But They Never Forget How You Make Them Feel.

Have you ever worried about saying the wrong thing?

As a pastor, I find myself facing many situations where I’m scared I’ll say the wrong thing. Sure, there’s an occasional slip in a sermon or stage announcement, but the place where my words find the most fear is hospitals and funerals. When you’re a pastor, walking into a time of great struggle or grief is a privilege, but when people look to you as an extension of God, it carries an unfair weight.

I hate to admit this, but I use to practice what I wanted to say before walking into an emotionally charged, grief stricken environment. I was so scared that I would misrepresent God, or simply misrepresent all of humanity, that I would practice lines like I was on a date. After all, what can you say to a husband who just lost a wife, or to a parent who’s child is suffering?

What should you say when people are expecting your words to bring comfort or peace?

There are no mulligans in these moments, and I learned a few valuable lessons the hard way. Most importantly, I learned this powerful principle:

People rarely remember what you say,
but they never forget how you make them feel.

That might be worth reading again. 

With that principle in mind, here are a few things I try to remember when I’m facing a “pastoral moment.” Whether you’re a professional Christian or not, you can do this, too… Continue reading…

“Slow Down” And Know That I Am God

Do you have a love-hate relationship with stillness?

I sure do! To me, the concept of “stillness” is attractive, yet unproductive. I love to get things done. I like to work hard. I like to accomplish stuff. Which brings me to a piece of Scripture from David that has always bothered me. If I could remove a verse from the Bible, Psalms 46:10 might be in my top 10.

I wish Psalms 46:10 read “Slow down, and know that I am God.” It doesn’t. It says, “Be still,” but slowing down seems like a better choice – or at least an option to catch my breath before getting something else accomplished. Being still is difficult for me. It’s counterintuitive. I’m a progress addict, so the thought of being still makes me nauseous. How can I make progress if I’m busy not being busy?

I’ve spent much of my life believing that progress and productivity is correlated to pace. I’ve heard people claim that being busy didn’t necessarily equal productivity (work smarter, not harder, they would always say), but in the end, I thought those people were just a tad lazy. The kind of people who looked forward to taking naps more than making a difference (BTW – I hate naps!). While I now realize that is not completely true, I still have a hard time completely trusting that stillness is helpful or necessary. Continue reading…

Why Are You Hiding?

Have you ever met someone who was truly authentic and transparent? A person who didn’t mind admitting their mistakes, failures, or personal deficiencies? A person who didn’t just KNOW they have gaps, but were open to admitting they have gaps. Take a second and think of someone … I’ll wait. It’s harder to find people like this, isn’t it? There aren’t too many people in our world who are authentic. Sure, we all have a friend or a spouse with whom we can share SOME of who we are, but complete transparency is typically not our default posture.

If you have trouble being transparent, here’s some great news – you are in good company. In fact, from the beginning of time, our defense to being found out was to hide out. The same holds true today.

Genesis 3:10 (NIV); [Adam] answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

The first thing Adam and Eve did after disobeying God was to hide from God. Unfortunately, we’ve been hiding ever since. There is just something in you and me (and apparently in Adam and Eve) that automatically desires to hide from others rather than be honest with others. We so desperately desire to look good that we pretend we are good.

The real irony is pretending and hiding prevents us from experiencing what we are trying to find by pretending and hiding. That’s a complicated thought, so let me say it again. What we all desire is to be known for who we really are, but when we hide our true self, we will never be fully known. A game of “hide and seek” was fun as a child, but as an adult, it works directly against what we need the most – to know and be known.

Continue reading…

Why Can’t I Let Others Help Me?

It seems everybody in the world made fun of my Atlanta friends and me during the 2014 Snowpocalypse. I can’t blame them. It looked like a snowy scene from The Walking Dead. I can’t imagine how bad an actual zombie invasion will make traffic! Even though I was stuck in the mess for 7 hours myself, I found it funny, too (after I made it home the following day).

After driving for 7 hours, I realized I was not going to make it home. As I began to evaluate my options, sleeping in the car became the most logical choice. In a moment of divine intervention, my wife remembered SHE had just made a friend who lived close to where I was currently stranded. She called and asked one of the weirdest questions of her life – “Can my husband spend the night at your house?” Luckily, I’m a pastor and this family attends our church, so the “don’t you want to help your pastor” ploy was in full effect.

Continue reading…