The Great Deception

Are you awake? Are your eyes open?

Six months ago I quit smoking. I had been smoking close to half a pack per day for about two years and by God’s grace and mercy, I was able to break the addiction.

The way I did this was actually very simple and very easy. Seriously…it was so EASY! All I did was read a book. Yep. That’s it. I read a book and before I had even finished it I ended up smoking my last cigarette. It was July 31, 2014.

The cool thing was my husband was out of town that week. He HATED the fact that I had picked up this habit and he had been begging me to quit for a very long time. This habit actually drove quite a big wedge between us. I smelled like smoke all the time (so unattractive), I spent lots of time outside-away from my family-so I could smoke, and I was costing us close to $85 per month. I had tried to quit. I tried tapering. I tried cold-turkey. But each time I made an attempt, I would fail. I think both my husband and I had gotten to the point of hopelessness when it came to my addiction. We thought I would be struggling with this for forever. And that feeling was pretty crappy!

I was starting to develop a failure complex. I thought that I was stuck in this trap and I regretted the very day I chose to turn to cigarettes in the first place.

While he was away, I spent a lot of time researching online different methods for quitting this habit. I started watching those educational videos on the effects of smoking in hopes that they would scare me enough to quit…they didn’t work. Every smoker is aware of the health hazards of smoking. The problem is that the addiction is just too powerful.

But as I was searching online, I came across a video titled “The Easyway To Stop Smoking”. What? Quitting can be easy?

If you know anything about me, you would know that I LOVE shortcuts. I love things that are quick and easy, so this had my name written all over it.

The video was about a book by the same title and it was the testimony given by a woman around my age of how she quit smoking overnight and never looked back. With that I thought, what do I have to lose? and I downloaded the kindle version immediately.

I began reading this book and what it had to say was so simple yet so so meaningful. The addiction trap of nicotine is a lie! It’s totally a lie. It tells you that it will calm you down, relax your anxious mind, cure boredom, etc. and actually…it does the opposite. It increases your heart rate, it numbs you to the point of wasting time and zapping your energy, and it gives you a failure complex because you can’t seem to turn it away.

This book gave me the knowledge to uncover the lie and once the lie was uncovered, I no longer had a desire to smoke. My husband came home to a non-smoker! Yay!

If smoking is something you struggle with, then please go grab that book. But I want to talk about something else that I learned from reading about the lies of addiction.

Lies are actually everywhere. After reading about the trap, I began wondering about other things in my life that were deceiving me. Things like consumerism. I had been thinking that having a certain type of lifestyle and a certain size home and a certain amount of things all were going to make me happy. Actually, giving makes me happy, hoarding only overwhelms.

I thought about my thoughts towards others. Looking down on people was usually an attempt to make myself feel elevated. But in reality, Jesus says that we are to consider those “things” in others as dust particles compared to the giant two-by-four sticking out of our own eye. And by collapsing the judgement, I become more and more free to let go of whatever opinions I may have and just love the way the Father loves.

And most recently, I have been trying to shatter the lie of worthlessness. Oh my goodness! This one is the most difficult so far. Jesus wants us to find our life in Him and in Him alone, but the enemy…he’s a sneaky one. You see, I have BLOWN IT! And when I say I have BLOWN IT, I mean ROYALLY!!!!!  I have been unloving, I have lied, I have stopped putting my trust in Jesus and have put my trust in other things. Things that made me feel good…temporarily. I have done some really really stupid stuff and there is a part of me that finds it very difficult to let all of that fall by the wayside.

The accusing voice finds its way inside my head and says, “don’t you dare show your face!” or “you are a disgrace”, “you don’t deserve to rest easy”, “you suck!”

Lies! Lies! Lies!

I am waking up to these lies, you guys! I am becoming increasingly more aware that Jesus really is who He says He is. That He came to set us free, to pour His love all over us and claim us as His own. He heals the sick, feeds the hungry, parties with tax collectors and prostitutes, and most of all, HE FORGIVES! It’s over! It’s done and finished and all of that crap about not being worthy is a lie and it is the GREATEST lie ever.

We find many ways of coping with this lie. Even believers are blind to its deception. Sometimes we, as I mentioned earlier, point out the flaws in others in order to minimize the shame we feel ourselves. “At least I am not like that guy” “I may not be perfect…but see that girl over there?”

Another way of coping with the deception is we hide. (GUILTY) We believe the lie. We believe we aren’t worthy of the cross and we shrink. Fear takes over and we make new friends with blankets and pillows and binge viewings of Gilmore Girls… (yeah, that’d be me 😉 )

The only way to break free of this deception is to call it out for what it is. It is not the voice of truth. It is not the message that Jesus has for us and it is stealing our life from us.

