Confessions of a Broken Tool

What’s Good for the Goose

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, or so the saying goes.

But what about the goslings?

This idiom seems to express that what benefits one should benefit another or that the right thing for one is right for another.

A goose (in case it is unclear in your understanding like it was in mine) is an adult female and a gander an adult male. The offspring of these creatures bears a term appropriate to their downy cuteness—a gosling.

Bear with me for a moment as this is no paltry exploration of poultry etiquette. It’s far more serious than that.

I’ve had a rather close seat at the table for a situation in which a couple of cute little goslings have been taken under another pair of wings so the goose can get her nest in order. There are big feelings and big plans and no small amount of noise… but still no real nest. And it seems the time may be drawing near to close the gate of opportunity for this particular goose to be reunited with these goslings.

Continue reading What’s Good for the Goose

Recipes for Elephant?

Overwhelmed.

Snowed under.

Drowning in details.

You know the feeling, right?

Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re the master of your to-do list and run a tight organizational ship and all that. But even then, sometimes the circumstances of life can smear your to-do list beyond discernment. Sometimes the hard dive crashes and takes your spreadsheets with it. And sometimes something comes along and seems to knock you completely out of your well-worn seat of control.

Continue reading Recipes for Elephant?

Come Away: An Invitation

Few artists are as easy on the ears as Norah Jones. She’s just so smooth.

Her simple, gentle song, “Come Away With Me,” is a great example of her handiwork. It drips with a longing to simply be together.

You should give it a listen.

Come away with me in the night
Come away with me
And I will write you a song

There is a rich dimension of marriage that resonates in me as I listen to this song. It is that realization that my beloved is indeed my safe place, my shelter from the chaos and strife of life. This relationship is my retreat.

When I listen to Ms. Jones sing these words, it’s the heart of my beloved that I hear whisper, “Come away with me…”

If you’re married, I hope you have that sense in your marriage as well. If you’re not married, don’t worry, there is a provision of this kind of retreat for you as well. But it’s different, even deeper, and longer-lasting.

This gentle call of Ms. Jones’ crafting speaks to many of us. But, even as it stirs my heart’s bond with my love, it echos of the words of Jesus to his closest followers as they returned from a ministry outing. They had been so buy that many of them had not even had time to eat. His call to them:

“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” (Mark 6.31)

There is a deep compassion in his words as he invites them, fresh off of a journey of pouring out from their spiritual buckets, to come sit under the fountain and be refilled to overflowing. You and I, as followers of Jesus, are sent into the world day after day to love and serve and share His great grace with others. And we need, just as they, that retreat for our own souls to refill.

This passage is a more particular invitation but it is in the same spirit of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11.28:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

That invite is open to all of us who are beat down by life and struggling to keep on keeping on. It is the One who loves you so much that He willfully lay down His life for you offering you the one thing you most need—soul-deep, peaceful rest.

That’s not exactly what Norah Jones was singing about. But she was describing the retreat of love that we can find in an intimate marriage relationship. And Paul taught us that this marriage thing has always been a picture of a much greater reality—the love of Jesus for His people (which Paul said comprises Jesus’ bride). So, in a way, she really was talking about this invitation.

She sings, “Come away with me.”

Jesus calls, “Come to me.”

So I want to encourage you to give a prayerful listen to this beautiful song and give thanks for the place of refuge you’ve been given—in oneness with Christ for sure, but also in intimacy with your spouse. They are connected.

Maybe it’s a good time to “come away” with the one in whom your soul finds rest.

Perfect Imperfections?

It’s hard to explain the depth of my desire to be as smooth as John Legend. Hopeless though it may be, it remains a longing in my soul.

But this is not really about John Legend… I just felt like I had to lay that on the table to own it. It’s a strange compulsion that I have sometimes.

Legend’s masterpiece of a love song, “All of Me,” brings an open-eyed integrity to a genre of music that is inherently blind. Love songs, as a general rule, are full of idealized, fairy-tale descriptions that so often betray the substance of what they express and show the shallow infatuation for what it really is.

If you’re not familiar or just need a refresher, give it a listen here.

I have a particular soft spot for artists that resist the sugarcoating and acknowledge the humanness of love.

Legend owns the confusion and mystery of a committed love and asks, “What’s going on in that beautiful mind?” He acknowledges her craziness and being out of his own mind. It’s the back and forth that paint one of the most powerful and realistic pictures of a marriage between two deeply committed but utterly broken people.

Consider this carefully woven lyric:

All of me loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I'll give my all to you
You're my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I'm wining
'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you

That’s a bold promise – to love all of someone. It’s not the infatuation-blinded drivel of a guy that can’t believe he managed to marry a supermodel. It’s the honest recognition that she has issues and he has issues and that, despite his own issues, he is committed to love her despite her issues. That’s really what it means to love someone well—not to ignore their issues but to embrace them.

That phrase though… “All your perfect imperfections.”

