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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wrestling with God in the art house theater

Posted: August 15th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , | No Comments »

The fifteenth chapter of Soul Bare was written by Karissa Knox Sorrell. She titled it “Wrestling with God in the Art House Theater”.

Karissa begins her chapter in a bathroom stall of a movie theater. Something about the movie she was watching, Tree of Life, connected with the accidental death of her brother and she had to escape. She writes that a woman came into the bathroom, heard crying, and asked if she was okay. After Karissa mentioned her brother, she received a sympathetic cliche and declined the offer to come out for a hug from the stranger.

I can’t imagine the pain of losing a sibling. Her brother was only seventeen. He was riding a motorcycle and lost his life against someone’s windshield. It’s a common thread among people who have lost someone to be uncomforted by the verbal stumbling of people who can’t find the right words to show their sympathy. The woman in the bathroom was no exception.

Different religious denominations have their own language, sayings, traditions, and rituals. They do and say certain things at certain times, and only those within that section of the subculture know what is going on. The bulk of Karissa’s chapter speaks to those who are familiar with her particular religious subculture. She mentions some of the rituals, describing the comfort she got from them.

“We sing [The Paschal Hymn] at Pascha, we hold our blazing candles high in the air. We shout it, announce it like believe it, like we know it’s true. We are so drunk on Christ’s resurrection that we laugh ecstatically, then we cry a little, then we laugh again” (page 104).

As I read, I was aware of the likelihood that these gave her structure and a sense of control in spaces of her life where the pain may have made her feel like she had no control. Despite the illusion of control, she is unable to forgive God for letting her brother die. He was just a kid, so the senselessness of it all is heart breaking. She made her way back to the movie, but sat crying in the dark.

“I’m a lot like Jacob [in Genesis 32] just fightin’ it out all night with God in the middle of the scary dark” (page 106).

When people are in the infected pockets of life, they come across unbalanced, like you could tip them either way and they would tumble. We’re all so different. Situations have meaning for some that carry no sentiment for someone else. But, there is a place for all of it.

As Karissa gives you a glimpse of her fight to hang on to her faith and stay above the water that keeps trying to suck her under, she says she’s trying to hope that God loves. This reader notices that she doesn’t say she’s trying to hope that God loves her.

“In desperation, in my near faithlessness, I still cling to the small hope that he’s real and he loves” (page 106).

Pain that deep doesn’t feel like it was inflicted by someone who loves you. People live in this struggle every day. They “wrestle with God” every day. It’s a journey and Karissa won’t be in this spot forever. You never know what people are going though under the smooth surface of their skin. It’s a good reminder to be patient and kind.

You an find Karissa blogging here.

Karissa Knox Sorrell


Lindsey van Niekerk wrote the sixteenth chapter of Soul Bare. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter, “A Broken Love Story”, 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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Posted: August 12th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , | No Comments »

Seth Haines wrote the twelfth chapter of Soul Bare. He titled it, “Nuance”.

These chapters have been heavy for different reasons, and Seth’s fits in that regard. Seth’s chapter is refreshing because he didn’t gift wrap his pain. It’s a polaroid of about 5 minutes next to a window on the fifth floor of a hospital, and a well intentioned phone call that completely negated the tension of Trust. And there lies the point.

“He’s telling me a story of belief, and I’m truly grateful for his reaching out. But these words don’t bolster me; they feel more like a dagger than a comfort” (page 88).

His chapter leaves me with the feeling that he was well into learning about the part of God that quiets the wise. Something is wrong with his baby boy and everybody has their own take. …That if he jumps through enough hoops, his baby will heal. But Seth is learning something else about God.

When people are taken to the thin parts of their faith, they are introduced to devotion.

“Do you trust me?”

Because even if he killed me, I’d keep on hoping.Job 13:15 MSG

“Sometimes providence guards us from pain. Other times providence is in the pain” (page 89).

