At CCIM we are called to address the roots of difficulty and despair. Instead of trying to fix the bad fruit of our lives, our communities, and our nations, we go right to the heart of the matter by breaking down strongholds in the spirit realm, by leading in repentance and honesty before the Lord, and by teaching individuals and communities to stand in the gap for their people in the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We must be practitioners of unity rather than preachers of unity. This of course holds true of anything we might relay. The question must always be asked, “Am I a theorist of this or am I a practitioner of this?”
Theorists have knowledge and information and often a very strong desire toward something but they do not have an appreciable personal experience of what they teach; they have not yet personally succeeded towards the actual thing they so desire.
In the coaching world this is often the dilemma at hand. When coaches are working from theory they are incapable of taking their clients all the way through, so to speak. In contrast to this, when coaches are working from the perspective of a practitioner, one who has his or her own mastery of which they coach, they have the fine-tuned insights and wisdoms of those who have been there.
And this makes all the difference in the world. As a coach I have coached from both places. When I coached as a theorist I put all sorts of pressure on my clients to get what I vaguely alluded to. The undercurrent to my coaching was a sort of desperation for them to move forward so that I might be validated. This is awful, crazy kind of pressure to put on people.
When I coach as a practitioner I bring to the table and create a space of ease and confidence that encourages and empowers others. I know they can progress this same way, I know the inner workings, I know the path from beginning to end, and it makes all the difference. As practitioner my coaching is not heavy or combative but light and refreshing.
In translation and in regards to pleas of unity coming from within our churches and from our pulpits it is imperative that we look beneath the words of those who are preaching unity and perceive whether they are speaking from theory or from practice.
Theorists of unity are marked by a burning desire to see unity and they speak of it often. Yet theorists of unity often demand unity and there is an underlying pressure for the ‘people’ to get it. What is not understood by theorists of unity is that the moment one demands unity, unity is in fact broken.
Practitioners of unity are also marked by a burning desire to see unity but they speak of it rarely for they are too busy taking on 100% responsibility for the environment of unity around them. They are learning to be nurturers of unity and in turn become master growers of unity as do their people.
It is akin to parents with their toddlers. Imagine as a parent of a young child berating them to talk, “Talk damn it.”
Does the child in this kind of environment learn to talk sooner or later? Put under emotional pressure and under the fears of the parent that, “this child may never talk” the child regresses. Talking, this natural growth process, is hindered by the over-bearing and insecure admonitions of the parent.
The same goes for demands (or pleas or well-crafted arguments) of unity. Instead of nurturing unity these demands merely inculcate underlying fear, apprehension, anxiety, and a pervasive sense of failure. Unity cannot grow in this environment.
The ones pleading for unity in this way are often those ill-equipped to dispense it.
I write this today so that we may all take heed of theorists of unity. They will make you feel very bad. And it will be your fault. Avoid this at all costs.
In contrast practitioners of unity nurture respect, give honour, and invite differences. Consider the following.
Practitioners of Unity Refuse:
- To set people up against each other
- To keep people small
- To be great (and don’t make a point of talking about not being great)
- To have secret conversations
- To have things their way
- To discount the opinions and experiences of others
- To humiliate and discredit others
- To put others on the spot
- To make excuses or cast blame
Practitioners of Unity Do:
- Listen well and with an intent of understanding rather than responding
- Invite varied opinions with an eye to strength found only in diversity
- Welcome tension as that creative space where humans thrive and grow
- Receive from what others are bringing to the table
- Work to establish safe spaces gauged by answers to this simple question, “Do you feel safe?”
- Determine their effectiveness based on the fruit – the proof is in the pudding, how good does the pudding taste?
- Continually work to increase gladness of heart in all interactions and situations
- Give and act in dignity and honor to all people
- Take 100% responsibility for the state of unity about them
I write this because I am concerned, as I work with pastors and churches in many places, that unity is an oft misunderstood Biblical command.
