Schroller's Blog

Marred

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."        T. Roosevelt

Met a guy for coffee last week while I was on vacation.  I knew that we shared the same name, that he was a graduate of my hallowed university, and that he carried a significant role in the local community.  But even before a first meeting, the stories I heard of him told me I likely knew him in deeper ways than almost anyone that inhabits my day to day existence.

I liked him immediately.  The humility in him, the strength, and the rebel in him (though he doesn't like the label).  Standing apart from the mainstream of the culture is rebellious, disruptive, and glorious to behold.  I told him that I had an overwhelming urge to honor him even as I just met him, much like Paul honored the exploits he had simply heard about of the  people in Thessalonica...

"For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you,  because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.  You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.  And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere."

He was finishing a rough year and his face was marred by dust and sweat and blood.  He has strived valiantly...he is no timid soul.  The moistening of his eyes, but the twinkling in them still, tells me has known great enthusiasms, great devotions, and has spent himself in a worthy cause.  He has known both the sweetness of victory and the pain of defeat.

He was not "weary of God's service" but often "weary in it" as Schaeffer was known to say.

I am also aware that he knows how beautifully Teddy said something that was so right about being in the arena, but also missed the mark by a country mile.  For this man knows that it is neither his victory or his defeat.

"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things."

Both the humility and ability to withstand the enormous pressure of his Kingdom assignment, come from carrying the easier burden and lighter yoke of his Father.  In his heart and mind, it is not to his credit or discredit.  He is merely executing on the great call on his life that most of us seem to avoid.

But let me clarity something through what Augustan said:

"Without Him we cannot, but without Him, He will not."

This is a gospel that invites our participation.  We much choose to follow the path we were each uniquely created to walk.  An act of volition is required.  While he was chosen first, he chose to follow in kind.  It is not the successes and failures that I celebrate and attribute to this man, but the humility and courage of his conviction to follow.  He is esteemed among men, most particularly, me.

As we were leaving, I told him I thought of this place often.  This part of Colorado is holy ground to me and my family.  When I think of it, I will think of him and the work he has set his shoulder, heart, and mind to.  I asked him how I could pray for him and he handed me one of the greatest compliments I have received in a long time.  He said...

You already know.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_fm3O5h9Bg

 

 

 

BV

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."

Okay, so Muir is probably talking about his beloved Yosemite when he said this, but in my imaginations, when I think about nature's ability to offer such beauty as to heal and give strength, I think of Colorado.  In particular, I think of Buena Vista (BV).  BV is a fairly nondescript little town apart from the powerful beauty that envelopes it in every direction;  the Sangre de Cristo Range with numerous 14'ers and the powerful mountain run-off of the Arkansas River.  There is fabulous fly fishing, jeeping, and hiking of every variety and skill level.

But that is only a small part of what draws me back.

BV is also the spiritual headwaters for my family.  We've been able to spend many precious summer days there and many of the defining experiences of our spiritual journey are sourced from there...in particularly from Young Life's Frontier and TrailWest ranches:

  • TrailWest Ranch - where we first flexed the muscles of freedom for our children out of the legalism that caged them in their early years.  A place where we took baby steps in inviting others on the journey toward the abundant life we were finding.  An outpost where my three eldest all served other families in their summers.
  • Frontier Ranch - where I took kids as a youth leader in my early 20's.  Where my older children attended camp, claimed a personal relationship with their true Father, and served others toward that same end.  It is also a place where men's and women's retreat experiences redefined the course of the spiritual journey of my wife and I.  Healing, restoration, new identity, spirit of sonship, and interpreted calling where all initially discovered and understood here at nearly at 9,000 feet elevation.

So, you can imagine, when we found out the incredible generosity of our good friend Stacy would allow us to stay in her home there for over two weeks, our entire family was completely elated.

My soon-to-be son-in-law responded to the "family" text with:

"That is the best news I have heard since I read the gospels."

Great response, but I think the fact that his finance (my daughter) would be just down the road from the camp (TrailWest) he is serving at this Summer, likely had something to do with that response.  It got me thinking, however, about the best things I have ever heard.  This is what I came up with and texted back to him:

1. "He is risen!" 2. "I do." 3. "It's a boy." 3. "It's a girl." 3. "It's a girl." 3. "It's a boy." 3. "It's a girl." 3. "It's a girl." 4. "Dad, she said yes!" 4. "Dad, I'm engaged!" 5. We're headed to BV for over 2 weeks.

The two weeks in BV only ranked fifth, but there was a whole lot of life ranking just in front of it.

That is when I realized that it isn't mostly about the powerful aesthetic of those incredible surroundings in BV.  I realized what so many young people lost in casual adventures in evocative places, have not:  If all that beauty is not referenced to, sourced from, evocative of, and inviting you further into the Father heart of God, it falls tragically short of the glory intended.

