For Pastors & Normal People

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by dave jacobs

Has this ever happened to you? You come away from a meeting (either with a group or an individual) feeling that things went pretty well only to later find out that you were misunderstood? You think to yourself, “I don’t know how I could have been more clear.” 

Communication is risky. Every time we talk or write there is a chance that we will not be as clear as we think we’re being, and that point of vagueness can result in a false or incomplete impression that can frustrate our relationships and ministry. 

Every time we preach we run the risk of being vague and all the while thinking we’re being clear. Every time we lead people we run the risk of being vague and all the while thinking we’re being clear. Every time we write we run the risk of being vague and all the while thinking we’re being clear. Be careful when you preach, when you lead, and when you write.

The longer we have to mull something over the greater a chance there is that when it comes time to communicate we will leave something out. Have you ever proof-read something you wrote and discovered that you left a word out of a sentence? How does that happen? I think that in your brain you know what you’re going to say (it is clear to you) but your writing gets ahead of your brain and you leave something out.

When Ellen was proof reading my first book (Mile Wide, Inch Deep), more than once we had a conversation that went something like this:

“This doesn’t make sense.” “What doesn’t make sense?” “Chapter seven, paragraph five. It doesn’t make sense. I know what you’re trying to say but I’m not sure your readers will.”

(Me hastily reading chapter seven, paragraph five with slight irritation)

“How is that unclear?” “It is. You need to rewrite that.” “Well, it’s clear to me.” “Well…if you’re going to be the only person that reads the book then leave it alone.”

(At which point I return to my office, look more objectively at chapter seven, paragraph five, admit that Ellen was correct, and rewrite the paragraph.)

Finally, be careful when you’re leading a meeting, especially if in that meeting you will be explaining or promoting new direction for your church. In my coaching practice I help pastors to identifying goals and strategies that help them fulfill the mission God has given their church. It’s not unusual for us to work for a whole month, sometimes longer, on certain plans and the means by which they will communicate the plan and generate ‘buy in’ or ‘get everyone on board.’ Some call this ‘vision casting.’ I call it a great opportunity to be vague and all the while think you are being clear. 

Vision casting is risky because the one doing the casting has usually spent a long, long time developing the vision. This goes back to what I said earlier; the longer you have to mull something over, the longer you have to think about something, the greater chance there is that when it comes time to explain the idea to others you will leave something out. It’s all clear to you but something breaks down when it travels those few inches from your brain to your mouth. 

Speaking, writing, and leading…these are the most common times when we can be vague. To minimize vagueness ask yourself questions such as these:

– What point(s) of mine really needs to be clear? – If there is anything in what I’m about to communicate that could be vague, what is it? – Would it be helpful if I used notes? – Am I prepared to ask those I’m communicating with for feedback on areas where I may have been vague? – How helpful would it be if I rehearsed my talk or presentation? – Have I prayed for God to help me be clear rather than vague? – Does my audience contain some who have misunderstood me or found me to be vague in the past? Should that affect my approach? – What can I learn from past vagueness that will help reduce future vagueness?

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Dave’s Latest Book:

Author George Santayana (1863-1952) said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In 1948 Winston Churchill stole Santayana’s words and made a slight change, “Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it.” And I say, those who ignore their past will fail to understand who they are and why they behave and think the way they do. 

Never underestimate the effect your past has on your present and your future. 

Last year I turned sixty-one. The road of my past is now far longer than the road leading into my future. Now I’m not saying that I’ve been ignoring my past but it is certainly true that the last year or two I have been looking more seriously at the effect my past, and more specifically the negative parts of my past, has had on shaping me into the person I am today. 

I had some traumatic experiences as a child that, I believe, planted seeds of fear in me that I am still dealing with today. A friend of mine in Elementary school had a brother who accidentally fell off a cliff while hiking, and died. For some reason this really freaked me out. I can still remember sitting in the back of our car while my mom was driving and all of a sudden sobbing uncontrollably. My mom pulled to the side of the road and asked me what was wrong. I told her about my friend’s brother and that I was afraid that I was going to die. She tried her best to reassure me. 

