Alienation of the Heart

14 01 2016

loneliness

I am sitting in front of my computer right now feeling a anxiety, a longing, a pressure on my chest. I want the words to describe the reasons for this, but they are slow in coming.

Last night I cried to God. On one hand, I realized that I have been trying to find something in other humans that no one can fill. But on the other hand, I question if I am I not just using that as an excuse to further deny myself the full human experience.

I have insisted on living a very guarded life. Every day I would place one more brick around my heart to keep it from experiencing emotional pain. Early in life I was open and hopeful but as time passed some peers, family, co-workers, and co-Christians seemed to go out of their way to tell me I am not right, not worthy, not normal. So on top of this foundation of pain and rejection I started to build. Day after day, month after month, year after year, I added to my wall of defense. That is 18, 250 bricks high, held together by the mortar of fear.

But inside the fortress my soul ached to be loved. To be accepted at my most real and raw self. Unfortunately, my fortress had now become a prison.

God blessed me with children and grandchildren whom I love more than anything in this world and whom have brought me immense joy. I have and do try to teach them the way of unconditional love and acceptance of all people, including themselves, just as they are, and even those that may wound them for I know that this knowledge will keep them free to experience a full life.

There have also been visitors. Those whom have had heart pain of their own. And through a tiny window they would tell me their stories, share their doubts, fears, and weaknesses. Surprisingly, I understood and our spirits connected and God gifted me to speak healing and life into their pain and at times resurrection would take place in their lives.

I am joyful and envious of others that appear to have found fulfillment within themselves and others. I rejoice in their full lives. I bless them and wish them success and peace, and I really mean it.

And then my heart says to me, “These things are not for you. Accept and embrace your lot in life and be content.” And I retreat to the furthest corner of my self made prison.

So the questions I am left with at the end of it all is this are these…

What do I need to do to truly live life?
How do I find the unconditional love of God so that He is enough?
How can I love me as He loves me?

I don’t know the answers.

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My Journal

7 01 2016

Last week, coming home from a short trip to New York City, I had a chance to “review” the journal I have kept somewhat inconsistently for the past 7 years. It holds many thoughts and confessions that are hidden from the world. It also contains some of the the most depressing personal contemplation I have ever written. It has record of my spiritual journey, my struggles in coming to terms with myself, issues involving my private relationships, and a lot of emotion.

Sadness, anger, doubt, loneliness, frustration, determination, failure, a journalmore failure, fear (much fear), pepper most of my entries. I have to admit I was somewhat taken aback at the depth of sadness weaving its way through some of my entries.

Something else emerged from these words. I saw patterns, patterns of stagnation, patterns of procrastination, and patterns of words without actions.

As each old year collapsed in the new I observed that while I was making new discoveries about myself I apparently was refusing to do anything about the patterns in my life that held me chained  to the previous year.

Two words, two links in this chain, seemed to have the greatest strength in binding me. Fear, and doubt.

Fear of making decisions, commitments, choices, failure, people, and the future. This emotion has caused the most damage and has contributed greatly to my inability to be happy, and to grow into who I am meant to be.

Doubt is a close second. Doubt in my strengths, abilities, and my knowledge has made me draw back from life in so many areas. It has stunted me, and caused me to believe that I have nothing to contribute to others, and to the world and to withdraw from fully enjoying life.

After spending some time thinking about this I began to feel another emotion try and take root, regret. Regretting the last 7 years. If I nurture this seed, it will just draw me back into more inactivity.

Seeing myself in this light has made me reflect on where I want to go in 2016 and where I want to be at the beginning of 2017, God willing.

First and foremost I want to follow through with the things that I need to do for me. I am beginning to realize more and more that I am worth something, that I have something to contribute, and that I deserve to be happy (wow, writing that last thought gave me a bit of angst). God did not create me to wallow through life just existing in self loathing and pity. I am meant for more.

Secondly, I want to stop being fearful, and defaulting to catastrophic thinking. To finally be free of fear will open a door to a freedom I have longed for but never embrace.

I am starting a new journal this month, Why? because it is time to close the book, and cut the chains of fear and doubt that have held me back and explore the rich, glorious, wonderful life God has placed in front of me.

Pray for me if you think about it, as I step into my unknown.

 

 

 

 





Why Unconditional Love Matters

16 12 2015

I share a lot here about my weaknesses, struggles, and fears. I am, for the most part, an open book. But I have not always this way. And I am still not where I want to be.

For many years in my journey of faith I hid “me” There was this assumption in the  Evangelical/Fundamentalist world that when you express your faith in Jesus you get better, and increasingly holy as you move from glory to glory. Constant  failure, ongoing struggles with the same “sin” meant that you, in the least,  were not very committed, or worse, backslidden. Most of us living in this rigid religious bubble would deny that underlying message, but it was deeply embedded in the culture. Seminars, festivals, books. and podcasts reaffirm it.

If you really loved Jesus you would…

turn from sin,
spend serious amounts of time in prayer, Bible reading, evangelizing,
tithe your money,
give up “worldly” pleasures,
stand up against the sins of others,
and become more like Jesus,
produce the fruit of the Spirit.

The problem with these, and many other expectations not listed, was that we’ve all failed in keeping the rules. But rather than honestly living before each other in the church, we hide.

And I hid well. I adopted the common practice of pretending to be more spiritual by trying harder, and getting even more involved. I was busy in small groups, teaching, singing, and even held many leadership positions in churches creating for myself a faux holiness façade. But inside I was in turmoil, I felt like a fraud, and I knew God was up in Heaven looking down on me as the son in whom He was disappointed and angry.

But I could only do this for so long until one evening in the living room of a friend, I poured out my heart. My soul was laid bare before him, and I held nothing back. To my surprise he did not respond with judgment or condemnation. He did not even offer advice on how to fix myself. Instead, after what seemed an eternity of silence, he said that he didn’t know the answers, or even how to help me at that point. But then he said something that changed my view of God in a way that has been transformational ever since.

He told me he loved me. That nothing I have told him changed his relationship with my as his friend. At that moment I began to grasp the idea of unconditional love. God used my friend to reveal to me that His love is not fickle, or dependent on anything I think or do.

I cannot say that I have arrived by any stretch of the imagination. I am at times weak, sinful, inconsistent. Sometimes I struggle greatly with fear, anxiety, and depression, and I can filled with self pity.mask

But…

God loves me anyway, just as I am, right now, at this moment with a love that has no restrictions. This past summer as I have been coming to point of  walking in the truth and light of who I truly am, the Creator said to me…”You are my beloved son, and I love you just as you are, not in spite of who you are.” There is a grand freedom in knowing this, the freedom to become who God created me to be.

And that love and freedom is available to you at this moment too.

 

 

 





The Reality of My Unbelief

8 12 2015

As I move in the direction of life altering choice, I have been exposed to the reality of my unbelief as a believer.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart…and He will make your path clear.”

God will make everything clear. That is what I have been taught throughout my Christian journey, over and over again. “If you have enough faith, if you just believe, do not fear-do not doubt-stand strong.” These are the mantras of modern evangelicalism. And for many years I bought into that. But through prayer and contemplation I have moved beyond cliches and simple answers.

Yet…

Here I am today, after having come to terms with myself, having settled in my mind the God loves me just as I am,  just within that last 48 hours being reminded of how faithless I really am. I can say all day long and shout it from the rooftops that I believe God is love and that His love for all of His creation, including us, is unconditional, pervasive, and all consuming and finally and completely revealed in Jesus.

storm

But…

If when faced with decisions that are hard, I falter, and wait, and remain fearful, do I really believe what I say I believe? Do I really believe in His love? I feel like the disciples when faced with a overwhelming situation.

Matthew 8:26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. (Jesus speaking to His Apostles)

Why were they afraid? Well, a huge storm threatened to capsize their boat, and drown them in the sea. Jesus is sleeping, and in their minds, apparently unconcerned.

Why am I afraid? Because I cannot see past the choice I have to make. I am not guaranteed anything, so in that sense, it is a leap into the dark, a leap of faith. And it is here, at this point in time, that I have realized that I have little faith and that my intellectual belief and my pompous words about believing in God’s unconditional love ring hollow.

So all I can do after having been told by My Savior that my fear is an indication of lack of trust in Him, is weep (which I did actually do) and cry out to Him, “Lord I do believe, I do believe in your unconditional love, help my unbelief!!” Because it is only by faith, steeped in His grace and unconditional love that I must move forward in spite of my trepidation because I have to trust that He is on the other side of my decision waiting for me.

Not to trust, not to take those steps will just continue a life of mere existence and not the abundant life Jesus has promised.

 

 





Hard Choices.

1 12 2015

As I have traveled this faith journey, I have made some discoveries about myself. Among them has been the realization that I have made choices that have not always been in my best interest, and I have made other choices to protect my fragile heart and ego. I have made choices that have manipulated others to feel sorry for me, and I have made some choices that have hindered my growth into the person God designed me to be.

All of this has been coming to light over the last several months And in making these discoveries I have  been more than once embarrassed. In spite of the embarrassment, here are a few that have stuck in my mind.

I have made the choice to judge myself more harshly than I have ever judged anyone else. I have chosen to tell myself that I am “less than”
co-workers, friends, family members, random people I have met at social gathers. I have been living as if I am not good enough, by choosing to believe it.

I have made the choice to remain fearful of new situations and people. I have chosen to avoid many experiences and groups because of what could happen, being judged as a failure compared to my contemporaries.

I have made the choice to build a facade to protect me from emotional and psychological harm. I have used this false self to present to the world a Frankenstein monster of my own creation. And as each day has gone by I have made choices not based on becoming who God created me but rather who I thought that people wanted me to be.

These choices and many more, have lead me to avoid confrontation, say no when I wanted to say yes, and say yes, when I wanted to say no. Choosing never address the hurt that others have caused me, and to rationalize away the disappointment I have caused others. Having made these choices to hide, deny, ignore, and dismiss things about myself has led me to the point of sinking into depression and despair and then choosing to stay there and give up the idea that happiness can be for me.

Why, you may ask, would someone choose to live in these circumstances and remain miserable the rest of his life?

Because it is safe. Because there are few demands. Because there are no risks.

a pathBut then God, through the light of His unconditional love, has begun to illuminate these dark areas of my soul, and revealed to me that this is not me and there is so much more to my life. Over and over the Creator has been reminding me that His love is never-ending, and that the cost of stepping into a new life is well worth the risk.

He will always be there.

So now I am left with the Hard Choice. The hardest choice ever. Am I ready to make new choices?





Who Is Killing Christianity in America

16 11 2015

American Christians have been, since President Obama has been in office, ramping up the idea that Christian persecution is on the rise in the USA. To buttress this idea, several events have been pointed to in order to make this claim.

The Affordable Care Act “forcing” businesses to pay for contraception and abortion, against said businesses deeply held religious beliefs (even though the Federal government created exemptions).
Businesses being “forced” to go against their deeply held religious beliefs that homosexuals are dirty perverts and should not be served in their establishments (even if what they want to do is illegal).
Government workers, against their deeply held religious beliefs being “forced” to perform their duties as government workers by issuing marriage licenses to people in the LGBT community (again it is illegal to discriminate)
And one more, retail stores, and restaurants “war in Christmas” by saying Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas, including but not limited to the new blasphemous red Starbucks cup.

All over America some Christians see demons, and conspiracies behind every rock working overtime to take away Jesus from their latte. But here’s the thing, there is no war on Christianity in America. There is no nefarious Gay Agenda seeking to close your church. There is no Muslim terrorist cell in Dearborn, Michigan working overtime to impose Sharia Law and behead your precious children. There is no government plan to take away your beloved guns, because as we all know,  guns and Jesus go together. There is no Atheist plot to purge Christianity from the face of the “good ol’ USA.”

Do you want to know the biggest danger to the Gospel of Grace and Mercy? The church, specifically many of the fundamentalist and Evangelical Churches. Why? Because of the hatred and vitriol, condemnation, and hypocrisy, and the churches “lifting her skirt” to a political party.

I am tired of hearing “Christians” rant about the very people we are called to love.
I am tired of hearing about the natural disasters God is causing because of whom a person loves.
I am tired of “Christians” acting like a**holes when it comes to things that are pointless (think red cups here.)
I am tired of fellow “Christians” living in a fantasy world of being persecuted for Jesus, when across the globe real persecution puts people at risk every day.

Strong words? When you consider what is happening in many countries, with millions of people of every faith being displaced, arrested, and murdered. People born, raised, and then dying in refugee camps. The real persecution of people of faith, women, and the LGBT community and then to have obscenely rich pastors and their flocks screaming about how they are suffering for Jesus because no one at Macy’s wished them Merry Christmas, or the barista served them their Skinny Caramel Macchiato  in a red cup, or the gay couple down the street now has the right to marry, you have to really wonder who is killing Christianity in this country.

We need to get back to the basic of our faith, and that is to love unconditionally. Just like God has loved us.





Becoming…

12 10 2015

During my last visit with my Spiritual Director we reviewed the “homework” he had given to me the previous time we had met. That homework was to think about and bring a list of all the negative traits and habits that I have in my life. I was not really wanting to  explore this part of me, I mean, who wants to ask the Holy Spirit to be brutally honest and show me my faults

After putting off this heavy task for a couple of weeks I finally wrote up my list. And as anticipated there was a lot of darkness. As we spent time talking, I realized that the traits and habits I had on my list could be consolidated into three things,..

My lack of self confidence…
my lack of self worth…
my lack of feeling loved.

Since that meeting I have been thinking about this, and have come to see that at the root of those three issues, my unholy trinity, so to speak, is my lack of faith in God. As I result, I have allowed the past 50+ years of my life to be driven by fear, and uncertainty. The end product has been a Frankenstein creation, a horrible caricature of the real me, not the real man God inwardly created me to be.   shadow

This monster, my creation, was to supposedly protect my heart, my soul from any more damage suffered in my youth. But this is the thing that I am discovering. God has made me to be a reflection of His love and grace. The Creator has made me to be unique, just like all of us have been created to be unique. This uniqueness, our uniqueness, is a gift to the world. And the reality is my “protector” is actually my “captor”. He has not had my best interest in mind. He has imprisoned me and continually reminds me that I need him to keep me safe. Thus, I have spent the majority of my life trusted in a self-made creation rather than the One who created me in love.

I see this now, and though the process is very slow and my monster is very strong, I am starting to see that my Creator is stronger and I am stepping into Becoming.








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