Thursday, December 31, 2009

Directions for the start of new year.

I wouldn't even come close to putting this correctly so we let the Lord speak it.  Hebrews 13.

  • 1.
  •  
  • Keep on loving each other as brothers.
  • 2.
  •  
  • Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
  • 3.
  •  
  • Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
  • 4.
  •  
  • Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
  • 5.
  •  
  • Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
  • 6.
  •  
  • So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
  • 7.
  •  
  • Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
  • 8.
  •  
  • Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
  • 9.
  •  
  • Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them.
  • 10.
  •  
  • We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.
  • 11.
  •  
  • The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp.
  • 12.
  •  
  • And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.
  • 13.
  •  
  • Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.
  • 14.
  •  
  • For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
  • 15.
  •  
  • Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name.
  • 16.
  •  
  • And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
  • 17.
  •  
  • Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
  • 18.
  •  
  • Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.
  • 19.
  •  
  • I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
  • 20.
  •  
  • May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,
  • 21.
  •  
  • equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
  • 22.
  •  
  • Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter.
  • 23.
  •  
  • I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.
  • 24.
  •  
  • Greet all your leaders and all God's people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.
  • 25.
  •  
  • Grace be with you all. 
  • (And have a Happy New Year! ~ this last part was added by me.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Now what?

Christmas has come and gone.  Some of us had a great holiday...some of us not so great.  So, now what?

We have one more BIG holiday to survive and so here are some of the things I've learned, but first...let's discuss the holidays.

My family and I went to Utah over the Christmas break and stayed with my wife's sister.  It was great...why do you ask?  Because we had no expectations, no plans, no deadlines, nothing except the warm feeling of togetherness.  As a people group, we tend to put very high expectations on holidays, Friday nights, weekends, "special" occasions... and when these occasions don't deliver (try as hard as we do to make them) we're disappointed.  The first couple disappointments aren't too bad to handle but if you're anything like me...you start storing those disappointments and numbering them and trying harder the next time to meet those expectations.  Soon the whole reason for the holiday is lost in disappointment or worst...resentment. And once they become resentments, they're hard to shake....from this point forward, you may kiss all those dreams of a "TV like" holiday away.

You see, we're human and as a group we tend to put too much credit on other humans.  We expect them to act in a certain way, behave like we want them to, and to fit into our perfect little picture of our life that we hold. But we're imperfect...all of us...the Bible tells us this, we experience it from one another...even the nightly news shows what an imperfect group we are. Yet we still hold on to that expectation of one another.

Here's the truth guys...God is the only perfect being.  Our expectations, hopes, dreams should be aimed only at His presence.  There is nothing here on this planet that will suffice...not now...not ever.  As a believer, our goal of perfection is unattainable by His standards but with His grace and love we are accepted as we are accepted as we are.  We are perfect through His eyes.

So stop projecting the perfection you seek on other people.  They will ALWAYS let you down if you do so.  And remember because none of us is perfect and we all have our own ways there is no way that we'll match up...so if you're holding on to resentments from the past holidays...let them go today.  Ask God to help you...He will.
Now as the new year and new decade begin...do not make resolutions. That's right...NO resolutions  Recommit your life to Christ and let Him work on YOUR imperfections this year.  Follow Him and He'll make the necessary corrections in your life if you're willing.  And with His help you can start the process of forgiving all those past let downs from people and start looking up and ahead.
Leave expectations of perfection to God.  You just enjoy the togetherness of friends, family and work associates this year.  You'll be amazed at how He works and the Peace and Serenity you can find by not looking for it.
Have a great, blessed and prosperous 2010.

Thanks for letting me share.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What does the escape route from sin that God gives us look like?

This is a hard question to answer and even a harder one to put into practice.  God's Word tells us in 1Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."  But what does that look like?  How do you know how much you can bear?  How can you find the way out?

Okay...being in the recovery community for a few years...I've learned a little about our brain...how it fires...how things trigger it...and how it lives in a dichotomy in our head.  One side of it says, go ahead, the other side says whoa!

One of the things I've learned and practiced in the art of escaping from sin (I'm not always successfull) is a conscience plan.  A plan that is devised by each individual person.  Here's an example...if you are having lust or SA issues...no matter how good the wings are at Hooters...you don't go there.  Pastor Rick Warren puts it this way, "If you an alcoholic, you don't go to a bar even if they have the best pretzels in the world." (Sort of parapharased but you get the point.)  So the first action item I've found is to limit the places I go that might tempt me...this way I don't even have to test my ability to find the way out that 1Cor 10:13 tells us.

