Are You Sure About That?

From palm trees to pine cones. I’ve been at a three day retreat in North Carolina. This year my birthday coincides with the glorious turning of the leaves into burnished bronze and amber gifts. I’m brazenly thankful.

Like a good introvert, I’ve stayed back from one of the outings to be silent and think. My thoughts dance around perspective, provoked by the visual richness around me.

I was sitting here drinking my green tea when I obsessed just a little with this. Take a look at the photo below. reflection_cropped

See the reflection of the windows… cute, little, inaccurate?

They look like this in real life (IRL!):

windows_cropped

If I only stare at my cute, little, inaccurate view, I’ll never know that the windows frame a tranquil forest, a fire pit, inviting chairs, a carpet of leaves and so much more. What’s more, if I continue to sit and stare at my cute, little, inaccurate view, I’ll never know that the windows open, that crisp air will clear my mind. That life is inviting.

I challenge you to remember this–that your perspective, my perspective, every single day, is limited.

Live life looking around, noticing details, looking for the REAL everywhere.

Don’t ruin relationships, or miss out on adventures and growth opportunities, or let bitterness weigh you down like cement shoes on a defunct wiseguy (where’d that come from?), because you failed to look around for the greater perspective on people and events in your life. Look up or turn around. Dig. Dig deep if need be. Ask. Question.

Everything of the best,

~B

“Tell me what you are afraid of”

This is an excerpt from The Shack, an allegory. The setting is a dock, on a small lake, out by a secluded country cabin. Mack is the main character, a man struggling with some serious pain and injustice (more than most of us will ever know). Jesus, in simple human form, is chatting with him. He’s invited Mack to walk with him on the water.

“Tell me what you are afraid of, Mack.”

“Well, let me see. What am I afraid of?” Began Mack. “Well, I am afraid of looking like an idiot. I am afraid that you are making fun of me and that I will sink like a rock. I imagine that – ”

“Exactly,” Jesus interrupted. “You imagine. Such a powerful ability, the imagination! That power alone makes you so like us. But without wisdom, imagination is a cruel taskmaster. If I may prove my case, do you think humans were designed to live in the present or the past or the future?”

“Well,” said Mack, hesitating, “I think the most obvious answer is that we were designed to live in the present. Is that wrong?”

Jesus chuckled. “Relax, Mack; this is not a test, it’s a conversation. You are exactly correct, by the way. But now tell me, where do you spend most of your time in your mind, in your imagination, in the present, in the past, or in the future?”

Mack thought for a moment before answering. “I suppose I would have to say that I spend very little time in the present. For me, I spend a big piece in the past, but most of the rest of the time, I am trying to figure out the future.”

“Not unlike most people. When I dwell with you, I do so in the present – I live in the present. Not the past, although much can be remembered and learned by looking back, but only for a visit, not an extended stay. And for sure, I do not dwell in the future you visualize or imagine. Mack, do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me there with you?”

Again Mack stopped and thought. It was true. He spent a lot of time fretting and worrying about the future, and in his imaginations it was usually pretty gloomy and depressing, if not outright horrible. And Jesus was also correct in saying that in Mack’s imaginations of the future, God was always absent.

 

Four Ways That Fear Creates What it Fears

“Never do anything out of a motivation of fear.”
Some of the best advice I have ever received!
Why? Because fear creates what it fears.

  1. Fear of rejection: If you are afraid of being rejected by colleagues or acquaintances, you become clingy and petty – possibly creepy – causing otherwise friendly people to want to steer clear of you, i.e., to reject you.
  2. Fear of losing a lover: If you are afraid of losing a lover to another, you become irrational and  jealous, controlling – potentially driving the person straight into your rival’s arms.
  3. Fear of discovery: If you have a guilty conscience, you become accusatory and defensive, arouse suspicion, and provoke others to dig into your life until you are exposed.
  4. Fear of betrayal: If you fear betrayal, you will consistently  misinterpret actions, become petty and treat others as unworthy of trust – a pattern of behavior that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy culminating in (you guessed it) “betrayal.”

