Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God

My friend, Margaret Feinberg, has a new book and 7-session DVD Bible study called Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God,which releases Christmas Day. This is a personal invitation for you to join me and many others in reading this book!  (I ordered mine on Friday.)

To learn more, watch the Wonderstruck Video:

Margaret recently posted a great warning on her site that those who have read Wonderstruck have experienced the following symptoms:

-An inability to stop smiling

-An uncontainable desire to pray

-A loss of interest in judging others

-A quiet, unshakable confidence in God

-A renewed ability to see the wonders of God all around

I have read a sneak peek of Wonderstruck.  I am impressed with the number of times Scripture speaks of people being amazed at Jesus.  There was something interesting and compelling about Jesus that created amazement in the hearts of people.

Margaret is a good writer and has a message.  I have read one of her books (Scouting the Divine) and enjoyed the book very much.  

You can Follow Margaret on Twitter  or on Facebook.  I read her blog regularly.  I purchased my book here but other booksellers have the book as well.

Ministry Inside.101

top 10Top 10 Suggestions for Beginning the New Year           

The following are 10 suggestions for the upcoming new year.  While I am writing these with church leaders in mind, some of these may be applicable to most anyone.  (These are not listed in order of importance.) 

1.  Pay attention to the basics.  Walking with Jesus takes place during the ordinariness of life.  Loving God and loving others are huge.  Read Scripture.  Pray daily.  Be a godly person.

2.  Love the congregation.  If you don’t, it really won’t matter what else you do.

3.  Stop waiting to be appreciated.  Probably some people in your church really appreciate you but rarely, if ever, express it.  On the other hand, other people in your church may have little appreciation for you.  Yet, they too may rarely, if ever, express it.  Don’t let your sense of well-being come from others.

4.  If you feel isolated and alone, recognize that such feelings over a long period of time can make you vulnerable to temptations that seem to provide an escape.  There are tragic stories of people who have sought refuge through pornography, gambling, drugs/alcohol, and adultery.

5.  Be real.  Realness is not using a public platform to express every doubt, feeling, or anxiety. Rather, it is endeavoring to be an authentic person both publicly and privately.

6.  Guard your heart.  Remember that life’s train wrecks don’t begin with someone doing something stupid.  They usually begin long before that.  They begin with what is happening in that person’s heart.

7.  Pay attention to what you are feeling.  Many people pay no attention to their feelings.  (I didn’t for many years.)  Are you feeling angry?  Sad?  Depressed?  Discouraged?  Betrayed?  When these persistent feelings are not acknowledged and dealt with, they can surface and express themselves in ways that are negative and even destructive.

8.  Check your attitude.  Listen, attitude is everything!  You can be gifted, intelligent, and skillful. However, your attitude can sink you!  Years ago, I had a conversation with a minister regarding his frustration with his life and ministry.  He was frustrated because other congregations who were looking for a minister seemed to have no interest in talking with him.  Later on, after reflecting on the conversation, I am convinced that what probably hurt him the most with these possibilities was his negative attitude.  Perhaps his regular use of biting sarcasm was getting in the way.

9.  Evaluate the gap between what you are privately and what you are publicly.  This is huge.  Far too many people (including church leaders) worry more about their image than their character.  That is, they are more concerned about how they are perceived by others than what they are when no one is looking.  Address the gap and refuse to rationalize.

10. Claim God’s forgiving and sustaining grace.  2013 can be a fresh beginning.  Thank God for his gracious forgiveness.  Believe that his grace is sufficient for you as you begin a new year.

2012 Mentoring Group

2012 1This year’s mentoring group was outstanding.  Thanks to Shane, Benjamin, Shannon, Doug, Scott, Jason, and Ernie for blessing me with a great year in 2012.  Am I ever impressed with these guys!  All of them are ministers and are blessing churches.

This group met one full day per month for the last 12 months.  During these times together, we talked about life, Jesus, ministry, and the church.  Of course, as a part of any discussion regarding life, we talked about our relationships, including our spouses, children, and friends.  We remembered our calling and the meaning of our vocation.

Much of our time was spent focusing on building our interior lives.  We also talked about skills and good practices for doing our work and functioning better in our congregations.

A group such as this provides a safe environment, an atmosphere of encouragement and affirmation.  Last evening, hours after this group came to a close, I thought about the following:

1.  We are blessed when we are surrounded with encouragers.  One way this happens is to be a part of a group, like this one, of mutual encouragers.

2.  We are blessed when we are a part of a group of people who are committed to growing and learning.  Far too many people are content to lower the bar and just get by.  I loved being around a group of people for a year who were not afraid to raise the bar.

3.  We are blessed when we meet regularly with a group of people to talk honestly about our lives. Far too many people feel isolated and cut off, in part because they have no one with whom they can talk openly and candidly.

Question:

What do you believe contributes to the isolation and sense of aloneness that so many people feel?

 

2012 Mentoring Group

2012 1This year’s mentoring group was outstanding.  Thanks to Shane, Benjamin, Shannon, Doug, Scott, Jason, and Ernie for blessing me with a great year in 2012.  Am I ever impressed with these guys!  All of them are ministers and are blessing churches.

