Shedding Perfectionism

As I’m sitting here eating the whole wheat tortilla that tastes like the lotion in my purse, I’m realizing some things.  Success in life is about reaching personal, internal goals, and on our way up that hill, everything is not going to go as planned. Perfection is an illusion. For example, today my usual routine (my planned and perfect routine)  had been filling  my belly up with fruit in the morning. However, having to get my granddaughter to daycare (let’s blame her) and losing track of time (that’s grandma), I rushed out of the house and barely got to work on time. Hence, the lotion infused tortilla. It’s OK though,  that I didn’t do my perfect plan because that’s life.

The more I learn about myself on my healing journey, the more I realize how insidious perfectionist tendencies can be.  

By the way, I am down another 2 lbs. since the last post.  Hooray for me!  Suck on that 56 year old metabolism!

downloadI was at a Toastmasters meeting last night and as I sat in the room, I realized how uncomfortable I felt.  It was not them at all. It was me. I tend to feel uncomfortable in a room full of people but I wondered why? I’m a great one-on-one conversationalist, but small crowds scare me.  Not large ones mind you, because I’ve preached to hundreds of people at a time (so weird how that works) and amazingly it’s easier than the small crowd for me.  The problem is my internal insecurities. It’s all in my head.  Call me crazy, but I keep feeling people are judging my every move in those situations.  Even more so if it’s people I don’t know.  The feeling overwhelms me that I’m going to say the wrong thing, that I won’t be witty enough or that I’ll be judged by something stupid I blurted out. 

download (1)The worst part is that in a smaller group,  I can actually see and feel their reaction.  So, my tendency is just to stay quiet in those situations.  I smile and nod so they won’t notice me too much.  But I want to get better and conquer this part of my life.  I’m adult!  Enough of the high school/elementary school feelings that come flooding back to me.

There’s a portion of the meeting where someone throws out a topic and on the spot a volunteer has to give a 1-2 minute speech on the subject.  So I decided to be brave tonight and get practice doing this. I did OK, but I felt so unsure of myself doing it.  I wouldn’t say I failed, but I just didn’t do as well as I would have liked. I’m sure I was at least average.

So here’s a goal I need to work on: being a better off-the-cuff speaker.  Fear has to go.

I am learning that perfectionism creates fear and fear stops me from growing.

If you don’t acknowledge the need to change, how can you grow and become better? Change takes daily acknowledgement, making intentional statements to yourself and making decisions to DO the actions that will make the change a part of your life.

This is my new quote this week:

The difference between failure and success is not much more than the changes we choose to embrace from one moment to another, one day to another. —therightmessages.com


 

 

Feel free to share your experiences below with public speaking or goals you’re trying to reach–or just maybe you can relate to all this craziness.

 

 

 

 

Reclaiming My Freedom

The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14: 17)

My quest for better spiritual awareness came after years of being an innocent.  As a Christian, I needed to stay in connection with Jesus Christ, the source of spiritual life. The Vine. Righteousness is not based only on works of faithfulness, but faithfulness to the voice of God. It is Him we must please in our daily walk. He is the decider of what is holy and acceptable, and He is the king of peace and giver of real joy. Salvation is for everyone, of every culture, every background, and circumstance. The details of people’s lives cannot be dictated to them by other people.  Instructions must come from heaven to the heart. The above scripture from Romans 14 holds significant meaning. What truer sentiment could have been written about what constitutes the kingdom of God.

It is not the tangible that makes up the kingdom but the intangible. My soul belongs to God, and it’s a part of me that no earthly person can touch or judge. Only God can know the intricacies of motive, backgrounds of understanding, and depth of heart. Therefore, Paul said it best because who are we to judge another man’s servant, to his own master he stands or falls, for we must all give an account in the day of judgment.

In the circle of church attendance that I’ve been in for the last 35 years, people don’t just leave individuals in the hands of God. They tend to just pick at one another. When you put this kind of power in the hands of humans, they tend to wear each other out. After a while, people grab a badge and arrest whomever they wish, with the consent of the authorities.

