The Fatherless Beloved

The Fatherless Beloved

A few years back, I got the opportunity to ferry out to McNeil Is. near Tacoma with a Dr. friend of mine. McNeil used to be Washington’s ‘Alcatraz’ – it housed a fed. penitentiary in the late 1800s and then was run by the state until it closed in 2011. On the other side of the island, the Special Commitment Center is still operating. It is a DSHS facility that rehabilitates the state’s most at-risk sexual “predators”. I hate that word, honestly. It is a great description for the behavior, but not the person.

We spent the day talking with doctors, counselors, and those who have been committed for offenses. There is one thing that still stands out to me 13 years later: these guys are hardly different from you or I. Please don’t misunderstand – I wildly detest their behavior. But I felt a deep love for these guys as we ate lunch with them and heard their stories. My heart was broken. There was one common thread throughout: almost every one of these men were fatherless. They grew up without a dad who was emotionally and/or physically present. Many were beaten, abused, abandoned, raped – you name it, they all had a vicious story to tell of their childhood. This is not God’s design or intention. These are His beloved kids, too. The behavior is grotesque, but their hearts long for the same thing you and I do – to be fully known and fully loved. “You are my beloved”.

I couldn’t help but think “why them and not me?” Given the abuse in my past, why haven’t I given in to the ways they did? I’m no more or less loved. But I had several father figures that have pursued me and lead me the right way. At times, my thoughts lead down unthinkable paths, but my safety net of “fathers” keep me in line. EVERY day, God gives us moments to lead, love, initiate and father our kids/ nephews/ neighbors/ grandsons. We are all designed to be the face of The Father to our sons and daughters. My heart aches tonight for the men sleeping on an island not only for their behavior, but for what wasn’t done for them and what was done to them. We ALL need to love and to be loved.

Only ONE man had ever been released before we visited. The wounds are killer.

Location: McNeil Island

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Practice Makes Permanent

Practice Makes Permanent

I have developed an insatiable desire for perfection. But not in the normal sense of the word. Because I am no perfectionist. Any woodworking project or photoshop job will show you that. I guess that would fall more in line with a lack of attention to detail. I will always try my best. But most skills I use daily do not come easy for me, and I don’t have the luxury of time to meticulous perfect each task. So, I have to settle for good. God is using this season of time-lack to teach me that it is not about the perfectly finished product – it is about the heart, effort, intention, and follow-through.

The desire for perfection is something different. Perfection has become a god. Not because I need everything to be perfect. But because I have spent much of my life with an umbrella belief that I am not good enough. Or the work that I do is not good enough. Much of that is the story I have told myself. Much of it is the story other’s have told me. I have bought the lie. And the lie is a killer (like the “white eye whale”, as my son says). I believe the noise that I am not good enough. That nothing will ever be good enough. SO rather than do everything to perfection, I have spent much time contemplating whether to do anything at all. Perfection became a god because it became my identity, rather than who the one true God tells me I am. I operate under the assumption that bad things happen to me daily because my faith isn’t good enough. I had a bad thought about someone, therefore I am overdrawn, my kids are sick, my marriage is stuck in the zero-gravity Apollo mission trainer. Hard to fathom how I can believe this after being a “Christian” for as long as I can remember. The noise of the world is powerful. Not because it has power, but because I gave it power. Still today, I fight the urge to believe that God loves me just the way I am. He has already died for my sins past, present and future. He loves me, and there is no foul thing I can do to (j)eff it up.

But Jesus says “love covers a MULTITUDE of sins”. So while I recognize daily how I’ve blown it as a dad and husband, I can wipe much of it away simply by loving them well.

Location: Lake Wenatchee State Park

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Fall and Rise and Sneakers

Fall and Rise and Sneakers

Today was special. I love a good comeback story! Who doesn’t? And seeing Tiger embrace his son with such love and joy – the story is just so good.

My very first day caddying on tour was in Boston ‘06; Tiger was next to us on the range. He was dunking balls with a wedge into a trash can 30 yards out. “Yup, he’s just as good in person”, I said, a little too loudly. He ended up winning that event. I got to see him again in 15 at the local US Open, when his game was not quite where we saw it today – these photos are from that week.

“I’m not really rooting for Tiger.” “Why?” “He had an affair and his personal life is a mess.” Wait, what? I hate that I’ve had that conversation more than once over the years. So, when someone makes a mistake, we no longer root for them? Not just as an athlete, but as a human? I find it impossible to believe that if Jesus was sitting in the third row on the 18th green today, his arms would be crossed in disappointment of choices made years ago, or a week ago. Jesus is ALWAYS for us. Always. What makes Tiger’s story so special is God is writing an incredible narrative, with the best golfer in history, to show His love for us. That beautiful clip of Tiger embracing his father before he passed, and today when he picked his son up after victory. Our REDEMPTION.

