Getting Caught in the Wake

Oh, that feeling. I hate it. Man, I hate it. It doesn’t matter if the person is small, big, girl, boy, old, young. It doesn’t matter whether or not they are in a position over you or under you at work. It is still uncomfortable. Walking on egg shells. It’s just not fun.

One of the biggest issues in the American Church today, is our lack of self awareness. Or put differently, our lack of understanding how we are experienced by others. This doesn’t just come in our personal interaction with people on a moment by moment or daily basis. But it also comes in our actions and verbiage towards “the other.” “The Others” are other people with differing views, perspectives, faith, theologies and lifestyles than us. In many cases, we may even just naturally assume that everyone else agrees with us or is just like us. Especially if we are part of the same faith community.

I am just as guilty of this as anyone else. I have made (and still do, I’m sure) blanket statements, stereotypes, and rash, harsh judgements. I can be arrogant, or perhaps my self confidence can come across as arrogance. I’ve made mention before that I am a tall, large, white male. This can cause intimidation, fear, feelings of frustration and/or being inferior in others around me. Whether I am trying to bring about these feelings or not, the truth is that simply who I am and how I act can bring about those feelings. A few years ago, I probably would have scoffed at that last sentence, but I have become much more aware of my wake.

 

Last post, I started a dialogue about self discovery. I really do feel this is an important step in our growth as people and especially as followers of Jesus. As we begin to walk down that road of self discovery, we could end up in a place of great growth. But we need humility. Self discovery, if carried long enough and is added with humility, will bring about self awarenesssocial-icons-01

Self awareness is when we begin to understand the wake that we are leaving behind us. Just as a speed boat cruising along at top speed will leave a tremendous wake, so do our actions. There’s a reason why marina’s have a “no wake” policy. If a boat is racing through the marina, it can cause a lot of damage to the docks, the other boats and even the shoreline. Our wake has an impact on those around us. And often times, it is hard for us to see our wake. It’s hard for us to see or understand how others are experiencing us. This is a key area of growth for us as people, let alone as people who are trying to follow Jesus a little better everyday.

I have people who I trust, who I have given the freedom to call me out on my stuff and to call me out when my wake is leaving a path of destruction. I tell them very clearly that I may not respond well to them initially, but I do want them to call me out on it. Why? Because if they don’t, and everyone else is walking on egg shells, who will speak out? And, how will I know what destruction I am leaving if no one speaks out? The Holy Spirit is there to reveal those things to us, to convict us. I don’t know about you, but many times I am too blind to see the Spirit or to busy and self focused to hear Him.

Self awareness, how others experience us, the wake we leave behind us are just another aspect of this journey of self discovery. And yes, just like finding ourselves (how we’re wired, skilled, likes and dislikes) is important, this is where many stop and dare go no further. They don’t dare continue to walk this path of self discovery. Yet, that’s exactly what God desires us to do…..the next part of the journey….

more to come…

be blessed today

 

That Numb Feeling

I like the cold. I like to play in the snow, hike in the snow, be in the snow. And I do like it when my hands get so cold, I can barely feel them. You know what I hate? Pins and needles. I hate that feeling. Like constantly hitting your funny bone and it’s this awkward hurting yet annoying pain all at the same time. At my desk, sitting in a seminar or lecture, my leg will go to sleep and then I have to go through the annoying process of waking it up. Then there is the weird feeling of trying to walk when my foot is asleep…so weird. Like this rubber attached thing to my body that i know is there, I just can’t feel it.

And so it is with our feelings. Yes, feelings, I am talking about feelings again. I to, have had my ups and downs, days that I wish I was number to not feel the pain and hurt. And, days I was numb unable to feel, or at least unable to feel anything nice and enjoyable. Yet, there are times where I think feeling numb would feel better than what it feels like at that moment.

Thankfully, I have enough people around me to help me not go numb; to not let my heart or my head go to sleep, but to feel what is actually going on around me. Even if that means I feel the “negative” or “bad” emotions that much more intensely. To go completely numb is to not feel even the “good” and “positive.”

Jesus felt. He felt sad, shame, anger, lonely and glad. To push back the hard ones causes a dulling so that the welcomed feelings can’t be felt either. And sometimes they came together at the same moment. So,  he embraced them. He felt every one.

Many of these feelings, these emotions come from grief and loss. Loss of stability, reputation, identity, loss of the way things once were, loss of a loved one, loss of expectations, etc. Grief and loss are powerful. And they are feelings we need to feel. Jeremiah was feeling loss and grief so much that he wrote an entire book in the Bible about it. Yet, I cannot, for the life of me, remember ever hearing a sermon straight from Lamentations. Never. Why? Because we hate feeling this way and feeling has been shamed in our culture.

