Archives for the month of: March, 2011

So, what is your perspective on life?  Some number of years ago in a different era of my life I had the opportunity to hear what was billed out to be a “motivational” talk given by a National Geographic photographer. Initially, I have to admit I was quite curious about the correlation between professional photography and motivation.  Perhaps you would have been too.  As the presentation began this gent launched into the story of a recent trip he had been on to shoot the “cover shot” for a National Geographic expose’ about a remote village in South America.  While all seemed to be progressing as expected a major problem arose on the day of the shoot…the van that was sent to escort him to the village never showed.  Not wanting to waste the day the photographer decided to make a trek towards a waterfall he had noticed in the distance while waiting for his ride.  Once upon it he became captivated by the beauty of the waterfall and began to take picture after picture aiming to capture the sheer elegance of nature on display.  As he was recounting his story to the group he began to show us a sampling of the pictures he had taken while also offering a vivid, running commentary that was no less beautiful than the pictures themselves.  I must tell you each picture appeared more stunning than the one that preceded it.  With each picture came an exhortation to consider the parallels between the beauty of nature and the intricate beauty of life. Up to this point in his presentation every picture shown had been taken from the vantage point in front of the waterfall.  A somewhat pregnant pause ensued and then he captured the very breath of the crowd as he began to show pictures taken from behind the waterfall.  It was then that it hit me.  Sometimes life looks even more beautiful from “behind the waterfall.”  Consider this. So often we limit our perspective on life to the obvious essentially relegating ourselves to living a life of the “status quo.”  How much more of life might we see if only we were to take those few extra steps to see what hidden gems of life can be found by looking deeper into things. How much more might we learn about the nuances of relationships if we were to consider the lens through which those around us see life?  How different would our lives look if we were to take the road less traveled…the road that might just take us behind the waterfall?  Could it be that this is where we would finally discover what a friend so fondly refers to as “the waterfall of grace?”  This seems to me to be a road worth taking.  How about you?  Peace.      

So, does your baggage fly for free?  If you are a Southwest Airlines customer you know what I’m referring to.  While most airlines are charging stiff fees for checked baggage Southwest has differentiated itself in a big way by allowing travelers to check two items of baggage at no cost…free of charge. This has caused me to think lately about the baggage of life and ask this question, “How do we begin to get free from the baggage of life?”  Well a couple of things come to mind. First, if you’ve traveled at all lately you would have experienced the crushing reality that more and more people are choosing to “carry on” their baggage. Isn’t this in many ways what we tend to do with the baggage of life? You know those situations of life, ones that are most often regrettable, that we have experienced that have a way of staying with us throughout our lifetime. The “baggage” that, left unclaimed, most often influences and informs our view of ourselves and can negatively affect even our closest relationships. Doesn’t it seem life just has a way of heaping baggage on us that we carry with us everywhere we go or to every relationship we encounter. Part of the answer certainly lies in being sure to keep our load light by minimizing the number of situations we get into that will “load us up” with baggage.  If we don’t, it just gets heavier over a lifetime.  The real answer though is found in checking our baggage and never having to go to Baggage Claim again? Think about this parallel.  At the outset of many trips I’ve checked my baggage with the curbside baggage handler who in turn sends my baggage on to the airplane which in turn carries my baggage for me for the duration of the flight. This simple step lightens my load and frees me up for awhile. Having arrived at my destination however I then have to go straight to Baggage Claim to retrieve my baggage taking on the weight of the baggage all over again. What if we could hand off our baggage to life’s ultimate “baggage handler” and never have to retrieve our baggage again?  How free would we be and how would this lighten the load of our lives?  There is One who longs to handle and lay claim to all of the baggage from our lives.  One who desires that we journey through life freed up from the bondage of the past so that we can choose to live our future as a captive who’s been set free?  Do you know Him? If not, write me. Just know this. With Him not only does our baggage fly for free…better yet…there is none! Peace.     

