Jun 1 2014

Don’t Limit Yourself

e_CES0443A few days ago Seth Godin posted a blog where he wrote about how many people let others choose things for them.  He noted that when we listen to Top 40 radio stations we are letting someone else decide what we will hear.  Likewise, if we only read best-selling books we are allowing others to determine what we will read.  Godin noted that if we always do this we will miss out on much that is good.  Not all the good music makes it to Top 40 radio; there are great books that do not show up on anyone’s best-seller list.  He suggested that we be careful about always letting others make our choices.

e_CES0241I thought about that as Rob Sheppard and I photographed at Great Basin National Park in Nevada this past week.  I doubt that many lists of top national parks would include Great Basin.  Usually you find on such lists parks like Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, Arches, Grand Teton and Acadia.  These are the “popular” ones that you hear a lot about and that the masses flock to. I’ve been to each of these places more than once and they are indeed beautiful and spectacular locations, but there are many lesser known parks that are just as beautiful and spectacular in their own way.  Great Basin National Park is a good example.  It has mountains rising 13,000 feet above sea level. Within its borders you will find an abundance of wildlife and awe-inspiring vistas.  The park’s lower elevation is desert covered with sagebrush while its higher elevations contain beautiful aspen groves.  The park has a cave with stunning formations, while above ground there are a number of lovely streams.  Still, relatively few people know about this park.  It receives far fewer visitors than the more popular parks noted above.  If you only visited national parks that were popular you would likely never see Great Basin National Park.  You would miss getting to experience what is genuinely a national treasure.

e_DSC6872This is a good reminder that we must all be careful about letting others choose for us what we will see, listen to, read or visit. Popular opinion need not rule.  We have the freedom to choose ourselves and we should exercise that freedom carefully and frequently.  We need to be careful that we don’t limit ourselves.  This is true even when it comes to the spiritual life.  I fear that many people allow others to choose for them how to live the spiritual life.  There are many popular paths and it would seem that most people are content to follow one of these paths.  There are, however, countless paths that can be taken as we seek to heed Christ’s call to “follow me.”  In reality, there are as many paths available as there are followers.  We can choose to take the popular paths because…well, they’re popular or, with the Spirit’s guidance, we can elect to follow our own unique path.  The other paths are perhaps easier to follow but will likely not be nearly as meaningful or adventuresome.

At the conclusion of Joan Chittister’s book, Called to Question, she writes “Once we have come to the point that we can allow God to be for us always new, always beckoning—beyond any single way of worship, any one set of devotions, any need to be less than alive and full of the joy of it, any desire to close off people and life, any idea that the daily is dull and empty of real spiritual experience, we have begun to grow into the spiritual life.  Then we are finally ready to find God in the very lives we are leading right now.”

e_CES0060Chittister believes there are a number of paths one can take when it comes to following Christ and that we should strive to follow the one intended for us.  I would agree.  We will likely suffer if we choose to take some path simply because it is the popular one.  We will flourish and thrive best when we follow the path that God intended to be uniquely our own.  Thoreau talked about walking to the beat of a different drummer.  As Christians we have the same drummer, it just so happens that drummer has a different beat for each of our lives.  Let’s not limit ourselves to whatever beat happens to be popular today.  Instead, may we each listen for the beat intended for us and then move confidently and joyfully forward. This is where true spiritual growth takes place.  This is where we will find our greatest joy.


(I took the pictures above this past week at Great Basin National Park.)

Nov 21 2010

Wisdom From “The Diary of a Young Girl”

porch view 406A few weeks ago my wife and I rented and watched the movie “The Freedom Writers.”  It is based on the true story of a school teacher whose innovative teaching methods transformed the lives of several troubled teenagers.  A large portion of the movie relates to the students’ reaction to reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.  Somehow I had managed to live fifty-four years without reading this classic work and the movie inspired me to rectify this.

Reading this book has certainly instilled within me a greater appreciation for the freedom we have here in the United States.  Reading about Anne and her family hiding from the Nazis for such a long period you realize that it is a mistake to take our freedom for granted.  I cannot imagine having to endure what the Frank family did.  Reading this book has brought home to me the tragedy of the Holocaust in ways I could not have imagined.

Within the pages of The Diary of a Young Girl I also came across a beautiful passage that deserves to be shared with you today.  In her entry for February 23, 1944, Anne writes: “The best remedy for those who are frightened, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere they can be alone, alone with the sky, nature and God.  For then and only then can you feel that everything is as it should be and that God wants people to be happy amid nature’s beauty and simplicity.  As long as this exists, and that should be forever, I know that there will be solace for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances.  I firmly believe that nature can bring comfort to all who suffer.”  A few paragraphs later she concludes this entry by saying, “Whenever you’re feeling lonely or sad, try going to the loft on a beautiful day and looking outside.  Not at the houses and the rooftops, but at the sky.  As long as you can look fearlessly at the sky, you’ll know that you’re pure within and will find happiness once more.”

For the last few years of her short life Anne’s experience with nature was limited to brief peeks out the window and observing the sky from the loft of the Secret Annex.  It brought her great joy just to see the moon. 

It amazes me that a fourteen year old girl wrote the words cited above.  Surely she possessed a wisdom well beyond her years.  I’m so thankful that her journal survived and got published.  I am thankful that despite her horrible circumstances nature afforded Anne Frank moments of joy.  I am thankful that God’s Creation continues to be “the best remedy for those who are frightened, lonely or unhappy.”


(I took the picture above of the trees and sky from my porch yesterday.)