Friday, May 30, 2008

"Character is that which can do what it must without concern for success." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
At the risk of sounding like an egomaniac (sadly, I am a recovering one, with plenty of regular opportunities to either 'get drunk' or 'stay sober'), I recently got a couple of phone calls from a couple of churches looking for preachers who honored me by asking me to join them in prayer concerning whether or not I should "put my name in the hat" with them concerning a move. (No, I'm not going anywhere...I've learned that I'm a hard guy to move in that regard).
While this is a fairly common phenomenon, some of the calls make me wonder what it is these churches think they want out of a preacher...
Do they want someone who will help their church grow numerically? 
Do they want someone who will keep their attention on Sunday's during the speeching time?
Do they want someone who will help cause evangelism to happen?
Do they want someone who will challenge them to grow in Christ?
On growing numerically  - I have a preaching peer who, while philosophically agreeing that what we do as Christ-followers "is about the transformation of people," he takes a knee to the idea that since numbers are the only objective data with which we can measure success, it is what we must use to measure it.
I agree that numbers are objective, but that the numbers of people showing up at your Sunday morning worship gatherings is an objective measurement of success concerning the transformation of people I totally disagree with.
Look, if transformation is subjective, then we must simply come up with subjective ways of measuring subjective things...and deal with it. But to use something objective that cannot measure the success you are after, simply because it is objective, is futile and a glorious waste of energy. Since I've come to the Southwest church in Amarillo to be their preacher, we have grown from an average attendance on Sunday mornings of 850 to 750 in attendance on Sunday mornings. That's the objective truth, but what does it measure? I don't believe that this indicates failure in transforming people any more than attendance growing up to 950 would indicate success in doing so.
The numbers that I need to see and hear are stories of transformation.
- Are the (spiritually) poor full of hope about good news?
- Have prisoners (of the heart) been experiencing and talking about their freedom? 
- Do the blind smile as they enjoy newly-found (in)sight? 
- Are hugs and smiles and comforts and servants and lovers and intimacy and peace-fullness and healing and righteousness increasing in the oppressed (which is all of us)?
If these things are happening, then we are on the mission of Christ "successfully". And honestly, folks, all you have to do is go to your own heart and see if it is happening there, and if it is, then you are living the life regardless of who is your preacher and how many people go to your church. And if it is not, then you have a much larger that a new preacher may or may not be able to help you with...directly proportional with his capacity to usher you into a genuine focus, fixation, and relationship with Jesus Christ as your minister, pastor, preacher, savior and friend.   
On keeping people's attention with a speech - This is a new insight for me, one that is still forming, thanks to a timely reflective phone call from my buddy Tquan Moore (who has a new cd about, by the way...go to and buy it). I've been torn, since becoming a preacher, between two different opportunities for growth. Two different methods of advancing the Kingdom, if you will.
Our church's vision is to "make disciples of Jesus through real relationships". So, as the preacher, do I fulfill this vision by investing in becoming a better speech maker to motivate people to do this? Or do I become better at and invest more in real relationships directly? I know, I both, Brian! And I have (and am) trying, but it is just not that simple here on the ground.
I think speeching and preaching can really contribute powerfully to a person's growing up in Christ. I've seen it happen (through stories) in my ministry. But ultimately, I don't think someone gets preached to maturity. Nor programmed to it. Preaching and programs can help, but I think people get loved into Christ. Period. So for this preacher, I spend much more time loving people towards maturity in Christ through relationships than preparing my speeches on Sunday morning in a way that might improve how well, how long, and how many different kinds of people I can keep attentive. I'm not saying that this is the ideal perspective for a preacher...I'm wondering just the opposite. But I'm not saying that it isn't either. Humility demands that I remain a constant experiment as I labor for Christ.
On the last two - I was going to write on each of the above 4 questions, but I have a line of people waiting for me to call. People who need Christ (evangelism) and are volunteering to be challenged towards Christ.
I love talking about what I get to do and be in my life, but how much time should I spend talking about making disciples and actually making them? As it is, I end this piece sitting right in the middle of that I finish this post about making disciples? Or do I go and be with a few of the people who are becoming disciples of Christ with me relationally?
My choice for today...send this email half done, for what it is worth, and go be with and love these people, for what it is worth.
Praise God, in Jesus Christ, that this is such a grace thing. He who has untold worth takes my humble, half-done offerings and advances the Kingdom in unbelievable ways in my heart. I could never plan, control, or orchestrate this stuff if I tried.
So I will just follow, as I must...with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength....without concern for success.
May God bless us all. 

