Monday, April 16, 2007

"The Secret" Versus The Bible

I was talking with some friends about how New Age concepts and lingo are now woven into pop culture. People use words like "finding inner peace," "having a personal mantra," "the power within," "higher self," "positive/negative energy," and "karma" all the time. I suspect many Christians have read or are reading New Age/metaphysical material and don't even know it. As a Christian with a New Age past, I'm hypersensitive to spotting New Age references. My friends asked me, "How can you tell if something contains New Age ideas?"

Honestly, it can be pretty difficult. In 1995, I was desperately seeking a way to have a relationship with God. I came across a copy of The Celestine Prophecy on the clearance shelf at my college bookstore. I'd vaguely remembered hearing this book had deep spiritual insights, so I bought it. And when I began to read it, I couldn't put it down. This is the answer to all my questions! This will fix all my problems, I believed. At some point, the book became too incredible to sound credible. So I flipped to the front cover. I was devastated to find out it was a work of fiction. I immediately stopped reading the book, then threw it in the dumpster because I didn't want anyone else to be deceived as I'd been. (This makes me smile now--I wasn't a Christian at the time, and if I hadn't noticed it was fiction, I would have read it cover to cover. I believe God stopped me from putting my faith in that book!)

Though I was raised in a Christian home, I never would have guessed The Celestine Prophecy had a New Age bent. That's largely because I didn't know what "New Age" meant. I had no previous exposure to it, no frame of reference for such concepts. Additionally, I didn't know Scripture well enough to compare the Bible with New Age ideas.

These days, publications with ideas like The Celestine Prophesy are marketed not as fiction, but as serious theories that any educated person should consider. Scary stuff! The latest piece of "soft" New Age material I've encountered is The Secret, a DVD and book that's based on the Law of Attraction (check out my entry, "
Is the Real 'Secret' that Some People Are Better Than Others?" for an explaination of the Law of Attraction). By "soft," I mean it isn't blatantly New Age, and I can understand why Christians are unknowingly buying it. Here are some common identifiers of New Age material:

  • New Age publications are often marketed as "self-help," "spirituality," or "philosophy."

  • Take note of any "experts" who are quoted. In The Secret, these include a Feng Shui consultant, a visionary, a metaphysician, and several philosophers. The first three have straightforward titles, so it's that last group--the philosophers--that makes me raise an eyebrow. Titles can be intentionally vague. A label like "philosopher"--or "teacher," "counselor," or "minister"--can be used to make someone sound intellectual and reputable. Go beyond their title and research their school, organization, or religious affiliation.

  • New Age concepts often begin with a logical, common activity, such as adopting a positive attitude or setting goals for yourself. These everyday ideas are then infused with power (such as The Secret's assertion your thoughts control and cause what happens in the physical world). The New Age idea is: You can control your life and everything around you.

  • New Agers believe there are god-like powers within humans that can be unlocked through meditation and other practices. God's role is either minimized or overlooked. New Agers are told to have inward gratitude, rather than thanking God. Thoughts and meditation are usually internal rather than directed to God as a conversation with him. If God (or a higher power) is mentioned in New Age thought, God is seen as something man should control or possess.

  • New Agers often position themselves as being more tolerant than Christians with their idea "all paths lead to God." In truth, they don't view all paths as the same distance: Some people move faster toward their New Age goals of self-actualization, enlightenment or nirvana--thus, some paths must be superior. Though a primary concept in New Age thought is to make perfection available to everyone, there is a definite spiritual hierarchy (consider how Buddhist monks are viewed). In Eastern and New Age thought, some folks are considered spiritually far superior, largely because they meditate more often or "try harder" to reach their spiritual goals. In fact, much of the criticism about The Secret has come from New Agers who think the program doesn't go far enough--that attaining such power takes a lot more effort.

  • New Age statements can sound almost exactly like verses from the Bible. Similarly, the New Age ideas that "we are all gods" and there's a "power within" can sound a lot like the way Christians describe the Holy Spirit.

