Between Belief and Unbelief

When Faith FailsIf you’ve spent any time in the church, you may have grown uncomfortable with certain things that you see there. Aside from certain social issues that have emerged to the forefront in the recent past, there are other things that have irked people who find themselves struggling to make sense of what they know of God, what they read in the Bible, and what they experience in their daily lives. The juxtaposition of those three things is rarely as well-fitting as puzzle pieces but might rather feel more like the jagged edges of glass or pottery that were shattered and are now trying to be mended and put back together again.

Dominic Done steps into a difficult and sometimes controversial topic in his book “When Faith Fails.” He addresses doubt, a subject which has been avoided in some camps and embraced in others. Rather than taking the approach that it is bad, wrong, or sinful, Done instead recognizes it for what it is, “an opportunity for authentic and vibrant faith.”

Done divides the book into three sections: Far From Home, Exploring the Terrain, and Coming Home. Far From Home addresses how we got here to this point of doubt, wrestling with our faith. Exploring the Terrain seeks to find hope in life’s hardest questions. Coming Home deals with moving through doubt in pursuit of deep faith.

In the Far From Home section, Done is quick to correct those who may want to live or expect to live with complete and total certainty. He says that in seeking total certainty, we lose the beauty of mystery. As he puts it, “If all we value is explanation, we lose the joy of exploration.” He spends the section vying for a healthy doubt and trying to promote is as normal and an everyday part of life.

Doubt, as Done sees it, is living in the world in between belief and unbelief. It is a moment of tension, living somewhere in between. It is the place that stands in stark contrast to the Lego gospel which says that everything is awesome, because life is hard, tragic, and people sometimes suffer. It is the place you come to when everything you thought was supporting you and holding you up disintegrates.

As “When Faith Fails” unfolds in these pages, Done shares insights and wisdom, but he does it with care, compassion, and sensitivity. There are plenty of helpful phrases that he shares, none of which felt contrived or cliche to me. For instance, “God doesn’t demand that we understand him, but he does ask that we trust him.” And, “You can believe without doubting, but you can’t doubt without believing.”

The Exploring the Terrain section contains an apologetic for the Bible. Can we trust it? As he walks through this section, he helpfully tells the reader that we might need to change our approach and view of the Bible. Rather than looking at it through modern or postmodern eyes, Done suggests we see it for what it is, “an eccentric, weird, difficult, challenging, inspiring, inviting, paradigm-disrupting book that, page by page, story by story, culminates in the person of Jesus.”

Done also asks in this section whether science is the enemy of faith. As he sees it, faith and science are not enemies, but different sides to the same picture. He writes, “Science only tells us part of the story. It reveals and enriches our perception of reality; opening our eyes to the complexity and splendor of the world. But it cannot tell us why it takes our breath away.”

While many in the world of religion see science as the enemy and many in the field of science see religion as incompatible with science, there are others who live in the tension of both, scientists who are theologians and who embrace both sides.

Theodicy, the problem of pain and suffering, and the silence of God are also addressed by Done. He doesn’t throw trite answers at any of the questions he poses. He also doesn’t give packaged responses that fail to address what is at the heart of these questions and issues. If I could describe the approach in one way, it would be embracing the tension of the in between. So, if you are seeking a beautiful resolution like a thirty minute sitcom, you should probably go somewhere else.

As Done moves into the third and final section, one of the most memorable recommendations that he makes to the reader is to, “do the hard work to put yourself in a place where the truth can find you.” He recommends seeking out community because it is in community that we are shaped, formed, and that we learn. Rather than seeing community as a provider of resources to be consumed, we should see it as a family to invest in. Even as we look at Scripture, Done says, we should see it as active participation in the unfolding of a story that tells us we are all in this together. The community of the church is the place where broken people should discover that they are not alone.

Done does a great job of encouraging his readers to embrace doubt with purpose and intent. While some doubt dogmatically challenging anyone to prove those doubts false, Done recommends an approach that seeks to learn and understand, not completely, but adequately.

I have encountered a number of people within the church over the years who have been so adamantly against doubt that you would think they were afraid of the outcome had they embraced it. I wish that I had encountered a book like “When Faith Fails” a long time ago, I would have felt less awkward and much more affirmed when I found myself in that in between world.

The approach that Done recommends with doubt is very much the approach that is modeled by David in the Psalms. He started with his honest doubts, questions, and concerns, but he always came back to God, who he was, what he had done, and what he had promised to do in the future.

