Finding Time to Reboot

My wife just told me I’m being really negative lately. What?! I don’t see it. At least, I hadn’t seen it until she pointed it out. All along I was just being practical, informational, helpful even, or so I thought. But, she’s right. Lately, I haven’t seen the world as a happy, hopeful place. I’ve sort of lost the ability to dream and hope and believe into the future. I’ve become “realistic”, concrete, and short-sighted — negative. It’s like I can only see two feet in front of me. The rest is a blur. So, I’ve reacted with this cautious, controlling, less hopeful approach. It’s not how I want to live.

This isn’t an excuse, but I just feel so busy. (I know, who doesn’t feel busy these days, am I right?!) I don’t feel like I have time to process. It’s weird, because I have spare minutes. I watch TV. I listen to podcasts. I sleep 7 hours each night. But, something is going on. Calling myself “busy” doesn’t really describe it. We’re all ‘busy’, but we’re not all ‘negative’. Maybe another word fits — words like Distracted. Anxious. Cluttered. Hurried. Yup.

This is deeper than just my busy calendar. My mind is cluttered. And deeper still, my heart is distracted, disengaged. My life is crammed with unfinished “to do” lists and projects, unmet goals, unsolved problems, unfulfilled expectations, unresolved relationship issues – the list seems endless. My wife feels the effect. Heck, I feel the effect. I’m missing out on important things. I’m half present. I’m half listening. I’m scattered in twenty different places. Everyone and everything gets only a piece of me.

My wife’s words were like a glass of cold water to the face. I needed it. Awareness and acknowledgement are powerful friends, if only I’m willing take the time to know them. And like any relationship, I must put time aside for them.

I should have recognized the signs sooner. In my last job, I was a computer ‘fix-it’ guy. People would come to me saying, “My computer isn’t working right! It’s running really slow. Things are crashing.” And my job was to find the answer and fix it. Most of the time the solution was actually pretty simple, and I’d ask, “When is the last time you rebooted?

A Metaphor for Life.

Continue reading “Finding Time to Reboot”

Answering the Invitation

adventure_invitationAnswering the Invitation

This time of the year begins to take on a slower feel for me. The outdoor chores fade from the green that bursts into life and demands attention into browns and greys and shorter days that offer a few more minutes of rest and an ebb to the normal flow. It’s a good time to pause (or at least slow down) and recognize the changes not only in the season, but in all that’s happened in our lives during the year.

Then a conversation this morning with some friends about how God speaks reminded me of something God did for me a couple of years ago. He awakened me (literally and figuratively) and extended to me an invitation. The invitation was to write a short story!

And so, since we’re in this season, and since I want to slow down a bit and remember and enjoy what God and I have done together lately (during this season of life) (Grant, that phrase was for you. 🙂 )  I thought to myself — there’s no better time for a story.  So, I’m revisiting a couple of stories that are part of my story, part of my risking and exploring and discovering, part of my coming alive.

I hope they inspire you to take the risk to pause from your busy life, to listen to the voice of God, to become aware of what he stirs in your heart, and to step toward the invitations he’s offering.

In my post, “Bringing Our Unique Self to the Surface“, I tell the story of how I was awakened by God at 4:00am with a special invitation — the invitation to create, to dream, to embark on a project with the Father, and to take a risk that his invitations are true and possible. This invitation was to write the short story, “A Powerful Grip“.

Sometime later, in much the same way, I was again invited to write another short story. That story is called “One Last Letter For Christmas“.  I’ve only ever written two short stories, so these were unexpected gifts.

Let me just say, the LoveGodLovePeopleLiveFree.com blog is not a “short story” forum. But, it is about finding life and freedom by living out our stories, our hopes and dreams, and our faith in genuine and unfolding ways. So, I’m offering these couple of stories not to publicize my efforts, but because they are part of my journey to find LIFE — my calling, my passions, my purpose, and most importantly my connection to our heavenly Father. These stories (and the way they came about) were highlights of my life. And they were important trail-markers in my own journey and my learning to trust the leading of the Father.

