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Elijah: Stress (and Support) from Unexpected Places!

Reading time: two minutes. Elijah's retreat under the broom tree and into the cave in 1 Kings 19 is a wealth of wisdom for church workers concerned about their own wellbeing. Let's look at eight of my favorite nuggets of blessing before Lent begins! What do Jezebel and the angel of the Lord have in common? Nothing, except that they both had messages for Elijah. After the smashing victory on Mt Carmel, Elijah ran as an escort before Ahab's chariot, presumably as a sign that he thought the King was ready to repent of his sins. The prophet could have expected, and should have expected, a word of blessing and support from the Royal Palace. Instead he got a curse. The blessing from the angel was equally unexpected. Read More

Christmas JOY!

In this blessed, holy, and very busy season, may you know ALL the joy and NONE of the stress of bearing the message of hope… Read More

"But Did You Sing to Jesus?"

Reading time: one minute (eight days away!) In twenty-four years of supervising seminary field education students for Concordia, St Louis, it became pretty common after… Read More

A Pastor’s Prayer: Psalm 84 (Part 4)

(Psalm 84 sounds to me like a pastor in prayer. I hope these thoughts in recent weeks give your own prayer life a lift.) "O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!" (Ps 84:8) I'm sometimes jealous of Jacob, dear Lord. He laid his weary head and dreamed visions of your perfect presence, the angels ascending and descending from your throne, and in his dream you confirmed your covenant of grace, your promise of unending presence, your blessing upon him forever. No wonder he named that place "Bethel," the house of God. "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!" You "gave ear" to your servant, Jacob. O God of Jacob, hear my prayer also. Read More

A Pastor’s Prayer: Psalm 84 (Part 3)

(Psalm 84 sounds to me like a pastor in prayer. I hope that these thoughts give your prayer life a boost over the next few weeks.)  "Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion." (Psalm 84:5-6) I have a longing in my soul, O God, a yearning to travel the highway that's been mapped out in my heart. I long to take that path because I know that you, Lord, planted it there. This has been quite a journey. It's almost like a pilgrimage since the day when I first heard you call, "Follow me!" This is quite an adventure, with twists and turns I could never have anticipated, and I'm sure glad not to be traveling alone. Read More

Faithfulness and JOY!

Reading time: two minutes. I'm listening to baseball free-agent-season talk on the radio and frankly, I don't get it. The one talk-jock said, "Why would he want to be a Cardinal instead of a Yankee?" and his partner responded, "More money." Seriously? You'd walk away from your preferred team and play for a team you didn't want to be part of just for more money? And another thing: what exactly is the difference between making $16 million a year and $18 million? How could you even tell?  C S Lewis says it's not greed, but pride. You don't need another $2 million; it's just that the guy playing for the Cubs makes $17 million. Financial wellness for church workers is sometimes (sadly) a matter of dollars and cents, but it is always a matter of the heart. Have you resolved the money issue at your house? Read More

Peace and JOY!

Reading time: two minutes.  It's the joy of the Lord that keeps us going, despite the sacrifices and hardships. Joy is fuel for ministry.  The joy of living in the grace of God is always primary. That's our foundation. The joy of God's blessing on the work of ministry is also wonderful, but fleeting. Jesus warned his disciples not to rejoice over ministry success alone, but to find their joy in their names being written in heaven (see Luke 10:20).  Emotional wellness is characterized by the fruit of the Spirit which is peace. When relationships at home and at church are filled with grace, respect and mutual forgiveness, there is peace, and there is the joy of peaceful partnerships. But nothing can take the joy out of life quicker than broken relationships. Read More

Love and Joy!

Reading time: two minutes. Bruce was sitting with us on Little League Night at the minor league ballpark. "Check your ticket number," the announcer said, "to win a $1,000 college scholarship." After the number was read, Bruce jumped up and shouted, "It's me!" and headed toward the field. Yeah, right. It was the kind of stunt he often pulled on us. Except this time it was true. It was him! The fruit of the Spirit is love, and the object of God's priceless gift of love is you. Church workers share that promise with others countless times through the year, but should never forget that we need to hear the message also, especially during those times when the joy of ministry is getting sucked right out of us.  Read More

"Where Is the Grace Place?"

Reading time: two minutes. For the last of our summer epigrams, (short sayings with a nugget of truth), I thought I'd mention one we hear all the time: "Grace Place. I've heard of that. Where is it, exactly?" We now encourage people to say "Grace Place Wellness"; we're a ministry not a location. But it is still a legitimate, and I believe, a healthy question. We ask it all the time on our retreats. "Where is  your Place of Grace? What happens there?" The point here is that any-place can be a Grace Place, because the grace of God is always available to those who have been graciously received into the presence of the Father by the grace-full gift of Holy Baptism.  So where's your Grace Place?  Read More

Wounded Healers!

Wounded Healers Reading time: two minutes. Henri Nouwen coined this week’s wellness phrase in his book of the same name, "The Wounded Healer." Essentially he says that we who carry on the Lord’s ministry of healing, (spiritual, emotional, relational, physical), serve best out of our brokenness.  It’s our scars that qualify us for ministry.  Maybe that’s why we read so many stories about Peter in the gospel. No one understood the gospel better because no one needed the gospel more.  That was Paul’s story, also.  The chief of sinners knew best how to share the living water from which he had drunk so deeply.  Are you called into the ministry of offering the healing grace of Christ to others?  If you are, then you’re the one Paul was writing about when he said, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are” (1 Corinthians 27-28).  The cycle of grace is wounded, and then healed. How do we work this cycle of wounded and healed? Read on! Read More

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


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