Category Archives: Ministry

Destiny’s Manifesto

Over the past few days I’ve been writing the biographical part of what will become my manifesto. It’s a useful exercise in that it achieves two goals. It shows you where you’ve been and it shows you what matters most.

What matters most defines your core values. Your core values are the compass by which you navigate life. Being clear about those values is helpful, especially when wading through the murky and unclear waters that often comprise our lives “right now.” Hindsight is good but only after the fact and in the midst of a struggle a sense of bearing can be invaluable.

Unexpectedly, this task has proven a tad difficult. I can’t decide whether it’s too detailed or not detailed enough. I’ve spent enough time in therapy to see the value in my experiences and understand how they’ve come together to shape the man I am.

I also know somewhere out there is somebody who needs to hear my story. I know how helpful it can be to know, “I’m not the only one.” Especially since I grew up most of my life thinking I was the only one.

Growing up in the South in the 1980s my story is somewhat unique. But then again, maybe not. Maybe not so much unique as just isolated.

In late 1982, my mom left my dad for another woman.

Today, the response to this is really quite casual. “Yeah, so?” With gay being cool and shows like the L-word finding prime time status, a gay mom rarely raises an eyebrow these days.

In 1982 it was so earth shattering we couldn’t even talk about it. Becky, my mom’s girlfriend, was introduced as her “roommate” and, for some insane reason, people accepted this.

While I accept full responsibility for my future actions it is also clear that these and other early experiences eventually contributed to why I chose to hide from life in drugs. Drawing the map that connects all the dots will be helpful, not only for myself, but anyone in similar straits.

But damn, it’s a downer. So far I’m up to age 12 and the high point of my life was the neighbor girl who molested me in fourth grade. I’m sure there were happier moments but the truth is the low points were so low they over shadow everything else.

And then an epiphany, sort of snuck up on me. Epiphanies are not supposed to sneak. They’re supposed to blast you like a bolt out of the blue, but this one refused to follow script and just materialized out of the fog, so quietly that it seemed like it had been there all along. Which, now that I think on it, it had.

You are not your history.

You are not the things that happened to you.

The manner in which your past affects you is the manner in which you CHOOSE to let it affect you.

I know this is a lot. I know some of you reading this, especially those who may have experienced horrors far more foul than anything I’ve ever seen, will be offended and even hurt by what I say, but that does not make it any less true.

Viktor Emil Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist of Jewish decent. During World War II he suffered some of the worst injustices mankind has known as a prisoner of the Nazis. He was imprisoned in Auschwitz and Dachau, two of the most notorious camps.

Under these conditions Frankl discovered and refined his understanding of the human condition and the crucial component that determines a happy life from an unhappy one. Frankl discovered that in between stimulus and response, between the things that happen to you and what you think or feel or do about them, is a choice.

As humans we get to decide what we do with the lot we’ve been handed and we get to decide how we will let it affect us.

Admittedly, the harsher the lot, the harder this may be to do. Frankl, himself, exhibited a capacity I sincerely hope none of us has the chance to emulate, but the principles of his discovery remain and their truth, whether we’re ready to accept them or not, is sound.

It has taken me nearly forty years to realize I did not have to own the messages of my youth, that other peoples’ dysfunction was not a reflection of my own and that I was free to shape my own life. If it’s true for me, it’s also true for you.

It’s scary at first. We are often quite attached to these self definitions. We’ve come to see ourselves as the result of what happened before and these definitions give us security. That security comes at a price and we lock ourselves into a box in order to achieve it.

True freedom can be frightening. We can easily become afraid of losing ourselves.

We can also, finally, find ourselves. Like Frankl discovered, the choice is ours.

To your perfect imperfection,

Dave

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I Was A College Dropout

Hey there ,

I never graduated college. I had every intention of doing so when I started out. In fact I was what my wife affectionately refers to as a “schoolie.”

