Author Archives: Trevor Olson

Trevor Olson

About Trevor Olson

Psychologist, PsyD; License No. and State: PSY 28474 California; Serves with the LJCC High School Ministry on Sundays and during the week
Actual Self-actualization

Actual Self-actualization

A man reading a book on a rock in a grassy field

Have you noticed people talking about self-actualization a lot these days? It seems to me like it’s the next “go to.” When I was a kid growing up in Encinitas (north of San Diego), self-actualization took place in the form of the commune by the beach where the people looked serene and everyone wondered what they did exactly. Now as an adult, I’m more concerned with the actual definition of self-actualization. In Webster’s dictionary to self-actualize means to fully realize one’s potential. Another way to say this is to pursue a better version of oneself.

Here’s the problem: self-actualization doesn’t work. One reason: it can’t. Here’s why: it presupposes a power we don’t have. We believe as people that we have the power to do anything we want. The people we look up to as heroes are no different. Here’s the problem with that: no human has ever come close to anything like the earth-shattering magnitude and fundamental perfection of getting exactly what we want, except one.

We are bent for self-actualization, meaning we are drenched with longing for that which we don’t yet have. Just because it isn’t within us doesn’t mean we aren’t made for it. So, we do just about anything we can to get what we don’t have: we work longer and take less time off, our stress level increases, and then we get psychotropic medications prescribed to us to deal with the anxiety and depression created by our increased workload. Throw in the caffeine for our exhaustion and Netflix for a bit of enjoyment and we’re higher still.

Yet in the Bible, self-actualization takes the form of discipleship. The way to really find oneself is to aspire to become someone else. Instead of becoming ourselves, we apprentice ourselves to the One we follow. In the Christian story, the Son of God came down and laid down His royal life for one, alarmingly specific reason: because it was the will of someone else. He actualized according to His Father’s will.

We believe the well-known line “not my will, but thine, be done” (John 6:38-40) is the touchstone moment of actualization that both completely changed the history of the world and defines what self-actualization really is:  laying down our lives for our friends. The Son of God submitted His will to His Father and then faced the veritable firing squad on behalf of people He loved. Then He was brought back from the dead by the power of the One who loved Him. Now, anyone who comes with Him can also be changed in this frank and fundamental way. What a wild definition of self-actualization! In the Christian faith, self-actualization is the process of becoming so completely with and like Jesus—submitted and formed into the will of God in the love of God and the people in one’s life—that the good stuff, the love of God and the heart of God, the most powerful force, and powerful thing, comes true.

Come and learn about God’s actualization of His people… It’s a deeply counterintuitive approach to becoming who we are meant to be. And it is absolutely wonderful. Come and see what that means for you at our Sunday worship services at 9:00 and 10:45 am.

The Miracle Cure

The Miracle Cure

Dr. Olson's blog post, "The Miracle Cure," on the LJCC Blog.

There’s a Miracle Cure for nearly everything

Have you noticed how often we think about miracle cures? Right now I’m moving my week around so I can cash in on Turbo Tax’s “50% off Federal Filing Products 3.23-3.27” that is brightening up my inbox right now. Whether it’s purchasing a lottery ticket with the expectation of winning it all or saving money on the next big purchase, we expect little things to solve our big problems.

As a wise pastor wrote famously about marriage, we expect both too much and too little of the miraculous. What’s strange is we don’t expect nearly enough out of the provision God provides us with. Instead, we look for the next business deal. We are deeply skeptical of supernatural and, simultaneously, we as a people are converging on the present moment to satisfy our great longings and rectify the great wrongs. Miraculously. That’s what the definition of a miracle is, isn’t it? When something undone and undoable goes completely good, in an instant.

We’ve given up hope for the miraculous, which somehow means that when we have the innate desire for the supernatural to take hold of our lives, that desire is much stronger. It’s as if in the last couple hundred years of systematically disabusing ourselves of the miraculous we now, with instantaneous gratification, and compromised attention, and ever-present loneliness, find ourselves ever more oriented around that very thing.

