What are you tethered to?

What we anchor ourselves to will ultimately determine how we respond to a crisis. So often we lose ourselves when we lose jobs, possessions or loved ones When our values is based on how others value us, then we feel like our worthiness is depreciated when others abandon or mistreat us. When we base our identity in our work, then our identity is stripped away when we lose a job or get passed up for a promotion. When we base our permanent beliefs about ourselves on temporary things, then we lose our identity when those things are gone.

If we tether who we are to outside influences, then we lose who we are when we lose those people. Who we are in Christ, who He created us to be, how He sees us is all that matters. Each and every one of us was created for a specific purpose, and it is crucial to our happiness and peace that we become who we were called to be so we can fulfill what we were created to fulfill. The only way to become that person is to see ourselves as God see us.

If we tether our faith to God based on Him giving us everything we ask for, then we lose our faith when we don’t get our way. When we base our appreciate of Him and belief in Him only on what we can understand, then we give up on our faith when tragedy strikes. But when we tether our faith to a God that is good, that loves us unconditionally, and the fundamental truths of His Word, then we are not shaken by trauma tragedy or loss.

God didn’t create us to be tossed about with the wind, to be changed by the storms, to be tied to our past forever. He called us to tether ourselves to Him. That he is the steady, unchanging God who sees us for who we are, accepts us, loves us, and wants only good for us.

They’re Supposed to be Christians

No Matter How Old You Are… Gossip and Bullying Hurt

“They’re supposed to be Christians” I have heard those words said about one person or another more times over the last year than I have heard in my whole life. Phrases that stem form one person judging another person’s actions, choices or behavior and determining that what they see does not align with their own view of Christianity, or being Christ-like.

There is a quote I read in the Ten- Day Word Fast, a devotional on YouVersion by Tim Cameron and Chrisma House, that says that judging others happens when we look at their actions or behavior from our own perspective, and make a decision about their entire worth based on what we see. We determine that we know the reason the other person did what they did and decide their value based on that one aspect of their life, or possible just one moment in time.

I can’t help but feel like we are on dangerous ground when we look at a snapshot of someone’s life and make a determination not only about their faith, but about their worthiness to be saved. God is clear in the Bible about not standing in judgment of others, and the more I study worthiness and judgment, the more I feel like God doesn’t want us to stand in judgment because we do not get to determine someone else’s worth – that’s HIS job.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is this quote from Brene Brown. We are worthy NOW. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.

Christ paid the price for our salvation with each of us in mind. We were bought with a price. As is. God did not design our worthiness on an accrual system. We can’t possibly earn someone dying on the cross so that we could have eternal life. We couldn’t possible do enough to be worthy of that kind of love. God chose each of us, just as we are.

While it is true that we will be known by our fruits (our actions, our words, our behaviors) it is also true that we don’t have a point reference for other people’s lives to measure where they started to where they are now. We may see areas that need maturing, but we have no idea what it took for them to make this far.

Gossip, judgment, and cruelty create church scars among people who are working to become who God created them to become. We so often derail them with thoughtless words or judgments based on our own perception and own perspective. We drive them away from Christ because of our words and because we cast them out of our inner faith circle and make them feel less than worthy of the love and grace of God.

God, may our hearts mirror yours. May our eyes see your people as you see them, beyond their appearance or behavior and into their hearts. May our ears hear beyond their words and into what they aren’t saying to hear the hurt. May our hands be an extension of your love. May our feet go where you have called us to go – to reach your people.

Amen.

Perfection Is Not a Currency for Love with Andria Flores

The Beauty From Ashes Radio Show is officially here! In episode 1, I was joined by Andria Flores to talk about perfectionism, and her upcoming book “type A, plans B”. Andria is an author, an editor (I’m proud to say she is my editor) and an overcoming type A perfectionist.

The introduction: The Beauty From Ashes Radio Show airs live on the JoCo Community Radio Show Facebook page (click on the link to watch the show) and can also be heard on the Tune-In app every Tuesday form 6PM – 7PM. I started the show because I believe we all have a story to tell in our own way. The show was designed to facilitate conversations with warriors, overcomers, survivors and thrivers, to spotlight their messages of hope, healing and victory.

In the What Are You Reading segment, we highlighted what Andria and I were both reading. Currently, for me, it’s the The Boundaries book by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I recently started this book, that is totally stepping on my toes! It starts with a description of what your life would be like without boundaries, and then, it describes my whole life.

Andria reads for a living as an editor, so she doesn’t always get to read for fun as much as she would love, but she has recently been moved by the poem She Let Go by Rev. Safire Rose, which has a powerful message about perfectionism from the point of view of people pleasing.