So, how well known are you? So often this is the question used by many to determine a person’s worth but it is simply the wrong question. The reason, though apparent, can so easily be overlooked. It’s a question that seems to suggest our popularity, how well we’re liked, how many friends we have are the basis for our worth, clearly an illusionary barometer for determining the value of ones life. What I’d like for us to consider today is another question, one that when understood and pursued will yield significant and lasting value to our life. The question is, “are you known well?”  I’ve had the privilege of spending the last eleven years engaging many guys in meaningful conversation about their life in generalities as well as the granular specifics of their life. Throughout the years each conversation has expressed unique stories but there have been a few resounding themes that have echoed over and over again.  One such theme is this…many men are well known but few men are known well.  Let’s consider this paradoxical reality. Just think of the energy it takes to be well known or better said to keep up the image that you want others to think you are or even perhaps the person you think they need you to be.  I’ve come to learn that most men spend their life’s energy on who they’re not, living with the ever present fear of being found out. Just think of the angst and anxiety that comes from what is in effect perpetuating a lie (we’re not who we project ourselves to be) and living with the constant fear of being “found out.”  This is tantamount to living our life as an imposter or living life “behind the mask.”  And when we think about living behind the mask or being someone we’re not we must realize, as a friend of mine says, “If you live your life behind a mask only the mask get’s loved.” Take a moment and think about the implications of all of this.  To the degree that we’re only being loved at the mask or surface level it suggests we’ll never know the immeasurable value that comes from being in authentic relationship.  It also suggests that we’re more than likely to allow ourselves to only love others at the surface level. And we haven’t even talked about the generational implications of continuing along this path.  But oh, to be known well.  This is a place of safety, a place of transparency, a place of comfort, a place of rest that will allow each of us the opportunity to be authentically loved so as to be free to become the very person we were designed to be. No more imitations…just the real deal. How different might our lives look if we made it a passion to be known well and to know others well?  Could it be that we might just get re-energized about life? Peace.

So, what is your net worth?  Traditional methods would tell us that we need to look at our personal balance sheet for the answer to this question of defining our financial wealth. If by chance you don’t know the formula it is, “assets – liabilities = net worth” or in other words subtract the value of the assets we own from the amount of debt we owe and you get the sum total of our financial worth. For many this valuation approach extends well beyond the financial and actually begins to define the value of their life’s efforts or in some cases, their value as individuals. But if there’s one lesson we all should have taken away from the events of the last few years it’s that anything measured from a financial perspective is subject to a great deal of volatility and in many cases, loss. Rather than being paralyzed (and disillusioned) by this reality perhaps we need to take this time to reorient our perspective towards building our life’s portfolio with a new currency in mind…the currency of life.  Think about this!  What if we begin to see our net worth in light of the immeasurable value of authentic relationships?  You know each of us has been given a measure of “relational” capital to spend investing in the lives of others.  And there’s something very unique about this type of investing, in particular the return on choosing to invest in the lives of people. Think about this.  Investing in people carries with it a guaranteed rate of return.  It’s more commonly known as being more blessed by giving than receiving.  The more of ourselves we invest in the lives of others the more our investment grows to the point where it seems we simply can’t outspend our investment. Our relational cup just seems to overflow in an amazing regenerative way.  As we invest in others and they, in turn are encouraged to invest themselves in others, our initial investment lives on.  This is what I would call the ultimate “life” dividend reinvestment strategy.  And best of all, as we build our net worth as seen through the lens of authentic relationships we are building up assets that we can “take with us” unlike the kind that grow rusty or rot away.  You see the currency of life here on earth and heaven is and will be found in and through our very real relationships with people. Perhaps it’s simply time to do a currency exchange. No doubt we’ll be richer for it! Peace. 

So, where’s your Florida?  Every year thousands of people from the Northeast and other parts of the country leave the comforts of their homes to head south to spend their winters in “sunny Florida.”  In many circles these folks are kindly referred to as “snowbirds.”  In reality though it seems more appropriate to observe they are actually fleeing the impending discomforts of their homes brought on by the brutally cold winters of the north. Having grown up in Florida I’ve seen this scene play out year over year for as long as I can remember.  Doesn’t it seem many of us follow the same pattern so as not to have the face the “winter” seasons of our lives?  Don’t we expend untold amounts of energy (and money) trying to escape those times in our lives when instead of experiencing a winter wonderland we are facing our own winter wastelands?  As I write this, myself and a few friends are working our way through a book that has us identifying the various winter seasons of our own lives.  You know those times of life when we feel as though we’re in the desert wastelands with no water in sight. As we’ve met and discussed this as a group we’ve seen that sometimes the winter season is short and at other times it feels like the harshness of the drought just keeps on coming.  To gain a better grasp on the implications of this to our individual lives we’ve found ourselves drilling down on both the big picture and shoe leather perspectives on what and how our winter seasons have made us into the people we are today. Perhaps you can think of your own winter seasons.  Perhaps too you can pinpoint how these times of difficulties have made you stronger for the ensuing days ahead. But isn’t that the point of winter?  In fact, doesn’t winter always foretell the coming of springtime? A time when the resistant or controlling areas of our lives get pruned back in such a way as to provide for the new growth brought about by a changed life.  Unlike the annual pilgrimage of the “snowbird” from the north to Florida to escape winter shouldn’t we welcome wintertime in our personal lives as we anticipate the harvest of springtime?  Think on this.  Isn’t it so often true that we usually emerge from the greatest times of struggle into stronger, more resilient people? So, should we actually be fleeing to Florida or find our Florida right where we are?  Absent a growing faith it seems we’ll always choose to flee rather than “winter” with the One that holds our future in his hands. Peace.             

So, will I live for the transaction or will I live to be transformed?  At the beginning of each new year I try to set aside some time to reflect on what question would be good to keep at the forefront of my thought as I enter into and move my way through the year ahead of me.  This simple step over the years has proven to be invaluable as I’ve sought to stop and take inventory of the past and look ahead with a greater sense of purpose, to create a greater sense of value for my life.  And doing so has enabled me to get out of the daily weeds and stay somewhat focused on the bigger picture of life.  A recent years question was the one asked above; “will I live for the transaction or will I live to be transformed.”  As we consider the implications of this question, it is certainly true that life is dealt out in a series of transactions, many of which are of great value in and of themselves.  But what matters most when we look back is whether or not we or someone else has been changed by the cumulative effect of the transactions of our life. In other words, has there been an element of transformation in our life or have we been used as an agent of transformation in the life of another.  Let’s simply consider our encounters with people.  Do we see people as a means to an end (transactional thinking) or do we see people as worthy of being encouraged and seek to affirm their worth (transformational thinking).  All of us, after all, are of infinite worth!  Do we view our encounters with people as interruptions or invitations into each other’s life story?  There is much of the “larger story” of life that is being written each day as we engage the world around us.  The design of life is such that each of us is used in the lives of each other to help shape our own individual stories and the larger story of living.  Perhaps you might consider the implications of this question in your own life.  I can certainly attest to the fact that this foundational (and possibly transformational) question has certainly proven to be a good guidepost for me as I’ve sought to become more of the person I’ve been designed to be.  Peace.

So close but yet so far?  Okay, to be grammatically correct it’s not really a question but more of a statement…one that we have certainly heard before and more than likely words that we have actually uttered ourselves.  Typically this statement is reserved for those times in life when we’ve gotten so close to making that winning shot or perhaps so close to reaching the top of a grueling climb only to run out of gas just before we reached the peak.  But I’ve been taken back of late by how this truism finds its way into my proximity with people.  I’ve been captivated by just how differently I see people when I allow myself to get close enough to see the color of someone’s eyes.  To actually allow myself to enter into an encounter with another person that is characterized by close proximity.  Perhaps you too can think of those times when you’ve observed people from a distance but you’ve never really allowed yourself to get close enough to actually engage them in even a simple conversation. If you’re like me rather than inviting them in you’ve kept them at bay on the periphery of your life’s radar.  More importantly or even more troubling you’ve actually found yourself engaged in some form of pre-judgemental hypothesizing as you’ve tried to sum up what type of person they might be.  Truth be told we’ve all probably allowed the seeds of envy borne out of comparison to take root long before we even knew the book that lay behind the cover of a person’s life.  In some way they can be so close to us in proximity but so far away in our appreciation and understanding of them as a person.  Is this really just a way for us to fulfill that insatiable desire to deflect intimacy or to not “pay the price” of engaging another person. Its’ crazy isn’t it?  My experience has been when I finally allow myself to lean into even a simple conversation with another person I see them in a totally different light.  I see the beauty of their countenance or the rich history of life written in the lines on their face.  My ears begin to hear the actual inflection and tones in their voice.  My heart begins to connect with theirs in some magical way as I begin to get a glimpse of the intensity of their humanness. And that pre-judgment, borne out of presumption, gives way to the simple delight of knowing another sojourner on the journey of life.  Come to think about it, I guess at the end of the day closeness counts in more of life than just horseshoes.  Peace.              

So, what if?  Isn’t it MetLife that has built a whole marketing campaign around the slogan, “for the ‘IF’ in life’?  In other words, just in case something were to happen to you have you considered the implications to your family?  Are you appropriately insured to provide for those closest to you?  It sure seems like this slogan would be better stated, “for the ‘What IF’ in life.”  People that know me the best know that I am the consummate contingency planner.  Although I’m not particularly proud of this it just seems to be part of my makeup to live in the world of the “what if.” It’s one of those characteristics however that has a double-edge to it.  On one hand it serves me well for thinking strategically about things.  On the other it causes me to burn up some serious and most often unnecessary energy trying to anticipate and plan for the unknown.  Sometimes I just think the answer lies in having many of my “what if’s” become my “so what’s.”  But there is another “what if” that I believe carries the opportunity to be a real game changer for our life.  Think about this.  Each of us most likely has a calendar that is chocked full of appointments. After the end of each day we probably look back on the day and remark, “where did the time go?”  If we’re even more honest with ourselves we look back on those days that turn into weeks and then into months and wonder what we actually got accomplished with all of those appointments. Surely we moved the ball down the field but did we find a real sense of accomplishment?  Did we come away with a sense of purpose? So, what if? What if when we look at our calendar rather than see “1:30 – 2:30 meet with Bob to discuss 2011 Financial Budget” we were to see this in our mind’s eye, “1:30 – 2:30 love Bob…while there discuss 2011 Financial Budget?” What would the implications be to our life if our hearts were poised to lead with love and sought to first and foremost affirm the worth of the individual in our midst?  Don’t you think that at the end of any given day we would come away sensing that the day was much bigger than just a series of endless appointments? Do you think it’s possible that our work would no longer feel just like a job to us?  What keeps us from leading with love?  Is it a fear of rejection or having to risk the authenticity required to become more real, more human?  Perhaps the answer here as well is found in having our “what if’s” becoming our “so what’s.”  Peace.

So, have you ever been “back to the future?”  I’m guessing many of us might have seen the movie that came out some number of years ago featuring this title.  But my question has more to do with discovering a way that we can walk boldly with great confidence and assurance into an uncertain future.  For sure, we’ve all heard the life cliché that “hindsight is 20/20” but I wonder just how many of us, given a choice, would rather have “20/20 foresight.”  It’s true that much of life is seen with great clarity and understanding from the vantage point of the rearview mirror but is there a way to look out the front window of life with the same sense of certainty?  My sense is it has something to do with looking back to see future. A friend of mine paints the principle of this picture so well by using the illustration of rowing a boat.  He points to the fact that the way you row a boat on a straight line into the uncertain waters in front of you is to fix your eyes on a marker in the distance behind you.  If your eyes stray from that marker then you’re prone to get off course.  Think about it. Have you ever tried to row a boat straight ahead by looking over your shoulder?  I have and it doesn’t work. So what does this illustration mean for us?  I guess it encourages us to see to it that we orient the foundation of our lives around those very truths and principles that we know will prevail over time.  Can you think of a few?  Several come to my mind; be of good character, maintain the highest degrees of integrity, be a cheerful giver, do the right thing, steady plotting, love one another.  The good news is that no matter where we find ourselves in life we can reorient ourselves around these types of “markers, the pillars of assurance vital to journeying into the future.  And as we begin to live out these principles and truths we will begin to set a new course of living. Can you just imagine the life of freedom that would be ours if we simply fix our eyes on the “marker” of God’s faithfulness past?  Free to be certain in the midst of uncertainty, free to be at rest in the midst of not knowing the whole mystery of life, free to live life not presuming upon the future but living life with great expectancy and joy.  Perhaps even being free to be you!  Peace. 

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