I am a Christian — No Apologies

I make no apologies for my worldview expressed here.

I am a Christian. This is my blog.

In this place I talk about Jesus, God and the Bible as it relates to my personal experiences in life. Some will understand, some will not. I hope I express myself graciously and represent my LORD well. Nonetheless, some will undoubtedly take exception. I do not mean to offend. As a wise person once said, however, “Truth hurts. But we have to tell it. Don’t be upset with the Truth. The Truth won’t change just because it offends you.” Respectful discussion is always welcome. Petulant argument for the sake of ego or insult is not.  As Jim Fay says, “I will be happy to talk to you when your voice is as calm as mine.”

Blessings!
Tamara Christine
Christian blogger

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will go with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12

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True Security

All Judah was happy about the oath, because they made the vow with their whole heart. They willingly sought the LORD and he responded to them. He made them secure on every side.
1 Chronicles 15:15

Chaos and turmoil all round.  Sounds strikingly familiar, doesn’t it?  Just watch or read the news. Everyday it offers up a new litany of strife and insecurity. Add that to personal challenges, tragedies, and the multitude of circumstances gone wrong we face on a daily basis. It can be daunting, crushing, discouraging. It steals my peace, joy, and security, if I let it.

Honestly, sometimes  part of me just wants to give up, pull out, and bunker in. Shut out the world until God finishes defeating all the evil and perfection arrives. Yet this passage illustrates a “more excellent way.”

The story in a few words:
v.2 loyalty, seeking, response
v. 4 distress, seeking, return, response
v. 5-6 surrounding chaos and turmoil
v.7 GOD NOTICES and rewards faithfulness, resist discouragement, stand strong. Such work is not in vain.
v.15 willing whole heart, response, security, happiness.

Do you see the theme developing here?  Willing loyalty, faithfulness and seeking with a whole heart, no reservations, no holding back, prompts GOD’s response.  He notices when I refuse discouragement and do the hard work of standing for Him, even when it feels like I am standing alone.  Even if I AM standing alone. And He shows up.

Peace and security does not come from removing all adversity, nor the lack of affliction and hardship.  Security is GOD’s doing. It is the reward of willing faithfulness when everything and everyone is against me and turmoil surrounds me on all sides.

Resist discouragement. Stand strong and courageous!  Be counted for the LORD – He’s got everything in hand! That’s true joy and security, even if I don’t see it or feel it in the moment.

Just because I don’t understand what He is doing doesn’t mean He isn’t working diligently on my behalf, right here, right now. Not that He will do good for me someday, later, in the future. NOW!  At any given moment, He is there doing good for me NOW, even when I don’t yet see or understand the destination, nor the results.

He is always in motion bringing about the best good for me, no matter the obstacles around me or the crushing circumstances arrayed against me.  And He’s always, always, ALWAYS, right on time!  That is my peace and security and happiness, no matter what else stands against!

For surely, the LORD watches the whole earth carefully and is ready to strengthen those who are devoted to him. 
1 Chronicles 16:9


Blessings!
Tamara Christine

Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9
I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to keep that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.  2 Timothy 1:12

Bushwhacked: Toxic in Disguise

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with everyone.”

Romans 12:18

Shake a stick, wiggle a nose, or a toe, shake your booty — or for the conventionally-minded just raise your hand if you have ever:

◊ had someone you should have been able to trust whitewash over someone else’s bad manners, behavior, words or actions when you were trying to process your hurt?

◊ been told in essence “he/she had good intentions or meant well. Appreciate the heart and let the hurt go.”?

◊ been explicitly or implicitly told that your hurt or complaint is a result of sinful pride, overactive imagination, ingratitude, your own gullibility, resistance to authority or your general incompetence at life and social situations?

◊ had someone try to guilt or denigrate you, publicly or privately, and call into question your judgment and decision-making skills just because you politely decline to take their advice, even though it directly contradicts what GOD has directed you to do?

◊ been overwhelmed by unsolicited and unneeded or redundant advice and opinion?

◊ been ignored by someone 99% of the time until they suddenly decide you are in dire need of their direction to “fix” you?

Keep reading …


Not sure if there is a name for it, but especially in Christian circles, we tend to dish out a lot of unhelpful advice to hurting people dealing with relational difficulties in the name of forgiveness, peace, teachability, and love.  All good things in and of themselves, but when misused to oversimplify complex issues and ignore the negative emotional and practical ramifications of treating everything with spiritualized platitudes, the subtle shaming does more harm than good. It bushwhacks people where they most expect to feel safe and thus betrays their trust at the most fundamental level. At the same time, it maintains a high degree of plausible deniability and preserves the perpetrator’s public image of themselves as a “good person.”

A recent Facebook post posed the question as to why the poster (who wishes to remain anonymous) and her husband seem to have a plethora of “advisors” more than willing to offer unsolicited and uninvited critical “advice and opinion.” Our subsequent interchange brought out several truths about why this happens — and hold onto your seats because this is not a simplistic feel-good list that excuses every motivation, conscious or unconscious, as “good intentions.”

 It is a standard cliche to say something on the order of “at least they care” to justify and minimize it, but honestly, that is not always the case.  Even when it is, a plethora of “good intentions” and redundant “advice” is exquisitely smothering, distressing and unhelpful after the gadzillionth echo.  No matter what people claim or believe about themselves (and want you to buy into) or how stellar their public reputation and image, toxic wears many disguises and “good intentions” are not in the wardrobe.

People don’t like feeling helpless when confronted with foreign experiences and when forced to, quickly develop diarrhea of the tongue because they don’t know what to say so they just parrot every cliche in the book assuming no one else has ever told me this or that if only I (fill in the blank), it will be the magic solution and all my problems (or perceived problems, because what they think the problem is isn’t usually the real problem) will vanish overnight. (spoiler alert:  they don’t!)

People want instant solutions, but even if  I am doing all the right things and progressing steadily toward resolution, it can be a long process. Holes that were decades in the making, take time to crawl out of and fill in. But if my problems don’t instantaneously dissolve and disappear, people assume I am doing something wrong and need their advice, even when I really, really don’t.

When life gets messy, it gets to a point where there are only so many things that can be done and once I’ve planted all the right seeds, I have to be patient and wait for them to come to fruition because harvest does not come as soon as you plant.  So repeating the same advice ad infinitum by a long succession of people who are sure they are the first ones to proffer that idea and that I must not have tried X or I wouldn’t (still) be in this situation, is just patently annoying, even when I try to keep smiling and offering grace.

Unsolicited advice and opinion bombs have been most intense when I was a first-time mom, when I was losing weight, during our escape from DV and extended transition to a new normal; and now as a single mom. I don’t claim to know everything and never need nor will take anyone’s advice about anything.  But so many situations either have so many options and ways that no matter what I choose, someone or several will be sure I should do it their way. They are sure their help is my only chance at salvation and expect undying gratitude and instant conformance to their so-called “expert guidance.”

Being “different” is threatening to some people and they will try to make me fit into their box or the “role” they have assigned me. However, what works for them might not work for me and that’s OK. I have to be secure in my own choices, and go with it or all the conflicting advice will drive me batty. I need to actively reject their assumptions that I am ignorant, defective or mentally and emotionally stunted or unschooled in real life and practicality.

Some people are just really, really sold on “their way” or eager to prove their “expertise” because they are “great and wise” in their own eyes, but insecure about themselves and want or expect constant props, recognition and adulation from me to perpetually shore up their desired reputation and shaky self-confidence. Their whole identity is in being recognized as an “expert” in (fill in the blank) and feel the need to constantly share advice and “correct my deviance” to prove to themselves and everyone else that they are who they think they are and want me to believe they are.

When my experience is outside anything someone can personally relate to, they are uncomfortable when confronted with it. Especially if they feel or assume (usually wrongly) that I expect them to get personally involved in solutions; or they feel guilty because they know they should or could be of practical help but they don’t want to.

Christian Blog

Many people are afraid that getting involved or having a real relationship with me is a sucking black hole of neediness. Cultural conditioning based on media coverage of worst-case scenarios, and not an accurate assessment of my specific situation, character, personal responsibility, work ethic and resourcefulness fuels faulty assumptions, Christianese platitudes and empty promises to “pray for you” as a shield (because it sounds like the right thing to say, not because they actually think of me for one second after they make their escape from our encounter).

As Abram told the king of Sodom, he wouldn’t take even a thread from him for fear that he would say, “I made Abram rich.”  Some people really want to write themselves into my story so they can take credit for any future success I might have and are determined that I believe as they do that I would be nothing without them, that any success I have is because of their advice and influence. It is a bid for power and control over me, a means to manipulate me if I take their advice or if they even think and presume to claim that their advice was what “made” me. Consciously or unconsciously, it is a means to obligate and oppress my own independent development, thought and function.

Some people spiritualize it and try to make it an issue of spiritual leadership and authority over my life. They presume to be the voice of GOD in my life and assume that I am incapable of hearing from GOD on my own. They want me to believe that they know better than I what GOD’s will and direction is for my life and demonize me when I disagree and won’t play along. They assume that if what GOD has clearly told or directed me is different than what they think I should do (and attribute to “GOD’s will”), I am wrong at best. Likely they will reflect their own tactic back on me and accuse me of stubborn pride or that I am the one trying to force my own will on GOD because I presume to communicate with GOD without going through them.

Opinions are free and everyone has one and some people feel their major role in life and contribution to the world is to make sure everyone around them knows their opinion about everything. They leave a trail of unsolicited advice behind them as they navigate life without stopping to see if it was really needed or relevant because they feel the need to assert their presence wherever they go whether they know what they are talking about or not.

It’s a way of getting and keeping attention on themselves—and in many cases, they fail to realize that their uninformed opinions and false claims of “expertise” only make them look foolish and make them a laughing stock among those who actually know the topic of which they speak; and an annoyance to everyone else who knows they can’t possibly be a master of everything under the sun, that real life isn’t made up of easy pat answers for complex problems, and really just wants to carry on an adult conversation without being constantly interrupted and dismissed as “uneducated” by an ego centrist who can’t let anyone else be right about anything.

My FB friend adds another possibility:  Success breeds envy. High achievers can invite “wishful judgment,” to use her words. I would add that it is not only visible success that can provoke certain personalities to try to bring me down.  Sometimes it can just be that I am more successful or talented at something than they are and they actually have a low opinion of me for whatever reason (although they would never admit it, that would be “unchristian.”) and think I don’t deserve it. They feel life is unfair at giving me what they wish they had so they either engage in passive-aggressive retaliation, or they dismiss the skill or success as trivial, unimportant and lacking in any real value in an attempt to raise themselves by poking holes in my balloon.

So what to do about it when I can’t change someone else’s behavior?

