When We Can’t See the Angel Armies

I know this is a long post, and it’s still just a tiny bit on a hard topic. I’m posting it because I know many people are facing really hard battles. If you want to listen to the whole message, it’s here.

This past weekend I got to preach at our church.  It is a privilege and a blast for me, but it is also very humbling when you’re preaching the weekend after the 4th of July to a handful of the faithful, and the old guy in the front row is asleep before you even start speaking. Too much celebrating with root beer floats?

Anyway, I got to preach on a passage I love – 2 Kings 6:8-23. The Israelites are being attacked by the enemy Arameans.  Map-Aram attacking

Elisha’s servant is afraid and here’s what happens:

16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyesLord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.elisha-army

It’s a story about Elisha, his servant, and trying to see God in hard circumstances.  I love this passage because it highlights the challenge of the with-God life: to pay attention and recognize His presence and power with us in the everyday situations and the dramatic moments. Continue reading

Three Ideas About Feedback Vs. Criticism

Monday I wrote about how we can handle criticism that feels like a personal attack.  Ironically, I had an experience this week that got me to thinking about the difference between criticism and feedback.

Criticism is usually unsolicited and often exposes blind spots that are uncomfortable for us to acknowledge.  Definition: the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.

Feedback is usually solicited.  Definition: information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc., used as a basis for improvement.

Let me tell you about my experience this week. Continue reading

The Fence

Monday I wrote about “those places”.  The sacred spots where God seems to break through the everyday haze of earthly stuff and remind us He’s there if we’re willing to pay attention.  Some of you shared wonderful stories of “your places” in the comments.  And then I received this from my delightful friend Liz, who lives in New Zealand.  She is a pray-er and a photographer, and former World Vision board member, but most of all she’s a Jesus follower.   
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Coming up For Air

This morning I sit across from John at Starbucks early.  I keep hearing deep sighs as he sips his skim white mocha.  There’s a mixture of snow and rain coming down outside.  The fire is on in the fireplace, which is the reason for my sighs, but not his.

We just returned from several days of meetings in one setting and he is heading into a long day of meetings in another.  New place, new set of challenges.  He’s trying to ignore the clamoring emails and choose the daily disciplines of devotions and journalling.  It’s a struggle because… there’s just.so.much.

I’m privileged to have a lot of close friends who are world class leaders.  They are humble but brave.  They are wise and trust God for great things.  They are kingdom bringers.  And somedays they make mistakes, and most days they’re praying like crazy for discernment, and many days they are under a tremendous amount of pressure.  Lately it seems even more stressful than usual.  And they’re facing a lot of situations that feel “between a rock and a hard place-ish”.

“World class leader” may not describe you or me, but we all get into seasons when we’re in over out head.  Whether you’re a student or a CEO or a mom or you just feel like you’ve been holding your breath for too long, I want to stand up and shout Continue reading

2 Questions, 2 Truths

When you I write a blog post I rarely never have the time to find all the scrumptious words or present my offering with the “voila!” of someone serving a gourmet feast at Thanksgiving.

But this morning, more than most, I feel like I’m serving up “bare naked chicken” – just a couple of things I’ve been thinking about that seem to go together.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a sermon podcast by Craig Groeschel and honestly I can’t remember the point of the sermon because as an aside (not having to do with the message at all), he said his counselor had asked him two questions.

Those two questions are what my mind keeps returning to.  Here’s what they are: Continue reading

Four Words That Can Change Your Day

The other day I was driving back home after dropping a friend at the airport.  On the highway someone merged in front of me into the right lane going about 30 mph.  There was another car in the left lane next to me so I had to slam on my brakes to avoid running into the creeper-merger.

I may have yelled the “i” word in frustration and anger.

As I eventually was able to pull into the left lane and speed past the offender I looked to my right and saw what appeared to be a young Somali woman hunched over the wheel, anxious, timid, and clearly unsure of where she was going.

And four words smacked me upside the head: Continue reading

Selfies and Three Alternatives

Selfie: A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

A friend of ours, Renee Stearns, included a great insight in their Christmas letter this year.  She wrote this about selfies: “Taken from a vantage point only as long as arms-length, it’s sometimes too close to make sense of what’s going on in the picture.  The perspective is somehow off.”

