The Flourishing Culture Podcast Series
“Why Caring for Your Soul is Essential Right Now“
June 1, 2020
Intro: Here’s a question for you. How is it with your soul today? Has the current crisis preoccupied you to the point of clouding your relationship with God? Well, today I talk with an experienced spiritual-leadership coach who will tell you exactly why nourishing your soul matters to your current and future leadership, coming up, next.
Al Lopus: Welcome to another episode of the Flourishing Culture Podcast, where our goal is to equip and inspire you to build a flourishing workplace. As we all face today’s leadership challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe having a healthy culture is more important now than ever before. We are here to help you eliminate toxicity, improve your employees’ engagement, speed up new innovation, and grow your organization’s impact.
And before we meet our guest today, I urge you to subscribe to this podcast. As a result, you’ll receive our action guide. It’s our gift to help you lead your organization’s culture to the next level. To subscribe, simply go to bcwinstitute.org/podcast. Hit the Subscribe button, and receive our free action guide.
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And now, let’s meet today’s special guest.
I’m pleased to welcome one of our most popular guests today, Steve Macchia, the founder and president of Leadership Transformations, based in Lexington, Massachusetts. Leadership Transformations is all about increasing the attentiveness quotient within individuals and their teams. He helps them to become more aware of God’s presence and direction. The key outcome is leaders are formed more into the likeness of His Son, Jesus, who gives them discernment for the path ahead and renews their strength as only He can. Steve, did I get that right?
Steve Macchia: Yeah, you did. That’s a good little summary. When we talk about the attentiveness quotient, we’re talking about an awareness, a growing awareness, of God, God’s presence and power and direction in their lives. And we’re trying to heighten that. We’re trying to increase that for leaders and their respective teams.
Al: So, we’ve got AQ instead of IQ; or TQ, and we’ve got AQ, the attentiveness quotient. Okay, right here from Steve Macchia.
Well, welcome back to the Flourishing Culture Podcast, Steve. I’ve got so much I want to ask you. But first, in a recent podcast that we did, you made this statement I’ll never forget, and as you said, that is, “as a leader goes, so goes the organization.” And in your mind, why are these words even more important now, considering where we sit amid COVID-19 and the pandemic we face?
Steve: Well, Al, I think that that’s the first part of our little phrase, “as the leader goes, so goes the organization.” The second part is, and more importantly, as the soul of the leader goes, so goes the leader. And during this pandemic, especially, when we’re trying to figure out what we can and cannot do, who we can and cannot connect with, or how we are going to be connecting with folks, there’s a great need to care for the soul. And we’re so busy with so many other things that the soul is often the most neglected part of the person. So it really, as the soul goes, so goes the leader.
Al: We were just talking, Steve, as you’ve kind of positioned and become more innovative in this with your programs, you’ve been doing a number of even online soul-care sessions. Give us a minute about that.
Steve: Yeah. LTI has always been very incarnational. We like to be with the people that we’re with. So the groups that we are training and spending time with on retreat, it really matters that we’re present with each other. That’s a big word for us. So when COVID-19 came, I was shocked to see my team readily and swiftly pivot to online offerings, and out of love for the people that we serve, we want to stay connected with them.
So the first thing we did was we looked at all of our major programs—our Selah, certificate in spiritual-direction program; and our Emmaus spiritual-leadership community program; and our offerings at Gordon-Conwell, with our Pierce Fellowship—we looked at all of those and figured out, okay, how can we get the schedule redone so that we can be together online. So that’s the first thing that we did.
The second thing we did was we said, okay, so what else could we offer for the wider public? because right now, during this pandemic, people do have discretionary time. They’re working from home, and they’re also thinking about and processing what really matters most in life. So there’s a lot of realignment of priorities.
And we put together a calendar of about 15 offerings in the months of April and May and were absolutely astounded with the response. I mentioned to our most recent Saturday experience around the subject of spiritual discernment—had almost 100 people signed up. And we’ve had retreats, online retreats; we’ve had other webinars on other topics. We have a few more coming up in the month of May.
And again, every day I see the registrations coming in. We’re not charging a lot. It’s a suggested donation. But I tell you, even with the suggested donation—because people, sometimes they can’t afford any of it, so they pay none of it, but some can afford more so they’re donating more. They know that what they’re offering financially is going to help others receive this. And, I haven’t experienced in the months of April and May a lot of cancelations of opportunities for us to speak elsewhere. Having online offerings has really helped in a variety of ways.
So for us, there’s been sort of a renewed enthusiasm about ways in which we can be of service to those who are interested in the kinds of soul-based leadership opportunities. So, I’ve been actually quite pleased that it pivoted and people have responded so well.
Al: Well, that’s fantastic. So being present, not in person, but at least online, which a lot of us are experiencing. That’s really great.
I bet you’ve got a real-life story that illustrates how this is working in this situation, in the COVID-19.
Steve: Well, we’ve had many stories, actually, emerge from leaders who are really trying to recalibrate what is church going to look like, what’s their ministry going to look like, what is their team life going to look like, are they going to be able to be together soon or maybe not for the rest of the year? I was just talking with someone this morning—no travel for the rest of calendar year 2020. No large-group opportunities. They’re going to be all smaller in number. So I think the leaders that we’re connecting with are really reevaluating what is possible; what’s going to be most fruitful; and what’s going to be best for their own soul, the soul of their team, and the people that they’re serving.
So, there are a variety of stories that are popping for me. I guess the one that’s most prominent is a leader in another part of the country, not in New England, goes really assessing whether the right people are on the team as well, because things have to become creatively, uniquely redesigned. And there are some that are just unwilling to shift and change. And they’re taking this time more as a vacation time than a reassessment time or a reevaluation time. So that leader in particular that I’m thinking about has got a real conundrum on his hands because he’s got some that really want to pivot and be creative and some that are just old school and unwilling.
So I’m going to be interested to see how things do ferret out in the coming months as leaders have to take a close look at what they’re all about. The why is not going to change, but the how and the what is definitely going to change.
Al: You mentioned this tending to your soul, and I really like this phrase. And I’m inclined to think, Steve, that in just thinking about that example you’ve just said that leaders who are tending to their soul are going to be in a better position to help innovate the transition to what’s going to be tomorrow versus what’s been in the past. So tell us more about tending to your soul.
Steve: Yeah. I think right now we need to be majoring on the basics. We need to master the basics. And when it comes to the basics, we need to be taking care of our bodies. So we need to get away from the desk, we need to take walks, we need to exercise. Relationships need to be healthy and life giving. We need to take care of that inner work of God in our lives to make sure that our prayer closet is a place that we’re visiting often and frequently. We talk about the prayer closet as the place where you go to open the scriptures and receive the Word; where you go to pray and listen to the voice of God; and where you go for reflection; and really paying attention, noticing the movements of God in your midst, in your heart, in your life around you.
So when we talk about the soul, the soul really is kind of a deformed soul that needs to be reformed. And it’s in the reformation of the soul we need to acknowledge that we often neglect the soul, the soul is rather disjointed, we can be self-absorbed, we can be distracted, and that needs to be shifted. And during COVID-19, instead of just taking care of sort of the selfish concerns of life, how do you take care of the selfless concerns of life, learning how to really engage with God more relationally, more holistically? And then how does that then inform the way in which you’re going to be conforming to the image of Christ and going into the sanctification process right where you are, right in this season, because this season is upending everything, and life is not going to look the same.
I think we’ve been naive to think that it’s going to go back to what it was. I don’t think it’ll ever go back to what it was. This is a new day. So when we’re involved with formation and transformation, that means we’ve got to be open to change and even changing the way in which we are conducting our businesses and our ministry lives and even our personal journey. So I think we’ve got great opportunities ahead of us, but we need to be pliable and willing to be agile and flexible. Those words are really, really key, and they come from a well-tended soul. They don’t come from a neglected soul. A neglected soul’s going to be hard and difficult, but a well-tended soul is going to be, yeah, let’s try that. Let’s look at that. That’s a new opportunity. Let’s consider meeting that need in that particular way. Maybe brand new, something we’ve never done before. Let’s give it a try.
Al: Yeah, I love this. So, making sure that we’re tending to our soul, which includes our bodies, our relationships, and our prayer closet. I love the way you described that. And, I’ve even found, as I take a walk almost every morning, and there’s part of my walk that goes through a forest. I’m in the Pacific Northwest, and springtime in the Pacific Northwest is just a rich—things just transform so quickly. And the analogy of where things are healthy, they grow and they change. And just seeing the leaves pop out, it’s because it’s in a healthy place. And for us, our souls are at the core of that.
