Celebrating the Life of Nabeel Qureshi

Apologist, husband, and father, Nabeel Qureshi, passed away September 16, 2017. It may seem that I am a little late in writing this, but I’ve honestly been having a difficult time processing all the thoughts that came with his life this past year, death, and entrance into a new life.

Nabeel was diagnosed with an aggressive stomach cancer in August 2016. I had read his book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, maybe a year prior to his diagnosis. He was a man of strong conviction, intelligence, passion, and love. He spoke around the world and often in places that were hostile to his message: that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only way to salvation.

He was an attentive husband and deeply cared for his young daughter. He loved his family very much.

When I heard the news that Nabeel had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, my immediate thought was, Why, Lord? Nabeel was having a large impact for the gospel and was only in his mid-30’s. Surely this was just a trust test that God was bringing him through. He’d do some chemo, struggle a little, get better, and continue on with his life.

Well, that was my hope, but that was not reality. Nabeel had his ups and downs during treatment, but ultimately, the cancer took over and he died.

Attending Nabeel’s funeral was not what I expected. I realized, sitting there, that God wasn’t done using Nabeel yet. Nabeel may be gone, but the powerful impact of his life stayed hanging in the air.

I looked around at the people present and saw such a variety of individuals coming to pay their respects to a man that had influenced their faith. Nabeel’s life and testimony had strengthened my faith in the past, but I didn’t know his death would grant me peace and courage for a fear I hold.

In a blog post earlier this year, I wrote about my crippling fear of eternity. God has been gentle in walking through this fear with me and taught me a lesson at Nabeel’s funeral. On the front of the funeral program, it had a picture and the words, “Celebrating the Life of Nabeel Qureshi.”

And that’s what the funeral was: a celebration of the life Nabeel lived here and a celebration of the life he is now living in the presence of God. I’ve never experienced a funeral quite like this one and I believe that contains some reasoning as to why eternity has not been a welcome thought for me. The only reality I had of eternity was that time would essentially be nonexistent. Everything else seemed too abstract to even think about.

But this funeral changed that. The sting of a young man dying, while leaving behind a wife and daughter, was overcome with the certain hope that they will see him again. The songs we sang became songs of joyous triumph because we knew that Nabeel was not dead. The power of Jesus’ resurrection took Nabeel’s soul from here straight to God’s presence. He is now in a reality greater than ours.

When I miss Nabeel, I find myself wondering what he’s doing now. And that’s such an interesting thought… because he is doing stuff. He’s alive and interacting with God on a level I can’t really imagine at this point, but the reality that Nabeel is in that realm makes it more real for me. Heaven has grown in familiarity because he is there. I look forward to seeing him again and hearing about what he’s got going on up there.

I wouldn’t say Nabeel’s funeral “cured” me of my fear of eternity, but it gave me more perspective. I hope that my funeral is like his. I hope it’s a celebration of life and that it puts joy in the hearts of all who attend. I know there will be sadness because I’m not around, but there should also be a miraculous elation in the power of God and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

By the Root

By the Root

I’m not much of a gardener, but I try to keep things looking nice. I also live in a rent house and try to be careful with how much money I invest into a property that isn’t mine (I try…). With funding and time, the back yard of our house looks about halfway disastrous and halfway cute year round. There’s always something to work on, which is nice for one who finds working in the dirt to be therapeutic.

While working on this one section called, “the island” (see picture below), I very, very often run into these horrendous plants that are rumored to produce dewberries. I haven’t seen any berries yet.

DSC02168

As nice as dewberries may sound, their little plant bodies are fiendish. From the surface of the soil, up their stem, and stretching out to their full leaves are thorns. Sharp, sticky thorns. Say your prayers if you ever get stuck in the middle of a dewberry patch.

DSC02129

This past weekend, I battled these plants and got every single one of them (hopefully) off of the island. Why? So we can walk without fear to our lovely swing, look at the flowers, and get to gardening. To do all that, the weeds must go.

And how, you may ask, does one pull up the dewberry plants covered in thorns from stem base to leaves? By the roots!

DSC02128

When I spot one of these plants, I dig around the base of the stem, go underground, and pull the plant up in entirety by the roots. There are no thorns down there!

How does this relate to codependency? Codependency is unknowingly living a life of comfortable misery. We don’t know we’re miserable because we’ve been living the same pattern most of our lives. Our ego does not want us to realize there are things we don’t like about ourselves, so it protects us by giving us coping mechanisms so we don’t commit suicide (because if we discovered we disliked ourselves, our first instinct would be to self-destruct). Therefore, we function in life doing the best we know how and we don’t realize we’re wearing thorns that hurt us and people around us.

Coping mechanisms in and of themselves are not bad. It’s good to have strategies for dealing with life. The problem starts when our coping mechanisms are formed in an unhealthy manner and steer us away from God instead of to Him. When we seek after God, He takes us through a gentle healing process. We can process life with Him and have more good days than bad days. We bring our stuff into His light and receive relief. He takes our burdens and He transforms us to be more like Him.

When we revert to our unhealthy coping mechanisms, we take on life’s burdens. We shove them inward and carry the weight of our issues and other’s issues everywhere we go. Anxiety, shame, stress, fear, and perfectionism hang on us like dead weight. It’s exhausting and darkness haunts us. And the sad truth is that we begin to subconsciously develop symptoms of a disease called, self-hatred. The disease grows as life continues. Our ego hides the truth of our disease, therefore, causing us to live in a fantasy and miss out on reality. Our ego means well!

That’s why I believe it’s important to have surprising pain. Something that shakes us out of our normal, familiar misery.

DSC02126

Surprise leads to curiosity. Ouch! What did that?!

Curiosity leads to discovery. Discovery leads to healing.

When your feelings steer towards chaotic, when life around you shoots out of control, when you begin to inch dangerously beyond your capacity… cheer up! God is about to do a work in you. He drives us to the point of breaking because that is where we stop and realize, yet again, that we are not well and we need God.

Once we can see the thorns we’re wearing, we can begin to deal with the root issues. Our coping mechanisms can change and we can develop healthy habits. It does take vulnerability and it is necessary to dig down into the dirt where there are no thorns. This is a scary undertaking but it must be done to live a healthy life. Under the surface is where we find the life of our dysfunction. God will take us underground in His timing and with His gentleness.

The best part about this whole process is experiencing the active and stable presence of God.

Under God, we are this:

DSC02040

Not this:

DSC02128

When Fears Consume Us

When Fears Consume Us

I have a great fear that has hung with me since I was a child. It haunts me and it’s also inevitable. When I think about it, my body goes cold, I feel sick, and my mind is trapped in a prison of panic. My fear is of eternity. It’s a puzzle I can’t solve. It’s a hypothetical with no conclusion. It’s my destiny.

I’ve asked my parents, teachers, mentors, counselors, and friends what the best way to deal with it is. Some say suppress it, others have not had the fear of eternity and don’t understand mine, and others have advised I think of something else when the fear creeps in. I’ve tried it all.

Lately, the thoughts of eternity have been running in the background of my mind. Now that I’m not obsessively thinking about guys, I guess my mind needed something else to continuously ponder unhealthily. Eternity, it is.

However, things are changing for me. I’m hosting  a workshop at this conference in March and the topic is spiritual warfare. Due to the nature of the subject, I’ve been studying angels, demons, and the devil. Not a topic I get into daily. As I’ve been studying Satan – who he is, his career, motives, and end goal – I’ve found he began his rebellion in deception, lives to deceive believers as a hindrance to the work of God at present, and seeks to rule in God’s place by ultimately deceiving the world into believing he is God.

Knowing this, the thought occurred to me yesterday, am I misconstruing my fear of eternity as God-given, instead of an attack from Satan? If Satan’s goal is to deter me from the work of God, what greater way could he do that than terrifying me into distancing myself from my Creator? Fear is a powerful thing and we can allow it to control us.

Last night, as anxiety churned in my stomach for far too long, I decided things were going to be different. No more! Satan has been using this fear in me for far too long and it stops now. I wrote a letter to God last night writing out my fears in detail and asking Him to remove them.

“Lord, I pray that You remove the fear and anxiety from me in Your divine, perfect will. I pray that You replace it with peace, confidence, and a hope of things unseen. Show me an alternate way to think of life that never ends. Show me joy, gratitude, and anticipation. Forgive me for dreading Your greatest gift. Father, walk with me in this one. Let Satan have no jurisdiction here. You are greater than my fear. You are so good. Have me see that. Have me live that.”

What fear is controlling you? Have you given it to God yet?

