Like a Child….

I have a very good friend back in Russia named Sergey. He was one of the leaders of the church we were a part of. Sergey is an incredibly driven, funny, adventurous kind of guy with a personality that people are just drawn to. He’s climbed 4 of the 7 Summits (the highest peaks on each of the seven continents). He was a youth pastor for a while, had a bad experience and got into the business world. Over time, he began to realize something about people, sometimes they just need to learn how to play.

He and his wife, Olga, merged with a business training company called NORDIC Training International. Their tagline is “too become like a child.” Their premise is that team building is ok, it has worked for several years, helping people depend on each other, work together, etc. However, their philosophy goes a bit further. In order to fully work together and even overcome obstacle and strategic issues, we need to become like a child by playing board and other games. It’s really ingenious and I’ve had the opportunity to see it in action.

Sergey and Olga have been an incredible couple. They lead their family and interact with people exactly how they lead their company…willing to humble themselves like children to learn from those around them. They are ok with taking time to play. They are ok with asking questions, questioning their beliefs, actions and that of others.

I’ve mentioned before that our family has made the commitment to get out of the city here twice a month. It’s good for our physical bodies, our emotional well being and it’s life giving for our souls. Within an hour’s drive in our SUV, we can be in some of the most remote country in the world. Last week, we drove out to the end of the paved and dirt road. We forded a river in our car and drove a little ways further downstream. We hopped out as the sun was dipping behind the peaks and walked to the river’s edge. Because it’s been on the cool side, part of the river was frozen over. As if their was this uncontrollable, innate, instinctual desire, the kids ran over to the river’s edge,  picked up rocks and threw them at the ice trying to get it to crack and break apart.

For an hour or so, we threw small rocks, big rocks, sticks and logs on and through the ice. We walked on it, danced on it and fell through with our shoes getting soaked. Though are feet were cold and we were tired,  we had a blast as a family. Driving through the river just added more fun to the mix as we all were kids that day.

On the drive home through the mountains, past the cows, horses and sheep roaming the countryside, I was struck with Jesus making one of those seemingly ridiculous comments, this time about children-“The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” What did He mean? What was His line of thought?

Women and men smarter than I have said that in that comment, Jesus was showing the disciples how we all need to humble ourselves and just bask in our Father’s glory. I think they’re right. I think there is also a playfulness that God has created us with that needs to be let out from time to time. Playing means that we feel safe.

Playing means that we have moments when our troubles and concerns aren’t overwhelming us. Playing means that we have respect enough for others and God’s creation to not be ruled by the clock. Kids are this way. When they play, they have no fears or worries because they feel safe enough to play. When they play, it means that they aren’t worried about anything. When they play, they aren’t concerned about the clock or what time it is. I think God desires that of us as well. We honor Him in playing and honor others.

To become like a child…what a novel idea.

Do you have any experiences dealing with becoming like a child, or playing? How did others respond? Where was God in those moments? I’d love to hear your stories!

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Books I’ve Read The Past 12 Months

Like I’ve said, I love to read and I love to learn. I’m going to assume that some of you do as well. I’m always looking for good books to read. I don’t read fiction, I just don’t want to make time for it. So, none of these are fiction. This isn’t exhaustive, but here is a list of books I’ve read the past 12 months. Just in case you were looking for something to read or to know what I’m up to, here you go! One more thing, Henri Nouwen is my favorite author.

Have you read any of these? Do you have any books to suggest?

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Three Mile an Hour God by Kosuke Koyama

The Bumps are What You Climb On by  Warren Wiersby

Unafraid: “Trusting God in an Uncertain World” by Susie Davis

God in my Everything by Ken Shigematsu

The Attentive Life by Leighton Ford

The Way of Discernment by Elizabeth Liebert

Scary Close by Donald Miller

Transitions: “Making Sense of Life’s Changes” by William Bridges

The Voice of the Heart by Chip Dodd

The Icarus Deception: “How High Will You Fly?” by Seth Godin

The Wounded Healer: “Ministry in Contemporary Society” by Henri Nouwen

A Resilient Life: “You Can Move Ahead No Matter What” by Gordon MacDonald

The Advantage: “Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business” by Patrick Lencioni

Necessary Endings: “The Employees, Businesses and Relationships That All of Us Have To Give Up In Order To Move Forward” by Henry Cloud

Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre De Caussade

Spiritual Formation: “Following the Movements of the Spirit” by Henri Nouwen

Simplifying and Living Simply-Why isn’t it simple?

