Archives For November 2012

Remember Lewis and Clark?

I, like most of you in the United States read about them in American History classes growing up. I was taught a basic overview of their journey, primarily because I lived in the midwest where they traveled. It was as if they were bullet points in a textbook and I learned the following:

  • They covered a lot of ground in a boat
  • Met some Native Americans
  • Made it to the Pacific Ocean
  • Recommended to the President we go west.

Simple enough but there was little story, only bullet-points. In truth, I thought of them more as a punchline as used in the opening of the movie National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985) in the ridiculous Pig in a Polk quiz show opening scene.

Ten years ago, I read Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage (Simon & Schuster, 1997), the epic narrative about the American explorers Merriweather Lewis and William Clark. I loved studying history and even minored in it in college, but I had never read any book that was written more as a story prior to this one. It was as if the Lewis and Clark’s almost mythological story finally made sense and I could get the accurate picture of these two explorers as if they were in a movie. I could visualize their adventure, share in their ambitions, trials, frustrations, hunger, fears, joy, and even sadness. History became alive to me in their story.

Their story resonates with me today and is pushing me to ask my question,

“What do I need to discover?”

Last month I read a BBC article titled What Adventures Are Actually Left?. It was about how we may be approaching the end of “discovery”.  According to the article, genuine firsts are hard to find these days. The mountains have all been summited. With GPS, it is hard not to easily discover remote islands in the Pacific or visit Antarctica in the winter with modern technology. It seems as if the ocean and space are the last frontier and are largely undiscovered.

While there less “firsts” for man to discover, the battle for discovery of the heart is at stake for each individual. It is the never-ending adventure of man. We as man are not meant to give up so easily because we are made to reach for the next thing. Discovery-adventure is needed to grow culturally and spiritually. Each person has their own reasons and they real what is true to their heart. Here is one of my favorite.

March 18, 1923 issue of the New York Times. The headline was “Climbing Mount Everest is Work for Supermen.”

Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?” This question was asked of George Leigh Mallory, who was with both expeditions toward the summit of the world’s highestmountain, in 1921 and 1922, and who is now in New York. He plans to go again in 1924, and he gave as the reason for persisting in these repeated attempts to reach the top, “Because it’s there.

We may never know exactly what was at stake personally for Hillary but his tenacity to achieve such a feat shows that something deep within him was stirring.

I can come up with excuses all day long about why I don’t have time for this adventure and how there is never enough money. My wife and I don’t want to live life with any regret. I think that is why the Pixar movie, Up (2009), resonated so much with me. You watch the main character as a boy growing up to become an old man in the movie. His life, much like yours or mine was not easy and complete with all sorts of unexpected twists. It shows that all we have in life are excuses unless we move our lives into the intentional mode.

My wife and I have realized that if we don’t show our two daughters how to be adventurous, we will all get lost in life’s busy shuffle.

Lewis and Clark, Mallory, and the movie Up, all remind me to not to just “do things” but to do them with a purpose bigger than me. Do them because it matters. Not just to cross it off like a simple bucket list but for the purpose of a story to tell that matters for the ages. After all, God knows what true adventure is and his adventure flows from his story in The Bible. Our real adventure is with Christ and without his purpose, all of this is meaningless, a mere earthly thrill.

What is the adventure in your life?  

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite songs about adventure. My daughter’s faces were lit up when first hearing the song, Learn Me Right, by Mumford and Sons (featuring vocals by Birdy) in the movie, Brave (2012), It later became a sister song called Not With Haste in their new album, Babel, as well. I may even add it to My Funeral Mix.

I can’t get a job.

My candidate failed.

No one likes what I say.

Nothing is going my way.

She won’t do what I want.

I will never win.

I can’t do it.

These are all things I have heard in the past few weeks from friends, colleagues, my daughters, yes even from my mouth. My daughters get so frustrated especially when they can’t make something work. They scream “I can’t do it, Daddy” and literally are screaming. I have to remind them about how much I don’t like the word “can’t” and then try to help. Truth is, when I’m at work and catch myself being down about something at work or with friends. I’ve got a new name for negative talk and I have to remind myself of it each time I catch myself doing it.

In the movie, The Muppets (2011), the billionaire Tex Richman introduced the iconic anti-group,

“Meet the Moopets: A hard, cynical act for a hard, cynical world.”

The Moopets were everything anti from what the positive and loving Muppets are. They are negative personality of each character. They are cynical, they are bullies, they are dangerous, and only care about themselves. They are “cynical” as Tex Richman called them.

Cynicism is something that is so easy to conform to. The 2012 election sure proved that for us all. I had a discussion with a friend this week about when we feel like we can’t handle life’s circumstances, we suddenly become down about it. We complain. We blame. We hate. Then we are driving and see an “IGBOK” bumper sticker. “It’s Gonna Be OK.” My mom used to remind me of this when I was a kid and as I encounter more things in life, I remember her simple, yet profound wisdom that wraps so many car bumpers.

When Conan O’Brien’s fans were in revolt because he was losing The Tonight Show back to Jay Leno and the forces that be at NBC, here was his response.

