Live Fast, Die Young

I remember having to stop to catch my breath. I pulled my Honda Accord over to the side of the snow-dusted road and sat in disbelief.

On the other side of the phone was my friend Katelyn. Together we were planning a reunion with some old co-workers from the local grocery store. We went through a list of the names of those whom we would invite. Knowing that some would come and others would blow us off, we still wanted to include them all. I remember thinking of Erich and thinking about how it’s been awhile since I’ve seen him, so I told Katelyn we needed to invite him.

Katelyn got silent. A long pause lingered and she finally responded.

“Halle, did you not know? …. Erich died last summer.”

I had no idea.

Although we weren’t that close, his death hit me hard. The reason I didn’t know was because I was up north working at a summer camp and spent no time on Facebook. I later had deactivated my account and never got caught up on the endless updates. What’s crazy is the fact that by not keeping up with social media, I missed the death of a friend. The last time I had talked with him was on the phone – updating each other on life and his recent commitment to the army.

Although it was a few months too late, I’m glad I received the news from Katelyn. I’d rather find out the way I did than by simply seeing it as one of the many stories mixed in with the newsfeed. Hearing from a close friend kept the news from being desensitized. It was very real and heavy as the news of a death should be.

It happened in the summer of 2013. Erich was riding on his motorcycle late one night with his girlfriend following him in her car. His speed got the best him. His girlfriend couldn’t keep up and when she turned one corner, she found him crashed in the ditch. And just like that, in a brief moment, his life was taken.

I always viewed Erich as a light-hearted man. I never knew his full story, but there was something about him that intrigued me. His sense of humor brought joy to many customers. He was childish in a way and I’ll always recall how he was oddly passionate about birthday-cake Oreos.

That man loved his car more than a fat kid loves cake. Passionate about his BMW, he spent much of his paychecks investing in his baby. I remember fearing for my life while flying over 100 mph in the passenger seat of his car. That was during our trip to Valleyfair and let me just say it was the first and last time I rode with him.

Ironically, Erich was living out his life motto: “live fast, die young” Up until the day of his death. Unfortunately, at the age of nineteen, his life went faster than anyone anticipated and this motto became a literal experience for my friend.

Two years after receiving the news of his death, I still think about Erich, the life he lived and how unfortunate it is that it ended so fast. His story continues to inspire not only me, but also those in his community.

Although his experience was literal, I think in a lot of ways we are all living fast. For some, that might not be a bad thing, but at the same time there is value in taking a break from the fast-paced rhythm of life. We don’t want to rush through the precious moments in order to meet the end.

Therefore, I encourage you this holiday season take time to slow down. Take in your surroundings. Life as we know it is so very valuable, much more than the vibrant packages under the starlit trees.

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This post is in memory of Erich Kanne

1994 – 2013

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Complacent Confession

I have a confession. It’s something I’m not proud of. I haven’t failed to be critical of others, but I have come to the conclusion that I’m the one with the problem. I have all these frustrations with our culture. I want to change the world. But, I’m not willing to change myself. I am complacent.

Complacency is defined as “a feeling of calm satisfaction with your own abilities or situation that prevents you from trying harder.” I’ve found that I’ve settled into the cycle of complacency and it’s something that has snuck up on me. I didn’t realize it’s a problem in my own life until just recently, when I was willing to admit it to myself through self-reflection. It’s something I easily point out in others, but this time I’ve realized that the only direction my finger can point right now is in my direction. It starts with me. So often I think, “Man. I just want people to get this,” or, “Wow, wouldn’t our world be better if everyone did that?” I see all these things I want to change in this world, yet find that I’m unwilling to change myself.

I find that as I sit in church on Sunday mornings, listening to the sermons and thinking to myself, “Okay, this is the week that things will change.” Yet, another week goes by and by the time Sunday comes around again, I realize I didn’t make the changes I was hoping I would. I hadn’t spent more time in prayer, I didn’t read my bible more and I didn’t have many meaningful conversations. I haven’t been willing to put in the work.

So often, I allow excuses override my desire to commit.

I recently read a book by Eugene Cho called Overrated. The main question on the cover asks; Are we more in love with the idea of changing the world than actually changing the world? I had to sit with this question. It’s challenged me to stop and think about what I’m actually doing. Eugene points out that our generation, according to statistics, shows more desire to make a difference than any other generation. Are we going to be the generation to reach this potential? Or are we an overrated one that is all talk and little to no action?

Through social media and the ability to connect with hundreds and thousands of people, we often think that we are making a larger impact than we actually are. We may retweet an article about injustice or post a Facebook status about how we volunteered at Feed My Starving Children. We do these things thinking it will make a difference. We do these things and feel like we did something good for the world. But is it truly requiring much sacrifice from us? Is it enough to make a difference? Or should we be doing more?