A good friend of mine was talking to me a few months ago. We stay in touch often, reaching out when we are falling back into old habits, hurts or hangups. He and his wife moved recently. In the process of packing up he said “We are trying to simplify our lives with the amount of stuff we have. And we’re also trying to simplify to get to a point of “Jesus only,’ but it is so, so hard to simply say and live “Jesus only.'”

That has sat with me for awhile. The trend in the States and in most of Europe is to simplify what material possession we have. Whether people do it to be trendy or they believe they need to live a more simplified life, the desire is there. I think this is great. However, what I’ve noticed in my own journey, is that I tend to complicate my life, especially my relationship with God. I put things in that shouldn’t be there. I put barriers that hinder my understanding, warp my view and distort my perspective on God, creation and others. Out of my own sinful and dysfunctional nature, I am almost trying to sabotage my relationship with my Creator.

I love documentaries. Be it the best sushi chef in the world, a year in the Arctic or about an incredible road cyclist, I really enjoy watching them. I love to learn, and watching documentaries are one way I broaden my understanding of the world and my perspective of it. One documentary I watched not too long ago is called “180° South.” It’s about a guy who tries to recreate a trip that Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia Clothing, and Doug Tompkins, Founder of The North Face, took back in the 60’s to the Andes in South America. Incredible photography and an engaging story line, it’s worth the watch. In one shot, they have a dialogue about the ecological state of the world that I think is important to this topic of simplifying.

Yvon-“The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life. It’s so easy to make it complex.  What’s important is living an examened life.

Doug-In response to when people say you can’t go back, well what happens if you get to the cliff? You can go one step forward or do a 180 degree turn and take one step forward. Which way you going?  Which is progress?

Yvon-The solution maybe for a lot of the worlds problems is to turn around and take a forward step. You can’t just keep trying to make a flawed system work.

I believe there are sacred moments in the secular world that are important for us to perk up and pay attention to and this is one of them. What Yvon said in that short discourse is true of our spiritual journeys in relation to God. What I have found is most of us feel unsatisfied or perhaps dissatisfied with ourselves and our relationship with God. What we do, or at least I know I do, is try to put things into my relationship to make it “feel” better. Perhaps give more, pray more, read more, try this trend or that. Do whatever the “other guy” is doing. Yet in the end, I feel more dissatisfied, disappointed or discouraged in myself, usually, and occasionally in God.

Complicating my life be it with material things like tech or social media or spiritual things like the “shoulds” is incredibly easy. It’s when I begin to strip away those things (some of those are incredibly intertwined with my being) that is hard. When it is Jesus Only, we are stripped bare, naked, completely exposed before Christ and others. But, and this is the joy behind it, it is in those moments that we are fully embraced by the light of Christ. Nothing to block it, nothing to hinder it from touching our skin and every dark area of our life.

Simplifying isn’t easy, but it is freedom.

Are you simplifying or are there boundaries hindering you? Have you experienced simplifying and God on the other end? Or are you in process at the stripping stage? Either way, I’d love to hear your story.

Why Humanity Is So Important To Me

I’m big on humanity. Humanity is how we were created. There was, and is, something very divine in how we were created. When we become more self aware, how people are experiencing us, we are gaining a greater understanding of our own humanity. Showing our emotions, being vulnerable and honest are all ways of showing that we are human.

I read this quote that, to me, was profound.

Pema Chödrön “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. Its’ a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

Honesty isn’t just about you telling someone the truth. It’s not just about telling that person your opinion of what you believe to be truth. Honesty is also being truthful to yourself. When we “open up” or are honest with someone else, and they are honest with you about themselves, you reach a level of vulnerability that seems to be fading in our society and world. If we can’t be honest about ourselves with ourselves, then what we are doing is ignoring the things that made us who we are and ignoring our humanity. We are ignoring the very things that make us human.

In being honest with yourself about your hurts, pains, habits, hangups, gifts, blessings, character, short comings, emotions and disappointments, you are honoring yourself. And if you share them with someone else, you are honoring them. Though in Jesus there was no darkness, the quote above rings true. Christ understands our pain and can have compassion on us because he walked this earth as a human. He modeled honoring others and showing compassion towards them because he knew the past of every person he came into contact with.

Sharing these things and being honest is what allows us to not only see each other as humans and see each others humanity, but it also allows us to show compassion and grace towards those around us. Being present is allowing us the freedom to be human.

