Chronicling 40: Day 31 of 365

brokenangelIn my garden, for as long as I can remember sat this statue.  I just loved it for many reasons.  One day, as I walked by I noticed it was broken.  In all honesty, I was pretty upset.  Upset it was broken.  Upset no one fessed up to breaking it.

We can become attached to statues for many reasons.  They can represent memories, serve as reminders of history.  They can inspire, give us pause to mourn.  Some are admired for the craftsmanship, others for their simple beauty.

Right now our country sits in a debate about certain statues.  Some want them removed because they represent a stained time in our history.  Others want them to remain because they hold the person in high esteem.  Some can only see one aspect of that person’s life, whereas others try to point out that there was so much more to that person.

As an artist myself, I would hate to see my work destroyed (I know what I put into it) but I also wouldn’t want my work to inflict pain upon others.  As a lover of history, I know that we cannot just erase history.  Removing anything doesn’t take away that emotions associated with that time frame.  As someone who is compassionate, I also don’t think it necessarily needs to smack us in the face every time we head to public areas.

What I see is a country divided on the subject.  I wonder, though, have we dug our heels down so deeply on one side or the other… that we are incapable of seeing that there are other options.

Perhaps it is time for these statutes to find a new home.

What if we could find museums or parks that are associated with other aspects of that person’s life?  Areas of success that were beneficial to the public?  Could we not move the statues to those grounds?

Could we not find a place at a historical museum, or statue garden, to rehome these statues of historical figures where we place them in the timeline of history?

I’m sure that some of you see no need to move them at all.  Here is the thing, when a statue no longer honors the person it is meant to honor but instead embodies and ideology… the piece is tainted, stained.

In my city, a horrible crime happened a few years ago.  In order to keep people from exploiting the home in which the crime occurred, they tore the home down.  A vacant lot sits awaiting someone to put something new there.  You see, that home no longer was a memory of the people who lived there (who were good people, loved people).   Instead it embodied the crime, a place for people to drive by for a glance.  A place for people who favor the macabre to come and visit.  It no longer stood for a loving family, but a horrific crime.

The right thing to do was to raze the house.  I believe there is just cause to remove these statues from public square.  They no longer hold an honor to a person, but have become a symbol of pain.

If we can remove them, replacing them with a symbol of hope… why would we not want to do so?  Something that brings love, joy, and peace to the community at large.

If we can re-home them, perhaps we can preserve the person and their impact on history in a more appropriate atmosphere.  We can use these statues for teaching, preserving history (history forgotten is doomed to be repeated).

Not everything has to be THIS WAY or THAT WAY.  There is a measure of middle ground that we can explore.

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Adult Coloring Books – #Write31Days

coloringbook

Look what I found at PUBLIX!  I am super excited about this little find.  I actually grabbed it a few weeks ago, and my intention was to color it.  I had been going back and forth between using colored pencils, markers, or pens.  The pages are thick and single sided, which even brought to mind using watercolors for some of them.

Reality was that I just didn’t have the time to get started on anything, so it sat on my desk.

Today, I had a bit of free time.  I plucked the booklet off of my desk and began thumbing through the pages trying to decide my plan of attack.  Did I want to treat this as a coloring book, working my way through the pages?  Or, would I pick a few pages out and spend a little more effort on staying in the lines.  If I did this, I could potentially frame the pages and hang them as art pieces in my house.

However, to my surprise, I didn’t want to color a single page.  As I looked through some of the intricate designs I had an epiphany!   I could use the pieces for inspiration for a few quilling projects.  I think for now, I just want to work on some of the individual images.  However, I may then piece them together and create a picture/scene of some sort.

I’m curious if anyone else has ended up using the adult coloring books for something other than a relaxing color session?

What About Me? – #Write31Days

octopus

To those who know me, I love anything arts and crafts.  I love to craft with paper, or grab a paint brush and create something new to hang in my house.  My home is filled primarily with pieces of art that have been made by various family members.  Occasionally, I will head out with some friends to one of the “sip and paint” style events.  You can bring food and drink, socializing with your friends for a ladies night out… while you paint. 

