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Courageously Moving from Season to Season
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Albert Einstein once said, "Problems cannot be solved with the same mind-set that created them." To resolve our problems and deal with our mistakes, we must be willing to be transformed by God's process of healing and strengthening.
We have a tendency to think of our present situation in polarizing terms: good or bad, up or down. Due to the seasonal nature of our life experiences, this is an easy trap for many of us. We overlook the fact that there are transition times, such as the season between graduation and the amazing job; between divorce and remarriage; between the failure and the success.
The Shift explores the ways we can survive the seasons in between with the courage that comes only when you're sure of God's purpose for your life.
DEATH, DIVORCE, AND DADDY ISSUES
“When you begin to realize that your past does not necessarily dictate the outcome of your future, then you can release the hurt. It is impossible to inhale new air until you exhale the old.”
—Bishop T. D. Jakes
Shifts occur all around you every day.
Like seismic tremors rocking the ground beneath your feet, they may not be noticeable at first. You live your life, go to work, come home, spend what time you can with your family, take care of chores and errands, relax a little if possible, and start all over again. Throw in neighbors and friends, community service, church involvement, and extracurriculars, and there’s no opportunity to stop and feel the ground shake beneath you.
Then suddenly it becomes the only thing you can feel.
The tremors grow into a quake that’s undeniable, enough to shake you out of the complacency—and sometimes denial—of what’s going on beneath the surface of your life. They rock your world with an awareness of some event, situation, conversation, or relationship that continues to trigger shock waves long after the moment of its occurrence has passed. Sometimes these eruptions only rattle you, while other times they cause your entire world to collapse.
I’ve never been in an earthquake myself, but I have friends in Southern California who accept their inevitability the way those of us back home in Houston accept the possibility of hurricanes each year. Whenever I visit them, I’m aware of every vibration in the walls of their home or in the sanctuary of their church, often imagining what it would be like to have the ground ripped open beneath our feet.
But truth be told, I already know. You do, too. We all know. We’ve all lived through transitions that felt as if they would swallow us whole. We’re often caught in the crosscurrents of several different shifts at once. Over time they create an undertow—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—that leaves us wondering how we will survive, let alone thrive.
God hasn’t left us at the mercy of unexpected change, however. He is our rock who doesn’t change like shifting shadows but illuminates our path with His Word and guides our steps with His Holy Spirit. Like the psalmist, “We are not afraid when the earth quakes and the mountains fall into the sea” (Ps. 46:2 ERV). God not only wants us to survive the shifts in our lives, but He wants to use them to propel us toward our divine destiny.
Trusting God to use the shifts in our life, though, is rarely easy. Many of them seem to never end, toppling our attempts to move forward like dominoes we’ve worked hard to line up. Often the major shifts in our lives create a ripple effect. We get so caught up in surviving a shift that we accidentally ignite other shifts. We end up repeating patterns of behavior over and over again, trying to resolve that giant shift still echoing within us.
Let me give you the best example I can think of from my own life. While I’ll unpack several of my own major shifts in the chapters ahead, this one has reverberated the most. My father wasn’t my dad. Confusing? Complicated? He wasn’t a part of my life and upbringing. As a result I’ve spent most of my life wondering if I’m good enough, trying to fill a void carved by my father’s absence.
The extreme challenges of being raised by a single mother in Gary, Indiana, only compounded that wound. Conditions in that city during the 1980s were dire to say the least. Even today, poverty and desperation continue to grip the area, which never recovered from the demise of the steel factories and the subsequent loss of jobs. When I was growing up, the streets were infested with drugs, and I recall even as a child knowing where all the dealers lived and wondering why the police did nothing.
What I didn’t know as a child was the identity of my father. My sister and I had learned not to trouble our mother if possible. She worked at Taco Bell a few counties over for seven dollars an hour, scraping by as best she could. When I was turning twelve, I asked my mother to give me answers that somehow felt more urgent now that I was entering adolescence. She told me my father’s name, and I knew without a doubt she was telling me the truth.
