The Thief: The Problem with Comparing

Jean size. That dreaded number on the scale. Checking account balances. Facebook friends. Instagram and Twitter followers. Awards and degrees. Points scored by your child at his last game. Job performance evaluations.

So many numbers and none of them are good or bad when rattled off in isolation. The only time we have a problem with any of the above is when we are tempted to compare these numbers to the stats of others.

thief of joy

Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” So true. Not only is comparison a thief, it’s also a terrible judge. Speaking for myself, I tend to compare myself either to those who are way more put together than I am, or I compare myself to those who can’t seem to get their act together at all. The Ree Drummonds, June Cleavers and James Dobsons of the world leave me wallowing in self-loathing, wondering why I can’t seem to get my hot mess of a life in shape. So instead I look to those who are further down on the proverbial ‘getting-their-garbage-handled’ totem pole and say, “Well, at least I’m not as bad as that.”

But does looking down at someone else’s mess make me any better of a mother? A wife? A friend? A sister or daughter? No. It just makes me more prideful…and a much bigger pain.

compare highlight reel

That’s the problem with comparing ourselves to anyone else. It forces us to ride a pendulum that swings between pride and the lie that says, “You’re not good enough.”

The disciple Peter battled the same issue in John 21:19-22.

“He [Jesus] said to him, ‘Follow Me [walk the same path of life that I have walked]!’

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His chest at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray You?’ So when Peter saw him, he asked Jesus, ‘Lord, and what about this man [what is in his future]?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to stay alive until I come[again], what is that to you? You follow Me!’ ” (AMP)

God designed each of us with a unique purpose in mind…a purpose we do our best to throw away when we compare and long for the bodies, the families, the plans, the dreams, the goals, the bank accounts or the lives of others. Comparison breeds discontentment and discontentment leads to every other sin we struggle against.

flower comparison

God made only one you. There is only one person with your exact fingerprint. Only one with your exact strand of DNA. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Keep your  joy full today. Be who you were created to be. No comparisons allowed.

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The Rodeo Clown: Learning to Be Seen

“Tara, why can’t you look me in the eye?”

My friend’s question sliced to the quick. We had been chatting for over forty minutes and the topic had drifted from the mundane to more personal waters. Personal makes me uncomfortable. When I know someone is peeling back layers and taking a peek underneath the mask I work so hard to keep fixed in place, the intensity of their stare is too much. I don’t want them to see the trembling mess I am.

coffee

So I take a sudden interest in my shoes. Or the couch cushion. Or the coffee cup clutched in my fingers. Anything other than their probing stare. I can feel it. Like a monster breathing against my bedroom window.

Whoever said real is the new black doesn’t know how terrifying real can be. Or perhaps they do. Maybe they are just farther along in the journey than I am and have learned how to face their fear with a courage I long to possess.

I’ve made tremendous strides in the past few years. I’m learning to say no, to express my thoughts and opinions without worrying what others might think of me. I’m not exactly dancing in freedom but God has been teaching me to walk in it, though some days it feels more like I’m tiptoeing around in His grace. That’s okay. Imperfect progress and all that.

Yet why do I still have trouble looking people in the eye?

If eyes are windows to the soul, I try my best to keep my soul shuttered and locked away from view.

tara 18 2016 (2)

At my friend’s pointed observation, I made some silly comment. Something intended to make her laugh. A joke. It’s what I do. She smiled, but she wasn’t through.

“Do you know what you remind me of? One of those rodeo clowns.”

I blinked. “What do you mean?”

rodeo clown

She smiled kindly, but she didn’t shy away from the truth. “You know what the original rodeo clowns were intended to do, right? They were meant to distract the crowd from the blood and gore that had just occurred between the bull and rider. They diverted attention away from the serious issues by entertaining. Cover the grotesque with a smile and a funny routine.” She squeezed my hand. “And sometimes a bit of grease paint.”

How faithful are the wounds of a friend. Though difficult to hear, my friend was completely correct. Though God is restoring my broken places each and every day, there is still a part of me that longs to hide. A fragment of my spirit that lives in shame. Shame never wants to flaunt itself, does it? It covers. It distracts. It deflects. As Jennifer Dukes Lee worded it in her book Love Idol, “Because we can’t make peace with ourselves, we try to hide ourselves.”

Hiding can take all kind of forms. It doesn’t have to be the mousy little girl ducking behind her mane of hair and folded arms. Shame and insecurity can be wrapped in the Homecoming Queen or the public speaker or yes, even a rodeo clown. Some of us only want to be seen if we will be perceived as perfect…and we either avert our gaze or apply the grease paint because we know we’re not.

kintsugi 3Despite my struggle with people pleasing, one thing I have learned is this: perfect is boring, at least by the human definition. For me, flawless has become synonymous with plastic. Dull. Lifeless. What a miserable way to live. No, I think I’ll strive for the Biblical definition of perfect instead…complete. Complete in Jesus. Whole. Not lacking anything because His grace has filled the broken places where my own weakness is laid bare.

When we grasp hold of how much He loves us, deeply and scandalously loves us, it changes things. Shame flees in the light of His love. He becomes our safe place. The One we can tell our deepest fears, thoughts and dreams to and know they are held in the only hands strong enough to carry the weight of the world. No condemnation. Only grace.

One of my favorite names of God is El Roi, meaning “The God Who sees me”. A lowly slave girl discovered this firsthand.

el roi

” The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

 Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

The angel of the Lord also said to her:

“You are now pregnant
    and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
    for the Lord has heard of your misery…

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

                                                                        (Genesis 16:7-13)

If I am to be seen, I want it to be through His love-filled eyes. Eyes that see the blood of His Son marked upon my heart. Eyes that saw my faults yet loved me so much He would have rather died than leave me in the dark.

We all want to be seen in those terms. We all want to know that we matter. In the presence of Jesus, there is no need for grease paint. No need to hide. No need to drop our gazes in shame. He sees. He knows, yet He loves us all the same.

That includes rodeo clowns.

Embracing Inadequacy: The 300s.

“I can’t do this. I don’t know how.” 

“It’s too hard. I’m not any good at this kind of stuff.”

“I’m not qualified.”

“I’m too old.”

“I’m too young.” 

“What if I fail?”

“People will laugh at me.”

“It’s too risky.”

“There are people better at this than I am.”

Do any of these excuses sound familiar? I confess, several of them, if not all of them, have found their way into my but-I-can’t repertoire at some point.
scared

So insecure. So scared. Sometimes, just so lazy.

The older I get, the more I’m learning this simple, terrifying truth: usually, what God calls us to do is far outside our comfort zone.

Walking with God often resembles the famous Star Trek catchphrase of one Captain Kirk. “To boldly go where no man has gone before…” The problem is, we don’t like going where no man has gone before. We want the easy path. The predictable way. The comfortable sameness we’ve grown accustomed to. We tend to gravitate towards “where most people tend to clump up because going somewhere unknown is crazy hard”. captain kirk star trek phrase

I get it.

However, I think part of the problem with moving into the unknown comes from a misconception common throughout human nature in every generation. We think we have to be ‘qualified’ to take on tasks of God-sized proportions.

False.

Not once do we see God telling one of His children that they will be successful because of their degrees, adequacy, skills or bravado. He doesn’t pick the “Most Likely to Succeeds” or the Supermans. Usually it’s the opposite. He chooses the weak. The broken. The vulnerable. He says success will be achieved when they lay their life in His hands.

So if you’re feeling unqualified and overwhelmed with the task He’s calling you to do, be comforted. You’re in good company.

Moses was a simple shepherd, thrust into a strange land after a murder was added to his rap sheet. So when God called to him from the middle of a burning bush with a uncomfortable assignment, Moses balked. Excuse after excuse. “You’ve got to send someone else.” “They won’t believe me.” “I can’t speak well.”

I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.

Let me share a little secret with you—God knows we can’t do it in and of ourselves. We are too feeble, too insecure, too indecisive, too easily led astray by our own emotions. He basically told Moses, “Don’t get all wrapped up in what you can’t do or what you don’t know. I will teach you. Trust Me. I’ve got this.”

“Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:12 2 corinthians 12 9

Consider Gideon. Despite Gideon’s paralyzing insecurity, God called him to lead a battle against the Midianites. 32,000 men were ready to fight , but God said, “Nope. Too many.” So He whittled the army down to 10,000. Still too many. When it was all said and done, God carved down Gideon’s army to a scant 300. They were outnumbered 450 to 1.

Gideon must surely have been a nervous wreck, but God was ready to showcase his unstoppable power. “I will deliver you with the 300.” (Judges 7:7)

32,000 isn’t always better than 300. A young mother battling addiction may not be a better provider to her children than a grandmother who was ready to enjoy retirement but is determined to mold her grandchildren into warriors of God. A super-talent may not be the better choice for worship leader than the man who can barely carry a tune but knows how to lead others to the Savior’s feet. The Pulitzer prize winning author isn’t always better than the simple no-name writer who weaves stories together to teach his friends about Christ. An evangelist who can shake down a roof with his powerful, engaging sermons isn’t always better than the humble pastor who spurns applause, yet loves the broken and gives himself away, serving them despite his own exhaustion.

Bigger isn’t always better.

Sometimes, we may not even have 300 to back us up. Sometimes, all we can do is cry out in our emptiness. “Lord, I want to surrender, but I don’t have anything to offer. No secret weapons. No spiritual arsenal. How could you possibly use me? I don’t have anything left to give. I have nothing.”

At times like that, God smiles and wraps His arms of peace around us. “Okay, so you have nothing. I can work with that too.” After all, He spoke the universe into existence. Turning your nothing into something isn’t too hard for Him. nothing into something

Our weakness is a show room for God to display His amazing, jaw-dropping power. It keeps us reliant on Him. Some folks call it ‘God margin’. Others ‘grace gaps’. Whatever you want to call it, it’s the space between our own ability and what is required for victory. He sees our cracks, the empty space where our ability yawns painfully away from success and He steps in to fill the hole. He teaches. He moves. He shields and protects. Sometimes, He even turns the world upside down to meet our need.

That’s probably the greatest thing about being given an assignment that leaves you breathless—you won’t be forging into new territory alone. The One who calls you to it, will walk with you through it. Paving the way. Guiding and squeezing your trembling hand in His.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” ~ Psalm 32:8

Thinking over all this, I was reminded of a sweet incident with my middle child several years ago. I was getting ready for the morning, putting on my make up (or ‘painting the barn’ as my husband so lovingly puts it) and Callie ran in to the bathroom, wrapping her arms around my knees. She looked at me with a grin. “Mom…hold me!” She was in kindergarten and loved piggy back rides. on his shoulders

I knelt down, letting her climb onto my back, and stood. She giggled when she saw her reflection in the mirror. Her blonde head was several inches higher than my own. Measuring our height difference with her little hands, she grinned from ear to ear. “Hey, Momma. I’m kind of little, but I’m big when you hold me!”

We are little, inadequate and weak within ourselves, but resting on the shoulders of the Everlasting Arms, we are huge. More than ready to take on any task He leads us to…whether we have 32,000, 300 or nothing.

Have you ever felt ill-equipped for a God-sized adventure? In what ways is God stretching you outside your comfort zone? How does it make you feel? I would love to hear your story!

Selfie People, Selfie World

Selfies. Everywhere I look. Some cute, some hideous. The whole selfie craze has become a cultural phenomenon. There are even thousands of websites and Youtube videos dedicated to teaching the art of taking a good selfie.

We are a culture obsessed. Just this morning I googled selfie products and was astounded to find pages upon pages of links and products. Selfie sticks, selfie brushes, selfie shoes, selfie hats, selfie ink pins…and the list keeps going. All products designed to take pictures of the user at any time of the day in the middle of any activity.

selfie brush

My youngest daughter used to have a Barbie guitar that sang this little tune whenever it was played, “I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world…” (FYI- Most annoying song on the planet, in my opinion.) Just the other day, I heard my girls giggling as they tried to take the perfect picture together. Callie began singing, changing the words of the old song to, “I’m a selfie girl, in a selfie world…”

The thought stopped me cold. We have become selfie people. It’s all about us.

I’m not saying selfies are wrong. They’re not. They can be fun, humorous and endearing. It’s the mindset behind the obsession with it that disturbs me. We are being taught to focus constantly on ourselves. It reeks of pride and self-absorption. It’s a form of insecurity that screams, “Look at me!”

We have become so desperate for significance that we’re sick with it.

I recently read a life-changing book called Embracing Obscurity. It’s an in-depth look at the pride that lurks in all of our lives, not just with a nonstop stream of selfie photos, but what we talk about, what our motivations are and how we handle our relationships with people. And get this…do you know who it’s written by? Anonymous. The author left himself or herself anonymous.

 embracing obscurity

Burdened by the pride God revealed in my own heart, I began scrolling through my Facebook feed to see how much of what I’d posted was actually a cry for significance. Oh, I had posted some funny things my kids had said or threw in a few scriptures. But many of my posts were about my upcoming schedule, my pictures, my book. Me, Me, Me. And I was convicted.

I don’t want to be a selfie type of person. I want to be busy uplifting others, celebrating my friends accomplishments and promoting their good work. I want to be a reflection of Christ. I want to spend my time telling stories what God has done for me…not what I’ve done for myself.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” ~Philippians 2:3-8

We really need to put down our cameras and focus on reflecting Christ. We need to stop insisting the conversation comes back to us and get into others. We need to stop worrying how many ‘likes’ our post about our kids got, or how many times we’ve been retweeted and focus on using our social platform to uplift others. In short, we need to let Jesus fill our significance need.

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” ~Proverbs 27:2

As children of God, it’s not really about us, is it? It’s all about knowing God, loving Him and pointing others to our Savior. Speaking for myself, I need to do better.

Look through your social media…what do you see?

Untied Shoelaces: Insecurity’s Scream

I could hear the fight from the trail below me as I climbed Pinnacle Mountain. Actually, everyone in the vicinity of the snaking path could hear the epic battle of wills between the frustrated father and his stubborn son on the crowded mountainside.

“Son, I mean it. Stop and tie your shoe.”

“No, I don’t want to.”

“You’re going to trip and get hurt.”

Silence as the determined boy marched past his father.

“Ethan, I mean it. Stop right now and tie your shoe. It’s an order.”

“I won’t!”

By now, the father is so angry he’s almost screaming. “Fine! If you fall and break your neck, it won’t be on me!”

Little Ethan huffed. “I’d rather break my neck than stop and tie my shoes.”

I could almost hear the exhausted father ripping his hair out at the roots. “Why? Why on earth won’t you just stop and tie your blasted shoe?”

Little Ethan turned, a scowl on his freckled face. “If I stop, everyone around us will think that I’m tired! That I’m a wimp! I’m not going to stop and let them think I’m not tough enough to climb up this mountain!”

The father scratched his head. “Maybe they’ll just think you needed to tie your shoe.”

Ethan shook his head. “No, it’s not worth the risk. I’d rather fall than anyone think that I’m a wimp.”

That, my friends, is rampant insecurity on display.

Have you ever been there? Insecurity makes us jealous. It makes us control-freaks. It causes us to wallow in suspiciousness. Insecurity births braggarts, fits of temper, infidelity, needing constant validation or the inability to be happy unless everyone around us is happy. Its nagging voice makes us think the worst of others, assigning them motives that don’t exist. In short, insecurity causes us to do the stupidest, and sometimes, most harmful things imaginable…not just to ourselves. It colors and stains every single relationship in our life.

Boiled down to it’s most fundamental existence is this: insecurity is a lie from Satan that screams, “You’re not good enough.”

 insecurity is loud

There is no louder scream than insecurity.

And there is no greater display of insecurity than when we compare ourselves to others. Have you ever heard the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy”? It’s true. Painfully so.

In my own life, these kinds of refrains are common: “If I could just sing like Mariah Carey… If I could only write like Francine Rivers… If I could just speak like Beth Moore…if I was as funny as Tim Hawkins…

Please tell me I’m not the only one.

The problem with insecurity in the life of the child of God is that it devalues a person He’s made for a glorious purpose. You.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body: all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16) Before you ever took a breath, God had a distinct plan for your life and that plan did not include having you pretend to be someone else.

The world already has a Mariah Carey, a Francine Rivers, a Beth Moore and a Tim Hawkins. The plan for your life is distinct for you.

If you’ve been inspired to write a song, rejoice. God gave that unique idea to you. If a story is inside of you just begging to come out, be glad. For He gave that story to you. If you fear you are royally messing up as a parent and that things will never get better with your children, take a deep breath. He entrusted those precious lives to you.

My friends, it’s time to silence the screams of insecurity and replace them with God-worth.

God-worth is knowing Who we belong to. It’s grasping hold of the truth that Jesus thought you were so valuable, He went to the farthest lengths possible to save you. He would have rather died, died, than leave you in the dark.

That is true love. And it makes each of us more precious than all the silver and gold the world could contain.

Insecurity screams, “I’m not as good as _________.” But having a healthy God-worth says, “Another person’s talents and abilities does not diminish my own.” Insecurity shouts, “I have to be perfect or no one will accept me.” God worth whispers, “God’s unconditional love for me never wavers, whether I’m at my best or scraping bottom at my worst.”

If you’ve given your life to Jesus, you’re redeemed. Protected. Fought for. Sheltered. Precious. An heir. Royalty. Loved.

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Cling tight to that truth, my friend.