Archive for June, 2015

SCOTUS

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

Supreme_Court_Front_DuskOver the last few days I have thought a lot about what I need to say about the SCOTUS marriage decision so here goes:  I grew up calling gay people “queers”. My dad told me that they “were after boys”.  I feared them and frankly considered them freaks. If I personally knew any, I was not aware of it. My perceptions of homosexuals were mostly parroted from my parents. Paradoxically, they  also taught me not to discriminate against anybody.

For the last twenty-five years I have counseled with countless gays and lesbians. Each of them claimed to be a Christian and I have no doubt that they are. With one possible exception, I am convinced with certitude that they did not choose their sexual orientations. I have come a long way; today I do not call them names. I call them “friends”. I enjoy their company and treasure their friendship.

Ten years ago when I was at the lowest point of my life a gay friend and a lesbian friend, along with straight friends, walked with me hand in hand from the pit of despair to the pinnacle of hope. Together they helped save me from me! They were not gays and straights pulling against each other but just a bunch of folks pushing and pulling together. As far as I am concerned the result was pretty remarkable. They never set out to do it but that group became the founders of our church.

Saturday on our farm we saw a coyote kill a beautiful fawn by breaking her neck. It was not a pretty sight. Hudson, our seven year old grandson, asked me, “Paw, Paw why did God let that happen?” I did not have a good answer— at least not one that would have made sense to a little boy. Several years back I met with a gay friend for coffee. He was upset because the Sunday before his pastor had said again in his message that gays were going to “burn in the fires of hell”. With tears streaming down his cheeks he stared at me and asked me “John why did God make me this way?” Again I did not have a good answer.  There is much more about life that I do not understand than I do.

The Supreme Court has made its long anticipated decision; albeit not the one I favored. I preferred that instead of changing the definition of marriage that the court would have said civil unions, from a Constitutional perspective, are equal to marriage in all respects. That would have made perfect sense to me. I am sure it would not if I were gay.   It is now the law of the land. I do not think the sky is falling or it is the end of Christianity. Not at all; the Creator is much bigger than a decision made by his creation. I see it as a time of opportunity for the Church.  Jesus said all that is necessary is to love God and love everybody else.  Seems to me that is an agenda that we can all follow if we are willing to give up our own.

For more of what I was taught as a child take a look at the online version of my book  for free Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My personal story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, failure,rehab and victory. http://johngouldener.com/?page_id=3877

From a Distance

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

watching-from-a-distanceYahoo News reported that according to a recent poll nearly 70% of Americans who were questioned claim that they pray regularly. Unfortunately, only 32% feel that God answers their prayers.  The article got me thinking about a particular prayer that I said several years back.  Early one morning I specifically asked God to help me with a job related situation that had eroded to a point that something had to be done. I had attempted to deal with the issue several times without success. In fact, I was feeling nearly desperate with the circumstance. I vividly recall saying the prayer in the auditorium of our church while I watched three deer grazing at the edge of the woods.

Six hours later, out of the blue, my life fell apart in a seemingly unrelated development. When I say life fell apart that is an understatement. My life did a 180. I felt cheated, betrayed, alone, and nearly hopeless. A dark, deep and dangerous depression engulfed my being.  Thankfully, I sought professional help and after some time the depression lifted and my life began to once again take shape and make sense.

It wasn’t until I got my feet back on the ground months later that I remembered the prayer. Upon reflection, I was able to see how God gave me exactly what I requested of Him.  With that realization I got the biggest case of goose bumps that I’ve ever had. Through the very essence of my pain, I had experienced the enormous power God has to work for our good in the midst of something very bad.  A good and gracious God not only answered my prayer, but He gave me a greater life than I ever dreamed existed.  The only hitch was my narrow focus on myself almost caused me to miss the realization of His answer.  Perhaps that is why some of those folks think God never answers them.  I find that I see His answers with more clarity from a distance —- sometimes a very great distance.

Something to Think About

For the complete beta version of my book  for free Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My personal story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, failure,rehab and victory. http://johngouldener.com/?page_id=3877

Epilogue

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

imagesFrom my book Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My personal story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, failure, rehab, jail and victory.