Within the church we too often seem to focus on the outer signs, and in some cases bully, to ensure veneers of unity rather than doing the hard work in ourselves as leaders to become agents of unity. And the difference is found in the fruit. God never said, “Make others be in unity with you.” Simply put we would hate to be preaching unity when we haven’t yet found it ourselves.
As leaders, no matter where or what we are leading, we must lead as practitioners. If something that you are working at is not working for you, is not ‘coming round’, then you are probably leading as a theorist. Stop and take the time, as much time as it takes, to become a practitioner. The change and resulting impact will prove to be profound.
To become a trusted and respected leader we must be straight-up with others. This means that we don’t play games with our words, we don’t lie or cover over things, and we don’t manipulate to get what we want.
To deal dishonestly with people may seem a solution to some problems but it is short-term thinking. Dishonesty of our words and intentions will always come back in a bad way. We want to make decisions out of integrity with others and ourselves.
Integrity is a word we use to indicate the strength of something through and through. For instance, imagine a board, a piece of wood made from a tree. Imagine that you want to use this board to make a stage to stand on. Now, to stand on a stage the stage must be made from good boards.
We had finally boarded the train, after a long night at the train station. The sun was rising and we were getting on our way.
It was a crowded train but thankfully Whisky had gone ahead of us and found four seats near each other.
Trains in Mozambique are open cars with wracks overhead for luggage and groups of seats, two at a time, facing each other, each seat fitting 3 adults.
Pastor Daniel and Isabel and their daughter settled into one of the seats across the aisle opposite another family. Whisky and I settled into a seat opposite a young mom and her two children.
She wore a shirt that read, ‘Staring at me won’t make me like you’ which seemed highly appropriate considering her stone-cold face as I tried to smile a greeting.
At first I was straight across from her, but then as we later shifted seats Whisky was the one directly opposite her.
Now Whisky was my translator for the trip. He tirelessly translated all my words into Portuguese or Sena or one of the other local languages as needed, and then translated all their words into english for me.
From village to village and all the ways in between I’d been honoured to watch Whisky and his heart for people. In Chupanga he took up an impromptu ‘sunday school class’ with the children as we waited for others to arrive at the church (we could have gone immediately home after that, seemed to be all the church we needed, so thick was the worship of those moments).
I’d seen his action when something needed attending to, his sacrifice of giving something he owned to another who had even less, of engaging people and drawing out of them their stories and his great compassion in return.
And nearly immediately upon sitting opposite this young mom he began a conversation. She entered in hesitantly at first, yet Whisky has a way of building rapport, of engaging humour and simply making people feel very comfortable with themselves and him.
So bit by bit the two conversed. She began to smile. Over the course of the next hour I watched a transformation right before my eyes. It is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever beheld.
Her eyes began to shine. She answered shyly yet confidently. She sat a little taller.
My words feel so inadequate to describe this…
I’d been speaking for over a week by this time about the power that men have to bring a shining to their woman’s eyes and countenance.
And here, right before me I watched this exact transformation take place. With a little regard, some eye contact, genuine concern, real love, a woman was drawn out of her shell and simply appreciated.
We had quite a few hours on this journey and after awhile I turned to Whisky and said, “You do realize that you have made her week, her month. She will be forever marked by your regard and the conversation of your hearts.”
It struck me that the exact spiritual authority (that personal carrying and embodiment of a message) necessary to stand alongside all the words I’d been speaking was carried by Whisky. Everything I’d been saying he had been living.
I told him so and thanked him sincerely.
Before our trip was up we had fellowshipped with this gal. We shared our bread and cookies, pop and water. The kids settled down in this space that Whisky created. Her hard face that had first met me became soft and genuine, shining and smiling.
All because a stranger took the time to care and the risk to engage, an investment of regard, and conversation that welcomed and invited.
Before we said our good-bye’s Whisky asked to take her picture to which she bashfully agreed. And when I smiled my goodbye I was met with shining, soft eyes and a ready grin.