This is why it is foundational…FOUNDATIONAL…that we understand and know Who God is, what His voice sounds like, and how He wants to be our only source of life. My motto lately has been, “Micky, get your life from Christ”. For a while I didn’t understand what that meant and sometimes, the clearing of this cloud of deception takes some work and time before the truth can really sink in. But it’s starting to finally sink in for me. He loves me, He is setting me free, He doesn’t accuse me.

This is HUGE! If this is who Jesus is, if He is the full revelation of who God is, if He came into this world, formed relationships with those out on the margins, healed, fed, ate, prayed, laughed, played, taught and DIED for all of creation…what is He calling us as His followers to do as well???? And what lengths will the enemy go to in order to keep us from following in those same footsteps?

Get to know this Jesus guy today, people! Understand this crazy love He has, this limitless grace, this radical-upside down-unlike any other love that He is pouring out over you and then go. Go and do likewise…without the shame, without the guilt. Call the lie out for what it is and step into the truth!

Praying that His reality becomes our reality! -xoxo

go slow

Anxiety’s first reflex is action. Things like driving, waiting, and sitting become speeding, impatience, and running.

It is natural for us to hate discomfort. We want to be healthy and whole. We want the misery to be over and our lives to quickly return to normal.

What I continually see in my process of recovery is this pattern: I gain some strength, I see the finish line, and I begin to sprint towards it. But just as I think I’m about to brake through that ribbon strung across the end zone, I trip. I fall to the ground, banged up, bruised. And when I finally look up, the finish line is now out of sight once again. I now have further to go. Ugh! This is bad bad news! When I can no longer see the end, discouragement, depression, and disorientation set in…only to let me fall further and further behind.

So, I am learning to pace myself. When I have good days, I am grateful and I try not to rush to the end…because the truth-the reality of the situation-is that I can’t finish this season on my own. I’d like to think I can. I would love to draw on my own strength and kick this thing to the curb, but…I can’t. The reality is that I have no strength. I have been stripped of everything I thought was my own. I have been poured out, emptied, crippled, ruined. I have been brought to the end of myself.

This is what it means to walk through the refining fire of God. It’s not punishment. It’s not an angry fiery furnace swallowing me up with rage. It’s actually the complete opposite. All throughout the New Testament, God’s love has been likened to a burning fire. He loves us with a love that burns like the sun. He loves us too much to watch us self-destruct.

In facing the sin in my life, I signed up for a season of refinement. The process of getting rid of the impurities of my life takes time and it is painful, but it isn’t done in anger. Have you ever had to discipline your child? It stinks! There are times when I have grounded my oldest. He has had to spend time in his room away from the rest of the family. It’s painful for him. He hates to play by himself or do anything by himself for that matter. But you know what? We miss him just as much if not more than he misses us. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s worth it. When he is finally able to join the family, we pour on the hugs and love and we tell him how much we missed him being with us.

Now, I am not saying that God has left me. He hasn’t. He’s got me, He’s walking me through this fire. What I am saying is that I am surrendered to this process. I am on His time table and it is slow. It’s been 8 months since all of this started and I am so ready to get on with my life. But He keeps saying, “you’re not quite there”.

I am also learning that most of the time, when we make sacrificial choices for the good of others, the sacrifice can usually mean a lot of pain will be involved. Suffering isn’t something to shy away from. It’s something we learn to walk through. It doesn’t matter if we bring the suffering upon ourselves or if it’s brought on by others or the enemy. It’s here. And the only way to end the suffering is to walk through the suffering.

The cool thing is that we will be transformed through these trials. We will come out different, renewed, restored, and strong. We come out learning how to lean on Him just a little bit more and how to walk with others in their trials in more personal ways.

Paul says that God is always working IN everything to bring about good. This is what I am clinging to-that the good is being produced right now. God is moving and working and healing. But I have to go slow. I have to walk at His pace and trust that just because the finish line is in view, that doesn’t mean that I can make it there on my own. He alone is sustaining me and He alone will get me to where I need to be.

Slow down today. Remember that the reflex to fix, find solutions, finish can sometimes mean we miss the beauty of the process and we miss out on some really beautiful things that He wants to share with us.

Go. Slow.

“Third Option”, “Bring The Kingdom” and hopefully some clarification!

I have been trying to get this post out of my head and down on paper for over a month now. Its not easy to try and sum up your entire world view/faith/philosophy in a single blog post, but I am going to do my best.

Over the weekend, my husband and I watched the documentary film titled Let The Fire Burn. The film covers the events that took place between 1978 and 1985 in Philadelphia which were results of a hostile conflict between the extremist group known as MOVE and the city, particularly the Mayor, Police, and Fire Departments but not excluding the city’s residents. Everyone was affected by the escalation of this heated conflict. *To see the correlation I am trying to make, it might be helpful to read about these events and/or watch the film.

