On Freedom.

Problem: Adulthood is a bit of a blur. If your not careful, and most times even if you are, responsibilities start to pile up. The hours grow slippery and seem to slip through your fingers. This gets even more clear once you have children. Children can become all-consuming and leave you with not a lot of energy for anything other than sleep and recovery.

We’ve all met people who seem to move through life with the enthusiasm of a sloth. Seemingly bound on all sides by responsibility and the prison of debt – whether financial, emotional, or spiritual. They may have the trappings of a successful life but their spirit seems heavy.

How do we remain afloat as the waters of responsibility rise around us?

There is a poem from Kahllil Gibran that I think of when I consider the how we should structure our life – mentally and spiritually as we acquire responsibilities.

You shall be free indeed when your days

are not without a care nor your nights with-

out a want and a grief,

    But rather when these things girdle your

life and yet you rise above them naked and

unbound.

    And how shall you rise beyond your

days and nights unless you break the chains

which you at the dawn of your under-

standing have fastened around your noon

hour?

    In truth that which you call freedom is

the strongest of these chains, though its

links glitter in the sun and dazzle your eyes.

    And what is it but fragments of your own

self you would discard that you may become

free?

-On Freedom – Kahlil Gibran
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

This poem reminds me of a couple things – that the dream of freedom can itself become a prison and that freedom is not the absence of responsibility but the enjoyment of life and pursuit of purpose despite the responsibilities.

That’s one reason I think it’s very important that we make time to pursue the things that feed you at least one hour a day. Make this pursuit a habit and prioritize your enjoyment even as the responsibilities of life multiply.

I know this is hard to do, but I also know its worth it.

Fly or Fall

OFO

North x Northwest

I can’t remember the last time that I used a compass. Perhaps when I was a cub scout, searching for ways to accumulate badges as if each were worth its weight in gold. Somewhere in my outdoor adventures, there was a time where I held some version of the small round device that magically, no matter where I was in the world, would point me North.

The compass needle wasn’t influenced by the obstacles that may have lain in the pathway north or how easy the path southward is.

A compass has one job, and that is to point you in the direction that it is aligned with.

Life was much simpler as a cub scout. As you grow, black and white is replaced with a whirlpool of gray and possibilities of what to pursue multiply, which is both liberating and paralyzing. If I can become anything I want to be, how do I know what I SHOULD be?

Do I follow my passion, my reason, my religion?

How do I know where all of the possibilities intersect with the gifts that lie within me?

How do I prepare for the future while respecting and appreciating the present?

Balancing and navigating these questions is the work of adulthood.

If you’ve read this far, your probably wondering, ok, well, what do you propose be a guiding principal for the decisions we’re making as we’re navigating life?

Fear.

Photo by julie aagaard on Pexels.com

Now, I think its important that we define what kind of fear I’m referring to.

The fear I’m referring to isn’t the bone-chilling fear of being in a dark alley with a shadowy figure approaching. I’m not advocating pursuing life-threatening situations as a means to find meaning. For most of the people reading this, your fear isn’t related to survival or making sure that you evade predators, but probably more along the lines of being exposed as being inadequate, or failing at something hard, or losing someone important to you.

Also I’m not sure if I’m advocating for using fear as a guiding principle as much as a compass that points towards something true. Just because the compass points north doesn’t mean that you should be heading north. However, knowing what direction is North is helpful no matter which direction your heading in.

So, why fear? What information does fear give us? When should we listen? How do we know when to ignore it and move forward?

In my life, fear is a marker of the edge of my belief. Fear gives me a definite boundary for exactly where my faith stops. Understanding this boundary is important because often times, when we feel the tremor of fear, we do everything we can to unconsciously arrange our lives not to approach that boundary again, in the hope that we can avoid the discomfort. This is, perhaps, a mistake. In the interest of growth, it may be worth it to sit on the edge of that boundary and inspect it for what truth is it conveying?

  • Am I afraid because I made something other than God my source?
  • Am I afraid because I don’t want to disappoint others or myself?
  • Is this fear rational or emotionally driven? Is this fear a product of worry about the future or regret about the past?

