Tag Archives: courage

The Lost Art of Being Real

Back in the day, “Keeping it real” was a popular phrase used in hip-hop culture. It was about being genuine to who you are and The Lost Art of Being Realwhere you’re from. Keeping it real wasn’t always the best etiquette and tact at times, but it beat the dreaded alternative: being phony.

Unfortunately, it seems keeping it real is a thing of the past in today’s society, largely due to virtual profiles we create via social media.

With the hundreds, if not thousands, of social media networks out there, we dive deeper and deeper into creating profiles, posts, and fake images of ourselves. It’s not that what we post for public consumption isn’t true, it’s just incomplete.

I was conversing with a friend recently about how Facebook posts present false images. People only post the best things about their lives: cool vacations, new outfits, new cars, cute kids, and delicious-looking meals. They leave out the photos and statuses of when they are sitting at home alone, can no longer fit into those jeans, when the car breaks down, when the kids are driving them crazy, and when they burned the meatloaf.

The truth is, the latter happens more than we let on. And that’s just reality. But we don’t keep it real anymore. We want our lives perceived as perfect.

This causes a few problems, but primarily it tickles our tendency to compare ourselves with others. We look at the selfies, vacation photos, and plates full of food and think we’re missing something in life. We think our lives are not as great as those on our friends list. But as Pastor Steven Furtick once said, we should never “compare our behind the scenes footage to other people’s highlight reels.”

Essentially, we tend to compare those perfect things people post to the most imperfect things in our lives. The things that most people wouldn’t dare to post, but we are all experience.

Debt.

Family conflict.

Marriage problems.

Work stress.

Health issues.

Loneliness.

Insecurity.

Nobody’s posting an Instagram photo of that rash on their leg. Nobody’s taking a selfie when their hair is jacked up. Nobody’s tweeting when their spouse won’t sleep in the bed with them.Lost Art of Keeping it real

Now, I’m not saying that we should publish all the negative, private, and frustrating things about our lives (because honestly, some of us need to chill on sharing all our drama with the world). I just believe we shouldn’t be focused on creating a flawless public image of ourselves.

The reality is, we have plenty of issues. And when we’re brave enough to open up and admit it, we realize others are experiencing the same problems and have the same imperfections.

The most tragic thing is that practice of putting only the best image forward plays out not just virtually, but in public, particularly in the place where people should be most free to keep it real – the church.

Unfortunately, in the place we need refuge and should be able to openly share our weaknesses, we find ourselves being more fake than ever. God forbid someone in our congregation finds out we struggle with self-confidence, fear, lust, doubt, insecurity, pride, etc. It’s not like 99% of the people, including the pastors, aren’t dealing with or haven’t dealt with the same issues. And that’s just my personal list of issues. I’m sure you could add your own.

It’s time for a reality check. What type of image are you portraying? Is it authentic, or are you just trying to make your life look awesome to others? The whole you is much more beautiful and much more admirable than just the “best” you. Let’s go back to keeping it real.

 

“Authenticity is a collection of choices we make every day. It’s the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” – Brene Brown

 

 

 

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You Can’t Do Anything Without Courage

I’m sort of enamored with the concept of courage. I love reading the Old Testament with all its acts of valor. Just reading the term “valiant men” anywhere in scripture makes me want to grab a sword and shield or slingshot and go find an uncircumcised Philistine.

photo by rowena waack via compfight
photo by rowena waack via compfight

Of course there are different characteristics of courage now than in O.T. days, but you get the point.

God is big on courage as well. He’s constantly telling us to be courageous, and do not fear (variations of that phrase are mentioned roughly 100 times in the Bible). Yet, I heard one of the greatest explanations of courage from an interview with Maya Angelou and Dave Chappelle. Yeah, those two make strange bedfellows for sure. I came across this episode of Iconoclast shortly after Maya’s death, where she explained courage as “the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”

Wow.

I find that to be true. Whatever virtues you aspire to — whether it’s the fruit of the Spirit or some other set of values — it takes courage to live them.

Courage to love when there’s no guarantee you’ll be loved in return. To love after you’ve been heartbroken. To love when it’s misunderstood.

Courage to be patient when you’re pressured to react. To wait when you want to go. To not get ahead of yourself or the process.

Courage to be humble and admit you’re wrong. Courage to forgive.

Courage to have faith. To believe in the midst of negative circumstances. To trust God when everyone else is doubting.

Courage. It’s the virtue that allows you to live every other virtue. It’s a virtue that is already in you. God wouldn’t tell us to be courageous if it was beyond our ability to do so. He has equipped us with courage. We may not see it. We may not feel it. We may not use it often enough. But it’s in us. We just need to conjure it up more often. Practice it. Doing so allows the other virtues to operate.

 

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Your Potential is Greater than Your Limits

Sometimes I feel inadequate. I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m over my head, and I don’t quite know how to navigate through certain situations in life. Chances are, you’ve been there too. You may be overwhelmed with those thoughts and feelings now (and if you’ve never felt that way, you will at some point).Your Potential is Greater than Your Limits

There are many people from the Bible who had these same feelings (see Moses, Abraham, Elijah, Gideon…well, everyone actually). Life has always had a way of making humans feel uncomfortable, overwhelmed, and inadequate at times. Whether it’s a result of our own actions, natural circumstances, or God pushing us into unexpected roles, these type of situations can be frustrating.

I was reading about Saul, the first king of Israel, and the predicament he found himself in. Of course, we know Saul ended up doing some stupid things, disobeyed God, and turned into a psychopath seeking to murder his son-in-law (David), but before all of that, he was a pretty decent guy.

Saul was just going about his business one day when the prophet, Samuel, anointed him king. He wasn’t looking to become royalty; God chose him. When it was time for his coronation in front of the people of Israel, Saul was hiding. Bible scholars note that Saul felt inadequate to be king:

  • He was part of an unheralded family of the smallest tribe of Israel.
  • He was being put in a role that was foreign to him.
  • He didn’t even rule his family, but he was being appointed to rule a nation.
  • He wasn’t a warrior, but he had to lead Israel in battle.

And on top of that, there was no example to follow because Israel never had a king. Talk about pressure. Sometimes we feel like Saul did that day. We face seasons and moments of inadequacy. We feel like we’re insufficient or ill-equipped to:

…be a spouse.

…be a parent.

…run or start a business.

…buy a home.

…take on the new role at work.

…go to grad school.

…follow our dreams.

Our inexperience in these areas can bring fear, hesitation, procrastination, worry, and stress. But we can be encouraged by the story of Saul and many others in the Bible. God called Saul to the role of king. Whatever Saul lacked in ability didn’t disqualify him in God’s eyes. God had a plan for him, even if it wasn’t apparent yet. He knew what Saul could become with Him. Whatever endeavor you’re pursuing or role you are in, realize that God has you there. He knows your limits, but He knows your potential as well.

You may not feel “called” or “appointed” to your situation. You may have gotten there by happenstance or mishap. Either way, God has appointed Himself to be with you at all times. And if He’s with you, helping you, then you’re equipped for anything.

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God has a Role for Rejects

Have you ever tried out for a team or auditioned for a role and been rejected? It kinda sucks, right? Or how about applying for an organization or job and getting that kindly worded rejection email? We’ve all been there.

courtesy of compfight
courtesy of compfight

I was reminded of my times of rejection while reading about Gideon in the Bible recently. I’ve always been fascinated with the story Gideon, one of the judges of Israel, because of his journey from being fearful to a mighty warrior leading a pack of 300 men to defeat the Midianites (sort of like Leonidas, but more successful).

In Judges 7, God devises one of the most preposterous battle plans in history, which couldn’t have done much to ease Gideon’s fears. Gideon started with an army of 32,000-strong to take on the Midianites, but God told him that he had too many people and instructed Gideon to tell all those who are afraid to go home — 22,000 departed… 22,000 rejected.

Down to 10,000 men, God said there were still too many, so he devised a test where all the men who didn’t drink water a certain way (whatever that means) were sent home. That left 300 men.

9,700 rejected.

So with 300 men, Gideon went to the Midianite camp in the middle of the night, they played their trumpets, broke some glass, and shouted and that was enough to cause the Midianites to run for their lives. But the intriguing part for me is Judges 7:23, which says:

“And the men of Israel gathered together from Naphtali, Asher, and all Manasseh, and pursued the Midianites.

Though just 300 were set apart for the first battle with Gideon, God used other men to complete the work. And I believe the same men who were sent home because they were afraid or because they were deemed inadequate for the mission by God’s test at the water, were the same ones who gathered together to pursue the Midianites.

God used the rejected.

Despite their original fears, deficiencies, or maybe just not being destined to be among the 300, God still used them. Despite their initial rejection, they still had a role in God’s purpose and plan to deliver Israel.

That should be encouraging to us because despite our weaknesses, fears, and deficiencies, Jesus still has use for us. We still have a role in His plan, and our role is just as important as the 300.

The 31,700 rejected didn’t abandon the cause. They didn’t stop serving God. Sure, they had no clue what Gideon or God was up to. And that journey home was probably frustrating and confusing. They may have questioned God, they may have cursed Gideon, they may have doubted their own abilities. But when the time came to act, when their number was called, they didn’t hesitate. They knew it was their turn. (Heck, they even had the fun part. They didn’t just play trumpets and shout, they actually got to fight).

So even if it appears that you didn’t make the cut and you were initially rejected — whether in ministry, career, business, personal, or professional life — don’t give up, don’t be discouraged, don’t let your dreams die. Your time is coming. God is still calling you to a key role in His plan. Stay ready. You’re not rejected, you’re just reserved for a particular purpose.

 

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Being Led by God to Save Others

By Nadia M. Atkinsonsaving others

I had a conversation with God, wondering when I would start bringing souls to Him. I did not feel capable of the task because I’m what some seasoned Christians would call a baby Christian, having been saved just three years. But for some reason, I knew I was planting seeds all around me at work, with friends, and with my parents. I knew it would come.

Fast forward a few months. One day during class, I received a call from an old friend whom I recently came in contact with two years ago. She is a really busy career woman, so her calling at 8 p.m. during the middle of the week was rare and possibly urgent. It was.

OPPORTUNITY ARISES

Immediately after class I returned her call. She asked me if psychics were something God favored or dishonored since the one she went to talked about God often. See, my friend had never been to a psychic and has been Catholic her entire life. Although she didn’t attend church regularly, she knew something did not feel right with this lady.

My friend was a little confused because the psychic asked her to say a prayer when she got home, and with this prayer she would say the psychic’s name three times before the prayer and three times after the prayer to “god.”

Thinking she would be doing something to fulfill the psychic’s wishes, she did it and immediately developed an intense headache and became very dizzy. She managed to fall asleep but jumped up alarmed by her baby who woke up in the middle of the night screaming and crying saying that he was scared. He is a tough little baby and rarely wakes up in the middle of the night. She picked him up and moved him into her bed. He pulled the blanket over his head and kept repeating he was scared. When my friend turned around, she saw something over her bed.

I immediately grew furious and asked her to stop telling me the story and I was on my way to her home. I called one of my mentors and she prayed for me on the phone. She prayed I wouldn’t be under attack after I left my friend’s home. I was on a mission, and I had to get it done.

FAITH IN ACTION

Trembling, I went into my friend’s home with my heart racing because I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness and never was taught to feel superior to Satan and his demons. I was always afraid and lived in fear. I grew courageous as I entered her home, knowing my past no longer defined who I am today in Christ. I knew God’s anointing was on me because she didn’t ask me to come; I was led there.

I explained to her I may say some things she won’t understand because of her religious background as a Catholic, and I may say some things she hasn’t told me about, but as long as she believed she’d have a peaceful night’s rest and she’d gain everlasting life. She took a deep breath and I began to pray. Once we opened our eyes, I began to prophesy to both her and her son, and before I knew it she accepted Christ into her life as her Lord and Savior. She was very emotional, yet relieved. Praise God.

The next morning, I asked her how she slept, and she said she woke up to her son laughing hysterically in his sleep and she asked to go to church with me on Sunday because in less than 24 hours, she felt completely different — for the better. During church she was filled with happy tears and enjoyed the relief she felt while in the presence of the Lord.

God never ceases to amaze me and I am so blessed to know when the Holy Spirit is telling me to move. It is truly one of His greatest gifts to me. Growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness sheltered me and closed my mind to what God could do in my life. But since I accepted Him into my heart, I know what it means to be a child of God and what it feels like to be led by him.

Nadia is a small business owner in NJ who is God-fearing, trust worthy, and a student of the Word of God. She loves reading, writing, praise and worship, food, the beach, learning about our universe, spending time with family, giving advice, and being in love. She blogs at nadiesbrain.wordpress.com

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