Childlike Faith – Living and Loving Your Life With God's Perspective

Category - dreams

How a Superhero Cape Helps Me Be Awesome

childlike cape faith
Rachel made me a cape!  A full-sized, heavy, satiny, superhero cape!  I am totally shocked and bowled over by how freaking awesome it is!  This is the best gift I have ever received in my entire life!

I’ve honestly always wanted a cape, ever since I saw the original Superman with Christopher Reeve.  We both had black hair, and wore glasses, and were a bit nerdy.  Clark Kent obviously had a unique gift and calling on his life, and in my innocence I wondered if maybe I did too.  I remember using a safety pin to hold together the short end corners of the biggest bath towel I could find to wear around my neck.  And then I would run through the house with my cape fluttering behind me, and jump off couches and beds and chairs and anything else I could find.  In my mind, being a superhero involved a lot of jumping, perhaps as practice to leap tall buildings in a single bound.   

My cape made me feel strong, powerful, courageous, and noble.  It made me feel like I was more than meets the eye, that I had a secret and special quality about me that no one else had.

My cape made me feel strong, powerful, courageous, and noble.  It made me feel like I was more than meets the eye, that I had a secret and special quality about me that no one else had.  And that it would help me to be the best version of myself, to battle evil and save lives and just naturally do great and awesome things to make the lives of others better and safer and happier.  I think everyone wants this, and not just while growing up.  We want to have something extraordinary about us to share, something that we can unveil to the world to fulfill a grand purpose.

I haven’t worn a towel like a cape since before adolescence.  But I have always delighted in what it signifies.  And since I’ve known Rachel, I’ve joked offhandedly about how I would love a cape because it represents what I am all about.  Childlike faith.  Truth and justice for all.  Awe and wonder.  Intrepid valor.  Romance.  Living from one’s heart above all else, for the greater good. 

childlike faith castle

She surprised me with it for our second wedding anniversary when she came to visit me in Ireland this summer.  I got out of the shower, and there it was laying on the bed for me.  I was completely dumbfounded and speechless when I first saw it, and didn’t know what it was, but then it hit me. 

I was like, “You got me a cape?  You got me a cape?!!  You got me a CAPE!!!!” And she was like, “I made you a cape!”  Even remembering the moment as I write this out makes me marvel anew at her act of love towards me. 

You have to see it in person.  I’ll even let you try it on if you want.  I didn’t want a cape with the Superman logo, something you could buy in a costume shop.  I wanted my very own, something that no one else had.  And no one else has this cape in the entire world!  I love that it’s red, with a gold stallion as the insignia (its meaning is personal).  I love that the inside of it is black.  I love that it has weight and class to it, as the material is just exquisite and really makes me think that all of the best capes out there – Superman’s, Batman’s, Dracula’s – were made just like this one.  And when I wear it, I don’t feel derpy or ridiculous.  Instead, I feel joy – simply and purely.

I want to remain curious, and wide-eyed, and risk-taking – and expect that things will work out in the end.  I want to feel mysterious, and dashing, and capable of tremendous feats.

While we were vacationing around Ireland, my favorite thing to do was to find the ruins of a castle, put on my cape, and go climbing around on it.  You might think that it took me back to being a kid again, but in my mind it was a wonderful reminder that I haven’t stopped being a kid – at least in the most desirable ways.  I want to remain curious, and wide-eyed, and risk-taking – and expect that things will work out in the end.  I want to feel mysterious, and dashing, and capable of tremendous feats.  This is how I always want to see myself, how always I want to be.

As I think about it, my cape is important to me for two major reasons. 

First, it represents a rite of passage.  In adolescence, we have bar and bat mitzvahs in the Jewish tradition, confirmation in the Catholic faith, Quinceanera in Spanish cultures, Seijin Shiki in Japanese customs.  Many times, some symbol or token is given to formally mark the transition from child to adult, and their calling forth into greater responsibility, maturity, and strength.  I’ve heard of examples where the token was a replica broad sword from Lord of the Rings, or a necklace of great significance and meaning. 

superhero cape faith

It may seem like an unnecessary formality, but it is a very special thing to commemorate a major life change in a tangible way that conveys encouragement, support, and nobility.  It also then serves as a clear, unquestionable marker and signpost to remind a person from where he has come, and where he is going.  I find that individuals need to know when a transition has happened, or else they flounder and flail while seemingly suspended between two stages. And they never really make the “jump” – leaving the past in the past and fully embracing the present and future. 

My cape encourages me to stiff-arm complacency, press through fear, and fight the good fight just like Superman or Batman or any other caped crusader would.

I’m about to be a father for the first time.  This is a humongous deal.  My cape serves as a token of remembrance that spurs me on to be a hero to my forthcoming child, and to my wife.  It also reminds me to view the world as my playground, where anything can happen and everything is possible (I still believe that).  It encourages me to stiff-arm complacency, press through fear, and fight the good fight just like Superman or Batman or any other caped crusader would.  It helps me to rise up, and be the best I can be.

Second, in 2 Kings there is a great story of when the older prophet Elijah passes on his mantle (or robe, or cloak) to his younger sidekick Elisha.  A mantle is very similar to a cape, and represented a covering from God that conferred authority and responsibility to one chosen to do great things.  When I see my cape – and honestly even when I think about it – it serves a tremendous purpose.  I am reminded that He has set me apart, to be a light in dark places, to know the words that sustain the weary, to offer hope, to reflect how to live life to the fullest, and most importantly to point others to His son Jesus through all that I do. 

childlike faith ireland

There’s so much in this world that destroys our innocence, and that breaks our will and even our heart.  There’s so much that pushes us in the direction of bitterness, cynicism, passivity, and resignation. We find ourselves in a downright war for emotional health and stability as adults just trying to make it, and the battles we must fight every day render us weary. 

I think we’d all face these struggles with more fortitude and hope if we could approach them with the mindset we had before our childhood was rocked. Or stolen. And often, we need something to get us there, to jolt us out of our self-defeating thoughts and attitudes.

My cape does that. It serves as the reminder I need to regain the perspective I always want to have in life. It helps me to remember my identity, my calling, and all that I am meant for – and meant to be.

How to Find your Calling

In my last blog entry, I asked “What is your Calling?” and covered a number of related issues. I first discussed that a ‘calling’ is the secret of who you are meant to be, instead of something that you simply do (for a living, etc.). I also shared that I believe a vocation and a calling are different for most people, and that the former won’t ultimately fulfill you, but the latter can – and does, if you can devote yourself to it and pursue it for all it’s worth. Finally, I mentioned that a calling is typically an expression that manifests into action. Ideally, it implicates your heart, helps you feel closer to God, provides a solid measure of transcendent joy and satisfaction (even when it gets rough, and even when you fail sometimes), and something you feel burdened (in a good way) to live it out.

Now, I want to share some thoughts on my calling – and how you can discover yours.

