A Prayer to Be Less Selfish

In May of 2014, while in Prague…I saw a man on a bench. He was more than likely homeless and for some reason his pants were soaked. I watched him from a distance trying to will myself to go to him, and even with the language barrier, find a way to help him. Make myself go buy him another pair of pants—but I didn’t. I didn’t know how. It was yet another situation, albeit it a complex one, that made me realize how much I lacked certain personal skills.

I envy people who easily volunteer their time, open themselves up to strangers, and make themselves available to people in need.I didn’t even make myself available to my family. I felt I lacked an ability to get attached, care, and develop close relationships. I kept watching him, my heart breaking, so I prayed.  I prayed God would change me where I clearly couldn’t change myself. That He would help me become more available, accessible, and open.

Two years and some change later, I cried as I said good-bye to my stepmom before heading out on my road trip. I was taken back by the depth of emotions I felt about leaving, and how much my time with my family had meant to me. I was also saddened when I left my stepdad and when I left my cousin. Again, the intensity of the emotions took me by surprised, until, it finally dawn on me…I was opening up. I was allowing myself to get attached, vulnerable, and available.

While I took the year to work on my writing and continue to travel—I also consciously chose to make it a year I would start to spend more time with my family. Additionally, it became a year where through my travels, I would meet and connect with many people. It started by leveraging AirBnB to find places to stay. Again, this didn’t initially calculate with me, but I now realize, as strangers opened their homes to me, I opened myself to strangers. For the first time in my travels, I met, and fully interacted with people in ways I hadn’t been able to before.

I’m not as protective of my time and self, although the operative word is as protective. I can have a conversation without it needing to serve a purpose except that of getting to know someone, but I’m still not going to partake in small talk, drama, or pointless debates. This might not seem like a big deal, but to me, it means becoming less selfish and being on the right road to continued growth as a more selfless human being.

Let's sit, talk, share, and connect!
Let’s sit, talk, share, and connect!

Jesus made time for those He encountered. He always gave of Himself. He mandates we do the same—that we think of others before ourselves. That we pay attention to the people around us, who they are, and what they need.

I’ve come across people, who just like me, all they needed was to talk about Jesus Christ and share their testimony. People who wanted to be reassured of God’s faithfulness and goodness. In speaking with them, my faith was renewed. God has been sending me people with demands I can fulfill through being who I am in Him. In return, I’m rewarded by the experience and I know my prayer is being answered through taking part in being more like Him, and being there for others.

I don’t know what all I’ll have to show for the last year, but one thing that won’t be visible (as in a physical possession) but be the most significant is having begun to open up, give more of myself, and made myself available to real connections.

Choosing Abstinence

Tim Tebow is making some headlines again, not because he’s miraculously found himself on the NFL team roster, but because his two-month relationship to former Miss U.S.A. Olivia Culpo has come to a public end with her making a statement about Tebow’s refusal to have sex with her.  Tebow, a devout Christian who is living his faith under the scrutiny of the public is adamant about abstinence until marriage.

I haven’t been a Tim Tebow fan like many other Christians – until now.

Abstinence has become more of a taboo subject in our culture than sex.  The tide has shifted where judgement is levied on those who choose to abstain from sex versus those who are out using Tinder to hook-up with complete strangers a few times a week.

I don’t preach often about the moral decline of our society, but I fully believe our society is in a full spiral down to a fiery end.

But here’s the thing, I used to be not one to talk about such things as casual sex…since I’ve had my share, with men whose names I didn’t care to know. Before committing my life to Christ, sex was my escape of choice. Since Christ becoming the center of my life and choosing to obey him, I’ve abstained from sex for almost five years and plan on continuing to do so, until I’m married.

Let me tell you something – it’s INSANELY difficult. I easily think about sex a dozen times a day, most days. I’m an extremely physical and sexual person…so every day I pick-up that cross, and I pray for God to help me make it through the day.

I have changed what I watch, listen to, and read. I have removed the influences of society around me, which is a sex driven culture, as much as I can.  However, it doesn’t stop my own internal makeup, thoughts, and physiology. As the new popular saying goes “The Struggle is Real.”

Do I wonder if I’ll ever have sex again? Yes

Do I feel like some of the good years are slipping by in which I should be having sex? Yes

Have there been times when I’ve felt less sexy and desirable because I don’t behave in the same flirtatious ways as other women or my former self? Yes.

Have I had to go out of my way to avoid temptations. Yes

Is temptation constantly at my door. Yes

As it gotten easier…a little.

But the struggle is also absolutely worth it. My struggle with this is what brings me closer to God. My obeying Him is what makes my relationship to Him stronger. I would be devastated if in a moment of weakness I allowed my physical needs to be greater than my need for Him. I don’t want anything to stand between me and Him.

This is something that can’t add up or make sense to people who haven’t seek Christ and committed their lives to Him.  The judgement comes from those who don’t understand what it’s like to be enveloped in His love, glory, safety, leadership, and all powerful…EVERYTHING.

I know how good sex is/feels. I know sex is not an evil thing.  God created it.  He placed the desires for sex within us, we are biologically designed to want sex, we must have sex for the survival of our species. But He also spoke of when and how it’s appropriate.

It’s much more difficult to lead a moral life than live one where anything and everything is allowed. People don’t want any restrictions placed on their lives. I’m choosing the narrow path. I don’t judge those who choose the wider and easier road, but I do pray for them.

I pray they come to understand Jesus the way I’ve been blessed to because it makes life so much more beautiful, sweet, and joyful even through the hardest of trials and temptations.

Blessed are the Persecuted

It is beyond sad that there has been yet another mass shooting in the U.S. at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. My heart and prayers go out to the family of the victims, those still at the hospital recovering from their injuries and a community affected by this horrible tragedy.

The survivors have reported the shooter was targeting Christians, apparently, after shooting the teacher he asked students to stand-up and say what religion they were. The Christians were shot in the head, while those of other faith were shot in the leg.

This is the second mass shooting to target Christians (although the Charleston shooting was also race related) in less than 6 months. Back in June, during a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, nine people were killed by a gunman, including the senior pastor, state senator Clementa C. Pinckney; a tenth victim survived.

A beautiful thing happened though after the Charleston shooting because the families, community, and church members embodied what it means to be Christian. While very much in pain and deep suffering from their losses; they offered the shooter their forgiveness. They set the tone of how this senseless act of violence would be remembered…something all Christians can be proud and grateful for.

There’s been an onslaught in my newsfeed on Facebook since the Oregon shooting from fellow Christians condoning President Obama, mainstream media and arguing about gun laws. It’s a hateful stream of reading that do very little to represent the teachings of Jesus.

It is written in the Word of God, in Matthew 5:11-12 that because of our faith, we will be persecuted.

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

TEN. TEN faithful Christians stood and claimed their Savior probably knowing they would die. They did not deny Him when the time came and their reward in heaven is great. Christians are persecuted around the world but yet, they too continue to spread the Gospel. How incredibly pathetic and dishonoring is it for those who are simply bystanders to these acts to spread hate, blame and guilt?!? What about spreading prayers, a message of forgiveness, recognition for our Savior, and submission to His plan and understanding. How about being Christians and standing fast for whatever persecution might come our way for not being like others in our society.

Please delete whatever status you have written that does nothing to glorify Him and instead offer a prayer. Show the world the power of prayers and begin the remove the anger, hate, and blame which empower the Devil.

Long Overdue Answered Prayer

I woke up this morning in tears from a dream. I can’t remember the last time this happened. The dream came from the heavy emotions of yesterday; BGen Cooling’s last day.

I prayed for years to be blessed with the opportunity to be under the leadership of someone I respected, and admired…someone who inspired me. I’d pretty much given up on it though, especially, after arriving to MARFOREUR/AF in October 2013, and walking into the worst environment yet of my Marine Corps career. After a horrible year, I none the less agreed to stay for another year. I couldn’t bear the thought of not being there for the amazing Marines and civilians in the G-6 to provide them whatever level of buffering I could. Little did I know, staying another year was going to give me the opportunity to witness and benefit from what true leadership has to offer.

BGen Cooling is a demanding, genuine, caring and effective leader. He had a lot to tackle when he took command and a disgruntled, exhausted, and beat up staff to heal, rejuvenate, and motivate to perform. He achieved it all and within a year! It was inspiring to watch and learn from him.

At his “going away” yesterday, he reminded us all that he had slim to none chances of getting selected to General when he was selected. He was selected on his FIFTH time on the selection board, while on the verge of retirement. God’s hand was at play because he was undoubtedly the right man to come, and make the difference he made.

But the thing is, it’s not just the difference he made in the Command, but the huge difference he made in my life.

Remember when he brought me in to his office to discuss my future plans in the Marine Corps? At the time, I was basically ready to call it a day. The decision relied on whether or not the Lord planned to see me selected to LtCol…only to find out I was in fact in the below zone. Hate reliving this embarrassment. Anyway, something else happened instead that I never could have predicted. The Lord works in mysterious ways. His leadership example made me realize I owe it to the Marines to continue on and do what it takes to get promoted and get selected for Command.

His kind of leadership is what I’d been praying and waiting for

It took almost 20 years for me to experience great leadership. His kind of leadership is what I’d been praying and waiting for, I lead the way he does; I wanted to know what it was like to be under that kind of leadership. Being under the leadership of someone who truly cares, demands the best of his people, and exercises patience to mentor, correct and teach. He’s a genuine leader, unafraid to admit his shortcomings, weaknesses, and flaws; a man of integrity and faith.

There are way too many Marines out there who call themselves leaders, who aren’t, and who make the lives of the Marines under their charge miserable. I’ve always known this, but now that I’ve experienced real leadership; I know I have to pursue greater leadership opportunities because good leadership is the best thing I have to offer. Caring for Marines is as natural to me as breathing, so why would I let someone who doesn’t care as much lead Marines that could be under my charge?

In my dream, I let BGen Cooling down. The tears were from the heart break of letting someone I respect down, I woke up and my tears became tears of gratitude to have someone I respect at that level finally come into my life, and the sadness of having him leave. BGen Cooling showed me part of God’s will for my life, and I need to make sure I don’t let Him down.

It’s unbelievable how long God sometimes waits to answer a prayer, but how powerful the answer can turn out to be.

Finally getting to experience the leadership I’d ached for the last 20 years has shaped a huge decision in my life and furthered my commitment to the Marine Corps.

Winter Wonder Renewed Connection Weekend

My long weekend did not go as planned. I didn’t get to do what I wanted to do, but I did get from it what I needed – a renewed connection to the Lord and His purpose.

I left off in my last post turning my troubles to God after awaking plague with anxiety, fear and doubt…and in need of retrieving my car from the parking lot where I had to leave it.

Shortly after finishing the post, the sun came out, and I began my journey back to my car. It was a gorgeous afternoon, and the roads were clear. I enjoyed my hike back down the mountain, and found my car where I’d left it. I drove back to where I was staying without any issues.

The next day, I woke up to another beautiful day and was able to drive home safely. I was home for about ½ hour and it started to snow. As I watched it snowed, I felt the overwhelming love I have for the Lord, and gratitude for the personal relationship we share. He is diligently watching over me, and taking care of my needs.

I realized this weekend my commitment to Him had become a habit…a routine and that’s not acceptable to Him. God expects us to be purposeful in seeking Him. He doesn’t want us to take Him for granted or place anything above Him. He opened my eyes through some struggles and challenges to make me aware I was going astray. The nudge to get back on track was overall gentle, but yet direct. He reminded me I need Him, and only Him. He controls everything. All I have to do is listen, obey and serve.

Walk by faith
For We Walk by Faith, Not By Sight 2 Corinthians 5:7

The weekend was also a reminder of His constant powerful presence in my life. He does have a plan for my life; a plan that requires I maintain a persistent and intentional relationship/dependence on Him and only Him. Not to sound prideful, but it is a privilege and honor to be pursued by the Lord in this fashion. It’s also scary; His plan for my life…scares me, I know I can’t do it without Him. Events like this weekend are reminders, reminders to keep preparing me.

I returned to work empowered and renewed to continue to give it my best – which I desperately needed, especially after how the New Year started out.

I didn’t get what I wanted but I got EXACTLY what I needed. If you’ve never experienced what that’s like; I encourage you to become more intentional in your relationship with the Lord. He works everything for our good, but in order for you to see/experience it; you have to first get in alignment with His will and fully surrender your life to Him.

Winter Wonderhell Weekend

And Jesus said to them, Because of your unbelief: for truly I say to you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you. –Matthew 17:20

This has been so far one of the worst trip and weekend I can remember in a long time. I woke up this morning filled with dread, anxiety and fear. It’s undoubtedly a compilation of everything that’s been keeping me busy, making me miserable, and leaving me unhappy and dissatisfied.

I’ve been extremely busy at work with the same and constant madness that’s been plaguing that place but now, to top it off, the Marines who have been my saving grace are leaving and that’s breaking my heart. I’ve been trying to distract myself with applying for jobs, tweaking my website, and rebranding myself in order to establish something I love in my life. It’s required me to start planning many trips at once and I’ve probably taken on too much in the process. I’ve also come to realize; I have little faith and hope in a better future for myself.

There I said it. I’m having a faith crisis…I don’t believe God has a beautiful plan for my life. I believe He has a plan and it looks like what my life has been so far; a life lived alone (in the physical world) facing and raising above struggles…over and over again. I believe my faith crisis has brought about greater struggles, which is what had me paralyzed in bed this morning. My faith crisis is not in my belief in God; that is stronger than ever, so I turned to Scriptures to overcome my fears and anxieties.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus Philippians 4:6-7

You see, my car is currently 8 miles away…hopefully still parked in the parking lot I left it in, after I was unable to make it back up the mountain yesterday. While I’ve been under the belief I have all weather tires on my car, they’re clearly insufficient in the slightest amount of snow. Yesterday morning, I got stuck in the hotel parking lot almost hitting a parked van. Thankfully, I found the owner of the van and was able to escape without hitting anything. I proceeded to follow directions to an information center that took me way out of my way, desperate to find a trail I could hike, having given up on actually cross country skiing, which is what I had originally ventured up here to do.

It began to snow after my hike, and as I was driving up the mountain, I started skidding and back sliding. Yes, there were cars in front and behind me. Thankfully, they all came to a stop. I was eventually able to turn around to make my way back down the mountain to park my car. I had the option to wait and see if the snow would stop, but it was getting late so I began to hike back. I hiked most of the way, a few miles short; I stopped at a restaurant to eat and got a cab.

I’m gonna have to head out at some point today, and go find out if the roads are good enough to drive my car back up then continue to pray the weather is good enough for me to make it back home tomorrow. As I laid awake this morning, feeling helpless and super alone…I turned all my worries over to God. I don’t know how I’m going to get my car back up here, or how I’m going to get out of here tomorrow – I have faith God is going to work it out. God can solve my problems in the supernatural; I can only stress figuring out the natural, worldly solutions.

I might lack faith in the hope of a bright and simpler future for my life, but I don’t lack any faith in knowing God will get me through whatever is currently plaguing my life. I might feel unhappy, miserable and dissatisfied with my circumstances, but I know “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

I have committed my life to God. As Dr. Stanley says: “Obey the Lord and leave the consequences to Him.” I control nothing. I’m an obedient servant. I don’t throw money, logic or anything else at my problems because that makes me anxious, fearful and stressed…I hand them to the Lord.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears Psalm 34:4

Will let you all know how God worked things out in the next post.