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Thinking of quitting?  Thinking of packing it in and giving up on that goal you set for yourself?  These words of advice are for you….

Smart coach.  The way I see it, if you have a burning desire to learn to swim, then you can begin to take lessons and practice swimming or you just continue to wish you could swim.  Five years from now, only one of these paths is going to help you win the triathlon.

Good words.  Nothing wrong with patience, but the word perseverance connotes action more than the word patience.  Yes, I want the patience to wait until the storm is over, but I need the perseverance to stand on the deck and steer the boat until it is.

Ah….dreams.  Dreams captivate those who will chase them.  I’m trying to be more like the dreamer I used to be.  They have to power to drive us forward when we know we’re right and all those around us swear we’re wrong.

Too often we proclaim our situations “hopeless” before their time.  As a result we shut ourselves off from good things that may have come our way if only we had taken one more chance.  Don’t talk yourself out of the good things that could come your way just because you refuse to try again.

Dream a dream.  Take a chance.  Work hard. Hang in there.

The next piece of practical wisdom comes from a variety of sources.  The more I thought about these pieces of wisdom, the more I saw them naturally leading into each other, so I decided to package them together for your enjoyment.

Be flexible….yes.  Some of my most aggravating moments in my life have been from my lack of willingness to be flexible and work with others.  I’ve also seen many people ostracize themselves from good things by being too rigid in personality or attitude.  This takes practice….I’m still practicing.

A lot of times I walk up to a problem thinking I know how to solve it….I think I understand it well and that my prescribed method will alleviate the need for any further discussion on the matter.  Anybody else ever have this problem?  It doesn’t take long to discover that you’re (also read “I’m”) not always right.  Even though my answer may be correct, it may not be the right answer for the problem at hand.  It seems the more I learn about the people and organizations around me, the more I realize that each solution will be different.  The chance to be creative and tailor-fit solutions to each situation/organization eventually gets to be part of the fun of dealing with issues.

I love this piece of advice because I know I’ve been both.  If in your efforts to be flexible and to remember that one answer doesn’t always fit every situation, you find yourself staring down an immovable object of stupidity, it’s important to remember this smart piece of advice.  Sometimes the sure victory will come at such a great cost, that you will wonder if you actually won or not….or if you even wanted to in the first place.  I’ve had some firsthand encounters with skunks; I consider myself to have won if I escape without incident.

If taken to heart, these pieces of wisdom might turn down the stress a notch.  Knowing that I don’t have to be right all the time;  that it’s ok to change course and flex to a new plan; and that just because I can win I must.  I’m feeling better already.  Thanks friends.

My 37th birthday was Monday and I posted a birthday request to Facebook.  The request was simple.

What I got in return were some powerful words of advice that entire books could be written from.  I’d like to take time to unpack this collection in an effort to lift up wisdom and understand it even more.  These posts probably won’t be very long, but hopefully, just taking the time to tackle each one will give a great appreciation for the learning that others have shared.

For the most part, I’m going to go straight down the list.  The first piece of wisdom is from an East Texas friend who we’ve known for quite a while.

“Everything is a process.”  Great words.  So often it seems as if we want what we want when we want it.  That holds true for acquiring things, resolving situations, being in a place of financial stability, having fulfilling relationships, or making chocolate chip cookies!  If we can’t have it “right now”, it sometimes seems impossible and our frustration turns into anger or even worse, apathy….which leads us to a listless and dull existence of expecting and usually getting….nothing too special; no situations resolved to a good end, no satisfactory financial stability, no chocolate chip cookies.

…but if we can see that every one of the obstacles we come up against as just steps in a process to get where we want to be, then we begin to see not only that we can be engaged in the process, but that we must be engaged in the process.

My friend’s post also refers to Nehemiah.  In case you are familiar with the story, there is a whole book of the Bible that outlines Nehemiah’s burden for, planning of, and implementation of a plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem so that the holy city could begin anew.  He started with just a vision and a burden for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  He didn’t have money, workers, local support or a safe working environment, but step by step, God provided for him as he trusted God for the process to unfold.

Whether it’s the vision of what your family should be, what your finances should look like or what sort education you need….it’s a process.  It won’t happen over night and it won’t be without setbacks and hardships.  It will, however, provide you with opportunities to grow, be creative, engage others and seek (as well as give) help.

How have you seen pieces of a messy situation suddenly make sense in your own life? Ever seen how a mistake you thought you made was redeemed into a blessing you didn’t deserve? Ever had an “aha!” moment where you were able to see past the aggravating stuff of the moment to see the big picture?  Maybe you’ve outlined the steps for success and have just begun to knock them down one at a time?  If so, then you are probably able to see appreciate the wisdom of my friend….everything is a process.

A view of the volcanoes from the water of Lake AtitlanOne of the great things about taking the time to travel to another country and work for others is that it gradually and definitely draws us out of the frenetic state by which we normally measure success.  In the United States, we often see a busy person as a successful person….someone with a lot of things and a lot of stuff to do must be important, right?

In contrast to this idea, I found that the more I was drawn from the daily entourage of checklists and triviality, the more I became focused on things at which I was skillful and purposed.  I began to see even more clearly that teaching people is something I love to do.  It has been reported that I once said that I would “pay someone to let me teach them something”, but now I see the return is even higher for me than it is for them, so….I might pay double now….(at least for close friends and relatives).   I also felt extremely purposeful when I was playing music and singing with the kids and with the team members on the trip.  I felt like I was working in my zone, in my strengths and with a purpose.

I needed this trip.  I know that two ladies got houses that will change the course of their lives.  I am also aware that two ladies received stoves that will burn less wood in two months than their current stoves burn in two weeks.  I’m not downplaying the miracles of relationships, physical gifts or gospel work that this trip entailed, but I can clearly see how God has used this trip to confirm in me some things I love to do and that I should be doing more of.

So…what does that mean to you? For starters, what do you love to do?  What are your gifts? …and how can you use them right now to impact the world around you?

Start looking for those things…today.

Start doing those things…today.

It may just change your life…today.

Today is something of a celebration day for a few of the people we´ve encountered on our trip.

Today, two women got new houses. For our celebration lunch we had a thick chicken soup with squash, potatoes and the biggest carrots I´ve ever seen…and tamalitos, which are just like tamales, but usually without any flavor. Today there was a little smoke flavor since they were cooked over a 3 stone oven (a three stone oven is a campfire with three stones around it to hold up the metal plate that you cook stuff on. A lot of heat is wasted and there is a lot of smoke inside the kitchen, the missionary here also works with groups funding and building new stoves are very, very efficient and clean.) Anyway, in case you ever encounter tamalitos, they are best dipped in something like thick chicken soup or any sort of gravy that might add flavor.

At the dedication ceremony today, Consuela, the sixteen year old mom that we built for in San Gabriel, told us that this was something they never could have afforded and that it was a huge blessing to her and her son. Since most of the families we encounter are very poor, they have no margin in their lives to save money of any kind; all of the money they make goes to buy food. The money that comes through StepstonesMissions.org goes to build houses for these sweet families. (For roughly 2000 US dollars, an abandoned or widowed mother around Lake Atitlan in can have a house that she never could have afforded otherwise.)

Another celebration is for Filipe, our host at La Posada de Los Volcanes (our hotel). He has his 57th birthday today, so it´s party time tonight at dinner. There´s been talk of a singing competition some sort between a few of us on the trip and his wife Marvila….a Guatemalan Idol competition I guess…I really have no idea, but it should be fun. Filipe is being treated for throat cancer and can only speak in a whisper now, but he´s taken time each to talk with me and teach me a few Spanish phrases each day. Besides be just a generous and friendly guy, he and his wife Marvila are sort of community celebrities because of the civic campaigns they have initiated in the community here in San Lucas. I´m looking forward to this evening and I´m sure we´ll have fun celebrating with this family.

Pray for us as we program a kids event tomorrow here in San Lucas. We are expecting 100 kids to show up for songs, games, Bible stories. I´m one of the song guys.

Everyone is still healthy. I felt rather tired yesterday and this morning, but I began feeling better throughout the day. Also, pray for our team as we continue to build relationships that represent the Kingdom here in San Lucas.

…..At least with all the cold weather I’ve seen on the news about Texas this week.

Here are some pics from the trip. I wish I had time to explain each one, but I’m in a little bit of a hurry to get to bed because I’m sort of exhausted. Our entire team seems tired, but if you’ve ever been on one of these trips, then you know that now is the time when the good stuff seems about to happen. For instance, this evening, Travis Driver (gomojoes.com) and I got invited invited to the home of our interpreter, Felix. It was a special opportunity to build relationships with the people of San Lucas that would have been easy to miss because I was so tired. Against the advice of my tired mind and body. I went and was blessed by the opportunity that it afforded to see a Guatemalan family (mom, dad, grandma, grandpa and the kids) living together under one small roof. The beauty of their love for one another was evident and I almost missed it.

More on that later.

Enjoy the pics.