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Wrong Question=Wrong Answer

I know in school they tell you that there is no such thing as a bad question.  In part, that's true because its always better to ask questions than to not ask questions.  Asking questions is a very important tool for continuing to learn, to understand others, to improve and sharpen your game.

However, there is such a thing as asking the wrong question.  And unfortunately, asking the wrong question will lead to the wrong answer.  Let's say I am experiencing a great deal of job dissatisfaction.  It'd be tempting to ask myself, "Should I quit or should I stay with this job?"  When, really, the better question might be, what specifically is not working for me about this job and what can I do about that? When all of the possible solutions have been explored and implemented and there is still  job dissatisfaction, then it might be time to ask whether its time to quit.  But jumping to that conclusion without first doing the work of exploring the right questions perhaps could lead in the wrong direction.

I know for myself that at times I have needed help from others to even know what the right questions to ask really are.  I think identifying the best questions to ask in any given situation, happens best in community.  One of the downfalls of our individualistic society is that we tend to go it alone when making decisions, or we invite people in to help us discern but the questions that are posed by us in the first place aren't even the right questions because we developed the set of questions on our own. We say, "Help me know whether I should (fill in the blank) or if I should (fill in the blank)" when there may be a different set of questions that would be more helpful.  Backing up a step, and saying, "Together, let's figure out what are the questions that need to be asked in this situation" is more likely to lead towards a path with more optimal, growth producing outcomes.

Download from God

Before the days of  Facebook and social networking, it was easier (relatively speaking) for me to get up in the morning and have some quiet and alone time to read, think, pray, and journal.  Now, because I  use my computer or iPad for much of my journaling and even reading, I've noticed how easy it is to check my e-mail inbox and Facebook status first thing;  why not, my computer is on anyways?!  This in itself wouldn't be all that bad I suppose, except that at times I've become so caught up in it all that I use up the time I had on that.

I noticed this past winter that it was becoming a daily trend.  In analyzing what was happening,  I came to see that what I was looking for was something first thing in the morning to give me a sense of meaning, purpose, something interesting to engage my heart and mind, to make the winter day seem like not just another ordinary day.  Of course, not once did I ever find something that could truly fill the need.  When I really thought about it, I didn't know what, really, I thought I would find.  Because the truth is, what I was looking for can only come from One Source.

To stay true to who God has made me to be, with the unique imprint of the creator on my life, why would I compromise that by getting "fed" from other sources than the one who created me?  As they say, "you are what you eat"... if I feed my spirit with sources other than the source of LIFE itself, what do I become other than something less than what I could be. My sense of purpose and where I belong in God's story will be reduced to the story found in whatever Facebook posts I happen to read that day!

So my renewed heart and prayer has been to receive a fresh download from God every day.  Something from the Source of Life, from God's own heart that reminds me of and connects me to this greater story we find ourselves in.  When I take the time to seek that, it seems that God is ready to give me the download. That is where ultimately I find the meaning and purpose that I am looking for and need for my life.

"Only insofar as you eat and drink flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, do you have life within you."  John 6:53

I know, this all sounds so basic.  I love the way, though,  The Message version of the Bible quotes Paul, "To be mature is to be basic.  Christ!  No more, no less!" (Col 1:26).  Maybe basic isn't so bad afterall.

Out of the Ashes

I've been writing  lately about the more positive side of having hopes and dreams.  You know, like we all have dreams, dreams do come true, go after your dreams, your dreams matter.  While all that is true, there is another side to dreams; the all too real and too frequent side of dreams that we each experience at some point in our lives.  The fact is,  probably for every dream that is realized, its likely that there are even more that die.  

We've all experienced the death of a dream(s) in one way or the other.  Hopes we had for accomplishing something, seeing something come to be, or becoming something ourselves. Maybe its a marriage that didn't work out, a business that failed, a vision that was never fulfilled, children that were never born to us or a child that was taken from the earth before our hopes and dreams for that child were realized.  This is the hard, cold reality of the world  we find ourselves in.

I would guess that Jesus's disciples felt as though all of their hopes and dreams were slipping through their fingers as they watched Jesus slowly dying on the cross.  Everything that they had thought was going to happen through Jesus's life was suddenly being lost before their eyes through his death.  It had to be the ultimate let down.  I'm sure the hours following Jesus's death had to be some of the darkest hours in the life of Jesus's friends and followers. Everything that they cared about, this person they trusted, the dream they had for living the Jesus way, was gone.  Or so it seemed. You probably know the rest of the story.

