Sunday, May 11, 2014

10 Months for 10 Minutes

"Excuse me…. may I ask you a random question," I said, pushing through my introverted shell and interrupting the personal space of a complete stranger. "Is your name……?"

It was late morning last Thursday, and Robyn and I were in San Diego celebrating an eigth-month belated anniversary (20 years), enjoying a leisurely ride on two rented beach cruisers along the marina. It was nearing the end of our four-day stay, and we had plenty of time before us. We were supposed to catch a plane and return to Arizona later in the afternoon, but we extended the trip one more night; sometimes you know you need a little more of something, and this was one of those times. Now we weren't leaving till tomorrow.

Before breakfast, Robyn wanted me to read a chapter in Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me. It was all about the author's memoirs of his kids jumping off the high rocks into the natural pools, and his fear of his eight year old falling off the forty footer. But the eight year old got past his fear and jumped, and it was a turning point. So we talked about falling into something verses jumping into it, and how God probably likes it when we push through our fears and try jumping. We were also talking about being more consumed by God and caring less about clarity in life and the redundancy of always asking, "now what shall I do, and how, and where, and why……" We were finally settling into that place where you simply start wanting God himself more than his blessings, and it's enough…even more than enough.

So we ate French toast and went on a bike ride.

Soon we were riding past sleepy houses with dark green lawns and rose bushes. "Would you pick that house, or that one?" I asked Robyn as we meandered along the path. "That one," she said, playing along, and as we glanced up, we noticed a man walking down from his back deck to a white adirondack chair on the grass. We continued riding past but then stopped a few houses down. "Is that who I think it is?" I asked Robyn. "I don't know…what are the chances?" There was only one way to find out, and it required some jumping in. We got off our bikes and walked back.

Excuse me," I said. "Can I ask you a random question?"
"Sure," he said, leaning forward in his chair.
"Is your first name Bob?"
"Yes it is." I look over at Robyn, and she has that speechless smile.
"By chance is your last name Goff?"
"Yes, he said, smiling." I look again at Robyn, and we both know the crazy significance of this moment, so crazy because it began last July, ten months before this day, although we had no idea at the time.
"Um, could we take ten minutes of your time and tell you something truly amazing about this moment?" I ask, smiling in disbelief at what's transpiring.

"Sure, come on up. You guys have to try some of this humus. Let me grab you some water. I'll be right back."And there we are, sitting in chairs, holding bottled waters, chatting with Bob for ten minutes or so about Jesus, life, people. Sharing a few glimpses of our lives together in his back yard. Completely random. But not at all.

Because as cool as it was to meet Bob Goff  (author of Love Does) and hang out in his back yard, something so much greater was happening. The kindness and tenderness of God was happening, and you could taste it.

On July 13, 2013, ten months prior to this, I was finishing Love Does. I was inspired to love and to act with a little more boldness, even audacity, after reading about Bob's life. My official 20 year wedding anniversary was just a month away, August 7. I wanted to surprise Robyn with something bigger than usual, even though she's not the kind of person that looks for that. So I wrote Bob Goff an email in July. I told him I enjoyed his book, that I thought we might be similar in our wiring, that we'd probably even hit it off if we hung out. And so I asked him if I could spend part of my 20 year anniversary next month with my wife and him at his home up in the Pacific Northwest, wherever he lived. If you've read Love Does, that's a fairly modest, unassuming request. I made it clear that I knew this was a long shot, that he is extremely busy, and that I probably wouldn't hear from him, and it was O.K. If anything, it was a good exercise for me to do something out of the ordinary, even if it's just writing a different kind of email.

The weeks and months passed. I never heard anything. My life took some unexpected and rather hard turns, and we kept delaying our anniversary celebration month after month till the following Spring.

So now it's May of 2014. We decided to go to San Diego for a few nights. Born and raised in familiar Southern California, it's not exactly an over-the-top destination, yet simply being together with uninterrupted time at the coast was ample, even abundant. We were going to unwind, unplug, replenish. Even if it was nine months postponed. I had long-forgotten about the email I had sent to Bob the previous July, the email where I asked  if I could join with him for a bit as I celebrate my 20th. Ten months went by since I wrote it, and in ten minutes it was redeemed.

And then somewhere between a blink and three seconds the tenderness of God swept over me and through me as I set the bike down and walked back a few paces to the man on the back lawn. The email may have slipped past Bob, but it never left God's desk.

