Steve Macchia Blog

Permission to Lament: A Legitimate Response to COVID-19

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Dear Friends,

This article by N.T. Wright on Christianity’s perspective of COVID-19 hit a raw nerve in my soul. In it Wright suggests that our role as Christians is not to give answers to why, how, or even what or who, is most related to COVID-19. Instead, to simply be present with one another in the virus. Not providing explanations or even compelled toward declaring hope or sighs of relief. Instead, to join our hearts in lament: a collective stillness of poised, anxious sorrow.

I relate to this article, not just because I’m prone to melancholy myself, but because of all the genuine sorrow being experienced worldwide. And, without a defined ending point, solution, or even a clear light at the end of this virus’ dark tunnel. We wait, not in rest, but in collective anxiety. We try to defer or distract from our sorrow, and sweet stories of goodness and kindness bring a brief smile to our face and a tear to our eye. But, then the sorrow returns.

Lament. It’s what the psalms are filled with, and our prayers invite. Lament. Crying out to God for relief of our suffering, our pain, our heartache, our endless days of sadness and gloom. Lament. It’s universal, not just for the least, the lost, and the lonely, but for the upwardly mobile, the winners, and the socialites. If we’re honest, it’s something you’ve seen and felt and known too.

What I’m discovering in my own soul is that the lament of our world today is uncovering the lament of my world today. Lament. Over broken relationships that make no sense in times like these. Lament. Because of my own selfishness, defensiveness, and dare I confess: sinfulness. Lament. In spite of our collective desire to be people of hope, we are known more for our competitive spirits and our uncooperative unwillingness to bend…even an inch. Lament. Sorrow for how much our selfish humanness must hurt the heart of our selfless God. Lament.

Those of us in soul work understand lament because we hear it when we meet with others in confidential spaces. We listen to stories of real people in real settings dealing with real hardship, suffering, angst, disillusionment. We aren’t surprised by what we hear. Mostly because of our common humanity, but specifically because we can actually imagine it for ourselves. If we’re willing to empathize. And lament.

How are you dealing with the out-of-control nature of the pandemic? You are hereby given permission to embrace the response of lament. It’s actually quite good for your soul. The psalms are our comfort, for they are filled with prayers of lament. Express your lament to God. He can handle it. His broad shoulders can carry your lament. Trust him and encourage others to do likewise.

“…it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead. As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell. And out of that there can emerge new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new scientific understanding, new hope. New wisdom for our leaders? Now there’s a thought.” (N.T. Wright)

With our prayerful lament we also long for hope. Like the Lenten season and Holy Week, both filled with hard images of suffering and sorrow, we do know that Easter will burst forth with resurrection light and power. Christ reigns supreme, he is indeed on his throne, and the life he offers to all is resplendent with joy. Lament is only for this side of heaven. Eternity won’t have anything to offer lament except to be crushed by hope.

As we all suffer through this trial and tribulation, our anchor is Christ and Christ alone. So, even as we lament, let’s keep pointing one another to the cross, the empty tomb, and the gift of eternal life. And, ultimately, to God: Father Almighty, Jesus our Savior, and the Spirit we call Holy. There is no better way forward.

Your friends at Leadership Transformations have pivoted toward several online offerings. Take advantage of them over this coming month. We are here for you in whatever state your soul is found today. In lament. In humility. In anticipation. In prayer. In joy.

Check out our COVID-19 page on our website where you’ll find helpful FREE offerings for the care of your soul…and, a healthy handful ofONLINE offerings too.

