How Christians can respond to the church shooting in Texas.

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My heart, like many of yours, broke this Sunday when the news broke of a mass shooting taking place at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. As a ministry worker, I can assure you this act has repercussions that will be long reaching. The how, why, where and what of church attendance will forever be changed. I believe that many of us who hadn’t sought license yet will begin the process of obtaining the permit to carry a weapon… on our person…even in church. Many who have, up until now, left their guns at home will feel compelled to protect what they cherish. Perhaps this is a necessary step to secure our friends and family as the persecution of Christ’s church increases.

The Church. This is the place where healing and forgiveness are to take place. This is where we, as believers, go to feel safe. This is the hospital that offers the only medicine with which to heal our nation, our homes and ourselves. Make no mistake, this is where satan is taking the battle.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood.”  We have all heard it preached from pulpits across this nation. But, will we now, as the attacks start to hit closer to home, will Christians realize that the battle has already begun. Persecution of the church has been taking place since it’s establishment. Now, as our nation turns from God, we will continue to see the mortars from the raging war landing closer to our families, homes and churches. What will those of us that profess Christ do to engage the enemy.

As American Christians we have the right to legally obtain and carry a gun to protect ourselves and our families. I believe we all should.

As Children of God, We have the right to go boldly to the throne of grace and pray. Pray for Texas, pray for those families who were caught in the middle of a spiritual battle and they are paying the ultimate price. Pray and ask God to forgive our cowardice. Ask Him to forgive us for not answering the  call of a battle that we were all enlisted to fight. Those of you who are saying “what do you mean?” I’m glad you asked.

As born again believers we ALL have the COMMAND to go and tell others of the love of a Savior that can extinguish all death and all darkness. Some of us, accepted Christ and then “went to Canada”. We wanted to play it safe. We wanted to be as far away from the war as possible. The war is here. We cannot hide behind “not being offensive” any longer. Had you known about the attack on the church  in time to warn those who lost their lives, would you have done anything to save those dear people from those moments of terror? If you are a Christian, then you know about the terror that is coming for all who do not accept Christ. We have the ability to warn others.

My challenge is this: Re-engage the enemy.

I have personally entered into a covenant with God to lead at least 26 people to Christ over the next two weeks. One person for every saint that lost their physical life in Texas. If even just 1000 Christians would make the same commitment we can alter the story. 26,000 reached for Christ as a result of Texas. No, we cannot undo the pain and destruction that was inflicted on God’s people but we can honor their memory. We can change the bi-line from “26 victims gunned down at a church in texas” to ” 26 Christians martyred, sparking revival across the nation”.

I am asking all of you to join me. This is how we re-engage the enemy. This is how we fight back. This is how we honor a family gunned down while sitting in church. This is how pay tribute to a pastor and his family who lost their 14 year old daughter.

Please, join me over the next two weeks. You will have to be uncomfortable. You will have to change your schedule. You might have to seek out someone else who knows how to lead someone to Christ so that you can learn. You will have to pray. You will have to go. Will you join me? Please let me know if you are willing. I will be praying that God blesses your courage.

Help me change the ending of the story.

 

Authority?

Human beings cringe when we hear the word law. We don’t embrace strict rules. Like Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, we much prefer guidelines or suggestions. Something designed into our very core causes us to automatically reject rules and those that would attempt to enforce those rules. You know what it is like, that feeling that rises up inside when the flashing lights of a police officer in your rearview mirror threaten to ruin your day. Sure, we were in a hurry and driving ten miles over the posted legal speed. But there are serious crimes being committed out there and this cop has nothing better to do than harass a law abiding citizen like yourself? We are all guilty of this thinking. Even those of us who attempt to show the officer respect and accept our ticket with some semblance of maturity drive away feeling as if we have been treated unfairly. Others of us will spend a huge portion of our day explaining why the ticket was unfair, (how the cop was actually in the wrong) and determining how to fight the citation in court. Reactions to a traffic stop can range from a speeding ticket to gun play and actual death. However (in most cases) the truth is, a law was broken; you broke it. There are consequences for breaking laws. You chose to drive ten miles an hour over the posted legal speed, you chose to not show up in court, you chose to rob a bank, you chose to drink and drive, you chose your actions; you were, therefore, saying that you were willing to accept the consequences of those actions.

One of my girls attended a college where certain movies were against the schools listed rules. She asked me on one occasion if I thought it would be ok for her to watch one such movie in the dorm with her roommates. I explained that her dad and I had no problem with that movie and we felt it was completely acceptable for her to watch with her friends. I also explained that her dad and I do not make the rules for the institution that she was attending. I wanted her to understand that, by breaking the rule, she would be saying that she was ready to accept the consequences of her actions regardless of the severity. She and her friends watched the movie. They were caught and had to go before the discipline committee. She called to let me know that she had been reprimanded and wanted to know if I was mad. I informed her I wasn’t mad. She did the crime, she did the time. She accepted the consequences of her actions.

