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

Looking for a Job is like … Work

I sit and wait for something to happen and as each day goes by nothing happens, no calls, no emails, no acknowledgment.

A few times in the past I have posted about rejoining the workforce. I had all the intentions of landing a full-time, meaningful job in a relatively short amount of time. Yet, I have found the process more difficult than I initially thought. As I reviewed all the jobs which are available, I was sure I would have a job within a few days. I looked and considered the job openings for churches, chaplain positions, non-profit ministries and veteran’s non-profit organizations. I started sending out resumes to churches that listed opportunities on ministry job websites. I was convinced I would receive a phone call or an email right away. However, I found the opposite to be true. Out of all the churches I sent resumes to, only one church actually responded in any sort of manner. It was a nicely worded email and straight to the point, informing me they believed other candidates were better suited for the position. I was not upset or offended by the email. I was, in fact, happy, that at least one church had the courtesy to acknowledge I had submitted a resume. So here I sit waiting for something to happen and as each day goes by nothing happens, no calls, no emails, no acknowledgment I have submitted an application, resumes or cover letter. Just crickets chirping away in the background making me feel I am engaging a world that does not even know I exist.

So far the search for meaningful employment has not gone very well, maybe it because I’m not very good at being a civilian. I’m still waiting for the email or phone call from the Army chaplain personnel manager to tell me where I am going for my next assignment and the job they set-aside for me. But unfortunately, no personnel manager is about to inform me of my next assignment or position. For some reason, I thought I would be different. I thought I would buck the system and land the first Job I applied for, yet I was wrong. I have not even landed an interview, a callback or even an email showing any type of interest. At one point I applied to a major pet company to become a dog trainer. I thought I would work a side job until I could land another career job. But alas, I never heard back from the company either. Not saying it was discouraging … but it was, I can’t even land a service job let alone a meaningful professional job.

I am a Pastor called of God to minister to His people 

preacher-clip-art-27

whether I am called Chaplain or Pastor … it is all the same.  

As most veterans have come to learn, trying to translate military experiences and job titles to a civilian job is very difficult. I am amazed at how many church leaders do not view me for what I am … a pastor. Most will not even take the time to read my resume; they see the words “Army Chaplain” and never equate a chaplain as a full-time pastor. When I list the chapel services I was responsible for, pastoral search committees do not associate my experience for what it is, being a pastor of a church.

To make it a bit more challenging, throw in the fact I have PTSD. Something I cannot hide as a minister. I minister out of my life experiences; I can never minister to people without revealing this significant aspect of my life. I cannot share how God has worked in my life without sharing how God has brought healing to my soul and my struggles with PTSD.

By the way, both my Healing the Storm blog and my Facebook page truthfully address the struggles I have with PTSD.

delrinSo see, I can’t really hide it or not mention it even if I wanted to, of course, my service Dog Delrin gives it way also.

What makes the struggle even harder is the general misunderstanding, and misconception people have concerning those of us who suffer from PTSD. The prevailing thought of a Soldier who has PTSD is that we are on the verge of having a major break down. They are afraid at any moment we are going to “go off” and lose control of ourselves and either seriously hurt someone or even kill someone. We are seen as emotionally unstable, untrustworthy, a danger to others or ourselves. We are someone who needs to be carefully watched “just in case.” Does my PTSD cause me difficulties at times? Yes. Does my PTSD cause me to withdraw from people from time to time? Yes. Do sounds, smells or things I see sometimes trigger me? Are there times when these triggers cause me to be scared, become hyper-vigilant and aware? Yes, they do. Are there times when my triggers go so far as to make me believe I am back in Iraq or that I am in imminent danger? Of course, they do. Do my triggers make me unfit, unsafe and unstable to minister to God’s people? No! For even the Apostle Paul tells us in the book of Corinthians that God chooses the weak things of the world to confound the wise.

It is very difficult to hold onto encouraging words.

So I have learned looking for a Job is a lot harder than I thought. Just navigating the initial application process with the hope I can have a small chance to prove I am a viable candidate is trying in itself. Throw in my status as a veteran with PTSD who has undergone treatment in a mental health treatment facility and it becomes even more challenging. Will I ever get a professional job again? Will I get the opportunity to once again serve in full-time Christian ministry? Will, I ever have the chance to once again to do what I love most, and that is to preach? The easy answer people will give is “God has a place and a ministry for you.” However, it is challenging to hold onto those encouraging words at times, especially when churches do not even acknowledge they received my resume.

O’ well that’s my sad story for the day and all my complaining for the week. I’ll post this today and then start looking for a meaningful job once again tomorrow morning. Where that leads, I have no idea.

I am off once again to valiantly search for a job!

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?

Accentuating The Positives

Many Thanks

I have notice I have a tendency to focus on the negative while ignoring the positives in my life.

I am sure I am not the only one who ignores the positive to focus on the negative. It seems many of us who live with trauma maintain our focus on negative beliefs and feelings. We tend to look at the “what’s not going right” instead of “what is going right” in our lives. We are quick to declare our treatment and recovery process too slow or not working at all. When in reality, many things are going right for us. So during Thanksgiving day week, I set out to post on Facebook, three times a day, to share what I am thankful for. It was an enjoyable experience to spend the last few days thinking of the positive things in my life. So here is a list of some of the things I am thankful for.

 Things I am thankful for:

  • I am grateful for Mr. Robinson a teacher who always told me “Kevin, I expect great things from you.” I’ve strived to not let him down
  • I am thankful for U.S. Army Chaplain Jim King, who was a great mentor and an outstanding pastor. He helped shape me as a Chaplain.
  • I am thankful for Therapist Dr. Carrin Harper who literally kept me alive and would not let me give into my suicidal ideations.
  • I am thankful for the LA Baptist Rescue Mission. I was able to preach every Saturday during my first year of Bible college in 1986.
  • I am thankful for all the Godly men and women who invested their lives into our lives so we could spend our life in Christian ministry.
  • I am thankful for those who developed Cognitive Processing Therapy and for those who took me through the painful process.
  • I am thankful for Candice, Samantha, and Jacob, our young adult children who still want to spend time with us.
  • I am thankful for the Pastor and the congregation of Oswego Baptist Church for sponsoring my ordination in 1986.
  • I am thankful for “Train a Dog, Save a Warrior” for providing training and certification of my service dog Delrin.
  • I am thankful for my beautiful bride Elizabeth who has stood by my side in the darkest moments of my life. Love you, Honey!
  • I am thankful that I had the honor of serving in the United States Army for 21-years.
  • I am thankful for LTG Funk for giving me the freedom to minister to his Troopers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08.
  • I am thankful for my Cardiologist in Danville, NJ for discovering my heart anomaly and for the surgeon in Morristown, NJ who corrected the problem with open heart surgery in 2010.
  • I am thankful for the Wounded Warrior Program and the leaders of the Male Odyssey retreat who helped me realize I am not “unfit” to live my life.
  • I am thankful for Paster Jared at  First Baptist Church New Braunfels for letting me lead a small group Bible study.
  • I am thankful for the great memories we have as a family while we enjoyed family vacations together.

This is by no means even close to a complete list, but it is a good start. Why not start your own list? You can start by sharing in the comments below what you are thankful for. 

 

 

 

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.

Where is God in the Hard Times: Lesson Two Notes

I have published the lesson two note on my class Where is God in the Hard Times.  These note are found on the Where is God in the Hard Times page. 

Hope you enjoy these notes.