We live in a weird time in history.
Never has it been easier to build a following, construct a cause, and self-promote.
It’s actually quite amazing.
We can self-publish our own books, market our own events, and reach out to an unlimited crowd.
Our generation is perhaps one of the luckiest in terms of being handed the tools to pursue our dreams seemingly without limit.
But I can’t help but wonder sometimes, what is it all for?
Because you see, it’s really easy to get behind a cause or a well-known speaker that we support, or even become one ourselves.
A speaker, that is – not a cause.
And that’s a really tricky thing to discern sometimes.
Because we want to believe the best about ourselves and others.
But the truth is, that we are all human. And like every other human on the planet – we like the attention from doing things well. We like the accolades, the atta-boys or atta-girls. The recognition that we have succeeded in our area of influence.
Is it wrong?
Everybody likes a pat on the back. And we need those. They encourage us to keep going.
But things get wonky when we veer of the road of clear thinking into one of two ditches.
We are left wondering how to stay on the straight and narrow.
How about we start with a little bit of honesty.
It’s not comfortable to take a hard look at ourselves and gauge where we’ve let ourselves slip:
Are we helping the people around us out of genuine concern for their well-being or because we are afraid they won’t approve of us if we don’t?
Are we cleaning up the messes of others because if we don’t do it, nobody will?
Are we bitter with our family, friends, and co-workers for not meeting our needs, yet too afraid to speak up about what it is that we actually need?
Are we promoting ourselves on our social media sites because we sincerely want to help and encourage others or do we do it so that we can derive a sense of self-worth from the attention?
Are we frustrated with our lives because we haven’t embraced the feedback of others who love and care about us?
You’ll find that the best business coaches, counselors, and top performers in the world practice this type of self-reflection on a regular basis. And the truly excellent ones, teach others to do the same.
Even God wants us to take time to evaluate ourselves.
Because if we can’t bring ourselves to admit that we need help and we need change, God as a loving father will help us. But let me tell you from personal experience, it so much less fun.
But if we evaluated and judged ourselves honestly [recognizing our shortcomings and correcting our behavior], we would not be judged.
1 Corinthians 11:31
If some of the scenarios above sound like you, know that you’re not alone. New seasons of life always come with a learning curve. . . and with it, permission to rediscover our own hearts and desires.
I’d love to hear about your courageous thinking and the changes from it! Feel free to share in the comments!
Hey guys, reposting tonight!
Hope you’re encouraged by this to keep going. . .
I’ve heard that ogres are like onions, they have layers. . .
and I guess people are kinda like that too.
We ebb and flow, we have seasons of triumph, seasons of what feels like defeat, we have these high seasons with God where we touch the miraculous and then, wham!
We are thrust into a season of onion-ness. Where we have a layer pulled back and we are exposed. Motivations, fears, struggles all right there out in the open.
And like any onion – it makes your eyes water, vision momentarily blurs, and you’re left sobbing like a girl. Saying things like, “I’m not crying, my eyes just sprung a leak.”
I’ll be really honest here and say, I’m not a big fan of being peeled back like an onion.
It’s like being sat down on an old musty couch while loved ones sit around you in a circle. Corralling you in like cattle. . .just in case you wanted to escape, meanwhile you’ve been cornered in your own personal intervention.
This is how God does that.
He onionizes you.
You find yourself in situations you’d rather not be in and you get to watch as your fears, trust issues, thoughts and behaviors all rise to the surface.
And it’s really hard to take an honest look in God’s mirror, especially if you’ve been walking with him for a while. There is a naive part of me that thinks this part of the process will somehow get easier, but the truth is it doesn’t.
How’s that for a ray of hope for your 2014?
But it’s true, at least for me. When life is sorta predictable, it’s easy to settle. To stay on this side of the Jordan (check out Numbers 32).
But it is hard to be vulnerable with God sometimes.
Maybe harder still to be honest with ourselves.
I mean, after all I totally trust God to provide for me, to protect me, to heal me, to comfort me . . . you know, that is until I don’t.
Onionizing – totally effective at showing us what we really believe.
And the truth is that nothing else will heal those areas. We can slap a bandage over them but now that they’ve been onionized, we’ve got to bring it to the Healer.
And then we’ve got to stay there.
