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Looks Can Be Deceiving

“She looks just like you!”

I said that to someone I had recently started working with, about her daughter. Then she told me their daughter was adopted.

An Adoption

My sister was adopted. It was public and well known. Most adoptions are not that way, but this was different.

  1. They adopted when I was 10, my brothers were 13 and 12.
  2. When you show up for church one Sunday with a baby, it gets noticed.
  3. Everyone knew my parents didn’t have a baby girl.
  4. And she didn’t resemble either parent.
  5. She was from Viet Nam.  

The Resemblance

No, she obviously didn’t favor either parent. But when she learned to talk, she talked like us. Her mannerisms reflected those of our family. She ate what we ate, did what we did, and went where we went. She was ours and we were hers. We belonged to each another. We were the same, we were family.

How That Happened?

Here are some things that made her one of us:

  1. She had our name.
  2. She had our values.
  3. She was believed as we believed. 
  4. She was loved equally and in the same way as her brothers.
  5. She was a Fyffe, through and through.

A Spiritual Adoption 

Paul wrote in Ephesians that God adopted us into his family, 1:5. That we are the Father’s workmanship, the result of his divine will, 2:10. That we were given his name, 3:14. And that we grow to become like him, 5:1-2.

We were created in the image of God, but that wasn’t about appearance. My sister didn’t look like my parents, but they were her parents, she was our sister, and we were one.

Our spiritual identity comes from God. We wear his name, reflect his values, and share his purpose. We became one with him.

  1. Identity
  2. Name
  3. Character
  4. Purpose
  5. Family

It all came from him, it all points to him.

To Close

We look different, but we were adopted and fitted into God’s family. It’s not about who you look like, but who you belong to.

I said to my friend, “She looks just like you!” Spiritually, we all look like the Father.  

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Shalom

Overcoming Betrayal, Part One

AN INTRODUCTION

Betrayed or Betrayal

“to deliver by treachery or disloyalty”

“willingly and willfully violating a trust”

“to reveal or disclose a confidence”

Little else cuts as deep or hurts as much as betrayal. The nature of betrayal is to willfully fracture the trust extended from another. It fractures the respect within a marriage, friendship, or close association. 

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Is betrayal the worst cut of all?

BETRAYAL’S WORST CUTS

  1. Vows shattered by abuse, adultery, or abandonment.
  2. By making public a closely guarded intimacy of another.
  3. Being used, manipulated and then disregarded.
  4. Stabbed in the back by a friend, partner, or employer.
  5. Promises openly given but deviously broken. 

There are many kinds of betrayal, too many. 

THE PAIN OF IT

When betrayed we feel subdued and defeated. We feel used and abused. Broken people will often attempt to break us too, using betrayal to gain their victory. 

The pain runs deep because it is such a violating act. It’s an abuse of our respect and trust. It breaks our hearts and crushes our spirit. 

broken-trust

OVERCOMING BETRAYAL 

Moving past betrayal is hard because we are not only grieved, but often angry and vengeful. It’s not uncommon for betrayed people to entertain thoughts of revenge. The betrayed wants to hurt the betrayer. 

IN CLOSING

In Wednesday’s blog I’ll try to help those who have been betrayed. The answers aren’t found in getting even, but in letting go.

I’ll give examples and offer some hopefully helpful hints for recovery. I say, “Hints” because overcoming betrayal requires gentle and sensitive language; more of a scalpel than a broad sword. 

So, stay strong, hang in there, and don’t give up. 

Overcoming Our Bad DNA, Part Two

INTRODUCTION

“People don’t change,” is something I’ve heard my whole life. Would that be an example of the Nurture argument for behavior, that people aren’t predisposed with a will to change? Actually, people can and do change. But certain aspects of our behavior can be more difficult to change than others. Within that difficulty comes the sense of being too hard, and so,

“People don’t change.”

different kinds of people
Emotionally, we all come in different shapes and sizes and from various life situations. Can we overcome our issues?

A REFERENCE

In the Jesus narrative we learn about Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot. The former denied Jesus and the latter betrayed him. The first wept bitterly but was able to reconcile with Jesus. The second evidently chose a different path, he took his own life.

Both men failed Christ. However, Peter was able to alter his behavior and move on, but not Judas. I don’t know why one was able to change and the other couldn’t. Did Peter rely on a greater and higher strength while Simon only obsessed over what he had done and plunged into despair?

 I’m a believer in change. I believe with the Spirit’s help:

Change can happen.

 

SUGGESTIONS FOR CHANGING BEHAVIOR 

STEP 1, OWN IT: Denial and disinformation keep us stuck in the mud. If we maintain denial about a behavior, and if we feed our minds the message that we are fine then change remains unnecessary. To overcome a behavior:

We must own our need to change.

STEP 2, GET SPIRITUAL: Almost all needed change is likely something the Holy Spirit is prompting within us. It’s hard enough to change on our own, so why make it harder by resisting the Spirit? Inviting the Spirit to help and support us is an excellent step towards recovery.

Holy Spirit, please lead and guide us to make healthy changes.

STEP 3, REACH OUT: There may be people you need to talk to. You may want to approach a parent, or someone from your past who contributed to that part of you that needs to change. Approaching them to gain understanding may help you. Confronting them if they willfully hurt or damaged you will help to forgive them. It will facilitate your own healing and the ability to let go of unwanted attitudes and behaviors The apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:13:

“Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” 

STEP 4, BE PATIENT: Changing behavior, even with the Spirit’s support, takes time. Don’t make it be about how long, but on how much you want to change, on your commitment to overcoming. Bad attitudes and hard emotions take time to resolve. Replacing them with good attitudes and positive emotions will also take time. Don’t give up, don’t get discouraged, and definitely: 

Resist the urge to view setbacks as failure. 

A BRIEF EXAMPLE

I learned something from my father, something that was transmitted to me in childhood. He had many good attributes, but he struggled with a poor self-image and low self-esteem. When faced with set backs or failures he would say with strong emotion, “I can’t do anything right.” He was plagued with all that and I was plagued with it too. I fought it for years. Through the help of good people and applying the steps above, I discovered where my self-esteem issues came from and why I felt the way I did. I needed to change my core identity. It wasn’t easy and it took a long time, but I did it. Today I am much improved and living my best life.

For a long time I was overcome with some Bad DNA. But I learned to overcome it, to not let it defeat me. And so can you.

Change can happen.

 

Overcoming Our Bad DNA

 

NATURE/NURTURE

Do you believe in hardwire behavior? It’s the idea of being genetically predisposed to certain behaviors such as alcoholism, anger, violence and other such things. It would mean we could blame our genes for being too heavy or too skinny. Certainly our appearance comes from our genes. It might even explain an aversion to green beans or the love for football. This illustrates the Nature theory. 

However, much research has explored whether personality and inherited characteristics are the result of the environment in which we were raised. It’s the Nurture side of the debate, that behaviors and attitudes are learned in early childhood and carried with us into our adult lives. 

 Examples of Nature or Inherited Behavior?

  1. Red heads are predisposed to anger. 
  2. Irishmen are natural-born drinkers.
  3. Females are more naturally fearful than males. 
  4. “I was born to hate.” 

Examples of Nurture or Generational Transmission

  1. Low self-esteem or negative self-image.
  2. Prejudice, hatred and violence towards certain groups. 
  3. Wife and child abuse.  
  4. “Grandpa was like that, so was Dad, and so am I” 

Are any of those eight ideas rooted in fact? Are any of them true? Have they been established by scientific study?

AN INWARD PERSPECTIVE

We may not like certain aspects of ourselves. Aspects that were either transmitted in childhood or received at birth. People can struggle with behaviors and attitudes that overcome them, creating many kinds of conflict in adult life. Do we accept it for the way it is, that we have to live with it? Or can we overcome our, “Bad DNA?”

different kinds of people
Are we hardwired for personality and behavior? Or did we learn it from home?

IN CLOSING

Whether it’s hardwired or something we were taught, many struggle with habits, behaviors and attitudes assimilated in childhood.

In Wednesday’s blog I’ll try to give some encouragement and some hopefully helpful steps in overcoming some of what we’ve carried since childhood. Things that defeat subdue us.

On Wednesday: “Overcoming Our Bad DNA, Part Two” 

Overcoming Failure, Part Two

Winston Churchill said,

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

REJECTING FAILURE

Some things in life are outrageously hard and overwhelmingly heavy. It takes patience, perseverance and a “dig-deep” commitment to never give up.

We reject failure by refusing to quit.

Some examples:

  1. Earning a degree when every part of life weighs you down.
  2. Pushing through when the odds are never in your favor. 
  3. Getting up and going on when overwhelming grief fills your soul. 
  4. Piling the sand bags higher because the water keeps rising.
  5. Remaining prayerful when it feels like God has forgotten you. 

Those are examples of not giving up, of choosing not to fail.

Gene Krantz, a NASA Flight Director, wrote a book called, “Failure Is Not An Option,” about the Apollo 13 moon mission that encountered complications and had to return in a crippled space craft. All odds were against them, it seemed hopeless. But it wasn’t. It wasn’t because failure wasn’t an option

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TWO KINDS

Think of failure in one of two contexts:

  1. The failure we choose when we quit, give up, or give out, it’s our choice.
  2. The failure thrust upon us, beyond our control, outside of us, not our choice.

It’s not our choice when the treatments prove ineffective and cancer ends us. It’s not our choice when our spouse leaves and never returns. It’s not our choice when people pretend and hide who they are with devastating consequences. These aren’t about our failings, but the failings of others.

But once failure reaches into our lives we need to overcome it. 

SOME STEPS TO TAKE

Consider the Source: When failure comes try to determine its source. Is it failure you chose or did life choose it for you? It can be a tough thing to accept, but recognizing the nature of failure helps in overcoming it. 

Neither Final or Fatal: Can we accept that failure is neither final or fatal? There was a time when I believed I had failed. Nothing was going right and I seriously considered quitting ministry. But a mentor helped me to see that my problems and failures were temporary. If I dug deep, trusted and waited on God, things would turn around. Things did. Not quickly, but it happened. I realized that failing wasn’t final or fatal, and that it wouldn’t last forever. I could overcome failure, and I did!

Refocusing: One of the lessons about recovering from failure is the need to  refocus. It begins by asking: What have I learned? What insights have I gained? What goals do I have? What goals do I need to set? Where am I headed? Refocusing becomes a map to help you find the way out. Sometimes we overcome failure by looking for new success. 

Inspiration: Knowing about the failures and successes of others can be inspiring and strengthen our resolve. Looking to a higher source can lift us up and get us going. I’m reminded of Jesus. Some said the cross was his failure. Was it? Did Jesus fail? 

“Run with perseverance the race marked out, fixing your eyes on Jesus. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down on the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition so you won’t grow weary and lose heart.” 

We can overcome failure, we don’t have to let it overcome us.

Shalom

Overcoming Failure, Part One

FAILURE

It can be hard to talk about, difficult to admit and challenging to cope with. But failure is something we’ve all experienced and struggled with. It can be anything from getting a “C” instead of an “A” on a report card or receiving a “positive” instead of a “negative” on a medical test. 

NATURE OF FAILURE

Recognizing failure requires only a casual glance. Like a blimp in the sky, failure looms large, is instantly recognizable and available for all to watch. Blimps move slowly, almost glacially slow, like a three-toed sloth. Failure moves away from the failed at an almost imperceptible speed. Such is its nature.

Examples of Less Serious Things

  1. Someone else got the promotion: “I’ve failed professionally.” 
  2. Struggling with your kids: “I’m failing as a parent.” 
  3. My spouse doesn’t get me: “My marriage is failing.” 

These things are important but not failures. They may be temporary setbacks. You can work towards the promotion you deserve. You can figure out how to communicate better with your children. There are ways to improve a marriage. None of these constitute failure. 

Examples of More Serious Things

  1. Being a disappointment to your parents: “Unfulfilled life expectations can be failure.” 
  2. Your marriage is in divorce: “The marriage is over, it final, its failed.”
  3. Your life-long dream went bankrupt: “Money & efforts lost, gut wrenching failure.”

The worst failures are the things that mean everything to us, the things that are stripped away, fallen apart, and forever gone. It’s a terrible feeling, final and destitute. 

FEAR AND FAILURE

What do men fear most? It’s weakness. Weakness for a man would be failing to provide for his family, failing his wife in the bedroom, failing to live up to expectations. His greatest fear is appearing weak, and therefore his biggest failure.

What do women fear most? It’s being abandoned. Abandonment for a woman suggests  she isn’t good enough, reflecting her inability to please her husband and the heartbreak of losing her family. Her greatest fear is abandonment and therefore her biggest failure.

men and women who have failed

CAN FAILURE BE OVERCOME?

The pain and pressure of gut wrenching failure can be overwhelming, subduing and conquering us. But we can break its bonds of despair and depression. We can overcome our significant failures and move our lives forward again.

It’s difficult and not quickly achieved.

In Part Two of Overcoming Failure I will provide encouragement, suggestions, and support on how to conquer and subdue our failures.

Look for Part Two on Wednesday.

Shalom

Overcoming Our Mistakes, Part Two

Mistakes vary in severity and consequence. One kind of mistake is ordering the #4 when the #5 was what you really wanted. It’s another kind of mistake to have an illicit affair resulting in catastrophic consequences. It’s the latter kind I’m writing about today.

Some mistakes we pay for over a lifetime, paying over and over again. Maybe it’s our inability to let go, to get past our remorse and self-condemnation. Some mistakes can sour our reputation like a carton of milk gone bad. They leave us defeated and subdued. 

Some people will punish us for our sins because they won’t forgive. They won’t stop flogging us for our errors; such is their passion for flogging. Typically, that happens because our mistakes hurt them or someone they love. Obsessively punishing becomes their purpose, turns into their white whale. It becomes their mistake.

That emotional pain, separation, and stained reputation can seem insurmountable. But, as hard as it may be, we don’t have to be overcome by our mistakes. 

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Suggestions For Overcoming

Clear Your Conscience. This is about humility and confession. It’s about seeking forgiveness. God forgives, but with people pardon isn’t always guaranteed. However, the first step in overcoming is in getting right with God, others and ourselves.                                                                                               

Develop a Support System.  You might want to recruit a few respected people to be your “account-a-bill-a-buddies.” Share your struggles and ask for their counsel. Have them ask you how you are doing on a weekly basis. It can be done in person, online, or by phone. Not shoulders for comfort, but people with good minds and hearts to help you. 

Learn From What Happened. Will you learn from your mistakes? Often our mistakes are influenced by the cumulative result of difficult issues; not just stupid and random carelessness. So, what needs fixing? Your relationships at home? With God? With others? Sometimes we clean up our lives by cleaning out our hearts and minds. 

Bear Your Shame. This can be really hard but there’s no getting around it. After a big mistake we feel embarrassed and ashamed. We wear them like signs around our necks. We avoid going to church, or to public venues with people we know who will be there. However, you have to come out of the cave. You may feel their judgement, disapproval and their avoidance. But if you are right with God, and have made a healthy effort to make things right with others, then lift up your head and go out ad live your life. Don’t become a victim by the ill-treatment of others. Remember Jesus, Hebrews 12:2-3

“Fix your eyes on Jesus. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame…Consider him who endured so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Decide to Move On. Here is something to grasp: “Life goes on, so you might as well go with it. Life doesn’t slow down to let you catch up.” I’m reminded of Paul in Philippians 3:12,14

“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward.” 

ManWalkingThroughDarkTunnel

In Closing

Moving past our mistakes can be a gut wrenching experience and in no way do I suggest that it’s easily done or done without pain and heartache. 

But it can be done. We can overcome our mistakes.

 

Overcoming Our Mistakes, Part One

Mistakes

Everyone makes them. Most will admit it. Some will even confess it.

What’s A Mistake?

The word is defined as:

“An error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgement caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, or insufficient knowledge.”

That’s an excellent definition, it covers all the bases, is clear, concise and complete.

For Instance 

  1. Forgetting to put the lid on something and ruining it. 
  2. Making a miscalculation in the checking account.
  3. Being late to pick up your kid after school. 

Yep, those five are mistakes all right, clear miscalculations due to carelessness.

Some mistakes aren’t fatal, but still hurtful. 

  1. Damaging a friendship with careless words.
  2. Doing something foolish and alienating a child. 
  3. Losing our temper with the ones we love. 

Those are serious but maybe not overwhelming, probably easier to remedy.

However, I would argue that the definition is lacking something. So much so that it could be thought of as a mistake. It failed to mention the gut wrenching, life shattering consequences that some mistakes leave us with, overwhelmed and destroyed.  

For Instance

  1. Reckless driving ending with others injured or killed.
  2. An affair that destroys the marriage. 
  3. Being drunk or stoned at work. 

Those would be in the category of overwhelming mistakes. Those, and others like them, can ruin lives, destroy careers, and in an instant separate us from everyone we love and everything we’ve achieved.

worried woman

Some mistakes are concealed, hidden and kept undetected. But others are public, uncovered and exposed to the full light of day. They can haunt us and hover above our heads like a dark cloud. Some mistakes stick for life.

Overcoming serious mistakes isn’t easy. 

But It Can Be Done!

Look for “Overcoming Our Mistakes, Part Two,” in Wednesday’s blog. 

Overcoming Insecurity: Ignore or Invest? Part Two

Introduction

In Part One of, “Overcoming Insecurity,” insecurity was defined as, “feeling unsafe or in danger.” Overcome was defined as, “to be subdued, defeated, or conquered.”

Being overcome with insecurity is being subdued/defeated by feelings of fear or danger. 

The Question

I closed part one with this question,

“If feeling insecure is a learned behavior then can it be unlearned?”

Ignoring the insecurity, or masking it, or living in denial are ineffective strategies.

Insecurity can be defeated, or at least minimized, by learning from new experiences and  processing new insights. Also, it may be that you need to consult a Doctor or pursue professional levels of help. 

As for this blog, I offer these thoughts.

Suggestions

  1. Write It Down

I have found journaling helpful. Write about your insecurity. What is it you fear? What is it you are looking over your shoulder to see? Be honest and specific. By identifying what overwhelms you, you’ve taken a healthy step in coping with it. So, write it down.

2.  Think It Through

Think through the fear and sense of doom, all the way to the end. What happens if it happens? Could it happen? Is it likely? Often, what scares us most are the things that are most unlikely to happen.

An example: During Hurricane Harvey’s five days of rain my insecurity surged with a foreboding of our house flooding. But our house didn’t flood, not even close. Throughout the storm there was no reason to believe that it would. But I was still afraid, and the fear came from insecurity. But it helped when I finally owned up to the idea that if it did flood then we would deal with it. We would be okay. It would be a huge mess and a giant hassle, but we would be all right. Instead of being overwhelmed with dread and fear I arrived at a calmer place. So, think it through.

3. Provide Faith Messages

Our self talk when insecurity hits us becomes really important. Write about that too. What messages do you give yourself? Are they negative? Full of dread and fear? Are they messages that reflect the worst possible outcome? Or are they positive and strong, full of faithful optimism? Are they messages of trust in God? Giving ourselves a steady stream of healthy messages will help diminish the fear and doom. So, give yourself some good reinforcement. 

The Word

Fine strength and comfort from these verses:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition… present your requests to God ….the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he will lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.”                                                                I Peter 5:6-7

In Closing

The Apostle Paul said,

“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”                                            Romans 12:21 (NLT)  

Unsubstantiated, irrational fear comes from an evil place, for God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear. Yes, when danger is real, when we are threatened, then we act accordingly. But fear generated from insecurity doesn’t have to own us.

happy woman

We can overcome!

God Bless You

Overcoming Insecurity: Ignore or Invest?

Overcoming Insecurity, Part 1

Introduction

What is insecurity? What is it to overcome it? Let’s define the terms.

Insecurity:Subject to fear or the fear of harm, feeling unsafe”

Overcome: “To be subdued, defeated, and conquered / to subdue, defeat, and conquer” 

To be overcome with insecurity is to be subdued by feeling unsafe and afraid.

The Insecure Child

When children are overcome with insecurity they:

  1. are afraid of something new
  2. believe something is going to hurt them 
  3. struggle to believe that they are good enough
  4. are overly alarmed by things that go “bump” in the night
  5. feel unsafe when they are unloved, neglected, or unprotected  

A child overcome with insecurity will often have a defeatist attitude and may exhibit the behaviors of a conquered person. They fear what’s new and what’s next. 

scared cute little girl under the blanket in her bed

The Insecure Adult 

When adults are overcome by insecurity they:

  1. are afraid to try new things or meet new people
  2. have a foreboding sense that something bad is about to happen
  3. struggle with body image and their appearance 
  4. believe that others judge them and find them lacking
  5. feel unsafe when they are unloved, neglected, or unprotected 

An adult overcome with insecurity will often have a defeatist attitude and may exhibit the behaviors of a conquered person. They fear rejection or abandonment.

worried woman

An Illustration

I was a shy child, but I wasn’t born shy, I learned it from painful experiences. In time I learned to squirm when introduced as the new kid in class or participating in something different. To some extent, the insecurity I had as a child stayed with me as an adult. There are moments when I still feel overwhelmed by fear, or by the sense of something bad about to happen.

Oddly, I’m no longer shy, the shyness drained off a long time ago. But the memories and feelings of fear dug in deep, rooted within my soul. Have I been overcome by insecurity? 

Growing and Overcoming 

The options? Well, I can ignore my insecurity. Thats what we do, we put it in a jar and  tighten the lid. Does it work? Or maybe we pretend and deny. Sometimes we learn to excel at something to camouflage our true selves. It’s painful being overcome by insecurity. 

However, if I learned to be insecure by allowing fear to subdue me, can I learn not to be? Rather than ignore it maybe I can invest in something that helps me. Can I conquer my insecurity rather than be conquered by it? 

In Closing

This is part one of Overcoming Insecurity. Stay tuned for part two on Wednesday morning. I will answer the above question with practical suggestions, warm encouragement, and something valuable from the Word of God. 

Hang in there.