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Monday, March 2, 2015

Is Introspection Narcissism?

Recently I've been mulling over a few things - things about myself and my life and unprocessed junk I thought I'd processed.  Guess I'll have to continue processing.  When do we say "I'm done!" with sorting out our experiences and journey in life?  I thought I'd come to the end of that.  So then I mull over things and memories and messages from my earlier years ring in my ears and I wonder, "Were these things true?  Did I buy into these messages and incorporate them into myself and live with the results of half-truths?"  Maybe, I don't know.  You tell me.

You see, I have felt that in writing - especially writing for the random public - though I don't really write for you, but just to unload it into cyberspace - I burden readers with too much about me.  Somehow I picked up on messages of:  Writing or talking in the first person means you're self-focussed.  It means you're self-absorbed.  This was a great message to get me to shut up.  And I did - I took it to heart and quit going into what I was thinking and feeling all the time.

Another message I got one time was when I was a young teenager and seriously depressed.  A very dark cloud hung over me for about two years.  It was miserable - deep depression that wouldn't go away.  I also had a woe-is-me approach to almost everything during that time - not uncommon for people whose outlook has become dragged down by depression.  And a friend got tired of my drama and misery and was just a little fed up.  (I don't blame her - she had every reason to be, and being a peer was no expert in how to deal with a depressed teenage friend).  She finally one day just blurted out to me, "Look Sarah!  No one really cares!  Don't you see that?"

This was harsh, to be sure.  It took me a lot of thinking time to take in those words.  As a 38 year old now I recognize they were not the worst or most damaging words ever.  They just were.  I'm sure she'd take it back now.  But those words affected me.  I took them to be true.  The message was: You are wallowing in it and no one has time or patience or care for this kind of thing.  Get over it.

Sometimes people do need to be shook up.  Maybe harsh honesty is helpful, to someone, somewhere, sometime... I don't have that in my experience - as in, it hasn't been that helpful to me.  But I have been on the other side too - where I am harsh and direct and tired of another's drama.  I say this to my own shame - because I don't think it's the best way to be.

These twin messages: "No one cares about your drama" and "speaking in 1st person all the time is narcissism" have coloured my writing and relationships.  I have feared to open myself up to others - if I talk about myself that must mean I'm self-centred, right?  But how do you develop relationships without sharing yourself with others?  You can't.

Someone recently encouraged me to reject these messages.  I had held onto them as true.  What hogwash!  So what if some people don't care?  There are so many who do care.  So many potential friendships out there - people who love and give and welcome a hurting friend.  That's the kind of friend I want to be to others.  Will I allow others to be that kind of welcoming, warm, nurturing friend to me?  It sounds possible!

The second issue I've had is with being introspective.  Navel-gazing is what I call it.  There is no end to self-analysis and soul-searching.  I have shied away from doing the hard work of cultivating my soul - for fear of becoming a self-absorbed hermit.  Well, I guess I'm not really afraid of that - I'd quite like it actually.  (I could be a Rock, an Island...and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries...)

Apparently introspection can be helpful.  But how much is too much?  How much until we get wrapped into a pretzel psychologically speaking and can only see things through lenses of labels and identity categories?  I don't know - I'll toss it out there.  Maybe you have opinions about this.  I don't have an answer for it...yet.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Why I don't say 'I'll pray for you'.... often

Lately I feel like my lack of discipline in prayer has become obvious - and obviously in need of change.  I have never been one to cozy up to the word, or the thought of any discipline.  Prayer - a discipline of prayer?  Really?  If prayer is talking to God, and something I do all the time basically, why did I need to grow in this discipline?

Well, because so many people have come into my path that undeniably need me to intercede for them.  The Prophet Samuel said, "Far be it from me to sin by failing to pray for you."  This has always bothered me somewhat.  It has convicted me.  Challenged me.  But come up short of changing me.

But as others have come onto the horizon of my life and I see the battles they face, as I grieve for them, hurt with them, worry for them, I realize in many cases my only option is to be dilligent in prayer.  And so I will be.

But I hate to say, "I'll pray for you."  Because it sounds trite, a smidgen of hopefulness, a wee thought - it seems to mean little...  But sometimes it's all I can do.

The other reason I don't like to say that is because I don't promise much of anything to anyone.  Okay, I promised stuff in my wedding vows.  But beyond that...not much.  I realize how fickle I am.  I know I fail to follow through on things - a LOT.  So I can't stand racking up guilt on myself for promising to pray for someone, and then not.  And then I don't go for token prayers like, "Please take care of so-and-so's issue.  Thanks Lord, Amen."  No, for me that is not prayer.

