Sunday, December 18, 2011

Climbing the mountain

This is something that's been on my mind ever since I've been a Christian, which is about 10 years or so now. I haven't blogged for a while as I really haven't had much to say over the last month or so but I think now is a good time to get back into it.

Walking with God is a lot like climbing a mountain - a very, very tall one, made even taller if you've needed the amount of cleansing and healing that I have. It's hard work and takes a lot out of you. You can't possibly do it all in one day as it's just too far to go - nor can you just power to the top of it. It's got to be slow and methodical - one step after another.

The hardest part about climbing is that it's all uphill. The obstacles seem to be endless and often treacherous. I've never climbed a huge mountain such as Everest, but I can imagine. Often it's hard, slow and tedious, especially if you get caught in bad weather. There are times when there are obstacles up ahead which you just know you don't have any strength left to face that day so you need to learn to put them aside and wait until you have more energy the following day to attempt them.

What I can imagine would be one of the hardest parts of climbing a huge mountain is how easy it can be to forget just how far you've come. It's so easy to make your focus the destination that you forget to truly appreciate the journey and the character and determination it's building into you. You're so focused on getting to the top that you forget to realize just how much ground you've already covered. That's one of those times when you've got to learn to turn and look at the view for a moment and remind yourself of this fact. It's also a way to encourage yourself and give yourself further reason not to give up, while still maintaining an awareness of just how much further you have to go. That's when you've got to say "this view now is amazing, I've done so well to climb this far. Imagine what the view from the top is going to be like!"

My journey with God to strength and healing has been a lot like this. The deeper I have gone into my own darkness with God, the higher I have climbed towards the spiritual pinnacle I am aiming for. Somedays it feels like you are just pushing through endless darkness and getting nowhere for the second you break through one obstacle and move forwards with joy you slam straight into another one. However, there are times where I've found I've been able to get a glimpse into just how far I've climbed - such as when I face a situation that used to tie me in knots with anxiety and now doesn't bother me at all. These are the little spiritual plateaus I find myself coming to where I can just stop climbing for a second and appreciate the view.

There are days when I just feel like quitting altogether and saying "to hell with it all, I've been climbing this bloody thing forever and I feel like I've gone about 5 metres. Why do I bother? Being at the bottom seems a far easier place to be". These are the times when my climbing rope that I am eternally attached to grabs hold of me and supports me and gives me the strength to go on. That climbing rope is the Holy Spirit who recognizes when I am too exhausted to climb and just holds me up for a time, all the while encouraging me to keep going with inspiring words about how many obstacles I've overcome so far. Without Him, I'd either give up and climb back down or fall to my certain death.

My encouragement to you out there who are struggling with a similar journey is this - listen to your spiritual climbing rope and let Him carry you when you're no longer able to climb. But don't give up. Take a moment to remember the plateaus you've encountered throughout your uphill spiritual battle. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and do not let go of that rope, even though the rope will never let go of you. You think the plateaus you've reached now are grand? Wait till you get to the top. The views will be magnificent.

Don't give up. It's all going to be worth it in the end. Keep climbing.

God bless.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"But they might not like me..."

One of the biggest things I've had to learn in my rehab time is that you cannot get people to like you all of the time, and that there are sometimes things that you need to do and say which will hurt others, but just because you are hurting someone else doesn't always mean that it's the wrong thing to do.

The bible says that hating someone is the same as murdering them in your heart. One of the biggest lies I have believed is that if I was rejected, disliked or hated by anyone else, it would basically be the end of my life in a literal sense. Internally, I would feel like I was dying as a result of the actions of others. Though I believe the biblical verse is true, I think that statement more applies to those who do the hating rather than those who are hated, as those who do the hating have to live with murder in their hearts as a result of their choice to hate another person.

God disciplines people, and discipline hurts. But it doesn't mean it's the wrong thing. The truth hurts. Beware the kisses of an enemy more than the harsh words of a friend. There are people who deeply hate and resent God for who He is. But their hatred does not define who God is. God does not want to be hated. But He is a lover of truth and truth is more important than being liked. Their hatred cannot kill Him. They can hate Him all they want, but He's still going to be strong regardless of their feelings.

