Archive for the ‘Making Changes’ Category

U2 – “No Ordinary Love” — Video Download for U2.com subscribers.

Yep!  I’m a huge U2 fan. Me and a few other million friends.   They’re an extraordinary band not only because their melodies so easily latch on to our auditory taste buds, but more importantly their lyrics speak to a  much deeper place in our soul.  U2’s  music evokes memory and dreams and hopes.  They aren’t the pop flavor of the day, they speak messages of wisdom, if we have ears willing to hear.   A vision beyond visibility becomes a possibility when one is appropriately inspired.

I’m so looking forward to hearing all the songs that will ultimately comprise the soundtrack of Mandela:  Long Walk to Freedom  Not only is Mandela a mentor and inspiration for Bono personally, but also he holds a special place in people’s hearts all over the world who have seen or experienced or are touched by suppression, imprisonment, injustice or perhaps are fighting for freedom and human rights.

Even if you’re not a freedom fighter who has taken to the streets, you may be a prayer warrior or encourager  somewhere in the life or lives of those who struggle.  That’s what Jesus did when he read these prophetic words from the book of Isaiah to the people of Nazareth:

“The Lord has put his Spirit in me,
because he appointed me to tell the Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to tell the captives they are free
and to tell the blind that they can see again.
God sent me to free those who have been treated unfairly.  Luke 4:18

I have a friend who for a long span of time wasn’t free.   For a time he was held captive internally by choices, as well as externally by unjust circumstances.   So as I wrote to the face of a friend I’ve never met until very recently, I reminded him that “You don’t have to walk around outside to taste freedom.”  You can get free inside first.  In fact, it’s probably a good idea.   And just because there are so many things you can’t see at this time, doesn’t mean you can’t have a vision of what life will look like soon, very soon.

This is seeing:   Believing what right now you can only hope for and resting confidently in assurance that God will use your hour of trial or suffering and turn it into something beautiful, or redemptive.  But it requires something of you first:

No Ordinary Love

Extraordinary love requires faith, being confident in that which you hope for and being sure of what you can not see.  (Hebrews 11:1) That’s no ordinary love.  Extraordinary love also requires sacrifice; it’s going to cost you something you value: your time, your money, your safety, your reputation, your safety net  or perhaps your freedom.  In some cases, even your very life.

“We can’t fall any further if we can’t feel ordinary love.”   Show someone in need some love today.     Take the plunge.  Give until it hurts.  Give with all you’ve got.  And even when you’re drowning in your own personal ocean of adversity and difficulty, remember you were loved first by no ordinary love,  so this pain you feel from time to time is only your heart cracking around the hard places until it becomes smooth as polished precious stones.

Don’t give up.  Look up.  Reach higher.  Assist the poor.  Minister to the hurting.  Forgive what seems unforgivable.   Show love in the name of freedom, in the name of justice and mercy, in the name of compassion, in the name of righteousness and then wait, and watch what God will do.   Perhaps if we each can show love to even just one, especially the difficult one, God can transform the ordinary to extraordinary.

May you find ways to show love today and be joyful in the anticipation of what God can do with just a bit of ordinary love.

POST SCRIPT 12/06/2013:  I started this entry about a week ago.  But I didn’t finish.  God had other plans.  I saw some miracles this week and witnessed first hand just how fast God can transform an isolated  captive person into a person being released into freedom and into loving capable hands.  ALL THIS, on the day Nelson Mandela has passed.  The world lost a true hero, a compassionate soul, and someone who fully understood  this truth: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.(1 Peter 4:8)  Rest in peace Nelson Mandela.  And welcome home too.  You leave a legacy of powerful truth spoken in love for the rest of us to aspire to.

Allow me to close with some wisdom of Nelson Mandela, who capably showed us light can chase away the dark and love is stronger than hate:

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” —Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” —Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Stepping Stones      Once upon a time, I was subject to all sorts of stress and chaos.  That’s because for many years I was under the dominion of feelings, rather than acceptance of reality.  That’s not to say that feelings aren’t real or don’t count; they do.  I’m just saying it can’t be what guides you.

Thankfully wisdom eventually comes the longer one lives. So when I saw these rocks at a gift shop recently, and knowing nothing is a coincidence, a vision of truth settled over me.  It was as if a 12 step program (okay fourteen, but who’s counting?) for our emotions was suddenly available in summary form.   I thanked God for the instant wisdom and beauty He had provided.  So when you’re down and out, start by taking baby steps towards the power generated in just a few words worthy of being carved on rocks.  Meditate on them and then implement these action-steps and you will begin to leave drama behind and move towards peace, joy, and positive decisiveness.  Love is a decision, so take the steps necessary to love your life!

BreatheBefore you lash out or make a decision based on how you feel right now, just breathe.  It sounds simple, but it can be elusive when you’re hyperventilating on anger or extreme sadness.  Stop!  Get grounded.  Take a step back.  And just breathe.

ChangeThere are only two things you can change in life:  Your situation or your response.  It’s that simple.  If you can change your situation, by all means do.  Dump that toxic relationship, go back to school, decide to get out of debt,  get rid of that which is holding you back,  apply for that job you don’t think you’re qualified for anyway, go ahead and write that book you’ve been contemplating.

But what about the boss who chewed you out?  The spouse who abandoned you?  The grown child who never calls you?  And every other situation under the sun that falls under the category “unfair”?   There is only one thing you can do.  Change your attitude or response.  Besides you have to.  Why let what you can’t control destroy your well-being and sense of peace?   Acceptance of others and their flaws sets you free.  Putting up boundaries by saying, “I can’t talk to you until you calm down” or “I won’t allow you to speak to me like that” and then leaving a heated situation, shows that you are in control of your life and that you respect yourself to not allow others to disrespect you.  Remember you don’t have to be right all the time or have to convince others.  The goal is to be at peace!

