Monthly Archives: January 2012

5 Reasons Why Your Testimony is Lame…I mean, Ineffective

Your testimony is lame.  That’s right…lame… as in worthless and embarrassing.

Or, at least that’s the vibe I get when I hear someone segue into one with a preface that starts with “It’s no big deal,” “I don’t want to bother you,” or “It’s not as good as <fill in the blank>, but…”.

As is the case with many of my blogs, this one can be traced back to a conversation I had recently with my mother.  I’m not ashamed to mention when I am inspired by something my mom has said or done.

Why?

Because she is freakin’ awesome.

See, when I am confident in the quality and source of my inspiration, I have no problem sharing it.

And you know what-most people who have heard stories about my mom want to meet her.  I’m 27 and my friends ask to meet my mom.  They get excited about being invited to hang out with her.  Heck, my brother’s girlfriend likes leaving my brother at home and going grocery shopping with her!

I never start a recounting of a “mom” encounter with “If it’s not an inconvenience” or with the intention of stating it in a relatively non-assuming, non-discomforting kind of way.  I never worry about what kind of light I’m presenting my mom in or if people will be bothered by hearing about her.

So, why is it easier for me to reference the amazing result of a cool interaction with my mom than it is for me to acknowledge God and what he has done?

You see, I know my mom and I know who she is and what she does speaks for itself.

I’m not worried about running PR for her.  I’m just excited to share what I have learned or experienced as a result of my relationship with her.  Parents and grandparents are like this with their kids, teens are like that with their boy/girlfriends and everyone is like that when it comes to their celebrity flavor of choice.

This tells me that, as humans, it is natural for us to bear witness to those things that we experience.  It’s innately in us, to shine light on things we are impressed/encouraged/excited by. 

If that’s the case, then why are our testimonies so ineffective when it comes to God?

You see, my mom was sharing with me about how God has been meeting with her lately.  I encouraged her to share it with some others, but she was afraid of sounding ‘holier than thou’ or ‘prideful’ to say how God was meeting with her.  Whisky Tango Charlie!

But I do the same thing!

What is the natural response to a story given hesitantly, apologetically or insecurely?  The hearer feels hesitant, apprehensive and insecure concerning what they hear.  So, if you have experienced this or wondered why people don’t seem to be encouraged by or respond to your testimony when you share it, you may have fallen prey to one (or all) of the 5 reasons your testimony is lame.

1)      You apologize for it

Things it is appropriate to apologize for sharing

  • Bad News
  • A Cold
  • Irritation or frustration

I don’t know what God has done in your life, but chances are it doesn’t fall into any of the categories above.

Things you don’t apologize for sharing

  • Candy
  • Good News
  • Hope/encouragement

What God has done in your life is either better than or falls into one of these categories.  So stop apologizing.

2)      You qualify it
If you start sharing how Awesome God is or has been in your life with “Maybe it’s just me”, then why would I want to listen to it?

That’s like looking at a single person and expecting them to get excited because you’re the one getting married.  Chances are, no matter how close, they won’t be as excited as you are.  They may be happy for you, but it probably won’t impact their life (unless it makes them really jealous, which is not what you’re going for, right?).

3)      You downplay it

I’ve seen so many people afraid to share their testimony because it’s not the silver lining to a story littered with drugs, sex and rock and roll.  Heck, I’ve been that person!

It’s a common misconception that a testimony has to be “dramatic” for it to be powerful.  This is a grievous misnomer or to put it simple-WRONG.

The biggest difference between the “Jesus saved me from a debauched life” and “I never had to go through that” is simply one person is more grateful than the other.

Ouch…

Maybe if those of us who haven’t had to “go through hell” were just as excited and grateful for the grace we’ve received, others would be too.

This one is a common killer of those “post salvation” testimonies.  Just because you’re saved doesn’t mean you stop bearing witness to the greatness of God.  His presence, sanctification and sustenance reflect that Salvation isn’t just getting you out of Hell, it’s about complete restoration.

4)      You’ve been ‘forgiven’ so you’ve forgotten it

This one is a toughie.  How do we walk in victory while holding on to the past?   Wait, no, it’s not tough at all.

We’ve just got to realize that your history isn’t about what you’ve done; it’s about what God’s done.

You don’t share it to build up the Old Man, you share it to lift up the Son of Man, so all can be drawn to him.  Your testimony isn’t about you, just like mine is not about me!

5)      You never get around to making it

The biggest killer of an impacting testimony is simply not allowing God to make your life into one.

