Friday, November 30, 2012

For My Birthday Girl

Dear Precious Lucy,

You're laying in my lap as I write this. You're only still like this when you're asleep. We joke all the time about how busy you are. You really are something!  This time one year ago, I remember being so frustrated. We all were surprised that you were taking your time to join us. I had been at the hospital all day long!  I was trying so hard to deliver you without medication... I wanted so badly to have you naturally. I was doing fine, but I remember my biggest struggle was not knowing how much longer you would be.

But then you surprised us. As soon as we sent everyone home and accepted that you probably weren't going to arrive until the next morning, you decided it was time. At 12:22 AM, you joined us. I did it without that epidural, just like I wanted! It wasn't easy, but you were worth every minute of it. I'd do it the same way a thousand times. There's nothing I'd change. You were worth every contraction, every caffeinated coffee I skipped, and every meal I threw up. You were worth it all.

There's this saying: Let her sleep, for when she wakes she'll move mountains. I think the initial quote is a political reference, but I've seen it on many nursery items. I've adopted it for you. It captures everything about you. I don't know exactly what God has in store for you, Baby Girl, but I know that you are here to move mountains. It may take time to learn what those mountains are, but you have purpose here already.

There are two main themes that we tried to speak into your life before you were even born: the importance of faith and your privilege to be a light for all who see you.  You will be reminded a million times that you were named after two amazing examples of faith, one real- Hannah (mother of Samuel) - and one fictional- Lucy Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia). I can't wait to share their stories with you! I can't wait to show why faith is so vital to us as followers of Christ!

Faith is important, but we can't forget light. Your name, Lucy, means light. It's only fitting that your life verse should be Matthew 5:14-16:

"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." 
We are called to be a light to the world. My prayer is that we can be a light for you and teach you to do the same for others.

Your first birthday is only minutes away. Later in the day, we'll gather with family and friends to celebrate you. We'll eat cupcakes (I baked 48 of them today!) and watch you dive into vanilla cake with whipped frosting. We'll watch you open gifts and get excited about Elmo, Minnie Mouse, or whatever catches your eye. We're going to have a good time loving on you and watching you smile.

In closing, know that your Daddy loves you so much. You have him wrapped around those sassy fingers. Your brother loves and adores you in every possible way. He will do anything to protect you and make you smile. I love you too, Lucy, more than words can say. I cherish you. When your mountains seem overwhelming, know that I'll always be here to help you. Lastly, it's hard for me to fathom because of the depth of our love for you, but our Father God loves you even more than we do. We'll do all we can to show you that love. You are loved more than you'll ever know!

For now, sleep tight. Tomorrow is going to be a busy, but fun day. Happy Birthday Lucy Girl! This world is better because you're in it!

With all my love,

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 30: What now?

"Our world is hungry for genuinely changed people." ~Richard Foster

If you've taken the time to read any of these authenticity posts, chances are you're tired of the status quo of Christianity. You're probably tired of sitting in a pew and wondering how in the world you're supposed to apply what you hear each week to your everyday life. I don't know about you, but I've seen enough robots in my life to know that something has to change. Be the change this world is craving.  We have been charged to do so much more than sit in church twice a week and shake hands with fellow church members in the halls. That's good, but there's more.

"He has shown you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly,
 to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" ~Micah 6:8

What do we do with all of this? The answer is simple, yet complex at the same time: we live authentically. We say goodbye to the monotony that we've known and we choose to live authentically, intentionally, and even sacrificially. We decide to do better and to make a difference. We have to do better if we're going lead others to Christ. Living with authenticity is a bold thing in this mass-produced, cookie cutter world.

It's time. We have more influence now than any society in history. In seconds, you can share a photo of your dinner with people all over the world. It's time to do more. It's time to share your story each time the opportunities arise. That's not just for social media, where you can hide behind a profile. It's time to be authentic and intentional at home, at work, at school, and everywhere you go. You aren't allowed five different versions of yourself. You don't get to choose who you're going to be based on your plans for the day. That's absurd and it's insulting to the circle of influence that's been entrusted to you. That's what the world would do; it's the status quo.

"Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this." ~Esther 4:14b

The status quo isn't enough, it never has been. It's time to be about our Father's business. We've got to get our focus off of ourselves. It's all about Him anyway; it's time to start living that way. This is our for such a time as this.  It's time to rise up and be the light. There is no justification for secret church here.  It's time to show the world that we're real people, living in this real world, serving and living each day for God.  Let's do better; the world is watching. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 29: Living Intentionally

"But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name be declared in all the earth." ~Exodus 9:16

We've talked about love and forgiveness. We've talked about being transparent in the good and the bad. We've talked about identity and acceptance. We've talked about intentional relationships, both to benefit ourselves and to benefit others. We've talked about leadership and mentoring.  We've talked about serving and having purpose. It all comes down to this: living intentionally.

Living intentionally is living life "on purpose." It's choosing to live each day for God's purpose. It's living with His plan in mind 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Mary Crowley writes, "Being a Christian is not doing certain things, but doing everything a certain way." That's what it's all about: doing things in a certain way because of God's purpose, not only His purpose for your life, but the lives of others.  It's going beyond yourself and looking at the big picture. 

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." ~Matthew 5:14-16
Living intentionally, and authentically, is realizing that you are that light and that you have responsibility to shine, no matter what.  It's choosing to shine in the good and bad. It's being a leader,  holding out your hand, and showing all the way. Living intentionally is allowing His purpose to guide your words, behavior, and decisions. It's being more than someone who attends church and reads the Bible from time to time. Living intentionally is being committed to authenticity in your walk and being so in love with God that you are changed and new. Living intentionally is being in this world, but not a product of this world.  Our challenge today is to live intentionally; choose to shine.

Monday, November 5, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 28: Leadership

Definition of LEAD

transitive verb
a: to guide on a way especially by going in advance
 b: to direct on a course or in a direction
c: to serve as a channel for
We're nearing the end of our 30 Days so these last couple of posts will build on and reiterate some things already discussed. Today we're talking about leadership and how it's required of all of us as Christ-followers. For some reason, we often think that we're supposed to leave the leadership to the professionals, or the ministerial staff in this case. This is such a huge misconception!  God has given you circles of influence for a reason; with those circles come responsibility to use them wisely and use them to lead others by example. Don't let anyone let you believe that you aren't called and equipped to lead others! 
"Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe." ~1 Timothy 4:12
We've already looked at 1 Timothy 4:12 here in our Authenticity Journey, but we can easily see that this example we're setting is definitely a form of leadership.  Regardless of age, we're called to lead others through our speech, behavior, love, faith, and purity.  We've also looked at Titus before when talking about influence.  The entire chapter of Titus 2 commands us to lead others, to show them the way.   
"But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in  perseverance.
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
6 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
9 Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you."
~Titus 2
Here, we see that we are to teach young and old(er) men and women alike; we're to take our walks with the Lord seriously so that others can trust our guidance.  John C. Maxwell writes, "Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts.  It's about one life influencing another."  I'm so encouraged by that reminder.  I've never chased a title, but I know all too well what it's like to be pushed out of serving because of man-made rules.  Titus 2 reminds me that I've got something to offer to others and I'm to be a leader, regardless of any legalistic regulations that have been set .  Whether you're a paid minister or not, you're called to lead.  Regardless of any layperson's church position you may or may not hold, you've got a ministry of your very own.  If you are a believer, then you are a leader.  Take ownership of that today.  Use your circles of influence wisely.  Make a difference in the lives of others.  Be vocal, be humble, serve and teach.  Be authentic in all that you do and be the example that others need.  Lead.     

Sunday, November 4, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 27: Made to Worship

“God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is. This is what it means to be created in the image of God.” ~John Piper

The topic in our Sunday School class today was that we were made to worship God. We talked about how worship is so much more than music and so much more than a church service. We are to be in a constant state of worship. We established that worship is a lifestyle; it's who you are 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, how do we get to that point? First of all, we've got to stay in The Word. Secondly, we've got to take time to talk to God. Christianity isn't about rules or religion; it's about a relationship. Relationships with one-sided communication or no communication at all don't last. We can't expect to see God moving in our lives if we're not spending time with Him. We also can't expect fullness if we're not spending time with Him; it's just like any other friendship we have in that sense. Our closest friends are the ones we actually spend time with. If He's merely an acquaintance, we can't live in an authentic state of worship.
After we focus on the relationship, we can add the music to the mix. I simply cannot imagine living without music. There are songwriters out there who express my exact thoughts and feelings much better than I ever could. There's just something about music. Isn't it funny to see how different your day is when you've got a song in your heart? When you've got a song of praise, a bad day doesn't seem quite as bad and a trial doesn't seem quite as difficult. When you've got a song of praise, a good day becomes great. When you've got a song of praise, you're contagious. It's an amazing thing.
We could look at hundreds of scriptures on worship, but today I encourage you to find a song that reminds you to be in a constant, authentic state of worship. Find that song and fill your heart and your life with it today. Let it spill over into your thoughts and your attitude. Let it guide your conversations with God. Let it guide your Bible reading. Although Chris Tomlin actually has a great song about this very topic --"Made to Worship"-- my song is "How Can I Keep from Singing." When I hear this song, I'm constantly reminded of my many reasons to live in an authentic state of worship. My hope is that it blesses you the way it blesses me.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 26: Finally Accepted

"Few things will wear you down like trying like to control your image in the eyes of other people." ~Pete Wilson

We are relational beings. We crave relationships and interactions with other people. It's natural to want friendship, it really is.  The problem with this intense need for acceptance and friendship is that we can lose ourselves. It goes beyond peer pressure. It's so much more than doing something to fit into a click. We're talking about being so desperate to gain acceptance that we drift from peer group to peer group.  This is longing so desperately to fit in somewhere, anywhere that we drift from thing to thing, the next group, hobby, job, or place, that could be the one.

It's hard enough to watch someone desperately searching for acceptance, it has to be miserable to be the one searching for it. It's even harder to watch someone on that journey if they're a fellow believer because you're watching someone look for something in all the wrong places.

