Tag Archives: self esteem

The new Beatles?

One direction. From left: Joey, Jordan, Jonathan, Donnie and Danny. No, actually I have no idea who any of them are. I’m guessing the one with the stripe in his hair is the “rebel.”

Spending time with youth is both a great way to stay young and a great reminder of just how old I really am.  The other day I was with our youth while they were talking about the band, One Direction.  Even if you’re not familiar with One Direction, you know them.  These five young men have taken over youth pop culture with their preppy look, dreamy smiles, catchy tunes, and auto-tune machine.  Basically, even if you’ve never seen them before, you’ve seen them before.  Anyway, here is a snippet of the conversation,

Youth 1: “People are saying they’re the new Beatles.”

Youth 2: “Yeah, they’re our generation’s Beatles.”

Just to be clear, I am not in the Beatles’  generation.  At 35, I was never alive while the Beatles were together.  I do however consider myself a Beatles fan.  I count myself among the many that consider the Beatles to be the greatest band ever assembled.  I also try to adhere to the concept that I should never deride youth culture.  There was a time when I thought rolling my jeans was cool, so I don’t mock anything, but I couldn’t let this go unchecked.

Me: “I just threw up in my mouth a little.”

Youth: Weird looks

Me: “Did you just say that One Direction is the new Beatles?”

Youth 1: “Yeah, they’re our generation’s Beatles.  That’s what people are saying.”

Me: “Who is saying that?”

Youth 2: “Everyone.”

Me: “Well, I think they’re probably more like your generation’s New Kids on the Block.

Youth 2: “But they’re from England, like the Beatles.”

Me: “Okay, so then they’re the new New Chaps on the Block.”

Youth 1 and 2: laughter

Again, my goal is not to mock youth culture, and I understand I probably just made myself look more like the grumpy old man than the cool youth leader.  That’s okay though, I’ve never really been interested in being “Cool Youth Leader” guy.  But here’s the thing, I actually have a problem with One Direction’s most popular hit, and it all comes down to one line.  It is a seriously catchy song.  One that has been sung many times before.  It is about a girl that is beautiful, but doesn’t know it.  It really is a common theme in pop music, and I understand why it resonates with so many young girls.  They dream that somewhere there is a guy that is singing that song to her.  Give this video a look-see, and see if you can catch the line that really bugs me.:

Did you hear it?  The first line of the song is “You’re insecure, don’t know what for. You’re turning heads when you walk through the door.” That line is bad enough, but the line that really gets me comes at the end of the chorus: “You don’t know you’re beautiful. That’s what makes you beautiful.”

It is one thing to sing of the beauty of humility.  It is something different to praise someone for being insecure.  Humility and insecurity are very different. Insecurity comes from feeling you’re not good enough.  It is born out of shame.  Girls in our culture are told over and over again that they are not good enough, not skinny enough, not smart enough.  Telling  someone they are beautiful because they are insecure is praising their shame.  Natural beauty should be admired, but insecurity is not a beautiful trait.  Humility comes from self-confidence.  Self-Confidence is beautiful.

The fact that these five boys are telling millions of young girls that insecurity is beautiful is troubling. True humility comes from a deeper understanding of self that transcends society’s idea of physical beauty.  Self-confidence is rooted in love and grace.  Self-confidence comes from knowing that you were formed by a God that only makes beauty, not from being told by an adolescent boy that flipping your hair drives him crazy.

Boys might think insecurity is beautiful.  Men don’t.  I hope someday One Direction grows up, but I’m guessing they’ll always be just another boy band.


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I’ve rejected that god too.

rejected godMost of the time, when I talk to someone about the god that they have rejected, it turns out that I’ve rejected that god too.  You know, the god of fear and closed-mindedness.  The god of rejection and shame.  The god that supports oppression, injustice, and bullying.  The god that calls people to violence.  The god that uses religion and ritual as a way to pacify the masses, or line the pockets of the powerful.  The god that demands right choices lest I be punished with eternal torment.  I’ve rejected that god too.   Unfortunately, there are many people that have only been told about that god, and so they have walked away.  I want to tell you about the God that I worship.

The God I worship loves me.  God loves me for all my failures, imperfections, and bad choices.  God loves me just as I am, and is working with me to grow into what I could be.   God has picked me up, dusted me off, and reminded me that I am not junk. I am God’s.  God uses my weakness for strength, and has replaced my shame with grace.

The God I worship wants me to love my neighbor as myself.  God wants me to work for justice and act with kindness.  God wants me to be vulnerable to others, not because God wants me to be weak, but because it is impossible to love without first being vulnerable.

The God I worship wants me to love God with all my heart, mind, and strength.  God wants me to expand my mind.  God wants me to challenge, for it is in challenging that we may grow.  God wants me to look to the stars and wonder, explore, and dream about what is possible.  God wants me to know not just the words of the Bible, but to know the heart of the Word.  God wants my whole self, not just my Sunday self.

Today I saw my daughter enter a room.  My heart leaped.  I put my arms out and hoped beyond hope that she would see me and come.  I wanted to see her smile.  I wanted to make her laugh.  I wanted to embrace and make her know that she was loved.  That is how God looks at each of us, and even that is insufficient to describe God’s love.

This is the God I have found.  Perhaps I should say more accurately, this is the God that has found me.  This is the God for which I live and breathe.  This is the God to whom I testify.  This is the God whom I fail time and again, but who is willing to stick with me. This is the God of good news, the God of grace, mercy, and justice.  I don’t blame or fault anyone for walking away from god.  Odds are, I’ve walked away from that god too.  All I can do is show you, tell you, demonstrate to you, and live out the love that is in me.

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Journey to Hope: Self Esteem

“Believe it or not, I’m walking on air.  I never thought I could be so free. Flying away on a wing and a prayer, who could it be?  Believe it or not, it’s just me.” These are the words to one of my favorite songs.  When I was a kid I loved “The Greatest American Hero,” and this was the show’s theme song.  I don’t remember a lot of details about the show, but it was about a guy that was given a suit with superpowers.  He promptly loses the instruction book, and hilarity ensues.  A psychologist (or just anyone that knows me) could have a field day explaining why this show was important to me.

If I’m in the right mindset, I still get goosebumpy and teary-eyed when I hear this song.  Sometimes when someone shares with me who much they enjoyed a sermon, or when a blog post gets popular, or when I get a letter from someone who’s life I shaped, I find myself wondering, who could it be?  Believe it or not, it’s just me.  I mean really?  I’m the one that did that good thing?  There are so many times in ministry that I’m simply flying away on a wing and a prayer.  Is it possible to be at the same time supremely confident and terribly insecure?

At any given moment, I could be either of those things or both, but overall I find hope in self-esteem, because my self-esteem is paradoxically not all about me.

This week’s Journey to Hope about self-esteem asks a few very good questions.  The first is, “Is your self-esteem formed from the outside in or the inside out?”

My answer is, “Yes.”  Let me explain: It was when I discovered the true power of the love of God that I realized that I could love myself. Once I started to love myself, I could truly experience the love of God.  I don’t think I can separate these two events, because it was a process of self-discovery that cannot be drawn out in a linear explanation.

During my middle school years I discovered two things.  At about the same time I discovered that I was good at something, and I discovered that I didn’t need to be good at anything to be loved by God.  The result was a confidence in self that was at the same time selfless. I cannot point to a day or time that I “met Jesus,” or was “born again.”  I can point to a few people (Steve A, Heather H, Mrs. Schmidt, Mrs. Martin, Mr. Graba, and above all, my family) that loved me, appreciated my input, and encouraged me to be and do more than I ever thought possible.

My self-esteem comes from outside-in.  It comes from the God that created me, and breathes life into me.  It comes from the knowledge that no matter what, God is with me, empowering me and sustaining me. It comes from the knowledge that my talents, skills, and intellect are not enough to save the world, but I don’t have to do it on my own.

My self-esteem comes from the inside-out.  It comes from the knowledge that my talents, skills, and intellect can be used to change the world for good.  It comes from my experience, my failures, and my victories.  It comes from the knowledge that today I can do something powerful.

Another question that is posed asks “How do you define yourself?  Who defines you?”

I define myself as beloved child of God.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Everything else that describes me is a subset of my primary identity.  I am a father, a son, a brother, a friend, and a pastor.  I am educated, affluent, American, Irish, and Italian.  I am strong, athletic, intelligent, and compassionate.  I am forgetful, lazy, fearful, and overweight.  These things are all descriptors.  None are definitions.  My hope does not rest on any of these characteristics.

My hope doesn’t rest on the power of a special suit, or on the hope that I might find the instruction book someday.  It resides in the knowledge that I am a beloved child of God.  I am created in the image of God.  I am redeemed by the love of Jesus.  I am sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit.  This defines me.  Nothing else.

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Greatest American Hero movie? Nope.

I think this might be my new Facebook cover photo after the NCAA tournament is over.

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To my daughters, P.S.

Here is my letter to my daughters.

I decided I need to add something.


Girls, I felt like I needed to share this with you too.  There might be times when you find yourself in a precarious situation by no fault of your own.  There are people out there that are simply predators. While I believe that most predators use emotional pain and lack of self-love as a weapon, there are some that use simple brute force.  That being said, I hope to teach you the effectiveness of a well placed kick to the groin.  Or maybe I can let someone like Erin Weed, one of my personal heroes, teach you at a Girls Fight Back seminar.  I’m sure I’ll take you both to one someday.

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To my daughters,

Today is Valentine’s Day, and on this day there are a few things I want you to know about love.

First of all, I love God.  I love God with my whole heart, mind, soul, and strength.  There are times when I fall short of what that means in my life, but I try to make the love of God the driving force behind everything I do.  I know also that God loves me.  God’s love for me is stronger than my failures.  God’s love is steadfast and endures forever.  Because of God’s love, I am able to love.

Secondly, I love your mother.  I have loved her for fourteen years, and everyday that we spend together I love her more.  The love that your mother and I share is strengthened by our love of God.  As we get closer to each other, we get closer to God too.  She and I share a bond that I cannot fully put into words. You are a product of a love that is very powerful, and that makes you powerful.  Right now you are young enough and sweet enough to like it when you see us hug and kiss.  Usually you want to join in and turn it into a “family hug.”  Eventually you will probably think it’s “gross,” but you should know that it will never stop.

I want to raise you as girls that love God, and I pray that someday you will find someone that loves you as much as I love your mother.  It’s my job to teach you what that feels like.

It is terrifying to think of you growing up, because growing up can be so painful. It can be so dangerous, and I want to protect you from all of those dangers.  Yet I know that I cannot protect you by keeping you sheltered.  Right now your Mom and I are the most important people in your world.  I know that won’t always be the case, so I’m trying to make the most of it now.  I know that there will be people coming into your life.  Some will be positive, some will be negative.

Some will love you for who you are, and some will use you for what you can do for them. Some will laugh with you, and some will hurt you.  Some will appreciate your beauty, and others might abuse it.  The only way I can protect you is to teach you how to tell the difference.  It’s my job to teach you that love is never about jealousy, violence, manipulation, lust, or power, and that healing is always possible.

That’s why we have “Daddy-Daughter Date Night.”  That is why I read to you before you go to bed.  That is why we turn off the radio in the car on the way to preschool.  That is why we turn off the TV and play in the evening.  That is why I get home as soon as I can every night.  I want to take every moment I can to teach what it feels like to be loved unconditionally.

I love talking with you, listening to your stories, eating dinner with you, and treating you like you are the most important person in the world.  I love asking you about your favorite books, and teaching you about sports.  I love hearing about your friends, finding out what makes you mad, or happy, or excited.  I love holding you in my arms. I love the smell of your hair.  I love your slobbery, open-mouthed, 18-month-old kisses; and your surprisingly strong five-year-old hugs.  I love when you touch my cheek and smile.  I love to hear you sing.  I love hearing you laugh.  When you dance, I see heaven.


Someday I pray that you will find someone that loves those things too.  But first, you need to love you too.  Love your compassion.  Love your kindness.  Love your courage. Love your imagination.  Love your strength.  Love your dreams.  Love your intellect.  Love your body.  Love mercy.  Love justice.  Love humility.  Love your God.

You’ll never see me wear a shirt like this.  I understand the sentiment.  I understand what it means to want to protect you.  I will always want to protect you, but I hope that someday I will be able to let you protect yourself.  If I ever feel the need to go get my shot gun, it will be because of my own failure, not yours.

Happy Valentine’s Day.  I hope now you understand a little bit more about love.  It is, after all, what we are created for.



P.S. Here


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You are Highly Favored

“It is no small thing to be highly favored by God.  Especially when you are acutely aware of how preposterous this idea truly is.”^

To know that you are higly favored by God can be a life-changing moment.  It is the kind of thing that changes your perspective on the world.  I remember when I realized that I was highly favored by God.  It didn’t come to me an instant.  It was something I realized over time, and when it finally struck me, it changed my world.

When you realize that you are highly favored by God, nothing will ever be the same.

For me it came in junior high.  The realization came to me when I realized that God loved me for me.  It came to me when I knew that nothing I did or said could earn God’s love.  When I knew that I was highly favored by God I learned that my missing homework assignment couldn’t change that.  My disappointing test couldn’t change that.  The things that I forgot, misplaced, or mishandled were not bigger than the steadfast love of God.

I can’t point to any one moment when I realized that I was highly favored by God, but it was no small thing, for it changed the way I saw myself, and it changed the way I saw the world.

In the Gospel of Luke we find Mary’s Song, also known as The Magnificat.  It is Mary’s song of glory after meeting Elizabeth.  Elizabeth, who was herself expecting a child whose conception was surrounded in mystery, was filled with the Holy Spirit and pronounced God’s blessing upon Mary and her child.  Mary’s response:

“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next,
who honors him as God.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
remembering his mercy,
just as he promised to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”

Mary is highly favored by God, and it is no small thing.  When she came to that realization, she sang praise to God.  She realized that through her the promise of God would be fulfilled.  She sings a song of praise and promise.  It is praise to the God that has held her in favor.  It is praise of the God that will turn the world upside down.  It is a song of the promise of God that this has already been fulfilled in the baby she is carrying.  God’s promise has not begun with the coming of Jesus.  It has been fulfilled.

The gift of Jesus is from the God that scatters the proud and fills the hungry.  This is a God that has turned the world upside down by becoming flesh.  Everything would be different because of the coming child.  For all of this, Mary sings out in praise and thanksgiving.

This however, was not Mary’s first reaction.  A few verses earlier, when the angel told Mary what was coming, her response was marked with confusion, fear, and a quiet resolution.  It took Elizabeth to stir in her the power of praise.  There is a lot to be said of the bond of one mother to another.  Elizabeth was a person that Mary knew and presumably respected.  She was a relative – maybe a cousin, certainly older.  I like to think of her as Mary’s aunt.  Mary went to her Aunt’s house when she was in trouble.  She found there a woman who loved her, who comforted her, and who made her feel empowered in a way that even the angel could not.  I can imagine the remarkable bond between Elizabeth and Mary because I knew an aunt much like that.

In the midst of her trouble and fear Mary was given hope and grace through the words of someone that loved her.  She realized that she was highly favored by God.  Her response was a song that has lived through the ages as a testimony to God’s power.  It is a song that reminds us that God used Mary to fulfill God’s promise.  It is a song that we may rise and sing today.  In the midst of your trouble and your fear, I want you to know, “You are highly favored by God.”  Trust in God’s love, and your life will never be the same.

Know that God loves you and wants to use you to fulfill God’s promise.  You are highly favored by God, let your heart glorify the Lord.


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^I wish I remember where I read this.  As I was doing some reading for my sermon this Sunday on the Magnificat, I read these words on someone else’s blog.  They hit me with such a force that I didn’t even keep reading, but I built my sermon – and this blog – around this idea.  This might not be a direct quote, but I didn’t feel right not attributing this to someone.


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Miss Representation

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. (Alice Walker)

The trailer below begins with this quote.  It reminds me of an anecdote I heard in seminary.  I don’t remember the exact details, so I cannot properly attribute the story.  My professor said (something like), “C.S. Lewis once said that, ‘Man’s greatest sin is pride.’ In other words, it is believing that being ‘made in the image of God’ is equal to that of being God.  This might be true, but another theologian said, ‘The greatest sin of man might be pride.  But the greatest sin of woman is lack of pride.'”

The video is about eight and a half minutes long.  It is worth watching.  Make no mistake, this is not a girls issue.  It is not a liberal issue. It is a human issue.  The objectification of women is damaging to both boys and girls.  Treating anyone as less than a precious child of God does harm.  It is the act of ignoring what is fundamentally true of all people: That we are ALL created in God’s image.

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27, NRSV)

This is an issue that I’ve written about before in my blog Princess Paradox.  As a father of two daughters, I obviously have a lot of interest in how the media will affect their lives as they grow up.  As power as the media is, it is not more powerful than a loving relationship.  The movie is a warning.  It can help provide  a sense of urgency, and a better understanding of what we’re up against. It cannot be an excuse.  It is my duty as a father to make sure that my daughters know that they are smart, strong, courageous people that were created in the image of God.

I hope you take the time to watch this and go to the Miss Representation website to learn more.

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Birthday Reflection

I was going to start this blog by saying, “I used to hate my birthday,” but I realized that wasn’t really true.  I never hated my birthday.  Let’s just say I had a mixed relationship with my birthday.  I’ve never been one to dread the passing of another year.  My ill-will toward my birthday never stemmed from a fear of aging or lamenting lost youth.

It was just that if no one noticed that it was my birthday, I would not have minded.  I liked having a small party, but I didn’t like any of the parts where all the eyes were on me.  I didn’t particularly like the spotlight.  I liked the presents, but I didn’t like opening them up while everyone watched.  I liked the cake, but I didn’t really want the wait staff at the restaurant to serenade me.

I liked my birthday just fine, but I didn’t want to make a big deal about it.  I really liked that my birthday was in the summer.  That meant I was never on the bulletin board in my classroom.  It meant that my Mom never brought cupcakes to class.  I never had to wear a goofy hat all day.  That’s why I was so mortified the day my Mom showed up at basketball camp with a cooler full of popsicles.

I think I was turning 11.  I was at basketball camp, toiling on my birthday as if it were any other day.  A few of my friends probably knew it was my birthday, but I wasn’t going to tell anyone.  I just wanted to play ball and go home.  My party was probably later that night with a few friends.  When camp was over I didn’t find my Mom in the car waiting for me as usual.  Instead, she was right outside the door and had a big cooler.  As the kids filed out of the gym she was there handing them all popsicles, making a big fuss over my birthday.

Looking back now I know that it was an act of pure love.  She wanted to make a big deal on my birthday because to her, it was a big deal.  Her baby was turning 11, and she thought everyone should know and celebrate.  At the time though, I was humiliated.

For most people, their love for their birthday wanes as they get older.  What was once a big deal and cause for celebration becomes a source of stress and anxiety.  As we pass the big milestones of youth, we start to look toward those nice round numbers with dread.  Each decade becomes a symbol of aging that most want to avoid.

I’m the opposite.  I actually enjoy my birthday so much more as an adult than I ever did as a kid.  Why?  Because I like myself more now than I did as a kid.

Yesterday was my 34th birthday.  As one friend said, I “made it through my ‘Jesus Year.'”  So on the plus side, I wasn’t crucified.  But there is so much more that I can chalk up on the “plus side.”

The last year of my life was incredible.  I became a father again.  I went to Africa.  I played football.  I started boxing.  I started at a new church in a new community.  I believe I’ve taken my preaching to a new level.  I’ve made new friends and stengthened relationships with old friends.  My marriage is stronger than ever.  Relationships have been reconciled.  Tears have been shed.  Laughter has endured.  I’ve been forgiven and I have forgiven others.  I’ve learned.  I’ve grown.  I’ve fallen.  I’ve gotten back up.

Why would I not celebrate another year?  Why would I not look forward to the next?  I woke up on my birthday and held a strong, healthy, growing baby girl that loves to snuggle and coo and eat and crawl.  Another little girl came running into my room and hugged me and squeezed me and kissed me and just let me hold her tight because she knew that was all I wanted for my birthday.  She is brave and kind and compassionate beyond measure.  I held a woman that loves me with a strength and passion that I fall far short of deserving.

Above all, I woke up with a God that loves me unconditionally.  I think realizing that was the moment my attitude toward my birthday started to change.  When I realized that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus, I knew that a birthday is something to celebrate.  When I learned that I am created by a great and wonderful God that made me with a mission in the world, I knew that it was okay to be in the spotlight every now and then.

Yesterday dozens of people commented on my facebook page.  Each of them wished me a happy birthday.  I can say with conviction that I had a happy birthday – I had a party that was greater than my wildest dreams.  And what’s more, I have had a happy day-after-my-birthday.  And I will have a happy year, and a happy life.

I don’t believe that my life will be without hardship.  I know that pain and sickness and death will come to me and to those I love.  I will endure aging and stress and anxiety.  I will suffer injustice, hunger, sickness, and oppression  because the world does, and as long as one child of God is in pain, I should be too.  Yet I know with all of my heart, with all of my mind and with all of my strength that I love God.  God loves me, and there is nothing I can do about it.

So yes, I had a happy birthday.  Thank  you for the well-wishes.  Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing this space on the internet with me.   Here’s to another year of striving to live well and do good in the world.


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