Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Last week Kristy and I bought a new home. When we first looked at the house a number of weeks ago, one of the things that we really liked about the backyard was the fact that the neighbor behind us had two ginormous oak trees in his yard that provide great shade to our backyard. (Obviously there were many things that we liked about this house, but this story is based in the backyard).

Immediately following our closing we headed straight over to our new place to walk through it and check things out. When we arrived at our new home, I looked out the back window only to notice that my backyard was full of huge oak branches. I walked outside with my boys and saw that the neighbor behind us (we’ll call him Joe, because that’s his name) was up in one of the trees cutting branch after branch. After a few minutes, Joe acknowledged me down below and we exchanged names and talked about the neighborhood. After a few minutes of small talk I motioned down to all of the branches that were spread across my backyard and said, “Joe, as for these branches….?”

Joe quickly interjected, “Oh…do you need help dragging those out of your yard?”

At this point, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say. It was one of the ‘Maybe We Could Just Follow the Planes’ moments for me.

Maybe I could say….

“Are you serious?”


“No Joe. I don’t need help. I need you to get over here and drag them out. I’ll provide the lemonade.”


“Uh….no Joe. I just need a little help throwing them back over the fence.”

Now, for all of those who are reading this blog, I’m just curious…what would your next statement be?

I have told this story to some and they thought it was hilarious that Joe did not feel that it was his responsibility to clean up the yard. I have talked to others and they didn’t see any reason for Joe to clean up my yard. I’m really just curious what others might think about this.

All the same, it was pretty funny for me. My actual response was, “Well, Joe… I guess I do need a little help.”

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"God Likes You"

When I was telling a friend of mine this story the other day, he said, “Man, that’s cool. God likes you.”

I don’t believe that good things or bad things happen to us depending on how God feels about us on that particular day. I know that as a follower of Jesus, my life will be full of both good and bad. I do have to say though…there are times like this, where I really do sense that God likes me…that he truly, genuinely likes me.

On July 18, Kristy and I put our house up for sale. As soon as we put the ‘for sale’ sign in our front yard, we began looking for a new home. After walking through more than 30 houses and looking endlessly for 2 weeks Kristy and I had narrowed it down to 2 homes. There were only 3 problems.

Problem #1: Until we actually sold our home, we could only put a predicated offer on a new home. This normally would not be a big deal, except that the market for selling homes has been so bad lately, that most sellers weren’t even entertaining predicated offers.

Problem #2: Although we had narrowed it down to 2 homes, the problem was that I really liked one home and Kristy really liked the other. We weren’t on the same page.

Problem #3: Even if we had sold our home, the homes that we liked were out of our price range. Not only that, but on one of the homes, we already knew that the seller had already rejected an offer that was just $5,000 less than his asking price.

So, we started praying.

On Monday, August 4 around 3:00 pm, I uttered this prayer – “God, we really need an offer on our home. Could we get an offer tonight?”

At 6:00 pm, my phone rang. It was our agent saying that we got an offer on our home. We put it under contract that night.

Two days later, Kristy and I still weren’t seeing eye to eye on which house to pursue. I started to become very frustrated and on my way to work on Wednesday, August 6, I simply asked God – “God, would you please help Kristy and me come to some agreement here. Give us some direction here.”

A few hours later, as I sat my desk, around 10:00 am, my cell phone rang. It was Kristy. She said, “I just called to tell you that I trust you. You always look out for our family and you make good decisions. I trust you.”

After wiping the tears from my eyes, I got all excited and started to pursue the home that I thought would be the best long term fit for our family (just for the record, Kristy liked the house. There were just a few things about the other house that she liked a little better.)

The house that we began to pursue was listed at $15K more than our budget would allow. This was the house that the owner had already rejected an offer of $5,000 less than his asking price. So, I prayed and asked, “God, would you give us this house?”

About the time we were getting ready to make an offer, our agent called me and said, “I was praying about it this morning and I think that you should write a letter to the home owners to go along with your offer.”

I figured, what do we have to lose? So, I got to writing. I wrote about our family, our 3 (soon to be 4 sons) and how we would love to raise our family in this home. I asked the home owners to humbly consider our offer and to sell us their home. We then offered them $17K less than their asking price. They counter offered at $15K less (right at our budget ceiling.) We signed the contract. We got the house. (It turns out that the couple who owned the house lived there for 22 years and raised their 4 sons in that home.)

Hurricane Gustav caused our closing on the new home to be postponed. To most people, this would seem like a nuisance. To me and Kristy, it was a blessing. The interest rates were at 6.6% on the day of our originally scheduled closing. Since the storm pushed our closing back, when it was time to close, the rates had dropped to 6.1%. We got the new rate.