As I've begun to break through the lies that have kept me in prison for so long I have begun to learn to be more honest with people and less afraid to tell them the truth. I've had conversations with people that I've literally been putting off for years because I didn't have the balls to say anything until now. Some people may not like me as a result of what I've said. Not long ago, the knowledge that I was disliked because of something I said or did was so defeating and depressing I would have collapsed internally until such a time as I was able to apologize profusely in order to rectify the situation. Because I am learning to be stronger in myself, I can now honestly say I don't care anywhere near as much. I go by the conviction of the Holy Spirit and when He moves me to apologize, I will. But I am not going to apologize for something I've said or done simply because guilt and negativity tries to overwhelm me and tell me that I need to. That's not conviction at all and chances are if you feel like that about something you've done, you've done the right thing.

You don't influence the world around you by getting everyone to like you all of the time. Lots of people hated Jesus because of who He was. But it didn't stop Him. The fact that they hated Him means that He was having an effect on people's lives because He wasn't afraid to tell them the truth. Everyone likes a peacemaker and a soothsayer. Not everyone likes someone who comes and hits you with a sledgehammer of truth, as it often hurts like blazes. But the fact is - it's that sledgehammer of truth that changes things and forces people to face up to stuff.

There was a time early in my Christian walk when I deeply resented God for some of the things that happened to me which I did not believe I deserved. They hurt like blazes and I blamed Him for it. But I realize now that the pain of those experiences was the best thing that could have happened to me at the time. It forced me to start facing up to the darkness in my heart and changing my life for the better. Sure, God could have given me everything I "wanted" back then, which of course was an easy ride with no pain or hardship involved. But in the end, it would have destroyed me, as the internal darkness that wasn't getting dealt with would have eaten me alive from within.

God knew I wasn't going to like what He did, and even that I wasn't going to like Him for a while. But that didn't stop Him hitting me with the truth. And I am now glad it happened. I still have a way to go, but I am stronger and wiser than before. God can survive the depth of people's hatred towards Him for telling the truth and not holding back. And God wants to develop our character the same way. To have soft hearts but hard foreheads to take the punches life throws at us for doing the right thing and telling the truth regardless of how it is received.

It's a process, like everything. To begin with, I hated it. But I am slowly learning to embrace it. And I am witnessing a changed heart as a result.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Traveler

I'm going for a slightly different blog post this time. I want to do something that signifies the end of the road I've been walking, so I've decided to do a prophetic poem about reaching the end of the spiritual wilderness. It's called "The Traveler."

A battered hiking boot scuffs the dry sand as the traveler comes to a stop.
He wipes the sweat and dust from his brow and presses his water bottle to his parched lips.
The liquid trickles down his throat and the sense of refreshment spreads throughout his being.
The end of the road is here at last.
The traveler turns to face the journey he's known for so long.
The only journey he's ever known.
The only road he's ever traveled.
The sun, once blazing overhead, is now setting behind the hills, yet he can still make out the hundreds of miles he has covered in the distance.
Obstacles that once seemed unconquerable, now stand as milestones, far off in the distance, remembered but also forgotten.
He remembers it all so clearly.
He remembers the sun burning his skin and the heat parching his throat.
He remembers the unforgiving hardness of the ground he trod upon, ground he hit in full force and had to painfully drag himself up from once too often.
He remembers the vultures circling, an omen of death, waiting for him to give up on the journey.
He remembers the deep weariness he felt in his very bones.
He remembers looking at the road ahead and thinking it would never end, thinking that the sun would never stop, thinking that the road would be the end of him.
It's all behind him now, and he can't quite believe it.
But he remembers one more thing.
He remembers the One who was with him the whole way.
That still, small voice, giving him the strength to go on.
Even when he was stuck at the foot of an obstacle he thought he'd never get past, the voice was there.
In the hottest part of the day, the voice was there.
In the blackest depth of the night, the voice was there.
When the traveler shook with fear, seethed with anger or boiled over in frustration, the voice was there.
He thought it would never end.
But it has.
He's a new man now.
There's a clarity, a wisdom and a strength about him that was never there before.
He has the long, dusty road to thank for that.
And the One who continued to encourage him to walk down it, even though everything inside him was screaming at him to quit.
As he looks back, there is no weariness in his eyes.
No anger, no resentment, no regret,
Only a sense of peace and calmness he's never truly experienced before.
As he faces the road he's traveled, he utters two simple words, he thought he'd never say when talking about his journey.
"Thank you."
He then turns around and faces forwards with a grin that can barely fit on his face.
The time of darkness is over.
The promised land awaits.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The deception of control

I'm feeling pretty raw about this subject at the moment, which usually means its a good time to blog about it, as rawness usually translates into interesting reading.