What I felt this film highlighted very powerfully was the cycle perpetuated by anger from all sides. This is the root of most of the issues I find in the world today. This is where I start to offer up a solution, but unfortunately I use terms such as “third way” or “bringing the kingdom” and I haven’t always made myself very clear. This is my feeble attempt to clarify some of those terms and show what I find to be the answer to the hurts and pains in this world.

I believe with my whole heart that every single one of us has potential for good and potential for evil. We all have (generally speaking) the ability to have a will of our own and to make our own choices. However, each of us also has been conditioned by the different relationships in our lives. I use the word relationship because its not so much a person that affects us, but more the relationship created between us and others that can mold and shape. We are influenced by the relationships we have with parents, friends, church, God, nature, animals, food, addictions, the internet, as well as the relationships that we witness daily (example: how our mother and father interact and/or if they interact at all, etc.). And I am sure the list can go on.

There comes a point in our lives where we begin to solidify who we are as people based on those shaping influences. It probably starts around middle school, but maybe really begins to take form when we register to vote for the first time, or sign the membership card at church. Or maybe our identity begins when we take marriage vows or graduate from college.

Further down the road we may enter the phase of self-awareness. We begin to ask ourselves why we are who we are and we re-evaluate some of our strongly held views or we discover that we don’t have any and maybe we begin the search for finding some convictions.

With all of the complexities that go into one person, you can see how a planet full of billions of people would run into some pretty serious conflicts. It’s all over the news, social media; we hear about it with our morning prayer group or at our child’s soccer game. Everyone seems to have an opinion. And now that social media is such a normal way of communicating and expressing, we have a lot of ranting and raving and a whole lot of blanket statements being thrown around. Blog posts and articles, statistics and protests, demands and entitlements many times are used as weapons. What I see very very little of is people who listen with the intention to understand. I also find that we (human-nature) tend to gravitate more towards those who we agree with, which can only fuel our appetite for being right even more.

As a Christ-follower (I don’t usually like to use the term “Christian” because that term has way too many associations with it that I tend to not consider myself apart of.), I look to the example of Jesus and His early followers for insight on how to approach the issues of our world today.

There is a story in the Bible when Jesus was approached by both the religious leaders as well as the Roman city workers. Right away, we can see opposition. We have “religion” on one side and “politics” on the other. They pose a question to Jesus with the intention to back Him into a corner. They want Him to choose one side over the other.(Mark 12 and Matthew 22) The question involves taxes. At that time Caesar (the Roman ruler) had his face and name on the coins with a phrase which translated to Caesar being the Son of God. To handle one of these coins was considered blasphemy to the religious people, but it was also against the law to not pay taxes. They asked Jesus what should a good jewish person do.

Jesus responded with “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Essentially saying, if his face is on it and his name is on it, give it to him. The things that “make a king” in this world are not what make a king in God’s Kingdom. They are different.

This brings me to my first point:

Jesus was about a “third way”. He didn’t choose either the side of the religious fanatics, nor did he jump on a military/political bandwagon. He was about something different.

But what? What was He about? He came to be the Messiah (or savior), but what did that mean? Many times throughout scripture we see that his followers didn’t always understand how God in the flesh was going to carry out His mission. Peter is a prime example of someone who though Jesus was going to take the world by force. He was quick to reach for the sword…

But Jesus had different plans.

Jesus lived and preached this “kingdom” way and we read about it all throughout the gospels. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) is a great place to start if you want to know what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like, but everything Jesus did and said was the real picture of who God is, what He is about, and How he wants His Kingdom to be brought to this earth.

Turning the other cheek.

Walking the extra mile.

Giving up your coat.

Loving and praying for your enemies.

No longer repaying evil for evil.

Blessed are those who are humble, poor in spirit, mourners, those who suffer for the sake of the Gospel…

Notice we don’t read “Blessed are the vigilant” or “Blessed are those who are right” or “Blessed are those who win”.

These are ways that set apart “Kingdom” people from the ways of this world. This is where reconciliation truly begins. Jesus prayed for God’s Kingdom to come to this earth. He didn’t pray that God would remove us from this earth as soon as possible. So when I say “bring the Kingdom” I am calling out my fellow Christ-followers to be counter cultural, to stop engaging in ways that only perpetuate anger and hatred, and to start loving our enemies and praying for those who not only disagree with us, but who also might be hurting us. *Side note: I do not mean that by loving others, we allow them to continue hurting or harming. In fact, that would be the opposite of love. But our motives should always be to seek what is best for those around us(including our enemies), not necessarily what seems best for ourselves. Love is not self-seeking (1Corinthians 13).

We can apply this model of living for every circumstance in life. When we use “power under” instead of “power over”, we do something so completely revolutionary. We tell the world that God finds them full of unsurpassable worth and we (as the kingdom) do too.

