A BEAUTIFUL QUOTE BY FLAUBERT

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Hi friends…

Today I just wanted to share with you a beautiful passage I re-read today when I pulled my copy of Gustave Flaubert’s novella A Simple Heart off the shelf for no particular reason, except to see how many pages his novella has. I was struck again by the beauty of these words. I hope it will bless you too…

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“…Then she wept at the story of the Passion. Why had they crucified Him when He loved the children, fed the multitudes, healed the blind, and had willed, in His meekness, to be born among the poor, on the dungheap of a stable? The sowings, harvests, wine-presses, all the familiar things the Gospel speaks of, were a part of her life. They had been made holy by God’s passing; and she loved the lambs more tenderly for her love of the Lamb, and the doves because of the Holy Ghost.

She found it hard to imagine Him in person for He was not merely a bird, but a flame as well, and a breath at other times. It may be His light she thought, which flits at night about the edge of the marshes, His breathing which drives on the clouds, His voice which gives harmony to the bells; and she would sit rapt in adoration, enjoying the cool walls and quiet of the church.”

…Gustave Flaubert

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** Image credits: all artwork by Christian Schloe

 

 

 

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ON BEING BRANDED

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This past weekend I went to an interview and Q&A that was part of a book release for a new book called Brandpsycho: Four Essays on De:Branding. It’s written by a man who is a Jungian psychoanalyst in training and is part of a project he co-founded in Switzerland called the Zurich Lab. I started devouring the book waiting for the talk to begin and I’m now fully engrossed. It’s a small, but deep book. 94 pages.

The author spent many years of his life working as a brand director which possibly led to this new part of his journey in analyzing the very world he formerly inhabited. The questions the book poses and the ideas it presents relate to the culture of branding that has developed in the last couple hundred years, but especially during the last 30-40 years of the internet age. This is a topic I’m really interested in because more and more we hear this word “branding” as if it’s so much par for the course in marketing. It’s become an accepted term in business and entrepreneurship. And it makes me uneasy.

My concern is that, like I said to the author, “I find the word ‘branding’ disturbing because, correct me if I’m wrong, it’s related to how cows and animals have been ‘branded’ for hundreds of years by having their fur and skin singed with a scorching hot torch to burn a name or brand into them. That way they could be quickly and easily identified as to who they belonged to and where they were going.”

“Yes, yes,” he said. “Branding comes from the Norse term for burning.”

It dawned on me: like the German word “brand” which means fire.

How apropos that people are, like cattle, allowing themselves every day to be branded by their stuff. But perhaps not just by their stuff, but with their ideas, their images, and the very longings that they claim to have.

The author mentions Starbucks and Apple and addresses the power and control they, and other big names like them, have over people and yet how there is room to take the very narratives that have been used to manipulate society and turn them to help people tune in to their spirits and to who they actually are underneath all the façade.

So what would help humanity stop giving in to making purchases they don’t need or eating food that makes them sick only to line the pockets of billion dollar corporations? What would help people to stop being subliminally coerced by their appetites and wants and desires, most of which have been put on them from outside, and help them realign with what they would desire if they hadn’t been programmed with what to desire?

Well, from my point of view, the place to start is always the same. It has to do with a word I was happy to come across in the first pages of Brandpsycho. The word is imago. As in Imago Dei. Image of God.

What if, instead of people identifying themselves with a pair of jeans, or a handbag, or the latest iPhone gadget, or their bank account, or advertising’s images of happiness and love, they identified themselves with the image of God within them? How would it direct humanity’s purchases, needs, wants, desires, cravings? I think it would not only lessen them, but it would redirect humanity to an entirely contrary way of thinking about life. After all, Jesus was not on the up and up.

People can give all the arguments they want against why they don’t believe in God, Jesus, religion or whatever word they have for what they think it’s about. But in the end, doesn’t it really come down to the aversion to the primary example of dying to self that Jesus lived out? I mean, you can pontificate all day long as to the scientific reasons for why you don’t believe or how suffering proves there’s no God or how the church wounded you, but can we be honest here? It’s just too hard. What’s hard? Believing? Well, that too. But the daily believing. The daily dying to self. The daily command to love your enemy. The daily admonition to forgive an offense. The daily self-denial in holding your tongue when you’d like to tell someone off. The daily observations of people’s cognitive dissonance while you are called to love them anyway. The daily keeping a good attitude and sloshing on when you’re tired as hell. The daily commitment to stay true to something you cannot prove to anyone, but that you know is true. That’s the stuff that wears you down. Unless you’re being powered from something outside of yourself that has taken up residence within you.

G.K. Chesterton was onto something with these 2 statements:

  • “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”
  • “Dear Sir, Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly, G.K. Chesterton.”

But we don’t want to admit there’s anything wrong with us. We’d rather spend hours going on about the evils of society or government or the annoying person we have to deal with than go within and go, “Hmmm, something ain’t right in here.” It’s not a comfortable place to be, especially not when you have to sort through shame and all the baggage since childhood that aren’t really your issues to begin with, but were somehow made your issues due to someone else’s unhealed issues. Regardless of why, the work needs to be done, so it’s best to get started with it sooner rather than later.

As uncomfortable as all that may be, it’s also not comfortable to live your whole life latching onto false images and icons when really, they’re nothing but idols. And idols aren’t there to be worshipped. They are there to be destroyed. Like Gandalf said in The Lord of the Rings, “There is only one Lord and he does not share power.”

