THE STRUGGLE WITH OBEDIENCE Part​ 2. “Making Myself the Lord of my Life.”

I have attempted to control God and His leading and to be honest; I’m making a mess of everything.

What were the results of attempting to act as the lord of my life? I believed my plans were more significant than God’s design for my life. I struggled to fulfill my purpose instead of resting in the direction of a holy and sovereign God. I was unwilling to trust God’s purpose for my life, so I pursued my own course. When I placed myself as the lord of my life, I put myself in a position of authority over God. I decide what was best for myself and I determine what the best course of my life was. I sought my pleasure and will over God’s authority. The problem with making myself the lord of my life was I relied on my selfish desires to guide my choices. The choices I made were far-removed from what was actually best for my life.

When we make ourselves lord over our lives, we ultimately reject God’s authority.

It is essential at this point to stress that God has given us free will to choose how we live our lives. God has given us the ability to reason, to determine the courses for our lives and to make sound judgments. These are God-given qualities; He has placed within each of us.  However, when we choose to make ourselves lord over our lives, we misuse these God-given qualities to meet our selfish and self-centered desires. We use what God has given us to further our agendas and ambitions. We seek to fulfill our destiny and find the best course for our lives with little regard for God or for others. Our pursuits become all about me, all about what I can achieve and accomplish. We do not consider the effects our actions have on others. When we make ourselves lord over our lives, we ultimately reject God’s authority. We place God in a subordinate role and establish ourselves as the supreme authority of our lives. We resist God; we overrule God’s guiding principles and make our desire the guiding principles of our lives. We seek our pleasure over Godly principals; fulfilling our ambition becomes the sole purpose of our lives. This seeking leads to frustration, hopelessness, desperation and lonely existence that centers on pleasure, this is a direct result of having a low view of God.

A low view of God permits us to use God in a self-centered and self-promoting way. 

A low view of God is a view that God is just like us; he is our buddy, our friend, our companion, someone to hang out with and someone to go to when we are in need. A low view of God says “I can do this on my own, but just in case I can’t, I know you have my back.” A low view of God implies He is just another friend and not the one with complete authority over our lives. When we hold such a low opinion of God, we fail to see God in all of his Holiness. We fail to recognize the supreme power and authority of the creator God. A low view of God allows us to mold God into our image and to use Him as a means to our end. A low view of God is one that does not convict us of our sin. A low view of God allows us to live our life the way we want to live. A low view of God gives us the authority to bend God to our will and use Him to accomplish our desires.  A low view of God permits us to use God in a self-centered and self-promoting way. Instead of viewing God as our final authority over our lives, we see ourselves as God, and we follow our desire, using our power to guide ourselves. A low view of God gives us the freedom to live our lives the way we want to, without worrying about the consequences of sin. We neglect the Scriptures, we ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and we disregard God’s sovereignty over our lives.  A low view of God lets us take control of our lives by relegating God to the role of a cosmic genie. We see God as the one who gives us favors, who will grant us our wishes. God becomes for us the fairy godmother who shows up at just the right time to save us. A low view of God permits us to place Him on the sidelines of our lives. We leave Him in reserves until we need Him to solve a crisis and once our crisis is over, we place him on the sidelines to wait for the next crisis. These are the actions of a self-centered and egotistical low view of God. We value our experiences over God’s leading. We pursue our desires over God’s desire for our lives. We appreciate what we can accomplish on our own, over what God can achieve through an obedient and surrendered life. However, the picture of God and His Holiness in Scripture is vastly different than the low view many have of God today. God’s Holiness is profoundly higher than anything we can imagine or perceive.