Here are the stories:

 

Mark

 

P.S.  I’d love to hear about an invitation or stirring you’re receiving and what the outcome is for you.

What A Few Minutes Of Quiet Can Do

A couple of years ago a friend handed me one of the most unique birthday cards I’ve ever received. Not unique because of its design, but because of what he wrote inside. Written inside the card, as a sort of climax to the typical birthday sentiments, he concluded with a simple thought — take the next year to be quiet, say less, grow, and deepen.

To be honest, when I first read the words I was sort of confused and a little hurt. I mean, “quiet?” For a year? Is it just that he doesn’t think I have anything of value to say and just wants me shut-up?! But, I know my friend and his motives. And, I’ve watched his efforts to build quiet space into his life. Still, the words stung more than they should have. I just couldn’t shake them. Do you ever have those moments? When something jars you, is painful even, but you know down inside you shouldn’t ignore it?

I couldn’t forget his words, but thought to myself about how crazy it seemed. 

Continue reading “What A Few Minutes Of Quiet Can Do”

Are You Living In A Spiritual Zoo?

It was a rainy day in October when a few of us got together–old friends reconnecting. We talked about our past, our present, and our future. There were some awkward pauses… but we listened to each other. We spoke of our hopes and desires for the future.  We wondered together about life and community and the intersections of our lives.  We left each other with the plan to get together again soon.  It was a really good conversation… but still I left with something nagging me… like the feeling you get when you can’t remember something but its right on the “tip of your tongue”… like there was something just outside of my conscious senses that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Reminded… Continue reading “Are You Living In A Spiritual Zoo?”

Finding Life in a Fistful of Trash

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I pick up trash.

It started a long time ago. I think it all began from a seed planted by those old “Keep America Beautiful” commercials from the 70’s — the one where a man portraying an American Indian stands by the side of the road and as a car drives by the passenger throws trash at his feet, and a tear comes to his eye.**

In many ways that picture has stuck with me. So, when I see trash and I’m able, I pick it up.  It happened again today, another opportunity. And as I stood there eyeing the discarded paper towel (wanting to ignore it but not sure I wanted to win the internal wrestling match I was feeling between “I should” and “I don’t want to”), I walked past. This time I did not pick it up.

I was almost to the hallway when a thought began to emerge in my mind. And in a moment I realized this ritual of mine touches on something far deeper. This simple act of picking up trash is somehow linked to something deep within my heart — it serves to expose my beliefs and motives about life.

Standing in the hallway, Continue reading “Finding Life in a Fistful of Trash”

Questions We Avoid Asking

Let’s face it, we all look somewhere for answers. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit our tendency to hand-pick who and where we ask. For example, if I have questions/struggles about my diet, [whether consciously or not] chances are I’m going to seek out someone who will tell me what I want to hear, someone who basically aligns with my way of thinking. If, for instance, I were a Vegetarian, I’d naturally seek out a vegetarian approach; I wouldn’t seek out a steak-lover’s advice.

In the same way, we do this spiritually. We ask (or don’t ask) certain people our deep questions because we do (or don’t) want to hear what we know they’ll say. And, most tragically, we do this with God, too. We bring only certain questions to Him. And we don’t ask Him other  questions because we’re sure of what He might say. And in doing so, we miss out on so much.nystripsteak

Ok, so I’ll disclose something Continue reading “Questions We Avoid Asking”

Hesitating to Believe? Maybe its time to take a walk.

Walking with Jesus Picture
A few minutes ago I was just sitting and reading a short blog story from a favorite blogger who always gets me thinking about deeper things I’d normally ignore (Craig McConnell of Ransomed Heart). Craig’s story ushered in a sort of invitation from God. (This often happens to us when we take a few moments to quiet ourselves and consider listening.)

Sitting there, quiet, wondering, I found myself longing, genuinely and expectantly longing to hear from God, to spend a moment with Him, just like Craig had described in his story.  And then, I heard God prompt me – time to take a walk.