One of the most inspirational people in my journey to healing and wholeness has been James Hetfield of Metallica. This guy had everything - millions of dollars, millions of fans, a wife and 4 kids, global fame and recognition, talent, and the ability to do what he loves for a living. And he still had the guts to go into rehab for alcoholism and sort himself out. He came out a totally different man.

One of the main things he spoke about upon returning from recovery was that most of his education in rehab was about giving up the need to control things. He spoke about how he learned to use intimidation and rage to control people and get them to act the way that he wanted them to, and how his focus became about unlearning all of this behavior, which is where he found his healing.

This spoke so much to me. Throughout my own "God-ordered rehabilitation" that I've been going through recently, I've realized just how much of my life has been consumed by the need to control things. One of the main ways I've done this is through passive behavior - being "too nice", if you will. It is easy to pass this off as just being a "laid-back person" or a "peacekeeper" but in reality, for me it has been a constant sense of manipulation based in fear.

I thought if I could control myself completely, then I could control the actions of those around me. I thought that if I used passive behavior, I could control the actions of those around me to make them act how I wanted them to. Intimidation was never going to work as I'm not the biggest person around physically, so passive behavior seemed the way to go. I began to see this work in different areas of my life, which gave me confirmation to build my entire life around it as I believed that it could keep me safe.

In reality, this was all a lie. I see now that I cannot control or change the actions of others. Though I may think that I am safe, all it would take is a tornado or something to destroy my house and belongings to make me realize my own fragile mortality and shatter my little bubble of control. I could be the nicest person in the world, and that still couldn't stop some people from wanting to tear me to pieces. In fact, it may even encourage them to do it even more, as you don't win respect by being a doormat.

My healing and wholeness is not going to come from being able to control and sit on top of my own emotions and the entire world around me in some kind of place of power or authority, as that's just like trying to sit on top of a rug with thousands of mice under it - it's not going to stay still and they are going to be constantly running out from underneath you. Trying to stay up there is just futile and a waste of time. My healing is going to come from me learning to completely accept that I cannot control everything, least of all people - and that I'm not going to die if someone has a go at me and hurts me because I'm not striving to overcome them.

That has been a huge lie I've believed as well - that I couldn't survive the inevitable feeling of vulnerability that comes from realizing that you can't control things. I've realized that although I may feel like I'm dying inside, those feelings are just telling lies as in reality I am still standing and still walking. The only prison I am in, is the prison of fear itself. I am an overcomer. I've faced years of hardship, failed relationships, a bleeding stomach ulcer that nearly had me bleeding to death, months of unemployment and had to break through some very dark strongholds in my own life. I've shed blood, sweat and tears into my Christian walk over the last ten years and I have the scars, the wisdom and the grey hairs to prove it. No matter what happens, I'll keep on getting back up.

Complete control of our world is a lie. Only God can do that and He asks us to put our trust in Him that even though we don't know what's going to happen, with Him guiding us, whatever pitfalls we may face, He'll see us through.

Take care.

Monday, September 19, 2011

If you love something, let it go

I want to talk a bit this week about this most irritating saying and why although it is deeply frustrating, it is also full of truth and very necessary.

This saying used to really frustrate me something serious. It just never seemed to make any sense. "If I love something, why on earth should I let it go? Then it might leave and never come back, and then I'll lose it and be miserable and depressed and never find anything like it again, then I'll die! Screw it. I'm never going to let it go then. It'll stay here with me forever, where it's safe!"

It always seemed like a bit of a backwards theory to me. I had many things in my life that I held onto with an iron grip and just refused to let them go. People and relationships were a big issue for me when it came to this. I would literally hold onto people long after they wanted me to and would continue to try and resurrect friendships that were already dead - even people that I hadn't spoken to for years. No doubt I had a few people wondering to themselves - "Why on earth is Graham trying to contact me? I haven't spoken to him in over 5 years!"

I also used to put marriage and intimacy on an enormous pedestal when I was younger. I honestly saw it as the final solution to all of my problems and that if that was to just happen for me, I would be happy and never have to feel alone or afraid again because marriage was going to be perfect and full of love all the time, right? There was no such thing as problems and animosity in marriage, was there? My wife would complete me, right? All would be "happily ever after", right? Wrong.

