Learning to Reflect on the Rugged Years of Life

Old Post Office

Learning to think about the rugged years of my life.

The wear and tear that knock holes in the interior walls of who I am.  The blows that threaten to compromise any stability.

There is a beauty that still lies within.

Without the light shining in, it would be impossible to notice.  I am thankful for that light.

Praying for renewed confidence in the person I am created to be.  Praying for the vision to see dreams laid out before me.

May the scars of my past not hide the potential that lives within me. 

Learning the Significance of Timing

Timing is a huge factor in life.  Underestimated, though.

You wish to ignore it.  Or, you seek to control it.  You are too anxious to wait for it.  Or, you are too afraid to embrace it.

A book I am reading, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, has set my mind to thinking about it.  Each chapter begins with a letter written by A.J.F. to his daughter.  A.J. owns a book store.  His intimate relationship to books and stories is the well from which he draws wisdom for his letters.

One letter is inspired by The Luck of Roaring Camp by Bret Harte.  A.J. writes:

Overly sentimental tale of a mining camp that adopts an “Ingin baby” whom they dub Luck.  I read it for the first time at Princeton in a seminar called the Literature of the American West and was not moved in the least.  In my response paper (dated November 14, 1992), the only thing I found to recommend it were the colorful character names:  Stumpy, Kentucky, French Pete, Cherokee Sal, etc.  I chanced upon “The Luck of Roaring Camp” again a couple years ago and I cried so much you’ll find that my Dover Thrift Edition is waterlogged.  Methinks I have grown soft in my middle age.  But me-also-thinks my latter-day reaction speaks to the necessity of encountering stories at precisely the right time in our lives.  Remember, Maya:  the things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we will respond to at forty and vice versa.  This is true in books and also in life.

–A.J.F.

Timing often determines whether you accept or reject something.

College wasn’t the right time for A.J. to grasp the value in a particular story.  It wasn’t his fault.  From where he was sitting, he couldn’t see it.  It was out of his view.

He lacked the experience to catch the significance.  The perspective wasn’t there for him. As time passed by, his life created a framework through which he could see more.

The next occasion the same story intersected his life the timing was right.  He embraced it as if a veil was lifted from his eyes.

You could retell the same truth with different details.  You read something, heard something, ate something, felt something, tried something, or saw something you rejected in your younger years.  Maybe you didn’t reject, but you definitely didn’t accept it.  You brushed it off as insignificant.

Then, one day, the timing was right.  You accept it as a meaningful part of who you are.

Timing can’t be forced.

I would like it to be.  It would fit much better in my timeline.  My plans would unfold much smoother.

I wish I could drop a book or an invitation into your lap, and poof, you accept it right away.  It would make preaching much easier.  Parenting, too.

Not gonna happen.  You need to be in the right place to receive it.  I need to trust that someday the timing will be right.

Because I believe it will.

Learning You Don’t Know What Is Behind the Uniform

What can you expect when a law enforcement officer says, “I need to speak with you?”

I had no idea what was coming.

He was sitting at a table by himself.  I was passing by on my way to do my job.  It was t-minus 5 minutes before I had to be on stage in front of an expectant crowd.

We hadn’t spoken before.  It was quite random.  Enough to raise my blood pressure.  Similar to a moment when the teacher says, “Meet me in the hall, we need to talk.”

I’m thinking, “Uh, ok, what did I do wrong?”

As I take a breadth to reply, he says, “I know you’re busy.  We can talk when you done.”

I trust his word.  There is not enough time to discuss it right now.  I walk away with a looming thought of doom hanging in the back of my mind.

No big deal.  A uniformed law enforcement officer requesting your presence is an everyday occurrence.  Just not in my life.

I could not have predicted tears would be flowing from his eyes as I approached.

Now I’m thinking, “Is this okay?  Should he be crying while wearing a badge?  Will I be arrested and accused of causing an emotional reaction in an uniformed officer?

I simply listen.  What other choice do I have?  He has a taser, billy club, and gun on his hip.

With a broken voice, he tells his story. 

