Lots of challenges facing pastors now days.

One significant challenge is the gap between what she or he believes about God and what she or he experience from God.

One gap I see:

I believe in God's love but I struggle to experience it.

I think this gap is exacerbated by two three dynamics:

1. Being both God's employee and God's child can tend to get us in an identity mix up. Too much employee, not enough child.

2. Eloquently telling others of God's love, but not experiencing it ourselves can inoculate us to it.

3. 'Always more to be done' getting in the way of the time required to abide in Christ.

and a bonus

4. The unaddressed idols that come with being a pastor.

There is a lot of talk of COVID burnout and COVID resignations. But COVID reminds me of my days of trauma chaplaincy. Trauma and crisis don't cause the damage, they reveal and elevate the previous state of being.

When I would meet with a family in the ER waiting room, I could tell you about their family dynamic after 2 or 3 minutes of interaction. Close families become closer, fractured families get into more tension.

The crisis doesn't cause the tension, it reveals and increases the tension that already existed.

Pastor, how was your soul BEFORE Covid? Had you named and actively worked on your idols? How was your engagement with God's love?

Of course COVID has added tremendous pressure. Everything has become divisive, even simple things like wearing a mask has become a stupid fight among church people and a stupid form of pressure and criticism toward good pastors. I get angry thinking about it, honestly.

It isn't as if the pastoral role was a picnic before COVID and now these added pressure.

But make no mistake. Each of us are fully capable and responsible to carve out a life in God that we enjoy.

It helped me, about a decade ago, to recognize just how challenging being a pastor can be to my own enjoyment of God and my own deep connection to God. Sometimes ministry helps, often it gets in the way.

But what is also true: I have a lot of autonomy over my schedule....

My elders prefer it when I carve time for soul renewal.

I can cancel a meeting, schedule an hour, a full day, a 2 night. I can commit to a posture of openness to God's love. I can spend time chasing the ways I connect deeply to God.

Pastors, what if COVID is the gift that finally kicks us into gear to work more on abiding?

Calendar it, find all the many ways we can connect with the love of God that we so eloquently tell others of?

Because here is the thing:

The critics and reactionary opinions, the pressure, the ambiguity of leadership, the, ahem, pivot....

They are not going anywhere. Taken as a whole, they are overwhelming.

But God is good. And you are held in the goodness and love of God. We can abide.

And the more radical self acceptance, the more we connect to the vast and particular love of God, the more capacity we have to sit with the critic, listen to the anxious, ill informed opinion, lead through political divisiveness.

Calm presence is the antidote to an anxious group.


It is not passive. It will not show up. You have to fight for it, work at it, put time and money into it.

Worth it. Worth it. Worth it.

Pastor, you are needed in this world. Your voice really matters. Your presence REALLY matters.

Please be kind to yourself. Be at least as kind to yourself as God is to you.

Be so kind that when you die and face God, God says, 'actually, I would prefer if you were harder on yourself.'

I say this in jest because you know this will NEVER HAPPEN. Because you are putting so much pressure on yourself, so much expectation to do it right.

What can you let go of today? What can you trust God with? What are you trying to control that is God's alone?

And what do YOU need? How much will it cost to get it? Budget it. Budget the time and the money.

I know so many amazing coaches who can help you. I'll tag 3:

Intensive counseling for pastors? @chuckdegroat is the gift you need.

One on one coaching? @trishaltaylor and @Jimherrington are gold.


Peace of Christ be with you today.


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More from @stevecusswords

14 Oct
What is the simplest way to move into calm, aware presence? 4 steps in 4 tweets.

1. Pay attention to the space inside you and become hyper aware of what is going on, what triggers you etc.

When we notice and name our triggers, we move from being in their grip to having them in ours. Then we can pause and give them to God. Easier tweeted than done.

2. Give equal attention to the space between you and another. Pay special attention to recurring, predictable patterns between you. Define your contribution to the problem. What 'more of the same' and 'try harder' are you applying that is not working or making it worse?

Read 6 tweets
5 Oct
One of the most powerful ways to practice #differentiation is through the lens of responsibility.

What is mine to carry, what is theirs, what is God's?

Not an easy question to answer, but always worth a pause and reflection.

When we're in anxiety's grip, we tend toward hiding, avoiding or blaming or, yikes, the trifecta of all three.

But practicing differentiation forces us to clarify responsibility. The authors of Scripture remind us again and again that we can control one thing: self.

So we can make a list of the things we are anxious about and then a check box set of columns. How much control do I have over what I am anxious about? Lots? Some? None?

Read 10 tweets
5 Oct
The excellent @thebowencenter posted on their FB wall an excellent 'check list' of anxiety. We could all do to pause, and check ourselves against this list:

Dial up the anxiety, and people start to:

• Become increasingly suspicious.
• Feel more sensitive when others disagree.
• Provoke people to get a reaction.
• Block out information that challenges their view.
• Discard their beliefs to please the group.

• Act helpless.
• Label one person as the problem.
• Alternate between attacking and avoiding problems.
• View problems as more simplistic than they actually are.

Read 6 tweets
28 Sep
If you're stuck in a recurring, predictable toxic pattern with someone, your temptation is to focus on them - all the things they are doing to make it worse. But #SystemsTheory teaches us to take responsibility for what we can own. By pausing, we can break toxic patterns.

Rather than spend energy on 'them' you can pause and run a few powerful steps.

1. Map out the actual problem.

Many people stay stuck because they haven't clarified the ACTUAL problem. Sometimes a 'problem' is actually 5 interrelated problems.

Our KidMin was struggling with volunteers cancelling on Sat night. That feels like the problem, but when you tease it out, it is several interrelated problems.

Read 17 tweets
26 Sep
John says 'perfect love casts out fear.' Perfect love displaces fear. And I think fear can displace our awareness and experience of perfect love. It cannot displace God's love, but it sure can displace our awareness of it.

Knowing you're in anxiety's grip is actually difficult, but you can learn to notice it when you are no longer aware of God's presence and God's love. It could be that your anxiety has displaced your awareness of God's love.

Signs of it:

- you start to think it is all on you/all on your shoulders.
- 'if it is to be, it is up to me.' An anxious statement if ever I heard one.
- An impending feeling of doom or hopelessness.
- Rigid thinking, either-or locked in thinking
- double binding.

Read 13 tweets
17 Sep
At some point for most Christians, we have to wrestle legalism to the ground. For some it is a nagging issue, for others it is plaguing, and for some it is utter paralyzing.

As a pastor, I have heard thousands of testimonies of people. It is one of the dearest privileges of being a pastor - that people would share their walk with Christ with me, how they have encountered grace etc.

For people who spent more than 7 years in a church, they mention legalism. They say something like, 'I was raised in a legalistic church, but now I am on the hunt for grace.' Of course, they have much more to say, but for twitter, that is the basic summary.

Read 12 tweets

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