In the climate of our current world there are those lining up against law enforcement. I am not implying that police officers are not capable of committing atrocious acts. They are and they have, just like the rest of us. The point of my writing is always the same. I want to inspire myself and others to look inward. If you find yourself against ALL law enforcement, I must suggest that your issue is not with “bad cops”. Your issue might be with authority. You might have a problem with someone having the right to tell you that you are wrong. You might kick against the thought that someone has the right to to hold you accountable for your actions. If this is you, then I suggest you do another litmus test.

Do you accept the authority of God? Whether or not you acknowledge Him, He is. He created you and everything you know, He made the rules. He decides the consequences. This is why some of you refuse to believe, and this is why some of you have walked away from a God you once loved. It is not because you are smarter than those of us who place our faith in Christ. You are gambling that the rest of us are wrong and that there is no one that will hold you accountable for your actions. That is a big gamble.

Allow me to get this part out of the way. I love God. When I say God, I am referring to the Creator of everything that is and everything that ever will be. I am referring to the Heavenly Father of my Savior, Jesus Christ; the God that sent His only begotten Son to die in my stead on a cross, so that I would not need to pay for my own sin debt. He was my sacrifice, restoring me to a relationship with our Father so that I would live in fellowship with Him for eternity. God designed this plan for all of us. Regardless of race, political affiliation, sexual preference, or your disregard for authority. The invitation is there for all who will simply acknowledge His authority and accept His free gift of salvation. In the movie, National Treasure, Detective Sadusky asks Ben what he wants out of the deal for returning the Declaration of Independance. Ben replies, ” I would really like to not go to jail”. The Detective says, “Somebody’s gotta go to jail, Ben.” The truth is, according to God’s word, somebody is going to pay the debt owed for your inability to live up to His Glory. Somebody is “going to jail” for breaking God’s laws. We can pay our own debt, or we can accept that Christ paid it for us and accept Him as the Savior He was sent to be.

Your refusal to accept the police officer’s authority will not keep him from ticketing you or taking you to jail. Your rejection of God’s authority does not alter His authority, anymore than your failure to accept the law of gravity will keep you from falling to your death if you jump off of the Empire State Building. In our analogy, when that police officer hands you your speeding ticket, Jesus steps up and pays it for you. God’s word does NOT teach that you must be living perfectly to believe or to walk with Him daily. It only requires that you humble yourself enough to know that you deserve “the ticket” (consequences ) of your actions and that you acknowledge Christ’s authority and the fact that He paid for those consequences for you.

I teach my yoga students that you cannot learn yoga without doing yoga. It does not matter how many books and articles you read or how many questions you ask. In the same way, you cannot understand what it is to walk with Christ until you accept Him. I encourage you to look inward and assess whether or not you have an authority issue. Determine why you are rejecting God’s authority in your life. Make a plan to correct any issues. Reach out to someone who is willing to talk and withhold judgement if you have questions.

Seek enlightenment always.

Namaste

 

 

Enlightenment

It amazes me how God can, and often does, choose to teach us His truths using whatever method or tool that we are open to at the present moment. In the three decades that I have been a Christian, God has guided me through His Word, His Spirit, and His people teaching and preaching his truths. Through books, magazines, music, strangers, friends and even in business meetings, I have gleaned life changing insights.  First and foremost this is because I choose to put my faith in the person of Jesus Christ and He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. I believe that this promise is why He chooses to guide me using any and all methods. The most recent avenue of His guidance has been through the authentic teachings of yoga. I imagine He is utilizing this teaching avenue because He knows all too well that I have closed myself off from many of the traditional models that served me well for many years. I am no longer interested in following anyone who seems to lead with their ego. Men and women who make their decisions through the lens of their emotions, feelings, traditions and the past teachings of previous mentors, while blatantly disregarding God’s Word as the final authority. Leaders that leave their followers questioning if they have any worth when it comes to the ministry or christianity, or in life period, have, in my opinion, failed to recognize Christ’s teachings on leadership. Authority figures that act as if the position Christ has allowed them to fill grants them all power and all insight.  You can discern quickly if you have been asked to follow this type of person. This leader cannot answer the hard questions. In fact, they behave as if you have no right to question them in the first place. They will avoid the question. They will attempt to divert from the question. They will simply ignore the question. But, if all of this fails and you push for an answer they will rely on some version of the response “because I said so”, “because I’m the Pastor” or “because this is my church”.  In my 48 years on this planet, history has proven that when an authority (whether in the secular field or christian) gets to this place, their business or ministry is decaying rapidly. I am not judging these folk. Christ has said that He has sheep “that are not of this fold”, and I am content to leave it with Him. I am not willing to subject myself or loved ones to these people, after witnessing time and again the havoc that they wreak in the lives of the righteous and unrighteous alike.

I seek enlightenment. My Saviour has promised this very thing in His Word. He promises in Matthew 11 that if we come unto Him He will give us comfort. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Enlightenment. To ease the burden. To cease to carry the heaviness that this world has to offer. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Yet, many Christians are bent low under the weight of life. Worries, fears, and anxiety does not sound very enlightened to me. I am on a path to enlightenment, but not in a mystical way. Daily I am being taught how to reduce the burdens that I have been carrying. Moment by moment I am learning to be enlightened as Christ is enlightened and many of my lessons are coming through the teachings of authentic yoga.

