Positive Energy (A Sequel)

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Are you an energy enhancer or are you an energy drainer? (I first wrote about this in my 3/17/13 blog.  Since then, I have continued to wrestle with the concept.) Are people happy to see you coming or do they go out of their way to avoid you?  The answers to those questions might reside in the critical question: what do you bring to the party?

I can clearly remember the first time I started to wrestle with the questions of energy enhancement.

I had just encountered a friend at the grocery store. It started as a classic encounter: ‘hi, how you doing’ ‘fine’, ‘how are you?’ ‘life sucks’ and a litany of grey sky perspective poured forth.  It felt like I was encountering Eeyore from Winnie-the Pooh.  The only difference, this Eeyore was in front of me and his personal gloom was on steroids.  I came away from that encounter with a new commitment.  From then on, I committed to seek out and engage energy enhancers.  To this day, given a choice, I will always choose to be with those whose energy is contagious.

That raises the important question: what ingredients do all energy enhancers have in common?

I believe that there are three critical ingredients that a person must have if they are going to be an energy enhancer.

One: energy enhancers are comfortable in their own skin.  They like themselves and they are be committed to being themselves.  Liking yourself is not a narcissistic type of self absorption.  It is a healthy self love/appreciation that develops out of true humility. This is a humility that is based upon who we are and it is girded with an understanding of who we are not.  Therefore, it is an understanding that we are made in the image of God and we are very unique and special in His eyes.  Understanding and appreciating that we are God’s unique creation will, hopefully, fuel our commitment to be 100% authentic.  What you see is what you get.  That sort of authentic humility is profoundly contagious and very empowering.

Second: energy enhancers are excited about their own personal mission and vision.  People that have spent time wrestling with the big question of meaning and purpose, have (quite often) been drawn to the process of discovering why God has put them on the face of the earth and why they have been given the gifts that they have.  This discovery of personal mission & gifting, provides a reason to get out of bed and it provides energy to focus the hours in the day.   Focused, passionate intensity is the empowering gift that comes with knowing the reason for our being, why we are here and where we are going.

Third: energy enhancers choose to live in the present moment.  The drain that comes from yesterday’s memories or the anticipation of tomorrow’s opportunities/challenges distracts us from being all here, right now.  When we can be totally present to the present moment, then we can feel and appreciate all that is happening and we can engage with passion and intensity.  Life is designed to be a contact sport that is lived most vibrantly in contact with the present moment.

Today’s question: are you an energy enhancer or an energy drainer?  Are people excited to see you coming?  What do you bring to the party? Are you bringing it, right now, with an attitude of joy & thankfulness!

May our lives, this day, be a hallelujah from head to toe!

 

 

The Best Day Ever!!

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The alarm penetrated the dark, calling me to the kitchen and the switch on the coffee pot.  As the coffee pot began to perk, I started to focus in on the day  ahead.  I knew it was going to be a good day….even though the sun was far from illuminating the world.  Yet, as I focused in on the thought that today was going to be a good day, I began to wonder….how did I know that today was going to be a good day?  I started to wonder, to question….what was going to keep this good day from being a great day?  More importantly, how could I ensure that this was going to be a great day?

As I reflected upon the journey from good day to great day, I quickly realized that a number of times I had thought a day was going to be great and it left me disappointed.  In a similar sort of way…..there have been many days when I thought it was going to be an average day and it turned into a spectacular day.  My desire is to have more and more average days morph into outrageously great days.  I want those days to blur into the category of being the best day ever (BDE).  And that raises the critical question…..what is my role in making today the best day ever??

Maybe the journey to (BDE) has more to do with what is going on inside of me than what is going on outside of me.   A quick evaluation of my recent history with (BDE) would indicate that this is true.  It seems that the very nature of my expectation that this will be the BDE sets me up to be disappointed.  That is the nature of expectations.  Expectations set me up to be disappointed because “this” does not compare with what I expected.  And even if this day, this event, or this moment did meet my expectations, I might take it for granted because it is nothing more than what I expected.  The very process of taking that which ‘might be’ the BDE for granted allows that day to be a ho-hum.  Because, after all, it is just what I expected.

