Ahimsa & My Ego

Heart ablaze again, guide me. You I consult in times of humility. You I live by, you my internal North Star. The Jesus before and after they spoke to me of him. You, preservation of my relationships, hope of my days. 

This week I said the most powerful and dreaded word in the English language. Never expected that from myself, consciously or by accident. As a believer (believer in Spirit, that is, the world inside our world, always conspiring to make itself known to the physical beings), a mistake of this kind leads to deep introspection. In fact, since getting suspended from my job, I have passed days almost entirely alone and in deep reflection. How did I get so out of touch with my heart that a word contrary to who I have worked to become, slipped, like any other word, across my lips? That is Spirit. That is Spirit asking for attention. True sign of my need to pay attention. To get woke anew already.

You see, waking up to the pain of those around us isn’t a one time thing. It is an evolutionary (gradual; see Everything is Spiritual for a deeper explanation of this idea) process. I cannot one day decide that I will abide by the revolutionary ideals of Jesus and stand against the system of domination and expect myself to….abide there from that day forward. That is uncomfortable territory. That is asking the ego to bow. That is tough shit.

Violence happens to humans everyday in the form of unkind or careless words and actions: all the grub and grime of a groaning and restless world. Our fears are the first application process, so to speak, through which that daily violent input must pass. Fear we encounter on the daily  is a disruption which can become either ego fodder or transformation fuel. Author Deborah Adele says that there are two kinds of fear: instinctual fear, for the sake of survival, and fear of the unfamiliar (The Yamas and Niyamas, 2009). Those of us who exist on the more posh side of life (a place to live, some food to eat, very few–if any–daily threats to security, health, and freedom) are prone to over-entertainment of the second kind of fear. (It goes all the way back to the Old Testament IMO, when they scaped those poor goats all the way to the wilderness with everybody’s adultery and disrespect and masturbation tied on its’ back; A live metaphor for the weight of human sin.) When humans have time and/or security, they seem to begin to react to fears (real or unreal, rational or irrational–ego food all the same), and inevitably accumulate guilt. Well….who is around to interrupt this fear and guilt cycle? Who trips us up when we walk in the pride caused by this treacherous consumption of fear? Them. People (especially those at or near the top of the food chain) like to pin guilt on them. The ones without fear. The ones who face fear number one and still have the nerve to stand on street corners asking for money. The ones who do the-thing-I-never-would and dare to continue living instead of melting into the dehumanizing guilt-puddle we expect. It’s yuck, but it’s human. Or, tragically, entire people groups scapegoat other entire people groups because of the truth they tell about history (see: Black Experience in America). Humans do this, and then the ego, if unaddressed by empathy (or equal parts suffering), laps that stuff up like a thirsty puppy, and, like a puppy, it grows. Then, perhaps, it bites.

The same day I am dismissed from work, I reach up to grab a book or two off the Black History Month shelf at Terry library, and for the first time, insecurity chases my hand back into my pocket. Racist, I hear the voice of accusation inside my head. What are you trying to cover up? 

The ego growls and I snarl to myself: the injustice of it! That my innocent action should be inhibited by a single misunderstanding. One accusation.

One accusation, not even voiced outright had me suspended in inaction and egoism.

Violence to fear. Violence reaps fear. If I refuse to scapegoat this insecurity grounded in fear, where does it go?

Transformation fuel. To quote Gary Zukav (The Seat of the Soul.), “…we are held responsible for our every action, thought and feeling, which is to say, for our every intention.” Pay by what you outsource to others, or pay by running your own transformation race. The choice is always ours.

I have found that my ego’s kryptonite is understanding. When I take the time to understand, I overcome violence in myself, and in my interactions with others by the power of peace and by lofty aspirations of Love. Understanding often leads me to tears; this time I can’t help reflect on how hurtful this me-centered attitude must have been over the course of these callous months, culminating in my utterance of that unfit word, to my minority friends, or friends living on the corner of gender and racial discrimination* in this often hateful society. I acted contrary to the magnificent Eastern value of Ahimsa; nonviolence, and thus, contrary to my deepest self. I can do better. We can do better.

