25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

(Luke 10:25-28, ESV)

Depending on your perspective, passages from the Bible such as this can be daunting. Really? No pressure Jesus. Just “love God and others with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind”? No problem! Yeah, right.

When we take passages such this seriously and literally, many of us feel inadequate. If we interpret these words as instructions for life, or “rules for us to follow”, then the fear of inevitable failure make sense. We sense that we will fail miserably at mustering up what it takes to accomplish such a feat.

However, what if loving God and others isn’t so much about striving to do more, do better, and produce something we don’t have enough of? What if it is more about surrendering, trusting, experiencing, receiving, and resting in something we already have?

I have struggled with anxiety for much of my adult life. Sure, I’m in a much better place now than I was 20 years ago, but it’s still something the rears its ugly head from time to time. Recently, while in the midst of a panic attack, I was lying in the bed staring at the ceiling struggling to catch my breath. I was taking short, quick breaths while my anxiety continued to escalate. I struggled to gain control over the fear that was dominating my mind and body. My wife’s voice began to come into focus. I could hear her counting, which I realized was a cue for me to breathe more slowly, to the count that she was providing for me. Breathe in slowly, five seconds, hold, five seconds, breathe out slowly, five seconds. Repeat again and again. Reluctantly, I gave into her voice. I began to trust what she was asking me to do. I chose to receive her invitation to let go and breathe. I began to surrender my efforts to control my situation. After several minutes, I began to rest in the freedom of taking deep, life giving breathes that restored me to a state of calm. At that point, I was doing something that my body and mind wanted all along. It was something natural for me, but I had been thrown into an unnatural, unhealthy state of anxious short breaths that only caused more suffering as the anxiety roared like a snowball rolling down a hill getting bigger and bigger.

I have a growing suspicion that loving God and others is much like this. If we strive hard to love, believing it is something we must work really hard to produce, then we will suffer great hardship and fail miserably. However, if we engage the risk that we just might already have the love inside of us that we need, we might be able to relax, be loved, and love others in the way that we were created to all along. This does not mean there is no effort involved. While lying in the bed panicking, there was indeed quite a bit of effort put forth when I surrendered to my wife’s voice. However, it was not the kind of effort it takes to climb a wall. It was more like the effort it takes to jump out of a plane with a parachute. The first kind of effort is all on me. I must rely on my efforts alone. The second kind of effort requires trust. It requires me to let a parachute and gravity do what they do. Will the parachute do what it promises to do? Will it provide me with all the protection and ability to descend safely that I need? On the way down, I must continue to surrender and allow it to do what it has promised to do. If I fight and decide to do things on my own, it will only make the drop scarier and more uncomfortable (and possibly more dangerous).

Interesting note: I learned years ago that the Holy Spirit is referred to as “Paraclete” in Greek. Parachute….Paraclete. To me, that’s an interesting and cool way to think of the Spirit as we jump into things in our lives that promote fear.

Deep breathing and loving others have quite a bit in common. Both are more difficult in times of stress and hardship. Neither of them requires us to muster up something we don’t have already. Both are something we already have in us to do. Both require trust and surrender. When experienced, both provide freedom and a much happier and healthier experience of life in general.


Growing Awareness

Counseling others has been an interesting journey. It has been difficult at times, but well worth it as I have had the opportunity to meet and walk through life with many awesome people over the last thirteen years.

I have often pondered what I thought might be the most important things I’ve noticed happening in people’s lives when they are able to overcome those certain hurdles they have been struggling with. One of those pivotal actions is something I’ve noticed in my own life as coinciding with a host of positive outcomes, including personal growth/maturity, emotional healing, relational health, and the resolution of other life issues.


It sounds so commonsensical. Of course, if we are not aware of something that is causing us hardship, how could we possibly address it and overcome it? If we deny a bad habit as being our choice and responsibility to address, we will be stuck with it. If we altogether ignore the fact that we can be a jerk to our loved ones at times due to unresolved anger issues, then we will continue subjecting them to our hurtful behaviors. Only when we seek and accept awareness of our own personal choices, behaviors, and feelings can we hope to see ourselves change.

Although this simple word makes sense to me as vitally important in my life and the lives of others, it is not something we always actively engage in. Making personal awareness a priority is hard, and there are many “easy ways out” that tempt us to avoid it. The following is just a short list of things I’ve found to be helpful in the process of engaging awareness in a way that leads us to freedom to be who we were created to be, instead of living with blinders on that keep causing us to hurt ourselves and others as we continually bump into things in the dark.

We need to acknowledge our true feelings. This one can be tricky. A good example is people like me who like to hide behind anger when we are actually hurt. As long as I hold onto the anger, I don’t have to look at or acknowledge the true feeling that I’m struggling with. While the anger may be real, it is not the source of my pain. Healing will not be possible until I acknowledge I have been hurt.

We need to take notice what we are doing (and not doing). Our behaviors can tell us a lot about ourselves if we will pay attention to them. Several years ago when our home was broken into, I went on a months-long mission to secure our house. To say I went overboard in security measures is an understatement. Was this wrong? No, not really. My efforts did make my wife and I safer. But did it show something about me? Absolutely. I had been violated, and I was scared of it happening again. Without noticing my behaviors I could not become aware of the fear behind them. Without knowing fear was in the driver’s seat of my decision-making, it could have controlled me. Potentially it could have led me down an anxiety-ridden path of no end.