In the last several years I have come to realize that most of us dream too small; in doing so we box ourselves in to a life far below God’s grand design. Here is an example from my own life: Ten years ago, when I was at Sierra Tucson (http://www.sierratucson.com) finally dealing with the trauma from childhood sexual abuse, along with the backstabbing hijacking of our church by my former best friends, all I was thinking about was getting back to that church and somehow “make up” with those very same toxic people whom God was obviously taking out of my life. In my codependent and twisted thinking of that period, sadly Highland Park Church was the sum total of my life. I had allowed it to morph into both my identity and my essence.  Do not misunderstand; it hurt like hell to walk away but the decision of flight instead of fight was a no-brainer for me. I never considered another course of action. I have never regretted that decision, because the truth was the dream had been an increasingly nightmare for over a year. I have detailed my personal failings and contributions to that nightmare in the proceeding pages.  That was my bad and I fully expect to have to stand before God at a future date to answer Him for that sin.

Shortly, after we planted the new church (Crossroad Community), a dear friend, Parker Sherrill, suggested that I email a mid-week electronic message –simple, practical and applicable that could be read in less than four minutes and would relate to real life. It was an incredible idea and took advantage of the mushrooming digital age. From Parker’s suggestion, “Something to Think About” was born (http://nashvillecrossroad.com/default.asp?FP=3720 ) God spoke through Parker. That one suggestion opened the door to a broader ministry than I ever imagined. Today, there are thousands worldwide reading STTA which has morphed into my blog. With our podcast and the Beta version of this book our efforts are now truly global. We regularly hear from people worldwide, who are being touched by the Crossroad Ministry. I have spoken before countless groups of hurting people. The digital age is reshaping the concept of ministry through instant and worldwide contact to a world without walls. Do you get what I am trying to say? Do not settle for a too small dream. God created us to think big. He expects us to dream big dreams. The very first step in a God – ordained big dream should always be to hand God a blank check, right out of the chute. You’ve got to be willing to say, “God I do not really understand your grace, your love, or your plan for my life, but I do believe. And because I do, as best as I know how, I want to dedicate my life to you to use me as you see fit. In all that I do I will first look to you for guidance.” It seems to me that is the key! You’ve got to be willing to give God that blank check. It has to be God’s will and not our own. In other words, you have got to be willing to say, “OK God, whatever you want me to do, you open the doors and I’ll walk through. I am in, for the long haul!”  Anything less than that will prevent you from soaring to the heights that God has planned since before you were born. God bless!

For the complete beta version of my book  for free Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My personal story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, failure,rehab and victory. http://johngouldener.com/?page_id=3877

 

Life is Good

Monday, June 15th, 2015

downloadI recently wore out my favorite cap so I stopped by Jake’s House in Green Hills to get another one. That is the store that sells all the “Life is Good” stuff like caps, T-shirts, boxers,  backpacks, stickers and etc.  Considering the prices on Jake’s gear, I’m guessing that life is indeed very good for brothers Bert and John Jacobs who built “Life is Good” into an 80 million dollar company in just a few years. I think the chief reason that “Life is Good” has been so ultra-successful is because “LIG” is a message of hope. It is the same principle as the Christmas tree, sunrise and the first songbirds of springtime. Since the beginning of time, in one way or the other, every single person has been looking for hope. We may not realize it, but we are looking. That is my theory why folks shelled out 80 million bucks last year for pretty ordinary Chinese made apparel that simply says “Life is Good”.

A few hours ago I was inching alone on West End Avenue in rush hour traffic.  Have you ever noticed the expressions on drivers’ faces when they are trapped in traffic?  I mean check it out next time. Everybody seems to be wearing their funeral faces. It is kind of scary.

Traffic jams are the great American equalizer. It makes no difference if you are behind the wheel of a Mercedes or a KIA. When you are stuck in traffic you are stuck.  As I moaned and groaned to myself, I noticed a man in a motorized wheelchair crossing the street in front of me. The fellow had a huge smile on his face and a “Life is Good” sticker on the back of his chair. Here he was riding in a wheelchair beaming while the rest of us looked like we had just eaten a persimmon.  Suddenly bumper to bumper traffic didn’t seem all that bad and hope felt pretty good.

Oh, one last thought about “Life is Good”, I don’t recall ever seeing a jerk wearing a “Life is Good” cap.

Something to Think About

For the complete beta version of my book  for free Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My personal story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, failure,rehab and victory. http://johngouldener.com/?page_id=3877

Chapter 31 – A Dog Named Limp

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

pet-dog-tortureFrom my book Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My personal story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, failure, rehab, jail and victory.

There is a particular gift which is very pricey and unfortunately never on sale. But before we go there I will take a brief detour to say a few words about its antithesis. That would be the word “bondage”. It is a bondage that can screw up every one of us by sabotaging the kind of life that God designed you to have and that He surely wants you to have. For many years I struggled with this bondage, and I know that many of you have too. I am talking about the bondage that comes from choosing not to forgive.  Can you relate? Be honest here, because this is a critical issue for your quality of life. Here’s what I want you to understand. To use one of my momma’s sayings, a person who chooses not to forgive is “cutting their nose off to spite their face”.  Momma had a way of getting her point across.  The point is the person who refuses to offer forgiveness is actually the real loser in the equation. Perhaps that might be the reason God put this in the Bible:  Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:12-17 (NLT) That last sentence is kind of a butt kicker do not you think?

In the fall of 2005 when I was at Sierra Tucson for my high priced makeover in the Sonoran desert, the rattlesnakes were on the move as the weather was changing from summer to fall. That time of the year seeing a rattlesnake in the desert was a pretty common sight. Holding on to a hurt is like grabbing a rattlesnake by the tail, sooner or later you are going to get the juice. And when you do your hurt will ratchet up to the red level. So what I want you to understand is that your pain actually has the potential to destroy you. I am wondering are your still aching from a slight or perhaps a rejection or a hurt? At night when you climb into bed do you lie there fantasying about getting even or how wrongly you were treated?   Maybe you have been making a pastime out of scheming about how you would get back at them or embarrass them. Perhaps you were abused as child or maybe betrayed by a friend or it could be a zillion other things.  If so, you may be on the brink of being set free from a bondage that you did not even know was keeping you a victim. You may be about to understand for the first time why you act the way you do in certain circumstances.  Whatever your situation, whatever has happened in your past, no matter if the past was 30 years ago or 30 minutes ago, remember that you are the real loser if you do not deal with your unforgiveness.  But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” Mark 11:25 (NLT) God wants you to be freed from bondage. He has been setting slaves free since Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. Like I said this is a “pricey” gift.  What I am talking about is very, very difficult to do, but the result is well worth the effort.

For 45 years, up until ten years ago I hated a man for what he did to me.  That guy had been dead nearly 20 years; yet, I continued to allow him to control my life.  I went to Sierra Tucson to deal with that guy. So a few days before I came home, I sat in a room with that man. Not really, he’s dead, but with an empty chair in front of me I went through a process that took me back 45 years to when I was 14.  As though that guy were sitting across from me, I began to talk to him about what happened that Saturday afternoon in the locker room at Father Ryan High School, 2300 Elliston Place, Nashville, Tennessee. I told him how it had impacted the quality of my life. I reminded “Father” how he had set me up and then how he had abused me.  I told him of the hurt, the anger, the guilt, the shame, hatred and the fear of intimacy that I carried for all those years. As I stared at that empty chair I could almost see his boney body with those hollow eyes and his thin, blondish, flattop hair. I hated him! I screamed and cried and screamed some more until I could not scream or cry any more. It was all out, the bitterness was gone. The hate was gone. The fear, the shame, the guilt, and anger it was not there anymore.  I felt it drain from me – completely drained out. During that hour or so all of those feelings gave way to a degree of understanding and the hate to words of forgiveness. God always works things out for our good. What that man did to me so long ago has been a factor in everyday of my life since. I simply decided that I had hated too long, so I forgave him.

For the first time in 45 years I saw him as a really sick man, not a demon, but a sick man.  I still do not like him, but I have forgiven him and I no longer hate.  I am free! Perhaps you might wonder how could I do that? Two reasons actually and honestly I do not know which is first. I know which should be first. I realized that hating him was killing me. When I thought about how God has forgiven me for everything I have ever done wrong or will ever do I began to “get it”. I had no right not to forgive him any longer. That day I broke forever his chains of bondage, I walked out of that room a free man and I got ready to come home. And I stopped hurting for the first time in 45 years.

