spiritual

Entering Rest (1): In Exchange by Michael Nichols

The included video is fan-made, from the film X-Men: First ClassI thought it to be particularly relevant. If you've watched the movie, you know the setup. If you haven't, watch it. It's worth renting/purchase in my own opinion. The scene I'm dropping you into shows you Erik (aka Magneto) drowning in an attempt to take revenge on the people who wronged him and his family as a child. Because he held onto their submarine with such determination to sink it, he couldn't hold himself above water. That's when Charles Xavier (aka Professor X) tries to reach out to him telepathically (oh, wait, this movie is about mutants, which I didn't mention). The phrase he used that always jumped out at me was, "Calm your mind."

Revenge meant so much to him that he was willing to die to administer it. To Charles, however, the life of this complete stranger meant more. Somewhere along the way today, I realized how well this scene represents this passage in the Bible. Matthew 16:24-27 has this to say to all of us: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.'"

Magneto was willing to die for a revenge that would never have brought him peace in his life. In relating that scene to these words of Jesus, I realize that there are things that without thinking I sometimes seek out in life with a level of precedence that may not bode very well for my soul. I don't say that we should never seek out things in life, but the real question is whether or not they can save us and whether or not they will bring us the truest definition of peace like what Jesus can bring when we follow Him with priority above all else. After all, just like with Erik, that moment of revenge (or whatever good or bad thing you desire) would have only been for a moment. He thought he was alone, and so do we many time, but we are not alone. Jesus goes before us.

Do you think you're alone? Have you been hunting for things that cannot truly bring you peace? What are you willing to risk/lose to acquire those things? What is it that makes it difficult to "calm your mind"?

(CLICK HERE to jump directly to the scene, or watch the full video below.)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpI6lHuzhwo&feature=youtu.be&t=1m31s]

Growth in the Spirit -- Roots and Shoots by Michael Nichols

When a seed finally receives enough warmth and water, it can finally start growing, but when it does, it always grows in two directions. It grows shoots and roots. The little stem pops out from the ground, beneath a surface that appears only one-sided.

While we admire the outward beauty and fragility, the leaves absorbing the sunlight and the carbon dioxide in the air, beneath the surface, a whole different world is springing -- or maybe digging would be a better word -- to life. Beneath the surface, from the same seed, have sprouted roots, and even though they remain unseen by the surface world, they serve a purpose much... hehehe... deeper than we know.

Roots are dirty and damp, taking in nutrients from dead plants and wildlife, all through the medium of water. Aside from that water, roots, essentially are mingled in death. Depth and darkness are it's home. You're probably thinking, "Wow, this is getting gloomy." Well, it kind of is. Turn back now if you don't like gloom, but I promise you that something good will come of it.

Roots can be fibrous, branching out every which way beneath the ground. They can be fibrous, one massive root burrowing directly downward to find the best possible source of water. They can be bulbous or tuborous, like a potato or an onion, with tiny roots feeding one massive root-ish thing. How does that relate to spiritual growth? Well, do you learn things by tapping into one main source of wisdom, or do you have a diverse, complex social system from which you attain life? From where do you gain your depth, and what is that depth feeding? Are you a potato, whose depth fosters a centralized depth? Are you taproot that looks for one super deep source of knowledge? Are you fibrous, finding wisdom in the little things, the diverse things, a little bit closer to the surface yet not foreign to the concept of depth?

Taking things a little further, how does this depth show? What do people see? How do you breathe? How do you let the byproducts of your growth out? Eventually, growth will force old things out. Eventually, nutrients and old, damaged, decayed parts go away to be broken down, recycled into the dirt, back into their primary building blocks, yet again to be used as nutrients for new, growing beings. The same goes for us. As our minds expand, old ideas are expelled from our minds, ideas we now see didn't work as well as we initially thought, ideas that weren't built to last, behaviors that could not be maintained.

It's okay if you aren't the most outgoing person, or if the span of your growth doesn't always breach the surface like an oak tree. Maybe you show up more like grass, something small, but nonetheless valuable. People will recognize that, and people who know what growth looks like will be able to see if your growth is being hindered by some external force. Maybe the dirt is eroding beneath you, or maybe you're not seeing enough sunlight. Maybe the brighter side of life hasn't met your eyes as often as would be condusive to your growth, to your thriving in life, and that isn't always up to you. Not always can the plant be blamed for the ground in which it was sown.

In the very end the reason for all of this interaction between different parts of this social-spiritual biosphere we're in is this: grow up, and make more -- or it might be appropriate to say this: "Be fruitful, and multiply." I'm taking that phrase way out of context, but think about it! Jesus compared our spiritual lives so many times to something agricultural, in one specific instance, seeds. Not only He, but David the king, made mention of someone following the paths of righteousness being "like a tree planted by the rivers of water, which brings forth his fruit in his season." So what is this "fruit," and how do we bring it forth?

NEXT: "FRUITFUL"

Growth in the Spirit -- Prologue by Michael Nichols

A few days ago, I was out with a friend of mine. We have been friends since elementary school, and even though he moved away by the time my middle school years were upon me, somehow, we kept in touch. We really reconnected about a year or so ago, when he moved back to Kentucky for a while.

We caught up. Not much about this guy had changed, but he is a different sort of dude. I suppose I expected more change than I saw, but my expectations are of no consequence. Everyone progresses at a different rate. Sometimes, it is more difficult for some to grow in their life.

One way that I noticed his growth was in a spiritual sense. It wasn't something that I noticed his expressing interest before then, not that the subject of angels, heaven, and the typical, hadn't come up in the past. After all, we were in elementary school back then. But this time, things were a bit different. He had struggled with life issues that made him think a little bit more about the deeper side of things. It was great to see this, especially given how much of a revolution God raised up within me during our time of separation.

Anyways, back to the story from a few days ago -- somehow, the subject of his faith journey had come up in conversation. Within this conversation, he mentioned how much he enjoyed camping, and how relaxing it is. There is something about nature that is, well, naturally stimulating yet simultaneously calming, and in a way much different from how we do it within our busy twenty-first centuries lifestyles.

This has prompted me to remember that the writers of the Bible often used agriculture as a way of expressing the growth of an individual. David, in fact, kicked off the fake-book of the Bible (the Psalms, that is -- a music book, not a fraudulent one, in case anyone isn't familiar with the terminology,) with a comparison of "the righteous" to "a tree planted by the rivers of water, which brings for its fruit in its season" (Psalm 1.) In this way, like when we go camping, David takes us right back into the wild, into the way the world was built before we layered things atop it. Does he detail the internal functions of a tree? Psht, no! but by showing how the tree drinks up the water, causing it to flourish and "be fruitful," he definitely gets his point across.

Is this far from the truth? Hardly! I think it's dead on. I'll talk about this more this week -- nothing formal, but just a few thoughts about how we can see this lived out.