Category Archives: Pride

Don’t Try to be Something You’re Not. What Does that Even Mean?

Don’t try to be something you’re not.

I heard adults say this phrase over and over throughout my childhood.

But it’s hard not to try to be something you’re not when you’re not even  sure what it is that you are.

Identity is a subject that is talked about all the time. In cultural circles, it is one of the hottest topics of our day.

Don’t try to be something you’re not.

 

A week ago, I was getting ready for church.

I used to try to have all the little details of my life perfect, especially when my family was going somewhere in public. My clothes laid out, the kids’ clothes laid out, my hair perfect, their hair perfect. Everyone’s nails clipped and filed, mine perfectly manicured. Coordinating hair bows, loose strings cut, sweaters lint-rolled till they shined. You get it.

Our culture tells us “Don’t be something you’re not, but, oh by the way, be perfect!” All at the same time. And we buy into it.

Because, what will happen if we don’t?

I make choices daily about how I use my time. Having all the little details perfect back then meant that I spent a lot of time on those details, shining shoes, ironing, micromanaging the kids on little things.

And we buy into it.

 

I still care about those things. I’m not saying that I have become a slob. In fact, I’ve learned how to work smarter and not harder in a lot of areas. “Lord, help me work smarter, not harder!” One of my favorite prayers. Everyday wisdom. Jesus. Oh, how we need it.

I still care about those things, but I don’t care about them nearly as much as I used to because I no longer take my identity from them. 

“Identity” was a word that used to infuriate me when I first came back to the church. The women in the weekly Bible study I attended said “identity” to each other, their eyes meeting, knowing looks, head nodding. Identity.  Girl. Mmmhmm. Like it was a world in a word. And it is. But their extreme confidence in something I did not understand frustrated me to the point of rage.

Lord, help me work smarter, not harder.

 

Christianese is only helpful if we translate.

I wanted to know what they knew. I started to pray into this word. “Identity. Identity in Christ. What does that even mean, God? I want to know.”

I started to see what Jesus died for. What He wanted for us, for me. Redeemed. All the junk that I thought was a lost cause in me, all the areas of damage, all the areas of failure. He died so that I could have a different identity. I was not what I did. I was what He did. I was what He died for.

Christianese is only helpful if we translate.

 

It’s a walking out. What we know as identity will continue to grow as we grow closer to Him.

You become like the people you spend the most time with. I want to be more like Jesus. I’m spending more time with Him than I am on all the little details. And I’m spending more time trying to follow Him where I think He’s leading me. I do think He cares about the way we take care of ourselves, but those things can become idols. We can go overboard on anything if we don’t understand that identity comes from Him, His life, His death, His vision for us.

You become like the people you spend the most time with.

 

Our lives are not our own.

Instead of making lists that are set in stone and making everyone miserable as I try to check them off, I’m asking more questions. “How did You make me? What is on Your list for me today? What am I in You?” I’m able to walk out in more confidence when my to-do list comes from One so much bigger than I am, One who loves so well.

So. Back to getting ready for church.

I had gone to an event the night before and gotten home late. I didn’t take a lot of time to get ready for the morning before I went to bed. I know how I am when I don’t get enough sleep. Sleep is a priority. The details have to come later. I chose rest.

And, again in the morning, I chose rest. I slept as long as I could, and I got up with about 45 minutes to get ready.

What is on Your list for me today?

 

I knew  I wasn’t going to be super dressy, no time for that. So I picked up a pair of jeans. Fine. Jeans are fine.

Then, I started going through my drawers. I felt a little stressed and rushed. I picked up a sweater that is pretty, but I don’t love it on me. I started going through the drawer again, looking for something that I felt better about wearing.

And I heard that old phrase, “Don’t try to be something that you’re not.”

And I felt offended.

“What, Lord? I’m not doing that. I enjoy clothes. I enjoy dressing up and putting different pieces together. I’m not ‘trying too hard’ or ‘trying to be something I’m not!’ What are you talking about?”

I am learning that when I am offended by the Holy Spirit, I like to throw a little fit. And then when I get it out, He’s still there, waiting. And then I say, “Ok. Fine. I don’t understand because I don’t think that I am that/do that/think that. But whatever. Please. Show me what you mean.” That’s just how it goes. Every time.

And He does.

I felt that He was saying, “Just stop a minute. Be honest with yourself about what you are right now.”

Please. Show me what you mean.

 

And I got it.

What I am right now. What I was, right then.

I was someone who chose sleep over details that day. I was someone who chose blogging over ironing that week. I was someone who chose time with my kids over shining shoes and cutting threads. I was someone who chose to put a party together for my friends instead of dying my hair.

I do all those self care things–again, I don’t want to sound like those things don’t matter. They do matter. I’m not all holier than thou. Trust me. I like my hair done.  I like when my boots are tall and my makeup is on point. It’s just that, the reality of what I was in that moment was not someone who had made those things a priority. I wasn’t going to be able to fix it in 45 minutes. I wasn’t going to be able to make up for a week of putting other things first by tearing through a drawer trying to find the perfect sweater. I wasn’t going to be able to get ready for church and be on time by trying to be something I wasn’t.

I wasn’t going to be able to fix it in 45 minutes.

 

I felt relief. Permission to move forward. Perfect is just not going to happen today. Maybe never. I put on the less-than-perfect sweater. I didn’t even try to fix my hair. I brushed it and put on a hat. I grabbed the first jewelry I saw. I did simple makeup. I have no idea what the kids wore, but they got themselves ready for church on time with no prodding. To me, that’s success. Two teens and a tween in the van, on their own, on time, with no pushing from mom. Thank You, Lord.

It’s a journey, this identity thing. But one thing I know. I have permission to stop trying to be something I’m not. That means being honest in every moment about what I am. Rushed? Tired? Frustrated? Disappointed? I don’t have to wallow in it, but I don’t need to be in denial about it either, in the name of perfectionism, or optimism.

Or even in the name of faith.

I have permission to stop trying to be something I’m not. That means being honest in every moment about what I am.

 

Real faith doesn’t have to lie about circumstances. Real faith is honest about the mess and brings it to God and says, “Ok, God. It’s Your mess. Now what?”

And here’s the funny thing. I got so many compliments that morning on my jewelry, on my hat. I had to take a picture. Not because I think I look like a rock star, but because I know how I felt, and He showed me that He can still put us together in the middle of our mess, in the middle of our less-than-perfect. He can help us work smarter not harder. Don’t try to be something you’re not.

He will work it out.

And someone will just love your hat.

If they only knew.

Less than perfect. And I’m showing you my messy kitchen too. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Lol! <3

***

What are you, right now? What do you need to be honest about, and just let God have it? Frustrated? Disappointed? Rushed? Lord, we give it to you. Show us how to walk this out without trying to force something that is never going to happen. Show us how to stop trying to be something we are not and just rest in You.

Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor 5:17

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal 2:20

For Lupé, the Beautiful Dancer.

Last week I locked my keys in my car in Echo Park.

Echo Park is lovely now, but it was known for gang activity in the not too distant past.

Rush hour was easing, and the sun was setting.

My friend, Gloria, and I stood on the sidewalk and waited on the locksmith.

Gloria is a great person to be locked out of a car with in the middle of a city.  She just stood there laughing.

No stress.  No anxiety.  No worry.  No fear.

We were trying to visit the Aimee Semple McPherson Parsonage and Angelus Temple.  Everything was closed, so we couldn’t go in.  But we walked around and took a few pictures.  Fifteen minutes passed.  Then thirty.  Then an hour.

I looked at Gloria standing by my mini van in high heels on dirty concrete.  It was hot.  We were thirsty and tired.  And the crowd around us was changing as the sun went down.

I started singing.  “I have decided to follow Jesus.”  It seemed appropriate standing outside that temple.  It seemed a declaration of a choice.  Also.  I once saw Jen Hatmaker sing it in a moment of exasperation, and it really made me laugh.

Gloria started singing with me, and we stood there on the sidewalk with people walking by all around, just singing.

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We made it through a couple of verses and then couldn’t remember the third.  Gloria said, “Oh, I’m so thirsty.  I wish we had some water.”

As she said it, a woman in a pink sports bra walked right up to us and said, “Do you work here?  I really need some water.”

It was so odd, like she almost repeated what Gloria had said.  And she came out of nowhere.

She appeared.

Her arms and chest were covered in scars and faded tattoos.  She was a beautiful woman, but older than she seemed at first.  The short top was a few sizes too small.  She was bursting out of it on every side.

“I tried to get a drink of water at the pharmacy.  They said they don’t serve hookers in there.”  She was indignant.  “I’m not a hooker.  I’m a dancer.”

We asked her name.  “Lupe,” she said.  We told her ours.

She talked on in frustration of how she had been treated all day.  As she walked through town because her car broke down.  She was going to sleep in it that night.  She had been to the temple before, and the people were nice, she said.  She thought they might give her water.  She was visiting from Vegas, looking for a better job.

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Gloria asked Lupe if she felt safe in her line of work.

“Oh.  Well.  No one’s ever tried to kill me, but they try to rape me in the parking lot when I leave.  I learned to change clothes before I go.  Now I just wear an old sweat suit, and it’s fine.”

