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.

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Do You Ever Feel Like Giving Up?

I felt like giving up today.  Again.

I hit these times every so often. Times when life just feels hard. Times I don’t feel needed. Like the universe takes this “I can take it or leave it” attitude toward my existence on this planet. My impact on the world being reduced to what it looks like for me to pull my hand out of a bucket of water, it leaves a small ripple then nothing. I feel it when I’m stuck and feel maxed out, when it feels like I’ve hit the end of the road in my life-pursuits. As I sit here and think about it, this feeling shows up in a lot different ways.

This feeling sucks!

I’ve tried to analyze it. Sometimes it comes from too much work (I’ve seen it enough times and watched it drive my neglect of the deeper places within me.) Sometimes it’s from outright assault from the enemy (we’ve been warned he exists to ‘steal and kill and destroy’ our lives.*) I see where it has roots in unfinished places within me. And if I’m honest, sometimes it’s just plain old self-pity. But, however it comes, it feels real. Very real. And too familiar. So, here I am again today — I feel like giving up.  I can’t draw an arrow to exactly what I’m giving up on. Maybe just myself. It just feels like nothing I do matters.

This is painful. It’s hard. And it’s disorienting. I can’t think straight. Can’t think my way out of it. It hurts below the surface. The resignation and frustration it brings with it feels more like a broken bone than a scraped knee. It lingers in a part of me that I can’t access, can’t overcome with simple ‘will-power’. I want to shake it off, but alone I can’t find the strength.

So, here I am, sitting here thinking and feeling and wondering where to turn with all this, and a picture of my grandson is coming to mind. He is 7-years old. And last year he was learning to ride without training wheels on his bike. He just couldn’t get it. Couldn’t figure it out. Couldn’t master it. And he wanted to give up.

Continue reading “Do You Ever Feel Like Giving Up?”

Something Only A Friend Can Fully Bring Out

We raised the topic like a glass at a wedding, full of anticipation — and yet we sat there,  staring at the floor, waiting —  silence.

I have a small group of good friends, my inner circle. We refer to ourselves as a ‘band of brothers’ (a reference to Stephen Ambrose book, “Band of Brothers”). We like the term. It reminds us of our need to be there for each other, that we are not alone – we have intimate allies who have our back, who believe in us, who we can turn to.

Over the years, we’ve gotten to know each other well, and we’re pretty good about spotting blind-spots in each other’s lives. So, I made the suggestion a while back that we take some time to reflect and affirm the ‘glory’ of each other’s life. (By ‘glory’ I mean the weightiness and strength of our life. God’s work in us, expressed, our effect on others and on our world.)

RaiseGlassAtWeddingSo, the date arrived and we gathered to talk. We raised the topic like a glass at a wedding, full of anticipation — and yet we sat there,  staring at the floor, waiting for someone to speak — silence.

Why is that?  We were excited about the idea. We’ve walked together for years – this should have been easy. Joyful. Confirming. Celebrative. But it wasn’t. It was awkward. When called upon to recognize, reflect and affirm the glory we see in each other’s lives, we floundered.  And frankly, it really rattled me. What does this say about our friendships? Is this just normal? Just true of most relationships?

How about you? What’s been your experience? Continue reading “Something Only A Friend Can Fully Bring Out”

3 Eternal Truths (Truth #3 – You have a crucial role to play )

In the last couple of posts, I’ve been sharing some thoughts about “3 eternal truths” of which a friend of mine reminded me.  Truth #1: Things are not what they seem,  and Truth #2: You were born into a world at war. These truths are a sort of “lens” through which he might see the world, a way to help orient us in our journey.

Today I’m sharing the third truth. I hope it brings you courage, strength, clarity, and hope for your journey.

Truth #3:  You have a crucial role to play

In this larger story in which we live, it would be a deadly mistake to discount the truth of this statement. Continue reading “3 Eternal Truths (Truth #3 – You have a crucial role to play )”

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”

One of the MOST Powerful Questions…

In my last post, Luke Skywalker was getting schooled by Yoda in some basic truths about faith… and we applied this conversation to our own lives realizing that, like Luke, it is our lack of belief that brings our failures more than our lack of ability.  It is our lack of belief that God can and will come through for us that causes us to hesitate, shy away from action, stand back and “wait to see what happens”.  It is why we “try” instead of “do!”  It is a faithless way to live… a belief-less way to see the world and our role in this story in which we live.

Some of you will argue with me, you will struggle to accept this, you will instead cling to a belief that it is our ability that matters most and that “faith” is more like motivation than power.  But that view isn’t consistent with the story Continue reading “One of the MOST Powerful Questions…”

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’”

Trusting that it’s true for us, too…

I was just pondering a recent podcast I subscribe to.  It drew me to review a story in the Bible about a man forgiven his huge debt. Then, rather than returning the favor and showing mercy to those who owed him, he instead went out and ransacked a guy that owed him pennies. * ($100,000 vs $10.)  It got me thinking… what would cause a man who had just been forgiven so much do something so unmerciful to another.  And, then it hit me.  Not accepting it for himself.  He didn’t really believe it was true.  He most likely doubted the heart of the guy toward him…. that he would “probably end up coming back to get the money from him someday.”  And, so, in a panic, he tried to gather his outstanding debt so he’d be prepared to pay him back when the guy came asking for it.  He had missed the entire thing… he missed the grace and mercy of the man’s act of forgiving the debt.

Then, it hit me.  We do the very same thing.

Continue reading “Trusting that it’s true for us, too…”

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

Wandering in the DesertIt’s  been quiet around the blog lately… I’ve been thinking… wondering… considering my life… my direction… my motives… and wandering a bit.  If you are anything like me, life can feel complicated and overwhelming at times. And so it feels easier to reduce life down to things I feel I can control… “productivity”, “activity”, “moving forward”, these are the signs of an “effective” life. Or so our culture would have us believe. And, I have to admit, I get sucked in by it… I even find myself feeling guilty for any prolonged periods of downtime. It starts to feel like a waste of time. And don’t get me wrong, I know there are plenty of times that we need to be productive and active and effective. We have jobs that need to get done. But, when I consider the deeper things of life, these words (productive, active, effective, etc) seem to lose their power over me. I somehow can’t picture Jesus using words like these. I mean, can you picture Jesus saying, “Hi, how’s your productivity looking? Meeting your quotas? You need to be proactive and grab that bull by the horns…” Ick!  Consider J.R.R.Tolkien’s words:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;

In the greater scheme of things we must begin to move away from our activity-centric mindsets and create some space to allow God to speak.   Continue reading “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost”

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.

a project… a love… and suffering

I read an essay recently about Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl, a psychiatrist who in 1942 was imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps, formulated and personally experienced his theory involving man’s need for meaning. “Tested in the concentration camps, Frankl realized no amount of torture could keep a person from living a fulfilling life, if only they had three elements working for them: a project in which they could contribute, a person to love, and a worthy explanation for their suffering.”

As I read these words I couldn’t help but draw the parallel to the endeavor my friends and I are about to engage in Continue reading “a project… a love… and suffering”

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’ll 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 – I called it “LIFEQUESTweekend”.  Three days, thirty men, and God –lives 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’ve been to “Men’s retreats” before, but there is something different about this event.  It isn’t just inspirational… it is transformational.  We open up space for the Men to hear from God – 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’t 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 “Advanced” 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’ve 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’t be completely “realistic”… dream a bit.  Then tell everyone what you’ve 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”

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)”