So she says, "You sometimes don't take very well what I'm about to tell you.."

Man in a diaper in the background in Vegas is as good a metaphor for self-pity as any…

Man in a diaper in the background in Vegas is as good a metaphor for self-pity as any…

I never realized self-pity was such a monstrous yet unexplored theme in my life, until one June 30 some years ago, when my wife said, "You sometimes don't take very well what I'm about to tell you." 

June 30 is my parents' anniversary.

Christine and I were in Las Vegas that night--it was our last night just the two of us--following our weeklong all-in at Okoboji Family Bible camp.  (I include the details, because that juxtaposition to me, is kind of hilarious; like the fact that I quit smoking on Ash Wednesday, 2000.)

Wall depicting the day of the dead: the Holy Spirit revealed to me later, it was to me, that night, a picture of the forest and fruit from the seeds of self-pity

Wall depicting the day of the dead: the Holy Spirit revealed to me later, it was to me, that night, a picture of the forest and fruit from the seeds of self-pity

Where was I? oh yeah—she says, “you sometimes don’t take what I’m about to tell you very well” and I heard me say, "Well, I will tonight because He has given you eyes to see my blindspots."  

I remember this tiny golden key sort of hovering in front of her and the invitation to take ahold of it in my imagination, knowing, somehow, I was about to need it.   The key, He showed me later, was humility.

I'd just said, "Yes!" to her sort of kidding question, "Is there anything you'd like to stay in Vegas?"  I told her I would really like to let go of the fact that I felt completely blindsided and hosed by a dear friend and client in this really big deal I had been chasing when I found out the week before that we had come in second. 

I felt like the Owners had really misled me (and, of course, my client) in terms of how strong a lock we were. 

And it was a huge deal. 

And I'd sold it to them in the first place. 

And it was still stinging ten days later and I was having, well, a little trouble letting it go.

The thing that she said that she said I sometimes didn’t take very well was, "You used to just blame God, but now you just blame your clients when things don’t go the way you want them to."

My pal, Pastor Richard calls this the idolatry of expectations.

What's the word I'm looking for? 

Oh, that's right:  Ouch!  I mean I was sitting right there when she said it and she was pointing it at me.

There is a key here. Unsolicited advice always feels like judgment. But she had warned me that it was at least unflattering and I had given her my permission to keep going. Spiritual consent. Willingness.

It was one of the greatest gifts she has ever given me in a sentence.

I said, "Ok.  I agree.  I don't know whatall that means but I can sure feel the weight of it.  You're right and I'm all in on whatever He'd like to do about it."

And we went on with our night but I was committed to discovering why I felt so excited and so full of dread—like you do when you’re about to have a miraculous cure to a cancer you didn’t know you had.

So, I turn fifty years old today and I’ve been holding onto this word for a long time, now. But it is the perfect gift and I’d like to give it to you, just like Christine gave it to me. It was, without a doubt, the biggest game changer for me in the last ten years.

Fifty is a number that represents jubilee or this magnificent picture of the cancellation of debt and returning to a life of childlike, unencumbered freedom.

See, once upon a time, today, my birthday, a marker of sorts, you would have found me pensive—chewing on my annual regrets, assuming, believing, knowing I’d missed it again: cue the Charlie Brown soundtrack of woe is me and old Eeyore’s hangdog expression.

I would have been sitting in an accusatorium on and off all day, trying to escape the sneaking, constant, deep-rooted suspicion that I’d missed it, I’d blown it, I hadn’t accomplished X or Y or Z and surely He must be as disappointed in me as I was.

I would barely be able to see or receive any indications to the contrary.

I would have had a dutch oven day steeping in self-pity but just not known to call it that.

And I’d have put on such a brave face when anyone was around that you would never have known I had been privately licking my wounds all day and spreading infection to my own heart and soul and since we love our neighbors as we love ourselves…yeah, wow.

On my fortieth, a decade ago, today: Christine spear-headed a collection of loveMegs letters from an amalgamation of my phenomenal friends and family.

One of her wishes for me was that, essentially, I wouldn’t do to myself what I just described. Because she knew and knows and loves me better and brighter and bolder than anyone—including me, sometimes.

I can giggle at this so-serious, former me and if I could, I’d tell him to “lighten up, Francis”.

Ah, the magnificent freedom a decade can bring to the painfully introspective.

My smile is fire, ready, aim-easy, today. Sincere.

I’ve learned not to take myself so flipping seriously.

So the birthday gift I would like to offer you today is so simple: if you have any—surrender self-pity.

Relentlessly pursue it like the villain it is. It is a thief of joy and gratitude and peace. Shoot it in the head until that zombie / brain eater dies.

My journey out of it wasn’t easy because it was so entrenched. It effected how I framed most everything.

But its end was very simple: I went after it. I asked the Holy Spirit to help me and like He does, He did.

I studied it and its effects in Scripture. I had long talks with Jesus about His lovingkindness which leads us to repentance. I let the Father be proud of me. I listened to Joyce Meyers and anyone who ever spoken on it that I could find (there aren’t that many talks, interestingly). I still found dozens of sermons on it using a thesaurus. I studied its ties to resentment, bitterness, judgement, worry, critical spirit and a host of other maladies.

And every time I started to hear those thoughts or any of their awful companions, I said, sorry, old friends, I can’t entertain you and I won’t. And I didn’t.

It got to be so fun because I started to gain such traction, I tracked it all the way to complaining, which I gave up in 2017—one of its primary manifested and obvious fruit.

I committed to Christine that I would go after it before I really even knew what it was and I want to reiterate, that’s such a huge key: the willingness.

Are you willing to extract this toxin from your vision? It is part of the promise Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God,

Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

It’s ok to be disappointed.

It’s not ok to allow that disappointment to become your primary revelation.

Discover not only gratitude, but praise.

Music that moves you is a key.

Finding people who need help and helping them is a key. Praying and Praying in tongues is a key. Talk to God, no really. Finding Hope is a key. Trusting His goodness is a key.

Graham Cooke said if there is even a hint of helplessness it is under the influence of a lie.

Here is my hero and me on Straight From the Heartland diving into fun faith and turning fifty.

If you extract self-pity from your life, it will be the greatest birthday gift you can give or receive and Love in all its slendors will flow so much easier on every front without it.

Is this expression becoming a little too familiar?




Contempt, described as "the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn" is not what I want to see coming out of me at anyone.   

John Gottman, renowned relationship expert, discovered four markers of relationship failure with 93 percent accuracy in predicting divorce. 

They apply to any relationship, really.  Think of boss, coworker, friend--wherever there is strife.  The four indicators are:  criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.

The Holy Spirit showed me many months ago this is the expression we must track in our hearts to root out bitterness and unforgiveness before we start demolishing hearts around us. 

Look at how these characteristics feed off each other--if you feel criticized, you feel defensive. 

If you feel criticized often enough you may surrender to contempt--of course, that person is deserving of my scorn.   

Stonewalling is just what the kids call "ghosting" the relationship:  you stop responding because they are not worth it.

I believe offense is the primary instigator.  I don't like the way you did that or said it, repeat.

I used to drive by this one property every day wearing the expression above, because someone had back-doored me in a deal--and went straight to MY client without ME (how dare they!!).

The Lord asked me after many weeks of patiently enduring my expression--"would they be worth it to you?"

And I'm like, uh, rhymes with no.   

But maybe since it is You asking, the real answer should be yes. 

I guess considering what You paid for them:   You think they're worth it, so You think I should, too.

He agreed.

I said, "So what do You want me to do?"

He said, "Forgive them.  Remember, you can't be stolen from--you're stewarding what is mine.  I give the power to make wealth."

I said, "Cool, I forgive them.  Now, where is the favor-blast?"

He said, "No, not just like you mean it.  Genuinely mean it and pray for them from that place.  Like they're your own child."

And it took let's round down, more than a few tries but I actually did it. 

And it broke. 

And I felt it break.

And I prayed like I hadn't been able to in a long time for that individual.

And within a short period of time, I was rewarded in the context of that very property.

Remain unoffendable. 

We are people. 

We make the jumbo-dumbo mistakes.  They're like my spiritual gift. 

We act greedy and short-sighted sometimes and we are downright selfish and myopic. 

But if you let my bad behavior tank your good behavior, those two wrongs spiral into dark un-lovely division.  And it hurts. 

Spiritual maturity looks like speedy forgiveness--whether someone asks for it or not, because you can get authority on their behalf with Him if you give them the one thing He bought and paid for--John 20:23 is a haunting invitation, "If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.".   

He is trying to grow me up into the shape of His heart. 

He is hanging from the cross and He says, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing."   Talk about a ripe opportunity for offense and contempt...

And if He is for us, who can be against us?

That leads to a real change in heart and thereby countenance.


Lifting Disappointment and Loneliness

(Many need Any)

(Many need Any)










God said.

My friends:  this isn't a long post, but I sense it is a long time in coming.

I've been practicing being a good friend for a lot of years now.  Connection is a high value to me, but that isn't cheating in friendship--it's provision.  In friendship:  someone has to go first.

