redemption looks beautiful on you

Posted: August 25th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: | No Comments »

Shelly Miller wrote the 25th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it “Redemption Looks Good On You”.

When I read Shelly’s chapter, it struck me how your social influences will shape your guilt or shame. What is shocking to one person may not be shocking to another. She wasn’t writing about feelings of guilt or shame in her chapter, but she was sharing secret truths from her past with fellow church friends one night, and her story left everyone in shocked silence. Someone finally spoke up and told her that she is a miracle.

From what I understand, her mother was an alcoholic. She and her girlfriend grew enough pot in their backyard to sell to people out of their home. In spite of her salty upbringing, Shelly was a sundress-wearing french-manicured pastor’s wife, sipping wine with friends on a warm summer evening.

Shelly’s message is that, by sharing the parts of you that may not be the norm for your social group, you open the door for others to bring out the heavier things that they may be carrying. Your bravery, through faith that you’re not defined by anything but God’s love for you, inspires others to trust that they’re not defined by the their salty parts either. Not unless they want to be.

I, for one, am drawn to the salt in others. I prefer it.

“And perhaps this is this is where the beauty of redemption begins, in releasing the ugly parts of our story held captive by shame” (page 164).

 

Shelly Miller

 

Holly Gerth wrote the 26th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it “You’re Not Alone”. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter next.


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the choreography of God

Posted: August 24th, 2016 | Filed under: God | No Comments »

I’m almost finished blogging through the book Soul Bare. I wrote a chapter in this book and wanted to use the opportunity to introduce you to other authors who have been through some of the grittier places of life and came out with insight to offer. I didn’t read the book before I committed to blogging through it. I’m reading as I go.

Holly Grantham wrote the 24th chapter. She titled it, “The Choreography of God”. In her chapter, she writes about her writing and the act of writing. She says that she gains such “revolutionary” insight from her own writing that she wants to bring that “feast” to others. She writes about reading her old journals from when she was a teenager:

“A new reading unveiled something revolutionary: the act of writing had revealed the hidden” (page 158).

She discovered something that therapists, counselors, other writers, etc. already know. Writing is therapeutic. Holly writes about being insecure about her own opinions prior to reading her old writing. As a result of reading them as an adult, she no longer believed that her words were not meant to be read by others, that they were “far reaching ripples”, a “prayer language”, “rich and golden”, and life giving. She sees her writing as food for her soul and no longer wants to keep that for herself.

“I spent a long time hoarding the few loaves and fishes that I believed were mine to keep, but I now realize that to hold back that meager meal is to forfeit the feast to which it leads” (page 160).

You can read more of Holly’s writing here.

holly Grantham

Shelly Miller wrote the 25th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it “Redemption Looks Beautiful On You”. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter next.


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without people like you

Posted: August 23rd, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: | 1 Comment »

Sarah Markley is the author of the 23rd chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it, “Without People Like You”.

In Sarah’s chapter, she captures that painfully awkward feeling that I think every kid has when they’re growing up. She writes that her sensitive heart put her at a disadvantage because childhood love, fumbling words, and ultimate rejection stung all the way to the core.

Reading about her experience took me back to my own middle school rejection. It’s that sharp sting that makes your eyes burn. Stuff that happens back then forms the way you relate to people for years, if not forever. Sarah shared some of the stuff that’s probably still got some bite to it.

“I’ve been labeled sensitive, overly sensitive and even hypersensitive. I could never get over heartache or snubs… I would get my feelings deeply hurt… The idea of letting something ‘roll off my back’ was almost an impossibility to me” (page 153).

Sarah was also bullied by a youth pastor who would make fun of her and taunt her when she cried. She finally started trying to dumb heart down and hide it behind the walls we’re so good at building. It was in therapy years later that she started to see her sensitivity as an asset.

She’s grown up now, but it took her the majority of 37 years to undo the damage that careless people created while they were clambering over her for their own spot in life. Kids don’t know that their words stick in the minds of their peers like deeply imbedded splinters. We grow up, and our minds form around those splinters, making them a part of who we become.

Sarah’s identity was put in perspective when she considered the fact that God created her with a tender heart, and trying to change or hide it was a direct insult to Him. Now she’s a mom with a tender-hearted little girl, and she gets to whisper her truth as her daughter cries herself to sleep.

“Maybe she’ll understand that her heart was created with just enough tenderness to love the world as it needs to be loved and to feel the hurts of others so that she can mourn with those who mourn” (page 156).

You can become part of  Sarah’s facebook community by clicking here.

Sarah Markley

 

Holly Grantham wrote the 24th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it “The Choreography of God”. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter next.


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striptease

Posted: August 22nd, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Sheila Seiler Lagrand wrote the 22nd chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it “Striptease”.

The setting of Sheila’s chapter is at a blogging retreat and the substance consists of a couple of conversations with her peers. It’s through that lens that she reveals her deep depression and insecurity. Quite a bit of her chapter is the voice of her self-depreciating internal dialogue.

Self-talk is unavoidable, but most of it is automatic. It’s the part of your thought life that you respond to, but don’t give a ton of attention. A lot of times, it’s a repeat of things you’ve been told throughout your life. You have to purposely pick what you say to yourself, otherwise this debilitating negativity seeps out, attacks you, and controls you. Sheila’s internal dialogue sounds like this:

“You think if people knew the real you, they’d be disgusted. Or filled with pity. Or both. You wear that stinking mask all the time. Even yesterday, when you first arrived at this long-awaited retreat, finally, finally gathering with your blog friends in real life -even then, even though they knew you were depressed, your voice was too bright. Your jokes flew too fast. You laughed like a braying mule” (page 148).

