B is for the Basement…. of our Souls

August 17, 2010


If you wanted to learn how to heal the blind and you thought that following Christ around and watching how he did it would make things clear, you’d wind up pretty frustrated. He never does it the same way twice. He spits on one guy; for another, he spits on the ground and makes mud and puts that on his eyes. To a third he simply speaks, a fourth he touches, and for a fifth he kicks out a demon. There are no formulas with God. The way in which God heals our wound is a deeply personal process. He is a person and he insists on working personally. For some, it comes in a moment of divine touch. For others, it takes place over time and through the help of another, maybe several others. As Agnes Sanford says, “There are in many of us wounds so deep that only the mediation of someone else to whom we may ‘bare our grief ‘ can heal us.”

John Eldredge, Wild at Heart

One’s own self is well hidden from one’s own self: of all mines of treasure, one’s own is the last to be unearthed.

Friedrich Nietzche

Inception is a story of multi-layered journeys from reality to dreams and back again.  The hero Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio knows where his wound is; it lives in the “basement” of his dreams, which he visits regularly via unexplained technology.  He travels in his dream to deeper levels of his subconscious by using an elevator:

Often our wounds are behind bars in the basement of our souls.  I previously posted that my close friend, Dr. Bert Chandler, enjoys a reputation as one of the most highly regarded Pain Management Specialists in the country.  Icon medical organizations like Medtronic pursue him to participate on their advisory boards.   He is innovative, passionate and brilliant in his ability to diagnose and treat chronic pain.  According to a Time Magazine article several years ago, Pain Management has a reputation more for “Narcotic Management” rather than productive therapy.  My friend often sees patients who come to him with a long history of drug dependency inflicted by physicians who were satisfied to scribble a non legible prescription for Vicodin or Oxycontin.

Often Bert’s diagnostic “radar” alerts him to a possible hidden pain that his patient has buried.  He looks at the x-ray, looks back to the patient and asks, “Is there something you’re not telling me?”  More often than not, tears flow and the patient describes a tragic hurt inflicted years prior that disguised itself as chronic physical pain.  The revelation by the patient often results in the release from the pain they so long endured.

It’s not pleasant by any stretch to press the “B” on our emotional and spiritual elevator – but sometimes it’s necessary in order to recognize the baggage for what it is so that by God’s grace we’re not carrying it when we return to the “lobby”.   At that point, we’re free from from what we’ve locked so long in our basement.

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The Totem TIF – An Elegant Reality Check

August 15, 2010
Please pardon me if I indulge myself in a series of elucidations on my new favorite movie, Inception.  One trip through Christopher Nolan‘s dream epic is not enough to start connecting the dots on its symbolism.  I was just trying to keep up in my first journey; Nolan is truly a writing and directing ninja.   The second time, however, I allowed myself the freedom to participate in Nolan’s multiple metaphors, starting with reality and ending in the “Basement” of the hero’s prison of memories.

My favorite imagery ties into the Totem, an personal item that each dream warrior identified in the real world in order to ground themselves to reality in the dream world.  In Cobb’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) case, it was a spinning top.  If ever he became confused as to whether he was in reality or fantasy, he would spin the top and wait for it to stop spinning.  If it didn’t stop, he knew he was in a dream.

Each traveler’s Totem was personal and confidential.  As stated by several characters:

Arthur: So, a totem. It’s a small object, potentially heavy, something you can have on you all the time…
Ariadne: What, like a coin?
Arthur: No, it has to be more unique than that, like – this is a loaded die.
[Ariadne reaches out to take the die]
Arthur: . Nah, I can’t let you touch it, that would defeat the purpose. See only I know the balance and weight of this particular loaded die. That way when you look at your totem, you know beyond a doubt you’re not in someone else’s dream.

Ariadne state’s later, after she’s created her item that the Totem is an elegant means to ground oneself in reality.

I remember hearing a story about famed basketball coach John Wooden concerning his Christian faith.  When asked why he didn’t discuss the topic more in public he responded that he wanted to live it more than speak it – which of course he did.  Then he added that he carried an item in his pocket to remind him at all times of the example he provided others regarding his relationship with Christ.  The item was a small metal cross with sharp edges.  When, as coach, he was tempted to erupt in response to a bad call in a game he would reach into his pocket and grasp the cross as hard as possible.  As the sharp edges of the cross pressed against his fingers the great coach would remember Who he represented on the court; then he would take a deep breath to control his emotions.  He rarely if ever lost his temper on or off the court.

