Speak up! Silence isn’t silent.

Posted: January 24th, 2017 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments »

I’m a passionate person. If something interests me or affects me, I exhaust the available information to learn as much as I can about it. I’ve always avoided learning about political matters because I didn’t feel them affect my day to day life. I took for granted that more knowledgable people would keep things in line and I focused my energy elsewhere. I saw people get passionate about politics the same way I would get passionate about the Gospel and, of late, using food as your medicine, and I didn’t want to get caught up in it. However, this political season has pushed its way into my world to the point of not being able to ignore it. People are getting weird and I try to check out their sources. I want to see things from their perspective to compare it with mine. Consequently, I’m more informed. Being informed leads to shock and, at times, disgust. The more I see, the more I have something to say.

Politics began creeping into my awareness in the form of dissenting opinions of people I would consider friends. I would see their social media feed, the brazen negativity from otherwise positive people, and I would do a bit of research to gauge their accuracy and see what was getting them so worked up. Barely scratching the surface of the easily accessed information revealed the inaccuracy of my friends’ shared opinions and hurt my respect for them. It stained everything else they said. Including the things with which I would normally agree.

This had me double-checking information that I would normally take at face value, which isn’t a bad thing for me. However, if my friendship and/or respect is important to these people, then it was a bad thing for them. I became disappointed and increasingly sober. It wasn’t humorous in the absurdity. It was disheartening and scary. How could they not see it?

I found myself wanting to create distance so that I wouldn’t be associated with their politics, but I didn’t do a good enough job. Uncertain, uninformed, and, admittedly, unthinking friends, who didn’t know which direction to vote, would check out my posts, find nothing, and then gravitate to my friends’ posts who were more vocal. Someone came up to me and told me they voted for Trump because my friend made such a good case for why she was voting for him. My silence looked like my agreement. I learned a valuable lesson. Silence is not always silent.

Since then, that same friend confided that she regrets looking to my friends for voting direction and wishes she could take it back. She gained her independence through this, though. I know she’s not alone. And I’m sorry she trusted me so much that my associations were good enough for her. I need to be more careful about my associations or at least let my feelings be known.

I watched that man do everything possible to sink the ship on which he was sailing while my friends and fellow Christians made excuses for his behavior and patched up his holes. He was vulgar and sexually predatory and they would say “That was ten years ago.” He would mock a disabled man and they would say, “That’s just how he makes fun of people.” He would lie and they would say, “He’s just a colorful communicator.” He would talk about women saying they were “disgusting”. I watched him wish “the good old days” back as a protestor called him out on his KKK approval. “What good old days?” I wondered.

“In the good old days this doesn’t happen because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, you know, they would not do it again so easily. …I like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you what. I love the old days. You know what they use to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on stretcher, folks. That’s true. …In the good old days, they’d rip him out of that seat so fast…. In the good old days, law enforcement acted a lot quicker than this. A lot quicker. …I am the law and order candidate.” – Donald Trump in response to protestors at his rallies. Click here to see his words against the backdrop of  “the good old days” as portrayed by the documentary “13th”. I highly recommend watching the whole documentary.

I don’t want to talk about him anymore.

I couldn’t believe he was actually elected. I was at work the following day and more than once, I escaped to the bathroom to cry privately when those around me were celebrating. I didn’t cry because he won. I cried because of what his win said about our country. I was no longer blind and what I saw broke my heart. I wanted this insanity to be over and for us to move on to a different kind of challenge, but it’s not over and I refuse to “normalize” what is abnormal and horridly destructive. I live in a very conservative part of the country. I’m surrounded by people who voted for him. I have kept my mouth shut because nobody has asked me what I think. I’m the quiet one. But as I sit quietly, I can’t believe that no one is speaking up. It makes me feel alone.

I struggle to separate politics from the person to the point of wondering if, in this case, there is a difference. I don’t think so. This isn’t about red or blue. Is it about Red, White, and Blue? The active word being “white”? Is it about a Russian agenda? I watch as children suffered horribly in Allepo at the hands of Russians and wonder how in the heck anyone could be okay with a friendly connection to them. Their faces haunted me and woke me up at night. I would pray myself back to sleep and cry when I was awake. It wrecked me. I would ask people around me if they were aware and they weren’t.

Do they not read the news? Oh, yeah. They don’t trust the news. Real things are happening, things they could do something about, causes they could support, they could be lifting these babies up in prayer… and they don’t watch the news. They don’t read the articles. They’re robots, but who is the programmer?

You know what’s most disturbing to me? A lot of his supporters are self-proclaimed Christians. They’re exalting him as though he’s going to do something to make their lives better. Do they think he’s going to get them more money? At what cost? Isn’t the love of money the root of all evil? Do they think he’s going to make them safer? He uses props and constructs a show like there are no consequences to the masquerade fallout. He’s used to a world where there is no such thing as “bad press”. If they’re talking about you, then you still get ratings. He calls himself “the ratings machine”. But this isn’t a show.

How can a Christian be a nationalist? We are no better than anyone else and thinking that God loves Americans more than any other country is asinine. I’m not saying that I don’t love my country or that I want to live somewhere else. I’m just saying that we are not better than anyone else and it’s more patriotic and Godly to embrace the outcasts and outsiders, and provide shelter for the war wrecked. Hypocrisy is the alternative. Read the words on our Statue of Liberty: 

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

We, both as Americans and as Christians, are supposed to be a safe place. We, as Christians, are supposed to be gentle and kind. This man is dolling out lies and inconsistencies like a pedophile in an ice cream truck and the gullible are intoxicated by his schoolyard tune of dirty lyrics. They’re starstruck. They think this guy is going to get them something. Meanwhile, they sacrifice their witness and say things they can never take back.

