Saturday, November 24, 2012

Masks & Rings & Evil Things

There once was a man named Grotowski and he had much to say about masks. In brief summary and simplified paraphrase, he held the idea that we put on masks that represent our roles in society, culture, and our lives.

 Grotowski's statement of principles govern how one takes on roles in the theatre. And through the taking on of characters in a play, one is free to throw off those assumed masks, "emerge from oneself," and become the "living organism who strives for higher motives" through performance; interaction with an audience; a mirroring of humanity.

As an artist, this approach has merit. Once onstage, you stop being yourself and become the character with whom the audience "interacts." This may sound strange. In our culture, we go to a dark place and watch recorded stories, projected in light up on a screen. This approach, while highly entertaining, is a flat, 2-dimensional representation. There is no "interaction" with the audience. The actor doesn't change his approach or level of action and reaction based on the rise and fall of audience response. It is a performance that is, in a way, static. But real, live theatre beats with a breathing soul. Performances are closer, more life and less story. It is peaking in on others' experiences and finding our own in theirs.

But reliance on performance to bring totality and authenticity, misses the mark for those of us who long to follow hard after God, that totality and authenticity are found in Christ alone. This requires something from me. It requires a transparency; admission that I am NOT whole or genuine without Christ as my center. It requires surrender of my other "selves"--masks, if you will--so that He can re-form me as a minister of the Gospel...the core of my identity.

The older I become, the more I long for authenticity; a desire to be real about the ugly of me. In this kind of transparency, it becomes necessary to see what is unsightly and take it, reveal it, broken and mutilated, before the grace and mercy of my Father because it is only in Him that I can be transformed.

My own efforts to reshape myself drain my spirit, leave me raw and disillusioned in the wake of what I am powerless to change.  Or I find myself sweeping with long strokes to hide the muck under the thickest of rugs, pretending, ever pretending, that I have ridded myself of it.

Impatience, anger, pride, bitterness, rage...these are my foe and my bane. I've been watching Lord of the Rings. I always look for metaphor in these great tales. Tolkien being my Brother in Christ, a fellow sojourner on this narrow path, doesn't disappoint in weaving them into the tales.

There is the One Ring, sought by so many, betrayer of each one who claims it as his own. Each would-be ring-bearer believes that the Ring can be wielded, bent to the wearer's power for the sake of good. Each who takes the Ring as his own, becomes saturated with evil, seeing only his own broken desire.

I put on my own Ring, my sackful of awfulness, claiming its power for myself, intent on doing "good" but instead, wielding my weapons, harming, destroying, bringing strife and discord. And in this way, I function in defiance of the Gospel; in rebellion to the Word:

"Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace."

When was the last time I sought to bind myself to others in peace?

When was the last time, I relinquished my hold on my rights, in order sow peace for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of someone else--even my own family?

Do I stand with Christ in His message of sacrificial love or do I stand for myself, only, wrapped in filth and selfish concern?

What about you, Christ-follower?

 It is cruel irony that this season is celebrated and touted by many as one of peace. "Keep Christ in Christmas!" we clamor. And then, when the lines are long and the prices are low and the parking spaces are all filled, we shout different. We push, complain, show no mercy, disregard the very Person whose birth we claim to herald.

When we refuse to bind in peace, we will, in every certainty, scatter and separate.  And then the peace of God in our hearts is smothered and the message of God to a lost and dying world is neglected.

My identity as a Minister of Christ--mine and yours--must become central. It must win out no matter what is said or done to me. It must win out no matter who cuts me off or cuts in line or speaks disrespectfully or pushes me aside. I am not called to correct others' mistakes or dole out my own brand of justice. I am called to love--simply and without prejudice.

Our masks--mother, father, brother, sister, wife, husband, manager, employee, customer, business owner, driver, traveler--these are not truly who we are. When we throw them off in lieu for our true selves--Ministers, Ambassadors of Christ--we become who we were created to be.

We become better mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and all the rest because we don't have to wear the masks. We become, as Grotowski said, "living organisms who strive for higher motives." We become children of God and our strivings to share this with others become pure and selfless and holy.

Today, I aim to take off my masks; to take off my Ring. This season calls for it. My life calls for it. A Holy, Just and Loving Father calls for it. Who, with me, will answer the call?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Joy of the Lord is my Strength

I'm watching a video about thanking God and I can hear it in between the words, in the pauses. I hear the commode, every few minutes, begin to run, struggling to fill its tank with a supply of water that won't stay put. The plunger ball, old and slippery with rot, won't seal off the valve and so it runs water at a steady but slow trickle that has been seen and felt in our water and sewer bills.

And when the sewer bill came, I started searching for the problem. I called friends and I called companies, trying to discover why in the world we were paying as if we had 12 living here instead of 3. It was under the heading, Common Indoor Leaks, on a document offered by our water company's webpage, a scant few lines down the page.

