The Canyon

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The horses were up ahead.  They were carrying the rafts and all of the large gear that we would need to float down the Gunnison Gorge.  We were carrying all of our personal camping gear: clothes, tent, sleeping bag and the critical fly fishing equipment.  Everything was tucked into monstrous dry bags that were suspended from our shoulders.  Dry bags are wonderful on the river but they are not quite ideal for a day hike, yet this is the only way into the canyon and this is where the adventure begins.

Actually, the adventure started many months before when we first thought about floating and fishing the Gunnison River.  This section of the Gunnison River is known (Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die) by fishermen all over the USA and it had captured our imagination.  Our good friends, Judy & Don, quickly agreed to come along.  At that point, we knew we would have a grand time.

The first day of our three day trip found us hiking into the river, loading boats and heading off to experience a wonderful afternoon of fishing.  This canyon, like other river canyons, is incredibly beautiful.  A big part of its beauty is wrapped up in the fact that it is so remote.  At any given point in the day, it is easy to imagine that you are the first person to ever see these rock walls or experience the river’s current.  In a place so remote and so beautiful, it is easier to see God’s handiwork and to reflect with a sense of humble awe.

Two days later, sitting on the bank of the river, I realized that I had adapted to a new rhythm.  It was a rhythm that I knew from other camping trips.  It was the rhythm of beauty and simplicity.  Getting up and going to bed when you are in the wilds is quite simple.  A tent, a sleeping bag, level ground & a sleeping pad….quite basic but amazingly comfortable.  Clothes…quite simple, the same as yesterday.  Technology does not invade the moment. It does not work.  Therefore, I could easily sit and reflect on this journey called life.  The beauty & solitude of the canyon was a balm to my hurried soul.

What things would I be taking with me as we leave the canyon?  I love the simplicity of the out of doors.  My life is too cluttered with all that I have and all that I do.  There is a richness of life that comes with the simplicity of the present moment.   I think it comes as I learn to say ‘no’….so that I might selectively say ‘yes’.

I love the different ways that God reveals himself in nature.  As I sit in beautiful places I find myself echoing the words of the Psalmist:

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? Yet, you made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”

Lord, this day I say thank you!  This day, I say ‘yes’ to you!

I Do!

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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

Gusteaux

imageThis is the newest member of the family.  His name is Gusteaux (Gusto).  He is a nine week old,  cane corso (More info HERE), also known as an Italian Mastiff.  He might be the best dog we have ever enjoyed.  Time will tell.  He has only been a part of the family for four days.

As I reflect upon my journey through life, it seems that there has always been a unique canine present and for that I am thankful.  And so, as we start another leg of that journey, I find myself asking….what is it about dogs?

Joy is the first response that settles into my conscience.  Every dog that has been a part of the family has brought great joy to our family.  What is it about a dog that brings such joy?  In part, I think it is because a dog does a great job of being a dog.  They never try to be anything but who they are.  Therefore, a dog embodies  authenticity.  I am convinced that when we dare to be authentic we experience and we embody great joy!

Also, a dog does a wonderful job of embodying unconditional love.  It seems like dogs are always excited to see me.  They do not seem to care what I am wearing or what I am doing…they just always want to be with me.  Even if I am late in getting them their meal or I am grumpy about what went on at work or I am not considerate of their presence, they always seem to be excited to see me. This is different from most of my other relationships.  Oh, others might talk about unconditional love, but I can sense when they are upset with me and I can tell you how I have let them down.  I have learned, in most relationships there are conditions (rarely spoken, often implied) and things go well when I live up to those conditions.

This is interesting because the Bible talks about unconditional love.  I am a fan of the concept of unconditional love….I am an advocate for unconditional love in a hurting world.  Yet, when I look around and try to identify present day examples of this love….I do not see very many genuine examples.

I am also aware that I am not very good at this thing called unconditional love. Unfortunately, I also love conditionally. It is easier for me to love, when I have received love.

Maybe there is a critical formula which exists in the canine model.  Maybe, I am uniquely called to be me. In being authentically me, maybe I can reflect the joy of who it is that God designed me to be.  Out of that place of authentic certainty & security, I might discover the ability to love unconditionally.  I might be able to embody the fact that I love because He has profoundly loved me.  My prayer for you and for me….that we might live life with empowered authenticity.  That we might love with unconditionality.  That we might experience and give with great Gusteaux!

The Tag Line

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As I sit here banging away at my key board, I am wearing a Nike t-shirt.  It reads…”Just do it.” This tag line might be one of the most recognized tag lines in the western world.  It summarizes a life style that the Nike corporation promotes and seems to embrace.  If nothing else, it is recognized around the world and it helps them sell action oriented products.  But, most importantly, it is a tag line that resonates with the core of who I am and it helps me get up off the couch.  The interesting question might be….what do I do when I get off the couch?

 Just do it!  Ok…..what should I do?  Why am I doing it?  Those questions seem to grab me and give me pause for reflection.  Those questions have, at times, brought all of my  doing to a complete stand still.  They have haunted me and motivated me to look for an adequate answer.  The questions,  what am I doing and why am I doing it, bring me back to my reason for being……. the reason for my existence.  Those questions drive  me to wrestle with me.

Theologians have said that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.  I am convinced that that is exactly what I must do.  How do I do that….in part, I commit to being the best me that I can possible be.  What does that look like?  I must be radically committed to being fully alive and fully engaged with Life.  As I embrace the life I have been given, when I live it with energy, intensity and focus….then I am glorifying Him.

Howard Thurman said this: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs.  Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  So the question might be, what makes you come alive?  What gives you a sense of God’s joy & favor.  Eric Liddell said: “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.”  I have to believe that as we discover that which makes us come alive, then we will understand how we can uniquely Glorify Him. Then we will live into our unique calling, and our lives will have meaning and purpose and we will sense His pleasure.

What is the critical task? Discover that which makes you come alive.  Then, go and do that.  “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

What is  the tag line for your life?  Write it out!  Paste it on the mirror in your bathroom.   Allow your personal tag line to help you get up off the couch and live into the day.  Your tag line must help you define the doing that flows from your core being.  Live your tag line!

My tag line: Live Life-Choose Adventure!

Recently, I have added another tag line: Amp the Joy!

What is the tag line for your life?  Please share it with us!

Please live your tag line with great energy, that He might be glorified this Day!

-D

Motorcycle Maintenance

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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

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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

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Expose the Heart

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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

 

“To Thine Own Self Be True”

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At this point in the year we are about five month’s away from our most recent new year’s resolutions.  Where are you with those resolutions?

A number of people will say that they stopped making new years resolutions.  When asked why, they will tell you that they do not like setting themselves up for failure. The question: is not having a goal easier than pursuing a goal and not reaching it?   At that point, mediocrity has been embraced!  We are guilty of being poor stewards of that which has been given to us. “Well done, good & faithful servant” becomes elusive.

When I was young my parents sent me to Camp Miniwanca, in Shelby, Michigan.  At this camp I had an opportunity to meet kids from all over the country and engage in activities that I had only dreamed about.  This camp has a motto that is compelling: “My own self, at my very best, all the time.”

Now, fifty years later, I find myself reviewing that input and how it relates to my personal commitments.  If I believe that I am really called to be my very best, all the time in the context of being me….then I charge into life with a different intensity and a different focus.

Resolutions can become those destination points on a map that orient our journey & provide a sense of direction.  They become a grid that empowers us to move forward.  Just as easily they can  become a measuring stick that is used to inflict inadequacy and shame.

Often times we see resolutions through the lens of success & failure.  When we waffle on the performance of a resolution, we allow that to define us & we confirm our worst fears. We toss in the towel with one defiant, all or nothing, sort of gesture. We let go of the resolution and we give up.

There is another way.  It is the way of those who catch a vision and keep moving in the direction of that vision.  It is the way of those who hear a call and respond to it. It is  the way of those who run, walk, crawl….those that keep moving forward.  It is the way of those that keep the promises that they make to themselves.  After all that is the core of personal integrity & that is what wins the day.

These people grasp onto their goals & resolutions in order to become the people that God has designed them to be.  They are the people who understand:

“The essential thing in heaven & earth is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; the results…… something which has made life worth living.” (Nietzsche)

So the question this day: Will you reengage with your resolutions?  Knowing that your success or failure does not define you.  Know that you have been called to keep the promises you make to yourself and to your Lord.  Ultimately, maintaining a long obedience in the same direction, will win the day and you will glorify Him!

How are you choosing to engage this day?

Please share your thoughts with all of us!

Embrace the Adventure!

-Dick

Be Encouraged!

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Sitting in deep leather chairs that seemed to swallow the occupants, the question was asked: ” Who uniquely encourages you?”

The silence was deafening.  Slowly, as if from another life time, the leader said: “I am not sure there is anybody that uniquely encourages me.”

That seems to be the dilemma of the ‘corner office’ occupant.  They are responsible for many….at home and at work, but no one seems to have the courage to care for them.  Or if they have the courage, they do not think they have the ability.  And in the vacuum the individual feels alone and often, quite isolated.  But this isolation is not reserved for the corner office….it exists for all of us.

What does it take to permeate the cloud that speaks of loneliness?  The first lesson is learned as we examine those who uniquely care for us & encourage us.  What goes on that makes us feel uniquely important & valued in the eyes of another?  I would suggest that how we engage speaks volumes.  When a ‘true friend’ walks into the room their whole countenance seems to activate and to speak of the great pleasure they are experiencing as they encounter us.  They are excited to see you, to see me!

They are genuinely interested in what you have been up to.  How your life is going and what you have been doing that has put a smile on your face.  They are interested in you!

They are not asking you about you so that they can tell you about themselves.  It is ok, with them, if they never talk about themselves, because they are so interested in you.  And they are not only interested in what you have been doing but they want to know about your heart. They want to know about your joy, your sorrow, your excitement, your frustration and everything in between.  They understand that the events of life are one component of the story and they understand that how we feel about those events is the other key component!

It is in the knowing and being known that we experience true intimacy, great encouragement and significant caring!

There is another ingredient that they bring to the encounter.  They bring a good memory.  They seem to remember who I am and what my interests are.  They remember what we talked about the last time we were together and they ask me how my world is going from the reference point of our last conversation.  It is almost as if they had been praying for me.  And if they say…..”you have been in my thoughts and prayers!” There is an authenticity to their words.  Their memory and their words speak volumes.  I am important enough for them to remember.

In the Gospel of John 4:7-21, we encounter a story of significant care and encouragement.  Jesus meets a women in a life situation and cares for her and encourages her in ways that are transformational.  We are called to care & encourage others in significant ways. Do not hold back!

Realize that you have little competition when it comes to being a care giver….therefore, excel in how you care & how you encourage!!

I believe the journey will transform you!

Embrace the Adventure!!                                          Please share

your thoughts!