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I recently visited the historic Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia. It is a beautiful hotel and I can say that it was on my bucket list of places to experience. Despite its beauty and the wonderful time my family had there, there was something special that intrigued me most about the Greenbrier.

In the mid 1950s, President Eisenhower made a visit to the Greenbrier Hotel during a summit between the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of Mexico. While there, Eisenhower met with the President of CSX, the owner of the Greenbrier at the time. It was the Cold War, a time of tension between the Soviet Union and the United States and Eisenhower knew that the government needed to continue governing in case Washington D.C. was attacked. He saw the Greenbrier Hotel, tucked into rural West Virginia as an ideal spot to ‘hide’ the Legislative branch in this time.

Greenbrier Congressional bunker

Eisenhower convinced the President of the Greenbrier to allow the building of this secret bunker to be created. The Greenbrier was in need of creating a special wing to be added to the hotel so the government offered to pay for that in exchange for absolute secrecy of this facility. And so it was built over three years, opening in 1962. Very few knew about its existence and the most fascinating thing was that most of the bunker was open to the public between its operational existence from 1962-1992.

The House of Representatives room at The Greenbrier Bunker

The government figured that it would be incredibly difficult for someone at the hotel or the town to not know something was there. As a diversion, part of the bunker was used as a conference facility equipped with meetings rooms, even two auditoriums that fit around 450 and 125 people, enough to fit each branch of Congress. The 18 inch blast doors were hidden from most people so they were led to think they were just walking into another part of the hotel. Most people in town and at the hotel knew that ‘something’ was there but they never could prove it. The bunker was not officially exposed until a Washington Post article revealed its existence.

One of the greatest secrets of the Cold War was hidden in plain sight.

I will always remember ‘discovering’ the Greenbrier Congressional bunker. I have been reading about so many New Year’s resolutions and people hoping to make this year happier than the previous one. There is a workout that will make us healthier. If I can come up with a better way of doing something at work, I’ll feel better. There is a job out there that will make me richer and happier. There is more money that will make life easier. Happiness will come if we do… (fill in the blank).

It reminds me of a great quote I read recently from Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

Happiness depends so little on the circumstances; it depends really only on that which happens inside a person.

Jesus shares more through Luke 17:20-21 NIV

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation,  nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within[a] you.”

Yes, happiness comes from within. It is hidden in plain sight. If our heart truly seeks Jesus, we are free and real happiness enters us. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t know this great secret. But it really isn’t a secret like the Congressional Bunker. But the bunker sure is great reminder to us to not look too far for happiness.

Happiness is hidden in plain sight for all of us.

PS  You can read more here about the Greenbrier Congressional Bunker. It is definitely worth a visit.

Recently driving I heard the radio tagline for a Christian station that said “Safe for the whole family.” Sounds nice, eh? Seems reassuring, right? It’s as if Walt Disney was speaking directly to me and it felt really soft like a cashmere sweater in the fall. I am a marketer so I can appreciate someone trying to create “emotion” and “security” to bring me in and feel good about my choice. In this case, I was listening to a radio station.

I am quite cognizant of what I expose my girls to when it comes to culture, especially music. What parent doesn’t want his or her children to be safe and live as pure of a life as possible? On earth we are realists too and recognize there is only so much we can control when it comes to exposure. The moments our children step away from us, the more the world becomes their experience, not our experience. But they watch my wife and I carefully.

I live in a suburban area full of safe activities but most of it is about staying in a box. This box is full of safe things to do. Drive a safe car. Secure the right job. Protect your kids at school. Do your homework. Check off the list as it goes on and on. I think Satan ultimately wants us as Christians to stay in this safety box. I fall for it constantly and think that this is purely the good life and what is wrong with that?

Life can easily become a “safety dance” because we love to justify our security and dance around what is behind it.

God wants something different from us.

He wants to unleash us in a way that he unleashed his son for us. 

John 14:6 Jesus made it pretty clear about the path. And it ain’t easy.

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

If we are truly going to take this call seriously we must step out of this box, dance differently and do work that takes us into the wild. I’m learning that it doesn’t mean you have to quit doing all of those things I mention above. They are good things and I believe God blesses them as long as we don’t worship them and hide behind them.

My modern-day fictional suburban hero, Lloyd Dobler, said in the movie Say Anything,

I’m looking for a dare to be great situation.

Let’s take Lloyd Dobler’s advice. Let’s get dangerous and seek God’s greatness. Let’s seek greatness in the way Jesus truly calls us.

May you have the passion and bravado of Ernest Hemingway and the faith and sensibility of C.S. Lewis in your journey to dance freely.

 

What dreams are you holding back on because it feels risky or perhaps dangerous? 

The Circus Rollercoaster

January 28, 2011 — 8 Comments

A great friend from college called me this week.  We talk from time to time and he brought up how much life has changed since we lived in a house together in college.  We’ve each had difference paths with ups and downs.  He’s single and been trying to figure out his “vocation” at the moment.  I filled him in on how my wife and our two kids were doing.  Our family had recently been to the circus when it came through town.

If you haven’t been to the circus before then you should go just to see the amount of stressed out parents.  Yes, my wife and I were two of them.  Despite the chaos, it was so much fun. We smiled.  We laughed.  We ate snow cones out of animal-shaped cups.  We felt a little queasy.  The kids wanted to be held.  They ran in circles while we chased.  We were exhausted but what an unforgetable experience.

Our time at the circus reminded me of the film, Parenthood directed by Ron Howard and starred Steve Martin.  Pay close attention to this short exchange.

I think of that scene often because I relate so much to Steve Martin’s character.  I react. I freak out. I over-analyze.  I can be loud.  I blame others. I even run away like a Monty Python and the Holy Grail character.

In life we are not guaranteed perfection.  We strive to achieve some height we cannot attain here on earth.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013 photo credit

“Then he (Jesus) said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must first deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (NIV)

I’ve always been challenged by Jesus’ calling for us in life because ultimately he does not promise us an easy life but one filled with many challenges.  Ultimately there is “hope” by following him even when I feel the emotions of the circus or a rollercoaster.

As I thought about the circus and watched the rollercoaster scene again, they have become reminders…

-To lighten up.

-To laugh more.

-Keep going back to the circus and ride a rollercoaster

-That ultimately in life we will be fine.

Life is a Circus-Rollercoaster. It feels cliché but it’s true.

Enjoy the ride.

Recently I watched the movie Valkyrie starring Tom Cruise, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Eddie Izzard.  If you don’t know much about the story, there have been detailed and exciting documentaries on the subject but it short, it is about the plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944 by Germans.  Tom Cruise plays the lead character Claus Von Stauffenberg who led the failed assassination.  Brilliantly directed by Bryan Singer (Superman Returns, The Usual Suspects), the story comes to life in Hollywood style.  The movie is quite underrated primarily because it was written off by viewers because it featured Tom Cruise during the period of his freak out in the media.  I was intrigued by the story.

The movie got me thinking about the tremendous sacrifice in the story led by these brave Germans in the face of evil.  Americans in particular tend to think of all Germans living in 1930s and 1940s Germany as “Nazis” but it is so far from the truth.   There was brave people throughout all of Germany who who fought openly behind the scenes against the Nazis. One of them was the great German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  I have been reading a biography on him, Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes.  Metaxes previously had wrote the story Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce fighting to end the British slave trade.  Metaxes understands great sacrifice in his stories and with Bonhoeffer, it was about the role of the church in the face of evil.  I am of German descent so my passion is to learn more about these people and honor their lives.

I can’t believe I am m quoting Braveheart but this line is so powerful and to the point: “Every man dies, it’s just a question of how and why.”

The question kept popping up in my head, what am I dying for?

I began to think about those before me who have made such immense sacrifice. Some that came to mind: Martin Luther King, Jr. died for the injustice and suffering of the African American people, Claus Von Stauffenberg and others in the Valkyrie conspiracy died to save Germany, Bonhoeffer died to save his country and the message of his King, Jesus, Lt. Mike Murphy died “for the men next to him” in Afghanistan, Nelson Mandela stood up to fight the injustice of apartheid while forgiving those in it, and Jesus died for all of us and all of it.

Then there are those close to me that have been tremendous examples.

In high school, my cousin Carolyn overheard some other kids talking about “blowing and shooting up the school.”  This was in years following Columbine so things like this was not to be played around with at schools especially then.  She risked her reputation to make sure kids are protected.

When I was 18, my father took a week off work to join me and friends hiking in Colorado.  His boss could not reach him by phone during that period and he was let go a couple months later because his boss didn’t feel that he was “committed” enough. My father sacrificed for me and our relationship.

For justice.  For country.  For a friend.  For a son.  To just “do the right thing.” All in the name of love.

But…

I need to die for something?

Well, it may not mean you actually dying but what in this short life are you “risking”?  I’m challenged to figure out what this means to me.  I may never encounter a situation of having to stand up to a “Hitler” or a “Terrorist.”  But I know I need to “risk” in order to “live.”

Okay back to Braveheart: “Every man dies, not every man really lives.”

For me, this has been a time to engage with my two little girls and my wife and play less golf.  I used to play everyday until my early twenties.  I know that I need to take more out of my leisure time and devote it to helping others, I’m just not sure what exactly.  It may also mean that I need to break away from the “traditional” elements of life and embark on the unknown of a career.  Lots to pray about as I clearly don’t have all the answers.

What about you?

-Is your business doing something “on the fringe”?  You can go about your business as well but you can change the way things are done.

-Do you defend the reputation of someone being misrepresented at work?

-Do you stand up for the kid being bullied in the hall?

-Does your church needs people to work the night of your favorite TV show?  God gave us DVR, use it.

-When you drive down the street when you see someone who is genuinely homeless what will you do next time?

Everyday you are approached with a situation involving potential sacrifice. You may not have to die for it but you will have to make the tough decision.  It takes courage.  It takes faith.

Don’t just “let it be.”

Life is worth sacrifice, always.


PS.  I am blessed to work with a tremendous man and author, Max Lucado.  In his upcoming book Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference, Max shares this in the opening chapter:

“A few years back, three questions rocked my world.  They came from different people in the span of a month. Question 1: Had you been a German Christian during World War II, would you have taken a stand against Hitler?  Question 2: Had you lived in the South during the civil rights conflict, would you have taken a stand against racism?  Question 3: When your grandchildren discover you lived during a day in which 1.75 billion people were poor and 1 billion were hungry, how will they judge your response?

I didn’t mind the first two questions.  They were hypothetical.  I’d like to think I would have taken a stand against Hitler and fought against racism. But those days are gone, and those choices were not mine.  But the third question has kept me awake at night.  I do live today; so do you.  We are given a choice…and opportunity to make a big difference during a difficult time.  What if we did?  What if we rocked the world with hope?  Infiltrated all corners of God’s love and life?  What if we followed the example of the Jerusalem church?  This tiny sect expanded into a world-changing force.  We still drink from their wells and eat from their trees of faith.  How did they do it?  What can we learn from their priorities and passion?”