Smarter Than We Seem

After my brother boarded his flight for a short trip, I got this text:

The guy sitting next to me on the plane brought a huge bag of snacks for a 2 hour flight.

We laughed and speculated as to what kind of person would need so many snacks.

But, mechanical failure turned a 2 hour flight into a 4-5 hour ordeal.

My brother texted something about the snack guy and being prepared. I quickly responded:

All of the sudden the situation made him smarter than he looked.

I think there are a lot of 'snack guys' out there who look a little odd - and even slightly ridiculous - to the rest of us. In a moment, though, preppers become heroes and snack guys reveal their genius.

Not Enough


“Pray for (fill in the city)!” “Come Lord Jesus, come!”

Two responses to recent tragedies, whether natural or manmade. 

I hate both, really. 

The first is an illusion of action, for the most part. Prayer is vital, but it’s like planning. It must be followed by quick decisive action. Check in with what God wants from you in the moment, then act. 

The second just feels like giving up. If Jesus came right now, millions would spend eternity separated from Him. I don’t want that at all!  Nor am I going to sit on the couch and bemoan the fate of the world. 

Instead, we must work harder whenever we see tragedy. We must love fiercer. We must be more generous with all we are. We must freely talk about those things that give us hope even as we cry with every victim. 

We have work to do. Now, more than ever. 

Enlightenment isn't Kingdom


Our expectations of becoming paragons of piety, great contemplatives, attaining higher stages of consciousness—all subtly aimed at carrying us beyond the daily troubles of ordinary life—are not the way into the kingdom. Rather the kingdom consists in finding God in our disappointments, failures, problems, and even in our inability to rid ourselves of our vices. —Thomas Keating



Those are ashes on my Ranger's window.  The road I took to Idaho last week is completely closed due to wildfires. They are considered to be 'uncontained' and many are displaced or are preparing to be displaced.  At this time, over 10,000 acres have been destroyed. 

There is a chance for rain Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Please ask the Lord for His intervention. Here is a time-lapsed video of the devastation:

Learning the Art of Chitchat


While working on a project, a friend of mine asked if I had developed any resources to help people become better conversationalists. I didn't have anything ready right then, but I was able to share some of my initial thoughts...

I teach people two things: 

1) Go to Dutch Bros every day for a week. Write down the questions they ask you to start chitchat. Those guys are the best at asking questions and making people feel awesome. 

2) Find someone that is passionate about something or has a skill you don't. Ask them to teach you. Like, if I were going to learn about Fantasy Football, I'd want [some mutual friends] to teach me. 

Both of these things will give you practice at being better conversationalist. 

Good conversationalists do three things: 

1) They break the ice and help people relax.

  2) They take the posture of learning about and from others. 

3) They make others feel they are awesome and important. 

Olivia Fox Cabane wrote an excellent book on the subject called, "The Charisma Myth."  In my conversation with my friend, I paraphrased an illustration she gave in the first chapter:

A woman went out for dinner with two potential Prime Ministers of England in one week. When asked what she thought about each, she said something to the effect of, "At the end of the evening, the first had me absolutely convinced of his brilliance. After dinner with the second, he had me absolutely convinced of mine." The second ended up winning the race. 

Extroversion or introversion are characteristics we are born with. Being a good conversationalist, however, is a skill we can learn and hone. 

At its core, being a good conversationalist is all about making others feel awesome. And, who wouldn't want to get better at that?

Boy Scouts, My Son, and 'Let there be light!'


My son is the Chaplain's Aid for his Boy Scout troop. As such, he is responsible for leading an ecumenical service when camping causes the boys to miss church or other spiritual activities. Yesterday, my wife texted: One of the dads told me he was really impressed with and inspired by John's talk this morning. On the way home I ask John what he talked about and he said, "I read Genesis 1. Well, the part up thru God creating. Then I compared it to when we were in the Ape Caves and turned all the flashlights off. Without God's light in the world you don't know where you are going.

My son is the quietest of my children and I don't always know what is going on in his heart. He doesn't feel compelled to share anything unless it happens to come up. Glimpses like this fill my heart with joy. I'm glad that no matter what path he chooses - right now he wants to be an engineer - he has a growing spiritual walk and is demonstrating depth as he serves his fellow Scouts. 



We take in the world through the lenses of our heritage - nationalistic, religious - and process it through the filter of our experiences. Questions, driven by curiosity and the desire to understand differently, have been the only tool I've found to be help me remove my glasses and gain understanding. 

Reflections on the 2017 Eclipse and Memorable Moments


I drove back early from Canada to avoid the Eclipse traffic, to be honest. But, that meant I got to enjoy the Eclipse with my family instead of somewhere on I-5 between The Border and Portland.  Initially, I scorned the event. I was too full of myself to get caught up in the hype. Yet, as the moon slowly covered the sun, I got more and more excited. As my wife and kids watched our little world change as the sun surrendered to the moon, I realized I almost missed sharing a moment with my family. 

Pride should never be allowed to rob anyone of the pleasure of a memorable moment. 

Reflections Upon Canada, Listening, and Talking


Found this on my truck the other day.  Reminded me of Canada.  Living in Oregon allows me to take more frequent trips across the border into British Columbia than before.  I love learning from the perspective of my Canadian friends.  They see the world differently and help me see it differently as well.

Listening widens our perspective; talking merely reinforces the one we already have.

Love Compels Us to Listen


11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on. 13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal[a] Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work. - Nehemiah 2:11-16; New International Version (NIV)

 I know I'm making a generalization, but I've found it to be true in my life and in my observations of others - Americans are very fond of making big announcements. We love telling each other, and the world at large, of what we are going to do next or how our newest idea is going to change everything.  We announce our diets.  We announce new exercise plans.  We announce when we vote.  We announce new visions for our church.  And so on.
And, I was the worst.  I had a methodology that worked all over the world.  Millions of people from difficult to reach people groups have fallen in love with Jesus and thousands of churches have been birthed as a result of what God taught my father.  So, when I came to Oregon, I promptly set up meetings and trainings to share what I was absolutely convinced would save the Pacific Northwest.
After all, in my very flawed thinking, if they could do it on their own wouldn't they have done it already?
I am ashamed of the unchecked arrogance that flowed through my veins. I am also very grateful for the men and women who became my friends even though I reeked of pride.
God called me to the Pacific Northwest.
He used my past experiences to equip me to be part of what He wants to do here.
But, I led with pride and conviction of my methodologies and legacy rather than a deep love of people and gratitude that God would even want to use me at all.  I hit wall after wall and thought the barriers were theirs rather than seeing they were mine.
Now, after failing a lot, I realize that love listens first.  God's call, His equipping, and our experience is intended to give us the confidence to listen and learn.  Love shies away from public announcements and comes alongside weary saints.  Love whispers,  "God hasn't forgotten you. How can I help?"  Love celebrates their accomplishments. Love weeps with their disappointments and frustrations.  Love learns from their experiences.
Love for God and love for people compels us to listen.
And, when God creates the moment, love doesn't hesitate to say, "Well, God has taught me some things...I may be wrong...maybe they can help...can we do this thing together?"
Nehemiah had a call.  He had conviction.  He had a mandate and resources.  But, rather than announce his attentions to Jerusalem, Nehemiah began with a quiet ride through town with a few friends to see and to understand what was going on.
Nehemiah loved his God, his people, and his city.  Love compelled him to listen.  And, after listening, he didn't shy away from the work that loomed in front of him.
And, after we spend time listening, neither should we.

Answering The Wrong Question


"What's the one thing I need to know about ministry and Millennials?" The college ministry leader's eyes widened and he stumbled around for an answer.  Eventually, after swallowing a mouthful of BBQ and several clichés, the young man regained his footing. "The church is dumping tons of resources into answering a question that Millennials aren't really asking anymore."

"What's that?"  He had my pastor's attention.

"The church is still answering the question, 'What happens to me after I die?'  Millennials want to know, 'How does being a Christian make life on this earth better?'"

He's right.  We waste tons of time answering the wrong questions or manipulating people into answering questions we wish they would ask.  We have to stop.

Attention is too valuable a commodity to waste answering questions people aren't asking.

Additionally, pursuing answers to questions people are actually asking is more interesting than sharing neatly boxed answers we already have.

Every journey begins with a question; let's make sure we ask the right one.  Then, maybe, the answers we find will benefit everyone.

Taking Responsibility



The first step to building resilience is to take responsibility for who you are and for your life. If you’re not willing to do that, stop wasting your time...

Greitens, Eric (2015-03-10). Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life (Kindle Locations 484-485). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.


We exited one of the men from our residential recovery program last week.  He abused an illegally-obtained and highly addictive prescription medication.  Exiting a guy is never fun, particularly when - as long as he is sober - he is a pretty fun and interesting dude.  But, when the UA comes back dirty, they have to go.  They can come back after 30 days, but they still have to go.

When exited, men leave our building in several way.  Some hang their head and immediately admit their mistake.  Some deny everything as loudly as they can.  Some get quiet.  Some get angry.  Some apologize.  Some threaten.  Regardless, exiting someone is never fun.

So this guys was one of the guys who protested all the way out the door.  He protested to my recovery manager several times a day, in person and on the phone.  He protested to his mom, who called my recovery manager and gave him an earful. He even wrote a letter to Cityteam HQ, complaining about his situation and claiming we let other people stay in our building even if they were using.

But, in all of his protesting, he never took responsibility for his actions.

His mother never said he was responsible for his actions.

Both he and his mother blamed circumstances, other people, and our program for allowing him to relapse.

Until he takes responsibility for his actions, this young man will not be able to maintain a sober lifestyle for very long.  As long as his mother enables him and fights for him by excusing his behavior and laying blame at the feet of circumstance, he will not be able to maintain his sobriety.

I am convinced that taking responsibility for your actions is the first step toward freedom and a resilient lifestyle.


photo by MoDOT Photos

Pointing Out The Obvious



Seneca had a great response: “People say: ‘What good does it do to point out the obvious?’ A great deal of good; for we sometimes know facts without paying attention to them. Advice . .  . merely engages the attention and rouses us, and concentrates the memory, and keeps it from losing its grip. We miss much that is set before our eyes.”

