Man Trophies

“When a father and son do spend long hours together, which some fathers and sons still do, we could say that a substance almost like food passes from the older body to the younger.”

Iron John, Robert Bly

I’m guessing we dads looked a bit suspicious walking into Chick-fil-A with a couple of aerosol cans of WD-40. But they say necessity is the mother of invention. And it was a necessity indeed. Thankfully we are regulars, a handful of fathers and sons who huddle together in a corner booth in the predawn hours. 

A few days before, one of the young men had learned that the boyfriend of his teenage sister was cheating on her. Once the rumor of his betrayal spread like coronavirus through the school, the boyfriend added insult to injury: he refused to own up to his actions and avoided her altogether, allowing the rumor mill to do his work of confession and breaking up for him. His betrayal and subsequent avoidance brought not only heartbreak to the young woman, but also humiliation.

That’s when these young men stepped into action. Believing that this young woman deserved to be treated with forthrightness, they found the young man and called him out, face to face and heart to heart. 

They did not threaten him or seek revenge. But they did confront him in harnessed strength, letting him know that what he had done was not okay. They offered him a mirror of accountability and an additional opportunity to reflect, experience remorse, learn from his mistake, and hopefully participate in his own necessary chapter of masculine initiation. 

It was one of those stories that don’t capture headlines and, in the busyness of life, often go unnoticed. Yet I am learning that in Kingdom living, cultivating the practice of celebration is essential. It felt fitting that these young men in our community were deserving of a Man Trophy, and a 12-ounce can of WD-40 seemed like the perfect tribute. 

There are many things in the masculine journey that are simple. But we cannot mistake simple for easy. It’s remarkable how many broken things can be repaired with duct tape, WD-40, or a pocket knife. Often what’s needed isn’t an elaborate tool but a wholehearted man willing to wield something simple to bring courage, strength, and care on behalf of others.

I wish you could’ve watched those young men walking out of breakfast having been bestowed another Man Trophy. Something changed in them. They were a little taller, a little more assured. They were nourished by a soul-food that can only be passed man to man through life on life in the dailies.

In a moment these young men will become kings. They are being entrusted with ever-increasing power. God willing, the small victories will turn into big ones. I find it vital that we pause to celebrate and bless the portion that is. So often we put our energy in elaborate ceremonies that end being more about us older men than they are about the young man we intend to honor. Or instead we miss the moment to celebrate victory in the dailies, and though inwardly we celebrate, outwardly we fail to make known with our words, body language and actions the delight within our heart for another. Often it’s the celebration of the smallest moments of initiation that matters most.

What needs to be celebrated in the heart of a young man or the young man within a man in your world? It doesn’t take much. Maybe a little bit of WD-40, a roll of duct tape, and a whole lot of love. It starts with us.

For the Kingdom,


2030 – Who Do You Hope to Become? [Video]


Who would you like to have become when we round the corner into 2030 a decade from now?

As we enter a new year and a new decade, I wanted to begin with a personal 14-minute video as a way of sharing my heart and strength with you as a fellow Kingdom apprentice.

Friends, the Gospel works. Here is one of the Father’s central promises for all of us who are responding to his invitation by day and by decade (paraphrased from Jeremiah 17:7-8):

I bless you as you stick with me even in the places where it feels like I have not stuck with you. I enforce what is good for you as you increasingly choose to trust in my love, my provision, my story for your life. I enforce what is good for you as you risk to wholeheartedly place your confidence in me, in the details of the fabric of your story.

Son, you will become a tree planted by rich and revitalizing water.
Your roots will be sent out deep into your soul, enriched by this River of Life.
You will decrease in fear when the fire comes.
Your leaves will remain supernaturally green and vibrant.
Worry of scarcity, of loss, of death, and of lack through drought will not consume you.
In season and out of season, you will bear much fruit.

Who would you like to become this year? Let’s do it together.

For the Kingdom,


055: The Secret To Work You Love [podcast]

Podcast: Subscribe in iTunes | Play in new window | Download

Standing up and owning our reverberating pulses of passion rarely comes down to a singular event or momentary intersection with destiny. There is a daily-ness to our noble and sensible resignations. We dutifully go about our lives for years, decades even, and suddenly we look up to find ourselves with parts or whole swatches of our lives unlived.

–Aaron McHugh

What if the current challenges you’re facing could lead to an inner transformation that facilitates, over time, a flourishing finish to your story? Paul prayed this daring prayer for his like-hearted allies in a place called Philippi (Phil. 1:6). I too pray this regularly for the hearts of family and friends entrusted to my care. But sometimes in my own struggle, it is strengthening to see it being lived out by other climbing companions.

Become Good Soil is about setting as paramount not what we do, but who we are becoming. The hope is that together we will be strengthened and guided more deeply into becoming the kind of men to whom God can gladly entrust to the care of his Kingdom.

It takes the like-hearted to get there.

Over the years, I’ve made it a priority to invest in friendships with men who are also risking it all on God and his Kingdom. In some upcoming podcasts, I hope to pull the curtain back on other men’s lives so you can draw courage and strength from the fruit of their commitment to the slow and steady process of deep inner transformation.

Aaron McHugh has been side by side with me in this since the beginning. He attended the first Become Good Soil Intensive (which was a dozen guys in camp chairs and sleeping bags at Bart’s ranch) and has helped provide leadership for every U.S. Intensive over the past decade. I’ve participated in and had the privilege of witnessing hundreds of Aaron’s largely unseen choices where he gave a risky yes to God, allowing his apprenticeship in the Kingdom to be the primary driving force of his days and his last two decades. For years he’s been putting pen to paper the story of what it has looked like to live out this process in a corporate context. Part of Aaron’s mission as Kingdom ambassador has been to offer a framework for discovering the work you love without quitting your job. He tackles fear and self-preservation head on while mapping out philosophical, emotional, tactical, and heart-centered shifts that can help recover the narrow road in the context of work.

Aaron’s new book, Fire Your Boss: Discover Work You Love Without Quitting Your Job, launches January 14, and it’s with joy that I recommend it to you. Woven through its pages is living, breathing evidence of the slow and steady that leads to the life we were meant for, from the inside out.

Two years ago I sat down to interview Aaron to celebrate a milestone in the stewardship of his podcast and  to take a hidden look behind the scenes as he was steadily shaping what would become his new book. In the spirit of featuring soul-strengthening stories of the like-hearted, I wanted to bring some of that conversation to your heart in this episode.

For the Kingdom,



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054: Question Response, Volume 2 [podcast]

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“Much of our effort to do things for the Lord is really the resurgence of our desire to dominate and make things happen in our own strength.”

– Dallas Willard, Life Without Lack

We celebrated the 50th Become Good Soil podcast by asking you like-hearted listeners around the globe to send in the questions coming up as you travel the narrow road. 

The response was far more than we anticipated, and so deeply encouraging. And included far too many to address in one podcast! 

The depth and breadth of the questions set the stage for Q & R to become a regular part of the mix for the Become Good Soil tribe.

In that vein, this podcast is a Volume 2 of responses to the original questions that listeners offered, including these:

When it comes to risks, which ones should I be taking?

I long for life-giving mentorship. How I do I find mentors?

When is it too late to begin the process of excavation for the soul?

I’ve done the slow and steady work of putting to death the false self. Yet I find myself in the deepest places of doing what I don’t want to do and not doing what I want to do. How do you put to death the final parts of the false man within?

Do you have questions you’d love to see considered in a future Become Good Soil podcast? Type your question on this form or leave a voice recording.

For the Kingdom,



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A Strength Overplayed

I can tell you a whole lot more about the features of a Ford F-150 than I could’ve a week ago. Which trim packages upgrade to LED box lighting. The range of performance and optional distinctions between the XLT, Lariat, and King Ranch. The benefits of EcoBoost, the pros and cons of flex-fuel technology, and the one place you can get genuine laser-sized, injection molded, interior, all-weather mats.

But the most important thing I can share about the Ford F-150 is that I don’t particularly care about it. I don’t care much about any truck, for that matter. It wasn’t until I found myself standing in an auto dealership parking lot that this revelation came to me:

I was way off track.

The story unfolded as many good stories do: an effort to solve a problem. I was towing a trailer, muscling my old GMC Yukon past a semi truck just west of the summit of La Veta Pass. Though my trusty old steed had a lot of heart, at 232,000 miles, the old tranny finally decided to call it quits. With countless adventures under its belt, this truck deserved a good cowboy funeral and perhaps a few shots of Fireball.

Yet in the interest of time and life’s demands, I tucked my tail between my legs and limped back home in the slow lane. A call to a transmission mechanic confirmed the inevitable: I was on the precipice of an unexpected opportunity; I was going to be able to trade into something that could get us over the pass. And as I do with most things, I threw myself wholeheartedly into the search for a great deal on just the right truck for our family.

The hunt was on. Committed to value, not willing to go into debt, and fiercely determined to not get screwed by sleek salesmanship, I plunged into the search. The stakes increased when I quickly found out that the four-door 4WD pickup truck is currently the most sought-after vehicle class in the lower 48.

I doubled down on my effort.

For the better part of a week, I thought more about the hunt for a truck than I did about more important matters. After scouring the local market with no luck on a great deal, I widened the net to a national search. Over time and with plenty of drama and energy spend, I had a few leads in my sights.

It was about then I found myself in a still moment under the last light of Colorado’s setting summer sun, standing in a sea of endless trucks. It was my brother’s birthday.


I remember the sound of that date spoken more than any other. How many times I listened to my brother repeat his birthday. To doctors, nurses, chemo administrators, counselors, hospice providers. The list was endless. Almost every day for 18 months, multiple times a day, “What is your birthdate?” Coming out of brain surgery and never able to recover, he forgot so many things. But he always managed to say his birthdate, almost as if it were a secret password so someone else could do something to him that he couldn’t understand, and for the most part, probably didn’t want.

It’s been years now since his death. As a tribute to him, every year I try to get on the water and spend some part of his birthday doing what he loved the most: enticing a trout to rise to a dry fly.

The fly rod was with me, to be sure. And I planned on wetting a fly in nearby waters just as soon as I could close the deal on a truck. The negotiating entangled me longer than expected, but I wasn’t willing to leave anything on the table.

With the shadows casting even longer over the sea of trucks in Cañon City, reality crept in like a rising tide: I’d lost the window to fish. Better said, I’d chosen to forsake the gift. Somewhere, somehow, I’d lost my way. Like the tide, resignation seeped in. And I was still short of negotiating the best deal I could.

I must’ve been an odd sight, slowly wandering alone through the overpriced fleet. Not wanting to admit that I wasn’t going to get on the water today, I meandered in a stupor of regret and sorrow, looking like the walking dead long enough that the saleswoman appeared again in front of me. A bit awkwardly, she said, “We closed a while ago, but I notice you haven’t left. Is there something else I can help you with?”

I looked her eye to eye—better said, soul to soul—and some unedited truth just bubbled out:

“Kelly, here’s what I find interesting. Today is my brother’s birthday. All I wanted for the day was to be on the river and fish in his honor. Yet here I stand, in a sea of trucks. And I don’t even care about trucks.”

It was a wonderfully odd moment. God pulled the thread that began to unravel me. Sure, I see the value of a good, working, 4WD drive vehicle as a means to an end. But how in heaven’s name did I give so much of my strength away—for a week—to the pursuit of a vehicle when, a week ago, I cared very little? And today, after a week’s education on market and options, now I cared even less.

The next morning as I centered back in God, the fog in my soul began to dissipate. I began to see another layer of excavation that the One Who Pursues Me was after. Mike Mason’s evocative words surfaced in my heart. He speaks of the soul of a man being like a densely populated city: nothing new can be built in his heart without something else being torn down.

God readied my soul to receive the rescue that came through a trusted friend. Aaron is close enough to have real eyes on my life, to love me with kindness and curiosity, always with firm compassion, guiding me into the deeper maturity for which I long. In a kind conversation, he invited me to consider what was exposed through the story of the hunt for a truck:

A strength overplayed becomes a liability.

The conviction set in as I began to see in an entirely new light. After all, without effort, we see things not as they are, but as we are.

The implications of the exposure stood well in view. This wasn’t about purchasing a truck. It had become a living parable of a way back to the narrow road. A light was being shined on a systemic problem and pattern that, sadly, weaves itself through most of my life. The image of God in service of the false self is one of my most common threads. Though the circumstances and characters in the story change, the arc of the narrative remains painfully constant. How often I find myself overplaying a strength until it becomes a liability.

By way of repentance and making a two-degree shift toward life, I quit the search for a truck. In courage, I threw up the white flag, choosing God over getting a phenomenal truck at incredible value. I bought the one in front of me. I said yes to what felt like “good enough.” Emotionally, it felt like weakness, failure, or settling. Yet in my spirit, I chose to trust that this was actually an act of repentance, and repentance always holds the promise of partnering with God to pass through a death into a greater strength and a more vibrant life.

The false self is relentless in hijacking the strength of God deep within us so that it becomes a liability to us, to others, and even to God. Perhaps one of the great places of initiation for our masculine soul is cultivating the practice of not overplaying our strengths. What does it look like for our God-given strengths to be brought under reign? What would it look like for my strength to be governed by the intimate leadership of the Spirit, so that my strength becomes deployed only when, how, and where I am led by God, and nothing more?

Two days later, a tear came to my eye as unanticipated happiness flooded my soul. My daughter, Abigail, and I were on our maiden voyage in the “good enough” truck, a bit newer version of the trusty old steed that had carried us into many adventures before. We were side by side with a pair of stand up paddle boards strapped in the bed of the truck. She smiled, teased me, and sang one of our favorite songs. A memory came back, unlooked for, from nearly 20 years before, and I recalled a younger version of myself who dreamed of owning a pickup with a bench seat where my girl could sidle up close by my side and we could chase the setting sun together into some unknown adventure. Wild, unfettered, and free. The One Who Remembers Intimately remembered what I had forgotten.

As it turns out, the feature that mattered most in my hunt for a truck wasn’t the tow package, the EcoBoost, or the 5.0L V8. It was the bench seat that gave me the chance to be even closer to my little girl so we could savor these precious and fleeting years of chasing wild side by side. Oh, how generous is our Father that he would give us what we had lost touch with wanting.

I suppose the emotion of that moment was telling a deeper story still: the response of a son who found himself pursued by a Good Father in the center of the unfinished places within. Through risking to receive the challenging words of a caring friend, and even in the midst of strength overplayed, liability is not the final word. The One Who Sees Me is always making a way to come home. For this season, it looks like the way toward home has a bench seat and a bright-eyed little princess helping me not take myself too seriously.

For the Kingdom,


053: Heart Strong – A Conversation with Chuck Bolton (Episode 3 of 3) [podcast]

Start by doing what’s necessary;
then do what’s possible;
and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

-St. Francis of Assisi

Podcast: Subscribe in iTunes | Play in new window | Download

It has been an incredible privilege to invite you into an intimate mentoring encounter with Chuck Bolton in this three-part Become Good Soil series. Among the many treasures in this final conversation, Chuck offered this gold: “I want to be authentic with everyone, transparent with fewer, and intimate even fewer.” Join me as Chuck helps us unpack a Kingdom-centered view of the Twelve Steps recovery process and guides us into deeper possibilities for cultivating healthy and vibrant relationships.

Let’s dive in to the final episode in this series.

For the Kingdom,


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