I finished high school near the top of my class, with an “Advanced” diploma, AP classes, college credit and a solid GPA.

My first college class was Sociology 101. I took it from 8 to 12 on Saturdays, the second semester of my senior year. I entered college a member of the school’s Honors Program, again pursuing an advanced degree. I was a History major.

There was only one problem:

I wasn’t doing any of this for me.

My entire life, up until my senior year in college, was spent fulfilling other people’s expectations. Through out my entire educational career, from kindergarten through college, I was successful because I had a knack for perceiving what it was my parents and teachers wanted, and giving it to them. Naturally they loved me for it, which only reinforced my behavior.

I wish I could say I was smarter than the system, that I knew the game I was playing and I was making it work for me. But the truth was I was an unconscious pawn in a game of, largely, unconscious players.

Then came my senior year in college. I had a very strong GPA. I was respected by my teachers and even courted by the head of at least one department. I guess everyone expected me to go on to graduate school. I had two quarters to go before graduation, less than six classes, and I began to panic.

For all my classes and all of my grades, the books and the lectures, I didn’t feel as if I’d learned a thing. I was about to graduate with a degree that meant nothing to me. I was about to join the “world” and I had no idea what I was going to do.

There was one thing, though, that I was certain of:

I was in love with Samantha.

We had been dating for almost two years when my roommate announced he was moving to Athens, Georgia to pursue a degree in photography. At that time, my roommate, Jason; Samantha; myself; and our best friend, Jeff, all formed a pre-Friends posse.

We did just about everything together and the idea of a new adventure in a new place took hold. Within a couple months we were packed and moved into a little country house just outside of town. I dropped out of school to go.

My mother and I had one of our biggest fights over this move. This was the first time I’d done something I wanted to do and it didn’t fit with her plan. She felt I was throwing my life away over a girl.

What she couldn’t see was, for the first time, I was embracing my life and doing what I wanted. It paid off, too. Samantha and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary last May.

It would be nice to say I learned my lesson then and there, but the truth is it took me a while to get it and sometimes I still struggle to apply it.

I tried going to school in Georgia, but second semester Samantha got pregnant with our first daughter. We decided it was our best move to return to Birmingham.

Later I tried to go back to school where I started and finish my degree (twice), but, again, life got in the way. When it was all said and done I ended my final semester in college with three incomplete classes that turned into “F”s.

That solid GPA? Long gone. Which is actually for the best. My heart was never in it. I pursued the degree because I thought that was what I was supposed to have. I listened to people who told me, “Oh, you’ll feel better when you have it.”

Only, I don’t feel bad now.

In fact, the only worthwhile lesson I did learn while in college is the one I’m sharing with you now:

YOU MUST LIVE YOUR LIFE FOR YOU AND NO ONE ELSE.

It’s not always easy. We are social animals and conditioned to seek the acceptance of the herd. That is your material side speaking, the physical, animal part of you.

Remember, you are also spirit. This is the part of you that came here to shine as an individual, to stand out and to do something.

Do something. Just make sure it’s what you want to do.

To your perfect imperfection,

Dave

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A Million Little Pieces

Hey there ,

Back in January of 2005, the first month of my sobriety, I read a book, A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey. Frey and his book had just been rocketed to instant celebrity by a gushing testimonial by Oprah over how much she loved the book and how badly each and every one of us needed to read it.

Just as quickly as he ascended he crashed and burned. His book, published as a memoir of his experience in rehab was revealed to be an elaborate exaggeration. Oprah rescinded her endorsement and he was publicly eviscerated, drawn and quartered, and his head posted on a pike outside the walls of Random House for all the world to see.

Well, not really, but it might have been kinder if they had.

If ever I get the chance to meet James Frey I will shake his hand and thank him for producing a work that, for me, was life changing. It saddens me that people get so hung up on details that they miss the importance and relevance of a work.

