Categories
Christian Living

A Fall to Grace

One day morning will dawn, your eyes will open, and you will awaken with the literal reality that the dream you had for yourself is over and it’s time to move on.

I can think to specific days in 2000, 2003, 2008, and most recently in summer 2011 when I rolled out of bed with the knowledge that I’d just crossed a line. The dreams I knew were gone. And I had to find new dreams.

In each case, those mornings felt like I’d just fallen from a place of positional power, security, and recognition. Even in going from one role to another– even if that new role was “better” than the one I’d left, it still felt like a fall.

Perhaps it is a guy thing? But much of who you are and how you think of yourself on a day-to-day basis is wrapped up in what you do, who you work with, and the people you do stuff with. When that’s gone– whether by choice or not– you experience this unmooring free fall feeling.

While other leaders have experienced ugly falls from grace I have never experienced that. Instead, in times where the things I knew are suddenly gone because I’ve moved on to something else… I’ve experienced something I can only describe as a fall to grace.

The free fall feeling of change always lands in the loving arms of a God who has nurtured and cared for me from the beginning. And those strong palms support my back as I try to get my bearings. God’s grace supports me, lifts me up, and the warmth of that palm reminds me that I’ll be fine.

To know Hope you must know Despair

Despair is not the enemy of hope. Frustration and anxiety may not be your friends but they are repeatedly wrestled on your way to hope. Over the years, plenty of people have called me overly hopeful– almost stupid hopeful. From my eyes I only know summits of hope because I have been in great depths of despair. In the darkness of that valley I’ve cried out to God, “What am I doing here! I can’t do this anymore. I hate every last step of this! AAAAHHHH!!!!” The echoes of those moments haunt me.

But when you’ve been there– when you’ve screamed in that valley and heard those cries echoed back empty? Then you discover that any step above that is a step towards hope.

But knowing hope, truly living a hope-filled, is a reflex against despair.

To know Faith you must know Doubt

It perplexes me that some have made doubt the enemy of faith. I would argue that you can’t know what faith is until you know what doubt is. Both are invisible. Both are real. And both are internal, silent motivators of our daily actions.

In putting both feet on either side of the faith/doubt teeter totter I desire balance while one always wins over the other. I’m either standing on faith or standing on doubt.

Falling into the arms of grace isn’t an action of doubt or faith. But the resolve that comes through pushing against doubts gravity to take action is a step of faith. That is what reassures me that grace truly will catch me.

To know Grace you must know Failure

One of my mentors, at each of these moments over the past decade, has asked me… “What are the things you are running away from by doing this and what are the things you are running to?” Even in roles where everyone has labeled me a success I know there were failures. I know there were expectations unmet. I know I expressed attitudes I shouldn’t have. There were many times when I worked on what I wanted to work on to the neglect of what others thought I should be working on.

Even on the road to success there are many failures you have to deal with. Being honest about that with myself and with others helps me discover what grace really means in my life.

Because of my failures I don’t deserve anything good. But good keeps coming my way. That’s not a reflection of my character or timing or anything else. But it is a reflection of the character of God.

Friends- I have no idea what is going on in your life. But I do know that we will all encounter times where we experience free fall. My encouragement? Fall into the receiving hands of grace.

Categories
Christian Living

Five ridiculously hard steps to a better you


Tim is right. There is a whole lot of lying for the sake of SEO in blogs these days. While there might be five easy steps to creating a Facebook page for your business, there aren’t five easy steps for everything.

Becoming a better you is ridiculously hard. I know it not from issuing advice but from walking through a few difficult seasons in my own life and finding success, happiness, and satisfaction on the other side.

Here are five ridiculous hard lessons I’ve learned towards become a better me:

  1. You often have to say no to the wrong opportunity when you have no idea when the right one might come along. For me this has meant, several times, shoving off into the great Lake of the Unknown with no idea if I’d end up where I needed to or have the financial resources to keep going.
  2. Sometimes you have to do things you are dispassionate about in order to get to things you are passionate about. Sure, I probably look like I’ve lived a storied life. But I’ve had jobs I hated. And I’ve done countless things I hate in order to finance what I love. Walk around any art museum and you’ll see that most of those people didn’t become famous until they were dead. All of their life they did work they hated to pay for the work we adore after they are gone.
  3. Being the smartest person in the room is not nearly as important as being the hardest worker in the room. Some of my friends joke with me that I never sleep. That’s not true. But success has never come easy for me. Any success I’ve achieved has been the result of ridiculously hard work. And today’s success only got me here. To get somewhere else I’ll need more and more hard work.
  4. You can’t figure it out on your own. When I make big decisions on my own I usually make a mistake. But when I take the time to add plurality to my decision making process I make wiser , better informed choices. That’s a frustrating, personal, slow, arduous, and humiliating experience. It’s not that I don’t know what’s best for me. It’s that I’m so “in it” emotionally that I have a hard time seeing the bigger picture or asking the really obvious questions of myself. Left to my own, I make a decision and then generate a full-proof construction to justify my decision.
  5. Failure is not the enemy. Failing to see the opportunity in everything is. Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” We consider them both genius’ but maybe they mixed their natural born intelligence with a unique ability to fail well better than their peers?
What are some ridiculously hard lessons you’ve learned on your way towards success? Let’s learn from the wisdom of the crowd by sharing a comment. 
Categories
Church Leadership

Christian Refugees

Photo by Takver via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Mid-City, the area of San Diego I live in, has long been a place where refugees start their new lives. Families have relocated here from war-torn African nations, fled the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia in the 1980s, or even escaped to here from extreme poverty in Central America.

People from all over the world end up here to start over.

Traumatized. Homesick. Hopeful. Confused. Off-balance. Grateful.

Assimilation is both one of their greatest fears and one of their great hopes.

Their lives are conflicted. Emotionally bouncing back and forth between hope and despair. They are here to seek a better life. But their hearts burn to go home and start a better life there.

You Find Christian Refugees Everywhere

There are lots of Christian refugees out there, too. People who grew up in church but fled somewhere along the way.

You find them involved in local politics. Or coaching your kids soccer teams. Or living next door.

They’ve fled the church. They’ve fled church culture and church life to seek a place where they could live out what they believed more than the church was comfortable with. All they wanted was to love God with everything they had and love their neighbors as themselves… but the church was hostile towards them. (Perceived or real) They didn’t fit the program. Or the mission. Or the pastor’s agenda.

So they fled. They left quietly, found community elsewhere, and settled into a new life.

They’ve rejected the abuse of the church but not Jesus. Disenfranchised but not disassociated.

But they miss it. A piece of their life is empty. Just like the refugees who play soccer at the park down the street from me, they always hold out the simplest hope that they can one day return home. Reunited with the people they love without the fear of danger.

When there is peace, they say– When there is something to return home to– they dream of returning.

Church leadership is at fault

Just like you can’t blame refugees leaving a country on the people fleeing, church leaders need to own the fact that they have caused a massive exodus from the church. Jesus tells us, his disciples, to call people to Himself. We need to quickly rectify our internal squabbles, give every person in our congregation a voice again, and go out to seek reconciliation with those who have fled.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Matthew 5:9

To make peace. We need to go out and make peace.