Monday, September 27, 2010

Stagecoaches: Balancing Acts

In my last entry, I explained that I was beginning a new series on a breakdown of how to live life, utilizing the Three L's Philosophy: Living, Laughing, Loving. This is the second entry for the Living section of this series. Before I delve into this further, I want to thank each and every one of you who read my blog and follow my ramblings. This means a lot to me because I am trying to open my heart more, and this blog is an amazing tool for me to do it. People call this the Digital Age, and it is; everything is online or computer-based, but  sometimes we get too involved with technology. Technology doesn't have heart and spirit--the people behind them do. With Facebook and many other social networking sites, we know so much about each other in words, but we don't know each other in spirit. We don't know each others' hearts. And for this, I must sadly and ruefully say, we are immune and so insensitive. This world has become so toxic and with the Internet, it becomes so easy to forget what makes us human: our spirits and heart. 
I leave the word, 'heart,' in the singular tense because we all have a similar vision for life in one form or another, and we tend to feel that specific dream in the heart's the same vision coming from the same place in each and every person. We all want happiness and we all seek to find satisfaction with all that we encounter. However, the heart is the first place that hurts when dreams don't become reality, and life roughs us up. After all, dreams are desires from our hearts, vividly birthed in our luscious minds to fill in the details. Many of us follow our hearts without hesitation, but it's not what we are designed to do.

Our hearts are deceivers. Jeremiah 17:9 (from the English Standard Edition Bible) says that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" The important thing to realize that this quote is NOT saying that we are deceitful, but rather our hearts are, because the heart houses emotion. We are so passionate about fulfilling our dreams because they are encased inside the heart. All the excitement and happy feelings we have about succeeding are poured out from the heart, but so are other types of emotions. We feel triumphant when things are going well, we feel saddened by loss and grievances; of all things we possess as humans, our heart is operated by the emotional status of our person. We feed from the emotions and are impulsive to believe that all that heart is feeling is the truth. 

To provide a fuller understanding of this, think of how you crave foods. There are so many delicious foods that you may crave: candies, pastries, potato chips, etc. The way our bodies are programmed to crave food is to show you what your body is hungry for. When you're hungry, you can feel it in your stomach or in your mind. That's how we differentiate when we need to eat versus when we want to eat. When we need to eat, our body is telling us that it is beginning to run out of instant energy. When we want to eat, our mind is telling us that we are looking for instant gratification--something to make us feel good. Those delicious foods aren't always good for us. We don't always crave carrots and celery sticks...That's when we know we must make conscious decisions about our eating. 

Well, this is the same for the heart. If our heart wants instant gratification, it tends to want something that isn't always as healthy as what our Spirit needs. This can be exemplified by the need to feel loved. Following the heart, we look for the instant gratification, which can be anything in lust, an unhealthy and unbalanced relationship...Instead of feeding into impulse, we need to focus more on the longevity of our decisions and the mindful side of us.

So what is that mindful side, you ask? It is the spirit that resides in your mind, your body. You can think of your spirit as the breath of life inside of you, that one thing that animates you and differentiates you from the other forms of life in this world--your character. In Latin, the word 'spiritus' means 'breath'. A breath of air supplies oxygen to your lungs, hence bringing life to your body and mind. When you think of the spirit, you can think of your conscience--that little voice inside that tells you what is right and what is wrong. Its presence is inside of us, but that voice can be weak or strong, depending on how you nurture it. 

To be healthy, you must have a strong spirit, not necessarily willful, but strong enough to counteract the negative forces that will ail and try to overcome you. Our spirit, heart, and mind are three components of our souls. Our bodies carry these three components and the mind is what controls the body...similar to a stagecoach and its driver. The stagecoach is your body, the driver is your mind and inside the stagecoach is where your heart and spirit dwell--the passengers. The passengers are what you need to be a whole person. You may think of them as opposites: Emotion and Reason. They are related--call them sisters. If Reason (your spirit) is weak and unhealthy, the relationship between the sisters is unbalanced, and Emotion (your heart) is more powerful. Because Emotion is momentous and always changing, just as your moods, how can you possibly rely upon her to tell your driver how to safely get Home? However, Reason doesn't change--as logic is always that--clear, precise, and efficient. You can rely upon Reason to get you home safely, but without feeling, the journey is boring. They need to work as a team.