My father pastored the church we attended. My mom explained that because of his position in the church and status in our community—not to mention his wife and children—he would never acknowledge my paternity. While I believed my mother, I knew I would not be satisfied until I confirmed the truth for myself. So the next Sunday at church, I lingered after the morning service, patiently waiting my turn to shake the pastor’s hand and ask the question burning in my soul. I didn’t want to embarrass him or create a scene, but I also knew I could not contain my desire for the truth.
“Pastor, I have a question for you,” I said. I was tall for my age, and it felt as if we were shaking hands as adults.
“I’ll be happy to answer it if I can, Keion,” he said in full pastoral mode.
“I want to know if you’re my father,” I said. I tried to maintain my best poker face, but tears leaked from the corners of my eyes. Whether they were tears of anger or sadness, or both, I still don’t know. Clearly I had his attention.
“Let’s talk in my office in five minutes,” he said, maintaining composure but leaning in so others wouldn’t hear. “I’ll finish here and meet you there.” He guided me forward with a gentle but firm hand on my back, and I headed straight for our meeting place. I felt numb but determined.
He kept his word, and five minutes later he escorted me into his office and shut the door. Without wasting time with lies or denials, he said, “Yes, Keion, I am your father.” He let the truth sink in deeper than the first time I’d heard it, from my mother. “But… I… It needs to stay between us. I don’t expect you to understand yet…”
“Yes, sir,” I said. “I understand.”
And I did—all too well.
There’s an old adage that claims real men don’t cry. But that day I learned without a doubt that this notion is as far from the truth as the East is from the West. Because that day I became a man and that day I cried the first of many rivers. To this day I’m not sure which was worse, not knowing who my father was or knowing and not being able to be acknowledged and loved as his son. Either way, the amount of rejection I felt overwhelmed every aspect of my life for a very long time.
Simply put, I used my father’s absence as an excuse for not showing up for myself. I’m not sure I could have articulated it then, but basically I figured that if I wasn’t worth enough for him to love and get to know me, then why should I? I internalized my hurt and anger and spewed venom at anyone who dared to love me or attempted to show me kindness.
Of course, I justified this by believing that I was being strong. I called it “being hard,” which amounted to not needing anybody or anything. The reality of it, though, was sheer, unmitigated, raw pain. Even worse, it was a pain that I didn’t know how to fully identify or alleviate. Only later would the truth become evident: I had no connection to a major part of me—my father—and it had left a chronic ache in my heart.
FACE THE MUSIC
When we don’t address the shifts in our lives, especially those that involve major losses, we inevitably try to fill the hole inside us in other ways. Such detours also prevent us from relying on God and learning what He wants to teach us in the process of shifting. Such was the case when, in my early twenties, I married a woman ten years older than I who had three children. Seemingly overnight, I became responsible for an entire family, including children who were too old to be my biological offspring.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure why I’d married her other than because I wanted to have a role, an identity, that could help define me. You see, I married this woman when the pain of my father’s abandonment had yet to be healed. At that time my wound was only festering into more pain and bitterness because I refused to address it head on.
Instead I distracted myself by being needed by this older woman with a family to care for. In fact, I remember her saying to me, “I’m going to love you so much that you won’t even remember that your father wasn’t there.” And I believed her—or at least I wanted to believe her.
I desperately hoped her substitutionary love would be enough to sustain me for the rest of my life. I tried to convince myself that loving her and her children would somehow compensate for the unconditional parental love I had never received. Like so many people, I used a relationship to cover up a pothole in my own soul. As a result, I ended up deeply hurting others who were unaware of the intricate damage that had taken place in my life prior to our meeting.
After several months of being married and attempting to play a role I was unequipped to fill, I woke up one day and told my wife, “I can’t do this anymore.” I asked for a divorce, and instead of trying to have a conversation about my bombshell announcement, I got in my car and drove and drove until I finally ran out of gas. I refueled and kept driving for three more days before returning home to face the music.