"Is your name Bob Goff?"
"Yes it is. Come on over and sit down…"

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

20 Years Today

20 years ago today I married Robyn L. Shields. We've slept next to each other most of those 7,330 or so nights. I was 21, she was 20. I know it's real, but at times the whole thing seems too good to be true. Before her, I was never much of a catch for girls. I was their friend who was a guy who was there for them to talk to about their boyfriend. But when Robyn came along, it was like deep calling out to deep. Sure, we started as friends and hung out at the beach and laughed a lot. We had this great blend of light-hearted humor and profound conversation, sort of a weaving between the two. I remember one summer night in 1992 in Laguna beach walking on PCH. We had spent the late afternoon at the Sawdust Festival, then a romantic dinner at Splashes in the Surf 'N Sand, in the lower section outside with the spray of the ocean misting over the plexiglass while we sipped on ice waters and Pepsis. And then it was the live art at the small outdoor ampatheater, Pageant of the Masters, which, on the scale of romantic dates, is pretty hard to top. So the night was over, almost, except for the drive up PCH back home to our parents' houses. We were walking slow on the sidewalk in Laguna to my truck. And somehow we began talking about the power of a knot tied with three strands, as opposed to two. And that there's this part of Scripture in Ecclesiastes that talks exactly about that, and we wanted to be like that. Because without God in our relationship, we'd be like a two-stranded knot, and everyone knows that two stranded knots don't last as long, and God designed it better and stronger by inviting himself into our mix, and that he probably wanted to be more than an occasional string and more like a permanent part of the knot. And so Robyn and I linked our fingers and swayed down the concrete sidewalk, watching shop owners turn off the lights and close up for the evening. We always drove home slow, because we wanted the night to go on, and we lived an hour away from each other, so we didn't see each other except for two or three times a week, a magnificent sacrifice for a 20 and 19 year old falling in love.

It was 1992, a few years before cell phones and internet, and so we talked on cordless landlines and wrote love letters, literally. It was the sweetest part of sweetness. We shared secrets, we unlocked each other's doors, we held each other's bodies, salty and warm, in the afternoon sand at the river mouth in Newport Beach. Our courtship was about restraint and anticipation, about being apart and being together. From our first date on May 10, '92, to the afternoon of my proposal a few months later at Hammonds Beach in Santa Barbara on Dec. 12, to our wedding day a few months later on Aug. 7, 1993, it was a walk in the clouds. And this isn't a glossed over rendition. Sure, we had some fights, some clashing. I was a surfer/beach guy, she was an inlander. I was working construction in downtown Long Beach, she was a server at wedding banquets in Glendora and volunteering as a counselor at Forest Home outside of Redlands. She was a faithful Missouri Synod Lutheran, I was a Calvary Chapelain. She was a student at Cal Poly Pomona, I was finishing at Long Beach City and transferring to Westmont College in Santa Barbara. But we were just ordinary kids who found each other rather quickly and wanted to hang on to this thing that was growing and shaping and calling us further.

And Robyn was beautiful. From the inside out and the outside in.

And 20 years later....well....she's the same and she's more.

I wish there were stronger words than "grateful" and "appreciative" because these don't satisfy the feeling in my heart when I think about her or this marriage of 20 years, this knot of three strands that's still tied and strong. We've had times of absolute depletion. We've been in fights that have lasted weeks. We've been disillusioned through family loss and exhaustion from physical work and generating income and making financial mistakes. And yet.    

There's a current of love and commitment that runs deeper than the things on the outside, the circumstances, the hard things. There have been times I've wondered at the speed or flow of the current. But it's always been there, no doubt. In fact, it's the thing that swallows my doubts and takes my fears. It's the current that feeds the relationship. It's pretty important that it's there. I'm grateful. I know for certain the blessing in my life. 

From day one we've wanted our marriage to be a light of sorts. We've wanted it to have a purpose, something beyond just living together and getting along and making a living. It's like giving back because you've been given so much. The beginning of our love, the making of our relationship on the Southern California coast in the early '90's, the depth and beauty of it-- we've always seen it as a gift from God who fashions beauty from ashes and makes weak things strong, all for a purpose to be lived. Our marriage, our friendship, our lives, are so far from perfect. There are glaring things in each of us that many people would recognize. But there's quite a lot of good. We've been given so much, and the gratitude I carry in my heart exceeds the fatigue and pressures of this life. I want the current to stay flowing, and whatever light there may be between the two of us to keep shining strong and well.