Creation is not so beautiful and powerful as when it is shared with the Creator and those He has invited you into lifelong love relationship with.  It is, or course, breathtakingly beautiful, but it is most powerfully evocative and transformative through the experiences had with those we've shared it with.  BV is in my top five, but only because of my top four.

I want more of all of that.

Thank you Stacy.

Partial

I have come to this place in my life I’m full but I’ve not satisfied This longing to have more of You I can feel it my heart is convinced I’m thirsty my soul can’t be quenched You already know this but still Come and do whatever You want to      (Jenn Johnson "In Over My Head")

My wife and I had talked about attending a "Love after Marriage" (LAM) conference for years.  Friends who attended one talked effusively about the profound impact it had on them.  But I am pretty jaded about faith-based "experiences".  I don't know if it is simply hubris (I spend a lot of time bringing faith-based experiences to groups) or the frequent experience of disappointment, but I usually set a pretty low bar of expectation when I attend something like this.

This retreat is most frequently offered in Northern California.  Cost, time, and finding sitters for our brood for a full week pretty much rescued me from attending this deal for over a year.  But I couldn't wipe this from my mind and my heart kept telling me that it was important we attend.

I’m standing knee deep but I’m out where never been I feel You coming and I hear Your voice on the wind

Funny, it is our 25th anniversary this month and I have been scheming some surprises and experiences, but this retreat curiously hadn't factored into the master plan.  But when I found out it was being offered in my backyard of San Antonio, was only $300, and friends were committing to watch our kids, I had finally run out of excuses.

My wife and I enjoy an incredible relationship.  We love one another, are on the same page on almost every issue, feel called to similar things missionally, and really enjoy (and fight for) time together.  It is a great love affair a couple of decades in the making.  So much so, in fact, that we joked about how we maybe didn't need this retreat and likely had the best marriage of the forty couples attending...as we were walking into the conference.  We were completely taken out on the idea of there being "more" available.

One of the first things at the retreat was petition the Holy Spirit to speak what He had for each of us.  My heart and mind flooded with possibilities.  The posture of my heart immediately moved to asking Him to come and do whatever He wanted to do.  In me.  In her.  In us.

Would you come and tear down the boxes that I have tried to put You in Let love come teach me who You are again Take me back to the place where my heart was only about You And all I wanted was just to be with You Come and do whatever You want to

He delivered more profoundly than I ever could have imagined.

  • We broke generational strongholds
  • We broke vows and agreements about one another & our marriage
  • We healed restored the broken places in our life together & before
  • We found healing for our personal sexual histories and for the generations preceding ours
  • We learned and practiced calling forth our spirits and blessing one another multiple times a day
  • We also established a beachhead of significantly more powerful emotional, spiritual, and physical intimacy

In a nutshell, every day since has been profoundly different.  What we ultimately realized, is that we were merely accepting a partial.  There is so much more the Father intends for our marriage than we could have ever hoped or dreamed.  Funny how celebrating a significant anniversary and charting a course toward a new future in our marriage had less to do with presents, experiences, and surprises...and everything to do with being guided by the Holy Spirit deeper into the Father heart of God.

He is so good.

He has so much more for us.

And I am going after all of it.

Further and further My heart moves away from the shore Whatever it looks like Whatever may come I am yours

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv3-TDdD1pM

 

Shroud

"Hey dad!  Look!  A ninja!"

I mean, she's 7.  She can't possibly know how politically incorrect it is to a call a muslim woman in an all black hijab with only eyes exposed, a "ninja".  But, based on all my daughter knows and has been exposed to her in her relatively short life, that was a ninja.

The purposes of that garment, according to Wikipedia, are pretty interesting:

"The Arabic word hijab has a literal translation into the word “veil”. The word hijab applied to both men and women in terms of protecting both their private lives from outsiders..."

The veil has some pretty powerful imagery in the Bible.  A veil was torn and distance bridged in the sacrifice of Jesus:

What was unseen became seen by all.

The unreconciled were reunited.

Authority shifted from the few to all who believe.

The Father has even used this sort of imagery to awaken the treachery of my parenting.  Deep in discouragement, frustration, and the captivity of my legalism, I sought the Father afresh in the mountains more than a decade ago.  My children were my prize and my joy, but there was also something incredibly insidious at play.  They were an essential pawn in a validation game I was playing to bring myself approval and honor.  Their success was to my credit and their failure was credited to my frustration.

In a word, I was crushing them and my wife with a need for validation and identity that they could not provide.  When I sought relief from my Father in this area...I mean, I didn't beat, abuse, or use harsh language with them...He showed me a pretty ugly picture.  The words He spoke into to me were:

"Your children wear your disappointment like a shroud."

Even today, I can still remember my 3 eldest children (it is the healing in this area that paved the way for my 3 to become my 6) in the shrouded prison of my disappointment.  Completely veiled in all black with only their precious eyes peering out from underneath.  I am fighting back the tears in this crowded coffee shop at merely the thought of them.