This group met one full day per month for the last 12 months.  During these times together, we talked about life, Jesus, ministry, and the church.  Of course, as a part of any discussion regarding life, we talked about our relationships, including our spouses, children, and friends.  We remembered our calling and the meaning of our vocation.

Much of our time was spent focusing on building our interior lives.  We also talked about skills and good practices for doing our work and functioning better in our congregations.

A group such as this provides a safe environment, an atmosphere of encouragement and affirmation.  Last evening, hours after this group came to a close, I thought about the following:

1.  We are blessed when we are surrounded with encouragers.  One way this happens is to be a part of a group, like this one, of mutual encouragers.

2.  We are blessed when we are a part of a group of people who are committed to growing and learning.  Far too many people are content to lower the bar and just get by.  I loved being around a group of people for a year who were not afraid to raise the bar.

3.  We are blessed when we meet regularly with a group of people to talk honestly about our lives. Far too many people feel isolated and cut off, in part because they have no one with whom they can talk openly and candidly.

Question:

What do you believe contributes to the isolation and sense of aloneness that so many people feel?

 

Is Your Gratitude Obvious to Others?

GratitudeA few years ago, I read everything I could find by Henri Nouwen.

His writings were formative and very encouraging.  On one occasion, I read his book Gracias.  The book is actually a journal chronicling Nouwen’s time spent in Peru and Bolivia.  Near the end of the book, he writes:

The title of this journal summarizes what I found, learned, and heard.  The word that I kept hearing, wherever I went, was: Gracias!  It sounded like the refrain from a long ballad of events.  Gracias a usted, gracias a Dios, muchas gracias — thank you, thanks be to God, many thanks!  I saw thousands of poor and hungry children, I met many young men and women without money, a job, or a decent place to live.  I spent long hours with sick, elderly people, and I witnessed more misery and pain than ever before in my life.  But in the midst of it all, that word lifted me again and again to a new realm of seeing and hearing: Gracias!  Thanks!  (Henri Nouwen, Gracias!, p. 187)

Question:

When have you felt particularly moved by someone’s gratitude?  What made the situation particularly moving?

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Writing
start_button_green

This post received 580 comments!   See Rachel Gardner on “Writing a One Sentence Summary.” A very good post for anyone who attempts to write.

Hero of the year

I like this!  CNN has posted their nominees for “Hero of the year.”  These stories are inspiring and encouraging.

Hesitant to throw anything away?

See this piece from The New York Times.  Jane Brody has written a fine post, “It’s Time to Say Good-Bye to All that Stuff.  (I needed to read this!)  I put a link here last week.  You may have missed it.  Here it is again.

Preparing presentations?

If you make presentations (talks, messages, classes, sermons, and any other presentation before a group), I encourage you to visit Nancy Duarte’s website as well as Victoria Labalme’s website. Some very helpful and practical material here.  I have read two of Duarte’s books, slide-ology and Resonate.  Both of these books are good and were very helpful in helping me think through the creation of a presentation.  Her most recent Ted talk is “The secret structure of great talks.”

Ministry Inside.99

mask_photography4But what will people think?

Years ago, Charlotte and I were walking across a parking lot of a large church building in Kansas City.  We had an appointment with a marriage therapist.  This was our first visit with him.

I was nervous.

I was nervous that someone who I knew might see me.   I was nervous they would find out that we were going to a counselor to talk about our marriage.

The truth is that I was more concerned about how we looked, than the reality of our our lives.

No, we were not in a crisis.  We were not dealing with any sort of trauma or disaster within our marriage.  But, we were dealing with an important issue.

We were stuck.

We knew we needed to make some real adjustments but we were unsure what to do.

Yet, I was not as concerned at that moment about addressing those realities as I was the appearance.  I was more concerned about the possibility of another’s perception than the reality of our relationship.

This is not a good place to be.  In fact, it is embarrassing to think about this now.  Yet, sometimes church leaders can find themselves worrying more about a possible perception instead of addressing the reality of their lives.

Unfortunately, this can get even worse.  Church leaders can attempt to control and shut down what their family members are actually experiencing.

Church leaders can communicate to their families that they need to act like everything is ok, even when it isn’t. There are some real consequences to this behavior. 

Free Copy of Tim Keller’s New Book to Be Given Away

KellerLike many, I have been blessed by Tim Keller’s books.  Keller’s newest book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (written with Katherine Leary Alsdorf) will no doubt be an interesting and helpful.

This Friday, one copy of this book will be given away in a drawing to readers of this blog.  Don’t miss this opportunity to win a copy of this new book.  You can enter this drawing by simply leaving a comment below.

In EVERY GOOD ENDEAVOR, both Christian and non-Christian readers will find insight for such important questions as:

  • How do I choose a profession that fits my skills and has meaning?
  • Can I stay true to my values and still advance in my field?
  • How do I connect what I learn on Sunday morning with what I do the rest of the week?
  • How do I make the difficult choices that must be made in the course of a successful career?

Keller writes, “work—and lots of it—is an indispensable component in a meaningful human life. It is a supreme gift from God and one of the main things that gives our lives purpose.”

Again, to be eligible for this drawing on Friday, please leave a brief comment below.