Hope In Slovenia – How Performing Arts Students Taught Me Life Lessons

A trip halfway around the world revealed some great insight

I recently returned from a trip to Slovenia where I worked with Josiah Venture’s Performing Arts Camp program with Slovene teens and young adults. The experience was life changing.

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Hope in Slovenia with these incredible students

Not only was I in a beautiful part of the world, but I was getting to help young men and women who don’t often get the chance to express themselves in the arts. The program creates an encouraging atmosphere that helps to push these young people forward while providing an opportunity to talk about troubles and hardships they may be experiencing in their personal and spiritual lives.

I was so grateful for the opportunity and I learned some valuable lessons, not only from the program, but from these brave young men and women.

Here are my takeaways:

1. If you have a support system around you, you can stretch yourself farther than you thought possible
We worked with these kids over the course of a week to put up a 90 min show filled with drama, singing, dancing and instrumental challenges. For some of these kids, it was the first time they had performed a certain disciplines. It was not an easy task, yet they knew they were in an atmosphere that would support them through this. The result: outstanding.

The most inspiring moments came when you saw the transformation of students who started the week doubting they could get though the process. But slowly, with support and encouragement from teachers and fellow students, they grew stronger and more confident in a discipline day by day. By the final performance a week later they performed like professional artists.

I find myself a week later realizing that I need to do the same thing in my own life. How many times have I talked myself out of moving forward with a project, letting the fear of the struggle keep me from taking forward motion. If a young man who has never done musical choreography can proudly do a group combination a week later in front of friends and family, then what is holding me back?

A key element is to make sure that I have the support and encouragement of mentors and fellow travelers along the way. In community, wonderful results can appear.

2. It’s not about me.

Years ago I read Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life”.  The opening line of that book is “It’s not about you.”

What a counter-cultural thought, particularly in a day and age where we are constantly focused on self and self-improvement.

One of the challenges that Warren issues in that book, is that at some point in life, everyone should go on a mission to help others. It’s something that I had thought about for a long time with my wife. We weren’t sure what the opportunity would be. We had thoughts of going to Africa, or possibly going to Mexico to help build a house. When the opportunity come along to go to Slovenia and use my abilities and skills as a teacher and director,I couldn’t have received a better gift.

What’s more, when you are in the middle of a different country, you realize that there is need . I may not be able to fix it all, but I can do my little part. The written word cannot express the moments of joy that I experienced. An experience like this can dramatically snap any of my own aspirations quickly into focus. Life, just focused on my own needs and my own rewards, is not life at all. Life is meant for helping others and I am so grateful to these students for showing me the way.

3. Dreaming about the possibilities is a good thing… as long as you act

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day activities of life. You keep looking at what’s in front of you that you forget why you are doing it.

Imagination is a wonderful tool given to us by God. It makes us ponder the “What If” in life. That “What If” is even better when, with God’s grace and courage, we start to realize “Why Not?”
I used to have dreams and aspirations about traveling the world. But I got hit by a couple of decades worth of opportunities and challenges. Slowly over time I left the drift of everyday life, cause me to put those dreams on the shelf until an undefined “someday.”

After my experience in Slovenia, I know that there are some incredible experiences ahead. I want to help this new family of students and friends in Slovenia. I want my children to finally meet their family and relatives in Ireland. I want to experience beautiful places in the world with my wife and sons. And I don’t have to do it just as a tourist. I can do it with purpose.

When I returned from my experience, I didn’t come back with a beautiful sad ending. I came back having had an ember stoked inside of me. That ember that reminded me of dreams from long ago and stirred the new sparks of “what else is possible.”

 

Again, I am so grateful for these students and for the Slovene and American teams involved with Josiah Venture and Cross Point Community Church. I pray that you get to have an experience that can rekindle those flames. My first suggestion, think about someone you could help using your talents, and then go do it… If there is a willing heart, who knows where God will lead you. I am grateful it sent me into a community of nearly 50 people who are now a part of my family and my heart.

Season 2 Episode 4 Hope (Podcast)

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” C.S. Lewis

Hope… it’s essential to keep us moving forward.

In this episode of “The Discussion” Kevin and Jeremy talk about hope and that future that lies ahead.

hope

Hope Image Copyright convisum / 123RF Stock Photo

In this episode:

Enjoy the show and PLEASE help us spread the word. Rate and review us on Itunes and Stitcher.

