CTRL+Z

CTRL+Z

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

If you could redo one moment in your life, what would it be and why?
How would it change who you are now?


I’m a technology geek. It’s partly a result of working in IT for the last twenty-two years. If you’re not familiar with the keyboard command that is the title of this post, CTRL+Z is how you ‘undo’ a command on most computer applications.

Copied and pasted text into the wrong section of your term paper? CTRL+Z. Deleted the wrong graphic from the presentation that’s due in ninety minutes? CTRL+Z. Realized you applied the wrong formula to your financial spreadsheet? Well, CTRL+Z won’t help you there, but whiskey will.

ctrlz

But in all seriousness, today’s prompt is asking what moment in my life I’d most like to CTRL+Z. I wrote last week that I do not believe in the concept of no regrets. Regrets are healthful experiences that, when you step back and look at the fabric of life, allow us to progress as a civilization. I know that’s a weighty statement, but it’s one I find to be true.

There is nothing wrong with making a mistake so long as we learn from it, and in my life I have made many mistakes and I have lots of regrets. Not every mistake has lead to a Disney-esque lesson learned, and not every regret has been life-altering in the direction of betterment. Still, when I look at the road map of decisions that have brought me to where I am today, I see some glaring moments at which I could’ve been better, as well as some ‘what if’ bubbles that rob me of sleep from time to time.

To deliberately sound cliché, I wouldn’t change any of it.

I am experiencing my current life because of God’s divine grace, and because of the decisions, both good and bad, I made over the years. The pattern being; when I was prayerful and surrendered my burdens to Christ, I was blessed with good decision making. In those times I stepped away from God and tried to do life on my own terms, the bonehead moments were plentiful.

Yet our human nature, one that is sinful and proud, which by extension makes us innately greedy for comfort and ease, enjoys harping on those times in our past that slowly eat away at us. It’s the enemy whispering in our ear, “if only” or “what if.” We can’t undo the past, but God can undo our sins. In fact, He already has through His son Jesus Christ. All we have to do is ask Him to forgive us.

So as easy as it would be to say I wish I could undo that time in my life when I had an affair that cost me my first marriage, I use that experience in order to be a better husband in my current marriage. When I think about how I wish I would have been less hard on my kids, I allow myself to feel pride at how wonderful and respectful my children, now young adults, are. That homeless person I ignored on the street out of some meritless sense of fear? I let it serve as a reminder that fear is not from God and that I should be a badass like Jesus was.

If we could undo those moments that make us feel pain and regret, how could we possibly grow as human beings? And if we had no pain and regret, how could we appreciate the beauty that is the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We put too much focus on the CTRL+Z when we should be putting all our effort into the CTRL+S.


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Frankly, My Dear …..

Frankly, My Dear …..

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

If you could be completely honest with no regrets, what would you say and to whom?


As a Christ follower, I do not believe in the concept of no regrets. Regrets are essential to keep us grounded and connected to all human beings with whom we interact. In the same way our nervous system protects our bodies (the feeling of heat helps keep us from being burned), I believe the ability to feel regret mirrors that function for our souls. Regret requires us to be critical and thoughtful with our actions and decision making so as to not hurt others or even ourselves.

All that being said, I am torn at the question in today’s prompt. I immediately think about the darkest time in my life, and how I would react then versus how I would react now if given the opportunity to confront face the person whom I hold held responsible.

Bobby Cox
Thinking of you *used* to make me want to go full-on Bobby Cox.

Being eleven years removed from my personal rock-bottom, and having lived a wonderful, God-restored life since then, I’ve been able to both grant and receive forgiveness and, for the most part, not look back. Still, there is something healthy – in a cathartic kinda’ way – to go through the motions in my mind of lashing out at those who’ve hurt me.

Still, in the end, His instructions as dictated by His word always ring true. As a result, I think my exercise for this prompt goes something like this.


“I’ve been waiting a long time to tell you this to your face. I haven’t seen you since you hurt me, and now it’s my turn to do the same!”

Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. – Luke 6:28

“You looked me in the eyes and told me time and time again that you would be there for me. And when push came to shove, you weren’t.”

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. – Colossians 3:13

“I gave up everything for you. I changed my whole life for you. I made you my priority above everything else.”

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. – Matthew 6:33

“We were perfect together and you ruined everything!”

