Fear Glad

As I write this, my oldest son Jay is being interviewed by the Alumni Schools Committee for one of the colleges where he’d like to spend the next four years of his life.

Two weeks ago, he and I road tripped to New England to visit four schools.  Over the course of six days we flew almost 10,000 air miles and drove 1000 car miles. We laughed.  We sat in airports.  We high-fived the rare but coveted upgrade to first class. We sang in the car.  We walked around campuses. We visited libraries.  We met with swim coaches.  We ate.  We visited some cherished friends and we made some new ones.  I listened to Jay dream about his life and I watched him get excited about this significant transition in his life.

Besides wishing I was 18 so I could go to college again, I was pleased to watch Jay FEEL the opportunities before him . . . willing to dream, desire, imagine, wish, want and hope. 

He may not get into any of the schools he’s applied to.  With 30,000 kids from all over the world applying for as few as 1200 spots in each of these freshman classes, the odds are not good.  Yes, he scored off the charts on his ACT and SAT.  He’s graduating with a 4.125 GPA.  He’s senior class president.  He’s performed the lead in several school musicals.  He holds multiple school swimming records and is a reigning State Champion.  The problem is that most of the 30,000 applicants to these four schools have a resume pretty similar to Jay’s.

Jay loved all four schools we visited.  But there was one in particular where I saw him “light up.”  He could see himself there.  And knowing Jay better than just about anyone else on the planet, I think I saw it even before he did.  As we walked through one of the campus quads he said, “Dad, this would be a lot easier if I already knew I’d been accepted.”

Easier how?  Easier in that there would be no RISK in the wanting. 

With every mile higher into the stratosphere he allows his heart to hope, he risks a proportional free fall of grief, disappointment, sadness and loss should he get a dreaded rejection letter from the admissions office in April that says, “Thanks but no thanks.”

As we walked and talked, I encouraged him to take it all in and to let his heart go.  If April brings rejection, God will meet him in his sadness and the death of his dream.  It will be in the midst of that comfort (God’s presence being invited by Jay’s sadness) that his heart will be healed . . . and in the healing prepared to open again to a willingness to risk the hope of another dream he’s not yet imagined.  

On the other hand, if he refuses his heart and protects himself from the possibility of disappointment by living in denial and refusing the truth that his heart wants to speak, he’ll suffer a worse death . . . not just for the next two months but long after.  He’ll begin to die on the inside having learned that the only way to survive this life is to play it safe, dream small dreams, and only trust what he has the illusion he can control.

I want Jay to get accepted.  I feel almost as much fear as he does because I so want good for him. But I’m mostly glad that he risked applying.  I’m glad he walked around that campus and dreamed about his life.  I’m glad he’s been willing to say out loud how much he wants this.  I’m glad he believes God will be with him (to delight in his celebration or to see his tears) when he opens that letter in April. 

I was a dreamer and a risk taker like Jay.  Five years ago today, I stopped dreaming . . . for a season.  My heart had been crushed.  

I’m not 18 and I’m not heading off to college. But I am dreaming again.

Guaranteed outcome?  No. 
Afraid? Yes. 
Willing?  Yes.
Convinced God will be with me in it?  Yes.

It’s only a heart that knows it will be comforted that is willing to risk being crushed.


Being who you were made to be.

Shame. Glad. Fear. Sad.

After sitting through two days of board meetings with Hawaiian Island Ministries (http://himonline.org/) I jumped at the chance to drive Larry to the airport. Back in my mid-twenties when I was Dennis Rainey’s assistant at FamilyLife, I always volunteered to do the airport run for the benefit of 30 minutes in the car with a godly older man flying into Little Rock to see Dennis.

Larry sits on eight non-profit boards; ministries and churches you've heard of. Few reading this would know his name yet most reading this have been influenced by his life – they just don’t know it. He’s one of those guys who when he starts to talk, everyone stops to listen.

As we neared the drop-off for departing passengers, Larry said to me, “Jeff I so enjoyed watching you engage and light up in these meetings. You have a very unique visionary gift of seeing around the corner and being able to articulate what you see.”
I used to believe this about myself (that God made me this way) but have been wandering through a season of life where I’ve not trusted my ability to see past my own nose. I felt shame when Larry affirmed me this way . . . immediately starting an imaginary conversation in my brain trying to talk Larry, and myself, out of what he had just said.

But I also felt GLAD. Glad because I knew that what Larry said was true. When God makes a pot (even a clay pot with cracks and holes in it), or gives something to someone to feed and benefit others (even if only a few fishes and a few loaves of bread), how does it in any way honor Him for us to be ashamed of being who He made us to be? How does it honor God when we run from ourselves and and thus argue with Him?

Hiding under some wet blanket of toxic shame and false humility is more about “self” than us giving way to the powerless free fall that sees, honors, surrenders, and lives . . . and is therefore liberated to see others, honor others, submit to others, and offer life to others.


Men and Sex

Fear. Glad. Angry. Hurt. Shame.

I’m working on a message (so far it’s just in my head) for a men’s conference in February. I’ve been asked to speak about “Men and Sex.” Here is the session description:

Men and Sex

Passion. Lust. Desire. Guilt. Powerful. Integrity. Pornography. Purity. Addiction. Discouragement. Shame. Raging. Longing. Helpless. Hopeless. Pressure. Secrecy. Dangerous. Scared. Lonely. Hopeful. This session is for every man who wants to be the same person in private as he is in public . . . who wants to be the same on Friday and Saturday as he is on Sunday.

Wrestling in my heart and mind about this enormous issue. Feeling fear as I imagine myself standing in front of a room full guys and opening my mouth on the subject. My strength will be my willingness to talk about my own life and to identify the elephants in the room. My weakness will be . . . well, the likelihood that much of what is in my heart and mind won’t make it into coherent words that come out of my mouth.

I don’t want to talk about this the tired way I’ve always heard it discussed. I feel anger when I read most of what is written about this subject and more anger when I hear people speak about it. The approaches are mostly external and shaming. Threatening and defeating. Full of self-will and light on surrender. Full of religious jargon and light on the admission of just how tangled up we all are when it comes to our sexuality. Whereas I believe the journey out of shackles of any sexual struggle and/or an ongoing healthy sexuality begins with honesty (me with me, me with you, me with God), I have seen few Christian settings (only two in my lifetime – neither of which was in a church) where honesty and vulnerability were met with the empathy, grace, and hope that would invite that kind of honesty and self-disclosure.

Where am I? Glad I said yes to addressing this topic because I’m "wanting" for the men who will be there . . . as "wanting" as I am for me because I’ll be there too and I believe God has something He wants for me in this. But I’m also wondering why I didn’t choose a home run topic I could deliver in my sleep and not need to feel fear (and trust God for) these next several weeks. I’ve already told them they cannot record the message.



Glad. Lonely.

Sitting here in the Portland airport on my way back home to Anchorage. Just spent a couple hours with some really good friends on the back end of a work trip. One friend is a young friend. By young I mean our friendship is relatively new in the scope of my almost 49 years. He loves me and I know it. I am grateful God has brought him and his family into my life.

The other friend, I’ve known closer to ten years but he’s the kind of friend who because of the “life” we’ve shared, when I’m with him I think this is what it must feel like to have had a buddy you carry with you from the fifth grade. Our ten years feel like 30. He’s a friend who has dreamed big kingdom dreams with me. He’s a friend who has held me in his arms when I was in so much internal pain I thought I could not live. He is a friend who stood next to me at a cost when some were running like rats on the sinking ship that was my life at the time. He’s one of the most brilliant and gifted men I’ve ever known but that’s not what draws me to him. He’s also a friend who has experienced great loss in his life. Buried his first wife and triplets. Been diagnosed with cancer. Walked with his second wife through a grueling battle with breast cancer. Sat in courts fighting for a daughter. Helped build orphanages in developing countries. Been kicked in the gut by good men. Held babies with AIDS in his arms and dreamed of a better world.

We live thousands of miles from each other. Sometimes we don’t talk for long stretches of time (I feel shame about this). But when I am with him, a little boy smile shows up on my face from somewhere in the heart of an 11 year old boy . . . and the loneliness I feel when I look at my watch and realize I have a plane to catch reminds me where I am, reminds me who I am, and makes me wish I had a family member who worked in the airline industry so visits like this could happen more often.