I’ve tried the whole, lob a quick prayer up, “God, I’ve got issues. Heal me.” and that’s an okay start but sometimes he wants us to linger in the healing with him. You know actually, park ourselves before him and listen to what he might have to say about our wounds.
Some might require forgiveness.
Some a change in the way we think.
Some might be allowing God to take you back into childhood memories to face old fears.
The thing is, only the Healer knows.
And how, he knows.
He knows us through and through.
I feel God tugging gently on my heart to allow him to go places into my memories.
Places in my heart.
Places that hide dark monsters from my past.
And I know he wants to walk with me there.
Because these monsters of fear and mistrust keep me from him.
And here is what has come to the surface, I am afraid he really isn’t the protector the Psalms claim he is or that I don’t quite fit the mold of what he’s looking for or that he will just tell me to just stop whining and suck it up. . .and so I unknowingly (okay sometimes knowingly) hesitate to bring my onionized self truly before him.
But here I am once again.
I’m hearing the quiet whisper of God across my heart saying there are some deep places of fear and mistrust.
Places he wants to heal.
Places he wants me to trust him with.
And inwardly I hear myself let out a little bit of a groan. Partly because he’s right, I need healing. It’s a cyclical process, just as the human body is constantly healing itself from scrapes and paper cuts, we need that in our souls too. Not only is it okay. It’s necessary.
But mostly I groan, because the last 5 years have been an intense season of discipline. Seriously, someone hand me some Ben-Gay because my faith muscles are sore!
Transitioning from discipline to healing sounds brutal.
But as I pull myself up from the trenches and haul my carcass off to God’s infirmary, I’m sane enough to know it’s necessary.
Photo Credit: “Food” by Pentapfel, permissions through C.C. by 2.0
The overwhelming needs of other people can cause us to just live on auto-pilot where the highlight of our day is checking every one else’s needs off of our list.
Because that is what successful people do.
They git ‘er done.
But that is not and has never been the picture of life that God has had for us.
Paul said it this way:
Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that what you do is important, whether it’s a career, or it’s a title like mom, or maybe you have this burning desire to do something great – it’s your destiny, your calling.
These are so critical.
But only if you are free to be you – no strings attached.
Even in the best of situations, positions and titles can easily become something they were never meant to be.
Things like our “vision” and our “purpose”, our “calling” and our “destiny” can easily slip in and replace the core of who we are.
And vision, purpose, calling, and destiny should always come secondary to our identity.
Keep vigilant watch over your heart;
that’s where life starts.
You and I see it all the time.
We can find a false identity in our careers and feel completely lost when we no longer have the 9-5 grind due to an illness or a company downsizing.
Those crazy stay at home, homeschooling moms who no longer have any identity outside of what they do for their children and husbands. You know the ones, they spend hours either posting or trolling for new ideas on Pinterest.
It can even be as simple as identifying with a group or organization rather than seeing ourselves and others as human first.
And it’s a temptation, lets be honest.
We end up selling out our relationships with ourselves and others on the altar of our false identities.
For the overly responsible ones, relationships sour into a place of quiet resentment as they continue to quietly pick up the slack for those who were ambivalent or who failed to see their responsibility.
For others, life can become a place of broken and shallow relationships, as they never understood what it meant to be accountable to others and to willingly ask for feedback so that a true connection might occur.
Because when we reduce ourselves and others to merely “what need can be met”, then we have failed to understand what it is to be human.
We fail to understand that as God is, we are.
We just are.
He loves us just as we are.
Any changes He may ever ask of you are only out of three reasons:
The life He desires for us is so much more than the cheap quality of life that comes just from fulfilling a purpose or meeting a need.
Keep vigilant watch over your heart;
that’s where life starts.
And so every once and awhile, God allows life to shake us up a bit.
Please understand me, God is not orchestrating horrible things so that he can get your attention. But like any good parent, he does step back sometimes to allow us to experience the consequence of our poor choices.
So that we can see how self-destructive our patterns have become.
Several years ago, my husband and I both lost our jobs and I was pregnant with our oldest son. We also had just bought our first home. We were rocked. We had no idea how we would make it. And we were both wondering why God had left us up creek without a paddle.
But you know what.
More than that.
We grew and thrived and learned the hard lessons that God was teaching us about ourselves.
And as brutal as that season was.
I don’t regret it.
Don’t misunderstand me, I wouldn’t be the first to raise my hand to do it again, but I definitely don’t regret it.
Our lives had become so efficient.
We were successful.
We had plenty of money.
We both worked hard.
But the truth is, that we weren’t really living.
We were just really efficient at getting things done.
But what kind of life is that.
And what had all of our efficiency reduced us to?
Human vending machines.
I can honestly say that I am more alive today than I was back then.
My house is messier, because I have shifted from focus from just having a clean house to teaching my kids how to pick up after themselves.
Our financial state is still considerably less than when I was also working (now, I’m one of those crazy stay-at-home, Pinterest-trolling, homeschool moms), but I wouldn’t trade the freedom of being able to be with my kids during the day as they are learning and growing. (just as long as I don’t lose my identity in it!)
It also gives me the freedom to hang at Starbucks and write. The other amazing gift that has come from having less disposable income is learning how to do things for myself. I just reupholstered my dining room chairs for $60 instead of shelling out $1000.00 for the drool worthy Pottery Barn version.
I have more peace. And that, my friends, is maybe worth more than anything else. I am not running around trying to meet everyone’s needs all the time anymore. I still slip up and fall back into old patterns but far more often I can just chill and let the unimportant things go.
I could keep going.
The list of all of the things we took out of that season is long.
But it can be summed up in this:
When we reduce ourselves and others to merely what need can be met, then we have failed to understand what it means to be human.
And it’s so easy to do, whether it’s in a career, a church position, a praying mama pulling for her kids, a public speaker, a role that we have put on ourselves, I mean really you can lose your identity in just about anything.
Because of the needs of other people.
And the false expectations we have of ourselves.
Whether they are real or perceived.
So today, I hope that you’ll give yourself some grace.
Grace to be patient in the learning process.
It will occur whether we want it to or not. Our choice is will we allow God to teach us something new about ourselves or not.
I hope that you’ll accept the gift of grace he’s giving.
It’s his grace to be human.
Sometimes life can make you feel like a loser.
It doesn’t always pan out the way we thought it would or should.
And it’s easy to look at the goals and dreams God has placed in your heart and wonder if you’ve screwed everything up through the wrong choices, trusting the wrong people, or by just not being, you know, enough.
But instead of asking if you’ve failed, ask yourself if you’ve grown in your relationships this past year.
Ask yourself if your trust in God has grown.
Ask yourself if you’ve made progress in becoming more of the son or daughter that God wants you to relax into.
Sometimes the toughest seasons are about letting down your guard and remembering that you and I are not God.
Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God!
As people, we measure success by tasks completed but God measures success by love increased.
Which can be really difficult to wrap our hearts around.
I went through an amazingly intense season several years ago.
God took me through about 9 months of teaching me about the gift of discernment.
And when God teaches me stuff, it’s not usually in a nice, college lecture type setting.
It’s always in a very life-in-the-trenches-so-you-can feel-this-and-have-some-tactile-experience sort of way.
Okay, yeah, it was pretty much like boot camp.
But He taught me that I was powerful.
And I watched as afterwards, my prayers moved mountains.
My words helped set people free.
I could change the atmosphere in a room, just by walking into it.
It was incredible.
I kinda felt like Bruce Almighty.
And then the seasons changed.
And God was no longer teaching me about His power in me.
He started whispering about my humanity.
The things I wanted.
The things I needed.
The things that irritated me.
The situations in my life that had brought me to my knees.
And I suddenly went from being the most powerful I had ever been in my life to feeling the weakest.
Driven into the proverbial wilderness of life.
To figure out with God, what was going on in the hidden places of my heart.
And this change of season has not been an easy one for me.
Time and time again, I’ve had to fight the thought that I’ve failed.
That somehow I’d fallen from grace and just royally screwed everything up that God was doing in me.
That He was throwing His hands up in air and you know, just done developing me.
Meanwhile, I plummeted from the mountaintop straight into the valley, to learn how to embrace the divine while my feet still remained on Earth.
To add insult to injury, there’s quite a few people around me who are stepping into their destinies and God-given dreams this season.
And you know, I’m happy for them – sorta. 😉
So where am I going with this today?
I dunno, maybe just a reminder to you and me that God really, truly does know what He is doing.
And that you haven’t failed.
Whether you’re on the mountaintop, in the valley, or somewhere in between.
He is helping us to become more aware of His love for us and to heal us so that His love flows more freely out of us.
And while our eyes have been focused on task-based success, His eyes have always been on you and me.