In order for a day to really be the best it has to stand out, it has to be unique.  That uniqueness happens most often when I allow myself to be surprised by the present moment.  The surprise and the appreciation of the present moment is that which contributes most consistently to the creation of the Best Day Ever.  Therefore, do I see, in the current moment, the ingredients for the best day ever.  Do I see the sunrise? Do I smell the freshly brewed coffee? Do I feel the warm breeze on my cheek? Do I sense the encouragement in a friendly smile? Is the meal in front of me a disappointment or a delightful source of energy? The night of sleep & rest that was just experienced, is it a gift of replenishment or something I do not even notice? Do I realize that the very awareness of the littlest of things is that which contributes most significantly to my being surprised by joy and enveloped by the best day ever.

Being a student of the art of appreciation is that which contributes most consistently to my experiencing the Best Day Ever.  Therefore, it is critical that I take nothing for granted and in everything I say thank you.  The real question for all of us, this day….are we going to be aware of the smallest of things? Are we going to take nothing for granted? Are we going to appreciate all that we have been given that our joy might be full?

I am convinced that being aware and thankful are the critical ingredients for TODAY being the best day ever!!!

RE-joice

Joy or Happiness

  It was a classic evening meal.  It was a great evening meal.  The boys were home and we were sitting around the table talking about all sorts of topics.  Into this mil eau came the topic of joy.  I asked them….what is the difference between happiness and joy?  We bantered this around a bit and I got up and went to my study to grab Webster’s Dictionary.  By the time I came back to the dinning room table with my tome in hand, they had their phones out and were doing their own research.  The difference between the generations reared its head, once again…….but the conversation continued.

The boys were making a case for the idea that happiness is an attitude or mind set that transcends the situation.  They were of the opinion that some people are just happy and they bring that attitude, that buoyancy into any and all situations.   I was making the same sort of case for the concept of Joy.

I was and am, of the belief that joy is a concept that transcends ones life situation.  If joy truly transcends one’s situation then how does that happen? I would like to suggest that the basis of our Joy is to be found in our relationship with the God of the universe.  Paul in his letter to the Philippians says this: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”  It is important to note that Paul is writing these words from a prison cell.  Therefore, it is safe to say that his situation does not dictate the source of his joy.  Yet, Paul encourages us to rejoice. The key to this joy is our ability to return to our joy.  And what is the source of this Joy?  It has to be wrapped up in our understanding of who God is and how it is that he made us.  

Let me review a few of my key beliefs.  These fuel my joy, a joy that transcends my situation. 

Key one: I am made in the image of God.

Key two: I am called into a relationship with God because He loves me.

Key three: when I respond to that call to relationship, God’s spirit starts to live within me.

Key four: filled with His loving spirit, I become His ambassador to a hurting world.

Key five: I am of infinite worth because of who He is & what He has done in me & what He want to do through me  

My joy comes from the incredible fact that the Lord of the Universe loves me, desires me, seeks me, empowers me and rejoices in & through me.  That is the source of my joy! 

That joy cannot be taken from me because it is not about me.  It is about Him and His love! If happiness is situational…..then it depends on what is happening.  Joy is transcendent and transformational It is about a relationship that is unconditional!

 As we move into this new year, I would like to encourage you to reflect upon the source of your Joy. What is the source of your joy?  Is it situational? Is it transformational?  

May we rejoice and give thanks as we celebrate all we have been given! as we celebrate a new year!  

Old Friends

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I first met Joe and Harry while I was in graduate school in the late 1970s.  At the time, I did not appreciate who they were or the depth of their insights.  Now, thirty-five years later, I am starting to appreciate the significance of their thinking.

Joe Luft and Harry Ingham developed an information processing tool that is known as the Johari Window.  It is a way of understanding what we know about ourselves and also, what we do not know.

The concept is that each person has four quadrants. Quadrant one is that part of a person that is known to others and it is known by the individual. This is known as the open arena.  This is the information that one puts on a resume or posts to Facebook.

Quadrant two consists of that information that is known by others but is not known by the individual. This is often referred to as a persons blind spot.

Quadrant three consists of that which is known by the individual but it is not known by others.  This is the hidden area of a persons life.  Normally, this is the area that we hope nobody will come to know.  Discovery in this arena often leads to a sense of shame and it is fueled by a fear. This is the fear that says: “if you knew me, you would not like me”.

