healing the body

Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, lupus, MS, and Type 1 diabetes are horrible illnesses that wreak havoc on their sufferers.

The definition of an autoimmune disease is basically a disease where the body turns on and starts attacking it’s own tissue, leading to it’s own deterioration or even destruction. It usually involves a great deal of inflammation and pain, and is a frustrating, even agonizing, state of being. It is when the body gets confused over who the real enemy is, and what it’s supposed to be fighting against (real diseases or toxins, etc.) and instead, starts fighting with its own self. The conventional methods to dealing with this phenomena usually involve treating only the symptoms…trying to best deal with the resulting pain rather than digging deeper to try to get at what might be more root causes. Sometimes these “fixes” also end up causing more damage to the body. What is often needed is a time consuming process of learning to be sensitive, in tune, exploratory and open to new ideas to see if the disease can be dealt with at a more foundational level. This approach requires a lot of commitment to the process, trial and error, patience and a firm belief that the body is worth it. That healing can ultimately come if the real root issues are able to be addressed.

However, this post is not actually one about physical illness. I have no medical background whatsoever. But as I have spent some time reading about these ailments, I was struck by something of a more spiritual nature that seems to parallel the physical.

Sadly, I think the Church may have an autoimmune disease.

It seems to me that the Church may be losing sight of who it really is, what it’s purpose is, and rather than working together to fight an Enemy that the Bible tells us is, in fact, real…we instead have turned on each other and are fighting ourselves, causing deterioration and destruction within our own Body. Just like an autoimmune disease.

First let me present the picture of health that the Church is meant to be. The Bible says that the Church is people…people that have committed themselves to living out the life and representation of Jesus and his ministry on the earth, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The Bible also gives us a beautiful picture of diversity, working together in unity, by giving us the analogy of the Church as a body. It says in 1 Corinthians 12 that the body is one unit, made up of many differing parts that all are in desperate need of one another; none is able to say of itself that it is greater than any other.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. ~ 1 Cor. 12:11

Somehow, we have moved from an understanding of this, to a mindset that thinks we are allowed to look at one another and scoff, demean and criticize. We think that as a leg, which is a big part of the body, a strong part of the body, a very visible part of the body…we can turn and start mocking the foot which can be a bit gnarled looking, is usually hidden away and can stink from time to time. But as a leg…go ahead and try standing without that foot. Even the less-than-glamorous parts play a vital role.

In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. ~1 Cor. 12:22-24

We take aim and fire shots…small churches “call out” the perceived “showiness” of mega-churches, and the community-sized churches write off the house churches as not legit. Some churches focus heavily on study, while others seem to emphasize service…and each finds the other in error. All, of course, claim their own rootedness in being The Way the church should “Biblically” be. But who is right?

I think it is imperative to recognize our disease, and begin to address it at the root in order to bring healing to the whole body. We must stop attacking ourselves, causing pain and destruction. We must remember that there is an outside force of evil that wants to come against us, and when we are healthy and functional, we are equipped and able to defeat it…but not when we are in a weakened state of turning our energies on ourselves.

Churches will be as varied and diverse as the peoples that comprise them. There will be churches full of intellectual thinkers and churches full of passionate artists. There will be churches who find reassurance of Truth in the words of liturgy, and others who find freedom of Truth in the mysterious ways of the Holy Spirit.

Which church is right for all these people? There isn't just one...

Which church is right for all these people? There isn’t just one…

There will be small churches, whose people learn to be disciples in discussion around a coffee table. Congregations made up families who are intimately in each others lives; whose ‘outreach’ looks like neighborhood backyard barbecues and bringing meals for the new mom; whose mission is serving at a local soup kitchen. They might reach people who feel like they just don’t “fit” in a traditional church setting, or who feel lost in a crowd of people.

There will be large churches whose members learn in big group settings, with recognized speakers who have powerful testimonies of their own faith journeys. They will be able to equip people with a variety of resources and forms of media. They can hold outreach events which can be a blessing on a large scale to an entire community or send missions to foreign lands where physical needs are great. They will have the ability to welcome someone who wants to be able to “test the waters” of church without having to feel like they stand out as “the new guy” in an already tight-knit community, or who is still too hurt or guarded from past experiences to be ready to vulnerable in new relationships just yet.

