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make_space

make_space

I didn’t have any space or margin in my life, not because there wasn’t any to be had, but b/c I had not been intentional in making it. Spiritually and emotionally and mentally speaking I could no longer breathe.

When I was in high school I remember thinking that being a Christian would be easier when I got to college. When I was in college I remember thinking that being a Christian would be easier after I graduated. After I graduated and later felt a call to ministry I remember thinking that being a Christian would be easier when I was paid to be one. I don’t know why I thought any of those things, because it hadn’t gotten easier at any of the steps along the way. If anything, moving into full-time ministry had made it harder to live out a life of faith.

At the point that I reached year 18 of paid ministry, things had never gotten easier and I was feeling the pinch of life, ministry, family, and constant activity with a generous portion of stress and anxiety poured on top. I was stressed out, overworked, exhausted, and quickly losing passion for ministry. At that point I felt God nudging me and telling me to make_space.

make         space

s     p     a     c     e

I didn’t have any space or margin in my life, not because there wasn’t any to be had, but b/c I had not been intentional in making it. Spiritually and emotionally and mentally speaking I could no longer breathe. Thankfully my church blessed me with a 30-day sabbatical to get away and be refreshed and renewed.

My wife and I initiated that sabbatical time with a trip to the tattoo parlor where I got that phrase permanently printed on my forearm. 

make_space  

It will be a constant reminder to intentionally make space for God, for breath, for rest, for life-giving relationship, for reflection, and for anything else that would bring joy and life rather than the bone-weary-exhaustion that I had come to believe was normal.

Regularly spending time with a Spiritual Director has now become a major part of the way I personally make_space in the midst of busy life, and my dream is to create an environment where that can be true for others. That’s the purpose of this blog, this website, and eventually my Spiritual Direction Practice for others. May you make_space for God and those things which are life-giving and a blessing for you.

[Sidenote: I am currently training to become a Spiritual Director. You can check that portion of the website to read more about what that entails. I am not currently taking clients until my certification is complete, but in the mean time please keep up with my writing here, along with some other opportunities that I share along the way.]

 

Something Beautiful

Romans 8:28 from The Voice Translation: “We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.”

One of my favorite Old Testament stories is about Joseph, sometimes alternately known as the Technicolor Dreamcoat guy. He had a rough go of it (see Genesis 37-50—yes it’s a long story but a good one!). He was despised by his brothers, sold by them into slavery, accused of rape, tossed in jail, forgotten and left behind, etc. In every situation God was working behind the scenes, sometimes visible but mostly unseen, and bringing about good from bad situations.

If anyone had the opportunity to cry out, “Why God?! Why me?!” it was Joseph. If anyone could ask the question, “Why does bad stuff happen to good people?” it was Joseph. 

What always springs forth to mind with that last question is that it infers that it’s totally fine if bad stuff happens to “bad people” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) and that only good stuff should happen to “good people.” The truth is that good stuff happens to everyone and bad stuff happens to everyone. That’s life, and that’s reality. Stuff happens. Period.

What I’ve come to realize is that the questions we ask are not always the right ones (see this post for more on that), and sometimes asking questions isn’t helpful in the slightest. What has been helpful for me, though, is the verse that I shared above. The Voice translation is a fun one to check from time to time to compare with other translations, and I love the way this is translated. God IS able to orchestrate everything—sometimes behind the scenes and invisible but still active—to work toward something good and beautiful. That something good and beautiful can often be hard to find, but it’s there. That something good and beautiful may not spring forth immediately in the timing that we would prefer, but it will happen.

No matter the darkness, ugliness, brokenness, or pain, there is promise that God is not absent. God sees and knows and cares, even if it seems for a time that we are alone. 

We might not see the ways that God is at work, and it might not be our definition of the right timing, but God is there and is able to orchestrate something good and beautiful out of even the worst of circumstances. 

If you’ve been wanting to talk about the circumstances in your life, and could use some help in processing the good and bad as a way to identify the beautiful, let’s get together for spiritual direction. Click the image below for more information and scheduling.


