Author Archives: Richard Clinton

About Richard Clinton

My name is Richard Clinton. I began a journey of learning about God in 2011, but did not fully surrender to Christ until January 2015. I began this blog in 2012 and it has evolved continually since then as my faith has evolved and grown and I’ve walked closer with God. My writing is through this page comes in a desire to seek the lost and provide inspiration through the Four Streams that are brought out in John Eldredge’s book, “Waking The Dead.”. As John laid out in his book, the Four Streams derive from the Four Streams through which Christ offered life in Discipleship, Counseling, Healing, and Warfare. I will continue writing in these areas of our faith and life. On the personal side, I reside in Georgia and I am married to my beautiful wife Amber and together we have 3 awesome kids. My life is all about my family and providing the best I can for them and also being there for each of them. 4 Stream Living came about as I was walking closer with God and I felt His Spirit calling me to do more with my life. I knew I was thirsty for more and God had a calling for me. I have spent my entire working life building a career in the corporate world toward what would be deemed as success. I was fully self focused on worldly successes. Standing on a mountain top in Colorado in January 2015, I completely surrendered my life to Christ and God has completely transformed my life. It has reflected in my writing and God has led me to awaken the desire to seek the lost through my writing and through counseling ministry, which I am now schooling for. Irenaeus declared that “The glory of God is man fully alive.” I am now coming alive as I have declared to live the unscripted life to follow God and live for Christ NO MATTER THE COST.

Why Me? Who am I?

It feels like it has been forever since I have written anything.  2017 has been a year filled with a flurry of activity, which has distracted me from writing much.  But where do I even begin.  God has grown me up in so many ways in this past year.  It was a year ago that we launched the counseling ministry as I completed my Masters at Liberty U.  LU-logoA month ago, today, I finally finished and graduated.  During this time, I have had the opportunity to work with a number of people from a variety of backgrounds, with all differing stories and circumstances.  The only way to truly learn is to get right into the fray sometimes.

CrossedUpLogo2The fruit of this experience has been substantial.  When starting out, I constantly questioned myself.  How could God use someone like me to work with people and help to set people free?  Who am I?

To top that off, after a breakfast meeting a year ago at a Chick-fil-a, with a new friend, the thought to launch a new Men’s Boot Camp ministry began to come to life.  A few months later, this began to come to life.  We found a location and the planning went into full effect.  Modeled after the Wild at Heart Boot Camp, The Anvil Men’s Boot Camp was born.  We held our first Boot Camp at the end of April and just completed our 2nd Boot Camp yesterday.Anvil_ChattoogaRiver

You heard me right.  Within 1 year of this idea being brought about over breakfast, we have now held 2 of these weekends.  The results? Wow!!!!  I’ve seen God work in the hearts of men in so many wonderful ways.  35 men have now gone through this Boot Camp. The transformation and restoration that has taken place in the hearts of many of these men has been remarkable.  None more so than what I saw take place this past weekend.

Anvil Men_Fall2017The fruit of that is seeing how men begin to take what they went through and move back into their world.  For me, the first such encounter changed my life forever.  For some it does and for some doesn’t.  It has been been so awesome to see just how different men have become and what it has meant for their families as well. Is this the case for all of them?  No, of course not.  It’s a journey that only a few will truly elect to embark on.  I have seen the few that have so far.  Men choosing to step out as men and as warriors for the Kingdom.  Men willing to risk following God into the unknown under the apprenticeship of Jesus Christ.

So all of this has happened and the question still often remains, who am I ?  What did I do to deserve to be called into such a position, go after the hearts of men?  The answer to that question is fairly simple, as I continue to realize and remind myself of.  I did nothing.  I did nothing except choose to give God my ‘yes’ and risk following Him into the unknown.  I’m constantly reminded of the people God used throughout Scripture and the disciples that walked with Jesus and the apostles following His ascension. All were people that, by the world’s standards, were not worthy or a bunch of ragamuffins kids that were clueless when they first chose to follow Jesus, and the list goes on and on.

So what does that mean.  What is God up to in all of this?  I can say that in the midst of this all, He continues to grow me up.  Through counseling and through the Boot Camps, I have been tested with new challenges, which along the way, God has reminded of one key thing.  “Son, you are not in control.”  Woah!!!  That has been a huge wake-up call and with each turn, He reminds me again.

So I move into the last months of 2017 with a sense of hope and excitement.  I still don’t know what is coming next and you what, I’m beginning to like it that way.  I’m beginning to like more and more seeing what God will be up to next.  It’s not about me anyway.  This is His story we’re living in.  2017 has been such a blessing.  It’s been exhausting at the same time, but has been well worth it every step of the way.

Not In Control

AnvilIt’s been nearly a month since we returned from our first men’s weekend, The Anvil.  If you did not see my last post, this was a retreat designed and modeled after John Eldredge’s, Wild at Heart.  For this weekend, 18 men, most from my local church, took a risk to step away from life and into the wilderness for 4 days.  If you knew about my personality and demeanor, you will note that I am planner.  My preparation for something like this is fairly detailed.  I want to makes sure that things go as smoothly as planned.  I spent a lot of time writing content and working with my other leads to ensure we were on the same page and getting everything organized.

Regarding the overall format of the weekend, we stayed to the schedule well.  For me that’s a win in itself.  What God showed me on the first night, however was that none of us were in any control of what was going on.  God showed up in a big way for the men that attended and for myself and the leads.  He threw us for a loop late into the first night, that’s all I will say.  Friday morning, while in prayer before we got going, the one thing I heard from God was, “When are you going to remember that you’re not in control?”  It was a very direct question and it kept being repeated.

With that, I had to reset.  I had to let go of all control and allow Him to work.  He thwarted me again that morning when the power went out in the main room before the first session began.  “Okay, okay, God…I hear you,” I’m thinking.  It was time to let go.

Friday afternoon, the men went rafting down the Chattooga River.  Many for the first time, including me.  What a holy time that was.  The time spent on the river, surrounded by so much untouched beauty was amazing and the the bonding and connections that happened with the men, working together to get down river, was beyond expectations.  I remember at one point, when we stopped on the river for lunch.  I stepped away for a minute looked over whole group and so much joy filled my heart.  I told the men that evening, if I was that joyous, I can only imagine the joy that God felt.  As Hardy Greeves says in The Legend of Bagger Vance, “They say God is happiest when His children are at play.”  I certainly think He had to have been all smiles that day and that weekend.Anvil Men

The rest of that weekend was beyond any words I can describe.  The breakthrough that took place in many men was immense.  Men were able to open up parts of their lives that they had not even thought about.  It was a truly holy time.  The evenings by the fire pit some great fellowship and bonding was created over conversation and cigars.

To say this was a successful weekend would be an understatement and to add to that, I take no credit for it.  This was entirely God inspired and God executed.  He took control the first night. Thwarted me when He needed to and which gave Him more room to work.  I told many people that God grew me up in ways that couldn’t have been imagined in those 4 days.

Our God is truly amazing.  He is an awesome God.  He has full control.  With all He did in me and many other men in this first weekend, I stand in eager anticipation of our next boot camp and expectation of His goodness.

Letting God Forge the Way – The Anvil

I have been very quiet on this site this year as this will be my first post since the new year.  This year started off with a bang as I began my counseling internship in the final phase of my Masters program with Liberty University.  It has been a huge experience so far.  Needless to say, I’ve been a little busy with that.

AnvilThe big thing that has been going on however, is about take place tomorrow.  What began as a conversation over breakfast many months ago has led to the development and now launch of our first Wild at Heart modeled Boot Camp, called The Anvil Men’s Boot Camp.  God put it on my heart well over a year ago, that it was my turn to begin seeking and rescuing the hearts of men.  As time has gone by and as I began to counsel with people, I realized that so many of the problems within families stem from the father in some way, whether he is abusive, completely absent, or present but not present. This pattern is destroying marriages left and right and wounding children by the score.

The need was there, but what would I do about it.  In counseling, many of my clients are women, so getting men to come sit down one-on-one is going to be a challenge.  I realized how huge it was for me to step out of my element and go the Wild at Heart Boot Camp in Colorado a couple of years ago.  We were encouraged to take this message back home.  In the last year, I got to know a few other men who had a similar desire.  2 sages and a peer.

The conversations began.  My peer, friend, and brother, Matt and I started small with a men’s small group where we began to lead men through the Wild at Heart message.  It became evident that something bigger was needed.  I met a man named Butch just by happenstance, and we decided to have breakfast and the conversation began. He is a sage who has a huge passion for men’s ministry as well.  The idea was born.

I pulled in another brother and sage, Steve, who also attended Wild at Heart and is immersed in their ministry as well.  Conversations began to happen and we decided that it was something we had to do, sooner, rather than later.  Only way to learn how was to dive in and give it try.

