You know what they say, what goes up must come down
And somethin’ tells me your fate’s comin’ round
You really thought you wouldn’t reap what you sow?
Or that the people who loved you wouldn’t tell you so?
Your passion suctioned from your facial expression
Your life, once emblazoned, extinguished — what a lesson
Those skeletons were revived, an ironic apparition
You’re walking alone, like a tightrope walker on a mission
The moral of the story is there are no morals in your story
And the irony of your testament is that it is devoid of any glory
Of the hundreds wounded, you don’t consider a single one
A self proclaimed hero basking in old war stories won
Restless cries of opposition and evil unsubdued;
You fail to realize the only villain is you.
You know what they say, what goes up must come down
Peace is the only battle worth waging. Albert Camus
Life is all but simple, isn’t it? Every where we turn, there is an unexpected curve ball, people that are supposed to love us hurt us deeply, and just like that, we’re knocked off track (with the scrapes and bruises to show for it) and our peace has vanished.
We all have a story to tell – and for many of us, those heartaches we can’t help but carry with us ripple into our future and syphon every ounce of hope, day by day, until subconsciously we decide to forfeit a joyful, peaceful life that was originally meant for us. We eventually tolerate living a mediocre life of defeat and even get suspicious when things seem to go well for us. This was me, anyway.
My world and normalcy as I knew it crashed and burned right in front of me on February 17, 2013, and Ground Zero continued to burn wildly for many months following (my story, raw and uncut, coming soon). As much as I want to regret the hurt people I loved and trusted caused me, I am thankful for every ounce of pain that swallowed me whole during that desolate time in my life. I have always been almost inappropriately open about my life and the people in it, but opening myself up to the world about the pain I endured throughout this season of my life hurt bad—even for me.
I have learned a lot in my life about friendship, forgiveness, and other things as they pertain to Life 101. But one thing I never knew in any capacity was PEACE. The peace and joy I have today did not come easily. Peace came after walking gruelingly through an unquenchable fire and putting my broken, barely-beating heart on display for the whole world to see, including those who hurt me irreparably.
There are people in my life I considered like family – people I loved and trusted with every fiber of my being that I never thought I would go a day without seeing or talking to –that I may never see or speak to again. People, who, for many years, stamped my life with both good and bad memories, and in many ways have molded me into the person I am today. Some removed themselves and some I made the brave decision to remove from my everyday life. Like peace, setting healthy boundaries was foreign to me prior to this stormy season. Some days it makes me sad and I find myself missing some of these people and pondering fond memories made, but most days, I look up and smile, and know that this is, in large part, why I now live in peace.
If you are reading this and find yourself wondering why you don’t have or why you’ve never had peace, don’t worry. I am just learning what it is like to live in peace at 28. I realize 28 may be young to many of you, however I have already exposed myself and my marriage in ways no woman should ever have to. But if it means you can find the joy and peace I have, then I count it a unique privilege to share my story with you.
Again, peace did not come easy. It comes at a price, and it’s all about how much you’re willing to pay. For me the price was weighty, but the price of forfeiting peace, in my opinion, was much higher and it was simply a price I could not afford.
So what does living in peace involve? How do you pursue peace and keep it for yourself? Allow me to explain what worked for me.
1. Expose yourself. Peace simply does NOT come, in any form, without living in complete and total truth – truth about yourself, truth about your life, and truth about others. For me, peace came once I was cut so deeply, that nobody could hurt me because everything that was sacred to me, including gaping emotional wounds and pain inflicted on me by others, was on public display. The best part about being so completely vulnerable is that nobody can hurt you because you’ve already done what they may aim to do — expose you.
Vulnerability is a beautiful thing. There is no greater feeling than literally letting go of the epidemic of pleasing people and caring about what they think. We are all human and we all endure heartaches and trials. Nobody gets through this life unscathed, and nobody gains anything from pretending they have it all together. Just take off the mask (it’s not a good look for you, anyway) – people who are open and honest about their lives have peace. You can’t heal what you don’t acknowledge as truth and fact. It’s simple, really. Oftentimes, those who live a lie are the only ones who believe it (and you don’t want to look as stupid as they do, do you?). And in terms of the mask, I have found that once people “clean up” everything going on on the “inside” they look much, much better on the outside. And unless you can afford a lifetime supply of Botox (which seems to work for some), you may as well start unpacking all of your baggage instead of leaving it under your eyes. In a nutshell, you can’t have peace if you refuse to live in truth.
2. Embrace confrontation. I’ve always been an honest person. I hate lies now and I hated lies then. Maybe this is a result of being lied to so many times throughout my life. In any case, my blunt but sincere honesty often outcasted me; and ironically enough, it happened most often in the “church” I worked for and practically grew up in. I often saw things I knew were wrong, and when the Holy Spirit tugged at my heart to bring those situations to the powers that be (well, were would now be the operative word), I was consistently reminded that I was “judgmental,” “critical,” and even that I just “thought I was better than” people. Over time, I came to believe these lies about myself and my inner advocate for truth and all things that were right was eventually stifled by my superficial desire to be liked and accepted. I didn’t feel like being ridiculed and so I became one of the “dead” fish that went with the flow of things.
What was missing from my years in “ministry” was that nobody ever wanted to confront anything. Men and women were cheating on their spouses with other men and women on leadership, “friends” were more appropriately named as homewreckers (mine especially), and any wrongdoing that was ever exposed, usually not on purpose, was quickly brushed under the rug or denied, many times in the form of staff meetings or a church service. It was always encouraged that we “mind our business” or “focus on ourselves” because it’s what “God would have us do” (welcome to Cult Life 101). Speaking of any such scandals classified you as a “gossiper” or “slander whore” (how the Bible supposedly translates the word “gossiper” in Greek — but now I wonder, is “gossiper” even in the Bible?). This skewed and tainted way of life was never healthy and it was never right. Even worse, it was never Biblical. Ultimately, it transformed me, and hardly for the better.
What I later came to grasp — once my moral compass began to point North again — was that when you love someone, you confront them. You realize that you care more about that person’s wellbeing than temporarily offending them. You care more about preventing a potentially hazardous situation than letting someone you love ruin their life. I was trained to believe confrontation was an act of rebellion that was frowned upon — but the truth is, we as humans depend on it. We need it and don’t even realize it.
If you aren’t sure whether or not you should confront someone or something, and you have that uneasy feeling in your stomach that makes you want to throw up at the thought of confronting them, it’s a good sign that you probably should go with it. Confrontation doesn’t feel good in the moment, but good will always come out of it – if it is rooted in kindness and love. You could save someone, and someday they will thank you for being the friend they needed.
If you know of or witness wrongdoing taking place, do everyone a favor and confront those involved! If you see something that is wrong taking place and you standby and do nothing, you are selfish, and you are a coward — period. If you’re more worried about being “liked” or “avoiding drama” (this excuse bothers me the most) than confronting a person or bad situation, you have no spine, and you should get one by following the words you’re reading. Nobody respects someone without a backbone, anyway. Perhaps you can you tell I’ve been scorned by many people I thought loved me, who never confronted situations that eventually badly hurt me.
As I mentioned, a good result will always come from confrontation when done in kindness and love, but it may not happen immediately. Truly confronting situations may result in the loss of a relationship, but what you will come to realize is that you’re better off without friends or family who don’t respect your opinion and have no desire to rectify irresponsible or hurtful actions. When you’re confronting someone who never admits they’re wrong or someone who refuses to face reality (denial), don’t expect it to end with you both skipping down the street holding hands. But why would you want to? Even without the skipping, you’ll be out of breath just from dealing with the added stress they bring to your life. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Erase toxic people from your life (as often as necessary). Almost always, when you put the first two points in action, Number Three will take care of itself. When you live in truth and embrace confrontation, toxic people will fall right off of the map that is your life. But in the event that a toxic person makes it past those two points, consistently reevaluate your life and the people you let in it.
Protect yourself and your peace by being vigilant about bad company, which does, in fact, corrupt good character.
Do the people in your life live in truth, or do they lie to you to make you happy? Do they add stress to your life or is their presence a peaceful one? Do they discourage or encourage you? Do they take responsibility for their actions and value your opinion? Do you feel comfortable being open and honest with them without fear of being judged or ridiculed? Do they care about you enough to confront you and tell you the truth (as we know, it goes both ways)? There are so many questions that should be asked when it comes to evaluating the people you allow into your personal life. Your life and your loved ones are sacred — think twice about what and whom you expose them to. Don’t make the mistake I did and allow any and everyone into your life so closely that they take advantage of your kindness and trust, leaving you blindsided in the end (to all my lifelong friends who warned me of this because you’re freaks of nature with weirdly accurate intuition or maybe just halfway decent character judgment, I know — you told me so — and I will be forever grateful for your love as it involved confronting me when it didn’t necessarily feel good for you).
As always, I can’t write about something or give advice I haven’t followed myself. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have peace, and I have it because I did these three things. I don’t know what the future has in store, but I do know no matter what I face, I have done everything in my power to ensure I have a peaceful, joyful life with the people I love and who truly love me (and show it with their actions) and that makes the things in life that I cannot control much easier to deal with. Love is an action word and if someone’s actions are not matching up with their words, they will strip as much peace from your life and your soul as you will allow. What you tolerate (or don’t stand up for), you authorize.
Peace is a pursuit worth chasing — it is worth more than being accepted because you conform to what others insist you should do and be, and thinking you’re happy because you force smiles on Instagram and refuse to acknowledge the truth. I know, because I’ve been there, but I refuse to go back to that place. It looks good on the outside, but it’s falling apart on the inside, and for the first time in my life, I’m not. :)
Here’s a little glimpse of Peace personified in my life this summer:
Four months ago today, I began the road to recovery from spending most of my life in a quintessential, personality-driven cult.
Also in the past four months, I’ve watched the resurrection of my marriage, watched God set my husband free from drugs after two years of addiction, and had so many unlikely, amazing people carry us through one of the darkest, most hopeless valleys in our lives.
I’ve had friends I’ve not spoken to in years write me checks, as God led them, to pay past-due bills during our season of unemployment. We’ve not missed a car payment, a meal, or even a late-night ice cream craving. We’ve restored relationships with kind and loving people we were bred to hate because of the stand they took against evil.
This past weekend, I watched my two-year-old splash jubilantly in the ocean with a grin from ear to ear while my husband, carefree and truly happy, surfed in the distance as dolphins literally swam right past him. If there was ever a moment I KNEW God was right with me, it was this.
