change the world {day 20} :: say no

Sometimes a step toward changing the world means taking the risk to do that big thing, knowing you could fail but facing it anyway. Other times, changing the world comes from saying no, bowing out, staying seated when it seems like you should stand. If yes were a building, no is the back door. Because for every brave yes, there is also a no that comes right along with it. And sometimes saying no takes more courage than saying yes ever did.

We run into some of our most overwhelming problems when we fail to realize that our yes’s live in the same basket as our no’s. And so we must be confident enough in our decisions that a narrowed eye from a fellow school parent doesn’t sway us; that pressure from the Bible study leader at church doesn’t force our hand; that a harsh but well-intended word from a relative doesn’t derail our priorities. Believe in your yes, hold fast to your no. Don’t let the easily offended critic set the agenda.

People may love you, respect you, look up to you, want to be with you, but they will not say no for you. They will let you work and volunteer as long as you are willing. They will let you lead and be strong and move ahead if you want to. Don’t get mad at them for letting you continue to say yes. Only you know your boundaries. If you don’t, might I encourage you to find them out. Because yes can be brave, but it can also be bossy. It can become an addiction. Before you realize it, all of your yes’s are to obligation and duty. And because of those obligated yes’s you are forced to look passion and intention and desire in the eye and say No, I don’t have time for you.

Protect the goal. Carve out margin. Create space for your soul to breathe. Weigh the cost your yes will have on your spirit, your soul, your body. You may have to search for your brave yes, but you will have to fight for your brave no.

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change the world {day 19} :: say yes

He really did get down on one knee, although a lot of it is foggy. You think you’ll remember it all like a movie, but instead you remember weird things, like how the bench where we sat had a small dedication plaque on the back of it. I think it was a woman’s name, the bench given as a gift to the park in her honor. She never could have known when her life was gone that we would begin ours together here, on a bench with her name on it. But there it was, a silent witness.

I said yes (of course) and that one word propelled us forward into the next 10 years. I still say yes, everyday. No one asks if I will take this man every morning when I get up. But I do take him, whether the day is worse or better. He asked the question once. I answer him with my life.

Things going wrong or crazy or heartbreaking doesn’t mean I should have said no. It just means the world is broken and we still live in it. And so the success of our yes does not depend upon our circumstance but upon our convictions. We usually know this is true in marriage, but it’s true in other things, too.

Sometimes no is my default because I know yes will require something of me. Movement. Commitment. Expectation. Change. We know saying yes means a lot, implies a lot. And so we hide behind no and leave the yes’s for the brave and the courageous — those who are not us.

But your world would be different if you were not in it. And your brave yes might be just what we’re waiting for.  Yes, I will believe. Yes, I will move. Yes, I will open my eyes. Yes, I will show up. You might not like what you see. You might be afraid of what is required of you. But yes is the first step and you are not alone. What is your brave yes?

We’re talking about changing the world everyday in October. See the other posts in the series here.

change the world {day 18} :: show up

And so you purpose to take a step in the direction of influence and start. This time you aren’t moving to run from regret or to catch up to an expectation, but you are moving because you have been inspired and you can’t not move. You have glimpsed your full potential and you can’t let go of the delicate hand of Hope. It was hard to see her before, but now that you’ve started to move, you realize she’s standing there with you, eyes bright and dancing.

Her grip is firmer than you thought it’d be. That girl is tougher than she looks.

And so with Hope standing by your side, you wonder if she might tell you where you’re headed. But there’s mystery in this Hope. Instead of pulling out a map, she simply repeats the same three words, over and again.

Show up, friend. You don’t have to fix them and you don’t have to save. Show up, with all of your love and insecurity, with all of your messy beauty and irrational fears. Don’t wait until you think you’re ready. Can we really ever be ready for change?

Show up in the world and be who you already are. Not hiding behind a mask of strength. Not pretending to understand things you don’t. Not a girl who has all the answers. Not a mom who can handle everything or a teacher who is always fresh with ideas or a wife who never gets it wrong. Show up human. Show up authentic. Show up today, in everything you do. Be there, present, ready, real, engaged. Show up and see what happens. The world is begging you.

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change the world {day 17} :: start

If you’ve been reading this series for the past 16 days, chances are that there is a thing that has been coming to your mind. I can’t tell you what it is, but you know. Maybe you’ve been wondering if something we say here will spark you do do that thing. Maybe you’ve been looking for a reason not to do it. Maybe you heard the topic change the world and you clicked away but now you find yourself back here, for some reason.

Why is your heart beat quickening now? What is that thing that keeps coming to your mind? What have you been avoiding because of fear of failure or success? What if, just for today, you ignored the voice that keeps telling you not to start? What if, just for today, you took one step toward influence? Want to change the world? Then start. It’s the hardest part.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles … The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly … who at his worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Since we have already decided (just for today) that there is no fear in starting, are you willing to name it? To hold it in your hands, turn it over and examine it, explore the depth and breadth of what it might mean? Tell us, what is your arena?

change the world {day 16} :: Move

We started out hiding in the bathroom, worried about what might be on the other side of the door. We paused there in that small room and spent some time of stillness, a necessary thing before you set out on a journey to change the world. And so week one we stayed put, opening our hands for grace and truth to settle down into the deep, secret places.

Week two we opened the door but we lingered in the wide-open doorway, leaning heavy against the wood frame. We considered our passion, our limits, our choices, what moves us to cry and to worship.

And so this week it’s time to walk clear away from the bathroom door, to see it fade small into the distance behind us. This movement may look quiet or it may look loud. It may be subtle or radical, secret or obvious, hilarious or terrifying. Depending on your gifting, your life season, and your desire, this movement will look different for everyone. But it will be movement. Has any change ever come with out it?

You Move Me by Susan Ashton

This how it seems to me
Life is only therapy
Real expensive and
No guarantees
So I lie here on the couch
With my heart hanging out
Frozen solid with fear
Like a rock in the ground

But You move me
You give me courage I didn’t know I had,
You move me
I can’t go with You and stay where I am so,
You move me

Here is how love was to me
I could look and not see
Going through the emotions
Not knowing what they mean
And it scared me so much
That I just wouldn’t budge
I might have stayed there forever
If not for Your touch

Oh, but You move me
Out of myself and into the fire
You move me
Burning with love and with hope and desire,
How You move me

You go whistling in the dark
Making light of it, making light of it
And I follow with my heart
Laughing all the way
Oh, ’cause You move me
You get me dancing and You make me sing,
You move me
Now I’m taking delight in every little thing
How You move me
Oh, You move me

 

change the world {day 15} :: know your brokenness

And so you venture out, face set like a flint in the direction of influence. You have every good intention, until … your job ends, your heart breaks, your friends are not who you thought they were. How can we change the world when the world works so hard to change us? Explore this brokenness with me at (in)courage?

We are now about half way through 31 days to Change the World. Read from the beginning here. If you would like to get Chatting at the Sky delivered into your inbox, subscribe here for free.

change the world {day 14} :: know how to worship

When the idea of changing the world makes you feel small, don’t confuse your smallness with insignificance. You exist because God does. Dare to notice every lifting of your hand, every closing of your eye, every word that falls so easy out of your mouth – and know that it all moves because he moved first. He opened his mouth and said Let there be. And so light and creatures and new life came and filled up the whole earth, the earth that is because he said so.

That means we breathe in air and breathe out worship. We receive love and extend worship. We embrace children, offering worship. We comfort, we laugh, we mourn, we dance, we read, we dream, we exist — all worship. We pay the bills, we run on the treadmill, we enjoy a good movie, we make dinner, we welcome friends with open arms — worship, all worship. We send money and offer prayer and sit with a lonely neighbor in Jesus’ name. We wait for love, we long for home, we pour out our hearts and hopes and fears and longing; we create with words and photos and colors and food, all beautiful acts of worship.

But we don’t call it that. We call those things living. But when the Spirit of the living God lives inside of you, then your living is also your worship. Everything that is is because he is I Am. ”For in Him we live and move and exist.” (Acts 17:28) We are able to worship in all that we do. And anything worth doing will also be worship. What else would it be?

Portions of this post were taken from my book, Grace for the Good Girl.

This is day 14 in a series. Read 31 Days to Change the World from the beginning. Go here to see all of the other 31 Day series happening around the internets. Want to have Chatting at the Sky delivered into your email inbox? Subscribe here for free.

change the world {day 13} :: know your choices

When Prince William of Wales dated Kate Middleton of Bucklebury, they couldn’t make a move without being photographed. When they were finally engaged, the world went crazy because this meant that Kate Middleton, a commoner from a non-royal family, would one day be called the Queen of England.

photo credit. Mario Testino

I wake up at 4 am on a Friday. It’s late April, the day of the wedding. I may or may not have slept on the couch out of sheer excitement. When I turn on the TV and blink my blurry eyes a few times, the newscaster is announcing that after Prince William and Kate marry, they will become the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. We are fascinated with this wedding, and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that this girl walks into a church as Kate and comes out an hour later as Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge.

She’s still the same girl, but with one decision, everything changes. How people relate to her changes. How her life plays out changes. With one walk down the aisle, her future and ultimately, the future of an entire country, is different than it would have been had she never walked down the aisle in the first place. With that one choice, the trajectory of her life goes in a completely different direction than it would have had she not made the choice at all.

***

I’m riding in a pedicab on a waterlogged road made of mud and rocks. One of the staff members from Compassion and I are crammed uncomfortably close together. I’m holding my backpack too tightly, eyes blurring, heart racing. My feet are still sweaty from the rubber boots I just took off after wading through the water sidewalks in the small, flooded community of shacks in Manila. The boy who  held my shoes, his eyes still haunt me.

The woman serving as our guide seems to know every name of every child. She must spend a lot of time volunteering down here. I think her name is Ann. Her smile is infectious. Her joy, full. As we pass a row of shacks just like the ones we just left, she points to one on the left. “And there is my house!” She says, proud. Smiling. And then I know. She knows these children so well because they are her neighbors.

Her choices look different from Kate Middleton’s. But they are still her choices. She can choose to live impoverished or she can choose to live in joy. We may be born into wealth or born into poverty, but we still have choices. Our lives are not scripts written in invisible ink. We are not destined to live trying to decode a secret to our correct life. We have a hand in how this whole thing plays out. You cannot always control your circumstance, but you and you alone make your choices. And every change in the world beings with a choice.

This is day 13 in a series. Read 31 Days to Change the World from the beginning. Go here to see all of the other 31 Day series happening around the internets. Want to have Chatting at the Sky delivered into your email inbox? Subscribe here for free.

change the world {day 12} :: know what makes you cry

painting by Amy Casey

When I saw this painting – finished, unique, complete houses lifted up out of the rubble – my eyes filled unexpectedly. The concept is too good, the visual stays with me. I wipe a rogue tear and wonder where it comes from.

This morning, I read a post Amber wrote about being overcome with her life gifts. It is lovely, as her posts always are. But when she says that her husband baptized their son and called him brother as he lowered him into the water, I baptize you, Isaac, my son and my brother. A father, loving his son. It is that word, brother. That’s what brings the tears. This time they don’t stop.

In line to board the airplane, I hear a man behind me say, “Now remember, it’s just up and down. And don’t forget to get down on the floor with the kids. Get down on their level and play with them. Alright, now it’s just up and down from here.” I can’t help but turn to look, the scruff in his voice not matching the gentle words he speaks. She smiles and nods okay several times, and I know she has some type of disability, though I can’t place it. He isn’t boarding the plane, must have special permission to escort her. She looks excited, like this is all very new for her, like perhaps she’s never done anything alone, ever. The man (her brother?) looks hesitant to let her go. But he assures her it’s just up and down from here, as if perhaps they’ve had conversations about this trip for a long time before now. And he is concerned for her. And I am surprised by the sting in my eyes. He loves her.

I read these lines in a book:

“Final words are hard to hear when you know for certain they are indeed final. And I knew for certain. Four anniversaries had come and gone while I remained in this nowhere place. Even the crickets were quiet.”

Charles Martin, When Crickets Cry

… and even though it’s fiction, it isn’t really. I think of my mother-in-law who lost her husband just a few months ago. My eyes sting.

I was interviewed yesterday by the lovely Moira Brown and things are going well and honest, and then she reads the dedication of my book out loud, For John, who lives and breathes the mystery of Christ in you, the hope of glory. And I think I hide it well, and I don’t think you can tell, but hearing his name and knowing the mystery brings hot, quick tears to the surface, right there on live TV.

So what? Why does it matter what makes you cry or tear up? Maybe it just means you’re overly emotional, sappy, too sensitive. Maybe. Or maybe our tears are tiny messengers, secret keepers of the most vulnerable kind, sent to deliver a most important message – Here is where your heart beats strong. Here is a hint to your design. Here is a gift from your inner life, sent to remind you those things that make you come alive.

Change in the world comes when we acknowledge what moves us and why. When we don’t try to ignore the art and the desire, rather listen to it and live fully in it. So what are some things for you? What makes you tear up?

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change the world :: {day 11} know your limits

“I was raised in a subculture that insisted I could do anything I wanted to do, be anything I wanted to be, if I were willing to make the effort. The message was that both the universe and I were without limits, given enough energy and commitment on my part. God made things that way, and all I had to do was to get with the program. My troubles began, of course, when I started to slam into my limitations, especially in the form of failure.”

Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Our limits can be gifts if we let them be. They might show up like failure, season of life, fatigue, disability, grief, burn out. But the limits tell us important things about ourselves. They help us draw lines for margin. They pave the way for vulnerability. They sometimes show us what our passion isn’t. And that can be just as important as knowing what it is. In some cases, our limitations can actually become our inspiration.

So when when people say, The sky’s the limit! they mean there is limitless potential and you can do anything you set your mind to. But I’m not sure that’s true, and if it were true, I’m not sure it’s a good thing. When it comes to your influence and your ability to affect change, something has to be the limit other than the sky. Identify what those things are, set your own boundaries, and leave room for your soul to breathe.

See all the posts so far in the 31 days to Change the World series.