Go Back


Re-read your favorite books.

Re-watch your favorite movies.

Go back to that geography that romanced you as a child.

As a culture, we worship “next”.  We binge on content and put our hope in the next version.  We live in a culture that spends more energy focusing on the 3.0 version that is coming than the 2.0 version that is available today.  From coffee machines (has anyone said publicly how terrible Keurig insta-coffee tastes compared to a real cup of espresso at a real café?) to computers, it’s always the “next.”  As John puts it, we live in the age of upgrade.

We approach our spiritual development the same.  It’s the next book, the next message, the next idea.

God doesn’t change. But we have.

I find myself more and more going back to old treasures and mining them for a deeper cut.  The Christian life is always an invitation to dig deeper to get to the gold.

I’m reading Open Mind, Open Heart for the fifth time.  More and more gold.

And I’m back in Everlasting Stream.  In some ways I feel like I have the book memorized, or at least the ideas. I have savored it and shared it countless times; it is among my top two all-time best reads.  But to go back to the text, to hear Walt’s stories of camaraderie, laughter, initiation, adventure all over again…it heals me and gives me hope more deeply now than in my first rich pass 10 years ago.

This spring I took my youngest brother back to the geography where we first learned to golf and first learned to cast a fly rod. It’s a hole in the wall of a golf course and the stream is more of a drainage flow, but the geography held our memories and some slice of the heart of God, like a bottle of the greatest reserve, aged and cracked open for a feast among dearest allies.

Last week I visited a piece of Colorado wilderness that I hadn’t been to in over seven years.  The geography holds a part of my relationship with God and His Fathering that I’ve not yet accessed anywhere else.  Literally, as we drove through a storm and came into the lush valley with a Colorado sunset, a grand rainbow was awaiting, as if to say,

“Remember when I met you here in these mountains.  Remember the joy, the suffering, the adventure?  Remember what I did, what I said, what we shared?”

But I didn’t quite realize how much it held until I was back on that sacred land.  It took the “revisiting” to behold the fullness. Being in that space, seeing the same ridge line silhouetted against the evening sky, driving the same bend in the two lane road, being back there served as a vantage point for God to help me see where I’ve traveled with Him since that season seven years ago.


Here’s the gold. By way of lifestyle warfare – a true stand against the spirit of the age: Slow Down. Pause. Go back. Revisit. Go back to some old treasures. You are a different man from the one who first tasted them.

Go back to the old book that changed your life.

Watch that old movie that stirred your heart a decade ago.

Take a day trip to that old geography that spoke so deeply years ago.

Go back and meet the Father in that familiar yet altogether new place.  It will help loosen the grips of the temptation to just find “the next thing”. Let Him remind you of who you were, how He stirred you, and what He wants you to remember afresh. Let Him tell you who you are now. Let Him woo your heart again.

Go back. Revisit. Take a deeper dig; there’s more gold to be found right in that very place…

Jesus, where do you want me to return to? What do you want me to return to? (stay with the question until you have a sense of His leading.)

Say No – Proverbs from the 2012 Intensive – Volume IV

just say no

no/nō/ excl. A negative response; a denial or refusal

Learn to say NO. We are all empty vessels with a funnel at the top and stuff pours into us and fills us up so we can pour ourselves out on our families, friends, and those we meet. Be filled with the right stuff so you can pour out the right stuff. Means you will have to say no to a lot of good things that aren’t the best things (love, joy, peace, kindness…). What are you going to say no to and what are you going to be filled up with.


These are the years of “middle management.”  Pursuing holiness and wholeness in this decade will mean you have very little bandwidth beyond your domain, and that’s not only “ok”, but it’s a good thing.

– John

Breaking the Limits Placed on God in Our Lives

A good friend of mine has dedicated her career to prostate cancer research primarily through studies involving mice.  A while back she showed me a few images from her work. These get a little technical, but hang with me: there is a big idea here that I want to convey.

This particular study is an effort to look at the relationship between prostatic ducts and lower urinary tract symptoms.

The following is a 2D image:


These are images of the same prostate and ducts but from a three dimensional perspective:


When I saw these, I could sense the Holy Spirit say “pay attention.”  Notice the contrast between the images of the very same thing: both are “true,” the former image is just much more limited in scope than the latter images.

Months later, the Holy Spirit brought those images back to my heart and interpreted their significance for my spiritual life.

He gently revealed that I have a “two-dimensional” image of God and have chosen to relate to Him on that level.  While my 2D view and understanding of Him is helpful, it is painfully limited and therefore crippling if I mistakenly believe it is “comprehensive”, as is the case with most all of us.

In reality, God is a “three-dimensional” Being (infintely-dimensonal really, as I recall A.W. Tozier reminding us that God is a person.  He thinks and feels deeply). The invitation is to relate to God with the totality and fullness of Who He Is.

The invitation of the Gospel is to have a personal and intimate relationship with a “three-dimensional” and limitless God.  But each of us must contend with our limited image and style of relating to the two-dimensional image we have created of Him.

It is this 2D image of God that among other things expresses limits we have placed on who God is and what He can do in our life.  I believe this limited view of God is one of the primary obstacles to our hearts coming fully alive.

For quite a while now I have been repenting of my 2D image of God and breaking agreements with the limits I have put on who He is and what He can do in my life.  And it is revolutionizing my faith and my relationships.

By way of example.   The Holy Spirit was more of a theological idea than a practical living truth in my Christian life.  Just over a year ago, I felt a growing conviction that I did not have an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit.  In time, I discovered that it was rooted in the limits I placed with who the Holy Spirit could be and what the Holy Spirit could do in my life.  Those limits blocked the life of the Spirit in my life and blinded me from seeing.  Over this past year, my eyes have been opened to an entirely new dimension of the heart of God and to His pursuit, leadership, and guidance through the Holy Spirit. And I see now. All of it can be found in Scripture, but the limits I placed on God blocked my ability to encounter Him as He truly is and who He wants to be in my life.

Another example.  I was praying with a man over his brain cancer for healing.  As a consequence of the cancer, he no longer has the ability to smell at all.  He was asking boldly, with tears, if God would also restore his smell.  His prayers surfaced in me yet another limit I’ve placed on God. One of my closest friends also has no sense of smell as her olfactory nerve was completely severed during a childhood surgery. I realized I had never once prayed for her smell to be restored. I had rationalized it away thinking “you can’t smell without an olfactory nerve, right?” Not anymore… I broke that agreement and have committed to praying for the supernatural restoration of her sense of smell until it happens.

One last recent, practical example. Over the last few years Cherie and I have had a growing belief in the biblical principle of the borrower being a slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). And that we are to let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another (Romans 13:8).  While we made the best decisions with our resources for our maturity at the time, our theology and convictions have grown and matured (at least in some small ways!).  Through years of discipleship under Godly mentors and major shifts in our budget, we have come to a place of having no debt except a mortgage. I’ve been praying daily for nine months that God would help us come out from under that debt. Praying this daily has revealed a huge limit I have placed on who God can be and what He can do in my life.  My prayers usually go like this.  “Father, I’m asking for you to help me to come out from under this debt.” Immediately on it’s heels, the orphaned place in me responds, “This is my burden. I made the choice and it’s my consequence. That’s the way the world works.” The slave in me says, “Yep, God’ll do it… by me huffin’ it one paycheck at a time, paying one mortgage payment at a time… God helps those who help themselves.”  Father, forgive my unbelief!  Break the agreements I’ve made with these limits!  So… day by day, week by week, the SON in me has grown and has prayed differently.  “Father, I’m trusting your heart for your son.  I’m believing your radical and generous heart for me.  I’m believing that this debt grieves your heart and you want us to be free as much as we do!  You know our hearts, our motives, our desires to be the best asset managers of your assets as we can.  I’m going to keep working, keep paying monthly, faithfully, aggressively. BUT, I’m also hoping, praying, believing in your generous heart, to do something crazy to help so that more of our financial story can be yielded and released for your intentions.”  In the last month, the heavens have started to open.  A refinance cut 15 years (and 62,000.00) off our bottom line.  Our continued over-payments have us on pace to cut off another 5 years.  An unexpected tax return came out of the blue and a some unearned funds from an insurance claim also came in that we were able to direct toward the mortgage.  It is happening!  And it started with breaking those limits I imposed on God that blocked what He is longing to do for us and for you!

This invitation to shift from relating in 2D to relating in 3D certainly felt personal, but also like a core invitation for all of us who are wrestling in this particular decade of excavating and longing to become good soil.

It’s a dangerous and holy shift; hold on tight.

But it’s worth it. This is a decade of rolling the dice, learning courage, becoming good soil.  What better prayer to pray and what better time to pray it?

Most men spend their forties “making life work.”  They master (out of the false self) a way to make life work that maximizes security and comfort and requires the least from themselves, especially change.  Look around. I believe you will find more than ample evidence of this.

We are all moving on that trajectory, unless we opt for the narrow path the few find, and even fewer really choose. (Matthew 7)

I believe that the way of the narrow path is a yielding of our strength, our heart, our beliefs, not to “God as we want Him to be,” but instead to God as He really is and to what He really wants to do in our lives.

Here is a great place to begin responding to this invitation:

“God, forgive me for imposing limits on who you want to be and what you want to do in my life.  I break every agreement I have made with these limits. Reveal now the limits I have placed on you…”

“Father, where have I put limits on who you want to be and what you want to do in my life?” (pause and wait until you hear from Him on this)

“Jesus, where have I put limits on who you want to be and what you want to do in my life?” (pause and wait until you hear from Him on this)

“Holy Spirit, where have I put limits on who you want to be and what you want to do in my life?”(pause and wait until you hear from Him on this)

“I agree with you, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, and I give you permission and access to be who you are and do what you want to do in my life. Heal my unbelief.”

Pray that and it’ll surely mess up your week, or your decade (big smile).  It sure has for me…

Son of Laughter

The Story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, told in some of the most stunning narrative and imaginative writing I’ve ever read. I’ve worn these pages out and lost count in the number of times I gave this book away.  The enemy is brilliant in making scripture become two dimensional, losing it’s heartbeat – losing the blood, sweat, tears and visceral dimensions of real people living out a real story with a wild, unfettered and free God. Buechner is simply brilliant. And the God He brings in these pages is even more… It’s a must to recapture the Story, Our Story in the mess and beauty of God’s people.

The following is the description from Amazon:

Rich in family drama, passion, and human affinity, critically acclaimed author Frederick Buechner’s contemporary retelling of this captivating and timeless biblical saga revitalizes the ancient story of Jacob, delighted our senses and modern sensibilities and gracing us with his exceptional eloquence and wit.