Painting is not something new to me, I take to it pretty easily but even more so when I am being given step by step instructions. 

A friend invited me to a “sip and paint” party at a local studio, we were going to paint an Octopus on these cool boarded plaques.  There were about six women seated at my table, and despite the instructors best efforts these various octopi couldn’t look any more different from each other if we tried.  Well, maybe if we painted them different colors would could get one step further.

The instructor would pass by and comment on my octopus. 

“You’ve done this before, haven’t you?”

“That’s really good.  I like how you painted the tentacles.”

“I love the detail spots you added.”

“Wow.  That’s coming along so well.”

Let me key you in on something, I really do not like public affirmations like that.  I don’t.  I get embarrassed easily (shocking, I know).  It makes me uncomfortable for others who may be struggling.  I am also highly critical of myself and would prefer to float under the radar… or I’m too busy fretting over that mistake no one else notices but is staring me in the eyes challenging me to “fix it”.

After her first few passes and comments, the gal sitting next to me was starting to feel something about the attention.  Kindred to my own soul, she made funny comments about it.  Not directly TO me, but in my range of hearing.  I’d laugh about it, because… well… she was funny.  I’m down with self deprecation, so I chimed in a bit myself.  She laughed.  I laughed.  Then just as the tension was dying, the teacher would whiz by again commenting on my octopus.  The cycle would start over. 

Finally, she began to speak a bit louder to ensure the teacher heard her.

What about me?  Am I not doing a good job?  Is she the teachers pet?

While her tone suggested she was saying these things in jest, we all know there is usually a bit of truth in these types of comments.  The teacher was not picking up on it, but I already had.  So I began complimenting her on certain aspects of her piece.  I pointed out a detail that she added that I had skipped because I didn’t think I would do it right.  I  shared that I was worried about messing up the piece.  The one of the other gals chimed in, complementing another facet of her finished piece.

It is hard, when you are trying to do a good job.  We seek encouragement so that we know we are on the right path.  If we have put in a lot of effort, we desire someone to notice it and appreciate that effort.  That’s a lot to handle and balance with being humble.  It is a check to our pride, graciousness, and humility.

Sometimes, it’s more than just a painting or a task we completed.  We just want to be acknowledged as a person.

There are times, however, where the Lord doesn’t want us out in front of the pack.  He doesn’t want us waving our arms, bouncing in our seats, shouting “look at me”.  In fact, he wants our work to unknown… no credit, pats on the back, accolades.  In a world that is giving prizes for participating, picking weekly superstars, and overloaded recognition we can begin to expect it within all the facets of our lives.  Then, when it doesn’t happen … we take it too personally.

I wonder though, if we are supposed to give the Lord the glory in ALL THINGS… why do we demand such accolades for ourselves?  Why do we demand to be seen, even when He clearly is asking us not to?

Lord, let my human fleshy needs take a back seat to your wonderful righteous glory! Amen.

#Write31Days Challenge – Post 29 – Very Important Note

biblenotgena

An author and speaker that I follow, Carlos Whittaker, shared a picture similar to the one above on his Facebook page.  I was so taken with the simplicity of the message, I grabbed every Bible I own, and added the same message.

God created the heavens and the earth… Not Gena.

It really couldn’t be any simpler than that.  I didn’t create the world, I didn’t go through six days of ordered creation, nor did I take a day of rest.  I was not there in the beginning.  I didn’t have anything to do with that process.

Yet, humanity continually tries to rewrite history and rewrite His order into a way that makes sense to our own understanding.

His ways are not our ways.  His understanding is not His understanding.

We are a people entirely INCAPABLE of following the will of God (since the day man walked in the Garden of Eden with God), and yet some how we think that gives us the authority to change HIS creation, HIS order, and HIS statutes to fit the world and according to our standards.

In comparison to God, our standards are very low.

In comparison to God, our knowledge is very limited.

In comparison to God, our perspective is very subjective.

Our view of the world, and how we are apart of it, should never be based on how want God to fit into our own reasoning.  Instead, we must put aside our own reasoning, and look to the word of God.

