Living a Big Story

I love visiting my friends in Indianapolis. Many of them live large compelling stories. I was reminded of that again Tuesday night. I attended a fundraiser for a new business/ministry venture for someone I met a couple years ago through Common Ground church’s training school.

Andrea owns Sophia’s Bridal in Indianapolis.  God ambushed her heart and birthed a vision to do something about the human trafficking crisis in SE Asia. She and her team have established a partnership, with the help of Center for Global Impact, to redeem girls (10 at a time) out of the flesh trade, house them, feed them, disciple them, and train them to as professional seamstresses.

In Cambodia, as in other parts of the world, poverty stricken families sell their daughters virginity when they are between eight and 12 years old. In that context the girls are sold for $500, of which the family gets $300. They then go to a hotel for a week to service the buyer. Somehow they try to put that horrific experience in a box in their head and go back home…at least until the next time. Sometimes they are sold as more traditional slaves and are take across whichever borders their owner decides.

For more of the particulars, including how you can participate please visit Dre’s blog at  daughtersbridal.blogspot.com

I left the church the other night pondering why some people step into such a BIG story and others are so content not to. Larry and I talked about it on the porch that night. We didn’t come up with any answers but wonder if its about space.

  • Do we make enough space for God to move us like that?
  • Do we allow God to move about in our areas of vocation, passion, and heart enough for him to help us dream?
  • Do we compartmentalize our inner space, keeping our ‘spiritual life’ separate and not seen as just our ‘life’?

I still don’t have an answer but I think you have to be around big story people to live one. My experience Tuesday night has compelled me not to settle for anything less than a big story. That’s part of the reason I’m in Portland, OR this weekend. I’m attending orientation at George Fox Seminary. I believe this is an important step in whatever story I find myself in in the future.

Major League Pilgrimage Update

Several people have asked to hear more about my sons’ Major League Pilgrimage. Zack has a blog and is doing his best to keep up with their experiences. You may go to ZackHarvey.blogspot.com

As for some second hand highlights: tonight they are in Philly for their third game in three days. Tyler said last night’s game in Baltimore was “the best thing I’ve ever seen in a baseball game.” It was the bottom of the 11th inning with a runner on third. Adam Jones was at the plate with two outs and a full count. He executed a perfect suicide squeeze. The Orioles won on a walk off bunt!

As far as lodging goes they haven’t had to do any car-camping yet. Last night in Baltimore, they stayed with a friend from Olivet. Tonight they are actually staying in a hotel in Philadelphia which was graciously provided by a friend.

More Dad Spirituality

Like so many Michigan families, we made the late winter/early spring trek to Florida. Each year we went to the same area of the gulf coast. Our days were filled with digging holes in the sand, building castles on the beach, swimming, and trips to the Circle K for snacks and drinks.

Next to the convenient store was The Barefoot Trader. It was the ultimate tourist trap selling everything from towels to t-shirts to trinkets. During those springs the kids would squirrel away money or do a range of tasks in order to have a few bucks to take with them. I don’t remember the exact year but Ally was quite young yet old enough to have her own loot.

Every time we went into The Barefoot Trader she would search through the racks and shelves looking for the perfect treasure to take home. She would usually pause the longest in front of a glass case filled with glitter globes. Just before our week was over, Ally eventually settled on one about the size of a baseball with a mermaid in it. You could tell she was proud of her prize and knew she had already picked out a special place for it in her room.

For some reason Ally and I were on a flight separate from the rest of the family. I talked to her about how we should package and pack her mermaid. She refused, unwavering that the only safe place for her glitter globe was in her hand. I did my best to talk her out of her plan but she was adamant. I tried to tell her of how late the flight was. I warned her that she would grow tired. I pleaded for her to trust the flight crew…they’d be careful and make sure nothing happened to it. But no. We boarded the plane. Her tiny backpack on her back. One hand holding mine. The other clutching the globe.

For two and half hours we flew into the night and she held that thing with total attentiveness. Upon arriving in Flint, I decided to carry her to the baggage claim. While we stood there waiting my little girl drifted off to sleep causing her to lose her grip. The glass smashed. The water and glitter spilled. The mermaid sat alone on the gaudy airport carpeting. And Ally was just as shattered.

I felt like someone just punched me in the gut. It was no time to lecture her on how right I was…how she should have listened to me…or what she could have done differently. If I could have gotten back on that plane right then – I would have. I would have gone back to the Barefoot Trader and sat in front until it opened. But I couldn’t. All I could do was hold her and reassure her that it would be ok.

Jesus said, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Being a dad has helped me realize God doesn’t have it in for us. He doesn’t delight in our failures just so He can teach us a lesson. Nor is He out there with a carrot on a stick, manipulating His children, brow beating His children, or intentionally keeping them in the dark. If we don’t do that to our own kids…why would He?

ps – We made a phone call to grandma the next morning and in only a couple weeks an identical glitter globe took it’s place in Ally’s room.

Dad Spirituality

People who believe in God have all sorts of images of Him. Caricatures range from an icy and impersonal force who observes from a distance to an over-involved puppet master pulling all the strings and levers of the universe.

Even after reading lots of books and taking lots of classes my view of God can still get out of focus. But one thing has taught me more about God’s heart than anything: being a dad.

My sons are two years apart. Over the years they’ve had their share of fights, tussles, and scraps. They have competed with each other and against each other. They’ve always been near each other. This summer my older son Tyler was working and going to school in Illinois. My son Zack has been doing an internship in Virginia. It’s strange for me that there are so many miles between them.

This weekend Tyler is going to fly to DC and road trip back with Zack. But they’re not just going to drive back. They are going to be on a major league pilgrimage. They will be seeing baseball games in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, New York and Pittsburgh. It thrills my heart as a dad that they would save and plan and implement such an adventure…that they would go to such lengths to enjoy each other and a game they both love.

I think it thrills God when his children do the same. When we get along. When we enjoy each other. When we intentionally live our lives together that enrich relationships and share experiences.

Jesus did a lot of radical things but one of the most revolutionary was how he referred to his Father (and instructs us to do as well). He chose a name immersed in intimacy. He called Him “Abba,” dad or daddy. It invokes tenderness, interest, and care. That is a major shift for someone to make…to go from thinking of God as One who is as stern as a battle-scarred dictator to One who sees every drawing done in crayon as a work of art.

Living a Better Story Seminar

For the second time in less than a week someone asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” That’s a tough question. Not because I don’t know but because there isn’t a title for what I want to be and the job description certainly can’t be unpacked in a ten minute conversation across a coffee shop counter. Each time I’m asked I recite a familiar refrain in the silent corners of my heart, “I’m not sure what to call what I want to be but I know what it looks like. And I want the last third of my story to count. Really count.”

  • I want to walk with young leaders. Literally in a cavalcade through canyons trails and over mountain passes. Figuratively next to them as we navigate the terrain of life and leadership. I want to pass on the lessons I’ve learned. Hopefully they will be able to avoid my pitfalls and undergo the transformation that comes from making their own mistakes and wrestling with the conflict in their story.
  • I want to tell stories that inspire multitudes of people. It would be great if that meant I stood on a big stages and communicated to large audiences. But it may happen because God will speak to smaller groups so powerfully through an ass like me (i.e. Numbers 22) that the impact of His truths will be passed from neighbor to neighbor, parents to children, and friend to friend.
  • I want to be an agitator for the church. Please remember I am a product of the church. I love the church. I take seriously the fact that I am the church. I have seen the bride with her makeup off. I’ve caught a few glimpses of her at her worst. Fortunately I have also had moments to behold her beauty, see her at her best, and experience what the bride can be. Now I refuse to settle for less and don’t want anyone else to settle either.

My challenge is I don’t know how to get there. I live in the wake of a perfect storm of loss, heartbreak, and pain. It is a sliver of time similar to the moment in a movie when the audience holds its collective breath unsure of what will come next. If Donald Miller is correct, that which makes a great story makes a great life, then the conflict is not the end. It is the moment when the character changes. The protagonist becomes something he wasn’t. The crisis is the instrument of transformation.

I really believe attending the Living a Better Story Seminar would be instrumental for beginning a new chapter in my story. The conference looks like an environment where the art of living a compelling story will be caught as well as taught.

You can find more information about the seminar here: http://donmilleris.com/conference/

Heart Issues 2

In a biblical sense our heart is our inner person including our mind, will, emotion, character, conscience, and courage. It is the seat of our emotions and passions. It is the core of who we are.

 

Throughout scripture we see discerning hearts, foolish hearts, peaceful hearts, and hard hearts which beat in the chests of discerning, foolish, peaceful, and hard people. Proverbs 4:23 refers to our heart as “the wellspring of life.” Our life flows out of the condition of our heart. I’m beginning to think everyone lives out of their heart at some level. Our choices, words, and attitudes reveal our heart. Our lives and lifestyles are the fruit produced from our heart.

God gives us the freedom to live whatever existence we choose. He lets us fix on any focal point and march to whichever drumbeat we like.

However, there is a place in the Old Testament where God is revealing his desires through a prophet named Ezekiel. He says to His people, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

The offer and invitation is to live out of a heart like His. A heart that chooses integrity over dishonesty, loyalty over betrayal, love rather than hate, forgiveness rather than revenge, and passion instead of apathy.

Heart Issues

I’m wrestling with this issue of “heart.” To say “follow you heart” brings one of two images to my mind. Either a pink card with a fuzzy kitten on it or a high resolution framed print of a man on a mountain peak. I wonder if this notion of living out of my heart is some middle class American luxury or truly possible…especially in light of the people I met on the other side of the world last month.

I googled “Living from your heart” and got pages of results, too many to scroll through. One of the top sites found was an amazon link. I followed that and began to pour through the amazon.com results. After several pages of books on meditation, cardio health, and how to get everything you’ve ever wanted in a few easy steps I gave up there too.

But the Bible talks a lot about our hearts. We’re instructed to guard our heart, care for our heart, and the words we speak come from our heart. It even says if we delight ourselves in God He will give us the desires of our heart.

What do you think?