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. ūüôā )  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.

Fruit And Mirrors (The Benefits of Checking Your Blind-Spots)

It happened again.¬†It was a beautiful, sunny, perfect day. I was relaxed¬†and at rest on the couch and¬†having a conversation with a great friend. And it happened… again.

The conversation that morning began light and fun. But it took a subtle turn¬†as the conversation drifted into deeper water (difficult issues about life and struggles and people). I began drifting into an all too¬†familiar self-righteousness, a “Holier than thou” way of thinking.

You’ve seen this happen… some people¬†make it sound better, calling it a “soapbox”. It usually occurs when someone feels like they have a certain thing “figured out”, nailed, are living it well, and so they begin to¬†“tell it like it is.” Unaware, intentionally or not, they begin to look down on and minimize those who don’t have it figured out, who aren’t living it as¬†well, who aren’t doing it ‘right’.

I get like this sometimes. I¬†boil down complex issues to a single sentence, a simple tip, technique, or bit of advice.If they had only done x, y, and z. this wouldn’t have happened!”¬† “Don’t they know the bible says xyz about that?!” “They are just messed up.”¬† “They brought it upon themselves!”¬† “All you gotta do is…”¬†¬†And on it goes.

I might have gone along unaware of myself and my impact, until when, with feet planted firmly on my soapbox¬†from which I’m expertly diagnosing and solving yet another of the world’s problems, I’m stopped dead in my tracks — utterly halted by a simple, loving act.

A Mirror.  My friend held up a mirror. And in it I saw a glimpse of the fruit that is my life.

My life wasn’t bearing the fruit I hoped it would. Continue reading “Fruit And Mirrors (The Benefits of Checking Your Blind-Spots)”

What does it mean to “Rescue The Beauty”?

titanic_jack_and_roseMy friends and I recently returned from hosting our 4th LIFEQUESTweekend event. (I’ve posted¬†previously about these events.) We love doing these events and hope they change lives, mine included!¬† As any person who takes on the role of a “guide” or “teacher” or “public speaker” will tell you, what we’re really offering is our lives. So, it’s¬†not just about mastering the material, it’s about living it, letting it have it’s affect¬†on you.

It’s one of the things I’ve come to enjoy about these events, with all the preparation and planning, etc., it’s the impact “the message” has on my own life. This time was no exception. I don’t want to just learn the words, I want to learn how to really live.

So, this year I did something really risky — I asked my wife to “give it to me straight” about one of the main topics we cover in our weekend event. I asked my wife to tell me, “What does it mean to ‘Rescue The Beauty’?”¬†¬† And more specifically, what does it look like, feel like, sound like for me to rescue YOU?

I had no idea what she might write.¬† I didn’t want it to just be something Continue reading “What does it mean to “Rescue The Beauty”?”

One Last Letter for Christmas (A Short Story)

If you’ve followed my blog recently and read my previous postings “Bringing Our Unique Self to the Surface” and “A Powerful Grip” you’ll know from where this next story comes. Let me say right off, the LoveGodLovePeopleLiveFree.com blog is not really a “short story” forum. It is about finding life and freedom by living out our stories, our hopes and dreams, our faith, in genuine and unfolding ways. So, I’m posting these couple of stories because they are part of my journey to find my calling, my passions, my purpose. I hope they inspire you to step into whatever stirs your heart.

Mark


One Last Letter for Christmas

A Short Story by Mark Wager
Atop a small hill in a not so far away place stands an old house. Picture in your mind an English country mansion, not that it is English or a true mansion for that matter, but whatever it is (or was) it stands large and majestic, tall and proud and generous with its brick and stone and timber. The house has a dozen windows facing a large lawn with trees and flowers and stonework. And on the other side are a dozen more windows facing a large courtyard. The courtyard hasn’t seen any use for years. Back in the early days it was a magnificent place full of life and laughter and play. Grand parties and social functions were common. It was, at its core, a gathering place. Oh, how we need our gathering places.
In recent years the house has fallen into a state of disrepair. The windows through which once flowed sunlight, and from every indication, life itself, now seem dull and cloudy. The blinds on many rooms are drawn, not opened in years. ¬†The setting out front, however, rests in stark contrast to the inside. While the inside of the house has grown dark and worn and aged, the front lawn is a work of perfection. Cleanly cut grass. Rows of beautifully arranged flowers of all colors and sizes. Shrubs neatly manicured and shaped in whimsical, almost playful designs are planted in each corner of the property. It is not uncommon to see Mr. Lynch, the house’s owner, out front working on his landscaping. It seems a bit peculiar as I consider it, that for all the times I’ve seen Mr. Lynch outside,¬†neat and polite, I’ve never seen anyone go inside the house. In fact, as I think back, I’ve never seen or heard of anyone being allowed to even approach the house itself, save for one man.

