksgiving and we actually celebrate Christmas, so often we don’t feel jolly and we don’t feel much like bringing joy to the world.  So, what do you think, is this year going to be different?

Well, I don’t know what is going to happen with your holidays. But, what if I can do is give some insight from  what I am learning about the brain and the holidays from neurotheologian, Dr. Jim Wilder, and why we experience what we experience during the holidays. It is all about the attachments we have with other people.

Welcome to the attachment center of your brain. Brain research suggests that this area of the brain is the foundation for the entire region of the brain that helps us experience and regulate emotions. When this area of the brain is securely attached to others (including God) in healthy joy-filled relationships, we can have tremendous capacity to enjoy life and relationships. We might even call this “love.” When life is characterized by joy and positive emotions it affects every region of the brain. When the attachment center is well developed, everything we think, do or say is changed.  When there is high joy, lots of smiles and shining eyes, when we are glad to be together, then no problem, Merry Christmas!

But what if the person you are attached to is missing?

What if they have died, or what if you are divorced, or what if it is an adult child who has moved away?

Whomever this might be, if it is an attachment, your brain doesn’t allow substitutions. If you lose someone you can’t just simply replace them. What you are experiencing is attachment pain.

Attachment pain comes in another way, too. If people you are attached to will not be glad to be with you this holiday season. Or peoples. You see, there are individual attachments and group attachments.

Holidays are miserable if any of those attached people are missing.

And holidays are awful if attached people will not be glad to be with us.

We become unhappy if a group doesn’t get along well.

And the more people who don’t bring joy, the more reason we dread the holiday season.

So, what can we do to make the experience better, generally?

ME

What has been your experience when a loved one was missing at Christmas?

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Martin Luther taught in simple, yet powerful ways. For instance, Luther’s own favorite book he ever wrote was The Small Catechism. Simple straightforward teachings on the ways of God. His Ten Commandment teachings are genius. Not just in what he said, but how he said it.

When he wrote on the Ten Commandments, Luther uses a teaching technique where he takes the commandments, which are stated in the negative, “Thou shalt not” in other words, and he explains it in the positive instead.

Take the first commandment, for instance.  “You shall have no other gods.”

That’s the negative. No other gods. How does Luther say it in the positive?

“We are to fear, love and trust God above all things.”

In other words, Luther gives us what we should do, as well as stating the commandment, which tells us what we shouldn’t do.

Again, genius. Which brings me to his most powerful teaching on the commandments of all, when it comes to seeing others through God’s eyes.

First, let’s review.

My purpose in God’s plan is to be the person God made me to be.

When I am operating in God’s Kingdom doing his Kingdom work, I can act like myself.

When I act like myself, I move from me to we.

The way I move from me to we is by seeing others the way God sees them. Then I have God’s attitude about others.

Here’s God’s attitude. People are created by God the Master artist, and so every person is a masterpiece in the eyes of God.

So, what does Luther teach that is so genius about seeing people through the eyes of God? It is his teaching on the Eighth Commandment.

The Eight Commandment

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

What does this mean?

“We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tells lies about out neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations.

Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.”

Now do you see what I mean when I say you will know you are on the path of seeing people through the eyes of God when you do the exact opposite of what the world does when you are dealing with other people?

In other words, if you are not interpreting everything other people do in the best possible light, you are not seeing people through the eyes of God. You are not treating his masterpiece with gentleness and respect. You are working against God and you are not living in his Kingdom.

Luther is a genius. You can’t say it any simpler than that.

The last phrase summarizes it all.

‘I am to interpret everything someone else does in the best possible light.’

Yes, that is what it means to see others through the eyes of God.

ME

Try to go one day interpreting every person you come across in the best possible light. Were you able to do it? No, try again. Yes? OK, try another day…

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Here is where we need wisdom. If we are to look at others through the eyes of God, this will only be possible if we have the attitude of God.