It rings deeply within me because it’s a description of the way I am loved, not just by my amazing wife, but much more by my Savior. He doesn’t just love the gifts and obedience in me. He loves the parts of me that give His power an opportunity to be displayed.

To be clear, I’m not saying that God loves my sin. I am saying that God loves the weaknesses in me that so often result in sin because it is in these areas that I find my greatest dependence upon Him.

But this goes deeper. He knew those weaknesses and chose to lay down His life for me anyway. He gave all for me. And He challenges me to give myself wholly to Him.

This picture is exactly what I’m called to live out in my marriage – to pour myself out for my bride as she does for me. But even that was created from the beginning to demonstrate this incredible reality of how Jesus the Son of God lay down His own life to pardon every imperfection in me and how I am called to lean into that love without reservation.

John Legend’s work of art is not about Jesus and His love for me… but it is about the open-eyed wonder of marriage—and it turns out that’s the same thing.

I’d challenge you to go and read Paul’s discourse on this in Ephesians 5 and see if this song doesn’t mean so much more when you do so.

And, if you have a perfectly imperfect spouse to share this life with, take them in your arms, maybe even dance a little, and remember the much greater picture that God brought you together to show to you. Then worship Him by celebrating His gifts with a deeply grateful heart.

2 Years In

2 years ago today 2 little boys arrived at my house.

They’re a mess. They’re a handful. They’re knuckleheads. They’re sweet as can be. They’re monsters. They’re such a joy. They’re amazing little people. They’re invigorating. They’re exhausting. They’re my boys.

I have raised a lot of boys in my life. But… I was a much younger man the last time there were toddlers and preschoolers in my house. I’m feeling every minute of my 51 years plus a decade or two extra.

I was well-trained for the work I’ve been doing for two years with these boys. But it’s so much harder than I could have imagined. I’ve got an incredible support system. But it’s so much lonelier than I would have thought it would be. I have the best partner ever in this full-time job. But some moments I feel like I have to carry the whole thing myself.

I have blown it so many times. But every one of them was an opportunity to teach these boys the most crucial lesson: every man makes mistakes, but a godly man admits it and tries to make it right quickly.

One of these boys has a very hard time when he’s not the first or the best or the most special. If it looks like he’s not going to win, he is very much inclined to quit. I can relate to that. In my own ongoing journey of growing, it’s so easy to give up on a day or a week or a month or a year because I’ve just blown it so badly. It’s hard to re-frame the struggle to simply try to make a better next minute or hour.

But there is so much to be said for simply keeping on.

Even as I see on the horizon my time in this role coming to an end, I’ve made a promise to these boys since the day we met them. “No matter where you go, no matter what you do, I will always love you – no matter what!”

Last weekend we made a pretty special memory. Since the day they came to live with us, the boys have been fascinated with my wife’s display of race medals. She’s completed a number of half marathons and 5k races and a couple of marathon relays and such. (I have a collection too, but it’s not as extensive as hers.) So we signed up (all 4 of us) to participate in the Kids Marathon with the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon so that they could win their own medals.

We logged a lot of miles over the last 2 years. The plan for this event was that we log 25 miles independently leading up to the event and then complete the last 1.2 miles on the course.

Saturday morning these boys and I took off running together—not fast, not hard, just running—and ran the whole course, all 1.2 miles of it, without stopping to walk or rest or anything. And we did it together. That’s the deal. That’s what I stepped into 2 years ago. I committed to keep going with them until we cross our finish line.

On Saturday, when we rounded the last turn and saw the finish line about a block away, I said, “There it is, boys! Let’s finish strong! Run hard!” And they took off and left me behind. The little one looked back at me over his shoulder just before reaching the finish line, giant grin on his face, and then turned and blazed on across. The older one was right on his brother’s heels. And I was finishing my race with tears in my eyes with the joy of seeing them run well.

Right now my race is to help them learn to just keep going. Soon another will step in a take up the coaching mantle and I will move to the sidelines as the loudest, proudest, most familiar voice in the great cloud of witnesses cheering for their success.

It doesn’t matter where you start. It matters that you keep going.

One day maybe my little boys will read this and know how incredibly proud their Papi is of them. My hope is that they will not be surprised, just reminded.

As we move forward in our transition journey, please pray with me that these boys will only gain momentum in running toward the great plans our Father has for them.

I’m 2 years in… and trying to finish well.

Grandpa’s Hats

I have two hats hanging up in my garage. They’re not where I can reach up and grab them to wear when I need them. They’re just there to help me remember.

These hats belonged to my grandfather. He was a World War 2 veteran, a hard worker, a fishing enthusiast, and a quiet, peaceful man.

One of them is a hard hat. He worked for many years for our state’s highway department. As a kid I was quick to play the cool grandpa card by injecting, “My Grandpa drives a dump truck.” In the early school years it is way cooler to drive a dump truck than to be a lawyer or accountant or most anything else.

When I look up and see that hard hat hanging there I am reminded that my Grandpa was a man well-acquainted with hard, sweaty, dusty work. I can see him coming in the back door, lunch box in hand. I can see the previous day’s freshly washed overalls hanging on the clothesline and work boots airing out on the back porch. I can smell the sweat and dust… but it’s not a bad smell—pungent but organic, earthy.

The other hat was his fishing hat. He wore a lot of those out over the years and probably lost at least one to bungling grandkids and their fish hooks gone awry. When it’s warm I can still smell him in the hat band of that old hat.

He was never what anyone would consider a wealthy man. I don’t think he ever even owned a house. He went to work and worked hard for his family. He kept going for decades for his family. He worked out in the scorching Oklahoma summers in those trucks with sticky vinyl seats and no air conditioning and endured the cold, blustery winds that come sweeping down the plains. There was never any question that he did it for all of us.

But the fishing he did with us. He took us and taught us and put up with us and endured us and loved us. My dad took us too, but my earliest fishing memories involved my Grandpa. I can still hear him call my name to come back toward him when I would wander too far down the dock for him to keep a good eye on me.

He worked for us.

He fished with us.

And when I look up at these two hats that still bear the marks of the same head, I remember the lesson he taught me without ever saying a word… which was his favorite way to teach.

He taught me to work hard FOR my family. You can’t always like everything about your work, but you must work hard for those who depend upon you. He showed me how to invest my sweat equity in my family.

He taught me to invest the rest of my time, as much as I possibly can, in working (and playing and generally living) WITH my family.

There were many other lessons he taught me… like being (almost irrationally) early for literally everything. But these hats hang in my garage as a silent reminder to pour myself out FOR and WITH the people that have been entrusted to my care.

I think he’d be proud. And that makes my heart smile.

Bus-Hopping (Thoughts from a Bus Driver – Part 4)

I’ve argued that leadership in most contexts is a lot like driving a bus. It’s a different view when you’re in the driver’s seat. I’ve suggested that we all should consider that our leaders are feeling the weight of leadership like never before. And I have asked you to remember that these chaotic days are truly unprecedented in so many senses of the word.

But I can’t finish this discussion without making some observations regarding the passengers.

Imagine being on that bus in the ice storm and the bus slips and slides up to a four-way stop. Imagine some of the passengers demanding to be let out of the bus.

Why would someone do that?

Some might insist that they must get off the bus because the driver is not being careful enough. They feel the driver is driving too fast for the conditions and not allowing enough following distance. They believe the driver was not giving enough attention and oversight to the passengers on the bus or was so consumed with the outside conditions that they were neglecting the passengers.

Others might want off of the bus because they were convinced that the roads were not as bad as the weather reports had suggested. They felt the bus driver was being unreasonably cautious—trying to protect them from things they didn’t need to be protected from in the first place. They were sure that the bus driver was reacting in fear to unfounded reports. Some simply could not stay on a bus when the driver was so cautious.

Absurd? Perhaps. But I have heard of a number of folks abandoning organizations and such for these very reasons.

I’ve been a pastor for a long time so I tend to think of these things in a ministry context—an entirely voluntary association. But I have heard so many stories and watched them paraded on social media as people have ranted and raved all of the reasons I have expressed here for leaving a group. In ministry circles, we’ve always called it church-hopping. But the same thing happens in civic organizations and workplaces and professional associations of every kind.

When someone wants to hop off the bus and find another because the driver is doing something no person alive has ever done in an unsatisfactory way… well, that says more about the person doing the bus-hopping than it does the bus driver, does it not?

If you’re one of these bus-hopping folks, would you please take some time to reflect on the heart of the leaders you’ve been so dissatisfied with? If you can see that, right or wrong, their decisions were made out of genuine care for the people they lead, would you at least acknowledge that? If you are sure they were motivated entirely by fear, can you at least understand that they were afraid of bringing harm to you?

I recognize that there are leaders who are not really caring people, but if that was the case you probably knew that before the pandemic came along. There are some folks who have needed to get off of their bus for a long time and perhaps the circumstances have caused you to see it. But PLEASE be sure before you jump off the bus.

The old adage about greener grass comes much into view… like, “the ride is always smoother on the other bus.”

I think it’s important to recognize that disagreeing with someone is not a reason to part ways. Every relationship gets stronger when we work through our disagreements to gain understanding. Do the harder work and value relationships more than being “right.”

These have been just a few leadership thoughts from the perspective of a bus driver. Thanks for reading. And for all of you that have been frustrated with your leader’s handling of things but have trusted that they have made their decisions out of genuine concern for the people they lead… thank you. As a weary pastor I can say this: the grace and patience I’ve experienced has been crucial to my survival… but then my CalvaryDuncan family demonstrates grace more effectively than any church I’ve been around. My heart is deeply grateful. And for my colleagues who don’t experience this kind of grace and patience I will continue to pray.