Thursday, January 24, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Quest for Faith

He stood there with his hand over his heart. This was the moment. This was the last step.

Soon, the end would come. The answers would come.

He'd know.

But for now, in this moment, he had nothing. No promise. No fateful conclusion. No prophetic understanding.

He only had the sweat on his face, the fear behind him, the fear before him, and his father near death.

Indiana Jones stood at this precipice. There was no way across, only endless nothing below. He needed to step out. But onto what? He must step, needed to step, was destined to step out.

"You must believe boy. You must," his father whispered, in a feverish delirium dying from a gunshot wound.

There, at the Lion's head, he had only once choice – faith. He HAD to step out on faith. There was no way across, no other option. This bottomless trial couldn't be jumped over, flown across, climbed over or ignored. His trust whip was useless.

He had to walk it, even into the middle of only air, even in the existence of nothingness.

He placed his hand over his chest, trying to still his racing pulse, and made the choice. Because it was a CHOICE. He decided to believe. Then, and only then, did he lift his left leg, stretch it out, and step into nothing he could see or feel, hear or touch, know or a understand. Nothing.

And that is where he found sure footing. There, before him all along, was a solid path, made of stone, immovable and unbreakable. It was carved into the very foundation of the rock.

From his perspective, this was giving up his life. But from a different angle, you could see the truth. He had been perfectly safe all along. That rock path had been there forever and would be there forever. But he didn't find it, not until he stepped out first.

Okay, so it's only a movie. A great movie, but a movie nonetheless. Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. A timeless piece of cinematographic history.

But I watched it today. I sat here, fighting a constant trial that refuses to release me, wanting to escape to any other reality be it in a book or movie. And I watched this, seeking disillusionment but finding, possibly, a bit of clarity instead.

A friend recently told me to embrace inadequacy. Love it. Because that's when God moves.

"God can't use you until you're inadequate," she told me. "That's when God gets excited. Have you any idea how excited he gets?"

I didn't.

I sat there listening to her feeling every inch of inadequate and wanting more than anything to see God move. But that was days ago, an eternity it seems, infinite time in the realm of inadequacy. And yet here I still am, no sign of movement.

It's been a tough lesson for me lately. This whole business of faith. What is it exactly? How much are we expected to have? How often are we suppose to use it? And how far can it stretch before it begins tearing and shredding at the seams?

Who knows.

I can't say an answer has come. I reach the end of my faith only to find I'm expected to continue on. And somehow, by spoon fed grace, I appear to keep moving.

It's a mystery and a forgone conclusion at the same time. I cannot explain God but I can always depend on Him. I cannot determine His actions but I can always know His heart. This is the only thread of faith I have. And perhaps it's all that's needed.

I watched Indiana, struggling with this last trial before reaching the Cup of Christ, and saw myself. I wasn't standing there on the ledge. And I wasn't standing on that solid path to my future either.

I'm in the in-between.

I'm just here, holding my heart, trying to calm my racing pulse, feeling the sweat on my face, the clamminess in my hands, the trembling I can neither pinpoint to my stomach, knees, or knowledge.

I'm just here. I'm raising my left foot, preparing to step out, and finding the moment interminable in length, though it is nothing but a moment.

Because if my faith is right, and Jesus promises me it is, then this bottomless trial is nothing more than scenery beside a surefooted pathway. This is just the step before hitting solid ground.

Thanks Indiana. I needed that.

(Dedicated to Annie)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

When failure tastes like chicken

It's not you, it's me

I've had a few "just friends" conversations. Both from the giving and receiving end. There is no good way to say it. No good way to get it.

This is a big, red stop sign, punctuated by a red, hot poker. You aren't going anywhere. Stop trying to rev the motor.

Freelancing doesn't feel much different. Every time I send out my resume, my writing, my cover letter that's equal parts wisdom, equal parts wit, I'm courting that prospective client.
Basically, I'm saying, "I think I like you. Do you like me too?"

They look me up and down, consider it, and either introduce themselves or pivot on their heel and saunter off - flipping their hair (if they're female) or flipping you off (if they're male).
You just want a chance, a first date. Nothing overly elaborate. You aren't asking for a commitment, at least not yet.

This is a simple dinner of 500 words or so, maybe a sidebar for dessert. And at the end of the night, maybe a warm handshake and a phone number.

Too often, however, it's silence. It's complete oblivion. They don't know you. They don't want to. If you keep loitering, they'll block your emails and tell all their friends in gym class that you're lame.

Rejection sucks. And if you're working it right, sending out 20-plus inquiries a week, that's a lot of rejection fat to swallow. Soon, it starts tasting like defeat, which happens to taste a lot like chicken.

Before long, you'd rather skip the whole process, take a vow of writing celibacy, and forget about this freelancing gig. Maybe you aren't cut out for it.

Maybe so.

Or maybe you love writing too much to quit, maybe writing is everything you never knew you always wanted. Maybe failure - like success - is just part of the process, a real, necessary, refining, defining, illuminating, transforming, reforming, educational part of the process.

I'm not much for peppy sayings and motivational ranting. However, this quote from Thomas Edison, just seems to say it all, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

He knew failure, almost always, almost without hesitation, arrives early to the party without a hostess gift. It will come. But that doesn't mean it must stay.

Just so we don't feel alone, here are a few people who knew failure and rejection, but didn't stop until they also knew success:

- The Beatles - recording company turned them down, didn't like their sound, said guitar music was on its way out.

- Lucille Ball - dismissed from drama school, saying she was wasting her time and too shy to show her best.

- Michael Jordan - cut from his high school basketball due to a lack of skill.

- Walt Disney - first cartoon production company went bankrupt.

- Bill Gates - dropped out of Harvard University.

- Abraham Lincoln - suffered 12 major failures before elected President.

- Ludwig van Beethoven - his music teacher said as a composer he was hopeless.

- Steven Spielberg - dropped out of college, finally earning his bachelor's degree 33 years later (after an Oscar and a few successes like, oh, a little movie trilogy called "Indiana Jones")

- Albert Einstein - thought to have mental handicaps as a child.

- Marilyn Monroe - dropped by 20th Century Fox because producer thought she was unattractive and couldn't act.

- Barbra Streisand - debuted in a stage show that opened and closed in one night.

- John Grisham - first novel rejected by 16 agents and 12 publishing houses.

- Henry Ford - first two automobile companies failed.

We, my writing friends, are among the greats. So go on. Fail.

Just don't let it have the last word.

(Posted on The Writers Bridge,, to freelancers, writers, and anyone unwilling to give up.)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Unemployment Mantra

I'm awesome, cool, stupendous
You should see me wash your winda's
Not a print, a streak, a spot
I'll heal your walls of dry rot
Rake and bag those pesky leaves
All for a minimal of fees
I can do everything, I can
With a spreadsheet, pen or dustpan
Clip your nails and cut your hair
Change your tire without a spare
Answering phones professionally
Instead of coffee, steep your tea
I can lift 50 pounds or so
Stocking shelves with sweet-n-low
I'll clean up spills on aisle nine
And leave behind a hint of pine
Don't worry 'bout that irate customer
I'll talk them down from their bluster
And by the time my charms are done
They'll refuse that full refund
I can preen and primp and sell
That sweater, stock or Toyota Tercel
Show me a family ready to invest
I'll sell them a condo in Budapest
I can 10-key 80 characters or more
Laundering those funds just offshore
They'll return in clean masses
Free of fees and even taxes
I'll cross all 't's and dot that 'i'
And feign ignorance when you lie
I'm great at everything, look no more
Hire me so I'll no longer be poor