A truth that will help you reach your dreams

You are greater than you know. You are more than you believe.

No matter what credentials, diplomas, status, or net worth you have (or don’t have), you possess the power to change your surroundings, your habits, your career, your life. You are more powerful than you know. What you say, think, and do impacts those around you. You create ripples in the pool of life. You have power. Use it. Bless others. Do good.

You are more beautiful than you feel. Although you long for beauty, to be it, to have it, to hold it, to be united with it, you are glorious just as you are. Yes. Don’t believe the lies of the media, our culture, glossy magazine covers, or social media posts. They are fantasy, untrue. There is a beauty that lays hidden from plain sight; it’s more profound, more vibrant, more authentic than what we see. It can be cultivated and grown in anyone, in you. The real beauty is the person you are, your kindness, gentleness, integrity, justice, love. By those, anyone can beam with blazing splendor.

You are more capable than you think. Don’t let the voices inside you, around you, the mistakes from the past, the fears of the future, sway you from seeing what you can do. You can learn new skills, start a venture, pursue a dream. It’s not beyond you. Every day is an opportunity to try. It’s before you always, beckoning. The only person holding you back is you. Go.

You are more competent than you think. Maybe you’ve failed here and there. But don’t count them as signs of incompetence. See them as opportunities to learn. You aren’t a failure; you’re experienced, seasoned. You’ve been around the block and got mugged and lived to tell the tale. You’re a survivor. Now it’s your chance to thrive. And you have enough smarts and skills to do more than you can imagine. Take your experience, interests, and effort and create something. It’s in you. You can. Try.

Cast off the negativity, naysayers, self-criticism, hate. There’s too much of that already.

See your capacity to achieve, change, grow.

You are more than you think.

Believe.

I want you to be blessed

Peace. Let it wash over you, soothing you like an embrace of a loved one, as you ease yourself into this vision.

You are in a beautiful garden, surrounded by blooming flowers, red, orange, violet, indigo, yellow. The green is greener than you’ve ever seen it, covering rolling hills, treetops, bushes. It’s vibrant and rich. The sky is deep blue, and the sun is bright. A warm breeze caresses your skin like a lover. You release.

A stroll among the foliage along a stone path looks delightful, so your feet whisk you there. Then you slow your pace to drink the moment in. It’s intoxicating. Your fingers are outstretched, brushing the blooms around you, and you hear birds chirping songs of joy. The path softly curves this way and that, drenched in colors, leaves, shafts of light, and beauty.

You see a grassy knoll, and you decide to lie down and bathe in the sun’s luminous embrace. You can’t help but smile because it’s too wonderful, too glorious, too good. You’re soaking in all of it, absorbed in glory, basking in the bounty.

And memories begin to visit you like old friends you’ve missed and longed to see, and there you are reunited. You’re a child playing gleefully, freely, unencumbered, without a care. You remember the happiest moment of your life and relive it and relish in it.

Then, you journey into the present, and you see objects, people, and opportunities for which you are grateful, and it reminds you of how richly adorned you. And you can see clearly.

You are blessed.

The truth you need to know about your pain

Pain. It marks and makes us.

The death of a loved one, the breaking of love, the broken promises, the promising future never realized, the realization that your body won’t stop aching…causes us great grief; but they often act as the compass of life, directing us to our true north.

Who would we be without it? We are marked, like babes at birth.

We yearn for it to disappear, though. How could we not? It’s pain. If we could rid ourselves of it, we would in a moment, a breath. Instead, we lie awake, swallowed in darkness—pining—dreaming of healing, sustained relief, a whole wholeness, love.

It’s there. We can feel it, sensing that relief is near, and sometimes we find it. But some pains are beyond the healing found in this world, now. That adds to our suffering; it’s the pain of pain.

But it’s that ache that grows us, molds us, deepens us, enrich us. It’s our seasoning. By it, our life’s song is more sonorous—richer. It lets us resonate and connect with others, so we can weep when they weep and rejoice when they rejoice. Our pain unites us.

Nevertheless, I believe there is a place where whole wholeness comes, washing over us like the inevitable tide washes the shore. And we will bathe in it like a hot bath in winter, relief, but not temporary—eternal.

For now, we must move forward through the pain, forsaking bitterness, jealousy, hopelessness. Forsake them. Choose to grow. Ask for help. Pray. Seek, and you shall find. And, in the process, you will be surprised.

Our pain is like the pangs of childbirth, throbbing, ornery, agonizing. But it births something, no, someone amazing.

You.


Book Recommendations:
Here are some books that I found very helpful in dealing with and thinking about pain. Now, to be upfront, these are coming from a Christian framework. Nonetheless, they are immensely beneficial.


1) Problem of Pain, by C. S. Lewis (affiliate): This is a philosophical look into the subject and answers the big questions about pain that we all have.
2) A Grief Observed, by C. S. Lewis (affiliate): After Lewis’s wife died, he wrote this book. It’s raw and beautiful.


This post is dedicated to Michelle and Matt, college friends who just lost their 19 year old son. My heart breaks.

One of the best ways to become happy

More. It’s one of the greatest lies there is. 

More money, more sex, more friends, more cars, more education, more this, more that will help me be happy, fulfilled, feel better about myself. But it never does. 

Yes, More can bring happiness. But it’s there; then it’s not. It’s a flash, a moment. Then it’s gone. 

And we are left with this empty feeling, an old ache that no amount of ointment, medicine, gifts, success, fame, can sooth. 

No. More is not what we need. What our hearts long for is this. 

Better. 

You don’t need more crap. Stop buying more. No one needs that much clothes, gadgets, toys, furniture, stuff. Instead, give away what doesn’t add real value to your life.

And, if you buy anything else, only invest in better things, ones that you really need or enjoy, ones that add richness, euphoria, bliss, delight, and function to your life.

We don’t need more friends; we need better friendships, ones that are deep, rich, sacred, trusted. We need intimacy. When they say I love you, it doesn’t sound hollow. It’s as solid as the ground you stand on. It’s real. 

We don’t need more pleasure, finding that next person to bed, the delicious meal to devour, the foreign destination to explore. Sure, they can tickle us, but aren’t we longing for something else, something further away from us, unreachable? 

In my life, I’ve noticed that what I really long for isn’t here, in this world. What I search and pine for always eluded me. It’s a phantom.

It’s like an echo of a tune you’ve never heard, a glimpse of a blinding beauty you have never seen, an aroma of a fare you’ve never tasted; yet, there you are, yearning for it.

It is there. It’s the Better. It’s a world beyond this one, a better world.

It’s transcendent.

One of the most powerful things you can do for yourself: Forgive

We all make mistakes, and we forgive others. But often forgiving ourselves is harder. 

But we must. 

Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s that thing you did or continue doing that you can’t release and forgive yourself. Instead, you punish. 

I know all about that. 

Defiance marked my teenage face, as I screamed at her. She stopped speaking. And I started calling my mom unspeakable names, unleashing words like armed missiles. She would flee, and I would seethe. It was ugly; I was ugly. 

In college, I started to follow Jesus and accepted his forgiveness. But I would always say that there was one thing I could not forgive, and that was the way I treated my mom. 

So I held on to my guilt and shame. Unknowingly, I beat myself up, launching armed missiles at myself, perpetuating an old wound. It was ugly; I was ugly. 

Then one day, some guy I knew talked to me. And somehow we got on this subject, and he said something that I would never forget, “If God can forgive you for everything, why can’t you forgive yourself? Are you better than God?” 

I was stunned. 

The truth of his statement and the utter blindness of my behavior and mindset were stunning to me. The understanding washed over me like a wave washes over you on the seashore. 

My burden melted away from me; I was free. 

What I didn’t expect was how much better I was going to feel. The quickness and sharpness of my anger lost its snap and edge. My missiles were disarmed. I felt calmer and was kinder to others, to myself. 

It was work, though. It wasn’t just a one and done kind of thing. I had to continually forgive myself, reminding myself of what my friend told me, remembering that it was foolish to beat myself up over my past failings. 

And slowly over the years, I wasn’t just continually forgiving myself; I forgave myself. 

Forgive yourself. Holding onto your failings, shame, sin doesn’t do anyone good. It certainly does you no good. 

It’s counterintuitive to think that if I forgive myself that I will become a better person. It’s tempting to believe that if I just keep on lashing myself with the past, I’ll get better; but it doesn’t work that way. We don’t get better. We get worse. 

Shame begets shame; unkindness begets unkindness. It’s a cycle–vicious and bloody. 

It takes a radical act to break it.

Forgiveness is the only door through which true healing comes. And that’s exactly what we need to mend our wounds and cease to perpetuate them. We need balm and bandage. We need to forgive ourselves. 

And you will find that you will no longer see yourself as that person who did that terrible thing. You will see yourself as a person who can change. You will no longer be trapped in the cage of the past. You will be released to live anew. 

You will be free. 

Do you know how valuable you really are?

You are more valuable than you think you are, believe you are. 

Even with all of your mistakes, guilt, shame, sin, flaws, and failures, you are worth more than all of the gold in the world. 

The people who told you you are worthless lied to you. They spoke out of their shame and lack of understanding of their value. 

They are wrong about you. 

No matter how many have rejected you, you are worthy: worthy of love, worthy of belonging, worthy of dignity, worthy of being, worthy of forgiveness, deserving of infinite value. 

You are kings and queens, adorned with honor, grace, and light. 

And no amount of makeup, muscle mass, injections, bronzed skin, jewelry, or the like can add to it. The numbers on the scale, in your account, on your blog do not make you better or worse, nor will your accomplishments, what you’ve done, are doing, will do.

You are valuable as you are now, as you were born.

Your value is inherently infinitely valuable. Even with nothing, you are priceless.

I am not lying to you; it is true. This is what I remind myself. 

When I look into your face, I see the face of God. 

A love poem to the haters

To the haters,

It’s tempting to want to hate you back. But that’s useless. 

It won’t help anything. All it does is perpetuate the hate between us. And that’s foolish. 

Instead, I will say that I love you. I feel for you and with you. I sense your pain. 

Isn’t that what causes the hate within—the pain?

I’ve been there—full of hate and fury—and it’s contagious. You can’t help but spread it to others. It’s all you have to give; it’s what you’ve been given. 

No, I will not hate you back. I will fight myself, my reactions, my need for justice, my hate. It won’t be perfect. In fact, I will be terrible at it. But I will aim to love. 

For I was loved with a divine love even when I hated, rebelled, writhed. 

I tasted a goodness that transcends hate and heals pain, freely offered in the Son of God. 

For he was hated by those who should have loved him, rejected by those who should have embraced him, killed by those who should have worshiped him. 

Love loved me when I hated him. 

How can I not love you? 

Suffering is one of the best ways to find meaning

Suffering defines us, but we get to choose its definition. 

That’s what Victor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, psychiatrist, and author of Man’s Search for Meaning (affiliate link) wanted us to know. 

He told his story of suffering and survival, from a personal perspective but also as a psychiatrist. It was sad, but, more than that, it was profound.

What we suffer isn’t something we like to post on social media. Instead, we hide, ignore, and are ashamed of it. Suffering can be a subject that brings shame, embarrassment, negativity. 

But, for Frankl, it’s an opportunity. Frankl writes that when we suffer, we have one of life’s greatest opportunities to find meaning by how we respond to it. 

Suffering affords us a choice. You aren’t just a victim when you are put under pain. You may not be able to control the pain you are experiencing, but you can control how you will respond to it. You may believe that you can’t help but be bitter, angry, depressed, sad, etc. when the worst of times come. But that’s not true. You get to decide your response. You aren’t just a victim; you are an agent. Your suffering can’t rob you of that. 

Harold Kushner, a rabbi who wrote the Forward in the book, summed up Frankl’s idea of this choice: “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you,” (p32).

This Thursday morning was exciting: We were taking our firstborn to his first day in Kindergarten. The air was crisp and cool and beautiful. We walked and chatted as we wound our way through the narrow streets lined with brick townhouses, trees, and cobblestones. 

Approaching a major intersection, we saw our crosswalk lady, Dulce. She wore her little hat, blue uniform with her fluorescent vest as she said hello to all of the kids by name. It was the first time we had seen her since summer vacation started. 

So we stopped and asked her how her summer was. She told us heart-wrenching news. 

Her son died. 

He was 36 years old, and an “accident” took him in June. She found out when she was sitting in a Starbucks waiting for her next shift. Then she got the call. After she answered, her life changed unalterably. 

“God is with me, ju know. If I no have him, I would you know…not be ok,” she told my wife and me. “God makes me strong, more strong, ju know.” 

I do know. 

When I was eight, cancer took my father. And it wasn’t the funeral that was the hardest. It was every Father’s Day that proceeded when my friends would have a great day with their dad’s, and I watched TV. 

But, over the years of struggle and loneliness, something was happening inside of me. Bitterness did not hold me. That would have killed me.

Instead, by God’s grace, my life transformed. As I grew, my pain forged in me the sense that life is not only fragile; it is also precious: It can be snatched away from us in a breath. And I chose (and continue to choose) to be grateful for every day I get to be alive. I, too, with Dulce, was getting “more strong.”

Frankl chose to transcend the concentration camps. He accomplished that by envisioning himself seeing his wife again after the war was over, caressing her face, holding her hand, laughing with her. It helped him bear the once a day “meal” of watery broth, constant hunger and cold, wearing rags and shoes with holes in the winter, endless work, the dehumanization by the SS, and living under the threat of death and beatings every moment of every day. Frankl also decided to use his knowledge and skills as a physician to serve his fellow humans; he tried to help as many as he could survive with him. He also envisioned himself lecturing about his learnings from Auschwitz, passing on his insights into humanity to the next generations. His meaning was to love his wife, help his fellow humans, and to teach. Through his suffering, he learned his meaning.

“He who has a Why to live can bear almost any How,” Frankl repeats this Nietzsche quote throughout his book. We will all suffer, but not all of us have a Why to live through suffering. Frankl believes that it’s critical to find meaning so that you can endure. When Frankl observed his friends who suffered with him in the camps, he noticed that those who stopped seeing meaning tended to die quickly. They just stopped trying. Meaning can mean the difference between life and death. 

Suffering isn’t just a choice; it’s a chance to change and become a better person. Frankl states, “Even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph” (p146). 

Don’t we all want to grow beyond and transcend ourselves? Don’t we want to progress, become better as people, partners, parents, friends, at work, in our communities, at home? Frankl believes that suffering is one of the most significant ways to do that. 

You don’t need to have gone through the Holocaust, lost a child or parent to suffer. 

It happens to us every day, in every experience of shame, inadequacy, failure. You suffer when you lose your job or feel like you aren’t good enough to keep it, or when you are in a marriage that makes you feel like crap or experience isolation.   

No matter what we believe, we all have an opportunity in suffering. Frankl’s account and thoughts are rich, deep, and profound. 

I hope you read his book. 

I hope you suffer well. 

And may you find meaning in your life, and suffering.  

Most of all, I hope you triumph.