Andria’s powerful message on perfectionism:

Andria has struggled with perfectionism since childhood. From an early age, she connected love and approval with performing well. Her adoption of perfectionism stemmed from the belief that if she did well at something then she was worthy of love, but if she failed at something, that indicated that she was unworthy of love and acceptance. She formed a lifelong habit of striving for perfection in every relationship in her life. Until she realized that the very thing she thought would earn hear love, was the exact same thing that was preventing her from having deep connections with the people around her.

As an adult, I realized that the thing I wanted most, to connect with other people, was torn apart by perfectionism.” -Andria

Perfectionism can work for a while, it can even drive success, it just isn’t sustainable. Andria went on to share a very vulnerable message about how perfectionism impacted her as a mother. Andria has always been a proud mother and motherhood was the one thing she had dreamed of being her whole life. Take a look at the AHA! moment at 43:04 in the video that lead to her realizing that perfectionism wasn’t an effective parenting technique, it was actually going to break the spirit of her sweet little girl. Andria sought to find an answer through prayer, studying, and life transformation.

“When it all began to unravel for me, I realized pretty quickly, that I even had a perfectionist relationship with God.” – Andria

After the collapse of the white picket fence life, Andria maintained a white picket fence image for several more years. Even her mom, the closest person to her, didn’t know what was happening. A passing comment that Andria’s mom made about her being “one hell of an actress” led to a realization that even though she acted out of devotion to her marriage, family and faith, she had been playing the role of supporting actress in her own life.

“It never occurred to me that working so damn hard to be perfect, had actually made me plastic.” – Andria

Andria went through a journey of self discovery, traveling through the mess that brokenness and shattered dreams had left behind. As a natural planner caught completely off guard by sudden chaos, Andria found that you have to walk through the ugly cries, snotty noses, and a few cuss words to go through establishing new boundaries and figuring out who she was without the burden of expectations. She finally opened up to God in the realest way. She poured her heart out to Him, and unburdened all of the things she has held inside for so long.

“I knew that God was saying finally. I have been waiting so long for you to just be real with me.”

God continued to heal Andria as she found new ways to be honest with herself and those close to her. She gain the strength and courage to not only overcome perfectionist thing, but to open her life of in vulnerability to be be truly loved for the amazing person that she is.

At the end of her writing, Andria had an unexpected revelation… that she actually didn’t need a plan B at all. Jeremiah 29:11 said that God knows the plans He has for us, and she just needed to be open and curious about what those were.

ACTION ITEMS FOR FELLOW PERFECTIONIST

  1. Get honest with yourself and acknowledge that you are a perfectionist, and the ways that might fail you (it’s not all bad)
  2. Don’t take yourself so seriously
  3. Breathe, take a minute to inhale and exhale before making your next decision

For a sneak peak at Andria’s upcoming book release, download a FREE e-book “type A Parenting” on Andria’s website www.andriaflores.com

A Glimpse of What God Has In Store

Yesterday I wrote a post about Raven Goff, just wanting to express how much the story meant to me. I posted a link on the Cravin Raven group, which the last time I saw the member count before posting, it was around 1200 people. I thought 20-30 people would see the blog, but really just wanted to express how I was feeling. After I shared it I noticed that it started getting likes and shares within the group, which had grown to THOUSANDS of members by that point. When it got 500 views, I thought, “God wouldn’t that be cool, if 1000 people saw it?” I went back to working on the book and checked an hour later. Over 1200 people had viewed the post. As someone who is just starting out in the social media and blogging space, I was overwhelmed. I have been praying for the impact on the ministry that God has put on my heart. I whispered, “God, are you preparing me? Are you trying to tell me that a thousand people will be reached by the message you have given me?” He told me to just wait. I went back to working on the book. When I logged in a couple of hours later, I was blown away.

I was speechless, almost THREE thousand people had seen my little blog. Again, I went to God in prayer, “God, are you saying that three thousand people will be reached in this ministry that you placed on my heart? Are you preparing me for three thousand people?” I absently thought, what if it hits 5000?

Then it did hit 5000. I began to feel the more humbled than I had ever felt in my life. What an honor to be a small part of such a powerful message. I went back to God in prayer, “God, I didn’t see this going this far. I am so sorry, I put my own limitations on you. I feel you preparing me.” Again, He said, “Just wait.” My son checked on me before going to bed, it was sitting around 8000 and said that there would be more than 10,000 by the time we woke up, but I brushed it off. I said, “No, son, I think it’s done.”

But I woke up to almost 11,000 views on the blog. Raven’s message continued to soar, and God continued to increase my faith little by little. It wasn’t about how many likes, shares, or blog hits. God was using the blog to help spread His message of hope and beautiful grace. He was also using the blog to show me that God’s thoughts and His plans go far beyond the distance of my imagination and are not trapped by the confinement of the walls in my mind.