Here are some quotes from The Secret (DVD version) from several sources in the film. Compare them with these Bible verses (if Bible version isn't listed, it's NIV).

Secret Quote: "The power within you is greater than the power that's in the world."

1 John 4:4b, (NIV): "... the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

1 John 4:1-4 (CEV): "Dear friends, don't believe everyone who claims to have the Spirit of God. Test them all to find out if they really do come from God. Many false prophets have already gone out into the world, and you can know which ones come from God. His Spirit says that Jesus Christ had a truly human body. But when someone doesn't say this about Jesus, you know that person has a spirit that doesn't come from God and is the enemy of Christ. You knew that this enemy was coming into the world and now is already here. Children, you belong to God, and you have defeated these enemies. God's Spirit is in you and is more powerful than the one that is in the world."
(emphasis mine--it is God's Spirit in us, not some generic "power," and we do not control the Holy Spirit)

Secret Quote: "There is no blackboard in the sky on which God has written your purpose, your mission in life. ... Your purpose is what you say it is. Your mission is the mission you give yourself."

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT): "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." (emphasis mine)

Psalm 139:3-4: "You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD."

Jeremiah 29:11:
" 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "

Deuteronomy 13:4-5 (CEV): "You must be completely faithful to the LORD. Worship and obey only the LORD and do this with fear and trembling, because he rescued you from slavery in Egypt. If a prophet tells you to disobey the LORD your God and to stop worshiping him, then that prophet is evil and must be put to death.

Secret Quote: "Your life will be what you create it as, and no one will stand in judgment of it, now or ever."

Matthew 7:21-23: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' "

Matthew 25:31-34, 41: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." (31-34) ... "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' " (41)

Secret Quote: "You have God potential and power."
Secret Quote: "You are eternal life. You are source energy. You are God manifested in human form."

1 John 5:20 (CEV): "We know that Jesus Christ the Son of God has come and has shown us the true God. And because of Jesus, we now belong to the true God who gives eternal life."

Exodus 20:1-7: "And God spoke all these words: 'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.' " (emphasis mine)

John 14:6: "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' "

John 3:36 (CEV): [John the Baptist speaking] "Everyone who has faith in the Son has eternal life. But no one who rejects him will ever share in that life, and God will be angry with them forever."

Secret Quote: "It's not your job to change the world or the people around you. It's your job to go with the flow of the universe and to celebrate it inside of the world that exists."

Matthew 28:19-20: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Acts 1:6-8: "So when they met together, they asked him, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?' He said to them: 'It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' "

Daniel 12:3 (CEV): "Everyone who has been wise will shine as bright as the sky above, and everyone who has led others to please God will shine like the stars."

Hebrews 11:1-2, 29-30, 32-34(CEV): "Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. It was their faith that made our ancestors pleasing to God." (1-2) ... "Because of their faith, the people walked through the Red Sea on dry land. But when the Egyptians tried to do it, they were drowned. God's people had faith, and when they had walked around the city of Jericho for seven days, its walls fell down." (29-30) ... "What else can I say? There isn't enough time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Their faith helped them conquer kingdoms, and because they did right, God made promises to them. They closed the jaws of lions and put out raging fires and escaped from the swords of their enemies. Although they were weak, they were given the strength and power to chase foreign armies away." (32-34)

Matthew 5:14-16 (CEV): "You are like light for the whole world. A city built on top of a hill cannot be hidden, and no one would light a lamp and put it under a clay pot. A lamp is placed on a lampstand, where it can give light to everyone in the house. Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Life Lessons from a Tangerine

A week ago, my parents' neighbor brought a big bag of tangerines to their house. I love-love-love tangerines, so I was thrilled to be visiting my folks on the day their neighbor gave them the fruit. Salivating, I only half-listened as the neighbor explained, "These tangerines aren't pretty, but they are super flavorful and they don't have any seeds." He'd picked them from a tree at his relative's home in San Diego.

