Archives for the month of: March, 2012

So, have you ever wondered what is beyond Cloud 9?  Let’s think about it for just a minute.  I’m sure somewhere along the way you’ve found yourself uttering these words, “I feel like I’m on Cloud 9.”  So, what is it one “feels” when they find themselves at this place?  Characteristically this state of being appears as one being extremely happy, almost in a state of euphoric bliss where you have not a care in the world.  Or said another way, it’s that point where everything just seems to be going your way.  Not sure about you but I didn’t even know until recently that the term, “Cloud 9,” actually exists as a meteorological expression to describe those cumulonimbus clouds found on a hot summer day at 30,000 – 40,000 feet.  The term “Cloud 9” is used here to characterize the supremely “high” state of this category of cloud.   Thus the parallel when one feels “high” on life.

So, is it possible that there could be something beyond such a state of “being on Cloud 9?”  I believe there is and maybe it should be known as “Cloud 10.” Though I’ve never thought about it quite this way it appears to me to be found in the difference between happiness and joy.  So, let’s consider the contrasting characteristics of joy for a moment.  Can you think of a few?  What about the restful satisfaction of hearing “well done?”  Or what about the intense internal gladness you experience when give of yourself for the benefit of another.  Perhaps you’ve even known that immeasurable peace that can come in the midst of suffering through one of life’s many struggles.  To me happiness is more of a temporary feeling whereas joy is more of an assured presence.  In fact, while there is no guarantee of continual happiness it is possible to experience such unending joy.  And it’s found in the presence of a promise.  It’s about having the perfect promise of and forever assurance of knowing that the end of your life’s story ends well if you believe in the Eternal Storyteller.  In fact, your story doesn’t end at all and that’s what makes it so good.  Come to think of it if Cloud 9 is found at 30,000 – 40,000 feet then Cloud 10 must be more Heavenly.  Peace. 

So, am I seeing the world through the eyes of my heart?  In one of my earlier posts last year I made mention that at the beginning of each year I like to pose a question to myself.  The intent of the question is that it would remain front and center in my mind throughout the year to inform the way I would encounter the year ahead.  The question noted above represents my 2012 “top of mind” question.  As I’ve confronted this question since the beginning of the year I’ve found myself somewhat conflicted, somewhat out of sorts and frankly somewhat at a loss for how to practically do this.  At times it feels like I’m pinned against the corner of life engaged in a rope-a-dope, punch/counterpunch match feeling beat up as I’ve struggled to get out of my head and into my heart.  I mean why is it so hard for me to see the world this way and lead with my heart?  Could it be I’m just fearful of getting sucker punched?  This seems blatantly cowardice doesn’t it?  Well, I have had a flood of things coming at me from all different angles over the last few days that have given me some insight into my struggles with this issue. I trust some of this will help you as well as you consider this question for your own life.

My sense is most of you are familiar with the movie, Braveheart.  One of the best lines of the movie is delivered by Sir William Wallace as he is calling his men to muster up the courage needed to fight the fast approaching enemy.  From atop his war horse Wallace gives this clarion call, “Every man dies, not every man really lives.”  As I’ve pondered this as a backdrop to my question I’ve had this thought; the courage to fight can only come from those who desire to live; the desire to live can only come from those who are willing to die…a willingness to die to self.  Herein may lay the answer to my dilemma.  To die to self requires that I have the courage to lead with my heart and not my head.  For example, it’s not possible for me to think my way to the point where I’m willing to put others first.  It must spring forth from a heart poised towards sacrifice.  It certainly seems that the willful sacrifice [and courage] of Wallace’s men could have only come from the passions that resonated within their heart.  Or how could I think my way towards loving the unlovely unless I first realized that the one most unlovely is me.  This realization can only come from one’s heart. 

So, here’s my takeaway.  If I stay within my head I can only think but if I lead with my heart I can really live.  To really live requires sacrifice.  To sacrifice requires courage.  This ultimately leads me to have a new understanding.  I need a brave heart.  How is it with you?  Is this your clarion call? Will you join me in the battle to really live?  Peace.               

So, have you been thinking too?  Since my last post I’ve heard from a number of you as you’ve considered the implications of making a one degree shift of some kind in your own life.  You need to know that this is a great source of encouragement to me to know that some of this thinking causes you to stop and give pause.  To that end, I thought it might be kind of neat to carry the conversation a bit further and simply make note of what some of these “one degree shifts” might look like.  Perhaps as you consider these you might hold the mirror up to your own life and just imagine how the trajectory of your life might look different both today and in the years to come if these shifts became woven into the fabric of who you are.  And maybe just take one more step to play it forward to consider the cascading implications to the generations to come after you, in particular those closest to you.  At that point you’re not only changing the trajectory of your life but you’re now confronting the opportunity to affect the lives of generations to come.  Wow, it seems that simple “one degree” continues to loom larger and larger.

So, let’s try some of these on for size as they say…

Ø  What if we were to live a life characterized by seeking instead of settling?

Ø  What if we chose just to be ourselves rather than someone we’re not?

Ø  What if we simply pursued right and left wrong behind?

Ø  What if rather than settle for mediocrity we took the next step towards excellence?

Ø  What if we chose not to believe the lies that life tends to write on our hearts and chose rather to believe that there is no lie in Truth?

Ø  What if we decided to be a holder instead of a withholder?

Ø  What if we simply realized the doorway to living an abundant life was open and not closed?

Ø  What if our life was characterized by building versus demolition?

Ø  What if we were content to serve rather than being discontent in our need to be served?

Ø  What if we lived life believing rather than just believing in?

Ø  What if the wellspring of our life overflowed from our heart rather than from our head?

Ø  What if rather than being shackled by risk-free living we pursued a life of adventure?

My sense is the list could go on and on.  I know my list certainly could. Nonetheless you begin to get a grasp of the enormity of just how much of a seismic shift could occur in our lives (for the better) as we make that simple yet radically profound one-degree shift in our approach to life.  The beautiful thing about life taking on a different trajectory is that it ultimately takes you to a new destination.  And here again we’re confronted with one more, one-degree shift in order to arrive at the ultimate destination we all are meant for.  Such a destination is found in choosing to have a relationship with the One who came as a man so we no longer have to live a life trying to be “the man.”  Have you arrived?  If not, you’re only a one-degree turn away. Peace.

So, what difference can one degree make?  Speaking of “degrees”, I’m sure you’ve heard about the concept of six degrees of separation.  This notion refers to the idea that everyone is on average approximately six introductions away from “connecting” to any other person on Earth.  In a world largely governed by “who you know,” this phenomenon can certainly be the difference maker in the trajectory of one’s career path.   Or if you’ve followed any of our space exploration endeavors over the years you’re certainly aware of the radical implications that a single degree differential can have on the trajectory of a spacecraft.  Just thinking about this reminds me of the Apollo craft returning from the moon.  One degree miscalculation in their reentry path and they bounce off the earth’s atmosphere never to be seen again.  All of this suggests to me that one degree matters and it matters big time.

So, this has me thinking about the implications a one degree shift in our thinking or change in our perspective can have in our lives.  Consider with me one simple, “one degree” shift that could have radical and transformative implications to our lives and the lives of others.  Let’s take the arena of producing fruit.  While we are all pointed towards producing fruit in our endeavors what if we were to make that one degree shift and begin to be all about producing fruit that will last.  After all that is what we are called to do. Talk about a game changer.  Just think about the nourishment that would come from investing in others in such a way that your original investment would live on as it is reinvested in others by those you originally invested in.  Okay, I know that’s a mouthful.  To be clear though, we’re not talking anything financial here.  We’re talking about the investment of imparting potential life-changing insight and wisdom that could change the trajectory of the life of another (in particular, the next generation).  And once again the tables of blessing take on the attributes of a mirror where the lives of both parties can be radically altered. 

Put yourself in the shoes of the “fruit farmer” for a minute and think about what it would be like to produce a crop that would “live on” to yield lasting fruit for generations to come.  Perhaps another way to think about this is imagining the vast differences between producing something consumable to something eternal.  Ah, one degree…that just may be enough to set your life on a new trajectory.  Perhaps that one degree for you is to simply turn to the One who longs to see you living a life of freedom.  Here again it only takes a one degree turn…one invitation which is yours for the taking and one response.  Could this be your new path?  Peace.      

So, how “sticky” are your friends?  Just yesterday I had the opportunity to make a stop in a town where I used to live and visit with some friends I haven’t seen in well over fifteen years.  Besides the fact that each of us has matured from a physical appearance (some more “gray-cefully” than others) it was as if the conversation picked up right where we left off.  While certainly the continuum of time has traveled significantly over the course of the years since our being away from each other the familiarity and comfortableness of each other’s presence remained intact.  As I was alone with my thoughts in my travels home I found myself thinking on and trying to put my finger on why this was the case.  What is it that is unique about these friendships that enable them to stand the test of time?  Or to put it into modern marketing vernacular, what was is that makes these friendships “sticky?”