Friday, May 23, 2008

On living too much from your mind, emotions and heart...

On living too much from your mind:
The mind is an amazing thing. The capacity to rationalize, to think, to make sense of things, to order, to categorize, theorize, prioritize, and organize can really make things efficient. But the mind does not know how to love. The "mind gone mad" is when it decides that efficiency or order are the highest priority of life. When the mind decides to organize things from the idea that the mind is the highest authority available to a human being, watch out...that person will run over people and "think" they are loving people and "helping them" by doing so. There is such a thing as living with too little mind...but that is not the subject of this note. People who live too much from their mind, however, quickly and conveniently judge anything that disagrees with them as doing so...keeping their own little efficient, boxed-in, orderly perspective safe and secure from the wild and chaotic world where real life is lived. Ironically, the person who lives too much from the mind usually condemns emotions while using the emotion of anger to sustain it's own perspective and existence in the face of anything outside of their comfort zone. Again, the mind is not the source of love, and living this way is much less than the abundant life available.
On living too much from emotions:
Our emotions are amazing things. Their capacity to activate, to move, to propel, to change the course of things, to shut down or wake up people, to take over, to energize, empathize, sympathize, and mobilize can really make things exciting. But the emotions do not know how to love. Emotions alone are as selfish and self-centered as the mind. They think they rule and should be catered to. When the emotions are submitted to without the application of wisdom in a human being, watch out. That person will run over people and "feel" that they are loving people and "being real" with them by doing so. There is such a thing as living with too little emotion...but that is not the subject of this note. People who live too much from their emotion, however, quickly and conveniently judge anything that disagrees with them as doing so...keeping their own indulgent extreme behaviors safe and unchallenged from a world with natural laws and order where real life is lived. Again, the emotions are not the source of love. Ironically, the person who lives too much from the emotions usually use their minds to condemn "unemotional people" to sustain it's own existence in the face of anything that would challenge them to use their emotions effectively. Again, the emotions are not the source of love, and living this way is much less than the abundant life available.
On living too much from your heart:
You can't live too much from your heart. This is the goal of God for every human being. The heart is where Christ takes up residence. This is the area where an all or nothing attitude is actually healthy. Since we are all creatures of habit and have addictive natures, this is the habit we should develop and the addiction we should get hooked by. King Solomon, considered by the Bible to have wisdom matched by no other mortal man, said that the highest priority of every person should be his heart (Proverbs 4:23). King David, described by Scripture as man after God's own heart (would being a man after God's own head ever a compliment He used?), says that his important ideas and guiding thoughts come from within the heart (Psalm 27:8).
The Hebrew word for heart is "leb," (pronounced "labe") and it is used holistically as a description of the very essence of the entire human being, encompassing the feelings, the will, and the intellect. The heart is the source of love. I'll say it again, the heart is the source of love. Living from the heart can not be overdone.
A survey of the book of Matthew reveals that the Son of David agreed with King David's idea that the heart is the very "wellspring of life" (Proverbs 4:23). Jesus said that if you want to see God, you can't unless you have a pure heart (Mt 5:8). He said that it is the focus of the heart that is of consequence (Mt 5:28; 6:21). He told the hurting that the solution to their problems was to "take heart" (9:2 & 22). And when convincing people that following him was the best, most productive, most restful and life-giving way to live, he totally disarmed them by exposing the contents of his heart (Mt 11:29). He says that our mouths (that is, our word choice, conversation topics, tones of voice, and speaking truth or lies) are merely a reflection of what resides in our hearts (Mt 12:34).
Need I go on?