I have decided to carry my own Totem, but for a slightly different reason than Coach Wooden.  When I’m confused by a particular circumstance or when pressure mounts quickly, and I’m tempted to let my emotions rule – I need a reminder.  I need to remind myself of three grounding principles:

  • Truth – what’s the truth here?  The truth is God is in control.
  • Illusion – What’s the illusion here?  Is the enemy using something (probably simple) to distract my attention – even by only a few degrees?
  • Fear – What and where is my fear in this situation.  Fear is for the most part illogical, not based on reality – what’s the worst that can happen here?

Truth, Illusion and Fear (TIF).  If I can grasp my Totem and ground myself with these three benchmarks – shouldn’t I be more successful in grasping the “reality” vs. the enemy’s “dream”?

But don’t ask me to show you my Totem… I want to make sure I’m not in your dream (illusion) or any one else’s 🙂

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Treasures of Darkness

August 11, 2010

Isaiah 45:3

3 I will give you the treasures of darkness,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the mind bending, neuro-circuit-blowing film, Inception:

If you haven’t experienced this film and spent the ride home + the next two hours discussing the film with your son-in-law like I did, let me just say it’s based on an unexplained technology that enables someone to invade the dreams of another in order to influence critical decisions.  Leonardo Di Caprio plays the tortured protagonist who agrees to recruit the expert team that will join him in extraordinary task of venturing “4 levels down” into the dreams of corporate executive.

In the course of his journey, Di Caprio intertwines his own dreams into the experience and, as a result, faces his most dreaded, and “buried” fear.  By facing that fear he’s able to free himself from self-torture and pain that resulting from a poor decision years prior.

My close friend, Dr. Bert Chandler, enjoys a reputation as one of the most highly regarded Pain Management Specialists in the country.  Icon medical organizations like Medtronic pursue him to participate on their advisory boards.   He is innovative, passionate and brilliant in his ability to diagnose and treat chronic pain.  According to a Time Magazine article several years ago, Pain Management has a reputation more for “Narcotic Management” rather than productive therapy.  My friend often sees patients who come to him with a long history of drug dependency inflicted by physicians who were satisfied to scribble a non legible prescription for Vicodin or Oxycontin.

Often Bert’s diagnostic “radar” alerts him to a possible hidden pain that his patient has buried.  He looks at the x-ray, looks back to the patient and asks, “Is there something you’re not telling me?”  More often than not, tears flow and the patient describes a tragic hurt inflicted years prior that disguised itself as chronic physical pain.  The revelation by the patient often results in the release from the pain they so long endured.

Is there a connection between the “treasures of darkness, hidden in secret places” and the buried pain so many experience?  Is the revelation of that pain in itself the treasure to release the treasure seeker from bondage?  If it is, even in isolated cases, then it is treasure trove indeed.

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Playing Speed Chess with the Enemy

August 10, 2010

I’ve got a brilliant enemy, no question about it.  He’s Moriarty, Lex Luthor, Voldemort and the Joker wrapped into one.  He’s the author of chaos, confusion and illusion.  He’s also a master chess player.  I’d never encourage anyone to engage mano y mano with the Illusionist, but I feel like I do just that  every day.  And when I’m successful, it looks something like Speed Chess – as played in this great scene from the film, “Searching for Bobby Fischer“:

The key, as Laurence Fishburne says, is playing to win, not playing… not to lose.   I’ve got to make quick continuous decisions, keep my radar alert for his traps and deceptions while all the while depend on the real Master for strength and wisdom.  The Enemy is brilliant, but “… greater is He that is in me (you) than he that is in the world.”  I sense I am, in fact “on the edge of defeat” every hour of every day; but by staying on the offensive, playing to win in this ever present battle, learning quickly from my mistakes and moving on to the next decision, I play “Speed Chess” style – and win.

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Relentless Pursuit

August 10, 2010
Liam Neeson at the TIFF premiere of The Other ...

