Living the Life we WANT to live!

Gwen is wanting me to quit using this picture of us. When I asked her why she said, “It’s 8 years old and we are more beat up now then when the picture was taken.” We laughed…. but inside we knew the truth of her joke. Perhaps, like many of our pictures–they are memories of a more innocent time–a time before big things happened that altered our life forever.

You know what I mean. The death of a parent. Losing your job. Erosion in your 401K. Life was more simple back then. The smiles were perhaps—well–deeper.

Life has a way of beating us up sometimes. When we closed our CaringBridge Blog, I could not help but notice that all but one of my friends who ever did a Caring Bridge blog had all died. I guess you can say that they were beat up by their cancer, their tumors, their illnesses and their disease–created dis-ease in their lives and every thing changed. The Cancer eventually did them in. This might sound crass but let me ask you a question:

Are you living the life you want to live before you die?

It’s a simple question and don’t read on before you pause with my quesition for a moment. One of my favorite authors and literary mentors is David Whyte. He wrote words I’ll never forget and I quote them often. He said, “Sometimes we have to unmake a living before we can live the life we really want to live.”

Gwen’s back surgery now seven weeks ago has unmade us. We’ve been forced to think and rethink much of our lives. Recovery is going slower than we both anticipated. She’s still not able to lift more than a gallon of milk and is now beginning her pool therapy which will help her recover the numbness in her leg. She’s making good progress you’ll be glad to know. This is a picture of her and me along with our friend, Dr. Curt Thompson (author of The Anatomy of the Soul, which we highly and strongly recommend).

She looks great doesn’t she? But behind every picture there is an inner story. Both of us were profoundly impacted by Curt Thompson’s book and the weekend retreat he led for us at our Inn in Colorado. We were so impacted that we’re beginnging now to make even more adjustments in our thinking about—well, about nearly everything. Curt’s a follower of Jesus who is also a psychiatrist. We spent hours together talking and sharing some of our lives with Curt. It was so helpful to get great insight and feedback–resulting in us vowing to ourselves, “We really do want to live the life we WANT to live—not just HAVE to live.” There’s a difference you know and perhaps Jesus came to offer us this difference—this Jesus Life, not an ordinary life.

So, in these fall days, we’re beginning to re-think much of our lives, whether or not we WANT to remain in our home or sell it and move to the retreat. How we want to be more involved in the lives of those we love and less involved with people and things that take the life out of us. As we begin to blog together, you’ll be able to hear from both us— watch our struggles to come to grips with some deep regrets that we both have our seeking the courage to set out to live and experience the life we really do want to live.

We were reminded….The Kingdom of God is actually here and now…not just ours through death. How’s your kingdom life going?

Steve and Gwen Smith
Colorado Springs, CO
Potter’s Inn

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Welcome to the new blog


by Stephen W. and Gwen Harding Smith

Hello Friends, welcome to our new blog where we’ll be sharing our lives with you, step by step. We thought on this first look into the new blog we’d share the outline of what we’re going to be doing here.

First, we’re going to give you a paragraph each entry from Steve’s new book: The Jesus Life: Eight Ways to Re-Discover Authentic Christianity and then we’re just going to unpack the paragraph, give you our personal insight and reactions to how we’re living this out. If you sit with the title of the book you can see that both of us, after 31 years of marriage and 57 years of life have come to the conclusion that some thing is deeply wrong with how we are going about living the Christian life out. Deeply wrong.

When I ask people to give me five words that would be to describe their life right now, to date, no one has EVER given me the word “abundant.” Yet, this descriptor is precisely what so many of us are longing for and desperately thirsty for.

Here’s the outline we’re going to follow in the blog–giving you our honest, heartfelt and sometimes raw reactions to the challenge Jesus left us with—to live a life that is “Abundant” in the midst of a life and world that is so filled with disappointment, suffering, depression, economic challenge–that is unparalleled in history.

We look forward to unpacking this step by step. Here is some of what we’ll be discussing and some of where we’re headed here on the blog:

Part One: Losing Our Way
1. Recovering our life
We’ve lost the way that leads to life.

Part Two: Walking In the Way
2. The Rhythm of Jesus
Living a life that sustains
3. The Way Jesus “did” his life
Exploring a model for our own.

Part Three: Finding The Way

4. The Way of Dailiness
Living The Jesus Life Everyday
5. The Way of Hiddeness
Choosing obscurity to cultivate life
6. The Way of Family
Living the life with our family
7. The Way of Companionship
Cultivating friendships in reality and truth
8. The Way of the Table
Savoring a sacred mystery
9. The Way of Doing Good
Extending life to others
10. The Way of Ritual
Creating signposts as we journey through life
11. The Way of Suffering
Understanding the role of pain and suffering

Part Four: Living The Life

12. A Good Life
Learning to wear the easy yoke of Jesus

The Integrated Life

by Stephen W. Smith

Today in Colorado–well it’s stunning and mesmerizing. It’s why I chose to live in such staggering beauty. I took a long drive today into the foothills and my road took me up and down, swaggering by hills and through green pastures. Beauty that is intoxicating. I stopped at a favorite tea house where I ordered French Press Coffee, Carrot Cake and ice water and just basked in the sunshine.

Glory! Why is it, that carrot cakes seems to help almost everything and everyone?

Then I reached for my journal and began to write a page about how deeply I am longing to live what I am going to call “the integrated life.” A life that I will begin to share with you here. I came up with ten descriptions of the integrated life I want to live. In post after post, Gwen and I will begin to share our hearts, soul’s longings and deep stirrings with you. Perhaps our thoughts will stir you to think more deeply; more contemplatively; more reflectively about the life that you are living and whether you are happy with the life you are living.

Here’s how the dictionary defines the word “integrate:”

in·te·grate
   [in-ti-greyt] Show IPA verb, -grat·ed, -grat·ing.
verb (used with object)
1.to bring together or incorporate (parts) into a whole.
2.to make up, combine, or complete to produce a whole or a larger unit, as parts do.
3.to unite or combine.
4.to give or cause to give equal opportunity and consideration to (a racial, religious, or ethnic group or a member of such a group): to integrate minority groups in the school system.
5.to combine (educational facilities, classes, and the like, previously segregated by race) into one unified system; desegregate.

I want all of this in my life. I’m tired of managing silos of work, health, family and faith. I don’t believe in silo thinking any more. I don’t believe in the balanced life any more. I believe the balanced life is a myth and lie that someone invented to sell books and fill seminars. I’ve tried to find balance. Now I am liking two words, far, far better than balanced! They are the words integrated and rhythm. I’ll explain more in the blogs to follow.

I met today with some social marketing geeks who are going to help us revamp our blog, give a face lift to our old look and capture the message we will begin to share with you.

OK blog readers. I invite you to comment. What do you think an integrated life looks like? Do you want one? What can we do to live the life we want?

Copyright 2011. Stephen W. Smith

Morphing the Blog

Gwen and I have decided, together, to morph this blog. We’re going to be doing some significant changes in upcoming days and weeks. And the most important is that we’re going to enter entries together. Both of us will be writing on this blog and the focus of our writing and musings will be our own interaction with the topic and themes in my new book, The Jesus Life: Eight Ways to Re-discover Authentic Christianity.”

Why are we doing this? We’re doing this for three main reasons. Both of us want to desperately live–The Jesus Life. We’re tired of the church life, the busy life, the American life and more. In the book I explore how to return to the life Jesus described and offered–the abundant life. That’s the life we want. Second, Gwen’s gotten so much favorable feedback from her writing on her Caringbridge.org site, (her recovery from major back surgery) that we felt this would be a great outlet and spiritual practice to just write, share our thoughts and encourage our on-line village of friends and companions to journey with us into The Jesus Life. Third, we’re doing this because we want to invite you into the life we are leaning into. We want to discuss, dialogue and divulge our heart with you as we interact with the most important and some of the most neglected themes of our times. In The Jesus Life, we’re going to explore some of the content of the book; give you excerpts BEFORE the book is published and ideas on how to integrate what is shared. It will be personal. It will be real. It will be heart-felt. And it will be from both of our perspectives–male and female; husband and wife, father and mother, son and daughter of God and fellow pilgrims on this long arduous journey home.

So, after some significant changes to our blog in the new week, we’ll be up and running. I hope you’ll spread the word!

We hope you’ll “subscribe” to the blog and share this with your friends. We hope you’ll consider journeying with us together as we embark on this new chapter of our life, marriage, work and family!

Blessings,

Steve

The Oxbow Reality in the Spiritual Life

It’s called an “oxbow.” Notice the shape of the river flowing through this beautiful scene that I saw yesterday and blogged about. See the meandering of the river, creating what is called, an oxbow effect. It’s named that due to the river carving out a shape similar to that of the curves of an oxen yoke.

I texted this picture to a friend of mine back east and he immediately saw it and said, “An Oxbow. Amazing how you can travel so far on a river only to wind up just a few hundred yards downstream by foot.”

Isn’t that true in life. We can travel so very far through the years, yet make so little progress it seems. After all we go through in life, only to find we’re just a few feet from where we started.

I can easily imagine the oxbow effect on the early disciples who tried to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, yet kept stumbling back through the same issues of pride, power struggles and not really getting Jesus’ intent at all after multiple times of hearing him and watching him. Aren’t we really like those early followers—people who just can’t seem to get what Jesus is up to in our life and we keep coming back to learn, re-learn and learn again the most basic principles of the spiritual life: I am the Beloved. Trust God. Lean on him not my own understanding and so much more.

Stephen W. Smith
Potter’s Inn

Are you in an Oxbow place in your life? How can you move on through to greater and deeper realities of the spiritual life

Beauty Helps!

I saw this with my own eyes today. It’s found in a place 30 minutes from the retreat near Tarryall, CO and called, the Lost Wilderness.

I felt lost so going to a place called the Lost Wilderness was for me, like being pulled there by the Puller of My Soul. We got bad news twice yesterday. One kick in the gut for me about having to re-write most, if not all of my book I’ve been working on now for two years. Gwen’s kick is for her to tell but both blows have made me seek some solace today.

Beauty helps. Simone Weil wisely tells us, “There are only two things that pierce the soul. One is pain. The other is beauty.” When you stop and think about it, how true that statement really is for us mere humans on this planet and who find themselves on the long, arduous journey to heaven. Pain shatters us–drops us to our knees and makes us cry out to anyone or anything in the Cosmos that might even remotely hear us. Beauty helps. Beauty draws us to humble amazement and we wonder as we wander through it and soon we find that beauty has helped. Beauty assuages the deep grief of the soul and heart.

I’m going back to this place tomorrow. I’m glad it’s close to where I’m doing my re-write of the book. I’m going to walk into that beauty with my bride. I texted her today and said, “You have to come up here tomorrow and walk into this epic scene of beauty. It will help you. It will help me. It will help us.”

Stephen W. Smith
Potter’s Inn

Sitting in the Potter’s Inn: My need for Transformation!

by Stephen W. Smith at Potter’s Inn
As we began moving furniture into the brand new Inn, I sat alone in the Great Room for some moments to let what what happening sink into my soul. As I sat in a chair we had thought would look good in the Great Room and the thought came to me, how ironic to be sitting here alone in this place of transformation.

I well remember in 2003 when Gwen and I started the venture of establishing an actual place for transformation to happen that it would be me, the first one called to sit upon the Potter’s wheel and hear the Potter’s wheel being spun around and around. If transformation is going to happen, then it has to happen with me first. That was my thinking….and that is what has been happening. As we have called others into the journey of spiritual transformation, we have always been mindful of our need for the Potter’s hands to pinch here; squeeze there and impress hard here.

As I sat yesterday in the Great Room, that same feeling came over me. If anyone needs transformation, then I must be willing to yield to the same process that we are calling others to embrace.

So I sat. Sat some more. Prayed and asked the Potter to be so ever gentle with me for I have been feeling fragile.

This is a sculpture that God gave me a vision for in 2004 showing the two shaping hands of the Divine Potter. One is ever so gentle and one is digging in hard. Transformation requires both! I had the vision for this but could not actually sculpt it so I asked Clay Enoch, a renowuned sculpter in Colorado Springs, to help me. “Forming Hands” was the result and our ministry sold 2,500 of these sculptures which greatly aided in funding the early days of Potter’s Inn ministry. Currently we are sold out and have no plans at the moment to resurrect this limited sculpture.