How are you doing today? Seriously. How are you feeling? Since you are asked that question, in one form or another, several times a day, it should be an easy question to answer. Yet, it is difficult when you attempt to answer the question honestly.   

Even when you ask the question, you don’t always wait for an answer. If you are honest, you either don’t wait for an answer or you receive a perfunctory answer.  Neither your question nor the answer is offered seriously. So, let me ask again, “How are you feeling today?”  

How are you feeling?

You might deflect your feelings and hide behind figures of speech. When you are asked, “How are you doing?” Or “How are you feeling?” you might say, “On top of the world,” or “If I were any better, there would be two of me,” or “About half,” or “I’m down in the dumps,” or “I’m blue,” the list goes on.

Each statement allows you to evade having to confront, plainly and exactly, what you are feeling. Even though they are creative and descriptive, they often create a distance between your feelings and your words.  Thus, creating a false perception of a relationship. 

Over the past several weeks I have begun to be more aware of my emotions. I am learning that my feelings direct my thinking and if I am not honest with my feelings, I may not be making the best decisions for myself, my family, or for the people entrusted to my care.   

Emotions in Scripture

Feelings are not foreign in the scripture. You do not have to look far in the Bible to see examples of people letting emotions lead them down certain paths. For example, Adam and Eve and their desire to be like God. Cain’s jealousy over God’s favor toward Abel’s sacrifice. Jesus’ anger when he overturned the tables in the temple. 

What about King David and his lust for Bathsheba?  His emotional needs led to the death of Uriah and ultimately to the death of this first child. It was only after David dealt with his selfish actions that he became “a man after God’s own heart.” 

There are stories of strong emotions that led to life-changing decisions for the better. Mordecai’s public display of grief over the plight of his people and Esther’s courage to tell the king of a murderous plot. There were emotions like passion and anger to do good for others. 

Saul of Tarsus, later Paul the Apostle, is an example of how negative emotions of anger and hatred can be transformed into positive emotions of love and leadership. He encouraged early followers of Jesus to live with positive emotions like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as opposed to negative emotions of jealousy, vengeance, and anger. He encouraged them to be forgiving and to deal with others with the love that Jesus had dealt with them.  

 Identify, Understand, and Express Emotions

We could go on.  The scriptures are filled with stories of how feelings become thoughts which become actions expressed in both negative and positive ways. 

With that in mind, during this stay at home order, you have time to identify and understand your feelings and to express them in positive and appropriate ways.  You also have time to listen to the people with whom you are related, whether they be family or people in the church. As a leader, identifying, understanding, and expressing your feelings are important in developing trust and confidence in your leadership.   

I’m not trying to add anything to your “to do” list, but I am suggesting that you look at your emotional condition. While you are at home these next few days, take time to reflect upon the following: 

  •  Recognize your feelings.

    • Take a moment to stop and to discern your emotional current reality. When you are willing and able to recognize your own feelings, you will be able to recognize, more accurately, the feelings of others. This provides an opportunity to be curious and to listen more honestly.
    • Your world has been turned upside down.  You are stepping into a new normal. You might have feelings of sadness or loss. Even anger or disappointment.  Once you have recognized these feelings within yourself, you will be more able to recognize the emotions in the people entrusted to your care. Your self-awareness will make you a better leader.
  • Understand your feelings.

    • Why do you feel the way you feel? Understanding your emotions is an adventure.  As you begin to understand “why” you feel the way you do, you also learn to understand “why” you react or respond to the feelings of others. This provides the opportunity to become vulnerable and to build trust in your relationships. 
    • Once you begin to understand “why,” you will be able to empathize with the people around you. Through understanding and empathy, you will become a better leader, as well as a better spouse, parent, friend, student, and colleague.
  • Express your feelings.

    • This is where you not only have the courage to be honest, but you begin to express your feelings in healthy and productive ways. It is in the “give and take” of expressing your feelings that relationships are potentially strengthened. 
    • Again, it is important to know yourself.  As you express your feelings you understand that you are stirring up feelings in someone else and vice versa. But the potential of understanding one another is there.  This provides you, as a leader, the opportunity to be sensitive as you listen, share, receive, and respond.
  • Choose one emotion to work on this week. 

    • Write it down and intentionally focus on it. Give yourself permission to name it and to feel it. Ask a friend to partner with you. Then, ask for feedback on your growth. 

You are more the leader God intends for you to be when you are emotionally healthy.

I once heard Mike Tyson say, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” What is true in the boxing ring is true in leadership.  So, along with permission to feel, give yourself permission to fail. When you start recognizing, understanding and expressing your feelings, there will be moments of joy as well as anguish.  When you lash out in anger, take a deep breath, and start again. 

For you to become who God created you to be, you will need to be vulnerable and courageous. You will need to be kind to yourself and apologize when you fall short. The payoff is worth it: better health, better decision making, better relationships, and a better you. 

So, let me ask again, seriously, “How are you feeling?”  I’ll be looking for an answer next time. 

 

I’m back to my old question, “How are you doing today?” You just celebrated your first Easter at home. No in-person crowds, or music, or Easter rush. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t have more people watching online, or rousing Easter music, or any less work and excitement, but did you ever think that you would spend an Easter Sunday at home?

What about the post-Easter letdown? Have you given thought to what next Sunday will be? Usually, you plan special events for the Sunday after in order not to be hurt and embarrassed by the noticeable collapse in attendance. But, because of the pandemic, this Easter is different. 

Discover a New Normal

Things are different. Did you take this week off? Where did you go? How are you relaxing? I know your answer. So, how are you doing?

As great and as wonderful the music, the worship, and the people, Easter Sunday is a lot of work. I’m confessing here. I spent hours planning the worship experiences for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. I wanted people to experience the story of Jesus’ passion. But, after the excitement of Easter Sunday, the pressure of preaching a message of hope, and the activities for people of all ages, there was a part of me that whispered, “Easter is over. Now we can go back to normal.”

But, in the middle of my ministry, I discovered a new normal. A shift took place. I began to look at every Sunday as Easter Sunday. Instead of Easter becoming a disruption of what was normal, Easter became the new normal. 