Because racial tensions seem to be a huge crisis in our country right now and because I haven’t always been clear, I want to share a bit more in detail what I mean when I talk about bringing the Kingdom to the midst of this tension in order to achieve racial reconciliation.

There are many sides to this tension, and I don’t have the time or space nor the deserving voice to explain all sides. Here are the Kingdom points I want to make regarding racial reconciliation.

1. We have to be better at listening in order to understand. If we are listening only to search for ways to throw words back at others, we aren’t really listening. Set aside the points you can’t wait to make and just listen. Part of listening means learning to ask better questions. Ask to hear the stories of those who disagree with you. Ask them to clarify terms that you may not understand. Ask them objectively why they believe what they believe to be true.

2. White Privilege is real. I can’t speak for the Church, but it is my belief that white Christ-followers need to objectively ask and seek to understand what exactly White Privilege is. When a black man is wanted for a crime in my town and my black friend comes to me and says he is fearful to go out in public until the suspect has been caught, I can’t ignore that I have not and most likely never will experience a fear like that. And that takes me back to my first point which is to ask more questions. If something about a person’s life experience doesn’t make sense, I first need to use power under (humility) and assume I don’t know enough and I need to keep asking and keep listening. This doesn’t mean that white people don’t have hurts or don’t go through forms of discrimination. It is simply a call to recognize the racial/gender pecking order (example: white males generally sit at the top of the totem pole) in our country. Simply recognizing this validates the pain of others.

3. When the person or group you are in a conflict with makes an effort to move towards you, do not turn them away. Reconciliation requires work and effort from all sides. Recognize those small signs of hope and run towards them, not away from them.

4. We have to learn to empathize. This not only applies to victims, but also to perpetrators. Again, asking questions with the intention to understand. What does it really mean to love our enemies? First and foremost, it means to view them with unsurpassable worth. Jesus went to the cross for everyone. And as I began this post, we are all capable of good and evil and in order to defeat evil, we need to understand where it stems from, how it has a hold on a person’s life, and hopefully how to disarm that evil (There are, however, times when we MUST walk away, but it should always be for the good of the relationships around us). We must carry the burdens of our friends who have been victimized. The Church should be the FIRST place where people can find refuge and safety. For the black community and any and everyone else who is not finding hope in this world, they need to know that we will listen and carry their pain and that we will work together towards healing.

5. Do not minimize the pain of others. Remember that we are all molded and shaped by all kinds of different things. We are born with different wirings and how you might deal with a situation doesn’t mean everyone will or should deal the same way. Have compassion even when the reactions of others seem out of sorts. Grief can be expressed in a multitude of ways.

6. Let your love and friendships with people who are different from you be an example of how Jesus and His kingdom are the only true hope this world has. This doesn’t mean to go find “different” people and make them items to check off on your list, and it doesn’t mean you should use your relationships as a display or show on Facebook. This means that when you have true authentic care for people who are different from you (whether it’s different upbringing, different political views, skin color, sexual orientation, theological views, religious views, etc.) the world will notice. These relationships are counter cultural because no longer are we stuck in an echo chamber of people who look and think like me/us. We are now living our true reconciliation and showing the world that the Kingdom is made up of all ethnicities, traditions, family structures, occupations, musical tastes, worship styles, points of view, etc. and it is the most beautiful Kingdom of all.

7. Hate begets hate. Violence begets violence. But this will and should not be so in the Kingdom. We must be first to stop the cycle of anger as seen in Let The Fire Burn. We need to live out the non-violent, peace giving, love-overflowing reconciliation that Jesus demonstrated. No expression of love is greater than that of the ONE who went to the cross for his enemies. The One who said “it’s hostile down there, but I AM going in.”

8. Always remember that our battles are not with flesh and blood. They are with the spirits of evil in this world. If we can remember that, then it can become easier to remember that every human being was found worthy of the cross, and that love and light are always the hope of overcoming that evil.

9. Apologize when you’ve blown it. Honestly, I would say that there are probably times that call for apologies even if you don’t feel like you have done anything wrong. I am not suggesting that we become doormats, but I am saying that we need to forfeit our strong hunger to be right and learn to weigh the relationship over our “rightness”. (Use discernment.)

10. Let the work of the cross reign in every relationship you have. The cross, the cross, the cross. The work was accomplished there. The true expression of what God thinks of all of us was shown there. Don’t forget that, ever!

So for my fellow Christ followers, remember that the Kingdom is within you, it begins with you, and this world is desperate for some love and light and hope. We are called to imitate Jesus and bring that hope to those around us. It can begin as easy as being willing to ask better questions today of someone who you don’t agree with and don’t understand. It can start so small, but can have a GIANT impact. I firmly believe that it is the only Hope this world has of living in peace and freedom.

If you are still reading this scary long blog post…thank you so so much!

And as my favorite pastor/theologian says…

Now go out and love on the world!