Identity

A few days ago a conversation developed on my Facebook newsfeed about loving people even when you disagree with them. The phrase “Agreement and acceptance are two very different things” caused a little bit of a reaction, with some suggesting that disagreement about something vital to a persons identity could NOT happen at the same time as acceptance.  Obviously there is a lot of stuff to unfold there, but one of the things that one of my friends took away was the question of what actually does make us who we are? What actually is vital to a person’s identity?

Having gone through a lot of change in the past couple years I found this question particularly intriguing. Some people answered their job, others their personality, still others their beliefs, or some their family, friends, or relationships to others (“Mom” etc).

For me, I have recenlty realised that my job does not define me. I’ve gone through a few different jobs in the past few years, and though some definitely provided more fulfilment than others, I’ve realised that my job does not make me who I am.  Heck, I thought I’d learned this one already but it’s been hitting home even more in the past few days as I got laid off from my job and likely will not be able to get another one until I go on Mat Leave! Even having a job you hate is different than not working for income! Weird feeling! (but I digress).

As for my family, they do not define me either. Yes, they have contributed a lot to who I am, but that is not where my identity comes from. My husband and I are VERY different people. I love him to pieces, but if someone was going to try and guess at who I was by knowing him… I think they’d be surprised. My parents , who I love dearly, OBVIOUSLY had a hand in who I’ve become but they’ve definitely be able to tell you that there are parts of me that they don’t understand at all. My brother, my sister, my nieces and nephews… they all have an impact on who I am, but they don’t MAKE me who I am. Does that make sense?

It’s made even more complicated by the fact that as humans, we always seem to be changing/growing (or at least the capacity is there).

For instance, there is the beliefs factor. Do our beliefs make us who we are? What if your beliefs change? Does that completely change your identity??

Or your dreams/goals? Are THEY what makes you you? What if they change?

Or you could answer our personalities as some people have… and that makes me think of a conversation my family had one about personality traits and I remember my Mom telling my Dad that he MADE himself become more of an extrovert … suggesting that even those are subject to change as well.

So I tried figuring out who I am without all those things, without my job, my family, my beliefs… what am I? How do I define myself?

I started to think maybe my wit. I’m not the smartest person in the world, but I am intelligent, and I definitely rely on my intelligence. I do not know who I am without it. I am a quick learner, and I’m fairly proud of that fact. But then I started to think, what if even that was taken away? I thought of my grandmother, and then wondered if I got Alziehmers, would that change who I am? Would I cease to be me?

No. I would still be the same person who has impacted my friends and family, with the same successes, the same mistakes.

You see, my Mom even got in on the facebook action of trying to define our identity, saying this “We are the sum total to all our experiences, reactions, genetic make up. Our longing, desires. We are also much more than we know. For who really understands themselves.”

And I totally agree with her! But then again, I don’t believe that a person needs to be defined by their past… so I hesitate to put too much weight on how much our experiences define us. And I’ve already mentioned the fact that our longings can change…

So the biggest part I guess I agree with? We are also much more than we know. Maybe all these things that we try to define ourselves with are just not enough. Maybe we are supposed to be getting our identity from somewhere else.*

Maybe who we really are is a big mix of who we’ve been and who we are meant to be. A mix of the present and the potential. And in that I think knowing what God thinks of us is incredibly important to knowing our true identity. Everything else we try to define ourselves by can be so fluid.

For me, I’ve had too many things change in my life to let anybody but God define me. Even myself. But how about you? What do you think makes you you? What if it was taken away? Who would you be then, and how would you know?

*Also… in the course of writing this I thought of the book Searching for God Knows What. If you haven’t read it I seriously suggest it.

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Unanswered Questions

I’ve been trying to decide this week if I’m okay with the unknown.

I’m good with not knowing how/when the world’s gonna end. Pre-trib, Post-trib… I don’t care enough to want an answer, especially since there is no way to know for sure anyway. There is no need for me to embrace a “best guess”.

Yet, I’ve noticed over years of blogging that people frequently want to offer answers. You say you don’t know the answer to something? People offer you their answer. You’re going through a hard time – invariably someone is going to offer you a solution. Everyone seems to be in the business of supplying answers. Perhaps because we feel we are supposed to.

It’s like in our culture, we are terrified of admitting “I don’t know” to the world – or maybe just to ourselves.

Just think about it, what’s the most terrifying thing about someone you know going through a hard time? Not knowing what to say to them! Not having answers, not having solutions for them.

As much as I think I’m okay with not having answers to the “big” questions, I have definitely panicked when faced with situations when someone is sharing something with me and I don’t have answers to offer them.

