Wednesday, November 24, 2010


My life feels like that song Fly like the Eagle. You know, time keeps on slipping and slipping into the future. (Seal is a prophet and Space Jam is one of the greatest movies ever made.) The brevity of this past year, though, has been redeemed by the memories and good stories that I’ve had the privilege of being apart of. At the beginning of the year, like in years past, I made the infamous list of “New Years Resolutions.” Every year has been the same pattern for me: write a list, discipline yourself for a few weeks, and then forget about the resolutions by February. It’s easy to see why these “resolutions” became a point of frustration—I never complete any of them.

This year, however, was different. I was inspired to try a new way of framing my goals. I am a daily subscriber to Donald Miller’s blog and was influenced greatly by his perspective on goals. Goals by themselves can be good, but they can also be lifeless and without purpose. He suggested writing our goals in the form of a narrative. Goals, then, aren’t simply tasks to check off a to-do list, but are integral to your personal development. Your goals can help you tell a good story with your life. I thought that was mind blowing.

I took Don’s advice and came up with three goals that fit into the narrative of my life; three things that would help me be a better person and pursue the dreams I have for myself.


My first goal was to start this blog. For the most part, I am hyper critical of anything I say or write. So I decided I needed to do something that would force me to write and allow my family, friends and foes to respond to my thoughts and also create some meaningful dialogue about life and faith. And I also really like finding pictures on the internet that go along with my topics.

Be Spontaneous

Secondly, I wanted to be more spontaneous with my friends and with how I spent my time. There are many moments when my schedule gets so rigid and I live my life according to my calendar. I realized that this way of living is dumb. Real dumb. So, I’ve tried to incorporate more spontaneity into daily living—talking to the stranger at the Post Office, staying out late on a work night, taking more time for long conversations and trips to Starbucks—and have, honestly, been surprised by the results. I’m starting to realize that God works through us when we allow ourselves the time to be open to Him.

Run a Half-Marathon

My third goal was to run a half marathon. I used to run in high school (although my true passion in sports has always been swimming and basketball) and was never very good at it. I wasn’t fast, or part Kenyan, so I was just an average runner. I realized, however, that running was a sport that I could do no matter where I was. Furthermore, it would require some real discipline on my part to complete a half marathon. I wanted more discipline in my life and I figured the necessary physical training for a race of this proportion would be a great exercise in self-motivation and discipline. I was right. I’ve run more in the past three months than the past five years. Last Saturday, I ran across the finish line of my first half marathon. Covered in dirt and sweat, with weak knees and a throbbing left ankle, I stood victorious over the 13.1 miles. It was a great feeling to accomplish a goal, not simply for marking something off my to-do list, but realizing that the journey was where the true satisfaction came from.

In fact, all three of my goals were about the “process” more than the production. Disciplining myself to write my blog monthly; choosing to be a little cheesy at times to enable more spontaneity; and taking the time to train for a half marathon. The process was a good story that I wanted to share with the world. For the first time in my life I actually stuck with my New Year’s Resolutions. I am proud of this year and the person I am becoming. It does, however, beg the question: what’s next? The year 2011 is wide open.  Is it time for me to pursue other dreams? Should I write the novel? Will this be the year that I try out for the Clippers? Can I finally muster up the courage to ask John Mayer if we can go on tour together? Time will tell I suppose.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weak is the new Strong

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I've been thinking lately that weak is the new strong. Everywhere I turn, I meet people who are overwhelmed by life. They are stressed, worried and anxious about everything. We are overworked and under-relaxed, and most of us feel just a step ahead of total burnout. I know I fit this description too. It seems like we’ve tried the route of being strong and competent, feeling like we could take on the world, but somewhere along the way, we recognized we couldn’t maintain the pace.

I realized over the past few months that I tend to live my life like I am unlimited. I ignorantly and foolishly live like there is no amount of work or stress that I cannot handle or conqueror. I quickly learn, however, that there is point where I reach my limit. Running has taught me this valuable lesson. Several times a week I lace up my shoes and go for a run. I try and push myself, increasing mileage as well as the pace. Truth be told, though, there is a certain limit that I cannot cross. No matter how hard I push myself, at this point in my training it is impossible for me to reach beyond that breaking point. This has been a good reminder for my life lately, too. I have to remind myself that God is the one who is unlimited, not me.

That is why I'm beginning to think that weak is the new strong. If I can learn to live from my place of weakness, how much more dependent will I be on God’s strength? Rather than place the focus on how strong I am, I can learn to live and move in how strong He is. Perhaps, then, I will be at a place where I truly understand strength.

“All dear friends everywhere, who have no helper but the Lord, who is your strength and life, let your cries and prayers be to him, who with his eternal power has kept your heads above all waves and storms.” George Fox

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Positive and Negative Turns

“Man fully alive is the glory of God” Irenaeus

This past September I attended the Storyline Conference with Donald Miller in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. The entire trip was inspirational and nostalgic. Don was great. I sat in the second row of the conference’s theater and just smiled for two days straight like some star-struck teen in front of the Jonas Brothers. (Christian fame is funny isn’t it? It was kind of like the time I saw Rob Bell and I was like “Oh my gosh, there’s Rob Bell!” Oh wait… he is just an ordinary guy with some cool glasses.) For the past two months, I’ve been going back over my notes from the conference and putting into practice some of the things we learned. One of the most effective exercises, for me, was to map out my life thus far on a storyline. On a sheet of paper, I traced my life (as best as I could remember it) and made a timeline of all the positive and negative events that have transpired in my 25 years of life. It was eye opening.

Using the form of a narrative, Don says that every story (and every life) has both positive and negative “turns.” A story “turn” is a point in the story where you walk through a doorway and can never return. This is the moment where Frodo accepts his duty to destroy the ring. Or, as a personal favorite, the decision of Bill and Ted to do whatever it takes to complete their history report. By the time someone is in their 30’s they’ve had an average of 20 of these “turns” in their life. This could be a new relationship, the completion of a degree, a new job, or the loss of a loved one.

Don suggested we map out these “turns” in the life of Joseph in the OT and then our personal lives. Joseph’s life is a great example of positive and negative turns and since I’ve started viewing his life as a narrative, I’ve come to appreciate it more. Joseph’s tale begins with a dream and then what follows are many positive and negative events that could derail him from that dream. For example, Joseph has a dream that one day he will rule (positive); he tells his brothers of this dream and they get jealous (negative); he is sold into slavery (negative); becomes a slave at a wealthy man’s house (positive); is harassed by this man’s wife (negative); ends up in prison (negative); meets a cupbearer who hears of his gift of interpreting dreams (positive); the cupbearer forgets about him (negative); Joseph eventually fulfills his dream (positive). The goal of Joseph’s dream of ruling is summed up in Genesis 50: “what you intended for harm, God intended it for save many lives.” That was the point of Joseph’s story. God wanted to use Joseph’s life to save many lives.

As I’ve looked back over my life, it was incredible to map out the positive and negative aspects that are apart of my story. Interestingly, it was both the positive and negative turns that have brought me to where I am today. It’s odd to look at your life on a piece of paper and see every detail fitting perfectly together. You have a number of those “aha” epiphany moments where you say, “That makes sense.” I’ve completed the exercise about three times now, adding more detail each new time I’ve tried it. And my response has been the same as I’m able to look down upon the storyline of my life: gratitude. I can’t help but be thankful for where I am today. Every event and experience has taught me something. I can celebrate the good and the bad times, even rejoice at the places where I’ve suffered because without them, I don’t know where I’d be.

In her book, Managing Stress, Kath Donovan said: “In the order of God, pain is one of the best facilitators of the process of transformation.” How true is that statement. Joseph’s story would be incomplete without the negative turns. He would have never reached his dream if he didn’t have conflict and suffering along the way. Furthermore, a story with only positive turns would not be a very interesting story. And as Don has said numerous times, “if something won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.”

Since the conference, I’m beginning to own my story. It’s my story and no one else’s. I’m thankful for the places I’ve been and the places I’m going. Who knows what the future holds. And who cares. It will fit perfectly into my storyline.