Today's my anniversary. Robyn's at the salon getting a massage and her nails done. I could spend this day writing 10,000 pages of memories and gratitudes, simply dwelling on the blessing of the last 20 years. With every thought come 10 more. But we're going to meet up in a little while. And so I'll be content to leave on this note, another Scripture portraying the object this morning's musings: my marriage, my Robyn...

 "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is of a good reputation, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

No Tip-Toe

I should be working now. It's after 8:00 am. I just let my two guys off for the day, told them to come tomorrow to start the new job. My left eye is sticking shut, and I keep catching myself in a blurred gaze toward the nearest wall. One hour of sleep, and all the day is before me. Canceling things, reshuffling schedules, letting it go. A yes to one thing is a no to three other things. I have to put it all back on the alter of faith. I've been trying to manage, balance, prioritize, and it's the equivalent of juggling ten lighted torches when I can handle maybe two. I've got to lay these down, find the Spirit-ordained rhythm for this day, the next two weeks. Some of the torches will likely go out, some will cause some fires, but the ones that remain will probably be the right amount of heat and light that I require for this path. And I'm not going to tip-toe around it. It's just going to happen. Sometimes you have to step gently into the water, but sometimes you have to storm it. You don't tip toe up to the alter of faith and lay out your burdens all neat and safe. You find your way there, spill them all out in a big pile, and then ask God for the grace to walk away from it in faith, hoping and trusting he will take it and set you free from it. Or maybe He will take some of it from you and give some of it back to deal with, but at least you know that it's been given over and acknowledged, and you should have some more strength to handle it for a while. That's what happens when you go up to the throne of grace boldly. You find help. There's more strength there. There might be more hands to juggle the lighted torches. Either way, you throw them down on that alter (I may even lay myself down there for a while; it's a big alter), you're not quite as responsible for all the stuff that overwhelms, and you come away with some clarity and peace. At least that's what I think. It's happened before. It's a promise from long ago that I still believe. It's just getting there that's the problem. Right now I don't have the energy to map it out and go slow. My gaze at that wall is still blurry. The burdens are heavy. So I'm just going to charge into it, and the sooner I can throw the heavy things down. I don't have the energy to tip-toe into the water; today it's going to be a pretty straight run.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Many, maybe most, people serve the god of utility. Whether you're a church person, a temple person, a shrine person, a or one who tries hard to keep a polite distance from anything existential, spiritual, biblical, or religious, you probably live your life with a high degree of measurability, or at least you strive to. People value the process of accomplishing, of being strategic, and often with no boundaries or checks. Usefulness is the litmus test, the paradigm that governs choices and behavior. You won't keep your job if you're not useful. If your SMART goals aren't met than something's not right; you need to adjust, alter, mend, and do it again, better this time. And this is all logical. There's a mound of things to address, to fix, to make, to write, to pay, to visit, to clean, to generate, to preach, to manage. We are innately utilitarian. We predict to control. It's the bedrock of the naturalist worldview, which says that we exist in a closed-system universe. No God. No divine intervention. No existential nonsense. No spirit, just matter. It's all up to us. Sophisticated molecular connections and interactions. Pure cause and effect. Scientific method, only. Empirical data. If I can't measure it through sound sensory instruments, it's dismissed, relegated to the underground of pious myth and archaic narrative. Interesting, maybe, but not true.

Assuming "true" is linear, progressive, rationally ascertained, governed by logic, and appropriated most fully through ventures of utilitarian nature. To me, that's like saying the Pacific Ocean can be put into an aquarium if we're carful and methodical. But it can't. Truth is uncontainable. We don't govern it, it governs us. We are invited into it, like a good south swell in the summer dumping six foot a-frame barrels on a sandy bottom beach break. We taste it. We get wet in it. But we can't predict it and control it, try as we do.

We ought not abandon our utility, only temper it. Utility is a tool, and that's it. What is the end of the striving, of the accomplishing, of the climbing? Rewards? Pats on the back? A release of endorphins? Probably, but that's not enough. The soul won't be satisfied with it. Utility needs to be tempered with play. Play. Sabbath. Play. Uselessness for a time. Shouting for your team in the bottom of the ninth at the stadium. Swimming out to the dock. Testing your four-wheel drive. Piddling at the cafe. Singing in the stairwell at a downtown building. Questing to accomplish, driving to fulfill demands, these have their place, but without play, it doesn't matter and won't matter. "Marley is dead," penned Dickens in his opening of A Christmas Carol, and his business partner, Scrooge, has pretty much wasted his life being useful. His end will soon be that of Marley's.  He never played. He was never chosen to play, and so he nailed that coffin shut and got on with it, making money and establishing security.