Fear of Success

Fear of Success

This year, my goals consist of some health things, some emotional recoveries I’d like to process, and some tangible, deadline-kind-of goals. One of my tangible goals is to get published. I’ve focused in on a family-geared book and this past weekend I handed my first draft over to someone whose opinion really matters to me. He could possibly even help me move this project forward.

When I first wrote out this goal and my first step towards making it a reality, it seemed like an awesome, bold idea. Halfway towards the weekend, it started seeming like an exhaustive project with no end. One day away from presenting my first draft to someone important… I was terrified.

Usually, I’ve sabotaged myself by then. Since I didn’t quit, a daily inner discussion with myself began about when the proper time for sabotage will be.

Is it when it comes time to print out my manuscript? Will I just not? Or will it be when I arrive to present my book? Will I keep it in my bag and pretend it never happened? Will I regret going forward with the whole thing if he looks at it with a tired expression or one of indifference? Maybe I don’t want to know what the reaction to my hard work will be to a person I highly respect that hardly knows me… Maybe this whole thing is a bad idea. I’m not a great writer anyways. Why would people want to read my stuff? Why would a publisher want to publish my stuff?

It’s all very frightening.

However, this time I knew I was different. I’d been in recovery for two years. I coached myself.

I will push through my fears and just do. Not everyone is meant to be famous but I know God made everyone with a purpose. He made everyone with gifts uniquely designed to glorify Him. Since I was a kid, I have loved reading, writing, and drawing. It’s how I express myself. I believe it’s how God has designed me to glorify and praise Him. I enjoy it and it’s come to my realization that using our gifts for God is not a suggestion but a must. He must be glorified.

Knowing that my goal was God’s glory made each action easier. It wasn’t about me. It was about Him.

The handoff of my manuscript was pretty anticlimactic — but it happened. The fact that I stuck to my goal was a huge victory for me. I’m not doing scary things in life for myself… it’s not worth it. I’m doing it for God. He gave me the gifts and He will orchestrate them to be used in His time to spread His truth to whoever needs to hear it. His truth. I live my life by it and for it. There’s nothing better.

Here’s to kicking fear of success out the window in 2017!

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Recovering from codependency comes with a lot of discovery and freedom in new areas of life. Part of my recovery has involved surrendering my people pleasing and fear of failure when it comes to the talents God has given me. I love to write, sing, and illustrate but most of my life I’ve kept these to myself due to negative thinking and fear.

Slowly this has begun to change. I no longer want to keep my gifts to myself. It is through these gifts that God has granted me the joy to praise Him. My life’s goal is to honor God and glorify Him. One of my professors in seminary, described praise in this way, “In the Old Testament culture, the word used in place of thanks was praise. That is, one would tell another what God had done, rather than merely saying, ‘Thank You, Lord.'” (Allen, Ronald B., And I Will Praise Him, pg. 64.) When I keep my methods of praise to myself, it’s hard for it to actually be praise. No one gets to experience the goodness of God but me!

In honor of God, recovery, and challenging my fears, I’ll be adding a new category to my blog called, For the Positive Thinker. This category will help those who struggle with negative thinking to replace those false accusations with truth. Scripture memory is a good way to begin storing up truth in your mind and heart so that you’ll have an arsenal prepared when negativity starts creeping in. The way I memorize scripture is through song. I can never remember scriptures if I memorize them in spoken word. They never stick. If you have the same issue, I invite you to take the songs I post and use them to help you begin to treasure God’s word in your heart, and at times more crucially, in your mind when obsessive or negative thinking kicks in.

In the spirit of the holidays, I’m going to start this new category of the blog off with a Christmas Carol. Do You Hear What I Hear is one of my favorite carols and I think it holds relevancy to recovering codependents. The last verse of the song proclaims, “He will bring us goodness and light.” Jesus came to the world and became the light of men that shines in the darkness. Jesus is the Word. Every time you place God’s word in your memory, think about the light that is entering into your body and removing the darkness. Every day as you pursue God and place His word in your heart, you can see more and more how free you are in Him.

Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas!

To the Pharisee Haters

Christians love to hate on Pharisees. If you’ve been going to church since you were a kid, you probably have this image of a Pharisee in your head:

jesus00000015

A stern, shady looking man with his Bible-thumping scroll and fancy clothing. He’s usually just about ready to judge someone, say something completely ignorant, or get owned by Jesus. In kids’ Sunday School classes, they’re the bad men, the evil, wicked ones that can never get a clue… and in adult classes, they’re stupid. Why can’t they just get it right? They’re so blind! It’s the poor, perfect Gentiles that see Jesus for who He truly is.

