Posts Tagged ‘Israel

14
Sep
21

My Own NGH List

Ninjas ASSEMBLE!

Last night the newly-crowned, 15-year-old champion of the show, American Ninja Warrior gazed earnestly into the camera and assured me, “Hey! If you can dream it and work hard, you can do ANYTHING!”

REALLY?” I replied, reaching to my left for another handful of popcorn, noticing the twinge in my shoulder as I did so. “You honestly think so?”

But hey… you have to love the kid’s heart. He started out with nothing but a dream. 

And then, with a lot of dedication and special training equipment (like his own custom-built Salmon Ladder, Jumping Spider, and Warped Wall), he took his nimble, 15-year-old body and trained it into championship shape. 

But as I sat and snacked and listened to earnest young Kaden speak, my NGH list expanded by one.

“NGH” is shorthand for “Never Gonna Happen.” [Or if you want to be a little more grammatically formal, call it the NGTH List; “Never Going To Happen.”] 

This is the list I keep of the things that are CLEARLY never going to happen in my lifetime. Despite Kaden’s heartfelt pep talk, I knew that becoming the next American Ninja Warrior is light years beyond my personal radar screen. 

It’s NGH… Never Gonna Happen.

Just like my dream of playing in the NBA. NGH. Or climbing Mount Everest. Also NGH. To this list I should probably also add my childhood fantasies of becoming a firefighter, or a policeman, or game show host.

NONE of those are Ever Gonna Happen.

On one hand, I find that moving things onto my NGH List is a very liberating exercise. I mean, if I keep on believing that the day will come when I finally learn to fly a plane, or become a ventriloquist, or sculpt Joan’s lovely image in marble, I invite nothing but frustration and disappointment the longer those goals remain unachieved. 

Moving that kind of stuff onto my NGH List frees me up to discover more reasonable, age-and-ability-appropriate sources of fulfillment.  

On the other hand, I have to ask myself; “Is a rapidly expanding NGH List a sign that I’ve thrown in the towel? Given up? “Settled?” Ceased dreaming?”

I think I was 19 years old when I first uttered the phrase, “Someday, I’m going to write a book.” Today, at nearly 70 years, that dream remains unfulfilled. 

Please understand: I’ve started several books. One even grew to a little more than 11,000 words. 

Each time, however, I have abandoned the effort as I became overwhelmed, discouraged, lost, or disappointed with the sub-standard quality of my effort. But then I pick up someone else’s printed, published work, and become simultaneously inspired and intimidated

And yet, despite the internal turmoil this causes me, I am still not willing to move “Write a book” onto my NGH List.

Ultimately, I (and probably all of us) must look soberly at our goals and ask the question, “Is this quest ‘of God’? Or is it just me and my idle fantasizing?” Another way of asking the same question might be: “Is this THING part of my divinely-appointed PURPOSE in life? Or not?” 

If the answer to that question is YES, nothing should stop you from carrying it out. If it is NOT, you should waste no time adding it to your own personal NGH List

I take a measure of comfort from the Bible’s story of the Israelites. Their divinely appointed purpose (recorded in Genesis 12:3) was to be a set-apart people through whom God would bless all of Creation.

But to get there, they had to endure 400 years of enslavement in Egypt, 40 years of wandering aimlessly in the Sinai wilderness, and then untold months of vicious, mortal combat before they finally “arrived.” I am sure most of them wanted to put “Be God’s Chosen People” on their NGH List at around year six of their time in Egypt.

And yet, despite all the delays, all the setbacks, all the disappointments, and all the dead-ends, God’s purpose for the Israelites was ultimately fulfilled. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, “… but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31, NRSV).

Today, no matter what new things are being added to YOUR NGH List, take heart. Wait on God. Renew your confidence that God has a purpose and a path for you.

Abundant blessings;

31
Aug
21

Thank you, Von Trapps

Last week – in fact, one week ago today – I climbed a mountain. 

Literally.

The name of the mountain was Horsetooth Rock. One look at it will explain where the name came from. Horsetooth is not a huge, hulking mountain. In fact, it is rather modest by Colorado standards, checking in at a mere 7,500 feet tall. 

For me though, it was tall enough. As in, at several points along the way I thought there was a good chance I might fall over and die, leaving my carcass to be picked over by the buzzards.

But I didn’t. In fact, I made it to the top, rested, and then made it all the way back down.

Along the way I learned some life lessons… a couple of which I have already made note of in this blog postand this one, in case you missed them. 

My original idea was to compose a separate, new post for each of the lessons I learned on Horsetooth. Instead, I think I will use the rest of this space today to hit the highlights of ALL the lessons so I might move on to bigger and better topics. 

 Without further ado, then, may I present;

Lesson #3.) CLIMBING AIDS ARE YOUR FRIENDS:

In my first “Lessons from Horsetooth” post, I included a picture of my left foot. There beside my foot you might have seen the shadow of a “trekking pole” … or hiking stick to the uninitiated. There weren’t many other people climbing Horsetooth that day who used poles or sticks to help them, so I felt a little bit like a softie. But honestly, that pole was an absolute life saver. So it is in life. Sometimes we need a little climbing aid, or a leg up. We might think it makes us look a little feeble to, for example, stop and ask directions, or ask for help, or own up to our weaknesses. 

