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So, are you wound too tight? Every time I think about this question my mind goes back to the days of playing with balsa wood airplanes.  Do you remember them?  Typically, they would be found in a hobby store or some guy would be hawking them at a shopping mall kiosk.  Once the purchase was made and the contents were dumped from that proverbial, hard to tear with you teeth plastic bag it was just a matter of time before the parts and pieces were assembled and you were ready to fly.  Remembering back on this Im remembering the trick to a successful flight was determined by getting just the right number of turns of that seemingly oversized rubber band attached to the propeller.  Invariably though, in an attempt to get the plane to fly higher and fly longer I would make one too many turns of the propeller only to have the rubber band snap and leave me with what amounted to an overpriced assortment of cheap wood.  Or sometimes during the winding process the propeller would get so much tension on it that it would simply slip leaving me with a nice sized paper cut on my winding finger.  As I think back on this interaction with the little airplane that never quite could, Im wondering if there are some parallel applications to living life.  Lets think on it for a minute or two.

Doesnt it seem we spend a good deal of our life trying to put the pieces and parts together of life in order so as to fly higher and farther?  And most of the time isnt it to fly higher and farther than the next guy? I know we dont typically think of it this way but just think about the effort that many people go to just to fit in or to get ahead.  Truth be told arent we apt to expend a lot of energy just to give the appearance that weve arrived?  And doesnt this somewhat endless effort get us so tightly wound that we find ourselves routinely reaching a breaking point?  You know. Just one more crank (or car, boat or accolade) will get us farther and higher in this performance we call life.  And before you know it weve snapped!  Think about it. Theres not enough energy to outrun the person we want others to think we are. 

So at the end of the day arent we better off putting together the parts and pieces of our life with the glue of authenticity?  Wouldnt we be so much looser (and actually fun to be around) if in our striving we sought to be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow?  Whats it going to take for you?  As I think about the question for myself its got me thinking that maybe I just need to take on the attributes of the glider.  After all, they fly with much more grace, free to ride the wind with a seemingly effortlessness that has no end. Thats it! Unwind, be free, fly with grace.  Peace.  

So, are you a good “waiter”?  I’m guessing that most of us have our favorite restaurants that we like to frequent.  And while most of the time the impetus for our return is for the good food often times we go back because we simply like the people there, in particular certain waiters and waitresses.  At least that has been the case for our family over the years.  When I think about the characteristics of some of our fondest “waiter friends” I can’t help but think about their typical greeting, “Hi, I’m _______ and I’ll be serving you this evening.”  Or I think about their forthrightness to take the first step in conversation or their genuine desire to see that we are satisfied with our meal.  For those we’ve come to know more closely they might even ask about our family. And then there’s the traditional closing question, “Is there anything else I can get for you this evening, Mr. Thurman?” 

Well in many ways the necessities of life casts us into the role of “waiters” too.  After all, isn’t much of life spent waiting on someone or something?  Perhaps, it’s as simple as waiting on the guests to arrive for the evening’s dinner or something as dramatic for some as “waiting for your ship to come in.”  For many waiting can become a “trial of waiting” as one wait’s for the test results to come in or for clarity on what the next best steps are to take in life.  If you’re like me however you’re probably not so good at waiting.  Impatience, a need to know and to know now, instant gratifications, maybe even instant riches are at the heart of our inability to wait with any measure of patience.  Can’t you just imagine what an encounter with the waiter would be like if they took on these characteristics?  “Hi, I’m _______.  I need to know what you want to eat and I need to know it now.  And I need you to pay me now and prepay me my tip while you’re at it. ” Wow, my guess is you wouldn’t be headed back to that restaurant any time soon.

So, is there anything we can learn about waiting on life from the “waiter?”  I think there is.  You see in some ways we live to wait while the waiter “waits” to live.  What if in our waiting periods we sought to live?  What if during these times we engaged life to serve others, to see to it that others were comforted and were finding a sense of satisfaction in life through our service?  Perhaps we might take the simple first steps to authentically inquire about the well being of others (and their family).  And then maybe to take  “one more step” to see to it that we’ve done all we can do to help others find a measure of fulfillment in their life.  I’m curious. Could it be that as we serve and care for others, even as we wait patiently for our own life’s answers, we might find our strength renewed?  After all the trial of waiting demands we remain strong for ourselves and for others.  Peace.                     

