25 November 2008

Words of wisdom from a man in a sweater.

I have no real profound thoughts today, as I sit in my office in sweats and baseball cap and wonder what road I may ultimately end up walking professionally. I'm still in this amazingly, frighteningly, wonderfully, awkward time of transition - and I have experienced a gamut of emotions along the journey thus far. There's that uplifting rush that comes from imagining a world of possibilities. And there's the dread that comes from imagining hopes dashed. And in the middle, there's this amazing thing called everyday life. There's marriage, and family, and friendships, and prayer. There's laughter and music and reading and cooking. There's freelance jobs and the joy of writing and the launch of a company and the "oh, can I really do this?" followed by the "take a risk." And there is Mr Rogers.

Yes, there's Fred Rogers. You know the man. "Mr Roger's Neighborhood," with Trolley and Ex the Owl, Henrietta Pussycat and Speedy Delivery. Long after I was too old to watch the show, I still tuned in. Because, in our crazy world, he was a voice of kindness. Both on and off the screen, he was a minister. And this morning, his wisdom is just what the doctor ordered. Don’t worry – it’s not what you think. Hope the musings of Mr. Rogers inspire you today too.

"If we're really honest with ourselves, there are probably times when we think, 'What possible use can I be in this world? What need is there for somebody like me to fill?' That's one of the deeper mysteries. Then God's grace comes to us in the form of another person who tells us we have been of help, and what a blessing that is."

"There's a part of all of us that longs to know that even what's weakest about us is still redeemable and can ultimately count for something good."

"One of my seminary professors, Dr Orr, often talked with great poignancy about Henry, a student who had come to the seminary with a degree in classic literature and a fine working knowledge of Greek and Latin as well as several modern languages. He remembered this young man as being brilliant and yet always receiving with such grace the offers of others. 'He never put on airs,' Dr. Orr said. 'You always felt he really respected everybody else.' It seems that this young man wa a perfectionist. For him every word had to be just so. It was excruciating for him to give a sermon unless he felt it was letter-perfect; consequently, it took him two months to write one sermon. Even though he tried hard, it became clear to him that he was not going to be suited for the parish ministry. Eventually, he dropped out of seminary and took a job at a local department store. Dr. Orr didn't hear from him for a long time, so one day, he stopped in the store to see how Henry was faring. It happened to be Henry's day off, but his coworkers talked with Dr. Orr about him. The more they talked, the more Dr. Orr realized that the people at the store knew nothing about this fellow employee's extensive education. What they did know was what had happened in their department after his arrival. 'The department was filled with all kinds of jealousy and pettiness. It was a miserable place to work before Henry came,' a person told Dr. Orr. 'But after he had been here awhile, somehow all of that miserable stuff seemed to disappear. We all got working together, and well, it's different with him here. He's like a minister in more ways than anyone knows. You say you know Henry? Well, you are blessed, too, then.' Dr. Orr finally contacted Henry, and the two of them read Greek literature together for ten years before Henry died. When Dr. Orr talked about him, he would invariably say, 'To think there were people at the seminary - and elsewhere - who called it a waste for Henry to have done what he did, working at that department store.' Then Dr. Orr would add, 'Henry probably had one of the greatest ministries I know. I feel privileged to have been his friend.'"

“’The outside is never as much as the inside…’ As you may know by now, that’s one of the major themes of our work: The invisible essential. Oh, the outsides of life are important, but the insides are what enhance so much of the rest.

“I am glad that I’ve been able to do what I’ve done and not been sidetracked along the way. A teacher of mine calls it guided drift. Isn’t that wonderful? You’re drifting, and yet you’ve got a rudder.”

“I saw a friend who’s a freelance writer and asked him what he was working on. ‘Nothing right now,’ he answered. ‘You know how it is for freelancers. But at times like this I tell myself I’m “between opportunities.” That way I don’t have to feel I’m nowhere.’ There’s often a tendency for us to hurry through transitions. We may feel that these transitions are ‘nowhere at all’ compared to what’s gone on before or what we anticipate is next to come. But you are somewhere…you’re ‘between.’”

“A friend of mine was in a taxi in Washington, D.C., going slowly past the National Archives, when he noticed the words on the cornerstone of the building: ‘The past is prologue.’ He read them out loud to the taxi driver and said, ‘What do you think that means, “the past is prologue”?’ The taxi driver said, ‘I think it means, Man, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!’”

Thanks Mr. Rogers.

21 November 2008

Fear of the Dark

I awoke in the middle of the night – or is it really the beginning of the morning. And I couldn’t get back to sleep. I listened to the calming sound of waves on my iPhone in an effort to be lulled back to slumber. But for some reason, sleep wouldn’t come.

So, I began reading, and a single theme crept into the dark, quiet room. Fear.

The Wall Street Journal offered little comfort as story after story shared disheartening news about the current economic conditions of our country and the world.

…the fear is that the economy is deteriorating much more rapidly than the government thought possible.

