Thursday, May 24, 2012

Image, Mirage & Flaws

I've been thinking a lot lately about living an authentic life... Being honest in front of everyone even if they think me weak for all my flaws. It is a scary thought, all this being exposed to those around you... Even sometimes being exposed to God can be... I mean He knows all but telling Him I've failed somehow seems even more fearful than just realizing he already knows. The paradox is, He wants us to confess our shortcomings to Him even though He knows... It is actually better for us even though it may not feel that way at the time.

So, why does it feel bad to admit we don't have it all together, we've failed or stumbled along the way of life? If it's so good to live honestly before people and before God why do I just want to cover my mistakes up and pretend they never happened... I think there are a few reasons, the obvious being our culture molds us to want to put the best image forward and people who make mistakes in the public eye are nearly slaughtered by media these days... But the problem with putting the best image forward is that image is only a mirage and even if you're fooling everybody else you know those people don't even know the real you much less are they able to make a decision on whether or not they like the real you. Maybe not so obvious to most of us: when we admit to our flaws and mistakes we can actually help others get over their own! You see, if you are just being real with people and God you have nothing to hide, your thoughts, actions and love are freed up to show the real you and people will love you for it! I've found the more authentic I am the more people gravitate to me and when they find out I've made a mistake and admitted it somehow they find confidence in themselves to confess and move forward from their own mistakes... Mistakes are not the end of us, they are what causes us to plant a seed of repentance and watch faith grow strong. The last reason I want to touch on is we do have an adversary who knows that the only thing strong enough to keep us away from God is un-repented sin... If sin remains unrecognized, un-admitted, un-confessed or covered up we can't possibly repent and turn from it so he wins on the grounds only of us not moving forward... Our battle is lost simply because we are too fearful or prideful to take a moment of embarrassment in admitting something everyone already knows.. We are not perfect. Are you kidding me!? Why would we ever give up a battle we know can be won over embarrassment!? That's like a battalion of soldiers retreating from an enemy force bearing no weapons but with prettier fatigues... CRAZY! "But then I decided to confess my sins to the LORD. I stopped hiding my guilt and told you about my sins. And you forgave them all!" Psalm 32:5 (Easy-to-Read Version)

So now that I've hopefully helped you see what's holding us back from living authentically and why those ways of thinking should not hold you back... Here's some encouragement in the right direction:
  • People actually will like you more for being real! I mean, this should be a given but because I also face the same insecurities as you here's a tweet from someone just a few minutes after I shared some of my fears with in hopes she could learn from them: " I like real people, just throwing that out there.." - Alanna G
  • God promises us that we can prosper and find mercy if we not only admit to our sins but stop doing the same kind of sin over and over! "Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy!" - Proverbs 28:13
  • God will help you overcome your sins! If you will admit to wrongdoing and make up your own mind to turn away from it God will purify you and help you! "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 (NIV)
  • Even your worst moments work together to make you more beautiful! "Never be afraid to let the best parts of you show... or the worst. They all make you beautiful" - Joseph Ranseth
  • Admitting our own flaws helps keep us humble and reminds us we are no better than anyone else... When we are aware of our own issues it makes us less likely to point out the shortcomings of others and we all know how people look when they are putting others down.. "No one has ever made himself great by showing how small someone else is." - Irvine Himmel as tweeted by Inspirational Quotes.
So there it is in a nutshell... We need to be more accepting of flaws.. Of our own flaws. Don't go covering them up, we all see them anyway. Covering up your flaws doesn't help anyone, we can all see the make-up line my dear. We can all use a little taste of humble pie by recognizing we are not perfect, we fail every day somehow.  We can all also use a little pill of relief when we see the people around us living honestly with their own flaws, "Thank goodness it's not just me!" Recognizing you're not perfect will help you beyond what you're probably thinking... It will help you with compassion toward others, understanding, patience, love, sympathy, empathy and the list goes on... So this weeks challenge? Be honest! Don't cover who you are, stop with the mirage already, be vulnerable and watch how your relationship not only with others but with God take a huge growth spurt!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Whitney Houston: A Cautionary Tale

One of Whitney Houston's best projects (in my opinion) was The Preacher's Wife... Both film and record... I still have a most of the songs from that project on my iPod actually... And when I was listening to it at work the other day I couldn't help but hear a portion of the lyric in "I love the Lord" and think about Whitney's tragic life... Now, I'm not one to give sympathy away easily and I am one of those who believe, though it's sad, Whitney made her life's choices freely and knowing the road it could and most likely lead her down was dark and fearful... I can't help but wonder if before her final hours she ever thought of "I'll hasten to His throne..."

As I was contemplating the lyric as it related to her now life I realized although it's too late for Mrs. Houston there is a caution we need to head out of what has happened and this song...

"I love the the Lord, he heard my cry
And pitied every groan, long as I, I live
And troubles rise, I hasten to his throne...

