Category Archives: UnStuck

To Own Or Not To Own

At CLC, we just concluded the Un-Stuck sermon series. During the final message, we looked at a key cause that gets us stuck relationally. We tend to “own” what doesn’t belong to us, and we tend to be irresponsible for what does.

Each of us must take responsibility for our “inner world.” This includes our thoughts, feelings, “am’s” (e.g. who I am as a person), and “am nots” (e.g. who I am not). Our inner worlds also include choices, behaviors, attitudes, appearances, abilities, and desires.

The reality is, all of the above are within YOUR control. You can’t blame someone for “making you feel a certain way.” Someone might “trigger” a certain emotion, but you have the CHOICE of how far to cultivate that feeling or to curtail it. Someone may suggest, or even try to coerce you to behave in a certain way, but you are the ONLY person who can truly control your choices, behaviors, thoughts, and so on.

Far too often, we “GIVE” control of these parts of our “inner world” to others. We allow ourselves to be manipulated, shamed, or stressed into doing, being, and choosing what we truly don’t want to do, but then again, we “gave in.”

On the flip side, we also tend to “own” what isn’t ours to own. You CANNOT be responsible for someone else’s feelings, choices, or internal well-being. To truly be responsible for it, you must have complete control over such things…and you DON’T.

So, how does this relate to being un-stuck relationally?

  1. Stop blaming others for your internal well-being (what you own). Yes, they may have done undesirable things to you, manipulated you, hurt you, etc, but only YOU can determine the long term impact they have on YOU. Choose your well-being.
  2. Stop owning other people’s feelings, happiness, choices, attitudes, and overall well-being. They too must make their choices. You may have done things wrong, if so, apologize and ask for forgiveness. It is then up to THEM what they do with that, they can forgive or hold a grudge, it simply isn’t in your control. It would be NICE if they forgive you, but you can’t control their decision, and shouldn’t pin your well being to whether they do or do not.

Also, you can’t “Make them happy.” In fact, you can’t “make” them anything, for that matter. Your parents, children, spouse, friends, in-laws, co-workers must ALL decide for themselves what they are going to cultivate in their inner worlds. Don’t yield to the guilt or manipulation that you are responsible for their happiness. Yes, you can do things that may contribute one way or another, but THEY must truly decide.

Once you own what is truly yours and don’t own what is theirs, you increase the chances that at least YOUR side of your relational world will be healthier. Start today. Take baby steps. Get a copy of the “Un-Stuck” book if you haven’t picked one up yet. Pray for wisdom as you grow in this area.

You may also want to check out copies of “Boundaries” or “Boundaries in Marriage” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend to learn how to get yourself “off the hook” for everyone else’s happiness and well-being.

Which Past Do You SEE?

We spent two chapters on “Getting Un-Stuck from Your Past.” We actually could have probably spent the entire book on this subject! As stated in last week’s message, God consistently demonstrates what He chooses to recall from our past and how He will interpret those memories.

Since we are created in God’s image, we too can learn to choose our recollections and our interpretations. Obviously, we aren’t perfect like Him, so indeed, there will be some things we can’t help but remember. HOWEVER, we DO have a great deal of control over what we will tell ourselves about what we remember. Pray for God to help you learn helpful interpretations.

There are five suggested steps to learning how to view our past constructively:

  1. Celebrate and give thanks for what is behind you.
  2. Learn to learn from your past.
  3. Discern from your past.
  4. Pray for a replacement interpretation.
  5. Learn how to leave it!

The really “nasty” stuff of our past is in special need of the above step #5. The Apostle Paul referred to the difficult parts of his past as “rubbish.” No one carries rubbish around with them…THEY DUMP IT!

What past memories, identities, failures, losses, hurts, rejections, injustices, etc do you need to DUMP LIKE RUBBISH? Do you really want to carry those painful, dysfunctional, difficult memories and interpretations around with you for the rest of your life?

Most people would answer, “No, but I can’t let them go until they get settled.” The reality is those loads of our painful past never actually get “settled.” Either we decide to reinterpret it and leave it, or it lingers for a lifetime.

Choose today to follow steps 1-5 as outlined in Un-Stuck passionately and dutifully until YOU have gotten the best of your past, and not the other way around!