But what I love about the rest of the story is that it speaks to a profound truth.  It's often out of those times when we experience deep, personal loss- when all hope seems gone- that renewal can take place.  The story of Jesus is a story of bringing life to what was dead, hope out of despair, and even beauty out of the ashes of our lives.  Isaiah (61) speaks of what Jesus would one day do and be about.  Its there that the promise is given that the ashes of our lives would one day be replaced with beauty.

I guess I'm thinking about all of this because I recently learned of a deep, personal loss a friend is going through; the loss of dreams on multiple levels. While right now all seems to be lost....ahead, I believe, there is Beauty.

"Action Trumps Everything"

There's one conference a year that I try to take in and that's the Global Leadership Summit hosted by Willowcreek Community Church. I really appreciate the posture of The Summit:  we can learn from those who are doing things well from many different spheres. I love that the speakers are a real mixture and variety of people and backgrounds. So, last week, I got to take in the Summit again.

One of my favorite sessions was by Len Schlesinger, the President of the leading school for entrepreneurship, Babson College. I've always been fascinated and intrigued by what it means to be an entrepreneur, and what makes one an entrepreneur.  I think we tend to believe that entrepreneurs are only a small, select kind of people. The kind we could never be.  But what if that weren't true? I've thought that if there's a way more of us could figure out what it means to be an entrepreneur and actually take steps in that direction, that there's a whole lot of Kingdom potential that could be released.  What I loved about this session was that Len Schlesinger dismantled many of our widely accepted perceptions about entrepreneurs.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • Many entrepreneurs don't start with a big, clear vision.  They just do something, learn from it, and keep on doing it.
  • Entrepreneurs are not actually all that excited about risk; in fact, the good ones know how to avoid it.
  • Research has shown that entrepreneurs aren't more decisive and self-confident than others.
  • We think a true entrepreneur is someone like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg but in reality an entrepreneur is more likely to be someone who sees something being done and they just do it better.
  • Being an entrepreneur is a discipline, and like any other discipline it can be learned.
  • If you can't predict the future, create it.
  • In the face of unknowability, you can sit and think, or you can act.
  • How do you start something?  Start with something you care about.
  • Many great enterprises have been started by 2 people who like each other deciding to just do something together.
  • Failure doesn't mean "game over", it means learn from it and try again.
  • When you fail, its quite likely you've just learned something that no one else knows that will help you do it better the next time.
  • Stop obsessing about what you think you need and don't have, just act with what you have.


Dream Wide Awake

Joelle created this collage following our trip
A couple of years ago, my daughter and I took a road trip out to Washington DC for a week of sightseeing and mother daughter time. On the way out, in the midst of our many conversations, we stumbled on this phrase: Dream Wide Awake.  While probably not original to us (even though we think it might be!), we thought it was pretty cool because not only was it kinda catchy, it also spoke to the importance of being fully alert, alive and engaged in the world around us.  Obviously, dreaming while asleep has its place, but dreaming wide awake opens the world up to all kinds of possibilities and potential that could otherwise be missed. 

I think life is best lived when we are alert to every possibility and opportunity that lies before us.  I know I often fail to see what could be in every situation and every moment of every day.  What if, in every single moment that we've been given, we develop the eyes to really see the possibilities, to see the potential and to dream of what God might be doing in that particular moment in time.  And then, get in step with that to the best of our ability allowing the Light, Life, and Love of God to land on this earth through us.

If there's someone that I can think of that embodied life in this manner, it has to be Jesus.  It seems that with every encounter, Jesus was alert and wide awake to the things that God was doing in that moment, getting in step with God's dream for creation.  Paul knew how much our tendency was to sleepwalk- to go through the motions of every day without being fully alert and alive to the world around us- that he wrote "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead!" (Ephesians 5)  Perhaps 'the dead' were those who weren't physically dead, but just going through the motions of life barely conscious to all the possibilities and potential.

I know I have my days when I feel pretty dead, if you will; numbed by a full schedule, much less dreaming of what could be. I guess I hope that day by day I will grow to more deeply Dream Wide Awake. I think its part of what it means for me to be like Jesus. And the alternative isn't very appealing anyways.




More on Dreams

Yesterday I saw an article in our town's newspaper written by a local columnist that caught my attention.  The article was about dreams. I read it with great interest, as the topic of pursuing dreams is one I'm particularly drawn to.

As a parent, the author wrote how all of her big, lofty (to use her term) dreams had been traded in for dreams of:
"...the day when the white shower curtain stays white.  When no muddy hand prints appear two hours after its been bleached...I dream of the the day when the counters are free of milk that Nobody spilled.  When the Oreos don't have to be locked into a cast iron safe to prevent "evaporation". When a simple phone conversation isn't broken up by an ominous game of charades."  
On one hand, I loved the honesty of the article!  I so get where she's coming from and can relate entirely!  On the other hand, the article reminded me of why we have to fight for those larger, long term dreams that often lie deep within our hearts.  If we don't hold onto those, even if they have to be put on the back burner for a different season of life, we will completely lose site of them in the day to day of the immediate.  I would like to say to the author, "you can hold onto your 'loftier' dreams and still fulfill the dreams you have as a  parent".

Life has a way of causing us to forget our "loftier" dreams if we allow it. We can forget the "more" we were created for as we wipe the counters day in and day out, pick up the scattered socks, and make sure the homework gets done.  I'm reminded that there are short term and long term dreams.  The long term dreams don't need to give way to the immediacy of the short term, but it takes intentionality to not lose sight of the long term dreams in the midst of the day to day.

For me, writing for this blog is part of a longer term dream I have. Right now, there are about 50 things I can think of that I need to do, but those will have to wait because doing this, right now, is part of me acting on something that I believe I'm to be about as part of a longer term dream.

So, today, in the midst of all we have to do, may we each take an intentional step towards the more we were created for.

Chocolate, Coffee and Makeovers

I wonder what you think of when you read those words: chocolate, coffee and makeovers?  Maybe you thought, "Those are things that women enjoy!" or, "Those are things that bring women together."  My son, who was just looking over my shoulder at the title said, "That's all stuff girls like."  I wonder if he would have said that if he had seen words like justice, passion for God and others, risk and adventure, sacrifice and obedience.

If you didn't think "women's ministry", maybe you should have. Increasingly, I've been noticing that Christian women's ministries have really picked up on all of this. In church bulletins I see blurbs about women coming together around one or all of the above; chocolate, coffee and or makeovers.  A visit to a Christian bookstore will reveal whole packets of materials for planning and implementing a women's event that comes replete with a plan for chocolate, coffee and or makeovers.

I'm not opposed to any of these activities (eating chocolate, drinking coffee, getting a makeover), but I am opposed to the lack of balance I see.  There's so much more to being a Christian woman and so much more that can bring us together. Where are the events, then, that empower women to live significant lives, change the world, pursue big hairy audacious dreams for God?  There's a time and a place for chocolate, coffee and makeovers; it just can't be all there is to women's ministries.  We were made for more and we can be more than that.

Gals, I love chocolate and coffee (not so much makeovers even though I could probably use one!) just like the rest of you, so please hear my heart.  What I'm saying is that I think we can be known for more than that.  Let's be known for pursuing God sized dreams and visions, for being willing to take risks and step out in obedience and to see things happen that are bigger than ourselves. I know many of you are already trying to live this way and I would love to hear more about that.  I think we need to hear each other's stories and in so doing encourage each other to keep pursuing more and all that God has for each of us.

Dream On, Mama!

I am one who does better when I have a clear dream that I'm working towards.  I wilt when I lose sight of something more. I think that's true of all of us, though.  It's easy to get caught up in the routines of life, the tasks at hand, all of the things that demand our time and attention in the here and now, and simply lose touch of the dreams we carry  on our hearts. It takes a pretty high level of intentionality to stay in touch with those dreams and even more deliberate work to keep moving towards them.  There is probably no greater and more important work that I can do daily but to stay in touch with the dreams and visions that God has placed in my heart, carefully listening for next steps, and acting on what I know to do.

My daughter, who was 9 at the time, told me once to "Dream On, Mama!"  She meant it not in a cynical way, but in the purest sense. She's wired a bit like me; she has big ideas and big dreams for her life.  This struck me as encouraging because not only did it affirm my sense of dreaming and believing for more, but it reminded me of how much those around us need us to keep dreaming.  I think our culture has a way of neutering our dreams.  If we're not careful, we can unconsciously begin to opt for status quo and we can easily trade in our God-Given Dreams for the American Dream. Our families, friends, communities and the world need me, and you,  to be fully alive in our dreams and visions. Not only do we make a difference in the lives of others as we pursue our God given dreams, hopefully we are reflecting a piece of God's heart to the world around us.

Today, may our souls awaken to not only the God given dreams on our hearts, but to the things that we haven't yet dreamed of.