On top of all this…when I was working in the new house the other night, my wonderful wife brought me a Subway. I peeled off the little sticker on my sandwich wrapper…It said – YOU WIN! A FREE 6” SUB!

When I was telling a friend of mine this story the other day, he said, “Man, that’s cool. God likes you.”
That is pretty cool.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Impostor - I

For the last three months I have been working on my next blog. My desire is to write about what so many before me have written about.

Brennan Manning calls it the Imposter. Susan Howatch calls it the Glittering Image. John Eldridge calls it the Poser. The man who counsels me calls it the Idealized Image. James Masterson calls it the false self.

This has been the most difficult subject that I have ever tried to tackle writing about. It has been so difficult for me because this is where so many of my issues actually lie. I have learned a great deal from those who have written and taught on this subject, but when it becomes personal, it becomes challenging. ..thus the writing has been hard.

I am still working on this writing, but for today, I have chosen to simply quote Brennan Manning from his book ‘Abba’s Child’ from the second chapter entitled: The Impostor.

For those of you who have not sat down with Manning’s ‘Abba’s Child’, I encourage you to do so. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

For those who are not sure what your impostor looks like, perhaps this will begin to shed some light on things for you.

For those of you who don’t feel that you have an impostor, that’s probably just your impostor trying to convince you that he/she doesn’t really exist. This might be a great quote to start with:

“It is the nature of the false self to save us from knowing the truth about our real selves, from penetrating the deeper causes of our unhappiness, from seeing ourselves as we really are – vulnerable, afraid, terrified and unable to let our real selves emerge.”

Again, to all I highly recommend Manning’s book. I have learned and continue to learn so much from his writings and others like his.

So, on to some of Brennan’s writings…

“Impostors are preoccupied with acceptance and approval.”

“To gain acceptance and approval, the false self suppresses or camouflages feelings, making emotional honesty impossible. Living out of the false self creates a compulsive desire to present a perfect image* to the public so that everybody will admire us and nobody will know us.”

*A personal comment here: I have noticed that in my own life, my impostor has even learned how to NOT present the perfect image when around those who have an understanding of the impostor, in order to present the perfect ‘broken image’ to those who place high value on brokenness.

My impostor is smooth and amazing.

More quotes:

“Our false self stubbornly blinds each of us to the light and the truth of our own emptiness and hollowness.”

“The sad irony is that the impostor cannot experience intimacy in any relationship…the impostor is insensitive to the moods, needs, and dreams of others. Reciprocal sharing is impossible.”

“The impostor must be called out of hiding, accepted, and embraced. He is an integral part of my total self. Whatever is denied cannot be healed. To acknowledge humbly that I often inhabit an unreal world, that I have trivialized my relationship with God and that I am driven by vain ambition is the first blow in dismantling my glittering image. The honesty and willingness to stare down the false self dynamites the steel trapdoor of self-deception.”

“As we come to grips with our own selfishness and stupidity, we make friends with the impostor and accept that we are impoverished and broken and realize that, if we were not, we would be God. “

As you can see, these past few months have been rather heavy. It’s been good though. It’s been very good. I intend to continue processing what I’m learning about my impostor and hope to write soon.

On a lighter note: Yesterday was Father’s Day and my amazing bride bought me a brand new Drew Brees jersey. The cool thing is that she bought all 3 of my boys little Drew Brees jerseys too, so we’re all looking forward to football season in a big way. I also took my boys to see Kung Fu Panda yesterday. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. It was a great Father’s Day.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Journey Inward - Part 2

“May all your expectations be frustrated, may all your plans be thwarted, may all your desires be withered into nothingness, that you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God who is Father, Son and Spirit.”

For the past couple of years, I have been on a journey. Discontent with staying still, I committed to myself to take a journey to discover who I am. At the same time, the journey is not only about discovering who I am alone, but even more importantly a journey to discover who I am in Christ Jesus. I am on a journey to discover why I think what I think; why I act the way I act; why I say the things I say. The journey is in progress. On most days the journey is led by the Holy Spirit. The journey has taken me down a number of different paths that have all led to discovery and wonder. As there have been some recurring themes throughout my self discovery, I have noticed that the issues of being opinionated, competitive and judgmental seem to just keep hanging around. Recently, I sensed that the Lord was directing me to get some extra help on this leg of the journey.

In early March, I decided to take my said desire to change to the next level. In early March, I took a trip to Dallas, TX where I spent 3 days meeting with a very wise, very gracious Christian man who also happened to be a professional counselor.

