What does God want from me?

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Three weeks ago at Grace Orlando we kicked off a new series of sermons. The series is entitled ‘One.’ With the main focus to unify the church (all 6 campuses) to one purpose. It’s sorta a capital campaign that is focusing more on 100% participation by the church members than it is on the money. It’s about discipleship more than anything.

During last week’s sermon, Pastor Mike asked the question – what is God asking you to give him that you aren’t sure you are going to be willing to give up? As I sat listening to the sermon, challenged to be sure, I wasn’t sure what God is asking of me. As the day progressed and I thought more about the sermon and talked it over with my wife, I think I may have come up with something. As I write this, I’m sitting in the lobby of a DCF office waiting for my new supervisor to come and get me. I think maybe one of the things God is asking me to give him is my job. Over the last few years, work had been pretty much what it always has been for me. After almost 20 years of work experience, the longest employment I’ve ever had anywhere is 3.5 years at a part-time job. I have lots of experience in essentially the same field, but very little in any given place for any amount of time.

Jack of all trades, Master of None.

This is how I feel. When I don’t feel like a failure for being almost 40 with nothing more to show for myself. (It may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I feel the pull of this midlife thing.) I feel like I have the opportunity to start over. Begin again. Embark on a new career. And as such, I am committing this one to God. I am letting go of expectations or regrets and letting God supersede in this endeavor.

I will excel at this job, not for my own career advancement but to glorify God. I will realize this is my calling. This is where he has placed me.

As I sit here waiting for this job to start, I’m anxious and nervous… hope and waiting with anticipation. I am ready to go to work for God in the setting he has placed me.

To God be the glory.

Adaptability


White water rapids are created when water in a river flows over an obstruction under the surface of the water. I’m not an expert hydrology, but I understand the dynamics of what takes place in a river when water is forced to flow over a rock or something else… I understand the basic premise of this obstruction underwater changes nature, course, speed, direction and behavior of the water. The more water, the bigger the obstructions, the faster the water flows and the more extreme the rapids are.

In September, I had an opportunity to take two young men from the Independent Living Program at Grace Landing on a camping trip as a culmination of a mentoring program we did with them this spring/summer. The second activity of this trip was a white water rafting trip. On this rafting experience we saw first hand how a rock, or other obstruction, underneath the surface of the water impacts and changes the course of the river. The river must bend its will and purpose to the rocks underneath it. The water will flow over the rocks, altering and impacting the rocks as well… but the rocks will tell the river where and how to flow.
No matter how much water flows over it, around it, under it or how much pressure is put on the rock by the water… it will always be a rock. Its shape may change, how the rock looks might change. The rock will be shaped by the water, but it will not be defined by the water. It is a rock, because it is inherently a rock and not because of the water it interacts with.

After we observed this, and we sat around the campfire later that evening we discussed how we are like the rocks under the surface of the water. Life will come over us and even overwhelm us at times, and we will undoubtedly be shaped by the pressures of life. We are like the rock lurking under the surface of the water in a river.

As life flows over us, we will be shaped by life… by the circumstances, stress, pressure, situations happening to us. But we are not defined by them. Who we are at our core is not affected or changed by life. At our core, we are children of an Almighty God. We are his precious children, whom he loves enough to die for our sins. That will never change no matter what experience, challenge, hardship or difficulty we face in this life. We will certainly be shaped by life, but not defined by it.

A key to surviving life, or making it through ‘successfully’, is to be adaptable… fluid… willing to change. Able to make adjustments. On a personal note, I do NOT change well or easily. I hate change. The only thing I hate more than change is surprise change. I need to know what is what. Adaptability is essential in this life. The landscape of our lives is constantly changing and shifting as various aspects or pieces of our lives change. Jobs, relationships, living arrangements, transportation situations, school… most things in our lives are in a constant state of flux. Being adaptable and able to meet the new challenges, to rise to the occasion are critical.

The rock under the water doesn’t change who he is when more water comes down the river bad. He allows his shape to be molded to meet the water. But, he remains a rock. When we face a difficult scenario in life, we must adapt or be shaped by it and meet its demands… but we can not sacrifice who we are at our core.

