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The (Nearly Impossible) "Non-Anxious Presence"!

Reading time: two minutes. The first time my pastoral counselor friend Al mentioned Murray Bowen's expression, the "non-anxious presence," my reaction was, "Of course! That's it!"  It made perfect sense.  As a church pastor, if I could remain level-headed and calm while all around me were breaking out in fits of congregational anxiety, I'd be much better able to exert calm, Spirit-led leadership as we journeyed forward in mission.  My second thought was, "Too bad.  There's no way I'll ever be the calm and level-headed one."  It's a great idea and a brilliant catch-phrase for church worker wellness.  But maybe, despite being such a lofty and unobtainable ideal, we can still benefit from the concept of the non-anxious presence. Read More

Rhino-Pastor!

Reading time: two minutes. Another favorite wellness quote of mine comes from Stuart Briscoe's list of qualifications to be a pastor.  "He must have the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros."  That's excellent advice.  Anyone who takes up a prominent position in public leadership is open to criticism, and any pastor who's been around the block a few times knows that the church has plenty of critics looking for an opening to take a shot. Criticism can be constructive or destructive and how we receive it (read: how thick our skin is!) determines what we're able to learn from it, or how we're able to deal with it and move on. Here are a couple of suggestions for how to respond to criticism. Read More

Darning Is Easter!

Reading time: two minutes. My Grandma Schuldt, who would be 131 next month, darned my giraffe.  Her 21 grandkids could request any stuffed animal, and she would design a pattern and create it from scratch. When I asked for a giraffe, she made one for me, and then on a rare visit to the west coast from Minnesota, when she found "Jerry" in a state of disrepair, she darned him.  She got out her thread and needle and patched up the torn "skin" (red striped remnants from pajamas she also made) under his chin. I still have old Jerry; he's functioning pretty well, considering all he's been through.  I saw him just this week when a couple of the great-great-grandkids were at our place and his stitched up chin reminded me of Easter. Read More

Lenten Wellness: Baptismal!

Reading time: ONE minute (Holy Week!) Did you ever step into the pulpit thinking, “This sermon is not ready.  Dear Lord, send your Spirit to… Read More

Substantial Healing: Physical and Financial!

Reading time: two minutes. I like the concept of substantial healing.  We've been talking about the walk of faith, this side of heaven where things will never be perfect, but any part of our lives can be touched by the healing power of the love of Christ and significantly improved. You get a double topic this week as I wrap up so we can start a new series for Lent.  In our programs I've clustered Physical and Financial Wellness together with Vocational because the first two serve the latter.  It's hard to throw myself fully into my various callings in life, especially my calling into Christian ministry, if financial problems are a constant source of anxiety and distraction or if my body will not physically permit me to get up and go serve. No matter where you are physically or financially, there's help.  Read More

Substantial Healing: Emotional!

Reading time: two minutes. Your emotional health is of utmost concern to your Lord, to all of us who care about you, and to all of those who depend on you for gospel ministry.  Tending to your emotional and mental health needs is not selfish; it's responsible stewardship.  At any given time, about 20% of clergy are in need of specific, ongoing, professional care for depression or anxiety and another 20% are approaching that place of need.  I strongly urge you to seek the confidential care available to you.  Concordia Plans members can access help through the Employee Assistance Program by calling 866-726-5267.  Even if you don't need the care of a counselor, none of us are exempt from changes to our emotional mood.  Life inflicts emotional hurt.  The gospel brings substantial healing.  Read More

Substantial Healing: Baptismal!

Reading time: two minutes. I prefer "wellness" to "wholeness" although the terms are interchangeable and nearly synonymous.  My internal lexicon hears "wholeness" as having it all together, whole, complete, perfect in every way.  "Wellness" sounds to me more like Jesus saying to the woman healed in Luke 8, "Daughter, your faith has made you well!"  Not perfect.  Not Supergirl with no weaknesses, but touched, blessed, restored to full function: made well.  Francis Schaeffer called this "substantial healing" by the power of the gospel.  Let's walk through the Lutheran Wellness Wheel for the next few weeks, looking at substantial healing by the touch of the gospel.  Not perfection, but wellness.  Today: Baptismal!  Read More

New Generosity: Financial Butterflies!

Reading time: two minutes. Our "new beginnings series" around the Wellness Wheel wraps up this week.  Christ makes all things new, and wellness is the healing touch of his grace penetrating and transforming each aspect of our lives.  What's broken by sin, Jesus restores by grace.  Everything is broken, but thanks be to God, the grace of Christ reaches far and deep. January is a great time to consider our generosity as a witness to the Lord's goodness to us.  For all he's done, we can only respond with gratitude.  Gratitude is expressed in many ways, not the least of which is our generosity toward others.  Here are a couple thoughts on a tiny step forward in thankfulness as we invite the grace of Jesus to transform our financial wellbeing.  Read More

New Harmony: Emotional Butterflies!

Reading time: two minutes. I'm not a regular watcher of the Hallmark Channel.  Not my thing, really, although I think I understand why their movies are so popular.  People love a "feel good happy reunion at Christmas" story.  Families are split apart, best friends have a falling out, then the "Christmas miracle" happens and happy endings abound.  Mistletoe, eggnog all around, fade to commercial. It's a little schmaltzy, but it's a story we love.  Reconciliation is a story that's at the heart of the Christmas message of God's love and grace in Jesus.  Jesus heals broken relationships.  His loving forgiveness brings broken friendships back to life again, like newborn butterflies, dying and rising through repentance and grace.  Is there a relationship of yours that needs the Lord's healing touch this Christmas?  Read More

New Identity: Baptismal Butterflies!

Reading time: two minutes. "Behold, I am making all things new!" (Rev 21:5). "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (1 Cor 5:17). New in Christ is good news because each of us is in need of renewal every day; multiple times every day.  The wonder of grace is the complete, absolute, accomplished and thoroughgoing renewal as sins are forgiven and a new creature, the butterfly from the cocoon, comes forth, leaving the old caterpillar behind.  The sad news is that so many of the Lord's people live the old nature caterpillar life, neglecting the call to refreshment Dr. Luther issued when he taught us, "...that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die... and that a new man should daily emerge and arise..." (Small Catechism) Where could you use some refreshment, a new beginning?  Read More

Financial Health in a Post-Church Era!

Reading time: two minutes. There's a growing financial trend among American clergy that is only going to escalate in the days ahead: bi-vocational ministry.  Most of us know someone who has a supplemental income so that they can stay in ministry.  It's becoming more common, and is the fastest growing trend in seminary education.  I speak to pastors all across the country who tell me they know that they will someday need to find outside employment. And I expect that many more will be taken unawares by the financial reality as more and more of our churches explore this option with their pastors. Grace Place Wellness will soon partner with Rural and Small Town Ministry host a wellness retreat for Bi-Vo pastors and spouses (both rural and urban), but there's more we can all do.  Today I'll suggest four ways we can all offer encouragement and support to bi-vocational pastors.  Read More

Emotional Health in a Post-Church Era!

Reading time: two minutes. "Grudge" is one of those onomatopoeia words that sounds like what it means.  Grudge.  Rhymes with sludge and drudge, but it's not as sweet as fudge.  It's bitter. Our society is turning into Grudge World.  Recent testimonials to Senator John McCain emphasized his increasingly rare capacity to disagree, and even to offend someone, and still learn to co-exist; even more, to live together in love.  His peace-making efforts with the Republic of Vietnam point that out. This age of bitterness and resentment creates an amazing opportunity for the Church of Jesus to give testimony to the core of our faith: forgiveness.  Read More