Masks of Deception

We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God. 2 Cor 4:2 MSG

I have spoken about this before here: My youngest has never understood the concept of Halloween. Even in our desire for him to indulge in the holiday festivities; he simply refused to put on a costume. If there was a time he dressed up, he had to be as close to a character he recognized, and would not dare wear a mask. Many years he simply went to events as “Hunter.” His philosophy being-he had no pressing reason to be anything other than himself. Wouldn’t he be given candy anyway? Why “trick” others into giving it him?

From an autistic lens, I began to see his point.

The world has sold us a big fat lie: You must present yourself to it as someone other than who God intends you to be in order to get your needs met.

It’s why we deceive the aging process with fillers, Botox, filters, and injections. Tricking others into believing we are younger than we are, smoother, or that our forehead wrinkles don’t exist.

It’s why we post our “highlights.” So we can trick people into thinking we are happier, have more money, our marriages aren’t crumbling, and our kids aren’t making poor choices.

It’s why we don’t discuss our struggles with other people.

It’s why we wear our masks on every other day after October 31st. These masks may not be the scary ones like evil, murder, robbery, or any other punishable crime. No, these masks look more like skimming time from your co-worker while you post all about your crummy job on Facebook. It’s the hurtful words you say about a friend as soon as she leaves the table to go home. It’s the ways in which you don’t support another person’s success, because they are doing what you wish you were. It’s that plastic smile you paint on, when you feel like crying. It’s that word “fine,” you speak when you are anything but.

Those are our masks. And we don’t need a holiday like Halloween to wear them and to deceive everyone around us. We put them on most everyday. And expect people to hand us what we want.

We deceive others this way. We deceive others into believing that believers have it all together. That we don’t struggle. Our painted on “smiley” masks that hide our struggles can deceive the hurting seeker into believing they have to be perfect before they can have Christ. And on another note, when we paint on goodness, and hide poor behaviors such as gossip or malice, we let others know that maybe Christ isn’t so attractive after all.

Maybe our youngest had a point. Can’t we have Christ anyway by coming to him as ourselves? Can’t we be in communion and fellowship with each other without a mask? Without pretending we are someone else for the day?

Try it. Drop your faulty expectations that you have to have it all together, and come as you are. As God intended you to be. Drop the mask the world expects. That plastic smile, those expectations and disappointments you hide behind, and simply be yourself before others today. Genuine. Honest. Truthful. No deception underneath. Nothing but who He intended.

To The Young: You Have Influence, Too

Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 1 Timothy 4:12, NLT

Today’s post on Christian character is for the younger folk. Those growing up and learning how to navigate the nuances and social expectations of the world. It can be difficult to walk the thin line between what the world expects, and what your faith demands. These things are in constant conflict, and we, as parents, just don’t often know what this is like.

We, of course, know what it is like to be teens. It is hard. We have all walked the line between the expectations of the world, those of our elders, our own, and what we know to be right, or even wrong. We just didn’t have the internet, or phones at our fingertips to document our every move. If we had bullies, we could retreat to safety at home, and leave our bullies at school. Turn them off until the school bell rang the next day. And if we took a picture or someone did find something out about us, we didn’t have a tribe of people calling for us to be “canceled,” or jumping in on the smear campaign because it was the “cool” thing to do. Things really were just “different.”

I talked about integrity yesterday, and it doesn’t just apply to adults. It’s the same concept no matter your age. Are you who you say you are at home, and out in the world? At church and with your friends? Do you show Christ everywhere, or just at church?

You may be young. You may be influenced by social media. You may even be triggered by the mixed messages from the things you see from it’s sources, or the people you follow. Feel you don’t measure up.

However, you still have an influence on the world around you of which you may not be aware. Especially when you let others know you believe in Christ. There will be expectations of you. Yes, even when you are young. Even on your social media profiles, and no…it won’t feel “fair.” It will likely feel like it’s one more expectation someone has of you of which you will never measure up, but it is the most important expectation. It is the one God has of you.