The second action item I've found is to re-direct.  If the thought of tempation is coming into your head...find something immediately to do to get it out.  Here are a few examples: 1) Pray - talk to God...tell Him what's going on in your head...ask for His help...ask for the Door out of your head.  If you will listen, He will tell you.  This is where I get a little stuck...I pray and do all those things except sometimes I forget to listen.  I think that just by telling God what my temptation is, He'll rid me of it...wrong.  God is looking to build our character...He wants our reliance on Him.  If we just tell Him without listening for the "out"  it's still stuck in our brain...rattling around...getting bigger and bigger until it gets to the point of sin and acting out.  We have to, if we're really serious about looking for the way out, talk and listen to God immediately.

Ok, so if you're listening and the temptation is still growing...then what?  Call a friend.  Ask them to talk you down.  Redirect.  Talk about the game...go have lunch...ask them to go on a walk with you.  (sometimes this is what God wants you to do but we don't realize it) Connections.  Yep, they help.

No one answers the phone...things are getting tough...now what? Run!!! If you're, for instance, someone who suffers from SA or lust issues and you're on your computer...pop-ups...spam emails...too much time on your hands...etc. cause you to be tempted ...shut it down!  Get away...go for a walk.  If you're married go find your spouse, if you're not go to the gym...or the best of all is go be of service to someone else. Get out of your head.  One of my best tools  I have is service.  Going to do something for someone else without expecting anything in return.  God likes this one almost as much as He like you talking to Him. "Love your neighbors as you love yourself"

If you suffer from other areas that you're seeking recovery on...CALL YOUR SPONSOR!

Anyway, from what I've learned...1Corinthians is true...but I have a choice.  The longer I wait to find that way out...the harder it is to find.  Action is the theme here.  Don't take it lightly...your life depends on it!  Your relationships depend on it! Your sanity depends on it.  God always provides a way out...do not overlook it.  Every test we fail...we have to do again...God will make sure we learn the lesson one way or the other.  Talk to Him "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD"

Anyway...I hope this helps anyone going through some tough times and struggling with temptation.  One final word is this: God does not tempt...but allows temptation so that we may seek Him in our struggles.

Thanks for letting me share.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How do I find serenity or peace in these troubled times?

It's almost Christmas!  The birth of our Saviour! Even though December 25th isn't really the birthday of Jesus, we still celebrate it then...but that's a whole other rant.

These times around the "Holiday Season" starting really from October 31st. tend to get a lot of people pretty tense. I know they used to bother me and instead of sitting down in a nice comfy room while it's raining or cold outside, I would be filled with angst.  Angst and worry over these things: What am I going to get everybody for Christmas?...How much will I spend?...Will the family get together thing be better this year?...Will I pass the sobriety test on the road while driving home?...(Now that I've gotten into recovery, I drive through purposly...just for fun).  All of these things stole my peace, my serenity, my ability to calmly and enjoyably live through this special time of year.

The rushing, the dodging, the buying, the lines, the people, the traffic, the ugh!!! I could go on forever.  Then you could add our current economic situation and the devastation that some families have gone through and the daily news about shootings, robberys and the such.  The world is an ugly place right now, isn't it?

But here's the thing.  We have a choice.  I know that somebody out there in blogland is reading this and will disagree with me, but it's true....we have a choice.  On my FB/Twit accounts I posted that, "Today is a great day no matter what my circumstances are because today was made by God."  Circumstances suck sometimes. It's the truth.  Unable to make ends meet, bill collectors, foreclosures, repos, unemployement, divorce, loss are all circumstances that we as humans will have to endure while on this planet.  That sucks too. But it is for a better outcome.

Believe me, it's hard to see that better outcome when all or even some of those circumstances hit us...but there is and as believers of Jesus Christ we're promised that. Jeremiah 29:11 States it very clearly "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." We have to hold on to this promise even though we can't see past our current stress or problems.  It may even seem unbearable and all we want to do is hide under the covers and bury our heads in our pillows, but we know by this verse that this will pass. It's a promise!  Believe it!

So, you may say,  okay I'll hold on to that promise for the future, Joe, but how do I get through this, now, this thing right in front of my face? 