There is nothing new under the sun.  Everything we deal with today, every sin and controversy, has been written about in the scriptures.  Time and culture haven’t changed all that much.  It is man who changes.  The further we get from that direct relationship with God that early Christians knew… the more we want God to fit into our ways & beliefs.  

God is unchanging.  His response to sin and controversy in the scriptures hasn’t changed, because His word is true.  If it was a sin then, it is a sin now.  Period.

#Write31Days – Post 18 – Spiritual Strongholds

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Have you ever found yourself in a building, standing under a chandelier… and suddenly your mind is flooded with every movie you have ever seen in the past.  The chandelier falls, someone dies.  Over the course of your life, subconsciously you have made the decision to never stand under a chandelier.  So, you take a few steps the left and breathe a sigh of relief.

When you were a child, perhaps, you were splashing in the ocean.  Suddenly, a current sweeps your legs out from under you, pulling you out to sea.  A hand grabs you, pulling you to safety.  You were so traumatized by what could have happened, you no longer go into the ocean.  You don’t take your kids to the beach.  You make a conscious decision that the ocean is not safe and to be avoided.

Everyone has some sort of stronghold in their life.  These are beliefs or opinions that are strongly held and fortified in our minds to the point that reason and logic will be locked out.  These strongholds can be based in reality or in our perception of reality. They are often formed by our past experiences, the environment we were raised, and by the people whom we respect or were authorities in our lives.

I have seen plenty of movies where a chandelier falls, on accident or on purpose, and a person dies.  I have personally never known anyone this has happened to, nor have I read about it happening the paper.  Logic and reason stand that the chandelier in any given building isn’t going to just suddenly break loose and fall on me.  It really isn’t a logical fear.  However my perception of that truth can be swayed when I allow those imaginary scenarios to root themselves in fear and paranoia.

The scenario at the beach, that actually happened to me.  It is a reasonable fear, logic would stand that I would be afraid of the ocean.   This was a real life experience for me.  However, that reality also must root itself in fear in order for it to become a stronghold in my life.  I still love the beach, take my children there, and I am not afraid of the ocean.  I do, however, respect it.  I am not careless.    I have not allowed this real life circumstance to impact the logic that being swept out to sea is very rare and small percentage.

As Christians we not only are faced with strongholds in our lives, based on our past or perceptions, that affect our daily decisions.  We also have spiritual strongholds, that have embedded certain beliefs or “truths” into our minds.

For example, if you were raised in a denomination or area of the country where dancing was considered a sin, and you accepted that belief to be true.  You now have a spiritual stronghold, that is going to impact how you engage with the rest of the world.  But, the questions we must ask is:  Is it true?  Is dancing a sin?  What do the scriptures say?

In most instances of spiritual strongholds that come from our environment, how we were raised, or the influential people in our lives… if we truly want to let go of spiritual stronghold… we go to the Word.  When faced with generational or denominational “truths” it is really quite easy to open up the scriptures and do the research for ourselves.  We can see what the scriptures say about any number of subjects, and find truth.  We can study the history of the scriptures, to understand the who, what, where, when, and why of a piece of scripture and then apply that to our own beliefs and perceptions.

We may be right.  We may be wrong.  And, in the grand scheme of things, it may not matter.  Personal convictions are no less important than scriptural mandates, they are just individual verses general.

The most difficult spiritual strongholds are the ones we are self imposing on ourselves based on our past experiences and decisions.  They arise when we live in guilt, shame, and failure.   We become so engrossed with who we once were, that we disregard any of our potential to be better person or live a better life.  We feel unworthy of God’s love, which keeps us from having a true relationship with Him.  This, of course, also means that our faith and spiritual growth is going to be stunted.

And, the enemy loves to use our spiritual strongholds against us.  He knows how to spin our past in a way that makes our sin look greater, more disgusting, and deeply shameful.   Satan puffs up our sin to look so horrible that we feel it would be impossible for God to find us worthy of anything.  We allow this to discount us and discredit us from God’s love, and Kingdom work.  People tend to respond in one of three ways.

