Pay attention to the horse

I had just put my phone away in my chest pocket of my jacket and was about to put my glove back on my right hand. It was not snowing but the weather was changing fast and the sun was just about to disappear behind the mountains. The horse I was riding, Diamond Dan had never given me any problems in the 5 or 6 times I had ridden him, but today he was acting a bit jumpy. I hear people let down their guard when they become good at something. Motorcycles, flying, driving, all the accidents show that inexperience is not the killer, overconfident experts are.

My sister and my daughter had continued on our path ahead in a gallop. Dan obviously did not want to get left behind. He lunged ahead with out my command and as I held his reigns back he reacted with a decent sized crow hop lunge while breaking into a run. As I tried to gain control of him he went into a full buck. In seconds I was off the horse flying toward the dirt road. Wind knocked out of me lying there in severe pain I knew exactly what had just happened. I stopped paying attention to the horse.

I have had two weeks now to reflect on those few seconds that landed me in the hospital. I sustained no broken bones. I did though have severe bruising and my conscience was jarred awake. What else am I not paying attention to? What have I been missing. That night the distraction was taking a video. There is nothing bad about that at all. But in the circumstances it was completely the wrong thing to be doing. And in my life I have realized that there are many things that need my attention way more than all that seemed to consume me lately.

Continue Reading…

Picking up a frog

About a year ago we were exploring a deep canyon in the Oregon Cascade Mountains. This area is known as the old cascades because geologically it is much older than the larger mountain range that includes peaks like Mt. Hood, Three Sisters, Jefferson and Washington. This area is craggy and raw. Dense old growth forest is veined with hidden canyons. Mudslides are a normal activity and treasures are around every corner for those willing to scramble, crawl and scrape a way through them.

frogMy friend and I had our our boys and a couple of others along with us for the day. All that was planned was a canyoneering jaunt of three miles to where a bridge would bring us back to one of our vehicles.

Some of the finds that day were waterfalls to climb (luckily we brought a rope), lots of beautiful caves made from giant log jams and many critters including a frog.

I make it a point often to visit streams and leave my fly rod behind. I easily become obsessed by the possibility of trout in every pool. It leaving the rod arranges for me to disconnect from the sport and reconnect with the stream. Fly fishing master Lefty Kreh says that a great fisherman spends more time watching streams than fishing them.

Everything becomes vibrant again. I see the kingfisher, the otter, the bear tracks and the water splash on a boulder from a coyote that sprinted for safety as we advance up stream.

Patterns emerge. With it all, stress carried there from the valley melts away and we pick up frogs, salamanders and skip rocks. Boys stumble and bruise shins.

And soon enough I am back to being a calm fisherman, one that comes to the stream appreciative, not a taker but a lover.

White Washing the Canvas

One of my best painting teachers ironically was not at the world class fine arts school I began my college career at. He was an instructor at a community college. He challenged all of us to paint something and then without thinking white wash the canvas and begin again. I had my greatest breakthroughs in painting when I embraced this crazy illogical way of learning. And I learned even more when I took that first stroke of white paint and covered over what I felt was some of my best work.

paintingThe pain of covering over the work and beginning again at first seemed pointless. I wanted to show someone, hear their praises and feel the satisfaction of a job well done.
But the brilliance of it started to emerge immediately. I started to paint for me. I relaxed and just painted for the sake of painting. I started to care less whether anyone liked it or not. I became bolder with my strokes and experimented more. I had an audience of one. The painting took a second role to the true main character, the art.

In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the character Sean O’Connell played by Sean Penn says “beautiful things don’t ask for attention”. In the scene below, he has been sitting in the cold waiting to see the elusive Ghost Cat, a Himalayan snow leopard. As the cat finally appears he chooses to take the moment in and not take the photo.

Letting go of so much as I white washed my first painting set me free to enjoy the art. That was over 23 years ago. And to be honest what my teacher initiated with the canvas white-washing began to wear off and was only recovered about 8 years ago. I have noticed that the artist that does their craft for an audience of one impacts the world the most. The artist that ignores the critic and continues to do her art over and over again brings an unfiltered beauty to the world.

So where do we start? What is the equivalent of white washing our paintings today? Here is a list of just some examples I am trying and few suggestions too. Please feel free to comment and add your own.

-Use a DSLR not linked to any social sites. Of course feel free to post photos to instagram, FB or Flickr but let them rest first and post later.