Maybe we all need to learn how to be okay with that.

Maybe when someone is going through a season of pain, or confusion, or anything really, we need to realise that we don’t have to offer them answers.

I mean, maybe sometimes you have something great to offer from experience, and maybe there are times that you are meant to share. But sometimes, even if it’s something you think you have an answer for, it’s an answer they won’t be able to accept until they discover it themselves.

Have you ever had that moment? When you think someone is being blind and completely missing something that seems so obvious and no matter how hard you try you can’t get the answer into their thick skulls?

Maybe it’s not our place to have the answers. Maybe we’re just supposed to be there for people as they go on their own journeys and find their answers.

I’ve always believed that the things people discover on their own are the things that stick with them.

What do you think? Do you always have answers for people? Do people tend to have answers for you??? Does having or being given “answers” work?

Absolute Truth

There are some people who believe that truth is relative. That there is no absolute truth. I’ve thought about this a fair bit. Can’t quite wrap my head around it. For me, not believing in absolute truth is an impossibility. I believe without a doubt that there is such a thing as truth, and yes, right & wrong.

Recently however I have discovered that though I believe in absolute truth, I am INCREDIBLY wary of anyone who claims to know it.

Now, I still believe in the Bible and I still consider myself a Christian. I’ve just been feeling kind of unorthodox lately. It’s always bothered me that there are so many different denominations, and that they all seem to believe they have some sort of corner on the truth. It just doesn’t sit well with me.

Honestly, it almost feels like I’m experiencing a second crisis of faith. If you grew up with Christianity (or any religion I guess), you may be familiar with the fact that no matter what you were told when you were growing up, you reach a point in your life where you have to look at everything critically and decide whether this is something you are truly going to believe or not.

I experienced that as a teenager, and now it seems that I am experiencing it again… In a whole new way.

My father seems to think it’s because I’ve felt rejected and my response to that is to reject those I feel rejected by. I disagree, though I did consider it as a possibility.

More though, I feel like someone pointed out to me “Hey, maybe you don’t belong here” and it has helped me to see that maybe I DON’T. I feel like I am now in the position where I get to evaluate things that I have always accepted as truth but been uncomfortable with and say “Hey, I don’t think I agree with this!”

Who knows, maybe I’ll come around and end up embracing it all again, but at the moment it doesn’t seem like it.

I’m disillusioned with church, disillusioned with 95% of what is called “Christianity”. I am sick of what seems to be an incredibly self-centered, judgemental, and ineffectual club.

It seems that most often when someone enters a church they are offered a culture and list of rules instead of a powerful God.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some churches that are different. It just bothers me that I’ve seem more death than life in many of the churches I’ve been to. More judgment and gossip than love and wisdom.

So, right now, I’m on a quest for life. For wisdom, For Love, For more GOD than culture. I believe that Christianity should hold the key to powerful, change-bringing life… And have decided to leave the “box” that I’ve always known it to exist in… Because in the box, it’s seeming pretty dead.

I have a couple quotes that never leave my desktop. One, “Just do the next right thing” the other –

“As long as you, like Abraham, humbly seek, listen and obey God, He’ll take the responsibility to teach you the crucial details, point you towards his Words, and direct you to healthy communities of truth seekers. And slowly, most things will come into focus”

Unfortunately, I no longer remember where I got them from (I think the first is Michael Hyatt the second from the “Frequently Unasked Questions” blog, but I’m not sure).

However, I’m clinging to the truth of the second one. And I’ve definitely noticed that once I stopped limiting where I thought God would show up, he’s showed up in all sorts of places and spoken through all kinds of people. I like having a limitless God who talks through donkeys (Numbers 22) and Angels alike 🙂

Searching

It’s been over 6 months since my last post.

The main reason it’s been so long? I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

NO IDEA.

Life has definitely handed me a lot of changes in the past six months to a year…

Quitting the ministry, two deaths in the family (My Aunt Jan in September and my Grandma the day after Christmas) moving twice er, three times if we are going with the year time frame. With one more move to come!

Oh yeah, and I’m gonna be a mommy in April.

I’m normally pretty good with change, but I’ll admit, all this has definitely been a stretch for me!

Right now I’m sitting in the Toronto airport, ready to fly back to Thunder Bay… Having just flown back to Southern Ontario for my Grandmothers funeral this Thursday.

I’m TIRED. I am very glad I was able to fly down for the funeral, and grateful for the added bonus of being able to see my husband for a few more days (oh yeah, did I mention that until I go on Mat Leave my husband and I are now living in different cities?) But still. I’m tired. Honestly, I think that whole side of my family is tired, so prayers are appreciated.

I had the honor of speaking at my Grandmothers funeral, and as I was writing my little speechy-thing, I realized that my Grandma was a ripple-maker.

Grandma was what you’d call shy, she was never the centre of attention, she would have hated that – and yet, I know that there are people she made a lasting impact on. Even if you only count her kids, they have her fingerprints all over them! They are all some pretty amazing people, and who they are was impacted by who she was. That’s pretty cool.

It’s an interesting thing to think about, especially now as I am looking forward to being a Mom myself… At a time when, for the most part I’m feeling pretty lost and wondering anew what my purpose is.

Anyway, it’s my hope that for the next couple months as I’m preparing for baby’s arrival and my own move (AGAIN) I will have more time to think some things through. Here’s hoping! If I do, I’ll be sure to keep you guys in the process.

Until then… May your own quest for answers in life be fruitful as well!

First Video Blog!

Hello peoples!

So, here is my very first attempt at “vloging” hope you like it – I was a little nervous, I ramble a bit, the sound needs some work, and have never played with video editing before, but here it is – my face & voice for your viewing pleasure!

Let me know if videos are something you’d like to see more or less of – I’m on the fence about it.

Oh, and here is the scripture that I read, for the more visual than auditory ones amoung you:

Psalm 119:73-80

73 You made me; you created me.
Now give me the sense to follow your commands.
74 May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy,
for I have put my hope in your word.
75 I know, O Lord, that your regulations are fair;
you disciplined me because I needed it.
76 Now let your unfailing love comfort me,
just as you promised me, your servant.
77 Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live,
for your instructions are my delight.
78 Bring disgrace upon the arrogant people who lied about me;
meanwhile, I will concentrate on your commandments.
79 Let me be united with all who fear you,
with those who know your laws.
80 May I be blameless in keeping your decrees;
then I will never be ashamed.

Light & Easy: Personal Application

I believe that the only way to truly learn lessons is to live them.

I also believe that unless you are able to apply the things that you think God is trying to teach you (and others) you are just blowing smoke when you talk about them all the time.

I don’t want this blog to become a place where I ramble on about ideas I have, and let the thoughts take over my life, the writing down of the thoughts take over my life, and not spend the time ACTING OUT what I believe I am being taught.

As a result of that desire, I am going to try and have at least one post a week that isn’t just talking about the ideas that I have for walking with God/churches, but sharing my journey as I try to apply them to my life.

So – right now I’m going to share my personal journey of trying to improve in my listening to & obeying the voice of God (no matter how good a person is at this – I am sure there is always room for growth). That listening is the basis, if you have been reading, of the Light & Easy series – that I believe if we can learn to plug into what God has for us, what He wants us to do, (and only what He wants us to do) much of the weight of our lives can be dissolved.

I think I’ve been doing okay so far – just okay though, not great. I still struggle with the follow-through on some things.

My biggest issue? Fear. Not in everything, but, really, I think fear has always been my biggest weakness and has been what has caused 95% of the times that I have not followed through with something I thought maybe God wanted me to do.

The stupidest thing that’s ever held me back? My fear of phoning people.

Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous, but I have this thing where I HATE phoning people I don’t know very well. I actually get kind of panicky and LITERALLY have to psyche myself up before the phone call in order to be able to do it.  Yesterday I caved and didn’t phone someone that I think I should have because I was too nervous about it… how silly is that? Looking at in perspective it seems ridiculous. It is an irrational fear based on nothing, and I let it prevent me from phoning someone up and trying to encourage them. There should be a big L on my forehead for that.

So, that’s where I’m at in my journey at the moment. Other than that, I feel like I’m doing pretty well – I’ve had some good quiet times with God, I’m being really encouraged in my quest by the book I’ve mentioned before, The Power of a Whisper by Bill Hybels, and there have been a few times when I thought that God was prompting me to do something and I did it. I’ve felt great in those moments.

I try not to beat myself up too badly for the times that I failed and just use them as more motivation to be better in the future.

I am determined that each day that goes by my success rate will get higher and higher – with the big things and the little things. I think it’s the little things that get me  – the things I can convince myself don’t REALLY matter if I do them. Like the phone calls. I tell myself I can do them later, or I don’t really need to talk to that person… when maybe I’m just supposed to be letting them know that someone cares.

But like I said, I’m determined to keep getting better at this.

I’m going to close with something I just read in Bill Hybels book that I found incredibly encouraging & inspiring:

“If you ever find yourself with a difficult assignment, why not try giving God thanks for trusting you with something that needs your particular strength. He assigns tasks to the right person every time. He did it throughout history and he still does it today.” (The Power of a Whisper, p111)

How can I NOT go through with an “assignment” – no matter how large or small – when I remember that God is of the opinion that I am the exact perfect person to do the job?

