You’re a candidate! (For a wax job!?)

Some time ago the woman who cuts my hair tried an up-sell on me. “Around your age,” she said, “I have a lot of customers who have me start waxing their nose hair and eyebrows. And … you’re a candidate.”

When I got done laughing about her skillful — even political — use of words to inform me that my nostrils and uni-brow were less-than-sophisticated, I relented and allowed her to place piping hot firebrands covered in molten wax up my nose. I even agreed to pay extra for this. And you know, the pain isn’t really that bad. But the hair keeps growing. It seems I’m a ‘candidate’ for life.

Today Megan and I had a gut-level conversation with Jonathan. Jonathan’s not a coach, per se, but we’ve been meeting with him and (because coaching is my milieu) I’ve been thinking about him in that capacity. Since we all value honesty, I admitted to him that I was a little dissatisfied when seeing him through that lens. So we talked about what it is exactly that he does, how it differs from coaching, and Megan and I decided upon the term “oracle”. (Which made him delightfully uncomfortable. I mean, it gave him the creepy-crawlies. He has this little freaked-out boogie dance he did. It’s going to become a classic story, larger than life. Already is.)

In the course of this conversation he reminded me of something I’ve known all along: I’m really nice about it, but I’m bull-headed and though my marriage is good, I still need someone who has permission to call me on my bull and help me stay on track even when it isn’t my top priority for growth! In other words, even though I’m pretty happy with a lot of things right now, I’m a candidate for the oracle. In fact, I’m a candidate for life.

If you want a life of growth but know that those nose hairs have to be cleared away like brush in dry season before a fire breaks out, if, in short, you’re a candidate, then get a coach. Or an prophetic oracle. Or a pastor who’s not a puppet for what the congregation wants — someone to whom you are willing to abdicate your considerable power of independence. You may or may not pay this person for their role in your life, but you can never terminate your friendship with them. Maybe it’s a mentor who expects you to exceed their own success, and who will challenge you when they see you getting slacker-y or bull-headed, who pushes you even on the stuff you’re really good at. Find someone you trust, and let them wax whenever you wane.

The Art Of Motivational Listening

A publisher called EntrustSource has asked for my next book. This is NOT an indie project, but it’s a small publisher so they aren’t dumping a huge ton of money on me as an advance. In fact, there’s no advance at all. Here’s my Kickstarter project. My goal is to have $2000 in pre-sales by June 30. Learn more about it, see a really ridiculous video, and even get an early copy or contribute to the project here!

Here’s the “more serious” version of the video. If you want to see the ridiculous one, then you need to go to the Kickstarter campaign itself (via the link above) and check it out there.

Sustainable Fundraising without doing Events!?

I’m no expert at fundraising but our organization (Evergreen Leaders) has some great resources for individuals who raise their own support, as well as executive directors and directors of development. We’ve had clients who’ve taken their budget from 10K to 100K in two years. One of our board members, Carol Fesco, has used the system effectively for more than a decade as D of D for Horizon House in Peru, IL, and she’s going to co-facilitate a new fundraising coaching group with me. It’s been a while since we’ve helped anyone do this because we were latent for some time while our founder Rich Foss was ill, but we’re back, ready to rock n roll. The first meeting will be in June:

Next month, we’re starting a web-based coaching group to help people learn about development through a system that eschews events and promotes your story through a team I call your “volunteer ask force”.

The book we’ll be reading together is called GreenLight Fundraising (written by the aforementioned Mr. Foss) and can be purchased here. But we won’t stop with reading a book. We’ll celebrate successes and set action plans, we’ll distill principles and more than anything we’ll help you with healthy accountability to do the tasks that will help you grow that budget! I’m excited about combining these resources with my coaching skills to help my friends be fully funded. We’re going to dig in!

A handful of people have committed to joining this group, and our waiting list starts after we get eight people, so if you’re curious, let me know soon. There is a sliding-scale cost based on your annual budget, so talk to me about details. I appreciate any referrals you have for people who’re struggling to pay the bills for their non-profit, or want to double their budget over the next few years.

Can I coach my employee or not?

The question comes up all the time: If I can’t have an agenda for someone I’m coaching, can I ever truly coach people inside my organization, or not?

If the individual’s values are in alignment with the organization’s values and goals, then yes, a supervisor can coach anyone on issues related to strategies and tactics. The organization’s preferred strategies or tactics may not work for that person. Scrap them on an individual level if you’re both headed the same place with the same values. Coaching builds leaders internally and if you build leaders through their tasks, they’ll be grateful for the opportunity.

If the coaching goal revolves around issues where the individual and the organization are not aligned in terms of values or goals, then a third-party coach is better. The person who needs coached may find they also need to move on. Better to figure it out for themselves and make a shift to an organization where their values line up, than to hang on way too long, get burned out, frustrated, sabotage with complaining or other bad attitudes, and end up needing to be fired!

Know the difference between values and strategies/tactics, and you’ll know whom you can coach.


She Burns My Ears!

Some time ago I encountered an elderly Amish man in our local coffee shop. He was eager to talk to strangers, which is rare for an Amish man, and I struck up a conversation. I sat and listened.

I learned that his two children were grown and had left the state; people don’t realize how much the Amish are on the move, taking rocky ground in Missouri and upstate New York and making something of it, starting new communities. But they do use Amtrak and hire vans so they can visit each other. I discovered that this man’s children didn’t come visit often and there was some estrangement, learned that his first wife had died, and that he’d remarried against the advice of his community. His second wife was a long-time bachelorette, and he was her first husband. Therefore she was a good deal more independent than a normal Amish wife, and even though “they warned me,” he said, “She burns my ears.” Suddenly, I understood why he was talking to strangers.

My father-in-law sold agricultural products, fertilizers, etc., in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, (densest concentration of Amish in the world) all his life. He’s 78 years old, and he’s never heard an Amish man talk like this. He was never an insider, as far as the Amish are concerned, but he wasn’t enough of an outsider for them to open up that way. After all, he knew them and knew their neighbors. He might have kept a secret if asked, but he wasn’t to be trusted. He was “English.”

What allowed this to happen? I wasn’t too busy to listen. That’s the first piece. You have to slow down if you want these sort of encounters. The second remarkable thing here is that the man lived in a “we-told-you-so” community where there was not a single empathetic ear for his problems with his second wife, so he took it outside the community. I was far enough outside his community that word couldn’t travel back. I asked his name at one point, and he wouldn’t give it.

If you want to develop authentic community, you have to refrain from creating a “We-told-you-so” culture. When people take their problems away somewhere, going “off to town” to find an outlet, it makes restoration and reconciliation difficult. For an Amish man to share his story with me seems rather harmless, but there’s potential for a much darker side to this phenomenon.

The Pileated Woodpecker

Whatever catches my client’s attention is a jumping off point for a line of questions, an analogy to their situation.

Today my client turned and looked out the window. “There’s a pileated woodpecker outside,” he said. “I haven’t seen one for many years.”

I don’t want to over-spiritualize the idea of getting “a sign” but it’s a place to be creative and play. We began to relate the pileated woodpecker to his situation.

Where’s the Pileated Woodpecker in your context?

He recognized an item he hadn’t been working on for a long time but had been an aspect of his organization’s past that he was thinking needed to be brought to the forefront again.

What makes a Pileated different from other woodpeckers, the normal ones?

–They’re bigger. More rare. Something seen before but very distinctive.

What is the distinctive thing your organization needs right now? He identified a certain type of person who could help his organization.

The client developed some things he thought related. In fact, his energy level increased as we spoke. Finally, I said, “What are your binoculars for keeping a lookout for someone like this who could help you?”

He spoke for a while and eventually said “I need to share about the Pileated Woodpecker with my team.”

“So, the team is your binoculars? They help you see a depth of field that you couldn’t otherwise?”


I like to play off my client’s surroundings, especially things they take special note of. Use them as creative places to ask weird, off the wall questions. See what happens, and trust the process.


Listening and Swords

Just woke up thinking more about the concept of anointed listening and all the times that Jesus said let those who have ears to hear, hear.

It struck me that when Peter cut off a servant’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane, there’s a very poignant symbolism happening.

When we draw our swords and attack — when we use physical force — we separate people from their ability to hear any message we might otherwise have been able to share with them. Using force cuts off their hearing ability.

I believe this was a sign. The reason I believe it was a sign is that I think it would be very difficult to cut off an ear without damaging the head, shoulder, or neck. Sort of like when you throw a ball or wad of paper at something from quite a distance, and it hits something odd, lands in someone’s cup or whatever, and you say “Ha, ha, I couldn’t do that again if I tried a hundred times.” When you swing a sword at someone, it’s much easier to hack off a hand or foot or even to gouge an eye. No doubt the victim tried to duck the blow, but the point is, it’s no accident (when the event is taken as a spiritual lesson) that it was specifically an EAR. Use of the sword damages the world’s ability to hear a message of love.

This is the one of the strongest Biblical passages in favor of pacifism. If we want the world to be able to hear the message of Jesus, we need to put away our sword and work for healing of those ears.

Eat Your Sundaes on Saturday

What does it mean to live in the present, to hear each other in the present, to be known in the present, to be present with one another?

A few weeks after I returned from a trip to Asia, the family gathered on a Saturday night, and my in-laws were in town from out of state. Grandpa John brought a lot of ice cream and the kids were enjoying sundaes.

I turned to my son Benjamin, almost seven years old now, and asked him, “How is it that we’re having sundaes but it’s only Saturday? Can you explain this?”

Without missing a beat, he said, “It’s already Sunday, in Thailand.”

When I think about the paradox that the Kingdom is coming and the Kingdom is now, I realize that this time-zone phenomenon is part of our everyday reality, and it’s a perfect example of living in the present while the future is already here.

In the broadest sense, this is the “present” we live in. Why not party now?

Do you drink the Kool-aid?

I’m a pretty trusting guy. I grew up in a community called Plow Creek Fellowship, an intentional community church that was featured in Newsweek the same week they featured the Jonestown mass suicide, when a whole ton of people committed suicide together by drinking poison-spiked fruit punch of some kind. The implication: is Plow Creek another cult? (No, I don’t believe it was or is.)

Because of my background in communal living, I think twice when I hear people talking about ‘drinking the Kool-Aid.’

It came up in some sales training I took a couple years ago. The idea was this: we have the best way to sell and if you buy in now and learn our process, you will be the better for it (rich). So buy-in immediately, don’t bother with your skepticism if it seems ‘weird.’ Several times the trainers used the phrase “Drink the Kool-Aid.”

That’s when our natural skepticism ought to rise up like bile within our throats and say “Hold on a sec.”


Because effective techniques (whether you’re being trained in sales, leadership, coaching, ministry, business or being taught whatever else) ought to be self-evident to intelligent observers.

If you see something that doesn’t look like it would work on you, it probably won’t work on other people either. (Problem is, it’s being used ON people).

On the other hand, when you see something that makes sense, just good ol’ common sense, something you’d find attractive, a way you’d like to be treated, there’s no Kool-Aid to drink; you’re just in. We’re not all killing ourselves for this thing. Dying to yourself isn’t the same as drinking Kool-Aid, which has an implication of throwing common sense out the window and following a crazy leader into the abyss.

Dying to yourself doesn’t mean throwing your life away in foolish pursuits.

From DSC Weekend

This is a transcript of on-the-spot poetry I delivered at the Dandelion Seed Conference, Sunday AM on May 3, 2015, unedited to retain the feeling of a moment we had together:

Why do you shy away from the trip your own imagination can take without alteration from an additional numbing agent? Without opiates?

Who comes along your side to say all is well, and all things are well, and all worlds are well, and all creatures are well, and all is well?

Who comes from beyond, where do they take you within? Who shares your visions of giants on fire? Who can abide the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?

What haunts the farthest edge of your realm, what shy and humble creatures carry packages of cheese and bread and olives and smaller parcels of gold and frankincense and myrrh? Whom shall they feed, whose water will they draw and pour? Whom shall they bury– whom shall they embalm?

When the jabberwocky grinds his way out of granite, his stomach growling, what bear of little brain will fearlessly defeat him with his own misunderstanding?

What Jesus on what road on what backwoods planet will boldly go where no man has gone before?

What redemption will you find, and what grace will you offer in return? What courage will you be known for, and what bravery will you applaud? When avengers crush the buildings and scorch the skies will you run, or stand: will you endure? Who may abide the day of his coming and who shall stand when he appears?

What are you afraid to see: A ship sailing the prairies? A fish swimming the void of cosmos? A friend brought home from wandering? But who — who could possibly


Who can stand

When he comes?