Positive Energy (A Sequel)

Ice_Climber

Are you an energy enhancer or are you an energy drainer? (I first wrote about this in my 3/17/13 blog.  Since then, I have continued to wrestle with the concept.) Are people happy to see you coming or do they go out of their way to avoid you?  The answers to those questions might reside in the critical question: what do you bring to the party?

I can clearly remember the first time I started to wrestle with the questions of energy enhancement.

I had just encountered a friend at the grocery store. It started as a classic encounter: ‘hi, how you doing’ ‘fine’, ‘how are you?’ ‘life sucks’ and a litany of grey sky perspective poured forth.  It felt like I was encountering Eeyore from Winnie-the Pooh.  The only difference, this Eeyore was in front of me and his personal gloom was on steroids.  I came away from that encounter with a new commitment.  From then on, I committed to seek out and engage energy enhancers.  To this day, given a choice, I will always choose to be with those whose energy is contagious.

That raises the important question: what ingredients do all energy enhancers have in common?

I believe that there are three critical ingredients that a person must have if they are going to be an energy enhancer.

One: energy enhancers are comfortable in their own skin.  They like themselves and they are be committed to being themselves.  Liking yourself is not a narcissistic type of self absorption.  It is a healthy self love/appreciation that develops out of true humility. This is a humility that is based upon who we are and it is girded with an understanding of who we are not.  Therefore, it is an understanding that we are made in the image of God and we are very unique and special in His eyes.  Understanding and appreciating that we are God’s unique creation will, hopefully, fuel our commitment to be 100% authentic.  What you see is what you get.  That sort of authentic humility is profoundly contagious and very empowering.

Second: energy enhancers are excited about their own personal mission and vision.  People that have spent time wrestling with the big question of meaning and purpose, have (quite often) been drawn to the process of discovering why God has put them on the face of the earth and why they have been given the gifts that they have.  This discovery of personal mission & gifting, provides a reason to get out of bed and it provides energy to focus the hours in the day.   Focused, passionate intensity is the empowering gift that comes with knowing the reason for our being, why we are here and where we are going.

Third: energy enhancers choose to live in the present moment.  The drain that comes from yesterday’s memories or the anticipation of tomorrow’s opportunities/challenges distracts us from being all here, right now.  When we can be totally present to the present moment, then we can feel and appreciate all that is happening and we can engage with passion and intensity.  Life is designed to be a contact sport that is lived most vibrantly in contact with the present moment.

Today’s question: are you an energy enhancer or an energy drainer?  Are people excited to see you coming?  What do you bring to the party? Are you bringing it, right now, with an attitude of joy & thankfulness!

May our lives, this day, be a hallelujah from head to toe!

 

 

The Best Day Ever!!

IMG_2886

The alarm penetrated the dark, calling me to the kitchen and the switch on the coffee pot.  As the coffee pot began to perk, I started to focus in on the day  ahead.  I knew it was going to be a good day….even though the sun was far from illuminating the world.  Yet, as I focused in on the thought that today was going to be a good day, I began to wonder….how did I know that today was going to be a good day?  I started to wonder, to question….what was going to keep this good day from being a great day?  More importantly, how could I ensure that this was going to be a great day?

As I reflected upon the journey from good day to great day, I quickly realized that a number of times I had thought a day was going to be great and it left me disappointed.  In a similar sort of way…..there have been many days when I thought it was going to be an average day and it turned into a spectacular day.  My desire is to have more and more average days morph into outrageously great days.  I want those days to blur into the category of being the best day ever (BDE).  And that raises the critical question…..what is my role in making today the best day ever??

Maybe the journey to (BDE) has more to do with what is going on inside of me than what is going on outside of me.   A quick evaluation of my recent history with (BDE) would indicate that this is true.  It seems that the very nature of my expectation that this will be the BDE sets me up to be disappointed.  That is the nature of expectations.  Expectations set me up to be disappointed because “this” does not compare with what I expected.  And even if this day, this event, or this moment did meet my expectations, I might take it for granted because it is nothing more than what I expected.  The very process of taking that which ‘might be’ the BDE for granted allows that day to be a ho-hum.  Because, after all, it is just what I expected.

