This rambling is very personal, and longer than most. However, I hope you can settle in and read it in its entirety. I have reflected a long time as to how best write this rambling, consulted close friends and hope I have hit the right tone in these words.
If this Rambling blog of mine is to be true to its stated objective—to be true to myself and to allow those around me “to get to know the personal side of Bob”—then I need to treat this subject as a VERB—taking the risk to talk about my personal faith.
I’m not here to tell anyone what they should believe—I’m simply sharing my personal reflections, to allow others to better understand who I am and what is important to me. Like other posts, this is not meant to tell anyone what they should do, it is at its best intended to challenge and encourage personal reflection.
Sit back, relax, and reflect on the heart of what I have written.
I not only want to know God, but want to live with God as my roommate—that close personal friend, that best friend, who drives me crazy because he challenges me and keeps asking me questions. He lets me dangle till we debate an answer, or at least the answer that sounds best after a few beers.
I have learned that having a deep guiding faith does not make you overtly weird, does not require you to stand on the street corner screaming your beliefs waiving a Bible, and does not prohibit you from having fun, but it does require you to be engaged in something that is personal and intimate.
Press 5 to Accept
Let me give you the Cliff Notes version of a story that resonated with me as I reflected on this post:
A friend received a call from Sandstone prison with a message that an inmate wanted to speak to him. If he was willing to take the call he was to “Press 5 to Accept.” After a brief hesitation wondering what the call was about he stared at the phone in the palm of his hand, and in an action of finality, curiosity, and determination hit “5.” On the other end, the inmate said although they had never met, that he had just finished reading one of my friend’s books and wanted to visit. That was the start of what would become a personal relationship between the two. And it began with the writing of the book and my friend’s willingness to Press 5 to Accept a call. A call that came out of the blue, to answer a curiosity, and developed—out of faith—into the belief that he could make a difference that would impact both his own life and that of the inmate, all by Pressing 5 and Accepting!
Press 5 to Accept resonated with me as it is the cornerstone of actions I have needed to take to deeply explore and intimately develop my faith as two personal and intentional
actions were taken:
- To be asked
- And to Press 5 to Accept!
This notion is further captured in another story found in a friend’s books (Thank you Terry Esau and your books “Surprise Me, God” and “Be the Surprise” for giving me insight, inspiration, and the permission to share your insight and analogy.) Terry’s analogy of fire, flames, and warmth captures what I have experienced in my life. I think of the many times I’ve sat around the outdoor campfire at the cabin. Although I could appreciate the dance and movement of the flames, I had this sense there was something missing, something that was preventing me from feeling the warmth of the flames. Terry’s books helped me in my journey to re-ignite my faith, to PRESS 5 and to Accept.
We can look fantastic, attend church, tithe, volunteer, be on church boards, help at food shelters, participate in men’s groups, you know, all the things that good faith-based individuals do to express their faith and feel that they have built an impressive flame. Don’t get me wrong, I believe these are all great things to continue doing as it is part of our belief and statement of faith. For me, however, I have discovered they did not provide all the warmth and comfort that I wanted or needed, I needed more! I was not feeling the connection with my God that was personal and intimate. In fact, I have discovered that in the past I did not even know what an intimate and personal relationship with God entailed.
This search for a meaningful relationship did not start and evolve until I was personally challenged. The person who challenged me did not realize how it impacted me as I said little. You see, in the past I had mastered internalizing my feelings. My fear of vulnerability and deep feeling of shame did not allow me to fully explore the answer with the person who challenged me , this was one of my biggest mistakes in my life that is with me daily and that I have no ability to correct, a painful lesson that I am committed to never let happen again.
This internalized fear of expressing vulnerability, tackling shame is something that I have worked hard to correct (I want to thank many, you know who you are, for your help in my conquering this flaw.). Actually I was so good at my internalization that the person who triggered this challenge distrusted—and maybe still does—my commitment and who I really am as to my faith and many other aspects of the real BOB.
