The last several days my heart has been out-of-sorts.  I have found myself easily upset, driven to constant busyness and shrouded by doubt concerning life, God and myself.

Trying to find relief from this soul-influenza, which seems to hit hardest between Thanksgiving and New Years, I got busy working on “the things I need to get done.”  Instead of finding gradual relief; I became more agitated, lonely and depleted.

This morning I gave up, not on God, but on my unaided ability to fix this state I was in.  As I gave over my heart in its present bewildering condition to Jesus, the angst and uncertainty began to lift.  At some point during this “releasing under the reign of Christ” moment, a thought or perhaps a desire came to me – to open the book The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis.  This is what I read:

“He who learns to live the interior life and to take little account of outward things does not seek special places or times to perform devout exercises. A spiritual man quickly recollects himself because he has never wasted his attention upon externals. No outside work, no business that cannot wait stands in his way. He adjusts himself to things as they happen.”

My first reaction was to my out-of-sorts heart was to work on the “externals” and wait for a “special place or time to perform devout exercises.”  I was perhaps suffering and struggling needlessly for days, when I could have “adjusted myself to things AS they happened.”

Then I read:

“Christ will come to you offering His consolation, if you prepare a fit dwelling for Him in your heart, whose beauty and glory, wherein He takes delight, are all from within. His visits with the inward man are frequent, His communion sweet and full of consolation, His peace great, and His intimacy wonderful indeed.”

I don’t know why I often go around the “inward man” with myself.  I know better.  I love Kempis’ expression, “His visits with the inward man are frequent.”  I so often try to find Him in the “outward” places unsuccessfully.  But there He waits, in my heart, “whose beauty and glory…He takes delight.”

I hope that we will remember and remind each other to live from our interior life and to “recollect” our self; finding God’s consolation, peace and intimacy.

Gary

It’s amazing and frustrating how opposing realities can exist simultaneously – and this tension can often create a great deal of confusion. As I have observed and thought about this reality, I find that these tensions are both inevitable and necessary. Here’s my short list.

Aggressive and Waiting

We must not call an unwillingness to – move waiting on God. Nor should we design our own destiny through manipulation and striving and call it God’s will.

We must move with passion and intentionality toward the things that God has put on our heart, but with an attentive ear (and eye) toward God, understanding that what we now know is partial and incomplete and perhaps a little misdirected.

Undiminished and Deferring

We need to fully offer who we are (undiminished) and yet encourage others to bring their splendor, brilliance, abundance forward (deferring to others).

As we begin to offer the glory of our life, we must not make it “all about me” or “my moments”. Nor should we allow another to diminish our glory in order to showcase theirs.

Simplicity and Complexity

We need to live a simple, uncluttered, focused, intentional life.

We must not live a simplistic, naive, unrealistic life of denial and isolation.

Present-Focused and Past-Aware

We need to live in the present, not the past or the future.

However, we need to own our past by dealing with the effect it has had on us, learning from it and observing the trajectory God has us on now and in the future.

Joy and Sorrow

We must pursue the joy of the Lord, not settling into pessimism or fatalism.

We must also not pursue a life of pleasure, becoming narcissistic, closing our hearts to the lives, pain and suffering in this world.

Together and Alone

We can’t understand our self, the world we live in, or the love of God, alone. We must let the lives of others intermingle with our own.

We can’t understand the heart of God or our own heart if we are always in the swirl of others. We must disengage and quiet our heart in order to hear our own life speak and to hear the voice of God.

Tensions create a need for guidance, protection, wisdom, self-examination and counsel – in other words, God.

Let’s allow the discomfort of tension to drive us toward God – and into frequent times of quieting our heart, re-reading what He has written to us, listening for His voice and relaxing in His fathering love.

Living in the tension with you,

Gary Barkalow

This is a very insightful blog written my my friend, Jack Lynady (jacklynady.com).

We live in a culture high on analysis, but low on interpretation. Analysis is like when you dissected a cat in high school anatomy class. Sure you may have learned more details about the gastrointestinal tract of a feline, but by the end of the class does what you have left even remotely resemble the essence of a cat. Interpretation, on the other hand, is the ability to ascribe ‘meaning’ to data, facts, and analysis. It is the ability to ‘connect’ the intricate with the epic. And interpretation is the mark of a Sage.

In finance, government, education, and the arts, the world is in serious need of sages. People who interpret well. Great sages know analysis alone is insufficient. They understand that reason will only get you so far. A sage sees mystery for what it is something to embrace and journey into.

So where do we find these sages? First, there aren’t many. Second, they are out on the frontier. They are living without a map. Third, they typically have a ‘voice’ of humility. It may look like they have all the answers, but they’ll be the first to tell you they don’t. Fourth, it gets lonely out on the frontier. They want others to join them. Thus, they are surprisingly available to help you in your journey. These are just a few of the qualities I look for in my sages.