“I think we’re both too worried about what each other wants.”
As I said it, with a tight-lipped smile to cover the closeness of what I’d uttered, it wasn’t clear until much later why words I’ve only ever said to the love of my life passed my lips with this man. A man who is wise, clear, polite, painstakingly respectful, frugal… Prefers fruit to fast food. A man who walked a busy city street intersection barefoot in tattered clothes, carrying a cardboard sign that simply read: Hungry. A man who struggled with the absurdity of expectation and identity in a broken human exchange that is all at once, the most important and least revered, most avoided and least shared.
This exchange, all too common, has helplessly released any effort to right itself like a floating toy in a raging river.
This man, like so many others, balances: Convincing a world that believes itself worthy of judging him, with the reality of who God created him to be. This man struggles to survive on the charity of those who believe themselves worthy of judging whether he deserves a handout, based on how needy and broken he appears to be: Dirty, sick, foolish, depressed even when it wars with the reality of who God made him to be: Powerful, authoritative, regal, healthy, kind, discerning, wise.
This man whose incredible spirit mirrored my best friend’s in a way that forcefully righted our exchange and corrected balance…
This man was homeless.
His identity crisis, imposed by those who deem themselves worthy of judging, should be familiar.
You’ve felt it.
Every time you feel a war between what someone expects and who you are, you feel the sting of identity crisis imposed by judgment.
When you realize you far out-earn your peers. When graduates of a different university brag about their alma mater. When someone says you remind them of someone they came to despise. When you realize you’re the object of a random person’s lust. When someone says you don’t look like they expected. When you realize your in-laws aren’t as quick to embrace you as hoped. When you meet a spiritual leader who seems to examine your soul when you shake hands. When your jokes fall flat in an already awkward moment. When you hear disdain under someone’s tone for no reason you can define. When a loved one responds without love.
Every moment who you are wars against someone’s judgment of you, something inside of you breaks.
The beautiful thing is, it can be a breaking open. The crack that marks it can be seen as the point of conflict or affirmation.
When something doesn’t line up with what you know to be true about yourself (which is simple, good, clear, true, and purposeful) our natural inclination can often be to assume there is truth somewhere in that thing, then try to reconcile it.
What battle is more futile than the struggle to figure out how a lie is true? What is more violent than attempting to wear the lie like a mantle of torture?
Sometimes it’s easy to see the manifestation of that battle, but sometimes it isn’t.
Sometimes an inward battle of lie vs. truth, or identity crisis manifests as destiny deferred, as joy limited, as impact contained, growth stunted.
Let judgment fuel growth and improvement. Define the opposite of what was said. Hold on to that.
Hold yourself above measure, value, beyond any limiting definition of what you deserve. Always. Place others above measure, value, beyond any limiting definition of what you feel they deserve. Always. Hold the truth of God above all else. Always.
We lose life itself when we begin to move through it holding on to limiting beliefs about our own or other’s value, worth, identity.
Every one of us is limitless.
Every one of us is worthy.
Every one of us is incredible.
Every one of us has a purpose greater than we could imagine.
Celebrate by resetting your thinking with every interaction, every moment of reflection. Move, live according to that truth.
When certain political issues rise, judgment and confusion roar. Particularly in my little slice of the world, because I’m blessed to love and be loved by a lot of powerfully vocal and passionate folks. So when presidential campaigns loom, or media focuses on abortion, capital punishment, poverty, civil rights, same-sex marriage, or religious freedoms… Like this past week, between DOMA, Prop 8 and the rest of the political uproar…
Folks very extreme beliefs get sounded loud and clear. That’s a microcosm for the rest of the world.
And I love clarity. And truth. Loud, meh… Not one for drama.
But I hate when people turn into spokespersons for evil, knowingly or not. Evil is a super-dramatic word. Hear me out.
It is evil to nonchalantly say, or share things that war against someone’s identity- who a person believes they are… Irresponsibly, without showing you give a hoot what happens next because you’ve made it clear you’re not trying to engage.
I’ve been writing a lot about mind-renewal.
And here’s the thing.