It’s just how it works. I’m not sure why. But fear does create what it fears.
So now – before I take action or respond in a situation, before I pick up the phone or send the text or say yes or no to a request for help, before I censor myself on Twitter or Facebook – I try to remember to ask myself “why?” Why am I doing or not doing this? Am I acting out of fear?

Just might be the most important question we can ask ourselves today.

Your Voice

[The theme of Voice has been dancing about in my head for several weeks. I ran into this post, written by me three years ago. It is so timely for today! I’d love to hear your thoughts – do you feel you have found your voice, or (like many of us) are you “in process”?]

This post is about your voice. And your seasons.

I am going through a season change… are you? Time to get more involved in some things, and less in others. Can you relate? Thinking through priorities and proportions. This is especially challenging because I am, at heart, both an activist and an artist.

Just what is voice?  It can be a somewhat intangible concept, but by voice I mean the free expression of that unique set of attributes that makes you, you! There is your voice, my voice, God’s voice…

We each have a purpose.  God gives us our voice so we can fulfill that purpose.

I enjoy the gradual unveiling of my children’s voices. And every day I pray that they will learn to hear God’s voice… to love and trust it, to navigate through life guided by it, much as the sailors of old relied on the stars in the heavens.

But the aspect of navigating that has taken me years to learn involves my own voice, and a question (you may find yourself asking the same question): Is my voice effective?

We need to look at all our areas of involvement – at relationships and organizations in our spheres of influence – and ask a fundamental question: Does my voice make a difference? Does anybody hear me? Do they want to hear me?

If I am committed, doing my part, and carefully listening to the voices of others, but having no impact and finding no reciprocity, then that is not a fruitful involvement. It may be time for change. There are likely needs or opportunities elsewhere, just waiting!

Or, it may be time to speak more loudly. But no one likes a shouting match. If you’re in a relationship and have had “the talk” multiple times, to be comforted by a “you’re right” and no change, reconsider that relationship. If you have a friendship with someone who has taken advantage of you repeatedly, and you’ve confronted and received an “I’m sorry” only to be misused again, evaluate if it is truly a friendship. If you’re on a board or team and have expressed the same serious concerns multiple times, to be greeted by “great input” and no action, then reality check. Why force others to listen to you, when somewhere else there is a person praying precisely to hear a voice such as yours? Keep the peace, spread the love… and move on!

Of course, I am not talking about giving up when things get tough… Healthy relationships and organizations will always involve dynamic tension. Love and loyalty are key to managing that tension. But even if you are fighting a fierce battle for social justice, or to grow a business or fulfill a dream, you still have to ask yourself the questions above. Time is short. Before you know it, five years will have passed… and your dreams for tomorrow may have become distant bittersweet memories.

Bottom line today – your voice is invaluable, and there is a predetermined place where it is needed and where there is grace abounding for it to be heard. Relax in that knowledge. Listen, think, pray, speak, be thoughtful about your season change. Then watch that last leaf fall and welcome the new season. And as your senses soak in the change, listen for God’s voice and remember – He is listening for yours!

The Gift Within You


I love campfires. We were gearing up for the day. I was making coffee on the Coleman.

The night before we’d had a roaring campfire in the fire ring, and had watched it burn out. Now the kids were poking around in the remains with some sticks. To their astonishment, the ashes started smoking.

Peter went over, and showed them how to blow into the embers that were deep inside the ashes – quickly flames erupted. With just a bit more kindling, once again we had a roaring fire.

I told the kids how cool it is that God helps us do the same. We all have gifts within us, and we are supposed to “fan the flame of the gift of God that is within you…” (that is in the Bible, in 2 Timothy 1:6).

You have some very unique abilities and perspectives. You might be feeling insecure, or be afraid that it is too late for you…

It’s not!

Make a plan, share your dream, take a class, break out the study books, do whatever it takes, but blow on what looks like ashes! It’s up to you, and no one else. Put some kindling in there, and just watch – the embers are still hot, they are just hidden!

