How Far is Too Far?

When we explore ideas that push the boundary of our faith this question arises….how far is too far? How open is too open? How liberal is to liberal? I think in our developing world of “enlightenment” and free thought aka “wokeness” we have a highly influential doorway that willingly invites us to follow after whatever we see as comfortably true to us. Instead of studying and adhering to the faith tradition for which we ascribe to; we instead opt for this a la cart belief system. It takes a little bit of this from here, a little bit of that from there and creates an entree size plate for us to feast on. On the other hand, many people have lived a linear life of thought that has no entry point of challenge to their existing beliefs. They are single and close-minded when it comes to exploring new and transformative thoughts that could grow them in a positively developed state of being.

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Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

 

 

So where’s the balance? How can one stay open to transformative external thoughts but remain unwavering in existing foundational beliefs? Are there any things off limits? Well, in my eyes – for the Christian – the short answer is yes! But before I touch on that, first let me say we all ascribe to a belief system – whether we like to admit it or not. Even those that proclaim to be non-religious but “spiritual” have formulated some internal belief construct that leads and guides their lives. Oftentimes – these individuals make themselves as the god of their lives; creating their own standards, judgements and rules of life. For the Christian believer, we signed up not to live this way but to have Jesus as our God to create the standard, truth and way of life.

Now there has been much debate since dawn of time of what specifically this “way” is…However, at the very core of our belief should be the non-negotiable facts and beliefs. And that is that Jesus: physically walked the earth in human form, lived a sinless life, proclaimed He was and is the Messiah/God, was publicly crucified and died on the cross (willingly as a sacrifice for our sins), was resurrected on the third day, and promises the gift of eternal life with Him in paradise for all who repent of their sins and believe He is God. This is the basic core of our faith – this should not be something that you allow others to re-define or create liberal views on. Should you decide to allow your beliefs about this to change by all means, you should consider changing your faith declaration altogether. Because at this point, it is no longer Christianity, but a re-defined, remixed version of something else. Now there are other core tenets of the faith that are also non-negotiable but for the sake of time I will not espouse on those. I mainly wanted to get the number one core belief established in case someone out there was wandering if any of that part could be flexible in regards to their beliefs as a self-proclaimed Christian.

Now for what I’d like to call secondary tenets such as charitable giving, days of worship, the end times, divorce, parenting, etc. those are all non-essential debatable things that are certainly up for pushing the boundary. Having said that, we should still do our best as believers to first search the scriptures of the written text (aka Bible) to study both the descriptive and possible prescriptive declaration. If we first turn to culture to see what it is saying to us (and allowing for us), then we are more than likely pushing the boundaries of “going too far.” While cultures do evolve over the course of time, they should not be our God or teacher when it comes to our faith. We can take the current climate of culture and study it against the biblical culture to see what is descriptive of the (ancient) times and what is prescriptive of the life of faith in Christ.

If the prescriptive is true, when we willingly decide to bend out faith to accommodate our “liberal thought” then we’ve gone too far. Oftentimes this liberal thinking is not enlightenment but a convenient accommodation to our pleasures, desires and comforts that support what ultimately we want to do and the agenda we want to push. This agenda is usually self-serving and rooted in ego, arrogance and lack of willingness to change. For some of you listening or reading this who disagree, I challenge you to truly examine yourself against any narcissistic exaltation. If you truly are “about that life” – meaning the life of Christ- what is the ultimate end game for your views?

I met someone who was a self-proclaimed Christian who was adamant about exposing the church and its lack of bending to say “maybe we are wrong” to non-believers. While I did support the push for more humility among believers, I also pushed back on why this person felt like it was their sole goal in life to dismantle and tear down the body of Christ. This person also said they were jealous of Scientology believers because they liked spaceships and they wanted one – so why do we (as believers) say that they are wrong because why does everything have to glorify God? Huh?! This is too far! When asked if they were a universalist they told me no and that I wasn’t hearing what they said clearly. No – I heard very clearly. I heard the dibble of this and dabble of that in your conversation and while I appreciate the open thought to challenge existing traditions and practices – you’ve gone too far.

At some point those who ascribe to the faith have to say enough is enough. In our modern days of being sensitive to other people’s views and not “offending” anyone – we still have to know the truth of our faith. And know when and how to speak the truth in love and stand firm in faith. I am all for new thought and revelation of the scriptural text when it comes to the secondary tenets of the faith but just like the age old saying if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.

There’s a Difference between Neglect and Growth

There’s a difference between neglect and growth……

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Photo credit: Honey Creek Woodlands Google Image

I recently visited the Honey Creek Woodlands natural burial grounds which has 1600 acres of reserved land protected by land conservation efforts. While touring the property, I approached this area called the Meadows. The steward guide who showed me around pointed out to me an area that appeared to be dead looking shrubbery that was growing out of the ground. The steward guide said: “when most people come out here they freak out when they see this because they think all this is not pretty they just want to get a weed-whacker so that they can take the weeds out and make this look pretty.” She continued on and said “but people don’t understand nature…there’s a difference between neglect and growth.” Immediately, when she said that it struck a tremendous cord with me because I too had to confront my own inner discomfort with the need for things to look pretty.

As I continued thinking about that statement, I thought about how we [people] want to have our lives look pretty on the outside. We try so hard to make the messiness of life look “good” and surface level pretty. So many of us cringe at the thought of something not looking pretty that we do our best to make our lives reflect exterior-only beauty.

Which is why many of us lean towards the clean-cut grass cemeteries with lush greenery and beautiful flowerbeds in perfectly symmetrically aligned cemetery plots. So that it all looks “neat” and “in order,” but in all actuality how much of our lives are?

I do love that verse from Ecclesiastes that says God makes everything beautiful in its time and throughout the course of our lives there’s no ugliness ….so how do you reconcile this? What does it truly look like to have a messy life that looks beautiful.

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Photo credit: Honey Creek Woodlands Google Image

Is the tension because we have a superficial view of what beautiful looks like?

Do the things that are not externally colorful that appear to look dead on the outside and not bursting with vibrancy actually mean that it is lacking beauty?

Why are we so adverse to things that do not appear to look shiny, glittery and spectacular on the outside?

Could a life that is truly beautiful that has been through the tilling and the watering and the planting look like something that has not been just sheltered to the side? That has not just been a bench warmer but has lived in the trenches of it all. Someone who actually lived a life and didn’t neglect living life but actually lived it and because of it – grew.

These are the questions I ask myself that I need to confront daily in order to have the peace and true riches of life that matter.

I Stopped Going to Church Because….

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Photo by Joshua Eckstein on Unsplash

Fill in the blank: I stopped going to church because….. or I don’t go to church because…I’ll wait for it. Church (sigh) …yeah it can be a struggle box in many ways. But I’m not here to bash the church institution by any means. I grew up in the church building with church people. I’ve seen the highs and lows of what the church people and it’s organizing power can do. They can work wonders in facilitating a safe space for transformational spiritual growth. Consequently they can also do tremendous damage and wreak havoc in the lives of those who partake in the community. It really is a toss up. The church, which for all intents and purposes, we’ll define is a body of people whose goal is to assemble together in unity to worship God and love others. The gathering, which originally started in peoples homes during ancient biblical times, has evolved into people joining together at a neutral stand alone building where weekly organized (and some not so organized) services are held to facilitate this worshiping of God and fellowshipping with others. This stand alone building is unfortunately and confusingly often referred to as “church.” So we have a mixing of two elements being referred to as the same thing: the people and the building. Why is this relevant you say? Well, its important to delineate the two so as to understand it’s true function and purpose. Many of us do not refer to ourselves by the places we live in. We don’t refer to ourselves as “house” or “car”, yet we gather and occupy those spaces almost daily. So we must clarify what we are talking about when we say “church.” Are we referring to the people or the building? (Some of you out there I know are screaming – well both!) I can’t stand either one of them. I hate going to the building, seeing “those people” singing those boring songs for a long time and listening to that hollering person on stage. It’s just too much. And for what? I also don’t like how fake and hypocritical everyone is and how everyone is all up in my business. Yuck – no thanks!

Having been around the church body of believers for my entire life I will tell you I’ve just about seen and heard it all. Mmm well even as I say this, I still think to myself, well no maybe I haven’t, because as you know each day people never cease to amaze you with the things they come up with.

So, I can certainly relate to the struggle for people who find it difficult to participate with a local church congregation. For a season in my life, I was so jaded and fed up that even I stopped going because it had become so predictable, life-less and distasteful. I much rather have preferred to keep my faith in the little four corners of my space and ride out in the sunset with just me and the Lord. But as the years churned on my take on this isolated view of living out my faith begin to get challenged. I began to see the need for community and interconnectedness as a vital role and necessity in my life. I began to realize that while I disagree with the way a lot of church gatherings are organized and executed that I shouldn’t just lump them all together and give up on connecting with people who share the same faith. I also realized how much gathering with those people would sharpen and aid in my development and understanding of the faith. See as much as you think you don’t need people (in that way) you really do. We weren’t created to live isolated or independently. As much as we think “we’ve got it” we really don’t. As much as we think “we’re good” we’re not.

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Photo by Akira Hojo on Unsplash

So despite my ongoing reservations with the organized gathering of the body of believers I still push myself to engage at some level of a local church body (in person that is) merely on the basis of engaging in community with as close to “like-minded” individuals as possible. I say as close to because, rarely will two people 100% completely agree on the theology and practice of their faith. That’s just a fact. You can get close and have a lot of agreements on things, but there will also be some underlying disagreements about some area of the faith. I think this has to be the first thing that people need to recognize about the church body of believers. The doctrine has never been agreed upon nor practiced in a monolithic way. You will never find the perfect group of church gatherers because there is not one. And if you are looking to them to display the faith perfectly and without contradiction you will sadly search on until the ends of eternity miss.

So choosing to isolate yourself from the community of believers because you don’t feel they are living up to your standard of rightness is not only self-righteously arrogant but it also lacks immensely in biblical revelation, knowledge and understanding of who we are as people, who God is and the relationship between the two. You cannot look to the people to determine your level of faithfulness. You have to separate the messengers from the message. Because the only true and perfect Message and Messenger is Jesus. Which is who the faith of Christianity seeks to exalt and follow after. Since none of us have reached this spiritual pinnacle it is safe to say that our churches will continue to be a struggle box until the fulfillment of time.

Again, I’m not here to condemn the church body for it’s lackluster failings nor am I here to condemn anyone whose listening who: either doesn’t go to church, stopped going to church, goes to church online, or attends church in person but has an attitude with the people that go there. Yep church woes come in all shapes in sizes. What I’m saying is a word of encouragement to continue to give people a bit more grace and understand the purpose of the gathering and the need for community (at some form or fashion). This subject matter is so complex, that I’m merely scratching the surface for the sake of being an encouragement to people who’ve never thought of the things I’ve mentioned. Hopefully to some degree it has helped you get the conversation started.

We don’t like the music or it’s too cold or the service is too long or it’s not long enough. The preacher is getting paid too much or the seats are uncomfortable.

What is it to Know Someone?

I know you better than yourself.

I thought I knew them.

I know myself.

I’m sure you’ve heard either of these sentences or a rendition of them uttered at some point in your life. So what is it to know someone? Can anyone person truly 100% know a person? Know themselves?

The other day I got into a debate with a family member, who was adamant that a person can 100% know themselves in their entirety. They stated, while people may not fully acknowledge it to themselves and others who they are, they still 100% know everything about themselves. I countered this viewpoint and stated that I did not think that it was possible for any human being to come to a 100% full knowledge of themselves. I believe taking the former view (of my family member) takes the mystery of self-discovery out of the picture. I don’t believe that any one human being from the dawn of time has ever fully known themselves, nor will any human being until the end of time ever 100% know themselves. Will most come close. Yes. But will any reach a complete knowing. No.

Why do I believe this?

Well, to know something means to understand clearly, to be aware of and have clear information or fact/truth. Based off of this definition alone, it is impossible to fully know anything or anyone. The key word here is fully. Yes, there can and will be levels of knowing or knowledge. You can certainly be aware of many things in your life and about people, but to fully know all there is to know about yourself and people, I believe, takes a lifetime and beyond.

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Photo credit: Dictionary.com Image

Knowing this, pun intended, why do we get so hung up on when we thought we knew something or someone only to find out later how little or unaware we really were? Can we truly put our hope and trust in our current knowledge of self and others? If so, how then can we allow the evolving nature of life to breathe it’s way into our knowledge sphere to expand our current repertoire? I think it goes back to the formula. By operating in a manner that practices humility to say that I don’t know it all is a great start.

What do you think?

“The Universe”

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Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

The Alchemist, The Secret, the cosmic alignment – what do all of these things have in common? A fundamental belief system in the universe as the ultimate divine orchestrator of all things; for both humanity and creation. How many of you listening to this podcast have met someone who believes in “the universe”? Not just believing in it’s existence, but believing in it’s sovereign influence. Maybe you are that someone who believes in “the universe.” If you are, my question to you is from what origins did this belief derive and how did you come to ascribe to it? Were you formally exposed to or engaged in a religious based belief system that you just no longer wanted to follow? Because you felt “enlightened” or freed from the dogma of religion? Or where you never ever exposed to a particular faith declaration but began believing it based on culture or scientific theory such as Darwinism? Whatever is the case, I’d like to open up a new conversation starter about this trendy yet ancient old belief proclamation in “the universe.”

It is of my opinion that believing in “the universe” is the easiest form of self-declared “spirituality.” Because it demands no acts of submission to an ultimate authority figure. If you disagree with this and say that the universe is your authority figure, may I ask who is the universe? And how does the universe commune with you (if through meditation how do you know when the universe is speaking to you and not your inner conscious)? How does the universe describe it’s past, present and future reality? What promises does the universe give you – if any? How does the universe transfer the knowledge of the purpose of life? To which standard/criteria does this originate and is it universally recognized by all who ascribe to the belief in the universe? Lastly, how does the universe guide you and give you the practical tools to live life if there is a moment of revelation?

These are a bunch of questions, I know. Probably the same amount of questions one who believes in the universe would have for any other faith group. Speaking of faith groups, I’ve noticed many people who believe in the universe have a melting pot or what I like to call a la cart system of beliefs and mantras. They take a little of this phrase from here and little bit of that phrase from there. If not spiritually discerned, it can be easy to overlook the true belief of that individual (which is often a universalistic view). They may say the universe is conspiring to bring my purpose into alignment then follow that up with a bible verse. Or they may say I believe in putting out good karma so that God or the universe (whichever you want to call it) can bless me. These are just a few examples, certainly not comprehensive at all to the wide operational beliefs of those who impute to this belief system.

Well in case you were wondering what my take on this belief is I will make it clear to you now – I don’t believe in “the universe” but the God who created the universe. That God is the creator of the cosmos, the one with all glory and divine authority and power. That God exists from eternity to eternity; both before time and space and will continue to exist when time and space (according to our understanding of it) transcend us. While One, this God exist in three persons: God the father (of all things), God the Son (of all things) also known as Jesus the Christ, and God the Holy Spirit (of all things). For by this God of the universe all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible.

When I consider Your heavens the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained. What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.

To the believer in this God (also known as the Christian), understanding the true place of “the universe” as it fits into the greater make-up of the created order of things.

The language of the universalist is tricky as it presents a similar narrative on some levels but upon closer review it’s intent is transposed under the guise of what Christian believers call the Lord Jesus.

While there is a mutual appreciation for creation, the ethereal and discerning of the atmosphere or “energy” know that at the end of the day there is only one true source of divine “energy” that controls it all. His name is Jesus. How do I know He controls it all you ask? Well I don’t – that’s why it’s called faith. I choose to put my faith in Jesus, instead of “the universe” which provides me with no promise of anything. With Jesus, I have a universe full of promises and hopes. I have the promise of wisdom, help, knowledge, love, joy, peace, patience, etc. etc. and I have the hope of eternal life, future provision, protection and presence (to name a few). I’m not here to start a faith war, I’m merely responding to the sweeping cultural trend of today’s version of Gnosticism (aka “the universe” believers). Just as easy as it is for you to relay your allegiance and reliance on the universe I too am just as reliant and faithful to a man named Jesus.

Like vs Need

I don’t know about you but in almost every element in life I am constantly asked by those around me if “I like it?” It can be my job, my car, the food I eat, my current situation, etc. etc. But why does everything we do have to boil down to whether or not we like something? Why does “like” drive our decision making or level of contentment? I believe we, meaning people in this world, have elevated “like” to the ultimate authority in our lives. Like is the new god and we are it’s servants. It’s a sneaky thing. We would probably not even admit to the idol of “like” that we have created because it’s so interwoven into the fabric of our mind, body and soul. Yes it’s tied to pleasure and desire which very much reside in us. So it is natural for it to be a part of us. But just because it is an innate characteristic that dwells in us doesn’t mean that it has to be the ultimate driving force in our lives. Why? Because “like’s” are incredibly unstable and ever changing. Our likes are fleeting and fickle (changing like the wind). Our likes are not loyal. Our likes come with conditions. Our likes predominantly serve us and us alone. Our likes do very little for the community or our neighbor. Yes there are times when our likes extend over into the communal space, but often times even this has a place where self becomes the ultimate benefactor. For example, we may like our neighborhood to have nicely cut grass with picturesque landscaping. So we do our best to either offer up services to our neighbors to trim their yard for them or we rally for an HOA that simply penalizes them if they don’t do it themselves. Whatever it is that we don’t like we often try and implement things that will serve and cater to comfort and satisfy our likes.

I think I remember growing up and hearing the mantra: “Your purpose in life is connected to solving those things that you don’t like. Whatever it is that bothers you is attached to your purpose.” Now I can read between the lines now about this mission statement but back then I was always grasping to figure out how to do this? And I always had this unsettled inner feeling that if I didn’t do this I wasn’t fulfilling my life’s purpose. Oh how misleading and misguiding this is! We have got to stop putting the pressure on people to attach purpose and like and purpose and passion together. Somethings, in fact, a large number of things that we are charged and called to do have more to do with need than they do like. But because need is often tied to less pleasurable feelings and pathways, we relegate it to the backseat of the cars that drive our lives.

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Photo by Alexis Fauvet on Unsplash

Some of us need to change our outlook from like to need because it is vital to the quality of our lives. Some of us need to change the way we eat, but won’t because we like the way and the things we eat too much. Even though this way is causing much of our demise. We’d rather continue in the comfort of like instead of disciplining and challenging ourselves in the direction of need. You’d be surprise though to find out how much operating in the need begins to shape, form and change the things you like. Case and point, I was at a crossroads in my health a few years back and it was a choice between taking this medication for the rest of my life or changing the way that I ate. Now as much as I liked a ton of foods that gave me so much instant gratification and pleasure, I knew that at that moment I needed to chose the need. So I began changing the way I ate, and days, weeks, months and now a couple years later I now begin to like and crave these new things that are more beneficial to my body. Before I was like Kale what? Kale who?…and now I’m like Kale yeah! So my decision to lean into the need changed my like for the better and put me in the place where I ultimately desire to be (which is free from life-long medication).

As previously mentioned, I have taken this shift from like to need over the last few years as I’ve grown to accept certain things that I need to do in order to potentially get to spaces that could be better for me and the community around me. I largely do not like to do these things but know that I need to. I’ve taken this mentality with just about every aspect of my life: my nutrition, how I take care of my physical body, the way that I get monetary income, the budget that I’m on, the place where I live, etc etc. While I am not actualizing all the likes in my life, I am not approaching these things with the sentiment as such. I used to do this and found myself in such a place of unrest, dissatisfaction and anxiousness. I was constantly let down by the expectation of things I pursed that I thought I liked or was interested in because I was allowing that to drive my life. Each time I got into those things, I quickly realized “oh I don’t like this at all. This is not what I thought it was going to be. Maybe I need to switch gears and do this other thing over here because I think I like that and that will be the thing that will make me happy.” And each time I did that I was constantly let down. Finally, I got to a point where I was like, okay what are we doing? Why do we keep starting over and switching gears thinking that this next like or interest will be “it.” While those experiences were personally life developing in many ways, ultimately I found myself in a place that ended up being counterproductive to any type of physical momentum in society. I began realizing that it’s cool to pursue the “likes” in a free spirited way but often times that comes with a level of sporadic return. So I’m not knocking anyone who is committed to living a life this way, all I’m saying is that be prepared to live with the results of this type of mentality. Know that if you are constantly allowing “likes” to drive your decision making, happiness and contentment that the returns will often come in the same fleeting manner of very essence of the word.

While we may like something today we cannot guarantee that we will like it tomorrow or the next day. So to live our lives allowing our likes to drive our decision making is at best unstable and at worst confusingly dis-satisfying.

So there is a “both and” reality of living in our needs coupled with the interests that we have to which can produce a more realistic and balanced life. I can think of a ton of people who would agree when asked if they liked their job. The resounding answer would probably be “no” but that they recognize that they need to work in order to live.

Thus, we have to realize the privilege that comes with being able to fulfill and actualize our “likes” in the first place. So many people never get a chance to even touch the surface of the things they like because their place and situation in society does not lend them the opportunity to do so. But I’ve seen where several of these individuals have not allowed the barrier of not actualizing their likes to strip away their source of joy, peace and contentment in life. Thus our source of right decision making, peace, enjoyment and contentment in life should not solely rest on the degree to which we are actualizing our “likes.” Those things should be independent and unshakable from the ever changing circumstances that we engage in. I believe when we reach this point that we then can find true resolve, peace and contentment which will lead us and keep us in all things at any season of our lives.

The Formula: Faith + Vulnerability

A while back, I stumbled across a TED talk led by a research professor named Brene Brown. The title of the talk was called “The price of invulnerability.” Intrigued by this, I clicked on the YouTube video and begin listening to this fifteen minute captivating message. Throughout the TED talk Brene journeyed us through her findings as a researcher; providing us details of how society has lost it’s tolerance to vulnerability. How culture has not nurtured or elevated humility and how when we experience lack or scarcity we numb our vulnerability of it to the bend of culture. This loss of societal tolerance to vulnerability has led to extremism for which she has outlined a formulaic equation. She says faith minus vulnerability equals extremism. In other words, what you believe in comes with a level of uncertainty (that’s why it’s called faith) so when you subtract any level of vulnerability from your beliefs or execution of your faith more often then not the equation will equal extremism. This extremism can be displayed in thought, action or word.

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Photo Credit: Youtube TedX Screenshot

We see this evident over the history of humanity. Where a certain person or group of people who ascribed to a certain belief executed some extremely heinous act in the name of their belief. Some people’s actions though have not always made it into the traditional history books but those they encountered could almost certainly provide a record account of their extremist actions. In today’s society, people voluntarily immortalize their extremism in the history books through what we call “the comment section” of social media. Believing their views are right, they don’t think twice about the price of invulnerability as they condemn others who are at the surface level- in opposition.

Every human being ascribes to a certain set of views either spiritually or culturally. When these views remain unchecked by any sense of humility and/or vulnerability the resulting expressions will almost invariably be forms of extremist behavior. As echoed by Brene, we have to understand that faith is inherently vulnerable; because the very basis of it is a belief in something/someone we don’t fully understand or sometimes can’t tangibly see. While we are still working out our faith, understanding the complexities and uncertainties we should recognize the very fragility of it and move and flow with a level of humility. It would thus behoove us to acknowledge our beliefs and convictions but also to say to ourselves – “this is what I believe but I don’t know it all; and I’m still on the journey figuring it out.”

I believe we can still hold to high levels of convictional faith in the things we believe in with boldness and courage while simultaneously holding an equal level of vulnerability in our convictions. This balance can lessen the bend towards dogmatism and increase opportunities of growth, revelation and connectivity with ourselves, others and the faith we believe in.

Thus the alternative equation is this: faith plus vulnerability equals extravagant love. When you add on the authentic layer of vulnerability, transparency and humility to the beliefs that you’ve come to live by you are able to engage yourself, others and the object of your faith with extravagant love. This love, however, certainly does not mean that your beliefs are unstable and ready to crumble at the slightest wind of oppositional opinion or belief. Not at all beloved. What it means is that you are able to share your convictions in a loving tone of voice, a loving openness to hear what others have to say and level of transparency to admit to others that you have not fully “arrived” in your faith quest.

I encourage you today if you are not already engaging at this level of vulnerability in your life, try it out. See what happens to your interactions and relationships with people when you begin exercising your faith with humility. You’d be surprise how you can tear down the walls of a defense by people and quickly enter into more intimate and impactful engagements.

Podcast Episode – Faith, Travel & Missions **Interview**

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Click here to listen!

Faith, Travel & Missions…a 3-headed engine that often gets steered in a precarious manner. In my previous podcast entitled the Insult of Charitable Auctions I talk about the balance between foreign partnership and local development…and how if not careful our seemingly well-intentioned actions quickly turn into toxic charity. Charity that does not accomplish what it ultimately set out to begin with. For more on this, listen in to today’s episode where I bring in guest Kristina Smith to discuss this dynamic.

To contact our guest today:
Kristina Smith
www.gethype.org
Instagram: gethype_inc

 

Podcast Episode – The Pain Free Happy Life

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Click here to listen!

Transcription:

Oh how we are creatures of comfort! We will gravitate towards anything in life that creates the most comfort for us. We often call this the path of least resistance….. but what if resistance is good for us? What if the pain of the pushback is actually for our good? Now I personally don’t know many people who willingly choose paths that are knowingly painful. Most of us would think those people are flat out stupid. Not only would we think they are stupid we would tell them: “you are stupid!” Don’t get me wrong there are some willful choices that are stupid and should be avoided, but what if the willful choice is advantageous? Where the course leads to progress in many necessary areas, but the pain that it requires looks ridiculously un-comprehensible.

I often reflect on the many refugee stories of people fleeing on foot to cross into new territory that is hopefully an escape from their present dire situation. The pain that they must currently be going through, along with the pain of the journey to the new land and the pain of adjusting to this new place that is foreign to them seems like an endless life of pain. This past, present, future reality of pain is not relegated to just someone like a refugee but it is relevant to all of us. Every single human being. Pain is unavoidable. In fact, the longer I live the more I believe that pain should be an expected part of the process. The life process that is. Whatever beliefs you have in life – pain is no respecter of persons. Pain is universally recognized and acknowledged. Pain has been around since the beginning of time. So why do we think that we won’t experience pain? Why are we so shocked when we go through a painful situation? Why does the pain of life cause us to believe we are on the wrong path or making the wrong choices?

While I do believe pain is a trigger that alerts us of when there is something we need to pay attention to or to something that is in duress. I also believe pain is an external and internal agent that forces us to accept or reject transformational change in our lives. Meaning when the pain comes we have a choice of whether we will use that pain towards our personal growth or against it. We can either have the perspective of using it to benefit our maturation or we can play the victim and blame shift the externals. As long as you are breathing- pain is a guarantee. Whether that be physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. Expect the pain. We have to stop going through life blissfully ignorant and un-expectant to upcoming pains. Not that we should live a life of cynicism or pessimism, but we should have a healthy view of the current reality of pain and it’s future promise (here on this side of life).

This is where I transition to the promise of the faith that I ascribe to. I thank God for the promise that through this pain of life that I have been given (through faith) a Helper. A Helper who empowers me and guides me to journey through the painful life situations with wisdom and discernment for what the situation is and joy to not allow the painful circumstance to cause me to stay stagnant in bitterness, anger or resentment. I can still make decisions in life knowing that as long as it involves humans there will be a level of pain that I will have to navigate. But that I can not dread those interactions and question my decisions to the degree of whether or not I need to be there. To understand what I am referring to, I will take the practical example of working a job.

First, I don’t know many people who like working a job or “working for someone else.” It is painful. The many things you have to endure with personalities, job requirements, and policies are just oftentimes flat out painful! So knowing this we can have a realistic view that finding a pain-free job is just not possible. Are there some jobs that are more enjoyable than others – absolutely. But what I’m referring to is the thought process behind questioning why your new job is painful or why every job or position you take still isn’t “it.” This is the guaranteed pain that I’m referring to. Having an understanding that no matter where you go or what you do there will always be a level of painful and unpleasant experiences that you will have to endure/navigate. So by changing your perspective it can quite possibly help you to endure those difficulties more victoriously.

Quit looking for the escape. Instead look for the ways to empower yourself through the treacherous path. I remember hearing a famous Christian speaker say “Paul rarely prayed for God to change his circumstances, instead Paul prayed for God to change him in his circumstances.” Oh what a shift in mindset! To understand that there is no such thing as a pain-free happy life and to ask for God to help us through the pain instead of trying to escape the pain. What a inner transformation this can be for us!

Finally, having a “this to shall pass” mentality will help you to not feel downtrodden/entangled and push through your current painful situation. Knowing that the pain of the present will not endure forever. Even if it lasts your entire lifetime. That still isn’t forever, because guess what beloved – we still have eternity on the other side that awaits us! And for believers in the truth of Christ we have a promise that tells us our tears will be no more and our pain will be no more.

Podcast Episode – Faith & Music: Hearing Scripture as a Melody w/ Stanton Lanier

 

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Click here to listen!

Inspirational music takes form in many different ways. Our guest today has the gift of hearing piano melodies from biblical scripture. Coined a “pianist of peace,” Stanton Lanier has recorded 11 albums which touch over 5 million listeners worldwide. His albums offer personal moments of God’s peace and presence. Listen in to today’s podcast episode to hear a sample of his work and to learn more about the inner workings of his gifting as a “pianist of peace.”

To contact or learn more about our guest:
Stanton Lanier
www.stantonlanier.com