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.

Insecurity Running the Show

I was sitting at Chipotle yesterday, which is admittedly one of my favorite “easy” food options on a busy day. This particular day I was sitting outside within earshot of a few other tables. I can honestly say it didn’t take long for me to wish I had brought my headphones. I often tune into podcasts throughout the day as I continue craving ways to connect more on a spiritual level along this journey of life. This particular day however, I didn’t have them. I then naturally assumed that their must have been a reason I didn’t have them and couldn’t help but overhear much of a conversation that was taking place a few tables away….

Two people, one voice. That’s what I heard for 15 minutes as I sat there eating my meal. I couldn’t tell the dynamic of the two and could only assume they were both in their thirties, one man and one woman. The man faced away from me and really just seemingly stared down at his food most of the time as he took bite after bite, hardly looking up. I’m not sure he said a word the entire time. The woman hardly stopped talking. Either of them could’ve been talking, so this has nothing to do with any stereotype some of you might be thinking here, but more what she was saying that struck me so heavily. I’m not sure if I’ve heard as much gossip and talking down about other people within a 15 minute window since adolescence, at least that I actually paid attention to. I found her demeanor very boisterous with both her words and facial expressions. The cinematic impact of “drama” in the conversation was inescapable to detect, even for another human being sitting two tables away. I caught just enough to realize what was happening and the fact that the conversation mostly deflected any attention from herself. I admit, I cannot know what I do not know. I simply call them as I see them and this particular conversation struck me. I left Chipotle almost feeling bad for her, despite the theatrical act she put on while talking nonstop about what everyone else was doing wrong. I found myself asking what would possibly make a person project such negativity onto others? My guess, simply insecurity in who she is and how she feels about herself.

We all talk about others, yet when we speak from a place of shaming, degrading, judging or offering our unwarranted opinions of how someone else lives, aren’t we being a little arrogant? I also think doing so behind others’ back (gossip) actually only hurts ourselves. We are the only ones who actually have to sit and listen to it. I don’t know what that girl has been through, and quite frankly it’s none of my business. She simply got me thinking and I don’t judge where she is on her journey. I also don’t think this gossiping aspect of self is something she’s even aware could be harming her spirit. I do believe that deflecting attention from ourselves by putting negative energy into the world about others is not the frequency I want to live from. I admit, I’ve done plenty of gossiping in my day and if we’re honest with ourselves we are all a tad guilty (at least). Big scheme of things though, I felt sorry for her. Sorry that she felt the need to “be right” in so many situations with so many others. Sorry that her ego was that much in control of her voice, her feelings and her life. I don’t want to live that way and I choose to put positive and non-judgmental energy into the world the best I can. I think I’ll simply pray for more people and do my best not to gossip. I think this is work worth doing.

Today I’m surrendering gossip and judgement, and will continue to work on this due to enhanced awareness via a conversation overheard on a Chipotle patio. Would you care to join me?

Pause and Listen

I have a younger colleague of mine who has found some success in his young sales role. He was a college athlete which taught him a level of GRIT that has propelled him in the sales world. He’d run through a wall if you told him it would help him be “successful.” I’ve known him since he started at our company about 4 years ago. He started out pretty raw of course, yet has evolved into a pretty sharp young man in his mid-twenties. We had a conversation recently that really hit me and before you can grasp why, I must tell you that he reminds me a ton of myself at his age. You see, he’s doing everything “right.” He’s very busy, which in our business means he’s working very hard to meet and help a lot of people. I’d argue he’s actually too busy now and even a little scattered/spread thin. The gist of our conversation revolved around how well he’s “performing” at work, yet how he is feeling out of alignment personally. He expressed that he wants to make more time for his marriage, for his personal health/fitness, hobbies he enjoys and spiritual life. I sat across from this young man and could clearly see a mirror of myself several years ago as he told me these things. The difference- he at least was aware that he was “letting himself down” in certain areas, and it wasn’t sitting well. I tried my best to express the importance of working on himself first, meaning his relationship with God, his health, his wife and even carving out some time for particular hobbies he loves (joy). I don’t believe one can be truly great at work without being great within first, at least not with motivations that align spiritually and are authentic. I can “run through a wall” in business, yet it’s going to be for broken reasons if I don’t make sure my true purpose is the driving force behind my actions. I also don’t resonate with who people say all you need to do is “work harder” and “do more,” and things will be better later. Guess what, if I told this young man to “do more” or “work harder” he wouldn’t have much left of his true self or what truly matters to him later because he would’ve scarified these things to chase some pipe dream of “success” that ties in with recognition and money. I heard recently that no amount of money can buy you a second of your life back- AMEN! I would also argue no amount of money will fill the void you’ll feel if you’re not fulfilling the true purpose and calling God has planned for your precious life.