Funny how that expression, face the music, is used to describe confronting a problem. As a singer, songwriter, producer, and lover of music, I have literally faced the music when there’s a problem in rehearsal, in choir practice, or in the recording studio. Sometimes the notes go sharp or fall flat, the voices don’t complement one another in harmony, or a technical glitch interrupts the flow. To ignore such a problem results in a poor performance, means accepting less than our best and pretending that the problem isn’t there.
But when you’re off-key and attempting your own riff instead of following God, our Master Conductor, everyone knows it. Others can hear the shrill discord and dissonance of your delivery. They know what you may be unwilling to accept until it’s the only sound you hear.
Unfortunately, my marriage and my relationship with my wife’s children became collateral damage of the enormous shift in my life. Moving on was particularly hard because I realized at least some of the pain I was inflicting through my reckless choices. My wife and her children were hurt because of my brokenness, and their suffering was incredibly difficult to see and accept.
It was an enormous price to pay, and I still regret the pain I caused her and her kids, but from our divorce I learned a significant lesson in shifting: never bring anyone into your life until you have first brought yourself into your life. I should have focused on healing myself first before I ever attempted to love a wife and children. While I’ll share more about what I learned from my divorce elsewhere in this book, for now please understand that it taught me the correct sequence of surviving the shift.
Nobody can love you if you’re not prepared to receive it. We must heal before we can help ourselves or anyone else. We can’t shift backward if we want to grow into the person God made us to be.
Shifting forward requires us to be honest about where we are and who we are. As a young adult I struggled with both. You don’t really know yourself until you know something about the people who produced you. Obviously, I understood what was missing—my father’s presence in my life. Intuitively I knew there was more to it, that the longing was bigger than just the lack I harbored, one I couldn’t begin to know how to fill. I only knew that without knowing much about my father, his background, his parents, and his life prior to how I knew him as my pastor, I would never understand myself.
In order to know myself, I would have to come to terms with the shift of living with fatherlessness as a permanent dimension of my identity. I had to come to grips with the power of letting my pain work for me rather than against me. I was going to have to release the anger and allow the experiences of my life to serve a greater purpose. But what purpose could such a lifelong wound possibly serve?
It took one of my spiritual fathers, many years later, to answer that question. In a conversation one day, my mentor said something that would trigger a change in how I viewed my father, and the wound he left in me, forever.
My mentor said, “Keion, you’re a father, right? And you love your children, don’t you?”
“You know I do,” I said, smiling.
“Then you also know that if your children were interviewed about you, whether today or years from now, you would not be described as perfect, correct?”
“Yes, sir,” I said, my smile fading as I realized where he was going with this.
Silence filled several moments between us before I began making excuses. “Well, I may not be a great father, but nobody taught me how to be one. What should anyone expect? I may not be a great parent, but then look at what I had. Or, more importantly, what I didn’t have!”
More silence. Then he said, “I’m sure you know the story of Mephibosheth, correct?”
I nodded, recalling the Bible story of the son of Jonathan. Like me, Mephibosheth grew up without knowing his father or his grandfather, King Saul. Both had died in a battle with the Philistines, and God’s anointed king, the former shepherd boy and renowned warrior David, had then ascended to the throne. To make matters worse, just after five-year-old Mephibosheth learned the terrible news about his father and grandfather, his nurse accidentally dropped him (see 2 Sam. 4:4). Not only was he an orphan who would never be king, but he became crippled for the rest of his life.
“Have you ever considered,” my mentor said, “that just like Mephibosheth, who was dropped by his nurse when she found out about the deaths of his father and grandfather in battle, your father may have been dropped by someone early in his life, long before he ever produced you?”
My mentor’s comparison lingered between us as the lightbulb went on in my head. If I was ever going to begin healing from this profound shift in my life, I must choose to forgive my father. I would have to stop blaming him for every deficit in my life and recognize instead the wounds he’d endured throughout his life. I would need to accept the likely possibility that those in charge of his development, perhaps especially his own father, had dropped him and left permanent damage.
From that day forward, I learned to give people the same benefit of the doubt that I give myself. I chose to forgive my father that day, and since then I have chosen to honor him every day despite his failures, his misgivings, and the injuries inflicted by those who dropped him.
The Bible doesn’t tell us to honor our fathers only if they deserve to be honored in our opinion. God’s Word simply tells us to honor our fathers, period. My father wasn’t a good father to me by my reckoning or most people’s, but he was still my father, the man who gave me life. Choosing to honor him has empowered me in ways I could never have imagined in the midst of the pain I felt growing up.
I survived this shift, and it has made me stronger. God continues to use the movement of my shifting as a leverage point in the lives of others. I still have so much to learn, but I love sharing what God has done in my life—along with the glimpses of what He’s about to do. Such sharing has become my calling as I preach the Word and minister to everyone around me. I would not be the preacher and pastor I am today without the shifting process of forgiving my father and experiencing God’s healing.
Nonetheless, I’m sometimes left reeling by unexpected shifts.
Especially when everything else seems to be going so well.
PAIN AND GAIN
One of the unexpected blessings of not having my father involved in my life was my relationship with my grandfather, Eddie Hawthorne. He is the man who served as a father figure in my life and evolved into my mentor and friend once I was an adult. A working-class man, he taught me to stand up straight, have a firm handshake, and look someone in the eye whenever we spoke. My grandfather showed me the right way to wash a car, and many times we washed one together. He taught me how to handle money and how to conduct myself around other people. He taught me what men do and don’t do with and for women. He was my hero and so much more.
Granddad was especially happy when I entered ministry. He watched me serve in various capacities and churches before starting LightHouse Church. As LightHouse began growing, I was thrilled that my grandfather could share our joy in God’s blessings. With thousands of members joining every year, our church was booming. And after operating and conducting services out of schools and hotels for five years, we had finally found a wonderful twenty-five-acre property with a turnkey building perfect for our thriving ministry.
Only days after signing the papers that would lead to closing on this property, I received a call from my mother.
“Your granddad has passed, Keion. This morning at five a.m.” Her tone was soft but carried the vibration that only deep pain can produce.
My breath caught in my throat, and I could not speak. This was a shift I wasn’t sure I could survive. If the pain of not knowing my father was chronic, then the pain of losing my grandfather was severely acute.
My granddad’s funeral ended up being scheduled for the day of our closing on our new church property. I postponed the closing, of course, but sensed how upset he would be that his passing had caused such a delay. Looking at him there in the casket, I felt as if thirty years of my life were about to be buried with him.
I went on to close on the new property, but not without additional delays, and not without remaining mindful of the tremendous sense of loss weighing on me even as I was being given stewardship of an incredible asset. It was a time both of grieving and of celebrating, of weeping in sorrow and crying in joy. Pain and purpose were never more intertwined in my life. My pain of loss lived alongside my ministry’s momentous, God-ordained move into purpose. My past and my future intersected at this major crossroads of my life.
This shift pulled at me in what felt like conflicting directions, reminding me that God can give and take at the same time. In fact, I’m convinced that’s the nature of shifting: surrendering what must be relinquished in order to embrace what God has for you next. Those who do not shift well are usually those who are not willing to pay the full price required to move from season to season.
Shifting requires a painful price be paid in the spaces between losing and gaining, giving and receiving. In God’s economy, however, the price is always purposeful. The apostle Paul said, “There was given me a thorn in the flesh,… lest I should be exalted above measure” (2 Cor. 12:7 NKJV). Paul knew that God always balances the shifts so that our highs won’t be too high or our lows too low.
This balance is necessary because a shift often signals the end of a season but not necessarily the immediate start of the next. The realization that I needed to accept my father for who he was and not who I wanted or needed him to be signaled my progress into a new realm of healing wounds to empower my future. My divorce showed me the painful damage caused by my own attempt to heal the wound in my life. The shift in how I viewed my father and his own wounding lanced the festering ache in my own soul, unleashing a greater awareness of God’s power and presence in my life.
