An Unpleasant Emotion

fear 1

fear

ˈfir/
noun
  1. 1.
    an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

    “drivers are threatening to quit their jobs in fear after a cabby’s murder”

    synonyms: terrorfright, fearfulness, horroralarmpanicagitationtrepidation,

    dreadconsternationdismaydistress; More

There you have it. Fear.

When I think of fear, I can’t help but to think of The Replacements and the classic locker room scene where the coach asks them to admit their fears. Watch it here.

I have come to believe the reality of life is that we are held back in every aspect of lives by fear. Fear takes on many faces and comes in many forms, but the ultimate reality is that fear controls us all at some time or another. Fear traps us and keeps us from being able to move forward in life. Fear inhibits, prohibits and limits us from moving. It paralyzes. It overcomes and overwhelms. It conquers and leaves devastation in its wake.

Why? Why do we let fear immobilize us the way we do? Is fear really that powerful? Does fear really have that much control? Has fear been unlimited power, rendering us powerless to battle against it?

I think what gives fear its power is the unknown or the intangible nature of what it does to us. There are times when our fears are rooted in reality or in previous experience. But many times, fear is not rooted in anything other than our own fear of fear or a fear of the unknown or fear of an outcome based on insufficient or incomplete information. Let me explain. On Friday I took the youth from Grace Landing’s group home to a high ropes course. A couple of the obstacles we tackled you had to climb a ladder for about 15 feet, then climb a telephone pole for another 15 feet arriving at the obstacle approximately 30 feet in the air. One of the youth was barely able to make it off the ladder. He was afraid of falling. His fear in that moment was fear of an unknown, or more specifically fear based on insufficient or incomplete information. He was wearing a climbing harness which was secured around his waist. He was securely attached to a safety rope by locking carabiner. The safety rope was proper rigged and secured to an anchor point. There was a trained professional belaying this youth. There was literally no way for this youth to be injured while at the ropes course, yet his fears kept him from experiencing the ropes course to its fullest. His fear based on insufficient and incomplete information – if he fell, he would get hurt or die. His fears were never going to be realized at the ropes course.

This happens to us across the expanse of our lives. We face situations and determine our course of action based on what we think could possibly occur and if it is an outcome we don’t like, we are afraid. We begin to fear the outcome and then fear has crippled us from completing the task at hand. Fear based on a possibility. A possibility that is just as likely to not happen as it is to happen. Fear is at its essence being crippled by the possible. Even when experience supports our fear, there is no guarantee the fears will be realized this time around. For the person who gets married and their spouse breaks their heart and leaves them, just because this was their experience it does mean they should withhold from engaging in authentic relationships with other for fear of being hurt again. They may be hurt again, but they may also find a rewarding relationship in which they are surrounded by the love they deserve.

Fear, in reality, only has as much power as we give it. Fear is only as strong as we allow it to be. Fear can only overcome and cripple us because we allow it to do so.

My hope today is identify fear as a force working against us, only having the power we give it. Tomorrow, I want to identify how to limit the power we give to fear.

How has fear limited or crippled you?

Captivity

ColossiansThis morning I was reading Colossians 2 and verse eight stood out to me. This verse has been highlighted in my Bible for years now. Many years ago, as I spoke with a friend who was leaving his wife this passage came to my attention as my friend used all manner of worldly thinking and ideology to justify and explain to me why he had suddenly lost interest and was no longer in love with his wife. He used philosophy and so-called wisdom based on the elemental principles of the world as his basis for why what he was doing was not only ok to do, but the only right thing to do. I believe was taken captive by a philosophy which was unable to provide any legitimate substance or foundation for rational thinking.

We have to tendency to lean towards philosophies or ways of thinking that allow us to justify our actions. We tend to use our desires and actions to interpret Scriptures, rather than allowing Scripture to interpret how we should live. This is what my friend did. This is why Paul cautions us to not be taken captive by hollow, empty, deceitful philosophy. That sentence was very loaded. Let me try to break it down.

