Action In Adversity

This is the first blog in a series based, on parallels between the lives of Helen Keller and the apostle Paul. I will also talk about what I have learned from the lives of these two figures and their perseverance despite serve hardships. It is my hope that we all can learn a thing or two from this series.

I feel I have much in common with both Helen and Paul. All three of us have lived in our own prison. Paul was literally in prison but wrote some of his most famous letters of the New Testament.

helen-kellerHelen was in a prison of sorts because of the fact that she was both deaf and blind. In 1881, when she had an illness that left her deaf and blind, the deaf were considered by most to be dumb and unteachable. Despite this, she was able to complete her bachelor’s degree from Radcliffe College in 1904. She then went on to be a writer and lecturer, advocate for the deaf and a political activist. She even helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union.

Both Helen Keller and Paul were able to find joy in the midst of hardships and continued to give to others.

long_paul_in_prisonWe have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food….We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. – 2 Corinthians 6:5, 8-10 (NLT)

According to those who attended, Helen Keller spoke of the joy that life gave her. She was thankful for the faculties and abilities that she did possess and stated that the most productive pleasures she had were curiosity and imagination. Keller also spoke of the joy of service and the happiness that came from doing things for others. – a reprinted column, describing a 1916 lecture given by Helen Keller, in the Dunn County News on January 20, 2016

I also live in a prison. My prison is my body. I can’t move or even breath on my own. I rely on someone else to do everything for me. I know all too well how easy it can be to fall into self-pity, but I choose not to.

Do I have my moments or even days of frustration to the point of wanting to give up? I sure do. I think if we’re honest we all do. I know Helen Keller did, based on the autobiography of her first 20 years or so of life called This Is My Story. But she didn’t let the frustration stop her.

The Bible doesn’t say if Paul had these moments but he was human so probably did. I like reading his letters because some of them can be quite sarcastic. Based on that I would assume he had some days where he was at the end of his rope. Paul didn’t let anything stop him.

Unfortunately, there have been times I have let adversity stop me and change my attitude for the worse. This all changed when I learned to have a relationship with Jesus. I have learned to see adversities and struggles as growth opportunities. I have learned to take the advice of the brother of Jesus, James.

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Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4

I hope people can find some hope in this. I know some of us are going through some very hard times. If not, you either have or will. Some days it can be so hard to carry on for some of us. I want to encourage you to keep pulling into God. The rest of us can give those struggling our support and prayer.

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The importance of balance

squirrelI was watching a squirrel as he climbed onto the end of a rather thin tree branch. The next thing I know he is leaping through the air and onto an equally thin branch on a neighboring tree. He then made his way to the fence which he traversed like an expert tightrope walker.

It was awesombalancing-acte to watch. All during his journey I noticed that he was making constant adjustments to keep his balance. Sometimes he was extremely deliberate while at other times he moved with ease.
After watching this I thought it was a great picture of our lives. At least that’s how my life feels at times. Sometimes I feel like I’m constantly trying to keep my balance in life.

One moment I’m feeling great about life and about myself. The next, I’m down in the dumps and frustrated with what life has thrown at me. Sometimes the chance in outlook is overnight but usually it happens gradually.

It is a natural part of life to have some lows and some highs. But, barring clinical depression, the lows can be mitigated if we can find balance in our lives. What balance looks like will be different for everyone but it is necessary for all.

If you are constantly on the go, whether it be from work or family obligations, you will eventually crash. If you are like me and often find yourself with too much free time, you can get down if you don’t find something productive to do.

Either extreme is unhealthy and we need something to counterbalance it.

Some people need consistent exercise while others need time alone. Some people need to hangout with friends while others just need a break from work. Or any number of things.

As a Christian, one of the greatest tools for finding balance we have at our disposal is our relationship with God. I know that when I am spending time with God on a daily basis I don’t have nearly as many extreme lows.

I still have them, because like I said earlier lows are a part of life. But when I am close to him those down times are easier to get through.

As an addict, these lows can be dangerous to me. In those dark or low times, I am the most tempted to act on my addiction. This is why I try to avoid them by reading the Bible, reading devotionals, listening to worship music and praying to stay close to God.

During those times I need to do the same things and more or I will really be struggling more than I have to. Most of this I have written about before but is a good reminder. I know I need reminded often.

For me, the best thing is to give my brain something to focus on besides what is making me feel down. A lot of times the down feelings switch to addictive thoughts. In either case, I read or listen to a book, podcast or sermon. I do the preventative things I talked about also.

I have heard Rick Warren say that in order to stop a thought you have to change the thought. The human brain can only think about one thing at a time. If you are focusing on a sermon or even a bible verse it’s a lot easier to avoid the thoughts you don’t want.

The bible says “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:6-7

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Prayer is a very powerful tool and weapon during my struggles. There have been times that I have taken the above advice and felt peace. Not always because I usually wait too long to take advantage of this promise.

Other times I will tell the thoughts to stop. I will yell STOP! Sometimes the thoughts telling me I’m no good or trying to get me to act out are from the devil. He needs to be told to stop also. According to the apostle Paul, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

In Matthew 14, as long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he was able to walk on water.  But the moment that Peter allowed the World to enter into his mind’s eye, he sank.  I don’t want to sink.  I can’t swim.

_hebrews_12_2_3__by_tsuki_kuraiyoru-d61kzpwKeep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.  – Hebrews 12:2 MSG

These are just a few things that help me keep my eyes on Jesus. I hope you find them helpful too.

My Testimony

On Tuesday, Feb. 7th, I gave my testimony at the Royal Palm campus of Christ Fellowship. Some friends couldn’t make it so I’m posting it for this week’s blog post.

As my computer read the words,  the following slides were put on the big screen. I was so anxious and felt awkward but everything went off with no problems. I hope you enjoy this if you haven’t heard it yet. Thank you.

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This feels insane.

testimony-twoThis Tuesday, I have been asked to sit before my recovery group and give my testimony.  I have the words programmed into my computer.  (My computer will do the talking for me.)  Just in case people find it hard to follow my Stephen Hawkins style voice, I have the words and pictures made up and ready to be put on the big screen thru the ProPresenter in church.

It feels a little insane that at the same time that God, through my disability, took away more of my speech, He also allowed me to communicate more through this blog, my recovery group, and now this testimony.

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Before this year, my addiction kept me quiet through guilt and shame.  But this year, there are no more dirty little secrets.

Before this year, I felt like garbage.  Now, alive and free.

Even though you and I are learning more about me this year, God knew about it all along.

It says in Psalm 139, ” O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.   You know when I sit down or stand up.  You know my thoughts even when I’m far way….You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.  You go before me and follow me.”

6cf6edd7c92fc1e7b548f31fe0bffe96Even when I pushed God away by doing porn, God was always there.

“I can never escape from your Spirit!  I can never get away from your presence!”

Boy, am I glad about that.  I want to reach for God’s expectations.  It becomes easy because the Holy Spirit helps.

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it.”

I hope and pray that my testimony on Tuesday will reflect God’s workings in me.