I have experienced so much victory in this area, but I have so much further to go.  Recently walking through the early year's of my daughter's life in pre-marriage counseling with her and her fiancé, has been an incredible blessing and reminder of ground taken.  All is getting whole and healed for her as well.

I find myself clinging to two things the Father has promised me:

He will restore all that the locusts have eaten.

There is so much more.

The veil was torn and removed for all of us.

The veil was torn and removed for my precious ones...no longer shrouded.

Paul says it powerfully to the church in Corinth:

As all of us reflect the Lord's glory with faces that are not covered with veils, we are being changed into his image with ever-increasing glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

They are unshrouded, beautiful, and glorious.  He is fulfilling his promises to me.  He has not only restored all the locusts have eaten, He is showering us with so much more than we ever thought possible.  Thank you, Father.

 

 

Know(ledge)

“Take a good, hard look at your life.Think it over. You have spent a lot of money, but you haven’t much to show for it. You keep filling your plates, but you never get filled up. You keep drinking and drinking and drinking, but you’re always thirsty. You put on layer after layer of clothes, but you can’t get warm. And the people who work for you, what are they getting out of it? Not much— a leaky, rusted-out bucket, that’s what.   Hagai 1:5-6

 

There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this:

Fear God. Do what he tells you. And that’s it. Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it’s good or evil.                 Ecclesiastes 12:12-14

 

I used to be a huge religious poser.  Wait, no, I am a huge religious poser.  Maybe a little recovered, but still a poser nonetheless.  My fig leaf was finely crafted with the appearance of more knowledge of God than anyone.  I was a Christian and I did desire to know Him more and make Him known, but my wound taught me that it was more important that people thought that of me than it really being true.

I veiled my life with all the Christian cultural accoutrements I could get my hands on:

  • Got every popular book (but didn't read most or much of them)
  • Watched all of those Christian movies (no comment...if you can't say something nice, and all that...)
  • Listened only to Christian music (again, no comment)
  • Rejected almost anything outside the genre
  • Had frequent flyer cards to the primary Christian book shops

God was gracious with me and there is fruit to show for that season, but inwardly, I was rotting away.  My insecurity grew and I got more and more isolated.  Like the two verses above that I heard in a podcast this morning, I was sitting at a banquet feast of knowledge, but didn't really know Him any better.

It has been a long and arduous road that I won't complete this side of eternity, but there has been an abundance of forgiveness, reparations are being made, and I am feeling more free and alive than I ever have.  Life is richening with relationship, affirmation, and opportunity.

Paradoxically, I have never been in a more precarious place in my journey.  Very little is confirmed ahead of me, but He is wildly confirming things inside of me.

I went to a "boot camp" this last weekend.  Between ones I've led and attended (both basic and advanced versions), I counted up somewhere between 15-20 experiences.  There was a season where I attended these things only for knowledge.  How could I learn more about what they are teaching and how to teach it?

This one was very different.  Or maybe, I am different.  It was a sumptuous feast where the only course on the menu for me was about knowing Him more.  The situation was rife for it to be about the opposite, but the Father revealed His love, His favor, and His desperate desire for more of me in more of Him.

I left with a journal more full than it has ever been.  This time, however, it is more full of questions than answers.  More of an invitation to a journey than knowledge.  More of Him in more of me means getting serious about my health, clearing some channels with a variety of relationships, and laying down any plans and expectations I have crafted for myself.  It is about cleaning out the closets and replacing the remnants of my legalistic posing with His Fathering heart.

I am rejecting knowledge for the knowing.

 

Amazing

"The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives."Albert Schweitzer

The author John Eldredge says that the question that haunts every man is; "Do I have what it takes?"  We want to know with a deep knowing that when required, we could come through.  I have seen the question asked in the eyes of the heart of virtually every man I have ever known.  There may not be anything as rare and unnerving as a man who knows precisely who he is...who needs nothing from you.  Someone who deeply knows his validation walks in a rare class of beast.

My wife and I snuck away to Colorado a few months ago.  While we were gone, our 11-year old had his second scrimmage with his team.  Football has been an incredible journey into masculine validation and rising strength in our little guy.  When we asked him about his scrimmage he said, "My coach cusses.  After the game, he whispered to me that I was f*ing amazing, but he didn't say f*ing, he used the real word."  And then he smiled real big.

I've told that story to several men I know.  The reaction has been two-fold:

  1. How dare the coach use that kind of language!  (As a recovering legalist, I am very familiar with that kind of response.)
  2. That's awesome!

Having the right person tell you at the right time, that you are f*ing amazing, could change your life.  What man alive wouldn't want to be told that he is f*ing amazing?  Several scenes come to my mind even as I am writing this.  There are a few times where I heard essentially the opposite.  While no ever told me that I was an f*ing failure, that was the message I received at several crucial times in my life.  Hearing the inverse of that sentiment, might have broken loose a whole wave of new conclusions in my life.

Our little guy's grin told me that he knew the language wasn't okay, but that the message found its' purchase...it hit squarely on the mark.