ChoiceMy favorite advice on choice is this:  Choose your suffering.  Essentially that means don’t waste your suffering.  The Bible even states that “in this world, you will have trouble.”  And that is no lie!  You don’t get to the end without experiencing tragedy, abandonment, loss, hurt, sadness, anger, and unfairness.  Kind of like change, you have to make a decision.  Are you going to let that which you can’t control destroy you, or rest as the rock foundation that you build your testimony on, and become a source of inspiration to others, and even yourself.  You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.  Tap into that strength.

CourageDare to face the horrible truths in your life that you’d rather not:  You have a problem.  Deal with it.  Get help when necessary.  Tap into your faith.  Call on your friends.  Don’t go through the hard stuff alone.   As you get rid of toxic relationships outside of yourself, you’ll find it’s time once and for all to deal with the habits and hang-ups that keep you from reaching your full potential:  Insecurities, lack of confidence, bad or destructive habits, or fear of failure.    Attack each of these self-destroyers with all the tools in your toolbox:  Faith, family, friends, and above all a willingness to change.   Each step you take in the direction of courage builds momentum making each subsequent step a little bit easier than the one before.

Dance Put on the jamz and pump up the volume.  Life is too short to purposely not do things that can bring you happiness and joy.  Why settle for ho-hum washing the dishes and vacuuming the house when you can crank up your favorite music and dance the night away as you work!  As long as your multitasking, at least do it with joy.  Throw off those shoes and dance.  Grab a partner and surprise them with the joy of dance.

Dream Never give up your dreams.  Never!  What is that thing you’ve always longed to accomplish?  Write a song?  Start a new career in a totally different field?  Lose thirty pounds?  Then be like a Nike ad and just do it!  Start today!  You have to start sometime.  Don’t let excuses or lack of time be your reason why you didn’t fulfill your dreams.  A little today is better than none tomorrow and the day after that.  Slow progression is the key towards long-term results.  The key is to act with intent on your dreams.

Heal What is it you need in order to heal?  Professional help?  Spiritual guidance?  The compassion of a friend?  Then seek it and don’t be ashamed.  Perhaps you just need time.  That’s okay too.  Time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds, but it allows us time to get our head together and weave that which hurt us into the fabric of our being, so that we can step out in courage anyway.  You wouldn’t let an infection on your skin fester and get worse.  It’s essential  that which troubles your heart or your mind be healed as well.  Don’t let pride stop you from getting the healing you need.

LaughGo ahead; lighten up!  Laugh at your mistakes, it’s okay.  Don’t be wound so tight, you can’t allow yourself to be human.  Go to a funny movie with a friend!  It’s good therapy.   Become mindful of joy and learn to laugh.  Laugh lines are more attractive than worry lines anyway!

Organize– Get rid of excess.  Everyday pick a room, a drawer, a box to organize.  Stop buying that which you don’t need.  Put things away as you use them.  Remember that it’s more fun to do and to be in life than it is to haveExcess of things don’t make us happy; relationships do.  We don’t get to take our things with us.  The only commodity we truly have in life is time.  Time to enjoy our life, but more importantly time to make a difference in the lives of others.  When you are organized, you have more time to see friends, volunteer, and get out in God’s beautiful world and enjoy all there is to see and do.

Play You work hard.  Don’t deny yourself this essential ingredient in life.  Get a hobby.  Play a sport.   Play with your kids and your pets every day if you have them.   When you play, you’re apt to laugh and that is good medicine for the soul.  Definitely find ways to play!

RelaxSimilar to just breathe, this is the mechanism you need to calm your soul and soothe your spirit.  It sounds easy, but how many times do we deny ourselves the opportunity to just relax because everything else seems essential?   Reading a good book or watching a great movie or just taking a nap on a Saturday afternoon can totally change our perspective when we’re stressed.  If you never have time to relax, than go back to organize.  What things, commitments, or excess people do you need to purge in order to enjoy the necessary stepping stone of relaxation?

RememberRemember others who are suffering and you can be a blessing to.  Remember the good things in life that God has blessed you with and choose to save some of them.  Take pictures of the good things.  Make a family scrapbook.  Have a treasure trunk where you keep mementoes of happy events.  Remembering that which brings us joy and leaving behind that which causes us pain is a great way to have a fulfilling and joyous life.

Rest We can’t organize, relax, remember, play, work, heal, dance, laugh, make necessary changes, or even dream if we don’t first get enough rest.  We were designed to rest for a reason.  When we allow our mind and body to recharge, we are taking the first step to complete all the others.   Get on a schedule and get the rest you need.

TeachTeach others life lessons you’ve learned so far.  Mentoring others is a great way to make a difference.  Also be willing to be taughtHaving a teachable spirit is also a key to wisdom.  Try not to take all advice, even when unsolicited, as a means to control you, but perhaps as a kernel of truth worth mining.  Having a teachable attitude means accepting that we don’t necessarily know everything.  And that’s okay.

Okay, so that’s 14 stepping stones to lead you to a better life.  But there is one that was left out intentionally.  All these stones, pale in comparison to the solid rock foundation they rest upon: 

FaithThe people I’ve known in life that have it the most together mentally, physically, financially, and spiritually have a deep faith that is the bedrock upon which all else is built.  Having faith means you personally don’t have to have all the answers or be in control.  That’s because when God is in control, someone bigger than you is in charge.   You don’t have to know everything or be responsible for every outcome.  Faith steps in when people step out.  Faith is believing in someone or something bigger than yourself.  Faith is prayer.  Faith is active.  Faith is forgiving.  Faith allows us to love.  Faith is a conduit to all that is good in life Faith is more than a positive attitude, it is an assurance of things hoped for and not yet seen.   Sharpen your faith, and live the good life.

