Willow Creek has Done it Again (part II)

29 12 2010

I just realized that the Willow Creek Christmas message I blogged about is online!  Not quite as powerful watching it on-screen versus being there live, but you’ll get the idea pretty quick.

Check out the link below:
http://beyondsinging.willowcreek.org/2010/12/do-not-be-afraid





Willow Creek has Done it Again

28 12 2010

I left work at the counseling center early to be there, and as the lights dimmed, the music began, and images of Mary and Joseph flashed on the screen, I was glad I did.  The drama unfolded and I was transported into a dark world of anxiety, worry, pain, and fear that matched where I was emotionally at the time.

I felt something in my gut, I was being stirred, and I could tell a storm was brewing.  Tears were a few moments away, and through shortened breaths I sat back and held on tight for the onslaught of emotion.  Mary and the Angel were acting out Luke chapter 1 and fighting back and forth through disbelief, fear, anxiety, worry, and anger.  Mary finally reaches a place of acceptance and submission and saying, “I am the lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

The theme of the Christmas service at Willow Creek Church this year was Do Not Be Afraid -Yeah Right!

Given where I am right now, how could I not be afraid!  I am in a place of taking a huge step of faith and doing things I would not normally do on the belief that I am being prompted by God to do them, and in addition I am supposed to be fearless about it?!?

Through my reactivity, I found myself drawn more and more to Mary, feeling a deep sense of connection with her fear, anxiety, disbelief, and obedience to all that was happening around her. I came to appreciate in a new way the divine orchestration involved in the story of Jesus’ birth:

  • The Wiseman hearing the call and showing up, rallying around Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus showing their respect, admiration, and support.
  • The Angel of the Lord guiding and directing the people to be in the right places at the right time.
  • The raw courage and strength of Mary and Joseph to believe the impossible and act out of obedience and faith rather than out of their own will.

Through my tears I was asking:

  • Would do that in my life?
  • I am that important to God?
  • In what ways is he doing this already?
  • What is going on behind the scenes that I don’t know about?
  • In what areas of my life do I need to choose trust over fear?

After asking those questions and fully feeling my fear, anxiety and worry, a strange thing happened, I felt:

  • Relief– as the angel suggested; I could chose to not be afraid.
  • Joy– being reminded of the complexity of how God works, and how it’s not for me to understand what’s going on, rather for me to be obedient and simply do what I am being asked to do.
  • Peace– I was connected to the story and myself in ways that I had not yet experienced.

Their fear mirrored my own, their experience of being asked to believe and do the unthinkable mirrored my own, and their obedience in the face of great odds mirrored my own.  I was comforted because just as they were ok in the story, so was I.  I had the overwhelming sense that no matter what happens in my life that I have been given or will be given the tools, the resources, and the support around me to grow, thrive, and flourish under any circumstances.  I was fully alive in my fear and knew that the next step in my personal growth is to give and receive love more freely; I felt loved by God after that experience.





The More the Merrier!

21 12 2010

In my Small Group Bible study through Park Community Church in Chicago, I have been reading through Ecclesiastes.  For me that is a challenge.  I don’t always see, hear, or experience the Bible as a life-giving document that inspires me to live a more Christ-like life.  More often I see the Bible as I did growing up- a tool for punishment.  I’ve been reticent to dig into it deeply and yet am starving for the knowledge, wisdom, insight, and healing that it can provide.  I have suspended my fears and just read it.  I’m glad I have, among the many great things I’m learning, the most poignant so far has come from Ecclesiastes 4:8-12.

8 There was a man all-alone; he had neither son nor brother. 
There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. 
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” 
This too is meaningless— a miserable business! 9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 
10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. 
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone? 
12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. 
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

I read the first part and had an, oh crap he’s talking about me moment.  I immediately identified with the man standing alone- working constantly, rarely content and actually depriving himself of enjoyment!  I’ve been living under the mistaken belief that in order for life to have meaning it must be a struggle- not true, well, not entirely true.  Life is hard work and it is hard work that is best taken on in community, with support and not something to be done alone.

As a therapist I have the privilege to be a professional relationship builder, and yet these relationships alone are not enough to keep me filled, supported, and thriving.  I find an immense amount of satisfaction and joy from my work and though people whom I support surround me, I live my life more like the man in the passage.  I am learning to reach out more often for the same level of support in my own life that I offer others on a daily basis.  As the words in the passage suggest, when I am supported and backed up by another my efforts go farther.  I work harder, have someone to help me up when I fall, and I stay warmer- full of life, energy and vitality.

Through my employment at the Center for Christian Life Enrichment I have experienced the value of community and groups.  On faith I have done the unthinkable, and risked pain, rejection, and hurt by getting involved in my own personal growth work receiving group and individual support.  I am allowing myself to trust more than I have in the past and I am seeing the positive effects permeate my life.  I am less concerned with personal failure and utter destruction.  I have instead created for myself, through intention and support, the network of support I need to be constantly growing, learning, and playing in this world.

 





The Power of Our Personal Myths

28 04 2010

Myths are stories that help us make meaning in the world. They give us a framework by which we can organize information into systems. Myths can be captivatingly sad, or powerfully funny, and yet the way the story weaves into our personal lives has great meaning.  Serious study has been given to learning and discovering the power of myths from many cultures and generations.  Universal truths about the nature of the human condition have been derived from these stories.  Would it surprise you that we all have our own internal myths learned in our family? These myths hold just as much power, if not more, than those ancient stories passed down through the ages.

Both positively and negatively, family myths shape and influence the way we are in the world today.  They encourage us to set up rules to follow and beliefs to adopt that shape our view of the world and ourselves.  These myths are experienced, shared, and internalized on a daily basis. Like a fish to water, the resulting rules and beliefs are difficult to distinguish without deeper exploration.  For example, one of my family myths is the time when I was 10 years old and I cut my foot on sharp barnacles while jumping into a creek behind our beach house rental in South Carolina. Spending the first few hours of vacation in the emergency room getting stitches significantly changed the tone of the trip for me.  Below are a few of the rules and beliefs I was able to identify:

 

Rule 1: Don’t take chances. Look before you leap, gather as much information as possible before acting.  I believed by following this rule I would reduce the chance of getting hurt in the future.

Rule 2: Don’t be impulsive- doing so is inconvenient and only makes messes that mom and dad will have to clean up.  I came to believe that people resent me and find me to be an inconvenience.

Rule 3: Play small and be nice.  No one wants to be around impulsive and inconvenient kids. I came to believe that if I was too much then I would get rejected and abandoned.

 

The power of a myth lies in its telling and re-telling. The above rules and beliefs had been verbally and non-verbally communicated in my family, in school, and throughout my life. Sure, there are valuable lessons we need to learn as children, such as, “Look twice before crossing the road.” However, we must be mindful of the fact that those lessons can become generalized and direct our entire life. What is the difference between being careful and living your life refusing to take risks because you are afraid to make a mistake or get hurt?

 

I am discovering that my family myths have had a silent but deadly influence on my life. I play it safe and do not take risks in order to insure I don’t inconvenience others or risk getting hurt myself.  I am examining and evaluating which rules are working for me and which ones are not.  By paying attention to and cataloguing my library of family myths, I am better able to see where my mistaken rules and beliefs are operating.  With the feedback and support of trusted friends I can more readily live in hope, compassion, a sense of abundance, community and grace rather than seeing the world as dangerous, judgmental, unforgiving and intolerant.

 

What are some of the myths which have shaped your view of yourself, others and the God? What are the rules which reflect the values communicated by your family myths? Let’s get free from the chains which bind us and keep us from becoming our most Christ-like selves!