Category: Self Care

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.

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
The End (of the year) Is Near

The End (of the year) Is Near

It’s time to stop reacting to life and what it throws at you. Let’s instead take some initiative to Advance in Life.

I was scrolling through Instagram recently and saw a post about the countdown to the end of the year, and that in fact, the countdown is really to the end of the decade. That’s crazy! Didn’t we just flip to the year 2000, and now it’s suddenly going to be 2020?! 

[Side Note 1: the fact that I just said that likely makes me old. That sneaks up on you!]

[Side Note 2: the fact that I said “that sneaks up on you” confirms Side Note 1.]

As we approach the end of the year, and the end of the “20-teens,” some might look at the calendar and suddenly shift into “scurry mode” and buckle down to try and accomplish a laundry list of goals or intentions before the calendar flips officially to 2020.

Were there things you thought you would have accomplished by now? Something perhaps that has been on your list that hasn’t gotten any traction?

Check out this new eBook!

That can feel deflating or frustrating. Don’t let that get you down too much. Don’t sit in disappointment of what hasn’t happened. You’ll never move forward with that mindset.

Instead, what if you spent the remainder of 2019 readying for a new decade? Do some honest assessment of where you are, and then begin to look, and plan, ahead for what’s to come.

Check out my newest eBook, Advancing in Life. In this book I walk you through a process for taking a look at where you are right now, dreaming for the future, and creating a plan to move toward that future picture in all areas of your life. 

It’s time to stop reacting to life and what it throws at you. Let’s instead take some initiative to Advance in Life. Let’s move forward together.

Band-Aid or Balm?

Healing, especially of a spiritual sort, often takes time, presence, awareness, attention, and a balm that prevents further dis-ease in our soul.

When my kids were little we went through a lot of band-aids. We had boxes of them in the cupboard with all sorts of varieties: cartoon characters, super heroes, princesses, cars, unicorns, and more. We had normal brown ones as well, but those never quite did the trick when one of the kids had a boo-boo. 

It always amazed me how quickly a bright and colorful band-aid stopped the tears and took away the pain of a skinned knee or elbow. Out of sight—out of mind. In reality, their cut or scrape was still there. Under the band-aid there was still a hurt that we had simply covered up.

I don’t fault them for feeling better once their mom or I took the time to kiss their boo-boo, put on some ointment, and cover it with a novelty band-aid. The time, care, and attention certainly helped them to feel better. They attributed their miraculous healing to the super hero band-aid, while we knew the injury would take time to heal and required some ointment that would prevent infection and speed the recovery process.

If we’re honest with ourselves, even as adults, we are hoping for a band-aid rather than balm. We prefer something colorful or distracting to make us feel better in the midst of our hurts, cuts, and scars while what we really need is some balm; a source of healing which will truly bring about wellness.

In a chaotic and busy world with drive-thru’s, comforts, and quick fixes, our attention is typically distracted by ways to cover up whatever ails us. Chances are very good that if we stop and think about it a bit that our various coping mechanisms are simply colorful band-aids that have covered our wound but not truly tended to the source of the pain.

Healing, especially of a spiritual sort, often takes time, presence, awareness, attention, and a balm that prevents further dis-ease in our soul. Wounds can be superficial, or quite deep and lasting, and they need to be addressed with a balm rather than simply a band-aid. The trouble is that we often don’t put in the work, and we don’t allow for the space and time necessary for true healing to take place.

Have you been wounded spiritually? Do you have cuts and scrapes in your soul which haven’t been addressed and have led to lingering dis-ease of your spirit?

How are you making space for healing to occur? How are you giving your wounds their proper attention and presence rather than covering it?

Let’s make_space together through Spiritual Direction. Let’s sit together and take the necessary steps toward truly healing the wounds of your spirit. You need balm, not just a band-aid.

Band-Aid or Balm?
Personal Retreat

Personal Retreat

Luke 5:16 (CEV) “But Jesus would often go to some place where he could be alone and pray.”

I remember reading some commentary notes on the Gospel of Luke, and the author mentioned how Luke gives a greater insight into the personal prayer life of Jesus than the other gospel accounts. In numerous places early in Luke (4:42, 6:12, 9:18, 9:28, 11:1), the scriptures point to the practice of Jesus getting away from the crowds, most often in the morning, and taking time to pray. For Jesus that often happened in the context of something important (picking the disciples, the Transfiguration) but not always. Sometimes it appeared to simply be for the purpose of prayer and retreat.

It seems like an obvious thing to us. Of course, Jesus got away from the crowds, demands, busy schedules, speaking, and travel to recharge and connect with God. He was Jesus, the Messiah, Son of God. Why wouldn’t he? 

Perhaps a better question for us is “why wouldn’t we?”

It seems to be a no-brainer that Jesus needed to get away on retreat, and yet we don’t give it the same consideration for our own busy lives. We have relational demands, busy schedules, job/school demands, etc. In spite of all of that, we disregard the need that we have in our own lives for the purpose of prayer and retreat.

Did you just mentally run through the list of commitments on your time and arrive at the conclusion that “personal retreat” just isn’t realistic right now? Do you find yourself saying over and over, “This is just a season. If I can just get past this ______ I’ll be able to rest soon.”  

If you’ve been telling yourself that for a while now, what are the chances that anything is going to be different without you intentionally making a change?

Just as our physical bodies get tired, so do our spirits. Spiritual exhaustion is unhealthy, and so is spiritual starvation. The pace that we often keep in life doesn’t allow for much downtime, and our spirits are calling out to us to stop and take a break. If Jesus needed retreat, how much more do we need that same retreat to remain connected with God?! We know this, but we often don’t give ourselves permission.

How can you give yourself permission for personal retreat and prayer? How will you plan to make that happen sometime in the next 30 days? Even if it’s simply an afternoon “just for you” and no one else, how can you make that happen? Can you get away for 24 hours of retreat?

Take the next 15 minutes to make a plan.

Would Spiritual Direction be helpful to you in this process? Let’s book a session together to work through some of your spiritual needs as a way of making rest, retreat, and time with God a greater priority in your life.


Soul Maintenance Required

Paying attention to the current spots in our spirit that are thinning, dulling, and starting to chip away, and then taking the steps to maintain and care for that in a timely fashion, will ensure that massive repair and coverup will not have to happen later. 

The parking lot at our church is a bit of a headache. Over the last several years we have worked with an asphalt repair company to tackle the numerous places where there are potholes, thin spots, and what they call “alligator” pavement—that apparently means disintegration that looks like alligator skin. All that to say that our pavement isn’t good.

We recently had several spots repaired, and as I sit here we are waiting on the company to reseal the pavement and paint new parking lines. The sealing process will cover the scars and blacken the surfaces, and the new lines will draw the eye to the makeover. The problem is that it simply covers the rest of the conditions. There are spots in the parking lot where there’s just not much left because it wasn’t properly maintained years ago. Right now we are trying to salvage what we have, limp along, and get a few more years out of the asphalt. The reality is that eventually we are going to have to break down and have the whole thing milled off, redone from scratch, and that will cost an exorbitant amount of money.

Many times we try to get away with the bare minimum. When life gets busy, schedules grow hectic, and everything seems unmanageable, there are certain parts of our life that get edged out. At the church, the financial needs elsewhere edged out the investment that should have been made to maintain the parking lot before it was too late. We are now paying (literally and figuratively) for the neglect that seemed necessary at the time. 

The same can hold true in our spiritual lives. We run from one activity, meeting, or job to the next just trying to hold it all together. We go through the drive thru, self-medicate with another extra-shot-coffee-drink, and tell ourselves that there will be more time later—this is only a season of life after all. When we do that, though, we are usually “kicking the can down the road” and the bill will still come due. We will eventually have to pay for the neglect that we thought was necessary. Our church is paying to repair our asphalt because it wasn’t properly maintained and cared for along the way. 

We aren’t physical beings with a spirit, instead we are spiritual beings with a body. Our spirits are what make us who we are, and when we don’t attend to the spirit regularly we will end up paying for it later. Proper attention to our soul maintenance, on a regular basis, is what will ensure our health in a holistic sense. Paying attention to the current spots in our spirit that are thinning, dulling, and starting to chip away, and then taking the steps to maintain and care for that in a timely fashion, will ensure that massive repair and coverup will not have to happen later. 

We almost lost our pavement, but that’s not as serious as losing your spirit.

Pay attention, perform the proper maintenance, stay on top of the whispers (or cries) of your soul, and attend to those needs now.

Spiritual Direction is a great way to sit with someone and do some inspection and introspection. Don’t put it off. Let’s do some soul maintenance together through Spiritual Direction sessions. Click below for more information and a booking link.

Soul Maintenance Required
Affirmations of Self

Affirmations of Self

If you tell yourself something long enough you are destined to believe it. It doesn’t matter whether that particular thing is true or false, the repetition will ultimately worm its way into your identity and it will become your belief.

I sat in a log cabin on a lake in a gathering of about 20 people. We had just spent time talking about our brains and our identity as followers of Jesus. Seems like an odd combination doesn’t it? Usually we talk about our spirits and identity when it comes to faith, not brains. The discussion circled around the brain’s job being to keep us from changing. The subconscious mind is geared toward maintaining the status quo, and therefore, we are literally wired to stay the same.

We talked about our language, the way that we talk to ourselves, and the perspectives that we allow to become a part of our identity. Negative self-image. Body shaming. Poor self-esteem. Pessimism. All of that can add up to a pretty unflattering belief system about who we are as people.

And then we looked at scripture. 

We looked at verse after verse about our true identity as followers of Jesus and the way that God sees us: chosen, dearly loved, adopted by God, saints, overcomers, and on and on the list went. Name after name, and characteristic after characteristic, scrolled before my eyes letting me know that what was rooted in my brain’s wiring wasn’t true. What I had grown to believe about myself was contrary to the truths found in scripture.

If you tell yourself something long enough you are destined to believe it. It doesn’t matter whether that particular thing is true or false, the repetition will ultimately worm its way into your identity and it will become your belief.

Far too often we tell ourselves that we are no good. Not enough. Defective in some way.

God tells us we are chosen by God. Holy. Dearly loved.

The disconnect is hard to overcome. A negative self-image is difficult to rewire. And so we talked about affirmation statements. Repetitive statements that aim at rewiring the brain and self-concept to create a new repetition that we might come to believe. I’ve done this off and on in the last 20 years or so; new statements aimed at helping me believe what God says about me rather than the false statements I tell myself.

If you tell yourself something long enough you are destined to believe it.

What sort of affirmations might you need to work on to rewire your thoughts? What statements have you used in the past that seemed to help? Leave a comment.

If you’re interested in this practice, check out my Affirmation Cards in the Resource store on my website. The pack includes 40 Affirmations for 40 days so that you might develop a new way of wiring the message of who you truly are. Message me to pick one up in person, or I can ship anywhere in the U.S.


Gauging the Tank

There is a need for a similar monitoring process to gauge our spiritual tanks. It’s not enough to coast along in life and suddenly realize that our spirits are on empty.

With three (soon to be four) drivers in our family, we have multiple cars. I’ve noticed something very different between two of them. Our Subaru, which has a smaller tank, is able to go further on that tank than our Jeep. The strangest thing about the Jeep is the gas gauge, or I should say the warning light of the gauge. Most cars have a warning light that lights up and lets you know when the tank is low. Typically when that light comes on I check the digital readout that tells me the DTE: distance to empty. I don’t pay much attention to that until the warning light comes on. The problem with that approach while driving the Jeep is that the warning light doesn’t come on until the DTE: 10 miles.

How is that helpful? How is it helpful to let me know that I have 10 miles to go until my car will just stop running? The Subaru lets me know when I have about 60 miles to go.

“Thank you kind sir, I will plan accordingly to get to a gas station soon.”  But with the Jeep, everything has now changed and I have to get to a gas station right away. Not helpful if I’m on the highway, and it’s even worse if I’m in the middle of nowhere. The gauge is supposed to be helpful.

Since this realization, when the needle in the Jeep drops to a quarter tank, I now push the buttons on the console to find out my DTE so I’m not surprised. I have to keep watch on that readout so that I can plan accordingly and not be caught off guard.

There is a need for a similar monitoring process to gauge our spiritual tanks. (Obviously keeping the tank full is the best approach, but life happens and we can forget to “fill up.”) It’s not enough to coast along in life and suddenly realize that our spirits are on empty. That’s dangerous in a car and dangerous to our spirits. I’ve tried to operate on empty and it simply doesn’t go well. We need to gauge the tank routinely, and preventatively, so that we aren’t caught off guard and running on fumes. 

That gauging system is different for everyone. For me it requires the accountability of relationships and my Spiritual Director. It’s often not until I am faced with talking about my spiritual life that I sometimes realize the gauge level. When I am faced with getting in touch with my spirit I sometimes discover that the gauge is quite low and I have no idea how it happened. On occasion I have been confronted by others, people whose opinion I value, who have spoken into my life to point out the warning signs. These are helpful gauges for me.

What is your process for gauging the tank of your spirit?

Let’s book a session to talk and gauge your tank.


Gauging the Tank
ForgivenNess

ForgivenNess

In the numerous conversations that I’ve had with people who struggle with this topic, it often comes down to a difficulty in forgiving someone else or forgiving themselves. One or the other, it seems like clearing one of those hurdles is the barrier between them and moving on toward freedom. 

Countless pages have been written on this topic (including this eBook by me), and I would guess that countless more will be written in the future. None of those pages has changed the fact that forgiveness is an issue that everyone struggles to give and/or receive. This is one of those topics that can be turned over and over, analyzed from all sides, questioned, and still not get to the root of it all. 

*Spoiler Alert* This is merely a blog post so you probably won’t find the root of it all here either. Maybe we’ll get lucky, though, and find some helpful perspective.

In the numerous conversations that I’ve had with people who struggle with this topic, it often comes down to a difficulty in forgiving someone else or forgiving themselves. One or the other, it seems like clearing one of those hurdles is the barrier between them and moving on toward freedom. 

Freedom from guilt. Freedom from shame. Freedom from beating one’s self up daily. Freedom from the haunt of something in the past. 

Freedom to move forward. Freedom to breathe more easily. Freedom to reconnect with God. Freedom to reconnect with others.

People who know me will tell you that I love me some Henri Nouwen. His writing has greatly influenced my faith journey. Not long ago I came across this thought that he shared in his book, “With Open Hands,”  

“Maybe someone will say to you, ‘You have to forgive yourself.’ But that isn’t possible. What is possible is to open your hands without fear, so that the One who loves you can blow your sins away.”

Thank you, Henri. Our human nature makes it so very difficult to find the inner strength to forgive. It’s contrary to our inner desires. I think that the source of our capacity to forgive is really connected to our realization and acceptance of the forgiveness that Jesus showers on us.

I call that forgivenNess.

It’s the state of living in the forgiveness of God.

ForgivenNess.

We have to live into that before we can really work on our own capacity to forgive. Until we truly live in this state of forgivenNess those hurdles will be tough to clear. Once we set up residence in that place, however, then we can move on toward the freedom we desire. The hard part is getting to the point of recognizing your citizenship in that place. 

The scriptures point to that citizenship. It emphasizes our identity as being rooted in the forgiveness of God. They invite us to settle in that state. This is the first step toward being able to work through forgiveness of self and/or others.

If you’d like to read more on the topic, check out my eBook “forgivenNess yields forgiveness.”


Invest in Yourself

Beyond ceasing to care for our bodies, sometimes we fall into the trap of not caring for our spiritual selves, mental or emotional selves, and that can head down a dangerous path in which neglect turns to dis-ease of the soul.

There is sometimes a tendency to neglect ourselves. It might happen slowly over time, or suddenly, in the case of having a child or some other significant life change. I remember, shortly after our daughter was born, making the phone call to the gym to see about cancelling our membership. We just couldn’t figure out how to make it work while caring for a new baby. 

It’s not just memberships at the gym that can get neglected. Beyond ceasing to care for our bodies, sometimes we fall into the trap of not caring for our spiritual selves, mental or emotional selves, and that can head down a dangerous path in which neglect turns to dis-ease of the soul. Some people have grown up with the belief that others are more important and that can contribute to the neglect of self in all areas. With some sense of “hero humility” we tend to the needs of others rather than investing in ourselves. If any of this sounds familiar, please hear this:

You are worthwhile.

You have value.

You are important to this world.

You play a vital role in the lives of others around you.

You are worth investing in.

You are. You are worth investing in, and it’s completely acceptable to acknowledge that fact. It’s actually counter-cultural to truly believe that you, yourself, are worth investing in, and it can feel like an act of defiance and rebellion to rest, care, and invest in yourself.

It’s not selfish or self-seeking to do so. You deserve to take time for you. If I’ve discovered anything in my years in ministry it’s that I am less effective in all areas of my life when I have poured everything out. I am more effective in all areas of my life when I have taken the time to be filled.

Two years ago I took a 30-day sabbatical after 18 years in ministry. It was long overdue to take that time. I felt a little guilty, and I knew that most people don’t get that kind of opportunity, but I also knew that I was running on empty and would soon burn out. I had seen it happen in numerous colleagues b/c they didn’t take time away. Seeing the results of that lack of prioritization, I realized that I was worth investing in myself. 

In the two years since then I have taken numerous steps to ensure that I invest in myself. I find time daily to be away from others in silence and prayer or meditation. One day each month I go to a retreat center to meet with my Spiritual Director, to share my struggles and celebrations, and to bear my soul and be loved regardless. I walk the grounds of the retreat center and breathe deeply in time that is my own. Sometimes I still feel guilty for having that time, but I know that I will be better for it and investing in myself.

Just recently I took another 30-day sabbatical as an act of investing in myself. In contrast to the last time when I was at the end of my rope, this time was much more “preventative self-care” while I am still at a healthy place. Yes, investing in yourself is self-care, and it’s preventative in that it continues to fill you up before you ever get to the point of empty.

I know it can feel selfish, self-serving, or counterproductive in using your time, but I promise you that investing in yourself reaps endless reward. Taking some time in the midst of life, in order to invest in yourself, shows that you believe in your personal worth. 

It will recharge your spirit. 

It will renew your mind. 

It will establish patterns of sabbath in your life that will create change in other areas of your life.

You are worth investing in.


Let me know if you are interested in Spiritual Direction as an act of investment in your spiritual life. You can contact me through the website or set up a 1-on-1 here.

Invest in Yourself