Next Monday, I will be an employee at Capital One after a four-month hiatus from working. My new job has amazing benefits, monthly incentives, countless advancement opportunities, and it is something I can feel proud of.
As hard as I’m trying to eloquently and vividly describe the whirlwind of tears, triumphs, despair and deliverance that is my past four months, there is so much more to be said and words don’t do any of it justice.
Being happy, peaceful, and hopeful is a Christian normalcy I’ve never known until now. The cynic in me says this is all too good to be true, but I know the God I serve means it when He says He has plans to prosper and not harm us. For once, I truly believe the best is yet to come and that the “good” part of my life has only just begun.
A couple things I’ve learned while facing fear head on and taking life-changing leaps of shaken and shallow faith:
Vulnerability is beautiful. It transforms your soul into the blank canvas God uses to paint a divine and perfect picture of restoration and healing on your life.
Pride, in any form, thwarts all things that pertain to recovery and restoration (among many other things).
Thankfulness and being content in every situation is what will catapult into your lap answers to your prayers, your needs, and even your desires.
No matter how bad things are, they WILL – not might – eventually change; if you don’t give up.
Nothing and nobody is ever hopeless. God can and will change anything and anyone. Period. It just takes forgiveness, little belief, and a lot of unconditional love.
Written November 12, 2009
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
Romans 6:16 KJV
You can either draw an imaginary circle around every characteristic you possess, or write tally marks on a piece of paper under 2 columns labeled “Jesus” and “Satan.” Either way, by this quiz, you should know in which areas to ask God for help. Obviously, I did not list EVERY possible characteristic, so feel free to add any I may have missed by commenting below.
May everyone who participates in this little quiz be blessed, changed, and grow closer to the Lord. I encourage you to really read the definitions of these characteristics and truly ask yourself if they apply to you. I sure got my work cut out for me!
Do you possess………..
Charity - love in action
Compassionate - desire to alleviate the suffering of another
Content - satisfied with what one has; not wanting more or anything else
Dependable - worthy of trust; reliable
Diligent - hardworking; done or pursued with persevering attention
Faithful - true to one’s words, promises, or vows
Forgiving - cease to feel resentment against
Generous - unselfish; liberal in giving or sharing
Graceful - beauty of form, manner, movement or speech
Holy - dedicated and devoted to the service of God
Humble - feeling of insignificance and inferiority; low in rank
Joyful - emotion of great delight or happiness; the expression or display of glad feeling
Just - guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness
Kindness - helpful, mild, gentle
Leader - to guide in direction, course, action, opinion
Longsuffering - long and patient endurance of injury, trouble, or provocation
Meek - humbly patient, readily trained or taught
Merciful - forbearance shown toward an offender or an enemy
Patient - bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc. with fortitude and calm without complaint or anger
Peaceful - free from war, strife, commotion, violence, or disorder; not quarrelsome or hostile
Pure - clean, spotless, untainted with evil, innocent
Righteous - acting in an upright, moral way; genuine; virtuous
Righteous Judge - act and treat justly and fairly
Sanctified - made holy; set apart
TRUE friend - loveth at all times
Walks in Truth - honesty; integrity; truthfulness
Wise - having power to discern and judge properly
Accuser - to charge someone with a fault, offense, or crime; find fault with; blame
Adulterous - disloyal, unfaithful to spouse
Bitter - harboring unforgiveness; resentful; cynical
Breaks promises - does not do what he/she says; liar
Cheater - to defraud, deceive, violate rules or regulations; sexually unfaithful
Complainer - expressing dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, resentment, grief
Conceited - having an excessively favorable opinion of one’s abilities, appearance, etc.
Cowardly - lacks courage in facing danger, difficulty, opposition, pain
Deceitful - misleading, fraudulent
Deceptive - perpetual misleading
Destroyer - to kill; slay; render ineffective or useless; engage in destruction
Dishonest - disposed to lie, cheat, or steal; not worthy of trust or belief
Glutton - overindulging
Greedy - excessively desirous of wealth, profit
Hateful - intense dislike; feel disgust or aversion for; abhor
Immoral - violating moral principles
Instills fear/ Intimidating - to make timid; fill with fear
Lascivious - inclined to lustfulness; arousing sexual desire
Lazy - slow-moving, disinclined to work, perform an activity; idleness
Liar - deliberate intent to deceive; conveys false impressions; speak falsely, utter untruths knowingly with intent to deceive
Lover of money - overly obsessed with worldly riches and possessions
Lover of sin - willful or deliberate violation of divine law
Lustful - strong sexual desire or appetite; overmastering desire or craving
Malicious - desire to inflict injury, harm, or suffering on another; evil intent
Murderer - taking the life of another
Potty-mouth - can’t utter sentences without vulgar, profane, or offensive language
Prideful - high opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority
Superficial - concerned with or comprehending only what is on the surface; shallow
Seductive - enticing, alluring
Thief - steals secretly or without open force
Two-faced - deceitful; hypocritical
Vain - pride in one’s appearance, qualities, or achievements
Vicious - addicted or characterized by vice; grossly immoral; readily disposed to evil
In which category did you score more tally marks?
Whom are you most like?
TO WHOM DO YOU YIELD YOURSELF?
