Five Minute Sherpa

an espresso shot of thoughtful guidance

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Parenting as a Vehicle

Parenting. Hordes of books dominate the shelves of bookstores, teaching you the love languages of kids, the brain rules, and even how kids raise parents (which is my most suggested book for current and aspiring parents). There are classes, techniques, and even some really stringent cult-like ideas that all hope to help parents master the art of parenting.

I enjoy referring to parenting in football defensive references. If a family has two kids, it’s “man coverage,” with 3 kids they are in zone coverage, and with four or more, the all important (and most anxiety producing for a football fan) Prevent defense. It’s clever, I know.

The truth is, no metaphor, book, technique, or principal can help to prepare someone to be a parent. And yet, we all need help to shepherd us along the way.

It’s really hard work, and mostly exhausting to deal with free-willed little people who refuse to be your robot.

Go to bed. Unload your dishes. Be nice to your sister. Pick up your clothes. Turn off the lights.

If you’re a parent, you get it. Most of the time parents are directing, pointing, teaching, yelling, and ending the day praying the kids turn out ok. It’s the ultimate journey of faith, trust, and powerlessness.

Parenting is the vehicle that gets our kids onto or nearby the launching pad for their lives. Each kid has their own unique launching pad. Sometimes parents don’t see that different kids have different needs, which produce different lifestyles, goals, and vision for their lives. If we take all our kids to the same destination, the same launching pad, only one is going to pleased.

This vehicle is the container that provides safe travel while the journey is still in the confines of childhood. Slowly, methodically, and gradually the kids will begin to branch out and become curious about their world. More often than not, a kids curiosity will trigger a parents fear of losing control. This fear, left undressed or unexplored, leads straight to the command center of the kids’ launching pad.

As a fearful parent, I want to be in the command center. I want to be in the control room that has the correct flight plan, path, and coordinates for my kids rocket. I want to know what is going to happen, where they are going, and that they will be ok. In reality, I just want to be ok. My kids are an extension of me (they’re still in the early journey of curiosity), and if they hurt, so do I.

It’s easy for parents to be in the mindset of putting the kids in an auto-piloted vehicle, and retire to the control room where they can push the buttons, speak commands, and remain aloof from the reality of the kids who are in the vehicle. This is the safest form of parenting, but it’s not really parenting. It’s more like a warden, a boss, or an autocrat.

James Masterson, a therapist and author, says that the role of the therapist is to be the guardian of the true, real self. Not surprisingly, this is a lot like the role of a parent. Our role is to guard our kids from buying into the lie that posturing, faking it, or performing is what works. It’s our job to show our kids that money doesn’t buy happiness, nor does money solve the real challenges of life.

The ultimate challenge of parenting is to cultivate a relationship, the vehicle, that allows for safe return from misplaced curiosity, foolish choices, or damaging actions.

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On Being Needy

I think most people would agree that no one wants to be a needy person. We usually distance ourselves from those who have little to no ability (as adults) to help themselves. The problem is, that we are all people of need, and this is a very uncomfortable position. If I admit to needing something (which is different than wanting), this means I don’t have the ability to self-produce everything for my life.

My inability to self-produce all that I need for my life is evident at every moment of the day. I need oxygen to survive and there is no way for my body to get oxygen without breathing … which is an involuntary action. I can only tell my body to stop breathing for so long, and then it takes over and starts breathing again. I am not in complete control over my body, nor anything else in life.

Our needing help from others is like breathing. If you stop breathing as much, you will become a burden to others. This is the same with our relational and emotional needs—if you stop needing relationship with others, you’ll become a burden. No one wants to be in a relationship with an overly needy or needless person. Sure, we often complain about how needy others are around us, but the reality is some of these needs are exactly what draws us to people. (It used to be that we needed others to tell us what our faces looked like because we had no ability to see ourselves — technology has removed that need, among other things)

I feel useful, which is a sense of self-worth, when I am able to give something that I can do to someone who doesn’t have that ability. Certainly we can get caught up in becoming addicted to helping others (codependency), but at the heart we all need to give away that which is a natural resource within us. Our resources are there not to keep to ourselves, but to share with others. When I’m able to share my natural abilities with others, it’s a gift from them.

I don’t feel all that useful when I’m asking for help. It’s hard and vulnerable to ask for help, but it’s also a gift. If I don’t ask for help, I’m preventing someone else from the ability to share their resources with me. Not asking for help is incredibly prideful and selfish. Relationships won’t last long if you withhold needs.

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The Way We Heal

The way we heal the wounds in our lives is to tell the story. Tell the story of your harm over and over again until you are no longer limited and harmed by what has happened. This is the essence of therapy … to become familiar with our own truths (and lies) and live honest and peaceable lives.

You cannot do this alone. We are not unbiased about our wounds, nor the words we use to describe our experiences. We need others to hear our stories, and to help us to see parts that we’d rather not see. Parts that we hate.

Untold stories (secrets) poison our hope, dreams, and relationships. Yes, there is much pain in these stories but pain is only there because there has been a fracture of relationship. Just like cold is not it’s own created thing, it is the absence of heat, so too is pain. Pain only exists because a relationship (love) has been broken.

If we cannot forgive those we hate the most (and this doesn’t mean that we have to like the person we’re forgiving), we will never be able to accept the forgiveness of others. Telling our secrets—our stories—is the process of grief, of forgiveness.

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Habits to combat anxiety and depression

Last week I spoke to a group of people about developing healthy habits to combat the effects of anxiety and depression in our lives. Everyone experiences both anxiety and depression at some point in our lives, usually on a fairly regular basis. Below are the notes from my talk.

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A man who suffers before it is necessary, suffers more than is necessary.  ~ Seneca

When we feel that our fears are too big for our own capacity, we begin shutting down. Our creativity, resourcefulness and ability to make decisions are all sabotaged by the anxiety or depression we feel about our lives. This is the essence of shutting down.
As with anything in life, we can generally take some kind of behavior and do it in such a way that makes it unhealthy. The following are a few ways that I have found to reduce stress and increase our ability to cope with the anxieties of our lives.

Ways to limit anxiety/depression effects:
1. Limit your intake of information. 
     – facebook, social media
     – tv, other ‘screens’ (computer, phone, etc)
Our phones, screens, are devilish little creatures. They promise productivity but really only add an additional layer of distraction from what we all say is most important in our lives: relationships.
We are not made to be alone, yet so much anxiety comes about because we feel so alone.
2. Start a journal
Storytelling has been the language of healing since the beginning of time. We all have a story to tell, despite most of our beliefs that our stories aren’t really that interesting. Movies and music are so popular because they are short stories that take us to the places we can’t go on our own.
Journaling is one of the most therapeutic exercises that I know of.
Write about life, thoughts, feelings, emotions, loves, hates, indifferences. When you begin to write, you invite healing and restoration.
3. Exercise regularly
We’re a health conscious society. A lot of this is for reasons of vanity, but deep down we all long to be cared for and loved. Unfortunately we usually go about getting that care and love through unhealthy ways, including working out.
But, working out because it is kind to your soul, body, and mind is a great way to reduce the effects of stress, anxiety and depression.
When you work out, you are telling your body that you care, and a funny thing happens when you begin caring about something: you treat it better. It’s not rocket science, yet most of us behave as though going to the gym and eating well is akin to building our own space rocket.
4. Make and set goals
If you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time.
Goals are like the tracks on a railroad … they guide you to your destination. They themselves are not the destination, rather they are the boundaries and help you need to get where you are going.
If you are a neurotic goal setter, try limiting yourself to the number of goals that you set so that the goals themselves don’t become the way that you judge yourself. If you don’t normally set goals, try to be as specific as possible.
Set attainable goals. If you want to run a 10k, give yourself time to train so that you’re not forcing yourself to get too fast to the starting line.
5. Read enriching material
I have a insatiable appetite for reading, but not everything I read is worthwhile. I spend a lot of time reading articles and other random hubs of information that can sometimes border on an addiction. I love historical fiction and will generally read 5-6 of these books a year, usually in succession to each other.
I get bored easily with non-fiction and I rarely find a book that is so good that I read every word. Most books I put down after reading the first few chapters and skim the remainder. I learn a lot this way, but I used to feel shame about this being the way I read.
Someone said that the only thing different about you in 20 years will be the people you meet and the books you read. This is a great mantra to live by. Set a goal to read x number of books a year, go out and learn about something. This will do a couple things for you.
 — ONE, it will expand your world. We live in a bubble here in the USA, even more so here in middle TN. The majority of the worlds problems happen here, but we are very insulated from them. This is one of the biggest factors that I see in people struggling with their identity, anxiety, is that we know at a core level that the world is not a safe place, yet so much of our ways of life here in the US are about safety.
David Brooks, the editor for the NYT, says that America is a secularized version of Heaven. We have tried to create a place that is free: Free from violence, pain, suffering, poverty, and difficulty. In a lot of ways, we can’t handle the freedom that we are afforded here in the States.
— SECONDLY, reading books will help you to get outside of yourself. One of the big struggles people have is that our culture is too me-centric. We are not meant to live in such a narcissistic way, and our anxiety is telling us that this is a problem.
Reading forces you to confront your own biases, meet new ideas, and wrestle with your dogmatic ways of living life.
6. Reflection time in morning or at night
What we fear, we hate. And what we hate, we avoid.
We can’t manufacture feelings. What we can do is to set aside time and space for processing so that when we do feel what we feel, we can have a place to feel these things. If we are constantly trying to escape our feelings, through people of things, then we will not be comfortable feeling what we feel.
Tell the story of the boy going to the desert. He’s afraid. Rightfully so. Only by going to the desert with a trusted guide will he learn to face the fears on his own. We can’t expect to handle situations that we’ve never faced before.