Toward the end of our conversation I asked him about his spiritual life. He’s a pretty dialed in Christian young man, so I was glad to hear when he said something to the tune of “I keep praying and asking God to guide me.” He shared that he asks God all the time for advice, which was great overall. Understanding how busy he is and that he feels disconnected from himself and what really matters due to a frantic life, I asked him a simple question… “If you’re praying over and over again seeking His guidance, when is the last time you actually paused long enough to listen to His response?” He just looked at me puzzled for a moment, tilted his head down and admittedly shook his head, as if to say he hadn’t. I feel like we can pray over and over again, yet if we don’t take a little time to disconnect and actually HEAR what God has to say, we might be missing what He’s trying to tell us all together. We all hear/feel God in different ways, but I can promise you from my experiences when I lean into Him I’ve felt, read, heard and understood His responses substantially more. When I lean more and more into “the world” and my spirit isn’t as connected, I amazingly don’t hear a whole lot from God since I’m too busy to pay attention, unless perhaps He flashes a neon sign in front of my face. When is the last time you prayed and actually carved out intentional time to be alone with Him to hear/feel/be in His presence? Amazing things happen in this space and I think this is one daily activity we cannot afford to sacrifice. Pause to connect and feel Him, you just might be surprised at how much clearer your path becomes. This typically doesn’t involve a cell phone, a TV or a crowd of people. I still struggle with pausing at times, don’t get me wrong, but I’m aware of this and working on prioritizing my time around Him. Maybe this will help others who are living a frantic schedule and feeling an element of disconnectedness. How many minutes could you carve out per day for a more fulfilled spiritual life- ten, thirty, sixty? Regardless, I bet every second will be worth it and the other areas of our lives will be thankful we chose to spend time with Him.

Surrender Project: Week 2 Update

I sit here as nearly half of May is in the books. The project of truly surrendering my life to God’s infinite wisdom and power is underway. I’ve hit my knees and prayed my surrender prayer when waking up for nearly two weeks straight now. I really try be present and focus on the words as I say them aloud each morning, instead of simply reading aimlessly, which I think is important. I can say no “earth shattering” changes have come of this project yet, at least that I’ve been spiritually awake (tuned in) enough to realize. As I’ve mentioned before, I do think we have many depths to spiritual awareness and the more we tune in via a stronger relationship with God the more we can hear/feel him speaking to and through us. I still fully expect for things to take shape over time as I continue to build on my relationship with Him via this process. I mentioned a sense of peace last week as I reflected just a few days into this journey and now I want to touch on another topic- doubt. I don’t have any. I don’t have any real concern or doubt about where this path takes me, considering I fully realize that my future is out of my control. Sure, I can work to better follow biblical teachings. I can work to be more present and subdue my ego and it’s inevitable attempts at controlling and holding me back. I can do my part to jump in with both feet as I’m called to act on this journey. I can pray for discernment and follow my gut/intuition. I can do many things to do “my part” on this journey, yet what I cannot do is understand, worry or have fears about my future. I have no doubts that He will lead me to a better place than my mixed bag of ingrained reactions, wounds, fears, pride, abilities, intellect or any of my other parts (or sum of- good or bad). Feeling more at peace and having no doubts that He knows best- I guess that’s a pretty good start two weeks into this project!

