Monday, December 24, 2012

Productive pain

Pain is something we all go through as human beings. Be it physical or emotional, pain is something that none of us are exempt from. Sometimes we find ourselves in pain as a result of our own stupid choices, other times we find ourselves in pain through no fault of our own whatsoever and due to circumstances beyond our control. How we respond to pain, however, is up to us - we can choose to sit and suffer with it forever or use it for our own gain and for the gain of others.

As I've said before, one of my favorite movie trilogies is Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Brilliant movies in every sense. One of the most powerful examples of someone using pain productively is Christopher Nolan's depiction of Bruce Wayne (who of course leads a double life as Batman) played brilliantly by Christian Bale. He was forced to watch the deliberate murder of his parents as a helpless young boy, unable to stop the man who killed his parents in front of him.

This deeply affected Bruce - the anger and the guilt that it was his fear that lead them to the darkened alleyway where they were murdered, plus his distress about being too little and helpless to do anything about it. Bruce was in pain - terrible pain. He could have sat around and moped for the rest of his life and done nothing with the pain other than suffer from it - but his pain motivated him to travel the world and learn about both himself and the criminal mind. His deep hatred of injustice and criminality drove him to train as a ninja and finally return to Gotham as the masked vigilante Batman who fought with everything he had to clean up the streets and by all accounts did a pretty incredible job. By the end of his time as Batman he gave his life to save the city (or so the people thought) and ended up having a statue erected in his honor, while he secretly began a new life on the other side of the world, married and happy.

Bruce spent years living in darkness and in pain as a result of his parents death and he used that pain to drive him to do something that had a lasting impact in the city he grew up in - an impact that remained long after he departed. Eventually he was able to let go of the pain and anger and move forwards with his life but while he was still stuck in that dark place he used his pain as a vehicle to bring good into the world around him. This is a prime example of someone dealt a bitter hand by life yet managed to find a productive outlet for his pain and in his pain, the productivity it produced created something amazing. Even though it's (obviously) only a fictional story, it's a powerful message nonetheless.

A true example of productive pain was King David in the bible. Relentlessly and unjustly pursued by Saul, David fled into the caves and hid from Saul's men in a desperate attempt to save his own life. David knew he had done nothing to deserve any of this and that he did not belong in these darkened caves yet he had been forced there anyway, due to the sinful actions of another person. He could easily have spent that time just sulking and moping around, being depressed. Instead he chose to turn that pain into productivity by writing the Psalms. Some of the Psalms speak of great light and peace - others however are irredeemably dark and introspective. David's brutal honesty with both God and himself throughout this time of terrible pain (which did pass eventually) created a powerful legacy which has spread worldwide and still speaks to people thousands of years after David's death. If that's not pain at it's productive best then I don't know what is.

I have spent my life in terrible pain. Even most of my years as a Christian were spent wondering what on earth was so wrong with me and why I was constantly in almost unbearable inner tension and agony. I couldn't see a sense and a purpose in my life - until God put it on my heart that I was to write a book and tell my story to the world - a story which has now been picked up by a major publishing firm in the USA. Writing the book was very hard - it sapped an enormous amount of my time and energy, so much so that over a year after finishing writing the book I still haven't found the energy to put any serious effort into the follow up. The book was written in a very dark place, where the pain and confusion were beginning to become overwhelming. Then, the final revelation which was the key to the tension I'd struggled with my whole life was revealed to me when I was right at the end of writing it and not only did it give me an epic conclusion to the book but it was the beginning of a better life for me.

Now that I am getting better all the time, I am realizing that the time for the terrible pain in my life has finally passed. But I used it in the most productive way that I believe I possibly could - the book I have written in this time is not something that could have been written out of a happy, peaceful heart. It was written by who I used to be - a turbulent, dysfunctional soul. But the work that has come out of that time has the power to really change people's lives. I believe it could leave a real, lasting legacy for me and could really count towards my dream of having my life count for something. Not to say that there hasn't been casualties for me along the way in this journey - there certainly has been. But I realize now that my pain has had a far greater purpose than what I could have imagined.

If you are going through pain today - ask God to help you understand the pain and why you are facing it. Ask Him to help you turn it into productivity. You never know who you might reach and what kind of legacy the productive output from your pain may leave behind you.

Take care and Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Godly frustration

Frustration is a subject I know well. As most of my life has been consumed with the healing and/or managing of mental illness which has sapped most of my strength and energy, I haven't been able to contribute fully with my life the way that I would have liked to. I've never been able to truly connect in relationships without being held back to at least some degree by my struggles, I've never been able to completely focus on the job I was doing at the time due to just trying to survive the constant internal anguish and I've never known what it's like to just be able to sit completely still and relax, something others take for granted.

Now that I have substantially reduced my medication thanks to advice from my doctor as well as the ton of deeply rooted spiritual and emotional issues I've dragged myself through over the past year, the frustration is now lessening and I am more able to enjoy life and connect with others in a way I never really could before. The real me is beginning to surface at last. However, the years of frustration have taken their toll and I am finding myself borderline explosive regarding my temperament at times due to the amount that has been held captive within my soul over the past 29 years and also due to the fact that I realize that even though I have learned a massive amount about how to survive, I don't really know how to just sit back and live. It's all a very new learning experience for me - learning to live for the first time.

I've never been able to truly make peace with everything that has happened and there are still some things that have happened to me over the past couple of years that I am still deeply frustrated about. I used to think that this frustration was evil and bad and that God was a God of peace and love and joy and wasn't bothered about anything and was basically some greenie passive hippy sitting up on His cloud going "just peace out, dude." That vision irritated me but I used to see it as true. However, that image of God has now been dismantled out of my thinking process and I've become aware for the first time of something I like to call "Godly frustration."

I have always had a strong sense of justice and wanting to see the right thing happen and the truth be uncovered despite how ugly and violent it can be, simply because I know that the truth sets you free and that living with buried truth is living in heaviness and living a lie. There is nothing that I hate more than seeing the truth buried and covered up where no one can find it while a nice pleasant whitewash is painted on the outside of it so that no one ever thinks to look within. The truth that is buried within that tomb doesn't die. It may be able to be blocked out of one's conscious thinking through years of denial and "shifting focus to other things" but it never really goes away - it just remains as a weight subconsciously pulling one's soul down, sapping their energy and keeping them restrained from becoming who they were created to be.

I find it infuriating and almost exasperating when I am standing up for something that I know is right especially when I feel I am doing as God has told me to do and I am either told to shut up by others or people tell me that I am wrong about something or someone, that I am being too harsh or that I just need to "peace out and let it go and chill out, man." There are times when God puts the truth about something on my heart and I try to communicate what God has told me and I am ignored. This drives me to the point of flipping out and losing the plot as the frustration becomes overwhelming. I used to think this was bad. But now I realize otherwise. This is the frustration that God feels.

God is all seeing and all knowing. Nothing is hidden from Him. God warns people and sometimes He uses His people to warn others - I know He has used me in this capacity. Yet His warnings are ignored and all the while the people that He warns walk blissfully into a slippery slope headed for terrible destruction and the truth that God is trying to get them to face is buried within themselves yet they refuse to heed it and just ignore it - continually blocking it out and walking blissfully into disaster. I can't imagine how frustrating that must be especially seeing as God has made it clear to the world that He will not interfere in free will. He gives people choices but that's not to say He is not deeply grieved and frustrated by the choices that others make.

I know understand that frustration directed towards the right thing is quite righteous. Jesus screamed at the Pharisees out of the incredible frustration He had with them - their double lives, the truth that they concealed within themselves, the fact that they were "like whitewashed tombs, attractive on the outside but internally are full of dead men's bones." But despite His screaming at them He knew that they would never change - hence his overwhelming frustration that lead to such a public spectacle. But it was still the right thing to do.

As I stated in my previous blog, I am learning to become a "Godly agent of chaos". Meaning - that I am learning that there are some things that cannot be kept silent about and truths that cannot be hidden and simply must be told and fought for, else the frustration will simply burn within me until I do say something. This is where the old image of the peaceful, hippy Jesus would come to mind saying "just peace out, man. Let it go." Sometimes that is still the case. But there are also times when truth needs to be told and to "just chill out" and not stand up and fight, not stand up and call out the repressed truths that people don't want to face and not give a voice to issues that will never be spoken of unless I speak of them can actually hold back what God wants to do.

There are some things that will never change - unless we, as God's hands and feet in the world, get off our lazy, peace loving backsides and actively do something about them. There are some issues that will never be spoken about and some stories that have the power to change the lives of others but will never be told unless we tell them. We need God - but He also needs us just as much. The still, small voice of God in the hearts of man is (unfortunately) easily ignored. The voice of a man - especially a voice driven by unresolved anger can be easily ignored. But the voice of a man spoken loudly and clearly into the darkness with God using that man to say what He wants to say can be incredibly powerful and liberating.

My message to you, dear reader, is this. Is there something frustrating you today? Burning on your heart? It could be that you aren't just to "let it go". It could be a Godly frustration, a frustration that the truth isn't coming out about something, that needs to be expressed. Don't fear your frustration. Pray about it and ask God for insight. It could be that your frustration is actually from God Himself and that if you act on it and do something about it by speaking it out and refusing to sit on it and remain frustrated for any longer, you could change someone's life forever. Or the world. There could be casualties. But to my mind there's no casualty worse than the right thing not being done because someone is afraid to do it and therefore the frustration eats them alive.

Take care out there.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Introduce a little anarchy

This may sound a bit bizarre to some, but it's something I've been thinking about a lot recently - and it's just how valuable and even necessary a bit of anarchy and chaos can be in our lives.

One of my favorite movies is The Dark Knight. I just think it's brilliant in every sense. Once again this may sound weird, but one of the characters in the movie I have come to respect and even somewhat admire, is the Joker. Of course he is meant to be a picture of absolute evil and is so insane he tells different stories all the time about the origin of his facial scars. Not to mention that he kills people for fun. I'm well aware of that. But I also think he has a very interesting psychological take on some issues.

One of the most powerful lines in the movie as far as I am concerned is when the Joker is talking to Harvey Dent in the hospital ward and he told him that all he sees around him are schemers, trying to control their little worlds and that all he does is show the schemers just how pathetic their attempts to control things really are. The stance he seems to have on the world is he sees what is on the surface and he doesn't believe it's the full picture, so he introduces chaos and anarchy to try to force people to show each other and themselves who they really are inside, under all of the masks. Obviously his methods of doing this are incredibly brutal and violent, and he has little to no care for anyone's life (not even his own) but I can see where he is coming from.

I think back on all of the experiences and all of the people I have connected with in my life and I can honestly say that the ones who left the biggest mark on my life, taught me the most and helped me to realize the full extent of who I really was - were more often than not, the really bad ones. When I first became a Christian, I would come across as the nicest guy who ever lived, always bowing down to everyone and never saying boo to a goose. This may have looked appealing to people but it was only ever a mask. It was never who I really was. The real me was buried deep within the mask - a dark, raging torrent of frustration, fear, anger and violence.

Throughout the early years of my Christian walk I always received lots of nice words about how much of a nice boy I was, etc etc. If only they knew the truth. God wanted to break through the masks and expose the real me so that I could change properly from the inside and live honestly rather than maintaining different masks all day long (which became incredibly exhausting). How did he do this? Through violent, turbulent and sometimes unrelenting chaos. Life did not get better after I became a Christian. It got ten times worse. I've endured stomach ulcers, months upon months of unemployment, abusive workplace environments and of course experiencing burnout last year. Throughout all of this unrelenting chaos, I've learned and grown more than I ever did when times were "good" and since going through burnout, I've learned so much more about who I really am. And I'm not the "nice guy" everyone - even me - used to think I was. I believe I am beginning to transform into an Agent of Chaos myself - but for the right reasons.

I've realized that in a lot of ways - Jesus was an agent of chaos Himself. Throwing tables around in the temple and verbally tearing strips off the religious leaders in public. He wanted to show them the truth and the deceit about what they were really doing, and He had the balls to be able to take the inevitable abuse that would come His way from those in power who don't like being confronted with something about themselves that they needed to change. He trusted and believed that He was doing the right thing to the extent that He was willing to risk taking abuse for doing it. I admire that immensely about Him and it's a side of God that few seem to speak about.

I've realized that there are times when there are pools of darkness in people's lives that quite frankly need to be stirred up. I've endured a fair bit of abuse recently from people and even had to cut some of them out of my life because I stood up for and said what I believed in, knowing full well it would create a storm of chaos in their lives which instead of facing internally and dealing with themselves, it was easier to throw it back at me. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do for someone is tell them the truth - even if it hurts. Jesus did that as well. People have also come into my life and told me the truth about things I've been doing and it's hurt, but I've realized that they were right and I've appreciated it. I've had to make a stand on a few things that I know some people don't agree with. But I strongly believe I have done the right thing and I'm prepared to take the heat for that.

Of course, you need to be absolutely sure you are doing the right thing when it comes to this sort of thing. Jesus certainly didn't chew out everybody. He was wise with it. He had the strength to fight anyone He pleased but the wisdom to know when to do it and when not to. To go all out of control and just destroy everything and everyone would be what the Joker would do, which is obviously far too extreme and by no means right. I've had to make absolutely sure I was doing the right thing before I did anything and I also had to make sure my own house was clean to begin with. It's been quite a scary experience as I'm venturing out into unknown territory by speaking the truth into people's lives and fighting for what I believe in, and realizing that I can survive their retaliation and even fight back if I deem it necessary. It's still something I am getting used to. But I'm much more comfortable with it now than I've ever been before and I realize that sometimes the truth is going to hurt others but if God wants you to say something and you don't because you're afraid of hurting their feelings then you're only hurting yourself and holding yourself back.

Sometimes there is a need for anarchy. Sometimes God might call you to speak severely to someone even when the consequences of that could mean the end of a friendship because the truth will hurt them. But don't let the fear of chaos and consequences hold you back from doing what you firmly believe is the right thing. I realize people may well disagree with me on this post. And that's fine - I welcome your feedback.

Take care out there.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Finding a balance

When I was 21 and in my second semester at Faith Bible College, a good friend of mine shared with me that he was praying for me and he got the word "axis", which can relate to the word "balance". I didn't quite know what he meant by this word at the time, but it stayed with me ever since and only recently has it come to light what that word actually means for me personally.

When I was graduating from Faith Bible College, one of the visiting prophets was watching me playing drums. I was flailing around and beating seven shades out of them, as that's just the way that I play. Those who know me in person will agree with this :) He later came up to me and said that watching me playing was almost like watching a person with another person inside of him who was trying to get out. Once again, those words stuck with me and I never forgot them.

Since the revelation I had in August last year that has started to free me of the terrible mental sickness that has kept me tightly wound for 27 and a half years, both of these words have begun to make sense. Because of the oppression and fear that kept me trapped inside myself I was often known as "a man of extremes". Most of the time I was extremely passive to the point of willingly letting anyone trample me into the ground just because it was safer to do that than fight back and have something worse happen to me. Other times, depending on circumstances I would swing right to the other extreme and become incredibly aggressive to the point where I'd feel no shame in verbally tearing someone to shreds despite who was around me at the time. I often saw genuine fear in the eyes of the people who faced this sort of behavior from me.

It was like I was a pendulum and I was permanently stuck fast onto one side of the equation, as far to that side as I could possibly go - although occasionally I would swing as far as I could to the other extreme. In short - there was no balance in my life. Once I realized the root of my sickness and began to get well and find my place in the world for the first time - that pendulum is starting to swing again, back and forth between passive and aggressive, although when it swings back into passive I am not nearly as passive as what I used to be and when it swings to the aggressive side, I'm more capable of being in control of my emotions while still expressing anger and getting my point across without seeing red and exploding to the same degree that I used to.