Our minds are the most powerful and most important part of our life: We choose freely, and think freely. No one can change that. We have to choose to change the way we think.
Until someone has made that choice, railroading your way into their life with your own thinking and trampling all over theirs as you pass through, tossing judgment over your shoulder as you leave is just what it looks like: Violent and hate-filled.
I know what it feels like to be so amped-up about what you believe, you feel empowered by your passion, free to create change with the strength of your words and spirit. Until a very wise woman pointed out to me how misguided I was for believing that.
The world, this life and all the people in it we know and love is not some courtroom filled with hostile witnesses. We’re not power attorneys out to debate and badger the outcome we’re hired to deliver from a jury deciding someone’s fate.
The world is a lot more like a really amazing, never-ending event filled with the most awesome people, thinkers, and spirits of all time, where we change the world forever just by demonstrating how powerful true love is. Really. More on that another time maybe.
When you’re tempted to show how you feel about a really incendiary political issue, if it isn’t demonstrating how powerful true love is… That doesn’t just go by unnoticed, or offer a chance for a lot of mirror-image thinkers to cosign with you.
If you’ve ever had the profound honor of hearing someone say you lifted their spirits, you know how beautiful it is for them and you. People usually never say you bruised their spirit. They just try desperately to unbruise it and distance themselves from you.
Why would you want to fuel the idea that another living person is anything other than a miracle full of potential?
You really do matter.
Airing out a view that maybe, means someone feels afraid to go to church, or afraid to profess their love for their spouse, or afraid to say what their real ethnicity is, or afraid to say I’m not ready to have a child…
It fuels a world that tells some of us we’re not fit to be in it.
You are so powerful.
We gain nothing by making people feel unloved, unsafe: When we’re not investing love, we all collectively lose.
This isn’t about honesty or moral responsibility. The truth is perceived as a lie and a lie, truth to a warped mind. When we communicate we are absolutely responsible for being aware not only of what we’re saying and how it will be understood, but what impact we have.
We’re not more powerful when we set rules and judge people. We’re most powerful when we live as examples of a crazy love never seen before that transforms folks just because it’s so awesome.
As for the law… Our country was founded on some… Flawed principles. Among them, black people aren’t fully human and women aren’t fit to vote.
It falls to us to make sure those flaws don’t morph into ever-expanding bondage.
Bondage is the real or perceived absence of freedom, por ejemplo:
- Telling a woman what she can or can’t do with her body.
- Telling someone who they can or can’t marry.
- Telling a person what they can or can’t worship.
- Telling a person they whether they deserve to live.
- Barring help for those who need it.
- Living in confusion.
- Being stubbornly blind.
The constitution is not scripture-based. The law isn’t either. Both are heroic attempts to make the world a better place by people, setting boundaries within the landscape of known reality.
Where the spirit of the person or the law is broken, everything else will follow. We have to know when and how we are called to help… Or not. God gave us free will. He honors that by allowing us to choose Him. He aches and suffers when we don’t but He never forces us. That is what honor, trust and faith looks like. We show honor, trust and faith by allowing people to choose as well.
Forcing someone, or manipulating someone to any degree for any reason is not Godly. If there’s something in you that feels compelled to convince someone of something, or to do anything other than love on someone in a given situation, the first step should be to ask why you feel that unloving, un-Godly urge.
There’s a passage that used to drive me crazy until I realized, with some help from my best friend, that it’s about honoring choice, discernment:
Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.
How you engaging with another is your choice, and theirs.
Be discerning. Be gentle. Be understanding. Be educated. Before taking a loud impassioned stance on a political issue, whether it’s war, poverty, abortion, capital punishment, same-sex marriage or anything else… Remember that like game rules made up by little kids, human law has always been tragically flawed.
More law can’t magically fix that.
People have to change.
Policy-makers must be driven by an understanding of humanity, of true unconditional love for those affected by it.
Laws don’t change people.
God’s love does.
When is it okay for law to make it easier for a group of people to be harmed, and harder for them to make their own decisions? Is that okay if the people in harms way, with limited freedom are kids? Or Christians? How about if the group is homosexual? Maybe it’s okay if they’re murderers, or black. Or prideful. Maybe if they’re women, or mothers-to-be? Or adulterers. Or Muslims. Or devil-worshipers.