I invite you on my journey to enlightenment. How great would it be to reduce some(if not all) of the burdens that you now carry? Authentic Yoga is like Christianity in that the principles work for anyone that will apply them. Regardless of your religious affiliation to this point. Regardless of your history. Regardless of how another human being has made you feel.

Today, start by repeating this mantra to yourself:

I HAVE WORTH! I CAN FIND BALANCE! I HAVE AMAZING THINGS TO OFFER OTHER PEOPLE AND THIS WORLD! I CAN BE LIGHTER, AND MORE BALANCED!

Next: Follow my blog below,  and join me on the path to enlightenment.

NAMASTE

 

“WHAT IF” YOU CHANGED YOUR MIND

I rarely wade into controversial subjects on social media, quite often it seems like a fruitless endeavor that leaves me having to decide whether to “die on this mountain”, or more often than not, attempt to exit gracefully.  This morning, however, I was sent a link to a YouTube video that requires me to put voice to my thoughts and “pen to paper”, so to speak.

In my opinion, the video was well done and poignant. It shows several people from all walks of life being asked their view on abortion after which they are shown a video depicting abortion procedures. They are then asked to review their original responses.

Let me share with you what I saw in this video.  You see, I recognize it because I saw the same look on my husbands face over 20 years ago. These people, who considered themselves, up until that moment, to be pro-choice,  {i.e. for a woman’s right to choose to abort her unborn child}   at least in theory, came face to face, possibly for the first time, with humanity.  Look at the terms they chose after watching the videos: “It’s inhumane”, “It’s murder”, “Wow, it’s brutal”, “I’ve changed my mind”.

I am married to a very bright man. When I became pregnant he was with me every step of the way.  He attended every Dr’s appointment, was there for each ultrasound and listened to the heartbeat on many occasions.  I have on video the moment that he actually realized that we had created a human being. The day I gave birth, as he stood at the end of the bed waiting to cut the cord, the Dr. turned our son over and my husband saw his face. With my mom recording you can see the full spectrum of his emotions as what was just a thought became a reality. My six foot tall 250 pound husband gasped, and as his eyes and mouth grew with the impact of what he had just witnessed, this big guy, this larger than life man, hit his knees crying like a big baby. It would be hours before I would get to bond with our son and those two have had a love affair ever since. Up until that moment, everything for him had been theory. When the viewers of the video turned from theory and were exposed to the reality, they could not stomach the “inhumanity”. Meaning, evil was being enacted on a human being.

The argument for abortion rests completely on one issue, is a baby from conception a person?  The viewers of the Live Action video were asked to witness what they had been supporting in theory. Theory is often so simple. Don a sign screaming for a woman’s right to choose and yell louder than the next guy. Reality, however can be much harder to stomach.

So,  the reality is my mother is getting older, she has Alzheimer’s and no real quality of life, and I am not equipped mentally or financially to provide for her, therefore, I will be severing her head from her body tonight with a pair of scissors, or maybe I’ll try burning her to death with acid first, which do you think is more humane? I’m guessing that  you like most people would want me jailed or committed for such an evil plan, because, after all, she is a person. However, this is an accurate description of two forms of terminating a pregnancy which sounds better than killing a baby.

The responses to this video became what they always become.  What about the girl who was raped? What about incest? Unplanned pregnancy? It sounds so noble, does it not?  Why should a girl exposed to these kinds of acts be punished further? Yes, noble indeed…

You see, if you want to discuss the fact that babies can be conceived in selfish and even evil ways, we are in agreement.  If you believe that it is unfair and unjust for a man to get a girl pregnant and leave her, I’m with you. If you wish to stand against the atrocities that can be enacted on women resulting in unplanned and often unwanted pregnancies, well darling, I will storm the gates of hell with you! I have three amazing daughters and I would use any tool available to me to protect them, to prepare them, to provide for them. What I will not now, nor will I ever let them believe is that when an unjust act has been perpetrated against them it somehow gives them the right to turn around and treat others unjustly.

Perhaps you have become pregnant due to rape.  Maybe the child you carry was formed in what you believed was love, and the man you put your faith in has deserted you. It might be that you carry a child of incest or just unplanned sex.  It might be that you grew up in an environment that never placed any value on you as a human being, so you wonder what the big deal is if you get an abortion. What you know is that you feel dark. You feel ashamed, disgusted, unable and unready. Even if this was just an unplanned pregnancy, why should it ruin your life? You feel an aversion to this baby, the pregnancy and the circumstances so why not just terminate the pregnancy and be done with the pain?

I can offer only one answer that is true for all people regardless of religious, political or economical beliefs. This mountain, I will die on. When a human being, in an act of evil and selfishness, gives himself/herself permission to force what he/she  wants on another human being, whether that be in the form of rape, incest, abandonment, or just because they place no value on you as a person, it is unfair, it is unjust, it is wrong, and it is inhumane.  For a pregnant woman to turn around and in an act of selfishness and placing her needs above that of another human being, choose to kill an innocent baby you become the very thing that you hate. You become no better than the rapist who forced his will on you, the uncle that violated you for his selfish desires, the lover who walked refusing to love you, and the family that devalued your life. You are repeating their very acts of selfishness.  You will find no victory in that path. You will spend the rest of your life trying to convince yourself that what you did was justifiable just as all criminals do. Or, you will one day come to terms with what you did to your child and have to carry that burden as well throughout your life. But I believe you have another choice…

You have a secret power that no monster can ever take from you.  This is the only possession that you must choose to give up willingly.  You can choose to defeat your enemy by refusing to let him/her continue to have control in your life. You can scream “I will not become like you!”  You can choose to be unselfish, to put your child’s needs above your own; you can choose to love and not walk out on that baby; you can choose to place  a higher value on your unborn child’s life than you place on your own. You can choose to carry that baby to term and then decide if adoption is right for you. The only thing any of us own that cannot be taken from us is our capacity to love.  Love is the only thing that will overcome evil. Love is the only thing that will counteract selfishness.

Yes, this is in-your-face harsh. I truly wish that no girl ever found herself in any of these circumstances. But we live in reality.
There are enough people out there who are telling you that it’s OK, they understand and its your body so you have the right to choose. They are not giving you the statistics of women who never recover from having an abortion emotionally. I talk with women all the time that wish someone had stopped them. They think back on the day that they killed their baby (their words, not mine) and they play the “what if” game. What if they hadn’t gone, what if one of those crazy religious nuts had just been there to stop them? What would their son/daughter be like today. If I can keep one lady from having to play that game then it will be worth all of the backlash I am going to receive from posting this article.

You had rights, and in some form or another they have been violated.  You will not recover, or find wholeness by violating another’s right to live, to laugh, to love, to learn. That path only offers more darkness. I implore you, before you decide: watch the videos, talk to those who have had to find a way to live with having an abortion. Take the time to get a differing view.  Really consider the consequences that your choice will bear. Reach out to someone who will answer your questions and withhold judgement. We exist. Do not let yourself believe that an unborn child is only a human in theory.

I only ask that you look inward. If you find there any doubt, reach out to someone. Consider. In my own life, choosing to love others, and choosing to live my life in a way that allows me to look myself in the mirror and respect what I see there are the only tools that have helped me to defeat my demons. If I can be of any help or answer any questions ever, regardless of what choice you make, you can contact me at heather@made-to-thrive.com.

For everyone I wish you to LIVE< LEARN<LAUGH<LOVE

Namaste

Heather

 

HOW TO BETTER ENJOY COMMUNITY

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Part of My Community

 

To be a part of a community is to be a part of a group of people, living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.

To feel like you are part of a community is to have a sense of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes interests and goals. Therein lies the rub.

Most of you know that I am part of a community known as OCR or Obstacle Course Racing. This is an amazing sport wherein a competitor, traveling on foot, must overcome various challenges in the forms of obstacles. Mud and trail runs are combined and these races are designed to result in mental and physical collapse. I had been training for one such event since June of this year. SAVAGE! Fall Savage this year would have marked my one year anniversary in the OCR community and I was looking to really break through some of my mental and physical ceilings. However, in August I ran into some health challenges that meant there would be no more training in preparation. Just to be told that I had to stop training for my race was discouraging enough, but add aches and pains, nausea, headaches, medical testing and the nervousness of potential pending results and it all equals…well, NOT how I expected fall Savage to go. Still wanting to push myself to be the best I can be, my intention was to still participate and just do my best.  Two weeks out from the Savage deadline my husband was informed he would need to be out of town for business, and my daughters and their guys would also not be able to attend.  Now, let’s talk about community.

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More of My Community

I am 47, overweight, and as I have mentioned before, not in perfect health.  When I had to cease training for Savage, I was discouraged, but not dissuaded.  I was still going to compete.  You see, I am part of another community, the Close Clan. This community grew up with the family motto “Closes don’t quit”, and the motto ” whatever one does, we ALL do”.  Why is this important?  Because within this small group of people, I can rest confident in knowing that we will all finish together, or die trying.  There will be no judgement if an obstacle can’t be completed. Everyone will be pulling for everyone else in our clan and anyone they can help along the way. This is the foundation of who these people are, so healthy or not, I had no worries. Then a huge portion of my support system just couldn’t make the race. That is when I had to alter my decision.

You see, I am part of the OCR community. I love that I am part of a group of people that gets off of the couch and gets out and gets muddy.  A group of people that push to become better versions of themselves. But, for the most part, that is what we share.  It would not be fair of me to set a goal for myself that would require my community, the larger OCR community, to fulfill.  When we begin placing unfair expectations on the other members in a community, (whether that community is OCR, or family) we begin to lose sight of what this sport, and hence community, is all about.

I will say it again. We cannot set personal goals that require a community to accomplish unless that community has agreed to the goal beforehand. To do so is to diminish the personal goals of the others in our community. There are many times when my daughter or son will run the race first and then complete the course again to ensure that I have the support available when needed; we discuss this beforehand, so that we can ensure that everyone makes their goals.  If your goal is that big then it behooves you to ensure the support system. When we put our goals ahead of the others in a community we will begin to feel entitled to their support and, although we might maintain being part of the group, we will ultimately lose the feeling of fellowship and camaraderie that is suppose to arise from being part of just such a group.