Sitting at the edge of your fear will give you INFORMATION. This information if you allow it to can inform you of the path towards growth.

This is not easy work. Easy work makes for a hard life.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

2 Timothy 1:7

Fly or fall.

OFO

Self-Imposed Shackles

I have a voice in my head.

I’m sure you probably have a similar one.

Sometimes, I don’t mind this voice in my head. It allows me to think through potential situations and do cool things like self-reflect.

Most times, however, my voice is complaining and annoying. I mean, it sounds like me, but it often says things that put me in a bad mood or make me angry.

It’s taking me a long time to start to wonder, why exactly I listen to this voice.

I think the original reason is that, like my ’99 honda accord, it was mine. No one else in the world had this particular voice, just me. So who could it be talking to but me. However, over the last couple of months, years, decades. I can see certain patterns in the voice. Patterns that don’t lead to forward progress in certain areas.

I think the voice is deathly afraid of risk, intimacy, and failure.

I’m no fan of these things either.

But I notice that the voice kicks up a steady stream of reasons why I shouldn’t risk a new venture, or let someone close to me, and how I can control failure by working to the exclusion of all other things, whenever I consider something that may fall into those categories.

What’s interesting is that in the short term – the voice is right.

I can avoid risk by not pursuing the things that excite me. I can keep my heart safe by only letting people in so far, and I can prevent failure by working hard on things that don’t matter. If I stay on the hamster wheel long enough, the voice might distract me from the dreams that lay on the horizon.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For me, the first step in growing will be doing battle with the voice in my head and listening to the still, small voice in my soul that is pointing out into the horizon.

Even if that means I have to risk the safe place that the voice considers home.

Fly or Fall.

OFO

[8/4/22]

Hustling Backwards..

Me and work have a unhealthy relationship. I’m not sure exactly why. There’s probably a million reasons that I could point to:

  • My parents were immigrants and hard work was just a matter of survival
  • I live in a society where money is tied to productivity and I decided early I didn’t want to be poor
  • In the family I grew up in, work, especially paid labor was the great excuser – almost anything could be forgiven if work was the reason

This reality, unfortunately, has some unfortunate fruit. I can find myself using work as an excuse to avoid other, more important work. Whether that work in internal emotional work, spiritual work or just investing in family seems not to matter.

Being in relationship with someone who didn’t grow up with these same values can be a bit disorienting. The reaction to work used as a all-excuse is bewildering to me. Work isn’t viewed as a relevant excuse for missing important functions, which allows me to evaluate exactly why I’m working so hard and make sure that i’m being honest with myself.

One of the questions I have to ask myself is why am I working so hard? Of course, you should work heartily unto the lord but working all day – that may point to something else.

Psalm 127 speaks a bit about this:

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.”

Psalm 127:1-2

Too often I find myself working anxiously which at its base means, I really don’t trust God to provide for me. I think that I must create a pathway via work to provide for myself.

Lord forgive my inability to remember the many ways you’ve provided for me and and my family and help me to rest in You.

FOF.

OFO

On Time.

Something that is on my mind this morning is the way that God always manages to be right “on-time”, and how this is really the best most effective way to make sure that people learn something at a heart level.

Do you remember the feeling of being in classes that didn’t apply to any area of your current experience and how mundane those hours of trigonometry seemed? Alot of our general education seemed to hold no relevance to our lived experience and so often those lessons are doomed to fade into the shade of oblivion.

Was this because the information wasn’t true? or helpful? I’d venture to say that no- the information was both true, and potentially helpful but that more importantly, it just didn’t apply and had no “good soil” for the skills, information, or learning to sink into.

Contrast those experiences with the experience of riding a bike, or learning to drive a car, or when you learned to budget or invest. These skills were potentially much easier to grasp for one specific reason, in my opinion: Immediate applicability with a clear benefit.

If you learned how to ride your bike on Monday, you could immediately take the bike for a spin for the rest of the week. The same with learning to budget – as soon as your next check rolled in you could immediately use the skills and see their impact on your quality of life.

