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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Living a Meaningful Life

This is a RE-BLOG of an article written by a friend. It is really good and exposed an unhelpful tendency in the way I live my life — reading it encouraged me and has helped me say “Yes” to life. I hope it helps you find life, too!

Living a Meaningful Life

by Berry Simpson

“Most of us lead far more meaningful lives than we know” wrote Rachel Naomi Remen in her great memoir, My Grandfather’s Blessings.

For most of us the meaning of our life is right under our nose. It’s been there all our lives; we fail to see it because we are focused on the distant horizon, the giant landscape, wondering when our day will finally arrive.

One of my favorite movies this past year has turned out to be The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013), starring Ben Stiller. It’s based on a character created by New Yorker writer James Thurber in 1939, a man who spent most of his life daydreaming about being a hero, saving the day, doing something epic that proved his existence to the world, proved that he mattered.

In the movie, Walter Mitty discovers that his fantasies are actually holding him back from living his real life. He learns: don’t dream it, be it.
This movie is for all us dreamers. And for all of us who feel stuck. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty tells the story of everyone who has a secret life they want to live. That includes me. Even now as I’m typing I’m thinking of adventures I want to have, changes I want to make, goals I want to achieve.

To quote from another movie, Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About, “I just don’t want to come to the end of my live and have to say, “I was gonna be different but I chickened out when I had the chance.”

Continue reading “Living a Meaningful Life”

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?”

WELCOME TO THE JOURNEY

Welcome to Love God… Love People… LIVE FREE!  This is me — sharing my adventure to find Life and live it.

I’ve carved out this space to give us a chance to freeze time – to slow the blur of life – and to catch a glimpse of things we often miss.

My goal for us — LIFE! — together let’s grow, heal, hope, adventure, and deepen our faith.

So, welcome! Grab your coffee and jump in. It’s going to be a great ride! I have some thoughts to share and questions to ask. I hope you’ll jump in and add yours, too.

Let’s see where this goes!

If you’re closer to the answers you’re seeking when you leave, I hope you’ll click the “Follow” button to get notified of future posts and share this site with others.

Here we go!

Mark

Ditch New Year’s Resolutions For Something Bigger

Wait! What just happened? Has ANOTHER year passed? Again?! It seems like just a few weeks ago I was making plans to lose weight, go to the gym more, get more organized, spend less, save more, enjoy life to the fullest, learn something exciting, help others, spend more time with family, etc., etc.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t achieve everything on my list. Not even close. Last year’s “resolutions” (those hope-filled promises we make to ourselves) didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped.

I’m guessing we have similar lists. And, my hunch is your resolutions didn’t fully work for you either. I see it in the numbers — according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute*, a huge percentage of us resolve to change things along the same lines.

  • 47% Self Improvement or education related resolutions
  • 38% Weight related resolutions
  • 34% Money related resolutions
  • 31%  Relationship related resolutions

We ALL want SOMETHING more out of life. It’s universal. And our problems are similar. Take a glance at these ‘resolution’ lists. They reveal something really important about our approach to life. Whether or not you make formal “resolutions” (and about half of us do), the desire for our best possible life exists in all of us. Continue reading “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions For Something Bigger”

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)”

Are You Living In A Spiritual Zoo?

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

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

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?”

Finding Life in a Fistful of Trash

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I pick up trash.

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

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

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

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

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 )”

3 Eternal Truths (Truth #2 – You were born into a world at war)

I was talking with some buddies the other day about one of them is inviting his son into the “larger story” by passing along to him “3 eternal truths”.  I wrote last time about “Truth #1 – Things are not what they seem“.  Today I’m offering some thoughts on Truth #2 — You were born into a world at war.

Truth #2:  You were born into a world at war

We can look around and see just how true this is. Continue reading “3 Eternal Truths (Truth #2 – You were born into a world at war)”

3 Eternal Truths (Truth #1 – Things are not what they seem)

I was talking with some buddies the other day about one of their sons (he’s on the doorstep of entering his teen years.)  My friend said he wanted to invite his son into the “larger story”. And so, (among other thoughts) he passed along to him “3 eternal truths”. He shared these truths with his son as a sort of “lens” through which he might see the world.  These truths will Continue reading “3 Eternal Truths (Truth #1 – Things are not what they seem)”

Questions We Avoid Asking

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

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

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

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”?”

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…

 

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’”