One accusation, result of my mistake, shaved ounces off my ego. No wonder the African American community has offered the world countless humble artists, truth-tellers, and thundering prophets. How many accusations do they hear in a day, my brothers and sisters next door, yet so far away from me? Drunk. Lazy. Racist. Dumb. Inadequate. Inferior. The list goes on, for them and for our Native American kindred. May my white ego stop short, as those of my friends are forced to every time they leave their homes.

So much to learn, so much loving left to do.

Gratitude & Hope for Ahimsa,

Lydia Nomad

 

*For more on this idea of Intersectionality visit The Liturgists

 

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Audacity to Ask

54 days ago:

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom~Psalm 90:12

The last journal started in struggle and ended in burn out. A lot was accomplished in between. But no amount of productivity is worth the forfeit of my soul’s health. I want this journal to be full of all the joy and health that comes from living Coram Deo [in the presence of God]. I hope it is peppered with instances in which I put down what I am doing at the slightest urging, and readily join God in whatever He is up to. I want to follow Him in all things, everyday submitting myself to His great self. Every day an expedition into grace and He is my Captain. Where will we go, Lord? What will happen? Only You know, and that is what is best. I hope to be renewed by deeper connection to the Fount of Living Water. You can make these dreams come true in my life, Lord, and I pray that You will, knowing that even as I pray You have already answered. 

On the last page of the same journal I wrote:

My God overwhelms the giants. He slays dragons. He gives us what it takes to lift trembling sword in the fact of monsters unimaginable. He puts the war cry for justice deep in our throats. He sets fire in our belly so we can stand appalled and indignant in the way of abuse and terror. It’s His breath in our lungs anyway. Let’s praise Him with it.

Amazing that He answered my prayers even before the journal was spent.

Receiving God’s gifts is a gentle, simple movement of stooping lower.~Ann Voskamp

Put Together the Moments

I rang in the new year below the border. My 2014 was greeted with pops of confetti, 12 grapes, and music all in Spanish.
January 2nd: I’m grateful to the point of tears for this moment. For Your peace. I look out of the window and I see rolling hills, arid ground clothed in dusty shrubs. Baja, Mexico. I look inside myself and I see darkness being rolled away, even as old habits fight to stay. I see You making Your home in me. My story is such a great one. Lord, I am unworthy to have you near me.

We will this year gather celestial fruits on earthly ground, where faith and hope have made the desert like the garden of the Lord~Charles Spurgeon

January 3rd:
Thank You for challenging me
Hold my feet to the fire
Put the right heart in me
Search the depths of my soul and know me
As no man ever could
Reveal my sin-the immensity of my depraved nature-
And comfort me with knowledge of Yourself
When I search the Scriptures
Seeking to find You
Let my heart be open and raw
Give me sight to see and understand the whole message
Answer me out of Your loving kindness
Or my whole life will be in vain.

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you~Hosea 12:6

(Still January 3rd:) The weight of what God is calling me to do starts to sink in…My understanding of the cross-cultural life starts to be fleshed out. How immense the bridges to be crossed are. How alone I shall feel in a culture 100% different from my own. I ask God to strengthen me for the coming challenges and support me as my heart is heavy for the unreached, and for what I have to do. I ask Him not to let me turn tail and run, as is my first instinct.

The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down~Psalm 145:14

January 4th: The world is too big. People are too blind, corrupt, selfish. And I am one of them.

January 6th: I want to move into another culture. I want to make my (small, concrete, dirt) home there. I want to marry the culture and have its children. I want to surmount the difficulties of living in another culture by time and trial. I want to die there. None of this because that culture is better, or because I grew tired of the U.S. I will be there because that is where God wants me. I will sew seeds of the Gospel where none have sown before. It will be the most difficult initiative of my life but God will guide me through all the tears, discouragement, and frustration. I will love people as my own family, and they will become my own.

Normal.

