How to walk down the sidewalk of love

walk this way~

This is the sidewalk of gratitude, kindness, humility, forgiveness, and love. Smooth, a few turns, nice view, calm.

It is NOT to be the sidewalk of grumbling, blame, arguing, selfishness, and anger. All broken and cracked, turning your ankle; might as well walk in the grass.

You walk this way the same way you walk any other way

There are no buttons or secret passwords or six steps to get there.

You look down the sidewalk, turn the way you look, take a step, and start walking.

When I walk Delly down this sidewalk there are lots of stops, distractions, and poop. Normal stuff for a dog walk. But we keep going, together. Poop is part of it.

Lift your eyes from the poop.

Standing in any one spot, right now, before I walk much on this sidewalk, I look around and see that even though I’m not where I want to be, this spot here is not so bad. It might even be pleasant.

I appreciate this view right here in whatever way I can.

You can’t live all in the future and miss this decent view.

And you can’t live all in the past and present, believing this is all there is with no hope that things can be better as you walk.

You don’t walk alone

As people are walking all the time, in the same spot, a path appears – John Locke

Your family is with you, since you can’t help influencing them. Your walk may be slow if they don’t understand or appreciate this sidewalk yet, but you can lead, just a step ahead. Who doesn’t like grace and patience and encouragement? By perseverance, the snail reached the ark.

And the Lord is with you – if you’re with him on this sidewalk that he made, and if you let him lead.

For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness – Psalm 26.3

What’s the view from your sidewalk right now?

What failure taught me about dreaming

When James Gandolfini died, I read his words on why Tony Soprano appealed to viewers:

You got to see what he was trying to do, what he was trying to fix, and what he was trying to become.

Every one of us is trying to do those same things. That’s your dream.

One day in Home Depot I heard Bruce Springsteen’s ’Working On A Dream’ for the first time. An appropriate place to hear a song about building something. I could relate and maybe you can too.

So your body doesn’t climb a ladder and swing a hammer with the rain pourin’ down? But your soul does, as you try to do, fix, and become.

Don’t do what I did

Seventeen years ago I had a dream about a radio show. I dreamed and talked and planned. Never happened. It died a long, quiet, uneventful death. Why? I think because it was always in the future. It was all “if” and “when.”

Today I feel guilty and foolish. I said I believed the dream, but I didn’t do much but think and plan. Occasionally I got all jived and worked at it for a few days. I prayed too, but as they say, you have to put feet to your prayers. Mostly I waited.

My soul wasn’t engaged in any ladder climbing or hammer swinging.

Yes, stretch for the future

Our family has a dream of a small property used for hope, encouragement, and perspective. A place where heaven, earth, and everyday living come together. It’s vague and incomplete, but each of us sees some specific piece. We’ve all talked about this for several years.

Our daughter the Nester (oh wait I can call her by her real name now) and her husband are ready. They’re looking for a home for their family and for their dream. The place will belong to them but also might be suitable for some of what we’re all dreaming.

They found a piece of property with a house. They’re in the middle of appraisal and inspection hurdles now. No one knows how it will turn out.

Don’t just embrace your dream – let it embrace you

Once a week or so I drive to that property. The owners have moved, but I want to be respectful so I  sit in the car at the end of the gravel drive. I pray that in the future everyone who drives up that drive would find great encouragement at the other end and that they would take it with them when they leave.

One day I get bold and drive up the driveway onto the property. I plan to walk around the whole thing praying. I’m there about ten minutes when I turn around and see the owner’s truck parked next to my car. He’s just arrived and he’s walking out the back door of the house into the yard.

This is awkward. I’ve met him, but I’m not the one purchasing his property and I haven’t called or asked or knocked on the door. I’m just wandering around in his yard.

Be lighthearted and honest and apologize, right? Let’s call him Chris.

“Hey Chris, I’m Gary. We met a couple weeks ago. My daughter and son-in-law are the ones who want to purchase your property. I guess I’m trespassing but I wanted to come up here to pray.”

“Well that’s always a good thing.”

Honor your dream and treat is as a NOW thing

We make small talk. I ask how he’s doing since I know family issues are involved in selling the property. He shares how tough it is. I mention that I’m sure he and his wife had hopes and dreams for this place. We talk about that a bit and somehow the conversation moves to his desire to write books. That starts it.

Over the next fifteen minutes I do all I can to encourage this guy not to ignore that desire inside him and that he can do it. I SO want him to not just let his dream fizzle out. At the end I ask him if I can pray for him. He takes off his ball cap. Part of what I pray is that the God who created heaven and earth would help Chris and take pleasure in what he creates.

The next day it hits me: I did a fifteen minute impromptu version of my Scary Hope message with the owner of the property my daughter and her husband want to buy. My part of our family dream is to do things like that on the land we’ve talked about. And I just did it. But the property isn’t in our family!

For a moment, my part of the dream was already real. Even though the dream hasn’t happened yet.

