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

Reckless Love

The first time I heard the song Reckless Love by Cory Asbury, I remember thinking I never formed the opinion that God’s Love is reckless. I mean doesn’t reckless usually get lumped into that category of irresponsibility and carelessness? God, reckless? No way! In my mind God couldn’t be reckless because He is the One sure thing. Never changing through the ages, a Rock I can always trust.

I thought about these lyrics:

“Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine.”

He’s referring to a shepherd leaving the flock to find a wayward sheep. That concept seems strange to most people, doesn’t it?

Ok, this is starting to make sense, I thought! I wasn’t just out there on the fringe, a lost sheep, I was full on running as hard as I could past the border of darkness and light!

When I thought about it that way, it makes sense to me that God’s Love would have to be reckless.

I picture myself sometimes with my kids telling them “Don’t cross that line” sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally. But they probably know in the event they did cross that line I’m gonna be running towards them to grab them and make sure they are safe!

With this past week being Mother’s Day this concept really hit home. When I think about my kids, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them. Well, except wear an orange jumpsuit! But in all seriousness, you never really know what you will do til you’re faced with a situation. The feeling starts as passionate but hey, it can get a little reckless can’t it? So true is my dedication to my children that its possible I could do something audacious if the need arose, and audacious IS a synonym of reckless that means:
showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks; bold, daring, fearless, brave, courageous, valiant, heroic.

THAT sounds like what I think of when I think of God.

And then I think “Wow, God thinks I’m worth the risk!”

You just gotta get goosebumps when you think about that level of commitment!

Song Credit:

Reckless Love: Cory Asbury

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.

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

Live like you were dying

I remember once being asked the question,”Would you like to know when and how you will die?” It’s one of those questions that I think most people would say “No!” to, but I didn’t answer immediately. You have to ponder whether knowing that you have x number of years to live would change anything about the way you are living now, but then there’s the flip side of knowing too much about your future, potentially resigning oneself to the outcome, or denying the notion that this sort of thing is predestined thereby removing a sense of control or choice in one’s life.

This past Sunday, a pastor challenged our congregation to consider this; what if you were told today you had 7 days til you died or Jesus returned? What would you change or stop doing? He said every person he asked all acknowledged they would sift through the junk and cut out the things that were distracting them from what was important. It definitely makes you think about the frivolous things we waste our time on.  I’m pretty sure my smartphone won’t be there as I near the end saying, “I’m happy for all the time we spent together”! 

In his song Live Like You Were Dying, Tim McGraw tells the story of a 40 something man who went to the doctor and was told his days were numbered. He poignantly asked the man the very question the pastor posed to us about how he’d live differently. The man mentions several bucket list items and then sings “And I loved deeper, And I spoke sweeter, And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying…And he said “Someday I hope you get the chance To live like you were dying.”

Isn’t it unfortunate that this man needed to be given a diagnosis to decide to do this? I’ve got to ask you, if you think you’ve got an unlimited number of days to finally get around to doing what is important, would a week be long enough to make things right in your life?

Mortality is one of life’s “givens”. Existentially, most people struggle with the idea that one day we’re all going to die.  It’s the reason some people live in fear and attempt to fabricate a very “safe” life they hope will result in living to a ripe old age, but upon arriving having to consider how much they actually lived.

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As a maturing Christian, I’m just started to embrace the idea that rather than fearing death, I need to ensure that I’m ready to go should my time come, even if it’s today or tomorrow.

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I saw this feather floating through the air and when it landed at my feet, I had a “Forrest Gump moment”.  If you’ve seen the movie, it begins and ends with a feather floating through the air, and for me it kind of reminded me of the circle of life.  Since I have a toddler at home, but also a teenager and a tween, there are a lot of “aha moments” as of late. I think for a while when my two older kids were younger it seemed like they’d be that way forever.  Fast forward to them talking about puberty and where they are growing body hair, the fact they are taller than me,and that I’m shopping for their clothes in the Men’s section of the store. I look at their baby sister and I can’t even imagine her being a teenager but I know it will come all too soon.

 Besides that, there have been several events this year that have really resonated with me; the mass shootings in Vegas and recently at a church in Texas, a family from my church who were headed out of town for vacation when they were in a terrible car crash resulting in all 4 of them being seriously injured, and a friend of mine’s Uncle passing away with no will and the ramifications that left for the family he left behind.

Not everyone gets a chance to sit on their deathbed and reminisce or regret the life they’ve led. Not everyone gets to tell their loved ones goodbye before they pass away, either. This year I’m wildly aware when I leave my family, they need to know that if for some reason I don’t make it back to them alive that they feel loved and they can go on knowing one day they will see me again.  I’m also not waiting to have those important conversations with them and having them now. My 11 year old and I decided to start doing devotionals together at bedtime. It’s a great way to connect and something we both look forward to. I definitely plan on adding more meaningful activities in, and clearing out the junk, so my family can see the things that really matter! 

Every year I have a “word” the Lord impresses on me and this year it’s been “legacy”. Read more about legacy and the meaning of my blog tRUTHful, here: tRUTHful Inspiration

Title song inspiration Tim McGraw – Live Like You Were Dying

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
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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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