-Take digital fasts. You will be amazed how hard it is to write, play music, laugh and engage with a small audience in real life. Take a few notes and pay attention to your digital addictions. I bet you will find some places where your art has become a crutch or pathway to gaining approval from others. (if you need help getting started you can read a few things I have found along the way.)

-Sit alone with your thoughts at least once a day. Allow yourself to get past the fears, clutter and must-do’s.

-Write a blog, post a picture or record a podcast and then choose to not look at how many comments it receives or likes (dislikes) it gets. Ignore everyone, even if it drives you crazy.

-Try a new language, skill or art.

-Start a journal.

-Delete all your old emails.

-When someone compliments you, say thank you and leave it at that. And for my Christian friends reading this, please consider this. My good friend Chris Skaggs has a great reply he compliments someone’s art and they say “all the glory to God” or “it is all Jesus”. He replies, “It wasn’t that good!”

-Publish something anonymously.

This is just a start. I would love to hear about your own artist journey on the topic as well as any challenges you could add to the list.

So Perfect

Ever have an experience that was so perfect that you really can’t bring yourself to go there again? How could it possibly get better. The thrill of the chase, possibility of complete failure, or anticipation of danger.

I took this shot of one of the first trout I caught last spring while fishing on the Lower Deschutes right before the peak of the Salmon Fly Hatch. The day turned out to be the best day I have had in 39 years of fishing (I think I caught my first fish with my granddad when I was about 5).

The truth is I doubt I could possibly experience anything better. It all seemed perfect from the friendship during the day, the saltiness of the guide, the smell of the river and of course the 120 some fish we caught between the three of us or the lunker 19″ redside I battled and landed near the end of the

But, like many things in life I think if we let go and embrace what comes at us we will be pleasantly surprised. I will go fishing again (and I did a month later up at a beautiful wilderness lake and caught the biggest brook trout I have ever seen).

We love again, we risk a new business venture, we try out a new skill.

We do it with expectation even if failure, complete chaos seems headed our way or everyone tells us we are nuts. If something in us says go, then we go.

Retired Flies

I am not sure when I started this practice. I think it might have been when I was fishing the Donner und Blitzen river in 1994 and caught a huge Great Basin redband rainbow trout (a species that is only native to the Great Basin region). The fish was so big that folds of fat hung down between my fingers in the picture my friend Dave snapped. I will have to share that picture sometime.

optimizedIt was a very special memory that I did not want to forget. Yes I had a picture of the fish and I don’t think I could ever forget the battle it gave me before Dave was able the net it. But for some reason I took that caddis fly and stuck it in my hat, vowing to never use it again. It had served its purpose well.

And really, it is just fur, feather and some steel. But I think a fly like that is a monument. I have many of them. Sometimes I do this with a fly that caught a first fish on a river I have never fished before. Most times it is like that 21 inch redband, a true trophy, or a fish that against many odds met the end of my line or gave me an epic fight.

Many ancient cultures have done things like this throughout the ages. Hikers leave rock cairns on stream banks, warriors mark where fallen comrades fought bravely and died. A Journey’s end or pilgrimage are often memorialized with a symbol or a word scrawled into rock.

We don’t stop and think about this often today. We post to a network when an great event takes place. While these might be markings similar to those others have done in the past they most likely will disappear with the arrival of a new platform. And what does it really cost us? Logic would say that if a fly brought such a moment to life, I should keep using the thing until it is completely spent. But it has earned me way more than several more catches could bring.

The Power of Atmospheric Change

Certain things spread rapidly among humans: rumors, bad news, accusations, scandals, bad attitudes. The list is long. You know what I’ve noticed about that list? It is full of laziness. It doesn’t take much energy or effort to join in, agree with, throw flames on or perpetuate.

Changing The AtmosphereMoods are just as contagious. A whole atmosphere in a company can take on characteristics from each of them. Salary freezes, layoffs, economic downturns, restructuring, pressure from the top for performance can sink teams and units within a business in minutes and take weeks to months to turn around. Sometimes they never recover. These impact culture and like it or not they transfers to sales, quality and worst of all how the customer feels about the brand.

This same thing can play itself out in relationships and families in the same way. Communities can go from life giving to life sucking with just one sour environment.

Ok, my point is not to focus on the negative here. Far from it. What I want to point out is how often the negative infects our world. I hope by the time I am done you will see that it doesn’t need to be that way.