Whenever humans try to put on some other image, I imagine it to be like putting on a cheap party store costume to cover up the fact that you were originally “branded” with the image of God. And when you put on your costume or the mask of your idols, instead of becoming more of yourself, you are actually becoming less of who you are. If Christ would allow himself to be seen in utter nakedness, vulnerability and humility, stripped of everything but love in order to reveal to us not only the face of God, but the face of the ideal human, then why would we think we can pile on layers of idols that bear images which try to rob from us our true identity?

The image of God is branded into the soul of every human being. But it isn’t there to coerce and manipulate you. The crazy part is that you actually get to choose what to do with it. That’s a huge responsibility and a massive call. And because it’s so massive, it might seem easier to cover it up, to try and ignore it, to find other things to focus on instead. But it will never stop whispering to you. It will whisper beneath your pain and struggles as much as in your joys and victories. It will be with you every breath of every day. And every day your life will tell, as much by your purchases as by your actions, whether you are choosing to reveal that image or whether you are choosing to cover up and hide that image.

One of Jesus’ most famous rhetorical questions is “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world yet lose his own soul?” Each day, every one of us gets to decide how we will answer that question.

If you’d like to work through questions like the ones posed here or would like to talk to me as your coach, you can always schedule a free discovery call with me by following this link to my calendar.

Blessings,

Monique

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MY NEW PODCAST SERIES – WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY!

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As of today, I’m starting a new series called Wonderful Wednesday to give you a lift in the middle of your week. Take a 5 minute time-out and have a listen.

This week I’m talking about faith and creativity.

I hope it inspires and encourages you!

Blessings to you,

Monique

“FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT”– NOT THE BEST LIFE STRATEGY

Reaching by Darrell Raw

I’ve read, seen and heard this term “fake it till you make it” quite a bit the past few years. It’s supposed to mean that if you’re struggling with something, finding something hard, or just plain having a hard time and not doing well, you can pretend you’re doing better than you are and eventually you’ll really be doing better than you are. I think there is a tiny bit of truth to this if it’s meant in the same sense that C.S. Lewis wrote about when he said:

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”

Perhaps he’s right that “pretending” your way into a virtue will eventually cause this virtue to become your true character over time, the way that a child putting on an adult’s shoes eventually “fits” into them. You can eventually “fit” into a virtue by practicing it. I prefer the term practicing over pretending as it sounds more like forward movement than putting on masks in order to hide ourselves.

Also, Tony Robbins often talks about how our physiology affects our psychology. In other words, if you’re feeling depressed and are sitting or standing slumped over, the first thing to do is pull your shoulders back and breathe. In other words your body informs your mind how to feel. There is also a lot of truth to this.

But overall, as a lifelong strategy, “Fake it till you make it” isn’t going to fly. At least not if what you are actually wanting is to be real and to be loved for who you are and not who you pretend to be.

It seems that what we all want is not only to be real, to be authentic, but to be real and authentic…and be loved. The part where it gets scary is when being authentic might cause rejection, disapproval or outright alienation. If you were raised with people who did a lot of hiding from themselves and their emotions, or if expressing your true feelings was met with abuse, rejection or invalidation, it’s easy to see why people find it easier to fake it.

Personally, it seems like more work to not be real than to be real. But I can see why people fall into this trap because maybe for the time being, it seems the better alternative. But as anyone wrestling through this can tell you, it’s not the better alternative. It ends up becoming a bigger and bigger hole to dig yourself out of.

My own frustration with being real is more related to the kind of responses I sometimes come up against which make me see why so many people find it easier to not bother with authenticity. Things like telling someone how I’m feeling when it’s not a happy-smiley day for me and then being either preached at, lectured or invalidated in some other way.

Henri Nouwen said it so marvelously:

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

So what are some solutions to the dilemma of wanting to be real, but also wanting to avoid being hurt, and more importantly, to be heard and be loved for who we are? Perhaps there isn’t any big solution, but two things that come to mind are risk and discernment.

Risk is part of being human and is part of any human interaction. We need to risk being hurt in order to have authentic relationship, friendship and community.  The important thing though is to make sure to bring discernment along with us when taking risks in sharing with others. Discernment about when to tell, who to tell and how much to tell.

Discernment is much like gut instinct, but even finer tuned. It helps you locate the line between your own fear and the need to take a risk and step out, whether that’s stepping out in connecting with people or stepping out in a new direction in life. It’s a divine gift and like all gifts, it can be cultivated and strengthened so that it becomes easier to tune into. The more you do, the better choices you will make in who you share your concerns, burdens and heaviness with. As you probably know, sharing with the wrong people can be worse than not sharing at all.

So tune your ear and heart to God’s guidance and choose wisely. Then take the risk and share your heart honestly and openly. The right people will be okay with hearing your junk. And who knows, it may even free them up to share theirs. That doesn’t mean we need to wallow forever in a “junk sharing” pity party, but it does mean that there should be at least one or two people in your life with whom you feel like the Emily Dickinson quote below. God knows how thankful I am for those people in my life.

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As always, let me know if I can be of help. Wishing you all the grace and strength you need.

Intrigued? Let’s have a conversation. Click this link to schedule an introductory call with me and we can explore where you are feeling stuck and how to help you move forward. No charge. Just please follow through if you book a call. 

Monique