Steve Macchia Blog

A Lesson from Oprah

Oprah Winfrey’s daily talk show came to an end last week. It was a major television event. Several big names were showcased on the show, including Maya Angelou. When asked why Oprah was so influential and loved worldwide, Maya mentioned that chief among the reasons was how well she listened to people, “Oprah listens in a way that leads to and invites trust.”

What better way to be recognized than as a good listener? It’s certainly true that listening is one of the chief hallmarks of loving relationships. When we hit the spot and attend to the voice of another, we discover that empathy comes with greater fluidity. But, when we miss the mark and turn a muted or deaf ear to another, we end up living in isolation and relational poverty.

God longs for us to listen to his voice. In fact, doesn’t he have much more important words to say to us than we could ever say to him? Translate that to our human relationships…isn’t it far more important to listen first before offering our own words? Jesus certainly modeled that for us – asking a question in reply to one over and over again. It seems like he was always more inclined to listen, observe, and ponder first before speaking.

We know Oprah Winfrey for her talk show…but was it really more of a listen show? Listening is a lesson worth learning and adhering to no matter what. Listen to God, listen to another, listen to our world, listen even to yourself – and then offer your reply. You’ll find that what comes out of your mouth is a far better reflection of your listening heart and might in fact be much richer in wisdom and significance. Do you agree? I’m all ears…

Caring For A Good Life

I’m doing a slow read through the classic The Imitation of Christ. It is best read slowly, reflectively, and prayerfully. It’s too much to absorb as a quick read and it’s impossible to complete in one setting. I decided to pick it up once again after nearly two decades since I first read it. Already about a third of the way through and I’m convicted on many fronts.

Thomas A Kempis (1379-1471) does a masterful job of speaking directly to the heart of the matter: if we are to imitate Christ, we need to hold the world and all its vanities in contempt. To dwell upon the life of Jesus Christ compels us to reconsider how much we are being conformed by this world rather than transformed by Christ. His simple but profound statement, “it is vanity to desire a long life, and to have little care for a good life” provides the essence of this masterpiece.

It is written in four books, respectively entitled: “Useful Reminders of the Spiritual Life” (Book One), “Suggestions drawing one toward the Inner Life” (Book Two), “Of Inner Comfort” (Book Three), and “The Book of the Sacrament” (Book Four). It is written in the form of meditations, brief chapters brimming with insight about one major theme after another. Paying close attention to the content herein will bring the reader into a deeper self-awareness and prayerful devotion.

A few worthwhile quotes to ponder: “Many words satisfy not the soul, but a good life refreshesh the mind, and a pure conscience giveth great confidence towards God” and “Let thy company be the humble and the simple, the devout and the gentle, and let thy discourse be concerning things which edify” and “Trials and temptations turn greatly unto our profit, even though they be great and hard to bear; for through them we are humbled, purified, instructed” and “Endeavor to be patient in bearing with other men’s faults and infirmities whatsoever they be, for thou thyself also hast many things which have need to be borne with by others” and “The clothing and outward appearance are of small account; it is change of character and entire mortification of the affections which make a truly religious man.”

May the words of this wonderful text ring true in your soul and provide both refreshment and challenge to all who are seriously intentional about living for and imitating Christ in thought, word, and deed. “O how great is the abundance of Thy sweetness, O Lord, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee.” Amen.

This entry also appears in Conversations Journal Blog.

iPhone: Home Alone

Recently I left my smart phone at home as I rushed out the door to an early morning meeting. I didn’t realize what was missing until I pulled into the parking lot for my 7:30 am connection with two very important people related to our ministry. I was instantly infuriated with my forgetfulness, frustrated with my ineffectiveness, and annoyed with my silly exasperation. Not a good way to start one’s day…especially if that one is the leader of a ministry focusing on the care of the souls of leaders and teams, and the formation of a lifestyle that features quiet reflection and a slower pace of life (yes, that’s yours truly).

It took me about 15 minutes to simply “let it go” in order to be present with my colleagues and enjoy the meeting. I was fixated on the certainty of forgetting my iPhone. It took me a while to get over the fact that I was completely (although only temporarily) out of contact with my family, office, and anyone else who would need to get in touch with (all important) me. I figured out how to meander my way back home after the meeting, albeit out of the way, in order to pick up my cell phone before continuing the duration of my day. When I finally had it back in my possession, I breathed a sigh of…relief?