#1. Whether the community is OCR, church, the workplace, or family, when we place our wants (goals) above everyone else’s we will foster a sense of entitlement in our own hearts. We will begin to feel like others have let us down.  We will begin to judge others based on what we feel they should do.  However, when we set a personal goal, and recognize that it is just that…personal, when we realize that no one is responsible for our own individual growth but us, we foster an appreciation for the helping hand or the encouraging word.  We continue to recognize those things as the gifts they are….It is nobody’s responsibility to get my butt over that wall, but mine!

That being said, and to keep us all humble, allow me to share with you the single most important ingredient to any community. AUTHENTICITY. Your community will know who you are by what you do, not by what you say. It is easy to say that you are all about the team…but what do your actions show?  Once again, it doesn’t matter which community we are discussing.  A parent can say they love their kids, but if they aren’t there, leave them behind, fail to show up, or quit when it gets tough…. then their actions say much more.

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Grandson Lucas’ First OCR!

To be a part of any community is an honor and a responsibility. Just like our personal goals, only the individual can decide for themselves how much they are willing to give back to those with whom they claim fellowship and brotherhood. However, that being said, history has shown that those who give little and risk little of themselves likewise receive very little.

#2.  Sometimes you will accomplish more as a member of the community and even a human being by “dying” on the field with a teammate and letting your goal die then you will by leaving your fellow traveler to pursue your goals.  You might accomplish your goal but at what price? 

If we all live not looking to others to meet our needs, but always looking to help meet the needs of others, how much better would every community be?

These are just some thoughts, as always I ask that you look inside yourself, take what can help leave the rest.

I’ll see you at the next OCR!

Namaste

 

 

She Bloomed~A lesson in Worth

My husband recently took a business trip to Arizona. One of the many pictures he sent me on his journey was this:

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His caption read  Flowering Heather.

My response was “A weed…with blossoms, that sounds about right.”

To this he replied, “A beautiful flower, finding a way to bloom, even on a granite surface.”  Now this was very sweet of him and what I consider to be a great compliment.

Now look at that picture. It absolutely amazes me. Not because it is the most beautiful plant that I have ever seen. Not because it bares my name and not due to any outward aesthetic. Look at the seemingly harsh environment that surrounds  this plant. Out of a bed of granite, all alone and judged for her beauty or lack thereof by all who pass her, she blooms. Everything that she needs in order to become the plant she was made to be, to complete her purpose on this planet, exists inside. And she is fulfilling that purpose, seemingly, against the odds.

Do you think this little flower is thinking:

Well, that guy didn’t think I was pretty enough to pick.

My life is too hard, other plants have it easier.

These granite rocks don’t like me.

As soon as the weather changes or the sun shines more or this soil quality improves, then I will become a better flower.

I need to go to the bookstore and get a self-help book on how to see myself as a pretty plant not just a weed.

If I can just change how the others see me I can finally be the flower I was meant to be.

Yes, I know, as far as science has discovered thus far, plants don’t think.  But, truth is truth.  An acorn has everything that it needs to become the mighty oak. Flowering Heather, regardless of her environment has everything that she needs to complete her purpose, and she has it already contained, on the inside. Life is designed that way.

You were designed that way. You have, contained with in you already, everything that you require to be everything that you were designed to be.

Self-worth is the belief that you are complete, that you are more than enough exactly as you are, right now, today. Your ability to succeed is unchanging and unconditional. Yes, you will have to grow and adapt, much like the mighty oak that leans toward the sunshine in an effort to stay mighty and the flowering heather that must push roots deep into the soil to reach the life giving water beneath the granite rock.

When you truly embrace your capacity for an abundant life on a daily basis, you, like the acorn can grow into the purpose you were created for, a metaphorical oak. However, when you let your circumstances, fears, conditions and surroundings dictate your capacity you render yourself unworthy.

If you feel that you are broken, needing to be fixed then you are looking outside yourself for something to strive for and attain in order to reach your potential.

I suggest that God designed you already containing everything that you need to live your purpose. To live a fulfilling and contented life, to be great, to have true self worth is already available to each and everyone. God designed everything that way. How do I know this about God?  Because, I too have struggled with fear, failures and the opinions of others. I too have allowed those things to keep me from embracing all that God had for me.

I have been down the path.

At times I have allowed circumstances to keep me from my greatness. I, like you, like everyone else, had to make a choice. Am I worthy or worthless?

When you leave this world will people say of you “Out of a bed of granite, all alone at times, judged harshly at other times, facing the realities of this world she recognized her own greatness and she bloomed!

Your greatness, your worth, is already there. Are you ready to believe? Are you ready to bloom?