  •  They do nothing.  They attend church, read their bibles, pray.  But, they never do anything more than that.  They disqualify themselves from being able to lead a bible study group, give their testimony, or even volunteer for the simplest of things at their church.  They say “who am I, what do I have to give?”
  • They run away.  In this case, the person is so haunted by their past that they are actively running away from God in shame.  They may run to a different religion or no religion, but they are running.  They attempt to hide like Adam and Eve after biting the fruit, hiding from God in their shame.
  • They go extreme.  This person is the one who is not running from God but actually chasing after Him.  They think that God has turned his back on them, or at minimal is deeply disappointed in them.  What they attempt to do is to win back His favor, His affection, by going to the extreme as a believer.  For example, if they had a history of immodest dress and immoral behavior… they will be entirely the opposite now, to the extreme.  Her ultra mini skirts have been replaced by ankle length skirts.  Her long flowing locks may be tempered by a tight bun, her make up drawer has been emptied into the trash.  He may have traded a life of drinking and parties for weekend long, isolated, and silent meditation.

I am certain that at least some of you are looking at the last one and thinking: this is a bad thing?  Yes, and no.   If the reason you have made these changes is out of deep, personal conviction… then NO, this is not a bad thing.  You are to be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s conviction.  However, if you are making these choices to try and earn back God’s love and favor, then YES … it is a very bad thing.  Keep reading, because I will explain why.

For the better part of twenty years, I allowed a spiritual stronghold to stand in my way.  I was totally ashamed of myself and some of the decisions I had made.  I would pray to God for forgiveness, but I was unable to let go of these things.  I held onto them with a tight grip.  His Word tells us that when we ask for forgiveness are sins are washed clean.   Every time I prayed to God to forgive those sins that haunted me, I was putting them at the foot of the cross & walking away.  Yet, in a very short amount of time, I was running back to cross and snatching them back up.

I was saying to God, I believe you can forgive me for so many things… but not this.  This is too big, too dirty, and too shameful for you to forgive.  I’d begin trying to work them off.  If I read more of my Bible.  If I pray harder.  If I volunteer more.  If I alter my dress, my speech, my thoughts, my life, my everything… then I can make up for this shame.

I was sinning against God, every single time I took them back.

I was saying, God … you are not enough.

When we are sinning, we create a division between us and God.  So, no matter how many good, noble, and wonderful things I was doing… they meant absolutely nothing because I was in sin.  I was doing things for a God that I didn’t trust.  I was reading a Bible, but not believing in the promises within it’s pages.   I was praying to a God that I thought wasn’t capable enough.  I was volunteering for Kingdom work, while believing I wasn’t worthy of being in the Kingdom.

You can change your manner of dress, the way you speak, and your daily study habits. You can pray from dusk to dawn.  You can give every cent you earn, volunteer every waking hour, and take up every noble cause.   Man can look at you in wonder and awe, you can have a million gold stars on your chart.  Women can hold you in high regard, men can respect your dedication and loyalty.  However, you will never feel good enough.  You will still feel guilty.  You will keep doing more and more to win the affection of God, because your guilt tells you that you are not worthy of His sacrifice.

We must let go of these spiritual strongholds, and cling to God.  We must surrender WHOLLY…. EVERYTHING.  We leave nothing behind, we hide nothing, we don’t hold anything back from God.

I know that I am not worthy.  That is why God is gracious and merciful.

I know that I never will be worthy.  The Old Testament reveals this every time the Israelites would turn from God.  The New Testament reveals this as Paul shares that he struggles doing what he knows is right.  I see it in my own life, every time I mess up and have to confess to God.

It is in this knowledge that the beauty of God’s love unfolds.

I am not.  I never will be.  I deserve death.

I was given the gift of Life.

There is nothing I can do that will separate me from God’s love.  I can not run or hide from Him.  There is nothing I could ever do, in my flesh, that will repay God for his mercy, his blessings, or his Son’s sacrifice.  It is arrogant and prideful of me to look at God’s gift, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and say:  Sorry God, that isn’t enough to cover MY sin.

God asks so little of us.

