Galatians 1:10

I often enjoy retelling situations from my life that prove valuable as I continue along this growth path (my fancy way of admitting I’m getting older). Perhaps, one of the most enriching lessons I’ve received was via a conversation with a friend of mine. We’ll simply call this friend by his first name for now- Ben. I’ve written about Ben once so far (The 95% posted on May 18th). One thing Ben shed light on for me about five years ago was a bible verse that is still a staple throughout his everyday walk- Galatians 1:10. As I continue praying each day to be guided by The Holy Spirit to discern how best to elevate my spiritual connection, certain situations seem to arise that remind me of past lessons learned. We don’t always learn particular lessons all at once, rather we need several scenarios to comprehend over time. Perhaps we don’t have the spiritual or mental capacity to fully grasp certain teachings at different life stages, so we need repetition to “beat it into our heads” as we evolve.

I remember years ago talking with Ben about this burning desire I’ve had since childhood to be make sure everyone around me was always happy. I used to have such a horrific time with anyone being upset at me, disagreeing with me or not being pleased with my “performance.” I constantly felt (mostly unknowingly- almost like it was programed) that if I could only make everyone else happy I would have the internal fulfillment we’re all searching for. Boy was I wrong. This is one trait that has created much conflict (internal and external), a plethora of anxiety and probably helped in the creation and destruction of multiple relationships. What I’ve since realized through identifying my own brokenness and my ensuing journey of healing (still on that train), is that the more stake I put in trying to appease others the more I realize that’s simply an impossible mountain to climb. No long term internal fulfillment can ever come from pleasing others, regardless of the relationship. Sure, you can be a great impact to others, yet I believe the true fulfillment comes with spiritual awakening- walking with The Spirit as we learn what really matters most in this world. I’ll get into other areas of struggle I’ve had similar to this topic around putting too much stake in other “worldly things, feelings, situations” later, but for now I want to stick to this simple lesson learned from Ben.

Galatians 1:10- Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” NLT

We are typically conditioned from our past experiences in many ways. Some even believe generationally we are hard-wired based on experiences and ensuing traits that evolved from our ancestral bloodline. I can certainly reflect about my ancestors and think of a few ways this makes sense for me, once again we’ll revisit later. I reflect on the environment I grew up as I rationalize where this need to please was imbedded within my unconscience self. Whether being the constant “new kid” in school, the unsettling “home” in my adolescent years, the desire for perfection to please my dad/coaches in sports, the performance based school system (lacking much individuality of course)- I can see how these factors helped create a “people pleaser.” Performance based thinking to win the approval of others was simply safer throughout childhood for me. The more of my environment I could control based by being a good kid, saying the right things, or simply performing well, the better life seemed to be for an evolving young mind. I believe I liked control and predictability because being out of my comfort zone, or worse being in potential danger, were less settling options (childhood wasn’t always blissful for me).

Ben had his own childhood, which he still uses to impact hundreds of thousands of people with his passionate message and faith-walk to this day. Even Ben, “Mr. 95% Joy,” consistently has to remind himself that his purpose is bigger and more divine than any one person’s perspective that reacts to his message. We all have people in our lives who expect us to perform (expectations typically don’t lead to a happy dynamic btw), and a tragedy occurs when we put this performance of life at a higher priority than serving God and our true self, or in the way of loving ourselves all together. Jesus scarified himself for us, not so we could figuratively sacrifice our true selves for everyone else all over again. I’ve experienced and seen countless examples of how serving people FIRST can lead to a lot of pain and lack of authenticity. I still struggle with this lesson, as I believe we all do in certain facets, yet I often quote this verse above during these struggles because my good friend inspired me to do so. “I am for God first, not people” is even one of the “I AM STATEMENTS” I consistently read as a reminder to myself.

I pray anyone struggling on the hamster wheel of trying to please others can take solace in surrendering that to God. Perhaps reminding yourself of this particular verse can help free your spiritual side to experience a life more destined and fulfilling for you, the life He wants you to have. Hopefully us “people pleasers” can impact the world in a bigger and better way by shifting our order of focus. Thank you Ben for enlightening me with this verse several years ago, as I truly feel God made an impact on me through your discernment. My gift to you will be continuing to share this important message with others throughout my life.

IG: @surrender_project

Transformational Renewing

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve of what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2 NIV

Have you ever read Romas 12:2 and reflected on what is meant by “patterns of this world?” I was in a church service recently and our attention was brought to this verse, which for some reason got me thinking. I wonder what the world looked like through Paul’s perspective when he was writing to the Romans two thousand years ago? I wonder what traits, tendencies and patterns reflected then that we still mirror to this day? What did Paul mean exactly by “patterns of this world?” What did he mean when he said the “renewing of your mind?” How can this transformation of our mind help us test and approve of God’s will?

My thoughts….

Bad stuff happens, so I don’t think we need to focus on those “worldly things,” as I would assume we all realize we shouldn’t conform that direction. I can say however that negativity often seems to be a center of focus for many of us, even when we don’t realize it. Gossip, judging, shaming, selfishness, lack of forgiveness or just straight up anger are all examples of how we can feed on negativity. Short term this might feel empowering or exciting in a human way, yet hopefully we can all agree that long term these “patterns” only lead to pain, hurt and darkness. What about some of the good things like loving relationships, finally getting that promotion, having children (so I’ve heard), or even the simple blissful moments throughout our day? How about the feeling of standing on top of a mountain overlooking a valley below, which is possessed by an array of colors seemingly displaying the splendor of life itself? I think if we could all “conform to patterns of this world” that brought more of these amazing moments we admittedly would. Many patterns are good, many indifferent and many destructive. Yet what pattern is always present in “this world” that Paul may have been referring to? I could only come up with one: everything is born new and eventually returns to a place of death and decay. Some would call this “the circle of life.” Nothing in this world is everlasting….. right?

The “merry-go-round” of this world for many of us looks something like this (simplified version of course): be a kid, get good grades, graduate, get a job, get promoted, meet that “special someone,” get married, buy a home, have children, raise “good children,” eventually retire, etc..

All of these things can be amazing experiences, yet isn’t it ironic that when we reach certain milestones we still feel like something is lacking? Perhaps I’m the only one?

Here is another example I find pretty regularly, admitting of course that I’ve been here myself: Perhaps a new suit will help me feel better? Maybe moving into a new place? Maybe buying a new car? Maybe switching jobs? Maybe getting in better shape, or perhaps the opposite- scarfing that brownie sitting in the kitchen (or more often in my case the beer in the fridge)- yeah that will do it. Just keep buying, getting, possessing, eating/drinking and obtaining more in “this world” and perhaps I’ll get to a point that I finally feel complete…

Nope… something deep down at our core still seems to be missing. When everything externally looks pretty good, even in the most blissful times, we still seem to be searching for some deeper meaning or connection. Have you ever felt this way even during the truly solid times? I certainly have. My soul still cries out for more true peace, growth and fulfillment to fill the void that recognition, praise, possessions, other people or even money seemingly cannot. I don’t believe Paul was saying we shouldn’t enjoy some Earthly things. I do however believe he was saying the only way to really feel transformed/renewed is by connecting to our TRUE PURPOSE IN LIFE….GOD!

Here’s a thought- what if the unexplained void of fulfillment we all seek is actually the “renewing of our mind,” as Paul writes in Romans 12:2? What if the “transformation” to focus on Godly things instead of focusing on “the circle of life” is our real purpose in life? What if dialing into a relationship with Him that transcends our depth of understanding is the real ticket to peace, happiness and joy? What if our focus is supposed to be on God instead of our perception of what “this world” wants from us, or what we can gain from “this world?” Another question- how could we “test and approve” of God’s will unless we were actually CONNECTED to God- like literally? How could I, a mere human, “test and approve” of anything so Divine as God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will?” The only possibility I can think of would be if I was so “tuned in” to God that I could literally live my life directed not by my own footsteps, yet by the footsteps of The Shepard Himself. That I am literally tapped into God within myself via The Holy Spirit and experiencing Him moment by moment. TRANSFORMATION via the RENEWAL of our mind, by changing the way we think, by conforming to our spiritual calling over focusing on worldly patterns which always have an end date. All to experience a bond with God so deep that we can experience more of “His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Seems like pretty sound advice to me!

Lean In…

I was in my early thirties when I went up for a rebound in a pick-up game of basketball and came down on a much larger guy’s foot. Ouch. I both felt and heard it pop. The guys I was playing with heard it pop as well, which wasn’t a good sign. I have a friend who is a foot & ankle orthopedic surgeon, who I sent a picture of my baseball-sized ankle to as I lay on the bench in agony before they wheeled me out of the gym. He said “tell me that’s not yours.” Yep, it was mine. Thank goodness he went in early to make time for me the next day. I didn’t know what a severe grade three high ankle sprain was, but I found out in glorious fashion. After all, I did get that rebound!

I was in a walking boot for nearly two months. I even had to sleep in the boot. I couldn’t drive for weeks. I remember my first trip to physical therapy when I received the rude awakening about how much it hurt to move my ankle, along with how much strength I had lost after month one in that boot. My Physical Therapist didn’t exactly show signs of sympathy, as her job was to get me back to as close to 100% as possible without any setbacks. There is a certain expression you’ll hear from many medical providers before they perform a task- “this is going to hurt a little.” We all know that “a little” often means “a lot” as well! I can name countless times when I’ve been hurt, sick, needed procedures done, etc., that doctors need to say those little words prior to doing some task to help me heal (or to numb me for the inevitable task). My ankle hurt badly as I learned ways to restrengthen it, from walking to eventually playing basketball again (with a brace now of course). I intentionally allowed a medical provider to cause me pain, understanding that it would make me better in the long run. I actually leaned into the pain and did exercises myself on days where I couldn’t make physical therapy to help the process along. How many times have you had a reason to be in physical pain because you understood that in the long run you were better off?

My main question- why then do we often avoid emotional pain? Why do we bury painful memories and experiences in the dark corners of our minds? Why do we think if we avoid these experiences they will simply go away? I’ve heard countless times that emotions are a form of energy. I’ve also read/heard several times that emotional traumas left unhealed actually can create pain/hurt/sickness within our physical bodies? Most recently my massage therapist brought this up, I’ll interview her later. Eckart Tolle also has a theory called “The Pain Body,” which is worth checking out if you haven’t read his writings. We all have our struggles, anxieties, fears, hurts, hang-ups, regrets, worries, etc.! After all, we’re all human, we all have a past and life isn’t exactly perfect. Painful memories- lean in. Pain in your body over and over again without understanding why- lean in. Feeling sad or depressed- lean in. Feeling anxious or worried- lean in. Feeling sick all the time for no apparent reason- lean in. Holding resentment or anger- lean in. Lean into the pain and the hurts, just please don’t avoid them. We truly are only hurting ourselves by holding this negativity, as I believe it creates a void between us and our higher spiritual self. This can separate us from peace and spirituality, because if we spend more time holding onto human pain we are spending more time in the human world, not the spiritual world, which I find to be much more enjoyable and peaceful. Awareness is the first step, talking to others (vulnerability), forgiveness, understanding, releasing, healing and moving on are a just a few of the others, at least from my experiences.

So, are you running from your past? Are you avoiding memories that continually “pop-up?” Are you unsure why you react how you do sometimes? If so, can you try just once to simply lean in, perhaps even learn, and perhaps eventually heal?

Surrender Project Update

Three weeks into this journey and I’m still excited about the future. I can say as I reflect on the past few weeks one word stands out- resonate. I think the intentional focus around the project and attempting to truly surrender all areas of my life (to be best of my human ability) is helping bring clarity to areas that require my focus. The majority of time I’m simply trying to be present as my days go by, which allows me to be open to be in a place able to receive. Ideas simply resonate within me throughout my days and I make notes to share. Certain quotes, scriptures, passages in books I read, situations with others or even thoughts surface and I simply feel a pull to express myself. This is the methodology I’m using as I navigate when and what to write. I hope the more I tune into my spirituality the more I’ll be able to truly feel these “pulls to share,” which I believe will be the case. I’m just a few weeks into what I believe will be a very long journey of surrendering and I’m more amped than ever about the future!

May something resonate within each of us to surrender a bit more of our desire to control the future, so we can enjoy greater peace within each present moment.

Surrender Project: Week 1 Update

I’ve spent a week getting on my knees early each morning and reciting my surrender prayer. I must say excitement is building for this blog and my overall future. I think other people can sense the slight shift in me as well. Last week an acquaintance of mine gave me some words of encouragement, whether he meant to or not. He basically referred to my spiritual energy about 5 years ago compared to the peace he senses now. This gentleman works for a faith-based non-profit and I like to think he has some solid credibility when it comes to knowing people and their energy, given he spends nearly all of his working hours in the community he serves. He simply wanted me to know he’s happy I’ve come so far, which made him smile, and then of course had the same effect on me.

I’d say if anything has really changed over the past week since I wrote my surrender prayer (May 1st), it’s been the slightly enhanced inner-peace knowing this is the path for me. The same peace I suppose anyone would experience when they are consciously accepting a fate without control due to surrendering to The higher power. The Surrender Project will have its’ own category moving forward and will have a weekly update for the foreseeable future. I leave you with this question- what are you surrendering to each day?