Do You Know How to Love Fiercely?

To love is to lose it all. To love is to willingly accept pain.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.    -C.S. Lewis

Our only daughter finished up her kindergarten career this past Tuesday. The school she attended was entirely in Mongolian, made up of mostly Mongolian kids, a few Korean children and her. There was only one other classmate that spoke English and that’s because her parents spent considerable time in the States studying. She had her final concert performance the week before and did simply awesome. But now it was Tuesday, her final day. Because it wasn’t a state run kindergarten, most of the kids will move on to other schools. But not hers. No one from her kindergarten will be attending her new school in the Fall.

As we walked out the door of her school, the contents of her locker and all remaining art work of hers in tow, the sobs from this little six yer old began to take over. We hopped into the car, she got buckled, and we began to drive out of the parking lot onto the main road. Her sobs became louder, her tears bigger as grief began to set in. Mourning this time in her life and all the friends she will miss and probably never see again, was where she was. She was fully engaged in it. She was fully embracing her losses. As Iris puts it, our little girl loves fierce. But with such fierce love comes a just as fierce pain of loss. She is six and thankfully she hasn’t learned defense mechanisms that hold her back from embracing such grief. At least I think she hasn’t learned them. Perhaps she has chosen to embrace the grief  instead of putting up walls, putting p her defenses or  running. Perhaps that is the case which makes her far more mature than I.

Oh to have her courage.

When we decide to love someone, we decide to lose. Lose what things we want for selfish gain and pride, to simply love someone other than our self. We decide to let down all barriers and accept that pain will now be a part of our lives. We can only love to the extent that we are willing to lose. We can only love to the extent that we are willing to accept pain. In order to love someone, I mean truly love them, we must be willing to lay it all out, bare it all, give the scalpel to the other person trusting that they will return the same openness, honesty and raw courageous love that we are giving them.

This means that we are accepting pain. We are accepting that no one is perfect and we will be hurt by them, just as they will be hurt by us. And it means that we are willing to walk through the path of pain to the joy of reconciliation and peace on the other side.

With this kind of love and pain comes a joy deeper than anything else. Jesus did this. He really did bare it all because He loved us. When He was on His knees pleading with the Father to not let what was about to happen, happen, we are not told if the disciples heard his ongoing prayer and plea. But, we are told of this. How intimate of God to reveal this to us.

To experience more of the fullness of God, His joy, His love, we must love Him like this. The more courageous we love Him, the more we understand the depth of His love. We are not meant to live in this world alone. God has called us to Himself and to those around us. In order to experience and understand more of God’s love, we must also love others just as fierce.

That cost is heavy as it comes with the price of pain. And the reward is something far greater than what we’ll suffer. This life is far more painful to live alone, never having that kind of openness, vulnerability and humility with others. The pathway to peace, they say, is hardship. My hope is that we, myself included, may we all live and love so courageously. Living how Christ lived to those around us. Living to the depth that He created us for.

Do you love like this? I know that when I begin to tell people I’m fine (which is an acronym most church folk may not like….I can tell you later) or OK, and brush it off like no big deal, I am not loving ferociously. In fact, we have banned that word from our house. I’m not being honest with them, and perhaps not honest with myself. When I begin to “not show up” with all of who I am, I am not allowing the other person to see me. I’m guarded, I’m defensive. These are walls I’m putting up. I am not saying bare everything to everyone around you. Some people are simply not in a place where they can handle that information well, nor treat you well. I am saying set up healthy boundaries where you are still showing up, being honest and vulnerable with others and using wisdom to determine how much is appropriate to share. But to not show up at all is based in the fear that we don’t want to get hurt. That is fear based, and our God is not a God of fear.

It takes being brave to love that courageously. Brene Brown says “It often takes just a single brave person to change the trajectory of a family, or of any system, for that matter.” Love is how we change the world.

Be Brave. Be Courageous. Love Fierce.

be blessed

 

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/k2i4n6g8/6471148825/in/photostream/
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Becoming More Human

I wish I was perfect. Body, mind, emotions, spirit. I really do wish that. Well, at least sometimes I wish I was. It seems to me that it would make life a lot more liveable. A lot easier. I could be wrong and probably am, but I do wish I was perfect. There are some good qualities about me. I’m tall. I’m likeable (at least I think I am). I like to have fun, but I also like the peace and quiet of solitude. I like to help and I like to get things done. I think I’m a good public speaker and I think I’m creative. I’m sure there are other qualities about me, but I think this is a good list for now.