As I continue to heal and become stronger emotionally, my emotional state of mind is swinging back and forth far less than it used to and I am moving towards the center point of assertiveness which is when I will be truly in a place of balance for the first time ever. I can see assertiveness as being able to be gentle yet firm at the same time and being able to get angry about the right things yet keep a clear head and not be fazed by the reactions of others to my expression of anger. I'm getting closer to this all of the time, and it's a good place that I am coming into.

It's certainly been an interesting journey even getting to this point. As I am getting more comfortable in my own skin and become more of who I was always meant to be, I am finding that my personality is quite different than I initially anticipated. I always saw myself as a super nice, supportive, quiet type of person but I am realizing that I am really designed to be a strong, no-nonsense leader with a softer side that can be used when necessary as well as the discernment to tell when to use which side of my personality. I used to terribly fear strong leaders and now I realize that the reason I feared them was because they were touching on parts of my personality that had been trapped and buried within my own heart and weren't free enough to come out yet.

Another thing that's interesting is seeing people's reactions to the "new me". Some people appreciate the strength that is coming through but others who are obviously used to having someone like me in their pocket to be walked all over whenever they see fit, seem to get quite annoyed at the fact that I no longer fit in their pocket and that they can't control me anymore. Often their response has been to cut me out of their lives. A few years ago this would have devastated me and left me begging and pleading for them to return because I was so caught up in relationship addiction. These days, it's just not the case. If someone doesn't appreciate the new me and wants me out of their life as a result - I just let them go. Sometimes I've even taken active steps to remove people I felt were holding me back for various reasons.

Coming into the place of balance through learning about who you are can be quite an intimidating journey as you find yourself having to face things in yourself and in others that you don't like and you often find yourself making tough calls, which are always difficult to make the first time round - but its a necessary part of growing into your own skin and becoming who you are created to be. You can't live on one side of the spectrum forever, occasionally swinging right to the other extreme when necessary. The healthiest thing you can do is ask God to help guide you to the changes you need to make in your own heart so that you can find your own personal place of balance and become the person you were always meant to be.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Please help support this reviewer!

Hello to my readers out there -

I'd like to invite you all to check out this amazing review for No Way Out But Through from Rebecca Aarup.

This is the review she has kindly written for my book in full.

Mental illness, spiritual warfare, addiction, bullying, rage, hopelessness, physical sickness, abuse, emotional torture–Graham Aitchison divulges the deepest secrets of his life’s journey with startling transparency in No Way Out But Through.
Anyone who has experienced the pain of the above mentioned issues will find themselves nodding in agreement as they read Graham’s story. The text is refreshingly real—as if you are sitting in a living room listening to the author tell you his story first-hand. It’s rare that a book is written from the view of “sharing” rather than “preaching”. Along with the “realness” of the authors journey is a manuscript packed with spiritual truth.
I found this to be a fascinating read once I got into the meat of the story. So much of Graham’s life reflects my own struggles with mental illness. Often the journey through mental/emotional sickness leads one into isolation, misunderstanding, and intense loneliness, but knowing others have suffered as you have brings great comfort. Even for the reader who has not experienced such things, there is much to learn from No Way Out But Through. Graham’s book provides a resource for the confused family members and frustrated friends of those who do deal with these issues. All around it’s a book many people could benefit from.
What I found most interesting was Graham’s discussion of Christianity and mental illness. No doubt this is a subject of much debate in the Church today leaving the mentally distressed guilt-ridden and most everyone else critical of such “mental” experiences.
“Throughout everything I was learning to break through, there was one essential factor to the whole process that I became more and more aware of over time – the great love and endless patience that God has for people, especially those who struggle with any form of mental illness.”
Graham acknowledges the spiritual warfare at play within his mind as well as how God brought him through overwhelming, debilitating darkness. Much of his journey to healing started with honesty within himself and before God. Many of the points he makes throughout the book remind me of what I learned in the 12-step programs I’ve been through. I especially appreciated his conversation regarding change within the heart rather than change in one’s circumstances.
“Change for the better starts from within, and will then eventually be followed by external change – not the other way around. We will never solve our own problems through trying to blame others for what are actually our own responsibilities, nor will we solve our problems through continued disregard of our own emotions and hearts, and through listening to an increasingly shallow and self-serving society.”
“Modern society in many ways tells people to look for peace and happiness in external circumstances, hence the abundance of consumerism. Christ’s way of thinking, which He passes on to those who follow him, encourages the individual to seek out true, lasting peace and understanding through looking honestly into the mirror and journeying with God through the parts of themselves they would rather avoid.”
Admittedly not everyone will relate to Graham’s story, but plenty of people will relate or know someone who can.  If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the mind of someone suffering with mental illness such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, severe anxiety, anger, or bullying, then you will learn much from Graham’s story. No Way Out But Through reads like a journal–raw and real.
“God’s way of thinking is a total contradiction to the world’s way of thinking. The world’s way of thinking encourages dishonesty, shallowness, irresponsibility and pride. God’s way of thinking encourages honesty, depth, personal responsibility and humility.”
Thankfully, this is exactly what Graham has done—spoken with depth, honesty, responsibility and humility.
For a limited time you can purchase Graham Aithchison’s book, No Way Out But Through from for only $2.99. Click HERE to buy the book now.
(I purchased this book with my own money and did not receive it in exchange for a good review. The opinions expressed here were my own.)

Here is the link to her blogsite where the review is posted, along with her Twitter and Facebook pages - please help support her by "liking" her page and following her!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Be the change you want to see

To my regular readers out there, you will be familiar with the fact that my topics of interest usually revolve around the psychology of dealing with the heart of the matter and analyzing why people do things instead of just reacting to it. Though this method of thinking has served me extremely well (and continues to do so) this week my eyes have been opened to the other side of the coin - which is about taking action.

I have been trying to get over a very painful situation that happened to me recently and no matter how hard I tried, how deeply I searched my own heart and how much I confessed and analyzed my own emotions and behavior I just simply couldn't get free of it. God had told me previously that I needed to get over myself so my immediate assumption was that I had to deal with my own heart and once I had finished dealing with my own heart, the trial would be over. However, it seemed that as time went on, the trial just kept on getting worse and no matter how much darkness I pushed through within myself, it wasn't going away - in fact the torment was getting heavier and harder to deal with.

Last week I just thought to myself out of the blue - perhaps the time for analysis of the heart is over and I'm just meant to step out and do something about this and speak directly and honestly to the people involved. The second I decided to do this - this huge weight just lifted off me and I began to feel God's peace again for the first time in a long time. I stopped sitting and suffering under the trial and stood up and took charge and said to myself and one of the people involved that I'm not going to put up with this anymore and that I was severing all ties with them and that I had to do this to be able to move on. Once I did this - the bonds that were holding me back broke and I moved forward feeling refreshed. I even found myself singing in church this Sunday which hasn't happened for a long time.

This whole experience has taught me something. When God was telling me to get over myself I thought He meant that I was just to sit around and be passive and suffer and that once my heart was perfectly clean then the trial would be gone because even though the circumstantial suffering was still present, because my heart was clean and perfect it wouldn't matter anymore, and that's what I was striving towards. But I realized that this wasn't the case and that the more I aimed for that, the more frustrated and unhappy I became. I was just going in circles. Until I finally realized that God meant something else altogether when He was telling me to get over myself. He was really saying - "Get over your passiveness, stand up and be a man, make people face the consequences of their actions, take charge for once in your life. It's not wrong and it's not ungodly manipulation. I'm training you to be a leader, and leaders have to learn that if they don't do something, nothing is going to change and that's what I've been trying to teach you all along."

As Christians, we are God's "hands and feet" in the world. The Holy Spirit can do a lot through us - but there are times when we need to step out and take charge of things and stand up for what we believe is right and what we believe we need to do - regardless of what others think. The fear I have experienced that has held me back is that people are going to deny me the ability to speak out and that people are going to come against me and turn on me when I attempt to get over them and do what I feel I need to do regardless of who turns against me. My belief has been that I plain and simply would not be able to survive and endure this. However this is my wrong belief system and is what has been holding me back from becoming the man and the leader that God wants me to be.

Of course, we still need to rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead us in the right direction and to give us the right words to say and the right actions to take. Just lashing out in red-blooded rage (as I have been known to do in the past at times) can be very destructive and though the message in the rage I have been trying to portray has been correct, the message has been lost due to the explosiveness of how it was delivered which more often than not has come from other emotions from other unresolved issues feeding into the way I try to communicate the message I need to get across to people. I am convinced that the events of the past week have happened at the right time. If it was any sooner I may not have been able to see clearly enough to portray my message accurately due to having unresolved emotions in my own heart still holding me back. If it was any later, I would have gone insane. So there is a right time for everything and the concept of searching your own heart still applies.

I guess what I am trying to express more than anything is the need for balance. As Josh Harris once so eloquently put it - it's like we are driving a car on the road with a big ditch on each side. We drive into one ditch and then drive back out - only to drive into the ditch on the other side of the road! I am aware that I have been out of balance in terms of looking too deep into things and trying to find the answers inside myself to pain and suffering when there have been times when I simply needed to just step out and do something about it - but because I didn't believe I was capable of doing that or that it was the right thing to do, I'd just bury myself back in my own heart and try to find the answers to get me out of what I was feeling when the answers were there all along - to go out and change things circumstantially. I'd just overlooked them because I didn't think they were right and thus condemned myself to endless frustration until I finally woke up and smelt the coffee and realized what I had to do.

In conclusion, friends, don't hesitate to deal with your own heart when you feel you need to, but don't become so utterly engrossed in this when you actually need to "be the change you want to see" by stepping out and actively doing something about it.

Take care.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hello to all of my avid readers out there -

Just to let you know that the Kindle version of my book No Way Out But Through is now available via You can pick it up at the following link -

No Way Out But Through

If you decide to buy it, please do leave me a review - I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I've obeyed God so why have things got worse?

This has been something I have struggled with a lot throughout my Christian walk and it's something that I believe causes a lot of frustration in the lives of believers. It seems so unfair at times and can result in a lot of judgment headed in your direction from both believers and non-believers alike.

I've just finished walking through 40 of the hardest weeks in my life. I ended up having to resign from my job back in August last year as well as losing my health to some degree and ended up missing out on something that I once firmly believed was God's good plan for my life. Throughout this 40 weeks I've been living off a sickness benefit as well as savings from my job and trying to focus what little energy I've had into pushing through and overcoming some very dark places in myself, as well as being overwhelmed with frustration at times due to the way that things had gone down for me.

It can be easy to assume that I ended up in this position because of some great sin that I had committed and that I was somehow being repaid by God for it. However, this was not the case at all. Due to God putting someone on my heart, I developed an immense hope and expectation of what God had planned for me. Everything that I saw at face value seemed to line up with what I believed God had in store for me in this area and God seemed to be speaking very strongly indicating that this person He had put on my heart was going to be a big part of my future. As time went on, I began to see signs that perhaps what I was hoping for was not the right thing for me at all, yet God continued to encourage me to hold on to this person and not let them go. So I trusted Him and held on. Things then started to fall apart for me in terms of health and my performance at my job was subsequently affected. However, I continued to hold on and believe that things were going to get better by holding onto the hope that I had for my future with this person even as it continued to unravel before my eyes.

Eventually, it became apparent that what I believed was not going to happen. I'd got into a position of hope by trusting God and listening to God about this person despite my reservations. Seeing this hope unravel, combined with failing physical health and pressures at work pushed me over the edge and I went through the worst case of burnout I've ever faced. Shortly afterwards I became very bitter and angry about what had happened to me and for a long time, I blamed God for it as He had purposely set me up to believe that I was going to be blessed and had told me not to give up on someone I should have given up on a long time ago. I obeyed God and my life got catastrophically worse. I was angry and bitter, and righteously so as far as I was concerned because I'd done nothing but obey God and then had to see my entire life collapse in flames around me, simply for being obedient.

To say that this was a bitter blow was an understatement. I lost pretty much everything in the space of just a few weeks. I needed an answer as to why God had deliberately set this up to happen. God had allowed me to fail catastrophically and I needed to know why. The following scripture spoke right to the heart of my circumstances - "Then Jesus was lead by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil." Matthew 4:1. Jesus did not end up in a deep period of suffering and desolation due to His own sin and selfishness, as He was without sin. He was there because the Spirit lead Him there.

He did not go there to be destroyed, though it would have been excruciatingly painful and hard for Him to have to face. He went there to fight and to emerge stronger than ever before. I believe that the wilderness is an integral part of our Christian faith and many (if not all) of the strongest and wisest people in the Bible were forced to walk through deep periods of wilderness in different forms. Noah was afloat for 40 days on the Ark with all of those animals. I hate to even think of the cabin fever that must have set in. Not to mention the smell. Elijah lived in the desert and was fed by ravens but he lived in poverty compared to the wicked rulership at the time that had driven him there. He was doing the right thing by God and was forced to live with next to nothing while those who openly practiced wickedness lived in absolute royalty. Job endured severe loss and suffering because God deliberately allowed Satan to test him. All of these people are regarded as heroes among scripture and they are there due to their desire to do right and obey God even when things had become seemingly unbearable.

Though this time of testing was very hard and sometimes had me wishing that none of this had ever happened to me, I am now standing at the end of it and I am really beginning to see the rewards. There is a deeper strength and clarity that has been sown into my life than was ever there before. I am far more confident in myself than I've ever been and I've experienced a period of rest throughout this time of desolation that I must say that I desperately needed. I also believe that I am far more ready than ever before to receive a blessing that I would have never been able to appreciate and probably never would have even been able to receive if I hadn't faced this time. God brought me to it - and as much as I initially resented Him for it - He has also brought me through it and I am now reaping the rewards.

If you have obeyed God and done what you believe wholeheartedly is the right thing and seen nothing but bitterness and destruction come your way, you are not alone. God leads His people into the wilderness and it's those who face the truth about themselves in the desolate times and truly make it through as wiser and stronger people that end up being trusted and highly esteemed by Him. Hang in there - and don't focus on what has brought you there - focus on what God is trying to teach you in this time and once you start learning it, you will see the worth in what has happened. I'd like to believe if the Bible was written today, there would be a book in there about me and what I've endured and come out the other side of. Wouldn't you like to be able to say the same, and to be regarded as one of the heroes of the faith in the modern day era?

Hang in there. You're stronger than you think. If God has brought you into the wilderness - don't resent Him for it. Just allow Him to do His work in your life and the rewards will come when you are ready.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

After 40 days and nights in the desert, He was hungry.

I am writing this blog after having just completed my own 40 week period in the spiritual wilderness. It's been just over 40 weeks since my entire life collapsed around me and I found myself at absolute complete and utter rock bottom. You know you've sunk as low as you can go when you feel as if you have to look up to see the ground. I received some powerful revelations during August last year when all of this happened, and I've continued to persevere with working through what was shown to me at that time in order to start developing a strength and character I've simply never had before. It's taken just over 40 weeks to do this.

Towards the end of this journey, I began to think of the scripture Matthew 4:2 - "After fasting 40 days and 40 nights, He was hungry." We continually hear a lot about trials as to how you need to persevere right through to the end of them and make sure you face what God wants you to face in that time, which of course is very true. However, there is another side to this story which you don't hear as often which is what I want to delve into here. Jesus was hungry when he came out of the desert. He'd been fasting 40 days and 40 nights. They could easily have left the fact that He was hungry out of the equation as most would simply assume anyone would be hungry after that long (Who wouldn't be?!) yet I believe there is a spiritual significance as to why it has been added into scripture.

When you've experienced trials as significantly as what I have over the years (and some of them have been brutal, to say the least) you almost begin to develop a siege mentality where you kind of want yourself to feel perfect and you expect that God's not going to let you out of the place of testing until you are absolutely perfect in every way, with every single need fulfilled, not even slightly tired or fatigued, completely at peace with everything in your life. I've developed this mentality a lot over the years due to everything that I've had to face (burnout, stomach ulcers, horrible working environments, and the list goes on) and this particular scripture is the one that has challenged my thinking recently.

When Jesus came out of the desert, He was hungry. He was the Son of God, spotless and without sin, able to endure anything set before Him, yet He was hungry. The bible doesn't say "After 40 days and 40 nights of fasting in the desert, Jesus emerged, but because He was such a spiritual powerhouse He didn't have any need for food or nourishment as He'd found it all in the desert, so He could start eating again whenever He wanted to but there was no desperate need for it." The bible says - He was hungry. I'll be willing to bet that the very first thing He did was go and find some food.

I'm learning that it's ok to be "hungry" so to speak after enduring trials. Hungry for things to get better, hungry for the favor of God at last, hungry to see the rainbow finally starting to emerge after the relentless storm. I am in a place of deep hunger at the moment after enduring a relentless season of trials and suffering, brought on through no fault of my own. To be honest I am not sure if I am completely ready to be "fed" yet, but I am very close. Though I am in a place of much deeper clarity and strength than ever before, I also cannot deny my weariness at having to endure so much over the years and my longing for the promised land which arrives once the wilderness season has been completed.

Being hungry isn't a bad thing and just because you are hungry for blessing after a season of wilderness does not mean that you haven't suffered and learned enough in the desert season. It simply means that you are human and it's quite natural. I believe God understands that. The world would die if there was just winter at all times. Yes the winter does serve its purpose - but for a season. It's not uncommon for people to begin to get sick of the cold and snow (depending on where you are) near the end of winter and yearn for the days of spring to approach. And that's where I am now. Although I can appreciate the winter, I am also looking forward to the spring very much. Which is completely natural.

So if you are reading this and are feeling how much you've changed during the winter season, but are looking forward to the spring, you're not alone. It's ok to be hungry after fasting from blessing in the desert for so long. God sees that and He understands, and He will bless you and fill your hunger once the time is right.

Take care.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Don't suffer in silence

This is one of the biggest things I have had to learn to face and overcome since being a Christian. It's been unbearably hard at times - to the point where I really just wanted to give up, but I knew that the only real way out was to keep going.

So much suffering in our lives is kept secret and under wraps from other people because we are afraid of what they might think or do to us if they ever found out. This mentality creates shallow, superficial relationships where people never truly get to know each other and are too afraid to share themselves with one another and therefore miss out on some of the best things relationships have to offer. As believers, God calls us into a deep place of wholeness and completion in order to be properly used for His Kingdom and simply because He loves us too much to leave us unhealed. This is where the whole concept of being open about our suffering while we are in the depth of the valley comes into play.

For years, I put up a false front and suffered terribly in silence because I didn't know how to explain to others what I was going through and I was afraid of trusting them with something I couldn't control. I planned to live my entire life like this, hiding and hiding until finally I was able to hide it so much it would be buried too deep to hurt anymore. Once I became a Christian, this was one of the first things God sought to change in me. He would put me in places of terrible suffering - for example jobs that I really hated or places I really struggled to live in and feel safe. The concept was always the same - the suffering I was experiencing could not be escaped from in any sense. There was no way out as there was no other way to pay the bills or nowhere else that I could live.

It was in many respects like being driven and driven until I was finally backed into a corner with nowhere else to go. The driving force into the corner was my own internal anguish driving me to run further and further into myself to escape from it, and the corner I was backed into was the unchangeable circumstances I was facing - such as my job or living environment. It was like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Something had to give - and it wasn't going to be the circumstances. God had set them in stone. So, it had to be me and my driven mentality that had to be broken.

I had to learn to seek God in a place of prayer to help give me insight into the deep tension that I was feeling as when you are driven that deeply into passive behavior as I was, you simply can't charge forwards and confess what is driving you because if you miss the point that is holding you back, you will feel like a rubber band is pulling against your soul, trying to restrain you from moving forwards as it's too dangerous. When I was faced with times like these, I realized I could not keep my suffering a secret any longer and that if I was to be free of the deep tension I was feeling, the answer was not to escape from my circumstances as I so desperately wanted to do, but to learn to identify and release the tension through honest prayer and confession which meant learning to trust and share my struggles with others.

The bible says in 1 John 1:9 - "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness". It says that we must confess - not sit there and stew in silence and pretend that everything is ok while desperately planning our own escape from the circumstances which are causing us to feel this way as that will just end up taking us back to square one yet again. I believe this passage of scripture also applies to the deep hurt we feel in our lives that God wants to heal us of - if we confess our hurts, He will purify us.

It's a very hard place to be in and it can get very messy at times, especially when we are trying to get a handle on what we are feeling but just can't quite identify it. That's when we need the wisdom and insight of the Holy Spirit to help us define what we are feeling so that we can be free of it. Some of this wisdom and insight can only be given by God, and God alone. That's certainly true in my case which will be revealed in my soon to be released book, titled No Way Out But Through.

If you are suffering and stewing in silence today, your time to suffer in silence has come to an end. Find someone you can trust and talk to them. If they don't understand, find someone else. Learn to ask God to help you define what is happening in your own heart so that you can be released from it. It's the way that we grow and become stronger people, rather than continually going round in circles changing our circumstances when the answer all along, is within us.

Take care, and do check out my Facebook page which I've set up to support my book -

Hang in there. Don't give up. You don't have to suffer in silence any longer.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Finish the race

Different times and seasons come into our lives and they all have unique purposes. I have been going through a season of rest and healing over the past 9 months or so. Due to several prophetic words I have had recently I believe that the end of this time of healing is coming and I will soon be ready to launch into a whole new season where I will be blessed like I've never been before.

 Needless to say it is difficult not to get excited when you hear about this kind of thing. However, as much as I want that blessing to come into my life, I am aware of the danger that it could pose by coming into my life too soon. James 1 vs 4 says that "Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything." It seems to me as human beings that when we face difficulty in our lives, our default response is to try and get out of them as quickly as possible. However, when we do this, all we are really doing is cheating ourselves of getting the most out of our blessings once they do actually arrive.

Don't get me wrong - there are times when we need to flee from things that are going wrong in our lives but if you are a Christian such as myself, most of the difficulties I have faced (especially the one I am facing at the moment due to being out of work) have been ordained directly by God Himself. It has been deeply frustrating and I have often tried to get myself out of this season by looking for a job but every time the door has slammed shut back in my face. Once I had the realization of what would happen to me if I walked out of this time too early - even if I walked into an awesome job, what I am still working through within myself would have corrupted the environment and I'd have ended up hating it.

I have learned that if I am to truly get over the mountains I have had placed before me throughout my life, I need to learn to fully embrace and learn to become content in the season that I am in right now - even if it's not ideal. The apostle Paul spoke on this brilliantly in Philippians 4:12 - "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." The key to this contentment he speaks of is found within himself and not in his circumstances. Paul learned to walk through the darkness in his own life with God and embracing God's purposes in the trials he faced so that he would be able to find peace and contentment regardless of what was happening around him.

I am still learning this process as my natural thinking immediately says to go and run out there and get myself out of this situation. But I have made a lot of progress and I will continue to make progress in this area. I realize that I cannot rush this season and that if I am to be able to build a house, I must let the foundations be completely set in place beforehand or I will lose the blessings that I have.

I have found that when I would take something for myself that I wasn't ready for in the past - such as a relationship or a job or something like that - I wouldn't be able to enjoy it as much because the groundwork of peace and healing in my life had not yet been fully set in place by that point which made it a short period of time before things turned sour. So to really appreciate the future and prepare for it properly - I needed to learn to fully embrace the present, regardless of how hard it was.

So if, like me, your circumstances are not that great at the moment - don't try and rush out of them. Finish the race and persevere and let the groundwork be built into your life. You'll thank yourself in the future that you took the time to do this now. Take care.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Change - don't resist it

I thought this was an appropriate subject to blog about seeing as I have some rather large changes heading my way. I am about to move into a totally new and different living environment and I am on the brink of becoming a professional, self published author which means I will be responsible for sales and marketing as well as distribution and purchase orders for my book.