Greitens, Eric (2015-03-10). Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life (Kindle Locations 305-308). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

I stopped going to Christian conferences for a while back.  Not because I believe there is anything morally wrong and completely terrible about going, but because I felt I had heard most of it before.  I've been walking with Christ since I was four and reading His Word as a regular part of my life since I was 12.  Energetic speakers would say things from the stage; people would nod and jots pithy sayings in notebooks; and my friends would leave saying, "That was incredible!  I never thought of [insert X] that way!"  Outside, I nodded - I didn't want to be a downer.  But, on the inside, I was thinking, "Didn't he just state the obvious in kind of a creative way?"

Another time I heard a pastor say, "I ask God to give me a nugget that will help me along my way."  He was talking about the expectations people need to have when they listen to a sermon or teaching.  I remember thinking, "I don't want a (chicken) nugget!  I want a whole steak!" I walked away from that conversation frustrated and depressed.  I grew tired of hearing the same old thing every time I went to church and feeling guilty because I didn't have a personal epiphany during the message.  I appreciated the creativity, delivery, and heart that went into the message, but I just didn't get anything out of it, because - for the most part - it felt like common sense.

Yet, forgetting common sense is actually quite easy to do.  Sometimes we can know the right thing to do, agree that whatever it is needs to be done, and not do anything about it at all.  Right now I have a 'Check Engine' light on my dash that is driving me nuts.  I need to do something about it but doing something is inconvenient and may cost some money.  So I cover it up so I don't see it, hoping it will just go away.  Completely irrational, yet completely human.  If the light wasn't there as a constant reminder I would tune out the obvious fact that my car isn't operating like it is supposed to.

So here is what I've learned in this moment of reflection: We need to regularly expose ourselves to 'common sense' if only to remind us that we need to do something with the sense we have.  We need annoying 'Check Engine' lights to call our attention to the obvious so that we will eventually do something about it, hopefully before the tickets and repairs become too costly to bear.  We need to delight when people see and hear things for the first time, even when their first may be my thousandth.

Why?  So we don't miss something important.

photo by cheetleys

Moving Beyond Past Experience Into Something New


And when those people reflect on their suffering, they often uncover a similar truth: that struggle helped them to build deep reservoirs of strength. Not all growth happens this way. But a great deal of our growth does come when we put our shoulder into what’s painful. We choose to, or have to, step beyond the margins of our past experience and do something hard and new.

Greitens, Eric (2015-03-10). Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life (Kindle Locations 128-131). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

I was content with my life when Cityteam called and asked if I'd be interested in moving to Portland, OR, and taking over as City Director.  I loved my current job.  I loved my friends.  I loved my mortgage.  My youngest was only a few months old and my wife decided to take a break from teaching to be a stay-at-home mom.  Changing jobs, even within the same company, wasn't even on my radar.

I promised Cityteam that I'd pray over the weekend.  I told Christi about the call, expecting her to laugh at the idea.  Much to my surprise, she looked thoughtful, saying, "You know, I think we need to pray about this one."  So we did.

We felt God say, "You can stay where you are if you'd like.  If you do, next year will be pretty much like this one.  If you go to Portland, though, I will show you something new.  You will learn a lot.  I will bless you if you go on this adventure with me."

We couldn't pass an offer like that up.  So we packed everything up, rented out our house, and moved thousands of miles from friends and family to a state neither of us knew much about.  We landed in Portland on January 1, 2012.

And, it's been hard.  Don't get me wrong, the awesome outweighs the crap, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit things were rough.  I learned a lot.

  • I learned that moving to a new place with two introverted family members and one shy extrovert is really hard on the family.
  • Being the 'young punk' who replaced a much-loved and burnt-out leader of over 20 years is something I learned I never want to do again.
  • Introducing change into an organization and team that didn't want to change but had to if they wanted to still have jobs in a year was excruciatingly painful.
  • Taking ideas from inception to execution with a team that didn't want change was perplexing.
  • Being told  I couldn't just fire everyone and start over created an interesting challenge.
  • Learning that change only happened at the speed of relationship was a painful 'Ah-ha' moment.

We've been here a little over three years.  I wouldn't exchange the pain and the experience for anything.  We've grown closer as a family.  We've had some amazing adventures.  We've learned that we really like it here in the Pacific Northwest and could live here for a long time, God willing.  I've learned to talk with God and rely on Him in ways I didn't before.

I feel like God sent me up here to get an 'MBA' (figuratively speaking) in leadership - whether it's leading my family or in my organization.  The good news is that I didn't have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to do it. (Although we still have a little debt to pay off.)

Had we run away from the fear of change, we wouldn't have experienced all this.

Had we run away from the pain of change, we'd wouldn't have experienced all this.

All journeys begin with fear, pain, and change.  Leaning into the experience when you want to shy away is what make a mediocre story a grand adventure.

photo by Heather Weaver