Archive - May, 2011

Out of the shadows, onto the stage.

“It’s not spoken word… it’s silently-whisper-into-the-dark-corners-of-my-closet-*dramatic pause*-word.”

Apparently, my definition was amusing enough for my roommate to share it as a status update.  Personally, I’d find it a little funnier if it weren’t bitterly true. Empty walls and dirty windshields have been my only audience for quite some time.

Knowing my love for poetry, the same roommate recommended that I watch Sarah Kay‘s performance on TED talks.  Tonight, I finally did and it’s worth every second. You should watch it, if only the poem at the beginning.

As she shares her dreams for her hypothetical daughter, I found myself smiling- thinking if I ever have kids, I want to write them poetry like that. Poetry like my mom wrote for me growing up, words that capture the moment and refuse to allow time to tarnish the memories.

According to Sarah, all you need to know are a few things that are true and you can create a poem. Her theory is put into practice in her efforts to empower students through Project V.O.I.C.E.

“Conceived in 2004, Project V.O.I.C.E. encourages young people to engage with the world around them and use Spoken Word Poetry as an instrument through which they can explore and better understand their culture, their society, and ultimately themselves”. – from their website.

When confronted with the task of explaining how she went from a timid teenager to an renowned poet, Sarah revealed her three step progression from hiding under bars in poetry clubs to encouraging students to take the stage themselves.

  1. “I can. I can do this.” – first we must recognize that we can do something. We can build connections with people, we can share our stories, and we can make a difference in the lives of others by simply expressing ourselves. (Her explanation of the three steps begins at 7:50)
  2. “I will. I will continue”- it isn’t enough to know that you can do something, you must decide to do it. Sarah spent years studying poetry by listening to others share their stories, but it was her willingness to continue learning by taking the stage that really began the transformation. (8:01)
  3. “grow, explore, take risks and challenge yourself- infusing the work you are doing with the specific things that make you you even while those things are always changing because step three never ends” (13:30) – it’s all encompassing and continually changing, and we must actively respond to and intertwine what we do, what we know, and who we are… and share it with others.

While I am challenged by Sarah’s words because I love her medium of expression, I think anyone can glean wisdom from her journey. How many things do we refuse to acknowledge we could do? How many times to we refuse to do the things that we already know we could accomplish? And, how often do we stop allowing ourselves to be challenged to grow by preventing what we do from being infused with who we are and what we know to be true?

Perhaps I should share my stories with more than the dark corners of my closet, and perhaps you should too. I’m not suggesting that we all literally take the stage to share a poem (though perhaps I literally should given how often I talk to myself in empty rooms). Just take a moment to ponder this:what would happen if we each were vulnerable enough to express ourselves?

Whether it be through spoken word, art, music, story telling, or something completely different… what would happen if we shared a little more of who we are and what we know to be true with the world? What if we took the time to encourage someone else to share and actually listened to their story? Perhaps, just maybe, we would build a connection with someone else who ‘feels’ what we are saying. And, perhaps those connections would inspire more people to express themselves while empowering others to do the same.

A Solemn Reminder.

Yesterday morning, while groggily scanning my newsfeed, three capitalized letters caught my attention: “R. I. P.” As I normally do, I paused to read over the status, intending to say a quick prayer for the deceased and their family. This time however, my jaw dropped. Could it really be true? Did my high school principal who was young, energetic, and fully devoted to his students suddenly die twenty days before graduation?
And, then I read this. Through a wall of tears, I spent most of the day reading through news articles, and facebook posts.

Mr. Vitori, you will be greatly missed! At our best and worst, you were always there with a smile on your face. From the moment you stepped foot in the halls of CHS, you were dedicated to making sure that every person you interacted with knew that they were valued, that they were supported, and that they had great potential to succeed. Thank you for investing in my life and the lives of hundreds of others! You will always be remembered as one of our greatest influences and biggest fans. May your legacy live on through those who have been blessed by knowing you. My thoughts and prayers are with your family and the Charleroi community.

My tiny memorial is not unique; hundreds of students and alumni have posted blurbs in honor of our principal. He was the unique one- a school administrator who was selflessly devoted to his students. Taking over in a school district that had seen multiple administrators abandon them, he will be remembered as a man who refused to leave any student behind. He attended every event, knew every student by name, and approached every situation with confidence that that every person was a good kid at heart.

His death is a solemn reminder of how precious life is. It can pass in a moment without notice, but a life lived with humble integrity and sincere joy has the potential to impact hundreds of others before it does.  As I sport the red and the black in honor of a great man, my heart is in Cougar country today as our small town remembers one of its everyday heroes. 

I never did properly thank him for his investment in my life, but I am now reminded to say express gratitude in every moment because tomorrow is never guaranteed…


 You have a way with words. You should write books.

As my fortune cookie a few weeks ago instructed me, I am going to get a little more intentional about writing. There are no books in my immediate future, but hopefully will be quite a few blogs. [And yes, although obviously facetious, the fortune cookie story is true]

As you may have noticed, I am slowly upgrading my blog. I will continue tweaking formatting over the next week, and have recently registered a custom domain. This was actually a test post of sorts to see if the custom domain plays nice with blog feeds. The transition appears to be seamless. If you are already following me through “”, you should (in theory) continue to be updated when I post.  If I find out any differently, I will let you know so that you can continue to stalk me accordingly.

Update to the update:  if you actually want to stalk me, you may have to add the new domain to your browser.  New posts don’t seem to be appearing in Google Reader when I update them.

I am not sure who actually reads these things, but thanks for doing so! =]

[Lack of] Fear

  1. Lack of financial provision/resources.
  2. Lack of adequate experience/professional development.
  3. Lack of strength/stamina needed to serve with excellence. 
  4. Lack of

A few of my close friends have recently expressed their concern with what is lacking in my life. Since the semester ended, I have been working on raising support to spend another year doing campus ministry. And I have to admit, with a little over one third of my budget raised and my two month departure from the States just a week away, I was a little concerned too. 

I hit a point last week when I just needed to pause what I was doing and start seeking God more intently. I realized that I was strategically thinking about how to overcome what is seemingly lacking instead of trusting God to guide me to what He has promised me: another year investing in the lives of college students at my alma mater.

I set aside two days to do nothing but pray, process and seek God’s guidance. During that time, one of my Facebook friends posted this excerpt from a sermon by Francis Chan.

I went on to listen to both sermons in this series called “Fearless“.  Wow, two hours of straight truth. If you want a challenge and encouragement, listen to these messages. His major point is derived from Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd, I lack not, and I will not fear because God is with me.

Any concern I have about what I seemingly lack shows a distrust in God and His ability to shepherd. As I confront the reality that I have spent the last few weeks living from a place of fear, I am humbly reminded of one of my favorite scriptures:

“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” – Luke 12:32

 (I am also reminded of that scene in Donnie Darko where the gym teacher is talking about the lifeline of fear versus love, and then I laugh at myself and move forward…)

Any way you look at it, were are not supposed to live out of a place of fear regarding what we lack because everything we need has already been provided by a loving God.

” For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:17

Hmm,  maybe that crazy teacher in the film did have something right: an understanding of Love is the opposite of a life of fear  (1 John 4:18). [Though, reverence and fear of God are the beginning of wisdom.. but holy fear is another topic all together.]  I’m grateful for the reminder that the Lord is my shepherd, He will never leave me, and because of His love…

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD. Forever.” Psalm 23:6

Now back to regularly scheduled programming- another week of support raising. I trust that God will be with me and everything will work out one way or another. In the meanwhile, I am adopting one of our church’s core values -that someone kindly reminded me of recently- as a personal support raising mantra.

“Work like it depends on you, pray like it depends on God.” -  Pastor Mark Batterson.

Loneliness and Solitude

I elegantly wrote a status update about loneliness, solitude and penguins late the other night; out of fear that it would be misconstrued, I never posted it. Because I cannot remember those fine words, here is a blog on the same topic sans the penguins.

According to the Oxford Dictionary: 

Loneliness sadness because one has no friends or company.
Solitude = the state or situation of being alone.

Okay, here is one socially awkward penguin.

If I told you that I was lonely, you might inquire why and perhaps offer me some companionship. If I told you that I was spending the evening in solitude, you would be more likely to affirm that being away from people is a good idea. The question is where is the line between the two.

At what point does solitude become loneliness? And, when do the lonely begin to embrace isolation as welcomed solitude?

As a hybrid introvertly centered extrovert, I often wonder where the tipping point is – I sometimes crave solitude, but I rarely like feeling lonely.  Do the two ever overlap? Does loneliness ever have a positive connotation? And, why do we generally assume that solitude is only achieved when desired?

Well, after some pondering, I realize that the two descriptions are not as closely related as we might think. One can be awfully lonely in a crowded room, and perhaps even find solitude in it if there is an element of isolation. However, we often forget that solitude is a state of being, and loneliness is an emotion.

When we are isolated or alone, we are in solitude. That is a fact. However, the state of being does not determine the attitude or the emotion that accompanies it.  Solitude sometimes involves a decision to be alone, but loneliness is always a choice to continue to feel sad about being alone. It is an active decision to focus on the lack of companionship in our lives. Truth be told, while it is not good for man to be alone, I often wonder how much of loneliness is misdirected idolatry because we hold others and their opinions of us higher than we should.

Personally, I think that loneliness can be a great thing. It is a red flag that out lives are not prioritized the way that they should be. In times of loneliness, we recognize that our purpose is to be in relationship with Jesus and to encourage others to do the same, that our heart desires more than this world has to offer, and that our lives are still being refined as we are creatures of emotion. I may have posted this before, but A.W. Tozer says it well:

“The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world… It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else.” – A.W. Tozer; “The Loneliness of the Christian”

If solitude means being only with God and/or being the only one building His Kingdom, it should be a joy and a privilege.  Seeing it differently is a great indication that we need to refocus on the Lord because He offers joy and peace and hope beyond what any human companionship could offer. Moreover, continued loneliness is a refusal to choose to live in the freedom of Christ.

Now, let’s not allow solitude to escape this conversation unscathed. Solitude is a state of being, but a temporary one. To constantly choose solitude over relationship with others is to neglect our role in the Gospel.  The greatest commands are to love God and to love people. To love God requires time alone with God in solitude. To love people requires actually spending time with people. Jesus often retreated to pray alone, but He always returned to spend time with both His close friends and the communities through which He traveled. If all our time is spend in solitude, we are totally missing the opportunity to share God’s love with others; which at the end of the day, means that we aren’t love God as fully as we could either.

All that to say that solitude is a factual statement about our current condition while loneliness is an attitude that is proscribed to that state of being.

As pastor Charles Swindoll is popularly quoted with saying:

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding theattitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. Wecannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannotchange the inevitable… The only thing we can do is play on the onestring we have, and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

The proper response to both loneliness and solitude is often asking God for an attitude adjustment and for a deeper love for both the Creator and the people He has created. This word study is certainly directing me back toward God; praying for a realignment toward God’s heart in my own life.

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