Taliaferro and Jackie
Originally uploaded by kspencerg.
I was looking at this photo of Pastor Taliaferro and Jackie Hall that I had snapped after the Wednesday night of the youth week of prayer. And as I thought about their personalities I realized these are two of the most authentic people I know.

I love how Pastor Taliaferro runs a worship service. His announcements are like a stand-up routine. Taliaferro is a riot. And when he gives his gifts to God, he doesn't try to change up and be some staid, serious cleric. He is who he is.

Jackie's the same way. I've known Jackie since I worked with Don McPhaull in 1996 at an evangelistic meeting the Germantown Church sponsored. I'm not saying that she's my favorite Hall daughter (I love them all), but I've always found her comfort with herself to be refreshing. She is energetic without apology.

Since returning to Philadelphia I have had the pleasure of seeing her as an adult. She is mature, but she's the same way. Jackie is Jackie. She works at Aldo Shoe Store and (I think) she's a great saleperson because she is who she is. You can see it in how she does her makeup, how she styles her hair. All of the Hall girls are beautiful, but if you line them up side by side, Jackie's personality will still jump off the page ... even if it's a still photograph.

Authenticity. We need more of that. Too many of us hide our true selves in order to be accepted. How many of us are living up to someone else's expectations? Trying to be like persons we admire? If we were raised by loving parents, how many of us are trying to raise our children the way we were raised?

I'm not suggesting that doing what someone else does is wrong. No, it's great IF IT'S WHO YOU ARE. I know great preachers who need to write very little down. And they are good at it because that's how God has wired them to preach. I have learned that I need to write some stuff down. That is how God has wired me to preach. I have to be me.

Why can't we get comfortable embracing who God has made us to be? We end up frustrated, depressed and generally unhappy when we commit ourselves for the long haul to working a job description that belonged to someone else.

Why do we do it? I think we do it because we convince ourselves that it's the right thing to do. That's a powerful motivator. If my dad chopped wood and burned it in a woodstove to keep his family warm, it's possible I may have to battle with feelings of inadequacy if I don't do the same when I get to the same stage of life. (I know, it's a not a strong analogy, but follow me.) What I need to realize is that there's more than one way to keep my family warm. Gas heat. Oil heat. Electric heat. They all produce the same net result -- my family is warm. Dad can be dad. I can remember with fondness chopping wood with him and bringing it in to warm the house. And then I can walk to my thermostat and turn it up and listen to the heater kick on.

Now, my dad may have some feelings about that. He may even be disappointed that I am not heating my household the way he heated ours. But I've gotta get a grip on the fact that that's not my problem. What he thinks is the best way to heat my household is just what he thinks. What's most important is that my wife and I are in agreement about what is right for our household. I'm not a wood chopper. I'm a thermostat adjuster.

I want to be me. And I want to hang with people who want to be who God made them to be. Let's stop meeting everybody else's expectations and, consequently, making everybody else miserable because we're miserable in the process.


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