First, a little background, I’m 33 years old as of December 30, 2013. I was diagnosed with West Nile Virus in October of 2013 after experiencing symptoms like dizziness, right side weakness and vision problems for ten months or so. I spent days in the hospital before diagnosis, with them ultimately letting me go, diagnosed with a B12 deficiency. Luckily I have a very smart family doctor who referred me to a neurologist for further testing. Ultimately I tested positive for live virus and for the West Nile antibodies, I also have West Nile encephalitis. I was informed that the virus attacking my brain and spine had resulted in a condition known as Acute Flaccid Paralysis, (which was causing the weakness on the right side of my body,), it’s actually the same complication you get from Polio. The next thing I heard was, “There’s no cure for it, in fact, we can’t even treat it because it’s a virus.” Not words you want to hear when you are steadily losing muscle control on one side of your body. I
It’s been a challenge, to say the least, going from a pretty healthy, independent person to someone who;s covered in braces and has to use a cane to walk further than to the bathroom. I lost the ability to drive eventually, the weakness in my right leg is so bad, the pressure needed to just hold down the gas makes my whole body shake. I also can no longer steer with my right arm. I’ve been working on training my left side, but previous bouts of Rheumatoid Arthritis have damaged my left knee where it’s agony to use it for longer than a few minutes. I must get help for most everyday things like showering or just washing dishes or taking out the trash.
I am handicapped now and it has taken quite a bit of soul searching to get to a place where I could accept those words as reality. Along the way, I’ve learned lessons that I thought I would share. It’s been a long, hard road, and I’m still walking it, but I’ve learned a lot.
1. There is no shame in having limitations or being handicapped. I have always admired handicapped people, their determination to live normal lives despite pain and limitations. I have relatives who are handicapped and never thought twice about it. I was never ashamed of them. When it came to me however, I found that in my mind, the bar was set quite a bit higher. When I first started having trouble walking, my husband had to beg me to use a cane, he was terrified, (justifiably so), that I would fall and crack my skull. With each successive brace I had to start wearing, I had to push myself over that shame bump over and over again. As of now, I wear an ankle brace all the time, (to facilitate walking and prevent nerve damage from the foot drop I have)., a wrist brace and I use a cane almost all the time. Going out at first was hard, I despised seeing the curiosity and even worse, the pity on people’s faces as I passed by. I even had an elderly man hop off his motorized shopping cart one day saying, “You look like you need this more than me.” I cried the whole shopping trip after that. Finding pride not based on what I could DO, but on who I am was not easy. Humans use doable actions as a part of self-image and mine suffered terribly in those first months. My self-esteem hit rock bottom. I finally figured out my worth was not in my physical abilities, or my skills, but in my heart, God loves me, no matter what shape I’m in. Attempting to see myself through His eyes, not as an object of pity, but as one of strength helped me immensely.
2. When you’re sick, people WILL hurt your feelings, not because they’re being mean, but because they don’t understand. I’ve had many experiences with this. People asking why I can’t drive or bring my kid to choir practice, why I have to go home early from get-togethers, simply because I’m not out there with my illness and its effects on me. At first I preferred to keep my limitations to myself, only mentioning them when I had to. If you don’t tell people what is going on, they won’t understand and they’ll make an off-handed comment tha will probably upset you. There’s also the experience gap, it’s hard for others to visualize what they themselves have never been through. Especially with something that isn’t physically deforming like flaccid paralysis, they aren’t going to get just how bad off you are and may make comments like, “Oh you could do it if you’d just try.” Bite your tongue and realize they have no clue what they are talking about.
3. To the medical community, unless you’re really lucky, you are a faceless mass. I especially had this problem with my neurologist, he hated my questions and wouldn’t listen when I tried to tell him things. For instance, I’ve had RA for most of my life, walking a mile on my damaged knees to assess weakness then hitting said knees with a rubber hammer afterwards is not a good thing. That’s the closest I’ve ever came to walking out on a doctor. He had his tests and was not going to deviate nor make any allowance for an individual. Most of the hospitals I’ve been in are like that too, there’s a routine and if you don’t individually fit into their roster, then you will fall through the cracks.
