How To Extract Life-Changing Takeaways From Any Experience

Psalm 26:2 (AMP) Examine me, O Lord, and try me; Test my heart and my mind.

wisdom

If we are intentional of looking for it, God will always provide an epiphany – A Golden Takeaway from any significant experience in our life.

When that happens, it leads to a new set of options, choices that we can utilize in the future to grow and achieve greater levels of peace, wholeness, and connectedness to others, ourselves and God.

It is through a new awareness that we gain new perspectives.

When our patterns of thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors start to make sense we can then choose to change (or more accurately surrender our dependence on) the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that no longer serve us well.

What follows is the way in which I “work things out”.

It is how I attempt to discern “what is God trying to tell me here” and “what I am supposed to do with it”.

So what do you say, you interested? Great, let’s do this!


The Process of Processing 

  1. What happened (the situation)?
  2. What were my motivations, emotions, and spiritual condition (called States)?
  3. What does God want to reveal (post-reflection)
  4. How have my new perspectives and awarenesses changed (take-away)
  5. What can I do differently next time (action plan)

What follows is an example of how that exact process plays out for me. This is a very real situation that just slammed into me within the last 48 hours.

It is a compare and contrast from two similar events in my life that had polar opposites driving forces and outcomes, and the emerging awareness has the potential to be life-changing for me.

And who knows, maybe for someone else?

There is a ton of backstory and details to these events and my mindsets, emotions and spiritual state in each are complex, but my new goal is this:

LESS IS MORE – NO MORE 6000 WORD BLOGS!!!  (you’re welcome)

Let’s see how I do with that. (I’m already at 300 ugh!. 

I guess you could say you know you are a writer when you have to limit the number of words you type instead of struggling to reach a goal. Totally off-topic there, this isn’t helping!

CASE STUDY – THE TWO TRIPS


STEP ONE – What Happened

This all revolves around 2 separate road trips that I’ve taken in the last year. I’ll call them Trip #1 and Trip #2 (creative eh)

TRIP #1

This took place soon after I first got sick when I was forced into a medical leave of absence over a year ago.

I first drove to meet a friend and we camped for a few days but instead of turning south from the campground to go back home, I ended up turning north on an impulse to just “see where it leads”.

It was a spectacular 10-day journey of prayer, journaling, sight-seeing and soul-searching throughout the coastal areas and mountains of Central and Northern California, complete with an endless stream of Divine Coincidences

TRIP #2

This happened yesterday, nearly a year after the first trip; and although the original intent (on some level) was similar to trip #1, the outcomes couldn’t have been more radically different in every aspect.

This trip started out as me just wanting to clear my head (similar to trip #1).

But what manifested as was an 860-mile round-trip from Los Angeles to Cedar City Utah in a 22-hour waking nightmare.

Same person, same car, same intent/desire, but insanely different experiences.

Why did they turn so different?

Gratefully God can work with those kinds of questions!

Mark 12:29-31 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” [my emphasis]

STEP TWO – What Were My Mental, Emotional, Spiritual & Physical States

1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV) Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I have found it critically important when trying to discern why things go right and why things go wrong, what part of it was “up to me?”

It comes down to self-awareness which is never intuitive. And it is likely the most critical life-skill that is never taught. 

95% of our thoughts, feeling and actions are driven subconsciously from our mind/body past experiences.

It’s an auto-pilot and without recognizing the survival forces at work (fight or flight response) can drive us to live reactionary lives. We say, do and feel things not based on current realities but largely on past “take-aways”.

So I always start by asking myself: What were my “states” before and during the encounter?


TRIP #1

Mental – I believe I was clear-headed. I had a sense of adventure, of wanting to explore. I was feeling like I was a free spirit who could do whatever I wanted (which is not normal for me).

Emotional – I was in a pretty good place. I was apprehensive about the impulsiveness of the decision but I was expecting a really neat experience, even though I had no idea what to expect.

Physical – My health condition was a serious consideration, but I theorized that laying in a hammock on the beach watching a beautiful fire-red sunset was better than laying in bed at home. So I was alert to my physical limitations and believed this was a reasonable act self-care. 

Spiritual – Here is the secret sauce. Every step of the way from the second I turned my car north away from the direction of home, I took a stance of nearly excited faith. “This is crazy Lord, but I trust you”. 

I won’t share all of the DIVINE MIRACLES that took place on trip #1 but the very first one will blow your mind, at least it still does mine.

Were there Divine Appointments?

I drove north wanting to go to Big Sur campground along Highway 1 in Central California. It is the exact place where I gave my life to Christ some 8 years before then and being that I wanted “get with God” on this trip, where better to go?

big-sur

The problem is, Limekiln Campground is a small-ish campground in one of the most spectacular regions of the California Coastline, and reservations are made a year in advance. You NEVER just drive up there expecting a spot. And this place is remote, if camping isn’t available here you might be homeless. No cell service, and no services for many miles.

What I was doing was CRAZY. Yet this was a different kind of crazy in this trip versus trip #2 as you will soon see.

So what happened? I went there on faith. And long story short, not only was I ultimately able to get a spot in Limekiln Campground, the ONLY spot available was the EXACT SPOT that I gave my life to Christ at 7 years earlier.

That is an impossible outcome, but easy for God. And the entire trip went that way.

Every campground was “impossible to get into” yet by some miracle, I got in… for 10 days straight hopping from campground to campground I was met with miracle after miracle.


TRIP #2

Mental – The premise of this trip was a trainwreck from the beginning. If you’ve been following my blog in the last week or so you know my counselor has been uncorking some childhood trauma stuff. I haven’t wanted to go there but I also believe God said: “you are ready”. So I’ve gone fearfully but willingly.

On this day I was having a really rough time, I was stuck ruminating on past events, and as they say, what you feed grows. And this was feeding my emotions.

Emotional – Again, trainwreck. What was uncovered was long deep and buried shame, self-hatred, and rage toward people who have treated me terribly throughout my life and I just “let them do it”. I’ve been passive, insecure and fearful all my life but most of the vile of poison what outside of my awareness in the 95% subconscious fight-or-flight regions of my brain. Fight or flight was alive and well this day!

Physical – I was not healthy. I hadn’t been sleeping well the last few nights and with the emotional exhaustion, my body was not doing well. But I was also filled with fight-or-flight chemical flood as the pain and anger escalated throughout the day. I was worn, and my bed would have been the safest place for me, but I had to run.

Spiritual – Here is where I believe the takeaways are going to come from. I’m somewhat processing this live right now as I type this so this is an organic exercise. So I was in prayer all day, but the emotional state and ruminating thoughts seemed stuck. My motivation on this trip was not “I’m moving towards God”, it was “I’m running from this house”.

Were there Divine Appointments?

I believe there were Divine Appointments on this trip also, but many different kinds. I left at 5pm physically worn and drove with no direction from God, instead just “where do I feel like going”. I drove to the mountains and didn’t “feel” better so I drove to the desert and didn’t “feel” better so I drove to Las Vegas and still didn’t “feel” better so I kept driving east until 2am, complete exhausted and nearly hallucinating on the road.

Again, what I was doing was CRAZY, but this time truly cray-cray!!

no hotels

One of the reasons I kept driving, there were no hotels available for hundreds of miles!

And when I finally stopped driving out of necessity? Still no hotels! I ended up sleeping near a dumpster behind a restaurant in my car in 37-degree temperature for only 3.5 hours. When I woke up I had the (rational) thought, “what the hell am I doing here” and pointed home and started driving.

I believe the Divine Appointment was that there were no Divine Appointments. This was all about me and my feelings and God wasn’t going to bless this trip. He kept me alive, but my entire experience was miserable.


STEP THREE – What Does God Want to Reveal?

I could have just had the thought, the first trip was great and the second trip sucked and leave it at that.

I’m very intentional in my prayer life, and I know and expect that when I go to God with feelings of hurt and confusion that He wants to give me peace and rest through the types of comfort and revelation that only He can provide.

So when I asked God “what the hell was that about?” (yeah, we have a pretty casual dialect, He gets me) He was quick to respond.

Clearly, the Divine Appointments were off the charts different. In the first, I met with blue skies and blessings beyond measure. But trip 2 was dark and met with resistance and tension the entire time.

This was my Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde struggle that I battle with, and they each took their own version of their perfect trip.

Obviously, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, I was not the same person on both trips.

God was reminding me that my battle is not with “unfair or difficult circumstances”, it is always within myself.

STEP FOUR – The Perspective Shift

So what is my take-away?

Before making any decisions in life I have to make sure that The Four States are in order first. If any is not in balance, then getting them there becomes my highest priority at that exact moment. It will overshadow everything I do if I don’t.

And if all four are out at the same time, I’m at grave risk of making decisions that can physically or emotionally harm myself or others. It is not a rational place!

In the case of mental or physical illness (depression, chronic illness, etc…) I do not need to make excuses or feel guilty when saying “I can’t”.

If people don’t understand that I am doing what I have to do for me and are disappointed and take it personally, then that’s on them and not on me.

