Steve Macchia

The Missing One Another

The “one another” passages in the New Testament are my favorite way of defining the textures and contours of spiritual community. The phrase comes from the Greek word allelon which means “one another, each other, mutually, or reciprocally.” Each time it’s used as an imperative command and the basis for true Christian community.

Love one another is the most frequently referenced (16 times). But the biblical use of one another includes nearly 60 other commands for how we are to relate to one another in community. For example: be devoted to one another, honor one another above yourselves, live in harmony with one another, build up on another, serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, be kind and compassionate to one another, submit to one another, teach, comfort, encourage, exhort, pray for, and show hospitality to one another.

However, as I’ve pondered the one another’s over the years, what’s notably absent from the list is “listen to one another.” Why would that not be included? It’s one of my many questions for God, given the essential nature of listening in every meaningful relationship.

The Scriptures do tell us how to speak to one another: with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord…yielding to each other as you would to Christ (Eph. 5: 19-21). And there are certainly references to listening within passages such as “let each of you look not to his own interests, but also to the interests of others; do nothing from rivalry/selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3,4) Additionally, Jesus commands us, “Consider carefully how you listen” (Luke 8:18) and “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15). But no specific “listen to one another” command.

One of the best parallels to “listen to one another” is found in the book of James. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1: 19-25)

Listening to one another is needed today in the body of Christ. Frankly, we simply don’t know how to listen. Why is that the case? Because listening implies proactive consideration and concern for relationship, as expressed in empathy, compassion, and mutual understanding.

Consider the conflicts in our culture and unfortunately in the church today. How much genuine listening is going on? Little to none. Instead, we hurl insults, opinions, interpretations, and unfounded assumptions as missiles directed to the soul and character of the person(s) involved. Lord, have mercy upon us.

I’ve often said, “without intentional with-ness we simply don’t have an integrated witness” – and with-ness requires presence and presence is only fully expressed when we look in each other’s eyes, honor one another as a beloved child of God, and truly hear one another’s words and the heart those words represent.

When is the last time you were truly, fully, and genuinely listened to…and, when is the last time you offered loving presence and a genuine desire to listen to another?

It’s time we learn how best to honor, hear, and hold one another’s words prayerfully (not disregardingly), reflectively (not defensively), and lovingly (not destructively). And, it’s time we avoid all manner of gossip, slander, falsehood, bitterness, rage, and anger. Instead, let love be our guide in all of our relationships with one another in the body of Christ.

Listen to one another. It’s one of the best ways to love one another. Our Christian witness depends upon it.

The Missing One Another Read More »

The Spiritual Discipline of Spaciousness

Henri Nouwen once wrote, “The discipline of the Christian disciple is not to master anything, but rather to be mastered by the Spirit. True Christian discipline is the human effort to create the space in which the Spirit of Christ can transform us into his image.” (The Selfless Way of Christ, p. 70)

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I would say “creating space for God” is the #1 spiritual discipline.  Without spaciousness we won’t fully receive all that God delights to deliver to us in the Scriptures, the beauty of creation, the joy of meaningful work, the delight of serving the needs of others, and the gift of friendship and community.

In this day of perpetual distraction, constant noise, unending activity, and interminable demands on our time, finding space for God alone feels nigh to impossible. We spend the vast majority of our waking moments in pursuit of lesser gods and their accompanying godless attachments. They may not appear at first blush to be damning for our souls, but in fact they become blatant hindrances to the vitality of our walk with God when they continuously supplant our much needed spaciousness with God. And, therefore, must be removed and more properly realigned around our priority for an intimate walk with God.

That’s why it’s “the human effort to create the space in which the Spirit of Christ can transform us into his image.” It’s effort. A discipline. One with great rewards.

Creating space for God opens us up to his renewing, restoring, and redeeming work in our souls. Without such space we will run ourselves ragged amidst the cacophony of sounds and endless activities that will preoccupy our hearts and keep us from a deep abiding in Jesus.

In the midst of a full day of ministry, Jesus invites his closest disciples to “come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6: 31) So they “went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” A boat! What a great idea, Jesus! On a boat they were away from the crowds, it was quieter on the water, and the disciples could restfully attend to Jesus’ comforting words of love and the fellowship of their shared journey of faith.