Here's what I try to do...and believe you me...I'm no expert at it, but I do it anyway.  I look up.  Too simple?  I'm sorry, but that's all it takes.  When I'm going through troubles and circumstances that are beyond my control, my tendency is to look down.  My head hangs low...my shoulders droop...my footsteps become sluggish and my legs get tired from trying to kick myself in the butt and doing the woulda, coulda, shouldas.  But I look up...and I mean this ethereal and physical...I can see better. 

When I look up I see the people I love and the friends I have.  When I look up I see the wonderful creation that God has made.  When I look up I hear the birds.  When I look up I see God and He is awesome.  I no longer have to focus on my circumstances at that moment, but I can see God's grace in my life.  I can see the beauty, the calm during the calamity.

And the next step is this: I thank Him for what He has already done in my life and thank Him for what He is going to teach me and the idea of the better man I will become because of this.

When I see the unhappy faces in this world, I am deeply saddened...they don't know they have a choice.  We have a choice.  To seek Him or to ignore Him.  Today I choose to seek Him, because He is waaaay bigger than my circumstances.  What's your choice?  Let me know and leave a comment for others that may read this to help them find peace during this season.

Thanks for letting me share.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How do I get over the fear/anger/guilt/shame of my past?

Whew that's a lot of words.  Many people have asked me this in one form or the other.  I can't forgive him/her.  I can't get past the anger, now what?  I understand it...I lived it...this is what I did.

First of all, let me start by saying that although the process is simple...it's not easy.  I spent many years both in my addiction of alcohol and even in sobriety trying to fight this.  I had gotten so good at living in the past that the future seemed so far away almost unattainable, unreachable.  I had hurts, hang-ups and habits that were pretty embedded in my head and the mere thought of the future would send me screaming.

The tool that worked for me best was Celebrate Recovery.  Here's a a video for one CR...click here to go ahead and watch it!...then come back and read.  It took me step by step, question by question, answer by answer, day by day to help me uncover what was wrong with me.  I didn't need anyone to tell me something was wrong, I knew it.  My life was unmanageable...kind of like it is today, but now I get to blame my kids..:).  Anyway...I'm stubborn...I don't (or didn't) believe people...I needed to find out things for myself...besides...that's what a man is supposed to do, right?
Be strong, don't show weakness, take care of your own house, blah, blah, blah to ad nauseum.

So as I was saying, Celebrate Recovery helped me in these ways:

I went through the step study...I worked through the books...I asked God to help me...and guess what?  I'm still as messed up but now I understand why. And the best part is that I'm messed up still but I don't make the stupid decisions I once did.  Now understand...messed up is a pretty good place to be...there's room to improve...and that's what God wants from me...improvement.  I'm sure He would like me to perfect, but come on...He made me..He knows.

So back to the discussion, rant or whatever you wanna call this blog thing.  The first three steps were pretty easy for me.  After being in jail for 3 Dui's it was pretty obvious that (Principle 1) Realize that I'm not God.  I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life unmanageable.  (Principle 2) Earnestly believe that God exists...this part was easy, but the God I knew then is not the God I know now.... that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. And Principle 3...Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ's care and control.

I said to myself, "Self...that was pretty easy"  Then the work started.  Part of the program is to identify all the hurts that I've caused other people and the hurts that other people have caused to me.  To take a Moral (holy cow...what does that entail?) Inventory.  But I did...and it was stuff that I had been living with for years.  Shame, Guilt, Ugliness, Hurts...and I put it all on paper.  Okay...that was a little tougher...then the next principle tells me I have to tell God, myself and another human being that I trust about this stuff.  I was okay with myself and God...I figured we both knew it anyway but another person?  James 5:16 tells us to: "Confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed."  So I did...

Now here's where the magic happens...When I did these steps I started to feel the weight of the world lifting off me.  I could actually start seeing today for it is and the past for what it was.  Then I was anxious to finish the principles.  I actually wanted to go offer my amends to the people I hurt and for the things I had done wrong.  But then a speed bump appeared.  Part of the 9th step in AA and the principles of CR is that I have to offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me.

But I wanted to hold on to those resentments.  Some of them I had been living with for so long, they were part of my identity...I didn't want to let those people of the hook for what they had done!  But I had to. Here's another funny thing about all those resentments.  When I got the opportunity to offer my forgiveness in person...most of them didn't even remember the situation!  I had been holding on to these feelings for years and they didn't even remember them...how rude! (Whole new resentments...but I fixed those too).

