Be a Quitter. Be Committed.

Neighborhood boys at a community BBQ.

Every culture has a standard greeting.

That greeting reveals something about the culture.

In Cambodia “sous-dey” or “hello”  is followed by the phrase, “sok sabai teh?” We translate that to mean, “How are you?” in English. The literal translation however is, “Have you eaten rice?” There was a regularly expressed concern for the needs of one another in our daily greetings.

At home in the US literally two years after my short stay in Cambodia, I still consider that greeting. Lately I feel even more acutely aware of the stark contrast between that greeting and the response that most often comes to the American “How are you?”

What are the most common responses you hear?
– Tired…
– Busy…
– Just keeping up…
– Ready for a break… 

It frustrates me to know how frequently these are my very own responses. It frustrates me mostly because I can rarely truly account for what all that “busy-ness” has added up to.

Do you know the feelings?

 All alone in a room full of people…
 Full schedule, yet unfulfilled heart…

Almost exactly a year ago I began the process of selling and giving away my excess belongings and packing into boxes only what I could pack into a small Uhaul trailer behind my sedan. My heart was left convicted and committed to quitting.

Committed to quitting….

Seems bizarre, yes? An oxymoron of sorts.

However, I had come to very clearly realize that my constant stream of “commitments” was actually leaving me uncommitted, overstretched, exhausted, and distracted. Two weeks in the Western wilderness and laying to rest a cousin that was only a year older than myself but had lived a beautiful life brought back to clear view what I cared most about. What I wanted to live my life worn out for. And the reality that this life is not everlasting…. What was I waiting for?

Community. Redemption. Among the outcast. Together. HIS fame. 

The first thing I had to quit was the “shoulds.”
….should keep my job because they’re hard to find right now and mine was good.
….should wait until I have all the details in order before moving somewhere far away.
….should have a team/spouse/friends to move to someplace foreign with.
….should…. should…. should…. everyone had another should  to offer me.

And all the while waiting on the shoulds I was making decisions that would connect me to people, places, experiences. Decisions that would use up my energy, time, and emotion. Was all that spending investing and sowing into a field of fruitfulness or just buying up momentary McDonald’s processed pleasures that would leave me hungry in an hour… that would not go beyond myself?

I would love to tell you the story ends there…. that I arrived in Denver and it was really the promised land and all my woes have gone and my dreams come true. Nope. I had only just begun – Simply bought my gym membership, but not lifted a single weight.

As I began to make commitments in this new place I had the same struggles:
…the ache for others who shared a lifestyle in pursuit of a kingdom vision on earth
…the basic need to make ends meet
…abundant opportunities to explore new adventures of every sort

I had numerous conversations and connections with people who ached for the same thing – they wanted deeper, more committed community. Eventually I managed to fill my schedule up to the maximum and stretch myself across the entire city. It was at that point that I broke. I sat in a coffee shop with a friend, tears rolling down my face, as I told her I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was so tired. She patiently listened and we had no answers that night, but over the next month I did a whole lot of quitting.

I prayed about the place, geographically, that I would commit to – Five Points neighborhood.
I prayed about the people I would commit to – my neighborhood and my church.
I prayed about what was keeping me from those commitments.

And I quit.

I quit asking “what’s next?” and looked at today.
I quit asking “who is coming?” and saw who was already there.
I quit waiting for the perfect and chose thankfulness for the imperfect made into perfect graces.
I quit figuring out how everything should be and asked how I could be a steward of what already was.

And I committed.

To simplicity – of possessions and commitments.
To my neighbors.
To my job.
To the friends I had already made.
And I committed to what all of it was right now, not what I was waiting for it to become. 

The blessings that have come from this are not what I could have ever created and they go far beyond myself.

The Lord’s love is becoming well known…
unlikely strangers are becoming friends…
Grace is being celebrated…
HIS love is seeping into wounds… 

So when I find myself responding to “how are you?” with a “busy” or “tired”, I do a self-check. Am I investing or am I self-soothing/wasting? 

For some of us the quitting may seem like dramatic changes, like my initial move. For others, it may simply be a step back and fresh look at where you are right now.

 May the legacy of Christ flow from your daily living and the journey be full of grace as we go together. 

“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

1 Thessalonians 1:4-10 (ESV)

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Wanted: VISION

Have you ever created something?

If you just answered “No” to that I’m going to beg to differ. We’ve all created things – from intricate murals to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And if I called your mom, I bet she’d tell me you created a mess at least once in your lifetime.

You see there is this stigma about being
creative…
artistic…
a leader…
it makes people squirm a bit. They say things like, “Oh, I’m not as creative/artistic/capable as ________.”

Why do we do that? Have you done that yourself?

I’ve done that. And I just did it recently as some of my friends gathered together for an evening of appetizers, wine, and painting. Appetizers and wine? That’s my game. Painting? I can’t paint. I’m not artistic. 

Much to my surprise, I brought home something that is now hanging in my kitchen. Maybe I could blame it on the wine, but as I’ve pondered other pieces of life in the days since that fun evening, I believe it was more than wine that brought about a pleasing outcome.

My beautiful friend, Holly, and I as we created our impressionist paintings.

When it comes to being “creative” or “artistic”, for me it comes down to a lack of vision. And when there is some sort of vision in my head, I don’t know how to get to it so I usually just don’t try. However, having someone who painted the vision for us [pun intended] and then led us to it one step at a time made for a lovely surprise.

That’s a bit how life is… and I think that’s why we sometimes deflect self-indicators of being a leader or artist of some sort. When we don’t know how to produce, we don’t want to be identified as one who should produce something.

In the past several months I have become particularly aware of each person’s potential to lead or create…
Sadly I have also become particularly aware of the gap between many people’s potential and what they produce…
What’s missing…
VISION

Quite honestly, if someone at the little painting party had handed me that white canvas and said “go for it” I would’ve come home with nothing but flushed cheeks and a satisfied appetite. Motivation to do anything that made me the slightest bit uncomfortable or could cause perceived failure would not have existed. In my mind, attempting to be creative would’ve been futile. However, with a picture of where we were going and some guidance on how to get there, I stepped on out.

Seeing how this blog was named literally years before this post, I think about vision a lot. And those that know me can attest I often step out and get uncomfortable. Very rarely it is without cause…

There is a vision in my heart and mind that does not begin with me and it does not end with me.

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
~ Isaiah 40:3-5

I have a vision of neighborhoods where people no longer war over territory…
Where each child has opportunity to excel in their individual gifts…
Where people are not arrested for sleeping in public because they are without shelter…
Where every race, generation, and religious background breaks bread around a common table…
Where neighbors know each other well enough to celebrate and grieve in the rhythms of life together…
Where parts of town are not toxic and avoided or “cleaned up”…
Where Christ, His Kingdom, Grace, and Glory are famous above all else…

I could go on and on… the point simply is that without a vision I’d be lost. Hardships would be so meaningless. Not worth pushing through. I would continue to move on to the next best thing in hopes of something that would last.

Folks, none of it will last. Only what we wait for will last forever (1 Peter 1:3-5).

I pray you find vision first of the Father and His tremendous grace upon your life. Before you offer anything… before you create or lead something, you are a child of His and your purpose cannot be lost (Psalm 57:2). You will never earn yourself right standing to begin with and you will not earn yourself sanctification… find rest in Him (Isaiah 30:15).

And then ask yourself, “What do I live for?”

Has God given you a vision? Personally or through the lives of those around you? Some of us will drink a glass of wine as we fumble along to follow the instructions of the painter… Some of use will be the painter who fumbles along to share the vision with others… All of us are fumbling along together, full of great need for grace, as each passing experience gives opportunity to be made more like Him (James 1:2-4).

Whether you are making music, cleaning buildings, cooking meals, raising children, growing big businesses, or skipping through the park on a sunny day – do it with intention. You need not make your life seem more holy… live to love… live to an eternal beginning, not a perishing end.

May CHRIST be made famous in our coming, our going, and our everyday doing.

Seasonal Change

Dear friends old and new,

Do you ever feel particularly aware of the way our lives are like seasons?

Sometimes slowing and cooling like the Autumn….
cold and still like the Winter…
refreshing and full of hope like the Spring…
energized and enduring like the Summer heat…

            
    Ski Slopes of Breckenridge, CO                   Five Points Neighborhood in Denver

The past year I have felt the seasons more than I remember in the past. And I have appreciated them in a way I have not before. Many things have changed and many things have stayed the same through the months since I have taken time to write anything to share. So, I only find it appropriate that I would give the platform upon which I write a complete overhaul. That what you read would be as fresh as the face you would encounter should we sit down for coffee today.

Consider these words:

glamorous

[glam-er-uhs]
adjective
full of excitement, adventure, and unusual activity: the glamorous job of a foreign correspondent.

glorious

[glawr-ee-uhs, glohr-]
adjective
delightful; wonderful; completely enjoyable;
conferring (giving) glory

My life today is not glamorous, though at one time I sought so much to be able to make such a claim. I rest in the thankfulness that what I gained in exchange for my strivings for a glamorous life was a glorious one. Contentment to know that I live every dull moment, exciting moment, and every moment in between rooted and established in the One who called me. I choose joy.

“The heart’s true home – the foundation we long for – is a life rooted in the love of God. But this love is always God’s mercy directed toward us before it is our response of trusting love. God offers us stability in the only thing that cannot fail – God’s faithfulness itself.”
~ Jason Wilson-Hartgrove, The Wisdom of Stability

As my treasured brothers at The Embassy (church) here in Denver have reminded me, we are each in a trial, just out of one, or on our way into one. In Christ we have the privilege to rejoice in that because with each trial we  can choose to be made more like Christ, bringing Him glory. I am not the only one living a glorious life, but each of us who is in Christ.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” ~ James 1:2-4, ESV

We can strive for a glamorous life, but (dare I say it) our success will always be fleeting. This blog shall never be glamorous, but I hope and pray it will always be glorious.

Always:
Celebrating what the Lord is doing in, through, and around you and I
Sharing the burden to intentionally live to make Christ known
Encouraging and inspiring others to live passionately
Sharpening one another
…a resource for continued learning about incarnational life among the poor and marginalized
challenging others to live rooted and simply in a mobile, gluttonous culture

Old friends – you make life rich and full. New friends – I look forward to the journey together and the chance to become old friends. Never hesitate to email or call… near or far the conversation is only beginning.

P.S. If you’re an old friend with an email subscription, sorry for any crazy incoherent posts that may have made their way to your inbox when I was switching the theme! 🙂