When I got home, another fire of hate was kindled in me and it nearly burst into a raging inferno. But this time it was not about that guy who had abused me. It was someone else and in a sense this new betrayal was worse.    It was all I could do to keep from striking back which would have again been surrendering to hate. And then Cathy and I went on our retreat to my favorite spot on earth, the Abby of Gethsemani located in Trappist, Kentucky (http://monks.org/).  During those days God spoke to me through a dog, a dog named Limp. You know God does do that kind of stuff. I believe that He does. The people in the neighborhood know that the monastery is an easy mark, so for 150 years people have been dropping unwanted dogs at the front gate. One day about 25 years ago the monks woke up to the “Dog of the day”.  This dog was in really bad shape; she had three good legs and one bad one. Obviously, she had been starved because the monks could easily count her ribs. She had stripes on her boney shoulders where the fur was missing; most likely she had been whipped. There was a scab around her neck where she had strained against a chain or rope until she was raw. They named her Limp. She was one pitiful, frightened, bitter, unforgiving dog. So frightened that she would not let anybody, not even the gentlest monk get anywhere near her. She trusted no one because she was in bondage to her past. As the days went by and as Limp began her recovery, almost every monk would take her a little something from his plate.  For the longest she refused to eat out of their hands. The food had to be put on the ground then she would snatch it and run off. Finally she began to trust again and she got where she would eat out of the monks’ hands and then even roll over and stick her paws up in the air and say “please rub my belly”. She became a brand new dog! She came out of bondage. Limp had recovered! She started following old Father Matthew on his early morning walks through the woods. One day, just past Half Moon Lake, Limp picked up the scent of a deer. She started sniffing around, found the deer and gave chase until the frightened deer got caught up in a barbed wire fence. Instantly, without warning Limp made a leap for the neck killing the deer.

The sad truth is that the story of Limp is a parable of life itself. More often than not when God has nursed us back after a horrible injury instead of passing on his mercy and grace to someone who hurt us, we try to get even by taking them out. If I choose to remain bitter and continue a “get even attitude” then, I am not a bit better than that ungrateful dog named Limp and neither are you. This is not going to be easy, but we’ve got to choose to forgive and to love our enemies as hard as it is to do. If we do not then we are sure to live out our days in a self-imposed one man/woman cell of bondage that might rival my 45 years. I have tasted freedom; I do not want to go back there ever again. I refuse to!  I pray that you do not either. Jesus was pretty straightforward. He simply put it all this way. Love God and Love you neighbor. Let us all do that starting now. (Talk by Father Matthew Kelty, Abby of Gethsemani  November  22, 2005)

Up next: Epilogue

For the complete beta version of my book  for free Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My personal story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, failure,rehab and victory. http://johngouldener.com/?page_id=3877

BIG!

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

FotoFlexer_Photoxxxx

At our church, we often use the term “Big G God”. I think that is a really a cool term for God and His mighty power. Somebody remarked that I coined that idiom.  Actually, I think that I plagiarized it from someone else. I’ve never been about reinventing the wheel or not using someone’s good idea.  It really doesn’t make a hill of beans difference who came up with it; what is important is the truth contained in the term. It is the solid truth, in a simple and easy to remember expression!

However, it is one thing to use the term “Big G God” in general conversation or in teaching; yet is something else entirely to believe He is big enough to take care of you personally, no matter what. Do you believe He is big enough to take care of you personally? I expect that every believer on the planet would answer, “Sure, I believe that; of course I do”. Yet, if we take an honest look at our lives, perhaps they might reveal something else entirely. Sometimes we tend to see God as a celestial grandfather whose chief characteristic, perhaps his only one, is love.  One of the dangers we have in the church today, is that we tend to strip God of his other attributes.  One of which is that He is all-powerful and therefore has the power to take care of you. It doesn’t matter who you are or what is going on in your life.

Let me give you an example of how that can play out in our lives. Many of you know that I lived most of my life in a shadowy world of shame and self-doubt as I hid the deep, dark secret of having been abused as a child. On the outside I looked good, but inside I didn’t feel very good. Whenever my mom or wife asked if anything “like that” had happened to me, I always said “No”. The reason I didn’t tell the truth is pretty simple. I could tell you that I was ashamed or that I was embarrassed, feared rejection or was afraid to admit it. All of that would be true to a certain extent.  But the real, bottom line, gut check, honest truth is I didn’t believe God was big enough to get me through dealing with my past. I was a successful pastor with all the right answers for everybody else. But when it came to me, God’s big was not quite big enough. I have written a book about mistakes I’ve made.  Not fully trusting God was certainly one of the most costly.