A testimony is bearing witness or providing an account of what you know is true.  A testimony isn’t just about bad things that have happened, but about the character and life of the one on trial.

And thanks to Jesus, that one isn’t you or me.

He took our place on trial and now our lives are used to give credibility to His Story…or take away from it.

Revelation 12:11 tells us we are saved by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony or as The Message puts it, our bold witness.

If we shrink back, we aren’t allowing God to use our life to build a case for his goodness and the prosecutor (Satan) isn’t slacking in making his to those hearing the evidence.

Don’t hold back—let Christ turn you into the perfect character witness.

So, today I’m challenging myself with this: How can I give voice to the awesomeness of who God is and what he’s done/doing in my life.  Because, as much as I love my mom, God is way more awesome than her!

Today, let’s just practice giving voice.  Share your testimony in the comments-it may encourage someone 

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Might Need a CPR Kiss if You Keep Holding Your Breath for Mr./Mrs. Right

[This guest-post is brought to you by a great friend of mine and I am so humbled to host this on my blog.  Elaine is one of the most confident and honest individuals I know and when I asked her to share some of her experience with “All the Single Ladies”, she was ready and willing.  So, read it, take it in and show her some love in the comments-Lyssah]

 

I am closer to forty than I am to thirty but somehow I wonder why I’m not scared of the idea of aging.

The world around me gives a great recipe for all the stuff you can do to slow down the aging process. That’s of course not forgetting the onslaught of media propaganda about women and how we feel about the idea.

Today though, my focus is not on the aging process or lack thereof.

I mean I trust that we have all been around long enough to know that it really doesn’t matter what the number says right? If however, the age thing still bothers you…? Well, give it a few years and you will catch on.  I started with the age thing because it kind of defines where I’m going with this.

Women and the singleness issue!

Don’t get too excited please. This is not about telling you how to find Mr. Right.

I wonder myself where he is and why he is taking so long to show up. But my main question is what do I do until he does?

Wait in a holding pattern?

Put my life on pause and stop living?

Convince myself I am better off single while I slink into the land of utter depression and anxiety while secretly checking out the male species to see who will express the least bit of interest in me?

Let me go back to the age thing and say that I do not worry about the ticking clock because I really like who I am and how I look as I grow older.

I say that to point out that I do not have all the answers to all of life’s issues on aging or dating or the single life. I do what works for me on a daily basis based on the situations and circumstances I am faced with.

In each of those days I wake up entrusting my life and my day to God and trusting him to give the wisdom I require to survive another day as myself.

To that effect I am a constant work in progress.

So give me a minute or two to share what I have learned from being single.

I choose to be happy. To derive joy from the person that I am, this unique being that God created with such care and love. I choose to enjoy me, to be self-aware and look deep inside and tell myself the truth of who I am.

To change what needs to be changed.

To be better, make better decisions, love more etc.

Identify the ugly in me and ask for help changing stuff up.

To face the hard truth even when I am tempted to ignore things like character traits that are downright ugly.

I choose to identify the good and harness it to make it better.

To have fun with my life.

Discover myself more and more each day.

Be comfortable in my own skin.

Love my own company if there is no one to enjoy it with.

Go to the movies on my own or to a fancy shmanzy restaurant and have a blast at it.

Give myself a treat and take a trip alone if I so desire or just hang out with my married friends and have fun being the third wheel.

To love their kids with such intensity it scares me sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong I do have days where it’s hard to do any of those.

When I don’t feel like going to the movies alone to watch a sappy love story with all the couples cuddling at the theater. Days where a friend gives his wife a hug and a kiss and I just hurt so bad it’s almost a physical ache. Nights of yearning for someone to just hold me and tell me that I matter.

In all of that, I choose to breathe in and breathe out rather than breathe in and hold my breath as I wait and wait and wait and wait for a man who will come to make me happy and show me how to enjoy my life.

Do I stay in that state of deep inhalation and not ever exhale?

What if he never shows up?

What if he shows up and has no CPR skills?

What do I do? Die? Oh heck no!

Get out of the holding pattern!

Discover you!  Make you better!

Live. Life. Better.

Not for anyone else but for you and God who created you.

Let’s breathe in and breathe out together.

Wouldn’t you rather enjoy a real kiss than feeling like you need a CPR one?

What do you think?

 

                                       -Elaine Otuije

Can you relate to the feeling that finding the “right one” will somehow bring you to life?  

CPR Kiss?  Can you think of any other crazy expectations that we may, as singles, harbor in our hearts?