Why a boat? Because the Lord wanted to give his friends a rest for their bodies, minds, and souls. And, his desire for his apprentices was for a deeper rest and trust. His invitation was to create and delight in the spaciousness of their moments together…

  • Unhindered by the clamoring demands of our world which lead us to be unhinged and separated from God
  • Uncluttered and free from doing, wanting, and having, and instead in pursuit of simply “being” a child of God
  • Unhurried and restful, with heightened attentiveness to seeing and being seen, hearing and being heard

On the heels of this time alone, they were fit for service from a rested and renewed space. As a result, they were invited into a significant task: to feed the five thousand. They did so with reclaimed affection for Christ and fervor for serving others in his name.

How spacious is your life today, dear friend? Consider how to declutter in order to find genuine rest for your souls. You’ll be glad you did.

The Spiritual Discipline of Spaciousness Read More »

Wondering

Wondering

The word “wonder” has a twofold meaning…the verb wonder, as in curiosity, “I wonder what that really means” and it’s opposite, doubt, “I wonder if that marriage will last.” Secondly, the noun wonder, which is more like awe, “noticing the sunrise with the wonder or joy of a child.”

Regardless, wondering – both curiosity and awe – stand front and center in the season of Advent.

We wonder with curiosity about the first coming of Jesus. The prophecies that foretold his coming. The actual setting, the characters, time period, and chronology of events. We wonder how Mary is doing in her final days of pregnancy. We wonder about Joseph’s efforts to keep her comfortable. We wonder about the inn keeper who only had a manger available for the Christ child. We wonder at the poignancy of the entire story.

We also wonder with awe at the magnanimous and miraculous nature of the Nativity. We wonder about God’s fulfillment of his generations-long promises to send a Messiah, just as he did…by the work of the Spirit, through the Virgin Mary, in a humble manger and a simple town, quietly and graciously, surrounded by angels and shepherds on a starlit night.

We are bursting with anticipation as our own Advent wonderings are themselves pregnant with significance for our lives today. We wonder about the Incarnation. We wonder about the second coming of Christ. We wonder about his coming into our hearts and lives and penetrating the deepest recesses of our souls today.

What are you wondering about as you prepare for Christmas? What will the final days of Advent be for you and yours? Note: the 4th Sunday of Advent in 2023 is also Christmas Eve!

Perhaps like the monastic communities of old, you too may wish to wonder at the meaning of the long-awaited Messiah as prayerfully considered in the O Antiphons (Old Testament foretelling of Jesus)…found in the great Advent hymn, O Come, O Come, Immanuel. The text is provided here for your prayerful wonderment.

O come, O come, Immanuel,
And random captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel.

O come, O wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show
And teach is in its ways to go. Refrain

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times did give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
Unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave. Refrain

O come, O Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
And bar the way to death’s abode. Refrain

O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
And bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
And turn our darkness into light. Refrain

O come, O King of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
And be yourself our King of Peace. Refrain

Wondering Read More »

Watching

Watching

We watch television. Social media. Sports games. Musical performances. Political debates. All relatively passive experiences.

What about our active watchfulness?

We watch for our loved ones to arrive safely at the door. We watch the oven for the meal to be perfect. We watch our children struggle to learn. We watch our team members work amiably together.

On the lookout, we watch as we wait. Our eyes are peeled with anticipation on what’s about to occur. We choose to watch with hope. Like a loving parent, spouse, or child would eagerly watch for us.

Advent is a season of watchfulness. Both passive and active watching.

We know the full story of the Incarnation, but we eagerly watch for the story to unfold once more. The main characters are in place. The setting is defined. The promises are about to be fulfilled. One more time.

For generations, the watchfulness of God’s people was fed by the prophetic proclamations. Be alert. Stay awake. Be constant in your vigilence. God keeps his word. His promises are trustworthy. Keep watch.

The time has come for the Messiah to be born. Timing known only by God and soon to be revealed to all who have been faithful in their watching and waiting.

Unto us a child will be born. Unto us a son will be given, and the government will be on his shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.

Keep watch. By faith. Find joy. God is on his way to the humble manger and our hearts are filled with glad tidings.

Emmanuel. God with us. Then. Now. Forever.

The gift of watchfulness. One more time.

Watching Read More »

Waiting

Waiting


Who among us likes to wait?

Every time I’m confronted with the need to wait I tend more toward impatience. Perhaps you can relate.

In the waiting room for the doctor or dentist. I fidget with my phone or grab a magazine to peruse.

At the grocery store. I prefer the fastest line.

In the four-way intersection. My car matters most.

I’ve yet to meet a person who likes to wait.

If I ever do meet such a person I will want to know their secret. Why do they like to wait? How do they do it?

God is very comfortable waiting. 40 days or 40 years or even a generation or perhaps even longer.

God speaks and his truth emerges. In his time. Mysteriously and miraculously.

However.

We read the Bible and we forget the span of time.

We pray and want his answer. Now. Sooner than later.

We reflect and worship and even there we are searching for the instant blessing.

Wait.

It’s weighty to wait.

When we learn to wait we practice patience and we discover hope. To wait patiently is to hope.

Tis the season of waiting. Advent.

Prophetic utterances spoken for generations coming true in Jesus. The long-awaited Messiah.

Let’s wait like Isaiah. Like Mary. Like Joseph. Like the shepherds. Like the wise men of old.

He will come again once more. His entry into our world and into your heart is worth the wait.

Together we will wait for his coming again. For the final time.

Waiting. It’s good for your soul. Try it and see.

Waiting Read More »

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 4

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 4

The internal life of a leader is reflected in the external world of relationships, service, and mission. We say at Leadership Transformations, “As the leader goes, so goes the organization…more importantly, as the soul of the leader goes, so goes the leader.” We are a soul-centric ministry, helping leaders and learners worldwide to prioritize the care and nurture of their soul as their number one daily priority. Why? Because the soul is the most neglected part of the person, given all the demands cast upon us by our wider network of family, friends, church, community, and world. We live distracted, noisy, and busy lives and the crying need of our souls is to find rest in God, to find joy in God, and to offer peace with God to all who cross our paths. How is it with your soul today, dear friend?

In these final five reflections on the heart of a discerning leader, we will plummet the depths of the soul and discover afresh the power of the nourished soul. Each of these noticings come from our daily ministry with leaders and teams, and from the stories shared with us regarding longings, desires, and needs that emerge when we slow down and become more:

16. Values silence, solitude, and space with God – in the space of sweet surrender, we pursue stillness from the competing noises of this world and instead pursue quiet, unhurried, unhindered time with God. Silence and solitude are the crucible of transformation with soul-rich rewards.

17. Willingly voices repentance, confession, and forgiveness – the discerning leader offers ongoing mercy to the downhearted and those convicted of their own sinfulness and invites others into the freedom of God’s unconditional grace and compassionate forgiveness. 

18. Regularly reorders his/her affections – the daily bombardment of all forms of worldliness can wreak havoc on the soul and dislocate a heart inclined toward God, but with daily examen and reflection, a discerning leader can realign one’s affections and return to a preference for God.

19. Decisive when obvious and discerning when essential – a practical implication of a heart inclined toward God is being decisive when the best option is evident, and prayerfully discerning when there’s a need to wait for greater clarity about God’s best idea amidst more complex situations. 

20. Strength of character and competency – particularly during hard times, needed perseverance will provide the endurance to hold fast to principles more than personalities, upheld by the wisdom and integrity of godliness.

I trust that these reflections on the heart of a discerning leader will stir you to consider them for yourself. What invitation(s) are these observations evoking for you and how is God enlivening your own heart for service with and for others within your watch care? I welcome your feedback.

Check out The Discerning Leader Podcast this week for a fuller conversation with Jeremy Stefano about these final 5 reflections. 

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 4 Read More »

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 3

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 3

The examples of toxic leadership among Christians is on the rise. Most of them surround the concept of power – and it’s misuse. Every leader possesses power and authority at various levels, and the key to effective leadership is leveraging that power for the sake of others. When those a leader serves are thriving, then the power of a leader is fully activated. When others are held back or powered over or manipulated to the leader’s gain, then power is wielded inappropriately.

At LTI, we see this first hand with those we serve and come alongside to pour courage into their hearts. This is especially true for leaders, learners, and teams who have been discouraged by the abuse of power in their particular setting. How I wish we didn’t hear about such devastating experiences so frequently. It’s the undoing of ministry in the marketplace, the community, the country, and even the church. Our hearts are set on eradicating this evil disease that prevails today and therefore we offer the following five heart-felt attributes of a discerning leader:

11. Provides hospitable presence – for a leader to be fully present with those s/he is called to serve, the attentiveness offered will be directly proportional to one’s ability to listen sincerely and without judgment.

