Build Your Life Like a Work of Art

A friend shared this quote a while ago, and I’ve had it saved since then. It speaks volumes to my soul, full of things I want to remember and embrace. Does it speak to you too?

“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement, [to] get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted.

Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.

Prayer begins at the edge of emptiness. Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge. Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy. We can never sneer at the stars, mock the dawn, or scoff at the totality of being.

Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself. The primary purpose of prayer is not to make requests. The primary purpose is to praise, to sing, to chant. Because the essence of prayer is a song, and man cannot live without a song.

When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. Know that every deed counts, that every word is power… Above all, remember that you must build your life as if it were a work of art.”

~Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
(January 11, 1907 – December 23, 1972)

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We’ve All Got Stories

I love cities. Hip cafes, endless art and shops to explore on every street. But what I really love is watching people. Business women power-walking several blocks in heals, homeless men with wet cardboard signs and their heavy dark winter coats, stained with experience. Dog-walkers, workers precariously high on scaffolding, valet parkers in velvet coats, shoppers laden with packages, food truckers in dirty aprons, tourists with those dazed expressions of “where am I?”. They’re all people with unique stories.

There’s a sense of connection for me there, amidst such diversity of occupation, race, stature and age. Everybody has a place and a story that just for that moment landed them in that particular city, right there on the same street.

Do you ever wonder what their stories are? 

Photo Source: http://www.chicagodetours.com/about/chicago-tour-guide-employment/web-people-walking-tour/

photo source: http://bit.ly/1sleNRz

Last week, I went to Storyline and after a day in downtown Chicago (for another conference), I headed to the suburbs for three days learning to write better stories. It was awesome – although I confess, I think the significant time spent on thinking about and writing your own story was the most powerful.

Why’s that? Because I’m entirely convinced that when we have the courage stop people watching and turn inward –  to face the dark, untouched places of our mind and heart – we’ll come out much braver for it. Braver, and confident and able to live like God intended.  Bob Goff put so concisely at the conference:

“God wants us to live right on the edge of yikes.”

I want to be there – right on the cliff – thrilled beyond measure to be following a Master who is guiding those amazing stories. And when I stand before Him at the end, I want to hear something like this: “You SAW people, and the more you got to know Me, the more you saw them and their needs, their struggles and their stories. The more you saw, the more you entered in with them. You were constantly on the edge of yikes – and it’s right where I wanted you because you knew it wasn’t your effort, but my Spirit moving in you. Well done, my daughter. You lived in grace and you walked in love (2 John 1.6).” 

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Keep Your Feet Grounded

I met a woman on the plane this morning who just lost her husband to cancer a mere three months ago. She was traveling to Scotland for holiday with her cousin, a chance to get away and heal. We talked the whole flight – both tearful by the end – acknowledging the hardness of life, the resiliency and wholeness of life with faith amidst that pain, and the incredible gift of people.

This woman has a story. And it makes me want to step back for a minute. Because somewhere in that pain, she was at peace. She had hope and strength that doesn’t just come on your own.  This woman reminded me of a simple and profound life choice: keep your feet grounded on the Rock. 

She is ok. This woman shared deep abuses from her past, the tragic – and slow – death of her husband, and the incredible things she’s overcome in life. How could a woman like that have so much strength? In incredible weakness, Christ made her strong. He showed up in her hard times (sometimes in the form of dreams, sometimes in the form of friends) but there was always someone or something there to carry her through.

I think about the myriad of people I’ve met in the course of my life who exemplify that same message. They give me courage. Courage that we can get through incredibly hard things in life when we have Christ as our Rock. Courage that we can weather storms with each other. And courage to believe that this kind of strength and peace is possible through tragedy.

I sit here thinking about her smile, I’m reminded of the opportunities we have to touch the lives of people around us every day. May we be firmly planted on the Rock so we can boldly weather the storms together.

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Walking with Burdens

I look at this and think about how much I try and carry on my own sometimes. Does it look as ridiculous as this?

Found on flickr.com

Found on flickr.com

I’m in a season of realizing the load I’ve been carrying is too much for just me. I need those who can help shoulder the load and walk with me. And as I confess that with trusted friends, I find there are others… many others, who feel the same. Put simply – we are recognizing that we need each other. 

Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.”

When I first saw the picture, all I saw was the huge load of baskets. And then I realized… there were three of them, sharing the load, walking together – a load made a bit more manageable. 

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Identity

Tonight, a friend and I spoke to a group of high schoolers about identity. It was a good lesson, a good tag-team. And I think maybe a few kids might think about it again :) But really, teaching is so good because it forces me to tackle myself head-on and get to the meat of the issue. There’s no better way to clearly define your own identity is than when you have to explain it to someone else.

Found on tumblr.com

Found on tumblr.com

In ways probably typical to an American teen, I struggled with self-worth. It didn’t take much to see that the world around me thought I wasn’t enough. Wasn’t trendy enough. Wasn’t pretty enough. Wasn’t thin enough. I thought my identity was mostly in the “was nots” of my existence. It was debilitating.

But Christ was working too… and those self-worth issues slowly gave way over the years to grace and a gentle nudging. It was a start… a start to the realization that the Bible was true when it talked about finding our identity from the Spirit within. These verses became a beautiful mystery in my heart, ones that I would ponder many times (and still do).

Mark 8: 34: 38 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

I love the journey that teaching about things like this takes me on… It’s with a full and thankful heart that I could honestly say tonight these words.

I think if you ask anyone who’s sold their life out for Christ and lost their identity in him, they’d tell you that they’ve never felt more alive and full and whole. Somehow, Mark 8 happens “whoever loses his for my sake and the gospel will save it.” I have never been more sure of who I am, where I belong (not this world) and what I believe than in this growing, crazy journey of dying and following. And that is far more assuring that a list of credentials and “identity” scams the world keeps trying to throw at me. 

Identity. Perhaps ambiguous. It’s personal and scary and something that can only come from deeply within. And I think perhaps one of the most liberating pieces of self to uncover.

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Becoming Miracles

This quote has been speaking volumes to me. I’ve had it stuck in my bible for a long time and flip to it periodically… It really hits home in those moments when I feel stretched to the very limits of my stamina and capabilities (which seems often lately) that this comes alive for me:

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks! Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle—you shall be the miracle.” – Phillips Brooks

Portrait of Haitian woman

Perhaps in my weakness, Christ can really be made stronger.

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PS – In light of just returning from Haiti, I’m finding this very interesting. It’s a really great site packed with info: http://www.globalslaveryindex.org/country/haiti/