A Prayer from Alcuin of York

The following is an inspirational prayer from Searching for Sunday, by Rachel Held Evans. The prayer is adapted from the original by Alcuin of York:

God go with us. Help us to be an honor to the church.

Give us the grace to follow Christ’s word,

To be clear in our task and careful in our speech.

Give us open hands and joyful hearts.

Let Christ be on our lips.

May our lives reflect a love of truth and compassion.

Let no one come to us and go away sad.

May we offer hope to the poor,

And solace to the disheartened.

Let us so walk before God’s people,

That those who follow us might come into his kingdom.

Let us sow living seeds, words that are quick with life,

That faith may be the harvest in people’s hearts.

In word and in example let your light shine

In the dark like the morning star.

Do not allow the wealth of the world or its enchantment

Flatter us into silence as to your truth.

Do not permit the powerful, or judges,

Or our dearest friends

To keep us from professing what is right.

Amen

Advertisements

Wise Words for Today

With good intentions and sincere desires to reach as many people as possible for Jesus, we have subtly and deceptively minimized the magnitude of what it means to follow him. We’ve replaced challenging words from Christ with trite phrases in the church. We’ve taken the lifeblood out of Christianity and put Kool-Aid in its place so that it tastes better to the crowds, and the consequences are catastrophic. Multitudes of men and women at this moment think that they are saved from their sins when they are not. Scores of people around the world culturally think that they are Christians when biblically they are not.

David Platt

Cultivating Sacred Character: The Role of Spiritual Disciplines (Part Two)

Mick Turner

In Part One of this essay, we discussed the importance of engaging in the classical Christian spiritual disciplines if we are to work with the Holy Spirit in cultivating Sacred Character in our lives. Certainly scripture is not silent on this issue of discipline and discipleship. Scripture, especially the New Testament, repeatedly stresses the importance of discipline, prayer, meditation, and spiritual endeavors.

It is apparent, however, that the church lost its focus on the practice of spiritual disciplines over the years. As mentioned in Part One, I think this is one of the unfortunate side effects of the historical “faith/works” controversy. The result has been a general sense of confusion on the part of the Christian community in terms of the spiritual technology available to those who desire a deeper walk of faith.

One of the primary reason today’s church is becoming less of a force in society and even in the lives of those professing to be Christian is the fact that for many years the Body of Christ as a whole had lost the real meaning of the word “disciple.” Dallas Willard speaks directly to this tragedy:

For at least several decades the churches of the Western world have not made discipleship a condition of being a Christian. One is not required to be, or to intend to be, a disciple in order to become a Christian, and one may remain a Christian without any signs of progress toward or in discipleship. Contemporary American churches in particular do not require following Christ in his example, spirit, and teachings as a condition of membership – either of entering into or continuing in fellowship of a denomination or local church. I would be glad to learn of any exception to this claim, but it would only serve to highlight its general validity and make the general rule more glaring. So far as the visible Christian institutions of our day are concerned, discipleship is clearly optional.

This lack of emphasis on discipleship in the contemporary church has led to many unfortunate circumstances, not the least of which is that so many Christians are walking around feeling as wounded, depressed, and hopeless as those outside the faith. That this is so, however, should not be surprising. Christ did not call us to a “country club” religion. In fact, he didn’t call us to religion at all. He called us to relationship and mission. To participate in this life-giving relationship and to fulfill our mission as Christ-followers, we must indeed become just that – Christ-followers. Tragically, few realize that this involves far more than belief in a few arcane doctrines, tossing off an occasional prayer, and being a tithing member of a local congregation. And perhaps nothing is more essential in this challenging age than having an army of true Christ-followers. Willard understands this necessity:

Nothing less than life in the steps of Christ is adequate to the human soul or the needs of our world. Any other offer fails to do justice to the drama of human redemption, deprives the hearer of life’s greatest opportunity, and abandons this present life to the evil powers of this age. The correct perspective is to see following Christ not only as the necessity it is, but as the fulfillment of the highest human possibilities and as life on the highest plane.

The notion that deep discipleship was optional was not a part of the early church. Willard continues:

…there is absolutely nothing in what Jesus himself or his early followers taught that suggest that you can decide just to enjoy forgiveness at Jesus’ expense and have nothing more to do with him.