Mercy at a time when we need it most

Jesus’ impending passion, crucifixion, and resurrection come at such a merciful time in our predicament. When most of us can’t spend five minutes without worrying, Jesus came and told us “when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32) The Bible goes on to say that the Father will take care of all our needs. (Matthew 6:25–34) Whoever thought the cure for our woes was the man Jesus, whose life was taken by people whose sins he was dying for? Whoever thought God actually loved you and me enough to subject himself to giving ‘His only Son.’? (John 3:16)

Whoever thinks, when we are casting about for something to soothe our troubled souls this is what we are really looking for? And if we’re really honest, who among us has the courage to believe the Miracle is true? But there it is. This week the church around the world will be struck down with Jesus as He is crucified for our sins. Sit with the rest of Jesus’ family as He lies in the tomb, and then watch as He’s brought to life. Hear the good news sisters and brothers. The Miracle Cure is alive and real; it’s the living God.

Join us in celebrating the good news on Easter Sunday with services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 am. Blessings to you in this season of the year when all of those in need of a miracle get one. 

Easter Services

The Secret to Healing in the Midst of Darkness

The Secret to Healing in the Midst of Darkness

healing during dark times

Did this time of the year ever drag as a kid? I remember trying to taste summer break and coming up short. Summer and the freedom that comes with it are a long ways away right now. As an adult, this time of year seems to drag on too, as if we’re in no man’s land.

The glow of the New Year isn’t on the radar anymore and it’s all-too-familiar to think in circles. It’s hard to even talk about wanting so badly to have it all together when the emptiness deepens. Anxiety sets in when we’re trying to grab on to something comforting that we cannot quite reach. This emptiness causes us to focus on our fears and it becomes almost maddening. Wasn’t it just two months ago when we sang ‘should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?’ with the hope that comes from a glimpse at the joy of new life? How have things returned to normal, in the painful sense of the word, so fast?

Jesus once warned his friend Peter that he would be tempted to betray the one most dear to him: his teacher Jesus. Being led into temptation can be a somewhat medieval sounding concept. What it means is simply being drawn from doing good to doing bad, being drawn away from the path we were on, to fearing the emptiness of being empty. In the story, Jesus famously tells Peter he would be tempted to deny his connection to Jesus. Peter, of course, denies he would do such only to find himself swearing up and down he never knew the man just days later (Luke 22:31-62). His pride led him to a great fall and he experienced remorse over his decision to deny Jesus. How can we avoid what happened to Peter?

In the season of Lent followers of Jesus prepare themselves every year to go with Jesus to His death on the cross on Good Friday, and His resurrection three days later on Easter. It’s a time of preparation for Easter Sunday. And what better way to give the normal temptations in life a run for their money than by making a “pilgrimage?” In the midst of coming up short and searching, Christ’s story is a journey that leads straight to the turning points in our lives: the moment when God reconciles Himself to buy us back. When He dies for our sins, He opens up a way for our ‘hearts and minds and strength and soul’ to get back on the right track, away from no man’s land, away from anxiety that can set in.

If you would, come and go on this journey that we celebrate year after year. You will not be alone. What’s more, we will be restored on this journey together. Holy Week is one of the weeks of the year when we are made to know that our anxieties, emptinesses, and strivings can be caught up into something much bigger and deeper than ourselves and be made well. Jesus tells us to come and pick up our cross (Matthew 16:24-26). The process of getting it right is to come and lay down our temptations so that we might be raised up in His forgiveness and grace. This time of year may drag on, but not if we’re open to the comfort that He provides all year long. Come and join us as we join Him.

Join Us for Holy Week

The Solution to New Year Resolutions

The Solution to New Year Resolutions

A group chatting.

Okay, folks! We’re almost a month into the New Year. What do we have to show so far for those resolutions? To be honest, I’m not doing the best with my resolutions and I suspect that might be the case for you, too.

Oftentimes we have a tenuous experience of carrying things through the gauntlet of our busy lives, but we have to carry things through if we are to make good on them. One thing that we often miss when making resolutions is that we don’t account for worries, or the fears that so consistently give rise to those worries, but they happen year after year.

I realize it’s starting to sound like commitments aren’t worth making, but hang in there. Let’s put some context on how we usually handle commitments. As people, we often divest ourselves of as many commitments as we can manage. We fantasize about a week, or a day, or even five minutes, where we don’t have to do anything, and can sit back and be rid of life’s problems. Other times we flip the script and urgently try to make changes in our lives like getting another job, going back to school, starting a family, or getting both kids into after-school programs. Our on-again, off-again habit of commitment is the roller-coaster a lot of us know firsthand.