When you try to figure out exactly who among us deserves to be persecuted by law, it’s hard to avoid the truth: We can’t make that call. That’s the true slippery slope. God makes all things new. Especially the extra-crazy stuff. God isn’t looking for an easy deal, and choosing to make only the holy, perfect, pious, self-righteous things new. Or saying if we write and follow man-made laws perfectly, He’ll draw more people to Him, and be closer to us.
The scripture doesn’t say, worship the Bible and put it before God’s love for His children. Love never fails.
When it hurts to love someone it’s easier to find an excuse to justify distance than to heal your own brokenness.
We’re fortunate to live in a nation that in spite of its broken, charred roots, at least hasn’t said I deserve to be put on trial for writing this blog, or you for reading it. No one sent me to the electric chair for having an abortion. No one stands outside of my church to arrest me when I go to worship.
Who should have gotten to make that call? Who’s really fit to say certain human rights are more or less important than others, more or less worthy of defense?
A long, long time ago we humans determined man’s government was preferable to spiritual leadership.
Trying to force political solutions on spiritual issues or spiritual solutions on political issues is destructive, and wasteful. We have to know where our power sits, and be aware of how the heck to use it.
If you believe in equal rights, in freedom, in choice, in love, in God, in Democracy, or in America you can’t possibly believe you really have the power to say who deserves to be treated like a human, and who doesn’t.
And if you think you do have that power… Wouldn’t you also have to accept, that belief enables your neighbor to define your rights for you?
This is bigger than us. So look higher than yourself, your emotion, your neighbor for the source of the message you spread.
An old(ish) Adam Sandler movie, of all things, got me inspired to write about: Habitual thinking and how life-changing it can be to simply change the way you think; How important rest is; How rest influences what we do when we’re not resting.
Now it’s time for practical steps.
Trust me, everyone needs to change their thinking habits. Every day. First of all, most of us have a lifetime worth of bad habits built in. That means we’ve trained our minds to work wrong for decades.
How our minds work: In my high school physics class our professor had us build Rube Goldberg machines. It was awesome. You basically setup a small(ish) machine that does a simple household thing like turning off a light. But it starts with a single object that goes through a series of crazy domino effects. Ultimately, the object, once it’s finished bouncing, flaming, steaming and bopping around, causes the simple household thing to be done.
This is basically how our minds work: We take one thing in to get us thinking (image/movie/book/conversation/etc.) and a lot of different things happen in a chain reaction to produce an outcome (feeling/ action/ speech etc.) But the way we think, our habits are based on whatever life handed us.
So typically, we all have maybe a few of these thinking machines: Us at our best, us at our worst, and us on an average day. Those are our habitual thought patterns, or autopilot space. And we use them automatically, because they’re convenient and we literally don’t have to think about it.
But let’s say those machines or habitual thoughts are causing problems, like emitting poisonous gas… Or horrible ideas? Or self-sabotage, self-defeat?
Your mind should produce fruit, not waste:
Like our digestive system, what we put or allow into our mind has an effect. Depending on what we eat or drink, we may gain weight, have an allergic reaction, become intoxicated, energized, sick… Or healthier, more fit.
Depending on the information and concepts we feed our mind, we may become heavy-minded or react badly to the point of being uncomfortable… We may malfunction and get out of touch with reality, have racing thoughts, or even a mental breakdown however minor or major… Or become more joyful, more at peace, clear, brilliant.
With our digestive system our organs are pretty much always going to do the same thing with food and drink: Help our bodies sift through what we put into it and pass out waste. We have to produce bodily waste and we can’t change that.
A fruitful mind feeds on fruit:
But our minds are different. We can change the way our mind works so we never produce waste.
We don’t have to let in anything that creates a waste byproduct.
We don’t have to turn anything into waste once it’s let in.
What we take in matters a lot. What our mind does with it once it’s taken in matters even more. If you’ve ever had a bad day that seems to start from the moment you wake up, or been swallowed by grief, you know exactly what I mean. Everything, no matter how extremely wonderful it is, will appear opposite because of your mindset.
