The Fix Is In

I have a propensity to fix people. It’s all done fixitfelix2out of love, of course; I love you and I want the best for you and want you to be happy and healthy and whole and free so when I see something hindering any of those I have a tendency to try to “help” you. To correct you. To fix you. It makes perfect sense in my mind: “That person is making a mistake and I know the answer so I should share the answer with them because that’s what loving people do.” I’ve tried to resist fixing people, I really have, but the closer you are to me and the more I love you the less success I’ve had at keeping my big mouth shut. Basically, if I love you I’m going to try to fix you.

This propensity is, naturally, riddled with flaws. Over the years I’ve learned a couple of truths the hard way.

  • I don’t have all the right answers. As convinced as I am that I do, I really don’t.
  • Most people don’t want to be fixed. Sure they know they’re broken, but the reality is most don’t care enough about their brokenness to do anything about it.
  • And even if people did want to be fixed, I have not been appointed the fixer of people. I’m just Ken, a guy who is on this journey with everyone else. Nobody elected me the fixer.
  • My fixing often produces more problems than solutions. I’ve hurt a lot of people trying to fix them.
  • I need as much fixing as everyone else.

It was this final truth that has caught me the most off guard. I need to be fixed. I’m broken. I’m flawed. I’ve got problems. No, I mean I’ve got severe problems in my thinking, my conclusions, my assumptions, and in my entire worldview. And the biggest problem I have is that I don’t REALLY think I have a problem. I don’t really believe that I need to be fixed. Deep down in my heart I believe that it is everyone else who needs fixing. What I really believe is that I’m in pretty good shape, mostly. And that’s what clued me in to the suspicion that I might have a problem. I don’t think I need to be fixed, and that is how I know that I desperately need to be fixed. Which has led me to this new discovery.

THE OBJECTIVE OF LIFE ISN’T TO FIX,
IT IS SIMPLY TO BE FIXED.

You see, Jesus is in the fixing business. He is the healer. He is the refiner. He is the cultivator. He is the grower. He is the vine. I’m a broken person who lives in a broken world. And Jesus is the One who will fix all of this. My job is simply to be still, to trust in him, and to allow him to fix all my brokenness. I am the one being fixed.

This changes everything…

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He Said…

(This is half of a two-part blog entitled “He Said, She Said” co-written by myself and my love describing the journey to our wedding. You can read the other half by clicking https://nextchapterinlife.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/she-said/.)

11709240_10206695368921074_1277608813118340476_nIt was March 15, 2015; another boring Sunday night at home. I was alone watching TV when I got this crazy idea, “I should check out eHarmony!” A good friend of mine found his wife on eH but I had never seriously considered online dating. Before I knew it I had created a profile and given them my credit card number. The next morning I was matched with all kinds of people. It was a bit overwhelming, actually. So I spent the next few days reading through profiles and feeling quite unprepared.

A week later I received an invitation from Cara. I was matched with her so she initiated contact. As I looked through her profile the strangest thing happened to me; deep in my spirit I heard a voice whisper, “She’s the one!” Of course, I thought it was crazy! I had only been on eH for a few days, how could I possibly have already found “the one”? But I had looked through dozens of profiles and Cara’s jumped out at me in a way that none other had. In my heart I knew before I ever spoke to her, she was the one for me!

It’s a bit unfair to Cara, I admit, but I entered into this relationship believing she is the one I would spend the rest of my life with. We spent about a week texting each other and talking on the phone and it was uncanny how much we had in common. Every step we took seemed to confirm what I felt the first time I read her profile. We finally met face to face on Thursday, April 2 and it felt like I was having a conversation with an old friend. We talked until they kicked us out of Starbucks, then we went over to P.F. Chang’s and talked until they kicked us out there too, so we went to the parking lot and talked until my daughters called wondering where I was! The truth is, every time I’ve been with Cara time has flown by like that. I’ve had more than one stern talking to from my children about getting home too late!

Then one evening a couple weekends later something important happened: Cara’s heart turned toward me. It is difficult to describe, but I saw Cara’s heart open to me in a way it hadn’t seen before. It was like she was considering the possibility that I might be the one for her too. I knew exactly when it happened; I remember the look in her eyes and the smile on her face. And I said something to her that I believed to be absolutely true, but I couldn’t believe I was actually saying; “You’re going to fall in love with me.” I knew at that moment, Sunday, April 19th, that Cara was going to be my wife. I know it is crazy. I know that I had only known her for a few short weeks. I know that it goes against all logic and sound advice. All my friends told me to take it slow and I really wanted to, but I they didn’t know what I knew. This train was picking up speed and slowing it down was going to be nearly impossible.