Romans 12:17 in The Passion Translation reads, "Never hold a grudge or try to get even, but plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others.  Do your best to live as everybody's friend."

And, yet, in this `noblest pursuit', I keep stumbling across ones who don't really--when probed-- have any. 

They don't just have a few:  they don't have ANY friends.

They may know some people, but no one they might tell what they tell me.

No one to grieve with them or to really listen to their hearts cry.  No one who asks.  No one who really appreciates why Love is patient comes first in the progression.

It is a wild and sorrowful motif.

In one of the most haunting lines from Stand By Me, Rob Reiner/Stephen King's tremendous ode to friendship, The Writer, played by the inimitable Richard Dreyfuss says:  "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.  Jesus, does anyone?"

Can you relate?

Or did you not have too many when you were 12, either?  I'm sorry if that's the case.  Let's find a remedy.

I met with a young dad some years ago whose wife found out she had breast cancer and I asked him who was going to be there for him and he said "her".  And I laughed and said, no, like, your friends. 

Blank stare.  

So I've started asking.

He asked me what I would do if I were him.  I said, I'd ask the Holy Spirit to help me see them and I'd start inviting them to hang.  I'd ask my pastor who the hungry men were.  I'd ask him if he was one.   I'd go to every men's group meeting there was early AM.  I'd go to Celebrate Recovery--because there are a lot of recovering lonely and genuinely vulnerable people there.   I'd start mentoring because spiritual sons and daughters are some of the best friends you can have--because you learn friendship by practicing.  I said, I'd be brave and I would start asking people to lunch, breakfast, games, beers, coffee, smoothies, concerts, whatever.  

I challenged a young bride to do the same not long ago:  within a week she was on the road to discovery, within a year, she was a completely different woman--transformed by friendship's tremendous power--confident, bold:  smily.

Compulsivity and nearly every form of addiction have a few things in common--isolation, loneliness and aloneness.  The numbing of pain--man going it alone.

I heard a TED talk recently where the speaker was talking about PTSD victims and how breathing (count 4 breathe in hold 7, breathe out 8) is the key to unlock their "internal grief"--and it has turned out to be one of the most powerful anti-anxiety strategies on the planet.  One of the quick side effects is weeping.   No surprise another word for Spirit is breath in the original language.

But isn't that Friendship?  Space to breathe.

My dear friend Brad used to remind me, "there are a lot of unwept tears in this room."

My spiritual Momma and I get together at Panera at least once a month in addition to our spiritual family time once a week--for `the pause that refreshes'.   We just catch up and share our hearts..  And when life is pushing back--we make time to do it more.  It's understood--like the Bat signal, we drop everything and rush over.

We cannot win the battle alone.

When my friend Jordie died many weeks ago, I lost a ridiculously good friend.  Jordie was someone who always took time:  for me.  He initiated phone calls and lunches and was always curious about whatever was going on--with me.  And it was reciprocal and I miss him a lot.  If I'm honest, I've avoided posting any blogs since he died, because he was one person who always read them, said kind things about them and followed up with me about them.  All of them.  I mattered to him and I knew it.  I was so grateful that the last lunch we had together a few days before he went to be with Jesus, I gave him a card that told him what he meant to me.   It was the last thing I gave him—my words.

And we--each of us--so need that.

And aren't we super-tender when we lose a friend--who is still alive?  I've experienced that pain too many times and it is brutal.  But we become better friends if we love through loss.

Need a friend, be one. 

And get comfortable asking if it would be ok if you took turns sharing--so many are chronically lonely that they don't yet have a lot of bandwidth to one-another,  yet--so, Loves, be patient as you grow in friendship.  It--like you--is worth it.

This song and story are important re-calibrators.  Listen when you have time to really listen.

Why We Stopped Complaining


Last night's shredding my tire process once upon a time would've given full permission to vent my pent up F (Frustrated)-bombs. 

Of course, swearing is abbreviated complaint.  So that was out.

Instead of f'ity this and f'ity that just look at F'ities go--within less than an hour I learned smart phones are truly amazing devices and friends can be counted on.  I learned for example, how far, how many and how open a dozen tire shops were near me.  Tires don't just bounce back to life when they drop too hard off medians--like relationships from incessant complaining.  

Did I mention dinner was waiting the moment I walked in the door complete with cornbread and Kerry gold butter?

Complaining is what self-pity sounds like.   Listen for it.  Like a Valentine--cut it out.

Literally as I'm writing, the news in the background just announced Snapchat went down for four hours yesterday triggering, you guessed it, "a flood of complaints".   Classic.

Philippians 2:14 says, Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining..

Except..?  Yeahno:  ALL.

I was trailing the Jacker on his annual quest for candy from strangers race last week and after I caught myself griping to my pal about how cold it/I was I said, "Hey, I heard Megs gave up complaining.  Have you talked to him lately?   No, he has been pretty quiet since February..." says to COMPLAIN means express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, censure, resentment, or grief; find fault: tell of one's pains, ailments, etc.: make a formal accusation.

Satan is also called the Accuser.  Complaining gives the wrong kingdom my attention.  It is ingratitude.

Latin com- com- + plangere to lament; see plaint  So COMPLAINT is rooted in Grieving. 

The Word says, "Come, all you who are weary, and I will hear you gripe and please whine and tell Me all about how bad it is and how ungrateful you are from every angle all the time and of course train your children up in ridiculously selfish self-centeredness!"  


Wait, NO it doesn't! 

It actually says, "Come, magnify the Lord with me."  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

James reminds us that the tongue is a fire and it sets on fire the course of our life and it is set on fire by hell. 

Another verse says out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

Finally, if you rebuke a wise man, he will love you more.

What happens if just for today, we turn ALL our complaining around--every inch, every one--and then just do that everyday from here on in?

It'll help.  Because sometimes, often even, it crosses over the line into "Cursing." quotes Steven Parton, who insists that `quitting the complaining habit is essential for your physical health, too. "When your brain is firing off these synapses of anger, you're weakening your immune system; you're raising your blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes, and a plethora of other negative ailments," he says.

The culprit is the stress hormone cortisol. When you're negative, you release it, and elevated levels of the stuff, "interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease.... The list goes on and on."

We quit as we realized it is another way of saying `Grumbling', which if you track the metaphor is perhaps the main culprit which kept Israel out of the Promised Land until Jesus (Joshua) led the next generation across the Jordan--40 years later. 

So complaining delays promise.  Wow.

We quit as we listened to how our kids were framing what was happening in their games and whose fault what was.  We quit when we saw what it was stealing. 

We quit because He asked us to.  From complain to come plain to come play!!


25 Years Ago, Today, My Father Died

And I write a little about it every few years.

We assume that beverage is NOT what we think it is

We assume that beverage is NOT what we think it is

Everyone called him Meg.

Everyone calls me Megs.

I heard the Holy Spirit ask me a few years ago:  "What if it is a possessive?"

Like Meg's...   

I am my father's son.

And he would have done this a long time ago.

If it looks like our oldest is on the wrong side of the car, he is.  Today was his first driving lesson

If it looks like our oldest is on the wrong side of the car, he is.  Today was his first driving lesson

Time and space live inside God.  I believe the clock doesn't stop the way we think it does.  Like eternity is the real game we are warming up for, here.

So, my thirteen year old is learning how to drive on this 25th anniversary because he needs to be really comfortable behind the wheel in such a distracted world.

His grampa, Meg, who York hasn't yet, met, would've had him driving tractors or rented Mustangs or something probably a long time ago.  (A lot of you who remember Meg, probably remember when I was fifteen we moved to AZ.  He let me drive on the Interstate much of the way to AZ by myself on my Iowa school license, because, well, I had a school license and I was going to school in AZ).  

We learn how to color outside the lines and take risks from the people we look up to who believe in us.

So in honor of Meg's:   This was today's heaven.

Surely Goodness

My Dear Dear Friend, Miss Shirley

She makes our hearts smile every time we see her!!

She makes our hearts smile every time we see her!!

I was feeling this overwhelming sadness that I couldn't put my finger on.

Sadness alone is a bad idea cliff.

She was sitting on a bench by herself outside the chapel just enjoying the solitude.

And the Holy Spirit said, "It's ok."

So I asked her if it was ok if I sat down beside her, (just because He knows everything doesn't mean I always hear Him right).

She said sure. And I sat.

She and I had met some months before but we barely knew each other past the I-wish-remembering-names-were-my-spiritual-gift awkward hey... you.

The Holy Spirit said, "It's ok.  You can ask her."

I said, "Could I justmaybe hold your hand?"

She said, "Of course."

And we just sat on the bench beside each other holding hands.

And I burst into tears.   

I missed my momma, I think.  He knows for sure. 

And I don't know how long we sat there like that--no more than a few minutes but at some point, I said,  "Tell me your name again."

She said, "Shirley."

And I heard and said, "Surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life."

He was waiting for me there in her gentle presence.

In literally just a few unforgettable moments, she and I shared His heart and now we love each other, forever.   

Brene Brown reminds us that vulnerability leads to connection.  

In retrospect:   Receptivity solidifies it.

Reciprocity concretizes it. 

Look in her eyes for two seconds and you can feel it:  She knows how to love with His eyes.

Now we go to lunch and huddle up at the back of the church and conspire and compare notes from our time with Him.  She shares with me from her storehouse and I share with her from mine.   She is one of my favorites.

She changed everything in my heart that morning with the simple willingness, the kindness to sit with me and hold my hand when anyone could see I was hurting--she did something about it.

It is so rich to stop and remember with gratitude the ones who stopped and held my hand.    My wife did it yesterday.   And my Thursday gang.  Philip the day before.

Maybe rejection or abandonment are trying to whisper something to us.

Let's hold His hand instead and say, "Surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life.." Psalm 23:6.  






On Changing My Mind - the gift of practical repentance

I've noticed a pattern emerging in the last number of weeks.  


As I sense disinterest or a sense of dread, I try to consider who is asking or who will benefit or who is really the focus of my frustration.

I, for example, don't want to go somewhere.  That's my immediate reaction.

 I'd rather nap or Netflix or read.

But, for example, I sense my bride would really like for me to go.

I therefore decide that I want to go.

My attitude adjusts and I almost every time thus far, I really have a blast.

Another example:  I see something I don't want to do.  I try to look for it, I notice it.  I ask the Holy Spirit to give me a heads up.

The Holy Spirit isn't a shouter.  His style isn't what my old friend Joegie described as loudership.

I see a little something I missed in a recent cleaning project:  there is a choice.  Obviously, ignore it.  Let it be someone else's problem.  Act like you never even saw it!

Or elbow grease it and bless someone.

Bathrooms are a good place to start.

I haven't realized the depths of my elaborate and mostly justifying selfish self-centerednesses.

i read recently that to justify is a building term:   It is what they do when something is crooked. 

Jesus said in Matthew 6:34 sufficient to the day is the trouble thereof and the word trouble is this interesting Greek word that means essentially "evil habit of mind".  

He also said greater love has no man than this, then that he lay down his life for his friend.   

The word life there is psuche, where we get psychology.  

Another way of reading it would be Greater love has no man than this:  then that he lay down what he thinks in preference of another. 

I've been recognizing as I've been asking to see what some of these little evil habits of thought are and they're not surface-level obviously evil.  

They're boring, built-up-by-toleration-over-time evil.   And therefore they are rough to spot without His watchful guidance.

They add up to me not loving others as much as I really just want things my way.

Practical reentance means to me if it matters to you, it matters to me:   Rethink.

A divine benefit, of course, is you really feel good about learning to love those you love in the ways that matter to them. 


Why Did Jesus Use the Sycamine to Illustrate Unforgiveness?

"One day when Stan Mooneyham was walking along a trail in East Africa with some friends, he became aware of a delightful odor that filled the air. He looked up in the trees and around at the bushes in an effort to discover where it was coming from. Then his friends told him to look down at the small blue flower growing along the path. Each time they crushed the tiny blossoms under their feet, more of its sweet perfume was released into the air. Then his friends said, "We call it the forgiveness flower." This forgiveness flower does not wait until we ask forgiveness for crushing it. It does not release its fragrance in measured doses or hold us to a reciprocal arrangement. It does not ask for an apology; it merely lives up to its name and forgives-freely, fully, richly." (Thanks to our friends at

I find it fascinating that the word sycamine is pronoucned Sick - a - mine.

I also find it fascinating that the Master says, …If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. — Luke 17:6 

Interesting how what we say is so integrally related to our faith--which comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  The tongue is a fire, James reminds us.  Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.  The parable of the soils is all about our quality of hearing and the fruit therefrom.

Rick Renner does a masterful job of pulling to the surface in the article above and video below why Jesus compares unforgiveness to the sycamine tree.  

As we forgive, our hearts become free and we enjoy the aroma of the forgiveness flowers (flow-ers) all around us.

Forgiving, we see is For Giving.

Royal We

Our Royal We

Our Royal We

A dear friend of mine found himself in a situation where he had every right to assess and point blame.

A decision had been made that potentially was going to cost some pretty serious money. 

I was so impressed by my friend, who said, "We didn't get it done but this is what We are going to do now."

Thats Noah's older two sons' approach to covering their father's drunken nakedness.  It is Daniel's approach when interceding for Israel.

Daniel 9:3 Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. 4 And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments." 

Who hasn't utterly blown it and really just wanted to not stand there alone?

Royal.  We.  It's easy to assess blame and point fingers:  it's royal to share the burden.

We?  Oui!