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So much of what is on social media is small and distorted – what we want others to see and believe, or the worst that someone else has discovered and exposed.

When it’s a profile picture, or a fb post, or one mistake, or a Tweet, it’s just 144 characters, or the shot of one moment.  Behind each is another story, a larger picture of lives being transformed by God’s grace.

Journalling is one practice that can help us correct the distortion of selfless.  I journal in the form of a daily dialogue with God – reviewing the previous day (which often involves confession and praise) and praying through the coming day’s activities.

The last week of each year, John and I take time to read back through our journals for the year and look for themes, lessons, failures and signs of growth.

I know, I know.  Some of you are yelling at the computer screen “Leave me alone!!  Stop guilting me!  I’m not a %$#@* journaller!”

If the idea of keeping a traditional journal makes you want to run screaming into the night, may I suggest 3 alternatives?

1.  Gratitude journal.  Just keep a running list of the gifts of each day. It’s short.  It’s painless and physically writing them down a practice that has made a huge difference in my attitude. I keep this in addition to my regular journal. The way to give thanks in all things is to notice each small thing.photo-68

2.  One Line a Day journal.  Summarize or record one highlight a day for five years and look back at the entries from year’s before. All you have to do is write a sentence a day.  Maggie and her husband Austin also found one that has a question each day and one line for each of them to respond on.

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3.  Once a year journal.  In it write the highlights of the previous year, and your hopes and dreams for the new year.  I know one couple that does this together on their wedding anniversary each year.  Together they read the previous year’s entry and each person writes their reflections for the current year. IMG_1480-2

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“Our years come to an end like a sigh . . . ” says Psalm 90, “so teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom”.

Just a handful of the barest facts can be enough to rescue an entire day from oblivion—not just what happened in it, but who we were when it happened. Who the others were. What it felt like back then to be us.  Fredrick Boechner

What alternatives can you think of that help you with perspective?  What helps you be more self/God/and others aware?

When is Your Zero Dark Thirty?

This morning I walked outside in the winter cold at zero dark thirty and looked up to see a partial moon and a few fragile stars clinging to the night.  It struck me that looking up is always the holiest part of my day.  I spend so much time looking down, mired in the minutia, pondering problems without the perspective of Power.  Looking up reminds me to bow down.  It made me think of this post from last year…

I’m not good at the practice of silence and solitude.  I like chatter and hustle and bustle because they feel productive.

Silence and solitude, at least from a distance, seem well, lonely and unconstructive. Like  waiting for a bus you’re not sure is coming.

However, though it’s not my go-to mode, over the years I’ve grudgingly come to experience great value in the discipline of being alone and quiet with God.

When I look at the account of the first Christmas, it’s not that there wasn’t chaos, confusion, and noise.  “The little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes”??  Are you kidding? Continue reading

Dark Days

This is my view as I write at 5:45 a.m.

photo-66Trouble is I’d have much the same view at 7 a.m., or 4:30 p.m.  It’s just that time of year when everything goes frozen and dark and silent.  It’s a living picture of Advent – that time of waiting in darkness for the Light of the World to appear.

As I write I’m wondering how many people reading this feel like they’re waiting for something.  Longing.  And how many feel like they are in a time of deep darkness when they can’t see anything that makes sense.  Fuzzy outlines, but nothing sure.

Darkness and longing.

Ever heard of night blindness?  

Continue reading

How to Get out of the Downward Death Spiral of Doom

Note:  Last week I blogged for Engage at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit (you can see all posts here).  Maybe my favorite speaker at the Summit was Henry Cloud.

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Throughout the year I have the privilege of facilitating some of the online courses through LIFT (Leadership Institute for Transformation) that’s part of Engage.

Let’s be clear… I just facilitate discussions where participants interact with material presented.  But the teachers?? Holy Buckets!  They are world class!   LIFT has gathered teaching from the best communicators around the country and Henry Cloud is one of them.  I love his LIFT class, Leading for Results which is based on his book, Integrity.  He is just so darn practical!

Friday afternoon at the Leadership Summit, Henry walked on stage with his signature greeting,  “Hey guys!”

He went on to say why he likes leaders (smart move with this audience!).

He said, “Leaders don’t blame.  They take stewardship of what God has given them.  Leaders do hard things.”

But the hardest thing a leader does is to lead him or herself.

Continue reading