I believe we will have an accounting for our life one day.  We will give an account for all we did, said, and offered.  I am betting there will be more concern about whether or not we knew we were amazing and how it allowed us to proclaim an amazing God through our life...and less concern about how many f-bombs we dropped.

Okay, so I don't typically approve of that kind of language, but you know what?...that kid is f*ing amazing and I am so thankful that someone besides his dad thinks so and is speaking deep affirmation into him.

 

 

 

Mettle

mettle/ˈmɛtəl/ noun 1. courage; spirit 2. inherent character 3. on one's mettle, roused to putting forth one's best efforts

I feel like we are doing very well.  I mean, as far as I know.  She seems more happy than not and we've had no major blow-ups since I can even remotely remember.  Confession time.  Reality is, I am comfortably clueless.  Despite all I speak, coach, and encourage, when it comes to my own beauty, I am not really sure.  To be completely honest, I am not sure I want to know.

Every experience of rejection regarding the fairer gender seems to be on the tip of my heart when I venture into this unknown.  What would happen if I asked her how things are going?  I mean, based on the effort I am honestly offering, how could it be any good.  She might say ...

  • great...nowhere to go from there, but down
  • good...but not quite good enough...will I ever get this right?
  • bad...worst fear realized
  • terrible...let's craft the survival strategy...it's over, let's try to hold it together for the kid's sake

It just feels like that no matter what she responds with, it is going to be yet another challenging report card with a lot of work in front of me.  How would I even go about asking if I wanted to?

And this morning, a friend sent a well-intentioned, but very disruptive e-mail with some questions to pose to my bride.  I don't know who else he assaulted with them, but they cleanly hit the bullseye with me.

Communication - How well am I making you feel loved and cared for through our communication?

Secure - How well am I doing at making you feel safe and secure?

Physical Touch - How well am I doing at making you feel loved through non-sexual affection?

Romance - How well am I doing at making you feel like the number one priority in my life?

He then wanted me to ask her to rate each category on a scale of 1-10 and ask in what ways she though I could improve.  Come on!  Are you kidding?  But despite the terror and trepidation I am feeling at even the thought of this, I am going for it...wading in all the way up to my neck.  All the way out to the third set of sand bars in this ocean.

I spent most of the last weekend pleading with some men to believe that there is more.  That He is more.  That the desperate desire of His heart and the very reason He sacrificed on our behalf, was for that more.  I have committed my life to finding the more and convincing as many people as possible of that very thing.  It is in the excavating the unpleasant that leads to the treasure just beyond.

How can I shrink from this?  Surely I have the mettle to see this through.

I'll catch back up to you on the other side.  My heart and experience tells me that victory awaits, but my enemy is already whistling a different tune.

Anybody care to join me?

Our Love

"I've been walking down this roadOn my own, on my own I've been searching to find my way To find the path you've been driving on

Like the trees wait For the rain to come I feel hope In the strength of Our love

I'm going crazy 'cause you're moving slow The train ain't running like I want it to go

Like the seas wait For the dawn to come I feel hope In the strength of Our love

So wait for me as I wait for you And we'll find the love we've wanted to And all come true And all come true"

"Our Love" by Judah & the Lion

I used to hate my father giving me Hallmark cards for my birthday.  I used to yearn for something unique and creative written in his own hand and in his own words.  Until one year when I ended up at a gift shop where I watched him read every single anniversary card in the rack until he found the one that said exactly what he wanted to say.  That said what he didn't have the words to say on his own.

I think that is what a great song does.   It can give us the words and voice to offer something deep inside of us that we don't have the words to offer ourself.  "Our Love" by Judah & the Lion is one of those songs that is currently speaking to me.  It plays in my mind like a soundtrack for the relationship I have with my wife.  The song I associate with her has changed over time, but rather than simply adjusting to changing musical styles or the vagaries of popular music, "our song" at any given time emanates from something far deeper.

This one speaks of a long awaited love.   Despite a quarter century together, I am continually surprised by the new arrival of her.  The excitement of a treasure newly found.  There is a quality about her that feels perpetually new.

The way she loves.

The way she teaches our children to love.

The long-suffering journey in teaching me how to love.

There is a strength and hope I find in her that I wouldn't know otherwise.  I am more of who I am supposed to be...more of who He intends me to be...because of her.

October 30 at Stubb's in Austin, she and I will take in a late night show by Judah & the Lion.  I'll get another chance, up close and personal, to share the words with her that I don't know how to say on my own.  The love I always wanted has all come true.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pB-gfu3TQp0

 

Bellow

 

"A tree I’ll grow, to let you know My love is older than my soul

Your tappin shoes, your wicked grace Your precious time, your darker days Days I left you with no space To breathe or ever think of me Without the worry that I’ll always leave

I’ll never leave, I’ll always stay I swear on all that I keep safe"  The Lone Bellow

To "bellow" means to emit a deep loud roar, typically in pain or anger.  It is a fitting as part of a name for a band born of such pain.  The life of the young wife of the lead singer, Zack Williams, was catastrophically disrupted when she was injured in a horse riding accident.  Doctors told them she would leave the hospital a paraplegic.  Though not having a deep faith, they began to pray and he started to journal.