Later that afternoon, I plucked a tangerine out of the plastic grocery bag. True to what he'd apologetically stated, the tangerines weren't pretty. In fact, they were downright ugly. They were tiny and shriveled. The rough, pock-marked peel hung loosely around the fruit inside. Ugh, I thought, if I'd seen these at a grocery store, I would have turned my nose up at them as if they were rotten!

But hey, these were tangerines (did I mention I love-love-love them?). And they were free. So I peeled back the loose skin, fully expecting maggots or worms to come crawling out. The fruit inside was small, but certainly not rancid or bug-ridden. Part of my brain even told me, "Wow, the skin peels away so easily, and the fruit inside doesn't squirt or bruise when I peel it." As I bit into that first section of tangerine, the tangy flavor and aroma hit me all at once. Truly, it was the best tangerine I'd ever tasted. And, true to the neighbor's word, it had no seeds!

Every tangerine in the bag was equally wonderful. I ran out of the fruit yesterday, so I went to Marina Farms, a little gourmet market that's touted as the having best produce in the Los Angeles area. Indeed, their fruits and veggies are quite good, so I figured I'd be able to find a comparable tangerine.

I spotted some tangerines that were so perfect, they looked plastic. The sign that hung above the fruit proclaimed, "Sweet tangerines from Spain!" I immediately knew I was going to be disappointed. And I was. The pristine skin was hard to peel. The perfectly formed fruit inside was firm, not soft and succulent like the San Diego tangerines. And while they tasted OK, the flavor was ho-hum in comparison.

After eating the Spanish tangerine, I felt unsatisfied. I longed for a bite of the ugly fruit. And I began to think of how I approach life with a limited perception. (Yes, I really do think about these weird correlations!) There are certain things I perceive as beautiful: having a fancy car, wearing spectacular clothes, working in a high-power job making tons of money. But I started to compare what I do have--the stuff God's actually given me--and I was surprised to find simplicity and humility are my biggest blessings. For example:

1) I drive a 9-year-old Ford Contour. It has a big dent in the door from where someone backed into it, and in the sunlight, you can see the number "911" scratched on the hood where someone vandalized it. Amazingly, my car gives me such peace. I never worry about getting a dent or having it stolen. Conversely, whenever I drive my husband's new luxury car--or even a nice rental vehicle--I'm stressed out to no end. I worry about dirtying or denting the nice car, or having it stolen. (Check out what Matthew
6:19-21 has to say about this.)

2) I don't have a lot of clothes, which works great for me. I can always find what I'm looking for in my closet, and I never have more than a few loads of laundry to wash. I give away stuff that doesn't fit me. I don't feel burdened to shop for clothes regularly, and I'm thrilled to buy a new item when an old one wears out. God seems to take care of that: I knew the days of my favorite pair of jeans were numbered, so I've been looking for new jeans for years. I've never found any until recently. A few days after I bought that wonderful new pair of jeans, the old ones ripped beyond repair. Thanks for the new jeans, God! (
Matthew 6:28-34)

3) I've never had a high-paying, executive job. But I've always been blessed with work that's a total blast. Much of the work I currently do is unpaid. Admittedly, I'd like to be able to tell people I make six-figures and I'm a CEO or president or something. Yet I know God has blessed me with little stress and lots of support and positive feedback. I love doing the work he's given me. As a side note, God just gave me the perfect job for me! Beginning in June, I'll be regularly blogging for Today's Christian Woman magazine's online site. And you all know how much I love to blog--how awesome and perfect is that! (
Colossians 3:23-24)

From the outside, our lives can seem like that San Diego tangerine: small, shriveled, insignificant, even ugly. I'm learning to look beyond the ideas in my head of what a "good" life is, and to expect great things from God even when I don't yet see the greatness. I can't wait to chow down on all the delicious treats God has in store for me.

To ponder:
1) What good things have you received from God that didn't look so good at first glance?

