Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Do you know what they're going through?

Wow, it has been almost two months since I released my book and I have gone through a cyclone of emotions. My family and I were having dinner at some friends’ home one Saturday night back in March and I was asked “What is your book about?” I was a little standoffish in my response. I wasn’t intentionally trying to be rude (so sorry if you are reading this and realize I am talking about you), but as strange as it may sound I am a little embarrassed to talk about my book; mainly because of the content. I’m not ashamed of Jesus Christ or the work He’s done in my life, but it is humbling to tell people what a mess your life was at one time without the Lord. I wish I had the testimony of Tim Tebow to talk about, but unfortunately I didn’t make the good decisions he did growing up.

Since the release of my book I’ve had a good phone conversation with the assistant principal that called me into his office my senior year and in front of my parents told me I would have to leave Carroll High School. I also had lunch and a good hug with the head football coach that kicked me off the football team (he paid for lunch). I’ve had to relive a lot, but both encounters were such a blessing. I could write a book on why I wrote this book. And I could probably fill a book with all the addendums I would like to make to this book after publishing it. (I can visualize one of my editors shaking his head in a yes motion right now.) Which is really ironic because the first time I tried to write my book I only wrote 20 pages and wondered how I could write anymore or anything else. Now I feel like I can’t write enough. There is so much more detail to some things I talked about that I wish I had added. So much more explanation that some statements I make deserve. And I could probably write another book answering all the questions I have received about some of the things I've said in this book. I guess that is why a lot of people end up making changes in their 2nd, 3rd, etc. editions (Which I plan to write). I’m not sure if I will ever fully be able to say all that I want to say, but I’ll keep on trying. It has taken me years to get to the point to share the stories that I was willing to share and included in this book. For the most part, I actually completed this book about two years ago, but I just wasn't ready to put it all out there. I had a lot of fears holding me back. One of my fears related to how some of the things I say in this book could affect my kids. Another one of my fears was how this might affect my current and future employment situations. (Both legitimate fears.) However, I’ve had this burning inside of me, which has grown over the years and is especially more intense when I am in church or in the car meditating on the Lord. The burning was the feeling that I had to share my story because there are people that are probably like I was silently struggling with their pain not knowing how to deal with it or even if there is hope for them. I got to the point were it doesn't really matter anymore what people think of me as long as I can help the ones that really need help. Since releasing the book few people have told me that they didn't know all of that was going on in my life. Even some of my friends didn’t realize all that I was struggling with. I would say only a close inner circle knew how bad I was, but even they didn’t know some of the deep dark secrets I struggled with. (Praise God that He freed me from all of that and that I do not have to live in that deep dark pit any longer.) The first time someone said to me that they didn’t know all that I was going through I thought to myself "Really, it wasn’t obvious to everyone that I was a train wreck?!" I guess in some ways perception is reality; whether my own or someone else's.

Another one of my other fears was that people would began to talk about all my sins that I didn't share in the book and bring up more dirt on my, but it has been quite the opposite. People have been really supportive (thus far), which has been a pleasant surprise. (Except for when my sister called and reminded me of a story I excluded.) The comment about not knowing all that was going on in my life does make me think, how much is going on in the lives of people all around us that we don't know about. How many people are hurting or struggling with painful challenges and we are clueless about them. They could be our friends, coworkers, or even family members. I guess we all put on a front at times and hide what's really going on in our lives. I know that when I was in high school my insecurity caused me to put up a front. Many times I’m sure that front came across as arrogance. Along with that I was pretty much living a double life. I learned to show up on Sundays and look like I was doing the right thing, but then acted completely different in other situations. Sometimes it was even more complex that. Many times I sincerely wanted to do the right thing and tried to, but then when I placed myself around the wrong type of people or put myself in the wrong situation I wasn't strong enough to resist temptation. I'm not trying to blame anyone else. I still made my own decisions. Sometimes it was just that I gave in to my own lustful and selfish desires. There were two particular vices I had that began to control my life and as much as I wanted to quit them at times I didn’t have the strength to. (That was part of the problem, I was trying in my own strength to quit and not in God’s.) As sins began to mount, guilt set in, depression took over and the cycle continued (sin, guilt, depression – sin, guilt, depression – sin, guilt, depression).

All this to say that we, I’m including myself here, need to all be better about checking on people around us. We need to let people know that we sincerely care about them. We need to sometimes ask the tough questions. In some cases, and when appropriate, we need to be more transparent with our own lives. If we were all a lot more open and honest with each other about what is going on in our lives we would probably be a lot nicer and more encouraging to one another. Facebook is a good example of how we all put on a front. Most people post pictures of themselves on exotic vacations, at fancy restaurants, attending premier sporting events or some other type of experience which causes us all to envy their life. I’m guilty of this myself, but those pictures are not reality. Most people aren’t going to post pictures of their terrible day at work, their last argument with their spouse or child, or a miserable disappointing experience. Recently, some of my psychologist friends have told me there is a new phenomenon entering the counseling field. It is depression associated with Facebook. People look at all the fun stuff their friends are doing and wish they themselves had a better life or that everyone around them is experiencing a better life than they are. The truth is we all have ups and downs. Life is not always easy for any of us and we all need help from others at different times in our lives. Before the day is up call someone that is on your heart just to check on them and see how they are doing. Your sincere concern and encouragement could make a key difference in their life.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Don’t Worry About What Others Say

If you are feeling discouraged by what someone has said to you or about you, thats understandable. Words sometimes do hurt and people can be mean. Constructive criticism is useful, but comments aren't always intended to be constructive. If you can learn something by what they say, great. If not, move on. Don’t worry what "friends" think or say about you. It doesn’t matter. Don't let people get you down. If you believe God has a mission for your life and you are following Him stay focused and remain faithful. If Noah had taken the time to worry about what his friends thought about him building an ark out in the middle of the desert, he would have drowned along with them. You will always have critics. It’s a fact of life. Not everyone is going to like you nor will everyone appreciate the work God does in your life.

In John 15:18 Jesus is recorded as saying, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” Jesus also tells us in Luke 6:22-23, “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.”

When people insult you or say bad things about you because of Christ just count it as stripes for Jesus.

After committing my life to Christ there were some people in my church that talked negatively about me. They said the change in my life wasn’t real. I don’t necessarily blame them. I was a young Christian and made some mistakes. I had a lot of maturing to do as a believer and still do even today. However, I don’t think they’re talking now. There may be Christians you know that make similar accusations about you. Don’t worry about them. Just continue to do what you know is right.

Unfortunately, the truth is there will always be the doubters and people will say things behind your back or maybe even to your face. Let God handle those people. After the prodigal son came home and was shown love by his father, the prodigal son’s brother became angry and spoke negatively about him (Luke 15:11-32).

Insults and gossip may begin with people you may least expect, like a close friend, a family member, or an employer. A minister may criticize you or talk falsely about the work God is doing in your life. You may not be able to do anything about others' attitudes so don’t allow them to bother you or get you down. Keep doing what you know is right. God’s blessing on your life is not dependant on what your friends, your boss or others say or think about you. Focus on what it is that you need to do. Don’t fall off course or allow others to discourage or distract you. There is a reward for those who remain faithful to the end.

Trust God With Your Money

I am grateful to have parents that modeled for me obedience in tithing. After my wife and I married in 2001 we discussed and agreed tha...