SOAP: Day Fourteen – Open Your Eyes!

I’ve gotten behind on SOAP and I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s not that I haven’t been in the Word and in prayer and seeking how to live from His righteousness and not mine.

And it’s surely not because I haven’t been writing, the evidence is all over my page as I press into the stormy waters of my emotional pains from the past and seek deeper understanding and surrender.

But I committed to doing one SOAP per day, and the reality is, I de-prioritized it.

It doesn’t do any good to beat ourselves up if we don’t hold steadfast to an intention, goal or desire, but it is important to take ownership of the decisions and not make excuses.

Instead of skipping days, I will now seek the discipline needed to catch up and stay on course. That means I will have to do at least 2 one day soon, and that’s ok. And if I miss another, then there will be three.

The choice is always ours, where we are in life is directly related to the priorities we set and the actions we take, period.

Scripture

John 4:27-42  (NIV)

The Disciples Rejoin Jesus

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But he said to them, I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

34 My food, said Jesus, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Many Samaritans Believe

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Observation

  • v27 – But no one asked…
  • v34 – My food is to do the will of him who sent me
  • v35 – open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest
  • v36 – harvest a crop for eternal life
  • v36 – So that the sower and the reaper may be glad together
  • v39 – many believed…because of the woman’s testimony
  • v40 – they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed 2 days
  • v41 – because of his words many more became believers
  • v42 – [we believe] [not because of what you said, but because of what he said]
  • v42 – this man really is the Savior of the world

Application

v27 – Nobody asked Jesus why he was talking to “the Samaritan woman”. Gee, I guess not being willing to talk about the elephant in the room has been around a long time. Was it out of fear or respect?

  • How often do I question God in my heart when events unfold in a way that makes no sense to me? 
  • Am I honest enough to go to Him with my concerns or secretly despise Him in His apparent failure? 

v34 – Food = doing God’s will? Clearly, he’s talking about spiritual sustenance, and this is a wonderful passage that shows the importance of not just praying, worshiping and going to church to receive from God, but that we must also be doing the work of the Kingdom to maintain our spiritual health.

  • In what ways am I serving God and doing His work? 

v35 – Open your eyes and look. Man, this one hits home. If you want to know how you can begin doing the will of God, simply ask Him to break your heart for what breaks His. You will begin to see pain, suffering, oppression, poverty, loneliness, fear, sickness and a host of other human sufferings that God wants to use us to step into, to be His heart, hands, and feet. But we can’t do that until we see through His eyes.

  • Have I opened my eyes to the needs of others? 
  • If so, how do I respond when I see a need I could fill? Avoid eye contact? Cross the street? Justify it by thinking “it’s just a Samaritan woman”?

v36 – A crop of eternal life. Again, this is so convicting. I do pray, I do worship, I do share the Gospel (somewhat anonymously through this blog), I come alongside other believers. But we are talking about the Salvation of souls.

  • How much urgency do I feel to talk to friends, family, co-workers, or complete strangers about the Good News of Christ for fear that if they don’t wake up, they are going to hell?
  • Do I really believe eternal damnation is on the line for all non-Jesus followers? 
  • Would my insecurity in sharing my faith matter at all if I truly believed the people I know and love are going to experience eternal suffering without Jesus?

v36 – the purpose of sowing is to make a harvest possible. And with that, both the sower and the reaper are rewarded with joy in seeing lost souls saved.

  • Do I get excited when witnessing baptisms?
  • Do I get emotional when others respond to an altar call?
  • Do I even care about other’s faith journey?

v39 – Many believed because of one person’s testimony. If she had not told others about how God invaded her life and offered to change everything, the town would not have come to know Jesus, or find eternal salvation. One woman’s testimony.

  • Do I have a testimony for Christ?
  • Do I share it with others and excitedly say “come see”. 
  • Do I even believe my testimony matters?

v40 – They urged him to stay.

  • Do I ever pray to Jesus with urgency?
  • Do I open God’s Word with urgency?
  • Do I seek discernment, courage, and strength from the Holy Spirit with urgency?

v41 – Because of his words. The Word of God makes believers. Not my words, not my prayers for someone. Not my lesson plans, or creative ideas.

  • Do I invite people to religious activities or introduce them to Jesus? 
  • Do I see myself improperly as the harvester, or understand that I am just a sewer of His Words?

v42 – because of what he said. Again, my testimony, my grace & compassion, service to others, my loving-kindness and other Christ-like qualities draw people to me, but it’s critical that I hand them off to Jesus.

  • The same questions above apply, is my discipleship journey of redemption about me or Jesus?

v42 – This man really is the Savior.

  • Am I convinced?
  • Have I heard God’s word in my life? Have I seen His miracles in my life? And I convinced yet, that Jesus is who He said He is?

Prayer

Abba Father, I am so incredibly grateful for your Words that set us free. The last few days have been a difficult deep dive into the memories and emotions of my childhood, but I’m getting through it. I believe that is only possible because the revival of reliance, the remembrance that you are not “just” god, YOU ARE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE, AND YOU LOVE ME, AND YOU PROMISE TO ALWAYS BE WITH ME AND PROTECT, GUIDE AND COMFORT ME. I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH YOU WHO STRENGTHEN ME. When my faith gets weak, my ability to cope weakens. My wholeness is directly proportional to my faith. I confess Lord that in recent seasons I had become complacent, got comfortable with You and forgot what it was like to worship You. Thank you for Your steadfast patience, You have always been there for me, and I’m grateful. 


Man, I love this stuff! This season of renewal is moving mountains in my life. Well established mountains that I didn’t believe were movable. That’s on me for not believing it and not on God for not moving them. He makes all things new, hallelujah!

How about you guys, getting anything out of this SOAP series?

Posted in bible study, encouragement, God's story, gratitude, hope, Jesus, love, S.O.A.P, Salvation, trials | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Can Christians Be Depressed Part III – The Road Ahead

I had no idea 3 days ago when I did the first post on the topic of depression that this was going to turn into a much larger journey than just one blog entry.

I am trusting God with this, especially with Part II posted yesterday which is an honest and raw look into those places many don’t talk about, childhood abuse.

What is happening in this season for me is, I believe, God giving me greater clarity, a new perspective on the trajectory of my life.

And I suspect my story may be similar to anyone who has experienced childhood trauma, abuse or neglect.

As I see it, there are a series of steps we must pass through to overcome the ACEs in our life (Adverse Childhood Experiences)

That doesn’t mean we will (or even can) do the levels in order. This is not a checklist and when you mark off the boxes you are healed.

But I do believe as we gain greater clarity on the origination of our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs which came about from the pain and shame years, the greater our life experience today can be.

