When Saying Yes Is Your Guiding Principle (My Great Year Off)

In between obtaining my bachelors degree and my masters degree, starting in the fall of 2007, I took a ‘year off.’ I graduated in four years and was only 21 and realized there was no rush just to keep going to school.

What followed was a year I didn’t exactly map out on my own but a time where I had one guiding principle:

Say yes to things you normally don’t say yes to.

Now of course, not things I should obviously say no to for the sake of self preservation, or against societal morality.

Instead, I am talking about things I was scared of doing, or used the lame excuse of “I’m busy with school,” or whatever other excuse I would use back then. Truly it was personality reasons down deep as I was timid about sticking my neck out.

Right away, my first curveball. In September our church gets a new youth pastor.

Me and him hit it off immediately. We are reading the same theologians. We have the same dry humor. We have the same sense of self deprivation. We both are sports nerds. We both are nerds.

And because of this bond that forms on month one of my year off, my cynicism for most things in the organized church starts to diminish.

My own personal hang ups about youth group growing up are greatly challenged when the youth pastor keeps asking me to volunteer. Actually I don’t think I have to be asked, I just simply start showing up on Wednesday nights to youth group (something I didn’t do when I was in the age range!) just to hang out since I have time on my hands and how much of a bond I was forming with the youth pastor.

Next thing you know I have a guitar in my hand helping lead worship at youth group…

…Next thing you know I am leading a small group bible study of college and career age folk, people my age or older, because our church didn’t have anything extra curricular for this age group. We start meeting in parks and our youth pastor and his wife’s apartment, forming bonds that never existed outside of church, bonds that didn’t exactly exist in church.

All because I said yes to filling a void I knew needed filled, even though I was pulling the classic ‘not me Lord, I am no preacher/leader/talker/etc.’ Classic. Because I said yes to something I told myself I wasn’t, our group of less than 20 twenty-somethings grew closer together spiritually and friendship wise.

Another thing I said yes to: I played guitar for the AA style recovery group at our church Monday evenings.

At those meetings is where I realized, perhaps, deeper and more profound church occurred. No slight to the rest of our church or any church. But people would get up and talk about their hurts, hang-ups, addictions, and all together sins. In front of other people! What a wild idea.Jesus Saves sign at Denver Rescue Mission

But in that setting was a trusting intimacy knowing everyone had each other’s back. As I was part of the worship band that kinda hung out in the corner as the main meeting would end and the small groups would break off, I often wondered why I didn’t go into the small groups. I was challenged to wonder why the whole church didn’t participate because the truth is we all could break down into this setting.

And I realized all the more by saying yes to helping other’s worship on a Monday night in a converted garage, they were helping instill in me a taste of what vulnerability really looks like, what coming together and confessing sins to one another means, and what healing and helping each other can do in each other’s lives.

And there was the cross country road-trip to San Diego from Detroit.

Well, as cross country as you can get by starting in Detroit (sorry east coast!).

Me and two friends packed a Pontiac Sunfire to the brim and set off for San Diego in February. A great time to go when you live in Michigan. Not only had I not taken a road-trip like that before, I had never been west of the Mississippi.

By saying yes to a road-trip I’d otherwise say no to because of ‘studies’ or ‘homework’ or other lame but important things, I got to experience travel and logistics and conflict resolution (tons of that with three guys in a Sunfire!).Welcome to Californication

All while seeing America the slow way. No fly over and jump to the heavenly beaches of San Diego. First we had to see Des Moines and Tulsa and Indianapolis in all their winter glory.

By saying yes to this trip my friend prodded me to go on (who was in college himself and simply took a week off), I saw the country instead of seeing pictures online of the country in the undergrad library.

And things I could have never planned for myself were molded into my heart at an incredibly impressionable time in my life.

Stepping up and serving a church body not out of fear but out of love to get people together.

Witnessing vulnerability first hand, which set the early stages for me becoming vulnerable myself in safe community later on.

Bonding with friends and problems solving their way across the open roads of America.

I said yes to not being afraid. And my dreams finally enlarge themselves.

Fever Purge

The fever dream clears all present worries,
A sickness which purges pitiful pursuits,
Clarity pierces in the softest of forms,
Pasts are washed ashore, clean, bright, zealous.

Death started as soon as life began,
Hastening death only means to turn the fever
Into a victor for which it is not. It is a lie.
The fog lifts, the disease dies, and life loudly whispers.

20171103_184919 (1)

Papers Shouting Nothing

I know you’ll wake up inside your mind
In order to discover the visions were true
And never had places to set themselves into
The dusted covered up screaming face
Of lost passions justified by pursuits
Entangled in the next best thing
The way things are not suppose to be
But in the ways other’s desires burn intently,

Forgive my lack of self care
It was never a duration of time I wanted
While sifting through debris piles
Justified by covering up a true person,
As I provide you papers which are built
Inside a system of discarding without learning,
As I want you to not want any of this,
I maintain these words are desperately crafted.


There is no way anything can speak volumes
About an entire life, my life, your life
Those who we never care for or choose to see
If there was never a rounding to the closest soul,
I’ll check the math again and skip over mistakes
I maintain in order to never see stark pasts
Inside multiple light sources shouting down
Shallow intimacy with a person no one knows

Why provide documentation stating
Zero passions built on top of decaying foundations
With lyrical rhythmic bullet points filling space
To get you faster to no where I would ever go,
Approaching the slumbering forgetful mind
Not paying attention to everyone Abba keeps putting
On beaten down walking paths I can’t find on a map
But which tread painful impressions at sacred destinations.

20170930_143525

Pete & Pete: Daylight Savings Time Experts

There’s an episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete titled Time Tunnel. It is one of my favorite episodes from one of my favorite childhood shows. In the episode, brothers Big Pete and Little Pete explain how every daylight savings night they take seriously the opportunity to travel back in time to relive the hour that just went by.

As a ten year old kid I was dumbfounded not at the idea we actually travel through time twice a year, but that I had never utilized fall back for this purpose: go back in time for an hour and make amends with how poorly you might have spent that hour. Or how great you spent it. Or just do it again. We are actually gifted a re-do annually.

Time_Tunnel
From Welcome Back Artie

If I am really good at one thing, like, I can put a flag on something and claim this is my territory and I just kill at it, it would be reflection. It’s not just because I studied history as an undergraduate, but because I study my past all the time. I am always reflecting. Even as a ten year old kid I recall writing journals with a sort of sacredness to the practice of reflecting on the day or big moment that just occurred.

I almost would charge myself with using too much of my present time’s energy towards reflection on my past. There is a balance of course. The practice of looking back at one’s mistakes, one’s victories, or just anything random from the past is an excellent discipline helping re-orient one’s self as to who they are and how’d they get here to the present.

We easily lose sight of how we got to the present. When we do we allow false narratives to hijack the truth of how we arrived in our present situation. By reflecting on the past in order to help course correct our present, we do a good service for ourselves by mentally confirming what actually happened versus what might have happened.

False narratives fill the void quickly and become terrible baggage, positive or negative false narratives the same, because it’s simply not how we got to the present. What we hope for, what I at least hope for with this exercise of intentional reflection, is to find the pivot points which were key and realize what I should or should not do the next time around.

But now I propose we shift this discipline of reflection forward to the future itself and time travel backwards to our present. What happens when we have the vision of our future self telling our present self how we got to our future condition? Couldn’t we use this information to engineer ourselves towards our future self?

What happens is a life-hack so powerful it is frightening when you embrace this exercise fully. The key is taking the same emotional ride when reflecting on a past event in the present, and transferring this same exercise to your future self reflecting on your present self.

Author Tim Ferriss stumbled upon this accidentally when he wrote a piece of fiction. It was a short story “about going skiing, retiring to the ski lodge to sip hot chocolate and wine, and ending up seated across the table from a wise old stranger….this stranger turns out to be my future self. It was a fun story to write, but – and this sounds a bit weird – I also got a lot of actionable, specific advice by going through the exercise. When I put my pen down, I was somewhat puzzled and thought, “I don’t know what I just did there, but it seems like a funky magic trick.”” (Tools of Titans, 443). His future self essentially encourages his present to get to his future self. It was a life-hack of epic proportions.

We are blessed with the incredible opportunity of having another day today. What we do with today will determine our future. Well duh! But I don’t believe we live presently aware enough most of the time to know we are defining our future moment by moment, choice by choice. We get to carve out maybe an inch or two of progress right now in this very moment, progressing towards a future self we desire.

The total mind blowing aspect to this visualization is to take the same clarity we get from looking at our past right now, and transfer this clarity to the future self looking at our current self. We end up feeling we have a better grip at how to handle bad or good things that happened in our past and what we can do to move forward.

By applying this same rush of optimism having seen the future for a moment, even if it is in Pete & Pete’s case only for a mere hour, we unlock the gravity of the powerful tool we posses. Our actions right now determine our future.

You get the opportunity to correct your future self. You get the opportunity to live out the good version of your future self. Right this moment, you can make the first positive incremental move towards who you need to become.

We all get the opportunity to go back in time. Pete & Pete were onto something every autumn.

Dying Too Fast

You are killing yourself when you intentionally stop doing things you are good at and enjoy doing. There is no way to soften the language. You are allowing a part of yourself to suffocate slowly. Death may not come tomorrow but it’s accelerated now.

I know. I saw the results up close and personal.

For reasons I am only scratching the surface in understanding, I stuffed things I enjoyed inside a ‘to-do-later’ box. Of course the intentions were to open the box when convenient. Maybe after I earned X amount of dollars. Maybe when I gained middle management status type security. Probably by the time I forgot what I liked and was good at all together.

The side effects of this? Well you end up having to fill your void of what you love with something. I got real fat, I didn’t personally grow, and I used my ‘free-time’ and those X dollars on things I ‘liked’ such as video games, beer halls, and fast food lines.

I’ve conducted a lot of research on this recently, having read several people who express a very similar message: most of us end up placing things in a box we had a child-like faith and love for. Things we scoff at now because we don’t think we are that good at it. Even though we are good at it. Things we deeply love.

Some of the most common themes in explaining this curious behavior are the following:

We are most afraid of what we love.

It sounds counter-intuitive, and if you are afraid of spiders you may have a point, you actually don’t love spiders. But what several authors have pointed out which is true is we are afraid of failing at what we most love.

In a vain attempt of keeping ourselves safe, we preserve our current state of having never risked anything in order to not experience potential ridicule messing up something we love. It’s kind of like plastic covering your couches to prevent people from sitting on them. Seriously, what on earth is going on there.

We can’t do what we loved and were good at doing as kids because we are not kids anymore.

Well, right. But the problem with that line of thinking is you stop at applying the reasons why you would flip through baseball cards for hours, diligently categorizing them by card number, memorizing the patterns of each page as you flip through the thick binder because of your photographic memory, and being pleased Alex Rodriguez and Mark McGwire’s rookie cards are in your collection (I’m a child of the 90’s, so much hope in all those pure home-runs paying for college).

Unless you own a card shop and need to flip through baseball cards still, that’s not what you are suppose to be doing now. You are suppose to be categorizing items, putting them in their proper place, creating order out of mess, recalling things with your photographic memory and being an on demand human Google resource by putting ideas together.

We have created a mess by now and are slogging through triage just to maintain.

Sure. But. Here is an incredible discovery in the midst of triage. If you start piece by piece, a moment here and there, to let back in the thing you love so much and are good at, it not only starts to establish itself again but actually helps in the process of triage.

So we’ve made a mess by taking the wrong career path, or creating obligations we must tend to (ahem, creating offspring), or signing up to volunteer for things society or someone outside our selves said was a good thing to sign up and commit time and energy to. In the midst of all that, you have to intentionally carve out time (which you have if you actually love the thing) to get what you love going again.

Or better yet. You start applying what you love and are naturally good at to the commitments you’ve made. They may be not ideal obligations, but today is literally the time to start applying what you love to do towards what you do now. Maybe your kids never knew you were a woodworker until you pick it back up and teach them how to use a wood lathe.


If you don’t pick whatever your ‘it’ is back up, you might as well hire a woodworker to build your casket. You’ve essentially said no to living out what you are good at and love.

Stop dying by doing. Become a kid again. Put it to practice even in the middle of the mess you are in.

The Greatest Paradox Yet

I was not the best version of myself at all. There was still a lot to work on personally. And yet, there I was, living what I can only see now as a dream state. Part, but not all of, my dream even. Places I wanted to be, surrounded by the kindest people. In environments conducive towards igniting imagination and taking on great challenges.

It was other people’s dream states in fact. I was living other people’s dreams and taking it for granted. Because maybe I am right, maybe I was doing nothing I was meant to do which was leading me to destructive behaviors, which was killing me.

I was the worst version of myself.
Yet I was wanted and sought after.
How paradoxical.

Because now I am the best version of myself. I am the healthiest I have ever been. I am the closest to God’s heart I’ve ever been. I am more focused with incredibly productive daily rituals which allow me to be at my peak to take on all the projects in my life.

I’ve allowed my creative self to breathe life again. Fear is stripping itself not away but in lower quantities. Action steps are in place when I am confronted with fear. And I know now when my heart glows while doing something, TO DO MORE OF IT. Pretty simple but often neglected life-hack. But it is all coming together as I shed the roughest edges of myself. Putting on passions I’ve always had but just needed focused and refined.

I am the best version of myself.
Yet I am not wanted and overlooked.
How paradoxical.


Wait. But what if there was always only one Person who wanted me.

In Jesus, there is no paradox because no matter if I am out of place, no matter if I am not myself, no matter if the world wants me or no one wants me, Jesus wants exactly me. Exactly who I am.

Ode To September

Things change for me in September. Always have.

I even changed from not being born to existing all of a sudden.

And there have been several rebirths of mine in other Septembers. Killed off. Born again. Killed off. Born again.

And in birth, I find there is more pain than in the death. There is always pain.

But afterwords, there is life. There is always life.

20170922_221002-EFFECTS.jpg

Reinvention

I think we misinterpret when we talk about reinventing ourselves.

Maybe I’m hinting at the misunderstanding of the object of our reinvention.

We can change circumstances, settings, even outward expressions. But to reinvent who we are? No, it’s not something we can do. And I’d highly advise against such an impossible task.

The reinvention we want? It doesn’t come when we switch our job or our spouse or our friends. It doesn’t come when we change our hairstyle or our wardrobe or the way we interact with others. Reinvention occurs not to turn us into some better version of ourselves.

It happens when we finally realize our identity.

To get to this change we must thoroughly filter stories we tell and internalize about ourselves. What we allow into our core is what we will believe.

Reinvention comes when we begin accepting affirmations others speak about us after years of bashful deflection. Change also starts when we shed tears about the pains which are realities deep inside us.

After proper filtering and sharing we find ourselves ‘reinventing’ the way we are because, day by day, we embrace who we are.