…it’s scary to think how much more can go wrong before Inauguration Day.

A US government report featured on foxnews.com painted an even darker picture.

The next two decades will see a world living with the daily threat of nuclear war, environmental catastrophe and the decline of America as the dominant global power, according to a frighteningly bleak assessment by the U.S. intelligence community.

That darkness, that fear, moved from the pages – into the room, into my heart. The weight of it pressed heavily, and I found myself caught – struggling to pray, struggling to find meaning in it all. I thought about my family, my friends.

Then I remembered.

There is only One I should fear.
My Lord.
My God.
My Judge.
My Redeemer.
My Saviour.

And I read some more. But this time, I focused on more eternal things.

Psalm 42: 5 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and 6 my God!

Psalm 128: 1 How joyful are those who fear the Lord—all who follow his ways! 2 You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be! 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home. Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table. 4 That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear him.

And slowly, the dark fear was replaced by awe.

Psalm 2: 10 Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth! 11 Serve the Lord with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!

And with the awe came thankfulness.

Psalm 25:12 Who are those who fear the Lord? He will show them the path they should choose. 13 They will live in prosperity, and their children will inherit the land. 14 The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.

Psalm 33:
18 But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love. 19 He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine.

And with the thankfulness came courage.

Psalm 27: 1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?

Psalm 46: 1 God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. 2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. 3 Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!

And with the courage came sleep.

18 November 2008

One of a Million, or One in a Million?

I saw Madagascar 2 this past weekend. It was a special date with my cousin, Julia, who is undergoing aggressive chemotherapy for lung cancer. We arose early, bundled up to brave the chilly Oklahoma winds, and headed to the theatre for a special morning treat. As we ate our “popcorn for breakfast” (something that we’ve now done two times since she began her treatment), we laughed at the great jokes, tributes to shows like The Twilight Zone, and the amazing use of both Boston and Barry Manilow in the same movie. Few things are more precious than the sound of both big hearty grown-up chuckles and big baby belly laughs on a Saturday morning.

While the time at the theatre was meant to provide respite for my cousin, a particular storyline in the Dreamworks flick resonated with me – that of being uniquely gifted. In this “savoring” season of my life, it is so easy to reflect back and wonder if there is any true value in anything I’ve done. It’s easy to fall prey to the sins of “what if” and “if only.” While I don’t regret the road I’ve traveled, I do wonder how many years have been robbed because I have so often veered from the illuminated path and gotten tangled in the twisted limbs of things like hurt or ego or fear. And while I do believe God is sovereign, it’s that mysterious mix of His providence and my obedience that I have yet to fully grasp.

I look at my fingerprint. There is no one with this fingerprint in existence. While to the naked eye it may look strikingly like others, when examined in fine detail, it is truly one of a kind – evidence that God has uniquely created me for this time, this moment, this life. That fingerprint is a physical reminder that He has “formed and fashioned me,” and that I am truly “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

But do I really believe that? Do I really believe I am “one in a million”? Or do I believe I’m merely “one of a million” – that my unique design by an almighty God doesn’t really count for much in the big scheme of things? If “believe” means “by life,” then all too often I slap God in the face with my answer. What would my life look like if I truly lived out His perfect calling for me? How would I live if I took seriously His craftsmanship in every aspect of my being? Oh God, please forgive me for not taking seriously enough Your divine plan, Your wonderful creativity. Please help me to see You in even the smallest details. You are a mighty God who needs nothing, yet you create each one of us to uniquely reveal Your glory. Help me to see what it means to be “one in a million” in You.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” – Martha Graham

Psalm 139:13-16 (The Message)

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb. I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day.

12 November 2008

Because you asked, Chief...

Today I had lunch with a friend and former business associate. We talked about change. We talked about the art of communication. We talked about listening. And he asked a question - a question that I didn't answer because - well, other things seemed more important. So, friend, here you go. My answer to the question, "So, what are you doing now?"

I'm truly learning to relax and enjoy this season in my life - not sure how long it will last, and don't want to squander it. I'm reading and writing, praying and listening. I'm working a little, playing a little, relaxing a little. I'm focusing more time on friends and family, and actively seeking opportunities to minister in ways large and small. And I'm learning to be OK with a life that is filled with fewer definites and more new adventures.

The Lord has crafted me and gifted me uniquely to serve and glorify Him, and He will continue to direct my path. I'm excited about both the "now" and the "not yet." I've never been more grateful, humble, or awe-struck of the majesty, sovereignty, power and love of my God.

That, sir, is my answer.

01 November 2008

Freedom - in images and song.

703 miles. 739 pairs of shoes. 45 hours in a bus. 5 cities in 5 days. Five orphanages, 1 babies home, 1 widows home, and a school that had never had North American visitors before. Rain, heat, landslides. And worth every single minute of it! This video features pictures taken by several members of the Guatemalan Shoes for Orphan Souls team. Just thought I'd share.

Location: Guatemala City, Xela, Antigua, Camotan.