Love you friend,
You can get Joyce’s book, Scattered, Finding God in Your Story, here.
I’ve had several requests for help this past month, some really fun opportunities and others that were heart-breaking pleas for help.
One was extremely hard to say no to, due to the sadness of the situation, but I knew with everything in my heart that I needed to say “no”.
It was such a difficult thing to say no to, that afterwards, I crawled into the shower and sobbed.
It is excruciating to say “no” to people.
People with very real need, people with very tender hearts.
And that’s really hard, especially when you know that you could change the outcome of the story.
That with God’s help, you could move mountains.
And yet, I hear the Father’s heart saying, “No, not this time.”
Why would God say no to something that is very much in his power to give through another person?
Because there are some journeys that were meant to be taken alone with only him.
Those mountain roads that only He can navigate with you.
No person, no church, no gifting can ever replace that.
I think sometimes, that it can be a good thing when our churches and the people in our lives disappoint us.
But I can only imagine how hard it must be for God to delay things that are in his power to give.
He is still the God who heals.
He is still the God who is with us in our loneliness.
He is still the God who sees and knows and is all powerful.
But sometimes He doesn’t come through like we hoped.
And sometimes the Christians we know, and the churches we attend don’t come through the way we thought they would.
And this is hard to swallow, whether you believe in God or not.
Disappointment is never easy.
But disappointment can be an opportunity to make room in our lives for God to be God.
Not the idea of a grandiose God who hovers above us, punishing us for our sins.
But a God who loves us better than we know. Who loves like a Father and gives us his best, even if it might cause us to misunderstand him.
It’s about making room in our lives to tell God things that hurt us and that disappoint us.
And for those of us who have been through a season like this – it is one of learning to let go.
Learning to let God do what only he can do in the lives of those we love.
To step back, and not be the hero of the show.
To let him do what only he can do.
Remembering that he is faithful and able to be trusted.
Photo Credit: “Mountains” by Skeeze, Permission through C.C. by 2.0
Pride is a funny thing.
For that matter, so is humility.
They aren’t quite what I thought they were.
On some surface level I had a general idea but if I was going to be real honest with you, I don’t know if I could have told you why God hates pride so much.
But I’m in the know, now.
You want to know too, don’t you?
Okay, but you owe me a latte or something.
God hates pride because. . . (drumroll, please) it’s a relationship killer.
Yep, that’s the big secret.
God hates pride because it breaks down authentic, heart connections.
And on the flip side, God L-O-V-E-S humility because it promotes very real, very close relationships.
So this got me thinking.
What the heck is humility anyways.
And I don’t mean a definition out of the dictionary.
I mean if I take humility off the rack, what does it look like on a person?
If you’re good at something, own it.
I told you, humility is not what we think it is. When we self-depreciate ourselves its so we LOOK humble, but inside we are high five-ing our awesome selves.
Might as well just get it out in the open.
Besides, self-depreciating yourself is no laughing matter. . . unless you’re a writer then it’s just plain funny.
It’s like those old Nintendo racing games.
Every car had some pluses and some minuses, which kinda all evened them out in the end. We’re all in this race together, except if you had the cheat codes, then your car was definitely the best, but if you have cheat codes, you owe it to the rest of us to share the love.
What does rest have to do with humility?
I know, right? I was thinking the same thing. We could be besties, the way you read my mind.
Rest is the simple act of acknowledging that hey, maybe I’m not Wonder Woman after all (or Superman, you choose. They’re your tights).
And yeah, I’m human and I have needs.
Like a couch, some Netflix and a bag of Doritos.
Don’t knock it people.
Doritios, right there on the bottom of the Needs Pyramid.
What?! It’s not there.
Well, they should be.
It’s open to hearing new ideas. . . like putting Doritos on that dang Needs Pyramid.
Not to Doritos.
Humility would never say no to Doritos.
Humble people are comfortable in their own skin.
You know, like your grandpa when he wears his tank top and boxers with socks rolled up to his knees. You know what I’m talking about – that is a man who is secure in his own skin . . . and fashion choices.
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline
I could use more humility in my life.
I could do with less comparison of what I think I should be.
I could do with more rest.
I could do with more saying “no”.
And I could definitely do more with just being me.
Maybe you could too.
We live in a world full of causes and needs – and we will get to them. We will, because God has poured his spirit into us. Those things won’t get left undone. But in all of our doing, lets not forget that we are people and not vending machines.
