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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metamorphosis

Posted: August 17th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , | No Comments »

Joy Bennet wrote, “Metamorphosis”, the seventeenth chapter of Soul Bare.

I’m reading as I blog. I don’t read ahead, so I don’t know what’s coming. Most of these chapters leave this reader with the feeling that the writer is letting me in on something known only by people close to him or her. Joy’s chapter is the epitome of that. Her guard is completely down.

She starts off by going through old photographs of herself before she saw the side to life that melts the sheen off. She walks you through the private thoughts she had as public church leader with a special needs child. Her private thoughts were doubtful and, at times, bitter.

“But as the years of fighting death back from our daughter’s bedside wore on and as her condition worsened, I began to doubt that God was good” (page 117).

This chapter, in its unguarded honesty, is absolutely beautiful. The doubt, pain, eventual acknowledgment that she needed help beyond just trying harder is refreshing. Joy went through every parent’s worst nightmare, and the lesson she, through her chapter, walks you to is that it’s okay to question and to admit that what you’re going through is beyond your ability.

“My innocence needed to be strengthened by experience, my joy has been deepened by grief, my optimism and enthusiasm are grounded in reality” (page 119).

It was through not hiding that she found freedom. I love that.

Joy Bennett

 

Tanya Marlow wrote “Breathing Room”, the 18th chapter of Soul Bare. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter next.


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secrets

Posted: April 6th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.” It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.”Romans 10:11-13 MSG

So many people are living lives divided between the seen and unseen. They feel alienated by what they’ve led others to believe and trapped by what they try to hide. We’re not designed to be able to carry on the facade like that. It’s an internal battle of self-hate and it won’t be long before the battle spills into the streets of your life. It’s not because you’re not good at hiding, it’s because you have a purpose that requires you to be whole and intact. It’s only a matter of time.

It’s hard to believe that there can be life after a dark secret is revealed. The lie that owns the darkness is that Love will abandon you if you tell, so you spend all of your time trying to fix yourself before anyone finds you out. But your secrets are a prison and lies are the warden. I have escaped that cell and can tell you that you can trust God to not let you fall to your spiritual death once you jump. Every part of this experience is crafted with precision to make you who you are called to be. You can trust Him to handle your worst. Embrace the experience with absolute assurance and you’ll live to worship Him for all of it.

Secrets make you smaller. 

If you’re not man or woman enough to own your choices or to stand up for your behavior, then ask yourself in that moment: What part of Who-I-Want-To-Be is being sabotaged by Who-I-Really-Am? Your secrets aren’t serving you, you’re serving them. It’s not like you’re actually accomplishing anything lasting. It’s just veneer. Honesty is what will align you with your purpose. Even if your purpose is to break you before it’s built within you. If you think that you’ll disappoint God with your secret shame, you don’t know Him at all. God is in your hidden spaces communing with your hidden self. He knew all about your shame before you did.

Keeping secrets is like swallowing a slow-release poison.

If you’re only as sick as your secrets and not acknowledging it is like trying to protect a ticking time bomb. It makes no sense to put that much effort into something that is bent to destroy your facade. I know from experience that what is hidden doesn’t feel as real as what is exposed. But, …

You’re not hiding it as well as you think you are.

You can’t have the hidden life and the public life and be present in both at the same time. But, we’re not created to function as separate parts. That would be a psychological disorder. And a person with that legitimate disorder would tell you that the whole person is unquestionably affected by the separate identities. You’re not protecting your life from your secret. You’re protecting your secret from your life.

Everything gets found out.

If the holder of the secret is the one who lets it go, then that is one less offense against him. The guilt is released as you release yourself to the process. This is the moment by which your faith is defined. It’s reveals the ultimate question about what you think happens to people like you. I’ve submitted myself to that process, had to face my own version of that question, and should have been crushed. But, I wasn’t. I was placed up higher so I could be shown much more. Grace is ridiculous when you forget what Jesus chose to go through to accomplish it. You couldn’t possibly out-sin the forgiving power of the cross.

Not all secrets should be revealed. 

Some things are better left behind. As long as you are really leaving them behind.

When all is said and done, only the truth remains. Whoever you really are is what will be left. If you’re really your hidden self, then make yourself known. If it is your public self, then stop protecting something that’s going to mess everything up. Your purpose is calling, and it wants all of you.

hidden life

 


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advice for the found out

Posted: November 30th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »
The following is a response to someone whose affair was just discovered and whose shame has been publicly paraded.