4. You are your own best advocate. Look stuff up for yourself. In my case, none of my doctors had ever dealt with West Nile Virus or AFP. I had the time to look into whereas they didn’t, so I did my homework and discussed it with them at appointments. It didn’t work real well with my neuro, but I had very good results with my GP. I also kept my neuro from making me worse, (or possibly dead) with a medication because I had researched. If you disagree and have good information to back it up, take it into your own hands, get a second opinion or just insist your doctor listen and explain his reasons. Don’t be a sheep. It might make them mad, but as my Granny says, “They’ll get glad in the same pants they got mad in.” It’s a lot better for you to be wrong and be a little embarrassed than for your doctor to be wrong and you get worse.
5. Asking for help is a good thing. I’ve always had way too much pride. I cried thei first time I had to ask my husband to help me shower and when I had to suck it up and admit I needed to quit driving. For a long time, I avoided asking for help like the plague. I was so embarrassed. I finally realized something though, letting others help me wasn’t just to my benefit, it was to theirs too. Allowing them in to comfort and help me, made them feel more connected and reassured that I was doing okay. I had shut out a lot of people when I got sick, my stupid pride demanded I not let anyone know how bad I was, how sick, how tired, how broken. At first when I started letting others help I constantly apologized, which made it even more awkward for everyone involved. Eventually I learned that a heartfelt “Thanks” was all they needed.
I’m still suffering the effects of this disease and will for many years to come, even after I fight off the virus, it will take a long time for my body to regain function back. I learned the hard way, disability isn’t who I am, it’s merely a condition of my existence. I can have a full, wonderful life despite my limitations. I hope this blog has encouraged some of you to be bold and get out there no matter how embarrassed or alone you may feel.
1. “You are the only person who can make yourself happy AND you deserve to make yourself happy no matter the cost.” There are several problems with this statement, especially for the Christian. First, people need Christ to truly be happy and productive, and He is considered to be a person. Also things that involve other people, like having a child or marrying a wonderful spouse statistically increase happiness. Your mindset is important to interpreting these events, but our mindset is not entirely up to us, without the protection and passion of Christ, it tends to flip-flop throughout life. The second half of the statement flies right in the face of the Bible, we do not DESERVE happiness; we DESERVE judgment. Making yourself happy no matter the cost to others around you is called something else; selfishness. A Christian is called to live their lives in the service of God, and that entails living in the service of other people. No matter which way you slice it, people are to be important to us as Christians, and we do not deserve happiness nor should we expect or strive to maintain a constant state of joy apart from that which is created in Christ. It won’t work and without other emotions our lives and spirits would quickly become unbalanced. We will feel joy, but not in the massive quantities we seem to expect nowadays.
2. “Don’t sacrifice your own needs for the needs of others.” Such a selfish statement to the ears of God! When He sent His son to die for us on the cross, I do believe He was sacrificing quite a lot for the sake of the pitiful, unappreciative human rabble. Christ calls us not only to give, but to give sacrificially, i.e. until it hurts. We aren’t supposed to tithe at church once a week, drop a charity check in the mail once a month and give a homeless guy a handful of change. God wants us to sacrifice ourselves for His Kingdom. Jesus even says that only those who pick up their crosses can follow Him and only those who give up their life are welcome. We are called to rest from our labors at times, and of course take care of our bodies as well as we can, but fatigue, illness and mental strain are no excuse for not pursuing the work of Christ. There are many kinds of work to do and the harvest is phenomenally big.