What would you do if your dream came true? Do that now

The Nester has a dream of a gathering place for swap meets, and to learn crafts, and to connect with women and be encouraged about the purpose of our homes. She doesn’t have the place yet but she’s already doing all that stuff at her house or at whatever space she can find.

Our other daughter (daughters rock!) Emily and her husband John have a dream of contributing to the spiritual conversation in their community. After a year or so of prayer and planning, John just quit his job to engage their dream, even though it has not come true yet.

The Declaration of Independence announced a dream that had been decided in the hearts of the founding fathers months and years before. They were already living like it was true, even though the British could still win and defeat the dream.

Faith sees the future in the present. Honoring your dreams now with your actions is part of faith.

What’s your dream? How can you honor it now, by faith? 

I HOPE your ice is slowly melting

I HOPE your dead place is coming alive like this dead and discouraged unemployment office in Madrid came alive when a small flash mob materialized.

I HOPE you know that just as everything can go horribly wrong in only five minutes, so in five minutes your face can be lifted up.

I HOPE you know that a tiny bit of joy you contribute can go deeper and farther than you’d ever imagine.

I HOPE you see that where and when you contribute your little piece of joy can magnify it and make it mean more.

I HOPE you realize that just as George Harrison never knew a little song he created while walking in a garden would surprisingly encourage unemployed Spaniards forty-three years later, so something you do today can live.

I HOPE you know you have the power to leave any situation better than you found it. How do I know you have that power? Because you are a human being created by God in his image and that’s what he does.

Maybe I appreciate this more because there was a season long ago when I spent a lot of time in an office like this with no one to sing to me.

Please sing.

(if you’re reading this in your email or reader and can’t see the video, please click over to the blog HERE to view it.)

What Lance Armstrong whispered in my ear

I don’t know exactly when I heard it. It was sometime in the last few months when our opinion of him was doing a 360. I heard it again last week when he was with Oprah.

Several times I jerked my head expecting to find him right on my shoulder whispering. I mean, it had to be him. Tell me you don’t think this was him . . .

I know your game isn’t the same as mine, but you can still be world class like me.

Just convince yourself that no one will know, that no one will get hurt, that this is just a little secret among friends. Tell yourself that others have done much worse, that in the big picture this is not so bad at all.

I discovered the power of this little deception right at the beginning, and it’s amazing how it serves everything from your thought life to secret habits to ‘emotional’ relationships to the Tour de France.

The beauty of this baby is that the longer you go, the better you do it. This enables you to keep at it even longer, until you’re 100% convinced it’s true, and you have succeeded at changing reality.

I was so good at it that I was able to threaten and punish people who told the ‘truth’ about me and I didn’t feel a bit of guilt or regret. THAT, my friend, is world class.

It was so clear I almost wanted to take notes. This is Lance Armstrong, right? Then the tone of his voice changed and he slowly whispered:

Reality . . . hits . . . hard.

And when it does–when you’re discovered and everyone knows–it’s impossible to look at yourself and how bad you are. So you don’t. You downplay it. You insist things can stay the same.

Okay, you may cheat and lie, but that doesn’t make you a cheater and liar. (Although when it’s someone else, you easily toss out the cheater and liar conclusion.)

You’re compelled to tell people they’re judgmental, legalistic, unloving, and ‘just as bad.’ You do anything to escape the pain and responsibility of guilt.

Nothing works. To come clean is as impossible as winning the Tour de France.

Because to come clean means you have to change who you think you are.

Everybody else has already changed their mind about who you are. Try doing that when it’s you! It took years to create your own reality. No way you can change back overnight.

You convinced yourself it’s only a little corner of your life, it’s not really who you are. Now your little corner IS your whole life.

That’s all Lance, right? That’s not me talking to me about what could happen if I’m not careful.

Right?

How to have friends after you’re dead

At dinner recently I mentioned that Oswald Chambers helps me almost every day.

John said, very seriously, “He’s a good friend of yours, isn’t he?”

I hadn’t thought of him as a friend but yes, he is.

Chambers has been dead 96 years. Seven years after he died his wife put his words into a devotional, My Utmost for His Highest. Technically, Chambers did not write the book. His wife took shorthand notes when he gave talks to students and soldiers during WWI. Those talks became Utmost.

I have another friend who is still alive. We don’t see each other much anymore, but the quality of his life, words, advice, and wisdom still encourage me.

You’re going to spend a lot more time as history than you are as today.

Some people are influential today, but irrelevant in the future.

Some are irrelevant today, but are influential in the future.

Some are both.

What one thing can you do today that could live as a friend in someone after you’re gone?

If what you say has value, it will last longer than you will

- Vance Havner

The unselfish kind of selfishness

Maybe you’ll be kind to someone this week because you want kindness.

Maybe you’ll forgive because you need forgiveness.

Maybe you’ll be generous, tell the truth with love, give the benefit of the doubt, encourage.

Because you want it. You need it in your world.

Like writing the novel you want to read, and hoping there are others like you, so you do the thing you want and need. And hope there are others like you.

