Prepare. Make Ready. Become.

Proportion.  Man and universe.  Photo Credit:  Donnie Hedden

Proportion. Man and universe. Photo Credit: Donnie Hedden.  Click image to visit Donnie’s tumblr page.

I want to take some time to explore the idea of preparation.  Specifically, what is it, and what areas of our lives require preparation?  I’m not trying to take this conversation in an overly negative direction.  This isn’t about nuclear fallout, foreign occupation, or even a global economic crisis.  I’m not talking about preparing for the worst, rather opening discussion about what could be if we prepared for the best life had to offer.  I’m talking about the substance of our humanity, our moral compass, and the heartstrings that bind all cultures together.  I am talking about the things that if we spent a little more time “preparing” would make countless other problems easier to navigate, or possibly make them avoidable all together.

Preparation by definition is “the activity or process of making something ready or of becoming ready for something.”

To prepare, to become or make ready for something, I miss this all the time.  My definition of preparation generally looks more like, plan for the worst, be ready for an emergency, or attempt to minimize certain future loss.  When we look at preparation in light of that which we love, versus the things we fear, it becomes very different.  Preparation in light of love begins to take on a much more balanced approach.  It no longer becomes entirely defensive, but embodies the idea of progress, growth, and change.

In order to prepare, or make something ready, we need a clear understanding of what that “something” is.  What do we want, or who do we want to become?  For athletes, it is often championships, the highest level of success.  For businessmen and women it may be sustainable growth, impact, innovation, or influence as a leader.  For families it may be security and provision, or becoming the loving leader your family deserves.  When we have a clear vision of the “something” we wish to chase, preparation becomes easier because we begin to recognize what is required of us.  We begin to take note of the opportunities life presents us, daily.  There is no off-season when it comes to preparation.  There are simply different seasons and different ways we prepare depending on the season we are in.

When Nelson Mandela was asked how he survived almost 28 years of imprisonment he responded, “I didn’t survive.  I prepared.”  Is this not what makes or breaks leaders and culture shapers?  When it is easy to play the victim, or when we are the victim, do we see the season we are in as an opportunity to prepare?  Are we being directed by our fear, or are we being driven by our love and conviction for what the world could be?  If we do not recognize the world as it could be, we’ll settle for surviving when in contrast we could be preparing for what our communities could become if we had the vision and the courage to pursue change.

Ryan_Costa Rica_De Alas Rotas

Prepare. Become what the world desperately needs. Become who you were meant to be.
Photo Credit: Ryan Mackle and De Alas Rotas.

This is where we come back to preparation.  Preparation is not changing how the world perceives us, or how we perceive the world.  It is not about putting Band-Aids on broken bones.  It is about truly becoming what the world desperately needs.  Preparing is about ending the conversation about what is wrong with the world or our situation, and doing the things necessary to step into who we were meant to be.  It is our actions that speak loudest, and the world is in desperate need of people who are living so loudly that anything lacking in truth, character, integrity, and conviction begins to shudder.  Or, in best case scenario, others begin to long for the love that has so prepared those who are shaping culture causing them to be ready in season, and out of season.  Athletes prepare, leaders prepare, world changers prepare, because without preparation they will fail.  Without making ready for, or if one never strives to become what the world needs, they will forever be weaker than the resistance.

I haven’t really even scratched the surface about what preparation looks like, other than it is not about surviving the always impending doom, but rather, it is about investing in our hearts and minds that we can see clearly through the mud that fear so often stirs up.  While preparation will look differently at times, there really is no season we should not be preparing ourselves to be all that the world longs for us to be.  Preparation means being able to see truth above what is expected of us, and it means pursuing change over what is culturally acceptable.  This does not require you to believe just anything, it requires you to know why you believe what you believe.  It requires you to be what you believe.  It requires you to become who you were meant to be.  Find your “something” and draw your line in the sand, stand firm and prepare yourself to hold the line.  Prepare yourself to surrender your pride and allow humility to lead.  Do not simply be defensive, be offensive.  Do not survive, become.  Do not simply exist, allow yourself to be made ready… prepare.