3. “Success in life is measured by how much money you make and how many things you possess.” First of all let’s define “wealthy” on an international level. If you are American, odds are that you are in the top 1% of earners worldwide. Our poor are better off than most of the world. We also have access to things 80% of the world doesn’t, clean water, wholesome food, medical care, clothing and shelter, a wealth that cannot be measured. So chances are, if you’re an American, you aren’t only rich globally speaking; you are Bill Gates rich compared to most of the world. God said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into Heaven, narrow is the gate to Salvation. When we measure people’s worthiness based on their income, we commit a grievous sin against them, God and ourselves. Not that being rich is a sin, but loving money and making idols out of your possessions is definitely a sin. An oft misquoted Bible verse is “the LOVE of money is the root of all evil.” The Bible says we should not concern ourselves with the riches of this world, but trust in God to meet our needs daily. If we happen to work in a job that glorifies God and make a lot of money, so be it, but it does not determine our worth in God’s eyes nor should it in our own.
I intend on doing more of these blogs in the future with more lies that society presses upon us to believe and in some cases brainwashes us with. For more information, you can read my previos blog about the Cult of Self-Esteem.
According to recent psychological studies, our children are getting more and more narcissistic with each generation. According to researchers, 10% of people in their 20’s Show signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder at some point in their lifetime. (1) I don’t doubt it with websites and companies where you can hire a fake paparazzi to follow you around (2) and the incidences of plastic surgery skyrocketing. I think we’ve all seen how it has affected our society with shows like The Bachelor/ette and reality TV putting the spotlight on average people. Abortion, divorce, child abandonment/abuse/neglect; all have went up in the past generation. I’ve read and heard several different theories as to why our generation (born in the 80’s and 90’s) and our children are becoming so self-centered and entitled. The Internet probably contributes a lot. You can upload one really good YouTube video or start a popular blog and shoot to stardom; fame is finally in reach for the average person, unlike previous generations who would have to either know someone to get in the business or work really hard in Hollywood for years in order to become a household name. They also note the rise of affordable plastic surgery and increased sales of celebrity gossip magazines. However, I think these are descriptive as effects, but are unrelated to the cause. I blame the self-esteem movement.
“helping them gain the capacity to develop “self” and, with it, the capacity to adapt to different social settings with appropriate projections of self. Self-esteem, more specifically, involved the kind of perceptions that, properly honed, were crucial to achievement and success. ” (3).
In the 50’s and the 60’s the schools got involved. Suddenly teachers were told to grade easy, to add positive comments to every paper, no matter how bad the score. Parents were asked to lighten discipline and always display pride in their child and to go easy on their mistakes. Research has been ongoing and in today’s schools, kids are rarely disciplined appropriately, petted and cajoled for bad behavior and told they can do anything they want when they grow up, irrespective of their talents and skills.
The self-esteem movement, in my opinion started out well, children do need psychological support from teachers and parents and a guiding hand in their education and future, but we’ve taken it too far. I quote again the aforementioned William James, children need to be taught “the capacity to adapt to different social settings with appropriate projections of self.” I think where we went wrong is what is deemed “appropriate”. Do our schools and our parenting give them an appropriate idea of self? I think not. I remember the self esteem seminars and practice when I was a child in public school. I was told over and over, “You can be anything you want to be.” Even as a child I knew that wasn’t true. With my math allergic brain, there was no way I could ever be a physicist or even an accountant. I just wasn’t cut out for that, no matter how much I might have wanted it, luckily I didn’t. You can argue that most people don’t want to do the things that they are bad at, so it’s right to tell children they can do whatever they want; but it doesn’t mass muster. If you asked most 30 year olds today what the biggest lie their parents told them was, you won’t get Santa or the Easter Bunny as an answer, you’ll probably hear, “That I could be anything I wanted to be.”
It’s a good thing to tell your child that they are special and unique, they are. But you have to make sure they understand that we all are, the world doesn’t revolve around them; other people have differing opinions and motives, yet are just as unique and special. We are so good at teaching our children to respect and love themselves, I think we fall short in teaching them to respect and love others. A lot of self-esteem exercises these days focus on self to the exclusion of society, telling kids that the only thing that should matter to them is that they are happy. I hear that from adults too, “Just make yourself happy, nobody else can, that’s all you should worry about.” In fact recently we had some family drama with a member of my family and a few of our friends assumed I had left my husband, (which was NOT even the case), I got a lot of notes congratulating me on following my own happiness and that “You have to make yourself happy”. My response being, I have a lot of responsibilities, but making myself happy at the expense of others is not one of them. Western society places the highest value on happiness, be happy, stay happy, always seek happiness. While nobody should seek depression or other dark emotions, I believe we are short-changing our children when we tell them that happiness is the only emotion with value. Often in the midst of depression or anger we find out invaluable things about ourselves, our faith and our lives, look at the book of Job.