So, what’s the prescription for your life?   Not sure if you’ve been to the doctor lately but if you have you’ve probably noticed that the once staple item known fondly as “the prescription pad” is being quickly rendered extinct by technology.  I know I’ve certainly spent a great deal of seat time over the years waiting for the “doc” to come in to the exam room with that proverbial pad in hand.  Come to think of it the doc’s are still carrying a pad of sorts but they’re starting to look more like a “pad of another kind” these days…the iPad.  Oh well, if you are anything like me after the typically long, anxious wait you want to know the diagnosis right away and almost as important you want that “get well” ticket that prescribes the medicine you need to take to get you on the road to recovery.  In short, you want to get the prescription and get the heck out of there.  From there you let the medicine do its work as an integral component of the healing process.

This has me thinking about what prescription might be rendered if we were to try to find the prescription for “really living” life.  Just the other day I was with some good friends and a one friend commented on the fact that he just doesn’t enjoy life the way he once did.  Relaxation has been replaced by uptightness and a shortness with others, including those closest to him. Can you relate?  Doesn’t it seem like the pressures and responsibilities of life have a way of encroaching their way in, eroding much of life’s exuberance?  And then before we know it our intended personalities have been summarily suppressed and we have taken on one of those “false front” personas indicative of being someone other than who we really are.  It’s like we’ve been caged, desperate to get out but rendered somewhat impotent in our ability to move back towards living life the way it is intended to be.  Isn’t it sad how the wellspring of joy can dry up so quickly?  

Imagine with me for a moment how the scene would play out if you went to the doctor looking for a prescription that could give you some of your life back.  I can just see it going something like this, “Doc, I’m just not as funny as I used to be.  Why even my freedom has begun to feel like captivity.”  Then I wonder what he might write on the prescription pad that would represent the “life medicine” needed to help you right where you are.  Well, there are, no doubt many fundamental elements that are needed to bring restorative healing to our lives.  But the one that’s on my mind today is one that is actually worth laughing about.  In fact, it’s laughter itself.  Come to think of it, didn’t someone along the way say, “laughter is the best medicine?”  Perhaps this is one of those times when the familiar cliche, “why don’t you give yourself some of your own medicine” should come in to play.  So, go ahead and free yourself up to laugh your way back to life from time to time.  It’s healing to the soul.  Peace or maybe in this case LOL!                   

So, do you go to the chip or do you let the chip come to you?  Now there’s a question to think on for a few minutes.  One of my favorite restaurants in my hometown is a little dive located in an aged but still vibrant strip center not too far from my home.  Over the course of the last twelve years since being first introduced to this authentically Mexican gem I’ve had the privilege of having lunch there with I’m guessing over one hundred men, maybe more.  Almost to a man I’ve witnessed an interesting phenomenon that has been repeated over and over.  Here’s the scene.  Once having been seated the first item to arrive at the table are the chips and salsa.  Typically there’s an almost instinctual grab for the chips as soon as the server let’s go of the basket which is immediately followed by that proverbial first dip of the chip into the salsa.  From there the fervor heats up with some measure of rapidity until the inevitable happens.  The salsa, created from a mixture of the finest tomatoes, onions and cilantro, finds its way onto your clothing.  More often than not it finds its way to your recently dry cleaned shirt or the lap of your newly pressed pants.  Having witnessed this seemingly endless, synchronized dance of the chip in the salsa, salsa-laden chip to the mouth, salsa on the clothing over and over I finally realized the common denominator in this common occurrence.  Here’s the problem.  Typically the action that follows the “dip of the chip” is that the chip is brought towards the mouth.  Now here’s a potential solution.  Rather than let the chip come to you, you need to go to the chip.