On another occasion I was traveling with my Dad and Mom in the car and the traffic came to a crawl. Up ahead was an accident. As we slowly passed the crash, a group of bystanders were flipping the overturned car back on it’s wheels only to reveal the mangled, bloody body of a person. I’d never seen a dead person before, especially in that condition. 

And then there was that time with my brother. I only have one sibling, Gary, or at least he was called Gary back then. He would change his name shortly after leaving home at the age of eighteen and would forever be known as Jacob Mills…it’s a long story. We wanted to go into the entertainment business, which he did, and I guess that Jacob Mills sounded way more cool than Gary Jacobs…which it does. Anyway, Gary is five years older than me, and at that time he was becoming a bit of a hippie. His bedroom was way cool. He had posters and blacklights and beads hanging from the ceiling. There were shelves with knickknacks and a few bottles filled with colored water. I never understood what those bottles actually contained. One day while Gary was gone, I unscrewed one of the bottles and took a sip. Just as I did, Gary walked into the room:

“What are you doing?” “Nothing.” “Get out of my room.” “Okay.” “You didn’t drink that, did you?” “No.” “Good, because it’s poison and it will kill you.”

I ran out of his room and into the living room where my parents were watching television.

“I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die.” My Dad said, “What in the hell are you talking about?” “I drank poison. I’m gonna die.” “Where’d you get poison?” “In Gary’s room.” “GARY, GARY, GET OUT HERE!”

I think that’s about the time when Gary left home.

It’s a funny story now, but it wasn’t funny then. 

There have been times in my past when I have been honest with some friends about having changed my theology on certain controversial things, only to have them turn on me and put an end to our friendship. Because of this, I am cautious about being totally honest with people.

There were times when I was pastoring that were so hurtful to me and Ellen, that now, when asked if I ever think I will return to the pastorate, I throw my head back, let out a loud and prolonged laugh, followed by a firm, “No way!”

But enough about me. What about you?

There have been good experiences from your past that have had a good and lasting effect on you. And, there have been bad experiences from your past that have had a bad and lasting effect on you. 

  • If you’ve been betrayed then you might have a hard time trusting people.
  • If you have been lied to, then you might have a hard time believing people.
  • If you have been abused, then you might have a hard time feeling safe with people.
  • If God has disappointed you, then you might be consciously or unconsciously, keeping Him at a distance. 

Some people seem to be less effected by the bad things from their past than others are. But just remember, just because it doesn’t seem to you that you’ve been effected by your past does not mean that you haven’t been effected by your past.

I can’t imagine anyone reading this chapter and disagreeing that our past can effect who we are, how we think, and why we behave the way we do. The real point is this; never underestimate the effect your past can have on your present and your future. 

Often times a trusted friend or a professional counselor can help you make these connections. Be willing to do the hard work of asking the hard questions about your past in order to move more freely in your present and into your future. 

People are easily offended and sometimes we can be easily offensive. You put those two things together and you’ve got trouble.  

The writer of Proverbs put it this way, “It would be easier for you to break into a fortified city than to regain the trust and loyalty of someone you have offended.” (Proverbs 18:19)

I know, I know, some of you might be thinking, “But speaking the truth will offend people. The gospel is offensive: I Corinthians 1:23 and Galatians 5:11. Besides Jesus offended people: Matthew 13:57 and Mark 6:3.” 

That’s not the type of offense I’m talking about. I’m referring to offense that is not necessary, offense that could be avoided. 

There is an offense that comes because we’ve said or done something stupid or insensitive. 

I remember listening to a pastor at a conference say, “The only way not to offend people is to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.” The people around me burst into applause and cheers but I could not help but think that some had interpreted this as permission to offend.

