How to hope again 

How to hope again 

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book Resole, which will release as an ebook on October 18: 

One reason we tend to hide behind a mask is because we live in a fallen world. Sin has corrupted God’s design and now we are surrounded by people full of a gamut of self-issues (e.g., selfishness, fear, pride, greed, hate, lust, etc.). How is it even possible to trust broken people?

 Another contributor is it can be scary to be real with ourselves. Can you take your mask off and look at yourself in the mirror? I cannot think of anything more terrifying at times than taking an honest inward look and seeing how broken we are. To avoid looking inward, we look for distractions, things to occupy our attention so we don’t have to gaze upon who we really are. If it’s so hard to be vulnerable with ourselves, why would we even want to be vulnerable with others? After all, hurt people hurt people. Right?

Think about it this way. When you and I lock up the darkness in our hearts, it grows. As it grows, hope is suffocated to the point of dying. A hopeless life is tragedy, in my opinion, because hope is what fuels passion and purpose. The only way to find hope again in our lives is to disperse the darkness by shining light upon it.

 The best way to shine light into the dark places of your soul is to let others in. But how? How do we overcome hopelessness and find the courage to take off the mask? I’ve found it starts with God. If you can’t trust God with your true self, you’ll never be able to trust others. Once you learn to let Him navigate the depths of your jacked-up heart, you will discover a desire and a need to share your struggles with others.

 

How recovery applies to everyone (Guest Post)

By Wesley Hicks

We all seek wholeness and joy, but none of us can find it on our own. We need help but are often too full of pride to admit it. Because we are designed to seek these things, we will pursue them in one of two ways: According to God’s design or according to our own.  

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When we pursue wholeness and joy in relationship with God, we will find even the rough spots of life won’t derail us on the track laid out by His design. As we continue to see Him leading us toward more wholeness, we also see a natural curve happen as our Joy in Him is increased.  The more joy we find in Him, the more geared we become toward wholeness and we begin a cycle of Joy-fed wholeness in relation to Him that overflows into our relationships with others.   Continue reading “How recovery applies to everyone (Guest Post)”

The reason I write

Writing is a passion of mine. It’s a creative outlet for me and allows me to process my thoughts and ideas effectively. But the question I’ve wrestled with for a while now is exactly why I write. There is so much noise in our digital world today. Bloggers are a dime a dozen. The number of friends, followers, likes, and retweets we get consume us every day on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s so easy to get caught up in the game and, in the process, get out of touch with reality. The world of social media drips with fakeness and everything within me wants to shut it all down. But to do this would be sticking my head in the sand and becoming out of touch with our culture, because the fact is that social media isn’t going to go away.

So back to my question. Why write? Just like any other blogger out there, I can easily become obsessed with the number of hits my blog gets. And if that becomes my motivation, I would prefer not to write at all. Far too many times I have found myself stuck in writer’s block because I’m more concerned with writing for numbers rather than writing for message. I read a very profound insight in a blog post by Ken Mueller: “When you chase numbers, everyone becomes a number. Even your customers are just numbers.” One of my greatest desires in sharing my writings is that I might make a small impact on another person’s life. But if I chase numbers, I begin to care less about impact on others and more about impact on myself.

I guess a deeper question I should be asking myself is why do I want to impact people? After all, isn’t that what all of us wrestle with at some point? The legacy we leave is truly how we make our lives count. Billy Graham observed that “Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives.” To me, the quality of life that he speaks of is through passing on the important things to others, and writing is one avenue I like to use to do that. As I ponder why I write, I find that the reason I write is because life is hard and I want people to know they aren’t alone, and ultimately I want to point people to life in Christ and to show them he cares about all aspects of life…not just religious life. There are discoveries I’ve made and lessons I’ve learned through my journey that have helped me become successful in my professional life and made relationships in my personal life rich and beneficial. It’s these discoveries I have made that I want to pass on to impact others and help them see that faith is more about relationship with God rather than a religion about God.

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” (E.L. Doctorow) I can’t think of a better way to characterize my writings over the years. I enjoy writing about a wide variety of topics…leadership, faith, parenting, worship, relationships, and personal growth. I have struggled to find a consistent theme or a particular field to write about. What is my unique voice? After all, that’s what successful bloggers do. They have a niche and that’s what they write about. I’m beginning to see, however, that my niche may not fall within a specific umbrella but rather within the underlying threads that weave all of life together. I like what Anais Nin says about writing. “The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” That is the space I seek to write in.