As I’ve recounted this scene in my mind over the years I’ve realized this part of life’s story, though on one hand humorous and on the other frustrating offers us an interesting parallel application for doing life together.  Consider this.  No one would argue that life gets messy at times and sometimes the messiness of life just gets all over us including our being spilled on and the mess being ground into the fabric of our lives.  These “spills” often leave us such that even with the best deep cleaning our lives are still left with what feel like residual stains.  Left undone these stains can reveal themselves in ways that look like low self-esteem, the inability to embrace one’s self-worth and a perpetual passing on of the stain from one generation to the next.  While there are many proactive steps we can take to combat and wash away the stains of life what if we today took a lesson from the chip.  Could it be that if we leaned into life rather than let life come to us we might discover more of life?  After all, wouldn’t life have more to offer us if we chose to pursue it rather than wait to be pursued?  No doubt messiness would still abound because that’s just one of the guarantees of doing life in relationship and community.  But I just wonder if over time we might lean into the mess and actually enjoy it more.  Think back for a moment. Weren’t some of the best days of your childhood when you just allowed yourself to get dirty with your friends?  It certainly seems that leaning into life positions us to be more about others rather than what seems to be a more defensive and perhaps even selfish posture of waiting for others to come to us.  Oh well, just something to think on.  And lest I forget to mention it, no matter what the residual stain in your life is it can be wiped away once and for all.  In fact, it can be made white as snow without stain or blemish.  Do you remember “why?”  Peace.         

So, can you remember yourself asking this question, “Why daddy…why?”  Just think back for a minute to those formative years of growing up when your world was chocked full of curiosity.  That time when you were poised at that beautiful point of innocence and just trying to figure things out.  Perhaps you were one to pepper your dad with the question of “why” over and over and over.  Like many, you most likely had a relentless need to know.  It was in the knowing that the dots of life began to connect for you and life in an elementary way began to start to make some sense.  Ultimately though this question of “why” would lead you to a greater understanding of the way all the pieces of life fit together and more importantly how you fit into the overall story being told through your life and the life of others around you.

Well, on this particular day I’d like for us to consider what is in essence the same question asked by another Son.  This time however the answer to the question would have radically profound, life-altering implications to a much larger story, the story of the redemption of man.  Hanging on the cross between two thieves was the Son of God.  Among the last words spoken by the Son that day was the question, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”  Or perhaps put in other more contemporary words from a son to a father, “Why daddy…why?” Why daddy do I have to be separated from you and die in order that others might live?  

This is the day that reveals to many that they cannot save themselves.  It is the day that takes us from living “under the law” in order that we might “really live” under grace because of this priceless expression of sacrifice.  This day, known to those who believe in the Son as Good Friday, is the day that answers the “why” of our salvation and squarely places us into the story of redemption.  And on this day set aside in redemptive history I want to encourage you to always remember “why.”  Unlike others this is one day you never want to forget.  By the way in case you’re still curious, the answer to the question “Why?” is simply found in knowing the “Who,” the “Who” of all eternity…Jesus.  Happy Easter!     

So, how much is enough?  My guess is you’ve either found yourself asking this question or have been part of a larger conversation where others have been contemplating the elusive answer to this age-old dilemma. Without a doubt this is certainly the paramount question that seems to find its way to the forefront of any conversation that centers around one’s ability to “retire.”  The popular thought for many is that within the answer lies the tipping point of knowing the optimum time to “get out” while insuring that you don’t “run out” as you’re on your “way out.”  If your encounters with this question have been anything like mine you’ve most likely not arrived at a concrete answer to the question. Rather, I’m guessing you’ve found yourself continuing to move the finish line further and further out. Doesn’t It seem therein lies the elusiveness in the dilemma?  The uncertainty brought about by not knowing causes us to continue this march to “move the bar.”  Well all of this to say that I’ve recently seen where this same question and it’s correlated actions loom even larger and potentially have even more profound implications in one critical area of our lives.

Consider with me for a moment the area of self-worth.  First hand conversations with many people over many years has revealed to me that most people believe they are simply not “good enough.”  For countless and varied reasons life has dealt out repeated, often punishing blows that has caused seeds of doubt to encroach into the self-esteem, confidence, value, dignity, inner beauty etc. of many good people.  And this elusive belief and assurance of one’s self-worth has a similar effect to that discussed earlier.  In this case the “bar” of seeking one’s worth continues to be moved further and further out revealing itself in a myriad of ways.  Perhaps it’s found in an incessant need for validation or approval.  Or perhaps it’s found in one’s inability to believe that anyone would offer them a free gift even if the gift is to simply love them or extend the hand of mercy and compassion.  So, here too the question remains. How much is enough?  The answer in this case is simple and not elusive…YOU ARE.  You are enough!  How can it be?  Well, the tipping point in this equation is found in a free gift available for your taking…the gift of God’s grace.  No more unknown requiring you to “push the bar” further and further out.  Because of His grace you are fully known and you are fully loved, worthy beyond measure. Believe it! Peace.      

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.      

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