Archives For Transformation

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“You will never live beyond the way that you see yourself.” ~ John Eldredge

There are these old stories about myself I carry around in my soul. I carry them like holy relics, like sacred articles that tell me where I come from, what has happened to me, and who I really am. I’ve carried them a very long time. I’ve used them to guide my life. They have been my personal holy writ, the internal sacred text that defines me.

Like a script, these stories have directed me to act out my life in a particular way. They have told me what I can and cannot do, where I can and cannot go, and who I can and cannot be. They have sealed me off from certain destinies, and forced me to experience certain others, many of which have been very painful and isolating for me.

I’ve known for a while now these stories are lies. They are false narratives, straight-jacket scripts, that were cast over my heart years ago like a mad wizard’s spell. For years I walked around as if in a dream, a subtle nightmare really, in which I believed debilitating falsehoods about who I was, what I was, and what was, or more often wasn’t, possible for my life. It was a delusion cast on my soul through a black dance between my wounding, my enemy, and my shame-ridden imagination. It became a prison that locked me away from my true self, and from my true life.

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Perseverance is Ugly

February 22, 2016 — Leave A Comment

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Per – se – ver – ance (pərsəˈvirəns): continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition; steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Synonyms:
persistence, tenacity, determination, staying power, indefatigability, steadfastness, purposefulness, diligence, dedication, commitment, doggedness, tirelessness, stamina, intransigence, obstinacy

I’ve heard it said that we overestimate what we can accomplish in a year and underestimate what we can do in five. That may be true. But the deeper truth is we’ll never accomplish anything we truly want without perseverance.

I have a strong tendency to clean that word up in my imagination, to make it all sparkly and romantic, like the prince who “perseveres” in holding to his integrity even when tempted to evil, or the queen who “perseveres” in governing her people with wisdom and patience even when they so often wander off the path of the good and true.

But it seems to me that real perseverance is a gritty, desperate, ugly-looking thing. It’s that wearily determined and resolved look that haunts the eyes of those who have been beaten down by life and by all accounts stopped winning at anything quite some time ago.

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“What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.” ~ Henry Miller

Now coming into my 14th year of coaching, one of the key lessons I’ve learned is this: The greater part of happiness and joy in life comes not from circumstance but from choice. One man looks at the mountains before him and sees an impossible task. Another looks at those same mountains and sees nothing but beauty and adventure. The only difference is in how they choose to see their lives, but that subtle difference makes all the difference in the world.

I remember a six-day hike through the high country of southern Colorado a few years ago. I remember the biting cold rain that never left us alone on that trip. And I remember the unbelievable beauty of the land, the magic of a shepherd’s appearance to show us the way forward right at the moment of our need, and the massive sheltering tree that kept all of us dry and laughing on the wettest night of the journey. (The photo above was taken on the trail, during one of the few breaks from the rain that week.)

I remember how all of it was a lesson for me, Divine training to help me see how the path I walk can be hard and dangerous and rarely as easy as I wish, but how it’s also so rich with immense beauty, serendipity and adventure. Which one I chose to focus on will determine the quality of my experience and either feed or starve the faith that gives me life.

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Failure is Essential

February 8, 2016 — Leave A Comment

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“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” ~ Winston Churchill

I came across an interesting question this morning in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book BIG MAGIC:

What would you do even if you knew you might very well fail?

Upon reading this, I immediately breathed a sigh, as if laying down a burden I didn’t realize I carried. This question speaks to the very soul of my life, and gives it permission to be there.

Failure is a possible outcome of even the noblest of quests. And if it does fail, that fact makes the quest itself no less noble or worthy of pursuit. It’s even ridiculous to say “if” because every noble quest, even those that end in victory, is pock-marked with failures all along its path.

The one who wins every fight up the mountain has chosen too small a dream. Failure in any worthy endeavor is to be expected. In fact, I believe it’s essential. How else will the hero learn and grow and become more than he was at the beginning?

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What is it to “have heart”?

It is the passion, the faith, and even the stubbornness to stay in the game even once it seems certain that all is lost. It is the resolute refusal to ever quit or give up, regardless how grim the outlook or how certain the defeat. It is to believe beyond all hope or reason for a turning of the tide ~ what J.R.R. Tolkien called a “eucatastrophe,” a “sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears.” (He believed there ought to be a word equal in strength to catastrophe, but opposite in effect. So he coined one. Gotta love that guy.)

To have heart, then, is to never stop hoping for the eucatastrophe to come, and even if it does not, to rip and tear at the darkness until the very last drop of blood drains from your body.

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Simpson Web Friendly-6I’m honored to welcome my friend and former coaching client Amy Simpson to the blog this week. Amy is the award-winning author of Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission and Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry (both InterVarsity Press). She’s also a certified life and leadership coach and a frequent speaker. You can find her at AmySimpsonOnline.com and on Twitter @aresimpson. Welcome, Amy!

Schizophrenia was a member of my family before I was—but while I had a name from the day I was born, my mother’s illness went unnamed for decades. In fact, it went largely undetected until I was 13. A year later, at 14, I made my first visit to see my mom in a psychiatric hospital. At 18 I still thought Mom was simply going through a rough patch. At 22 I began to understand a bit about what I, and the rest of my family, was going through. At 30 I realized my mom’s illness still had the power to hurt me. At 35 I realized it would always hurt. I’m still learning that God can heal us without closing our wounds. And I have begun to understand how much God can use pain when it’s placed in his hands.

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True vs. Fake Freedom

January 18, 2016 — Leave A Comment

“The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear.” ~ Herbert Agar

I used to suffer over the question, “What is it to live free?”, primarily because for most of my life I certainly was not. From early on I was bound up in brokenness, first by the deep damage and shame I experienced through sexual abuse as a child, then in later years through the abuse I visited upon myself, colluding with shame to keep my true soul sealed away in a prison of fear and pretense. I lived in those days a kind of projection of life, but not life itself.

Thanks to God’s presence and work in my life, I have over the years learned the answer to the question ~ that to live free is to live in full alignment and integrity with your Truest Self, where “Self” is that pure and sacred expression of the fullness of all you were created to be.

In this process I’ve also discovered that the freedom to do anything you want is not freedom at all. While it may look like freedom at the outset, the end state of such a path is always anarchy and chaos, like a body with no bones. Just as the bones of a skeleton limit the shapes my body may take, they also give it form and identity, and power to move the world.

So a man is truly free to the extent he is able to live in accordance with his truest and highest identity. And he is enslaved to the degree and in the specific ways he is unable to do this.

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