If you, dear reader, are reorienting your "thinking" and "feelings" to become humble, obedient and loyal servants of your heart, then you need not read on. There is an actual sensation reported by those who have learned this majestic truth...they call it "thinking from the chest" (rather than from the head). Likewise, there is another called "feeling from the heart" (rather than from the gut). If these are not sensations you are familiar with, or agree with, or believe possible, or are operating out of right now in this moment as you read, then I think I might need to go on (if for no one else, for me)...because this is doggone important.
Your life, the quality and abundance of it, and of those all around you depend on you spending your life learning this. It's worth the "mental" or "emotional" energy required of you.
So, continuing, Jesus said that when the heart is being under-utilized it causes people to hear things wrong, see things wrong, and walk around not understanding people (how many times have you heard someone shake their heads and say, "I just do not understand them"? This is not because they are not capable, it is because they are not willing...people of the mind think it's too inefficient, and people of the emotions would have to accept responsibility, and neither want to be bothered). He then goes on to say that these calloused hearts are the reason they are not healed (Mt 13:15). When our hearts aren't right, he says, our lives aren't right (Mt 15:18-19).
When Jesus himself gets planted in a human being, according to him, that event is occurring in the heart, whether he remains there, in the heart, determines whether that life has any Kingdom worth (in terms of effectiveness) at all (Mt 13:18-23).
And finally, the most-coveted gift of forgiveness isn't forgiveness unless it is done from the penetrating, comprehensive depths of the heart, Jesus says, and he adds that God will treat you in the exact way you deserve (rather than with grace) if you don't forgive from the heart (Mt 18:23-35). Figuring out this heart thing, without question, is the mandatory and much neglected business of the human race. 
Because love, my friends, is a heart thing. And God is love (1 John 4:8). So THE thing that you possess that has the capacity to be like Christ, like God, is your heart. The mind is God-given, but it is only useful as a tool of your heart. Your emotions are powerful gifts of God, too, but are only useful when they are utilized by the heart.
No one can be great, and be more head than heart. And no one...can be great and be more emotions than heart.
For you mind people who want to argue with Jesus, explaining each of his teachings away with with logic and reason, instead, put all that mind power into going and learning what this means (we need you! We need smart minds that can explain this). For you emotional people who just feel hurt or beaten up by this piece, instead, look for the value in this (We need you! We need powerful "feelers" that can fuel us to wise action). We need minds and emotions, and it is time for them to ally themselves within us, and among us, rather than compete with each other for supremacy on any subject.
And you will see them co-exist powerfully and humanly, but only in the people who will "live too much from their hearts.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Yesterday, my wife and I helped my son with a very unique project.
I don't know where the teachers got the idea, but they've been studying land forms here recently, and gave their 2nd grade students the task of working with their parents to make a "Land Form Hat". That is, get a hat that you can wear in our end-of-school program and on it, somehow, create your favorite land form and write a paragraph about it.
My wife bought a sombrero of some sort, and then my son proceeded to use some kind of quick-drying-foam-spray (genius invention, I might add!) to shape a mountain with surrounding low-lands, complete with waterfalls, river, and alpine trees. He then painted it brilliantly, topping it off with the summer snow that was melting to fuel the waterfalls.
Here it is and below is what he wrote:

Colorado Land Form

My landform is a mountain. It is called Mount Eulos. We are going there in the middle of summer. I’m going with my dad, Zach, and Keith. There are mountains, valleys, and trees. We are going to a cave that my dad found a chisel in. There are rocks, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls. It is in the Chicago Basin. There is snow and ice at the top of the mountains. It melts fast.

You can't see them in the pic, but there are two tents that Shade insisted we add to the landscape (actually, you can just barely see the top of one white tents comin' around the mountain on the right, above the trees and below the snow). Yep, you guessed it, those two tents belong to he and I, and our buddies Keith and Zach, who are going with us this summer to this very mountain, across that very river, and into those very trees.

