Epiphany Denied

My deal is that I’m constantly trying to improve myself.  Seems great.  Except that I’m all about the books and podcasts and blogs and Instagram motivational pictures, and all that stuff.  But I’m a little light on the actual… improvement.  I know what I need to do.  I just don’t do it.  I came to the firm conclusion that I just don’t want to change.  I was listening to Tony Robbins and he made an excellent point.  Change doesn’t actually take a long time.  Preparation for change takes a long time.  It takes years of fighting with diets without losing any weight.  Because you don’t really follow them.  But at some point, in an instant moment, you just finally decide that you’re going to get healthy.  And you do.  And it wasn’t the years of working on change that did it.  It was the instantaneous decision that this time it was for real and you really were going to pursue your health.

So my assumption was that this invariably was the result of an epiphany moment.  That moment when suddenly everything in your life became crystal clear.  You saw your true purpose and the clear path to pursue it.  Your calling in life is revealed to you.  And motivation is no longer an issue because you’ve had this epiphany.  And from that moment on, everything was different.  Smooth sailing.  Almost effortless because your goals and mission and purpose were suddenly aligned.

Oh, and that’s not something you create.  It’s something that happens TO YOU.  And it comes from God.  So I would pray for it.  A lot.  And I would hear stories about other people having these epiphany moments.  And I’d wish I could have one.  And I’d pray for one.  A lot.

And I wouldn’t get one.  Like… ever.  Nope.  No epiphany moment.  No swinging wide the floodgates of change.  Nothing.

Epiphany denied.

I was sitting in church a couple of weeks ago and it hit me.  I’m never going to get one.  Other people get one because it’s right for them.  God knows them perfectly and knows they will change their lives based on that epiphany.  But he knows me too.  And he knows that he could toss an epiphany at me and I’d squander it.  I’m not saying that to be down on myself.  It doesn’t make me a bad person.  It just means I’m not someone who instantly turns their life around on a dime because of an epiphany event.  So why would God give one to me?

So I figured God has stuck me into this life that I’m in and has given me a healthy dose of dissatisfaction.  Not because my life is bad.  But because I know I could bring more to my life and those around me than I do.  That type of dissatisfaction.  It’s a healthy type of dissatisfaction.  And I have a lot of it.  But I just never seem to take the action needed satisfy it.

Work is an excellent example.  I have a great job, but I don’t make my production goals on a daily basis.  Often I miss them by a lot.  In prior jobs I would excel to a point based on people liking me.  (Who wouldn’t??  I’m fantastic.)  But at some point the extent to which people like you fades into the background and you need to produce.  And I wouldn’t produce.  And it would be time to move on.  I’d be smart enough to see it coming and I’d bail and look for a new job and I’d get one, and often a better one.  I moved up and up and up.  And finally I was fired from a sales job because I just wasn’t hitting my production.  It finally caught up to me.  So I left an entire industry this time and went to law school.  And I did well.  But after a while the production slid, but I was able to hide again and I pulled through with decent grades.  On to being a lawyer.

And then I get this job as a lawyer.  The same one I have now.  Ten years.  That’s a long time for a guy who has production issues.  Why hasn’t this one blown up yet?  Even though year after year I’ve missed my mark?  Because my employer has made the decision to stick with me.  And I’ve given them plenty of reasons to bail on me.  But they just refuse.  To be honest, there have been times that I wish they would have fired me.  Because then I could replace my anger with myself around production with anger at them for firing me.  And I could hide from it again.  Start fresh.  Again.

But they just won’t do it.  Even worse, they keep giving me greater incentive to stay.  Better benefits.  Good raises.  What is the deal?

And I have figured it out.  This is the ultimate denial of an epiphany, and a denial of my ability to hide my weakness on production.  None of my excuses work any more.  And running on personality alone ran dry years ago.  It’s been a decade.  And they’ve turned the heat up.  I have to produce this year.  Time is up.  And I am.  I’m finally producing the quality and quantity of work that I’ve been capable of all along.

So why go through all this personal story.  The point I guess I’m trying to make is that God knows us better than we know ourselves.  When I was asking for an epiphany I didn’t really want one.  It would be more accurate to say that I just wanted God to solve this production issue for me.  I’d rather not develop myself.  Let’s just have God wave his wand and fix me all up.  Nothing required from me before.