The U.S. is a culture that values doing more than being. We don’t rest well, which means that most spaces and places of our lives are filled up. We are a culture of performers, of doers. Unfortunately, when cultures are driven by performance, doing, addictions and life controlling habits flourish. Said another way: We fill our lives up with stuff. Shopping, Toys, Food, alcohol, internet, reality (not really) TV shows, porn, and drugs are all ways that we medicate the reality that we don’t have enough capacity to get what we want.

It’s impossible to live life for long as a human doer. We are human beings. We’re finite creatures with needs that sometimes defy age, logic, and reason. We’re not the great conquerors and rulers of life that we want to believe we are. As the poet and songwriter Lenoard Cohen once said, “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

Living life with spaces, pauses, takes great discipline. It also takes acceptance about our limitations and finitude. We cannot perform as though we are whole creatures and value brokenness and faults. Not all spaces — in all aspects of life, physical, emotional, relational, mental — are meant, or need, to be filled. Rhythms create space. What rhythms are you practicing?

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Peace

This season is so full.

Holiday parties, shopping, Christmas cards, kids activities all dot the calendar landscape. It’s only 30 days or so between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it might as well be one week. It sure feels that way.

Too much the antithesis of what I want this season to be about, though I realize I’ve dug my own hole and booked myself and family too much. Each year I anticipate the peace that the Christmas season promises, and each year am saddened with how busy it becomes.

It’s loud. Too loud. People shouting, shoving, and posturing on Black Friday. Others leaving notes on cars because they weren’t parked “correctly” in the mall parking lot. So much of the busyness is self-inflicted … and yet I wonder if this is an age-old dilemma.

I wonder if the fullness of the “holidays” are akin to what God-fearing people felt as they waited and anticipated the coming of Christ. Perhaps they too felt full and maxed out. They needed the Savior to come and relieve the tension, anxiety, and worry. To save them from themselves. To save them from trying to buy happiness, contentment, or fairness. They needed Christ in the same way we do.

Maybe that’s why Christmas day is about the only day of the year when many of us stop our normal comings and goings and accept peace. Accept the truth that we don’t have what it takes, but someone does and he came. For us.

I’m glad He came.

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Adversity Matters

(Authors note: This article was originally published in September 2012 at StartMarriageRight.com)

I had someone tell me the other day, “Samuel, I’ve dealt with it. I’m done and have moved on. There’s no changing the fact that my husband just won’t love and care for me the way I need him to. I don’t feel anything about it anymore, I’m apathetic. Numb.”

I engaged with some questions to hear more about her apathy, and found the opposite to be true. She was locked in the battle of such intense conflict, she was doing everything in her power to shut down and numb her life.