Image via Wikipedia

I recently watched the movie “Taken”, again.   If you haven’t experienced it, Liam Neeson plays a former Black Ops specialist in the role of what he calls a “Preventor.”  He’s taken early retirement in order to live close to his college age daughter, who takes a trip to Europe with a friend against her father’s better judgment.  Soon after arriving in Paris, Neeson’s daughter is abducted into a slave trade underworld; but before she’s “Taken” she is able to talk with her father on a cell and scream information about her captors.  One of the abductors picks up the cell and puts it to his ear…

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Neeson is relentless in his pursuit of his captured daughter – using all his creativity, ability and experience to find her, and rescue her, amidst the darkness of commercial slavery.  I read a few verses the other day that connected a few dots between Taken and God’s relentless pursuit to save us from the “king” of the underworld:

Isaiah 45

2 This is what the Lord says:

“I will go before you, Cyrus,
and level the mountains.[a]
I will smash down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.

3 And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—
secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.

I’m thankful that my Father is Neeson to the “nth” power.  He smashes and levels His way to my rescue, and yours.


A New Adventure in Existence

March 6, 2010
2nd Lt. Charles A.
Image via Wikipedia

Charles A. Lindbergh is another of my heroes.   He was the first person to fly across the Atlantic, a feat comparable today to someone creating their own craft and flying solo to Mars.   Lindbergh was a courageous man in death as much as he was in life.  After receiving the diagnosis of terminal cancer, he wrote these words to be read at his funeral:

We commit the body of Charles A. Lindbergh to its final resting place; but his spirit we commit to Almighty God, knowing that death is but a new adventure in existence and remembering how Jesus said upon the cross, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

I believe down to my cuticles that heaven will be an adventure beyond the craziest fantasies we can envision (The Word for Me is Rescue).  I also support the “concept” that death is not to be feared. I can only hope and pray that I face that moment – if I have the choice – with courage, calmness, and confidence.

My favorite uncle, and the toughest man I ever met, died last year.  C.W. Harbin – soldier, entrepreneur, devoted husband (60 years) and father, and follower of Christ passed after years of debilitating back pain and losing the love of his life a few years earlier.  He left this world with dignity, love and even humor – entering into his new and eternal adventure with – I’m sure –  a laugh, a sly quip and a “Grizzly’ size hug for my Aunt Barbara.

So let’s die with faith.  Let’s allow the resurrection to sink into the fibers of our hearts and define the way we look at the grave.  Let it “free those were like slaves all their lives because of their fear of death” (Heb. 2:15 NCV).   Max Lucado, Fearless

It’s the anticipation of a “new existence” that made the movie Avatar my home-run flick of 2009 (Anticipating My Avatar).  I pray I live today with faith in that future reality.

I also want Avatar to win the Oscar (how’s that for a random thought).

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Steve Brown Does a Body Good

February 15, 2010

If you’ve never heard Steve Brown speak, you’ve missed not only one of the most authentic, humorous, and profound speakers of our time (although he says, “I’m not authentic, I’m screwed up”), but also a deep, tobacco enriched voice that sounds like it emanates from the top of Mt. Sinai and makes James Earl Jones, in comparison, sound like Larry the Cable Guy.

Dr. Brown is a regular guest speaker at our church. Yesterday he launched into his talk with a typical “Brownsian” self-effacement – “If you get something out of this sermon I’m glad, but this sermon is for me.” He spoke on a passage in Matthew where Jesus describes how we should view our “enemies”. Brown made 4 points:

  1. “My enemies are not necessarily the enemies of Jesus” – as much as we would like to put those who disagree with us into a barrel and plug up the knot-hole, that does not mean they are not profoundly important to Christ and to his purpose.
  2. “His enemies are not necessarily my problem” – Brown described how many critical emails and phone calls he receives every week regarding his teachings, then paused and stated, “But guess what, I’m not YOUR responsibility.”
  3. “The biggest enemy I’ve got is me” – He stated (and everyone I’m sure agreed about themselves) that “I struggle with me more than anybody.” But then he also quickly followed with, “But Jesus likes me even when I’m not doing it right.”
  4. “HIS enemies often become HIS friends” – the Apostle Paul – nuff said.

When Steve Brown ended his meaningful monologue with his customary trademark, “You think about that… amen,” my mind did indeed prickle with the reminder that I’m also more screwed up than authentic, and my job is not to make or hate enemies, but to love my enemies (most of the time) to become HIS friends.

Thank you Dr. Brown, you (and your melodious voice – maybe I should start smoking a pipe…) do a body, mind and heart a lot of good.