You Are Enough

You are Enough
“It is all downhill from here.”

These words spew from the mouth of a biker at Starbucks, ,after an attempt at casual conversion quickly goes downhill.

He then held up his hand, as he made his way to the exit, and exclaims that he has won FIVE championships in his lifetime, and basically there was nothing worthy in his future, since he was 72.

All washed up.

His sad outlook on his life made me sad. Isn’t there more to riding a bike than receiving a metal at the end? What about the joy of the experience? Or the beautiful scenery?

How did the win take precedence over the ride itself?

I wanted to shout out to him, “Dude, look at you–you are amazing!”

It bothered me that he felt this way. And it made me wonder. Wonder if deep down, his worth was based on his performance, and without something to show his significance, he didn’t feel all that valuable.

And, really, after deeper reflection, I realized I am not so different.

This last year without anything significant on my plate has been difficult. For years I’ve worked toward something–whether it be the next position, or an accomplishment of some sort.

Always something.

Even the next attempt at a marathon this fall is partially to receive the bumper sticker on my vehicle stating that I have accomplished a major feat by getting my feet to make it 26.2 miles.

Always striving.

Because, somehow I have tied up my value in:

Accomplishments

Accolades

Achievements

Because, deep down, I feel of little worth.

I know, it is not an easy thing to admit, and I may make you cringe on the inside because I am hitting too close for comfort, but I am beginning to realize this as a truth.

Deep down I struggle feeling as if I am enough.

And, I need to do something, to feel I am something. Because without something, I am nothing.

Well, enough already.

I am valuable even if I never win an award, climb the corporate ladder to the top, publish a book worthy of publication, or even if I never finish another race to receive the coveted sticker for my vehicle

I am enough.

You are enough.

Because, our value is not in what we do, but in whom we belong, namely, Jesus Christ.

Changing the way we value ourselves takes time, but it will be worth it when we realize…

 We are worth it.

 

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A FREE SOUL CONTINUED…

 

A FREE SOUL-2

Stuck in a holding pattern, circling over and over, day after day; exhausted he was by the mere daily grind. He hoped to stop, yet to do so, risked the chance of being devoured. Instead, he kept the pace, circling the same pathway until a rut ensued on his route. Though he doesn’t seem to stand out in recognition like our former long-eared counterpart from last week, he is well known in his circle of influence—that being the racetrack.

This furry fake has the canines follow his steps with ferocity, hoping to catch him before the finish line. Perhaps it is because his nickname is “lure”. This mechanical hare lures the pups to keep an unrealistic pace, even though all-the-knowing they will always be one step away, and never close enough to catch him.

Could there be lures in our lives, which cause us to center our attention to what is just out of our reach, circling over and over, hoping to attain the next attainable, yet when we arrive, realizing we are unfulfilled? And exhausted. Because what we thought we wanted didn’t satisfy the longing just around the next bend.

And we enter the rut. Similar to a hamster wheel, yet subtly different. I believe it is because our desires are off center, and we’ve confused abundance with the abundant life God speaks of, and are lost in the desires of a world, which promises to deliver, yet fails to satisfy.

How do we run the race without being influenced by the indulgences of the world?

The key is to remove idolatry from without, before it filters into our identities within.

Gideon encountered such obstacles at the forefront of his journey:

  •  Judges 6:25-26 – That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.”

Gideon tore down alters of false gods and provided an offering to the Lord.

Okay, you may wonder, how on earth do we apply this type of ritual to our modern day lives, where altars and false deities and sacrificial offerings are not the norm in the everyday landscape of our todays?

Well, we first align ourselves with God by tearing down anything that alters our love and devotion to Him. For them, this altar was a tangible item, which caused them to focus their affections away from their intangible God.

For us, it may be tangible, or intangible. An important question we can ask is:

What or who consumes the majority of my time, focus, and affection in my heart?

After we’ve discovered the culprit of our desire, then we need to destroy its repercussions through repentance. The most basic meaning of repentance is to cry out to God in forgiveness, and shift focus toward Him, and away from the former first love.

Next, offer ourselves fully to God.