I immediately felt what I can only imagine Peter must have felt when Jesus called to him to get out of the boat to walk to him across the water.  (Called not to some “show” for effect, but a call to come closer, to walk and talk with Jesus.)  I had an immediate and strong desire to jump up and go for a walk with Jesus.  For those few seconds, I had complete clarity of desire and purpose. (This doesn’t happen often enough.) And then… I remembered the cold (it’s a windy, 20 degrees outside).  No big deal, God said he’d take care of it. I’d be warm. No worries. Let’s walk!  But then the “wind and the waves” kicked up. (Matt 14:28-30)

I doubted. I paused.  I stopped to consider how it would all work. Man, I hate when this happens!  I hate the doubt and fear I live with… the hesitation to just believe… the incessant need to have my questions answered. The clever delays I build into my life that Continue reading “Hesitating to Believe? Maybe its time to take a walk.”

Bringing Our Unique Self To The Surface

It was 4am. Much, much too early to be awake. Maybe if you’re a truck driver or cop or a baker this is normal, but for me it is when I am supposed to be deep asleep. But there l lay in my bed – 4am – awake. I was right at that point of in-between. You know, that point in between awake and sleep. That point where I can decide to wake up or drift back to sleep. And as I lay there considering which way to go, this nagging thought begins to rise into my awakening consciousness: “Write this down.” It just kept running through my mind. And, I’ve learned to pay attention to it. It is usually God. ** Click to see what I wrote down

Then begins the dance. Maybe you’ve experienced this, too. I begin to question
Continue reading “Bringing Our Unique Self To The Surface”

What does Love look like?

Man Looking thru BinocularsWhat does “love” look like?  I was talking to God the other day and He asked me that question.

. . .

Well… it looks like spending time with someone.

— then spend time with someone.

And, it looks like research.

— then get to know someone. Really learn about them, their heart, their desires, what matters to them.

And, it looks like sacrifice.

— then, give up that thing that is standing in your way [from doing the above]

It seems so hard. I mean to really love. If feels beyond my ability.

— It is a marathon, not a sprint.  Learning to really love takes time. It is a journey that requires healing and compassion and trust.  It doesn’t happen all at once.  Stop beating yourself up.  Make the decision to head down this path.  And remain open and mindful of “what love looks like” to you.

Maybe Love isn’t as far away as it seems.

What does love look like to you?  Would you be willing to have this conversation with God?

Try it and see where it leads.  I’d love to hear what he says to you.

Still learning,

Mark

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Waking up again to the point of it all

It’s been a while since I’ve written. I have to admit, I’ve really struggled lately to stay focused. It is easy to slide into a funk when the busyness and chaos of life edge their way in. And I don’t mean to imply “bad” things have happened. Actually, some really good things have been going on. In April, my small “band of brothers” and I hosted another LIFEQUESTweekend Retreat (a 3-day Retreat for men, a place for them to come and focus and replenish and recalibrate for the journey ahead). It was an amazing, truly amazing weekend. And, since then I’ve spent a lot of time around family and friends, rebuilding and strengthening bonds. These are really good things. But with these things it has come a whirlwind of activity. And, I’ve struggled to Continue reading “Waking up again to the point of it all”

And that is why you fail…

I was re-watching Star Wars, Episode V, “The Empire Strikes Back”, the other day.  There is this great scene in the movie that always gets to me… always gets me thinking about my faith. (Yes, my faith.) I believe it provides amazing insight into our lives as Christ-followers.  In fact, this scene depicts a central theme threaded throughout the bible. And I believe the message of this scene holds the key to our successfully living out the stories God has for us here on earth. Continue reading “And that is why you fail…”

LIFEQUESTweekend Retreat (Jan 28-30)

I don’t normally make ‘advertisement’ type posts. In fact, I never have before. But today I’m posting a note to let you know about a retreat some friends and I are hosting on JAN 28-30th.  It is called LIFEQUESTweekend and it is a 3-day retreat for men (sorry ladies). You can get all the details at the website www.LIFEQUESTweekend.com.