To be Continued

THE STRUGGLE OF OBEDIENCE – PART 1

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Preaching Taji, Iraq 2007

A Career Soldier 

During my time on active duty, I was often asked how long I would stay in the Army.  Most people wanted to know if I was going to make the Army a career. My answer was always the same,  “I take one assignment at a time.” My answer always conveyed the thought “I would stay in the Army for as long as the Army allows.” However, there was a seconded part to my answer. I would state with all confidence when the time comes for me to leave the Army, God would make it known, and I would leave willingly. I would say “I am a minister, I will do ministry anywhere. If that means doing ministry in the Army or the civilian then I will be happy.” During those times I sounded pious and obedient to God’s leading and will. I presented myself as someone who has so surrender to God’s will that no matter the circumstance or the direction I would faithfully follow without question or complaint. It sounded great, made me feel spiritual, and allowed me to mask that I was only willing to follow God as long as He leads me in the direction I want to go. The truth behind my grand statements was “I am willing only if God opens a senior pastor position in a large church. “If God meets my demand then I will freely Directional Signleave the Army and follow His leading.” What I said outwardly was “I would follow the leading of God in my life,” but inwardly I meant “I would follow the leading of God as long as He led me down the path I wanted.” As often the case, God is not bound by my desires or the direction I want to take. He is sovereign, and he leads as He chooses. The only response God expects from me is to be obedient to his leading and to follow as He directs. I do not have a license to decide to follow God’s leading or choose not to follow. It is merely my responsibility to be faithful in my obedience to him.

I left the Army bitter, angry, and resentful

No NO NO drag

Five years ago I left the Army on a medical retirement due to my severe PTSD. I did not go quietly; I was not leaving with an attitude of obedience to the clear leading of God. Even though I spent 16-years declaring when the time came, I would happily go and transition to civilian ministry. Nevertheless, I left the Army bitter, angry, and resentful. I was not bitter towards the Army; I was not upset with the Army for medically retiring me. However, I was resentful towards God for taking away my career and “my” calling. I was resentful that His leading was not matching up with my expectations. He did not lead me out of the Army the way I was anticipating. No senior pastor positions were waiting for me the day I retired. There were no ministry opportunities available to walk into the following day. No phone calls were made asking me to travel to churches to preach and share my story. The day I walked out of the personnel center at Ft. Sam Houston, the only things I had ministry wise was my PTSD, my resentment towards God, and ultimately more hospital stays, treatment programs, and counseling. This direction was not how I expected God to lead. Instead of leaving the Army with excitement and a spirit of obedience, I left angry, feeling betrayed, and furious not towards the Army but toward God. How Could God takes away my career and ministry I loved? How could He lead me out of the Army when I only had 4-years before I reached my 20-year mark? How could God remove me from the Army and the Chaplain ministry and leave me with no pastoral or ministry position to take its place?

I’m making a mess of everything.

Just recently I have come to the realization I was not living in obedience to God’s leading; I was living in resentment and sin. I was not submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  I was seeking my way, my direction, and my desires. I was trying to make my path with my own ministry opportunities. Yet, when the results were not what I expected, I responded with more resentment towards God. I came to the point of saying to others, and myself “I am finished with the ministry, I enjoyed it while it lasted, but now it’s over.” The reality is God has not withdrawn His calling on my life. I have, however, attempted to control God and His leading and to be honest; I’m making a mess of everything.

To be continued

 

CAN I REALLY SHARE MY HURT?

God sincerely wants us to share with Him all of our burdens, concerns and cares. He patiently waits with open arms to take us and shelter us in His love.

“I’m lost in my own silent world; I wish I could simply tell someone what is going on in my head. I wish I could let people know the fears I face each day. My doubt and worries overshadow any peace I may have. My struggles, my hurts, and my pain are always before me. I desperately wish I could share with someone how I feel.” These are the thoughts we often feel whether we suffer from PTSD, anxiety, self-doubt or any numerous reasons that cause us to remain silent. There are so many times we wish we could just open up and share our doubts, struggles, despair, and fears. But we keep them to ourselves; too scared to share them with anyone, lest we are ridiculed, mocked, dismissed or attacked for the way we feel. How desperately lonely it is to live a life trapped inside our pain and be silent to all who wish to help bear our struggles. How agonizing it is to live feeling as though no one cares about our feelings.

So what is it that we can do to find relief?