I actually thought all of this up in my head before typing it out, and realized the enemy is so tricky and does whatever he can to creep his filthy little way into our lives in any aspect he can. He can even trick us into thinking some of our emotions are acceptable. After studying the definitions of many of these characteristics, it is mind-blowing to see just how tricky the father of lies is! What a blessing to serve a God who is faithful and just if we confess our sins, to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness! (1 John 1:9)That is a PROMISE!
When is the last time you feared God? When is the last time you, like Philippians 2:12 says, worked out your salvation with “fear and trembling?”
As America rapidly transforms into a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah (with a lot more fat people) – with lust, homosexuality, human trafficking, and so many other evils so rampantly scouring cities everywhere – is God going to spare your city for the 50, 20, or even 10 righteous who inhabit it? And if you’re the only one, why might that be?
If you are not a Christian and have no desire to be, this isn’t for you, so please do not bother to continue reading or offering up your opinion. This is not about arguing over who is right or wrong—in fact, this is not up for discussion or debate with nonbelievers at all—this is, for those who call themselves followers of Christ, a CALL TO ACTION.
Today marks an unforgettable day in history. It is the day that gay marriage has made its way to Congress. While this is not surprising, and is in fact prophetic in God’s Word of the coming times, what was surprising are the proverbial crickets I heard all day long on all of my social network sites from “Christians.”
God has clearly taken His hand off of our country for many reasons not pertaining to the nature of this blog, but one being the utter lack of acknowledgment—not only from nonbelievers, but His own people! I’m here to tell you (since nobody else will) it is disgraceful and needs addressing.
Where is the balance between showing unmerited grace and mercy to the saved and the worldly while being vigilant about God and His agenda? Why are so many of you more concerned about convenience and comfort instead of standing by your Christianity and dedication to Jesus Christ no matter what it costs you?
Are those stories of noble courage and boldness from mighty men and women of God in the Bible where it ends? Since when did personal conviction stop bringing about personal change? Are you more worried about your reputation with your fellow man than your reputation with your Heavenly Father? Do you think He is ok with our cowardly silences and worldly conformation? Has Christianity become more about selling out than speaking up?
In doing what I felt was right by posting a status encouraging Christians to stick to the Book they claim to live by, I had a family member tell me I disgust them, another Facebook friend call me ignorant, and if I cared enough to count, I probably cost myself a few Facebook friends (which fortunately is not a tragedy to me). But what surprised me the most was, not opposition from nonbelievers, because that is to be expected—but the opposition and quite forward disagreement from my fellow Christians!
I was completely shocked to see many Christians say they “don’t agree” with me. It’s not about “agreeing” – it’s about READING, BELIEVING, AND APPLYING GOD’S WORDS (and without doing all three, you’re doing God, yourself, and others a major disservice).
If Jesus were walking this Earth today, I can promise you He would NOT make his profile picture that red equal sign (and contrary to popular belief, I believe Jesus WOULD have a Facebook page, as it has become the most effective way to reach the masses). He would, in total kindness and love (kindness and love being key words here), explain to any who would listen, that homosexuality is a sin and to turn away from it. He would say the same thing about adultery, lying, stealing, idolatry, fornication, drunkenness, and many other sins outlined in the Bible that would take up way too much space to list out.
If the Bible clearly states that we are ENEMIES of God if we are friends of the world (James 4:4), what makes you think your endorsement of what God considers an abomination will be held guiltless in the eyes of God? Why do you think it’s ok to be an advocate for a movement that unabashedly spits on the name of Jesus Christ?
Don’t mistake my admonition for hatred. That whole “hatred” thing is really played out. What’s hateful is how Americans are expected to “tolerate” and “accept” everything but Christians and their rights, and it’s because of Christians allowing it that it continues to happen. I am writing this because I care about my Christian brothers and sisters who, for whatever reason, don’t find their behavior in supporting such things to be ungodly or a cause for concern. I am appealing to Christians everywhere to READ the Bible to understand thoroughly what God expects from us as ambassadors for Him. We are the only representatives of Jesus left here on Earth, and as you can see, things aren’t going well for us. Like any team with goals of winning, constant conditioning, encouragement, and correction is REQUIRED.
While homosexuality happens to be the subject of the day, I believe it is just one of many of the enemy’s wicked agendas that are contributing to the overall deterioration of our nation. I believe lust and sex appeal are shoved down our throats just as much, and are just as bad, if not worse than the Marriage Equality movement. The same goes for the MURDER of innocent babies (commonly known and accepted as “abortion” and can be used as birth control and paid for by taxpayers in a town near you!) and so much more.
I am not saying that the government should “cater” to Christians. Look around—we all know that’s not happening. We all know that even the Bible encourages the separation of church and state. What I am insisting here is that Christians learn the Word of God if they are going to use the title so they don’t make Christianity more of a joke than it already is.
I know that no matter how much I stress the importance of love and kindness in confronting “touchy” subjects like this, people will turn my words into hate speech, and that’s ok. They did the same thing to someone else we know. If they called Jesus a devil, I’ll deal with being called “ignorant.”
If nobody else is going to be vigilant about the evils that compromise our children’s futures, I will gladly do so. And you should consider it, too. God’s Words are God’s Words whether or not Christians or non-Christians agree with them (and again, this pertains to so much more than just homosexuality and gay marriage). Comfortable, peaceful Christianity is not Christianity at all—just ask Paul or John the Baptist.
