I have always enjoyed these few days before the New Year. It is likely a combination of things. For years there were holiday basketball tourneys that our kids played in, and always lots of great football to watch. But for me one of the highlights has always been having the schedule slow a bit and then taking the time to find one of my favorite places, seek some quiet, and listen. Listen and learn from some of the lessons of the road of the last year, and then start to dream about what is next.
One of the things I like to do is keep this time pretty simple. With an open journal in front of me I just ask God if there is a word, a phrase, or a step he wants me to take in the coming year.
A year ago, three words came to me right away: Focus. Simplify. Have fun.
Often throughout this year I have gone back to those words as a sort of check up. As a result I have developed a pretty lengthy list around each one.
With all the leaders who come into the Rogue and RhythminTwenty leadership journeys, we call this practice SPACE. We challenge and invite these leaders to take a full day of space every month. Of all the things we do, this is the one practice that people continually go back to as a difference maker—as a time God often really breaks through. This concept is certainly nothing new. I have been reading about Irish Monks who made a type of space their critical practice more than 1600 years ago.
But today has been a great reminder of why this time of space has been so powerful in my own life over the years:
- It helps me get centered and steady.
- It helps me to stop doing and just listen and respond from a stronger place.
- It reminds me that life is not just about me, but I am a part of a much bigger story.
- It breathes life, energy, and vision back into my journey.
- It is a great space to remember the many times God has broken through in my own life.
Having said that, it is amazing how many obstacles come in the way of me taking this time. But today as I sat in a lodge and looked over a snowy river basin, I was reminded again of the WHY. Some needed clarity has started to come. It was just a beginning today, but a critical start for me as I head toward 2015.
This last summer we had one of our favorite family trips ever. In the middle of this high adventure trip of hiking, fly fishing, water falls, and incredible scenery were some quiet nights in Bozeman, Montana. Eating great food and having a blast playing corn hole each night at sunset was the highlight of the trip.
That is part of why I am looking forward to the next couple of weeks. It helps to have the calendar force me to slow down, evaluate some things, and just seize the moments around me. This Christmas, that is particularly true. Our extended family is spread out and the days around Christmas will be pretty quiet… just the five of us. Sometimes it is easy to convince myself that things are not going to change; that the family rhythm we have been in for years will always be the same.
But this Christmas I am reminded of a line from one of the Lord of the Rings movies. In The Two Towers, Aragorn is talking to the Theoden, King of Rohan. Evil is pressing in on his kingdom from all sides. Even as villages are being overrun, Theoden does not want war. He is ready to take his people and make a run for Helms Deep, where they have found safe haven in the past. In this moment, Aragorn confronts the king with the truth.
“Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not
That rings true to me this year. A few days after Christmas our oldest son moves to Los Angeles to chase a dream of writing and performing stand-up comedy. Our daughter heads to Florida the day after Christmas to meet her boyfriend’s family… hmmm.
Yes, change is coming, and with this new season of family life, the risks and rewards are high. You hope the coming transitions will be good, full of new dreams, adventure, and uncertain outcomes. Even though I know change is an absolute certainty in life, it can be tough to navigate sometimes. My tendency with my family can be to hang onto some of the moments and memories, and resist the change that is coming. So this Christmas, maybe more than ever, I am determined to seize the moments, be fully present, create some new memories, enjoy the slower pace , and ready myself…
Because change is coming, whether I want to risk it or not….
I’m not a big fan of winter. I just don’t like the cold. It likely goes back to the years on the farm and working with the livestock on those cold winter days. Despite the onset of winter, I absolutely love the week after thanksgiving because it means the start of basketball season.
That sport runs deep for me. I grew up watching basketball, playing it, learning it, and loving the game at every level. The first hoop I shot at was nailed up to the side of our barn. It was a scene straight out of “Hoosiers.”
But as much as I loved playing, the real joy came when we had kids. We were lucky enough that all three of our kids loved the basketball and had a lot talent. When our oldest was in third grade I started coaching his team, and got to do that for each of our kids in their early years. Our oldest transferred to the biggest high school in the state for the challenge of playing basketball there. It was a blast watching him through those high school years. Our daughter was a lights-out three-point shooter.
And our youngest showed his talent from a very early age. It was obvious to all who watched that he had some special God-given talent. The recruiting started early in high school. He was a varsity starter as a freshman. At the end of his junior year, just when things started to heat up and a Division 1 scholarship at a dream school was looking like a real possibility, injuries hit. The next two years included three surgeries and countless hours of rehab and training. Likely the dream of playing D-1 basketball ended this last summer on a recruiting trip when he realized his body just was not going to let him play at his former level
We have had plenty of questions and a ton of disappointment over the last two years. Why does God seem to gift someone, give him a heart and passion to chase that dream, yet seemingly allow that pursuit to be blocked again and again? And Dylan, and I often wondered where God was in the quiet.