So what do we do?

We simply change the atmosphere.

A business leader and friend of mine Trent Funk over the last year has taught me the power of a simple phrase. In many conversations he has challenged those he leads to be a thermostat vs a thermometer in any situation.

We bring so much with us into conversations, meetings and relationships. Much of what we bring is garbage. That might sound blunt but it is true.

This is the difference. We hold so much power over the outcome. If we bring a smile, de-escalation, hope, solutions or even silence, that other list quickly dissipates. Remember how lazy those other things are? Well, they don’t put up much of a fight when confronted with the alternatives.

I leave you with this assignment. Test it out. See what happens.

For an example watch the movie clip below. Meg Ryan’s character finds herself in a pretty sticky situation. Everyone around her is making it worse. Then steps in Tom Hank’s character. Watch how he changes the whole atmosphere.

And last, I was able to expand on this topic recently in front of my church. Here is some deeper exploration of how we can change the world this way.

Listen here: Changing the Atmosphere by John Bergquist


This guest post came about from a FB post my friend Vern Hyndman added to his wall. Both the imagery and idea of gaslighting grabbed me as one of the greatest hindrances to people connecting a deep level, heart to heart. Truthfully we all do this to some degree. Vern was kind enough to elaborate on the concept here. As you read think about all your connections from co-workers to family. Are we helping them see their true identity?“I don’t understand why, no matter how hard I try, I suck at being a father!”

Frank therapist waited that pregnant pause. It must be a class they have to take to perfect that pause… and when Frank spoke, it was with the calm authority that years of training and experience provides.

Gaslighting is the act of arranging what a person perceives, towards a lie that is fabricated and guided by another person.

“George, I have been listening to you for months now. I know your honest struggles as a father, I know what you’re intent on accomplishing for your children, and I have witnessed you putting creativity and skill into parenting. You are and you are becoming an excellent father. I’m watching it first hand, and I do this for a living. What would possibly convince you that you’re a bad father?”

Over the next hour, George related event after event, story after story, in which despite his efforts, his attempts at fathering came to naught.

George’s appointments with Frank came bi-weekly. Most people believe it is so that George can assimilate and act on what is happening in the therapy. This is partly true. Frank experienced a complementary truth in the next week. The time allowed the truth and reality of the client’s situation to be acted on by the conscious and unconscious skilled mind of the therapist.

No lawyer ever asks a question he doesn’t already know the answer to. Therapists and pastors may not be that scripted, but the best therapists and pastors allow the question, the key question, to percolate up and into their consciousness. It was the Tuesday ride to work, and the question hit him like a cement truck T-bone at a stop sign.

Frank asked George, “In each of the failures, who is it that delivers the news?”

For years, George has been being gaslighted by his mother. She meets her needs of being needed by nullifying his self-perception of his own fathering ability, leaving her free to be needed by his kids. She meets her needs by destroying him.

Gaslighting is the act of arranging what a person perceives, towards a lie that is fabricated and guided by another person.

The term “gaslighting” came into usage around a movie from the 1940’s of the same name, in which a murderer tries to convince his wife that she’s crazy.

Here’s the whole film…

Gaslighting can convince a man he’s a bad father. It can convince a woman that she’s unintelligent. Gaslighting is the PRIMARY tool of evil in the world, for those of us who believe in evil personified, it is the most effective tool of Satan.

Anyone who attempts to control another person is doing so out of their own sickness, and books like “Emotional Blackmail” by Susan Forward, or “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie help frame out how the attempts at control work, and more insidiously, how the subject of the control unwittingly cooperates with the controller.

Gaslighting is a covert activity, and insidiously it causes a person to develop serious doubts in themselves. It is horribly destructive.
Common examples;

The husband who is insecure about the strength of his marriage to his beautiful wife, so he sets about convincing her she’s incompetent and is incapable of fending for herself with out him.
The wife who is insecure about the strength of her marriage, so she sets about to convince her handyman husband that he is incompetent and useless, and that no woman would ever put up with him if they ever got to know him. She convinces him that she’s the only woman who would ever stoop to marry him, and that he should be thankful.
The parent who is afraid of being abandoned, so they sabotage the careers and romantic relationships of the children by subverting the parental ability to interpret to inject toxicity. (Your boss just has it in for you, everybody gets in fights at work. Your fiancé is unreasonable; it’s unthinkable that a young couple would want to spend Christmas anywhere but here on the couch with me.)