I know that this change is God ordained and I know that it is the right thing for me right now. My book was something I felt inspired by God to write so I know it was the right thing to do and I believe I've got it to the best possible standard I could. Where it's going to lead, I have no idea. But that's ok.

As I've often said throughout the years, everything changes and as soon as you get used to the change, everything changes again. Life moved pretty slowly before I became a Christian because I couldn't cope with it being moved any faster. After I became a Christian, change became quite regular, often rather drastic and sometimes rather sudden and violent. But it was all good for me and helped me to learn to come out of my shell and become a stronger, more well-balanced person.

I was frightened of change at first but I realized my fear of change was regarding what the change would surface in me and what I would have to face inside myself if things changed. If I had chosen to resist the change and stay where I was, I would probably still be living with my parents, too scared to do anything else, instead of living in Taupo by faith to a large degree and publishing my own book.

It is always scary to let go of what we know because it means facing the unknown and therefore facing our own hearts as the unknown has an uncanny way of bringing our insecurities to the surface. However, this is not the time to run from them but to face them. Some of the best times of growing as a person have come through some of the most severe changes I have faced over the years, such as being forced to resign from work as I was recently.

Although life may be safer when it's perfectly planned out and well organized and maintained, sticking with what we know and refusing to embrace change can be unhelpful regarding personal growth in our lives. Sometimes God wants us to let go of something we've held dear for a long time not because He wants to just take it from us, but He wants to prepare us for something much better than what we had. It was very hard for me to let go of my job in Auckland as I'd just got into a rhythm with it and I was earning really good money. At first glance, moving to Taupo didn't look like a great idea but now that I've been here for 3 years I am amazed at the depth of the change inside myself as a result.

Don't fear the changes that God is trying to bring into your life. He knows better than you do and even if the changes He is bringing look scary and might not initially appear to be ideal, that's when you've got to trust Him and hang in there and you will see good fruit eventually.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Christianity - not a crutch for the weak

I've seen this statement brandished around quite regularly about how Christianity is supposedly a crutch for the weak minded who need to believe in something to help them get through. Christians are often branded as being spineless, gutless wimps.

When I was very young, this was the sort of idea of faith that I followed. Jesus was a weak, timid little man who told us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek when they abuse us so that we can allow injustice to come upon ourselves so that we may "suffer as he has suffered." Unsurprisingly, this belief was very destructive to my mental health and lead to many years of rebellion, frustration and confusion.

When I first became a Christian I tried to be as nice as possible to everyone and show what a good person I was and what a good person I had become while still holding years of unresolved turmoil in my life. I would be the nicest person in the world - until something bad happened and I would either shut down and retreat into a quivering mass of fear or explode into a violent rage, all the while believing that God expected me to be good and just keep the deep darkness within me hidden and managed.

I expected my Christian life to be easy and a continued distraction from my inner darkness. This was not to be. Life didn't get easier - it got harder and harder. But through the hardship I learned how to begin to face the darkness and how to work through it. It was hard and excruciatingly painful at times but I simply had to do it or I would never get better. I learned not to be afraid of working through the pain and that it was necessary.

I realized throughout all this that being a Christian was far from easy. Having to fight against and break through things that others just skip over is not an easy task by any means. Weak minded people may be able to use religion as a crutch, but without guts, determination and a reliance on the grace of God they would never survive in true Christianity. Learning to embrace pain as a friend, learning to love and show grace even when you feel it is not deserved and learning to honestly face the mirror is not a process for the weak minded and the weak willed.

Jesus was not a weak minded, passive guy who looked like a female with a beard as I once thought. Jesus was a carpenter. I've worked on a building site before and I know what carpenters are like. They are no pushovers. They are tough, hard working characters. I would say Jesus was probably built like a truck. So much is made of the kind and gentle side of Jesus which is indeed true, but not as much is made of the other side of Him, which is the tough, bawdy side. What about when Jesus gave the religious leaders of His time a right royal bollocking in front of everyone? Or when He went into the temple and threw the tables over? Doesn't sound to me like something a weak, fearful person would do. He did not die because He was too weak to fight back. He willingly laid down His life out of unconditional love so that those who hated Him might have a chance at eternal life. Is that something a weak, spineless person could do? Somehow I don't think so.

God wants to see His face in our character. Yes, this does involve being meek (not weak - there is a difference) and loving. But it also involves being clear headed, decisive, strong and unafraid to fight for our convictions. Those attributes cannot be performed by those who are weak. I came to Christ as someone terrified of my own shadow who would masquerade as a "nice person" to get people to like me. Now, after years of healing, I am more confrontational, bolder and stronger than I have ever been. Does this mean I am a bad person? No, it means that God has been working on me to make me a strong warrior like He wants me to be.

God is not weak as people seem to think He is. Nor are His true followers weak - the ones who decided to follow Him through thick and thin.

Be strong and take care.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Listen for God's voice

If there is one thing that has got me through the last 10 years in my Christian walk, it's been about learning to identify and obey the voice of God. I want to share a bit about different ways that He speaks to us as His children and why His word is most important above all else.

The main way that He speaks to me is usually just through a still, small voice in my soul that I just know hasn't come from me, and it's like it brings all of my other thoughts to a complete standstill. For example - once I was praying about a job that I was failing in miserably due to a poor work environment and the job being completely unsuited for me. I was frustrated and angry and asking God why I wasn't succeeding in this role and He simply said "Maybe you aren't supposed to succeed in this role." Sure enough, He was right and success was not His plan for me in that awful job but rather learning about perseverance through difficulty.

God also speaks to His people through dreams. Just recently I was sound asleep and in my dream it's like I was talking with God about my struggles and He kept encouraging me to open up to Him about what I was feeling. I managed to address some strongly rooted issues in my own inner struggles while in the middle of a God inspired dream. This insight that I gained while I was asleep helped me to process and continue to heal some of the tension that has kept me so highly strung for so long and is now finally unraveling.

Someone once told me many years ago that I will face many critics over the years and people trying to sway me from the path that I was on but when that happens I need to hear the voice of God. The path I have been on has been a path to finding inner healing and it's come through digging into the heart of my deepest and most painful struggles to unpack and unravel what is there. Many have told me that I am focusing on the negative and that I need to stop being so morbid and turn my focus to positive things and that I'm making things worse by what I am doing, but I have continued to hear God's voice encouraging me to continue to go down the path I was walking down and that it was what I was meant to be doing.

I've learned that nothing is more important than hearing the voice of God and obeying what He says when it comes to different situations. If others disagree with you then so be it - it's not between you and them but between you and God and if doing what He wants you to do pisses other people off, then they can go and take it up with Him. God doesn't always speak the way that we expect Him to and He doesn't always say what we think He should say - but He says everything for a reason.

His reasons for saying things can be different to how we interpret them. Shortly before I went through complete burnout last year, God put someone on my heart very strongly and no matter how much I protested, God would not let me let this person go so I began to place my hopes and dreams upon this person as I believed that they were going to be an important part of my future. God never actually said that they were going to be an important part of my future but based on His refusal to allow me to let them go I began to believe that they were. Shortly before I collapsed through burnout it became strikingly apparent that the future I had been believing for due to hearing from God was not going to happen and due to my already fragile mental state I crashed completely.

I had not heard wrong as God had encouraged me to hold onto the hope that I once had but His reasons were different from mine. I know I heard His voice and I was obedient right till the end. I thought I was going to be blessed but God used my obedience to His voice to break my hopes and dreams for this future I believed in so that I would break completely. It sounds horrible and it was traumatizing at the time to say the least but I have come to realize that it needed to happen for my sake because I needed the time off to get my first ever proper rest and I couldn't heal completely without breaking completely first.

What I learned from all of this was to listen for what God has to say and don't immediately assume you know why He is going to say it as His purposes are greater than ours and He might set us up for a totally different outcome than we expected. But if we listen for Him and obey Him, He will protect us (even if it means we have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death as I did) and He will see us through.

Take care.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Be still and know that I am God.