Each week, at the same time of day, a man would stop by the old house. His routine, and his intentions, were the same every day. And yet for all his desire and persistence he could never get himself to knock on the front door. Each time was the same. In his hand he carried a small white envelope. It was stamped and addressed, hand-written in pen and in clear print, thoughtful and deliberate. The letter could have been mailed, but as intention seemed to predominate, he held the envelope tightly in his hand and delivered it in anonymous fashion.

The man, as the story was told to me, lived on the other side of town. He had¬†for years. CLICK TO KEEP READING THE REST OF THE STORY…

 

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”

Discovering the glory of ‘Late Bloomers’

I’m reading a book published a few years ago, “What the Dog Saw”, by Malcolm Gladwell. ¬†I love these quirky books about what makes people and society tick. ¬†So, as I’m reading a chapter in this book about “LATE BLOOMERS” it hits me how true this is true for so many of us. ¬†Whether or not you’re a late bloomer I believe you’ll see why I think this is so important for us ALL to know. ¬†Changing our understanding about this could radically change the people around you… and it could radically change how you view yourself.

Let me start by introducing you to a trimmed version of the passage that got me thinking… Continue reading “Discovering the glory of ‘Late Bloomers’”

How’s your story doing?

So… how’s your story been?

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time you know that “STORY” is a central theme.  And as I write this, I can’t help but think how obvious it must seem to say that. I mean, we all live in a story. Our lives are filled with stories… stories about how this or that went… how we made the team… or didn’t… stories of how things went at work today… or what your next adventure will be.  We all live in stories.  But oh how easy it is to forget the impact of all that this means…

I read something today that got me thinking again about it.  Here is an excerpt… Continue reading “How’s your story doing?”

Living a Story that Matters (Part 2)

Living in a Story that Matters (part 2)

A Great Question

I’ve been reading Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It has been immensely challenging… and encouraging. ¬†I can’t shake the simple truth of it — a story is a character that wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.¬† That line, “wants something” has been haunting me. ¬†I can’t let go of it.¬† Miller is right — a clear desire is at the heart of every great story. Every hero I can think of has this in common. Every quest ever undertaken succeeded only because they had it — they know what they want. ¬†And, the question about what I want has kicked my butt. Try it out for yourself, you‚Äôll see what I mean.

I began considering the question at a 30,000 foot level. I want… to be a good person… to be kind and loving to others… to teach and serve… to be generous… to encourage and inspire… and maybe somehow my life will change the world. Wow… WAY too broad… and at 30,000 feet it also feels really underwhelming.¬† But it dawned on me… every story has sub-plots, smaller stories that are lived out as part of the larger story. Yes, I want to change the world!… but I’ve got to take a first step.

The Story I want to Live

There are very few really good stories I’ve ever read that had only a single character. And even in those the character is usually lamenting the absence of others. So, as I see it, I can live in one of three story-lines. I can live in a story that requires only what I’m willing to put into it. Or, I can live in a story that will require much from me, maybe everything I’ve got, but still only requires myself to carry it out. Or, and this is what I believe to be the best of all possible stories, I can live in a story that requires more than I have to give. In this kind of story, if outside help doesn’t come (i.e., God, friends, others) then the story will fail.¬† This is the kind of story I want to live.

Here is a story I want to live out:

I want to host several events in our area to help men/women get their hearts back and equip them to live better stories. After attending a “Wild at Heart” bootcamp retreat in 2005 (hosted by John Eldredge and Ransomed Heart Ministries), I was inspired to put on my own local event for those unable to attend the Colorado events. And, last year I put on my first event, a three-day weekend retreat ‚Äď I called it “LIFEQUESTweekend”. ¬†Three days, thirty men, and God ‚Äďlives were changed.

