Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Living in Cages

This is my dog Sophie.  I have had her for two and a half months.  She is six years old but was a breeder dog and so has had no people interaction.  She's lived her entire life in a crate.  We've made a lot of progress but we still have a long way to go before she is behaving like a "normal" dog.  One of her quirks is that she loves her crate more than anything else.  She could have the entire run of the house, but she runs right to her crate in the kitchen when we come into the house.  She has this really soft fluffy bed that I keep nearby the crate.  We use it when we travel or when I make her hang out with me in the living room.  Sometimes she will run to the fluffy bed, but mostly she just runs to the crate.  It is what she knows and so it is where she feels the safest.  It doesn't matter how uncomfortable it is, it is what she knows.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately as it relates to people as well.  The truth is that many of us have cages that we always run to.  It may be the pain of a difficult decision, something awful that has happened to us or someone we love, a relationship we are in, or just a piece of our identity that we cannot give up for something healthier.  I do not mean to diminish any difficult experience of life.  Sometimes the blows of life really knock us down and force us into "cage like" experiences.

The problem is that after awhile, the cage begins to serve us.  It may be difficult there, but at least it is something we know.  If we really just committed to the decision, let go of the pain, moved on with our lives, etc. we would have to finally let go of the last piece of something we know.  In a way we often cannot explain, the cage becomes comfortable for us.  Without it, we will have to move on with our lives and so, as much courage as it takes to really face pain, it takes even more courage to move on from it.  It takes tremendous amounts of courage to leave the cage! We know ourselves dealing with the pain, and without the pain and anxiety we would have to move forward.  We have the opportunity to fail if we move forward.  What if we cannot do it?  What if the pain is too much?  What if we can't live with the decision we made?  What if we just aren't good enough at living life and fail miserably outside of our cage?  What if we are truly happy?  What if succeed?  Sometimes the positive is just as scary as the negative.

Where do you need an extra dose of courage?  What's your cage?  What is holding you back from living the rest of your life just as God intended?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sacred Places

This Saturday morning I am starting my day sitting in a rocking chair at ridgecrest conference center. The morning is cool and I have a great cup of coffee. This is my sacred place.

For those who don't know Ridgecrest, it is a Baptist owned conference center in the mountains of North Carolina. We would come here every year for youth camp when I was a teenager and then came in college every year on this weekend for our annual Baptist Student Union Fall Convention. That is what brings me here this weekend...of course now I am a campus minister and not a student.

There is this long porch that has about thirty rocking chairs that overlook the mountains. As a youth this was one of the cool places to hang out and a lot of memories were made in these rocking chairs.

But this place, ridgecrest, is also where I have made all of my major decisions in life. This is where I hear God speak. I did not set out to make all of these decisions and life commitments here, it just happened that way. And now when I arrive through the gates, I immediately feel God's presence. I just feel at peace.

We all have those sacred places...yours might now seem so sacred to anyone else but you know it is the place where you can feel the most honest and at peace. It is a place where all becomes clear and God breaks in in ways you would not expect. It is a place where you remember what has been and you see the direction for the future.

As we start this new season of fall, why not find some time to spend in your sacred place, or maybe make a new one? You never know what can happen there.