No More Faking Fine

In Feb of this year (2018), I was asked to present on a topic for the spiritual track of ICCM (International Conference on Computing and Mission). I was nearing the end of a book called “No More Faking Fine” by Esther Fleece that was constantly on my mind, so I presented my take on the book as an option and the powers that be thought it sounded like a great topic for the conference.

Some of us are really good at “faking fine” while inside we are nowhere near fine. We’ve been trained by society to hide how we really are and instead answer the question, “How are you doing?” with “Fine and you?” no matter what.

The thing is, we don’t always have to be fine because sometimes life sucks. Everyone experiences times where life seems to knock us down and then continue to kick us while we are there. Nobody would expect you to get up and say you are fine after being beaten, so why do we do it when we are figuratively beaten?

When life sucks, we are allowed to be sad. Look at Peter in Luke 22:62. Right after betraying Jesus (which he was told he would do and promised it wouldn’t be the case) it says “And he went out and wept bitterly.” Peter wasn’t going to be able to brush off the tear and say something was in his eye. That dude wept, and there was no hiding it. His life sucked at that very moment. He let himself down. He let his Savior down. He let his friend down.

So why don’t we feel free to lament, as Ether Fleece calls it. Why don’t we allow ourselves to feel bad and share it with God and with others? There could be a multitude of reasons, but how we’ve been trained is probably a major one. We’ve been trained that “Men don’t cry” or “A strong woman is one who is able to smile this morning like she wasn’t crying last night.”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one after experience a break-up or a loss in the family. “It’ll get better.” That’s all fine and good, but what about the right here and now? What about during the time of grief? God has a different message. He says, “Blessed are those that mourn…” (Matthew 5:4). Note that it doesn’t say Pitied are those that mourn, kicked in the pants are those that mourn, pathetic are those that mourn, weak are those that mourn.

When we lament, as Esther Fleece says, we surrender to God’s sovereignty. We trust that even though we are in the midst of the suck, that He is listening. It might take us a while to fully give our troubles and worries to Him, but lamenting is a step in the right direction.

Turning lamenting into joy is the most important part though so how do we turn our questioning and frustrations into joy? We need to turn to God, remember what He has done for us and look towards the promises He has made us. We also need community. God’s plan for us is to be in community. Notice that ever Jesus died, Peter was still with the disciples and they were all grieving together (John 20:1-4).

The key, as part of the community, is to allow someone time to lament without shaming them. Their emotions are valid, so be there with them.

Communities are the support we need to hold us up when we can’t hold ourselves up. A place we should feel free to share truth and to be loved.

God designed communities to be a part of our lives. There are people in your lives who you know are hurting. They may be in mourning, they may feel unloveable, they may hate their lives, hate what they’ve done, or who they think they are. Today and every day we need to reach out to them, because they may never reach out to us. Reach out to them, share their pain and remind them that you love them, and more importantly, that God loves them. Period, there is not but, and , or if. Nothing that happens to them or that they have done will change that.

I challenge you right now, that if someone popped into your mind right now, reach out to them this instant.

If you, yourself need to be reminded of that love and need someone to remind you that you are loved, know this, even if we never meet, there is love in my heart for you. You are loved by the creator of the universe. He knows you better than you know yourself and He loves you.

 

*If you are interested in reading Esther’s book, I highly recommend it.

**Thanks to Esther Fleece for allowing me to truly process what it means to lament and remind me the importance of community.

***Thanks to Unsplash for the pictures that beautifully illustrated my points.

The Wall and the Stairs

We have all been there before.

A wall lies in front of us and all we can see is this:

brick-wall

I think we know it can’t be all there is.

I think we understand that there has to be more, but that is all we know.

It is what makes up our life.

Sometimes when were are having a good day, we manage to look up.

Even those days we might still only manage to see:

photo-1446716336919-df838e44ce7b

Our view has changed, but our mindset has not.

We are still only looking at the wall directly in front of our faces.

I’m helping a young boy learn math at a local school.

All he has ever known is the wall of failure.

All he can draw upon is the sight of the wall…the thought that he can’t.

It pains me to see him say he can’t do it, before he even tries.

He may not learn a drastic amount of math under mu tutelage.

He may still be behind his classmates.

But what I am hoping is that he turns to the side and sees:

stairs

My hope and prayers for him is that he will see stairs.

A way around or over his wall.

There is hope.

God will help.

My young friend can do it.

So can you.

So can I.

Imperfect

courtesy of Unsplash
courtesy of Unsplash

If you are like me, when you look at this walkway you immediately see the boards horribly misaligned on the sides. If you aren’t like me…well, what’s wrong with you, those boards are ridiculously misaligned. And yet, while looking at this picture this morning a thought popped into my head. I’m not going to say God put that thought into my head, but who am I to say that he didn’t. The conversation I had in my head went something like:

Me: Man those boards are ridiculous, why didn’t the creator make then flush with each other?

Thought: What was the original purpose of the walkway?

Me: Who cares, it was horribly made.

Thought: What was the original purpose though?

Me: Probably to make it easier to get to the beach without walking on the ground.

Thought: Is it meeting that purpose?

Me: Yeah, but…

Thought: No buts. If it is meeting it’s purpose then who cares what it looks like!

Me: but…

Thought: I said no buts!

Just like this walkway, we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) for a purpose. We were known before we were formed (Jeremiah 1:5) and appointed for a specific service of our creator.

We may be imperfect in many ways according to many scales of perfection. Whether we are comparing our looks to the best looking people, or our skills to Olympians, or our grades to the valedictorians, it doesn’t matter, we will fall short in one way or another. Those are all temporary things, but the one eternal thing we should always keep in mind is that we are perfect in the only way that matters. We are perfectly made for the purpose God, our creator, has set before us. Go and find that purpose and bask in the wonder of how perfect you are in the eyes of the only one who matters.

Alone?

 

 

Today’s prompt comes once again from the Unsplash creative commons pictures that I receive every 10 days or so. I was checking out all of the beautiful pictures that I received  in this e-mail and it took me a while to figure out exactly what it was that I could write about. I kept coming back to the picture below and it finally hit me.
Metro trackIt’s no secret that I have had a hard time with loneliness since I have moved to Germany. I also struggled with this when I moved to Maryland and then back to Toledo. It’s not easy moving to a new location, finding new friends and places to hang out. It’s not easy…but it’s also not as hard as I, similar to others I’m sure, make it out to be.

No here is the tie in to the picture. How often have you been at a metro, subway, or underground station where there is no one else on the platform with you? It would seem pretty lonely, or even pretty freaky, wouldn’t it? The thing is, if the photographer turned around, would there have been people? Maybe behind the photographer there are hundreds of people and if he/she turned around, you would get quite a different picture.

When I, and maybe you, are feeling lonely in a new place or an old place, all it might take is a simple action, like turning around. So before any of us slink back down onto our couch and do whatever we do when loneliness strikes, let’s make a simple action, call someone, Skype someone, or go check out a new place. You might not find anyone to hang out with, but you might and that is more than worth the attempt.

 

 

Regular morning routine

I got my newest set of creative commons pictures yesterday, this time from Death to the Stock Photo. After looking through the photos I settled on writing a post on one of two different ones. One showed an old file cabinet and I thought about how we all store information inside of us and some allow others to see what is in their file cabinet while others keep it locked and hidden away, but I finally decided to talk about this picture.

DeathtoStock_Creative Community6

I have no idea what book she is reading, but it made me think of my struggles to have a regular morning routine. I want to have one, but I am horrible at consistently doing it. Every night when I go to bed I set my alarm to help me get up early enough to do several things that I want to do. I want to:

  1. Read the Bible
  2. Meditate on what I read
  3. Journal
  4. Shave (well, not every morning, but at least twice a week)
  5. Eat a good breakfast
  6. Exercise

Instead most of my mornings look like:

  1. Regret not having time to read the Bible
  2. Pray quickly while showering
  3. Forget where my journal even is, it’s been so long
  4. Grab some yogurt to eat at work

What is it that makes me not get done, what I want to get done? Is 15-30 more minutes of sleep really worth it?

It makes me think of Paul’s words in Romans 7:14-16 and I love the way the Message sums this up, so I will leave myself and you with these words, keeping in mind the very last part; God’s command is necessary.

14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

Pretty on the outside

I am trying something new on this blog. Periodically I like to try to push myself to write more here and let people see into who I am, what I am doing and where God has brought me from and leading me to. What I thought I would start doing is stretching my writing skills a bit by using prompts. Not the normal prompts you would see in English class in high school, but actually visual prompts inspired by Unsplash. Unsplash provides 10 photographs every 10 days either on their site or through e-mail that can be used for whatever you want (creative commons license zero). The photographs are beautiful and professional.

My plan, then is to take one photograph from the e-mail I receive and write a blog post about something that comes to me when looking at one of those pictures.

So here is the first picture I chose from the most recent e-mail:

Gutman_island

 

So, why this picture?

I know nothing about this picture other than what I see, but that is exactly what I want to talk about.

Last week I led my first small group of the year with 7 Sophomore boys. I wanted to get to know them some, but also help them feel more comfortable in the group so we played a boardgame called The Resistance. The idea of the game is that you have spies and you have resistance members. The spies want to make a majority of the missions fail while the members of the resistance want the majority to pass. Each round a new leader elects people to go on this mission based on their role and thoughts about who is a spy and who isn’t.

Essentially if you are a spy you lie and try to get everyone else to believe that you are a part of the resistance. So why the heck would I have my small group play this? Why would I encourage them to lie? Well the answer is pretty simple, I wanted to illustrate that often you present your outside as different from your inside. I wanted my small group to understand that in that group they were free to reveal what is inside with no worries of judgement. They didn’t have to worry about being caught, or being judged or secrets travelling around the school. They were safe.

That brings me back to the picture. I have no idea what is going on the inside of these buildings, but because of what is on the outside I would assume they look just as nice on the inside as they do the outside. Is that true? I have no idea. Too often we make our outsides looks like these buildings when in reality we are a mess on the inside. We worry too much about presenting ourselves in the best way, but slowly we are corroding from the inside out. Eventually what is on the inside will begin to affect the outside if we never take care of it. We need to spend time with the One who can help us maintain a proper inside and have a group of people who can walk along side of us no matter how gross we really are.