Tuesday, June 28, 2016

We. Are. Alive.

Guest Preacher: Theresa Henson, M.A.

When Love comes to town. I’m going to catch that train. I have had that song going through my head the last two weeks. I realized that it’s the song of a penitent — someone (in a fantastically bluesy way) is owning up to their words and actions before their heart was transformed by love.

I realize I am seeing myself both as one transformed by love and as the one who needs to repent. These last two weeks I have had a lot of  — what my friend would call — big feelings: sadness, despair, anger, frustration. BIG feelings. 

In my quiet moments, though, I noticed I was also angry at myself. Angry when I have been silent, angry when I have been complicit in silence that perpetuates injustice and greed and violence. I have been silent in the face of systems and beliefs that hurt people. I repent. I have heard a lot of people repenting lately. People saying: I am over staying silent in the presence of homophobia, racism, sexism -- this culture of violence and death.

You know, in the time of Jesus’ ministry in the middle east, the region was occupied by the brutal and violent Roman empire that enforced their will through terror on every level. The way Jesus died, by crucifixion, was a standard punishment by the state for those found guilty of treason. The dead and dying were left up on these poles for all to see. People daily walked among death and terror and the intent was to keep them afraid. The intent was to keep them in a culture of death. Because people who are seeing death all the time may not know they are actually alive. And people who do not know they are fully alive are easier to control.

But in walks Jesus. Who is not afraid. Who is fully alive which is also to say he is full of love — the only thing stronger than fear. And he says to people: Remember who you are! You are not this culture of death! You are not some dim, half creation struggling to survive in all this despair and oppression. You are alive!!! You are a child of of the living God. Remember! Remember who you are!!!

Jesus turns his attention directly toward people’s hearts. Because if he can get people to remember who they are, the world is going to change. He is transforming the world one heart at a time. He restores hearts. He heals bodies. He heals minds. He opens hearts. And at every turn, at every person he meets, he is working to bring people to wholeness and to correct their sense of identity. 

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; stand firm! and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” We are intended to free. Stand firm!

When Jesus gets frustrated and even angry — it’s not necessarily at the temporary political situation of Rome — it’s at the closing of hearts, people forgetting who they are…the disciples bickering over who will be first in heaven or wondering if they should rebuke the Samaritan. He gets angry at the violation of a sacred place, the temple, a place intended to be a safe space where we open our hearts to God and to each other.

In today’s gospel reading, he is correcting his disciples again. No, you will not rebuke the Samaritan. That is not who you are. That is not who we are. Judgement and rejection and exclusion are not our work. That is not God’s work! We are about God’s work. What are the signs of this work in us? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

In Luke, we see Jesus once again intent on going to Jerusalem. Which always makes me nervous. Sometimes I want to say ‘Jesus, just get yourself a nice place by the lake and go fishing. These disciples are idiots. Jerusalem and the temple are corrupt. They know you are not afraid of the empire and that makes them angry. They eyes of death are upon you. 

But no. Jesus never hides. He withdraws in prayer and then returns with a clear sense of action and heightened powers to respond. When he enters Jerusalem right before his death on a cross, it is not in hiding. He comes humbly upon a donkey, but elevated above the dull and deadly fear, the culture of violence, that had become a normal part of life. Love had come to town, people. Love had come to town. And things would never be the same. For one, that brutal empire fell 1500 years ago. 

So we follow Jesus. Our hearts transformed by love and asking for our hearts to continue to be transformed by love. Always answering the invitation to more life.

So how do we live in a culture of life? How do we remember who we are? Remember that we are alive? The answer is simple: prayer. Jesus models it for us over and over. Prayer and action. Prayer and action. You see, prayer focuses us. In prayer, we remember we are not the death around us. We are not the violence and fear. We are God’s. We belong to the God of life. Then we go forth in action, guided by life and creating and supporting new life.

Jesus gave us the tools we need. He taught us to pray. And it follows a very simple format designed to help you remember who you are:

“Our father who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name.”
You are God. You are everywhere. 

“They kingdom come, thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.” These are affirmations. You are here. You are working. You are working in me. 

“Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” 
This is where the prayer keeps us present and mindful, in the right now,… not in the news or Washington D.C., but right here. You, God, are meeting all my needs and guiding me. Help me to stay focused on you. Help me stay focused on my work as your child of God. Help me stay focused on my work as an expression of life. As somebody who is fully alive. From this place, you can engage all the news coming from the culture of death.

“For thine is the kingdom and power and glory forever.” 
For you are great. Love is great. Life is great. You are the reality. Love is the reality. Life is the reality. Amen.

Brothers and sisters, pray to remember who you are. Pray to be lifted and strengthened. Pray to be inspired. Pray to be at peace. Pray to be happy. I promise, as you hear your calls to action, you will be a lot more effective this way. 

In John 10 we hear: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."

How about this? Spend as much time in prayer as you do taking in the news. Letting the mystery and love of God hold you and your heart and your weary mind. Do what it takes to unplug from the culture of death and plug into the source of life. It is tough out there. Take good care of yourselves. You must.

Jesus said my burden is easy and light — which doesn’t mean this world is easy. It means that we can face whatever we have to go through with true life and God’s love lifting us up and carrying us through. You feel yourself start to lose it? Pray. You feel your sense of calm and peace starting to dim? Pray. Can’t pray? Ask someone to pray for you. That’s why we are in community. Your actions need prayer where you gather strength and inspiration and where God can take our actions, however small, and make them a part of something big and powerful.

Pray — in the face of the culture of death — However you pray…sitting quietly, playing music, dancing, marching in a pride parade of color and celebration. However you affirm the essence of you in the surrounding, nourishing essence of the divine. We are not the death all around us. We are not this culture of violence. As Jesus proclaimed throughout his ministry, we are sons and daughters of of the living God, expressions of God, expressions of love. He never, ever put any conditions on that. It is only we ourselves who remove us from the love of God through our hardened hearts. May we all repent of hardness in our hearts and forgetting who we are. We are a people who are not forgetting who we are made to be. 

Perhaps that could be a new identifier. Who are you? I am someone who has not forgotten who I am. I am someone who is remembering who I am. I am love. And I am alive. We, despite all the death around us, are still alive. Vibrant and beautiful. What a rush of love and gratitude for our hearts! I am looking into the eyes of all you around me and know to my core that YOU are alive. The LGBT people and their friends and family, celebrating around the world, are alive. And they are free. We celebrate the life in each of us. The life that expands and unfolds, inspires and directs, brings us to action and ever greater love. We are alive. We are all alive!

Let us pray.

We submit ourselves to your guidance, 
to the Holy Spirit who brings forth good fruit in us.
You are always bringing us to new life,
making all things new, renewing us in hope
and vibrancy and goodness.
You take away our hearts of stone and give
us a heart of flesh. 
How good it is to feel, again, God.
Help us not to forget to spend time with you
where we will learn how to continue to transform 
this world for beauty and justice.

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Final Blessing

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Ezekiel 47:1-12
Romans 14:4
Luke 1:67-79

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”  A time to begin and a time to end.  The end of our time together has come and I want to offer you a final blessing.  At the end of each quarter of the class that I teach, we learn to bless one another as if we will not see each other again because endings are a part of ministry, as they are a part of life.  We share three gifts that we see in the person we are blessing and offer one challenge.  Let me tell you the gifts I see in you.
You are progressive and adaptive.  I’ll tell you, there aren’t many congregations that I could say that about, so it is high praise.  You always seem willing to hear a new word or idea.  I have always felt free to teach and preach here because you are so accepting.  We don’t have to agree here to love and accept each other.  Some churches quit talking to each other when they disagree.  You are willing to listen deeply even when you don’t agree.  Do you know what a gift that is?  And when a program or practice has run its course, you know how to let it go.  I am particularly amazed by the United Methodist Women who created focus groups to replace monthly meetings, restructured when the list of officers seemed archaic, and decided not to do any more yard sales.  You have assessed your resources and directed them where they will do the most good.  And you still create ample time for fellowship and community building and donate hundreds of quilts and sweaters each year.  If you’re new to the church, you may not know that both the men’s and women’s coffee circles on Tuesday morning were adaptive solutions to meeting the needs of members with health crises.  You have experimented with different structures for your Council of Ministries.  I have never heard you say the seven words that kill churches, “We’ve never done it that way before.”  You are creative and adaptive, always ready to step up to the challenge of trying something new.
You are a church in mission.  You’ve heard me say this before.  Members of this church sit on every board of every social service agency on the Island, some of which you created!  You are a vital part of building the safety-net on the Island.  You have worked in Haiti and at the McCurdy Mission on Volunteer in Mission trips.  You have generated projects in support of social reform.  You have contributed liberally to the Dove Project, teen suicide prevention, Imagine No Malaria, Jamaa Letu, IFCH, and Vashon Youth and Family Services.  You designed an after-school program for middle school youth that is changing lives.  Our former District Superintendent, Pat Simpson, noted that a lot of churches support missions just with their donations.    You are hands on, in the community preparing meals, working at the food bank and Granny’s Attic, raising money for Vashon Youth and Family Services, working with the arts giving people a place to share their gifts, preparing for natural disasters, caring for Island eco-systems, providing rides and emergency assistance for your neighbors.  The coordinator for providing services for IFCH is a member of this congregation—most of us have no idea about the responsibility that Nancy Vanderpool shoulders.  You are talking about racism with your neighbors.  Some of you are helping people think through their end of life choices.  You are leaders and volunteers in this community, making it a better place.  You don’t have to plan mission projects, you live the Church’s mission every day.