I've never been married, of course. But my thoughts towards the subject - as well as the subject of relationships - have changed drastically over the last few years. I have realized that my obsessive need to hold onto people and never let them go came from a deeply withheld insecurity within my own life - and that my obsessive fantasies regarding marriage and intimacy stemmed from the exact same insecurity. In a sense - I wanted to use people as drugs to numb my feelings and block out my insecurities so that I wouldn't have to face them.

I now see that my insecurities would have actually turned marriage into a living hell, as eventually the honeymoon period would have worn off and my wife would lose the ability to "keep me medicated" so to speak whenever some kind of argument or anything rose up between us, which of course would inevitably happen. Then I'd realize I was stuck in a commitment with someone who could no longer help me to keep my insecurities contained, which would inevitably translate into depression.

This insecurity has already killed countless relationships in my life through my obsessive need to control the friendship and keep it alive no matter what, as well as obsessing over every minor detail and going into a panic mode if something didn't quite add up properly. Simply put - people would get tired of me. And who could blame them? I was tiring.

I have realized that if I want to truly be able to appreciate either a friend or a romantic relationship, I need to be able to come to a place of complete strength and wholeness within my own inner being, so that I can look upon others as people with flaws and insecurities like myself and not as drugs to be used to help me to block out my feelings. When I can look at a girl who really gets my heart racing - and yet remain strong enough in myself to be objective and able to be honest with her and myself about the relationship and whether or not I believe it will work, is when I will be far more able to appreciate it without building up a whole lot of unreasonable expectations which will no doubt destroy me (and her too).

If I can let her go - and truly accept that she may not come back if I do this, and be strong enough in myself to accept that as truth and be ready to completely move on without her if she doesn't come back - then I believe I will be ready to have a relationship which will truly bless both parties and won't turn a dream of mine into a nightmare.

I guess my message in all of this is that we need to be prepared to let go of the things that we love if we truly want to be able to appreciate them properly. I believe God wants us to stand strong on our own first, and once that has happened, we'll be able to see relationships properly and therefore be able to join our souls with another. So if you've battled with insecurity and it's affecting your relationships and turning you obsessive as it has done me - learn to deal with it before it turns your dreams into nightmares as it so often has done for mine.

Peace out, all.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wants and needs

There is a substantial difference between things in our lives that we want and things that we need. We may think that we "need" something, but in actual fact what we truly need can be something else entirely.

I have been challenged on this a lot over the past few weeks. Over the last few months I have been reading passages from the Word For Today (A Christian daily devotional book) talking about a change in times and seasons which I felt spoke to me that change of sorts was on the horizon for me. I've also had friends speak over my life saying the same thing. In my heart, I agreed with what they said and I began to imagine what I thought this change that may be coming into my life might look like.

I had a few different ideas as to what I thought I "needed" this change to be. I never for a second imagined that the change that was heading my way involved having a complete nervous breakdown, having to resign from my job as a result and go on the sickness benefit to support myself financially. This certainly was not the change that I was hoping for, or "wanted". There were times when I found myself very angry at the changes that had taken place and wished I had done something to prevent them.

However, as time has passed over this last 5 weeks or so that I have been off work, I've come to realize that as hard as this has been, this has been the change that I have really "needed" as I have gained some amazing insight into things I have struggled with for years and as a result I am feeling much freer and stronger within myself than I ever have before. I can honestly say that the changes that have come into my life that I initially didn't "want" have become the best thing that has ever happened to me in my 27 and a half years on this planet.

It has been extremely difficult to face this and it has tested me to the very core of my being, which has been very painful - but as I have begun to realize - what is the alternative? I have gained insight into deep and powerful tensions that have kept me as an internal prisoner for my entire life which I would never have gained if none of this had ever happened to me. Sure, I could have received my "wants" and had a nice easy ride, continuing to skim over the surface of what was happening deep within my own heart - but the alternative would have been that the unresolved issues would slowly have gnawed away at me from the inside out and worn out my ability to truly appreciate and enjoy the good things that I know are headed for me in the future. My "wants" could easily have destroyed me. Fortunately, God ignored my wants and focused on what I truly needed in my life.