Fist Full of Guilt

  
“3PO, you tell that slimy piece of worm-ridden filth he’ll get no such pleasure from us. Right?” 

One of all-time favorite lines from any movie. Facing certain death, Han Solo retorts with a smart-mouthed, belligerent comment. No matter what came next, he was going to make sure he had left no stone unturned. He ensures he had no regrets, no guilt of choices he made or didn’t make. 

It often feels as though I navigate through life with a worldview almost the exact opposite. There have been many days long since passed,  I awoke with a strong sense of guilt and regret. 

I no longer wake and face each day this baggage weighing me down. I don’t know that I face each day with the brashness of Han Solo, but I don’t start each day full of guilt and regret either. 

Over the years, I have strived to live the words of Paul in Philippians 4:11-12,

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:11-12‬ ‭

Contentment. 

Being satisfied, happy, content. I would never complain to have attained this, I have moved beyond the guilt and regret. 

How? Jesus. 

Seems like a cop-out answer and it partially is. But it is also true. I have had to allow him to be my starting point and my ending. Not myself or my own performance as a father and husband. I had to learn to find my purpose, existence and meaning in something other than me. 

So, Jesus. I have learned to define myself by the same terms he uses to define me. 

Saved. Brother. Friend. Child of God, covered by the sacrificial blood of the son of God. 

When I learned to define myself as Jesus defines me, the guilt and regret went away. It stills rears its ugly head from time to time. But they don’t consume me. They don’t become who I am, because they aren’t me. 

Now I wake each morning with a sense of freedom. A sense of relief. Knowing I don’t have to perform or act or live a certain way… because it was already lived for me. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I want to let the reality of brokenness and hurt tell me who I am. 

But I can’t. Because that truth isn’t true. It’s a lie. I am not guilt. I am not regret.

I am covered by the blood of Jesus. 

Dogfight Alley

  
A couple of blocks from our house, there is a park with a variety of attractions. There’s and off leash area for dogs. A BMX bike trials area. A mountain bike trail through the woods. Open fields for running & playing. 
This afternoon, I took the boys up there to ride their bikes & for some soccer drills. At one point, they rode off to the water fountain and I kicked the soccer ball at the boys. Don’t worry, my aim is terrible so I didn’t hit anyone. But as the ball rolled towards the bikes, I was reminded of dogfight alley. 

Abe & I would ride our bikes to this parking lot and proceed to kick a soccer ball whilst we rode our bikes. I don’t recall if we ever named the sport, but it became vicious at times. Imagine full throttle bike riding & kicking a ball. There were times the ball didn’t exactly pass safely between the tires of the bike. Wipe outs were had. Scars were earned. 

As I think about this game, this experience it occurs to me this is the stuff of life. Creating new games, dangerous games. Games bringning to the brink of death. 

Epic tragedy possible at every turn. 

The very essence of existence. 

This is what it means to be alive. This is the quintessential experience of being a child. Of being a boy. Creation & destruction all wrapped into one package. 

As we grow older, we sometimes lose sight of the awesomeness that is being alive. As we grow, we get bogged down by reaponsibility and adulthood. Life takes hold of us and there suddenly things ‘more important’ than this life of fun & adventure. Excitement & creativity take a back seat to responsibility and work. Wonder & awe are traded for rules and regulations. 

For those of that are parents, we are caught in the middle. Caught between the reality that is life as an adult and the reality of living with growing, developing human being who haven’t matured beyond simply viewing everything in life as a place to have fun. As a parent, I confess, I am too often concerned with the rules and don’t focus on the fun. If you know me at all, this may or may not perplex you but it is true nonetheless. 

I prefer order over chaos. I prefer rules to anarchy. And children are nothing if they aren’t chaos & anarchy. (Especially my 3 boys) They are the antithesis to everything I hold valuable. 

So there is a struggle… can I break free from the chains of adulthood and allow myself to step back into the world of my youth and experience the creativity, wonder, awe, excitement and adventure that is being a child? 

