The Nomad in You

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“Real living is worth waking up for.”

These were my words in a recent conversation. It began with a book, To Shake the Sleeping Self by Jedidiah Jenkins. They arose as a friend and I commented on a shared belief that there is a contrast between living and survival, between “surviving and thriving” to borrow her words.

She responded, “That’s the nomad in you.”

The word struck me viscerally, and I grabbed hold of it. “Nomad.” I said it aloud and began turning it slowly around in my mind as I sought to ferret out its significance. It’s first promise bore into me with a single word – adventure. And considering the conversation, adventure and nomad seemed fitting companions.

As is usual for me, the counterargument followed on its heels. Courtesy of my growing understanding of Enneagram sevens, a picture of a nomad caught up in the journey but unengaged. Someone who roams about, but is always looking for the next thing without being present in the moment. A fulfillment of the gluttony of sevens. I’ve lived this life before, and it is purely survival.

A nomad’s life does not necessarily mean adventure, despite the romantic draw of wanderlust and the road. It’s a tension I acknowledge and accept.  Just as I accept that there is indeed a nomad in me. There is a part of me that longs for the road, for new experiences and for adventure. But I want to be awake for it. I want to be present. I want to thrive.

So, to borrow Jedidiah’s title, I am seeking “to shake the sleeping self”. To awaken to who I am, to grow in unity with my God and to learn to be present. Part of that is accepting the nomad in me. The one who, not too many years ago, nearly spent every penny in his bank account to buy a one way ticket to somewhere new. For no more reason than the feel of the wind on my face and the call of the road.

I’m not sure where I am headed, but I’m getting more and more excited to see where the path takes me. Filled with a bit of wanderlust, hope and born on the wind, today is a grand day for an adventure.

 

Nothing Wasted

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A few days ago, struck by a sudden boldness, I picked up the guitar again. I’ve been thinking about learning a song for weeks, but taken no action. Finally, guitar in hand, I pulled up the tab and started picking at the strings. In far less time than I anticipated, the song began to come together. Now, after a few hours of practice I have already exceeded my expectations and am playing and singing. Not performance worthy as of yet, but campfire worthy? Yes.

The last few days have been a joy as everything came together. In part because it happened far faster than I ever believed it would. More so, I think, because I realized all the effort I’ve put into the guitar over the years has not been wasted.

It’s difficult at times to look back on my life in a world that promotes the mindset that we are what we do and find I am nowhere near where I hoped I would be. As I mentioned before, I’ve picked up and put down my stories and my songs off and on for years. Never abandoning them. Never fully embracing them. Also not seeing the fruit of labor won only in finishing the work.

But I realize I am seeing fruit. The work of years has not not been wasted. The talent and skill is accumulating, if slowly. That realization is a healing balm and an encouragement to press on.

May that also encourage you. Whatever it is you’re chasing. Keep going. It may take a little while to see, but all labor eventually bears fruit. Nothing is wasted.

Facing the Monster under the Bed

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been delving deeper into the Enneagram and what it means to be a 7. The process has been challenging, but also life affirming.

When it comes to 7s, we don’t like pain. We don’t like unpleasant emotions, and we do whatever we can to avoid them. Most of the time by distracting ourselves. As Ian Morgan Cron puts it, “a compulsive need to devour positive experiences, stimulating ideas and fine material things in order to fend off suffering , hurtful memories and a feeling of chronic deprivation.”

So, uh, yeah… that’s me.

The trouble being a life of pain avoidance is a life of perpetual, self-inflicted darkness. I’d rather move on to something else or think about the future than deal with the pain that’s right here, right now.

Retreat. Deal with it later. Maybe.

In a way, it’s my own little monster under the bed. Do you remember yours? The idea that something waited just over the side terrified me as a child. I still remember a day I dared to look and found a red, tribal mask staring back at me. I don’t know if something was really there or if I stared at a monster of my own making, but it’s the only time I remember truly being frozen in fear.

But in order to live, I believe we must learn to look. While it scared me terribly, I had found the face of my monster. And considering the present discourse, I find the face of my monster fitting. A mask, just like the ones I’ve created to protect myself. The masks that make up my false self. I created them to protect me, but maybe they are the true monster. So I steel myself, and look over the edge of the bed.

Why?

Because the first step is awareness. By awareness I don’t mean just knowing something is out there. We all have that sense of danger that tells us something lingers in the shadows. I mean finding the face of our monsters. Until I know the face of my monster, I can’t recognize it. Until I know the mask it wears, I can’t engage it.

It’s here that the battle begins. Firstly, a battle with self. When the monster shows its face, I have a choice to make. Retreat or engage. The greater battle begins on those occasions when I choose to engage. I choose to face my monster, look it in the eyes and try to see what lies beyond it. To see the source of my pain and fears. One may again ask the question, why?

By getting to the source of my pain and fears, I can hold it, handle it, look at it from different angles and come to understand it. And maybe in knowing it, it becomes a little less scary. I can then examine my responses. I don’t always freeze in the face of my monsters. Sometimes I run. Sometimes I fight. Often at the expense of people around me. Until I see, I strike out blindly. Once I begin learning to see, I can make better choices. Not saying I always will, but I can. And that’s not only better for me, but also for the people I care about.

In all, I think the gift of facing down my monsters can be summed up in a single word.

