Something Only A Friend Can Fully Bring Out

We raised the topic like a glass at a wedding, full of anticipation — and yet we sat there,  staring at the floor, waiting —  silence.

I have a small group of good friends, my inner circle. We refer to ourselves as a ‘band of brothers’ (a reference to Stephen Ambrose book, “Band of Brothers”). We like the term. It reminds us of our need to be there for each other, that we are not alone – we have intimate allies who have our back, who believe in us, who we can turn to.

Over the years, we’ve gotten to know each other well, and we’re pretty good about spotting blind-spots in each other’s lives. So, I made the suggestion a while back that we take some time to reflect and affirm the ‘glory’ of each other’s life. (By ‘glory’ I mean the weightiness and strength of our life. God’s work in us, expressed, our effect on others and on our world.)

RaiseGlassAtWeddingSo, the date arrived and we gathered to talk. We raised the topic like a glass at a wedding, full of anticipation — and yet we sat there,  staring at the floor, waiting for someone to speak — silence.

Why is that?  We were excited about the idea. We’ve walked together for years – this should have been easy. Joyful. Confirming. Celebrative. But it wasn’t. It was awkward. When called upon to recognize, reflect and affirm the glory we see in each other’s lives, we floundered.  And frankly, it really rattled me. What does this say about our friendships? Is this just normal? Just true of most relationships?

How about you? What’s been your experience? Continue reading “Something Only A Friend Can Fully Bring Out”

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Fruit And Mirrors (The Benefits of Checking Your Blind-Spots)

It happened again. It was a beautiful, sunny, perfect day. I was relaxed and at rest on the couch and having a conversation with a great friend. And it happened… again.

The conversation that morning began light and fun. But it took a subtle turn as the conversation drifted into deeper water (difficult issues about life and struggles and people). I began drifting into an all too familiar self-righteousness, a “Holier than thou” way of thinking.

You’ve seen this happen… some people make it sound better, calling it a “soapbox”. It usually occurs when someone feels like they have a certain thing “figured out”, nailed, are living it well, and so they begin to “tell it like it is.” Unaware, intentionally or not, they begin to look down on and minimize those who don’t have it figured out, who aren’t living it as well, who aren’t doing it ‘right’.

I get like this sometimes. I boil down complex issues to a single sentence, a simple tip, technique, or bit of advice.If they had only done x, y, and z. this wouldn’t have happened!”  “Don’t they know the bible says xyz about that?!” “They are just messed up.”  “They brought it upon themselves!”  “All you gotta do is…”  And on it goes.

I might have gone along unaware of myself and my impact, until when, with feet planted firmly on my soapbox from which I’m expertly diagnosing and solving yet another of the world’s problems, I’m stopped dead in my tracks — utterly halted by a simple, loving act.

A Mirror.  My friend held up a mirror. And in it I saw a glimpse of the fruit that is my life.

My life wasn’t bearing the fruit I hoped it would. Continue reading “Fruit And Mirrors (The Benefits of Checking Your Blind-Spots)”

3 Eternal Truths (Truth #3 – You have a crucial role to play )

In the last couple of posts, I’ve been sharing some thoughts about “3 eternal truths” of which a friend of mine reminded me.  Truth #1: Things are not what they seem,  and Truth #2: You were born into a world at war. These truths are a sort of “lens” through which he might see the world, a way to help orient us in our journey.

Today I’m sharing the third truth. I hope it brings you courage, strength, clarity, and hope for your journey.

Truth #3:  You have a crucial role to play

In this larger story in which we live, it would be a deadly mistake to discount the truth of this statement. Continue reading “3 Eternal Truths (Truth #3 – You have a crucial role to play )”

i am ‘The Stepchild’

This posting is a departure of sorts from my usual posts, but I felt compelled to post it. And so, out of obedience and with great compassion and sensitivity I offer this poem (below) written several years ago.

For years I struggled to put into words my life as a child, teen, and into my 20’s. And I needed to put words to it. We cannot move into the next chapter of our lives without closing the previous chapter. To do so without a healthy completeness leaves a gap. It’s like leaving blank pages that must be written for the story to really continue. This poem helped.

