40 Days in the Wilderness

Paul Cardall

Paul Cardall

My friend, Paul Cardall, is a talented, best-selling musician with an incredible life story. He was born with congenital heart disease and lived for thirty years with half a heart until 2008 when it began to fail. After waiting for a heart for over a year, Paul miraculously received a heart transplant and has continued to produce beautiful music ever since (one of my personal favorites is New Life).

Paul recently released a moving album called 40 Hymns for Forty Days—a spiritual album focused on religious hymns. When I asked him about his motivation behind creating the album, this was what he wrote to me:

Scripture is replete with accounts of 40-day periods when God tested, transformed and changed individuals seeking His divine help. For example, 40 days of rain transformed the life of Noah and the world. Moses learned his purpose during 40 days on Mt. Sinai. Goliath’s 40-day challenge dramatically changed young David and the people of Israel. A single meal gave Elijah enough strength to travel 40 days to Horeb, where the ancient prophet learned that God speaks in a still small voice. Through the mouth of another prophet, God gave Ninevah 40 days to repent. Eventually, Jesus, after being baptized by John, journeyed into the wilderness where he fasted 40 days during a period of intense spiritual preparation and temptation. After the Savior’s glorious resurrection, He spent 40 days teaching his disciples eternal truths.

40 Hyms for 40 Days

40 Hyms for Forty Days

It is interesting that the account in Matthew and Mark of Jesus 40 day fast in the wilderness states the Lord wasn’t hungry until after he had ended his fast and overcome the temptations. I know for myself —when I fast I think about food. Why wouldn’t the Savior be hungry until after the fast? Because he was preparing for his ministry. He was about to embark on his divine purpose. He was thinking about you. He was thinking about me. He was thinking about his mission.

It is in this spirit that this album is presented. It is hoped these 40 Hymns for Forty Days will help you seek God more purposefully in your personal trials and search for meaning in your life. Use this music as you pray, meditate, study scripture, or in any environment where you want to feel His divine love and help.

While there is no singing, these forty piano compositions have the potential to quietly trumpet a subliminal doctrinal message of truth to the heart and minds of each listener familiar with these traditional hymns.

Ask anyone who knows me well and you will learn that there is rarely a moment when I’m not listening to audiobooks or music. Music expresses the inexpressible and I firmly believe that it is one of the primary ways that God communicates with His children. The music of Paul Cardall speaks to my soul and I believe that it’s divinely inspired.

Click here if you would like to learn more about the album OR click here to learn more about Paul Cardall.

Are You Exhausted By Faith?

“Does faith have to be this exhausting?”

Those words echoed through my ears as I watched FREETOWN, a new movie about a group of missionaries caught in the middle of a war. The film is based on a true story and takes place in Monrovia, Liberia in 1990, at the beginning of the first Liberian civil war—one that eventually claimed over 200,000 lives.

Among those whose lives were at risk were a group of native Liberian missionaries. The conflict essentially presented them with two choices: 1) they could either hide at home and risk almost certain death or 2) they could attempt a dangerous journey across the country in order to reach the city of Freetown in Sierra Leone.

From the movie FREETOWN

From the movie FREETOWN

They courageously decide to move forward, toward Freetown, and are challenged by numerous obstacles along the way. At one point, one of the men in their group throws up his hands and says: “Does faith have to be this exhausting?”

When I heard those words, something in my brain clicked. This isn’t just a movie about missionaries in Liberia, I thought to myself. This is a movie about me. This is a movie about all of us!

Like the missionaries in the film, many of us are trying to follow God and move forward on the path to the “ultimate Freetown.” But however good our intentions, the obstacles in our lives often challenge us to fall back and give up. I consider myself a spiritual person but I often struggle to move forward with faith. Faith is—especially in today’s world—incredibly exhausting.

But I think that’s one of the most amazing things about faith: exercising it makes us stronger. We don’t gain physical strength by sitting down and relaxing—we gain it by standing up and moving forward.

With that in mind, I really appreciated another quote from the movie:

“Revelation doesn’t come when we are hiding in the shadows or sitting on the ground asking for it. It comes when we are out working, without knowing where we are going, constantly taking steps forward.”

In the past two weeks, FREETOWN (an Indie Film) has already made a quarter of a million dollars—and for good reason! FREETOWN is—without question—one of the greatest faith-based movies ever produced. I strongly encourage you to see the film for yourself. Even though you may not have the same cultural background as many of the characters in the film I think it will help you see where you are on your own “path to Freetown.”

