Archives for the month of: January, 2011

So, are there any memories we need to trade for dreams?  Some number of months ago I found myself listening to a story being recounted by a fellow that had been a pastor of a church in the Midwest.  It seems the small but growing church he was leading was running out of room for their burgeoning congregation and all short term options to accommodate the growth had been exhausted.  They had taken the traditional steps of going to multiple services but in order to grow any further they simply needed some new space.  Just then a choice piece of property that would allow them to expand came available…but there was a catch.  The seller was demanding a certain amount of money in a relatively short period of time and was offering no wiggle room for negotiation.  (If my memory serves me correctly I recall they needed around $100,000 and were given only one month to get the money to obtain the property.)  So a vision was cast to the congregation and the clock began to tick.  The money began to come in, one service at a time.  The pastor would get an update after each service on exactly where they stood against their goal.  After the final service on the final Sunday before the day the money was due the pastor was told they had not only received the amount needed but someone had also given a diamond necklace.  As he shared the story he then captivated me with this statement, “Imagine that, someone traded a memory for a dream.”  Someone had taken something that at one time was a precious possession of theirs and given it away in order to be part of something bigger than themselves.  As I’ve recounted this story in my mind over the days since it’s caused me to think that many of us, including myself, certainly have tangible things that we could give away to help provide fuel for the specific vision of an individual or organization.  For many, this seems to be the most obvious and potentially safest path of exchange.  The real question, and perhaps the more costly one, is whether or not there are any memories that we need to let go of that, if we’re honest with ourselves, have kept us from dreaming (and doing) the things that bring about the fullness of living life as it is meant to be lived.  For example, I know many men who have awakened to the day when they tell themselves they’ll never become the man they had hoped to be.  They have simply lost the dream and the paralysis of living a defeated life sets in.  One of the “Albert’s,” Einstein or Schweitzer, said, “The tragedy of life is what dies inside of a man while he still lives.”  This is not what was intended for us…we were created to live!  May we have the courage to let go of the past, or said another way, trade the memories that hold us back so that we can recapture the adventure of dreaming about and realizing the fullness of our today’s and our tomorrow’s.  Peace.

So, what can we learn from a simple slice of bread?  My guess is that most of us can remember back just a few short years ago when it seemed as if the world had just fallen off the economic cliff.  We were being hit daily with a dose of dire news coming from all corners of the world of an impending collapse of the world’s economic systems.  Wall Street and the fortunes of most were being pummeled by the sudden realization of just how precariously integrated and intricate the world’s economic system had become.  Oh how quickly the covers came off revealing a world of make believe.  For many years leading up to this time I had been on a methodical march to “get my financial house in order.”  For me this looked like a very intentional effort to no longer be “slave to the lender” (a.k.a. get out of debt), to live within our means as a family and to work hard to set aside enough funds so that when the time was right my wife and I would be free to consider the “what’s next” questions of life.  This was not an attempt to accumulate wealth or to be what the world would call independently wealthy but rather a purposeful pursuit of becoming financially free to make choices.  Then along came October 2008 and the precipitous fall of the market, down 18% in just five days.  Suddenly I began to feel myself becoming increasingly agitated losing precious sleep as my mind began to deal with the prospects of a total collapse.  At the apex of the sleepless fury I found myself on the computer in the middle of the night checking to see what the Dow futures were signaling for the day ahead in the market.  Truth be told the determinant for whether or not I would have a good day or bad day would be measured by the ebbs and flows of what I found in the middle of the night.  About a week after living life obsessed by the tyranny of the “what if” I called my trusted friend and financial advisor confessing to him that against my best intentions it seemed that money must have become my idol.  After explaining what amounted to my obsession over the daily onslaught of seeing my financial plan tank he asked me a simple question, “Jon, have you ever read much about when the Allied forces freed the children who had become orphans while held in captivity in the concentration camps of Germany?”  The short answer was no.  My friend went on to tell me that these children, the orphans, were unable to sleep in their freedom.  To get them to sleep they were simply given a piece of bread to sleep with.  Not to eat, just hold onto.  Well I felt like a 2 X 4 clocked me over the head when I realized in that moment that my idol wasn’t money, it was freedom.  What was being put at risk with the daily downward dive of the market was my “freedom to be free” to do whatever, whenever and however I might choose.  In my quest to no longer be “slave to the lender” I had become a slave to my own independence.  My best intentions had been ambushed.  The take away for me then and perhaps for you now might be to consider just how prone we are to lull ourselves in our goodness into hitting the wrong target or attempting to solve the wrong problem.  My good intentions in this case had become a smoke screen for the real idol of my heart.  I only wish I had spent the same amount of time and energy over the years locked in on the right target.  Peace.         

