Today begins Ignite, a Leadership Initiative of the Rocky Mountain Conference. It is a program that has slow-cooked over the last few years, which means it’s tender and has a unique tastiness to it. That means that there is a lot of anticipation for it.

Our hosting team is Erin Gilmore, Corbin Tobey-Davis, Todd Smiedendorf, Sue Art, Larry McCulloch, and myself. We’ve been meeting over the last nine months to build our team and imagine this program. We will be hosting participants over the next nine months. There are 32 of us in total.

Our location is La Foret, a really beautiful facility high in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains near Colorado Springs. It is expected to snow today, but then melt off later during the week.

So, much is in place. Our physical set-up. Much of our design that we will review and improve a bit more today. There will be a mix of teachings, ceremony, exercises, food, rest, and time to encounter each other. These kind of spaces are needed. As the intensity of world needs grows, we need well-held spaces in which to be thoughtful and kind.

Our three purposes in particular:

  • Deepen our own being: We believe if you grow the person, the world gets better. We will learn who we are and become grounded to our being, strengthening our capacity to be the leaders our institutions and communities need.

  • Amplify our relationships: We believe you can’t be human alone. We will develop a strong and trustworthy community where you can be vulnerable and loved.

  • Be church in a different way for times such as these. The challenges of our time are everywhere, even in the people we minister with—after all, faith communities are where many go to make sense of such times. This requires a centered and evolved leadership paradigm of going together, not alone; of growing relationships, not isolation; of learning collaboration, not competition. Ignite is about taking that path of learning and evolving together.

Ready, go!



What Boys Do

Boys do stupid things. I am one of them. I’ve done a few stupid things in my time.

This is not to say that boys are generally stupid. Nor, that all boys are stupid. Nor, that boys don’t do some pretty amazing and intelligent and kind things. But, I’m guessing that most of us, now grown in age, could have an important round of sharing stories about stupid things we’ve done, ranging anything from confessions of shame to “thank God it all worked out” acknowledgements of dumb luck.

I remember the time my twelve year-old friend took a whack at hornet’s nest (yes, I watched). That didn’t turn out too well. It required a trip to the hospital and counting the bites as badge of honor was of little comfort.

I remember the time my two early teen friends and I rode triple on a small mustang bike. One stood peddling. One on the handle bars. One sitting backwards on the seat. I think we laughed, proud of our ingenuity which only needed to get us half a mile to the end of the block. That one ended in scrapes and bruises and nowhere near the end of the block.

And then there was the time that two of my high school friends sat down, intrusively, in a restaurant next to a scrawny and solo junior high kid (I was pretty scrawny too), and pulled up their sleeves and began flexing biceps. It seemed funny, but…

Boys do stupid things.

So let’s suppose that, developmentally, boys will continue to do a stupid thing here and there. Inevitably. Let’s call it a phase, please.

The problem, however, is when boys don’t make it far enough out of the phase that tells us it’s a good idea to whack a hornet’s nest. When you’re twelve, ok. Live and learn. You’ll survive, hopefully. Say sorry to the hornets. When your 22, umm, really? When your 42, developmentally stunted. When your older than that, well that’s just sad. When your a leader with power, weapons, resources and influence globally, umm, that’s at minimum, sad commentary, and arguably, immoral or criminal.

Too many men are living void of essential maturing, still doing stupid boy things, yet with the power of bigger weapons, wealth, and ego — costumed in the illusion of matured human being.

When your a boy doing stupid things, stuff that doesn’t really matter in the long run, seems to matter a bunch. Speed means a lot. Fast cars. Shiny hubcaps. Bulking up means something. Protein. Calories. Looking good at the beach, or the pool, or hanging out on the corner. When your a teenaged boy doing stupid things, hormones drive way too much and too far. It’s stupid to objectify women and claim property in sexual encounter. When you are a boy doing stupid things, you pick fights that don’t need to be fought. Your pride doesn’t let you back down. You escalate to save face. When you’re a boy doing stupid things, you start fires with gasoline and if you are lucky, you only singe your eyebrows. Then you do it again without regard, grabbing a bigger canteen of gas.

Let’s be clear. There are many underlaying narratives and entrenched societal practices that need fundamental re-evaluation and conscious evolution. Much underlaying emotion is surfacing now — animosity, polarity, extremism — but these have been present, lurking, and hidden for a long time. I believe we are now living in an unavoidable confrontation with much hidden individual and collective shadow, which is a good thing. It’s not, however, leadership that is calling all of this forward. It is merely a symbol of outrageous egotism that is triggering most of us, and upping our alertness to essential, required, evolutionary change.

When boys pose as men, with accoutrements of power, money, authority, and yet still, to the core, have the unmatured, uninitiated psyche of boys, we are in a time of some much needed and deep soul searching. Definitely for what we see “out there.” But also for the unmatured and uninitiated “in here,” in each of us. It’s time to name the stupid boy things out loud, honestly. It’s time to take a good look inside to the ways that collectively, we’ve grown and allowed such hornet-whacking norms to be considered even remotely acceptable in boys and men.

Soul-searching. This is one of those times.



I am learning a lot through a team that I’m working with that is planning a series of leadership retreats.

Together, as a core team, we have been challenged to reach below the surface, and below what is below that, to clarify what we even mean by leadership. My goto is a definition from my Berkana Institute days, “a leader is anyone who wants to help.” It’s really important work to do this reaching. And it’s got some tricky edges to it.

Together, as so often is the case with teams, we have been challenged to lean in to our differences and open to a coherence and value in them. That work requires exquisite attention to our relationships, which I’m glad that we have.

Some of what I am learning through this group is about leadership as “refreshing vision, supporting alignment, and championing execution.” That is good stuff. And it’s a package. It sparks a lot in me about what that has to do with a participative approach. Execution has often been the privileged aspect of this trio.
I would suggest that within such leadership practice, this enticing trio, there are masculine expressions and feminine expressions. The masculine has  typically meant “being in front of” and has shadow of “going without people, come hell or high water.” The feminine has typically meant “going together in collaboration and listening” and has shadow of “lost in perpetual gooeyness.”

I’m drawn to “leadership as practice” though sometimes it shows up as “position.” And am extremely glad to be around smart people who are able and willing to explore the edges together.

To Gold

Dreams inform my life. As symbols. As glimpses to the subconscious. As touch-points to what is collectively invisible. There are no absolutes for me in dream interpretation. An entry point to sense-making beyond rational brain is enough. And utterly fruitful. I give myself permission to pick any detail or details from the dream, with the only reason being that it / they have my attention in recall. That’s where I start. I find that when I give my dreams my attention, I remember more of them.

This week I dreamed:

I am an old man, perhaps in my 80s. I live in a village where there is a king (or prince). There is a narrow and steep path of stone on the edge of a mountain that leads from the village up and over a mountain. Each stone is like a shingle, overlapped by the next. Each stone is rectangular, two feet in length and about nine inches wide, and 1.5 inches thick. The king has asked for someone to do an enormous task (I can remember what it was in the dream). As an old man, I tell him that I can’t do that, but I can “paint” each stone from the path that leads up and over the mountain. There is some reward that I will receive if I’m able to do this. The king accepts. I proceed. With each slab of stone, I brush its full surface with at first a cedar bough, that then turns to a paint brush, though there is no paint. I begin to get scared from the height of the path when I am about 50 feet above the village. It is very narrow and it is a steep fall. I can see villagers below and know that I’m in a dangerous place. At first, I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to feel embarrassed or ashamed for not accomplishing the task. However, my fear of the height over takes me. I call out in fear and slowly step down the stone-shingled path, one stone at a time, which continues to really scare me. But then I’m able to hold the slabs with my left hand and slide all at once to the bottom. I feel my failure of not painting the whole path. The next morning I wake to find that each stone that I brushed and painted has turned to gold. The king is wondering how I did it (and valuing it). I don’t know how I did it. I wake.

One of my details in this dream is the alchemical change, which is as good of a narrative as I find to invite depth in human beings together in work, community, family, etc.

Whether you think it, respond with a comment, or reach me privately, what do you touch that turns to gold, even without knowing exactly how it happens?