Feeling our feelings and allowing ourselves to feel, allows us to connect with our inner most beings in a deeper way, allows us to connect with others in a deeper way,  and allows us to connect with the Creator in a far deeper way than we had ever imagined. This is part of being human, the good part of being human, the part of being a human that God created-relationship. This allows connection with God on a level so deep, many don’t dare to travel. This is real relationship. I pray we all connect with him on that level ever deeper today.

be blessed today

Photo Credit: writerscafe.org

Becoming More Human

I wish I was perfect. Body, mind, emotions, spirit. I really do wish that. Well, at least sometimes I wish I was. It seems to me that it would make life a lot more liveable. A lot easier. I could be wrong and probably am, but I do wish I was perfect. There are some good qualities about me. I’m tall. I’m likeable (at least I think I am). I like to have fun, but I also like the peace and quiet of solitude. I like to help and I like to get things done. I think I’m a good public speaker and I think I’m creative. I’m sure there are other qualities about me, but I think this is a good list for now.

I think we each, no matter who we are, we each have a list of qualities about us that are good. Qualities that people can say something good about us. Perhaps I’m naive but I really believe that. There are things abut us that are a part of who we are. The ideas we have, opinions we hold based off of beliefs and experiences we have endured. We each have a different life experience from any other person on the planet no matter if you are from the same race, city, neighborhood or family as another person. We each experience the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual world at least slightly different than the other person in the room. Collectively, we make up the human existence. If we are followers of Jesus, and Jesus alone, collectively we are the Body of Christ….the Bride of Christ, we’re called.

Some of us are on the “privileged” side of race, gender and/or economic privilege. And others of us tread the water of disadvantage. Some have great self awareness and some don’t even understand that concept. The list goes on but we are all collectively human. We learn from each other. From each others wisdom, mistakes, successes and failures. We learn from each others  vulnerability or lack there of. Whether it is “I also want to do that” or a “that’s not how I want to live my life,” we learn from each other.

We are not perfect nor will we be this side of heaven. Adam and Eve, they were not perfect. Yet they had an incredible communion with God. Being able to walk in the garden of Eden with Him, allowing His hand to hold theirs, His arm to be around them while they strolled throughout the orchards, forests, ponds…whatever the garden contained. Sitting by the bank skipping stones, feet dangling off the branch of the willow, simply being together.

I was reflecting on a thought I had once…or perhaps I heard it from someone else. Ya, that’s actually more likely. So, the other day, I was reflecting on a thought I heard from someone else. The thought was that as we become more like Christ, we are actually becoming more human. We are becoming more like God had originally intended us to be, before Adam sinned, before Eve sinned. Before the whole place got messed up. He’s calling us to become more like that. Memories of a stroll at sunset, birds chirping, the brook babbling near by as He and Adam just walked and talked. That part of humanity has gotten lost along the way. The relationship broke, the sweetness of it all shattered when the fall came and Adam and Eve were banished. Ever since then, Jesus coming, dying and the promise of His coming again, all of that has been to help us get back to that relationship we once collectively had.

We are all human beings. We all, all 7 billion of us or so, we all have something to offer each other because it is part of our humanness. When we are vulnerable with each other, honest with ourselves and each other, we offer so much of what God originally intended. People being people how God had intended this life to be lived. We are not perfect and we won’t be this side of heaven. But one glimpse, perhaps even a fleeting moment, is when we are humanizing each other by allowing ourselves to fully show up to one another.Allowing ourselves to be truly seen by another. Allowing ourselves to stop talking and listen to another. To try to put ourselves in the place of another, that is becoming more human. That is becoming more of what once was. God is in those moments, in those sacred times of allowing who we are to be seen. In those moments we see how much God loves us and how much we need Him. How much we need the Body.

May we do that today.

May I do that today.

Be Blessed.

So, what about you? What has your experience been like when you have shown up? When others have shown up? What has been your experience when you allowed yourself to be human to another person? I’d love to be apart of hearing your story. It allows us all to become more human and more of what Heaven will be like.

Photo Credit: http://www.letsgogardening.co.uk/japanese_gardening.htm

Are You Disoriented?

I always enjoyed hiking when I was younger but never really backpacked until I entered university. There, nestled in the lower Appalachian Mountains, I began to enjoy a lot of outdoor activities not really available to me in Ohio where I grew up. I live in a place now where it can happen frequently and I’m pretty excited to get out and explore more of this great place. Perhaps the Gobi this summer…..

