breathing fresh air

Posted: August 28th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Mandy Steward wrote the 28th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it, “Breathing Fresh Air”.

Mandy’s chapter was about discovering what yoga can do for your mind and spirit. I understand what she is saying and it’s fun to read her perspective. Yoga is the practice of relaxing into the tension of being stretched. It’s about finding the edge of yourself and growing that territory further out by facing the fear of falling off. The mental strength you gain has an undeniable positive effect on the rest of your life.

She parallels the practice on the yoga mat and out in her life:

“As I follow what I believe to be the promptings of the Spirit of God inside of me, I find myself exploring all sorts of new territory. What I am learning on my mat in yoga is transferring to how I enter into these new mysteries of my faith. I bend a little in my mind, as far as I feel comfortable, and then I breathe and see if I feel as though I can safely release the muscles to allow myself to go even deeper or if I am at my proverbial edge, needing to back off” (page 180).

In a conversation I had a couple weeks ago, my friend and I discussed the different paths people take to find the truth. They’ll get a glimpse of the truth and make a religion out of it. When I studied religions in college, I noticed that each had an element of the truth in it. It’s just that many of them haven’t found it through the Source of Truth, and so it’s tangled by tumors of false belief or spiritual blindness.

There is a such thing as spiritual enlightenment, of living selflessly, loving others, and finding your connection to the rest of creation. These things are worthwhile spiritual practices, but they have nothing to do with the flesh. Meaning, they have nothing to do with Jesus. Any religion can accomplish amazing acts of humanitarian work and meditation practice can strengthen the thinking part of our lives. Food can be our God-designed medicine, positive thinking can alter our chemistry, and healing breaths can change our neurological activity. In all of that amazing and fascinating truth, none of it mentions Jesus.

There is a connection between tradition and freedom from tradition. It’s all part of the whole. I’ve been exploring this territory for a few years now. Mandy’s writing gave me the sense that she knows she’s talking to people who may not have discovered much about God outside of the safety of their religious institutions. I wish we had more Bible-based conversations about the bigger picture. I think people would find the healing, freedom, and peace they crave if they recognized that God created everything and He is an active part of every aspect of life. We’ve scooted away from Him in every area except the Sunday Morning sanctuary.

Mandy cited this scripture and I love it…

As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.Ecclesiastes 11:5 KJV

mandy stewart

Dan King wrote the 29th chapter of Soul Bare. He titled it, “Look At Me, Daddy”. I’ll write my thoughts about his 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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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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the root

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

Angie Hong wrote the sixth chapter of “Soul Bare“. It’s called “The Root”.

You never know what you’re going to find in these chapters. My own biases are being challenged by how deep these writers went for this book. Angie went to “the root”. As she wrestles with balancing the love her mother had for her with the things she would do to punish her, I’m realizing how many ways a person can be belittled.

“Could it be right to punish me by keeping me home from school and making me hold my hands in the air all day, naked?” (page 46).

Our lives are entirely about finding God. It’s easier to understand the separation between life in the body and the life of the spirit when you back up off of the here-and-now for a better view. You can see the life like an orchard with the fruit of a tree producing similar trees with similar fruit. When Angie held her own newborn, her history collided with her future when her overwhelming love met her hidden fear.

Angie writes about how she was able to break free of the past and create a different future for her own children. She wanted to be a tree that produced different fruit, and in order to do that, she had to visit the root and deal with her past.

I’m going to use the same scripture that Angie used in her chapter because it’s perfect.

“Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper, and the instead of the briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign,that will endure forever.” -Isaiah 55:13

Angie Kay Hong

If you haven’t ordered a copy of this book, you really should.

I’ll write my thoughts about chapter seven, “The Waging and the Waiting”, written by Tammy Perlmutter next.



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just be you

Posted: April 18th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Just because you say you are a thing, and present yourself as a thing, does not make you that thing. You must first find that thing stalking you in the secret spaces of thought and knocking on the doors of your intent. You must turn inward and meet that part of you as an act of submission rather than fabrication. You can be anything you want, but until you are no longer mimicking the identity, convictions, and practice of others, you are not anything. The genuine does not use others as products for consumption. The genuine knows how to create.

The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it’s not so easy—every detail of life regulated by fine print! – Romans 10:4-5 MSG

When you study the movements and habits of others as a means to make them your own, you procrastinate your own journey. You shortchange yourself. Deep feelings of inadequacy are keeping you from getting to know yourself. You can’t fake your way into being someone of substance. You can’t follow enough rules to make it real. You only attract others who, like you, don’t know where they’re going. You surround yourself with people who want to be someone and never know that they already are.

But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story—no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah. So what exactly was Moses saying? The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. – Romans 10:6-9 MSG

Stop running from your own quiet. You’re not missing out on anything because what is going on out there is not yours. You can’t keep taking and taking, all the while expecting no one to notice that you’re just regurgitating someone else’s ideas. Where is your fruit? Show us your creation.

You can’t do this on your own. You’re making people want to avoid you. Spend more time breathing in the already present God. Breathe out all the tension and angst of someone with no vision. Leave the frustration of a desperate wannabe behind as you cultivate your own garden. Water your own grass. Find your own path. Let the organic righteousness of God fold you into His mysteries and weave you like thread into something uniquely beautiful. Maybe somewhere down the line you’ll meet up with like minds instead of trying to consume the minds of those you want to be like.

This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” – Romans 10:9-10 MSG

be yourself

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