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Lessons from Monkeys

Here's how you trap a monkey:  secure a dried, hollowed out gourd to a tree and place a piece of fruit on the inside of the gourd.  What happens is that a monkey will reach his hand into the gourd, grab tightly to the fruit, only to find that the hole is too small to get his clutched fist out through it.  Of course, the monkey doesn't realize that if he'd simply let go, he could be free.  This practice is used in some Asian cultures to capture monkeys to eat.

I'm reminded of the importance of surrendering, letting go, being willing to give up the transitory for the sake of the transcendent. Jesus said,  "If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for me, you will find it" (Mt. 10:39).  Many cultures and religious traditions have wisely associated surrender and sacrifice with redemption and renewal.

Its so easy to fiercely clutch those things that are important to us.  I know I'm capable of holding onto something so tightly that I can miss the bigger thing that could occur by letting go.

I visited the National Cathedral in Washington DC and took this picture. Interesting how a piece of carpeting could speak so clearly to me...God uses the most unsuspecting things at times!  Anyways, the imagery reminds me that only if a grain of wheat dies, will it eventually produce bread just as grapes can't produce wine without losing their identity as grapes (Jesus's words, from John 12). Being willing to let go can be what allows for the "more" that God may want to bring.

“What are you willing to give up to ensure your own unfolding, and the unfolding of what is holy in your life?” (Gregg Levoy, Callings)

Detours

The other day we were going out of town for the day, and came to a sign along the highway that said "road closed ahead".  I never believe those signs. Sometimes signs like that have been posted and I have still managed to get through the roadblock.  So, we drove around the roadblock hoping that the sign really didn't mean what it said, only to find that indeed the road was closed.  Literally, a whole bridge was out. No way around that one.  We turned around and made our way back to the designated detour route which took us on narrow, bumpy, country roads.  Eventually we made it back to the highway. I really don't like detours. They are inconvenient, and just plain annoying.

Life has a way of imposing its own roadblocks.  There's been times in my life when I'm going along...everything is going fine and good... just like I've planned...got a good job...making money... relationships are good....I'm on track with my sense of call and purpose... and.then... BAM.  Roadblock.

In some ways, our life seems to be on a bit of a detour right now.  Seems like a season during which God is saying, "lay it all down, just wait, trust me to lead you, I know were you're going even if you don't see clearly right now."

That can be hard.

So here's what I'm learning about the detour times of life:
  • My nature is to strongly dislike roadblocks and detours and to do everything possible to get around them.  I don't like things that mess with my plans and sense of where I'm going. Yet,
  • Roadblocks are an opportunity to meet God and experience God in a profound way, in ways that I might not have otherwise
  • Roadblocks are an opportunity to redeem the time and find meaning and joy in different and new ways.
  • Maybe the roadblock isn't even about me so much as it is about someone else and what God is doing in them.
  • A roadblock doesn't have to change my life mission... I am still to be about loving God and loving others.  Those things do not change during a detour.
  • A roadblock can be for our own protection, keeping us from a painful or devastating situation.

We all experience roadblocks and what feels like a detour.  Maybe rather than fighting and resisting them, we learn to embrace them and ask, "What is it that God wants to do in me and through me during this time?" And learn to see life's detours as the gifts that they can be. And, for me, to see the detour not as a side or alternative path, but to embrace it as the best and the right path.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths."  Proverbs 3:5-6

Dreams Do Come True

Our recent trip to Europe was just that; a dream come true.  I've wanted to take the family to Europe for a very long time and at times it just seemed like it would never happen.  Yet, I kept hoping and believing that the desire was planted in my heart for a reason. I realize a trip to Europe might not  appear to be a world changer kind of dream, but you never know what God might do yet.  Time will tell on that one.  Plus, I think that God's love towards us might be just motivation enough for God... you know, fulfilling a dream simply as a way of saying, "I love you!".

The dreams, hopes and visions that we carry in our hearts are sacred, yet often elusive.  Why is it that some dreams do seem to "come true", and others don't?  As I've considered this for my own life, some of the things that I thought were hopes and dreams really didn't stand the test of time.  With time, they faded and if it weren't for my old journals to remind me, I wouldn't even remember many of them.  But there are hopes and dreams I've carried in my heart for a long time, that have stood the test of time and seasons, that have either come true, or I believe still will. At times I'm more aware of those dreams than others, but they are always there, in the recesses of my heart, reminding me that there is more ahead.  And I believe that it matters because I believe God planted those hopes and dreams in my heart.  

I believe God gives all of us hopes and dreams.... ideas and thoughts and passions that he places uniquely in our hearts because  they are key to what God wants to do in us and through us to impact the world around us. Dreams are important.  They are part of our destiny and design.  And therefore I think its worth spending the time to figure out what our dreams really are. For me, its been helpful to look back over the years to see which dreams have always been there, albeit at times under the surface and barely cognizant to me, those dreams that continue to rise to the surface of my spirit. I know that if those dreams are to be realized, it will take work, risk, sacrifice and a whole lot of only what God can do.  I always think that if there's any chance of my dreams being realized AND making a difference in the world, then I'm pretty dependent on God to lead  and guide me in that direction.  I figure since it's God who puts the dreams in our heart in the first place, he might even be invested in seeing those dreams realized in and through us!  That's re-assuring to me and keeps me hoping and believing.

Today, may each of us move more fully towards those hopes and dreams that lie within our hearts.

 All holy desires grow by delay; and if they diminish by the delay, then they were never holy desires.” (St. Gregory)