"So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you." ~Romans 8:8-9a
"I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes only from God?" ~John 5:41-44

"For do I persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ." ~Galatians 1:10

"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ." ~Colossians 3:23-24

It's okay to want acceptance, but we've got to remember that approval and acceptance from God is all that matters.  We're not here to to impress others or gain legions of fans.  If it happens along the way, that's fine; however, the point here is that we're not here to be accepted by the world or to be superstars.  We are here to lead others to Him and we were created for His glory, not ours.  We're accepted and adored by Him.  How is that not enough?  Are our egos so big that having God's approval isn't important enough? 

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved."
~Ephesians 1:3-6
Blessed.  Chosen.  Predestined.  Adopted.  Accepted in the Beloved.  We are loved by God, and not only accepted by Him, but chosen by Him.  Stop trying to put on a show for others; rest in the knowledge that you are chosen.  Stop this song and dance and be who God has created you to be; know your worth in the eyes of The Almighty.  If we're going to be authentic people making a difference for Him, we've got surrender this need for worldly acceptance.  After all, we're not here to please the world; it's all about Him. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 25: Purpose

"You are certainly under the guidance of the Holy Ghost or you wouldn't have come to where you now are." ~C.S. Lewis

Many of the things we've discussed in our Authenticity Journey are the very culmination of today's topic.  Today, we're talking about purpose. We hear the term thrown around a lot, but we sometimes we don't consider what having purpose really means for us.  If you are a fellow believer, you've probably heard many times that God loves you and has a plan for your life. Sounds a little cliché, right? That phrase may be "overused," I suppose, but the promise can't get lost in the phrase. God loves us with an unequivocal, unfathomable love. I believe it because I feel it every moment of my life. It is what drives me, sustains me, gives me clarity, and gives me worth. With that amazing love comes purpose. I'm so honored and humbled to know that God uses me. I'm imperfect, I'm flawed, I have hang-ups, I fail, and fall, but God uses me anyway because He has plans for my life.

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." ~Proverbs 16:9
 "In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will." ~Ephesians 1:11
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you.
~John 15:16

We see lots of passages in God's Word that tell us we are here for something important.  We're not just roaming around this earth for no reason at all.  However, we have to keep in mind that purpose doesn't just fall into our laps.  Our last passage to look at today is Jeremiah 29:11-13. Verse 11 is labeled by many as the ultimate verse for purpose, while verses 12-13 are often left out.   We have to seek God and we can't seek Him without personal Bible study or communication with Him.  Sitting in a church for a few hours each Sunday isn't enough; if we want to have the peace that comes along with purpose, we have to pursue God. 
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'"
~Jeremiah 29:11-13
I love knowing that God has plans for me and I love knowing that these plans weren't just mapped out yesterday.   He has purpose for me --this girl who was born and raised in Alabama, who  walked to church as a child. He had purpose in my after school job --to lead me to my husband. He had purpose in my ministry. He  established those steps for a reason and he continues to do so each day of my life. I know the key is truly seeking Him, trying my best to know Him more each day, and doing the best I can to live authentically.

I love to look back at the seasons of my life and see how God has used my past to orchestrate my present and my future. I love seeing how He uses this mess that I've been --and often am-- to keep me moving forward and working for Him. Purpose is a wonderful thing: it gives me accountability, inspiration, and a reason to keep going when it seems overwhelming. Thank you God for using my life and giving me purpose!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity- Day 24: Try Harder

"It's time for us to rise up, get out of the rut and routine, and begin to take our Christian faith seriously." ~A.W. Tozer
It's not easy following Christ.  Let's face it, there are lots of examples we can give here.  It's easier to give into temptations rather than resist them.  It's easier to tell someone off rather than show them authentic love in a time of discord.  It's much easier to let influence of sex, violence, and drugs lull us into a media-induced coma than to make smart media choices.  It's much easier to spend our hard-earned money on the things we want rather than tithing.  It's a thousand times easier to be served than it is to serve.  Sometimes it's just hard to be a Christian, right? 
If we want macaroni for dinner, we have two choices.  We can round up our cream, butter, salt, pepper, and cheese to create a sauce while our pasta is boiling.  Then we can mix it all together and bake it for 30 minutes.  Our second option is to open the packet, add water, mix, and microwave it for four minutes.  We live in an easy, instant world and many believers drop out of the race because it takes more time than they want to sacrifice.  Some drop out because it just gets harder than they expected.  Maybe they haven't stayed in The Word, maybe they haven't been encouraged enough, maybe they haven't seen it modeled before, or maybe they just don't see any of it making a difference quickly enough.  Being a believer isn't easy in a just-add-water world.  We often don't want to finish the race simply because it's hard and it takes effort.  But we've got to keep going:

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
~1 Corinthians 9:24-27
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." ~Hebrews 12:1-3

