Avert Your Eyes

MBA

Women are a funny creation, I’d love to have a one on one conversation with the Creator of the World about how women work.  I want to know how much of our way of thinking, behavior, etc is just “how we are wired” and how much is a result of the fall.  How emotional did God really want for us to be?  How complicated were we intended to be?  When woman first bit that piece of fruit, why is it that her mind became a pile of yarn balls all unraveled and going in so many directions at once?  Why did men get the capacity to compartmentalize things and function so differently with thought and deed?  We both ate of the tree of knowledge, yet our brains work so entirely differently.  Why?

It is a mystery.

Interestingly enough, what also happened after woman bit that apple… she saw herself.  She felt shame and guilt.  And, she hid from God.  Until that moment, the Lord had blinders on her eyes.  She saw Him, she saw Adam, she knew her God given task and purpose.  When she bit of the apple, those blinders fell off.   “What if” entered the world.  “What if God didn’t say ….”.  “What if I take a bite…”.  “What if I didn’t hear God correctly…”.

What if.

Throughout the scriptures there are cries out to God to be seen.  See me, search me, do not cast your face from me, see your people, hear your people, help your people…

Eve hid from God.  Eve said… do not see me.  Do not find me.  Do not cast your gaze upon me.  Do not search me.   She didn’t want to be found in her shame and her guilt.

Avert your eyes.

But the Lord looked for them, he sought them out in their shame, held them accountable, and then as He always does… he made a way out.

I’ve known so many women who want to be seen.  They want their spouses to see them, instead of take them for granted.  They want their children to see them,  and consider them worthy of praise.  They want their parent to see them and apologize for past hurts.  They want their boss to see them and recognize their efforts.  They want their church to see them and welcome their gifts.  They want world to see them and say you add value and are worthy to know.

And yet, some of these same women will hide from those who see too much.   When a spouse gets too close, and they feel vulnerable… they push him away.  When the children begin to see through her perfect mom facade, she builds up taller walls and come up with new covers to her sin.  A parent who desires to fix the past will be kept at arms reach because of fear, we do not want to be hurt again.  Women don’t want their bosses to know how much they sacrificed for the job, because they fear it shows weakness vs. strength.  A woman  who wants the church to see her gift but hides the journey to faith that brought her there.  Women who want the world to see them, but only the parts they want to be seen.

Women are complicated creations.  By our design or as a result of our choices, we seem to have the ability to complicate our lives even more than they need to be.  We say we want authenticity in our friendships, but we do not want vulnerability.  We say that we want iron sharpens iron friendships, yet we do not understand that for iron to be strengthened it’s weaknesses must be exposed.  We would rather our friends look up at us as a model of inspiration versus walk with us through our valleys.  We put on a show, get a circle of friends, build relationships… always keeping our arms stretched out so that no one can get too close.

From a distance our cracks and fractures are not as noticeable.  From a distance we can put on a show and no one can see us reading from the cue cards.  From a distance our grand actions are easily seen but our slight of hand goes unnoticed.  From a distance we look holy and righteous, masking our sin and deprivation.  From a distance we appear to have it all together, all of the right answers, the perfect family… no one can see the brokenness behind our closed doors.

Social media has made the perfect playground for superficial relationships, because we can connect with hundreds and thousands of people… posting our perfectly thought out words, edited photographs, and stories spun to make our lives look like a highlight reel of perfection.  When those people began to infiltrate our real lives, and see how we really live… that facade can only last so long.  When they get too close and begin to the see the truth, we cut them out and replace them with someone new.  Cycling our “friends” in and out of our lives to protect the image we have created for ourselves.

We tackle authenticity from a place of mentor to mentee versus a mutual relationship of accountability.  We want others to be authentic with us, so that we can use our gifts, talents, knowledge, wisdom, et’al to help them.   Yet we dare not expose the thorns in our sides, the planks in our eyes, and our sin to those whom we consider our closest friends.   When they come across them and call our attention to it, we are quick to dismiss it.  Quick to blame, and quick to create distance.  We speak truth in love, but I question how much love is really there.  We speak personal conviction as biblical mandate, standing on a soap box of righteousness that is filled with worms.  We are quick to label others sins and quantify them as more terrible than our own, so that when the time comes we can stop the friendship and feel no remorse.

Righteous indignation is easier than self retrospection.

So, we hide.  We hide from God under the guise that our sin is not as bad as others.  We tell ourselves that God is angrier about greater sins in the world, than this little thing I have done.  We hide from those who love us, because we fear that if they see us for who we really are they will leave… judge… or hold us accountable to change.  We hide from ourselves by focusing so much on how others have wronged or hurt us, that we can put our own sin on the back burner.

We want others to avert their eyes to us, while we look at them under a microscope.

Lord help us to be vulnerable with one another, to walk our roads not alone but in the company of our family of believers, let us not fear accountability, and help us to stop hiding from you.

Disappointment Stings

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Have we not all been there, at one point or another, where disappointment strikes…. and it stings.   We feel the sting of disappointment in ourselves, because we failed to make the right decision.  Or, we may feel the sting of disappointment by others who failed us in some way or failed to live up to our expectations.  We may even feel the sting of disappointment when God doesn’t answer our prayers in a certain matter, despite feeling as if we are being faithful to His word and commands.   There are even times we are disappointed not in ourselves, other people, or God….  but just in the outcome.  Everyone may have done everything just right, but the outcome simply didn’t meet expectations.

When I was a child, I remember asking my mother for a clock radio for Christmas.  I had pointed out the one I wanted several times in store.  It was really cool, to a middle school aged child.  Classic 1980’s bright colors, digital screen, lots of buttons to do a lot of different things.  It was amazing.  This particularly year would be the only year in which I decided to sneak a peak at what my mom bought for Christmas presents.  I can’t recall if she hadn’t wrapped them yet or if I actually went through the process of unwrapping the package… but there it was… a clock radio.  However, it was not THE clock radio.  I was disappointed.  Not only was I disappointed, but I knew it was too late to get the one I wanted.  On Christmas morning, I opened that gift and set it aside.  I didn’t have the reaction my mother expected because I not only already knew what it was… I already knew I didn’t like it.  At that time, I couldn’t really grasp the struggles my mom faced trying to give us what we desired within the realm of what she afford.  I just knew I didn’t get what I asked for.

As a child, I didn’t understand limitations.  I believed you asked for things for Christmas, and you got them.  As we become adults, we must be able to let go of that child like expectation.

My mother did the best finding compromise between what I wanted and what she could afford.

Fast forward a few years, to my sixteenth birthday.  For the better part of the summer, I was working with my mom.  Every day we passed a used car dealership and I saw this beautiful car that I desperately wanted.  I have an affinity for classic cars, and this one was a beauty.  It was a 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback and it was in my favorite color… green.  I knew that my summer job wouldn’t pay for THAT car.  I didn’t expect anyone would buy that car for my birthday either, I knew it wasn’t a “cheap” car.  I did however have an understanding of how much money I would need, and was willing to work for it.  On my sixteenth birthday, I woke up to an empty house.  There was a card on the counter, when I opened it… it read… It is green.  It’s a horse.  It’s in the driveway.  Then tucked in the car was a key that had a Ford symbol on it.  It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out… and I ran out the door as fast as my feet could take me.

However, in the driveway there was NOT a 1967 Ford Mustang.  Instead, there was a 1976 Ford Pinto Station Wagon.  My expression changed, I turned around, went back to my bedroom and cried.   My grandmother called me ungrateful… but she didn’t know about the car I saw every day on the way to work with my mom.  It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the car I was given, or what it took for my mom to buy it for me. In fact, I had not expected a car in the first place.  I grew to LOVE that car.   However, the way the message was conveyed caused me to believe one thing… when something else was delivered.  So, yes, I was disappointed at the time.

Part of being a mature Christian, I believe, is the ability to see the best in others.   Most often others intentions were not to hurt me, but to bless me.

I can see now my mother’s good intentions and how much thought she put into it. She had no way of knowing that my mind would come to a different conclusion than she intended.  Truth is, it had never crossed her mind that I would expect something differently.

By my senior year of high school, I had interviewed and auditioned for a major scholarship.  I really wanted it, worked really hard to get it, and came in second place.  I was disappointed.

When I was nineteen, I auditioned for a pretty big deal that would have landed me a summer job doing what I loved.  I made a miscalculation that cost me the job.  I was disappointed.

Into adulthood, I’ve worked on cultivating friendships that have fizzled over stupid things… and I was disappointed.  I’ve asked for specific things, prayed for specific outcomes, tried everything in my might to work things out in my own strength… and I’ve been disappointed.

Do you know what happens, to people who constantly feel disappointed?  They make one of two choices.  They choose to believe the world is out to get them, that nothing ever good will come there way, and they simply give up and stop trying.  Or, a person can choose to go another route.  She will continue on with life, doing what she has always done, to the best of her ability, not allowing disappointment to keep her from moving forward.  She will learn to expect nothing, and eventually she stops being disappointed and moves into a place of being pleasantly surprised by what goes right in life … and not focused on what goes wrong.

That is who I have chosen to be, and how to live my life despite a sea of disappointment.  I choose not to give disappointment power over me because I know there are hundreds more things that are going right and working out for me (and I may not even realize it).

We can choose to become women who work in all things as if we are working for the Lord, not for men.

Colossians 3:22-24

Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.  Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically,[h] as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.

Recently, there was a moment where disappointment started to rear it’s ugly head and I was starting to feel that sting in my heart.  His Word burned in my heart, and I was reminded that whatever I am doing is for HIS glory and not my own.  Whatever the results are, they are the exact results HE needs for His plans … not my plans.

Even when…. my prayers are not answered the way I want.

Even when…. those you expect to come through don’t.

Even when…. the outcome looks totally different than you expected.

Even when…. I can point the finger of blame at myself, or others.

Even when…. I cry out to God because I don’t understand why….

Because I know that His ways are not my ways.  His understanding exceeds my understanding.  I may see the big picture, but He sees the Kingdom view.  And I can trust that His ways are good and beneficial, that He always holds true to His promises, and that He cares for me more than I could ever comprehend.

If we can hold on to these truths… disappointment doesn’t need to sting but instead open our hearts to knowing something bigger is in motion.

#Write31Days – Post 16 – In the Word’s of Elsa, Mom… “Let It Go!”

letitgo

Confession Time:  I can be a bit of a perfectionist.  I once had a friend refuse to let me into her home because it was a mess.  She insisted on talking with me outside.  I never realized the pressure my perfectionist qualities could put upon other people.  For whatever reason, she assumed that because I was a bit of a perfectionist… that I required it of those who befriended me.  Let me assure you, that is far from the truth.

Confession Time #2:  Right now, my house is a complete and total disaster.  I don’t want to say that I am totally ok with it, because I am not.  At the same time, I am not as neurotic about it as I once was … many, many years ago.

People who are perfectionists, or who have OCD tendencies, can often live on a pendulum.  Either everything is 100% to their liking (no room for error) or they can swing the opposite way and not care at all.  It is the epitome of “my way or no way”.

We can also expect these same tendencies from our spouse or children.  Which is funny to me, because we extend a lot more grace to those not related to us.  Perhaps it is because we have an expectation that those who share our DNA also share in our crazy.  Those expectations can cause us to be helicopter parents who are hovering over our children constantly expecting them to be just like us.  Organized. On time. Working ahead of schedule.  Clean/Tidy.   We tend to excel at so much that failure is just not part of our vocabulary.

However, children will challenge every bit of that thinking.

Mom just cleaned the house?  Awesome, let’s bring every toy we own out into the livingroom.

Project due for school?  No worries, I can tell mom about it at 9pm the night before it is due.

Failing Math?  It’s no big deal that I will get kicked from the team.  I’ll just run to mom in a panic three days before report cards come out.

These kids live in a whole other plane of thought.  As perfectionists we can’t deal in this plane… not at all.  We hollar at the kids to return the toys to their room.   We stay up working on the project for them because we can’t let their grade get docked for tardiness, nor can we let them turn in a project that is less than acceptable just to be on time.  We will implore the teacher to allow them to make up the missed work, spending ridiculous amounts of money on tutors to ensure the ace the exam.

Why?  Because deep down the perfectionist believes that their child’s choices reflect on us as their parent.  If they fail, we fail.  If they are late, we are late.  If they make a mess, we are a mess.  We try to control their behaviors because frankly we don’t want people to think less of us as parents.  Preventing their failure is more about saving our own face, than ensuring their success.

Let that sink in for just a second.

The thing is… we need to let them fail.  We need them to understand what accountability and consequence are BEFORE they are adults and the wages of those poor choices are much higher.  We need to teach them how to fail, how to process that, and how to get back on that horse.  Not only do WE need to do that for them, THEY need to learn it for themselves.  If we want our children to be successful as adults, we cannot come to their rescue.

We also have to accept that their choices belong to them, and are in no way a reflection on us as parents…. assuming we have done our best.  Plenty of children were raised in the “perfect home” and yet walked away and lived a contrary life.  Plenty of children were raised in less than idea environments and rose to the occasion, choosing to live a better life and being a positive contribution to society.

They are not us.

So mom, in the words of Elsa… LET IT GO.

I spoke to a friend who is older than I, and she shared about her perfectionist mother.  Every weekend, the entire family was cleaning the house.  Her mom was a collector of many different things, and it became the responsibility of the kids to help her maintain the cleanliness of her collection.