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God by Definition

god
-noun
1. the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe
2. the Supreme Being considered with reference to a particular attribute: the God of Islam
3. (lowercase) one of several deities, especially a male deity, presiding over some portion of worldly affairs
4. (often lowercase) a Supreme Being according to some particular conception: the god of mercy
5. Christian Science.  The Supreme Being understood as Life, Truth, love, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Principle
6. (lowercase) an image of a deity; an idol
7. (lowercase) any deified person or object
8. (often lowercase) Gods, Theater
a. the upper balcony of a theater
b. the spectators in this part of the balcony

Considering the topic of this definition, I must say www.dictionary.com has provided a sub-par explanation.  However, this is through no fault of their own.

Recently, Gateway Life church in Nashville participated in a time of prayer and fasting, coming together every night from 6:30 to 8:30.  It was an amazing time of corporate worship and prayer.  Personally, I found a new challenge waiting for me.  Tuesday night, as we were seeking God, I heard a question whispering through my soul.  “What is the definition of God?  Can you define me?”  Having an affinity for the english language, I took a second to contemplate the question.  Apparently, the Holy Spirit was not about to let me run off on one of my mental tangents.  It took a matter of a few breaths to realize I had no idea how to define God.

A definition by…well, definition is as follows:
-noun
1. the act of defining or making definite, distinct or clear
2. the formal statement of the meaning or significance of a word, phrase, etc.
3. the condition of being definite, distinct or clearly defined

For the sake of sanity and not reading myself into a rabbit whole of definitions, I will not pull out any sub-studies of words included above.  To summarize, a definition is something in which an item finds a definitive description and significance.

The question now raised is this: Can God be described in a definitive fashion or can anything claim to lend significance or meaning to God?  We define things by that which they are rooted in.  Can God be rooted in anything?  What in our limited understanding can hope to add significance or definition to God?

So, I have come to this conclusion: God cannot be defined, but instead provides definition for all.  Nothing in my frame of reference has any definition apart from where it stands in relationship to God.  Even “evil” only has definition in the fact that  it is in opposition to the character of God.  God then, to sum it up, can only be self defined.  When He defines Himself as Love, love does not define God, but God is personally endorsing and lending credence to Love.  Christians have studied the names and attributes of God for centuries, as if those words defined him, rather than seeing the definition he provides.

Today, I am (re) trying to challenge myself with this: When I hear God the Provider or God the Healer, I am aiming for a paradigm shift-God is not defined by these things, these things are defined by the fact that God is them and is giving us a crumb to take in to better see Him for who He is.  The sub-challenge-how do I define people?  By limited knowledge, or by the definition given to them by the Definer of all?

Lyssah

(Note: I originally posted this nearly a year ago and was reminded of it today, so I thought I would revisit the post of blogs past 🙂 )

How have you attempted to define God?  

How would we view people differently if we defined them by God and not our perception?

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Family Friday

Introducing a new element to Fog For Muses-Family Friday.  Every Friday, it is my goal to highlight the God given talent/creative expression/blog/etc of someone I consider family.

Ok, I know I don’t have the biggest of platforms when it comes to blogging, but I consider you all part of my online family.

That being the case, I want to connect you with some of my blood family.  My brother Jared, just released an ep via Noise Trade.  Check it out!

http://noisetrade.com/thejaredfergusonband

As the only sister of the founding member, I was blessed with the opportunity to sit in on some of their “studio” work.  Apart from having to be really quiet while sitting in a creaky chair, can I just say it was a mind blowing experience.  I never thought I would hear my brother say “Man, I wish this track had a little Mandolin…give me a sec” and then watch him pick up a mandolin (an instrument he does not play) and figure out the chords for his song!  It’s a little sick, if you ask me, but still amazing :).  So, check out their ep and if you ask nicely, I’ll leak some other random facts from my studio time with Jared Ferguson and Matt Hall.

And hey, if you want a Family Friday plug/shout out/guest blog, let me know.

We have two awesome guest blogs coming up in the near future from Janis Ferguson (my mommy) and a sister of my heart, Elaine Otuije, so, consider this the cue to get excited 😉

Lyssah

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Holy Crap! Poop or Get off the Pot

Yes, that is how I’m starting off this post.  Holy Crap.  And no, I’m not apologizing for it.  I have heard this incongruent phrase tossed around for as long as I can remember.

I’ve always found it funny how two words that have so little in common have been paired together, but both are words we become desensitized to as we grow.