Which Past Do You LIVE With?

Chapter four of the Un-Stuck book (and week five of the CLC Un-Stuck series) references a quote from one of my mentors Dr. Richard Dobbins: “None of us live with our past, we live with what we tell ourselves about our past.”

Those are some pretty wise words, and they take only a few honest moments of reflection to ring true in our souls.  The reality is, consciously, unconsciously or unintentionally, we choose our recollections and interpretations of what has happened in our lives.

The big question is, “What recollections and interpretations are you choosing about your past?” The answer to this question is important because you may not be telling yourself the most helpful version or interpretation of your past.

Let me suggest an uncommon thought to you. You may not be recollecting your past in such a way that is best for you. Likewise, you may be interpreting your past in ways that create more pain or struggle for you than is necessary. While this suggestion might make some people defensive (e.g. “What do you mean you don’t think I’m remembering my own past the right way?”), I’m personally open to sustaining as little pain or struggle from my past as is necessary.

In light of last week’s focus on breaking bad habits, and in regards to your past, start to cultivate a new habit. Start looking back and asking yourself, “Is there any other way to interpret what happened that might lessen my long term pain, resentment, grief, shame, etc. and offer me a healthier way forward?”

For instance, I recall struggling with some decisions in my youth that had long term consequences in my life. I shared this with a counselor. He did not dismiss my decisions or judgments. He did not help me rationalize it away. He simply said: Most of us don’t make the best decisions in life when we’re 21; what matters is what will you do about it now that you are an older, better decision-making adult.

That slight change of perspective helped me get “Un-stuck” from “look-back-and-beat-myself-up” mode, and encouraged me to take control of my “now.” My thoughts became proactive, and I took control of my emotions and reactions instead of letting them reside at the mercy of my past.

To get started on cultivating a new habit, take time to re-think what you tell yourself about your past. Choose a small event that you’d like to get a “do-over,” and you know one is not coming: maybe you lost your temper with your kids or your spouse; maybe you missed a deadline on a project at work (again); instead of telling yourself, “I’m just a lousy parent/spouse/employee,” tell yourself something constructive.

With your kids, maybe you should tell yourself, “Well, one of the things I need to model for my children is having the humility to apologize when I am wrong…and this is a great time to do exactly that.” Then apologize without beating yourself up, so your kids learn confident, sincere humility. You may want to do the same exercise with your spouse.

When it comes to your work scenario, instead of feeling like a perpetual failure, or constantly blaming unrealistic expectations, look for ways to better manage your time. Tell yourself, “I’m a capable employee, and I will find better ways to approach projects like this one, so I won’t miss the deadline next time.”

Next week at CLC, we’ll continue this discussion. Join us for week six of Un-Stuck as we consider past issues that go “way deeper,” and how we can find “redemptive” interpretations for them. You CAN learn to live with a more hope-giving perspective on your past. Start today.

The Un-Stuck Guide to…Good Habits

All of us have to deal with bad habits. Sometimes they are bad things we do habitually that we need to STOP doing, or they are good things we need to START doing but are neglecting.

The first step to ending a bad habit, or birthing a good habit, is to imagine! Imagine yourself NO LONGER stuck in your bad habit. Imagine yourself with new healthy habits as part of your life. In the fourth sermon of the CLC UN-STUCK series, we referred to this imagining as having a “vision” for who you can become as you apply yourself with God’s help.

After imagination comes awareness. In order to get un-stuck from a bad habit, you have to be aware that your habit is the “tip of the iceberg.” It may be a life-ruining habit like substance abuse, pornography, anger-addiction, or self-harm (e.g. cutting, eating disorders). There are also “life-annoying” habits like biting your nails, yelling at your kids and habits of neglect like not having a daily prayer/quiet time, not exercising, you name it.

During the sermon, we unpacked at least four underlying causes that contribute to bad habits:

  1. Emotional (I do this in reaction to difficult emotions…when I feel depressed, rejected, insecure, etc)
  2. Relational (I do this in response to relational dysfunction, or with certain people)
  3. Generational (I do this because it was “passed on” to me from my parents, grandparents, or some other extended-family relative)
  4. Spiritual (I do this because of spiritual “roots” that allow it to become a “stronghold” in my life)

Understanding the causes or “deep roots” of your habits makes it clear you need more than just some “willpower.” You need to combat it with prayer, fasting, Bible reading, and sharing your need with a trusted friend. The Un-Stuck book also provides additional insights into overcoming bad habits. You can pick a copy from the publisher (CreateSpace).

P.S. Looking for a good habit to START? Come check out the CLC Un-Stuck Roundtables on Wednesdays at 7:00pm in the West Auditorium of CLC.

Getting Your Head Un-Stuck

One of the greatest ways to make significant change in our lives is NOT by changing what we do, but by changing what we think! In week three of the “Un-Stuck” sermon series (and the book by the same name) we examined “Getting your head unstuck.”

We tend to underestimate the power of our thoughts. Yet the apostle Paul tells us that changing our thoughts is the key to transforming our lives: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

Thoughts influence and generate our feelings. Together, our thoughts and feelings shape our attitudes. From these three, come our words. Jesus said, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…” (Matthew 15: 18). Our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and words largely determine our behavior, and as we act repeatedly, we create habits.

Perhaps this explains why it’s so hard to change a habit by simply trying to STOP doing something. Habits are not primarily an outward behavioral problem to be stopped.  Habits grow from within. To “transform” your habits, actions, words, attitudes or feelings, start by identifying (by asking for God’s help) and changing your thoughts.

In the book “Unstuck,” there are several examples of healthy thoughts regarding different areas of life (see pages 29-34): Thoughts…about me…about other people…about life…about God…about my past…and about my future.

Take a few minutes and ask yourself what kinds of thoughts you have in each of these areas. Are most of your thoughts optimistic? Are they thoughts that encourage your potential? Do you think grace giving but not enabling thoughts toward yourself and others? Do you choose hope-filled, possibility-oriented thoughts about your past…and your future?

Get started thinking “renewed” thoughts today! You’ll be glad you did…tomorrow!

Read more about this topic in the “Un-Stuck” book. You can get a copy from the publisher (CreateSpace).

Serious About Getting Un-Stuck? Really?

Most people talk about wanting to see change in their lives, but that’s about as far as it goes. We stay stuck, or even worse, addicted, in areas of our lives. However, we don’t need to feel helpless, or hopeless. Your life CAN change for the better, and Psalm 92: 12-13 shares the good news that God WANTS TO HELP YOU flourish, grow and change. The CLC “Unstuck” sermon this past Sunday dealt with three important initial steps for our lives to change for the better.

STEP #1:  It’s not enough to just HEAR about your need for change, or TALK about how you want to change…you must ACT on it. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:24: “Whoever hears these words of mine and ACTS on them, may be compared to a wise man…” For other verses that “call us out” to get into action, read James 1: 22 or 1 Corinthians 4: 20.

STEP #2: If you’re going to ACT on your need to change, you must know WHERE you’re stuck in the first place. The “Un-stuck” book provides a quick “Un-stuck inventory” on pages 16-18 with a brief description of each area. We asked detailed questions in the following areas, “From failing to flourishing, how would you rate yourself?”

  • Spiritual
  • Mental
  • Emotional
  • Physical
  • Financial
  • Career
  • Relational

STEP #3: As you begin your journey, take BABY STEPS. Too often we overwhelm our good intentions to change with goals that are so big, we feel defeated as soon as we begin (e.g. “I’m going to lose five pounds a week!”). The following list contains examples of “baby steps” applied to the physical fitness scenario:

  • “I will get 20 minutes of exercise four times a week”
  • “I will stop eating second helpings”
  • “I will not eat after 7:00 pm”

As you consider areas to “grow out of,” think in small “baby steps.” What would be some healthy steps in an “un-stuck” direction? What unhealthy things could you do less, and what healthy things could you do more?

Still not convinced that small steps add up? Did you know that if you begin to save just ONE DOLLAR A DAY when you’re 20, and do so until age 65, your savings (at a conservative rate of return) will total OVER $100,000? WOW!

So let’s get started. Commit to DO, not just talk about change. Be honest with yourself on WHERE you need to get unstuck. Begin with BABY STEPS of progress; and if you REALLY want to improve your chances of success, tell somebody about your aspirations. Ask them if they will be your encouragement partner, update them every week, and enjoy the change!

Get a copy of the “Un-Stuck” book to learn more (it’s an accompaniment to the CLC “Un-Stuck” sermon series).

The Dilemma and the Delight of Getting “Un-Stuck”

DILEMMA: In a recent weekend sermon, I discussed how the ancient Israelites got “un-stuck” from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. However, within days of getting un-stuck from slavery, they found themselves stuck again, only this time they were stuck between the Red Sea and a fast approaching Egyptian army that had come to re-claim their slaves. In essence, they were “re-stuck.”

Our lives are often like the Israelites. We can find ourselves getting “un-stuck” in one area of life (e.g. habits, thoughts, relationships, past) only to get “re-stuck” in another area. It can feel like a continuous struggle with seemingly no way out, and life can make us feel immobilized, without hope, and resigned to the “same-old-same-old.”

The key thing to note is God doesn’t necessarily mind seeing you in a “stuck” state. In the case of the Israelites, God actually LED them to the place of being stuck (Exodus 13: 17,18). However, God never wants you to STAY stuck indefinitely. Be encouraged: if you are stuck (or re-stuck) someplace in your life, it can be just the beginning of a new opportunity to grow, to learn, and to see God work in and through you.

DELIGHT: The delight in our “stuck” areas of life is that NO circumstance is too stuck for God to help get un-stuck. I’ve seen people become un-stuck who were stuck in the “damage” of life. I know a friend who was a “homeless executive.” He had just gone through a divorce, had nowhere to turn, and he was literally (and secretly) sleeping in his office after work. He turned his life over to God, his ex-wife did too, and they’ve been happily remarried to each other for years!

Likewise, no physical disablement or disease is too stuck for God. I have a friend who was born with cerebral palsy and is confined as a paraplegic to a wheel chair. He begged God for a job, wanting to serve a purpose and use his love for people to help others. He’s got a great testimony on Facebook now about his new job at a local theme park. Now he helps brighten the days of others…no longer “stuck.”

In my recent book “Un-Stuck,” I unpack all of this information and more in greater detail. I encourage you to get a copy. The book was written as an accompaniment to the CLC Un-Stuck sermon series about growth and progress in our personal lives. You can buy the book from the publisher (CreateSpace) or Amazon.


Are you “Stuck?”

You could say I’m in the “People Business.”  Based on my experience I’d say most people aren’t living the near perfect lives their social media posts might lead us to believe. I’m not suggesting everyone’s life is a mess…just somewhere in-between.

The Bible is clear, every life has it’s good and bad (“The rain falls on the just and the unjust…” Matthew 5:45.) Seasons and situations of difficulty can be pretty overwhelming. However, you don’t need to stay STUCK in your circumstances, habits, thoughts or relational dysfunction. Even in the midst of struggles, you can thrive.

Most of us simply have bad habits we’d like to break, or good ones we wish we’d start. We may address those briefly at the start of the year in the form of “New Year’s Resolutions.” However, these good intentions typically fade in a matter of weeks, and we fall back into the “same-old-same-old.” For other people, they’re stuck in huge, life-debilitating issues. Situations seem hopeless, and answers can’t be found. Regardless of where you’re at, I believe we CAN find hope, and the help to change…in God’s word.

This weekend at Christian Life Center we begin a powerful and encouraging series called “Unstuck.” As I unpacked the themes and direction for these weekend messages in a staff meeting, one of our pastors said “I can tell you have a counseling background by the nature of these messages.” He’s right, and I love messages that look to the Bible for God to be our “Wonderful Counselor” as the prophet called him in Isaiah 9:6.

If you’re a CLC’er…if at all possible, be with us this weekend. I know many watch online…and if that is  your only option, please do. HOWEVER, there will be some powerful benefits of being “In the room” at either Little York or our other campuses.

Likewise, if you have un-churched friends or family, this would be a GREAT series to invite them to.

We’ve ordered 500 copies of “Unstuck” a book I wrote to go with the series. We’ll be selling them this weekend. We sold out all 500 copies of our book last fall (Questionable Beliefs) so get yours soon. You can get a copy from the publisher (CreateSpace) or Amazon.