So why is something so difficult, personal, and scary worth doing? Because God’s commitment to us is at the center of our lives, and we are coming into relationship with Him. At Christmas, we are reminded of the gift He gave to us. In January, He gives us strength, unifies us as a body of believers, and reminds us with His life in us that our lives are good when they are together. With God and with one another our worries and fears don’t cripple us the way they do when we are on our own. Together we can be committed to life. So at LJCC we commit to winter camp, to the season of Lent, to celebrating His resurrection at Easter, to finishing the construction on our campus, to baptisms, weddings, memorials, summer camp, beach days, more weddings, baptisms and memorials, tithing, sending people down to Mexico, all the hours of Bible studies, visiting the sick and being visited ourselves.

We want to invite you to do the same. Come and commit to a year of being closer to God, and helps us ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ all the year through. Come to the sermon this week about how God taught a timid person to commit to much more than his timidity. Help us to see this year all the way through. And let us help you to do likewise.

Peace in a no-peace Christmas

Peace in a no-peace Christmas


I have been in so many stores that I cannot find the thing I want to buy for Christmas. I went to too many stores and now I’ve forgotten where it is! Christmas came and went faster this year than it ever has before. Unconsciously speaking about it in the past tense a full week before it’s happened tells you all you need to know about how I’m doing this year. And what’s a little spooky is this year, for the first time I can remember, I pushed back against that ceaseless trajectory of my life a little bit less.

From the looks of it, human life has been speeding up almost since it began. For a while it was slow. Camels could only be selectively bred so fast. Then there were horses. Then there war horses and warships. Then in the last 150 years, there were trains then cars then planes then electricity then phones then email then Instagram. In all likelihood somewhere in those last 150 years you and yours got swept away. The course of the life is now at full flood stage. San Diego is an epicenter of the flood. Christmas and its competing demands for work and family and celebration and annual conclusion exemplify our penchant and commitment to frenetic existence.

But here’s the thing:  there is still peace in this little life and this perhaps, no-peace Christmas. One of Jesus’ names we use around His birthday, is Immanuel – God with us. Immanuel refers to God becoming a person – ‘incarnating’ Himself – which is this lovely visceral word that literally means ‘enfleshed.’ God descended from the realm of all glory and ceaseless adoration and entered into the womb of a young girl in a captive country to make things right again. God registered Himself amongst our human race and has been gathering people up into a life-changing embrace ever since. Here is the mercy and peace for all of us: that given we are who we are, that God is who Immanuel is.

Come to our Christmas Eve service. Take a break. Have a respite. On the eve of the big day, step into peace for an hour. Start the holy day early by initiating it in peace the night before. Be ahead for once. 🙂 Walk out on Christmas Eve with the peace of the Presence of God, having come to be with His people, yesterday, today and forever. Know in a deeper way, or for the first time, what a wise pastor calls the “hope of Christmas and the joy of Christmas.” Knowing God often gets made out to be a lot more troubled and vexing than He Himself is.

Let us try to make out the proclamation of peace – the moment everything changed:
“Joy to the world – the Lord has come.”
“For unto us a child is born. Unto us a Son is given.”

To us! But can it be? Yes:  somehow our Savior has come. The Lord has come:  to bind up the broken-hearted, to set us at liberty in the midst of our oppression, to reconcile us to God, to proclaim His favor. He has come to make us His family. Christ has come, ‘with the government’ of all of the grievous, confounding, unmanageable things of our many lives ‘upon His shoulders.’ Join us at the Christmas Eve service as we receive our King. And Merry Christmas.

The Race and the Prize

The Race and the Prize

The Race and Prize

The expert of the law and the Lord said the same thing: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:25-29; Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18)

That is what we’re called to do if we want to inherit eternal life. It is our big chance in life. It’s our ticket out of the fall and into the Kingdom.

Pastor Steve pointed out, this is the question that God gives us – “who is my neighbor?” It’s something we can’t afford to misunderstand or fail to hear. “A new commandment I give you – love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Recollect a few things Pastor Steve said to this point:

  • “We are the people of the Word.”
  • “If you bite and devour each other, watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:14-15)
  • “This is a love issue. My relationship with myself sets the tone for all relationships I have.”