Taking orphans under their care, building schools, arranging for water developments, and more, they are serving and caring 24/7 in ways that outpace many (I should say most) of us in the west.
With limited resources much is being done and the level of faith and trust in the Lord’s provision in the mix is something we can all learn from.
One of our colleagues in Kenya was part of a Pastors Conference a few weeks back, and during the time there an elderly woman died. Turns out she had under her care three orphans with now, nowhere to go.
This man took the children to his mother’s, with the last of his money, and managed to get home to Nairobi, albeit tired and hungry (he had spent his travel money on a funeral for the woman).
Talking with him this morning we found that he had just been back to the interior of Kenya, to his Mom’s home to ensure that the children were beginning their term of school with everything they needed.
This is but one example of the ongoing and unexpected, but privileged work, that indigenous pastors are accomplishing in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In fact, when this gentleman first told me of the elderly woman’s death and of these children his exact words were, “I am excited for these children, they are under my care now, and the Lord has good things in store for them.”
With an attitude like that, anything is possible, and much will be accomplished in and for the lives of these children.
This and more stories like this is what makes it such a privilege to be serving indigenous pastors, they are after all forefront leaders in their communities and it is simply an honor to bless on them.
Please keep these children and their benefactor in your prayers.
Today I look back and I am simply so glad that I invested years into the lives of my children. I’m also deeply thankful for the profound strengths that they built into me.
The journey of motherhood is fraught with emotion and momentum, with service beyond what we think we can do, and with the unaccountable at every turn. Mothering is hard work.
Yet the privilege of carrying lives in our hearts is just that, a profound privilege.
And it is not unlike our opportunity in service to others around our world. All ministry is the heart of a mother’s heart. It is the courage to carry another in the heart, to resonate with dreams and priorities different than our own.
Being a Mom simply makes our hearts bigger – and into this expanded place of love we have much to pour out into other lives. Once made strong we have strength to give to others.
This is the privilege of being a Mom.
It is meant to take us beyond ourselves, and into the world.
Our bodies, as women, are prohibited from bearing children for our entire lives. It appears that the Lord set it up so our years as Mom would in fact be limited, for there is just so much more of the world that needs the strength of Moms.
The lessons learned as Mom are to be taken out there. While we are nurtured in our homes and with our families, the goal of all nurturing is to make strong people, to instill confidence and skill sets that can serve a wider audience.
This applies to Moms as well. The most resilient and strong people on the planet are Moms.
So, harness up your life, and invest it in something bigger than yourself. You’ve already been doing this for years no doubt, where might you like it to go now?
An Excellent Femininity:
The Proverbs 31 Woman Paraphrased
An excellent femininity who can find?
SHE has more dimensions than any precious jewel.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
she invests in her man’s prosperity.
Perceiving what is good for him (and while refusing harm),
she fully engages—
good is her investment in their years together.
With a ready spirit and an honest and enterprising heart she does not turn from the challenges of what she wants.
Because of this her world is large and she gleans from numerous resources for the benefit of her family.
Actively engaging her own needs and the needs of her family, she rises to meet each day with gladness and an eager spirit;
extending without prejudice a “welcome to the day”
to those about her.
Taking calculated risks her decision making finds profit
enabling her to invest yet again in more of her tomorrows.
She is strong in her inner self, her body too is strong, and in this her self respect is evident.
Rightly understanding what she has to bring to the table
as valuable, she offers it boldly.
When life is hard and all is ‘night’ she continues on
in the light of her God.
She is okay with menial tasks; it doesn’t have to be all about drama. She is not so overworked that she is not aware of,
nor unable to reach out to needs of others; her life has margin.
Hardships to come do not frighten her, for she
dresses her household in the blood of Christ daily in her prayers.
Refusing the temptation to neglect her own being, she cares for herself as diligently as anyone else;
And in her bearing and dress it’s clear she’s a daughter of The King.
Her husband, having his own something to offer
and in the bounty of her respect and respite freely offered him,
courageously takes his rightful place of influence.