Steve: So true. I like your organic reflection because I do think we grow like the trees. We experience the seasons. We grow slowly. We need light and water and nutrients to make sure that the growth is healthy. But healthy things definitely grow. They don’t die. So how is it that we’re going to maintain our spiritual health during this coronavirus season? I think it’s the basics of, like we just said, water and sunlight and nutrition and caregiving, even a little pruning along the way. It’s all good. It’s all good. It’s natural. It’s organic. But that’s the way we all grow.
And I think you buy into a lie to think we can manufacture our spiritual growth or make it happen faster than it should. I really believe that God is very comfortable moving quite slowly, taking 40 days or 40 years or a whole generation, to make His will and His way known. And we need to cooperate with His pace, not our fast pace. We think we can live on a bullet train and go 70 miles an hour and just see the blur of the trees alongside, and think we’ve seen the place. No, we got to hop off that train and enjoy the beauty of that particular stop. And right now, the stop that we’ve got is because of a virus, a killer virus, and God has allowed it for whatever reason. I don’t understand why He would allow this pandemic, but He has.
So the question is, how do we embrace the opportunities that this season will allow for us as leaders in particular, because we need to be pressing hope into the hearts of our people. And if you’re going to press hope, that means that you believe that the best days are yet ahead. They’re not behind; they’re yet ahead. And if we start thinking that the best were behind, we’re not leading. So I’m convinced that leaders need to say, okay, this is what we have. This is what’s been delivered to us. This is our reality. And in the future, things are going to look completely different. So how are we going to prepare ourselves for that most-needed agility?
Al: You just caused me to think, Steve, and a little sarcastically, you mean we’re not fully in charge and have control over our own spiritual growth?
Steve: I think that’s part of the hard realities of this season. We are not in charge. We’re not—we can’t even go outside. Our stay has been extended two more weeks here in the Northeast, and May 18 feels like forever from now. And we’re taping this two weeks prior to that. But it still feels like after six weeks, we’ve got two more to go. It’s like we’re in our house for two months. Well, in the scheme of things, what’s two months in the long scheme of things? It’s like a blink. But for us right now, we think it’s forever. And so I’m listening to some leaders that are moaning and groaning and complaining about this. They’re not leading for me, they’re not inspirational. The inspirational leader is saying this is our reality. Let’s make the best of this reality. Clean out a few closets, sweep out your garage for the very first time. Make the best use of this time. Pray that God will provide for your ministry, for your people. And then, be flexible and agile. I think those are the words for us right now.
Al: We all know that as a leader, you can’t model teach or even impart what we don’t have. And that includes a leader’s heart, a leader’s mind, a leader’s soul. And as one who’s coached and championed pastors and parachurch leaders, what warning signs does a leader need to heed when their soul or their relationship with God is at risk?
Steve: I think it’s physical exhaustion is one. I think emotional exhaustion is another. You’ve got a shorter fuse. I think burnout can be an option because we can actually overwork during this time. I’m hearing people that are on Zoom or Skype every day, all day long, and they’re wondering why are they so tired. All they did was sit and look at a screen. Well, that’s actually not what your body wants. Your body does not like that kind of work. So we need to get up and move and shift and change posture, change place. Get out and take a walk and exercise. And so I think right now the warning signs that I’m seeing are the physical exhaustion, the emotional exhaustion, and ultimately the lack of self-care. As a result, we can—the couch-potato syndrome can really have a net negative effect on us. And we then end up wasting time rather than seeing this time as a time that can be fruitful for the kingdom of God, beginning in our hearts and in our souls.
And I want to make sure that the kind of people that I’m working with and my team and the individuals that I’m called to serve are really paying attention to the soul because it’s the one place where we can sort of grab a hold of that as a priority, to say, I’m going to say no to some other things in order to say yes to the care and nurture my soul, because I know long term, if I don’t do so, my attitudes are going to begin to really have a foul odor, and my lifestyle is going to be turned upside down and negative. And you have to be careful because it happens slow. It’s like the frog in the kettle, and it slowly, slowly dies. And you don’t want your soul to slowly die.
Al: I found, Steve, that my morning routine, while it was challenged as we’re kind of facing a different—you know, staying at home and all that, I’ve really worked hard at my morning routine to kind of keep it and kind of keep on a schedule. And you talk about tending your soul. My morning routine does include exercise, a relationship with my wife, time in the prayer closet. And I found that to be really a helpful, beneficial outcome rather than sleeping in because I don’t have to go to the office or whatever it is.
Steve: Oh, you’re a wise man, and you’re a good leader, because they may sound so simple, but it’s a discipline. You still have to choose to do those things. You still have to choose to exercise and choose to be in your prayer closet and choose to prioritize your wife and choose to eat well. Those are choices that you need to make. And frankly, brother, not everybody is doing that. They’re letting those things go.
Al: It’s a challenge. I mean, it’s like, well, I don’t have to do that today; I’ve got a little extra time. Or again, just the routine could be different. But yeah, I’ve just found that to be really helpful.
So, Steve, as we’re talking about this, we’re not talking exclusively about, let’s just say megachurch pastors, of course, but rather, leaders and people of influence in really every level and every type of organization, wouldn’t you say?
Steve: Every, every kind of leader. I actually think the ones that are running larger organizations today are going to face a more dramatic wakeup call on the back end of COVID-19, because think about it. You know who’s going to be going into stadiums? Who’s going to be going to movie theaters? Who’s going to be going into large-church settings? We’ve got to be aware that lifestyles are going to change. People’s decisions are going to change. And yet if we’re solid in God, if we know that we are dearly loved by God, that we are in a good space in our relationship with God and with our key team members, we can face whatever challenge may come because the world of the unknown is ahead of us. Nothing is known. Nobody can really predict; people are trying to. I really feel that the essence of life is going to completely change, and we need to prepare for that. And I think the best way to prepare is by caring for your soul.
We talked about prayer closet—I think the prayer closet is key—that we’re in the scriptures, we’re praying, reflecting on our life. But I think spiritual friendship is key, key people to companion us along the journey, the trust with our heart and soul. We need that kind of relationship to pray and to process and to discern together. But having a rule of life, having a rule of life is important, that we’re having some intentionality to who we are and who we’re becoming. But really, it comes right down to, do you know you’re dearly loved by God and your life is held securely in the palms of His hands? He’s not going to leave you or forsake you. That’s not who He is.
Al: Yeah. And I’ve had to realize that it’s not about—because I’m kind of an achiever type, it’s not just about what I achieve that causes God to love me, but I, by caring for my soul, I can see that, yes, God does love me regardless of what I achieve. And that enables me to be on a firmer foundation.
Al: I trust you’re enjoying our podcast today. We’ll be right back after an important word for leaders.
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Al: And now, back to today’s guest.
For many leaders, there’s a bigger wakeup call coming as we come out of COVID-19. We haven’t experienced the biggest change yet, is kind of what you’re saying. It’s going to be actually coming out of COVID-19 because of the change that will happen at that point for leaders. That’s something for us to think about.
Steve: Yeah. I mean, right now we’re still in a controlled environment. We’re all told to stay home. So talk about controlling what you do in your day, you can because nobody is knocking on your door. You’re not connecting with anybody else. So right now, it’s a pretty controlled environment. Once we start reengaging with each other—and then we’ve got masks on our faces, and we’re supposed to stay six feet apart, and we’re supposed to not be in large settings, and who knows if this virus is going to come back again in the fall. What about your travel plans? Do I get to take a summer vacation? Are people going to get to go away? Talk about PTSD. I think it’s going to be maximized when we’re back. It’s like the post traumatic to being alone is going to continue when we’re back together. Can we touch each other and give each other a hug? Can we get close to each other and sit side by side? And what’s that going to do for us when it comes to relationships? I just, I think the bigger is yet to come.
Al: Okay. Well, maybe we’ll end up with a podcast with a little more of a hope message, Steve.
Steve: Let’s go there. But I do think the reality, a good leader defines his or her reality.
Al: That’s the number-one job of leadership, I’ve always felt, is a leader has to discover and define reality and communicate that to the team. That’s exactly right.
So, let me ask you this, Steve. Given that one’s spiritual well-being really reaches into every corner of an organization—a church or an urban mission or a faith-based school or even a Christian-led company, all of those are listening now—it would seem to suggest that every employee’s spiritual vitality contributes not only to their own well-being, but the organization’s well-being and their ability as an organization to work together, serve together, trust each other, unite and move forward effectively through this pandemic. I would imagine you would agree with that. What thoughts do you have on that?
Steve: I totally agree with that. I think that is spot on. I do believe that everyone’s state of soul matters. And if nothing else, what we can do for each other is ask each other, how is it with your soul today? It was the question that John Wesley coined many, many years ago, as he traveled about, as he wrote letters, as he interacted with people that he was discipling. How is it with your soul? It’s a fundamental question that’s become our most popular question, if you will. We like to ask it because once you ask the question and are willing to listen to what a person says—it may be words or phrases or depictions by image or metaphor—if they’re honest, they’re going to tell you the best of all stories, which is where they are. And it may not be pretty. It may not be absolutely encouraging to you at the time, but giving them the freedom to voice it sets them free. It’s remarkable what happens just simply by answering the question. It may be a hard answer to give, but you get a smile eventually on the face of the person who has a space where it’s safe to answer that question.
And so I do think that we need to be caring for the soul of each person under our watch care. In fact, I would say for every Christian leader, that needs to be our number-one priority. That’s a big part of the vision of LTI, is to help leaders and teams prioritize the care and nurture of their soul above every other leadership priority. And I don’t think there’s any other way of leading but by caring for the souls of those that we’re called to serve.
And once that person knows that you truly do care, they will follow you, they will listen to you, they will attend to you because you’ve shown true compassion and you’ve shown true grace. You haven’t shamed them or ridiculed them or laughed at them or tried to fix them with their response. You just listen. Just listen. You know, all of us, we don’t want to be fixed, but all of us do want to be listened to. And that means every person under your care needs to be listened to. So whether you’re a pastor or a head of an organization or a leader within an organization, the best thing you can do, the best thing you can do is to ask the people around you, how is it with their soul? How are they really doing today? And when you give them the attention, a bond of love and affection emerges and the team is stronger. The decisions that are made collectively are better because they’re done out of a place of love, a place grace.
I’ve seen both sides of this. I’ve experienced both sides of this. In fact, I came to you, Al, because a couple of years ago I was in deep, hot water, and you were advising me and helping me by listening to my story. It was not a pretty story. And I was struggling. I was hurt, deeply hurt, by people who I thought loved and cared for me. And they were trying the best they could, but we were missing each other, and we were missing each other primarily because of this: not listening. It’s simple, but it’s difficult because you have to make the choice.
Al: Steve, I like what you’re saying. And let’s as leaders ask that question to those that work with us. How is it with your soul today? That’s a great question. It’s not on the tip of my tongue, I’ll have to say, or I don’t ask it that way, but it does remind me of in First Peter, where Peter really is encouraging every leader, and he uses the term elder in First Peter 5:2, but shepherd the flock that God has entrusted to you. And in order to shepherd the flock, I think you’re right, exactly, Steve, that well, let’s start with the soul of each member of the flock, because that’s so much at the core and how we can work with individuals, how that’s going to make our teams more cohesive and our organizations. Exactly.
Steve: Well, that shepherding image is God image, right? And the shepherd knows the sheep, and the sheep now the shepherd because they know the voice of the shepherd. They know the difference between a false shepherd and a true shepherd. And when you take that into the illustration of prayer closet, what we’re doing is we’re learning what the shepherd’s voice sounds like so that we can listen and attend to that voice and then obey and follow the voice.
Al: You know, if you were surrounded by a small group of leaders at loose ends with quarantining their people—too many Zoom calls, stressed out by not being in control, all these changes, different routines, you name it—what two or three things would you tell them to help kind of reset and solidify their leadership?
Steve: Well, again, I think it would start with, how is it with your soul? Are you taking good care of your soul? And what I mean by that is not something selfish you can do, but something that would be God honoring for you to do, something that would take you to a deeper place in your relationship with God, just to pay attention there.
But secondly, I would do a lot of listening. I would do a lot of question asking of the people around me to make sure that I’m really aware. One of the things I did early on was I sent an email out to about, I don’t know, close to 200 of our inner circle. And I just said, “How are you doing? How are you really? How can we pray? Our team, our full-time team is meeting every week, and we’d love to pray for you.” Do you know I had 75 responses? And I had responses that went on for pages. These weren’t just simplistic answers. These were people crying out for community and prayer, and they trusted us. They trusted our team. So I put that into one document and gave it to our full-time team. And I said, okay, you have pages one to three, you have pages four to five. We divvied them up. And when we got together as a lead team, we prayed by name for every single one of those people. We followed through on our prayers for them. And brother, again, I was so surprised at the response. I don’t think in a previous time I would have received that number of responses.