“If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the whole world on fire.” ~ St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church, Dominican Mystic (1347-1380)

I believe that. I believe our calling has that kind of potential. And I think we choose a vocation, but a calling chooses us. And it likely has chosen us a long time ago, but perhaps we’ve never really given it the room, freedom, and encouragement to grow.

I’d believe my calling is writing. It completely engages my heart. It definitely helps me feel closer to God. It brings me a measure of joy that I can only describe as transcendent. And I feel absolutely compelled to share what I’m learning. One of my life verses is Isaiah 50:4, which says “The Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.” I have meditated on that verse for as long as I can remember, and prayed about this for decades. And life has just worked out in a way where I can see His hand on this area of my life, through positive and negative reinforcement, through opportunities, through years in the crucible where He refined me and my abilities. It is who I am, it is what I want to be, it is what I cannot help but do. Nothing else compares. And I kind of expect God to use it to set the world on fire.

I think we choose a vocation, but a calling chooses us. And it likely has chosen us a long time ago, but perhaps we’ve never really given it the room, freedom, and encouragement to grow.

How are you supposed to find your calling? Great question. I think it involves trying a bunch of different things over the weeks and months and years. Breaking out of routine. Considering new potentials you may have. If an opportunity or experience seems to resonate with you in a unique way, go for it. And then assess it very carefully. Some of these questions might help:

Is your heart engaged in the activity, and do you feel like it comes alive when you do it? If it doesn’t stand out to you, it’s probably not your calling.

Is it deepening your relationship with God? Is it fueling your desire to do great things for Him, sourced in the gifts He has given you?

Does it lift your spirits in a way that few other activities do? Does it provide a measure of contentment, reassurance, and peace that you are on the right track, doing the right thing, and plugged in to something that matters?

Does it feel like the world would miss out if you didn’t do it? Not to feed your self-importance, but does it feel weighty, important, and like something you feel compelled to do with your life?

Does it feel like play? Am I able to lose myself for a few moments or hours like I did when I was a kid? To be sure, sometimes it’s going to be hard and some days, to be honest, you’re not going to feel like it. Other days, you’re going to be inspired but have to deal with other related tasks that are draining. For example, I love to write, but I hate to do anything related to marketing my writing. I’d just rather keep writing, but both are important if a person wants his/her voice to be heard. The point here is that overall, in the big picture, you need to enjoy it and find yourself getting swept up in it.

Am I listening to others? This one comes with a caveat, because in listening to ‘others,’ I mean the ‘others’ in my life who know me, love me, and are cheering for me. Their input is important because my calling isn’t just intended to be lived out for one person (me), but for the people around me. I mean, God made us for Him and he made us for others. And so other people will always be a part of our calling.

Is my calling an idol? My calling should never become a wall I put up to isolate, or a platform to stand on to look down on others. It should never be used in a selfish, egotistical way, but should be used humbly, lightly, and generously. If I find myself bristling with annoyance at someone getting in the way of me and my calling, I need to check my heart and wonder if it’s become an idol.

You might have to try twenty things before you discover your calling. You might stumble upon it the first time. And it will probably not be associated with fireworks, fanfare, and perhaps even much fun some (many?) times. I can think of many legends of the faith and legends of our modern era, and it’s clear that their calling involved a lot of grinding, hard work, and sacrifice. And there were definitely disappointments, and even failures along the way (and even in the end). But it was still their calling. We should just remember that even when it gets really rough, and even when it doesn’t seem to be making a difference, it still is absolutely what you were called to do.

I can think of many legends of the faith and legends of our modern era, and it’s clear that their calling involved a lot of grinding, hard work, and sacrifice. And there were definitely disappointments, and even failures along the way (and even in the end). But it was still their calling.

At the end of my life I am going to be endlessly grateful for the opportunities that came my way and the things I was able to accomplish. But I feel that if I only kept doing my vocation (and even if I succeed at it beyond my wildest imaginations), it will feel in part like a hollow victory. It will fall short on some level – it just will. And so I just want to keep nourishing the seed He planted in me. I just want to keep focused on living out my calling – doing what I know to do, and leaving the rest up to Him.

Image source: http://bit.ly/1PUy0JH

What is your Calling?

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about contentment, and specifically how it relates to my calling. When I use the term “calling” I mean the secret of who you are meant to ‘be,’ and I am not referring to one’s “vocation,” which is the truth of what you can best ‘do.’ We’ll talk more about that below. But for now, I mean what Mark Twain was referring to when he said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

I feel like a calling is an expression that naturally manifests into action. Which means that it is less science, and more art. It is less brain, and more heart. It is less manufactured, and more organic. I hope that makes sense; I am not sure how else to put it. It is something that is birthed inside of you, from early in your life. And when it is expressed, it is the very best of you blossoming, coming forth, in all of your personal glory.

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. ~ Mark Twain

I’m pretty positive that unless I am fulfilling my calling, I am going to constantly wrestle with a crappy complicated feelings of discontentment that feel like frustration, angst, uneasiness, sadness, nihilism, and listlessness. I know that sounds intense, but I think you know what I mean. Depending on the context, some of these emotions rear up their ugly heads more so than the others. You get it.

I’ve spent my life chasing dreams, and accomplishing many of them. But to be honest, something is missing. Not fully, but definitely partially.

I know that Jesus said that if I try to hang on to my life, I will lose it. But if I give up my life for his sake, I will save it. I see that. I’ve been on this planet long enough to realize that ultimately I am not in control of anything, really. And I’ve learned that I don’t want to spend my life obsessed with building my own kingdom and being preoccupied with self-preservation only to have everything I’ve saved and stored and worked for taken for me in a blink of an eye (regardless of whether I die naturally or unnaturally, that is my fate. I always think about what happened to the rich man who just kept building bigger and bigger barns to store his increasing wealth: “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20).

I want to live a great story. And I really do feel like I “give up my life” for His sake – in terms of pouring it out by investing in, and loving on others. I mean, that’s what He did. That’s what actually matters – helping others through their lives…and offering some hope by reflecting His love and pointing them (indirectly and directly) to Him. And I mean it when I say that it really does fulfill me. But in this incomplete way.

Your calling is like a seed that has been planted, and then is watered and fertilized through experiences and revelations and struggles and successes and heartbreak and solitude, and then eventually bursts forth from the topsoil of your life into something that nourishes others.

And that’s okay, I think. Because I am convinced that each of us has a unique calling – a divine destiny – which we are absolutely meant to be, and work towards, and realize. I’m trying to figure out how to explain it, and I keep getting this word picture. It’s something that starts on the inside of you, like a seed that has been planted, and then is watered and fertilized through experiences and revelations and struggles and successes and heartbreak and solitude, and then eventually bursts forth from the topsoil of your life into something that nourishes others. I know that this seed, and its growth process – it’s a big deal. And it’s supposed to compel me to do my part so that it comes into fruition. And I’m supposed to not let anything stifle it – like weeds, or disease, or malnourishment. And I know that when things do get in the way (as they tend to!), I must remember that it was planted specially in me by a sovereign, perfectly-loving God, and that singular fact should propel me forward.