The poem (below) was written in my 30’s and brought me a step closer to healing and wholeness. Now years later, with a grateful heart, I reread these words and find them much, much less true of my identity today. There are still days when they flare up. But, it has been a long, hard, beautiful road and my identity is much healed. My core identity is no longer “the stepchild”. I now see myself much closer to “the beloved son” as I move closer and closer to allowing myself to be Fathered by God [Link]. Funny thing is, my Continue reading “i am ‘The Stepchild’”

Dealing with the Poser & The Freedom of Being Real (Part 3)

Dealing with the Poser

Well, its been a while since my last post in which I asked you to note your responses to a few things in your life.  So pull out those notes. How did it go?  Did any patterns emerge? Any new ideas spring to the forefront? It can be tough to connect the dots in day-to-day living of all that impacts our freedom.  That’s why we paused to take note of a few specific  things. To be honest, I pause like this far too little. But, I want to live with freedom. (And I’m assuming you do, too.)

In the last couple of posts (Pt 1 and Pt 2) I’ve been writing about the impact on our lives of both being real and when we “pose”.  And just so we’re all clear… I believe we all pose. Yes, all. I’m hoping that you’re beginning to recognize it after the last couple of blog posts. So today I want to tackle the underlying question, Why?!  Why do we pose? And more importantly, what do we do about it? Continue reading “Dealing with the Poser & The Freedom of Being Real (Part 3)”

A Posed Life & The freedom of being Real (Pt 2)

A Posed Life

Ok… I’m going to admit something really embarrassing. (Be kind!) “You know this song is about Jesus dying!”, I said.  [U2’s ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’ was playing in the background.]  And as suddenly as the words left my mouth there began a very obvious and very awkward pause. “No…”, said one of the 5 guys gathered around, “it was about a Massacre in Ireland!”  I felt so embarrassed.  It was humiliating. My plan was to cleverly join in the conversation, to sound like I knew what I was talking about, to fake my way through, but it had failed. I was completely wrong. I was utterly exposed. And even now after years have passed, it is hard to expose this to you. It still feels embarrassing. And it still tempts me toward the urge to hide… to pose as something I’m not yet.

So, why share my embarrassing story? Continue reading “A Posed Life & The freedom of being Real (Pt 2)”

The freedom of being Real (Part 1)

The freedom of being Real (Part 1)

We had a home appraisal recently. It was part of a refinance for our home.  When the appraisal was over, I began talking to my wife about it.  The whole process got me thinking about how life can be like our appraisal.

Yes, we can live life in much the same way we lived for our appraisal. Allow me to explain what I mean.For our appraisal, we had to prepare the house.  We fixed up things that needed fixing.  We patched holes that needed patching.  And, we deep cleaned!… I mean military cleaned. Top to bottom we cleaned the house.  But, we also live in the house, so de-cluttering was hard.  But we needed to make a good appearance, so we took the “paper pile” and put it away. We took the baby seats and cribs and stored them in closets.  We took the laundry hamper and stored it in a less conspicuous place.  We stashed everything that made our house look cluttered.  Andrea warned me that I was beginning to “obsess” in my cleaning efforts.  I doubled my efforts, figuring if we’re going to clean, let’s CLEAN!   I have to say, the house looked amazing.  With all our hard work completed, there was a tangible feeling of awe, or maybe just relief (“Aaahhhh”), as we stood there in the room.   The House was clean, organized, as close to perfect as we could get it… but it wasn’t real. Continue reading “The freedom of being Real (Part 1)”

Getting to know each other

My wife and I have been married for 27 years. I’m not bragging… I’m just mentioning it so you can that when I talk about getting to know each other, we’ve spent a long time trying. We’ve tried a great many things to stay connected, and we know how challenging it is. You’d think after 27 years we’d be able to coast, that we’d know everything we need to know about each other… maybe you’ve thought that about relationships in your life — friendships, family, girlfriend/boyfriend, spouse.  Maybe you’ve thought because of the extended proximity to another person that you can now coast.  In my experience, it is not true.  People are alive… they change and grow and form new thoughts all the time.  So it makes sense… relationships take ongoing, intentional effort, forever.

Today I’d like to share something we’ve been doing for the past few months to stay connected to each other. And, I believe this may be helpful in deepening just about any relationship you have. Continue reading “Getting to know each other”

Discovering the glory of ‘Late Bloomers’

I’m reading a book published a few years ago, “What the Dog Saw”, by Malcolm Gladwell.  I love these quirky books about what makes people and society tick.  So, as I’m reading a chapter in this book about “LATE BLOOMERS” it hits me how true this is true for so many of us.  Whether or not you’re a late bloomer I believe you’ll see why I think this is so important for us ALL to know.  Changing our understanding about this could radically change the people around you… and it could radically change how you view yourself.

