Combating The “Hijacker”

In college an area of psychology that truly intrigued me was the area of addiction, mainly how addiction rewires the human brain and changes the way human behave. I’m pretty sure what stopped me from fully pursuing the route was the amount of schooling and debt that I’d rack up at the end of all. Still, however, the area still fascinates to this day. And something that came to my attention recently was the idea “hijacker”.

That is, in simple terms it’s very much like a voice in the human brain that tells us it’s okay to go back to the things that give us comfort. It doesn’t have to be things as extreme as drugs or pornography. But it can be things as simple as food, spending money on things you don’t need, binge watching a show and so on.

The “hijacker” is the voice that says “it’s okay, go back to whatever substance it is, you’ll feel better after.” And that’s the lie, you might feel better after. But your still stuck in the same old destructive cycle. Still filled with shame, regret and feeling hopeless…

And yet we are not hopeless. Recently I heard a therapist say that the hijacker isn’t you talking. The Hijacker is the one you can feel starting to raise its voice in the certain contexts that make us want to run back to fake comfort.  The apostle Paul had an extremely similar thought process in Romans 7:14-15 when he said:

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

Paul understood that this wasn’t necessarily him, but something else trying to take over. And that’s the key to winning the battle. We have to start to be on watch, so when it does lurk its head up. We can notice it and quickly shut it down.

You can heal. You can overcome. But  it won’t be own your own or on your own strength.

My One Regret With College.

When I got accepted into college years ago, there rested inside me a fascination of the mind. Why people acted as they did and more so what happens inside the mind that sent some people into deep cycles of addiction and destructive behaviors. My degree path of choice was psychology, at first (because of my interest in addiction) I felt a calling to working in that particular area of psychology.

And yet.. For some reason, something moved me away from that specific area into a more generalized focus in psychology. And you know what? looking back, I very much regret not pursuing that path.

It probably was the amount of time and money/debt that moved me away from it. God only knows where I could be now if I jumped into addiction counseling with all my mind, heart and strength. College these days though, seems to be a total joke to me.

As being an online personal trainer and nutrition coach, the last three years. I find that much of my four year psychology degree comes out in my daily practice. To some in my life, that four year degree that I got at a small faith based college was not the best choice. But from my vantage point, that “pointless” psychology degree was the best four years of my life. I learned so much, made some really great friends and truly bloomed in my faith.

I wouldn’t trade that for anything, I truly believe that those four years of my life was the way God ordained it. I guess at this point in my life, I’m trying to figure out what the Lord would have me do with this desire and many others in my heart.

This might seem strange to some, but I could easily see myself leading recovery meetings and helping others heal and break free from the hooks of addiction. I guess in a lot of ways I can relate to those struggling with addiction myself, because I am an addict in my ways.

And you know what else?

We are all addicts. The Bible has it right (as it always has) when it says that that we are slaves to something. Something, if not God has the attention and adoration of our hearts.

The Path of Destruction

Philosophically speaking, there are two ways in which we view the world or rather people that inhabit the world. The first way people believe is that we are inherently good and some of us become wayward either due to be misguided along the way or some sort of traumatic experience along the way. This particular world view is in some ways easy to live with, because it also becomes easy to dismiss the darkness caused by others is only due to deviating from a path of goodness.

This particular philosophical out look can be a real stumbling block for my mind to try and comprehend. Having once worked in a Child Advocacy center, knowing that the young children coming into the center everyday faced a real physical evil causes something to rage against the view of inherent goodness. Sure, one could submit that the abuser experienced their own pain and tragedy. Yet the very rebuttal is not enough to make up for the pain caused.

Some where along the way personal ownership of ones actions has to be set in motion. In the A.A. movement one of the most important steps is to take ownership of ones actions and try to make as much restitution for prior actions. More on this point in a bit.

The second outlook then, is the belief or understanding that we humans are not inherently good. Quite the opposite, that we are all for a lack of better words evil, with a dark dragon inside us as it were. And left to our own devices, we are bent toward a path of destruction. Admittedly, this view is much harder for people to swallow, usually people are deeply offended by this particular view at first and carry a look in their eyes as though to say:

“How dare you say I’m evil!”

Trust me, this view wasn’t something that was easily accepted for me either. The biggest problem that some people have in accepting this view, is that we humans don’t want to take on the challenging and uncomfortable task of taking a cold hard look at ourselves. Down to the core of who we are. Again, this is very uncomfortable to do, because you may discover things about yourself that you never even knew about. And then you have to work on those areas too.