I’m a Christian and I’m not like them.

I don’t support protesting him with violence, by defacing or misrepresenting the flag, or by hurting other people, and I don’t support the divisions. I don’t even support divisions between countries, colors, languages, genders, or any other differences. I’m struggling to know how to navigate this time in our history, but I know enlightenment can come from what appears to be darkness.

The whole world is watching us right now. Don’t stand down. Let love win.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash


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repugn the weathercock

Posted: October 30th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. -Romans 13:1 NIV

You have a choice regarding how you look at life. You can choose fear or faith. You can’t have both. You can’t choose fear when it socially suits you in your pursuit of relevance, only to choose faith when the emotional fork-in-the-road is over. Decide who you are, what or Whom you serve, or forever become an empty reflection of an unthinking social media ticker. One day they abhor divisive talk and the next day they bait a divisive discussion. One day they choose left, then the wind changes direction and they are the biggest advocate for the right. Repugn the weathercock.

They burn with fear and call it passion. What will become of all of their fear-talk and ultimatums when this is over? The braveheart would fight to the death. They present as warriors for their cause when they’re behind the safety of a screen, but time and change turn them into weak and insipid pawns. They won’t fight to the death, they’ll normalize it and find some other parade float to ride on.

Choose faith. You already know Who wins. What is your problem? Don’t you recognize fear-mongers taunt by now? They report as though there is no God. They speak as though He cannot hear. They flirt with your need for something meaningful and call you away from your First Love. The easily manipulated take a bite like they’ve been invited to a King’s feast. Run from them. Fear’s secret lovers think they know how this is going to turn out. They confuse satire for breaking news and sing karaoke quality gossip like they’re going to change the lives of their listeners.

Make hope your center of gravity. Seal out irrational sensationalism. Don’t be a cheap conduit of panicked ultimatums. There are forces that want to pit us against one another, but we are not naturally inclined to be like that. We don’t look for differences, we look for similarities. But, when presented with requisitions and threats of impending doom, we are forced to consider the faulty logic and reject the weak-minded fuel of the mob mentality.

Pray. Do it with certainty that God has authority. Pray with faith based on the fact that He gets His way. Pray without doubting and if you have people in your life who make you forget, then silence their voices by blocking their path to your door. It’s weird seasons like this that are a sieve to catch the unstable and uneducated. You can’t talk sense to a nonthinker, they’ll just dumb down your efforts. The intelligent publicly ignore the nonsense of fools and privately pray for the prevalence of unity, freedom, intelligence, and truth. Go down in history as an advocate for wisdom and peace. Be a Rock-anchored beacon and let the storm kick up your hair, making you all the more beautiful.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. – James 1:5-8 ESV

Photo by *Prismes

Against The Wind by *Prismes

 


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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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a broken love story

Posted: August 16th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: | No Comments »

Lindsey van Niekerk wrote the sixteenth chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it “A Broken Love Story”.

Lindsey is a missionary kid who was born in Haiti. It was interesting to read from her perspective because I know that missionaries have this certain camaraderie that stems from the challenges associated with that life.

“My life began as a juxtaposition of sorts. Born white in a black world, American blood with Haitian air first breathed into my lungs. I grew up a third-culture kid, belonging neither to the country of my parents nor the country of my birth” (page 107).

She moved back the the United States to attend college. Her initial experience was a lot like many Christian college student experiences. It’s exciting to be on your own, to have your own church, community, and schedule. I became a Christian when I was 19, so all of my new friends were that age and doing what she was doing. I remember noticing the energy and this Utopian outlook they had. As a teenage mom, I was more of an observer than a partaker, but reading her words reminds me of those days.

Life never dressed up for me. It was always hung over and too tired to try to impress me. But the college crowd at my church had stars of another world in their eyes and I always wondered what it would be like to feel the kind of possibility they felt. Now that twenty years have passed, I can see where these people are today and it’s mostly just average.

Lindsey’s chapter is like a little window into the life of a hopeful kid who grew up to have health issues, trouble starting a family, and the inability to know where her place is in the church community. She isn’t in a place where she wants to serve at church, but doesn’t know how to refrain. Her struggles, to this reader, seem average and that’s probably one of the most frustrating places to be. She was a college student with stars of another world in her eyes who grew up to be an adult under the gravitational pull of this world. She’s doing what everybody does when they figure out they’re on a hamster wheel. She’s making the most of it.

Lindsey van Niekerk

 

Joy Bennet wrote, “Metamorphasis”, the seventeenth chapter of Soul Bare. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter next.


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pain and holy ground

Posted: August 13th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Christina Gibson wrote chapter thirteen of Soul Bare. She titled it “Pain and Holy Ground”.

Christina’s experience with pain is another example of how those who going through it are finding God in it. She writes that over preparing for motherhood didn’t begin to prepare her for being a mother to a sick baby. It poignantly, it didn’t prepare her for answering questions like this one from her, now, 5-year-old:

“She asked me to look her in the eye and tell her whether or not she’ll live to be a mommy” (page 92).

We live so afraid of hurting, but people, like Christina, are there and they’re telling us that God is there, too. She has had to face the questions about how far God will ask her to walk and whether or not He’ll walk there with her. We have this unconscious and unchecked belief that God and pain don’t run in the same circles, but it’s wrong.

“But if we don’t squarely face the question of God’s ability to take care of us, we’ll not only be incapable of embracing the pain, we won’t be able to fully embrace God” (page94).

Christina Gibson

Monica Sharman wrote the 14th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it “When I Pursued Joy”.


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