Steve Macchia Blog

Preparing for Lent

Preparing for Lent

Tomorrow is the first day of Lent 2019. Known as Ash Wednesday, it will serve as the beginning of our annual pilgrimage to the cross and the empty tomb.

Regardless of your denominational expression, Lent is a season of the church year that pinnacles with the final days of Christ’s earthly life, his fulfilled mission that leads him to the cross, and his triumphal and miraculous resurrection. Our hope as Christ followers is focused on these transformational experiences and expressions of extravagant love that point us to the completed promises of God as our Redeemer.

Are you preparing for Lent in any specific way? Perhaps considering a “fast” from something that has been captivating you of late (i.e. sweets, carbs, social media, shopping, or any number of overdone habits of the heart). Or, “adding” a practice that will help you reorient your priorities around God’s justice, mercy, or grace (i.e. daily reading of a Lenten devotional, specific prayer practices, or acts of service without recognition).

Whatever you decide to do is totally fine: no need to compare or contrast your Lenten practices with others. Today is the day you might want to pray into how God desires for you to focus your attention on Jesus during Lent. Any of our “fasts” or “practices” aren’t ends in themselves – if chosen to follow, they are to remind us repeatedly over the next 40 days that our dependence and our hope is in Christ alone.

Let’s not lose sight of the real reason for Lent: penitential reflection on our own sinful propensities, the gift of abundant mercy poured out upon us by the crucified and resurrected Christ, and the eternal hope of the resurrection which ushers us more fully into the Kingdom life now and for all eternity.

A blessed and prayerful Lent to you and yours, from all of us on the LTI Team.

In Christ Alone,

Steve Macchia D.Min.





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EXAMINING EXAMEN

Examining Examen

“The beginning of a new year is an ideal time for pressing the pause button and reflecting on your life with God and others.”

With January coming soon to a hard stop, I’m curious if you have had time to do some prayerful examen this month. The beginning of a new year is an ideal time for pressing the pause button and reflecting on your life with God and others. Truth be told, it took me about two weeks into the month before I had the space and time to engage in the spaciousness of examen for which I was hoping. Once I took the time, I found it incredibly fruitful for my soul.

Here is a snapshot of what I did.

FIRST, I reflected back on the year 2018. I noted the highlights, the hard times, the special occasions, and the key people of the year. I focused mostly on where God had encouraged me personally, professionally, and spiritually.

I recalled with vivid recollection the birth of our granddaughter, Brenna Lynn, which was by far the number one gift of 2018.

I looked back on photos of some special occasions, travels, holidays, and the beauty of God’s creation. I wrote out some of my emotional highs and lows and concluded with a prayer of thanksgiving.

SECONDLY, I noted the themes of the past year that meant the most to me, including some of the topics I was researching and writing about, some of the books I had read, the ideas and concepts we have considered at LTI, and the themes I had been journaling about throughout the year.

I found this to be refreshing and thought-provoking, as well as noteworthy for what I felt was either complete or still in process. Processing my capacity to think, pray, distill, write, and reflect is a worthwhile endeavor.

THIRDLY, I looked ahead to 2019. What are the dreams and aspirations for the year ahead? Are there any notable goals or objectives for my personal or ministry life? Any key words stand out that would be helpful to focus on in my prayers, relationships, and personal growth?

This was a productive exercise in many ways, and I found myself looking forward with growing anticipation for the months to come. There is such joy in the anticipation of experiences on the horizon.

FINALLY, I prayed into all that I had reviewed about the past year, as well as my longings and desires for the year to come. I thanked God for the special people I’m sharing life with these days, in my family, friendship circle, ministry partners and collegial associates across the country. In my prayers I thanked God for each person, prayed over those with whom I am most concerned, and entrusted names and faces into the hands of our loving Father. It was a great reminder of the importance of community and the encircling of love with others.

This is just one example of a year end – year beginning examen.

Perhaps yours looks similar, or even quite different.

My hope is that you were able to find some time to devote to a serious examen and if not, that you’ll still consider doing so. It’s never too late to look back with gratitude, notice your emotional responses, thank God for his many gifts of grace, and look ahead with growing anticipation and joy.

In closing, if we can be of help along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out. The LTI team is committed to come alongside you in your spiritual journey. We have lots of great material available at our spiritual formation online store to assist you in your daily spiritual journey and your life of servanthood and leadership. “Slow down. Be more.”

Amen!

PS – Register for the upcoming half-day Soul Sabbath on March 15 from 8:45AM- 12:30PM in Winchester, MA. This half-day retreat is themed Sheltered in the Shepherd’s Care, and will include a time of morning reflection, listening to God’s voice and responding together from our hearts.


