Posts Tagged ‘authenticity’

Basic-Human-NeedsI’m not really commune material. Is that a confession? I mean, how many people do you know who are? It sounds so wonderfully romantic, these newly minted believers who met together and shared together and insured the stability of everyone: no one was in need.

The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. There were no needy persons among them. [Acts 4:32-34a, CEB]

But what does it mean to be in need today? We have corrupted this word, I’m afraid. I look at my own life and it’s a bit of a joke. For instance, I have two grown children and a “plus one” living in my house right now and along with myself, there are four cars between us. That’s right, every person has his/her own car. And yet, if one of those cars isn’t working, the first words out of our mouths is: OMG, we NEED a car. Each person has his/her own cell phone (of course) and there are 3.5 bathrooms, so we are almost 1:1 on that score as well. We have 3 dogs and each dog has his/her own dog bowl. mazlowThe list goes on and on. These are not the “needs” that the first testament church was meeting.

More likely, this verse refers to food, shelter, and clothing. Each person who joined their “church” was guarantpeople helping peopleeed a sustainable life.

As far as living corporately, I don’t believe we will ever reach that point in the contemporary church.

However, I still believe if every church on every corner of every city, town, or community, would engage and provide folks in their immediate environment with necessities of life, then hunger could be eradicated, adequate clothing could be provided, and everyone would have a roof over their heads. But, the cycle of poverty and welfare in this country has become a nightmare of “need” wrapped in entitlement. I don’t know the solution. How can we turn the culture back from this slippery slope where people enter into deep debt to have a car or a house or private school they cannot afford. It is not just a cycle of poverty, it is a cycle of perceptions and expectations.

How can we become more authentic in our relationships with people in our midst? How can we be satisfied with less? How can I?

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Original photo by Eddie Adams

Original photo by Eddie Adams

I love dictionaries. They are wonderful tools for discovery and now that they are online, I have a place to hang out any time of day or night. Where else could I discover that “compassion” was, at one time (1580-90), a verb: “compassionate.” I’m still trying to figure out how to use this archaic word in a sentence. And although the word as a verb never caught on, the meaning lingers.

Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. [Luke 6:36, CEB]

The definition says, “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” This has been a deep error on my part for I have always thought of compassion as a feeling, a kind of empathy, sorrow and commiseration. But I have not allowed myself to take on the second part, the doing, the actual work that should be coming out of the feeling.

Rev. Everett Swanson, who started Compassion, Intl. back in the 1950’s, understood both sides of this word from the very beginning and his organization has grown into a multi-million dollar operation offering people all over the world the opportunity to play out a type of doing by financially supporting a child in a developing country. But, are we giving out of a strong desire to alleviate suffering or a kind of guilt and peer pressure?

And so it sometimes goes with giving to the church or tithing or donating to another “good cause.” Our motives are sketchy. I know mine have been to say the least. But I also know that the need is greater than any of us manage alone, for the Lord himself said, “The poor will always be with you . . . ” [Mark 14:7, NIV]. And for this reason, we must choose where we give our monies, our time, and our energy and work together.

I think it’s time to look into my heart for true compassion, for those whom am I honestly feel sorrow and possibly, even distress on their behalf. Have I been playing at this important ingredient of my faith? In some ways, I have followed along with the compassion others feel, slipping along the edges, but I am not convinced that I am “all in.”

For instance, the DNA of our church is much driven by our pastor’s authentic compassion for people who are “far away from God” (for whatever reason, be it bad choices, addictions, or malaise). And the church is becoming the hands and feet on his mission for humanity, loving them, helping them, engaging them for good: we are compassionating them.

It is so much easier to generate a feeling of compassion for people and animals we see in desperate circumstances, in news reports or commercials (how many of us change the channel when the ASPCA ads come on?). It’s simply too painful to watch.

painBut really, aren’t their people whose hearts are equally damaged but hidden within the norms of society? They are in pain too. In some cases, it takes not only a compassionate heart but a discerning one to recognize the lost or wandering soul.

Lord, guide me and sensitize me to the needs of others, not just their daily bread, but their need for the Bread of Life.

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lead by exampleIs this cultural or simply part of human DNA? We seem to continually repeat our mistakes over and over again. And unfortunately, I see this both on a national and international level as well as in my own micro-world.

