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Turtles and Burning Bushes

My goal over the summer break is to walk 4 miles every day.  In reality, that amounts to about 4 or 5 times a week rather than every day.  I know myself. I'm not the best at actually achieving the goals I set, so I set them high and fall short.  It works for me because I don't stress about that and neither do I  feel like I'm failing.  In the end I walk more often than if I had set a more realistic goal to walk  5 times a week.  Because then I would probably only be walking 2 or 3 times a week.   I guess that's just how I roll, as they say (I can see my daughter rolling her eyes right now)!

Anyways, today on my walk, I saw ANOTHER really large turtle along the path (click here for the back story).   Crazy, but in one week I have now seen more enormous turtles in the "wilds" than I have ever seen before in my entire life.

OK, you've got my attention.

If turtles remind me of how at times we are to stick our necks out there for the right reasons, I'm thinking that  perhaps something, someone is trying to speak to me

There's a story in scripture of Moses, a man just minding his own business and doing what he did every day, which was watching sheep, when out of nowhere he encounters a bush that appears to be burning.

Those of us familiar with this story may have stopped thinking about how absolutely astounding that is.

Moses thinks to himself that this is quite amazing.  He stops what he's doing, and walks over to look at the bush.  Exodus 3: 4 says it like this:  "When the Lord saw that he had caught Moses' attention, God called to him from the burning bush."

What do you do when something catches your attention?  You stop what you are doing, and pay attention.

Messages come at us every day, fast and furiously, through e-mails, tweets, facebook, blog feeds, text messages, and on and on. Most of these no longer really capture our attention.  They mostly have become part of the noise that we live with.  Something needs to be pretty unusual or unique to capture our attention any more.

But these turtles now have my attention.  I'm asking if there is something that I'm supposed to be seeing, or hearing, or understanding?  Something that I'm to do that means sticking my neck out there?  It could all have been coincidence and not amount to much of anything, but I at least want to be open and asking the questions just in case there is something that I am to see through this.

In the story of Moses, God gets Moses' attention and then invites Moses to be a part of God's epic story to rescue his people, a story which continues to this day.  All I know is that if there is the possibility of taking another step towards engaging God's story, I don't want to miss it because I wasn't paying attention.

I believe God loves us and cares about us enough to not just let us live our mundane lives, but to catch our attention if he must in order to invite us to be a part of his story, the greatest Love Story of all times.

Lessons from Turtles

Charles and I were taking a walk the other day and saw a really large turtle in a field... probably the biggest we've ever seen in the "wilds".  The turtle was off the path quite a ways, and what struck me, even from a distance, was his outstretched head and neck. In fact, it was  the long neck sticking out from the shell  that probably caused us to even notice the turtle at all. 

Being quite a distance from us,  the turtle felt quite safe.  It was a good time to stick his neck out.  Had something come nearer, I'm quite sure the turtle would have felt threatened and immediately retreated into his shell.

It made me think about how easy it is to stick our neck out there when everything seems safe.  And how quickly we can retreat at the nearest perceived threat. I recently read a blog post by Seth Godin that said this:

You will be judged (or you will be ignored). Those are pretty much the only two choices. Being judged is uncomfortable.....The alternative, of course, is much safer. To be ignored. Up to you.

I don't know about you, but I do not like being misunderstood or rejected.  I recognize in myself a tendency to play it safe, so that I'm not rejected, judged, or misunderstood.   Maybe its human nature. We don't step out because we're afraid. Yet, the alternative may mean that we don't get to live out our sense of call, courageously being true to who we are and what we are to bring to the world. And we miss the blessing of the joy and fruit that comes with pursuing our calls and our destinies.

Every time I write something and post it publicly, I am acutely aware of the two ends of the spectrum- judged or ignored.  What if people don't like what I write?  What will they think? What if I'm misunderstood? Will people think less of me? Even though I love writing and believe I am called to write, it would be much easier, safer and more convenient  to just keep writing in my journal, as I have done for years. There, no one else sees what I write. There's no risk of rejection or being misunderstood or judged. Journal writing was safe.  Writing here is not safe.

Steven Pressfield calls this battle within "resistance".  Everyone who has ever stepped out towards a better future has experienced it.  Some learn to act in spite of the resistance and do extraordinary things, and some let the resistance determine whether they ever act or not.  And you can be sure that if resistance has its way, there will be no action.

You and I were created for more.  Let's stick our necks out there together for all of the right reasons!  Yes, we may be misunderstood, judged, and even rejected.  But in the end it seems to be a better alternative to being safe and never have stepped out courageously to pursue our callings, passions, and dreams. Acting, in spite of the resistance, can lead to new and exciting places of fruitfulness, joy and growth.

What, for you, takes a determined will to do even at the risk of being misunderstood, judged or rejected?  I would love to hear!

The Pits

In high school, if something didn't work out or wasn't like we thought it should be, we would say, "That's the pits."  Does anyone say that anymore?  If not,  here's to bringing that saying back because life can be the pits. And here's to talking about the pits because our American culture sets us up to expect happiness and success.  So when things seem to be falling apart we have no idea what to do or where to turn. And worse, we feel like something is wrong with us as we look around  and see everyone else who seems to have it all together.

Hey, you're saying, I thought this was supposed to be a place with encouraging and inspiring thoughts. Right.

Life itself has its pits, as we all know.  It's those times when life doesn't  go like we anticipated, or thought  it would.  We feel lost, confused, let down, disoriented, maybe even hopeless. Uncomfortable.  That's a good way to describe how I feel during these times. Sometimes the pits last a few days, and at other times these seasons can go on and on for what seems like forever.  Or, maybe we went through the pits of life a few years back and thought we were "Done!"  only to find ourselves back in another pit years later.