I know God pretty well and that just not usually how he works.  At least not in my life.  My struggle and journey to solve this central problem in my life has taught me everything about myself.  It’s actually forced me to accept that there are things that are RIGHT about me, where I normally prefer to just focus on everything that is wrong.  It was the equivalent of God being the best friend that shoves you out onto the dance floor in high school because he knows you can dance if you’ll just quit talking yourself out of it.

Not really super organized thoughts or lessons on this post, I suppose.  But I’m feeling grateful for a God who denies us the very thing we want the most because he knows us better than we know ourselves.  And I’m thankful that I don’t leave work feeling like crap about myself every day.  This life is a pretty good life.  I suppose that’s about all that’s on my mind today.

Thanks for reading.  Go be a hero, okay?

OMG! I met the CEO!

A good friend of mine recently told me a story about meeting the CEO of his parent company.  He works for a large company, and the parent is one of the largest companies in the world.  My friend happened to be on a trip out of the country, which happened to land him close to the parent company’s global headquarters.  So he figured he would set an appoinment to meet with the CEO of the parent company.  Hey, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right?

To his amazement, the CEO accepted the meeting request.  This guy heads up one of the largest companies in the world, and he took time out of his day to meet a manager from a subsidiary company basically just to say hello.  My friend was floored.  And he described the meeting as being very friendly and cordial and he was surprised how accomodating the CEO was.

While I don’t know it for a fact, I am guessing that my friend rehearsed his “hello” greeting a few times in the mirror.  He had to make special travel arrangements and took up most of a day to make this happen.  He was probably nervous (although this particular friend seems to be entirely fearless).  He straightened his tie.  Checked for stains on the shirt from lunch.  And then walked in, not knowing exactly what to expect.

I enjoyed the story, and I was thinking it over the next day.  And it hit me.  This was an exciting story about having a few minutes of time with a CEO of a large company.  And it was a BIG DEAL.  How do I treat the chance to get a few minutes of time with the Creator of everything around me?  A few minutes with the man who took my sins down to hell, left them there, and then walked out of a tomb defeating death.  How do I treat that?  Let’s make a list:

1) I don’t even bother to take the meeting.  It’s not that rare that a day goes by I don’t pray at all.

2) If I bother at all, I take the meeting on my own time. I squeeze it in somewhere that I don’t already have something better to do.  Maybe I rattle off a few words of thanks while I fall asleep.  But certainly nothing that interferes with my busy day.

3) I’ve prayed while sitting on the toilet.  Go ahead.  Deny that you’ve done it.  But the fact is with two kids and a busy job, that room is sometimes the only quiet spot I can find.  Well, that’s the justification at least.  But thinking this through, it really hit me.  I speak to the Creator of the universe while sitting on the toilet.  It suddenly seems wrong to me.

4) I treat it like I’m talking to my BFF.  “Hey God!  What’s up pal?  Thanks for my house and food and stuff.  I hope Fred’s colonoscpy goes well.  Can you hook that up?  Gotta run.”  [flush]

I started really thinking about who I am praying to.  I started thinking that I take meetings with my clients more seriously, WAY more seriously, than I do the opportunity to enter into conversation with God himself.  What would the CEO of that global company have done if my friend had rattled off a casual phone call from the bathroom stall?  What if my friend had walked in, plopped down in the chair, and said, “Hey buddy.  Swell job running the company.  Sweet office.”  He would never think of it.

Here’s a little icing on the cake.  My friend felt lucky that his request for a meeting was honored.  But prayer is the opposite.  We pray to a God that is asking for that meeting with us.  He is asking for a meeting with US.  How completely backward is that?  And how often is our answer, “Nah.  Sorry bro.  I’m busy.”  How often do we give God the brush off that my friend expected to get from that CEO?  How often do we blow off God?

Well I can’t speak for you all.  I’m sure you’re all super disciplined about praying.  You set aside time instead of squeezing it in among your other important tasks.  You sit up straight.  You run a comb through your hair.  You make sure it’s a quiet time so you can really listen.

But not me.  I pray on the toilet, remember?  So a couple of days ago, the morning I wrote this, I sat down to read the memo that God, my CEO, gave me.  The Bible.  I read a whole chapter in one sitting.  Okay, it was Titus.  So that’s kind of cheating.  But it was still a whole chapter.  I checked myself in the mirror, and woke up early enough that it was still quiet.  I sat up straight.  And the gravity of who I was speaking to hit me a little bit.  And my prayer was different.  I was thankful.  But I really meant it this time.  I didn’t just rattle off the standard list of stuff I’m thankful for.  I prayed for others more than I normally do.  Friends with marriages that are failing.  A new nephew that was born recently.  Some surgeries.  Some kidney stones that are shockingly painful for a friend.

It was different when I treated this like a meeting I was having with God.  Because that’s what it was.

 

 

 

We were built to be heroes.  It’s about time we started acting like heroes.

A dangerous prayer.

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The Masked Rabbit wrote those three words “a dangerous prayer” in response to a post I put up about a worship song that really moves me to examine my willingness to answer my calling.  A dangerous prayer is one which you want to pray, but what if the answer is something you’d prefer not to do.

“Lord guide me to answer your calling.”

“Lord tell me if I should leave my job to follow you.”

“Lord take all of me to be used for your glory.”

These are beautiful things to pray.  But they are dangerous.  What if God guides you to give up something you’d rather not give up?  Leave a job that’s making you some serious dough?  What if the answer you’re praying for is one you’d actually pray to avoid?

I have to be honest.  I’ve avoiding saying a prayer because I wasn’t quite sure I wanted and honest answer from God.  I’ve done that a lot.  Lawyers are funny people.  The big secret at trial is that there are no secrets.  Every one knows what questions are going to be asked, and what answers will be given.  Deviations from the script are relatively rare.  This is how I pray.  I like to ask predictable questions, make predictable requests, all in anticipation that I will receive predictable responses from God.

“No need to tithe my child, pay off debt first.  And eat out a lot.”

“Stay in your job, even though it means you can’t make it to your kid’s church events on Wednesday nights.”

“Me taking all of you looks almost exactly like your life looks right now… but you might have to toss in a blog or something.”

So my prayer today is for help from God to pray those dangerous prayers.  And follow those dangerous answers.  To have some guts.  A sense of adventure.  I don’t really believe that God would wreck my life.  But any changes are kind of stressful, right?  But change is amazing!  Especially when it is sponsored by the creator of heaven and earth.

Lord, give me courage.  Courage to pray the dangerous prayers that I refuse to pray.

We were built to be heroes.  And sometimes being a hero is dangerous…

Wow. I’m NOT abandoned to Christ. Not even close.

Remember a while back I put up a post about starting with small things to abandon yourself to Christ?  Well that has been a learning experience for me because I have found it very difficult to give up even the simplest things, even when doing so just to test my willingness to give something up or take on something new.  I am WAY off the mark on the little things, so no wonder I feel like I’m missing the boat on the big things.

But I’m not down on myself about it.  I’m seeing it more as good news.  Things are pretty good now, and I’m a total screw up.  Think about how AWESOME they will be as I continue to grow in faith and become more willing to abandon my life for the one who created me.

This could get seriously cool.

We were built to be heroes.  It’s about time we started acting like heroes.

Prayer is more than you think (featured comment).

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Today I’m posting an amazing comment from one of my readers. You really need to read his blog here.  It’s written by Raul Lopez and his blog is awesome.  He posted this comment in my post Pointless Prayer, and it’s so inspiring.  I wanted to share it with all of you who may have missed the post.

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Prayer is a lot more than what most think. Prayer is not only ‘asking’ God for things but is a lifestyle based on obedience. It is simply a form of communication (akin to worship as well) whereby we respond to God’s word. Every time you say to yourself, I won’t do (or will do) this or that because God says I shouldn’t (should) do this, you’ve prayed. You are responding to what God said to you. Prayer is not limited to only supplication. Prayer is constant communion with God by one that is being filled with God’s word. It is a natural response of the new man. God speaks to us through his word (prophecy) and we respond to God through our obedience and agreement to same (prayer). It’s really not a ‘bow your head and close your eyes’ kind of thing even though that ALSO is prayer (you are communicating to God in that fashion). Praying without ceasing (praying without stopping) is living a life in response to God’s word.

Raul Lopez – Bible Questions and Answers

We were built to be heroes.  And Raul Lopez is a hero.

Photo credit: Foter.com / Public Domain Mark 1.0

Pointless Prayer, and why prayer will never get you what you want.

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I posted a while back about prayer, and received some exceptionally insightful comments. I learned a lot. I confess that, even though I write this blog, I don’t really understand prayer very well. I usually feel like I’m talking to the backs of my eyelids. That’s starting to change.

