We Really Are Worthless…But…

We really are worthless, you and I.

Recently, my family spent two weeks in an all Hindu culture. We were there for a bit of rest and family time, it just happened that the culture was Hindu. Watching even the most nominal in their beliefs, be so pious just in case what they believed was true, they might be spared some sort of punishment both presently and eternally. Though the architecture was beautiful and the smell of incense was pleasant, the underlying idea that these acts must be done in some sort of feeble attempt to atone for any possible wrong doing, both known or unknown, was sad and heart breaking.

Iris and I’s first encounter with such piety was when we traveled to Nepal and India for two months, it seems like forever ago. That trip in 2000 was a life changing event for the both of us. Part of that was seeing the complete and utter despair and uncertainty of never knowing what side of their god they were on. It confirmed in our hearts that we were to live overseas and share about this loving Savior we know and have complete certainty in.

We really are worthless, you and I. If we look at all the world religions, there really is absolutely no reason any of these gods would want anything to do with us. All are based on acts of piety, sacrifice and fear. Lots of fear. We make lots of mistakes, hurt people, are constantly at war, even with each other in the same religion, we have little compassion for one another, even the unborn. Other than simply toying with us, why would any god want us at all?

Especially the Living God, the Creator of the universe with the power of His simple spoken word. Born into this fallen world, we see the beauty of the Creator in His creation. We continue to experience His power, His love, His compassion and His wrath. In comparison to Him, we are nothing. We will never be greater than He is. We can never do anything remotely close to what He can do. We can die in an instant and even though revived, our days in this very tangible world are numbered. He is eternal.

I read a verse this morning that was incredibly profound to me.

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”-Ephesian 5:14

There are people who love themselves. There has been much teaching in the Church that loving yourself is bad. It is un-Christ like, it is selfish, it is prideful, it is unloving. I remember hearing this growing up. People who loved themselves didn’t understand Christ nor the sacrifice that He made for us. To love yourself was a sin. I think there is some truth to this, but I don’t think it is all true. Yes, I do believe there are people who love themselves in a way were they don’t care about others, they are trying to get as much out of life for themselves as they possibly can-fame, fortune, sex, attention, good feelings, power, etc. Perhaps it’s not even a love of self, it may be more of an insatiable greed.

But I also believe there are people who love themselves exactly how God desires us to. What do I mean? When we love ourselves because of Christ, we are honoring who we are in Him and honoring the humanity in which He has made us. If we don’t love ourselves because of Him, we do not honor the gifts He has given us, abilities He has given us, our history, past, relationships….pain. All of those things He has given us become pointless.

My journey of recovery started about three years ago. I am a big proponent of recovery ministries, the 12 Steps and other recovery resources. I personally think every follower of Jesus should start down the road of recovery because I have seen more honest, raw, healthy, growing people in their relationships with Christ because they realized their need for recovery, than I have in churches full of “healthy” people.  But that’s just my opinion and experience. In the Step groups and breakout groups I’ve been a part of, I have seen people who have had no love for themselves at all. It seems they are only going through he motions of living because they fear dying, or they want to be their for their kids or spouse. But in regards to having any self love or self respect, they lost it all to their various addictions, hurts, habits and hang-ups. I shouldn’t say “their” but “our” as I am one of those who believed the same.

But coming to a point where you have nothing and realizing how little and insignificant you are, you begin to realize how incredible it is that Christ does first love us. When we realize this and begin to more fully understand (because I don’t think we will ever fully understand), we begin to have a love for ourselves and everything that makes us us, because of Christ. When we come to a point where we can love ourselves, be thankful for what has happened before, what’s happening now, be honest with how we are feeling about all of that with a God who can handle us and our emotions, I believe is when we are at a place of the greatest understanding of God’s love for us and communion with Him.

