Reflections on Art, Faith, and Life

Month: May, 2016

The Dark Side

The fictional Dark Side has become popular due to the Star Wars phenomenon. I believe it’s easy to consider it part of the movie or story or fiction, and not realize that possible it is quite real. Maybe one of the reasons Star Wars has taken root so deeply is because it does indeed capture truths of humanity.

Reading Richard Rohr’s “Falling Upward” affirmed many things I’ve long thought and explained many more I didn’t fully understand. My brain perused my own past, and also how fervently I plead with my students to own their “dark side.” You know – all those things we think that we shouldn’t, all the things we do that we shouldn’t, all the things we say that we shouldn’t, the tendency to be jealous, the tendency to judge, the tendency to feel entitiled, the tendency to want revenge, the craving for everything to be fair – that’s what I call our “dark side.”  We are capable of incredibly wounding others – we are also capable of incredibly loving others. I believe living in that tension is inescapable. I think wanting to increasingly bless is a choice – one that demands we first admit our deepest and darkest truths to ourselves.

I plead with my students to own their dark side, because I feel that until all of us do, we haven’t given it to Christ. He knows we have it, but the moment we stop acting as though we don’t have one, it opens us up to more freely allow him to work through that part of us. And as I see the spiritual world, if Jesus is not allowed to work through it, I know who I’m defaulting to, and that scares me more than me even having a dark side.

Am I claiming that we are all inherently bad or evil. NO! I am claiming that our human nature is SO strong, and it doesn’t always lead us in the ways we were intended to go. That’s why I believe we must own it, and then give it back to the one who created us. He is far better at helping us cope and overcome than we are left to our own thoughts and plans.

So what if we don’t self-confess? I think it keeps us lodged in legalism and judgmentalism. If we can’t admit the worst in us, it’s often too easy to only see the worst in others. If we humble ourselves, it’s easier to extend grace rather than judgment to others, because after all, we all have the same tendencies, don’t we?

Reflection and contemplation are pivotal to seeing who we really are. This is an essential part of beginning to grasp the grace God has for us. We don’t need to emerge with a guilt complex about our past – just an honesty that allows God to extend mercy and love us as He wishes to. That changes a person! A substantial enough change that shame has no place at the table.

If we admitted who we are, accepted God’s mercy, and were willing then to lovingly and gracefully take others as they are, would that change our homes and churches? Is that something people are longing for? I think so.

I think that there is so much good in each of us – and it is often what emerges. I think the comfort of that sometimes keeps us from the kind of self-honesty necessary to deepen and mature our spiritual journey. This is certainly not finger-pointing — just a clarion call for transparency with our self. Demanding transparency is so much easier out of others than it is out of ourselves, but I believe the rewards are worth the effort.

What are your thoughts on the matter?


Recently read / On the reading li

I believe our minds and hearts are greatly shaped by what we put into them; hence, we becoming an amalgam of the things we ponder. I believe pondering and reflection profoundly changes us, whether or not we wind up agreeing with everything another writer / speaker says or not. I write this realizing I’m not a blogger that others are likely to base an opinion on, but nonetheless, these are the words and thoughts that have shaped me, and will shape me. These books are not listed in any particular order, but I share them for any good you might get from the list, and with gratitude for the way the Holy Spirit leads me to certain “voices.” I consistently read that you shouldn’t worry about your social media reach or influence when you write – you should just write. My youngest son, Mitchell Roush, constantly reinforces the need to create and not just consume, so I’m taking a deep breath, releasing any expectations / wishes, and am going to try to take others’ word for it.

Books Recently Read:

Out of Sorts – Sarah Bessey
Searching for Sunday – Rachel Held Evans
Spiritual Sobriety – Elizabeth Esther
Brazen – Leanna Tankersley
Grounded – Diana Butler Bass
Night Driving – Addie Zierman
Becoming Human – Jean Vanier
Wild in the Hollow – Amber Haines
An Altar in the World – Barbara Brown Taylor
Accidental Saints – Nadia Bolz-Weber
A Life in Music – Daniel Barenboim
O Clap Your Hands – Gordon Giles

On the reading list: (I have all these book already)

Daring Greatly – Brene Brown (late to the party, I know!)
Rising Strong – Brene Brown
Falling Upward – Richard Rohr
The Best Yes – Lisa Terkeurst
The Truth About Leadership – Kouzes & Posner
How to Be Here – Rob Bell
Water to Wine – Brian Zahnd
Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven – John Eliot Gardner
The Ragamuffin Gospel – Brennan Manning (real late to the party – better late than never?)
1791 – Mozart’s Last Year – H.C. Robbins Landon & M.C. Landon
Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation – James K.A. Smith

In a recent conversation with my wife, we were talking about reading, and I repeated to her the excellent and accurate (in my opinion) quote that “those who do not read have no advantage over those who cannot read.” I hope you are able to fill your minds/hearts with some of the above thoughts/reflections/confessions/challenges. If you’re like me, nothing will ever replace the “old-style book” where you can highlight, write in the margins, and make annotations in the back. None of the above listed books are the electronic version – but,  it really doesn’t matter which form you use – hard copy or electronic – just read!  And of course, then spend time pondering and reflecting. Blessings on your summer!

Review of “Brazen” by Leanna Tankersley

“BRAZEN” by Leanna Tankersley is a clarion call for overcoming the emotional, mental, and societal forces that keep us from being not only all we can be, but all that we’re called to be. When I first started reading I thought it might be another installment of “I am woman hear me roar!” What I found what was an impassioned plea and encouragement to become fully human. Leanna may have had women as her primary audience, and there is certainly plenty of material for the ladies, but I also believe this could be a salient read for gentlemen as well.

I am inherently drawn to any text that encourages stillness, reflection, and knowing your inner self – this manuscript certainly qualifies. The anchor points of her missive are: exploring your own soul, nurturing your voice, and remembering your identity. What follows her laying this out are a series of significant tributaries all leading to the vast ocean of self-expansion through the love of God.

I think you’ll relate to her phrase “Soul Bully” as she describes the entity that so frequently wreaks havoc with how we were created by God to be. As we search to find all the ways we have the image of God inside us, Leanna encourages us to “go after what’s been silenced, hidden, lost, bruised, abused, abandoned, bullied.”

Leanna chronicles how easy it is to forget a key truth: we are beloved by God. When we do forget, the lies of culture, programming, insecurity, expectations, and even sometimes religion eagerly wait to lay claim to the space God has already designated.
It is important, not selfish, to find time for ourselves, and to surround ourselves with things that speak to us. Those habits help keep the Divine connection as He intended.

She writes of the myriad ways we try to edit ourselves, and a myriad of reasons we do it. This is detrimental to courageously finding our true selves, the selves God intends us to find and return to Him in service.

One particularly poignant chapter, “Casting Your Nets”, helps us realize what happened when the disciples were fishing and Jesus came and told them to recast after they had experienced no success all night. What changed? Not the lake, not the nets, not the boat, not their technique – what changed was Jesus showed up with a directive. God called and they obeyed.

I love Leanna’s thoughts about viewing ourselves though the “Divine View-Master.” (This label is right up there with Soul Bully in my opinion) This allows us to see ourselves more as God see us, and hence, would have us see ourselves.

At no time does she explore any necessary self-expansion apart from what God intends for us. This is certainly not a “do whatever feels good to you” book. It does encourage breaking free from the shackles we have allowed, but the breaking free is always connected to Divine reason and intent.

As she lays out the Brazen pathway, it includes making peace with our woundedness and wonder. Proclaiming we are marvelous and objects of astonishment, she brings us past all the things that have hurt and formed us and helps us find the Created Center we each have from our Creator.

Leanna writes a fabulous chapter on marriage, and then launches into some of the ways being self-obsessed is necessary for quieting the voices and opinions that frequent our ears, our hearts, our minds, and our spirits. Her encouragement is not to settle for a life in which we hide who we really are – for any reason or in any circumstance.

I liked her chapter on breaking at least one rule. She encourages her readers not to give into the following “rules”: (1) You must tame your husband; (2) You must avoid pleasure; (3) You must put yourself last; (4) You must be available to everyone all the time; (5) You must listen to the experts; and (6) You must consider your body a liability.

Leanna’s transparency and honesty are helpful in establishing her credibility as a journey taker. She never sets herself up as an expert or makes harsh judgments about others. She passionately, for our sake, chronicles a way for each of us to find a truer, bolder self – one fashioned by a God calling us to do things for Him and see us as He see us.

She ends each chapter with a section of reflection and expression, and with material for a Brazen board – a visual representation of your personal journey.

“Brazen” can be a quick read. It can be a repeated read. It can be a slow/think about it read. But it is most definitely a MUST read. If you are interested in discovering a truer, deeper sense of self and how that relates to the God who created and adores you, you will want to read Leanna’s road map for the journey!