All posts by Chris Marshall

Living the life you can’t see

blindfolded

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

I have spent the majority of my adult life as a champion ‘realist’ defined as “you never expect good things to happen, but maybe you’re just a realist, a person who uses facts and past events, rather than hopeful feelings and wishes, to predict the future.”  I suppose that realism can make you look pretty smart, the most accurate predictor of future behavior is typically past behavior.

The upside to realism may be this predictive wisdom but there is also a shadow side, it’s a defense mechanism against the pain of failure.  If you don’t put your neck out there to hope for something, then you’ll never have to experience the pain of loss.  Nobody likes pain, nobody likes losing, nobody likes the death of a dream . . . but is the choice to settle for safety in fact a deeper loss?  Brene Brown says, “If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.”  What I’m learning is that a stoic realism is not the best parts of life.  A life without vulnerability keeps us from love, joy, freedom and power.  That’s a reality I’m not interested in.

This will be my last week at my present job, for financial reasons my position was eliminated and rather than taking someone else’s job in the company, I’m following a call (a deep burden, tug on my heart) to enter into a future I can’t see altogether yet.  I want to lead, I want to write, I want to teach, I want to build community, I want to work at alleviating poverty and I want to sell a lot of coffee (my new side business).

In full vulnerability, I have no idea how this is going to work.  I am the only full-time income in our home and I presently have no prospects on another full-time job.  I have a Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate degree yet I’m mostly unqualified for the jobs I see posted.  My hope is not in the realism of my past, my faith is in a God I can’t see and in a future that is uncertain.  But I’m showing up in this stage of my life, I’m putting it all on the line.  I’m stepping forward, I’m not looking back.  It’s time for me to start living a life I can’t see.  

Come along and follow the story . . .

Elevated Thoughts

tv-heads

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

-Isaiah 55:8-9

We live in a world where we desperately need perspective. Wireless technology, over-scheduled lives, entertainment idols, 24 hr. news talking heads, consumer appetites and the American dream are all a chasing after the wind.  They often result in anxiety, stress, disorder, sickness, worry, disenchantment, entitlement, ungraciousness, self-serving attitudes and a manic fear of scarcity.  We worry that there won’t be enough, we won’t have enough and that it all revolves around us.  We’re wrong, we simply lack perspective, we need Elevated thoughts.

The world was here waaaaaaayyyyy before us and it will be here waaaaaaaayyyyy after us.  We aren’t a unique snowflake, we aren’t gods and rock-stars; we are simply parts of a larger whole, but we need perspective to see it.  Where can you stop and get Elevated thoughts from that is a voice other than the manic race of our modern world?  Who or what can sit outside the limitations of your present situation and have the power and perspective to speak truth into it?  I guess we all get to choose.

I’m getting back to choosing something very old; the Scriptures.  I’ve returned to reading 5-6 chapters a day of varied holy texts to fill my mind with Elevated thoughts.  Thoughts that are not of me, but are from a dimension outside of the one I’m living in but that interact with the unseen.  I’m believing that many of the answers for the future are in fact rooted in the past.  I’m seeking perspective higher than the voices around me, I’m looking for perspective that has stood the test of time.  How you think, then shall you live.  I want to live wisely, so I better choose my Elevated thoughts wisely.  Join me.

‘Crowds lie, the more people the less truth’

bono

Bono and U2’s rejection letter

‘. . . if it is the crowd which turns the scale – then there is untruth.’  – Soren Kierkegaard, The Point of View

Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime, Galileo was put on trial for heresy, Walt Disney was fired for ‘lacking imagination’, Spielberg was rejected admittance to the USC school of cinematic arts, Einstein struggled in school due to communication and behavioral problems, J.K. Rowling was on welfare when she started writing ‘Harry Potter’ and Billy Graham was told at his Christian college ‘he’d never amount to anything’.

Conventional truth may not be truth at all.  Culturally we push for social norms for ‘normal living’ and learning for pre-determined and safe results.

You know the American script:

  • go to school, play well with others, pass your standardized tests, learn how to sit up and do something you don’t like for 8 hours a day so that later in life you can mimic that behavior in something called a ‘job’
  • go to college, extend adolescence, rack up student loans, and learn that a ‘degree’ doesn’t mean a ‘job’
  • get married, have kids, tell them it was harder when you were a kid and like it, drive a SUV to soccer practice and Kroger because you are ‘totally adventurous’
  • save up enough $ through your ‘work’ life to save up 25-30 years of something called retirement where you apparently finally ‘really live’ in freedom, but it looks like collecting shells on the beach and eating dinner at 4:00

Pardon my cynical sarcasm, I’ve just never been one to accept the norm.  I’m leery of crowds and accepted truths, they make me skeptical.  Many times I’m far more attracted to the waters others are not in.  There just has to be better answers to life’s questions than in the norm of accepted living.  Do you ever consider pushing out to deeper waters even though you don’t know where that current will take you?

It’s a risk, maybe the crowd is safe.  But maybe the crowd is wrong.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

Fathering not for the faint of heart

fathering

Fathering in 2016 is not for the faint of heart.  One week ago today, 49 innocent children of other dads were fatally gunned down on that fateful night in an Orlando nightclub.  On the day of each one of their births, that was not the dream the fathers had the first time they held their babies in their arms.  I’m not sure a lot of dads talk about this, but I can say that most dads when they hold their newborns for the first time (aside from stark fear), get bonded to a commitment of sheltering, providing, strengthening and dreaming big for their little nugget.  We hope for the best, we don’t envision nightclub massacres as young adults.  For those of us who didn’t have kids in that space last week, our kids lived the trauma through the stories and images of the news-feeds.  None of us immune to a society at war, violence is our cultural tapestry.  This is fathering in 2016.

I’m not interested in gun rights or laws, that’s a reaction to protect physical bodies, I’m interested in a higher virtue.  How do we protect our kid’s young hearts and minds against such trauma?  This is not the only one, it was just the next one.  How do we raise young men to cherish and protect the value and virtue of women when they are exposed and entrapped to the lies of pornography the moment they discover the power of the internet?   How do we protect the self worth and original beauty of our daughters in a world of insecure selfies begging comments of adoration, celebrity idol-worship and the photo-shop wonders of multi-billion dollar beauty industry?  Hey Dads, we are not the only ones who want to shape our kid’s minds and hearts.  There’s a lot of money out there shooting to own them, it’s profitable to these systemic evils to enslave them for a long life of consumerism to their goods and services.  This is fathering in 2016.

What’s my advice after 20 years of such fathering, here’s my take:

  1. Be present – You have a powerful voice and presence in your kid’s life, own it.  Don’t leave a chasm of space physically or emotionally for something or someone else to fill, it’s yours first, embody it in the life of your child.
  2. Love their Mom – If you are still together, show your son what loving, cherishing and serving a woman looks like.  If you are not together, honor that relationship in front of them.  Negotiate time well and keep your personal remarks to yourself.  It’s their Mom, honor that for them no matter how painful it is for you.
  3. Choose your words – your words have the power to build up, your words have the power to tear down.  Don’t misuse your power.  Be a man, have the strength to choose your words wisely.  Any fool can fly off the handle dispersing poison.  Embrace wisdom instead, you carry power to change a reality with your words.
  4. Grow up – You’re a Dad, you did adult things to bring another human into the world, you are not a child.  Grow up.  It’s not about you, walk out into your adult-self with confidence and a freedom to be the adult you always wish someone would be for you.  Your future is wide open with opportunity, don’t retreat back, grow up into it.
  5. Don’t give up – You’re not perfect, Dad.  You may have already broken my advice commandments 1-4 already today, welcome to the vulnerability of your humanity.  But in this moment, in the remainder of this day, don’t give up.  Your kids will hold out hope until the day you die that you will be the Dad they always dreamed of and you still have today.  They believe in you; I’m begging you for you to believe in you.  They need you, don’t give up on your best self.

Fathering in 2016 is not for the faint of heart, leadership is not for cowards.  It’s time to show-up, Dad’s.  The future depends on it.

Everybody has a plan, until . . . .

“Everybody has a plan, until you get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson

tyson1

Don’t know about you, but I’m a bit of a planner.  I like spreadsheets, I use them, but I’m not that kind of planner.  I’m more of the internal processing, always analyzing, obsessively weighing options and scenarios until I come upon a plan that more or less seems full-proof. (yeah right)  You know, the kind of planning that seeks to obliterate the pain of failure, the avoidance of risk and basically make all your bad feelings feel good.  You know the cliche, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail“.  I’m a huge fan of due diligence and the avoidance of unneeded risks.  Life’s resources are valuable, protect them at the best of your ability.

But, if this is not your first day on planet earth, then you know that even the best made plans do not work all the time.  Life just has a way of punching you in the mouth. (tell ’em Iron Mike)  It has the power to dismantle your fiercest planning and obsessive thinking away from undesired outcomes.  The bully of circumstances doesn’t care about your spreadsheets or pre-determined results, it gladly will infect a virus into your mental hard-drive to over-ride the orderly circuits.  Life is not often completely linear, it doesn’t follow a straight-line.  It’s at times a mystery, a ball of confusion and a menace to the mundane.

Life will punch you in the mouth, but the only relevant question is so what?  So what do you want to do about it?  You want to enjoy the comfort of the canvas?  If you stay down you don’t have to risk getting hit again.  If you stay down maybe life won’t kick you while your down.  There is another truth though, if you stay down then you quit, the bully wins.  There is only one thing that gets you off that canvas when you’ve been knocked down; an unrelenting spirit to not give up.