As Christians, I think we have a duty to be honest with our children; life isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. At some point, things will go horribly wrong, people will die, friendships will vanish and there will be moments when life doesn’t seem worth living. The only way to get through these things is to rely on Jesus and don’t be afraid to sacrifice self. We don’t though, not as a whole, self is something to be cherished and egos are made to be inflated. We don’t teach them the value of self-sacrifice, which to my mind, is a major trait of Christianity. Jesus performed the greatest self-sacrifice in all of history, He gave up everything on that cross and died so that we could be saved.
So what’s the answer? In society overall? I don’t know. I can only speak for Christians here or those that want to be Christians. First of all, I think that a big part of it is a spiritual issue, people and children have been taught to look to and depend on themselves and no one else. At very least in the Christian community, we need to move the focus to Christ, our lives and our children’s lives should be about Him, not ourselves. By immersing your family in Bible studies, family prayer, church services and even little things like Christian videos and music being in the home a lot, you will be constantly reminded of Christ and what He sacrificed for us all, which is quite humbling. Teach yourself and your kids self-sacrifice. If you start doing it, often your kids will follow suit, they really do mimic their parents in most cases. Start a family volunteer project go work in a soup kitchen, pick up trash on a roadside, minister to the homeless, the possibilities are endless and the needs are great. Help others wherever you go, pay for someone’s food behind you in the drive-thru, help out that lady in front of you at the checkout line who is short a few dollars, keep your attention focused outward on others and not inward on how tired/sick/put out you are, you will find that a million little opportunities pass by us every day because we are focused on ourselves. Share the blessings God has given your family with your kids and make sure they understand that we are blessed not because we deserve it, but because God loves us immensely. Tell them that is how we should be towards others, help them not because they deserve to be helped but because you love them as fellow human beings made in the image of God. Share your emotions with your kids, not just the good ones, but the bad ones too in an age-appropriate manner, let them see that everyone feels bad sometimes and let them see you pray about whatever the problem is and keep praying until it gets resolved. This will teach them that bad things happen, but in relying on God, it works out in the end and there is always hope.
Thanks for reading this horribly long rant. If you have any more suggestions feel free to leave a comment. If you disagree or agree and want to put your views out there feel free to comment as well, just keep it respectful please or I’ll be forced to moderate.
(1) Twenge, Jean M., Phd. “The Narcissism Epidemic.” Is There an Epidemic of Narcissism Today? Psychology Today, 8 May 2009. Web. 25 June 2013.<http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-narcissism-epidemic/200905/is-there-epidemic-narcissism-today>
(2) Celebrity For A Day (http://celeb4aday.com/Home.html)
(3) Stearns, Peter N. “Self Esteem.” FAQS.org. Www.faqs.org, 2008. Web. 25 June 2013. <http://www.faqs.org/childhood/Re-So/Self-Esteem.html>
- Are we caught in a happy trap? (theage.com.au)
I’ve led an interesting life, that’s for sure. I was raised in a rural church where the mentality was that God has His gigantic eye on your every thought and hellfire and damnation are breathing down your back every second, and salvation comes through full-immersion water baptism, nothing else. When I was 13, I was baptised into the church body, and almost immediately puberty hit and everything went to pot. At 16 I felt I had messed up so badly that I had no chance of getting into Heaven EVER, so I gave up on God and decided that denying His very existence would make my life better. I spent most of my teenage years as a self-made athiest. In my 20’s I started delving into New Age practices, Tarot Cards, Astrology and the like. I knew SOMETHING was out there, I just didn’t know what or how to reach it. I became a Pagan when I was in my late 20’s, already anxious, broken and agoraphobic. I came to Christ when I was 29 and am glad I did.