That aside, I decided that stoking the coals because of missing warmth was important for my own personal reasons and I slowly and privately accepted the challenge to rekindle the coals for the warmth, not the sensational flames without the challenging person even knowing my efforts, here lies mistake #2, not communicating intent, actions, commitment and progress.
|What is your fire? Has it lost some of its warmth and comfort?|
What I have discovered is that this growing personal faith feels warm. I love pulling up my chair close to the fire to enjoy its warmth, something I do most mornings with reading and prayer, something that was so foreign to me as I NEVER did this in the past. Now, I look forward to making this part of my day. Yet even when there is no fireplace, I can still feel its comfort, as I reflect on how the glowing embers create the warmth. I have come to believe that the dazzling flames of the past with all of its grandeur provided a great look, but not the substance that was important.
I also realize that I want to have an active relationship with God that is intimate, and personal not passive. It is an ongoing process to develop a personal relationship that is between me and God, something that is a personal and intimate aspect of my life.
I have learned that faith brings me closer to those around me in a more rewarding and intimate way. Faith has helped define who I am and how I live my life. Faith has made me more willing to be vulnerable and honest with myself, to be more honest with those around me, more intimate in my willingness to connect and more receptive to others perspective and constructive criticism. What a wonderful evolution.
Let me digress a bit. I have come to believe that there are many events in life that are not an accident, not just coincidence. Instead there are very possible moments touched by the hands of God guiding me all along. Surprises you might say!
Living in an uncommon way
A few months ago, a friend invited me to attend a Saturday morning men’s gathering at Grace Lutheran Church. Over 3,000 men attended (isn’t that in itself amazing and comforting) “ARISE with the GUYS” featuring Tony Dungy, Jeff Siemon, Paul Molitor, Brian Dozier, and Thomas Davis of the North Carolina Panthers, to name a few. It was a superb morning listening to great athletes talk about who they are as a person, not what they do for a career. They talked with conviction about doing their best to live their lives with the mindset of the common man, you know, the man that is nothing special, the man who was created in the image of God, the man who is to serve, not be served and whose identity is not what they do, but who they are for the benefit of others. Their message spoke to the belief that Jesus did not ask us or challenge us to take the wide easy road, and to be true to whom we are, not what we do.
That day encouraged me to stay the path of being a common person living in an uncommon way in the warmth and comfort of our faith in who Jesus is and why He died on the cross for us. Uncommon, may be the wrong adjective, possibly “to live in a way that is not the norm” is a better way to state this. To live outwardly with the mindset that those “ragamuffins” and individuals around us are those who deserve our praise and servanthood, not always doing what is best to pamper our personal and fragile ego for comfort. (I still want to have fun and experience the grandeur of life and the world but with a bit more balance!)…(check out “God is present in desperate need with Brene Brown, posted on FB by the work of the People May 29 at 9:35am ).
The very next day, I was at church and the message was “Ordinary People.” The message again challenged me to further explore how I can more purposefully create or participate in activities that serve others. I dream about finding a partner who shares this common belief, someone with whom I can develop a common vision to develop good ideas to serve others. You know, belief shared in the form of an “US” in terms of life and relationship, to create a new heritage with a purpose.
These experiences, on two consecutive days, weren’t a coincidence.
The term ordinary is relative as it is a statement as to how you compare yourself to those around you, those you hang out with. This may not be that out of the ordinary if we hang out with like-minded people, yet, in the greater aspect of society, it can be way out of the ordinary and helps move the needle in a positive direction for those a few rings farther out from us and those we touch.
Isn’t that part of being a disciple and making our faith a verb? Is that not part of the action in how we live out our faith and an intimate relationship with our God who guides us and provides comfort?
I will end with a question:
What is your fire? Has it lost some of its warmth and comfort? Have you been asked to PRESS 5 to ACCEPT? If not, I AM NOW!