penelope.

My little sister Hannah is 5 months pregnant right now with my already adorable niece, lyla ray.
When we first found out she was pregnant, we were obviously thrilled and after we remotely came down from baby high, we all dove head first into the name game.
And that’s always an interesting conversation. Not because you’re coming up with funny names like Apple or Lion – even though there’s sadly HUMAN beings out there that have to carry that weight of a name until they’re old enough to legally change it.Penelope_name_on_brick_bldg

…ok im getting off track…

What’s intersting about those conversations is being reminded of the names you don’t like and particularly why you dont like them…  I’d say 9 times out of 10, we dont like certain names strictly because there’s someone you don’t exactly care for, that happens to have that exact name.

Don’t act like you’re exempt from these global feelings, because we’ve all thought it.

“so what about  Penelope? I love that name and the nickname penny is really adorable.”
“no way. I went to school with a girl named penny and she was so ugly to me my junior year. I’d be reminded of her every single time I said my daughter’s name…”

It’s wild how that happens, isn’t it? How one person can literally ruin a name for you when that name is attached to a not-so-pleasant experience or memory. So in turn, we throw the baby (name) out with the bath water immediately.

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I was thinking about that earlier today and in parallel, i wonder what other areas of my life I’ve let “Penelope” ruin it for me. What other places I’ve allowed previous experiences of pain, mistreatment, or disappointment dictate my decisions or keep me from participating and moving forward.

For me personally, the first area i thought of was:: Community

Never before in my life have I experienced the kind of authentic community that I have the pleasure of receiving from and contributing to, like I do right now.
And what’s strange is that I didn’t realize how much I needed it, until I was a part of it.
Until I felt what it was like to have friends with wise hearts turn their chair towards me and one another, because we didn’t want to do life alone. because creating a safe place where all that is true – both the ugly and the beautiful – can be faced together was desperately needed. To say that it’s unbelievably special to me would be an absolute understatement.

But that wasn’t always my experience…

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I grew up “in church” with parents who were heavily involved in children’s ministry. Because I have a horrible memory, I don’t have heaps of memories from that time in life, but I have a few… I remember songs and puppets and a few faces. Certain rooms with felt boards and interactive bible stories being told. I feel rather lucky though, because in my lack of memory, I don’t remember the hurt that my parents experienced from Pastors and staff members alike. The devaluing conversations and mistreatment that I later heard about were enough to crush anyone’s ideals of what they thought church and its body would look, sound, and act like.

We took a few years off from church after that.

It was safer to pull away and not be a part, rather than expose ourselves to potential hurt and disappointment again. We needed a break. And maybe you’re thinking “well understandably so!!” and i would absolutely agree with you.
I would just be careful that our “understandably so” doesn’t take up residence longer than it should.

  :::::::::::::

Im pretty sure we all have stories like this in one way or another. Mostly because we’re all living and breathing in a world where :: pain :: mistreatment :: and disappointment are undoubtedly inevitable… but how do we respond when pierced by its arrival?!

How long do we let “Penelope” dictate theoretical outcomes?
How long do we let pain keep us from risking
from dreaming
from living fully
?

if we ask the tough questions today, maybe tomorrow can look different.

-S


“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
 – Anais Nin

failures of kindness.

graduationGeorge Saunders recently delivered a really wonderful graduation speech at Syracuse University this year, and it was so great the New York Times recently published it. His speech had this wonderful balance or wisdom, intellect, and humor and what was most intriguing was how it centered around this one theme :: KINDNESS ::

You can read the speech in its entirety HERE – but here are a few of my favorite excerpts that really stood out and reminded me of the massive force that  simple acts of kindness can contain. Kindess truly is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

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So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.  Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial.  That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been.  Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s.  Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place.  Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been.  I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.

Congratulations, Class of 2013.

what helped me become.

“Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging. But to grow up, to take responsibility for the time you take up, and the space you occupy, to honor every living person for his or her humanity, that is to grow up.”
-Maya Angelou

Two days ago I turned a quarter of a century… halfway to 50, folks.

I love getting older. Maybe you’re thinking “well, when you’re 46 you won’t love it so much” and maybe you’re right, but then again, maybe you’ll be wrong. There is (currently) not an ounce of fear in me as the number grows higher with every passing July 15th. Like this wonderful Angelou quote, i value the growing up part most when it comes to getting older.

I’d like to think on my 70th birthday i’ll still feel like im growing up. In progress. Moving forward in one way or another.

My hope, is that with every year I could look back at the expanse of 365 days and identify a few of them that truly changed me, and better yet, a few of them that changed someone else.

I want to look back and remember something like… on day 27 I had a conversation that shifted my perception of how I thought God looked at me. Or maybe, I heard a sermon on day 65 that challenged the way I loved from that moment forward. On day 301 I met a stranger who on day 352 became a lifelong friend.

It’s those days, those mere moments in a 24hr span of time that have the ability to alter our tomorrow and the days that turn into years following.

Currently, those days in my life go undocumented. I remember them some, you know, like the big ones that couldn’t help but go unnoticed… but the little phrases, the way I felt when I heard this spoken to me, how something even simple could be so impactful… I don’t have a quick point of reference for that.

What ive decided to do is document those moments. And saying that almost sounds like im setting myself up for failure right out of the gate, because I’m not a journaler. I hate my handwriting and I always associate journalers with those emo kids from high school that emotionally write songs in their decoupage books on the roof of their house.

It’s very apparent that my views of journaling need to be changed.

Truly, my reality is that I’ll buy a new moleskin and I will fill up 5 pages with good intentions and then it will begin to collect dust. It’s a sad reality, but one that ive come to terms with.

However, I know how much my heart and mind need reminding, so i want to start journaling those moment, those conversations, those days in my life that changed me those around me.

I want to look back this time next year, open a little black book and see how God shaped my year and be reminded of how He was faithful and true to me and those I was in relationship with. I wanna see how God used little talks at a dinner table, or open-hearted conversations around a living room, or the simplicity of a city skyline to communicate and relate to me personally. I wanna remember the specific ways He connects and speaks to me. The ways He translate his miraculous redemption, grace, and healing.

I have a feeling it will resemble a book about rescue.

Those are the moments I want to remember and recall. The ones that helped me grow up. What helped me become.

I challenge you to do the same.

_________________________

“I don’t keep a journal or a diary, and I’ll never just write down facts like what I had for lunch or who I was with or where I was. Instead, what I’ve been writing down area all of the things I can remember that have shaped me, all of the words or phrases that have pinged me, all of the stories that have happened in my life. All in hopes that one day, as I flip through those pages, I’ll see evidence of Jesus in them.”
– Bob Goff

Dads: Be Doers

“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and he let me watch him do it.”
Clarence Kelland

Nearly every morning I experience the same thing. It’s like clockwork. I run down the stairs (usually because im running late), Murphy our gigantic goldendoodle meets me at the bottom and kindly leans into me expected to get a good 10 second scratch. I look over to the couch and see my dad reading his bible with a cup of coffee in hand. We exchange happy good mornings, I tell him I’m sleepy, and we both say “love you, I hope you have a great day” as I walk towards the front door. Every morning it’s the same, consistent, and steady life of my dad that I see being lived right in front of me. and not just me, right in front of everyone, too.

I’ve grown up with a dad that set the standard for our family. Of course we had rules and structure within our home, but when it came to my dad telling us how we should live, we’d never really hear such suggestions. Because greater than those that hear the word, are those that do it. You see, my dad, he’s a doer.

He doesn’t hide his excitement in insecurity, he celebrates the smallest victories with us.
He doesn’t always hide his frustration, but he is quick to calm down and remember what matters
He doesn’t always hide when he’s mad, but he is consistent in owning up to his mistake, apologizing, and asking for forgiveness.
He doesn’t withhold good things from us or others, but he is quick to give his best in all things.
He doesn’t love from a distance, but he is involved and present in the lives of his children, always pursing a deeper relationship.

As Father’s Day is inching ever closer, I want to remind the dads out there of something: Your kids are watching you.

They’re watching the way you respond and react, how you give and withhold, how you celebrate or belittle, how you’re involved and present or distant and insecure. We see it all, and the life you live, whether you are conscious of it or not, sets the standard for our hearts and lives ever unfolding.

The greatest gift you can give to your children is to love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength – it’s the single most impactful example you will ever demonstrate. Your allegiance to God will sow seeds so deeply rooted in the hearts of your kids, that the storms of life could never destroy its fruit. And no one is asking you to be perfect and flawless, because mistakes and slip-ups only present another opportunity for you to show us the better way.

Dads, when you love God with all that you are and all that you have, you won’t always have to tell your kids how to live, you’ll simple… show us.

Greater than those that hear the word, are those that do it.

__________________

Dads: be doers

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

inviting adventure: a book review

I grew up loving and thriving off of adventure and my imagination. I remember being 7 or 8 and adoring the National Geographic magazine. Maybe I couldn’t fully read every article but the photos were what I loved. I always thought about the people who got to take those pictures. What amazing adventures and stories they had been on from experiencing those incredibly beautiful and sometimes dangerous locations.
I haven’t looked at a National Geographic magazine in a while, but back then, they had these amazing maps in them. They were detailed map inserts that you could rip out and open up. And that’s just what I did.
In fact, I had a club with my cousins Logan and Luke where we collected these maps and let our imaginations run. We’d throw some maps in a backpack and head for the great outdoors.

My childhood home had this wonderful half-acre side yard and at the age of 8, a half-acre might as well have been the size of central park. It was the perfect landscape for our treasure hunting adventures. I think this is possibly where my keen sense of direction began, because I was always the navigator directing us on our next strategic move.
I loved it. I loved the scenes I had in my head and stories we played out on our search for the treasure hidden in the center of the Egyptian pyramids… which was obviously at the top of the slide connected to the jungle gym.

Memories of these childhood adventures came rushing back just recently. It all came back as I was reading Bob Goff’s new book “Love Does”. Even in the first chapter I became completely captivated by the life of risk and adventure this man lived and shares about in his stories. And these stories are big and extravagant, from Goff momentarily dropping out of highschool to move to Yosemite with an unexpected friend, failing the LSAT yet somehow talking his way into Law School, and the incredible risks he took in Uganda working dead-end untried cases of forgotten children so they could be released from prison.

 He draws you in with amazing storytelling and humor then seamlessly wraps up each chapter with how he saw God in the midst of each experience and how it’s challenged him to live differently from that moment forward. 
This book invited me to remember the risk and adventure that playfully and easily filled my life years ago, and it was also an invitation to asses my life currently and see where ive been comfortable and have not allowed love to be accompanied by action and adventure… and doing.

“There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I’m tempted to turn it down all the time. I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does. It doesn’t come in an envelope. It’s ushered in by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen. It’s the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day. Nobody turns down an invitation to the White House, but I’ve seen plenty of people turn down an invitation to fully live.”

Bob Goff’s new book, Love Does, is just that, an invitation to fully live.
It’s an invitation to live with a little more playfulness, a little more whimsy, and to actually go out and do something that may seem out of the ordinary or even make you a little uncomfortable. Bob Goff lives a big courageous life, full of risk and adventure that’s created a tangible and relatable understanding of the nearness and goodness of God – and he is challenging us to experience the same.

He invites us to see life a little differently. More than recounting the adventures and risks in his own life, Goff sets out to demonstrates that love isn’t static or a stoic emotion to be read and contemplated while sitting in a Starbucks chair. Love is an action. Love is an adventure. Love should compel us to move. Because love… Does.

_____________________

Never has a non-fiction book so captured my imagination and ignited my heart to live and see life differently.
I strongly encourage you all to read this book.

“I’ve come to understand more about faith as I’ve understood more about whimsy,” writes Goff. “What whimsy means to me is a combination of the ‘do’ part of faith along with doing something worth doing.”

Paul Tripp on The Distortion of Envy.

im a big paul tripp fan.
i love his intermingling of theology and psychology, it attacks you from all angles but  in a really good and tender way.

i read this article of his on Envy almost a year ago when he wrote it and it has remained a source of self-evaluation for me from that moment  forward. every time i read it, i become aware of places in my heart that i’ve allowed envy in, roots that i couldn’t previously define. tripp goes far beyond hitting your initial thought of envy and it being this “i want what someone else has” kind of idea, but he expounds more solely on the distorted heart reality envy produces and how “Envy will cause us to bring God into the court of our own judgment and to sentence him as being unfaithful, unloving, and unkind.”

i promise this read will be worth your time.

________________________

“For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Ps 73:2)

I have said it countless times and written about it often; as a human being made in God’s image, you do not live life based on the facts of your experience, but based on your interpretation of the facts. No one acts, reacts and responds purely based on the actual facts of reality because the moment we are greeted with the facts, we take them into our hearts and process them. Our response is then based not so much on what is, but based upon what our heart has done with what is. Everyone of us is a philosopher, everyone of us is a theologian, everyone of us is an archaeologist who will dig through the past civilization of our own lives, trying to make sense of what has happened to us. Interpretation is an inescapable and profoundly important function of the human heart. The problem is that most often you and I are not aware that we are doing it, so our interpretation BECOMES our reality.

There is a second thing that I’ve often written and talked about, and when I say it to a crowd of people they always laugh even though I’m being quite serious; no one is more influential in your life than you are because no one talks to you more than you do. You and I are in a constant conversation with ourselves and the things we say to ourselves about ourselves, God, others, and life are always formative. Our internal conversation shapes our external responses to the situations, locations, and relationships we live in.