That’s some background. I had no experience in other denominations, in true Biblical teaching. I had went to a Baptist vacation Bible school once when I was very small, and that was it. When I came to Christ, I had no idea how church worked, no idea exactly what had happened to me, just that I now had an undying, enduring and passionate love for Christ. So, still being pretty anxious and agoraphobic, I started listening to Christian teaching on the radio and reading my old Bible left to me by my grandpa. My best friend helped me, gave me a newer Bible that wasn’t falling apart, and he answered my questions about everything. (He is now my husband by the way.)
As I’ve grown, I’ve found something out about my fellow Christians that both startles and dismays me. Nobody wants to mentor a new believer. Even the churches I’ve been to have a hands-off approach, no new believer classes or mentorship program. How my brothers and sisters do you expect new believers to muddle through one of the most complicated texts on earth, the Bible, learn to pray and figure out somewhat difficult concepts without your fellowship and help? It is incredibly frustrating to me most days, nobody has reached out or offered to help me when I asked for it. I do not feel the sense of family like the Bible says I should. What I have learned, I have struggled with on my own, pieced together, and of course God has helped me to understand a lot of it, but really? Visiting churches is really hard, even being a member most days, people smile and say what they are supposed to, but nobody really reaches out to help you, or asks you what you might need spiritually to grow. There is no bonding, no friendship, definitely no family. I’m not saying that part of the problem doesn’t lie with me and my inept social skills, but I’m sick of the politeness, of the stand-offishness of other Christians. I am not like that, and I don’t want to EVER be like that. God willing I will always wear my faith and my true heart on my sleeve.
I’m sorry for the rant, but I think that at least in my area, the church is being eaten from the inside out by apathy. Do you REALLY care about others? If it doesn’t fool me as a believer, then we aren’t fooling the lost. Seriously people, WAKE UP!
I’m sorry it’s been so long since I posted, life has been pretty busy of late, God has been moving in my life and I’m sure you all know how hectic things can get when He’s really changing things.
Just got the new study guide I ordered in the mail today. It’s actually supposed to be geared towards small groups, but I am using it for myself. Perhaps after I go through it I’ll share it with the Ladies Bible Study group at church or something. I’m still working on my timidity, and as of right now, I’m still too shy to offer any materials. I won’t belabor you with an every day analysis of what lesson I’m doing, but like tonight, there will occasionally be themes I want to share. The guide is a 16 week study (actually studIES) geared towards helping you find your identity in Christ. I’ve struggled with even understanding that phrase, my ‘identity in Christ’? What does that even mean? I’ve asked a few people for a definition, but so far the answers have been unsatisfactory, filled with jargon I still don’t quite understand, like giving me the definition of a word with more words I don’ t know. May I say I don’t like Christian jargon, I see the need for it, I understand that some concepts are alien to secular culture and therefore a new word needs to be created in order to save time when speaking, but it alienates the Lost a lot, trust me having been Lost myself, it does. Like Christians speak a different language that most of them don’t have full fluency in.
At any rate, through my own research, I have come to understand the concept a little bit better. My identity in Christ is who God says I am basically. You may argue that there is more to it than that, and I will concede that point, but as far as a basic definition goes, I think that one will suffice for now without muddying the waters further. Anyway, a statement I read in today’s lesson struck me right between the eyes. I am made in the image of God. I’ve read that scripture, (which is Genesis 1:26), I’ve had people tell me that, but I guess it never really struck home until tonight. I am made in the image of GOD. Whew, it sort of blows your mind to think about. When I look in the mirror, honestly me being like God is the last thing on my mind. I see my new wrinkles, the bags under my eyes because I never seem to get enough sleep, my missing teeth and all the pockmarks Life has left on my face. To look at myself in the mirror and think, this is the image of God, wow, it gives me a whole new perspective on myself. So, in order to make sure this idea stay on my mind and I’m reminded, I stuck two notes on my mirror in the bathroom. One says, “You are made in God’s image” and the other, “You reflect the image of God to others.”
