life

Spit It Out – on the Pope’s confession

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Sorry.

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I didn’t mean to confess my sins to you.

This week, the Pope gave a message during a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica. His message was about forgiveness and the need for confession. Afterward he stepped down from the pulpit and was directed towards an empty confession booth to hear the confessions of the Catholic people. However, instead of going straight into the booth – as is tradition – the pope continued over to a booth occupied by a priest and gave his own confession to the priest in front of millions. 

No pope has been seen giving his confession in public before.

Thanks to the world wide web, you can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKHKmEtpWao

There, of course, has been a lot of discourse over the event on the internet and it has brought to my personal attention the need to revisit the idea of confession, not just for Catholics and not just for Christians, but for everyone. 

Like most, I don’t believe there is a human alive without their own “sin.” Pride exists in us all. It especially exists in the ones who say they have no pride at all. And like most, I grow wary of a leader who is reluctant to talk about their shortcomings. Most public leaders don’t acknowledge it within themselves and probably should. That’s not to say a leader should necessarily broadcast their dirty laundry to the world, but they should have a group of individuals willing to hear their confessions.

Those who are willing to acknowledge their shortcomings within themselves are usually not in the limelight. They are often leaders of small groups, medium-sized corporations, and ordinary companies that supply the basic and “boring” necessities of life. We don’t often uplift the kind-hearted CEO of a toilet paper manufacturer or the honest owner of a small but personable car dealership. Perhaps it is because they are good at not letting their pride propel them center stage. 

Some see confession as a sign of weakness. The leaders and mentors I look up to tell me that time and wisdom teach you quite the opposite – it is a sign of strength. But how come? These thoughts, along with the pope’s confession, should make us turn our attention to what happens at the fundamental level when we confess.

According to Dr. Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, author of the incredibly challenging book Glittering Vices, confession is the roadmap to breaking free of the vices like greed and envy that grip us where it hurts most. She explains that “naming our sins is the confessional counterpart to counting our blessings.” (page 21 of Glittering Vices). We are quick to count our blessings but slow to confess our problems. There is Thanksgiving but no holiday named Confess-mas

DeYoung chalks our reluctancy up to pride. Counting our blessings is often an effort to remind ourselves and others of our happiness, and we love to be the harbinger of our own happiness. Confession doesn’t tend to do this. It tends to remind us of how messy and irritable we can be. Dr. Brene Brown, author of the wonderful book Daring Greatly, says this is because of our fear of scarcity. We are afraid of not being __________ enough. Confession begins by reinforcing that we are indeed not __________ enough.

DeYoung says it beautifully: “It is not so surprising, then, that pride — that desire to have control over our own happiness, whether out of fear or overconfidence — is the root of vainglory after all.” (page 73 of Glittering Vices)

So back to the pope. Say what you will about his motives – none of us can know what they were since none of us can be in his head – but his action demonstrated to the world that he is not worthy enough to be perfect. He, like the rest of us, has that gunky stuff inside that needs confessing. And while no pope has ever been seen giving a confession in public before, I’d be willing to argue that no (or very few) great leaders today have given a very sincere confession in public either, not until their arm is twisted by whatever is being called into question.

Though we live in a world of immediate transparency – posting and tweeting the feed of our life publicly each day – the transparency is a facade. The confession is insincere. It is reduced to 140 characters. Subtitles that cue us in to a person’s sincerity such as silence, a shameful glance, or a stooped posture are lost. How can forgiveness and restoration be made if we are unable to genuinely confess our humanness to a fellow human?

Physician Dr. Ira Byrok, a doctor who spent much of his life around end-of-life patients, wrote what he thought were the four basic messages a person at the end of their life need to hear the most: “Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. And, I love you.”

Perhaps we all need to hear that message. There is much more to say on confession and I’m afraid I’m not entirely qualified to say it all. I invite you to share your thoughts on confession below. But I do know this from what little experience I have – when we can reciprocate a confession with forgiveness, healing can begin. I reckon there are a lot of companies, organizations, leaders, families, brothers, sisters, friends, and humans that could use a little healing. And I reckon we could all use a little more confession.

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Trust Me

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Yes, I know it’s been a long time.

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I’ve been under the gun.

Yeah, the joked sucked. Let’s get on with it…

I’ve been a bit of a nervous wreck. In the past few weeks, I’ve not only released a new book, started a new job, started performing in a new show, and been actively watching a brand new show I co-wrote get produced, but I’ve also had to do adult things like pay the bills and pick up dog poop. 

Alarmingly, I’ve found that adult life has a lot to do with poop. 

