In Too Deep

The radiant spring morning beautifully illuminated the world, yet my three-year-old daughter stood unusually still. It was a delightful day to say the least, and Alethea and I had walked out on our back porch to savor the sun. We lived in a pleasant neighborhood (contrary to the opinion of many), and for a young family braving the world, we had no fear—life was good.

My daughter, Olathe, squirmed restlessly in my arms, as she often did, wriggling for her independence. She was apparently having a hard time saying, “No, thank you,” to the earth’s invitation to a backyard exploration. So I lovingly let her down. She waddled down the wooden steps, across the slab of cement, and ran into our backyard. So much joy, so much life—I can still feel her contagious exhilaration as if it were our own.

Then, something changed. With her back facing us, she stopped abruptly. With an unsure twinge of horror, she slowly turned her head and looked at us unleashing a panicked cry. Instinctively, Alethea and I ran to her and scooped her up. Her little spring-loaded arms tightened around my neck as if something we couldn’t see desired to swallow her whole. I was able to maneuver her around just enough to check her feet for cuts, thorns, snake bites—anything that could have induced such terror. Nada.

Buckets of tears melted my heart. Daddy’s are protectors, so had I known there was something lurking out there, waiting to inflict fear upon my little princess, I would have warned her, stopped her, or enticed her to stay inside with some Cheerios. But the world is a beautiful place. And although there are things in it that may make her cry, should I keep her from the great adventures that beckon her curious soul?

I’ve been wrestling of late with the fine line between fear and love and how these two emotions influence our decisions. My decisions. You see, fear is a powerful emotion. It can keep us bound to the ground when we, or the ones we love, long to fly. It deceives us into thinking we are safe. Secure. In control. But in reality, fear is just a scared dictator fighting for self-preservation at all costs—chaining us to the porch with links of Cheerios.

Opposite of fear stands love. Fear rages against freedom under the guise of safety, whereas love safely wraps freedom in a comfortable, warm quilt. When we trust in love (whether human or divine), we are free to face our fears, experience life, even make mistakes. Why? Because even in our failings we know love will never fail. It will always find a way to scoop us up when our exhilaration or curiosity takes us in too deep.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him… There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” —1 John 4:16,18 (ESV)

“It was the grass. She doesn’t like the feeling of grass on her feet.”

I looked at my wife as this revelation graciously fell from her lips as drops rain on the dry ground of my perplexity. After a brief pause, we burst into compassionate laughter and held our daughter close.

We will all experience itchy ankles—times we get ahead of ourselves and realize we aren’t quite comfortable where we find ourselves. In those moments, let’s remember it is love that gave us the courage and freedom to explore an unsafe world. And that no matter how far we run in life, what fears we will face, when the world makes us cry, we (she) can be secure knowing that we will always… always… have a loving Father who through the wonder, fear, joy, and pain in life, is present and delights in us. Love never fails.


Change Your Life with One Small Word

CHANGEKimberly wants to finally get healthy, but doing so feels out of reach. Jason wants to start living his dream, yet he feels trapped at work. Jenna? She simply wants to enjoy life, but her situation feels like a hopeless prison.

Day in and day out, do you find yourself in a similar struggle—dreaming of more, but stuck in the rut? Do your hopes to break out, step up, and start living your dream seem to get crushed daily by the demands and routines of your reality?

If you want to change your life—go after a dream, start a business, get healthy, enjoy your day-to-day—you’re not alone. Many people desire change, but just because we want change doesn’t mean that we will change.

Last night in our small group study, we discussed what motivates people to make changes in their life. According to Steve Corbett and Brian Finkert, there are three triggers for change—things that have the potential to move people from merely wanting change to making change. They are:

  • A recent crisis
  • When the burden of the status quo becomes overwhelming
  • The introduction of a new way of doing or seeing things that could improve life

The authors go on to propose that many people, although they need a change, are not ready for change. This is because they either don’t think there’s a problem or just refuse to see their own responsibly in the process. Basically, they think about their situation and say,

So what?!”

However, that isn’t you. You hung with me this long because you see your need for change. But, if we want to pursue change then we first need to evaluate the triggers above that help us do just that. Honestly, I don’t want or need to wait around for a crisis or for things to become so overwhelming that if I don’t change I’ll die (physically, spiritually, emotionally). That only leaves one trigger: discover a new way of doing or seeing things that can improve my life.

Now that is something I can control.

That is something I can manage.

That is something I can do.

I may not have someone to go with me to the gym, teach me a new skill, or partner in business, but what I can do is learn, read, study, ask questions, and begin taking new steps towards a new way of living. I can stop saying, “So what?!” and start exploring “So what if…?”

By simply adding that one small word “if” to the end of my “so what” I give myself the potential to change my life—even more so if followed by a specific action towards a dream or goal.

So what if . . . I buy a book on how to start a business or a non-profit?
So what if . . . I plan ahead for five healthy meals a week?
So what if . . . I begin to set aside 10% of my income for savings?
So what if . . . I sign up for that foreign language class?
So what if . . . I commit to writing once a week?
So what if . . . I set aside one night a week for date night with my spouse?
So what if . . . I get up 15 minutes earlier and start my day with a devotional?

If gives you and me the power to discover a new way of doing or seeing things. If represents forward thinking and starts the ball rolling in right direction. If represents imagination and allows our creativity to work towards positive change.

