All posts by Chris Marshall

Living in the Middle

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
 I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
 the flames will not set you ablaze.” -Isaiah 43:1-2


If you are writing a great story, you better have a great ending.  I’m not that kind of writer, but I know that if you want to keep the reader’s attention, you build tension in the narrative until you reach climax with the ending of the story and then it settles on from crescendo.  Whether it be in tragedy or triumph, all great stories have a great ending.  It’s so satisfying to reach a clear conclusion, there’s great closure when you close the book cover after a good story and exhale now you no longer are living in the tension of ‘not knowing’ how it ends.

As humans, we prefer answers to our questions.  If you are an A-type personality human like me, you really really like answers and conclusions to get on with the rest of life and start planning and strategizing.  But life is more complex than that isn’t it?  Sometimes you have no idea how the story is going to end, but you aren’t a passive 3rd party reader, you are the main character in the narrative.  It’s YOUR story that you don’t know the end to, or even how the next chapter will begin.  You hope for the best, you long for goodness, you wait expectantly . . . but it’s not someone else’s fears and anxieties; it’s yours.

When you are living in the middle, you get to choose your orientation:

  • Do you want to be oriented in the previous chapters?  -You know well the shores you left, you knew how that world worked?  The tastes, the smells, the ground etc. are all still recently familiar to you and there is a comfort in that.  Do you want to live in this chapter flipping back to previous chapters and finding your identity there?  You can choose to walk backwards into the unknown future.
  • Do you want to be oriented in ending only?  -You have strong invested interest in how this story ends.  You know there will be a finish line, you know the adventure will end in a conclusive reality, you can only count success as crossing that line and realizing the end goal.  You can choose to walk forward and just dog it out until the results are in, calling the results the ‘end game’ you are shooting for.
  • Do you want to be present and live in the tension of the middle? – The middle is just hard sometimes.  It’s hard to sit and be present in the unknown.  Starting a story is easy, knowing the end of a story is even easier (you reading last chapter first kind of people!), living in the tension of the middle is the hard part.   Allowing the tension and anxiety to build and actually liking it for the character-building opportunity that it is can be a challenge.  The middle chapters can be the best part sometimes.  One of my leadership mantras is #TTP, ‘trust the process‘.  Believe that the process is just as good as the beginning and the end, it is in the middle where the main character grows in fortitude and personhood.  Learning, living and growing up happens in the process.

I’m choosing to show up in the tension of the middle.  I don’t exactly know what the shores are like for me and my family ahead, I do not know the end of this story.  But I do know that the God who made me, who named me, paid a price for me and He has good in mind.  He’s not afraid to throw me in a refining process of ‘growing up’ and He’s patient to trust His own process.

I trust the process because I trust the One who is authoring the process.  #TTP  He is THE author, I’m not here to write my own story.  As I’m living day to day, moment by moment and showing up in the tension of the middle, I can tell you one thing . . . it’s a real page turner!

4 Things I Love About ‘Pokemon Go’


Yeah . . . I went there, I’m adding to the buzz ad nausea of this latest global craze but instead of being my normal judgy mcjudgerson on what is popular, this one I’m kind of endorsing??    Instead of yelling at the kids to GET OFF MY LAWN!!  Let me try and be a bit open minded here.  RELAX!  Let me explain.

Disclaimer:  I’ve never watched Pokemon, never collected a single card, my kids never did. I downloaded the app. for about 12 hours and then deleted it.  I caught one squirtle in my backyard but my 14 hr. old had no interest in it so I deleted it.  I’m now again unhip, irrelevant and uncool, but that’s a comfortable space for me.

Here’s 4 things I do love about the Pokemon Go phenomenon:

  1. Kids, teens and young adults are outside walking around –   Sure, they are staring deep into their phones and perhaps not being completely aware of their surroundings, BUT they are not sitting inside on couches eating chips and soaking in unnatural lighting.  They are outside soaking up Vitamin D and Serotonin, maybe they won’t need as many anti-depressant or ADD drugs.  Just being outside and moving does wonders for our physiological make-up, it sure does for me.
  2. Families are doing something fun together – Yeah, my 14 yr. old son had zero interest going hunting with me but that seems to be a rare instance.  I’m seeing in my community and all around Facebook, parents and kids doing something fun together.  Our cultural stories recently have been so dark and violent, we needed something for families to do together.  You know the age-old saying:  The Family that hunts ‘Charizard’ together, stays together.
  3. Millenials are solving problems – I’ve been guilty of being one of the old curmudgeon (Gen X’er) accusing the millenial generation of being entitled and not contributing their fair share to our culture’s woes.  But, as an educator, I’m a huge fan of ‘play’ as a means of engaging our minds and bodies in problem solving.  We are not robots, the industrial world of the utilitarian drone is not our reality.  Our world is complex and diverse, we need creative problem solving to do something about it.  Something as simple as Pokemon Go has an entire generation using ‘play’ towards problem-solving.  I am all for it.  Working together, networking, sharing resources, solving problems; these are the bedrock skills for world-changers.  Once those brain neurons are firing off, who knows what else they could find to tackle next.  Confidence and a sense of accomplishment creates great personal momentum.  We all need the Millenials to be a ‘kick a$$’ generation, I’m holding out hope yet.
  4. It’s Clean and Innocent – This is a relative argument and surely there are some on my readership far more conservative than me and will accuse it all of being the spawn of Satan, but in my relatively acute opinion, it’s clean and innocent play. Let’s be real, the other options at the fingertips of the same generation is 1st person shooter games, gory role playing games and internet pornography.  Squirtles, Weedles and Jigglypuffs harken back to a more innocent time in American culture, we could use a little of it for our kids to grow up in.

So I’m sorry for getting on board with it all.  Though I’m not actively hunting, I’m cheering on those of you who are from the sidelines.  Happy Hunting my friends, may the Pikachu of your dreams be just around the next corner!


Moses is Dead . . . the Transition Bridge



“1 After the death of Moses the servant of God, God spoke to Joshua, Moses’ assistant: ‘Moses my servant is dead. Get going . . . ‘ “(Joshua 1:1)

Some transitions in life are just really clear.  Historically for the people of Israel, when one of their great patriarchs Moses dies, it is a clear and distinct line in the sand that things are going to change.  It can’t be like it ‘used to be‘ because Moses is not in the land of the living and there is no evidence of a zombie apocalypse.  Moses is dead, he isn’t coming back.  His reign as a trusted leader is over, it’s not business as usual.  He’s not going to make Israel great again, so now what?  It’s unsettling, it’s confusing, it’s a time for many questions and can throw you right into a land of chaos and anxiety.  How will it turn out?  How will this end?  Where does this bridge take us?  What is the land like over there?  Is it like the old way of life?  Is it safe?  Is it good?  Do I want to go there?  What can I trust?

Time of great transition can be very, very unsettling.  I know because my family and I are in one.  I’m here to testify to the great unsettling.  I do find comfort in the fact that we aren’t the first ones to do a great life transition, it’s been done before and even studied as a psycho-emotional phenomenon.  In 1991, William Bridges, wrote a book called ‘Managing Transitions’ in which he lays out the 3 stages humans go through in great times of transition.  His focus is not on the external ‘change‘ that happens to you, but on the internal free choice to slowly and deliberately move through ‘transition‘.  We can’t always control change (i.e. Moses is dead) but we can control what choices we make to transition internally.   Focus is on transition, not change.

Bridges 3 step transition model is as follows:

  1. Ending, Losing and Letting Go – this is the human emotion area of fear, denial, anxiety, anger, sadness, frustration, loss etc.  Until acceptance happens, we stay here.
  2. The Neutral Zone – the slow process of detachment with the old.  Resentment towards change, low productivity, low morale, skepticism and anxiety about new roles.  This can be opportunity for seeing things completely differently with new lenses altogether.
  3. The New Beginning – this is where acceptance leads to new and bright energy.  Excitement over new roles, openness to new learnings and a renewed commitment to the group.  When you get here . . . take time to mark the transition and celebrate!!!