If you have wrestled with doubts and questions, this book won’t give you quick and easy answers, but it will help you to know that you are not alone nor is there something wrong with you. Instead, Done brings encouragement to his readers to embrace the tension and continue on the journey with expectation, anticipation, and mystery. If you can live with the tension, then “When Faith Fails” may just be the book to help encourage you through it.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Booklook Bloggers. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

Advertisements

Context Is Key

A few years back, a friend and mentor of mine introduced me to a concept that really made sense regarding the local church. He talked about the three C’s of church. Contents, Context, and Containers. The contents of what church is about is non-negotiable. If we are seeking to be faithful to the Bible, we will do our best to understand it and let the contents of what we do and say as the church be driven by what it says.

The containers in which that content is housed are negotiable, they can change. Another way of saying container might be presentation. How is the contents being presented? In which containers is the content housed?

But I haven’t really been thinking much about contents or containers lately. I’ve mainly been focused on context. This friend and mentor asked a question as he presented this idea of context. He asked, “How does God want to express himself through our church in our community at this time?”

As I’ve been on this church planting journey, I’ve been visiting other churches to get an idea of how they do things. I’ve especially wanted to observe churches that meet in non-traditional spaces, spaces that are not their own. Schools. Theaters. Rented spaces where they have to set up and tear down every week. We’ve visited a number of them.

As I look back over the past decade of my life in full-time ministry, I can see a progression of my thinking in regards to church. Ten years ago, I questioned why church planting was necessary. I also questioned why there are so many churches and why people feel the need to constantly change churches. It never made a lot of sense to me and it still doesn’t completely make sense, but I’ve begun to put some of the pieces together in my head.

You see, as I’ve looked around and seen these different expressions of the body of Christ, I’ve begun to understand that it makes more sense than I thought for there to be so many expressions. After all, we are a diverse people and that diversity is going to shine differently in different contexts and in different people.

But there are two things that I think need to happen in order for this to be more effective.

1)  Before you leave and before you commit, ask a different question

It seems that people choose churches like they choose an outfit in the morning before they leave the house, it all depends on what kind of mood they are in. I think that often people come to the local church and ask themselves what she can do for them, and I don’t think that’s the right question.

With all apologies to JFK, I think his statement about asking what you can do for your country may apply here as well. Instead of asking what a church can do for them or even asking what they can do for the church, I think they need to ask themselves, “How can I best fit into this community?” or “Is there a place for me in this community?” or even “How can I best use the gifts that God has given me in this community?”

I think that some people may ask that question but I wonder how many actually go through the due diligence of seeking the answer in earnest. It seems that people are quick to express their frustration with the inadequacies of the local church and quickly go find another one. I wonder what would happen if every pastor expressed the same frustration over those members and their lack of engagement and using of their gifts in that same local church. That would be interesting!

If we think about it in terms of the context question my friend shared, I think we might wonder how we might fit into this local expression as God expresses himself through us in this place and at this time. Are we seeking ways that we fit or are we seeking ways that we disagree?

If the church is to be about the Missio Dei, the mission of God, her people will need to ask these questions with the intent of finding out how to best be used by God. This doesn’t mean that God can’t accomplish his will without us, but it does mean that we should always be asking how can I use what God has given me to best be a part of his work?

So, before you take your toys and go somewhere else, ask yourself if you have really been seeking to use the gifts that God has given you where he planted you.

2) Come Together Despite Differences

The town in which I am starting a new church is a unique place. It’s fairly diverse in many ways and it’s been cool and interesting to see.

There are a number of churches that already exist there and I’ve already had it asked of me more than once why this place needs one more church. And what I am finding is that God wants to take a group of people who come together in community to allow him to uniquely express himself in this particular place at this particular time.

If you were to put all of the churches together, I think you would have a lot of differing opinions on a number of different topics. But, I also think that there would be a number of areas where you would see agreement, and frankly, I think that gets overlooked far too often.

For how far down the road we are since the church was established in the first century, I don’t know that there will ever be a time this side of eternity when we could move towards one local expression of the body of Christ. In the meantime, though, I think we can look for a taste of what is to come. I think we can look at the essentials and see if we align there. If we do, I think we can have some discussions on the places where we differ and see if those differences prevent us from fellowship together. If we are honest, I have a hard time believing that they will.