She is not afraid of the marketplace, for knowing she has something worthy to offer confidently finds her place among it;
the marketplace is richer for her essence.
Her presence speaks of strength and dignity and from
an inner serenity with past and present
she delights to consider what her future holds for her.
Her mouth dispenses wisdom, her words, her spirit, and her manner model kindness and graciousness.
She is not lazy, but sacrifices and prioritizes in the care of her home and those in it.
Her children grow and one day thank her.
Her husband loves her.
The mere form of femininity is a lie, but a woman who risks to shine in all she is created to be by her God will have substance
worthy of praise.
Give her the fruit of her hands,
and may her reputation be known by all.
Generally speaking, as a body of people, the church is afraid. Battered back and forth by our own ideals of making a difference in this world with a compulsive need for theological certainty and stamped permission slips we’ve lost our edge.
We go toward certainty and permission, and then swing wide the other way. It doesn’t take too long to figure out that we can’t have it both ways. At least not at the start. For anything worth doing first requires guts and a certain ‘leave off the unexplainable parts’ in order to get a job done.
The need for psychological certainty is a living death for the church. Fear based ministry ends up being no ministry at all.
For we and everyone in the world are living messy lives. If the outside looks good all we have to do is dig a bit under the surface and we find all sorts of relics and dead bones and living fears. If we are afraid our aim becomes to stay safe and become certain.
God never promised us psychological certainty. In fact “lean not on your own understanding” directly implies that we will not have it all figured out.
Yet how often have we made love and service to people take a back seat to ‘our own understanding’. Unless all the ducks are lined up we hold back. And in that holding back, in that idolatry of ducks-in-a-row, how many potentially mighty acts of God have been aborted.
According to Daniel Goleman author of Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership, one of the key traits of both emotional intelligence and resonant leaders is the ability to walk with mixed emotions and to hold ambiguity well.
According to this, we the church have traditionally been pretty low on the emotional intelligence scale.
My own journey of emotional healing and into emotional intelligence required me to give up my own “best understandings”. God has upset my ‘box’ of paradigms so many times that, thank God, I have finally figured it out that I don’t have God figured out.
How does the Church who claims the upper-hand on the knowledge of God reach for emotional intelligence, leave off our ‘best understanding’ and embrace ambiguity? And why should we?
The reasons are plain.
It is the emotionally intelligent ones who are leading the way. The ability to walk transparent, to examine oneself with good humor and frank understanding, to manage ones feelings and to lead others on a path of similar self discovery and humility is the work done by emotionally intelligent leaders.
Whether they know Christ or not.
Emotional intelligence trumps every other kind of intelligence. It is the kind of internal savvy that cannot be manufactured or controlled. Who we are shows up in our emotional intelligence, and our emotional intelligence interprets what we intellectually know to everyone around us.
Have it intellectually correct but without emotional intelligence and we are simply offensive. The content may be spot-on but without the highway of emotional intelligence the message dies before leaving the gate.
For in any group or group of groups, there are those who are the designated leaders, and then there are the ones that are the true influencers, the ones that people are paying attention to.
That one is always the most emotionally intelligent.
On the world stage, the church is generally not leading in emotional intelligence. Do I dare say that we are not okay with ambiguity. Might it be that we are not all that good at self-examination. Do we know how to learn from others who are not the same as us? How deeply afraid are we?
The only way I know to save the Church from itself is the same process that any one of us can employ to save ourselves from ourselves, and that is to get out there and get our hands dirty.
Entering into something bigger than us automatically strips us of pride and self-sufficiency, immediately challenges our primary assumptions, and brings us face to face with our own ugly arrogance.
We won’t have it all figured out, God shows up differently than how we might like, and in this we are loosed from fear and the need for psychological certainty. For when we let down our guard we find God in the smack-dab middle of all we don’t know. Such a blessed relief.
We are not called to know it all or to have God all figured out. It is not an intellectually-led discussion. We are in fact invited into relationship first and foremost, and relationships require emotions, and uncertainty, risking and listening and a whole host of other things.