"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 3:13-14

There are also those who know what is asked of them, but they just don't care enough to do it... even though they are "Christians."  Their Facebook profile sure says they're Christians, but you wouldn't really know it if you had never read their profile. Before the "death" of Myspace, my James dubbed this type of person a "Myspace Christian."  I've got to be honest, I don't really understand this.  I don't understand how you can know of God's love, His healing, His protection, His sacrifice, His provision, or His strength and just not care.  I don't understand it, yet I've been guilty of it too.  It's not so much that I didn't care; I cared and was genuinely humbled by it, but I didn't care enough to let it change me. I knew it all, and I was a "good person," but I didn't care enough to be any different from the world.  Am I alone here?  Has anyone else ever been guilty of being lukewarm?  That's just not good enough.   It's not where we want to be: 

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth."  ~Revelation 3:15-16
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men." ~Matthew 5:13
“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters." ~Matthew 12:30
"Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins." ~James 4:17
The point here is that we've got to try harder. No one said it would be easy, but we've got to do better.  No one should have to ask us if we're Christians.  No one should assume we aren't believers because they have no reason to think otherwise.  We've got to be better than that.  We've got to be sold out and committed to our relationships with God.  We've got to care and we've got to show them why they should care.  We've got to show people how God and His everlasting love has changed us.  We've got to be followers who make a difference, who share God's love in all that we do.  Try harder.  Be radical.  Show the world how He has changed you. 
"Lukewarm people call 'radical' what Jesus expected of all His followers." ~Francis Chan

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 23: Bold

It's Halloween night and we've finally changed out of costumes and into pajamas at our house.  Our kids were dressed as Anakin Skywalker and a ghost, but we saw tons of other characters throughout the night.  We saw princesses, super heroes, various horror movie replicas and much more.  Despite the difference in costumes, everyone had one thing in common: they were pretty much fearless.  Sure, it's generally just a fun time, but there really is a unique boldness in the air on Halloween night.  People talk differently and they even walk differently; it's interesting to watch.   There's something about walking around in a costume or hiding behind a mask that seems to give people confidence they don't usually have. 
What if we had that kind of boldness every day?  Think of the difference we could make if we approached each day with that fearless attitude that we carry around on Halloween. There are lots of things about following Christ that require boldness.  From speaking about God, to praying, and the way we approach life in general, we see lots of encouragement to make boldness of a part of our lives.     

"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. ~1 Corinthians 16:13
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~Deuteronomy 31:6
"After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." ~Acts 4:31
"Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The LORD will do what is good in his sight.” ~1 Chronicles 19:13

"He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!" ~Acts 28:31
"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." ~Hebrews 4:16

Some of these are taken from specific stories and some are written in letters of encouragement.  It's ideal to read these verses from the full passages to get the big picture, but even by themselves, we get encouragement we can apply to our lives right now.  We see encouragement to approach God with boldness, reverent boldness.  We see encouragement to speak of Him boldly.  We see encouragement to be strong, be faithful, and to be bold while we're going through our battles each day.  C.S. Lewis writes, "Jesus Christ did not say, 'Go into the world and tell the world that it is quite right.'" It takes lots of boldness to lead others into discipleship. We can't do that at all without saying things that require courage, without approaching God Himself with boldness, or living with authenticity and boldness.  
You don't need costumes, masks, and fake personas to live with boldness; you have the Holy Spirit living in you and through you.  Let Him empower you today.  Draw that boldness from Him. Let it change how you speak, how you pray, and how you cope with life. Most importantly, let it change you; let that courage transform you into a warrior who is confident enough to live authentically in a manufactured, cookie-cutter world. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity- Day 22: Choose Joy!

Over the last ten years, we've allowed ourselves to redefine what normal life looks like.  In particular, we've allowed Reality TV, which is usually staged and utterly ridiculous, to mold us into a totally new society with new expectations and norms.  The biggest shift I've noticed is that teenagers and adults alike have this dangerous idea that everything in our lives is supposed to be dramatic, miserable, overly complicated, and downright overwhelming.  How crazy!  This need for constant drama and difficulty has done nothing but suck the joy right out of us.  Think of all those video confessionals we watch.  They're usually nothing more than an absurdly dramatic rehashing of some big offense, just another chance to add more tension and to make the show "more interesting."   This video confessional mentality really does change how we cope.  I see it all the time; whether in person or through social media, it has changed the way we deal with real life  That's not to say that complications don't show up from time to time, but God didn't bless us with life in order for us to spend it stirring up or being involved in drama.   All of these blessing and gifts in our lives are supposed to be enjoyed and shared, rather than ignored as we tweet and post about everything that's going wrong.
I'll admit that I've said many times here that we've got to be transparent and authentic in the good and bad-that's so true- but if all we're projecting to others as a child of God is how awful life is, then we've lost our joy. Remember, everything about us reflects God. We shouldn't be in continuous "pity party" mode; it minimizes everything we believe.  As believers, joy should come as easily as breath itself.   Our reasons to smile far outweigh any reasons not to.  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said "Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God."  We should be constantly rejoicing.  A joyful attitude is contagious!  That's how we lead others to Him; we show them something different from the world. 
"Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are." ~Marianne Williamson
The Word tells us in Philippians 4 to "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!"  Again in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 we are simply told to "Rejoice always." Those charges are simple enough to understand.   The key here is to rejoice in the Lord always and not dwell on the world.  When you focus on Him and His goodness, it's easy to smile.  It's only when we take our eyes off of Him and get caught up in this world and its distractions that we find so many reasons for complaint.  Let's get away from the Reality TV mindset.  Let's make sure that others can see His presence.  Let's focus on Him and fill our lives with authentic joy. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 21: The Village

"It takes a village to raise a child." ~African Proverb

It takes a village, huh? I suppose that has been true for ages in many societies and cultures, but I think it's always true in your life as a child of God. For some, that village consists of grandparents and church elders who always shared the wisdom they gained through the years. For some, that village consists of precious Sunday School teachers or youth workers who faithfully gave of themselves.  Some are even lucky enough to have friends, parents and siblings in their village.