You have good reason to have that hope:

With the measure you use it will be measured to you – Luke 6.38

The foot-long Christmas chili dog

What new scene or story from this Christmas is going into your family hall of fame?

Every family and relationship has stories you repeat year after year. Happy, sad, tragic, funny, unforgettable stories. They describe and affirm you and the people in your family. They’re a picture of how you all relate to each other.

You don’t get tired of repeating the stories. You don’t get tired of hearing them. In fact, you must repeat them to keep them alive. They are an oral history, part of the legacy of your family.

Little family legends.

Our daughter the Nester and her family head for her sister’s house – our other daughter – on Christmas day. They stop for gas. Her husband runs into the gas station for a snack to hold him for the ninety-minute drive. He comes out with a foot-long chili dog and a package of Little Debbies.

The Nester tells the story and says, “What kind of man gets a foot-long chili dog from a gas station for lunch on Christmas Day? The gas station clerk must have thought that was so sad.”

“What kind of man. . .” Precisely.

If the man is in your family, you know exactly what kind of man, and this is another wonderful piece of evidence of the uniqueness of your family. And from now on “foot-long chili dog. . . on Christmas. . . . FROM A GAS STATION,” will be another legendary catch-phrase in your family hall of fame.

We need these stories. They are the colors on our family flag.

Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and into the stories they share about you

- Shannon Adler

What new scene or story from the holidays is going into your family hall of fame?

I can’t decide how to be selfish

Thanksgiving is at our house this year.

That means what it always means when you’re the host. Time to spruce up.

So my wife wants to change the bedroom around, make it better. At first I do the guy default and think, “That means work and money.” Of course I don’t say that.

After a day or so I start realizing how happy it would make her. Then I remember how happy I get when she’s happy. And how easy she is to please. And how she gives me more credit than I deserve.

Hmmm

Then I realize she’s just talking about some paint and accessories. Not all new furniture. Sure I’d have to paint the bedroom, but it’s been seven years–I’ll have to do it sometime anyway.

Let’s see, a couple of days work, minimal expense, nice bedroom, super-happy wife, hero status.

So what’s more selfish? Complain, do things grudgingly, and maybe she even gives up and so you get out of the trouble? Is that selfish?

Or is it selfish to think of how happy you’ll be when she’s happy? So you gladly do it for her but really it’s for yourself.

Are you selfish if you do it or don’t do it?

Getting joy from the joy of someone you love sure makes life complicated.

Can’t get there alone : Day 31 of 31

One of the Myers-Briggs personality types is INTP.

INTP’s connect dots automatically.

They can’t help looking for things to help the world make sense. Here’s a summary from a place that explains that kind of thing:

The task of the INTP’s mind is to fit each encountered idea or experience into a larger structure. Their central goal is to understand and seek truth.

They like to understand the structures and processes that govern the world and mold them with their own ideas and designs. They like to understand many things at deep levels.

You’re probably some other personality type. You’re not driven to connect the dots.

But you still want your life, your world, your hopes and dreams to make sense.

I’m an INTP, so since I’m going to be covering this corner of the pool anyway, you’re welcome to hang out here.

From now on I may not always describe it as ‘connecting the dots.’ I may not always take you in the kitchen like we did some here during the 31 Days. It might be more subtle. I may just catch the fish and cook the meal and present it.

If you like that kind of thing I hope we can become friends.

You’ve been assigned your own corner of the pool. I’m sure the way God has made you will end up helping me just like I want to help you. Thanks in advance.

~~~~

This is the last of 31 Days of Connecting the Dots: make more sense of your life, your world, your hopes and dreamsYou can visit the Nester to choose from over 1,200 more 31 Dayers.

My scars, they are your scars, and your world is mine

That’s my daughter about to ring the doorbell at the home of the mother of her childhood best friend. The best friend died of brain cancer two years ago.

My daughter was nervous. She hadn’t seen her friend or her friend’s mom in ten years. She didn’t know what she was going to say.

Her friend’s mother wasn’t home. Whew.

As my daughter walked away a neighbor across the street asked if she could help. The neighbor said the mom wasn’t there but would be down the street the next day.

My daughter wasn’t sure about going back. Through the window when she was ringing the doorbell she had seen a lift rigged to the stairs and she pictured the mom old and disabled and maybe it would just be too sad for everyone for her to visit. Now she was even more nervous.

She want back anyway. She took her sister. And her own mom, my wife. We all used to be neighbors, but that was 25 years ago.

It was a short, good visit. The mom wasn’t sick or disabled or sad. What a relief. But then she pulled out photos of her daughter’s small child. My daughter didn’t know her friend had any kids. Now THAT was sad. The visitors were sadder than the host. The mom had been through the grieving process. The guests hadn’t.

They held their tears until they left the house with their backs to the door. Then they boo-hoo’d in the car.

Why invite pain? Why invite sadness? The mom will never know if you choose not to knock.

Yes she will

If you knock she gets another little sign that she’s not forgotten and alone. Little signs might be all she has.

You have kids. You imagine how she feels.

YOU don’t want to be forgotten and alone.

So you knock.