Thankfully, today my insides match my outside. I’ve opened the box and let God be God.  In the process, I discovered that He’s bigger than big. God is gigantic to the umpteenth power plus! For nearly ten years now, on a daily basis, I have been witness to God’s limitless healing and restorative power.  If you are at all like I was, then ask God today to open a door to your faith becoming a fact and not merely a meaningless expression. Go for it; He is big enough!

Something to Think About

For the complete beta version of my book  for free Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My personal story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, failure,rehab and victory. http://johngouldener.com/?page_id=3877

Chapter 30 – Blown Calls

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

adam-dunn-first-baseFrom my book Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My personal story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, failure, rehab, jail and victory.

While having breakfast with my friend Bill Harris, a high school and college official, Bill related an incident in a high school football game in which the side judge on his crew made an obvious bad call that appeared to cost the game.  As soon as the game ended, Bill made a beeline to the losing coach to apologize for the blown call. What happened next sounded familiar. Instead of being met with a furious coach, he found a man who was both gracious and responsible. The coach listened to Bill’s apology; then he looked directly into his eyes and said, “Bill, as bad as that call was, and it was horrible, it did not cost us the game. We lost because we did not play well enough to win. We had numerous opportunities, but we did not take advantage of them. We only have ourselves to blame. But thank you anyway”.

Over the last several years, particularly as I worked on the manuscript for this book, I came to that very same conclusion regarding my life.  At some point along my journey to healing, I realized that the actions of the Robinsons in 2005, as painful as they were, they did not do me in or cost me my church.  On the contrary, just like that football team, I did not play very well.  That is the bottom line to the events revolving around the split of Highland Park Church. Just like that nameless high school football team’s inability to take advantage of opportunities hurt their loyal fans, my repeated failures to lead hurt scores of people who had looked to me to be their leader and to protect their interests as far as the church was concerned.

As much as I would prefer to blame this person or that person that would not be the responsible thing to do any more than had the coach blaming Bill’s side judge. It would be opportunistic and dishonest. According to the coach, his team had ample opportunities to win the ball game. So did I.  Coming to that conclusion, while humbling and hurting in a different kind of way, has been enormously freeing for me. Hopefully, it has made me a better person and a more effective leader. I pray that is the case.  In life we daily come nose to nose with choices that will either free us or bind us. Our default settings tend to be tilted more toward instinctively choosing the ones that bind us rather than those that guide us along the path to liberty.  I expect that we make those wrong choices in a futile effort to prevent our pride from taking one more self-inflected hit. I mean who of us wants to look in the mirror and say “My bad”? Nobody! As a general rule, we will do almost anything rather than face that inescapable fact of life. Since we all intuitively know that nobody is always right and with a track record of mistakes following us around like a whipped puppy, then why do we insist on living like it?

Many years ago for some inexplicable reason Mike Tyson bit a chunk out of an opponent’s ear.  Years later, Tyson said that “At the time it seemed like the thing to do”. That is a typical response.  After my emotional breakdown and during my subsequent treatment at Sierra Tucson in the fall of 2005, I was numb, hurt, bewildered and at one point most likely suicidal. All I could see and feel during those lonely and painful fall days in the Arizona desert, was that single “game costing call” made against me by Dale Robinson and family.  From my skewed worldview at that time, I blamed the Robinsons’ power grab for what I perceived as the loss of the church, my reputation and my future. What I did not realize at the time was that my nearly life-long codependency issues were the true culprits – not a single act of betrayal for gain.  With 20/20 hindsight I see ever so clearly that my game plan for life was fatally flawed since childhood. For a multitude of reasons, most of my life was spent living in the dark chasms of shame, guilt and a feeling of being less than.  I have a vague recollection of my mom telling me that she had always thought that she (therefore “I”) somehow did not measure up to other people. I felt that way most of my life. Thankfully, I no longer do, but that metamorphosis took a great deal of work over a great deal of time with help from a great deal of loving people.