Fear, paranoia, hunkered in, closed systems, big sticks, little self awareness, talking first before we listen, is all the work of the enemy.
God’s world is much bigger than that. May the Church be bigger than that too.
My first night in her home didn’t feel safe to me. There seemed to be dark forces at work, an authority of sorts to muck with my sleep and that hovered over the home.
My first morning, upon wakening, my conversation with the Lord was about how unsafe I felt, and that I really wasn’t sure I was to stay there.
I’d over the previous years become very attuned to when I was covered and hidden in the Lord and when I was not. The ‘not covered’ moments were becoming few and far between, and so when I sensed a compromised covering I would notice right away.
As I prayed about it though I very clearly sensed the Lord saying, “I want you to stay here. I want the blessing that you bring with you to rest on this home.”
I was reminded it was not about me. That my presence in that country was about something much bigger than me. So I settled into staying.
When my key contact came to pick me up that morning, I let him know how it had all felt, and suggested that he and I pray together for a spiritual safety in the home.
This we did, and in the midst of our conversation he realized that the first home I had stayed in they had in fact prayed and covered it before I came, this home they had not.
So we prayed together and everything was fine after that.
And now I was a few days later at the Pastors Conference with my host lady in attendance.
I shared that day some of my own struggles through life. The disillusionment and the heartache and loss, and yet how I had found through it all that God was a profound ally.
Something powerful happens when we are transparent and when we risk to tell our stories. Though they feel ultra personal, and of course they are, they are also something to be invested in the kingdom of God and in the lives of those we serve.
That evening over dinner, as my host lady and I ate together, she confided to me her own very difficult journey, of the immense heartaches and loss and of her bitterness to God that she could not quite shrug off.
It was a connection of like hearts and minds in many ways. We became friends that day. I prayed for her and declared the peace and blessing over her and her home that the Lord had already told me was his intention.
Three months later I was back again. And the tenor of the home and its inhabitants was markedly changed. There was joy and laughter and hope there now.
I mentioned this to her, and she said ‘yes’ it was much different. To me it was like I was in a very different place.
This is the power of God. In God’s intention we are well kept.
I don’t all the way get this blessing of God through our presence. When I think of myself in terms of the blessing of presence, of just being somewhere, I really don’t understand it. Yet I’ve had too many people speak to me of the impact of my presence to argue any more.
I’ve simply come to understand that when God chooses to work a certain way through us, we can either come alongside and do our part, or we can keep arguing and in the long run, miss out on so much.
Thing is, it really is not about us.
It’s about those we serve.
I don’t know about you. I don’t know the unique impact that you make on the world. But I do know that if others are commenting on how you effect them, if God is calling you to invest your life in a particular way, that you probably want to pay attention, trust those words and observations, and seek to do even more of that.
Self devaluing never benefited anyone.
My other host home in another village some 200km away has experienced the same blessing from what I can tell. From the time of my first stay to my third stay some six months later, the woman of the home planted a banana field, added doors to the interior of her home, plastered the inside of her home, and added a significant addition onto one of her outside buildings.
I don’t know if this was normal per se, she is a widow and so struggles along in many ways, and yet I saw marked progress and improvement in her standard of living in the time I’d been there.
Was this God through me? I won’t ever really know. But this I do know. That if I am to bring the blessing of God with me as I go places, then I’d better be going places.
What about you?
You wouldn’t believe how amazing Sally is.
Last week Sally was hilarious.
The week before that she was something else.
Have you met Sally?
You really should meet Sally!
Sally is wonderful.
Last year Sally did some amazing things.
Next week I’m having dinner at Sally’s house.
Sally would love to meet you.
Sally’s house is so great.
I’m sure you will like Sally’s house.
Oh wait, I’ve another story about Sally…
Then there is this one,
Oh and the day that Sally…
Did I mention that Sally is my friend?”
I don’t know about you, but I now have no interest in meeting Sally whatsoever. In fact, I just might want to run as far and as fast in the opposite direction as I can.