When we end up with our back up against the wall (surely this will happen at times) – let us pray we do not forget that we are lovers of God and neighbor and so then the way forward is this. In this endeavor we can always succeed. This is the soul-anchoring hope of Christ winning out in our lives. In this endeavor we may succeed whenever we desire. This is the love of Christ in us. This is the promise of the cross. Love of God and neighbor is what fulfills our lives – it is the race and prize.

So “set out towards justice” as Steve said. Form, further and fulfill relationships with your neighbor and yourself until the particularities of whom God desires to be becomes clear. Remember:  relationships always resolve themselves into particularities. If you aren’t sure where God is in your neighbor’s life or your own, it’s an optics problem. You aren’t close enough to see.

So get to know/love your neighbor and yourself. Ask the questions and raise the issues. Sincerity and love allow incredible kinds of communication/bonding not otherwise available. In Christ, all kinds of otherwise impossible and high and holy things are possible. God is reconciling people to Himself. Let’s be people who have the deal-making joy of saying “yes.”

The Spirit of God living in you is your power for living in God

The Spirit of God living in you is your power for living in God

After four hundred years in Egypt, the Jews were freed from slavery by the mighty hand of God. But immediately they were sent into the desert to wander – follow – a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. Seven weeks after Passover, they camped below a mountain shrouded in clouds and smoke. Their leader went up the mountain, and then came back down holding God’s law, his face shining.

This strange, otherworldly story is the context of Pentecost. Like Steve was saying, Pentecost takes place fifty days after Jesus raised the cup and declared that His was the blood of the New Covenant. The day itself of Pentecost, when the Counselor came into our lives “as of the rushing of a mighty wind,” was the day the Jews there had gathered together to remember God giving Moses the Law.

The Passover becomes the crucifixion, and written code transforms into “new way of the Spirit.” In the most tangible way. On the very same date! We have a good God.

This story is a reminder God thinks that what He did on Pentecost is our new jumping-off point for who we are and how we do everything. Practically, here are things to keep in mind. When, as Steve said, our defenses are penetrated, remember that part of who is exposed is the indwelling Spirit of God. Acknowledge Him – acknowledging someone brings you up into relationship with them in that moment. This is who you are.

Make yourself responsive to His desire. The people on Pentecost spoke in tongues they did not know – we were reconciled in a way we hadn’t been since Babel – and Peter told the story of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures were fulfilled. Play your part in the fulfillment of all things, too. This is what you do.

The Spirit of God coming to be with us, now, is such good news. The early church celebrated their way through the fifty days from the Crucifixion to Pentecost. Let us walk in that same, growing “newness of life.”

Practicing your Emotional Destination

Practicing your Emotional Destination

To comment on Steve’s sermon this week, let me advocate for three things in our emotional life.

Wasn’t that a great, “amen and amen” sermon by the way?

Thing One:

Be emotional. The process goes like this. God made you and me. “For we are created in Christ Jesus.” So we bear His identity. As Steve said so well, we are emotional. We are His, ergo being emotional is part of our identity and purpose.

Be sad. Be mad. Be grieved. Be scared. Be vulnerable. Be gentle and kind. Be who you were made to be. “Do the good work which God has prepared.” It’s right here.

Thing Two:

Be emotional in the right way – be emotional for the good purpose. Our emotionality is possibly the most wayward failure to launch part of life right now. We have fearfully developed/overfilled schedules, ambitions for our children from before they are born, financial plans extending out to our dying days, and often almost no compelling sense whatsoever of what our anger, fear, grief and anxiety are for. Our culture’s point of emotional culmination, happiness and self-glorification, is a rip-off, because so many of us are unhappy and nobody except maybe our mothers think we are glorious.

Now there is a stunning destination for emotional life – Jesus Christ. His emotional life was the most beautiful life we’ve ever had. His emotional life changed everything. His feeling is the blessing, blessing us all. If your anger is destructive, be reformed by His indignation at evil and commitment to justice. When your fear is crippling, come to the shade of the Father’s mighty wing the way He does. Whenever you haven’t seen your emotional life change, don’t stop moving into Christ until you do.

Thing Three:

Practice your emotional life. Practice is a maligned part of our faith, which is a bummer because it is the most predictable way in life to experience transformation. There is no such thing as a natural-born surgeon or teacher or pianist or financial advisor. And there is no such thing as a natural-born, really good emotional life either.

Good practice is one part knowing what’s going on – who you are – where you’re going – the telos – and what the next step is – our daily manna provision of grace and provision of identity and good work from the Lord. Take Steve’s encouragement:  He is the One “with all authority” to bring about life – emotional life of the kind we the creation are so eagerly waiting for.

What is the parable of your life?

What is the parable of your life?

What is the parable of your life?

Have you ever rendered your life into a parable? I hadn’t thought to do so until Steve was talking parables on Sunday, March 5, 2017. As he pointed out:  Jesus communicated some of the great mysteries of who He is and who we are. This rhetorical strategy of story and metaphor children naturally understand, but educated adult followers of Christ can miss completely.

Telling a parable was one of Jesus’ favorite ways of getting people to understand faith and follow Him. So let’s try it out.

Here are the three ground rules:

1) Make appropriate comparisons.

If I tell a parable about how my harried breakfast this morning is like my mind it may be too small to get at what’s going on in my life of faith. By the same token, if I’m comparing my professional work to the glory of the Milky Way I’ve probably gone a little too big. Jesus’ told parables about the building blocks of parties and the legal system and debts and children and work. The more “salt of the earth” in your stories, the better.

2) Start with what’s going on in your life, right now.

Jesus relayed His parables conversationally, in the context of what was being said to Him. He told parables to particular people, at particular times, for particular reasons.

3)  Make your parable about the same thing He did.

All of the parables Jesus told are about God and the relationship of God with His people. Tell a parable about the specific relationship God has with you and how that relationship is bearing out in your daily life.

Here’s my parable:
Trevor’s life is like a man deciding to go on a journey with a companion. He needed to go on the journey badly, because going on that particular adventure with this companion was his great desire. But he was scared of the wild animals and the deserts and running out of water. Most of all the man was afraid he just wouldn’t make it but would fail. The man’s companion was there with him when these things happened. Sometimes the man let his companion come to his aid, and sometimes he fled the trail and his companion and hid himself from the wild animals.

The parable tells a literal story of our spiritual walk with Jesus. When we feel fear or hopelessness, we shouldn’t flee but turn to God and follow him. In this Lenten season, write your own parable about life’s journey.  And remember what Christ told his disciples:  “You are lost but you are loved. The road is narrow, not wide. Follow me and I will guide you.” (Psalm 16:11)

The Presence of Pain

The Presence of Pain

The Presence of Pain

Beyond love, the thing that often motivates us in life is pain. Sigmund Freud wrote about the concept of thanatos, claiming that all of us have a universal death instinct, a drive toward self-destruction as a release from the suffering of this world. If there’s one thing in life we need to learn to live with, it is pain. And not many of us know how to live with it gracefully.

What does the gospel say about the pain in our lives? Pain, as Jesus and Paul tell us, is a necessary path through and into life. The portal of grief must be passed through so that we can enter another door to something greater. Romans 6:5 tells us, “For if we are united to Him in a death like His, certainly shall we be united to Him in a resurrection like His.”

But signing up for our pain-management program through Christ is not easy. Many of us find it so difficult that we opt out of His program and find another. Some of us immerse ourselves in popular culture. Others turn to more addictive ways to deal with the pain. Either way is not a way out.

As humans, we can’t simply ignore our pain because that doesn’t make it go away. We can deceive ourselves into thinking we’ve overcome it or can just endure it. These methods don’t work either.

Jesus gives us a whole new way to live with the pain we have in our lives. It still hurts – don’t get me wrong. It’s just not as scary as it once was. When we hand over the pain to Christ, it changes in nature. When we hurt, we have hope. We have consolation. We have purpose. When we hurt, we know the Way and the Truth and the Life.

The American singer/songwriter Michael Stipe is right — “everybody hurts and everybody cries.” But we can find comfort in the pain through Christ. Pastor Steve reminded us of this on Sunday, February 5th:  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who comforts us in our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we were comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

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