He does not expect you to be without a few mishaps. A few blemishes. A few bruises. What He does expect of you is to put aside the world’s expectations. What Facebook. Instagram. TikTok think for a bit, and worry about what He thinks. Walk in the way He expects. And remain honest and true to His ways. A person. A young man or woman of integrity.

No matter how young (or old) you are.

April Bible Reading Plan: How is Your Character?

Jesus.

I wanted this month’s plan to be about Jesus, because that’s what Easter is really all about. Not candy. Not baskets. Not bunnies. Jesus. And his sacrifice for our salvation. 

And all things do point back to him. As they have in so many discussions I have had about character recently, and the way we choose to live. The choices we make. Both the wise and unwise. 

I have thought about how to appropriately study Jesus this month. Most will study his miracles. His death. His resurrection. And those are all so important, as they pave the way for someone to seek salvation. Yet, with that salvation comes something. A new way of life. A new way of life that many may not quite understand. Know how to walk, or to be ready for. 

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him,  throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:21-24, NLT

The making new means a change occurs instantly. Yes. Sin is wiped clean. But new habits begin to form. Those old desires are beginning to shed because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. A shift in character should develop. And we start to look different, have a desire to make different choices. Our journey with Jesus begins as he develops our Christ-like character. 

Some of the development takes a little longer. It’s harder to shed. But it’s necessary if we want to reflect his light. 

If our intended goal is to be like him, we develop a different character. A character that reflects his. We “walk it like we talk it,” as they say. So this month’s reading plan is focused on just that-walking in that character-Christian character.

Let’s start.

Because this is where many believe the journey begins. With the way you look. And that belief goes WAY back to Jesse and his boys. 

This was on display as my husband and I were preparing for my second ordination meeting a week or so ago. As we sat waiting, a couple came out ahead of us. He had this idea to play “guess who is the pastor” between the two. The man or woman of the couple. It was clearly the man. He looked like he had been through the ringer, and I knew that look. I knew exactly what that “look” felt like. The look of defeat. Then came this question: “Which one of us do you think they think is the ordination candidate?” My response was easy. He had on a tie. I was not under dressed. But my tattoos were showing, and come on…I am a woman. “You. They think it is you. You are a well dressed man. I am a woman.”

Appearances mean something. And we ALL judge them. We judge clothing. We judge whether someone is good or bad based on the markings they have on their skin. We judge another’s abilities based on their appearance. Stature. Build. Looks. We are fortunate that God does not do this.

I was reminded of this again recently when the story of David’s anointing was mentioned. in 1 Samuel 16. God sends Samuel to the house of Jesse, father of 8 sons, to anoint the next King. God warns Samuel not to be deceived by stature, build, or outward appearance: Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7, NLT

Samuel arrives and Jesse’s seven sons are parading around the house, trying to impress Samuel; doing all they can to prove they are most certainly the chosen. There is one missing. The runt. Out serving in the fields. The one chosen by God to be anointed king.

God chose the smallest of the litter to be the one. The one who was forgotten, who Jesse didn’t even mention, but who had a heart after God, and was serving. He chose that one.

And that is what He sees. He does not see your size, and goodness knows there are many times I have felt like nothing but a runt of a woman, with a twang of a voice, misunderstood, and unworthy because of it. Seen for the markings on my skin, and not for my abilities, but knowing without a shadow of a doubt that God sees beyond any of these things to the gifts I use to serve Him.

That is what we look for in others as well. Beyond the clothes. Beyond the pitch or tone we don’t quite like. Beyond the tattoos we just don’t quite get, or we would never get. Not your thing? Ok. But is Jesus? Does he have your heart? Does he have theirs? Then that is what matters. The only that matters to God, and what should matter to us, too.

On Trend: Love

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:14

The teen years. It’s a rite of passage. And if you, as we are, are raising a teen; it can also be a day by day struggle to build a healthy sense of self. How exactly? Well, as it is with adults at times, what you wear, and how you present yourself to the world…well, it determines your social status. Put on the wrong pair of pants, and you could just be the laughing stock of the entire school! How embarrassing!