The Resurrection in John

Of all the Gospels, John seems to be most aware of the problems created by Easter. Easter is the resurrection of Jesus. No one denies that. But John understood that Easter is also the departure of Jesus. The Gospel of John consists of twenty-one chapters. The public ministry of Jesus ends in Chapter 12. The remaining 9 chapters are a farewell. There is a farewell meal, farewell discourses, a farewell prayer, and then the farewell. John, more than any other writer, sets the tone for the new normal. “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms” (John 14:1–2). 

There is a deep and profound change. The disciples are like children sitting on the floor playing with their toys when suddenly they look up to discover that Mom and Dad are getting to leave. They ask three questions: “Where are you going? Can we go? Well, who will stay with us?” 

Jesus answers, “Where am I going? I’m going to my Father and your Father.”

They ask, “Can we go?”

Jesus: “Where I am going you cannot go now. You can go later.” 

Disciples: “Then who will stay with us?”

Jesus: “I will ask the Father and he will send the Spirit, who will be with you always.”

John understands Easter to be a new normal, but the disciples are ready to go back to what they perceive as normal. Simon Peter and six others go fishing. Easter was over. It was good while it lasted. It was wonderful to be sure, but you can’t squeeze a lifetime out of one moment. Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” In other words, “I’m glad things are back to normal.” But while he and his companions are fishing, Jesus appears. After they have breakfast together, Jesus looks at Simon and says, “Simon, do you love me?” “Feed my sheep.”

What has changed your life more?

So, I’ve been thinking. What has changed your life more, the pandemic or the resurrection?

Maybe a better question is, how as the pandemic made you more aware of the resurrection? As Easter people (as Jesus followers) there are some things you might do so show the reality of the resurrection: 

  1. Keep in mind and heart that relationships are as important as ever. How you relate to people during this time is as important as what you do. Care and compassion reveal more of Jesus than anything you might know or do.
  2. Be generous in your assumptions.
  3. Deliver groceries to the people who are in isolation.
  4. Share the hard to find commodities with those who are experiencing financial difficulties or with those who can’t get out to buy them.
  5. Cook a meal and offer it to your neighbors. You might do this as an individual or as a church.
  6. Offer entertainment and relationship to those filled with dread.
  7. Help people find the resources they might need. In times of crisis, it is difficult for some people to keep up with the facts, relevant news, and the resources provided. Be loving and kind in sharing what you know.
  8. Learn to make masks and offer them to your neighbors.
  9. Keep in mind that there are systemic problems, not problem people.
  10. You have other ideas. Remember, all you do is with love and grace.

May the Resurrection be Your Normal

Maybe this pandemic has awakened the true normal and is offering you another opportunity to be the evidence of the resurrection. The pandemic surely changes your living, but it will not have the changing impact as the resurrection.

Maybe you can think of it this way: Suppose you have a ten-thousand-dollar bill. After several days of admiring it, being in awe of it, showing it to your friends, what do you do with it? You don’t hand it over to pay for your cup of coffee. You don’t use it to pay for hotdogs and hamburgers. That ten-thousand-dollar bill will have meaning only after you have changed it into a sack full of concrete acts of grace. 

Now, what will last longer, the pandemic or the resurrection? After breakfast, Jesus looks at Simon and says, “Simon, do you love me?” “Tend my lambs and feed my sheep.” When you answer that question, you are telling me how you are doing. 

May the resurrection be your normal.

You’re invited to hit play and listen to this post, instead of read it. If you choose to read it, read it as you’re listening

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday. It’s a day we pause and remember the crucifixion. 

As we are journeying through Holy Week, I was asked to respond to two questions:

1) What is one message of care or comfort you’d like to provide?

2) what’s one thing you’ve learned already in the midst of the pandemic?

A Message of Care

Here’s the message of care I’d like to share with you this Good Friday

As I consider sitting at the foot of the cross, standing in the crowd watching what was unfolding, or simply hearing the news of Jesus’ death, just as the first disciples did, I pause at these words from Matthew’s gospel.

From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. At about three Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?” Matthew 27:45-46

Even Jesus was expressing grief.

And that’s what I’d like you to consider today. The grief you’re experiencing. Yes, the grief we encounter in the cross. But this year, likely more than any other year, consider the grief you’re experiencing because of the pandemic. And before you say, “I’m not grieving..” I invite you to go with me as I journey through what grief sounds like for me right now.  It’s likely different for you, but I pray, as you sit at the cross with Jesus today, you’ll experience both the reality of the cross and the outstretched arms of a Savior’s love.

You, Grief, and Good Friday

This was the quote that got me thinking about you, grief, and Good Friday.

“We are all dealing with the collective loss of the world we knew. The world we knew is now gone forever.” – David Kessler

Wait, is he speaking of Good Friday or the pandemic?

The message seems to hold true to the message of the cross as well as the message of the pandemic. 

He was speaking of the pandemic.

But when I heard those words and like anyone who has ever experienced loss, I wanted to place my hands on his shoulders, look him in the eyes, and say, “No. no. no. no. no. no. no.” 

But he wasn’t with me. I was hearing those words on a podcast. 

Can I imagine what the disciples must have felt? Yes. I can sit at the cross. Or maybe I would have left the scene. Would I have been busy trying to tie together loose ends or holding a space for others to grieve. 

I wanted to reverse what he said.“No, the world we knew is NOT gone forever.” I still live in the same place. I still have meaningful work. Jesus, tell me, how is this happening?

I still…

And then I realize I’m bargaining. If I can just prove what is still the world I knew before this pandemic, I won’t have to accept that it’s gone.

A little voice in my head says, “Bargain much, Sara B?” Sara B, that’s what my mom calls me. The words are gentle and loving and confrontational all at the same time. 

You see…Bargaining is a classic part of grief.

Dang it.

The World We Knew Is Gone Forever

I hit the “back 15 seconds” button on my podcast player and hear the words again, “The world we knew is now gone forever.”

Who are you, MR. Grief Expert, to tell me “the world we knew is gone forever.” I don’t care that you worked with Elizabeth Kubler Ross on the stages of grief, written books on loss, and making meaning of loss. You’re making me mad. If I’m honest, I’m tossing and turning in bed, angry that you’re keeping me awake. Angry that I’m thinking about this now. I’m trying to go to sleep. Why are you doing this to me?

Go ahead, laugh. Ask the question you’re asking. Ok, I’ll ask it for you, “Who hit the play button on the podcast as you got in bed?” 