I’ve been mentoring my friend Francklen for like three and a half years now. I love this kid. He’s super intense, and bent towards being melancholy – just like me. He feels things really deeply – the highs are top-of-the-world high, and the lows are paralyzingly low. I get that. I can relate. Well, Francklen is trying to discover his calling – perhaps like most of us. And part of me wants to share with him feel-good quotes like the one we’ve all probably heard from Frederick Buechner: “Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.” But then I refrain from doing so, because I think a vocation and a calling are often (but not always) different. Instead, I want him to figure out a form of expression that “does it” for him:

that engages his heart;

that helps him draw near to God;

that brings him a transcendent joy; and

that he continually feels burdened (in a good way) to act.

Those four things: engage, draw near, enjoy, and act. In that order. He’s trying. He might end up being a civil engineer for his vocation, but a spoken word poet for his calling. I have no idea. Currently, he doesn’t either. And that’s okay, because he will realize it in time, and come to discover that it was in him all along.

A lot of my friends currently at FAU (or those who have recently graduated) are so fired up about their current trajectory to grad school or med school or law school or to be hired into a terrific job right out of college. And I can tell they already derive so much of their identity out of that future role or position or occupation. And I am excited for them – I was the same way back then. But I wish I could convey to them over coffee that their vocation isn’t going to fully satisfy them. Even if they win a Pulitzer or Nobel, even if they create the next killer app that revolutionizes life as we know it, even if they singlehandedly cure cancer. It is not enough. And they’ll need more, and want more. And they will realize that whether it’s in five years or fifty years. And realizing it later than sooner will definitely be more painful. I guess I just want them to be intentional about figuring out what they were made for, and being open to the possibility of it not being related to their academic and professional pursuits.

I think we get in trouble when we try to force a vocation and a calling to be the same thing, or otherwise overlap in some way.

Also, I think we get in trouble when we try to force a vocation and a calling to be the same thing, or otherwise overlap in some way. It can be, and I know some people for whom it is. But it’s rare. For instance, my friend Jenny is a life coach and I know without a doubt that God took her on a special journey so that she could learn how to infuse real hope and light into the lives of those who are stumbling in the dark. She is meant to do this, and God clearly uses her to rescue many lives. She helps her paid clientele, and she helps those who do not become paid clients simply because she must. She can’t not. I am thankful that for her vocation and calling dovetail pretty perfectly.

That said, such a convergence between the two is not likely for most. If that is what we are desperately shooting for, we’re just going to flounder about for years. And years. Because we’re trying to find perfection in what to “do” with our lives. We’re trying to identify the “end-all, be-all” so we can take it and run with it. As he is in his sophomore year in college and trying to select the best possible major, Francklen is having such a hard time because the choice seems so weighty, and the implications so severe and enduring. I love that he wants to make the right choice, but at the end of his life he will realize that the major he selected and the career he chose did not define him, nor did it fulfill him. We want it to. We think it will, when we are starting out, and when we are in the middle of it. But it doesn’t. Instead, his calling will. I want all my friends to understand that.

In my next entry, I’ll talk about how I believe you’re supposed to find your calling. Stay tuned….

Image source: http://bit.ly/1P1rFMf

Life Lessons I’ve Learned from Ultimate Frisbee

I love ultimate Frisbee. So much. If I could play every day of the week, I would. I just find it so fulfilling and fun because it’s competitive, exciting, and a workout – and it requires digging deep and pushing oneself to run and jump faster, harder, and higher than those around you. For those of you who have never played, allow me to provide some background before I tell you what ultimate Frisbee has been teaching me about life.

Perhaps the best way to describe the sport is that it is like soccer, except that you can’t dribble (that is, you can’t possess the Frisbee and make your way up or down the field). You have to catch it, immediately come to a stop, and then throw it to a teammate before the person defending you counts to 10 seconds). And the way you score is like football, except with only passing plays. That is, the Frisbee gets moved down the field – teammate to teammate – until someone catches it in the end zone and gets both of their feet down in bounds before falling or running out of it.

There are certain things about the sport which fill me with so much joy while playing. I like trying to juke my defender to try to get open to receive a pass from my teammate. I like when the Frisbee is in the air and those on offense and defense both sky high to try to grab it and come down with it. And most of all, I love going for all the glory. This is where I am quite far away from my team’s end zone, but my teammates are running down the field and calling for a long pass, and I just reach back and chuck the disc with all my might in their direction. And hopefully, hopefully, one of them catches it for a goal, and the crowd goes wild and my friends go absolutely bananas hugging and hive-fiving each other, and even the other team marvels in astonishment and gives us props for making such a sensational and perhaps even miraculous play.

I choose to live wisely and in fiscally responsible ways, but want to go on adventures and epic trips now – when my body is able to do all the things that I want it to.

The feeling of throwing such a pass and scoring that point is pretty epic, but what is even better is when I am on the receiving end. I seriously cannot think of anything better in all of my years of playing sports or doing anything outdoorsy. I just look over to one of my teammates who can throw well, make eye-contact and give them a confident nod and smile so they know I am about to go deep, and then I just take off. And hopefully, I have a couple steps on my defender, and I’m running as hard as I possibly can, and the Frisbee is launched on a perfect parabola that cuts through the air like a ninja star, and hangs up on the breeze long enough for me to reach out at the best possible moment to snag it and come down with it in bounds for a goal. Sometimes I have to jump really high for it. Sometimes I have to launch myself horizontally and dive for it. And sometimes I have to turn on my afterburners and give every last ounce of energy and strength to stretch towards it and rip it out of the air. I just don’t know how to truly convey to you how tremendous it is when it happens – to be a part of something which at that time and in that context feels so rewarding, redemptive, and downright magical. Nothing comes close to that feeling. It is absolutely glorious.

There is a problem, though. And that problem is that…I want it all the time. I want the long throws. I want the glory points. I want the legendary pass plays every single time my team gets on offense. But this is not a good thing. Why? Well, for a number of reasons. First off, scoring goals like these is a high reward but a high risk. Perfect passes down the length of the field do not happen the majority of the time. Plus, other elements must perfectly coalesce simultaneously – the receivers need to know what side of the end zone to run to, they need to have at least a few steps on their defenders to create space in which to make the catch, they need to “read” the disc and the direction in which it is turning in flight, and they have to actually make what is usually a challenging catch with one or both hands.

I want the long throws. I want the glory points. I want the legendary pass plays every single time my team gets on offense. But this is not a good thing.