To have God’s attitude toward others in life, is to see people the way God sees them. To God, everyone is beautiful. Everyone is precious. Everyone is a work of God’s art. In the Bible people are called “God’s masterpiece.”

So, if I am living life with you, I am living with one of God’s masterpieces. And how do we treat a masterpiece? Very carefully. Very gently. It’s like this.

When you go to an art museum and you are looking at a masterpiece, you will notice there are people with earpieces wearing a special uniform of some sort. This is museum security. And what are they there for? To make sure we treat the masterpiece with respect. To be gentle with the masterpiece. In this way, we can look at each masterpiece closely. We can see through the eyes of the artist and see what he is expressing through his masterpiece. By being gentle and observant, we can enjoy the fullness of the artist’s creation.

So, here is the wisdom. If every single person is a unique creation of God, if every single person is a masterpiece from the greatest artist of all, then we are called to handle each other with care. We are called to be respectful of each other and treat each other gently. And we are called to look through the eyes of the greatest artist, God, and see each masterpiece as God sees it.

How do I act like myself? How do I live out my purpose in God’s plan? How do I move from me to we? How do I see people, how do I see God’s masterpieces, the way God sees them?

This begins with respect and gentleness.

In other words, you know you are on the path of seeing people through the eyes of God, when you do the exact opposite of what the world is telling you to do when you are dealing with other people. Especially people with whom you disagree. People who are a challenge to your way of thinking. People, quite frankly, whom you don’t care for. People you don’t like. When you see people through the eyes of God, they become a masterpiece.

ME

Whom do you need to see as a masterpiece of God?

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Our purpose begins with each of us using the resources God has given us uniquely, what makes you you in other words, and work for the good of others. In other words, your purpose is to move, under the power of God, from me to we.

From me to we.

What are the resources God gives his sons and daughters?  First and foremost, God gives us his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given to anyone who wishes to receive him. With the Holy Spirit guiding us and working through us, we have the ability to rescue and restore the parts of the world God connects us to. We are able to be God’s agents working for the good of others in his Kingdom.

If I am working with God in his Kingdom, what happens to my Kingdom? My Kingdom is where I have influence. My Kingdom is where I make my choices to live life. Is there a problem? It depends on which Kingdom I am working in. If I am working in my Kingdom, but outside of God’s Kingdom, then I have a problem. It is only where God’s Kingdom intersects with my Kingdom that God’s blessings are available.

The Christian life is where God’s Kingdom and my Kingdom are the same. Where the choices I make are empowered by the Holy Spirit to have an influence of good in wherever I have influence. Where I can act like myself.

Does anything get in the way of this? Yes, what prevents me from working with God in his Kingdom is when I only work for the sake of my Kingdom. When I view life through the lens of “me” instead of “we.” When I don’t like the person God created me to be. When I don’t act like myself.

“Me instead of we” gets in the way.

Think about it this way. When I become solely my own King then I begin to live out a warped view of the Lord’s Prayer.

“My kingdom come, my will be done, on earth as it is not in heaven.”

If life is not about “we” then I don’t have the resources of heaven to rely upon. I am on my own. Here is where God calls me to remember I am his son. Here is where God calls me to to return to my family identity. I am the son of God, created to work with God in his Kingdom. But, in order for me to have influence for the good, I need God’s resources. I must become more and more like God. Specifically, I won’t have influence for good in my world unless I see my world the way God sees it.

ME

Thinking only about myself is healthy for an infant. This is the maturity level they are on. But, adults can get stuck on an infant maturity level. What are some of the dangers when adults operate in this way?

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Because Jesus has come into my life, I can answer to questions, “Why am I here and what am I suppose to do?”

God has a plan. It is called living in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is where God reigns directly. Where God has influence. Ultimately, God’s Kingdom is all of creation. Where people live under God and for God. God’s plan in his Kingdom is to rescue all people from working against his ways, and restore all people to be whom God created them to be in there first place.