I much prefer to tell people after I have prayed for them.  And I also have come on a journey of seeing how integral prayer is in my own life.  I kept having these things I'd just naturally pray about - especially concerning other people, and amazingly I'd see so many things answered.  If I shared them here I might be telling other people's stories - but all I can say is I was shocked.  I think I've struggled with prayer because I think, "What good will it do?"  I am weak in faith and wonder if my prayers make a difference.  Don't we all feel that way at times?

So, I have begun to grow in my discipline of prayer - naturally - not the 'grit-my-teeth-and-buckle-down' kind of growth.  (That kind has never worked for me - if it has for you, well, great).  I have become burdened for many needs lately - and felt the very least I can do is to take these heartaches, burdens, concerns and desires to the throneroom of grace, and find mercy to help - not only me - but others - in their time of need.

I never was a list kind of person.  I just would tell God how this or that person needed Him in some way.  But I am so forgetful.  So I threw together a list.  And I put each one of these requests into my phone to remind me throughout the day who I need to pray for.

I have 5 children and a Mother-in-Law.  I do school runs - multiple times a day.  I drown in laundry.  But I have time to pray.

Don't you?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Imitating the Psalms

Okay, so I don't view poetry as a strength of mine.  I write it sometimes when the thought strikes, but usually it is poor and more just an avenue of thought rather than a great skill or technical excellence.  I'm sure writing in all styles should be.  But I'll just mention this as a disclaimer.  I wrote the following poem twenty years ago.  So I was much younger and the phrases may sound old.  Oh well.  I'll put it here in case it holds any value to encourage you.  Because in it I wanted to write my own Lament Psalm.  You see, the Psalms teach us to emote - to practice bearing our souls before God.  And many of them are happy, teachy, preachy, historic - you get the picture.  But many are laments.  And laments are worth lamenting about and over.  So I did.  And here it is.  My own personal lament Psalm.

A Personal Lament Psalm

Will someone hear me?  Will someone pray?
Oh Please Pray!

Ask the Lord to keep me safe,
Safe from danger, safe from doubts,
Safe from the enemy, safe from myself.

Ask Him to comfort me in my sadness,
Ask Him to hold me close to Himself.


Oh Lord I’m lonely and in my grief my pain is increased.
Father I need you, for you are my Friend…
You care that my heart aches,
You care about the sorrow I bear.

When will this end?  I ask, even now.
But I know it is not the question.

Rather, will I trust You Lord?
-          To see me through?
-          To provide?
-          To care?
-          To guide?
Yes, the question is, will I trust?
And will I obey?
And will I follow wherever you lead – each day?

Do I know You love me,
That you care, and welcome my wounded soul –
And pour out comfort, assurance, peace and hope?

Oh, will someone hear me?  Will someone pray?

The Lord God hears me – all that I say.
He knows how I feel; He knows where I am.

And so with confidence I can go on –
Not only does He hold the world in His hand,
But He holds me close to His heart –
And there He’ll keep me – There I’ll stay,

Not someone distant – off in the sky,
My guide is my Friend, my Father, my joy.

He knows how I feel, He knows where I am,

And I will walk with Him, as He holds my hand.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The BEST Gift to Give Your Husband This Valentine's Day

Dear Wives Who Might Come Across This Blog,

I am no expert in marriage or relational harmony.  I only know what I've seen and experienced.  I observe others, I slog through life with it's ups and downs.  I struggle like the rest of the world.  But there is one thing I am dedicated to giving my husband.  Year in and year out I have one primary goal - a basic gift I want to be a foundational experience for our marriage, and by extension, our home.  I want my sons and daughters to grow up observing me give this gift.  I want this to be understood as basic - as a no-brainer.  But it is something I think may be lacking in the lives of many.

I haven't always succeeded in giving it.  I haven't been totally virtuous and uncomplaining.  But I want to put this out there because you may have missed it.  And I'll bet your husband has missed it.  Just ask him.  Or better yet, make him out a note or a cute card or some such thing and dedicate yourself this moment to giving him this unsurpassed gift.  Tell him you're sorry if you've failed to give it before.

The gift I want to suggest you give to your husband is:




................(Don't be surprised)







.........................(You probably guessed it)







CONTENTMENT.



What?  Not 'more sex'.  Not 'Hot meals on time.'

Not, 'Keeping the house clean.'

Not, 'Letting him hang out with his buddies.'

Not, 'Hand him a beer and let him watch the game.'




No.

None of these.  (Those are at your discretion.)