Maybe that’s the truest mark of humility.
That we remember that we are human.
I’ve been feeling anxious lately.
It’s that obnoxious type of anxiety because I once had peace – a lot of it and it feels like I’ve misplaced it somehow.
Doctors have run tests and scans and I am perfectly healthy by all accounts.
But I could barely function.
Peace, joy, and a host of other good things were seeping out of my life and I couldn’t understand why.
I was being the mom my kids needed.
I was being the worship leader that my church wanted.
I was being the wife that supported my husband.
I was being the daughter I should be.
I was being the friend that was always available to listen.
I was doing all the things I thought God wanted me to do and be.
All of these roles serve people I love. And I am passionate about being all of those roles- mother, worship leader, wife, daughter, friend.
But all of me was hurting.
Let me just say, not a single person asked me to be something I’m not.
I did that all on my own.
I’m driven by nature and sadly sometimes still find my worth in what I can do rather than who I am.
Am I called to be all of those things.
So since last Fall, I’ve been muddling through what life should look like for me, because I don’t want to be that exhausted again. Ever.
But thank God for good friends and strong coffee.
I have a friend, and musical mentor extraordinaire, tell me that she felt like God was telling her that I was taking on too much.
That was what God gave me as my starting place and like I said, the past 6 months have been a painfully slow learning process.
So what’s the secret of juggling the demands of life without losing ourselves in the process?
For me, it’s been learning about boundaries and rest.
Really practical, I know.
But sometimes the most practical words are the most spiritual and more importantly, the ones that God is speaking in the moment.
“Stress was hurting me physically and emotionally. But the Lord also began to show me that stress was hurting me spiritually. I was allowing the external pressures of life to affect my internal peace and joy. If I didn’t make some major changes, I was never going to fully enjoy the life Jesus died to give me.”
from her book “Overload”
I’m hoping to blog more on this- because it’s important.
It’s important to remember to have some fun in this life and that we are worth far more than what we produce.
I am so loving the word “no” right now.
I would sing it like a choir boy if I could.
“No” is the word that God gave us as freedom from distracting thoughts, over busy schedules, expectations to be something we are not.
I’m not talking about character issues.
I’m talking about feeling anxious all the time.
I’m talking about being afraid that we are not being who others think we should be.
Maybe even, who we think God wants us to be.
Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7
Stingy and lavish.
So the moral is we should give more and not less right?
I don’t think that’s what it means.
Plus it’s all followed up with “God loves it when the giver delights in the giving”.
I think it’s about our motivation.
It comes back to heart.
I’ve had moments where I have given lots out of a stingy heart, because it was what I thought was expected, and I’ve given little with all of the love I had within me.
God was way more excited that I was excited about the little than the lot.
Geez, if I’m honest, I can’t remember the last time I was excited to give of my time or my money or my prayers.
I just got in the habit of giving because it’s what we Christians do.
But this burnt out girl is learning, it’s not enough to just give.
God wants us engaged in our giving- from hearts that overflow.
He’s asking us,
Why do we do what we do?
Do we give because we want to?
Or because we think it’s expected?
Which brings me back to my Sesame Street rant on why I loooove “No.”
“No”, protects our hearts and our motivations.
So if we are going to have and keep big hearts towards people, we have to be able to have and keep our big “no’s” towards the things that would cause us to feel less than delighted in our giving.
That’s really hard because it hits right at the heart of what people will think of me.
I know, it’s hard to say no.
We want people to think that we are the awesome people we know we are- but sometimes the most awesome and sincere and honest thing we can do is nicely say “no”. It keeps our hearts from resenting people and it keeps what flows from our hearts pure.
“No” gives us rest.
“No” gives us breathing room.
“No” gives us space to really discern our own hearts and God’s.
So, not that you need it, but if you were looking for someone to give you permission to say “no”, I’m saying it. Say “no” to things the things that have been slowly killing your joy and your relationships with others. Say “no” to the false expectation to be something you’re not.
Because here’s the best part, in the “no” we have more “yes” for each other and for a God that loves us enough to give us a word like “no”.
Thank you to Brenda Anderson for featuring me on her blog. Please be sure to check it out at http://brendaandersonbooks.com/2017/01/16/spotlight-joyce-ackermann/
Or on Twitter @BrendaSAnders_n