Season 2 Episode 4 Hope (Podcast)

There is light at the end of the tunnel... so keep going

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” C.S. Lewis

Hope… it’s essential to keep us moving forward.

In this episode of “The Discussion” Kevin and Jeremy talk about hope and that future that lies ahead.

hope

Hope Image Copyright convisum / 123RF Stock Photo

In this episode:

Enjoy the show and PLEASE help us spread the word. Rate and review us on Itunes and Stitcher.

Season 2 Episode 3 Envy (Podcast)

In this episode of “The Discussion” Kevin and Jeremy talk about a very powerful feeling that may be holding you back: envy.

 

Whether it’s feeling envious of people at work, in your social circles or even on Facebook, Kevin and Jeremy explore this negative emotion that may be holding you back.

In this episode:

  • We identify why you may be feeling this way
  • Explore what “Facebook Envy” is
  • We talk about 3 things you can do to combat this feeling (as well as two extra tips that can change your attitude right away)

Other mentions:

Enjoy the show and PLEASE help us spread the word. Rate and review us on Itunes and Stitcher.

 

The Five Reasons You Need To Do Creative Work For A Living

This FREE eBook will explore why you need to follow your creative drive.

You just have thaFive Reasons Creative Workt feeling…

You may have a job that pays the rent, the mortgage, the bills.

But you know this isn’t it… there’s something else you are supposed to be doing. Something that’s creative.

You keep talking yourself out of it.

“That was when I was a kid.” “It’s irresponsible.” “It’s not the smart thing to do.”

But that feeling doesn’t go away…

In my new eBook “The Five Reasons You Need To Do Creative Work For A Living”
I dive into why you need to move forward with that feeling that is pulling at you.
Do the creative work you were meant for.

Enter your email to get your FREE COPY of my eBook "The Five Reasons You Need To Do Creative Work For A Living"

Watch Your Mouth

What you say, both good and bad, can have an effect on you.

It’s not always puppies and unicorns with everything going your way. There are no promises that everything in this life is supposed to be perfect. There are trials.

But what are you saying when you’re going through a difficult trial?

You’ve got to watch your mouth.

There’s no denying that we can have a negative verbal reaction when we receive bad news. It’s like hitting your finger with a hammer… there’s likely to be some colorful language to come out.

There’s a danger, however, in letting negative words continually flow out of you. Rick Warren has a great observation with this. Anger is not something that when you fill up with it, you just let it out and get rid of it. Anger is a little more dangerous than that. When it starts coming out of us, it’s like a machine that can keep producing more and more and more anger. It’s like turning on the switch to the Negative Emotion Factory. This is the same factory that can produce plenty of other negative emotions: sadness, envy, resentment, self-pity.

There is nothing wrong with talking about troubles that you’ve gone through. Keep in mind that words fuel your feelings, both negative and positive.

Years ago I used to have a constant phrase I would use when people would ask me how I was.

“I’m exhausted.”

It was my way of letting people know how hard I was working and how I was juggling all the challenges of work, family and personal life. I said it ALL the time.

Until my wife corrected me after we went to a friend’s party. She had overheard a number of my interactions with other people that night, and the only thing I kept saying was how I exhausted I was. It wasn’t painting our life in a very positive way.
After the party that night, I made a concentrated effort to remove the phrase “I’m exhausted” or “I’m tired” out of my vocabulary. Here’s the strange thing… several weeks later after not saying these phrases, I actually started feeling more rested and energetic. My negative phrase and been physically and emotionally running me into the ground for months.

I challenge you not only watch your mouth with the negative thoughts and emotions, but to replace those words with  phrases that will build you up.

“And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.” James 3:4-5 (NLT)

Perhaps the negative emotions that you are feeling are really a disguised call for help. Try flipping those words of frustration into “I’m in a rough spot and I need some guidance, direction and support.” There’s a very good chance someone will hear your call and give you the support you need.

What negative phrases do you find yourself automatically saying? How could you flip that into a positive? Share your thoughts on my Facebook page.

Learn to Say No

Make sure that you are saying "yes" to the right opportunities in life.

You want to make everyone happy. You don’t want to let anyone down.

You want to stretch yourself and grow, but instead you find yourself worn out and exhausted.

There may even be a part of your faith which makes you think that you must say “yes” to every request that comes your way because it is your duty.

Even though there may be good intentions with saying “yes”, it is not always the best thing to do.

We have to learn to say “no”.

There are only a set amount of hours in the day and week. In that week, we have to sleep, eat, enjoy our family, friends and loved ones in addition to work and other responsibilities.

When we say “yes” to something, we are impacting these areas of our lives.

In his book “Essentialism“, Greg McKeown talks about this concept. When we don’t say “no” we are saying “yes” to something else by default. That’s not good. Because now all of our time energy and effort is being spent on tasks that we weren’t supposed to be doing in the first place.

I know this first hand.

Back in 2005, I left my work at The Disneyland Resort to pursue acting in commercials full tme. But I didn’t have a plan. We had some money as a buffer, but I just thought opportunities would present themselves.

Well, several things presented themselves. However, it wasn’t what I expected.

I found myself getting over involved in my sons’ school, since I was now a “stay at home dad.” My continual automatic volunteering led me to overextend myself. I couldn’t say no. All of my energy and effort was now being put into projects where people would ask for help. My default answer of “yes” resulted in a never ending cycle of getting frustrated, stretching myself too thin and leaving me with no time to look for work. Our funds soon depleted. I was very fortunate to be allowed back to my work at Disneyland, but I learned a valuable lesson.

You can’t say “Yes” to everything. No matter how important it seems.

I learned another valuable lesson from McKeown’s “Essentialsim” about making decisions. Ask yourself, “What percentage do I feel like this is the right thing to do?” I’ve had opportunities that have come my way where I felt “Yeah, I feel like that’s about 60% the right thing to do.” That number doesn’t sound so bad…why not, it’s more than 50% right?

Wrong!

What it we took that same percenetage of 60% and looked at it as a score on a test? It would be an F or D minus grade at best.

And that’s a life decision! Why would we accept failing grades in our life decisions?

If you are not feeling 90% or more regarding a decision, if it’s not an automatic “YES!!!! I WANT TO DO THAT, BE A PART OF THAT!” then don’t agree to it.

It’s not easy to say “no”, but remember you are making room for that “yes” that can lead to the things you really want to be doing in your life.

Where are areas of your life that you are having a difficult time saying “no”? Let me know on my Facebook page.

Running Away From Fear: A Lesson from the Dentist

Went to the dental hygienist and was in and out in 40 minutes. It was an easy visit.

That was not the case as recently as five years ago. I used to be petrified. I’d have to get myself mentally and spiritually prepared for a visit to the dentist.

I had terrible experiences as a child at the dentist’s office. I won’t go into the terrible details, but it really did a number on me mentally. It took me decades to get over this. I had a couple a decent experiences in my 20’s and 30’s with other dental offices, but after another long absence of check-ups and exams, I needed to do something. In my late 30’s I went back again and worked with my current dentist to get through my phobias.

I had a couple of advantages going back. Dental technology and practices have greatly advanced. Pain is not the norm in 21st century dentistry in North America. I also had a doctor and dental hygienist that were able to talk to me and explain uncomfortable processes, like deep cleaning and a root canal.

You’re probably facing a challenge in your life that’s like the dentist. It could be taxes, debt, finishing school. Maybe you’ve been running away from them for a long time. Running away doesn’t work. It delays that which has to get done. Running away also feeds the “fear monster” that has the habit of turning reasonable concerns into imagined gigantic unconquerable fortresses. These imagined fears of what will happen get so large that we continue running away from what needs to be done.

It’s not helping you. It’s hurting you. It’s hurting your forward motion.

Have you been running away from something that’s just been weighing on you for a long time? Is it a commitment that honestly you just can’t keep and you’ve got to let someone down? Is it something that you hope will go away, but it has to get done no matter what?

There’s hope.

Other people have gone through the same situation. Seek them out, give them a call for help. Listen to their story online. You’ll soon discover there are other people who came out the other side of a situation very similar to yours. And they survived. And it wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be.

I’m sorry you’re going through this. But believe me, with a little time, a little focus and a lot of support you could have the same feeling of ease I did coming out of the dentist’s office the other day.

Share what you’re fighting through on my Facebook Page. It might be a great first place to ask and receive the help you’re looking for to move forward.

 

Celebrate the Victories: Encouragement in What We’ve Done

Little by little we can make the change in our lives

“How am I going to get this done?”
It’s a question asked constantly when we look at what’s requested of us, our responsibilities, or goals we are trying to accomplish.

You may ask different versions of this question:
“How am I going to do work I really want to do?” “How am I going to lose this weight?” “How am I going to get out of this debt?”

It can be really depressing and overwhelming.

The way it gets done is a little bit at a time. You start. Action is the most important thing you can do, no matter how small it is.

The alternative is to do nothing. And that inaction is also a choice. That choice will keep us repeating the same bad habits that have you stuck in your current job,with your health or in debt.

It takes a little something to get us moving. We need encouragement. We need little victories in our lives.
Sometimes it’s as simple as making the bed, or washing those dishes that have been sitting there for the last few days. Or finally paying the bill you’ve been putting off.
A little action leads to a little more, which leads to a little more.
Before you know it, you can look back and see all the little things add up.
Try something today. Put on some music that will put you in a good mood (or at least in a focused mood) and set a timer for at least five minutes. Write down some accomplishments you’ve achieved over the last year, two years, or how ever far back you want to go.
Look at the things that you’ve done and celebrate them by sharing your victories on my Facebook page.
If you’ve been able to accomplish things in the past, you can accomplish them in the future.

I’ve got some great tools and techniques I want to share with you next month that will help you keep making that forward motion. But for now celebrate the little victories and the big victories and realize you’ll be able to do it again. Onward, upward!

You Are Not Too Old:The Examples of Katharine Drexel and Noah Purifoy

These two people show us we can live a long life of purpose

It’s something I’ve seen again and again in the entertainment industry, different areas of business and life.

The idea that you must be young to accomplish meaningful things in life.

If you don’t do it when you’re young, well, it looks like you’ve missed out. You’re too old. The party’s over. The train has left the station. All that’s left now is to accept how thing’s turned out and trudge on with the rest of your life.

To that I say “No, no and no!”

Let me give you two examples of people who lived their lives fully with purpose until the end.

Katharine Drexel By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31178722

Noah Purifoy photo from http://tclf.org/sites/default/files/microsites/art-landscape/artists.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katharine Drexel and Noah Purifoy.

Katharine Drexel (1858-1955) was heir to the fortune of her investment banker father Francis Anthony Drexel. She was a woman who was drawn to help Native Americans and African Americans in the United States. Her life took two major unexpected turns. The first occurred when both of her parents died leaving her and her two sisters an estate worth $14 million dollars ($400 million in current dollars). The second unexpected turn came when at age 31 she made the decision to not marry and instead enter into religious life as a nun.

Katharine Drexel began a Catholic religious order that used her share of her inheritance to build schools for African American and Native American children throughout the United States. This was a woman who lived her life as a prayer and spent her life and every last portion of her money to help others who were not seen as equals in society.  In 1935 at age 76 while traveling across the country, she suffered a heart attack. Her doctor instructed her that she would have to cut back on her work and change her lifestyle.

For the next twenty years she spent every day of her life praying and writing to those other sisters of her religious order. It was what she described as the most spiritually productive period of her life. At age 96 on March 3, 1955, Katharine Drexel passed away after using her entire life as a work and prayer for others.

Noah Purifoy (1917-2004) was an African-American artist, sculptor and assemblage artist who lived in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, CA.

Born in Snow Hill, Alabama, he was a veteran in the Armed Forces and eventually made his way out to California where he developed his art. He received his BFA in art when he was 40 years old at what is now Cal Arts.

His work “66 Signs of Neon” caught public attention in 1966 when he used salvaged remains to interpret the Watts Riots that had occurred several months earlier in August 1965. He was one of the co-founders of the Watts Tower Arts Center. He served on the California Arts Council from the late 1970’s until late 1980’s.  He then moved to Joshua Tree and at age 71 began a prolific work in the desert. Over 15 years until his death at 86 in 2004, Noah Purifoy created nearly a hundred pieces of art on 10 acres of land in Joshua Tree. These included large scale assemblages, environmental sculptures, and installation art. No small feat.

The land is now know as The Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum. Kate and I saw it on our recent trip to Joshua Tree and it is quite impressive. To think that a man in his 70’s and 80’s could produce that much work that is driven by his purpose and passion… it is an example for all of us for how we should live.

Both Katharine Drexel and Noah Purifoy remind us that we are not bound by our age. Our work on this earth is not done until we have drawn our last breath. Until that moment, every thought, every conversation, every work that we do is something that can help or inspire others on their journey.

For more information on these inspirational people I would encourage you to watch Bishop Robert Barron’s video about Katharine Drexel and visit The Noah Purifoy Foundation website http://www.noahpurifoy.com.

Leave a comment on my Facebook Page to let me know what you thought about these two incredible people.