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Colorful purple summer heather blooming in a crevasse in lichen covered rocks, close up view

 

Dents and Scratches

Oh my Darling, yes, it’s true…beautiful things have dents and scratches too!~author unknown

I have not lived a life unmarred by hurt and pain. I have not escaped the harsh words and unfair judgments of others. If truth be told, I was born into a family of meager existence. I was picked on and bullied through the first 6 years of my schooling (the most sensitive children usually are). I lost my best friend to a rare disease at the age of 10. My parents separated and eventually divorced when I was 11 landing me in an even more financially strapped position. At the age of 21 I buried my younger sister, Kim. Three short years later had me saying goodbye to my earthly father, my daddy and the only stability that I had encountered in my life. Around the same time, I met my very best friend, Jesus.  But guess what…My new found church family did not offer the security that I longed for or expected. For many years I have watched ego driven (albeit broken) people literally hurt and judge and bully the “least of these” in the name of Christ. Leaders who are more hell bent on making a name for themselves then they are in affecting the lives of others with the hope of the gospel or any other kind of hope for that matter. Christians who, if they have ever read God’s Word, certainly don’t feel the need to live according to the principles contained therein. I lost my mom at age 31 and effectively became an orphan.

I have always admired those creative people that will take a discarded piece of furniture or clothing and turn it into something amazing. There are those who have a gift of being able to see beneath the outer appearance of an item.  They see the potential that is just underneath. You know the ones. That friend who holds up some piece of junk that she found by the roadside and explains how it’s going to be something beautiful. You, like me are thinking….sure, if you say so. They find a dresser that is missing 4 of the 6 drawers and turn it into a gorgeous bench. Maybe the find is a bike frame with one wheel and the next time you see it, there is this amazing planter sitting on their front porch.

Everything that I have shared in this post has been the unadulterated truth as it relates to my upbringing and life thus far. However, I don’t see my life that way. At a very early age I learned to re-frame my existence. I learned to see the beauty behind the loss. I trained myself to refuse to focus on the ugly…to always search for the gold glittering somewhere in the dirt.

I am 47, and I have lived an amazing life! I was born into what would become a family of 6 in Feb. of 1969. Although finances were tight, I have memories of waiting up for Santa with my sisters and brother and  playing outside in the summer catching lightning bugs. I recall memory after memory of laughter and good times. My elementary school years taught me how to stand up for myself and to have a heart for the underdog. At age 10, my best friend went to be with Jesus, making heaven so much more real to my young mind. My middle school and high school years taught me that I could change my path. I wasn’t stuck; I had choices. At age 21 I lost my sister, which is the thing that set me on the path to meeting  Jesus. I have had the privilege of working with inner-city children in Chicago, living for 3 years in Ghana, West Africa and meeting many amazing people with amazing life stories. After losing both of my parents, I learned just how real the person of Jesus Christ can be. I, truly, have never been alone. I serve an amazing and real God, and I serve Him based on what our relationship dictates. I am free of the judgments and parameters established by institutions and groups. I spend my days loving my life and enjoying my friends and family. Every experience of my life has led me to my passion. I am a trash picker!

You see, Christ is a “trash picker” too. The ultimate “upcycler”!  He never met anyone that He didn’t help get cleaned up and help their true beauty to shine forth. He took the most broken, discarded, unloved people, and He “refurbished” them completely. This is how I choose to live my life as well.

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Can I tell you today that, no matter what has brought you to this place in your life…YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.  Can you take just a few moments (whether or not you agree with everything I have said here) to re-frame the hurts and losses. Realize just how amazing you are and embrace whatever changes you need in order to become the person you long to be. Begin the process of Refurbishing yourself!

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Say it with me…

You are beautiful. Yes it’s true…beautiful things have dents and scratches too!

Namaste

When a Path Becomes a Rut

We go through life, more often than not, trudging along a path that was determined years ago.  A path that we chose before we understood life, before we understood ourselves fully.

As children, our parents, if we were blessed, taught us good habits. These habits were their way of setting  us on a path to a healthy and productive life. Healthy habits such as: go to bed on time, get up on time, brush your teeth after every meal, make good grades, go to church, wash your hands after you use the restroom and don’t pick your nose and eat…Well, you remember. These habits were our norm. As we grew, so did our habits: Get good grades so you can graduate, go to college, pick a career, get a job, go to bed early,go to church, get up on time for work, work hard all week so that you can relax on the weekend, and for goodness sake don’t pick your nose and eat…Well, you remember.

Now, I’m not bashing habits. Many habits are good and even necessary to a healthy and productive life. Mom and dad were right all along. However, when our habits become habits, we turn that trail that we started blazing all of those years ago, well, we turn that trail into a rut.

A while back I was asked to sit on a “Career Panel” at one of our local colleges. My job was simply to answer any questions relevant to my career and current position in life. The purpose of this particular job fair was to scout potential candidates for hire while allowing these fresh college graduates to learn from those who have “gone before”. For two hours I fielded questions from students ranging in age anywhere from 18 to 60. For two hours every question, regardless of age, regardless of circumstances, regardless of chosen career, boiled down to a variation of three questions. How do I get a job in my chosen field, How do I keep a job in my chosen field, What do I do when my chosen field is not hiring?

Now, it wasn’t surprising to me that all of the young graduates were asking these questions. The surprising thing and perhaps more telling is that even the thirty and forty year old students/graduates were asking the same questions, albeit worded more eloquently.

When the same questions were posed yet again, directed to me, with nothing but the career field altered I concluded that the time had come.

How do I get a job in my chosen field, How do I keep a job in my chosen field?  What do I do when my chosen field is not hiring or has become obsolete?

My answer: You adapt. Next question.