In fact, as I look around at the community and its needs, I think that God can accomplish his work through his church if some of the barriers that have been keeping us apart are removed. That doesn’t mean that we will all agree on everything. That doesn’t mean that there might still be some significant differences. Could it be that some of these differences exist so that we can work through them and in spite of them? What would happen if the world could see the testimony of grace in these local churches as they put differences aside and seek to be on mission together?

As I continue to go from church to church to see how God is expressing himself from context to context, I am beginning to understand that these separate churches aren’t a bad thing if we can just try to find ways to come together now and then. We can be unique, express ourselves in the ways that God is calling us to express ourselves, and still find ways to cross over the barriers that keep us apart to have a taste of unity, not uniformity, not full agreement, but oneness. After all, there is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all.

The picture that we see in Revelation 7 seems to be a “someday” picture, a picture that we figure we’ll get to after Jesus returns. I wonder what it would look like if we began to practice that now, every tribe, tongue, and nation coming together to worship the Lord. A foretaste of what is to come, and I don’t think it’s a pipe dream to think we can begin to experience it this side of eternity.

Soli Deo gloria!

Raise Your Sail

The word for spirit and breath or wind in Hebrew and Greek is the same. Ruach in Hebrew. Pneuma in Greek.

There’s something to be said about the likening of the Holy Spirit to wind. In fact, Jesus’ describes this in John 3:8 when he says, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Everyone born of the Spirit will be guided by the Spirit. While that life seems exciting, it’s also scary and unpredictable. If you’ve ever experienced the wind, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever been on a sailboat, you especially know what this is all about.

One of the first times I was on a real sailboat, my wife and I still lived in Connecticut. A friend from church had a sailboat and invited us to go out one afternoon. Neither of us having had much experience with sailing, we consented and agreed to the adventure.

captain jonA few hours later, rocked back and forth by the wind and waves, an inexperienced captain (me!) steering the ship, we made it back to shore. My wife made a beeline for the bathroom as soon as we got there and proceeded to lose whatever was in her stomach. She wasn’t a fan of my captaining….

Fast forward about fifteen years later, she’s begun to trust my “steering of the ship” a little more than she did back then. Honestly, I really don’t think it’s me that she’s trusting, it’s the Holy Spirit. It’s not really me who is steering the boat, I’m just raising the sail.

That’s the adventure of being led by the Spirit. While there may be times when we think we’re in control, it’s mostly just raising our sails and letting the wind blow us wherever we will be blown. There is trust. There is faith.

As I’ve gotten older, I have found that new chapters in my life require more faith than I have exhibited before. Sometimes that faith feels like more faith than I am capable of or more faith than I am willing to give.

I look back and I see that my faith is grown. If I had looked ahead from fifteen or twenty years ago, I never would have believed you had you told me what I would be up to down the road. I wouldn’t believe that I would leave a career that I had been educated in, trained for, and been licensed for. I wouldn’t believe that I would leave my family and move twelve hours away to start a new career. I wouldn’t believe that I would go back to school again and get another degree. I wouldn’t believe that I would actually be starting a new church.

Faith works like that though, it becomes cumulative, it grows and grows, we acquire more and more because more and more is required of us if we really follow the Holy Spirit. But just like the man in Mark 9, I feel like I am constantly saying, “I believe, help my unbelief.” I don’t feel nearly as capable of trusting and walking in faith as I feel like I should.

But the very one who struggled with my leading through the wind on Long Island Sound is reminding me as I struggle with the wind of the Holy Spirit that faith is required and he needs to take the lead rather than let reason and fear win the day. My wife has told me multiple times that I can’t be sidetracked from what God has called me to, I need to have faith.

This past weekend, my journey led me down to Matthews, North Carolina. I visited Threshold Church, the church where my church planting coach pastors. We had talked about my family coming down for a visit to spend time with him, see his new church building, and pick the brains of those who had been part of his original team who helped to start the church.

Raise Your Sail

I had planned on speaking for a few minutes during the service to share about The Branch, the new faith community that we are starting in September. My friend also had an artist who was part of the church paint a picture during the message.

My friend told me that he would be preaching from Matthew 13, a chapter that talks about growth, plants, and seeds. The final section he would be focusing on would be about the mustard seed, the smallest seed which turned into a fairly large plant when grown.

As I watched the painting take form and listened to my friend’s message, I was struck by the picture that was emerging on the artist’s board. A ship. A hand. A mustard seed. Six people in a boat: me, my wife, my three kids, and Jesus. Jesus at the bow. Me raising the sail. My wife at the stern, steering the ship.

