Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

Archive for the tag “hope”

Gone Fishin’

The sacred writings of my people contain a story about a fisherman who spends all night trying to make a catch. He needs this. Fishing is his profession, his livelihood. This is how he feeds his family, how he makes the money he needs to care for them. The night has been a bust. Exhaustion and discouragement wash over him.

Then some guy ln the shore, a layman, not a professional, tells him to try again, but on the other side of the boat. The fisherman does. He drops his net in the water on the other side of his boat. This time the nets fills up so much he cannot bring his net in.

This is his first encounter with the incarnate God. What would have happened had he not dropped his net again?

For me the idea of trying again when things get difficult is, well difficult. I give up quite easily. I once was known for my perseverance. Not my hallmark any longer. But even at my best, I don’t think I would have fared well in this story.

There gets a point where it becomes obvious nothing is happening here; nothing is going to change. Repeating the process lacks appeal. The old saying surfaces: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Does perseverance equate to insanity? Is giving up really wisdom?

I struggle with this. Never give up shaped much of my life. Only losers surrender. Go down fighting. Don’t be a quitter.

Except, quitting my cola addiction would be a major success.

I have pushed on and fought for many a thing that wasn’t worth it. Some early girlfriends should have been left long before the final breakup. I should have moved on from some jobs before I finally did. But, instead, I stuck with it.

But when things get the level this fisherman dealt with, I would nave stopped. During my long wasteland of unemployment, it got to the point that I submitted resumes because it was the thing you do each day, like taking a shower or using the toilet. I held no hope that anything good would come from it. In fact, using the toilet had more value. This is the closest I can relate to doing what this dude did. There were so many days that I wouldn’t try again.

I know quite a few people who sell for a living. Everything is a bout the next call. So what if the last didn’t go well. Make the next call. They just keep putting the net back in the water, knowing it will payoff.

Is this faith? Is it trust in their product or service? In their ability to make a sale? In the knowledge that they will succeed only about ten percent of the time and trust that it will eventually average out?

Or is it insanity that works?

I’ve been told that you haven’t tried to publish if you haven’t been rejected 35 times. Why 35? why not 36? I don’t know. But for whatever reason that’s the magic number to define actually trying or not. Well, I tried. Over and over.

At what point is putting the net back in the water insanity? At what point is just trying one more sale knowing that I only need one to pay off?

Water drips onto and runs off a rock. The rock is immovable. The water flows off. By the definition of doing things over and over, this is insanity. But, erosion is a long, slow process. That water, given enough time, will change that rock, will wear it away.

Perhaps faith, hope and courage all fall in the crazy side of life. Perhaps quitting is the safest thing. Perhaps society wants us to just fall in line.

Putting my net back in the water feels pointless. Why try again? Why submit another manuscript? Why book another performance?

But what if pointlessness is the point? What if trying again, even if it won’t work, is the whole point. Maybe faith and hope and courage exist in those moments. Maybe they are slowly eroding my fear, my sloth, my depression, lack of life. Maybe a little life seeps back in with each try.

What if putting the net back in the water is the only way to embrace life. What if putting the net back in the water is the only way to engage an incarnate god.

Maybe it takes a little insanity to make life make sense, make it worth living. Maybe giving the finger to failure keeps it at bay.

Try to resuscitate that dream.

Goodbyes

It’s hard to say goodbye to people we love, even if we only see them on occasion. When they will be farther away, it means they will be farther away. The closeness that comes with proximity is severed.

I recently attended a party to say goodbye to some dear friends who plan to move out of state. I drove almost 60 miles to get there, because I practically live in another state myself. But this event was a big deal. We don’t see that group of friends very often because we live so far away, but not too far to get there for dinner. Their move though will take them too far away for that.

These people are the kind of friends that when you see them, it feels like you have never been apart. Conversations flow easily. We freely discuss the deeper places in our lives, things we might not share with others. Even though it may be years before we see them again, I trust that this dynamic will remain.

But then I wonder why years pass between seeing them. Why have I not made it to dinner with any of the other friends in that room I haven’t seen in years? Life happens. Sometimes schedules get in the way. And frankly sometimes it’s laziness. But these are people I love.

Some days, I want to book every possible moment to make sure I don’t miss my chance to see my friends. Some days, I want to travel to Michigan every weekend to try to connect with my brothers and sisters. Some days, I don’t want to go anywhere so I can just sit at home and enjoy my wife and my daughters. Love’s power builds us up and energizes us when we connect with those we love. But it also cuts deeply when we aren’t with them.