We've been chosen to play. We've been allotted the time. We've been given Sabbath.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Retracting from the Cold

The cold changes your skin. It becomes tight and protective. Caulking cracks on fascia in the mile-high altitude air in November, peeling off your 4/3 mil. wetsuit in the parking lot after a mid December surf session. Frosty air or salt water, your skin retracts from the cold. At first it feels good and fresh, even clean, like wiping oily skin with an alcohol swab. But after some more exposure, it wants to keep tightening, shrinking, and soon it has no choice but to split. Like a piece of leather or a new wineskin, it shrivels a bit, and while most of your body won't notice, it's your hands that pay tribute to the cold. There's a dullness that lingers and rises from the finger bones, and the skin begins to crack and split, leaving tiny fissures that sting and pulse in rhythm with your heart. It's the cold season, the time for gloves and Utter cream and hoodies. Because the cold wants to get past your skin and your bones, all the way to your soul.

I wonder how many people really believe they have as soul, because when you talk about the soul, people nod their heads, consenting to the existential truth that they are more than just a complicated mass of intricate matter. When you talk about your soul being alive, energized, tired, or lost, it's the head-nod, the acknowledgement that, yeah, I've got a soul, and it probably has a reason for being here, but let's stay tangible, even practical, O.K.? It's almost embarrassing talking about the inner life. It's soft, flighty, poetic, weak. And this spills into the idea of rest. For many, rest happens later in life, but today is the time for pushing and driving. It's living with the idea that time is short and scarce, and the harder I work, the more time I might have to do the things I really want. And the weeks and years evaporate in the cloud of pushing and driving, because this kind of time (the Greeks called it chronos) is a slave-master who devours stranger, friend, and kin (think of the Greek god Chronos who gorges his own child). But there's another kind of time, the kairos kind, which is time filled with purpose and potential and possibility. And our souls long for this.

 Because scarcity is not our purpose.

"The thief (think chronos) comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that you might have life, and that in abundance." John 10:10.

And it's anything but material abundance or earthly security. Jesus didn't have your 401K in mind when he said that. In fact, he was all about the soul. "Come to me if you're tired and weary and loaded with a heavy burden, and I'll give rest to your soul." Or "Don't bow down to the guy that can hurt your body, but rather bow down to God who, if he wanted to, could destroy your soul." I think Jesus had a less than poetic view of the soul. It is just as obvious as the sky above, and, because it's rugged and wild and beautiful,  it needs care, just like your teeth need brushing and your body needs sleep. And people live their whole lives without sleep and act as if they aren't tired, as if they don't carry a burden that someone else needs to lift because they're just too exhausted to set it down. The cold is setting in, the skin is retracting to protect what's underneath, and the fingers are starting to split and tear.

Sometimes you have to be invited to live differently. This is what Sabbath does. It invites you to stop bowing down to scarcity, to chronos, to your usual way of doing life. It asks you, not to work less and pursue leisure, but to discover the God-ordained rhtymn for your day, to ask the question, what is this time for? It invites you into abundance, to trust the Creator and Giver of time, to give your soul attention, to listen a little more, and to abandon the trajectory that leads to scarcity.

The cold season is here. Our skin retracts to protect, and it's starting to hurt. God says there's a way of life that's better, more restful, more abundant. We'll grow a little as we continue striving, through scarcity, but we'll thrive through God's rest and abundance. It's the place of true strength. "In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength..." (Isa. 30:15).

Monday, October 1, 2012

Preparing vs. Planning

What's more important, a prepared heart or a planned life? Is it a fair distinction? In the big picture, would I rather have a good plan or a right heart (if I had to choose). Maybe you can have both, maybe they aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, they're not. They could go hand in hand, like good friends. Yet it seems that one usually takes the lead over the other, and I'm not sure this is the way it's supposed to be. In this world where most people aren't very secure, myself included, the quest for security, stability, etc. takes front burner. Hence the plan. The goal. The objective to reach the goal. The data to confirm or falsify the hypothesis. The empirical rule. If security were a given, if it were already attained (and I'm thinking financial and job/career, primarily), then there would be room to think about things like preparing my heart for.... whatever. But honestly, most people value planning over preparing. Planning is measurable, tangible, logical, and necessary. I believe in it. I'm not great at it, mostly because I live in the enchanted world of what if's and could/should be's. This is a very misunderstood place, and it's extremely frustrating to live with someone like this. I actually do plan, whether it's hourly or weekly or yearly. It's just that I don't do it as well as my engineering type friends. We need plans, and we need good planners.

A prepared heart is another matter. To prepare the heart is to invite the eternal into the day, to submit to the God-ordained rhythm and to discover, usually by waiting a little, the path that has been prepared (not that there's just one path for you, but some are better than others, and they might not look right at first, but you still take it because you're trusting that God-ordained rhythm). This is why Sabbath is so good, because it steers you back to submission. You work hard, juggling, cramming, producing, generating, stewarding what you've been given for the week, and then you stop and breath again. You give in to the rest. You light a candle and say, "Life is hard and good. God is for me. True rest is from him, and this chunk of time is a gift from him to me." You let go, and that's the hardest part, because it puts your plans back on the alter, and you stay waiting and listening, trying to enjoy the release that comes from letting go and asking God to drive and direct your way.

I've been asking God to prepare my heart. In six weeks I'll be at a forum with people who actively care for church leaders. I'm hoping for clarity for the 10 10 Ministries vision God has evolved in Robyn and me over the last decade and a half. Part of me wants to just give it back to God and get on with my small life, and the other part wants God to release me fully into it. To bless and encourage and strengthen people who are tattered and broken by providing some space and rest and direction. To help people claim their heart and touch and observe and accept their soul, because it's starving to be touched and noticed and befriended. Because the work they're caught up in is strangling them and their spouse, and their children are adjusting again, creating normalcy out of scarcity.

It seems to require faith, and a lot of it, to lay my plans on God's alter as a way of life. It's one thing to think it, but quite another to do it, to say, at 6:00 in the morning, "Dear Lord, what shall we make of today?" Is their a more counter-cultural prayer than that? And then to actually wait for him, to actually believe that he's got a voice that you can hear somewhere inside, a voice that yearns to be heard and wants to lead me each hour of the day. So it's 6:30 am, and you're still waiting. Is that you, God? Try my anxious thoughts, lead me in the way everlasting. Lead me into the next hour. Sometimes God may lead directly, sometimes zig zag. Sometimes he won't answer until later in the morning, when you've committed to your day, your responsibilities. I guess it doesn't really matter when. The point is that you've laid your heart before him, and I think he's preparing it, whether or not you hear his voice or sense his lead. I'm just questioning whether he wants me to work to exhaustion each day. Sure, sometimes that's just what you've got to do. But as a way of life, I'm not so sure. What I know is that my heart teeters on the thin line of breaking from too much weight, and it needs the affirming touch of Jesus who says it's O.K. to stop the pushing, the generating, the producing, for a while. I give my heart back to him again. Repair it. Prepare it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

love, a little

I love my family. I love Robyn, my wife and partner of 19 and half years. I love Clayton, my 11 year old son, who loves professional baseball. I love Maddy, my 8 year old daughter, who loves Justin Bieber and One Direction. This is my inner circle.

I love my older sister, who lives in San Luis Obispo with her amazing husband Wade and her two children, Alex and Scotty. I love my mom and dad, even though I'm still angry because they divorced after 45 years of marriage. This is the next circle.

I love my wife's side of the family too. Sue, my mother-in-law, Traci, Marc, Arden, Emye, Scott and Collen, Brad, Joy. The list goes on a bit. The next circle.

And then there's the friend circles. John and Sandy, Dan Deeble, Dom and Kym, Mark and Julie, Scott and Sarah, Scott and Wendy. I love these people. I have some shared history. We've gone really deep at times. These are the close friends circle. And there's the more recent friendships, the ones covering the last few years. Balin and Judy, Kip and Kelly, Jeff and Kelli, Bob and Sheri. I know I'm forgetting some. These are people we hang out with occasionally.

All of these circles are the easy-to-love people (well, sometimes it's hard, but only sometimes). And if I'm honest, I don't really put out that much for most of them. If our paths cross, it's good. But I don't actively seek out how I can love them better (the exception being Robyn and Clayton and Maddy--I actually do sacrifice for them and try to love them in tangible and lasting ways. I know more baseball stats than most dads. I have Justin Bieber and One Direction songs all over my iTunes library. I vacuum sometimes.).  It's easier to love my closest family. It's a little less easy to love the next circle (in the initiating sort of way; my love for my extended family is always constant. I'm talking practical, like calling more often or getting together and hanging out). And then the friendships. Our times come and go, we love in the sense of "Love you, bro" (although a few of the above-mentioned go super deep, almost to the inner circle!).