Something Beautiful
Greater Awareness

Greater Awareness

when we take the time to reflect, work on our self-awareness and our circumstance-awareness, and be more present, I think that we’ll find that God is so desperately hoping that we look up, and look around

I haven’t posted much in the last couple months. With the changes and weight of our current pandemic and culture, my role as pastor has taken all of my focus as I try to care for my church family. With that my work here has receded a bit. 

In church life I’ve been preaching a series about Peter, the disciple. We’ve been looking at his tendency to move back and forth between faithfulness and failure. Just when he seemed to have figured things out he lived more fully into his flaws. Yesterday I preached on John 21 and one of the post-resurrection appearances. Here’s an excerpt of where that text took me:

I don’t know about you, but as I look back on my life there have been cases where I lived into my flaws rather than faithfulness. I missed the opportunities that God presented, and even if I recognized the opportunities I failed miserably. And if I look back, I can also see second chances. I can find patterns of “do over’s” where God presented me with another opportunity to be faithful where I had previously failed. 

I think that’s partly how God works—not exclusively, not always, and not for everyone—but I think there is a part of God’s activity where God circles back to us and gives us another go at the things we messed up the first time—or first 4 times—around. Perhaps the last time it featured our flaws, but with a new opportunity we are presented with the chance to instead be faithful in our response.

I think that’s where the power of being present comes in, and the power of awareness. Far too often we slip into auto-pilot, going through the motions of life, and we just say what we say and do what we do without much thought to our interactions and opportunities. 

Perhaps during this time of pandemic we’re getting an opportunity to assess a bit. When we take the time to reflect, work on our self-awareness and our circumstance-awareness, and be more present, I think that we’ll find that God is so desperately hoping that we look up, and look around, and identify those 2nd or 3rd or 4th chances to shift toward faithfulness rather than flaw.  

How have you been working on creating awareness in your life?

During this time of “stay at home” where schedules and habits have been entirely disrupted and changed, how have you taken the opportunity to pause the roller coaster to work on creating a greater awareness in life and spirit?

If you’d like to talk, let’s book a session for Spiritual Direction and take some time to assess where you are, where God has been speaking, and how you might move forward with some greater awareness.


Being Formed

God knows and sees the final product that we are intended to become, and God continues to be at work in us until we are remade and remolded into that masterpiece. 

Jeremiah 18:3-6 (The Message) 3-4 So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot.  Then God’s Message came to me: “Can’t I do just as this potter does, people of Israel?” God’s Decree! “Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I work on you, people of Israel.

As I stood to preach on Identity, and to share this portion of scripture with the community, my friend Andrea also took place up front at her potter’s wheel. As I spoke about the idea of becoming a new creation, being molded by God into a masterpiece, and several other nuances of the pottery metaphor, Andrea carefully hunched over the wheel creating a beautiful pot to help illustrate and reinforce the point.

It was a powerful moment to connect the words of God’s promise with a visible act of beauty and creativity. We discussed the takeaways as a group after the sermon, and so many took great comfort in knowing that God is still at work on each of us forming and shaping us into the final product of God’s design. Even when there are hiccups in life and things seem to spin out of control, God does not discard us as unusable or worthless. God simply starts over in the process of making us into something beautiful.

God knows and sees the final product that we are intended to become, and God continues to be at work in us until we are remade and remolded into that masterpiece. 

The part we play in the meantime is to listen, to be present to the work of God’s Spirit, and to sit in a humble and open posture before the Master Artist to be moldable and malleable so that God can work on us. 

There’s nothing we can do to turn ourselves into the final masterpiece other than be available to God’s shaping of us.

How can you ensure that you are open and available to God’s work in you?

Let’s book a Spiritual Direction session today! We can walk together in looking at the ways that God might be working in you.

Being Formed
Prioritizing Spiritual Work

Prioritizing Spiritual Work

If we are going to call our spiritual lives “big rocks,” then we need to treat it as such. That needs to be one of the priorities that is non-negotiable and doesn’t get edged out by the little things. 

Stephen Covey was an author, speaker, and business man best known for his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” One of his most popular teachings is to put “first things first,” and he spoke to the idea of “big rocks.” Picture a container in which you must fit big rocks and small rocks. (I’ve seen this illustration also include sand and water in addition to the rocks) If you first allow the small rocks to fill the container you will never get all of the big rocks in. If, instead, you put the large rocks in the container first, the small rocks will fill in the gaps and everything fits. 