I’m a Jesus-type of a guy and we have this persisting part of our story that describes the 6 hours one Friday that Jesus got punched in the mouth, we call it the Cross.  It was a day of doom, all seemed lost.  The hero, the model, the perfector of our faith; killed at the hands of his own creation.  In John 20 after the death of Jesus, the scripture says that while it was cold and still dark ‘Mary got up’ and went to the tomb.  Why is she getting up off the canvas?  It would be much easier and warmer just to stay in bed, stay comfy and safe.  Why go to the tomb and risk more heart-break?  Is it because she believed something we could too?  When she got to the tomb, the stone had been rolled away, God had sent an angel to tell her all about it.  Jesus took every punch death could give him and it couldn’t keep him down.  The Resurrection changes things, death no longer the bully, takes it place in surrender to the One who authors life.

So life WILL punch you in the mouth, it WILL alter your plans, it might knock you to the canvas.  The relevant question when you are down is:  does He still send angels and does He still move stones?  You get to choose what you believe, you can get up.  Jesus-types have a nasty habit of rising again.

 

The 3 lies I tell myself

“The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept.”  ― George Carlin

Pinocchio

Self-talk is a tricky thing and we all do it.  The messages that bounce around between our ears play a huge role in the behavior that comes out of the rest of our body.  These agreements tell us how to perceive the reality of the world around us.  They can dictate if we think we are winning or losing at this thing called life.  They filter our values and point us to what we think is true.  It is in this private world that we may unknowingly deceive ourselves and thus limit who we can become.  There is a kind of beauty when the lies we once held true crash like a window-pane all around us and invite us into an opportunity to reconstruct what is our core truth and understanding of who we really are and why we are here anyways.  Here are my typical bullies of untruth:

  1. I don’t have enough –Myth of Scarcity, sounds like this, tell me if you’ve heard this song: If I just had ‘X’ then I would be happy.  If I had as much as ‘X’ then I would be as happy as they are.  Everyone else seems to have ‘X’ except for me.  The only thing between me loving my life and me not being left-out is ‘X’.  The consumer hyper-marketing messages all around us only re-establish the stronghold of this kind of falsehood.  The ‘X’ is a job, more money, a vehicle, a partner, a raise, a home, a place at a table you are presently not at, a greener pasture etc.  The lie is that I don’t have what I need to be fulfilled right now.   That with more I’d be okay, but with my present reality, the recipe just doesn’t bake the cake.
  2. I am not enough – Myth of Mattering, sounds like this, tell me if this rings true:  I am not as good as ‘X’, I’m not as smart as ‘X’, I’m not as accomplished as ‘X’, I’m not as talented as ‘X’, ‘X’ seems to get all the breaks, no one would choose me, if people knew the truth about me they wouldn’t be interested.  The lie is that I don’t matter, everyone else matters more.  What the world measures as valuable is all the things that I don’t have or embody.  If I was more like ‘X’ then I’d finally be valued and okay.
  3. This is enough – Myth of a Closed Future, sounds like this, tell me if you’ve seen this movie:  Tomorrow will be just like today, this is all there is, things will never get better, since I failed before I will always fail in the future, things just don’t work out for me, I better accept the tyranny of the present because nothing is going to change.  The future is a closed opportunity, it is only more of the same.  Accept reality, the future is closed, this is all there is.

What if I told you none of these are true?  Like you, I am on a journey of deeper discovery about who I am and what this world is all about.  For the past 15-20 years I would have labeled myself a chief cynic, a realist who coldly, and harshly just dealt with the way things were.  Pains, disappointments and perceived failed attempts convinced me that these lies were true.  What I didn’t know was that my agreements with these falsehoods actually created a system of thinking that was a self-fulfilled prophecy.  I believed them to be true so that is how I behaved, I acted, I reacted, I perceived how my world was developing.  A more careful examination tells a different story.

I am a faith guy so I start with the truth I was created and placed in a world that has always been enough to sustain and multiply a diverse creation of unbelievable beauty.  The creation feeds on itself in a unique design where life creates more life and never tires of it’s recreation.  The creation has all I ever needed, nothing leaves me in want.  When I was created, I was designed with both a certain amount of unique giftings as well as some limitations (not weaknesses).  I don’t carry all the Creator’s strengths, but I have some of them and I’m at my best when I am reflecting his identity in how he created me.  There isn’t another me, there is me in this time, in this place, in this community to matter in ways I have even yet to discover.  As Dallas Willard put it, ‘as water is meant to run downhill, so you were destined to count’.  The future is not closed, it is ripe with abundant opportunity to learn more, grow more, discover more, love more, create more, enjoy more, serve more and experience more.  If there is breath yet in me, the future is pregnant with a birthing of the next opportunity to be uniquely me.  The lies have the stench of death, the truth smells like hope.

What if I told you that you have enough, that you are enough, that the future is open with opportunity?  Would you believe me?

“18-21 That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. 

22-25 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s withinus. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.”  – Romans 8:18-25 (The Message)