This is often a silent leak which causes the tank to continually drain and refill. Check for a worn or improperly seated plunger ball (flapper valve) by dropping a few drops of food coloring, into the toilet tank. Do not flush. If a leak exists, the dye-colored water will seep into the bowl in about five minutes. If it does, the plunger ball (flapper valve) may need to be replaced or realigned. 

And of course that's it. And I get mad. Mad at myself for not putting two and two together much, much earlier than this. Mad at my landlord that this wasn't dealt with before--wasn't the repairman just in to look at the toilet two days ago? And the anger is righteous--or so I name it.

But the video, it reminds me of what I've been trying to drill into my own head for three months. Give thanks. In everything, give thanks. I've posted it on all the social media sites I frequent. I've told testimony of how He's begun to change me because in beginning to give thanks, I am opening to the change. I've encouraged others to do it.

And yet, here I sit, with a rough patch that needed my Eucharisteo and I've botched it.  I've done that more than once lately. And this little leak in the toilet reminds me that if I don't choose thanks in all things--in.all.things.--then the joy in my own reservoir slips through the cracks and leaves me constantly running, constantly thirsty. And the filling of my own "righteous anger" doesn't quench that thirst.

Another day, earlier in the week:

Sometimes, life happens and the norm isn't the norm anymore or at least it isn't right now. And sometimes, it makes me forget. Sometimes it makes me selfish. And even though I know that I am called to serve and that I should pour myself out and that I should set myself aside, well, sometimes I just don't want to.

I tend not to be too demanding, most of the time. Pride and anger are more my game. They make me feel strong and empowered and justified. They puff me up and keep me far from the Spirit-filled things. They are lies. They are poison and yet, I keep drinking them down in such quantities that the Big Gulp would be envious.

Late at night is just a better time for maintenance of a movie theater. No crowds, no employees...just vast quiet and time stretched out. And under the gun of deadlines and executive visits and inside the demand of perfection isn't a good place to grind my heels into the dirt and swig pride and anger. But I do it anyway because when you swallow down deep those sickly sweet soul-killers you can't see anything but yourself.

Self-sight blurs sight of others and their needs. The Hubbs needed my understanding and support. But that paled in comparison to my need to feel.

It's too easy to just let go of my anger because if I let it go then my feelings won't matter and I'll fade into the transparency of the background. So we fight and he's pressured and I'm poisoned by my own hand and selfish and drowning in myself.

Sometimes, I screw it all up.  I ask forgiveness and I start again. But it can be such a self-defeating cycle when you see every mistake, looming large and blocking your way to peace, joy, thanksgiving. But I think part of the victory is in the struggle to keep going. Keep trying. Keep keeping track. Keep loving. Keep asking forgiveness. The Word says something in regards to keeping on:  "Love never fails." or in another translation, "Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. So I will begin again whenever I make a mess. I will take broom and dustpan to my mess of an ash heap and sweep it away with the Joy of the Lord. And no matter how hard it gets or how much I lose or how little I feel I can offer, I will remember that the Joy of the Lord is my strength and if I have that, I have all I need.

Praise & Thanksgiving for a whirlwind, wonderful October:
Oct. 15-3 Gifts Re-Read: Romans 12:1-2; II Corinthians 10:5; Psalm 19:14
Oct. 16-3 Gifts Burning: Scentsy Pot full of Fall smells; the desire to be thankful in reverence; it is the season for candles
Oct. 17- 3 Gifts Ugly-Beautiful: Bed head b/c it means I've gotten sleep, Sink-ful of dishes because it means we've eaten, Laundry unfinished and everywhere because it means we are blessed with clothing
Oct.18-A Gift Shared, Saved, Surrendered: A cup of ice water with the Hubbs, A plethora of boxes and plastic containers for art projects, A life daily surrendered to His will
Oct. 19-3 Gifts Unexpected: A pair of earrings from a friend, A letter penciled by my Kiddo,
Oct. 20-3 Gifts Unconventional:
Oct. 21-3 Gifts Undervalued:
Oct. 22-A Gift Silent, Still, Strong: The quiet of the morning, the stillness of the house when we're going to bed, The love the Father has for us!
Oct. 23-3 Gifts Begun: My antique chair, This blogging habit, List of crochet gifts for the Christmas season
Oct. 24-3 Gifts Accomplished: Homemade Brownies, Butterbeer, & Peanut Butter & Fudge Trifle
Oct. 25-3 Gifts Enjoying: Friendship, Fall, Freedom in Christ!
Oct. 26-3 Gifts Extravagant: His Love, Date Night with the Hubbs, Blessings from His Word
Oct. 27-A Gift Humbling, Honoring, Happy: Being a Mother x3
Oct. 28-3 Gifts In Christ: Relationship, Forgiveness, True Joy
Oct. 29-3 Gifts On Time: Being there in the morning, God's timing, sermon series on Romans 14-15
Oct. 30-3 Gifts Overjoyed!: Time with my family, A fantastically good month, God's provision in our lives
Oct. 31-3 Gifts Hallowed: Bed time story time, Hubbs & Wifey evening time, God is good all the time!