Most people have unbalanced teams. Many people rely only on their minds (the driver) to get them to and from, using experiences and memories as guides. Others rely solely on the heart, which, again, is unreliable. Your spirit is infantile and needs to be nurtured too!

So how do you make your spirit healthy?

How would you make your children healthy people? You nourish them with food and nutrients, get them plenty of exercise, provide safety, and have them socialize with others. This helps them grow into strong and healthy, and hopefully, well-balanced people. 

Here, I break down the different ways to ensure a healthy spirit!

When you eat, you can be hungry in mind or in body, as I aforementioned. When you feed your spirit, you need to make sure your choices are mindful and balanced. What do you feed your spirit with? Let's start with technology, as I started this blog entry with it too. With computers, television, radio, and just about everything around us pouring out the media and social expectations digitally, it's easy to misconstrue the 'junk' in this world and believe it to be 'healthful'. For me, music is the most powerful food to my spirit. I pour my emotion into singing and writing songs. When I was young, I was often impressed with many of the pop singers and groups that made it especially cool to be young and hip. Pop culture made being young and hip the most important thing, and it's not going to nourish your spirit to be following the latest trends, hopping on the bandwagon, to be included in the society where wearing tube tops and singing about having one-night stands is the norm. It's not healthy for either your heart or spirit. Here's where I had trouble discerning the heart vs. spirit, want vs. need, the emotion vs. reason sides. What pleases the heart isn't always good for the spirit, and especially not for the whole body. Therefore, whatever is bad for the spirit is bad for the heart. Listen to that little voice that comes from inside when you opt to gratify your cravings for the world--for hopping onto that bandwagon and saying, "I do what I want." That little voice is the unbalanced, hungry spirit. Feed it with inspiring music, television shows, and use the web as a tool to encourage your spirit to grow.

Have you ever had a moment where you were lost in a thought and it runs away with you? or you were caught trying to make a decision but so confused as to what is wrong or right? Sometimes I have the most problems deciphering what the truth is in a web of all that's going on in my life. I'm a detail-oriented person...I cannot help but have everything laid out in front of me--what the problem is, who's involved, how to resolve it, all the little factors and all the nonsensical things that pop up and clutter the whole picture. But if we start working on a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces scattered about, it's extremely hard to get the whole picture without first getting the outline together. We separate the edged pieces from the others and first lay them down in order. They frame how the rest of the puzzle is going to come together. This is how we ought to practice exercising our spirits. Instead of throwing all possible things in our thoughts at our spirit, we need to clear away the clutter first and then build the outline. 

How do we de-clutter ourselves? The answer is that we meditate with the spirit, focusing on only one thing...whatever it may be. Joshua 1:8 (from the New International Version) says, "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." I came across a website where it talks about Christian meditation. According to the site, 'meditation' is a term used 20 times in the Bible. For something mentioned numerous times, it is obviously an important practice. If you would like to visit the webpage, please click this link Here.

In the world, we have different types of meditation. In Biblical terms, the easiest way to meditate on the important picture is to learn it in and out. Focus on it and not let it escape. In Joshua, God speaks to the Israelites about how to reach Canaan. The goal is to finally escape to the Promised Land and have a promising life. God says to have courage and to go forth with courage and purpose to have a successful life. With all the excess stuff in our minds, it's hard to find the path amidst the froufrou that leads us to our Promised Land--the success and the place where we are full of joy and satisfaction. 

If you do not know how to meditate, use prayer instead. Communicating with the Spirit through prayer will teach you how to focus your mind. If you do not know what to ask or to speak of, say what your heart tells you to say, and converse. To converse means that there are two or more voices, speaking in turn. You need to listen to the Spirit when you are talking to it, otherwise it's one-sided and just a ramble. The Spirit will know what you need.

