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”

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?”

Did I Just Cheat on My Spouse?

stucksomewherebetweenmydreamandrealityThe other night I cheated on my wife.  Well, sort of.  It felt like it.  It was all part of a disturbing dream I had.  Ever have those? A dream so real you wake up wondering if it’s all true? I hate these kinds of dreams. They leave me feeling dirty and sad and hopeless and ( in this dream), helpless, without control.  I awoke in a sweat.

As I replayed the scenario over and over in my mind, a thought began to emerge, a thought about ‘real life’ — it’s not inevitable, I have a choice. Cheating doesn’t start with “cheating“.  What I mean is, cheating starts with an idea, entertained early on. 

In the same way, choosing to not cheat starts with a decision. I’m not talking about a decision made as you walk to someone’s bedroom (although its never too late to stop and RUN!), but I’m talking about a decision made early on. You must answer the questions:  Will I cheat?  Will I entertain the thoughts coming into my mind?

If we wait until we are faced with the temptation, it may be too late. Like waiting until we’re holding a donut in our hand and trying to decide whether or not we should eat it.  Or like driving a car toward the edge of a cliff, the closer we get before deciding to put on the brakes the more likely we will go over the edge.

So, we must decide to decide.

We are all tempted in some way. Maybe its blatant.  Sex. Some of us Continue reading “Did I Just Cheat on My Spouse?”

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”?”

No Shame in Stillness

I post my blog on http://www.wordpress.com and so I visit the site often. A while back while pursuing their “Freshly Pressed” page (which is a rotating display of selections from their immense blogging community), amidst the chaos and noise or all that tugs at our attention I stumbled upon this posting from “Jenni”.  I asked her if I could reblog it to you… I think you’ll enjoy it.


No Shame in Stillness

by Jenni

Today I did something shocking, socially unacceptable and so counter-cultural, it’s downright rebellious: I was still. To be specific, I put my feet up on the porch rail, leaned back in a deep chair, and sat in the afternoon sunshine for a while, accomplishing absolutely nothing.

Not exactly the picture of a revolutionary, is it? I know, but if you look a bit deeper, you might recognize that one action as essentially giving the finger to a powerful and ruthless dictator: the dogma that my busyness reflects my value.

Does the idea of sitting quietly, alone with your thoughts for a while make you sigh wistfully or squirm uncomfortably? Probably a mixture of both.

In my experience Continue reading “No Shame in Stillness”

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”

Dealing with the Poser & The Freedom of Being Real (Part 3)

Dealing with the Poser

Well, its been a while since my last post in which I asked you to note your responses to a few things in your life.  So pull out those notes. How did it go?  Did any patterns emerge? Any new ideas spring to the forefront? It can be tough to connect the dots in day-to-day living of all that impacts our freedom.  That’s why we paused to take note of a few specific  things. To be honest, I pause like this far too little. But, I want to live with freedom. (And I’m assuming you do, too.)

In the last couple of posts (Pt 1 and Pt 2) I’ve been writing about the impact on our lives of both being real and when we “pose”.  And just so we’re all clear… I believe we all pose. Yes, all. I’m hoping that you’re beginning to recognize it after the last couple of blog posts. So today I want to tackle the underlying question, Why?!  Why do we pose? And more importantly, what do we do about it? Continue reading “Dealing with the Poser & The Freedom of Being Real (Part 3)”

A Posed Life & The freedom of being Real (Pt 2)

A Posed Life

Ok… I’m going to admit something really embarrassing. (Be kind!) “You know this song is about Jesus dying!”, I said.  [U2’s ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’ was playing in the background.]  And as suddenly as the words left my mouth there began a very obvious and very awkward pause. “No…”, said one of the 5 guys gathered around, “it was about a Massacre in Ireland!”  I felt so embarrassed.  It was humiliating. My plan was to cleverly join in the conversation, to sound like I knew what I was talking about, to fake my way through, but it had failed. I was completely wrong. I was utterly exposed. And even now after years have passed, it is hard to expose this to you. It still feels embarrassing. And it still tempts me toward the urge to hide… to pose as something I’m not yet.

So, why share my embarrassing story? Continue reading “A Posed Life & The freedom of being Real (Pt 2)”

The freedom of being Real (Part 1)

The freedom of being Real (Part 1)

We had a home appraisal recently. It was part of a refinance for our home.  When the appraisal was over, I began talking to my wife about it.  The whole process got me thinking about how life can be like our appraisal.

Yes, we can live life in much the same way we lived for our appraisal. Allow me to explain what I mean.For our appraisal, we had to prepare the house.  We fixed up things that needed fixing.  We patched holes that needed patching.  And, we deep cleaned!… I mean military cleaned. Top to bottom we cleaned the house.  But, we also live in the house, so de-cluttering was hard.  But we needed to make a good appearance, so we took the “paper pile” and put it away. We took the baby seats and cribs and stored them in closets.  We took the laundry hamper and stored it in a less conspicuous place.  We stashed everything that made our house look cluttered.  Andrea warned me that I was beginning to “obsess” in my cleaning efforts.  I doubled my efforts, figuring if we’re going to clean, let’s CLEAN!   I have to say, the house looked amazing.  With all our hard work completed, there was a tangible feeling of awe, or maybe just relief (“Aaahhhh”), as we stood there in the room.   The House was clean, organized, as close to perfect as we could get it… but it wasn’t real. Continue reading “The freedom of being Real (Part 1)”

Hijacked Thoughts

I was meditating on God the other day. Soaking in His presence, thinking about Him, laying a question before Him, and pondering.  Then, suddenly I started thinking of something totally other than Him.  A dialogue with someone else or in front of a group?  You know what I mean, like drifting into fantasizing about something worthless and then you kind of shake your head and come to and think, “What the heck?!  Where did that come from?  How did I get on that!?“. It’s like my thoughts were hijacked from right under my nose and I’m taken for a ride.

Is there a way to guard my mind?   Does that skill or discipline just come with experience?
Continue reading “Hijacked Thoughts”

Forgive.

Occasionally, I re-post writings from others when I think they have things to say that fit our theme of journeying and learning to Love God… Love People… and Live Free!  As I considered my entry from a couple of weeks ago about “Interpreting Guilt“, today’s topic seems to fit perfectly. Here is a verbatim re-post of some great thoughts from a blog I follow. I think you’ll find it helpful and freeing.

Enjoy!

Mark Continue reading “Forgive.”

Interpreting Guilt

I had a conversation with someone recently about guilt. They felt that someone had been making them feel guilty about not giving enough to a certain cause. They really didn’t like feeling guilt (and after all, who really does?) and that dislike of the feeling itself seemed to make them resentful of the person making them feel it. This conversation started me thinking about this whole topic of guilt. Because if ‘guilt’ can have the effect of causing/harbouring resentment, then it seems a dangerous thing. Or it is at least a dangerous thing to leave unprocessed. Is guilt a good thing? Should we avoid feeling guilt? Or does guilt reveal something deeper within?… something life-giving, even?

Definition: Guilt – “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.”

Continue reading “Interpreting Guilt”

Slipping from Heart to Head

When you go to the Doctor, one of the most common questions you’ll get is, “Have there been any changes in your health lately? . . . recent weight-loss? . . . weight-gain? . . . etc.”  The Doctor isn’t just being nosey or trying to chat it up with you. Your Doctor knows that with each change there is a reason; there is something behind these changes that holds answers to what is going on inside.

Life is like this physically… and spiritually.

Last week was a hard week.  (To be honest, in many ways I’ve had a hard year. Just read some of my recent posts. 🙂 )  There have been many times I’ve felt detached, lonely, numb even. I have that sensation you experience while driving your car when you’re tired and distracted and you can’t remember how you got where you are… what happened during the last few miles?!   It’s like how Eldredge describes the way many of us experience life, “Like arriving to a movie 20 minutes late… something important seems to be going on, but we can’t seem to make any sense of it…“.  I mean, sometimes I feel such clarity, passion, direction, connectedness, purpose… and yet over the last year I’ve felt like I’m late for the movie… or maybe a better metaphor to describe it would be to say I’ve felt like someone listening to one side of a phone conversation.  I can tell there is an important conversation going on, but I can’t make out enough for me to make sense of it. My sense of clarity and passion and direction and purpose seem cloudy, distant, spotty.

Which brings me to one day last week… Continue reading “Slipping from Heart to Head”

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?!”

The Power of Love (Part I)

My dear blog-friends,

I read the following blog entry recently and it really got me thinking. To be honest, it nailed me in a few areas of my heart and life.  I encourage you to read the entire article with as unhindered a mind as possible. (There will be time for criticism later.) For now, allow God to use it in whatever ways He sees fit.

I’m sharing it with you that it might inspire you toward your goals, of which, I hope LOVE is supreme.




“The Power of Love” — A blog entry by Donald Miller (Author of Blue Like Jazz and other books) posted Jun 28, 2010 4:01 AM . . .  Continue reading “The Power of Love (Part I)”

No Longer Suited for a “Normal” life

I’m driving home from work and I had a really good and unexpected encounter with God… I had to stop and write it down… so I’m writing this on-the-fly in the Walgreens parking lot I just pulled into.

SOME BACKGROUND — A few days ago a few of us got together and talked about community.  Specifically, we talked about how God might be bringing us (and maybe even some others) together to meet as a “group”.  The word “church” came up… which immediately drew a variety of reactions from each of us.  And, actually, we really had a good conversation. We talked about our past, our present, and our futures. There were some akward 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 apparent that God IS at work in each of us… 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 is something just outside of my conscious senses that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Continue reading “No Longer Suited for a “Normal” life”

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…?”

A glimpse into how my past is affecting my future…

I was just reading an “eLetter” put out by a man I trust and follow, Gary Barkalow. He was talking about how many of us (likely, most of us) have been hurt by a ministry or a person in ministry. His take on it was about how it affects our Callings. This got me thinking of the effects of my past ministry experiences on MY life.

Perhaps you were one of the lucky ones and you’ve not been hurt by a church (small “c”) or a person(s) in the Church (capital “C”). I have not been so fortunate. But, I have been fortunate in that I’ve had enough time and people around me that I was able to process my situations, gain perspective, actually learn from them, grow, and in many ways, Heal.

As I sit here reading Gary’s eLetter, I’m thinking about how I have processed my experiences. And, as I said, I’ve processed my feelings/hurt and I truly don’t feel the same bitterness, disappointment, unforgiveness, and anger anymore (**). Still, Gary’s letter nags at me…

There is something deeper going on.

Just because we’ve processed our pain, even healed from it, doesn’t mean the effects are completely gone. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, but in this moment it does somehow. I mean, I know that if someone gets in a car accident they may heal physically, but they may forever lose the full use of a limb. So, if I’m hurt by a ministry or person, it makes sense that while I may have healed from the incident, I may still have residual limitations. And, that leads me to the deeper issue Gary was illuding to… the issue that gets in the way of our destiny.

With each wound comes a message.

I’m sitting here remembering back over my own history. Even with the healing I have found, there are lingering “messages”… I need to take a look at these. As I think of some of what fires off in my head, the hesistations and fears that seem to pop up from time to time, I realize that I’ve swallowed the enemy’s message… several messages, in fact. As I thread them together from my past, here’s some of what I’m uncovering: “Don’t step out in that again.” “It’s not worth it.” “Careful!!” “You’ll fail… you’ll be exposed…” or worse yet, “If you step out… YOU will become a source of pain to those you seek to walk with.” “You’re heart’s in the right place, but you’re going to come up short.” In the end, “You just don’t have what it takes.”

Every one of these “messages” is a result (even if only indirectly) of the wounds I’ve taken. Each message came on the heals of each painful/challenging situation… really subltly… and I bought into them. Somewhere down inside I said, “Yup… its true” and it began a slow, quiet process of shaping (eroding the path to) my destiny.

I’m going out to take a drive and pray… right now. I must invite Jesus into this.

. . .

Ok… I’m back. I went out and sat in my car and talked with God. And, now I’m back and I’ve just re-read what I’ve written. The discovery and insight is still true. But on the heals of it, I’m tempted to delete the “messages” I’ve written down. Its hard to be so open; it feels vulnerable. But, I WON’T delete it! The enemy wants us to isolate ourselves… to hide from each other. I won’t give in to the trick. Besides, the “messages” are not ME… they are the “arrows” being thrown at me. There is no shame.

My prayer time with God was good! I renounced the lies that these messages are. I repented of my agreement with them. I invited Jesus into the middle of it. I invited His healing and restoration and His truth (the opposite of those messages!) And, in every way, I feel ready to move forward again. My trust and hope and strength is again in the right place. (and… I’ll keep going back to God… I’ll keep “resisting the enemy” as often as needed.)

Our futures are under attack. More so from what has happened behind us than what actually lies in front of us. I’m grateful that God not only gives Hope for the future… but He is a redeemer of the past!

As one who stands with you in the battle and walks with you in the journey,

Mark

(** Note: Occasionally, I do remember things and the memories can bring back feelings of past frustrations, hurt, disappointment, and even anger; but I’m able to quickly give the situation and its emotions back over to God and be at peace again. I believe this is a normal response and doesn’t mean I’m not healed or haven’t forgiven.)

Note: You can read Gary’s eLetter here: Go to http://www.thenobleheart.com/#/contact/4535414231 and click the Jan 27, 2010 eLetter.