You are generous people.  You are generous with your time and your talent and your treasure.  You were challenged to be generous with your newly remodeled building and you have shared your beautiful space with the community for plays, concerts, celebrations, meetings, meals, showers, music lessons, and counseling sessions.  You have made your building accessible for those with disabilities, providing a lift, large print resources, and the hearing loop.  You are more than generous when a cause touches your hearts.  
And you have published a broad welcome to members of the LGBTQ community.  On this first Sunday after the horrific massacre in Orlando, you have already said that you stand on the side of love and acceptance.  Your rainbow flags were already flying when a representative from Vashon Youth and Family Services came to us to ask if we would be willing to display a rainbow flag in memory of the lives lost.  Because of who you are, I could say “Of course!”  You are the arms of Christ open wide to people who justifiably live with fear and grief.  And I love you for that more than I can say with mere words.  
My challenge to you is to invite someone to church.  If what you hear and do here is important to you, if you find meaning and community, invite people to share your experience.  There’s a story about two neighbors.  One was a deacon and pillar of his church.  He attended church faithfully every Sunday.  He was also an avid golfer and enjoyed playing with his neighbor across the street.  They found time on many Saturday mornings or late afternoons for a round of golf.  On Sunday mornings though, the deacon headed for church while his friend across the street loaded his golf clubs in the trunk of his car.  “Care to join me on the links, this morning?” the neighbor would call out.  “No, I’m on my way to church.  See you later this afternoon.  Good luck out there,” the deacon would respond and drive off to church.  This went on for over a year until finally the neighbor across the street quit calling out on Sunday mornings and began to seek out other golf partners.  The deacon was perplexed and finally got up the courage to ask his neighbor what was wrong.  “I decided you must not like me very much.  Every Sunday I invited you to play golf, but you never once invited me to go to church.”  Don’t you wonder from your own experience, how many times the neighbor would have declined before he decided that today was the day?  
At one church that I served, we mailed out 10,000 flyers inviting our neighbors to church.  I thought we would have a flood of visitors.  We didn’t get a flood of visitors.  But we didn’t have one Sunday without at least one visitor for over six months.  I visited one couple about 4 months after we mailed the flyer and asked them how they heard about our church.  They took me into their kitchen where the flyer was pinned to their bulletin board.  It took them four months to put their shoes on and come to church.  Four months!  Don’t get discouraged if your invitation doesn’t result in your friend showing up the next Sunday.  Sometimes the desire simply rests in a person’s heart until circumstances make this the day.   
This is a great time to invite your friends and neighbors because when a new pastor comes, people are curious.  Invite them to come meet the new pastor.  Invite them to a special event that is particularly meaningful to you.  Tell someone why your faith is important to you in a single accessible statement.  You are a beautiful, faithful, welcoming, caring congregation.  You should shout it from the mountain top.  
I love you and I will miss you terribly.  You will always be part of the communion of saints in my life.  I trust you to welcome Pastor Paul as graciously as you welcomed Steve and me.  You will be in good hands.  Share the love you once shared with Steve and me with Paul and Mary and let your light shine.  
Blessing upon blessing.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Not Enough Colors