12. Deeply content and humble – offering freely and generously a non-anxious presence with others that emanates from a leader’s contentment about and within all of life’s circumstances, both the good and the hard.

13. Genuinely joyful and celebratory – sharing the joy of the Lord amidst the daily rhythms of everyday life and knows when it’s time to celebrate the gifts that God has entrusted to our care as we reflect the image of God.

14. Rooted in trust and rest – embracing Sabbath rhythms of abiding rest embedded within one’s work, and then trusting God to provide for all needs in surprising and delightful ways, and always for God’s glory and honor.

15. Generates peace and hope – as an agent of peace, discerning leaders understand the centrality of relationships and has the wherewithal to know how best to reconcile broken relationships with integrity and fortitude.

I trust that these reflections on the heart of a discerning leader will stir you to consider them for yourself. What invitation(s) are these observations evoking for you and how is God enlivening your own heart for service with and for others within your watch care? 

Check out The Discerning Leader Podcast this week for a fuller conversation with Jeremy Stefano about these 5 reflections. 

More insights to follow…

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 3 Read More »

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 2

A discerning leader is practicing a preference for God – in all aspects of their personal and spiritual journey, in their leadership and service to others. At Leadership Transformations, we’ve been noticing the heart of a discerning leader for more than two decades. The reflections here include 20 “noticings” or observations that depict the heart of a servant leader who is focused on helping others get closer to God. For it is in knowing God experientially that the discerning leader can more consistently point others back to the embrace of God, the place where our heart is most at home.
 
In the previous blog post, I shared the first 5 observations of the 20 to be offered total. The “next 5” attributes of a discerning leader are offered randomly as follows:
 
6. Known for his/her kindness and goodness – much deeper than “niceness” is a spirit of kindness that stands up for the good of all, even when it includes offering a loving exhortation and a humble act of service

 7. Lives a life of prayer and prayerfulness – fostering a vibrant spirituality in one’s personal prayer closet as well as embodying a frequently prayerful countenance throughout the day

 8. Exhibits the fruit of the Spirit, especially gentleness – the nine lovely things of the Spirit are the evidence of one’s life of submission to and dependency upon God, with gentleness as a particular need today

 9.  Stands firmly on a biblical foundation of justice and mercy – observes evidence of injustice and invites others to respond with mercy and grace to all who are the lost, the least, and the left behind

 10. Prioritizes stewardship and generosity of financial resources – knowing that “where your treasure is, there is your heart also” and both manages and offers financial resources with compassionate generosity
 
I trust that these reflections on the heart of a discerning leader will stir you to consider them for yourself. What invitation(s) are these observations evoking for you and how is God enlivening your own heart for service with and for others within your watch care?
 
Check out The Discerning Leader Podcast this week for a fuller conversation with Jeremy Stefano about these 5 reflections.
 
More insights to follow…

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 2 Read More »

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 1

For the past two decades, Leadership Transformations has been coming alongside leaders and learners who are engaged in important and meaningful service in the body of Christ. They are pastors, teachers, full-time moms, marketplace leaders, missionaries, counselors, church and non-profit volunteers. They represent a wide swath of denominations, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. They are young and old, from various backgrounds and experiences. What they all share in common is a desire to become the most effective servants of Christ possible this side of heaven. I’ve been greatly blessed and encouraged by the faithfulness of so many we’ve been privileged to meet along the way.
 
For the next few weeks, both in this blog as well as in The Discerning Leader Podcast, I want to share with you 20 observations about the heart of the discerning leader. These insights are collected from hundreds of encounters with leaders and teams. The attributes of leadership contained herein will look different than many other “lists” of leadership qualities. As you peruse the listing of 20 reflections, offered 5 at a time, notice what pops off the page and lands squarely in your heart. Perhaps there’s an invitation contained within for your own personal application. 
 
The first five observations of the heart of a discerning leader are as follows:
 
1. Loves unconditionally – as we’ve been loved by God, so we are to love others as Jesus has modeled and instructed us to follow
2. Offers praise, honor, and glory to God – not given to accolades or needing recognition, but gives credit for all good things to God alone
3. Cultivates a thankful heart – knows the potent value of gratitude and sees it as a healer, strengthener, and simply a good, godly habit for renewal
4. Participates in regular rhythms of spiritual practices – incorporates quiet reflection on the Scriptures and cultivating a life of prayer practices, including fasting
5. Values and provides unmerited grace to self and others – acknoweledging that grace is the gift that builds strong relationships and fosters healthy community
 
May these insights offer you a guidepost for your role as a leader of others, and may they empower your influence upon the work of your hands and the prayers of your heart among the people you’ve been called to serve. 
 
More insights to follow…

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 1 Read More »

“What Are You Mad About Today, Eddie?”

When Ruth and I were dating, she was working at a radio station where her dad was the manager. They hosted a daily call-in radio show entitled “What are you mad about today, Eddie?” Eddie would call in and share his current complaints about the weather, traffic, corn prices, and other rural life issues (context: northwest Iowa). It had a humorous twist to it each episode, but often with a real concern to ponder. Sometimes his commentary made you smile, while other times brought out empathic angst…especially when what Eddie was mad about was what made you mad too.
 
If asked to answer the question today, what would be your response? “What are you mad about today?”
 
Perhaps you’re mad about big issues like the war in Ukraine, political upheaval in Haiti or central Africa, or racial, political or religious division in our own homeland. Maybe it’s poverty or sex trafficking. Economic discrepancies or social injustices. Everywhere you look, there seems to be yet another issue to be concerned or perhaps even mad about.
 
Or, it might actually be somewhat smaller issues that enrage you, like people who park carelessly and take up a second spot in a busy lot. Or, assembling something with confusing instructions or missing that one essential part. How about inflated prices on your auto or home insurance? Or, closer to home, the petty smallness exhibited on social media related to someone you thought had some etiquette at best or basic scruples at a minimum.
 
What do we do with what maddens us? How do we hold these issues prayerfully, lovingly, even forgivingly? Is it ok to be mad?
 
Last night I could barely sleep because of a relational issue that makes me mad…and sad. If I told you the details perhaps you’d have some advice to offer. I may or may not be ready to hear what you suggest. Perhaps I’d welcome the counsel if I knew you were truly listening. All I know is that this concern also makes me mad. And I believe it makes God mad too. There, I said it…
 
It’s ok to hate what God hates and be mad about what hurts the heart of God. It’s fine to name it. God doesn’t like war or disunity or injustice, nor does he like poverty or sex trafficking. I believe these issues make him mad. They aren’t funny and left to their rotting influence upon our culture and society, the enemy of our soul appears like the winner.
 
But, our faith in Jesus leads us to believe otherwise. The issues of our day (large or small) that make us legitimately mad also make Jesus mad. The question is: how do we handle our mad-ness?
 
Perhaps the way forward is as simple as prayer. As profound as humility. As transformational as forgiveness. Right where you live, and among those you know. Is there a broken relationship that needs to be mended? Don’t get mad or seek to get even, but instead: outdo one another with love.  Is your madness actually something God is inviting you to release? Aargh…now it makes me mad that I don’t always choose a godly response!
 
Lord, have mercy. Take what I’m mad about, redeem the pain and suffering inflicted upon another, and be glorified in the deliverance you delight to give. Amen.

“What Are You Mad About Today, Eddie?” Read More »

Can't find what you're looking for?

Mitzi Mak

Selah-West Faculty

Mitzi started her professional life as a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband Jerry then served cross-culturally for ten+ years, living abroad first in India and then Kurdistan, N. Iraq. In addition to being a Spiritual Director, she now serves as a Formation and Care pastor in her local church in Houston, TX. She has graduated from LTI’s Selah Spiritual Direction training as well as LTI’s Emmaus Formational Leadership Program.

Mitzi enjoys engaging conversation, reading fiction, doing jigsaw/crossword puzzles, ocean gazing and exploring the world with Jerry through food and travel.

God has two main callings in Mitzi’s life: to care for those who care for others and to be a guide in helping others have a healthy relationship with the Trinity – recognizing God’s loving presence and activity in their lives and how to faithfully respond.

Selah was a transformative experience for me – allowing the contemplative within to emerge and to beautifully co-exist with my extraverted personality.