Raise Your Sail at home

After I finished speaking, the artist asked me to stay up there and told me that he would be giving us the painting as a gift from the church. I was blow

n away as I had been admiring it the whole time it was coming together. What a gift!

We drove home that afternoon and after unloading the car, one of the first things I did was hang that picture on the wall of our home. It stands now as a reminder of this journey of faith we are on. It tells the story of faith, the story that we are now a part of, the story that is still being written.

We have raised our sails and we are being moved by the Holy Spirit. It’s a little scary, but Jesus is in the boat with us, so I think we’re going to be all right.

If you want to see the picture take shape in video, you can see it here.

A Legacy of Faith

I’m old enough to not only know who Billy was but also to have been to a few of his crusades. But I had a realization a few weeks ago when a friend mentioned a documentary on Netflix about the late evangelist. I realized although I was very familiar with Graham and even had played and led worship at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina, my children didn’t even know who he was.

Now, that might not be so significant to some people, but it was significant to me for a few reasons.

First of all, I’ve introduced my children to a lot of pop culture, maybe more than I should have. It’s really a result of my own sheltered upbringing. We’ve been to Graceland. We’ve been to the Johnny Cash museum. We’ve seen Lynyrd Skynyrd. We’ve seen a few other groups as well. So, it seemed odd that the view of the world that I was presenting to my children wouldn’t have a sufficient balance to it.

Unlike my own upbringing, my kids aren’t being raised on only Christian music, movies, and books (but that’s a whole other blog post). I’m doing my best to raise my kids to know quality music and art. Sometimes we hit on the not so quality zone, but I do my best to steer them towards tasteful and good.

But the second reason for introducing my kids to Billy Graham is more significant. Billy Graham had his start in the late 1940s. In 1957, Billy Graham brought his crusade to New York City. For sixteen weeks, Billy Graham preached the gospel message to New Yorkers who came to hear. And that Spring, a 14 year old boy came and felt the call of God on his life to become a pastor. That boy was my father.

Billy Graham MSG

My dad would often tell the story of being called into ministry at a Billy Graham crusade, but I don’t think I thought much of it. He was always a big supporter of Billy Graham and his ministry. He seemed excited when I was in Asheville and he found out that I would be doing music over at The Cove. When he got more into counseling, he volunteered at crusades that were close by and also offered his services at a local call center that would receive calls from people who had seen the crusade on television.

Since I lost my dad nearly six years ago, there have been things that have helped me to feel more connected to his legacy. Some of those things were expected, while others were not.

I actually hadn’t thought about my father and his connection to Billy Graham. In fact, I think that I had even forgotten about the connection to the Madison Square Garden crusade until a few weeks ago when I watched the Billy Graham documentary on Netflix. As soon as I watched the short film, I realized that I was heading to Charlotte in a few weeks and I would have the opportunity to go to the Billy Graham Library.

Now, my kids are at an age where it can be hit or miss as to whether or not they like an idea that my wife or I throw out to them about an activity we are planning to do as a family. I’ve done my best to lower my expectations so that I won’t be disappointed when they don’t take to an idea that I’ve come up with for an activity. It’s been a journey and has taught me selflessness better than anything else.

I set my sights low and mentioned the idea to my wife and subsequently, to my children. No one seemed to balk at the idea initially but I knew that a five hour drive followed by a visit to a museum could easily be just a good idea on paper rather than a reality.

The Billy Graham Library is fairly inconspicuous. There are no huge signs pointing visitors to the property. If I hadn’t had GPS, I would probably have driven right past it. In much the same way that Billy Graham wasn’t flashy or showy, the library telling of his life and ministry wasn’t either.

But not flashy or showy doesn’t mean boring by any stretch of the imagination. It was a testimony to his ministry and the One whom he had served for his entire life. It was well done and engaging, not only for my wife and I, but also for our 12, 10, and 7 year old children.

As we walked through, I came upon a picture of Madison Square Garden from the dates in 1957 when he was there. A light bulb went off in my head and I remembered hearing my dad tell me those stories of being there, of being called into ministry, and of the change in direction of his life. I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten about it.

A flood of emotion came over me as my eyes began to tear up. I proudly pointed out the picture to my sons and told them about their grandfather. Whether they know it or not, they are part of this legacy too. They didn’t know my dad very well as they were only four and six when he died, but he is still making an impact on them, because he made an impact on me.

