Category Archives: personal growth

How to be an effective liar (or recognize the one who is)

Toddlers are terrible liars. I love the recent internet video of the little girl adamantly arguing that she is not crying as she sobs. When my son was little he didn’t know how to explain his dad’s job (software engineer), so he told his teacher that dad was a chef – because he knew what a chef did. Their lies are laughably unbelievable.

Teenagers and adults are better liars, because they’ve learned how to play the game. For a lie to be believable, there has to be just enough truth there to get the listener to relax.

The Bible tells us that Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). He’s really good at twisting and manipulating the truth enough to sucker us in to believing his lies.

This morning I was in the shower, and I was contemplating my schedule. “I really need to carve out more time to spend with the Lord,” I thought to myself. Almost immediately, a verse from Matthew 28 came to mind: “…surely I am with you always…” What a comforting thought. I recognized the truth and almost fell for the lie. Yes, God is with me always, but am I always with him? When he is speaking, am I listening? When he wants to spend time with me, am I doing something else? When he is gently correcting me, am I open, or am I defending and excusing myself?

1 Peter 4:8 says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” He doesn’t charge, he prowls. He’s sneaky. He wants to catch you unaware, to get you to believe the little twisted half truths. He reminds you of bad things you’ve done and tells you that it means you’re a bad person, unworthy of love and forgiveness. He reminds you of your imperfections and presents them as evidence that you are unusable in the kingdom. He takes a little bit of truth, like bait, and snares you with his lies.

Don’t fall for it. You are loved. You are worthy. You are useful in the kingdom. You are not perfect, but you are perfectly loved. Recognize this trick and learn to fight back. Fill your memory with scriptures that you can turn back at the liar.

Rhetorical question: what lies are you believing about yourself? What is the truth according to the Bible?

Divine Appointments: Avoiding “Should Have”

I’m ashamed to admit this, but I can’t even begin to tell you how often I stop and suddenly realize that I had an opportunity to help someone and didn’t even notice it. I hate that feeling, and I hate knowing that there are people struggling and suffering because I didn’t even notice, or I noticed and it didn’t dawn on me to do something about it. Do you ever feel like that? “Should have” is a painful phrase.

Recently a friend told me that she has been praying for opportunities to serve. This friend has a job that brings her in contact with random strangers all day long, and she told me that she prays before and during work for God to bring her opportunities. And He has! All through her shift, people seek her out to ask for help, and to share their burdens. She has started bringing along supplies to hand out to the needy, and snacks to share with anyone who asks. Is God bringing these people to her because she asked, or were they always there and she just started to notice? I think the answer is a bit of both.

First off, we serve a God who answers prayers. And a selfless prayer like “bring me in contact with people that I can bless” is certainly in line with the heart of God. So knowing that He has a willing worker on the streets is a great opportunity for God to bring people together. He loves his children, and wants to see needs met. He also wants to see our character develop, so when we ask Him to put us in opportunities to grow through serving, He’s not likely to say no to that!

Second, a “use me” attitude opens our eyes. If I go to work and all I’m thinking about is me and what I need to accomplish today, I’m like a horse wearing blinders. All I can see is the task immediately in front of me. But asking for these “divine appointments” removes the blinders. If you have a heart to look for needs, you will find them. They’re all around us!

There are many examples of divine appointments in the Bible. The book of Esther, for one, tells the story of a young lady put in just the right place at just the right time to save her people. After the queen disgraced him, king Xerxes held a reality-TV worthy search for her replacement. When he made Esther his queen, he had no idea that her presence in the palace would save the Jews. But Esther spoke up for her people, and they were saved. She didn’t desire to be queen, but she was willing, and God put her there. She was afraid to confront the king about her people, but she obeyed, and they were saved. Esther 4:14 reads, “who knows but you have come to your position for such a time as this?”

I ask you the same question: Who knows but you have come into your position (job, neighborhood, circle of friends, family) for such a time as this?

Open your heart and your eyes, and don’t be afraid to speak up. God can, and will, use you in big ways!

Greater Love

If you follow Food Shelf Friday on Facebook, then you may have seen this week’s scripture image featuring John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that to lay down one’s life for his friends.” This is a beautiful picture of what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross. It is also frequently used to honor the memory of heroes who sacrificed their lives in military service or in an effort to save others, like firemen and police who die in the line of duty. But I think there is more here, a message not just about the dead, but for the living.

Matthew 16:24-26 (also found in Luke 9, and Mark 8) – Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Galatians 2:20 –  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 5:24 – Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Death does not always mean the end of physical life. Repeatedly the Bible calls us to die to self, to willingly lay down what we want in favor of what God wants. We are called to deny ourselves, to stop striving to gain the whole world at the cost of our souls, and to keep our eyes on God’s kingdom over our own.

The flesh is strong. Very strong. I’m hungry, tired, weak, and selfish every day. And I find ways to appease myself every day. I eat junk food because it makes me happy and I “deserve” it. I rest when I should be busy (rest is not bad, you have to take care of yourself, but let’s face it, laziness is also real and I know most of us cross that line often). I fail to resist temptation. I think about myself and my rights first. This is what humans do. We take care of our own in as much comfort as we can afford, and then we think of others with our leftovers and cast-offs. It’s human nature.

But God’s nature is different. His eyes are on the big picture, a global scale that transcends time. Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us of this: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

God calls us to resist our own nature and take on his priorities. We are called to willingly sacrifice our rights, our comforts, and our sense of control for the ultimate goal of getting the gospel message to the people around us. We have to die to our selfish desires, showing the kind of love that Jesus showed when he was crucified to pay the penalty for our sins. In this way we show the ultimate kind of love, laying down our lives for a friend.

Overwhelmed

overwhelmed

In 1985, Dr. Kevin Leman published The Birth Order Book. It’s a good read. My favorite part is the opening sentence in the chapter on only children; “You can always tell the only child; he takes his briefcase to kindergarten.” As the mother of an only, I can tell you it’s true. Only children live with just adults, and sometimes they think they are adults.

My son fit this profile. When he was a preschooler he stopped taking naps, and those over tired days were hard. When J got overly tired, he would fixate on adult-like concerns. I remember him sobbing, “but mom, what will I do? I need a car to get to a job, but I can’t get a car until I get a job!” and “what if I get in an accident, and I don’t have money to fix my car?” After that one I made the mistake of explaining insurance. I thought it would comfort him, but over tired preschoolers are not easily consoled. “Mom, what if I can’t pay for insurance? If I don’t have insurance I can’t drive my car!” No matter how many times I told him that his dad and I would be there to help, no matter how many times I explained things, he just worried. He was tired. And four. (Ironically I blinked, and here we are providing the promised help as he works his first job and learns to drive. But that’s a different story.)

Sometimes I feel like that ridiculous overly tired preschooler. I look at the statistics, and I just want to wail that I can’t handle it!
1 in 9 people doesn’t get enough to eat.
1 in 4 children is stunted by malnutrition.
21,000 people die each day from hunger and hunger-related illness, many of them children.
A child dies from hunger or hunger-related illness every 10 seconds.
I just can’t do enough to put a dent in those staggering numbers.*

But maybe like my preschooler, I’m overwhelmed because I’m biting off more than I’m responsible for. Maybe I can’t save the world. But I’m not called to change the world. I’m called to change me. Think about the fruits of the spirit from Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  SELF-control. My goal is to improve the only person I can control – Me.

Maya Angleou wrote about this:
As I started my journey to being happy on purpose, I realized very quickly how little in my life was within my control. I had no power over other people; others will do, think, and feel what they want and there’s little I can do to change or even influence that. I could only manipulate my environment and the things that happened to me to a certain degree.

I started to wonder if I could control anything in my life at all and I realized that I can only control myself. More specifically I had control over my attitude and my reactions to what the world throws at me.