God’s plan is to save the whole world and everyone in it. God’s plan is to restore all his creation into something new. Where heaven and earth are one.

Wow! that’s some big plan!  Yes, it is. So, to be specific, God’s plan is identical for everyone. His plan is to rescue all people from sin, death, and the power of the devil. His plan is to restore us to be the unique people he created us to be, and live in his Kingdom. In God’s Kingdom we can act like ourselves.

This starts with our identity. We are God’s sons and daughters. When we have been rescued from anything that will separate us from God, we are able to be restored by God and take our rightful place as in his Kingdom as a son or daughter who works with God to rescue and restore the world around us.  Be who God has always meant for us to be.

We are all in this together in the same way. God’s children. This is why I don’t speak of God having a plan for me. For the sake of accuracy, it is God who has a plan. It is the same plan every single one of us is called into. Where we can act like ourself. We are called to join God as he rescues and restores people and invites them to live in his Kingdom. So, what is my part in all of this? That is my purpose.

I say it like this. “God has a plan and I have a purpose in God’s plan.” “God has a plan. I have a purpose in God’s plan.”

Do you know what this means? In God’s plan to rescue and restore the world, right now, I have a unique purpose in this plan. So do you.

When I am living in God’s Kingdom, I am called to act like myself.

ME

Why is it so important to base your identity first and foremost on being a son or daughter of God? What happen if you base your identity on something else?

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Act Like Myself

We speak of the Gospel as God’s good news. Well, what is the good news? The good news is that through Jesus, we are able to live in the presence of God, with God, in other words, and join him, work with him, in expanding his influence in the universe he created. What is my role in all of this? My goal is to be me. To be the person whom God created me to be. My goal is to act like myself.

You see, when God created us, he did something quite remarkable. He made each of us unique. One of a kind. There will never be another person quite like you walking on earth ever again.

This means we will spend the rest of our lives living out the potential given to us specifically to be whom God created us to be. To act like the people God created us to be. To act like myself.

ME

What are some of your strengths when you are in relationship with other people?

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The Jewish Festival of Sukkoth just finished yesterday. This is a harvest festival where the Jewish people celebrate God’s presence with them in the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

When Jewish people celebrate this feast, they build a booth or tabernacle, a tented area, like an outdoor eating and living space, in their backyard. Here they will eat meals, and some people even sleeping outside. Sukkoth is the most festive celebration of the year.

Jews still celebrate Sukkoth in Jerusalem. The culmination is the night called Simchat Torah which means, “Rejoicing in the Law,” and is a celebration of God giving the Law to Moses. The Temple area will be lit and there will be parades and dancing.

Now, we remember Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Sukkoth festival. It is now the end of the festival and Jesus has been teaching. In today’s passage, Jesus is at the Temple Treasury which is at the entrance located in the Court of Women. It is called that, because men and women are separated for worship and this is as far as women could go. Both men and women are there, just the boundary for women, as it were.

Here people give their offering. This its also a place of prominence for the Sukkoth Festival. In this replica of the Temple, notice the four big lights in the Treasury area. Each candelabra had four branches, and at the top of every branch there was a large bowl. Four young men bearing 10 gallon pitchers of oil would climb ladders to fill the four golden bowls on each candelabra. And then the oil in those bowls was ignited.

So picture sixteen beautiful blazes leaping toward the sky from these golden lamps. Remember that the Temple was on a hill above the rest of the city, so the glorious glow was a sight for the entire city to see. In addition to the light, musicians played their harps, lyres, cymbals and trumpets to make joyful music to the Lord. What a glorious celebration! The light was to remind the people of how God’s Shekinah glory had once filled His Temple. But in the person of Jesus, God’s glory was once again present in that Temple. And He used that celebration to announce that very fact. He was teaching right here at Simchat Torah time, maybe standing right next to those magnificent candelabras when He declares to all who were gathered there,

“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

ME

Read about Sukkoth and watch some travelogue clips of the festival in Jerusalem.