Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Hitch of Dreams, a sequel.

I used to be the “Hitch” of dreams.

You know you’ve seen the movie…

Will Smith (who is proof that skinny little rappers with big ears can be something if they apply themselves) plays a match maker of sorts. He helps guys get the girl of their dreams against insurmountable odds. (In other words, he coached them on meeting, and making a first impression on, women who were WAY out of their league.)

Hitch’s premise was that all women want to be loved and want a relationship even if they didn’t know it yet.

Anyway, Hitch was good at his profession. I mean, good.

Men all over Manhattan sought this guru of masculine allurement. And gladly paid his fee.
Hitch got men married. Goofy little dorks and the balding middle aged found confidence and prowess, at his instruction, leading them to the open doors of their desired one’s heart.


Sound familiar?

Hitch was a success.

Not really.

(If you remember the movie, you may now skip ahead.)

See, Hitch was alone and lonely.

That in which he was powerful for others, he found to be powerlessness in himself.

In his personal life he was a master of one-night-stands, but incompetent in long term monogamy and fulfillment.

The reason was played out in recalling scenes of his college life.

As the montage falls across the screen, we see Hitch as the fumbling, spectacled buffoon, who fell in love only to find fidelity unrequited, but rather massaging the tonsils of another during a torrential downpour.





Hitch. While sneering at such naiveté in his clientele, he also found himself living vicariously in their victory: the winning over of love.

He was the Hitch of Love.

I was the Hitch of dreams.

I had dreams.

I was that simple college student, clumsy with Trapper Keepers and sloppily dressed.

But my search, my desire was not for feminine companionship, but for a dream.

My dream? Simple. I wanted the world to change.

And I traded everything I could release for that dream.

My family joined me in chasing this dream and followed it around the world, only to return feeling like Hitch.

Metaphorically speaking (stop and read those two words again).

Metaphorically speaking, I stood, soaking wet, staring through rain-dropped windows, at my love, my dream in the arms of another…slipping out of my hands.





I realized my dreams were not to be realized and gave up. I didn’t just give up on that dream.
I gave up on dreaming. I gave up on the world ever changing.

But what is a dreamer to do? Can a dreamer just stop dreaming? Can a dreamer pretend dreams don’t exist?

Bold courage was replaced by trembling cowardice.

However, I knew there had to be a place for dreaming.

I became that “has-been” stage parent, whose own hopes of being “somebody” slipped away and now must be lived out in the lives of their children.

I became the “Hitch of Dreams.”

I grieved the tragic death of my dreams and reckoned the risk of resuscitation was not worth another loss.

I found myself projecting my own desire for dreaming on to others. I found an easy-out in the lives of those around me.

I replaced my dreams with a desire to see others’ dreams come true.

It sounded so noble! I could be a catalyst…a cowardly, hiding in corners, catalyst to the successful realizing of dreams in others.

What could be of a more noble motivation? What could be a better picture of “preferring my brother?”

What could be more unassailable?

What could be more manipulative?

So often I found myself not actually trying to help people realize their dreams for them, but for me!

I was too afraid to live the life I was created to live. I was too afraid to be Ollie. I was too afraid to really affect lives.

I became completely satisfied (and even felt a self-inflicted sense of compelling) in living vicariously through the dreams of others.

Others' success would be my success, but their failure wouldn’t be my failure.

In fact, another’s failure just increased my worth…because who would people run to with bruised knees when their dreams fell hard on sidewalks of fiasco?

This, my friend, is called manipulation. And is sometimes confused with leadership.

But I lived in this pattern for several months.

Several empty, meaningless months.

Until I was picking up trash somewhere over Utah.

“Failure” brought me to a new career, working as a flight attendant. And being in a profession abounding with emptiness and loneliness, seemed the perfect place for vicarious dreaming.

I could run from my dreams, encourage others to pursue theirs and hide in anonymity.

My distant-reach hiding place of Sinai was at thirty-five thousand feet.

So high, so low.

And I was flying to Las Vegas.

Collecting trash from passengers, I came upon a burning bush, of sorts.

A passenger holding an intriguing book.

A book about a Celestial Being who gives dreams to humans.

