Wisdom

  

It’s 8:30 on a Friday night and I’m on I-75 in the middle of South Georgia. Why?
I’m heading to north Georgia with two of my independent living youth. We are headed for the culmination of a mentoring program they started on the spring. It feels a little odd to be wrapping up the mentoring program I wasn’t really a part of. But tha s kind of how it goes. 

I have mixed feelings about being away from home this weekend. Without letting the cat out of the bag, there’s a lot going on back in Orlando. Ronda and I are in the midst of praying through a big situation for us. On one hand, I want to be there with her. One the other hand, I’m looking forward to the space and clarity that comes with spending a weekend in the woods. 

I suppose that means this weekend has a twofold purpose for me. To capstone the mentoring program and solidify my place in the lives of these youth as a mentor. And to allow God to speak to and mentor me this weekend. I have high hopes for this weekend. I’m trusting God won’t let me down. He doesn’t usually. 

The Celldweller song ‘The Last Firstborn’ is playing. That song always make me think of the Apostle Paul. He claimed his apostleship cake as one untimely born. I feel that way. Not that I’m an apostle, but that I often wonder about God’s choice to love me and use me to fulfill his purposes. But he does. And I believe this weekend he is going to teach me as much as he teaches these dudes with me. 

In some ways, I really need to hear God speak to me this weekend. I need it more than I have in quite some time. We started a new sermon series at church last week on the book of James. I’ve been reading it this week. In chapter 1, James says any who lacks wisdom should ask God in faith that he give generously to the obedient. That’s where j find myself. Asking for wisdom. Asking for God’s spirit of be upon me and inform my decision-making. I want to be a spirit-filled wise leader of the family and ministry God has trusted me with. 

This seems like a good place to close… God grant me your spirit of wisdom to be a wise leader of the people you have given to me. 

full plate

I sit here in my boy’s bedroom with the lights out trying to assist them in going to sleep. My keys are not lit on my MacBook Air, so I am actually surprising myself as to how many letters I get right the first time. I am listening to Blackstar Act One: Purified. This is a graphic novel that has a soundtrack by Celldweller.

Enough of the nonsense of what I am doing…

At this moment, I feel as though I have a very full plate in life. This happens sometimes. We fill our plates up and then we feel overwhelmed. I wouldn’t say I am at the overwhelmed place right now, but I feel full.

I am trying to balance between a number of endeavors I have determined to be important. Maybe even critical and they need my attention. This is ok. I work well under pressure most of the time. I need to put countermeasures in place to ensure I don’t go from committed to things I can handle to overcommitted and not able to deliver on what I have committed to.

I have started speeding time planning out my week on Mondays (don’t usually get to it on Sundays). This has been very helpful to me. This makes it so I can manage a plate that is full without feeling like it is too full. This is critical to my growth. I have recently realized what is holding me back from ovine forward is discipline. This is the subject for another time, just know that having a full plate that doesn’t overwhelm is the product of implementing discipline to assist me in getting important/urgent/critical tasks done.

Therefore, I can have a plate that is full and visualize myself eating from said plate at the location below:

Wrestling with God… Self-Worth and the Struggle of Co-Dependency

I’m taking this class in my counseling program right now, Foundations of Counseling, and it is supposed to be the first class you take in the program but, here I am 25% of the way through before I’m taking it. Dean Buchanan always accused me of taking things the wrong way and out of order. He was right. Anyway, the class covers things like the beginning of the client-therapist relationship, attending skills and other basic skills needed to be competent counselor.

Last week in class we spoke briefly on the subject of co-dependency. Briefly, co-dependency is the act of finding your value, self-worth and meaning from things or people outside of yourself. Like finding meaning. purpose and value in your job, friends, car, house, toys, significant other, how people view you, clothes and anything else that is outside of you. Anything that can influence you from the outside of yourself. My professor stated that the only legitimate place to gain that self-worth is from within ourselves. Value can’t be derived from what other people say or think about you.

As I began to think about this, I think that it needs to be taken one step further… to our value, worth and meaning coming from what God thinks about us and the value that God places on us. I think there is an amount of co-dependency there, but a healthy level. God has created us, and it is only him that can give us any value, any worth. I like this better. Because if I leave it up to myself I am susceptible to allowing the messages that I hear from outside to cloud the way that I value and consider myself. Take this song for example, Celldweller one of my fav bands has a song entitled Symbiont and the tag for the song is:

I’m never gonna let you forget;

that you’re

Eraseable – Expendable

Words like this tap into my already shaky sense of worth and value. And if I rely on myself I’m not sure if I am able to overcome these thoughts and persuasions. So looking to myself, isn’t enough. There has to be another measure for me. What can I use to determine my worth that isn’t from other people who can’t be trusted to bring me my true value and isn’t from myself that also can’t be trusted to bring my true value. I believe as humans we have a basic need for community, to belong, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. And the other side of this need, is one of greatest fears: that we don’t have community, that we don’t belong, that we aren’t a part of something bigger. I also believe that this fear is stronger than our ability to overcome it and see our true value and worth. Maybe not stronger, but it easily over powers us. Kind of like the Darkside of the Force in Star Wars. The Darkside isn’t stronger but, it seems stronger because it builds on things like anger, hate, fear, and malcontent. Our fears are just like this… they seem stronger because they are easily able to over power us because in the deepest recesses of our minds we are scared that our fears are true. That fear gives our fears their greatest strength.

The way to fill the need that we have to belong doesn’t come from other people totally. Just like the need to feel value doesn’t come from us completely. We have to look inside ourselves and beyond ourselves. We have to tap into something else. God is the only answer. He is able to fill all the holes and complete all the voids that we have in our lives. God has placed a value on us that we can’t match anywhere else. God values us enough to have created us in the first place. God values us enough to chase after us to have a relationship with us. God values us enough to fix our screw ups in order to maintain the relationship with him. Ultimately, God values us enough to die for us. We have created a rift between God and us and the only way to fix it is for someone to pay the price to fix it. The rift is created by sin, God being completely holy is unable to surround himself with anything that is unholy. Because of this intrinsic and fundamental foundation our sin-scarred, tattered-rags of excuses for lives are unable to approach him. Hence the need for a Savior. Grace is defined as not getting what we deserve while simultaneously getting what we don’t deserve. God in his glory has decided to overcome the laws of physics: become a human, be fully human (yet fully divine) and struggle like the rest of us, yet remain untainted and unscarred by sin. After being fully human he dies in our place, takes our punishment in order for the rift to be crossed. God does the unimaginable and extends grace so that we can once again know him.

Why does this matter to our conversation about value? God values us enough to turn the whole universe upside-down to bring us back to him. The only place we are going to find someone to value us that much is through God. Looking within us isn’t enough. We have to allow God to bring our value and worth to us. Now the hard part of life is putting that value into action and to begin to see ourselves the way God does. There are good days and bad days. Our feelings of our inability to measure up don’t affect the way God measures us. God loves us the same no matter what. There may be days that are more disappointing to him than others, but his love never changes. Christ said he was the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. His love remains constant.

Now, I just need to value myself the way God does.

 

An Affair of Sorts… Vintage Post

As I was running last nite Stabbing Westward’s I Don’t Believe came on my iPod. As I listened to it I though about how the lyrics could be applied to my current/past situation. As many of you know I have been struggling with some health concerns. And as such, it has been a long journey over the last several years. The words to this song seemed to speak to the sort of affair that I had with my health concerns. It is very convicting thinking of how our lives can be so consumed with negativity and unhealthiness, yet at the same time we don’t even realize it. It must seep in slowly. Anyway, the lyrics are:

I’m such an pain
I’m such a stain
I just keep messing up again and again
You crawled inside my mind when you crawled into my bed
Said everything I’ve ever longed to hear
So perfect, so alive, once inside you sucked me dry
Used me up and left me here for dead
I crave it desperately, it’s a cancer eating me
An addiction too intense to be denied
Worthless, I’m a whore, crawling back for more
Pathetic how I feed off this abuse
You told me that you loved me
You swore that you loved me
And I believed, now I know it was a lie

[chorus]
I don’t believe
I don’t believe
That I could be so stupid and so naive
I don’t believe
I don’t believe
That there is nothing, nothing left for me

They really made me realize how much I craved and desired the illness and sickness. And it wasn’t until I was able to realize this need and not desire it anymore, but desire something better, something healthy that I began to get better. No matter how much I wanted to get better, until I craved it more than I craved the sickness, the sickness would always win. Another one of their songs also hit me, The Thing I Hate. As I thought of this song, I realized that I was becoming the thing I hated… the sickness. I was identifying myself as the sickness, and not someone who was fighting against the sickness. The lyrics to this song are strong, but this is what the sickness does to you, so it seems fitting to fight back the same way:

Lost in a world of doubt and insecurity
Nothing that you hold sacred, nothing you believe
Your life is a contradiction
While you thrive on manipulation
I fight to just hold on to what I believe
I won’t become the thing I hate
I won’t become the thing I hate
I won’t become the thing I hate
I won’t become you

You’ve treated me like I’m a worthless piece of shit
You think you’re in control but you make me sick
I want to watch you suffer
The way that you’ve made me suffer
I want to mess up everything you’ve ever loved

I won’t become the thing I hate
I won’t become the thing I hate
I won’t become the thing I hate
I won’t become you
I won’t become the thing I hate
I won’t become the thing I hate
I won’t become the thing I hate
I won’t become the thing I hate
I won’t become the thing I hate
I won’t become you

What the sickness loves is the destruction of my health. I’m not going to let it win.

I was also listening to Celldweller’s new stuff, namely So Long Sentiment. The words to it are:

Under this crushing wait
I’m sinking
It never goes away
The thinking
Echoes in empty rooms
Decaying
Alone to face the rest of me

So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
(Alone to face the rest of me)
So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
(Alone to face the rest of me)

What the heck is wrong with me?
Why am I torturing myself?

Inhaling all these memories
Like a breath of fire sent from hell

Lead in my gut, not in my spine
I feel distracted all the time
Well lucky me I’m finally all alone
I’ll – miss – you

So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
(Alone to face the rest of me)
So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now

What the hell is wrong with me?
Why am I torturing myself?

Fixated on these memories
Like a prisoner inside a cell

Lead in my gut, not in my spine
I feel distracted all the time
Well lucky me I’m finally all alone
I’ll – miss – you

So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
(Alone to face the rest of me)
So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now

With nothing useful to say and no one to listen to it
Filling the deep with the pain, I slowly sink into it
Consider questionable things to try to get me through it
I’ve tried to push it away but I always give into it
Long for the taste of all the rain that finally helps subdue it
And washes this all away

Under this crushing wait
I’m sinking
It never goes away
The thinking
Echoes in empty rooms
Are saying
Time to erase the rest
…of me

So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
(Alone to face the rest of me)
So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
(I’ll miss you)

So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now
So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now

It doesn’t matter now
It doesn’t matter now

So long sentiment
It doesn’t matter now

Any of the words that speak of introverted thinking, trapped in a cell, trying to escape, feeling like I’m falling apart all work into the realization that the sickness was taking over and I was no longer happy with that.

Three Doors Down took a walk around the world to ease his troubled mind, which is reminiscent to running when I had these revelations.

I want to close with thoughts of my friend Tim Fluharty, who didn’t even know he was commenting on this subject:
“The anger disappears with the rest of the darkness. If your “house” is dark, and you recognize that the darkness is painful and you need some light…you can not collect the darkness and carry it to the trash bin…you must simply turn the light on-then the darkness is no more. And in the frightening transitional space between wallowing in the darkness and figuring out how to turn on the lights, you may realize that YOU are KEEPING the lights off because you are addicted to the darkness and the battle is not between dark and light, but between your own desires. Going on from there…if you want to win this fight on a long-term basis, you MUST throw away any selfish desire. Selfishness is the foundation of ALL sin and pain. And the desire to gratify yourself will lead to the most devastating wickedness you never knew you could commit. Eliminate the word “mine” from your vocabulary. Possessions are meaningless and materials can not satisfy. The only way to quiet the raging squall that is the fear of insignificance is to love someone else without regard for your own “needs.” It sounds like a paradox, and maybe it is. But truly serve someone else who can not pay you anything in return and you will then experience satisfaction.”

Expert words to assist me in winning the battle against the sickness.

Its time to Take Ahold of what Belongs to ME.

As I finished up my run Monday night in the frigid Florida cold (read about that here) Celldweller’s Birthright came up on the ipod playlist. I first became acquainted with this song a couple years ago when I was running tons more. The tagline is, it’s time to take ahold of what belongs to Me’ always stuck with me. Over the years that has meat various things to me.  Now it has a singular and poignant meaning to me.

When I first heard the song I was desperately trying to re-enter the world of FT ministry as a profession.  Being in ministry is what it meant to me.  Ministry was what belonged to me and I was ready to take it back.

A few years ago I had a mental breakdown, little did I know that was to be the trend for pastors… almost a right of passage.  To say that my break with reality was because of ministry or not-ministry is much to simplistic and it would take way more time than we have here for me to go into the intricacies of my breakdown.  It was while I lived in Central Florida this breakdown occurred.

It was during this time that I fell in love with running and came to realize the therapy of running.  I spent many hours and late nights running, mulling over in my head what I wanted to get out of my life and how to do it.

In a couple of weeks we are moving to central Florida back into the very place where reality began to slip away from me.  I am scared and have many feelings of trepidation regarding this.  But God is not scared.  I believe that moving back to O-Town is happening exactly when God wants to happen and how God wants it to happen.  Now it has a singular and poignant meaning to me.  God wants me vulnerable and weak in order to use me.  Let me explain:

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:7b-9

You see, it is in my weakness God’s strength is made complete.  God is orchestrating a move back to where my life unraveled in order him to use me to do incredible things.  God is not scared and doesn’t have feelings of trepidation, because when I am weak he is made strong.  When I am broken he is complete.  God uses the moments that we feel the weakest to do his greatest work.  In spite of or maybe because of my weakness God is using me.  God is using me as my own agent of reconciliation to myself but he is also using me to bring the gospel to people who need to hear it, people who have struggled just like me.  People who are broken just like me.

God does not use back up plans, he using the plans that he planned all along and we thought we monkey-wrenched.  If I can thwart the efforts of God, how big is he?

God wants to use us in our brokenness, so there can be no confusion as to who gets the credit for the work done.  Am I scared to return to O-Town?  Yes!  Am I excited? More than I can exclaim because God is big and awesome and working his ‘magic’ as only he can.  I have a new lease on life (not really, this lease isn’t up yet, but my point is I’m excited for the undiscovered country ahead).

There is no need to fear the unknown and the plans that God has for us.

If God is for us, who can be against us?  Romans 8:31

God is not a God who can be overcome by this world or by the prince of this world.  God is the God of the undiscovered country ahead.  It is in the times that trusting God is the hardest that we must do it the most.  Without trust in God we can’t allow him to work out his plan.

I follow Perry Noble on Twitter and I read this of his blog (found here): Now…I’m a firm believer in what the Scriptures teach in Acts 17:26-27, that NOTHING that happens on the planet is by accident…there is no such thing as luck or coincidence. If Perry is correct in his thinking, which would not be out of the question, then there is a reason for us to be moving to O-Town at this time in our lives.  What could that reason be?  To use me in spite of my weakness, to use me in spite of my brokenness, to use me in spite of my fear.  To make his power complete in my weakness.

Are you letting God use your weakness to make his power complete?

The Road to Recovery out of that Lost Eon

New on the Celldweller Wish Upon a Blackstar Chapter 2 is the song Eon. It really speaks to me and expresses the feelings that I have regarding the last couple of years for me. 

The other day I had the occassion to speak with someone about a potential ministry opportunity and as I did so I was able to share some of te struggles that I’ve had over the last couple of years. What I noticed wad how good it felt to be able to share these feelings to a prospective co-laborer in Christ, trusting him and God to do what needs to be done with those feelings and thoughts. I’ve felt that Eon catches the tension I feel for awhile and I’m just now getting around to sharing it. Here’s the lyrics:
 
I’m pacing inside this empty room
Told to wait til my life’s withdrawn
Uneasy, I’m waiting here anxiously
It’s a waste and I won’t wait another Eon

Endless night
Long for light
My head against this tomb
And pushing through
I’m pushing through
Facedown and pushing through

Trapped and isolated
Time is dislocated
Eternity is what a moment seems
When I can’t feel anything

Erasing my final memories
They wont stop til my whole life’s gone
Uneasy, I wait for normality
It’s a waste and I won’t wait another Eon

When life is gone without a trace
And hope is lost in times embrace
I won’t wait or hesitate; I’m pushing through facedown
I won’t wait or hesitate; I’m pushing through

If times a song, I won’t wait for its reprise
I am done wishing farewells and goodbyes
I won’t let this place overshadow my birthright
I won’t wait another Eon

Impatiently, I’m cutting through the earth in front of me
Bone on stone, blood and sweat married
Can’t hear the voice that whispers fears when my heart is pounding in my ears
All I see in my mind is not what I’ve left behind
But all the things I’ve been missing in that lost Eon

Trapped and isolated
Time is dislocated
Eternity is what a moment seems
When I am lost inside this dream
When I can’t speak and I can’t scream
And I can’t feel anything 

Several lines are worth noting:
Face down and pushing through- I have never given up. I have persevered. I’m gonna get a tattoo of the kanji for persevere, because I wasn’t always sure I was coming out on the other side of this. 

I am done wishing farewells and goodbyes
I won’t let this place overshadow my birthright- sometimes I feel like all I can see or feel is the mistakes I’ve made. When they are all I see they feel like they overshadow my future. They won’t as long as I don’t dwell on them and give them the power to overshadow my future.   

All I see in my mind is not what I’ve left behind
But all the things I’ve been missing in that lost Eon- similar idea, in order to move forward I have to stop dwelling on the past. I can never become who I’m supposed to be tomorrow of I never forgive myself for who I was yesterday. 

The chorus- sometimes time feels like it slows to a blur, not one of speed but one where everything just goes by in slow motion. It’s in those moments where I am most vulnerable to dwell on my fears and my screw ups. It’s in those moments that it’s most critical to focus on how far I’ve come by the grace of God. 

I won’t let this place (my past mistakes and my fears) overshadow my birthright

— Eli

Frozen

Celldweller has a song entitled Frozen with some lyrics that have made me think critically about what I recently re-read in Rob Bell’s Sex God. He was speaking on lust and how lust takes our focus off of God and almost more deviously twists our perceptions of things that were intended to be good. Like sex. God intended it to be a beautiful thing between husband & wife and lust (thu the work of Satan) has twisted it to something else. Bell speaks about David’s son Amnon fell in love with his sister Tamar. And he lusted after her. Ultimately he raped her and became so enraged at the sight of her that Scriptures say he hated her more than he had loved her. The lyrics in Frozen say:

Inside this fantasy
It seems so real to me
Synthetic ecstasy, when her legs are open
True Love behind a wall
Where men and angels fall
A fading memory, when my mind is frozen

(I recommend Sebastian Komor’s Filter Overdrive remix)

Synthetic. That’s what lust is. Trading the real for the unreal. Bell goes on to say that lust becomes our master. When we want something so bad thAt we can’t think of life without it, it owns us.

That’s his point. And I think God’s too. Lust, not just for sex, becomes our God very easily. When we focus on something and spend all of our thoughts on something it becomes our master. We then becomes frozen inside the fantasy that seems so real to us we are unable to see it isn’t real.

I wonder who/what is our master?

— Eli