During my Junior year of university, I went on a failed trip with my then girlfriend (now my Iris) and Mike, a really good friend of mine. We had plans of meeting up with two of our other friends as they planned on showing up later due to a soccer game. We had some plans, but not great ones and we never did meet up with them. Two injuries, lack of water and fear of where our friends were, we decided to cut the trip a day early and find a shortcut back.

The boots I purchased weren’t broken in (a rookie mistake) and therefore I had massive broken blisters on both my heels as well as on the ball of one of my feet. Iris, who had torn her meniscus earlier that volleyball season, was in pain with almost every step. I was slowing down and lagging behind. Mike and Iris were talking and hiking and were getting ahead of me. After a few minutes or so, I rounded a bend in the trail and they were gone. I continued on, trying to listen for their voices, and figured that I would catch up to them at some point. Then, I came to a fork in the trail. Neither this new trail nor the trail I was on was marked and I had no idea which one to take.

I paused for a minute, straining to hear their voices, but  heard nothing other than my imagination putting their voices in my head. I kept going on the slightly more well worn path and began yelling their names. About 10 minutes later, I heard them shout back and I yelled “WAIT!” I caught up to them, but out of embarrassment, never said anything to them about my fear that I was lost in the Great Smokey Mountains, thirsty and hurting. We stopped for a bit, ate some gorp and regrouped as we tried to figure out how to get out. A couple hours later, we were able to get to a store by a road and hitchhiked back to our car. It was one for the story books, but needless to say, we’re a bit more prepared now.

Walter Bruggerman has observed that we as followers of Jesus, go through three phases in our lifetimes. These three phases are cyclical and can repeat numerous times throughout our time on this earth. He writes “each  of God’s children is in transit along the flow of Orientation, Disorientation, and Reorientation.” I’ve gone through these three a few times and am in the middle of it now. But what do they mean?

When we first come to a point of acknowledging and accepting God’s forgiveness and begin to follow Him, we are orienting our life towards Him. We begin to head in a direction, a path, towards Him and what we believe is His will for our lives. But then, if we are seriously following and submitting to Him, there will come a time of complete disorientation. Getting laid off, Him asking you to quit your job, a sudden illness, the death of a spouse or child, burnout, the acknowledgement of an addiction, retirement, the birth of a child, and the list goes on. We wonder what in the world is going on. It may feel like you are walking through the stages of hell and even wondering why God is silent. Job went through this. David, Jesus, Moses, Peter, Paul, William Carey and Elizabeth Elliot just to name a few.

It’s in the disorientation that we begin to understand a deeper meaning of grace. A deeper plane of compassion, sacrifice, wisdom, kindness and joy. It’s in these times where things are stripped away so that all we have to run to is God and nothing else. When the ice begins to thaw from the unknowing, from the harsh winter of what we thought was normality, we can begin to reorient ourselves to where God was the entire time and begin moving forward in a more right direction than we were prior. Their can be no reorientation without the disorientation. The reorientation is incredible…but the pathway of pain has to be walked in order for the peace to come.

From walking the path we thought we always would, to becoming lost and not knowing where to go, to being back in community, God has us walk this cycle as we are in transit. Ah, transit…that’s for another day. So, where are you? If it’s orientation, be ever thankful that you have found new life in Him. If in disorientation, be ever thankful because without this, you will not become the person you will be on the other side…and that is someone I would like to meet. And if in reorientation, be ever thankful for God’s enduring patience and promise to never leave you.

Have you experienced these three phases? What was your experience? Where are you right now at this moment? Sharing your journey helps in walking through the pain and encourages others to continue on. Please share your thoughts, experiences and emotions, and thanks for continuing on.

 

 

 

Are You Looking For Fullfilment in a Vocation or a Career?

I’m trying to remember all the jobs I’ve had in my life. I grew up on 1,000 acre farm (that’s 400 hectares for you metric mates). Bailing hay, feeding and watering the cattle were probably my first jobs. In high school I worked for a pig farmer/auctioneer which was really interesting. In college it was more seasonal between roofing, construction, woodworking, dry cleaning, furniture mover, camp counselor, grounds keeping and….well, there’s probably more. I was a pastor for a few years before heading into the community development and humanitarian aide sector. And then? Tell then I landed in business. Coffee roasting (I could talk about this for days, but will spare you the topic- for today at least) and Barista (the person who makes your latte everyday) are the biz now.

Aaahhh coffee. Sweet, specialty coffee with all your intricate flavors of blueberry, rhubarb, cocoa, chocolate, milk chocolate, pineapple, earthy undertones and more, how I enjoy thee. It’s a fun job. It’s one where part of my creative side can be let out and become an artist with some green coffee seeds and a roaster. As interesting as it is, it is not my life long desire. Being involved with humanitarian aide or community development are areas that I find enjoyment and interest in. However, they are also not my life long desire. They are jobs, careers, places that I can use some of my gifts and skills, but when all is said and done they are helping to put food on the table. They are a means to an end. They are a vessel, a vehicle I get to drive on a long, incredible journey.

