Posts Tagged 'inspiration'

New Ears Hear

"The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt

Music should mean something.

I have long maintained the virtue of song — or any art, really — is the ability to reveal common feelings with uncommon technique. The magic of inspiration allows one person to open their soul and, in so doing, give others the key to their own.

Sometimes we are reached in an unexpected manner, as though our eyes are opened and our ears hear for the first time all over again. Our brains are set ablaze and something of life makes sense to us, regardless of the artist’s intent.

This Fall, I became acquainted with the now-Grammy nominated Mumford and Sons.

The worship pastor at my church, a tall, blond Californian who would look just as appropriate holding a surfboard as he does playing a guitar, recommended the English folk band to me. I had approached him to express my appreciation for bluegrass-inspired renditions of our typical praise music and he encouraged me to give them a listen. He raved about the “passion” and “energy” as though the foursome had managed to corner the market in delivering emotion.

I headed to YouTube and did a search, then watched the most popular video, “Little Lion Man.” Sufficiently intrigued, I purchased Sigh No More, their big-label debut, and went about listening to it the next day during my commute.

From the very start, I felt moved.

Beyond the thumping rhythms and charged vocals, the words spoke to me — a rarity on anything short of the twelfth or fifteenth spin for a given album most of the time.

I could identify parallels between the lyrics and my blossoming life.

There are references to being made to meet your Maker and living life as it’s meant to be.

One song, though, continues to hit home more than the rest: “Roll Away Your Stone.” The title itself highlights the resurrection of Christ, yet an examination of the poetry contained within the four-plus minutes describes the soul’s rebirth. Have a look:

Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine.
Together we can see what we will find.
Don’t leave me alone at this time,
For I’m afraid of what I will discover inside.

Engaging faith is a lot like stepping into sunlight after enjoying an afternoon matinée — we stumble around confused and half-blind at first until we adjust. Encountering the past and evaluating attitudes is enlightening, to say the least. Sometimes we find a person we have trouble liking at all.

You told me that I would find a hole,
Within the fragile substance of my soul
And I have filled this void with things unreal,
And all the while my character it steals.

Coming to the end of ourselves, we find all the different means by which we attempted to cover up our ache for the Father. We realize what we’ve given up in doing so — the fools we’ve looked chasing money or the selfishness we’ve displayed towards others — and come to grips with the ramifications of that trade.

Darkness is a harsh term, don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I see.

We all wish those decisions had been better (though they can and will be used for good), yet we realize how much our misguided choices led us into bad spots and possibly even self-destruction.

It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
You say that’s exactly how this grace thing works.
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive at the restart.

Having wandered as far down the path as possible, we are often left with nothing before we turn towards God. When we encounter His love, when we see Him running to greet us, it is difficult to be anything but overwhelmed by joy.

Darkness is a harsh term, don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I see. (2x)

Stars hide your fires,
These here are my desires
And I will give them up to You this time around.
And so, I’ll be found with my stake stuck in this ground
Marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul (2x)

What was once important — the pursuits apart from our purpose — fade into the background as our attention shifts. We take the wishes of our heart and lift them up to the Father, doing our best to make our lives His sovereign province every day.

You, you’ve gone too far this time
You have neither reason nor rhyme
With which to take this soul that is so rightfully mine.

Then we turn back to the world, determined as ever to follow the path He carved for us — aware we’ll still falter from time to time — and claim the future He has in store.

Well, that’s what I hear.

How about you?

Words to Live By

Do you have a motto?

I’ve been working on one for a while. I mean, it seems a guiding principle is the key to a successful human endeavor. Whether an individual, corporation or athletic team, the highest achievers–either at the top or close to it–always have a punchy phrase to drive their effort and ideas.

Most of us appear to operate based on a default setting.

We allow our lives to be shaped by motives we hardly realize are in place. Over the last nine months, and particularly around the turn of the year, I figured out a lot about my internal compass. Further, I gained an understanding of why the needle pointed in a certain direction as opposed to others. In time, I’ll share those misinterpretations in detail and connect them with decisions I made down the line.

In short, “Make Money” made me an unconscious slave to the almighty dollar.

As I set about to reframe my life, I am determined to become my own master again. And, considering my obsession with words, it is logical I engage in the pursuit of an appropriate credo to steer me on a new path in a new place.

When making a change, inspiration is important.

