will you care for your soul?

John Eldredge at BGS Intensive…

“There are very few “normal” days.  When I first open my eyes, if God gives me that, I can cry out, “Father.  Father.  Father”.    Dallas Willard.

The warfare today is astounding.  Satan has unleashed two things on the earth in recent years – death and hatred.  There is a spirit of death everywhere.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed but good people, young people, healthy people are dying all over the place.  Drug deaths.  Suicides.  Murder/suicide.  Random execution of law enforcement.  Church shootings.  Death everywhere.

Hatred – it’s everywhere.  Political hatred is at a new all-time high.  Rage everywhere.  Social media is infected with it.  Seemingly good people are suddenly at odds with one another with a burning hatred over differences of opinion.  It’s everywhere you look.

The stories you will hear at this camp will stagger you.  This is a dark, dark world and the war is raging.

(John didn’t say this – another man at camp shared it) … this quote of, “How much blood must the sword spill of your daughters before you will wake up and realize just how intense this war is?”

We must not kid ourselves about the intensity of the war that rages against us and our families.  Denial is not a good strategy.

If it brings life, they will gravitate to it.

If I don’t like the effect something is having on me, I’ll just walk out of the room.  My family knows this.  My sons do it.  When the conversation turns petty or negative or combative, we’ll just get up and walk out of the room.

Look for the things that bring you life – being outside, riding your bike, standing in the sun soaking up vitamin D.  Grab it.  In the chaotic, even 20 minutes away is a reset.

Your soul matters … immensely.  It is worth caring for and we are living at a completely insane pace.

Two things…

First – You should have a secret life that is fuel.  A flight back to the real.  Take a rock and a stick.  Hold them.  Feel it.  Loving the real, hating the fake.

Nationwide survey in 2001 – can’t imagine what this data is like today – but back in 2001, Americans spent 93% of their lives indoors.  We have no idea how damaging that is to the soul.  Artificial world.  Artificial light.  Artificial sound.  Artificial climate.

Embrace the practices that bring you back to the “real”.

Second – practice the fine art of engaging “Benevolent Detachment”. 

“Jesus, I give everyone and everything to you.  Release them.  All of them to you.  I pray the Cross of Christ between me and them.  Between their junk and me.  Allow it no place in my life.  Bless them.  Bless them Lord.  I release them to you.”

This is your mother in law.  Yes.  Your boss.  Your co-worker.  Your biggest client.  Your parents.

You have no idea how much you’re carrying out of a “good heart”.  Release all of them to Jesus.

Practices

Augustine said, “We must empty ourselves of all that is full so that we can be filled with everything that is empty.”

10am and 2pm every day, take a monastic minute.  A one-minute pause.  60 seconds.  Twice a day to give everyone and everything to Jesus.  Release all of it.

Care for your soul is first.  It’s primary.  It’s the first thing to go, the first thing you must get back.  CS Lewis said, “It all rushes at you like a pack of wild animals.”  Your first priority is to restore.

Allow the grace of transitions.  Don’t force your soul through traumatic situations, multiple gear changes.  Pause.  Breathe.  Do nothing.  Then go to the next thing.

Beauty is everywhere.  It heals.  It nourishes.  Take in daily beauty.  It is a reminder that everything is going to be OK.  Frost.  Sun through a window.  The sound of rain.  The key is to take it in, “I receive this beauty into my soul and allow it to nourish me.”

What are you doing with the assault on your attention?  It is ruthless.  Transformation takes place when we can look to God and receive God’s beauty.  It is a full-on fight for your attention.  Watching trauma on TV brings trauma into your soul.

The whole goal is union with God.  Union of being.  Life of God flowing into us.

___________ sucks life from me.                      Part with it.

___________ brings me life.                               Spend your time there.

Some things can be rescued.  Some can’t.

Some people can be rescued.  Some can’t

Discern the two.  Be tactical where you go and what you do.

Going from shallow soil to good soil, there are no short cuts.  But remember, “Those with good soil reap a return of 30x, 60x, 100x what was planted.”

How will you care for your soul this summer?

Manschool wrapped up for this “school year” today.  What a great year we’ve had.  We closed today with about 50 men present.  A strong finish to a blessed year of ministry.

Here are the slides from today which are a recap of all the territory we covered this spring >>>>   manschool 2019 Spring Final

I just got Ransomed Heart’s newsletter for May.  It is spot on what we’ve been talking about of late.  Here it is for your blessing …

ransomed heart

Dear Friends,

I hope I’m not too late.

This is my annual “sabbath” letter, more commonly remembered as my “What are you going to do for your soul this summer?” letter.

I’m guessing you’re making plans for the next several months, even if they are plans that you can’t make plans this year. And I’d like to step in as an advocate for your soul—which probably needs some advocating, if you’re like most adults. The pace of life, the constant demands, the drone of media coming our way make any kind of soul kindness hard to come by. Our lives are so full we lost track of our souls long ago.

Thus, my letter.

You have a soul. It is a lovely gift from God. Your soul is what enables you to enjoy your life. When you find yourself laughing at something in a carefree way, that’s your soul feeling happy. When you are moved deeply by someone else’s story, that’s your soul too. When beauty makes you worship, when stillness allows you to exhale deeply, that’s your soul doing well. Your soul is an extraordinary gift from God. And it needs some care.

