your soul is a stream of living water…

“Your soul is like a stream of living water, which gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of your life.  When that stream is as it should be, you are constantly refreshed and exuberant in all you do, because your soul itself is then rooted in the vastness of God and his kingdom, including nature; and all else within us is enlivened and directed by that stream.  In that healthy place, you are in harmony with God, reality, and harmony with the rest of humanity and nature at large.”  Dallas Willard.

John Ortberg

“There is a big difference between being busy and being hurried.  Busy in an outward condition, a condition of the body.  It occurs when we have many things to do.  Busyness is inevitable in our culture.  There are limits to how much busyness we can tolerate so we are wise to find ways to slow down whenever we can.

Being hurried is an inner condition, a condition of the soul.  It means to be so preoccupied with myself and my life that I am unable to be fully present with God, with myself and with other people.  That I am unable to even occupy the present moment.

Have you ever felt that way? – that you are unable to even occupy the moment you’re in?

I cannot live in the Kingdom of God with a hurried soul.  I cannot rest in God with a hurried soul.  Jesus was often busy, but never hurried.   I believe Jesus knew the power of a rested soul.  He slowed His followers down so that their souls would not become fatigued.  We seem to spend most of our time trying to draw crowds and please crowds; Jesus seemed to spend much of his time trying to get away from them.

A rested soul is the easy yoke.

Our souls exist to integrate our lives so that we can live in harmony with God and the world.  They become sick when we are divided and conflicted.  I should be content with my job, but I become jealous of someone in the next cubicle because he got the assignment I wanted.  I obsess about making more money but to convince myself I’m not a greedy person, I tell myself that I am really just trying to provide more security for my family.  I become so wrapped up in myself that my choices and values and desires and beliefs are at odds with each other.  They are also at odds with other people and with God.

morning glory

Then I go into nature.   I stand on a beach before the ocean.  My mind is filled with admiration for the sights and sounds of the waves.  Other distracting thoughts melt away.  By slowing down and observing the beauty of my surroundings, I tend not to worry about tomorrow or regret yesterday.  I am less enslaved by other people’s opinions of me.  My soul gets healed.

Of course, my soul was not made to stand in front of the ocean forever.  But I can bring some of that wholeness with me into my divided world.  The psalmist says our job is not to heal our souls but to make space for them so the healing can come.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.  He restores my soul.”

Where are your green pastures?  What are your still waters?  I am not an expert on sheep, but I have a friend who raises them.

sheep

Sheep basically do nothing.  They eat…they lie down…they sleep.  They are totally dependent on their shepherd.  They do not plan their next meal.  They do not make a list of what they have to do tomorrow.  Eat.  Lie down.  Sleep.

Of course, none of us can actually spend all our lives doing nothing.  But I think the psalmist uses the metaphor of sheep to make a point.  How good are you at doing nothing?  How long can you sit in a chair in your backyard doing nothing?  Not watering the lawn.  Not mentally planning the next day.  Not worrying about your taxes.  Just sitting and doing nothing.  The picture of a lamb enjoying whatever his master puts in front of him shows us what we need to “refresh our souls”.

lawn

Ortberg ends with this – “Whether an entire day, or periods of time set aside every day, your soul needs rest.  Not a change of scenery or a spiritual retreat – those are fine and may contribute to rest.  But to remain healthy, our souls need solitude with no agenda, no distractions, no noise.  If someone asks you what you did in your “time apart”, the correct response should be “nothing”.  Doing nothing works wonders for the soul.”

So let’s talk about Jesus’ offer in Matthew 11 – some of this is a repeat from a few weeks ago but stay with me.

Jesus said – “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  Matthew 11:28

And from the Message paraphrase…

 “Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

A yoke.  Is this this thing you connect to oxen, mules or horses to plow fields or pull a heavy load.  But it also something else.  Jesus was referred to as Rabbi 60 times in the four Gospels.  Rabbi = teacher.  Like all rabbi’s in those days, Jesus had a “yoke” which was a rabbi’s way of reading the Torah as well as a set of teachings on how to be human or his “way of life”.

What Jesus is offering in this beautiful message is His way of life.  That if you are tired and worn out and burned out on religion, come and adopt His way of living.  That’s His yoke.