John 20:1-18
[This in an Easter scripture, but I asked the congregation to think about Mary of Mandala while James read it]
A while back I had a discussion with a friend (although if you heard us you might have described it as an argument)
He was saying that we need more rules;  that the clergy would not behave in the right way without more rules.  (He also was telling me what the right way was).  He said the world is jut too confusing without them.
Well, the world is confusing, and I confess that there are times when it would be easier have a rule rather than having to take the effort to determine what the right thing to do in a certain situation. A while ago a person read a chapter of I Corinthians to our pastor telling her that she should not be in the pulpit. (she also was scolding the women who did not wear head coverings in church.)  How do we treat the person.  We don’t’ have a rule, but we do say that we welcome EVERYONE.  I have heard and been part of several discussions about that.
  I thought I was raising my daughters in a confusing time,  (And now the times seem even more confusing)
.  But I also felt that rules weren't the answer to my fears.  I could offer observations; and sometimes they helped, (and sometimes not so much). And I could let them both know that they were loved.
It seems to me that any peace we might find; any sense of security you or I may have has to come from within ourselves.
That, I believe, is the peace we see in Jesus, for Jesus peace seems to have meant, not the absence of struggle, but the presence of love. (I like that statement of Feredrich Buchner on the cover of the bulletin.)  I would like to talk about that sense of peace this morning.  I have chosen a person in whom I believe we can see this peace clearly.  
That person is Mary of Magdala, (but you already guessed that.)  Magdala was a village of the Sea of Galilee.  You might think that Mary was an unlikely person to use as an example because  some folks believe that Mary of Magdala was a prostitute, although the reference in the Bible is not at all clear about that.
What is clear in the Biblical record is that Jesus helped her find release from a very troubling problem.  (The author of the Gospel of Luke says it was seven devils - which would seem to indicate a very severe torment of the mind.)  The peace she found in that healing made it possible for her to become a disciple.   She followed Jesus from village to village.  The they killed him.   The killed the person who had helped her find her way back from hell.   When that happened Mary from Magdala was there to the bitter end.  On Sunday Mary from Magdala was among the first to go to the tomb.   (I would note that at the terrifying moments the men all went off and hid.  It was the women who stood my Jesus at the foot of the cross and the tomb)
Mary of Magdala and the other Mary were bringing spices to anoint his body; but, when they arrived at the tomb, the stone closing the entry of the tomb was rolled away.  She must have wondered why his body was not there; and where had it been taken.  What happened here, where had he gone.
I think that those questions refer to more than geography.
When I ask those questions about a friend i really want to know more than geography.
(Although you have to be careful about that.  A young boy asked his dad,,  “where did I come from?’  His dad gulped a couple of times and gave his son the whole lecture about the birds and bees.   The boy said.  I know all that.  John came from Issaquah, Jim came from Sequim, Jane came from Nob Noster, Missouri.  (We aren’t the only state with odd names)  So where did I come from???
We know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  We know that he grew up in Nazareth..   I also know that those facts are open for discussion.  But Kathy, in our Bible Study, asked us to look at his life to see how it impacted ours.  What we really want to know is what he believed and how he got strength and peace from those beliefs.
My youngest daughter, Becky, had a series of pets, and when one of the cherished pets died she would ask, “Where did  Perky go?  And I would reply with some words,  “Perky went into the ground.  or Perky went to be with God.  I had to use figurative language to come to grips with the mysteries of life. I simply don’t have enough colors in my crayon box.  I don’t apologize for that.
I know some facts about Jesus, but they only take me part of the way.
I know that he was honest and candid.
I believe that he was completely human.  
I believe that he was the most of God that could be poured into a human without destroying the humaness.
I believe he said what he meant and meant what he said.
I believe that when he forgave the people who were putting him to death he didn’t say that because it would make him look good;
or because it would make his mother happy to hear him say such a nice thing.
I believe he did it because it expressed who he was.   He just did it.   I can’t explain that fully.  Neither can I explain the beauty of the stars, -- or the sound of the wind in the trees, — or the beauty of the rose on the screen, — or the sound of the wind chimes in an orchard at a friends house. -- or the clean fresh smell of the air after a rainstorm.
I rounded a corner is the Denver art museum one afternoon and there was a sleeping figure so real that I wanted to tip toe to keep from waking her. --   Neither can I explain the strength and sense of peace I get from a hug of a friend. 
I read a lot, and have gone to a lot of workshops; I have the largest box of crayolas money can buy, but my imagination just doesn’t have enough colors to do justice to those events.

