Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Baiting The Bottom Dwellers

A couple of weeks ago the kids and I went to Lake Powell - one of the most beautiful places on earth with blue water, intense red rock canyons and private pristine coves.

One morning I woke early and tip-toed from my sleeping bag, grasped my pink fishing pole quietly and stepped across the rock to the water's edge. Having run out of powerbait the night before, and wanting to have a yummy catfish fry this morning, I broke off a dime scooped piece of hot dog and placed it ever so invitingly on the three pronged hook.

Casting the line 20 feet out, with my happy morning toes wiggling as I sat on the fire hydrant sized boulder, I began singing " . . . 'cause Oscar Meyer has a way with B-O-L-O-G-N- hey!!!!!!! WHOAAAAAAAAA!!!! OH my gosh, oh my gosh . . . "

Standing and wrestling with my pole as it dragged left, then right, I realized it was not a plant I'd snagged under the water, but a HUGE fish! Sadly though it was not a catfish, but a carp - not the breakfast I had hoped for.

Giddy that I'd enjoyed my first battle with a big fish, I loaded another hot dog and cast again. This time hoping for a whiskered kitty fish on the end of my line. SNAP! Withing minutes, another bite, another exhilerating battle with another Oscar Meyer loving fish . . . and again, another carp.

The carp were loving the hot dogs. But I didn't want carp. I was beginning to understand that certain bait catches certain fish. What I was putting out there was attracting specific results. And, carp, a bottom dweller, was not the result I wanted. I surrendered and had Raisin Bran for breakfast.

This past weekend we went to Vegas. A whole different type of environment with a whole different type of fish.

I watched as people were baited, hooks set, and reeled in by the advertising, the branding, the imagery, the sex, the appetites, the intrigues. I watched how people were lured and almost hypnotized by the lights, the alcohol and the anonymity. I watched how some swam at the top - taking in the talent and adventure and the good fun - while others lost everything, their moral compass, even their dignity, and stood with signs begging for a dollar desperate to gamble it away or drink it down with a cheap Vodka.

Every one of us is being baited. Call it capitalism, call it temptation, call it the law of attraction . . . whatever you call it, what hooks you, what keeps you, what inspires or enslaves you, will give you clues about your character.

Do you hang out in the fresh water, swim with the dophins, or are you a bottom dweller, gulping down anything that could possibly satisfy in the moment?

Something catches our eye, attracts us and pulls us in.

A word to the wise . . . be careful what that is my friend. It's all fun and games til the oil in the pan starts to sizzle . . .

Thursday, July 22, 2010

BINGO! Seeing Yellow

Driving with the kids in the car it is only a matter of minutes on the asphalt before someone shouts "BINGO!". Confirming excitedly a yellow vehicle of some kind, the BINGO caller is now a point ahead of the others in the car. From then on the rest of us are on a keen lookout.

It's become quite the obsession really. There is shouting and pointing and heckling going on until we arrive at our destination - even if its hours away.

The big kahuna though is the elusive pink car. And if its a volkwagon bug? Whatch out! (how does Scott always discover those hidden somewhere in a tiny parking lot?)

It is a challenge to strain your eyes and discipline yourself to pick out the BINGO from the gazillion non-point cars.

So . . . why?

Because it makes life better. Period.

Now does it really? We're still in a car, still traveling the miles (and sometimes many many miles while on our family vacations)and still a captive audience fighting traffic and bad drivers. But, the very discipline of looking for the win, THAT is an AWESOME life skill.

You see, there is a part of the brain that is the recognizing system, technically speaking, called the Reticular Activator System. It will find evidence for ANYTHING you train it to find. Tell it to find evidence that you're a failure? IT WILL. Tell it to find evidence that no one likes you? IT WILL. Allow it to build a case that life is hard and love will let you down? IT WILL. Train it to find hope and inspiration among the gazillion other emotions and IT WILL.

Just like spotting the yellow bug in the grocery store parking lot, hidden behind that huge delivery truck . . . the second you see that bright yellow hub of a wheel you feel the excitement popping inside your throat like you know the answer on the final level of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" . . . and . . . "BINGO!!!!!!!!!!"

See yellow. See hope. See inspiration, success, goodness . . .

Why? Because it makes life better. Period.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Suspended In Time

I've been reading about suspension bridges. Built under precarious conditions, over chasms deep and wide and raging, suspension bridges make traversing a great divide possible.

Reading about James Roebling in 1951 who took the challenge - bridge the Niagara River Gorge - 825 feet across, 200 feet down, over rushing tumbling water 37.4 million gallons per minute. With faith, vision and a sense of purpose, Roebling built that bridge to the amazement of the world. First crossing with a kite, then a cable, then a carriage. He led the way and showed the impossible . . . was.

As I look through photographs I see that's what Paul did for so many of us.

Life and death so polar opposites. Or so it seems. And God? Seems so far away sometimes. When troubles come, stress invades, money dwindles and health escapes us . . . that chasm between where we are and where God sits . . . at times seems greater, deeper, and more dangerous in nature than Niagra Falls.

But Paul . . . what you did in such a gentle way . . . was you somehow create a bridge for so many of us to cross. Every surgery you faithfully and courageously endured, every treatment you embraced, every humorous angle in the suffering you found, every get together where you took the stage and made us forget OUR troubles . . . every one of those was a cable to the bridge you were building.

We did not see it at the time.

But days, weeks, months and a year has passed . . . and we got used to praying, got used to begging God for help, got used to looking for "the pony" in the piles of manure . . .

And now every time troubles come, stress invades, money dwindles and health escapes . . . there is a bridge to cross BECAUSE we saw you do it. You were afraid and still walked the walk. Your life was ending and you still had things that made you laugh and be grateful. You CHOSE to thank God instead of curse Him. As your friends, as your family, it was relavent to us, it mattered to us and it changed US. Now our job is to build bridges too - be God seekers too - walk the walk too.

Someday we will meet you on the other side of that great chasm.

Thank you for walking the walk and showing us how, as real people, we can live lives FOR God and WITH God.

Your life and the journey we walked with you, built a bridge.

Til we meet again on the other side . . . you taught us amazing timeless lessons and we are forever changed. Thank you for building that bridge and leaving such a powerful legacy that it ushers people over great chasms still . . . to a God that loves them.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Phantom Pain

Many of my friends are in wheelchairs. Through association with the Utah Wheelchair Rugby team, as well as my connection with several motivational speakers, I have come to understand much about disabilities, handicaps and the loss of limbs and body function. Having assisted many beginning speakers who have overcome the emotional setbacks of a paralyzing accident or illness, I have learned many of the stages of acceptance that a person must go through when they become a paraplegic or quadreplegic. It hasn't been my life journey . . . but in a very real sense I understand losing extentions of yourself and the way it can paralyze your life if you let it.

A newly injured person has to come to a place of acceptance - a place where they understand the tools that will now assist them; a wheelchair, a walker, a cathetar . . and appreciate the value of the freedom these tools offer as opposed to resenting them and viewing them as prisons or punishments.

A newly injured person must at some point come to terms with their new circumstances and even rise to a place of gratitude for the life they still have . . . acknowledging that each moment is truly a gift and is endowed with a purpose and passion for which they were created and sent into this world.

A newly injured person must come to such a place of spiritual awareness as to be able to see photographs of themselves, photographs and images taken prior to the tragedy, prior to the loss, to see themselves with their limbs, standing, able bodied . . . and have them same level of gratitude and peace as they feel when they look in the mirror today.

If not, or until they can, the newly injured person will be angry, blame God, resent life, and act out with displaced hatred and depression . . . phantom pain. The pain of longing for a life that can produce no movement, no growth, no positive momentum.

There is a difference between grieving a loss . . . and coming to a sense of personal clarity for one's life and purpose . . . versus longing without fruition. Phantom pain.

Because I have watched some of THE most successful people - Paul Berg and Art, Clay Egan, Chad Hymas, Ken Reid, Briana Walker - not only face tragedy courageously, but wrap their hearts and mind around their new circumstances, and embrace it as a mission and a launching pad for higher thinking - because I knew that kind of resilience was possible . . . a year ago I prayed this prayer . . .

"God, I've seen other people rise from pain and allow it to awaken them. I've seen amazing individuals, Paul, Clay, Art and Chad and others take their pain and allow it to recreate them, build them, empower them to live life more fully. Please help me move from phantom pain, from longing, from resentment into a place of wholeness, a place of gratitude, a place of acceptance for my new life. Help me not resent my new circumstances but allow YOU to grow me . . . on purpose."

A year ago I knew I was destined to self-destruct in pain and longing if I did not follow their examples. Change is inevidable. Self-medicating is an option. Self-destruction is an option. Success and courage are possible. There is a difference between "longing" and "grieving" and the difference is phantom pain versus healing.

Thank God I had some of the most powerful real-life flesh and blood walk the talk examples of how to succeed after loss and paralysis. Because of those examples, those people, that prayer . . . I have a vision today for my life that incorporates great loss and great love. It is beautiful.

Paul never wanted his death to destroy anyone - he wanted his memory to make people laugh, live better and pray deeper. He wanted his death, if it had to happen, to wake people up to the love of God. And it did.

To Paul, to Art, to Clay, to Chad, to Ken, to Briana . . . your loss and courage and creativing after that loss has given me wings. God bless you.

Friday, July 16, 2010

It's All Noise. Pititful Noise.

The last few days I've had a hymn rolling over and over in my mind. The tune I remember completely, but only a few key words stand out. These words keep bubbling to the surface in every white cap in my world today.