Like with animals – a yoke is a way to shoulder a load – to shoulder the load of navigating the complexities of life.  All rabbis had a yoke.  Jesus’ yoke was easy.  His offer was merciful –  essentially what He was saying was, “what I’m offering you is beautiful and peaceful and transformative and restorative and kind and loving and if you adopt it, you will live freely and lightly.”

Dallas Willard – “In this truth lies the secret of the easy yoke; the secret involves living as Jesus lived in the entirety of his life – adopting His overall lifestyle.  Our mistake is to think that following Jesus consists in loving our enemies, going the second mile, turning the other cheek, suffering patiently and hopefully all the while living the rest of our lives just as everyone else around us does is a strategy bound to fail.”

In other words –

If I want to experience the life of Jesus, I must adopt the lifestyle of Jesus.

John Mark Comer said, “It’s not that we have anything against God, depth and spirit, we would like these.  It is just that we are habitually too preoccupied to have any of these show up on our radar.  We are more busy than we are bad.  We are more distracted than we are non-spiritual.  We’re more interested in the movie theatre, the sports stadium and the shopping mall and the fantasy life they produce in us than we are in church.  Pathological busyness, distraction and restlessness are major blocks today within our spiritual lives.”

He continues – “There was a time when life was much, much slower.  There were no cars to drive, planes to catch, all-night study marathons to caffeinate our way through, no constant streams of alerts on our phones, no bottomless holes of entertainment options in our queues.  It is easy to just assume this pace of life we live in 2020 is normal.  It is not.”

why I shut down my twitter

I used facebook for years – mostly keeping up with family and friends from college.  Over time, I noticed I was engaging in debates on facebook – over football, hunting, politics, etc.  The more this happened, the more frustrated I became wondering many times,  “Why am I subjecting myself to this nonsense?”  So, I decided to purge my account of the people that were drawing me into these senseless conversations.  A year or so later, I felt the strong urge of God to just exit it which I (sort of) did, dropping everyone except my immediate family.  But that wasn’t healthy for me either as it still gave me a gateway to all the people on facebook.  Even if they weren’t my “friend”, I could still peer into their lives.  Then came the “ah ha” moment.  Facebook is a portal into other people’s lives.  I can see things that I was probably never supposed to see.  You KNOW what I’m talking about – that just cruising around and looking offers us up the chance to see our friend’s wife, who is on a CrossFit binge and proudly showing off her toned bikini body on their wonderful trip to some island paradise.  Perfect people, perfect bodies, perfect vacation all coming into my world.  Because… I invited it in.  I am NOT meant to gaze upon another man’s near naked wife but my iPhone enables it.  Facebook enables it and I’ve written about this before but I believe it is a tool for narcissism (look at how great my life is) and/or voyeurism (that I can peer into your life and see things I’m not supposed to see).

Anyway, finally, I killed facebook entirely – finally followed my Father’s nudging.  Closed the account.  Deleted the app.  Boom – it was gone from my life and I do NOT miss it AT ALL.  My life goes on without having to know about my friend’s vacation or his opinion on politics.  They call it blissful ignorance.

It was not good for my soul and it required a choice – a somewhat rude, counter-cultural, almost monastic choice of “I’m simply going to walk away from it”.  Benevolent detachment.

Which leads me to Twitter.  Never had Instagram or Snapchat but I did have a Twitter.  I was very careful in who I followed there – either ministry related people like Beth Moore, Erwin McManus, John Ortberg, John Piper, etc. or leaders I respect like Dabo Swinney, Gene Chizik, Hugh Freeze or professionals in my career where it could be a research tool.  Twitter was never a big thing for me, I maybe checked in every other day.

Upon our return from Ransomed Heart and all the discussion about technology, social media, unplugging from the matrix, caring for your soul, etc. I opened my Twitter the next morning and this popped up …

AOC tweet

Now, I would never follow AOC.  I know enough to know her beliefs are toxic to me – they raise my blood pressure and distress my soul.  But, because I followed Barry Ritholtz and because he likes what she tweets, he invited her onto my feed and I have to see this nonsense she’s posting about.  Toxic to my soul.  This isn’t a political thing – Donald Trump might have the same impact on me/you.  The point is = pay attention to what these things are doing to youTension.  The need arising to argue with them.  The anxiety.  The worry or heartache. 

