So Much has Changed…

Often in life, each day is just another day. Each day is a day unto itself. But sometimes, the day is more than just a day. It is a defining moment.

This day last year was one of those. It was a defining moment. It is frozen in time. It is a day never to be forgotten. It was probably one the hardest days of my life.

Without sharing too many details or the particulars – one year ago today, my brother was taken into custody after a court hearing and transported to county jail and ultimately to state prison. This is an experience my family has not talked about much outside of the ‘Westfall Family circle of trust.’ Today, I am feeling as though I need to share my thoughts on the last 12 months. I am not going to talk about the details, but I want to talk about the feelings and impact this experience has had on my family from my perspective, my point of view.

February 5, 2015 was one of the hardest days of my life. Watching your brother get taken into custody is hard enough, when you add into the mix having to watch your parents as their son is taken into custody and you have the makings for a tough day. I have found it is one thing to cope with your own emotions and to assist others in coping with their emotions… but when the others is your family, it is significantly more difficult to keep an objective presence. Watching my parents explain to my niece and nephew their father isn’t coming home for a long time… as their little minds attempted to wrap around the concept of another parent who would be missing from their lives. As they tried to make sense of something that makes no sense at all. Watching parents struggle with the exact same thing… finding sense, meaning and purpose in a experience that makes no sense.

It was on this day I learned the futility of saying, sometimes crap happens to good people and we have to accept it. This does nothing to comfort those suffering. Knowing it is unjust doesn’t make it easier to handle. I mistakenly thought those were wise words in a time of crisis because they are true. Scriptures teach the sun shines on the wicked and good all the same. But in times of distress, these words are hollow. Empty. Meaningless. We search for meaning, for understanding and we want things to make sense. And when things don’t make sense, posting out they make no sense, makes no sense.

Over the last year, I have experienced feelings of loss I hadn’t anticipated. Some time ago, I wrote the following words trying to understand my feelings:

  • This feels strange to write this…I find myself mourning my brother. No, he’s not dead. But he is in prison. While the story is complex and convoluted at best, I want to muse more on how this whole story causes me to feel.

    I find myself mourning him. He’s gone, while not being gone at the same time. It causes an odd void in my heart and life.

    On any given day, I communicate with Ronda more than I do any other human being… makes sense, cuz she’s my wife.

    Next in line on this list was my brother. I didn’t realize how often. I called, texted, emailed, facebook messaged, sent him a YouTube video or otherwise reached out to communicate with him. Countless times over the last two plus months I have found myself wanting to reach out to him about something, nothing or anything in between. I actually called his his iPhone last week! Haha. Habit.

    Given the amount I typically communicated with him, there is now a void in my daily communicative expression. This evokes a feeling similar to mourning in my heart because I am unable to communicate with him when and how I want to.

    I don’t know what I expected the feelings to be like…

    At least we can speak on the phone once a day. We could write letters, but that’s not a fun as it might sound. We can visit, but things have been some crazy at work I haven’t had the time to plan a trip to Georgia.

    I know this is only temporary and after this season has passed life will return to normal. But in the meantime, I miss him.

I feel a great sense that can only be described as loss. There is a hole in my life which can only be filled by my brother. A large, special piece of my everyday has been taken away from me. It is missing. This loss has certainly changed our relationship… I don’t know how exactly or what things will be like when we can talk whenever we want, but things have changed.

I know my family has felt the same or similar feelings on loss, too. This has affected us all. We all have felt the pressure, the loss, along with other feelings. We have felt betrayed at times. We have felt lied to. We have felt disappointment. We have felt like we have been left to pick up the pieces of shattered lives. We have felt overwhelmed and unable to cope. We have felt guilt. We have felt responsible. We have felt feelings that are real and powerful. We have hurt and we are hurting. I would argue this is normal. This is to be expected. And this is ok. What’s not ok is bottling the feelings up and letting them gnaw at our hearts and allowing those feelings to adjust or change the love we have for a brother/son who himself is hurting. Maybe more than us. Likely, more than us.

This may be a simplistic approach to the dilemma, but I believe guilt or innocence to be irrelevant. Maybe not irrelevant, but holding no bearing on the reality of my feelings about him or about this situation. I love my brother. I will always love my brother, no matter what. But loving my brother doesn’t mean I am not allowed to have feelings like the ones above. It doesn’t mean when I have those feelings I am in the wrong. But it also doesn’t mean I can use this as an excuse to feel differently about him. What has happened has had a dramatic impact on my family and we are forever changed because of it. And at the resolution of this whole experience, there will be more exploration to finally resolve it. To finally, make sense of it… as much as we can. No doubt, there will be more tears, more frustration, more anger, guilt, remorse, sadness, joy, laughter, more whatever.

I’m not going to pretend I see the silver lining and I know on the other side of this we will be stronger, better, blah blah blah. This sucks, from start to finish. But, this is where we are. This is our life. This is the experience we have. This is the hand we have been dealt and whether God is in it or not, we will endure it. God will use it, certainly. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. Doesn’t make it suck less.

For about 12 months I have wanted to share my thoughts and feelings. I have wanted to express what we are going through. And I haven’t. I don’t know if it is because I was embarrassed. Or if if I didn’t want to hurt feelings. Or if I wasn’t sure we were or I was ready. But the sooner we stop hiding in the shadows, the sooner we can have some resolution about what and how we feel.

I love my family. I love my brother. I will always love them. Nothing will ever change that. This has been hard, but it hasn’t killed us yet. And I don’t think it will. If we continue to stand against this as a family, we will endure.

These are my feelings. These are my thoughts. This is my voice. If you are reading this and you feel like you have suffered and are suffering know you are not alone. Know there are others walking through life carrying heavy burdens. Burdens we daily try to give to Jesus, but hang on to because it is hard to give them up. There’s a band called HELLYEAH. They have a song entitled Hush. It talks about growing up in a family wrought with abuse. While it is not always true, emotional pain (regardless of the source) often easily translates from person to person. What I mean is, when we feel emotional pain we can associate with others feeling emotional pain regardless of whether the source of that pain is the same or not. As the scene is described in the song, a line from the chorus says, ‘if this reminds you of home, you better know you’re not alone.’ This is why I write these words today. I want share my pain to let others know they are not alone. To let others know they don’t have to suffer alone in silence. We can help each other. Today I may be strong enough to hold you up, but next week I might need you to hold me up.

I will hold you, will you hold me?

2015 in the Rearview

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Ronda (my wife) shared a moving and very sweet post on facebook Tuesday night (you can read it here) that almost brought me to tears. It verbalized and quantified 2015 in an articulate and appropriate way. I love her so much.

She drew out and briefly mentioned many of the struggles which have made this one of the most difficult years we have experienced as a couple. And it has been.

She also pointed out what God has taught her through this year and some of the conclusions she has been brought to. I would like to do the same. There have been lessons I have learned this year. Struggles which have taught me more about myself, my family and my marriage than I knew possible. Things I learned about myself, things I learned about others and things I realized I was doing all wrong.

Not every year is going to be epic. Not every year is going to be a trial by fire. Maybe the year will fall somewhere in between those extremes. No matter what your year is like, there inevitably are moments maybe even seasons of joy and goodness. Focus on those and the lessons learned through the struggles.

So, with 2015 in my Rearview, here are my takeaways.