So that’s where we stood. We knew what we wanted to do, we found the site, and now we needed the men.  Conversations with my friend and pastor, Tim, brought me to begin leading some of our men’s Wednesday night Bible studies.  Again, all of this is out of my element, but I jumped in.

I have to admit, we were skeptics at first.  We knew we would start small and opened it to just 12 attendees. There was skepticism as to whether we would get 6 or 8.  A few weeks later, I’m calling Butch and saying telling him we need a 2nd cabin.  Now with a day to go, we have a 19 men heading to Upstate South Carolina for 4 days with God.  Unreal the response we’ve had and we have more waiting in the wings for next time.

So these last few months in 2017 have been all about planning this event out.  Writing content and coordinating everything.  To see it all come together has been so huge.  I can tell God has been at work in this and we’ve made it a point to surrender it all over to Him and not let this become about any of one us.  We know that if a group a men get together like this, God is certain to show up and He already is.

I knew there would be opposition, but the Enemy has been relentless in his attacks, which tell us even more that we are moving in the right direction.  My family has been attacked relentlessly in the recent weeks.  Stating with physical problems from a baseball to my face, a concussion one week and then a diabetic seizure for one my sons, a large allergic reaction for my daughter, and a stomach bug that hit my oldest son.  All of this has put a huge strain on my bride’s heart and mine as well.  We spent a lot of time holding each other and just letting the tears flow.  We knew what it was though.  Satan was trying to use all of this take us out…to stop this weekend from happening.

We have flipped it on him and surrendered it all to God.  The suffering is hard, but nothing in comparison to Christ and we know this.  We just turned to prayer and have had an army of prayer around us, which has pulled us through all of that in ways we couldn’t have imagined a few years ago.

southeastern-expeditionsSo now we’re ready.  All the content is written.  Final details are being nailed down and tomorrow we head to the mountains.  We’ll have some great times of learning and fellowship and times of one-on-one with God, and some adventure on the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River, yes where they filmed Deliverance.  Hopefully no banjos on the shoreline.  Just kidding.

We’re just so pumped about this.  About the men willing to take the risk to head into the wilderness and we sit in eager anticipation and expectation of God’s goodness.  I know He is up to something big here and can’t wait to see what happens in the lives of these men, who range from 20 to their 60s, and then how their families, our church family, and community is impacted.  It’s all about God and He gets all of the glory here.

As Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

A Reflection of Goodness

Another lap around the sun and 2016 comes to a close as we prepare for the start of a whole new again.  Before I begin, I pray that you all had a very Merry Christmas and I wish you a Happy New Year!

I’ve been reflecting this morning on the goings on of 2016.  There have been many good times and difficult times.  Times of joy and times of trial and testing.  Overall, I reflect on 2016 and what I see as the pure goodness of God reflected throughout everything.  I can hardly believe the movement He has made just in my life and that of my family.  Even on days where it feels like I’ve been removed, He has been there every step of the way.  Unfailing love and faithfulness.  Continued goodness in everything.

amber_baptism

Amber’s Baptism

I’ll just start with January 31.  I stood in front of our church family and Baptized my wife and our 3 children, exactly one year to the day that I nailed the stake in the ground and surrendered my life to Christ in the mountains of Colorado.  I mean, wow!  That’s nothing but a God thing right there.  To see the movement that had taken place in that year prior, was so amazing and now to see the journey of growth in each of them has been nothing short of amazing and good.

 

 

shawn_baptism

Shawn Baptism

 

We’ve times of trials and joy with our children this year, from the baseball field with our middle child, to our oldest graduating high school and starting college.  Through all of these things we see God present.  Seeing our children begin to desire a deeper relationship with God and to build relationship with peers in our church family has been huge.  They take after Amber and me as very quiet and to themselves.  Natural introverts and Move Aways in their styles of relating.  I’ve seen God working in their hearts this year more and more and them being more respective to it.  It’s been so good to see.

 

brandon_baptism

Brandon Baptism

I see my bride and the movement in her own life.  I pray daily for her to move on a parallel journey with me as a woman and bride in our desires to seek God and grow as disciples.  To see her eagerness day after day to spend time with God and know him and them to talk with me almost like a kid in a candy store with such joy and excitement from all God is revealing to her as she walks with him each day.  And now to see her desire to build relationships with other women continue to grow.  Just immense.

ash_baptism

Ashley Baptism

I look on what God has done in my life as well and just stand in amazement.  He took me out to Colorado for a 2nd time in May to unplug and spend time at the feet of older men seeking counsel over my story and setting up the coming decade to work toward becoming an integrated whole and holy man.  That journey has set the stage for what is going on now.  In September we launched our counseling ministry and I have been blessed with the chance to speak life into different individuals and couples.  On top of that, I began to lead along with another brother and friend, a mens’ discipleship group.  That’s been huge for me to finally build a band of brothers of peers to get to know, to lead, and to do life-on-life with.  Thankful for these men and for the mentors and sages that also speak into my life now.

I can definitely say that I’m not the same as yesterday.  I know there’s so much more ahead and can barely believe that I’m here now. 3-5 years ago, I never would have thought to have a year like this and to have a life moving the way it is.  God’s hand is moving in every aspect of my life.  It’s truly amazing.

I reflect on 2016 with great joy and I look to 2017 with eyes on the narrow road continuing to follow where God leads.  I can already see things He is setting before me through the counseling ministry, mens’ ministry, and in my family and relationships.  I move into the new year a man of hope.  A dangerous hope for good.  Dangerous for good.

Nothing Is Ever Lost

I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” These are the final words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, as translated by Peterson in The Message.  I find myself echoing those words in my head this week and really pondering the Truth around that.  He is always with us, day after day after day.  If we truly live in that and truly understand Truth in that in our hearts, how can we ever feel lost and uncertain?  He is always with us and always present.

When I went to the Become Good Soil Intensive back in May, a knife was bestowed to me and the other men from our mentors.  This became a very special item to receive and a constant reminder of the journey and experience and the journey for the coming decade toward becoming good soil.  This was a good tool for one and something that I kept on me day after day, carving wood, sharpening it, and so forth. It was very special to me as it was to the other men of the Intensive.

Well, barely a month later, I was at the beach with my wife and kids for our annual vacation.  During the course of that week, what happens?  I lose the knife.  While out one evening, it fell from my pocket.  We searched all over, called the location we were at to see if anyone turned it in.  Nothing.  It was gone and I was crushed.  I was actually, more or less, pissed at myself for being able to lose it so easily.

So life, moves on.  We go back home and continue on, although I thought about the knife a good bit.  I know, I know, it’s just a knife, right? Only thing was, there was no replacing it. I could not order another just like it.  So back to business.  I make use of my Gerber knife and keep that on me, as before, but it never felt the same.  Besides, my wife and kids, only one other person knew about it being lost or even what it meant to me.

So, fast-forward to this week.  It’s the middle of the week.  I’m stressed with work and finances as we get closer to Christmas and meeting the requirements for counseling hours for my Masters program.  I was pissed and frustrated and even feeling lost with it all. I break from my work and go to the mailbox and find a package in there.  Inside there is the exact same kind of knife, which I thought was cool, then I turn the box over and see a sticker on the box that says “With God, nothing is truly ever lost.” You can see a picture of it at the top of of this post with the knife.

At this point, I am just floored. My knees nearly gave out under me and tears tried to come through.  If that wasn’t a God thing, I don’t know what is.  It was like God just told me in that very moment.  “Slow down my son.  Quit with the worry and stress.  Cast it all on me.

I went through this exercise of defining moments of my life before Thanksgiving and shared them all with my family Thanksgiving night.  Through it all, I was reminded of God’s constant presence through all of my my life, through the good and the bad.  He’s always been there.

How easy it is to forget this though.  Get back to life and the various things in our world begin to force us to lose sight of the fact that, yes, God is always there, how can we be lost if we truly have faith in that.  That’s when Jesus’ words a the end of Matthew right through, “I will be with you….right up to the end of the age.”  He has never abandoned us.  It’s not in some far off place.  He is right here with us.

God never ceases to disappoint me.  I think of Bruce Nolan from the movie “Bruce Almighty.”  At the end of the movie, Bruce is in the hospital, finds the beads that he had when his whole adventure with God began as he was crying out at the beginning of movie when his whole world was crumbling.  He looks up toward God and says, “Now you’re just showing off.”  That’s almost what it felt like.  This is why one of the things I pray everyday is break any and all limits I have placed on God.

With God, nothing is truly ever lost

Stuck In False Comparison

Every story is unique.  Every individual is unique.  It’s pretty cool to see stories play out in the lives of others and to hear the stories that people have lived out up to now and where they are going.  Each of our stories takes a unique pathway that is only unique to us and how God created us to be.  There is a trap that many of us fall into however.  That is the trap of comparing our story to someone else and even wishing we could have a piece of that story.

Tonight I was sitting in a the men’s Bible Study at my church and we continued through a series on The Greater Adventure that Robert Lewis developed.  We are nearing the end of this teaching and this evening we began to talk defining moments in our lives.  There are many that I can point to in my own life.  Some huge ones in the past couple years and many going all the way back, some are tragic and some are great.

During this study, it was shown that part of putting this adventure together is setting time to reflect on our unique design.  Something came to me that I remember Morgan Snyder teaching on at the Become Good Soil Intensive and that was dealing with a spirit of false comparison.  How often have you tried looking at your story and then began to compare yourself to others?  Have you ever seen someone else’s story and thought to yourself, “I sure wish that was a part of my story.” “I sure wish I had a career like that.”  “I wish I was as great a husband and/or dad as that man is, or appears to be.”  There’s something in each of us, in our false self that often falls into this trap of comparison.  Maybe it’s not even wishing that you had a part of another story.  Maybe it’s diminishing your own story, thinking it’s not has significant as another person.  Morgan shared that in this spirit of false comparison we compare part of our story to part of another man story.

I love this teaching, because it’s been so helpful for me, as I have fallen in this trap of false comparison.  What was revealed and only after continued review of the teaching and then in reflecting on the study tonight did it sink in that God only tells us our own story.  My story is my own.  Psalm 139, “You have examined my heart and know everything about me….You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb”  This is so helpful to remember and think about.

Morgan adds in this teaching that once you get visibility on another man’s story, you realize that you don’t want any other man’s story but your own.  Nobody gets everything and it costs everyone something.  Meaning that nobody has it all figured out.  No matter how good someone story looks on the surface, there is always going to be something there, that you will realize that you don’t to have any part of, just has there is something in your story that others would not want to have any part of.  Just know this, it is so easy to get caught up in comparison and I’m so glad that the Father clarified this even more tonight.  So much so, I had to log on and write about it.  My story is unique to me, just as your story is unique to you.  Your story is the best story for your own heart, uniquely designed and woven by God himself.

When you get this and when you realize the power in this, this sets you up for even more freedom.  We can then stop worrying about the wrong things and begin to shift the focus more inward and truly get a clarifying view of the beauty of our own unique design.  Just to know that God loved you enough to make you in His own image, but designed with your own unique design and flavor.  How cool is that?  Why would you even want to have any part of something that God did not uniquely create in you and for you.

This is so helpful to remember.  You are unique to you and nobody else.  You don’t want any part of another’s story.  It was not a part of your fearfully and wonderfully made unique design.  All it does it feed a foolish habit that promotes envy and competition and begins to feed into feelings of our own inferiority which as mentioned before causes us to diminish ourselves.  Avoid that trap and don’t allow yourself to get stuck in a spirit of false comparison.

Qualifying The Called

What is your calling?  That is a question posed by so many people at various times and in a variety of contexts.  For the longest time I did not know what this meant or what it was to me.  As I’ve shared many times, over the last couple of years, this answer has began to gain clarity.  In a previous post, I shared that I was on a walk while out west and pondering who I was as a man in the eyes of God.  Then He showed up big time and showed me that He was about to take me down a very different path.

For the last couple of years, I have been in school, learning and studying, praying and pondering, and gaining wise counsel from trusted people around me.  Two months ago, we launched a counseling ministry within my church family, which was to be starting point in this new direction.  Over the time in my Masters program, I’ve learned some very cool concepts, techniques, and more around counseling people and counseling from a Biblical worldview.  Now came the time to put it all to work.

This has been a lot of the reason I have not written much the last many months as I prepared for launch and then began the work.  It has been a mentally and spiritually draining period of time in many aspects.  I’ve tried to figure out how to juggle this new work while still maintaining my current work in these early stages.  It’s not been easy to do.

There have been many days where I would wake-up and just wonder if I have anything to offer the people that have come to me for counsel.  I even wondered why God would choose someone like me to do something like this.  Like I’ve said many times, He completely shifted my paradigm and brought me out of my comfort zone in many ways.  Through much prayer, God has revealed that I don’t have anything to offer…He does!  With that, I just think, Whoa!!!  I have thought about that more and more and as these last couple of months have passed by, and although I know it’s very early, He is definitely right on the money.

I remember a quote I heard a few weeks back that said, “God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.”  Don’t think I had heard that before, but as I ponder what He has done in my life and where is leading me, I think, Yes!  That’s exactly it. Then I start to think about the ragtag bunch that Jesus surrounded himself with.  None of these men were in any way qualified, but Jesus qualified them.  He taught them and equipped them, and then the Holy Spirit moved.

