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”

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)”

How to Survive Holiday Parties, Family, and Large Gatherings

blahblahblahThe holidays are upon us (again). And this means parties, get-togethers, and family gatherings. So, it got me thinking about both the joy and the misery we feel when it comes to gathering together with others.  For those “social butterflies” reading this, you will read my words and think “Duh” and wonder why any of this needs to be said — for you, read this as a sort of refresher and pick up an idea or two for your social toolbox.

For the rest of us non-social-savants, I’ll offer some really practical thoughts & ideas to give us encouragement and confidence Continue reading “How to Survive Holiday Parties, Family, and Large Gatherings”

Something Is Sucking The Awesomeness Out Of Your Life

Let’s be honest — we skim our way through life. There seems to be no way around it. We are inundated with information. Our email boxes are overflowing. There are more TV programs than we could watch in a lifetime. There are more cooking shows offering recipes on more meals than we could cook in a 100 years. Our Kindle offers page after page of new reading material. Yes, we are overrun by information.  Even our relationships can feel this way, there is always something to do, always someone that needs something.  It is one of the most exciting eras ever known to humankind.

So how do we make it work? We skim.

And this in and of itself isn’t a bad thing — in fact, I believe it is a critical skill. But, this powerful technique must not be applied haphazardly – it can be catastrophic if not harnessed!

multi-tasking-poster

I’ve begun to pay attention to this skimming process as it occurs all around me. I’ve noticed how often we skim our favorite TV programs using the “30-second skip-ahead button”. I’ve begun to notice how I skim articles in magazines. I “browse” the internet (a clever word for “skimming”). I’m catching myself skim books for nuggets of information. I listen to my Podcasts at 1.5x speed. What a rush! I have to admit, my skimming techniques do seem to help me feel more productive. Much like driving 10 mph above the speed limit helps me feel like I’m saving tons of time in my drive to work. Continue reading “Something Is Sucking The Awesomeness Out Of Your Life”

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?”

Father’s Day. What a Dilemma!

I have a treat for you today. A dear friend offered me a chance to post her thoughts online. I hope you enjoy her insights as much as I did. (Thanks Clara!)

Mark


June was Father’s Day month.  Some people don’t get very excited about it.  They spend most of Saturday trying to find a Father’s Day card that isn’t too mushy cause they have never been close.  Or finding one that doesn’t lie:  “To the most wonderful dad in the world!” or “Thank you for always being there for me.”  It’s hard if your dad met few of the real needs of your heart.  How can you give Continue reading “Father’s Day. What a Dilemma!”

When We Can’t Stand, Love Stands By Us

Woman from John8 with JesusI was just reflecting on a well-known bible story. You probably know it, its the one about a woman who was caught in the act of adultery and dragged before a mob and Jesus by the religious leaders.  It was their obvious attempt to expose Jesus as a fraud while at the same time ensuring they looked good as the enforcers of morality and godliness.  (That happens too often, people doing deadly things to others while taking a moral high-ground to protect themselves.)  John 8:3-11

You know the story — they drag this unsuspecting woman Continue reading “When We Can’t Stand, Love Stands By Us”

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”?”

i am ‘The Stepchild’

This posting is a departure of sorts from my usual posts, but I felt compelled to post it. And so, out of obedience and with great compassion and sensitivity I offer this poem (below) written several years ago.

For years I struggled to put into words my life as a child, teen, and into my 20’s. And I needed to put words to it. We cannot move into the next chapter of our lives without closing the previous chapter. To do so without a healthy completeness leaves a gap. It’s like leaving blank pages that must be written for the story to really continue. This poem helped.

The poem (below) was written in my 30’s and brought me a step closer to healing and wholeness. Now years later, with a grateful heart, I reread these words and find them much, much less true of my identity today. There are still days when they flare up. But, it has been a long, hard, beautiful road and my identity is much healed. My core identity is no longer “the stepchild”. I now see myself much closer to “the beloved son” as I move closer and closer to allowing myself to be Fathered by God [Link]. Funny thing is, my Continue reading “i am ‘The Stepchild’”

How to Build Better Relationships (Holiday Edition)

How to Build Better Relationships (Holiday Edition)

The holidays are upon us. And this means parties, get-togethers, and family gatherings. So, it got me thinking about both the joy and the misery we feel when it comes to gathering together with others.  For those “social butterflies” reading this, you will read my words and think “Duh” and wonder why any of this needs to be said — read this as a sort of refresher and pick up an idea or two for your social toolbox.

For the rest of us non-social-savants, I offer my thoughts & ideas to give hope and encouragement in what we are about to encounter.  And for us all, I hope my words offer a really practical means of deepening our existing relationships, building new ones, and removing obstacles to joy in the rest.

I’ve learned this about relationships and parties/gatherings Continue reading “How to Build Better Relationships (Holiday Edition)”

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…”

Getting to know each other

My wife and I have been married for 27 years. I’m not bragging… I’m just mentioning it so you can that when I talk about getting to know each other, we’ve spent a long time trying. We’ve tried a great many things to stay connected, and we know how challenging it is. You’d think after 27 years we’d be able to coast, that we’d know everything we need to know about each other… maybe you’ve thought that about relationships in your life — friendships, family, girlfriend/boyfriend, spouse.  Maybe you’ve thought because of the extended proximity to another person that you can now coast.  In my experience, it is not true.  People are alive… they change and grow and form new thoughts all the time.  So it makes sense… relationships take ongoing, intentional effort, forever.

Today I’d like to share something we’ve been doing for the past few months to stay connected to each other. And, I believe this may be helpful in deepening just about any relationship you have. Continue reading “Getting to know each other”

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”

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 II)

On my last post, I submitted to you a blog entry from Donald Miller (found here).  As I sit here contemplating how to document my thoughts about the article, I have to admit that it feels awkward — I’m not sure how to post a blog about “Love”.  There are far, far too many nuances and complexities about “Love” to even begin to scratch the surface.  Still, there must be something we can learn… ways we can grow… must be some way we can draw on an experience we can share.  So, I hope you can take it to heart that I’m not trying to boil down love to a simple formula or idea or even a simple “Hug”.  What I want… what I hope to do… is to encourage you onward.
Continue reading “The Power of Love (Part II)”

Ahhh… Disagreement

Living in the Wonderful State of Disagreement

Wouldn’t it be great to live in a place where there is disagreement? (yes… where there “is”…)

Let me explain what I mean.

I’ve noticed something about myself lately — I don’t like to be disagreed with!  I suppose I knew it for years.  There were signs… the funny looks on my face… or sometimes I cut people off… volume rising during conversations… people not wanting to enter into certain conversations with me… etc.  So, I guess what I mean is — I’m finally beginning to “notice” that I don’t like to be disagreed with… and I don’t like the effects of it.

Just think of it… wouldn’t it be nice to live in a state of mind where someone could disagree with you, and it would be “ok”!?   Continue reading “Ahhh… Disagreement”

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”