I’m not sure about you, but when I’m truly apathetic about something, I don’t talk or think about it anymore. Not caring about something creates silence, or a lack of attention. Silence is the only true evidence of an apathetic spirit. The problem with apathy is that until we’re six-feet under, it’s impossible to be completely apathetic. We humans have too much hope, passion, and desire to be alive and fully numb at the same time. It’s just not possible.

Just last week I ran across this website, which highlights 20 or so young women who have taken some sort of movement towards addressing an issue in the world. They have all started with an idea and have built it up to become, in some instances, a thriving social justice platform. Each of these women have embodied the spirit of hope that resides within all of us. I don’t personally know any of these women, but I’ve met many like them and I can promise you they have suffered greatly for their passion.

They have chosen to bleed, sweat, and cry instead of giving in to the ease of anesthesia by way of food, sex, tv, or isolation.

The woman above who claimed to be apathetic is actually caught in a struggle very familiar to all of us. It’s the struggle of choosing to face or dim the pain. Seneca, a Roman philosopher, exclaimed that the bravest sight known to man is to see someone struggling with adversity. Bravery isn’t contingent upon victory, it’s about showing up and facing the difficulties of life. Just as hope is the enemy of apathy, so bravery is to failure.

Whether you want to face it or not, there is adversity in your life. It might feel as distant as your divorced parents, or as numb as your sexuality because of the abuse. The truth is, adversity has often been seen as your unwanted companion in life. This adversity might not show it’s true challenge until later in life, when some trigger summons it’s memory. In choosing marriage, one is inviting these distant adversaries to take residence in your home.

Some of the adversaries are specific stories, such as the time when your cousin inappropriately touched you, the times your father was violent, or when your best friend committed suicide. Each of these deserve your suffering and attention.

Though it may be paradoxical, knowing your adversary is a blessing.

These are the stories representing a cornerstone in your life. Some aren’t so fortunate to know what foundational moments to point to in their life.

It may be that there are no such traumatic stories in your life, which in and of itself in a different way may be traumatic. Sometimes the lack of suffering in life produces intense internal conflict, “why am I so unhappy, I have everything I’ve ever wanted,” or “there is no reason for me to be sad, but I am sad.” I often hear people asking questions about their own sufferings in comparison to those in worse situations. Usually though, comparison only leads to minimizing. The reality? If my hand and your finger are both severed in an accident, it doesn’t make the pain of a severed finger go away by comparing it to my severed hand.

If Psalm 73 is true, all of us experience some level of peace and orientation in life. This season at some point deteriorates and a period or season of disorientation sets in. This is followed by a period of reorientation or a new orientation. It’s the equation for maturation and growth. We start off in one direction, get thrown off that path (by our own choosing, or someone else’s), and then redirected onto a new path.

Perhaps your path today is taking you to something you’re incredibly hopeful about, like marriage. Let me be the first to congratulate you and cheer you on. Marriage is an exciting and wonderful adventure. It’s a hopeful union. Be confident and courageous in your new journey together.

Be on the lookout for emotionally numbing, apathetic responses towards your spouse and life, or unrealistic expectations of the other person.

When adversity happens, take time to consider the source and get help working through that with your spouse. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is in the kingdom of Heaven.” Your suffering or adversity is your ally: Will you allow it to be?

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Book Excerpt: The Great Divorce

Editors note: I read this book in college, but have recently been reminded of one particular story that seems apropos for modern day life. CS Lewis wrote this book describing the differences between Heaven and Hell. It’s a story of people visiting both places, and as they near Heaven they appear as ghosts. The below excerpt is a poignant example of how difficult it is to let go of things in our life, especially the harmful things. In short, we cannot live fully if we resist the pain associated with change. 

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I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder. Like all the Ghosts, he was unsubstantial, but they differed from one another as smokes differ. Some had been whitish; this one was dark and oily. What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. “Shut up, I tell you!” he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then be turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains.

“Off so soon?” said a voice.

The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.

“Yes. I’m off,” said the Ghost. “Thanks for all your hospitality. But it’s no good, you see. I told this little chap,” (here he indicated the lizard), “that he’d have to be quiet if he came -which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won’t do here: I realise that. But he won’t stop. I shall just have to go home.”

‘Would you like me to make him quiet?” said the flaming Spirit—an angel, as I now understood.

“Of course I would,” said the Ghost.

“Then I will kill him,” said the Angel, taking a step forward.

“Oh—ah—look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,” said the Ghost, retreating.

“Don’t you want him killed?”

“You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.”

“It’s the only way,” said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the lizard. “Shall I kill it?”

“Well, that’s a further question. I’m quite open to consider it, but it’s a new point, isn’t it? I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here—well, it’s so damned embarrassing.”

“May I kill it?”

“Well, there’s time to discuss that later.”

“There is no time. May I kill it?”

“Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please—really—don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”

“May I kill it?”

“Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.”

“The gradual process is of no use at all.”

“Don’t you think so? Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well today. It would be silly to do it now. I’d need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps.”

“There is no other day. All days are present now.”

“Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did.”

“It is not so.”

“Why, you’re hurting me now.”

“I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.”

“Oh, I know. You think I’m a coward. But it isn’t that. Really it isn’t. I say! Let me run back by tonight’s bus and get an opinion from my own doctor. I’ll come again the first moment I can.”

“This moment contains all moments.”

“Why are you torturing me? You are jeering at me. How can I let you tear me to pieces? If you wanted to help me, why didn’t you kill the damned thing without asking me—before I knew? It would be all over by now if you had.”

“I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?”

The Angel’s hands were almost closed on the Lizard, but not quite. Then the Lizard began chattering to the Ghost so loud that even I could hear what it was saying.

“Be careful,” it said. “He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever. It’s not natural. How could you live? You’d be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn’t understand. He’s only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn’t for us. Yes, yes. I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams. But aren’t they better than nothing? And I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again. I’ll give you nothing but really nice dreams—all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent …”

“Have I your permission?” said the Angel to the Ghost.

“I know it will kill me.”

“It won’t. But supposing it did?”

“You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.”

“Then I may?”

“Damn and blast you! Go on can’t you? Get it over. Do what you like,” bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, “God help me. God help me.”

Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken backed, on the turf.

“Ow! That’s done for me,” gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.

For a moment I could make out nothing distinctly. Then I saw, between me and the nearest bush, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the upper arm and the shoulder of a man. Then, brighter still and stronger, the legs and hands. The neck and golden head materialised while I watched, and if my attention had not wavered I should have seen the actual completing of a man—an immense man, naked, not much smaller than the Angel. What distracted me was the fact that at the same moment something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. At first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed. Its hinder parts grew rounder. The tail, still flickering, became a tail of hair that flickered between huge and glossy buttocks. Suddenly I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with mane and tail of gold. It was smooth and shining, rippled with swells of flesh and muscle, whinneying and stamping with its hoofs. At each stamp the land shook and the trees dindled.

The new-made man turned and clapped the new horse’s neck. It nosed his bright body. Horse and master breathed each into the other’s nostrils. The man turned from it, flung himself at the feet of the Burning One, and embraced them. When he rose I thought his face shone with tears, but it may have been only the liquid love and brightness (one cannot distinguish them in that country) which flowed from him. I had not long to think about it. In joyous haste the young man leaped upon the horse’s back. Turning in his seat he waved a farewell, then nudged the stallion with his heels. They were off before I well knew what was happening. There was riding if you like! I came out as quickly as I could from among the bushes to follow them with my eyes; but already they were only like a shooting star far off on the green plain, and soon among the foothills of the mountains. Then, still like a star, I saw them winding up, scaling what seemed impossible steeps, and quicker every moment, till near the dim brow of the landscape, so high that I must strain my neck to see them, they vanished, bright themselves, into the rose-brightness of that everlasting morning…

“Do ye understand all this, my Son?” said my Teacher.

“I don’t know about all, Sir,” said I. “Am I right in thinking that the lizard really did turn into a Horse?”

“Aye. But it was killed first. Ye’ll not forget that part of the story?”

“I’ll try not to, Sir. But does it mean that everything—everything—that is in us can go to the Mountains?”

“Nothing, even the best and noblest, can go on as it now is. Nothing, not even what is lowest and most bestial, will not be raised again if it submits to death. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. Flesh and blood cannot come to the Mountains. Not because they are too rank, but because they are too weak. What is a Lizard compared to a stallion? Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering, whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.”

— Quoted from The Great Divorce (1946), New York: The Macmillan Company, pp. 98-106.

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Love Your Faults

Deficiencies, blemishes, and faults are what make us lovable, yet we’re constantly told by ads and media that blemishes need to be covered up, eradicated, and hidden. The reality is the bumps, oddities, and faults in each of us is why we’re able to form bonds and relationships.

Think of it in terms of painting or wood finishing. Before paint can adhere to a surface, the surface needs to be roughed up. WIthout the grooves and crevasses created by the sand paper, the paint would fall off the surface. It’s why painting a finished piece of glass can be easily scraped off. Glass is smooth, finished, and lacking dimensional depth.

Relationally, this is an odd paradox. Most of us strive to be without the need for others, yet cannot last very long on our own outside of relationships. The difficulty is that some of the rough spots and patches in our lives that make us lovable are very tender, swollen, and in lots of pain. You can love me all you want, but don’t touch too long or hard on these spots or I’m going to react accordingly.

So why are we afraid to be deficient? Because perfectionism, performance, and having it together are celebrated as tenants of successful people. Rarely will you see a rock star, public figure, pastor, or other famous person exposing their bumps and bruises authentically. It’s just not what we naturally do as humans. Yet all great stories are great because they contain rocky sections, failures, or deaths.

The great “success stories” aren’t great because of the end, but because of the process and journey taken. If you want to love and be loved, you’ll have to get cozy with your faults, and others’. If you’re perfect, you don’t need me and I don’t have anything for you. Blemishes don’t work well to sell magazines, but they show us that we people are indeed human. When people can see that you’re human just like they are, friendships are born.

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Stay Here And Feed Your People

 

One of my favorite podcasts is The Moth, a story-telling organization that hosts “story nights” around the country.  Audience members, similar to the Price is Right, are the stars of the show. They get on stage and tell a story, sometimes in reference to a theme of the evening, and they do this without notes. It’s often exciting, usually moving, and always beautiful. Stories make the world go round, and The Moth offers an intimate glimpse into some of these stories.

Last fall, The Moth hosted a “Grand Slam” event that brought 10 storytellers to the stage, and they competed against each other for the title of Grand Slam Winner. This event was in Chicago and was hosted by the Peter Sagal of the NPR show, “Wait, Wait, Don’t tell Me.” (Wait Wait is another one of my favorite podcasts.)

Towards the end of the show, Sagal was sharing a story of his own. He had a friend, Morgan, who helped to put on a develop plays in the local theater. During this time in her life, Morgan began asking questions about her own significance and place in this world. Consequently, she became a huge fan of Mother Teresa. When Mother Teresa came to town Morgan found her at her hotel and to meet her.

Morgan expressed her admiration and respect, and said she wanted to join her in Calcutta doing work in the orphanages. Morgan said, “The work you do is wonderful and important, I want to come with you to Calcutta.”

Mother Teresa replied, “No. You don’t do this work because you think it’s wonderful. You do this work because you so love the poor people of Calcutta that you can’t be away from them. That’s when you come and do this work.”

“What do you do?” Mother Teresa asked.

“What I do isn’t important,” Morgan said. “I work at a theater and I help put on plays. What use is that?”

“There are so many different kinds of famine in this world,” Mother Teresa said. “In my country, there is a famine of the body. In this country, there is a famine of the spirit. Stay here and feed your people.”

Who are ‘your people’?

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The Opposite of Poverty

A Historical Perspective

A few months ago my wife asked me what is the opposite of poverty. My first thoughts were related to money; wealth, being rich, or having enough. The more I thought about it, the less I considered financial categories as able to explain what it means to be impoverished. My answer today?

Wisdom.

Wisdom is the opposite of poverty. It implies knowledge, understanding, and the wherewithal to resist fleeting temptation. We get wisdom from history, others, and our own story. Wisdom is a historical perspective.

When we get a splinter in our foot, we wear shoes the next time we go out. When we bounce a check, we make sure to balance our checkbook. When we do something that results in pain, wisdom teaches us (if we’re willing to listen) to do it differently next time.

Wisdom is available for all who are willing to learn. If you are without wisdom, no amount of money or possessions will keep you from folly.