Thursday, September 22, 2016

But I Don't Feel Loved

Oh, my friend, I struggled for many years, and sometimes still do, to believe and trust the love of God. It is an area of weakness which the enemy exploits, and continues to hurl accusations and doubts that God could love me. Or, even more insidious, the diabolical suggestion that I need to earn love by living a certain way or doing a checklist of things.

While we desire the tangible sense of God's love, these wonderful, transcendent feelings are as rare as they are lovely. They are an echo of what's to come. Think of Jesus and his three closest disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter loved the experience - the feeling - so much he wanted to live there. But there was still work to be done... so the experience did not continue at that time. 

It is similar in our own personal journey with Jesus.

I relish those intimate times and try to remember those feelings when my emotions change. I bathe my mind and intellect by soaking it with the truth of God's love in scripture and songs. I look for God in nature, in beauty, in poetry, in family and friends. I go on a treasure hunt to find things, even the tiniest graces, in my life for which I'm grateful, knowing every good gift is from above. I spend time reading God's love letter to me: the Bible. I hang out with people who love him. I read about his love from those who've experienced it.

I think of the gamut of God's love goes so infinitely far beyond the "good, good father" into what my own father explained. When the German language Bible he loved to study would say "God is love," it used the feminine gender, inferring that God's love is like the love of a mother for her child. So not only is the love of a good father and a tender mother encompassed in God's love, the love of God supersedes these genders and is, in fact, beyond our comprehension in depth, breadth, and height. 

Two books that have been significant in this area for me are the small book "The Furious Longing of God" by Brennan Manning and the more contemplative book "Surrender to Love" by David Benner. I also found listening prayer helpful. The books "Rivers From Eden" and "Can You Hear Me?" by Brad Jerzak have been helpful tools for me to learn and practice sitting, soaking in God's presence. These practices and books helped me learn that God doesn't just give us his love, he IS love. The very essence of it. He cannot be anything other than love, cannot do anything that is not in line with his nature of love.

When the feeling of being unloved is strong, don't believe it. Combat it. The truth is, God is love. And he loves you. So those false feelings are coming from somewhere else and it's tricking our emotions into believing something that is not true. 

I really underestimated the physical causes of my emotional depressions - to my detriment. Once I began working out and taking needed supplements to give my body the basic nutrition that had been lacking for so long, I began to "feel" better. I also worked with a personal trainer to discipline my body and a naturopath to heal my body, because the physical body is inextricably linked with the mind, emotions and will.

Since we are instructed by Jesus to "love the Lord your God with all your heart (emotion), soul (spiritual), mind (intellect), and strength (physical body)," we must pay attention to the physical as much as every other part of our being.

Do a personal inventory; a checklist of practical and physical things that can significantly affect our emotions: 
  • am I eating and sleeping well? 
  • is my body lacking any nutrients?
  • are there hormonal imbalances that can impact mood? 
  • do I get your body moving every day, outside in the fresh air? 
  • do I hydrate by drinking enough water (half your body weight in ounces daily)? 
Ask your doctor to test for allergies and food sensitivities; even to assess you for depression or anxiety. Add appropriate nutrition, vitamins and supplements, exercise and meditation to your routine. Find a pastor, counsellor or mentor you trust and ask their counsel in this. Reach out. No one is perfect but we can learn something from everyone and in-person is better than Internet.

This only scratches the surface. It's a daily journey. We practice. As Samuel Beckett said, we try. We fail. We try again. We fail better.

So, start simple. Ask Jesus to show you his love, then watch in anticipation for even the unexpected ways it shows up.

My prayer for you is from Ephesians chapter three:
Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. So please don’t lose heart ... I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your heart as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Another beautiful passage is Romans 8:38-39: 
I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Read and memorize these if you can or write them out and put where you can see them every day.