In addition, we are playing against a defense. They can specifically guard against deep passes by having one or more team members play “safety” to provide more coverage near or in the end zone. They know we like to go long and try to make these epic passes and scores, and they will obviously adapt their strategy to make it more difficult of us. With all of this in mind, you would think that I would be deterred from trying to go for the glory plays…. But I have some stubbornness in me, and I just don’t get deterred. And you’re probably thinking that the lesson here is that it is still worth it, to go for it, because it is how you become legendary. But to be honest, it is not.

Given the circumstances I have described, if I keep going long as a thrower or a receiver and keep prioritizing that as the best way to score points, I am sandbagging my team. I am putting them at an extreme disadvantage, and setting them up for failure. What I have found in ultimate Frisbee is that yes, the glory plays are spectacular and pretty much the best thing ever…but they are very rare. And they are not how a team wins games. They may lead to a point here or there – and maybe even a few during a match. But the majority of scores are made when the team methodically moves up the field with short passes.

Our default is “go long,” but I have to keep vocally reminding myself and my teammates that the short game works best. It’s not very exciting or sexy, and it requires a lot more running around as you try to get open to catch a pass in a short radius around the teammate with the disc, and it involves every one of your players catching pass after pass after pass as you move down the field. But it actually works better more consistently. And, more often than not, it leads to victories. And I would definitely rather win entire games on a regular basis than catch epic scores on an irregular basis and lose the matches we play.

So, back to my life. How is this even applicable? Well, I am realizing that I need to stop scheming and pining for the long passes and the glory scores when it comes to my goals and dreams. I mean, I want to accomplish the things I set out to achieve in a quick-strike and explosively awesome manner, but that pretty much doesn’t really happen. For me, or for anyone. No matter how much we want it to. Major goals and major dreams require major effort – effort that is calculated, planned out, involving multiple people who can help you, and set out over an extended period of time.

There are no quick strike successes when it comes to the things I really want: to be an amazing husband, to maintain my physical fitness, to keep my childlike faith, to maintain a sensitive heart, to be a writer that impacts the world with my words, and to stay close to God. We all want to go viral and have immediate, massive success – but those occurrences are like strikes of lighting. We can’t bank on them and have to have another plan. A plan that demonstrates stick-to-ituiveness, sweat equity, and time. Lots and lots of time. What’s also cool is that it’s a biblical principle. For example, in Proverbs 21:5 (TLB), it says that “Steady plodding brings prosperity” while “hasty speculation brings poverty.” The RSV translation puts it this way: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but every one who is hasty comes only to want.” That sounds about right – both in terms of logic, and in terms of my own experiences.

We all want to go viral and have immediate, massive success – but those occurrences are like strikes of lighting. We can’t bank on them and have to have another plan. A plan that demonstrates stick-to-ituiveness, sweat equity, and time.

I can identify things in my life that remind me that I keep throwing the proverbial Frisbee way down the field, and no one is catching it. And they point out that I really need to stop going for the glory, and stick to short passes and steady progress. I can’t take my wife on an idyllic romantic getaway and then expect to coast for a while with how I demonstrate love to her when we return to normal life. I can’t work out in the gym like a beast for a week, or even for a month, and expect to stay fit for the next year. I can’t write a really great blog entry and just hope it gets discovered by a major publishing house who invites me to write a book for them. And I can’t expect opportunities to change the world when I haven’t demonstrated that I am regularly changing the lives of those immediately around me.

I didn’t get my degree or build up our research center with a quick strike. I didn’t build my character, or learn how to speak or write eloquently, or become decent at guitar in that way either. I didn’t become a true friend to others, or learn compassion, humility, or patience that way. Nothing that has really meant something, and truly been worth it, has come quickly or easily. Oh, how I wanted it to. And oh, how I have prayed to just wake up one morning with some fantastical ability or accomplishment. I know that shows some pretty awesome childlike faith, but it hasn’t (yet) happened. And it typically won’t.

I need a bunch of teammates not just in Frisbee but in life – a solid group of people to continually cheer me on and support me in symbolic and tangible ways.

I do know that I need to rely more on others. Not just like, my best friend, or a couple people I’ve known all of my life. I guess I kind of want a band of merry men (and women), like Robin Hood! The bottom line is that I need a bunch of teammates not just in Frisbee but in life – a solid group of people to continually cheer me on and support me in symbolic and tangible ways. I know I have come through for so many others over the years, but it’s hard to let others come through for me. But for the short pass strategy to work, I need them just as much as they need me. And if I seek that out and make it a constant in my life, all of us can help one another to make our dreams into reality. This may remind you of that verse from Ecclesiastes which lays it out pretty bluntly: “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, But if there’s no one to help, tough!” (4:9-10, MSG). Man, I have struggled so many times trying to do epic things on my own. And it has been so rough. I need a support system. Deperately. And pretty much all the time.

The good thing is that when I search the depths of my heart, I know that I am trying. And I really do feel like I am putting in the effort each day – even though I long for a quick and epic score every once in a while. I mean, they do happen. And I’ve snagged a few (thanks, God!). But I just have to stick with the short passes, and be content with the small gains, and keep looking to and relying on my teammates. And eventually – like many times before – I find myself in the end zone with the disc in my hand. And I once again realize that victories devoid of the flash and the fanfare are still, upon reflection, really sweet.

My Goals Poster for 2015

If you’ve known me for a while, you know that each year I try to put together a collage of sorts with images from the Web – which I call my Goals Poster.  It’s just a visual depiction of the major things I want to do in my life that year, and it helps me to boldly put my hopes and dreams and ambitions “out there” instead of just keeping them in my head.  And if I ever find myself floundering, or wasting my days or weeks, I can come back to it for clarity and direction.  And I thought maybe some people might care to see it and hear why certain images were included.  And I know it’s the middle of September, and I probably should have shared this in January, but I was on a long blogging hiatus.  And now that I’m back, I figure that it’s as good a time as any!  So, let’s get to it….

After praying about it, I felt like God wanted me to name 2015 as “The Year of New Beginnings.”  I know it’s sounds a bit cliché, but I was definitely entering a new season of my life this year since I was getting married in the summer.  And then I prayed about a verse that I could keep in the forefront of my mind throughout the year – a verse that I wanted to build my life upon.  And I was thinking that I really wanted to be in the Word so much more, since it has the daily wisdom that I desperately need.  And I was also thinking a lot about healing, and health, and physical restoration, and God’s blessings in those areas.  And I stumbled upon this verse from Proverbs 4:20-22:

My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.

And I was like – YES.  That is it.  That is perfection.  And that is what I want.  So I set it in place as the centerpiece scripture for my year.

Okay, so moving clockwise from the top left, let’s go over the pictures I selected.  First, the hands clasped in formal attire signify my wedding – which was unbelievably wonderful and could not have gone better (thank you God!).  Next, my family and I continue to care deeply about the clean water problem in India, and work to build wells there every year.  We have to keep doing that.  Their lives are as important as our own.  Third, I want to enjoy citrus fruits with my wife more often!  Just kidding.  Well, not really, but that photo is just there to remind me what a cutie she is, and how much I love her big blue eyes, and that I want to prioritize quality time with her this year – and not neglect her in the slightest (hopefully ever).  The guitar reminds me to keep up my practicing so I can keep getting better, and the keyboard/notepad/blog image is there to inspire me to keep writing.  I hoped to keep speaking at TEDx, and did again this year – so that was a goal accomplished and pretty awesome (even though writing and preparing a talk take tens and tens of hours!).

It’s just a visual depiction of the major things I want to do in my life that year, and it helps me to boldly put my hopes and dreams and ambitions “out there” instead of just keeping them in my head. 

The bottom right is a picture of the cliffs of Ireland – where Rachel and I initially wanted to honeymoon.  That did not work out this year, but I aim to take her as soon as I possibly can.  Continuing clockwise around the collage, the gallon jug is there to motivate me to drink more water than normal.  I would love to tell you I am pounding 64 ounces every day, but I can’t say that.  I wish I was.  Some days, yes.  Most days, no.  I’ve gotten there probably around 40% for the year – and I am going to just try hard for the remainder of 2015 to do it more regularly.  It’s hard.  Water is pretty boring.  You get it.  But I know it’s good for me.  Okay – the penultimate picture represents my desire to swim more to improve my cardiovascular health.  However, I flat out have not done it this year.  I had all of these good intentions to do it, and before marriage we went to the lap pool a handful of times, and it was almost becoming a habit, but then we just stopped prioritizing it.  And now the weather is about to get cooler.  That’s just how it goes.  I failed in making that goal happen, but it’s okay, and I can always try again next year.  Finally, I really wanted to lift more for strength gains.  And I have stayed faithful with fitness, and going to the gym, and working out, but I’m not seeing more mass on me.  And I’m not throwing up heavier weights with more ease.  And that’s okay too.  Maybe I need to mix up my routine more, or maybe I need to push myself harder.  It is important to me, and I aim to figure it out one of these days.

That’s it.  That what I set my mind to do back in early January of this year.  I’ll create one for 2016 in a few months and share it with you all then.  If you end up making one for yourself, I would really love to see it and cheer you on as you work towards making your own dreams happen.  Keep me updated!!!

When You Want To Live a Great Story

Alright.  What did I learn from the Storyline conference, if I consider how I’ve been living my life thus far, and how I want to make sure it is a great story?  Well, the first thing I realized is that even though I am always asking God to come through for me with this or with that, and definitely sometimes getting bummed and frustrated with various things, I have so much to be thankful for.  The conflict I face isn’t actually that awful if I take a step back from it and look at it objectively and unemotionally.  It does feel awful at times, but it truly isn’t that tragic or devastating.  I really want to be more content; I really want to better learn the secret of being content in every situation (Phillippians 4:12).  I am making progress.  I have a long way to go.

Secondly, in terms of my story, I am incredibly thankful to absolutely love what I do professionally (which is also a passion to me), to have significant influence in the lives of a handful of people around me, become grounded and invested in a church and local community where I believe I am affecting lives, to be very close to my parents who remain together and to my sister who I adore like none other, to pour into communities in India and Africa that I care about, and to do the things that make my heart come alive and keep me close to God.  And I feel like I’ve overcome a number of tremendous and painful obstacles, and that when the credits roll on my life, if everyone finally saw all of the facts and all of my heart, they would be definitely inspired and moved.

That said, I guess what I wonder if there is something even bigger I can get swept up in.  Some massive, world-changing dream that truly will not be achieved in my lifetime but that I can spend my life doing.  I’ve done missions locally, nationally, and internationally, and for extended periods of time.  Each trip has meant so much to me.  But maybe there is some sort of a consistent, single-hearted, focused endeavor that I will be called and compelled to do.  Maybe it will be introduced to me by a friend.  Maybe it will be a passion in the heart of my wife, when that happens, and that will be one of the things we get to do together for the rest of our lives.  Maybe God will just give me something in a dream sometime soon.  I have no idea.  I am here, surrendered, and open to anything!!!

If a person’s life feels meaningless, it’s likely because they live in an existential vaccuum where their basic needs are met but they’ve yet to identify a noble cause to ignite their passions. ~ Donald Miller

Third, I continue to feel like I am meant to help others live great stories, specifically through encouragement manifested in intangible and tangible ways.  I feel like this is one of my gifts, and I feel like I am blessed to be a blessing (as they say).  I have been trying to do that more and more.  I want to pour myself out in doing this when God clearly puts someone in my life for that reason.  And He definitely makes it clear, so that’s awesome.  And I want to do it for the rest of my life.  We believe that Love is the most powerful thing there is, and I know that I am uniquely created to demonstrate that love through symbolic and substantive encouragement.  Maybe this is a massive, world-changing dream – but one that occurs a person at a time.  I don’t know.  Anyway, if you need help in this area, let’s get together for coffee and talk it out!!!

You have never have less time on this earth as you do right now. ~ Louie Giglio

Finally, I am gripped by how quickly life flies by.  I was listening to a message by Louie Giglio yesterday, and he stated, “You have never have less time on this earth as you do right now.”  This doesn’t make me freak out or lose sleep or rush ahead of God’s timing (although admittedly sometimes I really want to).  But it does imbue the attitudes I adopt and choices I make with a sense of urgency.  Again, we want our lives to matter.  And I don’t want to waste these years on drama, or screwing around, or distracting myself with good but not great things, or being caught up in stuff that is meaningless, and purposeless, and temporarily gratifying – but ultimately so very unfulfilling.  I want to live from my heart, and I want to make an impact.  And I know I will.  So, yeah, that’s where I’m at, and I would so love to hear your thoughts!

Image source: https://flic.kr/p/9S7pPp

Viewing Your Life as a Story You Are Writing

life as a story
Last weekend I attended Donald Miller’s Storyline conference in San Diego.  It was really, really good.  All of the sessions were inspiring, and appropriately fit together to champion the theme of the weekend, and to springboard me (and the rest of the attendees) forward.  Don spoke for most of the sessions, but other speakers included his friend Bob Goff (who wrote “Love Does” – which is probably the best book I’ve read in the last twelve months), Tom Shadyac (who directed blockbuster films such as “Bruce Almighty,” “Liar Liar,” “The Nutty Professor,” and eventually had a revelation that pursuing wealth and status fell short in providing true fulfillment, so he radically changed his life), and a number of other cool people who have started various moments and projects that honestly are saving lives both here in America as well as abroad.

As is my nature, I did a lot of thinking and self-reflecting on this trip and while at this conference.

