April Fools! You’re Not Who You Think You Are!

Have you ever had an April Fools joke pulled on you before?

I mean, a really good one. Where you were all in and totally believing and then… the truth came out.

You didn’t win an all-expense paid vacation to the Bahamas. Your work computer didn’t mysteriously burn to ashes overnight. Your mom didn’t get a belly-button piercing.

And you have that sigh, like, oh man. You totally had me going; I was wrong the whole time.

I feel like in the past week or so I’ve had that feeling, that I now understand a truth that I somehow got confused for so long. This new understanding has set me free.

And that truth is in the power of names. What I’ve been called. What I’ve called myself.

I have unearthed some names that I have been called. Names that I chose to allow to hurt me. Names that sent me for an emotional roller coaster of despair and insecurity.

Names like, you are worthless.

You are stupid.

You are inconsiderate.

You are unloving.

You are ugly.

You are fat.

You are unattractive.

You are dumb.

You are pathetic.

You are a lazy bastard.

You are a bitch.

You are poor.

You are mediocre.

You are a loser.

And that’s not even counting the names that I have told myself again and again. Names like fearful, failure, inadequate, shallow, hopeless, lonely, weak, dirty, prideful, and deceitful.

but, um…

April Fools!

That’s not me.

And I’m here to proclaim right now that no one can ever make me anything, including myself.

I am exactly what Christ says I am and I have a really righteous sense of I don’t care what you think about me.

Because me only caring what Christ thinks about me actually frees me to sacrifice myself for you. I love you too much to care what you call me.

Let me tell you who I really am.

I am Chosen.

I am Precious.

I am Loved.

I am Clean.

I Am Fearfully and Wonderfully Created.

I am Beautiful.

I am Bold.

I am Worthy.

I am Holy.

I am Without Fault.

I am Joyful.

I am Secure.

I am Victorious.

Because I’m in Christ. And if there is no condemnation, why would I repeat and believe that first list to myself as if it were truth? It’s not. ever. List 1= lies. List 2= truth.

We call it identity. And Ephesians Chapters 1-3 will turn your world upside-down if you read it aloud about yourself. Do it. Seriously.

I used to repeat List 1 so much to myself, including themes like guilty, ashamed, and broken. And I thought I was learning learning truth about myself and God by doing that.

Only problem is, if Jesus only calls me names from List 2, why would I exercise the arrogance to call myself a name that he believes is unworthy of me?

See, when I decided to allow my coworker’s comment to me about being a lazy bastard to injure me and control my emotions, I was actually agreeing with him and giving him power over me. Again, no one can ever make me anything unless I first give permission.

Things have changed. completely. I now see myself as the gift that God intended me to be. You see, when I was living under the lies of List 1, I couldn’t be a gift to anyone. Who gives dirty gifts like that?

However, now that I am living in the reality of who I really am, I’m free to gift myself away. My happiness and my cleanness and my security can be given to others in abundance. Because it’s a really good thing. And people find joy in good gifts.

Here’s where the tipping point for me was: recently, right when I was at the brink of grasping my identity, a friend referred to me as a World Changer. And that sealed it for me. I heard it proclaimed and affirmed by someone else. And you know what happened? I got to name a friend at church last night a World Changer, and I have a sneaky suspicion the domino effect is going to keep happening to others.

So here’s the final truth thought: the power of life and death is in your tongue. When you speak negative names to people, it’s not just being mean; it’s proclaiming lies. Please, don’t do that. Let’s proclaim truth. See past the brokenness and call out the potential. It could change someone’s life today.

Let’s start renaming.

Because you are not a lonely, insecure student; you are Renowned Royalty.

Because you are not a worthless parent; are you Loving and Compassionate.

Because you are not an adulteress; you are a Beautiful, Accepted Daughter.

Because you are not a porn addict; you are a Chosen, Invaluable Son.

Because you are not unwanted and lonely; you are Desirous and Complete.

So let’s upset this day and get real about who we really are.

And I’d say that’s a pretty good April Fools to boot.

Want to fall captive to a regime? Stop believing in resistance

I’ve been thinking about culture. Specifically about the societal cultures I’ve lived in. It’s amazing how people can be so “awed” by various cultures you’ve experienced.