I hope this is of some help for when you are feeling unloved. There is no easy button. No secret formula. Keep trusting. Keep interacting in loving ways. Keep telling yourself the truth. Open yourself to the presence of Christ. Look for the places he plays, where he's holding his arms out to you, asking you to sit beside him and be still just to hear his heartbeat for a few moments. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Nose Knows

Walking out of church Saturday night, an acquaintance tossed a bag at us with something soft inside. Turns out it was a half dozen gooey caramel-cinnamon buns. This gentleman gives them away from time to time, sometimes to friends, sometimes to strangers, as a random act of kindness. Bless him! It sure put a smile on our faces! This is only the second time I've risked digestive disturbance by eating cinnamon rolls - something which contains wheat. Since I’m only “wheat sensitive” and not severely allergic or celiac, the reward is worth the risk.

“Why even risk it?” you may ask. Well, let me explain. It has to do with my nose.

Nothing makes me recall sweet memories of my dear departed mother more quickly and with greater fondness than the smell of fresh baked cinnamon buns. They were her specialty, be it sticky caramel upside down rolls or soft, plump regular cinnamon-raisin rolls with caramel cream frosting. Really, a risk worth taking.

Scientists and psychologists have discovered that of the five senses, memories are most closely linked to smell. In this Psychology Today article, the author cites behavioral studies showing how some smells can trigger vivid emotional memories and induce the feeling of being brought back in time.

The smell of cinnamon rolls catapults me into my childhood in Mom’s kitchen where she’d roll out the dough on the wooden butcher-block top of the portable dishwasher. She’d be bustling about, flour on her nose, her apron. Only occasionally would she let me help with any of the tasks: prep the oven, melt and spread the butter, scatter a good amount of soft brown sugar, evenly toss on handfuls of well-soaked/rinsed/drained raisins, sprinkle a generous (“But not too much!”) portion of ground cinnamon over the whole, carefully roll it up and pinch the edges together snugly, then evenly slice the individual rolls with a sharp knife and place them in orderly rows and columns, barely touching, on a baking sheet.

To this day, the scent of cinnamon buns, or cinnamon in anything, will send me down that path and I remember my mom with fondness. “Unfortunately,” author Jordan Lewis says, “smells can also be potent triggers of negative emotions, particularly in individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

If you find yourself “triggered” with an emotion, good or bad, stop to think about what your nose is taking in at that particular point in time. While my experience with cinnamon is sweet, someone else might have the opposite response. While parmesan cheese makes some people drool with anticipation, my husband thinks it smells like a baby bib soiled with burp up. Another example Lewis gives is about the smell of diesel. It was a trigger for one soldier’s buried memory of a trauma.

In addition to being the sense most closely linked to memory, smell is also highly emotive.  The perfume industry is built around this connection, with perfumers developing fragrances that seek to convey a vast array of emotions and feelings; from desire to power, vitality to relaxation. It is also important in your attraction to another person, sometimes leading you to choose your spouse.

While smell brings positive benefits, its absence can have the opposite effect. Fifth Sense, a charity for people affected by smell and taste disorders, addresses the psychological impact of smell loss. “Truly,” they say, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” Losing one’s sense of smell can result in the loss of an important sentimental pathway to memories, a connection to the world around you, causing feelings of isolation and experiencing a ‘blunting’ of the emotions. “The loss of smell can affect one’s ability to form and maintain close personal relationships and can lead to depression.”

Other of our five senses can also trigger good and bad memories, but the one that most directly links to our memory center is the sense of smell. So, “be careful little nose, what you smell!” If a smell triggers a negative emotion – which is out of proportion to the present day incident – it may be triggering a suppressed memory of a trauma. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help, if needed, to make “sense” of it all.

What smells evoke memories for you?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Comparison is the Eighth Deadly Sin

I don’t recall when I started following Neil’s work on Facebook. Calgary-based pro photographer, Neil Zeller, captures the aurora borealis, night skies and turbulent weather with astonishing frequency and jaw-dropping results.