I shudder when I look back on my life and think of all the things I have "wanted" over the years and have become very angry at God, others and myself when I have not received. I realize now that if all of my "wants" had been met, I would not be the person I am today and I certainly would not be coming into the place of strength and clarity I am slowly approaching at the moment. It has been a very hard road at times - especially recently - but the alternative, though it looks smoother and happier, would have left me in a far worse state than what I am in now.

It can be a very difficult place to be in when you look around at the lives of those around you and especially at how the world values "success" these days. It's all about having the fastest car, the biggest house, the largest salary and so on. I wanted to live a life like this and I have found it incredibly frustrating at times to be living in what appears to be a great sense of poverty while others appear to have things so much easier just because they have material wealth and high paying jobs. It can seem like it's a waste of time being where you are. But let me ask you this - how many of those people use their possessions to compensate for a lack of emotional strength and character in their lives, and would be reduced to nothing if they lost everything they had "wanted"? That's a very shallow way to live life and a very unstable foundation to base everything on.

When push comes to shove, you see what you're made of. And although it's hard, I am being strengthened in the core of my inner man. So when push inevitably comes to shove in my future, I will be stronger than ever when it comes to dealing with it, because of this time I am going through at the moment where my "wants" have been put aside by God because He cares enough to give me what I truly need.

Take care.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Facing the unknown

What separates a strong, confident and able person from a weak, timid and fearful one? What is possibly the most frightening and subsequently challenging position we can find ourselves in as human beings? For the other blokes out there - what is the difference between being a boy and being a man?

I believe it all comes down to this - how we deal with the unknown factors in our lives - either in our external circumstances or buried deep within our own hearts.

Knowledge is power. This statement is very true. There is safety, strength and confidence in knowledge. However, knowledge can also be a cover up for some of the deepest character flaws we experience as human beings. For example - there can be people who are deeply afraid of confrontation of any kind, however when it comes to scolding their children or someone they perceive to be weaker than themselves, they have no problem initiating the confrontation whatsoever and sometimes even revel in it. Simply put - they are using their knowledge that their children are weaker than them and dependent on them to get an emotional release as well as cover up their need to face that part of themselves they wish to avoid.

Facing the truly unknown can be terrifying, to say the least. The most important thing about the unknown of any sort is not so much what we expect to face out there in the darkness where the light of knowledge does not yet shine - but what we will face within ourselves when exposed to unknown circumstances that have the potential to frighten us.

We are not encouraged to go deep within ourselves when it comes to facing circumstances we already know and understand. Facing the truly unknown takes away all of our shallow sense of emotional security and strips us right back to the very core of who we are as people and forces us to ask ourselves - do I believe in myself? Do I trust myself - and God - that I can boldly walk into the darkness and face and overcome what I find there? Do I have enough self belief and self confidence to be able to boldly tread where I have never tread before, relying on nothing but my own ability to face what I find out there? Do I believe that I can turn the unknown into the known and that I can be strong and insistent enough to be able to not give up on making this happen and run back to the already lit areas of my life, where it's safe?

The unknown is a breeding ground for fear, as it is knowledge that nips fear in the bud and stops it in its tracks. When we intentionally walk into the unknown, often our deepest fears begin to arise from the deepest core of our being. However we are not able to crush them with knowledge as we are walking into a dark and unknown environment where we have nothing to rely on except our own strength and confidence. Though this is a frightening place to be, it can also be one of the most enlightening and healing places to be - if we face it the right way.

When our deepest fears arise due to unknown circumstances, we cannot run away from them as more often than not, God has orchestrated what we are facing in our circumstances in order to get us to face the truth about ourselves. Every fear is like a weed that grows up inside of us - we can cut the top off it, but it will just keep on growing back. It needs to be pulled out at the root in order to rid ourselves of it completely and replace that fear with peace. The root of the fear is what hurts the most to feel our way into - but it is a necessary part of healing it if we want to walk free of it.

I still struggle with facing the unknown as I still find it difficult to have faith in myself to overcome anything I might find out there and actually trust that I have the strength and capacity to deal with anything - even if I don't know what it is yet. I am not there yet. But I am facing the unknown circumstances in my life at the moment with far more peace and faith in God and myself than ever before and that is due to pulling the fears out at the roots that previous unknown experiences have brought me into. It is hard work. But I am getting there. I am beginning to learn what it means to be a man - facing the unknown with an attitude of "bring it on, I'll stare you down, I can overcome anything" rather than running from it timidly.

It is necessary for us to learn to face the darkness both externally and within ourselves as if we just shrink back in fear all of the time, we are cutting ourselves off from what could be some of the greatest experiences we could ever have, and receiving some amazing gifts God and other people have to give us - if we could only get over our fear of the unknown and step out into it anyway.

It is a process to overcome. And it takes times. And at times, it hurts like blazes. But it is working. I am more grateful for unknown circumstances than ever before as they are helping me to get to know someone I need to know more than anyone in the world - myself.

I hope this speaks to someone out there. Take care and God bless.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Death - a natural part of life

Please excuse the rather morbid title. I am not talking about death in the physical sense with this blog - but rather allowing things in our lives to die that are no longer beneficial for us and need to pass out of our lives so that we can move forwards.

Things die all of the time. People come and go out of our lives, seasons change, circumstances change. My belief is that God gives us grace for certain time periods in our lives while He works whatever He wants to into our lives. Once that time is done, and we have taken what we need to out of that circumstance, the grace that is given to us by God runs out, which more often than not is an indication that the time has come to move on from where we were and allow the circumstance the grace has run out for to die.

I have been thinking on this subject a lot recently as I am right in the midst of a very intense "dying to self" time in my life. I have no distractions to cover up the things I have been running from subconsciously. It is a time of allowing things in my life to die off that are hindering me and stopping me from moving forwards.

Throughout all of this I have had to come face to face with an iron-clad determination I have had in my life - an almost unconquerable will to live at all costs despite the odds. A strength forged in molten steel, telling me to keep on pushing forwards on my own, never ask for help, never let anyone else truly in, never rely on anyone else, and find peace through relentless control of my life and circumstances. Though in a way it has been my greatest strength - it has also been an achilles heel in a lot of ways, and has held me back from developing some of the character I need in order to face life the way I am meant to.

This is what I am having to allow to die in my life - my own relentless will to live. I am being deconstructed from the inside out. I can no longer rely just on myself and my own ability to work my life out the way I want to. As I have realized, that is a very hollow existence and one that cannot be sustained forever. My entire life has recently collapsed on me and I have realized that I need to allow a lot of things to die that have been hindering me. I believe that God is in all of this and that this "dying to self" process is a part of His will for me. It is right for me to have lost my income and it is right for me to not be in a strong enough place in myself to handle work at the moment. My circumstances have collapsed - died, if you will - but it's not a bad thing, it's the right thing for me right now.

I have realized just how much this will to live at all costs has been affecting me and why I am being asked to let this will to live die and just let myself rest. I have found it nearly impossible to rest over the years and I have battled relentlessly with my circumstances in order to get them to line up the way that I want them to. I have not been able to just "let go and let God" so to speak. The reason for this is because I refused to let that part of myself die. I wanted it to live forever. I remember a friend spoke over my life years ago, saying to me that "when you end, God begins." I realize now I've never really been able to let God begin because I have never really been able to let myself end.

Wanting to live is not a bad thing by any means and hanging onto things can definitely be the right thing for us as well - but there are times when we allow our own issues to cloud our judgment which means we end up hanging onto things far longer than what we are meant to. I am hopeless when it comes to this. Sometimes I just cannot read the obvious signs saying that "The grace is coming to an end, this person or circumstance needs to be let go of now" and will continue to cling on for dear life in order to salvage something that basically wants to die. I've spent so much time flogging dead horses, trying to get them to run it's not funny. Even though I know in my heart of hearts that they are dead, I've somehow thought in my own strength that if I can keep on flogging them, somehow, eventually they might get up and run away. But it never happens and is just a waste of time.

I guess my message in all of this is to learn to be alert to the changes in your life and circumstances when they come in. Let things die if they need to because it is a part of life and a necessary part of moving forward. Don't try to hang onto things after they have gone and use unresolved issues to drive you into not letting go of things that are holding you back. Death is a part of life that we need to learn to be comfortable with - so learn to let go and let God.

Peace out, all.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What's your drug of choice?

I shared about a week and a half ago with the local youth group about identity the other week and how the things in life that mean the most to you can become an addiction and a security blanket to cover up other issues.

My story regarding this was my journey with my music. I was always that awkward, gangly kid in primary school who never quite fit in anywhere and was just, well, awkward. There were all these little cliques - the surfies, the skaters, the sports fans, and I just didn't fit in with any of them.