If the world is “on your side,” Christian, perhaps you’re on the wrong one.
A Disgruntled but Dedicated Jesus-and-People-Lover
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. Romans 1:16-32 KJV
How to Live a Halfway Decent, Respectable, Fun, Meaningful and Somewhat Peaceful Life That Doesn’t Completely Suck
Preface: Almost everything on this list has been foreign to me up until the past two years. Some of the things on this list I still totally suck at, but hey – learning, growing, reverting, and recovering from life’s ups and downs is all part of the fun. Life is beautiful, but life is short. And I finally made the conscious decision do “life” wisely and purposefully. My hope is that from reading this, others decide to do the same, because unhappiness is a choice that many don’t even realize they’ve made the decision to be.
16. Educate yourself. Don’t take other people’s word for things in life. Take the time to do the research, read, and learn things. I can only imagine how many people God regrets giving brains to simply because they don’t use them. General Patton once said, “If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” Don’t be a lazy thinker and don’t be ignorant.
15. Don’t fake it – mean it. You don’t like that person? Fake it. You don’t want to work for (Insert Company Name here)? Fake it. No – MEAN IT. If you don’t like that person, be polite and respectful, and MEAN IT. If you don’t particularly enjoy your job, work your butt off anyway and be thankful that you have a job in an economy like ours. I appreciate the gesture behind the saying, “Fake it till you make it,” but I would rather mean it. Which is a tad bit harder than faking it.
14. Don’t treat people the way they deserve to be treated. I love a challenge. If nothing else, I treat people with love and kindness just because it takes a stronger, wiser person to do so. So that was a bit smug, but the truth is, love is the sharpest weapon in any fight.
13. Adapt. A chameleon learns to adapt to any environment by changing its colors. We would do well to follow this example and be content in any situation in which we find ourselves. One of my favorite quotes of all time was spoken by one of my favorite musicians, John Mayer: “Life is about making running changes. You can’t stop to fix things. You have to mend the sail while you’re still at sea.”
12. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t dwell. Let things go. You’ll never get the time back you waste being upset over things you can’t change or control – but it feels better to whine, right? Wrong. Plus, nobody wants to hear it.
11. Don’t be a critic unless you get paid for it. Criticizing others often reflects your insecurities more than it reveals others inadequacies or errors. Plus, critics just seem miserable! Similar to the rule for people who have B.O., idiots rarely know they are idiots.
10. Say “I’m sorry” and mean it. Joyce Meyer (my hero) says, “If ‘I’m sorry’ will mend a relationship, it is a small price to pay for peace.” There’s that humility again.
9. Be generous. Society says, “get,” “take,” and “keep.” An easy way to be a person of character is to be a person that gives to those who can’t pay them back. Stingy people are unhappy people. Oh – and generosity doesn’t only mean with money. Be creative and think about someone other than yourself.
8. Live the life you claim to believe in. Don’t give people a reason to call you a phony. Live out your beliefs. The loudest way to get your point across is by doing – not talking.
7. No matter what, do the right thing. What’s right isn’t always easy, and what’s easy isn’t always right. Big surprise there. The repercussions of consciously choosing to do wrong could mean months, even years, of regret (if you have a conscience). We all reap what we sow – nobody is exempt from that, and it shows. A lot.
6. Stop and smell the… cheese fries. I’ve not yet mastered this (or even come close), but don’t miss out on memories made via human interaction (Remember that thing we used to do?) because you’re glued to your iPhone or any other electronic device. I can’t tell you how many friends and family members reprimand me for this and compare me to Kim Kardashian (minus the lavish lifestyle) for never letting go of my phone. I’ll get there someday and in the meantime, I’m sure I’ll regret the memories I don’t have because I was too consumed with something that was ultimately worthless (yes, that even hurt to say). I’m sorry, iPhone – please forgive me.
5. Embrace people and events that hurt you. In other words, embrace pain. Understand that the people least likely to hurt you probably will. Take these experiences as a chance to learn and grow. Growth almost always involves change, which almost always involves pain. Thank those who hurt you, because they were put in your path for a divine reason, and it would suck to have had to painfully endure them for no reason.
4. When people show you who they are, believe them. Like a dog returns to its vomit, I have often returned to relationships that were hazardous. It’s ok to love people without having a relationship with them. Don’t dwell on the past, but DO learn from it. Don’t open doors that God has closed and don’t think you can “save” or “help” people who clearly don’t want it. Avoid spending any considerable amount of time with the kind of people you don’t wish to be like.
3. Speak only things that you would sign your name to. Our word is all we have. People who obnoxiously fly off at the mouth and rarely speak anything of any substance are repulsive. Don’t be the person nobody wants to be around. I know from experience, in both being and conversing with this type of person. The ability to speak shouldn’t be taken for granted. Speak on things that matter – truthful, credible things that encourage, uplift, mend, or heal. Try to imagine that everything you say is going up on a billboard with your name next to it. Ouch.
2. Be humble. Humble people are teachable people. If you’ve been on this planet less than 50 years and think you don’t need to be taught anything, you’re an idiot. Humble people also keep and foster (often, the same) relationships much better than prideful know-it-alls (You know – those people who change friends as much as they change their underwear). What is humility? I’ve heard that it can be measured by how quickly we admit to being wrong.
1. Be grateful. If I could only choose one thing to put on this list, this would be it, and it would suffice. Ungrateful people sicken me and should be hit, hard. Those I’ve encountered who actually have a right to be ungrateful aren’t. News flash: America doesn’t even know poverty (yet) and nobody owes you. Your life is not that bad. Stop whining about it and spewing about all your problems on Facebook. Count your blessings other than once a year in front of a stuffed turkey. Life is finite but it is a gift that many don’t get to enjoy the fullness of. None of us will make it out “alive” so we should soak up every experience and enjoy the ride!
If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone. A man should keep his friendships in constant repair. ~Samuel Johnson
Jesus called his disciples—including Judas, whose blatant and premeditated betrayal soon followed—“friends.” Unlike you and me, who generally believe in trusting others until they give us a reason not to, Jesus trusted Judas unabashedly and wholeheartedly—knowing Judas would be the start to His finish.
When I start to come down on myself about my gullibility and blind trust for people—treating enemies and acquaintances alike as friends—I remember this about our Savior: He called Judas a friend. With that said, I have no regrets, but I do have some knowledge and learned-the-hard-way experience that may be able to help someone who reads this, so I’ll share.
A few weeks ago, God gave me a vivid illustration of friendship. Other than forgiveness, I believe friendship is one area in my life, personally, that God wants me to master. Let me try to paint a picture for you.
Imagine that you’re a boxer in a boxing match. The metaphor here: this boxing match is your life.
This group is comprised of all your “acquaintances.” They are first in line to buy front-row seats. Don’t be fooled—you don’t have a relationship of any substance with anyone in this group. This group doesn’t really care whether you win or lose—they just want to see a good fight and be so close the action that they can smell your sweat*. (*This can be replaced with tears; even blood).
Lesson: Acquaintances, though ultimately insignificant to us in the long run, are still important—they give us infinite opportunities to exercise the fruit of the Spirit: love, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and the list goes on. After all, it has been said, “Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you.”
“Stay low.” “Use your right hook!” “Play on his weakness!” “Listen to your corner!” These—needless to say—are your REAL friends. Their sole purpose is to do everything in their power to help you win the fight. They quench your thirst when you’re dehydrated, and they give you wisdom when you are too emotionally involved to be rational on your own. Even when you don’t take their advice—whether intentionally or unintentionally—they never leave your side. They’re there, round after round, win or lose, until the end. Your “corner men” encourage you, uplift you, and condition you. They are loyal and keep your best interests in mind. They are “in your corner” when you’re in the spotlight, and they’re with you when the notoriety has vanished. They’re in it for the long haul—period.
Will you at some point (or in my case, points) in your life disappoint, offend, or hurt your corner men? Absolutely. Will there be knockdown drag-outs between you and your corner men? Let’s be honest here—of course! As if a boxer and his corner men don’t have it out behind the scenes! But they never turn their back on each other. They are a united front, and it’s them against the world. What separates this group from the audience and the opponent is simply forgiveness and acceptance. This person(s) understands they too need forgiveness and acceptance and thus are the epitome of Jesus’ definition of friend. They don’t just talk the talk; they walk the walk—and do it gracefully (not perfectly).
Lesson: No matter how much you think someone can work their way from the crowd (or audience) to your corner, they can’t. And oftentimes, you’ll reap the consequences of allowing this to happen. If a person exudes an overzealous amount of effort to prove to you that they “belong” in your corner as opposed to the crowd, 99 percent of the time, they have ulterior motives.
This is your enemy—the person who literally makes hurting you an art form. He or she wants nothing more than to see you fall right on your face and has no remorse. The person who deceptively shakes your hand before and after the fight, pretending all is well. The most perplexing and paralyzing “opponents” are those who, at one time, were in your corner.
Being that we serve a God who loves us more than we could ever imagine, God uses even our enemies to make us better. Ironically, God uses our enemies strategically, to sharpen and refine us. He uses what our enemies mean for evil to restore and renew us. Their unruly fire fueled by jealousy, hatred, and wrath will always be thwarted by God Himself.
Lesson: You are not God. Don’t play God. God is a big God. God is One you want in your corner; not as an “opponent” (and best believe, He can be both). The person who allows God to do the fighting for them—instead of taking things into their own hands—is the winner. The loser thinks they know better than God and can handle things better than He can. Judas Iscariot had this same mind frame. Be wise. Keep Him in your corner by following the rules of the ring. Low blows disqualify you.
Some things to remember about Judas:
· He was a loyal apostle
· The other 11 disciples trusted him and yielded to his influence
· Nobody, including the disciples, suspected that he was a sell-out
· Probably the most educated of the 12 disciples
· He had tact, ability, and patience
· He was a sore loser and lacked humility
· He had exaggerated ideas of self-importance
Pre-betrayal Judas was a lot different than the Judas we think of today (the man Satan vicariously puppeteered). He was a good person. He was a trusted disciple. He was brilliant. He had faults like we all do—he was a sore loser, probably leaned on his own understanding as many educated people do—he was, in essence, a “normal” person.
