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Horseshoes & Hand Grenades

Horse

Yesterday I went for my first run in over a month…if one could call the aggregate of my languid progression a run! As I approached the end of my three mile loop, the sensation of nausea set with a fury. Barely holding it together and baking in the noonday heat, my pace, though inconceivable, slowed even further, retarding into a man convulsing his way down the street rather than a gazelle in stride. With less than 200m left I thought, “I should just walk the rest of the way home. I mean…I’ve practically finished!” There are times in life where the river of time has irregular flow, hasting and abating with its ebb and flow, allowing the brain and/or heart to process in an instant what would normally take hours, if not days. As I rounded the home stretch, I experienced such a time. With stammering feet my brain “threw down the gauntlet“, an override my body hasn’t experienced in a long time. “Close enough? Close enough?! Aaron, you have been in a season of half-assing everything you’re a part of…your devotional life, your dating life, your physical fitness, fasting, sabbaths, sobrieties, and the conversations you desire to have with your father. When are you going to properly finish something you start? Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades!”

Within the seconds which this “pep-talk” had been processed, a renewed vigor and strengthening of conviction had been found. A run which had started rather mundane and innocuous, all of a sudden carried the weight of my entire life. On a peaceful Monday afternoon, my manhood rested on how I was going to finish this run. With arms-a-pumping and a tucked head, there was no way I was stopping short of the finish line. That is to say, until I happened to notice a small metallic object laying in the middle of the road. Over the past several years, I have made it my custom to remove such nails and screws from the streets of San Diego. An act I see as my “good deed of the day,” preventing flat tires and the ensuing inconveniences one suffers one lance at a time. Upon the viewing of this providentially positioned screw, two world views collided as I charged the finish. To stop, or not to stop, that was the question. It was then when I realized, “don’t lose the forrest through the trees.” In recognizing what was happing on a grand scale, I stopped, picked up the screw, then trotted victoriously across the finish. As we each run our race we are given ample amounts of grace to continue the pursuit of our callings. This grace however, is by no means an excuse to dodge actions which are intended for us to take. In reflecting on my run, I realized it was time to take action.

Too much of life is compromise…no more!

There are natural vistas of reflection along everyone’s journey. These are most commonly observed around new year’s eve, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc. Anytime a person transitions from one season to another there is a restructuring of priorities…a calibration if you will, which fits the new rhythms of life. Currently I am undergoing said calibration. Next week I begin a one year residency as a chaplain for SHARP Memorial hospital. In preparation, especially in the wake of my run, I have been analyzing my priorities…an energizing endeavor. As I press into this new season I look forward to:

  • Strengthening my devotional life (waking up at 6am to read and journal)
  • Establishing a healthy rhythm of Sabbath (resting well and doing life giving activities on Saturdays, doing my best to do zero errands)
  • Being committed to the upkeep of my physical fitness (running four days a week, doing yoga for two, and dancing for one)
  • Remaining faithful to the discipline of fasting (fasting on Tuesdays)
  • Actively seeking opportunities to engage my dad in conversations of meaning and substance, and…if at all possible, discover how dating fits into all of this.

With a forward gaze the words of the prophet Zechariah resound from within, “Not by power, nor by might, but by my Spirit declares the LORD.”

Unmasked & Unfiltered

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The Dark Side

darkside

In a recent post (Natural Talent) I expressed how each of us have certain natural abilities, and mentioned how those abilities carry certain inherent weaknesses, giving the example, “while rocks are strong, they are not flexible.”  At the time of writing I was not able to speak about the “dark side” of my personal talents. However now, in the spirit of  being unmasked and unfiltered, I am ready to articulate this snapshot of my life.

Before I continue, I must say, the connection of  how our strengths make us susceptible to the various shortfalls we succumb to is by no means an excuse to continue in poor behavior. Quite the opposite is true. Once one is aware of the intricacies of the interconnectedness of their inner-being, then, and only then, can proactive measures be taken to diminish the risk of the further propagation of the poor behaviors and attitudes we execute all too well.  That being said, on to the nitty gritties. : )

ENCOURAGEMENT: I am good at speaking words of encouragement, appreciation, and life into people who are in need of such timely words.  This requires the ability to communicate in clear concise ways.  While clear communication is a good thing, I tend to pervert it with direct, terse communication which can be given and received as cold, heartless, piercing, and attacking.  Knowing that, whenever I identify an issue of importance which I desire to passionately speak into, I always run my conversation points across trusted friends who have the gift of smoothing out and making palatable my position.  Teamwork makes the dream work. : )

COMPASSION: I have a strong ability to love people, especially the outcasts and downtrodden. A part of my ability to do this is my ability to see/focus on the best of an individual.  From the wells of compassion, a heart of passion and lust can easily be drawn. While I would say compassion is my greatest virtue, lust is my greatest vice. Knowing that, I seek to be patient, I seek ways to be alone well, and regularly participate in the practice of self-denial known as fasting.

SYNTHESIS: I have a hunger to learn processes (natural, emotional, relational, systemic, etc.) and the ability to digest and comprehend them in rational, logical, systematic ways that eliminates the fluff and focuses on the heart of the issue. The perversion of synthesis is consumption.  This is seen when processes begin to dominate my life, and when I strive to make connections that are unnecessary, becoming absorbed and missing the ever so important “BIG picture.” Consumption also manifest itself through the irritations I experience when people disrupt my planned timeline. Knowing that, I try to be aware of when I am spending too much time or energy on any given issue or topic. After all, “perfect is the enemy of good.” I am also trying to find peace in allowing myself to be interrupted, for it has been said, “The many interruptions we face are not preventing us from living our life, they are our life.”

Let me know if you agree or disagree with anything I have said. While the above mentioned is by no means an exhaustive list, it is an honest representation of my dark side. What is the dark side of your talents? How do your short comings compliment your areas of strength? How does the knowledge of this affect your life? This is a good topic to solicit follow up conversations because it is far too deep of one to fully do justice with a mere post. To conclude, if you are struggling to identify what your talents and strengths are, maybe a way of discovering them can be found in analyzing the things you are terrible at, and exploring their opposites.

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Natural Talent

interview-strength

Every person is created for a purpose. Throughout a lifetime we each are given many opportunities to operate out of our design through the various movements of life. Though the ability to appreciate one’s current circumstance is a gift from above, we can achieve a greater sense of fulfillment, joy, and peace when we understand our unique giftedness and how we are to use what we have been given to bless those in our proximity.

While no one appreciates a boastful person, it is a wise individual who understands their giftedness via their strengths and weaknesses. Thus, a worthwhile exercise is to contemplate, “What are the three things I am good at?” (or your top five for you overachievers). Once an understanding of this is ascertained, a fun and fruitful exercise is to share your insights with individuals whom you trust and are close to. After you share, solicit their feedback and receive their affirmations and unspoken additions. I assure you, if you engage in such conversation, it will be one of the more life giving conversations of your week, if not month or year.

Natural-talent-2

This conversation of exploring one’s giftedness is a conversation I have been around for a long time. A few years ago I took a strengths finder assessment and received the results of Learner, Consistency, Arranger, Positivity, and Responsibility. While I do not let those words constrict me, I hold onto the truth they carry, abiding by a good life philosophy–examine all things and hold on to what’s good.

Without further ado, here are three things I have discovered, through internal reflection and external input, to be some of my inherent strengths.

  • I have the gift of encouragement. I am good at speaking words of encouragement, appreciation, and life to people who are in desperate need of such timely words.
  • I have the gift of compassion. I have a strong ability to love people, especially the outcasts and downtrodden. A part of my ability to do this is my ability to see/focus on the best of an individual.
  • I have the gift of synthesizing. I have a hunger to learn processes (natural, emotional, relational, systemic, etc.) and the ability to digest and comprehend them in a rational, logical, systematic way that eliminates the fluff and focuses on the heart of the issue.

While I could go on and on and on about my humility, etc. that will suffice for now. ; )

To conclude, recently I’ve been talking with my friend Brian Divine about the inherent weaknesses of every strength. For example, while rocks are strong, they are not flexible. While I am not yet ready to articulate the “dark side” of the above mentioned strengths, a valuable exercise, if not more so than the identification of our strengths, is the connection to how they make us susceptible to the various shortfalls we succumb to. Stay tuned for the follow up discussion.

Discovering with you,

Unmasked & Unfiltered

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Heal Our Land

In the wake of the recent shootings plaguing our nation, there is no shortage of opinions on how to “fix” the problem. Some say it’s gun control, others claim it’s mental health, while others say it is a need for tighter security and so forth. While there is no simple solution, there IS a formula which leads to our nation’s healing and wholeness.

In the days of king Solomon, at the culmination of the building and dedication of his temple, God said, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Lord knows how desperately our land needs to be healed today, both metaphorically and literally. For increasingly we are seeing stories about violence, severe droughts, flash floods, ravaging hurricanes, powerful earthquakes, raging fires, and erupting volcanos. As Barry McGuire claimed in 1965, it seems we are on the Eve of Destruction.

While the stories in the news communicate a world growing ever dire, God has revealed his plan of redeeming the mess we are making. When God spoke to Solomon, the first step he mentioned for his nation’s recovery was to become humble. Today, in the era of selfies, insta, instant, and making things great again, the fundamental requisite for humility is needed more than ever. Far too many people walk around with a spirit of entitlement and haughty eyes.  If we as a nation would only humble ourselves, we would make giant strides toward healing, but more than humility is needed.

We also need to pray. When we humble ourselves we are able to see situations are more massive, complex, and out of our control than we realize. Once this heart stage is reached, the healthy response is to pray, but more than prayer is needed.

We also need to seek God. While prayer should be a form of seeking God, when most people pray they speak, but do not seek. They make requests, but don’t ask, “God, where are you in this?  God, what are you trying to say?  What are you trying to tell me?” etc. In seeking God, it is important to remain humble and to pray continually, but more than seeking God is needed.

We also need to turn from our wicked ways. Since we all sin and fall short, we all have areas in our lives we need to turn from. Though those areas may not directly contribute to the issues being sensationalized by the media, they are negatively contributing to something. When we do our part and partner with God in the work he desires to do in our lives, we begin to see a beautiful change within us, and in time, within the social groups which we have influence. Thus, if we desire to bring healing and wholeness to our nation, we must follow God’s prescription. For if we do not have a humble heart, we will not pray, and if we do not pray, we are not seeking God, and if we are not seeking God, then we cannot turn from our wicked ways, and if we do not turn from our wicked ways, then what hope is there for our nation?

If there is to be hope for us, we must find answers to the following questions: Where do I need to grow in humility? What does my prayer life look like? How do I seek God? Do I take the time to seek him?  To look and listen for him? What are the unhealthy areas of my life I need to turn away from? What work is God desiring to do within me during this season of my life? What spheres of influence do I have in my life and how can I bring hope, healing, and wholeness into them? Who are the people helping? Who are the ones doing it right?

Seeking Hope and Healing,

Aaron

p.s. Mr Rogers’ response to violence in the media.

p.p.s. The way of the fool seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice (Proverbs 12:15).