July 26th, 2013 § Comments § permalink
I’ve learned something new. That is, I have just enough.
I love learning, discovering, and understanding. Unfortunately, I’m a bit stubborn and hard-headed – not to mention redundant. Yet, when something does dawn on me, I am compelled to dig a little deeper, introspect a bit more, and sort it out better in my mind. Not only does this help me establish the certainty of the epiphany, but it solidifies the value into my being.
Last year, when things got desperate, we made a conscious effort to surrender to the financial pressures that sought to kill us. Our mortgage was worthless and required us to pay on a house that was worth only 60% of what we “paid” for it. I was making less as a paramedic than I did as a pastor – and the hours were worse. My job was killing me and killing my family. Jennifer said, “I’d rather live in a tent than continue living like we are now.” And yet, how does one step off? How do you quit the rat race?
We didn’t actually have good answers to these questions, but we knew we couldn’t stay on the treadmill of death. In processing through this, I finally accepted the idea that God is the provider of my family, not me. Of course, this isn’t the way I was raised – and it certainly isn’t a very “American” culture perception. But it is very biblical, and leads to greater serenity. There is great fear in accepting this concept. There is great uncertainty. Who doesn’t like to be in control – or at least feel like we are in control?
“We didn’t actually have good answers to these questions, but we knew we couldn’t stay on the treadmill of death.”
It took several months of healing and practice before I actually began to live a life that is compatible with this principle. Last Fall, after a few months of healing (and catching up on sleep), we sold and gave away our “stuff,” packed our remaining keepsakes into a truck, abandoned our house, and took to the road. For several months we lived with relatives and then in a loaned house. Going through that experience was painful, scary, and challenging. I learned just how invaluable my stuff was and how much I didn’t need it.
Over the course of the past couple of months we’ve put our life back together. It’s been a very exhausting and painful few years. I’ve returned to a life of gainful employment, we now have health insurance and savings, and we’re living in a house we can call home. We are no longer homeless and unemployed.
In the process, we’ve been spending money on a lot of stuff. Granted, we’ve been buying used furniture and replacing some of our “stuff,” but nonetheless, we’ve paid out a lot of cash – for us anyway. Actually, we’ve refurnished our whole house for less than many would spend on a new TV and sound system. The best part is, we are debt free!
I’m a planner. I analyze the present, evaluate my options, and plan for the future. In this process, I’ve been thinking about some major expenses looming on the horizon. We’re going to need new tires on the minivan and I think the suspension needs some major work. I’m also concerned about the transmission and something under the hood occasionally makes a big “clunk” sound. Of course, there are always major expenses looming just under the surface – unexpected urgencies, emergencies, and other unforeseen needs. Living on the financial edge is disconcerting for a planner.
Then it hit me, our money is like manna. God is our provider and He will provide just enough for today’s needs. He tried to teach the exiled Israelites to trust Him and to never collect more manna than they could consume in a single day. In Exodus 16, they were told to gather as much as they needed. Interestingly, “some gathered a lot, some only a little. But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough.” I realized, that God, our provider, would always provide “just enough” to sustain us.
“We are no longer homeless and unemployed.”
I don’t have to be concerned about tomorrow’s expenses and needs, He will provide. He is enough to meet all of our needs – and many of our wants. In His Sermon on the Mount He tells us to not “worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts… but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.” In fact, He says, to “seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
I’m beginning to learn and practice this. It’s a good feeling – and it’s very relaxing. He is providing just enough.
PS: This applies to time, love, relationships, and sleep too!
April 8th, 2013 § Comments § permalink
According to my calculations, I’ve used up three of my nine lives. Those are just the ones I know about.
In 1981, there was an explosion during a live fire training exercise and the two guys standing on either side of me ended up in the hospital. I was untouched.
In 1992, I was on a sailboat that crashed into hidden rocks on the Alaskan coastline. We abandoned the vessel and were safely rescued. It was expensive, but unlike many, the six of us on-board survived.
Two days ago, while helping a friend on his ranch, I was charged by an overprotective cow and knocked down. It happened very quickly and I was completely unprepared. While my friend Rick was trying to tag a newborn calf, the mama cow got a little obnoxious. I was standing about 15 feet away, and a little behind Rick, when suddenly this 1500 beast was upon me.
I whacked her once across the face with the cow-whacker I had in my hand, but I still found myself on the ground. My friend was quick and he chased the cow away before she stomped me into human hamburger.
At the time, I was neither scared, nor did I feel any pain. I knew it was a dangerous situation, but it took a few hours before the real danger dawned on me. These cows look docile from a distance as they casually graze in pastures, but they can be quite dangerous.
I thanked Rick for saving my life, and as the day progressed, I grew more and more humble. I knew, without a doubt, my kids almost watched their Dad get stomped.
Also as the day grew longer, my chest and thigh began to hurt. By the next morning, my chest was very sore – and then I coughed and I felt as if my ribs were broken. As a former hockey player, I’ve been hit before, but nothing compared to what I felt yesterday.
But today is a new day, and the pain has subsided. I still can’t cough, laugh, blow my nose, or strain – but I’m going to live.
Not counting the close calls I don’t know about, I suppose I have about 5 or six lives to go.
My wife prayed a special prayer for protection that morning, and obviously that prayer was answered!
December 27th, 2012 § Comments Off on Passion, Purpose, and Pressure § permalink
Learning what doesn’t work, is the work of a lifetime, but often we approach it by trying to figure out what does work for us. It’s a trial and error process for most – often discouraging, and occasionally rewarding. Most of us stumble through this process and grab the first things that work for us. This works for many people. It doesn’t work well for everyone.
My first round of success in emergency services was fun, rewarding, and quite successful. Yet, at some point I grew restless and bored. I dreamed of bigger things and a life beyond the streets. It was a trip to Mexico that my eyes were opened. When I saw the needs there, especially in EMS, I realized, for the first time, there were bigger fish to fry. The effort I put into improving EMS in the US might create small, incremental changes and result in some quality improvements, but that same amount of effort would greatly reduce mortality and morbidity in developing nations.
As I processed through this reality, I also began to process through some failures in my life. I realized that drinking and partying were not working for me. Bingo! Just like that, I realized one thing that didn’t work. Unfortunately, it took about 15 years to pull out of that trap I’d fallen into. As I found serenity and spiritual alignment, I put less value on a medical approach to lifesaving and more on the eternal spiritual values. This process helped me to better clarify my life’s purposes and passions – and yet, the pressures of life continued to press from all angles.
“We’re told we need…”
We’re told we need money, housing, and food to survive – and beyond that, society tells us we need a big house, nice car, and an impressive job in order to acquire the “success” label. It’s easy to want society’s accolades, affirmations, and adorations – and yet, for some, these trappings are a dead-end.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have the house, car, and financially successful career, but sometimes the constraints are not worth the benefits. Sometimes there are things far more important than social affirmation. For me, I’ve clearly found that family works very well for me – and I’m unwilling to sacrifice them for the sake of anyone, anything, or any job.
Four years ago some people tried to bully me into putting more emphasis on my career and less on my family. I said no and was fired for it. A year and a half ago I lost a management promotion because my family had needs that were greater than the pressures my boss was putting on me. Six months ago, I walked away from that same job because it was killing me and killing my family. Of course this means we’re losing our house, have no income, and have zero financial security. Now what?
Over the course of the last several months I have received greater clarity on my purpose and passion.
I have a passion for helping men be better men; to enable fathers to be better fathers; and to strengthen families and marriages. From my observations, men have struggled since the women’s movement gained traction 40 years ago. Women needed to stand up and be heard, but one of the unintended consequences is that men, generally, were left confused and disoriented. In the meantime, they forgot to step up and be true to their roles as husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, and manly men. Just because we better understand the needs of women, it doesn’t mean we have to diminish our own selves.
Men without a purpose, do not engage with life, with their wives, with their families, or in their careers. Too many men lose their families because they don’t stay in the battle. These men are broken, scared, and have forgotten how to be men. They are broken. Broken men reproduce themselves through broken children.
Because of the peace and joy I’ve found through repairing my brokenness, I’d like to help other men find the same serenity. this is my passion, purpose, and calling.
Interestingly, or unfortunately, there are a lot of pressures that seem to keep me from pursuing this passion. A month ago, I began writing a book. In this day and this economy, it takes more than just putting words on the screen – it’s about building an audience and publishing network. More than personal creativity, art, and sharing – there are technical distractions.
But, bigger than this are the personal, social, and familial distractions. Family needs come before the creation of art and the saving of others. If I don’t put my family above my personal passions, than I am still failing – again. This passion, like my earlier passions can never supersede my personal serenity – or my family’s.
Sometimes, like today, I wake up ready to write – but before I know it, other people’s priorities and needs have swept over me and I don’t get to write. That’s OK – it will work out.
“What does it benefit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?”