Natural

“It feels totally natural to be a Christian”. Said No One Ever. If I’m being honest, living in my human skin, being a “good” Christian does not come naturally to me.

What does come naturally to me is getting really mad when someone cuts me off in traffic or wanting to point out to someone who doesn’t seem to notice the “10 items or less” sign when they have 25 items in their basket and I have 3, plus a screaming toddler who is overtired and HANGRY. Clearly I fight my primitive brain regularly to keep my lips shut in such a situation, and it’s a battle I don’t always win.

🎶 That’s the price you pay
Leave behind your heartache, cast away

Just another product of today
Rather be the hunter than the prey
🎶

The human condition. That’s what comes natural to us because that’s who we are. It’s the part of you that just said “Duh!” In your head. 😆 There are simple truths we try to deny like this though. We stop viewing ourselves as moral creatures and view ourselves instead as animals, acting on our desires, we use this as a justification for our actions. “I can’t stop myself from doing it. It’s in my DNA. It’s who I am.”

Or maybe you feel like society has done it to you. I’ve been there. I definitely got to the point in my life where I became very cynical. Disillusioned. Being a person who DIDN’T guard my heart, I started to justify why it would just be easier to be like everyone else.

🎶You’re a Natural
A beating heart of stone
You gotta be so cold
To make it in this world
Yeah, you’re a natural
Living your life cutthroat
🎶

You know, it’s that “armoring up” concept, but sadly I wasn’t using the full armor of God, I was just building up a thick wall of protection for my own benefit. I began believing that being a machine would make my life easier. But it came at the expense of my authenticity.

God didn’t design me to have a heart of stone. He didn’t choose me so my life could be easy. So there I was, faced with a conundrum. Being fake really did feel like selling out. But being real was so exhausting.

Of course my natural human response to God’s call for me to return to the heart He gave me was, “I can’t do it God. It’s just too hard and painful”

I wasn’t quite prepared for his response. It was a simple, “You don’t have to do it alone”.

Not of this world. Ever heard that terminology? It’s the idea that as Christians we have to choose to act differently. But our culture screams, “What fun is that? You only live once!”

So if it’s not natural to act like Jesus Christ WHY do people want to be Christians? I mean if you find you’re a natural at shooting hoops you may join the basketball team, right?

But Christianity isn’t a club people join because they are good at it. You can’t “act” like Jesus. In fact, from my perspective, I decided to follow Christ after using everything else I thought I was good at that would work on my own effort and I came up empty. Emotionally, physically, financially EMPTY.

The reality of salvation is transformational, but it doesn’t happen over night. Being a Christian literally means to be a person who is Christ-like, but the process referred to as “dying to self” is what gets you there.

I almost used another song title for this article. I was driving down the road the other day and saw a car with a bunch of different bumper stickers on it, one of which said “Only the Good Die Young”. Classic Billy Joel. It hit me that it’s possible that not only does acting like a Christian seem unnatural, it also doesn’t sound like much fun to many people out there.

I mean I could spend my life putting others needs before mine, Or I could just live my life the way I want to live it, satisfying my every thought and desire.

Flashback to my life before Christ. That’s exactly what I was doing. I had the list many of us have that says “When I have THIS, THIS and THIS”, then I’ll be happy, life will be good. I will have ARRIVED.

It’s so funny for me now to look back at that version of myself and chuckle a little at how misguided I was. I’d been drinking the proverbial koolaid that our culture will sell you about what happiness looks like. The right relationship, status, money, that car and house you always wanted. A couple kids. Fantastic vacations.

I chuckle because the place that I said would represent the notion that I “had arrived” still didn’t fill that void. And I was ANGRY about it. Honestly I got to a very desperate point. I thought I deserved all that stuff but in reality, I was making it my God. And at the end of the day I had all that cool stuff, accomplishments, and still a HUGE GAPING HOLE.

That’s not surprising to me now but at the time I was like “what am I doing wrong?!” The problem is I was asking the wrong question. Being the girl that wanted to do everything on her own strength I was not only EMPTY but also EXHAUSTED. God let me know in ways only He can that it’s not going to work like that. Sadly, God had to show me that other people are going to fail me, often when I think I need them most but HE never will.

Now, I’m looking forward to a day where it’s a little more natural for me. It’s definitely getting easier.

I think about how even God’s chosen people had to have that desert experience for 40 years before they were ready to enter the promised land.

Honestly, I experienced the same kind of “wandering through the desert” trying to figure things out, and I had days when the path didn’t seem clear. It might have been right in front of me, but it wasn’t illuminated. Something like this photo. I just had to learn to trust God one step at a time.

There’s also the part of me that realizes it’s not an act. You can’t act like a “good” Christian. Putting on a show for others is addressed in this verse. BTW if scripture is hard to understand check out the MSG translation it makes sense to just about anyone:

So maybe you can’t fake it, but there’s a saying I heard that I really like: FAITH it til you make it!

Having served in the United States Air Force, it’s also about a code I live by, not by judging others but by feeling good at the end of the day because I’m not perfect, but I’m striving every day to live for something that’s bigger than me. To leave a legacy of Faith for my children and generations to come.

Reminds me of these lyrics at the beginning of the song:

🎶Will you hold the line?
When every one of them is giving up or giving in, tell me
In this house of mine?
Nothing ever comes without a consequence or cost, tell me
Will the stars align?
Will heaven step in? Will it save us from our sin? Will it?
‘Cause this house of mine stands strong
🎶

If you are curious about my blog and what that stands for, you can read about that here.

What Is Your Blog About?

Song inspiration:

Imagine Dragons – Natural

Since it’s been a little over a year since I first launched my blog tRUTHfulonline.com (Copyright 2017) I thought it might be fun to highlight some of my “top hits”. You may have noticed many of the titles of my blog posts are titles to songs. I don’t know if you can relate, but I often have what I like to call “the soundtrack of my life” on loop in my head. Plus I LOVE music! If I’m sad I listen to music, if I’m pumped I listen to music. I sing to my daughter daily at bedtime and during daily routines. I definitely sing in the car. I mean who can resist a jam session with three adorable back up singers? Of course now that my soon to be 12 year old likes to play DJ, I don’t always know the words!

*tRUTHful Greatest Hits*

The Show Must Go On – Queen

Reckless Love – Cory Asbury

Broken – Seether

Look What You Made Me Do – Taylor Swift

Live Like You Were Dying – Tim McGraw

Mama’s Broken Heart – Miranda Lambert

I Will Remember You – Sarah McLachlan

Nothing Else Matters – Metallica You Give Love A Bad Name – Bon Jovi

I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash

Give Me Something to Believe In – Poison

(this one is a bit of a teaser because I called in Give Me Something to Believe in, but also referenced Forgiven by Alannis Morissette and Not Guilty by Mandisa)

Poker Face – Lady Gaga

Young and Beautiful – Lana Del Ray

My “album” even has some original tracks:

Old New Blue Jeans – Inspired by a couple of old country songs about Blue Jeans

Taste and See – Inspired by Hillsong/Oceans

Weed Em Out – Inspired by my garden

Burnt Buttermilk Biscuit – inspired by Sir Mix Alot

The Inspiration – inspired by Chicago

I hope you will enjoy checking out my labor of love over the past year. I leave you with my favorite bible verse containing the word Greatest.

So these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭

The Show Must Go On

‘Inside my heart is breaking

My make-up may be flaking

But my smile still stays on’

The song by Queen seems to embody a popular idea in our culture; regardless of how you may feel behind the scenes, even if you are barely holding it together, plaster on that smile and tell people you’re “Good” when they ask. And why is that?

Two celebrities took their own lives this summer, and it’s been said most people didn’t know they were struggling. But hang on, before you assume you know what this article is about, I challenge you to read on.