I think that God in his infinite wisdom is not unaware of this fact. Often, it seems upon looking back I can see how he brought me to a place where I could on a very intimate level start to understand the lessons that he was working on with me. He would bring me to a place where my frustration was at an all time high in order for him to really show the impact of how trusting him to give me peace would change my life. He will often bring me to a place where money alone is unsatisfactory or not enough to provide and he will show me how his provision is much broader than just money.

In my opinion, there is no better place to be in order to start to really want to see a solution and when given one, use it. It’s something like ‘Rock Bottom’ for alcoholics anonymous. We’ve reached a place where we can finally hear and accept the wisdom that we need in order to make it to a better place in the long term.

I would love to use this model of learning while I’m in the process of teaching my children. It makes me wonder what this might require from me to work effectively?

Patience?

Being involved enough to see where my children are at?

Not allowing my fear of inadequacy force my hand into solving all their problems for them immediately but being patient enough to allow the problem to develop fully and the emotional fortitude to see the potential benefit of pain.

I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to (with my wife) build those skills enough to impact my family’s life for the better.

FOF. OFO.

What to do when you don’t feel like doing ..

Today feels a bit like the day after a thunderstorm. The last 48 hours have been chaotic and emotionally draining. And although the sun has risen upon a new day with new possibilities, the smell of ozone lingers and the leaves are awash in the streets.

I feel the exact opposite of excited to tackle the day.

I definitely feel like I’m falling.

The emotional lows that come with spiritual growth can be soul-crushing. Our inability to see past our current situation can make it feel like God has forgotten us. We may be tempted to opt out of doing the very things that God has perhaps called us to do. We may also want to indict God, because honestly, if He is the King of the Universe, and controls all things why is he making me suffer like this?

In moments of emotional pain, that seems to exist with no reason, it can feel much easier to reject God wholesale in order to turn to the things that will comfort us in the short run. Those things can be food, unhealthy relationships, pornography, drugs, or other band-aids that will distract you from the waves of pain that seem to wash upon your heart with no end in sight.

If you can..

I’d highly recommend you hold tight before you make any decisions that won’t serve you. Instead, I’d ask you to stay engaged with God.

Be angry with God, but talk to Him.

Curse him if you must, break down and ask Him about his absence.

The Psalms are full of this exact situation where the pain of life can seem to separate us from our faith in Christ. Where believing in the God of angel armies feels like the flimsy hope of an immature child. Psalm 77 is one of these psalms. It perfectly reflects the thoughts that accompany the pain of times when God seems to have put up an “out of office” sign.

“I cry out to God; yes I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven but my soul was not comforted. I think of God and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help.

-Psalm 77:1-3

I was recently in one of these spells and, while I failed at a lot, I can share a couple things that I did right:

  • Stayed connected with the body of Believers
  • Kept talking to God, even if it was mostly about my pain and his [perceived] absence

In the spirit of transparency I did a lot more wrong than right. I let my emotions and need for control run wild and didn’t discipline myself to spend more time with him during my morning devotional time. In fact, I was so fed, I was only able write a couple of words. In fact the first sentence I wrote in my journal was: “Lord, where are you. How could this happen?”

Psalm 77 gives some insight into a tactic that I didn’t use but that we should when were in these tunnels of darkness.

“And I said, ‘This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.” but then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.”

Psalm 77: 10-12

The writer of this psalm, although they were in the midst of deep pain, chose to double down on remembering how good God had been to them in the past. This gave him the strength to continue on, even if things seems particularly dark. This is something that I’m going to try to remember during my next trial in the hopes that my faith muscle will remember how I feel now, after I’ve come out of the darkness and feel 1000% better about God’s faithfulness.

Also, honestly, after I’ve come out of a storm and can see clearly again that God did not forsake me but that I was just throwing a tantrum or couldn’t see the benefits of the situation at the moment, I feel so embarrassed.

I feel almost ashamed at my lack of faith, but then I have to remind myself that I’m not alone, and that believers through the generations have endured the same feelings as God works out the immaturity that can be found in us all. Praying for your strength and remembrance of God’s goodness.

F.O.F

OFO

[7/26/22 – 7/27/22]

Godly Marriage Pt. 1

Whew, yesterday I got the opportunity to go to our couples ministry at church and when I tell you that the session was heavy ..i’m talking elephant carrying a hippo.

