Failure is ALWAYS an option

I hate failure. With great passion. Admittedly, I hate it so much I fear to start something just because I could fail. Looking back over the years, I know I have missed some amazing opportunities because I fear to fail.

The world has made me fear. It’s definitely not God’s doing. God wants to push me over the edge because he knows my wings will make me fly. Fear does not have God’s flavor on my tongue at all, it’s acidic and has a nasty back-taste. Where God and his promises are full bodied and effervescent.

I have been contemplating failure a lot lately. Part of the reason is that I am nowhere near where I would have thought I’d be by now. I had this amazing life planned, working in a hospital and volunteering with retirement centers around my community as a chaplain. Perhaps finally doing a little bit of traveling. I never thought that life would be taking the look of what it is right now. I never thought God would place me where he did when he seemed to fill my mind with such dreams.

My life is not bad. I am very blessed to have the job I do, taking care of a lady who is just a few short months away from turning 100. I’ve learned a lot taking care of her. I am an active member in my church as a Sunday School Superintendent and teacher, which still surprises me since I grew up in that church. To think that these people are trusting me to teach them God’s word is daunting and occasionally nerve-wracking. The responsibility is big and I am still learning. Just because I have a piece of paper that says I satisfactorily completed Bible studies in a graduate level school, doesn’t mean that I still don’t have a lot learn.

Sometimes, I desperately miss school. I miss the constructed learning environment where I could fail and learn without it it necessarily making a huge impact on my life. I miss the drive that I had to succeed– not that I don’t still have it, but it seems to be missing a focus on a set goal. Now my drive to succeed sometimes just feels like getting to the next paycheck. Not that inspiring.

Life is about failure. It’s about coming at a situation and finding a way through it. Most time, if we are honest with ourselves, it rarely takes one time through a situation. We usually have to stop and reevaluate our tools and knowledge before attacking it again, perhaps at a different angle.

God gave me dreams for a reason. I think he has given me the ways to put them into action. I just need to learn how to trust him more than worrying about my bank account.

Failure in the science world is seen as a success in many ways. Albert Einstein famously said, “I have tried 99 times and have failed, but on the 100th time came success.” Scientists don’t give up when they meet with resistance. They take notes and then tweak a variable before attempting it again. Their brains- their hypothesis–says that it should be possible, they just need to find a way to make it work in real life.

To live life as if it was a hypothesis. A possibility that could be made reality. To know that dead ends and sudden twists are great adventures that mean it could still be an amazing discovery. To know with certainty that what you know to be true still has the ability to amaze you when you discover that there is more than that certainty.

It’s interesting. I view my theological inquires- my study of the nature of God and my religious beliefs– as a human hypothesis of God. I have long believed that if I held my beliefs as such, I would be able to be willing to let God show me his true self. My feeble human words can never accurately and completely describe the Divine. The Divine cannot be contained in the failing words that I use. To believe they can, is to shove God into a box, and he cannot be contained. I read all theologians’ writings with this thought, it is their very human attempt to explain an aspect of God that they see. They are bound to make mistakes just like I am. If I have a prayerful heart and ask God to continually show me who he really is, I am less likely to be led astray by theologians whose own prejudices influence their definition of God and salvation.

Perhaps this seems to be very childish view at God from someone who has a Masters Degree in the Bible. But, then again, Christ exhorted the disciples to come like children to him, which is to say, humbly and without artifice. When those who call themselves theologians and have the degrees to back them talk of God, do they do it humbly? Or is it with a certain arrogance that says they know it all? Listen and learn from them, but make sure you always have a faith that is open to God’s guidance. When you speak to others about the God you follow, be honest, say you don’t know everything but what you do know has changed your life.

I have been blessed mightily by the theologians that God has placed in my educational/spiritual life. But, I know that they don’t know it all.

I will always need to learn more about God. And I will never know everything about my faith and salvation until he calls me to his side and explains what it really is. My human hypothesis will then be put to the test, and I much rather hear him say, “Close, but let me show you what you didn’t understand.” Rather than, “Wrong! That is not what I was doing!”

I am attempting to live life as a hypothesis. There is nothing stopping me from trying again, but myself. It’s hard to put into practice though. Human constraints whether real or imagine seem to wrap themselves around me and I hesitate. Why am I willing to do it with the most important aspect of my existence- my faith- but I’m not willing to do it with this very human existence? Failure seems to be knocking whenever I think of going off script.

Makes me want to pull a Mythbusters and blow something up before trying again.

Here’s to living life without fear! May I seek it with a full heart, because God gave me wings and is encouraging me on.

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Why Are There So Many More Disabled People Now?

Why Are There So Many More Disabled People Now?.

A wonderful article looking at the hard history of asylums and the entrance of those with disabilities into the public experience.