Paul warns us to not be taken captive. In the original Greek language, which Paul would have written this, the idea is to not be robbed. He says, look out, keep watch so that you may not be robbed. Don’t let your clear, rational thinking be taken captive or robbed from you. Do not let your thought processes be hijacked and stolen from you. Use your critical thinking and rational thought skills (which I would argue are inherent, built-in aspects of our existence thanks to being made ‘in the image of God’ who possesses critical thinking and rational thought) to see through the empty philosophy.

Paul says, what has taken us captive is empty or hollow. The word is empty, meaning there is nothing to it. No substance. Hollow. Valueless, no merit, nothing inside. As I glance across my desk I see my coffee mug. It is empty. There is nothing inside it. Right now, that has no value. It has nothing in it. At 0646, the mug might as well be dead to me. The mug has zero value to it, because the value it brings is contingent upon Empty mugwhat fills it. Philosophy, a word we get by through the combining of one of the Greek words for ‘love’ and the Greek word for ‘wisdom’, so the loving of wisdom must have substance to it. The philosophy or the train of thinking about wisdom have be full of something, not hollow or it is useless.

Paul goes on to describe the philosophy which has taken us captive as deceitful. In the original Greek text, the words empty and deceit follow each other. The text literally reads, empty deceit according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world. There is much here, but I want to focus on the deceitful aspect. What makes it deceitful? Its emptiness. The fact that it is hollow and promises what it can not deliver. Just like my coffee mug is deceiving into thinking it has value, when it does not because it is empty. So is the philosophy which has bewitched us. It promises big, but delivers nothing. It is deceit because it has no value or substance to it.

It would be presumptuous for me to speak for you, but I don’t want to be taken captive by anything let alone anything which is empty or hollow. Imagine waking up one day, years from now and realizing you have been chasing a hollow, empty dream. Your whole life, everything you put into that pursuit is wasted, all for nothing. Paul is giving us a wake up call to pay attention to the things we place our trust in and what we rely on. Are we trusting in philosophies which are empty and deceitful because they are empty? Are we placing our trust in something of value, something which is not empty? Clearly, Paul is making a subtle argument for placing one’s faith and trust in God and relying on him to find the values and meaning we need to navigate through life. Trust in God is the only thing in the end providing the lasting meaning we crave. There is no other philosophy or tradition providing meaning and purpose equal to what God provides, because God has no equal.

We need to heed the warning and not allow ourselves to be taken captive by empty, deceitful philosophy. We need to place our faith, hope and trust in God each day. We need to allow the Word of God to light our path and direct our steps. (Bet you didn’t expect a theology lesson this morning!)

What empty, deceitful philosophy do you let creep in and distract you?

Bible is lightsaber

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?

All Saint’s Day

574797_3631959845175_594874501_nEven though I am a day late writing this, I wanted to share it with anyway.

November the first is All Saint’s Day. This is a religious holiday that was created as a response to All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween as we know and celebrate it. All Saint’s Day commemorates those who have attained sainthood as a response to the commemoration of the dead (and presumably evil spirits) which happens on Halloween. Unless you are Catholic, you probably have no idea what this holiday is about.

November 1, also happens to be my mom’s birthday. I was afforded a special treat and had her at my house on her birthday this year and I was able to celebrate it with her. I don’t recall the last time I was in her presence on her birthday. Before you brand me a bad son, keep in mind we live 500 miles a part. We had a joyous time joking that the day is called All Saint’s Day thanks to her being born on that day. We tried our best to make her feel special and celebrate her.

What I want to share with you, is not thoughts on Halloween or All Saint’s Day… I want to share a few thoughts on my mom. As most sons will tell you, their mother is the best mom and I am no exception. She is the best mom I could have hoped for or wanted or deserved. I’m not sure how she put up with me all these years, because if as a child I was anything like I am as an adult I am sure I was challenging. There are many things my mom has taught me, but three things stand out to me.

  1. She taught me to never give up. This may seem simple, but it really isn’t. There are many times throughout our lives where we will want to give in, to throw in the towel, to just give up. I have seen my mother deal with some very difficult situations and to take on responsibilities that are very heavy and overwhelming to her. But each day she never gives up. She continues through the difficulty, through the hardship and through the toughness. My mom taught me, that no matter difficulty or obstacle is in front of you you must overcome it, you take it head on and you must not give up.
  2. She has taught me the power of enjoying the little moments of life. No matter what is going on around you, there is never not enough time to enjoy those you love. There is always time to share an experience, to snap a photo, to slow down and enjoy the little things which bring joy to those around us. Enjoying the little moments keeps us from getting uptight and upset about trivial details which don’t matter anyway. She taught me to not get hung up on little inconveniences when they result because we allow kids to be kids.
  3. She has taught me above all else, never stop trusting God. Each of us have experiences and encounters which lead us to question and wonder where God was in the midst of our pain. Why would he allow us to suffer? Why wouldn’t he step in and stop this from happening? Why? Despite these questions and pondering, we must not stop trusting that he is our father and that he loves us and that is still in control of the things happening around us. She has been an example of trusting God through the good times, the easy times, the bad times and the utterly difficult and unthinkable times.

My mom is an unsung hero in my life. These aren’t the only things she has taught me… it would be impossible to write everything I have learned from her. But these highlight the character and essence of who my mother is: a Godly woman, a woman who is able to find joy amongst the whirlwind and a woman who will never stop. These are characteristics I try to cultivate in my life and hope to cultivate in lives of my boys.

I love you, mom. Thanks for being who God created you to be. Thanks for being my mom.

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?

It’s all about People

baby eliw

I’m not the best dad this world has to offer.

I’m not the best husband this world had to offer.

I’m not the best brother or son this world has to offer.

I’m not the best friend or co-worker this world has to offer.

 I’m not the best director or supervisor this world has to offer.

But what I am, is implicitly aware one of the things that matters most is relationships with people. People matter more than most other things. The relationships we build with people matter more than most other things. In my line of work, building authentic and trusting relationships are critical. It is the bedrock upon all of what I do is built. I am in the business of people. And people want to know you care about them. People want to know they matter to you.

I have learned there are three sure-fire ways to torpedo a relationship and totally destroy a chance to make an impact in someone’s life.

  1. Sarcasm – This is tough for me, because I fancy myself a sarcasm expert. My ability to use sarcasm extends beyond the average person’s ability. I am really good at it. I can use sarcasm in every scenario. There is no situation where a healthy dose of sarcasm isn’t warranted. Sarcasm is cutting, injurious and it tears down instead of building up. It is the antithesis to building relationships.
  2. Belittle them – This is easier to do than you would think sometimes. It is easy to answer with a short, terse answer that hurts. Belittling comes in many shapes and sizes, but it often looks like treating them, their experiences or ideas as stupid. When we do this, we communicate they are not valued and their ideas aren’t valued. Belittling someone makes them feel small and insignificant.
  3. Dismiss them – Dismissing others tells them they don’t have value. Not just their ideas, but they themselves aren’t valued, aren’t important, they aren’t relevant, that they don’t matter.

On the flip side, I have learned there are at least three ways to build any relationship, deepen it and show those in it you care about them:

  1. Put people first – No matter else is going on, what the heat of the matter is… focus on caring more about the person than the issue. Issues will come and go and aren’t want really matters… people do. Show people you care by placing them above whatever the issues at hand is. More than that support your people. Let them know you have their back and this issue is in no way going to affect your relationship.
  2. Be humble – If you are like me, this is hard. Not because I’m overly prideful (although I am at times), but because this includes a significant amount of vulnerability to admit when we are wrong or to allow others to speak into our lives for purposes of improvement or to offer advice. Humility says, I don’t have all the answers and maybe you can help. Humility is keeping a proper view of ourselves and out limitations. Humility doesn’t have to be right or have the last word.
  3. Put yourself in their shoes – Trying to understand their perspective will go a long way to building your relationship. Being able to consider their side of the story or to see where they are coming from will help you to put them first and remain humble. Understanding their side helps us to understand why they are acting the way they are, it helps us to know their heart.

People are important. People need to know they are important to us. We have to make efforts to ensure people know we care about them and that we are committed to building an authentic, trusting relationship with them. Will you take the extra effort and focus on the relationships with the people around you?

Impossible Tasks

Have you ever had a job or supervisor where you were consistently given tasks which you were sure were near impossible to accomplish? Over the history of my work experience, I have found myself in the position where I was given tasks I wasn’t 100% sure I was able to complete.

This got me to thinking…

Was my supervisor aware of the near-impossible nature of the task? Did they have an accurate understanding of what it was going to take to accomplish the task? Were they totally unaware of what was going to be required? Did they care? Were they so focused on the end result of the task, the steps it would take to get to the end were irrelevant?

Did they expect failure? With some past supervisors, this is a legitimate question. I expect that some actually wanted me to fail. But for the others, did they even consider failure was possible? Had they considered what failure would look like? Had they considers what would be the next steps if failure occurred?

I suppose it is possible they knew they were asking the impossible of me, but expected I would be able to pull off a miracle and get it done. If this is the reasoning there could be one of two things motivating this approach: their expectations are just too high and unrealistic; or they see something in me I don’t see and they know I am capable of the impossible.

I’d like to believe the latter.

Working in a high-pressure environment is made a little easier if you believe your superiors are committed to and believe in you and your potential as an employee and person. High demands and unrealistic timetables and deadlines cease to be traps for failure as they turn into moments for surprise and wonder or for you show what you are capable of accomplishing. They become moments for you make yourself into a linchpin, to become invaluable to your organization.

Next time your supervisor gives you an unrealistic task with an impossible deadline, consider maybe they expect more from you because they see you are capable of more.Evernote Camera Roll 20150611 084659

Victimology

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colbycriminaljustice.wikidot.com/criminal-profiling-2012

victimology |ˌviktəˈmäləjē|
the possession of an outlook, arising from real or imagined victimization, that seems to glorify and indulge the state of being a victim.
I want to share with you a mindset or approach to life that has crippled me more than anything else other than being a sinful, fallen human being.
Being a victim. I should clarify, I don’t mean I have been crippled by an actual victimization that has occurred. That is different than this. Some of us have experience trauma and abuse and are victims of tragedy. I mean another kind of victim.
I mean the kind of victim that can best be described as passivity. This kind of victim revels in being a victim. This kind of victim using their victim-ness as an excuse to not move forward. This kind of victim is crippled and unable, dare I say unwilling, to make any changes or adjustments to their live in order to grow and move on from whatever circumstance they find themselves in.
This kind of victim is passive. They allow life to happen around them, to them… without taking any stand or trying to effect or impact what is going on around them. This kind of victim assumes they aren’t able to change anything so they don’t try. They passively watch as life passes them by, thinking to themselves how unfair it is that everyone else has everything they want and how good stuff happens to everyone else but me, I’m stuck here in the mud with crap just happening to me.
I am a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern (fancy way to say Licensed Mental Health Counselor in training) and have suffered my share of mental health related difficulties. I am aware of the intricacies of mental health struggles and how difficult it can be to take responsibility and action in our lives. I know how easy it can be to allow life to happen without trying to engage and impact the direction of life. Please understand that when I say, we can’t afford to passively approach our lives.
I only took seven years to complete my Master’s degree, which gave me plenty of time to think through and mull over how I approach mental health. I have realized a couple things about how I approach mental health issues. First, we all have a backstory. Each one of us has a history that helps to explain who we are and where we have come from. For many of us, in that backstory are clues to why we are using the particular coping strategy to manage life. Oftentimes, we don’t even realize our coping strategies are maladaptive or unhealthy… they are the only ones we know.
Secondly, in that backstory is the root issue we must face and overcome if we are to move on with our lives. For each of us this is different. It may be trauma or abuse. It may be our perception of experiences we had growing up. It may be unresolved guilt or anger. Whatever the root issue is, it will eventually have to be overcome.
Thirdly, I know we are responsible for our actions, thoughts and behaviors. We have to be. We aren’t machines or robots. There are at times circumstances making it more difficult for us to act, think or behave in certain ways… but that doesn’t give us a pass to sit back and stop acting, thinking or behaving in rational healthy ways. If we want things to be different in our lives, we are the catalyst to make that happen.
We can no longer accept passivity and victimology. Can’t continue to live life from the sidelines expecting for it to somehow get better or be different if we aren’t willing to get in the game and make an effort to make it different and better. You are responsible for the way you approach life. You are responsible for your victim mindset.
And so am I.
I have come to understand when we approach life and mental health circumstances we have to uncover the root issue in life causing us problems. We have to learn better ways to cope or manage our behaviors. We have to restructure the way we think each day. We have to adjust our behavior patterns to healthier ones, to ones utilizing healthy coping strategies to combat life. We have to take responsibility for ourselves, our actions and the place in life we find ourselves.
I am no longer content playing a passive role in my life, allowing someone else other than me or God to have the spotlight in my life. Are you? Are you ready to actively engage in your life? Let’s and together and overcome passivity and victimology.

Relief from My Distress

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Answer me when I call to you,  my righteous God.  Give me relief from my distress;  have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
Psalm 4:1
Give me relief from my distress. This really stands out to me today. For some reason I feel distressed today. I have committed to stop drinking coffee (again). In the last 12 days or so I have had coffee three times and two of them have been times I have felt stressed and as though I need a release from said stress.. Today is one of those days. I am not sure if I could quantify why it is, but I feel pressure today. I feel pressure for work, I feel pressure for church, I feel pressure for home, I feel pressure for personal life, I feel pressure everywhere. It is in a moment as this, I find myself wanting to be a part of a small group of men with whom I can find confidence and community. Not really an accountability group or mentoring one… just something where I can hang out and we can do life together, as cliche as that sounds/is. It feels as thought the pressure I feel could have some release if I had a community like this to engage in. But this has little to do with the pressure specifically, or how I may find release of it in God.
Why should I feel distress? Am I holding back from giving something to God that he can handle and relieve the distress from me. At this moment, my mind wanders to Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” It’s almost as if he knew his children would feel pressure, feel the weight of life and feel the need for rest. It’s almost as though he has felt this same pressure, this same need for release, this same heavy burden of life. Therein lies the need for a Savior who was human just like me, a Savior who has experienced exactly what I experience, a Savior who has walked in my shoes.
Honestly, as I have come to understand God and his interaction with me individually through Jesus and the Holy Spirit I have come a greater understanding of the lengths God has gone to in order to have the greatest amount of empathy possible. God took it upon himself to become like me so he could understand the struggles of being me day in and day out. It adds a huge amount of credibility to his claims of being able to offer me the rest and relief from distress I seek knowing he has walked through the same trials as me. For me, this is why i turn to God in times of distress. Because I have experienced him in such a way that I find his claims to be relevant and true. His claims that he can offer what no other ‘god’ can offer to be truthful. In my times of distress I have trusted in every of possible avenue to relieve the distress and none of them worked. None provided the relief I was looking for.
Jesus’ words to find in him rest for a weary soul are refreshing words to me, someone who has looked for rest and found it nowhere else but in him. Today, as I feel distress and pressure and the need for release I will find the rest and relief and release in a God who can offer a lighter burden to me. What about you? Will you allow Jesus to carry your burden?

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.