Seth Haines

Christina Gibson wrote the thirteenth chapter of Soul Bare. I’ll write my thoughts about “Pain and Holy Ground” next.



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let Him redeem it as His

Posted: February 21st, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments »

“The time has arrived—I mean right now!—when dead men and women will hear the voice of the Son of God and, hearing, will come alive.” – John 5:25 MSG

I have a deep fear that visits me almost every day. It’s dark and empty like the vast nothingness that I imagine Hell to be. It’s an old reality that threatens me with revisiting. It’s anxiety and I know how to keep it at bay.

But some people don’t. Some people recoil into a figurative fetal position and find anything that will tell them they’ll be okay. With adults, it could be a bottle of burning liquid, a dosage of pills that was never meant for them, or a warm body that they don’t even care about. They’re still the little kid under the thumb of human indecency and they’ve not learned to stand up to it. They’ve not learned to be okay in their own company.

Silence’s thoughts are the scary what-ifs that torment the soul into hiding. But silence is weaponless and it can’t take you captive on any level in any form. Solitude is a brutal prison for the tortured. But solitude can introduce you to yourself and teach you that not only are you worth knowing, you’re worth the fight. If you know you’re worth the fight, then you won’t damage yourself trying to keep what wants to walk away. You’ll be thankful for the clarity.

For the one sobbing and spent. You haven’t cried like this since you were little, when the pain first showed up. I know it hurts. I’ve been there. Many times. The cries of a child who still sobs even though he knows no one is coming to save him ring in my ears as though it’s still happening. I wish I could save him. The evil twist of cruelty is when the big sister has to hear the pain of her siblings in the middle of her own. Like children in a concentration camp. Her imagination can’t come close to the reality of what is happening in the spaces she can’t see.

You’re an adult now, but here you are again. Maybe you keep circling around to this place because He wants to redeem it. Maybe He wants to show you that you were never without Him. He was a pallbearer in the death of your light.

When my darkness comes calling, I raise my chin. When the thoughts threaten, I say, “So what?” There is only so much that life can do to you. I’ve been through much of it and I don’t want any more, but I refuse to let my days be stolen by my fear. I don’t remember my own giggles. I don’t remember my own twirl. He was the pallbearer in the death of my light, too.  But He lets me use His. He’s my light now.

Stop using bandaids to do what only a surgeon can. This isn’t the playground. This is a war zone. Say goodbye to what you lost and stop trying to stick your limbs back on your bloody stumps. There is life for the wounded, but you have to acknowledge that you are wounded. There is no such thing as normal. Stop using someone else’s “normal” by measuring yourself against it. It’s an alien standard that will never apply to you.

No one can take away what happened to you, but you have a choice. You can accept it. It happened to you — pain that makes the spirit of the child long for the womb — yet you’re still here. You are not still under the thumb of cruelty. You’re not umbilically attached to the evil you endured.

You are stronger than you think you are. I know you’ve done things trying to heal yourself. Damaging things, trying to free yourself from the pain. The best and worst thing that ever happened to me was when I lost everything. I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t have any friends left… It was awful and I couldn’t see any future. I was pissed off at myself for ruining my life. But I had this deep feeling that there was more for me. I knew I wasn’t trash, I just didn’t have any evidence.

I know you’re hurting and I don’t know where you are on your journey, but it is just a journey. You can do and be anything you want. It’s not dependent on anyone else. This is all you. I believe in you. I wish we were taught how to navigate life better than this, but my best lessons came when I had to rebuild.

You’re looking for something to keep you from slipping away into obscurity, and your Savior is standing right in front of you, asking for you to hand it over. Your pain is a gray-lipped child. Let Him redeem it as His.

It’s lonely, but you are never alone. There are some parts of our journey that we must walk without anyone else. Otherwise, we never become. It’s like cracking out of a shell or breaking through a cocoon. It’s personal, and this grand design was made with you in mind. Like a new mother in labor, you are strong enough, but you have to push.

You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.– 1 Peter 5:9-11 MSG

breaking through