Category Archives: Identity

Poised

poisedAre you a poised individual? Would anyone use the word poise to describe your mien and air, your manner and your bearing?

Poise is a word that refers to elegance and grace in a person’s carriage. It is the state of composure that allows one to remain centered and upright in any given situation. Older uses of the word described balance and equilibrium in a person’s core.

The opposite of poise is discombobulation, the state of being confused or disconcerted by external forces, and when we get discombobulated we make up for it by posing. Since we don’t have a natural composure flowing from within us, we wear external masks and strike external poses to compensate. Which one best describes you? In a given day are you more poised and composed or posed and discombobulated?

Our level of poise and composure is directly tied to our confidence—the more confident we are the more poised we become. Conversely, as our confidence ebbs our fear, confusion, and distress increases.

So how do we shed our posing and grow in confidence that leads to ever-increasing poise and composure? Two thoughts. First, stay close to Jesus Christ, who always modeled poise and equilibrium. He moved through the storms of Roman oppression and religious persecution like an eye of a hurricane, ever-poised and composed. Second, remember that confidence flows from the presence of God. The more we cultivate the presence of God in our lives the more our confidence grows and poise becomes our posture.

I know it can take time to overcome our fears and grow in poise and confidence, but it changes everything when we attain it. Let’s set poise as a goal, and learn to bring the peace, hope, and composure of Christ wherever we go every day of our lives.

The Audience or the Conductor?

symphonyWhose eye does an elite orchestral musician most want to catch, the audience’s or the conductor’s?

For a brilliant symphony musician, audience applause is a desired outcome, but it is not the central aim. The focus is on following the conductor’s lead. What would happen to a violinist or a cellist who gazed at the crowd while missing the conductor’s cue? Were that to become a common occurrence their career would undoubtedly be short-lived.

Musicians hope for applause but they follow the maestro regardless of how the audience responds. If the house is silent they keep playing as they’re led, and if ovations become deafening they do the same.

For followers of Jesus our mindset should match that of the orchestral musicians. We want to win and draw and move as many people as possible, but our ultimate goal is to please the one who called us.

The love, favor, and acclaim of men and women can be wonderfully fun and affirming, but it can never replace God’s “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Whose applause are we working for? Whose “well done” do we crave? Is our gaze fixed upward toward an audience of one or are we looking to every passing face to find our approval and worth?

It isn’t easy to secure this kind of focused devotion, but it is worth the effort. When heaven affirms you its effects will touch and heal the deepest recesses of your soul.

Superman, Batman, and YOU

batmansuperman2Superman…Batman…Ironman…the Incredible Hulk…what is Marvel teaching us, and what, if anything, do these stories say about you?

Super hero stories have always been popular, but today we’re touching new heights of fan fervor as we return for a 6th, 7th, and even an 8th installment of the Batman saga. Movies are being made about even the most obscure of super heroes such as Ant-man and the Black Widow, and there doesn’t seem to be an end of future productions in sight.

Why are super hero stories so popular? Since pop culture is often a commentary on the values of a society, I wonder what our super hero obsession is revealing about us.

Are we looking for a hero? Are we longing to be a hero? Are we bored with our lives and simply love a two-and-a-half escape from reality? Do we try to live vicariously through Superman’s biceps, Captain America’s heroism, or Ironman’s wit?

Or is all of this stuff actually speaking to us on an even deeper level? Is there any element of the Gospel inside all of this?

I think there is.

A careful reading of the New Testament shows Jesus constantly revealing the deeper, truer, stronger, and better identities of His followers. He always seemed to think there was more to His followers than what a casual observer could see on the surface.

  • Peter wasn’t just a fisherman; he was a fisher of men.
  • Saul/Paul wasn’t actually a persecutor of the church; he was a champion of the church.
  • Timid, fragile disciples were actually fearless world-changers, who would boldly die martyrs’ deaths for the cause of Jesus Christ.

Jesus always saw into the deeper, truer, alter ego of His followers. And He sees the same in you. You are more than you think you are. Empowered by God’s Spirit, and walking in your destiny, you are a part of God’s hope and plan for the world.

So the next time you’re at the cinema, lost in a haze of special effects and complicated plot twists, remember that God just might be speaking to you there.

When you’re feeling illegitimate

Illegitimate [adjective, noun il-i-jit-uh-mit; verb il-i-jit-uh-meyt]

Adjective

  1. Not legitimate; not sanctioned by law or custom: an illegitimate child
  2. Unlawful; illegal: an illegitimate action
  3. Irregular; not in good usage
  4. Obsolete

Noun

  1. A person recognized or looked upon as illegitimate

Verb

  1. To declare illegitimate

Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel like you’re not legit? Like other people in your same role(s) in life are more legitimate than you?

Sometimes I don’t feel like the real deal. Sometimes if a church shopper visits Grace and then opts for another church or pastor, I think, “Makes sense—that other pastor is probably a truer pastor than me.”

Isn’t it a bummer to feel that way? It’s also a dangerous way to feel, because to the degree that we feel illegitimate, we will try to find legitimacy. And if we aren’t careful we can go to illegitimate places to legitimize our legitimacy. Make sense?

If I don’t feel legitimate I can look to my talents or accomplishments to extract a sense of value or worth. If I doubt the legitimacy of God’s work in my life, I can move outside of my relationship with Him to try to authenticate my life, and those are almost always dangerous moves. We can never find legitimacy illegitimately. There is no external award, degree, or accolade that can forever heal our soul’s deep need for legitimacy. Legitimacy comes from our heavenly father.

And Jesus knows all about this.

He encouraged me the other day when I was having a “poor me, I don’t feel legit” kind of a day. I realized that Jesus lived His entire life under the banner of illegitimacy.

  • People questioned the legitimacy of His birth.
  • When He assumed His role as Savior of the world, people mocked him asking, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?”
  • He was seldom recognized for who He really was…and yet in a world that screamed “illegitimate” Jesus modeled true Sonship.

He knows how you feel, and if you’ll look to Him and follow Him, He will heal the haunting echoes in your soul. You. Are. Legitimate.

The subtle brilliance of humanistic thinking

starsChristianity presents the highest, noblest view of the dignity of man (male/female) of any other worldview or belief system. According to our Scriptures, we humans are not merely the products of unguided evolution. We aren’t simply “dancing to our DNA” as Richard Dawkins claims.

We are not simply the latest, upgraded installment of the evolutionary chain, animals 2.0.

We are carriers of a divine spark. We are made in the image of God, loved by Deity, and we carry an intrinsic value and worth that is unique among all of creation. That’s our starting point. And yet as brilliantly and wondrously as we were made, we aren’t God. We submit to God. We worship God, but we ourselves are not divine.

In contrast to this Christian perspective is evolutionary humanism that starts from a very different place. In evolutionary humanistic thinking, humans are not intrinsically special or unique. We aren’t loved by Deity and destined for a significant life or eternity. We are biological impulses. We’re just the latest version of evolution, today’s manifestation of natural selection.

How interesting it is then to see that although humanism begins with man as no more significant than animals, it ends with man essentially enthroned as God. This is inconsistent reasoning. Humanistic philosophy both reduces the sanctity of human life while simultaneously elevating man’s prowess and genius as the greatest force in existence.

How does that happen? How do we begin as nothing more than animals, but then end as essential deities? It’s a brilliantly subtle belief that divests us of accountability and responsibility, while promoting our independence and pride.

I like King David’s exclamations from Psalm 8 verses 1 and 4: “Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Then “What is man that you are mindful of him?” God is mindful of us—that makes us special. But it is His name—not ours—that is majestic in all the earth.

Athletes and Artists

artistYou are supposed to be both.

For the masterpiece of your life to truly unveil, it will require the disciplined striving of an athlete and the detailed touch of an artist.

In Acts 24:16 the Apostle Paul declared, “I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” The phrase “take pains” comes from a Greek origin that means 1) to adorn as an artist, and 2) to exercise or strive as an athlete.

The Christian life requires the merging of both definitions.

You’re not just an athlete—the Christian life requires more than the rigorous pursuit of a workout regimen. And you’re not just an artist—you need something more than the creative expressions of your gifts, talents, calling, and personality.

Athletic artists. Artistic athletes. Right foot; left foot. Athlete-artist. Artist-athlete.

Athletes without art are mere machines. Artists without athletic discipline are too unstructured. Our challenge is to hold these opposites in tension, while recognizing that  they’re not really opposites—they are flipsides of the same coin.

In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul urges us to an Olympic caliber of effort and self-discipline, and in Ephesians 2 he said we are “God’s workmanship” literally translated, “the poem that God is writing.”

Whether you naturally gravitate toward athlete or artist, consider merging their distinctives into one unified life.

John Wooden famously said we should, “Make every day our masterpiece.” However, that doesn’t happen through competition alone. And nor does it happen by simply giving vent to our more artistic side.

The Christian life requires us to be both athlete and artist, artist and athlete, thus creating a life that strengthens others and glorifies God.

In praise of the jack-of-all-trades

swiss army knifeAre you a specialist or a jack-of-all-trades? Are you gifted in one or two highly focused skill sets or can you do a little bit of everything? If you were (or are) a doctor, would you be a family doc, skilled at diagnosing and treating a wide range of simple symptoms, or would you be a specialist, directing all of your faculties toward the curing of one specific human ailment?

Today’s entrepreneurial free market has given unprecedented rise to the specialist, the boutique, and the niche. For some, survival in today’s business climate has required them to focus their efforts on mastering a clearly defined niche of the market rather than trying to accommodate the full ranging needs of the average shopper.

Additionally, our star-stricken, celebrity obsessed culture directs nearly all of our attention toward the rare standout performers. We practically worship the top performers in a given sport or field of achievement, while seldom acknowledging the journeymen/women who faithfully show up and adequately perform a wide range of supportive job duties. Sometimes it’s good for us to pause and remember the journeyman (because most of us probably are the journeyman), and to remember that there is still—and always will be—a place for the jack-of-all-trades.

Can you imagine how frustrating it would be for a Swiss Army Knife to be expected to perform like a solitary screwdriver (or like a pair of scissors—have you seen the flimsy scissors on a Swiss Army knife??)? If you need to screw in a bunch of phillips-headed screws by hand you don’t want a Swiss Army knife or a Leatherman—you want a big screwdriver with a comfy handle. However, if you’re camping or doing small, around-the-house maintenance, the Leatherman/Swiss Army knife can’t be beaten.

So again…which are you? Are you a solitary screwdriver or a Swiss Army knife? Are you a specialist or a generalist? Remember, a world-class generalist is just as excellent and necessary as a world-class specialist even if there isn’t as much recognition or fame attached to that role.

My hope is that we generalists can be at peace with our gift-mix and find a place to serve where only jacks-of-all-trades can truly get the job done.

Peace out.