Let me start by introducing you to a trimmed version of the passage that got me thinking… Continue reading “Discovering the glory of ‘Late Bloomers’”

Interpreting Guilt

I had a conversation with someone recently about guilt. They felt that someone had been making them feel guilty about not giving enough to a certain cause. They really didn’t like feeling guilt (and after all, who really does?) and that dislike of the feeling itself seemed to make them resentful of the person making them feel it. This conversation started me thinking about this whole topic of guilt. Because if ‘guilt’ can have the effect of causing/harbouring resentment, then it seems a dangerous thing. Or it is at least a dangerous thing to leave unprocessed. Is guilt a good thing? Should we avoid feeling guilt? Or does guilt reveal something deeper within?… something life-giving, even?

Definition: Guilt – “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.”

Continue reading “Interpreting Guilt”

Trusting that it’s true for us, too…

I was just pondering a recent podcast I subscribe to.  It drew me to review a story in the Bible about a man forgiven his huge debt. Then, rather than returning the favor and showing mercy to those who owed him, he instead went out and ransacked a guy that owed him pennies. * ($100,000 vs $10.)  It got me thinking… what would cause a man who had just been forgiven so much do something so unmerciful to another.  And, then it hit me.  Not accepting it for himself.  He didn’t really believe it was true.  He most likely doubted the heart of the guy toward him…. that he would “probably end up coming back to get the money from him someday.”  And, so, in a panic, he tried to gather his outstanding debt so he’d be prepared to pay him back when the guy came asking for it.  He had missed the entire thing… he missed the grace and mercy of the man’s act of forgiving the debt.

Then, it hit me.  We do the very same thing.

Continue reading “Trusting that it’s true for us, too…”

Slipping from Heart to Head

When you go to the Doctor, one of the most common questions you’ll get is, “Have there been any changes in your health lately? . . . recent weight-loss? . . . weight-gain? . . . etc.”  The Doctor isn’t just being nosey or trying to chat it up with you. Your Doctor knows that with each change there is a reason; there is something behind these changes that holds answers to what is going on inside.

Life is like this physically… and spiritually.

Last week was a hard week.  (To be honest, in many ways I’ve had a hard year. Just read some of my recent posts. 🙂 )  There have been many times I’ve felt detached, lonely, numb even. I have that sensation you experience while driving your car when you’re tired and distracted and you can’t remember how you got where you are… what happened during the last few miles?!   It’s like how Eldredge describes the way many of us experience life, “Like arriving to a movie 20 minutes late… something important seems to be going on, but we can’t seem to make any sense of it…“.  I mean, sometimes I feel such clarity, passion, direction, connectedness, purpose… and yet over the last year I’ve felt like I’m late for the movie… or maybe a better metaphor to describe it would be to say I’ve felt like someone listening to one side of a phone conversation.  I can tell there is an important conversation going on, but I can’t make out enough for me to make sense of it. My sense of clarity and passion and direction and purpose seem cloudy, distant, spotty.

Which brings me to one day last week… Continue reading “Slipping from Heart to Head”

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

Wandering in the DesertIt’s  been quiet around the blog lately… I’ve been thinking… wondering… considering my life… my direction… my motives… and wandering a bit.  If you are anything like me, life can feel complicated and overwhelming at times. And so it feels easier to reduce life down to things I feel I can control… “productivity”, “activity”, “moving forward”, these are the signs of an “effective” life. Or so our culture would have us believe. And, I have to admit, I get sucked in by it… I even find myself feeling guilty for any prolonged periods of downtime. It starts to feel like a waste of time. And don’t get me wrong, I know there are plenty of times that we need to be productive and active and effective. We have jobs that need to get done. But, when I consider the deeper things of life, these words (productive, active, effective, etc) seem to lose their power over me. I somehow can’t picture Jesus using words like these. I mean, can you picture Jesus saying, “Hi, how’s your productivity looking? Meeting your quotas? You need to be proactive and grab that bull by the horns…” Ick!  Consider J.R.R.Tolkien’s words:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;

In the greater scheme of things we must begin to move away from our activity-centric mindsets and create some space to allow God to speak.   Continue reading “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost”

LIFEQUESTweekend Retreat (Jan 28-30)

I don’t normally make ‘advertisement’ type posts. In fact, I never have before. But today I’m posting a note to let you know about a retreat some friends and I are hosting on JAN 28-30th.  It is called LIFEQUESTweekend and it is a 3-day retreat for men (sorry ladies). You can get all the details at the website www.LIFEQUESTweekend.com.