But through this journey, a young man’s identity began to shift from being a basketball player to something much bigger. My perspective of his journey and what is really worth celebrating began to change as well.
Check out this short video a church did on Dylan’s journey:
I still love basketball but my perspective on the sport, and what it can teach has deepened a ton. So as the cold sets in this December, I still get excited for the season, but it is different. Maybe the answer for me now is to escape the cold, head to San Diego for a couple of months and watch some hoops there…
I’m liking that vision the more I think about it.
In the book Harbor Seven, I write about one of the many slow walks I saw my dad take on our family farm. It was his time of ”space,” a time to get settled, a time to get things right. But there was one slow walk I will never forget. It was after a devastating hailstorm wiped out most of our crop. I remember a lot about that day: the fact that my dad seemed shaken, but not devastated. I remember how well his words and actions lined up that day, and I remember thinking his values and priorities truly were people over profit. And I remember what it looks like for a great man to really seek God on a bad day.
One of the stirring images of that particular long slow walk, was that he did not do it alone. His best friend joined him that day. My dad passed away almost twenty-eight years ago. It was sudden. He was young, and his death left a hole for so many of us that knew and loved him. Many times over the last several years, that friend who walked with my Dad, George Osborne, helped fill that gap. Every time I would see him he would tell stories about my Dad. He often reminded me that he lost his best friend when my dad died. The following is an excerpt from my book, as George talks about my father….
“My relationship with Lloyd could best be described as the ability in each of us to communicate with the other without talking. It was eerie. He gave me the most priceless gift one man can bestow on another: unconditional friendship. He let me see and share inside all the warts he thought he had, none of which I could see. He saw my inconsistencies as justifiable, he acted over my reluctances, he took me into places and relationships that I preferred not to go or do, he made me realize that often, if not always, a sense of humor and joy exceed wisdom and intellect. He was a real soul-mate.”
Connections like that require effort. How did a man like George Osborne, who was busy with his career as a physician and raising a family, have time to forge an intimate, enduring relationship with my dad? I think he understood that, throughout life, all sorts of different connections are needed. It simply makes life fuller, deeper and more fun.
And this week these two friends are together again for another one of those long slow walks. I bet they are having an awesome time.
So here is to difference-making relationships. Here is to the kind of friendship I think we all long for. Here is to the time I got to spend with two great men who made a difference in their families and the world around them. Here’s to men who loved to have fun, and who flourished in both deep and shallow waters. Here is to two men who, in very different ways, deeply impacted my own life and leadership in some very deep ways.
It is not hard to imagine God saying to both, “You stayed the course, you keep the faith, you finished well.”
Time for me to take one of those long slow walks…
I went to the movie The Fury last night. It was hard to watch in a lot of ways, as it showed in graphic detail the cost of war. But it was also an inspiring movie on mission, on brotherhood, and the critical nature of having people in your corner as you face all the struggles this life holds.
There is the amazing scene at the end when this crew of five in one tank is surrounded and facing insurmountable odds. The tank is stationed at a crossroads, and the mission is critical to hold back the Nazis as long as possible. In the scene, two of the characters quote a Bible passage out of Isaiah 6. In it God, is asking the question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” At which point Isaiah says, “Here I am send me.”
As they spoke those lines in the movie the implications were clear: They likely would not make it out alive. If they were indeed the ones for this moment… for this mission… it could cost them everything.
I have heard that verse quoted a lot through the years. I have used it several times myself. But I wonder how often I really grasped the full implications of that passage. Sometimes in this country it can be pretty easy to say, “Here I am, send me,” until the support stops coming in, or until seemingly insignificant struggles detour our mission, or until discouragement, lack of results, and disappointments in life throw us off course.
This is one of those movies that is hard to shake. It has me asking a lot of questions about where God is at in the midst of struggle, death, and the battles we see playing out around the world today. It reminds me that I absolutely have to fight for relationships so I will have the people I need to in the foxhole with me when times get tough. And it is a great reminder that when I think about applying Isaiah 6:8 in my own life, I’d better take a deep breath and really think it through.
Am I as ready as I think I am? Is this really the moment, the mission, the cause God is calling me to? Am I willing to follow it all the way through?
I am still thinking…