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”

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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”

Hesitating to Believe? Maybe its time to take a walk.

Walking with Jesus Picture
A few minutes ago I was just sitting and reading a short blog story from a favorite blogger who always gets me thinking about deeper things I’d normally ignore (Craig McConnell of Ransomed Heart). Craig’s story ushered in a sort of invitation from God. (This often happens to us when we take a few moments to quiet ourselves and consider listening.)

Sitting there, quiet, wondering, I found myself longing, genuinely and expectantly longing to hear from God, to spend a moment with Him, just like Craig had described in his story.  And then, I heard God prompt me – time to take a walk.

I immediately felt what I can only imagine Peter must have felt when Jesus called to him to get out of the boat to walk to him across the water.  (Called not to some “show” for effect, but a call to come closer, to walk and talk with Jesus.)  I had an immediate and strong desire to jump up and go for a walk with Jesus.  For those few seconds, I had complete clarity of desire and purpose. (This doesn’t happen often enough.) And then… I remembered the cold (it’s a windy, 20 degrees outside).  No big deal, God said he’d take care of it. I’d be warm. No worries. Let’s walk!  But then the “wind and the waves” kicked up. (Matt 14:28-30)

I doubted. I paused.  I stopped to consider how it would all work. Man, I hate when this happens!  I hate the doubt and fear I live with… the hesitation to just believe… the incessant need to have my questions answered. The clever delays I build into my life that Continue reading “Hesitating to Believe? Maybe its time to take a walk.”

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…”

And that is why you fail…

I was re-watching Star Wars, Episode V, “The Empire Strikes Back”, the other day.  There is this great scene in the movie that always gets to me… always gets me thinking about my faith. (Yes, my faith.) I believe it provides amazing insight into our lives as Christ-followers.  In fact, this scene depicts a central theme threaded throughout the bible. And I believe the message of this scene holds the key to our successfully living out the stories God has for us here on earth. Continue reading “And that is why you fail…”

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’”

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”

What if we could BE the Church like this… A Place of Community

What if we could be the church…. really BE the church… like this –> A PLACE OF COMMUNITY.

And I mean starting with me… then you… then one or two others…. and… well, you get the picture. I mean, living in real community is challenging. Like riding a BIG wave off the coast of Hawaii, challenging. Like riding a wild horse, challenging. Like getting to know your teenager, challenging. It requires something of us. It requires desire and heart and commitment and practice and forgiveness and hope. But… what if it were possible?! What if we could really live in community with a few others. Hard? Yes… but wouldn’t it be worth it? Couldn’t it change everything?!