Wo(man) in the mirror

In Uncategorized by benjamin

What do you think when you look in the mirror? 

  • Well, crap
  • At least I’m no-bo(tox)  
  • Brown chicken brown cow

There’s this famous line that Jesus said about what matters most in life, but of all the times I’ve heard it talked about, I’ve never heard this very important point: 

You must love YOU to love them. 

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” —Jesus (Mark 12:31)

How do you love God? By loving your neighbor. 

How do you love you neighbor? The same way you love yourself. 

Implication: If you don’t love yourself, you’re not loving others well. 

If you’re not showing yourself grace, you’re not offering it to others.
If you can’t smile at your own weaknesses, you’re not going to tolerate the weaknesses of others. 
If you can’t embrace your own quirks, you’re not going to enjoy the quirks of someone else close to you.  

It starts with you. Enjoy you. Show grace to you. Be compassionate towards you. Then, you might discover that everyone around you is struggling to love themselves… opening the door to endless opportunities to love God by loving people He loves. 

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Barfing the bible

In Uncategorized by benjamin

Have you ever been in pain or at a crossroads or standing at the edge of fearful transition… then had some well-meaning person quote a random bible verse without context or care? 

It sucks, right? And kinda makes you understand why so many people have concluded (wrongly) that the bible is just a crutch for people who aren’t honest about real life. 

I call that “barfing the bible.” And what I mean is, 

Let’s not be people who just vomit sunday school solutions with a scripture to the hurting. It’s careless. It can make matters worse. And it’s not what Jesus did. 

Jesus knelt down to the level of children. Jesus asked what the paralyzed man wanted. Jesus’ miracles were mostly hands-on… and his lessons came from relevant, day-to-day first century context. He was there, connected, aware, compassionate. 

So why are we afraid to enter into the mess of real life? Offering disconnected cliche bible verses is like tossing bread out of the back of a truck with sanitary gloves. Instead, let’s honestly engage in the human struggle.

Don’t fix them. Fit yourself into their story. 
Don’t solve it. Show them that you struggle too.
Don’t downplay it. Move downward to a level of honest care and compassion. 

This is the Jesus way. 

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Hilary Hijack: Encouragement

In Uncategorized by benjamin

I was struck by something this past week at lifegroup. 

We answered a question: “How can we support one another?” 

And while, yes, there were practical needs, still the clear overwhelming responses were for ENCOURAGEMENT. 

Isn’t that interesting? We all have a deep desire to be encouraged, supported, loved. 

The definition of encouragement is the act of giving someone support, confidence or hope. Another definition says, persuasion to do or to continue to do something. 

It’s funny, I thought I was just going to find a picture of my Grandma Pat when I looked this word up. Seriously. Everyone needs a Gma Pat in their life. She is constantly encouraging others around her to help them keep moving forward, keep doing the good work. She always encourages us to love each other, to forgive quickly. She listens to our problems and offers support–reminding us how loved we are. 

My favorite thing Gma Pat does is that she tells me what an amazing mom I am. She is constantly telling me how sweet my kids are and how much she loves seeing us. She tells me “Hilary, you work so hard… I don’t know how you do it! You are a super mom.” Which always makes me smile and chuckle because my Grandma also had 3 kids, and they were closer together in age, and she had 3 pies made and delivered to the restaurant by noon everyday while those kids were young. So, yeah… She does know how to do it all, too. SHE slayed the mom game, and she is slaying the grandma game! 

But she would never tell you that. She just keeps on lifting her family and loved ones up and celebrating our wins. She makes sure everyone of her people know how loved they are. 

I am a blessed granddaughter and recipient of such extraordinary encouragement and love. I am grateful for the example she sets, and I will continue that legacy on–because it’s so evident to me that it is what the world so desperately needs. 

I want to make it less about me, more about others. 

Let’s make it a Grandma Pat kind of day.

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Write your name

In Uncategorized by benjamin

My boys are 5 and 3. They are fascinated by “typing” their names into my computer. If I pull the laptop out the first one to see it will inevitably shout, “Let me write my name!”

Jack (5) can spell his name. Now, he can actually hunt and peck his way around the keyboard and almost write JACK THOMAS ANDERSON without assistance. 

Henry (3) still needs me to direct his finger. But he loves every minute of it. 

  • Me: “H”
  • Henry: “Yeah, H”
  • Me: “E”
  • Henry: “Yeah, E”

We all love to see our names. We all love to hear our names. 

We all need to be known, seen, acknowledged, and valued. 

So write your name today. Write it. Look at it. Know that there’s a Creator who designed you and knew your name before the foundations of the world. You’re known. Sit in his “knowingness.” He’s with you. 

God says: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” -Jeremiah 1:5

And then remember, everyone around you is at an encouragement deficit. They probably didn’t read this today. They need to see their name, hear their name, and believe they matter. So say names today. Not nicknames… not derogatory names… say their real names—on purpose, with love. Try to learn and actually remember a new name today. Their name is their favorite word in any language. 

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Muddy

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He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” -John 9:11

The man was born blind. He’d never seen. Anything. 

There must have been a little piece of the man that was afraid to see. The devil you know is safer than the angel you don’t. As painful as blindness would seem, he’d never known anything different. 

It’s my belief that this man would not have gone to Siloam to wash his eyes if Jesus didn’t cake mud over them. If Jesus would have simply said, “Ok, jump up and go to Siloam. The touch of water will give you your vision,” the man would have walked away, turned left instead of right, and stuck to the life with which he was familiar. 

That’s what most of us do, after all. We cling to our limitation. We reinforce our flawed thinking. We justify our bad reactions. We settle for our so-so default attitude. And we “struggle” with our compulsive behaviors—instead of abandoning them. 

That is, until Jesus puts mud on our face. That’s different. That’s uncomfortable. It’s also embarrassing. Everyone is used to the fact that I’m blind (angry, irresponsible, lazy, irritable, negative, shallow, selfish…), but this? Mud on my face? Now I have to find some water. I guess I’ll go to the spot that Jesus is guiding me and see what’s there. 

Or, to quote Jesus in a similar situation: “Do you want to be well?”

Do you? Do you want to see? Even if it changes everything?

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Who’s Fault

In Uncategorized by benjamin

We always want it to be someone’s fault. We love the drama… the reality shows… the gossip… 

Plus, we don’t think we’re the ones blind in the situation. (But we often are.)

Obviously, the guy sitting there whose eyes don’t work—he’s blind. Poor guy with problems. 

But is he poor? Should I feel sorry for him, or is he suffering because of his sin? Or his parents’ sin? Someone is responsible for this. I’m clearly in a position of strength and superiority because I have my sight. 

Jesus’ listeners believed that every deformity, disease, or disability was a result of SIN. As in, you did something bad and God is punishing you for it. 

But was He? Is He? 

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” —Jesus (John 9:3)

At least in this situation, it’s not about God punishing anybody.

The design of this universe is such that “you reap what you sow,” and there are natural, built-in consequences for every action. It’s written… or designed with an operating system. 

Thus, God doesn’t need to punish me. My choices bring positive or negative consequences with them. To the contrary, God’s compassion is on full display throughout the life of Jesus as He sits with, talks to, and parties along side the people who the culture referred to as “sinners.” That’s one big reason why the religious elite hated Jesus. Jesus modeled that we’re all the same—there are no spiritual elite. And the blind people are not the folks with service dogs. They’re the “blind guides,” perpetuating a false religion of comparison and shame-based judgment. 

Back to our guy. His eyes don’t work. He was born blind. I don’t think that was God’s original design for anyone. Something went wrong somewhere. Contamination in the ground corrupts our crops and produces adverse effects on our bodies. Chemicals in the air do harm to our systems. A parent slips on the stairs and the unborn child is adversely affected. Consequences. 

But it’s easier to control people and get them to do what we want then to do if we threaten them with, “God will strike you blind if you look at porn!” Will He? Or are you more likely to develop a compulsive masturbation habit that steals you away from the present moment, makes you less grateful for your spouse, and causes you to think about sex in unhealthy ways? 

Whenever I’m looking for someone to blame or shame it’s my eyes that need opening. 

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Clear the crap

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Clear the crap and the path will present itself.

I used to think I was waiting on God to reveal the path, the future, the direction I should go. That’s not what I believe any more. And I think a lot of really good people are waiting on God while God’s waiting on them.

My friend told me about a trail near his parent’s cabin in the woods. He’d just discovered the trail after growing up visiting the cabin dozens of times. But this time he was walking his dog and his dog chased a ball into the bushes. My friend then discovered that there was an overgrown path to an amazing trail that led he and his dog on the hike of a lifetime. A trail, hidden from sight, but right there all along.

Clear the crap and the path will present itself.

For me to see the path everyday—and not assume I’m on it, or blindly charge down a direction that just looks good on paper—I need to clear out:

  • fear of what people think—people-pleasing
  • fear of letting people down
  • shortcuts
  • anxiety about the future
  • distractions—even my own ideas that distract me

What about you? What do you need to clear out today?

Start here—just say it, pray it, out loud: “I’m rejecting and clearing out of my life _________________”

Notice when/if the thing returns and clear it out again.

You’ll get to the path soon enough.

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Test it

In Uncategorized by benjamin

“Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.” -‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:1‬ 

I want to follow up on what Hilary discussed in the yesterday’s post.

Don’t get hung up on words from the verse like “false prophet,” or any words that feel disconnected from your reality. The point is simple:

You have the same Spirit of God IN YOU. The “spiritual leader”—whoever and wherever they are—is not closer to God than you. Sure, you might have some distractions in your life, or you might not be practicing listening… but the same Spirit is in you and accessible to you. Trust it.

Thus, test it. Test whatever the friend, pastor, coach, or guide is telling you and make sure it aligns with the whisper within you.

So… What does it look like to “test” what someone is telling you or how they are coaching you? It can look like a lot of things. Let me just share what it’s looked like for me.

  • Pay attention to your gut. If there’s a twinge of doubt, question, discomfort, or disconnect… wait. Don’t buy what they’re selling at face value. Learn to pay attention to what’s reacting within.
  • Talk to an outsider. Speak with someone outside the situation who is unbiased. Even the best leaders have trouble distinguishing the voice of God and the voice of self—especially self-protection. Talk with someone wise and experienced who has no skin in the game.
  • Circle it in prayer. Write down in your journal the issue or question in as few words as possible. Circle it.Keep circling it day after day as you pray and ask God for guidance.
  • Ask, “What does love require?” Keep the main thing the main thing. Don’t settle for someone’s lesser agenda. Stay focused on the ultimate agenda: love others as Jesus loves you.

Remember, the Spirit of the living God is in you and with you and guiding you. Often, He uses other people. Sometimes those people are in your life to point you in the right direction. Sometimes they point you in the wrong direction, teaching you to trust in the voice WITHIN you and fear God more than human authorities.  

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Hilary hijack: Listening to wisdom

In Uncategorized by benjamin

Where does your wisdom come from? Who do you allow into that sacred place of helping you make decisions? Do you understand God’s voice and allow him to guide you?

Sometimes, when his voice is unclear or I am foggy on what I am hearing, I wait before I move. I also ask people I trust. I have a select few people who I let speak into my life. You know you have your sacred few when they aren’t always just telling you what you want to hear–they push back, but for your good. They offer advice and challenge you to move forward, yet at the same time you know they are 100% FOR YOU, and not just you… they are champions of all people–even your “enemies.” Hopefully your few will help you to live a life in peace with everyone – not allowing you to be a complete ass to your enemies.

Often times we rely on the wisdom that comes from a leader–maybe a boss or a pastor. And while their insight might be helpful and wise, we should still check in with God for ourselves. I know, because My husband and I led a church together and I can assure you we were not perfect and did not always hear from the Lord absolutely precisely, but some people would take our words as gold and have no other points of reference in their process. That is a lot of power to give someone. Power that I see abused on the regular within our churches… and by certain leaders… and it should be called out.

The good thing is that it doesn’t have to be mysterious. God gives us guidelines for deciphering if its good wisdom or if it might be coming from a place of blindness or self-protection. God says (in James 3:17) “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure: then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” 

So, if the wisdom/guidance/counsel you received causes division, doesn’t end in peace and good fruit, I would pump the brakes… pause and reflect. Take power back. Don’t follow the leader blindly… You get to have a relationship with your heavenly Father who wants to guide you and walk and talk with you…. Directly.

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Slow to become angry

In Uncategorized by benjamin

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry… “ -James 1:19

When we are slow to speak and intentional about listening for understanding (see the previous two posts), we can make more accurate and informed judgments about every situation we face.

We’re making judgements all the time. Judgements based upon our past experience, current perceptions, filter of the world, emotional state… And sometimes our judgement or our interpretation of the situation is skewed.

Being slow to anger means:

  • being sure about the facts
  • giving others the benefit of the doubt
  • waiting for wisdom
  • clearing away bias
  • not picking fights

Being slow to anger does NOT mean:

  • putting up with injustice
  • ignoring a problem
  • suffering in silence
  • not creating boundaries
  • giving bad behavior a pass

We’re slow to speak so we can listen to understand. We listen to understand so we can be purposeful and loving with our words. We’re purposeful and loving with our words so that when anger is justified, we do not sin (Ephesians 4:26).

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