Whether or not Frey’s work is fiction or autobiographical doesn’t matter to me at all. What matters is that that book came into my life when I needed a mirror.

Yes, the details of his book were far uglier than what my experience was, but the principles were the same and in his story I could see my own face. He was a junky and his story left me with only one conclusion – I was a junky as well.

It was at this point I had a choice to make.

I could continue my decent into self loathing. I could give in to my own depression, my lack of self worth and the belief that this was the best I’d ever do.

Or, I could fight. I could recognize that every moment holds an opportunity for change.

I made the decision that my daughters deserved better.

I made the decision that my wife deserved better.

Finally, I made the decision that I deserved better.

For the past few days I’ve been telling you that you are perfect just as you are and that’s true. Too often we blind ourselves to our potential by believing that we have so much work to do before we can start.

That’s a delay tactic. That’s Low Self Esteem talking, that’s Insecurity, Self Loathing, Fear or any other form of what Steven Pressfield calls Resistance. Resistance is anything that gets in the way of doing your work.

We are all here to do work. You know this deep down. Your work is that passion that burns inside you. That thing that makes your pulse quicken. It might scare the crap out of you, but you also just can’t leave it alone.

The day I decided I was good enough on my own, without self medication, was the day I stepped out onto my true path. That was the day I started doing my work.

You are perfect, right now. You are ready to start your work, right now. There is nothing you need to do other than let you be you.

Don’t confuse yourself. You are not the things you do. You are so much more.

Allow yourself to be that which you already are.

To your perfect imperfection,

Dave

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“Everything Happens for a Reason”

Hey there,

On Friday I shared a bit of my history and that pivotal moment in my life when I decided to stop using drugs.

There is a cliché that’s often bandied about in self-help and get-off-your-ass-and-do-something circles and that is,

“Everything happens for a reason.”

What we most often take from this is that there is some divine plan at work; that we are a part of a bigger scheme devised by God, or the Universe, or whatever name you choose to describe the force that drives what we know as reality.

There’s comfort in the idea that someone else has gone to the trouble to think about our lives in advance and that even if we are miserable our lives serve some greater purpose.

I’m not here to tell you that’s not true. For all I know it is, but there’s another way to look at this phrase that I find more helpful and that is:

“Nothing happens without a reason.”

At it’s simplest this is the Law of Cause and Effect applied to your life. This means that everything that is happening in your life right now is the result of things that happened before.

There are some people who will tell you the past doesn’t matter, that it’s all about right now and what you do with your future.

There’s some merit to this, but if you don’t understand the missteps of the past you’re bound to repeat them in the future.

It’s important for me to realize, I didn’t just become a drug addict because I had nothing else to do. There was a sequence of events and their associated emotional responses that drove me toward a place where a manufactured happiness seemed my only recourse.

This does not mean I wasn’t responsible for what I did.  Every choice I made I made of my own free will, but it does show me why I was inclined to make those choices and how I can orient my future so that I’m not inclined to repeat those errors.

If you went to Sunday School as a kid you probably remember singing “This Little Light of Mine.” It’s a syrupy little ditty all about how we’re not supposed to hide that special little light of individuality that, if you’re Christian or Jewish, God put in each one of us. (Don’t worry, if you’re not Christian or Jewish, you still have that light, it just got put there by someone other than dear old Yahweh.)

For most of us, this is the original sin. We let someone else convince us there was something wrong with our light and we hid it. I believe that most of our subsequent suffering came as a result of squashing who we really are and then trying to deal with feelings that came from that.

Do you remember when you were a kid and hadn’t yet learned to care what other people thought of you? Do you remember how goofy and spontaneous and joyful and free you were? Did you know you were beautiful?

Did you know that still lives inside you?

To your perfect imperfection,

Dave

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Clean and Sober

Hey there,

For a good ten years I was a drug addict.  I was a “recreational user” for longer than that but by addict I mean I was daily user — for ten years.

I stopped seven years, nine months and 27 days ago.

New Year’s Day, 2005 ranks, along with the day Samantha and I snuck off and eloped and the days my three daughters were born, as one of the most important days of my life.  It was the day I decided I was bigger than my problems and that I didn’t need an external salve to make it through the day.

Samantha can tell you, the ensuing 30 days were rough.  Detox can be hard and I was not the most pleasant person to be around, but I made it through.

Having stayed stoned for ten years, clarity was a bit of a shock.  As an addict you get really good at talking to yourself and even more at lying to yourself.  I was the king of justifications and I thought while stoned I functioned just fine.

Thirty days of sobriety were enough to show me just how wrong I was.

When I finally did get a clear head I tried to distance myself from my past.  I was embarrassed and ashamed.  Those ten years are a long list of stupid risks and near misses that jeopardized everything I had in those days, most importantly, my wife and kids.

Recently I’ve begun to look back and reflect on those years.  The pain and the embarrassment is not so sharp, I can look at the things I did and, more importantly, why I did them.

The “why” stemmed entirely from my sense of self.  I was so convinced that I was unworthy I couldn’t even stand to be around myself.  I lived in a fog of depression and staying high made me feel better.

What I didn’t realize was there was a part of me that knew better.  There was a part of me that knew I was WORTHY, that I had VALUE, and that I was meant to SHINE but, in the cloud of drugs I lived in, it never got a chance to breathe.

When I finally did step out of that cloud, that part of me took off.  Within a year of quitting drugs I had a new career, a new car, a new house and a new life.  I reclaimed my wife and children who were slowly starting to slip away.

That part, that voice, that lives in me lives in you.  It’s the voice that tells you not what you should be, but what you ARE, even if you haven’t realized it yet.

Give that voice a chance.  You’ll be amazed at what happens.

To your perfect imperfection,

Dave

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Strengthology Lessons

Hey there ,
Yesterday I spoke about how we are all perfectly imperfect.  This was an epiphany I gleaned from my weekend in St. Petersburg at Elliott Hulses’ Strengthology Workshop.

The way this epiphany came, however, was not the usual flash of insight that is accompanied by excitement and a rush of good feeling.  In fact, it came up slowly, on my blind side, and when I first became aware of it, my first response was, “Aww, really?”

Elliott’s workshop was on what he calls the Fourth Layer of Strength — presentable strength.  It’s the ability to showcase your unique gifts and share them with others.

When we think of gifts, we really think super powers.  These are the things that other people have that we admire them for, with Elliott that’s strength and conviction, self confidence and not a little swagger.  He’s taken what was ostensibly a fitness business and grown it into a ministry of personal development.

Which is why we relate, I too am a minister of the soul, only I can’t quite pull off the swagger Elliott has.

The reason I fought this particular epiphany was that it held the realization that I had been trying to be something I’m not.  I was trying to copy Elliott, who’s sexy and has swagger.  In this sense, I’m not and I don’t.

Yes, I know I’m sexually attractive enough to have appealed to my beautiful wife.  We have maintained a very successful and loving relationship for twenty years, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking sexy in a mass appeal sense.  Mick Jagger is sexy, even though anyone who looks at him clearly has to admit — he’s butt ugly.

What I had to realize though is that not being sexy like Elliott is actually a strength.  What good would I be if I were just like Elliott?  He already exists.  How would I help anyone by doing what he does?  It’s already being done.

What’s not being done is me.  There is no one else out there just like Dave Hall.  No one can do what I do.

I am perfect in my imperfection.

If this is true for me, which it is, that means it’s also true for you; as you are, right now.

Don’t miss out on your gifts because they don’t look like someone else’s.  You be you.  By being you, you’ll find all kinds of swagger.  It’s the natural expression of a soul allowed to fully be itself, we’re all attracted to it.

So, embrace you.  Be you.

To your perfect imperfection,

Dave

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