2) Consider the things you don't have. How is your seeming "lack" actually a blessing in disguise?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Power of Pain

Kevin Robertson, the senior pastor of my church, was vomiting on an airplane yesterday. Kevin and his wife, Jennifer, are en route to an orphanage in Sudan to offer aid and assistance there.

For seven hours, a physician attempted to treat Kevin. When his plane landed in Kenya, he was rushed to an emergency room. Though his symptoms have subsided, the doctors couldn't determine the cause of his illness. Kevin planned to immediately continue on to Sudan, and as I type this, I wonder, Where in the world are Kevin and Jennifer? How are they doing?

I sent an email about Kevin to folks from our church at midnight last night. I've already gotten many replies, with people saying they're praying for the couple. And I've been praying for them throughout the day. I certainly would have prayed for Kevin and Jennifer if everything had gone according to plan. But admittedly, the fact they've hit a rough patch caused me to pay attention, and thus, pray a lot more.

Pain catches my attention. As evidenced by the emails I've received for Kevin and Jennifer, I'm not the only one who notices. Last September, I attended a youth workshop where the speaker, Christina DiMari, could barely stand up. She'd flown to Southern California from Kentucky, and just two days before the event, she'd been lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV. She had to have surgery shortly after the event.

When I later interviewed Christina, she told me she'd been inspired by another woman's illness. Christian speaker and author Beth Moore had been scheduled to speak at Christina's church. When Beth became extremely ill just before the engagement, her doctor advised her to cancel the trip. But Beth, still hooked up to an IV, boarded the plane to Louisville anyway. She was so weak she couldn't stand up at Christina's church, and had to sit on a stool as she spoke. "That's all I could think of because I was so sick," Christina told me, referring to her own moment of illness at the youth workshop. "I kept thinking of Beth and how she'd just pushed through it."

When I looked at their lives,

I saw two people who hadn't

abandoned God when things

got tough. And I saw two people

God hadn't abandoned.

Shortly after my meeting with Christina, I was facing my own pain. I lost part of my eyesight, and my physician told me it wouldn't return and there were no treatments. As I contemplated living the remainder of my life with that vision impairment, my thoughts turned to two friends--I'll call them Tom and Terry. Both are in their early 30s, and both are living with illness: Tom has multiple sclerosis, Terry has diabetes. Just knowing about their illnesses gave me hope that I could live with my vision loss. When I looked at their lives, I saw two people who hadn't abandoned God when things got tough. And I saw two people God hadn't abandoned.

I struggle with the idea of pain. Questions constantly fill my mind: Why did God choose to heal my eyesight? Why does God allow my friends Tom and Terry to be ill? Why does God allow people who are doing his work--like Beth, Christina, and Kevin--to suffer, even as they're serving him?

God hasn't given me answers to those questions. But he has stirred some deep thoughts. When I've seen people in pain, I've noticed their perspective changes. I've seen them cling to God. I've seen God give them enough strength to keep going. It was their pain that initially made me take notice, then their faith that held my attention. To an even greater extent, my own pain from my eyesight problems brought a renewed reliance on God, a deep gratitude for the good things God's given me, and a stronger sense of empathy for others.

Looking at some verses in Psalm 30, I realized the psalmist had been through depression, illness, and mourning. Painful stuff. The psalmist fully recognizes God has taken away that pain:

"I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths ..." (v.1)

"O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me." (v.2)

"You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy ... " (v.11)

Pain is a human experience we've all had, yet so few of us discuss with others. I'm happy when I can rejoice with friends about the good things in their lives. But it's when they share their pain that I feel most akin to them. Despite the thousands of years and cultural differences that separate me and the psalmist, I can look at those verses and say, "Yup, I feel you." Additionally, that presence of pain amplifies the contrast of joy in the verses. The loss was big, but God's touch was way bigger.

I'm praying Kevin and Jennifer are healthy and safely moving forward on their journey. And I'm praying that God uses their moments of pain and turns them around to a big, powerful joy, like only God can do.

To ponder:
1) What are some moments of pain you've experienced?