I’m a big fan of Donald Miller and have read all of his books, most multiple times.  I love his free association, stream-of-consciousness way of writing…I love how he thinks about the world and about people and about Jesus…I love how I see myself in him – in the way he appreciates solitude, in the way he feels that something inside of him causes him to believe in God, in the way he is all about how godly guys should rise up and invest in youth (especially boys who didn’t have a quality father or father figure around), in the way he conveys the insecurities and struggles we all face in such palpable, reassuring ways.  Perhaps everyone who reads his books feels like I do.  I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter.  He affects me and the way I think and the way I live in numerous positive ways.

There are three elements that are essential in a story: a desire or goal (the protagonist wants something and decides to go after it), a conflict (some obstacle(s) s/he must face), and finally resolution (when the conflict is overcome and the goal is achieved). 

The main thesis of the conference was that we can learn how to live a great story by examining the fundamentals of narrative.  There are three elements that are essential in a story: a desire or goal (the protagonist wants something and decides to go after it), a conflict (some obstacle(s) s/he must face), and finally resolution (when the conflict is overcome and the goal is achieved).  So you have stories, and then you have *great* stories.  Great stories are those where the main character’s goal or ambition is selfless, and where the conflict she or he must overcome is immense.  Fundamentally, our stories cannot and should not be planned around us as individuals – because those stories ring hollow and fall short.  No one is going to care and no one is going to be inspired by the fact that you worked hard enough to own two vacation homes, send the kids to private school, and retire at 50.  That doesn’t change lives and it doesn’t move hearts.  It’s not beautiful. Actually, it’s pretty lame.  Rather, our stories have to be planned around God, with our life as a subplot in His epic.  Then, it can be imbued with meaning and adventure and purpose.

Great stories are those where the main character’s goal or ambition is selfless, and where the conflict she or he must overcome is immense.

If you think about the great stories with which we are familiar, this is how they work.  And this is why we remember them, and why they touch our lives and touch our hearts and seem to resonate with us on an almost transcendent level.  Consider the stories we’ve watched while growing up and even as adults: Cinderella, Braveheart, Harry Potter, The Little Mermaid, Gladiator, Rocky, The Lord of the Rings.  Consider the books we’ve read which told of the lives of those who changed the world.  The elements are all there.

Another cool thing Donald Miller points out is that this Storyline framework can be interlaced with philosopher and psychologist Victor Frankl’s logotherapy (logos = spirit or meaning, therapy = healing), which basically means that healing can occur by finding meaning in life and a redemptive perspective to our suffering.  This seems to work when we get caught up in something on the horizon – a noble project or goal that requires something of us, and that inclines us to dwell on how we are going to do our part to make it happen (instead of dwelling on ourselves and our current situation).  I really like this.  We all need healing, and we all need to be part of a larger transcendent story, one that affects those around us and those out there in this world.

Donald posed a thought-provoking question in order to get us to realize the reality and urgency of this need (so that we don’t have major regrets in the future).  He asked, if a film was made detailing our journey thus far (and what it would look like if nothing changes), and we had a packed audience in the movie theater watching it, hoping to connect with it, hoping to be inspired and moved by it, and the movie ended and the credits started to roll, what feelings would they have?  Would they be like, “booooo!”?  Would they be like, “meh”?  Would they be like, “wow”?

We need to be intentional about living our lives in a beautiful, transformational, meaningful way so that when the credits roll, our story has mattered and is one worth telling.

We need to be intentional about living our lives in a beautiful, transformational, meaningful way so that when the credits roll, our story has mattered and is one worth telling.  And so we need to ask ourselves two questions:

Who am I?

What do I want?

We then have to understand that conflict is going to happen – pain, struggling, suffering, adversity, anguish – this is all inevitable and that we should embrace it when it comes, because it is what makes a great story. Finally, we work to rise above the conflict through our faith, and emerge better because of it.

So, how do we make this practical?  In line with the structure of story, we should 1) create a vision 2) summarize that vision as the subplot in our story 3) anticipate conflict (it is going to happen!) 4) break the story up into actionable steps 5) envision climactic scenes and moments you aspire to attain.

“Great characters make decisions and move. Life is 10% choosing and 90% movement.” ~ Donald Miller

While this is happening, of course,  you are to trust in the slow work of God (and not try to rush Him or force His hand, for He is in no hurry to make us comfortable while compromising our growth and character). And fight through the desire to control, fight through feelings of shame and regret, and fight through the fear of risk and failure.  Finally, Victor Frankl’s writings offer some more insight while we are working on the actionable steps of our story.  He states that we need to 1) have a project we are actively working on 2) share our lives with those we love and 3) find and have meaning in our suffering.

This is a lot to think about for sure.  I’m hoping it gets you considering how you might conceive of and model your life after the elements in a great story – which will hopefully breathe fresh breath into it.  In my next blog, I’ll write about how I am going to apply this to my life.

Image source: http://i.ytimg.com/vi/20U2YotMKAo/maxresdefault.jpg

When You’re Always Caring What Others Think

I‘ve been thinking a lot recently how people have dreams, and they even feel those dreams are from God…and they let other people know about their dreams, and have full faith for them, and wait for them, but it just doesn’t happen. Well, it at least hasn’t happened yet. And it makes me think about David, and how in his poems and writings, he asks God repeatedly to not let him be put to shame. Isn’t it interesting…of all of the themes related to David, one of the most prevalent ones has to do with him not being “put to shame.”

I feel that as Christians we are told to not let other people’s opinions of us, or thoughts of us, matter to us. We are to derive our identity solely from Christ, and be relatively immune to the criticisms or frowns or whispers of others. We are told that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about us, and we just shouldn’t care. But if I am real with myself, it does matter to me. I do care what people think about me. And if you were real with yourself, I think you’d probably say the same thing.

It does matter to me. I do care what people think about me. And if you were real with yourself, I think you’d probably say the same thing.

I mean, we all want to belong to something – some sort or group, or family, or collective where everyone is connected with each other over some commonality or shared interest. We don’t live in isolation…we live with others, and go to school with others, and work with others, and we definitely desire the favorable opinion of others. I mean, really, we all want others to like us. Some care a ton about this, some care a little less, but we all care. On some level, we all need to be affirmed and validated by others. And we definitely don’t want to be rejected by them.

Rejection can happen in a variety of ways. We know this. We don’t want to be shunned or dismissed outright, and we also don’t want to be embarrassed, or humiliated, or shamed by others. Not only does it make us feel awful, it tends to confirm in our mind the doubts and fears and insecurities and flaws that we already struggle with (and don’t need to be reminded of). And the questions we wrestle with on a daily basis about what we should say and not say, about what we should do and not do.

Rejection makes us feel awful, it tends to confirm in our mind the doubts and fears and insecurities and flaws that we already struggle with (and don’t need to be reminded of).

I feel like I am a dreamer, and I listen to my heart, and go after the things that I believe He places on my heart. But as I do, I definitely don’t want to be shamed. I don’t want other people to look at me and my life and think, wow, he lived from his heart but it just didn’t work out for him.

What are some specific things that we’ve heard or heard about, that have the power to put us to shame?

