Friday, September 27, 2013


Katy Perry has recently released a song entitled "Roar."  From the moment I heard it, I have absolutely loved this song and have cheered it on as it reaches the top of the charts.  If you've heard the song you might be able to guess why I'm an advocate.  The lyrics scream empowerment and boldness--something God is forever teaching me.  I have written several posts about this in the past; all stemming from me reading the book "Boundaries" by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  (Here is a link to that book review: "Boundaries.")

"Roar" encourages people to speak up to people who have knocked them down in the past.  This could be bullies, critics, antagonists, or anyone who doesn't believe in you.  I am all about self-respect and individual confidence.  In fact I write positive things about myself every morning during my quiet time, especially towards the parts of my life where I lack confidence.  This daily exercise helps me remain focused and confident for what God has prepared me to do.  Katy Perry really is a great catalyst for promoting good self-esteem in individuals.  "Firework" is another great song she sings that is along the same lines as is great for boosting self-confidence.  (Would be a great morning-pump-up song.)

Very similar to self-confidence is what I call God-confidence.  The two ideas are very related but separate at the same time.  We can't stand up for God if we don't believe in ourselves, but at the same time God gives us the power to do anything.  If God calls you to take a stand on something, you best believe he will give you the strength to do that.  The strength to stand up for ourselves, our beliefs, and our God all comes as a gift from above, however we must tap into that gift in order to use it for the Kingdom.

God has been revealing these ideas to me through studying the boldness that Jesus and his devout disciples displayed.  Sunday at church we looked at a passage in Acts chapter 16.  The story is about Paul and Silas getting thrown in prison for being very blunt about their belief in Jesus Christ, son of the living God.  This is an obvious bold act on their part.  I wonder how many of us today would be willing to go to prison for believing in God.  Many do it overseas, but would any here in America?  Are we that dangerous? Are we willing to be that brave?  

Although this is huge, it was something Paul said later that struck me as bold.

While Paul and Silas sat in prison, they prayed and worshipped while the other prisoners listened.  Again, that is pretty bold.  Imagine if you were sitting on cold hard concrete in a dirty prison full of rapists and murderers.  Everyone has hard looks on you as they size you up--anticipating what your weakness is and why you too were locked up.  Just as the biggest, ugliest, meanest looking one steps start praying and singing hymns to God.  Wait..what?!

Yeah, I'm definitely not that bold yet.

Anyhow so while they are singing and praying a sudden earthquake happens and all of the prisoner's chains are released.  The guard realizes what has happened and is about to kill himself when Paul screams out, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!"

That's the line that got me.
Again, Paul screams out: "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!"

To me this would have been the boldest move.
Allow me to explain:

My mind likes to piddle back and forth with promoting the "whatever happens, happens" theory and the "if you want something to happen you have to make it happen" theory.  On one side I watch everything fall into place the way God planned it, whether we like it or not.  He is ultimately in control, and although a man makes plans in his heart, it is the Lord who determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9.)  We live best when we lean back and enjoy the ride.

On the contrary I see free will being a huge thing in that if we want something we must go get it.  If we want out of sin we need to pray to be changed, not sit and wait for God to convict us.  An example of this is "Flee from the devil and the devil will flee from you." (James 4:7)  In order for God to do something for us, we have to make a step toward him first.

I may over-think things, but then I look around at people and I think, Why isn't that person my friend?  Well, I suppose it just didn't happen..we don't have the connection.  If it was meant to be it would have happened.  Yet when we look at Jesus and Paul they took the opposite approach.  More like..HEY BE MY FRIEND!  

Okay so not quite that weird, but if I had been in Paul's situation at the jail; watching the guard pick up his sword and edge towards killing himself, I probably would be the one to sit their and watch with wide eyes, asking myself the whole time why God thought I needed to see someone die.  I admit that I probably would not have even thought about opening my mouth and telling the dude to quit.

Now let's bounce to John 18:1-11.  Jesus is in an olive grove with some of his disciples.  Long story short a fight breaks out and when Peter retaliates in attempt to protect Jesus, Jesus commands Peter to "put his sword away!"

Again, to me it looks like Jesus is less about the laid-back, watch-it-happen approach, and more about the stay-in-control-of-the-situation.  Both Jesus and Paul made changes in their environment by speaking up and acting out about the evil going on around them.

This is so challenging for me because although I am getting better, I still have a hard time telling people what they don't want to hear.  It is hard for me to cause conflict, even if it is menial.

The more I grow as an adult and a Christian, the more I am challenged to stand up for what I really want and ignore everyone who says I can't.  If God calls me to do it, I can.