Your village is simply the group of people who helped you find your way in your walk with God.  Your village is made up of the people who helped you find your identity in Christ. They are the ones you immediately think of when you hear the terms mentors, teachers, encouragers, and prayer warriors. They are people who were completely authentic and made a difference in your life by sharing theirs.

My Bible has a section for listing your spiritual  mothers. That's a good way to think of your village-your spiritual mothers and fathers. After all, they collectively raised you to be who you are today.  I think of several people who shaped me into who I am today. I thank God for my village and the sacrifices that were made on my behalf. Who is in your village?   The Village shows up a good bit in The Word too.  Let's take a look:

"One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds." ~Psalm 145:4-6
"And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others." ~2 Timothy 2:2
"Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.  Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness." ~Titus 2:2-7
"Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it." ~Proverbs 22:6
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." ~Deuteronomy 6:5-9

The thing about the village concept is that it parallels the intentional relationships posts in a very complementary way. Each of these passages show just how important a village is.  There's a lot of responsibility within the walls of a village.  You see, villages aren't here to solely benefit you. They're not only here to teach you, reach you, and raise you up. You are here to be a part of another village; you are here to mentor too. How wonderful to know that we can still pour into others while we continue to grow and mature in our faith journey.

Remember that today. Remember those who poured into you and made you who you are today. Remember those who encouraged you to keep going when it all seemed unbearable. Think of those who do those things for you now.  Thank God for them and take time to let them know the impact they've had in your life.

Also take time to consider your responsibility to do the same for others. Are you in someone's village? You're probably in several villages. Thank God for the opportunity He has given you to have that kind of influence.  Be intentional with this privilege to pour into someone else; what an honor to be a part of someone's village, someone's faith journey! Be careful, be authentic, and accept this challenge to make a difference in the lives of others.

"True success comes only when every generation continues to develop the next. ~John C. Maxwell

Sunday, October 28, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 20: Authentically Thankful

"The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessing." ~Henry Ward Beecher
Once again, it's Sunday, and we find it hard to slow down.  In light of this beautiful time of worship and rest, we'll keep it short today.  Simply take some time today and thank Him. We're not talking about a quick breath of thanks, but a meaningful time to stop and truly give Him the thanks that He is due.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 19: Trust Issues

Why is it so hard to really trust God?  Why do we worry and worry about something, pray about it, and then keep worrying?  I've been guilty of that way too many times before.  I've told others before that I was raised to be a worrier, so having authentic trust is against everything I ever saw modeled in my childhood and teen years.  Letting go and letting God is something that takes discipline for me.  (Please allow me to chuckle for a moment.  I'll never see "let go and let God" and not think of a Joe scene from Madea's Family Reunion.  "Let go and let God" took on a whole new meaning there.)  Anyway, it's not easy to truly let go when you're so inclined to worrying.  I'm not completely a rehabbed worrier now, but I'm doing much better. 
I've seen God work in so many situations in my life.  Time and time again, He has been there in ways I don't deserve.  It's strange though.  Even though I've seen Him do amazing things over and over again, sometimes I'll earnestly pray, yet remind myself that it's possible that He will choose to not work in the way that I've asked.  I've been known to fall back and rely on that "it may not be His will" cliche.  Am I alone here?  It's not that I believe that He can't do what I need, but I decide that He might not.  Maybe I've listened to that old Garth Brooks song too many times; there's no denying that sometimes the things we want most are far from what we need. 
Today, however, I'm not afraid to ask.  I'm don't add the "it may not be His will for me" postscript once I've prayed.  A couple years ago, I heard author Liz Curtis Higgs speak.  I honestly don't even remember where this statement tied into her message that day, but I've carried these words with me ever since.  It's not overly profound, but it was so perfect that I'll never forget it.   Are you ready for it? 
"I can trust God to be faithful every time."
I have written those words on my heart and let them change the way I pray.  I've let go of my "God might not..." clause and decided that I'm going to trust Him and depend on Him to be faithful every single time now.  It's been nothing short of rejuvenating.  You should try it if you've had trust issues too.  Remember, people will fail us.  After all, you can only expect so much from human nature.  God, however, is God.  He's the Alpha and Omega.  He's our Sustainer and Provider, our Healer and Deliverer.  He's our Ever-present Help.  He doesn't fail.  He simply cannot. 
I've learned since then to be aware of the Holy Spirit's guidance.  I've learned to fully depend on that intercession mentioned in Romans 8:26-27.  I think that makes the difference.  I think trusting the intercession makes all the difference and just believing in general.  Why did I ever think it was okay to give something to God and then take it right back?  I can trust Him every time!  When I take it back, it's more so that I've decided to share it with him, rather give it to Him.  Giving my needs to Him-and not taking them back- shows that I acknowledge that only He is big enough to handle it.  If I take it back, I'm telling God He's not able.  That's why we've all got to trust Him and leave it on the alter. 
Here are a few scriptures that have helped me with my "trust issues." Maybe there's something here for you too:
"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock." ~Isaiah 26:3-4
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." ~Proverbs 3:5-6
"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?" ~Psalm 56:3-4
"And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. ~Matthew 21:22
Psalm 91 and Matthew 6:25:34 are also passages I turn to when I need a gentle reminder that I can trust Him every time.  I encourage you to dive in and let them ease your worries the next time you're having some trust issues.  Remember that you too can-and should- count on Him to be faithful every time.  What a promise! Let's hold on to that promise together.  If we're going to be authentic, then we've got to be able to truly let go and let Him work. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 18: All You Need