And then I started helping people do the same thing I did.  To help them get unstuck from their past and start living in today.  We miss so much of today when we're living in the past or shooting too far in the future that it's actually sad.  Slow down...smell the roses...if you got 'em.  Stop and open the door for someone.  Put a quarter in an expired parking meter.  Do something nice for someone today.  Just worry about today...Here's the thing.  It worked for me...I no longer hold onto resentements, and when I've harmed somebody...I make my amends as quickly as possible.  Life is good...today.  Now this may sound pretty simplistic...and like I said before, the process is.  But the work is hard....hard but fruitful.  I know I've done it.

And remember....forgiveness is not letting that person off the hook...you don't have to trust them the same way...but what you are doing by letting go of the resentments and anger and the need to get even...is letting God have the final word. Remember, I'm not God...boy am I glad for that.

Thanks for letting me share.

Joe

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

X5KM6YJTMJ9F

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

When does it become apathetic to let go and let God?

so I had a question posted to me the other day.  If I let go and let God...when does that start meaning I'm being apathetic...that I just don't care...that God will take care of it.

An interesting dilemma and equally as interesting a question.  So here it it goes.  I'll try to work it out on this blog.

We've all been blessed to have a God that gives us freedom of choice.  Although we are pre-destined to be children of God, we still get to make our own decisions.  How's that for a true conundrum? God already knows the choices we're going to make but we're still free to choose.  Oh my gosh...how are we even supposed to handle that?

We're not.  Plain and simple...we won't know the answer to this until that day we meet Him...and I'm sure that we'll have far better things to do then anyway...the answer to this question won't even matter.  But while we're here on earth we can do something.

Turning our life over to god's will as it says in the 8 recovery Principles of celebrate Recovery is a daily choice.  What we're choosing to do is to listen...listen to that still small voice that God uses to talk to us.  We're still responsible for for making decisions, but under the guide of God, we learn to make the better decisions.  I know that when I first got into recovery; choices arose. But at least I was consistent. You could bet your bottom dollar that I would choose unwisely.

Today, I have as many... if not more choices to make, but I'm am able and for the most part I do, follow that still small voice.  And...what happens today...if I choose not to....I know right away that I made the wrong choice and i don't have to sit in it for a long time.

But how does that transfer to real life...the job, the family, the relationships we have.  God gave us talents and gifts...organization, sales, construction, reason, etc.  If we're truly using the gifts that god gives us, for His purpose, then we're doing okay.  I can't just sit around and say...Okay I'm a good listener and then just sit and wait till God brings somebody near to listen to...I have to grow relationships and then and only then will God put the the right people in my life that He wants me to use my gift for.

Does that make sense?

Apathy is just letting things happen.  Period.  Not caring...not doing...not participating in life.  If you're feeling apathetic about life...you're not participating in it and your not doing God's will for your life.  Do you want to?  Ask Him to help...He will and He'll be glad you did.

Thanks for letting me share.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How do I become a better Christian?

I have searched for the answer to this question for years. Spiritual growth and maturity...what does that look like? Spiritual Gifts...are they a part of spiritual growth? My mind works linearly so the best way for someone to help me with this is to give me a list of what I need to do... give me an opportunity to check it off (okay, that one's done...of to the next step of growth) and a finish line where I can say...Hooray! I am spiritually mature.

On a side note, I kind of wish that were true of most things in life, but oh well.

I want to strive to a perfectly mature Christian... however, sometimes my brain confuses maturity with perfection. I used to shudder when I would hear a pastor admit to some sort of struggle...like not reading the Bible everyday, not having enough time for quiet time, struggling with some sort of temptation. Here I was putting them up on this high pedestal thinking they were my goal...but guess what? That was me putting my hope in mere man and not in Jesus Christ.

So after a few years of contemplating I've realized that God will allow us to grow in the speed he wants us to grow. Here in the 21st century...we're busy. Can I have an "amen" to that. Here in Southern California, we're even busier still. We weren't made to fit 30 hours of day in a mere 24 but our culture has dictated it so...so we try. (and try and try and try). We are multimedia, we are multi-tasking machines...we text, we twitter, we facebook, we call, we drive...and some of us do this all at once. We are so busy trying to "connect" and make connections that we tend to forget who are main connection is.

