Steve Macchia Blog

A Table Blessing for Thanksgiving

A Table Blessing for Thanksgiving

Dear Lord,

As we gather around this table of gratitude, we thank you for giving us the blessings of:

Life…abundantly offered in Jesus

Freedom…sacrificially attained by others

Family…imperfectly bonded in love

Friends…lovingly upheld by grace

Work…meaningfully fulfilled in service

Community…compassionately provided by kindness

Church…missionally united in worship

Forgiveness…freely graced by time

Disappointment…redemptively received in mercy

Patience…peacefully granted by faith

Sabbath…restfully enjoyed in peace

Love…plentifully harvested by hope

May all the joys you so freely give to us be generously shared with all who cross our path, and may our hearts overflow with thanksgiving today and always.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

A blessed and joyful Thanksgiving Day to you and all who surround you today in love…from the entire Leadership Transformations Family!



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STEVE’S HEART BEHIND THE PROMISES OF CHRISTMAS

The Promise of Christmas

In so many Christian households, the focus of attention during Advent and Christmas is on well-meaning gift-buying, tree-decorating, cookie-baking, card-writing, and the myriad holiday activities of the season. For most of us, the pace doesn’t slow down until the new year, much to the neglect of the soul.

The Promises of Christmas was created for the busy believer who wants to find a few sacred moments to reflect on the true meaning of this holy season of the year.

The focus this time around is to capture the wonder, mystery, and anticipation of the long-awaited arrival of Christ, the light and hope of the world.

The advent of the baby Jesus wasn’t a last-minute idea. In fact, the coming of the Messiah in this miraculous way was predicted for generations. The prophets spoke of his coming, and the promises God declared to his people for generations were consistent. Even the details were spelled out with wonderful intricacy, and all of them were fulfilled in Jesus.

Our prayer is that your soul will be refreshed this Advent and Christmas, with the word of God as the greatest gift to unwrap and enjoy. Find a quiet corner in your home or office to be prayerfully and biblically refreshed…and be reminded once again of the joy brought into the world in the manger. Wait, watch, and wonder once more…it’s really good for your soul.


The Promise of Christmas

THE PROMISES OF CHRISTMAS

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WITH A GRATEFUL HEART: A TRIBUTE TO EUGENE PETERSON

A Tribute to Eugene Peterson

One of our generations greatest saints has passed from his earthly life to his heavenly home. We knew him as pastor to pastors, gifted linguist and Bible translator. He was a teacher, author, husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend. We heard about his walk with God in his raspy voice of wisdom, we read it with clarity in his many books and especially in The Message, we saw it in his daily routines, and we noticed it in his marriage and family life. He willingly shared his wealth of insight with all who were in earshot, who with open hearts were ready to listen and receive. His life with God was rich, earthy, abundant, and contagious.

He never forced his way on anyone, but instead, he kept his words, his life and his messages always invitational, gracious, warm, and deep. He was not perfect. He owned his weaknesses, imperfections, and vulnerabilities. His dress code was simple, his office was functional, his home was hospitably and spiritually beautiful. The indelible impact of his life is clearly upon today’s Christian Church and will remain fruitful and for generations to come.

I am just one of the scores of grateful recipients of the encouraging words of this amazing saint – in his prolific writing, his phenomenal work on The Message, his handwritten notes of graced encouragement, his openness to sharing meals and conversations, and his lakeside hospitality with his beloved wife and life partner, Jan. Many others have and will eulogize this godly man, Eugene Peterson, and his memorial service will be a fitting closure to a life well lived. Thankfully, his legacy will live on in the hearts, lives, and ministries of his students, congregants, readers of his tomes, and his many dearly devoted family members, colleagues, and friends.

Thank you, God, for creating, blessing, empowering, and multiplying the life and ministry of Eugene Peterson. To You alone belongs all the glory, honor, and praise! Amen.


Soul Sabbath: Renewed in the Fathers Love

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Fall Foliage, Gas Leaks, Red Sox and The Soul

There have been several big news stories of late, including Hurricane Michael, Supreme Court nomination battle, and the horrible gas leaks in Merrimack County (MA). In addition, the usual news from our divided politicians in the nation’s capital, it’s election season once again, school’s back in full force, and the economy seems to be booming, despite the latest dip of the Dow. The fall foliage is delayed a week or more in our neck of the woods due to the warm weather, and the best news in Boston is that the Red Sox are now in the ALCS finals.

As I peruse the social media landscape, listen to and read the daily news, and connect with family and friends, I remain concerned about the state of the soul, still the most neglected and ignored part of the person…and never in the news. The soul is the essence of our being, the core of our true identity, the place where God alone seeks to reside. But, we’re simply too busy or preoccupied to notice or report on the state of the soul. One more news day passes and we ignore the invitation of God to come close, draw near, and follow him.

St. Augustine learned the hard way how to reorder his affections and turn his heart toward God. Just about every other temptation had been confronted until he righted his internal compass and found his way back home. And he’s not the only spiritual action figure we know that’s done the same thing. Francis threw away the garment industry handed to him. Benedict walked away from civilization to enter a cave and sort out his life by listening intently to God and His Word. Frankly, every major movement maker in the history of the Church has done likewise…saying no to the ways of this world and an emphatic yes to the will of God.

And yet today, one more over-the-top news day, and we still neglect our soul. What’s up with that?

How about a small step in the right direction? Perhaps five minutes in the morning to settle into prayer. Or, reading a psalm or a gospel story, holding it reverently and noticing what God is trying to say to you in it. Another option is to close your eyes and reflect for a few moments on the gifts of the past day and the opportunities ahead of you today. Enjoying a few minutes of quiet reflection and you’ll find you’re heading the right direction…welcomed back home to the heart of God.

On October 20, Leadership Transformations is celebrating our 15th Anniversary of providing soul hospitality to leaders and teams. We’re excited about this season of life and service to the body of Christ. We’ve seen hundreds of leaders over the years hop off the treadmill of constant noise and activity and choose to quietly reflect on the state of their soul and the condition of their heart. The transformation is marvelous to behold. The embrace of God is always waiting for us to come to our senses and turn back home…maybe it’s time for you to do so today. After all, wouldn’t that be the best news of the day?



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STEVE B-LOG: NEW MINISTRY YEAR

A New Ministry Year

A NEW MINISTRY YEAR

A switch gets turned on the day after Labor Day. I have seen it now for 40 years. Something changes in all of us when unofficial summer comes to an end. We now turn to becoming busier and more productive than we have been for the past two months of summer.

And, I must admit: the highlight of my summer was totally unexpected. Even better than the vacation we had near the ocean, in the mountains, and in the upper Midwest, was the 90 minutes I held my granddaughter as she napped one July afternoon. When I look back on the summer, holding Brenna Lynn for an uninterrupted block of time is top on my list (and I did so a handful of times thereafter). Nothing sweeter, more restful, or more delightful- even if considered by some as unproductive.

Not only was holding my granddaughter for 90 minutes while she slept in my arms one of the more delicious parts of my summer (all grandparents know exactly what I mean), but I know I will want to keep doing the same for as long as I am able. No pace or fullness of life should hold me back. And, one of the great parallels of my experience with Brenna is how God the Father loves to hold us in his embrace, look upon our restfulness, and whisper in our ears his loving affection for us as his beloved child. No matter how busy or full our lives become.

What would happen to the busy ministry year ahead of you, if you made sure there was sufficient opportunity to hold, behold, and be held. To hold with open, outstretched, and loving arms the people, decisions, plans, and programs you are called to lead. To behold the living God who is right there beside you, upholding all who surround you with his grace, love and tender mercy. And to be held yourself by God who loves to love you simply because that’s what he does and who he is for you, the Lover of your soul.

This week may in fact be the beginning of another new, full-to-overflowing ministry or academic year for you and your family and your team. But, may I be one voice in your life who suggests with brotherly affection, that you take plenty of time to rest and trust the living God amidst the noise and confusion of a full life. This my friend is what will make life truly abundant.

On October 20, the LTI family will gather for our 15th Anniversary Gala at the Newton Marriott. All are invited! This celebration promises to be a night-to-remember as we are all held in love by the God who welcomes us home to his full embrace and the abundance of his love. If you can’t join us, please remember us in your prayers as we incite a movement of leaders who prioritize the care and nurture of the soul and practice soul hospitality as their number one leadership priority. There is simply no better way to lead in the soulless culture of our day.

Behold the joy of life-giving rest. Believe in the value of slowing down in order to embrace spacious rest. Belong to a community of trusting friends. Become a held-in-the arms-of-God child once more.


15TH ANNIVERSARY INVITATION & RSVP

Gala Information and RSVP
15th Anniversary Invitation





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A Labor Day Prayer

Potter.Clay

A Labor Day Prayer

Written by Norman Shawchuck (Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk With God, p. 310,311) and adapted by Steve Macchia

My God, in these quiet moments I caught a glimpse of your vision for me. Inspire me, my God, to carry into the everydayness of my life all to which I aspire at such a moment as this. May my faith have feet and hands, a voice and a heart, that I may minister to others – so that the gospel I profess may be seen in my life.

I go this hour to encounter the routine of the duty you have called me to fulfill with a new vision. Equip me for my common tasks, that I may this day apply myself to them with fidelity and devotion. And not for myself alone to I pray:

Bless homemakers, mothers, and fathers, who minister in the home and who maintain sacred sanctuary to which tried and tired persons reside throughout the day.

Bless doctors and nurses. May their work reflect God’s love and compassion on those who suffer, and pity on those who leave this earth today.

Bless the teachers, the school administrators, and those who labor to keep school buildings clean, safe, and pleasant for those who study and learn there.

Bless coal miners and all who toil in grime and darkness, that we may enjoy clean and pleasant lives. Bless professionals in the marketplace who today are entrusted with matters great and small. Bless our public servants with duty, honor, justice and trustworthiness.

May your blessing rest upon all men and women who minister to others. May each one come to know the joy of partnership with you and delight in the privilege of serving others in your name.

I give this prayer to you who inflames my soul with vision and desire, that I may be a faithful laborer in the fields you have assigned to my stewardship. Help me to be a good and faithful steward.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 

 



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STEVE’S EXTRAS: CHOOSE JOY

 Day 6 Habukkuk, Chose Joy

Joy, it’s often so elusive.

Mostly because we equate it with happiness or we somehow have defined it only as exuberance of heart and voice. We wonder, can we experience joy more mild-manneredly?

For many Christians, we devalue the word happy and elevate the word joy because we somehow believe that we are not supposed to be happy. Joy seems to be more “biblical” or “spiritual” and we therefore assume it’s what we should be experiencing.

And I get it, because being happy is usually combined with circumstances and for so many today, life is hard. So, imagine your life without many happy circumstances. Would you still be able to find and choose joy?

Well, that’s exactly what Habbakuk does in his Old Testament prayer. For this prophet-of-old, his circumstances ain’t too sweet (as noted in the prayer below). And yet he discovers joy. I suspect the joy Habakkuk references in his prayer in Habakkuk 3 is precisely the joy God invites us to hold precious in our souls too. That’s why I so appreciate Habakkuk’s prayer. And, believe it’s a prayer I could use too.

My version of Habakkuk’s prayer would look something like this,

Lord, even though life gets hard at times, my work and relationships can be strenuous, and even though I don’t have the resources I’d prefer or the results I set out to create, I still want to find my joy in you today. I choose to embrace your gift of joy in my heart, regardless of how I’m feeling about my life today. Help me by your grace to experience deep joy, and even happiness, yet today. I trust you for those gifts as I lean on your strength.
In Christ’s joy, amen.

When I pray that way, I find my heart’s true home: in the loving embrace of God.

At Leadership Transformations we are celebrating our 15th year of offering soul hospitality for leaders across the USA and around the world. My prayer is that you too will find joy in the Lord as you celebrate his infinite affection for you, his beloved child. When you pray, you return home. Come home, dear soul.

The Father waits with a loving embrace and a “Welcome home!”

Ahhh…such delightful joy!


DAY 6 – HABUKKUK

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Habakkuk knew the secret of contentment and joy. His role in the community of faithful prayer warriors is one of transparency and trust amidst undeniably difficult circumstances. His prayer today defines the word “joy” better than many other places. Here he freely articulates what’s missing in life – no fig buds, no grapes on the vine, no olives on the trees, no crops in the fields, no sheep in the pen or cattle in the stalls. And yet, he finds room in his heart to rejoice and give thanks – to be glad, content, and full of rejoicing. Habakkuk’s testimony is an inspiration to followers of God in every generation.

So often we look at what’s missing in our lives. We moan about what we lack. We complain about what’s absent from our lives rather than find contentment and peace within the constraints of our lives. We tend to look over the fence and want what belongs to another. We lust for the things of this world more than hunger for the things of God. Our humanity boasts of the material when all the while God is offering us a better way, even if it means suffering, loss, and deprivation of material “blessings” and “things” we have come to believe are formative of our identity.

But in this prayer, we remember with thanksgiving the myriad hidden and intangible gifts all around us, and the abundance offered to us by our generous and loving God. When we can offer our praise to God despite the apparent disheartening situations of our day, God fills our hearts with truly biblical joy.

Today…

Join Habakkuk and pray for God’s joy no matter what comes your way and in spite of what you feel is missing in your life with God (Habakkuk 3: 1-2; 17-19).
Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy…
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

As you reflect on the Word, how is God inviting you to pray?
What biblical words or phrases are you led to use in your own prayer?

Behold the splendor of the Lord – Believe the promises of his love – Belong to those who unreservedly trust him – Become prayerful in all you are and do.



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Recent Revelations Lead Us Back to Trusted Pathways

 Recent Revelations Lead Us Back to Trusted Pathways

The recent news from our dear friends at Willow Creek is daunting to say the least. Who’d have thought we’d be dealing with the #MeToo movement in the church, never mind one of the country’s finest? But, we are facing this new reality and it shouldn’t really be too shocking…the church is filled with pastors and leaders who are broken and in need of wholeness. And, although we are discouraged by these recent revelations, there are indeed ancient pathways leaders and teams can follow to ward against a leader’s ethical or moral implosion.

Recently I was interviewed by a leader at ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) about what I would suggest to church leadership teams when it comes to appropriate accountability for pastors. Almost immediately the following suggestions came to mind:

  1. Ensure that the pastor has both a day off and a Sabbath each week. For whatever reason, pastors think they need to be available 24/7, but that leads to burn out. And, without both a day off (to do chores, errands, work around the house, pay bills, exercise, time with spouse and kids, etc.) and a Sabbath, these inevitably get combined…to the detriment of the soul. Sabbath is the “turn key” to the deeper life…without it, one grows stale, dry, and out of touch with the depth and joy of a walk with God. And, without Sabbath one gets lulled into forgetting there is only one God and it’s not them.
  2. Ensure that the pastor is HOME more nights in the week than OUT for church meetings, etc. This “rule of thumb” has been effective over and over again. Marriage and family life is central to the effectiveness of each and every pastor, married or single.
  3. Ensure that the pastor takes his/her full vacation time each year…uninterrupted. Personal time and rest, recreation and renewal are key to the pastor’s health.
  4. Ensure that the pastor has friends…both inside and outside the church…and takes time to cultivate healthy, honest, life-giving friendships.
  5. Ensure that the pastor has daily time in the Word, prayer and reflection…and, ideally, has a spiritual director or coach or mentor to meet with regularly and with whom s/he can entrust the deepest secrets of the soul.
  6. Ensure that the pastor has agreed to best practices for personal accountability (i.e. the Billy Graham rule of not riding in a car or meeting in a closed off room alone with a person of the opposite sex) and lives out appropriate power dynamics and respect for gender equality and mutuality.
  7. Ensure that the pastor takes time for his/her soul on retreat, away from the fray of busyness, and finds spacious, uncluttered, unhindered time to rest in God (ideally in a setting conducive to soul care).
  8. Ensure that the pastor has hobbies and interests outside of the work of the local church. There is “life” to be lived and it’s not all about the “work” of the church.
  9. Ensure that the pastor knows the difference between self-care (hobbies, recreation, etc.) and soul-care (prayer, reflection, etc.) and pursues both without apology and without replacing either with selfish care, which is destructive to the soul and each of their relationships.
  10. Ensure that the pastor has a team that pursues the same priorities so there is mutual accountability among staff and lay leaders.