In Paul’s remarkable prayer to the Ephesians (3:19) he petitions the Lord that “you may be filled with the fullness of God.” Have you ever really reflected on the magnitude of what the Apostle is saying in these few words? Basically, what Paul is asking God is that the believers in Ephesus become like Jesus. Any close examination of scripture reveals that the goal of our development as disciples of Christ is to become Christ-like; in essence, we are to cultivate Sacred Character.

Later on in Ephesians (4:15) Paul goes on to say, “Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” This statement by Paul should not surprise us. Two verses earlier he flatly that in achieving maturity, we are to attain “the measure of the full stature of Christ.” I don’t know about you, but when I read this statement two things immediately occur within me. First, I am strongly convicted about how far I am from manifesting this kind of maturity in my daily life but, secondly, I am filled with hope that it is at least remotely possible. Paul would have never put it this way, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, unless it was indeed true.

In addition to the church’s general lack of focus on the spiritual disciplines and their strategic necessity in the life of the believer, two other problems seem to complicate the issue and result in either lackluster commitment to practicing the disciplines or, even worse, a general paralysis on the part of Christians when they attempt to make the disciplines a vital part of their walk of faith.

First, even though many churches are now speaking directly to the importance of the spiritual disciplines, it seems that this renewed focus spawns a loud and most often irrational outcry from fundamentalist believers who feel practicing the classical spiritual disciplines is somehow either a “New Age infiltration of the church,” or worse still, “the work of Satan.” This resistance is usually based on the general lack of understanding of what advocates of the spiritual disciplines are trying to accomplish. Writers such as Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Brian McLaren, and countless others are branded “arch-heretics,” “apostates,” and even “dupes of the enemy.” This is highly unfortunate because nothing could be further from the truth. Instead of leading people away from the truth of the gospel, these authors are, instead, making a compassionate attempt to direct people toward experiencing the very heart of the gospel.

The blather and fear-based banter of these self-appointed doctrinal “watchmen” only serves to confuse sincere Christians even more and many times prevents them from finding the true heart of the gospel message. Even worse, keeps them bound in the chains of a narrow, rigid world view which is devoid of spirituality and arid when it comes to Christian love.

A second problem stems from the fact that the classic spiritual traditions were formulated centuries ago and are often wrapped in language and tone that is quite alien from our 21st Century world. I know from personal experience that studying the Christian mystics of the Middle Ages is a very fruitful endeavor, but can be quite a challenge due to the archaic language used in the texts. What is needed is a reformulation of the disciplines that is both understandable and engaging to the modern reader.

With this thought in mind, here at LifeBrook we have developed a method of exploring the principles that are contained in the classical spiritual traditions that is hopefully more pertinent and practical when it comes to life in the 21st Century. In brief, we teach workshops, seminars, training programs, and e-courses based on the following breakout of the disciplines:

Discipline of Consecration

Discipline of Connection

Discipline of Cognition

Discipline of Contribution

Discipline of Community

Discipline of Comprehension

Discipline of Calling

Discipline of Cultural Engagement

Discipline of Cultivation

Consecration includes: decision, determination, diligence, commitment, perseverance, patience, etc. Consecration occurs when we have decided in the depth of our hearts that we want to experience and possess all that God has for us. Scripture alludes to the fact that God has graciously provided us with all that we need to live a life of holiness, fulfillment, and usefulness. These free gifts of grace now exist on the spiritual realm and it is part of our spiritual unfolding to bring God’s blessings for us down out of the spiritual world and into manifestation in our daily lives.

Connection includes: prayer, meditation, contemplation, solitude, nature

Cognition includes: taking thoughts captive; tearing down strongholds; mindfulness; positive thinking; sacred imagination. Paul tells us that we are to be transformed by the renewal of our minds and it is in the Discipline of Conscious Cognition that we work with the Holy Spirit to bring about this transformation of our thought life. The Discipline of Conscious Cognition is based on the reality that everything begins with our thoughts. This principle cannot be stated too often. “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.”

Contribution includes: sacred service; spiritual gifts; mission; sacrifice, and most importantly, continuing incarnation.

Community includes: our family and friends; our church; our community; our nature; our world.

Comprehension includes: sacred study of Scripture and other inspirational writings; understanding of God’s Great Story; realization of where we fit into the “Big Picture,” including the role of the church in the coming years.

Calling includes: discovery of where we, as individuals, fit into God’s unfolding story in terms of our calling, our mission, and our vision of how to live out our God-ordained destiny.

Cultural Engagement includes: making ourselves ready to incarnate God’s plan within the context of post-modern, post-Christian culture in general and our own unique cultural setting in particular.

Cultivation includes: ongoing growth in Christ-character by internalizing a Christian value system and acting in accordance with it; and the development of a Christian worldview, along with the capacity to have our actions consistently flow from said worldview.

We fully recognize that this methodology does not represent the final word as far as contemporary expression of the spiritual disciplines is concerned. We have found, however, that looking at the spiritual technology of the Christian tradition in this way helps students and seekers understand the disciplines more clearly.

It is my profound hope that an increasing number of churches will come to understand the importance of equipping congregants with practical, time-tested methods for deepening the Christian walk of faith.

(c) L.D. Turner 2009/2014/All Rights Reserved

Lord, I Arise

Beginning of 11th century
Beginning of 11th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Lord, I indeed arise and thank you that my light has come and that your glory has risen upon me.

Although darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the people, Lord you have risen upon me and placed the light of your glory over me. Because of the brightness of this new dawn over me, others can witness your love and glory through my thoughts, words, and deeds.

Lord, I thank you for this blessing and this opportunity to serve you in this dark and desperate age. May I be a positive blessing to those near me today.

In Jesus name,

(c) L.D. Turner 2013/All Rights Reserved

The Fragrance of God

English: Grandfather Mountain
English: Grandfather Mountain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

Awhile back, after waking up and shaking the fog out of my head, I became aware that I was thinking back on an experience I had undergone many years ago. Perhaps I had dreamed about it or it could be that the Holy Spirit was bringing it to my attention for some reason. As I go through my day I need to be aware of this, in case the Spirit is indeed trying to communicate something to me. I have found that, at least in my case, God often gets messages past my thick mind by speaking to me in this indirect but unmistakable manner.

Sometimes I wish I could hear from God a little more easily. I find myself from time to time wishing that I could just walk out in my back yard first thing in the morning and find God waiting there to talk to me out of a burning bush. I would even settle for a braying donkey.  It doesn’t matter so much how he did it, just that it was a little less troublesome and inconsistent.

My old friend Jesse often tells me that God speaks to all of us all of the time, but we rarely have ears to hear. He claims that many people’s dependence upon thing like Bible reading, sermon-listening, and book study have blinded us, or perhaps I should say deafened us, to the crystal clear voice of God. For Jesse, God speaks through three primary media, nature, the inner light and other seekers. It could very well be that Jesse is right when he says we have become so dependent upon the ways we have been instructed to hear God’s voice that we can’t discern his speaking when it comes in other ways.

Jesse reminds me of my grandfather when he talks like this. A southern, rural man to the core, my grandfather was devoutly attuned to the rhythms of the natural world. As a child I often marveled at his knowledge, wisdom, and uncanny ability to see things that others couldn’t see. A Quaker and a mystic by birth, from the time he was a teenager my grandfather was a consternation to his parents because of his stubborn resistance to going to First Day Meeting as the Society of Friends called it. “Church” is basically what it was to others. This resistance did not go away once my grandfather reached his adult years and now, rather than to my great-grandparents, his absence became a consternation to his wife, my grandmother.

The reason I mention all of this is that it was often through my grandfather that I learned that God did indeed speak through venues other than the church, the preacher, the Bible, and, in his day, radio-evangelists. I carry to this day one distinct memory of my grandfather’s approach to religion that was for me an epiphany of sorts. I was 12-years-old and our family was visiting my grandparents during the Easter season. Little did I know at the time that this would be a Palm Sunday I would never forget.

As usual, my grandfather had resisted the family’s repeated entreaties that he join them for the Sunday morning meeting at the “Meeting House.” Even more to my surprise, he asked me if I wanted to stay home with him and “help him take care of a few things.” You can’t imagine my delight at this turn of events. I responded that I would love to stay home and help him and that pretty much settled the matter.

After putting out some extra feed for his two mules, my grandfather took me for a walk in the woods adjacent to his farm. Eventually we came to a clearing, a meadow actually, that was dotted with patches of wild flowers. From our vantage point, the meadow seemed to extend forever and the patches of flowers were like explosions of color in a sea of green. As was often the case, we walked and talked about all kinds of things. I had something I wanted to ask him about and finally got around to it, although I was somewhat apprehensive about asking him.

“PaPa,” I began. “Why is it you never go to church with the family? I have only seen you go a couple of times. Do you hate church?”

“No, son….I don’t hate church. In fact, I like it,” he replied, chuckling under his breath. “I just like to spend my Sabbath day being with God.”

I recall being mystified by his answer and, after scratching my head for a minute or two, go around to asking the logical question a 12-year-old boy might ask.

“But church is where God is,” I said. “If you want to be with God, why don’t you go to church? It doesn’t make sense, PaPa.”

“God isn’t in church much these days, son. At least I haven’t seen him there in awhile,” responded PaPa. “At church preachers preach (they were Evangelical Quakers), singers sing, prayers pray, and gossipers gossip. That doesn’t leave much time for God to say anything.”

I remember he paused for quite awhile to let his words sink into my still young mind.

“I figure if I need to be with God, to talk to him and listen to him, I need to come out here where it is quiet,” he continued. “God didn’t build that church, but he sure as hell made these woods and this meadow. I figure if I want to talk to God I need to go where he lives.”

“I think I understand, PaPa,” I recall saying. “But isn’t religion important? My Mom says my religion is the most important part of life and that when I grow up, I can’t live without it.”

After a long silence, my grandfather looked me squarely in the eyes and told me in no uncertain terms what he thought about my question.

“Just keep in mind a few things and it will make your spiritual life easier and less troublesome,” he said. “First, understand that religion doesn’t have anything to do with God, and vice versa.” My grandfather had to explain what vice versa meant. I was only 12.

“Religion is an invention, just like the wheel and the telephone,” PaPa continued. “Spirituality is sometimes a part of religion but most of the time it isn’t. Unlike religion, spirituality is not an invention. It is something as much a part of being human as breathing, sleeping, and sex. All of those things are built into us from the start. So is spirituality. Our job is so make our lives spiritual every day. Religion is supposed to help with that, but most of the time it prevents spirituality, it doesn’t create it.”

I guess my grandfather was one of the early people to be dealing with the religion vs. spirituality conflict. These days the familiar adage about being spiritual but not religious is so commonplace it has lost much of its real impact. I should not be surprised, however, at my grandfather’s words. As I mentioned, he was a Quaker and a mystic throughout his life. In fact, he knew the Quaker mystic Rufus Jones quite well and often told stories about Jones. I never had the opportunity to meet Rufus Jones, although I would have loved to. Jones died in 1948 I think, which was a year before my birth.

As for me, I was thoroughly confused by this time. I struggled to understand what my PaPa had said, especially the business about spirituality and religion. I asked grandfather if he could tell me again about the difference between the two. Here is where the epiphany came in and also where Rufus Jones fits into this story.

“Come over here,” said PaPa as he got up and walked toward one of the flower explosions in the meadow. “Now, pay close attention and I think you will get the picture.”

Grandfather kneeled down and picked an absolutely beautiful bright purple flower. As I knelt beside him, he said, “I want to teach you something Rufus Jones taught me many years ago. This is probably the most beautiful flower in this whole meadow. Imagine this is the church. Sometimes churches can be really beautiful places, inside and out. And the folks inside can be beautiful, too.”

I listened carefully and appreciated the flower, but wasn’t sure what he was getting at.

“Now, hold the flower to your nose and take a good whiff. Smell it deeply.”

Taking a deep breath I held the flower to my nose and smelled of it. Oddly, there was no fragrance, either good or bad.

“There is no smell, PaPa,” I reported.

“Isn’t it strange that a flower so attractive can have no fragrance?” said PaPa. “Churches can be like that as well. Our family goes to a church a lot like that.”

He then picked another flower, not unattractive by any means, but far less striking than the first. He held it to my nose. The fragrance was exquisite and almost immediately brought a smile to may face and a sense of lightness to my heart.

“It is wonderful, PaPa,” I said after drinking deeply of the fragrance of this rather ordinary looking flower. “What is it, PaPa?”