Think about it, why would I want to offend someone if I didn’t need to? Four times the Bible tells me to avoid offending or placing a stumbling block before someone: I Corinthians 8:9, 10:32, II Corinthians 6:3 and Romans 14:13.

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Despite my greatest efforts not to, I will still occasionally offend people. In order to keep being offensive to a minimal I need to ask myself these four questions:

  • How might my words or actions offend this person?
  • Do I care if I offend them?
  • Should I care if I offend them?
  • Can I achieve my objective in a way that might be less likely to offend?

A good rule to live by: If you have to ask yourself if what you’re about to say or do will be offensive…it will probably be offensive.

What should I do if I have discovered that I have offended someone?

  • Resist the temptation to become defensive and justify my actions.
  • In prayer and quiet reflection ask the Father to show me how I contributed to the offense.
  • Apologize without any explanations or qualifiers. Here are some examples of poor apologies:

“I’m sorry that you were offended but…”

“I apologize but…”

A good rule to live by in regards to apologizing: If you use the word ‘but’ you’ll come off as a ‘butt.’ What’s an example of a good apology?

“I’m sorry that I… PERIOD!” No butts

You might be saying to yourself, “Yeah, but it wasn’t all my fault. They needed to hear this.” You might be right. However, you will probably have an opportunity to revisit whatever it is you think they need to hear. Do your best to clear the air and approach the matter another day in another way. 

A good rule to remember: An offended person will not objectively listen to anything you have to say to them. 

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A good friend emailed me with a fascinating tidbit: 

“The Greek word for offense is the word scandalon.  It’s where we get the English word scandal from.  Interestingly enough, the small metal piece on a mouse-trap where you put the cheese is called a scandalon. The picture is obvious … offense is a trap.  If you take the bait and become offended, you are the one who ends up being trapped.”

I couldn’t help but turn this around by thinking about how many churches have been trapped in stunted growth, conflict, and disunity because one or two offended people in the church slowly spread their toxic attitude throughout the fellowship.

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My Latest Book Just Came Out!

Second Thoughts: 100 things small church pastors need to reconsider.

From the back cover:

I was a pastor for thirty years before I retired and began coaching pastors. I’m now into my twelfth year of working with ministers and church leaders. The older I get, and the longer I do what I do, the more I find myself having second thoughts about how we do church. And not just church, but how pastors think. It’s not that I am worried that we’ve got it all wrong, but maybe there is another way to look at things. Maybe it would be helpful for us to reconsider things. Maybe the way we run our churches made sense at one time, but now there might be a more effective way to do it. Maybe there are things that fill our minds as pastors of smaller churches that aren’t doing us any good. We need to rethink, reconsider, challenge our approach to ministry and our role as a pastor.

You can find your copy

by dave jacobs

About five years ago I fell down our stairs. Not from the top all the way to the bottom, but about six steps…I think, I can’t really remember. I was alone. It’s not good to fall when you’re alone. It’s best to fall when people are around but it’s hard to schedule things like falling. As I lay there on my back I had a conversation with myself…because there was no one else there but me.

“Okay, stay down. Don’t get up yet, maybe you’re about to pass out. You don’t want to fall a second time. What’s that pain in my foot? Don’t look, you might see a bone. You’ve got to look. Okay, you can do this. Don’t get up but take a look.”

Sure enough, my foot was twisted in the wrong direction. 

“Okay, you’ve got to try to stand up and see if you can put pressure on it. No don’t! What if my foot just flaps back and forth? Well you just can’t lay here until Ellen gets home. Why not?”

I grabbed the handrail and slowly pulled myself up. I could put weight on it…kind of. 

“That’s good, it’s not flapping. But you’re hurt, you need to see the doctor. Wait, I can’t drive, especially since I don’t have a car. I’ll call Ellen. Oh please God let my phone be in my pocket. No, don’t call Ellen. No need to worry her. Call Mark (my son), maybe it’s his day off. He might make fun of me but I know he won’t be worried.”