Life is too short not to spend with the people I love. Some days it feels too short to spend time with all the people I love. I know I am blessed to have so many awesome friends in my life. But loving people can be hard.

Is That Me?

I recently revisited the novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. This story fascinated me as a kid but I remembered little of it. I hoped for that great nostalgic feeling I get when I reread Treasure Island or The Hobbit. Instead it disturbed me.
Axel, the narrator, is a wimp. It seems that about every chapter or so he gives up, flops on the ground and prepares to die. Before long, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I just couldn’t take the whining. I began to hope that Axel would die and that the others would move on without him.
After awhile, the thing that grated me more than Axel’s cowardice was the mirror that Axel holds up to my life. I whine as much as he does, perhaps not as loudly as him, but I definitely outlast him. What I lack in volume I make up for in endurance. In fact complaining is one of the few facets of my life where I have grown stronger over the years.
More recently, I find that I am far too ready to quit. Just like Axel, my immediate response to hardship is to abandon hope, abandon the adventure and abandon the plan.
How did I get here? I used to revel in the adventure. I enjoyed it when life put up a little fight, making me struggle to the victory which i would ultimately savor more because of that.
I didn’t like the image in the mirror. Is this truly me? Or is this just the way I look because I haven’t engaged the struggle?

 

Shameless Self Promotion
I will be performing comedy at First Presbyterian Church of Woodstock Talent Show fund raiser on March 9.
I will be speaking at a Toastmasters workshop in Naperville on March 15.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 8

Paulo Coelho in his book The Alchemist expresses the belief that if you state your dreams out load and make them a goal, the universe will conspire with you to make them happen. A wonderful sentiment that I decided to try. My experience is that if you state a dream as a goal, the world will conspire to prevent it from happening.
It seems that everyone around you immediately tells you it can’t be done. Some will encourage but armies will discourage. But then, other interactions with the encouragers make clear that they are patronizing you. Of course there will be a few that really mean it and truly hope and maybe even pray that you succeed or that you at least try well and gain satisfaction from the effort.
Why are so many people against dreams? Is it because they have none? Or that they’ve given up on them? I’ve tried giving up on my dreams but life was too bleak. I can’t survive bleak. I can survive failure so I’d rather flounder in a morass of failure and maintain some sort of dream rather than embrace bleakness.
Because life needs something. Some kind of hope or aspiration to hang onto or it withers away and nothing is left. Why live then.
I hate mediocrity but I also can live with achieving my best even if it is merely mediocre. But it takes risk to even boldly pursue mediocrity. It takes risk to fail. Sure it takes risk to succeed but since I don’t have a lot of history with success, I’ll leave that to someone else to discuss.
But I’m trying to live life here and I can’t do it without my silly dreams. So onward I rush into the foolishness of my efforts. But they keep me alive. And I can live with the world against me if I can dream. So let them conspire against me. The stories are going to come.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 6

Donald Miller decided that he needed to live a better story in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I agreed with him when I read that book. I wanted, and still want, a better story. Most of the story since then has been quite depressing and I would much rather portray it as montage and then move on with the time of growth and renewal on the other side.
But that would be a pretty lousy story. Delving into the full depth of the depression wouldn’t be that fun either, but there is story there and glimmers of hope. Eventually the darkness thinned and I fund myself walking in brighter times again.
I recently pondered my desire to live a better story and realized that I should have expected that though. Or something like that. The downside that is, the depression, the unemployment, the hard times. After all, any story worth telling has something go wrong pretty early on. Typically other stuff will continue to go wrong to aggravate the situation. Deliberately pursuing story is to pursue things going wrong. Which doesn’t seem so wise.
Where I want to get to though is those places in life where I can deliberate choose risk, to find things that take a little risk, a little faith and carries a chance of failure. Or things not turning out perfect. Because sometimes simply taking a risk provides enough of a story to tell. It might not be as good as the story of rising from destitution or a scrape with death, but taking a chance at something is being more alive than avoiding those situations all together.
So I am seeking out some small challenges and risks to try, things to get me used to being alive again. Some things that give me enough of a thrill of risk that I can remember how living like that used to feel. I need something to build my faith a little and get me hungry for being alive again.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 5

On the way home form work, Old Man by Redlight King played on the radio. I love the Neil Young original but this remake connected with me.
The last time I wrote, I talked about how I observed my kids and learned about how to live my life better. This song warned me that they are doing the same. They look to me to figure out how to get through life. Sometimes by asking questions but more often by copying me.
How much fear and lifelessness am I passing along without intending to? The stuff I hate about my life, the things that are motivating me to write this blog are the very things that will be my legacy unless I am deliberate about changing them. I don’t want my kids to learn to fear the world, life, God. More, I don’t want them to learn it from me. They will grow up one day to be a lot like me, for better or for worse.
This change, this embracing change and choosing to live, that’s what I need to pass one. Hopefully I can give them enough that they can learn to do it better than me.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 4

I recently heard a pastor make the case for fear being the greatest sin we can commit. His reasoning basically went this way. He felt that fear was the opposite of love, that it drives us away from others and from God, preventing us to take the risks of faith, hope and loving others. Therefore, since loving God and loving others are the two greatest commandments, then the thing that prevented that the most proved the worst sin.
I don’t know that I agree with him fully, but I agree with it enough to comment on it here and let it shape my quest to live. When I look at my kids, the thing that bothers me the most is when I see them act out of fear. I hate when they do that. I don’t want them to create a pattern of letting fear make the decisions in their lives. Sometimes they are scared by something that should scare them, something that is threatening or surprising. Those things are easy to recover from. A car racing by too close to the curb is a real threat and elicits real fear. But some comfort and reassurances that they are ok allows them to move on. But the moments when they pull back from trying something because they fear that they might fail or what others might think of them – that’s the stuff that drives me nuts.
I want them to know that can fail as freely and as frequently as they want and that I’ll still love them. I may get frustrated if they don’t learn how to adapt and overcome, but I’ll not stop loving them. And I’d rather have them try and fail than never try at all. I want them to know freedom. I want them to be capable of taking big risks.
I know, somewhere in my heart that God feels that way about me. He wants me to live and to love and to be free. He wants me to taste life and enjoy it. He wants me to be bold and not worry about what others think. He wants me to be myself as fully as I can. And every time that I let fear kick me in the balls and abdicate my freedom, God gets pissed. Not a hate me and will never talk to me again pissed, but I’m sure there is a deep growl in the back of his throat. I can here they thought of “don’t let fear do that to you.”
I’m pretty sure God wants us to turn the tables and kick fear in the balls.

Brad Bellmore Get’s a Life – 2

Donald Miller is one of my favorite authors and with the soon to be released movie of Blue Like Jazz, I have been pondering his influence on my life. That book made me rethink many of my perceptions on Christianity. He made me consider what am I really believing in and find a way to connect my faith to my life.
To Own a Dragon, his take growing up without a father. To him, a father was as mythical a creature as a dragon. This book connected with a lot of my thoughts and feelings of growing up without a father, some of which I did not even know I had until I had kids.
Another challenge to my faith and why I believe what I believe was Searching for God Knows What. It even challenged me to think about how I express what I believe.
But, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years pushed me farther than any of the others. The basic idea of this book revolves around Don realizing that he wants to write a better story for his life. This is actually spawned by the process of creating the movie mentioned above. Anyway, it resonated with me when I read it given that my life is rather a rambling mess than a cohesive story. I felt inspired at the time to make some changes. That was short lived, mostly because the various waves of depression stemming from unemployment plowed that inspiration deep into the dirt.
But now, as I ponder how I learn to live, to truly be alive for whatever is left of my life, the movie surfaces and stokes again the fires of creating a better story. Which is what I hope to do here, both explore the process and tell the story.
And so, I set forth in quest for a life worth living and a story worth telling.

Hardly Me

While watching Beowulf recently, it struck me how like Hrothgar I am. He’s old. He’s fat. He’s living off the glory of his youthful exploits, but has lost his power. He needs to defeat the troll ravaging his people but just can’t do it.
During a conversation between Alice and the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, he compared the current Alice to he previous visit. “You were much… mucher,” he said. “You’ve lost your muchness.”
I realized that I had lived out one of my greatest fears. I had become one of Thoreau’s mass of men leading lives of quiet desperation. (I whine a lot so I’m not too quiet.) I thought I would never become this.
I feel like I abdicated my power somewhere along the way. Did I do that by not pursuing a solid career path? Did I do it by chasing my writing in such a half-assed manner? Or did I just fail to keep my sword sharp?
After updating a friend about an interview that didn’t result in a job, he told me that he knew that I have tenacity. Do I? I once did but I’m not so sure anymore.
Can I be tenacious again? Can I regain my muchness?
There is a scene in The Last Airbender with a group of earthbenders who are content to be in prison. Ang, the main character, chides them, “There is earth all around you! Under your feet!” They have the means to fight back, to create change, yet they needed someone to remind them.
Do I have what it takes to change? To find out, I just need to latch onto my muchness. If I can find it.

The Miracle of Prayer

So often I approach prayer as a discipline. I need to do it each day, preferably on schedule. I allot time for it. Usually in the morning before the day has begun. And then I try to fulfill my obligation to actually do it.
More frequently I forget to as it falls prey to other urgent priorities. Sometimes apathy is just greater than the obligation to pray. And, depending on the reason for not praying, I feel guilty about it and vow to do better next time. Or just continue to not do it because it is always easier to not do something than it is to do it.
Then I hear tales of people that pray beyond any sense of what I consider reasonable, great preachers or saints that prayed large portions of their days or prayed extensively before making any decision. Again, this either heaps guilt because there is some intrinsic implication that I have failed because I don’t pray like that. Or I consider those guys freaks and write them off and discredit their experiences. I can’t deliver those kinds of obligations
But how did it end up being an obligation?
The God of all creation, the wonderful and almighty God himself has offered us the chance to pray and somehow we have reduced it to an obligation.
Now, the hard part of writing this is to do so in a way not to heap a new kind of guilt on everybody. The Church has too much of that already. Think how much shorter the road to heaven would be without all the side guilt trips.
What I’m hoping I can do here is change how we think about prayer.
Rather than an obligation, prayer should be approached as a privilege. And this is why.
How many songs have been written about the amazing fact that God loves us and cares for us? How often have we been asked to ponder the fact that Jesus cared enough about us as sinners that he would die to redeem us and set us free from the curse of sin? A holy God called us holy because he restored us through the sacrifice of his son, and by the very proclamation of holiness made us holy.
This is truly the most boggling part of Christian faith. God loves us. Jesus loves us. The Holy Spirit loves. They want to be in relationship with us. They want to be part of our lives and express their love to us. And all the miraculous events of history have been expressions of that from the first second of creation to the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension. To even the fact that I am breathing at this very moment and so are you. Expressions of mercy and grace and love of the great and glorious God we worship and serve are boundless.
And he did all that, and continues to do all that for us. He did it for the generations before us and will continue to do it for the generations to come. He does all this for those we love and those we hate. God’s love is abundant. Illogical, perhaps, from a human perspective, but is all the more amazing for that.
And this astounding fact needs to pervade our theology. It needs to seep into practice of faith. It needs to mold our relationship with God and our following of Jesus. It needs to redefine how we relate to the people around us.
The more I grow to understand the depths of God’s love for us, the more I realize that this is truly the greatest miracle of all. I find it far too easy to disdain people I think are below me. Sometimes, I treat them as less than human.
I am truly, significantly less than God, yet he pursues me as a person of great value to him. He does the same for all of us, even those I disdain.
So, in light of this miracle of God desiring to connect with us, to be part of our lives, I want to look at the privilege of prayer. This is our chance to communicate with God. He wants to hear from us. He wants to talk with us, to know what we’re feeling and to speak to us. Everyone of us.
Recall some point in your life when you have been madly in love with someone. Remember that craving to speak with them? To hear their voice? That is God’s perspective on prayer. He’s eager to talk to us. He craves to hear us speak to him. He longs to share his heart with us. Just the very act of raising our voice to speak with him and sharing our heart with him gives him joy. When we pray, we cause God to smile.
God delights in us. And we forget it all the time. He constantly reminds us. As we spend time in prayer we can know this in a deeper way. Spend time with him and you can experience this joy and delight.
And how does that knowledge change us? Not just acknowledging that this is a theological fact, I mean knowing it. To quote the oracle form the film The Matrix, “It’s like being in love. You know it, from balls to bones.” Once this truth moves from a concept and into the reality of our lives, we will live very differently.
We most certainly will pray very differently.
So, I ask, why aren’t we diving into prayer as boldly and passionately as we can? I pray as you ponder that question that guilt will stay far from you and that you can see what really is in the way. The lover of your soul wants to whisper in your ear; run to meet him as if you were smitten with him, longing to spend time with him, aching to hear his voice.
Just like he is pining for you.

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