Steve Macchia Blog

Fall Foliage, Gas Leaks, Red Sox and The Soul

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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

 

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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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The Year of Friendship: With God, Others and Self – part 7

praying hands

The Year of Friendship: With God, Others and Self – part 7

The biblical text comes alive when the subject of friendship is revealed. As we conclude this blog series on spiritual friendship let me point you to several places in the Scriptures for your prayerful consideration, either alone or with a small group of friends.

  1. First off, in John 15: 14-15, we discover this stunning desire of Jesus to call his disciples ‘friends’ – he is also known as the friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34), showing his affection for all.
  2. In Exodus 33:11, the Lord expresses intimate friendship with his chosen leader, Moses, speaking with him face-to-face as a friend.
  3. Human-to-human friendship is displayed between David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18 (especially verses 1-3) and in 20: 17, 42. It’s powerful to read how “Jonathan arose and strengthened David’s hand in God” at a great crisis for David (1 Samuel 23: 16-17). In addition, Elijah and Elisha also demonstrate the best of friendship in ministry partnership (2 Kings 2:2).
  4. The Ruth-and-Naomi model of friendship is also remarkable. Read Ruth 1:16, 17 and throughout the book of Ruth we are encouraged by the faithful friendship embodied between these devoted in-laws.
  5. Who can forget the four friends who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus Christ in Mark 2:3-4 and how their forthright commitment comes tearing through the roof in hopes of receiving the healing grace of Jesus?
  6. In Psalm 25:14 we reflect on “the friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant” of love. Our adoration of God is out of love and friendship coming first from his heart to ours.
  7. In Proverbs we delight in a medley of verses: a friend loves at all times (17:17); faithful are the wounds of a friend (27:6); a pleasing friendship is marked by earnest counsel (27:9); he who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend (22:11).
  8. The Apostle Paul gives us a powerful vision of friendship, inviting us to see our friends like he saw his friends in Thessaloniki (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).
  9. Friendship is also in the context of marital love. Spend time in the Song of Songs and we see this on display in delightful ways (Song of Songs 5:16 and elsewhere).
  10. Even in the face of suffering and adversity, God brings us images of friendship through God’s dealings with Job and his three friends (Job 2:11 and elsewhere). Facing immense pressure and grave danger, Daniel and his friends, Hanahiah, Mishael, and Azariah show the power of companionship and solidarity of prayer and purpose (Daniel 2: 17-30) and disaster is averted. Friendship is a huge encouragement to all who face adversity.

As you reflect on the passages mentioned above, in what way is God inviting you to lean more fully into friendship with the Lord, more loving friendship with others in your orbit of influence, and even within yourself as a spiritually healthy friend-to-self? The question we posed in the very beginning of this series is the one I want to conclude with as well:  How do my initiatives and responses to my friends make Jesus smile?

Behold Jesus, the One who calls you his beloved friend. Believe the priority of loving friendship for all of life. Belong to the community of friends of Jesus who delight in bearing fruit that lasts. Become renewed by the gifts of friendship received and offered in Jesus’ name.



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“The Year of Friendship: With God, Others and Self” – part 6

garden doorway

“The Year of Friendship: With God, Others and Self” – part 6

Why is it that some of us have many life-giving friendships and others have very few? Perhaps we live in a place where it’s unsafe to foster friendship, as some would attest who live in very hostile environments. For others, it’s a preference that fits best in the context of their family and community, and having fewer friendships has never been an issue. For many, it’s a particular choice…some of us are simply more social and enjoy the company of many acquaintances, and others prefer a more solitary life or one where there are few others who surround them.

But, many times there exists in the human heart a longing for friendship, an ache deep within. And, that desire has been blocked or hindered for one reason or another. Over time the desire gets squashed or sacrificed by more than one hindrance to the creation and sustenance of solid friendships…with God, others, and even within us.

What are the possible opponents of friendship that exist in our world today?

1. Lack of time. On the surface, the most prevalent reason friendships don’t exist is our lack of time. How many occasions have you heard others or yourself saying, “I’m just too busy”? Or, when given the opportunity to be with others, the schedule you have doesn’t allow for the development of the friendship. This certainly happens in our friendship with God…too busy to pray, read the Word, or sit quietly and reflect on our lives. It also happens with our friendships…too busy to meet for coffee or an extended day or evening together. What about your life needs to be tamed in order to live in a more unhurried, uncluttered, unhindered fashion for the sake of your own friendships?

2. Incessant demands. The greatest contributors to busyness are the multiple priorities we are seeking to balance. We want it all: family, work, possessions, mobility, church, community, etc. and we work hard to make it all fit. Until we hit a wall and realize we can’t have everything and everyone at the same level. We need to learn instead how best to prioritize our commitments and deal honestly with the tension they create. This takes concerted effort to pray into each area of our lives and discern with others in our orbit of influence how best to make space for friendship. What is God inviting you to fully release or hold more loosely in order to de-stress your life for the sake of building healthy friendships?

3. Self-referencing. One of the most delicate issues of our day is the constant “me focus” we encounter with others. Oftentimes in our relationships we are listening to the stories of others without reciprocal interest in our own.  It seems that we live in a day when each person we encounter is readying himself or herself for personal presentation.  And it comes out almost immediately in an “all about me” attitude. Consider the conversations you’ve had with others in the past 24-48 hours and recount the times when an interest in you was expressed without comment, comparison, or contrast. Reflect for a moment on how well you’ve been listened to in the past day or two. Those who did the best in the listening quotient are most likely your most treasured friends. Those who made sure they one-upped you are most likely simply acquaintances by name and not the kind of healthy friends you need the most. What did you contribute to one or two such conversations that fed your own need to self-reference and when were you content to simply listen?