That’s what happens all day every day when your mind is wired to produce waste instead of fruit.
Rewiring it isn’t hard, but it does take persistence.
The music, lyrics, TV shows, movies, articles, facebook and twitter info, people, conversations, books and gatherings we let in are all literally food for thought. So what’s in your mind diet? Why? If it isn’t full of encouragement, honesty, optimism, you’ve opted into the McDonald’s version of food for thought. It will not supersize your mind.
I know we’re passively fed information through advertisements, media, and our environment constantly but we don’t have to be. Exercise some control over what you’re exposed to so the balance shifts positively, for just a day. Feel the difference. Keep it up.
The world seems full of terrible tragedies, hurt, and pain, yes. But it’s really full of love, inspiration, joy, overcoming and miracles. That’s not what we’re fed by the news, talk shows, music, or movies… Or even, sometimes, our friends and family.
You deserve to be uplifted every second of every day. To be told how amazing and wonderful you are. To believe how capable, and powerful you are. To be fearless. Unafraid of failure. To be shown new and inspiring ways to be better, bigger, a more awesome you than you already are.
If you feel repelled by those things, why?
It’s just you. You can fight it, but it’ll still be the reality of who you are.
Love on yourself.
Begin the fruitful process of changing your thought habits by changing your mind-fuel. Then we’ll talk about making sure our thoughts always produce fruit.
Love on yourself today and everyday, so your relationship reflects healing and wholeness now and in the future.
Relationships are not two people completing each other. They are two hearts reflecting two spirits, enhanced. So the condition of your spirit is magnified.
If it isn’t right alone, it will just be worse with someone else.
Relationships are not two people using themselves up in an attempt to offer fleeting earthly symbols of love for each other. They are two friends, walking, running, dancing, resting, and stumbling together down the path of life, learning, changing, loving, and drinking in the glory as they go.
If the journey isn’t more important than the destination you’ll end up attached and lonely all at once.
So to everyone every day, who celebrates love with the simple act of thinking, nourishing, cleansing, smiling, caring, changing, listening, giving, feeling, trying…
For themselves, others and the world especially when these, the easiest things seem hardest to do and at that moment for that reason, matter most…
I love you.
‘Cause you’re alive and that means you’re worthy of it.
Recently I shared about the enemy within, and how dangerous it is to live in denial.
It’s a weak, disadvantaged position to deny and confuse what temptation really is, and approach it as though we’re helplessly forced into something we want no part of… Instead of masterfully commanding our lives like the rulers of the Earth we are born to be.
So, to be clear:
Tempt: To entice to do wrong by promise of pleasure or gain.
Coerce: To restrain or dominate by force.
I hate avocado. A thousand perfect avocados won’t tempt me. I could be coerced to eat one. And I’d still hate avocados.
I do love chocolate. The perfect chocolate soufflé will be darn tempting. I’d have to be coerced not to eat it. My family history of diabetes does indeed cause me to restrain myself.
We can only be tempted by what we already want. Knowing something is bad for you doesn’t mean your heart won’t desire it. Which isn’t a huge deal when it comes to food preference.
But there are things in our lives that are a very big deal, that can kill us if we don’t master them. We can’t master anything if we don’t know what we’re dealing with.
It’s dangerous to confuse temptation for coercion.
Temptation is attractive, pulling you toward something you want. Coercion is combative, forcing you to do something against your will. These are two completely different challenges with different solutions: One within you, the other without.
Temptation is solved by finding and fixing whatever’s broken inside that makes us want what isn’t good for us. Coercion is solved by identifying the threat and either staying the heck away from it or fighting back.
It’s dangerous to think that because your mind knows something your heart wants is wrong, you don’t really want it. You cannot be forced to desire or do something you actually want to do: You are willing and complicit.
Responding to that in confusion is more dangerous than the external attacks you face, where you really do have to fight back. Confused, you’ll respond with a losing strategy that weakens you at the same time it strengthens your wrongful desire.
