Raw Reflections from the Journey

Monday, July 27, 2009

To Know and be Known - It Takes Time

"I want to know you more than that", said my new coaching client. We'd traded 'life stories' as part of the initial coaching protocol. The task is to share significant events, formative experiences and relationships as a way to expedite the development of an authentic relationship. I asked him what he liked about sharing life stories, and that was his response. "I want to know you more than that. You told your story as if you were outside of it. Feelings were missing. I know some of what's happened in your life now, but not how you felt about it and what it meant to you. That would obviously take a lot more time, but that's what I want, and I want others to know me in the same way."

I've never received such obvious and excellent push back. Most clients are blown away by the power of trading stories. They're surprised that I'll be transparent about my life, and they love the opportunity to put their life in perspective to set the context for a season of coaching. But he wanted more, and his desire exposed my own complacency and perhaps the fact that I've allowed my wagon wheels to get stuck in a rut by traversing the same territory time and again. Has my relational approach to relationships become devoid of heartfelt meaning and emotion?

Most of my coaching experience is that clients initially experience intentional authenticity and focused reflection about their life as fresh, exciting and overwhelming. But this client is unique. He seems to be asking for more than an artificial ritual of relationship, and more for something that is real and really transformational. Do I have what it takes to give that to him?

In so much as I am drawing life from Him who is the deep fount of living water, I have something to give. But if I habitually drink only from the shallows of my own thoughts and my own ways I'll have little to impart.

I'm horrified to think that I may have made coaching into a thing, instead of a life-giving endeavor. But my client may have explained it well as he reflected on his conflict about how much and how far to press into the opportunity. "Maybe it's just the way it has to be when you try to summarize 44 years of life in relatively few minutes because of time constraints." While that may be true, it still isn't satisfactory. And that's where the primary conundrum about relationships lies for me. Knowing and being known takes time. Evidence that I want such with God and with others will be reflected in how I invest my limited days of life. As the worship chorus expresses, "Better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere."

Here's to knowing...and being known,


Friday, July 17, 2009

Enduring Their Conduct

I wonder which set of parents loses more sleep; parents of infants or parents of young adults?

I awoke before dawn the other day, wracked with the myriad of emotions that indicate grief (anger, sadness, etc.) in regard to a circumstance in the life of one of our children. It's about a profound loss. No doubt they are sad and suffering, but so are we. As parents we can't help it. We hurt when they hurt.

Honestly, at 4am I felt more anger than any other emotion. "When are they going to get it?" I wondered. That's when God engaged me. "When are you? Do you realize how many fingers point back at you when you point fingers at others?" Hmmm. Now I really wasn't going to get back to sleep.

It wasn't until 7am during my weekly meeting with men (www.waterboyz.org) that God's perspective and His way came together through His timeless living and active Word.

Acts: 13:17,18
The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert (NIV).


Talk about long suffering love! God initiated a rescue of His chosen people who were suffering in bondage. He did miracle after miracle to save and provide for them (parting Red Sea, drowning the pursuing Egyptians, manna, meat, etc.) and what did they do? Time after time they forgot what He'd done, disrespected Him as God (e.g., The Golden Calf), and they whined about everything...AND HE ENDURED THEIR CONDUCT! Hmmmm...

How does God endure, and why? It is His nature. God is love, and love always hopes, always perseveres, always protects, always...by His love for me and in me I can live loving too.

What does He endure in me? How do I disappoint Him? How have I and how do I fail to seek or heed His counsel? How do I hurt His heart? How do I settle for less than best in the times I fail to make Him my first thought as my chosen confidant, comforter and companion? Recognition of this causes my pointing finger to fall to my side as the words of Jesus to the woman caught in adultery come to mind. "Woman, where are your accusers?" he asked. (They had walked away from the oldest to the youngest after Jesus challenged them, "You who are without sin, cast the first stone.")

Who am I to do less than to lovingly endure the conduct of my children when my Father in heaven endures mine? He loves me, and I love them.

It's okay to be emotionally distraught in regard to events in the lives of those we love (children, spouses, friends, etc.). But I must guard against self-righteousness, withdrawal and cessation of efforts to live loving as I endure their conduct. God endures my conduct, and He loves with perseverance..."Love always perseveres" (I Corinthians 13).

He endures because He loves. We endure by His Love for us.

Learning to love,


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Limits of Grace

It was 10pm and I was done for the day. It was time to curl up in the sheets, read for a bit and maybe have a little lovin’. It would be the perfect nightcap to a wonderful holiday weekend. Get the picture?

The last thing on my mind was the next day’s schedule. But it was at the top of Jill’s bedtime checklist, especially because I was going to be gone for a few days. One of my bride’s many God-given gifts is the ability to tie up loose ends. Do you see the making of a perfect storm? If only I’d been a bit more patient.

Something about the way Jill expressed surprise about me forgetting one of our appointments set me off. “Don’t you remember we rescheduled that?” Blame fatigue or my expectations that she would be as ready for bed as I was…the fact is that I wasn’t gracious. Sadly that momentary lapse cost US* for the next several hours.

This was a bad ending to an otherwise wonderful weekend. We’d enjoyed barbecue, leisurely walks and talks and some enjoyable episodes of affection. How is it that things can get so twisted so quickly?

Looking back, I have to admit that I’ve harbored an ungodly belief that grace has limits. It was 10pm, about the 16th hour of my day, and I didn’t feel like being patient with Jill’s need to clarify our schedule. “Do we have to deal with this now?” Besides I felt dumb that I’d forgotten, and I read into Jill’s tone. Still grace would have solved the problem before it got started. It wasn’t long before she asked for it, “Hey, how about a little grace?” It was a very appropriate request. In hindsight I’m sorry that I had to be asked.

It’s a good thing that God doesn’t limit grace, isn’t it? “Sorry Jeff, you’ve sinned one time too many. No more grace for you.” It’s unbelievable and unfair that it DOESN’T work that way. And since He doesn’t work that way, neither can I.

Learning to live loved requires acceptance that while we were still sinners Christ died for us; the just for the unjust, the lovely for the unlovely. And learning to live loving means that every thought about others is rooted in the reality that love continues to be extended even when we behave in an unlovely ways.

Jesus doesn’t demand perfection from me as a condition of His love and acceptance. If I’m going to walk as He walked then I won’t demand perfection from others. Rather, I’ll walk with Him and allow Him to work on my heart because it’s clear that working on it myself doesn’t work. And maybe, just maybe I’ll reach for strength in Him and allow Him to live through me, even after 10 o’clock at night!.

*US – capitalized us/US indicates the union of our relationship. My choice cost us; not me, not her, but US…our marriage.