As Jesus said, “What does a man have if he gets all the world and loses his own soul? What can a man give to buy back his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). You can lose your soul long before you die, by the way. It’s lost quite easily in the mad rush of life, the unrelenting pressure, hurry, worry, fear and lack of any real space to simply be human. 

So—what will you do this summer to be kind to your soul? Where is your sabbath this summer?

To clarify, family “visits” do not count as sabbath or soul care. I understand the need for family visits; they play an important role in our relational networks. But they are not sabbath, not even vacation, for the simple reason that they require from us. Often they require a great deal. When we enter into the gravitational field of family visits, we encounter all the dynamics of family ecosystems—everyone’s brokenness, their demands, their disappointments, and their warfare. It’s just the way it is in a broken world. I’m not disparaging family visits; I’m simply trying to point out that they do not qualify for sabbath in any form or fashion.

Notice—what’s the condition of your soul when you return from a week with the inlaws? Don’t you typically say to yourself, “I need a vacation?” And if you could choose between the obligatory family visit or two weeks in Tahiti, which does your heart leap at? Well…there ya go.

Banzai weekends also do not count for sabbath, vacation, or soul care. Rushing out the door to get to some destination where you go-go-go all weekend can be loads of fun, but again—notice the condition you’re in Monday morning when you return to work. You’re exhausted; you need caffeine to even keep going. 

You shall know them by their fruits.

Allow me a personal story. Last summer Jesus invited me to take a road trip with him. No agenda, no deadlines, no one to take care of, or come through for. I brought my fishing gear because I thought I would spend my days fly fishing and my evenings in leisurely time with God. As my soul began to enter rest, I realized that the adrenaline rush so central to fishing was not what I needed. My soul needed care, which meant it needed quiet. Ease. A very slow pace. I ended up hardly fishing at all, which at first was a disappointment, but by day three was a rescue. 

This is very simple really—sabbath makes you feel rested. It makes you feel renewed. It restores your soul, to quote the famous Psalm. 

Sabbath reconnects you to the God you love, and allows you time to linger with him unhurried. It also reconnects you with your own soul, allows you to feel, to think about stuff you normally don’t get to think about. By its nature, sabbath is not an adrenaline experience.

So—as you make your summer plans, when is your sabbath?

It doesn’t have to be that gorgeous cottage in Hawaii, or villa in Tuscany (which is good news). Sabbath is so much more available, attainable. It can be a choice to simply set aside evenings every week this summer, where all you do is sit on the porch and enjoy the sunset, let the breeze caress your face, do absolutely nothing at all. A friend has a hammock on her porch; she said to her husband, “I’m going to lie in the hammock and do nothing; I get to be human again.”

Sabbath can be long walks in your neighborhood, the park, or “open spaces” common now to most urban areas. (Notice I didn’t say a run or mountain bike ride, because sabbath has a nonchalant nature to it. It’s slow, kind, easy, simple. Sabbath walks let you notice flowers, birds, a stream—all the things we normally rush by.)

Nothing in this mad world is going to encourage you to plan, and protect sabbath. It’s something you’ll have to choose, and fight for. But it’s utterly worth it, I promise.

So—before you set this letter down and go on with the ten other things currently demanding your attention, stay with the question for sixty seconds—What will you do for sabbath this summer? Block it out on your calendar.

Offered in love,
 

John

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

hurry (takes a death)

EliminateHurry-032

Dallas Willard said, “Hurry is the great enemy of souls in our day.  You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

Let that one sink in.

John Ortberg expands on this thought by saying, “Being busy is mostly a condition of our outer world; it is having many things to do.  Being hurried is a problem of the soul.  It’s being preoccupied with myself and what myself has to do that I am no longer able to be fully present with God and fully present with you.  There is no way a soul can thrive when it is hurried.”

No way.

Get that.  There is no way your soul can thrive when it is hurried.  Remember the record players and how some records were supposed to be played at 33 RPM and others at 45 RPM and still others geared to be played at 78 RPM?  Remember when you were a kid and you’d take a 33 RPM and switch the player to 78 RPM?  Remember what it sounded like?

Your soul is geared to run at about 4 RPM or 8 RPM or maybe 16 RPM.  This world you’re living in is constantly running at 78 or faster.  And you life disintegrates over this.  Your world has separated from your soul and if you’re lucky, your soul is quietly speaking to you.  It’s asking you to slow down.

It is only in the slowing down that your soul can connect with the Father, connect with the vine that nourishes and sustains you.  A disconnected soul is soon to be a withered branch tossed upon a fire.

Your soul is all you’re going to take with you into eternity.  You sure won’t take your body or your possessions or your checkbook.  Your reputation and your achievements will wither in the hot sun after you’re gone.  But your soul is what matters and you are the steward of your soul.  The world will not take care of your soul.  Only you can do that.

The starting point is being ruthless about eliminating hurry from your life.  Hurry suffocates the soul.  Your soul wants to breathe.  Your soul longs for connection with the Father.  Nourishment for your soul (your soil) will come from disconnecting from the Matrix and resting in the Father’s provision.

But to do this, it will take a “death”.  Much of where we’re heading will be around this thought of “it takes a death”.  The foundation of the Gospel is centered on a death.  To eliminate hurry from your life, some things are going to have to “die”.  You will have to surrender your agenda, your kingdom, your pace, your drivenness to achieve … surrender that, let it “die”(DIRT) … so that you can shift to, “Thy will be done”. 

Then you can stop the train, pause, rest and let your soul play at the speed it was intended to run.