More importantly, can I allow myself to allow my boys to have the fun get so desperately crave? I don’t always. 

But I always wish I did. 

So here’s to being a little less uptight & and more like a child. 

A Future of Freedom

  
What would it be like if you woke up tomorrow and all your problems were gone?

In solution focused therapy, this question is often posed by the therapist to motivate the client to imagine a future without the ailment bringing them in for therapy. This question excites and empowers the client to imagine a future of freedom… freedom from what plagues them… freedom to live unbound by labels… freedom to live without the weight of their troubles upon their shoulders. 

This question is meant to evoke feelings of hope and courage for a future that is different. It seeks to break the cycle of dysfunctional thinking the client is trapped in. It aims to change perspective. 

I dare to say, it is one of the most powerful questions that can be asked in therapy. It has the ability to re-capture the excitement of life. 

The only drawback to this question, is sometimes we aren’t ready for it. We aren’t ready to dream, to hope, to envision a future of freedom. We aren’t ready because we are too happy in our misery. Sure, everyone wants freedom inside their core… but we also revel in the familiar, in what we know, in what is comfortable. Which means, it can be easier to wallow in misery and not hope for a future of freedom. 

This is what keeps us from breaking free from our ‘prisons’… it’s not that our prisons are inescapable, as much as we don’t want to escape. We limit ourselves. 

We don’t have to live this way… we don’t have to live chained to our problems, our issues, our baggage, the things that hang us up. We can be free… free to live lives unchained and unfettered to the junk that brings us down, holds us back and keeps us from moving forward. 

The miracle question allows us to realize this possibility. It allowsus to envision a future of freedom. We must be courageous enough to dream for a future of freedom. More than that, we mis be courageous enough to take the next steps to realize that freedom. 

The first step to overcoming a life chained and fettered by issues, baggage and ailments is to dream the miracle question… dream what life would be like free. The next step is working to make that dream a reality. 

What would it be like if tomorrow you woke up & all your problems were gone?

Admitting Defeat

  

I don’t admit defeat.

I don’t like defeat. I don’t like admitting I have been defeated.  I don’t like admitting I started a challenge I couldn’t finish. I especially don’t like admitting defeat when it highlights my shortcomings or inadequacies. 

Today, I admit defeat. I admit to biting off than I could chew. I ain’t to thinking more highly of my abilities than I should have. 

I endeavored to run 8 miles this morning. I made it to 3.3 before I completely bonked. There was just no gas left in the tank. I write this as I hang my head in shame walking the reminder 5 miles home. Luckily, I won’t have to because my wife is on her way to save me.  This experience has taught me a few cuable lessons about running, training and life. 

  1. You have to fuel your body. Now this may sound simple, but I’m notorious for not doing it. I didn’t eat or drink anything this morning before setting out to run. I have learned to be able to ‘compete’ at the level I want to, I need to take my nutrition and hydration seriously. Eat healthy. Drink water. Fuel my body appropriators the task at hand. This is true across all areas of life. You must prepare yourself appropriately for the task ahead of you. You have to be prepared to tackle the obstacles ahead. Pre-planning prevents poor performance. Or as I like to practice: piss poor planning provides piss poor performance. Fuel yourself for what you are doing. 
  2. You have to be realistic about your limits. Last Friday I had a minor surgery removing a mole or something. The doctor said to lay low for two weeks. Let the stitches heal and come out. Blah blah blah. I took a couple days off after I had been slowing down leading it the procedure. I then expected to jump back into a long run. I ran once or twice this week and last week and then expected I could pound out 8 miles unfueled. This wasn’t realistic. I should have planned a week or two of light running to get back to where I needed to be for an 8 miler. This is also true across life. Trying new things and pushing ourselves are fantastic ideas, but only after we have trained and prepared ourselves for what comes next. 
  3. You have to be serious. I have realized the best way to describe my approach to total fitness (training, running and eating) is undisciplined. I’m undisciplined. This is harder to admit than defeat. It’s hard to admit I love my life haphazardly, coming and going with whatever and not sticking to discipline. I’ve known this about myself for a year or so. I’ve been trying to work on it, but I still have a long way to go. I believe, being undisciplined is the main thing holding me back from doing incredible things in my life. Having order and organization feels rigid and robotic, but being disciplined allows for things to be accomplished, tasks to get completed and progress to be made. I’m making progress in becoming disciplined and slowly I’m seeing my life pull together. 