So, what’s missing?  This seemed to be the threshold question for me to consider as I took inventory of the outward manifestations of a very real, inward reality of pain in my life.  There I was, sitting alone in one of my favorite little “dive” restaurants writing this entry into my journal, “in the abundance of relationships I find myself profoundly lonely.”  Wow!  A man so rich in relationships yet realizing that there was something so radically missing in my life.  As I made note of the symptomatic characteristics of my loneliness I began to list things like; I’m not as funny as I used to be, I’m not as spontaneous as I used to be or I’m not as adventurous as I once was.  But those were just the outward signs…what was the inward reality?  Truth is I was confronting the loss of my “refrigerator friend,” a man I’ll tell you more about at a later date.  Even that though wasn’t getting me to the core, magma-level issue driving these outward symptomatic signs.  So, I needed to dive deeper to understand.  When my dig was over I recorded three things driving the inward reality of this pain; a longing to be pursued, a longing to be understood and a desperate longing to be fully known.  These three things seemed to me to be the hallmarks of my understanding of authentic intimacy.  That was it! That’s what was missing in my life.  Well, over time this experience has caused me to think more about how important it is to get way beyond the surface of life and dig deep to discover and understand what it is that drives us, what it is that explains the outward signs of our life that we reveal to the watching world.  And what I’ve seen is that so often in life we are driven more by what’s missing in our life as opposed to those things that we are being pulled or drawn towards.  In much the same way it’s like many of us who might be driven more by the things we are running from versus the things we are actually attracted to.  So, what do we do with this?  We need to stop and take inventory to fully understand at a deep level what’s driving the outward characteristics of our behavior, our thoughts, our longings, etc.  Let’s not settle for the answers we find on the surface.  Let’s seek to know the core…the truth of the matter.  It is there we will find the freedom that comes from living a life of authenticity.  Peace.   

So, what should our posture be?  Many of us I’m sure can think back to our younger days when we were routinely reminded to “sit up straight and watch our posture.”  What certainly seemed like a parental annoyance back then could have simply been to prepare us for the days that were to come.  As I think of the sheer energy it takes just to “do life” and in particular to press on with the persevering strength needed to finish the race I’m challenged with the thought that there has to be a more life-giving approach.  One that doesn’t feel as though we’re continually swimming upstream or being buffeted by headwinds.  Could it be that we should take on the posture of a discoverer?  Just think…as we are comforted with the reality that there is a perfect plan for each of our lives, “what if” we began to change our perspective to one of discovering what the plan is for each day?  What a contrast to that of the never ending and ever elusive sense that we have to be the creator or said another way, “makes things happen.”  Now, to be clear, I am not suggesting that we sit back and just wait to see what happens.  Rather I believe we are called, as we endure and travel along the journey of life, to “lean in” to life putting our hands to work as we engage and discover what each day holds for us.  It makes me think of the trek of Columbus into uncharted waters or the archaeologists, Howard Carter and George Herbert excavating the newly discovered ruins of Tutankhamun.  Each woke up not knowing what the day would bring but remained enduringly faithful to “engage the day” and see what great discoveries that particular day might hold.  I’ve often wondered, too, what must Michelangelo have thought when he looked at that big block of marble.  Do you think he saw David in the stone before he put his hands to work?  Did the task before him seem overwhelming?  What we do know is that it was only as Michelangelo put his hands to work with hammer and chisel that David began to be revealed from the rock.  So what’s our take away?  These times suggest we consider a renewed posture, the posture of active endurance as we discover what life has in store for us.  Endurance produces a persevering and sustaining strength that over time gives us the faith and hope we need to “chisel away” at the very mountains of life that many of us find before us.  Peace.

So, if I were being honest I feel a bit like it’s the first day of school.  I’m sure you remember those days filled with the jitters of apprehension.  You see for some time now I’ve been encouraged to write my thoughts down in a more public forum.  One guy in particular has really been bugging me like crazy.  (You know who you are…JR).  So I guess I could say that today I am a “man without excuse.”  So here I am.  It’s unclear to me exactly what I’m going to post from time to time but more than likely it will be thoughts that come from simply observing and doing life.  You see on my best days, I am a beggar just like you trying to help other beggars figure out where to find the food that brings life.  It would be my heart’s desire as you listen to the voice on the posts to come that you would see God’s hand at work and that you might even find a particular nugget or two that would be of value to you in your own life’s journey.

So am I “too invested in the outcome?”  At the end of the day this seemed to be the question that I ultimately had to ask myself to get at why I haven’t gotten off my duff and launched in to begin the writing process.  Do I think that no one would really care about what I have to say?  Was I concerned about what other people would think of me?  Or do I simply feel as though what I have to say is of limited value in the grand scheme of life.  Over the years I’ve seen this dynamic of being too invested in the outcome to be a sure recipe for missing out on the fullness of life.  We become paralyzed by the presupposition that things have to turn out exactly as we’ve planned which robs us of the joy that can come from simply enjoying the journey of life.   So, I’m stepping off the dock with no expectations only desire.  A desire to realize the fullness of living a life of joy as I consider with you some of life’s simple truth’s and how they might apply to each of our lives today and in the days to come.  Peace.    

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