25 August, 2016
Recently a friend made a decision that changed everything. The ripples left behind have caused a lot of pain. Some people are building walls, hunkering down, letting anger be their shield and protection.
There is judgment. There is hurt. There is separation. But as I have walked with my friend through this time, able to see her reasoning on one end and the fallout on the other, I have often asked (and been asked) what does it mean to love her?
I turn to the woman at the well, a story I cling to because I have been that woman more than once.
The woman, oh how I wish we knew her name, knew the Word. It was steeped into her. She questioned Jesus on His place compared to Jacob. She knew a lot of the history of Israel and responded to Jesus’ reference to scripture with her own.
She wasn’t even going through the motions of faith, and yet within her was a call to something better. Something kept her close to the Word even if her outside choices did not reflect it.
Too often we want someone to behave as we think they ought to before we engage. We hope our distance, our silent judgment, will correct their behavior. But as we look to the well, Jesus loved this woman in the midst of her struggle. He made reference to her sin only once. He did not tell her to leave her current lover and then come back. He did not let her sin keep Him from associating with her.
This is not a denial of her sin. Jesus had so much more for her. But He gave her the time and space to figure it out for herself.
God can hear us through our pain. He can hear our small cry when we are full of doubt. He is there when we are lost to even ourselves. The path is long and steep. It takes time, patience, maybe the loss of a few things dear to us, but God is there always, calling us to simply worship Him as we are.
To love my friend is to be there for her. To listen, encourage, challenge, and call her to a God who still sits at the well. I will not cast judgment on those who have chosen a different definition. I do know that during my time of greatest trial I would have loved someone to sit with me and say:
23 August, 2016
I’ve been struck lately by how mean the Internet is. It seems our ability to post any thought at any time on fourteen different platforms has led to the exposure of an inner monologue that might be better kept to ourselves.
We take critical aim at everyone. Celebrities, random people we see in gyms or at a restaurant. We criticize people at church, our bosses, and other parents. We mock people’s clothes, appearance, life choices, etc. and weight in on other people’s pain like it is our place to speak cruelly about their situation.
Why do we feel this need to put our hateful thoughts out there? Why do we use 140 characters to spew hatred and ugliness on someone who never asked for it? And would we ever really be this hurtful to someone’s face (I hope not)?
Need some examples:
· A picture comes out of Kim K. on the beach with her kids. Someone writes she is pimping them out.
· People get upset because Gabby Douglas does not put her hand over her heart during the national anthem (not to mention people’s disparaging remarks towards her since the finals this summer).
· People accuse Kristin Cavallari wife of starving her kids after a photo surfaces of her boys on the beach.
· Look at the cover of any entertainment magazine. How many of the cover stories are focused on tearing a celebrity down because of a poor choice or selling a rumored downfall?
But let’s go closer to home.
How do we gossip about that woman at church? How about that mother who never “has it together” at MOPS or in the pick up line, or worse, the one who does? How often do we read our newsfeed and make snarky comments as we pass by other people’s pictures or posts?
And again, WHY?
Maybe our rampant judgment has more to do with our envy and insecurity than how Kim K. is raising her kids.
Take a step back and think about the last critical comment you made about someone. Was it because of their fashion? A parenting decision? Who they’re voting for?
Why did their choice create a visceral response in you? It might only be 140 characters, but it was enough for you to stop what you are doing, pull out your phone and comment.
Anger (and I’d say snarkiness, which is all our critical posts on social media are) is a masking emotion, meaning we are avoiding another emotion when we do it.
· Are you jealous of the skinny mom who can wear the jeans you can’t?
· Are you mad that after two kids Kim K. has that body and you don’t?
· Are you mad that Kim K. and her entire clan are famous for doing nothing and you envy their money and luxury?
· Do you relate to that mother’s overwhelmed state, but just do a better job of hiding it?
· Have you disengaged from those closest to you and are jealous that person is still in the arena?
· Are you tired of being single and so nitpick couple photos to make yourself feel better?
· Are you in a loveless marriage and are jealous a friend is not?
· Are you jealous that someone’s years of hard work landed them at the Olympics while you are at home eating a pizza?
· You are mad your friend is chasing a dream outside the office while you can’t acknowledge the voice telling you to try?
It’s not about them – it’s about US, our hearts and how something is not right within us. Instead of slowing down to address it, we go full steam ahead and like a bull in a china shop tear others down with our words.