Mark did come. Mark did take me to the doctor. Mark did make fun of me. I slowly recovered. 

Here’s the thing. I’d gone up and down those stairs for seven years and never fallen. Had I become reckless? Was I overly confident with my stair-climbing and decending? 

Never underestimate your ability to fall.

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I’m sure by now you’ve realized that this isn’t about falling down stairs.

Most of us are familiar with Paul’s warning in I Corinthians 10:12, “Let anyone who thinks they stand be careful because it’s times like this that overconfidence can lead to a fall.”

I have a hard time believing that I could be unfaithful to Ellen. But then I’ve known pastors who committed adultery and I’m sure there was a time when they thought the same thing. 

Given the right circumstances, or the right combination of circumstances, I believe we all could be vulnerable to falling. Here are some examples of circumstances or situations to watch out for. 

You might be prone to a fall when you are not ‘self-aware.’  

You might be vulnerable to falling if you have a tendency to minimize.

You might be headed for a fall if you are on a winning streak. 

You might be at risk for falling when you are tired.

You might be more likely to fall when you are stressed out.

You might be susceptible to falling when you are spiritually dry. 

You might be open to a fall when you are bored, angry, hurt, or lonely.

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Unless you are a stuntman, an athlete, or a skydiver, you’re not planning on falling. The reason why these people seldom hurt themselves (or at least don’t hurt themselves more than they do) is that they’ve taken precautions and they know how to fall in the safest way.

We’re not interested in falling safely. We don’t want to fall at all. And even though it’s unlikely that we will be able to go through life without falling there are things we can do to limit our falls.

1. There’s no need to be paranoid but also don’t be lackadaisical. You can be so focused on avoiding sin that you miss out on the joy and peace of walking with Christ. 

2. Practice faithfulness in little things. Most of us will probably never go out and rob a bank. But many of us have felt comfortable with telling a ‘little white lie.’ Jesus reminded us that people who are faithful in little things tend to be faithful in big things too. (Luke 16:10) It seems that the accumulation of small falls can add up to a big fall. Take seriously the small stuff.

3. Preventive prayer. We’re all familiar with that portion of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ that says, “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” 

4. Cultivate self-awareness. Consistent times of prayer, meditation, and reflection provide the Holy Spirit opportunities to show us who we really are, and what’s going on inside of us. We might not always like what we see but it’s imperative that we do. 

5. Find a trusted, safe, honest friend who we can share our weaknesses and temptations with and who will hold us accountable.

Never underestimate your ability to fall.

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My Latest Book Is Out!

Second Thoughts: 100 Things Small Church Pastors Need to Reconsider.

From back cover:

I was a pastor for thirty years before I retired and began coaching pastors. I’m now into my twelfth year of working with ministers and church leaders. The older I get, and the longer I do what I do, the more I find myself having second thoughts about how we do church. And not just church, but how pastors think. It’s not that I am worried that we’ve got it all wrong, but maybe there is another way to look at things. Maybe it would be helpful for us to reconsider things. Maybe the way we run our churches made sense at one time, but now there might be a more effective way to do it. Maybe there are things that fill our minds as pastors of smaller churches that aren’t doing us any good. We need to rethink, reconsider, challenge our approach to ministry and our role as a pastor.

Get your copy here…

We tend to read, and listen, and think within the comfortable and familiar confines of our group who think like we do. And if we do wander into a different group, a different perspective, it is for the purpose of debate or in an attempt to win them over to our way of thinking.

They say that fish don’t know they are swimming in water. Water is all they know. My Christianity was shaped in a certain pond.