How do we find the courage to step out and open our hearts to others and share the pain we suffer deep inside? In Psalms 62 King David is facing a rebellion that is being led by his son Absalom. David’s counselors and advisers have turned against him. The people have also turned against David and support the rebellion. David flees the city of Jerusalem with just a few loyal friends and family and hides in the hills. David is rejected and cast aside, he is no longer the ruling king and his son has usurped his power. What is David to do? Where does he go and to whom does he turn for help? Psalms 62:5-8 gives us the answer.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times you people; pour out your hearts to Him for God is our refuge.

These verses reveal to us the amazing perspective King David has, in the midst of his struggles, heartache, rebellion, lies, and conspiracies David finds rest. What an astonishing thought! How does one find rest in such dire circumstances? David finds rest in God who is his hope, his rock, his salvation and his fortress. How can this be? How does David not turn against God and declare He is unjust and vengeful? Yet instead of being hateful and angry with God, David states with all confidence that He will not be shaken. He is entirely and openly relying on God as his rock and refuge. How can David demonstrate such faith? At this point in David’s life, he has experienced the amazing hand of God in his life. David has experienced deliverance, forgiveness, rescue and found safety in the shadow of the Almighty. By this point in his life, he is able to say without a doubt that God is his refuge. Thus, he is able to advise us to trust God at all times and to pour out our hearts to Him, for He is our refuge.

We seek God’s emotional and spiritual safety, yet we never pour our hearts out to God.

I remember early on in our marriage, how desperately I wanted to share my struggles and doubts with my wife. I would wake up in the morning with all the intentions of talking with her about the way I was feeling. But when the opportunity presented itself instead of sharing, I would remain silent. I would argue with myself. Sometimes I would convince myself to say nothing and other times I would convince myself to talk with her about my feelings. I can still remember the hopelessness I felt when I desperately wanted to speak with her, yet somehow I could not even get a word out. I would tell myself “Do it now this is the best time, she is not doing anything.” But then I would reply to myself and say, “Just wait for 15-minutes then talk to her.” This would go on an entire day and by the time I went to bed, I still had not found the courage to talk with her. This is what we do with God; we go day after day withholding our pain and hurt from God. We seek His relief and seek the emotional and spiritual safety that He offers to us, yet we never pour out our hearts to God. We find ourselves trapped behind our fears and doubts and never take the step to cry out to God. How can we expect to pour out our most profound struggles, uncertainties, and pain to others if we cannot pour out our hearts to God?

 God sincerely wants us to share with Him all of our burdens, concerns, and cares!

He patiently waits with open arms to take us and shelter us in His love, acceptance, forgiveness, and salvation. Crying out to God is the safest way to open our hearts and reveal our most profound struggles. For God is caring, loving, full of grace, one who gives peace and one who liberally pours out His mercy to all who seek Him. Once we learn how to pour out our hearts to God, it becomes so much easier to begin to share with others and to trust those around us. Pouring out our hearts to God gives us the courage to start sharing with others. We can start small and learn to trust. We can experience the relief that comes when we share with others, and they respond with compassion instead of conflict. Once I finally discovered I could share my deepest fears, heartaches, struggle, and doubts with my wife, I entered into an entirely new relationship with her. I now find comfort in her understand, her compassion and her encouragement and I no longer fear to share my heart with her. This is the relationship that God wants to have with you. He desires a relationship where you do not dread opening ourselves to Him, but you seek to share your struggle with Him daily. God wants to give you peace, comfort, and hope. He wants to be your shelter, your rock, your salvation and your refuge. The only thing that stops you is you yourself. Right, this minute you can call out to God and pour out your heart to Him, He will hear you and respond to your cry.

What is keeping you from doing so this very moment?

HELP! I HAVE ANXIETY AND DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!

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With so many ways for reducing or beating anxiety why do we still suffer  with anxiety?

What do I do with my anxiety? It is a burden that is heavy and drags me down. I wake up distressed by my worries and cares so much so, I can barely face the day. I end the day overwhelmed with all that has happened. I faced the day where once again my fears and anxiety has thrown me into emptiness and despair. I long to sleep, hoping that for a few restless hours, I may find some peace for my weary soul. But as I fall asleep, I am reminded that when I wake, I will once again face another day, just like the one I had today. Burden on backThese are the thoughts of living with the weight of anxiety and dread. Our hearts cry out for some relief, no matter how small it may be. We desperately seek some sort of reprieve from our worries and cares. We hope for just a few hours of truly restful sleep and somehow dare to imagine a new day without our anxiety dragging us down. So what do we do with our stress? There are many suggestions on how to control anxiety; there is meditation, the practice of grounding, practicing mindfulness, deep breathing and of course the many medications available to help reduce anxiety. A quick web search of the topic of lowering anxiety yielded these results. 22 quick tips to change your anxiety forever, 7 ways to calm your anxiety, 10 relaxation techniques to reduce stress, 15 easy ways to beat anxiety, 16 simple ways to relieve stress and anxiety, 9 ways to reduce anxiety right now, 7 simple tips to ease anxiety, 19 natural remedies for anxiety and 36 simple ways to quite your anxiety. With so many ways of reducing or beating anxiety why do we still suffer so much with anxiety?

Here at Healing the Storm, we believe that the primary way of handling our anxiety is found in casting our anxiety and cares upon God. Psalms 55:22 tells us “Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.” and 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” While the many different techniques for handling anxiety may be helpful, we believe the essential and decisive way of handling our anxiety is to cast our cares upon God. The word casting is a verb, and when used with an object such as anxiety it denotes to throw, hurl or fling, to throw off or away from, or to cause something to fall on something else. The Scripture tells us to throw, hurl or toss our anxiety, to throw it off or throw it away by causing it to fall on something else. So what is it we are to throw our anxiety on? Both the Psalmist and Peter tell us the object we are to cast or throw our anxiety on is God. Black-People-300x169We see in these two verses there are three benefits of casting our anxiety on God. The first is that God will sustain us; He will support, hold up and bear our burden and anxiety for us. He will endure without giving in or yielding to the weight of our distress. He will carry and embrace our anxiety, so we do not have to carry it ourselves. Secondly, we see that God will never let His children be shaken. He will never allow us to become dislodged or fall under the weight of our anxiety, as He is the one who carries our burdens for us. He will not even allow us to tremble, move or sway under the weight of our anxiety. For we no longer have to struggle with the overwhelming weight of our worry. Lastly, we see we cast our cares and anxiety on God because He cares for us. God does not carry our burden of anxiety because He expects some sort of compensation from us. He does not place an unmanageable demand on us in exchange for taking our load of anxiety. God does not hold us to an impossible standard we have to maintain for God to carry our burdens. He bears our burden simply because he cares for us, God cares for us unconditionally, He is deeply and personally concerned for our well-being. He carries our burdens of anxiety because He intensely loves us and wants us to have peace in Him.casting

I want us to notice that by casting our anxiety on God, that our worries are not gone forever. For we will always be troubled by the worries of this world, our trauma and struggles will always be a part of our lives. But what we do see is that God carries the burden of our anxiety and worries for us. So we can walk in His peace so we can rely on His strength to carry those things that we cannot carry ourselves. My friends are you carrying your own burdens today? Are you falling under the weight of the burdens of your anxiety? Do you find yourself in a place that you are crushed under the heaviness of the burden of dread? Then I urge you, my friends, to cast all your cares upon God this very moment because he cares for you. All you have to do is be honest with God share your burdens with Him and ask Him to carry your troubles and anxieties. If you do not have a relationship with God where you can cast your cares upon Him. I want you to know that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has made a way, for you, to enter into a relationship with God the Father. I encourage you to follow the link below to learn how you too can have a relationship with God and find the peace you are seeking.

FINDING PEACE WITH GOD

Cast your cares upon God for He loves and cares for you.

 

 

Finding Meaning at a Train Show

I had to find a way to overcome and gain freedom from my conceived threats.

There was a time when leaving my house was something I dreaded. I often found myself not leaving the house and realizing at the end of the week I had never stepped outside.   Those were dark times. My fear of the dangers that existed in the “real” world kept me safely confined to my house. I knew that staying in the house, I could avoid the potential threats that were present as soon as I walked outside. These were lonely times, times of anxiety and times of avoidance. Eventually, I came to the point where I knew I had to stop living this way and venture out into the “real” world. I had to find a way to overcome and gain freedom from these conceived threats. Over time I have made progress. Although, sometimes I still find myself staying in the house for days at a time. There are days when it seems safer to stay inside the house when my wife is at work. So I give in to my need to feel safe and stay in the house with my service dog, three cats, and four fish. However, it gets boring, and I become dissatisfied with not doing anything. Which leads down the road to depression and that is just a quick downhill progression to disaster.

                       I Have Always Enjoyed Trains.IMG_1311

I like to watch trains and listen to the sounds the trains make as they pass. I enjoy listening to the clanging of the crossing bells and watching the blinking lights on the barriers as they come down. I enjoy riding trains and feeling the movement of the cars as they cross over the tracts. I appreciate the rhythmic clicking that is made as the wheels of the train pass over the rail joiners. IMG_0955

I enjoy train history especially the golden era of railroading in the 1950’s when the railroads ran both steam and diesel locomotives. I enjoy collecting railroad documents, timetables, brochures and ads from the 1930s-1950s. My favorite things to collect are railroad dining menus. It is fun to see what people ate 60-80 years ago and of course to see how much they paid for a meal. I am able to look at a railroad menu and determine the age of the menu by merely looking at the pricing. I also like collecting employee’s service and safety awards along with all types of railroad memorabilia (a word I can’t pronounce).

The most exciting part of my train fascination is attending train and railroad shows and the thrill of searching for and finding a great treasure. The fascination with trains and railroads eventually led me to start selling railroad items on eBay, which at best is a hit or miss endeavor. So one day, I had the idea of instead of just attending a train show, I might actually see if I could sell items at a train show. So my wife and I decided to give it a shot and see if we could actually sell items. Our first attempt, while not exceptional, showed we had the potential of selling at train shows. So we set out to start building a train show business, we are doing pretty well so far. We are still learning, trying to figure out pricing and the whole profit margin game. But we have found a right mix of items to sell and are now working with four wholesalers. Our next big step is to start looking for better places to buy our railroad memorabilia and documents at a lower cost than we are doing now.

We just finished our latest train show last weekend, and we were delighted with the sales and the outcome. We now have a small clientele that looks for us at the train shows they attend, which is nice. We are now ready to take our small but growing business to the next level by increasing the number of shows we attend as vendors.

There is a better way to live your life, you do not need to be stuck hiding from the “real” world.

You may be asking yourself, “what does all this have to do with my first paragraph?” When I realized I was stuck in my house not doing or accomplishing anything, I realized I needed to change. So the first thing I did was to start this blog. The blog gives me satisfaction and helps fill the time I normally dedicated to doing nothing. But while the blog keeps me busy, it also serves as a good excuse to stay in the house and continue hiding from the “real” world. My fledgling train business allows me to connect with people, to focus on something I enjoy and am passionate about. It allows me to get up and spend some of my days looking for products to sell and finding wholesale distributors. Finding wholesale distributors who sell railroad items is vastly harder than learning Greek and Hebrew in seminary.

My thought for you today is if you find yourself stuck in the dark void of living with your symptoms of PTSD or trauma and using the coping skills of avoidance. There is a better despair-1436325-1920x1280way to live your life. You do not need to be stuck hiding from the “real” world, you can take small steps to overcome the fear of going out. For me, one of the steps was to start selling railroad memorabilia. I started with eBay, and we have now expanded to selling at train shows. So the question today is, “what is it you are passionate about?” How can you use your passion to begin living your life again?” We don’t need to be stuck in a world of fear, darkness, and avoidance. We can live a life that is meaningful and fulfilling. But it takes courage and a willingness to step out into the “real” world. So my encouragement today is that you go forth and begin to live your life again.

The Dangers of a Daily Medication Routine

I have a daily routine down for taking my medication.