See, not only have 15,000 people viewed that one blog post, when before I had never had more than 50 people read my blog, I am not most thankful because of the readership, I am thankful because God increased my faith. I am thankful that God showed me just a glimpse of his plan for Beauty From Ashes Media.

I launched the first episode of the Beauty From Ashes Radio Show today, and it was a success. It was God’s success. Guys, what could I have ever done to deserve a God who would not only forgive my past, but fully restore me? I could have never earned a love so great. The coolest thing about God, I think, is His perfect, unfailing love, and how He chooses each of us to love Him and to love each other.

Last Week I Watched a Family Do the Unthinkable

Burleson seems to have grown in leaps and bounds since we first moved here when I was six years old. I remember that year so clearly, because it was the year that I had Karen Sanders as my first grade teacher. It was the year that I met classmates that I am still friends with today. In the last thirty-something years, the town has changed. Restaurant chains have moved in, there are plenty of places to shop besides Walmart now. There are new churches, and double the number of schools as when I went to Nola Dunn. I-35 traffic is infuriating and speaks to the growth in the community. However, this town has never felt smaller and more close knit than last week when the whole town rallied together to pray for Raven Goff and support Tanner Trujillo and Shane Goff as they made the ultimate sacrifice. They are a huge part of the community and while I didn’t know them, I know their church, I know their friends, I know their work colleagues and workout partners, I used to work at the school Raven attended… it was all so close to home. Literally millions of people all over the world have been touched by this story and they all have a piece of our little town with them now.

The Bible says it rains on the just and the unjust. I remember when Stephen Curtis Chapman spoke about losing his daughter and he said you start to buy into the hype that this couldn’t happen to you, you have done so much for God’s kingdom. Then he said, “But why not me? I am human and live in the same fallen world as everyone else.” I thought that was the coolest perspective, filled strength and humility.

With similar strength, the world watched Tanner’s updates from her daughter’s hospital room. After a tragic accident, Raven was declared brain dead. Tanner and Shane made the impossible decision to donate her organs. They chose to donate every organ that could be used. In a video I will never forget, Tanner sat next to her six year old little girl who was on life support. With a complete blanket of peace, Tanner shared an update on the organ donation. In this tremendous sacrifice, keeping Raven on life support for two more days after her official time of death as they waited for the organ matches to align for one perfect surgery where Ravens organs would be harvested and sent to save the lives of other children.

In that moment, when most of us would have completely shattered, Tanner said something that will stick with me forever. She said, “God is so good. He is so much sweeter than I could ever be bitter.”

There were other images throughout the story that solidified God at work. From Shane’s broken cry of worship after losing his beautiful daughter, to Tanner’s perfect peace and composure that God promised us all. To Tanner’s biological father and bonus father talking about not using the word “step” and how they are a united family. We have learned so much from this journey.

Lord, may I trust you, as much as Tanner. May I worship you with that kind of unconditional love that Shane displayed. May I always see your beauty even in my own tragedies. This, surely is your most beautiful creation from the ashes.

Confessions from a serious caffeine addict

I am currently on day three of a 7 day fast, in which I chose to give up one of my favorite substances on the planet: caffeine while only drinking water, and a little bit, I feel like I’m dying. The headache has been awful, and the brain fog is absolutely ridiculous. I am about fifteen minutes from a nap most of the day.

All that being said, I am actually glad I chose something that is so much a part of my every day life. I woke up and stumbled to the coffee pot each morning, then drank unsweet tea throughout the day. It was like a constant caffeine IV drip (although I’m not opposed to the idea).

The cool thing about fasting something I crave so much is that it is a constant reminder that I am doing this intentionally. I am believing for some really big things in my life. Fasting is supposed to be a time of prayer and focus. Every time I think about the headache or wish I could have coffee, I am reminded to refocus in prayer. It’s actually the most successful fast I have ever done – and the hardest by far.

I also chose to give up my time waster games that I used to play in my down time on my phone, focusing that time on writing, editing, reading, and podcasts. That is another part of my habits, but I felt like it was pulling on my time and attention. As I did my time budget for this month, that was the obvious choice, since it was an activity that didn’t get me closer to any of my goals.

It’s funny that the things that we think we can’t live without are the things that propel us forward when we separate ourselves from them. I believe in intentional focus. I believe in the power of prayer. I also believe that God honors our sacrifices. In his book Soar, Bishop TD Jakes posed a question, “What are you willing to give up for success?” That resonated with me. If it costs me everything to go where God has called me to go… will I still follow His voice?

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