As I look at the legacy of faith in my family and in my wife’s family, I am struck by just how many people God has called to be in full-time ministry. Uncles. Great uncles. Brother-in-laws. Cousins. God’s fingerprints are all over our family and we are grateful to be part of the legacy as we hope and pray that we also might be purveyors of that same faith.

Trying to make a point about the importance of the smallest work, I recall pastors and Bible teachers tell me in the past that although we know the name of Billy Graham, most of us don’t know the name of Billy Graham’s Sunday school teacher or others who made significant impacts in his life.

IMG_0157

I don’t think my name will ever be anything great, and I’m completely fine with that. My only hope is that I can make the name of Jesus great as I continue to follow his leading, hopefully making an impact in my three children, but also others whose path I cross along the way.

Hey, Dad…

cell phoneNext month will mark six years since I lost my dad. My healing and grief process has been a journey, a journey which has changed and shaped me. People are right when they say that you never recover from a loss. You are never the same, a piece of you is gone, but you put one foot in front of the other, slowly beginning to live again, discovering the “new” normal and rhythm of life.

I lost count of the number of times that I grabbed for my phone to make a phone call to my parents in those six years. To be honest, their phone numbers are still programmed into my phone although they’ve most likely been assigned to someone else by now. I can’t bring myself to get rid of the numbers or the voicemails that I have. On occasion, I’ve listened to them again just to hear the sound of my parents’ voices.

While there have been countless times I’ve wanted to pick up my phone to call my parents just to call them, there have been plenty of other times when there has been something specific that’s been on my mind that I’ve wanted to pick their brains about or just glean their wisdom and experience. That’s been especially true of this church planting journey that I’m on and my desire to just talk with my dad.

“Hey, Dad, I’ve got a question for you.”

“Hey, Dad, tell me about the time when you…”

Hey, Dad, I’m really wondering about how you handled…”

No, my dad wasn’t a church planter, he was a pastor, but there have been multiple times when I’ve felt as if my own experience has paralleled his. The town in which I am planting reminds me in some small ways of my own hometown. They share some of the same characteristics and quirks while also having some stark contrasts. My dad also found himself in friendships with those who held opposite political, ideological, and spiritual views than he did.

It’s funny because there were times when his stance and voice made me uncomfortable. There were multiple times when I know that he angered people in voicing his convictions and yet, he still managed to engage in conversations with those with whom he disagreed.

I’ve not had many regrets when it comes to my relationship with my parents, but I’ve felt a little twinge of guilt in these times, wishing so longingly to have been less selfish than I was so that I could have seen and appreciated the value of their experience. Once they were gone, I thought of a million questions that I wish I had asked them.

I’ve been blessed with a handful of other mentors during this time. I am grateful for their collective wisdom and experience as well as their willingness to share what they have with me. No offense to any of them, but there’s just nothing like the conversation between a father and a son.

I’ll continue to enjoy and take advantage of those great mentors and their voices. There’s a plethora of information and resources that I enjoy that my dad just never had access to (or he avoided because, let’s face it, he wasn’t the most technologically savvy). My faith tells me that I will see my dad again, and I’ll continue to wait for that day, when I’ll recognize him from afar and run to him as fast as I can and say, “Hey, Dad, I’ve got a lot to tell you!”

 

The Color of Life – A Book Review

The Color of LifeWhen I picked up “The Color of Life” to start reading, the name James Meredith was vaguely familiar to me. I felt as if I had heard it before but I couldn’t place it, so I did some searching and began to read.

Initially, there was a disconnect for me, trying to understand what the white girl on the back cover had to do with this civil rights giant. As I began to read, I wondered how Cara Meredith’s story would play out and just what she would say. After all, it wasn’t her who had insisted on her entering Ole Miss and being the first African American to graduate. It wasn’t her who had been shot while walking in protest and demonstration from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi.

It wasn’t her, but “The Color of Life” is all about her story, her connection to this man and how she has been changed in the knowing, in the seeing, in the doing. Just as Cara Meredith documents her journey and the change that took place in her and her thinking and seeing throughout the book, so reading “The Color of Life” also became a journey of sorts for me. I started out skeptical, wondering just what this could be about, what could this white woman possibly say about racism and racial justice.

Like Meredith, I have been on my own journey to understand better. I grew up in privilege. I have been afforded rights that I didn’t earn and which haven’t been afforded to my black brothers and sisters. So, I’ve done my best to read, to listen, to have conversations with friends of color who are gracious, understanding, and forgiving.