I'm writing this blog mainly as an encouragement to myself at the moment. My recovery from burnout has slowed down greatly recently and although change is coming in the not too distant future as I am about to move into a new place, very little else is happening. I'm not getting any words from God about much of anything these days and it's frustrating at times to say the least.

Psalms 46:10 says "Be still and know that I am God." This simply means that even when we can't see it, important things that we currently know nothing about are happening behind the scenes. I remember an old lyric from a DC Talk song that says "God is always working." This is very true and He works even when we can't see it.

I remember when I worked as a junior account manager for a big IT firm up in Auckland. People would write or call me and ask for quotes and I'd tell them I'd email them with the details. Then they'd go off and do something else while I got to work on this for them. Just because they couldn't see what I was doing, didn't mean I wasn't doing anything and eventually once I'd finished all of the research etc I needed for their quotation I'd email it off to them and they would read the fruits of my labors in preparing this information for them.

I sort of look at God the same way. We can ask for things at times such as a wife/husband, a new job, a direction or something else like that and if it's God's will I believe He sets to work on those things. Sometimes He gives us specific instructions about things we need to do in order to help these things along but when He doesn't I believe Psalms 46:10 applies. Be still and know that I am God. I'm not asking you to do anything because I have it in hand and I am doing things My way at My time.

God works on the things that He knows we need and that we have asked Him for in much the same way I worked on those quotes for customers. They didn't call me every 5 minutes and ask what I was doing or if I'd forgotten about them or remind me of what they wanted because they trusted me to get the information off to them and in the end their trust was rewarded. God asks the same of us. To sit back and trust Him with the things that we need and to believe that things are always in motion on our behalf even if we can't see them.

It can be frustrating, especially when it takes longer than we want and may not work out exactly as we had planned, but that's when we need to know that God knows best. I'm having to remind myself of that constantly at the moment due to how slowly life is moving for me. Even though I can't see things changing for me right now there are things happening behind the scenes that God is doing for me and things He is preparing that I know nothing whatsoever about. But I don't need to know right now. All I need to do is sit back and know that He is God.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"For they know not what they do..."

Jesus uttered these immortal yet seemingly crazy words while He was being raised onto the cross. For the longest time, those words infuriated me and seemed to only further the terrible injustice of His death which He voluntarily laid His life down for.

I believe I finally understand these words now and that has come through the revelation that I received in August of last year about the core of my issues with depression and anxiety. I was a volatile, unstable and angry child and a fearful, timid yet occasionally very violent teenager. I got called a lot of things throughout my childhood and teenage years (and sometimes even in my adult years) - a spoiled brat, a crybaby, a horrible person.... and the list goes on.

When I discovered what the root of these issues was (which I will identify in my book that is soon to be released) all of the powerful and confused feelings that drove my erratic and often unpredictable behavior all of a sudden began to make sense and the more of them that I was able to unpack and work through, the better I felt until I have come to the place where I am in now - a place where the healing is very nearly finished and I've managed to turn all of that unrelenting pain and distress into peace and insight.

While others were continually and intentionally judging me on my actions, Jesus was able to see past that and chose to forgive me for my actions simply because I knew not what I did. Instead of focusing on what I did and judging me accordingly (which, although was probably the right thing to do in many regards, only made matters worse) He chose to focus on the reasons as to why I felt driven to do and say the things that I did which I was not aware of at the time. That's a pretty amazing kind of grace if you ask me.

It's certainly taught me that I need to learn to do the same. It's easy for me to verbally and possibly even physically blast someone who I think deserves it and if I see someone who claims to be a Christian acting in a place of continual ignorance causing harm to others, there is a part of me that wants to go and put my foot up their backside and scream at them "WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE YOU IDIOT!! SEE WHAT YOU'RE DOING!!" In some regards, this may be the right thing to do if lead by the Holy Spirit but I have discovered the need for grace and compassion for people in that kind of situation.

That person may be struggling with something dark within themselves that at this moment they have no comprehension of whatsoever and are acting the way that they are out of a desire to try and understand and heal the confusion that they feel within themselves but can't pinpoint and therefore can't deal with. Just because someone doesn't appear to be dealing with something doesn't mean that they are not trying to. I spent so much time with counselors, pastors, friends and quite frankly, anyone who would listen at times going on and on about my problems and I never found an answer. Not because of the people I was talking to or because I wasn't trying to, but because the depth of my struggles were hidden from me at that point in time.

Someone coming and putting their foot up my backside and telling me to "get over myself" or "stop being afraid and just do it" or whatever might have seemed like the right thing to do in some regards but I can guarantee it wouldn't have helped me (and didn't help me when it did happen) - it just made me worse because everything in me was screaming out and saying "I'm trying!! I want to get better it's just not working!!". It was only once the core of my struggles were revealed to me in August last year that I finally began to understand what had kept me so tense for so long and what allowed me to begin to heal. I used to see screwed up people walk past and be angry at them for not sorting their issues out. These days, I see them go past and say - "there but for the grace of God, go I."

My point in all of this is that you never know what's going on in another person's heart. The Holy Spirit may inspire you but most of the time I believe what is needed for these people is grace and prayer. God knows what's going on in their hearts even if they don't have a clue themselves and some people genuinely have no idea what the cause of their struggles are so they don't know how to heal them, and just punishing them isn't going to help. God is the one in the know. Trust Him with their lives.

Take care.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Why so slow?

I was thinking about this on my drive back from Warkworth to Taupo today. I used to own a 650cc Suzuki v-twin motorcycle which I did all of my traveling on, and I now own a car. Needless to say, my little Corolla is a lot less grunty than my bike was and my journeys these days are substantially slower than what they used to be when I owned the bike.

There's something about going fast - which I did a lot of on the bike - especially on the racetrack. Going well over 200kmph at some points (about 125mph to my American friends who view this blog). It's an incredible adrenaline rush, and highly dangerous to say the least. One thing I realized about it though - is that going fast is an escape.

The worst job I ever worked at was at a shop that sold cellphones back in 2009. They'd just launched a new network (which was rubbish at the time) and many people were not happy. We got endless complaints in the shop and because of where I was mentally at the time (which was not a good place) I struggled deeply in this environment and found myself literally desperate to leave towards the end of my time there.

Throughout this time period I did more motorcycle riding than I just about ever have and did some incredibly dangerous things on the bike at times. I realize now that I was using the speed of the bike as an escape from what I was feeling. It didn't offer any real solution but it did help me take my mind off what I was going through at the time. Nothing really got resolved from my high-speed escapades but seeing as it made me feel better I sought to do it more and more.

My walk with God - especially over the last 6 months when I've been off work - has been incredibly slow - almost unbearably so at times. I have found this deeply frustrating over the years as I've wanted to just go charging out into my future and grab hold of what's waiting for me out there. But, God has had other ideas.

I've needed to go through this slow process so that I'm not racing ahead and using the speed of a fast paced life to block out things that I have needed to face and work through. I realize now that if I'd just raced ahead and grabbed what was waiting for me I wouldn't be able to be fully blessed by it because the issues that hadn't been faced would cloud the blessing and ultimately make me end up hating something that was supposed to be a huge blessing for me.

Building a strong foundation to contain blessings on so that they won't collapse under the storms of life is a slow process and one that cannot be rushed or overlooked. God knew this and that's why I've had to learn to embrace a slower pace of life - especially over the last 6 months. I've really hated it at times and occasionally I've seen things I hoped would be a blessing - but my heart protested and told me that I wasn't ready and that if I was to take this blessing now it'd have a bitter ending.

So if you find yourself in a slow place and you want to speed through it - there's a good chance you're wanting to use the speed to escape what God wants to do in your life. Embrace the slowness while it's around and once you are fully ready for faster paced things, you'll be able to appreciate them that much more.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

The battle is won

This subject speaks right to the heart of something that's defined me my entire life - and that is war.

Due to the spiritual inheritance I have struggled with, my life has been one of endlessly battling to survive with the idea that I had to remain in a mentality of war at all times or risk certain death if I ever dropped my guard. I felt as if I had to fight at absolutely every second of the day in order to stay alive. Peace, rest, compassion, grace and love were all foreign things to me. I knew of them, but I had no idea what they looked like or felt like.

Once I finally began to find healing when I went through burnout in early August I realized just how highly strung I had been my entire life and just how constant and desperate my need to survive really was. It went much deeper than I realized. I realized that at the depth of my endless need to fight was the deep despair of believing that my fighting for my life was in vain and that regardless of how much I fought, I could never truly win and save myself but fighting in vain was better than just giving up and quitting.

The more I have unwound, the more I have began to realize that the battle for my life has already been won when I accepted salvation and that although the desire to fight to save my own life is still very powerful, it is only that - a desire and not a reflection on reality. I still need to work through this to process it completely but the realization that I am slowly gaining is that I am able to rest and that resting will not immediately bring death as I've always automatically expected that it would.

The world is able to support itself without my constant need for control of things and my desire to control the world to keep myself alive is not being resolved by trying to fix things around me. God is able to take care of me and He is able to carry me when I'm unable to carry myself and blocking out the entire world to enter into a place of rest or intimacy with God or another person does not for a second mean that I am being a deserter and leaving the battlefield and leaving myself for dead. Humans were not designed for war every second of the day. God is in control, and He's much bigger than we are.

The more I begin to experience God's grace and the realization that my life is in the palm of His hand and not my own, the more grieved I am at the years of life that I have lost trying desperately to keep my head above water and refrain from drowning when what I really needed to be able to do was to let myself sink so that God could truly catch me. That's something I've found nearly impossible to do - truly yield to another person - even God - allow myself to break down at times and stop expecting so much of myself. I've felt like I've deliberately lost the war if I've tried to do that.

God fights for us - especially when we can't fight for ourselves. He is so much bigger than we are and our feeble desire for control and the satisfaction we get from controlling things is nothing compared to His unfathomable knowledge, power and influence. To God, there is no equal. So why do we fight so hard to keep ourselves alive when the One who has always been and always will be is on our side and has our best interests at heart?

It's terrifying letting go of the war, especially when war is all you've ever known and your entire life has been defined by a desperate need to survive at all costs like mine has. When you deliberately forsake control it's a scary place to be as the fear that drives us to fight all the time comes to the surface as it's lost the cover that was holding it down. Though this is hard, that's the best time to face it as it gives us a real chance to see what is driving us, break through it and become more at peace with the realization of what's been true all along - that God is in control and that we don't need to fight all the time. It's ok to live and ok to be loved.

To all of you warriors out there who are terrified to leave the battlefield even when you know God is calling you out of it - learn to let go. The battle is won. Letting go takes time but it does happen. God can fight better than you can and He's on your side if you've chosen to follow Him. Take heart and allow yourself the chance to let go of the fight and truly begin to live life instead of just surviving.

Take care.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Comfort in discomfort

Kind of a backwards title, but one that makes a lot of sense once you dig into it a bit deeper.

Sometimes the most comforting place that a person can be in is when they are facing extreme discomfort in both themselves and their circumstances. Look at it this way - you can have piles and piles of garbage buried deep under the surface in your life - like a pond with clear water at the top and a lot of dark sludge underneath. All looks fine as the water is clear but the only reason the water is clear is because the sludge hasn't been stirred up.

Regardless of how clear the water may be at the time - the sludge is still there and if you put your foot into that pond it's going to go right through the clear water and into the sludge. The best place for that pond to be in is not where the water is clear and the sludge remains under the surface - but when the sludge has been stirred up and is moving around as then it can be removed.

Our hearts are much like that pond. We may have the appearance of being completely whole and together when our lives are full of comfort - but if we have sludge at the bottom of our hearts that's not getting stirred up, we're not going to be able to appreciate the comfort we currently have. Also, the second something comes into our lives that really shakes us up - or "puts its foot into our pond" so to speak - that clear water is all going to be filled with mud anyway.

That's where the principle of "comfort in discomfort" comes in. The best place we can be in, is when the sludge in the bottom of our hearts is being stirred up by discomforting circumstances. It may be painful and highly distressing but it's better for the sludge to be stirred up so that we can see what it is and "filter it out" of our lives so that when we do return to a place of comfort, we will be able to enjoy it that much more because of the sludge that has been removed due to the discomfort that brought it up. You can't spell discomfort without comfort. :-)

I used to want nothing but comfort in my life and to have a "non-disturbed pond" so to speak, even though there was far more sludge in my heart than there was clear water. Over the years (and some brutal hardships) my mindset has changed and though I still have sludge in my life to a degree, a massive amount of it has been removed due to the times of discomfort that have disrupted the water and brought the mud to the surface. Once it came to the surface, I was able to deal with it and move on. This was a process and one that kept on getting deeper and deeper - which usually meant it hurt more and more - but with time and perseverance I see a lot more clear water in my life and a lot less sludge than I ever have previously.

I'm at a place in my life now where I am very nearly at the end of my journey through the spiritual wilderness and I'm about to enter into the promised land. I feel more ready for this than I ever have yet I am still aware of remaining sludge in my life. I now get frustrated when I feel comfortable as I know that sludge is not being stirred up, which means I am not making any progress. I appreciate the situations that surface the sludge now more than ever as it means that I am dealing with more darkness and getting one step closer to the land of plenty I've been waiting for.

I hope this speaks to someone out there. Don't wait for the sludge to settle back down if it's stirred up. Allow God to help you clean it out of your life and watch the progress happen.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pinpointing the problem

Something that's struck me in my Christian walk is the way that issues in people's lives can remain unresolved because the core of their issues are not addressed and people only deal with the symptoms of their issues or just gloss over them altogether.

I've battled with relentless anxiety and depression my entire life. I've been a Christian involved with church over the past ten years and I've spoken to many different people about my problems in the hope to resolve them. No doubt they've meant well but it's been a deeply frustrating time for me to say the least as nothing has seemed to work.

I've been told that I need to listen to more Christian music, that I need to confess forgiveness more often, that I need to pray more often, that I need to focus more on others etc etc and though all of these solutions have been good ideas within themselves, they've never addressed the root of what's been happening with me and have just left me frustrated and often discouraged.

It was only once I collapsed on account of burnout in the middle of last year that I was finally able to get insight into the core issue causing depression and anxiety in my life - thanks to the insight of the Holy Spirit. Now that those issues are finally starting to heal and unwind, all of those other things that people have been telling me to do have suddenly become much easier to work out in my life. What I was being told initially was not wrong by any means but it didn't address the core issue which just left me in a place of despondency and frustration.

One thing this has taught me is to listen to what people are saying when they are talking to you about their problems and not immediately try to jump in with a solution as if you give them the wrong one, regardless of how well you mean, it's just going to frustrate them. The best way to help is to pray for insight from the Holy Spirit and ask Him to help you to pinpoint the darkness in their lives because He's the one with the best knowledge of the situation. It's also possible that you can't help them right then and there because God may have other plans. If that's the case, the best you can do is just listen to them as best as you can and don't try and shove any solutions down their throat. Most of the time people just want someone to listen to them to show that they care.

I can't help but wonder how many people have walked away from Christianity in disgust because they were unable to find any healing for the issues in their lives and though the Christian people they've met were able to pepper them with well-meaning ideas, nothing really spoke to the core issues in their lives and so walked away from the one thing that could truly uncover their problems and help them to heal.

For this reason, if someone comes to me for counsel I try very hard not to just ram solutions down their throats and try to actually listen to what they are saying and I'll pray for insight and will share a word of knowledge if I receive it. The fact is they know their hearts and themselves better than I do, and so does God so I need to be able to listen to them and the insight of the Holy Spirit if I'm to have any hope in pinpointing anything in their lives. It's only once issues are fully faced and pinpointed that healing can begin.

In conclusion - when people are coming to you for counsel - listen and pray. Don't jump in gung-ho with a solution as often you can just frustrate them. Listen - pray - then listen some more. Both to them - and God.

I hope this is of some help to someone. All the best.