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Memento of my evening with Dr Bob Rotella

Memento of my evening with Dr Bob Rotella

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” – Romans 8:18-21 (NIV)

Recently I had the opportunity to hear and meet the famous sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella.

After reading many of his books and finding help for my own mental health in his writings I was wondering if I should even bother going to this special event which was held at my local golf club. It really was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity but to be honest I wondered if I was setting myself up to be disappointed. What if I make the effort to go along and find just him repeating the same stories and facts that I had been reading in his books?

As is often the case with me I found myself gearing up for disappointment.

As I grow older I often find myself more disappointed with life. My expectations of where I “thought” I would be at this stage of life don’t match where I actually am. The reality of what I can accomplish in life doesn’t match up with my former expectations. Although, I have to admit that many things in my life, because of God and His abundant grace, are actually better than I expected.

It’s another election year in the USA and even though I no longer live in North America it’s interesting to see what expectations are being generated by the presidential candidates. One wonders what disappointments lie ahead – and for whom.

In the passage quoted above from Romans chapter eight, the apostle Paul reminds us that we live in a world packed full of disappointments. The reality of what we imagine “could be” or “should be” doesn’t meet our expectations. Paul says that creation, of which we are a part, is subjected to bondage to decay and frustration and is waiting to be liberated from this cycle.

Until God steps in and liberates us along with all creation, we will, unfortunately continue to be disappointed. Life, and the people who are part of it – including ourselves – will continue to fall short of expectation.

This doesn’t mean that we should take a fatalistic attitude to life and give up, but we move ahead in the grace and power of God knowing that He is the one who gives meaning to life even when our hopes seem to fade.

My evening with Dr. Bob Rotella turned out beautifully. My expectations were more than met. I was able to meet and talk with him for a few minutes before his presentation. We exchanged stories about common experiences and he told me of his opportunity to spend a day in my home town of Fort Worth, Texas with the great Ben Hogan. It was a memory I will treasure into the future.

Dr. Bob, as he is affectionately called, works with athletes of all abilities and walks of life. One of his major themes is that of expectation and disappointment. He well knows that what one expects in a competition is not always the result that one gets so process is much more critical than result. He continually reminds his clients that if they are committed to the process that they can control they won’t be as frustrated by the things they can’t control.

That’s a great lesson for all of us! I’m finding that my disappointments generally revolve around things I have little or no control of and that’s a recipe for more disappointment.

As my evening with Dr. Bob showed me, even though the world is fallen and decayed we will have experiences that do match expectation. But this isn’t guaranteed!

Ultimately for those who are followers of Jesus Christ, we are promised a glorious future that will not disappoint. Until then we live in a twisted world where disappointment will be woven into the fabric of life.

No matter what pleasures we may enjoy this side of heaven only in Jesus Christ will experience ultimately match expectation.

“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” – Hebrews 2:10-11 (NIV)

As we get into the Christmas season, the days seem to go by rapidly with thoughts of shopping, cards, and preparations for our annual celebration and the end of another calendar year. We don’t often take time to reflect on the reason we celebrate Christmas and our personal stake in it all.

At Christmas we who are followers of Jesus are often aghast at how the world around us prepares for the season with a mad frenzy. However, we ourselves become so caught up in the process that we forget our own sins, failures and shortcomings that were actually the reason God chose to send His Son to redeem us. This is denial at the highest level.

We are all subject to denial. For years of my life I tried to avoid or admit to personal failure not realizing that by doing so I was standing in the way of my own transformation. I’m sure during that time I never missed a Christmas Celebration.

The news this year has been full of heartbreaking stories of the victims of war, refugee movements and other major calamities. We don’t have to look very far to see the depths to which humanity has fallen.

If we ever needed personal and societal redemption it certainly is now! However, I’m not sure that true transformation of heart and character can be genuine without failure and personal setbacks. It’s very much an enigma to me.

Even though Jesus Christ did not experience failure as a result of personal sin, as fully human He did identify with all of us in His sufferings. In fact, the writer to the Hebrews tells us that He was “made perfect” through His sufferings. And in doing so He invites us into His family! He accepts the broken, the wounded and suffering and dares to call us family – brother, and sisters.