Prepare yourself.  Waste no time, for time lost will not return to us.  As you prepare, as your lines are drawn deeper and deeper, expect opposition.  Lay foundations of truth.  Understand rest as a rhythm of life, not a reaction to utter exhaustion.  Challenge and encourage through patience and deep understanding.  Do not be easily swayed by vocal, compelling leadership.  Be what you believe.  In all humility and patience, chase the deepest desires of your heart.  Prepare, because change is a slow process.  Prepare, because growth can often times hurt.  Prepare, because we have all settled for half-truths and illusions of truth in different seasons.  Prepare, because there will be resistance, do not lose heart.  Prepare, not because of fear, but because that is what love does.


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We are moving….

Hey friends, our blog has moved!  In efforts to organize and keep all of our content in one place we’ve synced our blog to our homepage.  Not only are we incredibly appreciative of your support, we’d love for you to continue to stay plugged in with projects and thoughts via our homepage and social medias.

Give.  Love.

The Become a Human Project



The Beauty of Adversity

Red River

Photo credit: Kern Ducote. Click photo to see more images by Kern.

As the last year has come to a close and the New Year is already three weeks ahead of schedule, the things I am most grateful for are the difficult situations that are seemingly behind me.  If any of you are like me, you have a deep desire to run from adverse situations.  Allowing ourselves to be pushed, stretched, or challenged is often uncomfortable.  So naturally we tend to walk away from uncomfortable situations if the opposite seems easier and the weight of our decisions appears to be insignificant in the grander scheme of things.  I often mistake comfort for the illusions of security and control, yet growth and change requires the risk of uncertainty and loosening our grip on the very few things we truly have control over.

Something I learned about myself in 2013, which I hope to carry with me into 2014, is how much I need adversity in my life if I wish to truly grow.  Without being challenged spiritually, socially, and professionally I continue to wander closer and closer towards apathy, because apathy requires no conviction or risk on my part, it demands zero effort or accountability, but it also comes with no rewards.  What I have learned in my seasons of adversity is just how much I have to give, to myself, to God, and to others.  When life is easy I have made a terrible habit of looking at ordinary opportunities with ordinary expectations, instead of seeing them for what they truly are, a gift.

I think being able to see ordinary opportunities through eyes of adventure, or with the hope life-changing growth, is an integral part of being a great leader and someone who influences those around them for the better.  Leaders who have never been challenged will not know how to lead in challenging situations, and they won’t be able to see the windows of greatness in day-to-day opportunities.  Adversity not only develops us as leaders, it develops our sense of vision and increases our fountains of faith, hope, and love.  Maybe that is what James is talking about when he said, “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds…” If we truly wish to experience growth in our own lives as well as see change in the communities we live in, I believe it starts in seeing the beauty of adversity.

Photo compliments of Symphony of Love, click image to visit there homepage.

Photo compliments of Symphony of Love, click image to visit there homepage.

We have to be careful not to confuse all of life’s difficulties with beautiful adversity.  Sometimes we are simply in a difficult situation because we have made poor decisions.  Or sometimes we are in difficult situations because the hope we have for future change will only come with time and incredible sacrifice.  Regardless of why we are in adverse situations, each struggle presents an opportunity for growth, and with that, discovery of our hidden potential.

Orison Swett Marden said, “Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities.  Seize common occasions and make them great.”  I get excited every time I read these simple words.  I also recognize the ability to view life through this lens takes time, and it takes someone who has been awoken to his or her potential greatness (which I believe to be found in everyone).  Look at any great leader and you will see they have been marked and shaped by adversity.  Change does not come if we run away from life’s difficulties, change comes when we learn how to engage and grow through our struggles.  To care enough about an issue that we deeply understand it will require commitment.  To see change in the lives of generations unaware of their infinite potential requires an unwavering conviction and a relentless pursuit of truth.  To invite countless others to join us means we need to open our minds, because a closed mind is the greatest enemy of any kind relationship.  To lead we cannot depend simply on strength, we have to lay foundations of forgiveness, grace, and humility.  To pursue a life worth living, we need a clear vision for what is truly life giving and what truly brings about lasting change.

Though this list is incomplete, none of these qualities simply develop without countless difficulties, struggles, and trials in which they can be cultivated within.  No one can grow without entering into the arena with risk and uncertainty.  No one will grow if they spend their entire life avoiding difficult situations.  So here’s to taking one step closer toward risk and uncertainty.  If you succeed, you’ll be glad you did.  And if you fall down, you’ll only get back up that much wiser.  Either way, you’ll grow.  That’s the gift.  That’s the beauty of adversity.


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Never Stop. Forever Hope.

"Hope is a waking dream." -Aristotle

“Hope is a waking dream.” -Aristotle

It is exhausting being in control, or giving yourself the illusion you are in control of anything.  Not that control can’t exist, I simply wonder if it can to the extent we allow ourselves to believe.  Diligence, prudence, and good stewardship are all incredibly valuable and important virtues, but those are different from control.  They are the things that offer structure and stability in an incredibly unstable world.  Combine them with wisdom and discernment, and we finally loose our grip on control and we see life as it is truly is, unpredictable and exciting if we would only be willing to recognize its prompts.

Life was never meant to be controlled or conquered.  It was meant to be lived and enjoyed.  It is so draining trying to be god, and incredibly freeing when we realize we never had to be.  Following can be one of the most difficult and humbling actions in our lives, but until we learn how to follow, we may never learn how to lead.

Make time to be passionate.  In fact, surround yourself with passionate people.  Allow yourself to be challenged, be humble, and be bold and gracious while showing honor in your words when you challenge others.  Never let yourself believe you need to know everything, or any one thing.  In fact, become okay with not knowing and become a person committed to learning for a lifetime.

Never stop living, never stop loving, never stop chasing.

Hope in peace and in Justice.  Hope in steadfast love and truth.  Hope in God, and believe he is good.  Forever hope, hope in all things good.


Counting Gumballs

Sometimes life grants you beautiful seasons of consistency and stability, like the changing of the ocean’s tide.  It will rise with as much certainty as it will subside, then repeat with the occasional tropical storm or unavoidable hurricane.  There are also those seasons when life is as consistent as a twenty-five cent gumball dispenser.  You’ll never get the color you want until you’ve spent every last quarter, if you get that orange gumball at all.  Still we are held captive by the things we want, regardless of whether or not they are truly better than what we expect.

Though a little juvenile, I think the idea of a lost child full of love and good intentions, breaking his bank to get the gumball he wants very accurately depicts my current season of life.  I started gathering my thoughts about subjects like community and justice months ago, what feels like months ago.  Yet I haven’t made the progress I wanted, I have been trying to force myself to believe things are supposed to be something they aren’t.  I’ve been trying to convince myself that community is to be understood out of my misunderstanding, or that justice should be an extension of my incredibly finite and imperfect judgment and my even more finite and less than perfect understanding of love, and Jesus.  I put boundaries, expectations, and limitations on nearly everything I have been trying to deeply understand.  I want to better understand subjects like rest, community, generosity, love, justice, God, and more…  But I don’t want to let go of what I expect to learn, or leave my anticipation at home when I walk out the door.  I’m asking God for gumballs, and when he gives me gumballs I want it in another color.  I prefer it too be more round, to roll across the table better, to keep it’s flavor for 48 hours, or to even take on unrealistic qualities like a gumball that not only offers me something sweet and satisfying to chew on but will also act like a Tylenol and take away the headache I’ve given myself.

Gumball 1-  After months without a proper vacuum, I purchased Lucy from Goodwill for $10.  Best investment ever.

Gumball 1:  After months without a proper vacuum, I purchased Lucy from Goodwill for $10. Best investment ever.

Sorry for the sub-perfect analogy, but I guess it’s the best I can come up with.  And it is honestly how I feel.  I feel like a twelve year old who has put in his last quarter and got just another red gumball, not that orange one I was working so hard for.  Like most twelve-year-olds, I’ll be bummed that my quarters are gone, but I still get to look down and count my gumballs and enjoy them one at time.  Maybe I’ll enjoy them all at once.  It isn’t that there are anything wrong with the red, blue, yellow, green or purple gumballs, I’ve just somehow told myself orange was the one I wanted, and therefore it must be best.  Well, it’s not. It’s just orange.