When opportunity knocks a man still has to get up off his seat and open the door.  – Author Unknown

      Hello friends!  How’s life these days?  Are you living happy?  How is your dream coming along? Are you living true?   If not now, when?   Are you gonna wait forever?

Living true—what’s that you say?  Believe me; you’ll know it when you get there.  Living true is living life with passion and purpose but without checking reason at the door.   Doing what you absolutely love without causing harm to others is the passionate and purposeful life. Living true means losing the superficiality of status, or position, and focusing on what truly satisfies your soul.

Living true with passion and purpose requires a few things:

  • Time
  • Motivation
  • Discipline
  • Trusting Your Instincts
  • The Desire to Make a Mark
  • The Promise Not to Harm
  • Endurance
  • Faith

When I listen to U2’s music, I hear the sound of four band mates who have spent well over thirty years honing their craft, fulfilling the desire of their hearts, and bringing joy to millions of fans all over the world.  While growing their dream, they have also made an impact on the poorest among Earth’s citizens–people who most likely have never even heard of U2 or their music, but know the sound and sight of grace when it appears.

What is it about U2’s music that takes root in the hearts of so many?  What is it that connects U2’s fans to one another and to the band itself?  I’ll tell you what it is.  Bono said it:  The goal is soul!  When we pour our heart and soul into our craft, it resonates.  It plants roots, grows deep, and if watered with time and love, brings fruit.    As time passes, it gains momentum. 

Without a doubt, it takes time and discipline to create something uniquely yours and make your mark.   It’s possible, but it takes a lot of time.  The key is taking baby steps each day!  What is your dream?    I find most people have a dream, but it’s buried under the surface of responsibilities, obligations, insane schedules, and a series of distractions that compete for priority in our heart.

If you have gotten to know me, you also know I believe in God, a higher power in this universe who is also at work.  He created me with purpose.  God had a purpose in mind for me on the day I was born.    Once I found it, all I had to do was tap into it.    I had to decide.  I decided I wasn’t going to wait forever.  The time to do something about it was now!  Because now is all the time we ever really have!

Finding purpose is like meeting the love of your life.  I hope you are one of the lucky ones who get to do both.    Meeting the love of your life is phenomenal, but time changes each of us, and a person can only satisfy you so deeply, and if you’re not careful, you can become selfish in expecting them to satisfy you in a way they can’t.  We all age, change, move in and out with the tides with our feelings, and experience life differently.      Passion in relationships is a burning flame that keeps your desires and affection warm but it also threatens to consume you if you don’t pair it with purpose.  You can have a shared purpose, but it’s essential to also have your own purpose.

When purpose steps in, unrealistic expectation of others has to leave.   For this is the thing that you own!  You don’t need someone else’s permission, approval, or same level of desire in it to complete you.  You have this for you.  You desire the same for them.

I meet so many people who say they don’t have time to work on what they love, or even spend time trying to find it.  Guess what?  I felt the same way—until I did.

I still work and have a family.  You work on it as time allows.  You make time.  You give up the unnecessary.  It might be TV, time on Facebook, time on the phone.  You become more efficient at other tasks to free up time.   You learn to carve minutes for your passion at first, and then it turns to hours in a week.   Before long you realize these are the minutes that make you.   Soon you don’t find time for it; time finds you!

This majestic time becomes your sanctuary –this space where you think, dream, and create that which hasn’t existed up to now.    You focus on the craft and discipline first, and as you do the plans start to formulate for the next step whether it’s to take it to the next level, take it public or to market, or maybe just being brave enough to share it with even one other person.  You are taking the steps on the journey, but leaving the destination to God.

In U2’s song One, it resonates perhaps because it reminds us that we are indeed One, but we are not the same.  We are united in our humanity and our universal quest to be both free and loved, but we also have a dream to create or leave a mark that is unique to us.    Larry, Adam, Edge, and Bono are a perfect band of four brothers in total sync with one another musically and professionally, and yet off stage are completely their own person with unique lives that don’t resemble the other.  They create a shared passion, but they’re smart enough to have their own passions.

How have they lasted so many years?  By enduring–they put the needs of the team before the individual.  They tough it out through criticism, mistakes, and unpopular choices.  Sometimes they wait for their audience to evolve and appreciate prior works.   Yes they have managers, advisers, but ultimately they seem to connect to the souls of their fans and trust their instincts.  And instinct is the gift that helps our faith grow stronger.

Trust your instincts.  Find your passion—branch out and find your people!   You’re only a few mouse clicks away from finding your support group.    Make a little bit of time each day for that which you love.  Keep learning.   Respond in love and kindness to others as your journey.   Find grace inside the sound of what your heart is telling you to do.    “Don’t trade your dreams for some small change”.

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. 
- Mark Twain

Spider-Man at Madame Tussaud’s Museum -NYC

But your strength will be a vision, beyond visibility

And the gift you have within, will give you new eyes to see

“Rise Above 2” from  Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark – Music by U2

Suggested viewing/listening:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-k02MIT4eU

Spider-Man is by far my favorite superhero.  I’ve repeatedly watched Spider-Man movies and especially love  the Broadway play “Spider-Man:  Turn Off the Dark”.   The whole concept of Spider-Man totally resonates with me.  Here’s what Spider-Man has taught me:

You need “vision beyond visibility” in order to see things as they actually are.  Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, but as we are.”   The more negative and cynical one is, the more a person will find in this world to complain about.  The more positive, outgoing, and loving one is, the world can seem like a pretty sweet place, until sooner or later, someone totally takes advantage of your better nature, and then you’re left hurt and betrayed.  To see the world, as it actually is, you must know this:

You have to acknowledge you live life daily in the battlefield.  Good and evil exists.  People will cheat, rob, humiliate, and harm you just because they can.   Though I tend to believe what goes around, comes around, even the kindest people can have their karma and/or their psyche shattered when they suddenly find themselves the unfair target of cruelty or evil.  Though you know it’s not you, or anything you deserved; it doesn’t diminish the pain inflicted.

Trust your “Spidey Sense.”    Your intuition is actually you’re best friend.  The more you learn to trust it, as opposed to rejecting it, the safer you will feel in this world,  whether it be in places or in relationships.  The best book I ever read regarding intuition is by Gavin De Becker titled The Gift of Fear.  The one concept I took away more than any other from this phenomenal book is something I taught all three of my kids:  Don’t be afraid of strangers; but learn to identify strangeness.  Respect your fear regarding behavior or language that sets off your alarms and know how to respond to it.

I believe in praying for the best, but I also am a firm believer in preparing for the worst.  Always have an exit plan in a room, a building, a plane, a boat, and if necessary,  a relationship.  Respect your fear, but don’t feed it.  The goal is to be intuitive, not paranoid!

You’re going to have to scale some walls in life.  Not only are obstacles going to come your way faster than you can say, “Angry Birds”, you’re going to be cruising along just fine sometimes, and then BLAM!  You hit a wall.   After you recover from your shock and awe moment, you have to choose whether or not you’re going to stay stuck physically, and especially emotionally, or are you going to start finding a way to climb over that wall.

Rehashing the past is almost counter-productive.  Should of, would of, could of are the triplets you‘ll always see in the rear view mirror known as 20/20 hindsight.  Best advice?  Get over it.

Sure, you need to talk and mend your broken heart or vent your less than stellar choices, but are you going to stay stuck or are you going to step out in faith?  To take the proverbial leap of faith means you will have to:

 Take risks!  Even Peter Parker knew Mary Jane needed to hear the truth from him.  You can’t assume someone knows you love them.   You may need to find the courage to tell them.  You can live in your safe corner of the world, or you can risk rejection, and take a chance.      Fleetwood Mac sang it best in a song titled “Affairs of the Heart”  in the lyric that states, “It’s better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all.”

Same is true of anything worth risking.  You could start a new business, compose a beautiful symphony, write a best seller, meet the man or woman of your dreams, or make a new plan for your life.  But you’re going to have to take some big risks.    Relationships, security, and the status quo are hard things to put on the table.  We all like to stay in our comfort zone.  But to really get to where you want to go, you’re  going to have to walk as far away from the comfort zone as you can.  Not to sound super cheesy, but if your living in the CZ, you’ve got it too EZ to ever expect different results.

 Don’t quit your day job, but…..     Peter Parker didn’t quit working as a photographer at the Daily Bugle, but he didn’t let it stop him from being who he truly was—Spider-Man.  How cleverly he introduces the person he actually is through his job as a photographer.  Is there a way you can use your passions, or gifts, in your work?  Try to find ways to incorporate them.  If not, make a commitment to yourself, how to structure your time, so that a consistent, specified amount of time will be used each day and week to hone your skills and to just focus on doing what you love.  You will most likely have to schedule this into your calendar, or it will never happen.

Use your gifts carefully.   Spider-Man could use his web slinging capabilities to fly between buildings, knocking out and entrapping criminals, and swooping down to save people.  But it could also be used to entrap him.  Do not let darkness, such as the need for revenge, to enter your heart.  That is when we lose our power for sure, when we allow the words and actions of others to overtake our sensibilities and alter our plans.  Spider-Man understood that in order to completely utilize his gift, he could not allow darkness to reign in his heart.  He had to “turn off the dark.”

Somebody somewhere needs you to be their superhero.    Know that God, the giver of all gifts, is watching you to see what you do with yours. Remember, you do not walk alone.  Do what is right, and good and noble always; resist evil.  Defend the week and assist the poor. Live a life of integrity.  Love truth and seek justice.  Live your life in such a way as to fulfill your dreams and impact the lives of others.  Go!  See!  Believe!

If ever in NYC (Foxwoods Theatre) this is one of my favorite plays of all time!  I could easily see it a dozen more times!

 http://spidermanonbroadway.marvel.com/

Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.  Proverbs 29:18

ImageIf a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

      Sometimes we fall.  Down, down, down, gravity pulls us to the abyss.  Helpless and hopeless doesn’t even begin to describe our plunge.  Falling fast into a vast pit of darkness; we sometimes succumb to the depths of a horrific hell of our own making.   With each passing second, we shrink further away from reality, from those we love and from those who surely love us.   Most of all we fall away from God, from the truth that would surely save us, if only we could reach a hand up.

Sir Walter Scott said it well:   Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”    A wise pastor I once knew said it even better, “Anyone who lies to themselves, will have no problem lying to others.”   What is it that you hide?  What bitter secret brings you further down with each passing day?  What is this thing you think you keep telling yourself you can handle but deep down you know is consuming you?   What is it that causes you to lie in the worst ways to those who love you most?

Truth is found in so many places.  Some find truth in the Scriptures.  Some find truth in music.  Truth is found in people who care about you, and don’t ever believe for one moment, there is no one who cares for you at all.  That is the biggest lie of all.   Some find truth in the written word, much of it floating in the atmosphere, awaiting you to find it, click it, and use it!   I think you can find truth, answers, and help in all of these.  Yet the best place to start with truth needs to be in the mirror.  Look at yourself for an entire minute.  Don’t flinch!  You owe it to those you love and are loved by, but especially yourself,

Who are you really?

Are you willing to get real?

 

You can stop running, hiding, lying, and using right now.  This is the moment that could change everything!

