So, do you ever find yourself struggling with loneliness?  I’ve mentioned before in an earlier post of a time some number of years ago when I found myself writing this statement on a napkin…”In the abundance of relationships I find myself profoundly lonely.”  How could it be?  Here I was incredibly blessed with an almost immeasurable number of great relationships. Yet, my heart was heavy with loneliness. Well, ever since that day I’ve been “turning the cube of understanding” in a quest to really get at what it was that was driving such an external awareness of an inward condition.  Since then I’ve landed upon several credible reasons.  One such reasoning was that at that particular time my life was feeling the effects of losing my refrigerator friend (see Side-by-Side, May 17, 2011).  Another was the discovery of a greater understanding of what true intimacy looks like amongst friends.  Perhaps I’ll write about that in the days ahead but today, I’d like to share a recent discovery that revealed itself as a result of my son leaving a few weeks ago to head back to college.

By all accounts the second year was supposed to be easier…or so I thought. In some ways it was. Certainly what felt like a “tearing away” and “a release” the first year felt much more like a “going away” and “a sending” the second.  But here I was again left with that lingering sense of loneliness that I had felt in years past.  What was it that this encounter with loneliness was teaching me this time?  Well, much like in the past there was the vacuum of friendship.  As I had reflected on my son’s leaving I had come to realize that our relationship over these last few months was beginning to transition to more of a friendship.  I had seen this transition with my wife and daughter and had often wondered what it might be like to know my son as my friend. [As a side, I can only say that this is such an amazing progression of the parent-child relationship and one that brings this dad exceeding and abundant joy.]  So, I guess in some ways you could say that once again I was reeling from the absence of friendship.  But that didn’t seem to get at the essence of the lingering loneliness.  Then it hit me.  What I was missing was the companionship that accompanies genuine friendship.  You see “companionship” by its very definition embodies the essence of friendship and fellowship.  Could this be yet another “missing link” in the chain that binds people together in such a way that thwarts any attempt of loneliness to encroach into our lives?  Certainly to be in fellowship with our friends we have to be in proximity to them.  We have to seek out intentional ways to be together and not let the isolation of busyness win out over the fellowship of togetherness.  We have to be that friend that “sticks closer than a brother.”  We have to find it within ourselves to “make room” for being in community one to another.  No longer to be captivated by “what’s missing” but forever linked together by “what could be” as we do life together as companions.  Peace.

So, just how well do you communicate?
Perhaps you’ve had the old adage, “talk is cheap” thrown your way when someone is more interested in what you will do than what you have to say. For example, I recently read a quote by H. Ross Perot that said, “Talk is cheap. Words are plentiful. Deeds are precious.” This seems to me to be a bit more elegant way of saying, “actions speak louder than words.” But then I recently saw this contrarian quote on the subject, “Anybody who thinks talk is cheap should get some legal advice,” an obvious bit of humor on the cost of seeking legal counsel. So, which is it? Is talk really cheap or is it truly that we just suffer from “a failure to communicate.” Maybe therein lies the key that unlocks the doorway to transforming “cheap talk” into something invaluable. Think about it, if words are so “plentiful,” which indeed they are, why aren’t we more forthcoming with our communication, in particular with those closest to us? Could it really just be a matter of becoming a better communicator?

Thinking on this has led me to a possible discovery in the pursuit of becoming a better communicator. Interestingly this “aha” came from the recesses of introspection in the form of this question. “Am I one who seeks to simply “tickle the ear” of another or do I desire to “get to the heart” [my own and others] with my communication?” In searching within for an honest answer to this question I uncovered this reality about myself. When I just present the transparent facts of my life I’m really just a good presenter. But when I offer up the vulnerabilities of my heart, then I become a good communicator. Wow, no wonder I can be so prone to having “a failure to communicate.” How is it with you? Have you just been honing your presentation skills from behind the veil of “just the facts” or are you seeking to become a communicator extraordinaire from out in front of the curtain of vulnerability? No doubt this is hard and frankly doesn’t come naturally. In the end, however, it certainly seems to be a new way of speaking worth pursuing. And maybe, just maybe, as we get better with communicating in this way our words will speak just as loud as our actions because they too will be spoken as the outward expressions of an inward reality…the reality of our heart. So, talk may be cheap but it seems communication is priceless. Peace.

So, don’t you just hate it when the sand sticks to your skin?  Last post we began to look at some “nuggets of perspective” that we could glean from observing a few of the events being held at the London Olympic Games.  And we began with the sport of Gymnastics.  Today, I thought we’d take a look to see if there are any “sticky” life takeaways from the “sands of London” or better said, the sport of Beach Volleyball.  Before we do that however it seems appropriate to consider just for a minute the abject craziness of what it must have been like to be a spectator at this event.  Consider this. Turn your head one way and you think you’re at the beach watching one of the newest sports to reach the global stage.  Turn your head the other and you’re staring the architectural beauty of Westminster Abbey with all of its rich history square in the face.  I wonder what the men buried in the Poet’s Corner of the Abbey would have to say about it all, especially the prolific Charles Dickens.  Talk about a time warp!

So, back to the beach volleyball… The first and most prevalent thought that comes to mind as I consider this sport it that at the end of the day, it is a partnership of two people.  Now, most in the work-a-day world would suggest the best partner to have is to not have one at all.  Stories abound where one partnership after the other have failed the test of time.  Even the most-valued partnerships of all, the partnerships of marriage have not been immune to such failures.  So, what do we see from this particular sport that might point us to the integral components for successful partnerships.  Well, simply put, it all begins with “the serve.”  So, how’s your serve or better said, “How well do you serve your partner?”  (Yikes, that one hit close to home.)  Or how well do you celebrate each other’s success and support each other’s failures?  Come on, I’m sure you noticed it.  Even when a point was scored for the opposing team the two players who lost the point would high five each other as if they had won the point.  This seems to speak volumes to the integral need for mutual encouragement in any partnership, win or lose?  Or how about the critical element of “setting” the ball?  Here we see a vivid illustration of how each member of the partnership has to “set” each other up to win but also give each other the freedom to fail.  In the end isn’t it less about winning each point and more about winning the game.  No doubt our days are chocked full of wins and losses but when the game as we know it, this side of Heaven, is over isn’t the question, “Have we set each other up to win at life?”  Well, I’m sure there are many other nuggets to be gleaned but let’s consider one more.  This one we’ll take from the words of Charles Dickens himself.  “Love is in all things a wonderful teacher.”  In the end, it seems I have a lot to learn.  How is it with you? Is any of this sticking to you too?  Peace.

So, have you mined any “gold” recently?  Just curious, does this question take you back to the days of that annual summer vacation pilgrimage to the mountains? You know, the days when you might have found yourself engaging in some “mineral mining” in a touristy corner of rural America? Or perhaps you were thinking of the question in terms of the more sophisticated and contemporary aspect of mining profits from gold investing. Well, I’m thinking of another type of gold mining; the mining of the gold “nuggets of perspective” that might come from a simple observation of the London Olympic Games.  So, I thought it might be fun over the next several posts to see what life perspective we might “mine” from a few of the events.

So, let’s start with Gymnastics where many of the individual events paint a somewhat vivid, parallel illustration of the way life comes at us. To name just a few; the uneven bars, the vault, etc. Or how about this one? The pommel horse which might be more appropriately named in this case, the pummel horse. Whether it is on the physical, the emotional or even the mental front life so often simply feels like one long, dizzying gymnastics event. But is there anything we can glean about life from these events. Well, in each case we have to face the fact that on any given day we will be better at handling the “degrees of difficulty” life sends our way than others. We have to realize that it’s not so much how we begin life but rather it’s more about how we “stick the landing” as we seek to finish well. No doubt we have to have a measure of consistent, intentional discipline in our lives to remain strong in the face of what life brings our way. And though much of our effort seems to suggest it is up to us to “perform” within our own strength we have to realize that our strength alone won’t enable us to win at life. We need a team around us to encourage us when we stumble, to remind us of our infinite worth when we too feel judged, to hold us accountable to a higher standard and to celebrate our victories with us. All of this has me wondering too if there’s not a lesson to be found here from that other gymnastic event…the “balance beam.” Peace.

So, have you ever secretly wished you were a good storyteller?  Though you might be one of those rare breeds you’ve more likely found yourself wishing you could, even if for just a moment, simply “tell a good story.”  Seemingly, “storytelling” has become more and more a lost art reserved for a select few!  A good story engages the senses and leaves you wanting more.  Last time we considered the whole arena of stewardship, in particular the fourth leg of the stewardship stool, the element of influence.   We noted that the common view of stewardship includes time, talent and treasure but that is where it traditionally has stopped.  Today, I’d like for us to consider what I believe is the fifth leg, our story.  In fact, I believe this is the “anchor leg” of stewardship.

Each of us has a story that is unfolding each and every day.  And each of our stories is part of a larger story being told.  It is, in fact part of the greatest love story ever told.  It is, a story for the ages.  As stewards of our story we are called to invite others in such that they begin to see their own story as part of this larger love story.  Here again we find one of our deepest longings…the longing to be invited in.  Invited in to share the story of our lives such that we can know the freedom of being known, fully known.  Can you imagine a better way to become “good storytellers”?  The power in the story is in the invitation. The invitation in is the gateway to engage the hearts (and stories) of others so that we can know their struggles, celebrate their triumphs and affirm their worth.

Another vital part of stewarding our story well is protecting the integrity of our testimony.  This account, the account of our testimony, is one place where we need to be intentional about making deposits and see to it that very few things force us to withdraw from it.  Stewards protect things, stewards care for things…stewards know the value of their most prized possessions.  So, how is it with you?  Do you long to become a storyteller?  Do you long to be invited in to the stories of others?  Do you long to be a part of the larger love story?  If you do, consider your call to steward your story well.  You see being a part of this great love story is more than the “anchor leg.”  It is the anchor of one’s soul.  Peace.

So, do you like to meet “people of influence?”  Well, if you do…meet yourself!!  Each of us can be considered a person of influence.  Why? Because we each have spheres of influence that consist of relationships that we can call upon for the purposes of helping someone along the road of life.  It’s just a natural byproduct of weaving in and out of life’s connectivity. Now, I’m guessing if you’re like me you’ve likely heard about the role “stewardship” plays in each our lives.  Typically we’ve been told that we are called to be stewards over the time, talent and treasures of our lives.  While I believe this to be absolutely and irrefutably true it occurs to me there a couple more legs to the “stewardship stool.”  Today, let’s consider for just a moment what we might call the fourth leg of this five-legged stool, the element of Influence.

Though it doesn’t appear on our personal financial statement one can certainly argue that both the individual and cumulative impact of our time, our talent, our treasure and in this case, our influence can be enormous.  This is particularly so when we deploy these “assets” in the spirit of helping move the needle of someone’s life in a more positive direction.  A common question might be, “How might we ‘leverage’ our influence to impact the lives of others?” Maybe it’s as simple as using some of our own relational capital to connect a person in need with a person who can help.  Or perhaps we might find ourselves in a situation where we need to exert our influence over another to keep them on the narrow road between the ditches that life would have them fall in to.  In either case, whether we’re called upon to be an influence or “spend” our influence for another, it’s a high calling to manage this asset well.

So, let’s consider this in the context of Asset Management.  In their role, Asset Managers are entrusted with the role of shepherding and caring for the well being of their client’s portfolio of investments.  Aren’t we as stewards called to shepherd and care for those relationships that have been entrusted to us?  Aren’t these in fact some of the most significant investments that we could ever hope to have under our care?  Asset Managers talk about investing in precious metals.  How much more might life afford us if we invested in “precious” people.  After all, don’t we in effect shepherd and care for others well by leveraging what’s been given to us for the benefit of others?  And though we don’t look for it, the really neat thing about leveraging these assets in this manner is that this type of investing carries with it a guaranteed return.  Think about it for a moment. As we deploy our time, talent, treasure and yes, our influence, to help the people around us grow we too receive manifold blessings.  So, if you long to be a person of influence then go be one.  And if you’re looking for a good place to start you might just find that it’s simply in the being that you’ll come to realize the blessing.  Peace.