Click here to check for local listings.

If that doesn’t convince you, check out this exclusive interview I had with the makers of the film! (Filmed in Ghana, Africa!)

The Priceless Pearl

The story is told of a man who hears a legend about a priceless pearl…

I’ve traveled a lot this year and because my wife is in grad school I’ve had to go alone more often than not. On my last trip, I thought a lot about Kim and decided to write her a letter for our anniversary (which is today).

With the help of my brother, David, I was able to film myself reading the letter in several different countries. I hope you like the video!

Our Most Valuable Resource

If I were to ask you what our most valuable resource is, what would you say? Money, gold, jewels, oil? Actually, it none of these things. In fact, the answer may surprise you.

It’s water. Water is our most valuable resource—all life depends upon it. Many of the world’s deepest problems (poverty, disease, conflicts over land) can be traced back to the lack of water.

Today is World Water Day, an initiative led by the United Nations to promote awareness about those who lack an adequate supply of clean water. Furthermore, a recent report warns that the world’s water supply could dip sharply in the next fifteen years.

To me, this is all very troubling news. While working at a wilderness therapy program in the wilderness of Arizona I learned, first hand, the importance of water. Before we set out for the day, we planned our whole hike around water—knowing that we couldn’t survive without it. Water is everything.

I can’t describe to you how wonderful it was, after a long and grueling day of hiking, to put our hands in cold, fresh, running water, and take a drink. Water would wash away the dirt and grime and begin to heal our bodies.

But why am I telling you things about water that you probably already know? Because I’m not just talking about water—not really.

I’m currently in Ghana, Africa, filming several non-profit projects throughout the country. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to visit a village that had recently received a water pump that could pull clean water from the ground. I watched in amazement as the children gathered around the pump and played in the water. I pulled out my camera and filmed this:

Watching their excitement, I was suddenly struck by something spoken by a man who sat at a well over two thousand years ago: “[W]hosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

Angela Johnson's sculpture of the woman at the well.

Angela Johnson’s sculpture of the woman at the well.

So I’m not just talking about water—not really.

I’m someone who believes that a spiritual world works in harmony with our physical world. I believe that just as we need water to keep our physical bodies clean and healthy, we also need something to heal our souls. And I firmly believe in the healing power of Christ’s teachings—that it is living water.

Who among us would not be a better if we truly “loved one another”? If we forgave more freely? If we loved our spouses more fully? If we rendered greater service to mankind? Or if we loved our enemies? Whose life would not be better if it were drained of fear and filled with faith? Those are things of the spirit, and they are given life through living water.

In that sense, I believe that living water is our most valuable resource—all life depends upon it. Many of the world’s deepest problems can be traced back to the lack of living water.

Living water is everything.

Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk and The Scarlet Letter

This may be the best TED talk I’ve ever heard—and that’s not an exaggeration…

Between 1995-1997, Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern, had an affair with President Bill Clinton. When the relationship became public, Monica Lewinsky was made the center of a political scandal that rocked the United States.

Some people have very negative opinions about Monica Lewinsky, but given the potency of her message I politely ask you to suspend those opinions.

In a recent TED talk, Monica admits to making mistakes but then takes a stand against cyberbullying. Drawing upon her own experiences in the 1990s, she makes a powerful case against public shaming and the people who capitalize from the pain of others.

The whole speech reminded me of my favorite book, The Scarlet Letter. Set in seventeenth century Puritan Boston, a young woman—Hester Prynne—is found guilty of adultery, the act of which produced a child.

As punishment, Hester is made an object of public shame and told to wear a scarlet letter ‘A’ for the rest of her life. The father of Hester’s child is undiscovered and subsequently unpunished. In fact, throughout the book he is reverenced and revered in their community.

But one of the reasons I like The Scarlet Letter so much is because of Hester’s ability to transform her “mark of shame,” into something that helps others. Outcast from society, Hester learns poignant lessons about human suffering and labors to alleviate the pain of those who are struggling.

At one point in the book, the people she is helping begin to believe that the scarlet letter actually stands for ‘Able’ or ‘Angel.’

If you hadn’t already noticed, one of the main themes of my life has been Keep Moving Forward. I am constantly inspired by people that can endure challenging times and turn their most difficult experiences into something that can help others.

Listening to Monica Lewinsky’s speech was very inspiring. Truthfully, I had never considered the amount of suffering she must have endured these past ten years. I marvel at how she is taking something that was so painful for her and using it to bring peace to others. When asked why is she doing this, Monica replied:

“Because it’s time—time to stop tip-toeing around my past, time to stop living a life of opprobrium, and time to take back my narrative. It’s also not just about saving myself. Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know one thing: you can survive it. I know it’s hard. It may not be painless, quick, or easy, but you can insist on a different ending to your story.”

One of the most telling parts about her talk was the very end: When Monica concluded her speech she immediately walked off the stage, without waiting for applause. Given all of the negative experiences she’s had with the media, I’m not sure if she’s used to applause. But as she stepped back on the stage she was greeted with a standing ovation.

And after all that she’s been through (and the message she stands for), I think she deserves a standing ovation.

Please watch her talk and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Click here to sign up for my free, biweekly newsletter! In each issue I will share the northern lights of life—inspirational and uplifting material from across the web (and I might even offer you some free books—no joke).

Music That Can Heal the Depressed Heart

“Music has the ability to reach someone’s soul.” -Jhonny K

Although I’ve never seen Him, I firmly believe that God exists. For me, one of the most compelling evidences for divinity is music. There is something about music that seems to transcend mortality; it expresses the inexpressible. And I have long held the belief that God speaks to us through music.

In reference to my struggle with depression, inspirational and uplifting music has been one of the keys to my recovery. When the storms of life became tempestuous—threatening to dash me to pieces—music stepped in and soothed my soul (for example, I don’t think I could’ve made it through some of life’s challenges without the Legends of the Fall soundtrack).

Scientists have long understood the power of music in healing and recovery. In an article published on The American Psychological Association website, an author described a music therapy study led by researcher Joanne Loewy:

“There’s just something about music — particularly live music — that excites and activates the body,” says Loewy, whose work is part of a growing movement of music therapists and psychologists who are investigating the use of music in medicine to help patients dealing with pain, depression and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease. “Music very much has a way of enhancing quality of life and can, in addition, promote recovery.”

Knowing the healing power of music, one of my friends recently released an album titled ARISE. The purpose of this album is to give hope and inspiration to those that are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. 100% of the proceeds go to organizations and non-profits that assist those who are struggling to move forward.

Truthfully, I’m always a bit skeptical about endorsing any particular project (it never hurts to be cautious), but after listening to the album I must admit that it’s quite inspirational (my favorite song is “Today” by Mallory Ownbey—I must’ve listened to it over 100 times! I might even use it some future videos).

While watching to an interview with the album’s producer, I was moved by this line: “Our message is not to focus on the darkness but to say ‘we get the darkness, but there’s a way out of it.'”

If you’re searching for hope, please check out the album ARISE and keep an ear out for inspirational music.

Speaking of music, if you have any songs that you think are particularly inspirational please feel free to post them in the comments below! I’d love to see your suggestions!

The Journey Home

It’s amazing how paintings and poems can speak to our hearts. I recently read the poem “Ithaka” by C. P. Cavafy and was struck by the symbolic meaning of “Ithaka.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with the word, Ithaka is the home of the legendary Odysseus, the hero of the Odyssey.

Throughout the Odyssey, Odysseus is trying to find his way home to Ithaka. Here is the text of C. P. Cavafy’s poem. What does it mean to you?

ITHAKA
By C. P. Cavafy
Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard 

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

(Source: PoetryFoundation.org)

Lift Another, Lift Yourself

Today’s episode of Keep Moving Forward was inspired by the biography of Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson.

Franklin once said that to serve man is to serve God—and it’s so true! But this timeless truth goes even deeper than that, because I’ve learned that as we labor to lift other people, we also lift ourselves…

The Man in the Maze and Moving Forward

An ancient Native American symbol is a powerful reminder to keep moving forward…

I just got back from a trip to Arizona. While there, I was given a gift of the “The Man in the Maze,” an ancient Native American symbol for life. I talk about it in more detail in the video below.

This video is the first part of a YouTube series called “Keep Moving Forward.” My goal in this series is to produce daily videos that are inspirational and uplifting. This year, I will travel to numerous places, meet a lot of incredible people, and document my travels and insights through video. Naturally, I will post a lot of those videos to my blog, but if you want to stay up-to-date, then please feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel!

Thanks for all of your support and keep moving forward!