Shortcuts, and Getting Lost in Life

 

I think we can all admit that we’ve made some unwise decisions in our lives due to impatience. We want something and we want it sooner than later. We don’t want to take longer than we think it should take to get somewhere in life, be it a physical destination or a goal.

This weekend I learned about the story of the Donner Family, also known as the Donner Party. This was a group of approximately 90 American pioneers in 1846 who were to make their way from Illinois west to California. At one point during the journey brothers Jacob and George Donner decided to not follow the already established, tried and true path west, but instead decided to follow a supposedly new and shorter trail established by a man named Lansford Hastings. Let’s just say the shorter path ended up not being quicker, in fact, it didn’t even exist.

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During the journey the emigrants discovered the path had not even been cleared; instead it was all dense bush and rocks. Travelling with a caravan of children, women, and men of different ages, along with animals, and personal belongings made the trek even more difficult. To say the journey was filled with failure is an understatement.

Due to heavy snowfall the travelling party eventually became trapped in the Sierra Nevada, unable to proceed further due to the weather. Unprepared for the harsh winter they experienced hypothermia and eventually ran out of food.

Members of the Donner Party eventually turned to survival cannibalism due to near starvation; some turned to murder; and others experienced trauma due to the death of their spouses and children. Eventually some members of the party were rescued when the weather allowed a group of men to form a search party. Apparently roughly half of the party survived long enough to be rescued, the majority of them being children.

I share this extreme story of what can happen when we make decisions to take unnecessary short cuts to show the lengths some of us could be willing to go even if it meant risking our safety and well-being. It’s easy to look at the Donner Party and question how they could be so foolish and careless, but I’m confident we can all search through our past and find our own versions of impatient decisions which lead from one thing to another until regret, embarrassment, anger, and shame took over.

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Major areas in life where we are heavily tempted to take shortcuts:

Money. Be ware of risky habits such as gambling, buying lottery tickets if you can’t afford them, signing up to be an multi-level-marketing (MLM) rep if you can’t afford the start up costs and don’t have a large network to sell to, borrowing money from friends for things you don’t need, and using credit cards for unnecessary big ticket items instead of saving money.

Friendships. Making friends as an adult takes a lot longer than it does when you are in high school or college. Solid adult friendships take time. Avoid the mistake of thinking that frequently hanging out with people leads to meaningful friendships, it doesn’t most of the time. It might take years to build long lasting friendships with people you can trust, depend on, and genuinely care about, but it’s worth it.

Goals. Whatever your goal is, the way to achieve them is to commit to the work of daily discipline, learning, failing forward, sacrifice, and prioritizing. We look around and see successful people in person and on social media. What can easily be forgotten is how long it can take to become knowledgeable in your field and develop the skills that will keep you successful for the long run. People who take shortcuts to success are often people who have cheated others, stepped on people, fought a nasty fight to the top, and deceived someone somewhere. You want your goals to be achieved with integrity, honesty, hard work, and ethics.

Whenever you are tempted to take shortcuts in life remember this verse from Proverbs 21:5:

Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.

 

There Are No Experts On Life

There is an expression that some people believe, “You are the expert of your own life” or the other variation, “You are the only expert of your own life”.

I was in a planning meeting where we were working on developing a tool for women who might feel isolated or lack community during their pregnancy and postpartum period. A common theme and belief that kept being repeated during the brain storming session was that women know what’s best for themselves and they are experts in their own lives. I had to disagree.

I reminded everyone in attendance that if these women were indeed experts, they wouldn’t be needing help because they wouldn’t have found themselves in these situations that required government help. An expert is defined as “One with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject; b) having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.” (Websters-Merriam Dictionary)

The reason I believe we can’t ever become “experts” of our own life is because of a simple fact, we don’t know what we don’t know. As someone who has worked with numerous women and others who are in emergency situations I have never believed that we should expect people to know exactly what they need. In the midst of situations that will eventually become traumatic, it is unrealistic to expect a person to be an expert while their life feels like it’s spiraling out of control, or in danger. That is why we as workers, friends, and family are there to be of help to those in need.

Failed expectations often lead to shame, embarrassment, isolation, and sometimes mood disorders. We can manage our lives as best as we can, but that never guarantees that occurrences outside of our control won’t happen and that we won’t be in a place where we won’t know what to do and seek assistance and advice.

There are a variety of reasons why people aren’t so called experts of their lives: PTSD, mood disorders, sleep deprivation, lack of self-awareness, being manipulated, effects of domestic violence, medical issues, and simply being human.

If you are an expert of your life, this can lead to not being open to growth and learning. Learning more about yourself, your environment, and others. It’s easy to see yourself one way while others might see you a different way. We can learn self-reflection, self-awareness, and healthy self-critique; but it is unlikely that you will ever become an expert on yourself.

Life's Journey

Instead of being an expert, embrace being a learner with periods of thankfulness for the experiences of growth and transformation. We can plan for the future, but if we aren’t flexible and resilient, we will always be disappointed. Allow yourself to change directions and welcome new experiences. An expert is rarely on a journey because they know everything already and are often there to tell the world what they know rather than what they are learning. Experts spend plenty of time talking about the past and less on the future of open possibilities.

Let’s leave being an expert to things that are external to our self and instead, let’s be journeyers in our own lives.

You Are Not a Jesus Feminist Pt 2

You are not a Jesus Feminist Part 2

 

In this current political climate feminist is a word that is used by women to let the world know that they stand up for the rights of women and seek equalization with men. Unfortunately, not all feminists are interested in fighting for the rights of ALL WOMEN. They have some how made a mental, sometimes unconscious list in their mind of which women are worthy and which one’s aren’t.

The most selective feminists have deemed women who are poor, of colour, not formally educated, hold a criminal record, are “too religious” or whatever qualifier they have decided is worthless, to not be females worth fighting for. Unapologetically, they exclude the women who have made it onto their list of undesirables.

I’ve read articles where Christians have labeled Jesus a feminist. I think that’s a slippery slope and it’s best to avoid attaching political labels to Jesus. It is no different than saying Jesus is a Democrat, Republican, environmentalist or a union supporter.  I’ve even listened to people who claim that Jesus was a vegetarian, and yes, this is even though we read of Jesus fishing and eating with his disciples.

Based on scriptures in the bible, I have no doubt that Jesus cared about the environment; the earth is God’s creation. And we know that Jesus cared about the poor, the widows, children, and women based on his teachings. The issue is not the values, but the labels. Jesus never labeled himself. Yes, he was a Jew born into the Pharisee tradition, and he came from a town that was part of his identity; but other than that, he didn’t give himself labels, especially political ones.

We as Christians can have labels, we can either assign them to our self, or whether we like it or not, one will be assigned to us by society, government, employers, and strangers on the internet. Your first identity is as a Christian, a follower of Christ, a child of God, and on this foundation is where the other identities grow from. No person has a single identity, we wear many hats and have multiple roles in our lifetime.

The values associated with feminists, Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, NDP, environmentalists, etc. have changed over time and will continue to be fluid; therefore, it is never a good idea to associate Jesus with a political label. When you say that Jesus is a ________ (fill in the blank) you assume that Jesus agrees with everything a group or organization does. The truth is we don’t know if he would. Jesus never gave easy answers or explanations; even bible scholars, philosophers, and theologians have different interpretations of his parables, actions, and purpose.

Go ahead and be a feminist, a member of a political party, and an advocate. Keep your choices rooted in the values and commandments that God has called us to live; but please don’t assume that Jesus would be a card carrying member or financial donor of any group or organization. God has given you strength, wisdom, a conscience, and skills to fight the good fight and seek justice rooted in mercy, grace, and repentance; this is what you need. Associate Jesus with values, attributes, and things that fall into alignment with the will of God instead of a political label.

As my friend used to say, ‘Labels are for jars’.

You Are Not a Jesus Feminist. Part 1

Jesus-Feminist-definition

May 2019 was not a good month for North American Christian women on social media and in the news. We experienced the loss of Christian author, speaker, and thought provoker Rachel Held Evans. Following that we witnessed epic verbal and moral attacks against Christian author, bible study teacher, prayer warrior, speaker (don’t say preacher), and energetic storyteller Beth Moore.

The unexpected death of Rachel was shocking and difficult for the many people who had been touched by her work. The ministry of Rachel was one where she asked us to think long, hard, and constantly about what we believe, why believe it, and how those beliefs are manifested in our actions. She provided safer spaces for people to freely question themselves, God, and society. It was her heart’s work to help us stand in front of the spiritual mirror and ask, does what I believe bring me closer to God and closer to others, or does it push me and those I encounter further away from the loving, grace-filled, and redemptive arms of Christ.

The more she spoke, and the more she wrote, the more her haters attacked. I have heard, seen, and read many nasty things directed at women within Christian communities, but I will say, some of the worst seemed to have been slung straight at her. Despite the heart breaking reality that her death had left a husband and their two very young children behind, it didn’t seem to spur her most fervid opponents to call a cease fire on personal attacks. This type of behaviour is what happens when people are so attached to their doctrine and dogma that they have no tolerance for extending emotional understanding or compassion towards those who are hurting and in need.

I was never a “fan” of Rachel Held Evans in the same way that I am not a fan of my parish priest and the clergy team. I saw her as a woman who fulfilled her calling in life. No one has to agree with her, I certainly didn’t agree with everything she said, and I don’t think she ever expected people to. Instead she encouraged people to do the work of self-reflection, communicating with God, revisiting the bible and being open to new understandings and ways of interpreting what we have been traditionally taught, and following God’s commandment to love others.

When I saw that these same people turned their spiritual venom towards Beth Moore I was disappointed, but not shocked. I consider Beth Moore to be an Evangelical fundamentalist.  I have completed over 10 of her bible studies, and she had a major impact on my life and my faith. Each one of her studies has brought me close to God and taught me the importance and benefits of going deep into the word of God.

As with Rachel Held Evans, I don’t agree with everything Moore teaches, and I also don’t believe she expects us to. She has provided us with the tools to dig deeper into a topic and it is up to us to understand why we believe what we do and how we came to those decisions.

After reading some of the online attacks against Beth Moore I finally accepted that the issue really isn’t about women and preaching; it is about the deep seated hatred and dislike that some people have for women. Some of the most passionate opponents of Moore happen to be women. They are active gatekeepers of patriarchy in the church.

To quote Anne Graham Lotz (Crosswalk.com)

“The very first person to be commissioned was a woman. And she was commissioned to go to men to share her testimony…and then also to give His Word. I know there are some people who will draw a line and say I can give a testimony, but I can’t share the Scripture. But Jesus didn’t make that distinction. He gave Mary Magdalene both commissions, to share her testimony and to give out His word.”

Could you imagine if Jesus gave post-resurrection instructions to the women and they responded by saying, ‘I’m sorry Lord, but I can’t share the good news I’m a woman; that’s not the role father God has given me. But we can go back and find some women to tell the good news to, cook for the men, and by then you will have announced your resurrection to them directly and we can all celebrate together.”

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it. Instead of falling back on man made instructions Mary Magdalene and the other women listened to Jesus, who clearly stated that he speaks as God  instructs him to.

Beth Moore I am

Jesus comforted the women and told them, “Do not be afraid” (Matt 28:10) and he tells us women the same thing today. Do not be afraid to choose the commandments of Jesus over the commandments of men.

While the women were on their way to share the good news of the resurrection, and to share the truth, a group of men (the guards) were busy being prepped for telling lies about why the tomb was empty and Jesus was gone (Matt 28: 11-15).

The Great Commission
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” (Matt 28:16-20)

The passage above is one of the reasons I don’t need to call myself a Jesus Feminist. There is nothing wrong with doing so, it’s a personal choice, but I want people to know why I won’t give myself that title. I’m a follower of Jesus, that’s who I am. Whatever contemporary titles you give yourself, remember to keep them rooted in God, his word, his son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit of wisdom which has been given to us.

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