Dear Found Out,

I am so sorry you’re in the spot you’re in. The level of shame and humiliation you must be feeling is crushing.

I’m not sure if you’re looking for practical information, spiritual perspective, or just to reach out to someone who has been that person and had to navigate that mess. So, I’ll offer you a little of each.

The practical information is this:

  • It is best to own everything you did, resist sticking up for yourself, avoid explaining your reasons, and let people fall apart in their own way.
The longer you take to come clean about everything, the harder it’s going to be for you in our healing process. It’s like breaking a bone, not telling anyone about it, then the doctor has to break the bone again so it can heal right. Just go through it all at once so that you can get this part behind you. It’s horrible and you’ll lose every bit of what you thought was good about you, but the rebuilding is amazing and thorough. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

Don’t stick up for yourself or offer your excuses. You have them, but you got them little by little and they made sense at the time. But you’re giving this to people all at once and it will sound pathetic, even to you. Excuses have a one time use: to get you trapped. They cannot be resurrected to set you free.

People are going go through their own pain because of this. You can’t help them and it’s not even about you, though they’ll make it about you if they can. It’s about them and God. It’s going to be hard on them and they’ll want to make you feel some of it. The spiritual perspective will help you endure their pain along with your own.

The Spiritual perspective is this:

Every second you’ve been alive, every breath you’ve taken, and every moment you’ve lived up to this point, God has known about this. Every time He has told you that He loves you, He knew about this. When He made you, when He saved you, and when He used you… He knew about this. This will change you, but it won’t change Him. He would not be God if He couldn’t handle your worst.

You’ve always had this inside of you and this is the time that He has decided to finally root it out. You’re about to learn what it is to be refined by fire and it sucks. You’re about to understand why Jesus had to do what He did. There is no way you could pay this debt. That is what this is all about.

The gravity of finally understanding the Truth is absolutely terrifying in every way possible. It’s also very personal. It’s between you and God. God will not allow you to use other people as a pacifier, so He is going to put up walls between you and anyone who will crowd out His voice. You have to remember not to blame anyone for failing you right now. They’re not supposed to be enough, remember. Don’t keep a mental list of their failures toward you, because they’ll be so numerous and spiritually horrific they wouldn’t be able to bear them. The more you need from them, the more they’ll demand from you and fail you. It’s you and God and that’s it.

Remember that when Adam and Eve sinned the first sin, God came for them, He didn’t wait for them to come to Him. When Jesus came, He went even further than the path in the garden, He went to every depraved place we could go. He’s with you. Don’t ever let anyone convince you that He’s left you. That’s enemy territory and the power is in the lie.

There is a battle raging for you you right now. Hell wants you to believe that you’re ruined and God wants you to know that He’s closer than He’s ever been. Of all those times you’ve said “God, I’ve got this,”… this is not one of them and He’s all over it.

People will tell you that you have to do a), b), and c), but that’s an attempt to get you to believe you can save yourself. There is no climbing back up the cliff from which you jumped. It’s okay if that reality destroys you. You’re about to be rebuilt stronger and more beautiful than you ever were before. Again, you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

As someone who has been in some version of your shoes:

The Christian culture has been too candied to be able to come anywhere near being sufficient enough to find you where you are. Some of the songs have words that are so on point, it’s surreal, but they’re sung by Disneyish characters who have no soul. It’s infuriating and sickening. It’s hard to find something real, but when you do, it’s hard to believe that God would still talk to you like that.

I’ve spent nearly a decade trying to add some friction to the steps people take to find the Truth. The fact that you remembered me while laying broken at the bottom of the cliff is proof some of the grit stuck. Everything I write is for people in your position. It’s like a road map. I know it’s hard to believe that God still loves you, and not only knew about this, but has a plan for this. That’s why I use as many scriptures as possible to back it up. Read those blogs again… things will pop out at you that you never saw before. I write in layers. I hide things only people like us would get. People like us: Saved by grace. Literally and for real this time.

Oh, did you know that Adam and Eve’s names weren’t mentioned until after they sinned? Before then, they were called “Man” and “Woman”. Interesting, isn’t it? Also, Adam wasn’t cursed…. the serpent was cursed and the ground was cursed. Adam and Eve lost their innocence, but they weren’t cursed. You have lost your innocence, but this will be the pivotal moment of your entire life. …A moment in your narrative that your future self thanks God for.

Hold on. He’s got you.

He won't leave you.


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