Photo: Neil Zeller

Photo: Neil Zeller

It may actually have been his coverage of Beakerhead that first got my attention, followed up by photos of an astronaut on the Peace Bridge and doing a space walk in the sky over Calgary. He permanently landed in my “Wow” books with his feature photos of a makeup artist who makes her subjects look like they just stepped out of a comic book.
Neil is down to earth and unpretentious in his online platform and shares stellar shots, tips and techniques with the unabashed enthusiasm. Sometimes, he posts online in the wee hours of the morning after he spent hours doing time lapses then editing his photos of the night skies. He hosts photowalks and workshops, and readily shares his knowledge.

At TEDxYYC in 2015, while checking my Twitter feed, I see Neil is serving as official photographer. In the crush of the lobby during intermission, I practically stumble over him, just leaning against a column surveying the crowd, so I say hi. After a brief conversation, I tell him about our church photo club where we help each other learn new photography and editing skills.

“Is there any chance you might come speak to our group sometime?” I ask.

“Sure, I’d be happy to,” he replies.

“What is your fee?” I hold my breath.

He waves his hand as if to brush away the question. I later learn that he does some things for free but earns a living doing corporate photography. He’s a networker, but he’s more about trying new things and building relationships rather than building a kingdom.

Over the summer, our club held a photo exhibition, “Power and Glory”, and Neil readily shared some of his best shots and videos so that we could promote his visit at our September meeting. We had 40 people attend and Neil rocks it; answers every question, lets us try his camera gear, shares photos, videos, tips and tricks, even a secret location or two.

Our normal club nights, we usually each bring 10 digital photos to share with the group: our best work from the summer or the prior month. As I choose mine, I begin to feel like I don’t want to share my work when a pro like Neil is in the room. I know Neil won’t judge. He’d probably even offer helpful advice on improving the shot if I ask, but still, there’s that gnawing anxiety in my gut and the inner critic hissing, “Your work isn’t very good” makes me want to step into the shadow instead of the podium.

Except I was scheduled to give a devotional thought, as is our custom. So I have to step to the podium, and I do. And upon request, what follows is my best recollection of that talk.

Comparison is the 8th Deadly Sin

When a pro photographer of the caliber of Neil Zeller is in the room, the last thing I want to do is show my work. Yet, the purpose of this group is to help each other improve our photography skills. And the only way to do that is to admit what we don’t know and ask for help from those who may have more experience.

Ann Landers used to say, “We are all ignorant, just on different subjects.” I like to turn that around: “We are all intelligent, just on different subjects.”

Each of us has our own particular gifting and expertise. Each one of us is important to the healthy functioning of the whole. When you stub your toe, your whole body feels the pain. When your heart and lungs are working well, your entire body benefits. Each part matters, just like each person matters.

In Hebrews 12, we have this challenge: “Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

One thing that really “trips us up” is comparing ourselves with others. When an Olympic athlete competes, he may have others beside him in the race, but when he trains, he competes with himself. He tries to better his time. Each one of us must do our very best with the time and tools we have today. If we look at others, we will only slow our own progress.

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”

This is the real grace: that when we come to Jesus, the ground is level at the foot of the cross. There is no comparison. None of us can earn salvation but it is a free gift of grace. In the same way, our purpose, our role, our talents and abilities are good gifts from our heavenly father. Only we can do what we have been given to do. And Jesus, who started the work in us, will be faithful to complete it.

So let me encourage you with these words from the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans, chapter 12:

“Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think.” (And, I would add, don’t think of yourself more lowly than you ought to think.) “Instead, be reasonable (in your evaluation of yourself) since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you.” (He’s given us each different gifts.)

“We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us.”

“If your gift is (Lightroom, do it well). If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. If your gift is encouragement” (and who doesn’t need encouragement?), “devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached.” (And Neil is doing that tonight.) “The leader should lead with passion.” (We have had so many like Barry, Leo, Daron and Jill who have stepped up to help make these club meetings happen.)

