Challenged to be mindful of my moments, I found several role models who had been down this path before me. Throughout the scriptures, God speaks to people and the common response is, “Here I am.” God calls Abraham who responds, “Here I am.” To Moses at the burning bush, God calls him by name and Moses responds, “Here I am.” To the little boy Samuel in a dream, God calls, and Samuel responds, “Here I am. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening,” Seeking another servant years later, God cries out, “Whom shall I send,” and Isaiah says, “Here am I, send me.” The most celebrated response is teenage Mary, responds, “Here am I,” and then ends with, “May it be to me as you have said.”
Actor, picker, singer, songwriter, and relatively decent example of a human being, Jeff Daniels, describes his big move in 1976,
In 1976, I bought a Guild D-40 from Herb David’s Guitar Studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan, threw it in the back of my old Buick, and moved to New York City. That guitar led me to a creative outlet, became a solace, my church, a road into the artist I didn’t know existed. I put every song I ever wrote into a big, black notebook. I will be dead in the ground before anyone sees or hears those attempts. And yet, like Lewis & Clark, I found my way to my version of the Pacific. Been on that beach ever since.
In this song, Jeff Daniels and Jonathan Hogan encourage those with ears to here, to be somewhere, live your moments fully, or else you’ll have the Neither Here Nor There Blues.
In 2011, following the Nashville flood and downturn in the economy, in a time of uncertainty in my life, I prayed to God, “What do you want me to do?” God responded, “The question is not, ‘What do I want you to do?’ The question is, ‘Who do I want you to be?’” For me, a good sign that God is speaking to me and not just my own voice echoing in my head is when my questions are answered with another question. Apparently, The Socratic Method is not dead with God.
I thought for a minute. Carefully considering my response, then I asked, “Okay, who do you want me to be?”
Silence. No response. No answer. Three months. Six months. Longer, still waiting and left with the question, “Who am I to be?” For a year, I tried being good, competent, successful, effective. I tried being like Jesus, which in my mind, somehow meant being ‘nice’ to everyone even though few perceived Jesus as ‘nice’ in the gospels. I even tried being like Old Yellar, yes, the dog from the Disney movie, loyal, faithful, defending his family, sacrificing himself. I tried being anything and everything I could for about a year. I failed repeatedly at many different things. “Who am I to be?” went unanswered.
In 1965, a Senate subcommittee predicted the upcoming changes in technology would so revolutionize life in America, and that by 1985, Americans would be working twenty-two hour workweeks and would be able to retire at age thirty-eight. However, the result has been that instead of giving us more time, the new technologies have enabled us to fill every minute of our day as the boundaries of work and home vanished. We can work from anywhere and anytime. Whatever time is left, the list of distractions are infinite. A more accurate forecast of the future came earlier, in 1955, with Parkinson’s Law of Busyness (That’s busyness not business). The law states,
Busyness expands to fill whatever time we have. Busyness is like helium gas released in a room. The gas will expand to fill the whole room, however, as it expands, it becomes less and less dense.
Here is a wonderfully creative take on that popular question, “What Would Jesus Do?” by an artist better known for his movies like Dumb and Dumber, but he’s no shabby guitar player and these lyrics are not only, not stupid, they are quite wise…
As you’re thinking about New Year’s Resolutions, or avoiding making any resolutions at all, I challenge you to take this question a bit further. “What would Jesus do?” is a challenge, especially since we have no record of Jesus stuck in a traffic jam or trying to help their child with calculus or chemistry. So, a more helpful and more applicable question is, “What would Jesus have me do?”
You are the only you. You are a character like you in all of God’s story throughout history. Jesus was one in a billion, Messiah, Christ, Emmanuel, but so are you. You are also one in a billion. No one else has been you in all of history. How you live out your story has some particular challenges that you must face. “What would Jesus have me do?” is a better compass. If we all gave that question a little more consideration, not only would 2016 be a better year, but the world would be a better place for all God’s children to develop their characters in God’s story.
If you want to change the world, start by looking within. According to Howard Thurman, Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
Here is a helpful resource for examining what makes you come alive by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
Share your responses with someone else, then see how they respond to you. You can both come alive at the same time. What a moment!