A Fresh Focus in 2015

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I love new beginnings. They are like a fresh set of downs (a football term for you soccer enthusiasts), a sunny morning after a rain, or a mulligan after a shanked tee shot (I know these too well). You get to start over with a better perspective and clearer view of the world. That is what a new year is to me. With 2015 squarely in our path, I thought it would be beneficial to challenge myself with a few thoughts. Feel free to join me as I strive to live a more meaningful life in the upcoming year.
 Learn from the past: I know it sounds a little contrary to scripture as we are told to, “forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead,” Philippians 3:13. Yet, I have found it very beneficial to take stock in experience. Even football players watch game film to gain understanding from their mistakes and acquire wisdom from the past. With that in mind, Carol and I will review at our master calendar that has all the year’s events on it, go through every month and reminisce. This discipline has always brought great reward. We love to remember all the people that the Lord allows us to engage with. These are not just memories, they are connections with people and places that the Lord has specifically blessed us with. As we look in the rearview mirror, we are able to reassess the opportunities that we have had to overcome life’s struggles, the pain of trials and see the hand of God on all of it.
 Develop gratitude: As we rethink the past year, my heart is filled with thankfulness. The fingerprints of Jesus continue to show up in our lives. When 2015 gets difficult, I want to remember the sweet hand that has always guided our steps. I have a tendency to get focused on the mountains in front of me. I need to remember the hills we have climbed in the past, knowing that He has always been in those journeys. Carol is still faithfully listing her daily gratitudes in a notebook that has hundreds of entries.
 Create an attainable objective: I am goal oriented, yet, I rarely make a long list of things I want to accomplish. In fact, every time I have done it, I failed miserably. I can get discourage when things don’t happen as quickly as I want them to. So, I make small goals that I know I can make happen. This past year’s goal was kind of lofty (write my first book). Now, I need to sell that book…..looks like I have a new goal! I do want to write more consistently this year, at least one blog a month. I also want to create one objective for Carol and I to develop together.
 Schedule fun: I need things to look forward to. When the grind of life gets me stuck, it’s always a blessing to know there is something in the future to enjoy. We like to get the new calendar out and start to look ahead to what we can do for fun in the next 12 months. This also gives us financial goals to try and achieve. I also know that if we don’t schedule something, our busyness will squeeze out all the time, and there won’t be anything left for us. This may also include small things, hikes, bike rides, an occasional movie and other outings to get us away.
 Invest in somebody: There is nothing more rewarding than developing a new deep relationship. Is there a couple you would like to get to know? Invite them over for dinner, out for coffee or lunch. This takes time, yet the rewards are eternal. I have to work through my insecurities to engage in meeting new people all the time.
Unplug more: We went to the movies the other night and I forgot my phone. What a wonderful, free, and uninhibited experience! I want to turn that stupid phone off more this year when I’m at home and forget it all together when we go out.
Read good books: Carol and I love to read together. We try to find engaging, thought provoking books that we can digest together. We are currently enjoying Bob Goff’s Love Does, and Brene Brown’s I Thought It Was Me. We spend many evenings reading out loud to each other. It is a special time of connection that binds our heart and minds together. A few books I can recommend: Donald Miller- A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Francis Chan-Forgotten God, and anything by Philip Yancey. I also heard there was a book out by a former Nebraska quarterback that might be worth a look.

My most pressing hope for this year is a deeper experience with the Spirit of God. I want to hear His voice more clearly than ever before. May His love fill your hearts.

Blessings,
Travis and Carol

Now Available!

Cover front

 Click the cover to order

 

Praise for The Family Quarterback

“Travis Turner joined the University of Nebraska football team as a walk-on player in the early 1980’s.  As his coach I observed  his journey from walk-on to starting quarterback and the struggles he encountered along the way which he chronicles.  More importantly, he relates the struggles he encountered in his spiritual journey as a player,  husband and father.  Travis has gained a level of maturity and insight which makes this book not only very interesting from an athletic perspective, but of vital importance to anyone who seeks to have a meaningful relationship with Christ and seeks to integrate his or her faith into interpersonal relationships involving family, friends and associates.”

Tom Osborne, Former Head Coach, University of Nebraska

 

“Without the wisdom, counsel and spiritually mature guidance of Travis Turner, I would not have the marriage and family I have today. Through my years as a pro-family ministry leader, political candidate, and now leading a Christian university, Travis Turner constantly challenged me to be a better husband, and a better father to our 8 now grown children. I am so excited that, through publication of “The Family Quarterback,” untold thousands will have the same opportunity to be blessed and challenged by Travis to be the husbands and fathers God created them to be!”

Len Munsil, B.S., J.D. President, Arizona Christian University

 

“I have known and loved Travis and Carol Turner for over twenty five years. They love the Lord, they love each other, and they are dedicated to helping others make their marriages a blessing. In The Family Quarterback, Travis leaves it all on the field. He is not pretending he has always been a great husband. He shares honestly and openly about his mistakes and the lessons he has learned that have enabled him to triumph over sin, the flesh and the devil, so that he can be the man God created him to be. Travis is the godly quarterback of his family and he lives a life that is a great example for every husband. Those who take in the wisdom of this book and apply it will discover the blessings that God intends for all of our marriages.”

Mark Buckley, Senior Pastor, Living Streams Church, Phoenix, Arizona

 

“The Family Quarterback is a must read!  As a former collegiate and NFL player, I know the crucial and strategic role of the quarterback in a football game, and as a pastor, I know the crucial role of leadership in the household.  In The Family Quarterback, Travis Turner brilliantly parallels the two, and seamlessly correlates the head of the team with the head of the home.  Turner teaches principles of leadership that will show you how to lead by example, build unity, and guide your family with purpose!”

Andre Wadsworth, Executive Pastor of Impact Church, former member of the Arizona Cardinals

 

“If you want to be the best husband and father you can be then The Family Quarterback is a must read. Travis Turner does a great job of giving a practical play-by-play guide to be an effective leader of your family. This book outlines a winning game plan for being your families quarterback”

Jim & Debbie Hogan, Co-founders of Standing Stone Ministry and authors of Shepherding the Shepherds: The Standing Stone Story

 

“I played in the trenches of the NFL for 14 years.  I was an offensive lineman and every time I walked into the huddle across from my quarterback I could tell by the tone of his voice and the look in his eyes how he was doing.  I’ve recently become acquainted with Travis and Carol Turner.  I’ve spent enough time with them to be able to tell how they are doing.   These two are seasoned veterans and have been on the playing field of life, marriage and parenting.  They have strived together  in the trenches of a tough fight to salvage their marriage.  TodayTravis is leading their  team; he has stepped up, to love and to lead his family. He  invites you into his “family huddle” to let you see an honest picture of a family in crises and that same family now on a winning streak.  My wife and I know Travis and Carol well and we urge you to take advantage of their transparency and history of making and then correcting mistakes. Athletes, coaches and fans will benefit greatly by reading The Family Quarterback and following this quarterback’s lead.”