We need to examine our thoughts. Our thoughts are perhaps ultimately the most important thing to be aware of. Behind every behavior and feeling is a thought. We do not act or feel anything without some thought in our head causing us to do so. However, when we are unaware of our thoughts it seems as though what we do and feel are just random and uncontrollable events. While neither are truly random, it IS mostly impossible to control our actions and feelings without addressing our thinking patterns. Over the course of my own life, when I thought of myself as stupid or incompetent, I behaved in ways I thought might prove myself. Other times, I responded by giving up on trying. While vastly different behaviors, both were sourced from the same thoughts in my head. As for feelings, fear was prevalent as I suspected I did not have what it took to accomplish the tasks in front of me at the time. If not for learning the importance of capturing and becoming aware of my thoughts, I would still be enslaved to these types of behaviors and feelings with no hope of escape.

We need to be honest with ourselves. When it comes to our own thoughts, behaviors, and feelings, it is often easier to deny the truth and/or blame others. Again, the process of awareness is not easy. It is hard to look at the truth and accept it. However, it pays off BIG TIME when we do. Freedom is found no other way.

We need to listen to others who care about us. This one is super important to remember if we want to get the most out of our fight for awareness. Life is really hard at times, and this makes it very difficult for us to see ourselves clearly. Many times, we need a mirror in order to see what it is we are looking for. This “mirror” will often be in the form of others who love us. They can see things we cannot see. They can hug us, encourage us, and point out things about ourselves that have become hidden from our view for whatever reason. These interactions can be difficult. We will inevitably be tempted to deny, blame, or get angry. We must remind ourselves of our great need for the awareness that is often the first big step towards healing, joy, and freedom. Those outcomes are far greater than the comfort of avoiding the hard work of self-awareness.


When I Am Weak, I Am Strong

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10, ESV)

Have you ever disliked something about yourself so much that you wanted to change it? Perhaps you prayed for God to change or even remove it from your life. It might have been an ailment, a habit, a difficult relationship, a regretted decision, or a perceived weakness. There have been many times in my life that I have wished I had made different choices. I often have wished Continue reading “When I Am Weak, I Am Strong”

Roller Coasters of Life

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9, ESV)

Several years ago, my wife (Melissa) and I took our son (Michael) and a friend of his to an amusement park. I do not remember their exact age, but they were probably around ten. We were all smiles until we decided to board one of the roller coasters. The three of us had ridden rides like that before, but Michael’s friend had not. He immediately showed signs of concern. After some discussion, he agreed to give it a try. Continue reading “Roller Coasters of Life”

Opposites Attract

My wife and I have quite a bit in common. We both enjoy good food. We don’t care much for cold weather and would rather every day be a beach day. We like to kick back and watch one of our favorite TV shows or a movie. We are both introverts. We love people, but we need time to ourselves to recharge. We tend to be task-oriented. We are often pretty content with accomplishing our to-do lists. Continue reading “Opposites Attract”

There is an End

I do not like “unknowns”. One of the most challenging parts of this COVID-19 pandemic for me is not having clear answers to the many questions rushing through my mind. One of the most pervasive questions is this: “when will this end?”. It’s like I am craving a light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to. However, there is no clear indication of when it will be over. We just don’t know when our lives will resume without the present threat looming over us. Continue reading “There is an End”

A Painful Reminder

A few Monday nights ago, it happened again. For those of you who know my story, you will recall my past struggle with fear, anxiety, and panic attacks. Well, these old acquaintances have paid me a visit over the past two weeks or so. On that Monday night, the granddaddy of them all (a massive panic attack) snuck up on me about midnight. Continue reading “A Painful Reminder”

A Neverending Cycle

Years ago, Derek Webb penned these lyrics to the Caedmon’s Call song “Thankful”:

I ran across an old box of letters
While I was bagging up
Some clothes for Goodwill
You know I had to laugh
That the same old struggles
That plagued me then
Are plaguing me still

It can be massively discouraging when we come to the realization that we continue to wrestle with the same things over and over in life. We wonder if we will ever be free of those things we despise about ourselves and/or our behavior. Is there any hope for us when we discover we are stuck in a cycle we’ve tried so hard to break? Continue reading “A Neverending Cycle”

Looking Ahead at 2020

2019 is setting and 2020 is on the horizon.  With this comes a lot of reflection and forward thinking.  This time of year is used by many as a time to look at what has worked, what hasn’t worked and to set goals for this new beginning.  Social media and other media advertisements will be full of new ways to improve yourself and be better.  Now, I am not going to use this post as a means of bashing goals or self-care at all. Instead, I am considering the important difference between rules verses guidelines.   Continue reading “Looking Ahead at 2020”

Letting Our Guard Down

Last night I came home from work (my day job, not counseling) in a pretty good mood. I went about doing several little things I wanted to do, including warming up some delicious supper that my wife had made on Sunday and turning on some TV to watch (by the way, Wu-Tang: An American Saga is pretty cool for those like me who enjoyed Wu-Tang’s music back in the day). Continue reading “Letting Our Guard Down”