I can imagine how Mary must have felt when she rushed back to the village and her story tumbled out in a rush.  Peter and John rushed to the tomb and neither did they know what to make of it.     Nor do we.    Exactly what happened remains a mystery.  —  Was it just a story the gospel writers made up, or did it really happen.  —  If it happened what difference does it make to us when we lose our job, or when someone we love more than life itself is desperately ill,  or wrestling with 7 devils like Mary was.  (which is to say they are going through mental torment and anguish.
So the disciples went back home again  — but Mary stayed at the tomb weeping and thinking.   I would guess that she was remembering Jesus.  (re membering — putting his life back together from her memories)   Maybe she was remembering the time when life started to come together for her.  The time when something Jesus said started her back to wholeness.  The moment when the torment in her mind started to lessen.
(That is the meaning of salvation for me; the movement toward wholeness)
But memories don’t seem to be enough.  Mary sensed that some one was standing near; she turned and the stranger asked.   —   “Why are you weeping?”    Now that is a very personal question that has to be answered in the first person.  You can’t answer that question by quoting someone, or quoting something you read once in a book or on the internet
it might be asked of some one who realizes that they are not going to accomplish everything in life that they hoped to. ———
It might be asked by any of us who realized last Wednesday when Steve and Kathy moved to Seattle, that they we really leaving us.  And although they are near, Kathy is not our pastor after the last day of this month.   (And not only that but she won’t be talking to us for a year while Paul Mitchell is getting to know us and we him as our pastor.)  —
It might be asked by a person who feels betrayed by someone and has hurt them and caused them to cut themselves from other relationships and now they feel so lonely.  —
It might by asked of all of us who have experienced one of days when nothing seems to go right.  While I was working on this service I let my attention lapse and closed my finger in the car door.  (Ouch) (Or maybe some other words)   And then I decided to clean up my keyboard, messed it up, so that it wouldn’t work, and then when it started to work it decided to erase what I had written….   Well you know how some days seem to go.      —      Why are you weeping??
 Or at a deeper level, we, you and I, may be longing for a profound relationship with God which seems always to elude us.
—  We attend church, but we live as if don’t see or understand how God can really be interested in us.  —  as if we don’t quite see how  God can love us with all of our shortcomings.
Why are we weeping  —  for whom are we looking?
Mary from Mandala said something like, “I am looking for a friend, my teacher who died last Friday.   That was a good answer for her.   —    But I would suggest it may not be adequate for us.   If we are looking for a teacher who died a long time ago why not choose Socrates, or Buddha.  Jesus left more than teachings.  Mary knew that.  Mary was’t just looking for a friend, she had experienced Jesus in her life at some very deep levels.
I answered the phone one evening and when I heard the voice speak my name I recognized a friend I had not heard from for quite a while.  A lot of good feeling came swelling in.  So I don’t have any trouble understanding how that voice affected Mary.  How the life and love and peace came flooding back.  She thought all of that was gone, but here it was.   That one word, her name, changed everything for her.
I don’t know how to explain the mystery of that moment, I try, but in the end I know I do not have enough colors in my box of crayolas.
There are a number of those mysteries with which I still struggle.  — But then Jesus never claimed to clear up all the mysteries of life, did he.  It seems to me that Jesus was more interested in changing lives than in explaining.
I would expand on that thought with this story about Jesus at the wedding feast.  It was in a group discussion about Jesus changing the water into wine.  One man gave this reply:
“I don’t know about that… But in my home Jesus changed alcohol into furniture and that is miracle enough for me.”
I know folks who could give the same kind of an answer although it would not always be alcohol — but anger  -  or despair —  or hopelessness  — or loneliness  -  changed; —  transformed into something positive and good and beautiful.
Mary didn’t find Jesus,  Jesus found Mary.   
The gospel — the good news isn’t seeking and finding.  It is being sought and found.,   
On hearing the voice Mary went to tell the others,  “I have seen the lord.”
  It seems to me that there is more to life than meets the eye.   My friend on the street corner was right on when he said that there is a lot wrong with this world.  A lot of confusion, anger, needless conflict and bloodshed and abuse.
However it seems to me that what is needed is not a rule; it is inner strength and peace.    I am speaking now from my own experience, but I may be speaking for you as well because we are all in this together.
I have found that the more I come to experience God in my life the more my values change  — they become inner values rather than outer rules.   So I find myself  laughing at some of the things I used to be afraid of.   I don’t have enough colors in my box to explain that..   It is something like the difference between watching skiers on television and skiing yourself.
I can’t point to any moment when my life started to change as some folks do, but I do remember a lot of little events and a lot of individuals who have contributed.  I know that my faith is changing from something I learned by reading about other peoples faith, to an experience of God in my life.
I find that inner experience somehow frees my spirit to soar.
I have a friend who tells me,, from time to time, that she isn’t through raising me yet.  (She usually says that when I have done or said something really dumb.)  When we baptize someone we affirm that we will help them grow in faith. I don’t remember my own baptism, but because those words are part of that service, I know they were there.   I continue to call on that support as I continue to grow and learn
I have grown through some emotional pressures I never would have dreamed I could survive when I started this adventure.    I am still going though some .. —  that is still a part of the adventure   —  I have away to go yet.   Please don’t misunderstand that.   I am not saying I am finished with the journey.  I believe that this salvation about which I am talking is more a matter of direction than it is of destination.   (Robert Raines says that success is a moving target.)  I find that to be true of salvation as well.  But through all the journey God is holding me together  — holding me up.
I am discovering more and more that it isn’t my hold on God,  it is God’s hold on me that brings the peace I am finding.
Maybe that is your experience also.  I wish for you Shalom  —  God’s deep peace.

