What is the Church? Part 2: Best Practices For Weaving God’s Invisible Tapestry

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Jun 242014
The invisible and visible tapestry being woven

The invisible and visible tapestry being woven

To fully understand God’s idea of church, we need to see the Church through the bifocals of an invisible yet visible tapestry that God is weaving. The hidden dimension or structure of the tapestry is often invisible to the naked eye. It is mystical, and though very real, hard for us to see clearly, and hard for us to define. The Church is one thread in this larger tapestry of the Kingdom taking shape.

In God, every act of life is holy and sacred!

In God, every act of life is holy and sacred!

As human beings, we need the invisible God to express Himself in the earthy and tangible human experiences of life. Everyday God is revealing His invisible nature through the threads of joy, intimacy, beauty, justice, creativity, sorrow, and pain woven into our human activities of work, play, feasting, making love, a smile, a song, a death, and the new life of a baby being born. All of life is sacred and holy when one has a God saturated view of the world.

Anytime the body is separated or disconnected from the spirit, or the spiritual is elevated over the natural human experiences we are falling into the ancient heresy of Gnosticism, or a Greek Platonic worldview of dualism in our thinking and acting. These faulty worldviews compartmentalize and fragment the world into the secular and sacred, a closed or open system, and a material or spiritual reality detached from one another.

A more healthy worldview connects and intersects the lines between the spirit/body, closed/open systems, and visible/invisible realities. There is weaving together of a tapestry that paints a picture of heaven coming here on earth. It makes room for porous borders.

Permeable borders allow us to give and receive!

Permeable borders allow us to give and receive!

One of the metaphors in the Bible for the Church is a body. The Church is the flesh and blood through which, albeit imperfectly, the world around us can see, smell, and touch God. The Church is to be both an open system welcoming all while colliding with closed systems that separate the ‘in from the out.’

The Church is to show a third way where there are permeable boundaries like a cell, yet a clear nucleus that is not compromised.  Our nucleus or DNA is Jesus and His Kingdom,and not on the table for negotiation.  With Jesus and His Kingdom as our center, we invite others to come in and shape how we reflect Jesus and His Kingdom.

What are these best practices of the invisible yet visible tapestry of Church and His Kingdom coming where God can be seen, smelled, touched, and tasted?

The Invisible Tapestry of Church: Practicing Inclusion and Incarnation!

The Nicene Creed, a liturgy recited in churches as a confession of faith states: “We believe in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” What in the world does that mean? The word ‘catholic’ means the universal Church, and is not referring to the Catholic denomination or organization of the church with its HQ in Rome. Apostolic means we are a ‘sent people’ on the Mission of God.

Who is part of, and what is this universal, mystical Church? What is God’s Mission and how do we get to be in on it?

In Jesus, God's love becomes flesh and blood kissing our humanity!

In Jesus, God’s love becomes flesh and blood kissing our humanity!

The mission of the circle dance of the Trinity has been to put out the invitation that we are all welcome to be apart of their perfect community of love. Jesus came as God with skin on to show us who God really is, and what He is really like. (2 Cor. 4:4) Spirit became flesh. The Divine came in human form.

In the greatest act of voluntary love and sacrifice, Jesus gave His life on a cross and then rose again. In this penultimate demonstration of His love and ‘upside down power’, He defeated evil, death, and sin by overcoming violence with non-violence.  This is the core ethic of His upside down Kingdom. He wants to restore all of creation back to His original order of beauty, peace, and life TO THE FULL forever.

Those who have said ‘Yes’ to the invitation from Jesus to be reconciled in their relationship with God and to enter His upside down Kingdom belong to a huge international family that goes beyond religious, tribal, and denominational associations such as the Baptists or Anglicans. We will be shocked one day when we see who is in the the Family of God. There are many who have said ‘Yes’ to King Jesus and are a part of His Kingdom, but don’t belong to the religion called Christianity or go to a visible church!

Jesus hung out with the misfits, outcasts, and rebels in His day. He invited prostitutes, tax collectors, blue collar fishermen, and even terrorists of His day (the Zealots) to come into His Kingdom. We need to be an inclusive community that embraces all people into our community. The borders are porous and permeable.

Inclusion means we give up the right to be the judge of who is ‘in and out’. It also wrecks the need in all of us to keep score and transforms our inherent need to build our own ‘kingdom’.

How do we practice inclusion?

There is so much competition in church culture. If we are honest most of us church leaders want to get people into our church so that we feel successful. Now there is nothing wrong with wanting people to become part of our local church community and wanting our church to grow. Yet we often put the cart before the horse so to speak. If we start with a Kingdom mindset or agenda we see the beautiful and colourful tapestry of the Kingdom first. Our local church community is just one thread.  Our priority is to see where God is at work and get in step with where His Kingdom is coming.

Partnering with all who sing the Kingdom song!

Partnering with all who sing the Kingdom song!