Romans 12:1-2 in The Message says it so simply:

  • So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

 Simple, but not always easy. But, remember, with God on our side nothing is impossible, and the results of such intimacy are far beyond what we could ever desire or imagine.

Because, if we are not careful, we may end up like another rabbit I’ve happened upon on the rabbit trail of life…

He had all the ability in the world–keen eyes and ears and an especially lean stride. Yet, he suffered from a condition called, complacency-induced apathy. His surroundings lulled him into a false sense of comfort. Before long, the quiet scenery lured him to the sidelines and his sight went dim to slumber. He didn’t see his proponent pass him by–A tortoise whose odds were against him from the start. Yet, the turtle’s determination and focus persevered.

You see, the tortoise had his focus on his One True Love, standing on the other side of the finish line, cheering him all the way to the end.

Lord, reveal to us the error of our wayward hearts. Help us be aware of the enemy’s tactics, and our own desires. Align our course with your destiny for our lives. Protect us from being derailed by this world and its desires, and instead desire you above all else.

 

 

 

A Free Soul

1He traveled under the radar.

Off the interstate, he chose an unbeaten path here and there, near and far. From one end of the earth to the other, he journeyed with hardly a care in the world. He could have accumulated his share of frequent flier miles; instead he preferred out-of-the-way underground travel. I am sure he could tell you tall tales from his escapades that would entertain your itching ears for years.

One problem though plagued him each and every time as he headed out headstrong with destination in mind: once he lifted his head up out of the ground, he discovered he had lost his way along the way. And, as he retraced his steps, a question loomed from his directional disarray, “I wonder if I should have taken a left turn in Albuquerque.”

Yes, Bugs Bunny, the infamous character from cartoons gone by, who in many-an-episode loses all sense of direction and ends in a tumultuous place.

Makes me wonder, was it really Albuquerque causing the mix-up or something more?

What causes our brains to malfunction & venture off-course down rabbit trails in life?

Could it be a gravitational pull away from our true compass caused by an enemy of the invisible atmosphere?

Yet, we view Satan similar to Bugs Bunny, in that he is a mere cartoon, a caricature of sorts, and don’t see the significance of his demonic influence to our command central.

And we fail to recognize the voice calling the shots behind the scenes. The voice of Bugs was really a man named Mel Brooks, a comedic genius who was nicknamed, ‘the man of a 1000 voices.’

Could it be the man of many voices has nothing up his sleeve to the Enemy, whose voice sounds eerily like our own, bent on just one message: to derail our destiny?

Is it possible we are being led astray by an enemy confusing fiction with fact? And we, like Bugs are scratching our heads over the perplexities of whose guiding us?

 Could it possibly be a voice over?

 Voice over – a piece of narration, not accompanied by an image of the speaker.

Could this evil voiceover be the overriding force attempting to override the quiet whisper of the Holy Spirit from our within?

Possibly.

So, what do we do? How do we stay on course?

I believe it begins with deciphering the voice-thought who attempts to guide us in our minds.

  • Does the voice cause you to worry, stress, and feel hopeless in a situation with another, or with yourself? Then it is not likely God. He does not desire you to be anxious for anything, or feel utter despair, but permeates us with his unfathomable peace, and is an anchor of hope.
  • Does the voice cause you to doubt God’s goodness? Then it is not God. God is good and His love for us endures forever. He may discipline us as believers, but he disciplines us as a loving parent would a child. And when times appear less than good, we can take hold to the fact that God uses all things for our good whether we recognize it or not. This is good.
  • Does the voice speak generalities of condemnation by adding shame to your already guilty conscience? Then it is not God. God speaks in a gentle, pointed conviction to bring you back on the correct path.
  • Does the voice cause you to justify your hurt? Causing you to hold onto anger, self-pity, contempt, and judgment— and cause you to hold out on forgiveness, compassion, love, etc? Then it is not God, God desires unity and not discord.
  • Does the voice devalue your worth? Defraud you with a negative self-image? Cause you to feel displeasure, possibly disgust, about yourself in any way? Then this is not God. Our Creator spent the time to delicately fine-tune the fingerprint on each and every individual on the face of the earth, I would venture to guess He did this as a trademark of His quality work.
  • Does the voice send anxiety-filled adrenaline to flow through your veins, causing you to tremble in terrifying fear? Not likely God. His voice causes a chill to rise up the spine at the sheer confirmation of Himself causing eutrophic elation.
  • Does the voice cause confusion to a message you believe was God delivered? Questions cloud your confusion with why would you ever think you could hear from God in the first place, because really, He doesn’t have time for the smallness of your situation. Highly likely an enemy tactic to steer you off course. Remember, if we seek Him we will find him if we seek with all our heart.  And He desires to guide his children, not confuse them.

Hearing does not need to mean believing.

Our enemy is hell-bent on stealing our joy, killing our confidence and destroying our souls. His goal is to draw us away from God with every imaginable trick under the sun.

Even so, it does not have to be this way. I’ve discovered an easy way to make us aware of enemy attack by asking one simple question:

Does the thought speak life, or death?

In John 10:10, Jesus says the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy.

But, He comes to give us life, and have it to the full.

Could it be such a simple solution as this? Well, it may not be the end-all answer to every ail in our mindset, but I do believe it clears out the debris of discouragement, discord, defeat, doubt, and any other offensive tactic to derail our alignment with Jesus, in one quick swoop of the verse, and get our wayward minds back on track.

You know, there was another bunny who was in the dark of his circumstances. Not necessarily lost, but held hostage. He was holed up in the top of a top hat. Day after day he was the object of every trick the magician had in his hat of tricks. Until the one afternoon. He found freedom from the hidden black pouch in the lining of the magician’s wardrobe. I hear today his countenance has changed considerably since release, and has even developed a certain bounce in his step he had never known before because of his former contorted position.

Can I leave you with this?

If it causes us to turn away from Jesus, then for certain it is not from God.

Dealing With Messy Interiors

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One day my daughter had a dream about me. Or, maybe a nightmare would be a better description.

Apparently, I attempted to kill her. Why? Well, she says that she came too close to the refrigerator and nearly touched the sparkly clean stainless steel–when I slammed her like a linebacker into the wall.

What in the world?

She knows not to get her grimy paw prints on my polished appliances!

Okay, I admit there may be a slight obsession over cleanliness. For instance, why in the world do they feel the need to place a sweaty glass on my granite?

Drives me nuts!!!

Fingerprints, food debris, wet rings, or even worse, when Hubby places raw meat on the counter to contaminate everything in sight with salmonella.

As you can accurately assess, I am a bit obsessive.

I think this is why I enjoy watching shows like, ‘Hoarders’–so I can feel better about my own issues.

Because, really, how in the world do people live in such a mess?

Clutter, clothing, garbage–junk taking up space until there is no viable space left.

If that’s not bad enough, the worst of the worst have not only piles of unusable items, but there are some who can’t even manage to throw the plate of last night’s takeout into the trash, and instead place it on the ground for food for flies, roaches and such.

Crazy. Is it that difficult to just throw it away?

What is apparent is this:

Deep-seated issues accumulate underneath a superficial mess.

Usually through the tedious process of going through their piles gives way to these underlying issues, by breaking down the hoarder’s defenses.

And, by episode’s end, it is apparent this is only an external reaction to a deeper issue inside.

Maybe being a hoarder has its advantages.  People can see how messed up you are.

It is we minimalists who sometimes have the deepest issues, while our surfaces stay sparkly clean, and without clutter.

Yet, underneath it all, there are small compartments of junk neatly stuffed away, out of visual sight.

Actually, I would rather keep it this way. Just work on my surface, as so not to deal with my mess.

I don’t like messes.

I don’t like being a mess.

But, in order to be the healthy individual I know is in there, somewhere, deep down underneath the messiness caused by life’s turmoils, the internal mess within needs to come out of hiding.

Looked at.

Cried over.

Dealt with.

Cleaning the surface only masks the mess within.

What about you? Are you a hoarder–you are a mess and everyone knows it, or, are you a minimalist–clean on the outside, messy on the inside?