I was converted (1973) into the pond of Evangelicalism. But under that umbrella were subcategories, not just Evangelicalism, but conservative Evangelicalism, not just that, but Charismatic Evangelicalism, not just Charismatic Evangelicalism but the Calvary Chapel expression of Charismatic, i.e. mellow Charismatic, or like I used to say, “Charismatic-lite.” In this pond swam fish who were complementarians, believed women couldn’t pastor, believed in a pre-tribulation rapture of the church, worshipped to contemporary songs instead of hymns. The pastors wore jeans to church. There were many other distinctives to the water I swam in and the fish I bumped into. But for the most part we all thought the same and were suspicious of and had no real need for or interest in other ponds. After all…we were right and they were wrong.

It’s easy to forget that we think the way we do in large part because of the pond we were raised in. Our ‘churchianity’ and our theology were greatly shaped by the water we swam in.

For some time now Ellen and I have allowed ourselves to wander outside of our pond. You don’t know what you don’t know. We’ve discovered many things we didn’t know, legitimate perspectives different than our long-held ones. And along with this have come attacks, not because we have changed our thinking (and there are some areas in which we have) but simply because we were willing to wander into waters different than those we had always swam in. Some think that a willingness to wander is a sign that you are lost, but we don’t feel lost, in fact, we feel more ‘found’ than ever before.

Allow yourself to wander. 

When was the last time you read a book or blog written my someone who has a different theology or perspective than yours? For example, this year my reading is focused on female authors, authors of color, and writers of different people-groups other than mine.

Give yourself permission to wander. Think and rethink about the convictions you have. This is nothing to fear. This doesn’t mean anything will change…but it might. There are many ways in which I have changed because I have allowed myself to wander. I think this is progress, not regress.

Not all those who wander are lost. Thank you Tolkien.

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

I became a Christian going into my Sophomore year of High School in 1973. For the first year of my new found faith I attended a United Methodist church. After that I eventually landed in a non-denominational church that was basically a Calvary Chapel church that had yet to call themselves a Calvary Chapel church. The Calvary pastors had, and still do have, a reputation for being great expository and book studies preachers. I would learn to become one myself because of listening to their founder, Chuck Smith, teach through the Bible on cassette. Those were the days of cassettes. You young’uns have no idea what I’m talking about.

Calvary Chapel churches taught a pre-tribulation rapture of the church. So…I believed in a pre-tribulation rapture of the church. In fact, it would be years before I discovered that not everyone believed in a pre-tribulation rapture of the church, with the exception of those “liberal churches”, whom I was told didn’t believe in the Bible anyway so I didn’t need to pay any attention to them.

One day I was perusing the local Christian Book store and I found a book that laid out the four most common interpretations of the end-times. I never knew that there were intelligent, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving people that looked at the same scriptures I did but came to different conclusions!

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Now before you go any further, take a few seconds to stop and think. Identify an important theological position you hold that Bible-believing, Jesus-loving people can’t agree on. Wait for it, wait for it…got it? Okay, hold that thought.

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Have you ever noticed how often you hear some Christians or pastors say, “The Bible clearly teaches ___________?”

Now I happen to think that there are many things the Bible clearly teaches, but in regards to those important and controversial theological subjects that Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians disagree on, if the Bible was clear on those things, there wouldn’t be disagreement. Think about it, we owe the existence of denominations to the fact that the Bible isn’t always clear.

It all comes back to Biblical hermeneutics. We all believe in the same Bible, we all love Jesus, but we often look at the same passages of scripture and come to different interpretations.

Apparently the Bible isn’t clear about ___________.

It’s okay to say, “I think my interpretation makes more sense.”

It’s okay to say, “I’ve tried to objectively look at the different positions on this and my position is ____________.”

It’s okay to say, “The Bible seems clear to me about ______________, but some of my Bible-believing, Jesus-loving sisters and brother disagree with me.”

It’s okay to say, “I might be wrong about this…but I don’t think I am.”

It’s not okay to say, “The Bible is clear about _____________.”

It’s not okay to say, “Any Bible-believing Christian will agree with me.”

It’s not okay to say, “Bible-believing churches don’t believe _____________.”

The Bible is not always clear, and I’m comfortable with that. I hope you are as well.

Recently I watched the documentary Who Killed Malcolm X? on Netflix. I’ve always been fascinated by this man’s rise to prominence within the Nation of Islam and the controversy surrounding his assassination in 1965. While Malcolm was fighting against racism and the oppression of black people, another minister was engaged in the same fight, Martin Luther King Jr. King will be gunned down three years after Malcolm.

Both Malcolm and MLK were responding to the same thing, but there couldn’t have been a more different approach between the two of them.

“Dr. King wants the same thing I want. Freedom.” – Malcolm X

And then…

“We are nonviolent with people who are nonviolent with us.” – Malcolm X

And in the documentary I heard him say in a meeting, “If the white man kills us, we’re gonna kill him back.”

I hope this doesn’t shock you but I really can’t blame Malcolm for promoting this way of thinking. Black Americans were being killed, unjustly incarcerated and discriminated against. They still are. Now contrast this with MLK’s approach to the same problem:

“World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Nonviolence is a good starting point. Those of us who believe in this method can be voices of reason, sanity, and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion. We can very well set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace can be built.”

And again,

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

And my point?

At any given time I have a choice to respond to those in the church (Jesus-loving, Bible-believing, sisters and brothers) that I disagree with over very important issues and theologies, with either violent words and actions or non-violent words and actions. I can choose the way of Malcolm or the way of MLK.

Think of how you act when you are on social media and come across something that you passionately disagree with. Your blood starts to boil. Witty and mean responses begin to travel from your brain, down your arm to your hands, poised ready to bang on your keyboard. At that moment you have a choice, will I respond like Malcolm or MLK.

Although I understand Malcolm, I want to be like MLK. I want to practice non-violence. Will you join me?

I’m sorry, but I’m going to bring up our dogs again. But first, a text exchange that occurred this morning between Ellen and me.

Me: What is the medicine we use on the dogs that they hate and try to spit out? And what is it for?

Ellen: Panacur. It’s a broad spectrum de-wormer. Why?

Me: I’m going to use it as an illustration for an article I’m writing for my blog.

Ellen: You just did a thing about the dogs…don’t do too much about the dogs.

Me: This would only be my second blog where I mentioned the dogs.

Ellen: Just my opinion, but I would not use them that often.

Me: Why?

Ellen: It’s a one-trick pony. Wait and use the illustration in the future. If two out of four mention the dogs, it sounds like you’re one of those pastors who only uses their kids, or their diet, or their workout for illustrations. Boring. 

I put down my phone and thought; Well, we don’t have kids in the house anymore, I don’t diet (which I should) and I don’t exercise (which I should) so all I have left are my dogs.

Sorry Honey, and I apologize to the rest of you and promise that I won’t bring up my dogs again until this time next year. 

Have you ever had a dog with worms? It’s not that uncommon but it is kind of gross. No…it’s gross. I hope I never get worms. Here’s how Ellen and I deal with this.

I sit on the floor and hold the dog. Ellen fills a syringe with the medicine and shoots it down the back of the dog’s throat. Immediately she holds the dog’s muzzle closed so they can’t spit it out. They almost always manage to spit (or spray) some of it out, usually on me. And while all this is happening Ellen always says to the poor pooch, 

“I’m sorry, I know, I know. It doesn’t taste very good does it?”

“The human beings around us are often the bottles that hold our spiritual medicine, but it is our Father’s hand of love that pours out the medicine. The human bottle is the ‘second cause’ and has no real agency in itself.  For the medicine these human bottles hold is prescribed for us and given to us by the Great Physician of our souls.” (Hannah W. Smith: The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life)

Is there someone who has wormed their way into your life?

Pause and think.

Is there a difficult person, someone overly critical of you, a church member or board member who seems to oppose every idea you come up with? Can you think of anyone who gossips about you or your spouse? Does a co-worker, boss, or someone in your family come to mind?

