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Being, Not Doing - Rande Howell's New Book
Rande Howell is a Christian counsellor and author. His latest book, “Rare Peace, Raging World”, is described as follows:
“Rare Peace, Raging World” is about finding and maintaining an elusive inner peace while living in this raging world. It's about coming to peace with yourself and the world in which you live. At the core “Rare Peace, Raging World” is about discovering the inner conflict that we all experience as human beings, but avoid out of our discomfort (Hebrew 2:14-15). And by avoiding the war going on within the self, we keep ourselves from knowing the peace Christ promises us and the potential we have as human beings.
This is not your everyday Christianity. You will learn the skills necessary to create peace of mind while living in this raging world. By reclaiming the forgotten Christian skills of calming the stress in your body and mind, you can be much better equipped to know the peace that Christ offers. And you will find out about the war raging in your mind that blinds you to the abundant life Christ promises -- and what to do about it.
Rande kindly consented to answer some questions from me.
* Please tell me a little about yourself, your book and your ideas.
I characterize myself as a prodigal son poster child – who, in his rehabilitation from the disaster of growing up in a toxic Christian extended family in the South, rediscovered Christ. And, in that journey into new life, there was a transformation of who I am in the world. Before a radical encounter with Christ, I practiced marketing and advertising as a profession – and held Christians in suspicion. After the smoke cleared about 15 years ago, I became a Christian therapist and now practice in Charlotte, NC. Tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor! Now, instead of attacking Christians for their beliefs, I have a ministry that helps Christians heal their human and spiritual brokenness. It’s an interesting journey.
Though I left the structure of Christianity for a number of years, my need to explore my spirituality never waned. Coming back to Christianity prepared me to have new eyes to see with. In particular, I began to see that the body, the mind, and the Spirit could not be separated into neat little individual packets. They were integrated and had to be addressed as a whole in order for a more radical healing and transformation to occur within the self – particularly if we want to know peace of mind. Biblically, Christ points this out in the greatest commandment (love God with all you heart, mind, soul, and strength).
This is really where the inspiration for “Rare Peace, Raging World” came from. I came to understand that our identity (who we believe we are) is integrated into the neuro-circuitry of our memories (the flesh), as well as the mind (our thoughts) that emerges from our flesh and something beyond thought – the Spiritual.
Putting a human face on the inter-related dynamics of this is the aim of “Rare Peace, Raging World”. What the book helps people to discern is the war going on with the self that the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 7:14-21. Most of us remain oblivious to the nature of this war. We keep looking for it outside of us; but it is right there going on in our mind – right under our noses so to speak. We experience it in the internal dialogue going on in our minds. As Paul points out, we ignore the internal dialogue going on within at our own peril.
* You have written that “the secret of peace of mind remains elusive to the vast majority of [Christian] seekers”. Why is this?
There is no single reason that peace of mind remains elusive to people. First, it takes motivation and a willingness to confront ourselves (seems strange that peace of mind would start with confrontation). Our brain will always seek an easy answer and want to stay in the comfort zone – that is what it is designed to do. It takes courage to step out of our comfort zone and explore the unknowable in faith. The body (and mind) sees this as a threat to self and triggers to avoidance. That’s the simply biology of it. Without learning how to regulate the body and emotions and how to still the mind, we never learn the skills needed to know peace of mind. And these two skills are rarely taught in Sunday school.
The breakdown that I focus on in “Rare Peace, Raging World”, however, is that we are not equipped in our churches to reclaim peace of mind. We are equipped to be busy doing good. We are not taught how to rest in God’s peace. Walk into any church and you will see it – people are busy doing good. And the activity does produce the chemistry of feeling good. However, it is only a temporary fix, which is all the brain cares about. We have to still the mind and become aware of the internal dialogue going on within us to find peace. We are taught how to do for God, rather than to be with God. For peace of mind there needs to be a balance between doing and being.
I use the characters of Martha and Mary in “Rare Peace, Raging World” to demonstrate this. Martha is forever doing and is seen as an upstanding Christian, but feels discomfort when she is left alone with herself. Mary is a woman who is confronted by cancer. She is forced to look into the mirror at herself. She finds she doesn’t like who she has become and decides to change. She confronts her internal demons in Christ and discovers she is a very different person than she thought she was. Mary finds the courage to go beyond the busyness of her fear and rest in the love of God. Yet, she has to learn skills not taught in her church to equip her for her internal struggle.
* I’m fascinated by what you say is “one of the greatest failures of modern Christianity” – that is, the power of the flesh and the “emergent mind” to overwhelm our spirituality. Please elaborate on this.
This goes back to the need to learn how to regulate the body and emotions and still the mind. If the thinking brain attempts to get in the way of the primitive brain (mammalian brain), the primitive brain simply hijacks our capacity to think calmly and rationally. Think about the last time you had a bout of anger or an episode of fear. Thinking was blown out of the water. You end up saying and doing things that you later regret. That’s what an emotional hijacking looks like. Add to this that our brain (and hence our mind) is organized around fear and you have a dangerous situation. There is zero possibility to access our Spirituality in fear or anger states.
In modern Christianity we are taught to deal with temptation and impulse by thinking and will-power. This will not work for long. The flesh turns to impulse and the mind deceives itself. We forget about the importance of breath to manage our stress levels and bring forth our world. In Genesis God breathes the gift of life into Adam. In the New Testament, Christ breathes the Holy Spirit onto His disciples. What did we miss?
