Steve Macchia Blog

Outstretched Arms of Grace: Tuesday of Holy Week – Just another ordinary day?

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In this Holy Week series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of grace” toward all who followed him as disciples. Many sought to emulate his humble life, obedient self-sacrifice, and unconditional service to others…what will be your response today? As you pray and reflect, behold his glory, believe his message, belong as his beloved disciple, and become more and more like his image, with more of your true identity in Christ Alone.

Holy Week: The Grand Finale

Read Matthew 21-25

Tuesday of Holy Week is one of the fullest days for the teaching ministry of Jesus.  It’s one of the quieter days for religious ceremony in our day, but for Jesus it was chock full of significant work.  Therefore, if you have the time to reflect on all five chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, you’ll see this for yourself.

Starting in the early morning, we see him traveling and hungry, and noticing a fig tree by the side of the road, but there were no figs just leaves. So he pronounces it barren and immediately it withers. Then, he stumps those who question his authority to do such things with a quiz they fail to answer…so neither does he tell them by what authority he is doing these things. Brilliant, Jesus! I marvel at his approach.

Then, we read on to discover some of the most poignant parables: the two sons, the tenants, and the wedding banquet. All of them are about the Kingdom he is ushering in with his presence, but to those who “did not believe” (Matt. 21: 32) or “who killed the heir and took his inheritance” (Matt. 21: 38-40) or “did not deserve to come to the banquet” (Matt. 22: 8) did not make it. Each is a withered fig tree!

He continues on with exposing hypocrisy about paying taxes (“give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”) and misinformation about the Scriptures and the resurrection (“you do not know the Scriptures and the power of God”),  followed by a question of an expert of the law, “Which is the greatest commandment?”  Jesus replies with precision, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind…” with the second like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Perfect answer, Jesus.

And if that wasn’t enough, on Tuesday he also proclaims to the crowds the seven woes to those who do not practice what they preach. Each of them directed specifically to the Scribes and Pharisees.  These are followed by teachings about the signs of the end of all things, the day and hour remaining unknown, and underscored by three parables about “keeping watch” – the ten virgins, talents and sheep/goats.

Yes, nothing very ordinary or sublime about the Tuesday of Holy Week! It’s full to overflowing, expressive of the urgency of Jesus’ presence in their midst and his final words to them about why he came and the importance of the Kingdom of heaven. Reflecting on these firm teachings is yet another reminder of the outstretched arms of love coming from Jesus: don’t miss out on eternity and the explicit nature of the Kingdom of heaven. Keep watch; seize the day; say yes; remain faithful; be blessed; love!

Behold Jesus living abundantly, maximizing every possible moment; believe his warnings and embrace his teachings; belong to those who love rather than judge; and become wise, vigilant, faithful, and true.

For additional reflection today, prayerfully consider the words of this ancient Holy Week hymn, “Jesus Lover of My Soul” by Charles Wesley, 1740

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.



Outstretched Arms of Grace: Holy Week, Monday after Palm Sunday

 

 

 

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In this Holy Week series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of grace” toward all who followed him as disciples. Many sought to emulate his humble life, obedient self-sacrifice, and unconditional service to others…what will be your response today? As you pray and reflect, behold his glory, believe his message, belong as his beloved disciple, and become more and more like his image, with more of your true identity in Christ Alone.

Holy Week: The Grand Finale

Read Matthew 21: 1-11; Mark 11: 1-11; Luke 19: 28-44

A borrowed donkey as the chosen form of transportation for Jesus to enter Jerusalem? Yes, as it was prophetically foretold and now fulfilled in their midst. “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” With Jesus’ specific instructions about how to secure and use the animal, he sat on the cloaks of his disciples on the back of a donkey for his triumphal entry.

Can you imagine the scene? As Jesus entered the city from the Mount of Olives, people began to gather and spread their cloaks on the road, in addition to those who spread palm branches. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory to the highest!” Nothing could keep them from their exaltation, including the Pharisees in the crowd who urged Jesus to rebuke and quiet his disciples. But he replied, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David” they exclaimed.  The crowds continued, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” and their shouts of joy filled the city streets with delight. Everywhere Jesus went on the humble foal he was greeted with wonderful acclaim. The crowd was thrilled with his arrival and they didn’t let the stones do the crying out; they were determined to be the ones who gave voice to the “Hosanna!” greeting he certainly deserved.

But that was yesterday, when on Palm Sunday Jesus entered the city with power from on high, now expressed in his deep humility.  Today we begin to settle into the drama of all dramas, the grand finale of Lent. Holy Week has descended on the city of Jerusalem and the apex of the crowd’s acclimation will soon follow with their derision.  Mockery, scorn, and bitter contempt will be their mood in just a few days. They swiftly shift from adoration and worship to worthless ridicule almost overnight. Why? How? For what reason?  The fickle crowds who once followed his every movement, reached out to him for every possible healing, was now getting ready to dismantle his power and turn against his authority.

But Jesus continues to give of himself with outstretched arms of love. He complies with the prophet’s word and issues the request for a donkey to carry him one last time into Jerusalem as a free man. And all with full knowledge of what’s in store for him later in the week. You can almost see him enduring the ride on the back of a simple donkey for the soul of the crowd. It was the best mode of transport for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who always led by humility, grace, wisdom and love.

Behold him being worshiped and adored; believe in the Lord’s exaltation; belong to the members of the crowd who would stay faithful to the end; and become a worshiper with fresh insight and holy boldness.

For additional reflection today, prayerfully consider the words of this ancient Holy Week hymn, “All Glory Laud and Honor” (Orleans, 1820: Neale, 1851):

Refrain

All glory, laud and honor,
To Thee, Redeemer, King,
To Whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring.

Thou art the King of Israel,
Thou David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s Name comest,
The King and Blessèd One.

Refrain

The company of angels
Are praising Thee on High,
And mortal men and all things
Created make reply.

Refrain

The people of the Hebrews
With palms before Thee went;
Our prayer and praise and anthems
Before Thee we present.

Refrain

To Thee, before Thy passion,
They sang their hymns of praise;
To Thee, now high exalted,
Our melody we raise.

Refrain

Thou didst accept their praises;
Accept the prayers we bring,
Who in all good delightest,
Thou good and gracious King.

Refrain

 



Permission to Lament: A Legitimate Response to COVID-19

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Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your brother in Christ,

Steve Macchia

 



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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 



Fasting from the Intuitive

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

May it be so! Amen.



Lenten Invitation: Ash Wednesday

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Lenten Invitation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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



STARTING THE NEW YEAR WITH 20/20 CLARITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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RESOURCE FOR THE NEW YEAR!

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



TREATING CHRISTMAS LIGHTLY?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SILENCIO: A BOOK ON A MISSION

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

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

Why? Because your soul matters to God.

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

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

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

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

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