Born This Way

blind

As I write this I’m currently hearing that Lady Gaga song “Born this Way” over and over again in my head. I’m not exactly sure what she intended it to be about, but it’s a great song that fueled my thoughts about this blog…oh and now you’re probably singing that song too!

I’ve struggled with insecurity all my life. It’s a feeling I can remember even as far back as a person can remember, maybe age 5 or so. I can’t pinpoint one particular character trait that started the flood of insecurity i currently face but I know it seems like it’s always been there. I’m thinking about making an appointment with a therapist as we speak.

What sticks out to me are things that I was born with that were and are seemingly out of my control. For example, in the earlier years of my life I was always very short and pretty skinny. I’m not short or skinny now but when it seemed like the most important years I was tiny and felt I didn’t measure up. I was made fun of called “shrimp” even in high school I was known as “Big D”, (cuz I was small they thought this name was funny I guess.)

I was about 5’3” when I finally got my drivers license. A friend of mine who was also really short gave me the idea to sit on a phone book while I was driving and I would be able to see better. I was having to function, like driving a car, as “normal” people do but was seemingly always having to make adjustments just to keep up and be “normal.”

This wreaked havoc on my self confidence and self esteem. The worst incident that caused the most pain was I think when I was in 10th grade. I had played basketball the previous year for my schools Freshman Basketball team. I don’t think they cut anybody who tried out but when I went out for the team my sophomore year of High School I got cut. While I was a pretty good shooter, my skills and height weren’t enough to make the grade for Coach Claiborne. This was a devistating blow all the way around.

Up until that point in my life if you would have asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would’ve said “a professional basketball player.” This is when I started looking for another outlet. I started looking for a new hobby, although I still loved basketball I think that getting cut from the team squashed my dream of ever being an NBA player.

I started putting my energy into other things like cars and car stereos, tinted windows and the like. That lasted for a couple of years but I think the thing that garnered the most attention was recreationally drinking alcohol with my friends. It started out as a way I could express myself. I remember a feeling of freedom that would come over me when I drank. From the very 1st time I ever drank I remember thinking. “This is the feeling I’ve been looking for all my life.”

Drinking finally put me on a level playing field with my peers. What I mean is the feeling it gave me. I didn’t once think about being too small, too skinny or even getting cut from the basketball team. Alcohol made me feel like I had finally arrived at what I’d been looking for all these years, in alcohol I felt accepted and could accept myself.

Several years of my life were spent doing this very thing. Every opportunity I had I would go to parties, really anything that had drinking as a part of the equation I was game. Alcohol was my best friend, my secret weapon. For years I didn’t go to anything that didn’t have alcohol involved, if I did I was really uncomfortable and got out of there as quickly as possible.

Alcohol was my solution to a life long hurt. It was this way for many years until one day it turned on me. I don’t remember having to have alcohol to physically function until I got out of treatment for the 1st time. It was almost as if an internal switch got flipped, it was so odd. I remember waking up and craving alcohol for breakfast for the first time. At that point I couldn’t get my day started until I had consumed some alcohol. I didn’t have any confidence or any sense of peace unless I drank first.

This was the first time I think I realized that I was alcoholic. I mean who else drinks the first thing when they roll out of bed? It sounds crazy to someone who’s not an alcoholic but it seemed like a perfectly sane solution to me. It wasn’t long after this that the physical dependency on alcohol started wreaking havoc on my body and my organs. I had gotten to the point where if I DIDN’T drink that my body would revolt. I would have DT’s, shakes and even hallucinations if I didn’t consume alcohol. I usually started the day by puking yellow bile and would continue to do so until I could get enough alcohol in me to steady myself. The worst part of it is I now literally couldn’t stop.

Sounds like a nightmare, huh? It was. It even got worse when I added drugs into the equation. I developed a dependency on cocaine. See, cocaine helped me drink more so I loved it. Same thing happened to me the 1st time I tried cocaine. Total peace came over me, it was surreal. This led me down many a dark path that are the subject for another blog.

Here’s where I wanted to arrive with this whole thing. I am GRATEFUL for the Disease of Addiction, sounds strange, huh? Yes I’ll say it again. I’m glad I was born an addict. Being an addict is the event/process that lead me to seek wholeness. If I had been a “normal” drinker I would probably still be on a barstool right now making small talk with the guy next to me getting ready for another round. As things have turned out, that’s no longer an option for me, Thank God.

This thought about being “Born this Way” took me to a story in Scripture. In John 9 we are given the account of Jesus healing a man who the scripture says was “blind from birth.” The story goes on to tell how his disciples asked him WHY was he born blind “was it his sin or was it his parents sin?” Jesus replied that it wasn’t any of those things. He simply said he was born blind so that “the works of God could be seen in him.” This story continues to get even better.

So, Jesus spits in the mud, rubs it in the blind mans eyes and says “go wash your eyes out”….and he’s healed. It gets even better, people are so blown away by this miracle that that speculate that this is NOT the same guy. The religious teachers of the day even bring the blind man in for questioning and his simple response is something like, “I don’t really know WHO this guy Jesus is but I know I was blind and now I see.”

I was recently watching a Netflix show called The Bible. It’s pretty good but kinda cheesy in spots. I watched the episode on Samson and Delilah and when it was over I had to go read the scripture because the story was so compelling.(Judges)The story goes on to tell about how Samson was incredibly strong and how it was a gift from God. He’s the guy that maybe you’ve heard about that draws his strength from his hair. Well, that is until he met Delilah.

The account talks about how basically nobody knew what Samson’s secret was, why he was so strong. In a moment of vulnerability and emotional weakness he revealed this to Delilah. She ended up getting his hair cut off and captured by the Phillistines. They also gouged his eyes out in captivity. It’s a brutal story.

Here’s what got my attention though. This was a man who’d obviously been gifted by God to have extraordinary strength. Somehow in the end that led him away from God, but here’s what gets me. In his final moments he regains Gods vision for his life. It was as if his blindness led him to see God more clearly. He’s been distracted and thrown off by Delilah but at the end of his life he was able to fulfill God’s purposes EVEN if he was blind.

That’s where I connected to this story. If it hadn’t been for my “blindness”(alcoholism) I would’ve never really sought a relationship with my higher power. If it hadn’t been for all the pain I would’ve just coasted through life being disconnected with God. So, I thank God for my alcoholism because in the end it’s what led me to Him and in turn seeking wholeness. There’s a scripture that comes to mind. It says He works ALL things together for my good.(Romans 8:28)

This is not the way I would’ve written this story. Pain as a pathway to God, to freedom? Being born to two addicts and in turn myself becoming an addict? I feel like now I know why, and I’m so GLAD He did it. Why was I born this way? Was it my parents fault or my fault? Neither. I was BORN THIS WAY so that works of God would be evident in my life.

Psalm 139 states that “Before I formed you, I knew you.” What I hear from that is that God didn’t make any mistakes with the way I was created. Everything that I think of as a flaw is actually by divine design. All my insecurity, all my character defects, all my “flaws” are just places where God shows up and shows out!

Today I’m drug and alcohol free and I don’t take that lightly after what I’ve been through, it’s truly a miracle. I live life one day at a time, one moment at a time. I don’t have all the answers about this Jesus but one thing I know, I was blind but now I see, Thank you Jesus.

It’s Just a Flesh Wound

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I work as a custodian for a church and while I’m cleaning toilets I get a lot of time to think. I was recently scrubbing those lovely porcelain bowls and I had a thought about Monty Python and one of the hilariously famous skits.
Which one comes to your mind? Maybe this will ring a bell, “it’s just a flesh wound” it’s hilarious. If you’ve never seen it just stop now and click here. Welcome to the club, this skit will NEVER leave your mind, you’ll never be the same and now when people reference this skit you’ll be able to jump in!
It’s just hilarious on its own cuz it’s so dang ridiculous. The “black knight” is getting his butt handed to him and he just keeps on fighting. Even when you think, ok, that’s it he should give up now..he keeps fighting and keeps LOSING. That got me laughing but then I started thinking. The black knight is me or at least I’ve been there before.
Denial is a topic that we talk about in recovery quite a bit. In fact, our personal recovery cannot and will not begin without overcoming denial. That may sound obvious but stay with me here. We must come out of denial and admit there is a problem/issue or we will look very much like that “black knight” in the Monty Python skit.
Step one of the 12 steps of recovery states that “we admitted we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable.” For a select few this probably happens with relative ease. For the rest of us this can be a long, slow, painful process in which we finally arrive at a dead end like that “black knight” where we’ve lost everything and we’re still holding on to the thought that we can control this beast of addiction, we’re still trying to fight to no avail.
This process might look different for different folks but it’s often a slow fade that leaves us stating things like, “it’s not so bad, my boss hated me anyways or I don’t have a problem, The DUI was just bad luck…again and again as the consequences keep stacking up we make excuses to stay “in the fight” rather than just choosing the surrender that will start the process of healing. We say things that sound eerily similar to our ill fated knight In the example we’ve used. All our options are cut off and were still ignorantly claiming “I got this”. Trust me NO you don’t.
Another term we share in recovery is hitting our “bottom.” This is a place where you finally have to face the reality of your situation. There are no ways out except UP or jails, institutions and death. You’ve exhausted all resources, you’ve burned all your bridges, you’re life at this point is completely unmanageable.
This cycle has happened to me several times during my life and in my recovery for several issues but the one I can most readily think of is my battle with drugs and alcohol. I started drinking and using at an early age even though I swore I would not end up like my parents. It started out as something I would do for “fun” or temporarily escape my emotions and it worked for a while..until it didn’t.
I was about 25 when I realized it had turned on me. The thing I started using for fun and recreation was now using me. I no longer used for escape but I had to use to feel normal. Like I said this is when it became obvious to me but it retrospect it was a problem way before I realized it. I was at this point in my life saying “it’s just a flesh wound” but I was bleeding uncontrollably.
So, because the consequences began to stack up in my life due to my drug use I thought to myself, “I need some help.” Honestly at this point I didn’t really want to stop using or drinking I just wanted to pain to stop, I wanted people to get off my back about my bad habits. So I went to treatment for the 1st time.
I graduated my 1st treatment program in 28 days and I remember telling the counselors that Yes, in fact cocaine was a problem for me but alcohol was another story. I convinced myself in treatment that I could still “drink like a NORMAL person.” I thought as long as I don’t do cocaine I’ll be fine. So on day 28 I graduated and headed home.(I don’t know who came up with the idea that 28 days is the magic number but I don’t think it’s even close to enough.)
Literally 30 minutes upon leaving treatment I had my girlfriend stop at a convenient store so I could grab a beer. I flash back to our example of the black night, it was me saying “‘‘tis but a scratch.” Upon exiting treatment for the first time I was in complete denial about my disease of addiction.
There’s an account in the Bible that many know as the story of The Rich young ruler. He sounds very much like someone in denial. He comes loaded with excuses and ready to explain to Jesus just that “I’m ok, I have held it together and played by the rules” He is in denial but deep down he knows the truth. He knows he has a problem but is looking for a way around it, I’ve been there too. Jesus says in response to The Rich Young rulers question, you know the commandments but there’s one thing left for you to do. He tells him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor…ouch, Jesus. It wasn’t the money that was really the issue, it was the place the money had in his heart.
The scripture says that he goes away sad because he knows he can’t do it. All of his excuses occupy a place in his heart that he is unwilling to let go of. His denial sounds something like this. “How can he say that to me, I’m a good person, I don’t have a problem” or maybe he says something like “I still go to work everyday, pay my bills, I function just fine, there is no problem.”
My personal denial has run that deep. I remember trying to come up with any excuse I could to maintain something of a “normal drinker.” I tried non-alcoholic beer, I tried just drinking beer, I switched to wine cuz that’s what normal people do, normal responsible people drink wine, “normally.” I tried this approach for years and in several different ways. In the end it always led me back to the same place. I literally could not stop once I started.
I was like that Black Knight in the Monty Python skit who’d had all his limbs cut off and was laying on the ground screaming, “come back here, I’ll bite your legs off.” My denial ran deep. My life continued to be unmanageable but like the rich young ruler, I kept making excuses and looking for an easy way out.
I started to see the solution to my problems by attending 12 step meetings. I went begrudgingly at 1st thinking to myself, “I’m not like these people, I have a college degree.” The more I went and listened the more I realized I was in the same boat as all of the people in the meetings. The stories were varied and somewhat different than mine but the pain and problems seemed to be the same.
These meetings helped me start to come out of my denial. Meeting after meeting I heard stories similar to mine. These people had try to control their drinking, they’d switched drinking to different types of liquor, drinking only on days that ended in Y. I was truly in a setting where I could understand and be understood.
Not only did I start to come out of my denial I also began to seek a solution. I began to dive into WHY I drank and used in the first place. I started to see that all of my effort and excuses stemmed from a spiritual void. I began to see myself and my drinking for what it really was, a temporary fix for a deeper problem.
Many years later I’m still working on this issue. I uncover levels of this denial and work on them one day, one step at a time. The best news is in this process I’ve grown. I’ve ceased fighting everyone and everything. I’m nowhere near where I want to be but I’m no longer the Black Night laying in the road with my arms and legs cut off saying “it’s just a flesh wound.”

 

Miles Davis and Jesus

Rhodes

Have you ever listened to Jazz Music? As a musician I’ve always admired Jazz and people who can play Jazz. The technique, skill and ear it takes to play Jazz is far beyond anything I feel that I’m capable of, but I still enjoy it, especially live Jazz. Some of my friends are Jazz Musicians and I’m in awe of their ability.

If I’m being real though I get a little intimidated by Jazz cuz I don’t fully understand how it works. The chords, rhythms and phrasing’s that these musicians use leave me feeling alienated sometimes, so it’s probably like a self defense mechanism but it often leads me to tune out. I think to myself, “that’s so far beyond me, I’ll never get it”

Come to think of it I do this same thing with anything I feel I’m not very good at naturally. I played baseball when I was about 13 for a city league team and I just sucked. I couldn’t throw, catch or bat as well as the other players on my team and in the league(that’s an understatement). To top it all off they stuck me in right field, which I now know they put me there cuz there was less of a chance I would have to catch any fly balls. I only played that one year and if I could have quit before the season was out I would have.

I have a confession, I’ve been that way about God most of my life. I mean, I hear people talking about How great he is and how much he loves us and it’s so unfathomable that, yes, sometimes I tune out. I know that’s probably wrong to say but it’s just true. Especially when people who “understand God” start throwing around big religious words to describe him. Not only do I tune out, I often retreat the other direction.

My best example would be this. I grew up not knowing my real father. He died of a drug related heart attack at the age of 31, that’s way too young to die. I was only 7 years old when this happened and I had no idea what a profound affect it would have on me in every area of my life, especially is relation to God.

People often refer to God as a “Father” and as bad as it sounds I often tune out cuz I can’t relate. I understand it better now than I ever have but I think I’m still healing in that area cuz to this day when I sing “Good Good Father” I just feel like it falls a little flat for me. I’m trying to understand it I really am.

Since we’re being honest here as I write I’m even becoming aware of how this plays out in actually being a father myself. Since I never knew mine I just never gave much thought about being a dad. I always felt I didn’t wanna have kids. Little did I know that at the ripe old age of 35 I would become a father to an amazing little boy named Bowie Presley Mitchell, and yes he’s named after The musicians David Bowie and Elvis Presley. (I went for Prince but she wasn’t going for it lol).

I remember being at the hospital and just being so overwhelmed. We spent several days at the hospital in the NICU when Bowie was born because of some issues with his blood. I remember them rolling him into the room in one of those plexiglass cases. It was all a bit much for me. I remember asking the nurses and doctors, “So, when we get him home what do we do with him??” And I meant it, I had no clue.

Not having a father led me to believe that I didn’t know HOW to even be one. I remember being so intimidated by this whole fatherhood thing that I can recall retreating to my little home music studio in his early days thinking, “let me just go do something I think I’m good at, something I actually know HOW to do.” I think I still do that sometimes and he’s 9 years old now.

So, what’s the solution? How do I get more comfortable with this God thing? How do I become a good father myself? What about being a husband again? How do I even do that?(I didn’t Fair so well the 1st time.) I don’t know for sure but I can tell you my experience with it and maybe you can relate.

Throughout Scripture God perpetually calls on people to do things they think they can’t do. When he was told to go talk to Pharoah (Exodus6) Moses even told God, “no I can’t do it, don’t you know I know I’m a terrible speaker?” I’m not sure but I think that God knew that tidbit of information.

Also when Jesus calls on Simon and Peter and Andrew to follow him and be FISHERS OF MEN, he was asking them to do something they wouldn’t and couldn’t do on their own. In those days if you were gonna be able to follow a Rabbi you had to have been taken on at a much younger age, so they resigned to be being fisherman, Heck it sounds like they weren’t even really good fisherman cuz when Jesus found them they had their net on the wrong side of the boat (this is just me speculating.) Isn’t it funny that Jesus taught them how to fish first??

Well, I think when I look at Scripture I’m in good company. I’ve heard it said before that God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called or something to that effect. So, I’m in over my head with this whole being a father business but I’m learning. I’m learning to lean into the truth that God has called me to be a father and not the lie that I “don’t know how.” I’m also taking notes from other Dads and applying them to my relationship with my kids. The verdict is still out on whether I’m doing very well at this but I will keep you updated.

I was recently reading Miles Davis Autobiography and it blew me away. Just the way that his music developed through the years, he was truly a trend setter in many ways. One thing that stood out to me is in his later years he was asked to put together a project of some of some of the older musicians/legends that he used to play with and he REFUSED. He stated that “I don’t go backwards.”  Miles knew that his music and his gift would only be developed by doing things that he’d never done before.

So what do I do about this God “Father” shaped conundrum? Well, for starters I’m just going at it. What I mean by that is I’m just jumping in and trying to learn more about God than ever before. I’m listening to messages, reading books, examining scripture and praying and you know what’s strange? The feeling that I’m out of my league is slowly fading. Don’t get me wrong I have a lot to understand and a long way to go but I’m not as intimidated as I once was so I guess you could say I’m intentionally tuning in.

Today I pray as you read this that God brings to your mind something he’s calling you to do. I pray that you wouldn’t be intimidated by the calling or tune out because you’re unsure of how to go about it. He will withhold nothing good from you. I pray that we just trust him and step into unfamiliar territory! No need to go backwards or stay stuck, he’s calling you forward!

There are lots of areas I feel God is calling me that feel like I’m out of my element but I’m leaning on Him more than ever and trusting the He’s not as crazy as He seems. Shoot, you never know, before it’s all said and done I might try to learn to play some jazz.

Tear The Roof Off The Sucka

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I’ve recently been introduced to one of the greatest, most powerful TV shows I’ve ever seen. It’s called “Dr. Pimple Popper.” I know it sounds disgusting but I can’t stop watching it. It’s so fascinating to me. It must be to other people too cuz it’s a thing, but I love it!

The premise is there’s this Dr./Dermatologist named Dr. Sandra Lee aka “Dr. Pimple Popper” and she sees all kinds of people for all kinds of issues relating to skin disease, lipomas, cysts and other ailments too numerable to list here. She’s a fascinating human being who really seems to be passionate about helping people with their skin ailments. Go watch it, for real..oh did I mention it’s so gross you can’t stop watching?

What amazes me the most is the variety of clientele Dr. Lee sees She treats everyone the same and her reputation precedes her. She is known for helping people and providing solutions where others have failed. She’s is so full of compassion that it seems to put all the patients at ease, even the ones with fear of DOCTORS.

While the issues on the surface can seem trivial to some people I bet we can relate to a lot of these patients. Our issues may not be exactly the same but the pain they carry is very much the same. Shame, fear, rejection to name a few. As silly as it may sound to some, I remember my teenage battle with acne that dramatically affected my self confidence, something I really struggled with even before the acne came along.

I also grew up in a home where the appearance of things seemed to outweigh the reality of how they REALLY were. We always addressed the superficial issues while the real problems were allowed to fester under the surface(more about this in another blog.). So, I learned early and became a master of dealing with only what people could see even if it meant ignoring the root problem, another place I connected with theses patients.

The clients stories almost always started their story with something like “12 years ago I had a little lump about the size of a grain of rice on my neck and I just covered it up or ignored it.” Every story seemed like it always started as a small or seeming non issue, but here we are 12 years later with a lump the size of a softball that profoundly affected the persons mobility and they’re seeking relief for this issue from Dr. Lee.

Can you begin to see the spiritual parallel here? Doesn’t the big issue that we’re dealing with now always start with something small? Sometimes isn’t it even years later that whatever this that started small is has now made our lives unmanageable? I mean the consequences and pain far outweigh any benefit we are now receiving, right? For those of us with an addictive personality doesn’t it always start with, “oh it’s just a little porn”, or “it’s just a beer on the weekends”?

Ok, Back to Dr. Pimple Popper. The most insane thing to me about these clients stories is the fact that most of them have dealt with this issue for years and have ignored it or just dealt with it, meaning they just accepted it as their reality with no hope for change. Some testify that they’ve been to Dr’s before and the Dr. would just dismiss it as something that would just “go away on its own.” So out of frustration, and discouraged many of the clients just trudged through the years thinking to themselves, “well, I’ve seen a doctor and they won’t do anything about it, there must be no solution.”

Isn’t that what we do sometimes ? We tried something years ago and it didn’t work so we just begin to resign ourselves to the fact that things will always be this way? Maybe we tried to go to an AA meeting years ago and it didn’t stick so we just stopped trying, That was my story for a long time. I just couldn’t see how that would work for me. Maybe our loved ones have been nagging us for years to seek some help for some issue but we were too embarrassed about it so we never did. (But if you’re reading this and struggling let me say that there is hope!!)

This brings to mind an account in the Bible. Luke 8:43-48 tells about a woman with an “issue of blood” and her encounter with Jesus. One translation says that she had been to see Doctors her whole life and hadn’t been able to find a cure. She was the one who “touched the hem of his garmet” and was instantly healed. This raises a lot of questions in my mind but the most compelling is what drove her to Jesus? Why did it take so long? Was it something similar to what Dr. Lee’s clients had said? Had she been discouraged by all the doctors and their lack of solutions that she went to see Him as a last resort? Was it the pain?

In recovery we talk about pain a lot. We say pain is a gift. Furthermore we say things like “the gift of desperation.” We can testify that when the pain of CHANGE exceeds the pain of STAYING THE SAME, then real life change can happen. I know that this has been true in my story. Pain has been one of the, if not THE greatest motivator for any lasting and real change I’ve ever experienced.

Back to the woman with the issue of blood. The account in Luke sounds like the woman was almost ashamed that she had come to seek healing from Jesus. Verse 47 says she spoke up “when she realized that she could not stay hidden”. This sounds a lot like the people who came to see Dr. Lee. Shame had kept them from trying to find a solution but they’re met with nothing but compassion from Dr. Lee. She examines them thoroughly and makes a plan for how to best help them.

I find it intriguing too that many of Dr. Pimple Popper’s clients don’t necessarily seek her help on their own. Sometimes it’s a family member or friend who has heard about her miraculous feats that ends up propelling the person in front of Dr. Lee to bring about the life changing event.

There’s an account in the Bible of Jesus healing a paralyzed man(Mark 2). It goes on to talk about the paralyzed man being healed. Fascinating, but the part that grabs me is this, He had 4 friends(we don’t know their names) who couldn’t get the man to Jesus because of the crowds around him. They literally tore the roof off the sucka (I like to think this is where PFunk stole the title to this song) to get their friend in front of Jesus. It wasn’t necessarily the faith of the man who was paralyzed but the faith of his friends that led to his healing.

I will always think about my friend Robby when I read this story. Robby believed for me and in me when I didn’t. I was paralyzed in my life by several things including a life threatening addiction to drugs and alcohol(which was just a symptom of a much bigger problem). Robby believed that if I ever heard the good news of Jesus that my life could turn around. One night he invited me to church which is the one place that if you’d asked me, I wouldn’t wanna go and there were absolutely no solutions to be found there for my train wreck of a life, at least I thought.

Robby “carried” me to hear a guy named Ken Freeman share his story one Wednesday night in November of 2002. I heard Ken share a story that was eerily similar to mine in many respects. So much so I thought my friend Robby must have conspired with him before hand. Anyways, that night I heard how this Jesus had set Ken free and I knew in that moment I knew I needed that Jesus. I needed The Healer.

Maybe the parallels in this blog are glaringly obvious so I’ll try to to rehash too much. Like the clients going to see Dr. Pimple Popper who had ignored or covered up their issues for various reasons, i have been in those shoes spiritually time and time again. Each time I have been met by the ultimate surgeon and healer with compassion and grace that I can’t even wrap my mind around.

I’m under construction for sure but I am not where I once was. God keeps on working on me helping me see what’s giving me REAL life and what’s not. This process is the healing. It’s happening bit by bit sometimes but it IS happening. I believed there’s a fancy word for this called sanctification but I just know I’m not who I was and I’m continually changing and being changed by Gods Grace.

I’ll leave you with a question. What’s holding you back today? Was it some experience in the past that led you to think, “there is no hope for me”? Are you ready? Now is your time! God isn’t mad at you for stalling or even stopping. He understands that kind of thing more than we will ever know. He’s waiting on you with compassion and wants to restore your life.

Do You Even Lift Bruh?

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I like to go to the gym. I’m not an athlete or a body builder but I use it as a therapy of sorts and to try to combat the “Dad-bod” thing that happens to all of us over 40 somethings. I have a workout partner named Ralph. Ralph is 64 and really keeps up pretty well. I think he started coming to the gym with me at first cuz he thought I might know what I’m doing. By now, he’s figured out I really probably don’t.

Ralph is actually my boss where I work so our dynamic is funny at the gym. He looks to me for direction. So, I’m the one standing over him screaming “Cmon give me one more rep you old fart, you can do it”, it’s great!! We have become pretty good friends the past couple of years and I’m grateful for him. Recently I was just thinking about our relationship and God spoke to me.

I have an issue that seems to be getting worse the older I get. I love to be alone, like all the time. I swear, I know it sounds crazy but I do. In fact it’s gotten so bad in recent years I actually get snippy and resentful with people who I think are invading my “alone time”. I look for opportunities to be alone all the time. See, I’m a creative-type and so for a long time I’ve just thought that this is part of my make up, my dna, how God made me. Although I believe that is partly true, as with all things, I have taken this to the extreme. A recent book I was reading by Carl Lentz said that “isolation breeds insanity.” To quote Gnarls Barkley, does that make me crazy?

One thing I’ve learned or am learning as a person in recovery is that relationships are crucial and vital to my recovery. We call it a network. In that network of like minded people we are “suggested” to get a sponsor. A sponsor is a person who serves as a guide. Since they are further down the road of recovery than you, then you ask them to help give you direction in life.

Here’s the parallel that God showed me at the gym the other day. He showed me at the gym we need a spotter to take us further than we thought we could go. A spotter is someone to help you attempt your lift. If you don’t know what I mean, next time you’re at the gym go ask someone to give you “a spot”. They will walk over to the exercise you’re about to attempt and take the “spotters position.” (It varies depending on the exercise)

The spotter will first of all make sure you’re safe above all things, that the weight you’re about to lift isn’t going to fall on your neck and kill you. A spotter will also help you correct your form so you’re actually working the right muscles and getting stronger. A spotter will also provide much needed encouragement in times of great distress. Just when you think you’ve done all you can and there’s not one more ounce of strength left in you, your spotter stands over you and screams, “Cmon you can do it, just one more”

A sponsor serves much the same role for those of us in recovery. Side note, I believe that we’re all in recovery for something. Most people immediately jump to drugs and alcohol when they think of recovery but many of the core issues that drive alcohol and drug abuse also fuel many other unhealthy behaviors whether it’s codependency or sexual-integrity, whatever it is, believe me there’s room on this boat for you. At Celebrate Recovery we like to joke with response to whatever issue anyone comes up with “What about(fill in the blank issue). “We have a group for that.”

Anyway, I believe this isn’t just a recovery thing, it’s a human thing. We were created to have these kind of relationships in our lives to help us grow, to help us when we get stuck or run out of steam. Some people refer this relationship as a mentor. But the idea is the same for a spotter, a sponsor or a mentor, they help you grow and do things you didn’t know that you could. I happen to have all 3 of these men in my life and I would hate to think where I would be without them. My spotter, Ralph, my sponsor, John and my mentor, Dave.

There’s a verse in Proverbs that says “as iron sharpens iron, so one friend sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17(NLT) while it seems to be a profound truth it’s something I’ve wrestled with and still am not the best at but I’m learning to trust them all with various areas of my life and God uses them all, sometimes, ok, except my spotter Ralph fails me from time to time cuz he’s looking at his phone when he’s supposed to be spotting me but I’ve yet to die so we’re cool. Btw, there’s is not need to look at your phone after every set unless you’re expecting a baby or something, am I right?

Paul the apostle and his “sponsee” Timothy demonstrated this type relationship in the Bible. Paul took on Timothy and discipled him. He didn’t just explain to Timothy how to be a disciple. He said basically “you’ve seen the things I’ve done, now look at my life and follow the example.”(2 Timothy 3) Sometimes at the gym the job of the spotter has do get down on the bench and show how to do the exercise correctly.

Ok, so back to my issue with “alone time”. I was recently rereading Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby and I don’t remember what chapter it was but he started to nudge/encourage people who struggled with this very issue to really take a look at it and focus on just why we enjoy our “alone time.” It got me thinking and I decided that I was gonna try to do something different. Instead of protecting my precious alone time I decided I was going to give some of it away and engage other people with the time I was spending isolating.

So, one of the first experiences I had with this was at a Celebrate Recovery meeting. I help lead worship at CR and before every service we have a “green room” of sorts that we get to relax and eat in before the service starts. I like this set up because it sort of keeps me isolated from all the noise and what I would deem to be awkward and uncomfortable and maybe even unnecessary conversations and interactions with folks.

Well, on this particular Tuesday I finished up my food earlier than normal and decided to go out and interact with folks. It was a little strange at first and I ran into lots of folks who knew my name and I had no clue what their names were. I just smiled and tried to maneuver my way through the room making as little eye contact as possible. At this point I was regretting my decision to try and let God stretch me like this. It gets better…

I was almost up to the stage where I would sling on my guitar and then I would be safe..no more interactions, so I thought I decided to speak to some of the people in the 3rd row and one of my friends said to me, “Wow, Davis, what are you doing out here? Signing autographs?”..ouch, Say WHAT? I don’t remember reacting any particular way but it must have shown on my face…this was the very thing I was trying to avoid, awkward moments. I felt exposed and out of my element and didn’t know how to respond .

However, often times It’s like this whenever we step out into new territory and try new and sometimes uncomfortable things. Just like when we go to the gym and we’re trying a new exercise for the 1st time or trying to hit a PR(personal record) on a particular exercise. We may have to lean on our spotter to help us get the weight up the 1st few times. Our sponsor may have to serve as a sounding board more heavily during these times. It will often be awkward and uncomfortable and we may want to retreat to what we know we can do but growth happens when we step into new territory, growth happens when we allow God to stretch us in new ways.

I’ll close with this. I recently was watching the movie “Christopher Robin”(great movie and you should watch it, prepare to cry) and Winnie the Pooh made a statement to Christopher Robin when he had hit a fork in the road. He said “I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been.” Wow, what a profound truth from a kids movie! I felt God speak to me in that moment and say “Are you ready to go forward to where you’ve never been?”

Weapons From Wounds

Heart
“Find what you’re good at and go do that”. I think I’ve heard people tell me that all my life. I’m not sure it’s bad advice but it’s made me think there’s more to it than just that as I get along in my journey. For years I think I’ve followed this very advice. Let me explain.

I got into music when I was a sophomore in College at the University of Tennessee, many moons ago. I had a roommate named Jeff who was from my hometown of Columbia, Tn. Jeff was/is an extremely talented musician. He had been in a couple bands in high school and I thought he was the coolest guy. He had long hair and earrings(cuz that was cool then) and he had a bumper sticker on the back of his car that said “Question Authority.” (My parents have me hell about being friends with Jeff because of that bumper sticker.)

Jeff loved all the alternative music of the day and I can still hear him singing “No Rain” by Blind Melon in our cramped little dorm room. Jeff had an ovation acoustic guitar that he strummed on all the time and I found something magical happened when he played. I was mesmerized and I wanted to learn to play guitar too. (Did I mention that Jeff had a girlfriend and I thought that playing guitar might have been part of his secret to being so suave?)

I was in to drastically different music than Jeff but he seemed to have an appreciation for all types of music. I was into Prince, Michael Jackson, Zapp and Roger, The Commodores, funky stuff like that and even George Michael. I remember I broke my hand that year playing basketball and that seemed like a good a time as ever to learn guitar. So, I asked Jeff to show me the chords to my favorite song of all time, Purple Rain.

I instantly LOVED playing guitar. I bought my first cheap electric “Martin-Stinger” telecaster from a local pot dealer, I wish I still had that guitar. I took up the guitar with an obsession(I now know I do all Things like this.) I learned really quickly how to navigate the guitar neck and I became what some people referred to as “pretty good.” Some would even say I had “a gift”. Within a year or two I had formed a band with some more of my college buddy’s including the one and only Jeff, who played bass in that band(he played drums well too.)

Mister Skinny(that was our band name) began to tour around and get some notariaty in the region. We were a regional touring act in the hay-day of the Jam Band. The Dead, Phish, Disco Biscuits, Moe among many others. We rehearsed a lot, toured some and I began to find acceptance as a musician. Musician was WHO I was, not just something I did and I was relatively good at it I guess. So, I was all in!! Nothing gave me greater joy then than going into a local club and hearing someone say “hey, you’re the singer for that band.”…no we weren’t famous, but it sure felt like it at times.

Well, as all good bands do(with a few exceptions), we broke up. That’s when I remember feeling lost. My whole identity was wrapped up in that band and being a musician. This is when I can remember my drinking and drugging spiraling out of control to the point I knew I needed some help.
Here’s the kicker, I had followed the advice “Go find what you’re good at and go for it” and this is where I wound up?

Many, many, many years later, several rehabs, detoxes, mental institutions and yes even jail, I have started to discover that being a musician is not who I am, it’s just something I do…and yes I still love it…just not in the same way I used to. I feel like it’s just in its proper place in my life now. Funny thing is, much to my dismay, most of the people in my life that really love me don’t simply think of me or even care that I’m a musician. Huh?? But this is what I’m good at, right??

Here’s what I’ve found to be true. I get to still travel around and play and even speak at events all around but I find a commonality that I still can’t wrap my mind around sometimes. My friend Sean, who’s also a pastor summed it up to me once after I got done leading worship at his church. I said “well, how was it?”(cuz I was still new to it all) he replied it’s “was great, music was great BUT I love your heart”..MY HEART? What??..I was like…you mean it’s not my dazzling voice(I’m being silly here) or my mad guitar chops lol…he said “Iove your heart” what did he even mean?

Here’s what I’ve found to be a profound and puzzling paradox in my story. A large majority of people that I run into or meet are not really that fascinated with my music as much as they are my story(some call it my testimony). My story is messy and contains lots of what seem like to me to be catastrophic failures at life…seriously, that’s what people are attracted to??? People are far more intrigued by the fact that I’m a recovering drug addict or that I’ve been divorced than they are by my music. Now, sometimes my music opens the door to share my experiences but my story always overshadows the music. This is not the way I would necessarily want it but it’s the facts. Why on earth is this so?

The apostle Paul talked about this in 2 Corinthians 12 verses 8-10. It says ..”’my grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weakness so that the power of Christ may work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weakness and the insults, hardships and persecution and the troubles I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. “

My weakness, my vulnerability, my failures are a launching point to talk about how God has been at work in my life. So the wounds of my past become weapons(Thank you Carl Lentz) in God’s hands. It’s totally counterintuitive…it flips the script, it’s definitely NOT how I would do things. I mean for real though, I’m puzzled by how this really works.

So, I’m still out there playing music but my idea of “making it” has now totally shifted. If I look at my life through the lens of this scripture and I start to try to see my life as God sees it I don’t look for the music to be my marker for success like I did. Instead I look for areas of my life where God has been at work transforming me. No, I’m not anywhere close to where I wanna be but I’m definitely not who I used to be.

So now when I hear someone share the advice “find what you’re good at and go for it” I think about how my life has unfolded and I think…hmm I’m not sure that’s right or at least that’s not how it’s worked out for me. In my experience it has been sorta the opposite, when I tried to go find what I was “good” at, it didn’t turn out so well. The wisdom I would share would be “Find out where you’re weak and let God transform it and use it.” Don’t be ashamed of your wounds cuz they’re now weapons!!