It can be tough to be content in society today.  We have constant media sources telling us what we need to own and wear, what kind of cars to drive, where to live, and more.  This unending stream of marketing tells us that we cannot be complete, satisfied, or even happy without a constant slew of upgrades for our possessions.  We are brainwashed into thinking that a happy, fulfilled life isn't possible without the most expensive homes and cars.  We can't possibly be happy without the next new gadget being released.  It's okay to want nicer things, but don't let your wants control you.  Remember your priorities and learn to be truly content with what you have.  Let's go a step beyond that: we've got to be content even if we don't have tomorrow the things we cherish today.  We're striving for authenticity here, and your "stuff" isn't who you are in Christ.  First Timothy is only one of several verses that reminds us of that old saying "you can't take it with you."

 "Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content." ~1 Timothy 6:6-8

This lack of contentment goes beyond our possessions though.  What about our jobs?  There's nothing quite like settling into a new job for a few months, just to start sending out resumes once the probationary period is over.  Lots of folks are always looking for greener grass.  I mean, there's always a better job somewhere, right?  The same goes for churches; we're often searching for the "next big thing" there too.  Sometimes this can apply to families, friends, and life in general.  We can get so discontented with life, but it's often simply because we're comparing our lives to others.  Teddy Roosevelt once said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." We've got to stop the constant comparisons and focus on the life God has given each of us.

 "Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches." ~1 Corinthians 7:17

Even so, contentment can still be hard to find these days.  Despite this Jerry McGuire "Show me the money!" attitude we're told to have, our contentment is not found in money.  It's not found in possessions or employment.  It's not found in churches or clothes.  Authentic contentment can only come from one source.  Contentment is found in Him alone.  That's why we see people with millions of dollars and all the material things money can buy who are still so empty on the inside.  We often do the very same thing.  We know His love  and have always experienced complete provision, yet we're constantly searching for security and identity in all the wrong things.  We can't find contentment in anything but Him. 
"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~Hebrews 13:5
"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need." ~Philippians 4:11-12

If your contentment is found in Him alone, you're okay whether you get a sweet refund or owe thousands and thousands when April 16 rolls around.  You're okay whether you're eating Raman noodles or surf and turf.  You're okay when you're alone or with 50 of your "closest" friends.  If you're finding contentment in Him alone, you're genuinely okay with your season in life.  You can see purpose and give thanks in the good and bad.  It's okay to smile or be excited when something new comes along; it really is.  Just be sure that you still know who you are and can be just as satisfied in the wilderness.  After all, none of these earthly things matter in the end.  Be authentically content in Him.  He is truly all you need

Thursday, October 25, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 17: The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter...yet another title referencing a 90s song, but I can't help myself.  Do you remember Don Henley's 1990 hit?  What was the heart of the matter? The heart of the matter and our topic today is forgiveness.  Forgiveness is something that often gets left behind in our world.  Christians or not, we've allowed ourselves to believe that we have a right to grant forgiveness only when we want to do so.  How wrong!  God has a lot to say about forgiveness and why true, authentic forgiveness is imperative, no matter the situation.  Let's look at some scripture:

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." ~Ephesians 4:32
"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." ~Colossians 3:13
The common denominator in these verses is that we are to forgive because we were forgiven by God.  Sometimes it takes us a smidge too long to remember that we are not perfect.  Even as believers, we all have dirt in our lives. For the sake of transparency, maybe there's a struggle with temptations or addictions in your life (sex, money, food, illicit drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol, etc.). These are burdens that we can often carry without anyone around us knowing. You may not struggle with any of those, but, at the very least, we've all said things we regret and behaved atrociously.  None of us are without sin, so how can think we have a right to withhold forgiveness from anyone?  The Word reminds us in Romans 3:23 that we ALL have sinned and fall short of God's glory. 