Do you have a time where you experienced someone honoring you by them sharing their humanity? Or can you think of a time where you were the one honoring someone else? What kind of response was there? Thoughts?

Why You Feel You Never Have Enough and Never Measure Up

I’m constantly feeling like I never have enough. Or, worse yet, I never measure up to the next guy. I never have enough time to wake up in the morning. I never have enough time to get to work. I never get enough done at work. I never have enough time with my kids. I never have enough time to decompress. And, of course, I never get enough sleep! It get’s really bad when I start comparing myself to the “other guy.” He always has plenty of time to play with his kids. He always has enough money for the things he wants to do. He always has the right timing and right kinds of family vacations. Yep, he’s pretty well off.

The one thing I always forget is that I know nothing of this other guy. I don’t know what kind of debt load he may carry, or the arguments he may have with his kids or the hours and pressures he’s feeling at work. And of course, I always forget that it is none of my concern nor business!

Brene Brown in her book “Daring Greatly” says that we are a culture of “never enough.” This perception and outlook on life warps the truth of what we actually do have and hides those things that are incredible possessions. In recovery, and part of my own spiritual formation journey, you get to a point in the 12 Steps where you begin to realize that life is so much better in freedom than bound up with your addictions. In some of the final Steps, we are encouraged to create a Gratitude Journal.

Simply put, it is a list of the things you have to be grateful for. The sun shining today, the rain falling out your window, you had to get up early but saw an incredible sunrise you would have normally missed, having a hard conversation but being true to yourself, being able to walk or not  and moving about in this world with the perspective that 95% of the population does not have, and the list could go on. On some days, I write down the first one and feel the desire to journal about that one thing. And other days, I just list things. When we begin to take our focus off of what we don’t have, we are able to more clearly see the things that we do. These gifts are just that-gifts.

For me, I was upset the other day. Saturday didn’t not start how I had wanted it to. I woke up late, had to go the the hardware market to get a few supplies, come home and fix the things that were broken. All this after me packing for an overnight trip I had planned to take with my 8 year old son as part of his “rite of passage” birthday and getting a pocket knife. Our “Manventure” was something I had been planning for awhile. When I had hoped to get out of the city by 10 a.m., find our camp site for the night and then go hiking, we didn’t leave until 1 p.m. Those thoughts of “well the “other guy dad” would have already been out of town and been hiking with his boy having a grand ole time by now and here I am still having to go to the store for a few last snack items.” I would like to meet this “other guy” sometime. I’m not sure if we would get along or even hang out, but perhaps I would see that he is nothing like the idol I have built up in my mind. Perhaps I would finally stop comparing myself to him.

So, back to the trip with my son….. once we got out of town, the drive, the hikes in the caves, going up to the peaks, climbing rocks and probably letting him get a little closer to the edge of some cliffs than his mother would, the time was priceless. Playing kid card games for three hours straight, having s’mores for breakfast and seeing wolves could not have been topped by anything this mystery “other guy” or the ridiculous idea of “never enough” could have ever topped. It wasn’t until I sat down to write a post tonight that this flood of gratitude came over me for this weekend. God has blessed me with so much.  Who am I to constantly have the mentality and perception that it’s never enough? God, in his omnipotence, love and grace is more than enough. This “Percieved Scarcity” as Michael Hyatt calls it, is just as he describes- OUTRAGEOUS!!

I’m not great at keeping this gratitude journal. But, when I do, it has always been a way of recentering myself under and surrounded by, Jesus. So, what if you kept one? What are some things you could list off right now, not necessarily write about, but simply list? What would they be? Comment below, I would love to hear about some of them. Remember, we all learn from each other, please help my understanding of God grow as you share from your own experience!