  • Be discreet about who I share the nitty-gritty details of my life with.  Not everyone who should be safe or presents themselves that way, actually is.
  • If I can safely remove the unsafe or toxic person, I do it. If it is family or colleagues, that are not easily removable, limiting contact and steeling myself for planned/expected contact times may be the best I can do.
  • Choose wisely, my son/daughter, who and what advice to listen to.  Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors, they succeed.”  Nonetheless, while going it alone is not always wise, neither is the confused babble of much conflicting advice and shaming by those who have their heart set on their own gain, not the LORD’s glory, purpose and calling in my life.  There is such a thing as too much advice and if it is causing insecurity, self-doubt, and shame about my own abilities, perceptions, and judgment, or causing emotional conflict or paralysis, it isn’t from Him. Where GOD is there will be peace, not condemnation.
  •  I find that keeping silent is often the better part of wisdom when dealing with toxically difficult or indifferent, but opinionated people who drop opinion bombs and prance off without a care for the damage they might have done, any real respect or compassion for their victims or thought for their true well-being or desire for ongoing relationship between equals or desire to hear the truth. As Hezekiah told his men to not reply to the mocking message, my pastor says the wisest response to someone who doesn’t want to hear the truth nor be open to the possibility of their own error, is silence—and let GOD handle it.
  • Most people will claim a motivation of “good intentions” because no one likes to think ill of themselves. But just cause they think it, doesn’t make it so and doesn’t really help the recipient of said unsolicited advice and unwanted opinion. It’s still annoying, but all I can do is smile, nod, ignore and go back to doing what GOD asked me to do or what works for me in my specific situation.
  • Calling these people out is generally ineffective at stopping the behavior because they are usually clueless and so entrenched in their own importance, authority or “good intentions” that they don’t hear me at best and get offended and vindictive at worst. Nor is it the path of “peace with everyone, insofar as it depends on me.” (Romans 12:18).
  • I cannot control or change their behavior, but I am in control of my response and how much I let it affect me and get into my head or under my skin. We may not be able to have a deep and meaningful relationship but I don’t need to purposely stir the pot and brew up kettles of bitterness, strife, anger, and antagonism. That’s not the place I want my head and heart to live, no matter what hurtful choices someone else may make. I can protect myself and my kids from being collateral damage or scapegoats without letting negative and difficult people rule my emotions, thoughts, and actions and turn me into something neither I nor GOD want me to be.

Bottom line — I don’t let them live rent-free in my head!

When you oversimplify pat solutions to complex problems, you run the risk of being patronizing and condescending, of devaluing the person and whitewashing the problem, or fixing the problem you want to fix without actually finding out if that is the problem that needs fixing, or if the person actually needs or wants your help. Even if they do, is that the solution that will actually fix things long-term or just a temporary stop-gap that makes you feel good that you did “something” but leaves the person no better off in the long run. 

Or your fear and inaction leave them twisting in the wind with no practical help or compassion at all.  You may or may not be part of GOD’s solution for them, but assuming no without asking or putting conditions and limits on your involvement that GOD did not actually stipulate will not go well for anyone.

The truth is that no matter how well-meaning, even seemingly good advice may not be wise advice when all is said and done. As my FB friend says, “Only the LORD can give sure guidance, but wise counselors are those who help the inquirer/seeker find answers within themselves, and lead them to the LORD to do so.” When all is said and done, the answer to dealing with difficult people and unsolicited opinions is to make sure the voice you are listening to in moments of decision is GOD’s and not the nosy sheep next door or the wolf in sheep’s clothing, even if they have forgotten they are a wolf and insist that they are your average, ordinary, every day, friendly sheep from the hood. Listen to your instincts. If it feels like shame and condemnation, it is.

But in Christ, there is no condemnation so you know that’s not His voice.  He doesn’t change His opinion of you based on your Facebook and Twitter likes or friends and followers count.  He doesn’t check your references with everyone at your work and church and family when deciding to “hire” you for His kingdom call.  He doesn’t listen to the gossip vine to form his assessment of your “worthiness.”  Be the sheep who knows the Shepherd’s voice and go with that no matter what anyone else says, because ultimately, you are only answerable to Him and are only who He says you are and He brooks no disagreement from your naysayers. Believe it, step into it with confidence that He has your back when you walk where He calls you.

 

Bittersweet

The taste of our family’s world right now is — bittersweet.  For those of you who don’t know, my oldest nephew, Taylor, my brother’s oldest was killed in a hit-and-run accident while jogging with his best friend in Phoenix almost a month ago, just three weeks before we all planned to be at his wedding.  So the stages of grief abruptly replaced the anticipation of joyful celebration. That’s the bitter.

His “Final Summit” service (he’s a mountain climber and backpacking guide during the summer) was amazing! So many testimonies of how at just 21 his infectious smile and passionate pursuit of Jesus had already impacted so many people around him for the Kingdom — goofiness, adrenaline seeker tendencies and all, his life pointed people to Jesus. As my brother said, “It’s everything you ever want to hear about your son, but hope you’ll never hear here on earth,” because you won’t be around to hear the epitaphs. The service was live-streamed and it was the only time I’ve ever seen a memorial end with an altar call.  How could you not though after all the testimony about his strong and courageous faith and heart to be salt and light wherever he was in the moment? And people responded, making hundreds of commitments and recommitments in the room and who knows how many from the live-stream because of the media coverage the story garnered. That’s a legacy I want for me and my kids that people could see Jesus in us so the testimony about him making a difference even in his short life, that’s is the awesomely sweet; and the fact that, yes, we know where he is.  As Sarah, his fiancee said, “You better be climbing the tallest mountain in heaven right now!”

This sucks for all of us here, but as my brother testified, “Taylor LEFT NO DOUBT where he is now” and he is happy hanging out with Jesus and thrilled that he beat us all there because he liked to be first. LOL!  And so much love has come out of this:  their church family stepping up with a month’s worth of meals, airlines easily transferring the wedding tickets to Phoenix tickets so they could get there quickly to be with Sarah, Drew (the best man) and their second born, Jordan who is also a student down there.  Inundations of prayers, logistical helps, pictures, and memories of Taylor’s 21 years of life.  More sweet.

Community organizations and high school alma mater doing fundraisers to cover the extra unexpected expenses and memorial scholarships and awards, last minute arrangements for Sarah and company to attend a worship conference of her choice on what should have been her wedding weekend and feel God’s healing and comfort even through the tears. The investigation is ongoing but police said even finding the vehicle was a needle in a haystack — but they did. There are other details I cannot share publicly at this time, but even in the midst of tragedy and grief the hand of God is moving to bring “purpose out of pain,” as my pastor, whose oldest was murdered 4 years ago, says. Bouncing back and forth between the stages of grief and walking out the rest of the story, even while holding onto our hope of heaven because of a God who sent his son to die so Taylor could live, so all of us could live and walk into an even better future than we can possibly imagine when our time is up here. And Taylor doesn’t have to imagine it anymore, he’s living the dream. The bittersweet.

Remembering his passion, joy and sometimes reckless pursuit of life, adventure, and Jesus and trying to honor that and #liveliketwhite as the social media tag has dubbed it; and be happy for all the people that are closer to Jesus #BecauseofTaylor and that he is in the best place of all and we get to go there too someday….that’s the sweetness of hope and faith.

Yet at the same time, we are walking out the reality of the “Great Intermission” between heaven and earth before we can see him again.  It defies all logic, reason and head knowledge and platitudes don’t help when the pain cuts deep.  As my brother says, nothing about this makes sense nor ever can or will. We may learn to live with the pain over time, but there is nothing that will ever make this right, make it OK. Whether the perpetrator is caught or not, whether they spend a day or a lifetime in prison, it won’t make any of us feel better. Justice — yes. But even that won’t make everything OK again, won’t bring him back. We just have to hold onto God and as my sis-in-love says, “let God breathe for us.”  Trust Him to hold us, guide us and get us from here to there, where all bitter will disappear and we will have only the sweetness of Jesus’ presence forever.

Blessings!
Tamara Christine

If you have been reading this blog or gotten an email from me in the last several years, you will know that this is MY VERSE (1:9) and has been since my own mountaintop experience with GOD when I was 19. This is Taylor’s Bible and life verse.  We had a lot more in common than I even knew:

taylors bible Joshua 1

Joshua 1

Admin note: I have mixed feelings about the sudden influx of blog followers after years of just a handful or two.  Make no mistake, if you are a real follower and not a spammer, welcome. I hope what I have to say blesses you.  Please let me know if you actually read this so I can get motivated to be more consistent with my posting. I know I have kind of slacked off in the last several months, largely because in spite of stats saying I have followers, I rarely hear from anyone, most comments submitted for approval are spam and the page visit stats are even lower than my follower count, so it feels like I am speaking into the wind.  Not very motivating after awhile.  But the “mixed feelings” come in because I know I haven’t done anything lately to attract such a regular influx of new subscribers so I am left to suspect one of two things: 1.  the spammers and fake subscribers are on the loose again and the numbers mean nothing. -or- 2. Some of y’all have found me through all the social media posts about Taylor, maybe you know my brother and fam or read the news accounts and saw my name in the comments thanking people for their prayers and love on behalf of our family — and it’s illogical and not your fault, but part of me just feels wrong about benefitting in any way from the death of someone I’d rather have back than a have an army of followers and readers.  I’m sure it is just part of the grieving process, but if you are for real, not a scammer/spammer/rubbernecker, please leave me a comment letting me know what prompted you to subscribe to my blog at this time. If I hear crickets — as usual — I will assume no one is actually reading or that the subscriptions are more fake accounts.  Thank you.  Tamara Christine

The Loneliness of Superficiality

If you are part of my life or have been reading this blog, the last few years, you have undoubtedly caught wind of the fact that the kids and I have been through a storm of epic proportions — and found GOD faithful even when the road did not go as planned.  The issue is not my trust in GOD for roadblocks that come up even now. That is almost automatic at this point.  Not completely for I have not yet reached perfection –ha!  But running to GOD is more instinctual than in past years for sure. The problem is that those that don’t assume a self-righteous attitude that I need them to control my life in order to “fix” it, generally hold themselves aloof and “damn with faint praise” while not truly letting me be part of their lives nor accepting invitations to be part of mine.

I have been repeatedly told by various church leaders and those of my church family that have walked with me through the storm to the best of their ability that “people” are watching how I am facing the storms with faith and it is ministering to them.  I don’t know who these “people” are because they never talk to me.  OK–yes, I am glad that my paltry attempts to draw closer to GOD in all this so as not to let it break me is a good witness and beneficial to someone else’s faith.  I surely want to be a good witness of my GOD without a doubt.  What bothers me is that as nearly as I can tell, all this reported “admiration” bears no fruit in stimulating relationship.  Such superficiality creates a sense of loneliness even when surrounded by a crowd of obligatory “kindness.”

I do not seek any admiration from anyone and absolutely DO NOT want pity or obligatory, forced “compassion.”  I am not looking to play a victim or sympathy card here or be an emotional or financial black hole, expecting other people to meet my every need, emotional and material.  If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re missing the point  — real relationship is lacking when you “admire” from afar but bar that person from your life or only let them in superficially for appearance’s sake. Meet and greet, polite chit chat but nothing really real while you blithely socialize freely with other people in front of them, in person and online, making it clear that they are not among your “real friends” to be included in the fun things that friends do together. Sometimes you even actively avoid them and stop talking to them altogether if they press too hard  for a real relationship. Cue loneliness.

I don’t know whether people do it because they are: (A) afraid of getting sucked into an emotional/financial trap (not my intent AT ALL); or (B) the self-righteous type who only wants to control and manipulate my solutions according to their own prejudicial vision of who I am and what I need without ever investing time in getting to know the real me and what I really need; or (C) if said “people” think they need to protect themselves from me because they jump to unfair conclusions about my character because of the nature of the storm without bothering to learn the truth about me; or if (D) “people” are put off by the storm (it’s NOT catching!!) or just don’t know how to relate because they have never been through it themselves, and so keep their distance; or if (E) some have put me on a pedestal because of the alleged admiration of my faith in the storm and don’t feel like I am approachable because of it because they don’t think they could do it.

NEWS FLASH — Neither could I!  It’s not me.  It’s GOD.  I am just a regular, flawed human being, no better or worse than anyone else, in spite of what I’ve been through. If it’s A, B, or C, you really need to get over jumping to conclusions about a person based on what they’ve been through or how things appear to you without investing real time in getting to know the individual and setting aside your prejudices and self-righteous “advising” and manipulation or avoidance. If it is D or E — relax already!! We are all in different places on our spiritual journey and life experiences; that doesn’t make me better than you or vice versa. I’m a nice person, a responsible adult who intimately knows that without GOD I am nothing and I would not be where I am today without Him.  I don’t bite. I am not scary. This is not a trap. But I am human and it does hurt when you avoid me and keep me on the outskirts of your life for no apparent reason, even if it is because of your own baggage.

For most of those I am talking to, and if it’s you, you should know it, I have repeatedly invited you into my life and you have repeatedly put me off, in spite of superficial appearances of friendship.  I won’t force the issue if you do not reciprocate.  But just so you know that your lack of reciprocity has a hurtful impact.  If this makes you want to reach out out of guilt, don’t bother.  As the LORD loves a cheerful giver, I only want those in my life who WANT to be there and WANT to have me in theirs.

Maybe that is part of the problem — because I have a spidey sense for fakes and phonies and superficial and being seen through makes people uncomfortable; and when they are uncomfortable, they tend to blame me for being anti-social or judgemental, rather than discerning.  But if you are sincere, respectful, truly kind and willing to follow through on relationship building, we shouldn’t have that problem. I won’t chase you down though. You have to want to move beyond the “casual acquaintance” or freeze out zone enough to pursue my friendship because I am so done knocking where I am apparently not wanted. In my world, lonely is better than fake, although I’d prefer neither. If you want to change the status quo between us, you should know how to reach me.   (If you only know me online, I am not talking to you.  I don’t give personal contact info to people I don’t know in person.) Not holding my breath that anyone is really listening….so surprise me.

P.S. Don’t bother leaving comments about this only being a temporary season or gaslight me saying my experience isn’t real or that I’m only imagining it or tell me it will get better if only I (fill in the blank), just surround myself with people who do care, get out more, and yadi yadi ya.  I’ve lived in my life. You haven’t. This is real and it is chronic and I am sticking to my story. I am not an idiot. If that’s all it was, I wouldn’t be writing about it. Pat psychological or “spiritual” answers are not a panacea to instantly turn things around in the way I want.  Real people don’t follow Hollywood scripts and solve all their problems in under 2 hours. People don’t change because I want them to.  Whatever “advice” you have, I’ve already tried it.  It doesn’t work because it isn’t me. I am not defective or unloveable or anti-social or judgemental or prideful or arrogant or a sucking black hole of neediness or any other “label” that anyone has ever assigned me, privately or to my face.  I’m perfectly fine with me the way I am; and so is GOD. Not a self-esteem or shame issue here, although I never claim to be perfect. Of course, I am still growing and learning, but I know I am not fundamentally flawed as a human being nor in my social, emotional, spiritual being. If I like me and GOD likes me, that only leaves one party who evidently can’t or won’t see me the way He sees me.  It’s not me….!

Blessings!
Tamara Christine

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.  2 Timothy 1:12

 

So You Think You Want to Be a Leader…

Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 

Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.  He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Titus 1:5-9

Christian blog

Leadership has been on my mind a lot lately. Not because I am seeking any particular position of leadership.  I’ll leave the selection and appointment of that in GOD’s hands if that is something He has in my future.  And not because of any of the political battles raging wild since last year’s election season. That also is in GOD’s hands. No, my current concern with leadership is far more personal involving learning discernment in who is actually ready to handle the mantle of leader in my life and graciously putting away the pushy ambitions of those who aspire to such a position but are not actually ready for the responsibility.

It occurred to me that the roots of caution where leadership is concerned go far back before my current situation.  Mind you, I have every respect for truly Godly leaders who speak life giving encouragement and correction into my life, but I have learned to be very careful in granting someone this right. Probably because I have seen far too much abuse by self-proclaimed “leaders” who mistake contentious and quarrelsome bossiness and tyrannical control and manipulation for real leadership.

The church I attended until I was 10 years old when my dad’s job transferred him across the state, went nuclear and dissolved about a year or so after we moved away due to serious corruption in the leadership.  I heard all the horror stories from the “refugees” who would come visit my parents and talk when they forgot that little pitchers have big ears.  Anyone who thinks that a child wouldn’t understand or perceive hidden wrongs perpetrated by wolves in sheep’s clothing, don’t be so sure.  I didn’t know all the specifics of what went on behind the scenes and some I didn’t know even as an adult until the last 10 years or so when I started noticing some lingering attitudinal patterns among those who came out of that disaster even decades later and began questioning my mom for more details to better understand how the failure of leadership affected a whole generation in that town.  None of it was truly surprising because even as a child I would watch and listen and get this sense that something wasn’t quite right. But when you are young, it isn’t quite the thing to tell adults they are wrong, especially in a culture where questioning was not encouraged.  So hearing the details just confirmed and vindicated all those hidden childhood wonderings and doubts that all was actually as it seemed.

Then there were numerous authority figures who repeatedly drummed in the idea that something was wrong with me in the name of “constructive criticism.” If only I dressed right, had the right hairstyle or makeup, prayed more, believed more, was “more friendly” (read: outgoing, social butterfly, not so bookish and quiet), or conformed to whatever their current idea of perfection happened to be, then all my “problems” (as they perceived them anyway) would go away.  I never truly bought into their narrative of me, maybe because I already knew on some level from the first debacle above, that my perception of reality was more accurate than what many people wanted me to believe.  But fending it off was and is exhausting.  I know who and Whose I am and that only what He says about me is of any consequence in the grand scheme of things.  So anyone who starts to sound like a self-righteous critic without actually getting to know me and establishing creds is automatically disqualified as a leader in my life.

Can’t leave out the college kids who formed their own little clique of religious “leadership” and used it to pass judgment on and exclude anyone who they decided didn’t make the hyper-spiritual cut. Or those who let me into their group but only so far, keeping me at the fringes, as the saying goes, “damning with faint praise” or superficial kindness and uncalled for pity just to assuage their consciences of being so “accepting” and “inclusive” while actually stiff arming me from actually being part of their social life or fellowship as an equal.

By the time I graduated, I was so sick of the whole thing that I made the fatal error of running the other way, determined to show them I could do it my own way.  In the process, I forgot to wait for GOD’s timing and to check up on the leadership qualities of those I let into my life.  BIG MISTAKE!!  22 years later — that went nuclear in the worst possible ways.  He never was ready for leadership but I turned a blind eye and convinced myself that GOD wasn’t watching, that things would turn out OK anyway just so I could prove everyone wrong about me. Needless to say, it wasn’t and now I am doubly meticulous about vetting anyone who I think even hypothetically might possibly be wanting to be in a leadership position in my life at some future point.

This is not meant to proclaim some kind of victimhood and beg for pity because above all else, I despise pity and false kindness meant for show or as a backward way of showing that someone actually doesn’t care and just wants me to go away where their inaction and lack of caring doesn’t make them feel guilty.  I am only abbreviating my experiences with misplaced and misused leadership to illustrate the point that dictatorial control, manipulative mind games, using guilt and criticism to break someone down until they conform to your desires, and self-righteous arrogance only serve to destroy any leader creds you may think you have.

My pastor talked about the idea of headship when we went through Ephesians:

For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.  But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…

Ephesians 5:23-25

Paul is talking about husbands and wives here but the principle he elaborates can be applied to anyone who expects to have a leadership role over anyone else.  My pastor described how many people misinterpret these verses to mean that the husband gets to have some kind of tyrannical, bossy, pugnacious control over the wife.  This is pointedly contrary to the heart of GOD.  What he pointed out was that, as the centurion pointed out in Matthew 8, having authority comes from being under authority. So the one who wishes to lead, whether it be a husband, father, a ministry leader or someone who wants to lead his or her employees in a Godly manner, must first be under GOD’s  authority.  If that relationship is out of whack, then any attempt at leadership will be out of sync with GOD’s will and heart because there is no grant of authority from the Highest Authority. As Jesus pointed out in Matthew 20, the one who wishes to wield authority must first serve those he or she wishes to lead. That’s true leader creds!

So if you are someone looking to exercise leadership over anyone, husbands and wives, parents and children, ministry leaders and congregation, or manager and employees, start with finding ways to serve, edify, and encourage those you wish to lead rather than following the example of the worldly minded leaders Jesus called out in this passage for lording it over their constituents.  When your true heart is to love and sacrifice your own self-interest for them and let GOD take care of your own needs, then you are a leader after GOD’s own heart, worthy of my trust. Until then, GOD wants a word with you about your spiritual health and I will wait until He is done shaping, molding, and transforming you into a truly Godly leader.


Blessings!
Tamara Christine

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.  2 Timothy 1:12

 

Hanging Out With Imperfect People

Disclaimer: I am not referring in this post to people who need to cut ties with a theologically unsound church because of serious toxic culture and people issues; nor to those who are temporarily in the short-term process of searching for a church home.  I recognize there are legitimate concerns and reasons to change churches or to resonate more strongly with one or another, something that varies from person to person. I have concerns, however, with the gypsy mentality that just never sets down relational roots anywhere and that is what I am talking about here. So read carefully, and if it doesn’t apply to your situation, it must be for someone else, so please no hate mail or wounded defensiveness. I am NOT trying to personally attack anyone!

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 

A recent blog post from Proverbs 31 Ministries made me start thinking again about something that has been on my mind for a while, and especially the last few months because I’ve noticed what to me is an odd trend for Christians, at least in my circles. It kind of bothers me, quite frankly because the aversion to hanging out with imperfect people seems like a tool of the enemy to divide and disconnect the Christian witness of believers even further as we look at an increasingly hostile world and a growing number of signs that Jesus mentioned in His description of end times.  (This is not my main point so if you want to discuss/debate end times theology, please choose another time and place!)

In the process of describing the importance of weekly fellowship with other believers, P31 blogger Arlene Pellicane mentions several typical reasons why people stop going to church services. Accusations of hypocrisy, past hurts, “I can do it myself,” or the modern pandemic of over-busyness. I have heard all of them before so she is right in her partial list of excuses.  However, I have heard variations on a theme the last few months from several people who by all appearances are established members of a local fellowship, but suddenly start bailing or avoiding services for petty personal preferences.

Furthermore, I have noticed the last ten years or so, more and more people are doing the church gypsy thing on a more or less permanent basis. They go wherever their fancy takes them — or not, for any given service. Or they go somewhere for a few months or years and then just up and move on with no better excuse than “It’s just time for a change.”  No mention of GOD is calling them to something new, which would be a legitimate reason. Just “I’m bored and need a change of scenery.” Or worse, “I’ve learned everything that this pastor has to say. I need new material,” or “The new worship/youth leader just isn’t my cup of tea. He/she isn’t meeting my needs/expectations.” Or “I’ll only come when so and so is teaching/leading worship.”

What concerns me is the common theme that they are putting all the responsibility on the ministry leaders for carrying the weight of the whole worship experience and faith growth all by themselves without acknowledging that the quality of their relationship with GOD is a participatory activity.  No relationship can survive long when one person expects to be passively entertained, nurtured and served by another without any reciprocal effort to maintain their end of the relationship. Of course, serving should never be about what you’re going to get out of it, but when one person is doing all the giving while the other only takes and feels entitled to it, that is a patently toxically unhealthy relationship!  It doesn’t work in human relationships and it won’t work with GOD and His church either!!

It is worrisome in a time when Christians need to be pulling together more than ever that the trend is more and more toward an impersonal disconnect, even in the local church.  It almost feels like there’s this determined bent to avoid relationships at all. Maybe because the world tells us busy is the way to be, or maybe because of the isolation brought on by modern technology; or maybe because we are all imperfect people who undoubtedly have the capacity to hurt each other, intentionally or unintentionally.

Whatever the reason, avoiding gathering together robs believers of their God-designed spiritual and emotional support network to walk with each other through whatever spiritual, physical, financial, relational/emotional and practical trials life throws at us. It shortchanges people their opportunities to serve one another the way Christ served His church. If I bail as soon as something isn’t exactly to my liking or which stretches my limitations or vision and fail to consider that I may be in the wrong or that I may learn something from an unexpected person or circumstance,  I may be missing an opportunity to let GOD grow me outside my comfort zone and come out better and stronger in faith for it.

Having found a Biblically-sound church, with a heart of true worship and fellowship, and invested time in becoming established and building relationships there, it is beyond petty to start distancing oneself because of personalities or seasons that pass in the night; or because I am experiencing a temporary spiritual low and blaming it on the leaders instead of looking to strengthen myself in the Word. I will not find any permanent answer or solution by running around looking for someone else to meet my emotional/spiritual void instead of investing myself in growing right where I am. It’s like they say, “The problem with running away to ‘find myself’ is that wherever I go, there I am.”

Worship and ministry leaders can come and go. One may resonate more strongly than another with different people. But just as in any relationship, I have to take responsibility for my own worship and faith experience and carry my own weight or I am in danger of falling into a personality cult mentality instead of keeping my focus on GOD. If the quality of my faith depends wholly on the person up front giving me all my favorite feelies all the time, my focus is in the wrong place! If I avoid “gathering” because of unmet stylistic personal preferences, I am putting too much responsibility for my relationship with God and His church in the hands of fallible human beings who will never be able to meet all my needs anyway. It’s not their job to carry all the relational weight on both sides and if that is what I expect, I will surely live in a perpetual state of disappointment and unhealthy relationships. If the eyes of my heart are fixed on communing with my GOD and being a conduit of His grace and mercy to others, I can have sweet worship and fellowship no matter what’s happening or not happening on stage!

If this convicts you or causes your defensive hackles to start rising, please talk to GOD about it. Be open to the leading of His Holy Spirit and listen for His still small whisper of course correction. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone in particular so if this speaks to you in some way, it may be that you and GOD have some issues to work out one on one. And if GOD actually IS calling you to a new ministry or season of life, by all means, always go with what GOD says…just make sure it is Him speaking and not your own wounded ego or pride or unrealistic expectations.


Blessings!
Tamara Christine

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.  2 Timothy 1:12

GOD the Wallbreaker: Not a Prisoner of My Past

‘For I will restore you to health and  I will heal you of your wounds,’ declares the LORD, ‘because they have called you an outcast, saying: “It is Zion; no one cares for her.” ‘
Jeremiah 30:17

Instead of your shame, you will receive a double portion and instead of disgrace, you will rejoice in your inheritance.
Isaiah 61:7

I’ve seen it all in my lifetime –and you can probably relate: senseless persecution, unfounded defamatory assumptions, snap judgments based on circumstances beyond my control or because I stand for GOD when the world says I shouldn’t — or don’t when I should, when I know better but  let my flesh have its way; mean-spirited and selfish accusations or gossip bearing zero resemblance to reality and masquerading as well-meaning advice or “constructive” criticism;  or sometimes actually meant to destroy and discredit me and bring me down or keep down to the same level of misery as my detractors and critics. Or those who will not allow themselves to be part of GOD’s plan for their own life, let alone mine, because of their own hurts and broken places.

Nonetheless, THIS I KNOW:

GOD sees every prejudice, blind and unfounded assumption, unfair judgment, persecution, unkindness, and ignorance, or blind eye of inaction, or experience of invisibility, or lack of compassion or involvement that has ever come against me or reared its ugly head in my presence or behind my back. He knows the cry of the outcast and He has heard my heart for Him. There is no wall he cannot break down. My GOD is a wallbreaker!

No matter what anyone else thinks or says, I matter to Him and only what He thinks of me matters.  I must resist believing the lies of insignificance or perpetual failure. I am NOT stuck because my GOD is bigger than anything that comes against me, or that dares to stand in the way of the promises He has made me.

He is bringing healing and restoration, in place of shame and disgrace and false assumptions of ill repute, even as we speak. I am not an outcast, for He accepts me. I am NOT uncared for, for in His eyes, I am a cherished daughter and He loves me beyond measure. I am NOT a prisoner of shame and disgrace, for He is bringing transformation, even now.

My GOD is a wallbreaker — working even now to demolish strongholds and bring me to a place of rejoicing, even greater than what He has already done for me.  He will never fail me, for He is GOOD and He is FOR me! I stand on that promise in complete faith that He will bring about every good thing that He has promised me, for the opposition does not stand a chance of resisting the power of my GOD to bless me in every way He sees fit. May it be done to me as He has promised!

Dear LORD,
I know You are a GOD who demolishes strongholds and breaks down walls that have the audacity to try to stand between Your will and Your beloved. I stand now in complete faith and boldness that You will do all that You have promised and that not a single roadblock will thwart Your plan to replace what has been broken in my life with healing and restoration beyond my wildest dreams. I want to be part of Your Unio Mystica that reflects Your perfect glory to a very broken world. May it be so just as You have said. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


Blessings!
Tamara Christine

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.  2 Timothy 1:12

Confidence Though I Cannot See

“You who know, O LORD, remember me and take notice of me. Take vengeance for me on my persecutors. Do not, in view of Your patience take me away. Know that for Your sake I endure reproach. Your words were found and I ate them. Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I have been called by Your Name, O LORD GOD of Hosts…Therefore,” thus says the LORD, “[Since] you have retuned to me, I will restore you — before Me you will stand…I will make you…a fortified wall of bronze; and though they fight against you, they will not prevail over you. For I am with you to save you and deliver you,” declares the LORD. “So I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent.”

Jeremiah 15:15-16, 19-21

Dear, LORD, my LORD,
Such is my prayer — that I would be found faithful to walk in the disciplines You have taught me, that You may show Yourself mighty on my behalf, according to Your Word. (2 Chronicles 16:9)  Let Your words be found in me and find a resting place in my heart and mind, that they may take root and grow and be a continual joy and delight, a nourishing meal and sustenance for my soul to grown in strength and confidence of Your provision for every good thing and every provision and fulfillment of every promise, no matter the reluctance and opposition that comes against me. I stand on Your promises of continued restoration and deliverance and redemption of all past wrongs. My confidence is in Your sufficiency and power to the breaking down of strongholds and determined opposition. You are able to bring about the transformation necessary to make Your promises come true, regardless of the depth of brokenness coming against me and Your work in my life. My hope and my confidence  is in You alone. May it be done to me as You have said and promised. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


Blessings!
Tamara Christine

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD, your GOD will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

“I am not ashamed, for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12

When Jesus Speaks, My Circumstances Listen

But Jesus said…”Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.  
[keep on believing]

Mark 5:36

Impossible situations. No way out. No amount of striving or working had helped–or would help. But when Jesus speaks, circumstances change in an instant and it happens just as He says.

In the midst of our tumultuous circumstances of the last few years, at least one well-meaning person has advised me, “Pray like it all depends on GOD and work like it all depends on you.” GOD is not a magical genie granting wishes on demand and catering to my every whim without any effort on my part, so I won’t deny that there is some wisdom there. To be sure, GOD will not dance to my tune and is not at my beck and call. Without a doubt, it does not work like that. I can’t manipulate and control GOD nor paint Him into a corner where I pull the puppet strings and He acts according to my desire.

But in trying to prove my faith and participate in solutions, I can wander down the garden path in the opposite direction of apathy and learned helplessness. When my working and striving becomes my idol, I start to unconsciously think or act like that my solutions depend on impressing GOD so with my work and sacrifice or by the book adherence to “holiness” or “faith” that any failure on my part means I am disqualified from His blessing or promise. I feed an insecurity that says, “You messed this up by not being perfect. You have to do more to prove to GOD that you deserve His blessing and promise. You’ll only get it when you’ve “earned” it with enough compliance and goodness. It’s all your own fault if you don’t get it.”

That is the enemy speaking lies from the pit of hell. Nothing I do can impress GOD! While I shouldn’t sit around and do nothing and expect GOD to jump to and give me everything I ever wanted as an entitlement; or that it will appear magically out of the blue, dropped in my lap with zero effort to live a godly life on my part, His blessings do not depend on me!

On the contrary, it depends on His heart for me and that is always  for good.  In His time, it will never fail to happen. When He speaks the word, my circumstances listen. They jump to attention and obey the Word of the Master and the impossible becomes possible in the hands of my GOD.  I just need to keep believing in His word and promises and that He is able and willing, not that I am capable or deserving. It will turn out just as He says!

Christian blogger

Blessings!
Tamara Christine

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

 I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.  2 Timothy 1:12