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,

Morgan

 

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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.

“7/12/81.”

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,

Morgan

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


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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,

Morgan

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052: Heart Strong – A Conversation with Chuck Bolton (Episode 2 of 3) [podcast]

Prison was so holy, because there was such a dependence on God. I had the gift of desperation. I couldn’t fix anything. I couldn’t do it. I had to lean into the Father.

-Chuck Bolton


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One of the lenses I often use when I’m looking to recover the way back to the narrow road is to search for couples who have courageously cultivated friendship in their marriage. I know couples who choose to love and stay together and do hard things together, but I’ve only observed a handful who really have fun together and really laugh together. Chuck and Michelle have a marriage like that. What most stands out about them is their fun, their laughter, and their willingness to do the work to become people who actually enjoy each other.

In part two of our series with Chuck, we go deeper into his time in prison and what it looks like to navigate prison and marriage and love. Let’s dive in together!

For the Kingdom,

Morgan

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051: Heart Strong – A Conversation with Chuck Bolton (Episode One) [podcast]

I’ve spent 15 months in federal prison, but I can say the loneliest, darkest prison I’ve ever been in was my addiction. It was because I was alone and because I was living in secrets.

-Chuck Bolton


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Heart strong and soul safe. That’s what I think of when I think of Chuck Bolton. I had the privilege of sharing over four hours in the studio with this mentor, friend, and hero. He’s been close to hell and back more times than you’d want to count. Our conversation spanned federal prison, private jets, big dollars, big deals, and devastating losses and glorious recovery.

If you want to become the kind of man who, in time, has a wife who can say confidently, “I not only love my husband, but I actually really enjoy him,” spend time considering the wisdom that flows from Chuck’s Kingdom ventures.

Let’s dive into the first in this series.

For the Kingdom,

Morgan

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The Most Disappointing Person Who Ever Lived

I am furious.

They promised. Today was my chance. My only chance. And yet, the magician vanished as quickly as he  appeared. Mostly what I see in his wake are chaos and rumors. Yet here and there, I can’t help but notice what I can only call miracles. A woman claims that just days ago she was trapped in a body deformed by leprosy; now she is healed and whole. As she tells her story, I cannot deny it—her eyes are radiant with life. She says they were made so by this magician named Jesus.

And the madman from the foothills. The truth is perhaps even worse than the stories spewed by the children who entertain themselves by mimicking his garbled, violent curses. And here he now sits, swathed in his tattered clothes, yet still. Now a man of peace. Rumor has it that the magician spoke not only to him, but to an evil spirit within him. This Jesus cast the spirit out of his heavy-laden body, and now he is free. I have been watching this once-violent man now at ease. For the better part of two days, he has sat peacefully at this well. Not eating, only smiling, resting, and watching as fresh water is drawn up from the depths. His eyes tell the story of a man who has seen the face of God and lived.

So where is my magic?

They promised me a miracle of my own.

I was told this magician from Nazareth could fix the pathetic man I’ve become. Ever since that dreadful day in the field when all went black, I have been dragging this wretched body through the marketplace, half alive and half dead. For nearly a decade, this body has been my utter shame. I once stood tall and proud—now I am a cripple. Simon the Cripple. At least that what she calls me. It’s what everyone calls me. If not to my face, then in whispers in the dark.

But they said today was to be my day. They said this magician is not a mere showman, dazzling the crowd with tricks or fancy words and making a fortune off people’s naive faith. They said he is the Promised One, sent by God, a man of authority against which no disease or demon can  prevail.

He was just here! I saw him. I saw him walking these paths, passing these stalls. I saw his eyes, so calm and clear, that looked like they could not tell a lie.

Then, just as quickly as he appeared, he vanished.

And I am left here. Unchanged. Unmet. Forgotten? I am Simon the Cripple. I will always be.


Put yourself in this man’s shoes.

The Scriptures tell us that when Jesus entered a village, he would not only proclaim the Kingdom of God but manifest it as well. He healed the crippled, the blind, the bleeding, and the oppressed. At times, over the course of a few days, the healed few would become the healed many (Matthew 15:29-31).

And then Jesus would leave. He would move on in order to proclaim and manifest the Kingdom somewhere else. 

Think of the disappointment Jesus left in his wake. Put yourself in the shoes of the man who was not healed. Sit in the seat of the physically broken and the spiritually oppressed who were left unattended. What do you do with the unfinished work and the unmet expectations?

Reading the Scriptures, we observe that Jesus’ humanity required him to be in only one place at a time. His obedience to his Father required him to make choices. Choosing to say yes to being in one place meant saying no to being somewhere else.

How could Jesus withstand this? How could he withstand all he was not able to accomplish and all the human suffering he did not immediately alleviate? Is it possible that Jesus’ experience of being well was not attached to each presenting need in the moment-by-moment, but in his Father’s complete sufficiency as the Abundant Center of all things?

The human expectations Jesus left unmet were not a result of irresponsibility; he was not casual about human suffering. But he was clearly willing to leave a gap between what people expected of him and what he offered. From Nazareth to Jerusalem, from Gethsemane to Golgotha, Jesus’ moment-by-moment response accomplished the redemption of all Creation and ignited the Renewal of All Things. It’s easy to focus on the stories of Jesus’ intervention. It takes much more pause and honesty to sit in the seat of the ones whose expectations he failed to meet. The people he didn’t heal, those he didn’t deliver, those whose heart-cry he did not yet answer.

Jesus is clearly not palatable to everyone at every moment. At the end of the Festival of Tabernacles, several days of joyous feasting, drinking, and eating for the people of Israel, he cries out to the crowd, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.Ask yourself, how many are truly thirsty after days of feasting? What a brilliant moment to look for the thirsty after most have been satiated by the pleasures this world offers to fill the holes in stomachs and souls. Jesus offers living water for those who are thirsty for such drink. For the thirsty, he echoes the words of the prophet Isaiah.

“Come, all you who are thirsty,

   come to the waters;

and you who have no money,

   come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

   without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread,

   and your labor on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,

   and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Give ear and come to me;

   listen, that you may live.” (55:1-3a)

For those who are not thirsty for life that is truly life, he is willing to extend the ministry of disappointment. What we are all in need of is what God most deeply and freely offers: the restoration of all things, through receiving more and more of him into more and more of us. So often it is disappointment that leads us deeper, in time, to receiving this love. It is disappointment in a job that leads us to the assignment for which we were made. It is failure in a competition that leads us into the training to become the contender we dreamed of being. It is failure in a battle that trains us for the coming victory. It is disappointment by people that leads us deeper into the heart of God and his Kingdom. Dallas Willard said that if you follow Jesus long enough, you will surely be disappointed.

Perhaps one of the great graces in which we will ever partner in God’s Kingdom is our willingness to disappoint people for the sake of love. Avoiding disappointing others is often a convenient mask for codependency. Codependency is a pattern of relating that seeks to manage the experiences of others and outcomes in relationships in an attempt to feed our own sense that we’re worthy of love and belonging. So often what we conveniently label as love, sacrifice, or caring for others is simply our efforts to avoid disappointing them in order to avoid feeling shame and fear.

Sometimes it is in working through the discomfort of unmet expectations that we can unmask the false self at work within us and help illuminate the path for others to find what they are most looking for. God searches our thoughts, testing us to reveal the motives at work within us and our relationships. What if disappointing others for the sake of our shared wellbeing is one of the most heroic choices you ever make?

Is it possible that, for a time at least, Jesus was to some the most disappointing person who ever lived? Is it possible that when moment-by-moment response to the Father’s yes is the motive for our choices, we might find ourselves following more courageously in the ministry of disappointment? Is it possible that love might regularly ask us to leave some genuine needs of others unmet?

Often it is our courageous consent to disappoint some expectations in order to say yes to Love’s precise path that opens the door for a greater Love to flow. Have you come to terms with why you are uncomfortable with disappointment? Who and when you are divinely intended to disappoint, and why you are willing to do so? Strengthening our yes often comes through becoming more clear in offering our no for the sake of the enhanced wellbeing of the whole.

What stands in the way of your being willing to disappoint people for the sake of love? If the root of disappointment is unmet expectations, for some, Jesus was the most disappointing person who ever lived.

Perhaps it would do our maturing hearts well to consider our resistance to following him along this bend in the narrow road.

For the Kingdom,

Morgan