Jesus taught that the tongue is a window to the soul (Mt. 15:18, Luke 6:45). The Bible is full of verses about why we need to be mindful of what we say (Pr. 12:18, 13:3, 18:12, 21:13, Mt. 12:37, James 1:26, 3:9-12, 1 Cor. 13:1).
Someone I know has a visceral response when he sees someone wearing leggings as pants. To the point he will snap photos of random strangers in restaurants, post them online, and write “WHYYYYYYYYY!?!?!??!” He gets dozens of comments of people making fun of this person wearing leggings as pants.
My question: why?!?! Why do you care if she, in all her 400 lb glory, wants to wear leggings to dinner? If she is that comfortable in her skin, why not congratulate her on being assured in who she is? What effect does her decision have on your life (except that you are choosing to get riled up about it)?
And that is my question to you – why do you care?
Why do you care that Kim K. is vacationing with her two kids and what her swimsuit looks like? Why did you feel the need to comment on Gabby’s actions during a medal ceremony (which, by the way most the athletes did not put their hands on their hearts) or her attitude in the weeks leading up to it?
Why are you spending so much energy choosing to get riled up about the decisions of others?
What effect does her decision have on your life really? Why are you are choosing to turn it into an earth shattering deal? Could that energy be better spent elsewhere?
It’s been said that we compare our lives to other people’s feeds. But the thing is people get to pick what they post out there. And instead of being envious about what they have, why not get out there and change whatever is causing you to hate on them so much?
· You want a better marriage – being on Facebook will not fix it.
· You want a better relationship with your kids, take them out to dinner without your cell phone.
· You want to chase your dream of being a writer, baker, making clothes – start small, buy one piece of equipment and try.
· You feel like so and so has a faith you wish you could get to. Get off your phone, take your Bible, go sit at the park and let God speak to you.
Nothing we want comes by sitting online.
We cannot face and deal with whatever envy, jealously and pain pushes us to be so critical of other people until we can first admit what about their situation makes us jealous and then turn the lens inward and let God in.
Ultimately, it is not our place to judge other people. And that is all our critical, snarky, mean comments are - judgment.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:3.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be judged for taking a stand against what matters: rights for victims of sexual violence, dictators behind wars and genocide, perversion of the Word be “religious leaders,” not caring for and loving the poor, widow, orphan.
So, instead of posting that mean Facebook post, take a step back, address the why and then move forward doing some positive. Why not tell that person how good they look, schedule a play date with the overwhelmed mom and listen, go for a walk with your kids and get away from the screen?
Do something positive with the visceral response that starts somewhere so negative. Slowly your first response won’t be to be critical and mean, but to be loving and full of grace. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45b).”
22 March, 2016
I was recently given the chance to read Alli Worthington’s new book BreakingBusy. In it, Worthington writes about the need to stop doing things because we feel obligated or wearing the “badge of busy” like a symbol of honor.
The Lie of Busy
The theme of taking a step back and reevaluating our lives, what we are committed to, and what we have let define us, is coming up all over the place. Finally the lie that we can “do it all” or should be expected to is finally starting to crack. There is no “having it all” unless it includes rest, relationships and a new defition of “success.”
I read Breaking Busy after reading Emily Freeman’s Simply Tuesday and Lara Casey’s Make it Happen (both of which I’d highly recommend). They all speak to this idea that while we are busier than ever, we feel like we are getting less done and losing what really matters in our quest to conquer the out of control to do list.
Okay, let me get this straight. Worthington writes. Women are sacrificing sleep, recreation, hobbies, friends and even family on the altar of busyness. So we aren’t sleeping, aren’t taking care of our bodies, and we aren’t doing things we enjoy with people we love. Then what in the world are we doing? (pg. 22)
Worthington starts off talking about capacity. She looks at her cell phone as an example. Your phone can only do so much at one time. It will only work for so long without a recharge. We tend to keep going on empty, to try to do more on limited reserves. It just doesn’t work.
There are several signs Worthington points to as a sign of being on overload.
1. Inability to Control Your Emotions
2. Lack of Self-Care
4. Chronic Lateness
5. Self-Medicating and Excess
6. Neglecting Important Relationships
7. Neglecting God
I read this book first in November and looking back over my notes, I can see I am still on overload.
I am not “busy” per say. My planner is mostly work, writing and working out. I do not have children, am not committed to anything outside my job. My life is relatively stress free. But that does not mean I am not outside my capacity or am not overloaded.
