At My Worst

If we wait long enough, there is always a break in the clouds...
If we wait long enough, there is always a break in the clouds…

Last week, I hinted at fiction for this week… that’s still on- for Thursday, I think 🙂 But tonight, as I work through some stuff in my head, I had some thoughts I was moved to share.

When we have a disagreement with someone, we often comment that we’ve seen them at their worst. On the surface, the disagreement seems like a negative thing. In the aftermath, we tell ourselves the hurtful person that emerged and attacked with well-aimed emotional missiles was just a result of the situation. It’s not really who they are.

It occurs to me that this “worst” isn’t always an abnormality in behavior, but rather the truest sense of the person that appeared from behind the mask usually held firmly in place.   What seems like a bad thing turns into a blessing because it provides a glimpse of what lives in the person’s heart. It’s better to know what we’re dealing with.

It got me thinking about what I am at my worst. I’m there right now…

I struggle to keep seeds of resentment from taking root. I battle anger with regular exercise and prayers to “let it go.” I linger in lows where hope could slide through the eye of a needle.  Sometimes I feel like a doormat and I want to shout all the things I bottle up inside, but I refuse to retaliate with hatred. I seek peace instead.  Bad feelings might be around me, but they will not become me.

This is who I am at my worst.  I’m far from perfect, but I could be worse…

What do you think – is our worst a true indication of who we are?

Beyond The Fog

We don't always see where we're going, but we have faith we'll get there
We don’t always see where we’re going, but we have faith we’ll get there

Faith isn’t walking into a fire, certain you won’t get burned.  Faith isn’t blind, either, but it does mean facing the unseen and the unknown with the conviction that we are not alone and the experience will somehow sculpt us into a new version of ourselves.

Faith is easy to proclaim, but when it comes down to it, it can be really hard to live by.  It’s kind of like putting on a blindfold and running down a busy street (if the street is in Phoenix, this would be insane.)  In our minds, we recognize the dangers- we could stumble into a light pole, wander into traffic, get hit by a bus, fall into a ditch… the list goes on.  Would you have enough faith to do this?

When adversity hits, my tendency is to obsess over the facts, mentally travel the possible actions and their consequences, and then I make decisions accordingly.  I rush in and “do” something.

To me, faith is the ultimate trust.  Kind of like running down a busy street blindfolded.  Faith is relying on something other than my own abilities.  Faith is believing that there is hope even when all the evidence I see says otherwise.

What is faith to you?

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If you’re looking for fiction, please stop by next week.  I plan to have a response to another one of Emilio Pasquale’s amazing photos.  Hope you’ll check it out 🙂

“Religion”

I love clouds and sunlight photos. That's how God's love makes my heart feel.
I love clouds and sunlight photos. That’s how God’s love makes my heart feel.

My Trifecta writing challenge post on Friday, about a demon led to a church sanctuary by the poor mapmaking skills of an intern demon, was meant to be a funny tale about a beast outside the “comfort zone.”

I think some read more into it than what I intended, which is fine.  Great, in fact.  I want others to relate to my words.  Even more so, I want my words to promote thinking.  What I don’t want is for my words to be made into something they aren’t and then attributed as my thoughts.  So, more fully than I could explain in a comment reply, I’m going to clarify (I hope) my views on religion.

I believe that Jesus died for our sins.  I go to church, but I’m reserved and stay on the outer fringes of the mass.  I enjoy going there to learn with others who are supposed to be of like beliefs.  I grew up in Baptist churches, but in adulthood, I’ve chosen non-denominational churches.  I don’t want my belief in God to be firmly attached to a sect of Christianity; I want it attached to the Bible.

I don’t like the clique feeling of some congregations.  I don’t like when worthiness is based on whether or not you wear a fancy church dress.  I don’t like the looking down perfectly powdered noses to cast judgment on strangers.  I don’t like the insulation from community, whether from non-believers or those in need of a helping hand.  Not every church is like this, but I’ve seen enough to know they are out there.

God’s intent of believers congregating:  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”—Hebrews 10:24-25

I heard a quote on the radio that expressed what I felt more eloquently than I could.  I found the following on Lysa TerKeurst’s blog:

God doesn’t want us to have a religion. A religion is where we follow rules hoping to do life right, and we serve God out of duty because we think we have to.

God wants us to have a relationship. A relationship where we follow Him. And we serve God not out of duty but out of delight because of the realization of who we are in Him.

Biblical reference:  The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”—Isaiah 29:13

When we live with the purpose of strengthening our relationship with God, love just happens.  We have compassion for those ignored by society.  We follow Jesus’ lead and embrace those who have been scarred by sin. (That’s all of us, by the way.  No matter what Christians want others to believe, none of us are free from sin.)