Example. I work in a really sketchy part of town. There’s the homeless, drug addicts, pushers, prostitutes, thieves, alcoholics, criminals. I see them every day. I know a good number of them by name.

In my free time I have been able to meet them, talk with them, go to their “homes,” open up with them. Some may refer to it as “outreach” or “your ministry.” The way I see it, it just happens to be the street God sent me to work a full-time job, and where he sends his people he sends the Kingdom, so that’s my responsibility. So don’t feel bad if you don’t know this unique culture. You have your own street, your own job, your own neighbors.

Often people say to me, “Wow, you are really courageous.”

Yeah sorry, but not really true. I know– it seems that I should always be on guard and somewhat frightened, while also aware and careful, constantly speaking bold words to my heart.

But honestly once I’ve spent enough time in one culture, I gradually start losing all sense of resistance and awareness. I stop noticing things as much. After time it becomes normal. “There goes another prostitute.” “Another drug deal going down.” “Another robbery.” “Another passed out drunk.”

Then I stop thinking. I stop resisting. I start accepting

And once I’ve lost resistance, I’ve lost my independence, both of mind and action. Anyone can make me whatever they want. Because resisting is hard and causes friction and emotion. It’s much easier to accept and move on.

Recently I was listening to Josh Garrels as I was running and his song The Resistance started playing. The words immediately shocked me and at the end of the first verse I almost had to stop running. I think my jaw dropped.

I realized quickly that so much of my life has been giving up resistance over and over and over until I have become something of a robot, void of questions and explanations. Think on this:

See the secret committees, commence with their meetings 
To make red tape in response to simple questions.
Questions threaten the perception of the beneficial systems 
A pyramid scheme with it’s cogs and it’s pistons
Mechanization of men, making more and more 
Live in a miserable existence.
How can so few, claim so many victims 
And this begs the question 
My rest is a weapon against the oppression 
Of mans obsession to control things.
Look at the long line of make believe kings 
The lord of the flies wants you to kiss his ring.
Follow new rules with invisible strings 
And become a puppet in the diabolical scheme. 
How do good men become part of the regime 
They don’t believe in resistance.

I hate conflict. My whole life I’ve tried to peace-make circumstances and people around me. If I was recognized for something, it had better not be because I resisted a system or expectations. Seemed logical enough. So I started accepting and hardly questioning because resistance drew way too much attention to myself.

After some time in my culture the past year, both at work and the surrounding neighborhood, I found myself being okay with evil. It just didn’t bother me as much any more. It became normal. Everyone was doing it or simply accepting others doing it. But you know what happens once you stop resisting evil? You close off capabilities to recognize and love truth. And that’s a scary place to be. I did become aware and scared and was forced to ask questions.

And that’s when I found that to evade resistance would grant me a first class ticket on the “I’m Wasting My Life” flight.

It’s hard. Resistance is one of the scariest practices, yet the alternative is worlds more frightening.

You know what could eventually happen when people stop resisting? Look at history: Brain-washed disciples. Tyranny. Scandal. Evil. Nazi regimes. Genocide.

But you want to know what else is making me hot right now about resistance (interpret as Angela sees this in herself first and makes her sick)? We know full well about the causes that needs resisting and change. We get so upset about our government, the path of society, our economics, our degrading culture…and what do we do?

We post status’s.

We share opinionated memes.

We borrow other people’s thoughts.

We virtually “like” ideas without committing to doing them.

If you call yourself a Christian and your city is hurting and falling apart, you’d better stamp your name on the face of the problem because Jesus sent his Kingdom to your streets, city, and country through your hands, feet and mind. And the last time I checked his Kingdom is peace, and healing, and success, and freedom, and growth, and joy, and prosperity. So if that’s not happening in your city, own up to it and get to work. Cause it’s your responsibility.

Start resisting.

It’s going to be difficult. Resisting always is. But we can’t allow people to have a longing for the kingdom without inviting them in and living it’s reality.

Word of caution: Be very careful in your practice of resistance. Is your banner defined by hating evil or loving truth? When you start thinking and questioning you’re going to see a lot of messed up stuff. A lot of hypocrisy. A lot of evil. So will you channel your resistance into aggressive exploitation or will you intentionally proclaim truth and love and grace? If your resistance causes vengeful disunity and damaged reputations as a result of your actions, no matter how much those people and organizations “deserve” it, you might need to rethink your approach.