Take the word crap.
You know how it goes: You say it when you are a kid and get your mouth washed out with soap.
You say it as a tween and get told to watch your language.
You say it as a teenager and someone covertly asks if “crap” isn’t just a substitute for another four letter word meaning excrement, so in your heart, aren’t you really saying/meaning that other one?
You say it as an adult and no one cares because by now, everyone is mature enough to use it.
Right?

Then look at the word Holy.
If you’ve grown up in the church, you might remember this progression as well.
When you’re a kid, you ask what it means and maybe your Sunday School teacher explains “God is Holy”.
When you’re a tween, you’ve kind of hit that not really listening phase, so chances are you don’t remember what was said at this time, so we’ll skip it.
As a teen, you probably heard it thrown around a lot in reference to being sinless, blameless or pure (especially in those abstinence type talks that make up the bulk of many youth programs).
By the time you’re an adult, it’s been watered down to an adjective at best and an unattainable and depressing standard-worst case scenario.

So, to set the record straight, let’s look at some definitions.

Holy, when boiled down, means set apart or dedicated.

Crap, at the end of the day, means nonsense, rubbish or, well, the obvious.

Looking at those definitions, it would seem these words are still in opposition.  Who’s going to dedicate their trash?

Then it hit me—these words do go together and we are living proof.

Psalm 103:13-14 explains that God has compassion on us, because we are dust.

Isaiah 2:22 reminds us not to trust in man, because he is nothing compared to God-he has only a breath.

Psalm 39:5 reminds us our years are nothing before God and our life is but a breath.

Left to our sinful nature and our own foolishness, it’s what we boil down to.

Except.

Except that, in Christ, we are Holy, created for a purpose and set apart.  We’ve got junk, we’ve got trash in our past and there are days when we don’t come out smelling like roses, but in Christ, we are still Holy-still set apart for Him.

Colossians 3:12 says we are holy and dearly loved, because we are chosen by God.

So often, I think we still bring in that whole pure or perfect definition, see we fall short and assume there is nothing that can be done.

You have to remember, you have been MADE holy.

Our response then, is to choose to be Holy because God is Holy and set ourselves apart for his purpose.  Because we are holy, according to Colossians, then we endeavor to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, etc.

We don’t do those things to be holy, but because it’s already been done.

So, in the end, it doesn’t matter the junk or, well, crap, we’ve done, endured or become.  It’s the Holiness that was given to a hand selected individual with a specific purpose in mind.

Anyone else tend to express “crap” sentiments more than “holy” ones?  How can we better embrace being set apart?

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What is in a Name?

With the start of a New Year, I am back at the keys and picking up a blog that I have been neglectful of for a few months.  It’s not a resolution.  I’m not declaring I will now post 2 times a week, with x amount of guest posts or a play list of topics.  However, I do want to shed light on the purpose behind this blog.

For just about as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with names.  At the age of 16, etymology was an informal hobby and often friends would ask me to investigate the meaning/origin of their name.  One of my favorite road trips included dissecting fellow roadies names: Handsome Little Miracle, Ruler of One Oak Tree, etc.

I feel names are important for two reasons.

1) One, words have power.  If you are constantly expressing negativity, you will be surrounded by it.  If you speak life and love, that’s what you’ll be surrounded by.  Names are what is most often spoken over people.  Those names have meaning.  Take Naomi in the book of Ruth.  After she had endured a famine, the loss of her family and a harsh relocation, she asked people not to call her Naomi, which means ‘beautiful and gentle’.  No, she wanted to be called Mara, because it means ‘bitter’.  Wonder what Naomi was trying to say…<insert slightly sarcastic face>.  Notice though, through the whole book, they continue to call her Naomi and the end of her story was marked with beauty and she became gentle once more.

2) People live up or down to the expectations given to them.  I remember finding out that my name meant sane and intelligent or sanity and intelligence of God/wisdom of God.  Yeah, when I felt like freaking out or was faced with a situation that called for discernment, I remembered that meaning and found myself trying hard to live in a way that ‘deserved’ to carry it.  On a lighter note, I have known a Matthew or two that was quick to remind me that his name meant God’s gift and I had better recognize.

So, if what something is named is a declaration to be spoken and a standard to strive for, I believe a title is a map or teaser for what is presented under it.

FOG for Muses.

FOG is a cheesy little acronym that used to slightly bug me.  My friends would experience something good and say they were in the FOG or Favor of God.  It seemed cliché, and I still maintain that it is.  However, one day (the day I started this blog actually), I had a conversation that basically evaluated how so often, in the moments where you have the least control or the worst ability to see what is coming, God has this tendency to whip in there and save your butt.  It’s those times where it’s hardest to imagine or comprehend what is happening that his favor shines brightest.