Just because there is a marked process, it doesn’t mean to hurry up and get it over with.  The process is it’s own learning, trust the process.  Don’t look to get it over with, soak up the juices for the learnings that are in there, it’s part of the marrow of life.  Take your time, take care of your emotional self, you are worth a healthy transition.  Are you in great transition like me?  Let’s cross the bridge slowly and deliberately . . . on the other end is a New Beginning and I’m believing it’s good.

“If you want to live life free
Take your time go slowly
If you want your dream to be
Take your time, go slowly”Little Church’ (Donovan Leitch)

Give us Free

July 4th, Independence Day, is a really big deal in my native America, as it should be.   Our founding people (men, women and children), the original American entrepreneurs, risked all to come to these colonies and live out the creation of a new dream called ‘America’.   July 4, 1776 at a meeting of the Continental Congress, the Declaration of Independence was adopted making the 13 American colonies a new nation and no longer a part of the British Empire.  This is our national heritage and it’s a rich and proud one.  Our story is one of radical independent thinking, visionary architects of a new and free society, democratic representation, activists of equality and laborers of justice.  This dream of a new society, fueled by a sense of destiny and the protestant work ethic, is the heritage we celebrate today.   It was Revolutionary thinking and doing.

There is a reality though, like any start-up idea, that the 1.0 version is not the totally developed thought or best practice and it’s okay to lament that.  There was a dream, an ideal, but the movement was stuck in the perspective of the time.  “All men are created equal” with rights to vote only applied to white, land-owning men in 1789 for the first election.   Allowing non-whites and women to vote came in hard fought after amendments to the original idea years later.   Additionally shameful is that the revolutionary way forward to build a new economy happened on the backs of cheap and free labor, slavery largely to African-Americans is our heritage.  The rise of the agricultural, industrial and trade industry of early-America does not happen without this free labor, of men and women not seen as ‘created equal’ and thus cruely and inhumanely treated.  Our rise to being a world super power is both an economic reality and a human travesty.  The American Dream is not realized until “Give us Free”, all of us.

In today’s world, we yet wrestle with racial and gender equality.   We are still working out the great American Dream into a free reality.  Present day abolitionists have made us acutely aware of the incredible proliferation today of young girls and boys caught in the violent cycle of human sex trafficking.  Where is their, “Give us Free” within American borders?  Until all of us are free, we are not free to stop working at the ideals of the American Dream.

I am a white, educated, middle-class male in modern America and I am fully aware of the privilege that comes with that and that others don’t get that same ‘benefit of the doubt’.  I have a responsibility to speak, influence and act in my role to empower “Give us Free” to keep making progress.  Racism and Sexism are not a thing of the past, they are alive and well in today’s America.  I celebrate today my freedom to choose to involve my voice and action into the liberation of others, particularly those left on the margins.  Freedom is a really big idea, and it’s worth dying for . . . for all of us  “Give us Free”, all of us.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

What’s next, Papa?


So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” – Romans 8:12-15 (The Message)

For financial and personal reasons, I’ve just worked my last day in my present job with a wonderful company that gave me a chance to use my leadership and culture building skills in the marketplace these past 4 years.  I thought I was going to be continuing this role for quite some time but per a lot of factors, I found myself in a time of great transition.  The challenging part at 43, sole income in my home, wife and 3 kids, is that I don’t have anything financially to step into right away.  This was not the plan.   We did not come to this conclusion lightly, we walked through darkness and fear to a jumping off point that can only be categorized as ‘faith’.

So in this place of ‘faith’, we get to choose our perspective and attitude.  We get to choose what voices we want to listen to.  We can lament about the past, we can paralyze in fear of the present . . . or we can step out in ‘faith’ into our future.  There is no life in lament and fear, they breed death because they have no life.  The only source of life I’m aware of is the Author of life.  The God of the heavens and the earth, the creator/sustainer of the universe, the alpha and the omega, the One who spoke and life began, that’s the One we are following into the great unknown.  The only relevant voice to us is His.  He is our provision, He is the painter of the unknown canvas, He is the architect of our future.  God has never left us alone, so at this great transition in our life, we ask the Father: What’s next, Papa?’

I believe a part of this kicking a bird out of the nest is I confess that I have somewhat run from a primary calling on my life to use my voice to teach, write, encourage, inspire others to try things in their life that lead to hope, life and community development.  It’s what I’ve given my life to and I sense that God is now throwing me out into a future of being more direct with the formation of new communities and proclaiming an aggressive message of hope in a culture that is only celebrating destruction.  It’s not a time for being timid, it’s time for adventurous courage and a primal scream into the future a story of hope.  It’s not theory, it’s action and practice and experimenting.  It’s about local, family, community and neighborhood; where change can happen.

So, what’s next, Papa?

  1. is where this blog will be moving to when it is ready and it’s a story-telling company I am launching next.  It is a space where hope and life is our rebellion, where that primal scream into action happens for a different future and a transformation of faith and culture in community.  It is where I will house and open-source my teaching, writing and leadership development opportunities.
  2. is ready to launch in a matter of days, this is our direct-trade wholesale company that is on mission to fund hope with our friends at Lemonade International for the work with the vulnerable children of La Limonada, the most dangerous slum in Central America.  This is our family’s first company and it’s in collaboration with an amazing team of dedicated leaders who wow me in their talent and heart for the project.
  3. Online Professor of Missional Community and Organic Church Planting Specialist with  It’s a global, progressive University launching in Fall of 2017 that I’m honored to be in the start-up faculty for.  It’s mission is to educate, equip, train and mobilize ordinary leaders (not clergy) to do the work of hope and God’s Kingdom building in local contexts around the world.  I will be writing curriculum for my online teaching modules for the next 9 months or so in preparation for the launch.  I will be sharing much of that material on
  4. ????????????

What’s next, Papa?  You can follow the story here.


Raging Thanks

“You walk through all my walls
Conquered my shame
Stepped into my past
Fill my world with grace
You didn’t have to come
But You wanted to

I say Thank You”

When life is challenging, when you are tempted towards despair, when the voice of darkness whispers in your ear, when it seems that circumstances are overwhelming . . . what do you do?  How do you deal with the waves of the storm crashing on your shore?  Can you worry them away?  Does the focus on every negative perception ever change one of them into a positive reality? Throwing worry, fear, anxiety, depression, dark thoughts etc. out on the waves have only a negative return.  There is no life in those defense mechanisms, you just become more staunch in your negative and dark space.

I’m choosing to Rage in my Thanks.  I’m working hard at not focusing on what is not happening, at what is not my preferred state, on what is not working out etc.  I’m focusing on the God of provision who has never left me alone.  I’m focusing on the One who showed up in my life when I was poor and a beggar and he showered me with grace and gifts.  At every stage of my life he has never changed.  He loves me and he always has, what do I even have to worry about?  My circumstances are harsh, but so is my thanks.  If the storms are raging on my shore then I’m here tonight shouting right back into the salty air, I’m raging in my thanks.  

I have so much to be thankful for.  I married my best friend who is my biggest fan, I have 3 AMAZING and talented kids (you should meet them), I belong to an authentic and honest church community that would run through a wall for me and my family, I’m filthy rich with great friends, my dog loves me, my Jeep rocks, my bed is comfortable, my roof isn’t leaking (at the moment), my fridge is full, my grill is tasty, my blood pressure is managed, my soul is free.  I can’t hear the storm tonight because I’m not falling into the trap of fear, I’m raging in thanks.  Join me.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? – Matthew 6:25-27

Living the life you can’t see


“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

I have spent the majority of my adult life as a champion ‘realist’ defined as “you never expect good things to happen, but maybe you’re just a realist, a person who uses facts and past events, rather than hopeful feelings and wishes, to predict the future.”  I suppose that realism can make you look pretty smart, the most accurate predictor of future behavior is typically past behavior.

The upside to realism may be this predictive wisdom but there is also a shadow side, it’s a defense mechanism against the pain of failure.  If you don’t put your neck out there to hope for something, then you’ll never have to experience the pain of loss.  Nobody likes pain, nobody likes losing, nobody likes the death of a dream . . . but is the choice to settle for safety in fact a deeper loss?  Brene Brown says, “If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.”  What I’m learning is that a stoic realism is not the best parts of life.  A life without vulnerability keeps us from love, joy, freedom and power.  That’s a reality I’m not interested in.

This will be my last week at my present job, for financial reasons my position was eliminated and rather than taking someone else’s job in the company, I’m following a call (a deep burden, tug on my heart) to enter into a future I can’t see altogether yet.  I want to lead, I want to write, I want to teach, I want to build community, I want to work at alleviating poverty and I want to sell a lot of coffee (my new side business).

In full vulnerability, I have no idea how this is going to work.  I am the only full-time income in our home and I presently have no prospects on another full-time job.  I have a Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate degree yet I’m mostly unqualified for the jobs I see posted.  My hope is not in the realism of my past, my faith is in a God I can’t see and in a future that is uncertain.  But I’m showing up in this stage of my life, I’m putting it all on the line.  I’m stepping forward, I’m not looking back.  It’s time for me to start living a life I can’t see.  

Come along and follow the story . . .

Elevated Thoughts


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

-Isaiah 55:8-9

We live in a world where we desperately need perspective. Wireless technology, over-scheduled lives, entertainment idols, 24 hr. news talking heads, consumer appetites and the American dream are all a chasing after the wind.  They often result in anxiety, stress, disorder, sickness, worry, disenchantment, entitlement, ungraciousness, self-serving attitudes and a manic fear of scarcity.  We worry that there won’t be enough, we won’t have enough and that it all revolves around us.  We’re wrong, we simply lack perspective, we need Elevated thoughts.

The world was here waaaaaaayyyyy before us and it will be here waaaaaaaayyyyy after us.  We aren’t a unique snowflake, we aren’t gods and rock-stars; we are simply parts of a larger whole, but we need perspective to see it.  Where can you stop and get Elevated thoughts from that is a voice other than the manic race of our modern world?  Who or what can sit outside the limitations of your present situation and have the power and perspective to speak truth into it?  I guess we all get to choose.

I’m getting back to choosing something very old; the Scriptures.  I’ve returned to reading 5-6 chapters a day of varied holy texts to fill my mind with Elevated thoughts.  Thoughts that are not of me, but are from a dimension outside of the one I’m living in but that interact with the unseen.  I’m believing that many of the answers for the future are in fact rooted in the past.  I’m seeking perspective higher than the voices around me, I’m looking for perspective that has stood the test of time.  How you think, then shall you live.  I want to live wisely, so I better choose my Elevated thoughts wisely.  Join me.

‘Crowds lie, the more people the less truth’


Bono and U2’s rejection letter

‘. . . if it is the crowd which turns the scale – then there is untruth.’  – Soren Kierkegaard, The Point of View

Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime, Galileo was put on trial for heresy, Walt Disney was fired for ‘lacking imagination’, Spielberg was rejected admittance to the USC school of cinematic arts, Einstein struggled in school due to communication and behavioral problems, J.K. Rowling was on welfare when she started writing ‘Harry Potter’ and Billy Graham was told at his Christian college ‘he’d never amount to anything’.

Conventional truth may not be truth at all.  Culturally we push for social norms for ‘normal living’ and learning for pre-determined and safe results.

You know the American script:

  • go to school, play well with others, pass your standardized tests, learn how to sit up and do something you don’t like for 8 hours a day so that later in life you can mimic that behavior in something called a ‘job’
  • go to college, extend adolescence, rack up student loans, and learn that a ‘degree’ doesn’t mean a ‘job’
  • get married, have kids, tell them it was harder when you were a kid and like it, drive a SUV to soccer practice and Kroger because you are ‘totally adventurous’
  • save up enough $ through your ‘work’ life to save up 25-30 years of something called retirement where you apparently finally ‘really live’ in freedom, but it looks like collecting shells on the beach and eating dinner at 4:00

Pardon my cynical sarcasm, I’ve just never been one to accept the norm.  I’m leery of crowds and accepted truths, they make me skeptical.  Many times I’m far more attracted to the waters others are not in.  There just has to be better answers to life’s questions than in the norm of accepted living.  Do you ever consider pushing out to deeper waters even though you don’t know where that current will take you?

It’s a risk, maybe the crowd is safe.  But maybe the crowd is wrong.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost