Crucial Conversations

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This is a picture of me and Darlene a couple days after we got married. I pulled this pic up today to have a look at it and remember that feeling of “we can conquer anything, God is with us!”

Today is day #468 of the Alliance and I love how far we’ve come! We have found a stride and a rhythm of life. We’ve learned to share a home and co-parent beautiful children with un-beautiful trauma. I’ve come to respect my wife even more because sometimes in the past year I thought parenting would break me (but for God’s grace it would have) and then I think, “how did she do this by herself for 10 years?” Shout-out to single moms who make it work and keep their hearts soft in spite of the inevitable toughening that’s required to carry so much with minimal support.

I’ve been on a growth journey with the material of Brene Brown and her thoughts and research about Vulnerability. I really don’t know which came first, learning about Vulnerability or the metamorphosis I’m going through. Maybe it was time for me to change so I looked up the learning that would facilitate what I needed to know. Or maybe coming across this wisdom triggered and activated a change deep within that led to this metamorphosis. It doesn’t really matter which came first.

Is there anything more vulnerable than having crucial conversations with your spouse? How do we talk to one another when the stakes are high? Before I began learning about vulnerability, my approach was just not to talk about it until it was absolutely necessary. Well, you already know that doesn’t work. I would wait until I was angry enough to say something, which was not helpful, because you can be right and still wrong at the top of your voice. Besides, anger is a secondary emotion. It’s just there to mask another feeling we don’t really want to face.

So, silence doesn’t work and anger doesn’t work. What does? I’ve found a couple things that work for me, and I just added Crucial Conversations to my Audible library, because I’m all for finding new tools, growing intentionally before mistakes instead of learning accidentally from mistakes.

One thing that does work is having a regularly scheduled weekly conversation where you know it’s ok to talk about hard things. Dar and I have what we call Real Talk Radio, where we can say things that might be too hard to swallow if they came up without any warning. At least this way we know there’s a possibility of being confronted with a tough truth.

We get our feelings hurt when we’re confronted by a truth we don’t want to face.

Another thing that works is praying for God to help me see the other person as He sees them and then speak to that version of them. In every man there is a King and a Beggar; In every woman a Queen and a Peasant. The one you speak to will respond. Ask God to show you the Queen, show you the King, in your spouse, and then address that version of them.

I look forward to adapting more tools for braving crucial conversations and the vulnerability that accompanies that.

I am incredibly grateful for a wife who calls me up higher, and does it graciously, and who also doesn’t banish me into outer darkness (aka, the land of Couch) when I try and fail and try again to facilitate crucial conversations with rippling impact in our family and community.

We are so blessed.

Be strong and of good courage, that’s Joshua 1:9

Go in the strength that you have. Am I not sending you? That’s Judges 6:14

Be strong enough to have the conversations that scare you. Be strong enough to be tender. Be Strong & Tender. Be #Strender. That’s us!

 

#LennDar

Rest and Connection

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Yesterday I sat with a gifted young man who is about to embark on an exciting  new adventure — he’s getting married!

This is Brock from McMinnville. We haven’t had many chances before yesterday to sit and enjoy conversation. In recent months we’ve served together on the same worship team, first Sunday of each month. Brock is a brilliant drummer with an elegant musicality.

During our collaborations, I’ve been able to observe one of his great super-powers — he carries peace. I don’t just mean that he is not argumentative or quarrelsome, which he isn’t. It’s deeper than that. He has the ability to infuse peace into the people around him. The Peace Quotient of any situation rises upon his arrival. People feel comfortable to try things they would not have tried otherwise, to take risks they might otherwise avoid. He has a calming effect on those in his presence.

How is that a super-power?

See, in the beginning, back in the garden, before the law, before grace, before the need of grace, there were two things built into the source code of the world: Marriage and Sabbath, a.k.a. Connection and Rest. All throughout our story, the enemy, the world, call it what you will, has mounted a vicious campaign against those two foundational elements of our heritage. If he can keep us from Rest and Connection, keep us off balance, distracted and disconnected, he won’t even need to defeat us; we’ll simply self-destruct.

Upon careful observation, you may notice a campaign for busy-ness, a seduction into stress, an agenda for anxiety, an onslaught against marriage, family and relationship, a diabolical intentionality leveled against those moments and spaces that allow us to catch a breath and share our gifts. Seems we have exactly enough time to do everything except be what were made to be.

In what ways are you besieged by Distraction and/or Disconnection? Where do you see the foothold of these two deviants in your life and style? Top of mind for me is the smart-phone addiction that I see all around. I see us sitting together at tables not talking to each other, texting superficial factoids to anyone and everyone but the people in front of us or next to us. I see how it sends the message that “you, sitting here, are less important to me than just about anyone. In fact, I’m going to spend this time building a facade of connection with someone who isn’t even here, rather than a real connection with you — that’s how unimportant you are to me.”

What? Too blunt? I totally agree. I just wish we were that blunt, because then we’d hear ourselves say it and realize what we are communicating non-verbally. Use your phone like you use a lawn-mower — turn it off when you’re in a conversation.

Anyway, back to my friend Brock. His ability to exude tranquility facilitates Isaiah 30:15. Quietness and trust that give strength. By aiding others in coming to stillness, he allows them to experience Psalm 46:10.

I see him building teams of people into families and communities. I see him leading leaders. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.

Here’s to you, Brock PeaceMaker; thank you for your quiet strength.

 

 

Solar Eclipse 2017

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I rest on Mondays.

Saturdays and Sundays are work days for me at church. Lots of people. Lots of listening to people, creating space for people, contributing energy and vision to people. Monday is the day I unplug and honor the introvert within.

Yesterday there was a solar eclipse, visible in totality from my small town in Oregon. People came from all over the country, most of them descending on Salem, the state’s capital, conveniently 45 minutes from us. There were an estimated 1 million additional travelers to the state for the purpose of viewing this celestial event.

Last thing I want to do on a Monday is see more people and be around a crowd, or even a group.

So Darlene, AKA Queen D, tells me that she wants to watch the eclipse with her friends and their family and she’d like us to go there as a family and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make memories together as a tribe, and all I’m thinking is, Blessed Aloneness, where Art Thou?

Over the decade of forming this Alliance, we’ve gotten a pretty good sense for recognizing when something is truly important to the other person, and I sensed that definitely was the  case, so I decided to go along with the family and watch this solar eclipse, blah blah, ho-hum…

Turns out I had a blast! We all did! From the first time we looked through our special eclipse glasses and saw that the moon had taken a bite out of the sun, and Sage said, “it looks like the Apple logo,” we were knit together into a shared experience that I suspect we will treasure for years. Is it possible that trust is built of memories such as these? My video was not of the magnificent display in the heavens, but on earth, the shared energy of a group that had gathered to be amazed together.

While we were all yelling and ooh-ing and aah-ing as the sun went out, I remembered this Ted Talk that I watched several years ago about how shared experience binds us together. Now me and those 20 people from yesterday have a shared memory of the eclipse that qualifies us to say, “hey remember that time?”

Relationship is made of many things. I believe an important ingredient is the memory of that one time, and that other time, and the time we did that thing…

Grand Synchronicity

“This is what faith is to me. It’s a belief in something bigger than us. It’s a confidence in a bigger plan and a synchronization of the world beyond our comprehension. It is not logical or tangible but is the essence of hope, love, and joy” 

— Ronald P. Culberson, ‘Do It Well. Make It Fun.’

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This week has been action packed, just like every week before. A friend once told me I was trying to live 20 lives in one lifetime. There’s some truth in that. I have also learned to balance my work ethic with a value and a practiced rhythm for rest and, more importantly, restoration.

I maintain several Daily Disciplines. One is reading 10 pages from a good book that equips me for my mission. Today I am reading from ‘Do It Well. Make If Fun,” by Ronald Culberson.

Worship Legacy team (the worship team I lead in McMinnville, Oregon) is growing rapidly, not in numbers, but qualitatively in unity and harmony, in leadership and love. I am so pleased to say that leaders are emerging and connecting with one anothers’ strengths to elevate the entire community. A rising tide lifts all boats.

In times when growth is evident, just as in times when it cannot be seen or felt, we rely on the assurance that there is a plan, that the world and our lives are part of a grand synchronicity, that a Creator is working in dimensions beyond our current ability to sense.

I remember the lyric of a song from my childhood:

“Many things about tomorrow,

I don’t seem to understand,

But I know who holds tomorrow,

And I know who holds my hand.”

Darlene and I are having very real, honest conversations about current events that scare us both. It’s good timing for me to read about faith on day #461 of the Alliance.