  1. There will always be difficulty. This seems like a no-brainer, but the reality is this: life will always throw us curve balls. We practically need to expect the worst instead of fearing it. Life is not going to go the way we expect, hope or plan. That is the nature of life. We live in a fallen world which is marred and broken by sin. Since, sin is the dominant predication of this world… there will be hurt. Hurt is a natural byproduct of sin. Not even a byproduct as it is in the nature of sin. Brokenness breeds hurt and hurt breeds difficulty in strife. Its like my ole pappy used to say, if you expect people to let you down, then you won’t be disappointed when hey do.
  2. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade… or freeze the lemons an throw them back! This year, I was constantly making the best with what I had. Hey, even the prophet Ezekiel made a tasty meal once using his own poop to cook it on (Ez. 4:!2). Can you imagine the flavor that bread had? I bet it was fantastic. This year was in no way what I expected it to be, but in the end while I would say it was a very tough year, it wasn’t my worst year I have ever had. It was close, but it wasn’t. Many good things happened this year. My family certainly saw difficulty. Some of that difficulty we have emerged on the other side of, stronger and better equipped for life. Some of that difficulty isn’t quite over yet. Nonetheless, I am making do with what I have. I am making the best out of what I have been given.
  3. Live in the moments. Each day is filled with countless moments of life (I realize there are a finite amount of minutes and seconds in a day), moments for us to live in and make the most of. Countless times throughout the day I am given the opportunity to interact with my boys and help them to grow. Numerous times each day I have the chance to cherish my wife and show here how much she means to me. I have great opportunity each day to build into the lives of the young men I work with. We must find a way to live in these moments. Live in each moment and don’t let the moments we have let slip by us consume us.
  4. Be the change you hope to see. Yes, its a cliche. But it holds some truth. If you want change, then be the change. I have found when I change my perspective and begin working to become who/what I want to be, there is a much greater chance the change will occur. A subtle shift and change in the perspective we have will work wonders for our outlook and the situation we find ourselves in. It doesn’t always make everything, or anything, better… but it is a good place to start. Making the changes and forcing ourselves to be better, be different is a step on the right path.

2015 is over. Thank God for that. But just because 2105 is over is no guarantee 2016 will be any better. For what ti is worth, I am doing my best to make 2016 the best year it can be. I am doing everything I can to learn from what 2015 has taught me so I don’t make the same choices in 2016.

The Beginning of the End

Tunnel
I started this journey in October of 2007… that’s over six years ago.

Six years ago.

Today is the beginning of the end. This is the first day of class of my last term in my masters in counseling. In 9 weeks I will graduate and complete this degree. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!!

These last six years have been some of the hardest years of my life. Not because of this education… this education was one of the very few constants in my life over these years.

I have learned much about myself, my wife, the resiliency of my children, what authentic community feels like, the pain of losing jobs, the difficulty of financial ruin, the anguish of mental breakdown, and most importantly the unending love of my savior for me.

I also learned about the healing of restoration, the excitement of redemption and the joy of emerging on the other side of intense pain & difficulty.

By the grace of God I have emerged victorious against my foes.

There is a sense of accomplishment that goes along with getting to this place in my life… but honestly, it isn’t the kind of feeling of accomplishment you might expect. I am proud of myself, but more than anything I am proud of the God who has gotten me through.

When I began this journey, this masters degree, I honestly wasn’t sure why I started it. I didn’t really want to be a counselor. I would have rathered an MSW (Master’s of Social Work)… I felt as though this was more up my alley and have continued to profess that over the course of 6 years. Each time reassuring myself when I complete this degree it will certainly help me in ministry. I no longer feel this way exclusively. It will help in ministry, but it also fits me very well. I enjoy counseling (actually I enjoy being on both sides of the couch, but that’s for another time) and believe I make a good counselor. I listen well. I have good insight. I offer sound, wise advice. I certainly have experienced my own pain in a way that is meaningful to others and in a way that resonates with them. I can help others because of what I have experienced. I am a better father and husband because of what I have experienced. I am more humble because of what I have experienced.

I have learned more than I can put into words about myself. One thing I have certainly learned is I am able to accomplish something. Over the last six years, more times than I care to recount, I have felt like a failure. I am not a failure.

Quite the opposite is true.

I am a Champion.

Today, I lift the head of the giant and celebrate my defiance. But the Lord is with me like a dread champion; Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed, With an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten. (Jeremiah 20:11 NASB)

Today is the beginning of the end.

I’m a Failure

Yesterday I posted the notes for the message I gave at H2O Church during the morning service. Here I want to give the video of me running through my notes outside church yesterday morning before service.

I tend to be long-winded, so I knew if I planned to speak for 30 minutes that I would speak for 45 or more. So I purposefully kept my notes short so that I could ad lib during the message.

I also, wanted to give you the chance to hear the final product. Here is the podcast version, which is to say it is the live version of what was delivered during the service yesterday.

I had a couple of photos taken while I spoke yesterday, which I also wanted to share with you. As you listen to the live version, the shades will make more sense…

I'm a Failure

Yesterday I posted the notes for the message I gave at H2O Church during the morning service. Here I want to give the video of me running through my notes outside church yesterday morning before service.

I tend to be long-winded, so I knew if I planned to speak for 30 minutes that I would speak for 45 or more. So I purposefully kept my notes short so that I could ad lib during the message.

I also, wanted to give you the chance to hear the final product. Here is the podcast version, which is to say it is the live version of what was delivered during the service yesterday.

I had a couple of photos taken while I spoke yesterday, which I also wanted to share with you. As you listen to the live version, the shades will make more sense…

Beat Up, Used Up & Broken

Good Morning! For those of you visiting with us today, my name is Eli. For those of you who are regular attenders… my name is Eli.

I’m super excited about being here to share with you this morning. This is an honor and a privilege to be here this morning.

I am a failure. I’m broken, beat up, used up, spit out, loser, disappointment, inadequate, incapable, insufficient… a failure. Let me try to help you understand how I got here…

I grew up in a Christian home, with an ordained dad & mom. I graduated high school and went to Bible college. You ever notice how when kids who grow up in the church graduate high school and then their faith is challenged? My faith wasn’t really challenged until I was about 30 with a wife and 2 kids. The first time my faith was challenged was as I served at a church in Gainesville that really chewed me up and spit me out. That experience caused me to question who I was, my abilities, my self-worth, self-confidence, my purpose in life, and my calling. I was left without self-confidence, without courage and without belief in myself to accomplish anything (particularly in ministry), feeling like a failure.

Lucky for me, I was pretty quickly hired as a caseworker for DCF, which prohibited me from really processing and working through the feelings of failure this church experience created within me. I really loved working as a case manager, it created in me a passion for the broken and screwed up families around me.

But you see, I sorta felt like Ezekiel. You remember he was in training to be a priest. And before that role could really take off Jerusalem was sacked by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 B.C., and his chance at being a priest utterly destroyed when the temple was blown up.

So I got into case management and saw the underbelly of the American family. The abuse that occurs is sickening and inhuman. However, when exposed with this tragedy, I felt like this was my calling in life, that God was calling me to work in this field to be a ray of light in darkness. I felt as though God had prepared me for this role. After about 4 years at this job it was taken away from me, when I had a supervisor that decided he didn’t like me and formed a personal mission to fire me. Finally, when over-worked and stressed out I reacted to him in a way that gave him the opening he was looking for to fire me. I felt like Jeremiah who said:(Jer.20v7) 7 O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me.

In case you missed what just happened there, he called God a liar. I felt that way. I had 2 careers taken away from me. When I say they were taken away from me, what I mean is I had failed in both. With ministry, I failed in the sense that I couldn’t play the game in such a way to keep a position successfully at a church and I failed in case management in the sense that I couldn’t get along with my supervisor in a way that would keep him from firing me. So here I was married with 2 kids and jobless. I was broken, beat up, used up, throw out, a failure, a loser, worthless, and depressed. I spent a solid 2-3 years depressed and I mean depressed to the point where I was crippled, unable to move forward in life.

I was a failure.

Slowly, God began to awaken me and assist me in realizing it’s ok to be a failure…

Look at Peter, one of my heroes from the Scriptures: He was a failure’s failure. The only thing he didn’t fail at was failing. A few examples:

  1. Walking on Water – or should we say almost drowning in the water?
  2. Cut off dude’s ear… why the ear?!? Was he was just that bad with a sword, that it was completely accidental?
  3. Denied Jesus 3x

He constantly failed and was constantly re-used by God. Constantly restored, constantly redeemed. As I looked at Peter I realized, even in my failures God didn’t view me as worthless. I recalled Romans 5v8 that says,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Or what about 1 Cor. 6v20,

For you have been bought with a price.

Where does that leave us? It leaves us with a God who loves us, who values us & our failures. God loves us even though we fail. We am his creation, his children and as such he values us enough to do whatever is necessary to restore, redeem and return us to him.

Even though I fail.

And maybe to some degree because I fail.

God uses our failures as the space to make his strength evident. When we realize our inabilities, our shortcomings, that’s when we have the eyes to see the power of God and how it is perfected.

Check out 2 Cor. 12v7-10,

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Really? Our weaknesses, our failures become our source of strength.

God loves failures.

Our biggest failures often become our greatest accomplishments. That’s how I got to H2O. Orlando was the site of my biggest failure. Where I went deep into depression, where I couldn’t find a job, where I almost obliterated my family, where all of my worst fears about myself became my reality. God is using my biggest failure to be my greatest accomplishment.

I wanna close with this comparison:

You remember Judas, he sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. He failed. Instead of allowing God to redeem him he took his own life.

What about Paul, who made it his life purpose to kill every Christian. He failed. But he allowed God to redeem him and he was the one who brought the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Are you gonna let God use your failures? Are gonna be a Judas or a Paul?

Beat Up, Used Up & Broken

Good Morning! For those of you visiting with us today, my name is Eli. For those of you who are regular attenders… my name is Eli.

I’m super excited about being here to share with you this morning. This is an honor and a privilege to be here this morning.

I am a failure. I’m broken, beat up, used up, spit out, loser, disappointment, inadequate, incapable, insufficient… a failure. Let me try to help you understand how I got here…

I grew up in a Christian home, with an ordained dad & mom. I graduated high school and went to Bible college. You ever notice how when kids who grow up in the church graduate high school and then their faith is challenged? My faith wasn’t really challenged until I was about 30 with a wife and 2 kids. The first time my faith was challenged was as I served at a church in Gainesville that really chewed me up and spit me out. That experience caused me to question who I was, my abilities, my self-worth, self-confidence, my purpose in life, and my calling. I was left without self-confidence, without courage and without belief in myself to accomplish anything (particularly in ministry), feeling like a failure.

Lucky for me, I was pretty quickly hired as a caseworker for DCF, which prohibited me from really processing and working through the feelings of failure this church experience created within me. I really loved working as a case manager, it created in me a passion for the broken and screwed up families around me.

But you see, I sorta felt like Ezekiel. You remember he was in training to be a priest. And before that role could really take off Jerusalem was sacked by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 B.C., and his chance at being a priest utterly destroyed when the temple was blown up.

So I got into case management and saw the underbelly of the American family. The abuse that occurs is sickening and inhuman. However, when exposed with this tragedy, I felt like this was my calling in life, that God was calling me to work in this field to be a ray of light in darkness. I felt as though God had prepared me for this role. After about 4 years at this job it was taken away from me, when I had a supervisor that decided he didn’t like me and formed a personal mission to fire me. Finally, when over-worked and stressed out I reacted to him in a way that gave him the opening he was looking for to fire me. I felt like Jeremiah who said:(Jer.20v7) 7 O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me.

In case you missed what just happened there, he called God a liar. I felt that way. I had 2 careers taken away from me. When I say they were taken away from me, what I mean is I had failed in both. With ministry, I failed in the sense that I couldn’t play the game in such a way to keep a position successfully at a church and I failed in case management in the sense that I couldn’t get along with my supervisor in a way that would keep him from firing me. So here I was married with 2 kids and jobless. I was broken, beat up, used up, throw out, a failure, a loser, worthless, and depressed. I spent a solid 2-3 years depressed and I mean depressed to the point where I was crippled, unable to move forward in life.

I was a failure.

Slowly, God began to awaken me and assist me in realizing it’s ok to be a failure…

Look at Peter, one of my heroes from the Scriptures: He was a failure’s failure. The only thing he didn’t fail at was failing. A few examples:

  1. Walking on Water – or should we say almost drowning in the water?
  2. Cut off dude’s ear… why the ear?!? Was he was just that bad with a sword, that it was completely accidental?
  3. Denied Jesus 3x

He constantly failed and was constantly re-used by God. Constantly restored, constantly redeemed. As I looked at Peter I realized, even in my failures God didn’t view me as worthless. I recalled Romans 5v8 that says,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Or what about 1 Cor. 6v20,

For you have been bought with a price.

Where does that leave us? It leaves us with a God who loves us, who values us & our failures. God loves us even though we fail. We am his creation, his children and as such he values us enough to do whatever is necessary to restore, redeem and return us to him.

Even though I fail.

And maybe to some degree because I fail.

God uses our failures as the space to make his strength evident. When we realize our inabilities, our shortcomings, that’s when we have the eyes to see the power of God and how it is perfected.

Check out 2 Cor. 12v7-10,

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Really? Our weaknesses, our failures become our source of strength.

God loves failures.

Our biggest failures often become our greatest accomplishments. That’s how I got to H2O. Orlando was the site of my biggest failure. Where I went deep into depression, where I couldn’t find a job, where I almost obliterated my family, where all of my worst fears about myself became my reality. God is using my biggest failure to be my greatest accomplishment.

I wanna close with this comparison:

You remember Judas, he sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. He failed. Instead of allowing God to redeem him he took his own life.

What about Paul, who made it his life purpose to kill every Christian. He failed. But he allowed God to redeem him and he was the one who brought the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Are you gonna let God use your failures? Are gonna be a Judas or a Paul?

The Company Men

During the message on a Sunday in June at H2O Church Orlando a trailer for the movie Company Men was shown. This prompted Ronda to want to watch the movie. So we rented it last night.

There were parts of this movie that were hard to watch and that hurt. Several years ago I lost my job and felt many of the feelings that were portrayed by the characters in the movie. That’s what made it hard to watch. Seeing the feelings and emotions that I experienced being played by the actors in a movie. Watching on the faces of the characters when they had to tell their wives and children. When they realized the lifestyle they were used to had to change. When they realized having lost their job meant their children had to sacrifice too. Realizing that much of who they thought they were as men, fathers and husbands was attached to their jobs. And then those jobs were taken away.

This hit home for me in many ways. A few years ago I was in a similar situation in the sense that the agency that I worked for lost it’s contract with the State of Florida for case management. This was a very trying time in my life, it lead to a serious and deep bout with depression. It’s kinda amazing how much of a man’s (or at least this man) worth & value comes from his job. Being able to provide for and care for your family as a man is an incredible source of value and worth.

What this movie was able to accurately portray was how hard it is to overcome those feelings of insecurity and lack of worth. The pain on the faces of the characters was almost too close to home for me a couple of times. I don’t admit this often, but I almost cried during this movie because of feelings/emotions/memories it brought up.

Good job to the makers of this movie to catch the emotions and feelings of the human existence.

The flipside, I feel I must mention, to realizing everything that you thought gave you value does not in fact assess your value is that you begin to discover where true value/worth comes from. In what I would call my darkest times of life, is when I feel that I was the closest to God. It was during this time that I learned to rely/trust/gain value & worth from God and God alone.

I am a child of his first and foremost. Without that, nothing else truly matters. God values/LOVES me enough to die for me. Die for me individually, not in some sense of dying for all of humanity (which he did) but for me as an individual.

Me as a sinner and wayward child.

Me.

I am valuable. I am worth something. And that value and worth comes from God and his love for me, not my job or some other earthly experience.

This movie not only brought up feelings that were hard to process again, it also brought up much work that I did in my personal/spiritual life to be aware that I belong to God.

God and his grace are the preeminent defining factors in my life…

Where do you gain your sense of worth/value? Do you turn to God or something/someone else?

What happens when they let you down?

Noah and the Hurting God… Vintage Post

I was reading Genesis earlier this week and I was struck by the passage that speaks of God being grieved in his heart for having made man and was sad/disappointed enough that he was going to destroy the whole world. Plants and animals too, not just the people. I wondered, what changed in his mind that he was ready to destroy everything but then a short time (cf 2 Peter 3:8) later he himself died for our transgressions. I know Ephesians 1:10 says that at the fullness of time Christ appeared on the scene… but why was that fullness not when he was so moved to destroy everything? Was it because he had not yet developed a relationship with his creation the dying for our sins would matter to us? Was it because he hadn’t imparted the Law and therefore we had no recollection of our transgressions for it to matter that he dyed for our sins? Was it to demonstrate the futility of life apart from him? Was it to show us that when we are left to ourselves we will self-destruct and destroy even the beauty of the world? Was it show that being a good, moral person who does what is right still isn’t enough without Christ at the center of our lives? I don’t know. What I do know I that God was saddened enough by how his creation turned out that he wanted nothing to do with it. I know that God couldn’t bring himself to destroy all of it (Noah & his family & the animals were saved). I know that God made a covenant (that is a deal) to never do that again. And he STILL died for our sins. Whatever God’s reasoning, timing and planning were without we would not have the opportunity to know him. We also wouldn’t have a God who disappointment in the most of intimate ways. God was sad. He was disappointed. Many of us have been there. Many of us know what God must have been feeling. What better God is there than one who can say, “I feel your pain!”?

Coffee and kicking the habit of anxiety and depression.

Several years ago I was deep in a struggle with depression and anxiety and what we around this house call ‘edgyness’ (that you wanna climb the walls feeling). It was in the midst of this struggle that I was diagnosed by a friend who is a nutritionist and licensed mental health counselor with celiac or at least a gluten allergy. I generally pay closer attention to the food that is consumed by my body now.

She informed me that caffeine as ingested in coffee was of particular detriment to someone like me in my weakened mental and emotional state. I was drinking a cup of coffee as we spoke on the phone. I put it down and walked away from coffee for about a year and a half.

As you guessed I picked it up again. But I find myself in the midst of heavy anxiety and edgyness once again. I don’t like this because it causes me to respond to the ones I love inappropriately. With anger, frustration and shortness.

I have got to stop this kind of destructive behavior. Such is the way of sin. To lure us in with promises of fulfillment and joy, yet all they do is leave us cold and empty. Coffee may not be a source of contention for you, but it is for me. It seems sometimes as though I let it master me. If this is the case, then it becomes a sin issue for sure. God says to put no other Gods before him and to make no false gods/idols to worship. Am I letting coffee take that place? I realize this may be a stretch and many of you are thinking right now that I am crazy. So be it. But I ask what is your idol that is getting in the way of your loving God? We all have them. I am not unique in that way.

I’m working on a master’s in counseling. In this program there are various theories for how a person can handle or deal with their mental difficulties. I struggle hard when it comes to me and trying to reconcile the mental difficulties that I have had over the years. How, or maybe why, do I continue to suffer from these struggles if I have given my life over to God and I allow his Spirit to dwell within me? I think the answer to that is a lack of faith that he can or will heal me. Is that a problem with me or with God.

For me, being able to beat mental disorders is a question of how big am I going to let God be versus how big am I going to let the depression/anxiety be? If God is who I claim him to be, he can heal me. Or he can choose not to. Or maybe the method he uses is like the one that Ortberg referenced in “God is Closer than You Think” when talking about a professor he knew (with meds).

What I have decided (and I’m trying to reel it in here) is to cut coffee out of my life again. As I pen this I am 3 days dry. That’s a big deal for me. Coffee allows me to manifest behaviors and attitudes, thoughts and feelings that I don’t like nor do I like where they take/allow me to go. If my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit then I ought to take precautions to keep it as clean as I can.

What are you going to do to keep your temple clean for God?