The Stages of Childhood Abuse Recovery

  1. Facing and accepting the reality of what happened
    • TO US (mental, physical, emotional, sexual and spiritual abuse)
    • WHAT DIDN’T HAPPEN FOR US (neglect, abandonment, non-nurture, no physical touch, emotional unavailability, poor or absent life-skills teaching, and more)
  2. Becoming aware of the dead and broken places
    • EMOTIONAL DISORDERS (depression, anxiety, phobias, extreme anger or rage, isolation, debilitating fears, OCD, PTSD, AADD and more)
    • NEGATIVE BELIEFS about ourselves and others (self-condemnation, unworthiness, blame, hate, unforgiveness, victimhood, helpless, powerless, people are not safe, nobody can help me, and more)
    • NEGATIVE THOUGHT PATTERNS (extreme thinking, catastrophizing, all-or-nothing, black and white, mind-reading, exaggeration or minimizing, and more)
    • UNHEALTHY COPING MECHANISMS (denial, pride, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, workaholism, perfectionism, people-pleasing, sexual disorders, materialism, gambling, compulsive shopping or exercise, and more)
  3.  Taking ownership of the choices and actions we have made throughout our lifetime
    • INFLICTING HARM ON OTHERS (perpetuating abuse or neglect)
    • INFLICTING HARM AGAINST OURSELVES (addictions, compulsions, self-harm, self-sabotage, self-condemnation)
  4. Making Amends for the harm we have caused
    • TO OTHERS (repay any debts, restore broken relationships, and more)
    • TO OURSELVES (lose weight, eat healthily, beat addictions, learn self-care and acceptance, and more)
  5. Learn to LIVE and LOVE again

This is on the “what” list, what do we need to do to experience new life.

It can look like a daunting list that will take a lifetime to wade through and maybe never even get through it all…  and if you thought that, you would be correct.

Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Complete healing and restoration are not anything we will ever experience this side of heaven.

But I, for one, want to experience more of what God offers

Galatians 5:22-24 (NLT)

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.

So the next big question then becomes how, how do we grow in all these areas?

The answer is LOVE, and God tells us how to love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

 

But if we haven’t been living our life that way, how do we just start doing those things?

How do we break free from the emotional, mental and physical barriers that make living that way feel and look nearly impossible?

1 John 4:7-8 (NLT)

Loving One Another

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

I know, we are stubborn, and rarely do we take advice from others. And even then, only when we truly trust, admire and respect someone will we even listen to what they have to say, or remotely consider following their direction.

And I know, you don’t know me.

But I promise you, I’ve looked everywhere for hope and healing for some 50 years of my life before finding the way out, the way up, the way through.

My young childhood it was anger, resentment, fear, alcohol, drugs, sex… none of that worked

At the age of 21, I got sober through AA and found long-term sobriety, but I still felt miserable inside… that alone didn’t work.

My sobriety, however, did open the door to a great career in Information Technology. But I became a workaholic who struggled my whole life with perfectionism. Trust me, those character flaws are highly rewarded in our performance-based society. I received the most prestigious awards my companies offered, excelled to the top of my fields, made great money… and none of that worked.

I have literally hundreds of books on healing, self-help, and recovery. It all gave me insight, but not understanding or wisdom. I learned a lot but didn’t heal any… none of it worked.

I have been through hundreds of hours of secular and Christain-based counseling. Again, super insightful… but by itself none of it worked.

I have been to hundreds of AA, SA, NA, CR and other “meetings” based recovery groups. All of it was excellent in building community and getting me outside of myself and providing solid wisdom… but none of those by themselves worked.

I poured myself into studying the Bible, attending and serving at church, and leading Men’s discipleship and recovery groups. Those too gave me wonderful experiences close to The Truth, but still, the pain, confusion, and emptiness continued… even those things didn’t work by themselves.

So what was the missing piece that began to change everything for me?

relationship with Jesus

It all starts with a right relationship with God

And that starts through a confession of faith in the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Romans 4:13

Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith.

Romans 5:11

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Romans 5:18

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.

The choice is ours, it always has been.
Our freedom or captivity, depression or joy, has nothing to do with the outside circumstances surrounding our life. But they have everything to do with the condition of our heart, soul, mind, body, and spirit.
And to keep with the theme of this series and answer the question, CAN A CHRISTIAN BE DEPRESSED?
Of course, God sums up the problem and solution much better than I ever could

2 John 1:9

Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.


I don’t know if this blog entry will conclude the Christian Depression Series, but I know this journey for me is not over, not by a long shot.

In fact, God is stirring my heart that this very specific topic of surviving child abuse could be my calling.

I know it’s not just a “life coaching business” in the sense of motivation or overcoming limitations or setting goals and learning how to achieve them. That’s all good stuff, but that comes way after the footholds on healing have overtaken our life.

And it’s not just about blogging. That too will remain a vehicle for getting my message of hope and strength through Christ out to a dying world, but it’s a means, not the end.

It’s got to be about finding some way to tangibly come alongside others who are still suffering from the brutal effects of childhood trauma and neglect and love them toward their own freedom in Christ, while I’m pursuing the same.

So my prayer today is that if you don’t know Jesus personally, may you find the courage to reach out to someone you know, possibly someone you’ve been afraid approach about this, and ask him or her to pray with you and show you how to get started down this wonderful new-life path.

And if you are like me and have known Jesus for a while but have let the message get lost in the weeds that having a right relationship with Jesus by faith is the ONLY way forward, that you will join me in this new season of revival.

And if you’re already there, relying fully on His Grace, Strength, Mercy, and Wisdom, then make sure to keep sharing your faith with others, for you are a light in a very dark and hurting world.

Until next we meet, blessings in Christ,

George

Posted in 12-steps, Addiction, alcohol, bible study, Celebrate Recovery, conviction, depression, drugs, encouragement, faith, God's story, Jesus, love, my story, pornagraphy, Recovery, sex | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can Christians Be Depressed Part II – An Honest Look Inside Pandora’s Box

**** WARNING – GRAPHIC CONTENT ****

THIS POST COULD BE A HUGE TRIGGER FOR ANYONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED CHILDHOOD SEXUAL, PHYSICAL OR EMOTIONAL ABUSE. 

Specifically: Molestation | Physical Beatings | Emotional Trauma

God has been doing mighty healing in me since my coming to Christ nearly 9 years ago. But there is no denying, my internal world is still a mess. 

It’s all about the onion layers…

It’s like we need to wade through the however many years of carnality and misconception we came to believe about ourselves, others, and God before we can see the real Imago Dei in each of us.  

This is my next onion layer, having the unflinching courage to look at what happened to me, take ownership of the choices I have made in my life, and ultimately celebrate who I am today through Christ who lives in me.

THIS IS PART OF MY STORY, AND SHARING IT WITH YOU IS A PART OF MY HEALING


I know I’ve been posting a lot lately.

Like, more than I ever have in nearly 9 years of blogging.

Like, obsessively more.

The good news is, I’m beginning to understand why.

All the pieces of a very complex puzzle have been floating around in my subconscious, trying to surface for years if not decades, maybe even all 5 decades of my life.

But something is different, I’m beginning to see the battle more clearly. 

I’ve been asking God to reveal the pain so I can give it to Him to heal, but every time He opens the box, I retreat back into some of my old coping mechanisms to keep the unwanted emotions suppressed.

I confess that my relationship with God has been like Dr. Doolittle’s Pushme Pullyou, giving Him my heart and then taking it right back.

That explains why they (I see my emotions from a 3rd person perspective, I know it’s a little schizo but it helps, roll with it) why THEY have been typing titles and forcing me to look at stuff.

If you have been keeping up the last few days, or at least read the first entry in this series (Can Christian’s Be Depressed), you will recall that I hit a place in the story where I couldn’t (wouldn’t?) go further.

A strong memory/emotion surfaced and I punched out, gave some eloquent excuse why I wasn’t going to continue, retreated back into the safety of my cerebral pondering, and then put a pretty teaching bow on the whole mess.

That was probably a good thing for two reasons. One, my post would have been more than 6,000 words (like this one, egads!).

And two, I wasn’t ready, I didn’t have clarity.

The Important Stuff Takes Time To Surface

Have you ever had a counseling session, or heard a sermon and walked away thinking “that was interesting I suppose, but not very helpful or inspirational” only to find yourself sometime later having an epiphany that struck paydirt relating to the message?

That’s where I am now.

Along with all the blogging I’ve been doing the last few days, there has also been journaling and some very deep (and heavy) conversations with some trusted brothers in my life.

The kids (another perspective I use for my childhood emotions) want to be heard, seen, felt, understood, expressed.

They want out of their cage.

And the reality is, as I touched on previously, I now realize it’s a cage I built and put them in. And it is only I who can let them out.

The Blame Game

It’s too easy to blame others for the problems we have; especially if they are legitimate targets.

If you were to hook me up to a lie detector and asked me if I have forgiven my parents for the years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse I would have said yes and I believe I would pass the polygraph with flying colors.

I’ve been in recovery groups for over 8 years. And I’ve taken every one very seriously

Alcoholics Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, healing workbooks, discipleship programs, and Bible study courses, all of which I poured my heart, soul, and tears into.

I’ve been to hundreds of hours of therapy and I have thousands of dollars worth of Christian and secular self-help books on my library shelves.

At one point maybe 3 years into recovery, I cried endlessly for months, so much so I had desalination plants calling me for donations.

But if I’ve done all that work, then why, why has my church sermons and the devotionals and online resources I stumble into, and even our current book study in my Thursday Recovery Group (Two Hours to Freedom) over the last few weeks all been hammering me on forgiveness.

They all claim forgiveness is the single most important endeavor we will ever embark upon, especially as a Christian.

They say unforgiveness is the single most destructive force against our soul and prevents the fullness of rebirth that God wants to provide for us; that without forgiveness, nothing else in our healing and sanctification journey is even possible.

Love is the bedrock that all else is built upon. I thought I had done that.

Meet The Architect

In my dream-filled yet sleepless night last night, clarity began to take root.

The events of the past few days played out in a semi-lucid acid trip of symbolism and abstract imagery that was designed to evoke emotion.

And that it surely did.

At 5:55 this morning I was jolted awake by one of those emotions, the one above all others that I am terrified of, that I resist and suppress at all cost. 

It was anger

Anger is something I never let out of the cage, I don’t dare.

You should thank me for it, I’m doing the world a favor.

It’s a burden I took on many years ago, and it’s a heavy burden.

Sure there have been times when it has oozed out, usually when I used to get drunk. Just ask my best friend of 35 years. Back in the day when we would get really hammered, my fun and happy-go-lucky self would begin to throw 1/2 full beer bottles at his head or try to push him off balconies or trash hotel rooms while we were on vacation.

I wasn’t just an angry drunk, I was a scary drunk, wanting to hurt others and not caring if I hurt myself.

All along I thought it was my childhood trauma that was responsible for creating and putting me in the prison cell. The very cell that I have spent decades in therapy trying to break out of.

But the real reason I haven’t been able to escape is that I am the one that built the prison, and voluntarily put parts of me in it. I now recognize the points of origin, the places where I, me, not anyone else, chose to start going underground. 

It’s a cage that I have been begging God, doctors, therapists, friends, and family to unlock for me, but truly nobody can, even if they wanted to.

They can’t unlock it because I’m the one that has the key, I’m the only one that knows the combination.

I can ask a billion people and they won’t be able to help, because nothing will happen until I become willing to let it happen.

Besides, everyone else is holding the codes to their own cages, and it’s a full-time job keeping the kids locked up so they can’t make us feel more loss or hopelessness than we already feel.

That also explains the imagery that I have had for nearly 8 years which is that of Jesus, at my time of salvation and baptism, opening the prison cell door.

He did it without me noticing, but I’ve been very aware that I’ve remained sitting in it an unlocked prison for many years.

I now also understand why I became the architect of my own prison.

Surprisingly to me, it is not so much about keeping others out (although that has been a welcomed byproduct), but more to protect you from me; to protect me from me, to protect the world from what I’ve seen myself capable of.

Fear is what keeps me voluntarily locked in bondage, in solitary confinement.

I feel alone because I choose to be alone, it’s just better that way.

Where It Always Begins

As mentioned, my childhood was a trainwreck, and my earliest memories of abuse are my very first memories in life.

But I also have wonderful memories; riding my bike, fishing, climbing trees, picking berries, playing matchbox in the dirt, catching giant bullfrogs that were so big I could hardly carry them, going for long rides with my dad when he worked sometimes and taking naps on the porch under a metal awning in a huge rainstorm.

In the midst of all the pain and fear, there was still joy, happiness, playfulness, silliness, laughter, adventure, curiosity, excitement, fun, innocence, awe and wonder.

But as I got older, the hurts began to manifest to take over.

I remember trying to get sexual with girls as early as elementary school and I started drinking alcohol and doing drugs by middle school.

I was a hurting kid.

And as I sit here typing now, I can see the bigger picture.

In my last therapy session, I described a vision that I now realize was incredibly accurate and profound, even though I didn’t really understand it at the time.

I told her I saw all my happy kids in a giant cauldron, like in Hanzel and Gretel

cauldron

image source: Pinterest

Happiness, laughter, silliness, playfulness, joy, fun. They were all in the pot and looking at me scared and lonely.

I wasn’t able to do anything with that image at the time, and when she asked me what they wanted to say, I burst into tears and could only mutter a single word…

“Help”

I felt the decades of ache from being separate from them, and for the first time maybe ever, I realized I missed them, desperately missed them.

I now realize that my heart has become so hardened that I haven’t even noticed that the most critical foundations of my life were even missing.

And with that, I’m also beginning to understand why I chose to send them away to solitary confinement.

I put them there for my survival.

I believe on some level my dad loved me, but he had his demons, and they manifested in rage and it lashed out at me and my mother both physically and emotionally throughout our life with him.

Being one of 13 brothers and sisters and growing up during the depression on a farm in the midwest, I have no doubt his childhood was hard. He shared some of the stories with me.

And to survive, him and his siblings, as soon as they could walk, had to begin working, and work hard.

From long before sunrise to long after sunset, there was always work to be done.

You worked to survive.

And that is the values my father tried so desperately to (literally) beat into me.

I have vivid memories of getting in trouble many times for “having fun when there was work to be done”. Which was always.

If I had chores to do and I was found outside playing, I would be beaten and sent back to work.

And as I got older, if I had homework but was found watching TV or on the phone or any place other than doing homework, I would get beaten and put back on task.

And if I came home excited about some grand adventures I just experienced, God forbid if my dad was watching the news for he would explode in rage, tell me to shut up and turn up the volume full blast.

There were no safe places for “the happy kids” in the real world, and if I wanted to not get hit or yelled at, they needed to go away someplace… and I had to be the one to send them there.

They needed to be locked up, they got me in too much trouble.

And I’m sure, that is where the resentments, rebellion, and self-preservation began to grow.