Part of my journey towards greater spiritual growth involved identifying the things that came between Christ and me and personal, Spirit-led decisions about myself. I had to shake off the control people tried to have over my family and my life. For example, in our congregations,  for reasons I never understood, no one could wear Afrocentric styles or cut their hair in styles. Mind you, these are black congregations. We had to go around like we were in the 1950s wearing just curled-set hair or permed styles that didn’t involve any cut or shape. Go figure.

One minister even tried to sneak in the idea that cutting off split ends WAS cutting hair. She was quietly booed.

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So where does that leave a black woman in the City of Chicago? How does this even work? Insane.images (1)

We were pretending to be white southern belles from the 1950s and ’60s with perfectly coiffed tresses while living in the 1980s, 90s, and 2000s.

No showing of blackness allowed.giphy (1).gif

I hear this obsession still goes on. Of course, after studying I Corinthians 11 for myself, I threw up my hands. Who was going to listen to the Bible at this point?

Yeah, that thing.

I was a small minnow in a sea full of whales. What was seemingly important in our congregations was how the Pastor’s wife saw it, not the scriptures. Their hair rules were ingrained in our religious group. Unfortunately certain of our black congregations still have this pre-occupation about what is HOLY HAIR. One group even said that using a relaxer is worldly! You must PRESS your locks with a hot comb.

But, the pressure was real. Conform or else. Or else what? Thou shalt be stared at and talked about and preached against as a rebel, a breaker of unity, a breaker of our laws, vain, worldly …. (don’t ask, you get the idea).

download Can you fry it or dye it and still be saved? Can you feather it, relax it? Can you wear twists or twist outs? Can you braid it or put extra hair in it without being accused of vanity, and then how MUCH extra hair is too much, and who gets to decide that? The person who has no hair?

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One time, my poor daughter ruined her hair on a weekend trip with friends while she was swimming. It was “toe”-up, not just torn up. She had allowed the chlorine to stay in her hair all weekend. This was the summer before she entered high school. We had to cut off the damage and do something cute with it to help it grow back. My child, bless her heart, was already pulling and picking at her hair as a habit. The best way I saw was to put braided extensions in her hair so she’d look cute and it would solve the messiness of daily styling a 13-year-old girl who had damaged hair. My husband agreed. He said to our daughter and me,

“Look, if anyone, I mean ANYONE, the Pastor, whoever, I don’t care, says anything to you about your hair, you have them see me. I am NOT going to have my daughter going to a new school with her hair to’ up!”

Thank you, baby.

Since I became a Christian, that struggle remains daily and real. People always try to put the spiritual whammy on you with their opinions or traditions spun out of everything but prayer and scriptures. They feel their views are the Holy Ghost and trust me if they can’t cover it with the Bible, it ain’t. If their opinion is the Lord, why don’t they have the grace of Christ to act nice about it?

We Do Have Liberty

In the Spirit, we have liberty in Christ to follow as He leads and practice what we understand to be sacred in our lives. Yet, there are people in this world who would have you believe that YOUR standing with God is through them. We shouldn’t give away our freedom in Christ to other people. It never ends well. Bottom line if you place yourself in that position you will find in the end that people simply like controlling other people. In the end, you will not even know or understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, but you will feel that you must.

A good, solid Christian told me one time, when it comes to people and authorities, don’t go asking; go telling. Tell them what God showed you, what He wants you to do and then go do it.

When you ask permission, that’s too much power and people like playing with power and half the time, they don’t even know how to use that power.

God saved me as an individual. He individually sought me, and forgave me of my sins and gave me light to walk the path of salvation. I know that God is watching over me as a person to keep me on the right track. If I’m sincere, God will lead me the right way. The way that’s best for me. Yes, we all need community and guidance and shepherding and mentoring and help with our joy and faith. These are things the body of Christ provides by building itself up in the love of God.

I had trained myself to be tethered to other people’s opinions.  I was not alone. But now, I’m aware enough to reclaim my freedom.

Think about the following story and let me know your thoughts below:

Elephant and the Rope

As my friend was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from the ropes they were tied to but for some reason, they did not. My friend saw a trainer nearby and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.