Paul in Colossians 3 discusses a different type of dress. One that has nothing to do with the outward appearance that we seem to be so obsessed with. As he mentions in verse 14, the most important part of this outfit is love. He lists it as the one thing that binds everything together.

How true this is.

Without love we cannot wear patience and mercy. We simply don’t have the capacity to do so. To extend these virtues out to others who get on our nerves or hurt us.

Without God’s love, we also don’t have the desire to remove our sin clothing. Those outfits that simply don’t belong in our closets anymore when we begin to walk with Christ. Those garments such as anger, lust, and greed. We have no use for them anymore. It’s time to purge them to make more room for the love God desires we wear instead.

Look, we could put on the trendiest outfit, but not put on love, and walk around with a downright rusty, crusty heart. The world may be satisfied, but God wouldn’t be.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather someone judge my ‘fit harshly, and see a heart that reflects God.

His outfit is the only one that is worthy of wearing. His is the only ‘fit that’s gonna get you His Kingdom garments.

Clothe yourselves with love.

It’s All About the Heart

“Yes, she is a pastor.”

“Oh, really? I never would have guessed that.”

This was the response received in the cabinet section at the local home improvement store. The comment made when my husband advised the sweet lady of my second “vocation.” It wasn’t the first time I had been told this. It was a comment I heard as I got one of my many tattoos. A comment I hear quite often, actually.

This time, I simply smiled. Went about the cabinet selection business with manners and kindness, but on my way home began to wonder, What exactly is a pastor supposed to “look” like?

Since for me the Bible is my standard for living, and the place I turn to for guidance, I looked for Scriptural evidence that pointed to some means of dress or appearance that pastoral staff should adhere to. Some likeness that a pastor should possess. Was it dress? Was it appearance? Was it how they wore their hair? Jewelry? What is it?

First, I went to the reference many use when determining “appropriate” dress for clergy, especially that of women. Now. Let’s be real. We critique the dress of women far more than we ever do men. How their hair is worn. Whether it is long or short. Too much makeup, or not enough. Choice of clothes. Body types. We do not do this to men, or nearly as often. So, here we go:

And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. 1 Timothy 2:9-10, NLT

However, this is mostly taken out of context, because anytime we use Scripture to make a point, or when trying to determine what God says on a subject, we must also take into account the historical and contextual evidence at the time as well. Paul was not talking to EVERY woman. He was talking to those who were placing their value in material things. In expensive jewels and clothes. It had nothing to do with dress. It had nothing to do with hair.

To clear this up, look at The Message version: And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it.

Paul is saying, “Be holy. Do the work of God, and stop worrying about your appearance. You will be beautiful, because you are working for Him, not because you dress a certain way.”

We don’t get this message because we focus on appearance. Our human nature is to focus on what is outside. We focus on hair. We focus on clothes. We focus on jewelry. Someone’s home. Cars. Jobs. And yes, even tattoos.

When what God focuses on…is none of those things.

So what a pastor “looks” like, pours from that-his or her heart.

A pastor looks like Jesus. Not in appearance. Because I look nothing like him in physical appearance. But I do in heart. In action. In speech. In how I love on others. How I work for justice. How I forgive. How I help. How I use my voice.

Because I remember also hearing this when I told someone I had become a pastor: “That doesn’t seem too far-fetched. You were always taking up for the less than when we were younger.”

Back then, I didn’t look much different. My hair was a different shade. It still had the same unruly curls. I had no tattoos. I didn’t dress in the same way as my peers. I wore big earrings. I didn’t speak differently than I do now. I had the same dialect, and at times…well, I was loud. I spoke up with passion that was seen as anger. And, well…I may now have better word choices-but at the core, the personality is still the same. The same hair adorns my head in a different shade. I have tattoos. And my dialect is still strong. My voice still loud, passionate, and dying to be heard when speaking for those whose voices aren’t asked to be at the table. I am still the same young girl, just not ruled by the desires of the world. I still look like her, I just love like Him.

That, my friends, is what a pastor “looks” like.

They “look” like one called to reach the least of these. With the personality and gifts God has created in them. They “look” like their Jesus. With the love to reach those who need to know that they too are loved for who God created them to be. Not who the world thinks they should “look” like.

They may just “look” like me.

Just buy the coffee

There are days I wonder if anyone cares to notice. Cares to notice that there is a world past the one they live in. Cares that the person in front of them with the plastered on smile. With that “fake face” on, as I call it, is really just dying to go home and pretend the outside world and all it’s demands don’t exist.

I care. Because I am that person on too many days to count.

I wonder if I’m seen. Or if anyone will care to see past the small scowl I may have while walking into the church parking lot…because “fake face” isn’t working this morning. Because I am coming in this morning after yelling at my kids.

Because that heated discussion now continues in the church cafe with no one caring to notice. Or so it seems.

Because after months of caring for the least of these, I was now sitting across from someone who was telling me I still wasn’t trusted. Why? I couldn’t deliver promises I knew I just couldn’t keep.

Because I now sat, knowing I had to “fake face” my way through something I had to hide for over a year. Not say anything. Sit back and stay silent. Again.

There have been a number of days with small instances like this, but on this day I went home a ball of bitterness, anger, and loads of regrets. I exploded on anyone and everyone in sight.

The next day. I couldn’t get out of bed. My body had just given up. I was tired of fighting Satan. I was sick from fighting him, and all his adversaries. Would anyone have known this? No. More than likely, no.

Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. 1 Corinthian 10:24, NLT

Really, we all look past the hurting. The down-trodden. The sullen. The heartbroken. Because we are focused on our own good. We all do it.

But what if we just bought someone a coffee? What exactly do I mean?

Well, after that battle with my anger. Satan. And my self-professed sabbath, I was determined to have a good day after.

But then the dog wet on the carpet. I couldn’t do anything with my hair. I got stuck in traffic. And I was late for work…again. Small things, but all things to keep from me focusing on the good.

But then someone bought my coffee.

It seemed so simple.

A stranger. In front of me in Starbucks (because I’m never too late for Starbucks), and the sweet sound of- “The person in front of you paid for your drink.”

The person in front of me.

I’m just a random stranger in a coffee drive-through.

Or was I?

No. I was an opportunity to be seen. For someone to look outside themselves, and be kind. Do good.

It doesn’t happen often. This looking outside ourselves. This seeing. The going outside of one’s own world to brighten someone else’s.

With a coffee.

Case in point…

Later, the devil must have decided he wasn’t going to take defeat lightly. He got at my head again. Started nagging me. In the mirror. Because that’s where he tries to get at many of us. I looked down and noticed you could see through my dress. Though no one had bothered to tell me. They commented on said dress, but never helped a girl out.

But I remembered this. Though right now…I could only see my underpants, and thought all kinds of things. And wondered what others thought, you know-cuz Satan; I remembered this: someone was kind enough to buy my coffee.

So, moral of this story:

Never, EVER let a fellow woman walk around with her unmentionables showing. It’s ok to pull her to the side and whisper it in her ear. Please! Help a girl out!

Do some good, and just buy someone a coffee. It may just make someone feel a little bit more seen.

And you’ll be looking past yourself to do someone else some good.

WWJD About My Tattoos?

Tattoos. Mention them, and a number of opinions are generated from one simple word. Tattoo.

“Oh, I could never.”

“You know what it says in Leviticus.”

I know what it says in Leviticus. I read the entire chapter. Every single word. It had much more to say than merely mentioning the abomination of people with tattoos.

This paradox was the topic of conversation as I sat in the latest of many tattoo chairs. The artist, who did not subscribe to a religion persay, was actually surprised I was a pastor. And we had an entire conversation about tattoos and the Bible. He had his co-worker come by, and even guess what I did for a living (which is putting it mildly, because well…I am not a paid pastor). Why was this such a big topic of conversation? Rituals? Laws? That had nothing to do with love? Nothing to do with Jesus?

