Guard your mind

I know it has been many a moon since my last post.  I blame myself.  Mostly for not being sure what to post, a phobia from actually hitting my 1Kth post, life getting too busy, whatever.  One thing i did learn early on in the Army was that, "the maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters".  So, i shall not try and excuse my absence, rather, i will endeavor to find things to post about... and actually force myself to put some fingers to keyboard more frequently.

A couple of weeks back, by way of random exploration, i found a new book titled, "Warrior Wisdom:  Ageless Wisdom for the Modern Warrior".  While the author is apparently not a Christian (i do not know him personally, and i am not seeing anything come through in what i have read that would tell me otherwise), and i have thus far NOT found any biblical references or quotes via the Facebook page, there is some biblical wisdom to be found.  Remember, i am a Christian first and foremost - and thus i view and analyze via this 'filter' if you will.  That is not to say that i do not think, "outside of the box" from time to time, but when i come to share something here, it will always be from this view point - and as a "samurai" in service to my Lord Jesus Christ.

Anyway - before i would recommend such a book for general "consumption" here, i would want to read it through.  But, some tidbits, i would like to share here.  Two for today.  One is a picture the Facebook page shared, and the other is a symbol, which to many, is a symbol of Eastern Mysticism.

I was inspired to share this picture because it immediately reminded me of the Casting Crowns song, Slow Fade (click the link to see the video on YouTube), which Tulip shared with me... a year or so ago.

Now, this is a quote from Lao Tzu, but there is Biblical truth in it, even if the author had no idea of who God is, and that is one of the most amazing things about God to me.  Everything cries out His glory, even those who may, or may not, oppose Him.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." ~ Philippians 4:4-9, ESV (emphasis mine)
We as followers of Christ, whether we be 'artisans', merchants, or farmers, we are to bring every thought under control.
"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,..." ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5, ESV (emphasis mine)
I say this because it is obvious that God sees the heart, and not just the outward actions.
"And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said,What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." ~ Mark 7:14-23, ESV (emphasis mine)
BUT, even in every effort we exert, we should endeavor to bring our thoughts into captivity. It is important however, to remember that without the work of the Holy Spirit, our efforts would be in vain.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." ~ Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV

The second item i would like to talk about what is commonly referred to as the YinYang symbol. 

Back before i had realized that God was revealing Himself to me, i had joined the Maryland Army National Guard, the historical 29th Infantry Division(I will not divert into the history of this unit, but i encourage anyone so inclined, to click on the link above.)  I will, however, discuss the unit's iconic symbol.  When the division was first organized, just prior the United States' full commitment into World War I, it was formed from the National Guard organizations of Maryland and Virginia.  The memories of the American Civil War were still firsthand of many at the time.  The Maryland and Virginia units symbolized the re-establishment of the Union from both sides of the conflict (despite Maryland being firmly South of the Mason-Dixon line, but i digress...), AND a representation of the only American Military Unit, the 1st Maryland. to have met it self on the field of battle, on opposing sides (again, a tale for another time), thus the colors of the Blue and the Grey (with the field of blue to always be closest to the bearer's heart). While the Yin Yang symbol originally represented the 'eternal struggle' between good and evil. the unit patch is a symbol of America's own struggles, but also, within the Christian, it is a symbol (to me) of the struggle we continue to wage between good and evil in our flesh, for we are not completely reborn until we are raised again with our new bodies and our eternal fellowship with Christ.  The complete symbol incorporates two smaller circles within.

These circles are always (or are supposed to be) of the opposite field of color.  This represents the "evil within the good, and the good within the evil".  Important note here - this dichotomy ONLY occurs within man, and NOT within God, for He is completely Holy and good.

The "evil within the good" represents (to me) the stain of the sin of man.  Within the complete holiness of God, once man has stepped within even the "smallest" of sins, he is forever tainted.
"Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." ~ 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, ESV
The "good within the evil" represents (again, to me), that no matter my circumstances, no matter how bad things are, He is at work in me.  He is transforming me into the image of His Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ.
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." ~ Romans 8:26-30, ESV
For me, this symbol, is a symbol of hope, and not one of eastern mysticism. I think what i am trying to say is, God is everywhere, and at work in everything... even in the things we think of as evil.  And while evil does exist in the world, and for whatever reason, He is allowing it, it ALL to work together for the good.  If you ever doubt, or say, "How could God allow this?!?", i would highly encourage you to read The Book of Job, and take comfort in it.
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV


How to walk, when blinded by self

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2, ESV)
I start my blog this week knowing that, if anyone other than myself, actually reads this, is going to think, 'Hey!  Don't judge!', but i am going to go forward anyway, and hope that the reader will still be around by the end of this blog entry for today, and at least give me a change to fully explain my train of thought... well, maybe not fully... but at least attempt to better expound my point of view some. Recently i have become aware of two, somewhat close, people who are at least within 2 degrees of myself, who are, or where, actively engaged in sinful behavior.  One was a nineteen year old, who attended a Christian school for at least seven years.  The other is a person whom i have known for at as long as i have been married.  Both grew up with people who attended church, but in each case, they willfully engaged in sex outside of the covenant of marriage.  The point of this blog, is actually not to focus on these two people, not in a singling out sort of way.  It is, however, an attempt to illustrate a deep concern i have regarding the American church in general.

It is of my opinion that the American church has been 'suffering' a time of prosperity.  A time where we could get comfortable and complacent in our pursuit of God - which He has amply supplied us with grace to pursue.  We allow ourselves to become distracted by the world, to covet the things of the world.  To actively pursue the things of the world, and yet, at the same time, allow our passion for Christ to be sidelined and placed and secondary (or even tertiary) to our heart.

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  (Romans 7:14-25a, ESV)
We allow ourselves to become callous to the very things that put Christ on the cross in the first place!  And then, when we may perceive a possibly questionable act by others, we are told to "Judge not, lest you be judged!"  We become timid, and afraid to speak in love and truth into our friend's and/or neighbor's lives.  Is it even possible to discuss such things anymore?
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye." (Luke 6:37-38, ESV)
I say it is.  But how?  For one thing, we can NEVER consider ourselves better than someone else.  For another, it is NOT our place to judge the person we seek to help.  Only God will be the judge.  We also have to allow for the Holy Spirit to move in grace and love.  It is entirely possible that what you are seeing as a sinful action, may not even be on the person's "radar".  Why?  because God is working on other things in that person's life at the time, or they have become spiritually blind to it.  Don't allow it to become a source of division, but, if the person receives the word, than try and help as best you can, if it is not time, or the person does not want to receive the word, then back off.  Ultimately it is NOT we who affect the change in other people.  All of us, myself included, are only changed when the self works in concert with the Holy Spirit.  Until we stand before the Throne of the Father of heaven and earth, and we hear "Well done", we are going to be dealing with the stain of sin in everything that we do on a daily basis.  Like a pinch of leaven permeates the entire batch of dough, so does sin infest our very flesh.  It will only be completely removed when the Fathers gives us our new clothes, and our new bodies, will it be dealt within in finality.

For some time, God has brought people in to my life.  People in deep pain.  People only just seeing the sin in themselves, and in others.  Each time i have prayed for the Holy Spirit to speak truth through me, and that it not be me or my opinions that is heard.  I have encouraged women to leave abusive relationships.  I have told men to swallow their pride and be the man of their house that they needed to be.  I have mostly listened.  Some crazy life situations, and those that are seeking do not want just pat answers and glib statements.  They want to know that you hear them, that you see, in some small degree, that you know or understand.  I am VERY aware of the Word of God where it talks about divorce being a sin except in the case of infidelity, but i also honestly believe that God would not just patently condemn someone for leaving a person who is abusive either physically or mentally.  Christ took the time to reach out and touch the leper, to talk to the woman who had five husbands - AND was living with a 6th man, who was she was not married to.  Christ knew this BEFORE he spoke to her.  The woman that was to be stoned by the crowd - he did not condemn.  Example, after example, of those who are struggling and hurting IN their sin, Christ spoke to them about the love of the Father.  He repeatedly would reach out to them, preach to them, heal them, never condemning them where they found themselves in sin, and always telling them to "go and sin no more" (which all of us who walk with Christ daily know, is neigh impossible, as i expounded upon above).