Tears are streaming down my eyes
I'll hasten, I'll hasten to his throne

Yes I will, I'll run
I know I can go to his throne
I know I can go, I know I can go
I'll hasten, I'm gonna run
I know I can go, I know I can go
I'll hasten, I'll hasten to his throne

See I can run, Lord you know I will
When there is nowhere to go I know I can go to you
I know I can run to you oh
I'll hasten, I'll hasten to his, his throne
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
I'll hasten, hasten to his throne
Surely gonna be here..."

I do love the Lord and I hasten to His throne every chance I get... And therein lies the difference, every chance I get.  Although God is our helper, present in the time of trouble (Psalm 46:1) He is not only there for troubling time... Unfortunately, the human condition being such as it is, there are times we don't even know trouble is on the way, sometimes that trouble can cuts life short and if that's the case there would be no time to hasten to His throne before we reach His judgement seat... Then what is there left to say? "Sorry I haven't paid any attention to you lately, I didn't think there was any reason because there was no trouble..."

Another problem with hastening to the throne only in the time of trouble is we get less and less likely to hasten at all... We start thinking "Oh, God will be there when I need Him, I'll just live my life the way I want until then..." we take for granted the sacrifice for sin and allow our sins to pile up... We start thinking "this sin isn't that bad, God won't even notice it..." and because we've excused sin as being "Not that bad" we excuse repentance and go on living without God's approval over our lives (God and sin or light and darkness cannot co-exist therefore un-repented sin separates Him from us (1 John 1:5.)

Lastly, while we are waiting to hasten in the time of trouble we are creating our own obstacles... Piling sin upon sin, adding embarrassment and searing our own conscience to the effects of what we are pursuing.  If the time ever comes that we are ready to hasten to His throne we now hold ourselves back because of the embarrassment we've created, we now have an almost unbearable weight of baggage to bear and we've forgotten who we were created for "For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him" Colossians 1:6 and what we were created for "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" Ephesians 2:10,  "everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory..." Isiah 43:7.

So all in all what I am saying is don't only hasten to His throne in times of trouble... It may be too late then.  Hasten every chance you get, hasten in this moment, excuse yourself from where ever you are and find a place where you can be alone and just whisper something to God... Not long, drawn out or even loud, just a few words to reach out to Him in this moment.

Love you all,

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Twist & The Challenge

Don't you just love when someone makes you feel like the only person in the room even though you're surrounded by many others?  I suppose it could be horrible if it was because you were being put on the spot or embarassed... But no negatives on this rainy day!  I'm talking about when you feel like the most loved person on earth!  When you know someone is going out of their way just to see you smile and brighten your day.  Those moments when without words being spoken we are shown how much we mean to someone!  I love those times (although, for the record, it's good to confess your feelings... Someone won't read your signs well if you've never actually verbalized any part of your heart yet...)
Lately I've been thinking about these little things a lot... If you read my blog regularily you know I'm big on letting people know they are loved, cared for and considered in my life.  Even though I do my best to show love I don't necessarily expect others to show their love for me to the same extent but I do love when they do!

I had been praying a considerable amount of time for a new level in my relationship... I didn't know what exactly it would entail but I guess I sort of wanted it to go back (in some ways) to the way it used to be. Don't get this wrong, I love the progress we've made and I don't want to lose the maturity I just wanted some of the sensitivity to return... That first love feeling.  Thankfully, over the past month I've been getting just that... But I've found that the things I expected to change haven't; instead, I've been doing some changing of my own. Because I want to improve my relationship I've been putting more time into it... Spending more time reading about how to improve it... Listening to music that reminds me of Him even when I am at work... Going home early just to have some extra quality time... And trying even harder to express my feelings and wants verbally. And the crazy thing is, He hasn't changed at all, He's not doing one thing differently than before but I am so much more inhamered with Him it would most likely make some people ill! haha!

Now, the twist: I'm actually talking about God... When I first turned my life over to God I could sit with Him in silence forever... Sit at the alter long after others had gone... He was in my thoughts continuously... But that had all changed, I spent more time watching tv than sitting with Him, placing my life before His alter and thinking of Him combined... Not because I stopped loving him I had just become complacent.

So here's the Challenge: the exact same challenge I gave to myself... If you love Him and want change or if you just want to get to know Him for yourself, maybe you don't even know you believe any of this and question His existance, no matter the situation the challenge remains... Change yourself, try spending time with Him in silence or listen to Christian music instead of a love song to someone you don't even know or go to the alter at your church this Sunday and stay until you feel God, talk to that God you're not sure exists tell Him if He is real you want to know Him for yourself... He will respond to you! Turn the TV off an hour earlier than normal and READ YOUR BIBLE and PRAY EVERYDAY for at least a week (that one is a guarantee to change)! Remember "No great thing is created suddenly." - Epictetus (as tweeted by Philosophers Quotes so give it at least a week to see the change.  Lastly, let me know if you've taken me up on the challenge and how it's gone for you!

"Prepare for a chance of a lifetime. Be prepared for sensational news. A shining new era is tiptoeing nearer!" - Scar (as tweeted by Disney Words)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Like a Rock

Anyone love that Chev commercial and sing along!? No, just me... Great :oP Actually, that song is not the inspiration for this blog, just what I thought of as I typed the title. I am back on Twitter so come follow me! Being back on Twitter I found the quote below and decided it was begging to be expounded upon. (ooohh, look at my use of large words! haha!)

