Like many exquisite things, this beauty has a price. Rents are challenging enough in winter quadruple to astronomical heights in summer.
Last night I met the landlords where we’ll live this summer. David and Juliette seem to be lovely people. He’s from London and she’s from the Seychelles. He’s a retired real estate developer. They “summer” in Rhode Island and hope to visit friends in the UK before fall.
That is all I know about them. In a thirty-minute encounter with two remarkable, unique, and talented people who’re created in God’s image—that’s all I know about them.
I wasted the exchange in a “IT-IT” relationship.
I was “tenant” and they “landlord”. We covered the pertinent details about rent and keys and utilities and parking and trash day. But, I failed to encounter them.
Lewis says that in every encounter with every person we hasten them to one end or the other. And I cannot tell you where this couple stands regarding the Savior. I didn’t bring it up!
As an “IT”, I hastened to conclude the meeting. I’d planned the evening, and had already decided there wasn’t room for an “I-THOU” encounter.
What if God wanted me to represent him to them?
What if God intended that we pray together?
What if God desired that we become friends?
As “tenant” these considerations don’t surface. But as “child of God” they do.
My being with Juliette and David is an opportunity for Heaven to come to Earth. For Christ’s goodness to touch two lives beneficially like he has mine.
It may have nothing to do with “religion” and everything to do with love.
An “I-THOU” encounter allows that we move each other. Each life is altered, impacted, changed. Not just in our thinking, but in reality changed.
How much greater is the possible reciprocity among people to call, draw out, impact, move, and be moved by each other?
I and THOU.
Coaching Distinctions #88.docx
Maybe you’re committed to DO>HAVE>BE. After all, it’s what you know, how you keep life manageable, and the best way you’ve found to get people to accept you.
DO>HAVE>BE provides the opportunity to immerse yourself in constant activity without struggling with the existential question of why you’re alive.
As daughters and sons in whom God delights, who’ve been rescued from judgement to security in the Father’s love … the answer could be straightforward. For many Christians, apparently it’s not.
I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. Not really. Ours was a productive home. I learned early that my value lay in productivity. DO good, DO helpful things, DO what’s right…and you’ll be valuable, virtuous, loved. Subtly and overtly, the message was reinforced a hundred ways.
I came to understand myself as a ‘productivity machine’ and to people as ‘a means to get things done’.
So, like my siblings, I was a bit of an achiever. At Harvard, I surrendered my strife-filled life to Christ, experienced surprising peace, joy, and love. To be unconditionally loved was rewarding and refreshing. Completely new.
Soon, though, I landed in a fundamentalist charismatic church. Suffocating legalism grew gradually. I compiled an ever-growing mountain of behavioral do’s and don’t. Desiring to please God who’d so graciously rescued me, I mustered the self-discipline honed in childhood, tucked in my chin, and ran toward the “high calling of God in Christ”. DO>HAVE>BE.
Along the path were achievements, accolades, esteem, and recognition.
I morphed into a ‘ministry machine’.
What about you?
And, as years passed isolation grew. So did insecurity, discouragement, exhaustion, fear.
Have you noticed?
After several excruciating setbacks—I consider them God’s severe mercy—I came to the end of my striving…again.
I’d been introduced to BE>DO>HAVE.
Unsettling initially, it provided a framework for seeing God’s Word—and myself—differently. It anchored my primary identity as God’s beloved child. A few workshops helped clarify my uniqueness. Recalling experiences of God’s particular pleasure (remember Eric Liddell?) I discovered specific ways of being that blossom to life. In these times, people experienced clarity, courage, and confidence to be who God had distinctively called them to.
A securely loved child of God, I get to champion leaders to live God’s special calling, all-in.
Leaders like you.
Not what we do, but who we are.
Coaching Distinctions #86.doc
In thousands of messages we’re told: “you’ve gotta do a, b, and c in order to have x, y, and z so that you can be: smart, important, respected, beautiful, famous, admired, significant, wealthy, important, successful…somebody”.
Yet, Christ modeled a completely different way of living. “I AM the Father’s Son, so I DO what I see my father doing, and I HAVE the glory intended for me.” [Jn 5:19-23]
Of us, he says: “We ARE his handiwork, we DO the good God intended for us to do, as a result we HAVE been brought near to God [Eph 2:10,13]
BE>DO>HAVE is the way of the Kingdom of God.
Think about it.
In this view, people are a threat. If your roommate has what you think you’re supposed to have, you’ll view her as a competitor. If a co-worker does what you think you need to do—or does it faster, better, quicker—you’ll naturally interpret this as a hazard to your becoming.
Rather than being blessed for someone’s success, you feel diminished—in some crazy way. So you’re jealous, bitter, resentful, or worse!
Notice your language. If you frequently evaluate yourself in reference to others (better, prettier, less than, better paid, faster, less successful, smarter, taller, less popular) you’re living DO>HAVE>BE.
A mentor, Lawrence Edwards once told me “comparison is the seedbed of envy”. Envy is deadly to relationships. [Mk 7:22]
In DO>HAVE>BE you can’t be generous, because anything you give away reduces what you have left. And that shrinks your significance.
But living BE>DO>HAVE your identity is solid, secure, intact. It’s not based on performance, other’s opinions, or what you have. You are. And, secure in who you are, you live generously with praise, talent, friendship, resources, opportunities, material goods, wisdom, esteem, perspective.
Pastor, is that church down the street a competitor or an opening for you to bring glory to God?
It all depends…on you.
Coaching Distinctions #85.doc
As a sincere Christ-follower it’s easy to develop a convoluted relationship with striving, with industriousness, and with determined, diligent labor. On the one hand, we aspire to live peacefully [Rom 12:18], to be unfazed amid difficulty [Jn 14:27], and to enter into God’s rest [Heb 4:1].
And, on the other hand we struggle against sin [Heb 12:4], agonize to enter the Kingdom [Lk 13:24], and strive for mastery in the Christian life [2 Tim 2:5].
And, many times God has me in situations where I can’t do anything to rescue myself. All I can do is trust Christ and embrace my powerlessness.
Over a decade ago I attended a powerful character development workshop that transfromed my understanding of and relationship with doing. Let me share it with you.
The transformation hinges on the fundamental ways you understand yourself. Shift this understanding, and much about your relationship with doing will shift…radically. I say “relationship with doing” because each of us has one. Just like your relationship with a sister or cousin, you relate to doing in specific ways. For many of us, they’re not helpful.
The relationship is revealed in the way most of us approach any goal, obstacle, or desire. Someone asks what you want to be when you grow up. Oh, a doctor. Well then, you should…get great grades, go to medical school, pass your boards, and get hired by a top hospital.
To be beautiful, go to the gym and the plastic surgeon, get a perfect face and body.
Think of it as an equation: DO > HAVE > BE.
DO go to school, HAVE your Juris Doctor and pass the bar, BE an attorney.
DO dig wells in Kenya, HAVE the esteem of friends and family, BE a good person.
DO get ripped abs (and hair implants), HAVE a great body, BE attractive.
DO perfect your preaching, HAVE a large congregation, BE a successful pastor.
DO gather 400 to your High School ministry, HAVE the biggest youth group in town, BE somebody.
DO launch a radio ministry, HAVE airtime on hundreds of radio stations, BE an international sensation.
What’s the alternative?
BE > DO > HAVE.
Coaching Distinctions #83.doc
Talk at length with just about anyone and you’re likely to hear about a relationship that’s difficult, painful, or unsatisfying in some way. The common view is that we are “passengers” in relationships driven by forces we can’t influence…or that are controlled by someone else.
For the last six segments we’ve been examining the reality that each of us “architects” our relationships. Because you do, you can re-architect it at any time.
When the Bible introduces the Apostle Paul he’s “Saul” a bloodthirsty oppressor of the Church, feared by believers and heralded by the Jews. Acts 9 – 14 chronicles the amazing “re-architecture” of Paul’s relationship with both.
In the Old Testament, we meet Esther, an orphaned Jewish slave known only for her good looks and lovely figure. [Est 2:7] Winning his favor in an elaborate beauty contest, Esther becomes King Xerxes’ wife.
Xerxes ruled more than 100 provinces from India to Egypt. At the insistence of Mordecai, the relative who raised her, Esther keeps her ethnicity a secret. The text is largely silent about Esther’s role as Queen. But everything suggests that it was limited to keeping herself fit, looking good, and being available to the King when called.
She was not consulted by the King nor did she participate in affairs of state. No doubt her relationship with the King was heavily influenced by law, political precedent, and deeply entrenched customs. And, the whole time, she was a co-architect in their relationship.
At one point, induced by Haman, (an elite official who despises Mordecai for his allegiance to Yahweh), Xerxes decreed that all the Jews in the realm be annihilated. [Est 3:13] Mordecai asks Esther to intervene with the King to overturn the decree. Here’s the thing, it’s illegal to approach the King without being summoned—punishable by death. [Est 4:11] She’s forbidden from involvement in the legislative process and most certainly mustn’t resist any of the King’s rulings.
In a series of bold, unprecedented steps, Esther secures an invitation to Xerxes’ throne room, holds private banquets for Xerxes and Haman, and requests that he spare her life and that of Jews–her people.
Not only does Xerxes save the Jewish people, he orders that Haman meet the fate he’d planned for Mordecai.
Re-architecting your marriage likely won’t require you risk to your life, and yet the opportunity to bring “life” from “death” quite possibly awaits.
You’re an architect. Go for it.
Coaching Distinctions #82.doc
By “audition” I mean hearing.
Attending to what is being spoken.
There is a common fallacy that contributes greatly to communication frustration, unrealistic expectations, and much wasted effort.
This isn’t to say that when we’re having a conversation that you’re not listening to anything. You are.
You’re just not listening to me.
And, without intentional discipline and effort, I’m not listening to you, either.
What you are listening to is that little voice inside your head.
Your running commentary.
What you’re saying about what I’m saying.
Test it out. Next time you’re in a conversation, attending a lecture, hearing a sermon, or listening to an audiobook, notice your thoughts.
See if you can discern the “running commentary” you’re having about what is being said.
Then, see if you can silence it, so you’re hearing just what’s being said by the person you thought you were listening to.
Coaching distinctions #70.doc
Though naturally predisposed to function like ‘resistance machines’, Annie and I have several friends who’ve re-trained themselves to give themselves to their lives—especially when they’d prefer to hold back. I was with a dear friend and mentor at the moment the oncologist called with the diagnosis: chronic lymphocytic leukemia. CLL is a devastating disease—essentially cancer of the blood.
Still in his 40’s, it came as a complete shock.
We were at a convent in Kalamazoo conducting a character-development workshop that supports people to transform their ability to fulfill God’s unique purpose freely, passionately, and powerfully. Using revealing exercises, guided reflection, Socratic questioning, and focused discussions, participants discover beliefs, heretofore unexamined, that undermine their success in life, career, relationships, and ministry.
Stunned, I watched my friend absorb the blast of the diagnosis, remind himself why he was there in the first place, and give himself completely, generously, and enthusiastically for the forty people enrolled in our training.
Ennio was so invested in serving others that his very natural concerns for himself faded into the background. Though we talked and prayed frequently that week, I don’t actually know how he battled his own resistance. While remaining aware of the realities of his medical situation, the uncertainty it cast on his future, and gradually being informed about the treatment regimen that would be required, he threw himself into his life—and the lives of our participants—with the same exhilarating commitment I’d seen him do dozens of times before.
If not for his physical symptoms, which worsened dramatically each day, I don’t think any of them would have known what we knew. Ennio epitomizes what it means to “throw your body into the middle of the room, and see what God does with it.”
God did plenty with Ennio that week. And ever since.
Yesterday I was in Atlanta training pastors in CRM’s Awaken and Activate Workshops. As the name implies, Awaken is about awakening in Christians the calling of God to live Jesus’ goodness with those outside the Church. It’s great, cerebral stuff.
But in Activate, participants leap into action, connecting meaningfully with people outside the faith community with practical, meaningful, and beneficial results. The action is not theoretical or imaginary. It is real actual action.
So, transitioning from Awaken to Activate we moved effortlessly through the material, the exercises, and discussions. Then, as we approached the “Action Zone” the room locked down.
Our cooperative and congenial participants were suddenly confused…
It was time to DO SOMETHING—something completely new. It requiring they break through the inertia of church-focus and instead to phone or email a neighbor or co-worker outside the Church and invite her over for a meal. Or volunteer to serve in the community…to take “irreversible action” to serve and bless someone on the outside.
Firmly and skillfully, David identified the resistance in the room, re-enrolled the pastors in their vision to lead community-impacting churches by becoming community-impacting leaders…
and off they went—into the “Action Zone”—leaping one by one into the uncharted territory of unprecedented relationships holding eternal potential.
They threw themselves into the middle of the room… and God met them there!
Coaching distinctions #69.doc
Here are the four key distinctions of the “Universal Human Paradigm”:
1) You, as a human being are a “resistance machine”.
2) When life looks the way you prefer, you engage it.
4) The universal way you resist your own life is by withholding your participation from it.
The “it” in the sentence above is your life!
Why’s this important?
Because, your life needs you in it.
What if the circumstances that you find so aggravating have been provided by God for you to bring Christ into their midst?
What if the perplexities, unknowns, and conundra that surround you are there so those watching can see you standing valiantly—like Jennifer Lawrence’ character challenging the corruption of the political system in Hunger Games?
Sometimes God will beckon you into the burning building to guide to safety those trapped inside.
Imagine if you were a new believer living in Acts 8 “…great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria…Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.” [Act 8:1b-8]
The saints, surprised by the suddenly intense opposition, were driven from Jerusalem.
There’s no hint of them cowering in fear. Or hunkering down in private Christian enclaves. Or ditching their distinctive way of living in order to fit in.
They found communities of people needing Jesus. The Jesus they brought with them: his Good News, his healing, and his freedom-procuring deliverance!
Reading your Bible today, it’s easy to see that God used the diaspora to spread the life and love of Christ beyond Jerusalem and those of Jewish ethnicity living or visiting there. Today, we easily see how good it was that the persecution catapulted the believers to live as missionaries across the middle east.
See, when you’re in resistance, withholding your participation, those around you lose.
They miss out on the gift that you are.
The gift you bring.
Most of all, they miss Christ in you… the hope of glory. [Col 1:27]
Coaching distinctions #68.doc
We’re examining the “Universal Human Paradigm”.
Last time I described resisting my own life through more than a decade of our children’s adolescence. Pretending not to see the growing devastation in my home, repeatedly declaring: “I can’t believe this is happening to me!” and consuming myself with the aspects of life I felt I still could control, I kept myself and my heart far from the complexity of our teens’ stormy passage from children to adults.
The #1 sign you’re living in resistance: exhaustion!
Consider the emotional toll when you consume your vitality keeping yourself from the life God intended you to live… How much does it take to withhold your participation from the marriage, the work challenges, the medical realities that all beckon you to enter…like gravity on Newton’s apple.
No wonder it’s fatiguing!
So, when I notice that I’m tired, exhausted, burned out, I ask myself: What am I resisting?
Inevitably, I’ll uncover some aspect of my life—often somebody else’s behavior—that I don’t like, I’m bugged about, bothered by, consumed with.
And, with it, the all-encompassing exhaustion.
See, your life was meant for you to live. Just like the life of Paul, or Esther, or Jacob, of Mary. Your life needs you to give yourself fully. Engage unreservedly. And, as you do, to bring God’s provision with you… just like Paul, Esther, Jacob, and Mary.
To do this, we get to trust what we can’t see. Believe that God will show up…not while I patiently and timidly wait in the safety of the sidelines of my life, but when I leap into the midst of the chaos, trusting God to be with me.
Teddy Roosevelt put it this way: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Coaching distinctions #67.doc
I’m offering one of the most helpful perspectives on human behavior I’ve ever learned. It impacts my coaching with pastors all the time. Called the “Universal Human Paradigm”, it was explained to me this way:
1) Human beings are “resistance machines”.
2) When life looks the way we prefer, we engage it.
3) And, when life doesn‘t look the way we prefer, we resist it.
4) The universal way that human beings resist life is by withholding their participation from it.
Think about it…
Pick a topic: your dating situation, your finances, weight, investments, bowling average, church attendance, or blood pressure.
If you consider your situation to be “good”, you’re all about it, active, enthused, engaged, participating…
Maybe a while ago you were a ‘gold bug’.
Encouraged by the prospects of growing financial insecurity, a wobbling economy, and our government’s mindless pursuit of dollar-devastating “quantitative easing”, you pulled your savings and plowed into gold.
As prices rose, you followed it like a hawk. On the internet. In newsletters. Tracked commodity prices. Joined a gold investors club. But with gold falling almost 30% since 2011…you’ve barely looked at it.
For thirty years I’ve run hot and cold on my weight.
Broken by a half-dozen steep downdrafts, my weight has pretty much continued an inexorable incline over my 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s— reaching an excruciating summit a couple years ago.
Those downdrafts were not accidental.
I started some formal weight loss regimen and, as weight came off, I focused on it more. And, as more came off I invested more of my energy and attention to it. I became more devoted, determined, disciplined. And it worked.
Then, after enjoying the benefits for a while, my weight began to creep up.
Discouraged, I paid less attention to it. The more I took my eye off my weight, the more I indulged my preference for weight-inducing foods. And, the more weight I’d gain. As I did, I ignored it all the more; checking my weight less often and exercising more infrequently.
So, you have this incorrigible elder who—in a number of religious-sounding ways— intimidates all who disagree with him. You’ve tried befriending him, encouraging him, reasoning with him, appealing to scripture… all without effect.
This guy is not looking the way you prefer!
So you resist. How?
By avoiding him. By pretending that the havoc he causes is less than it is. By looking the other way when he unloads his religious judgments on people.
And the terrorism continues…
Coaching distinctions #65.doc