I know a few things that God says I am. I am made in His image, I am a child of God, a daughter of the Most High King, more precious to Him than anything. The rest I’ll need to dig into Scripture to find. I am really excited though to find out who I truly am in Christ. I have realized for years that the media we watch, listen to and read tries to effect our identity, and since most people have no idea who they truly are, are easily influenced. We are fond of picking up labels and putting them on ourselves, I can think of a few I have given myself over the years, gamer, nerd, geek, intellectual, mother, wife; all have meaning, but not one in particular covers all of who I am. Maybe it’s something all of us could use refreshing in from time to time, to take off the labels we’ve given ourselves and others have given us and go back to our true identities in Christ. Who God says we are.
Luke 6:27-36 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
I have to say, this was one of the most difficult passages to wrap my brain around. When I came to Christ I had a healthy crop of bitterness growing for quite a few people. My abusive ex, my father who lied to me, neglected me and ultimately abandoned me, all the bullies who almost drove me to suicide as a teenager. I had a very strong, dare I say, hatred for those people. Praying for them and bringing them into the purity and beauty of my relationship with God scared me on quite a few levels. I didn’t want the memories to taint what I was becoming, I wanted to just forget about all of them. But thankfully, God knew better. In many ways over the course of time, He worked on me deep inside, easing the hurt, wiping away the scars. It brought to me the realization that it wasn’t just them I was mad at, I was also angry with myself. Angry because I couldn’t just ‘get over’ the PTSD from the abuse or the separation anxiety I still had in relation to my father, angry with myself for trusting them over and over again only to be smacked down time and time again. He eased my rage and calmed my emotions. Eventually I started a campaign of praying for them and over them. I called on God to forgive them because in their selfishness, they didn’t know what they were doing, (another realization I had), to protect them until they could come to Jesus. At first it was SO hard to do. I struggled in prayer, choking out the words, asking God to bless these people was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It got easier as time went on and I realized that my anger and hurt was doing no good at all, the only person I was hurting was myself and God. It was getting in the way of my relationship with Him. How could I worship Him every day with joy when I hid such hatred and anger in my heart? So we worked on it for what felt like forever, eventually I came to a place where I forgave them completely. It was not an easy road, just ask my wonderful, patient husband, who held me sobbing many nights and listened to me spew bile many days. It was worth it though, and I highly recommend dealing with your past hurts and bitterness if they still are a thorn in your heart. It is like being set free. Now I can go on with my life, knowing that the past has no hold on me, that I am God’s child, washed clean and harboring no hatred towards another. If you need more of a personal perspective, or you need prayers of emotional healing, leave a comment or you are always welcome to e-mail me at email@example.com
Luke 14:23 “So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.”
I have been thinking a lot the past few days about my God-given purpose. Finding your calling isn’t easy and I am fully aware that there is a very good possibility that I will have several callings in my lifetime. I’ve felt God pulling me for months now, I just honestly had no idea which direction to go, where He wanted me to be. I wrote a message to a very good friend of my husband, who is heavily involved in ministry and an exceptionally intelligent man, I knew if anyone had advice it would be him and he did not disappoint. He told me that usually your calling lies in your passions; that God gives you strong desire and passion for certain activities and people and the opportunity to use them, which is often overlooked. He called them ‘cracked doors’, that very rarely will your calling be a wide open door with a big sign above it saying, “Enter here”. More like day to day opportunities to grow and learn about what exactly God wants you to do. As usual I had some misconceptions, for instance when I read about people finding their calling, it always seemed to be so easy for them, they knew when, where and what to do. I guess I never really took into account that those same people probably struggled for a long time praying for guidance, confirmation and strength. My three years of not knowing God’s direction for my life seems puny by comparison to a lot of people’s.
In thinking so hard about my calling and in what way Jesus wanted to use my hands and feet, I feel like God led me on a little scavenger hunt. He’s done that before, leading me to a video, person or an article which leads me to another which directs me to yet another and so on until I get what He’s trying to tell me. My first hint was a statement I saw somewhere, I wish I could reference it, but I honestly can’t remember where I read or heard it now. Anyway, it said, “You don’t know what direction to travel in until you start walking.” That got me thinking, all this praying and waiting on God, may have been doing the exact opposite of what I wanted, it might be keeping me in the dark, perhaps what God wanted was for me to attempt something so He could steer me. Shortly thereafter reading and mulling over that piece of wisdom I came across another statement, “You can’t steer a car that isn’t in Drive.” Interesting tidbit, made me think even harder about things.
Then a few days later, a Facebook friend of mine, who has an online ministry and small business started posting about technology and how it has crippled society by eliminating most face to face contact and distorting the way we view relationships. I heartily debated him on that at first with the argument, “Technology is great, we can reach even more people now and get any information we want or need in a few keystrokes, how can you say it’s bad?” Then I really believe God opened my eyes. I saw my kids with their various devices, zoned out on video games, mesmerized by cartoons or videos on YouTube. I suddenly saw the chain that existed between me and my cell phone and my laptop. Had I been avoiding my true calling by getting too involved in online ministry because it was ‘easier’, i.e. I didn’t have to deal with people face to face? Then, this Sunday the whole thing fell on me like a ton of bricks when my pastor did a sermon on technology and how it was definitely good in a lot of ways, but that it was eliminating the most important tool in ministry and witnessing… human contact. Skin on skin, person to person help. I really started searching my heart then, examining exactly what my motives were. I realized that I was doing exactly that. Being a lukewarm follower, content with Facebook and Twitter messages, blurbs about Jesus and counting the people I ‘reached’ by the number of comments or likes I received for each.
I’ve always had a passion for the underdog, a compulsion to help the lost, the lonely, the downtrodden that most people don’t want anything to do with, the lost causes and the hopeless cases. There have been times I saw someone in the grocery store or at my kids’ schools, and I felt the Spirit rise up in me so strongly, pushing me towards that person. I hate to admit I usually ignored it, questioning if it was really God, telling myself that I was doing the right thing in leaving them alone and not subjecting them to the awkwardness of a stranger offering help. The truth of the matter however, was that I was afraid. Afraid of violating societal norms, of breaking through that mannerly barrier that says you don’t speak to people you don’t know, because to do so is embarrassing for both parties. Afraid of being rejected or worse made fun of. I’ve been ignoring what I’m pretty sure was God pushing me into what He wanted me to do, out of fear, pure and simple.
I am ashamed of this, and I resolve to do better. I know that God has forgiven my rebellion and lack of trust, I have went to Him deeply and sincerely sorry. And as for those cracked doors that I’ve been ignoring, well I’m going to start opening them. I hope to tell you all about it in my future blog posts. God bless.
Forgiveness is hard for all of us. Mean, bitter people exist in the world and I don’t know about you, but forgiving them seventy-seven times is not my first impulse when they make me angry. You can’t hold on to the anger though because as it ferments it quickly turns to bitterness and bile. Before you know it, you are an angry, bitter person yourself. God is there for us though, He will forgive when we can’t, and remember He forgave us our transgressions, therefore it is expected that we soften our hearts and allow God to work on our anger. I recently went through this process for what feels like the umpteenth time in the past three years, but God is faithful and He sheltered me form the worst this person could do and helped me to reach a place where I could forgive them over and over. I did however put up some healthy boundaries to protect myself and to help me keep from constantly having to be in their presence. God put it all in the works, all I really had to do was just let Him work. Not as easy as it sounds, but when done, amazing things can happen.
So, today has been an interesting day to be in my head. I stayed up WAY too late last night watching movies and reading my Bible, ok ok I only read Hosea, but it’s like 14 chapters! Seriously though, I watched quite a few Christian movies and one absolutely awful drama that depressed me terribly. Anyway, as it usually does, themes and ideas fermented in my brain overnight and created an intoxicating draught that caught up with me this morning. A few quotes from the movies have been rattling around in my head today too, further refining the ideas. One was from “The Letter Writer” when the writer told the teenage girl, “God gives everyone a talent, we need to use them to bless others.” That isn’t ad verbatim, but the idea is still apparent. Another one and I can’t remember which movie it was from, I think perhaps “Fireproof“, was, “What you practice every day, you master.” So I’ve been thinking really hard about my talents. I can write, though through lack of use, as you can tell, I’m very very rusty. I also have always loved to sing, I was in choir for three years in high school and always thought that the only thing my voice was good for was blending, and avoided solos like the plague. But singing brings joy to my heart in a way nothing else can, especially when I am singing praises to God. Then I thought about my painting and drawing, I really love to create pictures that express ideas and themes to others. I have always assumed I am really untalented at it and never ever shown anyone my work, what little there is.
So as I thought these things today, a question popped into my head, “So you think you are so untalented and terrible at these things, who decides what is “good enough”?” That question stymied me for a while. I realized that for me, God sets the bar, and He wants us to worship Him, our praise is a sweet fragrance to Him, whether we are mediocre or a born talent. It depends on your heart, not how good it is. It brought to mind a worship service I attended over the summer where a teenage boy with down syndrome was at the front of the stage while the worship band played, just dancing his heart out, headbanging at inappropriate times and swinging around like a mad person. My first reaction was to feel embarrassed for him, then I saw the look on his face. He was in bliss, the unimaginable joy of worshiping His father was written across his sweet features. And I remember thinking, “Oh how proud and happy he must make God, worshiping with such abandon! I really wish I could do that.”
I’m realizing now that I can. While I doubt that I will start breakdancing during worship service, can’t I sing a little louder and quit worrying so much about assaulting the innocent ears of those around me? Can’t I put more heart into it? So I resolved to practice at home more. My voice won’t take much schooling to get it back to where it was in high school, and if I keep practicing, it will get better and better until I hit that plateau of mastery. I won’t ever be a Brittany Spears or a Christina, but I can at least sing my heart out without worrying about what other people think.
The same goes for another past passion of mine, painting and drawing. I’ve always been too fearful of criticism to share my creations with anyone, I really have no outside opinions on whether I’m a terrible artist or not. But does it matter? I think not. I did a paint-by-number recently, but when my husband asked me, “So when you get done with it, where do you want to hang it?” I froze in abject terror of friends and family seeing the imagined atrocity. I put away my painting things for months and still haven’t finished it.. There were parts of it that I think looked terrible and parts I made my own with highlighting and shading that I thought looked good. All of it was tied into God, I prayed a lot while I painted that picture. And I felt He was pleased with the effort. So why did I freak out at the thought of it being displayed proudly on my wall?
I think the answer lies in my pride, which ties in to another movie line I heard last night on “The Encounter”, Jesus tells the people in the diner, “If you dig deep enough into any sin, you will find pride.” My pride has always been at the root of my problems in this life. I have WAY too much of it. Perhaps from being abused, perhaps from growing up poor, either way the beginnings don’t matter so much. In fact, pride has kept me from writing all these years too. I didn’t want to do it unless it was perfect, failing to realize that isn’t possible. As long as I do the best I can do, then that should satisfy me, because it satisfies God. All He asks for is our best. We can’t give any more than that anyway. Anyway, this has brought me to the conclusion that I have too much pride and that I am a perfectionist like so many women. So my mission now is to start practicing these things I love and bring glory to my Father, and His approval is the only approval I need.
Jesus hold my hand today. Hold it tight; don't let go Please dear Jesus I feel so low. When things feel like they are falling apart. Give me a hug and lighten my heart. Steer me right, even if I'm sad. When there's no strength to be had. My feeble body and my racing mind. Are conspiring to make me blind. Just hold my hand a moment more. I just know there are more bumps are in store. It's great with you, feels so nice. Knowing your ultimate sacrifice. When everyone else is nowhere near. You're right there, in my ear. What a friend you are Jesus, the man indeed. And you don't even mind taking the lead. When I can't walk you carry my weight. When I can't sleep we both stay up late. I couldn't ask for more, for a better bud. Jesus Christ who shed His blood. Not for a war, not for peace. Just simply for you and me.