Needless to say, I’ve been something of a wreck. It’s great to have people ask, “Wow! How do you do it all?” It’s another thing to actually have to do it all. I’m convinced it can’t be all be done either.

I am writing this just after having returned from a particularly fun, yet nerve-wracking experience. Tonight, I watched a private dress performance of a new show I co-authored entitled Baggage. It’s a vignette comedy about, you guessed it, baggage. Though it is a blast to see it get put up and I always love working with the stage, seeing a show you’ve written be performed is a lot like the fear of somehow being naked in front of people: you feel exposed, nervous, and you hope that nobody laughs at you. You’re putting yourself out in words on stage, plain and simple.

As an actor, there’s a certain level of control I have over my nerves before I perform. I know that I can go out on stage and have complete control over what I do and that if a problem arises, can be there to do something. As a writer, I get to sit among the crowd and watch it happen. I don’t get any level of control. We (co-author Gary Head and I) divorced our connection with control when we let the directors adopt the script. We have only the cast, crew, and directors to rely on when it comes to the final product; them and whatever confidence we have in the words we wrote. 

So how’d it go? Spectacular. Yet I had nothing to do with it. I just happened to be in the room when it all unfolded. The cast got it. The directors nailed it. The audience enjoyed it. I can’t really claim any of that.

You see, I do get asked a lot, “How do you manage to do all of these things? Write books, plays, perform, work, research, etc… how do you do it?” The secret it simple. I don’t. I’m learning that the less I do, the better. The more I simply do my part and trust others with their part, the more of an impact we make on the overall thing.

I owe the actors and directors a huge debt of gratitude. I owe my co-author, Gary, a HUGE debt of gratitude. I owe my wife a truckload and a half of gratitude. These people listened, watched, read, and encouraged me to contribute to this new work. It has little to do with me and so much more to do with the team and the vision of this project.

You see, I’m learning a hard lesson to learn. Trusting a team means really trusting them. After seeing what my team did tonight with the show, the knot in my stomach is gone. They are smart, talented, capable people. I’m just the guy lucky enough to know them all at the same time. Likewise, as with anything – life, family, marriage, relationships – we are bound to people as a team. If we don’t trust them with their talents, then it means we are the ones who have to get it all done.

And trust me, you can’t do it all. It would take too long. 

I owe a lot more people a lot more trust for what they do. I owe my coworkers trust that they’ll give me the data I need to do my job effectively. I owe my family trust that they will communicate to me the issues that are most important to us. I owe my wife a TON of trust, to let her be my equal, to let her have the reigns sometimes. We all owe people trust. And trust me, trust isn’t necessary for relationship. Plenty of relationships have existed – some very “successfully” – on mistrust. Trust is a tool we give the other person in order to get our issues fixed. It’s a choice we make.

So, tomorrow, when I must leave Baggage on its own, I leave it in the hands of a capable and talented cast and crew. When it hits the road and goes to contest without me, it goes in the hands of very capable and talented people.

Dr. Kathy Crockett, a super-smart and enthusiastically genuine leader and professor, once told me, “If someone can do something 80% as good as you, it’s time to let them have the reigns.” I think in this case, the crew does the job 110% as good as me! Such is the case with a lot people, including my brilliant and talented wife, my forgiving and compassionate family, and my encouraging and yet nutty friends.

Now, all I gotta do is let go of the reigns. 

Bon voyage, Baggage. Here’s to a fantastic showing!

 

If you would like to see “Baggage,” you’ll have two chances to see it! Baggage is being performed at Lubbock Christian University, Feb 28 & March 1 at 7:30pm. Tickets are $10 adult, $5 students, available at the door. Theatre located in the CDC, south side of campus. 

Busy

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It’s been too long.

busy

Too long.

I sat across from a dear person this week, talking to them about my schedule:

“Yeah,” I said, “It’s been a busy week. Starting a new job, getting into a new groove, loving it all – but yeah, it’s busy.”

They nodded. “I know that feeling,” they replied.

“Oh, yeah?” 

“Yeah! Wait until you have kids, it only gets busier.” 

Awesome.

How many times have you heard the line “…it only gets busier...”? Dozens? Hundreds? I’ve heard it 2,309 times exactly. And since I heard it the first time, things have only gotten busier.

Yet the tragedy is, in the midst of all the busyness, things get left behind. Jobs. Duties. Responsibilities. People. We sacrifice things to the gods of the hustle-bustle. We unfortunately sacrifice a lot of relationships in the process, too.

Who have you sacrificed lately? This week I sacrificed my two best friends – I ignored them for the sake of the god of busyness. No, they weren’t facing any sort of crisis or emergency, but they are still my best friends. Ignoring the daily support of a friend is like forgetting to drink water – you’ll survive for a while, but eventually you will dry up.

Super smart-guy and leadership consultant Dr. Henry Cloud wrote a brilliant little book called Necessary Endings. I’m getting the chance to read it this week, but already I hate it – it hits too close to home! Dr. Cloud starts the book with a chilling yet honest observation:

“Today may be the enemy of your tomorrow.

Today, we make decisions to focus on busy and not on relationships. Today, we make commitments that will make us sacrifice something tomorrow. Are those sacrifices worth it for the sake of… mere… busyness?

I doubt it.

At 100 miles per hour, my weeks has been swamped with responsibilities and work. No, you can’t shrug it all, but you can take a step back and see what is really important. As I sit down and write this, I have a graduate assignment due, social media posts to do, projects to finish, and events to plan. Those all have their place. But I think about what is important, what I really want to invest my time doing, I have to wonder if those things are worth it. Honestly, when I think about what is important to me and the things I want to remain important to me twenty years from now, those things aren’t on the list. 

All I want to do now, is go to my sister-in-law’s basketball game with my wife. And I won’t regret a moment of it.

What about you?

On The Shootings Back Home

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With some things just are no words to say.

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A recent school shooting in my hometown of Roswell, New Mexico has been very sobering for me. It has brought the story closest to my heart. I’ve spent the day unnerved, unsettled, and unrestful.

And even though I’m a writer, I just feel I have no useful words to write.

My heart goes out to families. My heart goes out to children. My heart goes out to teachers. My heart goes out to one student who felt it was necessary to bring a gun to school and unload it on his fellow students.

I am not angry at this young man. In fact, I don’t know what I am. Confused? Frustrated? I can’t tell. Whatever it is I’m feeling towards this boy, it has me greatly bothered.

What would I say to him if I had the chance? I don’t know. What would I do if I saw him? Try to love him? Try to hit him out of anger? I asked myself this as I was driving home yesterday, thinking about the tragic, horrifying incident that has happened just miles from my home. I’m confused. I’m deeply bothered.

And then I became at conflict with myself.

You see, I believe in grace. I believe in the unadulterated, unelicited, forgiving kind of grace. I believe in grace so much, that I even wrote a book about it coming out later this month. I live my life believing that grace is fundamental to the foundation of love. At least I say I do. Now I’m faced with putting my beliefs where my mouth is.

Does this kid deserve grace? Does he deserve to be forgiven? Am I about to extend my arms and give him both my full supportive grace and an abundance of love? If I really believe in grace, if I really believe that grace is the fundamental point of love, then I ought to extend it to him.

But I don’t want to.

The story isn’t political. It has nothing to do with laws, or security, or who is supposed to be where and are they supposed to be there without clearance. For me, the story is about seeing whether grace is really true in my life or whether it’s just a fanciful idea concocted out of wishful thinking.

It was easy, comparatively, to write a fiction story about a character receiving grace. It’s easy to sit behind a computer or a notebook and cram out a story about grace and why it is so important and how it can save the world. It is altogether troubling and confusing to look down the street to see a crime scene that beckons me to shower it in love and grace. All of a sudden, it isn’t so easy.

I believe in grace. Maybe I believe in it because I needed so desperately. Yet I’ve put myself in almost impossible situation where I must extend grace to another human when it is neither easy nor popular. I don’t know this kid. But that doesn’t make a difference. He’s a boy. A child who like the rest of us – whether we would like to believe it or not – has fear in his heart that makes him cower and tremble when no one watches.

I sometimes tremble and cower. I know that feeling.

Whether I want to or not, I must extend him grace. I must extend him love. I’m obligated. I have no choice. Though part of me doesn’t want to, out of anger and out of frustration, I also know that he and I are not that different.

We both are afraid of fear.

I neither justify his actions nor believe in a world without consequences. But I must also recognize that this child, this boy, is just like me. We are both human. We both have fears. And we both desperately need grace shown out of love.

I refuse to believe that this story must end in disaster. It may, and if it does it is by our own doing. I must, however, believe that no matter what happens there is still hope for redemption, because if I don’t, I don’t really believe in grace. It is by grace that this story can be saved, which comes through faith. That means patience.  That means forgiveness. That means love.

So I must go and live by grace. Though I write about stories that redeem heroes through grace, I find it infinitely harder to do this in real life. Perhaps you’ll join me believing in grace. Perhaps you’ll join me in living with grace. But if you don’t, I understand.

Trust me. I understand.