If that is the way you feel, GET OVER IT! We all need a little assist now and then. Recognizing that need is a strength, not a weakness.

Lesson #4.) TAKE BREAKS. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

Remember: as you live, you are not competing with anyone. There are no ribbons for reaching your particular summit before others reach theirs. When your body (or your mind, or your spirit) tells you it is time to stop, sit down, and rest, DO IT! In addition to renewing yourself, you will provide a valuable lesson to everyone who sees you stopping and resting. They might even follow suit! 

Lesson #5.) CULTIVATE FRIENDSHIPS ALONG THE WAY

When I finally got to the top of Horsetooth, I met a guy who was already there. His name was Chris. Chris and I started talking about the climb, the view(s), the fantastic weather, and our previous climbing experiences. According to a couple of patches on Chris’ backpack, I saw that he was an Afghanistan War veteran. So we talked about the war and the U.S. pullout. After discovering Chris was also an avid fan of the San Francisco 49ers football team, we had material to discuss for the entire trip back down. (And yes… he is still stinging from Super Bowl LIV). The rapport and camaraderie between us made the descent almost pleasant.

The same is true about our life journeys. When we choose to walk them alone, we find that every challenge along the way is a lot more difficult, the joys aren’t quite as joyous, and the questions dwell and nag at us a lot more.

 Companions lighten every load and heighten every celebration.

“Look mom! I’m on a mountain!”

And finally…

Lesson #6: THE TOUGHER THE CLIMB, THE SWEETER THE SUMMIT

Almost anyone you asked would tell you that climbing Horsetooth Rock is NBD… no big deal. For little, ol’, spindly-legged me though, it was RUGGED. I wanted to quit at least 20 times. After one quarter of the way up, my heart was beating loudly in my ears and my back was really giving me trouble. There were times I said, “OK, that’s far enough. Time to go back.” All of which meant that when I finally made it to the top, I was BURSTING with pride and joy at having made it. 

Keep that in mind the next time you are slogging through an oatmeal swamp, battling hornets, and carrying a 50-pound pack on your back in 112-degree heat: It is going to be SOOOOO SWEET when you finally get where you’re going.

In the middle of the very worst part of their exile experience, God spoke to the Israelites through the prophet Isaiah and told them, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2, NRSV).

And here is the best news of all: God says exactly the same thing to YOU in the middle of your worst day/week/year. 

And so, as the Von Trapps said so musically; “Climb every mountain! Ford every stream!”

Abundant blessings;

17
Mar
20

Before and After

Mustang restorationIt was over 20 years ago, but it was a period that still holds the title of “Absolute Worst Time of My Life.”

It was the time when my marriage of 23 years crashed and burned… one hundred percent due to my own immaturity and misanthropy.

It was the time when my struggling advertising and public relations business foundered and then finally ground to a halt.

It was the time when I seemed to be competing with myself to see if the next bad choice could somehow be worse than the last one.

It was the time when I succeeded in not only alienating my then wife, but also both of my sons.

It was a time when I was unable to see any hope or a way out and did not see how it was possible to sink any lower in terms of energy, self-esteem, or faith.

It was the time when I let go any shred of pretense of self-sufficiency, dropped to my knees in anguish, and cried out to God in utter despair.

It was also the time – I now see in retrospect – that my rebirth and redemption began in earnest.

The Bible tells us again and again that God has the desire and the power to redeem… anyone and any situation. Psalm 130:7 says, “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.”

114 other verses spread across the Old and New Testaments repeat the same theme.

And yes, I believe this truth because I grant God’s Word supreme authority in my life. As we trace through the narrative of God’s activity in the world, we come across the theme of redemption over and over and over again… from the redemption of Noah and his family from the flood, to the redemption of Israel from slavery in Egypt, to the redemption of the zealot Saul following the death of Jesus, and many others.

Heck, you might even start to believe that communicating the theme of REDEMPTION was one of the main reasons the Bible was written in the first place!

But I also believe in God’s power to redeem because I have experienced it! God redeemed my miserable husk of a life and used it for (I hope) something higher and better than chasing the next sensual gratification.

From my first-hand experience, I have learned that redemption doesn’t mean, “The bad chapter never happened.” Instead, it is God’s assurance that when we lean completely on God, abandoning our own claims to wisdom and nimble adaptability, God gazes on us with loving eyes and says, “I will take this wreckage and create something beautiful and life-giving from it.”

Sort of like the guy who pulled the old, burned-out Mustang off the scrap heap and restored it to better-than-mint condition.

I do not know where the current situation with the novel Coronavirus and COVID-19 is going to lead us. Our country seems to be taking dramatic steps to keep us from gathering in large crowds and spreading the disease at exponential rates. I mean, you know things are bad when major league sports franchises close down indefinitely.

Hopefully, these measures will keep us from overtaxing our healthcare systems, leading to tough decisions about who receives care, and who doesn’t.

As hopeful as I am though, I still fear things might get a lot worse before they show signs of getting better.

But wherever we end up three months… six months… or a year from now, I know one thing with absolute certainty. I know that God will continue to be in the redemption business.

I also know that God will – when we put our full trust in him – take the wreckage that is left behind and make something beautiful out of it.

Always has.

Always will.




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