In Covey’s principles, the large rocks represent the most important parts of your life, and the small rocks represent the little things that can so often distract us from what is necessary. It’s only when we first focus on the large rocks—the most important things of life—that we can truly live in healthy balance. As soon as we allow the small rocks of life to dictate our schedule and patterns of life that healthy balance disappears.

In my 20 years of ministry, quite often what I see is that individuals will call their spiritual lives a big rock, but then turn around and treat it like a small rock. What I mean by that is that is that there is a tendency to put priority on work, home life, hobbies, etc. and IF there is still room in the container then spiritual life gets included. The reality is that there will always be small rocks that make their way into our lives, trying to edge out the important things in life.

If we are going to call our spiritual lives “big rocks,” then we need to treat it as such. That needs to be one of the priorities that is non-negotiable and doesn’t get edged out by the little things. 

That means setting aside time intentionally to be in prayer and meditation, to read a portion of scripture, to be in worship with others, or to prioritize time with a spiritual director as you work through questions, difficulties, ups and downs.

Whatever it is that helps you draw closer in connection with God, and to further your walk in the journey, needs to be prioritized daily and weekly. If you don’t prioritize your spiritual work, it’ll become one of the rocks that won’t fit in the container of life.

>> Make a list of the “big rocks” and “small rocks” in your life. Does that list fit with the reality of how you spend your time?

>> What are the blocks of time you can prioritize to fit your spiritual life in first? 

>> How can you ensure that happens regularly and not get edged out?

Steadfast Love

Steadfast love. Not just the love of God but the steadfast love of God. Steadfast, loyal, committed, reliable, devoted, constant, trustworthy.

Last summer I took 30 days away from my pastoral role for a time of renewal leave. It was vital to renewing my spirit and enabling me to ensure that my spiritual vessel is full as I try to help others. During that 30 days I decided to read through the Psalms in their entirety—5 Psalms a day for the month. The impact that practice had on me is a longer story, but the specific takeaway for this post rests in the way that it was an opportunity to see overarching themes of the whole book when read in chunks over a shorter period of time.

“Steadfast love” was a phrase in the ESV that came up over and over and over. 

Steadfast love. Not just the love of God but the steadfast love of God. Steadfast, loyal, committed, reliable, devoted, constant, trustworthy. It’s really covenantal language—language of covenant and commitment between God and us. The phrase is aimed at conveying that nothing about the love of God will fail. Ever.  It was at the end of Psalms, nestled in the middle of Psalms, or a repeated refrain, as in Psalm 136:

Psalm 136 
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

It continues for 23 more verses to recount the reasons that illustrate why the writer believes that God’s steadfast love endures forever. It includes aspects of creation and nature that speak to God’s steadfast love. It includes a recounting of significant actions of God in the history of Israel that speak to God’s steadfast love, and that phrase is repeated in every verse.    

As I read that Psalm, it got me to thinking about my own perspectives and experiences that illustrate God’s steadfast love. So I decided to rewrite Psalm 136 as a personal act of testimony to God’s steadfast love. 

I took time to assess my own life as I looked for the instances of God’s steadfast love. I combed through past evidence in my life of God’s activity and goodness as evidence of God’s steadfast love. It was a great way to personalize the Psalm which sometimes can feel distant or sterile. For me, this personalized it as an act of praise on my part. I’d highly recommend that you give it a try!

Take some time to read Psalm 136 for yourself. Grab a journal, or your computer, and consider rewriting the Psalm for you today. What evidence of God’s goodness might you include? What picture of nature and life helps point you to God’s steadfast love?

Allow this to be an act of worship and a strengthening of your voice in connection with God.

Steadfast Love
Empty or Broken Vessel?

Empty or Broken Vessel?

We’re all just broken vessels in some way. Some cracks and chips are more noticeable than others.

I was thinking the other day about the saying, “It’s hard to pour from an empty vessel.” Of course this is true in its literal sense, but also in its symbolic and spiritual sense. For those who take seriously the call to love and serve others, there is a very real tendency to pour out, love, and serve until our own vessel has run dry.