So here's my quandary: there are two orders I'm supposed to follow when it comes to love. These orders originate in eternity somewhere, and they've made there way to this planet, to the species I'm a part of. I've accepted them as truth, they're a lot bigger than I am, and they're tried, tested, and proven. "Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself." And this second one is equal to the first in importance. That's the one that gets me. Loving people. I wish it would have been more specific, like "love your wife and kids as yourself." That would be manageable. Love God and love Robyn, Clayton, and Maddy. But the command is broad. It goes well beyond the first circle. It goes beyond all the circles, in fact. Love people. And not "love humanity." That's easy. It sounds real good, but it's and idea, and abstract. You can say you love humanity but it implies a distance. It's much more honest to love individuals than humanity. And that's why it's so hard, and few do it.

Sometimes, when I slow down and remember I have a soul that needs attention and I recalibrate and find God's rhythm for my day, I sense the joy and pleasure of loving others. Compassion and a yearning to see people heal and grow and thrive start to well up inside. But most of the time it's not that.  Most of time I am baffled to even consider the thought of loving others practically and honestly. There's just not time, and loving takes time. And it can be costly. I literally weigh it out. If I take the time to talk with or meet up with someone, even one of the easy-to-loves, it will cost me money. I'm self-employed, so every minute away from my job is a dollar lost, or put on hold till I get it done. I barely stay in the black each month, even with an extremely frugal wife who manages the budget. I know it's an illusion, but it's one that I buy into, and it's this: If I had more money, if things weren't so desperate each week and month when it comes to generating income for myself and my guys and then producing on time  the work I generated, if the margins weren't paper thin, then I would have space for the love to happen. I'd say to you, "hey, how you doin'? Sure, let's grab some lunch. You need help with a project this weekend? Yeah, I've got plenty of time. I'll be there at 8:00 with donuts." It's not like that. It has been, at times, it's just not now. Now it's like "Hello? Yeah? Uh, I can't really talk right now.Why? Because I'm on a 28 foot ladder on unstable ground leaning into the fascia with a 10,000 speed grinder squinting and inhaling fine toxins before it gets any windier. Why isn't this a good time, again?  Oh, because the migrane that I woke up with at 4:00 is only getting worse despite the 2400 mgs of ibuprofen that are ripping my stomach lining and leaving blood in the stools. Yeah, migranes, or migrane-like, what's the difference. Sure, I'll just take some time off from painting, from my weekly dose of toxin injections so my head can clear and my liver can do it's job." I suppose if you had a fixed income, you could entertain that thought, that you could have a sick day or vacation day and your budget wouldn't become fussy. But most of us in the contracting industry, especially the subcontracting, work until we're exhausted because it's sink or swim. And if you try to do it honest, like paying payroll taxes and comp and liability  and sales tax, your margins stay slim, because you can't keep passing on those costs to the homeowner or the other guys will get the jobs. So you work. And your body pays the toll over the years. Like prostitution. You sacrifice your body for money.

So to stop and take time for others (something I really want to do and try to do, because I actually do have some love in me), is not easy. I can't believe how selfish all this is sounding. I want to be known for someone who loves selflessly, who goes beyond the norm. But I'm depleted from providing and from the anxiety of generating, and so people usually experience me as someone on the emptier side and in need of more rest. So back to the illusion. If I had more money, I'd have more space, I'd have more time to actively love the people in my life. I'd be rested and filled and postured to give. I'd even stumble into that arena of loving my neighbor, the down-and-out guy whom no one gives the time of day to. "You will know them by their love..." Jesus challenges me, not in the shaming kind of way, but the curious, come check this out way. "We love, because he first loved us..." My little paradigm is about getting financial relief and space so I can love. But there's a bigger one, probably more tested over the centuries than my 40 years of experience, that says loving well doesn't start with preferable circumstances, but simply with God's love to me. Another risk. Another step of faith. I have to risk stopping the treading of water a bit so I can get some of that love. I have to believe that it's worth it, even if I sink a little (or a lot?). It is worth it. Just taking the time a few mornings a week to have a cup of good coffee downtown and blog out some thoughts before I jump through the hoops of the day. I push back the thoughts that say I'm losing two hours of productivity and generating income, and instead I listen for the Voice that says today is a gift, take it, let it change you, take my yoke, my rhythm, my love first. For me, taking love and giving love is such a real, practical, sometimes painful act of faith. They go hand in hand.