Tag Archives: Authenticity

The Problem with Pictorial Directories

What if church pictorial directories showed us as we really are?
What if church pictorial directories showed us as we really are?

At that time Abijah son of Jeroboam became ill, and Jeroboam said to his wife, “Go, disguise yourself, so you won’t be recognized as the wife of Jeroboam. Then go to Shiloh. Ahijah the prophet is there—the one who told me I would be king over this people.”
1 Kings 14:1-2a (NIV)

Yesterday I had the privilege to give the Sunday message at Westview church in Waukee. I shared a tongue-in-cheek illustration about church pictorial directories. Every church I’ve ever attended has done a pictorial directory. A company comes in with their portrait cameras and families sign up to come to the church to have their professional portrait done. The company puts together a directory of the families for the church and makes money off of the photos packages that they sell.

My illustration was simply that when we go to have our family portraits done, we put on our nice clothes, get cleaned up for the camera, and try our very best to look the part of a picture perfect family. We want to appear to be who we think God and the church want us to be. I think it’s very similar to what many of us church-goers do every Sunday morning. We want to appear, not as we really are, but as who we suspect others want us to be. What would that portrait look like, however, if the camera captured us as we really are?

Jeroboam’s wife did her best to pretend to be someone she was not when she went to Ahijah the prophet. But, God and the prophet saw through her charade, as I believe God does with all of us whenever we try to pull the same trick.

This morning I’m thinking about living authentically and being honest about who I am. Life is messy, humans are imperfect creatures, and the further I get in life’s journey the more I discover the depths of my own depravity and my need of grace and forgiveness from both God and others. Hiding and pretending does nothing for my spiritual progression, and, in fact, only hinders and delays the process. Only when I am honest and authentic with myself, God, and others, can I deal honestly with my blind spots make progress on this spiritual pilgrimage.


Parenting and Integrity

Following in his footsteps
Following in his footsteps (Photo credit: AhmadHashim)

The godly walk with integrity;
    blessed are their children who follow them.
Proverbs 20:7 (NLT)

Notice that the proverb does not read that the godly walk with perfection.

As I look back over the past 23 years of being a parent, I am reminded of numerous mistakes that I have made. These mistakes include personal moral failures and regrets for little things I should have said or done differently both as a person and as a father. What has been clear to me is that my shortcomings are not hidden from my children. They are painfully aware of my weaknesses as well as my strengths.

Along the journey I’ve witnessed many parents who attempt to hide their weaknesses from their children. Taking on an attitude of perfection and high-minded omniscience, they act as if it would be disaster for their children to perceive a chink in the parental armor. They work tirelessly to offer the kids a spit-and-polished veneer of supremacy and will not admit failure or show weakness to their offspring. Mom and Dad are perfect.  They are not to be questioned.

I have tried very hard not to fall into that trap. I would rather my children learn that integrity is not about the illusion of perfection but rather about embracing the truth of my imperfections. I don’t want my example to be the appearance of being a flawless parent, but the honesty of being a humble, authentic human being. I want to teach by example how to admit my mistakes, seek forgiveness, and strive towards continually improving both myself and my relationships them, with God and with others. To me, that will do more good in preparing them for life than some false impression I try to create that I do no wrong.

[An index of all Tom’s chapter-a-day posts covering every book and chapter]

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 20

Many will say they are loyal friends, 
      but who can find one who is truly reliable?
Proverbs 20:6 (NLT)

Who are you gonna call at 2:00 a.m. when the world is crashing down around you and you are at the end of your rope?

That question has been asked at various men’s gatherings I’ve attended over the years. It’s is a worthwhile question every man should answer. As men, we tend to retreat into our man cave, switch on ESPN, fire up the video game, break open a cold one, and zone out. With other guys we talk sports, we talk cars, we talk babes, we play poker, we ride Harley’s, we hunt. But all the man cave manliness can easily distract us from developing relationships and having crucial conversations that get to the important stuff of life.

What does it really mean to be a man? How do I love my wife well? How do I do right by my kids? What do I really do with this whole “God thing?” When you’re not having those conversations with other men, then the shit hits the fan at 2:00 a.m., we need to pick up the phone and cry out for help, but there is nothing but a blank stare and a feeling of panic. I’ve got no one I can call.

Today, I’m thankful that I not only have a guy I can call – I have a list of guys on speed dial. I have a list of guys starting with my family, to my oldest friend, to guys from high school, to guys from college, to guys with whom I’ve walked this journey the past few years. I am so blessed with friends with whom I can live it up in the man cave having a blast being guys, but then I can then pour a cold one, stoke up a stogie, and wade fearlessly into the deep weeds of life.

Those kind of relationships are generally not stumbled upon. They aren’t the pay out of a relational lottery. They are sought after, cultivated, and consciously grown over time. If you live in my area, this is a great place to start the search.

Who are you gonna call?

Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 14

“If the fungus breaks out again in the house after the stones have been torn out and the house has been scraped and plastered, the priest is to come and conduct an examination; if the fungus has spread, it is a malignant fungus. The house is unclean.” Leviticus 14:43-44 (MSG)

A few weeks ago, we had the upper portion of our house resided. The old siding was taken off and new siding replaced it. I had some fears about what the contractor would find when he pulled off the old siding. In one area, there had been water damage inside and carpenter ants had eaten away the wood structure beneath the siding. Fortunately, it was limited to one small area. We had the underlying structure rebuilt, sprayed the remaining wood, and made sure the water would not return.

Today’s chapter discussed the ancient prescription for dealing with the problem of mold and fungus in a house. Often, you don’t know what’s going on behind a wall, or behind your siding, until it’s too late to capably deal with the problem.

What an awesome word picture for our lives. We all tend to place siding on our lives with the way that we talk, the way we behave in public, the way we dress, and the way that we project ourselves. The real measure of a person, however, is what is happening beneath the public veneer we display to others. What really matters is not who we are when everyone is looking, but who we are in the places the public does not see. If we allow rotten and putrid things to grow unchecked behind the siding, it could very well mean the whole structure will eventually have to be torn down.

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 23


“Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.” Matthew 23:11-12 (MSG)

I’m almost 45 years into this journey, and I’m still trying to get a handle on the whole “be yourself” thing. I must confess that in my younger years I professed to have a good handle on who I was. In retrospect, I think my self confidence was part honest ignorance, part youthful innocence and part self-delusion. I’ve learned a lot about myself along the way, and the times of greatest clarity come from periods of “stepping down.”

I’ve had a lot of experience standing in a spotlight and it is a very interesting experience. The spotlight can at once be exhilirating, addicting, and powerfully intimidating. All of that attention focused completely on you. All of those eyes staring at you in the same moment.  You had better be “on.” You had better look the part. You had better not embarrass yourself. Make sure the costume is perfect. Push the energy. Turn it on for the audience. Play the part. The spotlight has a tendency to reveal our blemishes, so we tend to cover them up with just so much make up.

Stepping down affords introspection out of the spotlight’s penetrating glare. It reduces pressure. It allows for things to be revealed in the normal light of every day life. It gives opportunity for change. Stepping down allows me to figure out who I am back stage and off stage. In an interesting paradox, I’ve found that the better I know myself outside of the spotlight, the better and more authentically I play my role in it.

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 11

S7300939_800x600 Each morning he'll pull on sturdy work clothes and boots, and build righteousness and faithfulness in the land. Isaiah 11:5 (MSG)

This past winter we started a construction project that will continue through this coming summer. It's partially finished and the upstairs part looks beautiful. But, there's also a downstairs part that looks really ugly, bare and dirty. Someday it will be beautiful, but for now it's more than a bit unsightly and anyone who ventures down there will get dirt on them.

I remember when I was a young man I felt the expectation and need to be perfect through-and-though. I was really uncomfortable with some of the unsightly parts of my character and my flawed humanity. So, I dressed up the "upstairs" parts of me that looked finished to perfection and tried to hide the door to the basement where others could see the bare, ugly mess that was just as much a part of me as the finished parts.

I'm reminded this morning that Jesus, the Branch of Jesse, came to do a work in me until it's completed. I am still under construction as God builds righteousness, faith and Christ-like-ness in me. There's a lot to be done. A construction site is a messy, muddy, dusty, and chaotic place. You can't dress a construction site up with a nice area rug and pretend that it's a finished room.

Somwhere along the way I gave up trying to pretend I'm a finished project. I decided to let people see the messy part of me that's under construction. They'll just have to pardon the mess. To my amazement, loved ones were not only gracious, but more than willing to get thair hands dirty and help with the work.