I wonder, how often I have burdened the kids with the responsibility of caring or tending to the unnecessary things I have chosen to bring into the house?  It reminded me of the turtle my husband brought home to the kids, that they didn’t ask for, but then he expected them to care for it’s needs.  Unfair responsibility.

I wonder, how often have I expected my children to have the same love of learning that I have?  Expecting their grades to be high, their projects to be done with excellence, and for them to have the same drive to start early as I have always had.  Then I reflect on the fact that I never actually TAUGHT my kids to be organized from an early age, I just assumed it would come naturally to them.  It did to me.  I wasn’t taught to be that way by my parents.  I just was.   Unfair expectation.

I wonder how many times my kids have missed out on fun or being children, because my priorities were different?  I wonder why I am not ok with a “passing grade” in a subject they hate.  I wonder how many times I pushed my own ideas on them, instead of allowing them to explore their own?  I wonder how many times I was controlling a child who wanted to be free to be there own selves?

It was time to stop.  It was time to let it go.

I’m not suggesting to throw caution to the wind and be a hands off parent.  Instead, I am suggesting that we stop trying to mold them into clones of ourselves.  Let them live, let them learn, let them grown.

So, I stopped hassling the kids about keeping their room to perfection.  They know the consequence is that no one comes over to play unless it is picked up.   That’s the consequence, and I stick to it.  I have found a compromise between what they think is clean, and what I think is clean.    I don’t get upset that they bring the toys out all over the house to play.  The consequence is that they know they need to clean it up, so don’t bring out more than you are willing to carry back.  I’m not helping you.

I don’t hover over their grades online every single day… but I check in.  They know the consequences of getting poor grades.  I no longer loose my mind over a “C” on the report card.  We reward good grades.  Consequences for poor ones.  I allow them to make the choice of how much effort they are willing to put in, and they know they will contend with the consequences if they drop the ball.  I have learned to accept their best, even when that best is a C- in math.

Doing their best is not being perfect.

My middle schooler is a very limited excelled program for Middle School.  If her grades drop, not only will she be removed from the program… she will have to go to another school.  She chose to be in the program and she’s knows that her longevity in that program is entirely up to her.  She can lose that spot, and I’m not going to rescue her if she drops the ball.  She knows that her ADHD is not an excuse either.

What I want is a child that grows into an adulthood who:

  • understands that her choices will impact her future, no one else is to blame.
  • is not an excuse maker.  there are no excuses in life, except the ones you make for yourself. 
  • understands they choose their consequences, becuase every choice has a consequence, good or bad.
  • believes doing your best is always good enough, even if it isn’t perfect, but who never underestimates their ability & is willing to be challenged.
  • can make mistakes, learn from them, and move forward.  there is always time to become more, become better.
  • will let go of the things that don’t really matter, and focus on what is important.

I do this by being an example of this for them.  Which means that today, when my 8 year old asks me to play with her at the dining room table… the dishes can wait.  When my 16 year old wants to watch a movie with me tonight, the mopping can wait.  When my 12 year old wants to go to the book store, my errands can wait.

My house will not look like a museum, but a home with a family of people who live there instead of existing there.  It will be clean and pest free, but you may find a pile of toys in the foyer.   I will happily spend an hour snuggling on the couch over scrubbing the kitchen.  My children will see me put friends and family above chores and to-do lists.

When you come over, things won’t look perfect anymore.  But, the cups are clean and the coffee is hot.

Being a perfectionist comes with a cost, and it is one I do not want my children to pay.

 

#Write31Days – Post 13 – When the Church Says No

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I was reading the above article, on the website for The Gospel Coalition.  The gist of the article was that members of the body with artistic talents are often discouraged in using their gifts within the church.  It could be an art form that is not really understood, or that the church staff don’t know how to actually include it into the service of the church.  It isn’t always that they don’t want to, they just may not know how to.

But I would challenge that is discouragement isn’t just for those who have artistic gifts, but any gift or talent that isn’t being utilized.  I have been in churches that were welcoming of gifts and talents & would utilize them if the person was willing to commit.  I’ve also been in churches that will dismiss the gifts they don’t understand or can’t seem to figure out how that gift fits in to the vision of the church.

From an artistic standpoint, I can totally understand.  As a professionally trained actress, who also has ample back stage experience,  I have offered my gift to churches in the past.  Some embraced it with open arms, others dismissed it as something not relevant.  Dismissed so quickly that I never even had the opportunity to explain that expertise.  In 2005, I directed a Christmas musical for the church we were attending at the time.  It just so happened that at one showing there was a television producer in the audience.  He loved the show, and they came back and filmed it.  They ran it every few days, where they had an empty slot, all the way through Christmas Day.