Quadrant four consists of information that is unknown.  This information is not known by the individual nor is it known by others.  Because it is unknown, it represents an arena of great adventure as one sets out to discover that which they do not know about themselves. The greatest sadness is to think that there is nothing to discover.  This sort of thinking usually develops when an individual sees themselves as quite simple or they see themselves as all knowing.  Neither of these positions facilitate learning. Both are based on a false understanding of who we are. Neither arrogance or ignorance, when left unexamined, facilitate growth.

Once we start to understand these four quadrants, then we need to explore what it means to grow within these four quadrants.  I would suggest that the starting point for this growth rests within quadrant four.  The quadrant that is unknown to self and to others, is the quadrant that is known only by God.  It is within the context of a relationship with God, the one who made me, calls me, empowers me and loves me that I have the possibility to really start to discover the totality of who I am.  Here I have the possibility of starting to see and understand myself through the lens of the one who created me.  I start to know and be known in new and empowering ways.  This knowing combats that which is unknown in quadrant four.

An encounter with the Divine in quadrant four is transformational and empowering.  It allows me to enter into community and into relationship with humility and confidence. Open, honest, and loving relationship becomes the context for growth in quadrants two and three.  I know that in the context of relationship I can allow you to see what I have kept hidden because I know that my identity transcends our relationship.  I know that I can allow you to speak truth into my life because, no matter what you might have to say, that which eliminates my blind spots is that which allows me to grow.

Therefore, this day, as you and I reflect on the four quadrants of life…….the question becomes, will we enter into the adventure of quadrant four?  Will we risk encountering the One who made us in ways that will allow us to know and be known?  Out of the intimacy of that knowing will we have the courage to look at our blind spots and reveal that which is hidden?

This might represent the ultimate adventure.  Live life……choose adventure!!

The Gang

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Once a year ‘the gang’ gets together. This year they were gathering in Breckenridge and they were coming to my house.  I was looking forward to seeing them and to hosting them.  I wanted the house to be cleaned up and welcoming.  I was wanting them to be impressed…..or at least, I wanted them to think well of me.  It was my turn to facilitate an adventure.  Hopefully we would push our limits and explore the edges of our comfort zone.

There are six of us in ‘the gang’ and once a year we get together for three days.  Our goal is to show up, have fun and be uniquely present in each others lives.  We have committed to being very open and honest with one another. Our hope and our goal is that our transparency and our vulnerability might facilitate our personal growth.  Ultimately, we want to encourage one another to be the men that God is calling us to be.  We want to be vibrantly alive!

How do we do this thing called growth?  It all started a few years ago when we said….in various ways, we want more.  We want more of life and we want our lives to make a difference.  Toward that end, we decided that once a year we would get together and report in.

This reporting in is a very humbling experience.  It feels a bit like an annual physical.  You know the drill…..the doctor asks you all sorts of questions, takes your pulse, your heart rate and ultimately asks you to bend over and cough.  It is all quite humbling but, in the end, very healthy.

We report in on life.  Each guy has 1.5 hours in the ‘hot seat’.  During that time he gives an update on his life, the highs, the lows and the in between. He lets us know how he has been doing on the projects that he said he wanted to work on. Then, we get to ask him questions.

The questions are not easy…..they are challenging/invasive.  They are the kind of questions you would hope that nobody would ever ask.  They are the kind of questions that speak of love and facilitate vulnerability.  The questions tempt me to be dishonest.  The care & concern behind the questions, coupled with my desire to grow, compels me to be honest.  My fear, if you know me…..you won’t like me, is diminished by their love.  The Gang knows me and they still like me.  They still love me! Maybe I can move forward.

At the end of our time in the hot seat, the gang prays for the guy in the hot seat.  There is something quite good and quite humbling about having others pray for me.  Those prayers seem to call out the best in me and for that I am thankful!

It has been said one cannot truly know God without knowing oneself and one cannot truly know oneself without knowing God. (Calvin)  That is very true!  I am convinced that ‘the gang’ helps me to know myself.  I am convinced that they help me to know God as they embody His love for me.  I am thankful for the guys in the gang and the growth they facilitate!

I pray that you might be blessed with a ‘gang’!

Be encouraged! Amp the Joy!