"Like a rock, you must be hard. Like an oak, you must stand firm. Cut quick like my blade. Think fast, unafraid. –Mulan (as tweeted by Disney Words.)

"Like a rock, you must be hard..." Mama always taught me "Don't wear your feelings on your sleeve..." I frequently can hear her voice telling me "You've gotta toughen up a little, grow a thicker skin..." when I would get upset because I heard someone speak negatively about me.  I suppose that's all a part of life and we do need to "be hard." But can I remind us, in all of our toughness, past those sleeves where our feelings no longer hang and the thick skin we should remain soft toward others and toward God... Please remember none of us were born perfect and since you're probably not reading this blog from glory I think we can establish you haven't reached perfection and been translated or taken up in a chariot either... Of course although I'm writing a bit tongue-in-cheek I am serious about remaining soft... Vulnerable... Mould-able... Kind... Sensitive. I'm sure, especially if you're male, you consider some (if not all) of the last four adjectives to be for the weak... But I challenge you to flip the script, do you not need courage and strength to show your soft side, be vulnerable, allow your perspectives and/or actions to be moulded, to be kind to another person who may not have shown you the same consideration the past and to remain sensitive to others and God after experiencing such pain in your past?

"...Like an oak, you must stand firm..." Something I've unfortunately had to learn the hard way is you have to stand firm for yourself and your beliefs... Through junior high I did not stand up for much of what I believed in, or the things I didn't believe in for that matter... Not that I was drinking, smoking, robbing and doing drugs (I wasn't) but I was far from an reflection of God's love. Don't read into this incorrectly, I'm not in any way saying you should shove your beliefs down the throat of another I'm just saying don't have a jelly spine... If all your friends are going on a bender and you don't believe in drinking just say "no thanks" and smile, if those people are actually your friends they will be okay with your "no," they will realize your "no" to drinking (or whatever you are saying no to in any given situation) is not a "no" to the friendship.  True friends will respect a "no" instead of trying to make you feel like an idiot for not wanting to drink for three days and barf for ten and eventually people will respect you more for standing firm even if they haven't stood up for themselves.  My best friend, Amanda, stood firm in her beliefs all through school and I could see the difference of respect people had for her than for me... Everyone knew I claimed to be Christian yet didn't show God through my actions and because of that who would listen to my witness?  Thankfully I turned that around in High School and haven't looked back since.

"...Think fast, unafraid." Did you know the phrase "fear not!" is written more than any other command in the Bible?  2 Timothy 1:7 says "For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline." (American Standard Version) God doesn't want us to be fearful, he wants our first thoughts of help to be of Him! He is there for us, so think fast of Him and ask for His help! Jeremiah 33:3 "Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know." God's got this, relax!

"...Cut quick like my blade..."  Uh-oh, here's where we run into problems... We should not be quick to cut! One of my greatest lessons in life was taught to me by the Pastor of One Church in Halifax, NS, Justin MacKenzie (he went to Bible College in my City and used to be youth pastor at Capital Community.)  I had a lot of hurt in my life growing up and very little trust left over for anyone else... Because of my past I was very raw to anything I perceived as negativity toward me and I would lash out with cutting words of anger.  I would make it a point to quickly learn where the most sensitive area of a person was in case I ever needed to "defend myself." The problem was without knowing it I had also begun to not only defend myself but to hurt first...  My mantra had become "get them first... go for the jugular." and I was proud of it.  One Wednesday night after a youth service Justin caught me in one of my "get them first moments" and told me I needed to be aware of myself, consider others and realize how hurtful I could be... I think his words were somewhere along the lines of "that's enough. You can be mean not funny sometimes you know. Think about what you're doing and saying before you speak... You have a tendency of cutting people down and being harsh when you don't need to. If someone says something about you, you have to be able to let it ride. God will take care of anything false or people who are being mean, spreading rumors if you allow Him to." (my paraphrase of course.) At the time I was angry with Justin, he embarrassed me... On some level I'm sure I knew he was right but at the time I just wanted to be cool. I've now realized Justin was right all along, sarcasm isn't always okay... Yes, it's used as a defence but it's definitely overused... We need to be careful that our "defences" never become "get them firsts." We need to love each other, be kind... John 13:35 says "This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (New International Version) if we don't have love we cannot be known as His followers. Think of it this way, the Bible teaches that God is love... His very essence consists of love, love is what drove Jesus to the cross for people that didn't even know about Him. If we don't know love or show love we are not only unknown as followers of God but we do not know Him. 1 John 4:8 "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." And if the word of God doesn't convince you to show love instead of being so quick to cut let's go back to Disney Words "It's not easy to find someone to see your best." - Piglet, Whinnie the Pooh. Let's make it a little easier for people to find a person to see their best, see them through God's eyes...  "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." - Plato (as tweeted by Philosophers Quotes.)