Writing for example is a huge thing.  I am 100% certain God uses me through my writing.  He inspires my writing and he will continue to do this throughout my life.  Because of this bold certainty, I am constantly being attacked by Satan about my writing.  Every post leaves me in fear.  Fear of being unwanted.  Fear of being misunderstood.  Fear of my ideas being rejected by those I love most.  But that's the beauty of writing, it is incredibly scary in that God asks writers to be completely honest, humble and boldly-spoken.  You can't write truth if you aren't bold enough to proclaim it.

My writing professor always challenged us to be more vulnerable, because that's when it hurts, and  that's when people start to connect.

So today I challenge you to gauge your boldness as you go about your everyday activities.  What situations would cause Jesus to speak up?  Where do you feel the Lord challenging you to take a stand?  Is there something he's called you to that others don't necessarily agree with?  Pray through Proverbs 28:1 several times throughout the day and see where God takes you.

Proverbs 28:1
"The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion."

"You hear my voice, you hear that sound
like thunder gonna shake the ground.
You held me down, but I got up
get ready cause I've had enough."
--Katy Perry "Roar" lyrics

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Love Your Life

More often than not I think we tend to get bogged down in the negative things of life. The second something gets hard we start complaining and second guessing ourselves. A few weeks ago I caught myself doing this. I was complaining about life not being easy and things not going as smoothly as I had planned. It was in the midst of all this that I realized how fortunate I was. I'm living the dream! Really!

So I started counting my blessings. Those always add up fast.

How blessed I am!  I am in an intermediate painting class at a HUGE university.
I have a wonderful job.
I have three really close and wonderful friends here with me.
My family is wonderful!
I write and paint almost everyday!

 Then I realized how far I had come since March of this year. I've read about three books this year that have really made an impact on my life. All three of these books were not about being anything except a better "you." Through these books I have learned, or re-learned a lot about myself and my goals as a person.

Although I'm still a few chapters away from finishing, I want to take this opportunity to plug an amazing book.  I've actually given a few copies away to friends and family, but they never seem as excited about things as I am.

The name of the book is The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  The book was on a recommended but not required reading list for one of my online summer classes.  I never order the recommended but not required books for classes, but this was caught my eye because its subtitle is "A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity."  I had personally related creativity to spirituality often, but never heard anyone else connect the two, much less write a book over it.  So I bought it and I am a stronger individual for having read and worked through the book.

As I recommend this book to people I have to quote my disclaimer.  This is not a book you sit down and read all the way through.  It's not a book you just carry around with you and read it when you can.  I like to think of it as more of a quiet time supplement.  It is part book-part workbook.  Each chapter is short, rich and invigorating, but the best part is the challenges after the chapter.  These seemingly random tasks range everywhere from taking a walk to buying a sticker.  The point is to nurture your inner-child, the one who creates and lives without fear of judgement.

The entire book speaks to the soul of each individual's inner-artist.  I especially loved the exercises towards the beginning of the book that challenged the reader to write down a list of things they would do if money, fame and success were no object.  After making the list the reader is then challenged to take small steps towards executing these dreams.

In the grand scheme of things you are learning to take the big huge life-long dreams that seem impossible, and turn them into day by day steps that help you achieve your definition of success and happiness.

The tasks are so small that I haven't really realized my growth until I stop to look back.  When I pause and reflect I see how much this book has helped me learn about myself and where I'm going as I end my college career and enter a new stage in life.

No matter what age or stage you are, it is always a good idea to get in touch with yourself better.  God created each of us in a unique and special way.

We all have talents different from all others.

We all have dreams that look distinctive from those of others.

When we love ourselves and nourish ourselves, we can more easily love and nourish others.

God blesses us with gifts, treasures, talents, desires...when we aren't using what he created we are being bad stewards.  If God designed you to dance ballet, then you should do it.  Do what worships the Lord and brings praise to your lips.

Psalm 150:6
"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to Love Americans

I think this song is so powerful.  How many people are you surrounded by that just need a little love?

I'm willing to bet you don't even know.

Classmates, friends, see them everyday but do you really know what they are struggling with deep down?

Because of the society we're raised in, we hide the mess and look pretty on the outside.  We all know this because we all do it.  But what happens when the outside caves and we need someone there who really cares?  What happens when we need love--the real kind--the kind that heals?

Forgive us father, for we are so arrogant that we can't admit our own faults.  Forgive us for trying to be people we aren't.  Forgive me for trying too hard.  Forgive me for not showing weakness.  Because of my selfishness I know there are others who share the same struggles as I do, but I can't witness to them because then they would know my messy secrets.  I'm sorry father.  It is a disgusting sin to swallow.  Pride.  Why do we do this to ourselves?

I was handed a Billy Graham pamphlet at church last Sunday..inside I found information about Americans.  In a typical American neighborhood you can expect to find this:
  • 7 of your neighbors struggle with depression; some consider suicide
  • 14 feel crippled or trapped by fear and anxiety
  • 7 abuse or addicted to drugs or alcohol
  • 8 are struggling with the loss of a job
  • 3 are grieving the death of a loved one
  • 60 don't profess to be born again.
I do love the campaign Mr. Graham has going and I encourage you to follow the link and participate in your own church, but right now I want to focus on those statistics.  Some of you may find them hard to believe, but the more I see of the world the more I see truth in these numbers; we just hide them so it doesn't look so bad.

I thought a girl in my art class described it perfectly when she painted this picture:

It's about our hidden flaws.  The guy on the left is suicidal, the woman in the middle is anorexic and the girl sitting down on the far right struggles with depression.

I love this painting because I could just stare at it all day long and get so much meaning from it.  I particularly like the woman in the middle, because from the outside you know she is beautiful.  I'm sure everyone thinks she has a lovely life full of parties, romance and sophistication--but until you look closer you wouldn't know that she's a broken soul who desperately needs love and acceptance from someone who really cares.  Yes Jesus, but also a friend.  Not the kind she has who talk about jewelry and make-up all the time, but a true friend who loves her for her and doesn't care what size she is.  She doesn't need a religious weirdo trying to save her so they can feel better about themselves.  She needs someone she can trust.  Someone who says it's okay to be real.

This is the perfect portrait of America.

We are hurting and dirty and dieing.  We are bruised, broken and ashamed.  We need help.  We know about Jesus, we have him..but now we need each other.  Real friendship.

I came to this conclusion after watching October Baby for the fifth time.  The girl on there seems crazy, dependent and annoying--but she found healing through Jesus and a true friend.

I thought about that for a long time...

We try to make acting like Jesus this big huge thing where we have to start a non-profit organization and change the world with free Bibles and hot meals for everyone.  But really, "You can't boil the ocean."  We have to start small and we have to start with ourselves.  Me.  You.  Individually.

What would Jesus do?

He would love everyone! Everywhere! Forever!!

Right.  So what does that mean we should do?

Love everyone!  Everywhere! Forever!

Okay so let's break this down.  Instead of trying to "boil the ocean" let's look at your life.  Actually, let's look at mine since I don't know "you."  I have been blessed with a Mother, a Father, a Brother and about 5 or so friends who mean the world to me.  These are the people who mean the most to me.  They are the ones I laugh with, cry with and share my dreams with.  These are the people who won't leave me--for better or for worse.  

After watching October Baby, I feel like the Lord personally challenged me to look closer into these 8 lives and see what I can do to love them more like Jesus.  I can't be everyone's best friend no matter how hard I try..but I can love deeply 8 people.  That's doable for me.

So I made a list of these names, and next to each of their names I wrote out how I could personally help them feel the love of Jesus more through my life.  For my Brother it is being there to cheer him on.  For my crazy Mexican friend it's just being supportive of his new dream.  It's small things that add up to large things.

If we all purposely loved the small group of people in our lives better, I think we could make a huge change. Then someone would be there for the girl who secretly struggles with anorexia.  And when our small group meshes well and overflows love for one another, eventually we can reach out and add another soul to our love group.

BUT, let us not forget that this begins with humility.  I had to first realize that I need help, love and support from friends.  I had to realize that I was wrong. I am a sinner and I am broken and I will always be that way no matter how hard I try.

It first takes me getting uncomfortable and sharing my real struggles with my real friends and family in order to hear their side of the story too.

Also, I have to remember how imperfect I am and not judge them for their sins.  Just because I sin differently than they do, doesn't make me a better person.  We all fall short.

I guess I'm reinventing the wheel here.  Read Acts for more ideas and follow the life of Christ in John.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What Would Deacon Fry Do?

Since my last post I've still been thinking a lot on the same subject.  Welcome back to writing, Haley.  God is now going to plague you with a series of related events until you write the heck out of them.  I call it "inspired." 

First I had a good read.  There is a wonderful chapter in the middle of a book called "Living with Fred" by Brad Whittington.  In this chapter we have a teenage boy sitting in his father's office discussing punishment and process.  The boy's father happens to be a preacher who had just received a call from the head deacon, informing him that the boy was seen hanging around the town drunk.

As the father's anger and disappointment increases, so does the boy's defense.  He cannot understand what is so wrong with friending a man who has hardly any friends.  After all, isn't that what Jesus would  have done?  All of his friends were sinners and outcasts.

The father of course, not wanting to be wrong, reluctantly agreed but also explained how the Bible teaches us to live with holiness, and be "as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves", therefore it looks bad hanging out with the guy so it's considered wrong in the deacon's eyes, not to mention everyone else's eyes too.

The boy comes back with a seriously profound question that captures my point, I believe.

"So, you're saying I should ask myself, 'What would Deacon Fry do?' instead of "What would Jesus do?"  (not a direct quote.)

Wow.  How do you respond to that?  How do any of us respond to that?  We say we love Jesus and church and babies and everything, yet we are still living for each other and not the One True God.  We act like everything is perfect and we hide our sin and we avoid outcasts and lame events with meaning because it looks bad to everyone else.  We read the Bible and challenge ourselves, our children, and our friends to be "more Christ-like,"  but I think that looks like something so polar opposite of what we envision.

Jesus didn't stay squeaky clean.  

He didn't avoid sticky situations.

Christ was known for doing the opposite of what people thought he would do, and you know what?  I think 2,000 years and a ton of Study Bibles later....we've still got it wrong.  I bet he'd still surprise us today with his actions.

But what do we do about this?  We're human.  We will always fall short; always be wrong.  That's why we so desperately need Jesus.  Without him we're hopeless.

Yet because of his great gift of life and love to me, I want to do my best.  I want to give back what he gave to me.  

I had a moment like that once I suppose.  God told me to do something brave.  Something powerful.  Something society saw as sin and dirty and awkward and messy. But I loved Jesus and I was convinced it was from him, so I did it.

You know what happened?  

Absolutely everyone I had been loved and supported by turned their back on me.  Some of them still don't talk to me, others only talk to me because my life looks more correct to society now.  

Many people still think what I did was not from God--but I don't care.  He spoke it to me, not them.  And you know what?  The more I think on it, the more I know it had to be from God, because people treated me the way they treated Jesus--yet I had done nothing wrong.

So who is it that you really want your kids to live for?

Preacherman I love ya but you're confusing me.  I hear what you're saying but I just don't see any church folk doin' it.

The church is the first to turn on you when you do take action.  Take Deacon Fry, in the book for example.

The church doesn't actually want you to live for Jesus, they want you to live for them.

The church doesn't want you to be a radical disciple, they want you to be a casual Christian.

When I say "the church" I'm talking about me.  
I'm talking about you.  
I'm talking about your parents, your siblings, your preacher, your friends and your Christian school.

They don't want you to be sold out for Jesus--it costs too much.  

Real Jesus-living Christians are outcasts and dangerous...a little crazy too.

It's better to just be "normal"--something in between that doesn't rock the boat.  
Pick up trash, call your grandma, go to Sunday and Wednesday night services, but no more please.  Praying with prostitutes is dangerous and feeding the homeless is a lie.  You can't spend that much on a mission trip when you have school to pay for.  Don't hang out with them; they have a record.  We want you to be safe. good. like us.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Kid Rock-Cash-Cyrus Approach

One question seems to plague me today.

It's something I've thought about vaguely for a while, and until today it has nested in the back of my mind.  But now I'm wondering, and so I'm asking--not for an opinion, but for a truth.  A Jesus-truth.

Around a year ago I really became fascinated with Johnny Cash.  Today I watched "Walk the Line" again and saw it from a whole new angle.

I have also become a huge Kid Rock fan over the past 24 months, and although I consider myself a devout Christian, I find his "in your face", almost-offensive lyrics refreshing somehow.

I think what draws us to these pop culture masterpieces is their originality.  Kid Rock prides himself on being a master of mixing hip-hop, southern rock, and blues all into one.  And listening to his music, I can tell you it is truly a beautiful collaboration and somehow he makes it work--and he has made it work with his obvious multi-platinum record sales.

If you look up Johnny Cash on Wikipedia it explains that his originality and rebelliousness to the country music genre is what set him apart and put him light years ahead of his competition.  He too was creative in his mix: gospel, blues, and western music.

What further intrigues me about Cash is that he considered himself a very devout Christian, yet he was the "biggest sinner of them all."  To be so complex and contradictory really confused a lot of people, especially his Christian fans.

And in the movie there is a scene where Johnny goes to his record company asking to design a concert tour around the nation's top penitentiary systems.  His record company tells him that this is clearly not going to reach his loyal fans.
"Your fans are church folk, Johnny.  Christians.  They don't wanna hear you sing to a bunch of murderers and rapists, tryin' to cheer 'em up."

Mr Cash's striking reply was,

 "Well, they're not Christians then."

 I guess what gets me is that WE are Christians.  We are to model Jesus.  Jesus loved sinners--murderers and rapists.  But in the church today, you don't hear or see anything remotely close to that.  No one loves them or hangs out with them or buys them lunch--much less sings to them or tries to cheer them up.  

In fact, I would assume it would be easier and much more popular for the Christians to look down at Mr. Cash for doing such a thing.

His lyrics are just so rebellious!
                                     He sings about popping pills, killing people, and getting drunk!
How can such a person consider themselves a Christian??
                                          I heard he started out as a gospel singer--I wonder what happened to him?
Poor guy--he's so strung out on drugs he doesn't know what he wants.

Of course, I wasn't around for Johnny Cash's career and the live gossip that followed.  But we are all here for Kid Rock.  Also to many people's surprise--he too sings several songs on faith, Jesus, and God.  He is a political and social activists and participates in several charities.  But I'm sure most of my fellow Christians (I used too as well) can be caught with this kind of opinion:

Kid Rock?  He's definitely not a good guy.  Have you heard his lyrics?  
                         Didn't he go to jail for drugs and stuff?
I think he is pretty strung out on drugs too..
                        I have no respect for him.
                                           He is disgusting.

But really, would Jesus gossip like this?  Well, Jesus wouldn't gossip.  But he would definitely hold the same opinions as us...right?  

What about Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus' new stunt??

Yeah and did you hear about Amanda Bynes??  Oh my gosh, she is totally loosing it.  Such a shame too because she was so talented...

So it's okay to make "pity" comments and judgmental thoughts about them because they're famous right?

What about you?  How are things on your end?

I heard she's been hanging out with a rough crowd lately..
                He might be gay, we better keep him at a close distance.
I pray for them, but gees there's just no changing them.  They are total hypocrites!

And I'm the one writing this so you know I'll get slammed!

Who is she to talk?  Why does she always think she has the right to preach to us??
                    Well she obviously can't say anything..she dropped out of school for a year!
I don't trust her beliefs anymore..I heard she works at a bar.

I think we've all wasted too many precious hours lying and covering up our mistakes with cheap Covergirl cosmetics.  You see, I am a very black and white person.  Tell me what to do and I'll do it, but this question I have seems to have no clear answer--and so I'm asking you to think on it with me.  Let's think and pray until the Lord searches our hearts with a solution.
Here's the question:

In my family, (Disclaimer: Obviously I love my family, this is just a thought so don't freak out.)  we were raised to keep our sins on the down-low.  Yes, we acknowledge that everyone sins and Jesus totally forgives those kinds of things--but at the same time, we really don't want the whole world knowing about our just gets, well, kind of messy.  It's too much to explain.

  • Like your father's infidelity for instance.  We won't mention that because it was wrong, he knew it was wrong, and so him and your mother worked out amongst themselves and moved on.

  • Or your sister went to jail on a crazy party mishap.  That's great that your parents got her out immediately and had it expunged from her record, but please don't bring it up ever again--especially in a family setting.  We don't need to discuss that.

Part of me agrees with this approach, part of me doesn't.  

The Bible teaches me to expose sins and confess them to my prayer warrior friends so I can be healed and set free (James 5:16, Proverbs 28:13, 1 Timothy 5:20.)  But when I do that, I get more gossip in return and worried looks from parents, family members, and old teachers.  I even got awkward talks from many people who barely knew me or my situation!

On the other hand..if you keep quiet about the whole thing and handle yourself between you and God then everyone avoids the awkward conversation and we all politely disregard the fact that you also are human and you have sin.  Because we disregard this fact we can quite confidently turn around and not only judge each other for listening to Lady Gaga's music, but we can join forces together by calling her a "sinful ugly whore who is desperate for attention."

I guess in a perfect world we would follow the Bible and stop judging each other, but we don't live that way--so we sin.  And we sin more to cover up our sin.  And when people ask us about it we lie about our sin.

It's a lose-lose situation.

I had a wonderful friend once who was THAT honest with himself, his friends, his parents and his church family. 

Now we all hate him.

I just don't get it.  What are we to do?  Save face and be (fake) clean little Christians with good (outward) habits and hobbies, or do we take the Kid Rock-Cash-Cyrus approach and be upfront with everyone about being "troubled but devout Christians."
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