But for Meredith, it’s far more personal. Her husband is a black man and her children are mixed race. She is fully in it, not only trying to understand for herself and her own betterment, but now for her children and husband as well.

“The Color of Life” is an honest chronicling of Meredith’s journey. She admits her mistakes. She admits her biases. She candidly lays out her frustrations and when she comes to the end of this book, she shares with her reader just where the journey has led her. It has led her to justice. Yes, justice for others but also justice for herself. In much the same way that Jesus tells us that we should love others as we love ourselves, so we should seek justice for ourselves, Meredith writes, because in seeking justice for ourselves, we will also want to seek justice for others.

Towards the end of the book, Meredith writes, “As a white woman, I can often believe that fighting for justice means standing alongside my brothers and sisters of color, working together to bring about change. I fight for racial justice because systemic racism toward black and brown lives still exists. I cry out against the chains of oppression because although we are equal in our status as human beings, we have not all been found equal in the eyes of society and in the eyes of each other. I believe we are all called children of God, but I know that in the face of racist rhetoric, I have not always come to the aid of those who have been broken and bloodied and left by the side of the road. I have not always heeded the call to be a good neighbor.”

While some of us who have grown up in privilege can be guilty of thinking, “How hard can it be to raise mixed race children? After all, it’s the 21st century!” Meredith shares about the fight that still continues. Laws have been passed, advancements have been made, and still, our country struggles to fully embrace and live out the document on which we were founded and its words that all men are created equal.

I think that “The Color of Life” can be most helpful to those of us who have grown up in privilege and who struggle to understand our own complicitness in the state of things. No, we didn’t create it, but we certainly took advantage of it by embracing what we have and failing to ask the question, “Why am I enjoying privileges that my black brothers and sisters fail to enjoy?”

“The Color of Life” is Cara Meredith’s story, but we all don’t need to marry into it to learn and understand better about the need for racial justice. That’s not a criticism of Meredith by any stretch of the imagination, just a statement that we can all move from where we are in big and small ways by learning and being better informed. Meredith helps her readers in this by adding a Recommended Reading section to the end of the book.

There is no excuse to remaining ignorant. The “not in my backyard” mentality needs to be abandoned with the century which brought it to us. We need to press on together in solidarity, working to fight against a system that seemingly died on paper and in promise more than one hundred and fifty years ago yet still somehow lives on in the hearts and minds of so many people. Only together can we vanquish this foe of racism and only as we see color will we understand and embrace who we are, acknowledging our differences and yet living into our similarities with love.

“The Color of Life” is one woman’s journey toward love and racial justice, a journey that is well-documented and well worth the time to enter into and learn from. As you read, like me, I think you will be changed and embrace a desire to continue changing.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Booklook Bloggers. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

To Boldly Go

One consistent piece of wisdom and advice that people have given me regarding church planting has come from those who have done it before. Over and over again, they have said that church planting is one of the hardest things they’ve ever done in life, if not the hardest, but one of the most rewarding as well. The rewards are not always or often as visible as you would like them to be. The costs exceed what you are sometimes willing to pay.

As I look back at a challenging week, I can relate to those who have gone before me and passed on this wisdom.

I’m reminded of personal trainers who push you beyond where you would push yourself. It’s the rare breed of person who might push themselves to the point of greatness, exercising self-discipline, self-awareness, and self-control. The rest of us need a village around us to help us reach those heights which seem unattainable on our own. The strength by which we arrive there would not have been conjured up on our own, it has to be supernatural.

The other day, I looked at my wife and I said, “We would be nowhere if it weren’t for prayer.” We have known this during other seasons of our life but the truth of that has been hammered home to us once again. When we have faced challenges in our life together, prayer has been one of our first courses of action. We continue to affirm this and know that something happens when we pray, both individually and corporately.

I look at where I am and I am grateful for those who surround me. Cheerleaders. Encouragers. Achievers. I feel like I am made to look greater by those with whom I have surrounded myself. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I am learning something new every day. I am growing in ways that I didn’t know I needed to grow or that I was not willing to allow myself on my own. This crucible of leadership is not for the faint of heart. Enter if you are called, all others need not apply.

The wisest man in the world, Solomon, wrote in his book as the teacher that a cord of three strands is not easily broken. There is power in community. We reach new heights when we ride on the wings of others.

I am changing. I am transforming. The growth and transformation is not without pain or discomfort. But I believe that the outcome will significantly surpass all that I could ask or think or imagine.