As you want to be safe from harm, your spirit longs to be protected from the ailing forces in this world. In the world, there are bad spirits that come from unexpected sources. Sometimes these bad spirits are mild, sometimes severe. Spiritual warfare is something that you might have heard of, or not, depending on the depths of your spiritual knowledge. Bad spirits can treacle into our bodies and they feed on the emotions of your heart. Our heart is deceived because of instant gratification--the want vs. need battle. I always say that happiness is a choice, not just a mood, because you have to make a clear, defined, and explicit choice to be happy, despite circumstances that tend to overcome us at times. When you have a bad attitude about your day, for example, it leads to that one bad spirit inviting his friends along for the emotions that nourish it. To prevent the spirits from coming in, you must first and foremost make an informed decision to not let the bad things in life get to you. When the enemy out there wants to break you down, he'll stop at nothing. He'll use your family and friends, work, school, just everything that you have in your life, against you. You need to be prepared for it. 

In my life, the toughest war I've ever had was to beat depression. Depression is one of the most prevalent and worst adversaries the enemy uses on us. For me, this war began several years ago, long before the wisdom I have now was ever obtained, long before I knew all I know now about the Lord and His mighty armor. At that time, I didn't know what had attacked me or that I was even being attacked. All I knew was that something wasn't right, and I pinned it on my father's illness and his untimely death. To be able to fight effectively, you must arm yourself in the armor of all that is good--what comes from the Spirit--the reason. Reason is never changing. It is truth. What is good will whisper good things about you, good things about others, and it will inspire you. Whatever truth your spirit tells you, you must be able to recognize the source of any thought that enters your mind. The Bible speaks of this armor in Ephesians 6: 11-18 (New International Version):

"11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."

These verses say all that I wished to convey to you about keeping your spirit safe. Use the armor of your faith in the truth to defer evil. To fight back, use your "Reason" (spirit) as a sword, and your "Emotion"  (heart) as the energy of the body. This is how they can effectively work together as a team, equally yoked and in their places. 

As the scripture I provided previously ends with, "...Be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." The saints are the people you associate with who are spiritually on the same or similar level as you. Associating yourself with these people helps keep your spirit and heart balanced. They are the example of living righteously. They are the encouraging soldiers who help you when you are attacked. The warriors and teammates whom you lean on when you are having a tough day. If you are online a lot, (like myself), I have two incredible spiritual warriors whom I would like to introduce to you.  They are incredible sisters of faith who always have wonderful things to say. Whenever I come online, I check my subscription box in my blog or on YouTube to see if there are any new videos or blogs to start out my online journey with...Their names are Kandee Johnson and Tiffany Myers. By clicking on their names, you can visit their blogs respectively. They both encourage and inspire me to share my heart with you all, and to live in the light. 

Also, by going to church, I socialize with my family of spiritual warriors. It is there where I rearm myself with the Word and get the training I need to continue living in the truth. If you don't have a church or perhaps you don't know what kind of place to get a spiritual connection, then start with finding friends that share a positive view of the world. By connecting with them, you find yourself pulled into their lives...possibly finding where you need to be. Always begin with meditation though. Meditate on and pray about who you associate with because if you are spiritually weak and are yoked with other spiritually weak people, you won't get very far. If you are spiritually strong, be yoked with someone who isn't as strong and be the leader. We all need someone to look up to, so find your place in the brigade of the spiritual warriors, and move forward to move upward...As a kite that flies in the winds, you must first run forward with the wind to ascend. Be this the same in your social circles. 

Overall, I hope this is helpful for you in your Spiritual life. In my next blog entry, I will post some wonderful meditation exercises that help me get through an especially rough day. 

For now I leave you, hoping that the wisdom that my Spirit gave to me is a little bit of encouragement in your day, a little bit of warmth and love in the cold, and a place that you can see yourself being in one day...that it is attainable to be happy and always a good idea to have a smile.

Have a wonderful autumn day!


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