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“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.” ~ C.S. Lewis

My Great King!
Immanuel!
Jesu!
I will not be afraid.
I will not dance with shame,
for You are my Way.

A dark army assails me.
Daily they claw at my borders.
Nightly they seed my soul with fears.
Yet You are here,
the Tree of Life at the center of me,
and ten thousand angels stand guarding my path.
I shall not be shaken.
I shall not be denied.

Oh my Great Captain!
I hear You more than everything,
even the war;
therefore, I stand.

Great Deliverer!
Deliver me now.
I see a high noble country
beyond these hills
scorched by war.
It is my inheritance,
and I would stand on its fair soil
in peace before I die.

Train my hands for battle, then.
Make them calloused and sure with the sword.
Train my heart for surrender to You alone,
and through You, to Beauty, Joy, Love,
and all that is valiant and full of glory.
Marry my weakness to Your strength,
and make me True.

Like my brother David before me, I say,
“Give me this crown!”
Like Caleb, I cry out,
“Give me this mountain!”
Like Moses and Joshua, I call out to You, God,
“Bring me safely into my Promised Land,
and deliver it into my hands.”

Set my body free.
Set my strength free.
Set my love free.
Set my soul free.
Set my life free.

And together
let us ride the high places,
and sing,
and wake the world.

(by Michael Warden)

dis-agreeI recently had this conversation with a faith leader of a large organization. I thought I’d share it with you, because this is an issue lots of faith leaders struggle with: How do you deal with voices of resistance within your own staff?

“I think it’s time I laid down the law!” he said. “All these complainers spouting their objections are just slowing us down. I can’t lead by consensus. We’ll never get anywhere that way.”

“What do you mean by ‘laying down the law’? I asked. “What would that look like?”

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coachingOne of the essential skills leaders often struggle with is how to give effective feedback to team members ~ and by “effective,” I mean feedback that…

  • accurately reflects the good and bad of a team member’s performance,
  • identifies specific ways they can improve,
  • inspires them to do better, and
  • doesn’t shut them down or leave them so deflated they just give up.

I believe there are 10 essential steps to giving great feedback. (I know, 10 sounds like a lot! But if giving great feedback were easy, everybody would already be doing it, right?). Here goes:

Continue Reading…

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“Against the flesh, the traitor within, a warrior uses discipline. We have a two-dimensional version of this now, which we call a ‘quiet time.’ But most [people] have a hard time sustaining any sort of devotional life because it has no vital connection to recovering and protecting their strength; it feels about as important as flossing.

“But if you saw your life as a great battle and you knew you needed time with God for your very survival, you would do it.” ~ John Eldredge

I’ve been doing a quiet time* pretty much every day since I was 16. I’ve got stacks as tall as I am of journals and Bible study notebooks I have filled. The Bibles I’ve used over the years each look like a graffiti war zone of ink colors and highlighters and notes in the margins. I’ve got a bookcase full of study tools (now made irrelevant by the internet), and files full of study methods, prayer methods, journal methods. I’m all about the methods. I’ve even published books on methods for studying specific parts of the Bible.

For the most part, this daily practice has been good for me. As far as it goes.

But it doesn’t go far enough. In fact, it never really has.

This is especially true if you’re a faith leader.

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highmtnviewhiker-sm

What I’m about to say, I’ve never confessed to anyone. It’s Christmas sacrilege, what I’m about to tell you, maybe even unAmerican. But it’s nevertheless true.

I hate the Christmas classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

I’ve seen it twice, maybe three times. I’m repulsed every time. I’d be happy never to see it again.

Why such visceral dislike?

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Chris Web HeadshotI’m excited to welcome Chris Bruno to the blog this week. Chris is the founder and president of Restoration Project, a ministry dedicated to helping men HEAL their wounds, KNOW their GOD, and RESTORE their world. He’s a sought-after speaker at workshops, conferences and retreats, and the author of the recently released END: Engaging Men to End Sex Trafficking. As a counselor, he directs the Restoration Counseling Center of Northern Colorado, specializing in men, marriage and mission.

“To tell someone else my story is tantamount to heart-level exposure that feels raw, naked and risky. Yet, the more we become fluent in our stories, the more we settle into our own skin and recognize the greater purpose of our lives…A hobbit is just a hobbit unless he is embroiled in a story too great for him alone. Because of his place in story, the hobbit becomes a hero.” (excerpt from the soon-to-be-released The Brotherhood Primer by Chris Bruno)

I recently dove deeply into one leader’s story. An executive from California, he holds a PhD in business, teaches graduate-level statistics courses, and has his eyes set on a political office. He has been married for 10 years and is the father of 2 little girls. He’s an elder in his church and heads up the local outreach team in his community.

And for years, he has secretly struggled with porn.

On the outside, he’s a brilliant, kind, God-loving man. On the inside, he feels dark, lonely and confused. Over the past decade, his battle with his secret has yielded moments of freedom only to succumb under the avalanche of shame and habit. About a year ago, he gave into the idea that “this is just how it is and there is no winning this war.” Then he lost his family because of his addiction, and all hell broke loose in his career.