One of Zack's friends read his writing and suggested he turn them into songs.  From that great pain, her miraculous healing, and the songs he wrote from his writing, the Lone Bellow was born.  The lyrics above speak of permanence, eternity, and a future.  When he sings the line "I'll never leave, I'll always stay", given the circumstance it was written in, it takes on powerful meaning.  It also reminds me of how fragile and fleeting relationships can be.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9VzHGRDdUY

For the first couple of decades of my life, I learned that love and relationship were temporary.  They were seasonal, disappointing, and not to be counted on.  That seed, deeply planted in me, seeks to flower in every relationship I've known since.  There is a whisper that it is my unfortunate heritage, my lot in life, where the inevitable is only a matter of time away.  It often leaves me feeling less comfortable than I would like.  It was cancerous in the early years of my marriage.  It almost took us out.

Having survived a particularly challenging time and having moved into a season of safety and certainty in our marriage, we had a conversation with our kids.  They were becoming aware of the culture of divorce in our extended family and in the lives of many of their school friends.  We sat them all down and I told their mom that I would never divorce her.  She did the same.  We reminded them that sometimes we're frustrated and things don't go the way we'd like, but that we would never leave one another.  We would do whatever it took to work through it and make things right.  They didn't need to fear.

We did that for the kids, but I think it was really for us.  Having seen very dark times and standing almost alone in a generational culture of divorce, we needed to hear it from one another.  More importantly, I needed to hear myself say it.  I have been reminded and referenced that occasion many times since.  Zack singing "I'll never leave, I'll always stay" took me back as well.  I wonder if that song still deeply stirs them.  I wonder if the words bring healing the way they do for me.

There is a small part of me that still thinks I deserve to be left.  My past behavior and family history seem to want to confirm it, but I am fighting through.  I haven't always been the best guy, but I am getting closer to the man she needs to be and more importantly, the one He intends me to be.   Thankfully, that fear of loss is fleeting and infrequent.  I am rejecting the lies and building a new culture for the future generations of my family.

 

 

 

Monster

"All my instincts, they returnAnd the grand facade, so soon will burn Without a noise, without my pride I reach out from the inside"     Peter Gabriel

By the time we reach 20, 40, and certainly 60,  we've safely hidden our questions from the light of day.  The "grand facade" we have carefully crafted over the minefield of our lives, is elaborately constructed.  We wouldn't dare utter them aloud, but the questions persist nonetheless...like "a splinter in your mind".  They inexplicably reach out from the inside.

When we're younger, we're much better at the "I didn't do it" kind of lying, but as we age, we become much better at the the kind of "I don't feel it" type.  We seemed alarmed by the former, but almost dulled to the point of ignorance with the latter.  As we age, it is dishonesty of a much more crippling nature.

  • With sandlot success carefully tucked in his pocket, he asked to play organized ball.
  • He seemed to regret it almost from the moment I pushed "enter" on my laptop.
  • Objected to the first few practices.
  • Walked cautiously up to the coach and the company of boys each day.

And then it came.  At the end of the third 2 and 1/2 hour practice (the first three of his life) of almost non-stop conditioning and acclimatizing, they ran what seemed like a dozen 40 yard sprints.  He found us on the edge of the practice field, gripping for a tale of exhaustion and reluctance to return.  He slowly dragged his eleven year old body into the back seat and as we pull away, he said clearly and confidently:

"Well, I worked real hard and it finally paid off...I got my nickname; 'Monster'.  Coach says I'm the fastest linebacker on the team."

And then he giggled, almost under his breath.  Our Gray was back.  Despite being the most delightful and joy filled of our six children, he had been running on short supply as of late.  At his best, he is so happy and just plain full of life, he often bursts into laughter mid-sentence.  He is the one that requires little, offers much, and just makes things feel better when he is around.

Seeming to lose his joy for those three days was a bitter reminder of the wreckage left from a trying year of school that ended just two months before.  Despite the best of intentions of his school, the handling of his dyslexia was clumsy at best and often brutal at its' worst.  He seemed to have closed in on himself, lost his confidence, and almost seemed to have forfeited everything that is important and distinctive about him.

I am not sure if the coach knows the weight of his words, but I sure do.  There are questions in the heart of every boy, that left unanswered, continue to linger in the hearts of every man:

  • Do you delight in me?
  • Do I belong?
  • Do I have what it takes?
  • Am I a man?

Wednesday night, our Gray got some questions answered...powerfully, clearly, and definitionally.  Ground was taken.  He is a different boy because of it and progressively will be a different man.  He is big, strong, and fast...someone beside dad has said so.  He was excited for the next practice and will be for every one after.  The answers to his questions are not only settling in his mind today, but will echo throughout his life and into eternity.  Thanks coach.

 

 

 

 

 

Alive

I jotted down a few thoughts after a recent lunch with a friend.  It speaks to why I do the ministry of Alamo Band of Brothers.  Thought I would share it here:

Just before the sermon on the mount, in John 5, Jesus says:

"And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life."

The Jews only knew the law and when Jesus came, they approached Him that way. But life is found only in Jesus, not the law. He is clearly trying to differentiate the two. As an intellect, I was much safer holding Christianity in my mind than the frontier of my own heart. I processed even the New Testament (an invitation to relationship with God found in Jesus) as a rule book to be followed. Despite a clear decision made to follow him, Christianity operated much more at the level of philosophy than identity.

An older, wiser John points to a completely different reason for writing to other followers of Jesus. It wasn't meant to be a rule book, but an experiential guide...a picture of what walking in right relationship with God looked like with an invitation to do the same.

"We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too." 1 John 1

So simple and so glorious that I almost completely missed it. The excavation of my heart has changed everything in my life. The realization that the offer was so much more than I realized found me:

  • first angry
  • then grieving the collateral damage from my misunderstanding
  • and finally, broken-hearted for so many other men, like me, who were discouraged, disillusioned, and uninspired

I heard a pastor from Atlanta recently say:

"The purpose of church is not to make bad people good, but to bring dead people back to life."

Twenty years into a faith journey and a substantial amount of faith-based leadership, I was completely dead. I believe I am finally beginning to experience the life that Jesus came to offer and the New Testament invites us into.

I have journeyed from death to life.

I am progressively trying to determine the breadth of that offering which appears to be a borderless frontier. I don't have any energy for much else.

Delight

I was out in Portland, Oregon last week on business with six other folks from our team.  While we were there to get additional training as coaches under someone else's system, I felt like God was featuring us and our brand above any other.  He was resplendently on display and we were the humble ambassadors of the Kingdom and His grand intentions for everyone. One of the really great men I met there was Steve.  He was a longtime coach under their model and a committed follower of Jesus.  I am immediately drawn to anyone where I think I can find sage wisdom and the currency of experience.  He generously offered and I appreciably enjoyed.

After several conversations, he asked about my family.  I showed him this:

Colorado Family Pic

He didn't say:

  • What a beautiful family!
  • "Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.  Children born to a young man are like sharp arrows in a warrior's hands.  How happy is the man whose quiver is full of them!"  (My favorite psalm in regard to my large brood.)

He counted the number of girls and the six children overall and then he talked about:

  • The four weddings I would have to pay for.
  • The six colleges I would be saddled with.
  • The burden I was facing.

I was crestfallen..for him.  There was a time when I would have agreed with him, mourned with him, and let it ruin my day.  Not this day.  On this day as in nearly every day, I see my children as one of the greatest joys of my life.  Where he saw burden and counted the cost, I saw great privilege.

Living in sonship...walking in the clear knowledge of being delighted in as a son of the most high God...has changed everything.  With validation more firmly intact from the only one that won't invalidate, I view most of life with a different lens.  Like Dorothy leaving the tornado-tested dustbowl of Kansas and stepping into Oz, everything pops with brightness and light.

I was listening to a new podcast this morning.  A younger man was talking about the experience of driving his seven-year old daughter somewhere.  Instead of the burden he typically found there, both present and future, he delighted in the moment.  He said, "Today she is seven forever."

I was both enjoying and grieving the adorableness of my seven year old angel just this last week.  She is the last of our brood.  Yes, she is precious, but there is a puerile selfishness about her that can frustrate me.  She has been the baby of eight and shows all the signs of that privileged seat.

But today, more than ever, I am aware that the Kingdom is at hand.  She is the very proof of God's goodness and love for me.  She is the manifestation of God's glory on resplendent display.  Today, she is my great privilege and I am not counting the cost, present or future.  Today, she is seven forever.  I can delight in her because the Father first delighted in me.

 

Kosovo

" I am sorry if I'm the one to break this news to you: you were born into a world at war, and you will live all your days in the midst of a great battle, involving all the forces of heaven and hell and played out here on earth."  John Eldredge

I just flew back from a desperately needed 5-day sabbatical in the mountains.  We were finishing work on a group Strategic Lifeplan experience that I believe God is going to use to reorient the lives of many and provide incredible momentum in the advancement of His mission here on earth.  It felt like a foretaste of the coming Kingdom where experiential knowledge, inspired constructs, and unique gifting met as beautiful complements.

During a quick stopover in Salt Lake City, I met a kindly lady in an airport gift shop.  My empirical curiosity forced me to dig a little deeper on the source of her sadness and eastern European accent.

ME:  "Where are you from, originally."

SHE: "I moved from Albania."

ME: "How long ago?"

SHE: "About 15 years ago."

ME: "Great.  What brought you here?"  (I responded as if she had just said she moved from Dallas.)