That is not to say that what they, or i, was doing, wasn't sinful and SHOULD be stopped.  We must each walk out our sanctification with the Lord on a daily basis, but always know, that when you are ready to turn to Him, he is ready to receive and forgive you.  Just like the thief upon the cross, right next to Jesus, began the day, taunting and hurling insults at Jesus, near the end asked that Jesus to remember him when Jesus entered in to His kingdom, and right then Jesus said to that man, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43, ESV)  No one has the power to save, or condemn, but God.  It is only our duty as His followers, to convey the message as it has been revealed to us, and then allow it to be received, or rejected.  I say all of this and want to punctuate one thing - that does NOT mean everyone goes to heaven.  The Bible is clear, human-beings are sinners, in need of saving grave, and NOT everyone who thinks they are Christians will be saved.  The following, is in the very same chapter where it says "Judge not..."!
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness." (Matthew 7:21-23, ESV)
I started out this blog conveying a deep concern for the health of the American church, and i ended it with my thoughts regarding grace and salvation.  While they may not seem to correlate on the surface, i am trying to say they are one and the same.  Be faithful with the Word of God.  Be willing to speak out in truth and love, but also be aware that the Holy Spirit, and the person(s) you are speaking to, will not always receive what you have to say.  Only God can change a mind, change a community, change a region, a state, a nation.  Israel has walked with God some six thousand years, and even today the "Nation of Israel" does not have a place to call their home in peace.  Why?  Because their home is not of this world, and neither is the Christian's.  Like the Samaritan woman who "ate the scraps off the floor from the Master's table" (ref: Matthew 15:26-28), we can leave the progress of people, and of nations, to the Lord.  We just need to tend to the troubles of today.


Space: Above and beyond (nothing to do with the old TV series)

OK - it's been a bizallion seconds, OK... slight exaggeration, but a long, long time, since i last blogged.  I have no excuses.  No really good explanations either.  In any event, when presented with writer's block, the best method to break through it, is to just get typing, so... here i go.
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."  (Psalm 139:13-16, ESV)
I have struggled in the past, at least a little bit, in regards to my struggles with ADD and possibly HFA, but recently my beloved implored me to go see a Neurologist.  It took her almost a year and a half to get through to me but she finally did this past month or so.  I mean, possible HFA, ADD, and dealing with depression, you want to add more 'mental' problems on top too?!?

Technically this was a follow up to a sleep study i had in 2009.  Of course it was discovered that i had sleep apnea, apparently i completely stop breathing up to thirty times a night.  Well, in addition to the apnea, it was discovered that i suffer from narcoleptic seizures.  This freaked me out to hear.  It messed with me enough that after the required follow up with a Neurologist - who was not all that great - so, when she didn't find anything out of the ordinary, i didn't really question it further.  I was forthright, but not aggressive in my pursuit of learning more.  Well, three years on now, and some really poor nights of sleep, my beloved had me pursue a follow up with different Neurologist.  This meeting was much better.  The new doctor actually interviewed me.  He listened to what i had to say, and actually asked several more questions.  I also learned that the first MRI i had three years ago showed a small "mass" in the frontal lobe.  That was news to me!

Since then i have had another MRI, and i am scheduled for an EEG in a week or so.  When i was young, i had several EEG tests due to having Post Trauma Epilepsy, and then a follow up appointment in early June.  Well... dear reader, now you know that i am even a bigger freak than i had first let on.


The Wolverine - coming to grips with oneself

When i was younger i was fascinated by Super Heroes.  I mean, who wouldn't be right?!?  A being that looks like any other human, that is able to fly, or teleport, or shoot laser beams out of his eyes, or stretch to incredible lengths, or control the weather, etc.  How awesome would that be!  They always stopped the bad guys, and always made sure justice prevailed.  I know it is trendy today for young adults, and even more... mature people, such as myself, to appreciate the comic genre, but it really has been a life long interest for me; although, i never did dive very deep into the various Marvel or DC universes.  To be honest, i just couldn't afford to keep up with even a single title, let alone dozens.  Especially when the story lines 'crossover' between the various titles.

The first superheroes i remember where Superman and the Flash.  I was first introduced to them a neighborhood 7-Eleven (comics and Slurpees).  It was a storyline where they raced each other, can't remember who won now though.  There was then a huge gap from then (i was about seven or eight) until i was in my mid teens (about fifteen).  I was given an X-Men comic. I don't remember the story, but i remember Angel, Cyclops, Phoenix, and Professor-X.  I also remember Wolverine.  I was immediately drawn to Angel and Cyclops.  I had always wanted to fly, and since i have worn glasses for as long as i can remember, that power beam shooting out of Cyclops' eyes was awesome to me.  From then on i went as often as i could, and especially when i was able to scrounge together the money to actually buy a comic book or two.  While i still really liked Scott Summers, Angel wore off, and i began to like some of the others, like Storm and Kitty Pride.  At first i was indifferent, but slowly the character Wolverine really began to 'speak to me'.

