Category Archives: Honesty

The Repairman or the Homeowner?

I was talking with the HV/AC repairman while he was fixing our broken air conditioning system some years ago.  I was explaining that we had just moved, so our home looked a bit turned upside-down. He laughed and said that he had seen everything. He described how he went to an appointment at a million-dollar home  when he was new on the job. The landscaping was gorgeous and the building itself was awe-inspiring. The repairman rang the doorbell. When the homeowner let him inside, the repairman noticed that although there were gorgeous draperies across the front windows, the back windows had nothing covering them. Also, the only furniture he could see was a folding table, a folding chair and a mattress on the floor. The repairman said to the homeowner, “Wow, it looks like you are in the middle of moving.” The nicely dressed homeowner looked at him and said, “No, I have lived here for 5 years.” Oh my!

How deceived we are by outside appearances. From the repairman’s view, this home was a very expensive, well-appointed mansion. Once he was allowed inside, his view was abruptly changed. He was even willing to suspend belief and suggest that this person surely was just moving and that’s why there was such a big disconnect between the size of the home and the furnishings. When the repairman finally realized the ugly truth, there was no turning back. He said that he finished the appointment as quickly and quietly as possible and got out of there. The repairman felt so horrible for this homeowner who was appearing to be something that he was not.

I have been that repairman before. I have been totally sucked into believing an appearance to be reality. I have judged by the outside, and when allowed to see the “inside,” I have even chosen to suspend my belief thinking that surely this person would not be like that. I would call this concept a form of denial. When faced with the ugly truth, I was unwilling to see it for what it was, and this was compounded by the problem of my own naiveté.

Humbly, I must admit that I have also been that homeowner. I have been so comfortable with my own denial and keeping up appearances, that I have boldly stated the ugly truth, but not thought it was ugly because I believed my own lie! My conscience was so deadened that I truly did not see the ugly truth. I instead saw a “pretty lie.”

Both of these situations have taught me that we are easily duped. Many people who we perceive have possessions or wealth or any other outwardly appearance of success are really hollow inside. In fact, if we are invited “in,” we might be shocked by the hidden reality of their lives. Alcoholism, narcissism, addiction, depression, abuse and other bondage may lurk behind that perfect image. We need to stop comparing our insides with their outsides. Whichever person you can relate to–either the repairman or the homeowner–there is only one answer for how to overcome the lie/denial pattern. Make a decision to know and follow the Way, the Truth and the Light–also known as Jesus Christ!

 

 

 

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Best Mother’s Day Gift Ever!

My son had to write his first college entrance application essay. The college gave him 5 choices of topics. As I read the choices, I wondered who comes up with these questions? He selected one of the topics and started writing.

About halfway through the essay, he called me to his room. He was wondering what I thought the folks at the college were wanting from these essays. It was a valid question. I re-read the topics and quickly realized that it really didn’t matter what they wanted.

I told my son that there could be all kinds of agendas behind certain essay topics that neither he nor I would fully understand or want to understand. I suggested that his best course of action was to write honestly and well. If what he wrote did not fit their agenda, perhaps it was a good thing that he would not get accepted into that college.

Later in the day, I asked my son what topic he chose for his essay. He chose this topic: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you? Interesting, I thought. I asked him, “So what is the place where you are perfectly content?” Without blinking, he said, “Home.” And that, my friends, was the best Mother’s Day gift I could have received this year.

Finding Perfection in Brokenness

My family had a rare evening last night when all extracurricular activities were cancelled. We decided to get outside and spend time at a park. It was a beautiful evening and even the family dog enjoyed it with us. When we arrived home, our children asked to watch a movie. Most of television programming is such junk today, that we have purchased some DVDs of movies which uplift and give hope. We let my youngest son chose the movie for us all. He chose Seabiscuit.

If you haven’t watched this movie, you should. It is a story that intertwines the lives of three people and the struggles they went through during the Depression. It is a story of those same people finding each other and healing each other through a race horse named Seabiscuit. There are some difficult scenes in this movie, so I would either limit it for younger children or watch it first, and fast forward through those scenes. But overall, it is such a powerful story that I highly recommend it.

