Iím writing this chapter for purely selfish reasons, and for that I apologize. You see I have a problem. The problem I have is one of low self-esteem. In order to seek healing from this affliction I knew I would have to admit I had a problem, and thus the reason for writing these words. I donít wish to damage anyone else in order to heal myself, so, up front, I want to say I am responsible for who I am. There are no excuses except perhaps the fall from Godís grace, and living in a sin-filled world which we all struggle with. You see, as a child growing up I was considered what I would call pleasantly plumb, and what others called fat. Although I pretended not to hear the scoffing of the other children, and yes, even some adults, I did; and unfortunately the more names they called me the larger I got. Almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I remember many days hiding in my room with the door closed crying. Even today, no matter my appearance, I am still just fat old Brucie. No matter how much I exercise, or how my body reacts to that exercise, it will never be enough.

Another impediment that kept me from realizing my full potential as a child was the way I laughed. I had a special laugh, a different laugh. You know, the kind that would turn heads in a mall. After many years of pretending not to hear the comments of the crowd I just stopped laughing and sometime during my youth I lost my joy. Due to a lack of maturity, on my part, I allowed others to dictate who and what I was. You see I wasnít who I thought I was. I wasnít even what you thought I was. I was what I thought you thought I was. Thus another handicapped person with low self-esteem entered adulthood.

I donít claim complete innocence from the destruction of other peoplesí ids; for even though I knew how much it hurt when others made fun of me; I still made fun of others. I refused to be the only sad, lonely little boy, so I went about making others as miserable as I was myself. In fact, if there was one thing in my life to feel true remorse over it is the fact that I used my tongue as a sword to hurt others; therefore, let me say now, if there is anyone reading this book that I hurt, please forgive me for I am truly sorry!!!!!!

Eventually, though, each one of us must deal with the hurts and pains of our suppressed youth. I choose this moment and this chapter to do that. I want to feel comfortable no matter my physical appearance (Excluding the next five years during which the Army will dictate what I look like); I want to turn a few more heads and regain the laughter of my youth; and, I want my joy back!

God, my friends, accepts us for who and what we are; however, He doesnít want us to remain that same person. He wants the old person to die and a new one to emerge from the grave. God meets us where we are and then begins making us new. You see, God made me who I was and am and I was not accepting that special gift of life. But just like the loving Father that God is, He bound up my wounds and lead me to new pasturelands where I could regain my strength and continue the journey towards wholeness.

The pastureland God lead me to was in the book of Isaiah and it was there that I found the joy I lost so very long ago. I remember reading on car bumper stickers, as I grew up, that God didnít make junk. Although this was a catchy sound bite used on many retreat talks, I didnít believe that I was included in that statement. God did make junk and I was living proof! No one ever bothered to go one step further and back up this catchy sound bite using Godís word. Well, during my study in the book of Isaiah I found proof that this sound bite is true, even for me. In Isaiah 45, starting at verse 9 we read, "Woe to him who strives with his maker. Let the potsherd strive with the potsherd of the earth. Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ĎWhat are you making?í Or shall your handiwork say, "he has no hands?í Woe to him who says to his father, ĎWhat are you begetting?í Or to the woman, ĎWhat have you brought forth?í"

God created me exactly the way he wanted me and who was I to question that creation? You see, God, the great potter, had a need and He took clay and formed me. Through Isaiahís writings I was able to see that God created me exactly the way He wanted me and for a purpose of His choosing. I realized I was not created as a petite figurine, or as an expensive vase to be placed within some glass curette exclusively for show. I was created as a common, hearty bowl, fat and round, to be used daily by my master. In fact, the way I feel now, I believe Iím His special bowl! You know, the one looks for each morning when one pours their cereal.

Getting out of the existential and back to the everyday, I realize now I am not one of the beautiful people of the world; but how many of us are? I am just a pleasantly plumb, funny laughing boy who picks up his cross daily to follow after Jesus. And thatís OK! You see, one manís trash is another manís treasure, and God treasures me.

As we struggle through this world we, unfortunately, have a way of depersonalizing the fact that Jesus died for us, you and me, not just the world. For God so loved you and I that He sent His only son. The world is such a big place that I can understand how we forget we are a part of it. The day I started personalizing my Lordís death on the cross was the day I started down the pathway toward a positive mental image of self.

Scriptures tell us that before we can start ministering to oneís spiritual needs, we must first cater to their physical ones, and how true this is.

It is hard to tell a hungry soul about a father in heaven that loves him; likewise, it is hard to tell a soul who dislikes himself that there is a father in heaven that loves him. You see there are three gages on all our dashboards, but we only cater to two: the physical and the spiritual. We completely forget about the emotional and maybe thatís why the world is the way it is. The problem, as I see it, is we have all these hurt evangelized Christians trying to follow the holy word of God. You know, where it says to love your neighbor as yourself!

The unfortunate thing about life is that we live it carrying so much extra baggage. Getting rid of all our old hurts and scars can lighten our load, saving energy for the greater problems we encounter as we travel down the highway to heaven. Leaving the past exactly where it should be left, in the past, has a way of changing the way we look at ourselves, and at others. It allows us to see the special individual created by a God that canít make junk. It gives us permission to laugh anyway in which we choose. It gives us permission to seek and receive joy.

Allowing me some poetic license, I wish to digress back to paragraph 3 and talk about the tongue, which is such a small part of our body with such a grandiose ability to cripple. The tongue grants us the ability to lick ice cream and to say how good it tastes. It gives us the ability to sneak up on our unsuspecting daughters and give them wet willies. The tongue also allows us the ability to speak, but not in any manner in which we chose.

James, the brother of Jesus, dedicated a complete chapter in his epistle to the tongue. In chapter 3, starting at verse 5 we read, "Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our member that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell."

Paul in his letter to the Ephesians asks, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of our mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." In other words use your tongue to build up believers, not to tear them down. It is by our love for one another that this world will see us as followers of Christ. Do not betray our brothers and sisters by talking badly of them for when we do we accomplish the workings of the devil. For isnít it Satan that is called the accuser of the brethren?

As I close this chapter, let us look to the disciple that Jesus loved and what he said in his first letter. "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." Not only my brothers and sisters shall we see Jesus for who He is but we shall see each other. We shall see the true vessel created by our heavenly father. We shall know in the twinkling of an eye how truly special we are, remember that!

For the great potter has formed us in the palm of His hand exactly how He wanted and He has created us for a special job that He and He alone knows.