The Bottom of the Inbox

I’m staring at an empty inbox.

That hasn’t happened for months. But this past weekend, I methodically and, somewhat painfully, worked through every item in my email inbox. And there, at the bottom, I found something wonderful.

Freedom. Release from the nagging pile of questions and duty.

I emptied my inbox on Sunday. I painstakingly worked my way through each and every message. I answered some, delegated a few, and organized information from the rest in a way that moves my work and my life along. What a wonderful feeling to see the bottom of my inbox.

When I awoke on Monday, I found my mind drawn to a new view.

I have other life inboxes that are filled to the brim with unanswered questions, unfulfilled relationships, and unmet visions. And, for a moment, I felt discouraged because I longed to see each and every one of those inboxes empty.

Later in the day, I received a message from a former student. He told me of the things that he was doing and of the items that were in his inbox these days. That’s when I realized that the bottom of my other inboxes will probably not be reached by me alone, but by others I’ve been blessed to come to know along the way.

And that is a good thing.

Talk About What Matters

A lot of disgusting talk swirls around us. It’s always been here because people have placed a high value on status. We don’t have to be the very best at anything — just prove ourselves better than others.

Yet, many of those who are the best are those who spend no energy on aggrandizing themselves. In fact, in their quest for excellence in their chosen pursuit, they help others along the way.

I hear — and personally feel — much despair over the tone of our public conversations. We have focused on the rancor in politics, but the same bile is spewing in all levels of our existence. Many have longed for a societal solution to this poisonous behavior.

Here’s one that isn’t original with me, but one that will change the world even if it doesn’t stop the inane mutterings of our elected officials.

Talk about individuals. Tell stories of tragedy and losses balanced with victory and gains. Don’t concentrate on the negativity surrounding an event, but on the stories of that woman, child, or man who stepped forward to do something good.

Those are the stories that matter. The news about the awful things will be framed in the telling of what is good. And that will be talk that matters.

Adrift in the Sea of Pleasure | Missing the Islands of Joy

Semantics aside, there is a difference between pleasure and joy.

Pleasure

Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash

Both can be good. Yet, as I watch the world around me I can’t help but notice the emphasis on pleasure. It is advertised and sold in the marketplace, online, and on the street corner. Pleasure comes with a surge of dopamine and good vibes. But ultimately, its energy source dims and our memories of the moment drive us forward to find, to procure, and to consume pleasure.

Addicts are those who constantly chase pleasure. The cravings created by the rush of stimulation are seeming undeniable. Talk to someone who is dependent on pleasure and you’re talking to a person who suffers more than they smile.

Joy, on the other hand, is a perspective on life and a way forward fueled by a self-renewing energy cell. Joy comes from relationship and an acceptance of how we fit in with the world around us. Great literature and holy texts speak of joy. Yet, you don’t see anyone advertising joy as a commodity.

Joy is generated from walking among the hurt and the chaos of the world with the ability to see and grasp the good that exists there. Good is resilient. Even in the face of seemingly overpowering evil, good will surface. And joyful people seem to have a special talent for brushing away the dust and grime to make joy apparent to others.

If you’ve ever experienced joy, you know that it isn’t a heart-pounding experience. Joy is release and contentment. Joy is more than pleasure and simple happiness. Joy is a glimpse of heaven on earth.

Pleasure has its purposes. However, the constant drive toward pleasure displaces the essence of joy — the sense of purpose that does more than paint a smile on our faces.

If you feel an absence of joy in your life, take a look at those things you chase. In all likelihood, they are the things that you believe will bring pleasure. The short-term may allow you to grab pleasure, but eventually, you’ll discover you are adrift and unable to sustain the momentum.

Remember the islands of joy are all around you. Walk ashore. Sit down. Enjoy the security of solid ground. You may be surprised how many joyful people you meet on those beaches.

Overwhelmed: The Loss of Life to Numbness

For months . . . years . . . the one word that keeps popping up in my personal journal is “overwhelmed.”

Photo Credit: Julia Freeman-Woolpert (stock.xchng)

The everyday barrage of life events used to be enough to tire us and send us to our beds, eager to escape the rushing torrents. But now those commonplace things are almost like white noise in the background of a screaming world. Some of that shrieking is an intentional tactic of those who want to sell us something or divert us from the truth. On the other hand, many of those cries come from those who have been broadsided by life — hurricanes, cancer, poverty, being rolled over by people of privilege who are blind to the consequences of their indifference to others, disconnection from family, death.

Overwhelmed. Do you feel it sometimes?

As I’ve reviewed those journal pages, the notes surrounding this word are often filled with despair, attempts to fix blame on someone other than myself, a desire to exchange my life experience with someone who takes on each day with grace and energy. In other words, a cry for change and relief.

Psalms 77 is an odd text for someone like me — an unschooled theologian taught only by surface readings of scripture, bullet points from countless sermons, and the constant desire to have all of the answers. I hope you’ll turn to this little missive and read it in its entirety.

But you’re probably busy right now and reading this as you scan through dozens of email. In case you are a little overwhelmed and can’t find your way back, let me give you a summary.

  • I reached out to God.
  • He didn’t answer.
  • I find this unsettling because He told me to call.
  • I lost sleep.
  • I momentarily lost hope.
  • Then I remembered.
  • I remembered when God delivered me.
  • I remembered when God gave me some incredible gifts.
  • I remembered that some of those gifts weren’t for me alone. They were meant to be shared with others on the journey.
  • And I was satisfied with all of that.

When I’m overwhelmed and I’m desperately trying to move the challenges around me into something I can handle, I am always surprised. By the kindness of a stranger. The concern of a friend. A moment of mercy when justice was deserved. Evidence, even in the face of tragedy, that I am loved by a God who has stirred himself to love me and everyone else.

Overwhelmed?

 

Why Do You Dream the Dreams You Dream?

Do you catch yourself dreaming during your waking hours? What are those dreams? Where do they come from? Why do you dream?

good news

photo credit: Oliver Lein, unsplash.com

Recent research indicates that your sleeping dreams are generated from your brain stem. Perhaps this is a maintenance function that allows you to process things that have been clogging up your higher thinking processes. What we do know is that people often wake up with answers to questions that plagued them the night before or with insight that escaped them after days of attempts at rational thought.

The dreams I have during quiet moments of wakefulness never seem to be like that. If they are truly dreams, then they are projections of reality — a wish, a hope, a . . . well, a dream. These thoughts are fairly well-formed. They have some degree of substance. And almost always, they bear a price. The concoctions of the mind that come easily and cheaply don’t seem to rise to the status of true dreams.

We can become lost in these dreams. Or we can experience these thought-filled moments with an expectation of finding ourselves and our place on a path. That moment of discovery is the seed of vision. As I wrote in an earlier post, I believe that vision is simply a dream with a pathway to make it real.

Not all dreams should result in vision. Let’s face it some dreams are just dreams. In fact, some are pipe dreams — wishes that are almost impossible or impractical to achieve.

But what about those dreams that call to you? Why do they keep coming back?

I wonder what fuels my waking dreams and I’m an eager witness to the dreams that edge their way towards vision. I’d love to hear yours someday. And I am really interested in how you invest in those dreams to produce vision.