Putting on an event like this is difficult. It requires hours and hours of preparation and prayer and coordination.¬† It requires involvement and sacrifice from everyone involved. It is exhausting… and worth every bit of effort —¬†there is nothing like it.¬† I‚Äôve been to ‚ÄúMen‚Äôs retreats‚ÄĚ before, but there is something different about this event.¬† It isn‚Äôt just inspirational‚Ķ it is transformational.¬† We open up space for the Men to hear from God ‚Äď and they do hear from God.¬† Men struggling with pornography are changed. Marriages are set back on track. Men find their bearings again. And the result is a ripple-effect that shapes everyone in their lives. At one session, standing in the back during a movie clip, I couldn‚Äôt help but feel there was no better story I could be living than this.

I now want to host more events, for both Men and Women, including a “LIFEQUESTweekend – Advanced” retreat. At the ‚ÄúAdvanced‚ÄĚ retreat, I plan to create an environment to help Men/Women intentionally focus on their stories and how God has uniquely empassioned them to live them out.

I‚Äôve begun moving ahead.¬† Last week I gathered a couple of friends together at Starbucks and asked them what kind of story THEY want to live — they said they are excited to partner together to put on the next retreat. ¬†We’re planning it for Jan, 2011.

It is easier to watch a story than to live in it

Every good story contains conflict (aka, obstacles). Going after the hearts of people is no exception. I’ll need Support of others (I’m finding that others, even friends, may not fully embrace or even understand one’s pursuits and storyline. But, support/involvement of others is critical.); Finances (Just about everything I mentioned takes money. Advertising, Website, facilities, etc.); Involvement (everything from facilities to websites and flyers to people who pray¬†must be coordinated, developed, and enlisted. Involvement is core to every aspect of these events.); and lastly, Motivation (personally, this is tough as there are tremendous distractions in my life. There is always temptation to pursue less. But even more difficult is motivating Men/Women to attend. It was incredibly hard last year to reach people. Even though they are hungry for more out of life, distraction and resignation make formidable enemies.¬† Many people who wanted to attend… who needed to attend… did not.¬† I do not want them to be left out again.

What I hope for

I began to organize my thoughts into this post when I read about a “contest” on Miller’s Blog to attend his “Living a better Story” seminar.¬†And, my hope is by attending the seminar that… well… I will. Live a better story, that is. And, I want to learn to sustain a better story. I want the chance to take a step back from my own story and to begin to see it with some perspective and objectivity.¬† My college writing Professor always said we should “be ruthless with your editing!” Never hold even a single word back. If it doesn’t move the story forward, edit it.¬† There are times when this is easy to do alone, and times when you need an outside “set of eyes” to look over your writing. And that is what I’m hoping this seminar will do for us — be a second look, add perspective, provide the help I need to edit out some of the gaps in my story.

In “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”, Donald Miller admonishes us to “decide to do something!”… then to tell everyone so we can’t change our mind.¬† So, that is what I’m doing. I’m sharing¬†this publicaly because I don’t want to hold anything back.

I hope the same for you.¬† Take some time to consider what YOU want. Be specific. Don‚Äôt be completely ‚Äúrealistic‚Ä̂Ķ dream a bit.¬† Then tell everyone what you‚Äôve discovered.

Journeying together,

Mark

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Living a Story that Matters (Part 1)

Living in a Story that Matters (pt 1)

You’ve probably had the casual thought that your life is a story. I’ve heard you say it… “Oh yea… that’s the story of my life, man.” ¬†But, have you ever paused to really think of what it means?… paused to consider what it would mean if it were true that your life IS a story… or maybe part of another, larger story? ¬†Sure, life has a beginning… a middle… and an end, but think beyond that… consider this — ¬†your beginning really isn’t the beginning of your story… and¬†your end really isn’t the end of the story.¬† We get dropped into a larger story… somewhere in the middle… and our fun begins as we try to sort out beginning from end and how to thrive in between. I know that sometimes our story feels a little like the life of Bear Grylls (Man-vs-Wild)! ¬†You know… how he gets dumped out of a helicopter in the middle of some deserted place. Then he has to find a way to make it work, to succeed in the present moment. He experiences life at its most raw as he is blindly dropped into the middle of a story that began long before he got there.

