August 2006 Newsletter

The kids are back in school!  Drive Carefully!!

 

Keeping it Real! 

Perhaps the first step in becoming who we are truly meant to be is realizing and accepting where we really are in our journey.  When I began to ask myself these questions a few years ago, the answer came to me in a surprising manner.

I was making a business trip from Knoxville to Seattle to meet with a software supplier.  After dozing briefly on the first leg of my journey from Knoxville to Chicago, the sudden jostling of the plane startled me awake.  Air travel may be the safest form of travel, but I've always held my breath and said a little prayer when the aircraft begins its shaky descent through the clouds toward the airport.  As I looked through the tiny window I was thinking, “I hate the part of the flight when the monstrous plane skims so close to the ground in the landing pattern.”  Watching the world outside pass by, it was then I was struck with an unexpected realization.  “Isn’t this just what my life is like?”

To anyone looking up from the ground, the jet soars with an apparent stability and sense of purpose.  But inside, we only watch a narrow view of the world flashing by.  Catching glimpses of the surroundings, but never really seeing what’s actually there or what’s really happening.  The ride is shaky, sometimes scary and at others exhilarating, but always just a little uncertain.  Definitely not the glamorous ride it might appear to those on the ground looking up at us.  All that confident grace, seemingly defying all odds and laws of nature, is much more convincing to those on the ground than those in the air.

I remember I smiled to myself at the thought of this.  It was a weird sort of bemusement - pleased with myself that I could have such enlightening revelations and sickened by the thought that as soon as those aircraft doors opened, I would immediately rush back to the hectic life I'd constructed.  I did, you know...jump off that plane and run to catch the next one, throwing myself headlong again into the rat race.  But I was never the same after that.  That was the day I began to face reality and take the first steps toward realizing where I was on my journey and charting a course to my desired destination.

Facing reality and then doing something about it isn't easy in our culture today.  We are so image conscious.  Life in our society is about sounding right, dressing right, looking right, even smelling right!  We think we have to go to the right schools, drive the right car, date and/or marry the right person, live in the right neighborhood, have the right kids, send our kids to the right schools.  In effect, we treat the symptoms all the while conceding defeat to our disease.  We're killing ourselves as we try to construct an image...a perfect image of who we are based upon someone else's definition of perfection.  We try to appear on the outside to be just like that sleek, purposeful, gleaming aircraft, despite being nothing of the sort on the inside.  Facing reality is the first step in living out our life purpose.  And facing reality requires facing not that which others see on the outside, but facing and accepting that which we carry on the inside.

Regardless of how I may appear on the outside to those around me, I am a forty-three year old divorced, childless woman, who lives alone and tries everyday to find ways to give her life meaning in the absence of raising children.  It isn't the life I dreamed of as a young girl.  I daresay it isn't the life any young girl dreams of.  But it is my reality.  And among other things, it means I have social and spiritual needs unique to my demographic.  Facing that reality also means that if I'm to make the most of my situation and continue progressing on my journey, then I must seek out the resources appropriate to my current situation...not my desired situation, not the situation everyone assumes I'm in, not the situation society purports I should have...my realistic current situation.  That's why I'm involved with Singles Expo 2006.

The latest Census data reports the highest percentage of single adults in our population than ever before, with many falling into the category of unexpectedly "single again."  Living Water Singles Ministry in Knoxville, Tennessee is teaming with Love 89 radio station and SingleLife Ministries of Houston, Texas to host a relationship conference to reach out to this ever-growing segment of our population.  The regional event will be held at Pellissippi College’s Performing Arts Center at 7:00 p.m. on September 9, 2006.

Special speaker at the Singles Expo 2006 event is nationally recognized authority on living the single life, Ben Young, from Houston, Texas. (www.benyoung.org)

Ben Young is a popular author and speaker on relationships.  He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV interviews in relation to the six books he has written, including the best-seller The Ten Commandments of Dating.  Ben has led the largest Singles Ministry in the country.

Ben's other books include:

  • The One: A Realistic Guide to Choosing Your Soul Mate, co-authored by Sam Adams, PsyD

  • Devotions for Dating Couples, co-authored by Sam Adams, PsyD

  • Common Grounds: Conversations About Things That Matter Most, co-authored by Glenn Lucke

  • Out of Control: Finding Peace for the Physically Exhausted and Spiritually Strung Out, co-authored by Sam Adams, PsyD

Providing special music throughout the evening will be national headliner, Brittany Waddell (www.brittanywaddell.com) and local up and coming artist Scott Tsakeres & Band.

Singles Expo is not a "hook up" event.  It isn't an alternative to eHarmony.com!  Singles Expo is about affirming the single lifestyle, whether it is by choice or by circumstance.  Moreover, Ben's insights are sought across the country by singles and married couples alike.  Come to Singles Expo 2006 on September 9 and hear him expound on the five most overlooked areas affecting healthy relationships.  Who among us couldn't benefit from that lesson?

Singles Expo 2006, Saturday September 9, 2006, 7:00 PM, at Pellissippi College Performing Arts Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. Take Hardin Valley Exit off Pellissippi Parkway and follow the signs.  Tickets are $15 advance and $20 day of show.  Receive $2 off at the gate and a free coke if you wear UT Orange or bring a Big Orange shaker!

Seating is limited. Reserve your tickets today at any Cedar Springs Christian Store location or log on to www.livingwaternow.org.

SINGLES EXPO 2006 is sponsored by LOVE 89.1 and Living Water Church.

Walk in the Light You Have

By: Rhonda Jones

I’ve been writing in this column about identifying and pursuing your passion. As we continue to explore that topic this month, I’m reminded of an experience I had near this time last year. 

I had the opportunity to accompany a volunteer team to a severely impoverished area of Nicaragua—a country full of case studies for what can and will develop when natural disasters and the absence of democracy plague a group of people. Several major earthquakes, fires, failed military dictatorships and Communist regimes, border wars, poor administration, and economic blockades enforced by countries like the United States have led to the virtual collapse of the Nicaraguan economy. While the country continues to try to bring inflation to manageable levels and regrow the economy, it remains a very challenging place for its inhabitants to live.

In Nicaragua, we spent our days and a few of our evenings in one of the most severely impoverished and troubled areas called El Canon, Spanish for The Canyon, which looked like a deep, wide gash in the otherwise rolling landscape. Located only minutes outside the capital city of Managua, it might as well have been the ends of the earth. What they called a road was nothing more than a goat path in some places and a deeply scarred river bed at the base of the canyon in others, just waiting for the next near-daily deluge to wash it out even deeper. Each day our bus slowly made its way into the bowels of the jungle-canopied canyon, inching down the muddy path, carefully crossing the huge gulleys and exposed boulders, and stopping occasionally to remove debris on the road that had fallen during the night. The massive trees and vines seemed to be engaged in a continual battle with the canyon inhabitants to retake their only ingress and egress to and from the rugged canyon they called home.

Home is an interesting word for it, for I was appalled by their living conditions. No amount of verbal explanation or photographs could have prepared me for what I saw. People were literally living right on the muddy ground, sheltered only by whatever rudimentary materials they could find—scrap pieces of rusty tin that leaked when it rained, and rotting planks and split bamboo for walls through which the wind as well as insects, snakes, and other vermin entered with ease. When the frequent rains came, they roared down the steep canyon walls and washed through these so-called homes spawning floods, which, if they occurred where we live, would result in government-declared disaster areas and an outpouring of aid to the afflicted. But in El Canon there is no government support or aid for these daily tragedies.

Signs of their desperate struggle to survive were all around, including among the male inhabitants. With approximately half of its occupations in agriculture, and by that I mean back-breaking work in the fields done by the sweat of their brow and the strenght of their backs, swinging razor sharp machetes from sun up to sun down, the average life expectency is only about 64 years, and 60% of the country’s population is under 17 years of age. Combine that young population with desperate conditions, and you have a situation ripe for the formation of gangs, which is exactly the case in El Canon.

We’d heard stories during the week about the gangs and their harassment of the village. We’d caught glimpses of the younger members lurking around in their trademark bandana head coverings. And we’d seen the older men peering at us from treacherous-looking hangouts with their angry and suspicious eyes. When we visited in people’s homes and invited them to the fiestas or services we’d planned, they explained they had to stay home and guard their meager possessions. If they left, everything would be stolen when they returned. And the machetes, intended to be farm implements, had been turned into weapons yielding shocking stories of horrendous murders.

On our last night in El Canon, we’d planned a Celebration of the Family for all the canyon inhabitants. This finale of our work ran well into the night…the darkest, most stormy night we’d endured since arriving. Our bus couldn’t even make it into the canyon, leaving us to walk in and out. When we finally gathered at the church to make the hike out, an obvious look of concern appeared on our group leader’s face. Instructing us to stay in a tight group and move quickly, it was clear he feared the worst.

We had only three small pocket flashlights for our group of twenty-five. The tiny beams barely made a dent in the darkness, and we tripped and fell into ditches, over tree roots, and through the debris littering the dirt road. It was so quiet, you could have heard a leaf fall in the jungle, and I felt sure that watchful eyes trailed our every step. 

We knew where the dangerous hangouts were. We’d passed them on our way in and out on the bus each day. And when we soon found ourselves approaching the first of these spots, I mentally prepared myself for what I believed to be an inevitably bad situation. 

Sure enough, the faint light of our flashlights gradually began to illuminate the men who lined the roadway up ahead. “This is it.” I thought, and I steeled myself for what would happen next. 

Then the unexpected happened. A man stepped from the shadows to shake our group leader’s hand. They were not would-be attackers. They were self-appointed sentries, stationed along our way to assure safe passage. As we passed around each treacherous bend in the road, men stepped from the shadows to shake our hands and guide us out of the dark canyon on that stormy night.

I’ve reflected on that experience often and have settled on this one truth:  We didn’t have much light on that path in El Canon, but we had to walk in the light we had.

That seems to be a difficult thing to do in when we’re talking about following our dreams. We’re intrigued by the idea of connecting with our inner voice, clarifying our passion, and pursuing those dreams, which have haunted us our whole lives. But before we take that first step, we want proof that it’s going to work…we will be successful…we’ll make enough money to maintain the lifestyle to which we’ve grown accustomed…or maybe that we’ll just make enough money to survive! We expect accomplishment to precede or inspire commitment. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.  Commitment to the path is a pre-requisite to accomplishment.

I liken it to conducting research, an activity with which most, if not all, of us are familiar. Think about how we conduct research. We develop hypotheses, conduct experiments to test them, prove or disprove them, refine them, and then test again, and so on.

In the absence of facts and proof, we develop hypotheses, based upon the direction in which the current evidence points. Then what do we do? We don’t just sit back and study about it. We take action. Experiments and tests are actions we take based upon our hypotheses. And what if our initial hypotheses turn out to be invalid? We don’t just give up on our research. We refine our hypotheses and/or our experiments, and we test again. It’s a process we freely engage in for academic research, yet struggle to implement in our own lives.

Remember me asking you last month to define your therefore statements? For instance, “I get so much satisfaction out of writing; therefore I am a writer.”  “I love to tell stories with a motivational theme; therefore I am a motivational speaker.” These are your life purpose hypotheses. Developing them is your first step to living the life you were born to live.

Then what’s next? You know the drill. Now you have to act. You have to overcome the paralyzation, the fear of taking action, and the procrastination of waiting for proof, and walk in the light you have! Think of it this way; if we had waited in that deep, dark canyon until we had proof that we could walk out unharmed, we would still be there!

What we’re talking about here is faith. I frequently hear people confuse faith with belief. There is a difference. I may say I believe I can get out of this canyon alive. But that’s only belief, and belief by itself doesn’t do a whole lot for me.  It becomes valuable when it turns into faith.  Faith begins when I take that first step.  Having faith in myself…faith in my beliefs…faith in the current evidence driving my life hypotheses…faith in the source of my therefore…means I’m willing to act. And the action brings the payoff.

The lesson is clear.  If we’re to have fulfilling lives, characterized by our lived-out purpose, we have to walk in the light we have…even if we only have enough light for one halting, stumbling step at a time.  And when we do we will find, just like my guardians on that dark path in the Nicaraguan jungle, the resources we need will be there when we need them.