What does this tell us? That unless we ask God for discernment and wisdom, we may never know whether or not Judas could be our spouse, our best friend, that person we work closely with, even a family member. Don’t chalk Judas up to be exclusively an “enemy.” Guard your heart and learn from your mistakes. The “Judas” in your life could be a turning point for you. Maybe someday, you will even thank them. After all, at the end of the day, Judas didn’t use God—God used Judas.
As a self-proclaimed “pretty good” Christian all my life, moderately opinionated and judgmental at times but with just the right balance of grace and mercy toward others (or so I thought), this past Easter, I finally “got it.” (Yep—another light bulb moment)
Instead of a relationship with God, for YEARS I’ve practiced “religion” without even knowing it. Not the “religion” in the Book of James that communicates you’ve “got it” when you visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction (take that, Pharisees—what have you done for THEM lately?), but the binding, oppressing religion that is a complete and total misrepresentation of God and all that He stands for, to say the least.
Now I’ve been back and forth in my spirituality and sometimes even just plain off the map, and I’ve fallen into the mindset of “repent, or else.” I admittedly struggled with not knowing whether I would make it to Heaven based on the logic of losing your salvation, whether you completely walk away from God or just blow it once. Living this way, I found myself time and time again to be miserable with no joy and doing things simply because I had to—not out of devotion or even duty, but simply out of morbid fear of going to hell. Not only is this not a way to live, but it’s not the way God intended for us to live, either.
I’ve also been on the other side of the spectrum, where I just didn’t care either way. I lived day to day with the notion of “This is just who I am and who I’m going to be,” hoping that God would accept me in spite of my actions and myself, while all but openly refusing to change. While there seems to be several names for this type of “religion,” (Calvinism or “Once Saved Always Saved”) I believe God loved me and accepted me then, despite my carelessness and selfishness, just like He loves and accepts me now, with a rejuvenated heart that wants to serve and give Him 100 percent. (If you’re one of those people who want Bible verses to validate what I’m saying, just open it, skip over the parts you usually focus on, and look for key words like love, grace, and mercy—believe it or not, they’re there)
What I have learned is the very things that I think I’m doing right in God’s eyes, are the things that block any REAL revival from taking place inside my heart and mind. Things like judging others (after all, why wouldn’t I judge the married woman flirting with someone who isn’t her husband?), doing the “right” things begrudgingly just because I have to, or being brutally honest with people for the sake of “truth” which “sets you free,” are the very things that have kept grace, mercy, and the many beautiful attributes of God from ever manifesting in my walk.
“Religion says DO; Jesus says DONE.” Is it sinking in yet? Do you live a life of “doing” or do you live a life of confidence that it is DONE? Like me, once you grasp that Jesus truly did it all for us, you will have the freedom to actually let go of your own foolish wisdom (an oxymoron, yet we hold onto it like it’s worth a million bucks) and allow God to transform you, because you will understand that your salvation doesn’t rest on you and your actions alone. What a heavy burden that is to carry! Do you think God wants any of His Children to live in the belief that if they do or don’t do something, they’re screwed—not just temporarily, but forever? What kind of God do you serve? What kind of relationship would that be? Do you treat your loved ones that way? Why would God treat you that way?
I know—anytime anyone brings up the issue of immeasurable, unmerited grace or anything having to do with “not having to do anything” to be saved, the Pharisaical Advocacy Group will emerge and argue (something they tend to truly enjoy in the name of “ministry”) that you are condoning sin or not placing enough importance on repentance. That’s the thing—that is exactly how I always felt! Until this past weekend.
Someone reminded me that it’s those who have been forgiven the most have the most love in their hearts for God and others. This someone is a great friend, but another Someone said the same thing: Jesus. Like me, if you’ve for the most part lived out Christianity “by the book,” (as arrogant as that sounds) you’ve probably never experienced the Lord picking you up from rock bottom, or delivering you from the worst circumstances possible. You’ve never known what it feels like to be that “one lost sheep” or the oh-so-loved “Prodigal Son.” (I always wondered why the son who did everything right never got any love!) Just because that was never you, doesn’t mean you can judge the person for whom it was.
Don’t be the “Martha” who scrambled in disarray to make her house presentable for the Lord; as if He didn’t already know what a pigsty it was. It’s like our lives; we clean it up on the outside, but God knows what’s shoved under the bed and hidden in the closet. Hello—God already knows the good, bad, and ugly about you! Why do you fake it? (Sometimes I think they should call it Fakebook) God can do a lot more in and with you when you stop living in denial and realize you need help just like the types of people you unabashedly judge. Try being Mary Magdalene—the “whore,” the “prostitute,” the “slut,” who wept at Jesus’ feet, longing for His forgiveness and love, not worrying about her appearance, condition, or anything else in the world except being close to her Heavenly Father.
God doesn’t want who you pretend to be or for you to give your peers the impression that you have it all together. He wants YOU, raw and uncut. He wants your thoughts, your cares, your needs, your faults, and your failures. He wants it all!
I’ve learned that the way you interact with people is often the way you interact with God. Do you let people in? You probably don’t let God in, either. Are you rude to people? You’re probably rude to God. Do you act like you “know it all”? Then you probably leave God feeling like He can’t teach you anything, either. Are you distrusting of people? You probably don’t believe God is in control and has your best interests at heart. Are you selfish? Your prayers probably consist of only things God can do for YOU. Think about it and tell me I’m wrong.