How Long, Wide, High and Deep

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     I went out of the city to a a national park this past week for a two day retreat. it was a planning meeting with my business partner for the future of our work here. But it was just, simply good to get out of the city. Here, within in an hours drive in your SUV, you can be in one of the most remotest places on earth. We drove for 30 or so minutes, than decided to run right, off the road, and just follow it up over the mountains, through the forests, up the valleys, to see where it would take us.
     I found myself saying several times those two days “I can’t beehive we live here. I can’t believe how incredibly beautiful, expansive and untouched this place is.” Thins have changed microscopically over the past centuries. In fact, the road we traveled on didn’t exist until recently with it being simply a two track dirt trail that went on for hundreds of miles.
     We set up camp in a ger (yurt) that a local allowed us to rent for the night. Though we were planning, we made time for reflection, hiking and just enjoying being together. On one hike, we went up a thin, steep valley, and came to the ridgeline, only to find that there were more valleys and peaks as far as the eye could see.
     The picture above shows a panorama of what I saw. Below the massive rock face on the left, there are 3 dark brown specks. Those are free range horses enjoying a snack on the grass in this high desert.
     I stopped, sat down, took out my water and opened up my pack. I watched the reality before me and listened to the dead silence. Ephesians 3:17-18 came to my mind-“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
     Without those horses in the picture, it’s hard to grasp how tall and wide that rock face is. Without the ability of being perched on the ridge where I was, it’s hard to gauge, let alone grasp, how deep the valley is or how far the mountains go. Forever…at least it seems. Paul says he prays we “may have the power, together with all the Lord’s holy people” to grasp it. One of the things that I cherish so greatly about people who are in recovery, is that though I may not find someone who is identical to me and my hurts, hang ups and habits. However, I can if I take the hurts, hangups and habits of the collective step group or breakout group. Grasping the height, width and depth of God’s love may not ever be something we truly can grasp in this life. However, we definitely will not be able to on our own. His love is mean’t to be understood, grasped, explored, discovered, received and enjoyed in communion with each other.
     My friend in the picture above was exploring and discovery the expanse of His creation with me…together. though we were looking at the same beauty, it hit us differently. Not bad, but in ways that took my perspective and widened to better understand the magnitude of what we were looking at.
     All of this I write to simply share that in community, our understanding of God and his Love grows exponentially to an extent we could never again on our own. Leaning into community is what God desires of us….to grasp the how wide and long and high and deep the Love of Christ.
        I would love to hear your experiences, please comment!

Why Do I Get Emotional Every Time I Speak in Public?

     Though I am over on the extrovert side of the extrovert/introvert line, I am just barely over. I can turn on the conversationalist when I need to be and I absolutely love, love, love public speaking. It’s exciting for me, and in a way it allows me to share my story.
     A few weeks ago, a friend of mine from college posed a question on Facebook. “To all of you public speakers out there, how do you keep from getting emotional when you speak?” It’s a great question, especially for a guy like me. One thing none of you know, is that I almost always tear up when I speak. It’s something that has caused me a lot of self doubt, embarrassment and shame in my life.
     At one point in my life a mentor of mine and I were getting coffee. He knew me better than most people, and I highly respected what he had to say. “JB, you are an incredibly emotional person. And that’s ok. It’s the way you were created. You have spent a lot of your time an energy being ashamed of that aspect of yourself. What if, instead of being ashamed of it as if it were some sort of flaw, you began to embrace it as a part of who you are? As part of your story?”
     I’ll admit, the thought never entered my mind. Accept it? But that doesn’t make you a man. At least that’s what I thought. Oddly, I could have the same conversation  about that very item with someone one on one, and not cry. But in front of a group, well, ya. So why do I do it and why have I come to accept and welcome it? Let me share…
     I have come to realize that I get emotional, at least in that way, because I am passionate. I passionately believe and resonate deeply with what I am talking about. Casting vision, talking about a difficult road traveled, speaking on my life….they are all things that I am so passionate about, they are an out flowing of who I am. They are a part of my story. A part of me. And they have made me who I am now, which is why that particular group of people invited me to speak. For you, it may be different reasons why you get emotional. No matter why, it is still a part of you and your story.
     Donald Miller, founder of Storyline which helps people tell their story and an author of several books, posted this on Facebook the other day, “If you want to be the most courageous leader, just be vulnerable. Most “tough” leaders aren’t bold enough. You’ll stand out.” I think he’s right. Showing your emotion is showing that you are a real person. Showing your emotion is showing others who might be in the midst and mire of the same issues and mess  you are dealing/have dealt with, that they are not alone. I’m big on humanizing people, and allowing your emotions to come to the surface and be seen is simply allowing your humanity to show through.
     In the case of my friend who posed this question, he and his family have had a rough road. Their eldest son has a severe disability as a result of doctor malpractice. They have endless medical bills, endless appointments and still have to deal with the everyday struggles of life that we all have to. For him to cry or even simply tear up while in some form of public speaking, to me, allows everyone in the room to sit and contemplate the reality of the world we live in. To see that it isn’t all “I”m fine” or “It’s OK.” It allows space for them to recognize that we are all human. Out of this, true relational connection, grace and understanding what real peace is can all begin to grow.
     Be true to yourself, you’re the only one that can be.