“Love should be shown without pretending… Love each other like the members of your family.” (Or maybe not. LOL). So, okay, love each other like I love Henry.) “Be the best at showing honor to each other. Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic” (when someone else gets that amazing shot that you missed!) “… Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. Contribute to the needs of God’s people,” (and we do that in the way we help each other learn new skills in the club) “and welcome strangers into your home,” (into our club and this church.)

“Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart.”

Each one of us can learn something from someone else and can share our knowledge with others. So, let’s set aside any comparisons, do our best, and share our knowledge with each other in the grace with which God gave it to us.


If you’d like to check out our photo club, we meet from 7-9 PM on the second Tuesday of each month (September through June) in Meeting Room 4 at First Alliance Church. To connect every day, join our Facebook group or for more details, email me.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Hiking Sunshine Meadows

Lookout Mountain from far side of Rock Isle Lake
Overview: This is an easy access hike in alpine terrain suited to most fitness levels with hike lengths between 2-12 kms (elevation 200 metres), and access to longer backcountry hikes (Healy Pass and Mt. Assiniboine). In 2016, shuttle busses, which I recommend you pre-book, run once per day from Banff and every half hour Monday-Thursday from the parking lot at Sunshine Ski area to Sunshine Meadows Trail Centre at the edge of the tree line. In the summer on Friday-Sunday and long weekend Mondays, the gondola runs instead of the shuttle from the ski base to trail head. Current prices and schedules as of Sept 2016 are available here.

Looking back the 1km road down to the trail head 

At the 1 km mark, you cross the continental divide into BC
The distant mountain, far left, is Mt. Assiniboine

From the Trail Centre, a 15 minute walk brings you to the Continental Divide. There are three lakes, some forested paths, including elevated logs to cross creeks and marshy areas, and sections which traverse through an expansive meadow. Mountain views abound. As for creature comforts, the ticket office, washrooms and small retail shop is available at the base and a pub/restaurant, washrooms, retail shop are at the Trail Centre. Local guides circulate on the trail to answer questions; signage is clear, there are benches for resting and two outhouses conveniently spaced along the trail. Please note all photos in this blog, except where noted, are mine. Please do not use without permission.

Okay, enough of the "official" stuff.

I'd heard about this hike for years and since the growing season in this alpine destination is only two months long, the colour and variety of blooms will vary depending on when you go. I had to re-book our shuttle reservation multiple times due to weather conditions, since the summer of 2016 was excessively rainy, and my hiking partner and I both had unforeseen conflicts, but finally succeeded in finding a suitable day on September 1. Wild strawberry plants were in abundance throughout the hike. Some strawberries, while tiny, were ripe and some plants were even still flowering. I am not well-versed as yet on alpine plants, but the Centre offers a laminated brochure-sized Alpine Flower Guide. There are many ground squirrels and chipmunks. Please don't feed any wildlife.

Richardson's Ground Squirrel

This chipmunk is not speaking to me.


The first segment of the hike is 1km up a gravel access road to a fork where the trail for Mt. Assiniboine splits off to the left. Continue on the right hand trail another .4 km to the Rock Isle Viewpoint. If your time or energy is short, this is alone is worth the trip.

Rock Isle Lake

My first vision of the lake after cresting the hill
View to the left while ascending to Rock Isle Lake

The breathtaking view before you reach the lake.

As lovely as it had begun, I was determined to do the entire loop. Continuing on past the viewpoint, there is an outdoor toilet at a discrete distance from the trail. After this convenient "rest" stop, a brief distance beyond, the trail splits again, with the right side taking you 1 km to the Mt. Standish Viewpoint or to the longer Twin Cairns / Meadow Park Trail and onward to Healy Pass. This was not on our agenda, but the Mt. Standish view would look something like this:

Webcam sourced Sunday, Sept. 4 from

The trail continues counter clockwise over the undulating terrain alongside Rock Isle Lake, giving additional panoramic views of the lake and further mountains.