I would like to think I am a very observant person, unless I am looking for something.  A lot of people act this way, and it makes sense.  When something isn’t where we believe it should be, or where it usually can be found, it becomes more difficult to look elsewhere.  When I am looking for my keys, I go to where I usually leave them.  If they aren’t there just shoot me, I don’t know where to start.  I may lead myself to believe I am actually looking in other places but it isn’t long until I come back to the hook in my room just to make sure the keys didn’t return themselves to where they should be, like most inanimate objects with a sense of humor love to do.  Either that or show up on your face, or in your hand.

Gumball 2: My roommate Brian turned 27 this week, we celebrated with Chicken Wings, Nerf Gun Wars, and Jurassic Park.  Incredible.

Gumball 2: My roommate Brian turned 27 this week, we celebrated with Chicken Wings, Nerf Gun Wars, Chocolate Chip Muffin Cookies, and Jurassic Park. Incredible.

The same has been true for me as I attempt to tackle difficult questions in my own life.  If I’m not looking for something in particular, I am open to learning and I feel as though I learn so much.  Yet if I focus my learning, I miss the world around me.  I miss the fact that life is giving me answers to questions I wasn’t asking, or even the answers to the questions I am looking for are right there, they just weren’t what I expected them to be.  Sometimes we have to run out of quarters before we can realize just how many gumballs we’ve gathered in the process.

It really is hard to lay down our expectations or our presuppositions, let alone our pride, biases, or everything we ever thought we knew to be true.  If we knew how life was supposed to be lived out there wouldn’t be problems, inconveniences, or hang-ups.  The world would be fine without us.  In fact, we’d have nothing to fix, nothing to struggle against, no need for a conscience or for spiritual and moral convictions.  Love wouldn’t exist because there would be no hate between people, life would be a single dimension and I assume it would nothing desirable. Life is messy, so is community, love and justice, mainly because they involve messy people. The tough questions will always bet there to wrestle with, that is why it’s important we take truth as truth and we don’t place our experiences into the tiny little boxes we’ve created for subjects like faith, God, justice, community, and love.  If we do, we’ll never actually get closer to a world full of people who actually love each other in their actions instead of “loving” through our empty words.

Gumball 3:  My buddy Nate and his band Judah & The Lion released their second EP Saturday, Sweet Tennessee.  So stoked for this kid, his band, and his beard.

Gumball 3: My buddy Nate and his band Judah & The Lion released their second EP Saturday, Sweet Tennessee. So stoked for this kid, his band, and his beard. EP was released only yesterday, check it out, you won’t regret it.  Need a song suggestion for the day: “Back’s Against The Wall”

Gumballs are those things in your life you’ve been throwing quarters at and miss because you’re focused on something else.  Gumballs are as good as gold when we finally recognize them, but there as heavy as a bag of rocks when we see them as inconvenient or add them to the clutter in our life.  Some people say, “Count your blessings,” and I wonder if they are really trying to say, “Count your gumballs.”  Take notice of the things your time and efforts have produced in your life.  Don’t forget to pay attention to everything, not just things you are looking for.  Take notice of what life is trying to teach, or listen when you ask God to show up, then enjoy what you’re given and don’t focus so intently on what you don’t have.  Give out of what you have, not out of what you hope to have someday.

Good things can go unnoticed every day, some times for one’s whole life.  Don’t let the good things in your life go unnoticed any longer, especially because you are focused on things you do not have. Count your gumballs.  Enjoy them.  You won’t be sorry.

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Today I’m going to live…

I’m ready for a change of pace.  Ever since my quick, last minute trip to Colorado, I’ve been playing catch up.  Actually, I was playing catch up before I left.  Taking those few days off from work when I needed the hours while I was looking for other side jobs, didn’t get me closer to being in control of anything.  And even though it has been busy, it’s been a good month. I’ve learned a lot, witnessed countless human interactions, and have been forced to reorganize my life to address new responsibilities while fighting to carve out time for the things I feel are important.  And for the first time since beginning my trek through the Americas almost a year and a half ago, I’ve been reminded just how difficult it can be to save time to be both responsible and passionate.

