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Courageous Living

The Events of Life & How They Can Shape Who We Become

As I observe life, its complexity of shaping forces at work, I am impacted by the way events have the power to literally mold who we become.

My eldest daughter is in cross-country. With all of her effort she has applied herself to optimize her abilities to run cross-country in such a way that she is able to cross the finish line with joy and personal satisfaction.

Much to her recent disappointment, she has experienced some difficulties with her breathing (lungs) and is in need of an evaluation to find the source of the problem. She has worked so hard to improve her pace, stride, and consequently her finishing time.

Imagine living life, “daily training and working on your stride, pace and qualifying time” endeavoring to “finish well” and none of your training or effort had direct influence on your “shaping ability” or the “form” that you were trying to improve. How would you feel about your life? What types of statements would you be making about yourself? How despairing and meaningless life would become.

John Sanford, says that the process of entering God’s Kingdom is a process of becoming an individual. It requires stepping apart from the crowd, from the mass movements that are always the easier way, “to suffer the pain and difficulty of becoming a conscious person.” 

Life, as I have mentioned, is the most valued, meaningful, and intense conversation you will have. Everyday there is a new conversation. Remnants of yesterday’s conversation may still be lingering and may need some attention. Anticipation for today’s conversation engages with day-to-day events and becoming more aware (conscious) of how they are shaping us and molding us into our true identity. If we are able to give consent to God (surrender), we can engage most deeply in a process allowing ourselves to be changed into an identity that fulfills the purposes of God while we are here on earth. As we do this, our conversations with or about tomorrow will not be filled with fear or anxiety, rather, a priceless creation that extends beyond our own ability or measure: the fulfillment of LIFE itself.


The Pearls We Value

Like everyone else, I got up this morning, got ready for the day, and landed with my first task that seemingly got my day started. Is not that what we all do? Each day brings with it the many tasks that seem to be “what we have to do” to start our day.

I began thinking about this a little more and realized that each day we begin exchanging life for someone or freshwater loose pearls for the things that we deem as “important” to us. Think about it. In my earlier post Stepping Into Life, I discussed the necessity of taking steps, one-by-one and eventually the summit appears. Prior to ever taking the first step to reach the summit begs the question, What am I exchanging my life for, each moment, as I take steps onward and upward to achieve the peak of any given summit?

I am reminded of a story that Jesus spoke of. He states that the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of See full size imagegreat value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

I realize that I am combining two thoughts simultaneously at this point. However, what I believe the significance of what I am trying to say is that each day we are giving our life over to someone or something. We are exchanging our time, energy, thought, and heart for someone or something that we deem as important enough to give our life to. Our time is our life quantified. Our money is simply remuneration for our time. Our energy is the soul of our initiative concerning what we are about in purpose and plan. Are you conscious of your pearls today?

Photos courtesy of  Google Images/Shenzhen Fortune-yon, Overlander


Stepping Into Life!

Recently, I had an opportunity to take  week-long sabbatical. In case you do not know, a sabbatical is “A sabbatical year is a prolonged hiatus, typically one year, in the career of an otherwise successful individual taken in order to fulfill some dream.” In my case it was not a year, nor was it necessarily to fulfill my dream. It was however to gain perspective, and a vantage point about my life. Everyone needs that type of time to consider how and where one is going. I was grateful to have the time to engage & reflect, listen & hear, step & pause. One of the exciting events that I chose while on sabbatical was to climb what is called a 14′er (or fourteener) known as Quandary Peak. In case you have not connected the dots, I was out-of-town visiting the state of Colorado. Colorado has breathtaking views, clean air, and space to “take it all in.” Colorado has over 50 14′ers and all have views that extend beyond the horizon. Quandary is one of many and is a beginners 14′er with a gradual but intense incline.

As I seem to do with most events in my life, I experience them to the fullest measure, meanwhile I extract the symbolic meaning of them as I am engaging and participating in the adventure. Quandary Peak is a 14,265 foot Peak southwest of Breckenridge that begins in the trees and ends up above the treeline. The trail is relatively easy to follow until crossing the treeline and traveling onto the rocky path towards the summit.

As I was venturing upwards, I was remembering when I ran my first marathon in the year 2000. One of the key learnings then was, “anyone can run a marathon, one must simply learn what their pace is to complete the race.” Then, that was a good learning. Knowing what your pace is enables you to complete your race. Life is a race and you are competing with yourself. Knowing what your personal pace is enables you to complete it with the time that is commensurate with your own abilities and commitment. It is so easy to look around and observe the other competitors and compare yourself with what is perceived about “the other.” What an illusion! It goes to show, life is filled with illusions. Back to the climb.

What I learned while climbing was, “the ascent to the top takes place by “stepping into life” one step at a time! Rarely does any progress, achievement, or goal get accomplished while watching or sitting. Though there is a time and place for observation, there is also a time for stepping into the unknown “one step at a time” in order to gradually move into a more full life. I am reminded if the passage in Isaiah 25: 6-9

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine, the best of meats and the finest of wines.

On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; He will swallow up death forever.

The sovereign Lord will wipe away tears from all faces; He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.

In that day they will say, Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”

Step into Life, your life. Go to the summit, your summit. See the peak, the view, the majesty of His glory from your perspective One Step at a TIme! You will receive as you trust each step along the way!

Photos courtesy of Google & 14ers.com, Flickr, tab2space.

 


Conversations of Courage

In amazement, I find myself moved by the conversations that I am privileged to share with people who are attempting to “connect the dots” of past and present experiences in their lives. Not only are these conversations earnestly seeking for truth, they are conversations that draw upon courage. I classify these interactions as “Conversations of Courage.”

These are not average conversations where common rhetoric or talk are merely exchanged to convey information back and forth. I am talking about the type of conversations that require vulnerability in the “guts” of a person and on a profound level make a decision to no longer hide from the truth of an experience.

I suppose a story or example would help illustrate what I am trying to convey. Perhaps in future blogs I will submit one for your perusal. For now, I wish to explain what I am trying to say first.

A choice must be made for “life” to continue. Courage is revealed when the vulnerability of a person’s situation evokes transparency and decision-making. Another way of saying this comes from author Gerald May, “A person must learn to become willing rather than wilful.”  Willingness actually leads to a more open space available for transformation. Wilfulness has within its make-up the attitude of being closed to secure a more immediate and self-focused aspect of interest. Willingness creates an attitude open to learning and growing. Wilfulness postures control and possible dominance where inwardly there is insecurity and fear.

For a time, the late Joe Batten from Des Moines, Iowa was my mentor and friend. He gave me an illustration that spoke to this point of willingness versus wilfulness. He would say, “Matthew what material is stronger,  leather or granite?” Naturally, like many who answered this question, I would say, “granite.” He would go on to state, “If you were to take a hammer and hit a piece of granite it would shatter. If you do the same with leather it dimples and still holds its shape.” The point: leather is actually a stronger material because it is flexible and open to change. In the scheme of life, leather is better.

Courageous conversations, I have found are: open and flexible. They require something of us, include vulnerability, and promote the refreshment of an other’s impact to develop and change who we are capable of becoming.”

I challenge you; be willing to have a conversation of courage. Take note whether you grow and develop as a result of your conversation.

Photos courtesy WordPress, Flickr, stephenK1977 & maxcady808