“We are trees in the story of a forest.” ~ Donald Miller

There are tips and techniques for almost everything, and the realm of the soul is no exception. And while these may provide temporary relief to the nagging symptoms of our soul’s deep pain, they do not come close to freedom, life or true delight.

Only by understanding story ~ our story ~ can God open us up to the unique blessing he wants to to unleash in and through our lives. For it’s in story that the tree finds the forest, the hobbit finds the adventure, and the man discovers his true purpose, especially when he feels he has lost his way.

While we did spend some time working through practical measures to curb the twinge toward porn, our focus together centered more around the narrative of this man’s life than around his failures. Seeking narrative, especially Kingdom narrative, is an antidote to shame. Together we investigated the narrative arch of his life, looked at the places where his innocence was shattered, and where he lost his own sense of himself. It was through story that we rediscovered his soul.

Every good story has four primary parts. Story begins with innocence, moves too quickly into tragedy, spends most of its time and focus on struggle, and ultimately seeks restoration. Reading your own story has power, but reading of one another’s stories sets captives free, binds up broken hearts, and proclaims the day of celebration.

“People become people through other people.” Ancient African Proverb

Leaders especially are story-starved. Our focus as leaders mandates our attention on the vision, the project, the agenda, the movement, the company or the congregation. Far too many leaders either deny the power of their own stories, or believe that to be truly known by another would disqualify them from the ranks of leadership. And while leadership often requires the leader to “put their best food forward,” I believe that the best foot any leader has is a flawed one ~ a storied one ~ one that both exposes the vulnerability of the soul while holding fast to the truth of the gospel.

Even the Apostle Paul states in 1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV): “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners ~ of whom I am the worst.” This is not self-abasement. This is Paul’s heart-felt recognition that his tree needs the forest to have meaning and hope of redemption.

The man I mentioned did not leave our time together completely healed. In fact, the road to recovery has just begun. Yet he departed in tears knowing that while he had previously settled for a smaller narrative that ensnared him in darkness, his Creator’s story for him involves something far more epic.

Do you know your story? Do you love your story? On the road to where you are going, do you know who you have been ~ and more importantly, who you are becoming? Are there people in your life with whom you share story ~ not just tell stories about life, but share the story of your life?

What is it to Be Free?

January 20, 2014 — Leave A Comment

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When I was a young boy, “freedom” was my secret word.

I whispered it in my prayers each night as I pulled the sheets over my ears. I often imagined it as a window to faraway places where my young shattered heart could breathe and laugh and relax into who I was meant to be. It represented everything I longed for and hoped I would someday recover. It’s rare for a boy of seven or eight to pray a lot, but I prayed all the time. I only asked for two things: Wisdom, and that God would set me free.

When I imagined freedom, I imagined it feeling something like this:

Experience Freedom from InfinityList on Vimeo.

Beautiful, isn’t it? So redemptive. It’s really no great mystery to me that we leap off of mountains and jump out of planes. It reminds us of something vital about how life was meant to be, something wild and essential to our deeper nature. It’s even a part of our national spirit.

“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.” ~ Patrick Henry

I bet you’ve felt that longing too…that deep-set ache in your chest that pulls you toward a larger story. There’s more. There’s something, somewhere, bigger than this. There’s more to life. There’s more to YOU. It’s like your lungs are gasping for the pristine air of authentic freedom they were made to breathe, but for some reason have never quite been able to find.

Freedom is somewhere out there.

At least, that’s the great hope, isn’t it? That’s what keeps us so busily striving, heaving, sprinting, lifting, working so hard all of our days. We are, all of us, fighting to get free.

But what is it, really, to be free?

I used to think of freedom as a circumstance. You know, the beachfront villa on the Caribbean isle, or the simple cabin high in the mountains, far away from all the pressures and drama of my messy life. I later realized it wasn’t that. Wrapping my life in a idyllic protective bubble isn’t about freedom at all. It’s about control.

“Freedom is a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can unleash.” ~ Harriett Rubin

I think Freedom is an inside job. It’s nice to have the money to live where you want, go where you want, and do as you please. But we see people like that paraded across our digital screens every single day. A few seem to have great lives, but most have anything but. It’s clear that neither money nor fame has set them free.

I believe freedom is simply the capacity and permission to be your true self. And by “true self,” I mean the deepest, truest version of who you were created to be. If I want to know how free I am, I need only look for the ways I still hide behind masks, or pretend, or project some facade, or hold myself back from being the wholehearted person God designed me to be ~ as those are precisely the ways I’m not yet free.

All of my coaching work points back to this, regardless of the specific challenge my clients are working through. The underlying question continually lingers in the air: What must happen for you to live free, to be everything God dreamed you would be?

As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s work and legacy this week, I think it’s an important question for each of us to ponder in the deepest place of our hearts:

What must happen for you to live free?

Whatever it is, move toward that.