Real fog (and those who live in the central valley can back me up) reflects light like crazy.  Inexperienced fog drivers will make the rookie mistake of throwing their high beams on to try and dispel the disorienting haze.  All that does is illuminate the haze so you can see it more clearly, not the road you’re on.  But it brightens your car too.  You can see immediately around you just a little brighter that before.  That’s kind of like the favor of God.  You may not understand.  It may not explain everything, but it makes where you are lighter.  It only comes when you’re surrounded and there is absolutely nothing in your power that has any bearing on it: situation or solution.

Muse.  Simply stated, a muse is something that inspires.  Every individual has the ability to serve as a muse.  I use the word serve, because that is what it takes to inspire in such a way that change is achieved.  It can’t be about the muse, it has to be about what is inside artist or the one in need of inspiration.  Inspiration only comes when a catalyst finds a receptive atmosphere in which to work.

In short, FOG for Muses is a blog committed to the recognition, reciprocation and recounting of those things which have inspired, can inspire and hopefully will inspire those who encounter them to inspire others.

All that to say, I am excited for this year and thankful for those of you who have joined me thus far.  Today is the greatest season to live in, let’s make the most of it.

Lyssah

Just for fun, what does your name mean?

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Much Afraid

There’s a monster under my bed.  Well, not really, but there is a skeleton in my closet, so to speak.

Have you ever been so focused on something that a friends approach, though normal enough, causes you to jump like their life’s purpose is to freak you out?  You gasp and try to calm your pounding heart while they look at you with an expression that question’s your sanity and threatens to commit you all in one?

They had absolutely no intention of frightening you…but you can’t seem to convince your still sputtering heart.

Ironically enough, all too often, this unintended startling sets me a little on edge.  I’m now determined not to be caught off guard or afraid, and as a result, pass the next few minutes on high alert, overly aware of my surroundings and questioning every little sound.  I tell myself it’s vigilance, but in truth, the fear has simply taken a new form.

Metaphors aside (because for anyone who has read this blog previously, you know there is always a set up) I have realized just how much of a root fear has in my life.  In my mind, I often like to consider myself like Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia, ready for adventure, sticking my nose into random wardrobes and boldly facing down whatever obstacle may come my way.

If I’m honest with myself, I’m probably more closely related to Much Afraid in Hind’s Feet on High Places.  An adventure has been presented, but I’m sitting taking tea with my fearing relatives, just about resigned to the idea that Craven Fear will be my future mate.  I feel helpless and surrounded and as I hear the whistle of my Shepherd, I only fall into despair because I can’t work out the guts to run to him.

I never expected to wake up one day with the revelation that I am bound by fear.  But then again, I notice when the small seed that has overtaken the garden of my soul was planted.  Maybe when I was 6 and I told a girl that Jesus was the reason I was always happy and she looked at me with derision a first grader should not be capable of and said “You believe in Jesus…that’s stupid.”  It was most certainly watered by the realization that my first completed book had been lost, never to be recalled.  The loss of 14 year old me’s life work helped it grow.  One thing after another subtly compounded; and what was my response?  Be extra vigilant!

Build the walls, strengthen in the line of defense…or as Ivy’s sister whispered urgently in the Village “Don’t.. .let… them… in.”

Unfortunately, all that really accomplished was shutting myself in, alone, in the dark.  It takes many forms, but often ends with me pulling back or walking away, afraid of what will come if I invest more, love more, try more or am more vulnerable.

Within my walls of self preservation, the fear had found the perfect environment to grow.  My vigilance and determination not to give into fear has trapped me within its sick and twisted world—cut off from the source of light that can dispel the darkness that fear inhabits.

Over the past week or so I’ve been wondering what to do, how to break free of the root that has grown up to become the labyrinth I wander in.  Surprise, surprise, guess who was all too ready to provide the answer?  That’s right, good ol’ Holy Spirit.  In short, if I’ve trapped myself within the walls of my own making and those walls have to be torn down.  The vessel I’ve created to house my fragile heart must be broken so the fear can be drained by perfect love and reformed by the loving hand of my Shepherd.

I may see myself as broken and lame, but once the seed has been planted in my heart and I allow myself to become Acceptance with Joy, the biggest question I will face is which mountain to go leaping upon.

So, I’ll consider this the first chink in the wall…I’m afraid and I don’t want to be any more.  *crack*

 

What do you fear?  Why?     

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