If you’re going to hit a psychological reset button, you want to make sure the result reflects the best to you. It should push you toward the image of what you want to be, stir your soul enough you will reach beyond your current grasp. Absent this emotional groundswell, your spirit will rest comfortably instead of taking on the challenge.

It’s common–even natural–for us to seek out examples, it’s the easiest way for us to learn. With that in mind, I’m going to share the two maxims I’ve recently come up with and explain why I settled on them in the hopes you might take a moment to consider your chief aim and what it says about you.

“Question Possible, Fulfill Potential.”
This came about at the confluence of many inner dialogues centered around the feeling I wish to have at the end of my life. As the conversation played out, I acknowledged what I’ve always known: I want to wring every last drop of my talents and abilities through my skin.

My deepest desire is to be certain I examined what could be done (questioned the possible) then saw it through (fulfilled the potential). Moving forward, I know articulating this will aid my thought process.

“Ut prosim Deo duce.”
I focused on myself for much of my life, cowering under the assumption I was inadequate and silently hoping to disprove myself someday. I was unable to trust my instincts or use my gifts under the burden of protecting my fragile ego. Thus, I have rearranged my priorities and ask only “that I may be useful with God as my guide.”

These phrases are simple, but each time they come to mind I am moved.

I shuffle a little further towards the destination designed for me.

By taking on a mantra, I am “of service” as opposed to “of self”.

Such a change can only get me where I want to be.

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The Gift of Gratitude

Gratitude is a funny thing.

It seems we spend much of our lives searching for approval, hoping a demanding boss or selfish coworker will acknowledge our contribution to the larger cause.

When we seek it, we often walk away empty handed.

Fishing for compliments–beyond being uncouth–rarely yields more than a statement grumbled under annoyed breath. Those whom we feel owe us praise are always the last to give it (if it does happen) and mostly do so out of a sense of obligation, it appears.

Earnest thanks, regardless of source, pours nourishing sunshine on the meadows of our soul.

What’s amazing is how difficult we find the acceptance of such a wonderful, simple gift. Made uncomfortable by a shower of grateful expressions, we run for cover in the shelter of our own inadequacy. “I didn’t do anything to deserve this,” we think. “I didn’t do that good of a job.”

Why is it appreciation manages to make us squirm?

You have a right to harvest the fruit of your labor.

Be gracious and welcoming, you sowed the seed. However unexpected, reaping a reward is the natural result of quality work. Spread the wealth–tell others how they influenced the outcome.

I am still learning how to do this.

Last night, I stood in front of my Pathophysiology students as a lecturer for the last time. Ten of the thirteen women in the room sat in the same room on my first night as a professor. Next week is their exam and I’m leaving at the end of the quarter, so it was our final evening together.

As usual, a quiz signaled the start of class. Shortly thereafter, I received a bevy of parting gifts, including a load of my favorite candy bars and healthy snacks. To top everything off, they took the time to print and frame a certificate of excellence complete with handwritten notes on it from each woman.

A tribute of any kind, let alone one so heartfelt and thoughtful, touches a person beyond the bounds of words.

One of them happened upon a blog I wrote about three months ago, the most-viewed post I’ve ever written.

It is about them.

Somewhat surprised to see my musings have been found by those who have inspired–at least indirectly–a good chunk of what I’ve written, I decided to pull back the curtain and reveal a little more to them. I was unintentionally given the opportunity to recognize their place in my growth as an instructor and a person, to honor the role they have played in my life.

I took them on a quick and unrehearsed tour of my leadership philosophy and observations about life. In the end, I challenged them to lean on each other for support and step to the forefront of the program and the university as a whole–my unspoken goal for them from the beginning.

In closing, before we shared some laughs while passing through many memories, I shared with them a paraphrase of these words from Ralph Nader:

I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.

I am incredibly thankful to have opened the gift I wanted, to have witnessed the growth of those under my supervision.

It is about them.

It always was.

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Burning Yourself from the Outside

Sometimes people require a kick in the ass.

I have a problem delivering one when the time comes. It is beyond me to comprehend the necessity of a fiery speech. In fact, laying down the gauntlet with a verbal tirade is one of the few times words consistently fail me.

The way I see it, motivation can be internal or external.

One can, without a doubt, serve to amplify the other for a few moments, yet only the former can generate and maintain the focus required to produce sustained success. I’m certain each of us has been buoyed by impassioned rhetoric of some kind–whether in a locker room or from a stage–only to find our energy wane within days (if not hours or minutes).

This is why I am quite laissez-faire with my students.