Norm Evans, ’72 Miami Dolphins Perfect Season, Standing Stone Ministries, Pro Athletes Outreach and The Winning Ways.org

Our First Endorsement!

Dear Friends,

Carol and I are looking forward to sharing our story and leading a retreat at Harvey Cedars Bible Conference, Couples Weekend on October 31-November 2. We are planning to release our first book “The Family Quarterback” at this event. If you are interested in attending go to their website to register: http://www.hcbible.org/index.php/events/couples-weekend/.

This weekend we will be headed to California for further training with Standing Stone Ministries (SSM). SSM is committed to caring for full-time ministry leaders and their spouses. We are looking forward to becoming a mentoring couple with this outstanding ministry. For more information check out: https://www.standingstoneministry.org.

Breaking News:
We received our first endorsement for “The Family Quarterback” yesterday. It came from the man who taught me a great deal about being a leader and an authentic Christian:
“Travis Turner joined the University of Nebraska football team as a walk-on player in the early 1980’s. As his coach I observed his journey from walk-on to starting quarterback and the struggles he encountered along the way which he chronicles. More importantly, he relates the struggles he encountered in his spiritual journey as a player, husband and father. Travis has gained a level of maturity and insight which makes this book not only very interesting from an athletic perspective, but of vital importance to anyone who seeks to have a meaningful relationship with Christ and seeks to integrate his or her faith into interpersonal relationships involving family, friends and associates.”
Tom Osborne, former Head Coach, University of Nebraska
This endorsement will be featured on the back cover.

Our kickstarter campaign has 20 days left. Our goal is $3,000 to cover the production costs of our first run of books. We are currently at $445 pledged. If you would like to assist us launch this project, go to :http://kck.st/1uEOFVL.

Travis. Osborne pic

 

 

The Family Quarterback-Chapter One: Third Quarter

Ministry Update:

Last week, Carol and I were in Seattle, Wa. for a Standing Stone Ministries retreat. Standing Stone Ministry serves full-time Christian ministry leaders and their spouses. This includes pastors, vocational ministry leaders, and missionaries. We were hosted by Norm and Bobbe Evans. Norm played in the NFL for 14 years, and won two Super Bowls. He was a part of the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins. After his days in the NFL, Norm served as President of Pro Athletes Outreach and Bobbe was the Executive Director. For 26 years they led this organization that reaches out to athletes and coaches around the world. They are now mentoring couples across the country through www.standingstoneministry.org. Carol and I are being trained to also mentor couples through Standing Stone.  This was a life changing week for us. Were are grateful to be mentored by such a loving and experienced couple. We are looking forward to serving others in the same fashion.

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Chapter One: Third Quarter

Reading the Defense
“Your enemy the devil…” 1 Peter 5:8a

Underestimating the challenge
I believe we men tend to minimize what it’s going to take to make a marriage and family work. We drastically misjudge how much focus it requires to build a life-long, fulfilling relationship. I know that I was horribly unprepared for what I was about to face when Carol and I walked down the aisle. Just like that day in practice, when I was hit by that safety, I wasn’t ready, and I had no idea what would hit me.
Statistics are something sports fans seem to enjoy. Many relate to them. Many find them helpful in determining how they behave in life. Depending on whom you listen to, or which survey you believe, roughly 50% of marriages are ending in divorce. That is a significant statistic. It presents a troubling and bleak picture. Do you think any of the couples that those statistics represent, those who went to the altar, did so with the intent to get a divorce? I don’t think so.
We do not consider how the enemy of our souls, the devil, does not want Christian men and women to live in harmony and holiness. I think he targets every man who calls himself by the name of the son of God. He knows that failed marriages send a message to others that Christianity doesn’t work!
The devil wants to cripple us
“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
1 Peter 5:8b.
I am a fan of Animal planet, and the Discovery channel. I love watching things like “When Big Cats Attack!” They show a leopard, lion or a tiger crouching in the weeds, waiting, waiting, patiently waiting for the gazelle to get close enough. (Carol hates these scenes; in fact, I have to change the channel when she is in the room) For me however, the anticipation is captivating.
When a big cat chooses to makes its move, it is an impressive sight of muscle, stealth, precision and ferocity. The helpless prey tries to get away, to no avail. Victory comes swiftly in most cases.
I think Peter wanted to give us a picture of how fierce, malicious and dreadful the devil is. He is waiting patiently, taking his time, letting us believe we are just fine, allowing us to relax, wanting us to let our guard down. Then when he pounces, he can carry us off in his teeth.
Only we are not dead. He just owns us. He controls us. He wants us to surrender our will to his.
The devil doesn’t want to kill us, only wound us. If we are hurt, bitter, resentful, then we can become more useful to him. We are now able to inflict pain and anguish on others as his assistants. That’s what happens when he “gets a foothold” Ephesians 4:7b.
The devil is suited up and has his eye on us
I wish the enemy were as easy to spot as a player in an opponent’s jersey was. It would certainly be a lot easier to distinguish the good guys from the bad. He is actually in disguise: “for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14.
It is critical that we understand our opponent and his intentions. In football, we would spend hours and hours watching film and studying our adversaries. As a family quarterback, we are in training to combat the prince of darkness. He’s got some skill.
One of my favorite segments on NFL films shows a wide-eyed Chicago Bears middle linebacker, Mike Singletary, looking menacingly at the quarterback. I met Mike many years ago, and he is a fine man of faith. However, his look and demeanor are a great visual to remind us of how our enemy has his eyes wide open, looking at us in a malicious way.
“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:11b. That’s right. The devil is scheming against us! He is plotting, planning, creating tactics to get us off our game. He knows us; he is familiar with our weaknesses. He will be relentless in his attack on us! Think: blitzes from all corners of the field, unyielding persistent pressure.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12. I’m a pretty practical guy; I don’t see demons at every corner or circumstance. I do believe however, there are unseen forces trying to hinder us as believers from experiencing the peace and love of God that is in Christ.
The Devil’s Game Plan “The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy.” John 10:10a
He wants to destroy our faith by:

  • Tempting us into sin: “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 4:3.
  • Distracting us: “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us.” Hebrews 12:1b. Like getting us to watch the cheerleaders on the sideline instead of focusing on our game. When we take our eyes off the field, we are no longer engaged in the battle.

He wants to deceive us:

  • Lies: “When he (the devil) lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44b
  • False teaching: “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14b. When we read the headlines that question our skill, it undermines the confidence that is required. (Trust me, I know firsthand).

He wants to influence us:

  • Rebellion: “the spirit (the devil’s) who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Ephesians 2:2b.
  • Impairing our vision: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:4. Your opponent starts trash talking, and grabbing you in inappropriate places during a pile up. You will be tempted to retaliate. (This too I know personally).

He wants to divide us:
It is not uncommon for star players to receive a lot of publicity. Their response to special treatment of “special players,” can quickly divide a locker room.

  • Anger: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26b.
  • Envy: “If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts…..such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.” James 3:14a,15b.

In the following chapters, we will examine more of the devil’s tactics to derail our lives. We will break down numerous strategies and maneuvers he uses to keep us from enjoying, “life to the full,” John 10:10b. We will discuss how to relinquish the control of our lives to the Holy Spirit and discover, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” 1 John 3:8b.

 

If you would like a complete copy of the book in rough draft, email me travis@divineromanceministries.org

 

 

The Family Quarterback- Chapter One: Second Quarter

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The Play:
Prepare to be Impacted
“Brace yourself like a man” Job 38:3

The best way to approach this book is to buckle up! Together, we will examine spiritual leadership in the home. YOU and ME. We will carefully examine the scriptural expectations of husbands and fathers. We will evaluate the day-to-day application of His Word in our routines and lifestyle. Since we will be using football to illustrate our principles this will be a full contact experience. We will look at the solutions to all of our relationship conflicts: CHRIST IN YOU!
Before we get in the game, we must:
Have the proper gear
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” Ephesians 6:13a.
Are you ready to stand your ground? If we aren’t properly equipped, we are going to get our helmets knocked into the end zone just like I did.
Your Equipment
•“belt of truth” Ephesians 6:14a.
At first glance, this appears to be something that keeps your pants up. If you look closer at the text, you will discover that there is an entirely different apparatus. A better interpretation comes from the King James: “gird your loins with truth”. I take this to mean “protect your manhood with truth. It’s a girdle, not a belt. The groin is a very sensitive area for the average guy. Getting hit there can ruin you day, or worse.
The enemy wants to reduce your masculinity. The greatest truth that we need to gird ourselves with is: “God created man in His own image.” Genesis 1:27. We are made in His likeness. We are His reflection to the world. What an amazing task and responsibility for us. This truth can become our identity, if we will let it.
What is your belt of truth? What do you believe? What do you stand for? Since it seems to me that truth in our culture today is relative, absolute thinking does not get much traction. The apostle Paul gave us an example of a truth that we all could use as a belt to wrap around our waists. “We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:10
What you believe will dictate how you respond to life. That will ultimately define you.
•“breastplate of righteousness” Ephesians 6:14b
Have you ever been hit square in the chest like football players do while they play in a game? I can tell you that without the protective pads that players wear, a blow like that will knock you out. Even with pads on, players can still have the wind knocked out of them. Quarterbacks are known to be outfitted with a flak jacket to protector their ribs. More importantly, all of this equipment is used to protect the most important part of the body– the heart. If the heart is damaged, a player becomes incapacitated and ineffective. He may even die.
One thing that protects our heart from being damaged is righteousness. We are to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ,” Philippians 3:11a. Christ is the protector of our vital organs.“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7.
On the other hand, if my heart is being protected by my own righteousness, I may have a rough go of it. Scripture asserts ,“There is no one righteous, not even one,” Romans 3:11a. If we rely on our own goodness, it will result in disabling discouragement.
•“feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” Ephesians 6:15.
Proper footwear is an essential part of the football wardrobe. Football shoes come in various styles and materials that combine to provide superior traction on all types of surfaces, even when weather conditions come into play. In every case, we need to choose an effective cleat. ‘Wet weather’ cleats were on the shoes to help us move about on a slick surface. With the right shoe for the job, we didn’t slip when changing direction. We could be extremely effective when we ran.
In the same way for life, understanding and dependence on peace prepares our footing. Therefore, for you and me, the only place to get authentic peace is from the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. “For he (Christ) himself is our peace.” Ephesians 2:14a. Like proper footwear, His peace creates stability and balance so we can navigate the hazardous trials of life.
Similarly, if our steadiness depends on our own understanding, then we will only be as stable as our circumstances. We become like Peter when he jumped out of the boat. “But, when he saw the wind, he was afraid.” Matthew 14:30.
•“shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Ephesians 6:16
A football player’s shield is his shoulder pads. They are an essential piece of protection and they are made with a lightweight plastic outer shell, lined with high impact shock absorbing foam underneath. Other positions have unique shoulder pads to help them with their particular playing responsibilities. Linemen have larger, bulkier pads, while quarterbacks and receivers have smaller and lighter pads that do not restrict arm and throwing movements.
A man of God has his “shoulder pads” of faith to protect him from the lies and schemes of the devil. That faith demonstrates a man’s genuine reliance on his heavenly father, in faith. Faith is how much we really trust The God we do not see: “hope for and are certain of that we don’t see” (paraphrased) Hebrews 11:1.
Now for me, my faith has a tendency to be as large as my bank account. If there is plenty of money in the account, I have plenty of faith and I am strong. If the money is running low, or the bills are mounting, my strength is diminished. In like fashion, my ability to fight off the enemy’s hostile pursuit dwindles if my faith is weak. I start to look like the man who built his house on sand. “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:27.
•“helmet of salvation,” Ephesians 6:17a
Can you image a football game without the players wearing helmets? I’m pretty sure it would be a bloody mess. When football was first played, they had no helmets. Over time, helmets have evolved to become what they are today. So, too did the masks that cover the players’ faces. There are at least 15 face mask styles, each designed to protect the player’s head and face. The helmet and the mask combine to make a vital piece of life-preserving equipment.
For believers, salvation crowns the head like a helmet. The hope of our salvation provides a helmet for the indispensable mind. We must prepare for clear thinking. “‘I will put my laws in their minds,’ declares the Lord.” Hebrews 8:10a. In view of the fact that, “the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6a.
Relying on this principle, it helps us to keep our minds set on our Redeemer and His kindness. Otherwise, we face trouble: “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” Romans 8:7. Our “destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” Philippians 3:19.
So, let’s get suited up. When we slip on our gear, we will be ready to play and we will feel like a million bucks. Do it now and enjoy it for a moment, because your opponent is out there, waiting for his opportunity to knock your helmet off!

 

If you would like a copy of the entire rough draft, email me Travis@divineromanceministries.org

The Family Quarterback: Chapter One- Buckle Up

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Chapter One: First Quarter

Buckle UP!

My freshman year at the University of Nebraska was an incredible, almost unbelievable adventure. I was not attending the school on a football athletic scholarship, but was attempting to make the team as a “walk-on.” I’ll never forget the first day I found my locker. It was full of equipment: Helmet, shoulder pads, pants, pads, socks, jocks and cool shoes. I liked that.
One of the first things I noticed was how you couldn’t tell the difference between the walk-ons and the scholarship guys by assessing the gear we were given, or the lockers we were issued,. Actually, I wasn’t even certain who the scholarship players were. The walk-ons, like me, outnumbered the other guys 3-1. We had over 100 players on the freshman team, however only 25 or so of those were on “full-ride” scholarships.
When I put that helmet on for the first time, I felt like a million dollars. Even though the room was filled with great athletes, I felt special just to be there. I’m felt pretty certain I was a lot faster with those red swooshed Nike shoes, than without them. My regret today is that I didn’t keep them.
The equipment managers gave us a mesh bag to place sweaty clothes in every day. Imagine that! Someone else did our laundry! I could go to the equipment counter and ask for all kinds of stuff: wristbands, face masks, sweat towels and special pads. We were catered-to like royalty. Some of the best people I ever met were the equipment managers. They had a thankless, servant’s job. I discovered that if you were nice to them, they were a lot more willing to change out your shoes!After starting out on the freshman squad, fourth team, I worked my way up to sharing first team duties with a redshirt freshman. I had an above average freshman campaign and after the season was over, I was moved up to varsity scout team duties. That was a big deal for me.
The scout team, or “meat squad” as we were called, had the unique responsibility of running the opposition’s offense against the “Black shirts” (Nebraska’s name for their vaunted defensive squad). It was a dream come true for any Nebraskan. I was playing quarterback against one of the top ranked teams in the country, every single day! I loved every minute of it. It was a thrilling experience to play against the same athletes that I had watched on television. I was a little intimidated.
Late in the season, we were preparing to play a Big Eight opponent and I was running their option offense against our Blackshirt defense. This was a Thursday practice, which usually meant that it was a light practice, with no contact. On those days, we only wore shoulder pads, helmets and shorts. It was considered the last major run-through of preparation before game day. It was not designed to be very physical, but the intensity was high. It was during these practices that the coaches made certain we were not making mental mistakes. We would practice the same plays repeatedly to eliminate any errors.
Because I was an eager freshman, I had a tendency to run hard on every play. Sometimes, the defense didn’t like it when I was putting out more effort than they thought necessary. On one particular play, I ran a quarterback option around the right end, perhaps a little more aggressively than I needed to. We had run the same play several times before.
On that play, as I turned the corner to run up field, the strong safety came up and hit me…hard, really hard! It felt like a Mac truck had just laid me out. I went flying, and so did my helmet as it rolled into the end zone and I fell to a heap on the ground.
I could hear snickers and hand slaps from the defenders. They were testing me to see how I handled it. As it turned out over the years, it certainly wouldn’t be the last time I was flattened.
As I gathered my senses and got up, I wobbled my way over to pick up my helmet. I estimate that it went about 25 yards away from the play. One of the defensive coaches started walking over in my direction. I was expecting him to check on my wellbeing. Perhaps he would give me a little sympathy, or better yet, some correction to the defender that just blew me up. Instead, this is what he said: “You really should buckle your chin strap.” This was my ‘welcome to the varsity football team’ moment and I will never forget it. If you are going to play a contact sport, you had better be prepared!
Life is kind of like that too. It’s not for the faint of heart. You had better be well equipped. And, you had better buckle your chinstrap!

 

If you would like a copy of the entire rough draft, email me travis@divineromanceministries.org

Redemption

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Pre-Game Warm Up:

Redemption

Every football game starts with the entire team lining up for stretching exercises. We will begin this book in a similar way. The following chapters contain numerous Nebraska football stories, interspersed with family tales that took place during our 28 years of marriage. To put these anecdotes in context, you need a proper warm up. To do that, I’ll share my account of God’s redemption for me and our family. It is the foundation for our entire existence.
I met Carol Lynn Wilson in the summer of 1984. I believe that was divine intervention. There is no other way to explain it.
I had just finished my sophomore year at the University of Nebraska (UNL). Carol had recently transferred to UNL from Nebraska Wesleyan. As she prepared for this change, Carol specifically prayed that she would not be distracted by anything, especially a man, during this season of her life.
I on the other hand, had resurrected my career on the football team. After struggling for three years, I had earned a scholarship and was contending for the starting quarterback position. I had recommitted my life to Jesus for the umpteenth time, and I was trying to live according to the Gospel. The area of my life that was still very undisciplined was my moral convictions. I had lost my virginity in high school. Girls were a real problem for me. I was a womanizer. I knew this had to change.
Unlike me, Carol had rarely dated. She had protected herself from men like me. She was not interested in building a new relationship, especially with someone like me.
In July that summer, I attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) gathering at Johnson Lake in central Nebraska. I participated because of what I thought to be The Lord’s direction. I had no idea who was going to attend. At The Lord’s prompting, I was continually being encouraged to go, so much so that He even “told” me who to call for a ride. I could not shake off these promptings so I reluctantly gave teammate Brad Johnson a call to see if he could take me.
While in name I called myself a Christian, at that time I felt I still didn’t fit in with the other Christians at the camp. I was trying to live for Christ, but I had not made any Christian friends. I barely knew Brad, so it was an awkward trip as we drove to the lake. I was an outsider to this group. I didn’t even know who to talk to. While I was there, I felt like everyone was trying to change me and turn me into a Christian.
As we arrived, it was dinner time. A beautiful blonde young lady invited me inside the dining hall to eat. That was the first time I saw Carol.
She radiated a warmth, a kindness and a compassion that I couldn’t resist. I was smitten. Ok, I was obsessed. I didn’t let her out of my sight the entire weekend.
In a flash, the weekend was over. As a way of continuing my pursuit of Carol, I talked her into letting me ride with her and her friend to Western Nebraska. Her friends tried to warn her about me. They didn’t appreciate the attention I was giving her. They called me “Travis the Tiger” or “Trav the Mav.”
When we finally returned to Lincoln, she tried to give me the brush off. I wasn’t having it. I kept asking her out, and she would reluctantly agree. She wanted us to: “just be friends.” Of course, that was never my intention.
As time passed, Carol decided to try to blow my mind by inviting me to her home church. It was an Assemblies of God congregation. She thought the loud music, raising hands, and praying aloud would get rid of me. She didn’t realize that in the past, I had attended a Pentecostal church with my brother and I loved it. In a final effort to elude me, she invited me to dinner with her pastor and his wife. She suspected they would tell her I was “bad news.” She didn’t expect them to really like me. Surprisingly, Dave Argue, the pastor accepted me. He offered to become my first mentor. We met weekly for study, prayer and counsel.
That October, I bought an engagement ring. I planned to ask her to marry me after the football season. I was now the starting quarterback, and as a result, I was able to share my Christian testimony every chance I could. I was an instant celebrity and I took advantage of every opportunity I was given. She traveled with me to churches, banquets and events all over the state.
The night I had planned to propose, I ended up in the hospital with staph infection. I told her about my plan, and she said “not now.” This did not faze me. Undaunted, in the next two months, I asked her two more times, but with same result.
Our relationship stayed somewhat the same until that following January when I went to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. She attended a missions conference in Urbana, Il during that time and when we both returned to Lincoln, she finally gave in to my persistence and accepted the ring.
Not long after, we went through the typical pre-marital counseling. It was a six-week commitment with different elders and pastors of our church. In one meeting, we took the Taylor-Johnson temperament evaluation. Pastor Dave laughed when he read us the results. We were off-the-page opposites. He told us, “There will never be a dull moment with you two.” Boy was he prophetic.
During our engagement, my struggles with sexual desire continued to haunt me. I wanted to be involved with Carol sexually as a part of our relationship. I pushed her until she finally gave in.
She was a virgin and I did not respect her desire to wait until after our wedding ceremony. My indiscretion in not honoring her wishes cost us a great deal of insecurity, pain and distrust. It would take ten years of marriage to resolve it completely. My greatest regret of our engagement, and perhaps my life, was not protecting Carol from ME, sexually.
A short time before Carol and I were to be married, I was asked by one of my teammates, “Why do you want to get married?” Without thinking, I quickly responded, “It’s better to marry, than to burn with lust.” (I was quoting 1 Corinthians 7:9.) What I didn’t realize was that my spontaneous response revealed my true inner motivation.
This hidden agenda would become evident early in our relationship. It would prove to be a major obstacle for us to overcome. Because of my faulty thinking and my questionable morals, I believed that marriage would solve my lust problem. Unfortunately, to my dismay, not only did marriage not relieve my morals problem, it revealed it.
We were a classic blend of lifestyle clashes. I was unprepared for that. For example, she was a carpenter’s daughter. Her father built their home with his bare hands. More than that, her mother died when Carol was 16. The grief of the loss of her mother would, in many ways define her. It turned out that Carol had to care for a father that didn’t have time or patience for her. Tragically, her older brother abused her at a young age.
In order to make a life for herself, she rode her bike everywhere instead of relying upon others for transportation. She worked hard to earn every penny that she had. Likewise, she worked hard to get good grades and to earn an academic scholarship. While she attended college, Carol worked three jobs just to make ends meet.
On the other hand, I was the youngest of five kids. So, as you might imagine, I was spoiled to the core. My father was a car dealer and through the course of my early driving years, I wrecked a lot of them. Because of the family’s prosperity, we had motorcycles and boats along with the things that money could afford. We even lived on ‘snob hill’.
During my youth, my mom took me on shopping sprees. If I broke something, I just bought a new one. Because of this treatment and my pursuit of high school sports, I turned into an entitled athlete who expected others to cater to me.
As our marriage began to take shape, our differences continued to grow. I loved attention and she hated it. I was spontaneous, she was calculated. I spent money, she saved it. I like Macy’s, she prefers Savers. I enjoy behaving in a fast and furious way, she thrives on calm and peace. We are total opposites, so you might think it would make for a perfect fit. Just the opposite was true. I didn’t realize how much work it would take for us to ‘fit’ together as one.
Our wedding day was August 3, 1985. Hundreds of friends and family attended our blessed event. We released red balloons when we left the sanctuary (just like a Husker game after the first score). I had no idea what had just happened. I was just hoping to have sex every day. I figured everything else would take care of itself. What a rude awakening was in store for me.
The honeymoon was painful for Carol. I had sustained some injuries that were taking their toll on my body. I was recovering from knee surgery and I had a herniated disc in my back. As a result, we were both disappointed and frustrated by the time we got home. Remember, we were still in college when we started this new life together!
Fall practice started as soon as we got back. Our opening game was against Florida State on national television. Our new life was already rocky, and things were just getting started.
Almost every day when I arrived home, she was in tears. I didn’t know what was going on. I had no capacity to care for her. I was in my own world of hurt, so I had nothing left for her.
We started living in private pain, a place that no one else could see. To make matters worse, we were now a ‘poster couple’ for Christianity in Nebraska. Because we were prominent in the world of Nebraska Football, we were getting more speaking engagements than ever. Despite our secret pain, we slapped on a smile and we shared our faith, all the while, our lives were unraveling. Her tears continued.
After a traumatic senior season in just about every way, we were rewarded with a trip to Phoenix, Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl. I had a total knee reconstruction after the final regular season game, so I was on crutches when we went to Arizona. While we were there, I spoke at a local church and at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Fiesta Bowl breakfast. All the while, we kept up our ‘happy couple’ front.
During that trip, we met several people involved in ministry that would eventually change our life. One evening, we had dinner with Omaha sports anchor John Knicely and his wife Sue. As we were traveling in the car following that dinner, Carol became sick from the left-over food we had in the car with us. Sue said to her, “I think you are pregnant.” Sue was absolutely right!
A test the next day confirmed that our first child was on the way. Wouldn’t you know it? More tears from Carol.
We decided to finish school and I stayed with the Husker Football program as a graduate assistant coach. The next spring I was invited back to Phoenix for a conference with professional and college athletes. A year later, that organization invited us to move to Phoenix.
Because of all this attention, it became clear to me that I was a first round draft pick for God! It was clear to me that I wanted to do a work for God and now I could do it.
It wasn’t long before our daughter was born. Now, instead of just Carol crying, I had two criers and still no answers! Tragically, I still couldn’t help them.
There was a lot I needed to learn when we moved to Arizona. We arrived there on July 10, 1987 and the temperature was 110 degrees! We weren’t ready for the heat. Something else I didn’t know was that motorcycle riders needed eye protection when riding a bike. It didn’t take long for me to get pulled over for that as well. As that was taking place, I thought to myself, “This is your ‘welcome to the big city’ moment!”
So, there we were. In full-time ministry at a mega church in Arizona. Still, the girls kept crying. Yes, and still, I had no remedy.
We started attending a weekly marriage accountability group. This only heated things up. The group focused on my family leadership and my willingness to be like Christ. I was in ministry! Wasn’t that being Christ-like enough?
Every week they confronted me with my failure. It was painful. I was doing everything I knew to do. I even changed diapers. Carol and the baby kept crying.
I would travel for speaking events where I sat on stage at church and prayed for people. I was a rock star in ministry! Everyone loved me. I read my bible daily. I prayed aloud! I even attended three church services every week. I was trying to save the world. What more could I do? Just the same, Carol and the baby kept crying.
Now, I was starting to get sick of the crying. I was frustrated, angry and resentful. Nothing I was doing helped.
In our marriage group, we studied the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control. I was thinking “I can do that!” I focused on doing it. The harder I tried, the angrier I got.
What I wanted was for her to quit crying and give me more sex! It wasn’t working. Oh, by the way she became pregnant again with our second child. More tears!
Two years after being “God’s first round draft pick,” and after moving to “paradise” with a mission from the Most High, Carol left me. I was out of control. My resentment owned me. I was so angry I couldn’t see straight.
I was broken. My whole life was defined by my own effort. Now those efforts had led to failure. I could not fix this with my own energy, with my own good intensions or with my own power. Ultimately, I realized that this is what the Spirit of God needed so that He could finally work with me.
I learned I had no solutions for our relationship problems because I was trying to find answers for the wrong questions. I wanted her to change, and to give me what I wanted. I wanted her to stop being so emotional.
What I didn’t recognize was that this was not the problem. I was. I needed to find out why I was so angry. I needed to discover the depth of my immoral perspectives. I needed to rediscover Jesus.
Carol returned home on the condition that I would leave instead. I obliged and I spent a couple of weeks in a friend’s bedroom to give her the needed space. During that time, I left the church and the ministry that brought us to Phoenix. I realized it was time to start over.
I stayed committed to our marriage group. I focused on my attitudes and I began repenting. I began to realize that I had created so much damage that I wasn’t sure that I could overcome it. It was painful to go back and learn from all my mistakes. I grew weary and it taught me to lean on Christ for my strength. I had always wanted to do a work FOR God, and He just wanted to do a work IN me. I had to totally reevaluate, my Christianity. How could I be ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ and act like such a jerk to my wife?
With a new kind of thinking, I started to view Carol as an ally instead of an adversary. I began to read the bible with urgency and reverence. I focused on resolving my resentments and bitterness. I discovered a loving God that would answer my frustration with straightforward kindness. I began to realize how The Lord would speak to me if I gave him time and attention.
He didn’t require me to be perfect. He just wanted me to be teachable. He didn’t want me to be a rock star. He wanted me to be a rock. He wanted to fill me with His grace, His mercy and His kindness. He didn’t want me to save the world, He wanted me to love my family.
Over the next three years, we focused on resolving our conflicts and building harmony. Our marriage group was a source of stability and accountability. Every week we grew in patience and grace with one another. We discovered a depth of love for each other that we didn’t even know existed.
Eventually, we were asked to share our testimony at seminars around the country. We discovered a passion for helping hurting couples. We found that our struggle was very common in the Christian community. We could see that thousands of marriages are suffering from the same disconnection that we had.
Since then, for the past 20 years, Carol and I have been sharing the glorious redemption that we experienced. It has been our privilege to help countless others find this precious gift. The redemption that we experienced is available to anyone. It is our joy to share this story and we pray that God will use it to encourage and strengthen all who hear it.

Tasting Freedom

Storyline family

Our Storyline family

Lessons from the Storyline Conference

As most of you know, Carol and I are in process of writing our first book. It has been a leap of faith and a journey of insecurity. Gratefully, over the last few weeks we have made a lot of progress and are starting to feel confident that this project will actually be accomplished. You see, I’m great at starting something, having the discipline and inspiration to finish has always been a different deal.

Before Christmas, Carol encouraged me to sign us up for the Storyline Conference in San Diego (which happened last weekend). The host was writer Donald Miller, who wrote Blue Like Jazz. I had little expectation as we were headed to the left coast. Ironically, Carol said she “wanted this weekend to change us.” I was a little surprised by this lofty goal, I didn’t realize we needed “changing.” She was right (as usual ha!), it transformed us. I thought I would share a few reflections while they are still fresh.

I found myself being “emotionally incontinent” for most of the conference. I felt like I received a deep tissue spiritual massage, and all the knots, tightness and trigger points experienced a thorough workout.  My ‘hot spots’ were exposed. The toxins and tears released were refreshing, healing and therapeutic. We were introduced to a freedom that was unfamiliar to us. This experience was liberating, invigorating and exhausting.

Discovering the need for freedom first requires a revelation of the prison you live in. I quickly recognized that I was entrapped by my own insecurities, fear and pride. The first day we attended an improv workshop. One would think that this is right up my alley, thinking on your feet, having fun and being the center of attention. Not me, not here, not now. Carol kept prompting me to go on stage when volunteers were requested. I was not budging from my chair. I was frozen. Behind us, a thin young man in skinny jeans jumps up and goes up on stage to play their game.

I realized right there, that he was free and I wasn’t. Before you try to rationalize this event, and explain that you would feel the same way …hear me out  The Lord wants me to be free, to see what holds me back, to understand my fears and break loose. I needed to see the contrast in this young man and myself. I have competed in front of millions of people, spoken to large groups many times before. In fact, I love getting up front. And yet, in this place, I could not do it.

In some ways this was the essence of the conference for me. Developing a freedom in Christ to have a meaningful life, and to tell your story to encourage others. Because it is HIStory. Christ in you is the story, how it plays out is your testimony and it has value. We are almost obligated to share it, write it, speak it, let it loose for others to use.

We met some incredible people with amazing stories. Two sisters who moved to California from Michigan are serving those affected by human trafficking. They told stories that would break your heart www.thea21campaign.org. Another woman is currently writing a book about the murder of her father, her forgiveness of the murderer and his conversion in prison www.lauriecoombs.org .  Carol met with one of her favorite bloggers whose book tells the story of her tender brave journey as a widow with two young boys www.tricialottwilliford.com. These people and the impact they are having is priceless.

There is one thing that can cripple us from telling our stories and living a life of meaning: FEAR.

As I sat in the improv workshop I was gripped with it:

  • Fear of looking stupid
  • Fear of being laughed at
  • Fear of how others view me
  • Fear of being seen
  • Fear of being myself
  • Fear of vulnerability
  • Fear of looking weak
  • Fear of making a mistake
  • Fear of imperfection
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of being judged (by others and most importantly myself)

Can you see yourself in any of these? These fears are deep, not necessarily on the surface. I was not nervous, I was paralyzed. I’m not sure what my heart would have done if I would have jumped up and gone forward.  I am longing for that freedom.

What would we do if we knew we couldn’t fail? That is the greatest question. The fact is; there is no failure.  The worst thing we can do is: abstain.  We can refuse to show up, refuse to be seen, refuse to tell the good news of what Jesus has done in our lives.

So here is my conclusion; I was a slave to fear, which is a by product of sin, and Jesus died for that sin so that I would no longer be held captive by it.  I’m thinking of the closing scene in Braveheart, where Mel Gibson is having his guts ripped out. In his last breath he yells “FREEEEEEDOM”.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” John 8:36

 

Donald Miller handing out donuts before a morning session.

Donald Miller handing out donuts before a morning session.

Four Tips for Cooperative Grand-parenting

Grandkids in color smallCarol and I entered into the sacred world of grand-parenting just three years ago, so forgive us if we are naive and think that the world is all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to this new endeavor. The love we have experienced with our daughter’s two little ones is beyond description and it has changed us forever. The interesting thing is this; many of the counseling clients I work with are dealing with in-law and grandparent issues. So, I get a unique perspective from those that are struggling to find balance and grace with those they love dearly; their parents.

One day, it dawned on me that, ‘we may be the trouble making in-laws?’ This idea, helped us to step back and evaluate how we were affecting our kids. We challenged our motives and actions on being the valuable resource and ally we desire to be for them. Our purpose is to create a blessing for them, not a bummer.

The holiday’s seem to bring out a lot of these conflicts that provide for contention, frustration and bitterness. Here are four tips that may be useful in becoming the blessing you were created to be:

1. Be prepared

Childproofing: Getting ready to have the grandkids can be a major undertaking both physically and emotionally. If everyone is coming to your house, it needs to be as child-proof as possible. Some moms are more cautions, fearful and reluctant than others. When they are young, it’s our responsibility to provide a safe environment for them to wander. No parent wants to leave their little darlings at a house that’s not set up for them. To be a blessing to our kids, they need to be able to relax when the kids are with us. If they are worried about their safety, they will not be able to enjoy themselves. It’s up to us to make that happen. Honestly, we have acquired more baby stuff at our house now for the grandchildren than when our own offspring were little.

Playtime: None of us are getting any younger, in fact, we all now know why we have kids when we are young, it’s exhausting! With that in mind, we have be prepared to be energetic and ready to play when we are with the them. As they get older, they will actually require more energy from us. It’s not really taxing to hold an infant. However, it may take a 5 hour energy drink to play soccer with a 10 year old. Not to mention the advil for afterward.

Patience: The emotional part of grand parenting can be the most demanding. Because it’s been a long time since we parented a toddler, it’s easy to forget how many tantrums an hour you get to enjoy. If there are several kiddos melting down around you, the joy only gets multiplied. Are you ready for it? I hope so, because these are precious opportunities to show God’s grace and mercy to the next generation.

2. Be who They Need you to be, not What You want to be!

Whatever idea you have about being a grandparent may come from your mom and dad or even your grandparents. I think we need to put those perspectives to the side and actually ask our kids what they need from us. These are our moments to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and meet the needs of our children. These are things they need:

    • Keep your word-If you say you are picking the kids up at 3 pm, pick them up at 3 pm. Don’t call in the morning and try to reschedule something that’s more convenient for you. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. If you promise to take them to the ball game, make sure that you can get the tickets and get it done. If you tell them you want to have breakfast with them sometime soon, make it happen. NOTHING is more painful than dealing with unfulfilled promises by grandparents. What are your kids suppose to tell their son/daughter when you don’t show up for their games? Grandpa was too busy playing golf with his buddies to come to your event? Or, Grandma had to go shopping?
    • Permissive or disciplinarian-There is a lot of space between these two extremes and it is up to us to find out what our kids want from us. Are bedtimes flexible or firm? Are sweets acceptable? What quantity? How much media is permissible? How much freedom with media is allowed? Do we have internet protection installed? Then the ultimate question: Can we spank them? These are vital to today’s cultural struggles and we need to enter the battle ground with our kids to help guide and protect their children. If our kids need us to be as fun as Disneyland, than let’s to that. If they need us to be as structured as West Point, then we make that happen, also. It’s probably a combination that they want, and it’s up to us to work with them to find it.

3. Enjoy Who They are, not Who You want them to be.

You may have been a major league baseball player, and your son might have followed in your footsteps. What if  your grandson loves soccer, the trumpet and skate boarding? It’s time for you to know names like Messi, Armstrong and Hawk. You will need to become familiar with red cards, the arban, and how to do a 50-50 grind. Your world is going to change, enjoy it, anticipate learning a thing or two along the way. If they get into swimming, brace yourself for some long days spent pool side. I promise, you will not regret attending one of those meets.

We must be willing to engage our children’s children in their worlds. If they are musically inclined you will be sitting at a lot of recitals. These are precious moments that we don’t want to miss out on. Make every one of these events a celebration of talent, persistence and achievement.

4. Never, ever, ever give parenting advice……unless they ask for it.

Here’s the thing, we had our chance. The reality is, we are still parenting our kids…a little. We guide with grace, humility and patience. They are trying to parent by combining their collective experience, thoughts, and ideas. They are figuring it out, just like we did. Let’s let them! If they really want our opinion on something, they will usually ask for it.

Often, without knowing it, we can make comments that can destroy the harmony we are actually trying to build in our relationships. These remarks are never a blessing, and usually lead to pain and bitterness. These are Major Bummers:

“Have you considered spanking?”

“Is she always like that?”

“My, isn’t he a little bratty today?”

“That one sure has a temper”

“You are spoiling her/him”

“You never got away with that when you were that age”

“A little candy won’t hurt them”

I think that it’s our job to find the good in all things that are happening. Following Romans 8:28, we need to be looking for the blessings around us and speak them to all our progeny.

Perhaps we all should apply the “Thumper rule”. Remember from the movie Bambi, “momma says, ‘if you can’t say somethin nice, don’t say nothin at all”-Thumper. Every grandparent can heed this rule. Our words should always be an expression of grace, especially to those who God has brought into our families.

Wouldn’t it be fun to praise our children for their creative choices in parenting? Wouldn’t the simple words of, “I love how you love your kids”, bring joy and instill confidence in them?

“Dear Lord, help me to be a blessing to my children and their kids. Grant me the strength and patience to be the grandparent that they need me to be. Amen”

Shame’s Insidious Sting

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We interrupt our book writing to bring you this:

Lessons From the Little Bee that Put Me in the ER 10/2/13

I got to ride in the back of an ambulance the other day,  an unexpected detour on an otherwise bright sunny morning.

 It was a normal Wednesday, up at 5 am, a quick total gym workout, and then off to the pool for swim practice.  Right after warmups, I felt a pinch on my right forearm.  I looked at it and it appeared to be another bee sting.  I have been stung a couple of times in this pool, so I wasn’t completely surprised.  I showed the sting to Dr. Sam who swims in my lane and he asked, “Were you swimming that slow (that a bee could sting your arm out of the water)?” Apparently, I was!

I snorted at his humor, drew a breath, pushed off for another lap and didn’t give it another thought.  Although my arm started to tingle a little, which was strange, but not bad enough to stop me. “Power through it” I kept thinking.  No stupid bee is going to interrupt my workout!

The tingle eventually subsided as we were in the middle of a long 1800 yard set that I was just trying to keep up with everyone else.  After getting about 2/3 of the way through, I started to feel weary.  My arms got heavy and I was not keeping up.  I tried to shake it off at each break and try harder.  I really started to feel gassed, my arms were sluggish, no energy…..ok… something’s not right.  Stopped in the middle of the pool, I started to float a little and attempted to work my way back to the gutter (my favorite place in the pool).  During my momentary break,  Dr. Sam (who just happens to be a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, thank you, Jesus!) advised me to get out.  I actually listened to him, and that’s not something you would normally predict.  I crawled out of the pool and tried to walk my lethargy off.  Something was not right…..  I could barely stand up, I sat on a chair and that’s when the world started to fade (getting fuzzy, getting blurry, then everything was gone)…..the next thing I know I’m looking up from the deck at everyone’s faces on the team trying to wake me up.

The first thing I verbalized was a snarky, “Well, I’m glad I could draw a crowd!”.  When the heaving started, my stomach lurched and I couldn’t control it.  After a couple of trips to the nearby trash can, I heard, “The paramedics are on their way,” someone shouted. “Should we call your wife?”

When helped arrived, I was not the most gracious patient.  I did not want to get in the ambulance, I wanted to shake it off, like I do everything else.  After another trip to the trash can, I was much more willing to take a ride.

Apparently they don’t build ambulances for people over 6’ tall, as they kept asking me to pull my feet in so they could shut the door. “Sorry, I’m busy throwing up,” I informed them.  Needless to say, they squeezed me in.  After spending a couple of hours in the ER, I was good as new (what’s the deal with the hobbit sized beds?).  Well, not really.  Now I have to carry an EpiPen just in case another bee wants to take me down.  I guess I merely added another great story to tell my grandkids …and then…. the revelation came.  I had experienced something similar just a week ago.  Only this time the insect was a cruel, insidious tool of the devil himself….Shame.

Shame’s sting can choke out the Spirit of God

I received an email from an anonymous coward who attacked me and said that “I should  be ashamed of myself” for something I placed on our website.  I wasn’t convicted in the least about what I had posted, yet this email rattled me.  The sting was slow, unsettling, and it started to choke me.  Anaphylactic shock can be life threatening, just as the enervating impact of shame on our soul.

Similar to the bee sting, this anonymous comment seemed small and insignificant.  Yet, as the hours of the day passed by, I could feel it suffocating me.  As I approached the computer to respond to the email, my hands were trembling, my heart was pounding and my head was light.  This was awful, debilitating and unnerving.  The only thing I could perceive at that moment were the hurtful accusations and it was drowning out the Holy Spirit.

The enemy of our souls, the devil, hates us.  There is nothing he would like more than to put us in the ER spiritually.  “Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion (or a bee) looking for someone to devour (put in the hospital).” 1 Peter 5:8 () my own.  I am realizing that the easiest way to get me distracted, off-track or discouraged is my vulnerability to shame.  You know the voice in your head that says things like:

“You are a loser”

“How can you call yourself a Christian”

“Why do you bother?”

“Nobody cares about you”

“Just quit already”

“God doesn’t listen to you”

“You will never measure up”

“You are not smart enough”

“You are really ugly, and fat, too”

“You don’t deserve it”

That voice is the devil himself, trying to smother the influence of the Spirit of God in our life.  If he, the devil, can make us believe what he says is true, he keeps us from experiencing the authentic grace of God that is in Christ Jesus.  Our willingness to turn to Christ and “resist the devil” (James 4:7), will determine whether or not we actually enjoy His peace, or not.  It is up to us to recognize the sting, reject its lies, and relinquish control of our thoughts to the Holy Spirit.  If we do not take our thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5), we can be assured that we WILL be held captive by our thoughts.

Shame tells us WE aren’t enough and Grace says Jesus IS enough.  The cross is our EpiPen against shame.  When we hear those expressions, those deceptions, those falsehoods, and those stings, we must look to the author and perfecter of our faith.  He is enough, He is worthy, He paid the price and His spirit lives in me… in-spite of my failings.

Although small in the world at large, a bee can be a dangerous thing. The same can be said about shame’s sting.  Let us be weary of both!

“Lord, help us battle the lies of shame and defeat.  May we keep our eyes focused squarely on You when we encounter deceit and discouragement.  Let Your word rise up in our minds as we face the accuser.  Blessed be your name, Jesus whose blood covers our sin and wipes away the shame.  Amen.”

For more on the topic of shame check out these amazing resources:

Brene Brown “The power of vulnerability”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4Qm9cGRub0

 Brene Brown “Listening to shame”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0