Category Archives: Learn it

My Mission Statement

Many businesses have their own mission statements, ways of attracting people, consumers and even workers to their products and places. Even schools have mission statements. It is a way to tell the world what you stand for, but more importantly it is a way to set a standard for yourself and for those who see you.

So why don’t we have individual mission statements? I’ve just finished reading 48 Days to the Work you Love and the final task in the book is to create your own mission statement. Of all the tasks in the book, this is the one I found to be the most profound (though there are many useful tasks that help you dig inside yourself to find answers).

This is what I came up with:

My mission is to create a world in which I am free to be creative AND analytical knowing that having high standards leads to growth, but failing to meet those standards DOES NOT require that I give up; always bearing in mind that moving forward will take me to new places, but learning from the past will keep me from becoming a flat, static, uncultured idiot. I will stay fair and honest looking for the best in people, even when I am utterly disappointed. I will work hard every day to respect people around me because only then will I earn respect. Above all I will maintain my morals and faith, without which I am nothing. 

Which leads me to this burning question: what is your personal mission statement?

A Second Chance

I’m not very good at giving people a second chance. I have a tendency to pass judgment quickly, rely on first impressions, and hold grudges.

I don’t like this about myself, but I admit that it is a weakness and probably a large part of why I’m not a particularly fun loving, devil may care, gregarious, everyone-wants-to-be-her-friend individual.

On the one hand, I can accept that about myself, on the other hand I don’t really want to accept it. Because we should give one another a second chance. It’s our responsibility, and a lesson we should learn sooner rather than later.

In church the other week we were reading about Jonah, and I was reminded of Jonah’s poor attitude and the chapter after he returns to Nineveh. For some reason, I always forget about this chapter. In my mind the story always ends with Jonah becoming Whale spit up, fulfilling God’s will and then learning his lesson…but even after spending time inside a fish, he doesn’t really learn anything. Not a blessed thing and that is terrifying. I’m not going to lie, it worries me that one could experience so much and still have such a hard heart. In fact, he gets mad because his sermon to the Ninevites is effective. His ticked off that they turn from their evil ways and repent. He gets so mad that he goes out to the desert to pout.

God sends a vine to cover his head and provide him shade.

Then Jonah gets mad when the vine, which he did nothing to cultivate, dies.

And God speaks up. He asks Jonah an important question: Do you have a right to be angry about this vine?

Great question. Jonah didn’t do anything to deserve the vine, to nurture the vine; he didn’t plant the vine—he didn’t even say thank you when it grew. Then, when it dies he does nothing to change his circumstances. He just sits and lets his head burn. Stubborn, isn’t he? Of course, this is coming from the runner—the one who tried to escape God and when that didn’t work had sailors throw him into the sea, I guess he thought that would be a way to seal his fate—but you can’t run from God no matter how far you go and if God wants to teach you a lesson no matter how stubborn you are he’ll teach on.

It is up to you to decide to learn.

How many of us are the same way? We are blessed with health, family and sometimes even wealth that we did not earn and rarely deserve. We are living in a world of entitlement, but as Romans is so quick to remind us—all have sinned and fall short so we really don’t deserve anything but death, destruction and punishment. Some people, no matter what, some people are determined not to be happy. No matter what they are determined to be miserable. In fact I’m not even sure they would know what to do with happiness if it grew from a vine and slapped them in the face.

You see, it’s so easy to forget about Jonah 4 because no one wants to see Jonah as a whiner—no one wants to remember the man who survived a whale’s belly as a complaining, stubborn, unhappy man. Because it doesn’t make sense. Shouldn’t someone whose been given that SECOND CHANCE be able to empathize more with people who are seeking a second chance? Shouldn’t he rejoice with them, be joyful and grateful?

And yet, he’s angry! Angry that God would save them. He FORGOT too. He forgot his own transgressions and somehow I doubt he was as pure and sinless as he pouty face would suggest.

And then the bitter sting of hypocrisy sinks deep into my skin. Don’t we struggle with the same problem? We’ve all been given the same second chance, and we all think we deserve so much more than we actually do.

We think we deserve happiness.

We think we deserve contentment.

We think we deserve a life of leisure where we get what we want when we want it.

But we don’t.

We are all sinners.

We deserve misery.

We deserve sickness.

We deserve death.

Just as a murderer deserves to pay for his or her heinous crimes, each and every one of us deserves to pay for our sins. But OH how quick we are to forget our own sins when we look around and see someone else sinning. “Well,” we say to ourselves with our noses stuck up in the air, “at least I haven’t cheated on my wife like Bill. Bill deserves punishment. How could he show his face in church? He is such a sinner!”

What if Jonah had accepted their conversion? What if he’d stopped feeling that it was unfair, that they deserved less than he, that they were his equals? Now I don’t presume to rewrite the Bible, but I do want to look at another perspective, because after all, that’s what this blog is about. So Jonah 4 might have read a little like this:

1)And Jonah was pleased and joy filled his heart. 2) He prayed to the Lord, “Oh Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? How could I be so blind and flee to Tarshish? I know you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in Love. A God who relents from sending calamity. 3) Now, O Lord I see how it is better to live than to die. Praise your holy name.” 4) And the Lord blessed Jonah and the Ninevites…

Because the thing is we’re all sinners. Some of us don’t want to admit that we sin, and that’s worse in a lot of ways. We go to church, sing in the choir, attend Bible study, join every committee, but forget that we are more than just an organization. We are, and should be, designed to love everyone, not gossip about their shortcomings, or worse ignore and run away from their suffering.

We’re designed to be God’s image.

But we’re not in God’s image when we are unforgiving and self-righteous, sulking in the desert of our own iniquities and sin.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about what happiness is and why we pursue it. It’s not in our declaration of independence by accident. And we often take it for granted. I’ve come to the radical conclusion that happiness is not as illusive as we try to make it. Happiness doesn’t run from us, we run from it. Pursuing happiness may be a right, may be what God had in mind in fact, I don’t know. But what I do know is that Proverbs 25:26 says: “Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked,” but John 4:14 says: “ but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” All you have to do to quench the thirst is drink. But we resist the water just like we resist happiness. Why?

Because it can’t be that simple, can it?

Author and Perfector

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Sometimes I wonder if I’ve chosen the right path. But then I suppose everyone has doubts about their life at some point or another. The fact of the matter is, we can’t ever be sure about every decision we make. When I was in college I watched a film called Run Lola Run (directed by Tom Tykwer).  The film centers on the idea that it’s not only the monumental decisions in our lives that shape who we become as much as every tiny decision we make—down to taking the time to tie our shoe or letting the laces flap in the breeze. These little moments can shape us as much if not more. The film shows the same event, three times with tiny changes that affect the overall outcome in enormous ways.

Which in turn reminds me of Esther. I’ve been studying this book and as I’m now in chapter 6, big decisions still hold value, but the tiny ones are every bit as important.

Esther had an opportunity to rock the Persian world. She was promised up to half the kingdom by her husband Xerxes if she asked for it—which though a figure of speech, is still a pretty amazing oath. She invites Xerxes and her mortal enemy, Hamen, to a banquet to make the request. At the banquet she has a number of options—decisions to make. And any one of them can alter the course of her personal history.

  • She could, like Herodias’ s daughter did for John the Baptist, ask for Hamen’s head on a platter (Problem solved!)
  • She could reveal Hamen’s evil plan—confront the beast head on (Uncovered, unfoiled, right?)
  • Wait (What? Why wait!?!)

The timing was right! Her life had been spared, the king had agreed to dinner—now hat do be the time. If Esther makes the request, the game is over. But she doesn’t. Like Lola, she stops to tie her shoe, altering the course of the future.

But that is a monumental decision, right? That’s certainly more than just tying her shoe. What happens next is what, combined with the monumental decisions, proving to me that our small decisions have just a great an effect on our lives as our big decisions.

That night, the king couldn’t sleep.

Now the king has some decisions to make. And he’s the King of Persia—he could get a glass of warm milk, count sheep, or he has over 100 concubines so I could think of a few things he could do on a sleepless night.

Instead he orders the chronicle of his reign to be read to him.

Well, now I can see why this might put you to sleep, but this decision becomes the peripety of the entire narrative, a seemingly insignificant event that changes the course of everything.

Elevating Mordecai in the king’s eyes just enough so that when Esther does reveal Hamen’s evil plan, the king doesn’t harbor resentment against his noble prince, but righteous indignation about the injustice done to his ally and queen. Outrage, not regret in the end result.

If Esther hadn’t waited? The sleepless night would have looked very different.

If he hadn’t read the chronicle? The timing may never have been right for Ether.

What kind of changes in history would we see if even one tiny decision had been made?

Every significant even has a place, but more importantly ever insignificant event does too. Our lives are arranged accidentally. They are carefully crafted and perfected to create individual lives and purposes that we can live to be proud of. When I write, I always start with a character: Andrea, Valerie, Clara, Lucy…How much more so does God start with us as characters crafting each even toward some kind of significant end? It’s only natural to question our decisions and actions, but in the end no matter what we choose—I’m comforted to know that the author and perfector of my faith is more than my calligrapher—He’s a master craftsman.

So sometimes I pray for a peripety.

A reversal of destiny—a change that will make its mark on me ant eh world.

Because you never know what decision today might lead to a monumental destiny tomorrow.

Do Not Be Afraid: A Resolution

Don’t be afraid.

As one year now closes and another gears up, we all take the time to reflect and reevaluate. People take the time to make resolutions which they will earnestly break within a month, maybe two if they are more committed than most.

I’m not judging…well, I am, but I’m also empathizing. I do the same, and though I could wish for better resolve, if I had it (if any of us did), we really wouldn’t need to make New Year’s resolutions.

So this year, I’m trying something different. Instead of making a resolution that I want to stick to throughout the year. I’m going to reevaluate each month, because I learned something important about myself this past year. I have been breaking the most repeated command in the Bible.

And I break it over, and over, and over again.

Do you know what the most repeated command in the Bible it? I learned this recently. Right off hand, if someone had asked me this before, I probably would have said it is “love one another”. No, that’s not it. The most common command in the Bible is:

Do not be afraid.

I am not a risk taker. I make pro-con lists, I weigh the value of decisions, I look at the consequences of each moment that I live (or don’t live I guess)—and I live in fear that the decisions I make every day are the wrong ones.

And not only are they the wrong ones, but they are going to catastrophically alter the universe (or at least my universe) in some way shape or form.

Talk about some ego.

Which is why sometimes I feel like I’m stuck—frozen in this life I’ve cherry picked and carefully chosen and protecting myself right out of life or maybe even a calling.

Because we can do that—protect ourselves from something that we think will shatter us, but if we allowed it to, would actually help us. And I do that more often than not

Which brings me back to the whole resolution thing. This New Year I’m going to be less afraid, because I have dreams, big dreams and I have to stop protecting myself from them. So each month I’ll make a new resolution, then re-evaluate at the end of the month.

Because this is too important to wait till next January.

At the risk of alienating everyone sick of Frozen, I’m going to quote Elsa here: The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all [in 2015]. Let it go.

My Superpower

I’ve always had pretty good timing. It’s something innate. I can leave my house at different times—with the same destination in mind—and somehow always arrive at my destination right when I want to. Usually I can predict it to the minute (early, on time, late, whatever)—like a GPS, only without the condescending tone. Well, I don’t know I probably am just as condescending, I have my moments.

Good timing is my superpower.

I firmly believe that everyone has a superpower, we just don’t always embrace our superpowers, proving that we’re not so different than the heroes we idolize after all.

My students rarely see the point in studying English—the language, the literature, the class; most of the time they see it as a colossal waste of time. But what if English class is preparing them, not only for college and the future, but preparing them for life, for embracing their inner hero and for becoming a dynamic character in their own lives. What if English class isn’t really about English at all, what if it is really a training for something greater. What if it is training you to accept a call to be the hero in your own life?

Okay, yeah. That’s a stretch, but sometimes I wonder if life isn’t simply about the perspective with which you choose to see it.

I sit at a traffic light thinking about whether I should turn left or right. If I turn right I will get to my destination in 3 minutes, if I turn left it will take 7 minutes. But in that 7 minutes, will something else significant happen? Is there a reason to delay my journey for an additional 4 minutes? If there is, I take that alternate route and I arrive at my destination precisely when I said I would be there and as I am walking in, a friend of mine is walking out—in tears. Upset because she has just received the news. I stop. We talk. I offer the embrace she needed just at that moment. The moment I wouldn’t have been there for if I’d have arrived 4 minutes earlier, or 5 minutes later.

Timing. It may not be superspeed or superstrength. I may not be able to leap tall buildings, fly or time travel, but I can be the hero to someone who needs a hug, to the person who needs a shoulder, to the person who needs to get to work, who needs to talk.

And I wouldn’t even think about it that way if I didn’t have the perspective of seeing it that way. Life is a journey. We can follow our call to adventure and be the hero in our own life, or we can…not. But being passive—letting life happen to me, is more terrifying. Like being stuck at that traffic light forever.

Maybe I didn’t learn all this in English class, but I can certainly see how being passive could affect the future based on the literature, and there is nothing more human than that. We spend our lives trying to stand out and make a difference—so why not use what we learn to our advantage? How could anything be more applicable than the basic foundations of our human experiences?

Everyone has a superpower. The trick is, you have to stop being afraid of it, embrace it, and use it to become the hero in your own life.

That’s when you stop being static and you become the round, dynamic hero you’re meant to be.

So…what is your superpower?