He says, “I was listening to you preach a few weeks ago.  It was the night you started the series called “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle.”  Ever since, I’ve heard every message.  I have a miracle story I need to share with you.  I’ve never told anyone before.”

He tells me.  “I was an officer in a small, rural town.  Due to certain circumstances, I ended up homeless.  I lived out of my car for 3 months.  Every time I went to my trunk to gather paper work for a routine stop, I stared at all of my possessions lying there as well.

Fighting back tears, he continues, “I couldn’t take it any more.  One day I pulled off the road into an empty parking lot.  The building is abandoned.  No one would be around.  I pulled out my gun, loaded it, and stuck to my head.  I didn’t pull the trigger.”

“At the end of my rope, I stepped out of the car and fell to my knees.  I wasn’t very religious at the time.  I did’t know what else to do but pray.  I asked God to save me now.”

He climbed back into the car.  Overcome with emotion, he wept in the front seat of his cruiser.

He heard a knock on his window.  He opened his eyes to see a cross hanging from a stranger’s neck. He opened the door.

The man says, “I noticed you were crying.  Is everything ok?  Is there anything I can do to help?”

A conversation ensues, leading the strange man to say, “I am from California.  I was a pastor for several years out there.  One day, I felt God leading me to another path.  God compelled me to buy a RV and drive all over the nation in order to save others.”

That’s exactly what he did.  As the law enforcement recalled to me, “He saved my life.  It was the miracle that kept me alive.”  

There is something he said that struck me.

He said, “I would arrest people who would complain about their circumstances.  They had no idea my situation was in many ways worse”

They had no idea what was behind his uniform.  His story.  His brokenness. His humanity.

Honestly, neither did I.  Now, I feel blessed to know.

This is helping me to realize the significance of this reality for everyone I meet.  In one way or another, we all wear a “uniform.”  I pray for the courage to seek what is behind it. Truly.  No assumptions or early judgments.  Just an openness to listen for God’s story written into their life. 

Learning You Will Know the Power of Evil by Knowing the Power of Jesus

Knowing the power of Jesus comes with facing the powers of evil with him.

Jesus confronted evil.  He walked into its arena.  He passed through its favorite hangouts.

Jesus was so closely acquainted with evil that evil had no option but to be acquainted with him.

Evil knows Jesus.

An evil spirit in Acts 19 confesses, “Jesus I know.”  

Strangely enough, the same spirit doesn’t know a group of people speaking in Jesus’ name.  They are amateur exorcists.  They attempt to cast out demons using the command, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.”

The evil spirit responds, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?”  

The demon is like, “Oh really, you know Jesus, huh?  Then, why haven’t I seen you with him before?  What’s his favorite outfit?  What color are his eyes?  I would definitely recognize you if you know Jesus because I see him all the time.  Are you part of a new recruiting class?”

Fully aware this group of people don’t know Jesus, the evil spirit wages an attack.  It overpowers them and sends them running home in the nude.

You can’t fake knowing Jesus.  

Name dropping will not suffice.  You can’t hide having never spent time with him.  If so, you would know his favorite places to hang out.  Likewise, the people and spirits in those places would know you.

Jesus invites everyone he knows to follow him in facing the powers of evil.  He leads you in receiving and even suffering all the worst evil can throw at you.  Then, he brings you out “more than conquerors.

You have to go in order to know.

Going with Jesus allows you to know Jesus.  The places that Jesus takes you make it inevitable that you will also know evil.

Why?  Because Jesus came to overcome evil.  Jesus and the Holy Spirit empower you to do the same.

 

 

Learning You Need to Know Your Motivations

I’m writing goals for 2016.  Not just for work, but I’m laying it out there for other areas of my life:  personal, relational, spiritual, health, and financial.

Writing goals is a big deal.  It is putting pen to paper all the aspirations living inside you.  Scary, serious, and exciting stuff.

It is not meant to be taken lightly.  At least, not if you want to improve on your last year.  I want improvement.  I am putting my mind and heart in it.

My assignment was 7 to 10 goals.  I came up with 8 solid, and one on the fence.  Done.

Writing a goal is only the first stage toward accomplishing it.

Statistics will scare you.  I’ve heard numerous reports.  It has been reported that 25% will abandon their goals within 7 days.  More than 50% of people will forget about their goals within half a year.  If that’s not discouraging enough, consider this.  On average, you will set the goal 10 times before seeing it realized.

Why write a goal, then, right?  Seems doomed to failure.

Wrong.

Writing the goal isn’t the problem.  Your greatest obstacle is what comes after it is down on paper.  You have to act on the next step.  And the next step.  And the next step.  And the next step, until you reach the destination.      

You won’t act on the next step until you know your motivations.

You need to know WHY.

Why do you have this goal?  Why is it worth it to you?  Why?

Answering WHY brings to light your motivation.  You will gain “this” if you reach your goal.  Or, you will lose “that” if you fail to try.

It is not like eating ice cream.  You don’t need motivation to eat ice cream.  It only needs to be available to you.  Plus, it tastes good.

 

Without clear motivations, you most likely will not pickup your goal and get started.  It may look and sound good.   But, you still have the hard work ahead of you.  Unlike ice cream, a craving will not be enough.

You need to know WHY.

You can know your motivations by asking yourself and answering, Why?

Don’t just just think about it, either.  Write it down.  Save it in your phone.  Keep it somewhere easily accessible.

It may take some time.  Don’t rush it.  Try not to force it.

Authenticity is key.  Be honest.  You can’t fool yourself.  You won’t be moved by even your own faulty motivation.

Once you have it, go back to it regularly.  Read it.  Re-read it.  Digest it.  Live and breathe it.

Goals are good.  You should have goals.  You can reach those goals by knowing the motivation that drives your toward reaching them.

One last thing.  God is a great resource for discovering your motivation.  Don’t forget to go to the ultimate source of inspiration.

Learning to Change My Perspective on Fear, Uncertainty, & Doubt

What if someone told you to lean into fear, uncertainty, and doubt?  

Those are the words I heard from Michael Hyatt this week.  I am working through his resource, 5 Years to the Best Year Ever.

When talking about the necessary criteria for setting goals, he suggests it needs to be challenging.  You know it’s challenging if it moves you into what he calls “the discomfort zone.”  He says you will notice three emotional markers when moving into this zone:  1)  Fear, 2) Uncertainty, and 3) Doubt.

It runs averse to what you’ve been taught most of your life.  You’ve most likely been conditioned to avoid them.  They elicit that sick-to-the-stomach kind of feeling.  Immediately, you feel yourself backpedaling.

I’m thinking hard for what this means for setting goals for my life in 2016.  It hasn’t been easy.  Honestly, there have been many moments when I have succumbed.  I have wanted to back out of thinking of certain possibilities.

More importantly, I am coming to face a liberating realization:

I don’t share the same fear, uncertainty, and doubt as everyone else.

Not saying they don’t exist for me.  They do.

The are just different.  God gifts each of with us a confidence to face different realities in our lives with confidence.  I imagine it’s partially due to your context:  where you were born, how you were raised, what defining moments you’ve experienced, the culture you lived in, your faith history, your religious affiliation, and the education you received.  I also believe it’s a part of God’s design for redeeming what’s broken in our word.

Beauty unfolds when we use our courage to set others free to live brave in their own way.

Too often, we do the opposite.  We know what causes us fear, uncertainty, and doubt.  We impose it on others.  “If it’s too scary or dangerous for me, then it must be for you, too.” 

You end up holding others back from the wide open space that God has called them to experience.  Without their ability to run free in those wild spaces, they are also unable to ever invite you into its wonder.

God calls us to cast out all fear.

I believe we do it together by standing behind each other in belief.  “I believe you can do it.  It is God who created you to be this person and equipped you to succeed.”

Seeing you be brave makes me want to brave.  Together, we walk into the scary places as one.  Knowing that you can do it gives me the confidence to step into the unknown.

It is in those spaces that the kingdom of God opens up and becomes a reality in our world.

I’m learning God wants to change my perspective on fear, uncertainty, and doubt.  

It means more than writing goals.  It will include setting aside the fear I cast on others, and casting off any fear others try to place on me. 

 

Learning an Important Question to Ask Yourself at the New Year

What accomplishments are you most proud of achieving last year?

I am not sure I’ve had anyone ask me before.

I don’t remember anyone ever saying to me, “Coy, tell me about your greatest accomplishment last year?”  

I know I’ve never asked myself.  So, I’ve never had to come up with an answer.

I am proud of some of my accomplishments in years past.  A few of them I could name quickly.  I’ve never intentionally called them to mind.  They simply float around in my subconscious.

This year I have been challenged by Michael Hyatt to provide an answer.  

At first, I was more concerned with a different question.  It dug into the regrets and disappointments of last year.  Tough stuff.  The type of information you are afraid to admit even to yourself.

Maybe it is my personality, or maybe it was my year, but the answer to the dark question cam to me relatively quick.  It wasn’t fun to realize.  It was simply clear.

I struggled to find a place where I could see the sunny side.  “My accomplishments? Hmmmm.

Great question.  I wish I had an answer.  I didn’t.  Nothing came to mind.

I’m left with myself, thinking, “What did I do this year?  Did I accomplish anything significant?  Am I a loser if I don’t have an immediate answer?”

The answer eventually became evident.  

The accomplishment I am the most proud of achieving last year is:  I sent my youngest daughter to Kindergarten.

Not what you expect, right?  At least not coming from a young dad.

I am proud of this accomplishment because it gives worth to the daddy-duty that I’ve been committed to since her birth. It validates our decision for me to be the one to stay-at-home with our kids.  I stepped into it having no idea what to do.  The only certainty was believing it was the right thing to do.

I am proud to have made it this far.  I did what I never imagined I would or could do.  I prepared my youngest for kindergarten.  I did it without pulling out my own hair or her hair or stunting Brooklyn’s confidence in the career in which God is calling her.

Why would I recommend you should ask yourself the question, “What accomplishments are you most proud of achieving last year?”

Because you did accomplish something great last year, and most likely, no one will else will ask you.  If you don’t ask, then it goes unrecognized.

Without recognition, it is relegated to the annals of non-importance.  It is left out of your story.  It isn’t able to inform who you are so that it influences who you become.

Name what you accomplished last year.  Embrace it.  Let it become sustenance for what you will accomplish tomorrow.   

Learning You Have Beliefs that are Limiting

There is a phrase I picked up as a kid:

We can’t afford that.”  

It is a legitimate statement.  I am not able to afford everything I desire.  A dream house on the beach paid in full would be wonderful.  A full quiver of surfboards for every occasion wouldn’t be too shabby either.

It is true.  Somethings I can’t afford.

Somewhere along the way, the phrase turned into a tool in my box.  I could pull it out anytime I didn’t want to spend money on something.

For example, my kids see a toy at the store.  It’s expensive.  The price tag doesn’t match the value I see in it.  So, I pull out my tool.  I say to them, “No, I’m not going to buy it for you.  We can’t afford it.”  

It is an excuse for me.  I don’t want to do that.  “Oh, I can’t afford that.”  I can’t risk it.  “No way, I can’t afford that.”

The belief that “I can’t afford that” paralyzes me.   

I am stuck.  Frozen.  Limited.

It locks my step.  There is no way I can move forward.  Where I am is as far as I can go.

So, I miss out.  On adventures.  On experiences.  On opportunities.  On lessons.  On intimacy.  On growth.  On success.  On what is possible.

I am limited by my belief.

Good news.  You can run free by imagining a new truth.

For me, it might mean believing that “God provides all the resources I need.”

For you, well…I don’t know.  You do though.  It’s up to you to rewrite it.   

 

 

Learning the Answer Isn’t Always Obvious

A few months ago, I busted my head while surfing.  Eight stitches required.

It was an embarrassing walk of shame to the beach.  Blood flowed like a running faucet.  You would have thought I was attacked by a shark.

I was surfing my 9’6 retro style longboard with a glassed in single fin.  A beautiful board. It’s behemoth, though.  So big, you dread carrying it from the car to the beach and vice versa.

It cracked me.  I attempted a wave too late.  Bailed at the last second.  The water was shallow. I pushed the board out in front to avoid it nosediving into the sand.  As I gathered myself to stand, it collided with my head.

I was confused.  I didn’t have answer for why it happened.

It wasn’t because I suffered a concussion.  I was coherent.  My thoughts were straight.

I was befuddled how the board could have come back at me so quickly with such great force.  I mean, the waves were small.  I made sure to bail to the side and push it the other way.

Eventually, I came to accept it as lack of skill.

The real answer to my questions came later.  Several months later.

The wave report called for small, rideable waves.  I chose the same longboard.

It was my first time in the water with it since the accident.  I was gunshy.  Playing it safe is probably an understatement.

I was determined to avoid embarrassing myself a second time.  I was choosy on my wave selection.  Any resemblance to the one that got me before was out of the question.

I caught a nice little wave.  A short drop and even shorter ride.  I gracefully jumped off at the end.  I released the board and “Bam!”, it violently snapped back at me.

Then it hit me.  No, not the board.  The explanation.

My leash is too short.  The board was a Christmas gift from Brooklyn.  She didn’t think to order a leash with it.  Saving time and money, I decided to use the leash attached to my 8 foot board.

I figured it would work until I got around to buying one with appropriate length.  Nope.  Wrong decision.

Maybe the answer should have been obvious, but it wasn’t.  It took time, experience, and the right context to discern.

As I’m learning, the same applies to relationships, work, parenting, and faith.

The answer isn’t always obvious at first.  

To discover, you will probably need some time, some perspective, some hands on experience, some close calls, and some humility.

The toughest area of your life to learn this will probably be with your faith.  You expect easy answers from God.  And, you expect it now.  God is faithful to provide an answer.  The problem is your impatience with the process.

The answer isn’t always obvious.  Don’t give up, it’s there.  You just need to give yourself the space to pass through a lived-experience to find it.

 

 

Learning to Encourage Active Living with My Kids

The Rock Ice SkatingI did not grow up in a tech-savvy family.  TV’s and VCR’s were the extent of our dabbling in modern technology.

Education in my hometown wasn’t exactly cutting edge.  As a general role, our rural community was about ten years behind the trend when it came to most anything.  Technology was no different.

Fun and entertainment were left to the great outdoors.  Hours of unofficial sports were played in backyards, on the playground, and in the middle of the street.  Long hikes through heavily forested hills were a daily adventure.  Uninhibited bike rides around the neighborhood wore down tire tread after tire tread.

We were active kids.

History has altered my world.  The dawn of the technology has ushered a new way of living.  Devices vie for my attention.  TV’s, computers, tablets, cellphones, and now watches.  It’s nearly impossible to escape their electronic pulse.

Before you accuse me of technophobia, know this.  I am a fan of modern technology.  I’m not about to urge a return to the good ole days.

It’s just that:

Technology can numb you out.

Before you know it, hours of your day have been robbed by a device.  The world outside of the two foot space between you and the screen barely exists.  You are locked in a sedentary position.  Ironically, by the time you set it aside, you are too tired to do anything else.

This isn’t only detrimental to your activity level.  It limits the same for your kids.

It can be a tough choice:  attention to your device or active playing with your kid(s).

I know it’s difficult because I face it on a regular basis.  There’s always work awaiting me on the screen.  It’s never ending.  Not to mention the books I hope to read for pleasure.

My daughters will come to me and ask, “Daddy, can you take me to the park?”  “Daddy, will you play racquetball with me?”  “Daddy, can we ride our bikes to the YMCA?”  Daddy, can we go swimming?”  “Daddy, can I do gymnastics?”

I find myself saying, “I don’t know.  Let me finish this first and see what we can do.”  You know what that means.  Technology wins.  My daughter(s) loses.

I am making a decision this New Year.

I will encourage active living with my kids by accepting their invitation.

I commit to making my answer, “Yes.”

Swimming?  Yes.  Tennis?  Yes.  The playground?  Yes.  Let’s make it happen.

Every “no” discourages their young hearts.  It sends them running to the devices.

I had too much fun as an active kid to rob my daughters of the same joy.

This will be the year I learn to encourage my kids to embrace the beauty of active living.