Good thing about messes is we are all a mess to one degree or another, now aren’t we?

I am grateful Jesus cleans up our messiness when we allow Him access to our messy interiors.

An Authentic Soul

Authenticity begins with a heart all-in with God.

What is real? Really?

It was a question that presented itself after I realized I had watched an entire sermon from Max Lucado without realizing he wasn’t actually there. He was on video. How in the world did I not know he was only two-dimensional?

REAL: Actually existing – not imagined or supposed

It got me thinking, I am really here, but am I being real here?

REAL: Not imitation or artificial; genuine.

Is it possible to be real, yet not be really real? Possibly.

To my defense, I can be entirely clueless when it comes to things such as technology. I blame it on the 80’s. I received a public education during a time of higher shoulders (as in shoulder pads) and not necessarily higher education. It was a time when the metric system inundated schools to replace the standard measurement. Made sense since 10 is easier to calculate than 12, but America stood firm on the principle of laziness.

Around this time I took my first and only computer-programming course. The monitor was the size of a large microwave with black screen and green letters. All I remember is the teacher giving us sequences and codes for something I have not a clue. Could be he was also clueless.

To this day, my biggest computer success is in the form of copy and paste. Still I am grateful. No longer would we ever need carbon paper and typewriters again.

It is suggested the precursor to the computer curser was invented years earlier–during WW2 at the hands of a mathematical genius. At least, according to the movie, ‘Imitation Game, whose tagline was: Behind every code is an enigma

ENIGMA: a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand.

Based on events of a dark time in our world’s history, when an enemy attempted to exterminate an entire race of people, this story delves into the behind-the-scenes mission to build a device to break the unbreakable Nazi codes, and win the war. They say the war concluded a few years earlier because of this invention.

I’m still clueless.

Maybe I’m too focused on breaking the code to myself. Would the real Josie Barone please stand up? In this self-seeking quest, I’ve been known to take one too many personality tests to break down my identity, and solve the war of understanding me.

Usually the questions reveal a strong percentage toward certain characteristics. Yet, one still eludes an accurate assessment no matter how many times I take a version of the test. Am I an ‘E’ or an ‘I’: an extrovert or an introvert?

Could be the problem lies in an authentic answer to be accurate.

Examples:

  • People can rarely upset you
  • You are often envious of others
  • You rarely worry about how your actions affect other people
  • You feel superior to other people

Which answer is not entirely true? I am certainly not telling you.

It is said the genius behind the device in ‘Imitation Game’ was a man who had some secrets of his own. Unfortunately, a spoiler alert, as the ending credits roll, we see his own hand ends his life.

So, how does a man who had so much potential end up in such a pitiful condition?

I would suggest the man in the movie attempted to keep the code to his true character under wraps, as it was detrimental to his livelihood; but his covert portrayal was detrimental to his life.

AUTHENTICITY: Genuine. Real. Not fake or copied.

 Where do we imitate a persona at the expense of authenticity?

Saul skewed his initial authenticity test, and it was detrimental to his livelihood:

Read: 1 Samuel 10:22-24

Before carbon paper and typewriters there was the scribe. This copier penned a few sentences in 1 Samuel 8, which may have led to Saul’s hidden condition:  the people demanded a KING.

Instead of God being their ruler, they desired a copy similar to the world around them. And, God gave them what they wanted.

So here is Saul, a male of high stature on the exterior: a head taller than the rest, who was catapulted to top ranking of Israel in one quick swoop. Interestingly enough though, he went missing at his inaugural ceremony held up in baggage claim.

 On the outside was the specimen of perfection the people thought would be the answer to all that ailed. Yet, underneath this remarkable DNA was a contradiction to his character.

Perhaps his internal baggage held inadequacy, insecurity, and ‘Poise’ pads to relieve the incontinence brought on by extreme fear. Not fear from enemy attack, but more from his inferior interior.

And, actually his initial knee-bent reaction was an authentic representation to his true heart condition.

Perhaps his thought scenario in the moment went something like this:

Run! Wait, I have nowhere to go. Hide! Where? Oh, here, behind the big Louie Vuitton. I don’t think I can do this King thing. I am not worthy of such a responsibility. I am scared. What if they realize I am not as good as I look? I have no idea what I am doing. I am a pitiful mess.