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

What hit me about this verse today was that yes, the Creator is telling us to wake up from our sleep. Wake up from the idea that we are to deny ourselves to the extreme, wake up to the falsity that how we were made, everything about us is bad. To wake up and rise from this death speak into the truth that Christ loves us. To rise up and see what freedom their can be if we love ourselves because He first loved us. What life giving truth is that. My prayer is that because He first loved us, we love ourselves today even if it’s the the very first time we ever have. Honoring Christ and honoring ourselves, how incredible.

Have you found this to be true? Have you gone from despair to a love of yourself becaseu of Christ? What was your journey like?

be blessed today

Photo Credit: http://www.worthless.co/
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Honor Is More Than Medals and Applause

A few days ago we had a “Countryside Day.” A day we packed up the kids and headed out to see what adventure awaited us. It snowed recently and though it wasn’t much, most of it was still on the ground. Just south of UB is the oldest national park in the world. Bogdkhan Uul National Park predates Yellowstone by over 100 years dating back to the Ming Dynasty. We roasted hot dogs, played hide and go seek in the snow, explored, hung with some cows and ended it with playing down by an icy river. In St. Pete, we could get out of the city, but there wasn’t the nature there that there is here. There wasn’t the pristine wilderness or the remoteness there that we have the opportunity to take in here. We take advantage of going out to the country side because it’s good for our bodies. It’s good for our family. It’s good for our souls.

I’m a big fan of Brene Brown. I’ve mentioned her here several times. Reading her second book, Daring Greatly and watching her first TED Talk both came at a point right before I started my journey in recovery. I believe they both helped me get to a point to have the courage to take the first steps of the 12 Steps. Her latest book, Rising Strong, is next on my list! In Daring Greatly, she makes one interesting observation that struck me off guard when I read it. She said “When you honor what you have, you’re honoring what I’ve lost.” I didn’t quite understand what she meant. I went into the other room and asked Iris. “What does this mean?”

Two and a half years ago, Iris’ oldest sister, Autumn, suddenly passed away. She had been struggling with many physical issues but still, at the age of 37, no one expected it. In response to my question, Iris explained it this way. “When you honor your sister, Steph, you are in a sense, honoring me in my loss of Autumn. In honoring your older sister who is still physically with us, you are honoring me in my love of Autumn.”

And there it was. Words put with feelings and ideas I have long held, but could never fully express. It made sense. Honor is more than receiving applause or medals. It’s more than highlighting the good things that have happened or great accomplishments. It’s humanizing those around us. It’s acknowledging reality and events that really did take place, people and seasons that are now gone, and admitting the pain involved.

For those of us who have things that others don’t, be it from loss or that they were never given the opportunity, if we never enjoy and use those things for their intended purposes, we are in a sense, not honoring the loss of those who don’t have them. If we have two perfectly good legs, yet don’t use them to walk or run, we are not honoring the loss of those who have no legs or the loss of not being able to use them. For those of us who have children but never spend time with them or see them as a nuisance, we are not honoring the loss of those who have never had the ability to have them. On a softer side, if we have the ability to go and explore the countryside, yet never make time to enjoy that aspect of God’s creation, then we, in a sense, are not honoring the loss of those who never have the opportunity or ability to bask in the beauty He created for our pleasure and His glory.

Life is full of loss. When we don’t honor the losses in our lives, we can never fully engage them to the point that we reach the joy that comes on the other side. Joy comes on the other end of sadness, mourning and grief. Though I still have a hard time honoring my own losses, I was reminded that day as I ran in the snow, through the forest with my wife and kids, to take a moment and enjoy what was going on around me. Not only was it honoring my kids and family, it was honoring those who don’t have the opportunity-those of you who don’t have those kinds of opportunities. Honoring by being present.

This, I believe, brings joy to God. These are the things, I believe, God watches and says “that’s why they are the apple of my eye. They honor one another in joy and pain.”

What are your experiences with loss, joy and honoring? What are some opportunities and experiences you have taken advantage of, that have brought you joy? Our understanding of God grows as we share our experiences with one another, I’d love to hear your story!

Like a Child….

I have a very good friend back in Russia named Sergey. He was one of the leaders of the church we were a part of. Sergey is an incredibly driven, funny, adventurous kind of guy with a personality that people are just drawn to. He’s climbed 4 of the 7 Summits (the highest peaks on each of the seven continents). He was a youth pastor for a while, had a bad experience and got into the business world. Over time, he began to realize something about people, sometimes they just need to learn how to play.

He and his wife, Olga, merged with a business training company called NORDIC Training International. Their tagline is “too become like a child.” Their premise is that team building is ok, it has worked for several years, helping people depend on each other, work together, etc. However, their philosophy goes a bit further. In order to fully work together and even overcome obstacle and strategic issues, we need to become like a child by playing board and other games. It’s really ingenious and I’ve had the opportunity to see it in action.

Sergey and Olga have been an incredible couple. They lead their family and interact with people exactly how they lead their company…willing to humble themselves like children to learn from those around them. They are ok with taking time to play. They are ok with asking questions, questioning their beliefs, actions and that of others.

I’ve mentioned before that our family has made the commitment to get out of the city here twice a month. It’s good for our physical bodies, our emotional well being and it’s life giving for our souls. Within an hour’s drive in our SUV, we can be in some of the most remote country in the world. Last week, we drove out to the end of the paved and dirt road. We forded a river in our car and drove a little ways further downstream. We hopped out as the sun was dipping behind the peaks and walked to the river’s edge. Because it’s been on the cool side, part of the river was frozen over. As if their was this uncontrollable, innate, instinctual desire, the kids ran over to the river’s edge,  picked up rocks and threw them at the ice trying to get it to crack and break apart.

For an hour or so, we threw small rocks, big rocks, sticks and logs on and through the ice. We walked on it, danced on it and fell through with our shoes getting soaked. Though are feet were cold and we were tired,  we had a blast as a family. Driving through the river just added more fun to the mix as we all were kids that day.

On the drive home through the mountains, past the cows, horses and sheep roaming the countryside, I was struck with Jesus making one of those seemingly ridiculous comments, this time about children-“The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” What did He mean? What was His line of thought?

Women and men smarter than I have said that in that comment, Jesus was showing the disciples how we all need to humble ourselves and just bask in our Father’s glory. I think they’re right. I think there is also a playfulness that God has created us with that needs to be let out from time to time. Playing means that we feel safe.

Playing means that we have moments when our troubles and concerns aren’t overwhelming us. Playing means that we have respect enough for others and God’s creation to not be ruled by the clock. Kids are this way. When they play, they have no fears or worries because they feel safe enough to play. When they play, it means that they aren’t worried about anything. When they play, they aren’t concerned about the clock or what time it is. I think God desires that of us as well. We honor Him in playing and honor others.

To become like a child…what a novel idea.

Do you have any experiences dealing with becoming like a child, or playing? How did others respond? Where was God in those moments? I’d love to hear your stories!

Why Humanity Is So Important To Me

I’m big on humanity. Humanity is how we were created. There was, and is, something very divine in how we were created. When we become more self aware, how people are experiencing us, we are gaining a greater understanding of our own humanity. Showing our emotions, being vulnerable and honest are all ways of showing that we are human.

I read this quote that, to me, was profound.

Pema Chödrön “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. Its’ a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

Honesty isn’t just about you telling someone the truth. It’s not just about telling that person your opinion of what you believe to be truth. Honesty is also being truthful to yourself. When we “open up” or are honest with someone else, and they are honest with you about themselves, you reach a level of vulnerability that seems to be fading in our society and world. If we can’t be honest about ourselves with ourselves, then what we are doing is ignoring the things that made us who we are and ignoring our humanity. We are ignoring the very things that make us human.