So… if you want to change, but are having a hard time doing so, maybe it’s time to add that simply two letter word to your situation and explore what it may look like to start taking steps towards your dream. Trust me, living the dream is always better than dreaming the dream.

So . . . what if?

If you found this article helpful, would you consider sharing it with others?

photo credit: Will Clayton via photopin cc

Enough faith?

throwAt age 17, I had been given the opportunity to give a message to a tribe of people up in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. I had my message all prepared when not more than 5 minutes before I was to speak, God nudged me to preach the Gospel from Mark 16. I did just that and by God’s grace, over 90% of the small rural church responded for salvation.

As the service was coming to close, I proclaimed that God not only saves but is also a healer.  I opened the front for anyone who needed a miracle. Numerous people came forward, but a short elderly woman stands out clearly in my mind.  Slowly she nudged her way through the crowd up to the interpreters. She spoke softly to them and they turned to me with anticipation in their eyes, “She is deaf in one ear and would like you to pray for God to restore her hearing.”

I believed God could do it, but in the moment I was overwhelmed but my own inadequacies. I turned around and faced the back wall for a moment. “God, I am not sure I have enough faith for this, but I trust you.”  Tears began to stream down my face as I turned back and faced the woman. Laying my hands on her ear, I began to simply pray for God to heal her.

When I finished, one of the interpreters began to whisper in this woman’s deaf ear. A smile stretched across her wrinkled cheeks as she began to jump up and down with utter enthusiasm shouting something in in her native language.

“She can hear!!! She can hear!!!”  

I crumpled to the floor in awe of a merciful and tremendous God who loves all His children, even those lost in the mountains of southern Mexico.

Since that day, I have prayed for healing of others on numerous occasions. Some have been. Others not. But I’ve realized my job is just to act in faith (pray) and leave the results to God.  I don’t have to question the why or how.  Faithfulness is just being willing to step out and trusting God with the results based on His character.  

You see, “enough faith” is acting in a way that displays trust in something we believe to be true. It has nothing really to do with results. Matter of fact, it is quite the opposite. It is action when we aren’t sure of the outcome, but trust that God does.  It’s knowing God in the moment and understanding his will.  Faith is something we believe enough to move us to action.

That is enough for me.  The rest is up to God.

Back in the game

The sound of the ball, the thrill of the score, and satisfaction of “leaving it all on the field” are just a few things I enjoy about playing soccer. The end of July marks the last day of recovery from back surgery. Total recover time lasts sixteen weeks and although I feel much better than I did prior to surgery, I have to approach certain things with extra caution. Soccer is one thing that will still be a few more weeks. I can’t wait!

The paradox for me lies not in the recovery time, but in the fact that I haven’t played for over 10 years. No one likes to be injured or hurt, but it’s interesting how they open our eyes to the things missing from our lives and awaken our passions. They allow us to feel the urgency and determination to take that first step into the things have been disabled by fears or procrastinations.

I have a confession to make. Although I love soccer, my wanting to play is really not about the sport to me. What I really miss is being able to kick a ball around with my two beautiful daughters, which I haven’t been able to do since last September.

In a small way, this is what life is about. This is worth the first step.

I am counting the days.

Deathbed Regrets: Part 2/5

#4 “I wish I had taken better care of myself.”

This is one regret I have actually quoted.

Recently I had a bout of sciatica. Wasn’t real fun. Intense pain can really make one want to take better care of their physical well being. When it came to physical fitness I always considered myself an active person. I grew up playing soccer, skateboarding, and generally maintained an athletic lifestyle. Strangely, those memories stuck with me even after I stopped actually being active. A few non-athletic jobs later and I threw my back out and limped around for two weeks like an old man.

Yes… at 32, I’ve already uttered this deathbed regret a few times. But thanks to a bit-o-pain, I find myself wanting to improve my well-being dramatically. If I start today, chances are good I’ll drop this regret and enjoy walking with a strut in my step instead of a limp.

Deathbed Regrets: Part 1/5

In a recent Maximized Living newsletter, Dr. Ben Lerner listed the “Top 5 Deathbed Regrets.” As I read over them, I thought it might be a good idea to personalize each one, so here we go…

#5 “I wish I had spent less time on my job and more with my family.”

This is one that seems nice in theory, but in actuality is a pretty hard one to accomplish. I find it ironic that most people who work to live, end up living to work. The daily grind is not easily escaped, especially since it is a necessity to support a family in today’s economy. So how would one, or should I say I, go about my life as to avoid this deathbed woe?

When time is tight because of work or other obligations maybe a key to this one would be “meaning in the moments.” This is something I know I could be more intentional in. When I have time and moments with my family I should probably ask myself how to make this the most meaningful. That doesn’t mean expensive. It doesn’t mean extravagant. It might simple mean that kiss on the forehead and prayer as I tuck my girls in to sleep at night. It might mean that grocery list gets split up and a scavenger hunt ensues for the lowest priced merchandise in the best time. It might mean turning the computer off and setting something demanding aside to eat dinner together with my family. Maybe it’s being “fully present” in a conversation with my wife or kids. Overall, the term “meaning in the moment” seems to best describe what I am trying to say.

Most of us have to work to make ends meet, so let’s make the most of every moment we are given with our families and create memories we will never regret.