Category Archives: Receiving God’s Intimate Counsel

Distraction or Calculation

A friend set it best the other day. “2019 has been unique.”  We’re only at the end of March and it feels like a years worth of things have already happened.  When I last wrote in January, I was in a place of excitement for what I knew God was beginning to open up and what we were stepping into.  By February and into March, it seemed that their was so much opposition being thrown our way.  In February, my middle son ends up in the hospital following a diabetic seizure and then two weeks to the day after that, my mother in-law steps into eternity.  Now, I won’t get into all of the other details around those things, because so much more was involved, but my wife Amber was at a breaking point and I was doing all I could do to hold her together and comfort her through this.  It was a chaotic perfect storm.

At the same time, some of my closest friends were being drawn through the wringer with their own battles.  It was this unending, unwavering assault that was designed with one specific purpose.  To take us out and to draw us away from the heart of God.  The events were fierce and the messages behind them were so deep and dark.  They could only be one thing. The enemy at work.

I’m thankful that my wife and I have been able to recognize what it was, and have deepened our prayer through it.  It hasn’t taken away the pain, but it keeps us in a place where still turn everything over to God, no matter what is being thrown our way.

AnvilLast week, in the midst of all this craziness, we held our 5th Anvil Men’s Boot Camp.  In the days leading up, I didn’t know how ready I would be.  The men that facilitate with me were each struggling with their own junk and worried about even leaving their worlds and going.  What was wild was, in the midst of it, I didn’t think I was ready for the teaching load I was about to deliver, but it all flowed so much better than in the past and I carried it, with what one man said, with greater passion than before.

Granted, it would be easy to say that, “well, it’s your 5th go at it, Richard, of course, it’s going to get smoother each time.”  Yes, there is truth in that, but I really felt that God’s hand was in that weekend and a space was made available for the Holy Spirit to work in mighty ways.  You know why?  I believe, it’s because I didn’t have time to think and think and think on this weekend and what I was going to deliver and how the men would respond.

So it gives me pause to all of that has been going on.  We know, hands down, that the warfare we’ve been through, in the spiritual and physical, was not caused by God.  What has been readily apparent, however, is that through it all, God’s hand has been at work.  This really started to become clear over the course of our weekend.  There was a smoothness with the flow and teaching that was very different.  I realized that God used all that had happened in a way that gave me and the team no choice in it, but to just surrender it all to Him.  I mean really surrender.

I’ve had days when counseling with people where I’ve felt I have had nothing to offer.  Where stresses and other things were overwhelming my thoughts and I didn’t think I could really do much to help anyone.  It was in those moments that God would remind me that “you don’t have anything, but I do.”  The same held true here.  There was nothing we really had to offer here, so all we could do is cry out to God and give it all to Him in a way that I don’t think we really had before.  It made for a beautiful weekend with these men and led to some huge breakthroughs in the hearts of men that were there.  Because we got out of the way.

I was at one point using the word distraction to describe all that had happened.  Yes, the enemy was trying to distract us.  But what I really saw was the calculation of God through it all to use what was going on.  The good and bad to bring greater glory to Him.  What Paul wrote in Romans 8:28 was and is absolutely true, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”  This is the absolute truth and we’ve seen it play out.

So this is my challenge to you.  Are you in the way of allowing God to work?  Despite the craziness that this world may throw in your way, what can you do to better surrender your will, fully, to Him, and do as we did, get out of the way.

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The Men of the Spring 2019 Anvil Men’s Boot Camp

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Rooted and Steadfast

Well here we are, the end of a another year.  Another trip around the sun.  There are so many things to reflect on as I look back on what 2018 had.  I can say that there were so many good things that happened through the course of the year.  I’ve been able to cultivate some deeper and closer relationships in my life, which has been so fruitful.  I’ve learned more and more the deep value of what it means to not go it alone and to have others in your corner; like-hearted men who are moving in the same direction and have to fight through the same crap to get there.

At the same time, with so much of the good, there have also been a number of challenges, not just for me and my family, but for so many around us.  I remember over the summer many of us thinking that there just seemed to be increased suffering and difficulty for many, with losses of loved ones, financial difficulty, job losses, and more. 2018, for many, was certainly a year with added challenges.

At the end of last year, I began a new exercise, that my buddy, Dallas had recommended.  It was very new to me.  This was praying and asking God for a word or words for the coming year.  The word that I continued to receive for 2018 was Intimate.  With the busyness of the prior year, finishing my Masters Degree, etc, I felt God was leading me to a place to seek more time with Him and focus on cultivating a deeper intimacy with Him.  I can see why He gave me this word, because this year brought challenges that at times would try to pull me away from that busyness.  It became a year of learning new practices that would allow me to focus more on time with God through the day-to-day grind.  Once such practice was just being outside everyday.  I moved more of my workouts outside, my prayer time outside, and through my workdays I made it a point to always stopping throughout the day to just step outside.  There was something about the natural environment that just invited His presence.  Just a few weeks ago, I was outside, I could just feel God’s presence overwhelming me, as if to say, “this is what I’ve been after in you.”  Hadn’t felt that kind of embrace since He met me in the mountains in January 2015.

So now, we are moving to 2019.  Again, I revisited this exercise of seeking God for words for the coming year.  It’s wild, because He actually revealed this back in September before I had even asked, but as the year has drawn to a close, it has become more evident.  God’s words for me for 2019 have been to stay “Rooted and Steadfast.”  I remember when He first revealed those words. I was down in Florida, sitting on the shoreline of Santa Rosa Sound at dawn.  As i looked at this tree that was rooted in the salt water, I could hear those words and couldn’t help but smile.

I went back to investigate these words further, though I was pretty sure I knew what they meant.  Rooted means to establish deeply and firmly.  In Scripture, Paul writes in Colossians 2, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (emphasis mine).  So for me it was to continue to stay firm in Christ and allowing my roots to continue to grow deeper as the soil of my heart continues to be cultivated. 

Steadfast means to be resolutely firm and unwavering.  Psalm 57:7 says, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.”  Proverbs 20:28, “Steadfast love and faithfulness preserve the king, and by steadfast love, his through is upheld” (emphasis mine) For me here, I see God telling me to not allow things of this world and schemes of the evil one to move my direction.  To keep firm and be unwavering in seeking a deeper life with Him and in and pursuing the mission He has laid before me, living out my calling which is to let the world feel the weightiness of who I am as and image bearer of God, allowing His glory to show through my life which is the glory He has bestowed upon me.

As this year closes out and we ring in the new year, I reflect more on being rooted and steadfast.  Just like being more intimate, it does not stop with just that year.  It is a posture of continued growth so will build into the next year and next and so forth.  I’m excited about what 2019 will be bringing.  There a lot of new things on the horizon, which I will write about soon, but God is certainly moving me and those with me in a direction that we just can’t ignore and its making impacts for His Kingdom.  I think God also gave these words because as we move forward, we may encounter various challenges and opposition, but this is reminder to stay rooted in Him and steadfastly firm in our direction.

So what are your words for 2019? Have you thought to ask God about this.  Take this question to Him.  Simply ask, “God, what words do you have for me for the coming year?”  Don’t force the answer, but just be willing to have your heart open to whatever He may reveal.

I wish you all very happy and blessed New Year.  See you in 2019!!!

Is This About Me?

There’s no doubt and no denying that we are in a self-driven culture.  A self-sufficient, self-reliant culture.  This life, each and every day, tells us to figure what I can do, to make life work for me.  Achieve success.  Achieve, win, go faster, be on top.  You get the idea.  Living and working in two different worlds has led me to learn that it does not matter what line of work we are in or what, the self, the ego, if you will, is always right there to give us a nudge and push us along.

Over the past couple of years, I have been blessed to begin counseling with individuals and couples and also to work with a solid team of to host men’s ministry weekends or boot camps as we have called them.  While it has been hard burning the candle at both ends, maintaining my long-term work in the process, it has been some very fruitful and fulfilling work to see individuals and families transformed come alive in a variety of ways.

In the midst of it all, however, I always think back to the first night of our first boot camp.  We didn’t know what we were doing.  We had a plan, felt led by the Spirit, and were going to execute it as best we could.  That first night and the next morning, however, events happened, that God used to tell me, “When are you going to remember that I am in control?”  It was as clear as can be.  We prayed through that and allowed God to take more and more control, which was the best thing we could have done.

Now fast-forward.  We’ve held 3 weekends, my wife helped lead a weekend for women, and we are planning our fourth men’s weekend this Fall.  What has been very obvious is the ministry that has sort of morphed out of all of this and the thoughts for continued growth that has come from all of this.  We are in the planning the stages of something new to be birthed and will be so pumped to share about it as it all comes together.

20180716_114333_0001.pngAs I think about it this, I guess I’m writing this post as a reminder to myself, just as much as it is for all of you.  This is not about me or any of you.  This life is not about us.  It is about God, as the author, creator, and perfecter of our story and lives, through Jesus Christ.  Every morning, as a part of my prayer, I pray that God helps me to remember that this is all about Him and not about me, that He is the Hero of this story and that I belong to Him.

So, I started this post, but talking about the self-fulfilling culture we live in.  I was led to Galatians 5:16, where Paul writes (out of The Message), “My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit.  Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness.” He goes on to write, “For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day.”

AllThingsNewLearning from this is very important for all of us. God places desires in our heart for living, but those desires from Him are out of desire to live a life with God.  When we go to try to make life work on our own, pursuing self-fulfilling desires that are driven by the false-self, we will be derailed and life cannot be found there.  John Eldredge wrote, “Faith looks back and draws courage; hope looks ahead, and keeps desire alive.”

So what are you looking to.  What are the ambitions that drive you ahead?  Is it purely out of what this life will bring you, or do you look ahead to the hope that is head by pursing the Great Adventure with God?  Do you seek His will or your own?  As Paul write, the free spirit, which we have in Christ is at odds with self-interest or the false-self.

The false-self says, how can I make life work for me.  The true-self or the free spirit as Peterson put it, seeks and desires the ultimate life, that comes only with God and through Jesus Christ.  Paul wrote in Ephesians 4 to put off our old-self, our sinful and false nature (this is the nature that is self-driven) and put on our new nature, our true-self, that is created to be like God, truly holy and righteous.

We have a great hope that lies ahead with the coming of Christ and restoration of all things.  I urge you brothers and sisters, do not spend your life trying to make life work for just yourself.  There is no life to be found there.  This is not about us.  It is about God first.  Choose a life with Him.  Don’t be so short sighted to strive for the worlds standards or your own standards of success.  You will miss the mark big time.

Align yourself with God and allow the Holy Spirit to overwhelm you and lead you in the way you should go.  God is trying to grow us and train us in this life in order to perfect us for His Kingdom.  Choose the, with God, life.

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…

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

Takes Time To Master

I often find myself trying rush into things.  I come into something new, a new job, a new task, something, and I feel like I have to hit the ground running.  When I’ve been on job interviews in the past, one of the things always asked for is needing someone to hit the ground running.  When I make the decision to move into counseling and ministry, I felt like I had to consume as much as possible and get rolling as quickly as possible.  Then I realized something this year, while out west, mastery of anything takes time.  It’s going to take time to learn the best way to counsel and minister to people.  I can’t just go right into it and know it all.  When I started my current job 10 years ago, it’s taken time and trial and error to figure out what works best and the learning continues.

Morgan Snyder reminded me of this in his teachings when he quoted author Malcolm Gladwell.  Gladwell stated that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.  10,000 hours, that’s 416 days.  Divided to 2.5 hours a day brings us to about 10 years.  It’s a lot of time, but I’ve come to realize that anything we devote to will always take time to learn and master.

I’m not just talking about work skills.  What I really wanted to focus on here is spiritual disciplines and practices in the faith.  There are many that think, “I’m good…I was saved, baptized…I pray (occasionally)…I go to church on Sunday, etc.”  The list can go on.  But let’s think about real practice of a real and deep intimate relationship with the Father. It takes time.  As I’ve come to learn, there is a way things work and the only way to grow is through learning to develop a life that gives time to Father.  A.W. Tozer said, “The man who would know God, must give time to Him.

Through Jesus, the Father desires to restore us to a life in Him.  The way to life in Jesus is a vigorous journey and it’s one, if we truly want to come alive, requires our total attention.  It’s never instantaneous, though.  There are not any shortcuts through this journey.

For many years, I’ve lived a life of shortcuts.  Trying to find the quickest way to get to where I needed, whether that was through schooling, in my work, and in my spiritual growth in the last few years.  It’s taken a long time to learn that I have allow for time.  It will truly take a decade of working, of trial and error, to fully build a life of real authentic disciplines that is fully invested in the Father day after day.

Don’t compromise a piece of the journey.  Make the choice to fully invest in time grow into an exercise of real mastery, no matter what you invest into.  Most importantly, choose to invest in a life of real mastery in your walk with God, day after day.  I’m in the early parts of this journey.  Come along.  Think about your life and where your trying to take shortcuts.  Ask the Father to reveal where you’ve taken shortcuts in your growth.

I’m so thankful that I’ve come across a ministry of men that has helped me to learn this and know that I need to begin to inventory my life and begin to develop real habits in the life I live with God, habits of self care, the way I care for and walk with my wife, the way I father my own children in leading them to the real Father, and in the investments I make others around me.  In that order, by the way.

It all takes time.  The journey can’t be rushed, and I’m so excited to see the fruit that comes from this decade.  As Morgan Snyder reminded us at Become Good Soil, “Live in the day…Measure in the decade.

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A New Adventure In The Works

Two months from now I will be hitting the road on a new adventure as I drive across the country for the first time in route to Bear Trap Ranch just outside Colorado Springs.  I’m so excited for this journey as I was accepted and have the opportunity to attend the Become Good Soil Intensive event with Ransomed Heart Ministries.  I am so humbled and honored that the Lord has afforded me this opportunity.  As I have written about extensively over the last year, I attended my first Ransomed Heart event last year at the Wild at Heart Boot Camp.  That was 4 days packed with tremendous spiritual growth, unplugged from the matrix and getting to have some good sound fellowship with other godly men and time alone with God like I had not experienced before.  I surrendered my life on that journey to Jesus, as I quit tiptoeing in the shallow end and dove into the deep end.maxresdefault

This time around, I am looking forward to even more spiritual growth.  Whereas Wild at Heart had over 400 other men there, this Intensive is a more intimate setting with only 48 men accepted through a lengthy application process.  I gained so much at Wild at Heart, I can only imagine what the Lord will have in store for me on this adventure.

One of the biggest things I have learned on my walk over the last year is the importance of walking through life with other men in the faith.  I have especially learned the importance of walking with men who have journeyed through life longer and garnered a great amount of wisdom and experience, like Timothy walking with Paul.  I have made that a priority for my life to do just that with who I have surrounded myself with at my round table.  At this event, I will get a chance to do this as well, completely unplugged from the matrix of this world.  As the event information states, it is in the company of wise, older men…those out in front already.

mostimportant-01Any chance I get to gain something new in my walk with God, I will take advantage of.  Something that I have learned to be so valuable also is that we all, men and women, need opportunities to escape the stresses of life.  Unplugged from life.  I believe this is important, not just with event like this, but to find time to get away , at least once a year.  No phones, no work, no distractions.  Your soul needs this.  As I have shared time and again, why do you think Jesus always escaped to the wilderness.  He knew he needed to get away from the chaos in order to walk more intimately with the Father.

Look, I have suffered and lived long enough to know that I don’t have all the answers and never will in this life.  We need the wisdom of others and need to be able do disconnect to allow ourselves to connect with the Father on a deeper level.  It can be so easy to be lost in a sea of chaos out of control, but in the process, you can lose who you are.  Don’t let that happen to your life.  Find a way to unplug and also lean into others you can glean godly wisdom from.

I am very much looking forward to this adventure.  Last time I flew, but this time, I decided to load up my F-150 and make it a road trip.  I look forward to the solitude on the road as well as I prepare for the event. I’ve never driven that long on my own, and I am so excited to have this opportunity and to have a wife that is so supportive of this huge growth opportunity.  It will definitely be an adventure and I will certainly share about it more as I prepare and of course after the event.  It’s going to be an amazing adventure and I look forward to what God has in store for me this time around.