As we turn our faces toward Thanksgiving, here is a post I wrote a few months ago for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship blog about tuning in to abundance so that we can notice and respond to God’s invitations.
Last week I received word that my application for the next level of coaching credential was approved by the International Coach Federation. Formerly an Associate Certified Coach, I am now a Professional Certified Coach. Logistically, this means I have more than 125 coach training hours and 500+ coaching hours, have been mentored by my own coach for no fewer than 10 hours since my ACC credential was awarded, have passed a Coach Knowledge Assessment, and have demonstrated PCC-level coaching (assessed according to increasingly rigorous standards) in two recorded coaching sessions. In a bigger sense, though, this designation means that I have committed myself to a higher standard of coaching and to continual growth as a coach.
I would like to thank:
my first coach, Melissa Clodfelter, who showed me what a difference coaching could make,
the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship for inviting me to consider becoming a coach and then getting me started down that path,
all of my coach trainers over the years,
my mentor coaches in the process of attaining the Certified Christian Leadership Coach and ACC designations (Eddie Hammett, Brian Miller, and Bill Copper),
my mentor coach who got me ready to apply for the PCC credential, Janice Lee Fitzgerald,
and my family and friends who have encouraged me over the past 6.5 years of growing into this joy-filled ministry niche.
Above all, though, I am grateful to every person who has trusted me as a coach. I am excited to go to my office each day to find out about the good you are doing and to work with you on increasing the impact of your faithfulness, giftedness, wisdom, and experience. What a privilege!
Here’s to many more years of our journey together.
Last week I posted a prayer calendar from 2017 extending the spirit of All Saints’ Day throughout the month of November. This week I am re-sharing a prayer calendar from 2015, one that invites thankfulness on each day of the coming month around a broader range of prompts. Here’s how I originally introduced the calendar:
While the goal is to live attuned to our many blessings all year long, in November we tend to be especially mindful of everyday graces. Below is a calendar of gratitude prompts to supercharge your thanksliving. You are encouraged to share widely the JPEG or the PDF (found here), and I invite you to record your daily responses on social media with the hashtag #NoticingGrace.
[Note: Since All Saints’ Day is quickly approaching, I thought it would be a good time to share a prayer calendar for the whole of November that I created in that spirit.]
Sometimes I wish All Saints’ Day could be more than, well, one day. Our lives are shaped by so many people who have gone before, whether we knew them personally or not. I think we could all benefit from reflecting on their influence and considering what parts of their legacies to carry forward.
Since All Saints’ Day is November 1, and since we are already inclined toward thanks-living during November, I have put together a month-long prayer calendar with daily prompts to remember a departed saint whose impact has been significant. This calendar is available as a copier-friendly PDF and as a Canva PDF. Feel free to share the calendar on social media, print it for your church members or yourself, or use it as your November newsletter article.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month, but let’s be honest. You deserve to be noticed and thanked year-round for the ways you have committed your lives not just to the tasks but also to the intense spiritual, emotional, and mental labor of ministry. I want you to know that…
…I see you when you get up at 4:30 am for a pre-surgery visit after crawling into bed late the night before due to a meeting that ran long.
…I see you when you struggle over whether to take that much-needed vacation, knowing that a beloved church member is on hospice care.
…I see you when social media tells people in the pews to “walk out of worship if your pastor doesn’t preach on [insert current event here],” yet your sensitivity to the Spirit and to your congregation’s capacity tells you that doesn’t need to be your focus today.
…I see you when the lectionary is serving up softballs for addressing the world’s ills, and you go there, knowing some of your parishioners will be angry.
…I see you when it’s hard to date or make friends outside of work because of the assumptions about and demands of your vocation.
…I see you when you are pulled between wanting to be a whole person (including showing up for your loved ones and yourself) and wanting to be the best pastor possible.
…I see you when you feel like you have to hide part of yourself, whether a belief or an aspect of your identity, because you want to be able to continue in this vocation to which God has called you.
…I see you when you work so hard to encourage your church’s progress, only to have conflict burn it all down.
…I see you when your calendar looks like a box of markers exploded on it, with color-coded appointments leaving precious little blank space.
…I see you when you have to wear the mantle of spiritual leadership even as you wrestle with your own faith.
…I see you when you are moved to enter search and call and have to deal with the ickiness of feeling like you are betraying your current context.
