3 ways to lose relational traction in 2016

Do you want to send your relationship on a downward spiral to begin the year 2016?

If yes, here are the answers to the questions…

  1. Live in the land of “should of’s”
  2. Defend yourself by blaming
  3. Show indifference in the middle of a conversation

In reality, none of us want to send our relationships into a death spiral at any time, especially in beginning a new year. Our hope is that we begin something new and sustain it. So…in living in the “new” here is what we can do…

1. Only look back to go forward.

We can look at the past, learn from it, saying no to living in the remorse of the “should of”, taking responsibility for the circumstance, and then live forward in the present.

2. Be aware of defensiveness which leads to blaming.

Awareness is huge! Don’t ignore the Holy Spirit’s voice. Listen, He will show you defensiveness. Blaming prevents us from seeing ourselves honestly and stops us from living in humility. Blaming builds walls, grace and humility attract.

3. Indifference is a icy cold wind that drives a wedge in relationships.

Indifference can look like withdrawal, diving into the “screen” when another is trying to communicate with you, etc. Combat this with attunement; truly being present for the other person. Listening with heartfelt compassion is another way of saying it.

Happy New Year! There is more to come!





The Black Sharpie


Have you ever used a “black sharpie”? I’m guessing many of us have, at some point in our lives, used one. I didn’t realize how many shapes and sizes are availble to us now. In school teaching I used them for posters and projects. Occasionally I would use one on a package or letter to line out, permanently, an old address. Every once in a while I would accidently make a mark on my shirt or pants and I even remember leaving one in a pocket only to find out after it went into the washer and through the wash cycle. Yikes! This was not pretty! Sharpie marks are permanenet; I discovered.

Have you ever experienced a “black sharpie” in relationships? Do you know what I’m talking about? I observed one come out after the Seattle Seahawks victory over the San Francisco 49ers. See this link and...video.

This post game rant, if you will, created a huge buzz in the news. Sports commentators analyzed and dissected Richard Sherman during the week after the game and it will begin again this week, Super Bowl week. Many people put a “black sharpie” on Richard for these emotionally charged post game comments. A “black sharpie” permanently stains, as I mentioned above. It is loaded with permanent ink. Some folks have permanently judged Richard, marking him with a “black sharpie”. During one brief 45 seconds of his life, for all to see, he shares what he shares and gets the “black sharpie” from thousands. Yet, is this who he really is, 45 seconds defines him? This interaction happened before Richard’s outburst…see this video clip.

Then, to wrap up the sequence of events, see this interview with Richard some time later after the game.


So…have you put a ‘black sharpie” over Richard Sherman? If yes, what is at the root of your reason for picking up the “sharpie” and “X…ing” him out? Instead of just settling on your opinion as being right, sit back, reflect and explore what is going on inside of you.

Why? Because “grace expects and anticipates imperfection”. No one wants to be labeled as judgemental. Yet when we pull out the “black sharpie”, could it be possible that we are playing the judgement card? Are you qualified to be The Judge?

Think about it. When we use our “black sharpies” on people we will have a hard time getting “Relational Traction.”

Sharpening in circles

In the last post we looked at Proverbs 27:17, As Iron Sharpens Iron, so one man sharpens another. Most would agree that if we are going to mature as Christ followers (men); it is imperative that we are in meaningful relationships with others. I often hear the word accountability used in the context of meaningful relationships for men. I hear something like this; men need accountability groups, a place where they are accountable to other men.  What are we talking about here, what does that word mean for us relationally with other men?

scoldingI think what is implied is this; that one man will do stuff to hold the other in line, to help them stop sinning, doing self-destructive stuff or things that hurt others too. So in order to stop doing this bad behavior we need a guy to hold us accountable and this might look like calling another man daily or weekly to check in and ask some tough questions that will hold one’s behavior in check. This may come in the form of a verbal scolding or rebuking if necessary. It might sound like this; “Why did you do that again, we talked about this problem last week and I gave you a verse to memorize?” Or, “Stop that, can’t you see how you are hurting yourself and others?”

Here is the problem with accountability when it looks like the example above…a truth from my friends at TrueFaced, and from the life of Jesus.

“Accountability is a principle of law and it will never ever, ever, ever, ever, assist you with sinning less. Accountability is a good thing when you measure tasks, it is never the right principle when you measure behavior, because it is a principle of law. Is it really possible for Christians to put so much confidence in the work of Jesus Christ (at Calvary) that we really do believe that He has already put in us a righteousness that can love, and instead of having to show you how good I am at anything, I humbly need to learn from you how to be loved? We get that right, and an early church changed the world.”

So…what you and I are after is a relationship where you can trust me and I can trust you, be vulnerable with each other and experience a safe loving relationship in His grace,, one where the worst about me can be known and I would still be loved by you and loved even more.

You see, relationships grounded in principles of accountability (see above) will always ignite our shame and leave us stuck, driving us eventually into hiding. Recall Adam and Eve in Genesis 3…and see their response to the realization of their sin which resulted in the first human experience with shame. It is no different for us. Accountability as defined above will actually ignite our shame and we will go into hiding or masking.So…the next question to explore, what are these circles of trust, how can I find one, do they exist? More to come….

As Iron Shapens Iron…


This is a photo of iron shaping iron. If you are a man and had any touch point with church or men in churches, you may have heard this Bible verse; Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 You may have asked yourself or others, what does this verse really mean in the context of my relationships with other men? Great question! I thought we might explore the possible meaning of this verse together. I’ve collected some a few images of what iron sharpening iron actually looks like just for fun.


I’m guessing, if you are like me, you are trying to fit these images and their implications, into a relationship with another man. How is that working for you? What are the characteristics of the relationship and what goes on between you in the sharpening of one another?

The Life Application Bible has a footnote to this verse which seems to sum up the general understanding quite well:

“There is a mental sharpness that comes from being around good people. And a meeting of minds can help people see their ideas with new clarity, refine them, and shape them into brilliant insights. This requires discussion partners who can challenge each other and stimulate thought—people who focus on the idea without involving their egos in the discussion; people who know how to attack the thought and not the thinker. Two friends who bring their ideas together can help each other become sharper.” (from Barbara L. Kilka, http://www.set-apart-ministries.org)

I took some time to look into the Hebrew words for iron and sharpen and the Life Application footnote does a pretty good job of what “iron sharpening iron” looks like relationally. Here is where we can get “relational traction.” I think this relational sharpening happens in circles of trust. More about how one might establish a circle of trust with a few others in the next blog post. Do you have a few men who could form a circle of trust with you?

The Seven Choices of Exceptional Leaders

Dan Rockwell’s blog, Leadership Freak, is one of my favorites. There is so much talk about Leadership these days around organizations; schools, businesses, churches, government, etc. Dan shares some great stuff and often links you to other good men and women who have great simple realities to focus all of us. This one titled: The Seven Choices of Exceptional Leaders, is very very good. Read it today…what are your thoughts?

Image of Perfection


We have been talking about seeking perfection and how striving for perfection will ignite our shame. What are your images of perfection? What pictures or thoughts have been placed in your mind that define perfection for you?I have wondered why at times I seek perfection and when I fall short in some way, anger easily wells up in me. Is my perfection rooted in pleasing others? Did it begin in my first relationships with parents, family and friends? As I do a little looking back, so that I can go forward, I find that there are some roots that lead me to relationships in my past, primarily with parents. 

These roots run deep and if I don’t seek healing, they will remain alive, feeding my shame and affecting relationships today. The most significant relationship for couples is our marriage. 
This perfection striving carries over to the Christian life. I see so many Christians striving to be like Jesus. Jesus has become their “image of perfection”. The truth is, He is the image of perfection, living a life among us free of sin (self-centeredness). Here is the problem with the thinking that we can become like Jesus. It isn’t possible! Christians right now after reading that statement are saying, “Whoa, what are you talking about? This is the goal of the Christian life.” 

No, I don’t think so. We can’t become more like Jesus in our own strength. We can’t work on our stuff to create His image in us. Oh you say, this isn’t the “good news” I hear about in church. That news being that I can change now to become more like Jesus because he has forgiven me and now I’m heaven-bound. 

Hmmm…sorry to say, there is something missing in that belief system. Here is the Good News…he came to free me (us) from my striving to be perfect. By placing your faith (trust) in Him, He lives in you now. All that is true about Him is true about you. You are holy, righteous (perfect in the Father’s eyes), blameless, accepted and forgiven. He desires to live through you now. 

This is huge for us in marriage. Wives don’t have to work at molding and shaping their husbands to be more loving like Jesus. Husbands don’t have to strive and stress about being perfect husbands or fathers; providing abundantly, putting on cuddly facade to appear more loving, etc., etc. etc. 

Yes, Jesus is the image of perfection for humanity, but He has given us a gift that leads to freedom, not striving and bondage. It is a gift that will free us from our shame stories. Here are two key verbs for the next blogpost;receiving and abiding. The Marriage Mosaic will begin to come together as we step into receiving and abiding. 

Andy Stanley has posted a series of 4 messages titled, Free, that explain clearly more about the gift. Take some time to listen to all 4 messages. 


Gratefulness in the “empty cup”

It is almost Thanksgiving Day and I’m seeing so many beautiful posts on Facebook referring to thankfulness. I just read Dan Rockwell’s post in his blog, Leadership Freak. I think his story is well worth reading and shares something from a heart that turned to gratefulness. I encourage you to check it out.

This holiday in encourages us to reflect, more than any other I think…and seek in our hearts a reason to be grateful. Dan goes deeper than a superficial exploration of gratefulness…he looks to relationships. Powerful, life changing and healing!

Happy Thanksgiving!