When i first saw him in the comic, his rough demeanor, and his hesitation to become a willing member of the team, grated against my own desires in life.  I wanted to be around nice people, and be a part of something larger.  Unfortunately, i was really a lot more like him than i wanted to admit.  Often the other kids around me were not to my liking.  Either they picked on me, or they did not think and act like i did - and that weirded me out.  So, even though i didn't want to believe it, my life really was somewhat parallel to Logan's.  I struggled with my own rage, my own struggle to find out who i really was.  I know some may say that these next recollections are more akin to wanting to look back and see what i am seeing, but this is really how i was.  Two instances readily come to mind.

The first one was when we were playing a game called 'Maul Ball'.  Basically it is a gang-up game where everyone who does not have the ball (be it a dodge, basket, or football) tries to tackle - aka 'maul' - the one who does.  In this case, it was a small game, maybe only four to seven players.  I had the ball and was doing a decent job of keeping away from those who wanted to 'maul' me, when out of the corner of my eye i see my brother just get leveled.  I have no idea why it happened, but i no didn't care.  I dropped the ball and charged head long at this kid, who was about my size, but out weighed me by a good twenty pounds or more (i was a thin stick of a kid, it took me until i was thirteen to break 100 pounds).  He never saw me coming.  Picture an NFL receiver going across the middle who gets decked by a Free Safety.  I laid him out, and proceeded to stand over him, challenging him to get up.  Which, from what i remember, didn't happen (him getting up to challenge me).

The next one was when friends of mine and i were practicing a game called Dagorhir.  It is in essence, a medieval reenactment group, with a fantasy element to it.  Now, these were long time friends, guys i ate lunch with everyday, played Dungeons & Dragons with - everyday.  I liked these guys.  Well, i did something to really irritate a friend who i will call "Tynie", and he let me know it.  I wasn't having it though.  Things got heated and he threatened to shove my cushioned sword down my throat.  That was it, i told him to come down from the stoop he was standing on, and try it.  He took one step towards me and laid in to him.  A single punch to his nose, and down he went.  In my anger i shattered his nose in five places, and cracked it in three others.

While typing those two examples, quite a few others came to mind.  I am not proud of any of them.  I only share them to try and illustrate that i had a side to me that no longer cared about my own well being, that no longer cared about those around me.  My world became so focused on the point of my rage that i was going to commit whatever act of aggression that i had on my mind at the time, come hell or high water.  I am very glad to say that i am no longer this disconnected with the real world.  For one thing... i never had Wolverine's incredible regenerative ability.  The other, i really don't have his skills either.  There was a very real danger that my actions would attempt to 'cash checks' that my body just would not be able to support. 

Even as my mind was slowly awakened to the real world consequences around me, i found myself more and more drawn to the Wolverine character.  As the writers and artists and Marvel slowly fleshed out his storyline, i liked him even more.  With his sense of honor and martial prowess... it's weird - most likely - but, in a lot of ways he is a 'hero' to me.  A fictional one, but one nonetheless.  I liked what i saw in him, and i wanted to be him.

Well - it's been many a year since i last bought a true comic book.  They've gotten even more expensive and i can afford them even less now.  I have bought the occasional graphic novel - which is usually nothing more than a handful of issues compressed in to one volume, and the adverts removed.  Which is much more preferred by me actually.

In the end, and this irks me to admit this, but Wolverine has been my overall favorite comic book character.  It irks me because he is arguably the most liked Marvel character.  I can't speak as to why other people like Logan, but for me it came down to all of the things i saw in him, that i also discovered in myself.  I saw a man who felt lost in the world he was compelled to live in.  I saw a man who struggled to know himself, a man who didn't think himself worthy to live among those with such ideals (his fellow X-Men), and yet he had a sense of duty to those very same people.  He thought of himself more of an animal than a man, a creature who struggled to contain his own rage and was a threat to those closest to him, this is why he always kept others at arms distance.  When he met Mariko and learned of honor and the ways of the samurai, he learned how to control the rage within, and a means of an outlet when needed.  He found a purpose, a way to live his life if you will.  For me i never did find a purpose within the way of Bushido, not completely.  For me, my true purpose was only felt when i finally gave in to my Master's call, the Lord Jesus Christ.  In that way we were different... well that, and the fact he was a completely fictional character.