I think we each, no matter who we are, we each have a list of qualities about us that are good. Qualities that people can say something good about us. Perhaps I’m naive but I really believe that. There are things abut us that are a part of who we are. The ideas we have, opinions we hold based off of beliefs and experiences we have endured. We each have a different life experience from any other person on the planet no matter if you are from the same race, city, neighborhood or family as another person. We each experience the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual world at least slightly different than the other person in the room. Collectively, we make up the human existence. If we are followers of Jesus, and Jesus alone, collectively we are the Body of Christ….the Bride of Christ, we’re called.

Some of us are on the “privileged” side of race, gender and/or economic privilege. And others of us tread the water of disadvantage. Some have great self awareness and some don’t even understand that concept. The list goes on but we are all collectively human. We learn from each other. From each others wisdom, mistakes, successes and failures. We learn from each others  vulnerability or lack there of. Whether it is “I also want to do that” or a “that’s not how I want to live my life,” we learn from each other.

We are not perfect nor will we be this side of heaven. Adam and Eve, they were not perfect. Yet they had an incredible communion with God. Being able to walk in the garden of Eden with Him, allowing His hand to hold theirs, His arm to be around them while they strolled throughout the orchards, forests, ponds…whatever the garden contained. Sitting by the bank skipping stones, feet dangling off the branch of the willow, simply being together.

I was reflecting on a thought I had once…or perhaps I heard it from someone else. Ya, that’s actually more likely. So, the other day, I was reflecting on a thought I heard from someone else. The thought was that as we become more like Christ, we are actually becoming more human. We are becoming more like God had originally intended us to be, before Adam sinned, before Eve sinned. Before the whole place got messed up. He’s calling us to become more like that. Memories of a stroll at sunset, birds chirping, the brook babbling near by as He and Adam just walked and talked. That part of humanity has gotten lost along the way. The relationship broke, the sweetness of it all shattered when the fall came and Adam and Eve were banished. Ever since then, Jesus coming, dying and the promise of His coming again, all of that has been to help us get back to that relationship we once collectively had.

We are all human beings. We all, all 7 billion of us or so, we all have something to offer each other because it is part of our humanness. When we are vulnerable with each other, honest with ourselves and each other, we offer so much of what God originally intended. People being people how God had intended this life to be lived. We are not perfect and we won’t be this side of heaven. But one glimpse, perhaps even a fleeting moment, is when we are humanizing each other by allowing ourselves to fully show up to one another.Allowing ourselves to be truly seen by another. Allowing ourselves to stop talking and listen to another. To try to put ourselves in the place of another, that is becoming more human. That is becoming more of what once was. God is in those moments, in those sacred times of allowing who we are to be seen. In those moments we see how much God loves us and how much we need Him. How much we need the Body.

May we do that today.

May I do that today.

Be Blessed.

So, what about you? What has your experience been like when you have shown up? When others have shown up? What has been your experience when you allowed yourself to be human to another person? I’d love to be apart of hearing your story. It allows us all to become more human and more of what Heaven will be like.

Photo Credit: http://www.letsgogardening.co.uk/japanese_gardening.htm

Trying Too Hard….

So, I promised myself I wouldn’t, but it is just so very tempting. It’s tempting to go over and hit the “Stats” button on my blog’s dashboard. It makes me feel really good when I see that people have been reading and/or commenting on what I’ve been writing. What I’ve noticed over the past couple weeks is that if there is a dip in the numbers, I feel compelled to write something just to boost them back up again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love interact with you and hearing your stories. Your experiences grow my view of the world, humanity and my view of God. We learn from each other. I feel as though I am simply sharing my experiences with you so that if you find something useful, helpful or encouraging, great. If not, well, hopefully it was a good read. BUT, when I start writing for the results or the numbers to feed my ego or self worth, well, then I’ve replaced God with those numbers. Not cool.

I need to stop trying too hard and just, as very close friend of mine, Paul McCartney (ya right), would say….Let It Be.

So, on that note…..I love finishing books. Be they big or small, it gives me a great sense of completion. Something I’ve done for a few years now is transfer my clippings and highlights from my Kindle to my computer. Then, put them in a Pages doc and save them by book in a file by author. From time to time I go back and reflect on them. It’s super helpful. If they are printed books (get ready for the anality of this), I hand type all my notes, page numbers, etc., and do the same saving as the other. It sounds absurd, but when you’ve moved as many times as I have, you need to make sure your notes at least come with you!

I just finished two books this past week. In case you’re interested, they are both insightful and helpful and if you have the time, I’d encourage you to read them.

The first is fairly short-“The Gift of Being Yourself: The sacred call to self discovery” by David Benner. Great book and one that helps in furthering self differentiation, identity in Christ and the difference between vocation and career.

The Second is a little longer but by my favorite author. “Discernment: Reading the signs of daily life” by Henri Nouwen. Another great read and one that deals simply with being more aware of the world around you.

No doubt you’ll reading more about these two books in future posts, but thought I would share what’s been on my mind. The next two books are going to be pretty powerful and I’m pretty excited to dive into them…but more on that later!

If you’ve read either of these books, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them as well as how you interacted with them!

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.

7 Steps to Becoming a Relationship Master

This is a great post on being intentional in your relationships with those around you. Not only if you’re in a leadership position, but just humanizing those in your sphere of influence can do wonders for them, your organization and yourself! Joni Wickline breaks these down into 7 simple things you can do that will have massive impact.

One great quote from the post is:  “In the past, a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders must be partners with their people. They no longer can lead based solely on positional power.”-Ken Blanchard

It’s worth the read, and as always, share your thoughts!

Source: 7 Steps to Becoming a Relationship Master

When Reality Hits-“Oh, Crap!”

   So, Christmas. Ahhh Christmas. If I had a house or could string up lights outside, you could equate me to Clark Griswold. Starting as early as Iris let’s me, I will play Christmas music non stop. I have my own set list that I very rarely sway from of nothing but the classics. I have my movie playlist, some of which I watch only once a season, and some multiple times a week. Ahhh Christmas.
     I grew up on a farm and we always had a lot of snow in the winter. We’d decorate trees on the outside of our house, and wrap the fence that lined our drive way in big white lights. It was an old farmhouse, so the ceilings were quite tall which led to us getting large Christmas trees. There is a magic that revolves around Christmas-family, snow, lights, seeing your breath, the surprise of Christmas morning, music dedicated to this one event and of course the reason we celebrate in our household, the birth of Jesus. The hype is part of the fun for me. Many radio stations will play holiday tunes non stop the weeks leading up to the 25th. Stores are decorated, cars are decorated and there are Christmas concerts everywhere. It’s great.
     And then there is the 26th of December.
     A day that for me at least, is a massive buzz kill. Suddenly, the radio stations go back to playing what they were playing before Thanksgiving. No more tv specials, no more parades, no more big family or work get togethers. It all kind of ends..and people just complain about the winter weather from that point forward. The magic is gone, reality hits.
     Oddly, I feel the same way after reaching some big accomplishment, meeting a big goal or attaining a major strategic point. Whether it be developing a team, opening a business or getting the nod to start a new project, the magic and charisma built around the moment leading up to that is gone. Casting vision is something I love to do. I love public speaking, I love sharing about what’s on my heart, the vision that I or my team has created for the future, the strategy of how to get there-it’s all fun for me. But, when the point comes and it’s time to start, the small pinhead of fear turns into a a major chasm in my chest. “Crap, they are counting on me. How in the world are we going to be able to continue on with what we’ve accomplished? My credibility could go out the window if this fails.”
     I can get by on my own, pushing down the fear for a little while. But then it starts to infiltrate every aspect of my life. I either crumble and become uber controlling or I become paralyzed about what to do next. At least these are my two defaults. And by every aspect I mean family, friends, work, spiritual, emotional and physical. Thankfully, I have people in my life who I’ve surrounded myself with who can call me on these things. They tell me when I am in a downward spiral and can speak truth, encouragement and gentle correction into me.

One  way  is taking a moment, pausing and then being grateful

     One major way I (usually) can put that feeling in it’s rightful place is taking a moment, pausing and then being grateful that I have the privilege to do it. Whether it’s taking on a multi-million dollar project or getting to run the meeting for the day, being grateful for what we have, the opportunity given, the trust others have in us and the relationships intertwined with each of these is something that can calm us down and focus on the next step or two that needs to take place for the vision to come to fruition. At least for me, this helps me to not become controlling and it also helps me to not become paralyzed.

     Another way is to stop and take a moment to remember who I am

     Another major way that I, again usually, can put this feeling back to it’s correct size is to stop and take a moment to remember who I am. I am not defined by the job I have, the title I’m given, the role I have at a company. I’m not defined by my salary, standard of living or stuff that I have. I’m not defined by a comparison of me versus someone else. For me, first and foremost, I am defined by what my God says about me. Second, I am defined by those things I chose to embrace about me. No one can ever take any of those things away from me. When I take a moment, pause and reflect on those, suddenly that overwhelming, let down, buzz kill, paralyzing, over controlling, “oh crap” feeling dissipates, or at least minimizes back to a proper size. Reality seems much clearer, attainable and enjoyable.
     These aren’t the only things that help. I did say “usually” because sometimes there are other parts I have in my life that help me to refocus and not get caught up in panic mode.
     The last, but massive influence is people. Like I mentioned earlier, I have people in my life who speak truth into me. This is the single most important gift in helping me realign myself as to what reality really means. Without the myriad of relationships I have that surround me, there is no way I would be where I am today. This way is not in the “usually” category because I am constantly calling on and asking for input from others. It’s a part of my rhythm and community I need.
     These are just a few things I have done and learned to do in my life when reality hits. Maybe they’ll give some inspiration and insight into what you could do in yours. If you have any thoughts on this or ways you deal with reality, please comment below!

Behind The Mountain

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     A couple years ago we had the opportunity to live in Alaska, just outside of Anchorage. We were living in a valley surrounded by mountains. I had a standing appointment every Friday to go and hike up a ridgeline or a peak. The view down the other side was usually incredible with it’s own set of trails, different terrain and view.
     The picture above is from my balcony window of the apartment and city we just moved to last week. The mountain you see is just one in a series of mountains that create the north and south borders of the city. A panoramic shows how incredibly beautiful it really is. I can’t wait to get out of the city to backpack and hike.
     I watched a documentary a month or so ago about photographer  Sebastiao Salgado. The photography and cinematography was incredible. He made a comment that has stuck with me since then. He said, “behind each mountain there’s a story, there’s something to see.”
     Like I mentioned earlier, we just moved to this city and country a week ago. We left the country we had been living in for ten years, and the city for the past five, to come here and develop leaders. Pretty exciting. But, with another language to learn, new friendships to form not to mention the basics of learning a new city, new culture, where to buy milk…it can seem daunting.  It can, and at times does, feel like a massive mountain to scale. I love backpacking, but there are often times when I’m on the trail, look up towards the summit or pass I’m aiming for and have a moment of “oh, wow, that’s going to take some time and energy to get to…am I up for it?”
     Then I fall into a rhythm, the excitement of what lies ahead and the knowledge that there will be a feeling of accomplishment at the top kick in, and I just go for it. The mountain I am looking at ahead of me is challenging. I have an idea of what we’re in for based on the last ten years and it won’t be all fun. But, behind that mountain there is a new view, a new story to hear and allow to unfold. Even the road to get there will have it’s own story. But, that’s what it is all about, right? The tears of joy and pain, the hardships and perseverance learned, the relationships formed and forged are worth it. It does take courage to climb the mountain of whatever you’re facing. But, behind the mountain lies a new valley, peak, forest and view.
     Leading others in the midst of this is difficult, but it’s also a tremendous privilege. They get to see you as a human being who is honest about what they are facing. They get to see a real person that they can connect with…and follow. Honesty and openness while leading, especially uphill, are things that need to be modeled to those in our sphere of influence and those we are leading. It’s something that can only be learned by watching. That is an incredible lesson to learn.
              And continue learning for a lifetime.