Her self-talk is cruel and abusive. How can anyone function under the weight of that negativity?

She revealed a bit of the internal battle to a couple of friends and they offered her tenderness.

“My friend wraps her arms around me, rocking gently. She doesn’t let go. And her rocking, my other friend’s chair-patting and nodding, the listening, the not turning away, they teach me something. …It’s okay to let you see me” (page 150).

Counteracting a friend’s low self-esteem with positive affirmations and tenderness is soothing, but it’s only a bandaid on which the suffering person becomes dependent. For someone looking for acceptance, it’s addicting to get people to give you their time and compassion.

Depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety are debilitating conditions that affect the person’s entire life. The cruelty of these conditions causes the person unnecessary shame and can further alienate them, making them feel as though they are the only ones suffering. Sheila chose to share a peek of herself to her friends and she “nearly collapsed” when they gave her their time.

Negative self-talk is a symptom of a bigger issue (like depression), and it’s a cause of other issues (like anxiety and low self-esteem). It weakens you. Pay attention to the way you speak to yourself and the way you interpret the situations you’re in. People who experience depression often interpret their situations negatively. People who suffer from anxiety and/or low self-esteem may be allowing their thoughts to break them down. The negative conclusions drawn from everyday events are often unrealistic, baseless, and entirely made up.

It’s reasonable to conclude that if negative self-talk consists of made up conclusions that dismantle your self worth, then positive self-talk, even if it, too, is made up, can build up your self worth. If you’re going to make stuff up, then make it work for you, not against you. Challenging your self-talk, as opposed to getting affirmed by others, is what will have a lasting effect on the quality of your life.

Noticing your internal dialogue takes practice. You have to capture it and train it to build you up instead of tear you down. It may feel silly at first, but it’s a powerful tool that can change your life. Positive thinking changes your chemistry. In a Christian’s life, you can use scriptures and Biblical truths to bolster your positive thinking.

Consider this scripture:

“…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” -Philippians 4:8 KJV

Be elementary with yourself. When a negative thought attacks you, run it through the scripture:

  1. is it true?
  2. is it honest?
  3. is it just?
  4. is it lovely?
  5. is it of good report?
  6. is there any virtue in it?
  7. is it praise to the Father?

Your answers will either be all “yes” or all “no”. If you are too far removed from the truth of your own value, then ask yourself just one of the questions: Does this thought praise the Father? He works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). If you want to know if a thought is from God, ask yourself: Does this thought work for me or against me?

Purposely use every bit of your thinking time to find a way to be thankful and full of praise. It’s an activity that takes conscious effort and you will build strength over time. Notice the way it changes your day. Notice the good that shows up. Wherever you focus your attention, you’ll simultaneously focus your energy. You are not a victim of your thoughts, you’re the author. Use the book that God wrote about His love for you and actively rewrite your internal dialogue.

…if there be any praise, think on these things.

Sheila Langrand

The 23rd chapter of Soul Bare is written by Sarah Markley. She titled it “Without People Like You”. I’ll write my thoughts about that chapter next.


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letters of intention

Posted: August 21st, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: | No Comments »

The twenty-first chapter of Soul Bare is written by Sarah Bessey. She titled it “Letters of Intention”.

All of these chapters are so different. The perspectives of the authors, the language they use, and their writing style is varied enough to capture the attention of almost anyone. Sarah’s perspective is from an insider’s view as she uses church-culture specific language like “social justice”, being “intentional”, and “loving well”.

She begins her chapter on a walk with her toddler, writing that she only has grace enough for one day. The use of the term “grace” in this way, from what I understand, is a subculture-specific way of saying “strength”. Her struggle takes place in the taxing vulnerability of being a mother of young children and following what she feels God has called her to do. 

For those who grow tired from volunteering at church or setting their sights on saving a marginalized group of people in other parts of the world, this chapter will speak to those moments where you don’t feel like you’re enough. Sarah writes that a friend of hers sent her a much needed note of encouragement. The timing was so perfect and the encouragement so effective that she entertained the idea of starting a ministry of note-writing and walk-taking.

“Isn’t that the way of things these days -to approach a leader to first ask for permission to be a minister, be properly trained, create a page on the website, pick a  dynamic name for it? Maybe I could write a strategic plan and procure a marketing budget. Maybe I could organize and recruit a team… policy… procedure…” (page 144).

And this is where her pivot takes place. The temptation to turn every good thing into a ministry ends up dehumanizing it and the recipients can feel it. It’s like getting a “Welcome to the Neighborhood” post card from the local home improvement store. It comes off as a sales tactic instead of a heartfelt sentiment.

Sarah’s evening walk was rejuvenating for a few reasons. As exposed as her heart was, she was happy. She ends her chapter by reaffirming the fact that she’s a person, not a ministry. Instead of corporatizing note-writing, she’ll just return a handwritten note to her friend. The message she says she’ll write is a quote from Mother Teresa. This reader thinks the message is more for Sarah than it is for her pen pal because it neatly sums up her message.

“If you can’t feed thousands, feed one. Do small acts with great love.” -Mother Teresa (quoted on page 144)

 

Sarah Bessey

 

Sheila Seiler Lagrand wrote the 22nd chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it “Striptease”. I’ll write my thoughts about that chapter next.


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