Things I’ve personally heard include:

He blew it a long time ago.

He doesn’t realize that life is only going to get harder.

Things don’t just work out like that.

He should have been more private.

He should have been more public and open.

He should have done this when he did that.

I asked a friend what she has heard that has the power to put her to shame, and she shared the following:

Who does she think she is?

She’s just trying to be like <insert person here>.

With the decision she made, she deserves to struggle.

She should have been there more.

Maybe what she thinks was her best, really wasn’t?

She’s not supposed to do this, she’s supposed to do that.

She needs to come back to reality.

She’s just trying to fit in.

She can’t <insert any dream here> because her life is not right.

She has ulterior motives.

She’s misguided.

She’s a rebel.

It is really hard to hear these things, or know they are being said. Really, really hard.

And this is where I need God to step in. I need something outside of myself and my efforts to take over and have my back when I know that I have been doing my best and trying to listen to my heart and trying to follow His lead and make good choices. I need that. Desperately. I feel like we all do. It can’t just be up to us.

It’s scary stepping out in faith in big ways. That’s why so few truly do it. Those who don’t are held back because of the fear of failure, and because they just don’t want to look bad in the eyes of others. Because others’ perceptions do matter. They just do.

Thinking about physical perceptions, if everyone was blind and no one could see each other and how they look – their face, and body, and attire – would we care so much about looking good? Heck, I would just walk around naked (at least here in Florida), because no one would care and no one would judge me or critique me or size me up in any way. Well, as Donald Miller has suggested, we would probably then start building a social hierarchy based on attractiveness of voice, or eloquence of speech, or something like that. But maybe, with physical perceptions out of the picture, I would just be me, and that would hopefully be enough. And you would just be you, and that would hopefully be enough.

David, one of the godliest guys ever, struggled with this. He didn’t want to be shamed. The perceptions of others mattered to him, and you know what, it was okay.

It is encouraging to me to realize that I am not alone in wrestling with these feelings, this tension. David, one of the godliest guys ever, struggled with this. He didn’t want to be shamed. The perceptions of others mattered to him, and you know what, it was okay. God didn’t tell him to be more godly, and get his act together. God didn’t tell him to stop caring about everyone else, and to work harder on getting his identity from Him alone. This helps me incredibly. I am so hard on myself all the time – maybe you are too – and so I just want to know that my loving Father understands, and doesn’t want me to be put to shame either.

When David talks about God not letting him be “put to shame” – I feel like he means shame coming from an outside source (rather than from personal conviction and reproach). Obviously, we can feel shame from an internal source – perhaps our conscience, or spirit – and we can feel shame from external sources. I feel like when it comes to my wrong choices and stupid selfish mistakes, internal shame is much greater than external shame. Other people can forgive me a lot easier than I can forgive myself.

When it comes to dreaming big, though, and going after those dreams, I feel like I can be easier on myself – because I know it takes years of effort and persistence and patience and God’s timing, but other people tend to be quick to comment, or whisper, or criticize, or even pronounce judgment – and make me feel shamed. And I don’t want that. I think about doing the right thing, and not taking shortcuts, and how people have questioned me (and honestly, I have questioned myself sometimes) about the value of it all…but it has always, always been worth it in the end.

David asks God to not let him be shamed:

Psalm 25:2

I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.

Psalm 25:20

Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.

Psalm 119:80

May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees, that I may not be put to shame.

Psalm 31:1

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.

And God repeatedly says that those who trust in Him will not be shamed:

Isaiah 61:7

Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.

Psalm 22:5

To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

Romans 10:11

As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

Joel 2:26

You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.

I need God to be my defender. I need to believe that the dreams I am striving for and working towards, and the life I am leading in order to improve the likelihood of those dreams becoming reality, matters to Him. And that even though people may whisper, people may talk, people may point and question and be skeptical about it, and even if those things do affect me and make me feel bad, it won’t matter in the end. God will be God, and will come through, and not let me be put to shame.

I need God to be my defender. I need to believe that the dreams I am striving for and working towards, and the life I am leading in order to improve the likelihood of those dreams becoming reality, matters to Him.

It seems almost childlike to want to have such a simplistic view of His economy, and how He works. Our natural tendency is to make everything so much more complicated. But I just want to think and believe more simply about this sort of stuff. Because even though it is hard, it feels right. And because I know it pleases Him.

Image source: http://bit.ly/2gdHSof

Believing for the Best and Preparing for the Worst

I‘ve been thinking how well-intentioned people, in reference to having a particular outlook toward an event, or experience, or even life in general, say “Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.”  Expect the best.  Okay.  But prepare for the worst.  Um.  Okay.

I’ve decided I hate that line.  It sounds good, it sounds conciliatory and maybe even soothing.  But it’s so neutral, it’s so…antiseptic.  It’s so weak, honestly.  At least in my opinion. And maybe it’s just me.

I do want to expect the best.  I feel like I’m wired to do so.  I feel like that’s how I’m called to live (Romans 8:28, Hebrews 13:6, Psalm 27:13).

And I understand about preparing for the worst, in principle.  I get it.  You don’t want to be ill-prepared for something to go wrong.  For example, on a road trip you hope that you don’t run over a nail, but you still have a spare tire in your trunk or attached to your vehicle just in case.  You wouldn’t leave that spare tire in your garage – you’d take it with you so that you had it if you needed it, so you could continue your road trip.  So maybe this statement can be used for tangible, material examples like that, but I personally cannot use or embrace it for everything else.  What I want, like, in the big picture.  Things I dream about.  Goals I want to accomplish.  Differences I want to make.  You know, the stuff that actually matters.  The stuff with significance.

I just feel that when I am believing for something huge, when I am hoping for and needing God to come through – I need to do it full-bore.

I just feel that when I am believing for something huge, when I am hoping for and needing God to come through – I need to do it full-bore.  Honestly, some things in life are so hard to believe for – whether it is your parents not screaming at each other every night and their marriage improving drastically, or your brother getting on the right path instead of destroying his life with bad decisions, or your grandma being healed of a terminal disease.  Or anything else in any area of your life that you specifically have yearned for and been patient for. But it just hasn’t happened yet.

But let’s say you do believe.  In your heart of hearts.  You believe even when you don’t see anything pointing to it happening.  You believe even if what you do see points in the opposite direction.  You just have full, pure, simple, childlike faith.  Well, with that, can you really “prepare for the worst” at the same time?  Again, in your heart?  I feel like when it comes to what is written on our heart, the things that matter to us most deeply, you can’t be in-between.  We are meant to believe unconditionally, even though it sets us up for immense pain.  God loved us unconditionally and even recklessly, even though it set Him up for immense pain.  But we ascribe nobility and honor to love like that.  Because it is worth it, because He didn’t count the cost.  And maybe for these major things we are believing for, we shouldn’t either.