Yes, you may say that Jesus clearly spoke woes against the Pharisees and exposed their evil hypocrisy that they were using for their own means in the name of religion. But you know what he did afterwards? Matthew 12. He went right back into their place of worship, where they hung out and spent their time practicing their religious hypocrisy, and he healed someone. Jesus’ resistance resulted in healing and freedom. Every act of resistance was with Kingdom advancement as it’s core drive.

And that’s a great example to follow.

Stop telling the truth

I can’t think of any roundabout way of saying this.

I’m a very direct person.

Tried to deceptively slip that by you, didn’t I?

I don’t know when or where this came about. When I was a kid my dad would refer to me as “spit fire.” And I don’t think he was referring to one of my spiritual gifts. I’ve always been pretty strong-willed, yet this directness and woeful transparency hasn’t been really noticeable to me until recently.

Maybe it’s because people weren’t transparent with me in the past and I had to learn things the hard way. Don’t you sometimes wish someone would just give you one big gun shot of the truth so that you would have to be shredded by a hundred mini-bullets later down the road?

But recently I’ve been rethinking things. Sometimes I just need to stop telling the truth. Hold off on all the upfront direct statements.

You know what direct statements can possibly do? Cause blind followers. Surface listeners. Head nodders.

When were the moments of your deepest thoughts and times of real discovery and illumination? Probably during the questions. When the reasons why you believed you existed and everything you said you believed in were stoutly challenged. And the questions came.

During those moments you can’t borrow someone else’s experiences. You must work through your own beliefs and purpose. Some things simply can’t be borrowed.

I mean, I totally get this to an extent. Don’t you hate it when someone makes a direct statement about your life and heart and they really have no idea what you’ve been through? You’re thinking, “You don’t even know me.”

But boy am I full of truth statements. Hey, nice problem– now let me solve that for you. Prepare yourself…. Truth Bomb!! And I feel justified in speaking the truth this way because, it’s just that: truth. Ok so sure, it’s been real truth for me and real lessons I have learned. But, hello, I’m not them. Maybe this is about approach. Maybe it has something to do with love and placing someone’s perceptions before mine.

I’ve been thinking recently about this man who seemed to have had some real impact in people’s lives (his name is Jesus). What did he do? He told stories. He asked questions. Ok, so tell me, why did Jesus, ie God, ask questions?? He knows everything. everything.

Maybe he actually cared about people and wanted their hearts and not just their heads. Maybe he used indirect means to get to direct truth.

Am I encouraging people to be blind followers and head believers by spouting off truth statements at every red flag that comes up? It’s easy to do, cause most people don’t want to point-blank argue with truth. But did it really answer any core questions, or better yet, did it even cause core questions to arise?

Do we just borrow someone else’s truth or do we own it personally? Does it terrify you to think for yourself? to stop turning to books, articles, status’s, friends, blogs, music? When was the last time you were real with yourself, with your circumstances?

Why did God answer that prayer and provide $5 for laundry but didn’t come through when the school bill was due? Why was it that you worked so hard to make the basketball team and the final cut only to sit on the bench the entire season? Why did you finally get pregnant after praying for years and years, only to be in a car accident when you were 8 months pregnant and have your baby girl stillborn? Why did you give yourself in self-sacrificing love to a coworker that seems to finally be accepting you, only to have him stab you in the back and ruin your reputation? Why did you so confidently pursue in real passion your career dream only to have it shatter to pieces in your hands? Why did God cure your 17 year old brother of cancer only to find out that it’s aggressively returned and is inoperable and that they are simply doing chemo to ease the pain before he dies? Why did you so clearly follow God to that church for the purpose of serving in leadership only to have the people maliciously rip your family apart and scar your heart for years? Why did you so assuredly marry that man who was leading you in godliness, joyfulness and purity only to have him divorce you for another woman, leaving you with 3 small children to care for?

Why do I even exist? Does God even exist? Do I really have purpose in this life? Does anybody care? Is it really worth it?

Everyone is talking, but is anyone thinking?

Are you going to settle for darkness or will you pursue the truth? Will you keep borrowing truth, or will you search out your questions yourself? Is it too painful? Are you frightened of what you might find? Will you search for truth in yourself, or will you go to a real source?

Are you taking my word for it, or have you even questioned this?