So, would you agree that the more things change the more they stay the same?  Well today is in some ways a vivid illustration of this proverb of recent history.  By now you’ve realized that there is a change to a new look and new host for the Thurman Thoughts blog.  My intent however is to keep the content and approach the same as I attempt to offer up some thoughts that might either invite you in or provoke you to a different perspective on life than you might have considered before.  As for “post frequency,” I’m hoping to stay on target to write a couple of posts each week though one could definitely note that I miss this target from time to time.  One cool thing about the WordPress site is that it will be much easier for you to make comments if you’d like.  You can also input your email to have the site notify you any time a new post is made.  (I’m still unclear if I like this feature or not.)  It feels a bit like virtual accountability.  So, thanks again for taking time to consider my thoughts. Being a verbal processor, it means a great deal to me to be able to verbally express through my writing some of the things that come across my “thought radar.”  Maybe one day I’ll start a new blog entitled, Thurman Feelings. 🙂 Peace.

So, how is your life’s “teeter-totter?”  I’m guessing there’s not one of us that hasn’t found ourselves at some point in years past on a playground enjoying the up and down effects of the good ole teeter-totter, also known in more contemporary terms as the “see saw.”  At one moment you feel safe with both feet on the ground while your playground partner is left dangling, both feet in the air on the other end.  Then before you know it your partner pushes off and you find yourself in the air unsure as to when your feet will find their way back to terra firma.  The pivotal element (no pun intended) that makes this exhilarating ride even mechanically possible is the fulcrum, that element of support in the middle of the board on which the teeter-totter pivots.  This illustration has me wondering if there’s not a lesson to be gleaned from this that we could bring to life’s playground.

Doesn’t it make perfect sense if the presence of a fulcrum is so critical to the balance of the up’s and down’s of the teeter-totter then the presence of a “life fulcrum” is even more paramount to us maintaining our balance in life?  After all, aren’t our lives chocked full of up’s and down’s?  Just like on the playground, one minute we feel safe knowing that all is well and just like that in the next moment we feel out of control, left dangling in the air of uncertainty. For most of us this feeling of being out of control doesn’t afford us the same sense of exhilaration like that found on the playground.  In fact, it tends to evoke more of a sense of fear in us.  Thus the critical need to find our life’s fulcrum.  What is that will provide us that indispensable balance?  What are those things that will enable us to navigate the up’s and down’s of our life? What is our life’s pivot point?  The mechanics of the fulcrum point us to one such answer…support.  The fulcrum provides the support point at which the teeter-totter is free to pivot up and down.  This illustrates vividly to me the need we all have to be in community one to another.  We are that indispensable element of support for each other.  Do you have the support of such a community?

Thinking on this a bit more I’ve realized there’s one more take away.  This one though is probably the one that is most often overlooked.  That is the need for a partner who will join you on the teeter-totter of life.  For many this is no less an indispensable element to finding the elusive balance in life.  The presence of someone to join you on the playground of life can be the pivot point between fear and exhilaration.  Whether it be the need for community or the need for a partner maybe part of the answer is to let the little boy or little girl in you come out and play more often. Peace.

So, are you counting on it?  You’re probably asking “counting on what?”  You know, counting on receiving monthly payments from Social Security when you reach that ever elusive “qualified retirement age.”  If you listen to the politicians or the facts, which sounds a bit like an oxymoron, there won’t be enough money in the Social Security coffers to fund the retirement needs of the coming baby boomer generation much less the generations beyond.  The unfortunate result of this will lead to the retirement age continuing to get extended, taxes going up and the younger generation having to “foot the bill” for our inabilities to get out in front of this problem years ago.  It seems by all measures the first lesson to be learned here is that we should not “count on” or look to an institution of any kind to provide for our retirement needs.  In the end the onus is on us to be diligent (and diversified) so as to plan accordingly for our sunset years.  So, all of this has me wondering if where it might lead if we simply redefined the term, “social security.”