Removing the Masks We Wear

When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability…to be alive is to be vulnerable. –Madeleine L’Engle 

It’s scary being exposed. You’re afraid that when you remove the mask that those close to you will run away. Yet, we are created to be relational beings, to bare our souls to others, to feel and be accepted. So, we long for an authentic, safe place that we can become vulnerable in. The tragedy is that many never find this place for very real reasons. The irony is that those real reasons lead us to not be real. One reason is because we live in a fallen world. Sin has corrupted God’s design and now we are surrounded by people full of a gamut of self-issues (selfishness, fear, pride, greed, hate, lust, etc.). How is it even possible to trust broken people? Another contributor is a fear to be real with ourselves. Can you take your mask off and look at yourself in the mirror? There is nothing more terrifying than taking an honest inward look and seeing your own brokenness. To avoid this, we look for distractions, things to occupy our attention so we don’t have to gaze upon who we really are. If it’s so hard to be vulnerable inwardly, how is it possible to be vulnerable to others? Enter hope. It is in our desperation for acceptance that we intersect with our Creator God who loves us and accepts us for who we are and in spite of what we’ve done or experienced.

One of my favorite stories I used to read my kids is the story of a fictional character named Punchinello. This little fellow is a Wemmick, a group of wooden people constantly searching for happiness. The Wemmicks have a practice of placing stars on each other for admirable qualities, and dots on those with undesirable ones. Punchinello has no talents, no good looks, and, therefore, has been covered with dots. Sometimes, he even gets dots for having dots! One day, he encounters a Wemmick without any stars or dots. Others have tried to place some on her, either a star because she has no dots or a dot because she has no stars, but neither stick to her. This fascinates Punchinello, so he seeks her out and asks what makes her different. She tells him it’s because she takes daily visits to see Eli, the carpenter that created the Wemmicks. After thinking about this (and with much encouragement from his new friend) Punchinello decides to visit Eli. It’s scary entering the carpenter’s shop because everything is ginormous. Eli warmly welcomes Punchinello into the shop and asks about the purpose of his visit. “I want to know what is different about her. Like, why don’t the stars and dots stick to her?” Eli smiles and begins to tell Punchinello it is because she has discovered that the only opinion that truly matters to her is that of Eli’s, her creator. He tells Punchinello that the same can be for him if he will only choose to visit Eli regularly and begin to place value only in Eli’s opinion. As Punchinello leaves the shop that evening, a dot drops to the floor.

It’s a simple story with a powerful lesson for us. Are you covered with dots? Are you obsessed with gaining the stars of approval from others? Did you know that you have a Creator that cares for you deeply, accepts you for who you are, and wants to repair your broken life? I’ve been at that point where I was concerned with what others thought of me. It wrecked me because I was trying to find acceptance where acceptance would never be found. But then I discovered a place where I can be vulnerable because my vulnerability is not only already known, it’s received with the most caring and gentle hands imaginable. Sure, I still stumble back into the trap of man’s approval. But he is always faithful to scoop me up like a loving father caring for his hurting and fearful child. Are you tired of hiding? A huge part of RESOLE is a spiritual connection with our Creator. It’s looking past the eyes of the onlookers in our lives, past the mirror that displays our ugliness, and choosing to look to the One who sees our vulnerabilities and says “Don’t be afraid. I am here with you.” RESOLE is just another empty self-improvement process or methodology that will never enact any lasting change without an honest acceptance that we are incapable of changing ourselves. Only God can bring this kind of transformation.

I realize that I likely lost some readers with talking about God, but let me ask you something. Are you done with trying to find real, genuine love and acceptance in the things of this world? Then what do you have to lose? It starts simply by acknowledging that you are powerless to change your situation and that you need the help of God, the One and ONLY higher power, Creator of all things. Allow Him to take over by laying it all down before Him. And then, you’ll find that the dots will begin to fall off your tired and weary soul.

Resole Revisited

A few years ago, I wrote a lot about a concept I developed for myself called Resole. It is a process of self-evaluation and improvement that I walked through, specifically in the aftermath of my divorce. While I have drifted away from this for quite some time, I believe it is time to revisit Resole.

What is Resole?

The Resole Process is a self-improvement process that can be applied to just about anything; individuals, churches, and businesses, to name a few. There four elements of Resole and they cycle into each other. It is a process designed to encourage growth in every aspect of life. For an individual, that includes the spiritual, mental, relational, emotional, physical, financial, and professional components of life. Organizationally, this involves vision and strategy, leadership, communication and culture, fiscal health, and creativity and innovation, to name a few. Yet to move forward, an understanding of the past and present is essential. How can one move forward without knowledge of where they have been?

So a natural flow has emerged. The starting point is RELIVE, an honest reflection of the past. Next is RETHINK, which takes the assessment of the past and applies it to the present to see what past behaviors are still active and compares that to the vision for the future. Once the past and present are looked at and the future vision has been set, a RESOLVE must be made determining to push toward that vision. Lastly, RENEW brings in the power of utilizing resources that will encourage you to stay the course. This is a constant process and can be applied to any of life’s decisions.

Resole is based in biblical principles drawn from Colossians 3:9-10:

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Putting off the old self is accomplished through RELIVE and RETHINK.

Putting on the new self is accomplished through RESOLVE and RENEW.

It is a process that can be applied to any and every decision and situation. We can look backward to see similar instances of our current circumstance and RELIVE how they played out. Then, we can look at our current circumstance to see if there are repeat behaviors and RETHINK whether the current circumstance is on track to repeat past mistakes or failures. If it is, we can put off the old self with its practices. But this putting off of the old self can only be accomplished by putting on the new self, by having a RESOLVE toward the new self and seeking to RENEW the new self daily.

Why Resole?

Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results each time. By this definition, we are all guilty of being insane. We stifle growth because we refuse to realize that past actions are what caused past failures.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins researched many organizations that were considered to be successful, or “great”, companies. One of the findings was that good-to-great companies “did not focus principally on what to do to become great; they equally focused on what not to do and what to stop doing.” You see, learning from the past (relive and rethink) is essential, but an action we rarely do consistently, if at all. Additionally, Collins discovered that greatness is not a function of circumstance, but largely a matter of conscious choice (resolve and renew).

In my experience, Resole is not easy. It takes a conscious choice to implement this process into life. However, reliance upon individual will is not enough because we are flawed. It takes a willingness to recognize we are flawed and powerless to enact lasting change and then giving up control. For me, I found that in a personal relationship with Jesus. When I finally decided to give up control to Him, I began to see lasting change take hold in my life. My character grew in ways I had never experienced before. The process is just a tool, and a tool is as only good as the one using the tool. I didn’t trust myself to hold the tool.

So I’m revisiting Resole and hoping others will join me on this journey. I intend this time through to widen the scope and not focus strictly on individual life. This broader view will bring in organizations, such as businesses and churches, as well as a culture and society that are on the brink of disaster.

rejection – the loneliest feeling 

20140625-090128-32488839.jpg Rejection. Some people can rise above it. Others are crushed by it. Regardless, everyone will taste the bitterness of being made to feel unworthy at some point in our lives. It’s a sting that, depending on its severity, can affect us for the rest of our lives. Rejection visits in many different forms. Divorce. Job loss. Disapproval from a parent. Social alienation. And (sadly) even isolation within religious circles. In each situation, rejection has the ability to cause a person to be insecure and question everything they do. In my experience, rejection can be the loneliest of feelings.“There’s nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself.” (James Lee Burke) When you’re told you’re not wanted, the first natural response is to wonder what’s wrong with yourself. I remember questioning everything about myself, big and small, in order to figure out why I wasn’t good enough or what I could have done different or better. In many ways, this type of self-inventory is very healthy. We all need to take the time to assess our lives and our character. Through it, we can experience growth and refreshed life. However, too much inner searching can be damaging in the aftermath of rejection because it can become an unhealthy obsession that leads to self-pity and bitterness. I found that being in regular communication with people I trusted helped me stay out of the cesspool because I could bounce these thoughts and discoveries off them to keep me grounded in reality. Finally, I learned that regular forgiveness has to be given to the person(s) you feel rejected by. Jesus told Peter in Mathew 18 that we should forgive 70 times 7. That’s a lot! But what I’ve discovered is that deep wounds, like those caused by rejection, take a long time to heal – much longer than you think. Practicing forgiveness helps the healing process along though. And then, one day, you realize the rejection actually made you stronger. I really like what Ralph Waldo Emerson said about rejection:

Dear to us are those who love us…but dearer are those who rejected us as unworthy, for they add another life; they build a heaven before us whereof we had not dreamed, and thereby supply to us new powers out of the recesses of the spirit, and urge us to new and unattempted performances.

Isn’t that incredible insight? If we will allow it, times of rejection can truly make us stronger. Rejection really is the loneliest feeling in my opinion. To be deemed as unworthy can be devastating depending on the severity of the hurt. But we can endure it, learn from it, and push forward to experience new life we never thought possible.