On my first day, as I sat across from him, I spent the first 2 hours of our time explaining to him all of the things that I struggle with when it comes to my competitive, judgmental, opinionated self. I told him stories of how others irritate me. I told him stories of how I irritate myself. I told him all of the things that I wanted fixed.

When I was done, he spent the next 8 hours (over 3 days) helping me revisit my past, praying over me and teaching me about what it means to be an ordinary human being who opens himself to the life and power of Jesus in order that Jesus may indeed live His life through me.

At the end of our last session on our last day, he looked at me and said “It has been a pleasure spending time with you.”

At this moment, I could not believe it was over.

He could see a troubled look on my face and he asked me,    “Are you okay?”

With as much honesty as I could muster up, I simply said, “But what about all of my stuff? What about all of the things that I told you about 2 days ago? We didn’t talk about my issues. How do I quit doing the things I hate? How do I get better? How do I change?”

To these questions he replied, “Go home. Begin to live in the presence of God. Invite Him to live His life through you. If you do not begin to see some changes in the next 6 months, email me and we’ll tweak some things.”

To me this was not new news. I understood practicing God’s presence. I read Brother Lawrence’s book….five times. This advice, this counsel did not seem good to me. But that afternoon I walked out and I simply said, “Jesus, if there is more for me to learn about what it means to live in your presence, then I am open and ask you to take the lead and show me the way.”

Well, it has been 2 months and I have realized that I had a thorough, cognitive understanding of what it meant to practice God’s presence. (I've even taught on this subject!) The problem was I didn’t have a personal, ongoing experience of what it meant.

By no means do I think I fully understand it today, but I must say that I am learning more every single day about what it means to live in the presence of God; to let Jesus live His life through me. At the same time, I am beginning to see some changes in my heart and in my life.

My time with this counselor, along with a few very influential books (1, 2, 3), some very real friendships and time with the Holy Spirit has really begun to impact my life greatly. In no way could I express all that God is doing in me. In no way do I feel that God has even scratched the surface of what he desires to address in my life. However, in a very real way…I recognize that God is changing me and as challenging as it is (and it is very challenging and at times painful), I am in awe that God loves me enough to not allow me to stay stuck.

I am hoping that along the way, I will be able to share some of my journey. Some of it is a little too personal for this blog, but for what I do share, I hope and pray that it will be used to both encourage and challenge.

Friday, March 28, 2008


This week, I had the privilege of sitting down and talking with a very wise, very humble, very experienced older gentleman. Our conversation primarily revolved around some issues and thought processes that I have been having trouble overcoming. During the course of our conversation we began to discuss the original design of man, the fall of man and the subsequent result of the fall on man and man's new found ordinariness.

It seems that we live in a society where the ordinary is despised and the extraordinary is to be sought after at all cost. Let’s face it; no one wants to watch an ordinary guy like me play basketball. Instead we prefer to watch King James as he glides through the air and forcefully slams the ball through the hoop to finish off a mammoth dunk. At the same time, when was the last time you turned on your television on a Sunday afternoon to watch a bunch of cigar smoking, beer drinking guys play a round of 18 holes, hitting rooftops, slicing balls into backyard swimming pools and then hollering like children when they accidentally sink a chip shot for a bogey from 27 feet? No. We turn on our TV’s to watch Tiger Woods eagle a par 4…on purpose. Why? Because he is extraordinary and we like it. The truth is, there is nothing wrong with these guys being extraordinary (in this one area of their life) nor is there anything wrong with us liking these guys. The problem though, is when we begin to believe that being ordinary is to be less than.

This happens to all of us. But particularly for those who choose to be Christ followers in their lives…the idea of being ordinary is more or less…unacceptable. Somehow, along the way through our Christian lives, we have gathered (or been taught) that to be a Christian we must become holy, righteous, like Jesus Himself.

This week, as I spoke with this dear man, he said in a passing statement, “You know Brian; this idea of becoming like Jesus is one of the most fallacious statements that I have ever heard. What a disservice we do to people to tell them that they should become like Jesus.” He continued, by saying, “The best we can do in this ordinary, fleshly body of ours is to invite Jesus in, that He may live His life through us; that He may be holy and righteous; that He may be Jesus, in us.” As human beings, as flesh and blood, we are as ordinary as they come. No amount of prayer, fasting, solitude, silence, worship or any other disciplines can make us less ordinary or more holy. All of these things are good and necessary, but apart from the experience of Jesus Christ’s life giving power and Spirit living through us, they are just exercises in will power which will more than likely leave us exhausted, lonely and hungry.