The term “sticky” historically was universally reserved for the valued characteristic of adhesives.  Hmmm…does this angle provide an answer?  Or what about this thought?  Today there is much made about the notion of “sticky content” in the world of website development.  The purpose of such content is to hold the user’s attention and get them to spend longer periods of time at a given website.  Ultimately this strategy is employed to build an ever increasing community of users who return frequently to the site.  Just think about a few of the parallels.  What are the characteristics that cause friends to adhere one to another?  What are the characteristics that would cause us to want to spend time, even more frequent and longer periods of time with one another?  What about our innate desire to build authentic and meaningful community within the context of our friendships?

So, what is the “glue” that makes friendships stick and endure over the long haul?  Well, as I reflect on yesterday’s encounters I come away with a few key descriptors…a heart-felt love for the person(s), a longing to see them know the joy of their limitless worth as individuals, an immense gladness for their being a part of my life’s story and the simple but noteworthy satisfaction of hearing the familiar and healing sound of their laughter.  You know it’s been said that “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Do you have such a friend?  My heart’s desire is that you do.  By the way, as I think further about it I’m reminded that the adhesion of authentic friendship is more akin to double-sided tape.  So, I guess the question then is…how’s your “stickiness?” Are you such a friend to others?  Peace.          

So, what are you settling for?  What comes to your mind when you think of the word, “settled?”  Perhaps the cliché, “settled in for the night,” indicating that all is well and you are staying put for the night.  Or perhaps you’ve heard the expression used to describe how the foundation of a house or building “settles” over time; a condition which often causes those unwanted cracks in the foundation.  Or maybe you’ve thought of this more as a term indicative of giving up or compromising one’s position on something.  Often times it can be characteristic of one who has simply adopted a defeated view of life.  Well, I’d like to consider the word in a different light; one that just might cause the light of your life to shine so brightly that even what might have once held you captive in the darkness now begins to free you up to walk in the marvelous light.

Consider this statement…”Once we settled in on the idea it became an adventure.”  Wow, this is certainly a different look on a word that typically means, as we’ve noted, anything but “adventure.”  As I’ve considered how I might apply this in my own life I’ve found myself to be captivated (the antithesis of being held captive) at the possibility of this being one of, if not the key, missing link to living a “go for it” life.  Historically, my issue has stemmed from taking a more let’s say, conservative, make no mistakes vs. take no prisoners approach to going hard after a pursuit.  The idea of being “settled” on a pursuit or a direction of adventure seems to suggest that you have fully embraced with confidence the direction you are heading thereby leaving very little room for the seeds of doubt to encroach into your thinking.  After all, aren’t we called to living a life of adventure as captives who have been set free?  So, what stands in our way?  Could it be that we need to simply redefine the word “settled” as we move away from a static view of life and run freely towards life with a more dynamic mindset and outlook.  Just consider how the possibilities of life change as we begin to see them through the lens of the dynamic vs. the static.  Defeat can give way to optimism in a nanosecond as we take hold of a future that is “settled.”  I only know of one such future?  This future paradoxically is found in the words, “it is finished.”  Imagine that…a life of adventure that can be had once we embrace once and for all the one and only “finished work.”  Oh, I forgot to mention that there is something miraculous about being settled on this “finished” direction for your life.  It is the only way to walk in the marvelous light. Peace.        

So, are you hard of listening?  Well, this may not be the typical question we’ve come to expect but I’ve often wondered if it’s not the better question to be asking ourselves and others from time to time.  I’m sure over the course of time we’ve all been through the battery of tests to determine the accuracy of our hearing but my guess is few of us have ever had our “listening” tested.  As I’m writing this however I’m remembering some of those group dynamic exercises where a statement would be passed from person to person to demonstrate just how difficult it is to listen with any real sense of accuracy.  Typically the beginning statement morphs into something quite unlike its original form as it gets to the end of the line.  Though this exercise also pointed to other difficulties of communication it always amazed me just how quickly our listening skills could fail us. 

As I’ve thought about this a bit in my own life I’ve realized that part of the answer might just be making a simple shift from having a “listening” ear to having an acutely “attentive” ear.  On the surface It sure seems like these ought to be one in the same but that hasn’t been the case for me.  In fact, I’ve even found myself at times “listening” right past someone as they’ve spoken to me.  This is anything but being “attentive.”  Perhaps we would do well to consider some of the descriptors embedded in the word “attentive” itself. Hear these words…devoted, thoughtful, offering, comfort, affectionate, close.  Each of these certainly suggests something much more than a casual interplay of conversation.  Come to think of it these words seem to define the characteristics of the divine presence known as the “still small voice.”  One thing is for sure.  When we listen to this voice with an acutely attentive ear we will hear the very things we need to live a life of unbridled joy and freedom.  So, attune your ears…do you hear Him? Peace.  

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