Light & Easy (Part Four)

So, we are busy people. Very busy people. But why? How come so many of us feel like we have so many things to do and as we look around all we see is more that needs to be done, or more that we need to become?

Now, I’m warning you right now, I don’t have this all figured out. I think the problem we are all experiencing is much more complicated that what one little blog post can diagnose…

However, lately, as I’ve pondered this, 1 Corinthians 12 has been on my mind.

I was reading my NIV Application Commentary on 1 Corinthians, and, even though they were things that I already knew, the phrases that particularly stood out to me were the ones that suggested that not only are we all part of the body of Christ – not only are we all given gifts – but it is our responsibility to use them for each other.

For example: “Romans 12:3-8 suggests that determining and faithfully using one’s spiritual gifts is the next most important task in a Christian’s life after the fundamental… transformation that accompanies conversion” (p250)

In both 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 Paul uses the image of us all being part of the body of Christ – that we all have a part to play, that we are all different – that there is no part that is more important, we need them all… here is part of the clincher though, we NEED all the parts. We need to be able to appreciate all the parts – all the body parts need to be free to be able to do their “thing”‘s.

The way that churches are right now though – well, you know that saying, that we only use a small percentage of our brain (the insinuation being that if we could tap the rest of it, we would be able to achieve so much more?)? It seems that we are only tapping a very small percentage of our “body” in the body of Christ. Yes, there is SOME movement, but it seems to be a very small percentage. We are paralyzed in about 75% of our bodies, and it is hurting us, hindering us in so many ways, the entire body is feeling it. We are in pain, that 25% that is moving is feeling a crazy heavy burden of trying to carry the rest of the bodies weight, trying to do a whole bodies work. My friend Evan expressed frustration to that end in his own blog recently… but it’s not just those 25% that suffer because of the way things are.

Here’s the thing. I think we need to be able to discover our purposes – on personal and corporate levels. I think that the reality of us being family – being a body of different parts, with different personalities, different gifts… it needs to sink into our consciousnesses.

We all need to be able to listen to God and ask Him what it is that He wants us to do.

We could ask Him what He wants us to be, but that doesn’t really work – sometimes it does, but the WHOLE point is that He is bringing each one of us on a journey with Him – sometimes He reveals to us where He is taking us, but more often than not, he simply directs us one step at a time.

We need to learn how to walk with Him and work with Him… and learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

We just don’t seem to be able to fully grasp the whole we-are-a-body-with-different-parts thing.

Sometimes, we seem to consider each different “church” to be it’s own separate body.  We think that every church needs to have a head, arms, legs, feet, etc etc. Of course, for us, that translates to worship programs, a good speaker, children’s programs, etc etc.

We think that if we do not have all of those things, we are incomplete.

Does it need to be that way though?

I am concerned that because of what we THINK each of our churches need, what we think a church is supposed to look like, we harm ourselves. We have people who are dedicated to live for God doing so much because it “needs” to get done. They are getting overworked and overwhelmed – and start running out of space in their lives to give to God for His spontaneous direction – because of the idea we have of what needs to be done.

What am I trying to say? Do you need to get used to the idea that maybe your church is not supposed to have a “leg” because God has not called the people in your church to be legs? Do we need to get used to the idea that maybe the “arms” don’t work every Sunday because they need a rest?

That paragraph makes no sense – here is some examples to explain what I am trying to say. Are you having trouble in your church putting together a typical “Kids program?” maybe that is because God hasn’t ordained your church to BE that church, maybe He has called the church up the road to be the ones that are good with kids. They are a part of the body too.

Are you having trouble getting enough people to do the worship music every Sunday? Could it be that maybe, just maybe, you aren’t supposed to be having music every Sunday? Maybe just every other? If you didn’t have music every Sunday – would there be more “space” in your volunteers lives to follow the spontaneous leadings of God – and would there be more space in your services for others to follow God and move in their non-musical giftings?

Yeah, I know that sounds kindof crazy…. it’s just… my concern is that we are trying to fit our churches into the molds of what we think a “good churches” are, and all of us are trying to fit ourselves into the molds of what we think “good Christians” are instead of the much more organic – and, basic route – asking God what He wants us to do, and who He wants us to be.

In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.(Romans 12.4-6)

I think we can apply these words to ourselves individually, AND as churches. Why are we trying to be something we weren’t necessarily made to be? YES, others have been created to be those things, but we are not them. We need to be who WE were created to be.  As individuals and as churches.