Speaking the truth in love. And otherwise.

Over the years I've learned a few things the hard way about speaking the truth. These are some rules (a term I use loosely) that would serve me well during those times I really feel something burning inside that wants to be said. I do not always follow the rules...but if I did I would save myself and others a tremendous amount of trouble and pain. I am using the second person tense for simplicity. By you I mean we/us/me.

1. Just because it's true doesn't mean it's your job to say it. Discernment from the Holy Spirit, and consideration for what your relationship is to the other person, is necessary. You are not the truth police. There are times a thing doesn't need to be said, but rather prayed over, because God is really good at bringing His kids to the place of understanding.

2. Just because it's true doesn't mean it needs to be said at all. Are you nagging? Is it your place? Is it helpful? Is it necessary? Is it really a big deal? Does it even matter?

3. When speaking the truth, it is helpful to focus on the main truth you want to share. Do not unload all the truth you know, or think you know, about a topic, or a person and his issues. Pick one or two. Too much is, well...too much.

4. Check your motive. Are you concerned for the other person or are you just frustrated? I think we can speak truths about things that frustrate us, but not while we are frustrated. T.I.M.I.N.G.

5. Speaking truth in a way that is destructive to another person, and blaming it on the Holy Spirit, isn't nice.

6. Be prepared to receive truth as well as dispense it. Otherwise, you lack integrity and may have no place sharing it in the first place. If you can't take it, don't dish it out.

7. Finally, be prepared to eat your words in the future, in the rare case that what you thought was true was, in fact, false. Because let's face it. Sometimes we get it wrong.

"When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." Proverbs 10:19. 

I need that verse plastered all over my house.


You Can't Park There!!

I was at Trader Joe's earlier and right after I pulled into my parking space, I heard a shrill sounding voice, screaming. I looked up to see a woman yelling at me, "You can't park there! It's a handicapped spot! You can't park there!" 

I was totally caught off guard and rolled down my window to say, "Excuse me?" She repeated. So, I apologized and said I thought it was a 15 minute parking space. Said I would never intentionally take a handicapped spot. She didn't look like she believed me.

When I pulled out, it was confirmed: I was NOT in a handicapped spot, but rather a 15 minute space...the same one I almost always park in. I moved to a new space and another equally non-handicapped person took mine. It was so tempting to defend myself once I got inside the store. My boys were insistent that I "tell that lady." But I didn't.

I saw that she did have difficulty walking and thought about how it probably is really frustrating when she can't get a spot close to the door, because someone parked in the handicapped spaces out of convenience, not need. It probably happens a lot. I get it.

However, the lesson here is that our own issues and frustrations can skew reality. They cause us to react to things that aren't even real...we see through our own set of lenses, not realizing they are a little smudged. We see disrespect and violation where it isn't. Or we interpret things from our own perspective, not realizing there are other equally legitimate viewpoints. 

And on the flip side, perhaps we can give mercy to the over-reactors, realizing they have issues of their own...whether they know it or not. Most people mean well. Honestly, we are probably all the over-reactors at one time or another. We just need a clean pair of glasses with a side of understanding.


You Learn

This afternoon I was in the car and decided to listen to my iPod for the first time in ages. I was going to put it on shuffle and just see what popped up, but I saw that there was something by Alanis Morissette on there. I wondered what on earth it was and it turned out to be "You Learn." I listened to it and immediately was taken back to another time in my life.

You need to understand my thing with music. I'm not musical, exactly, but I love music and my entire life has a soundtrack. Every season has music associated with it, and when I hear the songs I remember exactly what was happening in my life, and what I was feeling, when it was popular.

Now don't hate because I am having a moment with Alanis...yes she was super angsty and angry, but whatever. The lyrics that jumped out at me were these:

"You live you learn
You love you learn
You cry you learn
You lose you learn
You bleed you learn
You scream you learn

You grieve you learn
You choke you learn
You laugh you learn
You choose you learn
You pray you learn
You ask you learn
You live you learn"

This song spoke to me at a time when I found myself in a life-altering circumstance. I had made some choices that were going to forever change my life. There was anxiety and uncertainty; I had confided in a friend who betrayed my confidence; I felt judging eyes on me constantly; I was the subject of much gossip; I felt lonely and abandoned most of the time.

In the midst of all of that I was driving down Eastdale Road South, in Montgomery, and this song was on the radio. Listening to the words, I felt like God came to me and assured me that everything was going to be okay, even though I had wandered pretty far away fom Him. Yes, through  an Alanis  Morissette song, of all things,, I received the peace and confidence I needed to keep walking forward.

"You live, you learn...you choose, you learn." So I didn't do things as I should have...let's move forward. Learn from it. Grow from it. "You're going to be okay." I really believed it.

Listening to it again today I realized how much it's true that just about everything of value that I have on the inside has come through difficulty. He has met me every time. Every single time. He has not failed me. He has corrected my course, when needed; He has healed my heart; He has provided; He has comforted.

I found myself totally in awe of how He does that. And totally thankful. I don't like difficulties and hard days, but when He takes something hard and makes it beautiful, I don't see it the same way anymore. I'm learning who He is and who I am, through every difficulty that comes along.

I've lived, I've chosen, I've grieved, I've laughed, I've cried, I've lost...and I've learned. I've learned that if I am following Him, then He takes messes and brings beauty. He takes mourning and turns it into dancing. He takes sadness and turns it into joy.

That's who He is. It's what He does.


1986 - It Was a...Crappy...Year. Pun Intended.

Isn't this lovely? The Doodle Buddy app on my iPad allows my kids to stamp this all over the screen. It has an even cuter sound that accompanies it. 

Aside from being nasty it reminds me of the time in 6th grade, when Johnny {last name removed}** drew this exact picture on a piece of paper and said it was a picture of me. FYI, I think he is a doctor now, so I guess he didn't pursue his art skills (and I'm sure he is a lovely member of society).

It's a tad comical now, but at the time it was the crappy icing on the crappy cake of the year that began my shut down. It certainly wasn't just this...it was a combination of lots of things that let me know I wasn't good enough. It's a message I've continued to hear over the last 25+ years. 

The other day I heard a speaker say that we spend the first half of our lives having our gifts and callings squashed and the second half getting them back. What a shame. 

Why am I telling you this? I have no idea. But, I will say that if 1986 was the year I really began to shut down to people and friends, then 2014 is the year of my wake up. It's been coming for a while. I have so much I could say and probably will as I sort it out into something that sounds logical. All I know is that Jesus says I am enough and the things He made me for need to come alive again.

I don't believe I'm the only one who has lived this way and I really want to see people free of wrong beliefs. It's not about some new age, feel good, self-esteem. It's about God-esteem and understanding that our God, Yahweh, who made the heavens and the earth, the author of beauty, does not make crap.

**Funny thing...I originally had his last name in here. When my Dad read it he recognized the name. This kid is now a really amazing and compassionate oncologist. My mother's oncologist, to be exact. There's a message in there somewhere :)


Grace Propels

I don't think the concept of grace is one-dimensional, as it's often presented. It's not simply a state of eternal forgiveness and rightness with God that makes me feel good about myself. It's also has an element of internal empowerment.

Where the Law is a set of externally imposed rules, which our human nature and flesh cannot possibly fulfill, Grace is an internal drive and empowerment to love, which then fulfills the greatest Laws: Love God and love one another.

It's a result of the Spirit of God taking up residence in us and making us new. I think that's the heart of Romans 6:14:

"For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law (trying hard to follow the rules), but under (the empowerment of) grace." 

We no longer have to be ruled over by sin, because we now have this power within us (the Holy Spirit), which is a gift of grace. We can continue to try hard and do our best, on our own, but we will be paralyzed. We are not to focus on the do/don't list, but rather on Him. Then the other stuff will begin to work itself out.

So, while grace includes rightness with God, if we stop there, we may accidentally give ourselves permission to behave however we like...which is what Paul spoke against. "Should we sin more because of grace? May it never be!" Use grace to propel you to righteousness, not just to stamp you as righteous. Is this making sense? It's hard to put into words. I guess maybe I could say it this way:

Grace is what labels you as righteous and Grace is also what causes you to actually live out righteousness.



What Will You Believe?

I've heard it said, and I believe it, that perception is everything. Perception may not be what's true, but I think it's what matters most when that proverbial stuff hits the fan in our lives. Attached to those situations is an invitation to answer the question:

What will you believe?

The ultimate questions we have to answer center around what we believe after something happens to us. Two people can experience the same event, and while one is traumatized for years the other may recover fairly quickly. Perception/belief can be the difference.

As I see it the three big questions we have to wrestle with are:

1. What do I believe about the situation? Do I see it rightly or are facts skewed by emotion or past events?

2. What do I believe about myself because of what happened? What we say about ourselves is probably more important than what others say.

3. What do I believe about God? This one is the most important, obviously.

We will all work through things differently based on how we answer these questions. For example, after a divorce; after the loss of a loved one; after a rejection; after a failure; after an abuse: what do you believe about God and what do you believe about yourself?

Where was He? What does He think? Is He angry with you? Is He willing to show mercy? Is He good?

Are you unlovable? Are you a failure? Are you not good enough? Was it your fault?

The other important factor is who we surround ourselves with. Without question, other trustworthy people are essential to getting through the hard things. Isolation will leave us stranded in the mire and so will negative people.

If we can find one or two people that can listen to our story, who love us, who are wise, we need to take advantage of that. Anything kept in the dark will fester and grow and rob us of joy and life. We need other people to speak truth to us: about who God is and about who we are.

Speaking from experience, there is great power and freedom in talking about the things we'd rather cover, hide or avoid. It's rarely as bad as you think it will be.

We will live "below our privilege," so to speak, if we believe the wrong things about God and ourselves. We can't live above what we believe in our minds.

Freedom is a daily choice. We have to take the steps and the risks, but it's so worth it.

So, what do you believe?


It's Not a Crutch

There are some days that, for whatever reason, I am reminded of my failures. My mommy failures, my wife failures and, very often, my friendship failures. There have just been times that I didn't show up and I wish I could go back and do it better. I'm sure the same thing happens to you. 

This can either be an opportunity to feel defeated or it can be an opportunity to be thankful that God is making me something better today than I was yesterday. Today, I'm choosing the latter. 

There are those who would call Christianity a crutch. And to that I'd say, no. That would imply that I even had a leg of my own to stand on. I say it's more like a wheelchair or even a stretcher, carrying me into the hospital. And I am so okay with that.

After all, that's what attracted Jesus to me in the first place. That's what makes Him pull up a chair at my table.

The things you like least about yourself do not cause Him to turn away, even if everyone else does. He is your safe place. 

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”