“Spirituality,” he said in a voice filled with quiet certainty.

© L.D. Turner 2008/2013/All Rights Reserved

Encountering Sacred Silence

English: The Shekinah Glory Enters the Taberna...
English: The Shekinah Glory Enters the Tabernacle; illustration from The Bible and Its Story Taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons. Edited by Charles F. Horne and Julius A. Bewer. 1908. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

I have always been an early riser and consider this a bit of a blessing. I have found that in those early morning hours, especially during the period of time leading up to dawn, I am at my best in terms of being able to quiet down, allow myself to be restful, and when so blessed, hear the Spirit speaking to my soul. I than God for these moments and have learned to count on them for both spiritual nourishment and, when needed, divine consolation.

I know that not all of you are “morning people.” Studies have shown that some folks are at their best in the evening, or even late at night. If you are one of the people wired in that manner, I hope that you have found a way to be with God during that peak time in your biology. The benefits of such an endeavor are countless.

I want to share an experience I had during one of my pre-dawn quiet times. I think it might serve as an example of how the Lord often speaks to us when we are sensitive to those times when we might most readily hear his voice. This particular experience also points to the reality that the blessed silence is often the venue in which the voice of the Spirit is most audible. At least, I have found this to be so.

One Sunday morning, as is my habit, I arose early. I spent time asking God to speak to me regarding an issue I had been struggling with for some time. As is often the case, my tampering with this problem eventually led me to a state of perplexed paralysis.  It was an issue related to how I was to proceed with one aspect of my professional life.

After praying, I sat quietly and gradually began to feel the peace of God fall over me. It was nothing earth shattering and no burning bushes spoke to me, nor did any donkeys give utterance, but I had a palatable sense of God’s presence. This is significant in that it had been months since I had felt any sense of God’s light in my life. It seemed that in my busyness, God had somehow gone on sabbatical. I longed for his touch, even if only brief and subtle. I was, in essence, in a stark period of spiritual dryness.

I had several books at my side that I had been reading prior to my prayer time. I opened one of the books and soon came across these words by the French mystic Francois Fenelon:

Be silent and listen to God. Let your heart be in such a state of preparation that His Spirit may impress upon you such virtues that will please Him. Let all within you listen to Him….

Now comes the good part!

Don’t spend your time making plans that are just cobwebs – a breath of wind will come and blow them away. You have withdrawn from God and now you find that God has withdrawn the sense of His presence from you. Return to Him and give Him everything without reservation. There will be no peace otherwise. Let go of all you plans – God will do what He sees best for you.

Fenelon’s words hit me between the eyes like a Louisville Slugger. I knew immediately what I needed to do, even if it was going to be difficult. Like Abraham and Sarah, I had grown impatient waiting on God’s timing and gave birth to an Ishmael. I needed to return to God, wait in silence, and trust his promise of an Isaac. Basically, in my own anxiety and uncertainty of potential outcomes, I took charge of the situation and ended up at what seemed a dead end.

Trusting God to guide us and lead us to the place we need to go is not an easy proposition. This is especially true for those of us who are used to “making things happen.” I made the decision that Sunday morning to let the entire project go. I put it in God’s hands and, in his time, not mine, the situation worked out better than I could have ever manipulated on my own.

Of equal significance was the validation of the importance of encountering the “Sacred Silence” in my spiritual life. My hectic schedule and my mental strategy sessions had left little time for being still. I now make silent meditation or, if you prefer, contemplative prayer, the foundational practice of my spiritual life. If I neglect this practice, I rapidly become like a thirsty elephant trumpeting around a dried up waterhole.

Countless Christians have stressed the importance of regularly entering this sacred space of blessed silence, for it is in this space that we are renewed, refreshed, and more significantly, encounter that “still, small voice” that carries the message of our true source of knowledge and inspiration. I am especially drawn to the words Quaker writer Thomas Kelly, in his classic work A Testament of Devotion, uses to describe that inner sanctum that is so vital to our spiritual formation:

Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home unto Itself. Yielding to these persuasions, gladly committing ourselves in body and soul, utterly and completely, to the Light Within, is the beginning of true life. It is a dynamic center, a creative Life that presses to birth a casts new shadows and new glories upon the face of men. It is a seed stirring to life if we do not choke it. It is the Shekinah of the soul, the Presence in the midst. Here is the Slumbering Christ, stirring to be awakened, to become the soul we clothe in earthly form and action. And He is within us all.