Love God with all of your heart and understanding. – When I love Him, I trust Him.  I know His word, and His promises.  I believe Him.  I hold nothing back from Him.  I am washed clean by HIM and HIM alone… not anything of my own doing.

Love others as you love yourself. – I forgive as I wish to be forgiven.  I love as I wish to be loved.  I help others as I wish to be helped myself. 

I believe, the very first step in letting go of those crippling spiritual strongholds begins when we acknowledge it for what it really is.

Sin.

Confess this sin, ask God to forgive you for taking back what you have put (or keep putting) at the foot of the cross.  Pray for His Word to quiet the voice of the enemy who haunts you.  When you feel the urge to pick it back up, rebuke Satan’s hold on your life.  Then remember you are not who you once were, you are a new creation.  The past has faded, it is gone.  Today, you are a child of God, adopted into his family to start a new life… a far better life than you could ever imagine.

Let my stronghold be the Lord. (Psalm 18:2)

#Write31Days – Post 8 – Unacknowledged Hurt

brokenangel

Have you ever had someone hurt your feelings, and no matter how you try to address it with the person… they just won’t own it.    They may try to blame you for the issue, or even shift blame by giving you the “if you didn’t ___, then I wouldn’t have ___” excuse.  You may have even apologized for the things you did in the situation that were wrong, and yet the other person is incapable of even acknowledging their part in the problem.

Unacknowledged hurt, hurts.  It really does.  And, I have found, the longer that it goes unacknowledged the more it hurts.   Whether you have been quietly waiting for the apology or out right demanded one is totally moot, because you are not going to get one either way.  Some people are totally incapable of admitting to their wrongdoing.

In my opinion, it boils down to one of three options:

1. Victim Mentalityvictimmentality

The victim won’t admit to being wrong, because they are incapable of doing so.   They have a skewed perception of reality, and will even project guilt onto you that is actually rooted in someone who previously abused, mistreated, or took advantage of them.  You end up paying the price because of harm that someone else had done long before this situation.  The more people who mistreated them, the more victimized they become.  The more victimized they become, the more they will see everyone out in the world is out to get them.  They are unable to see anyone through an objective lens, unwilling to give the benefit of the doubt  or accept that they may have hurt you. 

2.  Martyr Complexmartyrcomplex

Martyr’s are a bit different than victims because they WANT to be a victim, or at least appear like one.  It’s not that they are incapable of knowing that they hurt you, they just don’t want to bear the responsibility of owning it.  So, they PLAY the victim in order to garner sympathy from others outside of the situation.  They also want you to feel bad, like it is your fault, and bear not only the brunt of the blame … but to do all the work to repair things with them.  Which usually means that you will go above and beyond to try and make things right.  The martyr knows that they were wrong, in whole or part, but you will never hear an admission or acknowledgment from them.

3.  Haughty or Prideful Heart haughtyhaughty

The prideful person actually believes that they are totally innocent of any wrong doing, but not like a victim.  On the contrary, the prideful person is always right and everyone else is always wrong.  This has nothing to do with past experiences or victimization, but instead is a heart issue.  If you are hurt, that is YOUR issue… they did nothing wrong.  You are either too sensitive, have no right to be hurt, were the one who was wrong, etc.  And, the thing is, they totally believe this.  It’s different than the person who knows they are at fault (or at least partially at fault) and tries to pass the blame.  The prideful person truly believes they are totally innocent of any wrong doing what so ever.

The victim will usually make you feel horrible for hurting their feelings, so that you will bend more toward their sensitivities.  The martyr wants everyone else to see how they suffered and how terrible you treated them.  The haughty person would rather walk way from you in their “rightness” than admit to being wrong and try to do the right thing.  But, what is really interesting to me is that there are some people who are mixture of all three.  I didn’t realize it until I wrote this piece, so I suppose there is a fourth category.

There are those who are so certain they are right, that they will put all the blame on you. (Pride)

They will also make sure you feel absolutely terrible about hurting them, even if you are the one who was hurt.  (Victim)

And, they will make sure the whole world knows what you did to them and how you treated them so poorly.  (Martyr)

So what do you do, when you have been hurt…

… and the other person in never going to acknowledge that hurt?