I'm wearing the anticipation of our trip right on the top of my heart, even while Shade will quite literally be wearing it right on the top of his head at his program this week.

I'm excited too, buddy!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fearless, unoffendable living

"The man who fears no truths (especially about himself), has nothing to fear from others' lies." -- Thomas Jefferson

"I guess you may have already figured out that the key to living a life of faith is the willingness to wholeheartedly - and fearlessly - embrace and speak the truth.  And speaking the truth is not just about being decent and moral with others; it is about being ruthlessly truthful with yourself, no matter how painful.  Without being willing to know and honor your own deepest truth you will hinder your progress on your spiritual path, because you are dishonoring your connection with the Sacred, which knows absolutely everything about you, and adores you." -- A.C. Ping, in
"The truth will set you free." - Jesus Christ
I have a friend who called me up quite frantic and ticked off the other day because he over heard some one "trash-talking" him on her cell phone when she wasn't aware he could hear. The stuff she was saying was a mixture of some 'true facts' about my friend, but with a venomous spin and/or attitude that was coming from her own woundedness and fears. Both of these friends of mine, the one trash-talking in order to avoid her own truth, and the other angry and out of control to avoid his.
I have another friend quite tired and burned out. He has a lot of people depending on him, and a horrible sense of duty that serves those around him much more than it serves God or him. The truth would cause a revolutionary change with in him (and most likely around him), and therefore, some major adjustments not just for him, but potentially for a whole bunch of people that he loves. He keeps pluggin' away, though, not desiring to, but avoiding the truth in order "to not let anyone down" or "do the wrong thing".
I have another friend that is totally entangled in his own self-defeating behaviors and games. His anger runs deep, and he's so lost swimming around in the consequences of his brokenness and the brokenness of those closest to him (who he keeps expecting life from), that he can't even get his head up over the water that is drowning him. let alone climb up to a high vantage point high above his circumstances to see clearly any truth that might save him.
I have another friend who finds life in his work. He loves it, uses it to serve God, and makes everything else take a knee to it. He's a volunteer servant-leader at his church, and believes that his duty there is more "spiritual" or "godly" or "honorable" than his serving God at his work. The end result is him constantly committing to things in service to his church and expected of him as a volunteer, but rarely keeps those commitments, and depends on the grace and work of others to maintain this over-crowded life. In the wake of this "values clash" is a bunch of guilt, constant confession, and re-commitment for him, and a bunch of judgments, disappointment, and sadness from everyone else. The truth would free him to "do less better," but his frantic life has him either "totally on" at work, or "totally off" at home hiding from people.
I have been all of these people (and in truth, they all still show up inside of me when I'm afraid or think I need to prove something). And I am after all of these people. I am passionate for the freedom and peace partially because of my deep love for them, and partially because I'm still fighting for it myself, and fighting for them (oftentimes against them) is God's way of blessing me with the very things I want for them.
I fear no truths. And I say that with humility, knowing how extremely weak I am, and how vulnerable I can feel in any given moment, totally shuddering and sometimes crying when I must walk into a truth that feels like it will hurt me. But I have learned that walking into truth brings life, and with that foundational understanding of life, walking into lies does nothing to me but expose them for what they are. Lies. Powerless, unless believed.
So I encourage all of you, my friends, to tell me the truth. The hard truth. I promise to weigh it carefully, glean everything I can from it, and even if it hurts initially, to acknowledge it and not hold it against you in any way if I conclude it is not entirely accurate. I would ask that you do your best to speak it in love (and to do so with everyone in your life), but that even if you can't, I will keep my side of the bargain.
But even more than that, I encourage all of you, my friends, to ask for the truth...from yourself, from God, from your friends and co-workers, your parents, spouses, children, ex-spouses, step-family, former bosses, employees, and especially anyone you know with out a doubt will tell you the uncensored truth in love. If you have even one of these people in your life, you are among the richest on the planet.
May we be healed into fearless, unoffendable lives.

Friday, May 16, 2008

We criticize what we are.

"Criticism is usually a form of indirect exhibitionism:  what we deride so dramatically in others is actually a flagrant display of our own denied or disowned unsavory traits, whereas generous acceptance of and providing loving latitude for others tends to reflect a humble, surrendered acceptance of these things about ourselves." -- Harville Hendrix

"We can't be with, listen to, or speak to, what we can't own about ourselves." -- Jim Spivey
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged." - Jesus

"Watch and listen to yourself very carefully. Scrutinize what you so rudely criticize. 'There's gold in them thar' hills,' least the gold of self-awareness." - Jim Spivey
I have found this to be true in my life.
When I derided my fellow Christians for not walking their talk, I was not walking mine.
When I put down the arrogance I could see in others so sure of their beliefs, it was because I was so arrogant in mine.
When I acted like I wanted to vomit at the lack of courage in any church leadership group, it was because I wanted to vomit at mine.
When I judged that someone's zeal was being spent on worthless, non-eternal things, so was mine.
When I sarcastically scoffed at the "way other people were," it was because I was not fully secure in the way I was.
When I got hot about legalists inability to treat people who disagreed with them like people, it was a reflection of my inability to treat legalists like people.
How quick I am to point out (and not always outwardly to them, but inwardly to myself) where other people's flaws lay. It so effectively takes my attention off of my own flaws, which in turn lets me fantasize about how I'm not like that, which in turn makes me pretend I'm better than I truly feel I am...and it is all so intoxicating and drug-like.
I know that you know there is such a thing as "constructive criticism". 
But you do also know that there is such a thing as "constructive non-criticism," too, right? Or maybe even something called "introspective non-criticism".
Until we have really mastered the latter, maybe we shouldn't practice the former much at all...humble and afraid that what we call constructive criticism might not be very constructive at all.
What do you criticize? Why? Why do they matter to you? Do you notice all the many things wrong in the world and wrong with people that you DON'T seem to be so passionately critical of? Why? Why do those things get a pass? 
Maybe there is gold in the answer to those questions for each of us.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I love this life...

I owe much of this reflection below to a few sentences that Brennan Manning penned in his book "The Wisdom of Tenderness".
Christianity is not trying to make people more productive, but more humble. It is not trying to get any task done, it is trying to enlarge the transforming effects of love. It should not make us more managerial, but more peaceful. Christianity does not manipulate anyone to do anything, not even for the promise of their eternal salvation. Instead, it invites the heart into a journey of healing by offering a relationship with God. I am not one bit more efficient as I grow in Christ. Christianity doesn't make me more successful in my social status or in my financial status.
It just makes me more like Christ.
God is making me more tender. More open. More loving. More restful. More peaceful. More confident. More inwardly untouchable by the events,circumstances, and enemies around me. And more touchable by the people within those events,circumstances, and enemies.
I feel His heart growing...and the amazing part is, it is inside of me.
I'm over (for the most part) the ego-bloating that doing things admirably in the eyes of spiritual people used to give me. It fueled my energy for a long time, but it has been dying a slow death. I can honestly say (with no ego...most of the time) that I am closer to the end of that battle than I am to the beginning.
And that opens a whole new set of struggles and problems.
Bring 'em on.
I love this life. Jesus has (and is) freeing me from the embarrassment of myself. How could I have guessed when I first decided to follow Jesus over 25 years ago that it would lead to such incredible freedom? I had no clue.
And I'm cool with that. I like not knowing what's coming next from God. But I also like having confidence that the next 25 years will bring new freedoms that I do not even know to ask from Him or imagine.
My heart is free to pass the love of God around recklessly, making no distinction between the worthy and the unworthy, or judge their value or non-value. And the creative ideas on how to love them and offer them the life I have, the life of Christ, come effortlessly and right when they need to. I often stop in the middle of them and am in awe of their glory, and the high honor it is to be in the midst of them.
Today, listening to and following Christ found me...
...praying over a faith-filled woman nervous that the mass is cancer.
...teaching a young man with special needs how to ride an old bicycle of mine to work.
...experiencing a local bike shop owner giving of his time and expertise out of the goodness of his heart when I was willing to pay.
...celebrating the obvious presence of Jesus in my basement last night with the guy who ushered Him in by sharing his life honestly and openly.
...talking to an up-and-coming musician in Houston about how God might be adding to his current ministry to the world (that is lively and effective) by sending him a bunch of partners in a whole local church...or maybe not, God is just shaping and freeing him more.
...eating lunch with some of the most powerful and committed men I know.
...coaching and encouraging a new minister friend of a church in India to notice his church-centered thinking and replace it with Christ-centered thinking. the living room of a transforming drug dealer hugging him in his despair as circumstances keep catching up with him.
...dreaming of a dangerous adventure that I will be going on this summer with my son.
...catching up and hearing praise for God from a recovering homosexual.
...dwelling on and planning to share with some friends from David's prayer in Psalm 27.
Wow. And it is only 7:00pm. I have hours left!!! 
I love this life. I love Christ who gives it.
He's not making me more productive, efficient, successful, task-oriented, managerial or profitable. He's just giving me more life. I love Him for it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Mountain