I take medication at night before I go to bed and in the morning when I wake up. Being the practical person I am, I came up with a great (if I may say so myself) routine. I use a relatively full cup of water to take my pills at night, I use the remainder of the water in the morning to take my morning pills. It sounds like a good idea, as it reminds me to take my morning pills. At first, the plan worked perfectly, just as I had envisioned. Everything was in working order, and I was pleased with the outcome. After a brief time of success, I began to notice that sometimes the water had a weird taste in the morning. Over the ensuing weeks, I made a few comments to my wife about the strange taste of the water. Not long after, I noticed sometimes there was an oily film floating on the water. So naturally, I avoided drinking the water and would get a fresh cup. I mentioned to my wife how strange it was to have an oily film develop on the water overnight. So I decided  I would check the water in the morning before I drank it, and if there was a film on the water, I would just toss it out. If there was no film, I would drink the water. However, sometimes the weird taste was still present. So I finally decided to use a fresh cup each morning. Then one night Zike the Angry Cat, who sleeps with us, walked over my head to get to the nightstand beside my bed. I woke up and turned towards my nightstand and saw this sight.

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Mystery Solved 

WAKING UP TO ANOTHER DAY WITH PTSD.

Sometime I wish I had physical wounds I could look at and tell myself “Yea, you have PTSD all right, just look at the scars.”

When I was first diagnosed with PTSD, I was pretty critical about the diagnosis. I thought the diagnosis was just a convenient way for my treatment team to wash their hands of me. It seemed in my mind; by labeling me with PTSD, they could resolve themselves from the responsibility of actually helping me through my problems. I did not believe I had PTSD, I had not engaged in combat, I had not been “blown up” or received any type of physical injuries. I was a chaplain, a non-combatant; I did not even carry a weapon of any kind. There was no way I could have PTSD.dejection 2 What right do I have to claim such a diagnosis when so many others have a legitimate reason for having PTSD? For years I struggled with the question “Do I actually have PTSD or am I just making all this up?” To be honest, there are still times I wonder if I really have PTSD. I often feel guilty about being labeled with PTSD when there are others that truly suffer from PTSD. Sometimes, I wish I had physical wounds I could look at and tell myself “yea, you have PTSD all right, just look at the scars.” What I really wish for is some traumatic story of a horrific event that I survived, so I can look back and say, “This is the event that triggered my PTSD.” But my PTSD did not come from one event alone, it came over many events. For me, it is like I have to string together all these “little” events to somehow form a reasonable justification for having PTSD. I think some of the feelings come from Hollywood and the string of Iraq war movies that are coming out. Some films tackle the issue of PTSD. Pretty much all the movies are based on the Service Member going through a horrific battle or ambush where they survived while others died. The other scenario that seems to get a lot of attention in movies is a Humvee being blown-up by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). All this leads to a sense of guilt for me. I often feel as though I’m playing a game and one day the truth will come out that I never had PTSD. Then I will be exposed as a fraud, a dirtbag, and a lazy bum just trying to get one over on the government.

“Sometimes the Greatest Wound a Soldier Suffers from is the Wound No One Can See”

It is hard some days to deal with my PTSD. There are days when I want to wake up and say “It’s all a lie, I’ve been duped by all these doctors and counselors who just threw this label on me.” Sometimes, I want more than anything to tell myself “Get over it and stop acting like you have PTSD, start living your life like a normal person.” There are other days when I wake up, and I tell myself, “Its all over, I no longer have PTSD, I’m cured, and I have conquered it.” Then a memory creeps into my mind, I have disturbing thoughts and dreams, I hear a loud sound, I see something that reminds me of Iraq, a car speeds up behind me on the freeway, I get lost and end up on a narrow road that I don’t know where it goes. So I become hyper-vigilant, I get scared; I have the urge to defend myself or run away from danger, I’m overcome with an urge to hide and disassociate myself from the world around me. When I first went through treatment for PTSD, I heard people say “I would never wish PTSD on anyone.” To be honest, I thought they were melodramatic; they were simply seeking someone to feel sorry for them. I know better now, and I understand what it means to “not wish PTSD on anyone.” Yet despite my desires and wishes that my PTSD would just go away, I still wake up each day facing another day with PTSD.  Some days I am very good at it, other days not so much.