That was an exciting day for me.  Yet, too often, when I share with a church or ministry that I have a theater background they instantly want to put me in charge of a children’s production.  That is NOT my specialty, it is not my gift.  They do not understand the impact that LIVE performance can have on a group of people.  Perhaps this is because too few churches have trained professionals, maybe they haven’t enough trust in the quality or commitment.  What saddens me is to be shot down before you even get a chance to try.  The Lord blessed me with a gift, specifically a talent, one that I want to use for HIS glory.   It is sad to see it get brushed aside because someone else doesn’t “get it”.

Being dismissed and discouraged is not only an issue with the arts, but can come about in many different forms.  I watched my husband’s spirit get completely squashed by a men’s ministry leader because he made an assumption about my husband without even getting to know him.  What most don’t know about my husband is that he has the ability to talk to anyone about God.  It’s really amazing.  I envy his boldness at times.  Every day he is out among the community, doing his job, and sharing the gospel where he can.  He has prayed with people, give them encouragement, and even his own Bible if they didn’t have one.

He can do this because God gifted him in that manner.  My husband also went through Evangelism Explosion training to learn how to present the gospel to every day people in a way that they would understand.  Bringing them through the steps from accepting Christ, to getting plugged into a church, and more.  When we were married and our family was growing, a huge burden was on my husband’s shoulders.  He became lukewarm, going through the motions.  One weekend he went with a men’s ministry to a conference, and my husband was ON FIRE.  He was ready to get back on the horse.

The leader of the ministry didn’t know my husband that well.  He assumed that my husband was caught up in emotions.  Since he didn’t take the time to really listen to my husband, to ask any questions about his experience… the man quickly extinguished that fire.  My husband said “I’m ready to serve.  Where can I plug in????”

The ministry leader patted him on the shoulder and said:  “No brother, where can we serve you.”   My husband wasn’t even given the chance to share who he was, or the gift that God has given him.  To this day, my husband has not stepped forward since.  He was rejected.  Instead, he has become my biggest supporter and advocate.    Instead, he has continued to share the gospel in his every day encounters.

One church damaged my husband, and he just hasn’t recovered.  Over the years, he has had ideas for ministries where he could serve people in our church or community.  However, that inspiration is fleeting.

I believe that we have to be very cautious as a church to NOT allow our vision for the church become tunnel vision.  We must be open to see how the different gifts and talents of the body can be used in that vision.  It is easy to see things our way, within our own understanding and abilities.  It is easy to see how things ought to go and progress, and make a list of what gifts and talents are needed to move that vision forward.  It isn’t always easy to see how the gifts of others can fit into that vision, or be molded into that vision.   If we see things too black and white, we miss the many gifts that fall in the middle.

As leaders we need to be careful with the gifts and offers of service from others.  We need to not just immediately dismiss a person because at first we can’t see how their gift fits the vision.  We need to not dismiss a person as a capable kingdom worker without taking the time to get to know them.  We may be throwing away the most amazing gifts… and affecting people in ways we never realize.

This doesn’t mean we throw caution to the wind, accepting any and everything.  We can be judicious and gracious at the same time.

  •  Thank the person for offering their gift or talent to the church/ministry.
  • Ask them questions about their experience or training.
  • Get an idea of how they think their gift or talent could fit within the vision of the church, or help the ministry/community.
  • Take some time to really think about the conversation, pray about it.  Is there room for this ministry idea?  If not, is there an existing ministry that we can plug this person into that fulfills their desire to serve with their gift.
  • Follow up with the person, and be honest.  If you are not sure how it fits the vision, talk to them about it.  They may see something you don’t.  If now isn’t the right time, agree to revisit it in 3 – 6 months.  If you require more information, ask for it and take the time to review it.
  • If this is a brand new member of the church, and you are uncertain of commitment, have them go through the new members class and plug into a small group.  Let them know you want to get to know them better, and let them get acquainted with the church first.  Then you can talk ministry work.

 

#Write31Days – Post 9 – False Spirituality

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The lights come on, the camera is rolling, there is beautiful music being played, voices fill the air with their melodic song, and then the speaker delivers a powerful message.  We leave from that place invigorated and inspired to change our ways, to pray more and read the Bible every day.  We agree to hold each other accountable, to volunteer more, and to give more as we become better stewards.  Our lives are so affected and changed that each week we will invite more and more people to hear this person, this godly and spiritual gift from heaven.

This may go on for weeks, months, years and even decades.  Then it happens, one day we turn on the news and that gift is being splashed across the screen.  The person we held in such high regard has been accused or even arrested, or has stepped forward to admit and unexpected truth.  We try to deny it, but ultimately the truth always comes out.  We have to face the fact that this person, whom we held in such high regard, was nothing but a phony.

When I was a child, I remember watching television with my grandmother on Sundays.  There was one particular show she would watch, where a beautiful woman would come on stage… she would sing with such beauty and emotion that tears would stream down her face.  Her husband would then take the stage and preach a message that was convicting and life changing.  They were inspiring people, until the day his fraud was exposed.  People who had supported their ministry were devastated, and many became like me… a hardened skeptic.  I don’t fall for “shows” anymore, and I have learned to watch for the signs of hypocrisy and being disingenuous.

There are people who are REALLY good at faking it.  They may appear to have it all together, the perfect husband, kids and home.  They can spout out bible verses, speak in glorious ways that make them sound learned and wise, they pray out loud using fancy words and phrases, and they know the right lingo that will create an illusion of being holy and righteous.

Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

Luke 12:3

Sometimes I will see right through a person, from the start.  Yet there are other times where it isn’t quite that obvious.  I may be suspicious, but without any evidence.  Or, the person might be really good at hiding their true self.  Humans are incapable of hiding truth for that long though, eventually we begin to see signs that things are not quite how they are being presented.  Then over time, particularly as the person becomes more comfortable with you – or confident in their ability to deceive – they truth beings to come to surface.  We can see through the facade.

The man who acts like a loving and caring father out in public, but verbally abuses his children or wife.

The pastor who gets caught in an affair or misusing tithes and church funds.

The woman who comes off as a sweet and kind woman at church, but in her home she screams and treats her family like they are nothing.

The ministry leader who prays for spiritual purity in the youth, while he is grooming certain students to be abused.

I am not talking about the person who gets caught up in a singular bad decision, where they lost good sense because of the temptation in front of them.  We are all sinners and have the capability of atrocious things.  I am talking about the person who is consistently and purposefully this way.  They put on a good show for others (and maybe they think it’s impressing God) but in their heart they are truly not changed, in their homes they are the exact opposite of what they preach or teach.

These are people who have a false spirituality.  They know all of the right words, all of the traditions, and how to present themselves in a way that sells their best characteristics.  But inside they are corrupt, manipulative, and deceitful.

Would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.

Psalm 44:21

God knows the heart, and He will shine light on the darkness.

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Luke8:17

These are people who will even try and garner your sympathies as they wallow in their own sin, but it’s just for show.  They are not really interested in changing themselves, they just want to make sure you can’t speak against them.  It’s a guardrail that they put up to protect themselves.  It allows them to speak their truth (sometimes harshly) by tagging on a “I am not perfect” clause as they critique you.  They will claim deliverance from this or that sin, so that after they have torn you down … they can build you back up in as their own image bearer.

People with false spirituality are not trying to make you look Christ-like… hardly!  What they are trying to do is to mold you to look more like they do, they are doing it for the glory.  They shout “LOOK AT ME!  Look at what I have done.  Come, be just like ME!”… and God is not part of that equation.

So, how do we spot “false spirituality” –

  • Pray for Discernment – ask God to give you the wisdom and the knowledge to see through those who are frauds.

  • Pray for Transparency – pray that God will reveal their hidden truths to you, or the public as a whole.

  • Be Observant & Listen – you will begin to notice things that don’t feel quite right, or they will say something that will cause you take pause.  The more you are around them, the more frequently this will happen.

  • Look to Others – let me be clear, I am NOT advising you to gossip about a person.  What I am saying is see how others act around them.  Are there people who seem to have modeled themselves to be just like this person?  That’s a clue.  Just as much on the other side, do you notice that the wise people in your church or community are avoiding them like the plague!  That’s a clue too.

  • Who Do They Credit – when there is blessing or praise to be given, who does this person credit the glory to?  If they are constantly looking for the pat on the back, the attention, the credit, the glory … be careful.  “Look at what I did…” is just as bad as “Thank you Lord for allowing me this success….”.  In both cases, this is a person who is working in their own strength, on their own agenda. 

No one is going to be perfect, and if you are not careful you can discount just about anyone from being in your life because they are failing or sinful SOMEWHERE.   A genuine person isn’t going to put on the act of spiritual superiority, they are more interested in trying to address their own sin issues than trying to solve everyone else’s.

I recall a woman I was speaking with was sharing a ministry vision, she wanted to create a website where Christians could essential log their community service hours.  She wanted the world to see the good that Christians are doing, so they would see that we are not hypocrites and that we are actively striving to make a better world.

In theory, that sounds good.  But is that biblical? Is that actually a ministry?

Not really.

It was just another way to get a pat on the back for doing a good job.  It was another way of saying “hey, look at me and what I do!”  It didn’t allow God to get the credit, it was a place where instead each person would be able to get the credit they felt they deserved.

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:2-4

This is also an great example of “false spirituality” because it gives an appearance of godliness.  When we boast about ourselves and our accomplishments for God, we are actually boasting only of ourselves.  If we truly wanted God to have all the glory, we would leave our names out of it entirely.  We are warned that as the days draw closer to Christ’s return, false spirituality is going to be on the rise as much (if not more) than sin and decay in the world.  When we encounter false spirituality, we must flee from it so that we are not corrupted by it.

But know this:  Difficult times will come in the last days.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of godliness but denying its power.  Avoid these people!

For among them are those who worm their way into households and capture idle women burdened down with sins, led along by a variety of passions, always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of truth.

2 Timothy 3:1-7

 

#Write31Days – Post 7 – Dishonorable Agreement

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Have you ever found yourself arguing with your husband about something, and you feel like you are just going around in circles?  Or, perhaps, you feel like your opinions and feelings on the subject are being sucked to the bottom like a whirlpool in the ocean?  Have you spent years battling over the same subject, that now you don’t even bother to bring it up?  You may have even moved into the position of:  “It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

I totally get it.  I really, truthfully do.  On certain subjects my husband and I could not have opinions that are further apart.  In fact, depending on the actual subject at hand, either one of us can be a dominating force.  It has taken us YEARS to find that place of compromise, or at least to feel as if we are both being heard.

I am also the type of person who will want to continue to hash out the discussion until I totally understand his decision.  If it doesn’t make sense to me, a simple “I said no” isn’t going to fly.  It’s not even that I am challenging his decision, but more that I want to understand the WHY behind it.  In some instances I am also looking to grasp the permanence of his decision.  It this a “no, forever” or a “no, not right now” response?

Recently, in a discussion group, a woman posed the question:

“How do I honor my husband when I don’t agree with him?”

You can honor your husband, and still disagree with him.  The honor lies in HOW you disagree with him.    Just as you can dishonor your husband when you agree with his decision, because HOW you are in agreement make a difference.

  • Don’t mumble under your breath, that’s dishonorable.
  • Ask if there is any room for compromise, that’s honorable.
  • Don’t give him the silent treatment, that’s dishonorable.
  • Ask if you can revisit the topic in a few months, that’s honorable.
  • Don’t withhold affection from him, that’s dishonorable.
  • Try to see his perspective and understand his reasoning, that’s honorable.
  • Don’t assume you know what he is thinking, that’s dishonorable.
  • Ask for an explanation, and have a willingness to accept it, that’s honorable.

When we can be honorable toward our husband, even when we disagree, we are keeping the lines of communication open.

You want to buy a new potting bench for the patio, so you ask your husband.  He says no.  You ask why, and he responds that there isn’t room in the budget which is already being stretched tight.  Instead of pouting, you can ask questions like…

Can we afford a used one?  If so, what is my maximum budget?  —  Could we build one for less?  Would you help me? — If I sold off a few of my own things, would you be ok with me spending that money to buy it?  — Can we discuss it again after we get our tax return?

By asking these questions you are actually honoring your husband, despite disagreeing or being unhappy with his decision.   You are attempting to understand the situation a bit more, looking for compromise, and with a better attitude.

However, if you walk away from the discussion angry… pouting around the house, giving him the silent treatment for days or weeks, withholding affection until you get your way, calling up a friend or family member and berating your spouse, disrespecting him in front of the kids by blaming him for why they can’t have/do something, etc… you are not honoring your husband in the least.

This is not to say that we can’t be disappointed, not at all.  It’s ok to be disappointed or sad about his decision; it is not ok to punish him for it or to carry anger and bitterness towards him over it.  It’s not ok to manipulate him into getting your own way, or call others onto your team to pressure him to fold.

We also need to be aware of the bigger picture, to have a full understanding of his decisions or opinions.  He may have information you don’t, the timing of the conversation may be wrong, he could have simply had a bad day, or any number of other factors.

Look for solutions, look for compromise, or look to God to help you be content with the decision you don’t agree with.

Honorable Disagreement.  Dishonorable Agreement.

It’s your decision, your choice on how you respond.

On the big things… the life impacting decisions… I hold firm that if God wants us to move in that direction both spouses will share that same conviction, calling, or direction.  If there is disagreement, it is because the “call” is something one of you is feeling in the flesh, or it just isn’t time to take that step yet.