SHE:  "My family was fleeing the war in Kosovo and the ethnic cleansing."

I sometimes wear my ignorance like a fedora.  Felted brilliance with long feather that screams that this one isn't quite like the others and really doesn't have a clue about how he comes across.  "Dumb-ass!" was quickly whispered as I unconsciously referenced the wounding of my youth.

She carried both the experience and sobriety that transcended not only the airport gift shop, but my entire western culture sensibility.  She was born into a world at war and viscerally understood, far better than I, both the privilege and cost of freedom.

As I reflected in the coveted bulkhead seat of my last leg, I was taken back to the point of my rescue.  Tragedy and darkness abruptly disrupted by blinding light.  The freshness and tender nature of all that was wrong being made right in a single moment.  How easily I had forgotten the early season of my "nothing will ever be the same".

I may have a hope in the coming Kingdom that my Albanian acquaintance, Mirjeta, didn't appear to have, but she has a cornerstone experience that is essential to all of us who believe.  We were born into a world at war and we will live all of our days there.  The context of that reality in the story we live in, makes it all the more brilliant and easier to understand.

Understanding the experiential currency of the story we've lived as the subtext of the larger one and interpreting the role we were uniquely created to play, is the very essence of the Strategic Lifeplan process that found me in the mountains.  Helping others find the clarity and momentum I've found through understanding my particular role in His larger story, is the reason I exist.

It would be really helpful to be mindful of the fact that it is really Kosovo (and not Dallas) that we are all ultimately from and where we live every day.

 

 

 

Failure

"What's the point?  Why should I even try?"

Gray was our first to have some academic challenges.  The first three, who predated him by 7, 10, and 13 years, respectively, never required much from us in that area.  We were not in any sort of routine that required keeping up with homework, checking it before it was turned in, or helping study before tests.  The first bunch was pretty much self directed.

Gray had trouble reading and a couple of years ago was diagnosed as dyslexic.  Directed reading from both us and him became part of our daily regime.  Checking every homework assignment and working with him to prepare for every test and quiz, part of the weekly rhythm.

He has always been a very strong and kind-hearted boy.  Respectful of us and loving of others.  Someone who was not afraid to offer his strength to protect others, including his sisters.  He had been called "warrior" from his earliest recollection and seemed to take that very seriously.  There are several incredible stories, despite his tender age of eleven, that reflect the fierceness of his heart.

We have cautiously monitored him as he matriculated through the grade school years.  Would the culture of the local school rob him of his good heart?  Would the challenges he faced in the classroom crush his spirit?  He recently started to show some fraying around the edges.  Not quite so happy-go-lucky as we once knew.  Dyslexia class told him he was different at an age when everyone was becoming well aware.

A loving gift from a friend helped provide dyslexia reengineering for him last summer.  We mainstreamed him this year and a normal class load showed a mix of A, B, & C performance.  Remarkable really, for a highly dyslexic under full blown curriculum.  His attitude was good, he was enjoying some success for the first time in years, and all seem to be trending the right way...until a few weeks ago.

His attitude changed.  There were hints of insolence, emotional outburst, and general un-Gray like behavior.  Generally easy to rally, he was almost inconsolable.  Teachers e-mailed and called.  His behavior was different there as well.  He essentially filled out a standardized test without bothering to read..  He seemed to be a different child.

When we pressed him (and it took quite a bit of pressing), he finally broke down.  Through tears, he said:

"What's the point?"

"Why should I even try?"

It took some real prodding, but the story that eventually emerged is that his teacher had sat him down in front of a computer and showed him his standardized performance against his peers over the last few years.  His percentile in each year was pretty low.  What he saw was..

Failure

Failure

Failure

Failure

Failure

What our enemy whispered is...

"You are a failure."

"It is your lot in life."

"You will fail this year and the next."

"What's the point?"

"Why should you even try?"

We poured over and into him.  We refuted the lie.  We showed him the proof  of the six months prior to the last few weeks.  We told him he had an enemy that hated him as the beloved of God.  That he was trying to get him to make an agreement that wasn't true.  We had him state the truth (break the agreement), prayed protection around his heart, and loved him to sleep that night.

He left the house the next morning with a new heart and revived spirit.  He came in from school beaming with pride.

He said that had a quiz in math (that we didn't review for).  OH NO!

He said he turned his in first.  OH CRAP!

He said the teacher checked it while the others finished, told him he had answered every problem correctly, and announced, in front of the whole class that Gray was a "math scholar".

I was overwhelmed by how quickly and specifically our Father came for him.  I was thankful that a father so ill-prepared for much of his experience as a dad recognized the ploys of our enemy and actually had some arrows in his quiver to pull back and let fly.

A wave of emotion washed over me.  I felt so humbled, honored, loved and protected by our Father.  It was one of those rare situations where I actually felt prepared to do the real work of a dad.  But there was more...it was the revelation that every day, broken, discouraged, and wounded boys are stumbling into their houses.  Most being met by broken, discouraged, and wounded fathers who are barely making it through the day themselves.  Half-hearted men with no ability to interpret the events of their lives or the ploys of their enemy, much less fight for the hearts of their beloved.