"Master the tempests are raging . . . Peace be still."
(click here for music and lyrics)

Having just weathered a windstorm at Lake Powell with the kids, and losing two of our three tents, a floatie and our 8 ft. picnic canopy (all sheered to pieces and broken) - I have thought a lot about the forces of destruction that often threaten our plans and happiness in other areas. How we weather small challenges gives us clarity about how we handle big tough challenges.

Hunkered down on a queen-sized air mattress that stormy night with my youngest daughter, huddled in 2 man tent, a great conversation was had. Terrified by the raging wind beating against the vinyl dome (now at a 65 degree angle due to the force of the gust), my little Hannah shook and cringed.

"Honey, I know it sounds loud. I know it sounds scary. But what you hear is the wind on the layers of vinyl. It's just noise. We're safe, but the noise is scary."

Calming a bit we both layed back and drifted off to sleep - becoming familiar with the shaking and flapping of the tent above us. (Scott had generously opted to sleep in Hannah's now vacant tent so mom could console her)

In the morning the wind was silent. The lake was a mirror. There were no clouds, no breeze and no fear.

Grabbing my fishing pole and tip-toeing to the water's edge, I cast my line and waited for a bite.

"Peace. Be still." After all the noise, and all the fear, all the scurry gathering up our belongings last night . . . everything was beautiful and still.

How often do we allow the noise of financial pressure, marital pride and control battles, co-worker bickering, stressful family drama, and other people's opinions, to brew storms in our hearts and minds? And how often do we allow fear to ruin our experiences in life and rob us of our joy? How often do we sit in our little tents, distracted and terrified by the noise?

God is bigger than the scary noise in your life friend. God is bigger than your storm, bigger than people's opinions and bigger than the damage done by any wind. Storms pass, noise is just noise, but right is always right and will always bring peace.

If you are in the middle of a storm that you fear will consume you . . . pray.
If you are overwhelmed by dark clouds . . . pray.
If you fear you will not make it until morning . . . pray.

Awaken the Master with your pleas . . . "Master the tempests are raging . . . "

And then let the Master stretch out His mighty hand and calm the noise.

You see, the victory is already won. With sin and death overcome by Jesus's sacrifice, everything bad from here on out is just noise. Pitiful noise.

Yesterday this truth hit home when I read Galations 6:14-17
"Because of that cross, my interest in this world died long ago, and the world's interest in me is also long dead. It doesn't make any difference . . . from now on, don't let anyone trouble me with these things . . . I belong to Jesus."
(section summarized)

I do belong to Jesus. God said it, I believe it, storm over. My soul is stilled.

"Master the tempest is raging . . . Peace . . . sweet peace . . . be still."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Cross on the Side of the Road

Cars flash past a gaudy bright yellow floral cross on the side of the freeway. Off the blacktop ten feet up on the embankment, it stands stoically . . . no words, no name, just stands. The drivers of the vehicles that pass by hardly notice it, and certainly are not moved to deep emotion as they listen to talk radio, manage their young toddlers, and chat on their i-phones.

At some tearfilled reunion a broken person brought that cross, to that sacred spot, to that hill, that patch of rocks, that mile marker . . . because something tragic happened there. The cross that hardly gets noticed is evidence of a profound loss . . . a wound that is still open and healing.

That cross proves a journey was taken . . . a pilgramage was travelled . . . back to that spot, back to that tragedy, that memory . . . to help process the loss that happened there.

The cross that is left is not for the deceased - for in reality the grieving know the deceased are in a better place, far above the busy freeway. The cross is not left for the distracted road-raged passerby who faintly notices the fading flowers. The cross is left for the grieving. It marks a meridian of time. It marks a private suffering. It marks a relationship.

More importantly it marks a journey and a process. With the placing of the cross at the scene of a tragedy, the grieving discover pieces of themselves that were lost at the scene. Those pieces of the puzzle, those pieces of themselves, are healing as they take their places and bring wholeness.

So today as you pass that gaudy yellow floral cross on the side of the freeway, pray for the grieving. Pray that they find all of the pieces of themselves that were shattered at that tragedy. Pray that they find healing to get back on the road, that they can again listen to talk radio, manage their young toddlers, and chat on their i-phones. That life can again be about amazing destinations, purpose and career and a life's work; that life can again hold joy and music and laughter.

Today when you see that cross on the side of the road, pray. Somewhere on that busy road there is a walking wounded picking up the pieces. And one day, if that walking wounded is you, I'll go with you to that side of the road and help you place a cross. I know the way. I know the grieving, the horror, the tragedy. I also know that life holds more than loss. It holds courage, renewal, the joy and beauty of touch and compassion. I know as you pick up the pieces God is there - He's always been there - and He will show you how the pieces fit, one-by-sacred-one.

You see God knows all about crosses.

He died for you on one.