There was something that would have been incomplete about the life and ministry of Jesus without suffering and setback. I think the same is true for us. There’s something incomplete about our own transformation without suffering and failure. I’d rather this wasn’t the case but now I see there is no other way.

Jesus Christ came into this dark, broken world to bring transformation to our lives. We don’t often realize it was because of our personal failure and brokenness that He came. We’d like to think that we are “pretty good and decent” people who try to do our best and don’t have to ask God for very much. It’s that very attitude that blocks our personal transformation.

Now for me, Christmas is a time to reflect on my own neediness and failure for which I have no answer other than the Incarnate Son of God and His work in my own life and soul. Without His redeeming work I’m stranded without transformation and my sin and failure have no redemptive value whatsoever.

Christmas should be a reminder to us all the God sent His Son into a broken world to transform it. It won’t happen through political movements or self-improvement programs. God’s plan is more personal and profound that we ever realize.

Whatever failure, setback or suffering has been part of this year for us we must remember that Jesus joins us in our deepest struggles and doesn’t shrink back from accepting us as brothers and sisters. When we surrender to Him even failure can be transforming if we allow its lessons to transform our hearts. That seems to be what God’s family is all about and I’m so grateful to be accepted into it – all because of Him.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  – Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

I don’t know about you, but for many years I had the fear that people would really find out that I was much more of a mess than I appeared.

I’ll never forget the day that I had to sit down before my family and close friends and admit to a string of failures that had spanned a number of years. Sparing the gory details, just believe me when I say I was a train wreck. Without realizing it, I was missing out on major sources of wholeness in my life – for many reasons. Among them was the fact that I was trying to be “the hero” as I call it, moving through life like a knight in shining armor while neglecting key relationships with those around me.

As I interact with people on a personal level more and more I see that people, especially men, are much more alike than we are different, at least when it comes to opening up about our fears, failures and imperfections. I realize that I’m speaking in generalities but I do see some consistent trends.

We men, in general, don’t like to admit that we have needs.

We men, in general, work hard to cover up fears, failure and imperfections so that others will think the best of us.

We men, in general, think that vulnerability is a sign of weakness and if we go there will make us even more of a failure than we think we already are.

Several years ago, through a God-ordained and defining experience of personal failure and brokenness I discovered just the opposite.

When I started to shed the cloak of “perfection” and began to more openly confess and admit my sin, failure and imperfection I actually discovered that people can be forgiving. They can be loving and accepting too.

It’s fascinating to me that true confession is actually getting the bad stuff out in the open so everyone, including myself, can say, “Yes, that’s horrible! But I love and forgive you. I know the bad stuff is not the real you!”

One of my first experiences of confession outside of my closest family members came when I asked to see a couple with whom my wife and I had come to know very well. I was almost certain when I walked into their home that it might be the last time I would ever enter their door. After they heard what I had to say that might, in my thinking, be the last time they would ever talk to me. Confession was on my heart and rejection was my expectation.

To my amazement, after hearing my broken, heartfelt confession my friends embraced me in a way I had never experienced before. Their response was just the opposite of what I was expecting.

I stumbled reluctantly into the reality that humility and vulnerability hold the key to the door of forgiveness and restoration.

Really, we don’t relate well to people who are fake – trying to make others believe they are something other than who they are.

As I’ve lived with this new lease on life for some years now I see that I grew up with a perspective that some counselors call “splitting.” It’s the idea that internally we “split” ourselves, others and the world into “all good” or “all bad.” This perspective will not endure reality over time. The very best of us have badness and imperfection all mixed together and it’s reflected in our world as well.

Since we all have failings and imperfections, why not admit to them? I have found that to be healthy and whole I have to live this way.

The verse quoted above from the Apostle Paul is an instruction to people of faith in Jesus to be kind, compassionate and forgiving. It’s not a suggestion! It’s a command based on what Jesus has already done for all mankind. The perfect man gave His life for completely imperfect people. How can we follow Him without confessing our sin to others, asking for their forgiveness and forgiving them?

In order to pull this off we need to have communities of people who express faith in Jesus and follow Him to be modeling this – daily! That’s a challenge to me, but it’s a challenge to you as well. We need environments of grace and relationships of trust in order to make this work, but that’s another subject!

What are you hiding today and from whom? What do you fear that someone close to you might find out about you? What are you not disclosing to a friend or family member?

What I didn’t know was that what I was hiding with the greatest passion could actually lead to greater wholeness and happiness in my life if I only would admit to failure as a starting point.

When I started taking more steps toward vulnerability in my own life, carefully exposing my failures to trusted friends and family and dropping my “appearance” of arrogance and perfection, I found people to be much more forgiving and accepting than I realized.

Humility and vulnerability truly hold the key to the door labelled “forgiveness.”

I’m certainly never going get everything right and I’ll never be perfect in this life. But I can say that greater wholeness of life came home to my heart when my imaginary “knight in shining armor” got down off of his horse and started seeking grace and forgiveness. It’s freely available to the humble of heart.

“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, ‘Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’” – 2 Samuel 11:2-3 (NIV)

One of the big items in the news this week is the Ashley Madison Hack. For those who may be uninformed “Ashley Madison” is a website based in North America that helps people to facilitate adulterous affairs. When the website was hacked recently it resulted in the public exposure of the private liaisons of literally thousands of people. I haven’t been following the gossip but evidently there are some very well-known people of great public influence whose reputations are now forever soiled.

It’s now being reported in Christian circles that up to 400 pastors in North America may be handing in their resignations this Sunday because of exposure from the hack. (cf. www.relevantmagazine.com) This is, of course, a huge tragedy and one with far-reaching implications.

When people fail, especially those we trust, it hurts us deeply. The closer we are to them the more it hurts. Perhaps you can relate to me as one who has been both villain and victim.

I’m quite sure that most everyone who was exposed in the Ashley Madison hack never envisioned that their private sins would be made public. The more committed we are to individuality in our modern world the more we lose sight of the fact that our private lives have public implications.

For those of us well acquainted with failure – both our own and others – we learn a lot from the life of King David as recorded in 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12. David was a very public figure, a “man after God’s heart” and ruler of God’s chosen people. Yet in a moment of weakness he decided to have a private party with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. No one else was invited and that’s the way he wanted it.

Unfortunately, in the real world, as in the case of Ashley Madison, private parties become public eventually. As we read in 2 Samuel 12, David’s sin was exposed by the prophet Nathan and he paid a huge price for his misdeeds. His private party got “hacked” and rightly so.

It’s natural for us to want joy and pleasure in life. But when we want joy and pleasure exclusively for ourselves it turns nasty when we close out others close to us and have a private party with our secret pleasures.

In recent years, after reflecting on my own battles and failures, I’ve been learning that we were made for God’s pleasure who desires a deep and satisfying relationship with us. The enemy of our souls will always provide counterfeits and deceives us into thinking that we can close ourselves off from God and others to “get what we want.” Unfortunately, the private party always comes to a shocking and painful end.

One of my new life resolutions is – “No more private parties! God has a better plan!”

David, perhaps on one of his better days, reflecting on his life – both good and bad – penned these words –

“I have set the LORD always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 16:8-11 (NIV)

That’s the best description I know of the most enjoyable “party” anyone could attend. It’s public and it’s free for the asking! Everyone who attends is promised eternal pleasures and there no risk of exposure!

As we learn to embrace failure – both ours and others – let’s remember that we were created for pleasure. The One who created us holds the key and invites us to seek Him and enjoy Him every moment of our lives.

“’So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.’  But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’” Exodus 3:10-11 (NIV)

One of my earliest childhood memories, of which there are many, is that of constructing a home-made bomb that I nearly threw at a neighbor’s house.

I must have been around five or six years old at the time. One day our neighbors across the street had unexpected company and as a result I wasn’t being invited in to play with their children that day. It really messed up my plans! I got so mad that I thought I would construct my own bomb and throw it at their house!

The idea actually came from a television show that we had watched as a family some days prior to this. I can’t recall the name of the show but the lead character was being stalked by the bad guys on an island. To defend himself he found some gunpowder and rags and stuffed them in a hollow gourd he found in an old shed. Covering a strip of the cloth in gunpowder as a fuse the bomb was complete!

I followed my television counterpart by finding a small glass jar with a lid. I stuffed strips of cloth and soaked them in lighter fluid my father had for his cigarette lighter. The bomb came complete with a fuse which I was ready to light when my parents caught me looking for matches. Fortunately disaster was averted and my punishment was swift! Discipline was administered soundly in those days although I do recall my parents being more merciful than just!

Looking back on the experience, on the positive side it took real creativity, initiative, planning, and bravery to pull that off that stunt.  But you could also call my actions childish, selfish, stupid, cruel, and yes – evil!

That was my first and last experience of constructing bombs, although I grew quite fond of fireworks! Fortunately my life has not been defined by that mistake. However, since that time I have made other major blunders, mistakes and even evil practices that could so easily define me. I’m sure the same could be said about you.

In the passage quoted above God appears to Moses as He speaks from a bush that continues burning. It’s one of the most critical passages in all of Scripture where God commissions the His new leader of the nation Israel. Moses will go on to lead his people out of bondage in Egypt through the wilderness right to the brink of the Promised Land, a journey which will last for forty years. There are many things that define the life of Moses and his faithful leadership of His people under God’s direction. He’s known as one of Israel’s greatest leaders.

It’s not often that we reflect on the fact that Moses is also a murderer who some years earlier had killed an Egyptian slave, hid him in the sand and then fled to Midian. We tend to focus more on Moses’ identity as a chosen leader rather than a murderer but somehow in God’s economy there is room for both.

A significant lesson here that continues throughout Scripture is that God is continually redeeming people, especially in their sins and failures, and using them for His own powerful purposes.

Upon hearing God’s voice Moses first response was, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

Neither God nor Moses make any mention whatsoever about the murder incident that is recorded just a few verses earlier, although it may have occurred around forty years previously. I wonder if Moses, after all those years still felt unworthy of such a role as God had for him.

Whatever we think of our sins, failures and shortcomings, either our own or others, it’s important that we don’t allow them to define or control us. I think God showed Moses and every generation since then that failure need not be final but even in our failure God can bring us on to a better place if we allow Him to do His work in and through us.

The lesson for us is to believe in ourselves and others despite their failures. And more importantly to believe in our Lord and Maker who in His Son Jesus is bringing redemption and restoration to all who turn to Him in faith.

If the Bible’s record is accurate – and I believe it is – it’s good to know that if there’s a second chance for murderers there must be many more chances for all of us. Yes, even for childhood explosive experts!


“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Jesus Christ – Matthew 6:33-34 (NIV)

I think for most of my life I’ve been a pretty committed worrier. Perhaps like a good number of average people at any given time, if pressed to do so I can give you a pretty convincing list of things I’m worried about. There’s all the personal worries I have to cope with well as world news and events that are especially concerning for any sincere person who is seriously seeking to influence the world in a positive way.

Worry is on the rise in today’s connected world. We have constant 24/7 access to e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the list goes on! We have world news – mainly bad – being pushed upon us through many sources. You can find it or think about it any time of the day or night.

There’s even controversy about what actually constitutes “bad” news and sometimes that’s worrying. Lately there have been some major news events centering on Ireland where I live that have been very prominent on the world stage. During the past few weeks I have found myself becoming increasingly anxious and worried over events that no one else seemed concerned about at all. I’m often worried that others aren’t worried about what worries me! And that’s really worrying!

Even when I try to turn a blind eye to what I perceive to be “bad” news, someone else starts talking or tweeting about it and the cycle starts all over again!

There is a dynamic relationship between our thoughts and our feelings. There is obviously a very key connection here and I’m no expert on the subject.

The passage quoted above comes from the lips of Jesus Christ who told His followers that He would take care of them in a very painful, hostile and uncertain world. These words of reassurance come in the context of worrying about material things and having a personal relationship with God so intimate that He can be trusted with every aspect of life.

When Jesus says “seek first His (God’s) Kingdom and His (God’s) righteousness” He’s speaking a new language that the world around us will not recognize, I think. It’s here where Kingdom thinking and Kingdom feeling meet. Worry above all else is a very strong feeling but it is obviously influenced by our thinking.

If I listen (pay heed to, focus on, and cave in to) to the voices speaking around me I can easily become threatened, discouraged, anxious and even despairing. It does actually take positive effort to turn the other way – to God and His rule – and allow Him to influence my thinking and feeling.

We may indeed go through seasons of our lives, perhaps like this one, where we grow more and more anxious due to personal or world events. Perhaps its times like this when we need to ask ourselves some serious questions about whom we trust at the very center of our lives.

When I worry who am I saying is responsible for my life?

When I worry who am I saying is in control?

When I worry who am I really trusting?

In a wired world of constant connection I don’t find myself worrying any less than I used to. I don’t think the answer is to ignore the things that worry me but it poses a greater challenge for me to influence the world from the “inside out” which has perhaps always been the case.

The worries of the modern world challenge me not to be more aggressive but to be more trusting. A man more confident in an all-powerful God who knows what’s best for him and all of us and our world.

There’s a Kingdom there to be seeking. We’re being challenged to “seek Him first” in a world that’s largely ignoring Him. When worry and anxious thoughts and feelings consume us I think we’re being challenged to focus our attention elsewhere.

My thoughts on healthy acceptance of what we cannot change in life

“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” – Romans 8:23 (NIV)

A New Resolve: “Armed with the knowledge that God has my best interests in mind I can learn to trust Him through uncomfortable circumstances realizing that some of my deepest desires may remain unmet.”

Its springtime again and after a long winter we long for the weather to improve, at least in the northern hemisphere, so that we can get back to the enjoyment of outdoor activities. In reflection, I’m reminded that it’s not always a pleasant experience waiting for something positive to develop.

In this modern age of Internet communication and global travel we live in a world where instant gratification is not only expected but demanded. We have a difficult time waiting for anything, yet if we are honest, many of the deepest desires of our hearts remain unmet.

The reality of life is that we are destined to “groan inwardly as we wait,” as the Apostle Paul says so aptly above. For the believer in Jesus Christ life in this world will never be perfect but we live with the expectation that our full redemption will one day be complete.

However, in the present circumstances of life we always seem to be waiting for something we don’t yet have. I know single people who long to be married to the right person. I know married people who long to have happier marriages. I know childless couples who long to conceive a child of their own. I know unemployed people who are waiting for employment. I know cancer patients who are waiting for healing, and the list could go on endlessly.

In every season of my life I can look back to desires I had during each phase that at the time were unfulfilled. The same is true today. There are desires and aspirations in my own heart that are yet to be fulfilled. As I grow older it seems that time grows shorter and shorter and the reality is many of my deepest desires may never be completely fulfilled in this life.

In his book, “Living with Unfulfilled Desires,” the Swiss missionary Walter Trobisch records a series of conversations he has by letter with a young African. The African, being single and in his late teenage years is struggling with sexual desires and engaging in critical dialogue with the author. The key piece of advice Trobisch gives to this young man is, “You have to learn to live with unfulfilled desires.”

It seems that one of the great challenges of life is developing the maturity, resolve and skill to live with the tension that some of our deepest desires are yet to be met.

We can become fatalistic or try to dismiss, deaden or deny our desires. We can treat our desires as sinful and wall off desire as something that is apart from us. Not only can it not be done, it also would result in a lifeless existence.  A life without desire is no life at all.

Somehow God in His wisdom has given us good desires that find significant fulfillment when directed toward Him and used for His divine purposes in every walk of life. When we begin to shortcut the process and seek immediate gratification for ourselves things seem to go chaotic and crazy.

I’m learning that growth takes place in us when we wait patiently on God for the fulfillment of our desires.

When living with unfulfilled desires we can be grateful – grateful for where we are and grateful for where we have come from. It seems that learning gratitude throughout this life is something that God has given to us for our growth and our well-being.

God in His sovereignty has His purposes for you in whatever situation you currently face. God must be up to something when you have to wait for the fulfillment you long for. Waiting for God seems to be at the heart of the spiritual life. Our longing for fulfillment drives us to Him.

The longings of our heart can also cause us to live in the present with a perspective of hope for the future. We can look to the future and “wait eagerly for our adoption.”

Even in the darkest night and the deepest struggle we can know that our longings will one day find complete satisfaction in God and His Kingdom. That’s a real assurance in any season of life.

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