Run Forrest, Run!

Before I had any business watching it, Forrest Gump became one of my favorite movies.  Although the content was too mature for my age, I always found Forrest easy to understand. He was simple. He made me feel better about my inability to comprehend why life was sometimes the way it was.

It came on television the other night, and even though I’ve seen it a hundred times, I couldn’t help watching it again. I came in at the scene where Jenny and Forrest had reunited in Greensboro. She stayed for a while, then- in true Jenny fashion- left unexpectedly. Heartbroken, Forrest did what Jenny had always taught him to do.

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Forrest ran for, “3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.”

As I watched the nationwide coverage and acclaim of his run, something struck me:

How ridiculous it was that a throng of people followed a man cross country on a run that had no clear intention or path. Reporters probed Forrest for answers as to what his run signified: world peace, women’s rights, the environment, animals, or nuclear arms?

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Though Forrest’s run lacked a profound why, people were inspired by his uninhibited and audacious spirit. Supporting someone with an unknown cause can be a wonderfully dangerous inspiration. Seeing individuals take extreme measures to better themselves gives others the courage to do the same. The problem arises when we rely too heavily on the journeys of others to fuel our own lives. When Forrest announced that his rove was over, his followers were distressed by the sudden decision. “Now what are we supposed to do?” one man called out.

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It’s beautiful to be motivated by the lives of others, but it’s not fair to invest everything we hope to be in the life of someone else. Yet, that’s exactly what those people did to Forrest, and it’s what we do to one another. We see what looks like happiness, wealth, or success in the lives of others and attempt to replicate their actions in hopes of biting off a piece for ourselves.

We follow blindly behind people and movements we know little about just to feel something that halfway resembles happy. The problem with this type of lifestyle is that it’s full of emptiness. Those people who followed Forrest on his run never came to know why he did it.

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Forrest’s journey was to run until his past was far enough behind him to move forward. It was for him to discover who he was in that iteration of himself.  What I love most about his passage was that it wasn’t until after Forrest returned home that he realized his why was indeed profound.

That’s exactly how life works at times. We don’t know why God allows us to go through certain hardships, but there’s always a reason. One that is exclusive to your journey, who you are and who you ultimately have the potential to be. Your why.  Yet, if we exhaust our lives trying to find ourselves on someone else’s path, it only leads to added unhappiness.

I know sometimes we just feel like running toward anything with a remote promise of happiness; anything that will take us away from where we are. I get it, but that’s when we have to be most vigilant because that’s when our spirits become clingy and susceptible to misplaced inspiration.

My goal isn’t to devalue the splendor of inspiration. On the contrary, my hope is to uphold it, to encourage us to apply it in a way that is beneficial to our lives.  It’s great to be heartened by someones actions and to even be encouraged to go a similar route. However, we shouldn’t base our decisions on what makes someone else happy.

You’re you and I’m me. What moves me may not drive you. What motivates you may not encourage me. We’re each on our own way, yet how wonderful it’d be for our journeys to cross paths. Maybe there’s something you can teach me. Perhaps there’s something I can give you. Maybe inspiration is a collision of two paths- or ten, or five million- meant to give hope, wisdom, and love so that another would be willing to war on against a world intent on their defeat.

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The Secret to Staying Young

 

Let’s start this off with a confession:

I use anti aging cream. Don’t worry, it’s the cheap stuff- for now. But still, is that bad? I mean, I am just three years away from thirty. Besides, I’m improving my adulting skills by being more proactive. I spend most of my time on airplanes where the air is dry and the oxygen is thin. It’s my responsibility to protect my skin from shriveling up like a raisin, right?

Alright, that was about 40% true. The remaining 60% sadly, lies in complete vanity. I don’t want to get old. And if I must, I certainly don’t need the evidence of wrinkles to prove it.

Nowadays though, we see more people embracing and being proud of their age, which is the way it should be. Unfortunately, I’m not that wise.

I’m in line with everyone else trying to catch the first ship out to Never land. Botox, plastic surgery, hair plugs (do people still do that?), and younger partners are just a few of the extreme measures we take in an effort to retain our youth.

Let me make clear, I don’t personally engage in the aforementioned activities, but I can certainly understand how easy it would be to fall prey to these practices.

The truth is, we’re growing older with each setting sun and there’s no way to stop it. Our lack of crows feet and smooth skin can no more rescue us from what actually needs saving than a topical cream can kill cancer. The sickness is within.

Our exterior is just that: A shell that houses our most precious jewels. But if the treasure rots, what is there to protect? Our bodies become useless. Yet we choose to focus most of our upkeep on our physical selves. L’Oréal’s latest under eye night serum cannot treat a withered spirit.

Our spirits are as strong or tenuous as we make them. In order to build their strength, we must feed them that which will encourage growth and resilience. If fed junk, such as anger and guilt, they begin to eat away at themselves and become emaciated.

From the moment we enter this earth, life becomes a toilsome journey: loss, addiction, betrayal, and self-hate are only a few potential struggles we face. Under the pressure of such circumstances, weak spirits are likely to break.

Our physical age will inevitably increase, but there’s nothing more exquisite than a spirit unaffected by age. One who has seen its share of hardships yet remains unblemished in its faith.

I know it sounds impossible. It’s certainly not easy, but with conscious effort, a lot of practice, and of course God, it is achievable. I don’t have all the answers to maintaining a healthy, strong, and youthful spirit, however I do have a few tips to get you started.

Let it go.

Stop dwelling on people and circumstances you can’t change. It only stands to further frustrate you. If someone has wronged you and you’re still bitter about it, you’re punishing yourself for their error. I’m not suggesting that you excuse their behavior, instead I invite you to release them to God. Once you release them, you also free yourself from feeling like you have to exact penance on them.

Surround yourself with positive people.

The company you keep has a major influence on your outlook on life. Be intentional about the people you surround yourself with. Make sure your friends are adding positivity to your life and not encouraging negativity. The normal rigamarole of life is stressful enough, you need people to bring the joy out in you at all costs.

Don’t neglect the little things

It’s easy to overlook the simplest parts of life because other aspects are so overwhelmingly complex. But it’s important that we find a way to always recognize the little things in our lives that make us smile. Our sanity depends on it.

Keep the Faith

I could elaborate endlessly on the importance of remaining faithful, but instead I’ll leave you with a snippet of lyric from a song I love.

Hold on to hope if you got it
Don’t let it go for nobody
They say that dreaming is free
But I wouldn’t care what it cost me

Song of the Week, “If I Don’t Have You,” by Love and the Outcome 

Listen here! 

The lyrics to this song are what pierces my heart. They speak severly to the struggle of man making the choice to follow God or the world, and sometimes trying to find the middle ground of the two.

There is no middle ground.

God hates what the world loves. What humans see as wise, good, or worthy paints a completely different picture than what God sees as important.

We can’t serve both. We cannot be obsessed with worldly possessions and esteem while still devoting ourselves to God. We pray to God and ask for success and riches, but God has called us to greater. He has called us to seek him so that we may know his true will for our lives. He is not found in fortune or recognition, God is found in our humbleness, our servitude, and our generosity.

Remember the parable of the man who had obeyed all of God’s laws, but was unwilling to give up his riches to follow Him? We, in many ways are that man. We want to covet our earthly possessions while we wait for our heavenly reward. The thing is, in order to claim what God has for us in heaven, we must abandon the treasures of this world, even while we are yet in it.  We should be expecting our riches in heaven, not making preparations to make this earth our home.

Matthew 6:19-21 says :

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

It’s easy to become distracted by the glittering treasures of this world. In the grand scheme of reality though, those things are worthless and will perish. Furthermore, they distract us from seeking God, from glorifying his goodness, and pursuing the lasting treasures that He has for us.

If there is anything in our lives that is hindering us from pursuing God whole heartedly, we need to take it to Him in prayer and ask him to remove those impurities.

My favorite line in this song is :

How can I say I love you to someone I don’t know?

We can’t fully love God if we don’t know Him. If we don’t crave to sit at his feet and learn more of who He is, how possibly then, can we mature in our love for the savior?

Yellow means GO!

 

Now, be honest-

You’re driving and the light turns from green to yellow: what do you do?

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 Pedal to the metal baby!

When I have somewhere to be, I want to get there yesterday. You guys already know, I’m not taking home any awards for most patient person of the year. However, you’d be proud to know that I have improved. Somewhat. On the important stuff like marriage and solving the riddle that is my purpose in life, I’ve learned to ease off the gas and enjoy the pretty – and not so pretty – scenery. But as for waiting in long lines at the grocery store, continue to pray for me.

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What factors do you all think contribute to the constant haste of our culture?

For one, we are unremittedly fed the lie that we have to have it now. Whether it be a spouse, a child, a new car, or the latest iPhone, the idea of waiting has become unfathomable. We’ve been programmed to FOMO. For those of you not up with the times, FOMO is an acronym that means fear of missing out. It’s generally used when people are afraid of missing something at a social event or outing, but I think it’s also relevant in terms of stuff.  Either way, we’ve got it bad.

On the surface, this lie is simply a consumerism/marketing ploy by filthy rich companies trying to attain even more wealth by playing on the emotions of people in need. We’re being manipulated by a man made guarantee that more stuff will make us happy. Even though marketers fail on their promise again and again, we continue to buy the lies. When we look in the mirror, we see a version of ourselves plastered in all the things we thought we needed.

If you don’t remember anything else from this post, please remember this:

The only thing we need in this life has already been purchased. We just have to make the decision to accept Him. 

Okay, so we’ve dodged the yellow light, now what? We’re maybe two to three minutes ahead of those we left in our dust, but what have we actually gained in that time? It’s easy for us to feel like those few minutes make a huge difference, but in actuality they don’t.

“Your imaginary self is not your real self.”

My brother said this during a conversation we were having a few days ago and I literally had to write it down because, as simple a sentence as it is, it makes so much sense.

We create these euphorias in our minds that translate into reality as utter ridiculousness.

Like, Oh I gained two extra minutes to get to work by flying through the yellow light. Now I have time to get gas, drop that package off at the post office, and maybe get a blueberry donut from Dunkin’ (my favorite!). 

Okay, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. 

We all have this mental checklist of things we need to have accomplished by a certain time. As the days and years inch closer to that time frame, we set into panic mode, and quite frankly, start making some not-so-smart choices to fulfill those goals.

I’ll spare us the listing of those choices.

Now on the other side of those decisions, are we any happier? Is it the same euphoric dream we had cooked up in our fantasy driven heads?

I can answer from personal experience: not at all. I’m still digging myself out of the hole from a few bad decisions I rushed into because I thought I’d die waiting.

In retrospect, my life would be a lot easier now, had I slowed down at those yellow lights and allowed God to tell me when to go.

Timing is everything. And God, who is both the creator of time and us, surely knows when something is best for us and how to perfectly orchestrate it into our lives.  place it in our lives during the perfect season.

Impatience is human and I get it. Not knowing what will become of our lives is stressful and can cause us to make rash decisions just for the sake of feeling in control.

Fight that urge.

Pray and ask God for patience. Build your trust and faith in him by spending time getting to know him. When we truly come to know the character of God, we don’t have to doubt that his plan for our lives is the best version.

You’re Beautiful

People react to being called beautiful.

My message today may seem a bit redundant, but because I’ve witnessed the positive change it encourages, I believe it to be worthy of endless reiteration.

A compliment.

It truly can make all the difference in someone’s life. We live in a world that interminably preaches the importance of self love: pick yourself up if no one else will. Be your own hero. Love yourself. That all sounds wonderful and empowering, only it’s not that simple. The same society promoting the indulgence of self love is the exact one telling us we need to change everything about ourselves in order to be accepted.

Love, it’s definition, and who it belongs to has become a convoluted misunderstanding.

As a big a mess as we’ve made, we can still turn it around. And remarkably, it starts by taking baby steps. Progress as small as paying someone a compliment.

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Despite what popular culture may try to make us believe, we do need one another. If we didn’t, we would’ve each been given our own world to live in, void of any other human contact. But we live in this world together and therefore are here to uplift, encourage, support, and love one another. That doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, it just means developing the ability to love past our differences.

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Song of the Week, “Just the Way You are” by Bruno Mars

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Listen here!

This song comes on my guilty pleasure Pandora station all the time and each time I belt it out like it isn’t my one hundredth time hearing it.

I think the lyrics are the sweetest ever. I love how they recognize the most insignificant characteristics about this woman and make them the focal point of why she is lovable.

Her laugh her laugh, she hates but I think it’s so sexy

It’s not necessarily the romantic aspect of this song that strikes me (Although, who wouldn’t want to be the woman of the man who wrote this song? Wait, does that mean I have a crush on Bruno Mars?) it’s more so the gift of someone being able to love another exactly for who they are. When we allow ourselves to love beyond the mess and stress that is in each individual, we also grant access for others to love us beyond who we are not. It’s a relief knowing that we can be loved for all of our annoying habits, weird laughs, bad hair days, muffin tops, over bites, indecisiveness, and the never ending list of idiosyncrasies that make us all unique.

It’s important that we gain confidence in our ability to make life easier for someone else just by being ourselves. I know it’s hard because we’re always trying to frame one another into expectations that were never meant for us.

Expose the part of yourself that is most uncomfortable. That’s the part of you that was created to be loved by your fellow humans.

Pull the Plug

Like a ferocious lion startling the dawn, the engines roared to life. For once, I wasn’t irritated by the fact that I was awake before the sun. Jackson Hole, Wyoming is breathtaking. Stunning beyond words. Who knew thirteen hours in this rustic town was all it took to fall in love. As we taxied toward the runway, I bid the Teton Mountains farewell on a prayer that we’d meet again.

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As I readied myself for takeoff, my longing to stay was interrupted by an announcement from the Captain: The plane had a mechanical failure and we had to return to the gate. He had no idea how long it would take a mechanic to arrive and assess the defect, but passenger complaints were few. Time moves differently in places like Jackson Hole. It feels slower, yet intentional. Every second is full, bursting like a woman ready to give birth. It delivers the calm to a world in constant haste.

Back at the gate, things moved more expeditiously than expected. The Captain returned promptly to the PA to inform us that they would be performing a reset on whatever system had malfunctioned:

“The plane will be turned off and everything will go dark for a moment, but don’t be alarmed.”

And so it did. The power was pulled and the plane lost all illumination. The stillness was almost uncomfortable. Voices previously muffled beneath the power of the engines were stripped of their privacy. Although conversation mostly ceased, the words that lingered were like the crisp Wyoming air: refreshing and clear. The fact that I could hear what people were saying at all made me realize how little we actually listen.

Chicago was our next destination. Then back to Newark. And as we flew from the protection of the mountains, I wondered what the world might sound like cut off from its power.

We’d be so lost.

Afraid.

Disconnected.

Blind.

Powerless.

But that’s where our redemption lies. It’s in the knowledge that our connection to things cannot save us. Our bond to one another is key. Learning to love and care for one another is to begin to understand the love of God. And if we can figure out how to live our lives through his love, we can be okay.

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Have you ever heard the claim that individuals who are born blind have a stronger sense of hearing than the average person? That’s because they have learned to become reliant on their other senses due to their lack of sight. It’s an advantage through a disadvantage.

For instance:

I could hear something and not know where it came from because I’d be utilizing all of my average working senses to make a determination. However, someone who is blind has honed their hearing so that they can almost pinpoint exactly where a sound comes from.

If we blinded ourselves from the media, news outlets, social media, and television, we would simply hear one another.

No computers. No Facebook. No phones. Just people. Millions of people speaking in the dark, hearing the echo of their own words. Meeting the eyes of strangers and finding that they have just as much hope and as little fear as themselves. Maybe more. Possibly less.

Without power, we would be able to hear. And if we can hear, we can listen. When we listen, we understand. When we understand, we empathize. When we empathize, we care. When we care, we love. And when we love, mountains become moveable.