Yes, the room fell quiet. Yes, they apparently needed me to expound.  Here is my response in an abbreviated form (you’re welcome). “It would be naive indeed, to think that at 18 years of age we could choose and embark on a career path that will never need to be revisited. Just in the time that we have been here responding to these questions the medical and technical fields have already made advancements and you fresh graduates are already behind the curve. In fact, just since we arrived today smart phones and computer games, computer graphics, and even art have advanced yet again, so if any of you have chosen those as a career path…you best get cracking. We no longer live in the day where we graduate, pick a field and retire the ‘Learned Professor’. Beyond that, the employee that every company desires is the one that brings people skills and professionalism to the table. NO credential behind your name can make up for lack of relationship skills. If you are part of the population who thinks, “Well, this is just who I am’ you are already not attractive to employers.  In this day and age, if you are not continually learning and continually growing, you will, without a doubt, get left behind. If your wish is to be marketable in twenty years, you must decide now to continue growing. You must be willing to adapt.  My advice to you is: be open to change, be willing to grow, embrace the altered path.  I am a credentialed Respiratory Therapist, and yet I have not chosen to work in that field in over twenty years.  But, oh, how I have enjoyed all of the doors that have opened up to me because I refused to be boxed into a particular path.”

These concepts apply to every area of our lives: careers, marriages, health, friendships and child rearing.  It would be naive indeed to think that we could at (fill in age here) embark on a career, marriage, friendship,or hobby that would not need to be revisited or altered. If you wish to stay marketable in your career, attractive (whether physically or emotionally) in your marriage, relevant in your friendships, healthy for your family or relatable to your kids…YOU MUST ADAPT!

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We have all heard it said that a rut is just a coffin, with the ends kicked out. Is there an area in your life where you are stagnating? Do you stubbornly hold to paths that are no longer offering enjoyment or fulfillment? What are you actively doing to climb out of that rut before it really does become the coffin for your dreams?

Yes, you have the right to plant your feet. It is within your rights to refuse to grow, change or adapt. But, if you yearn for something more, if you still believe somewhere deep down that life is to be lived to its fullest and enjoyed; then might I suggest that you take any step to alter your journey.

Embrace the altered path, and Please don’t pick your nose and eat…well. you remember…

 

Namaste

Monday Blues

How many of you woke up this morning and thought “Yes! It’s Monday!”?  How many of you hit the floor running, excited to see what this brand new week might offer? Were you excited to roll out of bed? Enthused to head back to the office? This morning, when your clock alarm sounded, were you feeling ready to face the day? Did the sunrise on your way to work bring you amazing joy? Are you filled with anticipation just thinking about the stage of life in which you find yourself? Here’s the thing, you could be. It is completely up to you. As you are well aware, it’s Monday.  None of us “sugar coat” our words on a Monday, so I’m just gonna keep it real this a.m.

You have everything you need to be living the life you really want to live. If you are not experiencing that life, it is undoubtedly because of you and your thought processes.Let me be clear, it is NOT because of your job or your boss. It is NOT because of your parents, your spouse or your children. It is NOT because the universe has handed little ol’ you a raw deal and you are just stuck with the “hand you have been dealt”.

I am not discounting that all of us have had things happen to us over which we had no control. Ugly, unfair and unjust things happen to all of us all of the time. With this in mind, how can you navigate through the barrage of constant negative to a fulfilled existence? How can you even come close to the “happily ever after” that you fantasized about as a child?

I want to tell you about WAZE. Waze is this cool little app. that you can download on your smartphone. I highly recommend using this little application anytime you find yourself behind the wheel of your car. Why?  Just now, I opened up waze on my phone. “She” informed me that there are 4144 “wazers” in my area. Each of these 4144 people are currently reporting all sorts of traffic information back to their phones. Amazing information like, traffic patterns, accidents, police locations, red light cameras, and debris on the road.  Waze takes all of this feedback and routes me to my destination in the most expedient manner. I get to avoid traffic jams and police running radar. I know in advance that I shouldn’t blow through that traffic light on a yellow, (not that I would ever do that) because it is monitored by a camera. I avoid the 20 minute “slow down” due to a fender bender, and I know in plenty of time that a construction truck has had debris blow off on the interstate and I am prepared to react accordingly. I have all of this information simply because time and technology has made it available. Oh, and one more thing, I have all of this information because I am smart enough to use what is available.

Now, back to your “happily ever after”. There is no situation that you find yourself in that another has not already been in and written a book, article or even blog about. There is no information that you might need to reach a fulfilled existence that cannot be accessed with the push of a button. There are literally millions of books, magazines and web-sites covering every topic imaginable. Marriage issues, parenting skills, money management, dealing with loss, …..Oh my gosh! The list is endless!  Time and technology has made every thing you need to grow and succeed available.  If you are stuck and need a little extra help there are always parents, counselors, life coaches and mentors who can help you to navigate through your specific circumstances more effectively. But, when it is all said and done, it is all dependent on you being smart enough to use what is available.

If I go on a road trip and I fail to take the time to use my little app., then when I get that speeding ticket, find myself stuck in a traffic jam or even get lost, I have no one to blame but myself. The information and technology was there.  I just refused to utilize the tools available.maxresdefault

Do you feel like your life is stuck in a traffic jam?  Do you find yourself unable to avoid all of the “bumps in the road”? Let me encourage you this Monday morning, it is NEVER too late to start. Write down some of the areas that you feel are really holding you back, and then dig into any and all information you can find on the subject. Read, study and learn.  Do not let yourself believe that you should settle for less than your “happily ever after”.  Be smart enough to use all of the information that is available and if intuitively you feel as if you might need a little extra guidance be smart enough to reach out to a counselor, coach or mentor and allow them to help you to navigate life’s “road hazards”.

Monday Mantra: It is never too late to start.

Namaste

 

 

Shaping Our World

My family and I lived in Ghana, West Africa for several years. One of the many things that experience taught me is that a society must be viewed through a “cultural lens”.

For example, in Ghana, when we arrived, it was practically taboo for a married couple to show physical affection in a public arena. To hold hands or share a kiss, even to sit together in a church service was just not done.

The point isn’t whether this is right or wrong. The point isn’t whether or not this practice was healthy or even serving the marriages well. The truth is that, for better or worse, this was the predominant cultural view adopted by the Ghanaians at the time.

Therefore, when a well meaning national told me that she had been offended when my husband had put his arm around me in church, I was quick to reply, “When the Africans stopped urinating on the street in front of me whenever and wherever they felt the urge, I might consider her point of view.”  I was simply reflecting my cultural opinion.

You see, the environment in which we live shapes us. I am not concerned with which culture holds the correct view. My goal is to inspire each of us to examine the culture in which we live and determine how it might be “deciding for us”.  You might agree that growing up in the United States has shaped your opinions. Would you also agree that within any large group there are also cultural subsets at play?  These might include religious, political and economic affiliations. Where we were born, what family we were born into, the friends that crossed our path, and the schools we attended can influence the way we see our world.

I believe in certain absolute truths.  However, ABSOLUTE truths are not cultural.  The fact that it is absolute means that it is true no matter where you are standing. For example, gravity is gravity whether you jump off the Empire State Building or a grass hut in Ghana. If you cannot get oxygen, you will suffocate. Are you with me so far?

Yes, I believe in absolute truths; however, I do not believe that a dominant cultural idea or opinion equals an absolute truth. In some of our cultures and subsets there are ideas that are so pervasive that we feel pressured to accept them simply because we have to live within this arena. It is my belief that in allowing these pervasive cultural views to shape our decisions (and ultimately our lives) we fail to seek the absolute truths that should guide us. Simply adopting the societal opinion can close us off to being truly loving, compassionate, forgiving human beings.

For many years in this country, the dominant cultural view was that all  black men should be owned as slaves. I wonder how many white men felt in their heart of hearts that this was a  moral wrong, but lacked the courage to make a stand against the predominant viewpoint. Where was the compassion for another human being?  Where were the men and women who could see past their cultural opinion, and make a stand for what is an absolute truth, that ALL men are created equal?  Perhaps the moral fortitude of the white men that lived then was located in the same place as that of many of the “Black Lives Matter” leaders today.  When your culture says that any man’s life is more worthy than another man’s (regardless of your reasoning), you are pushing your agenda, not a truth.

I haven’t lost you all yet?  Let’s try this one on for size. I believe that the existence of God is an absolute truth. I believe that His Word is and absolute truth. I believe that, in His Word, God list things that are considered sin. By that I mean actions that, when committed, open us up to consequences that have been set in place since the beginning. I do not believe that God is sitting up there waiting for us to break one of these rules so that he can exact vengeance.An absolute God makes it very clear in His absolute Word that ALL of us have sinned and come short of His glory. The consequences of our actions, just like gravity, have always been in place. Therefore, to get up and preach that any group of “sinners” is somehow worse than any other group is pharisaical at its best and downright evil in most cases. To say that a homosexual with his choices is any more of a sinner than the best christian on the front pew is with his choices is to not have a clear understanding of the teachings of Christ. In adopting this cultural view, we sit self righteously on our church pew and fail to reach out and show Christ’s love to what we have concluded as a group of people somehow less deserving than ourselves. I repeat, when your culture says that any man’s life is more worthy than another man’s, regardless of your reasoning, you are pushing your agenda, not a truth.

I’ve probably lost most of you, but I’m gonna go for one more.  If you have stuck with me this far then I’m betting that you (like me) believe that all men are created equal.  You believe (like me) that we are to show Christ’s love to everyone.  Including that person who hurt you?  That person who has done so much damage to you and your family?  The person who made your heart hurt so badly that you wished you didn’t have to wake up? That one person who causes you to embrace your anger, perhaps even hatred? Even him?  If your culture, including the one in your own heart, says that any man’s life is more worthy than another man’s, regardless of your reasoning, you are pushing your agenda, not a truth.

My only goal as a blogger is to incite introspection and growth.  I do not ask that you believe everything that I believe. I ask only that you analyze  each cultural influence in your life, from the part of the world you were born into, down into the deep recesses of your heart, and if you find there lack of love, forgiveness AND restoration for all men, alter your life accordingly.

Namaste