Now, I’m not saying that posting articles about social issues or going out into the community and volunteering is bad. In fact, I encourage those things. However, I believe it’s dangerous to just stop there and accept that as your one and only contribution. When Jesus calls us to follow him, he’s not asking for just something, he’s asking for everything. I’m preaching to myself here too because I’m realizing that there are areas in my life where I need to be sacrificing more. I need to be willing to commit more to God; to purse the passions and gifts that he has given me. I keep claiming the things I need to be doing more of, but then fail to follow through with doing them.

So, here is my confession to settling into this complacent culture. Feel free to hold me accountable to never settling and to pray for me to be motivated to work towards my calling.

Last year, someone prophesied that I was called to be the change this culture needs. God is calling me to step up and that I have a voice. It’s a long story that I will tell another time, but notice the words carefully. I’m called to be the change. Not promote the change, not talk about or write about the change. I need to be the change. It starts with the willingness and commitment to changing myself. So here’s my confession to being complacent and a public commitment to begin changing that.

Running Away

I remember the first time I tried running away.

I was just a kid and my sisters and I were messing around in the car ride back from dinner. Our parents got annoyed with us for not listening to them so they dropped us off about a quarter mile from our house and told us to walk back. I was so mad I didn’t want to go home. I told my sisters I wasn’t going home with them and that I was going to live with my neighbors down the street. Obviously that wasn’t going to happen, but I truly did want to run away at the the time. I didn’t want to have to talk with my parents when we got back and so I tried to run. My sisters ran after me and literally picked me up and carried me home.

That was the first time I tried to run away, and recently I’ve realized that I still struggle with this tendency to run from issues. Instead of physically running away, I’ve built up walls that have allowed me to hide from truly dealing with deeper issues. Similar to the story of when I was a kid, putting in the work to admit you were wrong and actually talking through things is scary. It’s much more appealing to run somewhere you can start over and not have to worry about disappointing people.

If my sisters weren’t there to bring me back, I must say it would have been interesting to see where I would have ended up and how long I would have lasted on my own. It’s funny to think about, but at the same time such a lesson to learn from. My sisters loved and cared about me enough to put in the work to bring me home.

They knew where I needed to go and they put in the work to get me there. That is what accountability is.

I realized that I struggle with accountability. There’s this fear I have when people share things with me. I’ve had all sorts of people open up to me about significant struggles. I feel as though in the past year or so I’ve had friends and people close to me share just about everything; eating disorders, suicide attempts, sexual abuse, rape, alcohol addiction, depression, sex and anxiety. You name it, I’m sure I’ve heard it. I am able to listen, I am able to give advice, however accountability is something I just don’t know how to do. Unlike my sisters, I don’t have the strength to carry people where they need to go. I live with regrets of letting so many people run away, and also myself. So I run.

I have always told myself that I don’t take on the weight that others carry, however I’m realizing I was wrong. I do carry people’s problems, and this has hurt me in the past. Therefore, my solution has been these walls. These walls have been put up so that I won’t have to be there. I listen and give good advice, but I don’t stay long enough to hold people accountable. I have a tendency to withdraw because I know I don’t have the power to fix them and I know I can’t handle the pain. So I run.

I’m realizing that my fear from accountability is wrong. I can’t continue to use the excuse that it’s not important. I can’t let the discouragement of my past prevent me from looking for accountability. If I don’t learn how to look to people for help, as well as being there to support others, I will miss out on what God has.

It’s true, I don’t have the power to fix people. It’s true, people don’t have the power to fix me. However, I am in the wrong to underestimate the power of God to do great things through accountability. It’s time to learn how to tear down walls without fearing what may be behind them. It’s time to be there and ask for God’s strength to help carry people because I know I can’t on my own. It’s time to develop a heart to love. I need to learn how to love how He loves.

Love does not run away.

It’s time to let God truly work in these relationships. It’s time to say no to excuses and yes to the work ahead. No more isolation, no more fear, no more excuses.

Running away is never the answer.

I’m Not Pursuing Happiness

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How do you define what the full life is?

Life is full of so much, yet it is easy to have this false idea of what the full life actually looks like. We are all just bunch of people wandering through life, trying to have it all figured out. We tend to look to the wrong things in our pursuit.

We have this tendency define our future based on what our culture is telling us a full life is – also known known as the American dream. This dream tells us that we need to work harder, be richer, and pursue what makes us happy. Lives are dedicated to education, not to seek truth and knowledge, but in order to move up in the success ladder.  I’m not saying you’re not allowed to work hard and to want to be successful. It is dangerous, though, when we start to pursue temporary things.

We have the right to pursue happiness, but what should we really be pursuing?

What we need to be pursing is joy. Believe it or not, there is a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is defined as an emotion of contentment and satisfaction that is caused by earthly experiences or material objects and is based on outward circumstances. Joy on the other hand is defined as a stronger, yet less common, feeling of happiness that is based on inward circumstances. It is a spiritual feeling of closeness to God that results from witnessing or achieving selflessness to the point of personal sacrifice. It is an inward peace and contentment that is lasting.

Happiness is self-seeking and temporary and joy is self-less and long-lasting. Happiness is based on outward circumstances and joy is based on inward circumstances. The fruits of the spirit are Love, Joy. Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness and Self-control. The bible says nothing about pursuing happiness. Joy doesn’t come from focusing on the temporary, but rather the eternal.

The American dream tells us to focus on ourselves, yet God tells us to focus on others. How crazy is it to think that when we focus on others, we will actually experience more contentment and satisfaction? Isn’t it ironic how that works out? It’s easy to see now why so many people miss this focus in life.

We need to remind ourselves that we can’t spend our lives focused on pursuing after what the world wants. The American dream is misleading as it lusts after selfish desires and temporary happiness, which aren’t all bad things, however they can take our focus off of what God has planned. He has designed each and every one of us with a purpose, which I know sounds cliché but it’s true! Rather than focusing so broadly on the future and what you want, look at where you are because God is using that.

Don’t let a day go to waste. If you learn about God and how He has designed you, you will thrive no matter where you are. As you apply your passions to invest in others and serve, you will begin to experience the fullness of life that God has created for you.

So often people commit to the wrong things, like the American dream- the patterns of this world. You are called to do the things that God has called you to do. He will line what you are passionate about up with His plan for your life because it’s all part of his perfect design. Take time to reflect and think about what your are passionate about. If you don’t know what that is, ask God to reveal that to you.

As you start to figure out what some of the things you are passionate about are, start committing to them. Let God renew your mind, pray for a clear mindset for him to reveal great things. Figure out what your passionate is and commit to it.

As you live in accordance to Gods will, you will experience more joy as you allow God to lead you and place you where He wants you.

Don’t pursue happiness.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” –Romans 12:2

How Are You, Really?

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How are you? Let me guess. “Good?

Well, what if you’re not good? Are you going to say it?

When we ask people how they’re doing, are we prepared for them to say something other than good?

Lately I’ve been bothered by how we don’t even take the time to really answer this question. Part of me wonders if we even know how to answer it. Do we take the time to stop and think about how we are actually doing throughout our day? I find myself so busy that I get caught off guard when someone asks me how I’m doing. I honestly don’t even know how to respond most of the time. My first thought is, do they actually want to know how I’m doing? Because if I’m going to be honest, I don’t want to be judged for it. My second thought is, do I even know how I’m doing? If I truthfully answer this question, it’ll take a moment for me to know how to respond. Maybe it’s that moment of our time that not many of us are willing to give.

I wouldn’t say that we don’t want to be real. I think that we have forgotten how to be real. We may have even forgotten what is real. I know I find myself struggling with all this and I sometimes wonder if it bothers others as much as it bothers me.

Maybe we’re trying to keep up with what our profiles are saying. Our Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat stories are painting a portrait of a perfectly happy self. I think there’s this idea in our heads that everything has to be good, or better than it is. It seems like we live in a comparative culture and everyone is working to highlight their lives, not showing what’s really going on.

Maybe we don’t want to be known as a negative person. We don’t want to burden others with what we are actually struggling with. Crazy thoughts in our heads may be saying, “I’m feeling depressed or I’m having a bad day, but everyone else around me seems fine so maybe theres something wrong with just me. It’s not worth sharing.” We believe these lies that we aren’t allowed to say what’s really going on.

Maybe we just don’t take the time to do so. I’m especially guilty of this one. People will ask me how I’m doing in passing and all I have time to say is “good” and by the time I get the words out, they’re half way down the hall. It frustrates me because I feel like if you don’t care, then don’t ask. It goes both ways though. Sometimes when I ask people how they are doing, I don’t even give them enough time to think about it and respond. I’m realizing it’s time to change this habit because who am I to get upset about something I catch myself doing too?

I’m not buying into this whole “everyone is always good” phenomenon.

I’m sick of this fake “good” and I want to start thinking intentionally about how to be more real. It’s time to learn what is real and how to be that. If you’re actually good, say what is good! If you’re not doing well, say what’s really going on with you! Let’s encourage one another to take off our masks, stop trying to put on a face and lets talk about what really matters.

We need to be freed from living a surface-level life. The only way we can overcome the darkness in our lives is if we bring it to the light. What is kept in the dark will continue to have power over us. If you’ve got a lot to praise about, don’t hold back. Share what God is doing in your life! By holding things in, we are feeding into this fake culture. We can’t just continue to hide behind shallow responses. We need to start caring. We need to start loving. We need to give people the time of day.

How great would it be if, when we asked how people are, we actually cared about the responses?

It starts with you.

How are you, really?