Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wearing Authenticity and Joy not the Happy all the Time Mask

Here is the final segment for Removing the Happy all the Time Mask
Adapted from Real Women Don't Wear Masks, Carol Van Atta and Dr. Kathy Rodriguez (yet to be published)

The Story of a Mother

Precious Mary, the mother of our Savior, so much has been written about this young Hebrew girl. She qualifies without doubt as a woman who exhibited authenticity and joy.
Upon receiving the angelic message — one that would forever change her life — she continued to live as a humble servant of the Most High, joyfully accepting her assignment with reverence and awe.

Remember for a moment, Mary was likely between thirteen and sixteen years of age. Her betrothed, Joseph, was probably much older. Virginity was treasured, and the loss of purity for a girl like Mary carried the penalty of death. Yet, in spite of the cultural laws and traditions, she agreed, without hesitation, to carry the Son of God in her womb.

Rather than plastering on a phony smile and acting as if everything was fine and dandy, apparently, she headed to her dear relative, Elizabeth’s home. It was there that she sang to the Lord, giving us a glimpse into her heart:

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name …
Luke 1:46-49 NIV

We can only imagine why God chose Mary, but I believe there are some very specific things that led the King of the Universe to select this poor, “average” Jewish girl to be His vessel.

Her responses to the angel’s message clearly demonstrate that although the message was troubling, she was more than willing to submit to God’s authority, trusting in His plan and design for her life. She was the “real” deal. Honest, hardworking, filled with the joy of the Lord, and sensible in her dealings. The simplicity of the Bible’s characterization of this young woman is enough to tell us what she was not — pretentious, selfish, phony, gossipy, impure, or dishonest.

No, our beloved Mary went about her business with a calm sense of faith and trust, leading to an abiding joy from her relationship with the Lord. If Mary had been wearing the Happy all the Time Mask, her response to the angel’s revelation might have looked, instead, something like this:

Walking to the well, Mary smiled at the passerby. Although exhausted, she knew how important it was to keep a shining smile plastered on her face. After all, she was going to be married soon. There was simply too much to do, though. As she passed near her favorite resting spot, she was surprised to see a stranger sitting beneath a tree. He smiled as she approached. There was something odd about this fellow. He seemed to be expecting her. No doubt he was from another land. Again she smiled warmly, although she was quite frightened by his unexpected presence.

As if reading her mind, he instructed her to not be afraid and then proceeded to explain that she had been chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah.

“Excuse me …” she continued smiling although she felt as if the air had been sucked from her, “How is this possible? I’m a virgin. What will everyone think?” Without waiting for an answer, she continued her tirade.

“What will my mom think? My dad will just kill me; really, do you know the laws around here? But, of course, it would be an honor to bear the Messiah. Once people get over the pregnant part, everyone will be jealous of me. Maybe this won’t be so bad. I’ll just have to pull myself together and stay positive if things get too tough. I’ll have to find a way to convince Joseph of my purity. I guess God chose me because of my always happy demeanor …”

Phew! Scary stuff, huh? But isn’t that how we sometimes act when God gives us an assignment. Instead of simply embracing God’s plan with a quiet confidence and joy, comfortable to openly voice our misgiving with God and trusted friends, we go off on a tangent of “what ifs” and “I can’t.” All while we smile and pretend everything is okay.

Friends, we need not fear God’s plan. His purpose is always for our best. Isn’t it time to trade our Happy all the Time Masks for authenticity and joy?

Dear Lord,
What a relief to know that your expectation of us is not for us to wear a phony smile as we serve You. You are much more interested in truth and genuine responses. After all, you can handle our deepest, darkest emotions without blinking an eye. Nothing we think or feel is shocking to You. Pretending to be happy all the time, when the world is crumbling beneath our feet, is dishonest and not helpful to us or to others. Anytime we pretend and attempt to hide from our fears, we end up missing Your best.

In You, we can experience a godly joy like Paul experienced while locked away in prison. Although his circumstances were difficult, he was able to sing praises to You, joyfully. Help us be more like young Mary, eager to serve You, joyful in spite of her fears, and honest with her concerns. With You, Lord, there are plenty of reasons to smile. Help us understand the truth and joy that is available in our relationship with You. Amen

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Big Bailout

Today, I'm taking a break from the mask series to share my response to the negativity that is so prevalent in our nation and world right now. For a hope-filled message and a challenge (Princess Warriors embrace challenge, right?) visit my other blog.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Happy All the Time: More on the Mask

More on the Happy all the Time Mask

(excerpt from Real Women Don't Wear Masks, Carol Van Atta and Dr. Kathy Rodriguez)

Remember the popular television sitcom The Brady Bunch? It’s hard to forget the always-smiling faces of this all-American, blended family from the 1970’s. I never once saw Mrs. Brady yell at the kids. She rarely showed any signs of frustration at her husband, Mike, and she smiled through one family “crisis” after another all while looking super spiffy in her polyester pantsuits and jazzy skirt ensembles. Alice, their live-in housekeeper, smiled even more (if that was possible) than Mrs. Brady. No matter what was going on in the house, her Happy all the Time Mask remained securely on, her smile shining brightly.

Fresh cookies, anyone?

In the Brady Family, a glass of milk, hot chocolate-chip cookies, and a cheery smile solved every problem.

In reality, no one is happy all the time, and unfortunately, cookies aren’t a surefire prescription for problem solving. Yes, I know, cookies seem to do the trick at times, but, seriously, life is full of trials, tribulations, and multiple temptations. We are assaulted daily with challenges that test our faith beyond what we believe we can possibly bear without an understanding of God’s plan for contentment and authenticity — for joy.

When we begin to accept our true identities as daughters of the King of Kings, we will realize that smiling all the time isn’t the real deal. It’s kind of like eating spam rather than ham, or tasting that rubbery fake-seafood-stuff instead of enjoying succulent fresh crab, or wearing pleather not leather … the substitutes are simply no match for the authentic. There’s just something uniquely refreshing about smelling real leather that you can’t experience by sticking your nose into the sleeve of your faux suede jacket.

When we pretend to be happy all the time, we miss out on the genuine joy and freedom that comes from just being who we are: happy, sad, angry, lonely, fulfilled, excited, nervous … but, oh so loved by Christ. Feelings aren’t good or bad. It’s what we do with them. Ultimately hiding them behind a phony face, will not only cause us pain and suffering, but also end up confusing and hurting others.

The truth is that people need more than a feel-good face spouting feel-good anecdotes — they need the truth. So, if you think you’re helping by keeping your ultra-positive façade intact, think again. You’ll make a positive impact like never before by learning to wear authenticity and joy rather than the old, worn-out Happy all the Time Mask.

Wearing Authenticity and Joy

Hopefully, you have discovered that pretending to be “happy all the time” is not healthy, nor is it godly.

There is a striking difference between a phony smile and a joy-filled heart.

We can be afraid, uncertain, and even in deep emotional pain, yet still have an undercurrent of godly joy that flows through us, as we grasp the incredible implications of Romans 8:28 NIV: We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

We can wear a godly joy that is accompanied by truth. Living as a genuine woman of God, a woman who is able to express her true feelings honestly and openly, yet who still can see God’s future promises, is our goal. This level of authenticity and spirit-filled joy will get us through our darkest hours without pretending to be someone we were never created to be. No one is happy all the time.

In fact, only recently, new, intimate information regarding Mother Teresa has come to light via private letters to her close ministry friends and advisors. Maybe some people will see her admissions of doubt and pain as unspiritual, causing them to discredit her ministry. What I see is a woman, like the rest of us, who faltered in her faith and was scared at times to share what was hidden beneath her exterior — her Happy all the Time Mask.

According to a Time article by David Van Biema, her internal struggles were great and extended through much of her ministry. “That absence (of God’s presence) seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta and — except for a five-week break in 1959 —never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which had never before been published, she bemoans the ‘dryness,’ ‘darkness,’ ‘loneliness’, and ‘torture’ she is undergoing … She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. ‘The smile,’ she writes, is ‘a mask’ or ‘a cloak that covers everything.’”

Ladies, if one of the greatest Christian leaders of this century concealed her pain behind a mask, it is likely many of us have done, or do the same. I believe that God has now wiped every tear from this precious saint’s eyes, however, what a shame that she was unable to remove her mask and find true joy while living.

Let us not make the same mistake.

God’s Word has a great deal to say about joy and authenticity (truth, or being genuine). I challenge you to conduct your own topical search of these topics.

… the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10 KJV —

So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; Sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Isaiah 51:11 NKJV —

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart. — Psalm 32:11 NASB —

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. — 1 Cor. 13:6 NIV —

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. — Philippians 4: 8 RSV —

To Be Continued ...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

More on Masks ...

Removing the Happy all the Time Mask
Wearing Authenticity and Joy

(from Real Women Don't Wear Masks, Carol Van Atta and Dr. Kathy Rodriguiz)
We're still seeking a publisher for this project. I'll keep you posted when its available in its entirety. Until then, you can read tidbits right here.

The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.
~Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind, 1954

The striking, multi-talented, pop star strutted across the expansive stage, stopping momentarily to shake her hips and flip her cascading, trademark curls from side to side. While belting out one of her top-ten hits, she pivoted gracefully, and began her dramatic descent from the stage via a light-studded staircase. Before reaching the bottom, the smiling diva tripped, stumbled, and plummeted to the lower stage — landing with her jewel-encased gown tangled in a sparkling heap around her.

Before the audience’s shock had time to register in a collective gasp, this dedicated performer leapt to her feet and finished her song as if nothing had happened. Her smile remained intact, proving that not even a traumatic fall would get this lady down.

Let me just say, if I fell in front of thousands of people, I’d stay down and wait for my band members (or a paramedic) to remove me, sobbing, from the stage.

Now granted, performers are just that — performers. They are trained and disciplined, prepared to handle surprising circumstances with ease, and apparently with a big, toothy grin.
But, what about a pastor’s wife who is suffering excruciating emotional pain, yet continues to smile at her women’s group as if her life is perfect? She, too, is performing, and has chosen to wear the Happy all the Time Mask.

This ever-popular mask has been worn proudly by thousands of women through the centuries. Its decidedly cheerful perma-grin has graced many a dinner table, PTA meeting, church service, and even a beloved family member’s funeral. After all, remaining cheerful and appearing happy are this woman’s top priority.

Embracing the Lie

Our all-American Pastor’s wife has been married for 22 years. She serves as the Women’s Director at a 500-plus member church, and at any given time, is helping on between one and five committees, and providing personal counseling appointments to the women in their congregation. Known for her spectacular smile (dimples and all) and positive outlook about, well, everything, she is sought out by men, women, and of course, children of all ages.
After all, she has a bright, cheery and hope-filled answer for everyone. At times, she appears a bit tired and rundown, but her smile quickly erases any concern directed her way. Not even her closest friends know the truth — her truth.

She is the envy of every woman who meets her. Like the elusive Proverbs 31 woman, she manages ministries, helps her husband with his career and pastoral duties, and even home-schools her children, all while looking gorgeous and fit.

I’ll let her tell the story of one not-so-perfect Sunday morning …

I let out an audible sigh of relief as the worship leader energetically shouted, “Let’s praise the Lord!” With zeal that I did not come close to feeling, I, too, bounce to my feet with the rest of the congregation. My cheeks ache from smiling so much. I nonchalantly wipe my hands down the sides of my skirt, hoping no one will notice what I’m doing, or, worse yet, guess why I’m doing it. After shaking so many hands, I feel germ-infested. I know; I shouldn’t feel that way, but I do. I’m supposed to be happy that I’m in a position of leadership and have so many admirers, but I’m not. I try to be like Jesus, after all, he touched lepers, but I’m not sure I could do that; although, I’d certainly try if it made others feel better.

I can’t believe what happened on the way to church this morning. Bill and I were arguing about what limits we should set on our fifteen year old son, Timothy’s, television choices. Bill says absolutely no rated PG-13 movies. He even screamed at Tim, telling him that if he didn’t watch himself he just might end up you know where — hell. In a few minutes, Mr. High and Mighty will take the church podium and talk about the grace and love of God. How can he preach that message when he is so controlling and unforgiving at home?

I’m the wife, though. The woman who needs to submit with a smile, right? We argued until pulling into our regular parking spot. Then, of course, I put on my most gracious smile; after all, I’m supposed to be happy all the time.

Several years down the road, when this lovely woman was prepared to leave her husband, she finally sought help. It was then she remembered clearly, for the first time, about her childhood. She hadn’t always been a happy girl…

“Frances!” Her Father’s angry tone confirmed what Francis already feared — he was drunk — again. “Frances, get down here and clean up this kitchen. Your mom’s busy with the baby.”

Frances knew better than to argue with her father, especially, when he’d been drinking. Rushing down the stairs before he had time to holler again, she failed to see the baby rattle four steps from the bottom. With what felt like a slow-motion summersault, she twisted and thudded onto the freshly-polished, hardwood floor.

Her father’s heavy footsteps thundered across the floor, causing a knife of pain to slice through her temple.

He stopped, his hulking frame hovering over her. “You alright?” He asked with no obvious concern. Showing sympathy wasn’t something he did — ever.

Wiping the tears from her cheeks, she sat up shakily. “I’m okay, Daddy.”

“Well then, put a smile on that pretty face of yours, and get to the kitchen. Your mom isn’t feeling well, and her bunko group will be needing a happy hostess.”

Frances blinked back more tears and forced a smile onto her face. Ignoring the throbbing pain in her lower back, she resolved to make everyone’s night better.

If she didn’t, who would?

This future pastor’s wife had embraced several lies that so many women both in and out of the church have and continue to fall prey to:

1. It is my job to keep everyone happy and at peace.
2. My feelings aren’t important. I just grin and bear it.
3. I have to be happy all the time for people to like me.
4. If I just try harder and always act positive, everything will somehow work out.
5. As a Christian, I am to be of good cheer; there’s simply no place in the life of a Christian woman for anything but a smile.

With a belief system like this, it’s no wonder women find it difficult to take off the Happy all the Time Mask. Just keep on smiling, keep on smiling, keep on smiling, and you will keep on lying, to yourself, to God, and to others.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Removing the Tough Girl Mask

In today’s modern society, aggressive women who wear Tough Girl masks are frequently admired and promoted to positions of power and prestige. Their toughness is regularly mistaken for inner strength. Remember the movie Grease’s Pink Lady Rizzo — outwardly tough, but like a marshmallow inside. Like all tough girls, her mask was not a true reflection of what existed just beneath the surface.

Unfortunately, strong women are often compared to men, even adapting more masculine traits. This is not what godly strength is about. Not even close.

We were not created to be a Ms. or Mrs. Rambo in a skirt. Nor are we supposed to be timid little things daintily tiptoeing through life. Instead, we are to remove our Tough Girl masks and instead wear godly strength and gentleness.

Although these two qualities seem incompatible, in God’s scheme of things, they fit together like two missing puzzle pieces, making an ideal replacement for any façade of toughness.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16 NIV —

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need.
— Colossians 1:11 NLT —

She is clothed with strength and dignity…
— Proverbs 31:25a TNIV —

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
— Isaiah 12:2 NIV —

…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
— Isaiah 40:31 —

The Story of a Queen

Consider the lovely Queen Esther, a perfect example of these two desirable characteristics — gentleness and strength.

Raised by her cousin, Mordecai, to be a faithful Jewish maiden, Esther was likely terrified when the King of Persia’s messengers thundered into the Jewish quarter seeking young virgins to fill the King’s harem, and eventually, a queen to grace an empty throne.

The knowledge of former Queen Vashti’s abrupt banishment would have spread throughout the kingdom by this time, leaving the local maidens fearful, and possibly hopeful. There were, certainly, plenty of ambitious ladies donning their Tough Girl masks and eager to take charge of the situation at the castle. After all, this was a position of power and prestige for a woman like none other, and I suspect feelings ranged from outright horror to unspeakable glee at the possibility of becoming King Xerxes chosen bride.

Taken from her humble home into a lavish palace of immeasurable wealth, Esther was forced to rely solely upon her religious training and relationship with God to survive the culture shock her new surroundings were bound to bring, not to mention, the uncertain future she faced. If not selected as queen, Esther would spend the remainder of her days as a concubine in the King’s harem.

Amazingly, something more than Esther’s exquisite beauty caught the attention of her handler. Her quiet strength, gentleness, and wisdom, apparently outshone that of the other girls.

Remember, these exotic beauties came from every corner of Persia’s’ expansive empire. Lack of “good looks” was not an issue for the women selected. Esther, however, stood apart from the rest. Her demeanor eventually won her the crown and special place in her husband’s heart. Esther had found favor with God and the King of Persia — favor that would soon be tested. Thanks to one of Xerxes’ right hand men, the evil Haman, the day to exterminate the Jews of Persia had been set. The verdict was signed, sealed, and then delivered throughout the kingdom.

Esther’s gentle strength and faith would be put to the test like never before. Even today, Mordecai’s words to his beloved cousin turned regal queen, echo through the corridors of history:

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this? — Esther 4:14 NIV

Her response?




Plotting, manipulating, and acting tough were not part of Esther’s wise plan. Instead, Esther approached her earthly sovereign with strength and gentleness, until she reached his throne, where she bowed before him, awaiting the sting of metal against her neck, or the gentle touch of a scepter.

I picture Esther daring to glance up, meeting the eyes of the man who knows every curve of her body and the deepest thoughts of her soul. I imagine Persia’s powerful ruler, gazing at his bride, somewhat puzzled, yet intrigued by her boldness — boldness bathed in Esther’s gentleness. How could he not lower the scepter?

I can easily imagine the gasps of relief and a few muddled cries of disbelief as she reaches out to touch the tip of the jewel-encased staff. More importantly, I can hear deep in my spirit the thundering applause that shook the heavenlies on that fateful day so many centuries ago.

We can learn much from Esther. An orphan raised by a cousin. A teenager kidnapped by an at times ruthless political system. A woman forced to face death not only for her own survival, but also for the survival of her people. A woman that wore strength and gentleness rather than hiding behind a Tough Girl Mask.

In spite of Esther’s life circumstances, she was able to rely on God and the people He strategically placed around her. Although she alone had to face her king, she had thousands praying for her.

Removing false faces and mistaken masks isn’t a do-it-alone project. Rather, it’s a do- it-with-God journey — a journey that involves prayer, fasting, wise council, and loving support. God’s Word will become your guidebook to growth. Jesus will serve as your living example to follow. The Holy Spirit will empower you to let go of old masks and embrace new ways of living as a “real” woman of God.

Let’s pray.

Lord, You have created each and every one of us for such a time as this. I may not have a kingdom to save, but I do have a special purpose that is equally as important and uniquely suited to me.

Right now, I ask you to help me remove the Tough Girls mask. I’ve been trying to hide from the pain and heartache in my life. I’ve been pretending to be someone I was never created to be. I’ve acted in controlling, aggressive, and possibly even violent ways. I’ve been afraid to let others see my hurting heart.

Today, I choose to start a process of healing. I desire to put on the strength and gentleness that comes from You. Like Esther, I face many things. Like her, I desire to do so with integrity and without hiding any longer. I’m reaching out my hand to You, Lord. I trust You to help as I remove my mask. In Your Name I pray, Jesus. Amen.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Just Because

When I found this lovely design on my new favorite "play" site, polyvore.com, I just had to share it with you. I plan on creating some of my own designs soon. Take a peek at my 9/11 Message at http://www.princesswarrior.bravejournal.com/.

Don't forget to watch for the next post on removing the Tough Girl Mask.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Masquerade Ball vs Masquerade Life

Before I even start with today's entry, let me say I found the most amazing site: http://www.polyvore.com/. Here you can create design boards like the one above. I am looking forward to putting my creativity to use and seeing what I can come up with. Maybe some of you will find this intriguing as well. My applause to the person who designed the above "masquerade ball" ensemble. I'd love to post your name and give you credit. Great work!

Ladies, it's time to talk again about "mask wearing" click the following link to read the first enstallment on this tantalizing subject:

Dressing up for a Masquerade Ball can be great fun and provide an evening of mystery for those invited. However, if we were to remain hidden beneath our elaborate get-ups, over time, we might be tempted to think we are who the costume portrays.

Last time, we took a peek behind the Poor Me Mask. Today, let's look at the Tough Girl Mask. The following snipet of a Tough Girl is from a project that I'm working on with co-author, Dr. Kathy Rodriguez -- Real Women Don't Wear Masks: Removing False Faces.

In 1978, Grease, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John hit the big screen with a flurry of media attention. This musical far exceeded the expectations of its producers and has gone on to become an all-time cult classic. Most of you know the story: sweet girl (Sandy) meets nice boy (Danny) on summer vacation; school starts and sweet Sandy is now attending Danny’s high school; she discovers nice boy is really a bad boy, black leather jacket and all; Sandy meets up with the female versions (Pink Ladies) of Danny’s greaser-gang, The T Birds, and romance, dancing, car racing, and a lot of “mask wearing” ensues.

Yes, mask wearing.

Let me explain. In fact, let’s start with Danny, obviously a nice, caring guy attracted to a very conservative young lady. Who is Danny, really? Is he a polite young man or a cocky gang leader? I believe the soft, gentle guy is the “real” Danny, but for whatever reason, Danny has chosen to wear the big bad, I’m cool and tough, mask. He is accepted by his peers when donning that particular mask. It’s become his identity.

Sandy, who meets up with the Pink Ladies, and is influenced by their charismatic leader, Rizzo, makes the decision that to be truly accepted by Danny, she has to become a tough girl. Her entire appearance changes as she costumes herself with a whole new identity. At one point, Rizzo sings a song, revealing her true feelings, “I don't steal and I don't lie / But I can feel and I can cry / A fact I bet you never knew / But to cry in front of you / That's the worst thing I could do.” After all, “big girls don’t cry,” right?

So it is with most of us gals that put on tough-girl identities. We’re hiding for fear of being hurt, again.

Ah, the ever-popular tough girl, yep, that was me ― hard as steel on the outside, wimpy and mushy inside. After the swim team debacle I (Carol) changed. My trust level was pretty much nonexistent, and I made it a top priority for people to take notice of my new persona by behaving in some fairly unbecoming ways.

In junior high I ran track. After a track meet, we were all still on the bus waiting to exit when an older boy noticed that I had a big ugly pimple on my nose. I think he referred to me as Rudolf the red nose you know what. Before the sure-to-follow laughter erupted, I socked Mr. Pimple Pointer right in his noggin. No one was laughing at me after that. Although I was suspended for a day, I felt proud of this display of my new tough façade.

Have you ever noticed? After one or two violent episodes, people just look at you differently. All I had to do now was give someone “the look” and they gave me a nice wide space.

Wearing the Tough Girl Mask allows you to build a moat, or well-fortified wall around your life. And although I thought my toughness was protecting my heart, I, like Rizzo, had a whole lot of tears and a ton of grief hiding just beneath my mask. However, I was too afraid to remove this false face for fear of being hurt ― again.

As I grew older, I was so afraid of being abandoned and hurt again, I’d vacillate between pushing people away and relentlessly attempting to control every aspect of their lives. This proved especially true in romantic relationships. I acted big and bad on the outside, yet at the threat of losing that special person, I’d take care of everything in my man’s life to make myself indispensable. I was also the one all my girlfriends came to for advice; after all, I was tough, wise, and together. Little did they know!

The truth remains; wearing a false face is a lie. God is the God of truth. His enemy, our enemy the ― devil ― is a liar. When we are dishonest in any way, we’re walking on the wrong side of the street, and headed for one big accident.

Now, I have to admit, honestly, there were some major benefits to pretending to be tough, but there were far more complications and headaches than I can begin to describe. When I accepted Christ, finally, I was still attempting to superglue this crumbling mask together. It didn’t take long for it to completely disintegrate under God’s loving touch.

To learn more about removing this mask, watch for the next entry!

Quick note: We often hide behind masks after making a vow, or in some cases vows. Here are some of the vows that I made before putting on this particular mask:

Considering my heart-wrenching circumstances, I made two decisions that would affect my life for years to come, decisions that would alter my destiny.

1. I believed the lies that were spoken to me and about me.
I’m worthless.
I’m a failure.
Nobody likes me.
I’m not worth fighting for.
Friends will betray me.

2. I made a vow. I would become popular, cool, and tough. That way I could remain in control of my heart. (So I thought).

The stage had been perfectly prepared for me to pick up and put on my Tough Girl Mask. For years, I wore this mask well, attempting to conceal my fear of not being loved and accepted. “I’ll hurt you before you hurt me” became my motto. Eventually, though, I discovered what we all figure out at some point in life ― our masks don’t mask the pain forever.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Make Your Day Magical

Magical days ... ah. Just the words conjure up visions of childhood dreams, colorful sunsets, and fun-filled excursions to a land of peace and tranquility. If only we could create these awe-inspired days with the wave of a wand. If only ...
I know. I know. It sounds too good to be true. Life is hard; it brings painfuls surprises and unexpected events. We can end up feeling out of control and miserable before we walk out our doors if we're not careful, and prepared. We may not have a wand that sprinkles fairy dust, but we do have a God that lights our paths.
One of our big blocks to this daily "magic" is found between our ears -- our brains. If we're not careful, we can think ourselves into anything. I'd like to share the following article that was published a while ago. It reminds us that What we think = What we do.

One Evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of his palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. (2 Sam. 11:2-3 NIV)

What in the world was David thinking? He was a King that had it all. Most importantly, he had the blessing of God Almighty. Unfortunately, he, like so many of us, allowed his thoughts to ignite in him a desire to do something that he would later regret—horribly. Now, I am not suggesting that we all have committed the sins of adultery and murder because of our thoughts. But…maybe we have? Possibly, somewhere in the process of our own thoughts of revenge, or coveting a friend’s new home, or wishing for a kinder husband—we were stopped--somehow. Thank goodness! But the point is…we all have thoughts that are unpleasant, and far from righteous, at times in our own lives.

The world has tapped in on a small piece of the truth, suggesting we must learn to manage our thought lives in order to be successful. However, the world is misguided, too. The idea that we can just be “positive thinkers” and all will be well is yet another false belief. Telling ourselves to think happy-thoughts will not be enough as we fight the battle for our minds—and there is a battle. Faith in positive thinking is just not sufficient. We need to discover the power of right thinking, which is learning to rely solely on God’s word for the changes that we seek. In Philippians 4:8 (AMP), God’s word says:

whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things. (Fix your minds on them)

So, how do we do learn to focus on God’s goodness, and learn the power of “right thinking” in the midst of a world that is throwing lies, seductions, and temptations our way like a baseball-pitching-machine firing fast balls right over home plate. How do we avoid making a tragic mistake in our thinking, such as David did that night, up on the rooftop, so many centuries ago?
I suspect that David’s thought life had begun to go array for sometime before he made the seemingly instantaneous decision that forever altered his, and his ancestors’ lives. I believe if he had been living as directed in Philippians 4, he probably would have retained his integrity. We can learn from David’s, and many others’ mistakes, showcased in God’s Word, how to change our own thinking. What we think, good or bad, really does effect our actions, and the course of our lives. There are several simple steps that will allow us to become “right thinkers.”

1. Live in God’s Word—It is so true. There is no better way to change our thinking than to incorporate God’s word into every aspect of our lives. If we make it a habit to turn to His Word throughout our days, we will find our thoughts changing. I like to think of it as mealtime and grazing. Sometimes we will sit at the feet of Lord for a long time, in His Word, savoring it like a choice meal. But as people on the go, we may have days where we do a lot of “grazing” -- brief moments of reading a scripture, or receipting a passage. This habit keeps our thoughts focused on what is good and pleasing when we don’t have a great deal of time for the luxury, five-course meal.

2. Speak God’s Word—There is something to be said about reading God’s word out loud, and in prayer form. Creating a list of scriptures that help your thoughts stay focused on God, and His ways, can be extremely helpful. Read His precious words whenever you have the chance. When we are focused on God’s truth, our thinking is right, and wrong thoughts must move over, and out!

3. Write God’s Word—In a journal, or a notebook, take a moment to copy a section of scripture, or write it out into your own personal prayer. There is something powerful about writing, just as it is powerful to speak God’s Word. These methods seem to drive the truth deeper into our souls, and we are able to remember the content better, which is great when our thinking strays, because the Scriptures we have been speaking, and reading, will come to mind—and to our rescue.

4. Include Others—Building support and accountability is crucial to the process of right thinking. When we let others know what we are doing, and allow them to support us with truth and love, we more readily find success. When our words are not kind, or ungodly, a friend can gently ask us what are we thinking? By enlisting others, we are able to stand for God’s truth, and pray for each other.

5. Pray—Of course, pray! We must invite God into our quest to conquer negative thinking. The power of His Holy Spirit will strengthen us as we move forward in this process separating truth from lies.

Amazingly, somewhere a long the way, our minds are renewed, just as God’s Word promises. An area of struggle is suddenly gone. A negative thought pattern has been replaced by God’s truth. We are more thankful and grateful for what we have. As we participate in the process of learning the power of right thinking, God, in His unlimited power, steps in the does the rest. The power of our right thinking will be displayed by our right actions! Because, really, it is true -- What we think=what we do.