What if?


What if?

Not every sentence that begins with ‘what if’ ends in regret or guilt, but many of them do. It has been my experience that regret and guilt are luxuries I can’t afford if my goal is to move forward in life. Regret robs us of our ability to move beyond the experience we regret. It prohibits us from looking to the future and moving on to whatever experience is next in our lives. 

I’m not the expert on moving past regret (or an expert on anything… except maybe Jeeps and Star Wars), but I have come to realize regret is not only not heathy, but unhealthy. I have found. These three techniques useful when moving past my own regret:

  1. What could have happened isn’t what happened. This is simple, yet critical. The what ifs are where we are. What happened has happened and wishing for another outcome that hasn’t happened and at this point, can’t happen is wasted time and energy. Accept the reality of where you are right now. Work with it. Figure out how to make the best of the reality you are in. My favorite band, Celldweller, on his second album has a song called ‘The Best It’s Gonna Get‘ and this is the outlook we bed to have. This is it. This is the best it’s gonna get. This is what I have to work with and it makes more sense to make the most out of what I have rather than wishing I had something else. 
  2. It isn’t all bad. So things didn’t go the way I wanted, planned, hoped or maybe I totally screwed the pooch on this one. Ok. What can I learn from this? Where is the upside here? How can I learn from this and make better choices in the future? How can I use this experience to grow and become a better person? Regret keeps me from learning and growing and moving on to something else, potentially better. 
  3. The past doesn’t define my future. This experiences, usually mistakes are not definitive of who I am and who am becoming. I am not defined by my past experiences whether good or bad. What defines me is bigger than any action or non-action I could have or should have made. What defines you is also bigger than what you have done. Find the bigger, more complete definition of who you are and use that to define every aspect of you life. My life is defined, that is to say my identity comes from, by the love of a Savior who was willing to die for me. Are you willing to look to a Savior for you identity?

What are you regretting today that you need to let go of?

Something Different

I’m sitting in the lobby of the YMCA right now having finished an abbreviated work out due to waking up late. Sipping on some of their free coffee, taking a moment to read the Bible. At my church (Grace Orlando) we are studying the parables and last week we studying the parable of the Prodigal Son. 

One of my favorite. 

While there are many parallels to my life and that parable that I could draw, what strikes me this morning is my tendency to tell God what the true nature of my relationship with him is. When the son came to his senses and returned home he says to his father, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” Like he knows better where he belongs in relationship to his father. The father ignores his comment, hugs him and throws a giant party… overjoyed that his lost son has returned. 

When will I learn God treats me the same way? He isn’t concerned with what I think my identity in relation to him is… he’s only concerned with what he knows my relationship with him to be. God is the source of my identity as my creator, father and savior. Doesn’t his perception of who I am trump my perception, especially considering mine is marred and broken by sin?

There are many lessons to learn from this parable, but the most critical of those lessons is almost lost thanks to the name we have given it, the Prodigal Son. This implies the son is the pivotal character is this story. 

Not so. 

This is the third parable Jesus tells about something that was lost. The lost sheep, the lost coin and in both precious stories the central figure is the one who lost and then searched incessantly, unendingly for the lost item. For the item of incomparable value to them. In the story of the prodigal, the father is searching… waiting… watching for his son’s return so when he spots him far off he runs, undignified, to meet him. 

The central lesson of this story is God searches us. He finds us. He brings us to him. No matter what I have done or who I have become, God has found me. 

He throws a party and rejoices saying, my son who was lost is found, who was dead is now alive.  

Fear is a Liar

Fear-is-a-Liar

Fear is a Liar.

I believe this to be the most appropriate location to begin a conversation on how to limit fear. In order to limit fear in our lives, we have to recognize it for what it is. A Lie. Fear lies to us on a regular basis. Fear attempt to convince us of things that likely will never come true. Fear attempts to thwart our efforts of success by getting us to short-circuit ourselves before we even try something.

I am not an expert in mastering fear. I often feel like the apostle Paul who said, ‘not that i have attained it’ because I have not attained it. Not even close on many subjects. Or any subject for that matter. But I have learned to control fear in my life to some degree. I have learned to overcome it and press on through the darkness and coldness of fear. Here are some things I keep in mind to assist me in pressing on through the fear.