So the question for today! What would Jesus do if he encountered someone with tattoos? Well, love them. He definitely would not judge the covering. Choose not to get to know their heart simply because they decided to tattoo one on their arm.

Take a listen and feel free to weigh in on what YOU think Jesus would do! 

What happened when I deleted Facebook

If you have been around for a while, or ever seen my YouTube videos, you know I deleted Facebook about 8 or so months ago. I had my various reasons why; some that had to do with my overall well-being. Regardless of those reasons, stepping away from the ever-popular app has had benefits, and has been eye-opening.

First, I am going to take a queue from Paul here and mention, “You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 1 Corinthians 10:23. You may have no problem with Facebook. You may be able to scroll and it not affect you. Let me just say-it was not beneficial for me.

Here are the various things that have been good for me. Things I learned and have gained since my Facebook exit:

I didn’t miss the 100 or more obligatory Happy Birthday posts.

No, I really didn’t. I had maybe 10 instead. All sent to the place where meaningful connections usually take place. To my actual phone number. I didn’t miss the birthday wishes that only came because an app reminded someone to do it. Instead, I enjoyed those from the people who actually remember my born day (Shout out to those who do!). Called. Sent meaningful, heartfelt wishes, and I love you’s. Simply because they know. They may need a calendar to tell them it’s my special day. But they don’t need a social media notification to do so.

I began to engage in meaningful conversation.

Think about it. How many of your conversations center around what you saw or read on Facebook. I’ll admit for a while I had a little bit of FOMO. “I didn’t see it, you know…deleted Facebook.” Thought I was missing the latest and greatest. But after a while, I noticed I engaged less with those who spent all their time trolling, and commenting on social media concerns, and more time having real-time, face-to-face conversations with people. Learned more about them, and who they were beyond their latest post.

I turned off the “noise.”

And for a while even the news. No, I didn’t bury my head in the sand, and pretend the world wasn’t still spinning in utter chaos…I just chose to engage in reputable sources. Those without comments from people arguing back and forth. I read and formed my own opinion, without all the “noise” in the comments section; or from the news feed convincing me how I should think.

I turned off the “noise” in my own head.

As I mentioned in my video about my decision, Facebook left me anxious. It provided me with a very negative mindset. It also allowed me to judge people in ways they may not be, simply because they posted or “liked” something. It left me in a constant state of comparison to others “highlights,” and left me feeling like my life was empty and meaningless. I questioned motives. I questioned intentions. It was bad for my headspace. For me. That’s my personal experience. Yours could be very different.

I learned who was really down. Who would reach farther than the social media messenger function.

Look…I’m just being real. I’ve had the same phone number for 16 plus years. It’s been inactive only when I’ve been out of the country, which was no more than 14 days in those last 16 years. Social media is not my only connection to the outside world. I have unlimited texts and phone calls, and I can count on my two hands how many have used this method to still keep in touch. Those would be the “loyal” circle. If social media kept you in the “circle,” and now you have cut that“circle” off…my dear, I’m fine with a smaller one. Harsh? Possibly, but it’s the straight up truth. Connections with people should go much deeper than a random Facebook comment, or “thumbs-up” here and there.

I realized…lives are not often a true reflection of what is posted.

Don’t let social media fool you. Since I have had more time to really talk outside of apps, I have learned that marriages that look the happiest aren’t. That the people that look their “best,” are struggling with their self-esteem. That the houses that look the “cleanest,” have dirty corners no one dares mention. The family on that dream vacation has been at each other’s throat the entire time. No one shares these moments. What you are seeing on Facebook is highly curated posts and updates only highlighting what is good. Stop comparing yourself to what in most cases is a false representation of the people behind the “happy” smiles. There is truth to that often referenced quote: “People are not always what they post to be.”

I had more time to do things I had put off for so long.

Without the desire to check on likes, statuses, messages, and post every single moment, I created space to update my “read” list (books that is). Write AND publish a devotional instead of a Facebook worthy post. Study for an exam I had to put off. Focus on my mental health. Actually enjoy family dinner without phones. I had time to declutter. Time with friends. Time with God first thing in the morning, and not my news feed. And none of this newfound time and connection involved scrolling through endless media chatter.

I found solace in a more private life.

A media hacking may have forced me into the need for privacy, but I found that when I shut off the app, my desire to post every single detail about my life also shut down. I still share. But my kids are no longer the subject. My grandchildren are for me (and their parents) to enjoy and raise. My private moments, are well…private. I now blog my deeper thoughts. Journal. Or just say nothing, and I realize that the more people know about you; know what you are doing, where you are going, who you are with, what cause you are supporting, what moves you are making; the more they can use against you. When I stopped posting every little thing, I learned to move and accomplish things with the support of my biggest (physically present) cheerleaders, and not the constant peering of a social media “crowd.”

I don’t even miss it!

Look. I get it. It’s hard to pull the plug. You want to keep your distant relatives posted with cute pics of your kids. You want to see what your “friends” from high school are up to. But could a photo sharing app accomplish the first? Could a birthday phone call do the trick? And about that high school acquaintance…well, is there a reason they need to keep up with you? Or are you secretly hoping your life looks better than theirs? Or even better than it did in high school?

What now?

Personally, I don’t miss it. One single bit. Really. Why? Because my life was full of negativity and uncertainty with it. Most especially my worth. Now? Well, my life is just full. And I don’t have to tell all my 500 plus “friends” it is so.

Not ready to pull the plug completely yet? Try it for a month. Then tell me if your experience is anything like mine. I’d love to hear all about it…just not on Facebook, of course (see the Get Social Page for alternatives).

To be known

I walked in the room, knowing I needed to apologize. Dinner in our home is definitely a time of interesting, and fiery conversation. The fiery ones center mostly on the state of virtual school. On any given night, one parent ends up being the bad cop, the good cop, or we both end up just being lame. Tonight, it was me.

I wasn’t “bad.” I hadn’t yelled. We hadn’t had the dreaded school discussion that ends in stomping to rooms, but I hadn’t set a “good” example. Not one sprinkled with grace and acceptance.

I had mocked someone we knew at the dinner table. Judged a situation, and judged the person in the situation.

And any of you who haven’t committed this sin, be the first to cast a stone. I’ll wait.

While I wait…and wait, I’ll explain my apology. If I feel my example has not been one of Christlike-ness; or let’s just say, if I KNOW, because the Spirit tells me it hasn’t, I will apologize. This means I will also apologize to my kids.

Now, I know some don’t believe in this. But, the Bible is clear about how humble we must become to enter His kingdom:

Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:3, NLT

Like children. So I’m not above apologizing to a child. Especially if I know that one is watching and learning from me.

“I shouldn’t have said what I did tonight. Made fun of what happened. It was wrong. I am not going to justify my behavior. I should have explained my thoughts differently. It was wrong. I didn’t set an example, and it wasn’t kind.”

The apology opened up a conversation about authenticity and belonging.

See…I had left a space earlier that day feeling shunned and unwelcome. Like I was an intrusion. And I let it fester all day. To the point that I let the inauthentic response of another trigger me into anger, and a mean-spirited response.

When I should have explained at dinner the importance of making others feel comfortable in all spaces. Allow others to be free to be themselves, so they don’t have to constantly “shape-shift,” and be less than themselves. To be inclusive to all. To make others feel a little less self-conscious, but rather accepted, seen, loved, and known.

“I don’t want you to be 42 years old, and just figuring this out like I am.”

As I sat typing out the words to this post, I reached for my phone to locate a verse I needed and found this…a note I had typed out in my phone over a year ago. A short “letter” I had written to the younger me.

Dear Younger me,

Choose your circle wisely. You should be loved by your peeps for who you are, not for who you pretend to be. If you have to change who you were made to be to fit into a space, that isn’t your space.

And as I read it, I realized…though she thought it “cringy…” I had just said these exact same words, without my even knowing to a pretty spot-on, younger version of 13 year-old me.