This retreat is not just another “church” service… not another “religious” activity to attend. It is an invitation to join us on a quest… one that every man must make at some point in their life. An invitation to walk with God.

So let me ask you a few questions… Fully Alive?! Is this how you’ve been experiencing life: Fully alive? Too few of us actually find this true in our day-to-day. And strength? Are you able to fight for others with freedom? Do you live with a sense of freedom? And Love? Do you love well? Have deep friendships with others?  Is life what you’d hoped it would be?

And, let me ask you this — How often do you take the chance to spend a weekend away with the singular purpose of seeking what God has for you? Finding answers to your questions… Finding purpose for your future…  If for no other reason than this — if God is in it, this weekend will be remarkable.

Freedom… Strength to offer… Healing… Purpose… to know our Place in the Story… It is possible!

I hope you’ll take a few minutes and visit the website. And I hope you’ll take a few more minutes and pray to ask God if this is a retreat you should attend.

Whatever you’ve found true of God… of Christianity… there is more.  This retreat may be the next step in your journey of faith.

The Power of Love (Part II)

On my last post, I submitted to you a blog entry from Donald Miller (found here).  As I sit here contemplating how to document my thoughts about the article, I have to admit that it feels awkward — I’m not sure how to post a blog about “Love”.  There are far, far too many nuances and complexities about “Love” to even begin to scratch the surface.  Still, there must be something we can learn… ways we can grow… must be some way we can draw on an experience we can share.  So, I hope you can take it to heart that I’m not trying to boil down love to a simple formula or idea or even a simple “Hug”.  What I want… what I hope to do… is to encourage you onward.
Continue reading “The Power of Love (Part II)”

The Power of Love (Part I)

My dear blog-friends,

I read the following blog entry recently and it really got me thinking. To be honest, it nailed me in a few areas of my heart and life.  I encourage you to read the entire article with as unhindered a mind as possible. (There will be time for criticism later.) For now, allow God to use it in whatever ways He sees fit.

I’m sharing it with you that it might inspire you toward your goals, of which, I hope LOVE is supreme.




“The Power of Love” — A blog entry by Donald Miller (Author of Blue Like Jazz and other books) posted Jun 28, 2010 4:01 AM . . .  Continue reading “The Power of Love (Part I)”

Ahhh… Disagreement

Living in the Wonderful State of Disagreement

Wouldn’t it be great to live in a place where there is disagreement? (yes… where there “is”…)

Let me explain what I mean.

I’ve noticed something about myself lately — I don’t like to be disagreed with!  I suppose I knew it for years.  There were signs… the funny looks on my face… or sometimes I cut people off… volume rising during conversations… people not wanting to enter into certain conversations with me… etc.  So, I guess what I mean is — I’m finally beginning to “notice” that I don’t like to be disagreed with… and I don’t like the effects of it.

Just think of it… wouldn’t it be nice to live in a state of mind where someone could disagree with you, and it would be “ok”!?   Continue reading “Ahhh… Disagreement”

Enjoy the surf!

A blogger I follow posted a comment about this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c6uM950uFY&feature=youtu.be *  It was given with this simple reminder — “Enjoy the surf!” — and with this simple instruction — “Pause and listen to how God may speak to you through it.

To be honest, I had to watch this twice. The first time my focus was too technical (admiring camera angles, vignetting lenses, b&w contrasts, how’s he driving?, nice truck, etc)… I was distracted, amazed even, but distracted none the less. Continue reading “Enjoy the surf!”

A glimpse into how my past is affecting my future…

I was just reading an “eLetter” put out by a man I trust and follow, Gary Barkalow. He was talking about how many of us (likely, most of us) have been hurt by a ministry or a person in ministry. His take on it was about how it affects our Callings. This got me thinking of the effects of my past ministry experiences on MY life.

Perhaps you were one of the lucky ones and you’ve not been hurt by a church (small “c”) or a person(s) in the Church (capital “C”). I have not been so fortunate. But, I have been fortunate in that I’ve had enough time and people around me that I was able to process my situations, gain perspective, actually learn from them, grow, and in many ways, Heal.

As I sit here reading Gary’s eLetter, I’m thinking about how I have processed my experiences. And, as I said, I’ve processed my feelings/hurt and I truly don’t feel the same bitterness, disappointment, unforgiveness, and anger anymore (**). Still, Gary’s letter nags at me…

There is something deeper going on.

Just because we’ve processed our pain, even healed from it, doesn’t mean the effects are completely gone. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, but in this moment it does somehow. I mean, I know that if someone gets in a car accident they may heal physically, but they may forever lose the full use of a limb. So, if I’m hurt by a ministry or person, it makes sense that while I may have healed from the incident, I may still have residual limitations. And, that leads me to the deeper issue Gary was illuding to… the issue that gets in the way of our destiny.

With each wound comes a message.

I’m sitting here remembering back over my own history. Even with the healing I have found, there are lingering “messages”… I need to take a look at these. As I think of some of what fires off in my head, the hesistations and fears that seem to pop up from time to time, I realize that I’ve swallowed the enemy’s message… several messages, in fact. As I thread them together from my past, here’s some of what I’m uncovering: “Don’t step out in that again.” “It’s not worth it.” “Careful!!” “You’ll fail… you’ll be exposed…” or worse yet, “If you step out… YOU will become a source of pain to those you seek to walk with.” “You’re heart’s in the right place, but you’re going to come up short.” In the end, “You just don’t have what it takes.”

Every one of these “messages” is a result (even if only indirectly) of the wounds I’ve taken. Each message came on the heals of each painful/challenging situation… really subltly… and I bought into them. Somewhere down inside I said, “Yup… its true” and it began a slow, quiet process of shaping (eroding the path to) my destiny.

I’m going out to take a drive and pray… right now. I must invite Jesus into this.

. . .

Ok… I’m back. I went out and sat in my car and talked with God. And, now I’m back and I’ve just re-read what I’ve written. The discovery and insight is still true. But on the heals of it, I’m tempted to delete the “messages” I’ve written down. Its hard to be so open; it feels vulnerable. But, I WON’T delete it! The enemy wants us to isolate ourselves… to hide from each other. I won’t give in to the trick. Besides, the “messages” are not ME… they are the “arrows” being thrown at me. There is no shame.

My prayer time with God was good! I renounced the lies that these messages are. I repented of my agreement with them. I invited Jesus into the middle of it. I invited His healing and restoration and His truth (the opposite of those messages!) And, in every way, I feel ready to move forward again. My trust and hope and strength is again in the right place. (and… I’ll keep going back to God… I’ll keep “resisting the enemy” as often as needed.)

Our futures are under attack. More so from what has happened behind us than what actually lies in front of us. I’m grateful that God not only gives Hope for the future… but He is a redeemer of the past!

As one who stands with you in the battle and walks with you in the journey,

Mark

(** Note: Occasionally, I do remember things and the memories can bring back feelings of past frustrations, hurt, disappointment, and even anger; but I’m able to quickly give the situation and its emotions back over to God and be at peace again. I believe this is a normal response and doesn’t mean I’m not healed or haven’t forgiven.)

Note: You can read Gary’s eLetter here: Go to http://www.thenobleheart.com/#/contact/4535414231 and click the Jan 27, 2010 eLetter.

Amiable Indifference…

I believe it to be a grave mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offence in it…We cannot blink at the fact that gentle Jesus meek and mild was so stiff in His opinions and so inflammatory in His language that He was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever His peace was, it was not the peace of an amiable indifference. ” – Dorothy L. Sayers -A Careless Rage for Life

(I love quotes… some people just say it better than I could.)

This kind of “peace” is something I’m not sure I have. I’ve been so indoctrinated to never offend anyone that I try to always be a peacemaker. Of course, there is the other end of the spectrum — I think its also easy to simply be a “butt head” and call it Christianity. But, Jesus obviously knew what He was doing… and obviously was kind and forgiving… and obviously He was strong. And, still He balanced it all…. but how?! My guess is it comes down to Love. Not the usual “speak the truth in love” that I’ve experienced with some Christians (which really means they want to give me their opinion of how they don’t like me or what I’m doing and then leave it in my lap to deal with it.) Somehow Jesus REALLY loved. And, from that, flowed a lot of stuff… and some of this stuff challenged people and ticked them off. And, for others it saved their lives. I so want to have this kind of love…. this kind of peace.