Vulnerability

You will hear me talk often about vulnerability, and how vital it is to the process of recovery, healing, and fruitful living. But I don’t want to you to underestimate how hard it can be, especially in today’s entitled culture. Trust me, as someone who has experienced abuse, vulnerability is VERY hard. And shame is very easy. Exactly where the enemy likes us to stay. The more you put yourself out there, the more resistance you will find.

There will always be people waiting on their phones, thumbs twitching, ready to fire arrows at anything you say. Even the best leaders, preachers, artists, musicians, writers – they all have adversaries. Many people simply won’t understand you. And they often hate what they don’t know. But if you allow fear to block your vulnerability, you may always stay stuck. The more resistance you find, the closer you are getting to Truth. Like a game of “hot or cold”. My daughter LOVES playing the game just so she can say “you’re getting warmer!” with a big smile.

Don’t assume that simply taking the first step means things will be easy. They may get a lot harder. I know, encouraging, right? Ha. But I want to be honest. The enemy isn’t just going to back down. That resistance may even come from those closest to you. But remember, the battle is already won! Jesus doesn’t have anything left to do. But we do. It still requires complete vulnerability and hard work on our part to receive that victory. EVENTUALLY, if you stay persistent, you will find vulnerability to be a little easier. With each blow, get back up, dust yourself off, find your confidence in the victory that is already yours, and press on! We are in this together. This is why having a “ride or die” band of brothers and sisters is a must. –
Let 2019 be a year of victory in those areas you never thought would see the podium.

Radical Acceptance

Radical Acceptance

My wife and I have often talked about how people respond to trauma in different ways. For example, she has experienced some incredible loss and pain in her life. As have I. Yet she wasn’t consumed with depression like I was. Granted anyone who knows her knows how incredible, brave, grace-filled and humble she is. But why did trauma affect me in such a different way? Why do some people experience devastation and go on to start non-profits that save the world, while others experience a similarly painful event and are in and out of jail for years? What in the world gives?

During treatment, I watched a short video about the only real scientific conclusion to that question. Those who were willing to RADICALLY ACCEPT what they had experienced – all those painful moments that are part of their story – were the ones who went on to live a life with purpose. NO WAY it could be that simple! But the more I spent time thinking about it, the more it became truth.

It will take a few posts to unpack what I learned, because as simple as it sounds, I did a typical Jeff move and learned the hard way. But this simple concept is the single most important truth about trauma that I learned in 4 weeks of being immersed in truth, revelation, knowledge – digging up the soil trying to find answers. Jesus revealed it to me in the most blunt, matter of fact way possible. The video helped give it a name, but I learned the lesson a few days earlier.

Trauma, abuse, and abandonment color my past. Rather than accept what I experienced and move on in a healthy way, it became who I was. I was abandonment… When I bumped into her after orientation as she was leaving, I noticed she had a book about healing from emotional abuse. I thought, “sweet! you’ll be learning more about my past”. Immediately Jesus said, “no, she is learning to heal from what you’ve done.”

What? I wasn’t abusive. Actually, yes I was. Because I hadn’t faced my past and it became my identity, I had become my past. 1 hour into treatment, the hammer already dropped. I either had to accept the hard truth, or not. What was at stake if I choose not to radically accept EVERYTHING now?

to be cont…

Fumble!

Fumble!

At lunch today, I caught the tail end of a replay of the Saints / Steelers game from this last week. The game was pretty incredible, specifically the finish. Steelers were playing for their playoff hopes, Saints were trying to clinch home field. The Saints took the lead with just over a minute left. After converting a wild 4th and 15, the Steelers were nearing field goal range with a handful of seconds remaining, hoping to force overtime. The quarterback threw the ball to a receiver who caught it just inside that computerized “field-goal range” red line seen on broadcast, and as the tackle was being made, the ball happened to pop out, the Saints recovered, the game was over and the Steelers postseason hopes were gone. Just like that. It seemed the momentum was in their favor, and was instantly fumbled away.

The camera eventually showed the receiver on the bench, towel-covered head-in-hands, in complete despair. The shame must have been unbearable. But shortly after that shot, you see a fellow receiver knelt in front of him, speaking. I don’t know what was said, but it reminded me of all the times I had my head in my hands, buried in shame, and there was always a Voice speaking life and truth. When all I knew was shame, Jesus was speaking life. When I felt all was lost, He was reminding me that the battle has already been won. In that broken moment on the bench, Jesus showed up in the form of his fellow receiver, jumping at the opportunity to offer hope when all the kid on the bench knew was loss.

It isn’t ‘just’ a football game. Not to him. Jesus is always waiting, ready to meet us in our worst moments. Those moments that bring suffocating shame, fear, isolation, worry, anxiety, stress and depression.

The cool thing? We get to be that voice. To our wives, sons, daughters, brothers, a guy on the bus, or in the coffee shop. Chances are, we will encounter someone today in the midst of the fight of their life. We are the hands and feet of Jesus. Who is sitting on the bench near you, having just lost a shot at the playoffs? Your words matter.

That receiver posted this tweet the day after the loss: “when I’m at my lowest, I’m not going to hide…”

Depression – Part 3

Depression – Part 3
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It is time to face the facts. Uncover the truth. And start making some changes. I have searched for decades for my “purpose”, wondering why I could never find it. But I was going in the wrong order. We couldn’t board that train in the Alps until we actually found it (obviously). Maybe you are looking for the right things, but in the wrong places (wrong order). You may be depressed, but you are NOT depression. You are LOVED. Don’t stop look for answers until you find them. Stop at nothing until you find that light switch in the basement.

1. Face your past
2. Heal properly (by surrendering your past to Jesus
3. Find your meaning

Depression – Part 2

Depression – Part 2
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Like taking a “ferry” in a mountain range through the wrong country in the darkest hole on earth. The route my depression has taken me has been anything but direct. It has taken decades; “over the river and through the woods”; through failure and trial and trauma and abuse – only to find a dark room in the pit of despair where eventually I found a switch on the wall to turn on the lights.
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Hitting the light switch was simple. The 20+ year journey was anything but. For some, that journey is much shorter. For many, that journey seems to never end. Why did my journey take so long? I made depression my identity; my “closest companion”. Depression was telling me to face my past, heal properly and then find my purpose. We are all creatures of purpose. We are lost without it. But to find my purpose, I had to start at the beginning. “Face your past”. Nope.  I’m good. Thanks, though.
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I thought I had faced my past. The brokenness. Pain. Hurt. Trauma. Abuse. Abandonment. But I never had. I had run as fast as I could in the other direction, constantly looking over my shoulder as it haunted me like one of those freaks in “A Quiet Place”. Eventually my “GPS” told me I had arrived. I was at the very end of myself. The bottom of the barrel. Quite similar to the dead center of that 75km long tunnel. We actually flipped on the headlights for just a moment, as saw the canyon walls whipping by us at over 60mph. That was such a trip.
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I was tasked with answering the following basic questions, and after writing my answers down, it became very clear that depression was not my identity – it indeed was trying to tell me something very important.
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What do you think your depression is telling you? Do you believe there is purpose in your depression? What is one good thing about your depression? What is your depression forcing you to do?
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As soon as I hit that light switch in the basement, my depression disappeared. Sounds simple, but it took a whole lot of life and loss to get to that basement. And this is just beginning. The lights have illuminated all that I have avoided, and I cannot ignore it any longer.
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Part 3 – next post ->

Depression is my GPS – Part 1

Depression is my GPS – Part 1

A couple friends and I were in Europe several years back touring a snowboard film. We decided to take a day trip to see the Matterhorn, a dream of mine ever since watching Third Man on the Mountain as a kid. After a long trip down to Zermatt (the mountain was absolutely stunning), we decided to head back a different route. We had rented a GPS device (pre-Google Maps days) to find our way home. After several hours, with the sun setting on a frigid winter day, the GPS was leading us to the end of a long valley surrounded by towering peaks in the Alps. We thought “there is no way we could drive over any pass ahead of us as the mountains are too steep”.
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Eventually we reached a small village at the END of the road, and the GPS prompted us to board the “ferry”. Ferry? We were at the end of a valley in a remote, rugged and wild mountain range. There were no bodies of water hundreds of miles in any direction. As we sat in the idling car trying to figure out what country we were in, a motorcycle passed by us, rode up a ramp, and onto a flatbed rail car. The “ferry” was the train! We were supposed to drive our car up onto the train, and the train would take us 70km THROUGH the mountains, in the darkest tunnel on the planet, while we sat in the car. It was insane. Eventually we made it home, just as the GPS was trying to accomplish.
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I was diagnosed with depression around 15 years ago, after suffering from it for at least another 8 years prior. Because of the stigma of mental-health, I allowed depression to be my identity. It was who I was, and there was nothing I could do about it. But here is what I recently learned about depression, and how I made it go away:
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Depression is a letter from the self, to the self, about the self. In other words, my depression was simply trying to tell me something. Depression is reactional. It is NOT reality. Depression is trying to tell us something. It is telling us to go somewhere. In the simplest explanation, depression is a GPS system, telling us if we are on course – that we need to go somewhere very specific. And it may not be the route we think…
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Part 2 in the next post ->

“BLOCK THE PUNT”

“BLOCK THE PUNT”

There was 2:13 left on the clock. We were down 13-6, it was 4th down and we were about to get the ball. Plenty of time left to force overtime, and a win gets us to the playoffs for the first time in school history. Coach calls me over and says “block the punt”. Everything went dead silent as I lined up off the edge. No blocker in sight. I got a great jump and the block was certain. In the slowest of motion I saw the punter coming in my direction to kick the ball. As I was airborne, I realized the snap went way sideways, and the kick sailed just left of my stomach (I swear I touched it). I immediately slammed the punter so hard he was sent back 10 years. Flag. Automatic first down. Those final 2 minutes lasted a decade. 3 kneels and Game. Over. In front of my home fans and family, I waited out the final kneel at the corner position, sobbing. I had let the whole community down. Oh, and I broke my hand on that play, costing me the final 3 games of my senior year. Football was my life – my escape. And it was gone. In the most humiliating and painful way. (I still have the tape). The break was so bad it cost me my 12th and final year of baseball. The 2 things I was sure of was gone.
It’s in those moments that Jesus says “just wait and see”. I couldn’t swing a bat, but I could still run. I joined the track team for the first time ever and on May 26, 2001, I crossed the finish line holding the baton for the final leg of the 4×100 relay. We were state champions! Gold Medal.

We didn’t have a chance to win state in baseball or football, so He put me in a place where I could turn my shame into the ultimate victory. I look back at that moment constantly to remind myself that He knows best.

How many moments have you believed to be failures, but instead changed your trajectory and led to greatness? What are you facing now where failure appears the only option? Where might it lead you? We don’t know what is next. Which is why we must press in to Jesus. Let Him lead you forward. One. “Failure”. At. A. Time.

“Coin Out”

“Coin Out”

We spend a great deal of time teaching our kids the importance of asking for help. But like any lesson, it’s better to teach with actions rather than words. After a decades-long battle with depression and PTSD, caused by many different traumas, it was time for me to take a big risk and enter a treatment program at The Center in Edmonds, WA. My marriage was taking its last breaths, my kids needed better, my career suffered greatly, I was completely without joy, hope, purpose and peace. My family deserved a better life and I simply couldn’t give it to them. I was in counseling, saw psychiatrists, naturopaths, medications… it all was getting worse. I was so far from the man I grew up believing I would become. Depression is a “silent killer”, now labeled the #1 cause of disability WORLDWIDE. You simply can’t will yourself to wholeness. While it wasn’t for a lack of trying, I was failing at everything and on the verge of losing my family. A few days before Thanksgiving, I said goodbye to my family and started a min 4 week treatment program, with failure not an option. I was skeptical. But I was committed to becoming whole, and would stay as long as it took. 36 hours before starting the program, I heard Jesus clearly ask me to repent of my doubt, bitterness and resentment, as I had chosen to hang on to those 3 my whole life. Had I not, my time at The Center would have been a waste. Instead, I did a canon ball into the deep end, going ALL IN to find answers. But I found so much more; a proper diagnosis, a beautiful community I now consider family, purpose, peace, hope, healing… And I finally saw my wife through healed eyes. To be honest, I can’t really explain what happened. But I will share much of my journey over the coming weeks, as I trust it brings hope to anyone feeling lost like I was. A veil, which surrounded my entire being since I was very young, lifted. Completely gone. Depression, fear, shame, guilt, anger, bitterness, resentment… gone. For a month, I watched miracles happen in my life that I can’t believe. I just returned home and while the hard work is just beginning, there’s HOPE! Vulnerability defeats shame! #secretlifeofdad