The relief in not understanding

This year has been most unusual for me. As we approach Thanksgiving, I typically find myself being introspective and retrospective. In doing each, I discover the beautiful mess this year has been. I have discovered the sheer beauty in not worrying about trying to understand everything, and just letting it happen.

In what seemed at the time to be going with the flow in life, some seen and unseen extraordinary things were happening in my life. From a seemingly chance encounter which evolved into a life-altering relationship, to moments of sheer frustration which proved to be God’s providential hand of protection.

I’ve always subscribed to the thought that life can only be lived forward, but understood in reverse. The past few years have been loaded with this kind of revelation. Hardly a day goes by without a layer of understanding being added to my life. But the most liberating understanding has come in finding the peace in not needing to understand everything.

I pray every single day that God would order my steps. I pray for His guidance, His wisdom, His protection, His provision and His strength as I go through my day. I find myself worrying less. I find myself trusting more.

Have you ever found yourself frustrated when you leave a location, get in the car, drive a half mile down the road, only to realize you forgot something? You drive back to the point of origin, muttering insults to yourself, get that item, then return to your car. You’re all upset that you just wasted 5 minutes you’ll never get back. But en route to your destination, you pass a car accident that very likely may have included you had it not been for the momentary diversion.

I have had numerous experiences like that, even in the past several weeks. I can easily connect the dots from the “ahh crap” moment, to the “ahh ha!” moment. I can see God’s fingerprints on everything, including the inconveniences in life.

I am learning the great relief it is to embrace the seemingly mundane inconveniences and occurrences in life, and see that those very things may serve a greater significance in the big picture that I’m unable to see at the moment.

God has been faithful to answer my daily requests. As a planner, a person who sees an invisible itinerary mapping out each day, this new mindset has been a long time in the making.

9 A man’s heart plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps.

~Proverbs 16:9

23 The LORD makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

~Psalms 37:23-24

The inspiring Danny Murphy

For a reason I can’t even begin to understand, a friend from my youth totally popped into my head the other night. In fact, it happened as I was sleeping. This person was a friend of mine through elementary school, into junior high, and finally high school. After that, as is typical, many of us went our separate ways into our new lives.

Danny Murphy was a very special kid, and an inspiration to me even to this day. Some of my hometown friends may know Danny, so this post may bring back some great memories of a unique individual.

Danny was born with severely deformed arms. At some point, he may have explained to me what caused it, but truly, it didn’t matter. The fact was, he didn’t care, so we didn’t. Danny only had 4 fingers on each hand. He had no thumbs. One of his arms was permanently bent at a right angle. Both arms were shorter than normal, and I don’t believe there was much dexterity in either. But one arm was a bit more useful than the other. As children are, anyone with the slightest abnormality was raw meat to the bullies and the most ignorant on the playground. Yet, I don’t recall anyone ever picking on Danny.

You see, Danny had a positive attitude. He was very funny. He was so fun to be around. He was also a marvel to watch. He did everything everyone else did. He didn’t let his condition keep him from anything the so-called normal kids did.

Danny played little league baseball with us. In the field, he would put his glove on his left hand, which was the stronger and more flexible arm. Once he caught the ball, in one motion, he would take the ball out of the glove with his right hand, pull the glove off his left hand with his right armpit, grab the ball with his left hand, and throw it wherever it needed to go. It took me ten seconds to describe what took him less than a second to do. I know I couldn’t do it. It was amazing.

Danny played basketball. He made our junior high team, as a matter of fact. When he would take the court, the other team would take a look at him and assumed he would be useless out there. But Danny could shoot! I’m not talking about just little shots within a few feet of the basket. He could shoot from just about anywhere!

Danny played football. In fact, he was the place kicker in college at Sonoma State University. During his football career, Danny was selected to be the kicker for the West All Star team at the East West Shrine game at Stanford Stadium. Danny was the first, and to the best of my knowledge, only player ever to participate in the game who, at one time, was a patient of the hospital.

I have no idea where Danny is these days. In all likelihood, he doesn’t go by Danny anymore. But that’s how I knew him when we were kids. I love the fact that growing up with him, we didn’t see a kid who was deformed. We didn’t see a kid who was disabled. We didn’t see a kid who felt sorry for himself. We didn’t see a kid others felt sorry for. We saw a kid who was just a kid. His ordinary-ness was what made him extraordinary.

I know life had it’s challenges for Danny. I have to believe that adult life has presented other challenges for him. But knowing him the way I did, I am certain that he took any and all challenges, and found a way to make it work. Just like he did with the baseball, he handled everything with tremendous grace.

Just remembering Danny has brought a smile to my face this week. It’s also served to inspire me to see challenges as opportunities. Rather than assume it’s hopeless, just find a way to make it work. There was no “can’t” in Danny’s vocabulary. Even after all these years since I’ve seen or talked to Danny, he’s made me smile, laugh, and grow in determination.

Today, I celebrate and share with you the inspiring life of my boyhood friend, Danny Murphy.

The voice of insecurity

As I mentioned a couple days ago, there was a significant part of my life when I was hampered by insecurity. Insecurity is such a destructive force. In most cases, it is created brick upon brick by words others heap on us.

I grew up already feeling as if I were inferior to my peers. I have a skin disorder known as Vitiligo. You have probably seen it at some point, even if you don’t realize it. It’s painless. It’s not a disease. It simply is where the pigment in skin is dead in some areas. On a person, such as myself, who is naturally darker…it is a very obvious condition when my natural skin tone is juxtaposed by very white patches. It was very prominent on my hands as I grew up, so I spent a lot of time with my hands in my pockets. I felt everyone was staring at me. It was not uncommon for kids to come to me and ask, “what happened to your hands? Were you burned?”

Another brick.

After years and years of feeling inferior, the wall I had built had evolved into a prison of my own making. I had little self confidence. Even in areas where I excelled, I couldn’t allow myself to accept compliments.

So many of us are bound by unpleasant experiences from our past. Many of us were influenced by negative, even downright mean people. Their voices ring in our heads and hearts. Their words echo.

I don’t know about you, but I have found that those who pound me with negativity are loaded with their own insecurities. They feel they are creating a greater margin of perceived superiority by knocking me down, rung by rung. In reality, they are exposing their own weakness.

I have found personal victory over my insecurities by not living or dying by the perceptions of others. I took an honest and deep look within myself. I asked God to show me His view of me. With that, I gained a perspective I had never seen before. I took to heart what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:18, that the Lord’s approval is all I need.

Since that time, I have found tremendous fulfillment in my personal relationships. I have allowed myself to be…well, myself. I am who God created me to be. While I’m far from perfect, I am a work in progress. His masterpiece. The same is true for you.

We are all products of our environments. If you were, or are part of a negative element, you will find a transformation waiting for you when you cut away from the negative and immerse yourself in God’s truth.

4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

~2 Corinthians 10:4-5

It’s time to put an end to the destructive pattern and power of insecurity. Instead of you living in a prison of insecurity and negativity, it’s time to put those thoughts, those experiences and those words into captivity, and you walk in freedom!

The power of dissatisfaction

I had a conversation recently with a friend of mine. He was telling me of his over all feeling of dissatisfaction. He’s enjoying what is happening in his life, but he’s lacking the sense of true accomplishment. What he’s achieved so far is the fruit of previous accomplishments, but that’s not enough to completely satisfy a heart that continues to beat.

Some people view dissatisfaction as a bad thing. It’s one thing to be obsessed with the idea of more. A person who is dissatisfied with only having five cars is obsessed with materialism. On the other hand, a person who is hungry for purpose and relevance in the world is very positive and powerful.

Hunger, dissatisfaction is the spark we need to get off our rear ends and do
something. It’s not enough to sit back and marvel at the accomplishments of our past. The spark of dissatisfaction ignites the fuel of our passion to make a difference. Many of us have done some very cool things that we’re proud of. That hunger, that dissatisfaction is a craving within you to take it to another level. Embrace it! Harness it! Make a difference!

God has given you the ability to be satisfied. Just like being full, or satisfied by a good meal, it’s only temporary. You will be hungry again. That hunger, that stirring inside you is your instinctive signal of dissatisfaction. When you’re hungry for food, you fix a meal or you go out to eat. When you’re hungry to make a difference, make it happen!

Use the power of dissatisfaction to propel you to a new trajectory of significance in your world.

Victory in God’s silence

Having been around for a few years now, I have learned a very significant lesson. At one time, I figured I was the only one walking among us who had vulnerabilities and challenges. I thought others had their act together and I was the one loaded with all the insecurities.

Since then, I’ve learned that we all have our issues. Each of us are different, and each of us have different experiences and triggers which attack our vulnerabilities. Some of us are better at overcoming our issues, and others of us struggle to survive the battles. Sometimes we’re strong and impervious, and other times, we just don’t have the strength to battle it.

Here’s a little exercise for you. Imagine you are the devil. If you were him, and your objective was to mess with you and ruin your day, what would you do? What part of your life would you attack? In warfare, you are always looking to exploit your enemy’s weakness. Where are you vulnerable? Self esteem? Drugs? Alcohol? Dead end relationships? Money? Loneliness? Depression? If you were the devil, what would be your number one target?

Here’s the thing. When we are most vulnerable, the battle isn’t lost when we’re attacked. The battle is lost when we perpetuate the enemy’s strategy. Imagine a boxing match. Picture one guy beating the stuffing out of the other. Now imagine the guy absorbing the punishment beginning to take over for his opponent by punching himself. You see, when we give in to those areas where we are vulnerable, we begin doing the enemy’s work for him. When we doubt, when we get down on ourselves, when we do things to our bodies that are harmful to us and/or others…the devil is sitting back in his chair, hands clasped behind his head and feet on his desk, and we take over for him in blowing up our own lives.

As silly as the picture is of the boxer beating himself to a pulp, how much more sense does it make that we do the same things to ourselves when the going gets tough?

You already know where you are vulnerable. Do you know where the devil is weakest? The only counter strike you need to the enemy’s lies is God’s truth. Instead of beating yourself with words of negativity, instead of putting things in your body which are destructive, instead of resorting to bad habits which hurt you, begin to recite God’s promises for you.

Remind yourself, and your enemy that no weapon formed against you will prosper (Isaiah 54:17), and that you will reject any accusation the enemy hurls at you.

Remind yourself and the devil that greater is the God within you than anyone and anything else who is out to mess you over. (1 John 4:4)

Remind yourself and the devil that you are fearfully and wonderfully made! (Psalm 139:14. In fact, read ALL of Psalm 139.)

Remind yourself and the devil that God has plans for your future. He has good things in store for you. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Many of us are going through unspeakably difficult situations right now. Some of us have been through some horrible things in the past, but the ripple effect still touches our lives today. In these times, I can’t promise you that it will all be better immediately. In fact, it’s likely that you will have to persevere a bit longer. But this is when our maturity is tested and strengthened. In those dark times, we must choose to focus our lives on God’s truth rather than the enemy’s lies.

As I was creating this post, I heard a song for the very first time that I want to share with you. It’s no coincidence that I heard it when I did, and I trust that this post and the song will speak to you, or someone you know. The song is by Superchic[k], called Beauty From Pain. It is featured in my playlist in the right column of my blog page. I encourage you to listen intently to the lyrics. There are times we question why things have happened to us the way they did. But even in the darkness, even in the confusion, even in the pain, God can pulverize those things together in order to make something beautiful and precious in your life.

Don’t give in. Stand strong. Know that God is there. He may seem silent, but His words can be heard in your spirit when you recite His promises to you. He longs to hear your voice speak of His love for you.