God is Found in Sunsets, Not Formulas

“Too much of our time is spent trying to chart God on a grid, and too little time is spent allowing our hearts to feel awe. By reducing Christian spirituality to formula, we deprive our hearts of wonder.” -Donald Miller

I’m a sunset guy. I never tire of watching the sun fade into the horizon, as I’m regularly snapping away, adding to my ever-growing collection of majestic sunset photos. No matter how many times I’ve seen one, I can’t get enough. There is something about the beauty of the sun radiating those brilliant colors while slolwly dipping below view to cap off another day, a day never to return. I think it must be God’s way of saving His most masterful brush stroke for the grande finale.

One of my favorite places to watch the sun put an exclamation point on the day in Virginia Beach is by the Chesapeake Bay near the Lynnhaven Inlet. While most of our beaches face towards the east, this stretch of sandy shoreline curves back around the Chesapeake Bay, facing to the northwest. This allows for breathtaking views of the amber hues fading behind glistening waters and the spectacular 17-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. I could visit this magnificent spot everyday for the next year, but no two sunsets will ever be exactly the same.

“The Heavens declare the Glory of God,
and the sky above declares his handiwork.”
– Psalm 19:1

God is the Creator. He’s continuously providing us with fresh artwork, all for our pleasure and to proclaim His awesomeness.

And yet we try to box this same author of art into well-defined formulas so that we can comprehend how He will show up in our lives, mostly for our own benefit. We need a means to understand things unseen so that we’ll know what buttons to push to derive the answers and outcomes we want.

Yet, the next time we’re tempted to believe 7 Steps to a Fulfilled Life or 224 Methods of Discovering God’s Favor, let’s instead bask in the glow and splendor of His sunset and reflect on the wonder of the life He’s given. While we’re busy searching for His perfect will, He continues to say “I’m here.”

What A Funeral, The Red River, & Texas Beef Brisket Taught Me

Karen and I took off on a mad dash to Texas this past weekend to pay our final respects to her grandfather, who sadly passed away last week after 88 incredible years. Even in the midst of loss, every part of this short weekend was memorable – getting to meet extended family for the first time, catching up with others whom we hadn’t seen in years.

Upon checking in for our flight, no seats were available for us to sit together. Naturally, I asked the young woman in the seat next to mine if she wouldn’t mind trading seats. Apparently, she was in the wrong seat to begin with, as I created a momentary logjam in the aisle. Thankfully, a gentlemen seated in Karen’s row bailed me out, as I sensed the ire of glaring passengers waiting to stuff their over-sized carry-ons into the undersized bins. He offered the man next to him, who was unlucky enough to be stuck in the middle seat, a free upgrade to an aisle seat, which he readily accepted.

Sitting next to the aforementioned generous man, we struck up a conversation. As we shared our stories prior to take off, his face beamed with pride as he talked about his two kids, his son a left tackle for a local college team and his daughter, pursuing a film degree. Being a military guy, he expressed concern that his daughter hadn’t buckled down and started a traditional job, but he realized he had to back off and let her find her own way. He mentioned that he felt better talking to me, since I work in multimedia and as I explained that it’s quite natural for many people to pursue free agency in this business, especially if they are more independently wired.

photo courtesy: jczart on Flickr.com

Much like the initial flight, there was something refreshing, invigorating even, simply by being in new places, interacting with interesting folks, crossing over the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma, being in the state of my birth (OK), and eating mouth-watering Texas beef brisket. Most importantly, we were able to celebrate and remember the life of a man who had allowed God’s glory to guide him throughout his days on this earth.

Getting outside my bubble reminded me that I must do it more often. Far too many of us live inside our made-up routine because it’s easy. Yet, it’s not the routine, daily grind that makes life worth living. The memorable moments occur by…

– Breaking routine

– Regularly traveling to new places

– Interacting with new people and learning from them

– Spending time with family

– Celebrating, remembering, and contemplating the life of someone who knew what it meant to live out his calling

– Being open to new adventures and ideas

– Considering that our lives may need adjusting after we’ve been exposed to new people, places, ideas, and experiences

– Allowing God to use us to encourage and serve as we intentionally engage in the present

All it took was a funeral, the Red River, and a little (really a lot of) Texas beef brisket to remind me.

Don’t Go-it Alone and My Lame On-Camera Attempt

The other day, I was hiking in North Carolina with Justin Lukasavige of Coach Radio. Check out his site – there’s some really helpful and interesting content there. He’s become a friend through our conversations about building a business over the last year, and he’s taken on a mentor’s attitude in his life and business. In fact, he was nice enough to let me in on his weekly “Trail Talk” segment. If you want to see why I stay behind the camera, here’s the link:

http://www.coachradio.tv/its-right-under-your-nose-trail-talk

Rewind two or three years, and we probably wouldn’t have had a conversation, much less struck up a friendship. I had a go-it-alone mentality. I thought I was smart enough to figure life out on my own. I didn’t want to annoy people with my problems or bore them with was going on in my life. More importantly, I didn’t want to face the possibility of rejection.

Dan Miller, who authored No More Mondays and 48 Days to the Work You Love, often asserts, “One of the key characteristics of highly successful people is that they spend time with those who are already performing at the level they are shooting for.” By finding the right mentors, you set yourself up to learn more in a few conversations then you could possibly receive from a 4-year degree. More importantly, the encouragement builds a newfound self-confidence.

Aside from a mentoring standpoint, it’s also beneficial to find people on similar life journeys. If you read my recent blog about my wife’s ongoing illness, then you have a pretty good idea of some of the struggles that have occurred in our lives the last four years. It became apparent that I had neglected to build other relationships during our dating years and early in our marriage. In fact, I didn’t realize I had a need for the friendship of men until I felt alone in those moments of struggle.

Suffice it to say, life doesn’t work well when we try to do it alone.  Success in all areas often comes back to relationships.

There Aren’t Any Flat Screens in Nature

Today happens to mark the day of the most-watched event in America each year. With the Super Bowl being played in Dallas’ immaculate $1.2 billion dollar mecca, I am amazed how the fans inside the stadium are bombarded with stimulation left and right – LED boards flashing constantly, advertisements shown left and right, and a supersized jumbtron hanging from one 20-yard line to another. The game in-and-of-itself doesn’t provide enough entertainment anymore.

As I was walking on the trail today, I thought about why we are so afraid of silence and stillness. God, alone, isn’t sufficient for us anymore. We need grand orchestras and flashing lights in church. We need to be in constant contact with friends and family through Facebook, email, and texting.

Maybe we’re afraid to stop and hear God’s voice in the midst of distraction, afraid of what He will reveal to us. Ever thought about why God didn’t put Jumbtrons, flat screens, and constantly flashing lights in nature?

Maybe He created the quiet streams, the rolling hills, and the vast oceans to remind us of His constant presence. Nature is a refuge for us to enjoy, as we break away from the stresses and distractions of life. God desires to speak to us in the quiet moments, if we’ll let him. Spend some time being still before God. Unplug for a while and head outside to a local trail. He doesn’t need LED boards to grab your attention. The beauty and wonder of life become apparent, as we realize how small our worries and lives are in the midst of His creation. So turn off the phone for a couple of hours. It won’t hurt, I promise. Allow your soul to be refreshed in His presence. If you make this simple act into a habit,  you’ll be amazed with the ideas and creativity that flow from your mind, along with a heart renewed.