  • Failure is ALWAYS and option – Always. It is ok to fail. There is no need to fear failing because it is inevitable. I will fail. And I will fail again. And again. Failure is an opportunity to learn. Learn both what I did well and what I did poorly in that given scenario. There are times when failing is the only way to learn. It is the process of trial and error leading to a better way to get things done. I have overcome fear by learning that it is ok to fail. It is ok to fall flat on my face. It is to make mistakes. The critical part is learning from the mistakes so as not to make them again.
  • ‘What if’ is worse – In my experience, wondering ‘what if’ is worse than anything, even failing. Looking back across the landscape of my life and realizing I tried nothing for fear that it work out the way I hoped. Second guessing my life and decisions I have made, has consumed more hours of my life than I care to admit. Constantly consumed with ‘what if’ because I was unwilling to try something is significantly worse than trying something and having any outcome. Because at least I tried and now I know.
  • Nothing is gained by doing Nothing – my brother had children’s book as we were growing up, whose title or premise I can’t recall. The only thing I do recall is a mouse who consistently said he can’t do this or that. Finally at the end, another wiser character told him ‘Can’t never could’. This phrase has stuck with me ever since. Because can’t never could. If you never try anything then you will never know your limits and you never gain anything, even if the only gained is self-awareness of what you are capable of.

Fear does not tell the truth. Fear uses lies to limit us and give us a false sense of we who are and what we are capable of. These are some things I keep in mind when facing a situation I fear. They have helped me. Maybe they can help you.

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. 

Personality Traits

12376021_10207343192765606_7619104238804070029_n

I have always been fascinated by personality theory… or at least as long as I’ve be aware of something called personality theory, which in reality has only been about 10-15 years. So not, literally always… just always that I aware of.

At any rate, it is interesting to me to think through the differing qualities and characteristics which make us individual human beings. The intricacies making each of us tick, slightly different than the next person. Understanding who a person is at their personality core will help you to understand how to interact with them in the most effective way. Understanding how they view the world, how they frame and interact with the their internal world and the external world.

I spend a lot of time thinking about stuff and processing internally. Maybe this is why one of my professors suggested I was an introvert masquerading as an extrovert. On a side note – I am not an introvert, I am undoubtedly an extrovert who will at times do introverted things. Make sense? Not to me either. But in these times where I spend time thinking, I think about my personality and the pieces of that are holding me back. Or maybe not holding me back as much as u become aware of them as I attempt to become the person I am seeking to be.  I am a visionary. I dream. Big. A LOT. I have great plans with executable ideas requiring follow through. These dreams require organization and delegation of tasks.

Here’s my dilemma, I have very poor follow through.

My problem isn’t organization or administration. I’m not the most organized or the best admin, but I’m not the worst.

My problem isn’t ideas… God knows I have billions of earth-shattering, ground-breaking, life-altering ideas.

My problem isn’t communication… I am an excellent communicator.

My problem isn’t with motivation, of others… I  magnetic and able to motivate others towards an end.

My problem isn’t even with valuing the dream, idea or end in mind. Or even my commitment to the idea at hand. Admittedly, my actions often (regularly) belie my commitment.

My problem is my personal follow through. I have been aware of this for some time now. This year, 2016, one of the personal goals I am setting is to do a much better job with follow through. I am committing to doing better about finishing what I start. I am also committing to NOT committing to things I know I am not going to be able to finish. There is a beauty in saying ‘no’. I heard it said the greatest enemy of the best is good. Committing to do good things we don’t have time for inhibits us from being able to complete the best things we can. I am committing to my best in 2016.

I am setting several personal and professional goals for 2016 (they aren’t resolutions, so its ok that they aren’t totally in place and rolling on 1/1/16). I am setting goals to move me forward personally and professionally.

The Love of a Savior

Photo credit unknown.

Photo credit unknown.

One of the tenets of Christianity setting apart from other world religions, is the love of a savior. Christianity alone has at its center a God who loves his creation enough to call them children and to die in their place in order to satisfy his wrath upon sin.

Jesus himself draws the stark contrast of this revolutionary approach to life when he comments that few people would die for a good man. What isnt said there, but what is certainly hinted at is that we are not good men. We are sinners. We live in a fallen world and we are bent towards sin. Knowing this, and loving us anyway, our God sacrifices himself to pay the penalty for our sins.

This act is so revolutionary, so extraordinary, so out of the box we as a humanity can scarcely grasp the full weight of what he did or why he did it. Paul writes in Romans, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. While we were still in opposition to him. He loved us enough to move towards us. To take the first step to have a relationship with us. Which is a second tenet separating Christianity from other world religions, God desires to know us personally. He doesn’t sit on a throne far above in the heavens looking down at us, waiting for us to screw up so he can capriciously punish us. Rather, he engages in our lives with us, walking alongside us each day. In fact, his desire is to dwell within us. To live in and through us. Paul also write in one of his letters to the church at Corinth, that as Christ followers we are temples to the Holy Spirit (God’s spirit he sent to dwell within us). In this particular passage, Paul was correcting the Corinthians on their sexual immorality, however the idea that our bodies are temples of the spirit of the almighty God should have broad applications in our lives. Our lives should be lived in such a way that God is glorified by our actions.

As we prepare for today and this weekend, ask ourselves this question: Is God glorified in the way I am living, in my habits and daily routine, in my work, in my attitude and in the way I treat others? If not, now seems like the right time to reorganize our priorities.

Vehicular Statement

Photo courtesy of http://agentsofgeek.com/2015/04/13-things-you-never-knew-about-the-millennium-falcon-infographic/

Photo courtesy of http://agentsofgeek.com/2015/04/13-things-you-never-knew-about-the-millennium-falcon-infographic/

Like many things in life, our vehicles make a statement about who we are people. Not just the condition of the vehicle mechanically and cosmetically, but also what kind of vehicle you drive.

If you drive a motorcycle, you are a rebel who lives life on the edge.

A small, economical sedan, you care about fuel economy and not being ‘car’ poor.

A sports car… well you know.

A truck or SUV, chances are you enjoy the outdoors and it’s not unlikely that you have a gun at home and possibly a dead animal on your wall.

A minivan, your life is over because there’s a wife and kids back at the house.

So much can be inferred or learned about a person based on their vehicle of choice… or not so much choice as necessity. Take me for example, I drive a mid-sized sedan. You can assume I have a budget-conscious wife, a decent-length commute and probably a minion or two running around the house. Those would all be fair and accurate statements.

So when a person like me, who knows how much is riding on having the ‘right’ vehicle choice, is faced with a cataclysmic dilemma in which the very fabric and foundation of the vehicle choices is shaken… it is a big deal.

We learned today my beloved four door sedan has lost her heart, and she needs a transplant. Problem is, not we aren’t sure the old girl is worth a transplant. Despite everything and all the love we have for her, it is going to be difficult for us to work it out for her to be on top of the donor list and snag that shiny new heart she so desperately needs.

So what do we do? Dump countless untold dollars into a special part of the family who is dying… or trade that sucker in for something else? It’s hard to know what is the best choice here. I would certainly hate the trade her in and make the wrong choice for a replacement vehicle. So much is riding on choosing the proper vehicle to express who Eli is.

I mention all of this for no reason other than to say, this has been a difficult week. We have a full plate and we gotta add this frustrating piece to the plate.

There ya have it. Maybe in a day or two there will be a follow up with further thoughts on how we solved this ‘crisis’. Realizing, while it is a crisis at least we have a vehicle to be stressing over. There are so many bigger, real problems in the world. Shelter, food, clean drinking water. And I’m worried about what to do with my vehicle.? Sadly, this is my reality.

Bandwidth

BandwidthI am not a techno-wizard or computer geek or any kind of over the top tech-savy intellectual giant by any means. I know enough to get by… maybe enough to be dangerous with my knowledge. But, as I understand bandwidth it speaks to an amount of capacity something is able to handle. For instance, your internet has a specific amount of data that can flow down to your computer and back up to the internet. This is bandwidth. This is the amount of information that can come and go freely. When the bandwidth gets bogged down or bottled up, the info doesn’t flow freely and slows down dramatically. Causing issues. This is one reason why cable modems have been superior to DSL modems in the past. Cable modems have a specific amount of bandwidth dedicated to your specific location while DSL modems dedicated to say the block and if everyone is using the DSL modems to stream Netflix at the same time, no one will enjoy it.

We as humans, have a certain amount of bandwidth. I have noticed bandwidth within humans is a lot like pain. My threshold is not your threshold. You may find it very painful to have your fingernails clipped, while I may enjoy bamboo shoots under my nails. It is all relative. So is bandwidth. For a variety of reasons, we each have our own level of bandwidth and capacity to manage tasks or responsibilities.

One lesson I learned at H2O Church Orlando, is I have the tendency to overestimate my bandwidth. I was not unique in this. The other pastors at H2O had the same problem. John and I used to say, ‘for guys like us who are able to do so many things very well, it is hard for us to not overcommit to stuff that needs to be done.’ It was a half-joke, but also true. When you bandwidth allows you to accomplish much and when you are talented at many things, you tend to overestimate what you can and can not do therefore overextending yourself and overloading your actual bandwidth.

Going hand in hand with the lesson on overestimating my bandwidth and thereby over committing myself, I had to learn how to determine what were reasonable additions to my proverbial plate that my bandwidth could handle. What I had to do was come up with a strategy to realistically assess whether I could handle the added responsibilities and pressure. What I began to do (with varying degrees of success along the way) was ask myself these questions:

1. Is this something that is important to me? The first place to start is by determining whether the new task is something you actually care about. Are you passionate (I dislike use of that over-played word), excited, fired up, really interested and care strongly for the new responsibility? IS this something you see as a priority and needs to be done and you have the interest and skill set to do it? If you can’t answer yes to this question, you should strongly reconsider taking on this new thing whatever it is and however vital it is. There is nothing more taxing and stressful to our bandwidth than to take on something we could care less about.

2. Do I have the skill set to do this? I alluded to it in the first question, but this is a deeper exploration of the required skills and abilities to accomplish the responsibility in question. There are a wide range of things I am good at. There are even a handful of things I am really good at. There is a plethora of things not falling even remotely close to my wheelhouse, things I am not good at at all. When considering taking on new responsibility, we have to realistically assess our abilities and what it is going to take to successfully accomplish the task, not just do it. If the new responsibility doesn’t fall within the range of things we do either good or really good, we shouldn’t do it. While still taxing and stressful to our bandwidth, taking on things we aren’t skilled to do also is detrimental to the responsibility in question because it could fail due to our inability to accomplish it and our unrealistic assessment of our skills.

3. The third question I ask myself is, does it fit into my schedule or am I willing to rearrange my schedule to make it fit? This is critical. If we are super excited on fire about something we are over the top skilled to do, but have no time to do it… why are we taking it on? No matter how excited we are or how skilled we are, if we can’t find time to do it, it won’t get done. It just won’t. And what have we accomplished by adding something else we don’t have time for into our schedules? Nothing. We haven’t accomplished anything… literally, cuz it didn’t get done. I have found by adding every minutiae to a calendar so I can see how everything fits, is very useful when determining whether something can be done or not. I used to be super-organized (I have slipped dramatically in recent years), but this kind of organization and control over my time has been exceedingly helpful in making an informed decision about whether I can realistically do something or not.

Our bandwidth is not limitless. There is a finite amount of space we have and ability to realistically commit to various responsibilities taxing our lives. We will be better served and more effective in everything we do, if we ask ourselves these three questions when looking to add something new to our lives. If we want to be successful in what we put our hands to, we have to realistically assess if our lives are arranged in such a way that we may be effective in this new responsibility. This isn’t just a good idea, its scriptural. Paul writes in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,”. If we are overcommitting ourselves and adding more things we aren’t capable of actually doing we are not giving God what he deserves. We are not doing it ‘heartily’ or to the best of our abilities.

I am learning to be realistic about myself and my bandwidth. I have also found there is much more joy in being able to say yes to what I can accomplish and accomplishing it than there is adding something I can’t handle and not finishing and having to step away from it because I am unable to follow through and complete. These questions may not be the solution for you, but I bet they are a good place to start.

Do you have any advice or processes which you use to think through what your bandwidth is capable of? I’d love to hear them.

A Penny for My Thoughts?

Self_Control

I’m not sure what I am writing or why I am particularly writing it at this moment… I should really be studying for a test I’m taking tomorrow morning. But I feel compelled to scribble some thoughts down. I will most likely write this over the course of the day and come back to it at various times as I take a break from studying throughout the day.

I want to write more a consistently.  This is one of the are of my life I want to implement more discipline into. I have implemented discipline in the area of training in that I have been going to crossfit 3 times a week for about two months now. My running has dropped a bit, but I intend to get in back to where it needs to be this month (admittedly, I’m having a slow start already this month).
I come back to this after several hours of other things…
One of the things I have been working on today is material to lead to an addictions group disguised as a Bible study for the residents here at Grace Landing. I haven’t called it an addictions group, I have played within the bounds of the ‘Bible study’ and we edged into the subject last week by discussing habits. What makes a habit healthy or unhealthy and then we made some headway for whee to go with the discussion for tonight and I found myself researching the idea of self-control (this was one of the techniques named for controlling unhealthy habits).
As I was preparing for tonight, I had the realization that self-control is the same as discipline. When a person exercises self-controlled, they are exercising discipline. This may seem like a silly realization, but it was the first time I connected these dots.
I haven’t been very diligent over the last month or so, but a little time ago I became aware my glass ceiling currently is discipline. I have been trying to find new ways to implement discipline into my life. With varying degrees of success. Reading up on this today has actually given me more motivation to want to better implement discipline in my life. Not just for me, but for those around me whom I interact with regularly.
images-2

I’m Reacting to Myself

20140307-103150.jpg

​In my internship we had to complete two papers where we reacted to a particular therapy session we offered to our clients. This is the second one I turned in this term. This photo is my professor’s comments on my paper.

I am trying to think through a session I have had where I was caused a disturbance or caused me to feel or think in a particular way, which stands out to me as something I need to process or think through. And in all honesty, I am having difficulty. So rather than try to find something that may not be there, I would like to react to this program, and my involvement in it.

I can’t believe it! I am here! I am finally at the end of this program. When I started it years ago, I am not even really sure why I chose this program. When I lived in Gainesville and worked for DCF as a caseworker, I applied to and got into FSU’s MSW program (they offer it in Gainesville every three years or so). So for me, beginning the road to be a counselor was not what I envisioned myself doing. I always viewed myself as more of a social worker than a counselor. But here I am, or there I was… in the program now.

I have often described me begin in this program as ‘by default’. I said this because I am not sure how I ended up here. I don’t know exactly why. Over the last 6 years, I have struggled with some of the main concepts or tenets of what makes a person a counselor. Viewing myself as a social worker, I have found it hard to learn to not fix people. When someone comes to counseling, it is not my role to tell them what is wrong and how to fix it. This is very hard for me. I am a practical kind of guy who wants things to be fixed and moved on from. I have come to learn and appreciate the value of assisting others on their own journey of discovery. What makes the answer so poignant to us, is when we come to it on our own. I have grown much in this respect I believe or the course of this program. I have better listening skills. I am more apt to listen first, and second before I offer advice to someone. I am willing to journey alongside people as they come to the conclusions of what they need to do and where they need to go in life. This is very refreshing! It relieves the pressure of me having to fix everyone… which obviously is impossible to do.

I have also struggled with trying to find my theoretical approach to counseling. Again, I have always viewed myself as a practical kind of guy who wanted to fix things and then move on. Because of this, I tried to fit myself into the mold of begin solution-focused. This fits sometimes, but is not the overarching fit for me. It may be my upbringing or it may be the way I am wired, but I have an intense desire to understand why people think and act they way they do. I want to know the underlying reasons for their behaviors. What is happening in their unconscious mind leading them to think and act the way they do? When I was in middle school and high school, my father completed an MSW program. I remember the family joke around the dinner table was we were going to ‘psychoanalyze people’ to understand why they were doing what they were doing. This became the running joke for us. But, there is much truth to it for me because learning this psychological motivation for why people do what they do is fascinating to me. I have seen how in my own life, this is the only real way to learn how to overcome the various struggles we have in our life. In my own journey of counseling, I tried to learn ways to manage attitudes, behaviors and thoughts; but it wasn’t until I uncovered the root cause that I was able to overcome it. I certainly don’t know all there is to know on this subject, but this program has assisted me in defining who I am as a counselor and what I want to know about my clients so I am able to help them.

While I can’t answer with certainty why I ended up in this program, I can say with certainty this program is the right one for me. I entered this program at a critical time in my life and it has been one of very few constants in my life over the last six and a half years. I have learned a great deal about myself. I have learned a great deal about how to manage myself. I have learned a great deal about how to assist other people who are facing similar circumstances in their lives. After much thought and consideration, I believe I am in this program because it fits well with who I am and how I desire to help people. I am glad I am on the verge of graduation. These last six years have been some of the most difficult years of my life and it has been the years where I have grown the most. This program has allowed me to realize the person I can be. I am thankful for being in the program and being able to complete this milestone.