Have you seen the video of all the “famous” reporters saying Tiger would never make it again, as Tiger is watching on an iPad? WE, Christians, are those naysayers. So dang quick to dismiss a public figure because of poor choices. Please don’t think for a moment I condone any bad behavior. But we are getting our priorities mixed up. The commandment was to love each other FIRST. Not to call each other’s garbage w/out love. That’s sin.

Nothing makes me rage faster than when I hear Christian leaders speaking poorly – gossiping- about other Christian leaders. Or anyone, for that matter. Regardless of what “sneakers” they wear or how they spend their money or… I’ve done horrible things. So I have no words to give but love, as that was what I was given. What I need to exemplify for my kids. Feed the fire with love, not fire. Thanks, Tiger, for no quit!

Location: Chambers Bay Golf Course

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Held Back

Held Back

I oversaw a comment by a parent recently that said something like “my kid is failing school miserably… how can I get her to take it serious?” This is a very common question, one asked across many generations. The full comment was interpreted with a tone of “what measure of discipline and wake-up call will it take to get my kid to perform at standard level?” While I know this may not be the intention or heart behind this commonly asked question, I personally am challenging that stance with my own kids. Because I know that a “thin leash” would not have helped me improve as a student whatsoever. Often, poor grades and under-performance are seen as indicators of a ‘character flaw’ in kids. As if: if they really cared, they would be better students.

Again, this was not the case for me in any way, whatsoever. I was a terrible student, by conventional standards. I took the SAT’s twice, with my highest combined score being a 920 (old scoring system). I retook algebra and biology twice, with D being my highest grade. All the while, I was trying VERY hard, and I cared greatly. Eventually I became ashamed of my inability to perform at expected standards. I blame no one but the educational standards WE have created. Our system expects us, and our kids, to fit in a very small, square box. None of my colleagues would fit in that box. But alas, it’s the standard. I cheated my way through high school and college simply to pass, because I didn’t have the skill or ability (I was capable, just not able at the time). I did the very best I could. I survived.

Much of my 17 schooling years, not counting pre to K, I was facing great odds with trauma, abuse, suicide, ADD, and a square system with a round-shaped brain. Pushing me wouldn’t have created success. Same for my kids. I need to fill the gap WITH them – come alongside them. Not push them to the system’s, or my, standards. I expect them to try their best, but I will be sensitive to the unique obstacles they face. I understand they may learn differently than I do. There is no easy answer, other than PATIENCE. Good grades are meaningless if we break them in the process. It’s a journey, not a report card.

Location: Carbon River Ranger Station

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No Fear

NO FEAR

My beautiful wife @perfectlywonderfullymade has an amazing podcast about motherhood, parenting and real life. I get the pleasure of producing it, so I get to listen to some amazing people share their powerful stories. We just set out on season 2, and her first interview is with our friend Katie Gruener. She has a rad farm south of us, and a beautiful family. She mentioned something during the episode this week that got me thinking.

“We don’t allow our kids to say ‘I cant’, rather ‘I will try’”. We do the same with our kids, but hearing someone else say it brought some new perspective. Mostly, I was curious as to why many young kids easily have ‘I cant’ high in their vocab, but not ‘I can do this!’ I began thinking: why is that? Why do so many kids share the same vocab at such an early age? Where do they hear it from? Easy answer: 😬👈🏻. Me. They get it from us. My daughter was on the wall this Saturday at the Y, a wall she has climbed to the top several times, and she got a quarter of the way up and yelled out “I can’t!” I thought: what do you mean? You’ve done this a dozen times before! But yet in all the in-between moments, I’m either telling them they can’t do something, or I’m telling Jesus I can’t do something. Or that He can’t do something. Basically, she is observing doubt and fear in me, not confidence. Remember those NO FEAR shirts back in the day?

Yes, young kids dont know what’s best for them so they want everything always. My daughter is known for doing everything at 110%. So I do have to remind the kids they “can’t” eat 173 skittles. Really, they can, I tell them, but it’s a choice. “You CAN climb the wall. But will you?” I CAN trust Jesus. Will I?

I will try. Because I can.

Location: Gordon Family YMCA

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Let it Linger

Let it Linger

We have been knocking out project after project over here. Sun up to sun down, when we aren’t working or eating, we are doing projects. We had a pretty good backlog piled up. We’ve been in our home for 2.5 years, and while we have done a ton of big projects, so many were in the queue. I always have a million ideas floating around in my head, often fueled by OCD, or simply wanting to make things function much better than the builder designed 🤦🏻‍♂️. Actually having the motivation to do the projects – that’s another beast. Depression has a way of keeping the break pedal to the metal. Ideas flow, energy and motivation don’t.

After a proper diagnosis and life-style changes, I’m operating at a high octane. It has been fantastic in many areas. And am learning lessons along the way. Two of which really have convicted me as of late.

First, I want to linger and connect with my kids, specifically when engaged in a project or activity. We all know that look in Griswold’s eyes when dragging his family out into the tundra to find the perfect tree. His ambition quite possibly could have killed his family. My son LOVES to do exactly as I do. Same tool in the same hand, using the same lingo, at the same pace. A few times though, I’ve found myself short tempered because his questions or mistakes slow the project at hand. Yes, I know he’s three, and I don’t want to make it sound like I’m a drill sergeant. But the point is there. I often am on a mission (due to little time), generally for his benefit. But then I look over and he’s gone inside and I realize I made the goal more important than the process. Time to slow it down.

2nd, I often evaluate my days based on how many boxes I checked. And when I don’t check any because chaos ensued, which is often 8 days a week, I consider the day a failure. My evaluation really ought to consist of only two questions: how did God move today, and was I a part of it?

Less ambitious agendas and checked boxes – more in-between moments where connection with my kids, wife and Savior happen. It doesn’t matter if projects get finished or we reach the end of a hike, if I missed the few opportunities to connect along the way.

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Prune Juice

Prune Juice

It has been the topic of many conversations lately. Often around other business owners and entrepreneurs. It seems many of us are going through a pretty violent pruning, a purge, specifically in the workplace. What has been interesting is many of us recognized that our companies or brands or other were up a little too high on a pedestal. Our identities have been tied to it – married to it.

So often, we are known by what we do, not necessarily who we are. This challenge is particularly great among men. How often have you been introduced to someone new and then the first question asked is “what do you do for work?” It would be kinda funny if we all started replacing that question with “how’s your marriage?” or “do your kids love you?” This pruning that is taking place is ripping businesses right out of people’s hands. Their treasure, their hard work, the name and company they built and – poof. Gone. I get kinda excited when I hear this happening because I’ve experienced it far too many times, and I know that there is so much great learning that comes from these seasons. And the fruit that follows. It’s easier to just plant more apple trees than it is to try and get one apple tree to grow the fruit of many. That would require far too many branches, and the tree would fall over regardless. It NEEDS to be pruned. Or it will spit out a few wormed-holed apples and that’s it. The rest of the apples never get a chance to grow because the branches were suffocated.

I really do hate pruning seasons. A lot. But I have come to really appreciate them. The more I embrace the lopping off of limbs in my life, the easier it will be. It’s the white-knuckled, deer in the headlights-faced guy that would be utterly lost without his career that is going to have the hardest time in a pruning season.

We come into the world nude, and we go out nude, and hairier. We need open hands. God gives, and He takes. All in love and with a great purpose. A heart that is pruned is a heart that is healthy, and holy. We were given hands to work. But we are called to disciple, love, serve. Sometimes career and ministry, gets in the way. Pruning is really just reprioritizing our time.

Location: Haiti

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War Story

War Story

I had the honor of filming and recording @nations’ first ever podcast episode at our studio last week, and have been working hard on the cutting board this week to get it prepped for launch.

This first episode was with Steven Elliott, who shares his incredible story of fighting terror alongside Pat Tillman in Ahfganistan, how that narrative played out, and then returning home to fight an even greater war: PTS(d). What an awesome story of hope and redemption. He wrote a book that comes out May 21, and is available NOW for preorder on Amazon. Now he is going up against the government to bring reformation to policies so that soldiers don’t have to endure the suffering that he did.

Excited for you to check out the podcast very soon! I love this quote from the interview:

“I was afraid… What if I go get help, I try everything, and I’m still sick? Then I’m hopeless. I didn’t have the guts to understand how sick I was. To raise my hand and say ‘I’m not doing well, and I can’t fix this on my own’”. •
Mental health isn’t something we will ourselves around. Just like we can’t just power through cancer, broken bones, Lyme or Parkinson’s. We NEED to ask for help. The bravest thing we can do is ask for help.

If you don’t know them, @nations is a killer crew of reformers and storytellers, led by @joel___parker, traveling the globe and sharing stories of absolutely incredible people, shedding light on horrific injustices, and giving the persecuted a voice. I’ve had a chance to travel the world with them over the years showing films and spreading the Gospel. The magazine they release each year is filled with the most insane stories you will ever read! Give them a follow and snag some past issues!

This isn’t an ad, this is the real deal. These guys are making a real difference in the world and to advance the Kingdom. And we can help them do that!

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Squeaky Wheel Gets The Blame

Squeaky Wheel Gets The Blame

Our senior class in high school took a spring break trip to an incredibly remote village in Guatemala to do some farming, street ministry, and to love on the people. When I say remote, it was deeeep. It took us nearly 16 hours to get out to the mountain village. The roads were more like goat trails. There was real fear of driving off a cliff, as one packed city bus had recently done. There was also the danger of bandits taking us hostage or killing and robbing us. We saw demonic chicken sacrifices along the way. We weren’t in Kansas any more. But it was a great adventure. Given the condition of the “roads”, our caravan of rental vans became demolition derby carnage. We took about 12 flats tires on the trip. It felt like we were stopping every 30 minutes to swap a tire out. My buddy Josh and I were appointed pit crew, and we got to be pretty dang fast at throwing on a spare.

When one tire would blow, all the cars had to stop. We couldn’t leave anyone behind because of all the dangers. I was sharing some concerns his week to a mentor about how I often feel like the cause of problems for everyone around me. Some of that is in my own head. But some isn’t. She mentioned how in close relationships, the squeaky wheel – someone who has a much more noticeable challange or struggle – can often get the blame for everything. This is one of the many challenges to being really vulnerable. At the surface, it is much easier to just be quiet. To not talk about depression or fear or suffering. By opening up, we are exposing ourself to being perceived as weak or less than capable.

They shout out our sliver, but miss their own. We are taken much less serious in many instances. It’s easy to say “well, you have depression and see how that has caused all these things to happen…”. I often hear things like “I appreciate your vulnerability”, but will then be placed in a box on a shelf by the same person that applauded my courage.

This is why the words we speak to ourselves are so incredibly powerful. And why we MUST surround ourselves with people who speak love to us no matter what. And why we need to remind ourselves daily of who God says we are.

Location: Guatemala

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Hand Raised

One of the most difficult things I have encountered as a man is raising my hand to say “abuse and trauma sucks, and it’s not my fault – but I am choosing to take responsibility for it”. That is hard because my flesh wants nothing more than to point the finger and blame everyone else for my problems. The problem is, I have done that much of my life and all it has led me to is bitterness, resentment, selfish pride, anger, depression, anxiety, fear, doubt… The list unfortunately goes on and on. I did not experience even a fraction of freedom from any of that until I chose to raise my hand. It does not excuse the really nasty stuff that was done to me. It simply is a gesture of surrender.

My little kids aren’t so little any more, but every day they run up to me and raise their hands to get my attention in hopes that I will pick them up and squeeze them. We raise our hands during worship in an act of surrendering our lives to our Creator. We raise our hands when we have been caught breaking the law to surrender our power to authority. Going to a depression recovery center was a public declaration that I am surrendering this control that I covet so much. But really it was in that act that I learned how much I need to surrender my life completely to Jesus. I have fought tooth and nail (epic old school record label btw) to find communion with Jesus. I was desperate for it. Longed and thirst(ed) for it since as early as I could walk. But it was impossible for me to find that union with Him so long as I placed pride and bitterness above Him. Yes, He will always meet us where we are at. But He also asks that we surrender our lives fully at the foot of the cross. Jesus raised his hand voluntarily to be charged and crucified for MY offenses. That was the ultimate surrender. My sin and pain and suffering has ALREADY been paid for.

Oswald Chambers tells us that God wants a complete and full union with us, but we MUST forfeit our right to ourselves. Meaning this pain, abuse and suffering I have experienced is not mine – He purchased all of it on the cross. He raised his hands in the most vulnerable and humiliating way so that I wouldn’t have to anymore. My right to be full of rage and hate. How could Jesus do this? I believe He couldn’t have if He held on the anger and bitterness for those killing Him, because He was dying for them too. As long as I hate my enemy, I will be living under the umbrella of hate. As soon as I can surrender that to Jesus, the sooner I can be free.

I love this image. We were in Haiti in 2011 shortly after the devastating earthquake. It was the night before a new president was being sworn in. He wasn’t a Christian, but wanted to create unity among the people, so he asked the local church to put on a worship service. We didn’t want to miss out. Little did we know that a half-million people would show up and sing and dance their faces off to Jesus. I don’t know if I will ever experience a worship setting quite like that this side of Heaven. A country that was in complete ruin, plagued by taboo religion, poverty, colossal destruction. They came together under a unified Hope that a new day was coming. They just needed to have something to hope in, as they have been pummeled for decades. We didn’t understand the words of the music, nor could we really community with the locals. But it was a night of the most radical worship I could imagine. 500,000 people with hands raised high, surrendered to their Creator – the only one who could give Hope to such brokenness. They had every reason to be mad at the world, each other, God. And they were, until that moment. We need something to Hope in. And that is Jesus. All it requires of us is raising our hand to say “I am bitter. I am angry. I am a mess. I need you. More of You, wayyyy less of me.” Let’s do it together. It is far less scary and humiliating if we all get out of the bleachers together and move towards Him.