The Justification Conundrum

I’ve experienced it often, and you probably have, too.  You’re sitting around with a group of people (9 out of 10 times they are all women–I’m not hating, I’m just speaking the truth), and the conversation will inevitably include the following statements:

I deserve this dessert.  I ran five miles this morning.
I’ve had a rough week.  I deserve this extra drink.

Or, how about this conversation (usually on that “beloved” social media site we call “Book Face”–Office reference!):

Person A: I can’t wait to go on vacation!  Ten more days…
Person B: It must be nice to be able to take a vacation.
Person A: I’ve worked hard all year long and saved my pennies for a LONG time to be able to take this vacation! (Translation: Back off!)

And lastly, a favorite conversation between myself and someone else:

Me:  Did you watch “Once Upon a Time” last night?
Other Person:  No, I don’t have time to watch TV.
Me:  Oh, sorry… (thinking: a simple “no” would have sufficed!)
Other Person:  Just wait until you have kids.  You won’t have time to watch TV!
Me (thinking to myself):  I suddenly feel very lazy…even though I worked a 90 hour week and worked while I watched “Once Upon a Time” last night… :)

Why do we feel the need to justify our choices to others?  I see it all the time on social media, I hear it in daily conversation, and–as evidenced by the conversation just above–I have felt the need to justify my choices.  When I think back to that conversation, I feel silly for allowing that person to make me feel bad about myself.  That person does not know how I operate each day, and unless they are our great Lord Himself, that person does not need to know.  I don’t need to report to anyone.  Yet, I–like many of you– feel like we have to justify our choices to others–whether it is a bite of dessert (or ten bites!), a vacation well-earned, or even something as simple as taking a break.  Why is that?

#1: We feel guilty.  “Survivors Guilt” is a feeling of guilt for having survived something that others did not.  It’s a real, genuine thing that people have to work through.  I would suggest that people who are successful or have worked hard do feel that sort of “survivors guilt” when they do something special or even simply rest.  We look around at the rest of the world and all the suffering that goes on, and we feel guilty for being happy.

#2:  We are made to feel guilty.  Sometimes I will see a thread on Book Face or on other blogs where people will just attack another person.  How dare they be happy when I am so miserable?  How dare they worship when I have turned my back on God?  How dare they this?  How dare they that?  I just get so sad because there’s no reason for it on either end.

So how do we combat this justification conundrum?

#1:  Be sensitive and gracious to others!  If something good happens to you and you feel compelled to share it with others, do so in a sensitive and gracious way.  Book Face is a great place to get the news out to a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean you should always use it like that.  Before I post anything on social media, send any text message, or share any good news with my friends/family, I check my spirit first.  Is it bragging, or is it just sharing good news?  Is it something that will bring glory to God, or is it something that will bring glory to me?  What is the purpose of me sharing it?  Who is my audience?  Asking yourself those questions will save you from a world of hurt and it will keep you humble.

#2:  Rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15)!  This is a HUGE one to me.  Whenever I hear someone else’s good news, I love to celebrate it with them!  Why not?  As brothers and sisters in Christ, we should work to build each other up…not tear each other down.  I’m not saying we should be fake about it…if you can’t think of anything nice to say, or you can’t be real in your joy, don’t say anything at all.  Be like Thumper, yo!

#3:  Resist the urge to justify yourself…or expect justification from others!  I’ve been working to catch myself whenever I feel the need to justify myself to other people.  And we shouldn’t expect it from our peoples either!  Remove that seed of insecurity or bitterness from your heart before it takes root and makes you appear a bitter, hateful person who no one wants to be around.

#4:  Remember that it’s not about you.  I say that phrase to myself ALL the time for many different reasons. Grin.  One of those reasons is that I am an incredibly sensitive person and I have those artistic emotions where I experience every.single.emotion. very deeply.  And I have to remind myself that I can’t control what other people say and how they think of me–I just have to live my life in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord and Him only.

The most important thing, however, is to remember that Christ does not require you to justify yourself before Him.  In the end we will all stand before Him and every deed that we did here on Earth will be tested by fire.  1 Corinthians 3:13-15 paints a picture of the time to come:

“…their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.  If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”

But the Good News is that Christ died and victoriously rose again for each of us…and we are justified freely through Him!

“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:23-24

And that, I believe, is some great news worth sharing with the entire world…

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Opening a Small Business

If you are considering taking that leap of faith and opening your own business, here are some questions to ask yourself before you get started:

1.  Is there a need for your business?  Will you be adding value to the lives of your customers through your business?
Sure, you might be fulfilling your long-time dream, but is there a need for your business in the market?  Will you be fulfilling a niche?  Is the business you want to start a trend that will be outdated in just a few years, or will it last?

2.  Are you willing to wear many hats?
One of the things I love about owning my own business is that I get to do a beautiful combination of things that I love every day.  I get to teach, I get to be creative and choreograph, I get to do finances, I get to work with people, I get to manage a staff, I get to plan large events, I get to write, I get to develop curriculum, I get to mentor, I get to clean, I get to costume, I get to do PR, I get to teach workshops, I get to do so many different things.  And, I get to incorporate my faith–the driving force behind everything that I do–in every single aspect.  If you enjoy doing a combination of different things, then owning your own business might be a great fit for you!

3.  What are the costs and skills necessary to starting your business?  Do you have them already?  Do you have plans to acquire them?
Opening a business requires a LOT of funds.  It’s important to have a plan.  Are you going to take out a small business loan?  Save your own money?  Acquire investors?  What skills do you need to open a business?  Do you need to take any additional courses or certifications?

4.  Do you have a solid business plan?
Having a solid business plan is CRUCIAL to opening a business.  It’s important to map out the structure of your company, realistically crunch numbers, and create lasting goals and visions for your organization.  Each year I still pull out my original business plan and look at it to see if I’m on target with the original vision I created for the studio.

5.  Are you willing to change your entire lifestyle around?
When I seriously started praying about opening Reverence, I was working a regular 9-5 job.  I was able to teach dance and co-lead the dance ministry at my church in the evenings, be a part of a small group, lead women’s Bible studies, do volunteer work, date, and hang out with my friends whenever I wanted.  I had money.  I had a great life.  I had a safe life.  When I opened Reverence, the lines between personal and business blurred.  I started early in the morning and worked late into the night.  Reverence is like my child–I have stayed awake worrying about it and praying for it, I have invested blood, sweat and tears into it.  It is an extension of who I am.

Some people understood when I started saying “no” to activities, leading ministries, my usual dinners with friends.  Some people did not understand.  You are ultimately responsible  for everything that happens in your business.  There is a tension that needs to be managed in order to be a healthy small business owner–a delicate work/life balance.  It’s hard work.  Are you at a physical, spiritual, and emotional state to handle it?

6.  Is the risk of staying the same worth more than the risk of change?
Every entrepreneur needs to ask himself or herself that question.  My answer…after months of prayer and soul-searching…was that I needed to take the risk and open Reverence.  And you know what?  It’s been worth every moment.  When I look back on these past six years, every drop of sweat has been worth it.  Not because I’m perfect or have done things perfectly along the way, but because He has used Reverence to change lives.  And changed lives are worth it…

Action Words

My mom and I are co-leading a ladies’ Bible study this fall (we’ve done it together and on our own before throughout the past ten years–sometimes with our church and sometimes from our individual homes), and we are having a cathartic time going through Kelly Minter’s study No Other Gods.  It’s a great book that includes 5 days of homework (while not as extensive as some of Beth Moore’s that I’ve done, it still requires about 30 minutes of homework a day/5 days a week) and great group discussion (it also has wonderful recipes to pull from for your group gatherings).

One of the activities in the homework from two weeks ago was to read Isaiah 55:1-9 and list out all the action words that God was asking the Israelites to do.  Mine looked like this:

Come
Come
Come
Buy
Eat
Come
Come
Buy
Listen
Listen
Eat
Give ear
Listen
See
Seek
Call on
Let

I found this to be an incredibly helpful exercise in looking at Scripture differently.  So often we walk around with internal dialogue happening in our head, but we don’t take action.  It’s easy to make a lot of good points and do nothing with them.  Yes, there is something to be said for “being still” (and it’s what we’re commanded to do in Scripture), but it is important to note that we are called to be an “active” people.  Andy Stanley wrote, “It’s much easier to make a point then to make a difference,” and I heartily agree.  The commands of Scripture should take root in our hearts first and then be multiplied through our actions.

When we were asked to read a Psalm at the end of that day’s homework, I decided to journal my Psalm out in a semi-same manner.  I chose Psalm 37 and it looked something like this…

Do not fret
Trust in the Lord
Do Good
Dwell in the land
Enjoy safe pasture
Delight yourself in the Lord
Commit your way to the Lord
Be still before the Lord
Do not fret
Refrain from anger

Isn’t that a neat exercise?  I was greatly challenged and very uplifted after doing so!  I would encourage you to choose a Psalm or passage of Scripture and do the same!  If you do it, I would love for you to leave a comment below and share what your words were!

My Favorite Bible Study Resources

Bible study resource books

I’ve been so honored to lead many women’s Bible studies throughout the past ten years–some through my churches, some through the studio, some from my home with friends, some in college, some in other various venues.  Women’s ministry is something that I am very passionate about–I love to help other women grow in their relationship with the Lord!  I love that when the Body of Christ operates how it’s supposed to operate so that we can all grow together.  I’ve done Bible studies by the giants Max Lucado, Kay Arthur, Beth Moore, Elisabeth Elliot, Jennifer Rothschild, and Priscilla Shirer, and I’ve done Bible studies by the relatively unknowns at the time…and have enjoyed seeing them grow into those towering giants in the Christian publishing industry.  Some of my favorites are…

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver
He Speaks to Me by Priscilla Shirer
Mean Girls by Hayley DiMarco
Radical by David Platt
Believing God by Beth Moore
Me, Myself & Lies by Jennifer Rothschild

I also need to give a shout out to an author who is near and dear to my heart…Terry Magee!  My Dad’s first book In the Grip of Prayer is a wonderful guide to developing a deeper and more meaningful prayer life.  It’s great!  I’m not just saying that because he’s my dad.  Seth and I have loaned our copy out and people love it, and there is also a small group guide that area churches have done and enjoyed tremendously!  In fact, Dad is running a contest on his blog involving this book…feel free to check it out at www.terrymagee.net!

How about you?  What are some of your favorite Bible study books/resources?