Whatever it is … why are you inviting these things into your soul? 

That’s the question for us.

What is fascinating is to realize that 6,427 people felt the need to weigh in on her tweet.  6,427 people who thought their opinion was so vital that they took the time to reply or to argue with the other side.  Almost 26,000 people retweeted it and 173,000 people felt it was important to “like” her comment … that it was that important to mankind that they weigh in.

do you see the madness of this?

This isn’t the real.  This is artificial, fake.  We are not having conversations with people.  We’re tweeting, texting and facebook messaging people.  We’re arguing with people we don’t even know trying to convince them they are wrong.

it … is … insanity.

and … it sucks the Living Waters from your soul.  It is an utter waste of precious time that will not add one thing to your precious life.  I said above, “pay attention what these things are doing to your soul”.  What is troubling is that many of us are oblivious to the impact and may say, “Oh I can read all that or see some dysfunctional friend’s rants and I just swipe right past it.  It doesn’t bother me”. 

the problem is … it should – but you’ve moved so far up into shallows that you’re now numb to it.

So, after all this, I immediately shut down my Twitter and deleted the app.  Boom.  It’s gone.  And I don’t miss it AT ALL.  It requires a choice to disengage from technology and bless you, if you’re reading this, you’re on technology doing it!

My challenge to you is this – don’t fast from it for a week.  Don’t take a day or two off from it.  Delete it.  Nuke it.  End it.  Take the radical step of saying, “I don’t know what’s on the other side of this but I’m going to walk outside in the sunshine to find out”.  This is just one small step to take your soul from this …

dried field

to this …

lush farm.png

 

 

the real you …

here are the slides from this morning … manschool 2019 15

iceberg

Believe it or not, this iceberg is you.  10% of you is visible above the surface.  It is what you’ll let us see.  The other 90%?  It’s hidden and you’ve developed an elaborate system to keep it that way.  That’s your pose.  It’s the image you’ve created that you want us to see but the real you is below the surface.  That’s where God wants to go.

The pose works for only so long.  Throw a good storm into your life and the pose is quickly exposed.  Your wife is very good about tweaking you just enough to peel it back and expose the false self.  A true, good friend can do the same thing.

Lately, we’ve been talking about Soul Care and I believe one of the kindest things you can do for your soul is to face and expose your pose and to reject the false self you’ve created and live out of.

I will tell you that it was hard to give this talk this morning.  The deeper we got into it, the more I sensed the audience checking out.  In the last five minutes, 6-7 men had their phones out and were checking email.  That tells me something.  Brushing up against the pose is just enough to turn some men away … “it’s too much to think about” or “this isn’t for me” or “I don’t have time for this” is usually the reaction.

Plus, there is the “swamp thing” going on.  We’re so deeply into swamp of our lives that pulling out to address something like our pose seems too invasive.  We’re barely making it as we trudge our way through the swamp and so, to open the hood and do some heavy lifting seems like it might drown us.

It won’t.  It just might save you.  This is where God wants to work.  He doesn’t want to deal with your pose – it’s fake after all.  He wants the real and He wants to pursue the real you underneath your mask.  Brene Brown summed it up nicely …

“Our “masks” and “armor” are perfect metaphors for how we protect ourselves from the discomfort of vulnerability.  Masks make us feel safer even when they become suffocating.  Armor makes us feel stronger even when we grow weary from dragging all that extra weight around.  The irony is that when we’re standing across from someone who is hidden or shielded by masks and armor (The Poser), we feel frustrated and disconnected.  That’s the paradox here: Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but it is the first thing I look for in you.” 

Craig McConnell said this about posing …

As long as the counterfeit, the posing works, we’ll never desire and pursue the authentic and real thing.  So, you know what God does for our redemption?  He disrupts our lives.  God either allows or orchestrates things to happen to expose us for us to see that we are living far less of a life as a man that we can be.

Exposure isn’t to shame us.  Exposure is to heal us and to drive us to something more.  It is to become true, more authentic, more real to be the man God desires us to be.

Life’s working good … why change? 