I stumble.  A lot.  Perfection isn’t even on my horizon.  But I find comfort in knowing that God doesn’t expect it.  He expects me to follow not by sight, but by faith.

That, I’m learning to do, every day.

I want to be amazed by the ordinary.
I want to be amazed by the ordinary.

Thank you for stopping by and taking time to read this.  If you have any thoughts/opinions, please share by leaving a comment.  Have a beautiful Sunday!

Get Back Up Again!

Both of my sons do cross country running.  My older son is driven by competition and determination to run faster than his last race (and his peers).  He has a desire to win.  My younger son is mostly chasing after approval from his brother.

My older son convinced his grandparents to come to a recent race (impressive, considering my parents aren’t known to be awake, much less out of the house sitting on metal bleachers at 6:45 in the morning :))  He was convinced he would place in the top 30 (out of over 200 runners.)  He doesn’t lack confidence.  We reminded him not to be cocky or complacent.  It’s easy to overestimate our own abilities and underestimate the abilities of others.

The race began and the massive group of boys moved from the starting line.  From the stands, it reminded me of a swarm of bees.  He passed by in the first group of twenty or so boys.  He ran at an easy pace and I crossed my fingers he wouldn’t tire out before the race’s end.

I waited near the finish line, camera in hand.  Searching.  Counting runners.  I got past thirty with no sight of my son so I quit counting.  I wondered what happened.  He started so well.  Soon, I saw him sprinting around the curve, toward the finish line.  He passed a few runners in the final seconds and ended up number 51.

“Somebody tripped me,” he proclaimed after the race, anger and disappointment in his voice.  I asked more questions and found out that it happened at a point where the path narrowed.  I told him I didn’t think it was done on purpose.  There were a lot of boys with the same goal in a tight space.  Feet tangled.  He seemed skeptical.

“So, what did you do when you fell?” I asked him.  He gave me a strange look, so I elaborated.  “Did you get right back up and start running?”  He shook his head.  “No, I had dirt on my knee so I had to brush it off.  If they hadn’t tripped me, I would’ve been in the top 30.”

“Do you think you could’ve run with dirt on your knee?” I asked.  He nodded his head.  “That might’ve helped you place higher, right?”  There’s always time to tend to wounds after the critical moments (the finish line) have passed.

Once the blaming eased, and he seemed to accept it was truly an accident, I praised him on what he did well.  Instead of giving up after he stumbled, he did get back up.  He gave all his effort until the very end.  To me, this is bigger than if he’d easily taken first place.

That is one life skill he needs to know to succeed.  Life is full of trips and stumbles (and yes sometimes some pushes and back-stabs).  Not dwelling on the wrongs in hard, but moving on is necessary if we want to find some measure of peace.

We may not have the big corner office, the vacation homes or lavish lifestyle of those the world tries to convince us to emulate.  The value of our lives isn’t determined by the end result of our income or social status – what’s important is how our lives are lived.

He’s disappointed he didn’t land in the top 30.  Disappointment is a part of life.  Learning and improving our skills are as well.  He will practice more and there will be other races.

Am I proud of his 51st place finish?  You bet I am!

This post made me think of a song by Toby Mac (Get Back Up.)  I like the message in the song- and the music is great, too!  Have a beautiful Sunday.

What We Leave Behind

We went to our first estate auction yesterday.  I tried not to think about the fact we were bidding on the artifacts from a dead person’s life.  It surprised me that even the woman’s cleaning supplies and personal care items were sold, but it’s better than letting them go to waste.

Just by looking at her belongings, we could see she liked to travel; she loved beautiful crystal and china, ornate wooden pieces of furniture, and fine art.  The many shelves of books revealed her love of reading.  The exquisite baby grand piano and boxes of CDs hinted that music meant something to her.

We acknowledged that she had a beautiful home, but her possessions told us nothing about her as a person.  Did she spend her life helping others or serving herself?  Was she lonely or surrounded by friends and family?  Was her life a delight to God or was God even a part of her life?

Of course, we’ll never know.

The things we own aren’t a good measurement of our worth.  The legacy we leave behind isn’t a fancy sports car in the garage or a house full of “stuff” – it is in the lives of others that we meet each day.  Every intersection of our life and someone else’s is an opportunity to be a beacon of kindness.

It feels safer to seek out those who are like us – in spirituality, lifestyle and appearance.  This is like eating peanut butter and jelly for dinner every night – it gets boring after a while.

Here’s to reaching out to souls who may be different from me.  These are people who can teach me about myself and deepen my ties to humanity.  This is my world and I want to make it beautiful.  (Even if it means not running from the BK guy if I see him on the street :))

“Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:31