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. – Romans 8:6

“You left me there, all alone and by myself. You left me there shattered, and you didn’t even look back.”

Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. – Psalms 30:2


The moral of the story is clear. For every angry, hate-filled, vitriolic, driven-by-revenge tongue lashing the devil urges us to deliver, God has already provided His response to us via Scripture.

We pick and choose what we say and what we reveal to whom according to our human sensibilities, but because God sees all and God knows all, we have no choice but to be completely honest with Him. When we surrender our pain to God and allow ourselves to operate in forgiveness of others, we can rest assured we’re on the path of truly living a life with no regrets.

revenge


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Pain, Ink.

Pain, Ink.

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

When was the last time you did something brave? What happened?


I like to think I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, but I am by no means one of those adrenaline junkies that get a thrill from enduring grueling and painful conditions. For the most part, I embrace my lazy side and you can usually find me on the corner of comfy and cozy. So it took focused determination to pull the trigger on an idea I’ve had brewing in my mind for …. well years.

My wife and I are planning to transition to full time mission work in the 2019 – 2020 time frame. We’ve participated in several short-term missions with our church, and our hearts are in dedicating ourselves to serving God with all we have. One of our favorite memories is being in the Dominican Republic with our pastor who has the story of King David tattooed on both his arms. Who knew permanent ink on skin could be a tool to evangelize the word of God?

Pastor Paul Wirth
Pastor Paul Wirth

As we prepare for our third visit to the D.R. in January, I wanted to take a page from my pastor’s playbook and wear my faith on my sleeve as well. So tonight, while basically all of America was watching Game 7 of the World Series, I was sitting in a chair at my friend’s tattoo shop getting my first (and second) ever tattoos.

I’ll admit, brave perhaps is not the most appropriate word to describe my decision, but it’s not something into which I entered lightly. There was the uncertainty of how painful actually getting a tattoo would be. There was the concern of how they would come out. There was a touch of anxiety at the thought of eventually showing them to my mom. There were a lot of hurdles, mostly mental, I had to clear to bite the bullet and get inked.

…but in the end, I remembered that fear is not from God, and after all He’s done for me, wearing my faith for everyone to see and using the talents of my friend and tattoo artist Shawn to help share Christ with others is the least I can do for Him. I guess if I really think about it, there was nothing to be scared about at all.

20161102_223401


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Retreat and Surrender

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

When you’re having a bad day with your mental health, what do you do to help yourself?


Where do I even begin?

I guess, since this is November, I have to start with Thanksgiving. Not the holiday, but rather the ever-present need to be thankful for all God has given me.

I am thankful for not being afflicted with a clinically diagnosed mental health issue (although I have members in my family who have). I am thankful for not be saddled with a medical condition that requires a daily regiment of medications (although I have members in my family who have). I am eternally grateful for the health and well being of my two teenage children (although I have members in my family who can’t say the same).

Yes, life sucks sometimes. It’s cruel and unfair and it can be consistently inconsistent. Yet for every crappy day, my experience has taught me it can always be worse. I know that sounds quaint or trite, and yes, I know I’m perhaps oversimplifying the big picture; but there is truth in the anecdotal, albeit cliché saying, “this, too, shall pass.”

There is no one right answer for handling adversity or managing those ‘mental health’ days. The prescription for getting through the storm is as unique as our fingerprints. Still, as a person of faith, I believe there is one common denominator.

I used to surrender my crap to really, really loud music. Pop in the Van Halen, turn the volume up to eleven, and just let Eddie’s shredding on his guitar take me far away from where it is I was. When that didn’t work, I’d hand my problems over to alcohol. My happy place was inevitably found at the bottom of a bottle of booze. But ear drum and liver damage aside, what I was truly wrecking was my soul.

booze

Over the last decade, I’ve learned that everything in my life begins and ends with God. To put it in a mathematical analogy, He provides the parenthesis of my minutes, hours, days, years, and life.

(me), where ( = God and ) = God

Not only is this perspective highly effective when it comes to pressing through the tough times, it is absolutely liberating as well. Being able to surrender my problems to the Lord has helped me elevate above the worldly problems that arise and overcome them while minimizing the mental and emotional impact on my life. Please don’t get me wrong, just because I believe in God and have a relationship with Christ does not mean my life is easy and nothing bad ever happens. That’s not what I am saying. Rather, when the *bleep* hits the fan, dealing with it all becomes a less stressful situation because of my faith in Him.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

– John 16:33 NIV

For me, it all begins and ends with prayer. Effective, focused, and intentional prayer is how I get through the ‘mental health’ days. Sometimes God is immediate with His blessings and opens my eyes to the solution I am seeking. Sometimes He’s not, and the blessing is in the growth that results from the pressing through the tough time. Either way, I’ve found that when I make my time with God a PTA meeting (Praise, Thank, then Ask), there is no problem too great for Him to resolve.

PTA

When tough times arise, I now turn down the volume of the world and inebriate myself with the Holy Spirit. It’s not always easy, but that’s the thing with faith; it’s not supposed to be.


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Mission Lacking

Mission Lacking

One of my recent homework assignments for my Christian counseling class was to provide a news article and write about how it applies to the world of counseling. As I completed the work, I felt compelled to share it.


I think it’s difficult for those of us living in the comfort, security, and luxury of life in the Western world to truly appreciate and understand what is happening in Syria. Even more so, we can’t begin to make sense of how a child raised in the midst of civil war must be interpreting what it means to be alive. For all their time on earth, war, displacement, and pain have made up their reality.

In this article from Catholic News Service, it’s apparent there is a need for individuals who are trained in counseling to hold the hands – both figuratively and literally – of the children affected by Syria’s five-year civil war. The article speaks to the erratic and sometimes aggressive behavior refugee children exhibit in camps. The after-effects of the war are as shattering emotionally as they are physically to the buildings these children once called home.

We see many groups and individuals leave their modern world behind to serve as Christian missionaries around the world, sharing the gospel of Jesus, working to make believers out of those who have been lost. This article, however, shows there is chasmic need for individuals to carry the cross of trauma counseling for these children.

kid

Attending to the emotional and psychological need of these young refugees is as much a mission of good news as are the other works of lay people in the field evangelizing the name of Jesus Christ. I think we tend to neatly compartmentalize the role of Christian counselors to working with couples in marital distress or American kids dealing with issues that weigh them down (drugs, anger, sexuality, etc.) But as Christians, we’re called to reach out to those who require our help, and there seems to be such an infinite need for help on the part of war-torn kids who most likely do not have a concept of what it means to grow up happy or safe.

Being a Christian does not mean our lives our meant to be easy (John 16:33), but it does mean reaching out to those in need (1 John 3:17-18). For Christian counselors, this means setting aside our own comforts in order to provide some comfort to a little girl or boy who’s known only a lifetime of pain. It means to remind these children they are loved by God, and to be the personification of Psalm 34:18

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

I think my points are best summarized by this video.

The Struggles of a Faith Addict

When I look back at the really spectacular memories I’ve had over the last several years, I realize those moments have come following a time of obedience and spiritual discipline in my life. I firmly believe God provides blessings all the time, but He is extra generous when we strive to live in Him and for Him.

This realization is thrilling. I have at times been overcome by the rush and euphoria of living in faith, of being carefree of my troubles on earth, knowing my prize is on the other side of eternity. There’s a sense of fearless invincibility that comes with living in obedience to God, knowing with absolute certainty that He is protecting you along the way.

But living this way requires a lot of effort, and momentum can be as fickle as a breeze. Living in faith is not easy. Many times it can feel exhausting. It’s not unlike going to the gym. There are some days when I just want a ‘day off’ from making time for God.

I’ve had a lot of those days lately.

Yet God never takes a day off from loving us. He is constant in His love for us.

james

I was reminded of that today when I received a message from a friend of mine whose been through a lot in recent months. Some of it was of his own doing, and the collateral effects were gut-wrenching. Still, through it all my friend maintained his focus on God, and his perspective is an inspiring shot in the arm.

“Maybe God doesn’t always answer prayers as we would like, but it’s my experience that He answers prayers as they need to be answered!”

His is a story of stumbling in darkness and still finding light in the lowest of places.

“…He answers prayers as they need to be answered!”

God’s plan is perfect. God’s timing in revealing His plan to us is also perfect. What is not perfect are the pieces He uses for completing His plan; you and me. We are imperfect beings who struggle with our own burdens. Addiction, greed, desires, temperament; the list of faults is an infinite as God’s love for us.

Still, when we are in relationship with God, it means there are two parties that need to ‘do’. God has already done His part. He always has and He always will. In order for us to experience the euphoria that comes with walking in Christ, we must actually walk. We must actually do. There is nothing passive about having faith.

My friend wrapped up his note to me with this.

“I believe God has helped me, but I also believe that I must continually seek help through prayer, treatment, therapy, whatever it takes. It’s a gift from God that I feel relieved of my burden, and the last thing I want to do is to take that gift for granted by not continuing to do the things which will keep me on the right path.”

There is nothing passive about having faith.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” – James 1:2-4 (NLT)

Faith Run

I hate running. I love it, but I hate it. In a lot of ways, it’s like writing. The best way of saying it is, I enjoy the feeling of having run, but I do not enjoy the actual running itself.

I was a pretty decent runner in high school. I could run a 5k in under 17 minutes, and I was a relatively big fish in a very small pond. I stopped running when I went to college. I was not competitive against the opponents I faced. Instantly, I was a very small fish in very giant ocean. It was disheartening. It was demoralizing. It was defeating.

Running at Tulane University, soooooo many pounds ago.
Running at Tulane University, soooooo many pounds ago.

Fast forward twenty-five years and my desire to keep a promise I made to myself when I turned forty; to run a marathon by the time I am forty-five. So after sitting on that life goal for almost three years, I decided last Fall to start running again.

Did I mention I hate running?

In high school, I had a lot less mass on my frame to hold me down. Six-minute miles are easier to run when you’re susceptible of being knocked over by a strong gust of wind. Today, I have a more intimate relationship with gravity, and downward force is significantly less compatible with forward momentum. In summary, it’s a challenge to find the joy of running compared to pressing through the pain of running. But there are moments, in my experience, when there is the right mix of endorphins and environment that allow that joy of running to come to the surface.

When I picked up running again last Fall, my goal was to run in the Gasparilla 5K in February. I installed the Couch to 5K app on my phone, and it was the perfect trainer for getting in shape to go literally from no running to completing a 3.1 mile race.

When you start out with CT5K, the initial workouts are simple: A five minute warm-up (brisk walk), run for one minute, walk for a minute and a half, repeat over twenty minutes, and conclude with a five minute cool down. Looking back, that workout seems so simple, but it was quite the challenge when I started.

As the workouts progress over the weeks, you get to a point where the run is a ten minute run. I remember the first time I reached that point, and how I thought to myself there was absolutely no way I could continuously run for ten minutes. This morning, I ran the longest I’ve run since the Bush administration (Senior, not Dubya). Four miles, fifty-one minutes, no stopping. Again, looking back to mid-December when I was starting my CT5K program, the idea of running for nearly an hour without stopping seemed – no, WAS – impossible.

After having put in the initial work, grinding the first and second gears of the process, I can set out for longer distances and quicker mile splits. Don’t get me wrong, it still sucks. I was dying when I finished that fourth mile. My hips were aching. My calves were on fire. My breathing could’ve probably landed me a job on a 900-line. I was exhausted and I was in pain, but I did it.

Nike+

And this is almost exactly paralleled with the faith journey I began anew in 2009. I look back and see the growth I’ve experienced in my relationship with Christ since Lee and I began attending Relevant Church the week after we returned from our honeymoon. I look at some of the spiritual challenges I faced transitioning from a ‘completed Catholic’ to someone attending a non-denominational Christian church. I think about some of the the theological hurdles I had to clear in the early days of my new journey, and how easy they appear to me now even though they were really hard at the time.

It’s a process. It takes time.

longroad

I still face theological challenges and areas of growth in my faith. This is especially true since I am a student in Bible College. However, I am better equipped to face them. It can be said I am more ‘fit’ to address these challenges than I was seven years ago. Sermon after sermon, chapter after chapter, verse after verse, mile after mile; we build on the experiences we choose to undertake, even when some of those experiences are not so good along the way.

If you’re new to your faith, remember it’s okay to walk where others are running. If you’re a marathoner with Christ, remember that most of us are still working on building our spiritual endurance. But wherever you may find yourself on your faith journey, take pride in the fact that your on your way. Rejoice in the knowledge God loves you, and He is always by your side.

“Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.” – Philippians 2:16 NLT