"The most common word for mountain (har) appears no less than 520 times in the Hebrew Scriptures." - Beldon C. Lane, in his book The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality
I heard God. I wasn't the only one either.
I was at a retreat in the mountains. I was there with hundreds of other men, but most importantly, I was there with God. I was there to hear from Him. To listen.
I'm tired of flirting with and being somewhat afraid of the belief that God wants to "direct my life directly". I've decided to err on the side of faith...the side of belief...the side of eccentricity, if you must...but I've decided to err on the side of believing that I can hear Jesus' voice. I did on the mountain.
Now, to be clear, I've believed that I can hear God's voice for a long, long time. But I've borrowed on old, momentous stories of my hearing from God in a loud and overt way for far too long. I am now expecting to hear from him daily. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice." I am his sheep. I can hear his voice. One thing that has helped me take this leap is the giving up of the idea that hearing his voice is strange or unusual or uncommon. I am starting to tune in to Christ's still, small voice. 
The whole hearing from God thing is cool, but I was really wanting to write about mountains.
One of the questions that I was inspired to ask Christ at my retreat was "What have I let die?"  Sort of under the idea that a man's deepest desires, passions, and loves are clues to God's abundant life that He has for him, this question is a powerful one. And as I was walking around the mountain we were on asking it sincerely, listening deeply, I heard two things: "basketball" and "mountain climbing".
"What? Basketball? Mountain Climbing?" My face was outwardly contorting as I said those words in my head to God. "Honestly, Jesus, I was expecting something a little more profound than that. A tad more spiritual, y'know? Is that the best you can do?" This quickly took me straight to skeptic-mode...making up in my head that I was making this stuff up in my head and attributing it to God. 
But I beat down the skeptic and I went with it. "What do you mean, Jesus? What's behind this?" It wasn't a voice or a single thought this time, but more like scales dropping off of my eyes to where I could see something previously invisible to me about the way I was existing.
Pause. I need to tell you that for whatever reason, (possibly a combination of my personality, my desire to make a difference, my position as a minister, and my love and hope for needy people (read: all people)), I have a fairly non-stop stream of opportunity to invest in people's lives in a potentially transforming way. It's an overwhelming blessing, mind you, and has been God's instrument of simultaneously killing my ego-based identity and affirming my value to Him in advancing His Kingdom. Killing and affirming...that is God's way. it's important for you to know that to comprehend the power of this insight Christ gave me on the mountain. I live in fear that I could potentially be tired at any given moment based on the potential demands that could come at any given moment.
Read that again and imagine living under that! The fruit of that kind of agreement would be a life a subtle nervousness, fear, and defensive-caution. The ever-present "I'm-not-right-now-but-I-might-be-overwhelmingly-busy-at-any-moment" thought can really cripple a guy's joy and peace, not to mention make him skip out on or just "let die" certain life-giving opportunities and activities because of the demands that MIGHT be right around the corner. In other words, living under that assumption brings death to the spirit and the heart.
I just can't tell you what it meant to me to get to see this. And dog-gone it if I'm smart enough to come up with an insight into myself like THAT! Dude, I can't even imagine a shrink helping me figuring that out after hours of sharing and counseling. How deeply it was ringing true, and and the sheer spontaneousness of it all, just confirmed to me that I was hearing from God, that I was right to err on the side of belief, and that I need to walk intimately with Him in the daily-ness of my life.
Letting him speak. Letting him reveal. Letting him lead. Letting him heal.
Having acknowledged this subtle lie, I felt a bounce in my step and the aches in my body (that I often used as excuses not to play basketball, by the way, just in case I need my health 'tomorrow') just went away! I was in the mountains, in much thinner air than I'm used to, but decided to go with some of the guys there at the retreat on our next break and play basketball. It felt great, I played great (by some very low standards, mind you), and I could've kept going when I was done.
A little bit later, I was out walking around the mountains again, and over some hills towards the West, I could see a few mountain peaks that were above the treeline. I stopped and stared and starting longing to go. I remembered the half dozen mountain-climbing trips I have been on in my life, and then I heard some beautiful words.
"Go back. Take Shade."
"Back where?" I asked.
Pause again. The day before I left for this retreat, I was cleaning my basement when my son Shade came downstairs with his buddy Zach and asked if he could show Zach the swords in my prayer room. As they were checking it out, they bring a cloth out that had an old antique chisel wrapped up in it, asking me what it was. Well, I said, that is a very old chisel that I found (twice...but that's another story) in the back of a very old mine dug a long time ago in the side of the mountains surrounding the Chicago Basin in the Weminuche Forest in Southwest Colorado.
This is the memory that came into my mind after I asked "Back where?"
I smiled. I smiled big. It would be just like anyone who would call themselves my Father to send me back to that very special place, and to do so with instructions to take my son, whom I love.
Just one more problem. It's pretty aggressive wilderness. It will involve a 500 mile drive, a 3-hour narrow gauge train ride into the mountains to the drop off point, and a 7-mile hike along fairly steep terrain. I'm pretty sure I shouldn't be going alone with my 8-year-old. So what father-son duo would want and be able to go with us, Lord?
I didn't know, but I have time to find out. I'm going. At the retreat was a good buddy of mine from Houston, who, after I told him what I felt like God told me, said he has been feeling the need to take his son (an old buddy of Shade's) on an adventure of some sort. I raised my eyebrows at him full of invitation. He politely said he didn't want to impose on our father-son-Father trip, but I told him I had no intention of going without someone capable of carrying me out if need be, and had JUST asked God who I should invite to go. Boom...we're going in July.
Was it Jesus? I don't know. Am I going to act as if it is? Absolutely. Why? Because I am going to err on the side of belief. On the side of life. On the side of faith. On the side of fun. On the side of joy. On the side of trust.
Trust. I think I heard a sermon by George MacDonald where he said that not trusting in God is atheism. I'm going to err on the side of trust, come what may.
In the Bible, lots and lots of stuff seemed to happen on the mountain. This certainly wouldn't be the first time God called his people to meet him out in the wild, away from the mainstream, up in high, marginal places in order for them to have a special encounter with Himself. And it's not all romance, beauty and idealism, either. It's dangerous, risky, sweaty, bloody, real life-and-death stuff that has at it's center the hard teaching, challenging, and re-orienting that comes from seeing the living God. It's a journey that does not cozy up with the idea that your comfort is God's primary goal. But his glory and your joy is...take it the bank.
Or to the mountain...whichever place he calls you to. 
He's called me and my son to the mountain. Pray for our journey this July.