But, even with such safeguards in place, the bottom line is: ensure that the pastor has freedom to tell the truth, regardless of how hard the truth is to voice. The truth will set us free, even when the truth is difficult to absorb. And then, to provide a safe place for forgiveness and reconciliation to occur…without which a pastor can be made to feel like a discarded member of society (and the church), and leaders can become authoritative and dogmatic to the neglect of wisdom, transparency, clarity, compassion, and hope.

Just because leaders claim the name of Christ and seek to honor and serve the Lord with heart, soul, mind and strength, doesn’t mean there aren’t dark and shadow sides of every leader that need to be attended to in a safe, loving, forgiving and prayerful environment. And, when a pastor is “found out” and a sin pattern emerges, it’s incumbent upon the pastor and the leaders who surround him/her to respond swiftly, appropriately, and in a manner befitting Christ, honoring all involved, and handling matters in accordance with biblical and theological, relational and practical intentionality. Even when discipline is required and hard decisions need to be made.

May God continue to be glorified in His Church, especially during these turbulent times for leaders and teams. The enemy of our souls would like nothing more than to destroy the heart of the Church by having us hide behind our sinfulness, shaming, blaming, and finger pointing others, and living with the resultant division that ultimately will occur.

Lord, have mercy on us all. Amen.

 



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Welcome Home: LTI Celebrates 15 Years of Soul Hospitality for Leaders

 

15th logo yellow

Welcome Home: Celebrating 15 Years of Soul Hospitality for Leaders

The 15th Anniversary of Leadership Transformations was July 1, 2018. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade and a half since Ruth and I ventured into this new ministry terrain. It was a healthy mixture of faith and folly, totally uncertain about where it would lead. Today our ministry is flourishing, thanks be to God.

 

When we left our previous ministry assignment (Vision New England), we had a single donor check in one pocket, and a dream for a new ministry in the other. I’m sure many thought we were crazy to leave a prospering ministry and enter into a lonely place of unknown territory as we set out to serve the spiritual formation needs of leaders and teams.

 

As I reflect back on that first day of a new chapter of life and ministry, I am filled with gratitude to God for keeping the vision in front of me and not allowing doubts to descend and extinguish the dream. We didn’t know what was coming next…everything was new, different, and faith-stretching like never before. I had no idea where I would find office space, who would follow us into uncharted waters, and what we would actually do each day.

 

Our son Nate was heading into his first year of college and Bekah was entering Christian high school two months hence. I had no idea how I was going to pay for two tuitions. We live in an expensive community and I didn’t know if we would be there a year later…it all depended on how life and ministry would materialize in the coming weeks and months. We trusted God, held hands, prayed hard, and kept looking up and ahead.

 

Those early months were a test of our ability to fully trust God and the discernment process we had engaged in over the previous 10 months. God was in the center of the prayers, discussions and deliberations that led us to this decision. There was simply no doubt about it…this was our calling. There was no turning back.

 

Early on, Ruth would look at me cross-eyed in wonder…are we really about to take the biggest risk of our lives? Later on, the roles switched, and with utter panic in my heart, I kept asking her and those who surrounded us in prayerful discernment…are we crazy? If it were not for our closest companions, accompanying our abiding trust in God, we most likely would never have taken this step of faith.

 

But, looking back now fifteen years later, I can honestly say we made the right decision. It was brutal in so many ways, but it was confirmed over and over and over again. And, as I sit and write these brief reflections, I am amazed once more how right it really was. How could we have ever said no to God, who clearly called us into this most amazing journey?

 

As our board and ministry team looks back over the past 15 years, we are filled with awe, wonder and gratitude to God. He birthed LTI. He blessed LTI. He built LTI. We continue to trust him to sustain, protect, and multiply the work of our hands and the prayers of our hearts. This ministry belongs fully to God…I pray we don’t clutch it too tightly or we will squeeze the life out of it!

 

To all who have stood faithfully by our side since the beginning and every year since, I extend my hearfelt thanks. To all who have experienced us negatively for whatever reason, I hope you can forgive us.  And to all who have been served by our team in the past and present, I promise you that our best is yet to come. Our team is prayerful, faithful, trustworthy, agile, and filled with joyful anticipation for all that lies ahead of us in the future. I hope you’ll join us as together we lean fully into all that God invites and intends for us.

 

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow…praise Him, all creatures here below…praise Him above, ye heavenly host…praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen!

 

 

 

 



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Lenten Desire: Recapturing The Present Moment

Faith-and-Holy-Spirit

Have you given up or added anything to help you focus on the quality of your personal discipleship and spiritual formation this Lenten season?

I was on the fence myself, right up to the last minute, but when I heard that one of the younger leaders we serve was giving up Facebook and Instagram, I decided to do likewise. I’ve maintained personal and professional email, as well as important internet access, listening to music and videos online, but no social media. It’s been quite refreshing for my soul.

What have I missed out on? I have no idea!  But, what I’ve gained is so much more. Primarily, I’ve regained the time and emotional energy I used to invest posting or perusing Facebook and Instagram, and have found my heart to be filled with a renewed enjoyment of the present moment.  Not completely, I might add, but at minimum a tad more attentive to the presence of God and the gift of presence with others…and even a deeper awareness of what’s going on in my soul.

The “present moment” is so often lost in our world of distraction and preoccupation. Our ability to be “fully present” to others usually gets subjugated by an unhealthy fascination of others lives and events, as well as all the extra effort we expend to self-congratulate and self-promote online and in our relationships. Our world is so full of people addicted to their smart phones and continuous connection online, and that has led to a very unhealthy self-absorption.

Awareness of the “present moment” allows us to focus our attention on conversations and relationships that matter most…to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation without feeling compelled to share our discoveries with our FB “friends”…and, to read and reflect deeply on the biblical text and in books our souls thrive.

In short, during this Lenten season of stripping away from the things of this world, in order to be more intentionally focused on Christ, social media is one possible focus of release. Others I know are letting go of the need to always be right/in control/have the last word, while others are releasing sweets, chocolate, or coffee…and others I respect are not doing much different at all this Lent, and that’s ok too. Each of us respond to Lent in unique ways…no one does it “better” than another: there is no “right” way to experience Lent.

Regardless of your posture during this holy season of the church year, let me simply encourage you not to miss out on the “present moment” and focus afresh on noticing, attending, resting and abiding in Jesus…and to pursue whatever practices will help you enjoy the continual presence of Christ. Our hearts desire is to more intentionally focus on Christ and not be hindered by distraction, so that we can experience more fully the gifts that accompany this “present moment” of our life with God.

Why do we lean into such a pursuit? As Brother Lawrence wrote in his devotional classic, Practicing the Presence of God, “So that we should feed and nourish our souls with high notions of GOD; which would yield us great joy in being devoted to Him.”

Friends, this is my Lenten prayer for you…”Lord, I thank you for the gift of presence that you offer to us as your beloved children…you are always present and attentive to our needs. Help us to become more aware of your loving presence and offer your grace, mercy and peace to all who cross our path today. In Jesus, Amen.”



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