So, here I am… dropped into the middle of my story… Continue reading “Living a Story that Matters (Part 1)”

Taking Time to Dream (Pt 2)

On my last post, I wrote about “dreaming”… I shared one of my own dreams… and I wondered aloud about why it is important.

So then, today… I read something that grabbed my attention… it brought me back to this whole issue of DREAMS and DESIRES.¬† So, if you don’t mind circling around the mountain again, I’d like to revisit the topic.

. . .

Today, I was looking for something encouraging to read, and I stumbled across the blog of an author I like, Donald Miller.¬† He usually has an interesting take on life and when I saw his blog about TOY STORY 3… well it caught my attention.¬† (I know… you may be wondering how “Toy Story” has anything to do with dreams & desires… but hang with me and it will all make sense!)¬† A few things really stuck out to me as I read.¬† But, what first struck me was a comment by a reader.¬† It grabbed me.¬† It challenged me.¬† It exposed me.

“What I want?¬† This is one of the hardest questions I have wrestled with as a believer. ¬† Continue reading “Taking Time to Dream (Pt 2)”

Taking Time to Dream

Andrea and I just took a trip… a chance to get away… to create a little space in our lives. ¬†One of the things Andrea and I have made part of our “road trip” rituals is to give each other space to share what’s going on with us.¬†¬† And, one of the core questions we often ask each other is “What have you been dreaming about lately?”

So, on the drive home (sort of leaving the best for last) Andrea turns to me and says, “I want to talk about our Dreams.¬† Let’s dream a little.¬† Tell me a dream of yours.”¬† She said, “If you were handed a magic wand and could sort of turn back the clock on time, what would you do?¬† With the healing and freedom and wisdom you’ve gained… What is your dream?”

I pause.¬† My mind races.¬† I didn’t have an answer. I’m out of practice.¬† I’m not sure what I want.

I begin to share, but there is confusion and frustration and uncertainty in my voice. What DO I want?!¬† Did I ever want anything? Maybe it’s too late anyway… maybe… Ok… wait… this is just me starting to go overboard… it’s a sort of panic-reaction at the thought of opening up my heart again to what has gone too long without a visit.¬† My heart needs this (more than I know)… so I try again… Continue reading “Taking Time to Dream”

Passion and Reason

Heart and MindI’ve been thinking again lately about “Desire”. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about “Passion” and “Reason”… said another way, heart vs mind.¬† And, a conversation I had recently got me thinking — I had a moment of clarity! (Don’t you love when that happens?! Those moments when everything else blurs into the background and you see something with utter clarity.) In this moment, a crisp, crystal clear thought came to my mind. (Hopefully you’ll catch my drift as I translate it to pen & paper.)

This is what came to me…. Continue reading “Passion and Reason”

Enjoy the surf!

A blogger I follow posted a comment about this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c6uM950uFY&feature=youtu.be *¬† It was given with this simple reminder — “Enjoy the surf!”¬†— and with this simple instruction — “Pause and listen to how God may speak to you through it.

To be honest, I had to watch this twice. The first time my focus was too technical (admiring camera angles, vignetting lenses, b&w contrasts, how’s he driving?, nice truck, etc)… I was distracted, amazed even, but distracted none the less. Continue reading “Enjoy the surf!”

Actively Waiting (What we’re learning & what we want)

Andrea and I are in between churches. (* note)

What we mean is… we’ve left one gathering place and we’re actively waiting to see where God brings us next. This is a strange sort of thing… to leave a church, that is. For us, the process of leaving one community in search of another is a journey of confusion and disappointment and questions and introspection… and of clarity. Yes… clarity.

You’ve heard the saying… hind-sight is 20/20. There is nothing that helps clarify perspective better than disruption… change. It stirs desire, increases a sense of what’s needed & wanted. And, it clarifies what¬†we don’t want. And so, through these “in between” processes we’ve discovered several things about ourselves and about the communities we want to build and be a part of.¬†

Allow us to share a few things we’ve learned, and a few things we want…. Continue reading “Actively Waiting (What we’re learning & what we want)”