Midnight Earthquakes

Midnight Earthquakes

Why do bad things happen to good people?

At first when I am asked this question, my knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Well no one is actually ‘good’ we are all broken”. I do believe we are all inherently broken and no one is good and need a Savior. However, I have friends Christian and Non-Christian, young and old, who have endured some pretty-ugly and messy situations and that answer has never sufficed. Which it doesn’t, but what does bring peace is diving into the nature of God and how He interacts with broken people.

As always, I am not a licensed professional… but as I pursue God’s heart and character I want to take you with me as we unravel some truth.

We are going to dive into one of my favorite books of the Bible, Acts. This book is full of history, and I am a history nerd! This book was written by Luke, a physician and traveling companion of a popular guy named Paul. Acts covers events that occurred right after the death of Jesus in 33 AD and concluded around 62 AD. Now that you know where we are at in history, let’s get to the juice…

THE GOOD GUYS:

I am going to paraphrase this story to avoid copying and pasting a block of Scripture you prolly will glance over. This story can be found in Acts 16:16-40.

Paul and Silas were on their way to pray (“good thing”) and they met a slave girl with an unclean spirit which gave her the ability to predict the future. Her masters/owners made a huge profit off her fortune telling. In the streets, she followed Paul and Silas around shouting and annoying them due to the spirit within her. (don’t fall asleep on me yet, this isn’t a blog on demon possession). Paul done turned around and commanded the spirit out of her. He set her free!

Her masters realized they wouldn’t be able to make money off her anymore- because her ability was gone when the spirit left her lil body. So, the masters were ticked and had Paul and Silas stripped naked, severely flogged in the marketplace, and falsely accused them of promoting customs against Roman law. (sounds a bit like Jesus’ arrest).

To put this in today’s perspective, it’d be like someone rescuing a young girl from sex slavery and giving her protection and new life. She would then be free from the life she was living and her masters would lose a profit. No one would ever look at someone who is rescuing another person in bondage and think that wasn’t a good thing. It is a good thing to help others and offer them hope, right? Now that we can all agree that Paul and Silas were doing good things (I am sorry for overusing the word good… just want you to empathize with these 2 men who were on fire for the Lord but suffered greatly under the hand of men in this world). At some point, I probably would have asked the question “Why me God?”. I am sure you have found yourself asking that question before.

***Maybe instead of saying “good thing” I should refer to them as being obedient to their calling, but I think you are picking up what I am throwing down. Again no one is good or perfect without Jesus… for those of you who think my theology has gone off the deep end. ***

So, we got that, Paul and Silas good guys on their way to pray and saving lives from evil masters and unclean spirits.

After they were flogged, they were thrown into the inner prison and secured with their feet in stocks.

Don’t mean to treat you like kindergarteners, but did they deserve to be in prison? Uhm nay freakin nay they didn’t! These guys can’t seem to catch a break!

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH:

I would like to take a moment and allow you to think of something bad that has happened to you. A time where it seemed you were being punished for no apparent reason.

What do you do when something bad happens to you? Well for me, I obsess about it. I complain, grow fearful, or pridefully prop myself up arguing that I don’t deserve this. When life gets hard, I also think it is important to recognize the time of day we typically start to grow anxious/weary about our situations.

For me, when I wake up to workout, go to the beach, spend time with friends, or go to work, my mind is preoccupied and gives me less time to dwell. It’s normally at night in isolation when I begin to worry or feel hopeless. Let’s continue the story…

SOMETHING GOOD HAPPENS AFTER MIDNIGHT:

While in prison, Paul and Silas were praising God with songs and prayer at midnight. The other prisoners heard this. Paul and Silas were among people who deserved to be in prison. They would’ve never been in that circle of people if it weren’t for a reason. Suddenly, at midnight during the singing and praying, a violent earthquake shook the foundations of the jail and the doors of the prison flung open and everyone’s chains came loose. Whoa! (Acts 16:26)

When the jailer woke up, he was going to kill himself because if the prisoner’s escaped he would face a worse death than suicide. Paul stopped him from the attempted suicide and the guard fell asking Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved. What a turn of events. The man who had oppressed Paul and Silas was now the man asking for grace and mercy. Funny how God often flips the script following a miracle. The jailer and his family were saved that same night and that same hour the jailer washed Silas and Paul’s wounds, set a meal before them, and rejoiced with them…

LANDING THE PLANE:

1. Sometimes there is no explanation for brokenness. God isn’t picking on you nor has he forgotten about you. If the story would have stopped at the flogging and inner prison, we would be discouraged and could potentially assume God forgot about them. But the story didn’t stop there and neither does yours.

2. We can note that Paul and Silas praised the Lord in the middle of their bondage. I know you may be in a place where you feel like you are in bondage. Cancer, depression, heartbreak, addiction, death have all touched down at some point in our lives. These things have a way of making us feel like we will be in captivity forever. But The Lord, my dear friend is at work.

3. I want to encourage you to sing praises to Him even when it is hard… when you think God has gone silent. Even when you don’t anticipate chains breaking. Paul was the same guy who wrote the book of Romans, which is ironic because Rome was the empire that kept him in chains for no reason. You all know the popular verse, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). A lot of times, this verse is taken out of context in our minds. We think that good is a better circumstance or lack of bad things. But we can see that God isn’t just about simple rescues from bad circumstances, He is working on multiple levels.

EARTHQUAKES:

In this story, the person or situation keeping Paul and Silas in bondage ended up being the same person who fed, hosted, and washed their wounds. Through God’s crazy rescue via an earthquake (violent shaking of the Earth caused by sudden movement of rock beneath its surface) to loosen the chains of prisoners, He changed the ending of their story.

There is another earthquake mentioned in the Bible that changes the ending of your story. After the death of Jesus, there was an earthquake when he gave up His spirit on the cross.

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split, and the tombs broke open… When the Roman guard and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:50-54)

That earthquake represents the separation between us and God is over. We have been reconciled to Him and His love for us breaks chains.

Your situation has no grip over you. It doesn’t define you. You have been set free.

We are in the age of life where we are watching all things come together to work for good. The kingdom is at hand and you have a place in it. You have a seat at the table. The situations that have held you in bondage are being reversed ever since the earth quaked. The script has been flipped. God did not grant you a one-time quick fix that only benefits you, rather a solution that benefits more and brings them to Him. Don’t lose hope. He hasn’t forgotten about you. He commands nature and breaks chains.

The Gospel is for You Too

The Gospel is for You Too

This is something I struggle with.

Since I have been a Christian my whole life, it’s been my life’s commission to “spread the Gospel”. I want to apologize upfront for my brutal honesty and explicit thoughts on sharing the Gospel. I always like to remind my readers that I am not a pastor, counselor, doctor, or teacher. I am an inquisitive soul and I process things by talking about them and more specifically writing my thoughts down. So here I go…

I’m finna take it back to my restaurant days because I learned so much while I was in the service industry. Every night as a waitress, we would have contests on selling certain items on the menu. This idea of in-house contests to incentivize sales is not limited to just a restaurant. Employees in a department store may have a contest to sell the most Michael Kors shoes, and if the employee wins the sales that day they could maybe pick their schedule for the next month (not to brag, I would prolly win the MK contest). I digress.

At my job I was never able to really win those contests because I didn’t really enjoy what I was selling. If I was told to sell the big ticket Porterhouse T-Bone, I almost never could do it because I had never had one before. I was unable to relate to my guests how good the steak was because I was just trying to sell it based off of other people’s opinions or because it was my duty. Thus in return, I seemed disingenuous in my motives because I was just trying to make my boss happy not the patron. When it came to selling a Dallas Filet, well I had that in the bag… Why? Because that is my absolute favorite steak. I was able to tell my guests how much I enjoyed this steak because I had ordered it, enjoyed it, and experienced it myself. It wasn’t a job or chore for me to sell what I liked. It was easy because I would build relationships with my tables, ask them what they liked, and recommended my favorite item on the menu. My mind switched gears from trying to win a “back of the house” bingo game for selling the most steaks, to offering my guests something that would change their order for good. My recommendation was based off my experience and my interest in changing my customer’s experience.

Another thing, you don’t have to work at your favorite restaurant for you to tell people how good the establishment is. Your enjoyment of their food, service, and experience will naturally incline you to tell people about it. In return, your friends and family will go give it a try and see for themselves. That’s the same with anything in life. If you enjoy the gym, people will see the evidence in your physique, your conversations, and your overall health. If you like a Netflix series, you will most likely suggest it to someone. Enjoyment breeds conversations, and conversations lead to conversions.

The Incentive

I don’t want to sound cheap with using the word “sell” when it comes to the Gospel. But for the longest time I have been trying to sell the Gospel to people because it was my duty as a Christian. If I fulfilled this duty, I would reap the reward for answering God’s call on my life. My thoughts have been going cray on this subject because I am guilty of not really enjoying the Gospel and the freedom it brings. When you work in ministry, you can’t help but feel like you are a “Professional Christian” and you “have a job to do”. Please don’t mistake me, I DO think sharing the Gospel is the biggest, greatest, and ONLY call on a believer’s life. However, my perspective on this matter is growing. As believers who are called to serve others and share the good news, we need to make sure we are taking extreme measures to enjoy the Gospel in our own lives. Nothing is more tiring than trying to convince someone of something that you yourself aren’t even convinced of. Kind of like in a relationship, if you have to convince someone of your worth, well you prolly don’t value yourself. Or if you have to convince others that who you’re dating is a good boyfriend/girlfriend, then odds are their character can’t speak for itself. There is beauty in pure enjoyment. It draws people in.

The Gospel can stand on its own and change anyone, so let it transform you first. I am talking to you… yeah you, the one who has been a Christian their whole life. The one who drifted from Jesus and is back but still confused. The one who hears the Word every day. The one who teaches the Word every day.

Let’s take a look at Mark 1:29-34…

Jesus Heals Many

“29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to serve them.

32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.”

There is so much to unpack in this passage, but I will just highlight a few things.

My ears perk up when I see Jesus in action because that is what the Gospel, my life, and everyone’s life should be centered on. Call me if you wanna chat more about this because I could for hours!!

1. We notice that Jesus was on His way back from the synagogue where He was teaching. Since Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi, one could argue He was on His way home from “work” with His friends. If you work in ministry you know that a lot of lives change inside your ministry, but could prolly agree that a lot more lives change outside the 4 walls you congregate in.

2. He enters the house of one of His closest disciples along with the rest of His inner circle. They tell Jesus of Simon Peter’s sick mother-in-law and He goes to her, grabs her hand, and heals her. As a response to her healing, the woman begins to serve them. Wow. That stops me in my tracks immediately. Why? Because she was sick when Jesus came, was healed by His touch, then began to serve. Her service was a response to being transformed and healed. I get this backwards in my life. I tend to serve, focus on deeds, and minister without actually being healed myself.

3. I think it’s also safe to say that this woman had already known of Jesus. After all, He was best friends with her son in law. But knowing about Jesus and His works wasn’t enough to heal her… she had to experience His healing and His touch. Then she was able to be transformed. My fellow friends, it isn’t enough to just know Jesus and His Gospel, you must experience it. Let it in. Let it heal. Let it creep into the ugly. Let it seep into the porn addiction, the suicidal thoughts, the shame of your past, the self-doubt, the obsessive behavior, the broken marriage, and the fear of being alone.

4. Later that evening people caught word of Jesus healing in Capernaum and the whole town gathered at the door. I can’t help but cry when I envision this scene. I am picturing a small hut with a fragile door frame and people just craving to be near Jesus. All because they heard He was a healer. Not because Simon’s mother-in-law gave a great devo and recollection of her son-in-law’s time with Jesus. It was His healing, the Good News of His existence, and His power that brought people to the door.

5. Lastly, He healed those who came in and sought Him out. He drove out demons. He silenced the demons. What power. I just need to sit in that for a moment. He silenced them because “they knew His name”… I need to hear that. That the demons in my life, the demons in your life, the darkness in your life, the addictions in your life, the fears in your life, the anxiety in your life, the depression in your life, and the loneliness in your life are silenced.

If we all accepted His healing in our lives, daily, and let His name silence the demons in our life then I think people will see the Gospel at work in your life and naturally crave the same healing. When I think of Jesus dying on the cross and raising Himself back up again, I don’t want to think to myself: “well now it’s my turn to make Christ’s work worth it”. I want to think of it as healing for myself, accepting the truth of the Gospel myself, and enjoying this Good News, and as a result people line up at the door for His healing. I am imploring myself, to daily accept His grace*, His mercy* and Good News in my own life, and in return serve others. Not vice versa.

*Grace: getting something we don’t deserve which is Salvation and Eternal Life. By His grace we are merited with eternal life even though we did nothing to earn it.

*Mercy: not getting something we do deserve which is Hell and Separation from God. By His mercy we are spared punishment.

Song of the day: “Whole Heart (Hold Me Now)” by Hillsong United

“Healed and forgiven Look where my chains are now Death has no hold on me ‘Cause Your grace holds that ground And your grace holds me now”

Food Babies, Body Shaming, and Ripped Jeans

Food Babies, Body Shaming, and Ripped Jeans

Warning: this post is about body dysmorphia and orthorexia nervosa

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD): this when you become fixated on an imperfection or obsess over a certain part of your body. It could be a freckle, your legs, your cheeks, your tummy, your nose, or your teeth etc. and it is the only thing you can see when you look in the mirror. This can also disguise itself with the obsession of being skinny. “These obsessive and controlling thoughts can lead you to spend exorbitant amounts of time trying to cover or conceal the flaw, to seek verbal approval of your looks, even though you are not likely to believe what people tell you, to socially withdraw, and to have thoughts of suicide” (Arnold Lieber, MD).

Orthorexia Nervosa: this is the obsession of clean eating and fixation on healthy foods. Some signs of this are feeling shame when eating “bad” food, judging others who do not eat what you eat, and feeling “in control” when you eat the foods you deem healthy. Dr. Christina Gregory adds,

  • “Severe restriction of types of food consumed. This is due to excessive reductions in the number of foods deemed acceptable to your diet. Many times, individuals suffering from Orthorexia Nervosa limit their food consumption to 10 or less different types of foods.
  • Avoiding foods due to food allergies that have not been medically diagnosed.
  • Significant increase in the consumption of probiotics, herbal remedies, and other supplements thought to have healthy effects on the body.”

This may also include under-eating, lying about eating when you haven’t, or obsessing over ingredients.

I want to write an honest post to the girls out there reading this. I want to start off by saying, I still intend to workout, take care of myself, and challenge myself with personal goals. With that said, I want to reshape our mindsets amid getting healthy. The point of this post is to encourage you to embrace the body and face that your Creator gave you.

bbronkie’s thoughts…

Have you ever been with your friends enjoying a day in the sunshine in your swimsuits with nothing but the blue ocean to enjoy? Everything is fine until you take off your beach cover ups… (If you are a girl, no matter your body type, you know what comes next.) Instant comparison, insecure comments, side eyes, humble brags, and increased heart rate. Every time I am in a bathing suit, and I am not in the shape I’d like to be in, I grab my belly and proclaim I have a food baby.

When I worked in a restaurant, my jeans would always rip between my inner thighs because I have soccer legs, and people didn’t see it because I wore an apron. There was a time in my life where I only ate smoothies and clean protein to lean out. An acquaintance of mine used to only eat celery and water (yum…)

My last apartment in college had a tanning bed, and I used to lay in it at least 3X a month and got skin cancer… so I am the first to admit that I have tried fixing something I didn’t like. I have always been pale, whereas my sister has beautiful olive skin. Boom comparison. But now I have a big keloid scar on my shoulder as a reminder to not take extreme measures to be like someone else. What even.

Why do I bring this up? Because I am a girl who struggles with both disorders listed above, and the more I research them… the more I am convinced. Perhaps you do too.

The worst of it all: at some time in our life, we have all thought “well, at least I don’t have so and so’s body or (fill in the blank)” in order to make ourselves feel better. What the CRAP type of thinking is that? Now if this is just me, you can stop reading now. But if you identify with this feeling… keep reading.

You see, whether we want to openly admit it or not, we all wish we could change something on our bodies.

  • Toned legs
  • Smaller tummy
  • Bigger breasts
  • Smaller breasts
  • Tanner skin
  • Smaller nose
  • Cuter feet
  • Less body hair
  • Less freckles
  • Smaller toned arms
  • Bigger buttocks
  • No rolls when sitting down (in what world is that possible btw)
  • Less cellulite

And millions more.

Most of us girls would rather deal with all the above in private so that there is a noticeable difference in public. Taking care of these “issues” could include an increase of diuretics/laxatives, tanning beds/spray tans, breast implants, laser hair removal, or over exercising. I am not hating on all these technologies and enhancements; I am just a girl, so I know these are the things we barter with on the reg. This is not to condemn you for considering these options, but to get to the heart of why we feel compelled to take such drastic obsessive steps.

We all know if we get the boob job, laser hair removal, Botox, or spray tan, we will just fixate on something else to change on ourselves. If that weren’t true, we would have all stopped after braces. Let’s all LOL that we thought straight teeth would make us feel prettier.

“Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes [desires]”. Proverbs 27:20

Plan of Attack:

Most doctors, based on the research I’ve completed, advise counseling or medication for these disorders. I am a little non-conventional and think we can combat these disorders with something a bit more heavenly. Anytime you try to rid yourself of a bad habit or bad thought, you must replace it with a good thought or habit. So, I think the best defense we have is to replace our low self-esteem with life giving truth. Not only do our mindsets need changing, but we must recognize that our bodies are going to change from mortal to immortal.

“The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” 1 Corinthians 15:43-44

This verse proves that we are an unfinished work and that it’s only natural to crave perfection or completion. I think when we look in the mirror, we try to find what we are lacking because it is natural in our sin to do so. I think when we look at other girls, we spot what we think is “perfect” on them and grow jealous of their perfection. You see, I think we are all on the brink of perfection. Our perspective only allows for us to see everyone else’s seemingly “perfect” lives, complexion, body, face, or hair. But what we don’t see is the pieces of perfection scattered inside of our broken lives, that will one day be completed when the last trumpet sounds. I guess one way of putting it, we all have potential, but we are not complete. Just like an acorn when planted has the potential to grow into an oak tree. Our bodies have been sown natural, but will be raised in power and glory, raised to perfection. We are still under soil, craving light and water. We know what we could be, but this world won’t allow it. We were made for a different world, a perfect one.

But how does that help us now? Therapy seems easier than this line of thinking, am I right?

We must start seeing this world as a fleeting world, the kind where people get breast implant-illness, anorexia, thoughts of suicide, and skin cancer from sun damage. The kind of world where we think other people don’t struggle, so we make irrational comments that bring immense amount of self-doubt and comparison.

We must fix our thoughts DAILY on pursuing the kingdom and its work. Here’s a quick exercise. Next time you are in a swimsuit or bra and underwear, look at yourself, flaws and all, and ask yourself how this body can affect the kingdom today. Instead of scrutinizing yourself for not having a thigh gap and for having noticeable stretch marks, how about asking God how you can be stretched to make other people’s lives feel closer to the kingdom at hand?

Maybe you need a more practical exercise. Put a sheet over your mirrors. Delete your Instagram. Eat a piece of chocolate. Throw your laxatives away. Fix your gaze. The main issue with these disorders, is we neglect the fact that they all stem from the self. We view our lives through selfish ambition, impractical expectations, and self-loathing thoughts. The girl next to you with the “better” body is not to blame for this. It’s the thoughts about yourself and the enemy’s assault on your beauty that hinders you from being free and self confident.

Finding Victory:

God knew we would need to be delivered from sin and death, but He also knew we needed liberation from our natural and fleeting bodies. It is repeated all throughout Scripture, that the former things will be made new again. It is part of our redemption story. Your desire to look perfect is only natural, but the enemy has distorted the image of perfection. The fruit he tempts you with might not be a fruit at all, but maybe he taunts you with an idea of false perfection. The kind you get from starving yourself, instead of the kind that makes you more in the image of Christ.

If you are a believer, you will receive a new body. A perfect one. The one you have been craving here on earth; the one you thought your friend had only to find out you had it all along just incomplete. The body you were meant to have. Stop bullying yourself, you have plenty of people in your circle who will do that for you. Instead, armor up, speak life, and accept the fact that your body won’t be perfect until the last trumpet sounds.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed

in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’

‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

1 Corinthians 15:51-58

*as always, I am not a licensed professional, nor do I pretend to know the ins and outs of your struggles, only my own. I am just self-medicating and giving you access to my deep thoughts.

Sources:

1 Corinthians 15

Lieber, A., MD. (2018, November 18). What It’s Like to Suffer Daily With Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Retrieved January 15, 2019, from https://www.psycom.net/eating-disorders/body-dysmorphic-disorder

Gregory, C., PhD. (2018, November 25). Orthorexia Nervosa: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment. Retrieved January 15, 2019, from https://www.psycom.net/eating-disorders/orthorexia/

10 Tips to Deter Depression

10 Tips to Deter Depression

According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, “Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older, in a given year. (Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun; 62(6): 617-27)” (DBSA).

THAT IS JUST IN THE UNITED STATES! Perhaps you find yourself among those 15 million people. You are not alone.

I want to start off by saying, that I am by no means a psychologist or anywhere near being able to give medical advice for a clinical condition. But I do know that everyone at some point in their lives have been depressed or on the brink of depression.

For me, depression strikes when I am bored or only focused on myself. I tend to dwell on my circumstances or my identity too much and then bam! I feel the weight of it all and shut down. We were not created to carry heavy burdens alone. I know some people feel like they can’t even get out of bed most days, or that their life isn’t worth living. Again, I am not a psychologist, but here are 10 tips to Deter Depression. These are personal tips, as I practice these almost daily. As many of you know, I am in a stand still season of life right now, and my demons tend to sneak up on me when I am bored or alone. Hope these tips help!

10 Tips to Deter Depression:

1. Find a routine.

Wake up at the same time each day. Stretch, go on a walk or run, do yoga, open your Bible, journal, eat a yummy breakfast. Do this all before you check Facebook or Instagram. I promise it makes a difference.

2. Get involved in a healthy community.

You are the sum of the people you surround yourself with. Maybe it’s a gym (shout out to TFMelbz), maybe it’s a running group, yoga class, tennis team (my parents won’t let me join theirs’), or a Bible Study. (1 Corinthians 15:33)

3. Exercise

Any sort of exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins are God’s gift to us! They are our “happy hormones”. They are our body’s natural morphine-like substance. Who doesn’t like morphine?! …I mean… ehem endorphins. I know nobody wants to work out, but afterwards you always feel better! Start off small! Maybe it’s a swim in the pool or walk in the park.

4. Discover new hobbies or set a goal to work towards.

Maybe it’s writing a book, running a marathon, starting a business, traveling to Australia, or maybe it’s finishing a 5,000 piece puzzle (me lol). Whatever it is, set a goal that you can attain small victories along the way! No sense in starting a hobby that stresses you out even more. If you like to fish, go fish.

5. Connect with a counselor or mentor.

Like I said before, we weren’t meant to carry heavy burdens alone. It always helps if we can share our struggles with someone. Especially someone who has been through what you have been through. (2 Corinthians 1:3-11) We all have struggles, no one is perfect. We just act like it, so that we don’t get embarrassed. Maybe that’s our problem. You will be surprised that when you share your crap with others, they often say “hey, me too!”.

6. Meet at least once a week with a friend or a group of friends.

This gives you something to look forward to! This is different than just joining a Bible study. I know this sounds sacrilegious. But not everything has to be a study of theology. Maybe you meet a friend(s) for coffee once a week or get a group together to go see a movie, or even a group of friends to go on a short camping trip once a month. I know we all lead busy lives, but prioritizing group time can really help defeat loneliness. (Jesus had His inner circle Peter, James, and John to escape crowds and isolation)

7. Be honest

…with those around you, tell them you are struggling. Stop with the pride and let down your mask. Holding everything in only harms you.

8. Find a church.

Church is not just a building, as you may know. Worshiping with other believers and listening to a Pastor teach on Scripture and speak life over you is very freeing. People in church are just as jacked up as we are, so it’s nice to see those people once a week ?

9. Limit secular music.

I almost avoided this tip, but like I said these are things I do, and I am sharing them to help- not tell you what to do! I tend not to listen to secular music when I am alone. I am not by any means saying you are a heathen for listening to secular music… I mean c’mon… everyone knows I love Drake and Ariana Grande etc. (with discretion)

However, when I am alone, the subliminal messages seem to creep in my thoughts and my mind tends to wander. I personally recognize that in my own life, when I am with a group of people I am more focused on who I am with and having a good time, than the lyrics from a secular upbeat song. This doesn’t mean only play Chris Tomlin, Bethel, or even Lecrae when you are alone… Let me be clear, I am not talking about not listening to “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey…

I am mainly referring to songs like “rockstar” by Post Malone. Something about, these lyrics don’t help me when I am alone:

“Cocaine on the table, liquor pourin’, don’t give a d*mn
Dude, your girlfriend is a groupie, she just tryna get in
Sayin’, “I’m with the band”
Ayy, ayy, now she actin’ outta pocket
Tryna grab up from my pants”

***Not trying to shame anyone, or say I am perfect. This song has a great beat. Mind you, people have their own convictions. I am just trying to be raw and honest about my own struggles. When you are alone, anything can happen. (Philippians 4:8) Use discretion! And if you are a mom reading these lyrics and claim you’d smack your child for listening to this music, just remember who you were in the 70’s listening to rock ‘n’ roll and your parents thought you were going to hell. Take a deep breath!

10. Pray pray pray!

Praying sounds like some sort of chore or formulated response to God. But honestly prayer is a conversation where you can be completely yourself. The parts you want to fix and hide from others has already been exposed to your Heavenly Father, so drop the act. Save that for your Facebook posts. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Again, I am not saying these tips are a cure for depression, but these practices have helped me deter depression. If you are on anti-depressants, see a counselor, or are part of a support group please do not stop based on this post!  I have a personality that is prone to depression, anxiety, and OCD… especially if I don’t have much going on. But these 10 things help keep me in check and focused on Heavenly Realms. As always remember that Jesus conquered the grave, not to pass judgment BUT to save us from sin, death, our demons, depression and our own self destruction. He is the ultimate Healer and Counselor. Love to you all!

 

The Comparison Combat

The Comparison Combat

I chose this picture to illustrate comparison, and I have to admit, I was tempted to “blur out” the blemish on my chin. Before I left for my second trip to the Philippines, I was knee deep in comparison. I had just graduated college, and I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere with my life.

I constantly look to the left and look to my right to see who has what and I why I am lacking. No job, no house, no spouse, and no “luck” on getting those anytime soon. When I was on the plane headed back, I came across this picture and immediately my eyes welled up with tears. This little girl is looking at me with a smile and wonder on her face. Without going into too much detail, every time we went to a school the kids would ask for pictures, hugs, and autographs (not just me, everyone on the trip). They shouted your name, yelled “You are beautiful!”, and “I love you”. They looked at us like we had it all. Lighter skin, money, education, you get the picture. And I was looking at them thinking how beautiful they were, their skin, their hair, their smiles, and their hospitality.

You know how we have tanning salons in America? To get tanner? Well they have salons to make their skin whiter/brighter. We all want something we don’t have. When that girl looked at me at the time of this photo, she wasn’t thinking “Wow, Brooke should get a job. No husband- no worth. No tan- not cute.” She saw me for what she thought I was. She thought I was beautiful. (I am not putting words into her mouth, she told me after pic). The point is, the standard of beauty is different in all areas of the world, we all compare, and we all want what we don’t have.

Like most of you, I have struggled with comparison. I almost feel like it is hypocritical for me to write a blog on this because I still struggle daily with this. When I read encouraging posts, I often read it as if the writer defeated their comparison issues. I have not.

Comparison has a way of making you feel isolated, inadequate, and less-than. As I write this, I am hoping to learn something as well. Let’s navigate this through, find out where comparison comes from, find out its various forms, and learn to combat these lies one by one.

Where does comparison come from?

The easy answer to this question is: “Not from God”. But honestly, as an inquisitive soul that answer isn’t enough for me. Let me clarify, God is enough for me, but the Sunday school answers don’t alleviate my deeper questions. I have always been this way, so I want to apologize upfront for the long explanations.

Let’s look at Peter and John. (John 21).

Many of you know, Peter denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed just as Jesus predicted. Peter was also part of Jesus’ inner circle along with James and John. I paint Peter in my mind to have a controlling personality. When Jesus predicted that one of His followers would betray Him, Peter motioned John to ask who it would be (John 13:24-25). Peter was curious and inquisitive. He also doubted, we know how he took his eyes off Jesus when walking on water. Gosh, I sure identify with Peter.

Fast forward to Jesus’s third appearance to the disciples, post resurrection, we see that Jesus restores Peter Threefold. This is important because Peter denied Jesus three times before His death, but he was given three chances at grace after the resurrection. Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him, and if so then Peter needs to feed and take care of His people. Then Jesus simply commands Peter to “Follow Him” (v.19). This is interesting because Peter was one of His closest followers, but Jesus wanted Peter to follow Him even after He ascends to heaven.

Look at what happens next. Peter turned around after this conversation and sees John behind them. Peter asks, “Lord what about him?” (v 21) and Jesus responds, “What is that to you? As for you, follow me.” (vs 22)

DANG!

I am so much like Peter. I seem to always ask God, “What about them?” Comparison.

If you don’t think you have this problem, comparing your body, face, muscle mass, house, spouse, car, or kids are the same thing. We are always concerned with what someone else is doing. Poor Peter had to be the example for it.

Comparison comes from not being content with what God has given you. YOU. The unique you.

Instead of Peter being grateful for Jesus extending him three opportunities of grace, he was worried about John. Before Jesus’s death, Peter’s denial, and Peter’s comeback, Jesus placed a great call on Peter’s life:

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19).

Forgetting who you are, forgetting God’s call on your life, and ungratefulness are all utensils that shovel comparison into your mind.

Don’t lose heart though. You are not alone in this. Remember Peter walked on water with Jesus, lost focus, cut off a high priest’s servant’s ear to defend Jesus, then denied Jesus three times. Jesus is all about extending grace and preserving His call on your life. Just remember that you are unique, and He gives us what we need and has a relationship with us that is unlike anyone else’s. It’s personal.

Comparison and its various forms:

Comparison for me transcends the social media realm. Although, Instagram doesn’t help. I think I compare myself most to the person I want to be. I compare myself to the ideal Brooke Maratta. Sure, I covet some girl’s hair, or body, or ability to talk to boys without completely freaking out. But I mainly compare myself to the person that I feel everyone expects me to be.

This, my dear friend, is called unnecessary pressure. On the practical spectrum, people are not concerned with you as much as they are concerned with themselves. So, if you think that someone wants you to be a size 2, with clear skin, and a great job then you got it wrong. Or if you are a size 2 and people tell you to put meat on your bones, it’s time to regain confidence in the body God has given you.

Going back to my picture for illustration, that little girl didn’t expect me to have a career in TV by August with a nice apartment in a new city. That was all me who expected that. Good news is, Jesus didn’t expect that of me either. He already knew that wasn’t going to be the case. Jesus expects me to “Follow Him” …just like Peter.

Comparison also shows itself through working hard at fleeting pleasures. Working out, working hard, eating clean, tanning, etc. these are all good things, but it is important to check your motive. The richest and wisest man to ever live, Solomon, puts it this way,

“I saw that all labor and all skillful work is due to one person’s jealousy of another. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:4)

Combatting Comparison:

King Solomon isn’t saying to sit on your butt and do nothing to be a better version of yourself. He is isolating our motive. Jealousy of someone else’s story, money, talents, looks. Jealousy of the person you think you should be (who doesn’t exist), or jealousy of the person you think people want you to be, these bring about comparison and unhealthy thinking.

Lighten the load a bit, and just follow Jesus. If disappointment determined God’s love for us, well we would all be in deep trouble.

God granted you gifts, beauty, a personality, and skills that are all unique to you. He is creative! And get this, you are only accountable for that of which was given to you! No one else!

To close out, let’s go back to Peter. Peter had an exceptional call on His life. Jesus predicted his own death, own resurrection, and Peter’s denial. Yet He still spoke life over Peter. He gave Peter authority and purpose despite his shortcomings and future failures. Even when Jesus was extending grace to Peter, Peter was still worried about John. Jesus told Peter it was none of his concern and to follow Him. Maybe we should tell ourselves that the next time we are comparing ourselves to our friends (or strangers).

Comparison is the thief of contentment. Before you get entangled in the comparison trap, ask yourself why you are not content with yourself. After doing so, journal all the things that God has given you. Thank Him for them and ask Him to release you from the unnecessary pressures of this world.

Our world needs you. The world needed Peter, and the world needed John. Heck the world needed Jesus, but Jesus used Peter and John separately to spread the news of His love for all. One wasn’t better than the other.

There is a unique call on your life that only your unique face, unique body, unique personality, and unique mind could fill.

As far as social media is concerned, “Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel” (Idk who said this, but I stole it).

Find joy in your quirks. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need someone else to see something in you to prove that you have what it takes. God sees you and knows you.

I’m sure the other disciples looked at Peter as far gone. That he was past the point of return- denying Jesus that way. I would’ve probably said to myself, “I’m glad I’m not him”.

But Jesus did things vastly different than everyone. He forgives, He accepts, and He loves. You should try it on yourself.

 

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10