Are you participating in your own life?

About seven or eight years ago, Traci and I were at a crossroads in our lives. The alphabets (AJ, BJ & CJ) had all been born and we were in the throes of parenting. We had taken on a boat load of debt due to several big medical expenses, the purchase of a family car, the total collapse of our sewer system (yes, that’s as fun as it sounds!) the loss of a furnace, and on and on. We were feeling the weight and pressure of debt, of raising small children and of trying to keep our marriage alive (not just together!).

 

CJ, AJ and Traci hanging out at Camp TLC in northern California. This was always one of our favorite camps to speak at.

CJ, AJ and Traci hanging out at Camp TLC in northern California. This was always one of our favorite camps to speak at.

Traci had just finished up a third round of seminars hosted by Klemmer and Associates, and was starting to push through some of the junk in life that keeps us from growing and moving forward. As she has said in her own speaking and blogging, “I wasn’t even participating in my own life.” She had been struggling with depression brought on after child birth, and we were both struggling to just get through each day: it’s like survival was all we were after.

 

After Traci’s most recent seminar, we began to talk more about the future and our dreams, and both of us were becoming convinced that just surviving life wasn’t enough. My job at the church was going well, but it had become a bit stagnant; the new systems and calendar I had put in place were the new “norm” and I been taking it easy in cruise control.

 

That’s when it happened.

 

One of the elders in my church, Kent Kersey, came to me after services on Sunday and asked if I had read Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years? I was not a Donald Miller fan, which he knew, and I politely declined. He told me that it was a great book and that I really should consider reading it. In fact, he gave me a copy and said I needed to take it with me to the camp I was speaking at the next week.

 

I thanked him for the book, and since Kent is one of the best thinkers I know, I believed what he said about the book. I packed it away for our trip to Northern California to speak at a summer camp just outside Eureka and figured I’d at least start reading it when we got there.

 

On Monday morning I picked up the book and by Tuesday afternoon I had finished it. I

All three of the alphabets enjoyed our summer travel while I was a youth pastor.

All three of the alphabets enjoyed our summer travel while I was a youth pastor.

handed it to Traci and she read it by Thursday and then I read it again before we left on Saturday. I’ve read it a couple of times since then. Essentially, Donald Miller used this book to explain that he had been a spectator to his own life. When Christian artist/producer/singer/director Steve Taylor approached Don about making a movie of Don’s life, Miller realized he didn’t have much of a life. He had written a lot about life, he had challenged people to live a better life, but he himself was sitting an armchair, watching others live and writing about it.

 

Through this process of recognizing his lack of living, Don embarked on a journey to have a life worth reading about; to make a life that would be worthy of a movie. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years tells about Don’t journey from armchair critic to active participant in life.

 

Me reading to BJ and CJ while we chilled out in the speaker's cabin.

Me reading to BJ and CJ while we chilled out in the speaker’s cabin.

And it struck a nerve with me and with Traci. We were at our own crossroads, trying to figure out how to make our marriage, and our parenting and our ministry and our business(es) be more about just surviving. We didn’t want to wake up each day just trying to survive, just trying to make it to the end of the day so we could sleep, wake and repeat. We wanted a life worth sharing or writing about, we wanted to have a marriage that would shine as an example for other couples struggling like us and we wanted to live for something so much bigger than ourselves.

 

When we got back from the camp, we were full of ideas, and slowly we began to implement them. I set up my first blog and began some semi-regular writing. Traci and I started dreaming about some service projects that our whole family could be a part of and then began to move forward, together. Traci continued her personal growth seminars, I started being coached and began reading other books that would help lay a path for our dreams.

 

Suddenly, it was as if we were back in the thrill of experiencing life again; we were participating in our own lives! Don’t get me wrong, our daily existence and routine didn’t instantly become easy. The path wasn’t laid with gold bricks, the skies weren’t always blue and the sun did not always shine. Instead, we began to realize that we didn’t need gold paths, blue skies and sunshine in order to experience the richness of life. Traci and I began to choose to fully embrace our lives regardless of our circumstances. We decided that life is a God-given adventure, and sitting on the sidelines to watch it pass by was no longer an option.

 

During that season, the words of John 10:10 became very real to me: Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” The Message translates it this way: “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” Does that sound like the description of a life you’d want to stand by and watch? Of course not, that’s the kind of life all of us want to live — we want to be a part of a life like that!

 

Are you watching your own life pass by? Are you caught up in just trying to survive each day, hoping to fall asleep at the end of it and wake up and repeat in the morning? I’ve been there, and I can tell you that there’s something better than just surviving! I can’t promise you a quick fix, better circumstances or a fuller bank account. But I can promise you a fuller life, a better reason for getting up each day and a future worth dreaming about. The life God wants to give you is “real…more…and better” than anything you could ever dream up on your own.

 

Will you trust Him with your life? Will you take action in faith, believing that God can guide your steps to the best life possible? We can embrace life in all of it’s goodness, struggle, tension, joy, sorrow, pain and victory and we can enjoy it’s richness by experiencing it fully through Jesus.

 

36 down, 4 to go!

 

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

 

My second book, Project Nehemiah, is all about embracing the remarkable life God has for each of us. You can purchase a copy here if you’re interested in more!

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