Ironically, it was this same struggle that pushed me to travel.  To search for “something more” as my Swiss friend Phillipp mentioned from his hammock while we took in the cool evening air off the Panamanian coast.  Knowing there has to be time, resources, and enough common sense to blur the lines of passion and responsibility has been one of the major driving forces behind the development of the Become a Human Project.  But now that I am back in the grind of normal, everyday life in America, I am reminded at just how easy it can be to forget the things important to us, like passions and dreams, just because the burden to be responsible is so heavy.

A week ago Thursday we learned rolling Sushi bring people together and can even end in a jam session.  Not to mention it is delicious.

A week ago Thursday we learned rolling Sushi brings people together and can even end in a jam session. Not to mention it is so stinking tasty.

When life gets busy, and responsibility demands our attention, it’s often easier to give power to circumstance and to those around you than it is to recognize the power, influence, and responsibility we hold over our own circumstances.  With all of the changes in the last few months between new friends, coworkers, employers and fellow dreamers there have been a few phrases that seem to keep catching my attention.  Though many of them are thrown around lightheartedly, or in jest, I believe they’ve kept me sane in the midst of craziness and chaos more than I realize.  Most of them you may have heard before, some might be new, but either way I hope you find them for the little bits of truth they hold:

“Sink or swim.”
“Adapt or die.”
“P. M. A.!” which stands for “Positive Mental Attitude.”
“It’s gonna be great… No exceptions.”
And finally, “Today I’m going to live.”

Something all these little catchphrases share is an understanding of responsibility, a conscious effort to do. The last little mantra comes from my newest position of part-time employment, a tutoring job with a high school freshman who continually places me in positions to risk my health and well-being, yet inspires me to live in the present every day.  We only get to spend a few short hours together each week, and maybe it’s because our time together is so short I forget the reason my shoulder is bothering is probably from the times I fell skateboarding with him right before studying.  But it’s also during this time we’ve started to ask each other, “Bro, did you live today?”

After hanging with this kid for only a few weeks now, I can honestly say I have lived a lot more than I intended to.  If you would have told me before this job I’d be learning to downhill long board, throw my body at the pavement in an attempt to power slide, or drop in on an 8 foot quarter pipe on a skateboard I would have told you to, “Shut up.”  Now I keep telling myself to “Shut up, and live a little.”

I’ve been thinking recently how we often let our fate rest in circumstance or in the hands of others.  People will be late, the weather will change, and sometimes the waves just aren’t that great.  Yet in that lies the beauty of our stories, we have much more control when we realize just how little control we have.  My friend’s Donnie, Kern, and Jon just started an epic adventure across country in search of valuable life experiences as they chase waves and document their journey.  I could write pages on their story, and I probably will one day.  But Donnie has always said something I love, “There’s only one option and it’s gonna be great…  No exceptions.”

One day about five months ago Donnie told me he would say this to his pals when they would go surfing and they already knew the waves weren’t coming in.  Even though they may not be catching the best surf, or any surf at all, the goal was to find the fun wherever it may be.  The goal was to give up placing our satisfaction in things outside of our control and to find satisfaction within the things we can control.  The goal was to live, regardless of the circumstances.

Donnie, Jon, and Kern dove into their survival kit before hitting the road, only good things to come from these goons.  Pictured: Jon (left) and Kern (right)

Our friends from “Current Sea”-Donnie, Jon, and Kern dove into their survival kit before hitting the road.  Only good things can be expected from these goons. Pictured: Jon (left) and Kern (right)

Sometimes we need to remember we always have a choice.  And I don’t wish to give the illusion that keeping a “positive mental attitude” in difficult situations is easy.  It’s not, it can be incredibly difficult, but when we realize our control does not extend much farther than ourselves (if it does at all) and we work hard to remain positive, encouraging, and loving in difficult situations, you will be amazed to see how you influence those around you.  It doesn’t usually help to think too much on things we cannot change.  Although it is important to learn from past mistakes, it is equally important to learn how to move past our mistakes.  If we spend so much time dwelling on missed opportunity, we may miss the next one.  If we spend all of our time focusing on how broken we are, we may never actually fix ourselves.  If we continue to depend on others to maintain a positive, encouraging outlook, well we may not be so lucky to find an encouraging group of people every time we need one.  If we are focused on the moments we failed to live, we may not decide to live at all.

Though I don’t feel I’ve developed this thought enough for you to quote me on it, I do think it is worth considering.  I’m reminded of what Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  I’m reminded of the example of Jesus, God as man, not telling us how to live but showing us the most satisfying way to truly live.  Maybe Jesus’ call to pick up our cross daily is not too different from waking up and making the decision to truly live, though I don’t think those statements should be used interchangeably.

I wish my questions didn’t always lead to more questions, honestly.  But I’m grateful for questions, and the places they have taken me.  Maybe this little concept of understanding the control we have over our own situations is the beginning of answering life’s big questions.  Can we address issues of global justice while injustice is being ignored on our own street?  Can we change the world, our country, or even if our city if we’ve failed to first change ourselves?

House humor, Brian and I marking our cups.  I love a good beard joke.

House humor, Brian and I marking our cups. I love a good beard joke.

It’s not as simple as the power of thinking positively, making ourselves believe things are better than they are.  It is about deciding to live by exercising the control we have over ourselves, in hopes to give life to those around us, especially when it’s difficult to do so.  Yet to do this alone is nearly impossible.  Actually, I’d argue it is impossible.  Which is why I am thankful for community and passionate people who can encourage me when life is difficult.  Maybe community partly exists so that we can be our best selves, become a better friend, or point us closer to the Truth or the Higher Power we struggle so much to understand.  When it comes to God, maybe community is not primarily about telling us who God is, but instead demonstrating his heart for us and others while encouraging us to do the same.  Maybe community is supposed to encourage us to love in difficult situations, to share burdens of brokenness and speak life and love into us so when life get’s tough we know what choosing to live looks like even when it’s hard.

My new boss reminded me last week that it never hurts to surround yourself with ambitious people.  I’d agree, it never hurts to surround yourself with those who encourage you to live daily, to pursue truth, and to love with everything you have.  Life’s too valuable to spend it avoiding bad things.  It has to be about finding joy and satisfaction in doing good things, especially when they are difficult.  Life is too valuable to not spend our time looking for opportunities that make us feel alive.  Life is much too valuable to not spend our time actively living, let’s not waste it, especially when it is difficult to do so.

Check out Donnie, Kern, and Jon, feel free to follow their journey and send them some encouraging words.  I know they’ll love it.  For more information check out their website, and watch the two minute video of their adventure below.

The Network 5.12

Become a Human Project:

Best of luck to my friend Andrew as he kicks off his own adventure with dream building. Not only is it encouraging to know he has been inspired and challenged through the Become a Human Project, he has made the commitment to actively pursue passion and responsibility together in hopes of loving others. If you have a minute, I strongly recommend you visit The Network 5.12 blog and homepage and send Andrew some encouragement and feedback a long the way. I know he’d love to hear your thoughts, and I know he’d love to connect with you personally.

Give. Love.

Originally posted on The Network 5.12:

Everyone has God-given passions and gifts.  It is our individual purpose to use these to love others as well as to find community where we can be loved.  One of my closest friends, Cyrus Eaton, is encouraging people to live this way through a start-up called The Become a Human Project.  Through conversations with him, his organization, and so many other encouraging folks, it has become my desire to build a community around where my own gifts and passions meet: climbing, music, and loving strangers (aka. hospitality).

The Network 5.12 shoots to become a 501(c)(3) non-profit that will build a climbing gym and music-venue combined!  This dream will require a lot of time and financial investment, and will begin a bit later down the road.  But over the next four or five years, I plan to attend seminary, earn certifications to professionally guide climbing trips, and continue to develop…

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