Practice Preparation. Seriously. Do it.

As a pastor, I often have the privilege of sitting with folks in crisis - and crises happen to all people at some time or other - whether we are prepared or not. But preparation helps. It does not avert all crises, but it can avert some and mitigate the consequences of others.



My girlfriend who keeps picking abusive husbands? She agrees and allows me to say this to you about her - she does NOT prepare. She says she is a love addict. And by that she means that she is compulsively, habitually, repetitively mesmerized by a certain type of guy who she cannot help but believe will meet all her needs for security and significance. Once the “spell” is broken (27 busted lips and a couple broken noses later), she wakes up and says, “My gosh, what was I thinking?” She wasn’t thinking; she was reacting. She was under the spell of kryptonite. The thing my friend prepares for most consistently is creating a “self” that attracts the kind of man she believes will save her. But salvation is a gift from God, so her plan is doomed from inception.



In “enneagram” language, which my friend is starting to explore, her patterns can be described like this. Her virtue is humility. She is uniquely equipped to bring humility into any tribe she joins. But when there is an assault on her virtue, when she doubts God, herself and the abundance of his love for her - she falls prey to her kryptonite. In her case, she is fixated by flattery and driven by the passion of pride. Obviously, these are antithetical to humility, which is how this stuff works. Overcome with spiritual kryptonite, she falls into a pattern of dependency in all her relationships. What she needs more than anything is the spiritual practice of solitude, so that she can regularly check in with herself; consciously put on her spiritual armor; remember what she is most likely to forget.



Instead, my friend is scared of alone time. She is constantly looking for companionship and says that once she “sees” a guy that seems “perfect” (wealthy, good looking, and willing to support her financially), she gets tunnel vision. She only has eyes for HIM. This is exactly how people describe traumatic events!! When we forget the bigger picture and our place in God’s story, that is a traumatic event of sorts. It takes us to places that our mind, body and spirit do not truly, righteously, peacefully, faithfully want to go. Like any addiction, the object of our obsession cannot ever deliver on what it promises. But oh how it promises. She sees freedom when she is handed an American Express Platinum Card and a club membership. But as a creature made in the image of God, she is especially equipped to live in the holy idea of freedom - as defined by the kingdom of God, not the local country club scene.



What gives you tunnel vision? What has your own compulsion promised but never delivered on?

Are you ready to resist spiritual kryptonite?

10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. 13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.


~ Ephesians 6:10-18 MSG


Here are a few thoughts that I hope address the discussion on what’s wrong with us, as it relates to this passage in particular:

1. Whatever is wrong, however it weakens us, that is not God’s plan.

2. There are competing forces for our attention; we must learn how to use the tools that God provides to help us continue to live out of our “image bearing” selves.

3. This is serious. Pay attention.

4. Although God is awesome, he expects us to do the work of preparation.

5. Be humble; accept help.

6. Spiritual disciplines result in quantifiable actions - truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation. These are more than concepts; they are guideposts for living.

7. Stay alert; pray.

8. Encourage one another.


These eight or so concepts are weapons to combat spiritual kryptonite. They are our suit of armor.


How would you evaluate your readiness?

How to resist your vulnerabilities

The way Superman beats Kryptonite Man is in a Kryptonite resistant suit. Evidently. I don’t really know, but google says so (Note from the nerdy editor: He also recharges by getting exposure to the sun- there’s probably a good metaphor in there somewhere as well).



How do we beat our vulnerabilities? How do we live out of our virtue and not our fears, frustrations and freak outs?



Well, now, that’s a long story.



But the same experts who teach us about our virtue and the assaults on our virtue that result in us justifying the unjustifiable and living in anger, pride, deceit, envy, avarice, fear, gluttony, lust and sloth suggest that it has to do with practicing spiritual disciplines that have the unique capacity to protect us from our particular form of kryptonite.



So maybe...we too need to acquire a suit that is resistant to our vulnerabilities.



10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. 13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

~ Ephesians 6:10-18 MSG


Learn how to apply them. This seems important.



To be continued...

Sometimes we lose touch with our virtue

Superman was the embodiment of the image of God. He stood for truth, justice and the American way. He played roles in cartoons, television and film (so very successful - our icon of a Super Power!). Superman had extraordinary gifts - great strength, the ability to fly and other super powers. In my research I found this statement describing him: “the ideal superior man of the future who could rise above conventional Christian morality to create and impose his own values, as described by Friedrich Nietzsche in The Spake Zarathustra (1883-5).” Who knew?