I’m curious, is there anything that we might find in the “social” realm that could give us a sense of security?  Is there anything here that we can “count on?”  Well, I would propose that the best “social security” we can possibly strive for is to be found in “authentic friendships.”  Now I know there are those that would argue against this.  Perhaps you, like many, have experienced being let down by a “true” friend.  Given the reality that we are human beings, this sort of thing can indeed happen though I don’t believe that we should consider it a foregone characteristic of authentic friendship.  Plausible?… Yes.  Possible?…Sure.  Predictable?… Not so fast.  Perhaps then, the operative word here is “authentic.”

Let’s consider for a moment the hallmarks of an “authentic friendship.”  Where else could we possibly find a love that would be so great that would cause one to “lay down his life for his friends?”  Or where might we find a friend who would “stick closer than a brother?”  Or where else can we at last find the security and safety of being fully ourselves?  Authentic friendship!  Just like that other Social Security, this too can be elusive and really hard to find.  Considering this leads me to an even greater reality.  That is, in the end or perhaps the beginning depending on your perspective of “the end”, there is only one authentic friendship that would evidence such a love for the world that would cause the One to give up his Son so that we could have the best security of all…one that is eternal.  Come to think of it, this brings a whole new meaning (and spellingJ) to the phrase, the “Sonset” years.  Are you planning accordingly?  If so, you can count on it!!! Peace.      

So, how many dimensions are there to your perspective?  My guess if you have been a regular patron of any Starbuck’s on the planet you have come to learn of their unique brand concept known as, “The Third Place.”  Essentially, the thought behind this is that they want to ensure that you equate the Starbuck’s experience synonymously with that of your home or your office.  In other words, enjoying a comforting cup of coffee at Starbuck’s is seen and felt as a seamless experience such that it becomes your “third place.”  In your mind’s eye they become one in the same.  The power of a brand!  Well, I’d like for us to consider for a moment something I believe that is even more powerful. Instead of thinking about the “Third Place,” I’d like for us to take a look at something I’m calling “The 3rd Way.”  This speaks to the power of perspective. 

Let’s take the way in which you think about life.  First, there is always what we deem to be the obvious.  For many of us this is the end of the line with our thinking and the thought train stops at this station.  Others might take their thinking one step further and arrive at the alternative thought.  Well, I’d like to suggest that there is a “3rd Way” as you consider honing the various dimensions of your perspective on life.  That is to consider the counterintuitive. Though the obvious can often times be the quickest route it can keep us at the surface and lacking a fully-orbed perspective on just about anything.  The alternative however can give us a glimpse into what might lie just beneath the surface enabling us to discover new territories in our thinking. But when we begin to gain perspective through the lens of the counterintuitive we begin to move beyond our head and towards our heart.  Just think about this.  What if we could get out of our head and begin to move seamlessly to our heart in all matters of life?  In fact, how might our perspective on life look different if we were to see life through the lens of our heart?  Might we be tempted to “lead with love?” It seems seeing life through the counterintuitive is the only way one could arrive at the understanding that to lose is to gain, or to give is better than to get, or to be first is to be last.  I would contend that to get to the wellspring of our heart we have to begin to think in the “3rd Way,” the counterintuitive.  Think of it this way, common sense resides in our head while the motive to let’s say, find strength in weakness can only come from our heart.  Doesn’t it seem unnatural that we would get stronger as we tell others about our struggles?  We do though.  There is indeed strength in transparency.  For many of us the intentional pursuit of the “3rd Way” will definitely take us to new depths of understanding and perspective on how to navigate this thing we call, life.  Give it a try and see what you find. You might just discover that beyond the “3rd Way” is the “Only Way.” Peace.  

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