It was just about a year ago that my Spiritual Director said to me, “Your life is in the rapids.” He spoke what now seem to me to be prophetic words. This, as I shared part of me that came alive in thinking about taking risks. Not life-and-death kinds of risks, but professional, perhaps entrepreneurial risks…to embark on some new adventure and trying something different.
His words penetrated my heart to a depth that surprised me. Like arrows, the words dashed into me and stuck deep enough to draw tears. Life in the rapids! I found excitement and that elusive joy so hard to describe at times. But, also lurking in the moment, a sense of danger and fear. Danger and fear that ironically felt a bit exhilarating and manageable. I liked it!
Life in the rapids! An image that seems to be an icon, of sorts, for my entire professional career. It has now become a picture in my mind and heart that says there is a new chapter in my life that God may be inviting me to begin.
A Marathon Man
Shortly after I finished my first marathon, my family got together and bought me a framed poster of a runner winding his way through a small line of trees in the early morning.
Running is a road to self-awareness and self-reliance. You can push yourself to extremes and learn the harsh reality of your physical and mental limitations or coast quietly down a solitary path watching the earth spin beneath your feet. But when you are through, exhilarated and exhausted, at least for a moment everything seems right with the world.
It is really all about telling stories. How blessed and privileged we have been to travel to all parts of the world producing documentaries and telling stories of people, organizations, and situations.
For me good stories are all rooted in what has been called The Greatest Story Ever Told – the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Looking at that historic event, we see great suffering to the point of death. But, from there that story is brought to new life with Jesus rising from the dead.
Any good or great story has the same elements – the suffering, perhaps a sickness or a colossal failure in life; followed by the death of someone or some thing, perhaps a loved one or a business or organization; then the new life that so often emerges in a friend or family member or the rebirth of an organization.
It is in the stories of what St. Francis calls “the broken, wounded angels” we meet along the way (who are just like all of us) that when they embrace their suffering and find wholeness (holiness) in the brokenness, we begin to find hope in our own hope-less situations.
It’s in the new life or rebirth of someone else that we begin to see hope and find inspiration for ourselves. That’s the foundation of a great story. We love telling them.
I am a convert to the Catholic faith. My faith in Jesus Christ is ultimately the foundation of my life. A friend posed some questions to me once: “Is Jesus Christ who He says He is? And if so, than how are you going to live your life?” I believe He is who He says He is. The hope is that the life I chose to lead reflects that.
I share with you some of the kind comments I have received that have brightened my day:
“Chuck Neff is a thoughtful, soft-spoken man, and it always helps me in my walk with the Lord to listen to his programs. Thank you, and God bless you.”
“Sometimes we need to be reminded of God's unwavering plan, love, and support. If our ultimate goal is to receive eternal life, and we stay in a state of grace, then the adversity we experience in the temporal world cannot defeat us. We must be brave and trust Him. Thanks for reminding us of that. Can't thank you enough for all of your programming. It feeds me daily, and I share it with my family and friends -- sort of a multiplication story!”
“I don’t know when I will be granted some peace, but I do know that hearing your gentle voice each day gives me hope. That people like you exist in this world is proof to me of God’s love. Thank you.”
“It was not you chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go forth and bear fruit that will remain.”
John 15: 16
“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”
John 17: 20-21
“My son, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity. Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great. Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and he will help you; make straight your ways and hope in him.
“Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.”
- St. Ignatius of Loyola
“Somehow in middle age many people lose their nerve; they begin to feel that the dream upon which they have based their lives is an illusion. Ours is an anguished age in which the old myths have lost their power and the very virtues which sustained us are warring among themselves. What before was pure and holy now is filled with the impurity of doubt; what before seemed wise and prudent seems now a form of escape…Our prayer does not work, because we are afraid to act, to respond to the voice of God crying out for help in the poor and despised, the broken, wounded angels we meet upon our way."
“In short we have succumbed to fear and wear God as a mask of respectability that justifies our doing nothing, except provide for our security and build protective walls behind which we live the illusion of virtue. We are trying so hard to be safe that we have forgotten how to be human, how to risk, how to dare to live in conflict with the God whose arms alone can wrestle us into life.”
- St. Francis of Assisi
“Wrong is wrong, even if everyone else is doing it. Right is right, even if no one else is doing it.”
- St. Augustine
“Let’s take a piece of stone destined to be carved into a crucifix or a statue. We might ask it: ‘What do you think is happening to you?’ And, it might answer: ‘Don’t ask me. All I know is that I must stay immovable in the hands of the sculptor, and I must love him and endure all he inflicts on me to produce the figure he has in mind. He knows how to do it. As for me, I have no idea what he is doing, nor do I know what he will make of me. But what I do know is that his work is the best possible. It is perfect. I welcome each blow of his chisel as the best thing that could happen to me…I feel that every one of these blows is ruining me, destroying me and disfiguring me. But I remain unconcerned. I concentrate on the present moment, think only of my duty, and suffer all that this master sculptor inflicts on me without knowing his purpose or fretting about.”
- Abandonment to Divine Providence