In Pursuit of Peace

Blog 9 - Header

Over the last few years, I have reread Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s biography by Eric Metaxas several times, captivated by Bonhoeffer’s relentless hope in the most perilous of times. He was a well-known German pastor, theologian, and vocal opponent to the Nazi dictatorship in WWII, eventually executed by the Nazis for his outspoken faith and political activism, when he was only 39. Over a decade earlier, he had come to the United States for seminary and could have stayed here where he would have been safe and secure, but he believed that God needed him, and the people of Germany needed him to fight this war of evil, not run from it. He decided to go back knowing that he would be targeted by the Nazi regime. He chose to go back to the hornet’s nest.

There is a paragraph in his biography that spoke to me about his bravery.

There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.[1]

Blog 9 - Quote 1

For years I had chosen security, the majority of my life, actually. I was terrified of flying, so I found myself hiding from opportunities that would be further than a car ride away. As Restore has grown, I have worked to fight through my anxieties, surrendering as best I could to endure a flight to Central America or the occasional trip to Europe. As I have gotten older, though, the trips are longer, the physical effects make me weary, my nervous anticipation increases, and I often feel dread when an opportunity arises.

Earlier this year I had a choice to go to Africa with Restore, a place I have never been, spending nearly 24 hours traveling to arrive in a remote village to spend a week with 20 people whom I have never met. I did not have to go. The secure thing would be to just stay here, in Tennessee, avoiding all of the unpleasant feelings that I knew would accompany my travels.

Traveling wasn’t the way to safety, it wasn’t a place of security. It was going to be extremely difficult, scary, and uncomfortable. I would have no security or control. My only source of bravery came from the overwhelming peace that I knew I was supposed to go, because God had called me. It was apparent that God had opened a door and He was saying that He wanted me to go to Africa.

Blog 9 - Quote 2

As Bonhoeffer said, God promises peace is possible, but only with great courage.

I have grown immensely from my trip to Africa. It has called me into a deeper call to living in the peace of faith so that I will follow His lead and His guiding into my destiny.

 

[1] Metaxas, Eric. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Page 241

Thirsty for Meaning

Blog 8 Title

By: Scott Reall

One day, as Jesus was walking through Samaria on a hot day, he came upon a well in the middle of the desert. Nobody was there except this Samaritan woman. Jesus and the woman got into a discussion about her life—as Christ often does; pulling us out of deep isolation and exposing our true human condition. What we learn about this woman is that she was struggling. We know that she struggled with shame as she came to the well at a time that no one else would be there. Jesus exposed her human condition. We see a pattern of her search for love and purpose as she had been married five times. She was seeking the answer for her human condition: the longing to be loved and the find the meaning and purpose of life with love. [1]

In this encounter, Jesus is speaking to the whole human race about our struggles with our human condition. Outside of a relationship with Him, anywhere we turn to find the answer of our longing hearts or to feel the meaning and purpose of love has the potential to often leave us empty and void of that love and meaning. Theologian Richard Rohr speaks of this longing for love. Rohr teaches:

“What we lack in an addictive society or a family is a sense of being alive, really interiorly alive. And so we look for pseudo-ways to feel alive. They never work, but for some reason they’re better than doing nothing. Nicotine, caffeine, eating food to give us some kind of sensation, pouring liquor our our throats. Or we overstimulate ourselves by gambling or by sexual activity – something to make a non-alive person feel alive. It’s a testimony to an utter lack of spirituality.” [2]

The world is filled with broken people like the woman at the well, desperate for love and significance. Within the human condition is an innate desire to love and be loved, so why are there so many broken hearts? Is there anything in this world that gives us as much meaning as love? Many of us try to deny our need for love by distracting our consciousness with life-controlling issues, but our hearts will never be truly satisfied.

Blog 8 - Quote 1.png

At the end of the day, we all have one core need—to be loved. When this is absent from our lives, we experience lack of purpose and deep feelings of isolation, because a life without love feels meaningless.

Blog 8 - Quote 2.png

I often experience the feeling of meaninglessness when I am in downtime. Sometimes weekends, holidays, or being alone at night. In those moments of feeling disconnected to the purpose of my life, I notice a slight depression ormelancholy, then comes this instinctive awareness of longing for intimate connection. If I stay disconnected, the depression and melancholy gets more intense, and so does my need to escape. However I chose to numb, it disconnects me from the true meaning of my life.

Meaninglessness is the plague of modern man. We all have been the woman at the well. We all are searching and longing for an answer. Christ, as he presents Himself, acknowledges that we can drink all day long, insatiably unsatisfied, and the world will offer us no better option that to keep coming back to the same old well.


[1]Bible, John, 4:1-26

[2]Rohr, Richard. “Feeling Alive.”

The 3 Elements of Change

By: Scott Reall

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.34.59 PM

Do you remember your new year’s resolution? Probably not. In fact, we know that more than 90% of New-Year Resolutions have failed by March.[1] Unless you are part of the 10%, you are probably shrugging your shoulders and thinking, ‘well there’s always next year.’ Lasting change is hard work, and total transformation can feel even more impossible.

The longer I live, the more set in my ways I become and change isn’t always the most welcome experience. It seems like when we’re younger, we embrace change a lot easier – life is full of new opportunities and challenges and we’re excited to be apart of the many new seasons of life. But, with each passing year we become settled into a certain pattern, we get into a comfort-zone and start to resist change.

The sad thing about settling is that we stop growing. We miss opportunities that will challenge us; not stepping into new environments that could change our perspective, skipping out of relationships in a desire to stay “safe.”

Personal growth cannot happen is we don’t embrace the uncomfortableness of change.

I have spent the better part of my adult life trying to help people who know they need to change, but feel stuck and afraid that they will always be this way. We have a saying that we use a lot, ‘when we are stuck in our normality, we fiercely cling to what we know.’ Even if it’s dysfunctional, destructive, or keeps us from growing…we resist change. Most, if not all of the time, the fear of the unknown has us settling for lives so inferior to what we are capable of living.

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.41.25 PM

So, how is real change going to happen? If we don’t want to be stuck, but year-after-year find ourselves in the 90% of resolution dropouts, what now?

There are 3 mental and emotional shifts that must happen in order to let go of the old, before we can embrace the new.

  1. Vision. Michelangelo said, “I saw the angel in the stone and I carved until I set him free.” We need to always begin the change process with a vision of where we are going and what we are going to become. Vision always creates intrinsic motivation, which creates a clear picture of the possibilities in a new life – all the good that will come from the change. You must see it before it can become a reality. One of the reasons vision is critical is because things will get difficult, and when they do you need a well-drawn map to guide your feet down the path.

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.44.02 PM

  1. Support. We need others who are walking a similar journey to freedom. In supportive relationships, we not only gain encouragement, but inspiration through each-others successes and struggles. Anytime we’re trying to change something in our lives, it’s very difficult—if not impossible—to do it alone. It’s absolutely critical that you have the necessary support. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, change jobs, re-evaluate a broken relationship, or quit smoking – find a healing community. It could be one or two hand selected friends, a counselor or therapist, or a small group of strangers.
  2. Grief. All change contains loss. To break away from something we have always known, even in the pursuit of something better, we must confront the loss that must be grieved. Saying goodbye is so important as we accept that the normality we have been living in is about to change and will never be the same. Only when you grieve the loss of your old life, are you ready for a new beginning.

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.47.30 PM

No matter where we are in life, no matter how old we are we need to be stepping into this always-evolving process of change. These steps are not always the most simple, or can be made in a day, but little by little you can re-train your brain to begin a new way of thinking, leading to a new way of living.

[1] Statistic Brain Research Institute

Am I living a fear-based life or a faith-based life?

Written By: Scott Reall

Am I living a fear-based life or a faith-based life?

It appears to me that almost all fears that creep into my life come from a place of distrust. Where my faith is short and my vision of God is blurred, I fall into patterns of anxiousness and dysfunction.

In essence the world has crowded God out of my life and fear has taken root.

All through Jesus’ life he encourages us to not fear, but to have courage and to have faith. Am I living a fear-based life or a faith-based life? This has been a place of great inconsistency with me, thus the sporadic patterns of sometimes peace and other times of bitter isolation and angst. I believe the answer is in the transformation of my heart. Peace comes from entrusting God with all my life—not just “spiritual” places, but deep into the recesses of my human heart.

If I will go there with Him and surrender all at that level, I will find no regrets or real fears; no more shame no more doubt. I will be left with “the peace of God, that surpasses all understanding[1]“. This is where I want to live the remaining days of my life.

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 10.51.42 PM

[1] Philippians 4:7 – NKJV

 

A Motive to Love.

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-9-15-33-pm

You cannot give away what you do not have. The majority of my life what I thought was love was actually dependency, needing a person to give me what I thought I needed, instead of getting it from God. I was not loving others, but needing them. When God is the central source of my life I can truly love another human being freely because I believe “Love does not demand its own way”. [1]

If I go to God to be my source for love I find it in abundance, then can I enter relationships with something to give away. This is what true intrinsic motivation to love looks like, it comes from a place of total freedom… I love you just because I do—not expecting anything in return. Love that is given conditionally so that I get something in return is not true love but manipulation. This is being selfish and it is not about loving you well, but all about me.

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-2-24-36-pm

When I feel lonely, abandoned, isolated, wounded or hurt my motivation becomes tested. It is in my pain that my true motivation is revealed. If my motivation is fear driven then when I am in the pressure of a crisis and feeling all those difficult feelings, I’m going to slip into my codependency. I continue to learn in my own struggles the unique and powerful difference between the extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

What I have learned about myself is that I am really driven by the need of your approval and acceptance to make me feel lovable. I can be easily dependent on your approval and acceptance at the expense of being dishonest with you and myself. If God is my primary source for love then he is whom I seek for my value. Seeking fulfillment outside of God gets me in trouble. The pattern is I give to get which is functioning from a deficit and it is very dysfunctional.

If the truth will set me free, then the truth is nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. I must accept this truth and trust God will do for me what I cannot do for myself. God must become everything to me first, and then I can reach towards others with the gift of love, instead of the manipulation of neediness.

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-8-44-14-pm

Growing up, I always knew that when I went home someone would be there to love me no matter what. Like that love, Christ’s love for me is unconditional and I do not have to earn it. Daily, God is teaching me to love, transforming and pursuing me until I come home to him.

[1] 1 Corinthians 13:5 New Living Translation

Why I run from what I long for…

 

0006

Recently, I have been stuck in a pattern that I dislike: longing for intimacy, but being terrified of vulnerability. For me, there are two types of vulnerability: one type I bring into a small group; the second I bring to one-on-one relationship. In close personal relationship I am far more guarded. I am comfortable in group, but in one on one relationships, I retreat because the risk is so much greater. Vulnerability with those I’m closest with requires honesty and truth about what I am longing for and what my weaknesses are; it is here that I am most afraid. In truth, I am fully aware that you can use my vulnerability against me and choose to reject me.

Rejection would really hurt so I remain guarded, distant, disconnected, no intimacy in close relationships, and I remain lonely.

What I have come to realize is that I fiercely cling to what I know. Even though I may be suffering by clinging to dysfunction, I don’t do anything to change it. Instead, I continue to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. I fear confronting a reality that I find unacceptable. But I accept it fearing that I will just make it worse if I try to change it.

This pattern becomes dangerous because I isolate and withdraw, then use some type of escape to fill the void, perpetuating resentment and self-pity. This pattern continues repeating with some small periods of relief like vacations or trips–but at the heart of it is loneliness. I stop trying to connect.

Brené Brown says, “Those who are vulnerable and risk pain and suffering from vulnerability live whole-heartedly; imperfect and wired for struggle, but worthy of love and belonging.”[1]

blog 3-1

What I am learning in this struggle is people deserve to know the truth. Yes, there is risk and potential suffering from sharing the truth, but it is the only path to being truly known. Isolation is the fertile soil of making bad choices to alleviate the pain. I can choose to suffer in isolation and silence withholding my truth from people, knowing that it will never bear fruit other than loneliness, or I can choose to suffer in the power of being known.

The very thing I run from is the very thing I long for.

blog 3-2

The only way I am going to grow and enter into the sacred place of intimacy is to risk truth in vulnerability. So I have decided that I am not going to suffer in isolation anymore, because vulnerability is the only path that leads to connection with others and ultimately myself.

 

[1] Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Conditional Gratitude

gratitude

Gratitude comes from an attitude of acceptance

I was in group the other day, we were talking about struggles with anxiety and stress. I shared that the reality about my anxiety is that it stems from areas of my life that I am trying to “control” and I can’t. In my fear I turn to obsessing and worrying about the uncontrollable and it creates a lot of anxiety in my life.

That is why admitting my powerlessness is so foundational to me being free.

Recently, I have become more and more aware of my physical diminishment as I turn 60. This is about the age my Dad was when he got diagnosed with cancer. So now a stomachache makes me question, could that be cancer? I’m the age he was when he was diagnosed—am I next? I start to become anxious about something I have absolutely no control over. I can’t control cancer, or getting older, and the inevitably that someday I will get sick, and I will die, and there isn’t anything I can do about that. I truly am powerless over getting older and what will come as I age.

If I let worry take over I become resentful with the realities of life, and eventually depression creeps up to stop me from obsessing. I have always heard that if you are surrendering to self-pity or resentment, you are headed toward isolation—I really relate to that.

isolation

A good friend of mine who participates in AA gave me a surprising solution to my worry. He said that a heart of gratitude is the perfect antidote for the anxiety that we feel when we cannot control things. I can already hear your comments…Gratitude? That’s the big solution? But this gratitude always comes through the attitude of acceptance.

“Whenever I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation-some fact of my life-unacceptable to me, and I find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.”[i]

Interesting concept isn’t it? Learning to be grateful for whatever is going on in my life at this moment, because I know it’s a part of God’s plan and there is something good that is going to grow out of it. Only then can I become grateful for the growth of my character through the most unacceptable of circumstances.

Too often, our gratitude is contingent on our lives going the way we want.

Folks, God just doesn’t working that way.

Paul asked God three times to remove his thorn and God said nope, I’m not going to do it because, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”[ii] In other words, God is saying, “Paul, be grateful for where you are and what it is that you are dealing with because I have a plan for it. I am taking care of it.”

Be grateful my friends and accept life for what it is today knowing that our hope is growing on the ground that we are standing.

 

[i] Alcoholics Anonymous “The Big Book” Chapter ‘Acceptance is the Answer’

[ii] Bible 2 Corinthians 12:9, English Standard Version