Your brother in Christ,

Steve Macchia

 



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19 Ways to Care-for-your-soul…during Stay-at-Home COVID-19

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19 Ways to Care-for-your-Soul…during Stay-at-Home COVID-19

During these challenging stay-at-home days, let me encourage you to cultivate your friendship with God, deepen your friendship with the community of God, and consider ways to serve others in the name of our Triune God, our loving Father, gracious Savior, and empowering Holy Spirit. As we all practice social distancing and collectively fight the pandemic, it’s important that we care for our own soul and the souls of others within our reach, in both new and ancient ways:

  1. Pray – now more than ever, we need to be in our prayer closets entrusting our hearts and lives and concerns into the loving hands of our faithful God.
  2. Walk – sheltering inside days on end will contribute to sadness, boredom, fretting, fearing, and obsessing…take a daily walk and get some fresh air.
  3. Rest – pay attention to your body and get much needed rest; perhaps even consider a daily nap to keep your heart, mind, body, and spirit fresh.
  4. Play – maybe it’s time to get out those puzzles, board or card games, and engage with a loved one around something less weighty and more relaxing.
  5. Write – write a note, craft a poem, start or restart your journal, or simply put words down on paper that describe the current state of your soul.
  6. Read – starting with the Bible, Christian materials, and perhaps a good novel, or a self-help book, read slowly, purposefully, restfully, meditatively.
  7. Create – contemplative creative play is worth practicing, bringing to life that “other” side of your productivity: color, paint, mold clay, take photos.
  8. Cook – instead of eating instant foods made by manufacturers, pull out a fun, easy, or even a more complex recipe and enjoy a good meal or treat.
  9. Call – in this digital age it’s tempting to think we can stay in touch with friends and loved ones only one way; pick up the phone and call instead.
  10. Serve – guaranteed there are neighbors around you in need of an act of kindness and grace; ask the Lord to lead you to do something simple for another.
  11. Forgive – in the busy fray of life we often ignore our anger, frustration, and conflict with others; ask the Lord if it might be time to forgive and move on.
  12. Laugh – we all need some good news to counter all the sad news; give yourself permission to be lighthearted, knowing that laughter is good for the soul.
  13. Notice – with open space and less responsibilities (unless you’re on the front lines of medical care, etc.) observe springtime popping all around you.
  14. Hope – in times of trouble, hardship, suffering, and sadness, look in God’s Word for words of hope and comfort that will keep you moving forward.
  15. Declutter – take it one room or one drawer or one closet or one file at a time and purpose to simplify, clear out, and/or dust off what’s been ignored.
  16. Slow – choose a different pace for your days and watch how your world slows down with you; linger over tasks, lessen the load, and live more fully.
  17. Thank – lean fully into gratitude, for it will heal and strengthen you like few other attitudes; as you practice thankfulness your heart will swell with joy.
  18. Listen – as tempting as it may be to focus on yourself, practice the fine art of listening – to God and to others, without competing or correcting them.
  19. Love – the most important way to care for your soul is to love God, and then love your neighbor as yourself; love will empower us through this season.

Add your own ways to care for your soul during this season of at-homeness, practicing the presence of God and a preference for God, in all aspects of our lives as friends of God and friends with others in his name.

God bless you with an abundance of his grace, joy, and peace as you experience God’s kindness and goodness amidst this worldwide pandemic. Lord, have mercy!

 

 



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Fasting from the Intuitive

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During the coronavirus pandemic we are being asked to do so many things that are counterintuitive to what has been our preferred norm. No concerts, plays, theme parks, or sporting events. No restaurants. No cruises. No church. No school. No parties. No hugs or handshakes. No gatherings above 500, then it was 250, then 50, 25, and now no more than 10 people in immediate proximity. Keep your distance. Stay home if you’re sick. Don’t cough or sneeze unless into your arm.

 

Being forced into a fast is rarely preferred. Normally we choose our fasts according to what seems most dominant and in greatest need of pause. Today we are in the midst of a culturally mandated fast. And all for the good of the most vulnerable, which is reason enough to join an abundance of wisdom and caution.

 

What part of this pandemic is most troubling to you? Are you fearful of the disease? Or of the dis-ease? Concerned about the health of loved ones? Or skeptical about the need to panic or even prepare? Worried about the stock market and your/our financial future? Not liking the social distancing? Or is it the government’s evolving demands?

 

We seem to be all over the map in our response. Some are approaching it with grace and patience. Others are selective or oblivious. Still others are filled with fear and anxiety. We need to recognize and honor one another in spite of our opinions. Bottom line: we need to flatten the curve, do all we can to spare lives, optimize the medical community, and pray for God’s protection, mercy, strength, and healing.