In order for a day to really be the best it has to stand out, it has to be unique.  That uniqueness happens most often when I allow myself to be surprised by the present moment.  The surprise and the appreciation of the present moment is that which contributes most consistently to the creation of the Best Day Ever.  Therefore, do I see, in the current moment, the ingredients for the best day ever.  Do I see the sunrise? Do I smell the freshly brewed coffee? Do I feel the warm breeze on my cheek? Do I sense the encouragement in a friendly smile? Is the meal in front of me a disappointment or a delightful source of energy? The night of sleep & rest that was just experienced, is it a gift of replenishment or something I do not even notice? Do I realize that the very awareness of the littlest of things is that which contributes most significantly to my being surprised by joy and enveloped by the best day ever.

Being a student of the art of appreciation is that which contributes most consistently to my experiencing the Best Day Ever.  Therefore, it is critical that I take nothing for granted and in everything I say thank you.  The real question for all of us, this day….are we going to be aware of the smallest of things? Are we going to take nothing for granted? Are we going to appreciate all that we have been given that our joy might be full?

I am convinced that being aware and thankful are the critical ingredients for TODAY being the best day ever!!!

Old Friends

Johari-Window

I first met Joe and Harry while I was in graduate school in the late 1970s.  At the time, I did not appreciate who they were or the depth of their insights.  Now, thirty-five years later, I am starting to appreciate the significance of their thinking.

Joe Luft and Harry Ingham developed an information processing tool that is known as the Johari Window.  It is a way of understanding what we know about ourselves and also, what we do not know.

The concept is that each person has four quadrants. Quadrant one is that part of a person that is known to others and it is known by the individual. This is known as the open arena.  This is the information that one puts on a resume or posts to Facebook.

Quadrant two consists of that information that is known by others but is not known by the individual. This is often referred to as a persons blind spot.

Quadrant three consists of that which is known by the individual but it is not known by others.  This is the hidden area of a persons life.  Normally, this is the area that we hope nobody will come to know.  Discovery in this arena often leads to a sense of shame and it is fueled by a fear. This is the fear that says: “if you knew me, you would not like me”.

Quadrant four consists of information that is unknown.  This information is not known by the individual nor is it known by others.  Because it is unknown, it represents an arena of great adventure as one sets out to discover that which they do not know about themselves. The greatest sadness is to think that there is nothing to discover.  This sort of thinking usually develops when an individual sees themselves as quite simple or they see themselves as all knowing.  Neither of these positions facilitate learning. Both are based on a false understanding of who we are. Neither arrogance or ignorance, when left unexamined, facilitate growth.

Once we start to understand these four quadrants, then we need to explore what it means to grow within these four quadrants.  I would suggest that the starting point for this growth rests within quadrant four.  The quadrant that is unknown to self and to others, is the quadrant that is known only by God.  It is within the context of a relationship with God, the one who made me, calls me, empowers me and loves me that I have the possibility to really start to discover the totality of who I am.  Here I have the possibility of starting to see and understand myself through the lens of the one who created me.  I start to know and be known in new and empowering ways.  This knowing combats that which is unknown in quadrant four.

An encounter with the Divine in quadrant four is transformational and empowering.  It allows me to enter into community and into relationship with humility and confidence. Open, honest, and loving relationship becomes the context for growth in quadrants two and three.  I know that in the context of relationship I can allow you to see what I have kept hidden because I know that my identity transcends our relationship.  I know that I can allow you to speak truth into my life because, no matter what you might have to say, that which eliminates my blind spots is that which allows me to grow.

Therefore, this day, as you and I reflect on the four quadrants of life…….the question becomes, will we enter into the adventure of quadrant four?  Will we risk encountering the One who made us in ways that will allow us to know and be known?  Out of the intimacy of that knowing will we have the courage to look at our blind spots and reveal that which is hidden?

This might represent the ultimate adventure.  Live life……choose adventure!!

Presence

medicine-prayer4

Two friends, both on a different coast, sitting in hospital rooms, waiting for a loved one to recover.  The chances of complete recovery are very slim.  Life, as they have known it, has changed forever.  What are they left with?  What greets them this morning?

They are greeted, this day….with a new day.  This new day is full of questions, it is full of waiting, it is full of uncertainty.  Will she live?  Do I need to find long term nursing care, hospice care?  What will our days look like? What will my days look like?  Is this the reason we have been together all these years?  Will our resources last?

God, where are you in the middle of this?  God, why have you been so silent?  God, do you care?  What are you wanting me to learn from this?  The questions rage inside, erupting into tears of frustration and groans of desolation.

In all of this there are messages from Scripture that seem to rattle around in my head and cause me to wonder.  “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  “Ask whatever you will and it will be given to you.” “Rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice.”  ” Have no anxiety about anything but in everything let your request be made known to God.”  “Ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete.”  “Never will I leave you.  Never will I forsake you.”

This morning, in the silence, there is life in review.  I admit that I do not understand very much. But I do understand that You, the Creator, have blessed me with life! You have called me, You have empowered me, You have loved me and You have allowed me to love others.  Out of the middle of my current chaos, I am aware of the incredible gifts that You have allowed me to experience.  You have allowed the life & love of others to speak to me of Your love.

Now Lord, as You call me to love this person…..help me to love her unconditionally.  Help me to understand that I am called to be Your presence, in her life. Lord, help my friends, as they sit in that hospital room, to know Your love and to understand that they are the conduit of that love.  Lord help all of us to be Your agents of Your unconditional, reconciling, healing love….this day.  Therefore, knowing that You are doing something in and through us…….may we rejoice and be glad.  You have blessed us to be a blessing!

Fear…The Immobilizer

Ice_Climber

Most of my life I have had a great affection for the local gym. Yet, today, as I go to the cross fit gym I find myself quite fearful.  I am fearful that I might not have what it takes to complete the WOD, workout of the day. I am fearful that someone might discover how weak I really am….that I might discover how weak I really am.  Maybe, I should just stay home.

The gym has been a means to an end. It was a path that would lead to a ….starting position on the football team, a wrestling scholarship, a mountain summit or a first ascent of a frozen waterfall.  Ultimately, it made a great contribution as to how it is that I defined myself as a man.

Those experiences, along with a bunch of others, start to raise the question…..how do I define myself as  man?  Big picture, how do I define myself as a person?

I would suggest that I am uniquely defined by my relationships and my experiences.  It is in the context of relationships that a mirror is held in front of my face and I get to see who I am and what I am all about.  In a similar sort of way, my experiences help me to see myself and who it is that I am and who it is that I am becoming.

The interesting aspect of all of this…..often, I do not like what the reflections are telling me.  My reflection often tells me I am inadequate, selfish, unlovable….not ok.  At those points I have often find myself running around and propping up my sagging image.  I am hoping to discover that I am truly ok.  Yet, all I really discover is that image management takes a lot of work.

If I take my sagging ego into the gym, I can…in theory, give it a boost. I can prop it up.  But ultimately it will be an ego boost that is based upon comparison and it will be short lived.

My hope is that you will not discover that I am weak, short, bald, fat and not ok.  Ultimately, it becomes easier to avoid the gym so that I might maintain the facade that is fueled by fantasy.

So what is the relationship, what is the experience that allows me to go into the gym?  The experience and the relationship are wrapped around the fact that I am loved unconditionally by the God who made me.

Therefore, I go into the gym not to impress anyone.  I am not working on my image and I am not trying to improve my reflection in your eyes or my eyes.  I am trying to be a good steward of the gifts that I have been given.

I find my growth paradigm in Luke 2:52.  Jesus grew in wisdom & stature and favor with God and man.  So, today, I jump on my bicycle and ride to the gym to be a good steward of this thing called life.  I have come to know that I am called to be vibrantly alive so that I might reflect His love & His grace.

What is your growth paradigm?  Are you growing?  Is your life becoming the hallelujah it is designed to be?

I Do!

ring

An outdoor celebration of love and commitment was unfolding before my very eyes.  The groom and the wedding party had already worked their way to the front of the outdoor amphitheater.  Now the bride, in all of her radiant beauty, was walking with her proud father to the front of the assembled guests.  Something wonderful and magical was about to happen.  Two were in the process of becoming one.  Lord willing, a union was forming that would last a life time.  A union that would bring great joy to all.

At the end of this marriage ceremony the bride and the groom signed a marriage certificate/license….a contract? This was also signed by the best man & the maid of honor.  I too signed the certificate. This marriage contract is recognized by the state of Colorado.  It certifies that this marital union is  official.

This certificate is a  legal document.  Therefore, it implies conditionality:  I will love you as long as you love me.  But once you stop loving me than I do not need to continue to love you.  It implies the essence of quid pro quo.

The marriage certificate invites us to weigh and measure what the other person is doing compared to what we are doing.  It measures behavior….it does not measure the heart.  It does not transform the heart.

God does not talk about marriage in terms of contract. He talks about it in terms of covenant.  The marriage covenant is about loving unconditionally.  Yet, unconditional love is outside our natural ability.  So why talk about it?  God’s design is that the bride and the groom are each uniquely and profoundly connected to Him.  That unique, profound and individual connection allows them to love one another in selfless and heroic ways.  It allows them to embody servant leadership.  God is in the business of transforming the heart so that we can love the other, unconditionally.

Ephesians talks about loving our spouse as Christ loved the church.  How did Christ love the church?  He gave everything He had that the church might flourish.  That sort of love is only possible as one is connected to the source of infinite love….God, himself.

My covenant commitment is about loving God and allowing Him to love me.  Out of that relationship I am called and I am empowered to love my beautiful bride, no matter what.  Ultimately, she is called into that same empowering relationship. She is called to love me unconditionally.  Yet, if she does not do that,  I am still called & empowered to love her unconditionally.  That is the adventure!

The couple that is signing their marriage contract today is embarking on an adventure.  They are beginning the journey of loving in extravagant, unconditional ways. This journey is possible because they are extravagantly loved.

How is His extravagant love transforming your heart and changing your journey this day?

Amp The Joy!

Dick

Motorcycle Maintenance

Vittoriano-Guareschi-of-Ducati-hopes-to-see-positive-changes-at-Valencia-GP-MotoGP-news-109472

Every once in a while I have an opportunity to speak to a group of men.  The topic that I love to talk about is the meaning and purpose of life.  Often I will start those talks by asking how many people have read Pirsig’s Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  I love the blank stares that seem to accompany the apparent randomness of such a question.  I proceed to tell them that the book has much to teach us and it is worth the time and energy.

Pirsig raises the question of knowledge….how do we know what we know?  Philosophers call this question epistemology.  Some might answer that question by saying that someone told them the answer. Or some might say that they just know.  Here they are referencing that body of knowledge called experience.  Or, quite often it will be a combination of being told and experiencing the lesson, that allows them to reach their conclusions and their depth of knowing.

Pirsig would suggest that all of life is a series of chatauquahs.  These ‘class room’ experiences that life seems to give us are the window of all knowing.  To the extent that our experience lines up with the cognitive (head) knowledge we are acquiring….then we know, without a doubt.

What is most interesting about  the classroom called life is that most any person can become my professor.  That concept starts to change my encounters.  When I see you as a professor, than it is critical that I investigate what it is that I need to learn from you.  You are the teacher, I am the student and everything starts to change.  I try to see the world through your eyes and I try to understand how you reach your conclusions, make your decisions and find meaning and purpose in your day.  Implicitly, I am honoring and respecting my teacher. You, my teacher, will be valued.

Scripture encourages us to serve one another and to honor one another (Romans 12:10).  Often, I am not sure how to do that.  But when I start to see you as the teacher and I am the student, than my role is to learn from you….then I start to have a practical idea as to how I might love, serve, honor and respect you.  You become the Mr. Miyagi (Karate Kid2) in my world and both of our worlds are enriched.

Today, who are your mentors?  Who are you learning from?….are you seriously asking the questions that allow the university of life to mold you into the person God has designed you to be?

Discover the teachers! Embrace the University of life.  Amp the joy!

D

Rewire the Day

311878_2208234680171_733555992_n

As a young boy I would wake early and snuggle into my blanket and wait for the day to begin.  The day always began with my mother coming into my room and singing: “This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  My response was always the same…..I would burrow deeper into my covers.

Now, many years later, I am totally convinced there are better ways to start the day.  Launch into the new day the night before.  The new day needs to begin as I am shutting down the day that I have just finished.  This way I can rejoice in the day I have been given and I can prayerfully get ready for what is beginning.

Ten months ago I was reading about creation in the book of Genesis.  At the end of each creative event, we are told: “There was evening and there was morning-the ___ day.”  As I started to look at this wording I came to understand that, a long time ago,  a day started in the evening and went until the evening of the next day.  In some ways this was not new…..I always finish a day in the evening.  But what was very new was the concept of starting the day in the evening.  This idea has  changed my routines and impacted the way I think.

The greatest change might be the way I bring closure to my day.  I now end my day in review & prayer.  I look back over the events of the day.  As I do this I am looking for places where I encountered God and His spirit at work.  I look for places where I was able to contribute, to serve, to encourage and uniquely care.  I want to be in a position to learn, to grow, to say thank you and to say I am sorry.  The daily review is something that I do in my journal. This written record feels and sounds like a prayer.

At the end of the daily review, I bring the new day into focus.  I look at all that is on my plate for the new day. I think about the appointments and the activities that will define my day and I make notes about what I need to do.  Then I close my notebook & prayerfully reflect on the opportunities ahead.   I have come to realize that just getting everything out of my head and down on paper (David Allen: Getting Things Done) helps me move into the most  significant event of the new day: sleep.