We will want to work together with all unique expressions of church in serving and loving people in our neighborhoods. We will begin to see, even if faintly or dimly, the invisible tapestry of the Church being woven together into the larger tapestry of His Kingdom. The lines get blurred and it doesn’t matter whether folks go to X or Y expression of church. We see the Church as one. We realize we are simply stewards and own nothing. We freely give money, buildings, and even people to help another church grow. When one wins we all win!

We will also build relationships and partnerships with folks outside the church who sing and live the Kingdom songs of justice, peace, beauty, reconciliation, stewardship of creation, generosity, and care for the poor. These are all liturgies and lyrics of the Kingdom song being sung in and around us. We will work together with any Kingdom ambassadors or agents to see a taste of heaven come on earth. This may mean building homes for the poor with a Muslim community or serving side by side with agnostics to advocate for housing for the homeless.

Incarnation starts by moving into a neighborhood and immersing ourselves in the life of the neighborhood. It means fighting fragmentation with integration by moving towards shopping, playing, and even working in our hood if possible. We engage in our neighborhoods by serving wherever there is a felt need by using our gifts and talents to make our neighborhood a better place to live. It means helping connect people to God and one another so that they can live life to the full.

We need to see how God is knitting people together!

We need to see how God is knitting people together!

I’m slowly learning that I am one of the pastors in my neighborhood parish in which there is a hidden tapestry of the Kingdom of God and His Church being woven together. My job is to be a connector, cheer leader, and coach. I view my whole neighborhood as my parish or church. When I coach soccer I am as much a pastor as I am on a Sunday morning at a church gathering.

“People are generally not turned off to Jesus, but the packaging He comes in. We the church need to be Good News before speaking the Good News. Words are shallow if not backed up with living what we say. Through serving and voluntary sacrifice we will have the authority to say a few words. When we love some people and a place we will have true authority to bring about transformation!

In my next blog, I share on the best practices for weaving the tapestry of the church visible.






Growing Deep and Wide: The Push and Pull Between Risk Taking and Limits!

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Feb 052014

Stretched Rubber Band 1Expansion, promotion, growth, and exploration of new fields of opportunity are all desirable goals of any enterprise, business, church or individual that does not want to become stagnant or settle for the status quo. We love being part of the happening thing where there is momentum and movement.  Most of us like the feeling of being on the winning side. The perks that come with growth such as more people, more money, more recognition, and the buzz of activity are attractive. Yet premature, or rapid expansion may be fraught with as many problems as there are perks.  Any healthy organism, organization or person will grow deep in the unseen sub-terrain foundations to sustain the visible outward growth of more production, programs, and more people to serve. It is my observation and analysis that companies, churches, and individuals that grow their spheres of influence in a sustainable and healthy way live in the tension of their present fences, boundaries, and limitations; while preparing and planning to extend their operations and influence into new fields. They are like a rubber band that is pulled from both ends without snapping or breaking.

The questions that arise are: ‘How do we know what our fences. limits, or boundaries are? When do we stay put within these fences and consolidate? How do we know when to take risks and move out into new fields of opportunity?

Most of us chafe at the idea of having fences put around us. We tend to see these fences as keeping us from something better on the other side, or as an obstacle to our freedom and growth. How can limits, boundaries, and fences actually be a gift? King David paints a different picture on the benefits of boundaries in Psalm 16:6:

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

Boundary lines or fences in our lives help us to know where our assigned field is, and where we have authority tofences 1 operate. In this context, I would like to define authority as the ability to influence flowing from a delegated position, or earned through relationships developed in a defined field of geography, an area of expertise, or an organization. Authority comes from having a skill set or gifting, and the necessary resources to do the assigned job or project. For example, after coaching soccer in our neighborhood of Bowness for over 10 years, and coaching or playing soccer at a many levels since I was a child; I have both delegated, geographic, and relational influence with the families of the kids I coach in soccer.

When we are working from within our fences around our assigned field, we will being doing what we are good at which brings both a sense of fulfillment and visible results confirmed by those around us.”

How does one determine their fences and assigned field? In 2 Cor. 10: 13-15, Paul gives us a few clues about how we determine our fences and field:

We however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but we confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither did we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others.”

  • Relationship Fences: Who do you have relational equity with? These folks invite you to influence with your message, skill set, or want to buy your product. You have established trust with these people, companies or churches over time by being trustworthy, authentic, and dependable with your marketing, message, and product. The tricky part can be when you have relational influence that crosses organizational authority fences or lines.

Be aware of the spoken and unspoken rules of engagement in an organization when you work through relational authority lines that are outside the lines of delegated authority. If you don’t you will step on toes, and rightly or wrongly be pegged as stepping into someone’s sand box without permission to play!”

  • Capacity Fences: Know your limits emotionally, financially, energy wise, and in skill set!

