Choose Wisely

When you experience a move of God all you want to do is tell people about what God has done.  Filled with such hope and confidence, all you want to do is share it.  So here I was completely intent on telling my story any and every chance I got when something unexpected happened. All of a sudden, I lost all motivation to tell my story. The bizarre confidence I had gained in telling my story was gone. I looked up and all of a sudden my story had lost its excitement. What I once felt could not be stopped had come to a screeching halt.  So hold on...what has just happened here?! I was just soaring above the trees telling my story of hope to all who might come along and then...thud.

I awoke with a mouth full of dirt, face firmly planted on the ground. I picked myself up and dusted off the soil from my clothes.  Now, I had mentioned in my prior two posts that my story was becoming increasingly more real the more that I told it. So what would happen if I stopped telling it? Would my story be any different?  If my story loses steam what happens?  Does it change my story?

A lesson I have learned in other areas of my life is that what we do not know has the potential to hurt us.  Early in the sharing of our story, we must learn to choose wisely who we share it with.  When God moves we want to shout it from the mountaintops, but what we may not realize is there is a time for everything.  Early in the process of telling your story, the response of others can play a crucial role in fueling your story.

Who we choose to share it with can have damaging consequences.  It can fan the flame or it has the power to extinguish your flame.  This is the perfect time to take it to God.  Ask Him who you should share your story with and when.  Seek His guidance before you blurt out all that God has done!  The time will come when you share your story with anyone willing to listen, but now is not the time.  Pray often and choose wisely...

A Story To Tell

So, here I stood a new person! I was so excited and so scared at the same time. Excited for what God had done, scared to go back to the Spirit of Fear I knew too well. I had yet to tell a soul. Until one morning when God told me to tell my daughter who was nine at the time. We had about twenty or thirty minutes drive to get where we were going. So how do I explain this to a nine year old? Somehow God gave me the words to say. The more I told, the more excitement and confidence I gained. I dropped her off at her grandma’s and headed to my counselor’s office. On my drive there God told me to tell my counselor. After telling my counselor, I left his office and began my way back home.

I can not remember how, but before I knew it I was telling my mom over the phone. My story was becoming real the more I told it. The next thing I remember was being at a client’s office and God telling me to tell my client. God began to use my story to speak to other people. He was saying things to people I do not remember saying. Weird, I know.

During my time with my client, she asked me to stop so she could write something down. I was baffled that God would say something to others through my story. It was clear by now that I had to continue telling my story. I remember distinctly having a conversation with God before telling my client. I say conversation, but I was largely debating with God as to why I should tell my client.

I was silly to try and debate with God, but I was being real. In this conversation/debate God revealed two things to me. One, God did not write my story so I could keep it to myself. Two, I needed to tell my story as much as other people needed to hear it. Telling it was essential to my healing.

So I had told most of the people who needed to hear it, but I shied away from telling my wife Kristi. Of anyone who needed to hear it, She did, but I was afraid. What if it did not last? How hard it would be for her to hear this and then see me backslide towards a Sprit of Fear. The time had come to tell her and I could not hide from it anymore.

Of anyone who needed this story besides myself, Kristi was on the top of my list. She had seen me at my worst and knew my anxiety might not go away. She had taken care of me when I could not take care of myself. I feel she was as hesitant to believe in this miracle as I was. Mainly because it would change everything about our lives going forward.

A Bizarre Confidence

God, I remember when you did the impossible. I was taking a basic programming class in a long line of classes working towards finishing a degree I had started years before. I knew the concepts in this class, I just was not familiar with this specific language. I was dreading going through a class as basic as this as my knowledge was more adept than this class would lead you to believe. I would not say that the class was beneath me, but I was not thrilled about having to spend my time going through it. At the same time, it was a programming class which was the focus of my degree. So I was somewhat happy to be taking a core class which would lead me to towards completing my degree. It was here, in the basic, in the mundane, where God chose to do the impossible. Finishing this whole degree was something I felt God led me to do. I was still experiencing chronic anxiety on a regular basis. My anxiety level had quickly increased while taking classes. I believe my wife Kristi was irritated with me and my insistence on finishing this degree. I was stuck trying to defend my decision while trying to gain confidence in my field of programming. I was stuck on an assignment which was taking far too long for what it was worth.

It was here in the middle of my frustration where God showed up. This assignment tripped me up and I was exhausted from trying to solve it. It was a defining moment where God said, “Craig what is the simplest, most unelegant way you could solve this problem?” In less than thirty minutes, I solved the problem I had just spent four hours trying to figure out. I was blown away!

So I approached my next problem. Within thirty minutes I had solved this one. I continued with my next one and yet again I completed it. I began to feel this bizarre confidence, not in myself, but that God had created me for this. I felt confident that with God’s help, I could solve any programming problem that was put in front of me. I did not know all of this language, but I had no doubt I could face any challenge with God’s help.

Over the next twenty-four hours I experienced something I will never forget. I awoke the next morning still bearing this bizarre confidence I had discovered the day before. There was this freedom, I was significantly lighter than before. Anxiety which had held me captive just the day before was GONE! I went through the day in disbelief. This couldn’t be right?!? I had prayed for God to help me with my anxiety before, but this time it was completely gone.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It was at this time I remembere a verse in the Bible which says that God prays on our behalf even when we do not know what to pray. Another twenty-four hours went by and I still felt this way. Could this be my new normal?

Accepting My Condition

In a previous article, I wrote about the choices I had when faced with chronic anxiety. One of the topics I touched on during this series was the idea of “Accepting My Condition.” Many times friends or family members will encourage you to “accept your condition” as a piece of advice. While I mentioned that people do not understand what they are asking when they propose this piece of advice, I failed to consider what it might have meant. My advice from Make It All Go Away was not completely off-base, but it did not consider all of the other possible implications. To be fair, my interpretation of their advice was not completely based on truth. When you are living in the midst of fear much of what you are believing is based on lies. My interpretation was focused on statements like, “you are not like you used to be”, “you are less than you once were,” or “you’ll never be what you could have been.” It was focused on telling me what I am not.

Now, accepting my condition might reveal some new challenges, but I doubt that it is all about telling me what I am not. Asking the right questions will reveal possible wisdom. Accepting my condition might mean that I realize my new-found limitations and make adjustments. Accepting who I am now is merely embracing a better understanding of who God created me to be. It is not believing that I lost something, but that I have gained understanding of who I am.

So what can come of this newfound understanding? A discovery of the environmental conditions which I can best thrive in. While it is true that finding work which meets these criteria is much more difficult than before, it means I now know what is needed for me to thrive. It means I now know what I am looking for in a career opportunity.

It is not saying everything I can not do, it is saying what conditions are needed for me to do my best. It is like discovering the recipe or formula needed for fulfilling work for Craig. Some might venture to say this new found understanding is clarity. Clarity is something people pray for, long for, and seek. I have not been given a list of limitations, I have been given a gift!

Agreements - The Enemy of God and Man - Part 1

The human brain is one of the most fascinating creations on planet Earth. One could spend their entire life devoted to studying the brain and not scratch the surface of all it has to offer. What we choose to believe in our lives has the power to raise us up or derail our lives for all eternity. It is no wonder that our Enemy, The Devil, spends vasts amount of time and energy right in the middle of shaping or reshaping our belief system. It is in our belief system where most of the battle is won or lost. If this area is so important to the human condition, why do we as believers not spend more time here? Shaping our childrens’ beliefs should be at the top of our lists as parents. Still we spend time on things like not raising one of “those” types of kids. Largely as parents, I believe we make parenting about ourselves and not about the kids. Yep, I said it, we are selfish.

I do not have to spend much time to show you that humans are selfish, do I? As parents we do not teach our kids to say “mine.” This response is innate, something we come out of the womb with. So why so much hostility when I suggest that parents are selfish? Usually when we fight some type of feedback it is because deep down we know there is truth in it.

It is not that shaping our children into being a well-mannered, productive member of society is such a bad thing. The problem lies in that we are not giving our kids, essential truth (Bible-based), to take with them into adulthood. We fail in teaching our kids about identity in Christ, what it means to live for Christ, finding our Chazown or dream. Why? I believe it is because we, as adults, do not have a good grip on what these things mean for us. We cannot teach what we do not understand.

I am not suggesting nor do I believe that we are doomed as a species. I am saying we need to wake up to what is really important as humans, as parents, and as Believers. This topic is extremely broad, so I will begin by covering the lies which we believe which have such a strong pull on our lives. Being able to discern lies from truth is one of the essentials of living as a believer. If we cannot tell the difference, we will fall for lies every time.

How can I tell we as humans cannot tell the difference between the truth and lies? I am guilty of believing lies and applying those lies to my life. These lies or agreements, are beliefs about life or anything which set themselves up against the knowledge of God(the Bible). As long as these agreements present themselves as truth in our lives, they have the power to prevent us as Believers from living the lives God has planned for us as His children.

Make It All Go Away - Part 2

Many might ask me why I did not or do not just pray for God to “Make It All Go Away.” This is an completely valid question as it touches on many things besides the fact that if this prayer was answered, the fear/anxiety would all be gone. On the surface this makes complete sense. When one starts digging, there are other factors to consider besides what seems so obvious. There are two things to keep in mind with this prayer, the faith required to pray this and the potential costs of praying this prayer. When examining the faith required to pray this kind of prayer I would consider two things. The amount required means the believer actually believes God can or will do this. Quite simply, one believes God is capable of answering the prayer. The second part when examining the faith required is one is willing to voice this concern and submit this to God regardless of the outcome. No matter what the outcome, the faith of the believer is strong enough to handle God’s answer.

My personal struggle was not whether God was or is able to answer the prayer. I completely believe God is able to do abundantly more than I can ask, think, or imagine. My struggle lies within the second part of this idea. If God says No, was my faith in a place to handle His answer. At the time of this event, I was not at a place where my faith could handle His answer. My concern was that His answer would cause a crisis of belief when it comes to my faith.

The second thing to think about is the potential costs of praying this prayer. One might say, Praying is free, what cost? I would look beyond financial costs. What happens if God says No? Is the faith of the believer strong enough to handle this answer? If one values something they tend to protect it. The level of protection varies depending on the amount they value the item. In my case, my faith, was as important as the air I breath. This was all I had at the time. I could not handle a crisis of belief. Not at that time.

So why did I not pray this prayer? Quite simply... FEAR. Was this fear rational, no. But the potential cost was not something I would dare take a chance on. When fear grips you as much as it had a hold on me, you begin to accept ideas(sometimes called agreements) that develop as the line between the truth and lies gets blurry. The further inside your head you go, the harder it is to find your way out. We’ll discuss finding your way out in greater detail later.

From this, I learned to ask one question, what lies am I believing which set themselve up against the Word of God?

My Apple Family

So, praying helped to ease my rocking, praise Jesus! But now what do I do?! How do I get back on my feet? What does it look like when I get there? Prior to this point it took all of me to make it through the day. I was not used to thinking about anything else. The highlight of my week was making it to church each Saturday. It still is, but that was all I had at the time. My wife Kristi and my Mom were taking care of me, making sure I took my meds, and trying their best to understand. I was making it out of the house, taking walks around the block, but what else should or could I do at this point? What hope did I have of leading a "normal" life? Do people recover from OCD and anxiety? I had many questions and different people had different answers to my questions. Some people would not answer my questions, no matter how subtle they were. Some were quick to tell me that I needed to accept my condition and adjust accordingly.

Adjust accordingly...I tried my best to figure out what this meant for me personally. I tried my hand in Real Estate, thinking I could set my own schedule and make a decent living. It was something I really thought I would enjoy and I did, but 2007-2008 was not the time to try to break into life as a realtor. It was one of the worst financial markets of our time. After one year of being a realtor, I broke even financially and decided to look elsewhere for a career, but where?

I was often reading job postings hoping to find something when one day I stumbled onto an ad to work for Apple retail stores. On a whim, I applied online and soon forgot about it. This wouldn't be my first time to apply online and never hear a word back from a company. It was late in the year when I received a call from Apple about a position I had applied for months ago. I was eager for anything, so I went on 3-4 interviews before landing a position with Apple. I was new to Apple products, only having a MacBook Pro for six months prior to working there.

My training class was delayed several times which got me excited and left me hanging. Would this actually happen? It was around the first of a new year when my training class finally started. We began training in the basement of the mall where the Apple store was located. I never knew this mall even had a basement. The trainers where oddly excited about Apple culture and what it meant to work for Apple retail. I spent a couple of weeks in training which oddly enough did not involve being in the retail store. What type of retail job was this?! I was no stranger to working retail. What company in their right mind invests this much in their employees?

My time at Apple was more than merely a job. It allowed me to briefly forget about the whole concept of a job. I had the amazing privilege of helping people each and every day. It was a job in the sense that I had an obligation to show up when I was scheduled to work. I got paid...check! I received a lunch break each day which I would spend escaping a bit from the busyness of the store. The escape was different at Apple though, it was merely time to rest, eat, etc. It was not time spent avoiding the work I was doing or needed to be doing. My breaks were highly valued, but my work was not detestable either. I enjoyed it plain and simple.

In my time working at Apple I do not recall a single time having issues with my anxiety. I remember hustling to get to work, ready to leave at the end of the day, but nothing which I was unable to handle. I believe this as a time when God smiled down at me. It was not perfect by any means. I had frustrations with my job and with other people, but for a brief time I did not need to look or think of looking for work. The pay was not fantastic, but it was not the lowest in my lifetime either. My benefits were solid, rock solid.

I loved my time at Apple. I knew it would not last forever, but my feet seemed to be on solid ground for once.