For so long, I put on the “face” and thought I had it right. Hey, I don’t party, I don’t do drugs, I’m not promiscuous—so I’m good, right? I’ve had it all wrong. I’ve put God in the smallest box and have made it thus far, Lord willing, on mostly my own strength, knowledge, and wisdom (what a joke!) which has brought me a lifetime supply of failure, disappointment, a LOT of tiredness, and most importantly, no lasting happiness. (You too can have this if you just do what I’ve always done!)
“Got-it-all-together” Christians hurt nobody but themselves when they choose religion over a relationship. In fact, they aren’t just hurting themselves; they hurt nonbelievers by making them want nothing to do with the God they claim to serve. When you focus more on “doing” than the fact that Jesus says it is “done,” you’ll forget all about the most important part—a relationship with God. Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “It is finished.” Had he said, “It is.. pending, in the works, or up to YOU,” I’d believe the same hype the Pharisees believed when they refused to have lunch at Jesus’ table—the one with all the sinners. But He didn’t. Take His Word for it: It IS finished. It is DONE!
Welcome to the greatest show
Greatest show on earth
You’ve never seen before
Here the fairytale unfolds
What’s behind the smoke and glass?
Painted faces, everybody wears a mask
Are you selling them your soul?
Well you’ll be left out in the cold
Is it all blue skies
Fun and games untill you fall
Then you’re left without anyone at all
You’re riding on a shooting star
With a smile upon your face
But soon the shine fades
And you’re left out all alone
Wondering where did they all go?
Been jaded, hated,
Who’ll be around when the limelight’s faded?
Been shut down, pushed out
Made to smile when I wanted to frown
Always taking a bow
Always working the crowd
Always breaking new ground
Always playing the clown
Who’ll be sticking it out?
Who’ll be staying around
When the lights go down?
Quitting something you’re not just used to, but undeniably addicted to, can really bring out the worst in you—or, the best? So, seven days after I completely quit drinking Diet Coke, I had a light bulb moment that related to my “addiction” but also to my spirituality.
I wouldn’t say I have an addictive personality. Despite growing up with close family members who had drug problems along with dating addicts, I guess I knew better than to meddle with it, but for what it’s worth, I imagine quitting Diet Coke is not so much easier to give up than quitting an actual drug! Who’s to say what an actual DRUG is anyway? Caffeine, aspartame (artificial sweetener in Diet Coke), crystal meth, it’s all the same! (Kidding)
Seven days into this, I’m thinking that the constant craving for Diet Coke won’t disappear. The reason someone overcomes an addiction is not because the desire for that particular substance goes away—it’s because their self-control keeps them from indulging in it.
Much like sin—particularly, that one sin you commit, sometimes daily, similarly to an addiction—self-control is of vital importance if you ever want to be delivered. This was my light bulb moment. My personal sins and struggles that discourage me because I can’t seem to shake them, despite being a Christian since I was a kid, will not just magically disappear just because I pray and ask God to take them away. It all starts (and succeeds) with self-control.
Lack of self-control is the reason America is predominantly overweight, it is the reason drugs are rampant in this nation, and it is the reason for many physical ailments and disease. Lack of self-control in any form, with anything, can and will be detrimental; spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
Have I mastered self-control? Not even close. Frankly, it sucks. Along with not drinking Diet Coke, I’ve resolved to eat healthier and eat less. It is not easy and any skinny person who attacks a fat person, calling them “lazy” and a “glutton”—go jump in a lake, because you have no idea how hard it is for some people to maintain a healthy weight. Just because you weigh 130 and can literally eat bacon grease for every meal and not gain an ounce, doesn’t mean you have any idea what someone else might have to do to look that way. Or just because you popped a kid out and bounced right back to your pre-pregnancy weight doing virtually nothing, doesn’t give you the right to judge someone like me, who never had to work a day in her life to weigh 140, and 18 months and 20 pounds later, can’t manage to lose the weight with that same logic (and you can probably tell I’m not happy about it).
The moral of the story is this: Whether it’s overcoming an addiction to diet coke or praying God delivers you from anger, hate, greed, bitterness, jealousy, laziness, etc. It all begins with self-control. Your mind and body (this includes your emotions) will always resort to what they are used to. We are creatures of habit. So when you can’t figure out why you can’t control your anger, realize that it starts with self-control. When you can’t stop assuming the worst in others, remember, it’s because that’s what your mind is used to as a result of doing it for so long. (Side note: Things that require self-control are usually habits that we’ve formed and stuck with for years.)
For me, when I want that cold, bubbly, refreshing taste of a diet fountain drink, it’s because my body is used to it and to change that means having self-control which is the beginning and most important part of breaking a habit, and for most of us, a detrimental one.
If you aren’t willing to take that first step by getting a hold of your life and setting healthy boundaries for yourself (i.e. choosing to see the positive before your mind automatically resorts to the negative, or eating obscene amounts of cheese fries), you can’t expect God to go out of His way to help extinguish that long-time besetting sin that you constantly struggle with.
And like a great friend of mine shared with me to encourage me, JUST DO IT! …even if you suck.
Anonymous asked: How did you know you were in love with, and wanted to marry, your husband?
Because he was the best FRIEND I had ever had; so I knew when and if the fairytale romance faded, we could make it on our friendship alone. He listened to me and cared more about me than himself!