I Felt Stuck
For missionary kid, Carol Carew, Central African Republic was “home.” Now as an adult, Carol talks about the difficulty that is part of having to leave the country where you grew up to come back to the US. She says, “A piece of you lets left behind in the country where you grew up.”
Listen as Carol shares her heart.
On August 11, 2011, while on a family vacation at White Lake in Elizabeth Town, North Carolina, I had a diving accident that put me in a wheelchair. Because my family has been going to White Lake to spend time with friends and family every year since my dad was a boy, the year after this tragic accident we had a tough decision to make… Do we go back? Though this decision was tough, it wasn’t difficult! Of course we have to go back!
By the time we were driving back to white lake for our 2012 trip, I had preached at dozens of churches, shared my story at schools and camps, and had really begun a ministry. We couldn’t possibly miss an opportunity to return to the lake and share the power of Jesus with the people who had seen us go through such a tragedy. While at White Lake that following year, I was given the opportunity to share my story at a local church and to speak on the dock near where my accident occurred – we were having a victorious vacation! While all of this was great, there is one encounter in particular from our revisit that still stands out. This encounter shows the power that stopping to pray for someone can really have! Remember to never pass up an opportunity to lay a hand on and pray with someone… You just might get blown away!
Listen to this week’s episode to hear the story!
Attitude of Gratitude
Giving Thanks Even in Captivity
Our Bible tells us often, “To give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Surely, that doesn’t mean when one is in captivity and being tortured?
On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart was taken from her home in the middle of the night by a religious fanatic, Brian Mitchell. She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape.
In her book, My Story, Elizabeth further describes her experience in captivity:
I was always terrified. Terrified of what was coming. Terrified of the thought that it was thirty years before Mitchell would die and I could be free. I had no dignity. No freedom. No power over my body. No power over what I ate, what I drank, what I heard, or what I read. It was endless hours of indoctrination—hearing about my captor’s journey, hearing how smart Mitchell was and how he was the chosen one. I was a prisoner in heart, mind and soul.
On Thanksgiving Day, 5 months into her captivity, Elizabeth said:
I knew that I was supposed to count my blessings. But, I wondered if I had anything to be thankful for? At first, I didn’t think so. Then, I started to make a list:
• I still believed in God.
• I knew that Jesus was the Savior of the world.
• I knew that Jesus was near. I felt His presence every day. Jesus was the only reason I had been able to keep my sanity. He kept me strong and gave me hope. Nothing that Mitchell could ever do to me could take away my faith. Yes, that was something to be thankful for.
• I still had a family. I didn’t get to be with them, but someday I thought I would.
• I was hungry, but I was healthy. Though I didn’t get any dinner, I had been able to eat lunch at the Home Town Buffet which had turned out to be a really great meal. Millions of people around the world hadn’t eaten anything all day.
• One day I would be able to get away from my tormentors.
• One day I would be free.
• The gray tent kept the sun off.
• The trees around our camp kept the wind at bay.
I kept adding to my list of blessings until I eventually fell asleep.
I am humbled by Elizabeth’s example of finding things to be thankful for even in her horrific situation . . . even in captivity. Maybe her story will inspire us to also be thankful in whatever situation we find ourselves.
Today, when asked how Elizabeth has been able to overcome what happened to her, she credits her attitude of gratitude. She says, “I believe in gratitude.”
Elizabeth continues, “When I first got home from being kidnapped, I was so grateful to be back with my family, so grateful that they cared and had not given up on me. I was so grateful for a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in and hot water to take a bath. I was so grateful for food to eat, for shoes that fit, for clean clothes. I was grateful for literally everything.”
Elizabeth has resolved that whenever she starts to feel sorry for herself, she say, “Elizabeth, you have everything back now! Be grateful.”
“Give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. I challenge you and myself to start making a list.
You can read more about Elizabeth’s story in her new book, MY STORY. If you read it, her story may impact your story.
Pastors as Leaders
Over the years I’ve been a coach, I’ve coached around a hundred or so business executives. And in the last five or six years, I’ve coached about seventy-five pastors. I’ve learned that the pastor’s role is a unique leadership role. In today’s post I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned about pastors as leaders.
Pastors have many bosses…many more than most of us do. In some cases, every person in the congregation feels like the pastor’s boss. Pastors study and then preach perfection just about every week, regardless of what’s going on in their lives. It could be that your pastor just had a really bad fight with his or her spouse Saturday night, and yet he or she has to get up on Sunday morning and preach a message from the pulpit about God’s perfect love, knowing that he or she didn’t behave that way the night before.
Pastors’ lives are very complicated, and yet every Sunday we ask them to get up and make it look like everything’s great. A high majority of pastors are people-pleasers. They don’t like it when people are unhappy with them. One of my favorite quotes that relates to this is from Robert Kennedy:
Twenty percent of people will be against anything.
These people-pleaser pastors are set up to fail from the very beginning. They won’t be able to please everyone, no matter what they do.
Many pastors enjoy being the center of attention—that might be a little of what drew them to becoming pastors in the first place. And, at the same time, they need to preach about selfless service and selfless love. It’s an interesting mix, to have this desire to be at the center of attention and to preach being selfless.
Most pastors, week after week, pour their hearts and minds into their messages. On Sunday mornings they get up and preach those messages the very best they can. And, after putting so much into it, people will approach the pastors at the end of a church service and say “You know what, that wasn’t quite right…” or “Did you consider trying this metaphor…?” I’m sure that sounds to the pastor like those people just aren’t please with their work, which can be really difficult.
I’ve heard some church members comment that their pastors only work on Sundays—just one day a week! This is so far from the truth as I’ve experienced it in my work with pastors. Most of them, because they’re people-pleasers and because people have so many needs, are constantly working and trying to help people. I heard one person describe a pastor’s life like this:
Being a pastor is like being a stray dog at a whistlers’ convention.
I would ask you to encourage your pastor to find a safe place where he or she can be fully human and let out all the emotions around the work of ministry that can’t be let out to members of the church, and maybe not even at home. Frankly, there are enough troubling situations at any church that bringing it home can start to bring down a pastor’s family. That can set up a situation where a pastor starts to look in unhealthy places for relief and support.
I would also ask you to consider giving your pastor a copy of All Things New, my fable about a pastor who finds himself struggling, and how other pastors were very helpful to him. You can get a free PDF of the book at www.all-things-new.org. You might also ask your pastor or his or her spouse if some of the things I shared in this blog are true, and how you might be able to support your pastor and his or her family in their lives and ministry.