I use these examples because they’re common, and because they’re so amazingly destructive to both the controller and the target.

To build a sense of security, because in both examples their family of origin damaged the self-worth of the controller, the controller effectively destroys the self-worth of the subject.

The endpoint of the destruction is that the subject actually believes. The gaslighted might be DEAD, and the gaslight subject continues to believe the lies.

Sounds hopeless. It’s not.

Hope is found in truth. Hope is found in a community that not only practices seeing each other clearly, as beloved sons and daughters of God first, and then the truth, positive and negative, of the other’s lives. The community first affirms the value of the person’s identity as infinitely valuable, which is true for everyone, but is not a commonly voiced truth. And then from the security of being loved, the community reveals and polishes the amazing parts, finds and heals the wounds, and carefully acknowledges the faults and failures, so that these cannot accidentally seep into the self-perception of true identity.

Who you are is not what you do. Who you are is not defined by the situation you find yourself in. You are beloved. These are the tools that decimate the work of the gaslighter.

And for those of us who believe evil is incarnate and has a name, we find that Satan is the biggest and most prolific gaslighter ever. He invented the lies that make it work.

Recovery from gas lighting has a beautiful freedom that produces life; and for those who recover, we can’t walk by someone suffering gas lighting without at least pointing it out. And in God’s grace economy, if they’re still alive, God will sometimes send us back with grace and forgiveness for our gaslighter. Gaslighters gaslight out of terror, and love is the only answer to fear. When God sends us back, it’s not to condemn, but to remind even the gaslighter, “You are beloved. You don’t have to try to work it out yourself.”

Some folks are in relationship with a person who has a specific form of personality disorder called “Borderline Personality Disorder” or BPD. A person with BPD will invent a reality to coincide with what they feel, rather than correlate their feelings with reality as a healthy person does. The family of borderline folks experience gaslighting on a whole new level. If this is you, make sure you have supporting healthy community, get professional help, and read “Walking on Eggshells”.

Find out more about Vern at Heart Forge where he and others work as “first Responder to men and couples experiencing relational trauma”.

I want to give you all my money

Have you every learned about a cause, a charity, or a movement that stirred your heart so much that you just wanted to hand over all your possessions to help them achieve their goals?

Recently I have encountered two groups that created that response in me. I get a lot of people asking me for help. I feel honored that many see me as having a knowledge and understanding of how to connect and build a tribe. I would love to help many more than I have the ability to. But in a world of much need it is easy to become “cause numb”.

How did they do it?

gateThe first organization is Africa New Life Ministries (ANLM). I need to begin with a small disclaimer. The companies where I work, operate directly with ANLM to support our efforts in Rwanda and fulfill our mission to love the people there recovering from genocide.

My family traveled to Rwanda and saw all that ANLM is doing. All of it is incredible from schools, professional trade schools for women, day cares and much more. I was impressed not just with the organization but all of their employees. This is what dazzled me though. When we returned home, like many who have visited Rwanda, I was a bit traumatized. There is a great deal to process. While a great amount of hope and recovery is occurring, there are still plenty of remnants of the 100 days of genocide 20 years ago. While I had studied the history extensively, I had never heard first hand accounts from people I now call friends. It took me weeks to even feel comfortable telling anyone about the trip. But then ANLM’s Ministry Engagement Manager Matt Stein met me for a debriefing coffee. We talked for nearly three hours. He truly listened and cared. I walked away wondering what the difference was. I worked for nearly a decade in the NGO world. It is easy to become jaded and loose hope in what sometimes seems like an impossible task, changing the world. But like Matt, every person I met who worked for ANLM had hope in their eyes. It was a strong and convicted hope too, not naive and uninformed. It was Matt’s heart that helped me begin to tell others about what I learned in Rwanda. Most of all he helped me tell stories of hope.

The second group surprised me while I attended their annual banquet this past Sunday night. I came to support my friends who hadlamp
started a safe home called House of Engedi for women over 18 being rescued from sex trafficking. I walked away completely excited about the work of Compassion First. I have come to know more than a few agencies and NGOs fighting sex trafficking around the world in the past two years since writing on assignment in Thailand. What Compassion First did to wake me up was pretty simple. They connected me by telling great stories, sharing some of why each of the staff was doing what they do and as odd as it seems, being unashamed to ask for financial help, volunteers, encouragement, any kind of help. Most of all they were humble about their efforts. The night was truly enjoyable. It is really tough to take such a dark subject like trafficking and put on an event that leaves the attendees hopeful and energized to help. But they did it so well. Some may say “well it is just because they hired a great event planner”. I have been to many events. And just as I can not stand posing in other people, posing in an organization is just as intolerable. Compassion First is the real thing. Surely not perfect, but oh so refreshing.

You control it

You have eaten till you are sick. Bloated, dizzy, tired, and worn out, like a kid the day after halloween. You’ve stuffed yourself with every news story and social post for days. You might have even hovered over that “delete account” link.

Feed by Nat Iwata

Feed by Nat Iwata

And it doesn’t matter if it is an election cycle, holiday season or summer. We have access to an endless stream of information. Extreme cases are showing up of people who are suffering from internet addiction disorder (IAD). Every like, share, mention and comment can take over our brains just like a drug response. We end up depressed, disenchanted and actually disconnected from others.

Are you bummed out now? Well I don’t want you to be. I want you to be truly connected to others. And I want you to be able to use tools that get you there.

Over the years I have returned to the topic of what we allow into our lives via the web. There is the news stream that demands we stress out over every “they will read if it bleeds” story headline. For that I have been editing and updating how I personally stay in touch with current events. It changes often.

It is up to us. We have the control. What media, social media sites, advertisers and campaigners rely on is us being lazy. Algorithms and targeting that caters to our desires and habits lose power when we don’t give them control.

I spent today cleaning up lists on Twitter, Facebook, deleting apps and making some lists of friends that I want to reconnect with (and saying goodbye to acquaintances that have fallen to the side. There is a good post coming on that one.) And just as an example yesterday I recorded how FB displays things in my main news feed. Talk about crazy. This timeframe of friend posts being fed to me. 3hrs ago, 3hrs ago, Oct 18th, yesterday, 13 hrs ago, 23 hrs ago, 5hrs ago, 23hrs ago, 5hrs ago, Oct 18th……. it is ridiculous!

I want you to ask yourself a few questions before I end. Feel free to add answers or more questions and comments.

-How much time do you spend on any given social media?
-Have you ever thought of coming up with a personal news plan?
-Do you have relationships that need to go deeper and ones that need to fade away?

All of these platforms are incredible. All of them can be used to help others, spread great information, build important communities and enjoy real connection.

Oh and thanks to Nat Iwata for the drawing. You will see a lot more of him here since we are working on a cool secret project together. Isn’t he amazing!?

If you want to know more about how I go about staying trim on the web you can read more on the following posts.

-All the News that is tailored to read

-Posts about Twitter lists

-Taking control of your Facebook feed

Who Helps You Get Back Up?

This week I was discussing the video below with one of my best friends Chris Skaggs, a real trenchmate if there ever was one. One learned quickly in the world is that we get thrown off our plans. And we get thrown often. I don’t care if you are setting out to be a good wife or husband, parent, friend or starting a new business. You get thrown more than you really like or could have ever imagined. Yes there are those that have success right out of the gate but believe me I don’t know anyone that has not eventually experienced failures, disruptions and devastation.

I have been tracking the launch of John Eldredge’s latest book with his oldest son Blaine called Killing Lions. In the online magazine his three boys recently launched and the video series to go with the book, they have been exploring the steps a young man takes to manhood. In the third video called The Right Decision, they document the grueling pain and discouragement of “lions”. The obstacles and challenges we all face in life.

In the film the narrator says, ‘in life there are lions we choose to face, and then there are lions that come out of no-where” like being thrown off a plan in our pursuit of something great. The lions are not what define us but how we deal with them.

The guys are on a long mt. bike ride through Utah’s Moab desert. What happens next is an unexpected fall for one of their friends, Naz. The fall is not his fault either. It is one of those “out of no where” lions. What really makes the difference is John’s words of encouragement, guidance, truth and love. His dialogue with Naz, the young friend is priceless.

Naz: I just wanted to finish.
John: You will. You will. Look at me. The trip is not over. It’s not over yet


I feel so fortunate to have many trenchmates who speak those same words. They help me get back up and back at it……every day. If you don’t have any go find some. Invite them in. Is it risky? Of course it is. But they are worth more than all the riches in the world.

Thanks John Eldredge and sons for reminding us.

You can watch the film here:

Page 1 of 2312345»1020...Last »