Imagine if this was the same conversation every time you met this person. Imagine…
And how many times do we as Christians act in this same manner about God. And have we really thought about the effects and the true impact on those in earshot.
Are we able to talk about our experiences, our emotions, our realities, our hurts and losses, pains and sadness, bringing God stories only into the mix as the grand intersection that he is.
Or are we turning people away and then basking in a false sense of persecution when they don’t want to hear it. We are the problem, but we label them the problem.
It’s not okay.
Retelling verses after verses as though we have no thought of our own, no way to express God’s goodness but through what we have memorized, is not okay.
The living active word is in the intersection where our messy beat-up lives meet the living God.
Out of this place comes testimony, not rhetoric.
Out of this place comes brokenness, not platitudes.
Out of this place comes an understanding and a grace that does not speak at others, ever.
Rather, we salt things graciously (too much salt and the food is ruined after all).
Don’t ruin the amazing works of our Lord and Savior by turning people away.
Pride of this sort won’t go over with the King of Kings.
Fine-tuning the work has been a work in progress. While Capturing Courage is now four years old, the launch into overseas work is little over a year old, and as such has been in some flux as we figure out the scope of our work.
Thankfully we started with a really good sense of what we were to be doing and what we are not to be doing. All the same, even that sense has needed fine-tuning and honing in.
The most prevalent reality within which we are to work is the matter of selves or of money.
1. Are we called to bring money upon peoples and communities or,
2. Are we called to bring ourselves to peoples and communities?
We’ve tried a few things to figure this out. Back in October we did a short fundraising blast looking to raise money to help build a toilet in Uganda.
We weren’t looking for a lot of money and took it on as a test of sorts to see if we were to be involved in projects. The answer came back loud and clear. ‘NO!’ With not a single person responding to our fundraising plea we saw loud and clear that we are not called to support projects.
Of course we kinda knew this already. Right from the start it had been stuck in my heart and mind the verse from Acts 3:6 where Peter says, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
(and yet it is amazing how easy it is to get sidetracked)
More recently we have been raising money for a Bible School in Uganda. There was the money for the hosting and then the money for the curriculum (from another organization), and while we raised all of the money spot-on for the hosting not a speck came in for the curriculum.
So we are paying attention. Taking our cues. And allowing the scope to be determined by this very clear direction. Again we must ask, “Are we called to bring to bear our resources upon a people, or are we called to bring to bear ourselves?”
The answer is loud and clear. We are called to bring ourselves. End of story. Period.
And in the wake of this clarity we must take hard stands. We must continue to communicate what we can and cannot do. We are, after all, to move with the blessing of God or not at all.
We must move according to the Lord’s heart and plan for and through Capturing Courage, not our own good ideas, not others good ideas for us.
The hardest part is that we are pushing against a very long history and world-wide habit of financial aid and support to developing nations.
And so while we can say we are bringing heart healing of Christ, spiritual training and leadership development, there is still in the back of the minds of those to whom we take ourselves, the thought that maybe we will help with students and schooling, maybe we will build a building, maybe we will give money for this endeavor and that project.
But of course we are not. We are bringing nothing but ourselves and the healing power of Christ.
It is like trying to swim upstream against a very large current.
And yet for all the potential and very real misunderstandings of who and what we are about, this mandate to bring ourselves and Christ and nothing more has made things very simple.
In constraint is much freedom. In less there is so much more. In limitation we find bounty and sufficiency.
Long story short we realize we are not to be hosting Bible School, for in that we are merely a conduit for yet another project, and as good a project as Bible School might be, we are not called to projects in any way whatsoever.
Rather, with the power of relationships and mentoring, of leadership development but most of all deep freedoms of heart and soul by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are all simply transformed.
Change from the inside out is the only long-term way of development whether in North America or in Africa or anywhere else.
Capturing Courage is called to transformation of heart and spirit, nothing more and nothing less.
It’s very good to have this straightened out.