Perhaps “pointless prayer” is too strong a term. But let me explain my thinking. I have always prayed because it was a means to stop doing something I shouldn’t do. Or start doing something I should do. Or get something I don’t have. Or get rid of something I don’t want. I understand that the Bible says we are supposed to bring our requests to God. But this was different. My thought was, “Prayer is the key to getting this result that I want.” That sounds true. Why else would we pray? But it’s not true. Prayer gets you only one thing: A relationship with God. From there, amazing things happen.

I can already see the comments flowing in, but you need to understand how this worked in my head to see that I’m right about this. Those of you who disagree with the title of this post probably just have a more mature level of prayer than I do. I literally thought that the act of prayer was the key. This action of speaking into darkness behind closed eyes was going to change me. And the center of my prayers was always the same: Me. Sure, I would pray for other people. But the prayer was still, “This is what I want for this person I am praying for.”  I wasn’t praying in order to be close to God.  I was praying because I thought that saying a bunch of words with my eyes closed would be like flipping a switch and things would happen.  Things didn’t happen.

It would be more accurate to title this post, “Talking to the backs of your eyelids will never get you what you want.”  That’s all I was doing.  I was not seeking a conversation.  I was not seeking a relationship.  I was just seeking results.  It was no different than a stranger walking up to you and asking you for things.

Prayer wasn’t getting me anywhere so I wrote this post a while back. And I put a poll on there asking how you pray. Since I have a personality disorder that causes me to think everyone in the world is just like me, I assumed the overwhelming response would be people confessing that they wished they were more disciplined in their prayer life. But I was wrong. The overwhelming response was that most people reading this blog just pause momentarily throughout the day and pray about whatever moves them at the moment.

This was surprising to me. I follow a lot of the blogs of the commenters and these are people I respect. People doing really cool things in the world for God. People I should listen to. So I did. I stopped trying to jam prayer into a specific spot in my day like it was a chore and started praying whenever I felt moved to do so. Or whenever I felt a moment of weakness. Or a moment of particular strength. Mostly just whenever. I started praying a lot. Far more than I ever did in the days of setting aside a half hour at the beginning of the day. My prayer became more focused. That first half hour of the day was riddled with internal distractions and spinning thoughts of everything from breakfast, to work, to the kids, to whatever. But these little moments of prayer were highly focused.  My prayer became pointless.  It was not meant to deliver a result that I wanted, or even desperately needed.  It was simply to build this amazing relationship.  Sure, I know I can ask for things in prayer.  But I want to ask them of a Father that I know.  That I spend time with.  That I care about, and who cares about me.  That’s a different level of asking.  And it needs to come first, I think.

Something interesting happened that started to reveal this truth to me. I ran out of things to ask for. When you pray a lot, all throughout the day, you kind of run out of the standard shopping list in your head. I started asking God for a closer relationship. I started thanking Him for even hearing my prayers at all. He’s God after all. I started seeing images of me walking along side, and get closer over time. That blackness on the backs of my eyes was being replaced with images of a God who, for whatever reason, wants a relationship with me. It makes no sense to me how this could be, and it never will. I am starting to give up on trying to get it to make sense and instead just being amazed that it happens.

So there you have it. This blog you read is written by a guy who in currently in 3rd Grade Prayer. But a month ago I was in Pre-K so I’m moving up. And I mostly have all of you to thank for it. Things take a long time for me. This skull, with all its fourteen screws holding it together, is pretty thick. But with you along for the ride with me, I feel like some things are starting to come together.

Next step… dealing with the interaction with God and how it freaks me out a little. Overall, the realization that asking God to change everything in your life might actually result in Him doing so. That’s awesome when you write a theoretical blog about things that other people should do. It’s scary when it happens to you. But I can do scary. With you folks along for the ride, I can do scary.

We were built to be heroes. It’s about time we started acting like heroes.

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Get infected: This ain’t no prosperity gospel.

photophilde / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

I’m a fan of small steps.  Stop stressing out about where God will lead you over the next twenty years and just do something to serve Him over the next twenty minutes.  That’s where is starts.  That’s not where it ends.  This is no prosperity gospel where you give the minimum and get the maximum.  In this gospel, you give it all and strangely stop caring about all that stuff you used to want.  But that doesn’t always happen all at once.  Maybe you’re like me, and it starts with small steps.

I’ve gotten some emails asking me whether I honestly think that doing small things for God is enough.  Doesn’t God expect radical abandonment?  Of course He does.  But you have two options.  The first option is to sit around doing nothing (like I did most of my life) waiting until you are so compelled to turn your life upside down that you do it all in one shot.  We’ll call this the Damascus option (Google it).  The other option is to get infected.  I’m getting infected.

Serving God is infectious, people.  It gets into your fibers and takes over.  But it needs a place to start.  It takes something small you get you hooked.  Here’s the deal.  God built you to love feeling happy.  He built you to want things.  He built you to want satisfaction.  The greatest trick evil ever pulled off was convincing you that the junk we buy actually delivers that satisfaction.  And it does, kinda, for a little while.  But the satisfaction you get from watching your high def TV is nothing compared to even the smallest act of service for God.  Nothing.

I don’t advocate small steps because they are better than large steps.  I advocate small steps because they are better than nothing.  And let’s be blunt here for a second.  A lot of us are doing nothing.  I did nothing for years.  Decades, actually.  You can read the second chapter of my book where I describe over and over the times that God dropped lay ministry right in my lap and I was either too dumb or too stubborn to do anything with it.  For me, I needed small steps to catch the infection that would lead to large steps.  I think right now I’m somewhere around medium steps.  But every day that goes by I see a path coming more and more clear that someday leads to radical abandonment.  God shows it too me slowly because he probably knows I’m too much of a spaz to handle it all at once.  My Damascus moment might be right around the corner.  I need to keep working and praying to be ready for it.

I wish I didn’t need to take small steps.  But I do.  And they are better than the non-steps I took for the first 35 years of my life.  My small steps having me starting to feel the infection working within me.  I know that one day I will wake up, look at my wife, and describe to her an adventure that is both scary and awesome all at the same time and we’ll finally say, “We’re doing it.  Whatever the cost.  We’re doing it.”  And those small steps along the way will have prepared me for that day.

I hope you get called to do something crazy.  Something radical.  But until that happens, please join me in taking these small steps.  In the Bible we always come in at the good part.  We come in right when the fishermen are dropping their nets to follow Christ.  And we’re amazed that they would do that right out of the blue.  But was it out of the blue?  What was their backstory?  What small steps had they been taking over the previous ten years before that day came?  Who knows… maybe they wrote a blog.

These are my small steps.  What are yours?  Telling your small steps helps people to connect.  It helps to get them moving in the right direction.  Or, if you’re already onto big steps or even radical abandonment then I would love to read your stories and comments as well.  Inspire us all.  It’s what you were built to do.

We were built to be heroes.  It’s about time we started acting like heroes.

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What is your source? Tough questions from good friends.

Images by John ‘K’ / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Have you ever had that friend that knows how to ask the brutally tough questions, but in a way that build you up instead of breaking you down? David is that friend for me. We had a chance to have a long talk a few weeks ago and I look up to David for the extent to which he has fully abandoned his life in the service of God. He’s a very intense, and very amazing guy. Someone we could all look up to.

We were talking about the various things I’m doing. Teaching Sunday School, writing this blog, the book, coming to a full stop at all stop signs. You know… living life the right way. To be completely honest, I was kind of rattling off this list to him in hopes of his approval. I love positive affirmation. Perhaps a character flaw, but one that I definitely have. He turned to me and in a very nice, but just barely confrontational way, he asked, “What’s your source?”

I didn’t even know what he meant at first. It took me a minute to put the pieces together. He was talking about whether I was doing this for me, or doing this for God. What was at the center of all of this. He knows me well enough to know that I like being the center of attention.  He also knows I don’t spend a lot of time in prayer or reading scripture.  So that creates the question: If I’m not in prayer or scripture, what is the source of all this stuff I’m doing?  It’s not God.  But it needs to be.

So since that night I’ve spent more time in scripture.  I could still spend more.  And I’ve spent more time in prayer.  And I’m working to be more intentional about prayer and learning about it.

These redirections are so important in my life.  What small corrections, what tough questions, have you been asked that changed your course for the better?  And most importantly… What is your source for it all?

We were built to be heroes.

It’s about time we started acting like heroes.

Photo credit: Images by John 'K' / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Poll: How do you pray?

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I have a confession.  I don’t pray well.  I wish I had some practical guidance on how to go about it.  And I’m guessing I’m not the only one out there with similar questions.  There are a million ways to talk to God.  What’s yours?  Take second to answer the poll, and leave a comment.  Somewhere out there someone is waiting to read what you have to say about prayer (and it’s probably me).

We were built to be heroes.

It’s about time we started acting like heroes.

Photo credit: Lel4nd / Foter.com / CC BY