This retreat is not just another “church” service… not another “religious” activity to attend. It is an invitation to join us on a quest… one that every man must make at some point in their life. An invitation to walk with God.

So let me ask you a few questions… Fully Alive?! Is this how you’ve been experiencing life: Fully alive? Too few of us actually find this true in our day-to-day. And strength? Are you able to fight for others with freedom? Do you live with a sense of freedom? And Love? Do you love well? Have deep friendships with others?  Is life what you’d hoped it would be?

And, let me ask you this — How often do you take the chance to spend a weekend away with the singular purpose of seeking what God has for you? Finding answers to your questions… Finding purpose for your future…  If for no other reason than this — if God is in it, this weekend will be remarkable.

Freedom… Strength to offer… Healing… Purpose… to know our Place in the Story… It is possible!

I hope you’ll take a few minutes and visit the website. And I hope you’ll take a few more minutes and pray to ask God if this is a retreat you should attend.

Whatever you’ve found true of God… of Christianity… there is more.  This retreat may be the next step in your journey of faith.

Love… Again… and Again?!

I want to talk about it again… talk about… Love.

Ok… so what’s your first reaction to reading that?… your reaction to “Love”?  What did it raise in your heart?  Was it, “Oh, Good! I love to talk about love?”… or was it more like, “Ugh!  Again?!”… “Haven’t we read enough about Love?!”… “Love… love… love… everyone’s always talking about love…”… “Let’s get on to the meat… the deeper issues of our lives and faith…”… “Give me something practical!”

Our first reaction gives us a glimpse into where our heart is… how our heart is.

I’ll admit… when I began to consider what to write about today, this issue of “Love” came up…. and my first reaction was similar to what I wrote above. (Ugh…)  There is just something that feels… soft… about dwelling on Love.  There are pressing issues that need to be dealt with… questions screaming for answers… mountains waiting to be moved.  And then the thought of “Love” pops up… and it feels like I’ve slammed on the brakes… stopped cold…

Then, this simple thought begins to emerge — love is the point. Continue reading “Love… Again… and Again?!”

Space to Breathe again

Andrea and I recently took a short trip up into Michigan. We needed some time away… time to reconnect… time to unwind from the busyness that tangles up our lives and our hearts.  It was refreshing… no, it was more than that… it was like breathing again.  Having time away, creating some space in our lives, it gave me time to catch my breath.  I think we get so busy and focused on getting things done and “doing life” that we sort of hold our breath.  You know… like when you’re concentrating on that golf shot you’re about to make — you hold your breath… or when you are trying to hold the camera perfectly steady so you can take the picture, you breathe in and…. hold it…. hold it…. almost got it…. hold it…. Pppffffhhhhh… exhale.  The pace of life (even when doing good things) can have that effect on us… and so this time away gave us space to breath again.

So… how are YOU doing?  Now that school is back in session and summer is winding down, are you carving out some space in your day?… your week?  your month?!  It is critical!  What’s stopping you? (pause)  Give it a try… carve out just a few minutes of quiet for you and God and see what happens.

Here are a couple of things that help me: Continue reading “Space to Breathe again”

Just having a bad day…?

So… recently… a couple of weeks ago… I’m going through the routines… getting up, getting dressed, going to work, trying to feel “productive”, trying to make a positive impact on the world. And, after a few hours at work, I take a walk down the hall for a quick break and to step outside of the clutter of my day… as I do, an awareness begins to grow in me. On this day, as I unexpectedly (and quite unintentionally) create a little space by taking a stroll, an awareness of something inside begins to creep into my peripheral vision, into the edges of my conscious thought — but what is it?!

Am I depressed? Am I lonely? Am I just tired? Is it a spiritual enemy? Have I squeezed Jesus out of my “busy” life?  I’m beginning to feel like Charlie Brown when in the TV Special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, he visits Lucy at her “psychiatric” booth…  He’s depressed, he tells her. … Continue reading “Just having a bad day…?”