That’s what happens when you just face the temptation and resist it, or escape, running in the opposite direction without dealing with the root problem: Why you want something bad for you. Ultimately, resisting or avoiding just makes the problem worse.
Only as upright as your circumstances, you’ll still want it, but now you’re playing games to sidestep landmines.
That is the losing game of avoiding temptation: I just won’t go near such-and-such, won’t buy blah-blah-blah, won’t do blankety-blank… You can’t win because the problem is not it. It’s you. Wanting it. And playing games with it can actually deepen its hold over you.
No one wants to hurt themselves.
The reality is, if something is broken inside of you, that brokenness will war with the truth like a sinister fun-house mirror, presenting reality as a fantasy.
That’s why you’ll believe temptation won’t really hurt you.
- No overweight person wants to gain weight. Brokenness will show you weight gain as a self-indulgent, orgasmic and sumptuous gift of nourishment.
- No married person wants to get a divorce. Brokenness will show you divorce as a once-in-a-lifetime secret sexual fantasy that will fuel desire for your spouse.
- No drug abuser wants to overdose. Brokenness will show you overdosing as a sweetly spiraling surrender into bliss.
- No violent person wants to end up in the hospital. Brokenness will show you fatal injury as righteous revenge exacted by a powerfully courageous warrior.
I don’t know about you, but I’ma need every which-kind of anyway broken anything up out of my system. As of last year.
Because there is no little bit, no just once, not a big deal with what’s bad for you.
Bad is a raging and ravenous animal that is insatiable and violent, constantly calculating ways to eat you alive… And get you to serve up your friends and loved ones as seconds.
Partnering with that is a really.
The tricky part is if we knew where these broken parts were and how to heal them, we’d have done it already.
So let’s go:
- Clear the clutter out of the way: Fast.
- Ask for help: Pray.
If there were a rattle in your car you couldn’t identify, you wouldn’t park it in the driveway and watch a show about car repair. At some point you gotta get under the hood. You clear it out, and take it to a mechanic to identify the problem and make the necessary repairs.
The spiritual version of parking the car and watching a do-it-yourself show is religiously going to church without fasting and praying constantly.
Fasting isn’t some strange and dangerous celebrity diet. It’s cleansing, offering and sacrifice. Our minds and bodies are our own, we can’t forget that and fail to take control over ourselves. Why shouldn’t we offer up the vessel for our spirit when we need work done? Choose something, anything whether it’s a habit, food, drink, activity, or even a person, and cut it out until your healing comes.
Praying isn’t some pious religious ritual set aside for priests and fanatics when they’re in quiet time with their eyes closed in temple or church. We were born to pray, and can every moment. At some point we get coerced into thinking prayer, our communication with the Creator, isn’t the most valuable part of our makeup. Everyone hears from God, everyone can talk to Him. So ask Him to find your brokenness and heal it. Every single day. Multiple times a day.
We can’t afford to confuse temptation for coercion. If you know you want things that are bad for you, fast and pray until you’re healed.
There’s far more to life than exhaustion in battle with yourself over wars that have already been won.
“‘Rather, each person is being tempted whenever he is being dragged off and enticed by the bait of his own desire. 15 Then, having conceived, the desire gives birth to sin; and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. 16 Don’t delude yourselves, my dear brothers.'”
We often view temptation as an external influence that ‘happens upon us.’ In truth temptation is an outward manifestation of a pre-existing desire already INSIDE of us. Our first instinct is to remove whatever it is that is tempting us from our environment. This is no different than watering the leaves to make a plant grow instead of the roots. Some of the water may trickle down the stem and make it into the ground but it is not the most effective way to achieve the goal. The real battle with all temptation takes place inside of us. We must examine the want for whatever it is that tempts us and start from there.
Eliminating objects of temptation from our environment is a means but the end is when we want what God has in store for us more than ANYTHING.
If we have a want for something that is greater than what God has in store for us it is that very want that will kill our walk every time.
We must continue to hold our desires up to what God wants for us and see where our heart truly stands.
We will all be tempted but we do not have to fall.
We can choose to stand by what God wants for us over what we want.
It’s all about faith…”-Ebenezer Quaye