In being honest with yourself about your hurts, pains, habits, hangups, gifts, blessings, character, short comings, emotions and disappointments, you are honoring yourself. And if you share them with someone else, you are honoring them. Though in Jesus there was no darkness, the quote above rings true. Christ understands our pain and can have compassion on us because he walked this earth as a human. He modeled honoring others and showing compassion towards them because he knew the past of every person he came into contact with.

Sharing these things and being honest is what allows us to not only see each other as humans and see each others humanity, but it also allows us to show compassion and grace towards those around us. Being present is allowing us the freedom to be human.

Do you have a time where you experienced someone honoring you by them sharing their humanity? Or can you think of a time where you were the one honoring someone else? What kind of response was there? Thoughts?

7 Steps to Becoming a Relationship Master

This is a great post on being intentional in your relationships with those around you. Not only if you’re in a leadership position, but just humanizing those in your sphere of influence can do wonders for them, your organization and yourself! Joni Wickline breaks these down into 7 simple things you can do that will have massive impact.

One great quote from the post is:  “In the past, a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders must be partners with their people. They no longer can lead based solely on positional power.”-Ken Blanchard

It’s worth the read, and as always, share your thoughts!

Source: 7 Steps to Becoming a Relationship Master

Pausing

pause-button

     I like to move from one thing to another fairly quickly. It’s been a bit of a struggle of mine. It’s easy for me to live in the future. Having a vision, mission and constantly working and reworking the strategy to get there, is always exciting. And because it’s exciting, it’s easy to “live” there. The normal, mundane things of everyday life seem to not be as exciting as the “what could be” dreams and ideas constantly running through my head and on paper.
     About two weeks ago, I was with a very good friend of mine. He was more or less my business partner in the city and country we had just moved from. I saw something in him, was drawn to him, believed in him and hired him on to roast coffee with me. I believe, I intuitively knew from day one that Andrei would be the one whom I could hand this business over to, though I didn’t know it at the time. It turns out I was right.
     We were hanging out at a cafe he had helped design and was selling our/his coffee at.  The thought of this being the last time we would ever meet and hang out was lingering in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t-check that- I wouldn’t engage it. Though in many ways the model and strategy of the business business to train leaders, had accomplished much. But, the fact that financially, it didn’t take off like I had hoped or thought it would left me wondering “what had I done, what kind of lasting impact had I made.” It was hard not to go there and I have found myself going there at times still.
     So, because of this, I tend to live in the future. I don’t laugh when I say this-Step One is the step that you start to step out of your denial, and for me in this particular case, it is stepping out of the denial of not engaging when it’s hard. The Steps (12 Steps to be exact) are important to me…but that’s another post.
     After the normal chit chat of what coffee he was roasting, the subtle notes in the flavor, catching up on life, etc., Andrei told me to pause. “JB, don’t ever let anyone say that you failed. Don’t ever take to heart and believe that you were a failure and your time in this place, in this city was wasted.” I looked towards the ground, began to tear up (also quite normal for me), and just gave a simple, but polite,  “mmmhhmm” of unbelief.
     Andrei began to list the people, organizations, relationships, businesses and hearts that I had impacted, that our business had impacted for the good the past five years we’ve known each other. “You gave each of these people and places inspiration to do what they were afraid to do. You showed them what risk was and suddenly they began to believe they could do it to. You have positively impacted a group of people that may have not been otherwise…and you helped bring me out of the pit I was in.”
     I would be lying if I didn’t say I was more than welling up at this point (I am as I type this). What he said was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment and exactly what my heart was longing to hear to squelch out all doubt. Don’t get me wrong, this is not about building me up and there are times in our lives where we need to focus on the myriad of details in the future that come with a big move, or job transition, event, etc. But, when we constantly live there…that’s where the danger lies and we begin to lose the beautiful gift that we have…the gift of the present.
     Andrei challenged me in that moment to simply pause “(simply”, that’s funny..). He stopped time, helped me to pause and reflect on the legacy I was leaving. It caused me to engage in the present. It caused me to acknowledge not only what I was feeling, but that I had friends, true friends who we were going to miss and who were going to miss us. Pausing and reflecting. We need these moments in our lives to help us remember what we’ve learned, how we’ve learned it and who we learned it from. Just a suggestion,  take 30 minutes in the next couple of days to just pause, reflect and engage in what you’ve accomplished, the relationships you’ve impacted and the legacy you’ve left. Take a small step in engaging your past…you’re worth it!

Where the air is thin…

cairn
I’ve been pretty blessed in my life. Blessings can come in the form of things we would not associate with “good” feelings and they can come in the form of things we would. But, both are blessings. One way I have been blessed has been through people. People have been intentionally put in and along my path. Sometimes they have been smack in the middle of the road, so as to almost hit them in order to hear them, see them or feel their comforting touch. Others have been along the paths edge so I wouldn’t go off too far or slide into the ditch. Intentionally put- there are no coincidences.
     I’ve also had the privilege for many experiences where the lies and untruths placed on me or that I accepted as true, could be stripped away so that I may totally understand and see who I really am. That has been a life long journey that seems to pick up steam as I get older. Stripping something away is never a “good” feeling. Sometimes these lies and untruths have been with me for so long that they have almost melded into the very core of me. That kind of stripping away is more of a ripping apart. Think of trying to remove a tumor…difficult and painful. Yet, when that process is done, we are much better for it, much healthier, much more aware of the blessing within the pain.
     One of those experiences I was privileged to be apart of five years or so ago. And one of those people I have been blessed with in my life was standing there in the middle of the road. Brenda was a leadership partner for a program I was a part of. Her role in this program was to really be a vessel for the God to speak into my life. The two years I was in the program were two of the darkest times of my life. This dark time had nothing to do with the program, it was simply a season I was in. A desert season I would call it. A desert season is a time when you feel as though you are wandering around, no direction, no nourishment. It’s when you are unclear as to where to go and how to get there. God isn’t speaking and therefore feel as though you are in a desert. Those times can be blessings though painful.
     I was in one of those deserts. No direction, not sure how to get there, and very, very unsure of who I was. This is where the Enliven, Bring Freedom, Equip part of me came from…out of this desert. Brenda was there to not only provide direction, but was there to remove untruths that people had placed on me. Untruths and lies that I had accepted about who I really was…and was to become. I believe God is sovereign. That means that whatever His purpose and will is for this world will happen no matter whether I agree to be a part of it or not. So, I can’t say no matter what,  without Brenda’s voice, without her standing in the middle of the road, that I wouldn’t be who I am today. But, I’m fairly confident I wouldn’t be the person, man, husband, brother, leader I would be, without her.
     A few long days ago she succumbed to a disease that had been plaguing her the past 18 months. She passed on into eternity with her family at her side. The blog posts I’ve read from her husband, sons and daughters and comments I’ve read on Facebook, show me that she left and incredible legacy- an incredibly large imprint on this earth. I was part of that and there are thousands of others that were as well.
     Her husband talks about how in Celtic theology there are places in this world where the “air is thin.” It’s a place so sacred, it’s a little closer to Heaven than other places. In the last post, I mentioned about engaging with people….humanizing them, honoring them simply by your presence. When you were around Brenda, you were in the presence of someone who constantly was in one of those thin places-she was one of those thin places.  It’s something I have come to strive and desire to be. Engaging with people, being present, simply being you around them and giving freedom for them to be them around you. This is creating places where the air is a little thinner. She will be remembered as modeling this to me.
     One simple note of encouragement as way of honoring her-allow yourself the blessing of becoming who you really are. Painful as it may be, leave a legacy of allowing untruths to be removed, becoming who you really are and sharing that story with others. Leaving a legacy of vulnerability and honesty.
     In the words of one of Brenda’s close friends, she is “too well loved to be forgotten.” May we live in such a way that it be said of us all.