The word normal is defined as conforming with an accepted standard or norm; natural; the usual state. Everyone thinks that they know what normal is (or is not) yet everybody’s normal looks different.
It’s normal for me to drive my own truck. It’s normal for me to walk in the door of my parent’s house, kiss my dad on the cheek, and help my mom set the table for dinner. There is nothing unusual about my dad paying medical bills that I cannot afford. It’s normal for him to be here, in my life.
On a “normal” day I go to yoga classes at a premier athletic club (where I work), I don’t think about money (much), I read books, and I don’t encounter drug abuse of any kind. That’s my normal.
There are lots of normals. I am discovering that mine is rare.
It’s normal for her to miss the bus and have to walk to work. It is normal for her to spend her last $10. It’s normal for her to walk into a house with TVs and radios playing loudly, and to be in charge of making supper. It’s not unusual for her to go for months without hearing from her dad. It is normal for her to see her mom with another man.
On a “normal” day she sits on the couch and watches Maury. She worries about money, she smells marijuana and knows who sells the cheapest drugs. That’s her normal.
Childishly I think that my normal is the normal. It’s absurd, really, to think that most of the 7 billion (or so) people in existence live like my family does. This planet can’t afford that many American Dreams. If you could measure blessings, I think it would be safe to say I have more than most. Because, Y’all, I’ve got so much. People are impressed by the choices I make and the work I do. My answer, “I’ve got everything going for me. What excuse do I have not to be my very best?”
It’s not a great tragedy that many peoples lives are far different from mine. There are lots of ways to live right. I like that people do things differently (often better) than me.
The problem I see is my own assumption that people have all the same help and blessings that I do. I treat them mercilessly and talk about others as though they have no excuse for laziness and poverty (as if it’s my place to make that judgment at all?!). I am wrong to speak generally about unique individuals.
The tragedy is distance from Jesus. Poverty, promiscuity, drugs, my own pride, it’s a result of the way we are wired. Sin has permeated the human heart. It poisons and stains us like smoke in a lung. We need redemption. Today and everyday we need God’s renewal.
I have begun my race on stable ground-financially, logically, nutritionally, socially-thanks to wise parents. Most are not blessed richly in this way. I hope I can learn from the precious souls that surround me. He blesses me that I may bless others. To bless is my highest aspiration.

I ask great things
Expect great things,
Shall receive great things….May the world this day be happier and better because I live.~Arthur Bennett, The Valley of Vision

Make Way

Walking out of the gym I hear a man ask, “you did not get a snack?” I stop him as he tries to walk back in the door. I peer into the rainy, street-light-orange night. Round heads on stick necks, all dark silhouettes with white eye balls, turn towards me. I address the first pair of eyes I see:
“Did you just straight up lie or did I not give you a snack?” I ask in a slightly too loud & accusatory tone. He shakes his head. He can’t help it, his eyes dart to the boy beside him whose head is hung. I had noticed this boy trying to get a snack from someone else earlier in the night, though I know I gave him one. I approach the little boy, full of disappointment and fear that he does not get enough to eat.
I bend over, wanting to read his eyes to discover the truth. I address him by name, “are you hungry or do you just want another snack?” He does not answer or look up. I try to raise his face to mine but his chin is glued to his chest. His mouth is set in a deep frown, certainly his eyes are full of tears. I’m afraid of squeezing his cheeks too hard. When I see that he is adamant in his resistance to my efforts, and horribly ashamed, I kiss him on the head and walk away.
Seconds after turning my back I regret not trying harder or praying for him or reminding him to ask us for food if he is ever truly hungry. I re-hash my actions all the way to my truck but I know that what I did was right. He knows that lying is wrong. I showed him a tiny glimpse of redeeming love in the face of sin (in the tangible form of a kiss on the head.) I wish nothing so deeply as for him to see that as a reflection of Christ’s loving, atoning sacrifice. Now I ask and plead that the Holy Spirit move in his little boy’s heart. That his guilt be turned into a quest for forgiveness, instead of to apathy and selfishness. I long to know that he stays up, even now, considering the futility of his sin, and recalling the Bible verses we have led him to so carefully store away in his heart.
I have done my part. I have fought against barriers and made room for revival.
There is nothing I can do to ensure a desire for forgiveness in his heart.
No card I can send,
No money I can raise,
No verse I can quote.
This is the part where I submit his oppressed soul to God,
And intercede on His behalf
The way I am sure someone interceded for me on the night I was saved.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom~Psalm 90:12

Righteousness will go before Him (the Lord) and make his footsteps a way.~Psalm 85:13

God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”~Galations 4:6

Finale: An Age of Indulgence

I finished strong; Monday I had a Starbucks date with a friend and drank hot water from a ceramic cup. I tipped the baristas but did not purchase anything. Huzzah!
In an era when saying “no” to something that feels good is unacceptable, I am learning self-control. What a contradiction, or paradox perhaps is the better word (I think it’s sort of working). Telling myself “no” has led to fits of annoyance inside of me comparable in rationality to those pitched by a mouthy four-year-old when his mom says, “no more ice cream”. *Disclaimer: Asking God to show you the true state of your heart leads to intense feelings of degradation and humility*
A few books have led me to look at disciplines and (GASP) self-denial as ways to draw closer to God. One is Crazy Love, by Francis Chan (http://crazylovebook.com/.) Another is 7, by Jen Hatmaker (Jen led me to the more specific idea of a “spending fast” http://jenhatmaker.com/home.htm.) The last is Simple Obsession, by Jamie Zumwalt (not 100% relevant to the idea at hand, but too good not to mention! http://www.amazon.com/Simple-Obsession-jamie-west-zumwalt/dp/0967978157.) These books have been tools in God’s hand over the last seven months as He chisels away at my, well, my stupidity, really. The gratefulness I feel nearly matches my ignorance and trust me, that’s impressive.

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. Colossians 2:20-23

Having money and using it is a good thing. Do not hear me saying I disagree with that. My proof? Today is day two off the fast and I’ve bought a T-shirt and eaten out. Enough said. The general rule is, if God made it, it is good. Not buying is not the point.
I’ve summed up the September experiment in three words:
annoyed
confused
hopeful.
Annoyed because during the fast I could not get everything that I wanted just when it suited me. Cry me a river.
Confused that the poor and the rich seem so far apart in innumerable ways and I cannot see God’s hand in it, though I look fervently. Thank you, Father, for allowing me to learn from both ends of the financial spectrum.
Hopeful for I am certain that God knows exactly what He is doing.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few~Matthew 7:13-14

What if the way really is difficult?
What if we are truly supposed to love others more than we love ourselves (people we don’t even know?!)
What if loving others involves personal contact?
Discomfort?
What if our actions will follow us into the next life?

And I heard a voice from Heaven saying, “Write this: blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.”~Revelation 14:13

What if that lady kind of frightens me and also smells funny?
Get over yourself, Lydia. Next thing you know God might ask you to take up your cross.
He wouldn’t dare.
He would.

The term balancing act comes to mind. My mistakes are a guarantee, but it’s a short fall into His arms.
Hang with me, guys. I’m not sure what will be next for this blog. I’m on a path of discovery that is as unpredictable as it is wonderful.

…How blessed it is as years roll round, and the leaves begin again to fall, to enjoy such an unfading promise as this, ‘The Lord will give me grace.’~Charles Spurgeon

Glory to the Lamb.

Day 5

Leave it to me to discover that I need to spend more money while on a fast from, yep, you got it: spending money. It’s not that I’m stingy, or I never give anyone anything. No, I do OK on that I suppose. The problem is that I get so caught up in saving and calculating and earning that I forget to just…chill. And be a fun human being.

Lydia: I want food! (This born out of a twenty minute fantasy about Domino’s gluten free pizza)
Co-worker: Let’s get some when we get off.
Lydia: Dude I can’t afford to eat the food here!
Co-worker: I’ll buy. Really, it’s no big deal.

Yeah that happened tonight. I never would have made the offer that my co-worker made here. Had anyone come to me hungry or looking sick, sure, I’d buy them a meal (AND a soda!!) without hesitation. But short of a good Samaritan situation, nobody is getting overpriced food out of me.
There. My focus is on prices and quantity instead of time. How dare I forget the importance of simply breaking bread with another person. I am so busy thinking about helping people I don’t yet know that I neglect to take a minute and get to know someone whom God has placed in my life. If expensive food is what it takes to tell someone they are important then I should be all in for the pricey eats.

Lessons abound and it’s only day 5. How exciting! Brainstorming to find creative ways to meet and love on people without spending money…or being a complete mooch.

Talitha Cumi

Who am I that You have brought me thus far?~David, 2 Samuel 7:18-29

Who am I that You pour out all joy on me?
Who am I that You bless me in every way?
Who am I to help care for the needy people here on earth?
Who am I that you lead sojourners into my life?

The world I see is a lovely one. It’s a world of hope and mercy. A place of confusion but not suspicion. It’s a world of broken people and broken hearts, and potential to be made well. It’s a land bursting with opportunity, with chances to make changes. This is a world where people who believe in something can come together and give their dream birth. It’s a nation indulging in sin while crying out for knowledge. It’s a world that says, “help, I’m drowning!” It’s a country that gives some much so that they will be equipped to help those with little.
It’s a planet in the hands of a lively, creative God who loves His children and looks forward to the time of restoration.

And He says to me, “Little girl, arise.”

Let us hold less tightly to our interpretations of God’s law and cling more desperately to Jesus and the relationships we have with other sinners.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. ~Matthew 22:37-40

Real Talk

Living counter-culturally is going to be harder than I thought. Because the American church  is blending in so well with the culture (and forfeiting the ideals of Jesus) it is hard to say what really should be going on in a Christian’s life. And it is oh-so difficult to live with a Heavenly mindset in a culture obsessed with being comfortable right now! Less sinning should not be the only thing that’s different between the life of any given Christian and any given Unbeliever. There’s so much more to being a Christ follower. Hear it from the lips of Jesus Himself:

…Come you who are blessed by my father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer Him saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? and when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”~Matthew 25:34-40

 

It’s difficult! Living the way Jesus did is super hard. It is hard to do lots of good things (sans earthly reward) and not begin thinking to highly of yourself. Dying to self is just that…dying. It is hard to know where to start in a world as wide & wild & wrecked as this, It’s challenging, grueling, difficult.

But wait.

God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are. ~Ephesians 2:10

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.~Matthew 11:29

He’s got a plan. And a promise. If you believe in God and all the words of Jesus above…then why do you hesitate to let it all go? Forget temporary “comforts,” go for gold, and find rest for your soul! Ask Him to send His Good Spirit to lead you on level ground (Psalm 143.) Follow Him like a sheep, not turning away for the sake of earthly desires or security. Step into your new life.

Enjoy the wild ride.

Let Me Learn By Paradox

Pain crawls up my legs
From the balls of my feet it comes,
Slowly, achingly treading its’ way up my body.
Calves, knees they shake now, hips feel out of joint.
My back aches, arches, contracts, fights against me when I try to stand. Inhale. Keep going. On and on and on. My body is telling me that it won’t go anymore, that it just won’t work right.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day ~St. Paul

Meanwhile my heart and my head and my soul are excited for all the work there is to do.
I carry a message the way my Mama carried me. Everyday it is ready, longing to come out. I want to tell! There are more people everyday who need to hear this Truth. The Good News is eager to be shared. There is so much work to be done: look at the immense fields, ready to be labored over. Souls are ready to be won for Christ!
I long to work in the “fields” from sun-up to sun-down, and I know it is what I’m supposed to do.
Until my body slows me down

And I’m quite confused.

He’s my God and He never lets me go.
He said, sing it on the mountain.
Or fight in valley low
Every man is going to see,
And everyone will know
That peace runs deep in Him.
~Josh Garrels