 

It’s timely that we’re also in the season of Lent. A time to fast, to be humbled, to let go of ourselves and look to the greater good. The call today is for compassion, humility, grace, and patience. All of which are incredibly counterintuitive to our common humanity. But, rise to the occasion we must, and will, and we will eventually look back and reflect, reconsider, and recalibrate for the days ahead.

 

Fasting from the intuitive has become our shared mission…“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)

 

May it be so! Amen.



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Lenten Invitation: Ash Wednesday

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Lenten Invitation

Ash Wednesday ushers in the Lenten season. On this poignant day of corporate worship and quiet reflection, we muse upon our human mortality (from ashes to ashes, from dust to dust) amidst our spiritual reality (loved, cherished, forgiven and bought with a price). Our life on earth is short-lived amidst the backdrop of eternity. For that we are profoundly grateful.

It’s appropriate that we lean into Lent with a slightly tilted posture. We need God. We trust God. We depend upon God. Therefore, we bow down in reverence and gratitude and prayer.

For the next 40 days (plus Sundays) we will traverse the landscape once more. The roads Jesus walked. The messages he conveyed. The lives he transformed. The events he experienced. The lessons he embodied. The suffering he endured.

We join Jesus and his disciples as we watch. And wait. And wonder. And worship.

And all the while our world spins, faster and faster, until the centrifugal force propels us outside the quiet of our souls.

Unless we slow down. Stay grounded. Shut out the noise. Embrace the invitation. Notice more. Listen more. Be more.

Let Lent in this year. Don’t miss it. So much richness. For the sake of your soul.

 

PS There’s still time to order a copy of Outstretched Arms of Grace, a 40 day Lenten journey, and the LTI Online retreat guide for Lent, also available in our spiritualformationstore.com

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The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – we remember and give thanks…

It’s never too late for justice…and mercy…and kindness…and grace…and love.

“Love is the most durable power in the world. This creative force, so beautifully exemplified in the life of our Christ, is the most potent instrument available in mankind’s quest for peace and security.” Love Your Enemies, a sermon on Matthew 5: 43-45 by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – we remember him today with grateful hearts.

And, Harriett Tubman, Rosa Parks, Michael Haynes, Bryan Stevenson…just to name a few who were and are advocates for God’s loving and peace-filled priorities. May their number multiply in our generation. #Just Mercy  #Harriett #Heroes #Freedom #Truth #Hope



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STARTING THE NEW YEAR WITH 20/20 CLARITY

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There will undoubtedly be lots of puns, jokes and analogies about the year 2020, mostly I suspect about the lucidity of our 20/20 eyesight. Vision will be a big theme, as will focus, clarity and single-mindedness.

I’ve worn glasses since the 3rd grade. I recall it with vivid recollection. My teacher, Mrs. Rabokus, thought it appropriate to ask me to stand in front of the class to show off my new glasses. I was mortified. The memory has stayed with me since, mostly as an example of what to never do to a child! What was she thinking?

As a glasses wearer, I’ve only known a life in daily, moment-by-moment need of help to see. I happen to be near-sighted, therefore my lenses are designed to help me see images far away with greater clarity. But as I’ve aged, and my eyesight has languished. I now wear progressive lenses so that I’m aided in seeing both distance and closeness. The optometrist tells me the next thing is cataracts, and to that I say “aarrgh.”

On this New Year 2020, it might be time for you to consider your own vision prescription. Do you need help seeing what’s next, both near and far? If so, may I suggest the following:

LOOK BACK – Our vision for the future is informed by our past. Take some time to reflect on the gifts of the past year, and perhaps beyond. Where have you noticed God at work forming and conforming you into his likeness? What aspects of the past year were life-giving and which were life-draining? Can you create a short list of 3-5 highlights for which you are most grateful?

LOOK UP – Our vision for the future is defined best by God. As you reflect on your past, be reminded of the myriad ways God invites you into a richer, more uplifting relationship with him. Are you sensing his empowering presence? Are you noticing his abiding peace? Are there questions you want to be asking him for clarity in your heart and mind during this season of life?

LOOK IN – Our vision for the future is clarified by our longings. Pay attention to the desires of your heart that God has placed within you. What is it that makes your fist shake with injustice? What is it that brings a tear to your eye? Noticing the deepest longings of our heart puts us in touch with the desire God has placed there for us to attend to. What brings you life today?

LOOK OUT – Our vision for the future is fulfilled by our service to others. Each of us are designed by God uniquely and beautifully. But we are not made for ourselves. We are created to love and serve others in Jesus’ name. What aspect of your current areas of service is most gratifying to you today? Are there areas of your life that you perhaps should release in the future?

Looking back, up, in and out will give you a renewed sense of direction for the year(s) ahead. Without such prayerful reflection we will continue to entrust our lives into the hands of our culture, the whims of society, and the issues of the day. Perhaps it’s a better choice to pray, pause, reflect, and attend to the fresh movement of God’s Spirit and invite the Lord to lead you forward with greater clarity and with a vision that’s more 20/20 in alignment with his will and desire!

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RESOURCE FOR THE NEW YEAR!

Learn to practice the disciplines of prayer, healthy relationships and good works with this thoughtful devotional resource!



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TREATING CHRISTMAS LIGHTLY?

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We are just a few days from Christmas and I’m amazed at how the Advent season has been so distracting.

Even with daily devotionals flooding our inbox from a variety of sources and taking time to attend a few concerts, worship services, and holiday parties, we’re adding all the additional shopping, wrapping, baking, and prepping to our daily routines.

The result: we’re worn out and once again we’ve treated Christmas lightly.

However, it’s not too late to reclaim a deeper look at the miraculous gift of the Incarnation. Here are some suggestions to consider:

  1. Read Luke 1 slowly, prayerfully, and reflectively for one leisurely hour, noting the key personalities surrounding the coming of Jesus.
  2. Read Luke 2:1-20 slowly, prayerfully, and reflectively for one spacious hour, noting each facet of the storyline with wonder and curiosity – as if you’ve never read the story before.
  3. Light the advent wreath or a single white candle, turn off the lights and prayerfully reflect on the gifts God has given to you in this season of life. Offer a breath prayer of thanksgiving each time you recount a blessing from God.
  4. Sit like a child in front of the manger scene or your adorned tree or another favorite decoration in your home and notice with joy the beauty of Advent and Christmas, recalling early memories of your most cherished childhood memories. Give thanks to the Lord for his kindness, love and mercy.
  5. Enjoy a favorite Christmas movie with family and friends. Pop some popcorn. Laugh and cry together. Be warmed and humored. Let joy reign in your heart.
  6. Be sure to enjoy mealtimes with family and friends without any technology at the table so you can be fully present with one another. Purpose to look one another in the eyes and give thanks for their role in your life. Give thanks together for God’s gift of presence in Jesus.
  7. Take a long walk in the woods or do a jigsaw puzzle or find some way to enjoy something opposite to your full-to-overflowing daily routines and which bring out your creative side. Notice the peace of Jesus as you relish the beauty all around you.

You know what treating Christmas lightly looks and feels like. So, this year let’s turn that upside down and fully embrace the gifts of Christmas offered to us in the miracle of the Christ child, the Incarnate One, born humbly in a stable, for you, his dearly beloved child.

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SILENCIO: A BOOK ON A MISSION

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In many respects, Silencio is a book on a mission: to guide you to the often-uncharted geography of the human-yet-eternal soul

And, Leadership Transformations is a “team of missionaries” committed to helping you find your way back home to the heart of God.

Why? Because your soul matters to God.

And it matters to you and all who accompany you on the journey of life. God is always hospitable with his loving attentiveness and gentle initiatives. We can turn our heart and soul back home to God’s loving embrace no matter how far we may wander. And, attending to your neglected soul is a choice you can make – today

Convinced of the continual neglect of the soul, twenty-two members of the Leadership Transformations Ministry Team recently released their first team-written book, Silencio: Reflective Practices for Nurturing Your Soul.

It’s a compendium of 64 thematic chapters, featuring a plethora of classic spiritual formation topics, with an overview, quotes, a public domain hymn, reflective questions, prayers, and suggested practices for each. It’s a unique volume in so many ways, and LTI is thrilled to make this available to the wider body of Christ.

Perhaps it’s time to care of the part of you that matters most: your own soul. We hope Silencio becomes one of your companions for the journey that leads you home to the extravagant love of God – the very best lover of your soul!

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POSTURE – A SOUL’S FEAST

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This week began with Christ the King Sunday, which leads us into Thanksgiving, and then culminates with the first Sunday in Advent. What a great week for the nourishment of the soul – a spiritual trifecta!

With Christ the King we conclude the liturgical calendar and the end of the church year. It’s a fabulous reminder that Christ remains on the throne in all his splendor and majesty. No matter the circumstances of our lives, no matter the tribulations we face on earth, Christ empathizes, comforts, sustains, and awaits our eternal home – simply out of love.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday, focusing our hearts and minds on the blessings of the amazing lineage we all share as citizens of our great country. On this holiday we gather as family and friends to recount our many blessings, enjoy a splendiferous and delectable feast, watch parades and football, and await the shopping frenzy that follows in the coming weeks. Thanksgiving is a refreshing pause amidst the fray.

Advent takes us full circle back to the beginning of our spiritual journey, to the long-awaited anticipation of the miraculous incarnation of Jesus as a baby born of the Spirit and into this world through the womb of Mary. In Jesus we find our greatest hope, our deepest joy, and our inmost peace. Because of the great love of God, we are invited into relationship with Jesus that’s wrapped in love. And our lives are transformed forever.

As you savor the feasts offered this week, enjoy them with a grateful heart. A blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours! I look forward to traveling the season of Advent together in the coming weeks. And, if you haven’t ordered your copy of Silencio, be sure to do so today.

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LIVING AND SERVING AT GODSPEED

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In my 41 years of ministry, I’ve learned that building spiritual formation in congregations and communities might require a change of pace. Earlier this summer, I passed the threshold of my 41st year in ministry. My career began in the local church for 11 years, followed by 14 years at the helm of a regional ministry, capped off by the past 16 years with Leadership Transformations.

The big idea I’ve discovered along the way is that in local church and parachurch ministry settings, we have bought in to the idea that bigger, better, bolder, new, next, now is the mantra of ministry life. We are in constant pursuit of growth (bigger), effectiveness (better), the big splash (bolder), the latest trends (new), our strategic initiatives (next), and it all needs to be done “yesterday” (now). Does that sound like your collective team mindset?

What if we upended that, even for a season, and sought to live at a different pace that would enable us to actually deepen our knowledge of God through experience and allow us to intentionally pursue ministry that is focused on relationships and being more fully known? Would we have collective jitters about the result? Or, would we welcome it with open arms?

The LTI mantra is as the leader(ship) goes, so goes the organization, but, more importantly, as the soul of the leader goes, so goes the leader. We see this over and over and over again. Another way to say it is it’s all about leadership and it’s all about the souls of leaders. Our ministry comes alongside leaders and teams to help them live and serve in a soul-centric way.

Recently, I came upon the Godspeed film, created by Matt Canlis, a pastor who learned the hard way what a different-paced life and ministry looks like, including appearances of N.T. Wright and Eugene Peterson. If you haven’t seen the Godspeed film, I encourage you to take 30 minutes to do so. I promise you’ll be challenged, encouraged, and blessed. And, like so many others, I presume you’ll be rocked by the core message of “genuinely living at the pace of being known.”

Our upcoming Symposium on Spiritual Formation for Congregations and Communities promises to be a transformational experience! We have invited Matt Canlis to join us, and we believe his message is timely for all. We are fortunate that he was available to come, because, given his rigorous pursuit of living at the pace he speaks about, Matt hardly ever travels to speak at events like ours! Susan Currie, Suz Skinner, Jeremy Stefano, and Rick Anderson will also be joining us for this event!

I look forward to spending October 16-18 with you at the Symposium. And, if possible, bring your team! I firmly believe it’s time we all learn to live and serve at the pace of being known at Godspeed.

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