My grandfather’s death concurrent with our church’s purchase of property served as a signpost pointing in a new direction, one requiring more leadership, strength, and courage from me. It was time for me to move into a new season of independence and fierce purpose. Even as my heart was shattered, I became aware that I did, in fact, have everything I needed to lead my church, my family, my business, and my life.
We must not be afraid of the changes required when we shift. Jesus said, “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matt. 9:16–17).
Embrace life’s changes, no matter how painful they may seem, and consider them evidence of where God may be leading you next. Realize that you can’t go backward and forward at the same time—not without getting stuck in place. Your new season will provide something your old season could not produce.
Shifting gears requires shifting fears.
Even if you can’t see it yet, God is present in your shifting!
When I was first learning to use a computer keyboard, I discovered the importance of knowing how to unlock the full range of its capabilities. Every keyboard has letters, numbers, and symbols. Some keys have both numbers and symbols. If you aren’t computer savvy, you might wonder how to use them. Tech developers drew inspiration from typewriters and included a shift key that allows users to pick other options on various keys.
At the end of each chapter, you’ll find a few questions designed to help you shift your perspective and access that chapter’s keys for self-development and spiritual growth. You don’t have to write your answers down, but you might be surprised at how helpful it can be if you do. After you spend a few minutes reflecting on these questions, I encourage you to spend some time talking to God about the shifts going on inside you. You don’t have to pray a certain way or do it the way you’ve seen others pray at church or events. Just keep it simple and be honest with the Lord. To facilitate your conversation, you’ll find a short prayer here to help you get started.
1. Identify some of the major shifts in your past. Which continue to have the greatest impact on your present life? How do you usually respond to them? How would you like to respond to them?
2. What’s the most challenging shift in your life right now? What are some of the points of pain caused by this shift? How are you managing them?
3. What are some of the signs God is moving you into a new season based on the prior shifts in your life? How is He equipping you for your divine destiny?
“Desperation is sometimes as powerful an inspirer as genius.”
Shifting often leaves you feeling powerless.
In the weeks and months following my ACL injury during that college basketball game, I wounded more than the ligament in my right knee. I also ruptured my vision of the future, a picture I had been painting for most of my twenty years. Like an artist swirling brushstrokes until the details form a finished portrait, I had spent countless hours imagining my NBA career, wondering which team would draft me after a stellar senior season. After playing for the Lakers or maybe the Bulls for at least six or seven seasons, I would retire after hoisting the NBA championship trophy with my teammates. From there I would settle down and help my beautiful wife raise our amazing children while transitioning into my next career as a sports analyst and broadcast journalist.
In less than one second, the time it took my six-foot-five frame to fall to the painted hardwood floor of the basketball court, my future shattered. I knew instantly what had happened with my knee. Concurrent with my physical awareness, I realized my mental canvas of a future fulfilled had just been vandalized by the present reality. The daggers of pain stabbing up and down my body hacked through the dreams in my heart with the same wrenching intensity.
I was done. So I thought.
IN THE MEANTIME
Some people claim that you see your entire life flash before your eyes prior to death. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that when something happens to crush your dreams, you see your vision of the future fade to black. In the wake of a major injury, a dreaded diagnosis, an employer’s termination notice, or a loved one’s betrayal, everything changes instantly and permanently. Scrambled eggs cannot be unscrambled, as they say. Your life will never be the same, and a new major shifting has begun.
One of the greatest challenges in these painful shifts emerges from the sense of loss. Realizing that the future you expected has just been stolen from you leaves you disoriented, distraught, and distressed. If your health, your job, your family, or your marriage will no longer continue as expected, what will you do? Who will you be? What will your life look like?
- On Sale
- Mar 24, 2020
- Page Count
- 224 pages
- Worthy Books