The fact that my son picked this movie doesn’t surprise me. It seems that healing was a theme in my life yesterday. Earlier in the day, my sister and I were discussing how every person and every family has brokenness and sin. This came up because our extended family is planning a gathering at our family farm in Nebraska to celebrate a 50th Wedding Anniversary, and 80th Birthday, and a 17th Wedding Anniversary, as well as the upcoming sale of our family farm in Nebraska. The farm has been in the family for over 100 years. But we have been leasing the land to local farmers for decades as all of us moved on to other occupations. This is a time to remember and let go. It is a joyful and sad moment for my entire family, and when family gathers, all kinds of issues arise.

Our family is not perfect. We have alcoholism, overeating, anxiety, suicide–you name it and we probably have it. But the truth is we also have a lot of love. We know we are not perfect, yet our love is strong. However, there are some people in my family who harshly judge other family members. They cannot relate to them or do not want to spend time with them. They cannot stand their brokenness. In fact, they choose to think that certain people are “perfect.”

I love that line in “Seabiscuit” where Mr. Howard wakes up in the middle of the night very perturbed and tells his wife, “Perfect. He’s perfect. What the hell does “perfect” mean? What? You show me something that’s perfect, I’ll show you something that’s not.” People who think others are perfect are looking at the outside of people or the surface of their lives and they believe that these “perfect” people have no faults, no issues, no sin. This is setting these “perfect” people up for a big fall off the pedestal you have set them upon. They are sinners like you and I. Their families have brokenness, whether they want to face it or not.

The only person who is perfect is Jesus Christ. Yes, we are called to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, but that takes a lifetime to come close to accomplishing. In the meantime, we have to learn to accept our weaknesses, change what we can change, and love each other the best we can. I guess the script writer of Seabiscuit said it best, “You know, everybody thinks we found this broken-down horse and fixed him, but we didn’t. He fixed us. Every one of us. And I guess in a way we kinda fixed each other, too.”

Imagination and Reality

Have you ever had a dream that was so real that when you woke up you were still feeling the intense emotions you had during the dream? This is the power of imagination. Our imaginations are a huge gift from God. It’s where we can create and discover, just like our Creator. Afterall, we are made in His image!

Lots of famous inventions came about because of dreams, for example the design of the needle that would make a sewing machine actually work. Mothers and grandmothers across the world felt a load lifted from their shoulders when this machine was invented. Making the family’s clothing became a much easier task. Today we don’t even think about sewing out of necessity. Everything comes ready-made. Clothing the family is as easy as choosing the style you like and can afford. All because of one man’s imagination taking a creative idea and making it a reality.

As amazing and wonderful as our imaginations are, we can misuse our free will with our imaginations which can create some serious dilemmas for us. One clear example is that we can let fear overtake us in our imagination. When something difficult happens in our lives, we tend to imagine all types of outcomes or ways to respond to the difficulty. The “what ifs” can overwhelm us and rob of us any real peace. Or we can decide that life is supposed to be a certain way, and to keep it that way, we simply ignore the reality staring us in the face. You can call this a game of pretend, but let’s be honest–that’s Satan’s territory.  He has a lot of freedom in the realm of our imaginations, and many times we willingly or unknowingly allow him in.

On the other hand, God is all about reality. He owns it because it is true. When we are faced with difficulty and suffering, we sometimes avoid facing reality. It seems so easy to rename what we are seeing or experiencing. If we pretend or ignore reality enough, we start believing that our pretend is real. That’s when Satan starts having a field day. The longer we keep up the pretense, the stronger hold Satan has on our lives. We even are willing to limit our view of God and His love for us, just to keep our “pretend” game going.

All of this to say that we are called to use the gift of our imaginations for good. We are also asked to accept our lives as they really are. When we suffer or face a difficulty, we are told to give thanks: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) And remember that God isn’t the one behind suffering, pain or death! To quote Saturday Night Live’s Church Lady character, “Can you say Satan?”