Of course, there is only one answer. I did. 

Who has been avoiding listening to this podcast for a week?

Again, I’ll raise my hand and fess up, that was all me.

Who didn’t want to hear the words, “We are all dealing with the collective loss of the world we knew. The world we knew is now gone forever.”? 

Here I am, raising my hand…again… that’s me.

So instead, I’ll toss and turn and try not to feel what I’m feeling. I’ll get all judgemental at the podcast host, Brene Brown, for interrupting her guest. I’ll judge David Kessler for trying to give words to my feeling because then I can offload the hurt I’m feeling. “Judgment demands punishment.” Heck yes, that I can get on board with, and right now, that judgment is directed at the podcast, at your words, at the actions you’re taking.

And right about here, if I could, I’d insert the sound of screeching brakes.

That’s What Grief Does

If all of that sounds horribly unkind, yeah, I know. It does to me too. But that’s what grief does. I bargain. I get angry, feel depressed, and have fleeting moments of acceptance. But mostly, right now, I want to deny this is happening. 

It’s easier to hold it at an arm’s length distance. Just look at the Good Friday passages of scripture. You’ll see it there too.

And that voice I want to silence with the largest muzzle I can find says to me, “Sure you do. But it’s not easier…. Because if you don’t name it as grief, you can’t feel it.”

“Exactly.” I want to respond sarcastically. 

I don’t want to feel it, I say in my best teenage judgmental voice.

Here’s the thing. 

Comparative Suffering

I’m in a relatively good place. I still have work, a home, I have food (albeit my cooking!). What I’m experiencing isn’t like a nurse, a doctor, a parent of the class of 2020. Who am I to feel grief?

“Who are you not to?”

Dang it.

Stop. 

Isn’t it great how our brains have the magnificent ability to recall information? 

I grumble beneath my breath.

Shush. I say to that memory.

“You can’t shush me.” It responds.

You see, I know better. 

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, it’s the scaffolding of grief. I see it all around me. There’s no shortage of the scaffolding that makes up grief right now. 

I see it in…

  • teachers.
  • the class of 2020.
  • Moms and Dads trying to work from home and teach kids at home.
  • friends’ posts on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Zoom calls and text messages and I hear it in colleagues’ voices.
  •  grandparents standing outside windows.
  • pastors praying on Facebook.
  • Governors, Directors of Health, and Grocery store clerks.
  • Doctors and Nurses.
  • wives and husbands.
  • aunties and uncles and sisters and brothers.
  • my neighbors drawing with chalk on the sidewalk.
  • the husband and wife having groceries delivered by their daughter.
  •  tv, social media, and in my email inbox.

I see it…when I look in the mirror.

And, dear one, so do you.

The world we are accustomed to is gone. Forever.

Collective Grief

We are collectively grieving.

Said simply, “Grief is the death of something.” And, “just like every other loss, we didn’t know what we had until it was gone.” (David Kessler)

So as I coach Christian leaders, pastors and church leaders, it would be easy to say “This is what you do.” You lead others through loss and longings all the time. Yes, I do. So do many of you. But, this collective grief requires that I hold space for a virtual hug while recognizing there is no way I can get through this without you doing the same for me.

So what has changed?

Everything and nothing.

I still teach people how to leverage their strengths. I still am facilitating Brene Brown’s courage building curriculum, Dare to Lead. I’m still podcasting and blogging and attending Zoom meetings and posting a daily devotional to equip people to follow Jesus every day. 

But what has changed is this: I’ve come to recognize that the work I’m doing is now happening in the midst of massive, collective grief. And to deny that reality is to deny the people I lead and serve the space to be human, to be whole, and to become who God created them to be. 

Pause. Sit. Experience Transformation

So, maybe, this Good Friday you’ll pause a little longer. Maybe this Good Friday you’ll sit at the foot of the cross a little longer. 

And maybe, as we move into Saturday and celebrate the resurrection on Sunday, you’ll experience transformation with the disciples.

My to-do lists to meaningful moment lists. What do I mean?

Instead of focusing on getting a task done, I focus on how this task facilitates a meaningful moment for people. I don’t always get it right. Because, like you, I’m experiencing loss. But here are a few of the meaningful moments I’ve tried to introduce to hold space for a virtual hug.

A daily email that arrives at 5:00 am inviting people to read a passage of scripture, reflect on a written story, respond in prayer. At 8 p.m., I post a question on Facebook, inviting people to name and remember how is God is with them. Sometimes the question is for one person. Sometimes for 25. The number doesn’t matter.

There are now weekly Facebook lives that are becoming meaningful moments to share, talk, and celebrate where God is moving. The podcast, emails, and three blogs a week are what we’re doing to hold space for others to make meaningful connections with one another, with God, and with their community. 

Because what I know this Good Friday is this: the only way we’ll truly experience the transformative power of the resurrection, is if we hold space for one another to experience the reality of Good Friday. 

Every blessing to you as we journey through these next three days and live into the promise of Easter. 

 

In times of crisis, there are two things every leader must keep in mind. It doesn’t matter the number of people you’re leading – whether it’s your family, a small congregation, a staff, or a large congregation.

These two things are also essential for self-leadership.

What are these two things?

First, you must face the brutal facts of your current reality. Second, you must maintain hope that you’ll make it in the end. These two things provide a springboard for five considerations for Christian leaders navigating the current crisis.

Stockdale Paradox

Admiral James Stockdale, a prisoner of war for seven years in Vietnam, endured torture and solitary confinement. When asked how he survived, he responded, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.”

Popularized as the Stockdale Paradox in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, it reminds us in order to make it through difficult circumstances we have to simultaneously do two things: 

  1. Confront the most brutal facts of our current reality.
  2. Never lose hope that we will prevail in the end. 

Scroll to the bottom of the page to watch a video or listen to a conversation Tim and I have about the Stockdale Paradox. Or, keep reading!

“Brutal Facts” and Hope

Consider for a moment these brutal facts:

  • You’re living in a pandemic.
  • You can’t worship in person for at least another month

As of 1:08 p.m., Sunday, April 5…

  • Over 1.2 million people have contracted COVID-19 globally
  • 67, 260 people have died
  • The highest number of confirmed cases in the United States are in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and California.