Freedom.

Freedom from fear. Freedom from the protective habits that hurt myself and others. And freedom to become more of me, the real me.

Dying to Make it Interesting

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“The future is in this kind of death because options leave you forever hovering and lingering and its only in death to all the other options that anything interesting actually happens.”

-Rob Bell

I heard this quote while listening to an interview. Rob Bell’s epiphany followed an article by Gordon Gano, the lead singer of the Violent Femmes. I managed to track down a blog with the reprinted text of that article if you’d like to check it out. In it, he referred to a desire not to “limit availability”. In other words, we want to keep our options open.

I’ve spent many years keeping my options open. I surfed the channels of possibility while running on a treadmill, changing channels every time I got bored or uncomfortable but never going anywhere. Between fear of missing out and grass is greener syndrome, I spent many years cycling through opportunities without every settling in. To use Rob Bell’s words, I was “forever hovering and lingering”. When you’re on a treadmill the scenery never changes.

Now, I refuse to say it has been without value. I’m deeply thankful for the vast and varied experiences life has given me. At the same time, I’ve achieved a moniker I never aspired to – jack of all trades, master of none. That lifestyle has its benefits, but like every coin it has another side. While the ride’s been fun, I’ve failed to achieve my most closely held dreams and goals.

So here I am.

Awakening.

More aware.

I see my enemy, and he is me. He’s the reason I am here, committing myself to a single goal despite the temptation to jump ship. I write to step off the treadmill and onto a path because its “only in death to all other options that anything interesting actually happens.”

And I’d like things to get interesting.

 

 

The Value of Commitment

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Commitment is powerful. This coming from someone who struggles with commitment. Nearly a year ago, I dove into a body building and strengthening program. I was all in. I committed. And that commitment taught me several valuable lessons.

  1. Commitment simplifies things. I remember my first trip to the grocery store after I had established my diet. In and out in fifteen minutes with a week’s worth of groceries.
  2. Commitment makes it easier to say ‘no’. We all struggle to say no. Usually because our priorities are not clear. Commitment aligns us with our priorities.
  3. Commitment goes deeper. I think we all intuitively know that committing to one thing means saying no to another, even when we’re trying to do everything. It is true. My understanding of diet, nutrition and the body has grown to a level I never anticipated. A necessary outworking of dedicated work toward a goal.
  4. Commitment frees you. Odd, right? That something that sets a restriction would bring freedom, but it does. I no longer have to waste time wondering what I should do, or worrying whether it’s going to work out or not. I just have to do.
  5. Commitment leads to results. Stick to anything long enough an we’ll see the benefits. For me, my commitment led to me gaining a healthy new equilibrium at 185, and a stronger, leaner body I’m proud of. My journey is not over, though I’m focusing on conditioning right now before I bulk again. I know that holding to my commitment will bring the results I’m looking for.

So, tell me, what is it you want to accomplish? Are you committed? I guarantee it will make a difference.

Freed to Lead

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Last Sunday I had the chance to visit with an old friend at the church I’ve been attending. He asked me about my former church, not realizing at least four years have passed since I served there. I confessed I had been mostly out of church for the past few years. I don’t know if a question prompted me or he asked, but I answered.

Why?

I mentioned frustration had been growing even before work made it difficult to attend, and as my mouth began moving on its own I recounted struggles I’d forgotten. Maybe I’d deliberately set them aside once that door was closed. I don’t know. But I think they hold important lessons for leaders, and quite possibly for me as well. Things I was blinded to at the time.

At the time, I sang on the worship team. We had two recurring discussions that often left us commiserating after a weekly rehearsal. Our anger was not with our leaders, but on their behalf. You see, both issues stemmed from a pastoral leadership that left them no room to do what they were hired and gifted to do.

The first, and possibly easiest to deal with, was a lack of flexibility in time allotted to worship in music. At that time, we simply felt there was little room for leaders to sense and respond to leading of the Spirit. A dark look or, in worst case, a deliberate interruption awaited any deviation from the schedule. When I consider logistics of two services, I get the need to adhere to a tighter schedule. My thought on the matter remains the same – schedule flexibility. If you need forty five minutes to transition between services, why not schedule an hour so there is room for a little extra? We talk about leaving room in our personal schedules and our finances. Are we doing the same thing with our services?

The second I consider to be far more significant. The creative reins were tight. Song choices had to be approved, and no music written by the worship leaders could be used. The lack of trust chafed those who’d been tasked with leading musically. We, who worked with them, could see it wearing them down. And as often happens with suppressed or unappreciated talent some began to consider leaving. All the while, the church became poorer for the continued distrust.

There is plenty of material out there for leaders in this situation. I hope that today I might entreat any leaders who read this to have a care in how they handle those who serve with them. If you feel you need to exercise this kind of control, then one of two things is true. Either you’re operating out of fear and/or arrogance, or the person you’ve hired is not suited for the position. In both cases the appropriate response is uncomfortable. Self reflection is painful, and so is firing someone. That said, letting it continue is always more destructive in the end.

That said, trust is transforming. You’re support will free you’re leaders to lead in the fullness of their gifts. Gifts God has given them to serve the body. More than anything, I ask that you invite them to the table as equals. Let them challenge you. They are brothers, sisters, and fellow servants with a unique perspective that God endowed them with and that the church needs.