Keep Working and Be Awesome.

Today, I stumbled on The Art of Non-Conformity: Unconventional Strategies for Life, Work and Travel, a blog written by writer/entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau. This guy writes 1,000 words a day, six days a week and plans to stand in the dirt of every country on the planet. He’s got 150 down.

He’s awesome and he wants you to be awesome too. So he’s published a few e-books that you can download free here!

Chris’ philosophy is this:

English: Cherry Blossom Flowers.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.

2. You can do good things for yourself and help other people at the same time.

3. If you don’t decide for yourself what you want to get out of life, someone else will probably end up deciding for you.

4. There is usually more than one way to accomplish something.

I just finished 279 Days to Overnight Success which you can get here. It’s chock full of practical life advice for creative types and entrepreneurs. A Brief Guide to World Domination: How to Live a Remarkable Life in a Conventional World is next.

I need people like Chris. As I grope my way into a new creative life, the shape of which I can’t quite fathom, it’s nice to hear from explorers deep in the territory. And rather than guard their trade secrets, people like Chris are wrapping them up in lovely internet packages and handing them out for free.

That trend feels Christ-like and I support it. So I’m spreading the goodness.

Happy Saturday.

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Barefoot, Traveling, Hippie Freak.

Nearly 15 years ago, I wrote a slew of emails from South America, Central America and Asia. For some reason, my mom printed and saved them. I just found them yesterday and they remind me what a fearless, wild-ass, hippie freak I used to be.

IMG_2201It was nearly 2000. Bill Clinton was still president and September 11th was just another fall day. Y2K was scheduled to end the world but if it had, I wouldn’t have known because I was deep in Bolivia’s Amazon Basin, sleeping in a sweaty tent with bug bites covering my body like chickenpox. My then-boyfriend and I had hiked a Pre-Incan trade route, paved with large, now-slippery stones all the way from the mountains to the Rio Beni. Here’s what I had to say about that:

And because we just hadn’t had enough, we decided to hit the jungle for another four days in Rurrenabaque. We had a delightful guide and saw a few crazy jungle creatures as we were floating down the river on a handmade balsa wood raft, ala Huck Finn…Our guide, Victor Hugo, who was born and raised deep in the jungle, told us he has seen the jaguars hypnotize monkeys in the trees, causing them to fall out and become prey. He and his brothers have trapped jaguars because when you live in the jungle they are higher on the food chain than humans. They routinely drag children off.

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Belize

Later, we dropped into Central America and earned dive certificates in Honduras. On a tiny caye off the coast of Belize we snorkeled for hours with Blue Tang, Barracuda and Anchovy in warm, turquoise water with pink coral forests. Here’s what I said about that:

Morris Caye is so small it doesn’t even appear named on maps. It’s maybe 300 yards by 150 yards. We slept in a cabana that had seven windows, all of which had views of the Caribbean Sea. We spent our days drinking rum, snorkeling in the coral reefs and fishing from a tiny, leaky, dugout boat.

And one of my personal favorites came from the Himalayas in the Fall of 2000.

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Nepal.

“Nepalis are thrilled to see America joining the ranks of the third world in terms of election shenanigans. “Election…America….like Nepal…ha ha ha.” You think you are confused trying to work it out? Try at 16,000 feet in a third world country. Just finished a three-week, 150km trek through the very beautiful Annapurna region of Nepal. We crossed a 17,700 foot pass and are now safely down again. Happily we arrived in Pokhara for the beginning of a nine-day paragliding course (the kind where you jump off hills and mountains with a parachute). We took the first class today and will fly tomorrow. Needless to say, that has us pretty excited.”

I included pictures here because even I feel like I’m making this up. But that little adventurer with the tan feet, strong calves and sand in her hair, is still bouncing around in me. She’s why I believe in micro-finance, education for girls and counter-trafficking efforts. She’s why I’m a feminist and a pacifist and why I just can’t see things in black and white.

But the difference between then and now is I’m no longer the center, the engine of what I do.

Right now, I feel like a rusty 57 Chevy that is slowly being dismantled and restored. It’s painful to feel the really damaged bits torn away and replaced, but it’s worth it because at the heart of the car is a brand new, after-market engine. It’s got a lot more horses and technology I don’t even understand. It’s the same car with the same character, it’s just being cleaned up from the inside out.

So all this makes me wonder, if my steps are ordered by the Lord, as I have chosen to believe they are, surely he ordered them through places like New Delhi and Jakarta and Patagonia.

Why? What was all that for?

It’s an exciting question.

Two Paths

Last week on a trip to North Carolina, I sat next to babies on crowded, back-to-back flights. The experience has me considering Jesus’ teaching on the broad and narrow paths.

DFW to Atlanta – Struggling to board the plane at the last minute was a family of four. Mom’s hair escaped her pony tail as she hauled two girls, a blanket, three carry-on bags and a sampling of airport food to her seat. The girls, maybe two and four, were followed by a man with one small bag and a flat-brimmed ball cap turned sideways; a man who later loudly clarified that he was not husband but Baby Daddy.

As the plane took off, Mom ripped the foil wrapper off a plastic tub of orange cheese, dipped a giant, soft pretzel in it and fed it to the baby. When the baby got thirsty, Mom poured some Mountain Dew into her sippy cup.

Baby Daddy was sitting a few rows up and after take-off, he came back and helpfully took the baby up front. He returned 30 minutes later, to the poorly ventilated aft cabin, wearing chunky, pink cheese puke on his expensive jeans and holding the baby at arm’s length.

“I don’t know what to do about this,” he said to the child’s mother, kicking off 90-minutes of near-total chaos in the back of the plane.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it,” Jesus said in Matthew 7:13.

He wasn’t talking about feeding your kid cheesy pretzels and Mountain Dew on an airplane, but that is clearly a broad path choice. He was urging us to believe he was who he said he was, thereby giving us the tools of the narrow gate – peace, love, joy, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, humility, faithfulness and self-control.

I wanted to school that woman on the plane, but isn’t that a broad path choice too?

In her New York Times bestseller One Thousand Gifts, author Ann Voskamp writes of using God-lenses to view the world as a gift, rather than seeing only its terrible messes. Because of Voskamp and the narrow gate, I donned God-lenses on the plane, and wound up holding that barfy little girl while her Mom dealt with a major secondary crisis.

Before I read the Bible, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to do that. In fact, I would have silently gloated as that woman suffered the consequences of her choices. What if Jesus made me suffer the consequences of my choices? Oh My God…..

One of the amazing surprises to come from studying The Bible is how often I wind up on the narrow path without really trying. Sometimes I only notice it in hindsight, when I’m walking away thinking “Wow, that was nice of me, weird.”

When I don’t study my Bible, I focus on my plan and charge down the broad path with everyone else, where I behave with impatience, pride and indifference. There, I usually wind up puking on somebody.

The world thinks the narrow path is about privation. It’s not. Jesus said he came so we might enjoy life and have it in abundance. The broad and narrow paths are a simple reminder about causation; and unruliness is costly. So if our actions ripple, as we all know they do, which path produces better ripples?

Broad or narrow?