In fascination, I asked the passenger about the book.

I thought it could be a great resource for helping other’s dreams come true and my living life by proxy.

The passenger began to tell me about the book, but then stopped.

“What is your dream, Ollie?”

Suddenly, I was confronted with a mirror. What was my dream?

My dream died.

I had a funeral.

I buried my dream on a dirt road in a rural Central Georgia county, after hurling curses at that Celestial Being who gives away those dreams—and sometimes pulls them right from beneath our feet.

That Celestial Being, also known to some as God, in my heart he is now, in simplicity, Daddy.
My mouth opened and these words came out, coldly, “I don’t have a dream anymore. My dream now is to see others’ dreams come true.”

And then I felt a deep sense of pride in my false humility. This random passenger would surely think he was in the presence of a great servant!


On my knees in a Boeing 737, next to his seat, this random passenger looked me squarely in the eyes and began to tear up as he said, “Ollie! You HAVE to have a dream! The world needs your dream!”

Suddenly, I was rescued by a hi-lo chime and an announcement, “We’ve begun our initial descent…”

It was time to get up, leave the mirror and go to work!

After landing, in the mad rush of passengers eagerly seeking riches, one passenger came to the back of the plane.

You guessed it.

He said, “Ollie, I’m supposed to give you this book. Promise me you’ll at least read it.”

I said okay.

I spent the next twenty-four hours bouncing between reading this book, talking to my wife and wiping infinite amounts of tears and mucous.

I decided to turn around.

I decided to live.

I decided to dream.

As far as I had run from living my dream, as diligently as I had worked to live through others, suddenly I found myself back.

Although this resurrected being was wrapped in the remnants of death, the dream was back-to-life and ready to be refined.

Over the last year or so, I’ve had learned so much.

I’ve realized the only way to truly encourage others to be all they can be, to live their dreams and chase them with reckless abandon, is to do the same.

It’s very frightening.

It’s very, very risky.

But, I’m no longer Hitch.

I’m Ollie, a dreamer.

I’m a dreamer, alive.

The Great Success of Life's Failures: pre-warned ramblings of a mad man.

I’ve described myself, and been described, as a failure.


It seems so often that I’ve been blessed with the curse of the Midas touch, just in reverse.

It seems so often that everything I touch…falls apart.

“If at first you don’t succeed…try again.”

I did, and failed again.

So I tried again and guess what happened?

Overwhelming failure met me once again!

I’m really not that unattractive, it’s just the look of falling miserably on my face in a repeated fashion.

I cautioned you in a Facebook status and Twitter tweet! Don’t blame me! I warned you! I told you the rambling words of a mad man were coming!

Here they are!

Why the repeated preface?

Because the conclusion of over 22 years repeated failure (preceded by 18 years of mediocre incompetence)…

That conclusion?

The results of my resume’ of failure?

It is Ab-so-freakin-lut-ly AMAZING!

All my failures have yielded an amazing and unimaginable life!

When I was eighteen years old, I felt this birthing result of the marriage between two things inside my heart. Two overwhelming feelings which had always risen to the surface, but were now an intensified burning I can only attribute to a dormant relationship with my Daddy that had begun to flourish. (The relationship had always been present I believe, but was now beginning to be reciprocated upon.)

These two feelings were my comfort and passion for being in front of people, communicating (and entertaining); and my deep desire to nurture people, especially when pain was part of their process.

The “church-world” has a word (which I resist as a title) for people who embrace these two desires and/or gifts: pastor.

A little over twenty-two years ago I made a long distance calling to my dad. I told him something was happening in my heart, my emotions. I described these desires and my feeling that I just couldn’t control it any longer. With an embarrassingly limited vocabulary, I said, “Dad, I think I’m supposed to…preach?” (Yes, I said it with more of a question mark for punctuation than I did with a period.)

He said, “I’ll come pick you up Saturday. I want you to speak at church Sunday.”
The next few days I studied, read, contemplated, meditated and visualized. In those visualizations I saw myself in realistic terms. Visualized Ollie was standing in that drafty, old antique building on top of a sandy hill…shaking like a leaf and dripping sweat in a way that was fitting for Southeast Georgia summers.

There’s so much more to the story, but it’s not part of this story. (Remind me later to tell you some of the other amazing things that happened in the journey.)

Needless to say, I spoke that weekend on a word synonymously related to my Daddy (commonly referred to as God)…the word, Love.

(Shocker, right?)

Soon after, I was invited to speak at other locations and introduced to experienced speakers and pastors.

Still a teenager, and obviously in need of instruction, I was giving “Instructions for Successful Ministry” by well meaning men and women wearing polyester suits and chicken greased fingers.

“Son, start as a youth minister in a small church, which will lead you to a pastorate at a small church. From there, get a job as a youth pastor at a big church, and then you can become a pastor of a big church.

“This is the secret to being a great pastor.”

Yes, I was literally told this on more than one occasion by more than one pastor. Really.
I gave it a shot. I was told all the keys to success as a youth pastor, children’s pastor, pastoral care pastor, missionary and preacher.

I tried it.

Remember what this rambling note is about? Failure.

I failed at all of it.

Youth pastors and children’s pastor need finely honed organizational skills.

I just had creativity.

Pastoral care pastors need precisely timed appointments and an ability to maintain professional distance.

I only had concern.

Missionaries need lots of support.

I only had a dream.

Preachers need three points and an applicable story.

I had passion.

I tried them all.

I tried being a youth pastor, multiple times. Time and again, I fell on my face…I didn’t have what it took to organize the all-important trips to Six Flags or fundraiser car washes.

I tried to be a strong presence in the midst of hurting people by providing pastoral care. But I made the mistake of crying while visiting a dying friend. (The Senior Pastor described this as breaking the “cardinal rule of pastoral ministry.”)

I tried being a missionary, “starting a church” in a foreign country. But I didn’t have a compelling enough stories to raise the necessary support.

And leadership. I tried. I read the books, went to the conferences and listened to the podcasts.

But I walked away with the icky feeling of manipulation.

I failed at all of this.

I saw it, and I named it failure.

Others saw it, and named it failure as well.

In ministry I’ve never been a significant part of anything wildly successful or experiencing exponential growth.

But the success of my failure wasn’t only limited to the confines of ministry.

No, I seemed to spread my talent for mediocrity into the business world as well.

My outgoing personality and inability to meet strangers seemed to be welcome in the corporate world of sales. And I needed money. So I tried.

I wore suits and ties, called people on the phone, took them to lunch and visited their offices.
I introduced products and solutions.

But lack-luster results were about my highest achievement.

I’ve cast vision and made commitments.

I’ve strategized and asked for volunteers.

I’ve devised plans and instituted procedure.

I’ve presented power points and made convincing return-on-investment appeals.


I’ve taken risks, both impetuous and calculated.

I’ve lost a home and a car.

I’ve been fired, laid-off and asked to resign.

I’ve given up, walked away and quit.

Deep in the red, I’ve seen virtually no return on the risks of the investments I’ve made in the last twenty two (plus) years.

I’ve been successful at being a failure.

Or, have I? I’ve thought recently about all those risks and the lack of results.

I’ve done it the way I was told to do it.

I’ve adhered to the prescribed steps of the formulas for success, but rarely, if ever, have I known the guaranteed outcome.

I’ve pursued the visions I’ve written and found them to be elusive.

I’ve chased the goose into wild and unstable places and got not even a feather of anything of material substance.

No trophies, no wall mountings.

But, through all these failures, I’ve been overwhelmingly successful!

In every secular job and ministry position I have, in actuality, seen return on the investment.

See, the thing about success sometimes, is that you have to LOOK for it!

Sometimes the success has absolutely nothing to do with the cost of the investment.

I’ve realized that my deficit has brought about an amazing surplus.

In every single one of my failures, both in business and ministry, I’ve walked away with relationships, friendships.

Every bit of love and intimacy I know, horizontally, is the result of some great risk.

Come to think of it, even the love I know vertically is a direct result of the greatest risk ever taken.

See my pay off, my success in life isn’t an empire that flies my gallant flag.

Every single person I know has impacted my life and shown love in various ways, encouraging me and reminding me that I have worth.

The pay off, the return, on my investment…is you.