The Run

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Imogene Pass (13,114ft.) is located between the mountain towns of Ouray (7810Ft) and Telluride (8820ft.), in the southwest corner of Colorado.  The gravel road that connects these two towns is a serpentine remnant of the long abandoned mining industry.  Now, tourism is the economic engine that puts paint on old buildings.  The abandoned mining roads see the tire treads of rented jeeps and high tech mountain bikes.

Since 1974, Ouray and Telluride have hosted the Imogene Pass run.  On the first Saturday after Labor Day,  1500 runners come to Ouray, eager to test their legs and their lungs on the rocky road that winds into very thin air as it connects these two towns.

The road from Ouray to the top of Imogene Pass is 10 miles long as it gains 5,310 feet in elevation.  Along the way there are aid stations for the runners to replenish their dwindling resources.  There are also a number of cut off points.  These points are time checks for the slower runners……if you do not keep a minimum pace than you will need to turn around and retrace your steps.  This is for the safety of the runners and the volunteer workers.  Afternoon storms are quite prevalent in the high mountains and it is best to not be in an exposed location.

As I mingled with other runners at the beginning of this run….I experienced more than my usual anxiety.  I was keenly aware that I had never run this much, up hill.  I was not sure my mind and my body were up to the task.  I was also aware that I had never run this much….. downhill!  I was not sure if my joints were ready for this abuse.  I was keenly aware that the cut off guardians might tell me to turn around.  Failure would be clearly defined.

People who have successfully completed this run talk about a concept called IFM.  Incessant Forward Motion is the key to success.  As long as you continue to move forward….you will be successful.  I was convinced that I could keep moving.  It might not be pretty, but I would keep moving.

The other thing that people told me is that when I run down hill, I need to keep my weight ahead of my feet.  If I experience a ‘falling’ sensation, than I will know that I am running in a ‘joint friendly’ manner.  Most of my downhill running has been about my heels striking the ground first and my joints absorbing the shock.  Being a heel striker might work well on a flat surface but it is not ideal for old joints on 7 miles of rocky downhill.

The starting gun sounded and I started to move.  My mind was asking the question….can I make it?  Then I asked….can I make it in style?  What are the style points in such a difficult endeavor…….do not whine!

Then I focused on the critical application points.  IFM……keep moving, even if you have to crawl.  Run downhill like you are falling and link your recoveries.

I finished that run in the town of Telluride.  It was fun, beautiful, painful and life giving.  I am more committed than ever to practice IFM and to link my recoveries. I want to do life in style….I will not whine!

Presence

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Two friends, both on a different coast, sitting in hospital rooms, waiting for a loved one to recover.  The chances of complete recovery are very slim.  Life, as they have known it, has changed forever.  What are they left with?  What greets them this morning?

They are greeted, this day….with a new day.  This new day is full of questions, it is full of waiting, it is full of uncertainty.  Will she live?  Do I need to find long term nursing care, hospice care?  What will our days look like? What will my days look like?  Is this the reason we have been together all these years?  Will our resources last?

God, where are you in the middle of this?  God, why have you been so silent?  God, do you care?  What are you wanting me to learn from this?  The questions rage inside, erupting into tears of frustration and groans of desolation.

In all of this there are messages from Scripture that seem to rattle around in my head and cause me to wonder.  “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  “Ask whatever you will and it will be given to you.” “Rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice.”  ” Have no anxiety about anything but in everything let your request be made known to God.”  “Ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete.”  “Never will I leave you.  Never will I forsake you.”

This morning, in the silence, there is life in review.  I admit that I do not understand very much. But I do understand that You, the Creator, have blessed me with life! You have called me, You have empowered me, You have loved me and You have allowed me to love others.  Out of the middle of my current chaos, I am aware of the incredible gifts that You have allowed me to experience.  You have allowed the life & love of others to speak to me of Your love.

Now Lord, as You call me to love this person…..help me to love her unconditionally.  Help me to understand that I am called to be Your presence, in her life. Lord, help my friends, as they sit in that hospital room, to know Your love and to understand that they are the conduit of that love.  Lord help all of us to be Your agents of Your unconditional, reconciling, healing love….this day.  Therefore, knowing that You are doing something in and through us…….may we rejoice and be glad.  You have blessed us to be a blessing!

