When the Dust Settles: Living in the Wake of Depression

It’s a quiet morning.

A couple weeks have gone by since a friend passed away from suicide. I sit alone with a cup of coffee. Life has inescapably moved forward. The dust of that crazy, moment has somewhat settled.

And that, in and of itself, can create a problem, especially for those who deal with depression or are directly affected by the loss it brings.

Just because things externally have subsided doesn’t mean things internally are resolved.

Our church community (Kfirst) supports an organization that is helping the people of the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian. It’s called Convoy of Hope. What I love about COH is that they’re not only prepped and ready to respond when a disaster presents itself but has plans for long-term assistance with putting life back together for the area affected by the tragedy.

Convoy of Hope is there when “life hits” and still present when the “dust settles.”

And that my friends is what those of us that deal with inner darkness need most.  Yes, we need you when life hits us hard. But we still need you present when the “dust settles.” That’s the moment where life moves forward and we cannot afford to go back to “business as usual.” The tragedy must produce change in our praying, thinking, loving, and engaging.

Luke 24 is one of those “the dust has settled” moments. Jerusalem has calmed down a bit since the crucifixion of Jesus. These two men walk have lived through the whirlwind that has been the previous couple days (arrest, trial, death of Jesus). They now depart from the city and, unbeknownst to them, the resurrected Jesus is about to join them on their journey.

v. 17 And he (Jesus) said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.

The death of their Savior devastated them. And now that the event was over, most likely, they were heading back to their hometowns to resume the life they knew before they met Jesus. Back to “business as usual.”

They don’t even know it’s Jesus. Their inability to recognize him, I believe, was less about Jesus concealing his identity and more about how our depression and hopelessness work. Mental and emotional darkness tends to manipulate the senses preventing people from seeing or sensing what seems completely obvious to everyone else.

This is what Jesus stepped into. And He listened to them as they started sharing their hearts with these four words:

v. 21, “But we had hoped…”

These words were not spoken in ignorance. Luke 24 tells us they knew how Jesus had foretold His resurrection because they recognize it was the “third day” after His death. They’ve heard the eye-witness testimony of the ladies who visited the empty tomb and encountered the angel. They had even received word that Peter and John had confirmed the empty tomb.

But we had hoped…”

Quite often, we can be quick to respond to a tragic moment but forget that there’s more to do when things settle. We can get so busy celebrating “empty tomb” experiences but fail to realize there are those still aching from the wounds of the original event. Just because life moved forward doesn’t mean they have. Just because you see something hopeful doesn’t mean they feel the hope.

The dust of the event may have settled, but what is happening inside of them has not. They are still living in the wake of tragedy.

Enter Jesus.

Jesus stepped into their journey with them.
If you notice the scripture, Jesus didn’t stop them from the direction they were walking. He joined them and walked with them. It’s such a simple point that needs to be highlighted. He didn’t stop them to shift them into direction that made Him feel more comfortable. “Hey, guys, let’s go back to Jerusalem and talk.” Jesus met them on their journey. He chose to walk with them in their hopelessness.

Jesus listened before He spoke.
Listening is not waiting for your turn to talk. Listening is being fully present and fully aware of what is being communicated. These two are externally processing their inner turmoil. How do we know Jesus fully listens to them? Because we get every detail of why they feel what they feel. Listening isn’t leverage to tell your story. Listening is the invitation to step into someone else’s story that may or may not include yours.

Jesus DIDN’T “top” their pain with His own.
He didn’t tell them, “You think you’re suffering, let me give you a clue to what I dealt with this past week.” You may think you’re “connecting” with their pain or helping draw them out of their personal darkness by showing them that their issues are not as bad as you may see them. But it’s causing more harm than good. “Topping” someone’s pain/story doesn’t connect to them. It only devalues them and labels you as an “unsafe listener.”