Soul Sabbath



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ANOTHER YEAR IS DAWNING

ANOTHER YEAR IS DAWNING

In just a few days, 2018 will become a distant memory, overshadowed by the commencement of a New Year filled with promise and possibility. The ball will drop in Times Square and we will sing of the goodness and grace of our lives with God and in community with one another. Don’t forget to thank God for the myriad blessings of the past year as you consecrate the days ahead with prayerful anticipation and joy.

At LTI, when we are together in small groups, we often focus our attention on two items most specifically: the state of our souls and our personal rule of life. The dawning of a new year is an ideal time to reflect on both. How is it with your soul today? – was a question John Wesley frequently asked of his disciples. This inquiry opens us up to consider the quality of our walk with God currently as well as descriptions of what we long for in our hunger and thirst for more of God.

Our personal rule of life is much more comprehensive, including both the rhythms and relationships that God invites us to humbly fulfill for Christ’s glory. If you’ve never considered the various elements of your own rule of life, perhaps the new year is the ideal time to write it out. Take a look at Crafting a Rule of Life (IVP) and our corresponding website, ruleoflife.com for more ideas. A rule of life will help you live more intentionally in ways that God desires for you.

As you consider the state of your soul and your personal rule of life, the following hymn by Frances Havergal (1853), filled with wonderfully prayerful reflections, can perhaps be your guide.

Happy new year!

Another year is dawning;
Dear Father, let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with Thee;
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.

Another year of mercies,
Of faithfulness and grace;
Another year of gladness
In the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning
Upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting
Of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service,
Of witness for Thy love;
Another year of training
For holier work above.
Another year is dawning;
Dear Father, let it be,
On earth or else in heaven,
Another year for Thee.

Start your new year by crafting your own Rule of Life! | There’s still time to give your end of year gift!



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O COME, O COME EMMANUEL

O COME, O COME EMMANUEL

The season of Advent is filled with hope for the coming of Jesus, our promised Messiah. We wait with longing and anticipation for the day when we sing of his miraculous Incarnation – God coming to earth in the form of a baby, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born to a virgin, and to be with us in human form. Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

As we round the corner toward Christmas, we thank God for his many undeserved gifts, including love, joy, peace, salvation and hope. The gifts of God for his beloved children outnumber the stars in the sky and the sand on the shoreline: impossible to count. In response, our hearts are filled to overflowing with gratitude to God.

2018 has been rich with bountiful blessings and unconditional gifts from the hand of a generously loving God. Leadership Transformations celebrated our 15th anniversary this past year with the theme of “soul hospitality” for leaders and teams. Everywhere I go I hear stories of lives transformed by the time leaders have shared at Selah, Emmaus, the Pierce Center (Gordon-Conwell Seminary), on soul care retreats, in one-on-one spiritual direction, and who are in churches strengthened by their leaders who came to us for spiritual formation resources.

As we await the coming of Jesus at Christmas, we also look forward to his coming again in glory. In the meantime, we hold hands and stick together, upholding the Great Commandment of loving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the second commandment, loving our neighbors as ourselves. From that posture, we can indeed reach the world with the life-transforming gospel of Jesus. May it be so, dear Jesus, lover of our souls.

Check out other LTI Advent resources here.



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A Table Blessing for Thanksgiving

A Table Blessing for Thanksgiving

Dear Lord,

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

Life…abundantly offered in Jesus

Freedom…sacrificially attained by others

Family…imperfectly bonded in love

Friends…lovingly upheld by grace

Work…meaningfully fulfilled in service

Community…compassionately provided by kindness

Church…missionally united in worship

Forgiveness…freely graced by time

Disappointment…redemptively received in mercy

Patience…peacefully granted by faith

Sabbath…restfully enjoyed in peace

Love…plentifully harvested by hope

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

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

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



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STEVE’S HEART BEHIND THE PROMISES OF CHRISTMAS

The Promise of Christmas

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

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

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

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

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


The Promise of Christmas

THE PROMISES OF CHRISTMAS

Purchase Your Copy Here Today!

Interested in a bulk discount? Click here.




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WITH A GRATEFUL HEART: A TRIBUTE TO EUGENE PETERSON

A Tribute to Eugene Peterson

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

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

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

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


Soul Sabbath: Renewed in the Fathers Love

REGISTER HERE



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Fall Foliage, Gas Leaks, Red Sox and The Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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



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STEVE B-LOG: NEW MINISTRY YEAR

A New Ministry Year

A NEW MINISTRY YEAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


15TH ANNIVERSARY INVITATION & RSVP

Gala Information and RSVP
15th Anniversary Invitation





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A Labor Day Prayer

Potter.Clay

A Labor Day Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 



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