Tuesday, October 25, 2011
“Courage, Liam thought to himself, wasn’t a hot, blistering emotion held only in the hands of men who joined the special forces and jumped out of airplanes and scaled unnamed mountains. It was a quiet thing, ice-cold more often than not; the last tiny piece you found when you thought that everything was gone. It was facing your children at a time like this, holding their hands and brushing their tears away when you were certain you hadn’t the strength to do it. It was swallowing your own grief and going on, one shallow, bitter breath at a time.” From Angel Falls by Kristin Hannah
For months Liam’s wife, Mikayla, lay in a coma. For the sake of their children, despite his own paralyzing grief, Liam carried on—“one shallow, bitter breath at a time.”
Though this story is fiction, the author expressed some real-life truths. Sometimes circumstances force us to continue despite the pain. Sometimes we need courage to carry on and make good choices for our own sake or perhaps for the sake of others.
A divorce, cancer, an addiction—all can demand choices beyond our own strength to make them. In my opinion, addictions may take the most courage of all. From some scenarios, such as cancer or a coma, there is no way out but through. But giving up an addiction means giving up what feels like the answer to our problems.
In the midst of an addiction, we usually can’t see how it multiplies negative consequences—no matter how obvious they may be to others. Yet, sometimes the results become serious enough that the choice must be made to give up that supposed refuge or at least be set free from its hold. For a shopper, debt might become overwhelming. The same can be true for a gambler. For the obsessed video-game player, techie, bookworm, problems may be more subtle. Time spent avoiding relationships certainly doesn’t cultivate them.
A few days ago, a man spoke to me about the courage it’s taken to give up his romance addiction—the hope that the right person will ease his loneliness and bring him peace and lifelong happiness. He’d recently reconnected with a high school sweetheart and the strong attraction was still there. Yet different belief systems gave him the courage to put out that flame. Even so, making the choice to give up what he desired most was a tough one.
The biblical worldview calls the things we’re addicted to, idols. Choosing to give them up takes courage. It also requires truth. Though something may offer temporary relief, it can also lead to long-term problems. For lasting peace and satisfaction, it's far better to place our hope and trust in the One who created us. Turning to the Fountainhead who says: “I will never leave you nor forsake you; I will give you peace” can give us the courage to escape our addictions, or at the very least lessen their hold on us, especially when life’s turmoil causes us pain.
More on the “Giver of peace” next time.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
It’s official. One more check and I’m a 99-er. After almost two years of receiving unemployment benefits, my income will now come from elsewhere.
Those benefits have been a mixed blessing. I could live on that amount, but it's been a challenge. Unfortunately, the system is set up in such a way that it gives zero incentive for making any money apart from a permanent position. According to my understanding, even worse than no incentive is that the system punishes those who do what they can to earn extra income. If a person takes a temporary job, the pay is deducted from their unemployment check. So it doesn't matter whether a person works or not--the pay remains the same. Even worse, federal extensions decrease the amount of benefits based on temporary pay.
So, concern about these obstacles forced me to consider a more creative approach--one I probably wouldn't have considered otherwise. Rather than starting to freelance, while looking for full-time work, I volunteered with organizations that might impact my future. Writing for the Christian Examiner helped me network with many nonprofits and kept a strategic Evangelical Press connection in the forefront of my thinking. It also helped develop my story-telling ability. I’m grateful to the Keeners for giving me the opportunity to write for such a fine newspaper. Even better, in the process, they’ve become my friends.
Working with Mick Ukleja of LeadershipTraq also helped restore my confidence and sharpen my skills. And, it gave me the opportunity to promote principles I learned from Mick and have found extremely valuable. This effort kept me involved with the Evangelical Press Association, as well, and cultivated relationships important to me for many reasons.
In my spare time, I’ve explored my own story and have almost completed a draft of a memoir. Plus, I’ve long wanted to write about transformation showing how the Creator can help us stop trying to escape the pain by denying it. Instead, by turning to him, we can gain the strength to embrace life’s turmoil and to have peace in the process, even when it’s the most painful. This blog is the result.
For about the past eight months, I’ve been involved with Transform LA*—a movement to see God transform the greater Los Angeles area in seven sectors that include businesses, churches, government, entertainment and the arts, education, media, and family. Increasingly I can see how many of my greatest interests fit under this umbrella. Now, after three years of praying, TLA’s exec team has started putting structure in place. One of three paid positions they hope to fill in the near future is for a Communications Specialist. I can’t think of any place I’d rather work. However, at this point, there are no guarantees and funding is an issue. At this stage, even more important than the position I’m hoping for, are the funds necessary to keep the General Manager employed. Such a strategic movement takes consistent wise leadership.
So, as I continue to wait, I’ll keep doing special projects. I’ll write for the Christian Examiner and can finally accept pay for my stories. If LeadershipTraq has further needs, I’ll be available. And, by God’s amazing grace this next week, I start work on a new project—helping Kent Tucker, PhD, figure out the best approach for a book on “red-zone evangelism.” This dynamic evangelistic tool is already being used in 47 states and 13 foreign countries. How this timing coincides with the end of my benefits will never cease to amaze me.
When the unthinkable happened with my job, I’m glad I jumped into the chaos unafraid. The adventure has been worth pure gold. And, the realization that Someone far bigger than me is in control has kept me from getting so depressed, that I couldn’t get back up again. It hasn’t been easy, but nothing worthwhile is. Knowing the Sovereign Creator has plans and purposes for me has kept me engaged in a way that will quite likely continue providing enough for me to live on. The adventure continues, and I can hardly wait to see what happens next.
*If you’d like to check out Transform LA, see http://transformla.net/ If you’d like additional information or to see the business plan, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Many well-known influencers are getting involved with this multi-ethnic, multi-generational organization in hopes of seeing greater Los Angeles transformed. I plan to continue volunteering. Who knows maybe I'll become indispensable.