Now, maybe you’re thinking, “What in the world does this have to do with envy?” You must understand that envy is an interpretation. Envy is not an emotional response to what is. It is a particular interpretation of what is. Envy is a way of looking at and assessing what is that results in particular emotions and actions. But this needs to be said even more strongly; envy is not only an interpretation of what is, it is a distorted interpretation of what is. Envy is looking at life through a rippled window that will always distort whatever you see. In that way envy is madness. In its own way, envy separates you from reality. Envy expands certain facts, it neglects certain facts, and it reshapes certain facts; all the while presenting itself as a valid, accurate and reliable view of life. It makes you like the crazy guy on the street. What makes him crazy is that he doesn’t know he is crazy. He looks, speaks and acts weirdly because what he thinks is real simply isn’t real. Such is the world of envy. Envy is rooted in a distorted interpretation of life that will make you mad. Let me explain.

1. The distorted interpretation of envy makes it all about you. Envy always puts you at the center of your universe. It is all about what you have or don’t have. It shrinks your world down to the Lilliputian size of your wants, your needs, and your feelings. The good life then becomes the life that you say is good for you and the bad life is bad because you say you are not getting what you want or need. In this system the world is evaluated solely on the basis of what you do or don’t have. The problem is that life is not about you. You and I have been born into a world that by its very nature is a celebration of the glory of Another. I am not at the center of my world; God is. The fulfilling of my desires and needs is not the most important thing in the world; God’s will is. Envy is angry because my kingdom doesn’t seem to be coming and my will doesn’t seem to be being done. Anytime you have you at the center of your world, you have a distorted perspective on what is.

2. The distorted interpretation of envy is always idolatrous. Envy always puts the creation in the place of the Creator. Envy evaluates life on the basis of physical experiences, relationships, and possessions. Envy says that the good life is all about having a bigger pile of creation stuff than your neighbor does. Envy is obsessively comparative; always weighing the size of your stuff against the stuff of the people who are near you. And why does envy do this? Because envy places it’s identity, inner sense of well-being, and meaning and purpose in the basket of creation instead of in the hands of the Creator. Envy looks to creation for satisfaction and peace. Envy looks to creation for life. Envy looks to creation for what only the Creator can give.

3. The distorted interpretation of envy is self-righteous. What is the fundamental perspective of envy? Here it is; “I deserve better!” I am a better person than my neighbor, therefore, I should have more of this world’s goods, relationships, and positive experiences than my neighbor. That fact that envy begins with “I deserve” is the dead give away of its distortion and danger. Envy isn’t humble and approachable. It isn’t honest and properly introspective. It doesn’t weep over sins of the heart and hands. It isn’t blown away at little blessings and major graces. Envy allows you to look at yourself in a carnival mirror. Yes, you are seeing you, but with distortion. It convinces you that you have done what you could never do and deserve what you could never have earned. Envy denies your crushing need for grace. It forgets that you’ve broken every law. It ignores the fact that each of us is a rebel and a fool, deserving only of God’s rejection and wrath. Envy neglects to celebrate that every day you live and breathe you are afford gorgeous grace; because self-righteous people don’t notice grace because they don’t think they need it.

4. The distorted interpretation of envy is always short-sighted. Envy simply forgets that this is not all there is. Envy is very skilled at ignoring eternity. Envy has a truncated view of reality. Envy acts as if all there is the here and now. So envy forgets that this is not a destination. This is not the final place of peace, rest and satisfaction. In that way, envy misses the whole point of the here and now. This present moment was not designed to be a destination. No, it is a preparation for a final destination. There are times when God ordains it to be hard because that’s exactly what I need in order to be prepared for what’s to come. In this way, the moments of lack that envy rages against, are actually moments of grace. No, I am not having my needs withheld, but in grace, am being given exactly what I need. While I am focused on the here and now, a lovely Savior is preparing me for what is to come.