As for me, I will consider myself much farther down the road of spiritual growth when I can embrace these three things fully. When my thoughts and imagination are only focused on good things. When I can accept my life and all of its circumstances as it really is. And when I can face serious suffering and/or difficulty and my first response is “Thank you, God!” instead of my current response which is more like “Why me?” 

Honesty is such a lonely word

“Honesty is such a lonely word/ Everyone is so untrue/ Honesty is hardly ever heard/
And mostly what I need from you” – Billy Joel

This morning I am pondering honesty and deceit. I’m struggling with this because both myself and people I know and love are dealing with people who strongly feel a lie is true and the truth is a lie. I have many questions about this:

1) How did they come to believe the lie so thoroughly? I think because it conveniently allows them to do whatever they want to do without consideration for anyone else but themselves. By believing the lie, they can continue to get what they want at all costs. Or they can continue to ignore a huge problem in their lives by blaming others around them.

2) How can they continue to believe the lie when all reality tells them otherwise? I guess that they are blind to all reality. Just like a horse in the races, their blinders are keeping them free and clear from facing the truth that may hurt or cause them to change course.

I think it’s like what Father Abraham said to the Rich Man in Luke 16:19-31, where the Rich Man said: ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house,28for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’29But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’30 He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’31Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”

There was nothing which would open their eyes to the truth, even someone rising from the dead!

3) How will they ever see the truth if they really like the lie? This is where I turn them over in prayer to the Holy Trinity. I ask for unilateral forgiveness for them every day. I ask the Holy Trinity to surround them with love. I pray for clarity in my own life to see where I am blind to the truth in my life. I know that I do not have the power by myself to remove the blinders because I have tried to no avail. I have been humbled and must let our good God find a way into their hearts.

Holy Wood or Hollywood?

“Putting on Christ” changes everything. It changes the way we see other people, it changes the way we spend our day, it even changes the way we act! My son just finished his role as Jesus in the Passion of Christ. We had two requests for the children to bring the play to other groups. I found this a bit odd because our group is just a group of 14 children with very limited resources and no real acting experience.

However, an email arrived this morning that explained why there was so much interest. Our director, a professional actress who is on the national scene, explained that she learned a tremendous amount from our children. “Really?” I thought to myself. As she explained the details in her email, it all started making sense.

Apparently, there are two significant problems for professional actors: 1) Memorizing their lines and 2) Delivering those lines with sincerity that fits the character.  Our children did the “impossible” by conquering both of these quickly.

Our director spent some time explaining how modern acting has really moved away from Stanislavski who encouraged his students not to manipulate the scene but to find the truth of the scene and to be open to the truth each time that a scene is performed. If you and I go to most theatrical shows, we will see the actors manipulate the scene in a way to manipulate the audience.  As an audience member, we might not even realize that we are being manipulated, because some directors and actors are very good at this craft.  Also, if that is all we see as an audience member , we just accept that is how it is supposed to be.

Stanislavski did not know that when you put this discipline in practice that what you are in fact doing is opening yourself to The Truth and allowing the Holy Spirit to cooperate with it using the actor as an instrument.  I think this is what happened when our innocent acting troupe took their memorization and listening skills seriously. I also saw how many people wanted their photo taken with my son, “Jesus” after the play. They just wanted to share in the moment of Truth which we all had just experienced. What a blessing we had a Director who showed us the truth and beauty of the art of acting!

 

The Eyes of Jesus

Could you take 14 kids, ranging in age from high school to kindergarten, spend only 7 1/2 hours with them, and then produce a Passion play? That’s what our awesome director did, along with myself and 2 adult volunteers. Our production had lights, music, scenery, props, costume changes–basically the works! The kids had to memorize their lines, follow all the staging cues, and work without a few actors due to illness during part of the rehearsal time. Truly, we had less than 7 1/2 hours of time with them before this group had to perform before a live audience.

Tonight, during the actual performance of The Passion of Christ, the children took to heart what our director said during rehearsal. They fully understood that their performance was to give glory to God. Their honesty and openness made quite an impact on our audience of about 50 people, ranging in age from octogenarians to newborn babies.

After the performance, many people wanted to thank my son for his role as Jesus. He is very humble and graciously accepted their kind words. On the drive home, I asked him how he thought he did, since I was mostly backstage and didn’t see the performance. In his usual low-key manner, he said, “Well, I think I had a lot of help.” I asked, “From the Holy Spirit?” He said, “Yes, definitely.”

You wouldn’t know it from seeing him on stage or from talking with him afterwards, but my son’s role as Jesus Christ deeply impacted him. He told me this was a very difficult role for him for a variety of reasons. Knowing my son, I didn’t ask for those details just yet. He will slowly reveal them as he sees fit. I am so proud of him for taking on this enormous role. After the play, I saw a transformation in my son. I don’t think I can put into words what I saw. It was in his eyes. I think some of my photos captured it. I don’t know, but I think I saw the eyes of Jesus.

Humility of Being Pulled Over on a Ten Speed

This is a true story that happened to me when I was at the tender age of 14. I say this because even as I write this, it seems unbelievable. As I mentioned in a prior post “Banana-Seat Bikes and Penny Candy“, my childhood included many bicycling adventures.

One Saturday, I decided to ride my bike down to the bank and deposit some birthday cash I had received. Unfortunately, my banana-seat bike had a flat tire. I asked my younger brother if I could borrow his ten-speed and he agreed. He was quite a bit taller than I was, and since it was a boy’s bike, it had that annoying bar across the middle. This meant that for me to ride his bike, I had to tip it way over and sorta swing myself and the bike up to balance and go. The bank was only a mile or so away, so I figured I could manage.

All was well until I came to the last stop sign across from the bank. I came to a complete stop but never got off the bike. I just balanced at a stop for a moment, looked both ways and continued riding across the street. Now, the bank was located in a busy neighborhood retail area where everyone liked to go on the weekend. Imagine sidewalks with couples strolling with their dog, families with baby strollers, and lots of car traffic.

Suddenly, I see and hear police lights and sirens behind me. I pull over in front of the bank to see what is going on. The police officer pulls in behind me. I cannot believe it. He is pulling me over on a ten speed bike! He gets out of his car and asks to see my identification. Of course, being 14 years old, I have none and tell him so. He doesn’t believe me. Now, I am a young-looking 14-year-old. I was very petite and definitely not mature at this point in my life.

Meanwhile, his police lights are still on and the entire community around us has stopped to watch this unfold. I remember the looks on people’s faces–jaws dropped, wide eyes, no movement. I continue to explain that I am not old enough to have a license. He tells me that I should have gotten off my bike and walked it across the intersection. I am not even sure this is required by law. I apologize and say I will next time. He says that I will be the kind of driver that kills people. I say I will be more careful. He gets back in his car. I go inside the bank.

I watch him from the bank lobby. After he drives away, I immediately get back on my bike and head home. I never deposited the cash. I think my bicycling was much more dangerous on the way home because I was crying the whole time. I think of this humiliating situation and realize that being humbled can come to us in the most unexpected ways. And believe me, I never borrowed my brother’s bike again.

Busted with Juicy Fruit Gum

This morning I was reminded of a time when I was 5-years-old and my brother was 4-years-old, and we went grocery shopping with our mom. Since our family was rather large, grocery shopping was always a two-cart trip, and check out took quite awhile or at least it felt that way to us as kids. As we were standing there, my brother pointed out a giant bin full of Juicy Fruit gum. As kids, we had no idea there was a fake bottom to the display, so it appeared to be full of double packs of gum from the floor up to our noses. He was brilliant, as I mentioned in an earlier post, so I usually believed what he said to be true. He said to me something like, “Gee, that’s a lot of gum. It will probably go bad before they even have a chance to sell it. We should help them and take a pack.”

I would like to say that I replied something like, “Well, that would be stealing, and it is wrong.” But I’m as weak as the next person, so I said, “Okay.” I promptly stole a pack of gum, unbeknownst to my mom. His argument had sounded reasonable to me in my Kindergarten thought process.

When we arrived home, the usual routine was that every child helped unload the station wagon full of groceries. As my mom headed inside to gather the rest of my siblings, my brilliant brother and I headed around back of the house to the backyard. We quickly unwrapped a piece of gum for each of us and started chewing. “If Mom catches us, we’ll be dead,” I think I said. So, we decided to open all the gum and chew it all at once. Now, remember, this is a double pack of Juicy Fruit. Our little mouths could barely hold one half of the gum. And here comes Mom around the corner, “What are you two doing?” With full mouths and silver wrappers blowing in the wind around our ankles, we try to answer. “Did you steal gum from the store?” she asked. Oh boy. This is going to be painful.

Once the groceries were inside, Mom plopped us back in the station wagon and headed to the grocery store. I know I was crying, but I cannot remember what my partner in crime was doing. She marched us in the store and asked for the Store Manager. We had to admit we stole the gum and apologize for what we had done. The Store Manager felt bad for us, and said he accepted our apology and appreciated our honesty. My mom paid for the gum, and we had to earn that money to pay her back by working  around the house. Lesson learned!

Fast forward 30 years. My family is visiting a Shrine with a souvenir shop. My son asks if I will buy him a small trinket. I decline. He pockets the item, only to be discovered when we arrive home 2 hours later. Do you know what I did? That’s right. We headed back to the Shrine the first thing the next morning because it would be closed by the time we could have arrived on that same day. I marched him into the Shrine and asked for the Store Manager. He had to admit he had stolen the trinket and apologize for what he had done. I paid for the trinket and he had to earn that money by working around the house.

But wait, there’s a problem we encountered. The Store Manager actually said that it was okay that my son stole the trinket, and that my son could keep the trinket for free. What? Hello? I couldn’t believe it. Here was an adult telling my child that stealing was okay? At a religious shrine, no less? If he had said that he forgave my son, but that my son needed to pay for the trinket, that would have made sense. Or if he had accepted my son’s apology and appreciated his being honest, that would have made sense. But to say that my son was innocent was insane.

I spent the drive home discussing why the Ten Commandments are crystal clear about stealing, and how even if other people, including adults, would like to say it is otherwise, stealing is wrong. Through this experience, I saw even more clearly why our world today has problems. I sure hope my son learned the lesson I learned as a child, not the “tolerant” one that the Store Manager at the Shrine hoped to teach.

What Lies Hidden Beneath?

I’m in the midst of a remodeling project. Because I am thrifty, my family is doing as much of the work as we can. This means tearing things apart which my sons find quite wonderful. We have pretty much redone this entire house except for the kitchen and two bathrooms. This week, we are dismantling the kitchen and pulling up carpeting. It was our hope and prayer that the hardwood floors would still be in good shape. The question we all were wondering as we began the ripping out process is “What lies hidden beneath?”

Okay, you may find this odd, but I am constantly finding that God speaks to me even through carpet that is 40+ years old! Think of a green from the 1960s…not avacado but a more of a classic light green. This carpet looks pristine because it is wool and apparently no one was allowed to “play” in this area. However, as we rip into the carpet, layers of dust come at us as we choke . This is like our souls. We may look fresh and clean and well-kept on the outside, but beneath this “surface” is some pretty awful stuff.

Next, we get to the carpet pad. It is thick and red. “Wow, this was nice stuff when they bought it,” I say to my son. However, some portions of this thick, red padding have become hard as rock! Crumbling, chunks of substance like chalk. “Huh,” I think to myself, “this is like parts of our hearts where we sealed off ourselves because of unforgiveness. There’s nothing left to work with here. It’s just crumbling away into dust.”

Finally, we get to the floor. It’s hardwood and it is beautiful. Oops. I forgot. There are rows and rows and rows of large carpeting staples that need removing. I try my usual method (pliers), only to find that these staples have been in here so long, they are brittle and just break, leaving me to wrestle the tiny nubs out of the hard, hard wood. These are like our sins that have gone deep into the depths of us. They have become us, and we must work hard to ply them out of the beauty that God made us.

I cannot wait to see what the rest of this remodeling job has in store for me. I must admit though I’m a bit afraid of what lies hidden beneath.