…I see you when you are confined by circumstances to a ministerial role you have outgrown, and you keep showing up despite the chafe.
…I see you when you have no idea what to do next after a metaphorical bomb goes off in your congregation, so you keep putting one foot directly in front of the other.
…I see you when the Church or your church makes you representative of all of a particular demographic, such that you bear the weight of excellence on behalf of all your peers.
…I see you when constructive feedback is hard to come by, no matter how much you seek it out.
…I see you when others discount your voice because you are too something, yet still you keep raising it because your message is faithful.
…I see you when you toil in obscurity, leading small congregations, because you are making big impacts that will ripple out far beyond what you will ever see.
…I see you when you make (or lead your church to make) decisions that are hard but good.
…I see you when you offer care to people who disappoint or even hurt you.
…I see you when you want more for the Church, because it is Christ’s body here on earth.
…I see your love for God and neighbor, your tenacity, your creativity, and your wisdom.
Thank you, dear ministers, for all the seen and unseen work you do to bring more peace, connection, and understanding into this world.
“JEEEE-susss, it’s no fair. Mary is making me do all the work. Make her help meeee.” This quote is often used to pit Martha against her sister in Luke 10:40, thus retconning the catfight trope into holy scripture itself.
Not today, Satan. Not only does the typical translation of these women’s relationship set up a false binary between doing and being, service and leadership, it keeps us from more deeply seeing ourselves reflected in the scripture.
Martha says, “Tell Mary to get off her butt.” She speaks to Jesus with the confidence of someone who knows her hearer will certainly see her side. Instead: “Sorry, Martha. I’m enjoying this conversation with your sister.” If she’d had access to an ice pack, Martha would no doubt have used it on her floor-bruised jaw and her indignant-red cheeks.
How often do we approach God authoritatively, knowing God will agree with us? If you’re like me, it’s more often than I care to admit. “Not my will, but thi…yada, yada, yada, I’m sure you’d like to bless me with good weather for my road trip and a change of attitude for that person who has been a thorn in my side and a new on-sale dress for Easter.”
Whole congregations can do this too. We pray for more people to join our membership – because God must want that for us – but what if we’re already the right size to do the job God has for us? We pray for more resources, but what if more money leads to more distractions and excuses from spiritual growth and disciple-making? To the best of my understanding, God doesn’t think in the same categories and metrics that we do.
This is what makes the prayer of indifference – a key component of discernment – so important and so dang hard. It means acknowledging our short-sightedness. It means giving up some control. But unless we can offer prayers that sound like, “Here’s what I’m worried about, please do your God thing” without prescribing what we’d like that God thing to look like, we’re too attached to a particular outcome. That means limiting God, or at least limiting our openness to God.
The prayer of indifference is made a bit easier by cultivating a habit of gratitude. Noting where God has been at work in, around, and through us in big and small ways reminds us that our faith in God’s presence and goodness is warranted. God doesn’t do on-demand prayer responses, but God hasn’t abandoned us yet.
What adjustments to your prayer posture would you like to make? How might you incorporate noticing gratitude into your routine to make these changes possible?
“I don’t have enough time to do all the things.”
“I don’t have anything worth contributing.”
“Our congregation is so much smaller and grayer than it used to be.”
“We’re gonna have to send these church budget requests back to committees to be pared down, because our projected giving is down 10%.”
Do these sentiments sound familiar? They play in loops in individuals’ heads and reverberate through sanctuaries of all sizes. They are the product of scarcity thinking, of focusing on what we don’t have. The scarcity mindset is rampant in our culture, manifesting in the beliefs that we need to guard what we have and prepare for the worst possible scenario. And unfortunately, while we worship a God who created the universe out of a dark and formless void and follow a Savior who was all about opening up the law and the bounds of community, this thinking has trickled down into our churches. The result is that many of our people are afraid to dream and reach out, instead turning inward and wondering how long our congregations will be able to hold on.
The scarcity scourge is a huge barrier to growing our faith in and love of God. Luckily, the season focused on removing such obstacles to our discipleship is almost upon us, and I want to offer a resource that might help individuals and congregations note the abundance that God has blessed them with in the form of resources, talents, connections, hopes, and ministries. The calendar below gives a gratitude prompt for each day of Lent and the first day of Easter. (A printable PDF is available here.) Feel free to download and/or share it. I hope that those who use this calendar will talk with one another about the unexpected ways they have realized that God is at work in and around them.