It comes down to self-care. What were my states?

Trip #1 – clarity of thoughts, emotionally stable, physically aware of self-care boundaries and spiritually consulting and trusting God with every risk-filled decision. This trip took place during the daytime – in the Light

Trip #2 – ruminating thoughts, emotionally unstable, physically exhausted and spiritually disconnected from God (and therefore susceptible to Satan’s influence on my decision-making processes). This trip was overnight – in the Darkness

If I had been more SELF-AWARE (and especially God aware) I would have realized that my desire to re-experience last year’s trip, albeit good, was entirely impossible in my current condition.

Not just one, but all four States were extremely out of balance and I should not have been on the road in the first place. Saved by Grace for sure!!

STEP FIVE – The New Action Plan

  1. SELF CARE MUST TAKE PRIORITY
    • I should not tackle any activity or make a critical decision if all 4 states aren’t well balanced. 
    • I shouldn’t feel guilty or compelled to meet other’s expectations if my 4 states aren’t well balanced.
  2. IF I AM STUCK IN ANY STATE – ASK FOR HELP!
    • Spiritual – find someone to pray with me
    • Physical – find someone to help me
    • Emotional – find someone who cares enough to sit with me in it
    • Mental – find someone to process with me

As obvious as those may seem, I don’t do them well, and I don’t do them consistently.

In fact, this whole exercise has given me a greater perspective of how when I let my emotions guide me I will almost always make bad choices.

I’ve been led by my emotions (mostly fear and pride) my entire life, and driven by a sense of shame and obligation in selecting the things I will do in life.

In many cases, they may have “looked like” love, but they were in fact just manipulations so I “looked good” to others so I could hopefully “feel good” about myself. (hard to admit that)

I believe this is what God talks about when He talks about the condition of our hearts.

Proverbs 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.

Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world,[a] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.


Well, what do you think?

2600 words are better than 6,000. But I still feel like I need to find a way to get to the point in smaller bites. I’ll keep trying 🙂

The problem is, there is a lot packed in there today. The beauty of this is, it’s nothing more than trying to explain the process of Sanctification, which is a combination of our willingness and God’s timetable.

So in essence, we are always right where we are supposed to be in our unique journey of redemption!

My message seems to be about revealing the places of darkness where the enemy of our souls has tricked us into believing things about ourselves, others and God that don’t serve, us, Him or others well.

Through greater self-awareness, we can become stewards of our own inner and outer selves and thereby serve God and others with a pure heart where everyone wins.

For those of us who have experienced childhood trauma or neglect, the process of self-care is not intuitive. In fact, the road ahead is hard.

But both God and Science agree: we can be transformed by the renewal of our mind!

Amen!!

Posted in faith, God's story, hope, love, my story, Nikaos, Nikaos.net, Recovery, The Life Mastery Project | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We pause for a short intermission

I just wanted to pop in and say hi.

If you’ve been following you know I’ve been sharing a bit more raw and exposed stuff from my childhood, you can thank God for that as I invited him into that space and asked him to show where I was still hurting. He is definitely faithful.

Yesterday morning the counseling sessions continued to open Pandora’s box and pull out more nuggets that have been long tucked away. I was bouncing off the walls yesterday afternoon and left the house at 5 PM for a short drive to clear my head.

I ended up driving from Los Angeles to Utah, rolled in there at 2:30 AM this morning, slept in my car for 3.5 hours in 37 degree temps, woke up 6am and asked myself what the heck am I doing and drove straight home.

860 miles round-trip in 22 hours on three hours sleep for no good reason while having a chronic illness that increases fatigue exponentially… not my brightest day.

But I did get some “everyday parables”, and likely another episode on “Can Christians be depressed” series, but not today! I just got home and I need a shower and a 12hr nap.

So for now I just wanted to say and that I’m grateful to be home safe. It may not have been an epic journey but it sure was a big one crammed in a very small window.

Prayers you all are having a blessed day!

G

Posted in God's story | Leave a comment

Everyday Parables – The Old Hammock

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”


This photo of Comfort Suites Seven Mile Beach is courtesy of TripAdvisor

A friend of mine and I met one day just to connect and chat, pray and enjoy some good fellowship.

At one point he randomly said, I want to buy a hammock.

We small-talked about camping and the different kind of hammocks available for a while and as we were chatting, I had this overwhelming thought come to mind:

How much is our faith like a hammock, even if we’ve had it for a long time and we can see holes where our faith is imperfect, it can still support our weight, and it will always be the best place for us to find peace and rest. 

His reply: “You know George, sometimes a hammock is just a hammock”.

My reply: “not for me it isn’t, everything has a deeper meaning if you’re looking for it”

So, don’t worry about the condition of your hammock, just make sure to take advantage of it often and spend time basking in the comfort it provides.

Our faith is meant for us to use much more than we often do.

Posted in Everyday Parables, faith, God's story | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

What Do You Think Of Coincidences?

I was just reminded of a personal experience revolving around a coincidence a few years ago that was so powerful that it has become the “reason for my enduring faith”.

Granted it is only one of a hundred experiences since coming to Christ, but nothing even close to this.

And because of this one event, nobody will ever be able to convince me that the Trinity of God isn’t real and alive and present and active in our lives. 

Holy Spirit

source: Flickr

My Conversion

When I first came to Christ in 2011 I was on fire. I had a Saul to Paul conversion experience and I was shouting my testimony from the treetops, how God instantly released me from drugs and alcohol.

It was unbelievable how people were drawn to me, believers and unbelievers alike. They would come to my office on their breaks and share with me their story of pain, confusion and hurt and I would offer wisdom, advice, and prayer.

This happened a lot

Their Heartache

One coworker who I didn’t know really well came to me one day and shared with me how he and his wife used to be missionaries but now they were back home and his wife got hooked on crystal meth. His heart bled out all over the place, we prayed, I comforted and encouraged, and he left.

I didn’t think anything about that after that day, I rarely saw him and weeks had passed.

My Intercessory Prayer

One night around 9 pm I was making the hour-long drive home from visiting my son and about 15 minutes into the trip a literal pain shot through my chest and I was filled with a sense of extreme urgency; a panicked emotion was overwhelming.

It wasn’t a heart attack as I first thought, however, because instantly I saw that man’s wife in a battle for her life and I became terrified for her. I began to pray and cry.

Mind you, I have never had anything like that happen before (or since) and I had never done remote intercessory prayer before.

But, for the next half hour, I prayed for this woman’s life whom I’ve never met and only heard about briefly weeks earlier.

And I prayed, and I cried, and I got angry, then desperate. The emotions and urgency remain super strong.

“Lord, she’s in trouble, please help, please interceded, the enemy wants to destroy her and she is not strong enough to do this on her own. Have mercy Lord, fight the battle for her, bring her victory, protect her from the evil that surrounds her”

I’m not sure why, but I never thought about that incident after that night, it’s like I forgot about it by the next morning.

Until…

The Warfare

A couple weeks later the husband came in all excited and said: “George, I’ve been meaning to tell you something for weeks, you won’t believe it”.

I could see his excitement so I told him to sit and tell me all about it. And he did.

They had taken a homeless person into their home. They let him sleep and eat there. After a couple weeks the man said he wanted to start a bible study and asked if he could use their home, they gladly agreed.

It went great for a few weeks, but my co-worker’s wife would not come out and join them no matter how much he asked (begged) her.

Then one night, with no warning, she came into the room during one of the bible studies and confessed her addiction in front of everyone, broke down in tears and asked if they would pray for her.

Of course, they did, they all stood and gathered around her and prayed intense spiritual warfare prayers for a 1/2 hour straight, casting out demon strongholds and ushering in the protection of the Holy Spirit.

I was amazed at listening to the encounter and then all of a sudden it hit me, he said: “a couple weeks ago”!

I asked him exactly when. He replied that the study is on Wednesday nights.

Hmmm, I visit my son on Wednesday nights, I then asked exactly which night and at what time.

He said, well, we had just started at nine PM and she came in a little after that… probably around 9:15.

Yep, you guessed it.

One Holy Spirit

This man, whom I didn’t know well, and his wife, whom I’ve never met, and a group of people who were all strangers to me were all engaged in a spiritual warfare battle for her life some 30 miles away at the EXACT MOMENT that I was mysteriously complelled to pray for her.

That incident still chills me to the bone some 7+ years later.

Spiritual warfare is real, and our prayer matters

God will use us in the war if our body, mind, and soul is in right standing with God through faith in Christ.

So how do you feel about coincidences?

Acts 2:38 (NIV)

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Posted in Addiction, bible study, drugs, faith, God's story, Holy Spirit, Jesus, my story, The Cross, trials | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

SOAP: Day Fifteen – At The Exact Moment!

Forward

We are at the 1/2 way point in this 30 days of opening the Bible with the agenda of finding relevance to our modern-day life in rebuke to the false belief that the Bible isn’t relevant to us today.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve discovered that this process of looking for an application is providing exhortation in a whole different way than I am accustomed to.

I find it fascinating that I’m now seeing the actions and attitudes that people took which facilitated certain outcomes instead of just viewing the Bible as historical reference material.

For example, simply reading about Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well and learning that the final outcome was that many in the town of Samaria became followers of Jesus is interesting… but how does that affect me today?

However, when searching the passages for an application, I found that she was surprised by Jesus, called out by Jesus, then moved to a belief in Jesus, and lastly, she obeyed Jesus, shared her testimony with the town, invited others to come to see.  

Her being originally ignorant but staying engaged with Jesus and then being convinced and obedient is what saved the town; God used her to save a town!

It made me recognize that God wants to use us the same way. She didn’t need any huge theological teaching or persuasion, she was simply excited and intrigued about her encounter with Him and invited others to come to see.

It challenged me to look at my heart and ask if I am still excited about Jesus and do I invite others to Him to “see for themselves”.

What was originally just historical information became an exhortation by shining a spotlight on my relationship with Jesus and asking me to examine my level of enthusiasm and effectiveness in my own evangelism.

The reason I’m sharing this is that I have noticed that after only 15 days of this endeavor I am developing a new habit.

I’m being rewarded by the SOAP process and am beginning to look forward to it more each day.

One thing I wanted to point out in the Application Section. I post the questions first person and open-ended for a reason. It might be helpful if you were to ask yourselves the same questions that I am extracting for my own walk.

Who knows, might stir something?

I don’t share my answers because these are the kinds of things that are personal between us and God when we ask Him to reveal the condition of our own heart.

Our relationship with God is not anything others can properly judge because they don’t walk in our shoes… we simply just need to be honest with God and ourselves.

So, what do you say, are you still with me? 

Ok, let’s do this!


SonRoyalHeal

Healing the royal official’s son by Joseph-Marie Vien, 1752.

Scripture

John 4:43-54 (NIV)

Jesus Heals an Official’s Son

43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there.

46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

48 Unless you people see signs and wonders, Jesus told him, you will never believe.”

49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

50 Go,” Jesus replied, your son will live.”

The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”

53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.

54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.


Observation

  • v45 – They welcomed Him… They had seen Him before
  • v47 – He heard Jesus was in town…
  • v47 – He went to Him and begged…
  • v50 – Your son will live… the man took Jesus at His word
  • v53 – This was the exact time…

Application


v45 – Because they had already seen Jesus and knew of Him, they welcomed Him.

  • How do I experience Jesus, as someone whom I’ve seen at work in my life previously and I now welcome?
  • Is He familiar or is He a far off historical figure without influence or power who I don’t even give much thought too except on Sunday, “if” I go to church?

v47 – He heard Jesus was in town, which means other people were talking about Him in public places most likely.

  • Do I engage in conversations about Jesus with other Christians in the public space or keep those kinds of conversations reserved for private venues?

v47 – He went to Jesus and begged Him for intervention.

  • When I pray or go to Church or sing worship music or evangelize… do I have the sensation that I’m “going to Jesus”. 
  • Do I make my deepest hearts desire known when I do go to Him? 

v50 – The man believed Jesus when He said: “your son will live”. I think of so many verses along this line of response… your faith has made you well. Or ye have little faith. 

  • On a scale of 1-5, how much faith do I have that Jesus is there for me and wants to answer my righteous prayers? (not gumball machine prayers)
  • How much faith do I put in God’s Word and the Holy Spirit within me?
  • If those aren’t a 5, what can I do to grow in my faith?

v53 – The exact time Jesus said “he will live” the boy was healed.

  • How do I view coincidences, random acts or Divine Providence?

 


Prayer

Abba Father, Your desire is for all to come to know and rely on You. And Your promises are extravagant if we will do that. I thank You for Your Word that calls me (us) in closer, and that it reveals the only important task in my life, which is to come closer, to lean on You, to love You, to worship You, to forever be increasing my faith in You. I pray now, as I do every time Father, that anyone who might be reading this and who might be questioning their own faith, that they would be filled with a desire to move closer to You now. I know when they do Lord that you don’t hold back and rejoice in revealing more of Yourself in those moments. Thank You, Lord, for your unending love, mercy, kindness, and patience. May you be glorified this day. 


Make sure and check out this new post where I share the testimony of a “coincidence” that will likely blow your mind, it does mine over 7 years later!

If it didn’t happen to me I would have never believed it. 

Blessings in Christ,

George

Posted in Addiction, bible study, drugs, faith, God's story, gratitude, Jesus, my story, S.O.A.P | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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