Monday, October 17, 2016

When we are overwhelmed by our circumstances, we often fall prey to the common thought that I am all alone and I am the first to experience the intensity of such hardship. But when we take a moment to pause and consider that my life is not all that different from anyone else’s, we can find solace in knowing others have fought similar battles and have lived to tell the tale...and that we don’t have to fight our battles by ourselves.
Fifteen years ago, I moved from living in the Northeast corner of rural Louisiana where I worked with young adolescents in a local church to do the same thing in the Southeastern part of Washington State. When I accepted the ministry position, I was posed the question as to why I thought I could go from working with students in the rural South to working with students in the Pacific Northwest...the subcultures were so different. Yet, I knew at the very heart of every young person lies the same need...the need for belonging, the need for acceptance, the need for unconditional love. This fact is true for young and old alike. The preferences in music, clothing, hair styles, and recreation may be strikingly different; but the confusion, the frustration, the angst is universal.
As I am wrapping up my 30s this year, I realize deep down in the soul of man, the struggles do not change. The preferences in music, clothing, hair styles, and recreation continue to be strikingly different, but the confusion, the frustration, and the angst continue to be universal and present in the lives of many people, no matter the age. Pascal realized this back in the 1600s when he said, “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.”
So, take heart, whoever you are. You are not the first to experience what you’re going through. And more importantly, you are not alone. There are people in your world that care and want to walk alongside you; and there is a God that wants to fill the void in your life. You are not alone. If you need a traveling companion, I am here for you. If you want to grab a McAllister’s Sweet Tea and talk, here is my number: 618.889.3031.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The diem won't carpe itself...

Disclaimer: Run-On Sentences and a couple words of profanity are to follow. You have been duly warned.

16 years ago today at the age of 21, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. My life changed forever that day.

I have written a lot about that day; and how it has changed me for the good and for the bad. I have a feeling I will write about that day for the rest of my life.  Every day before that day and every day after that day has been a gift from God. He truly gave me the hope, the strength, and the perseverance to push through the whole cancer experience. Everything that is good, and noble, and honorable about me is because of what Jesus has done in me and through me.  With that said, I want to concentrate the rest of this post on one small, but significant life lesson I learned on that day, that hinges not on God’s part of the experience; but on my part of the experience.

It has been said in more eloquent ways than I will state here in this post; but here it is:  Much of your happiness and success in life will be determined, not by what happens to you; but how you respond to what happens to you.

There are some things in life...sadly, most of the things in life…that are out of the realm of your control. You do not control as much as you think you do. The quicker you learn this in life, the sooner you can start to learn the power of influence that you can wield in life.

It is important to develop the habit of taking the initiative in be proactive.  Much of life is yours for the taking, if you just put forward a little more effort, a little more elbow grease, and a little more enthusiasm in the endeavor that you have before your path than the other person you might find competing with you for that specific prize.  Some times, it’s that easy; because many times people are too damn lazy and see a little challenge as being too damn hard.  But I digress.

The mindset that we are able to administer to our daily lives is firmly within our realm of control. It can not be easily overstated how significant our mindset can determine our trajectory in life. So when we have moments in our day that we did not create or initiate, our only control we have is how we respond.

I may be over-complicating the simple; but I truly believe how we respond to even “minor” experiences can sometimes have significant ripple effects in life. I’m not talking about what side option you choose for your value meal at lunch; but the interaction you have with the woman at the drive-thru. You have no idea what kind of influence you can have on her life...and how it might inadvertently affect yours.

I think about the ripple effects of the choices I made on this day 16 years ago. I had no idea what they would bring...but neither did my medical professionals. If I took the pessimistic, victim-mentality, I could easily say that cancer and the choices I made that day ruined my life or at least the plans I had for my life leading up to that day.

But I can’t think that way...I choose not to think that way. Even though I have the thought in the back of my head (barring any unforeseen tragedy in my life) that the health complications I have developed as a result of my radiation treatment will play a role in how my life will end, I cannot...I will not let that be the guiding force in how I live out my life.

We are made for so much more than a reactive life that defines itself on what happens to us. I firmly believe my life has the chance to count for something...something greater than what I can accomplish on my own, in my own strength. I strive and I yearn to be able to invest my life into something that will outlive myself and truly have a lasting impact on the people I have the honor of being in community with.

Long story short is this: God loves you. God has a plan for your life. God wants to do a great work in you and through you. Life is a great adventure. Put your faith in God. Take risks. Invest into people. Give God the glory. Buckle up. And enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

This is not the way things should be = Divine Discontent

The following excerpt is from The Journey of Desire by John Eldridge:

Something awful has happened, something terrible. Something worse, even, than the fall of man. For in that greatest of all tragedies, we merely lost Paradise - and with it, everything that made life worth living. What has happened since is unthinkable: we've gotten used to it.  We're broken in to the idea that is just the way things are.  The people who walk in great darkness have adjusted their eyes.  Regardless of our religious or philosophical beliefs, most of us live as though this life is pretty much the way things are supposed to be.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wounded Healers...

This morning I am in a reflecting mood. I remember a talk given by Rick Warren over 15 years ago; and the thesis of the talk has echoed numerous times along my journey. The talk is based on the passage of Scripture in Genesis 32, where Jacob wrestles with God. Before the match is over, two things happen to Jacob: 1) God touches Jacob's hip so that as they wrestled, Jacob's hip came out of socket. The Bible says that from then on, Jacob walked with a limp. 2) God blesses Jacob and changes Jacob's name to Israel.

The words I remember Rick Warren speak are these: "If you want to be used by God, you will walk with a limp for the rest of your life."

Warren goes onto teach the idea that God uses us through our sufferings and weaknesses to help others navigate through this difficult journey called life.

I think God uses us though our suffering for many reasons:
1. It clarifies the source of strength in our life. The 1st Step in the 12 Step Recovery Movement is acknowledging that we are powerless, and that our life has become unmanageable. We can achieve a lot from our own will power and intelligence. But in the end, we will always come up short. We cannot do life alone (at least not happily & successfully). We need help from a higher source.
2. It humbles us before Him, and opens us up to further spiritual formation. God is continuously working on his masterpiece that we call me. This is not said out of arrogance; but a heart filled with grace.  Ephesians says:
    For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. 
3. It humbles us before others, and opens us up to true community.  To love and be loved. To know and be known.  We may become friends with people by being initially attracted to them by their intelligence, humor, or success; but the strong roots of friendship are grown only when the shared experiences of struggle are shared.
4. It reminds us that our primary role is to serve. God will definitely use our gifts and strengths; but the sharing of our sufferings with others has great power to change lives as well.

Where in life have you suffered?  
Have you turned the experience over to God, and sought out true and deep healing? 
Ask God to meet you where you suffer.
Ask him to touch you and heal you.
Ask him to bless you and use you to be a source of healing for others.

Georges Rouault
Next Time:  I'll share some of my personal struggles...maybe. :-)

Rick Warren article on How to Lead through Weakness
The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen