Embrace and Pursue Life to the Full

Whats your Word Picture? One of my favorite questions is, how would you describe your life right now using a word picture? It is interesting to watch people think about there life and then try to use words to paint a picture. For some it is easy. For others it is a struggle. Many cannot come up with a word picture, while others paint elaborate masterpieces. My word picture…In my picture there are many paths that lead into the distance, but the destination is not visible. I have a backpack with the gear I will need to survive all the possible pitfalls that might keep me from completing my journey. However my journey is being held. It is being held up by the most difficult part of any journey…choosing the direction of my fist step.

Write to me and tell me the word picture that represents your life.

Many…many years ago I worked with middle school students on a weekly basis. Middle school students are the equivalent to a carbonated beverage shaken up and opened…but the fizzing never stops. I enjoyed and loved them, but at times wanted to lock them in barrels and roll them down a hill. Anyway…To be successful with middle school students was not a matter of teaching content, creativity,or amazing activities. Those are super important and must happen in the life of ministry. However, it didn’t matter what content was shared or what games were played because If I could not master the transitions of the gathering, the really important elements would be diminished or even absent. If I could not get the 40 middle school students from hanging out mode to game mode to listening mode to whatever was next…all was lost. I had to learn to be a master of transitions.
This truth crosses all areas of life. For college students transitions are huge. The transition from high school to college. The transition from having a boyfriend or girlfriend to being single for the third time this year… The transition from familiar to unfamiliar is hard and takes time to settle in to the new rhythm of life. The transition from spring break to regular class schedule. The transition from being a college student at school to coming home for the summer is very difficult. When mom and dad want to slap an eleven o’clock curfew and you have been “free” from parental rule for the last eight months can cause friction. All transitions bring positives and negatives. All transitions being a level of anxiety, worry, stress and opportunity. So…think about the next six months of your life. What transitions are heading your way in the near future? What can you do to master the approaching transitions? Master the transitions and the flow of life might be less hectic…even when you work with middle school students.

Life has many obstacles that impend our lives. We have dreams of where we want to go in life. We plan out our lives or have a general idea of where or what we want to do. As life flows from day to day there are obstacles that slow our pace, change our plans or derail our entire life. Yesterday I tweeted (sounds sexual) that there are three obstacles that hinder where I want to go. The three obstacle from my life are, distractions, transitions, and the obstacle of pressure. I am going to use my next three blog entries to look at each one of these hindrances.

Distractions are the greatest obstacles that I face on a regular basis. I get distracted. Every time my wife and I go on a trip we begin talking. We talk about the kids, money, our house, our kids, students, family, my frustrations about this or that, about what I want to do when I grow up… where would like to be when we retire from youth ministry… All kinds of stuff. When I get talking I zone out and loose sight of exits, directions, speed and everything that matters to get us form point A to point B. I get distracted. We knew our destination, but we lost focus… we got distracted.

We all get distracted and I am working on eliminating the distractions from my life. I have people who help me stay focused because I need help. Distractions lead us off course and usually make us work twice as hard to get back. What are the distractions in your life? How can you eliminate distractions? Who can help you stay focused?

Do you ever have days when it feels like life is against you. It feels like you are playing a game without knowing the rules. It seems like at every turn there is a road block, miss information, conflict or confusion that quickly turns to extreme frustration. It doesn’t know you need to think for 30 seconds and consider all the options. Life happens fast and some days we feel like were loosing. It feels like we are down fifteen with ten seconds on the clock.(too much March madness…)
I have days like this…even weeks. However in the back of my mind there is this particular piece of wisdom that provides an energy boost to my weary soul. “We are more than conquerors…” The Greek(hupernikomen)literally means to have absolute and complete victory because of who is for you… When life feels nasty and difficult, like you are wadding through muck that comes up to your knees…you have victory. Why? How? Remember who is for you. When you feel pressured to quit, or hesitant to stand for what you believe, remember who is for you. When you don’t want to keep going and the life you have chosen doesn’t seem worth it…remember who is for you. When fear arrives, remember who is for you. All the evil plans of this world will never succeed…ever. He is for you!
So…look the problem, issue, struggle, fear, pain or crisis in the face and politely say, “hupernikomen…He already has victory and He is for me!

These are some of the beautiful students I am privileged to know and love.

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new
You are making me new
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

Welcome to Orange13.  Orange13 is dedicated to anyone who needs encouragement, inspiration and love. Orange13 was created to encourage, inspire and love students in college, parents, and teenagers.  My hope is that as we journey together we will rest connect and grow through the different phases of our lives.

Looking into our lives or pausing is not the easiest endeavor.  Many times we don’t know where to start.  This post is dedicated to encouraging you to look inward and think about you.  There are four areas of focus for this project.  The four areas that make you…you….are as follows:  physical side, emotional side spiritual side, and relational side.  That is pretty basic and a great place to start as you begin to look inward.

So…Step 1:. Ask the four questions below to each of the four areas in your life.  Step 2:. Write down (or talk it over with a roommate or trusted friend) what you discover and take time to reflect on your answers.  Step 3:. Write me and tell me how it went. (completely optional of course…)

A few ideas to consider as you work through the areas of you.  What was the easiest one to answer?  Why?  What is off the charts awesome?  How did it get there? What area(s) are a real struggle right now in your life?  Why?  What needs to happen over the next week, month 3 months or 6 months to grow through the hard issues?  Can any of this be done all by yourself?  Is there someone you can talk to about these questions?

The four questions
What is right?
What is wrong?
What is missing?
What is confusing?

Example: ( These always help me when I am doing something new…)
In my emotional life, what is right? In my emotional life, what is wrong? In my emotional life, what is missing? In my emotional life, what is confusing?

Take it slow. You can answer all of them at once or take one per day over the next four days.  It doesn’t matter.  The key is making some space in your schedule to look inward, pause and see what is going on in you.

Let me know how it goes.

I started looking at decisions like paths in the road, wondering where each path was going to take me.  I learned not to trust my instincts, seeing that often something that looked like a good move would cost me everything.  Sometimes I would even walk away from the table, got to the bathroom or just stretch and rest my head for a second…On nights when I was patient, I almost always won.

This is out of the book Father Fiction by Donald Miller.  He is describing what he learned by playing chess with his friend.

This made me think of a conversation I had today with a student who is working through life, relationships, faith and future.  This student is navigating with class and maturity.  A level of maturity that I wish I would have discovered as a college student.  As we talked it became clear that there seemed to be this push to sprint through life.  Find a mate choose a career and make money all in the span of four years of college.    Our culture seems to push us to take big steps, to jump into relationships, or career paths.  There is this pressure to make quick decisions and it has to be now.  I am guessing that the number one question that is served to our college kids or single career friends is, are you dating anyone?  The second question, only second my a a tiny amount, is what are you going to do with a degree in…? The lesson from the chess board is simple, be patient.  Take your time.  Slow down.  Enjoy everyday and let tomorrow take care of itself.  Slow down and be patient as you make the decisions that will determine the trajectory of your life.

In a previous post I talked a little about seeing with fresh eyes.  There is a passage in the Psalms that is connected to seeing with fresh eyes.  The passage is basically a clinic in taking time to pause…stop…and listen to our lives.  As humans it is one of our greatest advisories, the ability to think about ourselves and how life is going. Relationships.  Impact.  Struggles.  The pace of our lives is fast, hectic and only wants to move even faster as we get older. College students, your Freshman year goes by so fast and the next three years go by even faster.  Our culture leaves very little room and offers no value to taking time to think, reflect and pause.  Even prayer is often seen as unproductive and outdated.
Our hearts are a mystery to us.  Only God can look into the depths and pull out the things we need to see.  This can only happen if we will take time to stop…to pause.  Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart.  God is on our side and longs for us to be His. We have our mental check list with pen in hand…I don’t do this “bad thing” and I have stayed away form that “bad thing.”  In our eyes we might think were doing pretty well, if well was all about actions. We need fresh eyes to see what is truly inside our hearts.  We need fresh eyes to discover where we are placing our trust. Trust is about who and not about what. If we regularly take time to pause and ask Him to examine our hearts and show us who we are and where our trust is finding its home… there will be stability and security in a hectic and crazy world.  All we have to do is slow down, rest and pause.