Ruah is an ancient Hebrew and Aramaic word that means breath, Holy Spirit, gift of life, sustainer of life, and wind. Before Christ breathes (ruahs) on His disciples, they are in a state of fear. After He breathes the Holy Spirit on them, they are in a state of joy. The ancient Hebrews, including Christ, clearly linked breathing and the Holy Spirit together. So can we.
We can calm down agitated emotional states (stress) by breathing. Herbert Benson, a noted research cardiologist, discovered that agitated emotional states could not be maintained while breathing diaphragmatically. Once you grasp that breathing is a major way of calming the body and mind down on a physical level, your attention then can be focused on the still, quiet voice of God within you. That is where flesh, the mind, and the Spirit come together. Breathing is more than just a physical act. To Christ, it was the way he anointed His disciples with the Holy Spirit. I believe the same anointing is available to us today.
Modern Christianity also does not teach us about our spiritual psychology. Go back to Romans 7:14-21 and you will discover Paul lays out a powerful understanding of our spiritual psychology. He acknowledges that there is an inherent part of the self (he calls it his inner being) that is good. He also acknowledges that evil lives within him and that there is a war going on within the members of his body for control of his mind. We see this in cartoons where an angel sits on one shoulder urging us to act from our higher self while a little red demon sits on the other tempting the cartoon character to act in self gratification. This is a personification of the internal conflict going on within all of us.
I call the various members of the body “voices on the stage of the self”. This is the internal dialogue going on in our minds. And it is the source of our internal conflict. So there is a voice that seeks to destroy us that is dwelling within the self as well as a part of the self that desires to do good, but is often thwarted by the power of the flesh to hijack the direction we want to take our minds. Fortunately, Christ tells us directly that He lives within us and that He knocks on our door. Our job is to redirect our attention away from the voices of temptation and deception that so easily sway our flesh to self-deception, and, instead, direct our attention to the Christ dwelling within.
This is what I teach people how to do in “Rare Peace, Raging World”. We find out who our identity is in Christ, rather than the lies we are told in our unmanaged mind. This brings me to the last failure I discuss in the book. Modern Christianity teaches “talk prayer” as a way of relating to Christ. Then we tell people, “Oh yeah, go find some silence so that you can know the Christ within you”. But we don’t teach people how to still the mind. Nor do we teach people how to confront the self-condemnation of the internal dialogue. No wonder people choose busyness as an escape from this internal struggle.
The Aramaic notion of prayer is quite different from this. The word slotha (Aramaic for prayer) literally means “Setting a trap to capture the thoughts of God”. A modern way of saying this would be to tune into the right channel so that you can hear God – rather than the distractions of this world. Prayer now includes the direction of paying attention to the silence to hear the voice of Christ. And remember, Christ says he is knocking on the door. We are not taught the skills to discern where the door is nor how to still the mind so we can hear the knocking. When we tune into that voice within the self (the indwelling Christ), we discover a whole new world. The possibility of who we are becomes more aligned with the desires of God and we feel that our cup is full to the beam.
The last concept is that we need to become spiritual warriors as Paul describes. We must take up our shield, put on our helmet, and pick up our sword. Then we can turn back to Christ (repent) and, in doing so, we have the courage to confront ourselves. In modern Christianity we are taught to be nice – like Christ was nice. Read your Bible and you will discover Christ was not always a nice guy. There are a lot of people who did not think Christ was nice – the Pharisees and Sadducees in particular. In fact, He so enraged them that they killed Him. He was relentless in opening the possibility of God to the world.
* I believe you run church programmes based on your writings. What happens at these? What kind of results do you achieve?
In my course based on the book and in my workshops, I first teach people to discern their internal dialogue. People are shocked to discover that a powerful debate has been going on in their mind – that they were unaware of. They are taught to discern the Accusing Voice that acts like a prosecuting attorney within the self. It’s the same voice that Christ met in the desert after His baptism and then again at Gethsemane where He was tempted to escape His death. People are also taught to discern the Adapted Voice within them. That is the one that feels like a wounded child and is impelled in a dialogue with the Accusing Voice.
This internal dialogue takes over the identity of a person – the person they have come to believe they are.
I also teach people how to access the voice of Christ within them. This is done by stilling the voices on the stage of the self and discovering that Christ is knocking on your inner door. People also discover that they are built in the likeness of God and are lovable – no matter what. Christ has already died for you. This is not a debate. You matter so much that He was willing to lay His life down so that you might reclaim your life.
By using guided meditations, people also confront the lies the prosecuting attorney attempts to convince you of. This is the awakening of the spiritual warrior within the self. Then, in the silence, resting in the assurance of God’s love, people find peace.
People ask why they have never been taught this before. If they are motivated, they develop the tools taught to deepen the healing of their brokenness and open themselves up to new life. It’s really an amazing process to witness. It can be taught in a conservative Southern Baptist Church or a liberal Episcopal Church. The ideas, at first, seem radical, but are Biblically grounded. I feel honoured and humbled to have the opportunity to see people reclaim the dignity of their lives. Christ becomes the ground to their being – and not the history they have been.
* Rande, thank you very much.
July 22nd, 2007