My hiking partner, Jean, contemplates the journey
View beyond Rock Isle Lake
A wide angle view using a EF-S 10-18mm lens
At the end of the lake, before we entered a more forested section, we see a lovely beach to relax, perhaps dabble our toes in the water. However, it was roped off, with signs requesting that we stay on the path and not enter protected zones. They are attempting rehabilitation of many areas damaged by high traffic human use. There were several Parks Canada officials on the path doing environmental assessments through observation, measurements, photos and recruiting hikers to assist with voluntary GPS tracking.

Lower water level "beach" on Rock Isle Lake

After a short distance, the path forked again, at the beginning of the loop through more forest and meadow which encircles Larix* Lake and Grizzly Lake. We opted to go clockwise but more people seemed to prefer the counter-clockwise route, so there were several times we had to step off the narrow path to make way for one another.

*Many individuals and online sites misspell the lake name as "Laryx". The correct name, Larix, refers to the larch tree which is plentiful in the area. 

Forest paths

A few dead trees make their own art

Jean gets the angle on a macro shot

Log bridges dot the trail

Tiny flowers.  
Photo credit: Jean Draper

One of the more prolific flowers

Teenie, ripe strawberries

Each of the two lakes, Larix and Grizzly, hold their own charm, as do the creeks feeding into them. One stellar view is between them at the Simpson Viewpoint. There is clear signage all throughout Sunshine Meadows, and all paths are well gravelled, though occasionally narrow, but a pleasant walk overall.

Larix Lake

Rocky lake bed

Simpson Viewpoint

Forest plant nursery

Grizzly Lake

Grizzly Lake shore

One of many creeks

Creek feeding Grizzly Lake

Life and death

Rest stop

Colourful fields

By this time, I was pretty tuckered out and there was more than a kilometre of 100 metre elevation back to the point which the descent to the trailhead began. There are adequate benches and rocks where you can rest. I have done difficult hikes in my day and this was among the simplest but it was my first hike after recovering from surgery so my energy level at this high elevation was fairly low. However, the thought of a nice cold beverage and a snack back at Trapper Johns at the trail centre kept me moving. The shuttles back to ski base and parking run every half hour, the last one at 6:30 pm, so we were in no time crunch from that perspective. We just had to get our time stamped on our return ticket and relax in the pub until the bus arrived.

My favourite moment was during the final corner around Rock Isle Lake, as a red fox slipped past us only about 30 meters away. Simultaneously, a golden eagle soared overhead. We could only capture one, so Jean caught the fox with her lens and the eagle soars forever in my memory. Over all, a very good day!

Final gift, a parting shot of the sly fox. Photo credit: Jean Draper

Friday, February 05, 2016

So You Wanna Lead Worship?

There he is, on all fours, cloth in hand, spray cleaner by his side. His face is not visible. He’s unaware of the camera. His friend confides, “Part of his process every week—in preparing for leading us in worship—is hand-scrubbing the sanctuary floor underneath each seat.”
* * * *
Her talented young adult daughter is settling into a new church in her new university town, far from home. She calls to relay the latest: “The music leader listened to me audition, then said they need someone to vacuum the children’s classrooms every Sunday morning before church as part of the worship team training.” She accepts the role eagerly and is then placed on a worship team.
* * * *
Watch him shift back and forth from the leg with the titanium knee to the other one he’s having replaced next year before he retires from his blue-collar job. See how he stretches his twice-broken back every hour or so? Wipes the sweat off his face regularly during the 12 hours a day he leans over that hot camp stove, chopping board or steaming dishwater in the camp kitchen? Watch him give a full week of his “vacation” every year to do this so 130 campers can hear about Jesus.
* * * *
She’s often late to choir rehearsals, English isn’t her first language, she struggles to find and keep the proper pitch. But she prays with fire and enters in to the time of music with abandon, shouting at the end of the songs like she’s in the bleachers at a game and the home team just scored.
* * * *
He's a prolific songwriter, preparing to record an album of worship songs. He doesn't stand on a platform, in the spotlights, doesn't sell tickets to the theatre seating. He seats his band in the congregation. On the floor, everyone together, sings and worships the Audience of One. 
* * * *
They shuffle in for drama auditions, fill out a slip with name and contact info. Then there’s that question: “Would you accept a smaller role in order to allow more people to participate?”