Jesus fed their soul hope.
Too often, we separate the spiritual from the practical, emotional, and/or mental. And when we do that, we short-change people. The Greek word is Zoé. John 10:10 is where Jesus talked about coming that we might have life (Zoé). That life impacts on all four of those levels (spiritual, physical/practical, emotional, mental). They affect one another to bring complete life/health to us human beings. Look at Luke 24:

Jesus was fully present with them: emotional health
Jesus listened and dialoged about their mentality: mental health
Jesus ate with them: physical/practical health
Jesus spoke hope to them: spiritual health

The results: These two men who “had hoped” left that place and went back, full of hope, ready to tell others what they had discovered.

Jesus didn’t come to make us “un-sad.” He came to give us life to the nth-degree. And I wonder if we’d see more people “full of hope” (Luke 24)  if we choose to have that Christ-like (Zoé) approach by pouring into people spiritually, practically, emotionally, and mentally. Instead of just trying to get people to stop being so down, perhaps Zoé can give us a game-plan and a pattern to strategically pour life into those who feel lifeless.

This is what I need when I face my inner darkness. This is what I want to be for others.

I want to be there when “life hits” and still present when the “dust settles.” I want to be that physical reminder that Jesus is not just present now, but ready to help navigate (Zoé) life with them moving forward.

This is our role as the Church. We are a convoy of hope to the sphere of influence God has placed us. And since Jesus met us and filled us with hope, we are to go and do likewise.

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “I’ll Know It When I See It” #OffScript

A screenwriter can spend months, or even years, perfecting a script. However, sometimes, the most iconic lines uttered on the silver screen aren’t the result of a writer at the top of his or her game, but rather an actor offering up some creative ad-libbing. Some of the most iconic moments in movie history were “off script.”

For example:
“Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good.” – Avengers Infinity War
“Here’s Johnny” – The Shining
“Here’s looking at you, kid” – Casablanca
The Joker’s slow clap – The Dark Knight
“I’m king of the world.” – Titanic
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat” Jaws

“Off script” seems to be a very apt way to describe what often happens to all of us. Something transpires in our lives that strays away from our intended plan(s). But that’s most of real life happens. It’s “off script”; completely unexpected and unplanned. This June, join us as we head into a story that is everything but “expected” by the people involved. The book of Ruth is canvas to view a beautiful picture of God’s love engaging in our “off scripted” lives.

Check out the service from the website or from the Facebook livestream. 

Other thoughts from the Youversion notes from Sunday:

  • Christ-like love knows no limits, takes costly risks, and looks for ways to give more.
  • God‘s kindness moves us from emptiness to abundance.
  • Compassion reorients our soul. It shifts our heart from focusing in to focusing out.
  • Too often the New Testament Church treats the presence of God with an Old Testament mentality.
    • God’s presence doesn’t stay in a building, it goes with us.

Purchase the Scripture Journal of Ruth HERE

Love you all. Have a great week.

BTW: Here’s a great song for the week…

Mind the Gap – Depression Doesn’t Need Distance

I’ll start this off as I have my previous blogs on the subject: My name is David. And I’m a pastor who deals with bouts of depression.

I don’t specialized in the medical or psychological field, but as one who fights a personal battle while refusing to let others stand alone in theirs. My depression is considerably lower than others and happens, perhaps, less frequent as yours. I will not compare my pain to yours but would implore you from the beginning of this post:

You are not alone.
You have hope.
You can get help.

Back in 2005, my wife and I found ourselves in England with 25 students working in a local church Peterborough. Of all of the experiences of the trip, one phrase we heard there always comes to mind when I think of England: please mind the gap. If you take the London metro, you’ll hear it over and over. It’s the warning to pay attention to the space between the platform and the train. The announcement isn’t about falling into a hole (gap) as much as it’s trying to keep you from tripping into (or out of) the metro because of a few inches of a “gap.”

Luke 4 has, perhaps, one of my favorite stories about Jesus. He is in a crowd of people (which wasn’t out of the norm). Unless he purposefully pulled away from the crowds, they were always around him pressing against him.

And it was here that a woman who’d been isolated in her physical, mental, and emotional struggles pushed through the crowd to reach him and perhaps be healed. What is out of the “norm” was Jesus response. Why? It seems so odd based off his surroundings.

Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me. Luke 8:45-46

Most people who approach me to ask questions about my depression are those who don’t battle with it. Honestly, it’s encouraging. And the most asked question is this, “What does it feel like?” Before you think I’m going to talk specifically about the woman the story, you may need to step back and see something else in this very familiar biblical story.

Luke 8:45-46 gives you that glimpse into that world of deep despair. And it’s not necessarily what the woman was going through but what Jesus experienced.

I’m not advocating that Jesus was or battled with depression. But it’s the situation that paints a graphic picture of what those of us experience when the “funk” comes our way. Luke 8, tells us that his question of “who touched me” confused his disciples. In the midst of a crowd that was “pressing up against” him, how could he NOT notice them? How did he miss all the people around him?

Depression is the experience of complete loneliness while being surrounded by a mass of people. We can be in a stadium of people and yet, not detect any connection for which anything of relational or emotional substance is “transferred.” I’ve heard it said to me, “how can you feel that way, you are surrounded by people all the time.” But again, there’s a difference between proximity and intimacy. Being around someone (proximity) doesn’t equal meaningful contact (intimacy) with them.

So then the next question comes up, “How can I help someone in depression?” The answer comes from the same portion of scripture. “Someone deliberately touched me.

I recognize the word “touch” in our culture is a very sensitive word. Unfortunately, “touch” has been abused and taken to massive extremes. Research tells us we need 8-10 meaningful touches a day to be healthy.  It proves that the presence of a crowd doesn’t equate to meaningful connection.

We need to “deliberately” reach out. A hand on the shoulder. A hug. A handshake. Don’t even write off the awkward “hi-five.” Intentional touches are intimate interactions.

Yet don’t assume “touch” is limited to the physical (which is critically necessary). There are simple and effective “touches” that should be done that may not touch the skin but touch the soul.

A timely phone call.
Sitting down for a cup of good coffee.
A note sent via snail mail.
A thoughtful gift.

These are the simple things to cross the “gap” that depression creates in the mind. That gap that we think separates us from everyone else and feeling deep loneliness.

The friend or loved one you know who’s battling with this terrible condition doesn’t need you to “mind the gap;” he/she needs you to deliberately reach out and be a bridge over it. I know how those of us act and/or come off when we are in this mode. It would seem we want to push people away or we just “need to be alone.” But there’s a difference between “needing some space” and isolating ourselves. Help us know you’re there. Be available to us. Be patient with us.

What is powerful is amidst all of the people around Jesus in Luke 8, one deliberate touch caused something powerful to be transferred. Like I said, Jesus wasn’t battling with depression, but I’m willing to bet the woman did. To study this passage, you know the condition of isolation she lived in physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Yet a touch transferred healing, hope, mercy, peace, and love.

If you are dealing with depression, if you are in a place of inner turmoil, don’t stop reaching out. I know you’re tired. You are not alone. You have hope. You can get help. And deliberately reaching out puts you in position for healing.

If know you know someone, who is dealing with this, please don’t mind the gap. Depression doesn’t need distance. Reach out and transfer faith, hope, and love into them. Be the community they cannot detect.

If you find yourself in a place where you need someone to talk to, reach out. Don’t do this on your own. Whether it’s to your pastor, a counselor, a trusted friend, or to Anthem of Hope , know that you are not alone in this. If anything, let this blog be the first hand to reach out to you.

I love you. I’m praying for you today. There are those around you that can help.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Light into the Darkness: Journaling Through a Depressed Heart

Sitting early this morning in the coffee shop, I had just finished reading John 15:26-27. I sat in stillness at the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit jumped off the page.

The Advocate, or Comforter.

In scripture, the Psalmist calls this “selah” (stop, pause, think). And in the midst of meditating on the words of my Savior, the lyrics in my ear buds caught my attention. In Cory Asbury‘s new album “Reckless Love,” his song, “Water and Dust” spoke these words,

And when everything is falling apart, don’t lose heart.

Between what I just read and the words being sung in my ear, I set my pen to my journal to articulate what this moment was speaking to me. The words Advocate or Comforter have always been the reminder of Who has been my rescue and redemption during my bouts of depression. When I cannot see where help will come from, I look for someone to be my Advocate. When I cannot sense hope, I long for someone to be a Comforter.

I don’t know where I’d be without the Lord. Knowing that He is with me, even when I can’t detect Him with my senses, has been a huge comfort to me.

Journaling has been a place to process and express for me. It’s a safe place to work through what I’m pondering inside. I find it’s much healthier than throwing out a Facebook status empowering others to speak into my unprocessed thought while exposing my vulnerability to some that may not be equipped to help. So with ink and paper, a started scratching out a few thoughts.

From there, I began to thumb through my journal. It took me back to October when I shared with out congregation some of my journal thoughts combined with the song, “Let there be light.” Why that song? Because during a dark moment, it was my ongoing prayer to God,

Lord, would you speak “let there be light” in me.”

So today, I thought I’d share those journal thoughts from that dark moment when the Comforter was not just pulling me through a tough season but was working someone deeper in me.

Lord, would you speak “let there be light” in me.”

It’s the prayer of everyone who’s been hurt by disappointment
When life hits and gave us way more than expected
It’s the cry of the overwhelmed heart; the scream of a tired soul
The aching of desperation; fallen deeper into a bottomless hole
But you understand my darkness, you get the struggle of my inside
So I lift up my eyes asking you to hear my cry
You hover over my chaos ready to create with just one word
Speak Holy Spirit; I need hope in my hurt

Lord would you speak…

It’s the prayer of everyone who feels forgotten
When the devil has convinced them that they’re no longer wanted
When he’s blinded their eyes from seeing the hope of light
When their strength is drained and unable to get in the fight
I‘ve had victory on the mountain, but the valley is nothing but distress.
Lord it’s you I need. I need some hope in my darkness
I call out the only One who can reach into an unreachable place
I know I can find peace if I could just find your face

Lord I need you to speak…

To every person who thought that nobody cares
To every tired soul, bearing weights to heavy to bear
To those longing to knock but cannot find the door
To those who seek a way out and cannot take any more
Lift up your face, look beyond the valley
The sun may have set behind you but it’s not your finale
There’s a God who creates out of the depths of your chaos
Lift up your head, the Son rises to call us

“Let there be light…”

He is Immanuel; God with us. Not God “gonna be with me” or “was with me.” He is God with you. Right now. Right where you are at. And darkness cannot hide you from Him.

To those who find themselves in darkness. Proclaim what you know to be true!

You are not alone. Darkness cannot hide you from God.
You have hope. Darkness cannot stop His hand.
You can get help. Darkness cannot keep you from His rescue. There are people who are reaching out even when you cannot see or sense it.

If you find yourself in a place where you need someone to talk to, reach out. Don’t do this on your own. Whether it’s to your pastor, a counselor, a trusted friend, or to Anthem of Hope , know that you are not alone in this AND the darkness CANNOT hide you from the presence of God and His outstretched hand.

I love you. I’m praying for you today. There are those around you that can help.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

What is Romance? 5 Ways to Make Sure You Are Actually Romantic

In premarital counseling, I really enjoy asking questions. Jesus seemed to be great at it and, I feel, was an effective tool in helping people learn about the Kingdom. So I find myself asking a wide-range of questions, not so that I can give an answer, but to give a couple an opportunity to think deeply about some issues that they may or may not have even pondered.

One of my favorite questions to ask is, “What is romance?” (It’s a bit harder than you think.)

Most guys (conservatively saying, 90% of them) want their ladies to answer first, and then reply, “everything she said…that’s what I think too.”

Which is precisely why I don’t let the ladies answer first anymore. I’ve learned that I enjoy hearing the guys give me their take on “romance” as to what it is and/or what that looks like.  Most of the time I hear things like, “a movie, flowers, chocolate” and other staple answers. I’m not saying those are bad whatsoever, but they seem to be the “default” or the “go-to answers.”  (BTW: I was that guy 19 years ago.)

But more often than not, their female counterparts have a “look” on their face when those “default answers” are given. Then a conversation unfolds before me with statements like,

“That’s nice, but it’s not really romantic?”
“Wait, you don’t think that’s romantic?”
“That may be romantic to you.”
“I guess that’s okay…I have fun…but I find _________ romantic.”
“So you haven’t enjoyed what I’ve done? Are you’re saying I’m not romantic?”

A simple question, with what seemingly had a simple answer, turned into a conversation that revealed two elements that deteriorate romance: Assumption and miscommunication. And usually, BOTH parties are a bit guilty of indulging in both elements on this very important subject. My simple question helps create revelation and warning that romance, if not monitored, can fade away in marriage.

My simple definition:

Romance: Selflessly serving your spouse’s love language.

**NOTE: I wish I didn’t have to use the word “selflessly” as “serving” should indicate everything needed to approach your partner. But it seems, more and more, I find couples only “serve” their spouse in order to get something back.  If serving your spouse is based upon what you are going to receive, it’s not serving that you’re doing, it’s manipulation. So I added the “selflessly” to reinforce the Christ-like heart and approach we should have. Jesus didn’t give based upon our response. He selflessly gave (served us) because of His immense love for us (Romans 5:8).

So on the most romantic holiday (according to Hallmark), I thought I’d give you a few thoughts on growing and maintaining the romance in your marriage. 

Breach the subject.
Simply said, “TALK ABOUT IT.” Assumption gives access to idle thoughts. And idle thoughts have a way of seeding false senses of discontent, frustration, and anger. Often I hear things like, “well, he/she should know what I like.” While that may or may not be true, leaving your spouse in the dark purposely only invites the darkness into your marriage. The lack of knowledge your spouse may have on what romances you may have nothing to do with their intelligence but the lack of effective and healthy communication from the both of you.

Be the one to step up first.
Lead the way in selflessly serving your spouse. If you’re waiting for him/her to make the first move, your motivation isn’t serving, it’s getting. Now don’t get me wrong, the serving should go both ways. And in time, I’d hope that through communication (and potentially some help from a marriage resource), some good, healthy serving habits would develop in the both of you. But stubbornness about being the initiator may feel justified in the moment, but it leaves you both empty, hurting, and vulnerable. Simply said: If you both are selflessly serving, your love tanks will stay full.

Recognize that your ideas of romance may not be your spouse’s idea of romance.
I spent unbelievable amounts of money on flowers in the three years of dating Anne. Later, I found out, while she very much appreciated them, they were not as big of a deal as I thought they were. And simple conversation in the sweetest tone AND in the proper timing from her switched my romantic approach (not to mention saved me money). I find many couples in the same boat. And the remedy for that: A conversation with the proper timing, tone, and technique can help pave the way for healthy romance.

Don’t assume your spouse still has the same love language.
Romance has a tendency to evolve. And it’s the seasons of life that tends to be the thing that shifts a person’s love languages. Pre-kids, we both were very high on “physical touch.” After Cammi was born, “quality time” became the vocabulary of my wife’s heart. And what we’ve noticed is, through the past almost 19 years, the evolution of the love languages of David and Anne. Romance doesn’t have to fade, but it does changes through the seasons. While our top love languages haven’t budged, we’ve seen the others (words of affirmation, quality time, and gifts) morph into greater and lesser importance.

Find your joy in your spouse’s fulfillment.
It’s not going to feel romantic to your spouse if you look and/or sound miserable while communicating your spouse’s love language. For example, I think I’ve ruined a few “quality time” moments shopping with Anne because I was so bored. I was happy to be with her, but the loud “sighing” and “grumbling” ruined any enjoyment she was having. Learn to love, not by what you receive, but by what your spouse is receiving. When the end-game of your romance is your spouse’s fulfillment, you’ll discover a deep level of marital fulfillment and health only experienced when two people serve each other.

Although I do want you to have a great Valentines day, I would hope that this blog may set your feet on a greater path so your romance isn’t relegated to a holiday or when you want your needs met. I pray that you will be that spouse in your marriage that leads the way in selflessly serving your spouse’s love language.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my BRAND NEW book of my blogs!! Order one today!!!

 

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: #MYCHURCH week 1 “Everyone is Significant”

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.

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January is about “newness.” Whether we are talking about a new start, new life, new opportunities, or just new vision, a new year naturally directs our focus forward into endless possibilities.

And its every January where we celebrate the newness of what God has in store for Kfirst  community as we kickoff our annual #MYCHURCH series.

Yesterday, we focused upon one of our values which states, “Everyone is Significant.” And we believe that the cross and resurrection of Jesus is proof of that.

The first chapter of John brought our focus upon how that truth helps us to form healthy habits. And when we establish healthy habits, they lead to holy moments. In John 1:35-42, John the Baptist connected with to those around him and pointed them to Jesus. How? Through relational equity. Those in his community trusted in him because of the relationship of integrity he built.  The more you grow relationships, them more potential you have for impacting lives. He grew enough equity that when he pointed out the Messiah, people knew they could believe him.

How can we build “relational equity”? Two ways:

  1. Love people where they live.
  2. Tell people what you know.

When we form the healthy habits of loving people right where they’re at AND telling them the story of our journey, we have great potential for holy moments of impacting them. Our response of love mixed with the authenticity of our stories help build bridges from the Kingdom of God into people’s lives. (Click here for yesterday’s notes.)

Our messages are for Monday and we need to put action to what the Lord is speaking. How can you begin these healthy habits this week? How can you begin to build relational equity with? How can you show the love of Christ in your sphere of influence? Who can you speak encouragement into? This is how we can respond and be the church Kalamazoo needs.

Also, if you’re looking for a scripture reading plan to go along with our message, check out this one.

Love you all.  See you this Sunday as we continue our series.

BTW: Here’s a song for your week’s playlist.

Pastor to Pastor: 10 Ways I Keep My Passion to Pastor

From the get-go: If you are a pastor struggling with your passion, then I am writing this to encourage you.

I love being a pastor. And, more specifically, I love pastoring Kfirst.

I don’t just say that flippantly. I’m not just speaking by faith some word into existence hoping my feelings catch up to it. Nor am I trying to “prove anything” to myself or anyone else. I genuinely love pastoring this amazingly awesome and imperfect church. But this isn’t just me. In the wake of hearing the other day, once again, the statistic of well over a 1000 pastors resigning every month, I have recently come across other pastors and missionaries who feel exactly what I feel about where God has called them.

My minister friends, this is how it should be.

I’ll admit, in the past, I’ve been skeptical of others who were a little bit “too passionate” about ministry. I thought they were either newer or were not facing any of the type of challenges that I was dealing with. I’d find myself avoiding them as they, quite frankly, annoyed me. But, if I were to be really honest, it wasn’t them personally that bothered me. It was the envy in my heart for what they had and what I lacked. It was a tough place to minister out of because my happiness was dependent upon everything else BUT the Lord.

Having a passion about ministry doesn’t equate to massive numbers or packed events (though I do enjoy both). Possessing deep joy doesn’t necessarily depend upon any denomination (or lack thereof), title, or church. This overwhelming sensation is all about being where God placed you and the joy of walking obedience to Him.

Deep passion doesn’t mean you don’t face tough seasons. I’ve come to realize that the more you want to do for the Lord, the greater the giants you’ll face. Personally, Kfirst still faces the challenge of an aging building and a community still growing into it. We’re still trying to discover how to stop being so “program-dependent” and develop the systems needed to facilitate personal discipleship and corporate growth.  I get frustrated that people want an event to do outreach corporately but refuse to do it personally. Do you still get hurtful comments? Me too. From unsigned cowardly notes to those making critical comments to me right before the service starts (sucks to preach with that on your mind).  These things happen in ministry. You are human. So are the people you minister to. And I believe that all of these things are pivot points in which we can live in frustration or continue pivot forward toward what God has called you to do.

So I sit back in my parent’s cabin and thought I’d pen-out (type out) some of the changes that I feel the Holy Spirit challenged me to make over the past 4-5 years that, I believe have stoked my passion:

  1. I tweaked my prayers from “Lord change the people in my church” to “Lord, let the change start with me.”
    • It may sound cliché, but “be the change.” Don’t expect something in your congregation that you are not opening to doing. My passion for change in people is fueled by the work the Holy Spirit is doing in me.
  2. I got back to journaling. 
    • This has been a game-changer to passion in my personal life and sermon prep. It has helped me process thoughts as I’m in the Word or reflecting over things the Lord has laid upon my heart. Passion, unrealized is potential. And potential is nothing unless it is accessed and released.
  3. I started running. 
    • Passion is fed on every level (spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional). For me, this was more than just “getting in shape.” Though the physical health benefits have helped me, there are tremendous emotional and mental ramifications to getting exercise.  Besides, a spend time on my runs talking to the Lord and spending time listening to Him.
    • SIDE NOTE: You’re congregation need you to take care of yourself.  A healthier leader = better preacher and stronger leader.
  4. I stopped leading ministries. 
    • My passion was depleting as it was being spent in so many directions. I needed to listen to Paul’s word to Ephesus when he said to, “equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church.” We pastors should be pouring into people and launching leaders. The more we step back and allow people to step up, the less the church will be about us and the more it will be about Jesus.
  5. I changed my “hours of operation.”
    • I literally love waking up passionate about what I do and I don’t wait till 9 to start work. I’m focused and creative in the early mornings and can get so much accomplished before the sun comes up. In saying that, most of my evenings are spoken for as most people who I need to connect to work during the day.  I’ve creatively approached my hours to create margin for marriage, family, and ministry.
  6. I frequent the same local businesses during the week.
    • It’s easy to get lost in your office and never see the light of day. From where I get my coffee in the mornings, to lunches, to where I go to get my haircut, I want to engage with people in our community. I’ve learned their stories, brought them donuts, developed friendships, and get to do one of their weddings.
  7. I give people the benefit of the doubt. 
    • I was wasting passion fixating on assuming the worst. A simple rule: assume the best in others. I needed to learn to look at people, not through the surface lens of my perspective but how the Lord looks at them. This deeper look into people literally changed my attitude overnight. It’s helped me look for ways to build bridges for healing instead of destroying relationships by disregarding personalities. Which leads me to…
  8. I’ve stopped being so serious all the time. 
    • Looking for the negative in life is like catching a cold; you don’t have to do anything to get it. I like looking for the lighter side of  life. Yes, I know reaching people is a serious thing, but I’ve learned that for people, laughter is a bridge to the seeing the heart of God. Personally, amusement has become my best medication to frustration and depression. I believe one of the most spiritual things you can do is laugh. We as pastors should be conduits of joy and not hammers of judgement.
  9. I study pastors/churches.
    • I used to get depressed looking at the successes of pastors and/or churches as my own pastoral insecurities got the best of me.  I was missing out on the wealth of creativity and Kingdom-building ideas that God was doing around the world. I want to sit and listen to pastors. I want to read their books and listen to their podcasts.   I’ve recognized that I can AND need to learn from everyone regardless of their age, experience, church size, or denomination. We should be a Kingdom of collaboration and not a group of “Religious Silos.”
  10. I stopped fighting change. 
    • I don’t look to change for the sake of “change.” But I’m doing my best to not give God an excuse every time He starts testing my comfort zone. I was depleting my passion by wasting strength fighting God on keeping the things I didn’t want to change. The more I’ve opened up to the change He wants to make, the more joy has been released in my life and in ministry.

Sorry this was so long. But this has been burning in my heart over the past month (as it’s taken me a month to finish journaling about it).

My prayer for you is that of David in Psalm 51:12,

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”

Ask God to do a new work of passion in you. And as He leads you, follow with willingness. As you become more passionate, so will the congregations you lead.

Love you. Praying for you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…