“Wow,” we said.  And we just kept chatting.  Kids.  Shoes.  Lupe liked Gloria’s dress.

We were just three women talking.  She said she was thirsty and hot.  We were, too.  She said her feet hurt.  Ours did, too.

As we stood near the church, two other women and their children walked up and tried the door, and found it locked, like we had.

They had tourist maps in their hands.  The gold crosses around their necks shone nearly white.  They walked by us.

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Gloria and I are always friendly, we can’t even help it.  We spoke to the women.

They sped up walking.  They would hardly look at us.  I saw them staring hard at Lupe, and they almost covered their faces with their maps.  They mumbled something in reply to our greeting and walked quickly away.

Lupe just glanced at them and then back at us.  She seemed unfazed, but their behavior was so unnecessary.  It was weird.

We talked a little more with Lupe, but she wanted to walk in a public bathroom outside the temple.  We felt like we needed to wait with the car.  We told her we would give her money.  We wanted to pray with her.  She said she could use prayer.  We said to just meet us at the car when she came out.

She walked in the bathroom, and  we walked back to the car.  A few minutes passed, and we wondered if we should check on her.  We walked back to where we could see the bathroom door, and we saw two men walk in.

Gloria and I always find pennies.  They remind me of something Heidi Baker always says, “Stop for the one.”

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As we left Echo Park, Gloria bent down and picked up the filthiest penny I have ever seen from under a bus bench.  It looked like it had been wrapped in bubble gum and rolled in dog hair and dirt.  But, under it all was glowing copper, no doubt.  Still a penny.  Still forged with a purpose.  Still valuable.

I don’t know if Lupe had planned a meeting with those men or not, but she never came back to us.  We met some policemen later, near the time we finally got the car unlocked, but they didn’t seem worried about her.

I pray she is safe.  I pray she knows she is loved.  I pray she sometimes thinks of two women who enjoyed spending time with her outside of a church.  I pray she goes back there and tries again.  And the doors are open.  And she finds what she’s looking for.

What she’s really looking for.

I pray I get another chance.  To love well, to reach out, to go one step further in serving and in boldness.

And I pray for the women who passed us by.  As lovely and clean as those women were, they were the opposite of pretty, dressed in judgement.  Walking in fear.

We can always do better.  I pray they can try again, too.  That they get another chance to minister to a stranger.  That they find what they are looking for.

Really looking for.

***

God is love.

Keeping Your Castle: How to Fight Fear.

The following story is similar to the last post but not the same.  Spot the differences?

The egg cracks, and a forked tongue flicks into the night air.  Fragments of the shell, thick and dark, fall into the soil below.  A tiny serpent oozes out of the broken mess, one long and writhing body, two heads.

In a room high above the nest, a woman sleeps.  The walls of the castle keep are too smooth for the serpent’s slick belly, but the vining ivy proves a perfect pathway to her window–or it would, had it not been cut so close.

The double-headed snake slithers its way along the vines and pauses near the window sill.  The smell of life is strong here.  It makes its way a little higher on the vine and then drops, aiming its body at the window ledge.   It nearly falls to the ground far below, but it twists at the last minute and scoots along the edge of the grated screen.

Finding no easy way inside, the serpent stops to warm itself on the rock wall still full of heat from the day’s sun.  Perhaps it has come far enough.  But its instinct is strong, and it pushes along the screen again.  Finding no holes, it presses hard, and the wooden frame comes away from the wall, just enough for the little beast to creep in.  

It makes its way down the heavy curtain and across the floor, but it is weary now from so much effort.  The serpent stops on the floor near the bed and falls asleep,

The woman also sleeps, soundly, having pulled on her helmet before laying her head on the pillow.  This is not her habit, but tonight, a chilly wind blows and bears an ill will.  She holds her sword in her hand.  Intruders would find this maiden hard to handle.

The queen’s guard makes a silent pass through the bedroom, checking to see that all is well.  He approaches the window to check the screen, and as he passes the foot of the bed, his bootheel connects with the serpent’s tiny heads.  It dies without waking, without ever knowing it has lost.

Lady the Fearless sleeps on, dreaming of victories.

***

The castle “keep” was the ultimate fortified tower.  Tall and thick and surrounded by a stone wall, equipped with weapons and designed for fighting, the keep gave the advantage to the defenders inside.

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These towers were made with the understanding of attack, to “keep” the vulnerable ones safe, the ultimate refuge.

In the last post, I gave you a story about a maiden in a tower that was not a keep.

There were several elements to last week’s tale:  a neglected castle yard, a tower covered in overgrown ivy, a wide open window, an unguarded bedroom, a vulnerable maiden, and a lying little snake.

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In  that post, I promised to share some of my strategies for slapping fear out of my head, for creating a different kind of story.  Here they are:

I try to keep fear from ever getting in.

I believe that I have nothing to fear, that God loves me like crazy and works all things together for my good.  This is not always a natural thought, so I  get it in my mind as often as I can, reading scripture and listening to teachers like Joyce Meyer or Lisa Bevere or Graham Cooke.

I’m aware of how I tolerate dark entertainment or heavy conversations, etc.  Sometimes, my tolerance is high.  Other times, I need to walk away.  Regardless of tolerance level, when negative things come in through the news, movies, conversations, or elsewhere, I make time to recharge.

I’m a pray-er.  Is that a word?  I don’t know, but I am one.  The minute I sense anything weird, I say a quick prayer.  Usually something like “Jesus help.”  Sometimes, that’s all I’ve got.

Fear can grab us physically before we know it.  Once in a while, just to check, I do a quick scan of my body.  How’s my breathing?  Deep breaths calm the body and mind.  How tense are my shoulders?  I consciously relax.

I meditate on scriptures, in my head or whispering if I have to, out loud if I can.  I’m working on making a printable for you guys with paraphrases of these verses.  When I figure out Dropbox, I’ll get it to you.

My friends help me think in a way that brings peace.  I surround myself with an atmosphere of peace and guard my territory in any way I can.  I have many friends from different walks of life, but the ones I spend the most time with encourage me in peace and strength.

Last, I rest.  I take care of myself, mind, body and spirit.  A worn out body drags behind and drains mental and emotional energy.

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These are my strategies for keeping fear out, for keeping my castle.  I’m not totally fearless every minute of every day, but I’m so much better than I used to be.

What strategy most resonates with you?  What would you add?  Love your ideas–see you in the comments!

 

Deception. The Adversary Hatches.

The egg cracks, and a forked tongue flicks into the night air.  Fragments of the shell, thick and dark, fall into the moldy soil below.  A tiny serpent, grotesque and deformed, oozes out of the broken mess, one long and writhing body, two heads.

In a room high above the nest, a woman sleeps.  The castle walls are too smooth for the serpent’s slick belly, but the vining ivy proves a perfect pathway to her window.  The double-headed snake slithers its way along the vines and over the window sill, down the heavy curtain, across the floor, and up into the bed beneath the coverlet at her feet.  It pauses a moment, basking in the warmth of legs covered in filmy white silk.

The brains of the tiny snake, vague and primitive, see thoughts in images, and something like firelight plays through its consciousness.  The tongues flicker, and it continues on, following the warmth of her body, leaving the covering of her sheets, and,  finding her head covered in shining curls, it slithers into her ear.  She stirs, but sleep is sweet.

It more thinks the lies than speaks them, and the woman hears its thoughts louder than her own dreams. And, so deep it goes, hiding itself inside her head, that she believes its thoughts are her own.

Each head sends a different message, one of fear and one of pride, and it feasts on the confusion it breeds. The woman holds her head in her hands and cries tears of indecision.  

Her soul opens to Deception.  The little beast settles in, and without waking, she gives it a home.

***

Every good story needs a terrible villain.  Lady the Fearless?  She battles lies.  Fear and pride.  Dream stealers.  They come in when we believe deceptions about who we are, when we dozily accept any thought that wanders through our minds.  Too bad the sleeping maiden left that window wide open.  Too bad she doesn’t put up much of a fight.

If she would jerk herself awake and slap that little two-headed snake, it would fly across the room and crack its tiny skulls.  And the maiden?  She would find herself that much closer to Lady the Fearless.

So many things in this story could be different.  What if someone were on snake patrol, getting the eggs before they could ever hatch?  What if the castle had a more conscientious gardener?

The window could be guarded.  There could be snake traps in the bedroom.  The little maiden could jump up, throwing back the blankets, kicking like a ninja!   She could protect her ears before she slept, some barrier the lying creature could never breach.

What lies do you need to slap, right across the room today?  What barriers could you put in place against lies?  What fears are trying to take you down, infiltrate your thinking, and steal your dreams with thoughts of failure and risk?  What prideful nonsense is invading?

Every healthy person I know deals with lies and fear and pride; it’s an ongoing matter of what we accept and how proactive we are, how often we go on snake patrol, take inventory.  How sleepy are we when lies try to creep in?   Because they are sneaky, and we do love our slumber.

We have got to get control of ourselves, for heavens sake, and give the little beasties a slap.

I’ll share some of my strategies for slapping fear out of my head in the next post, but would you share some of yours in the comments?  What does courage look like for you in those moments of choice, those moments when you could choose to believe a lie or step out on truth?