This isn’t something that people want to do, but it must be done none the less. It’s how we start to combat the dark dragon inside of us all. Going back to the A.A. example, for that person to begin to make restitution for past transgression. He or she has to first see that they first have a problem. A problem that they are fundamentally powerless over, and that they need divine help from. They need Christ to come in a make them a new creation.

If Alcoholics do not take the steps needed to combat the dragon inside them, they will die in a state of destruction of the soul. Even if you do not believe in a literally hell as depicted in the Christian narrative, there still is in a sense- a hell that happens to the soul when it is swallowed by darkness.

You might submit that you don’t wrestle with addiction to substance, but if you look deeper at your self and life you lead. You certainly do wrestle and stumble in other ways. Perhaps you have made a lot of bad choices in your life and your past eats your soul alive all the time. Perhaps you’re filled with resentment and hatred for things done to you, that is something you should aggressively work on before you are on your death bed.

Whatever it may be, we all have things within the stories of our lives that we must deal with. You have to do the hard work of finding out what that is for you. Write it down, even if it’s multiple items and them aim at overcoming them to the best of your finite ability.

Christ said in Matthew 7:13: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”

The narrow gate is not a comfortable one, it was never intended to be. Yet it does lead to the most joy and freedom. The narrow gate requires to say no to things that will do us harm, and others harm. The narrow gate calls us to make war against the sin inside us the tangles us up. Finally, the narrow gate that Christ calls us to, demands that we are too weak to bare our burdens on our own accord and yet be filled with the courage to bare our crosses until our stories are over.

Do the hard work, it’s calling at you daily, screaming at you saying : “DEAL WITH ME DAMMIT!” Deal with it while you still can.

Some thoughts on the passing of DMX

I was never the biggest fan of his music, though he had a few songs that I really loved. As a kid my dad always gave me grief for listening to him, haha.

I never gave much stock to him being a person of faith, apart from the rough image he portrayed. Hell, I wasn’t even a Christian at the time that he first mentioned it publicly.

I also didn’t know that he wrestled with addiction, drug addiction at that. In my own faith journey, I realize that every one of us has things that we battle with every day. Be it pride, food, praise from others and the like.

And yet , the responses of some Christians truly shock me. Coming off as though they never wrestled against anything bigger than themselves.

Yes we need to be doing everything we can to make war against sin that so easily entangles. But to speak as though you are righteous in yourself is not the heart of God.

I think so Christians either don’t know or have forgotten that, when Christ was on the cross. He became the propitiation for our sins. Meaning that he took on the filth of our sin that we deserve on himself. And in exchange gave us his righteousness so that when the father looks at us. He sees the perfect and beautiful image of his son Jesus.

And dare I say that any of us will make to the presence of Christ 100% perfect. It’s because of his finished work and presence of the spirit that carries us home that final day. Not our own works. Let us make every effort, not to look on others with self-righteous eyes.

Enter Life’s Grappling Match

Life is more like a wrestling match, than a dance. We are to live not like the gladiator but like the pancrationist. For while the gladiator is killed if he drops his sword, the pancrationist is always armed with his own to hands. -Marcus Aurelius