I have repositioned sleep into the first hours of the new day. Therefore I treat it with greater respect.  I start to make sleep a priority because I understand the rest of the day will reflect the success of this energy enhancing event.

So, I encourage you to rewire your day.  Start and finish your day at different place.   Allow your energy to be enhanced and your joy to be amped!

Embrace Life!  D

You Choose!

Decisions

The restaurant was quite elegant and the menu was very complex.  The number of choices was overwhelming. Faced with the opportunity to make a decision, I wanted to make the right decision.  I made my decision and I am sure I made the right one….at least I enjoyed the meal & the rest of the evening. Yet, I will never know if I made the ‘best’ decision or if I made the ‘right’ decision. I made a decision.  I got to choose and that is a luxury!

Theologians have said that one aspect of being made in the image of God is our ability to choose.  When we make choices we are exercising a God like quality.  Yet, I am keenly aware that I make a lot of choices every day and I never think about the choices I make. It seems that I live a lot of my life on auto pilot and I miss the opportunity to see God’s gift of choice.

When I do not see the ability to choose as a gift, than I easily get stuck.  I start to see life through the lens of ‘have to’.  I ‘have to’ do this….and I ‘have to’ do that. Life becomes an obligation, it becomes a duty and it can easily morph into drudgery.  What is the antidote?  I must begin to see life through the lens of ‘get to‘.  Through the lens of ‘get to’ life can easily become an adventure.  I start to see this task, this event, this situation as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to serve and to become.

Victor Frankl lived through the horrors of Nazi concentration camps.  Through that experience he came to realize that everything could be taken from him, except for one thing.  That which could never be taken from him was his ability to choose how he would respond to the situation.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Man’s Search for Meaning

In our ability to choose our attitude to any given situation we also have the ability to find meaning in what we do and what we experience.  The simple tasks of every day…..cleaning my bedroom, washing the dishes, taking out the trash…everything I do can become a joy as I see it as a significant way to love and serve. Therefore, I ‘get to’ love and serve in this way.

Helen Keller said that, “Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all.”  The choice is yours!

The OT says it a bit differently.  “I have set before you life & death, blessings & curses.  Now choose life….that you may live & love the Lord.” Deut.30:19

Please engage, let us know how & what you are choosing as you embrace life!

Amp the Joy! Celebrate Life!

-Dick

41MDSDAH05L

Expose the Heart

campfire

Bob sat in front of me, nursing a cup of black coffee.  With down cast eyes and a monotone voice he told me about his encounter with his future father-in-law.  He was asking if he could marry this man’s daughter.  Normally such an encounter is ripe with all sorts of emotion……this is a high risk event, it is a true adventure and there was no emotion.   I wanted to understand!  As I asked questions and tried to understand, I realized that Bob himself did not understand.

I have come to believe that all good stories have at least two key ingredients.  Ingredient one  is represented by the facts……by the events. “I want the facts and nothing but the facts!”  This is where most stories start and it is where they end.  Most of us are trained to regurgitate facts because that is the bedrock of our academic system.  We believe that the facts represent the heart of the story.  They do not!

Ingredient two is the story of our emotions.  How did that event/situation make you feel?  What was going on inside of you?  This might be the most important part of the story.  It is certainly that part of the story that brings contrast and vibrancy.  It is the epicenter to laughter and tears.  It is the place where most stories seem to dead end.  Why, because we are not connected to our heart in any way that allows us to understand what is going on, inside.  Therefore, we sit alone with our interior chaos.

Stop right now and write down how you are feeling?  How aware are you of the topography of your heart?  What words did you use to describe your feelings?

FEELINGS

Read through this list and pick out words that describe how you are feeling right now!

This list is not complete but it is a beginning.  As you read through this list you can connect words to that which is going on inside.  You can help a person understand, as you begin to understand, the feelings that are swirling around inside.  This understanding of our interior topography allows us to connect to ourselves, to others and to our God.  This connection facilitates true intimacy!

The writers of the Psalms in the Old Testament were quite good at connecting words to their emotions and their communication with God was vibrant.  I challenge you to increase your feeling vocabulary.  Use that vocabulary to grow closer to your interior world, to selected others and to your God.

In case you are wondering, Bob looked at the list and selected: inadequate, apprehensive and confused.  These words seemed to summarize his current interior world.  His understanding brought a smile to his face! Then, when I summarized what I had heard him say about the events and the feelings, he sensed I understood and he knew I cared!

I challenge you to grow your feeling vocabulary and communicate intimately to your loved ones and to your God!

Share with us….what are you feeling right now?

Amp the Joy!  Dick