Those are a few of the “brutal facts.”

How about hope?

Here is the hope I continue to hold onto: We are the body of Christ.

For over 2000 years, faithful people have endured persecution, pandemics, wars, and much more. Still, our faith in Jesus continues. I believe we will get through. I trust our resilience is growing exponentially with each passing day. Finally, while much of our daily life is disrupted, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

With these “brutal facts” and hope anchored in the love of God you know in Jesus, there are at least five areas to consider as a leader. This is not an exhaustive list. Some of these things you’ve likely already cared for. They’re included here as a jumping-off point.

If you don’t have the facts about your current leadership circumstance, the potential to focus on fear, fatalism or unrealistic optimism increases exponentially.

Use these five considerations to gather the information you need, have conversations, and confront your “brutal facts” while maintaining hope.

1) Foundation

First, remind yourself of the foundation of the church. The foundation is the mission, or purpose, of the church. Whether you articulate the purpose as “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” or in another way, remind yourself of the church’s purpose.

With that in mind, ask yourself if you have what you need to lead people to live into the purpose right now. Likely, your immediate answer is “no”. Consider, however, the following. Don’t get bogged down in how it is happening. Simply ask yourself if the following basic functions of the Christian community are happening:

  • Worship
  • Discipleship
  • Missions
  • Pastoral Care 
  • Administration

Are the basic functions of the body of Christ happening? If yes, great. Keep going and stay encouraged as you continue to learn new ways of being the body of Christ. If no, what do you need to make it happen? If you’re stuck, reach out to a colleague and have a conversation about how they’re navigating this time. 

Now, ask yourself: What does this new reality make possible? Talk to God about what this new reality makes possible. 

2) Services and Supplies

There are services you rely on to keep the physical church building functioning, the body of Christ active, and the community connected to Christ and one another. As you consider the basic functions I named above, what services do you rely on every week or every month? Who cares for these items?

One church I served had a meal ministry, where eggs were delivered for Sunday breakfast every Saturday morning. Another had boxes of paper delivered every month. And another had a piano tuning service scheduled each quarter.

As you consider the services and supplies utilized, is there anything you need to pause, pivot, or plan in a different way? This will help you consider cost savings and also identify essential services.

If you can’t quickly identify service providers from accounts payable, it may be time to do an inventory. Consider everything from utilities to computer programs. Here are a few things you might consider:

  • Computer Programs 
    • Worship planning center (or similar program)
    • Quickbooks or a financial software program
    • Zoom, YouTube, Social Media accounts
    • Graphics
  • Physical Services
    • Garbage pickup
    • Mail services
    • Cleaning services 
  • Supplies – Delivery and Standing Orders
    • Paper delivery
    • Cleaning supplies
    • Communion elements
    • Food distribution
    • Nursery supplies
    • Candles
    • Giving/pew envelopes and attendance pads
  • Discipleship and Pastoral Care Supplies
    • Prayer shawls
    • Quilts
    • Children’s bulletins
    • Sunday School and small group curriculum

Once you have the facts, ask yourself, what does this make possible? You may be thinking, “NOTHING – it doesn’t make anything possible. That’s the challenge!” Give it a day. Live with that question and see if your answer changes after talking with God and a close colleague.

3 ) Leadership and Processes

You may be the pastor, a lay leader, member of a ministry team, or faithful participant in the church. To navigate this season, leaders need to have clarity and consistency. Yes, you’re likely doing some things in new ways. That’s why having leaders work together is essential. Together, you can identify new processes, if needed while making sure current processes continue. Something as simple as checking the mail is important.

Further, as you encounter needs, communicate with the congregation clearly and consistently. The congregation can’t read minds. But, they have many skills. You might be surprised who has the skills to help.

As you consider your leadership structure, whether it is staff or chairpersons, a few things to keep in mind include:

  • Is your team (paid and unpaid) working remotely and do they have what they need? Have you asked?
  • Are you cross-training leaders? Is there a backup for everything that needs to happen? Who are you training to do what you do if you should get sick?
  • Do you have a realistic picture of the financials?
    • Do you have a plan for what happens when savings hit certain levels?
    • Have you implemented online giving?
    • Are you providing clarity to the church about basic financial needs?
  • Have you explored the Care Act? 
  • What other aspects of leadership and processes need to be considered?

Again, what does this new reality make possible?

4) Congregation and Community 

As you think about the congregation and your local community, it’s likely you know someone who is serving on the front line of this pandemic. Now more than ever, recognizing the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of people in the congregation and the local community is essential. If you’re already serving the community through a feeding ministry or care program, keep going!

If you’re uncertain how the church can respond, it’s time to ask. Talk to city/community leaders, first responders, and teachers.  One month ago, who would have thought quilting groups would be so needed in our communities? Yes, we love our quilters. But, suddenly, their sewing machines have a new, life-saving purpose. As the need for cloth masks grows, a tangible way churches are helping is through their quilting groups.

Questions to Consider

Once you have identified needs, consider these questions as well:

  • What is the perception of the church right now? 
    • Is the church essential? Optional? Off the radar? Important?
  • How are you serving the congregation and community in their time of need?
    • Again, do you know the needs of your local community?
  • If you’re worshiping online, how are you welcoming new people? Are you?
  • What new communication needs to happen and what needs to stop?
    • Remember to overcommunicate in this time. Attention spans are dwindling and the rapid pace of changing protocols necessitates consistent, clear communication.
  • In every communication piece, including in your Sunday message, have you made sure it’s not “tone deaf”? While everything you do right now does not have to revolve around the pandemic, it does need to acknowledge what people are experiencing and feeling. If your communication is tone-deaf, you’ll be tuned out and turned off. 

Again, consider, what this new reality makes possible. If you haven’t picked up on it by now, asking this question is what will propel you towards a future with hope. Don’t gloss over it.

5) Context 

The first four groups were things you have the ability to lead people to change, adapt, pause, or pivot. There are things happening around you that are also out of your control.

You do not have control of these things, yet often these are places where worry and fear take root. Sometimes, it’s also where worry and fear get out of control. Your role in helping hold the tension between the brutal facts and hope-filled future is this: don’t get consumed with what you can’t control. 