If you know me at all you won’t be surprised that I professed my love for Cara soon after that. I was so confident that God was doing something special with us that I never felt the need to guard my heart or hold anything back. I allowed myself to love her without boundaries and I was amazed at how freely my love flowed. I began feeling things I had never felt before. There were times when I was so overwhelmed with emotions that I was brought to tears. So I asked her if she would let me be me without feeling like she had to be anything except herself. She agreed, so I told her how much I loved her. I’ve told her every day since then. I’m planning on telling her every day for the rest of her life!

The next significant milestone in our relationship came the day I was formally introduced to her children. She has a son and three daughters just like me. I was a bit nervous about meeting them but I knew they wanted their mother to be happy and were looking forward to her finding a man who would love her. Again, this was another situation in which I felt that it was really unfair to Cara; since I have three daughters myself I really know how to interact with little girls. By the end of the day we were all great friends and poor Cara didn’t stand a chance of resisting me. The quickest way to a mother’s heart, after all, is through her children! It didn’t hurt that I genuinely liked the children and felt honored to be introduced into their lives. Cara really opened up to me after this and it felt like she was finally allowing herself to receive my love without reservation.

Our conversations included talk of marriage early in the relationship. Both of us were looking for a spouse so we constantly talked about our relationship in terms of marriage. After it became clear that our hearts were moving toward each other in a very special way, it wasn’t difficult to transition into specifics about getting married. I have to admit that Cara surprised me one day in May by suggesting a date in June! We looked over our calendars and found a date that would work for both families: July 7, 2015. So I secured her children’s permission, found a ring, took her for a walk on the beach, wrote her a letter (book?) professing my love, and on June 5 I asked her to be my wife. It was the most glorious date I have ever experienced!

Cara’s love has completely changed my life. I never thought I could find someone to love like this. She is perfect for me in every way. It seems that every day we find more that we have in common. In her I find nothing unacceptable or displeasing. I know she isn’t perfect, but she is perfect for me! I believe God has put us together in a powerful way and he will use us to serve his kingdom in ways I can’t even imagine. Cara is a gift from God and I’m thrilled he has put us together!

God is Bigger, My Friends!!

They told me I should take a year off from pastoring. It was exactly what I feared would God_Biggerhappen: I went public with my failing marriage and as a result I lost my job. I openly disagreed with their assertion, but I had promised to submit to them. So I took a year off from full-time vocational ministry. June 30, 2014 was my final day as a pastor on staff at a church.

It has been a long year.

I’ve missed pastoring. I’ve missed having the front row seat watching God change lives. I’ve missed loving on people. I’ve missed teaching. I’ve missed coming alongside people and pointing them toward Jesus. I’ve really missed being a pastor.

But they were right. As frustrated as I was with my situation, they were right: I needed to take some time off. I needed to think through some things without hundreds of eyes watching me. I needed to not be needed.

It was a frightening time in my life. I trusted God, but I was scared about the future; scared of the unknown. I was scared of who I had become and scareder still of who I was becoming. I was scared for my career—the career I loved and was good at. I was scared for my family—the family I had invested my whole life in. I was scared for myself—my entire identity was shifting and I didn’t like it. I felt alone and misunderstood and betrayed. It truly was a frightening time in my life.

I never saw coming what God has done in the last year. I am amazed at how powerfully God has moved in my life in the last twelve months.

I couldn’t see how I was going to provide for my family, but God handled that. I couldn’t see how the divorce was going to impact the children, but God brought people into our lives to help us with that. I couldn’t see a vision for my future, but God supplied that. And I never dreamed there might be another person out there who would partner with me into that future, but God provided that too!

God is good my friends. God is working in ways we can’t imagine. God holds the future in his hands. God controls circumstances in ways we had never thought. God provides more than we can ask for. God is infinitely more capable, more powerful, more sovereign than our tiny little minds give him credit for.

Whatever we face in life, no matter how scary, no matter how overwhelming, remember this: God is bigger. When we can’t see what is next, God is bigger. When we don’t see how, God is bigger. When we don’t see why, God is bigger. God is bigger than our circumstances. God is bigger than our problems. God is bigger than our fears. God is bigger, my friends. It has been a year and all I can tell you is this: GOD IS BIGGER!!!

Joy Is Best, But Happiness Is Pretty Good Too!!

happiness_by_jjyoung11The primary difference between joy and happiness is that happiness is circumstantial whereas joy is not. Joy is about what is happening inside of us. Joy is about who we are. Joy is about our mindset. Joy is ultimately about believing that God’s promises are true, and then living those truths out in our daily lives. Joy has nothing to do with our present circumstances: we can have joy at any time because joy finds its source in what God is doing in our hearts. Joy transcends circumstances which makes it must more valuable than happiness because it is always within our power to obtain. In a world saturated with the search for happiness, joy stands in contrast declaring itself a far more attractive alternative.

God never promised us a happy life. Happiness is a distinctly American trait. Most other cultures don’t expect life to be happy. Throughout history the vast majority of people never strove to be happy. For hundreds of years preachers didn’t preach about being happy. God promises us joy, never happiness. The Bible speaks of the Christian life as a life of joy, not a life of happiness. We would be wise to place our focus on joy rather than on happiness.

But every once in a while, circumstances line up in such a way that happiness finds us. There are seasons in life when happiness is attainable; when circumstances are favorable; when everything comes together so perfectly that we don’t hardly know what to do with ourselves. Happiness is certainly not our goal, but it is no sin either. To the contrary, happiness is a gift. It is a gift for joy to be accompanied with happiness. It is a gift for life to ease off the throttle and give us a break for a season. It is a gift to feel contentment and peace and fullness and excitement all at the same time. It is a gift when God opens doors so widely and clearly that all of life seems to come together in a way that we couldn’t possibly ask for more. We know and accept that there are seasons of pain and hardship, but there are also seasons of joy and happiness that make life seem so perfect, so incredible, so awesome that we never want it to end. Certainly this is only a season. Certainly this too will pass. But it is good to know that God does bring us happiness in addition to joy.

Today I am so very happy, and for that I am most grateful!

The Next Chapter Begins

My love has started blogging! If you like my blog you’ll LOVE hers; she’s way smarter than me!!!

nextchapterinlife

I got the idea to start this blog several months ago.  I wanted a place to write about the struggles of being a single divorced mom.  I wanted to give hope to single moms out there.  I wanted to be the voice of “you CAN do this!” for single moms who were frustrated with the daily struggles of life, frustrated with the judgement from others about divorce, frustrated with ex-spouses, frustrated with children who didn’t show them respect because there was no father figure to tell them to listen to their mother,  just frustrated with life. I wanted to give them hope.  I wanted to give them encouragement.  I wanted to give them advice.  I wanted to be their cheerleader.  I wanted to be their mentor.  I wanted to give them a place to find support.  When I got my divorce, my mom told me “people bring casseroles to funerals…

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Decisions, Decisions…

thinking-statue-philosophyLife has many important decisions. Decisions that alter our entire future. Decisions that can change our lives permanently. It would be foolish to make these decisions without significant thought, prayer, meditation, and input from the saints. However, not every life-changing decision must come at an agonizingly slow pace. Sometimes God has been preparing us for these decisions for a long time and when the time comes the choice can be made quite quickly.

In John 1:33-42 we find the calling of the first disciples: Andrew and John himself (probably). It appears that Jesus walks by, John the Baptist makes a comment about him, and the two simply leave John the Baptist and start following Jesus immediately. There isn’t much discussion or prayer or even as much as a “goodbye” to their former teacher. They appear to see Jesus walking by, chase him down, and start following him!

But in reality God had been preparing these men to follow Jesus for years. They had heard John the Baptist teach about the coming Messiah. They had heard John’s testimony about Holy Spirit coming down upon Jesus. John the Baptist referred to Jesus as “The Lamb of God.” These men had been searching for God’s movement for a long time and when it became evident that Jesus was the man, they quickly got behind him and gave him their lives. What appears to be a quick decision had in actuality been years in the making.

Sometimes God has been preparing us to make a decision for a long time. Slowly, subtly, steadily changing our hearts and minds so that when the time is right we are prepared to seize the opportunity. When these moments come we simply know that we know that we know what the correct decision is. Oftentimes Holy Spirit whispers in our hearts “This is it! This is what I’ve been telling you! You know what to do now. Don’t hesitate!!” And while those who have not been on our journey scoff at the speed of our choices, the reality is that we are being obedient to the calling of Father just as Andrew and John were when they decided to follow Jesus.

So don’t get bogged down on the pace of your important decisions. Some decisions catch us off guard and we must be deliberate and slow. Others we have been working toward for many moons and when the time comes we are capable of striking quickly knowing that we are within God’s will entirely. And when others criticize you for moving too quickly on such a large decision, just nod your head and smile because you know that the journey has been long and arduous and guided by Father the whole time.

Because, my friends, when we see Holy Spirit moving in our lives we join him without hesitation, despite the fact that others mistake our obedience for impetuousness.

Counseling Schmounseling!

“You need to go to counseling,” they all told me. And by all I mean everyone. EVERYONE! Friends. Family. Colleagues. Children. Ex-wife. I was even told that I couldn’t be a minister until a counselor says I’ve worked through my “issues.”

So I went to counseling. Off-the-Couch.cropped-1024x435

I plopped down on the couch and poured out my heart. I told him about my marriage. I told him about my ministry. I told him about my children. I told him about my fears and hurts and angers. I told him that I didn’t know what to talk about but everyone says I need to talk. I told him how I truly wanted to discover any pent-up emotions that could undermine me in the future. I was as open as I could possibly be.

When we had finished our time together the counselor looked into my eyes and said something that honestly had a profound impact on me: “You’re one of the healthiest individuals I have ever met.”

So much for needing counseling!

The truth is, I’m in a better place than I’ve been in years. I’m closer to my children. I’m happier at work. I’m restoring discipline into my life. My tension level has been reduced to nearly non-existent. I’ve removed many of the distractions and I’m seeing myself more clearly than I ever have. I’m not exactly where I want to be, but I know God is doing something powerful in me during this season.

It turns out counseling isn’t what I needed at all. What I needed was hope. What I needed was a new vision for the future. What I needed was the ability to imagine myself as something that I hadn’t imagined before. What I needed was to be still and let God do his thing in me. What I needed was to move forward in the grace of God and allow him to lead to me into the next season in life.

I’m not against counseling. I’m actually a big fan of counseling. My point is that no amount of counseling can do what God can do if you’ll let him. Walking with Father is the most important thing. Trusting Father through the challenging times. Depending on Father to answer the questions that seem unanswerable. Believing in Father when humans have so disappointed. Following Father through the chaos of life when you can’t see what lies ahead. This is what matters. This is how we receive hope. This is how we receive vision. This is how we are renewed. This is how we find true emotional health.

So to all my well-intentioned friends who insisted I needed counseling I say this with the deepest love and sincerity I can muster: counseling schmounseling—I’ve got Father!!

It’s Not Safe At Church

It’s not safe at church.fake_mos_052114122031

I’m a pastor, a churchman, a committed ally of the body of Christ on earth we call the church. I spend my days tending to the church, the bride of Christ. I cry with her and laugh with her. I nurture her and grow her. I marry her and bury her. I pray with her and for her and over her and around her. She is my calling. She is my passion. She is my life. But I have learned something quite tragic about her.

It’s not safe at church.

The sad truth is that it is safer at an AA meeting than it is at church. It is safer to be yourself at an AA meeting. It is safer to make mistakes at an AA meeting.  It is safer to be flawed at an AA meeting. The entire premise of AA is that everyone there is messed up, so nobody bothers trying to pretend they aren’t. Those who do are called on the carpet immediately. A lot of junk is tolerated at an AA meeting, but not faking it. At AA it is safe to be completely transparent in all of one’s dysfunctional glory because that’s kind of what AA is all about. It is safe at AA.

It’s not safe at church.

Church has expectations. We have boundaries. We have standards. We value holiness and righteousness and godliness and perfection. We reject the ways of this world and strive for the ways of the divine. We want people to mature and develop and become spiritual thinkers. We have in our minds an image of the ideal American Christian and those who become part of us must conform to the mold. And that is why…

It’s not safe at church.

And we all know it. That’s why we tell everyone we’re “fine” when they ask how we are. That’s why we smile and shake hands and talk about things that don’t matter. That’s why the preacher won’t tell you what he’s really struggling with. That’s why we aren’t specific about our sin. That’s why we avoid accountability and anything that resembles a deep, meaningful relationship. That’s why we don’t talk too much in small group. That’s why we keep it all about the learning (head) and avoid the sharing (heart). That’s why we hide behind clichés and catch-phrases. Indeed we all know that…

It’s not safe at church.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can decide to be different at church. We can accept people despite their flaws. We can value the journey toward holiness more than the destination. We can encourage people toward Christ and let God worry about their maturity challenges. We can break the mold that defines our assumptions about how people “ought” to be. We can confess our flaws and reject the notion that any of us has it all together. And we can love, really love, without conditions.

We can make it safe at church.

Reflections on the End of My Marriage

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I’m the guy who has to know where he’s going. I need to know what’s next. A year before I graduated from college I began worrying because I didn’t know where I’d be the next year. I like to have a vision for my future because that serves as a compass for my daily life: a metanarrative that defines my story. One of my visions was that I was going to be the guy who was married for 75 years. I was going to be the guy who beat the odds. I was going to be the guy everyone looked up to; proof that marriage can work when people decide to make it work. Now I’m just the guy whose marriage failed at mid-life. I’m another statistic. I’m the overweight guy with a Harley, a tattoo, and a divorce. The loss of a vision is difficult to mourn.

heart bMy heart is broken. Shattered. Destroyed maybe is a better word. People keep asking how I’m doing, but I honestly don’t know how I’m doing. I feel numb. And lonely. I wonder how I can ever love again. Maybe that was my one shot. How many chances do we really have at true love? She was the love of my life, my soul-mate, and now she’s just the mother of my children. Over the last few years I’ve had to build walls in my heart to protect myself from the pain. Now those walls are thick, entrenched, and I wonder if my heart will ever be penetrated again. I even wonder if God will be able to break in and replace what has been stolen from me.

My children are my solace. They make me smile. They give me optimism. I know they care for me and hurt with me. It’s easy to wonder, in times such as these, if I’m a complete failure as a family man. My children reassure me that I can succeed at the thing that matters most to me. I tried desperately to protect them from this but I could find no safety for them: either damage them by divorcing or damage them by not divorcing. I chose the lesser of the two evils I think… I hope.

Sometimes life just doesn’t go like we plan it. We can work, and try, and pay attention, and invest all of ourselves and in the end sometimes it’s just not enough. Whenever we’re dealing with people we are out of control because people don’t always cooperate with our plans. I used to think I could love so fully, so completely, that I could overcome whatever obstacle presented itself. But sometimes loving well just isn’t enough. Even God’s perfect love isn’t enough for some people. If God experiences broken relationship with fallen people, I should expect no less. And if God can keep loving people despite our propensity to break hearts, perhaps I can too, if he’ll teach me. I desperately need a teacher now.

Confessions of a Controlaholic

I’m a control guy. I like to be in control. I don’t mind if someone elcontrolse is in control if they are competent, but generally speaking I’d prefer to be in the driver’s seat. I’m smart. I get along with people. I make generally good decisions. My analysis skills are excellent. I don’t mind asking others for input, but I’d prefer to keep the final decision in-house if you know what I mean. I’m perfectly capable of handling my life. Heck, I could probably even do a better job with your life if you’d just listen to me.

This week I’ve been thinking about powerlessness and I must say, I’m thoroughly uncomfortable with the entire concept. The first step to recovery is admitting we are powerless. Who wants to do that? Who wants to admit defeat? Who wants to confess weakness? Who wants to acknowledge inability to overcome? I don’t want to do that. And I can’t imagine that I would be any different if I had a serious addiction.

In his book Addiction & Grace Dr. May says that he first tried to “fix” all the addicts he treated but met with great failure. It wasn’t until he realized his own addictions, admitted he was powerless to overcome them, and surrendered the control that he began to not only heal himself, but help guide others toward healing.

I believe I need to stop fighting for control. I believe it is better for me to surrender to Holy Spirit and allow him to be in control of my life. The problem is, I don’t want to be powerless. It makes me feel weak and helpless and… out of control. And I’m afraid that God is going to do something drastic to force me to come to terms with my own powerlessness. I’m trying to let go but it is just so unnatural for me. I want Jesus to be in control of my life as long as he takes me where I’ve decided I’m going.

God please be patient with me. I’m coming to terms with my own powerlessness as quickly as possible.