4. Utilitarian relationships. Another reason we don’t have quality relationships with others is that many times we are looking for function over friendship.  All of us have relationships that have more purpose and objective attached to them rather than simply a desire for loving presence.  Perhaps you are looking for a new job and a particular relationship will increase your network. Or, you are in need of status and being seen with a certain person will heighten that need. Or, you may be working the angles toward financial gain or community acclaim and that person is just the one to help you achieve the goal. Frankly, we all have such relationships, but we all must be careful not to surround ourselves with them exclusively. What is God inviting you to consider regarding both the striving for functional relationships to achieve a particular end, and the longing for friendships based more securely in unconditional love?

5. Loneliness and insecurity. The enemy of our souls hates healthy relationships. And, will do anything possible to discourage you from their pursuit. He will leap on your loneliness by whispering words into your ears like, “No one would ever want to be my friend.” Or, he will tug at your insecurity, “I’m not good enough to be their friend.” Or, worse yet, he will jab you with increased fears “I don’t belong” and expanded anxieties “I can’t be present.” Whatever it is about your loneliness and insecurity can only be conquered by the ever-present, all-knowing, unconditional love of God. Friendship with God is what deepens friendship with others and richer friendship with oneself.  God knows every lonely and insecure part of you and longs to fill those voids with his presence, his power, and his peace. What can you offer to God today that will liberate your soul and enhance your walk with your friends?

Even though many challenges to friendship exist, we can choose to become spiritually healthy friends with God, others, and even within ourselves. May today be one where you pursue vitality in your friendships and heartily embrace a new way of living, loving and listening despite the challenges that thwart your pursuit.

Behold Jesus, the One who calls you his beloved friend. Believe the priority of loving friendship for all of life. Belong to the community of friends of Jesus who delight in bearing fruit that lasts. Become renewed by the gifts of friendship received and offered in Jesus’ name.

 

 



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“The Year of Friendship: With God, Others, and Self” – part 5

Penguins

 

“The Year of Friendship: With God, Others, and Self” – part 5

Immediately after college I began serving in a local church setting. My first ministry supervisor became my mentor and my friend. More than four decades later I can happily report that he’s still one of my mentors and friends, and now he serves on our ministry team at Leadership Transformations. Leadership + Friendship = Success

Whenever I talk about leadership and friendship, the discussion revolves around the propriety of such a combination. Can you lead others and still be friends? Is it ok to become friends with those you lead? Some in leadership circles contend that it’s impossible to mix the two; others almost exclusively hire and serve alongside friends. Where are you in this regard?

At LTI we believe that leadership and friendship combine delightfully. We always have started with relationship first and foremost before determining ones defined functional responsibilities. We look for people who are the right fit for the team and community, and then work toward meaningful responsibilities that match our mission with their gifts, calling and passion. We believe that the right side up approach is friendship first; leadership follows; and then fruit emerges in abundance.

But, we’ve also observed when friendship has been ruffled or even ruined as a result of a leader/friend combo. There are many reasons for the friendship being hurt or inadvertantly coming to an end…unresolved conflicts; overinflated egos; unrealized expectations; a closed culture of disrespect; just to name a few. But, the primary reason leadership and friendship comes to an abrupt end: an abuse of power.

When we begin to power over another, we hurt both the friendship and the leadership, especially when both are supposed to be spiritual. No one worth their salt wants to be powered over. Instead, when the culture of the relationship is always to empower, then friends who are leaders and followers alike will ultimately thrive. Empowerment is the approach; thriving is the result.

Jesus called his followers friends. He led them in love as Savior, but also as Steward, Shepherd, and Servant. He believed in them, lived among them, invested in their well-being, forgave them, empowered them, and ultimately sacrificed his life for them. A leader who aspires after such leadership will befriend those who surround them and create a culture of empowering grace in which each can become all that God intends, both individually and collectively.

Spiritual friendship and spiritual leadership belong together and are held in healthy tension when the following priorities are in place:

  1. A culture of grace – celebrating each person on the team as well as the efforts of the whole team are essential elements of creating a healthy culture. However, no one is perfect; we all will ultimately disappoint another. But, in a graced community, leaders and followers alike freely forgive and humbly move on; they prayerfully pursue reconciliation and always protect the reputation of others;
  2. A commitment to empowerment – each team must make the fundamental decision to follow best practices, abide by shared principles, adhere to a unified vision and mission, and direct their fullest attention to thriving with excellence in the work of the community that’s before them…this priority is upheld when each person is empowered to become all that God intends;
  3. A community of love – the healthiest system is an open system, where conversation and discernment happen with freedom and authenticity; in an open system there is simply no room for secrets, shame, blame, ridicule, gossip or slander. When a common unity and the bond of peace hold such a team of friends together, they will never be permanently severed, despite the challenges that will ultimately come their way.

Leaders as friends: Abide in Jesus. Receive Him as Friend. Love others as friends. Lead others with Jesus. Bear fruit that will last. Find joy in both friendship and leadership. Befriend with grace. Empower with freedom. Thrive and bear fruit. All for the honor and glory of God and for the edification of your spiritual friends.

Behold Jesus, the One who calls you his beloved friend. Believe the priority of loving friendship for all of life. Belong to the community of friends of Jesus who delight in bearing fruit that lasts. Become renewed by the gifts of friendship received and offered in Jesus’ name.



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