Discovering Our True Selves

1 Kings 19:1-15a
Luke 8:26-39

For many years before I became a pastor, I taught junior and senior high Sunday school.  Junior highs loved the gospel story we just heard, especially the part where the pigs jump into the water. It’s such a fun story on the surface.  Junior highs didn’t care as much about the man whose life was changed dramatically as they were about the pigs.
But I think of this as the second part of the story.  If this were a TV show, this is where the announcer would say, “Previously in the Gospel of Luke. . . .”  One day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger.  They went to him and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” He woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm.  He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?” 
The burial caves in today’s gospel reading overlook the Sea of Galilee.  Can you imagine what it would be like to watch Jesus calm a raging storm if you couldn’t control the storms raging inside your head?  When Jesus and his disciples reached shore, there was the tormented man hoping that Jesus would perform the same miracle in his life.  Jesus simply commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man and then he began to talk to him.  
I’ve already told you about a man who came to another church that I served who was tormented in a similar manner and through the love and care of that congregation began to take his meds and find community.  Eventually he sat among us in his right mind.  But most of us are not tormented in such a dramatic way.  Most of us do live with fears that determine our expectations and actions.  Sometimes we don’t know that the fears exist because we have lived with them so long.  We carry with us messages from our parents and early teachers about what makes us lovable. Sometimes the messages make us question whether we are lovable.  Most of us work with what one of my spiritual director’s calls an inner council made up of voices from our past.   We might hear our parent’s voice, a grandparent’s voice, a shaming teacher’s voice, the voice of our inner child, the voice of our inner adult, and probably a couple of values voices.  Let me give you an example from my inner council.  I hear my parents’ voices expecting me to excel and telling me I can do better.  My inner child wants ice cream at odd times and can really throw a fit.  My inner adult is a work-aholic.  I have a voice that always thinks about the financial bottom line—I’m not sure whose influence that is, but it is a loud, strong voice in my head.  I often hear my best friend from high school reminding me not to show off, but to let other people discover my gifts.  The good girl in me doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings which means sometimes I don’t say what needs to be said; I fail to speak the truth in love.  Most of these voices are expressing a fear—fear of not being good enough, fear of being deprived, fear of failure, fear of being embarrassed, fear of rejection, fear of not being lovable.  
The good news is that perfect love casts out fear.  Jesus shows us that God looks right through all our fears and loves us just as we are.  God’s perfect love casts out fear.  Just as Jesus looked at the tormented man at the foot of the burial caves and asked him what is name was, God asks us to name the fears that torment us.  If we don’t recognize those old messages that we live with and the fears behind them, we will continue to live with behaviors that harm us and others.  Some of us break off relationships before we can get hurt again; or we withdraw whenever there is a hint of conflict; or we bully others because that’s what we know; or we try to make everyone as perfect as we think we need to be; or we do things for people so that they will like us.  My guess is that you can add other behaviors to the list.  It’s often easier to see those flaws in other people, but we have all found ways to try to protect ourselves that end up hurting us and others.  Jesus looks at us with love and asks, “What is the name of your fear?  What is the name of that belief or that thing that is driving you and others crazy?”  We can let his perfect love casts out our fear, and then we can sit in our right mind, we can discover our True Selves.  
When I am trying to make a decision, or when I’m tired or having a bad day, when I am having difficulty with a relationship, the voices in my inner council can get loud and strident.  It gets more confusing as I try harder to listen for some wisdom.  What I need is space and peace, but what I get is often clutter, noise, and discord.  What I want is that peace that Jesus brought to a raging storm at sea.  That’s when I need to run to Jesus, turn to prayer, and sit at his feet.  As his perfect love casts out my fear, then I can sit in my right mind.  I can be my True Self.
When I know that I am loved, I can become a better moderator at my inner council.  I can listen to each voice or influence.  I have even learned with the help of a spiritual director to thank some of the voices at the table for their help in the past and dismiss them.   I have one friend who was abused as a child.  When he was sufficiently healed, I suggested that he thank the voice that always sought to protect him from harm and dismiss it.  He came back to me to tell me that he had decided instead to ask that voice to alert him when someone else was being abused physically or verbally.  He turned that protective voice outward to help others.
God’s love has the power to break the messages that hold us captive.  God’s love has the power to cancel out messages that hurt us.  God’s love has the power to let us receive love we may not believe we deserve.  God looks through our fears and creates the space that allows us to discover our True Selves.  I’m probably making this sound way too easy.  It is the work of a life time because the messages we live with seem so normal that we don’t recognize the damage they do.  It is possible to re-author those messages.  We can change a negative message into a message of love and hope.  For instance, “I need to be perfect or excel” can become “I am God’s beloved child and what I bring is enough.”  I encourage you to think about the messages or fears that have shaped you and re-author them.  I know one woman who changed “God wants people to succeed” to “God wants us to have a good life.”  She relaxed into her life and what a difference it made in her relationships, especially in her relationship with her son, whom she wanted so desperately to succeed!
This is the last book I’m going to suggest that you read.  Richard Rohr is a gifted theologian.  If you are a senior adult, and you haven’t already read it, you should read Falling Upward.  If you want to do the work of discovering your True Self, I recommend Immortal Diamond.  Let me just read you The Song of the True Self from that book.  
Within us there is an inner, natural dignity. (You often see it in older folks.)
An inherent worthiness that already knows and enjoys.  (You see it in children.)
It is an immortal diamond waiting to be mined and is never discovered undesired.  (That means you have to want to find it and work to find it.)
It is a reverence humming within you that must be honored.
Call it the soul, the unconscious, deep consciousness, or the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Call it nothing.
It does not need the right name or right religion to show itself.
It does not even need to be understood.  It is usually wordless.
It just is, and shows itself best when we are silent, or in love, or both.
I will call it the True Self here.
It is God-in-All-Things yet not circumscribed by any one thing.
It is enjoyed only when each part is in union with all other parts, because only then does it stand in the full truth.
Once in a while, this True Self becomes radiant and highly visible in one lovely place or person.
Superbly so, and for all to see, in the body of the Risen Christ.
And note that I did say “body.”  It begins here and now in our embodied state in this world.  Thus, the Christ Mystery travels the roads of time.
Once you have encountered this True Self—and once is more than enough—the False Self will begin to fall away on its own.
This will take most of your life, however, just as it did in Jesus.

Even in the midst of the raging storms in our lives, God’s love has the power to create space and peace so that our False Selves may be unmasked and our True Selves centered in God may shine.