Al: It’s interesting, and I encourage this of all of us, and I’ve talked with many that do this. I mean, reach out and connect with somebody and ask a question, how are you doing? How is it with your soul? I was in a meeting in our church and our executive pastor said she was going through a list of people. And I said, well, let me help you with the list. So I, on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, just made those calls. And while it was a little bit of time and I was helping her take a few people off her list, just the conversations were so rich and positive. And we’ve been doing that with our ministry partners as well, just sending notes of encouragement, letting them know we care about them. And that’s a really good word, Steve.
Steve: Yeah. I don’t think those people ever forget that phone call you made. They may forget other things that you do, but they’re not going to forget the personal care. They’re just not. Follow through on that, and yeah, take the time.
Al: Shepherd the flock that God has entrusted to you.
So, okay, here’s a tough question coming up. Where have you found yourself caught up short with your own soul care, if at all? You know, what was beginning to point to the need to become or maybe have a turning point for you and your life with God recently? Is there a story you can share with us?
Steve: You know, I thought you were going to skip that question. My honest answer is that I’ve had to come to grips with my own impatience and anger about this situation. You know, here I am trying to impart hope, but I don’t like the news. I can hardly handle one more day of the statistics, the number of deaths, the people in ICU. It just saddens me. And the sadness around me has actually made me angry. It’s made me frustrated. That’s why I need my daily walks. I need my daily time with the Lord because I need to bring my anger and my impatience to God, to say I’m not happy about any of this. Right now, today, it’s just, it’s not feeling good to me. But like I said earlier, simply by addressing that and giving voice to that, I feel a freedom. I feel a freedom to be honest before God and before the people that surround me. For a while, we were exposed to someone with COVID-19, and our son and daughter-in-law said, well, you can’t see your granddaughter for a while. And I’m like, what? So we were quarantined from even being with our granddaughter for two and a half weeks. But our kids, they said we have to make this decision to protect you. You’re older, and therefore, we want to be concerned for you, but we felt like, you’re slighting us. So impatience and anger have been sort of real to me, and I’ve had to really give voice to where I am impatient or frustrated. And God has been gracious and so have the people around me, to love me in spite of my angst and occasional frustration.
Al: And taking it a step further, about your community, your team, how have you kind of worked with them, reacquainted yourself, or how have you been re-equipped from the inside out as you serve Christ in this season?
Steve: Well, I think the one decision that we have all made is to stay closer in contact with one another. So we’re an organization that has six of us that are full time and another 30 of us that are part time. So our team is scattered all different parts of the country. But what we determined immediately was we’ve got to stay in closer connection. So our lead team, our full-time team, are getting together every week. We’re spending about 90 minutes together, mostly related to how we’re doing as opposed to how the ministry is doing or what are we doing programmatically. We can do that offline. But I find that the relationships matter even more today in the midst of this coronavirus. So that’s something that we’ve specifically done.
And secondly is making sure that we’re giving each other the breaks that we need in the midst of this and holding each other accountable to days off or fewer nights when you’re at the computer, and really making sure that self-care and soul care is happening around our team.
So those are a couple of things that we specifically did, and I think it’s bearing really good, positive, life-giving–.
Al: Yeah. I’ve experienced the same with our leadership team. We’ve now created two 90-minute stand ups. Again, that’s virtually. We’re different places around the country every week. And for our entire team, maybe we’re a little late in this, Steve, but we have our entire team, 15 of us, that come together for a half-an-hour prayer time every week. And that’s just been a rich experience. So, yeah, that’s great.
Well, you know, as we wind up here, Steve, I trust you haven’t been social distancing from scripture. So, in your Bible reading and prayer, how have you most encountered God in this uncertain time? Go a little deeper on this prayer-closet experience or your own journey.
Steve: I try to stay acquainted with my Bible, my prayer book, and my journal. And I follow the Guide to Prayer that Upper Room Books have done. I’ve been doing these every year. This is a Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God. It’s the green book that we’re using. Our team is using it, our board is using it, and our students at the seminary are using it, and people in our programs are using it. So the fact that we’re tracking together in the same sort of prayer guide, that has been huge. This week, the readings are from fear to courage from the third Sunday of Easter. And these, you know, we just sat together as a team just the other day in a Genesis 15 passage, God’s covenant to Abram. And it’s nice to be traveling together in a common prayer journey. So that has been key. The biblical text, particularly, every week there’s a Psalm that we focus on and pray into. And then my journal, I have two journals, actually. I’m big on journaling. I have an online journal that’s more of my gratitude journal where I write more extensively in. And then I have what I call just my creative journal where it’s a basic notebook, but I have colored pens that I use exclusively in that journal, where beauty and color is a good reminder for me that I’m not just a production machine. I’m not just an ABC, one, two, three person, but I actually have a creative side, and I want to make sure that that creative side is fed and fostered. So right now what I’m doing is I’m drawing pictures and I’m doodling and rewriting scripture passages. But everything in this new journal is filled with colored ink. There will be no just white page with black ink. So the kinds of things that I’ve been doing of late have been a basic, daily, kind of primitive, if you will, in terms of spiritual practices, but they have invited me home to the embrace of God every day. And I want to make sure that my spiritual life keeps inviting me home.