Until I turned 16, and I learned how to play the guitar. As soon as that happened, my identity was forged immediately - I was Graham the guitarist, Graham the rockstar. I grew my hair long, wore Metallica t-shirts and torn jeans and would pepper nearly every conversation I had with anyone with talk about music, jamming, guitars or something somehow related to them.

When I was 21, God asked me to give up playing the guitar for a time. To me, this was like being told you had to cut your own arm off. It was devastating, but I knew I had to give it up, although I didn't realize why. I grudgingly put down the guitar and began to wonder what on earth I would fill my time with now and more importantly, who I was now that my identity had been stripped from me.

However, I eventually began to realize why I had to give it up. Music had consumed me. It had literally become like a drug. I realized that I was using it as medication for unresolved emotional issues in my life and that whenever I felt the familiar pangs of fear, anxiety or depression, my immediate response was to pick up a guitar if one was around or to start thinking about music, being in a band or writing songs if there wasn't one available. I needed to learn to function as a person without using music as a crutch before I could truly learn to appreciate it for what it was.

After this experience, I began to see the world with different eyes. I came to a realization that most people are using drugs on a daily basis. Not the kind you can find over the counter or pick up from a hooded stranger in the parking lot of Pak N Save - but all kinds of things. Television. Shopping. Work. Hobbies. Money. All of these things can basically be turned into heroin if we allow them to consume us and start expecting those things to resolve our internal issues so that we don't have to face them.

The problem with drugs - and addictions of any kind - is that they are never satisfied. You can have a problem with anxiety and choose to medicate it with playing guitar, such as I did. I could have learned every solo, leadbreak, riff and chord known to man - and ultimately, at the end of the day I would still have the same problem. Though I would no doubt have achieved a lot through this relentless running - my success would have been hollow as I would not have been able to truly enjoy it as I would know deep in my own heart that my issues I was running from were still not resolved.

I can certainly see the attraction in living a life based on nothing but surface living. That's why I wanted to be a rockstar. Just travel the world, never stay in one place too long, spend your evenings on stage wallowing in self glorification and come off stage to a few slugs of bourbon and mindless banter with fellow band mates before retreating to my hotel room to practice guitar for another 6 hours and no doubt annoying the occupants for the neighboring rooms before finally falling asleep and departing for pastures new the following day.

At the end of the day, although it sounds fun, that is a deeply hollow existence and using distractions to run from ourselves is only an exercise in exhaustion. It will catch up with us eventually. And you know when this lifestyle catches up with us the most? when we are forced to rest.

Those who do not examine their hearts and lives and do not seek to resolve their issues but medicate them with relationships, booze, guitar playing, shopping etc etc are often very restless people. I could not sit still and just quieten my mind when fully enveloped in this frame of operating. My thoughts would always run somewhere - usually to music - so that I wouldn't have to begin to face the ugly truth about who I really was. You can use all kinds of distractions to run from your own heart.

As I write this post, I am currently in a place of unemployment. God has put me here. I am being forced to rest. And it is hard. Resting is something I have struggled with my entire life because it is when I am resting that my issues begin to surface. I want to keep working on my book, but it hasn't come back from the editor yet. I know that this is because I am meant to rest and in that rest I am meant to face what is going on in the depths of my own heart and mind. Working on my book, although therapeutic in a sense, could easily just become another drug right now. I am being forced to go cold turkey.

But it's good for me. I am learning to rest and to learn to be ok with stillness. I believe that once I get through this period of stillness I will be more whole and complete as a person than ever before and not only will I not have the need for drugs to block things out, but I will be able to appreciate what I do have - and what is coming to me - in a way that I never could before.

Peace out and rest up!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Don't pollute your promised land

This is a subject I've been thinking on quite a bit recently. When God called the Israelites out of Egypt, He could have just taken them straight to their inheritance, the promised land. Instead, He lead them into the desert for 40 years, even though it was only an 11 day journey from Egypt to the promised land.

Howcome? Why didn't God just take them straight there?

I believe that although the Israelites had come out of Egypt, God provided the 40 years in the wilderness in order to take Egypt out of them. Egypt was a land of slavery for the Israelite people, where they were oppressed and mistreated - however it was still a land of plenty. Many of the Israelites were often heard complaining about the wilderness and how they had things far better back in Egypt - despite the fact that it was a land of slavery. They were yearning to go back to an oppressive land in order to fulfill their own desires.