But Superman was not all “virtue” - he had his vulnerability. His was kryptonite. Kryptonite is a green crystal whose strange emission of radiation renders Superman weak and sick. Harmless in small doses to mere mortals, it was toxic to Superman.



If it is true that each of us is born with a particular virtue, than those that believe this also purport that we have our own unique kryptonite. When we lose touch with our virtue we freak out. Because we are created to live with the capacity for expressing this particular virtue that represents the character of God, when we lose touch with this “image of God bearing” self, we are in a state of discomfort. Our dis-ease forces us to try to soothe ourselves; we justify why we can let go of our divine call to show up and represent God; we choose instead to grab for something that makes us feel more comfortable and less vulnerable. This is the way kryptonite works on us - but in very particular ways. Our vulnerability is directly related to our particular virtue.



The way we justify? Through resentment, flattery, vanity, melancholy, stinginess, cowardice, planning, vengeance and indolence.



How these justifications manifest themselves? Through anger, pride, deceit, envy, avarice, fear, gluttony, lust and sloth.



To fully understand these vulnerabilities we would need to unpack them in detail. As best as you can tell from this inadequate description, what is your kryptonite?

What is your kryptonite?

Venture further with me into my imagination and what you might notice is the way I am thinking about how each of us shows up in our respective communities in this one particular “way” (virtue) AND when we all keep showing up, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.



Could this be true? I hope so.



It takes a bit of the weight off, right? When I am faced with the potential to “bear God’s image” - that is pretty overwhelming. But created to hold and carry and share one particular part of the image of God? That sounds awesome.



Additionally, it allows for the need for all of us to show up for community, which I happen to believe with all my heart. But do we have to show up and be all the parts of God? No way! That’s codependency run amok!



Again, I can breathe. Because it occurs to me that if I was created to bear one particular part of the overall image of God, maybe I am uniquely created to thrive in the bringing of this one true thing. But I am NOT responsible for bringing all things. Just one.



For example, I can bring the courage, but courage isn’t the only characteristic of God needed for any and every situation. Our community gathers once a month for a potluck dinner. We have stopped trying to keep lists and control the outcome. Some months we have mostly desserts (my favorite months), other times we make all the carnivores among us extremely happy as we have loads of meat but few veggies. Once a month a potluck is a fun adventure. But on a daily basis, I strive for more balance.



Daring to believe that we all have one primary virtue (don’t drag out the analogy too far, we can at various times be virtuous in other ways too) that our tribe desperately needs us to bring to the table helps me wake up to both my potential and my problems.



In a truly paradoxically and balanced fashion, it turns out that for every virtue, there is an equal and opposite temptation to be lacking in virtue. If my virtue is courage, then I am more prone than others to be plagued by cowardice. See how that works?



This self-awareness can be a huge motivator for further exploration. But for today - think about this: what is your virtue? What is your kryptonite?

You DO have a virtue

Lately I’ve been wrestling with what it means, really means, to be created in the image of God (and our propensity to forget this truth). I’ve known this truth for many decades, but what exactly does it MEAN? When the scriptures tell us that the earth is God’s footstool, does that mean that we can be larger-than-life figures who can also rest our feet on earth like it’s a trendy pouf (those little round footstools in cool fabrics)? No. That cannot be right.



Do you know anything about the enneagram? If not, here’s a piece of it that pertains to this discussion. According to the enneagram, there are 9 “types” that represent each of our driving motivations. One aspect of this tool is a description of how each number has a particular “virtue.” Here are the nine virtues: serenity, humility, authenticity, equanimity, non-attachment, courage, sobriety, innocence and action. In this system, a holy virtue is the type-specific gift that each “type” has the capacity to contribute to the world.



This concept has caught my imagination. It has made me return again and again to this biblical notion that mankind is made “in the image of God” and I wonder - do each of us have the capacity to bear the image of God in a very specific, particular way?





I do love this idea; I hope it is true. I am intrigued to imagine that my baby body came pre-wired with the capacity to hold one particular characteristic of God.



For the next few days, we will wrestle with what this might mean for each of us. In the meantime, I wonder: do you have a sense of which virtue you are most capable of bringing to the world?