But then … God will disrupt things.  Shake us.  Rattle us.  Get us to realize, “My God, what have I become?  Am I just another shark in a suit?”

God takes us through these difficult, disruptive moments/events where we realize that this life, the way I’m living, who and what I am is not what I want.  It’s at that moment we get the invitation – there is another way, there is more.

Take some time to be alone with God to ask some pretty tough questions about yourself… 

How do you see yourself as a man?

What words would you use to describe yourself?  Would you use words like “courageous, strong, loving, passionate, genuine?”

What words would those who know you use to describe you?

Do you have the courage to ask those in your life what they think of you as a man?

What do you fear they would say?

What would you hate to hear?

What might be true of you from the eyes of others?

You can tell what kind of man you’ve got simply by nothing the impact he has on you.  When you’re in the presence of a man, does he bore you?  Does he scare you with whole doctrinal trip?  Does he make you want to scream because he’s just so very nice?

What do you think your impact is on others?

What’s the affect of your life on others?

What do you fear it might be?

We need to turn and say, “God I want the real thing”.  So, where is it that you’re faking?  Where is the counterfeit?  Identify that and then ask God to turn it, remove it.

What would that look like? 

Find a quiet place and go to God. 

What am I?  Who am I?  What am I like?

 

WHAT TO DO WITH THIS ?

Dan Troller asked me this morning how he should best push into this question of posing.  Great question.  Take these questions Craig asked one by one.  Get alone with your journal.  Ask the Father these questions and be candid in what you hear, what you’re sensing and feeling.  Write it down.  How do you see yourself as a man?  What would others say about you?  What do you fear they’d say?  Good, weighty questions.  Take them, wrestle with them.  Do the heavy lifting of being authentic with the questions.

Then, get with 2-3-4 men you trust (at least two) and be willing to share your revelations.  Let them hear your story, hear your answers to these questions and let them speak into what they see and hear about you.

Do you want the freedom on the other side of this?  Really? 

Then do the hard work of excavating beneath the surface.    

excavation

the stream is your soul…

The Psalmist wrote that blessed people are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in season, and whose leaves do not wither; they prosper in all they do.  Your soul is like an inner stream of water that gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of life.

From Soul Keeping by John Ortberg…

I, and no one else, am responsible for the condition of my soul.

In my early 50’s I was given a sabbatical: seven weeks with nothing to do.  The elders at our church invited me to take it.  Actually, they insisted that I take it.  I needed it because I was becoming increasingly frustrated and impatient and preoccupied.

Are you frustrated, impatient and preoccupied?

I felt as if I had too much to do and not enough time or ability to do it.  I was obsessed with external things that needed to be done around me.  I was operating on the unseen assumption that my inner world would be filled with life, peace, and joy once my external world was perfect.  That’s a great recipe for a healthy soul, as long as you life in a perfect world.  You don’t.

During my sabbatical, it was easy to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from my life”, as my friend and mentor Dallas Willard had so wisely counseled.  I found myself thinking that I’m a better person when I’m on sabbatical than I am when I’m working for God at a church, and I knew I was just plain wrong.  I began to form a new goal: I want to be as relaxed as I am on vacation while being as productive as I am at work.

There was only one place to learn about that so I drove back to Box Canyon to spend a day with Dallas.  I told him I felt frustrated because the people at the church I served were not changing more.  I asked him was I needed to do to help our church experience greater levels of spiritual growth.

Long pause … You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God.”

Huh?

“No”, I corrected him, “I wasn’t asking about me.  I was asking about other people.  I was wondering what I need to make the church do.  I was thinking about a book everyone should read, a program everyone should go through, or a prayer system everyone should commit to.”

(do you feel it in his words?  do you feel the rush, the urgency, the “get something done”, the tyranny-of-the-urgent, the frustration?  He’s moving at 100 mph while his soul is moving at 5 mph)

“Yes, brother John”, he said with great patience and care.  “I know you were thinking of those things.  But that’s not what they need most.  The main thing you will give your congregation – just like the main thing you will give to God – is the person you become.  If you soul is unhealthy, you can’t help anybody.  You don’t send a doctor with pneumonia to care for patients with immune disorders.  You, and no body else, are responsible for the well-being of your soul.”

“I’m trying,” I said.  “I learned long ago about the importance of having a quiet time when I read the Bible and do daily devotionals; I do my best to start each day that way.”

“I didn’t say anything about having a quiet time,” he gently corrected again.  “People in churches – including pastors – have been crushed with guilt over their failure at having regular quiet time or daily devotions.  And then, even when they do, they find it does not actually lead to a healthy soul.  Your problem is not the first 15 minutes of the day.  It’s the next 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day.  You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing total contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God.”

“But how can I have total contentment, joy and confidence?  My work isn’t going nearly  well enough.  Lots of people are not happy with me.  I am inadequate as a pastor, husband and father.  Every week I carry the burden of delivering a sermon and knowing I’ll have to feel the pain if it doesn’t go well.”

There it is again – do you hear his turmoil, his inner drive to perform, perhaps his need for validation?  He isn’t integrated.  His internal world is not functioning like an integrated system.  He’s fractured.  And much like a jet engine, when the parts fracture under stress, the engine eventually disintegrates.  He is dis-integrated.  I am too.

“I didn’t say you should experience total contentment, joy and confidence in the remarkable adequacy of your competence or the amazingly successful circumstances of your life.  It’s total contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday experience of GodThis alone is what makes a soul healthy.  This is not your wife’s job.  It’s not your elder’s job.  It’s not your children’s job.  It’s not your friend’s job.”

The stream is your soul.  And you are the keeper.  How is your soul?

Quick creek stream bank

Clear river water. Quick creek stream bank

how is your soul?

You and you alone are responsible for the condition of your soul.  The world moves at 100mph.  Your soul is not designed to move that fast.

… you must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life …

The Sower casts seed widely.  He’s divinely generous in the blessings He is offering.  The variable is soil (the soul) it lands upon.

Some of us have hardened our souls.  Your soul may be hard and dry and the seeds don’t have a chance.  Often these people have been hurt or disappointed.  They form a protective shell.  They become cynical, bitter or suspicious.  Or it can be fear – fear of being rejected, fear of looking foolish, fear of being hurt.

The world diverts the attention of your soul when it encourages you to think of yourself more as a victim than as a human.  You can be so wrapped up in the hurt you have received that you cannot notice the hurt you’re inflicting on others.

Do you know anyone like that?  Are you? 

What growth is going to occur on this path…

hard-path.jpg

Some of us have shallow souls.  Like a rocky path with a little bit of soil underneath, a seed can take root and it will grow but with no depth of soil underneath, whatever grows will wilt under the heat of the sun.  Many of us live shallow lives.  Yes we “know Jesus” but there is no depth to it.  He seems distant and far off except for when we appear at church but back in the working world, our attention is quickly diverted…

Frenzied?  Stressed?  Distracted?  Uncertain?  Confused?  Constantly comparing your life to others?  Overly focused on money or reputation or status or in getting your needs met?  Finding yourself looking for acceptance, acclaim, admiration?

This is a shallow soul and when the inevitable storms of life comes, you’ll wilt under the heat.

rocky soil

Most of us have cluttered souls“Some seeds fall among thorns, which grow up and choke the plants.”  It is the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth that choke off the good plants desiring to grow to produce fruit. 

“If the devil can’t make you sin, he’ll make you busy because either way, your soul will shrivel.”

John Ortberg said, “Our world will divert your soul’s attention because it is a cluttered world.  And clutter is the most dangerous result because it is so subtle.  The busy soul gets attached to the wrong things because the soul is sticky.  The Velcro of the soul is what Jesus called “desire”.  It could be the desire for money or just “other things”.  Misplaced desire clutters our lives and even with some good soil underneath it all, the externals of the world – success, reputation, ceaseless activity, lifestyle, etc. – will choke off growth” and your life will look like this …

weeds-wheat1

So, let me ask you, “How’s your soul doing?”  It is hard and packed down, full of fear?  Is it shallow and lacking the depth to sustain you when the storms come?  Is it good soil but that is choked off by the craziness of this world?

You and you alone are responsible for the condition of your soul (soil).  Let us become men of good, deep, rich soil.  May we do the things we need to do to remove clutter from our lives and to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives so that we can be this …

good soil