Could it be that depression is often met with comments like “Quit playing the victim. Other people have it worse than you do….” or “what do you have to be so sad about?” There’s a lot of pressure in our society to “be brave” in difficult situations. I’ve noticed this especially with parents and children. But when we say “be brave” we’re also saying “don’t be scared” or “I can’t handle your sadness. Don’t show that to me”!

How much pressure are we putting on the people we love to be brave and to get over stuff and get “on with the show”?

Other diseases – like cancer for example- we hear people say stuff like “She kicked cancer’s butt, she’s a survivor”. We have a tendency to champion people who overcome things. (Side note: Definitely know that I am not discounting anyone who has overcome cancer.) But then there is Depression, and with suicide, that doesn’t have the same kind of ending.

When I think about it, why is something as simple as sadness so uncomfortable for people? Quite often when you see someone crying, you’ll see another try to do something to make it stop, like offer them a tissue or, less sympathetically, just ask them what their problem is or tell them to stop crying. Why is it so shameful in our society to be sad?

I would argue that some of the bravest people are those who battle a disease (because yes, Depression IS a disease) and attempt to overcome it.

Validating emotion, whether it makes us feel uncomfortable or not, is what we are called to do. Most of the time when people think of those we need to help as Christians, the needy and marginalized come to mind. Well, doesn’t our society marginalized people with depression?

The stigma that is mental health… “Oh they’re crazy”. “They are mental”. “What a hot mess”. “She’s out of control”. “Cray Cray”! Even some headlines we always see floating around after someone dies by suicide, ones like “Killing Yourself is Selfish” and if that’s not judgemental enough for you, how about, “Suicide doesn’t stop your pain, it just transfers it to another person”. If you have ever read those headlines and thought, “Yeah that’s right”! I’d love it if you’d reply in the comments section and give me some insight. Far from selfish, this is a suffering human being. Suicide is not a sin someone commits, it’s an act of desperation by someone who is hurting and sees no hope.

By now you’ve probably noticed a theme regarding authenticity going on here with my blog. If you know me personally, it’s probably something you’re aware I’m working on. I think of the number of exhausting years I put on my “show”. Having suffered with persistent depression on and off for decades, I reached a point in my life where I looked in the mirror and Just.Felt.Tired. Tired of Living.

Self awareness and getting the help I needed has resulted In me realizing this is the way I’m wired, probably the way my brain was formed in chaos, and the way my mind learned to cope with things. Depression isn’t a disease that a person can wish away. There are people that have a lifelong battle with it. Be kind. If you can’t understand depression, take some time to educate yourself about it. What you may view as someone “playing the victim” just might be the only way they know how to cry for help.

It’s very likely there’s someone you know who always says they are “Good” when you ask who really isn’t. It’s possible that person has grown tired of putting on a show, and it’s possible that YOU could be the one person who can help them to feel like they aren’t alone.

A verse that has personally helped me when I felt overwhelmed was this:

I like the picture with this verse because it represents to me the feeling of hope I’ve often needed, similar to the old “Footprints in the sand” poem. If you’ve never heard it, check it out here:

Footprints In The Sand by Mary Stevenson

When I think back to some of my saddest moments, I realized when I didn’t know God, I felt utterly alone, and wondered, just like the Queen song goes,

On and on, does anyone know what we are living for?

It took a lot of insight, but looking back now I can see where God carried me through some difficult times when I didn’t feel like I had the strength to go on.

A word of caution though. Depression is a serious thing. A person shouldn’t be made to feel like they are weak and that they just need to become a more devoted believer to relieve their depression. If you suspect someone is contemplating suicide, ASK. And even if they aren’t, but are struggling, walk alongside them and help them get the care they need.

If you are reading this and feel hopeless and need help, I pray you will call this number for the National Suicide Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255

or tell someone that can help you. Also you can check out this link for additional resources:

Lifeline

This is the actual web address.

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Inspiration for this blog:

Queen – The Show Must Go On

Look what you made me do

It’s not uncommon in our world to hear about revenge or getting even. Many cultures have different mantras such as “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. “Don’t get mad, get even”.  Or even acknowledging “What goes around comes around” or “They’ll get theirs” referring to the popular concept of “Karma”.  Someone’s gonna pay for doing me wrong…and human nature’s damaged psyche fuels it all.

Someone has hurt us deeply. Maybe they lied to us, took advantage of us, and we feel justified that we were wronged and now they’re gonna pay. Or maybe they exposed us, and we want revenge just to have the last word and save face.

Sitting around plotting how we’re going to feel better when this person gets what they deserve seems innocent enough, right? We might even tell ourself “I’d never really do it” or there’s no harm in thinking about it.

Ah but what a slippery slope. I bet some people who ended up on the five o’clock  news by trying to get even probably wish they hadn’t, and many of them may get to spend a really long time thinking about their regret from their prison jail cell.

According to a 2008 study, people who are more vengeful tend to be those who are motivated by power, by authority and by the desire for status. They don’t want to lose face.

Well no wonder this is a “thing” in our culture!

Unfortunately although people are generally seeking catharsis via revenge, the end result is that they prolong the pain for themselves. Paradoxically, most people think they will feel better after seeking revenge, when in fact afterwards the reality is we think about it. A lot.
The real tragedy: rather than provide closure it perpetuates the wound and leaves us with regret.

Martin Luther King Jr., stated, “The old law of ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind”. I just LOVE that!

The recent release of Taylor Swift’s “Look what you made me do” really got me thinking about revenge. In the song, Swift seems to suggest whatever she did was spurred by the behavior of another. When I think about authenticity and accountability, it’s hard for me to condone this kind of attitude towards revenge.

As a survivor of Interpersonal violence (IPV), I have actually heard those exact words uttered to justify actions that would make your blood run cold. “Look what YOU made ME do”! It’s the projection of blame onto the victim. “I wouldn’t have had to do this if you would just have behaved like you were supposed to”. The irony of it all, I never chose revenge for this injustice. I was just happy I got out with my life.

Or what about this? Recently I was talking to my son about a so-called friend that did him wrong. He was really wrestling with the injustice done to him and I’m so glad he trusts me enough to tell me he was thinking about coming up with a way to humiliate this boy to get back at him. As we processed his feelings, we talked about the old adage “two wrongs don’t make a right” and what he would be accountable for should he let his anger spur revenge. It was then that I reminded him of a verse I always keep in my back pocket for times like these in Proverbs 20:22:

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To my surprise, he looked at me and said, “Wow! Mom that’s so much better than revenge!” I had to smile and wish I’d had the same conversation at age 11.

Then there’s this. If I’m out there representing as a Christian, and someone sees me plotting revenge or wishing it on someone, I’m sending the wrong message.  If I want to be real here, if I’m plotting revenge, I’m living in the Flesh and not the Spirit. As hard as it is to embrace when someone has hurt you, it’s possible that person has never had anyone model appropriate behavior that involves self-control. In another quote I love from Martin Luther King Jr., “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

That doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for choices people make. But consequences are defined by boundaries. If someone crosses your boundaries don’t retaliate, clarify, if they can’t respect you, enforce those boundaries! If someone wants to get revenge on you for enforcing your boundaries, that’s probably someone who needs some time alone to think, and toxic people can be distanced for our protection. Thankfully we have a justice system as well, because perpetrators of violence deserve real consequences.

On the flip side, no one can make you “do” anything that you don’t want to do. God did give us free will, but the intention wasn’t to go out and be a vengeful person.

Prior to committing my life to Christ I wasn’t very accountable for my actions. I regret the hurt I caused others when I wasn’t walking in the Light.  I liken the transformation to me being like a kid lying about snitching a cookie from the kitchen to an adult with discipline and self control. An individual with the fruit of the spirit works to exhibit those rather than seek revenge.

C631258C-51E9-4D68-9750-873E4B51575F.jpeg

Song credit: Look what you made me do – Taylor Swift

You Give Love A Bad Name

Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame, You give love a bad name (bad name)…
When I listen to that song I can just feel his anger, and that brings to mind a parallel idea. It’s become very obvious to me that as soon as many people hear the word “Christian” their reaction is one of disgust, anger, maybe even fear or hurt. Damaged by the church and now completely resistant to ANY Christians because of what some people did in the name of Jesus. Begin to mention your spirituality and they respond,”Nope, I know the likes of you and I’m not interested”.
So sad that this has all happened in what was supposed to be the name of Love!
     The Free dictionary defines Christian as an adjective: Manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus, especially in showing concern for others.
There’s also a definition that describes a Christian as: One who lives according to the teachings of Jesus. 
Jesus had a lot of teachings but I think the most basic is this:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
‭‭John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭NIV‬‬ http://bible.com/111/jhn.13.34-35.niv
IMG_7794
photo credit Alexandria Bouillon http://alexandriabouillon.zenfolio.com/
But what if they can’t tell because they aren’t getting “LOVE” from you?  Can you blame them for not wanting to hear what you have to say?
     I overheard a conversation where two people were talking about how the world is so much worse now and how we are clearly in a bad time to be living. I was sitting there thinking that I am excited about the moves many people are making to love everyone regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation or political philosophy.
Isn’t that what Jesus said to do?!?
If we really want to represent Christianity to others, we aren’t going to be successful by coming up with a long list of rules and judgementally wagging our fingers when we see people doing things that are different.
     It’s cliché now and people may laugh when they hear it, but I still like the adage “WWJD:What Would Jesus Do?”
 I mean, Jesus mixed with all sorts of people, shunned no one, welcomed everyone, labored tirelessly, and made the ultimate sacrifice. What a cool dude!
So, what’s wrong with displaying kindness, tolerance, and grace to others?
If anyone judges you for loving others that is their issue, NOT yours.
I mean, it’s not a club.  WE don’t get to decide who is worthy of salvation based on what WE think is right or wrong.  And representing Christianity that way makes it sound exclusive when its meant to be ALL INCLUSIVE!
     The great thing I think about being a follower of Christ for me is that gives me the freedom to love others without judging them. Why? Because it simply isn’t my job. Nope. And I recall a great quote by one of the greatest women to ever walk out Christianity, Mother Theresa, when she said,”If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
I find this to be a very freeing concept.
What a great legacy to live and teach my children. I can think of no better compliment than if on my gravestone the words “Known for love” Were inscribed.
     If you want to look at it from a psychological standpoint, lets explore the idea of unconditional positive regard. What it means is that you respect the person as a human being and give them the same kind of dignity you would like to receive. Basically assuming that everyone you meet is likely fighting some sort of battle and give them the benefit of the doubt that they are doing the best they can with what they have. What most people want from us is just to be heard and understood.  They are probably dealing with their own internal thoughts and what they probably need more than anything is a smile. Not a solution such as “You need Jesus”  (interpreted as judgement) or a solution to their problem.
 As Christians, we are told “Love your neighbor”. And who is your neighbor?
EVERYONE is your neighbor.
     Being a Christian holds me to a higher standard than just liking people who are like me; that’s easy and anyone can do that. Personally, I find it enlightening when I take the time to look at something from a perspective different from my own, and gaining new understanding helps me to apply the concept of appreciating everyone, even if they do not think like I do. Finally I know my “job” as a Christian is to love others, and I leave the rest up to God.  I challenge you to do the same.
And because I know the song that inspired my title will put you in a good mood, check it out here: Bon Jovi – You Give Love A Bad Name
Photo Credit: Love One Another by Alexandria Bouillion http://alexandriabouillon.zenfolio.com/

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