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10 Things Wilderness Taught Me in 4 Days

Recently, I organized an adventure trip for male leaders through Wilderness Collective . In four days, we covered more than 275 miles from Sequoia National Forest to Yosemite National Park. We traversed rugged terrain on enduro motorcycles that lead us over mountain passes—some more than 10,000 ft. in elevation. At night, we sat around the campfire having honest, vulnerable, and courageous conversations. In all, there were eleven of us. (Ten from Middle Tennessee and one from Louisiana.) Most of us were in our mid-forties, but our ages ranged from late 20s to early 50s. A few of us got injured. All

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Parenting with Heart, Part 3

It was a beautiful spring night in early April. The trees were budding. The days were getting warmer, but the nights were still cool. Heather and Emma Claire were at a movie. I (Stephen) was bowling with our youngest sons, Henry and Teddy. Elijah was off at a friend’s house for a birthday party. We had just finished our first frame when my phone rang. It was the kind of call you never want to get. Heather was on the other end. She had a serious and panicked tone in her voice. “Stephen, they’ve taken Elijah to the hospital. He fell in a fire pit. Meet us there.”

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A To-Not-Do List

I was taken recently by the question of what my “To-Do” lists really do for me? I’ve made them and crossed things off for years. There are seasons in which these seemingly helpful lists prove a profitable exercise; a place to deposit the endless undone things I must attend to. Certainly, they can be helpful in acknowledging things that are necessary and need my attention. In other seasons, these lists, or at least the propensity to create them, feel more like a perpetual exercise in all the things that are undone. It is as if they are frantically waving their

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Parenting with Heart, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I (Stephen) was having a conversation with one of my sons and Heather in the kitchen. We were going round and round, and the conversation was precariously teetering on the verge of a blowup. My son looked me square in the eye and said, “You only listen when you’re talking.” I turned to Heather and said, “Is that true?” She said, “Yeah, it’s kind of true,” and we had a big ole laugh about it. His comment still hurt. It still stung. But he was right. The places our children can’t laugh with us are the places where we need to grow and heal.  

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Parenting with Heart

This is an excerpt from Parenting with Heart: How Imperfect Parents Can Raise Resilient, Loving, and Wise-Hearted Kids, by Stephen James and Chip Dodd  One of my sons (Chip's) and I went on a fly-fishing trip a few years ago. He was out of college, gone from our home, and moving out into the bigger world. Near the lodge where we were staying was a great place to sit and watch the stars come out in the big sky of the West. We sat talking and watching the moon rise and the stars come out. I have always loved him, and he cannot stop loving me,

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Letting Go and Holding On

I work with a lot of people around the dynamics of transition, whether it be vocational, relational, or spiritual. My deep sense is we are constantly in some state of transition, even on a micro-level, like the transition from breath to breath. So when I consider transition, I am always looking for the ways in which I am attached to something or someone, or even attached to an idea. These are hard to let go of when we know them well or when they provide a sense of security. I watched the film Toy Story 3 again recently. The premise of

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The Practice of Saying No

My good friend refers to me as a “foodie” but not in the traditional sense that I really love good, trendy restaurants, trying experimental flavors and unusual menu items. Nope. We both know it’s code for “picky eater that will eat at one of six places in town if you’d like share a meal with her.” I feel so known when she playfully calls me a “foodie” because I’ve been honest with her about my story with food, eating out, food sensitivities, and plain old preferences. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact

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Learning to Fail

There is no doubt that our culture is bent on the pursuit of success; we see it everywhere. In turn, the idea of failure is one that we expend a lot of focus and energy avoiding and helping others avoid, especially our children.     In my First-Year Seminar course for new college freshman, we spend an entire class exploring “Failure” in order to expand our understanding about what it really is, and why we’re really afraid of it — why have we been taught to avoid something that’s likely inevitable, even helpful? A number of the sources we examine

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A Different Depression

I used to believe that depression meant lying in bed all day with the covers pulled over my head. Or not going out with friends or smiling during a funny movie scene. Over time, I have come to the realization that depression is more a suppression of feelings. It can look like trying to hold it all in. It becomes more of a stature of trying to hold in your heart. Saying things like “I can do it,” or “No thanks, I don’t need any help.” Slowly, the weight of depression can push down my desires  and make me believe

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Marriage: More than You Bargained For

This is based on a homily I recently delivered at my friends’ wedding. There’s a lot here to reflect on about marriage, how it changes us, and what it calls us to become. The Judeo-Christian marriage is much more than a legal union. It’s a spiritual joining that, in it’s very nature, is designed to change people—mature them. It is so central to the spiritual DNA of life that it’s one of the major themes in the creation story. Genesis, Chapter 2, is the first narrative story in both the Hebrew Torah and Christian Pentateuch, and it sets the framework

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