What if he hid because did not feel good enough? I cannot be entirely sure, but he could have.

We do know when he’s found in this low state, instead of admitting inadequacy, we see him standing up front and center.

May I suggest he compromised his authenticity to uphold his reputation by stuffing his issues down deep? And, authenticity was replaced with image when he chose to imitate a persona of “all together”.

What happens when our own insecurity and vulnerability collide? We either lean in toward authenticity, or we accessorize with an appearance.

It’s ego which keeps us from bending in desperation.

It is a dangerous to go from, “I’m not good enough”, to, “It’s all good” without delving into the reality of honesty.  Sometimes the term ‘fake it til you make it’ creates a bigger phony of oneself.

I love Brene Brown’s description of authenticity:

Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It is about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.

When I realized I was attempting to keep myself under-wraps, it was not baggage, but sunglasses that called me out. It was a moment when I was offered a position at a church to be their children’s minister:

Me:                “We can’t hide in a small church.”

Hubby:           “Well I’ll wear sunglasses.”

Why in the world did I say what I said? Was I really hiding? At the time, I was at my most visual, yet my insecurities were deep, and I would share only bits and pieces of myself to settle the instability within.

If I were completely honest, I felt insecure–inadequate for such a responsibility. Afraid to fail, yet embarrassed to admit my frailties. Deeper still, issues of unworthiness kept others externally close, but inwardly at arms length—out of fear my baggage would be shown.

This maneuver didn’t work for Saul. Unfortunately, he became an actor bent on appearance with a tragic Hollywood-type ending. Sadly, his trajectory could have been entirely different had he just been real with God.

I wonder, had he exposed his deep-seated heart issues instead of hiding behind baggage, sacrifices, manipulation—I wonder if his tumultuous emotions of rage, manipulation and jealousy would have diminished as his heart aligned with God?

I can only wonder.

For me, two years after the sunglass incident, after leaving my position in a pitiful mess, I spent months in my closet on the floor. Stripped of all pretenses, I poured out my heart to God. I remember saying at one point, “I am tired of being good.” Tired of trying. Tired of the fragmented façade of fine and good and okay.

I’m not entirely sure, but I think I felt His breath escape into a deep sigh of relief as he wrapped His arms gently around me, saying, “Good, now come here my child.”

Authenticity begins with a heart that is all-in with God.

 

 

Sometimes the Truth is Hard to Swallow

You are Beautiful.You are Accepted. You are Loved. Love, God

I opened the refrigerator to discover the unthinkable–Daughter #3  drank the remaining orange juice.

I saved just enough for me. How dare she? I know it was her because she left her empty carton on the counter, and well, Hubs would have discarded the evidence.

This is ground for termination in my household. How in the world will I swallow my vitamin now?

It is huge; horse-pill status.

Well, it feels like it. Probably twice the size of ibuprofen.

Even with OJ, it still takes a good five attempts to swallow it down.  Even when I place it far back in my mouth, it makes its way back onto the front of my tongue.

I attempt again.  And again.

Panic sets in.  I just may choke.

Does anyone know the heimlich? Anyone?

So my daughter, who thinks I tend to be entirely too dramatic, says, “Mom you swallow pieces of food larger than that pill.”

Maybe. But does she realize how many times I chew oatmeal before it finally goes down?

Desperate though for my Vitamin B, I take the risk…

And… I am alive to talk about it. Took about ten attempts. The coating pretty much dissolved completely.

It tasted quite bitter.

Sometimes good things are hard to swallow.

One day, standing in front of the mirror, getting ready for the day, God spoke to me. Actually, it was more like through me:

“You are Beautiful.”

“You are Accepted.”

“You are Loved.”

I have shared this before. But, sometimes we need to regurgitate the truth before we entirely believe it.

Before it is swallowed deep, deep within.

Just so you know, these words are not just for me.

If you are feeling unattractive, rejected, unloved…

By all means, spit it out.

Don’t swallow these lies any longer.