“Preparing for the worst” to me means building a safety net, just in case the bottom falls out.  But I feel with the major things in life, you can’t have a safety net, because it undermines the trueness and fullness of belief.

“Preparing for the worst” to me means building a safety net, just in case the bottom falls out.  But I feel with the major things in life, you can’t have a safety net, because it undermines the trueness and fullness of belief.  It strips the potency from it.  And it adds a condition to what should be unconditional.  We are not fully dependent on God coming through.  We’ve decided to play it safe and allow for a Plan B just in case.

I don’t really seeing Plan Bs working out all over the place for people either.  I mean, can you really *love* your wife if your Plan B leads you to hold a little back in terms of affection just in case she ignores or dismisses or doesn’t appreciate your particular display of love at that particular moment?  Doesn’t that cheapen it for her?  Honestly, doesn’t it make you a little cowardly?  Can you really build a disruptive business from the ground up, if your Plan B keeps you from going “all in” and investing the blood, sweat, and tears to make it succeed?  Can you really make a lasting positive impact in the lives of other people around this world by giving most of yourself, but not all of yourself?

Those who have changed the world gave their all, believed for the best, and did not prepare for the worst just to be on the safe side.  Jesus.  Martin Luther King, Jr.  Abraham Lincoln.  Mother Teresa.  Joan of Arc.  Marie Curie.  They knew there were no guarantees, but they were bold to live fully from their heart.  I respect that and admire that so much.  Honestly, it commands respect and admiration. And it inspires me and others to do the same.  Our security cannot be in our Plan B, or ourselves.  It has to be in Him, at least for it to end up being epic.  And I want epic.  I just do.

We know why we prepare for the worst.  It’s because we are tired of crashing to the ground.  It’s because we can’t allow ourselves to get hurt badly again.  Or at all. 

We know why we prepare for the worst.  It’s because we are tired of crashing to the ground.  It’s because we can’t allow ourselves to get hurt badly again.  Or at all.  It’s because we cannot relinquish full control to Him and need to hold onto just a little, tiny piece.  It’s because it is so awfully difficult to place our *entire* lives and future into His hands.  I could say that I’ve done it, but I know I haven’t.  Not fully, and not permanently.  I keep taking parts of it back, out of His hands.  And, of course, muck things up.  It’s what we do best, sometimes, right? 🙂

For the big picture things on my heart, I don’t want to believe for the best *and* prepare for the worst.  I just want to believe for the best.  Not both.  Because it doesn’t feel right.  In fact, it feels cheap, it feels compromising and ambivalent and passionless and without conviction.  I can’t live like that.  And I don’t think we are meant to.

Please understand I am not advocating a lack of wisdom.  I’m just trying to live – and encourage others as they are so led – to believe more fully, compromise less, and leave the rest up to the God who knows us, wants the absolute best for us, and loves us more than we will ever, ever be able to understand.

Image source:
http://bit.ly/2wPvD7t

My Goals and Dreams Poster

Every year, I try to make a Goals and Dreams poster just to force myself to articulate tangible things that I want and hope to work towards over the next twelve months.  It seriously helps me.

I first pray about a “theme” that God would want to give me for the new year – sort of a defining and encapsulating big picture that will regularly be relevant in interesting and transcendent ways.  Then I look for a key, representative bible verse that I can bring to mind during my year to assist me in staying focused, staying hopeful, and staying close to Him – the author of everything good and perfect.  Then, I make a list of my desires, and check to make sure they are honorable and not selfish or could somehow negatively affect someone else and their goals and dreams.  Finally, I search online for images that portray the various things I am shooting for, and attempt to build a somewhat good-looking collage to capture it all.

I thought it might be encouraging to others to share my 2013 poster on my blog. My theme this year is “The Year of Change” because I just believe that a lot of things are going to change.  Significantly.  Perhaps drastically.  And I know that many people say that when we turn the calendar, but I really, really believe it.  Like, I feel it deep in my bones.  It’s just time, and I don’t often have a ton of clarity about things, but this seems pretty clear to me.

My key verse is:

Isaiah 43:19 – “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert, and streams in the wasteland.”

I feel like God has been working a lot in the background, sight unseen.  I kind of wish He were a lot more visible in what He is doing on my behalf, because I get frustrated, and impatient, and struggle sometimes.  Like you too, perhaps.  But yeah, I believe He does work all things for good for those who believe (Romans 8:28), and I know that the essence of faith is being certain of what we do not see.

These are the things that are important to me right now, in 2013.  These are the things that I want, and are written on my heart, and make me come alive, and help me to stay close to my truest, best self.  They matter.  They inspire me.  They are beautiful squares in the patchwork quilt of life He is creating, and they will help represent who I want to be, and at the end of my life – who I wanted to be.

They are beautiful squares in the patchwork quilt of life He is creating, and they will help represent who I want to be, and at the end of my life – who I wanted to be.

Many of the images are self-explanatory, but I still want to explain their relevance.  Starting in the top left, we have a picture of a man cliff-jumping!  I’ve done this in Colorado, and it symbolizes how I need to be ready and willing to dive into the new things He is going to do.  It’ll be scary, and I am sure I will be freaked out, and change is rarely easy.  But I know I need to have this mentality.

I really want to put on an acoustic coffeehouse of sorts this year.  I’ve been taking guitar for four straight years now, and setting something up formally – like an event – will help me to practice hard, refine my skills, and get to a point where I can skillfully play 12-15 songs for others.

I want to go to India again this year, ideally on missions.  My family is from India.  My heart is for the people and poverty and injustice of India.  So very much.  We have been making a difference there, and I want to do more.

The next picture is of a valley in Aspen, Colorado.  I adore Colorado.

I want to swim more this year.  To get faster times in sprint triathlons, and because it’s great fitness.

Starting from the left again, I want to go back to Africa.  I love Africa.  I love the people and the culture and want to make a greater difference there.

I want to blog more.  Obviously 🙂

I want to continue serving the K-5th graders at church.  I love them, and I am excited every Sunday to see them and hang out with them and help teach them.

I believe God is a God who makes all things new.

I want to continue yoga and increase my flexibility and balance.

I want to be *constantly* grateful for various things every single day, and constantly have an attitude of heart that is humble and surrendered and just plain thankful for how much He does for me and my loved ones, and all that He protects me from and keeps me defended against.

I want to be constantly grateful for various things every single day, and constantly have an attitude of heart that is humble and surrendered and just plain thankful for how much He does for me and my loved ones, and all that He protects me from and keeps me defended against.

I want to tie up any remaining loose ends in my life.

And I want to care for “the least of these” as Jesus models for us.

The center image represents how I want to tell a great story with my life powerfully impacts others, and that God is calling me to do so in partnership with Him.  For example, one day I hope my writings make a real, measurable difference in someone else’s life.  So, yeah.  I want to tell a great story, which is only possible if I live a great story – which I am committed to do 🙂

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts and whether this inspires you to do the same!

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