2) Do you tend to talk about your painful experiences? Why or why not?

3) Do you see benefits to talking about your pain? What physical, mental, and spiritual benefits have you seen?

4) What are some positive outcomes of painful experiences you've had? Would omitting the pain change that experience?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Is the Real "Secret" that Some People Are Better Than Others?

Have you heard The Secret? I can control people with my mind. At least, that's what the creators of The Secret, a DVD that promotes that Law of Attraction, would have me believe.

Well, that's not exactly how the purveyors of The Secret would put it. Those who put their faith in the Law of Attraction would describe the so-called Law something like this: You get what you think about, so if you think positive thoughts, positive things will happen in your life. It's the power of positive thinking!

Some of you are wondering, Why is Holly blogging about The Secret? Well, The Secret is one of those New Age products that's soft peddled as self-help. Then some celebrity like Oprah gets behind it. Then it becomes the latest self-empowerment craze. Christians begin jumping on board, believing it must be a good, godly idea because it seems to have a positive focus.

I can understand why people want to believe in The Secret. For some, it's a matter of wanting exclusive control in their lives. Still others like the idea of power, and the thought they might be mentally strong enough to control people. For others, it's a way to trust solely in themselves because they don't feel they can trust anyone else. And for some, it's motivated by a desire to believe in something bigger and better--a higher power. For that last group, it may be easier to believe there is a greater power within, and a lot harder to believe there is a Greater Power above who's invisible to their eyes.

The Secret is a New Age concept that's based on this logical premise: What you say and how you act affects other people. Well, duh! If a young man repeatedly tells a young woman how beautiful she is and he buys her chocolates, she feels appreciated. Like many New Age concepts, the Law of Attraction elevates human actions to the level of special powers, effectively giving human beings the potential for godlike status. New Agers believe your emotions or thoughts or actions have power. So how does any of that apply to Christians who are in to The Secret? We'll get to that in a moment.

First, let's examine the idea of control posed in the Law of Attraction. As a former New Ager who's heard various versions of the Law of Attraction before, I don't think my definition of "mind control" is far from the intended meaning. But no one would describe it that way to a mainstream, non-New Age audience because it sounds, well, loony and fictional to say you can control other people with your mind (not to mention egotistical and a lil' bit evil). Yet I'm simply following the Law's logic: Truly, don't positive events occur because of the actions of people? If I wish for a better job, what I'm really wanting is for my boss to promote me or a new boss to hire me. If I wish for love and happiness, I'm essentially wishing people will come love and care for me. If I wish for a wheelbarrow of money, someone will need to come carting it in, and I'll probably want someone to help me spend it or at least manage it. All to say, the idea behind the Law of Attraction has to be an ability to control other people, because circumstances don't really change unless there are people somehow involved.

Can you imagine if we all sat around trying to control each other with our minds? It'd be a mental Mexican standoff! That is, unless some people were actually better at mind control than others. Some people are better negotiators. Some people are better manipulators. Some people are better liars. Thus, some people must be better equipped to mentally force their will on to others.

After all, inequity is built right into the product. Purveyors of The Secret say they want everyone to know about it, yet you gotta buy their DVD. Even if they were giving it away, there's the cost of distribution, which limits who can receive it. It likely won't make it into Sudanese villages where there are no power lines, let alone DVD players to show the film. And consider its specially-designed-for-marketing name. Knowing the "secret" implies you are already better for that knowledge. It also implies that it will remain a secret to some; they either won't have access to it or won't be able to understand it. Really, if everyone on the face of the planet knew and understood The Secret, would it be a secret anymore? If everyone could equally employ the Law of Attraction, wouldn't it just make us truly equal? And who would be interested in The Secret if that were true?