She swallows hard. “If I say no”, she muses, “I might not get any role. But I really want that one role. It would be my heart’s desire to play that role.” She is offered a smaller role and she wrestles hard, then accepts it as a gift. “God works in all things for the good of those who love him.”
* * * *
They’re arguing like brothers, the whole lot of them. They jostle and joke, poke fun at each other’s foibles as they walk down the dusty path. How much further is it?!  As always, on a road trip, debates rise about who’s strongest, fastest, best at healing the sick, greatest in faith.

After they were settled at the end of the journey, Jesus turns and asks, “What were you arguing about?”

Awkward silence. Nothing but crickets.

Then he looks each one of his closest comrades in the eyes as he speaks. Not a one can hold his gaze before dropping their head as they hear: “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35)
* * * *
Earlier in the week before the disciples argued, Jesus taught the entire crowd, including these rowdy disciples, some of the principles of the kingdom:

“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?”  (Mark 8:34-37)

In Matthew 20:20-28 we see the mother of James and John asking they be given a special place in the coming kingdom. They didn’t know the cost – his coming suffering and death. They were seeking a costless glory and causing dissension among the other disciples.

Jesus replies that only his Father would grant that request and outlines the cost of greatness: “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Still wanna lead worship?

It’s not about leading. 
It’s about following.
It’s not about personal advancement,
it’s about personal sacrifice.
It’s not about the crowds,
spotlights, footlights or limelight.
It’s about suffering and service.
It’s not about getting the role you want,
it’s about worshipping with your entire self
the only One who is worthy.

Still wanna lead worship?

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
    be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
    Your face, Lord, I will seek. (Psalm 27:7-8)

There is a danger for those of us in the organized church to pursue "spiritual success", driven by the pride of life and a natural desire for the applause of people. I must lose myself in God for himself alone. Nothing else. No one else. Only then will his work be accomplished for his glory and not mine. I cannot judge my own humility. I must keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. When I am most humble, most sincerely worshiping, most unselfishly serving, I will not be aware of it, for my eyes will be focused on him. It is out of a love relationship that humility, worship and service spring. For God and God alone.

Soli Deo Gloria.

*image of "SDG" at the end of a G.F. Handel manuscript. Public domain. Source: Wikipedia. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


I don't watch much television, but when I do, I watch renovation shows on HGTV. I hate living through renos, but I adore watching mess to magnificent in less than thirty minutes (15 if I pvr the show and skip through the ads!). This morning I woke up to a wonderful video by Glennon Doyle Melton that uses some renovation terms like "sistering the joist". See if you don't appreciate this as much as I did - how important our sisters are in giving us strength:

The Best Part of Life by Glennon Doyle Melton from SALT Project on Vimeo.

Now, I also read an amazing post by John Lynch about depression and perseverance. If you struggled today to just get up and get going and need some strengthening in that area, take a read of this post right here.

Then I was off to Women2Women at my church where we're studying 40 Days in the Word. There's an app you can download if you just look on your app store for "FAC Experience". We're doing six different methods of bible study (one for each week of the 40 Day series), memorizing one scripture verse per week, engaging in daily readings and personal devotional time (you can download the workbook and join us), and discussing the study methods in weekly small groups. You can watch the weekend message on the app and view the teaching video for each weekly group study on the app as well. I get to double dip because we're doing it both in our women's group and in my evening mixed life group. Fascinating to see the different perspectives each person brings in helping one another see and understand fresh perspectives and deeper understanding of the scripture and of our precious Lord Jesus from what each one shares.

