Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

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Finding my own and inspiring others voice

In art,blogging,Community,culture,leadership,Uncategorized,work,writing on August 18, 2016 by mstevensrev

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Over half way through this year I would say that has been the biggest change in my life, finding my own voice. A big part of it has been the Globally Speaking Podcast. Blogging and stand up comedy have also been a part of the process as well. Pretty fun and I’m excited to see where it leads.

The second half of the title (inspiring others voice)I’m not so sure about, but I’ll take some credit for it. Two co-workers have published on LinkedIn, if you have a chance check them out:

When (not) to be helpful, Tucker Johnson

Career 3.0 – The climbing cage, Juliette Tanarro

Check them out!

Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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I’m all about that GROWTH

In art,Bible,blogging,Books,business,journal,PCA,Presbyterian Church in America,prophet,sermon,writing on February 12, 2015 by mstevensrev

As I’ve reflected on my life as a whole trying to find a unified theme that connects all the seemingly random events and achievements, that one piece of yarn that is the thread through the entire story, providing some sense of unity, I have often come to the theme of relationships. In addition to being an extreme extravert, I also find the deepest joy (and pain) while looking into the face of others. The principles I use to guide my life contains one principle dedicated to this, “Relationships are what matter in life, so value them.” So for years this I thought that this was my theme and my motivating factor.

Then I was writing this week in an attempt to help me focus with my work, and something kept popping up. Then this morning I realized that I had stumbled onto something significant to understanding myself. I value relationships, yet I clearly have let many fade away or have had to break relationship with people. Why? Because (for the most part) these were not healthy growing relationships, not moving toward life. Therefore relationships are part of what brings my life meaning, yet only from the perspective of growth.

Note: For anyone reading this that believes I am only referring to positive growth in a constant directions for good at every moment, that is not what I mean. Often the hardest circumstances and relationships provide the opportunity for the most growth. Growing a baby is an incredibly positive thing in pregnacy but any mother would say that it is not all “positive”, “easy” or in a “constant direction”.

So hear are a few items broadly where I have identified this GROWTH in my life:

Professionally: My career has taken the eclectic experiences I have had and put me in a place to use my talents and continue to evolve to be more of a person then I ever imagine. Throughout life I have sold, but now I am growing in international business, technology, management, and client delivery.

Relationally: Growing up in Baltimore it was common to see neighbors in the front lawn fighting to settle a disagreement, my instinct toward aggression has lessen and a world of non-violent communication has opened up to me. Thankfully this is the case because the most important relationship in the world to me, my wife, would not tolerate the primal dualistic ape that roamed my psyche.

Spiritually: God reached out to me very young. Most of my spiritual development took place in a fundamentalist power driven women hating sect of Christian spirituality, and I was a professional with them. This is the place where I can see how much growth has been the theme in my life. Thankfully as the feminist father of three daughters I can know stand open minded filled with love as I engage the world.

All of this reminds me of a passage from The Books of Bebb, by Frederick Buechner. Bebb a wild evangelist has a man in his office who points to a Bible and essential asks how can this thing make my life Bebb.  And Bebb knowing that there is no magic answer that he can provide by pulling out this book then goes on to share with him. (please mind this is my paraphrase, not a direct quote)

growth-chart1-handmade-charlotte-notonthehighstreetSo Bebb asks, “Do you know the passage John 3:16?” The guy nods as just about everyone does. “For God so love the world that he gave his only Son..” pausing “you know the rest. The thing is that passage talks about sin and most people these days don’t even know what sin is. So instead of sin I like to talk about shit. For God so love the world that He sent His only Son down here into the shit with us. You see people can understand that, it something that we all relate to. And God did this, sent his Son into this because shit can be deadly. If it piles up too much in one place it will kill everything. And yet if you take it and spread it out something happens. You see God sent his Son down here with us, so maybe a little green can GROW.”

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>Where I’m going, not where I want to be, but further along than I was

In family,Friends,Grace Seattle,writing on October 17, 2009 by mstevensrev

>The start of school when you have kids and the beginning of a new year bring about reflection, at least for me. Or perhaps I am more of navel gazer than I think of myself. Regardless my recent thoughts have brought me to a place where I have more peace than I have in quite awhile.

Seattle is a very special place and God has put in at the center of our family in a very special way. There was no place in the world where we could have gone and had such an easy transition after Oakland. Simply having the initial gift of free rent from my father-in-law relieved so much pressure and allowed me to look for a job without going deep into debt. Also the support structure of wise friends who have walked with us for years was priceless, and then we were also surprised by the new friends God brought into our life during that time who have been an amazing blessing. There are plenty of questions about the future but where we are meant to be is not one of them. I won’t be surprised if there are pressures that work on moving us in the near future but the only pressure I’m concern about is that of God’s.

Stewardship. When I graduated from college the last thing I cared about was making money. I wanted to creating something cool and care for people. That was carried on throughout graduate school, when after making decent money in my first job I easily walked away to pursue full time ministry. Then there was Oakland, which looked more like survival financially for Karin and me. The stress of graduate school and working for a church startup put us in very bad position in regards to our finances and stewardship. This was not a faithful time in my life as I reflect upon it. While some of the circumstances were out of my control, having been through it wisdom would not allow me to do it again. For those who supported me I was not “unfaithful” with that money, it had more to do with places I would take money from and what I was leveraging in order to just make ends meet. Thankfully God has given me a very gracious family who also seem to have a short term memory:) Now God has placed me in a great position to be a good steward. I pray often to God saying, “All this ambition you have given me in my work, may you bless so I can be just as ambitious with my generosity.” Just this week I had lunch with the pastor at Grace and we were dreaming about what God would do in Seattle, and how if He chose to use us.

As I write this my girls are playing Wii in the room next to me. I can’t help but think about how much I enjoy being a father. There is so much joy that comes from seeing them grow, learn, and become the women God has intended them to be. During graduate school both Karin and mine we juggled a very crazy schedule which meant I had significant amount of time with our first daughter during the first four years of her life. I feared that I would not have the same connection with number two, that was a completely unfounded fear. Sure I wish I had more time with our two year old, but both my daughters bring me so much joy and they are the thing I take the most godly pride of in my life.

Then there is my marriage, which I mess up all the time in. Though I am listening better. Karin is not merely one of my advisers but rather the partnership God has given me in this life. She knows me better and loves me more than anyone in this world and her words deserve that kind of respect and honor. Now if I didn’t get grumpy, sensitive, and bent out of shape so often I am sure that I would do a much better job of honor that voice in my life. For years though I didn’t even know the place that she was to have in my life. I’m also learning to speak and encourage when she needs me. Her drive and capability often lead me to give her space because I deeply know that she can do it, but I’m learning she still needs to hear my encouragement. That is crazy and sweet.

My writing has had to take a the back burner:( I still cannot believe that I had time to blog thru the Psalms, and even start the Proverbs. As I hear from other friends at my stage of life, so who are even writers, I find they have a similar struggle. That actually encourages me. There is only so much time and if my kids are civil and I like my wife that says tons.

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>Parenting: Trusting after you have fallen

In Bible,faith,familiy,Parenting,writing on August 30, 2009 by mstevensrev

>Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him. –Booker T. Washington

I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much. – Mother Theresa

Without being overly simple, the reason that parents must teach their children to trust is because trust has been broken and therefore they do not naturally do it. This may not be a universal fact that everyone agrees with, but I think a few examples from the moment of birth demonstrate it for me.

When a baby is born food is the issue. So if you do not feed them, they will cry to let the world around them know they are hungry. Similarly I remember seeing the video at a breast feeding class of where they place a new born, perhaps a few days old or even younger, on the mothers belly and this baby manages to move himself up the mother to her breast to feed.

There is value in both of these situations, yes being self aware and sometime self centered will save your life, so I am not making a value judgment on whether babies should act this way. Rather it seems to me for the beginning we do not look to other but work on our own to solve the issues or cause such a fuss that others have to react. We take things into our own hands. I have heard Psychologist and Social Scientist refer to it as the Reptilian part of our brain taking over, my simple understanding of this is pure instinct where reason, trust, and the view of others are set aside and we are solely motivation by self.

The place where my value judgment does come in is why this exists, the fact that we do it is neither good or bad, but the root of where it comes from in my opinion is a spiritual wound that has slice our heart and is very difficult to heal. Parents aware of this can work to engage their children to not merely live out from that wound but move to a place of trust. So where does the wound come from?

The Creation Narrative found in Genesis 1-3 is helpful for me. This primeval, pre-mortal account of the world offers insights to me though no direct answers to where the wound originated but rather shows it is at root in our existence. The case I’m making is there was need for trust (some might call it faith) from the beginning, the lack of trust exposed us to wounded hearts.

Adam and Eve are the childlike adults in this story, wandering naked through a perfect garden with little we know by way of guidance other than God telling Adam to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or they will surely die, and positively telling them to be fruitful and multiply while tending the garden. Notice I said God told Adam, the first hint of a lack of trust comes when Eve repeats the command regarding the tree of life, Genesis 3:3 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” We are never told why she added “neither shall you touch it”, was that her own invention or did Adam not trust her reasoning enough he felt it necessary to exaggerate the command to her. I tend to side with him exaggerating, children and husbands often will blow it with communication because they do not trust that they will be heard if they merely speak truth. To me it is this interaction that opens the door for a full blown lack of trust, providing a wide open door for wounds to guide Adam and Eve (eventually us) rather than naked child likeness.

Genesis 3:4-7, 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

The child no longer needs to ask about trustworthiness the was Eve and Adam did, but rather is born into a state where the question is decided. I am born into a world naked and vulnerable and trusting I’ll be taken care of is not even an option. We read in the account with Eve, she had the question running through her mind, Genesis 3:6 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Seriously, something that looks so good is going being denied to me, what is up with that.

Once God was not longer trustworthy a fall was inevitable. The beauty to a fall is there are only two ways to get up, on your own or have another help. It is key in parenting that we see our role as one helping our children get up, the fall leaves wounds that heal best when we trust others who are trustworthy. Being trustworthy, evaluating others, and ultimately leading children to seek the answer to “Is God trustworthy?” is all grey and very difficult. The first step for me is recognizing the remarkable picture that we enter this world utterly helpless and yet completely distrusting that our needs will be met.

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>The Art of Making New Dreams

In church,Community,faith,journal,poetry,Prayer,writing on July 12, 2009 by mstevensrev

>When I was a kid I regularly dreamed. So much in fact I had regular reoccurring dreams, not day dreams, but actual reoccurring dreams at night in which I was returning to the same place, even sometimes revisiting a previous dream. This is the first time I have thought about it but I don’t remember many of my dreams anymore, is it something that has just faded or was it taken from me I’m not sure.

One lesson I am currently learning is the art of making new dreams. While this might sound very beautiful to me it is difficult and feels like it is splitting me at the seams. In biblical terms it might be more like dying to one self (Matthew 16:24-27). Time and again already in my life things that bring about a great deal of meaning to me have been taken from me. Is this because they had a inappropriate place in my heart? Yes. Is this because of the sin of those around me affecting my dreams? Yes. Is it because of reasons I don’t have any idea about right now? Yes.

These transitions, dying, making new dreams has been hard. Not only is it about looking forward and having a plan, but it is about digging in the lowest and earliest regions of my identity. My life was one of the chosen son of blessing, a role which torments me because I know I can never meet the expectation and yet it is the standard in which I have for myself. Either I am all things or I am nothing. This is a dream that is from the depth of hell and it deserves being shattered. But if that happens, then who am I?

Even in writing this post I’m lost at how my intention was to talk of rebuilding, the art of making new dreams, and yet I’m left feeling as an orphan. Yes we know that adoption (Romans 8:15) is one of the beautiful picture of scripture, yet have you ever known a person who was adopted and had severe abandonment issues? That is where I’m at.

Struggling to hold my own self deception too heavy for me, yet temporarily I keep it up knowing that it shatters when dropped and only then I will be free to make new dreams.

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>Thoughts on old fashion journaling

In journal,work,writing on April 20, 2009 by mstevensrev

>Not so in to it. I know that I have friends who live and die by it, and it really makes me feel like I’m missing out because I can find the deep connection there.

Currently though I am writing in a journal as I write down answers to career questions. This is helpful. First I think because it has a point. I’m able to sit back and write down answers rather than just float ideas out there. If I want to float ideas I’d rather do it on a blog. Second it has an end. There is never enough when it comes to a journal, therefore it is overwhelming to me. Having a clear purpose and hopefully time period devoted to such writing makes it bearable to me.