Do you have any worms? If not currently I bet you have had some in the past or will in the future.

Embedded in every worm is an opportunity for spiritual growth.

“Remember that He may use anyone at all, however unwitting they may be, to teach us and direct us on our way.” (Saint John of the Cross: Dark Night of the Soul)

I’m sure the Father stole this from Ellen but can you hear Him say, “I’m sorry, I know, I know. It doesn’t taste very good does it?”

Take your medicine. Don’t spit it out. It’ll be good for you.

Some Christians, and the Pastors who lead them, seem more attracted to the image of Jesus with a whip in his hand, driving the money-changers out of the Temple than they do of Him with a knife and fork in his hand sharing a meal with sinners. There are those in the Christian community who are demonstrating more hostility than hospitality. If you are fortunate enough, or unfortunate enough, to be on social media, you probably have encountered this.

Speaking of the need to move from hostility to hospitality, Henri Nouwen said,

“Our society seems to be increasingly full of fearful, defensive, aggressive people, anxiously clinging to their property and inclined to look at their surrounding world with suspicion, always expecting an enemy to suddenly appear, intrude, and do harm. But still, our vocation is to convert the hostel into hospitality, the enemy into a guest, and to create the free and fearless space where brotherhood and sisterhood can be formed and fully experienced.” (Reaching Out)

Much of our church culture is hostile towards anything they feel threatened by or anyone that thinks differently than they do. For many, their hostility sleeps until something pokes it, something they deem heretical, and unbiblical, or sinful. Hospitality can be hard work, but hostility is easy. These days hostility only needs one thing: Disagree with me.

I’m trying to push back against the surrounding pressure to be hostile and instead wade into the warm, peaceful waters of hospitality.

What are your thoughts?

We have dogs. To be precise, we have six Pembroke Welsh Corgis. Yes, you read that right…pray for us. I often feel like a rancher and my livestock have short legs and really cute butts. If you are unfamiliar with the breed…look them up.

Usually in the morning when I get up to have my ‘quiet time’ they are still crated, usually asleep, and, therefore…quiet. However, once in a while if I get up later, they have already been released outside and let back in, with me, in the living room, in my special red chair, trying to have a ‘quiet time.’

Now Corgis have a lot of energy to begin with, but first thing in the morning, after having been in their crates all night…oh mama, let me tell you, you have no idea the noise they can make. You try having a ‘quiet time’ with twentyfour Corgi feet racing around you on wood floors. I swear the house shakes.

A couple weeks ago I’m having my ‘quiet time’ along with my six obnoxious friends. I’m starting to get really irritated. They were having a good time, but not me. I was trying to be spiritual! I was trying to find God’s presence! I couldn’t take it any more and I yelled at them “STOP IT!” They simultaneously, like synchronized swimmers, stopped dead in their tracks, stared at me, laughed in my face (yes I heard them) and started back up. I shook my head in defeat, and then it came to me.

It’s easy for me to find God in quiet and solitude but what about experiencing Him in the noise, distractions, and interruptions of life? I took a deep breath, relaxed and refocused even with all the crazy happening around me. And you know what? It worked! Not perfectly, but I was able to have a meaningful quiet time in a noisy place.

Pastor’s lives are filled with distractions and interruptions. You start out thinking you’re going to have a productive day and then things go south because of a hundred unplanned intrusions. This is true for normal people as well. Maybe it’s chaotic and stressful where you work. Maybe you’re at home with a bunch of kids that behave like…well… like a bunch of Corgis.

Our goal should be to learn how to experience God’s peace and presence regardless of our surroundings. Silence and solitude are probably best for accomplishing this but that’s not the real world we live in.

Take or create every opportunity you have for silence and solitude, but the next time you are bombarded with noise or distraction or interruptions, take a deep breath and try to recognize where God might be in it all.

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