I enjoy road trips. Sometimes I just have a destination to get to. But the trip is far more enjoyable when we stop from time to time, take the dirt road and find out where it leads, stop and look at the valley, park and go for a hike.

Careers usually have no place for side trips, detours or stopping at a point of interest leisurely. Careers get you from Point A to Point B. They serve a purpose, but careers aren’t usually life long desires. They aren’t usually something that will hit every gift and skill that you are given and created with.

Vocations on the other hand…A vocation, is what we were made for.

“Our vocation is always a response to a Divine call to take our place in the kingdom of God. Our vocation is a call to serve God and our fellow humans in the distinctive way that fits the shape of our being. In one way or another,  Christian calling will always involve care of God’s creation and people. This realigns us to the created world and to our neighbor, moving us form self- centered exploitation to self-sacrificing service and stewardship,” as David Benner states in his book, The Gift of Being Yourself.

I love coffee. But my vocation, what God has wired, gifted and skilled me for at least for now, is only using coffee as a means to engage with people; a vehicle to take the detour of a conversation of another’s inward journey; to take the dirt road most dare not go down to the core of vulnerability with other people by being real, honest and showing up; to simply stop and join them in their journey of understanding who they are in Christ, finding freedom from the pain of the past and walking together towards the future…towards Christ. That is my vocation. We were made for a vocation, not just a career. So what is yours? What is it that God may be leading you to? It doesn’t mean quitting your day job or your career. It is simply living out how you were made to in engaging this world, in God’s created order.

My prayer is that we don’t go through life trying to figure out our careers and missing the joy of our vocations. Let’s find them together!

   What is your vocation? What things have people affirmed about you that may lead to a greater understanding of your vocation? What has your experience been if you’ve been living out your vocation?

High Horses and Humanity

I really hate acknowledging my flaws. It is laying myself out there to be vulnerable to other people who, in turn, can use those flaws against me.  But that is the risk of being vulnerable.

One of the things I find frustrating about myself is when I look at someone judgmentally, I expect that when it’s their turn to look at me, they will do so with a tad bit of grace  “Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but the first thing I look for in you,” as Brene Brown wrote in her book Daring Greatly.I expect great things of others all the while never holding myself up to those same standards.

Sitting in my first ever large group recovery meeting, surrounded by people dealing with their own stuff was an interesting experience for me. People openly sharing about what they are struggling with, dealing with…the mess they are in. And yet, there wasn’t any judgement. As I started down my own journey of understanding my dysfunctions, hurts and habits, someone very wise told me that “it doesn’t matter what everyone else is dealing with- control, pride, alcohol, sex or drugs- everyone’s stuff weighs the same.”

When we begin to realize that their is no hierarchy as to who is more messed up than us or who has sinned more than us, we remove the judgement and start to replace it with grace. We see them (and maybe more importantly, ourselves) as human. Again, humanity is a high value of mine.

This goes along with something I recently read in Brene Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong, in which she puts it far more succinctly. She states that people, no matter what dysfunction or perceived health they are operating in, are simply living the best way they know how at the moment. Be it the politician spewing hatred about other religions or the religious fanatic who believes killing is the only way to “heaven;” the person who looks like they have the whole world at their fingertips but is dying inside to the other stealing a loaf of bread from the store because they haven’t had enough money to eat in weeks; they are only doing the best they know how. Without allowing the Spirit to examine our lives and walking through the pain to hand over lordship to Christ, we can never experience, nor expect, full healing. If we’ve never understood what it is that Christ has done for us and having courage to make amends for wrongs we’ve committed, we can never understand forgiveness. We cannot fully live in freedom.

If we are able to come to a place where we see other as doing the best we can, grace can come much easier. When we look at each other in grace suddenly we see them as human. We see ourselves as human. We are able to accept the grace God has given us. And we are much more able to show compassion. I am in no way implying that it will no longer be a struggle nor grace will always be the first response, but grace will more easily come if we stop and remember that they are human…just like we are.

Our perspective on our neighbors, family members, co-workers, other ethnicities and other cultures will begin to change as we see each other through the lens of grace. Grace brings freedom, love and empathy. Judgement brings bondage, worry, fear and hatred. My prayer for each of us is see others through a lens of grace more and more each day.

Do you have a story of how you’ve experienced judgement and grace? What was the outcome of each? May you be blessed as we grow in Christ.