Some people advance to a higher level of understanding about the Pharisees and make the connection that we are no better than they are. In fact, we are in many regards, the same. Amazing fact: we are no better or worse than anyone. We are all on an equal level. When we make ourselves greater than someone or less than someone, we are entering codependency.

And this is where I want to go with this: stop demonizing the Pharisees, or anyone for that matter. Our aim in life should be to understand people. To pray for them and ask God to show us where they’ve been and how they’re hurting. Our role here on earth is to love. God is the judge and we are to have compassion on whoever comes in our path.

Little known fact in the average Sunday School class is that the Pharisees at one time could be seen as the American constitutionalists of our day. During the Maccabean revolt and up to the time of Jesus’ birth, the Greek and Roman cultures were incorporating syncretism (a meshing of cultures and religions) into the Jewish way of life. It was then that the Pharisees, among other groups, were established to protect their monotheistic way of life and the scriptures. They wanted the Law to not only be protected from the polytheistic tendencies of the Greeks and Romans, but to be relevant to daily living. They created all these extra rules to go along with the Law for practical purposes. I believe much of the resistance to Jesus came from fear of losing life as they knew it.

When Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees, He was blunt and honest with them but not with the intent to give us somebody to hate. Jesus loved the Pharisees. He loved Israel. At one point when Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees came to Him and warned Him that Herod was out to kill Him. Jesus already knew His fate and lamented over Israel that kills the prophets of the Lord. He told them, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Although painful, Israel’s rejection of Jesus was part of God’s greater plan to bring the outside nations into the kingdom of God. Their hardness of heart fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy from long before then: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” (Isaiah 6:10) If it wasn’t for the blind eyes of Israel, we would never have gained sight to the truth.

Instead of mocking the Pharisees for their wickedness and ignorance, we should be praising God that not only did He come to die for the legalistic Jews, but for the rest of the world, as well.

The Pharisees rose to a place of power in the Jewish communities and they became corrupt. It’s not a new thing. Power oftentimes leads to corruption. As believers, we have to be on guard for false teachers or manipulators of the faith. And when we meet them, let them talk, really listen to them, and converse peacefully. Pray for them and let God do the miracles. It’s how you came to faith – not by your intelligence, but by God’s grace. Before God opened your eyes to see His truth, you couldn’t see any better than the Pharisee.

John 9:1-41

 

 

Day Ten: Fear of Success

Day Ten: Fear of Success

Since starting a new job, I have discovered a character defect that has followed me through school,  jobs, and probably relationships: fear of success. Fear of success is a sabotaging of a relationship, idea, project, or responsibility that could bring you happiness, success, or accolades.

This has played out in my life in so many ways I could write a 3 set volume on it. I believe it harms me because the fear does not allow me to see my full potential. I have a lot of dreams about my potential but reality has been pretty disappointing in comparison.

I’ve done some awesome things in life: travel, get my bachelors and masters, work for a church, dance with Bruce Springsteen; date (because dating is totally awesome…). But was I really present? Fear of success is harmful because it keeps us from seeing who we truly are.

When I think about the things I have done, I can remember the overlying obsession I had with a fantasy that wasn’t coming to pass and the procrastination that held me back from my best. After being in recovery for almost two years now, I can see clearly the difference between being in reality versus a fantasy.

Dreaming was safer because it meant I couldn’t fail. So, I guess along with a fear of success comes a fear of failure. I have always done just enough to get by and stay out of trouble. I do have regrets because of that but I understand everything happens for a reason. God wouldn’t let me stay in the dream. Thankfully, He has brought me to reality and it is an adventure!

In reality, I pursue my dreams to see if there’s any credibility to them. I work hard every day and ask God for strength and energy when I don’t have it. I process my gross emotions and work through them faster than I ever thought possible.

Living below your potential because of fear robs others of truly getting to know you and benefitting from the gifts God has given you. It’s easy in this broken world to shy away from our strengths and live in the wonderful land of “one day.”

Living life in reality is hard because you have to face the desire to run from your potential, but God is here to remove the fear and replace it with courage and excitement. It’s time to walk away from the fantasy.