Though their location had changed - the land of slavery was now behind them - their hearts had been corrupted by that environment, and the corruption in their hearts was exactly why God lead them through the wilderness. So that they would come face to face with the darkness within themselves and rid themselves of it, so that they could enjoy the promised land to its fullest potential when they were ready to take it. Most of the Israelites failed miserably in this regard and did not approach their time in the wilderness as God wanted them to - which meant that out of the millions that left Egypt, only two of them entered the promised land. Two!!

This piece of scripture is incredibly relevant to mankind nowadays. Think about it - what drives us forward each day? We are all searching for our own individual promised land, those dreams which we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts, our hopes for the future. The promised land can look different to each of us - for some, it may be a relationship, others a dream job, etc etc.

So the question must be asked - what are we doing to prepare ourselves for the dreams we wish to have fulfilled in our lives?

I believe God did not allow most of the Israelites into the promised land because they still carried Egypt within them. If He had allowed them in, they would have polluted the land which they wished for so much with their own darkness, and that which was meant to be a blessing would have become a curse and a burden to them, all because of their own doing. They would have once again started searching for the promised land - even though they were already there and only wanted out because of something they could not face within themselves.

It is much the same with us. If we refuse to take the road less travelled through the wilderness and refuse to face the darkest depths of ourselves in those hard times of preparation, once we do eventually reach our promised land, it will become nothing but another Egypt to us. The guy who waited his whole life to get married and refused to deal with his issues to prepare himself for it? His dream will become a nightmare. Because he did not prepare himself properly and spent his time in the wilderness complaining about not being back in Egypt, or not being at the promised land yet, rather than approaching the wilderness the way God intends us to - facing ourselves and working out our darkest issues.

If you are facing the wilderness in your life today, instead of placing all your hopes on the promised land, perhaps ask God and yourself what you can be dealing with and changing in your life to prepare yourself properly for what it is that you are hoping for. Don't be afraid to face the darkest parts of yourself - for if you don't, they will lurk under the surface and ruin your promised land for you once it does arrive.

Take care and God bless.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Everything's changed, everything is different..."

Well, it’s been a while since I fired one of these up, I also just figured out how to connect Blogspot with Facebook, so I figure I may get a few more views now!

I am writing this post at a very interesting time in my life. A few months back I opened up my e:mail in the morning when I got to work and I read The Word For Today that had been emailed to me saying that “God Will Surprise You”. It spoke about how God brings changes into people’s lives and how the change can be sudden, and unexpected, and can often come out of discomfort.

I now sit here writing this blog post a mere few weeks later, except all of a sudden, that word came very true and everything has changed for me at the drop of a hat – due to unforeseen personal circumstances I am currently unemployed. I still have rent to pay and a vehicle to run, and besides a final pay out from work and a benefit which will start soon, I have no income. However, for the first time ever, I am not worried.

For those of you who know me well, you will know that I am a very plan orientated person. I like things to be ordered and to have structure and I find my safety and security in things that I have built or organized myself as I know the work that has gone into them, therefore I feel that I can trust them. However, God has been changing me from the inside out over the past few years, and has been helping me to deconstruct my prideful desires to control and organize things, and help me to learn to rely more upon Him rather than my own meticulous planning.

I’m reminded of a quote from one of my favourite ever movies, Terminator 2:Judgment Day. Sarah Connor has a voice over section in one part of the movie and she says the following:

“The future, always so clear to me, had become like a black highway at night. We were in uncharted territory now, making up history as we went along”.

That’s exactly how I feel. I’m staring into the future with no employment in sight, making up history as I go along. However, I know that God is riding this black highway with me, and that He knows what He’s doing, even if I don’t know. Being an avid motorcycle enthusiast and former rider, I am very used to piloting a motorcycle on my own and therefore being solely responsible for where it goes. My spiritual walk has been rather similar, admittedly. However, for the first time, God has taken over from me on the pilot’s seat, and I am riding pillion with Him, on the back of the bike, having no idea where we are going. At times it feels like He takes corners a bit too fast for my liking, and seems to go charging ahead when I would prefer to just hang back and play it safe. But, I guess it’s all part of the adventure, something I will have to get used to.

That word came true, alright. God has surprised me. I never expected the changes to come into my life that have arrived. But it’s ok. He’s teaching me to be a good pillion and learn to trust Him with the throttle.