Upon reflection, I was able to parse out why this scenario bothered me so much. I had to admit I am addicted to having this communication tool at my fingertips throughout the day. I had to confess to God and myself that indeed this piece of technology had a grip on my heart. To live without it for a day, or even a half-day, seemed at the moment utterly impossible. That reality hit me hard.

At each of the soul care retreats LTi facilitates, I “triple-dog-dare” the participants to place their cell phone in the middle of the worship table and forget about it for the duration of the retreat. I often scoff to myself as to how few actually take me up on my challenge. How dare I have that kind of pompous attitude ever again, after my hissy fit over leaving mine at home during the first few hours of a work day.

Lord, forgive me for the trap I find myself in when my addiction to technology replaces my soul’s steadfast desire for you and you alone. Release me from the need to be connected more to the people and issues and tasks of my day rather than be embraced and led by your Spirit. I need you much more than I could ever lean on any piece of technology. Renew within my heart a greater love for the mystery of the secret place, the generosity of the quiet space, and the abundance of the Spirit’s grace…and help me to practice life without any of the trappings that keep me from leaning solely on you, Lord Jesus!

Joyfully Doting

Our favorite 15 month old, Ameliah Ruth, was with us over the weekend. It was a delight to have her in our home once again…we can hardly get enough of her! She’s been a part of our life since she was born in February 2010; her parents very special friends to us as well. We look forward to watching her grow up and we’re very excited about being her Uncle Steve and Auntie Ruthie.

It was pretty amazing on Saturday morning to realize how much time we spent doting on her…snuggling with her in our bed after she woke up, playing patty cake, singing songs, eating breakfast, coaching her as she tried to walk, enjoying her cooing sounds, watching her manipulate toys, gazing at her profile, looking in her eyes, touching her fingers and toes, sitting with her on my lap, and simply being present to her every move and need.

When she went down for her nap I found myself missing her…anxious for her to wake up so we could do it all over again. As an older uncle, long since the days of being a young dad, I knew my reality was that she would soon head home with her parents. But for the overnight joy of her presence in our midst, we counted each moment with Ameliah as pure gift.

As we kissed her goodbye, I couldn’t help but wonder about the love Jesus has for me/us when we simply are held, loved, and doted on from the embrace of heaven. How much the Father loves to lavish love upon his children…my love for Ameliah pales in comparison. However, it was good for my soul to reflect afresh on the doting love that God has over me (and you!)…and we feel it and know it when we practice learning how to do nothing but be childlike in his presence, ever attentive to the gift of his doting love. I suspect that’s what pure joy looks like from the vantage point of the eyes and heart of our Heavenly Father.

Reclaiming Purity

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Cor. 6:19)

Paul is asking the question in an assumptive posture…hello people, didn’t you know this? Then why are you partaking in sexual immorality and giving your body away to unhealthy ends? “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Then flee from such immorality!” (vs. 15,18)

Easier said than done—especially in this sex-crazed world we are living in today. The temptations are everywhere the eye roams: television, internet, billboards, magazines, movies, etc.  Sex sells so it’s become the dominant theme of marketers worldwide. How can such influence be confronted by the Church?

I just returned from an international mission trip in Eastern Europe. We addressed this issue with a group of about 500 young adults. The mood was serious; each person attentive. We looked at the biblical text, including stories such as David with Bathsheba and Potipher’s wife toward Joseph. We talked about the universality of the temptations that challenge one’s purity. We looked at ways to practically and relationally wrestle this monster to the ground and pin down his shoulders for good. We prayed and worshiped and the challenge to live modestly and purely was given. Some responded positively; others still considering how best to deal with it for themselves.
Without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, purity will never regain strength. The soul on fire with immoral sexual luring will be eaten away one morsel at a time. Spirituality is directly linked to the care of one’s body, including one’s sexual practices. Apparently Paul the Apostle knew this and addressed it with force. Why should we be afraid to do likewise?

This entry also appears in Conversations Journal Blog.