Why? What could have made a meeting about love and serving your spouse feel like the scene of a murder?

This particular class was about the reality of living with a person who is just as broken as you and the inevitable roadblocks that you’ll encounter as you journey through life and the feelings we will face when endeavor to get our needs met via another person.

Before we dive in, how did our church land on such a potentially disheartening topic? We were working through the book – “Families where Grace is in Place” by Jeff VanVonderen. The book goes through and mentions (and we’ve heard it in some or fashion) through life that:

“That no man or woman is powerful enough to provide life and value to their spouse. Spouses weren’t created by God to “fix” spouses. Jesus came ot provide life and value to each one of us.”

-Jeff VanVonderen

Basically a relationship in which performance is demanded or expected is a no-win situation for both parties.

I’ll admit in our relationship this was particularly difficult for me to hear. I think this message is always tough for the planner, fixer, or someone who has grown up with the performance model in their family of origin. This probably describes me to a T. I’ve enjoyed some of the benefits of having this performance based model – in that it has pushed me to perform and achieve, which can pay some nice dividends in things like career and finances. However, in the soul deep level of happiness, this approach to life is deeply toxic. This predilection towards performance lends itself to a focus on comparison and not really being able to rest and enjoy the gift of life that God has given. You may also find yourself growing resentful of people attached to you who are not performing up to your standards. This can be absolute kryptonite to a relationship. There is nothing less sexy than an atmosphere of expectation that ushers in a cycle of disappointment and pressure when people don’t perform up to your standards.

The last couple of sessions we were outlining the problem and in today’s session – it really hit home because we had spent the morning arguing about unmet needs and every word of the book had rattled around my head but hadn’t made it to my heart just yet.

My next post I’ll tackle what I learned from our session and start ot unpack my next steps as I try to apply the word to my real-life marriage.

Pray for me.

Fly or Fall.

OFO

How does one change a heart?

Not a strangers. Or even a intimate partners’ heart. How does one change one’s own heart.

How do you undo a heart that’s been scratched, pulled and beaten into a certain shape? That’s got habits older than middle schoolers? sometimes I pray and I get discouraged because I see the same behaviors tripping me up today that I saw tripping me 1 year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago.

How do we create lasting change that happens at the heart level and spills out into our day to day.

“Do not be conformed to this world, 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.”

Romans 12:2 

How do we accomplish Romans 12:2?

The verse that seems to point to an answer is in Ezekiel 36: 26:

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

Ezekiel 36:26

Basically, it looks like it must be a gift from God. Is there anything I must do to receive this gift? The only stipulation that I can seem to find is that I be “in” Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 5:17

So I just have to figure out, is how to live IN Christ. Somehow, I feel that I may be complicating something that Christ meant to be easy.


Lord, Help me today as I hunger for your transformation. Everyday I see the damage that my old heart does to my family – I Pray that you help me discover a new heart and change the way that I love. Give me patience, kindness. Help me not to be envious of the people around me whom I love. Help not to dishonor others or keep no record of wrong. Help me Lord.

Amen.

Fly or Fall.

OFO

7/21/22 – Shining a Light on Brokenness

The last couple of years have been the most self-reflective years I’ve ever had. For someone who thought they were constantly interrogating themselves and trying to figure out what I could do to become a better version of myself this came as a bit of surprise. There are a couple of reasons why, but the biggest by far has been being in a long-term relationship. I’ve heard it said that relationships, especially intimate ones serve as a mirror that sheds light on the parts of yourself that perhaps you’ve been able to ignore. This has certainly been the case for me. Everyday in a long-term relationship, I’ve had to come face to face with some new insecurity, or responsibility that seems to loom large and highlight an area where I’m lacking something seemingly vital to the success of my family.

This is humbling and scary in the most intrinsic ways.

Your realize that if your not careful and diligent in addressing your shortcomings, people will suffer. Your wife will suffer. Your children will suffer. Future generations will inherit the fruit of your faithfulness or irresponsibility. It’s made me much more appreciative of the Father’s who came before me who withstood the almost constant messages of the world that their own personal happiness should come before the wholeness of the family that they’ve taken an oath to build (speaking especially of men who hold themselves accountable to God).