To Connect

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This week I purchased an  Amplifier Signal Booster for my cell phone.  It is designed to do one thing, amplify cell phone signals.  In theory, it will allow me to continue conversations even when the signal is low and I am flirting with dropping a call.  Hopefully, it will allow me to maintain a connection even as I am driving through some of the remote areas of Colorado.

One of the joys of my life is that I get to live in the mountains of Colorado.  I see this as a great gift and I try to never take it for granted.  Therefore, when I jump in my pick up truck, I want to be available.  I want to be able to continue conversations just like my urban friends.  More importantly, I want to be able to plan the connections and therefore, the disconnections.  It is frustrating to have a conversation dictated by the location of a cell phone tower.

As I have reflected upon my desire to be connected…..I realize it is driven, in part, by my desire to be disconnected.  There is something very, very good about being ‘off the grid’.  I love being in those places where I cannot access technology.  Yet, I want to be disconnected in a way that allows me to relax.  I have come to realize that I can relax when I have planned to turn off technology.  When technology is interrupted, when it fails and I am not able to meet an obligation, then I am aware of significant internal tension.

In my world, today, there is an implicit expectation that I will be available  24/7.  And, if I am honest, I want to be wanted and therefore, I want to be available.  I fear being marginalized and moving to the sidelines.  So, I stay plugged in, I stay available and ultimately the ubiquity of amorphous expectations takes its toll and I must say no.  I must turn it off.  That is the only way that I can ‘turn it back on’ with a sense of freshness and sanity.

As I reflect upon my issues around connection/rejection, I reflect upon my connection with the Lord of the universe.  I am aware that He desires connection with me.  His desire for connection is beyond my ability to understand and/or appreciate.  I wonder, what is the best way for me to boost & amplify my connection with Him?  

I am convinced that if I am going to amp my connection with Him, I must learn to turn off the technology.  I must learn to quiet my inner cacophony.  I must learn to sit in silence and solitude that I might be positioned to hear His still small voice (1Kings19:12).  I am quite certain that His voice whispers: “I love You!” That message must be amplified with in me so that it overwhelms the noise of my culture.

That message is transformational!!  May we be transformed, Today!

The Season

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At 9300 hundred feet in the mountains of Colorado, autumn comes early. The growing season is almost non existent. Before too long, the ski areas will start to blow snow onto the slopes.  By Thanksgiving a new ski season will be upon us.  One season…..summer? comes to an end and a new season…..winter begins.  Autumn is quite short.

The calendar year begins January 1.  It often starts with anticipation, celebration and great resolve.  This year, I am going to do something different.  This year I am going to accomplish all those things that have been on my list for so long.  This year will be different.  Yet, by March my life has settled in to its ruts of routine and and I have implicitly embraced mediocrity.  I do not like many parts of the me that I am.  Maybe, part of the problem is that the new year begins in the middle of a season: winter.

Maybe, we would all be more successful in living out the resolutions of our life if our new year started with the school year. In many ways, it seems like the new year really begins with the beginning of the school year.  (The school year should begin with Labor Day.  To start earlier is quite unAmerican.)  The new school year definitely represents a new beginning.  We are in a new grade, we have a new teacher, we have new pencils and we have a new opportunity to write on a clean slate. We even find ourselves buying new ‘school clothes’, with a hope that if we look good we might do good. In a similar way, the football teams start the season with a clean record and a new opportunity to impress.  Autumn is a season of new beginnings!

If we look at the calendar, we would say we are at the end of Q3 and we are moving into Q4.  From a business planning perspective we would say the same because of accounting and tax requirements.  But from a very pragmatic, personal perspective, I would suggest we are at a beginning point.  I find that encouraging and empowering.

Therefore, at the beginning of this new school year, it is appropriate to ask: What are the classes that I need to take?  What are the lessons I need to learn?  Who are the teachers, the best teachers, and how do I get into their class…..even if that class does not contribute to my degree program? Am I listening? Am I taking notes? Am I asking good questions? Am I getting ready for the test that is coming?

But, maybe the biggest questions revolve around one question: Am I committed to being a full time student, for the rest of my life?  Learning and growing are intricately intertwined!  Therefore, how committed am I to my personal growth, to my personal journey, during this new school year?

A new school year is beginning.  Are you ready? Set your alarm clock, you do not want to miss class!