“Well,” he said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size of rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.” My friend was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

–the Unbound Spirit

The Shock of Romans 14

One day a Christian friend was driving me to an appointment. I was thankful for the ride, but we began to talk about Dan Ryan Expressway drivers and how some of them were just crazy. If you’ve ever been to Chicago and drove on the Dan Ryan, you would have given us a high-five. Some of the drivers are just insane the way they dodge in and out of traffic, won’t let you in the adjacent lane. The trick seems to be DON’T use your turn signals, just TAKE the opening.

Ahh…the Dan Ryan

I drive it every day of the week and understand the madness.

However, my friend began to say that the drivers were morally wrong. I was trying to figure out if he was serious. Then he started to talk about how the drivers had the wrong spirit (and many of them absolutely do), but he said this mainly because the drivers would not just wait in line for the feeder to merge onto the I-290. They would go the next lane, get as far as they could to the front and then cut in.

Ok. So it’s not the best thing to do, but I’ve done it, and no, it doesn’t work for the grand scheme of traffic, but sometimes I just don’t feel like waiting and want to get ahead of the other 50 cars. Am I going to hell for this?! I don’t think so, but my friend was so adamant that it was morally wrong I was concerned that they may have walked out the next time I preached. So I listened rather silently with interest, as my friend was taking his theory over the top declaring  that these drivers were “in trouble with God.” His protests were met with my “oh, yeah?” and “Hmm.” I kept my expressway sin to myself. So far, Jesus and I are okay with my driving style, and that’s where it stays. I feel no condemnation when I’m running late, doing what I’ve got to do short of riding the shoulder and putting people’s lives in danger. See how people can think differently.  So let’s talk about personal convictions in Romans 14.

Verse 14

I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

Years ago I preached on Romans chapter 14, and as I went through the scriptures, I realized how problematic it was for our brand of religion.

Romans 14 is a scary thought to some. If people are led by God, won’t they feel differently about different things? Absolutely! Will God always point them to the same solution? Absolutely not!

After I preached about this chapter, someone came up to me totally confused  “How do you practice those scriptures and not compromise our standards?” So I took some time, there in the parking lot, and went over some points of scripture with them, but they left my presence very, VERY concerned. I didn’t know how to put any spin on it to make it fit what we practiced (controlling people’s every move) so I just taught it as it was.

I believe what stirred the pot was,  how does a church give people such liberty of conscience and still make them follow all of our rules? That would mean they would just be in the hands of God for Him to talk to them as He saw fit.  To some, that would never do.  I guess they would have to leave people alone and trust God to lead them. Like I said, scary thought.

This chapter gives Christians the freedom to walk with God based on His Word along and their culture.

It was then I realized that for some it was easier to explain AWAY Romans 14 or ignore it.

So let’s rip that page out.

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What is Romans 14 Telling Us?
Romans 14 speaks of matters of conscience, personal convictions in our walk with God. For those that enjoy controlling other Christians, this may seem a fate worse than death.
What we personally feel free in doing and what we don’t is subjective and personal when it comes to the unwritten aspects of scripture. Paul addressed this because of the culture clash between Jews and Gentiles that caused a schism in the church at Rome. Paul spends 13 chapters talking about doctrine and then says in 14 and 15, “oh, by the way, stop fussing with one another over this small stuff, you’re all going to just give an account to God for yourself anyway.” Paul explained how to overcome this point of contention. These were minor issues that had little to do with salvation and the gospel of Christ but had everything to do with differences in visualizing of what it means to be a Christian in practical application. Something that frankly has caused divisions throughout church history.

Romans 14 has everything to do with being aware of who you are spiritually are in Christ. What you do to honor God and what you feel as a Christian you should restrain yourself from. It’s a chapter about holding your convictions in the spirit of love toward your fellow Christian Let’s take a look. Paul says:

1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.

First thought: Don’t be arrogant about your convictions! To walk with God, one must keep a spirit of humility. This involves just being happy with whatever freedoms the Lord gives your conscience and leaving other people’s convictions alone. None of the Gentiles could feel superior to their Jewish counterparts and vice versa. We have many Christians today who will downgrade your walk with God to 0, if you don’t vote a certain way, or feel like they feel on social issues. It’s important to look at Romans 14 and dial it back a bit.

My husband has a Christian friend who is on the total opposite of the political spectrum, but they never attack one another’s commitment to God. I admire that.

Frankly, anytime the reality of our religious practices fail to match up with the principles of the scripture, something is probably wrong with the method and not the scripture.
Throughout Romans, Paul talks to both a Jewish and Gentile audience. He switches back and forth between these two audiences. The Book of Romans is one of the most solidly doctrinal books about salvation in the New Testament, and I believe Paul, in this letter, stops a moment to address the differences in their cultures.

Second thought: Paul calls those that have severe conscience scruples, weak. One Christian may feel they need to bow their head in prayer before going to the even the grocery store down the street; another may not feel all that is necessary and prays as he goes, knowing and believing the Lord is always by his side. Paul said both are just fine.
In matters of conscience, this is where you have to be “fully persuaded in your own mind.” According to Paul, we should not force our convictions on others. These people were all serious about serving God. The ones who had scruples were just as serious as the ones that did not.

I am painfully aware that there were times in my walk with God that I felt ALL Christians should follow what the Lord showed ME. There are times I was so confident that God had spoken that I couldn’t imagine that he didn’t tell the next guy the same thing. But that’s how some Christians behave. Thankfully, I’ve grown.

God knows our make-up, our constitution. He remembers that we are dust. He knows what will send us down the wrong path and what will keep us in the straight and narrow. It’s not the same for every person. Everyone is not tempted by the same things. God focuses on the condition of our hearts, and our heart purity. I cannot decide for another person what will affect their heart purity toward God in matters of personal conviction. So in the gray areas, we have to keep in connection with God so that we can stay on the right path. Walking with God cannot involve someone else telling you what convictions you must have.

3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.

God’s love toward us is immeasurable, and he will not allow us to drift away if we stick strictly to the instructions he’s laid out in his Word. He also wants us to treat others with His amazing love, even when we don’t agree.

12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God…

19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.

So we have spiritual responsibility internally and externally. A Christian must be aware and persuaded of what pleases God in his personal walk. He must be tuned in to the voice of God and what God requires of him. He also must commit to carrying his conviction in the love of God and not flaunt his liberty in a way that will cause someone to lose his faith in Christ.

#walkonwater

Hannah’s Angst

In the bible, God leaves on record the story of a woman named Hannah. She was the mother of the great prophet Samuel. On its surface, it’s the story of how Samuel was dedicated to the Lord from birth, but that is beside the point. The real lesson in Hannah’s story is her worry about a situation that needed healing.

images-30In the bible, God leaves on record the story of a woman named Hannah.  She was the mother of the great prophet Samuel.  On its surface, it’s the story of how Samuel was dedicated to the Lord from birth, but that is beside the point. The real lesson in Hannah’s story is her worry about a situation that needed healing.  She could not have children, and it was a constant source of worry, hurt, and concern. Continue reading “Hannah’s Angst”

Mistake or Sin?

When confronted with the truth of our misconduct, we’ll flip through a Rolodex of excuses as to why apologies are not necessary or how we can go around it. Yet, most of the time, our delay lies in the fear that someone else realizes we were wrong—as if— ha!–we’re always right!

images-28Is it a mistake or a sin?  As part of spiritual awareness, I’ve often had to come to grips with this question. My heart conditions and motivation when I did was wrong.  Is there a difference between a mistake and a sin?  So what is the difference?  This is like asking was it an error or did I err?  These two words may sound alike but are slightly different concepts. In either case, the results are the same.  I need to address my morality problems.  When people seek spiritual healing, inevitably there is a “come to Jesus” moment when they realize that a lot of their problems are about themselves and not the other guy.  To some, apologizing looms as a daunting task.  I never could understand the uber-fear of apologizing or admitting to a wrong.  The best Christian is an honest Christian. Continue reading “Mistake or Sin?”