5. The distorted interpretation of envy is the soil of other sins. Envy never stops with envy. It always produces other sins of the heart and life as well. Envy will cause you to bring God into the court of your judgment and to sentence him as being unfaithful, unloving, and unkind. Envy will make you angry and you’ll act out that anger against the people who are near you. Envy will make you unloving and unkind, because, rather than considering the needs of others, you will be obsessively focused on your wants and needs. Envy will make you ungrateful. Envy will cause you to despise the blessings of others. Envy will put hatred in your thoughts and murder in your heart. It will cause you to will others ill instead of wanting blessing for them. Envy will cause you to say things you shouldn’t say and do things you shouldn’t do. Envy is a source sin.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Wow, Paul, this is really disheartening!” Well, here’s the good news. Jesus conquered envy so you could too. His grace promises you a new heart. Because of his grace, you can grow in thankfulness and appreciation. Because of his grace, you can learn to run from old idols. Because of grace, you can find joy in loving others as you have been loved. Because of grace you can really come to believe that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Because of grace you can be free from a life that is self-centered and demanding, and begin to live a life that is Godward and thankful. Grace really does rescue you from you. The cross of Jesus Christ really is the only hope for the envious heart, because on that cross sin was defeated and righteousness was given. Trust the grace of Jesus and don’t let the madness of envy control and defeat you.

PAIN: a necessary thing.

Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” –C.S. Lewis

There’s a terrible disease we’ve all heard of, but perhaps don’t truly know about. It’s a bacterial disease of the nervous system. A disease known as Leprosy.

The first thought that comes to my mind, is this flesh-rotting kind of imagery, but the reality is quite the contrary. In fact, a lepers flesh is just as healthy as yours or mine, the only difference is that they lack the ability to feel pain. Leprosy breaks down the nervous system within the body, deadening their nerve endings, and ultimately their ability to sense danger or harm to their bodies. Leprous people live a virtually pain-free existence.
That doesn’t sound so bad, huh?! I think many of us would do anything to live a pain-free life. Yet for the leper, the absence of pain is his greatest enemy when he can’t feel the piercing of its arrival.

We live in a crazy world that has an unbelievable gift at doing or using whatever it takes to shut down pain in our lives. Did you know that people in North America consume over thirty thousand TONS of aspirin a year? While we make up 5% of the world’s population, we are the ones consuming over 50% of all the manufactured drugs, one-third of which work on the central nervous system alone. We are the most advanced society in the world, at suppressing our pain –numbing what hurts, so we can feel no longer. The danger is, when we refuse to listen to our bodies, we ultimately risk destroying them.

I realize most of this content is speaking of physical pain, but let your mind move from that place alone, to the emotional and spiritual side.

In the same manner as one would suppress pain in the physical, we do so emotionally… All. The. Time.
and I understand why… Who likes being hurt, and feeling weak and vulnerable?! It’s probably not on the top of your to-do list.
But here’s the problem with that… Here’s the great danger in pain suppression::

Just as lepers lack the ability to listen to their body and to feel pain, they experiences the great danger of harming themselves and never knowing it,
WE as a people, suppressing pain with all our might – greatly risk an internal breakdown of the heart and spirit, and will never know it. We spend all of our energy, resources and time on trying to do all we can to numb and silence the greatest indicator that tells us that something within, greatly needs our attention.

C.S. Lewis said with such truth; “Pain insist upon being attended to” and without our attention to it, we risk living a life without warning.

Pain is necessary thing, because without it, we wouldn’t realize what we needed most.
Without pains warning, we wouldn’t know our need for peace when the waves of circumstance come crashing in on us from every side.
Without pains warning, we wouldn’t know our need to be found when all feels lost and unseen.
Without pains warning, we wouldn’t know our need for hope when the odds stack so highly against us that nothing seems possible anymore.
Without pains warning, we wouldn’t know our need for love, the unconditional kind that knows no limits, or boundaries, and has no desire to keep records of wrong doing.
Namely, without pains warning, we wouldn’t know our need for a savior, our need for His nearness and our desperate need for His daily activity in our lives and hearts.

What I’m realizing is that pain is not an enemy to be suppressed; rather, pain is a weapon against a numb existence and if seen with the right perspective, can be a valuable tool in identifying the places we need restoration and healing, as opposed to a crippling blow that paralyzes.

I think our society has things backwards. We seem to believe that the people in pain are the ones that need help. Surely they need some form of pain-killer to suppress and numb out the bad. But now… now I’m beginning to realize that the ones who don’t feel pain, are in fact the ones that need the most help.

Pain is a necessary thing, because it reminds us that we’re weak, human, and in great need – every single day – of a gracious and loving God who desires to carry every weight, heal aching hurt, and redeem our hearts to Him.

So instead of running from pain and suppressing it with whatever seems fitting, let’s look at it square in the face and ask why it’s present, why “this” is painful, and listen for its response. Listen to its warning that shouts of the places we need to attend to. Listen to why it’s taken up residence in our heart and mind, so we can identify that place of pain and turn into our place of need. Our great and continual need of a rescuing God.

Matthew 5:3
Blessed are those who know their need of God, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”