I love this quote by Marcus Aurelious, frankly as a life long martial artist my heart truly gravitated to this quote. I’m a grappler at heart and a purple belt in Brazilian Jujitsu. Pancration was one of the world’s first and if not the oldest grappling system and predates Jesus Christ. Though I am a purple belt in BJJ, most people do not know that I am also a certified instructor under the Jeet Kune Do Grappling association, JKD was Bruce Lee’s personal philosophy (not a system) toward fighting, Bruce himself loved the grappling as well, and of the main systems in JKD grappling (among others) is catch wrestling. Which is many ways is an off shoot of Pancration. I share this because both catch and Pancration or both very brutal systems that are up close and personal- and in the clinch. They are not pretty arts.
When it comes to our lives, we can have a tendency to want our lives to be pretty and comfortable. With little to no complication or adversity. Admittedly, some have much more comfortable lives than others. Which is not wrong in and of its self, but when one has too much comfort, even the tiniest bout of affliction and discomfort can send a person into an emotional frenzy. Trust me I’ve seen it in my own life! So Marcus is saying, that as humans we have to be willing to grapple in life, to be able to be stronger mentally and emotionally. Sure, one perfectly aimed attack can finish the altercation without much effort, but that isn’t life as much as we’d like it to be. The sword is not without it’s place in life, but more often than not the battle happens up close.
Some swordsmen, even when they clash with their swords, they end up in a grappling match. Boxers can spend all day punching a heavy bag and looking sharp on focus mitts. But in a real boxing match guess what? They still clinch up! That means that we as humans better get used to grappling emotionally and mentally in life. Maybe even actually go and take some grappling lessons, so that you can know what the actual fight is like. Everyone has different things we are grappling against, for some it’s addiction to various things, for others it could be depression, anxiety, self- image, health issues numerous things could be added to the list. What that does then, is that it puts all on level ground, and even gives us the chance to be in the corner of others. We must come to grips with the reality that a lot of life is grappling and struggle, and that’s ok! Why? Because as humans we learn more in the fire adversity than we do elsewhere.
The grappling match is the way to almost everything we want in life! You want be a better person? You have to be willing to enter the grappling match.
If you want to lose weight, you still have to enter life’s grappling match. There’s no escape from it. Of course then, we can choose to hide and not enter life’s grappling arena, but by not choosing to do that you’re hurting yourself and selling yourself short daily. Never knowing your real potential as a human being. I’m not applying that you have to go through life on your own merit and strength all the time, but you do know have to know how to survive in life’s clinch. Because when it grabs on to you, it’s grip is a vice grip, and you will need to learn how to use base, connection and leverage to get out of its grip. In practice, when we learn to grapple from the clinch and we are fighting for position, it can seem like a never ending struggle, your heart beating fast and lungs burning. Yet, if you slowly learn over time, to not let your thoughts and emotions get the better of you. You have a victory that is one of the sweetest experiences in life. Will we win every grappling match in life? Not a chance, you will be tapped out and choked out more times than you can count. You might want to stay on the ground for a while, but find that deep inner strength to get back up.

Thoughts On Trauma 2: Leaving Trauma Behind.

In the last blog, I discussed the reality that many people have trauma to some degree. But is how one chooses to acknowledge their trauma to walk in health and healing. This is accomplished, not by white knuckling our way toward wholeness, but confessing a need of God’s grace and intervention, along with healthy members in community.  The key word and what we be the focus of this second entry, is the word healthy. Simply put if you are seeking to be healthy, you can’t simply surround yourself with people who are unhealthy.

Now, before you raise your hand in objection, hear me out. I’m not implying that because one is seeking a healthy life- or sobriety even. That one must strop loving or caring for others in your life that aren’t. Sometimes though, to find health, healing and clarity. We may have to leave what we once knew to find new horizons in life. No, this is not easy and yes it is extremely scary. Some people may actually write you off, because of the path you have chosen to embark on. So be it, sometimes others simply will not understand your journey until much later in life. Relationally in my own life, I have been prayerful waiting, praying and seeking a woman who is fairly healthy (physically, emotionally and spiritually) that is happy in herself and communicates well. In prior relationships, I’ve dated women that have a lot of emotional baggage and didn’t really have a handle on their inner selves. To be fair however, I was FAR-FAR from healthy. The narrative in my mind was “I’m broken, she’s broken lets be broken together”. This sounds well and good, but if two people aren’t walking toward healing and becoming more whole. It’s like twenty car pile-up. In the Christian sense, we are broken sinners, but Christ has made his sons and daughters new creations in Christ. Looking back, I was an overly sensitive man, who honestly lost sight of his masculine self. One who was afraid to speak up, disagree or stand up for myself. I kept my mouth shut most of the time, afraid to rock the boat. This is not how a man nor any person should live. It became all about making them happy, and sadly forgetting my own sense of mission in life. You can say that my “addiction” if you will, was different in a way. But over the last several months, I’ve had to cut some ties, learn a lot hard realities and find peace being alone. I’m happy to say that I have found peace being alone and a much deeper joy in my walk with God. Yes, the desire to date, marry and God willing be a father some day is there. But I want a healthy relationships, not built on chaos and disorder. I want to bring health and joy to my next relationship, the same way I’d want the woman that I was involved to do the same. Now, I’m not saying that there would never be difficult moments with two healthy people, of course there will be. But when you are healthy, you won’t go back necessarily go back to your old coping ways. Necessarily because there’s always a chance. But when a person or two people are healthy, they will completely forsake the old ways. If you know you could be a happier, whole person, take the steps to do so. Nothing happens over night, but as long as you keep moving forward you can become the person you desire. Will you fall on your face again? Yes, so you get up, dust off, maybe dress your wounds and move on. Don’t settle, don’t be afraid to embark on the journey you know you must.            

Misplaced Love

Here’s the deal. No man or woman can fulfill us. I know it sucks to hear, but love delights in truth. For me, I know that this hard truth needed to be beat into my entire person all over again. Is it wrong to want a relationship? And a healthy one at? Of course not, God created us for that.

In my prior blog entry, I spoke about my frustration with the current standing of the so called “Alpha Males”. The more I listened and read to what many of them had to say, I quickly noticed that many of them were simple pick up artists. And sadly I found myself buying into this crap.

I then wanted to go out and see how many women I could pick up, by saying all the right things etc. And then it hit me… Wow that’s really, really shallow and frankly cheap. Because all the cheap thrill really leads to nothing of substance.

I don’t think there is anything wrong to long for someone be with, to long for healthy communication affection, marriage and so on. But as a follower of Christ, I/we should know that no one could possibly love us as madly as Christ does.

I also confess, that at times I have driven myself crazy trying to find a mate. Which again, isn’t wrong. But it is wrong to lose yourself in it. Without looking more at the one that loves us the most. Which is Jesus Christ.

Our love in turn becomes misplaced, we take the love from a person and put above the love of God. Which in many ways can cripple the mind and soul. Scripture tells us to seek first his kingdom, this really just means to seek God first. Let him fill us up first.

Now, I don’t believe that because we seek God first, that it then means a mate will fall into our laps or living room couches. I still think that we ought to keep our hearts, eyes and minds open. The same way that if we our hungry, we have the ability to get up and go get food.

When we seek first his kingdom, we re-order our hearts, our thinking is clearer, we are more at peace and we are more ready to love as Christ loves us. So, today if you find yourself in the same boat as me. I implore you to seek God boldly and confidently without condemnation. As him to reorder your heart. And he will. Its so worth it!

Put Your House In Order. While You Still Can.

I was reading my Bible this morning, and this particular phrase in 2 kings 20:1

This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

I do not intend to dig a lot in the context of this passage, but rather center the focus of this around what verse one means for us today. My room has a lot of clutter in it, I know where everything is at, but it has a lot of clutter.

Now, on one hand there is a method to how my room is, its easier for me to reach certain things and doesn’t require me to stand and reach for high objects. I know this annoys my family, but for me it works. It’s not because I intend to live like a slob. My clothes are not neatly folded because folding can be tough for me.

My parents come sometimes and fold things as they see it should be, it stays neat for awhile but then as time goes by, things return to the way they were before. People within the design word, claim that your outside world reflects your inside world.

So, if I have a lot of clutter in my room, I probably have a lot of clutter on the inside too. It makes sense and I would agree that it is true. I do have a lot of clutter on my inside life. I’ve been trying to get it in order for a long time now, I’m not where I want to be but I am damn sure much better than what I was.

Getting your room in order is not only physical, but it is mentally, emotionally and spiritually too. I would submit that the latter three are of greater significants. All of us are headed to our graves, and to a degree we can choose how we get there.

Maybe for someone its getting your mental health in order, so that the heaviness of depression and anxiety don’t completely drain you of all joy and appreciation of life. Perhaps its getting your money in order, where you actually plan for a future and not burn your money on meaningless pleasure. Maybe it’s making peace with your past and people that you have wronged or wronged you.

If you and I don’t do this, what is the consequence? We die in the state we have chosen to live in and we will not recover. We will die holding onto that shame, regret, bitterness and anger. We will die, never know what we could have been.

I think hell is a real reality, not some metaphorical reality. And I believe that God reaches out to us every day, telling us that he is the way out from the suffering in our lives. That’s why he sent his son Jesus on a rescue mission, for us. He can make us new, fill us with peace and joy and give us a completely new road map to destiny.

The sad part is, some choose to stay in the pain and suffering because that’s all they know. It’s become their norm of comfort. Shedding the old skin and experience new life can be painful too. In one of the Narnia movies, a young boy turned into a dragon, who was then a mean and grumpy soul.

In order for the boy to be transformed from being a dragon, Aslan had to remove the dragon flesh from his body. Which was extremely painful. Which is true for us as well, it hurts an extreme amount. But when our own dragon skin is removed, it is as though we are all new people.

I’m still working on getting myself in order, you can too. We can still recover while there’s still time.

The Beauty and Invitation of Grace

Lots of people are addicted to many things, me, however. I am addicted to the grace of God. I can’t get enough of it, I need it almost every moment of every day. Grace is the one sustaining reality in my life that keeps everything else going. I talk about grace so much, because it has utterly changed my life.

Many churches have hot button topics that they love to preach about, and for me grace is that truth. I was am the prodigal sons, before I gave in to the affectionate calling of the Lord drawing my heart, I was the other younger son that was arrogant, and felt like God owed him everything (if there was a God) and now, being a redeemed Christ follower, I am the eldest son that runs away and comes back home.

Yet, the father still runs to be every single time. No, grace is not an invitation to live a careless life, grace is the gift and ability to walk closely with Christ each and everyday. And with joy. But the reality is that, we do wander off the path. Take for example, the timeless hymn “Come Thou Fount”

“Prone to wander Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love”

We sing this all the time, but I don’t believe that we understand what we are singing. God is not stupid, he isn’t. He knows that you and I are gonna screw up and screw up a lot. He knows we are gonna lose our tempers, say things we don’t mean, totally blow it and act counter to how we Christians should act.

But you know what? He’s not shocked. He knows. And dare I believe that he is shaking his head at us, rather he picks us up, brushes us off and reminds us who we are in him. And sets us on the narrow road. Any anger that we may believe that God has toward us, was poured out on the cross. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation. The old has been done away with and the new has come.

The sins you cannot forget, are the sins that God has forgotten.

I believe that because God is slow to anger, his hearts cry is for people to finally notice how much they need his grace. On one hand, proud people who already think they are amazing. Have no need for the beautiful gift of grace. While on the other hand, those that know they have blown it time and time again. The grace of God is the most precious of gifts.

It’s a gift, you can do nothing to deserve it, let alone un-deserve it. But you can embrace it with all its joy and beauty.

But I’ve Sinned Too Much (Grace Part 2)

The other day I was writing in my journal, about how I simply could not understand how God could be so loving toward me. How deep and wide his grace is for me, how!? I have clearly sinned far too much in my life, I am far too prideful, stubborn and absorbed and have clearly out sinned the grace of God…

Except, I haven’t, you haven’t and we cannot exhaust his grace for us. If you are in Christ, your sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103). We are new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:27).

The problem becomes, when we can know this in our heads, but we fail to live as if we are out of our hearts. We know it mentally, be we live as though we are still condemned. Yet scripture tells us, that there is NO condemnation when you are in Christ (Romans 8:1-1)

There is no condemnation for us, no guilt, no shame! But I still struggle, you say, yes me too, I believe that we are struggle in our own ways. And anyone who says that they no longer struggle I believe is a liar. Furthermore, if a person is fully healed and does not struggle with his or her sin nature any longer. Then they need to speak up and share their secrets.

For the the only way I have learned to combat my former self, is to renew my mind with the truth and love that Christ offers me through his word.

You might even think that there is no way, you could have victory over the besetting sin in your life. whatever it is. And so you think, there’s no way Gods grace is big enough for your situation, but I tell you that that is a lie the enemy wants you to believe.

I believe that the grace of God is big, far and wide, that you can complete wreck your life, and God’s grace would still be more than enough to cleanse, re-create your heart and sustain you.

Consider the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43)

Not much is know about this man, he might have had an entire life of stealing, cheating and lying has way to get what he wants. And in the last moments of his life, he begs the Lord to remember him in his kingdom.

What happens inside this man? In the final moments of his life, I believe that the holy spirit softens this mans heart and opens his eyes to see the Christ that is suffering beside him and for him. And so in other words he, says, Jesus have mercy on me a sinner.

The common reply to this is:

So your saying I can screw my life up and God will forgive me?  Well, yes and no. We just saw that Christ can forgive the man on the cross, who was asking to be remembered. Yet that was only by the grace of God to begin with. And even though Gods grace can make anyone new, I do not believe that God is saying to go make a disaster of your life. In fact, I would submit that he wants us to live a better life. One in line with him.

I’m telling you that the grace of God is so good, is more amazing than anything else in the world. It can make everything new in your life, regardless of what your prior life has been. But it is always amazing because it will set you on a pathway to a new destiny.

For his grace to us is this, when you and I are in Christ, it as though we have never sinned. For the father see’s the perfect image of his son in us, therefore the father see’s us as he see’s his beloved son.

There is hope,

don’t give up the fight.

Because he hasn’t given up the fight for you!

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