You may be able to keep me from going outside to have fun, but you can’t prevent me from fantasy and masturbation while I’m locked in my room.

You may be able to keep me locked up in a constant state of fear emotionally while at home, but you can’t stop me from drinking and getting high with my friends when I’m not at home.

You may make me sit down, but I’m standing up in my heart. I will defy you, I will have my way… fuck you.

It was in those very young formative years that my own anger began to grow.

And as I got older, my acting out got worse. Trying to fool around in elementary school became trying to force sex on girls in middle school.

And getting buzzed on a few beers in middle school became black-out drinking and drugs by high-school

I can now see that one-by-one, when any emotion that wasn’t safe or didn’t serve me anymore surfaced, I would throw them in the cage, in the cauldron with the other unnecessary parts of me that I didn’t know what else to do with.

Curiosity, exploration, healthy risk-taking, one-by-one they all had to go, the dreamer had to die, this was survival, and I’m going to survive at any cost.

The Ultimate Betrayal

When we moved to California from my hometown in Washington State I was around 9 years old, and I never felt more trapped and alone.

One of my first connections with someone outside my tortured homelife was when my parents let me join a bowling league.

I loved bowling, and I was good at it.

And the coach was really cool.

He told me what great potential I had.

He bought me a fingertip bowling ball saying I had natural talent and that beginners throw a straight ball, but the good bowlers use a fingertip ball.

He spent the entire summer teaching me how to bowl better, building up my ego, making me feel known and special.

For a 9-year-old boy without a role model, this was heaven.

I clung to him. Finally, I thought, a man I could trust and look to for validation, direction, encouragement.

At the end of the summer, he signed me up for a bowling tournament. And it was great!

I moved through my age brackets easily in the first several rounds on Saturday. It didn’t hurt that my first game was horrible, which set my handicap super high.

But when I got past my nerves, my good rounds became great rounds.

And before I even realized what had happened, I’m in the finals on Sunday afternoon.

The crowds piled in around the 4 open lanes and television cameras showed up to capture all the excitement.

CRAP, WAY TOO MUCH ATTENTION!

Up to this point, I was simply having fun for the first time in a really long time.

But when my old nemesis self-doubt and insecurity joined the party, I choked, horribly.

Humiliation Joins The Family

I know my coach felt terrible for me (or at least I believed he did), and for the days and weeks that passed, he kept trying to cheer me up and get me past it.

Then one day he asked me what my favorite thing to do was, and I said the beach. He asked me if I wanted to go and I erupted in joy and excitement.

I could never get my parents to take me to the beach since moving to Southern California and this was going to be awesome!

I remember getting home after bowling practice and begging my parents to let me go with him.

They were hesitant but dammit, you aren’t going to take this away from me, and I pressed, hard, really hard. Anger, tears, tantrum. And I got my way.

And as I jumped in his car and we set out on the 1-hour drive to the beach, he began to ask questions.

He asked me if I had ever seen a naked girl;  “well yes” I said because I actually had.

He then asked me if I ever saw other naked boys. Yep, I thought innocently enough, in the gym, sure.

It then got uncomfortable.

“Have you ever, you know, got excited when looking at naked girls and boys”. I had, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell him that.

He continued to prod, and finally, I confessed that I had.

He then asked if I ever, you know, played with myself when I got excited.

Little did he know I was molested as a 1-year-old baby by a babysitter, according to my mother. And after that she had to start putting 3 diapers on me and wrapping them with duct tape to keep my hands out of my diaper. And the moment I got out of diapers, I had free access… yeah, I was very familiar with that.

But are we allowed to talk about this stuff?

He then asked me if I had ever seen a naked man. No, that I haven’t, and I’m not sure I like where this is going anymore.

He then talked about stuff that men and boys could do together that was lots of fun and felt really good.

It was then the terror washed over me.

We are only a 1/2 hour into our day together and we are driving away from the “safety” of my home (there’s an ironic joke), I am now a prisoner in a new kind of hell.

I remember thinking I didn’t know where this was going, but I’ve now got to figure out how to disconnect and survive, just like I’ve had to do my entire 9 years of life.

I remember saying to myself, this isn’t good… And it wasn’t.

Suffice to say, the next several hours were by far the most traumatic thing I’ve ever been through.

And the worst part is, mixing emotional fear with physical pleasure and prepubescent hormones is an intoxicating cocktail straight from hell. 

It is where Satan gets direct access to rewiring a child’s mind.  

(I’m very sorry if this is too much to share here, I’m keeping it as PG as I can, but tears are now streaming down my face again, I need to stay the course. I probably shouldn’t post this blog, but if you are reading this then I went against my better judgment)

Shame is Born

After I got home, my parents knew something was wrong.

I had gone silent, shutdown. I remember not being able to look them in the eye or speak.

This made my dad angry (of course), and if he wanted information out of me, he could get it.

I finally cracked and just said something sheepish like “he did things”.

My mom burst into tears and my dad called the police.

What happened over the next couple of hours is blurry. I can’t even recall it from the safety of my therapist’s couch.

When I try and enter the interrogation scene with the police and my parents through my minds eye, little me is invisible. I know I was on the couch, and I see everyone looking at where I should be sitting, but I’m not there.

I only see scary police, angry father, and a horrified mother.

I realize nobody else really sees me either, well, not the important parts of me that desperately need to be seen and nurtured.

They aren’t interested in what happened to me on the inside, they only care about what he did to me on my outsides.

And what’s interesting to me today, the events of the police interrogation seem more traumatic than the molestation.

I now can see this is when a new visitor came to live with me.

It is someone I honestly don’t know I had ever been introduced to before. He was taking over the show, he was in charge now.

I didn’t like how he made me feel, but I was also powerless to override him.

I would later, much later, like decades later, come to know this new intruder’s name.

His Name Is Shame

I told the police only what I was willing to tell them, and that wasn’t much.

The details could never come out, never.

And when the room full of adults ganged up and hard-pressed me to agree to testify against this perpetrator, I still refused.

It’s not that I didn’t want to tell them, or testify so he couldn’t do this to someone else. I simply couldn’t. I couldn’t betray that there were two perpetrators that day, the instigator, and the curious seemingly willing participant.

If fear and anger weren’t already harsh enough taskmasters, adding shame to the mix was game over.

And the anger wasn’t just pointed at others anymore, it was now pointed at me; how could I go along with those things?

I was no longer free. Fear, anger, shame facilitated a desperate need for isolation.

People can never know what I’m really like on the inside, they just can’t ever find out.

And the prison walls moved in tighter.

I remember sheer horror at the thought that the whole story might slip out, that I wasn’t strong enough to keep my secret, a secret that not all of it felt bad.

I was only 9, and the emotional safety and intimacy and trust that this man had developed with me over several months (of what I have long understood was actually just grooming) was stomped out in a dark and terrifying series of events.

Where Fear And Anger Collide

But what happened after that is what sealed the prison doors for the next 40 years of my life. It was the final brick that shut out any remaining life and light.

After the police left, our dysfunctional family dynamics played out in all its glory.

My father immediately got in my face and with disgust dripping from his words he said: “so, I supposed you want therapy or some crap now huh”.

I replied more honestly than anything I had ever said to my father my entire life; “hell no, I never want to talk about that ever again”.

And I was never more grateful for my father’s response; “good, then we never will”.

And we never did

My mom hit the bottle hard that night, and she cooked my favorite meal, fried chicken.

It’s classic… my dad forces us all into hiding from the elephant in the room and my mom crawls into a bottle to try and cope and resorts to people-pleasing to try and make everyone feel better.

I vividly remember dinner that night. It was mid-week and we only have fried chicken on Sundays. Something wasn’t right. Gee, ya think?

And I remember truly believing, it was all my fault.

  • If I hadn’t agreed to go to the beach with him
  • If I hadn’t forced my parents to let me go
  • If I didn’t answer his creepy questions
  • If I didn’t admit to my creepy behaviors
  • If I didn’t agree to all the things that came after that
  • If I had only had the courage to testify and put the guy in jail

And I remember my dad’s stone-cold silence except for the times when he yelled at me to eat, and at my mom to stop crying and loudly declaring how pathetic we both were.

Things went from bad to worse after that day.

I discovered cocaine at the age of 13, or probably more accurately, it tracked me down.

My sexual curiosity with girls became sexual pursuits. All my relationships ended poorly when I invariably tried to first coerce them, and then sometimes (horribly regretfully) physically tried to get them to do things they didn’t want to do.

And my mom continued with her string of suicide attempts (4 of them throughout my childhood).

And my disconnection from my father, and more tragically myself, grew deeper.

This is a tough place for a young teenager, hell, it would be tough for anyone anywhere at any time.

And having to navigate it all alone allows Satan to write the foundations for the rest of our life if not arrested early.

My fear and anger become something bigger after that experience, and another unwelcome member of the internal family was adopted.

His Name is RAGE, and Lines Are Going to be Crossed

I believed, and somewhat rightfully so, that my hell was all my dad’s fault.

What I didn’t know was brewing under the surface was yet another unidentified member of the family who was soon to join us.

His name was HATE

One day, when I was still a young teenager, my dad and I got into another one of our very dangerous fights.

He would get in my face, and I wouldn’t flinch. I was a tall kid and was nearly eye to eye with him now and I was beginning to have no problem standing up to him.

He would yell at me, I would yell back. He would threaten me, and I would threaten back. He would tell me to go to my room, and I would walk out the front door.

This day, however, something snapped.

I still remember the source of the argument.

I loved cheese and crackers, one of my favorite after school snacks.

Dad was home, out of work because he just had quadruple bypass surgery to repair his aorta and other failing plumbing.

I don’t remember any tension before the eruption, but I do remember throwing out the paper plate and my dad stomping over to the trash can, pulling it out brushing it off.

He then began to yell at me that the plate was worth a penny and that I will never learn the value of money.

Being the rebellious, angry, entitled and ungrateful kid that I was, I reached into my pocket and flicked a nickel at him and said keep the change.

He launched into a rage, and I gladly followed him down the rabbit hole.

My mom was at work still, this was just me and him, and it was on.

He came over to me as if he was going to hit me, I still remember the look in his eye. If he could have strangled me and got away with it, he would have.

But I also remember a new look in his eye that I had never seen before, fear.

And I liked it. Yeah, I liked it a lot.

He saw something in me, something that scared him. And immediately knew what it was.

He was looking in the mirror that was reflecting back the image he showed me and mom all of my life, it was an uncontrollable rage.

He knew something had changed, broken, cracked, split open. He may not have been able to put words to it, but he knew this wasn’t safe, and he backed down.

But his fear, his cowering, his trying to back away only made me stronger. I followed him into the kitchen and pinned him up against the corner of two adjoining countertops.

He was mine, he wasn’t going anywhere and he was going listen to what I had to say.

And I had a lot say, I began to tear into him.

I was calling him out on all the bullshit, telling him it’s over, that he will never push me around again.

The more he tried to back away or defend himself, the angrier I got.

He wasn’t listening, he wasn’t hearing me… and he’s going to.

I began to shove up against him, like something out of a B movie. I puffed out my chest and jammed it into his, I want his rage back, I need his fuel to keep this going.

And it worked.

He began to get angry, tired of being pushed around by this insolent 14-year-old. This is his house, and he is in charge.

He made a fist and stood back up tall and all I remember was thinking it’s about time.

He didn’t have a shirt on, and his fresh scar from near his throat to the navel was staring at me, and the last thing I remember was a desire to split him open.

I punched him, I punched him hard, right in the middle of his fat belly.

I felt my fist sink deep into his bloated stomach, I’ve never punched a person before, and I was surprised how deep my fist went into him.

I can still see the image in my mind of his stomach split open and his insides escaping to the outside. Gratefully, that isn’t what happened.

Oh, I did punch him with every intention of killing him right then and there. I remember thinking mom and I would be much better off if that sonofabitch wasn’t in our life.

And it hurt him, real bad. He doubled over and hit the floor and began to cry and moan in pain.

And I left the house without looking back.

Some Things You Can’t Take Back

Our family was never the same after that incident.

I don’t remember what happened when I came home that night.

My guess, we had fried chicken and ate in silence.

But I do remember neither of my parents ever looked at me the same again. They were afraid.

At first, that made me sad, but after a while, you know what, fuck them both, this is better.

I left when I wanted, stayed gone as long as I wanted, and did whatever I wanted.

Sure, they tried to set boundaries occasionally after that day, but all I had to do was look at them, and they’d look down and back away.

Truth be told, I was just as afraid as they were from the monster that emerged that day.

My rage scared me.

I remember being horrified that I almost killed my father, that I wanted to kill him, that I actually tried to kill him.

As time passed, I now recognize it was then that rage was put in the cage with the other unwelcomed emotions.

For the most part, over the next 30 years, anger only snuck out when I was drunk. And pleasure only surfaced when I was having sex.

And in all this time, innocence, fun, joy, happiness, freedom and so many more, have all remained prisoners, along with rage… even to this day as I write this.

When I have tried to open the door for any of them, they all want to escape.

I told my therapist the other day that it feels like when I get in touch with any emotion in her office it’s like I’m only scratching the clear-coat on the tip of a nuclear bomb.

But I also know, when I saw those happy, carefree, fun kids in the black cauldron last week, my heart ached.

I got a glimpse of the deadness, the lifelessness, the robot who has been a rockstar workaholic his whole life and crushed a 30-year career in Information Technology but decimated his entire personal life.

Sure, there have been sexcapades and I even had a serious relationship where we got engaged and intentionally had a son together. But we didn’t survive long enough to make it to that altar.

And in many ways, my son’s childhood has only been marginally better than mine as I see it.

The best way I could love my son, was to not be my dad.

This actually makes sense in many ways because his mother was just like my father; hurting, angry and emotionally violent and she held the household hostage through her rageful outbursts.

And for my role, not surprisingly, I became the product of my mother’s teachings.

Fear has ruled my entire life, and people-pleasing was my answer to validation and feeble attempts at self-respect.

I was unable to call out the elephant in the room, unable to stand up and protect my son.

Instead, my dutiful role was to cook fried chicken and cry alone.

God Isn’t Finished

Gratefully, the story doesn’t end there. But this blog entry does.

I will finish up with the best part of the story, God’s entry, rescue, redemption, and Glory.

I’m sure I will write it soon, clearly, God is wanting to heal these areas of my life, and he continues to reinforce that I am ready, that now is the time.

And if you are carrying around any of your past pains, or recognize that the best parts of you have been locked away, know that He wants to heal your wounds too.

He heals, first, by patiently waiting until we are ready to open the lid on Pandora’s Box.

And He then only moves as fast as we are willing to go

Yes, God does open the door on our self-maintained prison cells at the exact moment of our salvation, but He will never force us to step outside.

We can sit in this lonely place until the day we die and miss out on the life He intended for us.

We can die believing the lie that Satan crafted for us, and never the witness beauty of God’s creation flourish within us.

Or, we can courageously, by faith, trust Him enough to inch toward the door and look into the light and see that His invitation is good.

And if we listen, we can hear the laughter of the children, freed from the cauldron, playing on the grassy knoll in the bright and warm sunlight.

And we can feel intimacy and love once again walking on the beaches holding hands with desires of our dreams.

We can feel the warmth of embracing community as we comb our hair, put on our Sunday best, and move back into a world that has been missing us for many years, maybe a world that has never had the opportunity to even meet us.

We can feel the incredible pride when we look into the eyes of our children and seeing how hard they have always tried to make us proud, even in the midst of all their failures.

We can create new and safe spaces that beckon to their young and locked away places to free them from fear, shame and condemnation.

And we can look to our spouses, and see how the prince and princess locked away in them due to our pain and shortcomings being vomited up them is now partly our responsibility to renew, restore and refresh.

We can find, maybe for the first time, the self-respect that says we no longer have to work for that boss, or stay in that toxic relationship, or remain silent about the elephant in the room any longer.

We can experience the rewards of self-love, as we give ourselves permission to have a crappy day without making it crappy for others, or simply read a book, or not do the dishes because we don’t feel like it, or binge a season of Greys Anatomy because we need a good cry.

We can go to the mountains for a hike, or to the park with a sandwich and not feel like we are shirking responsibilities.

As we begin to trust God more with our heart and soul and stop fearing what we will find when looking in the mirror, we will discover that God can and will restrain the monsters we’ve locked away for so long out of fear of what they might do to us or others.

There is a new life waiting, but it will never begin if we don’t follow the proper steps.

  1. Accept Christ as our Lord and Savior
  2. Press into the Word of God for Wisdom,
  3. Lean on the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance
  4. Tear down the walls and look in the mirror
  5. And above all, accept the grace and freedom that our Abba Father has purchased for us.

If we will simply let the process unfold while increasing in our faith and reliance on God, He will meet us there.

It has been 8 years since I came to Christ and to get to this place, but I don’t think it has to take that long. But I also now don’t regret that it has.

I have believed that God has set me free for a long time, but also now recognize I’ve never known what freedom is.

Nor that the combination to the prison cell was called surrender.

I believe these blogs over the last few days are the next bold steps God has been inviting me to take for quite a while.

I see my story more clearly, or at least from a different perspective.

It isn’t about what was done to me any longer, that was an important part of the process.

But it is now about recognizing who I became, and understanding why.

With that, hopefully, comes self-acceptance. War is a horrible thing, and people do horrible things. And even when the war is over, the fight-or-flight can remain.

And next, I’m excited to discover who I never got the opportunity to become, and to becoming him more fully.

We are born again in the image of God, and his likeness is to become our likeness. I look forward to more of that taking root in my life.

God wants to restore and redeem all of it, but am I courageous enough to continue to let Him take me to the next level?

Are you?


Joel 2

That is why the Lord says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.

Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.

Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.”

Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

He is eager to relent and not punish.

Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve,
sending you a blessing instead of this curse.
Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine
to the Lord your God as before.

The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost
to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts,
the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts.

Once again you will have all the food you want,
and you will praise the Lord your God,
who does these miracles for you.

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SOAP: Day Thirteen – I Who Speak To You Am He (WOW)

Can I finally get to today’s SOAP Lord?

On a good day I’m kicking off SOAP by 7am, but it’s now 430 PM and I’ve been writing all day and just now starting today’s deep dive into God’s Word.

His ways are truly not our ways.

It would have been much easier to knock this out this morning and spend the rest of the day watching Netflix or cruising down to the beach.

But, as is always the case, I know there is a profound reason why SOAP is the anchor to close out the day and not the spark that ignited this day.

I’ve been through a lot today, and yesterday. Soul searching can be a dark and heavy journey, but oh so sweet if we take Jesus with us.

And how much more so when we let Him lead.

So Father, once again I say Amen.

Let’s do this!

Scripture

John 4:15-26 (ESV)

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Observation

  • v15 – Sir, give me this water… so I won’t have to come here and get water
  • v16, 17, 18 – Jesus said…
  • v19 – I perceive that you are a prophet
  • v21,23 – the hour is coming when…
  • v22 – You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
  • v23 – true worshipers will worship in spirit and truth
  • v23 – the Father is seeking such people to worship him
  • v26 – I who speak to you am he {who will tell all things v25)

Application

v15 – This is just another example of how people expected Jesus to make their corporal lives easier. She is thinking she won’t have to fetch water at the well anymore because she will no longer be physically thirsty. Many of the Jews believed “the Messiah” was going to overthrow Rome in the physical sense.

How many ways do I underestimate and misinterpret the goodness God wants to do in my life?

In what ways do I fall back into wishing God was a supernatural gumball machine instead of “just” the Savior of my soul?

v16, 17, 18 – Oh man, can you imagine Jesus exposing your laundry list?

Yes Jesus, I want an easier life… OK great, first you are going to have to eat the elephant in the room, you ready?

v19 – “I perceive…” gee, ya think? You know everything about me, are you special or something?

I can’t even count the number of undeniable revelations and rescues God has done in my life. yet in how many ways do I minimize their significance?

God moves heaven and hell for us… yeah, it’s cool… COOL?!?!?! HE’S GOD!!!! Much more than just cool. 

v21,23 – The hour is coming, the hour is here.

What is coming, what is here? This sounds important. 

v23 – People will worship in truth and spirit, this is who the Father is looking for.

Do I worship in truth and spirit? Do I even know what worshipping in truth and spirit looks like? (I just had to take some time to research it)

Do you know what it means?

If we don’t know what “worship in truth and spirit” means how can we be assured we are doing it properly?

v26 – I am He. That gives me goosebumps, can you imagine?. If you saw my earlier post on Hardened Hearts, this thought of being face to face with God Himself stirs my soul.

In reality, I should feel like I’m in His presence all the time, but do I though?

Do you?

Prayer

 Lord God, you are mighty to save. You are mighty in Grace. You are mighty in Power. YOU ARE MIGHTY. In how many ways do I take You for granted, I shudder to think. I know there are confessed but not repented corners of my heart that needs exercising by Your Word and Spirit through greater obedience. I have no doubt that if I held on tightly to Your Presence and Power, I would have no ability to maintain the illusion of hidden dungeons in my heart. May Your name be Hallowed always, thank You for the continued revelations and righteous convictions through Your Love Letter to us, the Bible. Let not my self-perceived knowledge betray my lack of wisdom, give me the courage to continue to look in the mirror of Your mercy and not just weep in gratitude, but respond in kind with soul-transforming actions of the redeemed heart. 


What a day! As worn emotionally, physically and spiritually as I am from doing 3 blogs today, I’m not tired of writing or reflecting on the Goodness of God. I suspect this revival of writing and thirst for being closer to God is a direct result of my 13 days (and counting) of daily committment to this SOAP journey.

We aren’t supposed to follow God when we feel like it or when it’s convenient. We need to ensure the Armour is strong every minute of every day. That process may look different for everyone, but I suspect the heart of everyone looks the same to Jesus when we are worshipping properly.

My prayers that your day is one that brings you peace and joy and glorifies God, in any way possible.

Blessings in Christ,

George

 

Posted in bible study, God's story, S.O.A.P | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Fear The Hardened Heart

Mark 8:17 (ESV)

17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?

It sure would be nice if I would do my SOAP for today instead of writing titles and then having to discover what God is prioritizing over my plans.

This topic is never one that I have to spend much time trying to figure out why it’s come up though. As easy as it would be to drop the title in the drafts folder, once again I will be obedient.

The truth is, when our heart hardens against the price of sin, it also hardens against the Goodness of God.

A heart that doesn’t pain for that which pains God also cannot experience the joy for those things that God provides for our Joy.

A heart that wants to be served, will never be able to serve.

Is there pain that just won’t go away, ever wonder why? I have been lately.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 

Matthew 13:15 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’

Why does my experience seem to be the opposite of God’s desires?

Believe me, I may be writing to you, but I’m looking in the mirror. There are things in my life that still don’t belong.

I don’t believe they got there by choice, but I suspect they remain there through complacency or comfort in their proximity.

And there is no escaping God’s Word in these matters.

Jeremiah 13:27 I have seen your adultery and lust, and your disgusting idol worship out in the fields and on the hills. What sorrow awaits you, Jerusalem! How long before you are pure?”

Living by the Spirit’s Power – Galatians 5:16-25

16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 

18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.

Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 

Do you have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in your life?

Pride, Fear, and denial are the brick and mortar of the hardness surrounding a heart, the justification for all of our sins, and the foundations for all our strongholds and addictions.

If we don’t first acknowledge, confess and repent of our own condition, then we will never have the proper hunger and thirst for the righteousness that becomes the very conduit through which we are able to drink from the Wellspring of life.

Matthew 5:4 God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Matthew 5:6“ Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

righteousness

There are nearly 300 verses with the word righteousness in it. You think it is a topic that matters to God?

Should there be any doubt or confusion that if we are preserving a small locked closet in our hearts that is reserved for the things not of God that it won’t infect everything we do and feel?

If you put one bad apple in with a hundred good apples, the one will infect the many and not the other way around.

Death begets death 

As I heard a pastor say at a men’s conference recently, “partial obedience is 100% disobedience.”

Don’t mistake this call to holiness as false condemnation.

Jesus came to set the captives free, not to condemn.

He came to fulfill the law, not disavow it.

The Law convicts, but the price was paid by One much greater than us.

But just because our past, present and future debts or covered, that does not make the law less relevant.

Psalm 112:1 [The Righteous Will Never Be Moved] Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!

Paul’s Final Instructions
1 Timothy 11-12  But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.

Father God, I confess that I see myself in these exhortations. To be mostly of You is to not know You at all. I have felt so incredibly blessed to be in the presence of your mercy, but as I question what a hardened heart would feel like, I realize that it could easily be mistaken for grace. You know the pain I suffer, you know the fears and insecurities I battle, you know the weaknesses of the flesh of which I bring to you constantly. I trust Lord in Your promises that You intend to prosper and not destroy, to bring to completion and not forsake. I trust that I am where I am supposed to be Father, even if I am not where I want to be, or think I should be. I decree that as long as there is breath, the fight is not over. Thank You for Your mercy, please continue to strengthen in me that which glorifies You, and cast out that which still remains from my former days of allegiance and reliance on darkness. 

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An Open Letter To My Readers

Good Morning!

Honestly, I’m not sure why I am here right now. My fingers just typed the title, and here I sit looking at a blinking cursor.

And something tells me I’m supposed to write this to you.

I didn’t craft the title, I’m simply being obedient to it.

If I had to guess, I just feel like writing, no specific agenda, no targetted audience or message, I just need to write.  

Some of us have been doing this a long time, I’m coming up on 9 years of blogging. And at least a few of those whom I follow have been blogging longer than that, some much longer.

Maybe I’m needing to reflect on why I do this, why do I write.

100 followers in 9 years, clearly I’m not doing this for the notoriety, fame, and fortune.

I guess on some level I don’t even really consider myself a valid writer, at least not a talented one, not a validated one, or what.. I’m not even sure where this line of thinking leads.

I suppose I haven’t actually thought of what I consider the important criteria is to be a “real” writer.

When I’m actively writing, spitting out over 135,000 words in a week is not hard. 

grammarly

And Grammarly only captures what I type through a program it interfaces with. It doesn’t capture the 10+ different hand-written journals that I rotate through on a regular basis.

journals

Or the multitude of writing projects I worked on prior to purchasing a Grammarly Premium membership, such as books, work projects, and church materials.

unique

And unless Grammarly doesn’t have very many users, I was shocked to discover that I apparently have a unique vocabulary as well.

I know my vocabulary is not sophisticated, so maybe being unique when compared to “real writers” isn’t revealing an accolade I should broadcast?

But none of that means I write well, or engagingly, or motivationally, or biblically accurately, or in a life transformative way.

It just means I write.

But why, why do I write?

I believe I understand why Stephen writes over at Fractured Faith Blog, he loves it. And I’d risk assessing that he needs it. And in this last year, he has gone from “being a blogger” to “being a published author“.

How amazingly wonderfully inspirationally awesome is that?!?

Watching him grow as a writer, risk as a writer, reveal his struggles and victories through writing, witnessing more followers engaging with his writing, reading the comments from his readers… he is without a doubt, an impactful and gifted writer.

And Caralyn describes why she writes over at Beauty Beyond Bones:  “Whatever has brought you here, I hope that through the story of my brokenness, and redemption through the Lord, you are able to find hope, encouragement, advice, healing, support, and comfort.”

Her story touches lives, it touches my life. She provides hope where, for some, hope may no longer exist. She accomplishes all of the things that she hopes to accomplish through her writing.

And it’s starting to pay off. I don’t mean monetarily (although maybe that too, I don’t know). But her likes and comments are starting to grow exponentially, and the speaking and vlog engagements and peer accolades are coming in, her message is getting out there, more people are getting to see and hear her heart and her light-bearing message of hope and overcoming through Christ is impacting… How beautiful is that!!

And my brother Stu at Something to Stu Over is one of the most consistent bloggers I know, cranking out heartfelt struggles and wisdom daily, oftentimes more than once daily.

To read his blogs is to know his life, and it isn’t easy by any means. Recovery, finances, health, relationships. Life is hard, and reading his blog you want to truly come alongside, roll up your sleeves and get on your knees and pray with him. And if that is you, he facilitates an email prayer group fostered from his blog. Real-life is lived out, real struggles, real victories. How inspirational is that!

And I don’t think anybody walks that fine line between grace, righteous conviction and the call to obedience better than T.R. Noble over at Inside Cup. For those who have been introduced to Jesus, one of the hardest things (that I’ve discovered) is finding the truth hidden in the gap between the old dispensation and the new, the Law and Grace. Grace abounds, but life on earth as it is in heaven is found in our response to the Gospel, to the Promises, to the call of the Healer.

She speaks biblical truth with compassion and authority, bread from her own personal life struggles and victories. Her writing makes me want to be a better person, makes me believe I can be a better person. Truly a voice in the darkness!

Or V over at Millenial Life Crisis who just keeps it real. Unfiltered, raw, expository, explorational. And filled with great information to help others navigate the shark-infested inner and outer worlds of everyday life.

What a totally worthwhile endeavor to invest time, treasures and talent into!

Keeping it real seems to be the core message here.

And there are so many more! I actually feel bad not taking the time to mention the dozens of other amazing writers I follow, for each brings something unique and necessary into my life.

You are my mentors, my hope givers, my validators.

And not to say that I need validation directly, it is that I find validation in my life’s journey through being blessed enough to get a peek into yours.

I guess what is stirring in my soul from this reflection is, there is no “right way to write”.

Writing rightly isn’t even a real thing. 

A writer, every writer, is only challenged with one criterion, bring the best (and worst) of yourself to the table.

Whether it is through fictional representations of the imaginations found somewhere deep inside, or a transparent ministry of hope and healing found in the deepest recesses of the heart which sheds light in dark places with the intent of guiding others to their own victories, or the instructional wisdom found only in a life that has been there done that, it all matters.

In the end, I suppose it comes down to one thing… a writer writes because he or she has to.

It gives life meaning and purpose. It is our song, it is our painting, it is our manuscript, it is our invention.

It is how we give ourselves away to a {hopefully} receptive world.

I guess that makes me a writer.

Who knew

 

Posted in conviction, encouragement, hope, Jesus, my story, trials, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

SOAP: Day Twelve – Which Well Are You Drinking From?

The show must go on.

If you read my earlier post you’d know that I am still sitting in the fallout of an emotional bomb going off that I didn’t see coming. It’s true that I was describing an event earlier this week but I didn’t expect to still be triggered by it when recounting it this morning.

I have every reason to believe that God intends to meet me in this place with today’s SOAP. I pray that he meets some of you there too.

Again, I don’t even know what the scriptures are yet, I like to draft this opening paragraph letting the reader know where I’m at before I start, then watch the process unfold organically, and wrap it up with my takeaway on this day’s SOAP endeavor to find applicable resources for today’s challenges.

I usually start out the day with SOAP first and I’m sure there is a good reason why I started with the other post first today. I come here now with my heart raw and exposed, and I trust you, Abba Father, have your way in this place.

woman at the well

Image: Paolo Veronese

Scripture

John 4:1-14 (ESV)

Jesus and the Woman of Samaria

1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Observation

  • v2 – Jesus himself did not baptize
  • v6 – Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey
  • v7 – Jesus said to her, “Give me…”
  • v9 – The.. woman said to him… [why would you even ask]
  • v10 – If you knew…
  • v10 – you would have asked… and he would have given
  • v11, 12 – Sir, you have nothing… and the… where do you… are you…
  • v13 – Everyone who drinks of this [well] water will be thirsty again
  • v14 – Whoever drinks of the water I will give him will never be thirsty again.
  • v14 – The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life

Application

v2 – Jesus did not baptize. This is interesting as I recall yesterday wondering what Jesus would have said as “he” baptized. “I baptize you in My Name”. Now we learn that it was his disciples that baptized. I love how this reveals that Jesus puts us in charge of carrying out His desires.

  • How am I participating in the Works of God?

v6 – Jesus was weary. I am weary. I can see, at least in this place, how this ties into my other blog today. It’s not only OK to be weary, but it is also expected. And we must rest. But we can not truly rest until we admit we are weary.

  • Can I admit it when I am weary?
  • Do I believe it I am not condemned for needing a season of rest?

v7 – Jesus asks (tells?) us to do stuff.

  • Do I even notice or acknowledge when God burdens my heart with the needs of others? 

v9 – The woman responds not with obedience but with questions, confusion, calling his motives into question.

  • How often do I hesitate, resist or question when I sense God telling me to do something that seems crazy?

v10 – “If you knew.” This is actually very subtly quite beautiful. Jesus did not condemn her for not complying with his request or questioning his motives. He instead acknowledged her ignorance.

  • How often do I feel like my ignorance condemns me?
  • How often do I pridefully pretend to know when I don’t know?
  • How often do I actually believe I know when I really don’t know?

v10 – And then he went on to explain just what an incredible opportunity she had in front of her, that eternal life was on the line if only she would ask him for it.

  • How many years did I go it alone before answering the call of Jesus to profess Him as my Lord and Savior? 
  • How long am I willing to continue drinking well water over Living Water in those areas of my thoughts and actions that I’m not surrendering to Him?

v11,12 – And after he tells her what she is missing out on, she responds by telling him how she sees the situation, and what’s wrong with his interpretation.

  • Even after being presented with scripture or sound doctrinal teachings do I not still continue to question or look for other solutions or easier ways to move forward? 
  • What would it look like to surrender instead of arguing?

v13 – EVERYONE who drinks of earthly water. Nobody escapes this truth, the earth offers only temporary respite to our thirst.

  • In what ways am I still gulping from the dried-up hoses of this life? 
  • In what ways am I using distraction, pleasure or numbing agents to ease my pain, calm my fears, breathe life into the dead places?

v14 – Whoever drinks… there is my favorite new word, WHOEVER. We have a choice, drink from the Well of Life or the well of death.

  • Do I believe Jesus is the answer to all that ails me, truly believe?
  • In what ways do I come to the Well of Life for Living Water?
  • Are there more ways in which I can drink more deeply from His Well?

Prayer

Father God, I am beginning to see how I profess knowledge when I should be admitting ignorance. Where I portray strength when there is great weakness. Where I proclaim You satisfy my thirsts while I’m actually dying of dehydration. I don’t believe it is pride Lord, but instead some measure of self-protection. The enemy of our soul wants us all to believe that we are strong, that we know what is best for ourselves, that we don’t need anyone. But in reality, at least for me Lord, I see how I erected steel bars around my heart, that being needy is to give the enemy inroads to our destruction. But the reality truly is that I can never shield my heart better than You can Father. So I confess and repent Lord of my deeply seeded attempts at self-preservation, the water I drink from all too often does not satisfy. I do believe it is You who is leading me to greater levels of acceptance and surrender but I also see that my resistance is strong. I give you free access to the areas I knowingly or unknowingly continue to try and shield from You. Have Your way Abba Father, that You may be glorified in new and magnificent ways with my broken and battered bones.


Well, this has been a heavy morning, to say the least. I feel exposed, raw, challenged… but also hopeful. If this post resonated at all then I recommend my earlier post Can Christians Be Depressed. It is a transparent look under the hood and into the realities of mental illness and emotional illness. If for nothing else, that to find grace in the struggle, and hope for the journey.

As always, I’d love to have you join the conversation, feel free to engage in the comments section below

Blessings in Christ,

George

Posted in Addiction, bible study, conviction, encouragement, faith, hope, Jesus, my story, S.O.A.P | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments