The anger and fears unleashed after the USA Presidential election last week took a lot of us by surprise – especially as it now bleeds into the church. I speak daily to my 21-year-old daughter, a college senior, protesting Trump’s win on the streets of Manhattan, as well as to my older brother, a professor in the Midwest, boasting about the end of the Democratic Party’s arrogance and elitism. How are we to respond? I am not fully sure, but I am sure of one thing: Loving well is the essence of true spirituality, requiring that we practice the presence of people within an awareness of His presence. But learning this is no small task. Martin Buber, however, a Jewish German theologian, can serve us here. In the early years of his life, the “religious” for Buber was the mystical experiences that lifted him out of the so-called earthly, ordinary experiences of life. Buber. Read more.
I have invested my adult life in studying and understanding Christian leadership. I’ve attended conferences, earned advanced degrees, and read broadly – for decades. But I cannot recall any discussion of discretion. For the first 500 years of the church, discretion was considered the most precious gift, or charism, for the church (John Cassian’s Conferences). They understood that without discretion individuals and communities could easily be ruined. In fact, all abbots of monastic communities were to be distinguished by discretion (The Rule of St. Benedict). Without it we are dangerous – speaking too freely, giving people burdens they cannot bear, and offering superficial spiritual counsel. Discretion is the opposite of our 21st century leadership culture that emphasizes bigger, better, and maximum impact as quickly as possible. Discretion is the ability to wait to see what unfolds, to not act. It involves the humility and patience to know when to leave things alone, knowing. Read more.
On Monday I begin a three-week vacation. Part of that will include not blogging, tweeting, or posting on Facebook and Instagram. Why? To Honor Sabbatical Rest. I prefer to frame vacations as sabbaticals from the Lord, a gift to let the soil of one’s soul get replenished by stopping our work, resting, delighting, and contemplating Him. A good part of my work now includes social media engagement. So I will stop and let it rest. To Respect My Vulnerabilities. I like Sherry Turkle’s point that “laptops and smartphones are not things to remove. They are facts of life and part of our creative lives. The goal is to use them with greater intention. We are faced with technologies to which we are extremely vulnerable and we don’t always respect that fact.” Is it possible to be addicted to social media? I think so. (Not all researchers agree.) Disconnecting will be good for my soul.. Read more.
Moses understood that when we are still, God fights for us. When the Israelites were under enormous pressure from Pharaoh, he said: “Do not be afraid… The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” (Ex. 14:13-14) One of the greatest gifts we can offer the church, and the world, is a return to the biblical practice of silence and stillness. But like Moses, we must learn it first. All religions practice silence. What makes silence unique for us is that we are silent before the Lord. For unless we learn to be quiet in God’s presence and not simply talk, how will our relationship with Him develop any depth? How will we hear Him? The core of the EH Spirituality Course and the EH Relationships Course is about equipping people to be with Jesus in silence, stillness, and Scripture. We do. Read more.
The Bible teaches there is a time and a season for “everything under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1). God has built this into the very fabric of nature’s seasons as we observe the cycle of death and newness every winter and summer. Our churches experience seasons. And so do we. I have violated God’s seasons in my leadership more times than I want to remember. Over the years, however, I have discerned a summer spirituality, or rhythm, that can be summarized in three words. Receive. Summers are a time to do less and to be more. Providing leadership in God’s church is demanding. Our soil needs to be replenished. In summer, I read broadly (e.g. novels) and play more. Geri is taking an online course in spiritual direction in July and August. I am traveling to Philadelphia to visit with a long-term mentor. We are also attending a 2-day marriage conference integrating neuroscience and relationships. How. Read more.
Nothing in Western culture supports the practice of silence – especially for leaders. Our very sense of identity is based on accomplishments and what others think. Silence before God simply appears so unproductive. Silence forces us to face our “inner monsters,” confronting us with our addiction to being in control, and bringing us face to face with demonic powers and principalities. Why? They rage to prevent us from the deep knowing of God that comes out of being still before Him, or relaxing as one OT scholar translates it (Ps. 46:10). Few spiritual practices are more transformative and important. For this reason, it is core to The EHS Course, our discipleship course that’s changing churches around the world. Set your timer each day for 5 to 10 minutes over the next week. And consider the following guidelines that have served me so well over the last 13 years. (And that I continue to use. Read more.