Al: Inviting you home, that’s great. You mentioned this prayer book put on by…
Steve: Upper Room.
Al: Yeah, Upper Room. And I just encourage our listeners. That’s a fantastic—it’s a year-long prayer book, and it’s absolutely fantastic.
Steve: Yeah. There are four of these. It started as the blue one, Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants. And that was around from the mid 80s. I’ve been using it since, really since 1984, when I started. And then they did the red book, which is for All God’s People; and then the green book, which is for All Who Seek God. And then the most recent one is the black one that you can get as well. So Upper Room publications, they last for the whole of the church calendar year, and there are four different versions. And then there are the different readings for the different calendar years, the ABC liturgical years as well, and so on. Well worth it. It’s been a staple for my soul for almost 40 years now.
Al: Wow, yeah. Well, I’m going to get the black one. I didn’t know about that. I’ve done both the blue and the green. Those were just really rich. So, to our listeners, there’s some ideas for you.
So, Steve, this has been great, and we’ve gone on here for quite a while in our conversation. But I really appreciate all we’ve learned today, even as you have worked in your own ministry to kind of rotate from not only being present in person, but rotating to being present online and in groups, and how that’s important for our time; and how it’s important to tend to our soul, our bodies, our relationships, and our relationship with God in the prayer closet, to nurture our souls in the prayer closet. That’s really helpful for each of us. And I think about asking the question. You’ve really asked, as leaders, we should be asking that people that we work with, how is it with your soul today? And to not just rush right into business, but it’s really important to ask, how is your soul today? to strengthen these relationships that we’re not in close proximity like we oftentimes are, but then to also listen and ask questions so, again, those relationships are strong, the teams are even more cohesive. And of course, then, to make sure that we are nurturing our own spiritual soul with Bible readings, prayer books and journals. I use the journal, and it’s just day one is an online journal that I use in my iPad and found that to be very helpful. So really, thanks for all you’ve shared with us.
Let me ask one quick question. You’ve written a number of books, and I’m wondering, of the books that you’ve written, Steve, is there one or two that might be most appropriate for people these days in this COVID-19 situation?
Steve: Well, thank you for asking that. There are two that come to mind. One is the book I wrote called Broken and Whole, which helps us in times like this, especially as well, to be honest about ourselves and our own brokenness and our own need for God. So that is one. The other one is the most recent book that LTI published, is called Silencio, and it’s a compilation of 22 of our team members who authored together this amazing collection. It’s got 64 chapters of spiritual practices that are very invitational, very doable by the average Christ follower today. And I’d strongly encourage your listeners to consider getting a copy of Silencio. It’s basically a year-long, one-week-at-a-time consideration of different spiritual practices.
Al: How about one final thing, one final thought, Steve, on this conversation, we’d have. What would be one thing you’d like to leave with our listeners?
Steve: I’d like to leave Psalm 62, verse one. My soul finds rest in God alone. And I’d like to encourage your listeners to consider that as a breath prayer, especially in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic. If we can all agree together that our souls only find rest, true rest, in God alone, that we won’t look for it elsewhere, we won’t look for personal satisfaction elsewhere, we’ll say, “I want to keep resting in God,” because when we rest in God, we learn how to trust God. And right now we need to learn how to trust God because this pandemic is upsetting us in every possible way. But if we’re going to lean into the future, it’s to be at the invitation of God to come close, to draw near, to follow after him. So let’s rest in God, and let’s trust in God.
Al: That’s great. Well, Steve Macchia, the founder and president of Leadership Transformations based in Lexington, Massachusetts, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, insights, and stories, and thank you for investing yourself in everyone who’s been listening and benefiting from all you’ve shared with us today. It’s been fantastic.
Steve: Thank you for the privilege, Al. Really appreciate it, man.
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