In my mind, their will to achieve is what matters, as “babysitter” was left out of my job description. I can muster all the histrionics a grand performer might hope for and it is of little good when their mindset is lacking.

When drive is absent, it follows–“as the night the day“–that results plummet.

A fire burns within us all.

As individuals, we must seek our own fuel to ensure the flame stays alight. A strong motive emanating from within glows bright in all weather. Regardless of life’s storms, our soul must be able to warm its hands from the inside.

Others can only stoke the blaze.

There is a mistaken belief in the power of another. We like to think someone will pour gasoline on our desire and really get us going. Reality is we–the people with the dreams–are solely able to create our wildfire.

Inspiration and meaning are sparks, ignition dependent upon a waiting fuel source.

Begging for fire and brimstone to help manifest your idea is foolish.

This is not to say, you shouldn’t ask for help–we all need some from time to time.

Relying on someone else, though, is asking to be burned.

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Top Posts, July 2010

It’s a few days late since the 31st of July fell on a Saturday, so I apologize.  Here are the most viewed posts for the past month:

5. 5 Steps to Your Best Apology

4. Running into God

3. Looking at Life from the Threshhold of Death

2. The Fear Soliloquy

1. 1 Difference Between “Trying” and “Doing”

The Fatigue Soliloquy

Fatigue can be wonderful and terrible.

It is just as soon welcomed as shunned, the measure of disgust it generates during the last mile (when much is left to do) is matched only by the reception it receives after crossing the finish line (when the work is completed). In one moment, it shifts dramatically from scheming villain to celebrated friend.

Weariness is the fee for your waking hours.

At the end of the day, your mind is tired and your body is heavy, having written a check for the task you’ve completed. The nature of your activity–and your valuation of it–colors the determination of whether it was time well spent.

I often struggle to keep my eyes open during the evening.

Passing several hours in the service of two masters, I sit down to take stock of what I’ve accomplished. The sun has long since set and “today” is bleeding into “tomorrow” when I am finally able have some quiet and sum up my time.

I dedicate too little of my life to myself.

Only recently have I begun shoehorning a run into my day. Without a few miles of meditation, I find myself disjointed and disconnected. I get about 90 minutes–near midnight, when I’m half asleep–to write for myself and you, my reader.

In all honesty, these are the two most important hours of my day.

This is when I’m able to brush aside the confusion and frustration to express something meaningful–if only to myself. It is the prism through which I’m able to look at the positives and share lessons, to poke around for insight beneficial to me and my audience.

To be effective, the window must be transparent.

Throughout my time publishing on this site and its predecessors, I have concerned myself with many things, not the least of which is how to be valuable to you and the growing number of people who stop by.

What can I do to shorten your learning curve?

How can I give you courage for the moment when everything heads in a different direction than you anticipated?

I have to let you in further.

And that’s what I intend to do. Over the coming weeks and months, I will continue to write essays about how I see the world and the connections my mind makes between seemingly disparate phenomena and the nature of our lives and purpose as human beings.

The last fifteen months have been the most tremendous learning experience I could have asked for. I’ve come to understand much about what brought me to the point I am at, the experiences that shape my motivation and the decisions that reflect it.

I want you to see what it takes.

I want you to understand the amount of work it requires.

I want you to know the drain it is on your mind and body and soul.

Because when your turn comes, I want you to fight through the fatigue and keep going.

ALSO IN THIS SERIES

The Fear Soliloquy

The Failure Soliloquy

The Focus Soliloquy

The Faith Soliloquy

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See Your Original Face

You have a toolbox.

There are certain talents or abilities you must develop to fulfill your purpose. Such a task does not allow quitting or giving up nor does it forgive lack of focus. To achieve what you’ve been put here to do is to diligently cultivate the blessings from your Creator.

Your greatness results from the regular pursuit of a means to get better.

Improving those skills, pushing on to express the very best of yourself is, at root, what your task is. You don’t have to be the very best of the best necessarily.

Be the best you.

Step into the gifts God has poured into your being. Ending up in a dead end job is a choice, whether you knew you were making it at the time or not; by limiting yourself mentally, by finding excuses to lay down when you could have stood up, you have become the reason for the season of your discontent.

You know what’s going on. You know something is amiss. You’re aware of the mystifying restlessness telling you something is just not quite right. It’s a clue, a voice speaking to you, “You are off point. Get back on purpose, I have created you for something else.”

Break down the walls between you and your designated role in this great play.

See your original face and remember what you are: the loving expression of a powerful creative force.

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