  1.  Pray for clarity over the situation.  Is this a relationship that is otherwise healthy and this is just a particular situation, or is this a toxic relationship and this behavior is repetitive?  Is it time to let this relationship go, or is there restoration possible now or in the future?
  2.  Pray for forgiveness.  Pray for God to forgive you in the areas you failed in the relationship, and then ask God to help you forgive the other person.  Forgiving the other person will be freeing for you, as you will no longer be captive to their dysfunction or the situation any longer.
  3. Pray for discernment.  We usually can not just entirely remove a person from our life.   It may be a family member, a coworker, someone we attend church with, or part of a circle of friends.  Pray that God will help you determine what kind of boundaries you can put in place to protect yourself.  This may mean removing yourself from that person entirely, but it may be a few key decisions that help keep the person at a safe distance.
  4. Pray for healing.  You can cry out to God about your hurt and pain, and ask for Him to heal you.  His healing is not dependent on their acknowledgement of wrong.  His healing can help you move on, more forward, despite their inability to be accountable and reconcile the relationship.

Regardless of their ability to acknowledge the hurt they caused has no bearing on your right to call it what it is.  You can be frank with them, making sure they understand in no uncertain terms that they have hurt you (and perhaps even identifying the level of hurt).  You can choose to draw a line in the sand that can not be crossed until they are willing to acknowledge the hurt they caused.  It’s totally appropriate to do so in a manner that is straightforward without being catty, disrespectful, or mean. 

You can acknowledge the hurt.

God will acknowledge your hurt.

Together, God will help you move beyond it to greater things.

Stop thinking and caring so much about a person, who was able to not only hurt you so deeply… but who didn’t care enough to try and make it right.

 

 

 

Bible Study – The Third Question

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In the past two weeks, I have written a bit on bible study… what is the wrong question to ask, and what is the right question to ask.  We are about to head full circle, but let’s recap.

Our first question, when studying any scripture, should be:  How does this reflect or reveal Jesus?

All scripture, the entirety of the Bible, is God’s redemptive story.  It begins with creation, shuffles through man’s epic failure, resulting in man’s need for a savior, God’s deliverance of a savior and the redemption we receive through Christ’s sacrifice.   Every passage in the scriptures is not about me or you, our first response should never be to figure out how the scripture applies to us.  The first question needs to be 100% about Jesus, how is this passage about Jesus.

The second question is a two part question:  1) Who is speaking? and 2) Who are they speaking to?

When we take the time to look at who is speaking, or who is the author of the passage, as well as who the audience is…. a lot of information is revealed.  This information puts the scripture in context to the culture and the climate of the people.  Understanding history has always been important for future growth, it’s why we study it in school.  We must know where we come from in order to know where we are going.  History teaches us what we need to stop or not do, as well as what we need to start doing or do better.

Once we acknowledge Jesus in the scriptures, recognize who the speaker or author is, and identify who is being spoken to… THEN we get to come back to the question of application.

Asking how scripture applies to you and I is not an inherently wrong question, it’s just usually done in the wrong order.  If you have ever found yourself wondering why a piece of scripture doesn’t seem to apply to you, it’s because you asked that question first.  Had you taken the time to find Jesus, and understand the context of the scripture, application naturally follows next.  You begin to see the nuances you might have missed.

At that point, it may be obvious that this scripture applies to you because it is an important piece to a bigger story.   You just need to keep reading.  Or, you may see where it parallels to events in your life.   Because, the honest truth is if all scripture reveals Jesus, then all scripture is applicable to your life. It is the door that you open for Jesus to come in and do something amazing in your life.  Every time we find Jesus in the scriptures, it affirms our faith, gives us confidence in God’s Word and promises, and points toward hope.

How is any of that…  “not applicable”… to your life?

I know that I need to see Jesus in everything.

I know that I need to affirm my faith with the revelations of God’s Word.

I know that my confidence in the Word and the promises of God, is built through the scriptures.

I know where my hope is found, the scriptures tell me so.

It all applies to us, through Jesus Christ.