You can do it. The gift is within you. The world needs to see your fire.

When the Emotional Tsunami Hits

The Japanese man clings to the rooftop of his home, adrift ten miles out to sea. The tsunami has swept his house and his wife away, and that bit of roof is what is keeping him alive. Miraculously, after two days tossed about by waves, he is rescued.

I have never had to overcome anything physically and materially as challenging as Hiromitsu Shinkawa faced. But I have had some very heavy blows in life. We’ve been talking about “how to deal” when life blindsides you and you are nearly destroyed by an emotional disaster. After the first key – Don’t Panic – the second key is this: Find the Rock.

God as a concept can seem overwhelming. It is difficult to think of Him in “manageable” terms – in a way our brains and hearts can understand. When someone tells you to “trust God” or “turn to God” in hard times – how do you know what he (God) is thinking? Do you cry out to him in desperation (as we have all done) saying, “Please God, please God, help me?”

And then what? Do you hear a reply? When your emotions are in turmoil, does he seem inaccessible? God’s Word, though, is always beautifully and easily accessible.

When life blindsides me, I cling as tenaciously to the words God speaks to us as Hiromitsu clung to that rooftop. Those words are my Rock, my stability. I read them, pray them, repeat them… and feel my spirit regain its strength.

Index cards have been a great tool for me. I carry them with me for easy access. When anxiety or fear starts to creep back in, I can pull out the verses, read them, resist the negative emotion and move on with my day.

Below are some samples… I highly recommend you make your own set of cards. Hold tight to the truths found in the Bible. They will keep you from drowning.

DON’T PANIC – When the storm hits

One of my all time favorite books is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a five-part trilogy. Douglas Adams wrote such a remarkable book(s) that to try and explain it here would twist my brain just a bit, and being that my brain is already slightly sprained, I’ll refrain. (Oops forgot to uncheck the Auto-rhyme feature in my medulla, however).

DON’T PANIC is a phrase that appears on the cover of the Guide. DON’T PANIC is the most vital advice for a perplexed, frequently-in-danger galaxy traveler.

It’s good advice for us too. A couple of posts ago we spoke about how to deal when life blindsides you. Staying calm is the first key. I will not pretend to be an expert at this, but I have had plenty of practice at being blindsided.

How to stay calm? These steps may seem simplistic, but they work for me:

  • Breathe – yes, literally, breathe. In and out, slowly. Breathing deeply has many beneficial effects. It also gives us time to slow down and not react immediately. Take in the news, however bad it may be. Consciously, as you breathe, reject that feeling of panic that is trying to rise up in your gut. If someone is speaking to you, pressing you for action and/or answers, calmly make them wait until you are ready. This may take some minutes or even some hours.
  • Think – yes, think. Your first reaction may or may not be correct, so move it to one side temporarily, and think through all the ramifications. Is the situation really as serious as it first appears? Can you call on some other people/perspectives to get the bigger picture? Who will be your support team as you navigate and overcome this situation? Always, as you think, avoid despair – you will overcome, and good will come out of it.
  • Remember – remember that you have probably survived other equally difficult challenges. Remember that even if you personally have not experienced such a hard situation before, surely other people you know have. Things do have a way of working out. Here it is so important to have already programmed your brain with memorable and helpful truths – and that is where the word of God is key. We will talk about this in another post.

I can promise you – based on what God says to us – that no matter how desperate or unthinkable a situation, you can survive it and eventually thrive as a stronger person, one who has even more to offer to the world. Here is a taste of what the Father wants us to know:

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Is. 41:10)

Dear friend, DON’T PANIC.

[PS – Okay, I can’t resist. Here is the basic premise of the book:
One Thursday lunchtime the Earth is unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. For Arthur Dent, who has only just had his house demolished that morning, this seems already to be more than he can cope with. Sadly, however, the weekend has only just begun, and the galaxy is a very strange and startling place. Seconds before the Earth is demolished, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out of work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin their journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide “A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have” and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers. (from http://www.douglasadams.com)]