God’s Plan For My Life

If God told you to sell everything you have, would you? Would you walk away from the woman/man of your dreams with no promise of being reunited? Would you trust that God would spare your life from a suicide attempt? Would you move to a different city without a plan? Would you listen to God no matter what the cost?

These are the questions that I had to answer at one point in my life. And in each step I had to walk in obedience and trust that God had a plan for my life.

And this weekend, I will be returning to the place where I first got a glimpse of God’s plan in my life.  It was at First Baptist Atlanta where Dr. Charles Stanley preaches. On February 1st, 2015 I went to FBA to hear him preach.  There I was sitting in the church that seats around 4,000 and I got the sense that Dr. Charles Stanley was looking directly at me.

Convicted that he was, I took out a piece of paper and thanked In Touch Ministries for being a great resource before and after my suicide attempt. After service,  it was Charles Stanley who came up to me and asked where I was from. I handed him the note and we chatted a bit.

The following week before Charles Stanley started to preach, he asked me to stand in front of the church and shared our encounter. It was a very humbling experience.

After service many people came up to wish me well, but one particular person stood out. Sitting directly to the left of me was the Executive Ambassador for In Touch Ministries.  Long story short, we went out to dinner that week and I couldn’t shake the feeling it was an interview of sorts. Since that day in February, I am convinced that I will be starting my new career at In Touch Ministries in Atlanta.

This weekend I return to FBA for a special weekend. You see I can’t shake the feeling that the Holy Spirit is going to fall upon me where it all started this Pentecost Sunday.  After all, it was at FBA where I got a small 5 second glimpse of the “peace that surpasses all understanding” back in February.

Holy Spirit I invite you into my life. I’m ready now.

In fact, In Touch just put up that video of Charles Stanley’s message from February 1st when I sensed Dr. Charles Stanley . looking at me. Here’s the video, I can be seen around the 19:20 mark. I’m wearing a red shirt 5 rows back:

http://intouch.org/watch/steps-to-gods-guidance/listening-to-god

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Lord, I’m Ready Now

Wow, what a spiritual journey this has been to this point.  Filled with moments of great hope and moments of great despair. Today, is one of the last days of the healing phase of my recovery. Today, I let go of my earliest wound inside my body that haunts be to this day.  The fear of death.

I can remember exactly where I was where and when I found about death from when I was three years old.  What I didn’t know was the impact it would have on my life.  And yes there was some wheat and also weeds in the fear of death.

The weeds prevented me from living a life of joy.  Instead, I often felt like a little boy inside a grown man’s body. I felt powerless as a result.  I can also remember trying to control when death would happen. I can remember being 8 years old and saying things like, “I’m one tenth of the way through my life!”  I had developed and victim’s mentality.

The wheat of having the fear of death is that it kept me safe.  It kept me from accepting adult responsibilities at an earlier age.  You see if I didn’t have the fear of death, I may have accepted a “mediocre” life. You know go to work from 9-5, come home, have a little fun, go to bed and do it all over again. Sounds miserable! It also kept me safe from ultimately committing suicide last year.

You see I could never actually see myself committing suicide. Underneath the facade of life I had been living, I loved myself and others too much to let that happen. As I have worked through the other emotional scars in my life, I am finally ready to let go of that fear. I’m ready to reap the rewards of the spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 states, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Come have Your way. Lord, I’m ready now.

“Oh Lord I’m ready now
All the walls are down
Time is running out
And I wanna make this count
I ran away from you
And did what I wanted to
But I don’t wanna let you down
Oh Lord I’m ready now
Lord I’m ready now

The Joy of God’s Discipline

The word discipline has a negative connotation to it similar to. It implies that someone did something wrong and corrective action must be applied. It is almost sounds like punishment. There is significant difference between the two.  Discipline is a tool of God’s love for His Children.

Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”

Yesterday, I talked about how God is a jealous God after your heart.  You can be sure God will remove those obstacles that keep God from going after your heart.

Here is a practical example from my life.  Sometimes I can have the tendency to be on the internet too much.  I can remember a few weeks ago, the internet went out for a few days and I took a different approach to the situation.  This time I viewed it as coming FROM God.  He wanted me to spend more time with Him. It wasn’t a punishment where I felt the wrath of God for doing something wrong.

Rather, I viewed it as a sign of God’s discipline and love. It was a perspective changed. God loved me so much that He needed to provide a wake up call.

Hebrews 12:11 goes as far as saying, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it,”

So the lesson in God’s discipline is that it is a sign of God’s love for us.  We should take great joy when we are being disciplined by Holy God because it is shaping us into the Godly men and women that we were destined to be.

A Jealous God After Your Heart

God is a jealous God that wants a personal intimate relationship with you. He will do whatever it takes to make sure He is number one in your life. If something stands between you and God, you can be sure He will take it away! Mark it down! (He will also give it back, more on that later).

Probably the best example in my life was my running ability. I always had (still do) have a dream to qualify for the Boston Marathon. In order to qualify, I will need to break 3:05 for 26.2 miles. Now I have ran 5 marathons in my life and have got closer to that mark each time.

I’ve gone from 3:42 to 3:21 to 3:11 to 3:09 to 3:07. I was so close! And then my depression hit. I went from running 7 minute miles with ease to barely being able to run a few miles.

As the fog from the depression is lifting I can how running became an idol for me. If I achieved running a 3:05 marathon, then I would have done something “successful”. Whatever that means.  The truth is replaced the spot for God in my heart for running. I still would not of been a joyful had a qualified for the Boston Marathon.

Now I do believe God wants me to qualify for the Boston Marathon at some point, but He doesn’t want me thinking I have done it on my own strength. He wants me to recognize that my strength comes from him alone. Most importantly, I will have a right relationship with God.

Prayer: Thank you God for being so jealous for us.  Thank you for removing what ever prevents us from having a relationship with you. You loved us so much that You sent Your only Son Jesus to die at Calvary for our sins.  We are so grateful that you keep pursuing us even when we disobey and try to accomplish on our own strength. Have us recognize that You are the Vine and we are merely the branches. We pray this in Jesus name. Amen.

Breaking a Heart of Stone

Today on my way back to Memphis, I saw an exit for Hidden River Cave in Kentucky. Curious, I decided to pull off to check the place out.

When I got there, I quickly realized God was using this experience as a metaphor for my life.  You see this wasn’t just any old river.  This was a river that was found deep within a cave.  As I descended the nearly 200 steep steps towards the entrance of the cave, my eyes were gazing at the exposed rock from a sinkhole back in the 1800s. It made me realize that this is how my heart was.

It was layered with such a deep layer of limestone rock that seemingly nothing could penetrate.  As I walked down the steps, I sound of a running river became louder and louder. As I reached the bottom and looked up, I was amazed that this river was still flowing despite on the years of limestone that was built above it. You see the source of water came from deep within.

How often in life do we live like this?  We know God wants to be good to us, but we continue harden our hearts when we here His voice. Why do we do that? Are we simply afraid of allowing such close intimate relationship with God into our lives? For me, the answer was yes.  The key is to invite the Holy Spirit to break through any stone that is remaining in my heart.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, how grateful we are that we are covered in Your love and grace.  Your love and grace can break through any limestone we have built around our hearts. Lord Jesus, send the power of the Holy Spirit to penetrate our heart  and fill us with a source of living water within us.  Have it not lay deep underground so that no one can see it.  Have it flow like the Mississippi River and bring healing to everyone who encounters you. Blow through the caverns of of souls to overflow. We pray this in Jesus name. Amen.

Check the video around 8:25 mark for the steps that lead down to Hidden River

The Consequences of Holding Onto Negative Emotions

Do you ever worry about if your brakes are going to go out on your car? Maybe your tires? Maybe your computer might crash on you? If you are like me, it may just be that you have a fear of death.

For me, I can remember exactly where I was when I found about death when I was three years old. I was petrified of it and had been until last week that is. You see on a rational level I didn’t fear death, but there was a piece of me that was wounded boy that lived inside of me. I had not emotionally been free from the fear of death.

Holding onto negative emotions is toxic. It blocks the positive emotions like love and joy. These negative memories are stored in every cell of our bodies and by releasing them we can become unstuck.

Do you have a memory that you may be over rationally, but not emotionally? Might I suggest that it may be severely limiting your life today. It doesn’t matter if it happened 50 years ago. If you aren’t over something emotionally, it will hinder your life and God’s purpose for your life.

You are worthy of living a life worth living. Don’t let something that happened years ago affect you still today. Ask God to reveal those areas in your life. I can promise you one thing. He will be happy to do so.

My Guardian Angel-Rachael “Carli” Woodruff

Yesterday, was my first personal session of EMDR. EMDR is a technique that is used to help release trauma stored in the body.

Before I started my session with Beverly and Mary, they asked me to bring a list of traumas to work on.  I wrote down “Suicidal thoughts, money insecurities, fear of death, lack of inner power, fear of abandonment and control issues.  Guided by the Holy Spirit, I asked Beverly which one to start on.  She said to start with the suicidal thoughts and asked me when the first time I had a suicidal thought.

As I gazed back to my past, I can remember first time I had those thoughts was when my friend Rachael died in a car accident four years ago. I was angry towards God for taking her. I stopped going to church. I thought it was my fault she had died. If only I would have hung out with her the previous night, she wouldn’t have been in that situation. I had taken responsibility for her death.

Years later, on a rational level, I know it was not my fault. But on a emotional level, I had never grieved that lost.  I was too angry and bitter to do so.

An interesting thing happened in the session, Beverly guided me to believe that Rachael had never left me. That she actually needed to go home first to be a trailblazer for my path in life.  I burst into tears.  Rachael had never left me, she simply had to watch over me in a new form.

I have always view Rachael as a little sister as I helped to convince her to attend Kent State with me. Well now the roles are reversed she is my big sister watching over me from up above. She has a new purpose and it is to help guide me on this new life for myself.

Love ya big sis. Thanks for watching over me my guardian angel and Go Flashes!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, how grateful we are for your daughter Rachael “Carli” Woodruff.  Thank you that she is still alive today simply in a new form.  Thank you that she never did abandon me, but is still with me and all of her loved ones.  We are so grateful that she is a trailblazer, not just for me, but for so many others. We pray this in Jesus name. Amen.

The God of Restoration

Some people have a view of God that God wants to only take from you. “Why would I want to give tithe and give 10% to God?” “Why did God allow me to be unemployed?”  “Why did God take my health from me?” These are some questions that I commonly here. Listen up.

If God is in the process of taking from you, he also is the God that will restore the very thing you thought you may have lost.

How many times have I heard stories of being people giving to God, and being blessed financially and any many other ways? You cannot out give God. Period.  How many times have I heard stories of people of losing their job to obtain a better career that has more meaning to their lives? How many times have I heard stories of losing their health, to only have it restored? Countless is the answer.  Praise God, He takes away meaningless jobs!

Job 42:10 states”And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”

You see the Book of Job is not about a blameless man that suffers for no reason.  It is story about a man that lost everything to gain everything in his earthly and heavenly lives. It is a story that is still relevant in 2015.

In many ways, I feel like a Job.  I thought I had it all, the money, the house, the friends, the resources, etc. In reality I had nothing.  I didn’t have a personal intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  I was a lukewarm Christian, which is a dangerous place to be in life (probably a blog post for a different date).

Like Job, I had to recognize that God is God and He can do what He wants in a person life.  As my bank account dwindles towards zero, I can’t help shake the feeling that God is about to do something that is about to do something awesome in my life. And not just financially.  In fact, I have more peace about my financial situation than I ever did when I was just hoarding my money.

God takes away from people, but He is also in the business of restoration.

Prayer: How grateful we are Father that you don’t take from us without the promise of restoration.  Thank you in advance for restoring lives, relationships, finances, and everything else.  You are the Provider.  You are the vine, while we are merely a branch.  Help us to draw closer to You in ways we could never imagine.  I pray in the power of the Holy Spirit that there is a spiritual awakening across this land.  Guide people to seek You and to find You. In Jesus name. Amen.

Be Selfish for Yourself

The word selfish has a negative connotation to it. It could describe a person that is self-centered and is only worried about themselves.

This is not what I am going to talk to you about today. I’m going to talk to you about being selfish for yourself so that you can be of service to others. You see it was in the hospital last year when I heard that phrase and decided to run with it.

To me it meant how could I truly help someone while something wasn’t right with me.

Matthew 7: 3,5 state, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite! First pull the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye?

I love the strong language that Jesus uses. First he states that your brother only has a speck in their eye, while you have a plank (imagine a 2 by 4!) in your eye! I believe Jesus uses such strong language because often we go through life not aware that there is a plank in our eyes. I know this was the case for me.

I had such a judgmental mind of who I believed could “help” me get better. My early thinking was that the person must have a PhD and must be a Christian. What a plank I had in my eye! As my judgments started to melt away, I noticed how much I had limited myself.

I can remember my last therapist in Atlanta was a Buddhist and how there was no way I could work with her.  It’s like a heard God say, “Trust me Marc. This is the perfect person for you right now” Boy was God ever right! You see it was this person that taught me how to love myself for the first time. Because of that experience, I have been so much more open to help. I’m so thankful that plank is out of my eye now!

The God Who Keeps Me in the Valley

Being in the valley doesn’t sound like a very fun place to be and also doesn’t sound very safe. But it is.  This is how God can operate at times.  Sure I would rather be in on the mountain top right now, but God is still refining me day by day, hour by hour and minute by minute.

Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” It’s a verse that gives me great comfort even though all hell SEEMS to be breaking loose.

As I continue to work through the trauma in my life more and more unpleasant feelings are naturally coming up, I MUST maintain my presence on the Lord. It is very easy for me to drift off to a place where I feel like God is abandoning me.  It is a feeling I am starting to learn to embrace instead of trying to push it away.

Pushing away the negative thoughts only invites them to come back. Often more forcefully. By embracing and experiencing the negative thoughts/emotions, I can finally set them free.

While I am in the valley, I can’t help but thank God for protecting during this process. He has always provided for me even when my limited mindset tries to tell me otherwise.

He has always comforted me. Again, even when my limited mindset tries to tell me otherwise. I’m so grateful for this process. Even though breaking out of this cocoon I am in can be painful, it is turning me into a Godly man.

Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

I want to share a song with you that has kind of become my anchor song during this valley experience for me. Take a listen: