The Gang

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Once a year ‘the gang’ gets together. This year they were gathering in Breckenridge and they were coming to my house.  I was looking forward to seeing them and to hosting them.  I wanted the house to be cleaned up and welcoming.  I was wanting them to be impressed…..or at least, I wanted them to think well of me.  It was my turn to facilitate an adventure.  Hopefully we would push our limits and explore the edges of our comfort zone.

There are six of us in ‘the gang’ and once a year we get together for three days.  Our goal is to show up, have fun and be uniquely present in each others lives.  We have committed to being very open and honest with one another. Our hope and our goal is that our transparency and our vulnerability might facilitate our personal growth.  Ultimately, we want to encourage one another to be the men that God is calling us to be.  We want to be vibrantly alive!

How do we do this thing called growth?  It all started a few years ago when we said….in various ways, we want more.  We want more of life and we want our lives to make a difference.  Toward that end, we decided that once a year we would get together and report in.

This reporting in is a very humbling experience.  It feels a bit like an annual physical.  You know the drill…..the doctor asks you all sorts of questions, takes your pulse, your heart rate and ultimately asks you to bend over and cough.  It is all quite humbling but, in the end, very healthy.

We report in on life.  Each guy has 1.5 hours in the ‘hot seat’.  During that time he gives an update on his life, the highs, the lows and the in between. He lets us know how he has been doing on the projects that he said he wanted to work on. Then, we get to ask him questions.

The questions are not easy…..they are challenging/invasive.  They are the kind of questions you would hope that nobody would ever ask.  They are the kind of questions that speak of love and facilitate vulnerability.  The questions tempt me to be dishonest.  The care & concern behind the questions, coupled with my desire to grow, compels me to be honest.  My fear, if you know me…..you won’t like me, is diminished by their love.  The Gang knows me and they still like me.  They still love me! Maybe I can move forward.

At the end of our time in the hot seat, the gang prays for the guy in the hot seat.  There is something quite good and quite humbling about having others pray for me.  Those prayers seem to call out the best in me and for that I am thankful!

It has been said one cannot truly know God without knowing oneself and one cannot truly know oneself without knowing God. (Calvin)  That is very true!  I am convinced that ‘the gang’ helps me to know myself.  I am convinced that they help me to know God as they embody His love for me.  I am thankful for the guys in the gang and the growth they facilitate!

I pray that you might be blessed with a ‘gang’!

Be encouraged! Amp the Joy!

Gusteaux

imageThis is the newest member of the family.  His name is Gusteaux (Gusto).  He is a nine week old,  cane corso (More info HERE), also known as an Italian Mastiff.  He might be the best dog we have ever enjoyed.  Time will tell.  He has only been a part of the family for four days.

As I reflect upon my journey through life, it seems that there has always been a unique canine present and for that I am thankful.  And so, as we start another leg of that journey, I find myself asking….what is it about dogs?

Joy is the first response that settles into my conscience.  Every dog that has been a part of the family has brought great joy to our family.  What is it about a dog that brings such joy?  In part, I think it is because a dog does a great job of being a dog.  They never try to be anything but who they are.  Therefore, a dog embodies  authenticity.  I am convinced that when we dare to be authentic we experience and we embody great joy!

Also, a dog does a wonderful job of embodying unconditional love.  It seems like dogs are always excited to see me.  They do not seem to care what I am wearing or what I am doing…they just always want to be with me.  Even if I am late in getting them their meal or I am grumpy about what went on at work or I am not considerate of their presence, they always seem to be excited to see me. This is different from most of my other relationships.  Oh, others might talk about unconditional love, but I can sense when they are upset with me and I can tell you how I have let them down.  I have learned, in most relationships there are conditions (rarely spoken, often implied) and things go well when I live up to those conditions.

This is interesting because the Bible talks about unconditional love.  I am a fan of the concept of unconditional love….I am an advocate for unconditional love in a hurting world.  Yet, when I look around and try to identify present day examples of this love….I do not see very many genuine examples.

I am also aware that I am not very good at this thing called unconditional love. Unfortunately, I also love conditionally. It is easier for me to love, when I have received love.

Maybe there is a critical formula which exists in the canine model.  Maybe, I am uniquely called to be me. In being authentically me, maybe I can reflect the joy of who it is that God designed me to be.  Out of that place of authentic certainty & security, I might discover the ability to love unconditionally.  I might be able to embody the fact that I love because He has profoundly loved me.  My prayer for you and for me….that we might live life with empowered authenticity.  That we might love with unconditionality.  That we might experience and give with great Gusteaux!