I tend to focus on too many things at one time. In my creative life I will try to push forward too many projects. I will get too many ideas of things to try (got to love Pinterest). I will want to excel at cooking, become the perfect Bible journaler, and run my own business. I join clubs on Facebook I have no intention of engaging with and have more newsletters coming to my inbox than I will ever read. My desk is cluttered with impulse buys, notebooks and print outs to read and digest.
All of this can stimulation leads to feeling overwhelmed. And to me it is a sign that something is not sitting right in my core.
Too often we restrict our barometer of busy to our planner, but what about how much time we waste multi-tasking or on social media or procrastinating? I find it easier to escape online than to take action for my own health and happiness (pg. 27), Worthington writes. And I totally agree.
Worthington’s list is a wake-up call to me to re-evaluate where I am. Yes, according to my planner my life is the last thing from busy. But internally – in my head, in my heart and with my emotions – I am so overloaded it leaves me feeling empty, not creative and tired.
The heart of Breaking Busy is learning to say no.
Learning to say no when it comes to what we are committed to, what we let consume our time, what traditions we cling to, to who and what we let speak into our lives.
The Question of Calling
I have to admit, I found her chapter on Calling a bit discouraging.
She writes about her experience of leaving behind a very successful blog event for what – she wasn’t sure. Worthington started the blog conference after her husband lost his job. It grew and blossomed and at the peak moment God called her to walk away.
It’s an incredible story of trust. And what came next for Worthington can only been seen as God’s perfect timing.
She does provide some thought provoking questions for identifying your calling. She is right in that we have to let God tells us what we are made for (instead of assuming we know or telling God what we want to do). It is in relationship with Him we find out what we are designed to do.
Where it falls flat is that she doesn’t do a good job of addressing the obligations of our lives and how those can interfere with calling. What do we do when we know our calling and God says wait?
Worthington does not have a lot of encouragement for those of us in this place. She paints the picture that determination is enough. It’s not. You can be determined and hustle your heart out and still have not enough to cover the bills.
It is the biggest failure in the book.
Editing is Key
One of the biggest ways that we can start to break busy is by editing what we are committed to. Worthington looks at “proactive edits” and “natural edits.”
Proactive edits are “what we need to stop doing if we are to live the life God created us to live.”
Natural edits are ones we do not choose for ourselves. They are, “limitations we have and losses we suffer (pg. 88).”
The natural edits are the sticking place. How we respond to them determines a lot. Our limitations can keep us from inserting ourselves in places we shouldn’t. They help determine what we do and where we spend our time.
I will say sometimes God works through our natural edits, and those can be amazing and glorious.
Worthington looks at the life of Jesus. The God of all things did not, “say yes to everything because he wasn’t called to do everything (pg. 91).” And that is a good reminder for us.
My Efforts at Editing
I found Worthington’s list of how to make proactive edits very useful as I started editing my obligations. I was able to look at what was hindering me, to face some fears in my heart, and ultimately lay the edits in my life before God.
The reality is sometimes edits hurt.
God was trying to alter my life and was refining my character to suit His particular purpose. But sometimes edit hurts, and sometimes they cause others to hurt. When you feel the need to edit something out of your life, expecting the process to be easy will only make that change harder. Like most growth in life, editing out the good is not easy, but it is ultimately worth it (pg. 86).
Later on, Worthington writes about the difference between worry and anxiety. Anxiety is a sense of doom rooted in fear hat is often a lie from the Enemy. Worry is nothing but our attempt to control the future (pg 111). She addresses these two issues and provides steps to overcome our negative thoughts.
The False Sense of Urgent
The problem is that maybe important tasks (such as getting adequate sleep, spending quiet time with God every day, and working towards our big goals in life) don’t seem urgent enough to demand our immediate attention, while urgent tasks … aren’t always important (pg. 142).
We lose too much of our day in things that don’t ultimately matter. Worthington writes: we should be done more life-giving activities that make us happy and help us grow into who we are meant to be. But we will never get to those activities if we don’t first set out goals and our priorities (pg. 144).
At the heart of this is boundaries!
Setting boundaries is the only way to ensure we stay healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually (pg. 149).
What we think, believe, hope for, study or dream about does not affect the outcome of our future. The decisions we make and the actions we take do (pg. 159).
She also writes a very good chapter on communication and if you are an over or under sharer, how to relate to each other, and how to better communicate overall.
Worthington’s final chapter deals with worth. It was my favorite chapter. It’s the one I keep going back to, the one that really struck a cord in me. I feel Worthington could write a whole book on just this topic. So many struggle with this and yet don’t even know what to name it.
“Keeping us busy trying to prove our worth is the easiest way to keep us from the life God created us to live because it makes us think that our worth is based on what we do, instead of who God is (pg. 197).
It is a refreshing chapter with a lot of heart and tips on how to take a breath, identify how you face this issue “being enough.” It provides some great guidance on how to cultivate a more healthy sense of worth.
Worthington goes back and forth between being conversational and providing tips/tricks and questions which tend to make the book more formal. Her strength is in the latter. There are very few authors who can write well in a conversational tone. Not done well, the writing can come off a bit weak.
It is a good entry into the idea the idea of breaking the cycle of busy and reclaiming our lives. Though I might recommend Simply Tuesday or Make it Happen more.
In the end, Breaking Busy is a worthwhile read. There are gems of wisdom and practical tips throughout and one of the ten ideas Worthington addresses will strike a cord, as a few did for me.
What are you currently reading?
10 September, 2015
(I recently contributed an article to A Pinch of Faith's series on women in the Bible. Here is the start, the rest can be found on A Pinch of Faith.)
Hagar is one of the most over-looked women in the Bible. Very little is known about her. Born in Egypt, she somehow came to be with Sarah and Abraham as Sarah’s slave. Her place in the world is shaky at best. Overall she is powerless in the day-to-day dealings of her life. We don’t know her age, how she looked, if she had family back in her homeland. In fact, Hagar would have faded into historical obscurity except for one fact: Sarah chose to use her for her own end.
When we think of Hagar we have to keep her lot in perspective. She had no control over her life, body, or time. She could not say no. She could not come and go as she pleased. She was enslaved, under the rule of Sarah and Abraham with no hope or expectation for change. The reason for this caution is too often we turn Hagar into the villain of what comes next, when she is quite simply anything but.
Read more on A Pinch of Faith
04 August, 2015
Here is my entry from the July 31st Creative Prompt
Where did he go?
Sara spun around again looking at the now empty laundromat.
She stared at the last place she had seen the man. It was impossible that he had made it to the door as she was between them. There was no back entrance. So where did he go?
She thought over what he had been saying, talk of tea parties and croquet. He kept repeating he was late. He tried to get Sara to turn around and was rather miffed that she refused to give him the chance to ambush her. She was put on guard by the fact the man had no laundry. He did not dress like someone who would use a laundromat with his top hat, white suit, buffed loafers and pocket watch.
The creaking door caught her attention. That dryer was not open a moment ago. There was only one machine being used – the one with her laundry.
She called hello, feeling foolish. There was no one there. She reached to close the dryer door but stopped. Where there should have been a drum there was nothing but darkness.
“Hello?” she called into the dryer, her voice echoing. “Mr. White?” She did not know if this was the man’s name, but it’s all she had. Realizing what she was doing she jerked her head out of the machine. Pull it together Sara.
Her hand still on the dryer she looked at the darkness. It was the only logical explanation, if a rabbit hole appearing in an ordinary dryer was logical. Was she really saying that a man leapt into a dryer the moment she pulled her gaze for a moment?
Confident no one was coming, Sara tried to hoist herself into the dryer. It was the top of a double stack and was remarkably hard to squirm into. She thought about how she might look, her bum sticking out, legs flailing. Maybe her sister was right, the stress was getting to her.
Feeling something wet under fingers, Sara pulled them back to find them covered in dirt. Dirt? She smelled it. What was going on? Realizing she had nowhere to go but further in, Sara braced her arms and pushed, sending herself tumbling down the rabbit hole.
03 August, 2015
Last week the NFL upheld its four game suspension of Tom Brady for his involvement in deflating balls below the designated limit in January’s AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.
The news has been all over the media as well as questions about the future and legacy of Mr. Brady, the actions of the Patriots and the implications for the season. While there are tons of articles out there about the situation (see list below for a few), I wanted to see what lessons we can take from the situation as to what good leaders do not do.
1. Good Leaders Do Not Look for Someone Else to Blame.Almost from the moment hints of under-inflated balls hit the airways after the AFC game, Brady and the Patriots have declared their innocence. This did not stop them, however, from blaming anyone outside the organization for their situation.
This is not the first time the Patriots have had cheating allegations levied against them. They have been accused of having inside intel on other teams, to the point of filming practices. They have used illegal plays and formations during games.
And as before, the Patriot are indignant, taunting and putting on one hell of a performance in their quest to be “vindicated” from charges everyone knows are true.
The team has been caught with its hand in the cookie jar. At this point it’s best to stop blaming everyone else, circling the wagons and trying to play the victim and maybe admit to what is right in front of them.
2. Good Leaders Take ResponsibilityIn what seemed like a series of excuses from day one, Tom Brady has not come close to admitting to, much less apologizing for well, anything.
In one of the more bizarre (and telling) moments, Brady told the NFL investigators that he did not know the, “permissible inflation range set by the NFL Playing Rules” (NFL Nation 5/6/15). It’s like a world-class piano player saying they don’t know what the pedals do or an electrician saying they don’t know how to ground a wire. It’s a basic of the game. A basic all 32 teams have agreed to.
Brady even went so far as to deny knowing staff on the team. Staff who deal with the very equipment he uses daily, staff who have been with the Patriots for decades, staff with whom he corresponded with via test message. It would be laughable if Brady did not think people were dumb enough to buy the lies.
A leader stands up and takes responsibility. Even IF Tom Brady had nothing to do with the balls being deflated, he should have gone to the podium and taken one for the ball handling team. He should have admitted the balls were low and promised they would not be this season. He should have cooperated fully and then accepted the punishment levied against him. Brady and the Patriots could have saved a lot more face if they had appeared to be humbled, corporative or even open in any part of what’s happened because of their decisions. This is not happening to them – they brought this on themselves by cheating.
3. Good Leaders are TransparentGood leadership would have been coming out the day after the first hint of improper deflating was announced and been honest. It is not grand standing, proclaiming your innocent, blaming everyone else, or playing dumb. It’s not using long words and strong language that attempt to garner sympathy and paint yourself as the victim when evidence and common sense says you are anything but.
To put it simply: good leaders are not indignant, they are not martyrs and they stand up and tell the truth.
In all of this, the other big black eye against Brady is the destruction of his cell phone from the time of the incident on the very day the investigators wanted to talk to him. It was a key piece of evidence Brady knew the investigators wanted.
His excuse? Well he (supposedly) destroys all of his old cell phones. And why does it matter – the league has communications has what they need from the Patriot staffers’ phones?
Through his decisions Brady has made the conversation as much about his (lack of) character as it is about his actions. His unwillingness to just take responsibility for his actions will ultimately hurt his legacy more than the actions themselves ever will.
If Brady had just taken responsibility for his part this could be a footnote but since he insists on playing the victim way beyond the point of believability, this has become a bolded line in how he will be remembered. His legacy is tarnished by his choices.
4. A Leader Does Not CheatThe most basic leadership lesson we can learn here is: leaders do not cheat.
There are rules, rules established by the league, approved by the owners. Rules that should be common sense to every player and staffer on all 32 teams. These rules lead to fairness and ensuring that all 32 teams have an equal playing field.
Someone who is a leader plays within those rules. They look at the PSI levels and find a level that works for them. They don’t spy on their opponents; they don’t try and pull a fast one on the referees. They don’t play the victim, and when that fails they don’t become bullies.
The Patriots are a well-oiled machine. They are disciplined and everyone does exactly what they are supposed to. There is little denying they are a powerhouse team. But when faced with something as severe (and proven) as cheating, the last thing a leader does is look to somewhere else to place the blame. But that is what the organization and those closest to Brady are doing.
Until now they have not had to pay in any way that hurts them. The fines levied against them are laughable when you consider how much they make, losing draft picks doesn’t hurt because, well, they are at the bottom of the list anyway because of how good they are. Instead of letting them buy themselves out of another cheating fine, the NFL hit them where it hurt: by benching a key player.
Where We Are NowUltimately, the Patriots and Brady are in a place of leadership because they are in the public arena. Children look up to Brady and emulate what he does. But they are not leaders. They have shown their entitlement comes from a place of privilege and power. They expect that by being at the top they have the freedom to do what they want. And if they get caught – there is always money.
Brady’s reputation and legacy have been altered by the situation and mostly by his reaction to it. While some might have suspected that the leadership of the Patriots is content to play outside the lines, I think many hoped Brady would not display such arrogance. The unfolding of Deflategate since January has shown only the worse side of many. And maybe the discussion we should be having is why the NFL (also in a position of leadership) is doing so little to address the core issue here.
If you can only win by working outside the rules, does that really make you a winner?
If you are powerful only because you are a bully, does that really make you powerful?
If you want to escape responsibility because of your status, what does that really say about your character and who you are?
Labels: Hello Monday
31 July, 2015
1. Set a timer for five minutes
2. Look at the image and write what comes to mind, no editing, no thinking about it - just write.
3. If you want to post what you wrote below, I'd love to read it.
4. Save what you write