Photo courtesy of ©photodune.net
Another Valentines’ Day is in the books!
Regardless of who we are, Valentine’s Day is significant. This love-thing is huge.
We hunger for it. We long to be seen, heard, and understood. We thirst to be looked up to, honored, and respected. We dream of being heroes and heroines together in a love-drama of epic proportions.
This starts at birth. We arrive as little wonders gasping to be held, nurtured, and fed. As our needs are met, substantial deposits are made into our love bank. We grow into people who learn to give as well as receive.
We have heart-gaps
Unfortunately, all our needs aren’t met. We’re cared for by fallible humans. Things are missed. Sometimes unimaginable, horrible events occur. Gaps appear in our hearts.
The hunger to be loved remains, and grows.
Not knowing what to do with this, we go on the hunt to meet our own needs. Love-hunger drives us to perform, whether it’s grades, sports, relationships, gangs, alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, or cutting. We graduate into adulthood wounded, unsure of ourselves and others.
Life assaults us. Pressures and responsibilities wear us down. We discover that things, and often people, aren’t what they seem. Deception and posturing are everywhere, even in our own hearts. We get hurt, and cause pain to others. Tragedies occur. Hearts are broken, even crushed.
Eventually, we settle
So we downgrade our stories. We abandon ourselves as hero or heroine. This is too messy to be an epic of any kind. We silence the voice of our hearts. We become realistic.
And then we settle, for less – a lot less.
But the nagging hunger to be seen, accepted, and cherished simply won’t go away.
The love we long for
The ancient Greeks had four words for “love.” One described physical-sexual attraction. Another expressed familial attachment. Yet another referred to friendship and those we like. The fourth word was, well, different.
The Greeks knew there had to be something greater. They called it agape – the ability to accept another as they are, know their need, and then act for their ultimate good.
Agape was hardly ever used. It was viewed as virtually impossible.
Hotwired for love
This impossible love – agape – explodes across the pages of the Greek New Testament with the force of a hurricane. It pops up everywhere. Most often, it describes God’s affection for us. He knows us, understands us, pursues our ultimate best, and has the power to pull it off.
It even says, “God is love (agape).”
No wonder we long for love. We’re hotwired for it.
Human beings can meet some needs, but the deepest ones are reserved for someone greater. We have God-holes that no one but the Creator can fill.
Where will our wounds take us?
My wounds can drive me to bitterness, or to agape. My disappointments and terrors can be invitations to depression or to seeking God. Yes, I long to understand, but if I knew the why’s I wouldn’t even glance in God’s direction.
As I try to control things, I end up living a fantasy, missing out on the best of what I’m here for.
I must abandon control if I’m to experience love.
You are wanted
Today I remind myself that if God loves me, he wants me. He always has. He always will. He is agape.
He’s more than the go-to guy when we’re in distress. He’s the in-it-with-us guy. He walked here. He endured the temptations we face. He gave his life so we could be with him – so he could be with us.
He is the in-it-with-us-all-the-time-everywhere-God who walks with us in our valleys and on our mountain-tops. He knows our hearts, our wounds, and our needs.
God longs for something too
God has a longing too – for us. He hungers for us to experience him – agape.
Where did the dream of being the hero or heroine come from in the first place? Could it be this is a drama of epic proportions and that each of us has a crucial role to play? What if the Larger Story, the Great Drama, is about loving and being loved?
Maybe our childhood hearts weren’t lying. Perhaps wounds, losses, and disappointments are the fire that forges true heroes and heroines. Could it be that mercy, forgiveness, and service are more powerful than we realize?
Agape is real. The love-drama of epic proportions continues today. Lean in. It might not be glamorous or comfortable, but being the hero-heroine never is.
QUESTION: How do you see us trying to meet our own love-hunger needs?
Photo courtesy of ©photodune.net
My past jumps up and bites me sometimes. Like one night last week. It was miserable. It was what I call an adrenaline night.
It came on after dinner – the rising tension in my body, the tightness in my chest, and that faint internal trembling working its way through my system.
I knew sleep would be a challenge. I closed my eyes and could hear the internal engine revving. I dozed a little. Body parts twitched. I wanted to jump up and run – out the door, down the street, and keep going until I dropped.
I reviewed my day and the week. I couldn’t pinpoint anything that might’ve caused this.
The Powerful Past
A long time ago, however, something did happen. I was sexually abused in early childhood.
One of the results was adrenaline – lots of it. I grew up on alert and hyper-vigilant. I lived in fight or flight mode.
The abuse was so bad that I blocked it out. If I hadn’t, it would’ve killed me (or worse). I had large memory gaps growing up.
Forty years later, the flashbacks hit. My body relived the abuse, and I was thrust back into that familiar fight or flight mentality. Adrenaline pumped into my system whether I needed it or not. The flashbacks continued on and off for two years.
It was terrifying and traumatic. I had many adrenaline nights. These nights produced waves of anxiety, and often panic attacks. As I pursued healing, I learned better how to manage the overwhelming emotions.
The Now is New – A Different Time and Place
Last week, as the waves of anxiety came, I found myself smiling. I told myself, “This is a physical reaction. I can accept it because it is real. The abuse was real, and it mattered. That little boy (me) mattered. I honor him by going through this. I’ve been here before and endured this dozens of times.”
I tried to relax and breathe deeply, knowing I was just along for the ride. There was nothing I could do to rush or halt the process. I prayed, but not the God-rescue-me type of prayer. He’s rescued me already. I found myself thanking him -
-for his goodness to me
-for the amazing opportunities I’ve had and things I’ve experienced
-for the people I’ve known and know
-for the life I get to live in spite of my wounds and losses
-for the healing I’ve received
As I thanked him, a new thought formed in my heart:
Adrenaline nights are part of my healing.
The adrenaline I no longer needed to fight or flee was being released and flushed out of my system. In general, I flee less and embrace life more. I can choose to let adrenaline nights remind me of the past, of my rescue, my continued healing – and of God’s great goodness to me.
Don’t get me wrong. I wish adrenaline nights would disappear and never return. But the reality is sexual abuse deeply injured my soul, and that impacted my body. Adrenaline overload is a handicap I inherited as a result. I can lament having the handicap, or I can accept it and use it to live well.
Our Wounds Have Great Purpose
Our losses and soul wounds have great purpose. Our pain tends to inform our mission. For example, I’m passionate about helping hurting people heal, grow, and engage in the adventure God has for them. That’s no accident. Your mission isn’t random either. You’ve been shaped and fine-tuned for it.
Takeaways from the latest adrenaline night:
Accept the past.
It was what it was. Your pain honors what you went through. Your losses and wounds matter.
Stay in the present.
Guard your mind from going places that aren’t profitable. You’re not back there anymore. Things may feel the same, but this is another time and place.
You’ve been here before. You’ve faced tragedy and difficulty, and overcome. You’ll overcome again.
Focus on the blessings you’ve received along the way. Pain and loss gets turned around and used for good all the time.
Past wounds and personal issues are often used as excuses. What a waste when they can be used for powerful, positive impact. Healing happens when we allow the past to soften our hearts and motivate us to difference-making.
Lean into your losses and issues. Intentionally use them for good. Accept what happened and shape it into a tool to serve others.
And that, my friends, is overcoming.
QUESTION: How might you use your losses and wounds to serve others?
Photo courtesy of ©photodune.net
It was early and frigid. I was tucked away at a corner table in a quaint café in the downtown historic district – the perfect place for a morning write.
Sam was there too. He’s homeless, and comes in every morning. The staff hand him a cup and he helps himself to coffee. He rarely finishes the first cup.
That morning Sam sat down at the table next to mine. He methodically sipped his coffee and tapped his newspaper with his right index finger. He turned the paper over periodically, but never got off the first page.
Sam wore a hooded crimson and silver sweatshirt, covered by a padded black and gray jacket. A plaid scarf was wrapped around his neck, and his head was topped with an old beige fishing cap. He had on brown trousers and some high mileage sneakers. His face was worn and wrinkled, but kind. His copper-brown eyes seemed tinged with sadness.
Later in the morning, a lady came in and made her way to Sam’s table. She too was dressed in layers to keep out the cold. Sam got up and grabbed another cup.
As Sam set the cup in front of her, she stared down at the smoking liquid. Together they sat in silence, her gazing into her cup and him tapping the front page of his newspaper. The restaurant was quiet and peaceful, marred only by the occasional clanking of pots and pans in the kitchen.
After several minutes, Sam’s friend rises. They exchange a few words, and she heads out into the cold again. Sam looked up at me and smiled. It was a nice smile. A warm smile. An I’ve-seen-some-stuff-but-I’m-still-here smile. Then he bowed his head, and started tapping the front page again.
There are moments in life that bring perspective. Most of us live in a bubble – the bubble of our own lives, with our own troubles and concerns. We spin, fret, and obsess about whatever needs solving at the moment – our job, a relationship, finances, our weight.
Then the world comes and sits down next to us.
Sometimes it comes like a heat-seeking missile, blowing our plans to bits. Other times, like Sam, it comes quietly. We could miss it if we’re not paying attention.
What if we paid attention?
What if we put down our phones and tablets and took the time to look around us? What if we freed our minds from the mental spin cycle and focused more on what’s in our immediate vicinity?
We would see others.
As I paid attention that morning, I found myself experiencing a variety of emotions. I no longer saw the homeless guy sitting in front of me tapping the paper. I saw Sam.
We would be more real, more alive.
I didn’t particularly like what I felt. The mask-wearing part of me wanted to disengage before I got in any deeper. After all, I had my to-do list.
But I felt more alive inside. Some deeply buried song lyrics came to mind:
“I want to live in the world, not behind some wall. I want to live in the world, where I can hear if another voice should call” (Alive in the World, Jackson Browne).
I was more alive and my heart was more engaged. All because I took a moment and paid attention.
We would live with more passion and have greater impact.
Having a beating heart and a functioning brain doesn’t mean we’re living life. Yes, being alive in the world will be uncomfortable at times, but so what?
Life is messy and getting dirty is a necessary requirement for living with impact.
As lunchtime approached, Sam got up, waved to the staff, threw away his trash, and wiped the table. He probably does this every time. I just never paid attention before.
He adjusted his hat and hood, tightened his scarf, and zipped up his jacket. As he folded his newspaper, he glanced at me and nodded. I smiled and nodded back.
It’s time to pay attention.
Question: Have you paid attention and felt alive in the world lately? What was that like?
Photo courtesy of ©photodune.net
“I‘m chasing my tail…again,” I shared with a friend on Skype.
“No surprise there,” he responded, laughing. “You’re a beast at juggling, but dude…you’ve got way too many balls in the air.”
“But it’s all good stuff,” I whined. He smirked and shook his head.
There comes a point where the speed of life begins to erode our level of excellence. We begin dropping balls. Important stuff falls through the cracks. If we don’t make proper adjustments, our mission can go from being our passion to a cement-like burden. Burn out, flame out, or give out – the operative word is out.
I’ve been there several times. I’ll bet you have too.
I needed to change some things, but what? I have lousy perspective on me, so I contacted some folks I respect and picked their brains. “I’m headed in the right direction but can’t seem to get enough traction to blast forward the way I know is possible,” I said.
Then I shut up and listened.
Here’s what they said:
“You must do less.”
This is hard for me. I’ve been called (among other things) the Energizer bunny, a content machine, and the Flash. I love production and I’m in constant motion. Makes me wonder what I’m running from, but that’s a subject for another time.
If I’m going to fulfill my mission, I must be intentional – which means doing less in order to be more strategic.
Are you caught in the blur of go-go-go and do-do-do? Look behind you. How many bodies are back there? One of them is probably your own.
Never sacrifice peace for production. Doing less is powerful. More is just, well, more.
“You must focus on excellence.”
Mediocrity isn’t an option. The stakes are too high. You deserve excellence from me – heart-engaging, life-challenging, fist-pumping excellence.
I’m not talking about perfection. There are times to say, “It’s good enough,” or nothing ever gets out the door. But our good enough must flow from an excellence-mindset. We need to be able to say, “It’s excellent enough.”
You’re crucial, and so is your contribution to the world. Don’t minimize it with half-heartedness. Be all in. Be excellent.
“Be ridiculously bold.”
The world has enough jellyfish. I refuse to be one of them. I must quit holding back, toying with self-doubt, and making excuses. My mission requires that I live, speak, and write boldly.
Sure, I’ll get afraid, but I don’t have to be hijacked by it. I’ll accept the fear, knowing that every great goal meets resistance and every meaningful mission faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Any mission worth our time involves some serious overcoming. I’m going to be bold.
Your life matters. You matter. Live bold and large. You can’t afford not to.
“You must invite people into your mission. ”
I spent a lot of time alone as a kid. Due to circumstances, I developed a strong I’m-on-my-own-it’s-me-against-the-world mindset.
What a bunch of garbage.
If the mission can be accomplished by one, it’s not big enough. We’re designed for relationship, and that means tackling big, life-altering stuff together. We need each other.
And I need you.
I hereby invite you into my mission. My heartbeat is to help amazing but hurting people heal, grow, and have extraordinary impact. I’ll talk more about this in the next post.
What’s your mission (what were you put here to do)? Because you’re reading this, chances are it intersects with mine. Let’s leap forward and run this race together.
So, this adds up to some strategic changes in my web ministry.
I’ll be posting on this blog two times a month.
These posts will be focused, deep, and well worth your time. I’m striving for a high level of excellence that will engage your heart and inspire you to greater things. Less will be more.
I’ll be producing a monthly e-newsletter.
I’ll share what’s going on with me, including upcoming events and sneak-peeks into future books and projects. I’ll share ways you can help others grow, heal, and begin to live the adventure God has for them. You’ll be amazed at the impact we can have together.
In conclusion, I would like to ask you to do two things for me (and for you!):
Go now and sign-up for my newsletter and blog updates (if you already receive blog updates, you’re good!). Then you’ll be in the loop and get all three pieces each month.
Comment on this post. What do you think? What resonates most with you (do less, focus on excellence, be bold, or invite others in)?
Thanks. Buckle up! See you next time.
In the previous post, we talked about how fear speaks to us. It wants to infiltrate, influence, and ultimately control us.
How do we challenge fear when it comes? Here’s three things we can do:
1. Acknowledge the fear. Simply say, “I’m afraid.” This pulls fear out into the open. It doesn’t like that.
2. Own up to the fear. “I’m afraid that if I don’t please this person things will not go well for me.”
3. Name our big fears. “I’m afraid I won’t have enough money to make it.” “I’m afraid I’ll be abandoned and alone.” “I’m afraid I’ll fail.” If we can name our fears, we can begin to recognize them in daily life.
If we do these three steps, we can begin to see fear coming. If we can do that, then we can move forward acknowledging the fear but not allowing it to control our decisions.
Most of our fears are related to one of the following:
- Our need to be loved and accepted
- Our need for security and safety
- Our need for meaning and significance
- Our need for provision
Which fears are the most powerful for you? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see it coming, greet it as something that can help you grow, feel it, and then send it on its way?
Yeah, that would be really nice.