Be yourself

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“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes when I’m at an event or in a group of people I have to fight off insecure thoughts: “I wish that I…”

* was funnier

* was wittier

* had more to say about this topic

* had more passion/energy to engage

But here’s the problem: Anytime I’m wishing that… anything… I’m not fully in the present. If I’m not fully invested in the present moment, I’m not bringing all that is ME to that moment. Instead, I’m letting my insecurity about what I’m not rob my environment from all that I am.

Embrace all that you are. Reject the insecure voice whispering about what you’re not. You’re enough to do whatever it is that God has given you to do for today.

Only you can be you… In every moment… And as you embrace “you,” you’ll realize that over time, you’re becoming a better and better version of yourself.

We need you to be you today. Enjoy being yourself. It’s the good life.

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Inspiration everyday

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We need inspiration. Everyday.

Today is the day matters. All of life is happening now, in this moment. Now is the convergence of the journey of your past and the potential of your future. Now is the only time that you can be you and connect with your Creator. Now, and the next “now” moments, are when life unfolds.

So give yourself a boost! Make the most of now and set yourself up to maximize the rest of your day. Or this cliche: If you win the morning, you win the day.

Start your day inspired. 

Some people wake up on fire. (And that can be cultivated, believe it or not.) Others hate everything and everyone until two cups of coffee. Either way, don’t surrender to your default morning status. Cultivate passion. Here are my cliff notes of what I recommend:

1. Breathe—After sitting up, breathe, and pay attention to your body and what you’re feeling.

2. Pray—I have a regular prayer I pray most days.

3. Read—It can be this Chewables blog, a passage of Scripture, a chapter from a book you know will deliver, etc.

4. Focus—Your primary objectives for the day will help you conclude this preparation time and take action toward your goals.

Use whatever tools you find helpful to spark inspiration and divine connection first thing in the morning. Your day—your life—depends on it.

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Bad guys

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My five-year-old is always playing with Legos and superheroes. He regularly suggests that some are “good guys” and others are “bad guys.” I’m sure that’s the same way I played and probably the way all kids play.

When we’re young, we see the world through simple lenses.

Good / bad

Them / us

But as we grow, so must our vision of self and others. Our childish categories must evolve and be informed by real life experiences with real human beings.

“I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.” (1 Corinthians 3:2)

Little baby trees need help standing on their own, so gardeners secure them to metal poles. But as the tree grows, its roots and trunk develop enough depth and breadth to stand alone, and the gardener removes the pole, the crutch.

So it is with our spiritual life. In our younger years, the rigidity of religious ritual and frameworks are useful. We’re not yet ready to stand (and think and discern) on our own. So we grow up with categories—good guys, bad guys. But as we age and experience life—the honest reality—we realize that life and people are complex. Sometimes the people you thought were good guys are capable of really bad things. Sometimes the people you thought were bad guys shock you with heroic gestures. Sometimes the people in prison should be out and those out should be in.

In a spirit of perseverance, I’ve heard it taught: “Don’t let the bad guys win.” Ok, but which ones are they? There’s bad in me… there’s bad in you. Praying a prayer or checking a box (or getting a seminary degree) doesn’t shift a person from bad guy to good guy. Forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus—yes. But healthy, whole, right, good—not yet. We’re all a work in progress.

Jesus instructed his followers that there are weeds intermixed with the wheat (Matthew 13). Don’t pull up the weeds just yet because you might pull some wheat, and visa vera. We live in the era of “mixture.” It’d be easier to stay in an immature religious framework—good / bad, wheat / weeds—but it’s not that simple. We want the world to be black and white but it isn’t. We wish we could manage our own “right-ness” (righteousness) with knowledge, discipline, and determination. Sorry. The Divine Designer wired you and the universe such that we need him constantly. We were never supposed to eat from tree of good and evil for a reason. It’s best to submit ourselves to the One who specializes in bringing good from bad—in circumstances and in people.

So don’t be too quick to assume it’s black and white, good verses evil. There’s a little villain in all of us—even the “good guy.” But take heart… there’s also a God-like imagine hidden in the worst of bad guys. We just need to suspend judgment long enough to find it.

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When you can’t sleep

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We’ve all been there. Circumstance of life are creeping into our quiet moments and disrupting peace and thus, our sleep. There are thousands of recommendations about how to deal with anxiety, restlessness, and sleep struggles. Here’s another strategy. One I’ve lived and developed for myself out of necessity during the recent and perhaps most challenging season of my life. Try it and let me know what you discover.

Drug + Dig

Most people are either/or people—dualistic in their view. They either drug themselves or they dig and discover and do the hard work of therapy and self-examination.

I propose a both/and strategy. Hear me out.

1. Drug sparingly. Start with essential oils. If you need to go stronger, take it easy. I used Zzzquill during a few weeks of high anxiety and uncertainty, but not every night—two nights on, one night off. Two nights on, so I could sleep 6 to 8 hours and have energy for the next day to engage with as much passion and clarity that I could muster. My wife and I have three young kids that are up at 6am whether I’m feeling good or not, so too many days of sleepless nights destroy any hope I would have of being an engaged husband and father, not to mention giving my best to working on myself to discover WHY I’m actually feeling anxious.

2. Dig into mind, heart, and soul. Those are the factors impacting the body, causing sleep struggles. The mind is spinning because the heart is fearful. The heart is fearful because our view of ourselves (and our God) is too small. The soul—the real self—is captive to a false image of ourselves that we see and believe. God wants to set us free. A little more today… a little more tomorrow… to be the person He’s designed you and me to be. These temporary struggles are about our freedom, not our failure.

So get the support you need. For me, that looked like several older men who have done more living and were willing to support and guide me on this path. It meant a wise sage-like therapist who could guide me internally to explore the depths of my fears and false views of myself. And it meant expressing and sharing more with my wife and close friends—a challenge for many men, especially me. But day by day, night by night, it got better. I got better. Peace was like an ocean tide, rising on the shores of my circumstances. God’s mercies are new every morning and His faithfulness can be counted on.

Bonus: Workout hard. Exhaust yourself physically every day, if possible. Don’t just take a cute little walk or have a pleasant workout. Go hard.

This has two really help effects…

A) As you push your body your mind falls into a focused rhythmic zone, helpful for drawing out fresh ideas and underlying issues that your frantic mind might be blocking.

B) Pushing your body wears you out and makes a natural night sleep more attainable.

It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. Embrace the season you’re in, but don’t stay there or settle for it. Help yourself sleep tonight, but create a plan to dig deeper into the things you’re believing and fearful of that aren’t serving you.

Freedom is possible. But it is usually incremental. Don’t give up, and don’t put yourself on an unhealthy path that makes it worse.

Drug sparingly… AND… Dig into your internal life.

This too shall pass. And not only pass, but help you tap into your soul—your real self—that’s being refined, expanded, and strengthened for the journey ahead. This isn’t happening to you. It’s happening FOR YOU… because there’s more IN YOU than you realize.

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First thoughts

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Today, my 11-month old was up before 5:30a. My wife brought her into the bed to nurse, with the hope she might fall back asleep. She didn’t. We didn’t.

When the reality of the early morning set in, my wife asked, “Can you take the first shift?”

Long pause.

“Sure,” I muttered.

My first thought was, “I wish she would handle this so I can sleep.” Subconsciously, I want my wife to make my life easier. Sadly, my default, early morning thoughts are…

Why is this happening to me?

Why won’t she make my life easier? 

When will I be done with this exhausting season? 

But that’s not what I really want. That’s not who I want to be. And that’s not the way I want to start my day.

I reflected on my first thoughts again later, after the fact, and I’m working to train my mind to think differently. I want to move from:

Why is this happening to me? 

To:

Why is this happening FOR me?

In other words, there’s something good in this for me. I have a beautiful daughter. I have a loving wife. I have a bed to sleep in. I have the opportunity to grow and give a little bit of myself away to my family this morning. And that’s what life is about. Giving. Not taking. Becoming. Not begrudging.

Our first thoughts can help us set a more helpful trajectory for our day. Training a hopeful, enthusiastic perspective will shift everything—energizing us to take the day by storm. An attitude of gratitude (instead of subtle resentment) will change everything.

Consider your first thoughts when you woke today. Life is happening FOR you—God is for you—and when you believe that, optimism and enthusiasm will fill your life and your life will be become fulfilling.

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Mr. Rogers, the genius

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“When we talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.” – Fred Rogers

I’m notoriously bad and sharing my feelings. I’m happy to share my thoughts, ideas, and insights… but feelings?

Why is it difficult? Because I’m a man? Because I don’t have the words or energy? Because I’m a “spiritual leader”? Because I have believed that I should have it all together? Because I’m supposed to have more answers than questions? Because the God in me is supposed to fix everything?

Yes. Those things.

And it’s time for those misguided assumptions to drown in a fresh awareness of grace and the space for me to be me—right where I am today.

Mr. Rogers was a genius. He is actually one of the most influential spiritual leaders in history. And his platform and pulpit was PBS and children’s television. He taught us many things, but perhaps most of all that life is simple. And in this simple life, it’s enough to just be who we are, where we are, and know that we are okay.

Feel your feelings today. Try and put some language to them. Don’t let them take the wheel and run your life, but don’t ignore them. Express them to someone you trust, even if it feels stupid—as it often doesn’t to me. But whether you realize it or not, pressure is released, connections are made, and peace becomes possible.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Even if it doesn’t feel like it yet.

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I’ll go first

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You’ll be miserable if you’re waiting on someone else before you do the right thing. Waiting on someone to say sorry, or thank you, or invite you, or initiate… Stop waiting for them to act and you act. It’s your life, and all you can control are your attitudes and actions. Take the power back and be the person you want to be.

I can’t remember where I first heard this, but it was simple and profound: “I’ll go first.”

I’ll go first.

I’ll initiate.

I’ll start.

I’ll make the first move.

In other words, I won’t wait for them to smile, I’ll smile. I won’t wait for them to say sorry, I’ll say sorry for my side. I won’t wait for them to be in a better mood, I’ll elevate the atmosphere.

Their choices, attitudes, and behaviors won’t limit my experience of living the good life. I’ll go first.

That person might never be capable of seeing the small way they’ve been living and behaving. That’s okay. They’re on their own journey. But we’re going further—in our interior lives… then out in the world.

Let’s go first, and go further.

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The outpouring

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I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love of support from so many of you. Your kind words of affirmation toward me have made a tough time more hopeful. And my family and I are grateful.

Here’s the thing about encouragement: We ALL need it! Like, really need it. We’re all living with an encouragement deficit. We’re walking around in this broken world hoping to find more peace and purpose, despite the awareness of our own brokenness, and the brokenness of others that affects us.

This is a crazy life, but it’s beautiful. There is beauty around us all the time. Point at it! Paint it! Put it into words!

And encourage someone today. Even if there are ten things that annoy you, point to the one that you can encourage. And if no one is there to return the favor, do it for yourself. Or, allow me to remind you that there’s no one else like you in Creation. You reflect an unique image of our Divine Designer that no else does. We need to you to be you today, because otherwise we all miss out.

Take a deep breath. Lift your shoulders and chin. Let determined grace fill your eyes. There’s nothing for you to prove. Just one unique person for you to BE.

Smile and carry on. You are immeasurably valuable and you are eternally loved. Thank you for speaking the same to me.

(FYI: If you subscribe to the blog, make sure you click on the confirmation email. And I’ll soon have help making this whole user experience better. Thanks for your patience:)

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Humility-ation

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Everyone likes the idea of humility. Sometimes for ourselves—always for others.

What they don’t tell you is that humility and humiliation are from the same root, and share one path.

“Lean into the knife,” a friend once told me. “Let the Great Surgeon do His work. There’s true healing on the other side.”

Embrace the pain. Crawl through the humiliation. It’s counter-intuitive, but you’ll actually become more healthy… more whole… more FREE.

Eyes are open, hearts are softened, spirits soar.

Some won’t get it, but it’s not your job to convince them. Your one and only job is to continually become more and more YOU. More authentically aligned with your Creator’s design–his thumbprint on your soul. Aligned with Him, you’ll look better, feel better, love better… and you’ll compel others to do the same.

Oh, and you’ll enjoy your life.

Turns out, you have to lose your life to find it.

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New Beginnings

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New Beginnings

Life is changing for me and family. I want to give you a little backstory and a tiny glimpse of the future still forming. I wasn’t sure where else to post this message, so here it is.

By the way… This is my new blog. Yes, I know, it’s 2018 and I’m starting a blog. I’ve always been cutting edge (early adapter with the Zach Morris haircut, too).

Here’s why I haven’t blogged until now:

• I felt like my blog’s success needed to be MASSIVE to be worth it. I’ve had a comparison problem. Instead of simply allowing Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, and the like to inspire me, there’s been a part of me that compares my weakness to their strengths, and then I stumble out of the gate, insecure.

• I haven’t been clear about my goal.

Now I’m clear. I’m not doing this to be impressive. I’m not doing this to make money. These are my reasons:

• I’m a good writer. And writing more is only going to help me become a great writer.

• It’s therapy. By writing every day, I’ll become a better student of myself, life, God…

• People will be inspired. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 people or 10,000 people or more… someone other than me will benefit.

• This marks a season of change.

For the past six years I’ve had the privilege of leading a church in Huntington Beach, CA. It’s been a joy. We got to see the church grow from less than 200 to almost 2,000 in weekly attendance in a very short amount of time. Lives changed, life-long friendships formed, and much good was done in the community. It’s been beautiful.

And, now we’re embarking on a new chapter of our journey. I’ll give you a little context… Probably not enough to satisfy, but hopefully enough to respectfully honor all the parties involved.

A few months ago, my ex-wife (of 12 years) made some derogatory comments about me in a public setting. The hurtful part is that her comments were exaggerated and false statements about my actions 12 years prior.

Don’t get me wrong… At 26, I screwed up my former marriage. That reality has grieved me, and I pray she can forgive, heal, and find peace. I don’t know her motivations for her comments, but she is a unique person doing great things and I won’t hold any grudges.

In fact, as painful as the past few months have been—and they’ve been brutal—I have total confidence that God is already bringing good from bad. It’s His specialty. I’ve seen Him do it; and He’ll do it again.

You see, I grew up in a time and place where being a good little Christian boy seemed really important. I was also the first born of my brothers and all the grandkids on the “pastor” side of the family, so I internalized extra pressure. It was no one’s fault but my own. I convinced myself that I thrived on the high expectations and pressures to perform and seem near perfect. But I didn’t. I was leaking.

I was also a hormonal, teenaged boy when the internet came online, and while the weight of expectations was intensifying on my scrawny, spiritual shoulders. At the same, the youth group was on fire about “true love waits.” So wait I did! Er, well, sort of, technically, I guess. I “waited” while also developing a secret porn problem.

When we’re not taught how to deal with pressures and problems in a healthy way, we feel feelings we don’t like and we want to feel different feelings. That’s where our compulsions come in—quick-fix escape patterns that feel good, then hook us. I got hooked on porn. For others it’s social media, overeating, abusing drugs or alcohol, workaholism, co-dependency, shopping… The list goes on, but they’re all the same.

All our compulsive habits rob us of the present moment. And this is the only moment we experience life, our true-selves, and our Creator. When we surrender to our compulsions, our lives are hijacked in a search for better feelings. And the shiny alternative that enticed us back there, never delivers on the promise today. In an effort to feel better, we try more—more of our habit, drug, or coping mechanism—to try and achieve the quick-fix feelings of the past. The stakes and consequences get higher as we get older. The struggle escalates and we either have to become better at hiding, or we need to get help.

I lived that journey long ago. My porn problem escalated as my first marriage deteriorated, and I found myself visiting several massage parlors. Me, the Golden boy; the prude youth group kid; the former “celibate” Captain of the USC Men’s Volleyball team. Me! And then, divorce. I didn’t recognize my own life.

Especially at that time—a dozen years ago—and in the years since, I’ve done vast amounts of counseling/therapy—healing significantly, and developing healthy ways to express feelings and manage stress. I’m thankful to say that the compulsions of my younger years have long lost their grip on me. (Also, I’m a dude, and not naive to think I’ll never be tempted.) I’m grateful for grace and freedom… I’m grateful for therapists… I’m grateful for friends who walk through the messy parts… And I’m forever grateful to my loving wife of 9 years, Hilary.

And, she joins me in this difficult announcement today.

We are very sad to be leaving the church we love so much and have invested in so heavily. I disclosed these historical events/struggles from my past when hired at the church, but, in light of our current cultural environment, it seems any accusations—even false ones—come with a cost. I’m going to step out of the institutional church, at least for the time being, and hope to protect the organization I’ve been serving from any unwanted, potentially negative, attention.

I must also add that Hilary and I share a level of excitement about the adventure in front of us. My recent sabbatical brought to the surface passions and ideas I’ve had (on the back burner) to reach more people outside of the church walls with my message of GRACE and GROWTH. (If interested, please stay in touch and I’ll keep you updated.)

There is so much division in our world right now; so much accusation; so much aggression and distrust. I don’t want to contribute to the problem. I want to be one of those cultivating grace and catalyzing growth. We’re all the same—broken, wounded, finding our way back to childlike. We’re all the same…and we’re totally unique. I’m almost 40, but I’m still discovering the unique me and the divine calling within me to encourage others. I figure I’ll just keep doing that.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for your grace and support. Thank you for letting me be human, with an imperfect history. And let’s all be thankful for a God who sees us as His pure and innocent children—a God whose mercies are new every morning.

– Caleb (and Hilary) Anderson

P.S.: My future posts will be much shorter (Chewables) and encouraging for whole and healthy living (body, mind, heart, soul).

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