I admit defeat. I admit that an 8 mile run defeated me today. But I also admit, I have learned about myself and will be better equipped for the next one. 

What have you learned from times you’ve admitted defeat?

The Path Ahead

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This morning as I am praying, meditating and listening to God verse 8 stands out in my mind as something I need to hear today: O Lord, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes;  Make Your way straight before me. The second half fees particularly relevant to me as I am searching the path God is laying before me. My family is embarking on a new chapter in our journey right now. It has become clear to me the pastors at h2o church and I are not on the same page when it comes to leadership and overseeing splash. Through this discussion it has become evident to me, God is asking me to step away from my responsibilities there. This is scary for me. I am not sure what is coming next. In June I began working with a nonprofit in Kissimmee in child welfare. I enjoy this, but I also feel a calling to serve God in a local church. I am not sure what that will look like as we move forward. God is making his path straight before.
This current season of my life feels very transient and changing. I can’t place my finger on what or why, but I feel like a significant change is about to occur in the life of our family. It could just be the shift which is inherent in me stepping away from h2o (because this in and of itself is a big transition). It could be the follow up plans I have to begin working as a registered intern in addition to my work with Grace Landing (that nonprofit) I mentioned. I don’t know for sure what the path ahead looks like, but I am confident that God is laying it straight. I am saddened by the impending departure from h2o, but I am also peaceful about it because I know the timing is right. I know this is the next steps God is leading me to take.
If I look back on my life, there have been other times I have made similar decisions which were also scary at  the time, and also didn’t seem like there was a definite plan forward. Each of those times, God has shown up and proved himself reliable. Each time he has demonstrated he has made his paths before me straight.
My prayer today, and moving forward is that I will seek the wisdom of God daily. I will be patient and wait on him. I am praying I will be his servant and move forward in the ways he is leading. I really believe God is doing something unheard of or unexpected in the life of my family in the coming season. Whatever it is, it feels like it is going to be epic and I want to be a part of whatever it is.

My Takeaways from #Catalyst14

catalystI enjoyed the catalyst experience very much overall. I feel like personally, it had much to say to me and where I am in my life currently. It was good to be able to sit in the worship and enjoy the music and to participate in worshipping our Savior. It was also very encouraging to hear all the great sermons we heard in a short time. My friend who picked me up from the airport asked me who my favorite speaker was… I wasn’t able to pick just one! I think they all had some fantastic things to say and were all very challenging of me. So, let me try to funnel that down into a few thoughts of what challenged me the most.

  1. Andy Stanley’s opening message which challenged us to answer the two questions – 1. Who are you? and What breaks your heart?; really stuck with me because I honestly had to really think through the answer to the second one. Not because I don’t know what excites or invigorates me (I hesitate the use the word ‘passion’ since it is so overplayed these days) or what really gets me fired up. I had a hard time with this I think thanks to where I am in my life. I would have answered the questions slightly differently along the way in my life, and as my brain and heart catches up to where I find God has led me in life I found my self searching for what the answer is in this season. Strangely enough, the answer in this season is not very different from the answer it has been in previous seasons of my life. Families. Families break my heart. Families who need help of any kind. I have seen so many families without the resources and tools to do better than what they are doing and this breaks my heart. I realized as I worked as a caseworker, the difference between the families I worked with and me was a very fine line. A fine line of tools that were in my toolbox, but not in theirs. This has been the driving motivator in me finding the path God has set before me for some time in my life. My heart breaks for families in need. This is perfect, considering where I find God has put me. Working with children and families in a local church setting. Working with children and families in the child welfare setting. I guess the first takeaway for me was more of a confirmation or reaffirmation of being in the place God wants me. This has been something I have spent time considering and thinking through recently… just trying to figure out my life.
  2. The second takeaway comes from Dr. Leaf and the small amount of the book we purchased that I have read. This ‘new’ information regarding habit and thought formation has truly revolutionized the way I think about behavioral change. When coupled with what I have been learning through TBRI, I have a new landscape moving forward in the brain and assisting others to make behavioral changes. Not only is it possible to change behavior, but it is possible to change the brain to adjust the thought patterns. This is a total game changer for the way we think about helping people effect change. I am excited to read more in this book and learn more about changing habits.
  3. Robert Madu had words which were very fitting for us at Grace Landing. Being a small organization, it is easy to play the comparison game and look at other agencies and wonder why we aren’t able to do things the ways they are. We aren’t those other agencies, so we can’t do things the way they are doing them. And we shouldn’t want to. God has blessed us in a unique ways to accomplish the ministry he set before us. When I look at the individual pieces of the puzzle we each bring to the table, I am encouraged to see the plan underneath it. We are approaching the issues of young men needing transitional assistance and foster parent training in a revolutionary way! We are coming at these problems in a way that is different than how anyone (in our area, and for the most part throughout the nation) else is addressing them. We are running the race God has set before us and no one else. I also took much comfort in Craig Groeschel’s thoughts on how to experience exponential innovation as they apply to us. The first thing needed to experience exponential change is limited resources. I heard that and thought, well that’s us! Think about how much God is doing through a small, meager organization. We are a part of totally redefining the way foster parent training and recruiting is being done in Florida! Foster care will never be the same thanks to the work we are doing. Are you serious? YES! We are game changers.
  4. The last major takeaway I have is this, we are precisely where God wants us to be. I think we heard that 100 times at catalyst. God has set this ministry before us and we are to run this race to the best that we can, trusting God will provide the resources necessary to finish the race. God is able to accomplish his purposes without or without us, but he has decided to use us to accomplish those purposes in the ministries he has called us to. God has put us here because he has gifted us with what we need to do this work. He hasn’t set before a ministry we aren’t able to accomplish, on the contrary – he has gifted us in a way to accomplish this ministry.
Catalyst was exactly what I needed in life right now. It renewed my mind and reignited my heart.

Fruit of the Spirit

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I sit here in my office and I am reflecting on several things at this moment.

Later today, we are heading to Jacksonville for our first soccer tournament with one of the boys. This is new for us. We have played recreational soccer up tip this point and now we are in a competitive soccer. This is all new territory for us. This is on my mind.
Additionally, I am thinking through the many tasks needing to be accomplished as a part of the job whose office I sit at now with my feet propped on my desk listening to Celldweller’s Purified writing these rambling thoughts about stuff. There always feels to be a mountain of tasks to be accomplished. I guess this is good, because it is rarely that I sit around with nothing to do. Usually when I have nothing to do it is because I simply choose to not do what needs to be done.
I am also thinking through tasks needing to be wrapped for H2O Church. Adding this FT job to my plate has forced me to rearrange priorities and is causing me to have to specifically make time to get those tasks accomplished. We have recruited a bunch of new people and I am in need of connecting with them to ensure we don’t lose the momentum. On top of that, we are having church tomorrow and not on Sunday… and I am not sure we are going to have the staff to really handle the service. It would be a stretch to begin with if all the leadership of the kids ministry were going to be there, but they are not… added to this is a new variable which will significantly impair how we do things up there tomorrow.
Now, We as Human is rocking Sever through my speakers.
It is at times like these I become implicitly aware of my need for assistance in getting everything accomplished. Yes, I need a personal assistant. Wonder what it would cost to hire someone to follow me around and do the things I don’t feel like doing or don’t have the time to do? You know like on Monk…
Anyway, what I mean to say is… it is at seasons like this I realize my need for something bigger than me offering me peace, patience and contentment in getting things finished. I don’t think being a Christ-follower offers me some sort of supernatural ability to multitask or organize my time in such a way that I am more successful. But I do think being able to lean and trust in God offers me the peace, patience and contentment I can’t find elsewhere. My natural bent in life is not to be peaceful, patient or contented. I need assistance from something else, someone else to get these characteristics. I just don’t have them in my toolbox.
What I also realize in these times is how little I rely on God. As I am writing this, I think the fruits of the spirit sure would be helpful in times like this… yet I spend very little time cultivating those fruits in my life purposefully. It is more like i stumble through life hoping along the way I will stumble across or bump into the fruit of spirit and somehow some of them will stick to me, There isn’t the discipline needed to intentionally build these into my life.
At the beginning of August, I began training for marathon number two (the Space Coast Marathon on 11/30/14). I took a couple of weeks to think through the best training plan for me. What was going to be the best approach to training for the marathon so I could do better in this one than I did in the last one. I would never think of haphazardly training for this marathon. I am being very purposeful and diligent in my training. Every aspect of it is being thought through from the running the cross training (which looks like crossfit 3x a week) to the nutritional intake. Why do I approach a marathon this way but not my spiritual life… which has four other people depending on me to have a strong, close relationship with Jesus?
It appears there is no excuse for me. I owe it to Jesus and Ronda, Noah, Hayden and Jagger to be more purposeful… more disciplined… more intentional in my walk with Jesus. My life as a father and husband is just like a marathon… it is a long distance race requiring stamina allowing me to stay in the race when I feel like I can’t go on any farther. The ability to persevere comes from the strength the spirit of God offers me. I must eat more of his fruit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22,23

Empathy

Several sessions with clients at Sequel have caused me to think through a wide range of feelings, emotions and thoughts I experienced. Most of the time they don’t create in me a particular disturbance. Admittedly, early on in my internship last term, I had to work through some issues of working with this population. I have come to grips with the realization they need the assistance we are offering them. I have also realized some of them are here because they have made huge mistakes and deeply regret what they have done and are learning from the treatment how to ensure this never happens again. Some of the clients here will not have happy endings.

6613_6613_5There are several sessions that will always stick out to me and be a constant reminder of my time here. One of those sessions was with a client who had been here about a year. His charge is for molesting his younger sister. During a session we were discussing what he thought was appropriate punishment for various individuals who had committed sex crimes against others. The questions in the workbook asked the following (and his answers): If it were up to you, what would the punishment be for someone who raped your mother? Client responded they should get the death penalty. If it were up to you, what would the punishment be for someone who raped your wife? Client responded they should get the death penalty. If it were up to you, what would the punishment be for someone who sexually abused your child? Client responded they should get the death penalty. I then asked him, how he thought his parents felt about the offense he committed? He thought about it long for a time and then responded with ‘that’s probably what my parents think should happen to me.’ It was at this moment the client had a realization of the gravity of his offense.

One of the coping strategies I have noticed the clients at Sequel employ often is one of disassociation. They disassociate themselves from their sex offense. It’s like they conceptualize it as something that someone else has done, but not them. They think of it in terms and don’t truly connect the dots for them. They objectify it and separate themselves from it. This is very difficult for me to process through internally. I am not sure that i am able to understand how it is they are able to separate out like this. When we talk about the details of their offense it is as though they are recounting something they saw in a movies or on t.v.

I suppose this is an effective way to cope with the awful things they have endured in their lives both as victims and as perpetrators. This doesn’t create any particular disturbances in me, what it does it makes a little more difficult for to me understand where they are coming from. Makes it harder for me to be empathetic towards them.

I overcome these feelings inside of me by remembering they were victims too. I learned that very quickly at Sequel. They have all been victimized in some way. This doesn’t change the fact they have victimized someone, but it does humanize them. Remembering they are also victims, provides a setting for empathy to be offered because they have been hurt and are still healing from their own hurt. We have all been victimized in some way and we all need some one who is willing to listen to our story and offer some understanding and assistance in unpacking the bags we have brought with us. That’s why I like being a counselor. Offering understanding and assistance. Offering empathy.