In the name of helping others we sometimes don’t take the best care of ourselves. It becomes necessary, then, to put plans in place for self-care of body, mind, and spirit: go for a walk in the fresh air, read a book for personal pleasure, meditate on a scripture verse, take a nap, or meet with your spiritual director. Proactively making these practices a priority will help to prevent the vessel from becoming empty.

But what about a broken vessel? That’s hard to pour from as well. I picture a clay pot that has small cracks, or a spout with chips and pieces missing, and in that instance it would again be hard to truly pour out. A cracked vessel can lose water slowly (or quickly), or in cases where the crack is big enough it will prevent that vessel from holding anything at all. This can happen in our own lives as well.

We’re all just broken vessels in some way. Some cracks and chips are more noticeable than others. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we’re the only one who is broken, or we convince ourselves that everyone else is broken except us. In reality we’re all just broken vessels and we just leak at different rates.

The Japanese have a pottery practice called Kintsugi, also referred to as Kintsukuroi. In this practice, pottery which has broken or become cracked is repaired with a mixture that includes gold, silver, or platinum. The practice incorporates the brokenness of the vessel into its story, acknowledges the history, and makes it beautiful in its own unique way. This is what God desires to do in us—acknowledging our brokenness, incorporating it into our story, and making us uniquely beautiful as God’s re-creation.

Whether you are empty or broken, it’s time to tend to your own vessel. 

I’d love to sit with you in Spiritual Direction to discern where you are in faith. Perhaps you have been feeling empty, or maybe it’s time to mend some brokenness. Let’s walk together in healing and move toward wholeness.

Finding the Ebb & Flow

The key is in channeling that ebb and flow to advance in life.

Merriam-Webster defines the term “ebb and flow” as something that changes in a regular and repeated way.

There is sort of ebb and flow in life—a natural rhythm. I like that imagery because I love spending time at the beach. There is a constant rhythm to the ocean as the waves crash and recede and the tides come and go. The sand then “resets” with the changing of those tides, and the impact of sandcastles and children playing is washed away by the time the sun rises. Where castle moats once were carved into the beach, nothing but a clean slate appears with the moving sun. All of the activity returns the next day and the cycle continues. 

Similar to the beach, that idea of the ebb and flow can be found in our daily lives, our monthly routine, and even the year-long schedules that we manage. The key is in channeling that ebb and flow to advance in life.

Some tend to “turn over a new leaf” with the start of a new year. There’s something about January, resolutions, and a spirit of change that helps make some necessary change in our lives.  For others, Spring is an ideal time for a fresh start. The cold, brown of winter is receding while flowers bloom and the trees bud and makes for a great time to open the windows and open our lives to new possibilities. 

There is always a great time for change, but there will always be reasons and excuses for a lack of change, so the key is in identifying the ebb and flow of your own life and the time to make that necessary adjustment to advance in life. Find that time. Make that time and make space for change today.

What is the ebb and flow in your own life? 

How can you intentionally take advantage of that to effect change in your own life? 

Take some time to form a plan on this, and then tell someone who can hold you accountable to that plan.

Check out my eBook on “Advancing in Life” as a way to intentionally effect change in your life. This resource walks you through the key steps for assessing where you are and helping you to advance toward your dreams.

Finding the Ebb & Flow
Faithful Feet

Faithful Feet

The problem with focusing entirely on the future is that it’s possible to lose sight of what is right in front of you; the next step.

Far-sighted, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary means, “Seeing or able to see to a great distance. Having or showing foresight or good judgement. Able to see distant things better than near ones.”

Near-sighted, in contrast, refers to being “able to see near things more clearly than distant ones.”

In a literal sense, I guess I’m near-sighted, though that seems iffy the older I get. I think that bifocals are in my near future.

In regard to the rest of my life, I have always been the type of person who sees more clearly what is distant—looking toward the future. Dreaming, planning, and organizing the steps to get to my desired picture of the future. I spend a lot of time thinking about what is “not yet” but “could be.”  There is definitely a place for that in life. It’s necessary in moving forward, and it seems appropriate to this time of year (see my eBook on Advancing in Life, well worth the investment in your future!).

The problem with focusing entirely on the future is that it’s possible to lose sight of what is right in front of you; the next step. Always looking to the future makes it harder to have faithful feet in the next step.

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of dreaming about what things might look like in the future. It seems that I have a pretty clear picture of what “could be” down the road and yet that’s not where I’m living right now. Right now is the only “right now” that there is, and it seems like I have been increasingly frustrated with “right now” because it’s not the future.

I can dream and plan and organize the steps to get to my desired picture of the future, but the only actual thing I can do right now is be faithful in the next step. Faithful feet. The next step. One after another.

I’m curious about your sightedness. Do you look out ahead, or simply to your next step?

What’s the next step before you? How can you be faithful in the next step?

The 12 Pounds of Christmas

I have found that my emotional, mental, and spiritual health tends to mirror my physical health.

This morning I stepped on the scale to get a reading on where I am physically in this post-Thanksgiving-pre-Christmas time of mid-December. I’m not one to obsess over the number on the scale, but I do appreciate the way it gives me a benchmark on where I am. 

I know that I have a tendency to emotionally eat. Bad day? Pizza. Stress? Treats. Busy and running out the door? Something quick (and likely unhealthy). 

I know that’s my default setting. As a pastor, the Christmas season is the second busiest time of my year.  There also tends to be an overabundance of goodies that accompanies any meeting, party, or event. If I’m not careful then the 12 Days of Christmas can easily turn into the 12 pounds of Christmas without even trying. So I need a plan for how I will eat that is healthier and kinder to my body in the midst of busy schedules and high expectations.

I have found that my emotional, mental, and spiritual health tends to mirror my physical health. When I am disciplined in one area then I am most often disciplined in the others. When I care for my body, I also seem to be more intentional in caring for my spiritual health.

If the 12 pounds of Christmas is a possibility, then I know that I may also move toward unhealthy patterns in other parts of my life. In that way, my stepping on the scale is also a reminder to get a reading on the rest of my life.

Q: How do you measure the health in the various areas of your life?

Q: How do you ensure that you are making space for healthy practices in your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual life during this month?

Spiritual Direction is a great way to stop and make an assessment of where you are in your spiritual life. Message me, or book a session, and we’ll “step on the scale” together to assess where you are, and to make a plan on moving forward in health.

The 12 Pounds of Christmas
“I feel pain!”

“I feel pain!”

How often do we take an assessment of our current situation and give words to our feelings? Do we actually declare that we feel pain?

A small group of friends was gathered around the table at our house one evening. My son was small, and he was running around the house in his socks. He passed through the dining room like a rocket, and as he hit the kitchen linoleum lost his footing and wiped out. There was that brief moment of no sound, and then he let out a wail and yelled, “I feel pain! I feel pain!”

I’m pretty sure our concern for his injury was mixed with some laughter at the particular phrasing he used to indicate he had hurt himself.

The way that he voiced his injury made us chuckle at the time, but it also is a beautiful picture of the way that a young person gives words to feelings that we adults should perhaps take note of.

How often do we take an assessment of our current situation and give words to our feelings? Do we actually declare that we feel pain?

I would venture to guess that most of us have little issue naming our physical pain, especially as age sets in and the aches seem to multiply—it’s more a case of singling out which pain is most noticed at the time. It’s even culturally acceptable to share that ailment publicly with others.

It’s far less common (and less acceptable) for us to name our mental, emotional, or spiritual pain. I’m not sure why that is. If my back is causing me pain I can let everyone know. If I feel some ailment in my spiritual life that is far less acceptable to voice.

But you know what? Sometimes “I feel pain.” 

There’s no reason that we shouldn’t feel free to voice our mental, emotional, or spiritual pain. The cultural norm has shifted more toward acceptance of seeing a therapist, addressing our mental health, and working any number of programs. That has not yet happened in the realm of spiritual pain—but it’s possible. And necessary.

Spiritual Direction is a safe environment in which you can declare your spiritual state and express that you “feel pain” for any number of circumstances. 

Spiritual Direction enables you to assess where there might be pain and to begin to give voice to the ways that you have been hurt, or are being hurt. 

Spiritual Direction offers a path to walk with a companion as you seek to move toward healing and look for ways to alleviate the pain of the past.

If your spirit is crying out, “I feel pain! I feel pain!” then let’s talk about how Spiritual Direction might be the right next step toward healing for you.