Transitions

11 04 2016

Many of us want our lives to remain static. We want our family to remain static. And we want our churches and nation to remain static. But that is not how life happens. Our children grow up, our friends move away. We lose jobs, find new jobs, passion fades into passivity, interests evolve, faith evolves, wisdom evolves.

When I was in my 20’s, early 30’s, I was certain I knew exactly how things went. God was explained, being American was explained, being a husband and a father was explained. Everything had an order and a place. The world was rigid, truth was absolute, morality was black and white, it was all so simple.

Yet, it was not that simple.

There where things happening in my interior life, things that could no longer be silenced. When the facade of certainty begins to crack, eventually everything begins to, (or at least appears to begin to) fall apart. Questions begin to surface, doubts and fears begin to sprout in a confused and tormented mind. As a man who has experienced hurt from multiple sources, doubt and fear can reek havoc in one’s psyche. Unresolved issues from the past, including poor choices, and regret, tear at the soul, whispering at first, but finally screaming for resolution. What had brought me to this place in time?

God.

The Creator had shattered my facade, reminded me that I am are more than i thought that I was, created in image of the Divine and meant to live a life of freedom and fulfillment. This revelation has not been easy,  as it requires me to make some major changes in my life.

But God has also provided points of light for me as well. I am not abandoned, or left alone. There are people in my life, right now, some friends, and some family, that God saw fit to bring into my tumult. I am extremely grateful for each one. They have been the voice of God in telling me that I am loved, and accepted just as I am, and to not listen to fear but resist it.

It is time to listen.

I know that I am loved with an everlasting love, and that I am held in the palm of the Creator’s hand. Fear has held sway for too long. The Spirit pushes me forward. I wrote a note to myself that I put on the bulletin board in my office.

“Everything is going to be ok.”

I have come to one conclusion. It is this…God’s love is the the one constant in my life. in our lives. It is time for me to trust in that.

 

 

 

 

 





The Ascension of Animus

22 03 2016

 

hateIt had been festering for years, beneath the surface, mostly out of sight. But on occasion it would leak out, words of vitriol here,  beatings there, and once in a while, a death. But 1960’s thro
ugh the 1980’s  seemed to explode with the scythe of death raking in the dead across the country. Then a reversal of sorts. Some Americans began to see each other as equal and there was a push in this country to include every American into the phrase “All men (and women) are created equal.” Headway was happening, and even though things had not reach its zenith, attitudes in America were changing for the better. And those that worked against the equity, equality, and the humanity of all were pushed to the edges.

But the festering continued, and a large swath of the church began to join these make-believe martyrs making the claim that their rights had been trampled upon. And they
prayed for a messiah, and they voted in hope. Yet, the promises of those they trusted fell short time after time.

But then… Donald Trump.

Here is a “man” who will finally vindicate them. Here is a “man” who isn’t afraid to “say it like it is”. Here is a “man” who is willing to throw political correctness in the trash heap of lies. Here is a “man” who elevates racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia to a level of respectability. “See”, they shout, “we have been right all along.  The Donald says so.”

Mr. Trump encourages violence, stokes hatred, he endorses evil, and here is the most incomprehensible part, thousands of people in thousands of churches embrace his ideology, because he promises power to the church.

This is the most grievous thing to me. That anyone who claims to follow Jesus would actually want to see this “man” ascend to the highest office in America. I am ashamed to call myself a Christian. He has damaged the gospel just as much, if not more than then all the prosperity charlatans combined.

It is a truly frightening sight to see and what is even more frightening is that he has turned back time and whether or not he gets the nomination of the Republican Party and whether or not he becomes President, he has made it ok here in America to hate openly again. He has created something evil that he will walk away from, and then protect himself by shutting himself up in his Manhattan penthouse.

And we all will have to deal with the consequences of his words.

 





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?








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