When that whole generation had passed away, another generation came after them who didn’t know the Lord or the things that he had done for Israel. . . . [And] then when the leader died, they would once again act in ways that weren’t as good as their ancestors’, going after other gods, to serve them and to worship them. They wouldn’t drop their bad practices or hardheaded ways. [Judges 2:10, 19, CEB]

The learnings from one generation to another are not happening. Parents are not telling or did not tell their children about the work of God in their lives in an authentic way; instead, they pass this job to Sunday Schools and Vacation Bible Weeks. In my mind, not only do we fail to tell the Bible stories, we a) water them down to make them PG and b) we don’t personalize them. Every story has a message for humanity. Every story has a message for me and my family. The Bible is not Disney World.

Miracles require effort and devotion, faith and trust. They require accessibility and openness.

I know some people have disagreed with me about telling our children about my past, particularly the darker side, but I have always felt  it was important for them to know that I am a different person today because of my faith, and that essentially, my lifestyle before Christ would have led very quickly to illness and death.

But I also think about our church and how we depend so heavily on our charismatic pastor and we are not raising up leaders to serve with him so that we don’t follow the footsteps of the Israelites who only succeeded while a particular leader was in place. It is everyone’s responsibility to tell the story, to walk the walk, to lead and train and grow. As the pastor tells his story, we must also tell our own.

authenticityOne of the ways to do this is mentoring (or discipleship). I have generally avoided this practice because it sounds so daunting, to take on a tenderfoot on the journey, to help someone else grow, to embrace him/her as family. I’m already struggling with my own adult children after all, how can I take on another, and what if I fail? But here’s the truth: all I have to do is “bring them along” when I go and do. I can’t pretend to be more than I am (nor should I assume I am less). New believers learn by being around old believers. New leaders step up when they watch old leaders in every day life, every day challenges, every day decisions, every day blunders.

Jesus didn’t turn on the leadership persona or the faith role just when the disciples were around. He lived and breathed what he knew. He healed because he could. He told stories because they meant something to him. He expressed mercy and grace because that was part of his genetic code.

We do not have to be infallible to demonstrate love and grace. In fact, authenticity goes farther. Mistakes confessed give hope to those who believe they are not worthy or that they are “too late” to change or that they can’t change. Our frailty revealed is courage demonstrated.

Generations ahead are depending on us now.



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At work, we have a lost and found box. It is usually brimming with “stuff” that people have left behind, some small but some of value. But most items languish, either the person doesn’t realize the thing is missing or more likely, where it went missing. They don’t even ask.

Luke 19:10
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

There’s a lost and found grid:

  1. We know something is lost and we know what it will look like to find it.
  2. We know something is lost but we don’t know what it will look like to find it.
  3. We don’t know something is lost but we will know it when we find it. . . maybe.
  4. We don’t know something is lost and we don’t know what it would look like anyway.

Where do you land on this grid? Where do I?

I have always been afraid of the last one: what if I am so clueless that I don’t realize I’m missing out on something important, something life-changing, something critical. That would be bad. This situation is the most difficult to reverse since no amount of talking or reasoning will bring revelation. Blown by the wind, anything might seem right in the moment. Some examples might be the mundane like church hopping or more serious, marriage hopping and affairs.

The third one is a state of mind and heart I know well. It manifests initially as a feeling, a gut feeling perhaps and a sense of discomfort in the present. I have no idea what is missing, if anything, I might just be imagining it, and yet, I sense that I will know when authentic thing, experience, person, situation breaks through. This situation is, unfortunately, unstable and bad choices are easily made here. (Reminds me of the old game show, Let’s Make a Deal, when the contestants often had the choice of keeping what they had in hand to something unknown behind “door number one, two, or three.)

The second scenario makes for a lot of experimentation. That is not always bad, but at the same time, when I’m in this mode, I tend to flit a bit, not giving myself or others a chance to really mature. I’ve always enjoyed personality assessment tests like the Meyers=-Briggs etc. But my favorite one is the Enneagram because the potential for change is inherent in the test unlike the others. Each type is given a number and the first time I discovered I was “7,” I was a little embarrassed. Although fun-loving and entertaining, sevens are also known for being a little shallow. Eek! Shallow? Perish the thought. And yet, I can see it in my past. To fight this tendency is to set aside times of deeper study and thought, literally forcing oneself to slow down and take time. This is how to pursue that elusive lost item. This is why I write.

And lastly, number one on the grid is the most aware person, the one who knows about loss and confidence that, once found, the hole will be filled in the heart, the ache will be soothed, the pain will be healed. What’s interesting to me is that even the enlightened experience loss. We all do. The difference is in the seeking.

So, where does Jesus fit into this equation? In real time, Jesus was the kind of person who could break through all four types. He brought an answer to the ones who sought and would recognize him immediately; he brought revelation to those were seeking but didn’t recognize the truth at first; he showed the ones who who didn’t realize they were lost a reality that could not be mistaken; and finally, he even broke through the ones who were blind and gave them sight.

Each miracle was a type for healing the heart. This will be my next study.

For today, I just thank you Lord for your revelation knowledge.

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I’m not paying enough attention. I know there are upright people around me; there are folks who are choosing each day to turn away from the selfish choice and seek peace. Have I become so jaded that I only see the mistakes, the falling short of a person?

Psalm 37:37
Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.

I place the bar very high for myself and as a result, I tend to give too much credence to the dark voice within who points out my failings, my trips, my secret heart. As a result, I appear to do the same to others. Sorry ya’ll.

It’s time to look with different and gentler eyes. It’s time to mark and consider the good moment, the brave choice, the intentional moments of others. It’s time to look for them and to celebrate them.

At work, I can praise my staff for a job well done, but I don’t offer much encouragement to regular people around me, from my kids who struggle each day to navigate their world to my husband who has become too familiar, a presence who has lost his uniqueness, but has become a habit instead. Like being on auto-pilot, I am not looking for the evidence of good choices, conscious choices, dauntlessness.

Who do I admire? Not for their successes in the world, but for their courage to walk the narrow way of faith, to hold fast to the paradoxes of Christ, to live humbly, to seek peace by turning away from self camouflage, to practice transparency and authenticity. I want to celebrate them.

Keep me mindful today that I might see.

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If I am afraid of being abandoned (or forsaken), I will begin looking for signs of it. Although I want that person to remain close, I will put him under the microscope and scrutinize every action and word. My fear morphs into expectation and soon, it’s just a matter of time before he is gone.

Psalm 9:10
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Throughout scripture, God speaks promise and comfort particularly in the area of abandonment. God promises to remain with us, to stand behind us, to live within us [Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5b; I Chronicles 28:20; Psalm 94:14; Hebrews 13:5]. Over and over again, one promise after another about forgoing abandonment. It’s not God’s way. So, why must these affirmations be repeated so much? Because we don’t believe it.

There are any number of reasons we expect God to abandon us. In my case, it began with my father’s death when I was nine years old. As a child I could not really understand the circumstances. I only knew or felt that he had left me. And then there was the string of boyfriends who came and went. They, too, added to the pattern, not to mention a dearth of friends when I was young.

As a believer, things got a little better and early on, I gravitated to those verses that promised the steadfastness of God. But even those declarations were chipped away over the years by deep disappointments and failures. Later, depression itself threatened my peace of mind and trust in God. A cloud of loneliness, even in the midst of family and activity, became another secret menace to my heart. And then the inner voices became the same kind of microscope I had used in relationships. “If God really loved you, would He allow you to be in this marriage? If God really loved you, wouldn’t you be able to have children? If God really loved you, wouldn’t you be more successful as an actress, director, playwright, realtor, salesman, manager?” On and on and on.

It can be a slow slog back to faith: a daily choice to believe despite circumstances; a commitment to read and contemplate the promises; a time of quiet and meditation; a courage to confront what appears with what can be.

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How long? Maybe forever without intervention. Am I living within a mirage? Am I seeing what I want to see instead of what is there? Am I in the simulated reality of some matrix that I cannot readily perceive? Have I allowed myself to believe in a lie? A delusion? How would I know?

Psalm 4:2
How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
How long will you love delusions and seek false gods [lies]? Selah.

I am not the only one. Living in denial is fairly common. And why? Because stepping out of that state denial may mean facing some difficult truths. I’m pretty sure this cannot be done alone. Why would someone in denial stop living that way by choice? No, something would have to happen, some kind of wake up call.

Some common forms of denial manifest in people who are entrenched in addictive lifestyles: everything from drinking to drugs, pornography to hoarding. These habits become the norm.

My daughter was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at 18 after we adopted her at almost 16. She was living in a constant state of fluctuating pain. She didn’t know that other people did not hurt when they got out of bed every morning or have aching hands, feet, knees, and back every day. She thought everyone lived with pain but she was merely less tolerant than most. How does one learn how to live without pain when that is all a person has known? Would she even recognize the absence of pain?

Some people live in a fog when it comes to relationships. As a result, they explain away physical, mental, and emotional abuse. The abuser is always sorry, after all; the abuser promises to never do that again; the abuser is a delusion.

Lord, forgive me if I have continued to love the delusion. Open my eyes. Reveal deception, my own and others. Shorten the time of my mistakes; restore to me the years that the locusts have eaten [Joel 2:25a]. Give me understanding and wisdom and courage to confront my demons, my deceptions, my false gods and idols. Selah.

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