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?”

What A Few Minutes Of Quiet Can Do

A couple of years ago a friend handed me one of the most unique birthday cards I’ve ever received. Not unique because of its design, but because of what he wrote inside. Written inside the card, as a sort of climax to the typical birthday sentiments, he concluded with a simple thought — take the next year to be quiet, say less, grow, and deepen.

To be honest, when I first read the words I was sort of confused and a little hurt. I mean, “quiet?” For a year? Is it just that he doesn’t think I have anything of value to say and just wants me shut-up?! But, I know my friend and his motives. And, I’ve watched his efforts to build quiet space into his life. Still, the words stung more than they should have. I just couldn’t shake them. Do you ever have those moments? When something jars you, is painful even, but you know down inside you shouldn’t ignore it?

I couldn’t forget his words, but thought to myself about how crazy it seemed. 

Continue reading “What A Few Minutes Of Quiet Can Do”

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?”

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?”

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”

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.”

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’”

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)”

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”

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

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

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

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

LIFEQUESTweekend Retreat (Jan 28-30)

I don’t normally make ‘advertisement’ type posts. In fact, I never have before. But today I’m posting a note to let you know about a retreat some friends and I are hosting on JAN 28-30th.  It is called LIFEQUESTweekend and it is a 3-day retreat for men (sorry ladies). You can get all the details at the website www.LIFEQUESTweekend.com.

This retreat is not just another “church” service… not another “religious” activity to attend. It is an invitation to join us on a quest… one that every man must make at some point in their life. An invitation to walk with God.

So let me ask you a few questions… Fully Alive?! Is this how you’ve been experiencing life: Fully alive? Too few of us actually find this true in our day-to-day. And strength? Are you able to fight for others with freedom? Do you live with a sense of freedom? And Love? Do you love well? Have deep friendships with others?  Is life what you’d hoped it would be?

And, let me ask you this — How often do you take the chance to spend a weekend away with the singular purpose of seeking what God has for you? Finding answers to your questions… Finding purpose for your future…  If for no other reason than this — if God is in it, this weekend will be remarkable.

Freedom… Strength to offer… Healing… Purpose… to know our Place in the Story… It is possible!

I hope you’ll take a few minutes and visit the website. And I hope you’ll take a few more minutes and pray to ask God if this is a retreat you should attend.

Whatever you’ve found true of God… of Christianity… there is more.  This retreat may be the next step in your journey of faith.

Space to Breathe again

Andrea and I recently took a short trip up into Michigan. We needed some time away… time to reconnect… time to unwind from the busyness that tangles up our lives and our hearts.  It was refreshing… no, it was more than that… it was like breathing again.  Having time away, creating some space in our lives, it gave me time to catch my breath.  I think we get so busy and focused on getting things done and “doing life” that we sort of hold our breath.  You know… like when you’re concentrating on that golf shot you’re about to make — you hold your breath… or when you are trying to hold the camera perfectly steady so you can take the picture, you breathe in and…. hold it…. hold it…. almost got it…. hold it…. Pppffffhhhhh… exhale.  The pace of life (even when doing good things) can have that effect on us… and so this time away gave us space to breath again.

So… how are YOU doing?  Now that school is back in session and summer is winding down, are you carving out some space in your day?… your week?  your month?!  It is critical!  What’s stopping you? (pause)  Give it a try… carve out just a few minutes of quiet for you and God and see what happens.

Here are a couple of things that help me: Continue reading “Space to Breathe 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)”

Passion and Reason

Heart and MindI’ve been thinking again lately about “Desire”. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about “Passion” and “Reason”… said another way, heart vs mind.  And, a conversation I had recently got me thinking — I had a moment of clarity! (Don’t you love when that happens?! Those moments when everything else blurs into the background and you see something with utter clarity.) In this moment, a crisp, crystal clear thought came to my mind. (Hopefully you’ll catch my drift as I translate it to pen & paper.)

This is what came to me…. Continue reading “Passion and Reason”

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”