Richard Rohr, OFM,  says this: "Don't be too afraid of being thrown into the pit."  My dad says it like this:  "What goes up must come down."  The Biblical pattern is clear.  There is no going up until you go down.  Joseph had to go down into the pit twice before he came into his destiny.  The examples of this pattern in scripture are numerous,  ending of course in the example of Jesus's death and resurrection.

If it's true that times of defeat, humiliation, failure, brokenness are part of life, then why do we try so hard to avoid them?  I suppose we each have to answer that for ourselves as the reasons come from our own dark side.  But what if we learned to not run from, fear, dread, or avoid the pits of life but learn to embrace them as they come our way?  Where we even learn to say, "This stinks, but through it I have the opportunity to become a better person  if I choose to."

The pits of life can be good for us.   It's during those times that God, if we allow it, meets us in profound ways. Not only do we learn things about God that we wouldn't otherwise see, but we learn things about ourselves. Corrie ten Boom and Victor Frankl are great examples to me of people who survived the Holocaust concentration camps and came out better people for their suffering.

Here are some things I've tried to live out during the pits of life, as a way of embracing these seasons:

  • Be honest about where you are and how you feel.  
  • Stop pretending that everything is alright.
  • Stop lying to yourself that you should have it all together by now
  • Stop comparing your journey to that of those around you.  Your journey is your journey.  Your journey is not their journey.
  • Find a good friend to walk with you through this season, not one who has to fix you, but one who can ask thoughtful questions or just simply walk alongside.
  • Bring all of the mixed up, confused, hurt, let down and whatever else feelings to God
  • Ask for insight to see things within that can't be known during the happy and good times of life.  Believe me, the dark times have a way of exposing junk in us.
  • Surrender to allowing your heart and inner self to be worked on
  • And finally, hang on like crazy to the One who can begin to make sense out of the pits of life, even turning it into something good and beautiful in time.
Maybe you find yourself in a pit now and it seems there is no way out.  Know that one day you will be emancipated.  You will be free again.  And you will have become a better person for your experience in the pit.  In the meantime, just keep holding on like crazy.

To My Son on His 17th Birthday

Seventeen years ago today was our first full day with you.  You had just been born the night before.  I recall being filled with joy at the thought of  spending this special first day with you.  All of the new discoveries of who you were and were going to become were before us that day.  Seventeen years later, we've had the privilege of being front row to the unfolding of your life. Here are some of the discoveries we've made about who you are, and some of the things that I most love about you:

  • You are adventurous.  You love a new challenge, especially if it involves risk and new discoveries.  Safety and security are not generally your modus operandi.  You started walking at 7 1/2 months old and by 10 months you were climbing up the steps to slides 15 times taller than you.  This summer you will travel to Africa with your dad and brother.  You are up for the adventure and challenge that that will be.
  • On that note, you've always been very athletic and strong.  Whatever physical feat you put your mind to, you are able to excel at it.  
  • I love how your sense of humor has developed over time... you come up with some really funny one liners that catch us by surprise and make us laugh
  • From early on, you have had an appreciation for nature.  You enjoy being outside, exploring and coming up with adventurous things to do outside.  Like camping out with all of your friends in a field in spite of frigid temperatures. Or blowing up things.
  • You have character and integrity, which will take you far in life.  You are respectful of others, make good choices, willing to work hard, you follow through on responsibilities, and much more.
  • Even though you've faced some hard times in sports, you have not been a quitter.  You keep going, making the most of the situation and choosing to have a good attitude.
  • Pushing through those kinds of situations has caused others to look up to you.  You are becoming a leader.  Your style of leadership is to influence others through your quiet strength and character.

I am confident that there is much more to come for you!  Even as you hit home runs in baseball, you are hitting home runs in life and we couldn't be more proud of you.  We will always be your biggest fans.

God is with you.



3 Golden Nuggets

 "Many people die with their music still inside of them."  Well known author and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes made this statement over 150 years ago.

Her eyes are the window to a soul filled with treasures to share
Recently I wrote about how we each have been given one life to live, so let's live it the best we can, creatively making the most of every day.  But how do we do that?

Since then I came across some interesting research conducted among adults over the age of 65 who were post-retirement.  These retirees were asked one question, and it was this:  "If you could live your life over, what would you do differently?"

Anytime we can get a perspective on life from others who have lived and experienced things that we have not, it's, for us,  a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow.  I've come to realize that older adults offer a treasure of wisdom, insight and understanding that is beyond our reach simply because most of us haven't lived a span of 70 or 80 or even 90 years.

So when older people share insights from their unique vantage point and perspective, I listen.

The results of this study can help inform our lives, as younger people, if we so choose.    The top three sentiments expressed by the retirees were these:

Be More Reflective
The retirees said that they wished they had become less caught up in the day to day and taken more time to reflect on the bigger picture of life.  Reflection affords one the opportunity to step back and evaluate what is important and authentic.  Reflection allows us to evaluate whether we're living authentically and true to the call on our lives.

Take More Risks
If they had another opportunity at life, the retirees said that they would take more risks the second time around and not play it so safe.  I hear in that a willingness to fail more often, but to at least have tried something.

Live On Purpose
All of the retirees said that if they had their lives to do over again, they would want to pursue lives of purpose, of helping others, of  pursuing their passions and dreams. In essence, they wanted their lives to have mattered, to have made a difference in this world.

In fact, living with a sense of purpose is so critical to life, that other research has shown that a high percentage of persons who retire and do not find a meaningful involvement  somewhere will die within two years of retirement.  Death can be difficult as it is, but dying with "the music still inside of us" is even worse.

If you are reading this and happen to be in your 70s, 80s or 90s, would you offer your perspective on what you would do differently if you had a second chance at life?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!    Even if you're under 70,  I'd love to hear your thoughts as well.