Have you surrendered any part of your life to Him? Have you given up control and are finding more peace? I pray that we all begin to trust Him more than we trust ourselves, something tells me the world will reflect so much more love if we do.

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?

The Walking Wounded

One focal point I’m finding myself intrigued by is our misguided decision making based on underlying past experiences and therefore “conditioned” responses. I’ve sat in a counselor’s office plenty and realize that many of my perceptions are in-fact shaped from my past. I don’t think that’s news to those who have even the slightest level of psychological awareness. I get it, my emotional reactions stem from a response pattern hardwired since childhood. I find it fascinating that we hold onto the past so much. I cannot explain over the past few years how much life I’ve spent literally reliving previous moments over and over again in my head. I already lived them once, why keep living them? Have you ever stopped to think about what percentage of these moments that you’re “reliving” are the really happy times? I’m guessing 10% at best, at least that’s the case for me. The craziest part is that I’m reliving these past events, but often times find myself still not learning from them. I’m just feeling the miserable pain of mistakes, guilt, hurt or pain over and over again. Perhaps I’m just a gluten for punishment, or perhaps I’m just human. I used to wonder why I do this to myself; why most human beings do? I have developed my own little tagline for a syndrome I feel has infected the majority of the human race, at least from my experience here in the United States. This tagline is something I refer to as “the walking wounded.” You’ll hear me refer to this quite often in my writings as I interact with people and subsequently write about these interactions on my journey.

Here’s a brief example I’ll leave you with. I was walking into the grocery store recently and noticed a gentleman who seemed very perturbed. I was approaching with my eyes intentionally viewing my surroundings so he was hard to miss (one of my being present/awareness tactics you’ll soon realize I’m constantly working on). I noticed the man and his overall demeanor being extremely frustrated. I could only imagine what possibly happened at the checkout counter inside to set him off. I walked past him with a content smile on my face as I heard him mutter to himself “now where’s the fuc*ing car?!” I started thinking about what his life must be like, and also what he’s been through to get him to this place of such negative energy. I do believe we’re all very much a product of our past experiences, parenting styles, overall upbringings, successes, failures and so much more. The question I have is why so many choose to stay in those past experiences? I’ve spent much of my life guilty of this behavior and still have to consciously choose to stay in the moment to avoid what I like to call the “reverse rear-end mind collision.” Analogy- it’s like I decide to throw my car (my mind) in reverse to intentionally hit something behind me (typically a nerve, a negative feeling or just run myself over in general). The way to avoid such an ill-advised mental trafficking maneuver you ask? I have to choose to look in my personal review mirror when it rears its’ ugly head and ask “what can I learn from that situation, or what haven’t I already learned that I’m supposed to?” I figure if past experiences continue to present themselves then perhaps we still have unfinished business. I believe there is a lesson to learn, a person to forgive, or maybe even an opportunity to forgive ourselves. This gentleman helped me tagline “the walking wounded.” Something good came out of that moment for me at least, and I must admit I do hope he found his car.

Many folks that I interact with spend much of their time acting out from past hurts, mistakes, regrets, failures or traumas. This breaks my heart for all of us because our true spirit cannot shine through our past, only the present. I will continue to explore this subject in many future posts. I look forward to explaining my theories a bit deeper about our wounds not only creating impulse reactions and emotions, but also how they affect so much of our major decision making abilities as well. For instance- perhaps you’re in a place in an area of life today because of decisions you made long ago? Perhaps these decisions were made from a brokenness that stemmed from wounds that were never healed? Perhaps if/when healed, your decisions would’ve been different because they stemmed from your true authentic/spiritually connected self? Perhaps….