Anxiety, Paranoia and the Pirate Living Under My Bed

About a year ago my body started acting out in the form of panic attacks.  They came about once a week at first and then became more frequent and more severe until I was having at least one panic attack every day.  At first I didn’t recognize them as panic attacks – I thought I was dying.  I’m a bit of a hypochondriac generally, so every little thing that’s wrong with me is always some form of cancer in my mind.  I once had sharp pains in my lower back and so I called my husband to tell him that I was bleeding internally and that he needed to rush home and take me to the emergency room.  I have a pinched nerve in my arm (due to a muscle spasm caused by stress – go figure) that, when it first happened, I was convinced was a heart attack so I rushed off to the ER only to spend five hours being poked, prodded, monitored and questioned and then sent home with a prescription for Advil.  So when my body recently started spazzing out on me, I knew immediately that I had finally developed that brain tumor I have been waiting for.  My face has even gone numb a few times from these episodes.  One of those times, when the left side of my face went numb I stood up, walked over to the mirror hanging on the wall in my living room and began to smile and frown back and forth slowly so I could check to see if I was having a stroke.

I have taken no less than 5000 pregnancy tests because every time I’m five minutes late, or crampy at weird times, or my boobs hurt or I’m nauseous, or I’m extra moody I just assume I’m pregnant.  Every time I’ve been pregnant I was convinced I was having twins because how could anyone be this nauseous with just ONE baby?!  Every time I have a headache I assume it’s an aneurism that’s about to burst and kill me.  I’m afraid to use paper cutters because I’m convinced I’ll cut my hand off – or at least a finger or two.  Every time I walk to my car (day or night) I have to look in the back seat to make sure there’s not an axe murderer waiting to chop my head off while I’m driving.

If I’m driving at night, I always assume that someone is hiding in the trunk or backseat (even though I looked!) and so I choose whatever music I think makes me seem the most innocent and wonderful so that he will choose not to murder me after all.  I can’t leave my arms or legs hanging over the side of my bed at night because I have visions of a pirate of some sort (I wish I could explain this one) climbing out from under the bed and chopping them off with his big curved sword.

At night, when (not if) I have to get out of bed to go pee, I have to hop back into bed afterwards because walking next to my bed in the dark means that something could reach out from underneath, grab my ankle and take me down.  If I’m driving somewhere and notice that a car has been following me for any extended period of time I assume it’s because the person inside that car is intending to follow me home, murder me and steal my valuables (as if I have any).  When my husband is late, or unavailable by phone or text I assume, obviously, that he’s dead in a ditch somewhere.  But I don’t just imagine that he’s dead, I come up with this detailed scenario of how it happened and what he was thinking and how I’ll plan the funeral and how I’ll tell the kids and whether or not I will ever be able to love again.  It’s all so very tragic.  I’m certain that Anne with an E would be quite impressed by my brilliant “scope of imagination”.

If one of my children is quiet in another room for more than five minutes, I assume they’ve accidentally tangled themselves up in the strings of the blinds and that they are dying a slow and agonizing death.  If one of them gets up five minutes later than they normally do I assume they accidentally suffocated during the night.  When every single one of my kids were babies, I had to have them sleep in the same room with me so that I could look at their chest periodically to make sure they were still breathing.  This, I’m pretty sure, isn’t a “me” thing, but rather just a mother thing – so I’m just going to go ahead and assume that it doesn’t make me any more crazy than every other mom (because we’re all at least a little crazy, right?).

Anxiety looks different for everyone. Some, like mine, provide really great fodder for hilarious sitcoms or memoirs. Although I’ve spent my entire life struggling with a higher than average level of anxiety, I was surprised when I realized that I was having panic attacks. I was actually surprised. No one around me seemed to be surprised though – go figure. I spent a year in pretty extreme anxiety before I finally decided to get some help.  Then I spent about a year on medication to curb the panic attacks and help me find their source. When your body is overwhelmed with anxiety, it works hard to protect you from that anxiety while also alerting you to its presence because, believe it or not, those of us who are highly anxious don’t always know that we are highly anxious.

Anxiety Disorder is kind of like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in the way it’s so often misunderstood. Everyone thinks they have anxiety disorder just like everyone thinks they have OCD, but if you spent a day with someone with OCD you’d realize that it’s a bit more serious than you think it is. My daughter recently came and told me that she was OCD.  I asked her how often she washes her hands or what things she was doing that she was unable to control. “Nothing,” she said. “Then you’re not OCD.” I replied. The same is true of anxiety disorder. It’s not that I worry a lot. It’s that I am unable to be logical in my worrying. I worry about things that I know are absolutely impossible or at the very least incredibly unlikely. I am compulsive in my worry and it often takes over my body making it impossible to breathe, talk, reason or think clearly.

I think the most helpful thing has been talking about it and accepting that I’m busted up inside.  I stopped trying to pretend I wasn’t in pain.  I stopped worrying so much about everyone else’s opinion about my pain – and trust me, there were plenty of opinions. Anxiety, like depression, looks different for everyone. And there are so many silent sufferers. For me, it will always be in the backseat trying to climb behind the wheel. Anxiety is just part of my every day life and like so many others, I am so weary of pretending that it’s not. I’ve been anxious my entire life. I can’t imagine my life without it.

I am in a good place right now, thanks to my doctor, my family and some really beautiful little blue pills. I used to be ashamed of that. I’m not anymore. My husband takes medication for his disease and I take medication for mine – although his is an “acceptable” disease and mine is often believed to be “made up”. Don’t care. I will do what I need to do to be present in my life and present with my family. And you should too. Let’s not let other people dictate our health or well-being. Doing what you have to do to take care of yourself and your family doesn’t make you weak – it makes you a warrior. I am a warrior and I finally have my fight back. I will not apologize for or be ashamed of my journey. I hope you won’t either.

 

A Timetable for Grief

jim and grandma

It’s been three and a half years since Jim died.  I haven’t really talked about it much because, well, what would I even say.  It’s all so tender and fragile and holy.  It’s been three and a half years since we all stood around his bed and said goodbye.  None of us wanted to, but we had no choice. So we did. I stood in the back of the room because I didn’t think I had a right to stand closer. He was my uncle.  Not my brother.  Not my partner.  My uncle.  I didn’t have a right to be up close as he took his last breaths so I stood in the back and held mine.  In that cold hospital room, with the stupid blue chair and the horrible view of the roof and the air conditioning units I watched him die.  And some of me died there too.

Parts of me that believed that life was good and right and real died that day when the most real person I ever knew stopped living and left us all there to figure out why the hell it happened.  Even now as I write these words I still have no idea.  You know how sometimes you look back on things that have happened and say, “so THAT’S why that happened.  I understand now.”  Three and a half years later I still can’t make sense of it.  And maybe that’s just it.  There isn’t a reason.  He died because he got sick.  That’s it.  End of story.  Maybe there’s no lesson there at all.

I don’t think I’ve taken a deep breath since that day.  I’ve been shallow breathing for nearly four years.  Filled with so much sadness and grief and anxiety that I can’t catch my breath.  I got an up close and personal view of how fragile life actually is and it wrecked me.  Jenny Simmons writes, “Life is so deathy.”  She’s right.  It is.  But here’s the thing…the deathy-ness of life can keep us from the living.  It’s kept me from living.  It just feels so horribly wrong that the sense of wrongness takes up residence inside us and prevents us from taking deep breaths and seeing the fleshy colors of life all around us.  The weight of death wrapped itself around my shoulders, refused to let me go, and I’ve been sinking underneath the heaviness of it.

I couldn’t accept it, so I didn’t.  My heart has stayed there in that room, frozen in time, because I haven’t been able to deal with it yet.  And I’m terribly embarrassed about that.  I feel ashamed that I’m still grieving.  Like, why can’t I just get over it already?  Everyone expected me to get over it years ago, so I put on my happy face and pretended.  But really, inside I’m just numb and angry and devastated.

I keep feeling the need to explain why I loved him the way I did, why his death has me so messed up.  I feel the need to validate my grief.  But I can’t figure out why.  Is there some rule about who we are allowed to grieve for and whose death we have to move right past?  I don’t feel like I have a right to be this sad.  But I am.  So where does that leave me?  Not only am I still, nearly four years later, filled with red hot grief – I’m also ashamed to admit it so I’m keeping it entirely to myself.  So add to the red hot grief a paralyzing loneliness that I didn’t even realize was there.

I was pregnant with my fifth child, our first boy, when my uncle died.  I was terrified I would lose that baby as I had lost one many years before. So as we buried Jim, I buried my feelings along with him.  I became numb, the feeling parts of me closed off as tightly as I could manage while still being able to hug and hold all of my sweet babies. Bittersweet living. A new baby came and new friends and opportunities and all along the way I showed up just enough to take a ton of pictures, laugh a little and then crawl back into my hidy hole.

As I begin to emerge from my little cocoon, I realize that I am certainly not the only one who’s been here. There are so many of us who struggle with sadness, depression, anxiety or grief and we never really talk about it. For me, it was mostly because I wouldn’t have known what to say. And I’m usually pretty in touch with my feelings. I generally understand myself pretty well. Grief changes all that self-awareness though, I think. At least it did for me. I suddenly had no idea how to deal, or even what exactly I was dealing with. I heard someone say once that sin takes you further than you want to go and keeps you longer than you want to stay.  Well, I wonder if the same is true of grief – although I would never compare grief to sin.  Grief takes you hostage. It pulls you away from the living. And it cannot be interrupted, ignored or avoided no matter how hard you try. Grief has its own timetable and it will not be determined by those who grieve, we are simply along for the ride.

I wish that someone had told me that grief is different for every person. The timing will be different. The feelings will be different. The intensity and effects will be different. None of that means that anyone’s grief is more or less significant than anyone else’s – it simply means that grief (like anxiety and depression) is different for all of us. I wonder if we have to actually be present within the grief to ever come back out of it? I wonder if grief isn’t something to just get through, but rather something to experience freely and fully so that we can take from it even more memories of the people that we lost. I have memories of my grief that are entwined with my memories of and with my uncle. This may sound strange, but they are as precious to me as the memories I have with him living. They feel tender to me and I wouldn’t give them up for anything.

I’m grateful for my season of grief and for however long it decides to last. I will fully participate in it. I will not try to push it down or away, but will listen to whatever it has to teach me.

I pray now for each of you who are traveling your own grief journey. Let us not be ashamed or discouraged. Let us be willing and ready to remember and be thankful that we have had the beautiful and enduring privilege of loving someone so deeply. May God bless you in your grief and me in mine. 

kim

The Way of Letting Go – A Book Review

Refreshingly authentic and vulnerable, The Way of Letting Go, by Wilma Derksen is a moving story of a woman, a mother, in the midst of unimaginable pain. The writing is superb. So superb that it often reads more like a chilling novel than a memoir. The wisdom and humility in the author’s words are both surprising and inspiring. To read the details of her daughter’s gruesome murder is difficult at times, but I found myself wanting to know what happened – not from some deprived curiosity, but because I found myself connecting to the heart of the mother so intensely that I wanted to hear her heart more fully – and to do that required a better understanding of her intense pain. As a mother, this book was difficult to read at times, but it was also surprisingly encouraging.

This book is about so much more than one woman’s story of grief. It’s about healing and forgiveness. It’s about self-discovery and faith. It’s about learning to live again after the unimaginable happens. I cannot tell you how deeply moved I was by this book – it created an intense emotional response that I was not expecting.  Anyone who has ever experienced grief can find some beautiful healing in these pages.  This is a book that speaks not only to the heart, but also to the soul.

Some of my favorite Quotables from The Way of Letting Go by Wilma Derksen:

“Finding our own words for what happened is our way of healing and becoming integrated again.” (p57)

“I had to let go of the need to find a happy ending to my story. I had to let go of my perfect story – and write the story that was happening to me.” (p60)

“Privileged are they who deliberately discard that panic of self-preservation and fear and dare to live life on the edge for others. Our souls will ultimately be saved if we risk it all for love.” (p67)

“The experience of violence or any kind of injustice reorders the sense of self. It devastate our identity. Our values, interests, lifestyle, attitudes, and habits can be so drastically altered that we almost become unrecognizable. … But for the most part, when something drastically changes our identity, whenever we find ourselves wondering “Who am I?” or “What are people thinking of me now?” we can lose confidence to move forward.  We become traumatized in a different way. It’s not easy to find ourselves again.” (p98)

“In the end, we are only responsible for our end of this victim-offender trauma bond. We can only control the end we are holding.” (p135)

“forgiveness doesn’t need to be defined to be lived and felt.” (p155)

“Gratitude is the last powerful light that drives away the darkness.” (p163)

“Letting go isn’t easy. It isn’t a one-time decision. It is a long process, and even though it is integral to forgiveness, it doesn’t end there. The process itself is the most important part of the pain of being wounded in the first place. It is the learning, growing, accepting of reality, of loss, of pain.” (p173)

“There are so many ways to tell our story, and the more ways we do it, the more we learn.” (p176)

“That’s forgiveness: when our hearts are more full than they are empty.” (p180)

“Forgiveness was something we did in the privacy of our hearts – letting go and choosing love.” (p186)

“Compassion is the essence of community.  Without it, we cannot heal ourselves or our relationships.” (p189)

“put love first, justice second.” (p193)

“When we move against the norm and reach for the counterintuitive lifestyle of forgiveness, we gain a powerful guide who is capable of doing miracles.” (p204)

“Forgiveness is an autonomous decision.  It is not dependent on the response of the other.  It is a lifestyle.” (p207)

kim

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 < http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

A Mile Wide – A Book Review

“Our love of one another is the greatest measure of our faith.” (p189)

Brandon Hatmaker’s new book, A Mile Wide, is more than a call to a deeper faith – it’s an invitation into kingdom living.  It’s an invitation to live a life modeled after Jesus – filled with love, grace and mercy.

The book is broken into two parts: The Gospel In Us and The Gospel Through Us, each part including four chapters.  At the end of each chapter there are ten discussion questions, making this a fabulous book to use for Bible study, book club or even just to discuss with your family and friends.  This book is more than just a quick read filled with fun stories and interesting ideas – it is potentially life changing.  It will challenge you, encourage you, inspire you and teach you.

Brandon is a fabulous storyteller – down to earth and funny – and his stories will leave you longing for a more authentic and tangible faith.  The way that he sees people is inspiring.  As I read through this book I found myself talking back to the pages as though the author could hear me affirming his words or asking questions about things.  There were even a few times I read a paragraph and thought – man, that needs to be a whole book just for that one thought (such as the quote below in bold – I would LOVE to see an entire book on this concept).

The thoughts and ideas here are not new, but they are written in a way that might be more accessible to the average person.  There’s an easiness about this book that makes it hard to stop reading, but the words are so deep and profound that it’s necessary to stop every so often to really soak them in.  Humility and kindness drip from the pages in this book in a way that is extremely refreshing and comforting.  There are also some difficult topics here, though – loving others, showing mercy, seeing the needs around us.  Although the book is written in a very thoughtful tone, there is nothing surface-level about this book.  It’s a call to live like Jesus.  A call to authenticity, vulnerability and grace.  A call to a deeper, more meaningful faith.  It’s a beautiful book and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Favorite Quotables from A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker (I really want to just quote the entire book to you, but that would be a lot of typing):

“..our interpretive lens should always be love.  It’s like the legend on a map helping us set our course.  How then should we love?  Choose love.  Every time.” (p5)

“Jesus came to rip the scales off our religious eyes to show us the heart behind the letters.  He moves from judgment to grace and chose love over law and people over position.  His gospel was for all, his community was inclusive, his discipleship was holistic, his mission was eternal, and his kingdom was vast.  Everything about Jesus and his dream for us was bigger, wider, and deeper than we can imagine.” (p6)

“The true gospel has never appealed to the masses, nor did it ever try to.  Jesus didn’t want fans; he wanted followers.  Yes, this kingdom will save your whole life, but you have to lose the one you have first.  There is no resurrection without a death.” (p13)

“Nothing matters more than humility, teachability, and repentance, because the opposites – pride, arrogance, and obstinacy – make us blind and deaf to every goodness and truth in the kingdom.” (p14)

“True gospel community starts with true vulnerability.  It’s where we end and the gospel begins.” (p96)

“Every move toward humility is a conversion.  Killing pride involves a thousand daily deaths that are hard and hurt and will cost us something.  But every time we choose to reject the lie of bigger and instead choose little, we are more converted to the greatness of the kingdom.” (p126)

“Everywhere we look there is physical, spiritual, emotional and relational need.  If we don’t see it, we are either looking in the wrong places or we’re not really looking.” (p138)

“Missional people attempt to live lives that are attractive to those who have no context for church.  They earn their places in the lives of others.  Only then do they hold the moral authority or personal permission to speak truth into someone’s life.” (p141-142)  [*this is probably my favorite quote in the entire book]

“Loving mercy and walking humbly are inextricably linked with seeking justice.  Loving mercy is the key motivation to justice, and personal humility is almost always the end result.” (p155)

“God is just.  But his justice is expressed through his mercy.” (p164)

 

 

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 < http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Made Well – Book Review

I read a lot of books.  Some of them I like, some I love and a precious few of them I NEED.  This is one of those books that I needed.  I didn’t even know I needed it until I started reading it.  Made Well, by Jenny Simmons, is like a soothing balm for hurting hearts.  It’s a healing book.  Jenny Simmons is a phenomenal writer whose words are filled with kindness and authenticity in such a beautiful way so that when you read them you feel like you’re already good friends.

About this time last year I read Jenny’s first book, The Road to Becoming, and it was one of my favorite books of the year.  I have been recommending it ever since!  Her latest book, Made Well, is equally meaningful.  In it, she shared personal stories of loss, grief and healing that touched my heart and made me cry.  In her stories, I hear my own stories of loss and grief – things I thought I’d moved past only to realize that moving past something and healing from it are two very different things.

There are so many layers to this book.  Being Made Well is not just about how we were created in the beginning, although that’s part of it.  This book is also about being re-created – about becoming well again after a period of hurt, pain, sickness, grief or shame.  Jesus asks us, “Do you want to be made well?”  Jenny points out that we have a choice.  We can choose to stay unwell or we can take the hand of the Great Healer and walk with Him into wholeness.  And there are so many ways to be healed.  Not just the mountain top moments that restore our souls, but the daily little things that can bring healing to our hearts if we’ll purposefully seek out and soak up those moments.

She talks about how to show up for others in their grief and how they will lead us in the best ways to love and serve them.  She talks about how healing takes time and there are no short cuts or roundabouts even though we all desperately wish that there were. Jenny also talks about how we need to make peace with our “broken bits” and how that looks different for each of us, just like grieving and healing look different for each of us.

As someone who has attended more funerals than the number of years I’ve been alive, I have more experience with loss and grief than I’d like to have.  And it always seems like it comes in waves, doesn’t it?  I suppose that’s grace too, though.  The crest of the wave is always followed by the trough.  There’s an up and down to it and the down is where the peace and healing come.  After the wave, after the thing that threatens to wipe you out, comes the calm waters of healing.  All of us need healing.  From past hurts, from loss, from the ache of a soul that has forgotten how beautiful and worthy it is – healing is for everyone.  If you want to find healing or wholeness, if you want to become well again or maybe even for the first time, I urge you to read Made Well, by Jenny Simmons.  While Jenny is A healer, she is not THE Healer.  But her words beautifully point towards the One who is.  You won’t regret a single page.

There are SO many “Quotables” in Made Well by Jenny Simmons, here are some of my very favorite ones:

“Healing happens all the time, even if a cure doesn’t.” (p24)

“Healing happens when we entrust ourselves to God’s care and become aware of the miraculous ways He is at work in our midst, binding the wounds.” (p32)

“What is most true about me is the image of God inside of me.  Imago Dei is my starting point and my finish line.  My birthmark, my DNA.” (p35)

“You were not created broken before you ever had a chance to become beautiful.” (p39)

“He bypasses my desire for cheap grace and quick fixes and does what He does best – He invites.  Jesus doesn’t assume the man wants to be made well – He knows some people prefer to stay sick.” (p57)

“Long before we are invited to be healed by God, we are invited to be loved by God.  The healing journey begins after we surrender to God’s love.  When we finally come to accept the fact that we are madly, deeply, fully known and enjoyed by our Creator God, we are set free to begin our journey toward wholeness.” (p59)

“Healing is not as complicated as we like to make it.  The steadfastness of our own hearts is enough to give us pause and mend us in tiny ways if we allow it to.” (p95)

“Good healers know that words aren’t always necessary and tears are okay.” (p104)

healing-happens-all-the-time-even-ifa-cure-doesnt

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Made Well from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

kim

In the spirit of looking for healing in everyday things: some of my healing balms are music, snuggles with little ones, beautiful books by talented writers (like Made Well), chai tea lattes and Fall.  What are yours?

 

We Belong to Each Other

I have to admit that I’ve been really grumpy lately. Grumpy and sad. It seems like every day I hear about or read about some hugely controvertial event that everybody in the whole world is either entirely for or vehemently against. Story after story pops up on my Facebook feed – guns, gorillas, bathrooms, babies – and on and on it goes. Take a quick scroll through the comments of any of these news stories and you’ll feel like there is no end to what we will fight about. And everyone is an expert. On everything. Blech. So I’m grumpy. And weary. And ready for all the fighting to end.

But I’m not three. So I know better. The fighting will never end. It will continue on and on until Jesus returns and completes what He began at the manger.

In her book, Carry On Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton writes, “I love God, whoever he is, and I’d really like to get closer to him.  I’ve been thinking about how one of the simplest ways to get close to a woman is to be good  to her children.  To be kind and gentle and to pay close attention to the things that make them special.  To try to see her children the way she sees her children.  And how God made us in his image.  How he is the mother and father of all of us.  So I wonder if that would be the best way to get closer to him too.  By being kind and gentle to his children and noticing all of the things that make them special.  So many of us spend our time trying to find God in books, but maybe the simplest way to God is directly through the hearts of his children.”

Man, that’s good.

The best way to get to know the heart of an artist is to study his art.  The best way to understand the heart of an author is to study the books they’ve created.  The best way to understand a songwriter is to listen to the songs they’ve written.  So it would make sense that the best way to get to know the heart of the Father is to study his creation.  Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in his own image.  In the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.”  Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

I’ve recently been reading a book called The Very Good Gospel by Lisa Sharon Harper.  At the beginning of her fabulous book, she talks about what God meant when he said that his creation was “very good”.  She says this:

At the end of the sixth day, the writers declare, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good [tov me’od].  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31).

Tov is the Hebrew word for “good,” but the word does not refer only to the goodness of the object itself; it also refers to the ties between things.  In the Hebrew conception of the world, all of creation is connected.  The well-being of the whole depends on the well-being of each individual part.

– The Very Good Gospel, Lisa Sharon Harper, pg 30-31

Our connectedness is what makes us whole and healthy and “very good” in the eyes of our Creator.  This connectedness brings peace and love and happiness.  It helps us to remember our worthiness and our sense of belonging.  It helps us to remember that we are not the center of the universe, but rather an integral part of a beautiful whole that includes everyone.  When we remember that we’re connected no one gets left out or left behind.  Mother Teresa once said that “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”  I believe this is THE reason that we can’t stop fighting.  We’ve forgotten that everyone belongs, everyone is worthy, everyone matters.  Not just me.  Not just you.  But everyone.

%22If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.%22

What if we lived as though everyone mattered?  The person in the car we just cut off, the lady in front of us in line at the grocery store who has eight bazillion coupons, the teenaged kid who is bullying other kids because he feels so worthless that he’s afraid someone else might think he’s worthless too, your kid’s teachers – who are doing the very best that they can, your pastor, your in-laws, your kids, your spouse – they all matter.  And everyone else that makes you mad, pushes your buttons, wastes your time or makes you feel rotten – they all matter too.  And so do you.  Not more than everyone else, but just as much.

Can you imagine how the world might change if we thought that way and then let that thinking influence our actions?  We might learn to seek to understand instead of seeking to be understood.  We might be able to look across the table and find common ground.  We might even turn our attention to more important things to fight against – like hunger, sex trafficking or racism.

“I am confident because I believe that I am a child of God.  I am humble because I believe that everyone else is too.” – Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On Warrior

Looking at each other as equals requires both humility AND confidence.  We can no longer see ourselves as less important, but we can’t see ourselves as more important either.  Everyone gets the same score on the scale of value.  We all make the cut.  In fact, we all hit the bullseye in terms of worth and value.  No one misses the mark.  

Once we understand all of that, we can learn to build bridges, cross divides and discover new common ground.  We may have to build that common ground, but once we see everyone as equally worthy we can begin to mend the hurt and create a new future together.  Sounds idealistic, and it is, but I also believe it’s the stuff of the Gospel.  Bridge-building, peace making, worthiness, grace, common ground – it’s the stuff of Jesus.  

by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you

 

 

They Were Christians – A Book Review

I read this book over a period of about three days.  It was just that good.  Like a mini history lesson combined with an inspirational sermon, They Were Christians by Cristobal Krusen was both motivating and informative.  It reads like a collection of short stories, each one standing on their own.  The author has such a talent for storytelling that I felt drawn into the lives of each of these people, but he also has obviously done extensive research on each of the subjects.  Including well known historical figures such as Frederick Douglass, Florence Nightingale, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Dickens as well as the lesser known Dag Hammarskjold, Jen-Henri Dunant and Chiune Sugihara this book truly serves to convince the reader that absolutely anyone can make a significant contribution to the world if only they will commit their lives and hearts to the cause of Christ.

I had just finished reading “Letters to a Birmingham Jail” before I read this book, so the account of Frederick Douglass was particularly moving to me, though ALL of the stories in this book were extremely well written and affected me deeply.

Each chapter begins and ends with the author’s own stories and thoughts on each of the men and women of faith.  His thoughts after the story of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. were particularly poignant and it was obvious that he was personally inspired by the story of Charles Dickens.

They Were Christians is filled with stories of regular people who faced enormous obstacles yet, with a foundation of faith in Christ, overcame those obstacles and went on to make an incredible impact on the world.  Stories of perseverance, faithfulness, love, kindness and sacrifice.  Stories like how Charles Dickens wrote out The Life of Our Lord specifically to teach his kids and grandkids about Jesus.  Or how John D. Rockefeller, Sr. gave away half of his fortune and started multiple schools, hospitals and churches all over the world.  Or how Florence Nightingale was willing to give up a life of luxury and excess to pursue her passion for taking care of the ill and suffering, ultimately pioneering a new standard in nursing and contributing greatly to the field of medicine as a whole.  It is impossible to read this book and not be inspired to stand up, step out and faithfully pursue your own God-given task in this world. 

Some of my favorite quotables from this book:

“Slowly the truth began to permeate Fyodor’s soul – all men are equally men; all men are made in the image of a loving God.  The goal of universal brotherhood is not to be attained by class warfare but by mutual love and forgiveness.” (chapter on Fyodor Dostoyevsky, pg 101)

From the chapter on Abraham Lincoln, regarding his thoughts about the Bible: “It seems to me that nothing short of infinite wisdom could by any possibility have devised and given to man this excellent and perfect moral code.  It is suited to men in all conditions of life, and includes all the duties they owe to their Creator, to themselves, and to their fellow man.” (p131)

From the chapter on Joseph Lister and Louis Pasteur:

A quote from Louis Pasteur: “One does not ask of one who suffers: What is your country and what is your religion?  One merely says: You suffer, that is enough for me.” (p145)

The author’s thoughts on Lister and Pasteur: “They were individually gifted by God and uniquely motivated by his Spirit to work for the common good.  All of us can be forever thankful for the tenacity they displayed, the discoveries they shared, and the indelible and life-changing contributions they made in this world.” (p160)

 

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Baker Books Bloggers.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

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