Kelly’s words are truly powerful and hold much meaning if one takes the time to really reflect upon what he is getting at. One-third of the Godhead has been placed in each of us, and is there for our guidance, direction, and assistance. It is for this reason that Christ told us: Abide in me….

However, we have to learn to be still enough to hear his voice and, further, be able to understand the language he speaks. This process takes time and discipline and only you can make the decision to begin and apply the will to continue. The question is: Will you do it?

Over the next few days, spend time examining your own life. Are you in a similar predicament? Is there an area where you are spinning your wheels, going nowhere? Go back and meditate on Fenelon’s words, and then go to God in prayer and wait in silence. And please, don’t skip or skimp on the silence. This is the place of quiet; the place of both emptiness and yet fullness; a place of paradox. In this reverberating silence, you will eventually here your answer and, beyond that, find your purpose. It is in this silent space that you will not only hear your song, you will learn how to sing it.

© L.D. Turner 2008/2013 All Rights Reserved.

* (Originally published in 2008, Encountering Sacred Silence is as pertinent now as it was then)

Living From Sacred Mind: A Daily Choice

The statue of C. S. Lewis in front of the ward...
The statue of C. S. Lewis in front of the wardrobe from his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in East Belfast, Northern Ireland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

Each day we have a vital choice before us. It is a choice that is both critical and simple, but above all, it is a divine choice. Each morning before our feet hit the floor, we must ask ourselves: Today, will I live from my Lower Mind or my Sacred Mind?

How we answer this question will have significant consequences and will largely determine the character and quality of our day. Further, our answer to this daily question will have direct impact on whether or not we live in accordance with and in pursuit of our Sacred Calling.

When we talk about our “Sacred Calling” we are talking about our purpose and/or mission in life. From the beginning of your journey, it is vital that you come to understand several key points. First, each person has a universal calling and what we here at LifeBrook term “particular calling.” Your universal calling has to do with God’s universal mission and purpose. There are certain things that each of us are to do and more importantly to be. Our particular calling is just that – particular to us as individuals. It is a personal mission that only you can fulfill and is normally based on your natural talents and proclivities.

An important aspect of your universal calling is “walk in your divinity,” which is another way of saying you need to live each day from your Sacred Mind. Unfortunately, most people are incapable of this without help from the divine order and a significant amount of mindful awareness about what they are doing from one moment to the next. This, in turn, requires work.

Each of us has as a part of our inner world, a Sacred Mind and a Lower Mind. The Sacred Mind is that part of you that is created in the image of God and reflects God’s character, wisdom, and love. When we act from Sacred Mind, we act with reverence, honor, integrity, and grace. The Lower Mind, on the other hand, is that which is often called the “ego,” and it is a useful part of ourselves that most of us have turned into an enemy. We do this by giving the Lower Mind more authority over our lives than it should have. The results are disastrous on personal, collective, social, and global levels. Confronting and dealing with the Lower Mind is an essential component of the spiritual journey and should always be viewed as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event.

Get one fact planted firmly in your mind right at the beginning of your dealings with the ego: the Lower Mind (ego) is a complete illusion; a fabrication that you created in order to help you deal with the world and, at the same time, develop an identity for yourself. In this sense, the ego has an important service to perform. It helps you understand how the world works and it helps you navigate the world’s sometimes turbulent and treacherous waters. Further, the Lower Mind helps you discern who you are and who you are not. So, in relation to these two important factors, the ego is a great tool to have.

The downside to the ego is the fact that it has a heartbeat of separation, not unity. The ego views all things from a me/them perspective. More often than we would like to admit, this turns into a me versus them mentality. Cooperation, a necessary component of unity, is jettisoned in favor of competition. This leads to many obvious problems based in conflict between one person’s needs and another person’s needs. The ego runs on the premise that there is a limited amount of “stuff” around and this “stuff” is of vast importance. The purpose of life is seen as accumulation of “stuff,” often at the expense of other people getting enough “stuff” to live comfortably. The Lower Mind, however, is not too concerned about this state of affairs. After all, the ego, like all successful egos, understands several fundamental laws:

Always look out for Number One first

It is the fittest who survive and the strongest who thrive

I deserve to have my share of the pie (and maybe even more)

 It’s my way or the highway

If I end up stepping on someone’s toes, they shouldn’t have put them under my feet

Christian writer Donald Miller, in his wonderfully insightful book entitled, Blue Like Jazz, paints a candid, revealing portrait of what life is like under the continuing sway of the ego. Miller describes how, as a child, the awareness of the fundamental flaw in human nature dawned on him:

Still, I knew, because of my own feelings, there was something wrong with me, and I knew it wasn’t only me. I knew it was everybody. It was like a bacteria or a cancer or a trance. It wasn’t on the skin; it was in the soul. It showed itself in loneliness, lust, anger, jealousy, and depression. It had people screwed up bad everywhere you went – at the store, at home, at church; it was ugly and deep. Lots of singers on the radio were singing about it, and cops had jobs because of it. It was if we were broken, I thought, as if we were never supposed to feel these sticky emotions. It was if we were cracked, couldn’t love right, couldn’t feel good things for very long without screwing it all up. We were like gasoline engines running on diesel.

Miller has a way with words, doesn’t he? If you haven’t read Blue Like Jazz, I highly recommend it. In the section containing the above passage, Miller also shares the following confessional poem by C.S. Lewis. I first read these lines by Lewis  early on in my college days, and even though I was thoroughly possessed by the notion that I was intellectually and morally at least two cuts above everybody else, the truth of what this humble, brilliant man was saying penetrated me to the core.

All this flashy rhetoric about loving you.

I never had a selfless thought since I was born.

I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through;

I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,

I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin;

I talk of love – a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek –

But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Even now, realizing that I knew little back then and even less now, those last three lines of the first verse body slam me harder than Hulk Hogan. A self-seeking mercenary who never had a selfless thought in his entire life….indeed…

The Lower Mind’s focus on self results in a chronic sense of estrangement. When you are dominated by the ego, a part of you is always wary of others and your true, deep friends are few and far between. More telling, when you are under the sway of the Lower Mind, God usually takes a back seat or worse, is taken completely out of the picture. It is no stretch of fancy when wise people say the ego stands for “ease God out.”

When God is taken out of the picture the person puts ego in the driver’s seat and, although successful for a time, things usually come unraveled. The reason for this is simple. God is our true source of power and enduring success. When separated from our power source, the lights go out. Not only do we become confused and lost, we realize we are alone and don’t have any real answers. What’s worse, we even ask the wrong questions.

Lower Mind’s most consistent question is: What’s in it for me?

What kind of world does all this create? Guns n’ Roses summed it up pretty well with “Welcome to the Jungle.”

Conversely, when we live from Sacred Mind we see things from a much different perspective. Sacred Mind is focused on the whole more than the parts and attempts to create unity rather than division, cooperation rather than competition, encouragement rather than criticism, peace rather than conflict, joy rather than stress, and order rather than chaos.

Remaining connected to God requires living from Sacred Mind and this is not as hard as you might think. Regular spiritual disciplines, especially prayer, meditation, and study of sacred writings help immensely. The important thing is not the method used, but the resulting sense of connection to that universal Spirit that is at the base of all things. You must keep before you your true identity, which is a divine being created in the image of God, designed by God, and loved by God.

Your Sacred Mind is your Inner Light, that part of you that is most like God. No, you are not God and that is vital to understand. However, God did place in you a spark of Spirit that contains everything you need in order to carry out his universal mission and your personal calling. When you connect with and live from Sacred Mind, you have many of the answers that you need in order to become the optimal version of yourself. You don’t have all the answers because only God is all-wise. However, at least now you can ask the right questions.

Sacred Mind’s most consistent question is: How can I help?

 As we travel the path of spiritual formation, it is imperative that we realize one cardinal principle: we must come to understand who and what we are and once we do, we increasingly find ways to live from the perspective of our true identity, rather than the false construct of the ego, or lower self. As stated earlier, Paul referred to these two aspects of our being as “Spirit” and “flesh.” The words are different and perhaps somewhat outmoded, but the divine principle remains the same. The more we live from our true identity as spiritual beings, the more efficient, productive, and harmonious our lives will become.

 © L. Dwight Turner 2009/2013All Rights Reserved