The following items are things out of your control. Being aware is not an invitation to be consumed by fear or worry. As a leader, it is wise to acknowledge the circumstances out of your control.

  • Consider the stock market and interest rates
    • How will fluctuations impact giving and confidence?
  • In Ohio and in many states there is a “Stay At Home” Order in place
    • How does suspending in-person worship, social distancing, limiting the number of people in stores, etc. impact the congregation?
  • Utilities
    • Do you have everything you need? Does your community? Something as simple as an internet connection going down can change a lot right now.
  • Social media
    • What are you communicating, how often, and by whom?
    • Again, communicate clearly so as to not spread misinformation.

Here’s your final opportunity to look forward with hope. Ask yourself, “What does this new reality make possible?”

Your Next Step

While this may be a long list, it’s far from an exhaustive list. What brutal facts are you facing and how are you facing the future with hope? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

God is with you as you navigate these uncharted waters.  Confronting the brutal facts and having the hope that you’ll prevail in the end may feel like a paradox. But, it’s the paradox that will help you stay grounded in current reality while following Jesus every day. 

As you ask questions and uncover whether you need to pause, pivot, plan, or proceed, know that Tim and I are here to assist you in navigating this season of ministry.  

 

Watch a conversation about the Stockdale Paradox

Listen to the conversation about the Stockdale Paradox

Sign Up for the Daily Devotional, “God is With Us”

God is with Us a Daily Devotional for all God's people Navigating COVID-19

  • What do you do when you eat out, the food is delicious, and the service is exceptional? 
  • Or, when you have your car repaired, the service is better than you expected, and your bill is less than the quote?
  •  Or you see a movie that captures your interest and touches you emotionally? 

What do you do? You tell somebody about your experience. You recommend the restaurant, the garage, or the movie. And depending upon who is listening, you talk about your experience until someone says, “I’ll have to experience that for myself.” 

Evangelism

The word for such experiences in the church is “evangelization.” It means “to tell good news” regarding your experience. So, when you talk about your delicious meal and the exceptional service, you tell the good news of or “evangelize” the restaurant. When you say to your friends about the deal you received for your car repairs, you “evangelize” the repair shop and the mechanic. You even say, “You might what to have your car repaired there.” When you go on and on about how good the movie was, you are “evangelizing” the movie.

In the church at its best, evangelism is living and talking about how you experience God’s love in and through Jesus Christ. When you talk about your faith, you are evangelizing the presence of God in your life, and the love of God experienced the lives of the people with whom you live, work, and play. Most pastors and church leaders agree that individual Christians and churches should evangelize the gospel and make disciples. It is easy to get agreement on the importance of evangelism, but it is not so easy to get people to talk about their faith experiences.

Faith Sharing

Because talking about your faith is essential in the life of the church, there have been programs designed to help Jesus followers “share their faith” with friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors. The motivation for such evangelism programs is usually built upon obeying the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20 (NRSV): 

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” 

These evangelism resources assume you will talk about your faith when you know how to talk about it in a non-offensive, non-manipulative way. Many of these resources have good training materials regarding how to share your faith, but they make one big assumption. They assume you want to tell others about your experience of God’s love in Jesus. Being taught to share your faith, to talk about your experience of God’s love, is of little use when you don’t have a faith to talk about, and to share. 

How do you understand evangelism?

As simple as it sounds, evangelism has come to be known as something different than “sharing faith” or talking about God’s love in Jesus Christ. The word “evangelism” has come to be known as coercing people to accept Jesus Christ. “Evangelizing” neighborhoods or communities reduces the meaning of evangelism. Consider for a minute, are you seeking to give witness to the love of God experienced in Jesus? 

So, evangelism is now identified as outdated programs once used to “add” names and numbers to membership rolls of churches and completed by a few “truly” committed people in the congregation. 

I once held a denominational position of “Evangelism Executive.” I have done the research. Although I thought I was doing the work of evangelism, I confess I have helped to develop and to write some of the evangelism programs that have fallen short of their designed and desired results. 

Methodists & Evangelism

I have also learned some critical facts regarding evangelism. 

  1. The motivation of the early Methodists was the love of God in Jesus Christ, not the Great Commission. John Wesley taught that the Great Commission had already been fulfilled by the early Christians. He focused more on the commission as given to the apostles for their time rather than it being relevant to his own time. 
  2. The early Methodists (preachers, class leaders, and members) were laity who were highly motivated to share the gospel with others. They had a deep desire to tell others about Jesus Christ and the difference he made in their lives. 
  3. At the root of their deep desire to tell others about Jesus was a life-changing experience of God’s love. It was expressed as a heart renewed in love by the Holy Spirit. The new life was a work of grace that brought forth new motives and desires, new relationships shaped by a love for God and love for neighbor. It brought peace, joy, and righteousness.
  4. With this new life came a deep sense of well-being and purpose. The early Methodists had a deep concern for the well-being of others, both spiritual well-being as well as physical well-being. The new life led to new ways of living. Because of the love in their hearts, the early Methodists not only had a story to tell but a deep concern for others. 
  5.  The early Methodists received a wonderful new life in Christ through the grace of God. It was too wonderful to keep to themselves. Their best evangelism was rooted in their deepest relationship. They wanted to share this good news with everyone, and they did in the way they lived. 

The evangelism of the early Methodists transformed England and spread across the North American continent like wildfire. Their sincere desire to tell others what they had experienced changed the world. 

Who Do You Know Like This?

Over the years, I have met a few people who had this deep desire. These persons shared their faith because they could not do anything but share their faith, both in words and actions. Their witness was to preach what they practiced. What was in their hearts, they lived in their relationships.

Meeting Bob

I remember the first time I met Bob. He greeted me with a warm, inviting smile and a gracious welcome. He was an usher at the 8:30 worship service. As I began to learn more about the ministry of the church, I discovered that Bob was present in most places. 

When we started a ministry at a nearby elementary school, Bob was there. As the ministry was moved to another school, Bob was there loving, caring, and serving. When the weekly feeding ministry expanded on Saturday mornings, Bob stepped up with his genuine care and compassion. 

Because of his love for people, regardless of age, he had a unique way of connecting with them. He was often the first person to meet guests on Saturdays, to greet worshippers on Sunday, and to offer words of encouragement to children during the week. 

Bob’s Connection with People

One Saturday, during the weekly feeding ministry, one of the guests was agitated. He was known to have a mental health illness. That day he was talking to himself, growling at anyone who got too close, and violent when anyone tried to touch him. As it sometimes happened, the leader for the day directed the volunteers to be watchful and to stay clear of this gentleman. 

It was at that moment that everyone noticed the man was not in the room. The leader began to look for him, hoping to find him before someone was hurt. As the leader turned the corner in the hallway, he noticed Bob sitting with the man in the Chapel. Bob had his arm around him, listening to the man share something important. The man had a scripture book in his hand. As he got up to leave, he shook Bob’s hand and gave Bob a hug. 

As the man left the Chapel, the leader approached Bob to tell him about the man’s disposition and agitation. Bob responded, “Thanks for telling me. I saw he was not feeling well, so I asked him if he needed to talk. I think he is better now.” With that, Bob smiled and went out to greet the other guests. 

Bob’s Impact

At the school, Bob made a lasting impact on the students. He was often mistaken for one of the staff because he found time to be there three, and sometimes four, days a week. He made a difference by loving each child as if he or she was the only one he had to love. 

Bob spent most of his career at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. Even when he retired, he found time to keep his connection with students and faculty. He gave of himself whenever he was needed. 

Bob never participated in an evangelism program, yet he was an evangelist in word and deed. He never had a course on how to share his faith, yet he shared the gospel by the way he lived in a relationship with the people around him. 

Your Turn

Here is what I want you to do. Take time this week to participate in this exercise. Get a pen and paper and write down your responses to the following questions:

  1.  When you go on and on about what is important in your life, who or what are you talking about?
  2.  When have you experienced love so deeply that you wanted to tell others about it?
  3. How has your experience of being loved affected your living? How has your experience of love affected your relationships with the people where you live, work, and play?
  4. When you talk about is important to you, do you try to persuade others to adopt a point of view, or do you point people to who is important to you?
  5. People give their lives to God, not to programs. How are you telling people about God? What experiences of God’s love are you sharing? 

The five questions above are based upon one big assumption. The assumption that you want to tell others about your experiences of who and what is important to you. 

Share Your Experience of God’s Love

The same is true of evangelism. When you experience God’s love so deeply that you want to tell others about it, you will find ways to share your experiences of God’s love. As God’s love affects your living and your relationships so significantly that you can’t keep it yourself and when God’s love in Jesus is primary in your life, you will find ways to share your experiences of God’s love. 

Remember, your new life in Christ comes through the grace of God. When you experience God’s love it will be too wonderful to keep to yourself. Your best evangelism is rooted in your deepest relationship. So, share the good news with everyone in everything you do and say. The world will be better for it! 

Do you remember the story of the princess who kissed the frog? On the surface, it appeared to be a simple kiss. But in reality, it was anything but simple. Regardless of what she thought, when her lips touched the frog, a transformation took place. The frog was transformed into a handsome prince. The prince was liberated to become all that he could be. 

Are you aware that you do the same for the people around you? I’m not talking about kissing frogs, but I am talking about helping people become all that they can be. Brene Brown writes, “A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential.” She continues, “Leadership is not about titles or the corner office. It is about the willingness to step up, put yourself out there, and lean into courage.” 

You are in a unique position to make a lasting impact as you help people reach their full potential, as you help them become who God created them to be. 

Sending the 72

In Luke 10 there is a story of Jesus sending out seventy-two followers to make an impact upon their communities. When he sent them out, he did more than give them a message. He invested himself in their lives. Through instructing them on what to take and not take with them, training them on where to go and what to say, he set in their hearts and minds a purpose that led them into a plentiful harvest. 

When the seventy-two returned, they were filled with joy and shared stories of success. Not only did their leader, Jesus, listen to their reports, but he also praised them and their efforts. If I may say it this way, Jesus took responsibility for finding the potential in the seventy-two followers and stepped up to develop their potential. 

How are you discovering the potential in the people with whom you live, work, and associate? How are you developing their talents, skills, and helping them become who God created them to be? 

The Lasting Impact

Several years ago, a college professor had his sociology class conduct a study on the effects of poverty in the city. He sent his class into the inner city of Baltimore to get case histories of 200 young boys. They were asked to write an evaluation of each boy’s future as it related to their lives in the impoverished neighborhoods in which they lived. In every case, the students wrote something like, “He does not have a chance,” or “He doesn’t have a future.” 

Twenty-five years later another sociology professor came across the study. He had his students follow up on the project to see what had happened to those 200 boys. Except for 20 boys who had moved away or died, the students learned that 176 of the remaining 180 had achieved more than ordinary success as lawyers, doctors, and businessmen.

The professor was intrigued by the findings and decided to pursue the matter further. He wanted to find out what made the difference. What happened to move the boys to success? 

He found that even though it had been twenty-five years, all the men were still living in Baltimore. With the help of his students, the professor was able to ask each one, “How do you account for your success?’ In each case the reply came with passion, “There was a teacher who took a special interest in me.” 

Planting Hope

The professor, wanting to discover what had taken place, found that this teacher was still alive. He sought her out. When he found her, he asked to meet with her. In their conversation, he asked, “What did you do to pull these boys out of the conditions in which they were living? What did you do to lead them into their successful achievement?” 

Her eyes sparkled as she broke into a gentle smile. “It’s really very simple,” she said. “I planted hope in those boys. I loved them by showing them what was possible.”

How are you planting hope in the people around you? Show someone what is possible simply through love. How are you helping them become who God created them to be? 

Make a Lasting Impact

To make a lasting impact, here is what I want you to do. 

  1. Identify one or two persons in whom you are willing to invest your life.

    • God has invested great potential in you. Now you invest in others. Step up and put yourself out there as you come alongside the persons in whom you are invested. 
  2. Discover and develop the potential in their lives.

    • Develop a relationship of trust and compassion. Use Clifton Strengths to discover your strengths and talent. Use Bible studies to develop character and purpose. 
  3. Model integrity and love in all you do.

    • Paul wrote to Titus, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about you. Titus 2:7-8.
  4. Invite the people around you to invest their lives in one or two persons.

    • Mother Teresa might have said it best, “Spread love everywhere you go: first of all, in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next-door neighbor…Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting. 

You do not have to kiss a frog to make a lasting impact. But you do have to intentionally identify persons, develop relationships, model integrity, and love. Then, invite others to do the same. 

What greater gift could you give yourself, your family, your co-workers, your community, or the world? Your investment will make a lasting impact! 

 

 

 

There is in most of us a deep uncertainty and tension about change.  On one hand, you want to grow, develop, and expand. Even when it brings anxiety, you may like some level of adventure.  Growing is a part of who you are. The idea of becoming more than you are is exciting.

On the other hand, you recoil at the change.  There is fearful anxiety of the unknown.  What will the “not-yet-experienced” be like? Then, when someone or something even suggests that you change, you defend yourself, dig in, and protect who you are.

Then there is the tendency to do nothing.  You just don’t want to make the effort to adjust to what change means or calls forth?

These are some of the inner challenges you face as you change and grow. That is why I ask the question: Do you want to grow? As a Jesus follower, do you want to become who God has created you to be?

Are you willing?

If you have been baptized, I assume that you have said, at least symbolically, “I want to grow” or “I am ready to grow.” Because with baptism, you respond to God’s invitation to grow into who God has created you to be. So, you have a desire to grow.  That is what you bring to growth, your desire, your willingness, your response to God’s invitation.

You know, that really is all you bring to the process of growth: your willingness or unwillingness.  You are created so that you can choose to either grow toward God’s dream for you or to set yourself against the tide and refuse it.  If you want to grow, there is no end to what you can become. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But this is precisely what is written: God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being.” (I Corinthians 2:9) But if that desire does not exist, because it has been choked out by fear or pride or shame or resistance, not even the God who made heaven and earth is willing to force it upon you.

Questions from Jesus

Do you remember the story of Jesus walking beside the pool of Bethesda?  There were sick people gathered by the pool.  The tradition was that when the waters stirred an angel was nearby and the first person to get into the pool would be healed of his/her affliction.  People came from all around with the hope of being healed.  As Jesus moved through the gathering of sick people, his attention was drawn to one man who had been lying there for thirty-eight years.  Jesus went over to him asked, “Do you want to be healed?”

On the surface that sounds like a ridiculous question.  That man had been waiting for thirty-eight years. Of course, he wants to be healed. Yet Jesus was aware that change is never simple. Have you read the story?  The man’s response reveals his uncertainty and tension regarding change.  He begins to make excuses and shifts the blame to other people.  He says, “The problem is, I have no one to help me into the pool. When the water bubbles, someone else always gets in ahead of me.”

Jesus’ Persistence

Notice that Jesus does not let him sidestep the issue.   Jesus asks him again, “Do you want to be healed?”  I can imagine the conversation going like this, “Man, the real issue is your willingness to be healed. Have you become so accustomed to this life of lying here and blaming others that you really don’t want to change? After all, there are benefits to being sick. No one expects anything of you.  You don’t have to work.  You don’t have to face the pressures of being active. You don’t have to do anything any different than what you have been doing.

Truthfully, would you really accept the help if it were offered?  You would have to become vulnerable enough to acknowledge you need help and then accept it. You must swallow pride and shame and a sense of self-sufficiency.  So, I am asking you the real question. Here and now, do you want to be healed?”

The Answer

For the first time in thirty-eight years, the real issue was spelled out for the man.  He could no longer evade it or blame it on someone else.  So, when confronted by Jesus, the man dared to say, “Yes, I want to change.”  Immediately the process of healing began.  A thirty-eight-year cycle was broken, and a new way of living began to take shape.  He began to take responsibility for carrying his own load rather than being carried.

Sure, there were pains in this new life. Significant change brings both gain and loss. But, look at the new possibilities available to the man. Once he made the decision to grow, to change, he had a whole new world before him.  It is the same for you when you are willing to become vulnerable by stepping out in courage to brave the new reality. The good news is, it is never too late to start growing again. You are never too old to start. If after thirty-eight years of immobility this man could begin to move again, why can’t you?

Your Turn

Do you want to grow? As a Jesus follower, are you willing to do what it takes to become who God has created you to be? If so, then here is what you need to do:

  1. Name four trusted friends with whom you are willing to become vulnerable.
  2. Through prayer and reflection, focus upon who God has created you to be. Test your desires with your friends.
  3. Trust your friends to name what must be addressed for you to step out in courage to brave your new reality?
  4. What one thing will you do, today, to step into that new reality?
  5. Now, with the love, care, and encouragement of your friends, step out in faith to live the life God created for you.

Do you want to grow? If you do, then the sky is the limit.

God is “able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us…” Ephesians 3:20.

There is nothing more basic than the desire to grow. If the desire is present in your life, no number of obstacles can keep God from finishing that which God has begun.  If the desire is not present, then not even our great creator God can make God’s dream come true.

Do you want to grow?  Then, in the name of Jesus, get started!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How have you experienced God’s call in your life?

Although the words, God’s call, can be associated with the vocation of ministry, to answer God’s call is to decide how you are going to live your life in service to God.

There is nothing necessarily mystical about God’s call. Isaiah saw a vision and Samuel heard a voice. Paul was confronted with a presence and Simon Peter answered an invitation. Such encounters with God have marked the call of many people, but they are not the only ways you experience God’s call.

Read more

As part of my discipline, I read and reflect upon the weekly lectionary texts.  This past week, I noticed something that surprised me.  The lectionary skipped Luke 13:1-5. It reads as follows:

Some who were present on that occasion told Jesus about the Galileans whom Pilate had killed while they were offering sacrifice.  He (Jesus) replied, “Do you think the suffering of these Galileans proves that they were more sinful than all the other Galileans? No, I tell you, but unless you change your hearts and lives, you will die just as they did.  What about those twelve people who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them? Do you think that they were more guilty of wrongdoing than everyone else who lives in Jerusalem? No, I tell you, but unless you change your hearts and lives, you will die just as they did.”

I was surprised because I think that scripture speaks directly to what is happening in the United Methodist Church as well as what is happening in our country.

Change Your Hearts and Lives

As I reflect upon the continual mass shootings, the blatant racism, the hurtful rhetoric, the tension within The United Methodist Church, I hear Jesus saying, “I tell you, but unless you change your hearts and lives, you will die just as they did.”

I don’t know about you, but I find that to be a hard saying. I want Jesus to say something more comforting or at least more directly related to the issues.

  • When innocent people are killed while at school, shopping, attending concerts, and on the streets.
  • When racism is becoming more publicly acceptable (as if racism is something new).
  • When we fight among ourselves over who is right and just.
  • When our leaders who have been given the responsibility of moral righteousness are the ones spewing hurtful rhetoric and setting immoral agendas.
  • When the world’s climate changes as the rainforests are destroyed and the polar ice caps melt all for economic purposes…

I want my faith to protect me.  I want justice for those who are being wronged.  I want Jesus to say something more than, “…unless you change your hearts and lives…”

Try a Different Question

Yet, my United Methodist Church is caught in the same dilemma.  There are times I feel helpless.  So, I as I reflected upon the lectionary texts, I also looked at Luke 13:1-5.

This is what I hear Jesus saying. “You are not asking the right questions.  You are shocked at the wrong points.  You have located your pain, dismay, and astonishment at a different place from where I am looking.”

One of my favorite hymns is “Amazing Grace.”  At the center of our Wesleyan theology and as amazing we may say it is, I wonder if we really are amazed by grace.  I think we express more amazement over our evil acts than at God’s mercy.  We have come to the place in our religious thinking where we assume that God will be merciful; God will be kind; God will be gracious.  We’re not surprised when we experience God’s kindness.  What shocks us is seeing something bad take place.

By God’s Grace

That is why I say I hear Jesus saying, “You are asking the wrong questions.  You are asking why these events take place.  You should be asking, “By God’s grace how do I respond?” I think, you and I have become so calloused, that our hearts have become so hard, that we are no longer surprised by God’s grace but we are paralyzed to inaction because we assume God’s grace.

One of my favorite illustrations of God’s grace and the dilemma we face today in The United Methodist Church comes from R. C. Sproul.  He tells the story of one of his first teaching assignments as a college professor. He was teaching a required course for 250 college freshmen: Introduction to the Old Testament.

He said, “I was uncomfortable trying to communicate with so many students at one time. I printed in advance the requirements for the course, because I’d already learned that college students were all budding Philadelphia lawyers, and I had to dot my I’s and cross my t’s to make sure that the assignments were clearly set forth.  So, I gave them a published syllabus and told them what the requirements would be for the class.”

The assignments for the semester were three very small papers, book report type things. The first one was due at noon on September 30, the second one October 30, and the third on November 30.  He told the class he wanted the completed papers on his desk at 12:00 noon on the appointed dates unless they were physically confined to the hospital or infirmary, or there was a death in the immediate family. If the papers where not in on time they would get an F for that assignment.

Begging for Grace

Everyone said they understand the assignment.

When September 30 came around, 225 of students brought their papers in and presented them dutifully at the proper time.  Twenty-five of students in the class failed to complete the assignment. They were scared to death.  Being freshmen, they were just making the transition from high school, and they were in a posture of abject humility.

They came to the Professor and said, “Professor Sproul, please don’t give us a F for this grade!  Please give us a little more time.  Give us one more chance.  We’re so sorry.”  They begged the Professor for grace.

The professor granted them an extension and said, “But don’t let it happen again.  Remember the next assignment is due October 30, and I want the papers in on time.”

They said, “Absolutely.  They’ll be here.”

Second Chances – Again

When October 30 came around, two hundred of the students came and put their term papers on the professor’s desk.  Fifty of them assembled outside the professor’s office. They had not planned their time properly and were not prepared.  So once again they pleaded, “Professor, we didn’t budget our time properly. It’s midterm. We had so many assignments all coming at the same time. It’s homecoming. Please just give us one more chance.”

The professor, a softhearted guy, said, “Okay, I’ll give you one more chance, but don’t let it happen again.”  The students began to sing spontaneously, “We love you, Professor Sproul.  Oh yes, we do.”

That’s Not Fair

Sproul said he was the most popular professor in the school for thirty days. Because thirty days later the third paper was due.  This time 150 students came into the classroom with their papers prepared, while the other 100 came in as casual, as cavalier, as you can imagine. They didn’t have their papers, but they weren’t worried in the slightest.

The professor asked, “Hey, where are your term papers?”

They said, “Prof, don’t worry about it. We’ll have them for you in a couple of days. No sweat!”

Sproul said, at that moment, he took out his grade book and his pen and began to ask each student about his or her term paper.  “Johnson, where is your term paper?”

Johnson replied, “I don’t have it, Professor.” Sproul said he wrote an F in the book.

“Greenwood, where is your paper?”

“I don’t have it, Sir.” So, Sproul put F in the book.

Suddenly several voices cried out, “That’s not fair!”

The professor asked, “What’s not fair? Johnson, did I just hear you say that’s not fair?”

Johnson, who was furious, said, “Yes, that’s not fair.”

Professor Sproul said, “Okay, I don’t ever want to be thought of as being unfair or unjust.  So, it is justice that you want?”

Johnson, “Yes”

“Okay, If I recall, you were late the last time, weren’t you?”

“Yes.”

Okay, I’ll go back and change that grade to an F.”

Assuming Grace

The first time the students pleaded for mercy. And the professor said, “sure.”  The second time, they pleaded for understanding.  By the third time, not only did they begin to assume mercy, but they began to demand it. They assumed grace.

That is what we do with God. The history of our personal relationship with God is a history of grace.  You and I could not live on this planet for five minutes without God’s grace. But because God is so gracious, we take it for granted.

When the world starts falling apart, when mass shootings, blatant racism, hurtful rhetoric, and all we know is coming apart at the seams, we are astonished.

We have grown accustomed to God’s grace.

The question is, “Why has God been so God to me, to us?  And what are we going to do about it?” God’s grace is sufficient.

If you’ve spent any time with me at all, you likely know one of the questions that I will ask at some point. The question is some variation of, “Where have you experienced God’s presence?” 

The simplicity of the question can stun people to silence.

When I first started asking the question, I thought the silence I received was my failure to communicate. Then I learned the truth.

To answer the question, you have to be paying attention to where God is at work in your life. In nearly a decade of asking questions about God’s presence, one thing has become clear: most of us are beginners on this journey.

Before you reply, “I was raised in the church. I’m not a beginner!” Let me explain. Read more