This week I realized (again) that my being ordinary is just the way Jesus wants it. For if I had the ability to become holy or righteous or like Jesus on my own, then why would I need Him? The truth is, I do need Him and when He shows up and He lives through me…all of those around experience the extraordinary life of Jesus Christ.

In the words of one of the most ordinary Christians in all of history, the ordinary Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…”

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Journey Inward

Four months ago I picked up a book by Reggie McNeal entitled Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders. I was about to embark on my second reading through the book. At the same time, a friend of mine recommended a book by Peter Scazzero entitled The Emotionally Healthy Church. Little did I know at that time that these two books along with some nudging by the Holy Spirit would take me on a journey deep into my own heart and soul.

In the last four months I have come to the realization that I’m really not the person I hoped that I would be at the age of 31. I am a husband and a father. I did want that. I own a home and have a well paying job. I did want that. I have a few friends and wonderful family. I did want that. But, at the same time, I have a pretty achy back. I didn’t want that. I get really bad headaches. I didn’t want that. I am sad a lot. I didn’t want that. I am opinionated. I didn’t want that. I like control. I didn’t want that. I can be judgmental. I didn’t want that. There are a couple of other things, but no need to put all of my dirty laundry out there.

As these months have crawled along at a snails pace, I have begun to journey deeper into my own thoughts and feelings. I have asked questions, I have changed behaviors, I have sought the Lord. Behavioral changes have been good and healthy, but what I have truly been in search of is a heart transplant. (I am not writing from a theological standpoint at this point.) I am simply saying that I have needed God to change me at a deeper level. I have come to figure out in the last four months that God first wanted me to know what I didn’t know before he would come in and do surgery. It has been a time of being honest with myself. Evaluating my thoughts and my feelings as honestly as I know how and then learning how to evaluate more honestly.

I first read McNeal’s book, Practicing Greatness, about a year and a half ago. At that time, I distinctly remember a couple of challenges proposed in his book that I thought were very good challenges. I even thought that I should put myself up to the challenge, but then thought better of it. As I moved through the pages of Practicing Greatness this time, I felt that the Holy Spirit was gently pressing down on me with the weight of the world to not just read the words but to actually make a move. So, when I got to the chapter on managing emotions, I read very carefully; I knew that this was a chapter that I needed to pay close attention too. Basically, McNeal posed the idea, ‘If you want to know what kind of person / leader you are, simply ask those around you.’ This was one of those ‘challenges’ that I thought I should participate in last year when I read the book but then chose not too. This time around, I had no choice. I had to step up to the plate. So, I drafted four questions and I sent them to four people. Those who I sent the questions to had all known me for different amounts of time and I felt that they were the people who the Holy Spirit had inspired me to ask. The questions were:

1. How do you see me as a leader?
2. Am I a hostile person?
3. Do you see in blind spots in my life / ministry?
4. Do you like me?

This was an exercise that I was not particularly excited about. I gave these few people permission to be brutally honest with me, because if they were not willing to be honest, then the exercise would be of no value. Well…they were honest…and the good news was that at the end of each interview, each person said they liked me… most of the time. As for everything else, let’s just say I had (have) a lot to work on.

At the same time, I started reading Scazzero’s book on emotional health. In the fourth chapter of this book there is an emotional inventory for the reader to work through to assess where they rank on the emotional maturity scale in 6 different areas. The four levels of maturity are:

Emotional Infant
Emotional Child
Emotional Adolescent
Emotional Adult

The inventory determined that I rank at the child or adolescent level in the six categories. I was so upset after taking the test that I put the book in my satchel and left it there for about 3 weeks before getting back to it. (That was part of my emotional immaturity.) I did get back to the book however and it has played an integral part in the growing process.

It’s kind of interesting because I started this blog exactly one year ago. My first blog entry was entitled Opinions, Listening, Optimism and Bitching. One of my goals in 2007 was to work towards becoming less opinionated and bitch less. I did accomplish my goals in some ways, but perhaps more importantly than just trying to change the behaviors, 2007 was the year that Jesus began to show me why opinions and bitching even exist in my life. I believe that 2008 is a year of going deeper, albeit painful at times. It’s not just about changing the behavior, but truly having a change of heart and becoming the person that God has created me to be.

So, now you know. This is where I’ve been. I’ve been in the operating room and I’ve been slowly asking God to cut a little deeper and remove more and more of the stuff that has no place in my life and put more of the good stuff in me. I pray that 2008 will indeed be a year filled with looking more like Jesus as I learn more about myself and experience more of Him.