People are as varied as the sands of the shore. We have innumerable differences, needs, preferences, strengths, weaknesses and circumstances. Wouldn’t it only stand to reason that a God who so passionately wants to connect and have relationship with us would provide as many types and styles of churches as it takes for everyone to be able to find a place within His Body? There isn’t a right one or a wrong one. But there is one. There is a place available for every person within the Body of Christ. It might take some trial and error. It will take working together. It will take acknowledging that each part holds some value, some function….even if it is an entirely different one than our own. It will even take being able to so value another part of the Body that we defer to them, prefer them, maybe even promote them above ourselves. It could mean helping someone find their best fit in a church other than our own.

It means ruthless intolerance of turning on and fighting against our own Body, and instead joining together against an outside force that would wish to see humanity’s destruction. 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us the devil is like a lion, seeking to destroy. He is the outside sickness, the toxin that wants to come against the Body, and we need to be in full health to stand against that.

My hope is that we are able to once again remember what Jesus’ prayer was as His time on earth came to an end, and he looked toward handing things over to those who would remain…us, the Church. He asked his Father for something thing that would stand as such a powerful witness that a watching world would know the Truth. He asked that his followers would walk in unity; a unity as strong as what they shared as Father and Son.

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.  I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” ~John 17:22-23

We can divide up into our little camps and come up with all the outreach and ministry strategies we want. But plain and simple, here’s the one that Jesus himself came up with and prayed for his Church.

Unity. Let a watching world see unity.

Let’s pray and work and make the necessary changes to see a Body that is no longer fighting against itself, but rather standing as a picture of health, demonstrating love and oneness within a vast array of beautiful diversity.

out of focus

Sometimes God speaks to my heart in the most random, “unspiritual” moments.

Like last week, when we had our family pictures done. Despite what any of these pictures may turn out looking like, let me assure you, the hour plus of photo shooting was anything but “ethereal” in any way. There was bickering, huffing and general barking orders like…

“Smile right now and LOOK HAPPY!! Teeth! Show me teeth!!”

My daughter is a photographer, and according to her we, on the whole, were one of the worst subject groups to have to work with.

Whatever. We are what we are… which, in the words of Jen Hatmaker would be a “spicy family”. So be it.

Anyway, amidst the bickering and shoving and throwing the youngest brother in the air and dropping him (yes, that really happened) there was this moment when God infused an “aha” moment into my heart. It was during this shot…

Clemmer Family (45 of 100)

I was searching around Pinterest a little while ago and saw a similar family setup and loved the concept of each kid with their “thing”…a prop that was representative of them in some way. I loved the idea and told my daughter right away I wanted to do this, and made sure each kid grabbed their item on the way to the shoot.

I loved the idea that Todd and I were in the background of the shot, as we very much feel that our heart as parents is to really help our kids find their passion and then help launch them forward into those things. I felt the picture would capture that sentiment well.

But there was a point during the shoot where the photographer who was taking the photo (the photographer my daughter works for took the shots that she was actually in) asked us if I wanted Todd and myself to be out of focus…a bit blurry…in the background.

That was my “aha” moment.

Do I want to be ‘out of focus’? 

I felt like there was this download of both understanding and complete peace as my brain quickly processed the question.

Yes, absolutely we should be out of focus. Because that’s the heart of parenting…teaching…leadership of any kind!

The idea that you are given this gift…this child, this student, this person or group that you are given stewardship of…in order to bring them from roughness, rawness, obscurity into front and center focus. To make a positional transfer, as they develop, grow and mature, from being the one that they “follow” to being the one who comes behind to support them as they move up and out.

Even as I gave my answer to the photographer, I felt like I was answering some sort of oath or vow that was being asked of me…

Do you, as a mom…as a mentor…as a leader…want to become increasingly out of focus in the big picture?

And in my heart, in that moment, I spoke my “I Do”.

I do want to see my kids, and anyone else that I have been given the privilege to influence, go further, do more, be better than I ever have. I do want to be a steady runner, who is able to effectively and smoothly hand off that baton of influence. I do want to see them rise to the occasion and walk into their destiny… but also approach their calling and purpose in life with the same understanding that it’s not JUST about them; that even as they flourish and thrive, it will now be up to them to bring along others, who THEY will one day push forward, knowing the blessing of joy and contentment doesn’t just come from fulling THEIR purpose, but from helping others to walk out the same.

To be honest, maybe this seems like a no-brainer or “duh” moment for you. Certainly, it’s something I’ve known in my head for years, but as my kids grow and move toward independence it’s something I need to increasingly take root in my heart. One of the things I can tend to struggle with is the fear of being “overlooked” or left out. I don’t like the thought of “empty nest” season; I love being involved with my kids and their lives. However, deep down I know that the real goal of parenting, teaching or leadership is ultimately….release. I’m thankful for this good dose of God’s grace to be giving me these kind of downloads and reminders now and letting me process them a bit before these seasons are fully upon me.

I know, I know….that’s a whole lot of “deep thoughts” to come out of one moment, in one chaotic family photo session in the middle of the woods, on a random Monday afternoon.

But that’s really how God is, isn’t He?. He’s not waiting for us to be sitting quietly in a church pew to speak to us. He’s in all of our everyday, normal, mundane, crazy moments, and I’m really glad He’s willing to use whatever random thing He knows will connect with us in order to reveal and remind us of truth and teach us wisdom.

Good thing, too…because, frankly, in my ‘spicy’ family, let’s be real….there’s just not a whole lot of quiet anything….ever!

are you willing to go all in?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about things that I am passionate about. Things that I have all the thoughts, feelings and opinions on. Things that I want to spend my life on. Things like my kids, my marriage, my ministry.

And while I find these are things that I love from the depths of my being…they are things that all require a whole darn lot from me. A lot of time, commitment, money. A lot of evaluating my priorities, and making choices. Saying yes to some things means saying no to others…and vice versa…and it’s a fact that I can’t say all yeses, so I want my best yeses to go to the things I care the most about.

When I think about my passions, I find this is a very real, delicate and practical process that I must enter into, this evaluation of who and what get my resources, and really, who and what gets the most and best of Me. Where do I want to “go all in”?

Can I just say, the reality is, anything you feel passionately about, anything worth pursuing will require something from you. You will need to make an investment.

You’ll need to put in time, money, prayer, maybe make physical sacrifices.

It may hurt. There WILL be a cost.

But if you love something….or someone…enough, you’ll find yourself amazingly willing to try to make things happen. To give what’s needed. To do whatever. it. takes.

If you want to understand someone, you’ll learn to swallow your pride and listen to a different viewpoint. It might be hard. You may choke a bit on your own thoughts and opinions for a while. But if you love them, you’ll learn to deal with it.

If you earnestly care about a topic…maybe dietary or lifestyle changes you or your family will benefit from, a cause that needs an advocate, a disease that needs a cure….you’ll invest time in reading and learning all about it.

If you have children that you see gifted in certain areas, you might find ways to cut your budget or somehow earn more to pay for those lessons. You’ll somehow squeeze another hour…or a few…out of your already overpacked schedule to haul them to practices, to help with coaching or to cheer from the sidelines.

I venture to say if you had a very dear friend or family member who was in need of a kidney, and you were a donor match, you’d likely find yourself signing on the line and jumping on an operating table.

When we TRULY love and care about someone or something, we find ourselves searching to move heaven and earth to do what it takes to put action to what is in your heart.

Action is the true indicator of how invested in something we really are.

If you find yourself giving a lot of lip-service to a lot of things, you might want to take a personal inventory to find out where your true devotions lie. Let’s be real and practical here…none of us can care 100% about all the people, all the causes, all the things. It’s exhausting, draining, guilt inducing…and thus, completely ineffective.

But if we all passionately love enough to act on the thing that is really rooted in our heart….the thing that maybe no one else cares about quite as much as we do…we, as a whole, will accomplish so much more. If ten people actually do ten different things, more will get done than if 100 people sit and feel overwhelmed by 100 different things.

You be you, and love your thing. Love it full-on, wholeheartedly and enough to spur you to action. Do it unapologetically, and with abandon.

And in the process…release everyone else. Please.

Stop glaring at them for not sharing your passion, your cause or your adulation for your kids. Everyone’s got their own thing….and THAT IS GOOD. Don’t judge people and condemn them for not sharing your zeal for your thing.

Jesus put it this way when one of his disciples got a little bent out of shape that another one of the twelve might not be on the same path he was….

“Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, “Master, what’s going to happen to him?”

Jesus said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You—follow me.” (John 21:21 The Message)

Don’t worry about everyone else. Find what is burning in your heart and go after it. When people inquire, by all means, tell them all about it! Gush over it!  Share your motivation, your heart…help them to understand why you care so much. (Just leave out the guilt trip about what losers everyone who doesn’t share your viewpoint are.)

Make the investments and sacrifices. Pay the costs. Read, learn, pray…act.

Those people, that cause, that calling, that ministry….they need you. They need you to not hold back, but to go all in. You carry in your heart what no one else does in the exact same way. You’ll bring nuances that only you can. You have a unique perspective that contributes what only you can.

Lose the negativity and energy wasting of looking around for who’s going to join you and just go.

Because if you don’t champion them….who will?

surviving social media

There used to be an unwritten rule of etiquette that it was never a good idea to openly discuss religion or politics. Those topics, because of their highly sensitive and personal nature, were better reserved for close-circle conversation.

That line of thinking has certainly gone the way of the dinosaur, and all the more so in this age of social media.

It used to be that to know what a person thought about any given topic, you had to…well, ya know…actually know the person. Or minimally, have a conversation with them. If you were going to disagree or challenge them, you had to do it live and in person.

Unless you were a public figure with some sort of platform, we didn’t just all know each other’s thoughts, beliefs, opinions and political affiliation without having an actual knowledge of the person that held them.

With every advancement in communication, which by and large is a useful, helpful progression in our world, we each, as a by-product, gain a bigger audience. It’s no longer just a politician, a teacher, or a pastor that has a platform…everyone with an account and a password just gained a stage.

man-person-apple-iphone

I’ve been giving quite a lot of consideration to this stage we all now occupy with our online presence. It’s especially thought provoking during election seasons like we are currently in. It seems like political activity stirs everyone’s fire about ALL THE THINGS, and I know (because, of course, I read people’s posts on social media!) that I’m not the only one who is beginning to feel uncomfortable with the amount of information we are learning about people and their “stances”.

And it’s not JUST political or religious views. People share waaaay TMI about other things too. Personal things. The kind of things that aren’t necessarily a secret, but used to be reserved for one-on-one conversation over a cup of coffee, or minimally a phone call (Remember those? The kind where we used to talk into our devices instead of just pressing buttons?)

Now, before you write me off as stodgy and outdated, hear me out. I am a HUGE fan of social media. Frankly, Facebook is how I communicate with most of the people in my life. And my cell phone? Well, let’s just say there’s no stone throwing coming from me! I text my kids if they are on the second floor and I’m on the first and too tired (lazy?) to yell for them!

I am, by all means, preaching to myself as much as anyone. It’s a social media hole I see myself so easily being sucked into, but I’m hoping that I, that we, aren’t too far along to realize how to come back and bring some grounding balance to our virtual and our real lives.

Here’s my biggest concern with all this. I think we are bypassing KNOWING people and settling for knowing ABOUT people. We don’t see people’s fear, hurt, love or compassion when we only process the things we know about them that we learn from statuses, tweets and soundbites.

There was a quote I read recently that I think gets to the core of this matter.access

This, to me, hits the nail on the head. When I am putting myself out there on social media, I am giving every acquaintance I have, every Facebook “friend”, every Twitter follower, and countless other people even completely unknown to me access to my thoughts and opinions, as well as opportunity to feed back into them, comparable to that which I normally give my friends and family or those that I share conversation with.

Increasingly, this really bothers me. I started a while ago to be a bit more selective with my Facebook posts, and created specific lists of people that I want to share things with. Even more importantly I try (though not always successfully, unfortunately!) to avoid “hot topic” debates or just randomly touting my beliefs…especially the ones that I am afraid people might misunderstand, and with people that don’t actually know me in real life, or know me well enough to know where I am coming from when I say things. (Again, I’m a work in progress on this.)

So, I have general lists and specific lists. I have lists titled ‘Acquaintances’, ‘Friends’, ‘Close Friends’ and ‘Bests’, and I share accordingly. And frankly, I still haven’t tightened things up quite as much as I should. But it’s a step that I’ve taken to restrict ‘access’ to myself…out of respect for both myself and others

The thing is, I’m not a secretive person. Transparency and “realness”  are high values of mine. It’s not that I don’t want people to know the “real” me…it’s more than I actually want to be known for real. I don’t want to be just a profile picture with an opinion. I want to be known for more than the “side” I’m on, and I want my beliefs to be more thoughtful than the latest meme.

And while I appreciate input into my life, the reality is, there is a limit  to the amount and type of feedback I want, and who I want it from. I truly desire perspective and advice, but I want it coming from those that I trust. I want it coming the people in my life that I have real, committed, caring relationships with. I don’t want those voices, that I value and are rooted in the security of knowing that they know and love me to be drowned out by the throng of opinions voiced by anyone who happens to agree or disagree with a status or a “share”. I can so easily get caught up in the vicious cycle of seeking “approval” that nastily takes over my thoughts and stirs up worry and anxiety over what others think of me.

And honestly, I want to think better of others, too. I don’t want to be placing negative assumptions about people’s entire characters based on a “like” or a comment, or something else that is so surface. It can be hard to keep an open and positive opinion of people that you seemingly disagree with on a lot of things if that is the ONLY interaction you have. It seems that we have forgotten that people are more than just a list of bullet-point opinions or arguments. People form their beliefs, not just based on a teaching, debate or understanding of a topic. Rather their deepest held values are formed by their experiences….their hurts, their triumphs, the relationships they’ve had, the circumstances they’ve lived. Sometimes I don’t connect with a person’s thoughts on a matter until I understand their story. Then, I am able to hear not just WHAT they are saying, but have a better understanding of WHY they are saying it. While I may not share their viewpoint, I can certainly at least see their perspective.

Social media often isn’t conducive to this, in part because we cannot see a face or hear a voice. So much is communicated not just in our words, but in our expressions, our tones and our body language. I can read about a friend’s struggle and breeze past it all much easier when it’s just words on a screen than if they are sitting in front of me with tears in their eyes as they convey the exact same thing.

I hope that as the world continues to move at a mind-dizzying pace of technology that we learn to adjust and adapt, and that part of that adaptation is returning to the art of personal relationship. The kind that includes actual human contact, and not just words and personas behind the glow of a screen; conversation complete with eye contact.

I’d like to reiterate that in all this, I’m certainly not trying to convey judgement or tell anyone how to interact on social media. I’m just trying to navigate all of this myself, and process (ironically, via this form of social media…yes, the irony is not lost on me) my concerns about the truth that we are all still people with real feelings, and we owe it to each other not to make snap judgments about people without ever giving them enough respect to have any real, live interaction.

So, please tell me… Do you struggle with the whole social media aspect of our world? How do you find balance, as well as work at keeping interactions positive? Maybe we can learn from each other and help keep the forces of our increasingly virtual reality more positive in nature!

Dear Invisible People…

Dear Invisible People….

Don’t worry…I’m not writing to imaginary friends. I promise that despite what you may hear from my family members, I’m not completely delusional. (Most of the time I’m totally coherent.)

invisible-man

I’m writing to you people out there who sometimes feel like you’re invisible. Like no one sees you. It’s not that you don’t feel loved, or that you have value…just mainly like no one really realizes or acknowledges what you do. Maybe you yourself don’t even feel like you are doing or being anything worth any adulation.

There’s no special appreciation day for you, no day set aside to give a nod to the work you do. And yet you stick at it, day in, day out. And frankly, can I just say, without your work, this old world of ours would likely come to a screeching halt.

Sure, maybe if you, as an individual, quit your job tomorrow the world might not grind to a standstill…but if all the “invisible people”, as a whole did….implosion. Seriously. YOU make the world go round (figuratively speaking of course….because there is the whole God aspect, and the world turning on it’s axis and all that jazz….but you know what I mean, right?)

There are lots of silly “National (fill in the blank) Days”. It seems Facebook is alerting me every other day that it’s National Ice Cream Day (which, hey, even if it’s every week, I can get on board with that one!) or National Dog Day or National Love Your Son/Daughter/Second-Cousin-Twice-Removed Day.

But what about National Trash Collectors Day? Or National Car Mechanics Day? How about National Tech Support Day, or Waitress Day or Regular Joe Working in the Plant/Warehouse/Cubicle Day? Where are those?

And let’s face it, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day….it’s a good effort, but when you’re changing diapers, wiping snot, checking homework, running to practices, cooking meals, grocery shopping, giving up sleep….or, um, other ‘activities’ because the children in your house have grown and freaking NEVER go to bed so there’s never any adult alone time?? (Did I really just say that? Yup. Reality, people…it is what it is.) Well, an obligatory nod in the parent direction once a year is nice, but it’s not the kind of encouragement on a regular basis that says “Keep going! You’re doing fantastic! You are making an impact!”

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I feel like I look around and many other people are doing “important” things. They’re hitting their stride, reaching their goals, and making a difference. They’re getting a book deal. They’re climbing the corporate ladder and making the big bucks. They’re succeeding, thriving, and movin’ on up. And I kind of look around, like, well…so, here I sit, doing the same ‘ol, same ‘ol. Nothin’ to see here, so keep on moving. 

Recently a friend posted a very true status on Facebook…

“A little encouragement goes a long way. There is something great about being told you’re good at that thing you love to do.”

….but it kinda made me get a lump in my throat, I guess because I’m in a bit of a dry time in the encouragement department. (Not that it makes the statement any less true, and I realized that no matter how I’m feeling, it’s a good reminder the impact I can have by being an encourager of others! And, DISCLAIMER….that’s not meant as a guilt trip on my husband, friends or anyone! I have GREAT people, and I know I’m loved and all that. So, this is no pity party by any means! So please don’t worry for the state of my mental health…I’m fine.) But what it brought up in me was….

Am I good at anything? What is it I even DO?

Now I know, it’s much easier to see and proclaim truth as it relates to others, so I will admit that I’m still processing and trying to declare this truth to myself as much as anyone; but it brought front and center to me how worthwhile and in need of encouragement MOST people really are.

So, let me tell you….you ARE good at what you do, and you ARE needed. Think about how many people would be impacted if you fell off the face of the earth today. Important people….like your spouse, your kids, your clients. There’s a kind of cliche line from a song, but it’s so true…

To the world you may be just another girl,

But to me, Baby, you are the world

 

To someone, you are everything. And frankly, all us nobodies that the world never sees, admires or applauds….we make up the majority of the world’s population. It’s us ‘little people’ that actually keep the world going, doing all the day-to-day, mundane stuff that everyone actually NEEDS done.

And here’s a little secret….probably most of those people that you look at and think have it all, are (or seem to be) getting all the glory, the recognition, that are so GOOD at what they do….they very likely actually feeling quite the same as the rest of us. At least the decent human beings among them. (I’m not really talking about ‘celebrities’ here…just normal people who we know, but who always seem to be the best and the brightest.) In fact, someone is probably looking at you (or me) and thinking… “She/He is just so (fill in the blank….organized, talented, intelligent, creative)!!” Yep...I would BET MONEY someone (though albeit unbeknownst to you) is pretty dang impressed with you. But the reality is, we rarely FEEL that about ourselves.

All this to say….if you’re feeling a bit small or lost lately, take heart. YOU are one of the important people!! You’re not invisible, and you matter. You matter a LOT!! Don’t get caught up in the mirage of “doing big things”, or being a “world changer”. If you do the small things, and shape the little world that spins within your four walls, one day we’ll look back and realize that together, we DID big things, and the we SHAPED the world…one little impact at a time.

And one final thought… If you are feeling or have felt this way, take it as a gentle reminder that most others do as well. So compliment someone, encourage them…heck, straight up GUSH over them, just because everyone needs that from time to time, no matter who you are!!