You can bless your husband, this Valentine's Day, and always by cultivating a spirit of contentment and joy in your own life.  If you aren't content with what you have, how you live, the job he has, the state of your household affairs, your career, your lifestyle then I have a few suggestions for you:

1.  BITE YOUR TONGUE  (this is a temporary measure).

2.  CONFESS YOUR SIN OF DISCONTENTMENT TO GOD (decide if you want to confess it to your husband).

3.  COMMIT TO MEMORIZE PHILIPPIANS 4 (if not the whole chapter, at least verses 11-13)

4.  PRAY FOR CHANGE IN YOUR OWN HEART.


Eventually, as your heart changes and you value God and your marriage more, you will grow in commitment to Him and to him (your husband, that is).  Your desire for more and better and bigger and a higher lifestyle should be tempered with your greater love for God and a desire to honour Him - with a contented spirit.

As you grow and change, you will no longer need to apply suggestion no. 1, because you will not need sheer willpower and effort to restrain your complaints.  You will have changed from the inside and will not find yourself focussed on what you want, need or don't have.  Biting your tongue will no longer be a chore, because you will have no desire to complain.

This is an ongoing process.  You don't wake up one morning and say, 'Whew, so glad I am now changed to a contented wife!!  Now, onto other things...'

No.  You wake up and check that tendency to wish for what isn't.  You take those thoughts captive, give them to God and commit afresh to HIS will for you.  You live for His glory - in plenty or in want.  It's easy to sing songs in church that declare our devoted love to God.  It isn't as easy to apply that love to our desires for more, better, bigger etc.  We cannot rightly say we love God and refuse to re-order our loves so that HE is first and we are willing to be content with all He gives - including our wonderful husbands and whatever our lot may be.

I haven't perfected this.  It isn't a formula.  I still have discontent that rises here or there.  But if I do I am ashamed.

Commit yourself to giving your husband this gift this Valentine's Day - and for the rest of your life.











***Disclaimer: My blog is simple, not fancy, not dressed up pretty, not hyped up, not widely shared or read.  That's okay.  I'll write what is on my heart anyways.  Take it or leave it :) ***




Thursday, January 8, 2015

Like it or not, You're in DEBT

I don't know how to break the news to you.  Some of you are financially with-it and have every 't' crossed and every 'i' perfectly dotted.

You are frugal to a fault.

You spend wisely, save cautiously, give generously.

You live circumspectly, you do everything right.  Good for you.  I hate to break it to you.  But you are in debt - and you might not realize it.

And for the others - the not so perfectionistic - you too have a mounting, continuing debt you might have forgotten about.

With us already past the first week of the new year, and with some of us taking a look at the books, I feel it my kind obligation to let you know about a debt you have that you may have forgotten about.  This is a serious one - apparently it is a continuous debt.  One that remains outstanding.  And there is really nothing you can do about it, but to just keep paying it.

You will be indebted like this the rest of your life.  There is no special payment plan.  You can't work it out with the creditors.  There is no self-help book/guru/class to milk of its wisdom.

There is no other way to deal with this kind of debt than to simply keep paying on it.

The thing is, no matter how much you pay on it - the debt never seems to lessen.  It is just THERE.

It may lead to frustration.

You may wish there were something - anything - you can do to climb out from under this ongoing, outstanding, mounting, continuing debt.  But you can't.  I hate to break it to you - but you are indebted for life.

How can I say this with such confidence?!

You might be saying, "You don't even know me, much less my finances!  How can you tell me that I'm in debt?!"

I can say with utmost confidence that you are because it is in the Bible.

If the Bible is true, then it tells you that you are truly in debt.  A neverending, unpayable debt.

Sorry to have to be so blunt.  But it's plainly there.  In black and white.  In your Bible.

Romans 13:8 says,

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

There you have it folks.

Happy debt-paying in 2015!!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why I Can Honestly Tell My Kids "You're Special"

When I was growing up and someone would tell me, "You're special!" I would always wonder what they meant by that.  I was never sure if this was a compliment or if it was a condolence prize to make me feel better when I didn't feel better than I did.  Sometimes people would say, "You are SO special!" or, "God made you special!"

The word 'special' began to mean nothing to me.  I thought about what it means to be special and realized that I figured since everyone in the world is someone God made, then telling everyone they're special means absolutely nothing.  Being special, I thought, should mean one is outstanding, better, set-apart from the rest.  I thought to be special I had to do or be something extraordinary - or aspire to some high ambition or demonstrate a quality that no-one else could possess.

In the end I just figured people who told me I was special were just being nice and didn't really know me that well, or just ignored my glaring faults if they weren't blind to them.