This post isn’t for everyone.  But I have a feeling you already know if it’s for you.

Defy gravity now.  Reach a hand out brother or sister.   Do the hardest thing you’ll ever loveChoose to change.  Choose life, your real life. 

You can do this.  You can Rise Above!     Just because I don’t know who you are, doesn’t mean I’m not praying for you.    Believe, believe, believe!  U2areloved!


There’s so many websites available regarding addiction.  I’m only sharing two of my favorites from friends who went way beyond recovery, and really used the experience to make something magnificent out of their lives.  I hope you will too!

http://freefromhellblog.com.s144903.gridserver.com/?p=2312

http://thebeggarsbakery.net/2012/05/23/shame-is-a-parasite-and-other-suprises/

You can change your mind
But you cannot change your heart
Your heart knows what you’re hiding
Your heart knows where you are
I’d be myself if I knew who I’d become
You don’t have to fly too high
To get too close to the sun
See the boy fall from the sky

(Theme from Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark – Music by U2)

Listen at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3A0g-_8ptAA

Image

There is a crack in everything; that is how the light gets in – “Anthem” – Leonard Cohen

       I’m having one of those days.  You know, a day where your brain is firing on all synapses simultaneously.  All the areas in life scream at you for attention!

“Mom, have you seen the…”

“Hey, where’s the….”

“We still don’t have any milk?”

“Dad, I need about $200 for…”

“Honey, I forgot to tell you, but by noon today, could you…”

Did you take care of this?  Did you call this person back?  Did you pay for this?  Register for that?   Finish your work project?  Mow the yard?  Pay the bills?

There’s something about forty-something, that makes you long for your own dream, a shiny new dream, especially if you have spent a long time responsibly meeting your obligations that largely orbit around other people you love.    There’s a name for this affliction of what some call selfishness.  The old MLC (mid- life crisis) comes itching, and all you want to do is scratch it.   It could be a new sports car, a prettier wife, a bigger boat.  It could be a shopping spree that would make the Kardashians seem thrifty, taking a trip where your family is not invited, or that delicious man on the side.  The depth of your shallowness astounds you when you ponder these thoughts.

Then suddenly–they pass.  Because thankfully for you, you’re just old enough, and though it bums your conscience, just wise enough to not do something really stupid.

But it does make you think about defining what your dream is.    When you start dreaming up life in a whole new way, well it causes this electrical storm in your head.   You don’t seem as “present” as you used to be in conversations and tasks.   There is a riptide that is carrying your soul to uncharted territory.  You feel yourself moving in a new direction.

This creates friction with the objects and people around you.  When you start operating other than the status quo, you’re often met with resistance.    When asked why there’s no milk, and you say because I didn’t want to go buy it, suddenly things start to fall out of orbit.   Negative and positive ions collide.    Electrical storms now reign in your world.

These are the words I sometimes say and yet can’t stand if they’re fired at me:

You should….

You never…..

You always…..

So I’m going to try harder to just button my lips, and quietly focus on my dream this week.   I am going to write; come hell or high water, come cliché or original flash of inspiration.    I am going to write if I’m joyful, or sad, or frustrated, or mad, or awed by something so magnificent that nobody else even sees.  I am going to write my truth as it is made known to me.   I’m going to play with word craft because I should.  Because you never and because you always…..  For all these reasons, and more, I’ll write.

Like loose electricity I feel words that are rushing to the surface to discharge.  But there is something beautiful in the process of craftwork.  It’s this:

Everyone knows in the eye of the storm is where the calm point is.  It’s where the pressure plummets, and the view in the sky is brilliant and peace just beams into your soul.    It’s the nerve center of inspiration and clarity.

So while the winds of change are unsettling, and the dark skies appear threatening to your stability; keep leaning into the storm.  Get to the core.  Look up, way up!  How cool is that?  Now brace yourself; it’s time to endure the rest of the storm so you can get to the other side.

Suggested Listening:  Electrical Storm – U2    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0adFYuNuns

YOU CAN HELP!   PLEASE! See photo credit/info  – Bottom of Page

Take these shoes
Click clacking down some dead end street
Take these shoes
And make them fit
Take this shirt
Polyester white trash made in nowhere
Take this shirt
And make it clean, clean
Take this soul
Stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul
And make it sing (Yahweh – U2)

The thing is, I’ve got this rash thing going on.  It’s my neck.  It keeps itching!

See, I live my life with too much to do in one day.  I run around like a multi-tasker on steroids.  I work.  I’m a mom of three, one little, two grown but who still need me for advice, wisdom, and favors, definitely lots of favors.  I’m sandwiched between the needs of our young and adult children, aging parents, and our needs.  Our aging home needs more attention and money than we have to give.    I want to write a book.  I need to organize my time better.  There isn’t enough time to even find the time to organize!

Our days melt into one another as work, errands, paperwork, tasks, email, and chores at home get accomplished.  Pay the bills, throw another load of clothes in the wash.  Did you remember to buy toilet paper?   Take the kids for their six month check up at the dentist?  Get the tires rotated?   Get the kids signed up for camp?  Did you remember to sit down for five minutes and play?  All we ever do is do things, but are we accomplishing anything?

At the end of most days, the result of all the busyness seems to add up to futility.  The laundry isn’t finished.  The windows are  still filthy.  The siding really needs painting.   The car still needs tires, and probably a new transmission.    The toilet paper was forgotten, and there aren’t even any paper towels as a backup.    The kids are hungry and you didn’t have time after work to go to the store.  All the bills and paperwork sit like a tornado of terror waiting to suck up and swirl all your precious time away.

Even though the whole day was spent working at something, not much seems to have been accomplished.  I constantly think about what I need to do and all that I long to do, knowing I have insufficient time for neither.   That’s when my neck starts to itch.

Perhaps it’s something else that’s actually gnawing at my neck.    I once heard that pain or discomfort is God’s way of using a megaphone to get our attention.   See, I’m starting to get this feeling that’s rising up inside of me, that I am called to do less, at least to do less here, and be more out there, out in the world.  I think I know what it is.

Itchy Faith

Yes, I think my faith is starting to itch me a little bit.  It’s starting to feel like a thorn under my skin, a rash that won’t go away.   Because as a Christian, when I accepted Christ, I learned I was saved by Christ’s sacrifice by nothing I did, but because of his love for me.  But His grace is so much more extravagant than that.  It’s more than just, “thanks Bro!  Now I’m heaven-bound, and I really appreciate it!  I’ll really try hard to readjust my cynical attitude from time to time.   Again, I sincerely appreciate you keeping me from the flames!”

See, I’m itching to do more out there, to be more of what I think God is calling me to be.  I read the bible, but not nearly often enough.  And I certainly pray about life’s problems, all the time in fact.   I like to think of myself as one of “God’s complainer-in-chief.”

Yet, I feel like there’s a little bug crawling in my ear, and I  can’t get it out, simply by scratching it.  It’s almost as if a voice is whispering, “Yeah, and so what are YOU going to do about it.  I already put in you the answers.  I gave you the cure; are you going to USE it?”

 See I don’t like this part of my faith.  It makes me itch.  Because I know, just like other medications, it may make me or take me to this place:  UNCOMFORTABLE.    I know if I commit to feeding the hungry on a regular basis, my heart is going to hurt, and race.  It probably will depress me.  If I start getting to know the people Jesus healed then I’m going have to listen more and talk less.   Rescue requires involvement.

I am starting to think if I have eyes, ears, hands, and feet that work reasonably well, he’s probably called me to use them.  And that is so scary!

I freeze up sometimes when asked about my beliefs, or about the bible because  I don’t want to offend others or “botch” God’s word.  I avoid getting involved because it means I might have to commit time or energy.  We like to delude ourselves by hoping someone else will make a difference in the world.   So I lie to myself, and say I wouldn’t be good at it, or I don’t have carpentry skills, or I’ve just got too much going on.

Well!   We all have too much going on.  Yet while I go to bed at night in a comfortable king-sized bed in an air-conditioned house and mentally say my prayers, sometimes I close my eyes and I see continent sized groups of people that sleep on a dirt floor, or a stale mattress.  I see flies, so many flies!   When I sit at my desk inundated with mountains of paperwork, all requiring communication or financial responses, I feel swamped.  Then I remember, there is a child in a tattered dirty shirt and bare calloused feet somewhere in the world trying to till the soil of dry dirt, and ”hope for rain” as the only source of water.

I’m annoyed when I take my child to the pediatrician’s office and on the way, realize I’m nearly out of gas, and if I stop we’ll be late.  Then this uninvited vision of a feverish child swollen with malaria with half-mast eyes, and crying for her mother who no longer exists floats to the surface of my consciousness.  Who are you to complain about all the abundance I’ve given you? This too, creeps into my thought process.    I shoe away the fly in the car that’s bothering my soul.

I turn on the ipod in my air-conditioned van.  U2’s “Yahweh” is playing.  I love this song.  I’m bothered by this song.  Like other songs of theirs, am I going to just listen to another groovy tune, get to my destination, and turn it off?  Or am I going to respond to it?

……Take these hands
Teach them what to carry
Take these hands
Don’t make a fist, no
Take this mouth
So quick to criticize
Take this mouth
Give it a kiss (Yahweh – U2)

Yes, I’ve had this rash for a good while now.  I’ve gone from complaining often to complaining less and being grateful more.  But God hasn’t come down from heaven and said, “Good job daughter, I’m pleased with you. You finally got it.”   No, it’s more like this itchy thought that keeps rising, “You haven’t even climbed the first step yet.  Keep going.”

I don’t know where this will lead.   I’m scared.  How will He have me serve?  Write about ways to serve or actually serving?   Will he put me out there in the battlefield where people are actually hurting, crying, starving, or dying?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if or where I’ll be going or when.    I don’t have a field manual.    I just simply feel something is changing in me and it itches me in such a way I personally can’t live the way I used to.

Words like social justice and compassion and service keep rising up despite my political beliefs, despite my attempts to push them back down.  Oh no, I’m starting to feel a bit like Bono.  I have a feeling, lack of fame won’t give me immunity, any more than an abundance of it excludes him.   I’m pretty sure God is calling all of us to view our place and our purpose in the world, whether we have a platform reaching millions or a platform reaching only One. 

  Be warned.  If you have a tender heart, this rash is contagious.  It will make you uncomfortable.  The question is what are you going to do about it?

Take this heart
And make it brave

 Yahweh – U2

To hear this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyzPtjIP2eo

When searching for the perfect photo for this article, my first “hit” stumbled upon this;  it is a concrete and specific way you can help.  Compassion International is a fantastic organization that is one of the world’s most efficient charities in terms of applying the greatest percentage of money directly to those in need.   Our family has sponsored a child since 2003.  I will be blogging about this in the future!

Please prayerfully consider sponsoring, or even a one time donation to Compassion International!

http://ihrg.org/10-ways-to-choose-which-child-to-sponsor

Compassion International:  http://www.compassion.com

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It’s a beautiful day. Don’t let it get away–Beautiful Day–U2

I’ve had the pleasure of watching both my son and my daughter graduate from high school.  So last night,at dinner, I asked them, my husband, and six year old son a profound question. With the exception of my youngest, who just finished kindergarten, the rest of us whether college educated or self-taught have certainly been at least a part time student at The School of Hard Knocks, a.k.a.  The Real World.    So I asked them this question, with a disclaimer that there would be a “no wrong answer” response from me.  I asked:

       Once you graduate, what is the key to happiness, or living a good life?

 I already had a mental outline prepared with six things I wanted to elaborate on, but let’s start with my family’s advice first:

My husband, father of three, said, “Get a boat.” I asked “What’s the best part of having a boat?”  He replied, “All of it.  Working on it.  Driving it.  Casting your reel off of it.  Skiing behind it.  If it’s a boat; it’s all good”

My oldest son, 24, said, “Sleeping!”  “Elaborate, please!” I replied.   In fewer than 25 words, he somehow conveyed to me, that when you are sleeping, you aren’t stressing, working, or in any number of ways, participating in life’s more difficult moments.  Ah, at such a tender age, he has found the antidote that somewhat cures the stresses of full time work.

My confident and ambitious daughter in college said, “Take responsibility for your life!”    She is strong-willed, independent, and needed no follow up questions from me.

My six year old, yelled out “Cake!!  Yummy, yummy cake!  And lots of it!” as he licked his lips!   He said this because my daughter had just baked a birthday cake for a friend, and he successfully convinced her to let him tag along and enjoy some delicious red velvet cake with her and her friend.  I love this age; he lives totally in the now.  That’s exactly where he found his answer.

I glanced out the door to my three cats who were basking in the setting sun’s light.  Their posture alone conveyed the modus operandi they exist out of:   Don’t worry; be happy!  Bask in the sun’s light as often as possible!

In less than 60 seconds, my family already nailed the points I already had planned to tell you.  I think it’s because these are universal truths.   In case you forget the wisdom from your baccalaureate address, by all means print this, and refer to as needed!

1.      Don’t Miss Your Boat!  Find Something You Love and Work Towards it Every Day 

Find the “boat” of your dreams and work towards it.  It won’t be easy; it requires a ton of work to earn it or build it yourself.  Your dreams and goals are the same way.  It takes years to hone your craft, or master your skills.  Whether you go to college or not, you are responsible for your learning!    But once you earn or build your dreamboat, don’t be afraid to occasionally  step out of it.  You’re going to have to leave your comfort zone, to truly go where you want to go in life.    There will be storms in life, but you can’t avoid navigating the seas, when there are big fish to catch and destinations to reach.  Sail on!

2.   There’s No Such Thing As “You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks”

If you can type reasonably well, are adept at using Google and/or Facebook, then you are already equipped in the art of self-education.  Always keep learning; but know how  to learn independently.  Respect your teachers, but don’t assume you can’t learn what they know without them.  You can.  Supplement your education by reading everything and finding ways to partake in your passions.  You can waste excess hours on social networking sites, or you use your computer as a tool to supplement your education, and the social network as a way to make connections that will increase your opportunities to connect to your passions.  Make it a point to learn something new every day!  Also, when you hear something as fact, don’t assume that it is, especially in the media.  Research it yourself, and find out if it’s true.

3.   Take Responsibility for Your Life.  Don’t blame others, ever, for your choices.  Don’t blame others for their success and your perceived lack of it.  Make your own luck and create your own destiny in such a way, that you’ll inspire others.  Three parts to this are key:

A. Do not let others define you.  When you get to the point, you are not a “people-pleaser”  and don’t require others to hold you in high regard, but can look squarely in the mirror and see a person of integrity, who is trying their hardest, and continues to take the hard steps to reach your goals, you will be successful.  You define your success, not others.  This also means whether you’re a NASA engineer, a stay at home parent,  an artist, or a CEO on Wall Street, you get to pick what success means to you!

B.  Refuse victimhood.    Life is not fair, but you should have mastered that around kindergarten.  Bullies exist.  There’s always someone who has more.  Somebody gets to the top because they had a leg up.  So what?!   You’re taking the honorable route and anything worth having takes time.  But always, refuse to be a victim.  You have the capacity to learn and the capacity to rise above, because that is an internal character trait, not an outward circumstance beyond your control, such as where you come from, or what your financial, educational, or any other status is currently.

C. Make good choices.  Don’t drink and drive, but think and thrive.  As an adult, you are pretty much free to do what you want, legally or even illegally, but only you can determine if the consequences are worth it.  Take risks in the things that will increase your success, not immature or dangerous choices that will diminish it or harm others.

4. Rest! 

With all the learning you’re going to be pouring into that noggin, it’s important to find time to play, relax, and of course rest.  It’s hard in a 24/7 driven world, but find ways to get the rest your body requires.  Everybody is different, but know your optimal number of hours of rest needed and find a way to get it.   Spice up your rest life, and get a hammock!   There’s nothing like a good view, before shutting one’s eyes!

5.  Get plenty of SON light!

Depend not only on yourself.  Seek help from others.  Also, call upon the higher power and the higher law of Grace, given freely by Jesus Christ, to power you not only on difficult days, but on the good ones as well.  Which brings me to my young son’s summary of all the above wisdom:

 6.  Savor sweetness!

Eat dessert first sometimes and forget about the calorie count!    Taste all the good things in life, not just food, but everywhere you look.  Look at life, as though you owned the world’s most expensive camera.  WOW!  What beauty, what amazing grandeur God has put before you; truly a panoramic banquet table awaits you each day.  Allow the things that are good to frame your daily perspective.  Refuse negativity as influence and refuse to be a negative person.  You’ll complain less, if you learn to get over things quickly and move on.

Equally important, where there is injustice, oppression, suffering, hunger, loneliness, sadness, isolation, imprisonment, cruelty, and all the unfair things of this world, will you personally commit to finding a role to play in some of the solution?  Never underestimate the power of one.  You have no idea how big your influence may play a role in those you come in contact with, and when you meet someone who falls in one of the above mentioned categories, will you choose to be involved and lend a helping hand, yourself or an encouraging word, a salve of sweetness?  Value and incorporate kindness, goodness, honesty, and sweetness into your character.

Conclusion:

You could read these sentences and view them in two possible ways:  A whole bunch of clichés, or a whole bunch of truths.  Well, sometimes clichés are true.   Anybody can say it, but do you have what it takes to live it?  I think you do.  You wouldn’t have read it to the end, if you didn’t think you have what it takes.  Lastly, know there will days when you will blow it or feel like a failure in some regard.  Learn from it, attempt to repair it if necessary, and by all means, move on!  Don’t let emotions or feelings dictate your reality, let your positivity, passions, and good choices move you forward from your mistakes.

Whether military service, college, tech school, volunteer service or employment is your next step in life, go forward with boldness, encouragement, and belief in yourself, that you are already more than capable.  Whatever your path, commit to living your life out loud, laughing often, learning always, lying never, and loving deeply.  Do these things and you will truly live.  When you live intentionally, you will find your success and happiness.   Choose to be happy.  Choose to exceed your definition of success.  Choose life, always!

Congratulations Class of 2012!!

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Photo Credits: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2012/05/ring_of_fire_eclipse_2012.html

 Yesterday I woke up, and as is my custom, before rolling out of bed, I grab the remote and turn on GMA, while my husband showers as I come to grips with today’s tragedies in the world.  It appears another parent is most likely guilty of the demise of their own child that they profess to love. During a “peaceful protest” this weekend in Chicago, police and citizens clashed amidst blood and billy clubs, and one policeman was stabbed.  BUT….it was “mostly peaceful.”   Facebook launched its smoking hot IPO,  but is it actually a great investment?   Another celebrity got booted off Dancing With The Stars.  A woman continues to recover after losing her leg to a flesh-eating bacteria after jumping off a zip line in the  Little Tallapoosa River.  Maybe George Zimmerman was telling the truth after all.  Robin Gibbs of the Bee Gees died.  Celebrity after celebrity has to deal with the hardships of divorce, botox, loneliness, stalkers, and having their lifestyle diminished in some capacity.  OK; so I’m awake.  I grab the remote, ready to turn it off, when WAIT A MINUTE, what’s this?  A Ring of Fire eclipse??  No way.

Finally!  Some good news!  I know if nothing else, this could be the very thing that will make me have my own personal Good Morning, America!   With fascination and wonder, I learn that this eclipse is a rare annual event; kind of like the birthday I just had a few days earlier.  Annual, in the fact that it’s once a year, and rare, because as we get older, the statistical odds of having another one diminish at an ever-increasing rate.

This eclipse is different than a regular eclipse because the moon, in its orbital trajectory, stands between us and the sun, but the moon appears smaller than it does during a total eclipse.  It doesn’t totally block out the sun; instead,  because of the moon appearing only slightly smaller than the sun, it temporarily erases the daylight and appears as a darkness illuminated by a “ring of fire”.

I think to myself; this is us!  We live our lives in similar fashion: We are satellites, spending our days rotating around other people and other things, going in circles in our own lives,  yet constantly rotating in sync around the lives of those we know and love.  Independently, we go about our tasks, and daily purpose as if it were just us.  We wake up and then we interact with our family, go to our jobs,  get on Facebook, check our email and text messages,  and find out the “daily news”, requests, and demands  that now will determine the tilt of today’s rotation.  Change is our only constant and overwhelmed-ness is our gravity.    By 9:00 am, our day is already altered from the plan we had in our head when we first woke up.

We make a plan.  We live our days.  We try to do what’s right.  And we get tired.  In walks temptation.  Here’s a shortcut.  They’ll never miss something so small.  It’d be easier for me if I just….    I don’t think it’d be a big deal if just this once I…..  He’s just a friend……   I shouldn’t tell you this, but…..    A shortcut here, an easier way to get ahead over there.  Because this or that or them makes me feel better or helps me, now.   We watch the news and justify our thoughts and choices with the rationale at least we’re not like so-and-so!  It doesn’t take long for Temptation to introduce you to his best friend; Deception.

Johnny Cash nailed it in a song, aptly titled “Ring of Fire”.  I fell into a burning ring of fire.  I went down, down, down, and the flames went higher.  And it burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire.  The ring of fire.

Like the moon, we can be, if we so choose, a bright force in the world, when it is at its darkest.  And similarly when the sun shines, sometimes we fade from view, though we are surely there.  We live in a mostly dark universe and often find ourselves pushed and pulled by forces often beyond our own choices.

Within an hour of learning about the Ring of Fire Eclipse, I had already yelled at my six year old to move faster so we wouldn’t be late to school, cursed myself for forgetting things on the way to the car, complained about the duration of the stoplight, and mentally cycled through today’s “To Do”  list.  And then…..I remembered.

I remembered, there is no such thing in this life as a coincidence.  The Ring of Fire Eclipse was God’s gift to me for today.  I had the day off.   Today I could live as the orbiting moon more centered on others expectations for me, than my own dreams, or I could order my day completely different!  I could run a mile.  I could finally start writing and begin a blog. I could eat nothing all day but healthy food.  I could go the rest of the day without complaining.    And SO I DID.

Because, I too have a Son that is always there, lighting my way.  Today I could tap into the Master Creator’s creativity, and though I can be outwardly bright to others, I know I sometimes carry a darkness I try to conceal. But today, I am surrounded by a ring of fire; and fire can sometimes reveal the true beauty found in the dark.

When I was all messed up, and I had opera in my head
Your love was a light bulb,  Hanging over my bed
Baby, baby, baby…light my way.             U2 “Ultraviolet”