Why don't "Christian kids" become "Christian adults"

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The reality is, there are many reasons. Some very painful and sometimes, nearly impossible to pinpoint. Here, I want to address one that I have seen a few too many times throughout my journey. 

Inauthenticity. Two faced parents. 

I have heard accusations and read studies of how children who grew up in a ministry or Christian family are often the most likely to rebel and walk off from the “faith” of their parents. I’ve watched and wondered. I’ve seen it over and over again. But, then I have also seen the other side… Kids that absolutely go for it and carry their parents faith even further! 

And here’s what I’ve observed:

When “Christian” parents act “Christian” when others are around, and unchristian at home when no one is watching, kids see it, hate it and say “no thank you” to this fake shit. And they rebel and run off looking for something honest. 

When we model equal amounts of “Christian” no matter where we are or who is around, kids see a faith that is embodied, real and attractive. They want it, keep it and go even further than we could. They know it's something honest. 

Yet ANOTHER reason I’m pioneering Integer Network with a hope for eradicating fakeness and creating authentic people that model and live authentic faith. I keep seeing the costs of inauthenticity biting us again and again. 

God, help us to learn honesty and vulnerability. 

(One day I would LOVE to find the time to develop content and teaching around this to help people see it and change it, so that our kids don't blame God for something he never did or someone he never was.)

Financial Partnership with Integer Network

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Here is a moment of honest sharing: We need financial partners to back us as donors as we start Integer Network! Maybe you want to be one of them? Simply put, if you feel that inauthentic and broken leaders and teams are hurting the church and the cause of Christ and you want to see them be real and whole, Integer would be a great place to invest some resources. 

More honesty: After more than 7 years of being fundraising missionaries, it would have been a nice treat to just "take a ministry job" somewhere that came with a salary and some security...but that was NOT what I heard from the Lord when we asked "what's next"? So, we jumped out in faith that if we started a ministry initiative consistent with my calling and God's leading, that the finances would follow. Fear isn't one of my biggest struggles, but I will say...this step has required lots of faith to combat the fear that lingers around the corner! As with any new venture, there is always risk. 

Ministry or Business? Some have asked...is Integer Network a business or a ministry? It is a ministry and we answer that question very thoroughly right HERE. 

The financial plan: Integer Network will function from the following income streams (in order of amounts):

  1. Donors making charitable contributions to the ministry which makes it possible to coach, train and mentor leaders both in the USA and abroad. 
  2. Clients paying for coaching services.
  3. Churches and teams hiring Integer for workshops, events and staff development. 

Money donated or generated will be spent in the following ways (in order of amounts):

  1. Staff Salaries 
  2. International Leadership Development 
  3. Administrative Costs for coaching and events 

Integer Network has an overseeing Board of Directors that has already begun functioning to provide accountability and wisdom to our decisions and development. Will introduce them soon over at the Integer Blog. 

We have made the giving process as easy as possible right here at the Integer Website where you can make one time gifts or establish recurring monthly gifts. Just click HERE. 

Thank you for joining in the early stages of a much needed network that will bring freedom and healing to many people! 

4 ways to actually love people

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After traveling many places and making many friends with people from wildly different backgrounds and cultures, I asked myself: "What worked everywhere?" I took time to examine the patterns and behaviors that seemed to break down the real and imagined walls that naturally separate me from others. At the end of the day, I discovered it was really just love. Love breaks down walls. So, here are 4 great ways to actually and practically love people:

  1. Ask, don't assume! Ask questions. Ask good questions. Ask non-googleable questions. Ask because you actually care and really want to know. Ask to learn about the other. Ask to clarify misunderstanding. Do not guess and assume you just know. Asking questions draws the other out and allows them to form their own story instead of you assuming you already know it. A good question can feel like a rare gift. Proverbs 20:5 says that they heart of a person is like a deep well; one who has insight draws it out. 
  2. Listen, don't lecture! If you ask good questions, but don't practice deep listening, you haven't loved, you've patronized. Secondly, lectures belong in a classroom...leave them there. They do not belong in interpersonal relationships. Hold your convictions, don't distribute them. We hold our beliefs, we distribute mercy, grace and compassion. No one else is nearly as concerned with your opinions as you think they are. Listen well, listen deep, listen long, listen for what is said, listen for what isn't. Often the thing you waited most patiently to hear is the thing that impacts you most deeply. 
  3. Authenticity, not acting! From the home of Syrian refugees to a village in rural western Kenya to the Maasai of Tanzania to the Afrikaners of South Africa, real works. In America, real works. People do not feel loved when you hide and deceive. However, everyone values truth...it is part of the God image in all of creation. Be real and people feel loved. Be fake and people feel handled and mistreated. Truth is attractive and honesty builds trust. Entrusting people with who you actually are is a brilliant way to communicate love. 
  4. Compassion, not comfort! As I said before, we hold our convictions, we distribute compassion and grace. It is an unavoidable reality that people hard to love are hard to be around. Hence, your comfort cannot be your priority. Love is a stronger and better cause than comfort and ease. If followers of Jesus want to actually emulate Jesus, we better get way more comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

Now, go try these four. You'll be astounded at how well they work together. 

Learning from addicts

Lately I have been thinking a lot about authenticity. It’s what you do when you are launching a leadership network with that focus. As one who values REAL, I love to find it on display in others. 

I spent this past weekend at a ministry in Kentucky restoring addicts…men who have just come off the street, out of jail, off of cocaine, etc. It has been a long time since I have been so refreshed! What a blast to be among real people, with real problems who really admit them. When everything is out in the open, there is nothing to hide. When you have done the worst, everything under that is fair game. When your offenses are in the public, you no longer need to hide in private. 

I think us holy Christians have a LOT to learn from addicts. We have been so good at creating rules, doctrines, lines and boxes that we can easily become professional hiders. The rules we make and enforce naturally create fear for what happens when we break them. We are prone to put so much energy into maintaining our (fake) perfections that we don’t talk freely about our (real) imperfections. We don’t want to be kicked out. None of us like being excluded. 

An atmosphere of grace and a room full of addicts turning to Jesus is a sure recipe for authenticity if I’ve ever seen one.

Don’t Push It

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We all like to get our way. We naturally think our ideas and plans are good ones and want to make them happen. That’s just normal. But there’s something I’ve observed in my own life that I thought might be helpful to share with you.

Most of the time when we have to push really hard to get our idea to happen, it’s probably not the right idea, the best plan or the right time.

You know what I’m talking about… You feel like you have to sell the concept. When people offer what feels like oppositional feedback, there is an inner feeling of defensiveness that leads you to begin pushing and explaining why this thing really should happen. When we have to sell it, and spin it and push it, it should immediately throw up a yellow flag in our soul.

Wisdom is a really beautiful gift. She flows into our hearts and minds through the many streams around us. When we fight against the current, it’s tiring and probably a sign that we should stop and rest. A better idea or better timing is up ahead.

Don’t just barrel forward with your great idea when wisdom is whispering to you. There are a million good ideas out there and you’ll get another one soon enough. And perhaps that will be the one that goes flowing down the river with the wind at your back and people standing on the banks cheering you on. Listen to the voices around you.

I’ve pushed too many things in my life that I shouldn’t have. And as a “salesman” by nature, I’ve maneuvered into plenty of things I probably shouldn’t have. Trying to grow here. Let’s go with the flow of favor.

Don’t push it.

Confidence & Humility

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If we struck a balance between a Godly confidence and a Godly Humility…learned to walk in both, it would be a really powerful Jesus type of spirit! Confidence and humility are not opposites or contradictory, but rather hand in hand and a powerful combination for high impact! I meet many people afraid of confidence, worried they might become proud, and holding back the gifts clearly given them by God. It's a shame. 

There is a difference between confidence and arrogance (few people are truly arrogant, most are insecure and masked with false arrogance). And there is also a difference between being humble and being pitiful. In Psalm 51, David gives us a great example of the dance between confidence and humility. David writes this Psalm after committing adultery with Bathsheba and the Psalm kinda goes like this (in my own words):

Humility: God, I messed up please forgive me. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me.  

Confidence: I will teach people, they will respond, I will joyfully sing and my mouth will praise!

Humility: But the only sacrifice that you desire is a broken and contrite heart, so make mine so.

Confidence: We will make Zion prosper and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and we will be back in your grace. 

My short version of the whole Psalm: I am not going to walk around BEATEN UP because I SCREWED UP, but I am going to MOVE ON UP…with a broken and contrite heart!

Confidence, when properly carried can actually lead to incredible humility. The more we feel the weight of our gifts, the more we feel the need for the humility to not misuse them. It leads to meekness which my friend Keith taught me last week is "strength under control."

Leonard Sweet calls this a Jesus Spirit….the bringing together of these 2 powerful dynamics! It is an emptying and a filling. Remember, humility is NOT putting yourself down. And humility is NOT denying your strengths. It is honestly accepting your weaknesses. You strengths are gifts from God to be welcomed and carried out.

I guess the key to a big head is a big heart. 

What belongs in the back seat of your car?

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Most of life's emotions are gifts to us. They guide us, protect us and whisper to us each day. Emotions have a vital role to play. But there are many times when we allow them to play a harmful role or steer us the wrong way. Recently, I came across an idea on a podcast that has impacted me pretty profoundly lately...and at a time I need it! This week I began putting the plow to the field on the next season of my life and work. This is a big moment for us! (Credit for this idea goes to Author Elizabeth Gilbert of 'Eat, Pray Love' fame).

Here's the gist:

Fear is one of our most common emotions. Before beginning any exciting new creative project, we must have a conversation with fear. Look, we need to accept that we can never get rid of Fear — that it follows us along wherever we go, and that it is especially provoked whenever we try to be creative. (This is because Creativity demands that we constantly enter into realms of unknown outcome, and Fear HATES realms of unknown outcome.) So I always explain to Fear that me and Creativity are about to go on a road trip together, and that Fear is invited to come along (since it always comes along, anyway!) and that it has a role to play— but that Fear is not allowed to drive, not allowed to make decisions, not allowed to choose the songs on the radio, not allowed to select the snacks, not allowed to suggest detours. Fear is welcome in the car, in other words — because I do not exile any of the parts of myself along the creative journey — but Fear must sit in the back seat! 

And the same is true of many other partners on the journey. Like Ambition. It can come, but it better get its butt in the back seat, because when ambition drives, we run over tons of pedestrians and neglect things that matter most. Or anxiety. It will come, but get in the back! Or pain. It will come, and it may help us spot a few potholes, but it may not drive!

So, who can you put in the backseat today?

And whose hand needs slapped if it reaches for the radio to play songs you do not want to hear?

Thank You, Dr. Swanson

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As most of you know, our 2 year old son, Graceson suffered a stroke at our home in Tanzania back in May of 2017. There were so, so many stories that unfolded during that time, many of which we will probably never be able to even retell. But here is one that I've felt compelled to share. 

It just so happened (God) that a few months after we arrived, we met an American Pediatrician from Minnesota living in Arusha. We took the kids to him and he offered us immense comfort, just knowing he was there. "There", meaning direct access to his cell phone at any given moment, not "there" like in the states. When Graceson became ill and lost function, it was Dr. Swanson that walked us through each step. The man just exudes peace and gentleness and is of the highest caliber workers in his field. It was Dr. Swanson that realized there was some form of swelling on Graceson's brain. It was Dr. Swanson that organized the airplane for the medical evacuation to Kenya. It was Dr. Swanson that we talked to each step of the journey as Graceson received diagnoses in Kenya. It was Dr. Swanson that encouraged us to get Graceson back to the USA. And throughout these many months he has cared, checked in, prayed, advised us and given us perspectives that no other Doctor (even in the states) has offered. Dr. Steve Swanson was one of our great gifts from God to get us through the hardest moment of our lives. And Tricia and I will forever be deeply grateful for him. 

I connected with Dr. Swanson when I was back in Tanzania last month and had the opportunity to hear more about the magnificent work he is doing in Tanzania, a land we love so much. I want to share it with you. You can watch this video below to meet Dr. Swanson and hear more about his work with prematurity in Africa. Enjoy! And donate if you feel so moved

Thank you, Dr. Swanson. One day we will see to it that Graceson visits you and offers his personal gratitude for helping save his life.