Of Blessings, Rewards & Just Plain Luck

God has been really good to us this year. Our business has grown 125%. We are so blessed!

If you are a part of the Christian culture, you’ve surely heard, or even said, something in the same vein as this. On the surface it sounds like a very faith-filled, believing, Christian thing to say. But is it really Christ-like? Does the framework of the thing hold water in light of the gospel?

Blessed

Let’s say you’re a farmer, your crops got the ideal amount of rain this year and your coffers are full. What a blessing! On the flip-side of your blessing, the hot shot firefighter has been out of work this summer.

Your snow removal business did very well because of the record snowfall. What a blessing! Just so happens there were also a record number of traffic deaths due to white-out conditions on the roads.

You feel thirsty so turn on the faucet and get yourself a glass of drinkable water. What a blessing! But yet 790 million other people walk to the river 5 miles from their dwelling and fetch a container of contaminated water.

Was the blessing granted to you because God loved you more? Did you serve Him better? Or did you trust Him more? Or did you work hard to create the change that led to the reward you had coming? And if you did work hard, what caused you to do that? Were you brought up in a home that encouraged hard work? Or maybe you were brought up in a much different environment and you overcame. Was your brain wired in such a way as to allow you to overcome from the start? Did God orchestrate your ancestral line for generations past in order to create a mind that works like yours which led you to make those particular choices that brought about your “blessing”? Or were you just damn lucky?

I have a growing distaste for the “blessed” motif in Christianity. I know it’s common in home decorating, clothing, and sermons. But inherent in the “blessed” is some level of “more than others”.  Or “because of who I am or what I’ve done for God”.

This world is not fair. People are not equal. We are for certain of equal value, but we are not equal. As much as we might like to think we all have equal opportunity, we really don’t. The person brought up with abuse does not have equal opportunity as those brought up in a nurturing home. The person with a chemical imbalance does not have an equal likelihood of achieving satisfying relationships as those who have a healthy balance of neurotransmitters and receptors. The person born in an oppressed country does not have the same opportunity as one born in a free country.

Taking these inequalities and saying that the positive things in our lives are the result of our being “blessed” by God puts inequality of all kinds squarely into God’s hands and makes it His doing. I don’t think that’s what He’s about. It’s inconsistent with the basic essence of the gospel message.

I think many of us are just damn lucky ~

for which we can be grateful and from which we can practice generosity.

Can we leave it at that?

In the Silence

It’s been a while since I’ve written much. Sometimes it takes a good long silence for experiences, thoughts and beliefs to shape into words. It’s been one of those “pauses” for me, and even now I’m not absolutely sure where to start. But I’m just going to begin, realizing I may need to hit “rewind” periodically.

feather reflection

I’m in a good place right now. I’ve not moved nor made any major changes to my house for at least a year, so the “good place” I’m in has little to do with the physical space I inhabit – but yet something to do with where I live given the positive impact my neighbors have had on my journey. But that’s probably another story.

Speaking of “journey”, I used to think the journey of life was something you did equipped with the right answers – you know, like a trip with a fully developed itinerary.  Furthermore, if you were a committed Christian, the journey would all play out in proper order. If it didn’t, the derailment was no doubt due to the choices of lesser Christian people with whom you mistakenly associated.

~But then again, I used to think a lot of things.~

Like many life stories, mine includes a pit. And like many stories, circumstances and choices put me there. But if I try and describe what came before the pit to influence my circumstances and choices, I then also get caught up in describing what came before that, and then before that… and pretty soon it’s all a pile of tangled spaghetti with too many ends to manage. So let’s start the story in my pit – which is a place I used to think was taboo to talk about.

~But then again, I used to think a lot of things.~

While in my pit, a friend of mine threw me a line. She recommended I attend a recovery group. I didn’t have a history of substance abuse – but I had some doozer thought patterns. They were harmful to my well-being but I stuck to them anyway.  And in spite of that description matching the definition of an addiction, I was certain I’d have nothing in common with addicts – especially not these addicts. The group was not of my denomination, which meant I believed they were without The Truth, the Whole Truth and nothing but The Truth. And because I knowingly joined such a heretical group for the purpose of gaining something from them and not for the purpose of converting them, I was pretty certain if God was paying any attention at all He would strike me down with lightening. And if He didn’t, I would surely be led astray by their trickery.

~But then again, I used to think a lot of things.~

Right about that same time I met with my pastor to talk some things over. During that conversation it actually came out of my mouth that the majority of my life choices were controlled by guilt and fear. Shocking. Shocking that I had enough self-awareness to recognize it. Shocking that I was brave enough to say it out loud. And equally shocking – and sad- that it was true. To be certain, being controlled by guilt and fear doesn’t result in a perfect life that never causes harm to self or others. It simply means that one is burdened with guilt and fear.

Your most obedient child, BTW, might be the one to especially check on. The “should”, “have to”, “must” burden is a killer of a load. What happened to simply being human? Isn’t that enough? But I’m getting ahead of the story.

Quick on the heals of recovery, was a whole new library of books. Emotional intelligence…? What is that? Isn’t knowing the facts and understanding how to articulate them precisely all that really matters in life?

Boundaries…? Are those authors even Christian?? I mean really, since when do my needs matter? I have needs, but doesn’t Christianity secretly require a manipulative dance to get them met? To directly express my needs and limits sounds, well, selfishThat’s certainly not Christian. I should at least try to be selfless and then hope God will make up the rest.

Gifts of Imperfection…? Gifts?? Now you certainly are not Christian! Imperfections are only gifts after they are ground off with the polishing stone, or burned out with the fire, or made as if they never were by use of some other Biblical purifying method. Aren’t they?

~Ah, yes. I used to think a lot of things. ~

Those beliefs, more often than not, seem like a lifetime ago. But it has been no easy process for me to experience growth from the new concepts. Some foundational cards have had to be pulled from the house. Because unless you get to the thing behind the thing, the thing never really changes.  And so my house of cards has come tumbling down. Frightening. But a different kind of fear than what I’ve carried with me all my life.

More next time on what allowed me the freedom to pull the cards, and where I find myself on this journey now.

The Manipulator

The commanding timbre of her voice more than compensates for any lack of logic. “No, you must do it this way.” It’s not that when questioned she doesn’t have her reasons, but the reasons are shallow and antiquated. They were helpful for a time, but that time has passed.  She continues on, not realizing her lack of relevance. And when her caution goes unheeded, her insistence morphs into poorly veiled threats. “You’ll be a bad person if you don’t.” And that, well, that is really what underlies all she has to say.  Fear. Fear of being bad.  For it is in being good, very good, that she finds belonging.

The record has a scratch that causes the lines to repeat in the back of my head. When I internalize the message and believe the fear, I find myself making painful, boundary-less, unhealthy decisions that paradoxically result in the very outcome I was determined to avoid.

Dear Younger Me,

You are of value because you are a human being loved by your Creator. Your value does not stem from your performance. You are finding a way to get your needs met, and that’s OK for now. But realize this is simply the starting place for your journey. It’s not the end-all.  One day you will find more beneficial, healthier ways.

There is a voice more powerful than fear. Listen for it. That voice is not demanding, so its urgency can be easily overlooked when compared to the voice of fear. The voice of fear will tell you that any course other than the way it demands will make you bad. But fear lies.

While it will feel destabilizing to let go of the fear that has controlled you, press on. You will learn to ride the waves and will experience a fuller life than is possible while standing in fear on the shore. You won’t be the first in your circle to step out in the waves, nor will you be the last. Don’t get too caught up in the people still on the shore. It’s OK if you go a different direction. In fact, you were designed to do so.

Be confidently you. The world needs it. And so do you.

Much love, Me

Image result for manipulation emotional

There is no manipulator stronger than the one that lives in your own head. From it, all others gain their power.