Let's face it: We humans constantly strive to be better than our neighbor. We want to be wealthier, smarter, more renown or attractive. We want to be unequal. But God sees humans as totally equal: "All of us have sinned and fallen short of God's glory" (Romans 3:23, CEV, emphasis mine). And equally, we all have the opportunity to be
reunited with God. I found freedom when I recognized I couldn't earn God's love. When I finally figured out I didn't need to physically and emotionally purge all the negativity and badness out of myself in order to be acceptable to God, I was a much happier person. As a New Ager, I was well aware I could never be good enough, my thoughts could never be pure and righteous and positive enough, no matter how hard I tried. That depressed me. As a Christian, I now know God accepts me right where I am--flaws and scars and negativity and all.

OK, Christian folk who like The Secret, let's talk directly now. Maybe you wonder, What's wrong with being a positive person? Doesn't God want me to have a joyful outlook? Doesn't God want to bless me?

There's a big difference between

thinking positively and putting

faith in your mental powers.

There's a big difference between thinking positively and putting faith in your mental powers. The Secret would have us believe we create the goodness in our lives. When I consider the fruit of the Spirit, it's all positive stuff: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. No negativity there! Difference is, we're told these characteristics aren't a result of our sheer effort. They're like fruit that grows from a fruit tree, and that tree is the Holy Spirit, which God plants in us.

Consider where the Law of Attraction places your focus. In the Law of Attraction, I'm looking for good things for myself, and believing I can get them for myself. I'm likely attracted to people who are successful--socially, financially, educationally, etc. When we look to God, we trust that he has a better plan than we do. We believe "every good and perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17, NIV)--so we give credit for the good stuff in our lives to God, not ourselves. And if we don't get good things for ourselves right away--even if circumstances become difficult--we still believe "God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him" (Romans 8:28, CEV). Further, we're attracted to humble folks who can't give us anything. We're attracted to people who've been cast away and rejected because the Holy Spirit within us draws us to help and comfort them.

Essentially, the Law of Attraction promotes human beings to the status of gods. Personally, I don't think I'm God. I can hope and wish people don't hit me as I drive down the freeway, and even think good thoughts about making it home safely. But it's a mistake to believe that my thoughts are preventing me from getting into an accident. I don't believe I have that control and power over the drivers around me, or even the road conditions in front of me.

Do you really want to be the go-to guy (or gal) in your life, the man (or woman) with a plan, the be-all, end-all for yourself? Do you really want to put that much faith in your own abilities? Or would you rather entrust your life to the One who created you?

Jesus Christ lived his life reaching out to the lowliest people in his society: prostitutes, thieves, the poor, the disabled, the sick. Outcasts and unwanteds. These weren't people who could elevate him socially or financially. While some of his followers were connected and well-off, Jesus wasn't about big pimpin'. He was homeless. And he wasn't preaching a message of prosperity or the power of positive thinking. He said
God blesses those who are humble, meek, merciful, and those who make peace, those who are persecuted for doing right, those who trust God for everything. He said that God would comfort those who were grieving. (Notice, Jesus said God would comfort the grieving. He didn't say, "Boot that negativity out of your life, then your positive attitude will make everything fine!") He said people would be persecuted for following him. And yet, people followed him anyway. They were very, very attracted to him back then, and folks still are today.

I want to be an attractive person, too. But I don't want it to be just varnish--a positive attitude and a perpetual smile. I want God's love to be apparent in my life. I want to trust God a little bit more every day, and depend a little bit less on my own mind and methods. I want people to see the real joy that comes from dependence on Him. What could be more attractive than that?

To ponder:
1) Why do you think we strive for perfect lives? What does "perfect" mean to you?

2) When something good happens in your life, do you immediately say "thanks" to God? Is it hard or easy for you to believe that every good thing in your life comes from God?

3) Is it sometimes hard to believe God is constantly "at work for the good" in your life? (Holly says: "Sometimes it's hard for me to believe it, especially when everything seems to be moving contrary to my plans.") What events or occurrences cause you to question whether God has a good plan for you?

4) What do you find most attractive in other people? (e.g. a positive attitude, social status, kindness, appearance, generosity, personal achievement, confidence) What do you think is most attractive in yourself?