There is a particular bible verse that helped me this particular morning as I was struggling with the enormity of the task ahead of me, and to be quite honest, my dissatisfaction with the state of things. I feel anxious and worried about the future and scared that I’ll fail. I lack practice in being content and struggle with comparison which is THE thief of joy.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4:6-9

This verse is actually an amazing framework for doing battle with anxiety and the stresses that come with attempting something bigger than you are.

  1. It clearly says that we shouldn’t worry -> instead we should give things over to God
  2. It lets us know that if we do give things over to God – he will will “Guard” our hearts and minds. This is so powerful because it implies that our hearts and minds are under attack by an external force and that we perhaps need this protection.
  3. It gives practical instructions on how we ourselves can do battle on the fields of our minds and hearts – by mastering our thoughts and focusing on [paraphrasing] “whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable..anything worthy of praise, think on these things.”

Lord as I head to the airport to get my family – give me wisdom and strength and the ability to lean into the word you’ve given me. Help me to fight the good fight of faith and to think on the things that are positive and inspiring and not the things I don’t have. Give me a new mind as I seek contentment and joy in you and in the life you’ve gifted me. Amen.

Fly or Fall.

OFO.

7/20/2022 – Fighting Condemnation

Good morning Lord. Thank you for a new day, thank you for the opportunity to wake up safe and in my own bed. Lord I pray that you help me to overcome the spirit of condemnation and frustration that sits heavy upon me.


The family has been away this week and for the most part its been a much welcomed break. Yesterday was kind of tough however, I’m not sure why it was so tough but I think a large part was because I was unable to be as productive as I would have liked. Work wasn’t flowing and specifically something that was usually my forte I was unable to accomplish up to standard. This for some reason really threw off my whole day. I grew despondent and my mind started racing.

I’m really know sure what to do on days like that – I’m guess I should have spent more time in the word and less time worrying and letting my mind lead me down these dark roads of frustration and self-blame. Regardless, I’m hoping that today I can turn the corner and focus much more on the positive and filling myself with God’s word and praise music and being patient enough to hear from God.

God did do something to reach out to me in the midst of my dark session of despair. I had actually ordered a study bible a couple of days ago and luckily it arrived today. As soon as it arrived – even in the midst of my pain, I flipped it open and it fell to a particular passage about Elijah after he had fled from jezebel.

And he [d]was afraid, and got up and ran for his [e]life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah; and he left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree; and he asked for himself to die, and said, “Enough! Now, Lord, take my [f]life, for I am no better than my fathers.” Then he lay down and fell asleep under a broom tree; but behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat!” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a round loaf of bread baked on hot coals, and a pitcher of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. But the angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him, and said, “Arise, eat; because the journey is too long for you.” So he arose and ate and drank, and he journeyed in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.

-1 Kings 19:3-8

This was super helpful because one of the main points from this passage for me is that sometimes the most impactful thing we can do is eat, and sleep and rest before we continue. And to be honest, my sleep pattern had been really terrible over the last couple of days. I had been waking up really early but going to bed really late in an effor to accomplish everything that I think I needed to while the family was awake. Perhaps yesterday was my body’s way of reclaiming its time.

Anyway- Diving into the book that I’m reading this week with bible study: “Kingdom Man” by Tony Evans.

One of the quotes from this section is:

“With everything in motion, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is stability”

-Tony Evans, Kingdom Man

Explaining further Tony says: “No matter what else is happening in the world, the children of a kingdom man can be confident of having stability at home. That stability fuels them to take on the world in flux around them. Establishing this kind of stability isn’t that difficult… Most of all you do it by simply being there – fully present, not just in body but in mind and heart too.”


Lord, I pray that you help me to be able to raise a Godly focused family. Help me. Guide me. Grow me. Help me not to crumble under the weight of responsibility but to trust that you are able to do what is impossible for man. Get rid of the obstacle to you in our family and allow us to make room to hear your voice and will for our family.

Fly or Fall,

OFO