But what if someone continues to do wrong?  What then?  Our world today lives by the "three strikes and your out" mentality and sometimes it's only one strike.  It's ironic (dontcha think?) that we set impossible standards for others, but don't require ourselves to measure up to them.  Regardless, we are to authentically forgive, forgive, forgive, and forgive.  So, how many times do we forgive before we can rightfully refuse forgiveness?

"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven. '" ~Matthew 18: 21-22
Please know that this doesn't give us justification to tally up transgressions. First Corinthians 13 tells us that authentic love keeps no record of wrongs. We established on Day 15 that we are called to authentically love everyone, no matter what. That means we can't keep a running tab of everyone else's imperfections or wrongdoings. Let's be honest here, if we can honestly keep up with 490 counts of wrongdoing against us, then there's bitterness in our hearts. That brings the problem back on us. 
I know it's not always easy.  Let's face it, some things are much easier to forgive than others.  Even in the hardest of times, we are called to true, authentic forgiveness.  Don't get me wrong here, forgiveness doesn't equal complete erasure of a wrong against you.  Sometimes there are consequences of sin that are beyond our control, even when confessed and forgiven.  Even so, I love this quote by author Lewis Smedes:  "You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well."  That is an attitude of authentic forgiveness.  That's the kind of forgiveness we should want to give and receive. 
Perhaps the most important reason for forgiveness is that we cannot receive from God what we refuse to others.  We simply will not be forgiven by God if we deny forgiveness to others. A life without His forgiveness and grace takes your breath away, huh? 

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." ~Luke 6:37
"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." ~Matthew 6:14-15

Once again, authentic forgiveness isn't always easy and it completely goes against our "it's all about me" society, but we are called to it. We've got to let go of the imperfections and wrongdoings of others.  If you're going to live authentically, you've got to be able to forgive others they way God has forgiven you.  Forgive and move on. If that sounds too hard, then take it to God.  Turn your struggle to forgive over to Him. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 16: Works Both Ways

In light of yesterday's super-long post, today will be much shorter. Let's revisit Day 11 for a bit.  We talked about how important your influence is to those around you.  For that same reason, it's important to know who influences you.  In other words, make sure your friends and the people you surround yourself with are pouring into your life, building you up when you need it, and keeping you accountable when you're likely to fall.  Be mindful of who is influencing you and what marks their influence leaves behind.  That's the flip side of intentional relationships.  

"Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." ~Proverbs 13:20

"One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray." ~Proverbs 12:26

"Iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another." ~Proverbs 27:17

"Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety." ~Proverbs 11:14

"Do not be deceived:  bad company ruins good morals." ~1 Corinthians 15:33

The Word tells us quite a bit about friendship and the importance of choosing friends carefully.  Those are only a few verses.  Whether we like it or not, if we're hanging out with fools, we'll be foolish; if we're hanging out with wise people, we'll be wise.  Likewise, if we're intentional about our relationships, we'll surround ourselves with people who are authentic.  


The point today is that living authentically for Him requires us making sure we have like-minded people in our lives.  I'm not saying to cut off anyone who isn't perfect; if that's the case none of us would have any friends at all.  However, if you're going to do better, if you're going to grow, if you're going to make a difference, it's going to be virtually impossible without the right people in your life.  While you're out there using your influence to make a difference for Christ, make sure those who influence you are making a positive difference  in your life as well.  After all, iron sharpens iron.  There's no way around it.  Having authentic people in your life is a must if you're going to strive for authenticity.    

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 15: What's love got to do with it?

"Love others by... 1.) Finding value in every person. 2.) Overcoming self-centeredness. 
3.) Loving people more than being right." ~Pete Wilson

We all have those people.  You know, those people who make you want to go all Kate Gosslin-like.  I know I've experienced that horrid emotion more times than I'd care to share.  I can think of a past acquaintance who used to say that her ex-daughter in-law "sucks the very life out of her." Ironically, I often experience similar thoughts when I think of this very acquaintance.  Let me stress that I'm not proud of that, nor am I proud of any time I felt like I was going reenact an episode of Jon & Kate Plus 8.  Those are definitely not my proudest moments.  I can't stress that enough here.  

Sure, we all have moments like that.  We are human and we will irritate each other, while some of us are simply not compatible with others. There are even some people we just don't understand.  It can be tough to love sometimes. The problem is that we are called to be Christ-like.  And, snarky attitudes about others are not like Christ at all.  So, when we start each new day and deny ourselves to follow Him, that kind of attitude has to die in order to carry the cross of Christ.  We have to genuinely try to overcome this and love one another, no matter what, the way we are called to love.  

Simply put, we've got to do better.  We can't love some and not others.  We can't love only those who laugh at our jokes, dress as we do, and are enjoyable company.  We can't love only those who have status (that's a blog for another time), who share our hobbies, music, and TV shows.  We can't love only those who have money, the latest gadgets, and the easy life.  We can't love only love those who vote as we do, believe as we do, or worship as we do.  

We've got to love those who are even "unlovable" in our eyes.  What is unlovable to you?  The answers could go on forever.  Unfortunately, it won't take long to come up with a mental list of people we deem "unworthy" of our time, much less our love. Maybe you don't think of individuals; rather you have certain groups or labels you deem as unlovable.  Regardless of individual people or groups, the fact that we can compile a list of unlovables is inexcusable.  We cannot call ourselves followers of Christ if we think we have justification to not love everyone authentically.  If there are unlovables in our lives or even in the peripheral view, then we are ineffective.  Let's be honest, if we don't express and exude genuine  unconditional love, then how can we have God in our lives?  How can we share what we don't have?  

There are more than enough scripture references to show how essential love is in the life of a Christian.  The Bible itself is God's love story.  There are more than enough in 1 John alone.  That's where we're camping today.  If you haven't read the entire book in a while, or ever, I challenge you to do so.  You'll be quickly reminded that authentic love isn't optional for us.  For today, let's just look at this: 

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." 1 John 4: 7-12

"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.  And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister." ~1 John 4:16-21

There's really nothing more to say here, but in case it didn't click, we simply cannot follow Christ without love.  Whatever reasons you may have for deeming someone "unlovable," get over them.  Keep in mind that everyone has a story.  Everyone has a road they've walked to lead them to who they are today.  You may or may not know the things that cause your unlovables to be difficult for you to love. It doesn't matter what you know about the people God has sent your way.  If there's someone or some group especially hard for you to honestly love, start with prayer--not for them, but prayer for yourself.  Pray for yourself and your struggle to love first, then pray for them.  Even if you don't see an overnight difference in them, you'll eventually see a difference in yourself if you're praying sincerely.  After all, you could be the very obstacle preventing that love.

We're going to have times when this is easier than others, but we've got to truly love.  We are all God's children and He loves us all, even those we find unlovable.  If God finds value in everyone, then we can too.  When it's hard, we've got to try harder.  Will you commit with me to love authentically?   Let's do what we're commanded to do.  Let's love.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 14: Serve!

“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve.
You don't have to have a college degree to serve.
You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve.
You don't have to know the second theory of thermo dynamics in physics to serve.
You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Let's be honest, it's an "all about me" world.  You see it on bumper stickers, baby bibs, dolls, etc.  That mantra is everywhere. Sometimes we're too busy or too absorbed in our own corner of the world to reach out. Maybe that's why it's so hard to serve others.  Maybe it's hard because we're not sure how to serve. After all, how can you serve if you're not sure what that actually means or what will be required of you?   Maybe it's hard because we don't know who we are in the body of Christ.  It can be hard to decipher those spiritual gifts and see how they work in today's setting.  Teaching, faith, evangelism, hospitality, administration, etc....that list seems to go on forever!  What do those gifts even mean?  Wow, maybe it's hard because we sometimes don't want to serve others.  Serving requires sacrifice.  Serving often requires us loving those who aren't easy to love, for whatever reason.  There are lots of possibilities. 
There's no reason for anything lengthy today.  It's all pretty simple.  We cannot authentically live for Him if we are not serving.  Trust me, we are no greater than our Master. 

"And whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~Mark 10:44-45
Christ himself wasn't here to be served.  How can we be so arrogant as to presume that service isn't an important part of our Christian walk?  How can we think we deserve a break from service?  We are here to serve!  What's holding you back today?  There are churches, ministries, and charities everywhere that are waiting patiently for you.  They are waiting to give you the chance to make a difference in the lives of others.  Acts 20:35 reminds us that Jesus himself said "It is more blessed to give than to receive." It is such a privilege to serve!  Is there any greater blessing? 
If you're just not sure what you're called to do, do some research.  I'm sure your pastor would gladly point you to a spiritual gifts study that would help you find your spot.  There's nothing worse than filling a role you aren't called to fill, simply because there's a vacancy. If you're not passionate about it, keep looking. It's probably not what God has for you! What are your passions?  Where do your talents lie?  Use those to get you moving in the right direction of service.  God wouldn't have wired you with those talents and passions if you weren't supposed to use them to glorify Him through serving others.  First Corinthians 12 says it all so wonderfully!  We each have a part to play in the Body of Christ.  Make sure you know your role in service. 
Make a difference.  Give yourself away and serve.  Don't let anything keep you from serving. 
“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received,
how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat,
I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”
~Mother Teresa


Sunday, October 21, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 13: Stained Glass Masquerade

It's Sunday, so I'll keep it short.  This song has been out for several years now, but it's still a reminder of how important authenticity is within a church fellowship.  Even if you know the song, take a close look at the words.  Look it up on Youtube, grab your iPod, or whatever.  Let it sink in if you haven't before. 

In some ways this is just revisiting a previous post, but let's be better than this.  Let's not be afraid to be real with others.  We all have struggles, we all have dirt.  Let's stop acting as if we're happy plastic people.  Let's be authentic and show others how God gets us through the good times and bad. 

Stained Glass Masquerade
By Mark Hall & Nichole Nordeman
Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small

Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they'll soon discover
That I don't belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything's okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I'll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation's open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone who's been there
Are there any hands to raise
Am I the only one who's traded
In the altar for a stage

The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart
Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation's open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be

Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay
Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation's open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade