Friday, September 11, 2015

A Kindred Spirit

I hope you will read and take to heart this post by my new friend Mandi Livingston. A fellow Carolinian who captures EXACTLY where I am and how I feel.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Toxic People...Toxic Waste...of Time

I've been thinking after my wife asked me a question the other day. Here was the question, "Why have you let so many toxic people into your life over the years?" She wasn't being critical, rather she was thinking through with me how to prevent this from happening in the future now that I am no longer a pastor nor part of an organized local church.

Toxic people have been drawn to me over the years. I certainly don't say that as a badge of honor, but as a flaw in my personality where I have not cut people off for fear of being "unchristian." This is a dangerous way to think and live. It has caused me to care many times more what other people thought of me (which is not good nor safe). For me this post is about my own personal journey and freedom and I hope it serves you in your journey as well.

Allow me to identify four types (there are more) of toxic people I have come into contact with:

1) Leeches 

Leeches are one of the most hated creatures in the world. I always think about that scene from the film Stand By Me where the main character got one stuck on know. The truth is that leeches aren't malicious...they just are trying to feed themselves. They attach to the host and suck as much blood (think life) as they can. The problem with leeches is that it is a one way transaction. The host gets nothing in return, unless you hold to some medieval idea that leeches can clean wounds...yuck! When it comes to toxic people leeches are all take and no give. They often act like everyone exists to help them and they rarely offer the same help in return. If you hang out with a leech, you will feel it afterwards. Leeches leave us feeling exhausted, dry, empty.

People are meant to be in relationships...two way relationships with other people. Unlike other types of toxic people leeches usually don't mean any harm. Many times they have experienced deep hurt. Therefore, it's OK to "associate with leeches". You don't need to remove leeches from your life but you do need to limit your exposure. If you have too many leeches (and not enough people who feed you back) it can be harmful to you and your family and will drain your life (remember blood). So be careful with leeches. Make sure there are people in your life that pour back into you (but be cautious you don't become a leech yourself!)/

2) Guinea Fowl

The next type of toxic person is also not malicious. I call them guinea fowl. This is a nod to my five years in Halifax County, VA where people had guineas (we had some for a day but my crazy dog ate them). Guineas can be great. They eat ticks and other bugs in your yard. They are also better than any watchdog...actually they are TOO good.

Guineas have one of the loudest and most annoying cries of any bird you will ever hear. Anytime that anyone of anything comes near...they are full throttle with the warning. They should have called Chicken Little...Guinea Little instead! Guineas are the constant complainers. Something is always wrong and they always have to tell you. They also have a tendency to gossip. Squawk....squawk...squawk!

Guineas are another type of toxic person you don't have to eliminate, just regulate. Don't buy into the negativity. Don't get caught up into gossip. You know the best thing you can say to a gossiper? Nothing! I have found when people are gossiping and I just abstain, they get the message pretty clearly. It's hard to argue with a bunch of squawking birds anyway. Now to the two types of toxic people that are malicious and should be avoided at ALL costs.

3) Hyenas

Up next, hyenas. Now I honestly can't think about hyenas without yelling, "Mufasa!". But all jokes aside, when it comes to toxic people these are a dangerous bunch. Hyenas are known for their laughing. If you've ever heard it there is no doubt that a pack of hyenas "laughing" is one of the creepiest sounds in all the animal kingdom.

As a toxic person, a hyena also loves to "laugh" at people. They enjoy seeing people's misery. It makes them feel better about themselves. Like their animal counterparts, they often work in packs and love to "scavenge" by kicking you when you are down.

Hyenas are always criticizing, always mocking, always trying to injure you with their words. And yes, often times hyenas wear their "perfect attendance" Sunday School badge with honor. You don't want or need hyenas in your life. Anyone that does nothing but criticize you is someone you need to show the door, with NO apologies. Jesus wants us to be people of grace, but sometimes the best way to show grace to someone is to refuse to continue the relationship. It is not gracious or godly to continue in an unhealthy relationship where you have to pretend everything is OK. Cut it off.

And last but certainly not least...

4) Scorpions

We recently moved back to the East Coast from the West Coast. As we traveled I-40 across this great country, our journey took us through Arizona. My son and I noticed a sign in a yard that said, "Lobster Crossing". Before we had time to figure out what that meant a GIANT...and I mean GIANT scorpion scurried across the highway in front of our moving van. Ohhhhhhhh...that's what the sign meant. Nobody likes scorpions. I've been told it's the small ones you have to worry about, but I hate all of them. They sting, they pinch, they poison.

When it comes to toxic people, scorpions do just that. They are aggressive. They are poisonous. They WANT to hurt you. Scorpions are what the Bible calls people who "sow discord". They love causing strife and stirring up the pot. They don't mind injuring people emotionally, heck, they actually enjoy it. Scorpions know just what to say to rub salt on the wound. Just like hyenas they can be gossips as well, normally dropping their pipe bombs and then stepping back as their poison infiltrates families, churches, jobs, etc.

Scorpions should be squashed, ok, maybe not squashed literally but you get the point. Do not let them get close (scorpions can only sting if they are in close proximity). The saying "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" simply DOES NOT apply to scorpions. Do not have scorpions in your inner circle. Your closest confidants need to be people who are positive and uplifting...not negative and poisonous.

I have intentionally been generic in describing toxic people. I have done this because if I give you specifics, you may miss a toxic person in your life who may exhibit traits I didn't mention. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I am in no way an expert. I am not a psychologist. These are some basic observations I have made in 20 years of working closely with people in ministry. Maybe you can think of some more kinds of animals to describe toxic people. I would love to hear your story so please comment away!

One Last Thing: The Toxic Person Inside

Before I finish this post I wanted to turn the corner. I have been focusing on identifying and responding to toxic people in your life. However, there is one question that must be asked: are you doing any self-reflecting on whether there are times YOU are being toxic to others? We all fight a toxic person everyday and that is the toxic person inside. When I announced I was working on this post on my Facebook account I got lots of comments and each comment talked about how that person needed this post because they had toxic people in their life at the moment. I don't doubt that at all but there is one comment I DID NOT see...not once. You know what it is? "Scott, thank you for writing this. I'm afraid I have been a toxic person and I need help."

You see, it's very easy for us to see flaws in others, but not in ourselves. This is why I believed Jesus told us to remove the plank in our eyes before trying to remove the speck from another's eye in Matthew 7. He was talking about perspective. It's not that your sin is necessarily bigger than everyone else's. What Jesus meant is that we are to see our sin as big and other's as small. Be more concerned with your own flaws than in pointing out the flaws in others. You don't know where they are in their journey. You don't know what is happening in their life.

Having said that toxic people are real...and they are dangerous. We should, in humility, while also looking at ourselves, not allow toxic people to control us or get us down. Let me end with something I heard recently that will help all of us fight the toxic person may not be able to help every person in your life, but you don't have to hurt them.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

What I Am Up To (Summer 2015)

Books I Am Reading

The Meaning of the Pentateuch by John Sailhamer

The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare

The Infernal Devices Series by Cassandra Clare

Books I Read Recently

Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns

On My Reading List

Once Justified, Always Justified by Johnny Helms (soon to be released by my father in law)

Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey

Damaged Goods by Dianna Anderson

TV Shows I'm Hooked On


The Flash


Movies I Recommend


Jurassic World

Saturday, June 06, 2015

A Lot Can Change In Nine Years

I have definitely changed a lot in my thinking the last nine years (when I started this blog). I think that's important to point out because you may find posts you don't like or agree with. Just so you know, there are posts here I no longer like or agree with as well.

I thought about what I should do. Start fresh on a new blog? Delete posts I find unacceptable now? No. This blog represents my faith journey and I am not ashamed of that.  I hope my future posts will demonstrate where I am now and tell the story of where I am going.

I have made a lot of new friends in the social media world and I have and will lose others. I no longer accept the label "conservative" or "evangelical" nor will I staunchly defend the ivory tower world that exists in the "religion" I have been a part of the last 20 years. Heck I honestly don't accept labels at all.  I just want to follow Jesus and love people like He did.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!

John 19:25-28

25 Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing there, He said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. 28 After this, when Jesus knew that everything was now accomplished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He said, “I’m thirsty!”

Maybe this isn't your typical Mother's Day passage but it struck me this week. Perhaps we don't feel the impact because most bibles (every one I have looked at did) separate verse 28 out and put it at the next paragraph. Maybe I am nit picking. Or maybe it wasn't until the Lord Jesus had taken care of His mom that He could know that everything was accomplished. 
Moms are special, Jesus' mom was special to Him. Perhaps his last act on earth was to ensure that His mom would be cared for, in this case by the Apostle John himself. I think it's important that we see this side of Jesus. When people are dying, even the Lord, what is most important tends to come to the surface. 
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. May your day be full of blessing and favor from the Lord. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I Haven't Forgotten

I haven't forgotten to blog lately as much as I have been going through a season of soul searching. I am sure (and I want to) that I will get back in the swing of things. I am on a journey and am enduring a period of rethinking at questioning some things. I know you've been there, too. Honestly, we are all just pilgrims on this journey of life and faith.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review: Churchless (Monday Link Up #6)

This weekend I read Churchless by George Barna. Here is my review. This is also a Link Up Party.

The greatest takeaway from Churchless is that we need to rethink how we think about the "unchurched". According to Barna three out of four unchurched Americans should really be called "dechurched" as they at one time used to be a part of a church in some fashion. Also according to Barna, one out of six Americans who are churchless fall into the category of "born again" meaning that they say that they have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and are depending upon His work for eternal salvation.

I find that this should give us pause as we engage with those outside our church walls. Many of them have not abandoned faith at all...rather they have given up on local churches that have burned and hurt them. We have so long equated church attendance with spiritual maturity and this is something we need to be cured of.

If there is a downside to the book it is the fact that there are too many stats. I knew going in that Barna is a pollster, so stats are his bread and butter. However I did find myself at times getting lost in the lists and charts just wishing for a little more help by way of application. I guess the reader is left to that himself. The problem is, of course, that it's easy to make stats say whatever you want them to say.

Overall I gave this book a 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. It was exactly what I expected it to be, nothing more...nothing less. It's a book that I believe could be helpful to anyone wanting to understand the cultural shift we see happening with regards to how people are feeling about local church involvement. It is also a quick read, I read it in one weekend without much difficulty or effort.