But I was wrong.

Here's a side note:  I like to read and study on a wide variety of topics.  One of my interests is biology - specifically human biology.  I love to learn and understand how our bodies work!  And in some of my observations I began to realize something I once thought of as false.  I began to understand that each human being, created in the image of God, is SPECIAL.

A female child is born with about 1 Million Eggs.  By puberty only half of them are still around.  Only 300-500 will ever develop into mature eggs to be released.  Of those, only however many children she conceives get to ever become a person.

And that doesn't even compare to the sperm - a whopping 60,000 are produced every minute!!  That is incredible!!

Of those millions upon millions of sperm, only a select few - carrying essential DNA will ever get to meet up with a mature egg to conceive a child.

And beyond that, conception is in itself miraculous.  Don't believe me?  The width of a fallopian tube is about like a human hair.  You were once small enough to fit inside a human hair.  It's amazing the sperm ever get there or that the egg ever gets squeezed through this passage to meet up with a sperm. Each and every human being is incredibly special.

God could have picked any one of those million sperm or any one of those million eggs your mother had.  And of all those potential DNA recipes, He chose to make a person - you - out of the exact DNA from your biological parents.  You are unique and special because though there are millions of people on the planet only a tiny percentage of the potential DNA mixes got to be made into YOU!!!

That is why I can honestly tell my children that they are 'special'.

They'd like to roll their eyes at me.  But they don't.  Because they know I'll launch into human biology 101 with them if they do.

So, sure, be a cynic and try to tell me that saying to someone 'You're special' is pointless.  (Because I was that cynic at one time!)  But I won't listen.  I'll just direct you to study human biology 'til you begin to 'get it.'


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What Will China Gain if the Protests are Heard?

I have not set foot in the homeland of my birth in over 10 years.  And yet, I still feel a close bond to the people of Hong Kong.  And as I watch and hear and read of all taking place there - these tumultuous times - I can't help but to chime in here with my small, timid, perhaps unheard voice.  Because we in America tout the virtues of democracy - but will we speak up for those who risk what they know not, who sit and protest and voice their own desire for freedom?

I will.

Though this is a small, not oft-read blog, I'll throw in my two-cents about this matter of democracy and freedom.

China stands to gain SO much if they heed and hear the cry and protests of those within its governance.  Did you catch that?  I said, 'those within its governance.'  Catch that, please.  It means not only those who raise their protest in a land claiming democracy - namely, Hong Kong.  It also means those within the border of mainland China.

China is a huge country.  It is a huge force for possible good globally.  And the Chinese people as a whole are resourceful, courageous, hard-working, smart, industrious, family-honouring, smart, studious, daring, smart, delightful - and did I say, smart?  'Cuz I'll say it again.  They are smart, clever, brilliant - however you want to put it.  And these days the government of China can affirm the smarts of the people they govern or they can denounce it.

China has the power to quell the voice of protest.  But they would lose so much if they did.
They would lose the wealth that Hong Kong generates - a 'who-cares' attitude would begin at the first squelching of their collective voice, and business would suffer.  Tax revenues would fall - it would be the beginning of the end, and China would lose, BIG time.

They would lose the confidence, respect and honour of the people they govern and they would lose the respect of the watching world.  They would face shame on a global scale.  China would LOSE face, not gain it, if they refused to listen to the protests of the people.

China would again prove she is driven more by fear than by any other factor.  Fear driven leadership, while perhaps effective in the short-term, only serves to crumble a nation.  No-one respects actions taken on the basis of fear.

And China would gain SO much if she heard the cries of her people.

There would be breezes of hope and a future!
There would be economic gain and benefit.
There would be a 'We-Can-Work-Together' attitude!
There would be greater willingness to come together and see great things accomplished.
There would be public honour for the government.
There would be a better tomorrow.

If only the powers that be would sit up and take notice.

The people of Hong Kong have protested peacefully.  They have enacted civil disobedience with an emphasis on the civil.  They have pulled together to make their wishes clear.  In many ways, they have demonstrated to China how orderly governmental and political ideas can be exchanged and heard.

Will China act wisely?  Judiciously?  Will she gain honour on a global scale?  Or will she kow-tow to fear and set forth a hard-line approach, which will only bring further disaster and gloom on a struggling nation?

Ultimately, we know that politics isn't the only answer to a nation in struggle.  We know there is no peace without the Prince of Peace.  But until He is given His rightful place, a democratic process allows for access to basic freedoms for all.  Will China allow such access to its people?

Only time will tell.