Monday, August 28, 2017

Those Detrimental Labels

The Bible makes it clear that mankind was created in the image of God. Each of us is created individually to reflect His glory in unique ways. We are created to fulfill purposes He designed us to specifically fulfill. Yet, we live in a fallen world and as a result most of us (if not all) have negative core beliefs so deeply entrenched that we don't even realize they are there. These beliefs tell us things that are contrary to God's truth. These beliefs drive our thoughts, attitudes, decisions, and actions. They govern how we feel about ourselves and others, how we interpret life, and how we view our circumstances, events, and others' actions. They even govern how we treat ourselves and how we treat and respond to others.

I believe core beliefs begin as labels. Some of those labels begin in childhood when we don't know how to correctly interpret life, relationships and experiences. When we misinterpret words, events, and others' actions we often end up applying shame-based labels to ourselves. Think of children who grew up neglected and abandoned. They often faulted themselves, assuming the labels of not good enough, too stupid, too ugly--and any other too they believed kept them from getting their needs of love and nurturing met. Think of the children who have been abandoned either physically or emotionally by parents' who are incapable of loving well, drowning in addictions that caused role reversals, or simply leaving to start another family somewhere else. They label themselves as defective, unloved, unneeded, unwanted, and not enough.

Think of the children who were being sexually abused or exploited. They labeled themselves as dirty, disgusting, trashed, used, vile and ruined. In addition, when no one noticed the pain they were in or responded to their cries for help. they added other labels like invisible, not worth saving, shameful. Think of the children who grew up with others labeling them with ugly names, harsh words and racial slurs. Words like Ugly. Fat. Chunky. Stupid. Different. Slut. Worthless shaped their view of themselves. Think of the messages given by others that turned into labels given. Useless, Insignificant, Unneeded, Ugly, Stinky, Dumb. Crazy. Ridiculous. You are....You fill in the blank with what you heard. It could be the source of a label you wear.
Think of teens dating, who are giving gave away their hearts, their bodies, and their souls outside of God's plan and then having their hearts trampled and tossed away like the evening garbage. Think of those whose "No's" were disregarded or silenced with threats of violence or shame. Think of those who were given labels by bullies, indicating they didn't even have a right to take up space, breath air, or live.

Think of women who are living in a media-driven culture that defines beauty as size two, flat stomach, space between thighs, and certain skin tones whose are not genetically designed for that. Think of women whose husbands define beauty by the air brushed porn they view--pictures burned in their brains--pictures that don't age over time, don't shift with child birth, or don't experience the pain of arthritis and other debilitating diseases. Or the men who were labeled worthless, stupid, or dumb by frustrated parents, thoughtless teachers, angry wives, hateful bosses, or resentful co-workers.

The source of all negative labels originates with the enemy of our souls--even the ones spoken by people, implied by the actions of others, or assumed by us due to our experiences. I know this because he is source of every lie that goes against God's truth. I was given permission to share the link to an amazing video. In this video Isabelle sings about labels. In it there is a scene in which she portrays a model being squeezed into clothing too small as her beautiful face is being painted with harsh black makeup designed to hardens her gentle sweet beauty. She finally gets up and walks out of the photo shoot, stripping off the corset type clothing and washes off the makeup, showing her refusal to be made into something she isn't. That is powerful!

I was sharing with my husband today about the video and all the different ugly and painful labels with which I  used to struggle and a few that still remain a constant battle. I told him it was in my Christian counselor's office I had that moment Isabelle had that caused her to walk off the set. It was there that I first identified and opened up about all the hateful, ugly labels I had heard, I had assumed, and that I continuously reiterated in my negative thinking until they had sunk so deep they ran through my mind of their own accord, causing self-hatred to run hot through my veins. It was sitting in that office over a period of time with her reminding me of truth that helped me see those labels were lies of the enemy. It was there that I began to recognize the power I had to refuse to let the media, our culture, the abuses I had experienced, the hurtful words that had been spoken over me, the hateful actions of others towards me, the false accusations being hurled at me, and harsh judgments being spoken about me label me as defective, dirty, unloved, too fat, too ugly, too stupid, invisible, unworthy, too unloved, too much, not enough, and inadequate. Those things had become so deeply entrenched I had to choose the truth of what God says about me over and over--truths like I am fearfully and wonderfully made, I am beloved, I am beautiful, I am saved, I am sanctified, I am chosen, I am cherished, I am whole, I am of sound mind, I am seen, I am heard, and and I am clean. I have had to let the love of God and His truth continually wash over me to get rid of the labels and let Him be my source of worth. When I understood how I had let those labels define me and how they were destroying me, I became passionate about fighting the lies and helping others fight their lies and help them absorb what God says about them and worked it into our Passionate Heart Ministry.

Understanding labels helped me understand the power of words whether spoken or withheld. If we tell a child over and over and over he is lazy, he will be lazy. If we tell children they are worthless they will begin to believe it and act out of that belief. If we tell a girl she is a slut repeatedly, she will fulfill the label with her life. If we refuse to speak kindness or love into someones heart, they will begin to believe they are unloveable. If people refuse to make eye contact with a homeless person, he will begin to believe he is invisible.

I wish we all understood the labels with which we all struggle. Those labels keep people from being all God created them to be. When we don't understand our own negative labels, we will end up labeling others in detrimental ways. If we let the truth of God and His love wash over us, our negative labels will be replaced by His Truth, enabling us to become more than we ever dreamed we could be. Then we will be in a place to help others remove the labels etched into their souls by repeatedly encouraging them with the truth of who they were created to be. And our God who only creates beauty and He ascribed worth to each of us with his own blood.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Jesus is not a White Supremacist

Hatred has been growing in this world for some time. It first reared its ugly head after the fall, ultimately being responsible for the murder of Cain. It drove Joseph's brothers to both plot his death and then to settle for selling him into slavery. It drove the Egyptians to slaughter babies born to the Jews. It drove Haman to plot the destruction of the Israelites who were being held captive in Persia. It showed its ugliness in Israel's treatment of the Gentiles, the Gentiles’ treatment of Israel, and the treatment of both toward the people groups who were the products of mixed marriages between Jews and Gentiles. It was displayed when women were mistreated in marriages and discarded by arrogant husbands who used them and tossed them out like the evening garbage. It was displayed in the way the Old Testament society viewed women as second-class citizens. It even showed its ugly head when fathers desired sons and mourned the births of the precious daughters God gave. It showed its ugly head in the legal system of that day that often failed to serve justice on their behalf. 

Today, it continues to grow rampant in all sorts of ways as we see on the news. Hatred has roots running deep in human hearts. It is sometimes birthed when fear becomes so intolerable that the power of hatred feels safer. It is sometimes birthed in hearts filled with insecurities when hatred becomes a way of calming anxious hearts that long to feel secure. It can be birthed by deep longings--the longing of acceptance, of notoriety, of supremacy, of prestige, and of significance--when one mistakenly believes hatred somehow ensures one can get or keep those things longed for. It can also be born in a pride-filled heart as one seeks to elevates oneself over others. It can be born out of a heart deeply wounded by victimization, providing a destructive hot protection that sadly kills loving relationships. It can be born out of a heart given over to evil when one's conscience has become seared by one hateful choice after another.  

Hatred can also take root when distorted thinking rules our hearts. When we exaggerate, or minimize the importance of events, experiences, and mistakes we can breed hatred. When we employ catastrophic thinking, we see only the worst possible outcomes, keeping us from seeing possible life lessons, possibilities, and the call to grow love at deeper levels. And fear caused by catastrophic thinking breeds self-protective, self-destructive hatred. When we are given to making broad generalizations, we can develop hate-filled viewpoints. If we were abused by a man, we can grow to hate all men. If we were ridiculed by a teacher, we could grow to hate all teachers. If we were assaulted by someone of another race we could come to despise all people from that race. We see this in all the different movements that have come out in the last couple of years. One Christian votes for Hilary, so all Christians are scum, murder-loving hypocrites. One Christian speaks in favor of Trump and we are labeled as racists and hate-mongers. One experiences racism at the hands of whites, then all white people are labeled racists. Because of the black lives movement some white people label all black people as violent, anti-whites. Then there are all the other races and the other prejudices to consider such as, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, Middle Eastern, different economic levels, different cultures, and different levels of education.

What is worse is some people wear crosses while they take videos of themselves spewing hateful tirades on you tube. And there are white supremacists wearing crosses claiming they are Christians, and now all Christians are now being blamed and lumped into that small hate-filled group. It sickens my heart! Even people who know us and know we aren’t like them assume we are.  

Hatred can also grow when we take everything we see and hear personally. I even find myself doing this. If I allow myself to read the comments posted under the articles I read on Facebook or News sites, I find myself taking the hateful comments personally and they are written by people who don't know me, don’t know I am reading the article, and don’t know what I believe. Before long I find myself feeling defensive and my defensiveness gives way to seething anger and my seething anger gives way to hatred and I find the thoughts forming in my head are every bit as hateful as the hate speech which offended me. I can’t allow myself to tale things personally and focus on that stuff or I begin to sound like those I don’t want to be like. I notice that people who don’t like Trump are beginning to sound just like him. Those who are taking a stand against racism sometimes come across like racists. I wish we would all pause and take a step back so we can emotionally decompress. Hate is never going to be changed by more hate; it is changed by love, humility, grace, and forgiveness. It is changed by trying to know the hurting heart behind the anger.  

And, jumping to conclusions and mind reading causes so many misunderstandings and fights and hateful responses. I went through long rough patch with someone I cared deeply about. She had seen a cross stitched picture hanging in my home that someone had given me and she assumed I stitched it and assume I believed something I didn't. I lost thirteen years of relationship with her because she jumped to conclusions and thought she could read my mind. She chose not to clarify her perceptions and chose to be offended by something she imagined. After thirteen long years, she told me she had been offended by the Bible verse on the picture and allowed me to tell her the story behind the picture. Her anger dissipated as she realized the picture had nothing to do with her and I grieved. I grieved that she had experienced so much needless pain, and I grieved the lost years of close relationship we had once had. It is often in the replaying in the mind of such imagined offences that hatred grows.

Fortune telling also stops grace giving and stops us from reflecting our God who really is a God of a million chances--our lives prove that! Sometimes we see only the negative aspects of situations or people, but all people are made up of both strengths and weaknesses. And if people are made that way, groups of people are too. All races, all genders, all cultures, all social groups—all have strengths and weaknesses. All can contribute good and all are in need of grace. When our thoughts are filled with "should have’s" we've placed on others, hate can be the result as it covers disappointment we feel when others don't fulfill our expectations and demands that would not be there if we replaced a “should” with a desire. All or nothing thinking keeps us from seeing the good in people and the sin in us--even more fodder for hate. 

This latest event in Charlottesville initially left me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was soon followed by a deep grief that we people get it so wrong so often, and fear that we humans will never learn to love better. It was also followed by a righteous anger that has been burning hot. When white supremacists claim to be Christians, I get angry because Christians are supposed to be in the process of becoming more like Jesus and supremacists do not reflect the Jesus of the Bible. Ephesians 2:14-21 makes this so clear. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of the commandments express in ordinances that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in who the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a Holy Temple in the Lord. 

Jesus, the Jesus talked about in Scripture, was a Jew born in the Middle East. He wasn't even someone white supremacists would follow. He broke through economic barriers. He left heaven and was born to a poor carpenter. He turned over the tables of money changers that were making it difficult for the poor to worship. He broke down cultural boundaries when He rubbed shoulders with the blind, crippled, deaf, mute, lepers, and a woman unclean because of constant bleeding. He changed the religious culture by allowing all sorts of people to sit under his teaching--from boisterous fishermen, doctors, tax collectors, business women, homemakers, and prostitutes. He even allowed children to come into His presence, which was unheard of in that day. He laid His hands on them and blessed them and called people to have the faith they had. He cast out demons who were destroying people. He gave the gospel to the Samaritan women who was of the mixed race and then remained to teach those living in her town. He was a bridge builder, not a divider! He was bridging the hostility between the Jews and the Gentiles and the Gentiles are all the other races that exist. He was humble. He was loving. He was servant who washed His disciples’ feet, rather than pridefully setting Himself up as a judge! White Supremacists are driven by the Enemy who is trying to convince people Jesus is something He isn’t. As they claim to belong to Him and to be His representatives, they are being used by the enemy to distort God's image and to stir up the hostility that Jesus came to destroy. That seems like pretty serious sin to me.

So, what do we do in light of growing hatred? We spend time with the One who loves and came to kill the wall of hostility. We continue build a church comprised of all nations and all races. We build a church full of people who are reconciled to God, unified in Jesus, being led by the Holy Spirit to do the ministry of reconciliation. Our Jesus preached peace. Our Jesus reconciled people to the Father and granted people citizenship with the Saints! We would be wise to examine ourselves and clean out any residual of bigotry and racism and Pharisaical judgment we might possess as individuals and as churches because those things destroy His peace, divide the body, and keep others from knowing God.

I must guard my heart so in my passion I don't take on the very hatred God hates. My anger and my hatred can never bring about repentance. Only God's goodness can! I don't want to spend hours stewing over recent ugly events, because I know God is just and His Name and character can’t be changed by those who hate. I praise God that His very nature is love and He sent Jesus to kill hostility. I pray my heart will be sensitive to His work so my heart and life are a true reflection of Him who died in my place, satisfying God’s wrath for my sin. I praise God that His Son was not, is not, and never will be a White Supremacist. He was a Jewish baby born in humble conditions, who in an act of supreme humility lay down His life, breaking the barriers of hostility between me and God and me and all other people—barriers that stood in the way of people getting to know Him. These horrific events have painted an ugly backdrop that allows our love to shine even brighter. We want to make sure we stay deeply connected to the God whose nature is love and that love is what will melt hatred. 


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!