Mother Teresa understood this as well. She said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” And I’d say that served her pretty well! One person at a time she made an incredible difference for the hungry, and her legacy continues to inspire difference-makers today!

The systems that lead to hunger and inequality in this world are huge, and they’re beyond our control. But we can have an impact. We just have to fix our eyes on what we can control, ourselves, and work diligently to live our lives in a more mindful way.

 

*Quantifying these statistics is challenging. I chose to take this information from the UN World Food Programme, and the BBC. “Hunger related illness” means that an individual did not literally die of starvation, but that his or her immune system was compromised by inadequate nutrition, leading to death from some other illness, like measles.

The Great Wardrobe Purge: Thoughts on Fair Trade and James Chapter 5

purge

I learned something about myself this week. For a long time I have prided myself (and I use the word “pride” intentionally) on the fact that I’m not a “stuff person.” I don’t like clutter. I didn’t keep every art project my kid brought home from school. I clean out my crawl space and shed every year. We go through my son’s wardrobe and his room twice a year. I’m just not about the stuff. But lately I’ve been feeling like my wardrobe was getting a little full, and I decided to do a full clean out.

I literally removed every stitch of clothing and every accessory from my closet, storage bins, and dresser. I washed every piece of laundry, too, so I knew exactly what I was dealing with. As I pulled each item out of its home, I considered if I really wanted it. Does it fit my body? Does it fit my lifestyle? Do I wear it? It was astounding. I filled a huge Amazon Prime Pantry box with rejected clothing and accessories, and my bed was still covered! Hoodies, cardigans, leggings – up and up the piles grew. I had no idea it was that bad.

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The reject pile

I came to a realization: I have wardrobe bulimia. I binge shop and then purge, over and over. Stores worth of clothing pass through my hands, and it’s rare that I keep anything long enough to wear it out. I’m a stuff person after all, not a stuff keeper, but definitely a stuff waster. I’m embarrassed and ashamed of my wastefulness. I’ve been so proud of myself when there was nothing to be proud of!

For a while now I have been learning about the importance of fair trade manufacturing, and have been working toward a fair wardrobe based on minimal purchasing, certified fair trade choices, and secondhand shopping. This purge and inventory taking was part of that process. You have to know what you have in order to make good decisions about future purchases! Ironically (though no coincidence to God, I’m sure…), my purge landed on the same day that I read James 5 as part of my time in the word.

James 5:1-6:   Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

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Some of the evidence stacked against me

My piles of clothing testify against me; I live in luxury and self-indulgence. And I know that the farmers and workers who created my piles of clothing cry out because of oppression and failed wages. And the Lord hears their cries!

On one level, I feel bad that I have been an active and willing participant in this broken system. But I don’t blame myself for the things I didn’t know. And I’m not blaming you either. Until a few years ago, no one talked about international labor practices. We learned about workplace disasters like the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire (New York City, 1911) as history, and celebrated that American labor laws were fixed last century. Meanwhile, we went on wearing cheap t-shirts and tennis shoes made by children in other countries who were paid pennies to work in dangerous factories where they face abuse every day and don’t have an opportunity for a basic education. We didn’t know. In fact, most of us thought we were being responsible if we bought the cheapest clothes possible!

But now that I know better, I feel responsible to repent for the lives that were hurt for my “stuff” and to do better. In fact, my first instinct was to start replacing the things I own with fair trade replacements. But that’s not the answer! It just adds to the waste, filling our landfills and my credit card balance! Fair trade is expensive; it has to be if everyone along the way is getting a fair wage for their work. The real answer is to use up what I have, that damage is already done.

But if this purge taught me anything, it’s that I do not need more stuff. I probably have something that will fill whatever need I have: from work wear I can paint in to a formal gown – including jewelry, handbags, AND shoes, I have at least one thing in my wardrobe to meet any need possible. I don’t usually shop from need; I shop from boredom, and I’ll bet a lot of you do too.

If I shop from need and not from boredom, I can afford fair trade.
The world can’t afford anything less.