And no…I didn’t want her to have to figure all this out in another 30 years.

And goodness, I am still trying to figure out many days who it is that God sees in me.

Because that is what I want her to see: who God sees. Not what anyone in any room she may walk into may see. Because more often than not…they may not see ALL that God has given her. ALL her talent. ALL her gifts. ALL that makes her so uniquely special, and set apart.

And it’s the same for you. There will be rooms you walk into where you may be known by name, but in which people still just don’t see you. You still don’t feel known. You will move in circles with people who don’t know who you really are, because you feel as if you have to cover up the real you. Play pretend. You may waste years and years trying to fit into spaces that will just never “fit” you, and who you are.

Know this. Embrace it today.

You are always seen and intimately known by God. He knows everything about you, and He still loves you. He has a place for you, and you never have to pretend, cover up; nor will you feel all alone.

He sees the real you. The broken you. The insecure you. The too loud you. The shy you. The you trying to fit into spaces that make you cringe.

He knows your name. He sees you. He loves you. He accepts you. You are known. You belong.

For those who seek Him

Stories. We all use stories to make a point. Stories are a more interesting way to get a message across to people. A way to help others understand a concept that may be a little hard for others to grasp. Stories keep audiences engaged. Everyone loves a good story. Well, most everyone.

“Why do you that? You speak in these crazy metaphors that make no sense.”

They make sense to those actually asking me questions to learn something. To learn the truth.

See, the one asking that question ended up working for a modern-day Judas. He was never going to understand the metaphor. He wasn’t looking for the right answer. He was digging in the dirt.

I do use metaphors, or “stories,” when I speak. I do this a lot. Sometimes it is simply because I am a writer and a deep thinker, so my mind naturally thinks in the abstract. However, it is to often get the listener to also think about things differently…and to gauge whether they are really actually listening. And to determine what they are actually seeking.

Someone else did this, too.

Jesus. And no…I’m not Jesus. I’m called to be like him. But he spoke in parables, and he had a point in using them.

Later when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant. He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, so that the Scriptures may be fulfilled: When they see what I do, they will learn nothing. When they hear what I say, they will not understand. Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven. Mark 4:10-12

Yes. He spoke in parables to determine who was seeking truth. And who was just “faking it.” Who was going to understand him, and who simply could not. Who was a Peter, and who was a Judas. Who was a friend, and who was a betrayer. Who was gonna sit a while and reflect, ask questions, seek to understand, communicate through this “crazy metaphor;” or who was gonna decide it was to much and run back to where the silver was. All those things, but he also used them to determine who was ready to learn a bit more, and who needed a little more time. A little more nurturing.

Now back to the “crazy metaphor” it was about a plant. Which if you knew the entire story… it really did have a lot to do with the question. If one was really seeking the truth.

“It’s like that plant over there. It’s dying now. But before, it was over here. And it was only withered a little bit. And the soil was just a little dry. All someone had to do was water it. Keep it over here in its original environment, and give it some more water. But someone decided it needed to be over there in that windowsill, in the bright sun. That’s not a bright sun plant. It’s in the wrong environment. And now it’s dying. Study your environment some more. Some of your plants aren’t in good soil.”

Truth seekers. They will move the plant back to the good soil.

Fakers. Won’t get that they needed to change the soil they were in. Or just give the plant a bit more water.

That was the purpose of the metaphor.

That was the purpose of the parables of Jesus. And we saw so many did not understand his words. So many saw him as crazy. Simply didn’t listen. Turned away from him. Or worse-persecuted him.

But others did understand.

Jesus used many stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they could understand. In fact, in his public ministry he never taught without using parables; but afterward, when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything to them. Mark 4:33-34

Want to distinguish yourself between the seeker and the faker? The one who understands, and the one who runs away? Ask the questions. Ask about the stories. Ask about the Bible. Have someone you trust, and who knows Jesus, explain it to you. That is how you will see and learn; hear and understand; turn and be forgiven.

That is the purpose of the stories for those who seek Him.