Friday, July 11, 2014

Blast From the Past - The Spirit of Truth

I was talking to someone about truth today and I remembered something I wrote a long time ago about this very subject.  This article for the Journal of Aggressive Christianity was written 13 years ago when I was in Maple Ridge. It was the early days for us in building the shelter and transitional housing facility, I had two young boys, the youngest not quite a year. I remember it as a time of tremendous stress and turmoil, busyness and fatigue and in the midst of all that, I was struggling to find myself deep within and was trying hard to put together a truth for myself that I could live within while outwardly living my calling, my vocation, within my organization while expressing myself in writing. The search for the truth in each one of us is a lifetime's journey. If you find yours, live it.

I'm copying the article here for you to read.

I have always desired the transparency of Jesus. Or, at least I thought I did. It sounded so spiritual. So...well, it sounded like something I should want. But transparency demands truth, so, I have endeavoured to live in truth. However, I have failed more than I have succeeded in this area. That is because, sometimes, I am afraid of the truth. It was all right for Jesus to be so honest; after all, he was the Son of God. He had everything going for him. But me, I’m too scared to live in the complete truth.

What does it mean to live in truth? I had to find out. 3 John 4 says, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” Walking implies a day-by-day, moment-by-moment, step-by-step choice to live in truth. But is it so important to be truthful about everything in life? Or is it just the big things that I have to worry about? Do I have to be truthful to everyone, or just to God? Ephesians 4:15 (Amplified) gave me the answer I was looking for. “...let our lives lovingly express truth in all things - speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly.” Well, that just about summed it up.

But still I struggled. What does a person look like who walks in the truth? It is a person who is consistent in all that he says and does. It is a person who is not afraid to let you into their lives, because you won’t find a difference between their personal lives and their public lives. A person who says, “I love God” but then goes home and is verbally abusive to their spouse or children does not really love God. That is not truth. What is on the outside must match what is on the inside.

Several years ago our family went to Hawaii. We were shopping at the International Market and they were selling these lovely jade rings. They were gold dipped, guaranteed to last a lifetime, and so I bought two for five dollars. They were so pretty and when I wore them, someone always commented on how beautiful they were. People actually thought they were real. And you know what? They did last for a very long time because I took very good care of them. But one day the gold started to chip off. I had actually forgot I was wearing one of them and was scrubbing out the sink, when I realized what I’d done. But it was too late. The gold had worn off and the bare metal inside was showing.

Some Christians are like this too. We want to be transparent. We want to be truthful. But when troubles come our way and we get a little “roughed up” so to speak, we show, whether we want to or not, what is really on the inside. Arthur Katz, in his book The Spirit of Truth says, “...our actual condition, the true state of our inner man, is revealed not by how biblically correct we are, but by the sound we make when we hit the ground.”

We all hit the ground eventually. One day King David hit the ground. You know the story, how he arranged Uriah’s death so that he could take his wife Bathsheba for himself? Well, the prophet Nathan came to him to tell him about an outrageous thing that happened. He tells him the story of a wealthy man who needs a lamb because he has company. So he goes out and takes one from a poor neighbour. Of course, David “burned with anger” the Bible says, and demanded to know who would do such a thing for he would make him pay four times over for his lack of pity and greed. Nathan, of course, says, “You are the man.” This was the moment of truth for David. He had become transparent.

The world is watching us. Whether we like it or not, eventually the truth of who and what we are shows through. So it is our innermost being that needs to be transformed - all of it. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to pervade our entire being. We need a constant in-filling of the Spirit. And then, the bluffing has to stop. The false modesty has to stop. The white lies must stop. The false flattery must stop. We must begin to speak the truth in love without fear of recrimination. When we respond to a prayer request with sincerity, but we’re really not sincere or when we pretend that we love someone we do not, what effect does that have on our bodies? Are ulcers and anxiety and depression totally unrelated to not living in truth? Arthur Katz says that, “Every lie dulls the mind, confuses the emotions, and blunts the spirit of the one expressing it - and of the one receiving it - while adding to the unreality and untruth of the atmosphere we all breathe and depend upon for our lives together.”

The choice between the truth and a lie is a daily one. And it is only when we each, as individuals, choose to live and walk in the truth, that the Church will be that vital force in the world. If every officer and soldier made the commitment to walk daily in the truth, the Salvation Army would completely awaken and realize its full potential. Many have prayed for change in our organization. And change is coming. But it will only happen when we change - because “we” are the Army.

Hypocrisy or truth - that is our choice. Whether we don’t speak the truth because of our fear of rejection, of recrimination through the appointment system, or because we are afraid of what people will think of us - it doesn’t matter. When we let fear reign in our lives, hypocrisy reigns with it. We must choose between integrity and convenience.

I wrote this because I was challenged by something I read in a writer’s magazine. It was an article on creativity. The author tells why people who want to write but don’t, are afraid. They are afraid basically of what people will think of their writing, their opinion, but most of all, they are afraid of what people will think of them. That is because good writing reveals the inner turmoil of the writer - the tension that makes writing exciting. Are you not drawn more to writing that challenges you, that contradicts what you think and feel to be true, that is somewhat controversial in nature? I am. But, to do it myself – I don’t know.

So I have decided to go ahead, despite my fears. And I will be honest and say that I, too, am terribly afraid of the truth. I am afraid the Army is afraid of the truth. I am afraid of what God thinks of us because of our fear. I am afraid that we will not be who God wants us to be unless we face the truth. And when we face the truth - we are set free. Free from our fears. What about you? John says that the truth abides in us - so let’s speak it. Let’s live it. Let’s be truth in everything we do.

April-May 2001

Monday, July 07, 2014

Comfort: A Journey Through Grief by Ann Hood - Final Entry

I couldn't put the book down. Something in the words that seem to have tumbled onto the page with no rhyme or reason, here one day, two years in the future, the whole story mixed up just like grief is. Ann talks about how all the daily activities remind her of Grace and how she copes (or doesn't) with that. Her decision to have another child and finally clear out Grace's room appear in no particular order and I found myself backtracking to figure out when each event occurred. Mourning is like this. It's messy. It's filled with pain, sorrow, joy, tears, anger - all happening at different times and sometimes all at once.

The part I most resonated with was her spiritual reaction. Whenever I have gone through a difficult or traumatic event, I immediately shut God out. I get angry at him and choose to ignore him altogether. I don't want to go to church, I don't want to pray and the bible just seems like irrelevant words from a completely irrelevant millennium. I begin to think I don't even believe in him, just like Ann. Eventually I make peace with God but it's my go to reaction. 

I was also struck by how Ann and her husband, Lorne, were drawn to each other through their pain. Even though they each coped in their own way, even how they approached their spirituality, whether or not they would go or not go to church, they made room for each other to grieve and mourn in their own way. 

If you have gone through a major loss you will immediately identify with Ann. However, I wouldn't pass this book along to anyone who had recently lost a child. Although, I would later on, after some time had passed. 

That being said, I would recommend this book to anyone to help give that person a greater sense of what it's like to lose a child. It's not just that Ann shared her story, but she let it come out into the page in the way she experienced the loss.  I can't say I enjoyed the book because it's not the kind of subject that you enjoy reading about. However, I can say that I 'experienced' it and it was a good experience and I came away from it with a better understanding of mourning. It helped me see and understand some of my own losses more clearly as my experiences reflected off of Ann's.

I would give it 4/5.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Comfort: A Journey Through Grief by Ann Hood - Third Entry

As you can see, I read more than one chapter. I had too. The writing is compelling with its descriptive words painting a picture of chaotic grief. That his the thing that stands out to me in this story of loss and the need for comfort, anything to take the pain away.

Her experience of mourning isn't ordered. There are no "stages" laid out carefully in order as they're supposed to be, as writers will tell you in their books. Instead they come and go all over the place, one minute she is experiencing. Pleasure, the next minute she is in the hell of loss so deep it cannot be fathomed. 

She can't escape. She flees from things that remind her, she runs from people she doesn't want to meet - she hides away from life, living in the chaos. Everything she sees, the food they eat, the songs, the people - all too painful to bear.

Everyone mourns differently. But there are some things that are the same - it's how we react to our grief that is different. I allowed myself to be surrounded by everything about my mother, trying to keep her close, fully embracing the pain and agony of her death. I think I processed through it all in less time, but it was a painful time. 

We can mourn the loss of many things. A job, a relationship, a pet, a vocation...anything we have emotionally invested in. My usual reaction to pain is anxiety, avoiding the inevitable, hiding. Unresolved grief can poison a life. Hiding from the pain and loss only prolongs the mourning period. Sometimes we hang onto it as a protective barrier, something to hide behind so that we don't have to face the world again. There is a different experience for each person who brings their own experiences to the process.

This story draws me intensely in evoking memories of my own, heightening the feelings
of loss I'm experiencing now. There is more to get through. Her simple story telling, even the order in how she tells it, is gripping. I want to reach into her experience and comfort her. Comfort me.

More still to come...Kathie

Friday, July 04, 2014

Comfort: A Journey Through Grief by Ann Hood - Chapter Two

Knitting Lessons

Sometimes grief and loss consume us. Ann Hood talks about how her mind could not focus on her writing. She kept telling the story over and over again and even though people told her to write it down - words failed her. Someone told her to learn to do something with her hands and she chose knitting. Knitting saved her.

"The quiet click of the needles, the rhythm of the stitches, the warmth of the yarn and the blanket and scarf that spilled across my lap, made those hours tolerable."

I remember something similar happening when my mom died. But it was the opposite of Ann. I couldn't knit. The very thing that saved me in the early days after being diagnosed with a chronic illness betrayed me, just as Ann's words betrayed her. Instead, I wrote about it. My fingers spilled the blood from my bleeding heart, breaking in two. It was cathartic. Like Ann I also felt a need to talk about it, to make sense of it.

I was like that when I was diagnosed with a chronic illness in 1991. I mean, at least I knew I wasn't crazy and there was really something wrong with me. But while I tried to live with the reality of what was going on in my body, I couldn't stop focussing on it, talking about it and trying to make sense of why something like that would happen to me. I'm a verbal processor. If you're like me then you'll know that even as I talk through something today, tomorrow I may have reached a different conclusion. It confuses others because, of course, they're not following my logic, my reasoning. 

Back then it was knitting that saved me. I like to knit in front of the TV watching a program I like, a mystery usually or police drama. The two together ensure that I don't focus on my problems. Instead I have to pay attention to the needles and yarn in my hands.

Death is not the only thing that brings grief. I felt huge grief when I found out I had a chronic illness. It was like the person I thought I was had gone and in its place was a different person, a sick person. Illness brings loss of mobility, time, energy and interferes with every aspect of your life. It changes you. It changes how you think. From the time of diagnosis onward every thought, every feeling is overlayed with the idea that you are now sick.

Even now, having been diagnosed with a form of inflammatory arthritis, as I lose mobility a little bit more each year, I feel a profound sense of loss. I find the concerns of others don't have an impact on me. My filter is looser than usual and I don't seem to care so much. Other people's concerns seem so trivial in my mind in contrast to the problem of my ever shrinking world. I have to force the thought into the closet in my mind and slam the door shut each day and even that is becoming harder than usual.

Ann Hood's journey is heart wrenching and painful to read. It's bringing to mind so many of my own experiences with loss. Perhaps that is not a bad thing.


PS. I don't think I can do this one chapter at a time...the book is drawing me in so I'll blog separate ideas. If you've been through any type of loss, you should read this book.