Teach Me to Love

Racism.
A nasty word that gets the dander up around the world.
As it should.
I’ve been watching America become more restless and more divided as accusations of police brutality are reported on while African- American men are being buried.
I watch churches and ‘well-meaning’ Christians be part of the divisions, as angry words are thrown like daggers at their brothers and sisters.
Ferguson and New York, two towns that have created waves across America.
Two men died, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But, they aren’t the only ones.
The spotlight is being shined hard on those with a badge.

Does racism play a part in these deaths? I don’t know.
Does it play a part in the trials of those held responsible for the deaths? I don’t know.
Does it play a part in the everyday life of thousands of people? This, I do know.
Does the church need to step up and really face this issue head on? YES

I’ve been quiet about this issue, not because I’m afraid of working on it, but because so many people are adding their voice. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what you really think when you get everyone else’s opinion. But, silence can be even more damning that misspoken words.
There is so much anger right now.
Righteous anger is good, anger bound in hate is not..
No matter what type of video or reports come out, I do not know exactly what happened because I wasn’t there. I can’t say if an officer defended himself or acted out of hate. I can’t say if the men who died acted in violence or if they were innocent.
There has been accusations on both accounts.

I refuse to add to those accusations.
Adding to them will not help anyone. It just causes more anger.

So, the question I ask myself is this: “What does God want me to do?”

He wants me to love. Love people on both sides of the argument. God does. He commands his followers to do the same. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

There are no distinctions on who to love and who not to love. There is no command to not love someone. It is a blanket command to love EVERY single person that you come in contact with. “One another” does not mean to love the person who looks like you, talks like you, prays like you. God makes no distinctions. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.…(John 3:16-17)”

So why do we decide that God doesn’t mean “THEM”? Why do we, believers, decide that we live in a “Us vs. Them” world? It isn’t God who is causing this hatred, this distrust in our hearts. It’s not just our interactions of white vs. black. It’s all interaction with all races. I’ve heard some people honestly say that racism is only against the ‘black’ population… No.

No matter what color of skin you might have, what culture you might come from, what ethnic identity you might declare– you will have people hating what you ‘stand for’ in their eyes. We are surrounded in a world that ‘-isms’ us to death. And you and I will always be hated by somebody for something.

We do not live in a world that is ran by God’s command to Love one anotherBut, that doesn’t mean that can’t be one who does. I cannot influence one other person to love those that their history says to fear, if I do not live in love. 

The news with all of it’s fear, makes me honestly look at myself. What do I believe? How do I react? Am I fearful of the unknown? Do I believe in stereotypes? Do I let other people’s fear influence my relationships?

The only way the world will change in reaction to racism, sexism, class-ism, etc… is if individually we change. The only way that is going to happen is if we ask God to create that change in us, in all of it’s uncomfortable, painful, awkward, grace.

If you allow me the grace to change, will you be my friend? The only way I will learn, is if you help me understand. Teach me. Perhaps, you and I can change the world, if we look through each other’s eyes.

God loves you. He loves me. I pray we can both love each other. All lives matter. Because God has created us equal. No man has the power to say we are not royalty, for we are God’s children.

A Crossroads on a Precipice

We all make plans. Even those of us who like to shoot from the hip and make rash decisions, ultimately make plans. I think it’s built into our DNA to plan for the day and our lives.

I probably like to plan a little more than my average friend. I like to know where I am going and how long it might take. Throughout the last few years I have had a plan of where I think I’ll end up in the long run. Chaplain in a hospital. It’s why I thought I went and got my Master’s, it’s what I’ve seen myself doing for quite awhile.

Now, it seems as if God is starting to reveal a different plan.

When we get so caught up in our little charts of how our lives will go, we tend to lose the awareness of how God is doing his own planning. Right now, God is removing my blinders.

I have made the decision that I will be going to the first ever Joni and Friends’ Global Access Conference and I think I’ll get a better grip on where I’ll go from there.

To be honest, the idea of change scares me too death. I hate the idea of failure. I’ve had so many of shakes with failure in school, even though I was able to surpass that thanks to God. The idea of possibly walking away from a solid job to do a ministry that doesn’t pay? The idea of trusting God to provide financial care?

Nope, no reason to to be worried.

So I continue to pray and ask that God reminds me continually that the only thing I need to be concerned about is doing God’s will. Right now, I am continuing to work as I get ready for February’s Conference and spending more time on my knees as I wait for God to show me the rest of the road before me.

I’m stepping onto the crossroads on the precipice. Indiana Jones’s style, the crossroads- well, bridge- is invisible, and it’s got to be in trust and faith Indy

that I make that first step. It’ll be a doozy, but I know it will ultimately be worth it. Just got to force my foot to move first.

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And as always, prayers are desired as I make that step. 🙂

Check out this amazing conference that will be held in California! Global Access Conference

Hard Won Victories

“For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate.”- Romans 7:15 (HCSB)
I think there is a misconception in the church today that if we just pray hard enough over a difficulty/sin in our lives, God will just make it disappear. 
Take an alcoholic for instance. Say the man wants to change his life and finally let go of the bottle. Do we tell him to just pray? Or do we give him steps to change his life?
Throughout the Bible when God tells his followers to NOT do something, he provides something good to DO instead. When he takes something away, he provides that which is good to fill that void. It is supposed to keep us from sinking back into bad behavior.
Paul does a wonderful job of showing these examples, giving us basically an instruction manual that gives us steps to change our lives. For example, character change: Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.–Ephesians 4:31-32 
Nature abhors a vacuum. Due to science class, we’ve heard this thought numerous times. Visualize the jungle. Man comes in and clears it out, readying it for farming. All trees, climbing plants, and grasses are gone. Only bare soil remains. Something holds up the planting, perhaps the man gets sick for a month. When he finally gets back to the place he cleared, already the soil has sprouted with grass, the fast growing vines are creeping out of the surrounding jungle, and even the roots of trees are showing where there once was just rich soil. The jungle is notorious for the speed in which it reclaims that which has been taken away from it. 
The body and the soul also abhors a vacuum. When we attempt to take something away from our lives, something has to take it’s place. We see this when a smoker attempts to stop. There’s a reason why many smokers start to gain weight after they quite, because where once they had a cigarette hanging from their mouth, now they are filling it with food. Trying to fill that empty space where the cigarette once was. Many smokers are now avid gum chewers because they need to keep their mouth busy.
The soul is the same. There’s the saying that everyone has a God shaped hole in their heart, that we are attempting to fill. Some of us fill it by sleeping around, others with trying to make money, still others with gathering things. We all try to fill that hole. Even some believers are still caught in that thought that we are still empty. Instead of recognizing that we have the Holy Spirit, we still feel empty and need to be filled. It is our inherent sin nature that refuses to allow the Spirit to take over our lives.
This is why I think we do great disservice to fellow believers who are struggling with certain changes in their lives when we tell them to just pray about it. God’ll give you the victory.
I do believe God can take away a sin when we just pray for him to help. I’ve met with a few people who say that they had a particularly tenacious sin that they couldn’t seem to shake. Upon just praying (admittedly hard and focused) they were able to step away from the sin and never have it bother them again. Others back  up the claim, saying that the sin changed their loved one’s character and after a retreat they came back totally different. So it is possible.
To the average believer though, it’s okay that we fall and struggle to get through some sins. It is natural. When someone says that ‘all you have to do is pray,’ it makes those of us who are continually fighting to get pass that sin feel maybe like we aren’t truly listening to God, or our faith is weak. 
THIS IS NOT THE CASE! We can be so wrapped up in God, so in love with him, and STILL struggle with sin. Don’t believe me? Go read King David’s story. That man was called a ‘man after God’s heart’ and he sinned continually and horribly. David broke the last six of the ten commandments in a grand way. The difference is that every time he sinned, he realized what he did and came back to God, humbled and broken. 
The thing I take away from this ‘hero’ of the Bible is that he was totally human and God loved him. He continually sinned, but God still loved him. David kept asking for forgiveness, and God always gave it. 
Why do we say God hates us when we slip? Why do we accuse God of not caring when we, ourselves, fall back into our old ways. God is still there, waiting for us to turn back to him. He knows that occasionally we will revert back to our old temptations, and he will use it to teach us his grace. 
Hard won victories have more power than easily given answers. I am more willing to listen to someone’s testimony of how they struggled and failed then finally succeeded, than someone who said that they just changed. The first person speaks more to where I am in life than the person who just easily changes.
Be careful the way you proclaim God and the power of prayer. Prayer is amazing, but it is not the magic genie. Prayer is your communication to God, and sometimes he takes you out of the quicksand of sin without you having to hold on to anything. Other times you must be the one to grab the rope and crawl out while God holds the rope steady. Neither is wrong and neither is the way every single person is going to meet God. 
Victory is yours. You just might have to sweat, bleed and cry a bit before you can truly proclaim it. And, perhaps your faith will be ever stronger because of it. You may also find that each time you find yourself slipping, you are able to stand up that much faster. 
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.–1 Corinthians 10:13

We are Story

Stories. We are surrounded by stories. There are ones that catch our attention and refuse to leave us. Others we carry for just a small bit of time before moving to another one. But, always, we are surrounded by stories. For example, the quotes that are placed here probably bring to mind the stories they are attached to, here’s a quick rundown of their power:

“Excellent!” I cried. “Elementary,” said he.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes, the Consulting Detective, came on the scene in 1887. This character has the ability to still catch our attention, so much that we have two big networks doing their own version of the story (BBC and CBS) at the same time. There are movies such as Robert Downey, Jr‘s and Jude Law‘s version of Sherlock Holmes not to mention Basil Rathbone‘s classic version. Also the famous cartoon version The Great Mouse Detective (1986), that I grew up with and which started my love for the Sherlock character. Other versions come and go and the rabid fandom lives on. Doyle wrote such an amazing character that when he tried to kill off Holmes in the paper serial of his day, the readers rebelled, wearing black armbands to mourn the character. Doyle had to bring back Sherlock Holmes because the readers were so invested in him. We still are!
Doyle wrote a story that has stuck with us for 126 years.

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” – Jane Austen “Pride and Prejudice”

Jane Austen wrote in 1813, Pride and Prejudice. It is a ‘classic,’ required reading in most English Lit classes. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy still have the power to gain our attention. Austen’s book is considered one of the most beloved stories and is much studied in scholarly circles. It has seen many adaptations over the years.
Austen wrote this romantic story 200 years ago, and still we hold it dear.

“Please take it,” says I, “and don’t ask me nothing—
then I won’t have to tell no lies.” – Mark Twain The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written in 1884, is another classic. It too has seen it’s share of various adaptations in movies and television shows. It also has seen it’s share of the ‘politically correct’ wars. I remember when I was in middle school hearing the various reasons of why certain words should be changed, and it’s a debate that is still going on. But, still we hold onto the story. Something about Finn’s coming of age in a changing world, grabs our attention and refuses to release us.
Twain wrote it 129 years ago and still we debate it.

Three stories out of the billions written since the first letter was shaped. Three stories that are just the brink of not only the stories of the English speaker, but of the world. Even if we have never taken the much needed time to read these classic works, most of us know of them. How could we not when even in this day and age we speak of these century plus stories?

We are story. We as a human race are made up of stories. We seek to understand the world around us and when we do, we tell others of what we have discovered- in story. Is it any wonder that when God spoke to us in the written word, He chose to do so mostly in story form? 75% of the Bible is in story format while 15% is in poetry. The small percentage that is left is letter and prophecy, which even there if you look closely, might have story format woven into it. The Bible as a whole is a story. We often forget in our search for truth that everything from Genesis to Revelation is related and part of the same story.
Why would God chose the form of story to teach us?
Because it is how we learn.
We love stories because it helps us realize that we are not alone in this world. We want to know that someone else, even if it is a fictional character, has felt a little bit of our fear, a little bit of our love. We want to know that we are not the only one to ever feel this way. We want to believe that the monsters that haunt us can be killed. G.K. Chesterton put it beautifully when he said “Fairy tales don’t tell children that dragons exist; children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.
Every one of us is in the midst of our own story. We have our own villains and heroes who interact with us on a daily basis. We become our own hero and our own villain as well. We become the evil in our autobiographies when we refuse to shoulder the weight of the hero’s burden, turning to the easy way out. Our stories are connected with each person we come in contact with. Sometimes we have the reoccurring characters that we come to love or hate, while there are the stock characters that show some aspect of our own character, but do not seem to have much impact on our lives. Our story is not alone in this vast world.
Our stories are but part of the larger Story. We become who we are through the lives of our relatives, the shape of their existence directs where we might show up in our own narrative. There is a reason why numerous people seek to understand their genealogies. It is because they feel adrift; without knowing who they are, they do not know who they will become.
Historians seek to understand that which has passed beyond our understanding. They seek to decode how the past still has power over us today. They wish to understand who we, as the human race, are and will become.
We are all connected. It’s not some mystical otherworldly belief. It is simple truth. Our stories slip into each other, they weave in and around every person we speak with. We never have to be alone. Since the moment Adam was given speech, he was speaking in story. God communicated with him about the world he created for him. How did Eve learn about the world she awoke in? Adam taught her what God told him, probably walking with her where he had tread with God. Pointing at certain things, he conveyed what he had himself learned.
Stories are not just what is between the covers of a book, nor is it only that which we find on the screen. We communicate our part of the narrative when we tell a friend about our day, when we write in our little journals about the person who caught our eye.
Our stories will not always be of love and adventures. Most of us will write in tears and blood at one time or another, while joy seems to be fleeting. The climax of our story will not truly come till our death, and even then, it might just be a bit of a cliffhanger until we see where we stand on the other side of death.
We are not alone. We need not seek a fictional character to be understood, when we can look to the person beside us. Though admittedly it is easier to handle a character’s reaction since they don’t talk back.
Wherever you are in the midst of your own narrative, know you are part of something so much bigger. You a very important part of my story. For you, I would wear a black armband.
Read well my friends and find comfort in the stories that are unfolding!