Finally, let's play for a moment.

Today as our group session finished, I was visiting with a friend when a couple other ladies walked past. A flutter caught the edge of my vision and I noticed something paper-ish floating down to the ground. It was cut out of card stock and it was the letter "O" (as in Oprah or orphanage or orange). I picked it up and chased the ladies who had walked by, thinking one of them dropped it from a craft they were doing or perhaps a bulletin board they were prepping. No one claimed it but we thought it could be a round halo slipped off someone's head or a missing letter from a children's classroom. How it got onto the floor in the lobby is a mystery.

So here's the game:

If you were given the letter "O", what would the letter "O" represent in your life today? Opportunity? Optimism? Organization? Offense? Occupation? Or is it "Ohhhhh!" as in a sense of wonder, surprise, expectancy? Something else entirely? A friend in college had "Oom" day, where their mother gave them presents for no reason at all.

Think about it. Comment if you like. Whatever you decide, have a happy "O" day.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Offended Much?

Anyone been offended lately?

"You need thicker skin," he said. "If you're going to put your stuff out there, you need to know people will blast you for it when they don't agree."

Thus, the writer's dilemma. While you want to tell the truth, the facts are certain and you choose your words as carefully and conscientiously as you can, someone, somewhere, will still be offended or misread or misconstrue what you have said. Or, God forbid, they take it personally and think you were writing just about them, criticizing them alone.

Carly Simon sang about it: "You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you." Roberta Flack was mortified by the singer who was, "Strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words, killing me softly with his song."

If you are going to speak to someone or write about an issue that needs attention, don’t cloak it in flowery language and subtleties. If you have an issue with me or anyone else, speak to that person directly in clear language. Let your “yes” mean a wholehearted agreement and your “no” be a genuine heart-felt certainty. I don't take hints, suggestions, unsolicited advice or group emails personally. I hope you don't either. 

But when we differ, and that will happen, or when we are wounded or enraged by what we hear or read, what helps to move us on in maturity rather than dissolving into juvenile insecurity or resentment?

Start by not taking it personal. Not taking offense. Each of us was given a brain, perspective and discernment. As you read, hear or think about what is expressed, rather than responding in anger or recoiling in hurt, receive it with an open heart. Ask yourself why it hurt. Is there possibly a lie I might be telling myself? Measure it, sift it, name the pain at its deepest source, then self examine. Did this blog post or that Facebook status update or your friend’s offhand comment might just have a grain of truth in it that could help me grow, mature or be a better person? If so, take it to heart. If not, discard it. Forget about it. Not everything applies to you.

However, if we keep reacting to the same thing from different arenas, we would be wise to consider it carefully. If something touches a particularly insecure part of your psyche, try to avoid withdrawal. Don’t skulk away and complain to your confidants how rude the writer/speaker/blogger or your friend was. Hostility is a popular form of denial. Your friends and family, who want to avoid drama, know you just can’t poke the bear. So, for the sake of peace, they may pat you on the shoulder, murmur reassurances to feed your bruised ego and let you continue believing that you have arrived and there's absolutely nothing in your life, beliefs or behavior that needs to grow or change.

I think we all know that isn’t the case for any of us (unless you’re a sociopath). When we stop growing, we die.

So, no, you don’t need thicker skin. And neither do I. We need to have people around us who tell us the truth, in love, and we need to learn how to receive it well. We also need to be people who can tell others the truth, in love, even when it hurts. And the truth includes those things that are good about us, too, not just our faults.

Because the truth only hurts those who are living a lie. 
Tell yourself the truth, hear the truth, and let it set you free.

Photo credit: #28790135, standard license