When you feel frayed, spent, overwhelmed, in over your head, and over extended heed these limits, or you will burn out or end up bankrupt! When you are working within the field of your relational, delegated, and resource fences or limits the extra peace, provision, and people will come to position you to take on more.”

  • Character Fences: This fence includes the slats of humility and honesty. Give credit where credit is due!

Pump Your Tires“Don’t take credit for someone else’s work as a means to fast tracking growth or as a tactic to promote yourself and your company! This will bite you sooner or later. Resist the urge to pump your own tires. Let others do that for you!”


When it comes to knowing when to expand your sphere of influence,Jumping Together 1 there is one good litmus test that is a great check and balance especially for entrepreneurial, visionary type leaders. Are those around you ready to risk with you? This is what I like to call the ‘team leap test’. Our sphere of influence expanding is not only determined by our readiness to risk, but also the willingness of those in in our present circles of influence also being willing to risk. Paul states this in the latter part of 2 Cor. 10:15 when he says, “Our hope is that as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand…”


Whiplash 1We can all give examples of leaders who have boldly taken steps to risk without taking the pulse of the key people around them, and measuring the risk quotient of key contributors. Often the result is the visionary leader ends up alone without the help they need to be successful in the venture, or there is a lot of collateral damage in relationships as the company or church veers in a different directions. Sometimes the company or church collapses from being over extended without the infrastructure to sustain the expansion.  I call this visionary whiplash syndrome. What the visionary leader thinks is a slight, small 3 degree shift or change in direction can feel like a 90 degree snapping of the tail to those at various levels in the company, and tje communities they lead.


Not everyone will have the same risk quotient or be willing to grow. There will always be naysayers and laggards,snowball rolling 1 but the more people we can bring along the better. Another way to put it is that when those around us are growing and expanding their spheres of influence, our sphere of influence will grow! This is essentially the commitment to mentoring and multiplying of new leaders by empowering and envisioning them to see how their personal vision can be fulfilled within the context of a larger shared vision. When the culture changes from ‘I’ to ‘we’, we all win. A ground swell of momentum and movement slowly builds like a snowball going down a hill. It starts out slow and small, and then gains speed becoming an unstoppable force! Remember, it may take some years of living the dream within the confines of your present fences and field before your sphere of influence expands.

Go start a movement by helping folks heed their fences, focus on their fields of relational, geographic, and delegated influence, and by helping folks stoke the flame for taking new jumps of faith or risk!”

By Tim Schultz

Our Deepest Longing In Relationships: Experiencing and Practicing Unfailing Kindness and Faithfulness

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Sep 102013
What we all long for!

What we all long for!

Most of our problems in marriages, relationships, community, and church flow from a faulty view of the nature of God and the toxic residue we carry from our experiences of broken trust, promises and covenants not kept, and of betrayal in our relationships with one another. We get tired and resentful when we initiate with people, and they don’t initiate in return. We often feel like we have been used in relationships to benefit someone else’s agenda, or on the flip side we’ve been guilty of using people to meet our needs. We have a hard time trusting God or people because they have not kept their end of the bargain from our perspective.

I believe this is how many folks outside of the church feel when we develop a relationship with the subtle unspoken, or sometimes spoken agenda of converting them, or getting them into our church. People are smart and can smell a slick vacuum cleaner salesmen or multi-level marketing scheme a mile away.  What would it look like to love people with no strings attached? Is that even possible or right?

He loves us even if we reject Him!

He loves us even if we reject Him!

I believe that our best example of how authentic relationship works comes from God. The highest value in the Trinity is relationship flowing out of love. God loves us with no strings attached. He keeps His end of the bargain even when we don’t. He remains faithful even when we are unfaithful. (II Tim 2:13) He is a covenant and promise keeping God. (Hebrews 6:13-19) God takes the risk of loving us first while being fully aware that we may choose not to love Him in return. The Trinity will continue to love us even when we don’t reciprocate that love. He demonstrates unfailing kindness to us.

Hesed 1The Hebrew word for this core part of the nature of God is Hesed. It is such a rich and profound word that describes the kind of relationship God practices. In Exodus 34: Psalm 86:15 from the Message says it this way: “But you, O God, are both tender and kind, not easily angered, immense in love, and you never, never quit. ”  This thread of God’s faithfulness and everlasting kindness is woven through out the Bible. I believe it is the highest ethic in God’s heart, and what we so long for in our relationship with God, and one another. When we experience faithfulness we are secure in our relationships!

Sealing the deal!

Sealing the deal!

In the O. T., there are some interesting practices when one entered into a covenant with God or another person. An animal was sacrificed and cut in two halves from the nose to the tail. The two parties would stand on the blood facing each other. They would pledge their lives to each other, commit their wealth to each other, and they promised to take care of each others relatives if the either party died (Go’el – near kinsmen). They would pledge to be loyal to each other even if one party should screw up. They would then walk in a circle 8 around the halved animal, so that they ended up where the other party had stood to begin with. To seal the covenant, they would cut their wrists and grasp hands letting their blood mingle, and they add the other persons name to their name. In Genesis 17: 5 when God makes a covenant with Abram. Abram takes part of God’s name JHAWEH and inserts into his name becoming Abraham.

In our understanding of God, many of us wonder if He is a dual personality playing Jekyll and Hyde. In some instances in the Bible, He comes across as an angry God doling out severe punishments, wiping out people, and then on the other hand extending mercy. He seems to flip flop, depending on His mood that day. In relating to this kind of God we walk on  egg shells never really knowing whether He will be kind towards us or angry at us. Out this notion of who God is we have a hard time trusting Him. This then impacts how we relate to one another.

I believe that to understand God’s holiness, judgments, power, and justice, we must see these characteristics through the prism of Hesed. If we don’t, holiness becomes legalism, a list of behaviors through which we judge people, or a form of religion where by through our behavior we try to win God’s approval. Through this skewed lens, justice and His judgments are viewed as punitive, or God venting His anger rather than demonstrations of His love.

Love puts boundaries around us to protect us!

Love puts boundaries around us to protect us!

When God stands up for and defends the under dog (the poor, the widow, the foreigner and the alien) we see His love expressed in justice. When through His judgments He brings order out of chaos caused by sin we taste of His unfailing kindness to restore His fabric of beauty, peace, and generosity to all of creation. When we experience the discipline of God, we see a Father who loves us enough to train us so we grow up. He cares enough to put up fences to keep us from harm, and yet gives us the freedom to face the consequences of crossing these boundaries. (Hebrews 12:5-11).

When it comes to God we are to respect Him, fear Him, and stand in awe of Him. Yet we can respect someone we don’t really like. If our view of God is that He is consistently angry, not pleased with us, constantly pointing out our faults and sins, and looking for reasons to punish us, we will want to hold Him at arms length. We end up avoiding or hiding from Him. If we see Him as a grouchy, mean-spirited, war mongering, vindictive God who keeps score, we will want to avoid spending time with Him, especially if we have not been faithful.

His Kindness never fails!

His Kindness never fails!

If our image of God is one where the consequence of choosing not to love Him is that He will rejects us, or will turn His back on us, we end up acting like servants trying to keep a Master happy, not friends. Yet Jesus in John 15 says that God wants us to be friends not merely servants.  The question is “Do you like the God you worship? 

Yet His nature is so opposite to what many of us believe. He is first and foremost  a merciful and faithful God. When we blow it, He gives us a second, third, fourth, and who knows how many chances. It is His kindness that brings us to repentance. It is love that changes people.Do we really believe that? Exodus 34:6 in the Message says: “God, God, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient– so much love, so deeply true — loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin..”

The practical question is: When we have tasted of and are secure in the unfailing kindness (Hesed) of God how will that impact how we live out relationships in community and mission?  There is much that could be said, but for the sake of brevity, I will pose a few questions to ponder and ideas of how we can apply Hesed in our relationships in and outside of our communities of faith.

The end goal of communities of Jesus followers is summed up in John 15;13: Greater love has on one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”  “We are to become a community of faithful forgiving friends!” 

Communities of faithful friends!

Communities of faithful friends!

Below are some questions to help us move towards that goal.

  1. When have you experienced betrayal or broken covenant in your life? What trust issues do have as a result?
  2. Is there still residual pain that causes you to hold God and people at arms length?
  3. Do you keep score and hold on to grudges from past hurts?
  4. When people don’t keep their end of bargain or meet up to your expectations do you feel resentful or look for pay back?
  5. Do you have some relationships in your life where there is no other agenda other than to simply enjoy their presence with no strings attached? The relationship is not founded on whether the personcan perform some function to further your agenda or mission as a community?
  6. How do you react to folks who blow it big time? Is their a safety in your community for folks to be vulnerable and honest with their mess? What happens when a person of another sexual orientation comes into your community?
  7. Does your community quickly make space and welcome in the foreigner, widow, single moms, orphans, and the poor?
  8. When a leader in the community has to step back from leading, do they still feel welcome and a part of the of the community? Is there an inner circle of the cool leader types and an outer circle of folks in your community? Is it hard to break into the ‘in’ circle?
  9. Is there the freedom to express our spoken and unspoken expectations for community, and the freedom for people to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to those expectations?
  10. Have you ever experienced people moving into the same neighborhood together to love one another and serve that community? Have you ever experienced people selling a second house or car and giving all that money to the poor out of love?
  11. Are you becoming a friend of Jesus and do you have a band of faithful, forgiving friends who practice ‘Hesed’?
Staying True!

Staying True!

When it comes to mission I believe we need to have genuine friendships with those outside the church and love people whether they ever say ‘yes’ to Jesus or not. We are to love folks whether they ever come to our church community or not.

Without authentic relationship where we love people with no strings attached, we end up assuaging our guilt, or getting weird by doing forms of power or prophetic evangelism where we parachute in and out of people’s lives doing our thing to people in a strange way. We end up doing programs of evangelism, like sharing the 4 spiritual laws, that feels forced or aggressive. We come across as arrogant, and as if we have the truth and others don’t. We do proclamation evangelism through a meeting without taking the time to really get involved with folks God has put around us to love and be loved by. All of these approaches to sharing our faith are good and effective, but lack integrity if we don’t start with real relationships.

We need to chill and begin by just loving people, and letting them love us in return. Out of relationship, God will give us opportunity to share our story of how we have had an encounter with Jesus where we have tasted of His unfailing kindness that has met the deepest longing in our hearts, and is the reason why we love others with no strings attached. As Jesus said in John 13:35 “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” 





The Joy of Neighboring: Learning to Be Present With Those That Cross My Path

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Apr 112013

ConnectingThere are two innate longings in all of us:  the desire to connect and the desire to make a contribution. What I’m learning is that if I simply learn to be fully present with the people that God brings across my path, cool stuff happens where these two longings in me and the folks I meet are fulfilled. Without trying too hard, community and mission happens that is not artificial, programmatic, or pushy, but fun and fulfilling. We end up practicing the second command that Jesus gave us to love our neighbor in a way that is accessible to all and transcends all barriers. I love it!

The three practices I am slowly learning as the way to be fully present with people are listening, letting go of my agenda, and allowing people to give back to me. I want to share my story from last week that illustrates these three practices.

I was minding my own business last week, going through my normal routine of working out at the YMCA when it all happened. Now anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a pretty focused person when it comes to my workouts. When I go to work out, my agenda is not to visit or chit chat with people, but work my body hard enough that my shirt is dripping with sweat.  My wife always comments that I’m the sweatiest guy in the gym. This is my time to think, pray, work out any stress, do some anger management, and yes, work off some calories. Perfect multi-tasking which gives me great joy!

Well, needless to say, last week my agenda for my workout got blown out of the water. It all happened when a fella I’ll call Ali, a nominal Pakistani man in his late 60’s who I had met some months ago, decided to engage me in conversation. I was diligently working up a lather on the bike when I noticed Ali chatting with someone else two bikes down from me. Without any invitation, Ali moved over to the bike next to me and said, “Hi Tim! You’re that priest I met a few months ago.” I said, “Yes, I’m the nonreligious priest,  pastor, or life coach who is learning to be a follower of Jesus.” In my head I was thinking, “How can I make this short and sweet so I can get on with my workout?” Yet the Holy Spirit had other ideas.

Letting go.

Letting go.

Ali proceeded to tell me again about how six years ago his wife had been diagnosed with dementia and placed in a care facility. He shared how he had cried for two years straight because he missed and loved his wife so much. Before retiring, Ali had been a very successful geologist in the oil industry, and as far as material things go, he was not wanting. Yet he told me that all that wealth meant nothing to him because of the pain in his heart.

Then he asked me when we meet as a church community and if he could join us. He expressed how lonely he was and how he needed a place of belonging where he could tell his story, and that he would be willing to even contribute. I told him that one of the practices of our community is to encourage people to be vulnerable and then to pray for them. He said that though he wasn’t ready to follow Jesus, he had no problem being in the group and joining in the discussion about Jesus. At this point, I realized that I was in the middle of a God moment and that I needed to surrender my agenda for the rest of my workout.

The joy of eating together!

Eating together!

Ali went on to offer his home for us to meet in anytime. Then he said that to get to know us better he would like to take our whole family out for an East Indian meal at a local restaurant. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Here was a man that even in the midst of the pain he was experiencing in his life, was willing and offering to serve and give to us. What a profound Kingdom moment for me. All it took was for me to be willing to listen, let go of my agenda, invite him into community to experience love, and accept his offer to serve and give to me. How much easier could it get?

We ended our conversation that afternoon with some hearty laughs as he asked me questions about why the book of Song of Solomon was in the Bible with all that descriptive and sensual language about the beauty of a woman. He was curious as to why “pornography” would be in the Bible. Good question! I left that day both refreshed by how I was able to love my neighbor and receive in return, as well as convicted by how often I’ve missed those God moments because I haven’t  been fully present and aware of what God is doing around me.

I dream of communities of Jesus followers popping up all over the city, where normal everyday people take that little step of loving their neighbors and forming community and spiritual family around the lonely, the little, and the lost.

The Mosaic will be having a gathering called The Feast on Saturday May 4th, from 6-8 pm at Calgary Community Church in Montgomery, 5136 17th Ave NW. The theme will be The Art of Neighboring. You are welcome to join us as we explore this topic and hear the stories of joy and frustration from people who are exploring what it means to love their neighbor from across our city of Calgary.

Loving one another on this journey of life.

Loving one another on this journey of life.

A great resource on this topic of neighboring that is full of anecdotes and simple applications written by a couple of practitioners is The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door, by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon.


Tim Schultz



Finishing Well: A Long Obedience Of Practicing Some Rhythms In the Same Direction

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Jan 232013

Finishing well is the best legacy one can leave!

This week I was both riveted and stunned as I listened to the news about two successful athletes who have garnered lots of media attention and notoriety for their prodigious sporting accomplishments only to face the real possibility of their character being forever tarnished, and their reputations sullied. To add insult to injury their athletic achievements will  be stripped away or called into question because of  blatant cheating to win at all costs, bald faced lying, or the purported hoax around a fantasy online girlfriend. 

It was painful to watch a clearly uncomfortable Lance Armstrong, the cyclist who won 7 Tour de France races, squirm in his chair as he admitted to Oprah that he had been guilty of doping, and that his cycling career had been “one big lie”. Here is an individual who did so much good like starting a wonderful charity called Livestrong, a charity to help inspire and empower people affected by cancer, on the one hand, yet lived a life of duplicity on the other hand. How could he do that?

Then there is the case of Manti Te’o, the outstanding linebacker from Notre Dame, who was expected to be selected as one of the top 10 picks in this years draft. The heart wrenching story that he shared earlier on this year about the death of  his girl friend to leukemia just 6 hours after his grand mother passed away endeared this young man to many. Yet this week the whole story has been exposed as a hoax. What has surfaced is that the supposed girlfriend named Lennay Kekua did not exist and was an imaginary person online. The facts around the story are confusing and murky. It is not clear whether Manti was duped by some woman he met online, or whether he made the whole story up. How could he be so easily deceived?

We have all heard of other athletes, C.E.O’s, religious leaders, and even friends or co-workers in whom we put our trust, and who were touted as rising stars, crash and burn due to moral failure, lapses in judgement, and giving in to their dark side. Others we know have not finished well because of burnout, premature deaths, or the collateral damage and carnage of broken relationships. This has often been the result of not heeding the red lights going off on their physical, emotional, and spiritual dashes.

Good friends help us see where we are living in denial to our blind spots.

There are some pernicious rationalizations that rear their ugly head when one allows fame, success, position, or hubris tell us we are invincible, and get to play by a different set of rules than everyone else. A couple examples of these deceptions are:  all the good we do makes up for, or justifies our breaking the rules, or everyone else is doing it so why shouldn’t we. Another example is: I’m to busy to exercise or I don’t have time to reflect, rest, and replenish. These forms of denial or not paying attention to where we are all flawed or broken is what’s most dangerous.  The point is not to judge Lance or Manti, but to take stock of our own lives. As I have been reflecting on these two recent examples and other cases, it has caused me to do some soul searching around the question: “How do I finish well and not flame, burn out, drop out, or get taken out?”

 “It is not how fast we start that counts, but how well we finish.”

Here are some rhythms that if we sustain them over a life time will help us finish well:

1. The Rhythm of Reflection: Taking time weekly to take stock of our lives by asking ourselves the tough questions.

We all need to get in touch with what are the internal positive and negative ‘Drivers’ or motivators behind why we do what we do. Some of our motivations such as the desire to contribute, to make a difference, or to serve are good while other motivators such as fear of what others think, always trying to please people, or fear of failure, and narcissism are negative. We will never be able to know exactly to what degree our motivations are pure or not.  Usually there is a mixture. It is simply through being self-aware, allowing close friends to speak into your lives, and learning from the failures in our lives that we become more healthy. Below are some questions to help surface these drivers.

  • Why do I do what I do?
  • Where did I take steps towards living my dream this week?
  • Am I being true to myself or am I trying to be what other people want me to be?
  • Do I need to be the center of everything?  Do I have an unhealthy need to feel important or needed. Do I have an unhealthy need to be validated for what I do?
  • Where did I allow the fear of failure or rejection to hold me back from acting this week?
  • Where do I need to say no to some things that are good, but not the best for me?
  • Where did I fear being out of control this week? Where do I need to accept some circumstances that are out of my control, and where do I need to accept some people I would like to change?
We also need to take time to reflect on the unhealthy default habits and defensive reactions we have when we are tired, bored, and stressed. Below are some questions to ponder weekly or monthly.
  • What activities or substances do I indulge in when I am tired or stressed such as overeating, too much alcohol,  T.V., porn, video games?
  • What activities do I turn to for excitement or an adrenaline rush when I’m bored?
  • How did I respond to people or situations that irritated me this week?
  • Was I edgy, impatient, irritable, and grumpy with people or situations that frustrated me this week?
  • Do I lack compassion when I see people in need?

To finish well we need to care for our body, mind, and spirit!

2. The Rhythm of Regular Exercise: Plan in your schedule 3 times a week some form of aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

  • Be creative in this rhythm by finding a form of exercise that suits who you are and start slow.
  • Here are some ideas: walking with a friend or a spouse, swimming, joining a recreational sport team like soccer or hockey if you are social in nature. If you like to workout alone then get a membership at a gym or going hiking in the mountains.
  • Try to find a family activity that all enjoy to help your kids catch this value.
3. The Rhythm of Replenishing Relationships: There are 3 types of relationships in our lives. There are relationships where we are the ones doing all the giving. There are neutral relationships, and then there are replenishing relationships. We need a healthy balance of all 3 in our lives.
  • Did I spend time this week with some friends who I had fun with, who gave to me, and who I have given permission to speak into my life?
  • Do I find myself surrounded by relationships where I am always in the giving role and find it hard to receive. Why?
  • Did I give to and receive from my family this week?
4. The Rhythm of Rest and Recreation: We all need to take some time weekly and yearly to re-charge our emotional, spiritual, and mental tanks.
  • Weekly carve out some time where you are away from you smart phone, people, or other media to soak and shut off your brain from work stuff. I find getting into nature is restful for me. I also like to take some time weekly to read.
  • Once a year go on a 1-3 day retreat at a place where it is quiet and where you can practice some spiritual disciplines such as solitude, silence, and yes sleep!
  • Take up a hobby like guitar playing, sewing, dancing, fly fishing, or some other activity that would replenish you.
  • Once a year if you are in people work such as teaching, counseling, nursing, pastoral work, and such you need to get away on vacation. It takes one week to decompress, the second week to begin to recharge, and the 3rd week to fill up your tanks to go back and give.
5. The Rhythm of Resiliency and Redemption: How we respond to failure, loss, and our own personal screw-ups will be a true test of whether we finish well or not. Our responses to adversity will make us either a bitter or a better person.

Bending but not breaking!

  • Am I sidelined or stuck by holding on to bitterness and offense from some hardships or injustices that happened in my life?
  • Am I owning my stuff that surfaced through my failures?
  • Am I choosing to allow adversity to shape me into a better person and clarify my dream?
  • Am I choosing with humility to get up and try again?
  • Resist the tendency to prematurely judge your good attempts or risk taking ventures that go sideways as complete failures. Some of your greatest failures as you look back in the future will be the pathway to your greatest successes!

What Does Food and Fun Have to Do with Discipling?

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Nov 132012

Finding a Friend while Hiking!

My second story is about Yoshie – a Japanese designer who loves the outdoors. I met Yoshie when I went hiking on Manly beach. We were both lost and trying to find our way back to the main road from the bush. Since finding each other when we were lost hiking, we have been texting each other about going hiking in other places in Sydney, but busyness in our lives had kept this from happening. Finally we re-connected when I invited her to my friends’ Halloween party. We left early to go search for food. In the midst of our conversation about culture, boys, work, and studies, the story of God and His Community came up. Yoshie was exposed to Christianity when she was in the States for few years, but some of her questions never got answered such as: “I don’t mind going to my friends’ church, but why don’t they come to my events? Why do Christians love me, but hate each other? Can I get to know God without going to a normal church?”

Trang's friend Yoshie enjoying food.

That night God taught me the lesson that everyone is curious about God (could be other Gods) and community.  Our job is to listen and ask right questions. How do we do it? We have the joy of walking with God everyday and asking Him what He is doing. I can’t wait to start forming a community with Yoshie around food, hiking, and beach volleyball. In the midst of working with God, He wants us to have tons of fun as well. This is my story of how the Kingdom of Heaven is happening wherever we go for fun and relaxation.

On the other hand, postgraduate school has been pretty intense. One of the requirements of my studies is that we have to do group projects with another person. I was praying for a good partner who would be hungry to learn and also have fun. God answered my prayer by sending me Adriana – a girl from New Zealand with Brazilian roots. Adriana has an amazing work ethic, and is very intelligent. We have pushed each other to achieve high quality work in school. After working on 15 projects together, we haven’t killed each other. This is a good sign. We have learned how work together and trust each other. In the midst of school projects, we take time to be each other’s therapist, and we have learned about each other’s family, culture, dreams and beliefs. I started sharing with Adriana about Jesus and what it means to be a Jesus follower. Through the trust that we have built over the last eight months, Adriana has opened up to me and shared with me her desire to seek out His Kingdom. I cannot wait to walk with Adriana through this journey next year over good food, wine, gardening, and business.

My last story is how the Kingdom of God is happening at work. Neil is my industry mentor for my consulting project at an organic certified business here in Australia. One day in the middle of our normal discussion about work the story of Jesus just came up. I found out that he has been curious about God for a long time, but disillusioned with Christianity because of how other Christians have failed him. To be honest, I am always nervous before having a meeting with Neil, because he is so intelligent and successful in the field of psychology and business while I am just a kid with a burning heart filled with God’s love. However, I could not keep myself from sharing with Neil about the love of Jesus, and telling him my story of what Jesus has done in my life. My hope is that God will reveal Himself to Neil in the language that he will understand.

Through this relationship I have learned that Jesus is not a math problem. Jesus is like a poem. A poem can be simply words every time we read it, but the layers of its meaning are only revealed when we spend the time meditating on it, and experiencing it. Poems speak not only to the head but also the heart. The only way we can experience the poem is to read it together through fellowship. This is how it is with Jesus. To really know Jesus, we need to experience Him through an encounter we have with Him personally and through His community. It is not enough to just know information about Him.

Yummy quiche that me and my posse of friends cooked up!

I hope that my four chosen short stories will encourage you to see how simple church, fellowship, and discipling can be. If you start looking to build relationships with not-yet-Jesus followers in the community that God has already put you in, you will be amazed at how many opportunities you will find. Relationship is the starting point of your journey with God and His community, because none of us live in a silo. Food is a great stimulus for relationships to flourish. If you don’t like food, you can find other things that you have in common with the people in your circles. When trust is established and when the Holy Spirit urges you to share; you need to obey and respond. “…To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1Samuel 15: 22)

This is when the beauty of partnership with God shines through. I cannot put it in words how wonderful this feeling is when it happens. Start with simple acts of love, then practice listening, responding to what you hear, and praying together for and with your friends.  Pray simple prayers. Pray like you would talk to your father, mother, brother or sister. Please don’t use jargon and church language, because it doesn’t make any sense to your friends. Pray with the language of the heart which will powerfully connect with the spirit.


Working along side Jesus is definitely fun and rewarding, but you need to pay attention and do it intentionally. You need planning to be able to be flexible and spontaneous when the opportunity comes.

I cannot wait to hear your stories. Please share them with us when you can.



Application Questions to Practice:

Have you ever asked yourselves when would be the right time to become a spiritual parent? How long should we walk with Jesus before we reach out to others and disciple them? I hope that my experience can encourage you to go and search for the answer.

The Journey of An Architect Learning How to Be An Artist

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Sep 302011

The Grand Vision of the Architect Ready to Be Executed!

For most of my life, I have operated from a leadership philosophy/paradigm and a set of practices that cascade out of the notion that the role of a visionary leader is to be solely that of an architect. The prevailing thinking that has influenced my leadership training and practices flows from a Newtonian, mechanistic worldview in which predictability, creating plans and programs to produce order, and determining the end outcome are the key objectives. From this perspective, people can be viewed as cogs in the machine which can be manipulated to get the desired result, or seen as replaceable pieces to be discarded when no longer productive. An effective leader’s job is to come up with a big vision, to cast that vision to a group of people, to find the people with the necessary skill sets to execute that vision, and to implement the five year plan to bring that vision to fruition. This approach to leadership does bring about results and seems to work.

Yet we are entering a time when our Newtonian mechanistic worldview is colliding with other realities. Discontinuous or random change happening at an accelerated rate is making it more and more difficult to have long range, rigid plans.  The realization through chaos is that we are not as in control as we think we are – just look at the fluctuations of the stock market in the last month. There is a growing awareness that systems/organizations are not machines, but a network of interconnected relationships where even little decisions can have great impact on the whole – look at the grassroots revolutions in the Middle East in the last year. If you want to reflect more on some of these ideas, I suggest Margaret Wheatley’s book, “Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order In a Chaotic World”.

This collision of worldviews has given me an opportunity to complement the leadership skills of an architect by learning another way of leading. There are some who in reaction to the extremes of present and past forms of leadership are proposing no leadership, or anarchy.

Vision Flows out of the Imagination

Vision Flows Out of the Imagination!

What I’m discovering is that I need to learn to lead like an artist alongside my penchant for being an architect. Now I’m not much of an artist when it comes to painting or drawing. Although, I’m not too bad at sketching stick figures or randomly throwing paint on a canvas! I love art…just come look at my house sometime. I am learning that art is a way for us to get in touch with our longing for beauty, a portal to help us catch glimpses of the eternal, and a conduit for the creativity embedded by God in our imaginations to be unleashed. The art of leadership is not just casting a vision but creating contexts for others to unlock their imaginations, and together put strokes of the vision we see on the canvas. As leaders we are to create the borders to the canvas which are a few values and practices that make it safe for people to explore and express the vision they carry in their imaginations of what a better future would look like.

Creating Together

This means we as leaders have to give up control of what the end picture will look like, which, if we are really honest with ourselves, no person can determine anyhow! The borders or boundaries around the canvas keep us from tipping over into the abyss of rugged individualism – everyone doing their own thing – or the top down power politics where only the few most dominant or gifted get to paint on the canvas of vision.


Here are some questions to ponder as you contemplate learning to lead like an artist:

  • What does the desired future that brought us together look like?
  • Who needs to be at the table to put a stroke on the canvas of our painting of a desired future?
  • What are the values or practices that will make it safe for us to explore and paint together?
  • What borders or structures will complement the painting we are creating together?