He qualifies the called.  I start to look at others around me that God has used in many different capacities to do His will.  All of our gifts are different, but the unifying link is that God uses all of it for His glory and we’re all a part of one body in Christ.  Answering the call is a great risk, in many capacities.  As I have seen, it pushes people away, who reject it. That’s not easy to contend with.  The beauty of it comes in pressing into Christ and in doing so, He begins to take the reigns and use the gifting that He has given us and perhaps, as in me, it has been hidden due to the road I had taken in my brokenness.

John Eldredge wrote that “An intimate encounter with Jesus is the most transforming experience of human existence. To know him as he is, is to come home.”  This is exactly what happened in my life.  Think of anyone you know that, maybe some of you, that have just been set on fire by your faith as Jesus came in and you decided to follow.  Look at his disciples.  You may think you have nothing to give anyone, but wait until that intimate encounter with Jesus.  Wait until he meets you on that road, like he met me.  You may think your not qualified, and you know what, you’re right.  He is and he will qualify and equip you, if you choose to trust in him and follow.

Forging A New Trail

I remember this walk I was on in January of 2015.  We had just finished a session at the Wild at Heart Boot Camp and the next hour or so was for each man to spend one-on-one with God.  We were given questions to pray about and seek God about. Those questions were how I saw myself as a man, how others see me as a man, and who does God say I am.  I never had taken time to spend in just contemplative prayer and discussion with God.  I remember sitting on a boulder over looking the snow covered grounds of Crooked Creek Ranch trying to listen for an answer, but not sure if I was hearing anything. 10361459_10204677376068595_8769313926448958482_n

After some time, I put my journal into my backpack and decided to take a walk.  I made my way to the main road that led out of the ranch back to Fraser, CO.  I remember waking and feeling the cool air and then watching my steps around some ice patches.  Once I got to more stable ground, I heard something that just blew my mind.  I heard, “This is who you have been.  You’ve spent too much of your life on this safe and wide road. It’s time for you to leave this road and take a new path.”  What do you do with this?  I remember later that day journaling, “I can’t take risks if I just stay on a path and not take the one less traveled.crossraods_520

I’ve thought a great deal about this walk lately and the new trail that God has been forging ahead of me these past couple of years.  I chose to let go of myself and the work He has done has been tremendous.  Last month, I began work in a counseling ministry and then have been given the chance to lead new men in discipleship and restoration of their hearts.

In some way I find the sense of humor of God in this.  I think of the quiet, reserved, and passive man that I’ve been most of my life.  He has taken that and flipped it all around.  He led me into counseling, where I am completing my Masters now and working with people one-on-one now.  On top of that, I continue to hear the call of God to seek the hearts of men beginning with this discipleship group.  I joked in our larger men’s bible study at church a couple of weeks back and we looked our value drivers.  To me, it related to Morgan’s teaching on Styles of Relating from Become Good Soil.  I shared with the men the parallel to Jesus and how he moves through each style or each value driver all in a manner of doing the Father’s will.  I talked about my predominant style, which we all have, but God will often need us to move.  I said, “I’m becoming a counselor, talk about moving out of your comfort zone.”

I can only imagine where God is going to use me next, but after sharing some ideas with some trusted men and mentors, the image is starting to come clearer.  As I said when I started this journey in early 2015, I have no idea where this is going to lead me, but all I know is that I am trusting in the Father to take the lead.  Proverbs 1:7 in The Message says “Start with God – the first step in learning is bowing down to God.”  That’s where I have start now.  I can’t take this to anyone, but Him first.

Where do you see yourself heading?  Have you ever sat with God and asked Him who you truly are and how does He want to use you?  Not everyone is meant to make radical shifts like this, but that is my story and this is how the Father chose to disrupt my life of complacency.  You never know when the answer may come.

the-road-not-taken-11The Robert Frost words, “Two roads diverge in the wood, and I took the one less traveled” continue to ring to me over and over.  It’s not going to always be pleasant and easy journey.  This road less traveled is full of potholes, rocks, and thorns.  I have days, where I venture back near the safer road and think, maybe I should merge there again.  I can’t though.  Once you have truly experienced God and His goodness and begin to follow, nothing can ever be the same.  You will be opposed, believe me, you will be opposed

It’s a journey folks.  To be able to step off the road of performance and the road of safety and comfort and to venture down a path where you can’t see around any turn only comes through faith.  Most of us never choose to take this journey.  Look at the traffic camera images every morning.  That’s most of us.  Trucking along day-to-day down the road we are all to familiar with.  Choose to risk and choose to forge a new trail where God moves ahead of you into the unknown.  The unscripted life is the only life worth living.

 

 

Don’t Stretch Yourself Thin – Self and Soul Care

It feels like it’s been forever since my last post.  I looked and realized that it had been almost a month and now a I look and we’ve entered fall (although it hasn’t yet felt like it in Georgia), and we’re just a few days from October.  The month of September has just flow by and so much has happened in such a short period of time.  I was on the road for two weeks, first to Liberty University for my final on campus intensive, and then over the pond to London for a week of work.  First trip over and it was a worthwhile trip.

In the midst of all if this, I begin to enter my Practicum/Internship phase of my Masters program.  With that we officially rolled out our new counseling ministry where I will base my work as a counselor, especially in the early phases.  A lot going on and then this week I begin co-leading a new men’s discipleship group.  I share all of this activity with one key point that continues to ring through my head and heart.  “Don’t forget to take care of your self.”As Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart…”

I know I’ve written about soul/self-care before, but I can’t reiterate just how important it is.  I went to my bride, Amber, this morning and said to her, “With all of the counseling and new ministry work that is coming along, please tell me if I begin to let it take over too much and if it is taking away from my time with you and the kids.”  One of the key things I’ve heard in my studies is that counselors and many in ministry as well, are horrible at self-care.  Burnout begins to set in, and then we have nothing else to offer.

selfcare-01bI’m in a season of transition right now, so there is a lot going on, but I don’t think it’s any mistake that God led me back to the mountains this year with Become Good Soil, where self-care was one of the key topics.  I feel that God is definitely teaching me to remember Him and to guard my heart through all of this work.  I’m fixing to take on the weight of so many people’s wounds and sufferings.  It’s not my weight to bear, though.

There’s a song by Will Reagan and United Pursuit that came on one morning while I was in Virginia early this month.  The song is called, ‘Take a Moment.’  The lyrics go as follows:

Take a moment to remember
Who God is and who I am
There You go lifting my load again

No longer am I held by
The yoke of this world
Come up under the yoke of Jesus
His yoke is easy and His burden is so light

I hear that song that morning and then that morning in class, our professor stopped her lecture to focus solely on self-care for a bit.  She realizes how important it is.  This just blew my mind when I hear this song and then that topic that morning.  The burden of other is not mine.  I have to remember who I am and who God is.  The burden was laid a feet of Jesus, at the Cross.
I write this, this morning as a reminder to myself and to share with all of you as well.  We can’t just take on so much that we lose ourselves.  We will kill our hearts and having nothing to offer anyone around us.
I sit in amazement of God as I think about this and how He continues to remind me of this important category.  Self-care and soul-care.  I was praying about this is morning and writing this post came to mind and then I read the latest blog post from John Eldredge at Ransomed Heart, and God just totally blew me away with this.  John wrote a whole post on soul care in the midst of the loss of Craig McConnell, who went home last month.  John writes:

“Soul care” is not a category for most people. They don’t plan their week around it. Maybe it feels unnecessary; maybe it feels indulgent. It certainly wasn’t a category for me for too many years. But my friends, the harsh reality is this: life is probably going to get worse on this planet before it gets better; all signs indicate it is getting worse at an alarming rate. “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5). In other words, if you think this is hard, wait till the dog squat really hits the fan.

We are going to want our souls strong and ready for the days ahead, not weary and weak. We are going to need our souls strong. So we must practice soul care. I, for one, am trying to make room for it as part of my “routine.” It really is helping.

We are going to want our souls strong and ready.  Reading this I was just like, whoa…I hear you God.  It’s so easy to take on more and more, but I am reminded continually that I can only take on so much before I run the risk of taken out.  Busyness kills intimacy and union with God and with those import to me, especially my family.
The bottom line is this.  Don’t stretch yourself so thin and stuff your time so full that you forget about yourself.  The enemy is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  If we are so caught up in doing more and more and more, we can’t guard hearts from attack and the enemy will find a foothold to setup shop.
This myth of busyness and multitasking is another tool of the enemy to take us out.  It leads us further away from intimacy with God, which leads closer to sin.  Take time to care for yourself.  Open up your calendar.  There is room, I don’t care what anyone else says.  There is time.  As Dallas Willard says, “Time is made, not found.”  You can make the time for yourself and for your time with God.
Don’t forget about your heart in the midst of all the busyness of this world.

Back-to-Back with Swords Drawn

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on my marriage.  Actually, I do that a lot.  It blows my mind that Amber and I are now in our 20th year of marriage.  We’ve been through so many ups and downs together over these last many years.  We’ve had our share of disagreements and many, many more moments of just pure joy of being in each others company.  I’ve been blessed over the last couple of years to primarily work from my house.  One thing that never gets old is spending our days together.  I get to talk to my wife while I’m working and spend day after day in her company, which I cherish.

I look all around us, and I see just how lucky we are.  We’ve seen marriage after marriage around us crumble or those that have already in the past.  It saddens us to see.  I was remembering words from the character, Nathan, in the movie ‘Courageous.’  He said something to the effect that divorce is so rampant because people “make it option.”  I have never understood why this is such a widespread epidemic.  It’s so easy to just call it quits now.

I realize that this is such a problem, obviously because of our fallenness, but also that when we hit road blocks in marriage we feel like there’s no way through.  Amber and I are beginning to read through the book ‘Love and War’ by John and Stasi Eldredge.  Early in the book there is something that is so widespread true where they share…

51ws2bvvfc5l-_sx331_bo1204203200_“Everybody who has been married knows this. Though years into marriage it still catches us off guard, all of us. And newly married couples, when they discover how hard it is, then seem genuinely surprised. Shocked and disheartened, by the fact. Are we doing something wrong? Did I marry right person? The sirens that lure us into marriage — romance, love, passion, sex, longing, companionship — seem so far from the actual reality of married life we fear we have made a colossal mistake, caught the wrong, bus, missed our flight…Maybe it’s just us…Nope. THIS IS EVERYONE (emphasis added).”

Marriage is full of its ups and downs and I think the picture of so many marriages failing and couples falling away from each other is the very image of man falling away from God when things don’t go our way.  How easy is it for us to turn from God and move further away from Him, when we feel hurt or experience pain and trauma in life.  We make it an option.

There’s a chapter in ‘Love and War,’ that while we haven’t read it yet, the title says a lot about who we are to be in marriage.  Back-to-Back with Swords Drawn.  It’s a given that there is going to be so much in our lives that is going to try to eat into our marriage and tear us apart.  Just as the evil one wants to pull you further from God, he wants to do the same to your marriage will use all kinds of tactics to do so.  This could be boredom and complacency, temptation of looking for that golden man or woman, financial problems, toxic soul ties with people around you both, and a host of other problems.  In marriage, you have to stand back-to-back and shoulder-to-shoulder ready to battle together against anything that will try to tear your marriage apart.

John and Stasi share something else on the same page regarding the struggles we face in marriage…

“For heaven’s sake, bring together a man and a woman – two creatures who think; act, and feel so differently you would think they’d come from separate solar systems – and ask them to get along for the rest of their lives under the same roof. That is like taking Cinderella and Huck Finn, tossing them in a submarine, and closing the hatch. What did you think would happen?

I love this, because it’s so true.  There are many that have the expectation that they should always get along when they marry, but as we all know, who have been there, it just won’t be the case.

In my home, I have all kinds of books and things I am reading or I use for my counseling studies and research.  We have a sitting area in our master bedroom and there is a chair and ottoman.  I have a habit of leaving my books stacked there where I can easily get to them when I need them.  Amber can’t stand it, to put it bluntly.  For our sake, I agreed to move them the other day.  The point is this, we just see it differently, but that’s okay.  It’s a matter of how we deal with it.marriage

Amber and I, just as with any marriage out there, are in this together.  Back-to-back with swords drawn.  The thing with the books stacked may seem so petty, but trust me, it can blow up in bigger things if you let it. One thing that can never NOT happen in marriage is communication.  Amber and I talk about everything.  She knows my heart and I know hers.  That’s what has helped us collaborate through our marriage and make it through the storms that have come along.  We fight through everything together.  So many times we’ve seen marriages fall apart, this key thing, communication is the one thing that was non-existent.

If you allow the enemy to setup shop in any part of your marriage, he will pry at you to tear you apart.  Don’t give him that foothold.

You are in two covenants in this life.  One is with God, through death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.  The only other one is your marriage.  A covenant is not a contract.  A contract is all about what is in it for you.  A covenant all about what you can bring to the relationship.  God desires to surrender your full self in relationship with Him and surrender yourself to your marriage to serve one another.

Don’t make divorce an option.  If you are finding trouble that seems so hard to get through, know that you’re not the first and there is a way through.  Work through it together and if need be, seek out a counselor to help you both walk through it together.  Back-to-back and should-to-shoulder with swords drawn, you can fend off the all that is thrown your way.