"Who are you talking to?"

The Entourage

I’ve been walking away from God for several weeks. I hadn’t even realized my direction had changed. The crazy distractions of the holidays are only partly to blame. A slow slide of my own small lazy choices was what shifted my inner compass and landed me in inner chaos.

I lost a necessary morning routine that keeps me focused. My morning meditation, my daily 'time out' is a needed sanity in my life. That time reminds me about larger things like God's ability, and my dependence. That time reminds me to open my clenched fist and release things I have no business owning. That time reminds me I'm in a real relationship with an invisible Deity. But, sleep conquered my morning alarm, and stole that time away. My spiritual start of the day disappeared; day after day, no Bible meditation, no prayer, no journal. Losing that necessary anchor in my life, I stopped listening to sacred ancient Words, and started listening to myself. I stopped talking to God and started talking, and even worse, listening to my entourage.

I have an entourage. It’s not the same as the HBO series, Entourage. Mine doesn’t involve a hot on-the-rise New York actor surrounded by his childhood friends, navigating the unfamiliar terrain of Hollywood. My entourage is very different than the TV series. But in a small sense there’s a similarity. I’m like the actor who is walking an uncharted life with his ever-present group. I have uncharted territory. I have an ever-present group. Except, I need to ignore mine.

Not to sound too crazy, but my entourage isn’t real people. It is voices. Some people call the same thing “old tapes” that replay themselves. I have one friend who calls them “The Committee.” We're all talking about the same thing. These are the voices of self-lies, old patterns, past failures, temptations, and weaknesses. They are the remnants of life-events that God has used to let me fail, and bleed, and learn.

The members of my entourage are all ‘bad ju-ju’. They walk behind me, and always with me -- like Golum always behind Frodo, in Lord of the Rings, or John Nash's constant invisible companions in A Beautiful Mind.
They pretend to be allies, but they aren't. And if I chose to listen to them, or worse, to believe them, I end-up being mean, unfaithful, dishonest, paralyzed by fear, or driven by shame. Misdirected. It's the truth. Ask anybody who spend the first part of Christmas break with me. I was listening to the Entourage, and I was not pleasant to be around.

The good news is: They are conquered. They are all weaker than me, and silenced. I am no longer a slave to their voices. God’s Spirit has delivered me from the power of my entourage, one by one. But they have not disappeared. They still follow.

In strong times, they have no audience with me. They are silent and subdued companions. In weak times, they move in close. I liken it to second-hand smoke for a smoker. When a vulnerable moment shows itself, their lighters come out, and the pipes are lit with a sweet clove vanilla smoke. It floats under the locked doors in my mind, and I smell it. Usually I’m not lured to sit down, inhale, and start up a conversation with the smokers.

But, in disconnected times, when I stop talking to God, I forget. I forget why the entourage was banished from my attention. I forget that they are liars and they do their best to derail me. And if I forget, I am vulnerable. I smell the second-hand smoke and recognize the familiar voices, and invite them to join me as I walk. I start to inhale their poison.

In a biblical sense, my flesh starts getting my attention, my conversation, my heart. In reality, in a day, that means my walking conversation is with my entourage instead of God. Which is a heartbreaking reality, especially when I think about the fact that God’s Spirit – my companion and counselor -- is right there, listening to me talk to 'the guys', and not Him. And, the fallout is pretty nasty.

My focus, becomes my self. I start seeking my own counsel, and the counselors are warped. Family issues arise and I start working it all out in my head, playing out what needs to be done, on my own. I find myself rehearsing conversations in the shower. Or, hashing and re-hashing my past mistakes, as though they can be undone. The smoke I'm inhaling is shame, and I start listening to myself about how messed up I am. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not, not, not … blah, blah, blah. Sometimes, in response, like a sick and well-rehearsed play, the temptations light up and blow sweet smoke about how to escape from all this misery. My inner reality warps like a melting mirror and life starts to feel hopeless and chaotic. I start to feel far from God.

But He didn't move. I did.

In those times, my focus and direction it’s all about who I believe. And that's all about who I’m talking to, and listening to. And the answer is as simple.

So, when I finally sat down the other day, to "time out" myself and meditate, the simplest thing shook me. Somehow, inaudibly but clearly, I heard some voice ask me, "Who are you talking to?" It felt more like a thought than something spoken. And my answer was clear. I've been talking to my self ... to the entourage. And it was painfully clear, I have to start a different conversation.

So, at the kitchen sink, in the bathroom, in the car, outside in the yard, at my in-law's house, I've re-started the conversation in the right direction. I've stopped myself, and told the entourage to 'shut it' and 'talk to the hand.' My thoughts and words are headed to my higher Power, and it has been shocking to realize the difference. My heart feels softer somehow. I have more peace. And it's just about simple attention. It's just prayer. That's all.

An ancient writer named Brother Lawrence wrote this and it nutshells this whole idea:
"I keep myself by a simple attention ... or to put it another way, a habitual silent, and secret conversation of the soul with God."
I'm not an expert at this by any means. But given the change in my countenance, even with my clutsy attempts at consistent prayer, I highly recommend it. In everyday moments when there's an inner battle threatening to take you down, tell your 'entourage' to 'talk to the hand.' Redirect your inner conversation in a better direction.
"Who are you listening to?"
"Who are you talking to?"

Turns out, it matters.


"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down."
(The Bible 'the message' version -- phil 4:6-7)

"and the peace of God that transcends all understanding
will guard your heart and minds in Jesus."
(The Bible 'NIV' version phil 4:7)


KELLY said...

Wow Kel . . . I love how you can describe so intimately and precisely what I so often feel, and more importantly, what I need to hear!! Today, I specifically asked Him for direction, and He has shown up several times. And to top it, He continually uses Phil 4:6-7 to simply give me direction. I love how He shines through you. Love you . . . thanks for sharing!!

All 4 My Gals said...

I am Kelly's sister in law. I am so glad she shared your blog with me. You are a beautiful writer and I look forward to learning from your precious wisdom.

In Him,

Kleigh said...

Nicole! Welcome to the Spill! I have already read YOUR blog also -- because of Kelly. 'Will add yours to my favorite blogs list!

Watch, in the next week I'm about to write about our 54 year old Down's aunt, Luann. SHe is close to our hearts, but probably not even remotely as close as your daughter is to yours. I appreciate your insights on t21.

Thanks, Kelly, for sharing your friends!