If you are having a hard time being honorable in disagreement, start in prayer.  Take a step back, and pray over it.  When you have tempered yourself, have a discussion to understand his perspective.  Then, before you respond, take some time to think his response through.  Do some research, come up with an alternative solution, develop a plan of action, and then make some time to talk about it again.

A Spirit of Fear

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Have we created a spirit of fear, in our children and even our selves that is hindering our ability to share the gospel?

A few days ago, I read an article from Relevant Magazine, that has me camped out on this question.  The article, “3 Youth Group Lessons I’ve Had to Unlearn” was originally written for youth leaders, but it is entirely relevant to the body of believers.

I’m just going focusing on the first of these three lessons:

1. Your Classmates/Peers/Friends/Teachers are Going to Persecute You for Your Faith.

One of the recurrent themes in my Christian youth was the pressure to stay strong for God around peers and teachers who, I was told, would be antagonistic toward my beliefs. So many talks and sermons and rally-sessions wrapped tight around this topic, constricting my chest with the urgency of knowing how to accurately and compellingly disseminate the specifics of the Christian faith to others—even if they mocked me for it.

I spent the duration of junior high and high school braced against the entire student body, sure that they secretly mocked/hated/despised me. I wore Christian T-shirts like some kind of bullet-proof vest. I memorized all of the brilliant apologetic arguments in favor of Christianity in case any teacher or student ever cornered me in the hall and forced me to debate my faith.

But no one ever did.

What actually happened is that I distanced myself from everyone who didn’t believe like I did. It wasn’t that they didn’t like me—it was that I had barred my arms in an eternal defensive pose, and no one could even get close. So after a while, they stopped trying.

I understand that there are places in the world where persecution exists. And it’s  is not something to take lightly. But the American cultural climate, right now, is not violent toward Christians. And despite the popularity of Christian movies like God’s Not Dead, I’d argue that 99 percent of teachers are not in it to shatter students’ faith. And yes—kids can be cruel. But, in the land of first-world problems, it’s usually not about anything quite as noble as religious beliefs.

I’d love to see youth pastors and teachers who refuse to play into that “Us” and “Them” paradigm. Who encourage, instead, their students to understand that we are all so much the same—complicated and quirky and broken and beloved.

Instead of teaching kids that Jesus is something we have and they don’t, let’s teach them to look for the bright image of God in each person that crosses their paths.

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/god-our-generation/3-youth-group-lessons-ive-had-unlearn#2MGvpCByqquj2QVU.99

We are called to be bold about our faith, we are supposed to encourage our children to stand firm in their faith… but then we negate that lesson by saying “and you are going to be picked on for it”.  Anyone who has raised a child knows that is not going to turn out well.  These are kids who are desperately trying to fit in, and we are telling them to do something that will hinder that.

No wonder they avoid it like the plague.

To date, however, I can not think of ONE SINGLE INSTANCE where my daughter came home with a story about the girls who wear hijabs being picked on, or that anyone gave the Jewish kid a hard time when he passed out his Bar Mitzvah invitations.  Please do not think me naive that discrimination doesn’t happen in these cases elsewhere in the world.  But, for our town, this has been a non issue.

So why then, are we telling our Christian teens that they will be made fun of for it?

Which then led me to additional thought…  if they are being made fun of, is it because we as a culture have said it’s ok to do it… because Christians expect it?  Have we taught a spirit of fear to our children vs. a expectation of respect that other religions demand?

When I was in high school, we had several different clubs/events that would happen that were “Christian” and I went to a public school.  I remember being intrigued by it, because it seemed like such a bad idea…. putting a target on their backs to be made fun of.  I watched from the side lines.  No one made any derogatory comments about the club, or showed up in protest about their on campus events.  If they didn’t like it, if they didn’t share those same beliefs, they just went on about their business as usual.

But, for those who did… and watched from the sidelines… it created a feeling of safety.   It is ok to claim this as your faith, no one here is going to hurt you for it.  In fact, they really couldn’t care less about it.

What if we said something different to our kids?  What if we said something like….

Your school is made up of a lot of different kids.  They come from different countries, with different traditions.  They come from different religions, with different rules and celebrations.  Just like they have their beliefs, we have our beliefs.  Not everyone is going to agree with you, and not everyone is going to understand you.  That is ok.  You are not going to totally understand everything they do and celebrate either.  You just continue to be you, answer their questions, don’t get into arguments or debates.  It isn’t worth it, take the higher road.  Love them anyway, be kind to them regardless of what they say.