All I ask of you, especially young people…is one thing. Please don’t be cynical,” O’Brien said. “I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.

Yes indeed, the cynics were shunned. Amazing things happen because you are suddenly free to go after what God really wants you to do. And what happens next?

Colossians 2:6-7 reminds us,

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Knowing what Christ did for us on the cross is enough to be thankful for.

Let’s give up the Moopets. Be a real Muppet and be thankful.

Wocka wocka

I’m no scholar.

I’m no dummy, either (I think).

Almost 20 years ago, I accepted Christ while recognizing his great love offered for me. It was simple to me. I needed help and he was there. I took the step and I’ve never looked back since.

As I’ve grown as a Christian and naturally in age, I’ve come to recognize that not everything in life makes sense to me. Not that I don’t seek the great answers to life and even some of the smaller ones, I have just come to realize that God knows and I am generally okay with that. One thing that I do realize is that the more I try to figure it out by myself, the more confused, alone, and lost I feel. Like the show, LOST, the characters struggle to fight their way on “the island” individually versus bonding together. It is a common theme in the entire six seasons of the show. I love that show because it is a central theme of life. Alone we are lost. Together, we are one.

The classic line from Jack, the hero of the show is,

If we can’t live together, we’re gonna die alone.

Early in my Christian life, God instilled the verse Ephesians 4:3 NIV in me, especially remembering it whenever I was in any petty argument or witnessed one in the church.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.

Every time I read it, it hits me like a brick.

God commands us to make every effort. Not to fight each other. Not to live alone. But to keep the unity no matter what.

I am far from qualified to speak of or have any sort of wisdom in how to heal this but God showed me something recently that made more sense of it.

I was at a great friend’s father’s funeral this past weekend. While waiting for the service to begin, I looked around at the wide variety of people in the sanctuary. They were all over the midwest; from various economic, faith and cultural backgrounds. Despite this ragtag group’s looks, they came together in remembrance and celebration. They were unified in love and thanks for a great husband, friend, father, and son. It was beautiful like a glimpse of heaven. Next we all recited something magical.

As Christians, most of us have read the Apostles Creed. I was moved because I believe that God gave it to us through some brave men of faith in the early church to remind us of what matters most. My friends, whether they be Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, or any other Non-Denominational variety can all pretty much agree on this creed and most recite it on a regular basis in their own churches. I wish we all could live this creed with the thousands of churches that are in this wonderful yet fallen world. Imagine what we can do together.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. AMEN.

Can you imaging if we read this everyday?  Read it out with me my Christian brothers and sisters. We will feel one together before our God and can serve better as one because of it.

Live together or die alone.

Why Failure Matters

November 8, 2012 — 4 Comments

I am a failure.

You know those contests where people have to guess how many M&Ms are in a mason jar? Well I’d be willing to bet my failures would add up to ten dozen of those jars. I’m just getting started, too.

I am amazed by the idea of failure. I remember so many failures in my life, it still hurts thinking about them.

Why does failure feel so bad? I love failure for a good reason. It causes a person to look deep into their soul to ask the deep questions of “why” and a “do I have what it takes?”

There are times in life when I failed and quit.

There are times in life when I failed and kept going.

Both of those times hurt. Sometime early in life I was being told to keep going during these times. I didn’t really know what that meant but the more I failed, the more I wanted to get through that emotion of personal disappointment. It took victory upon victory to see what the failures meant.

Great stories begin with failures and end with greatness. Pushing through failures produces the character that will ultimately take you on the journey of being a better person. It is like a marathon runner who hits ‘the wall’ midway through a race. The pain becomes so excruciating, that eventually your body tells you to stop. Some choose to stop. Some chose to continue. Those that continue, find something inside of them that pushes through the pain. By pushing through the pain, euphoria takes over and you suddenly float forward to finish.

In the midst of pain, we discover what matters most. It is a process but it awakens us to what life is supposed to be. The pain of failure and the process causes us to cry out to God for help. Pick up your Bible because it is full of men and women who have failed. Grace in the form of Jesus picked them up so they could keep moving. They were stronger, bolder, and humbler because of this grace. They understood what the pain meant to push through.

My hero, Winston Churchill, faced failure on numerous public occasions during his career: He failed political races, was responsible for military blunders in World War I, was marginalized in Parliament between the wars, and lost battles as Prime Minister during World War II. Despite winning World War II, he was voted out of office. Did he stop? No he kept going and became Prime Minister again years later. His words carry me today.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

I am imaging the day when one of my daughters come to me full of some sort of worry. They will share their fear and it will be about losing a game, not making the cut, failing a test, or perhaps feeling rejected by a boy. I will hug them. I will tell them I understand some of their hurt. I will even cry with them. I will help pick them up and tell them to look up.

I will tell them about Winston Churchill. I will tell them about life’s marathon. I will tell them about my failures.I will share the Bible with them. I will tell them that it will be okay. I will tell them to never give up.

 

What has failure taught you in life?

Any favorite quotes or Bible verses that help you through failure?