In the spring of 2011 both Bruce Pearl, head basketball coach at the University of Tennessee and Jim Tressel, head football coach at Ohio State University were fired. Not so much because they broke the rules, which they certainly did, but because they chose to lie about it. Congressman Anthony Weiner sent inappropriate text messages to several young women. When caught he denied his guilt, but later came clean and resigned.  Atlanta mega-church “star”, Bishop Eddie Long, who initially denied his guilt, made an out of court settlement with several young men who had accused him of sexually abusing them. The common thread running through the shattered careers of each of those men is that they initially lied rather than facing the truth. According to the Bible, pride always comes before the fall.

Fortunately not everybody chooses that route. In the 2010 Masters’ Golf Tournament Rory McIlroy went into the final round with a four shot lead. That Sunday afternoon, with millions watching worldwide, he had what has been call the most gigantic meltdown in the history of professional golf. He completely fell apart on the back nine shooting an 80 for the day and blowing his opportunity to win the coveted green jacket. In contrast to some other recent meltdowns, Rory’s disintegration did not include any club throwing or swearing. After the tournament, instead of being unavailable for comment or curt with the media, he faced the press answering their questions humbly, fully and without spin. That day Rory Mcllroy made a critical choice as to how he would respond to adversity. It has served him well. Nine weeks later, as the crowds chanted “Ro—ry, Ro—ry”, McIlroy won the U.S. Open by a record 16 strokes while breaking multiple other records. A few days later, a tribute ad in the “USA Today”, sponsored by Oakley Incorporated, carried a full page picture of Rory with the caption, “Own your defeats and you will be defined by your victories”. That is a caption that I have come to find true personally. It is a universal truth. It has been my observation that people who do not come to that personal conclusion are victors only in their own imaginations.

Because of our fallen natures, the human species when faced with potential hits to its pride, will often make some very poor choices. A few folks like to bite ears; others of us simply lie — to ourselves or others and sometimes to both. Sensing pain, our rationalizing machines go haywire, which usually equates to “It isn’t my fault” which plays out in, “I did not know my quarterback was accepting free tattoos”. “I did not illegally recruit that player”. “I did not send that picture”. “I did not cause this personal disaster in my life”. “I am not to blame!” Passing the buck has been around as long as mankind. In the first book of the Bible, Genesis 3, Eve blamed the snake. Adam blamed Eve and we have all been blaming somebody or something ever since. I expect God sees through that nonsense and just shakes His head in near perpetual disappointment.

Several months ago, early one morning as I was turning into McDonald’s, a guy, who was talking on his cell, came barreling out of the parking lot into my lane of traffic nearly causing a collision. What did he do then? He gave me the finger while yelling obscenities at me! How we do like to blame others for our failures! The truth is blaming has never worked. It did not work for Adam, Eve, me, you or anybody else and it never will. What does work is personal responsibility.  I deal with folks all the time, and in fact have been one of them, who seem to think that because this or that happened or did not happen some place in their lives, then they are forever obliged to live life tethered to that event. Take my word for it; that is lousy logic.

One of the greatest flaws and certainly one of the most costly of my life has been that of being a people pleaser. I am not talking about being a nice guy. God designed us to be nice. We should all be nice guys and gals. Hopefully, both you and I are. But none of us should be people pleasers. By “people pleasing” I am talking about a toxic addition to approval that routinely results in compromising your life, your values, or your very being. I mentioned this “threesome” elsewhere in this book; yet, it is critically important in order to fully understand my journey to wholeness.  During our earlier days at Highland Park Church, I subconsciously chose three people as the litmus tests of the worth of my Sunday messages — my wife Cathy, Dale Robinson and his mom Thelma.  I know why I chose Cathy and Dale, but I am not quite sure how Thelma got in the mix. Each Sunday, ten, twenty, a hundred other people could praise the message, but unless one of those three said, “that a boy” I felt like I had struck out. That is a precarious way to travel through life because you surrender your serenity to someone else.  It is also quite a selfish way to live. They had lives of their own to live; they did not know they were the “anointed ones” and that I was waiting for them to run to me with their personal fist bumps.  The more I grew in my confidence in my teaching ability and as I got deeper into recovery, the less important their affirmation became. Now, that I am well, I fully realize that I put myself in an untenable position and created a great deal of self-imposed misery. However, that is what happens to people who are unable to internally validate themselves. We reach outside ourselves. Whenever we add another layer to anything in life, whether it is baking a cake or looking for our self-worth, the potential for problems rises exponentially.  But as Iron Mike said, it made perfect sense at the time.

Until my time at Sierra Tucson, in my quest for approval, true to my discharge diagnosis, I would routinely say “Yes” to nearly any and all requests both personal and professional and then spend countless hours kicking myself in the butt asking, “What was I thinking?  Why did I make that commitment? Why am I letting that person control me? But that is the life path that people pleasers seem to willfully choose to trudge. They constantly tote around the white flag of surrender, because as approval addicts, they have been unable to develop any sense of self-worth from within. I never considered myself a doormat, but looking back I do see that I allowed some folks to walk right over me on their way to whatever they were looking to find. We are all looking for something! More often than not, because of our personal life experiences, our searches are flawed. That realization has helped me, perhaps more than any other, to move a bit closer to becoming the kind of forgiving individual that God calls us to be. That is why I wrote these words in the introduction many months ago. “This is a narrative about shame and guilt, success and failure, love and betrayal, friendship and envy, pride and humility, but mostly about a group of imperfect people doing what imperfect people always do.”

Life is like a card game. We are all dealt a hand. We can play that hand or throw down some cards. I have now thrown some down. One of the huge differences in my life today is that I can enjoy doing absolutely nothing. One of my favorite things is to spend time at our farm listening to the birds chirp and the water babbling in the creek. I can spend hours by the creek just soaking in God’s goodness, majesty and His unfailing love. Perhaps, I am just getting old, but I think my internal peace is a result of recognizing and working through my self-defeating behaviors to the point of accepting myself just as I am.  When you think you are not enough, you never are and when you know that you are, you realize that you are plenty.  The definition of plenty is “a sufficient supply”. That is the point along the time-line of life’s continuum where you become OK with who you are you. You also realize that the blown call was just that – a bad call, but not a defining call. That is a critical point in your journey to wholeness.

We have lost that wonderful building on Knob Hill that so many folks sacrificed greatly to build, surrounded by sixty-six acres of pristine middle Tennessee forests. I will never talk to God in solitude silence from that great auditorium as I watch the doe and her fawns grazing.  But I have the memories of the ride from the night six friends ate a Poppa John’s Pizza and started a church to this moment of time. A moment where I am enough just as I am, where there are no secrets and as odd as it may sound I find myself at the apex of my ministry and life. God is so good! Cathy and I are intact. We are whole and we are strong and we a fulfilled.

Next Up: A Dog Named Limp

For the complete beta version of my book  for free Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My personal story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, failure,rehab and victory. http://johngouldener.com/?page_id=3877

A Basic Need

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

5ll_icon-affirmation-150x150Several months ago the video projectors went down in the midst of our Sunday service; Monday I called the manufacture. After holding for 42 minutes a tech rep said “Hello, I am Sandy, how may I help you?” With rising blood pressure I immediately profiled, thinking to myself, you’re not Sandy, you are in India. “Sandy” isn’t even close to an Indian name, and for sure no Sandy sounds like you.  Immediately I concluded this is going to be another of those long and frustrating, pull your hair out conversations between two people who both have heavy accents and at least one of us is already in over his head. Actually that is an understatement.  I’m not sure I know how to turn the projectors on; somebody else does that.  Anyway since I had no choice I decided to make the best of the situation. What else could I do?

As best as I could, I explained exactly what had happened; then “Sandy” asked a few questions. To my surprise I was able to answer them. Then she said, “Mr. John I think I have the solution, but may I put you on hold for two minutes to check my references?”  In no time she came back and said that a power fluctuation would be the only thing that would have caused the problem that I described. In less than five minutes she was able to give me an answer that I could understand and believe.  I replied, “Thanks Sandy, you did a great job”.

Her immediate response was, “Oh, you made my day.  I don’t hear that very often. I’m glad that you talked to me. Thank you for being so kind”.Her reaction to my seven words of affirmation seemed way out of proportion. How wrong I had been about Sandy. After we said our good-byes I couldn’t help but think about how excited and grateful she was when I complimented her. One of the basic needs of everyday people, whether in Nashville or Bombay, is to be accepted and affirmed.  Unfortunately, that need goes unmet more often than not.

Something to think about.

The complete beta version of my book  for free Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My personal story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, failure,rehab and victory. http://johngouldener.com/?page_id=3877