Category Archives: 4 Stream Blog

To Be Known…

When it comes to being open and honest about our lives and about our struggle, there is one thing that comes to mind that keeps people away.  Fear.  A fear of being known.  A fear of being judged.  What will the other people think if I am vulnerable enough to open my heart about my struggle?  I’ll look weak if I allow myself to be open.  Nobody will under understand my struggle and my story.  I’m scared to bring it back to the surface. I’ve worked with someone, or at least tried to work with someone over the course of the last year.  No how much I urge and reassure there is no condemnation and judgement, the fear remains and this person runs.  To this day, remains in stable misery.

There’s something to being known.  To laying all of our junk out there on the table.  Maybe not vomiting it all at one time, but being open to the point where people know who you are.  What I’ve learned with the people I have counseled and ministered to, the openness and vulnerability, leads to something.  It leads to trust.  It opens the door to a commonality that says, “hey, we’ve both jacked it up and have been wounded to some degree.  We’re not perfect, by any means, but can walk together through our struggle.”

One of the things I have pursued to build a round table of men that I trust.  Like-hearted kings who are after the same things, living for the glory of God, and has to fight to through crap to get to it.  Through all of that crap, we can walk with each other through it.  There’s no mask, no figleaf.  With my mens discipleship group, I urge each of them to leave the mask at the door.340e0e0b881756951b75bbb7141dd7db

You see what I am getting at here.  If you want to build any kind of trust among our peers, we have to open and vulnerable.  We have to be known.

3 weeks ago, we left for our Anvil Men’s Boot Camp.  One of the biggest and most freeing things that happens over the course of that week is the time the men spend with their small group of about 4-5 men.  Each with the opportunity to share their story in a safe place and giving permission to the other to speak into their story and even, if necessary, to call BS if needed.  Hearing the feedback of men that this was the most freeing part of their experience in getting to truly know other men is huge.  It allows them to see, if they never have before, that being open and vulnerable to others they can trust brings a greater freedom and removes the weight that they don’t have to hide themselves.

Each Boot Camp, God reveals some theme to us and this time, transparency became the theme for the weekend.

I’ve read snipets Brené Brown and she has come up in conversations recently.  I was watching a talk she gave this morning and she said something that was very profound…

“Faith minus vulnerability and mystery, is extremism. If you’ve got all the answers and there’s nothing, there’s no vulnerability, that’s awesome….but don’t call it faith, period….How can I connect with you, if I can’t see you. How can I lead you, if you don’t know me. I don’t wanna be led by anyone perfect, because I don’t see in your eyes…my story and my struggle. I need you to show up.”

Read that again, and soak it in.

I’m thankful for the church body my family and I get to be a part of.  We have leadership that is absolutely open about themselves, who they are, where they’ve struggled and jacked it up and this openness carries to those that are a part of our family.  As Brené Brown said, “How can I lead you, if you don’t know me.”

2de6cdfa6166bcd201601b77b1985c57-literature-quotes-beautiful-wordsThis is something I carry as well.  I used to be very closed off about myself and people laugh, that didn’t know me before, when I say I am naturally introverted.  I guess that’s how I operated in my false self where my predominent style of relating was to move away from people.  I didn’t want to be known.  Now, I’ve come to realize that transparency is critical.  Being known is crucial to effectively lead and minster to people.  I look at Paul.  If you read through the epistles, you see a man who is very open about where he had been and how much he struggled with where he had been before encountering Christ.

If you’ve never allowed yourself to be known, you have to ask yourself why.  Why do I not want to let anyone in?  We’ve all been through the ringer in some way.  Every man and woman has been wounded.  Everyone of us have lived a life with sin.  As Proverbs 14:4 says, “No cattle, no crops…”  The journey to become good soil requires us to plow through a lot of shit in our lives. That being said, we can’t make that journey and be freed up if we never allow ourselves to be known and let that stuff come surface.

So I will close with this.  What a great feeling it is to be known.  To live a life knowing I don’t have to where a mask.  In reference to John Lynch and his book, “The Cure,” I don’t need to stay in the room of good intentions where I am just trying to get along.  I can be in the room of grace knowing who I am in Christ Jesus.  He knows us more than anyone in this world ever will, including our spouses and closest friends.  Yet in spite of all of that, we are loved just the same through all of that.  He knows us without condemnation or judgement, so why should we worry about condemnation or judgement from anyone else.

To be known brings with it a greater freedom…

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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.