There have been a few people who helped realize that I'm where I am because that's where God wants me.

For instance: John Ortberg in his book "The life you've always wanted", states that (paraphrased) that for some of us the most spiritual thing we can do today is take a nap." We're running on empty most of the time, I believe and that tends to put us in what do I do next mode (there are only so many hours in a day) vs. I should stop and breathe mode. You see, I mentioned this one first because I suffer from this. I only have two speeds...awake and asleep. If I try to "meditate" I fall asleep. (A successful meditation for me is not following asleep and having my mind wander for the time I've allocated for meditation. By the time I realize that I haven't meditated on anything...it's time for the next task.) So I continue to try and end up getting frustrated and forgetting the whole meditation thing...let's get on to something I can call a task...ya know?

The next person who has helped me come to the above realization is Pastor Doug Fields from Saddleback Church. He wrote this little book (it really is little) called refuel. It's basically about not making your connection with God a have to, but a want to. And the little things really matter and that those little things turn into big things.

And next little thing was a small sermon from Pastor Tom Holliday at Saddleback Church. It's called the two minute rule. Talk to God the first two minutes you do anything. (i.e. First two minutes of getting up...first two minutes of breakfast...first two minutes of getting in the car...first two minutes of getting out of the car... and so on...you get the drift.)

So here's the bottom line...I'm not a great theologian or a the type of Christian I want to be...nor a pastor...yet. (And yes those are my goals) But what I am is a man who is trying to sift through all the information that I'm told I'm supposed to do to become a better Christian and really siphon it into a few guidelines that I can follow...based on my personality and such.

So here it is:

1) Try, try, try to read the Bible everyday. Let God speak to me through that. I have found an online program that is reading me through the Bible in a year. I even get to mark off that I read it with a little check. (If you want the website let me know...I'll send you the link) And if I'm in the mood or being directed elsewhere I also pick up the Book with no rhyme or reason. Another way, albeit not as thorough is a program on my phone that gives me a verse of the day or the ability to search the Scriptures.

2) Realize that it is not because I have to talk to God, it's because I want to talk to Him. I have a tendency to start kicking myself in the butt because I'm not talking to Him everyday...so guilt leads to shame which leads to an even longer stretch of not talking to Him. He doesn't care...He's there for me whenever...and the weird thing is that when I take the "have to" out of the equation, the want to fills up the gap.

3)I use the two minute rule...not as well as I could but somehow that little phrase keeps popping in to my mind and it gets better and better as time passes...unlike many other things that I do, or don't do.

So my answer on how to become a better Christian...is the following. First and foremost, be a Christian...serve, pray, give.
The second..stop kicking yourself in the butt for thinking you're not excelling at it.
and Third.... Be still for a moment "Be still and know that I am God".

If you're doing these things...guess what...You are becoming a better Christian.

Thanks for letting me share.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How do I accept grace

So for the longest time in my life, I didn't understand what grace meant. When people would talk to me about the power of God's grace...my face would go blank. What is grace and what do I need to do to get it? is all that swam through my head.

I don't remember a time in my youth or twenties where "grace" was a topic...nor do I remember anyone offering it to me. Grace, to me, was a favor. An earthly thing..maybe I'll GRACE you with my presence...stuff like that.

So the questions that I've had to ask myself are: What is grace exactly? How do I receive grace? How do I give grace? What does grace feel, look, smell like?

The definition one might hear in church is this: the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. This definition...to be honest though....in my early years of being a Christian, would still have have drawn a blank face. There's nothing concrete about this definition. It says all the right things like "unmerited favor". But what favor... A favor is something to ask for...something you need or would like...something to make your life easier for the time being. "Hey buddy, can you do me a favor and tie my shoes?"

Then comes the love of God. How do you I know I have the love of God. What does that feel like?

You see how my mind goes...One simple word...grace...and my mind starts spinning.

So this is what I've learned: Grace is this: the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them. (Thanks dictionary.com). This is grace. It's not something you can feel...and emotion...something tactical...it's the spirit of God. Okay now you may be thinking...hold on Joe...spirit of God is more real to you than those other things? The answer is yes and of course, since this is my blog...I'll tell you why.

I never was able to grasp grace because I was never around people who had the spirit of God in them. We, as believers, are to be Jesus Christ with skin on to those who are seeking this grace. We are the ones that are supposed to model this unmerited favor. Yes, even favor that described earlier...this is called service. Grace is forgiveness, service, favor, unselfishness...all the things that we as Christians are supposed to be living. Are you?

If you want to know what grace is...wait for it...ready?....Show it to someone. Once you've shown someone grace...you'll experience and be able accept God's grace more freely. Col. 1:6 All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth.

For today...show grace to someone...so that you may feel God's grace in all its truth.

Thanks for letting me share.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why is this happening to me?

We've all asked this before... an incident, a tragedy, a lie told to us, a misunderstanding that turns our lives upside down or at least a little sideways for a time.

So why?

There have been more than a few times when I've asked myself this question...perhaps not even myself but God. When life seems to be sailing along smoothly...I've got my plans, my calendar, my rut and all of a sudden...Whoosh! It all gets shaken up.

Before I get to the why let me share something with you (whoever you is). I like ruts. I like stability. I like sailing smoothly. Change is a four letter word for me and I don't like it at all. Even change that turns out to be better is frowned upon in my life for a time. Did I say I like ruts?

When life happens differently than I expect or want it to...I get uneasy. The root of this could be from my childhood...from my parents divorce or it could be from my drinking and using drugs at age 13. Perhaps that stunted my "change growth". Whatever spawned it...today I still live with it and my first instinct is to fight it. But here's the funny thing. I spend so much time fighting change and guess what?....it happens anyway. It has to. Change is what keeps this world sailing into oblivion. Imagine if I was the Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin or Einstein of this world. Do you think we would have advanced this far....uh, no....I like ruts.

When we start embracing change (I'm working on it, okay?) life tends to be a little bit more exciting, a little more daring and at the same time a little bit more enjoyable. Now don't get me wrong...a tragedy, a death or their equal by no means should erupt in joy but change should be looked at as a blessing.

You see, when we were first put on this earth, God had plans for us. We would spend time in communion with Him in the Garden. But due to our selfishness and our need for change as a species we find ourselves here and now. In a broken world where God wants us to grow...not stay the same. To be able to face adversity and change in order to build our character, in order to help others, in order to serve Him.

We are not promised an easy life here on Earth...but we are promised a full one if we believe. John 10:10 tells us that, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (NIV).

So back to the question...Why is this happening to me? Now please understand that this is all conjecture and I have no basis other than my own life and stories I've heard to expand upon this but here it is: Why is this happening to me? Because God has a plan and He thinks it's time to change.

Change what? I don't know...but I do know that whatever it is, God's telling you right now that it's time.

So we have two options now. Do we fight it? or do we embrace it? Well you know my answer...let's fight it...let's hold on to the old and never give in to this change thing. I don't care if the pain gets so bad it's crippling...let's never change. Change means something new...another chapter...which will lead to yet another change and another and another and so on. You get my drift. If we don't fight the change God wants to make in our life...we're just being set up for more.

Or we can embrace it and stop asking the question Why is this happening to me? and go on to say Okay God, I get it. What do you want me to learn from this? Daniel's conversation with God tells us in Dan. 10:10 "
Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined by these trials. But the wicked will continue in their wickedness, and none of them will understand. Only those who are wise will know what it means." Hmmm....purified, cleansed and refined. Sounds painful huh? Not as painful as the alternative...continue in their wickedness and none of them will understand.

Okay God I get it. Change in my life is good....fighting with You is bad. So my prayer for all of us today is that we put down the gloves...hang on to God through the trials and to be open minded and learn what He wants us to learn today in the midst of change.

Thanks for letting me share.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When a problem becomes a problem

So over the past few months, it's been put on my heart to start sharing basic truths that I've learned or pondered over. It comes to me many times while driving where all the questions start swirling around in my head...questions that people have asked me, questions that I've asked myself and sometimes neither...just questions.
YouTube - What Gorilla?
Being a part of Celebrate Recovery, I consider myself lucky to be trained to be able to take time most days and reflect on what has happened during the day, what my fears are, why I react a certain way, etc.

So last night, after leading our first step study in San Clemente, things were no different.

There seems to be a general question out there that goes like this: When is a problem considered a problem? When does, "I don't see this as a problem" turn into active denial?

So I've been pondering it....and after letting it swim in my head for awhile, I'm going to try to work it out here.

A problem by definition is trouble. We has humans tend to have a high tolerance for trouble...we seem to get in it a lot. But a few of us will hold on to our "trouble" until confronted by someone else...until then, it is still just a problem.

I've heard people talk about that room or that dusty corner in their hearts where only they know what's going on there. If you're a FRIENDS fan, Monica had one...not in her heart but in her apartment. Everything around us is spotless, life is good, clean and orderly...except for this one area.

So the question pops up again. Why do we insist on holding onto this one little area of our lives until someone confronts us with it? Why do we insist on covering it up until the pain of doing it is less than the pain of suffering the consequences in order to fix it? People with sexual addictions tend to know that looking at porn or having affairs is wrong but continue to dabble in it until confronted. People with alcohol and drug problems try to hide it until someone confronts them. There are closet smokers, sex addicts, alcoholics, drug addicts, gamblers, liars, and codependents. Why can't we make it out of the closet by ourselves? Why did God give us the ability to unreasonably reason with ourselves?

Let's look over the acrostic for DENIAL from the Celebrate Recovery workbooks.
D- Disables our Feelings

How does denial disable our feelings? The truth is that we cannot have true feelings if some of them are cut off. When we are constantly living in the fear that we might be found out...it's hard, if not impossible to offer authentic feelings towards someone else...especially if we are afraid that that's the person that might find us out. Let's take a marriage for example. If I'm hiding something from my wife, can I actually feel that I can talk to her about anything? No, obviously I'm stuck in a catch 22 situation. Can I offer true feeling of openness and honesty even if I'm just holding one thing back. The answer again is, no. I am very blessed. God has given me a wife that I can share anything with...nobody knows me better. If you're married...can you say that? You should be able to.

E- Energy Lost

This is a "no-brainer". It's tiring trying to keep secrets and lies to together. Who did I tell what?..What did I tell who?...Does this story match the others...what small thing did I change here in order to make it sound better? Doesn't it make sense to just to be the same person to everyone? Good or bad...take me as I am...Why do some of us insist on trying to be so many different people? I am currently in a pretty good place in my life. I don't care if people don't like me. I don't care if people try to put me down. I just don't care. It is their energy that is being wasted...not mine. Everyone knows me for who I am... I do not have different persona's... it's just easier this way. The people that know me won't listen to the character assassinations that others give...and if they do...well then...they just don't know me. I'm okay with that.

N- Negates growth

I have found this to be true. If ones goal is to grow and be the person that God wants him/her to be... we have to able to confront a problem as soon as we realize it's a problem. Lamentations 3:40 tells us exactly what to do if a "problem" arises. " Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord." No where in this scripture does it tell us to wait to be found out. No where does it say it's okay until someone confronts you. We have a personal responsibility to God. Look at our lives and make sure it is aligned with His. They way He wants us to be.

I- Isolates us from God

This one is an easy conclusion to come to. If, again, we are worried about being found out...can we really be in contact with God? He already knows what the problem is and it's funny...if not hilarious...that we think that some how when we're in the midst of our "problem" that He stop's watching. That we put the proverbial tin foil cap on and He won't be able to see or hear our thoughts. This is that hilarity of unreasonably being able to reason with ourselves.

A- Alienates us from our relationships

I have already discussed the issue of "waiting to be found out". We can not have true relationships with other people until we become vulnerable enough to share what's really going on. If a "problem" comes up...it cannot be swept under the rug...it has to be dealt with swiftly less we start hiding from the ones we love.

L - Lengthens the Pain

How often does procrastination work? I'll do it tomorrow...but by then tomorrow comes with it's own to do list. I will dabble in this issue just one more time and quit...but years pass on and on. It's not hurting anyone...I can quit whenever...but whenever never comes.

The bottom line or conclusion of this rant is this - When does a problem become a problem? It's that moment when we ask ourselves...Is this a "problem". God has a fancy way of speaking to us in this age of technology...He uses our conscience. That still small voice inside of us. If anyone has actually read to this point...that one thing that popped into head...you know...the closet that only you know about. Don't wait until you're confronted with it. A problem becomes a problem as soon as God shows it to you. Do not argue with Him...He knows better...do what you need to do. Get involved in a support group with others who have taken that first step to realizing that our God loves us and wants the best for us....that the more we argue and fight with Him, the more painful it becomes...He will win eventually...why not just give into Him now and start living the life without the messy closet. Let Him in...you'll be glad you did.

Thanks for letting me share.