Father, embolden, encourage, and strengthen me.  Let me find no rest outside of the work you have created me to do.  Help show me how to train up an army of men who know their own validation and can fight for the hearts of the generations that follow.  Thank you for coming for me and equipping me to fight for the heart of mine.

Hedonism

"In order for God to entrust a person with their dreams coming true, an awful lot has to take place in their character."  Eldredge

John Eldredge said this in a Ransomed Heart podcast this morning and it clarified many things for me. If I am completely honest, I find that I am constantly flirting with a blend of:

  • narcissism - inordinate fascination with oneself.
  • hedonism - devotion to pleasure as a way of life.

I was created to clearly communicate a diluted and confused gospel message to generations of discouraged and disillusioned men of God.  I want the freedom from all encumbrances to speak and write at my leisure to fulfill what I know God clearly put me here to do.  I spend a lot of energy and time fantasizing about what a life would look like where I was permissioned to do only that.

I used to dream of my marriage being a certain way.  A life where my children and wife would all behave and appear in a way that I believed was right.  In reality, wounding and motive completely clouded my good heart for them.  I needed them to look and behave in a way that would bring me glory, make me feel successful, and right all the wrongs of a destructive and unfulfilling childhood I had experienced.  Not only is that impossible, the real work that needed to predate all others, was on my character and heart.

Facing a failed marriage and family, I turned inward and allowed him to do a deep excavation of my heart and soul.  Focusing on God's refinement of my identity as a man and learning to seek only His validation, changed almost everything in the way I lived and loved.  His restoration of my family and marriage has a cornerstone firmly planted during that season.  While that will always be a work in progress, our family continues to experience an incredible tailwind of His clarity and favor.

Back to current state.  I want to rescue the hearts of men and bringing clarity through communication is clearly the call on my life.  But rather than focusing on character restoration and allowing Him to do the deep work of ransoming my heart and soul that would unleash opportunities to do just that, I find that I spend too much time focused on my own fulfillment, crafting experiences and desired adventure in my mind.  Like an unbridled child, I want what I want when I want it.  I really desire to be fulfilled more than I desire to be restored.

Father, give me a restoration mindset.  

Let me operate more fully in the tyranny of the transformed life.  

Give me a heart for character refinement.  

Let me rest in your good heart and your timing.  

Calm the less wild lovers that my spiritual hedonism has me lust and long for.  

Break and remake me into the man your desire.  

Give me the joy that only comes from the fulfillment and validation you provide.  

Help me to find You as my "more than enough."

 

 

Mercy

Executioner: Now behold the awful prize of treason. You will fall to your knees now. Declare yourself the king's loyal subject, and beg his mercy, and you shall have it. (no response)

Executioner: Rope. Stretch him. That's it, stretch him. Pleasant, yes? (Executioner signals and they drop him.)  Rise to your knees, kiss the royal emblem on my cloak, and you will feel no more.

(no response)

Executioner: Rack him.

(they put William on the cross, and begin disembowelment) (William in serious pain)

Executioner: It can all end, right now. Peace. Bliss. Just say it. Cry out mercy.

It is a frequent soundtrack in my mind:  Just say the word and it can all end right now.

SETTLE

CAPITULATE

RESIGN

IT'S OVER

JUST GIVE UP

BACK IN LINE

SHUT THE $#&* UP!

Every movement toward the Father and away from the world is opposed.

Every attempt to move from the back of the line to the front is opposed.

Every reclamation project of my beloved's hearts or for other men is opposed.

Every demonstrative initiative toward organizational freedom, clarity, and purpose is opposed.

Every courageous step toward being a good king over the realm I have been entrusted is opposed.

Every terrifying reach across the cultural divide to rescue the hearts of my wife or daughters...opposed.

The attempts of our enemy to shut me down have never been more clear.  He has overplayed his hand as he is wont to do.  His ploys are not so secret and whispers not so faint.  I feel a rising courage on clarity to recognize and thwart his devices.  I make no agreements with him or Thoreau:

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation."

I will not lead a life of quiet desperation and am gaining strength as the remaining vials of resignation are drained from my veins.  A new voice is rising and it is that of my counselor, my guide, my comforter...my own personal Bagger Vance.  He is telling me to say the word and it will all stop.

RESIST

EMBOLDEN

OFFER

SPEAK

RISE

FREEDOM

Now, the Father is speaking and I know His voice.  I am comfortable to leave the safety of the pen and He will guide me, make the path of life clear to me, and protect me from my natural enemy.

Executioner:  It can all end, right now.  Just say it.  Cry out mercy.

Executioner:  The prisoner wishes to say a word.

William:  FREEEEEEDOMMMMMM!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6zGEBhJMHA

Just say the word and it will all stop.

I am.

It is.