The Twenty Minute Window

A word with power is a word that comes from silence.

So say the Egyptian Desert Fathers of the third century A.D.

So says one of my old spiritual mentors, the late Henri J. M. Nouwen.

So says the life and speech of Mama Maggie of Cairo, one of my new spiritual mentors.

Our world is wordy, says Nouwen, and we all know that. A conflicting, chaotic rush of verbiage. Often we are word-saturated and we tune it all out. Often it won’t let us ignore it.

Where is silence to be found?

For me it’s a window of about twenty minutes in the early dawn. Before the dog rushes in, tail flying, near missing my coffee. Before news and music and blogs and vehicle engine noise rush into my world.

For those early twenty minutes, I am relatively still. Sometimes, as Mama Maggie prescribed, I silence my thoughts; listen to my heartbeat. Then I listen to my spirit.

Then…I silence my own spirit, and try to listen to God’s Spirit. It’s hard to sort out what exactly is happening in those moments—what are brain synapses firing, what is sleepy REM half-dreaming, what is true listening, and whether I’m listening to myself, or to God.

But I believe that
in the heavenlies
at the recesses of the dawn
God, always attentive
is sorting that out for me,
or in spite of me.

I do know I get blips, impressions. I probably receive them throughout the day, carefully customized for me from the Creator. Spoken in love to me.

Do I hear them? Sometimes. But the highest probability of my hearing them is in that sacred early morning twenty minute window–

when I’m still and listening
when the car engines are not humming
when the school buses haven’t arrived
when the sunrise is still a distance away
when silence

Is there a place,
a time in your day or evening,
in your world,
to listen
in silence
to the Great Creator?

By: Greg Ferguson
Co-Producer/ Experience Designer, The Global Leadership Summit
Visit his blog, 10,000 pages

Two lenses

I have two lenses through which I can view my world.

They’re very different.

I can look at life as a
position to be defended

or as an
adventure to be explored.

The first lens feeds a bubbling undercurrent of anxiety.

The second opens me up to new worlds
and recovers my smile.

A thousand voices tell me to choose the first lens, because the world is a hard place and it will steal what you’ve been given–the millisecond you’re not vigilant.

One Voice tells me to toss that worthless, blurred-up lens of anxious grasping, and start the adventure.

As a person of faith, I must believe I’m not locked in by DNA or past history or the dire warnings of the world.

So… I can choose which lens I look through.

Which will it be today?

By: Greg Ferguson
Co-Producer/ Experience Designer, The Global Leadership Summit
Visit his blog, 10,000 pages

Change Your Mind Before Christmas

“Meditation is a long, ardent gaze at God, his work, and his word. Slowing down and giving one’s undivided attention to God lies at the core of Christian meditation.” The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

I confess: left to my own devices, I’m a crammer.

Maybe it started with a few exams in college; maybe it’s the natural tendency of my personality, maybe it is an occasional lack of maturity. Whatever the cause, pushing against those tendencies has become vital to my way of life, and especially to my way of leadership. I know what an out-of-control-busy schedule can do to my soul. Perhaps you can relate.

And at this time of year, the temptation to cram even more into an already full schedule escalates. The Christmas season adds not only ministry opportunities, but also the potential for financial stressors, volunteer and key partner recognition, family expectations, and more… It can fill our minds with distractions and worry.

Slowing down for “a long, ardent gaze at God” will not simply creep into my schedule. But this year, I’m making sure it finds a home there. I know from experience what frequent times of meditation—even small bits here and there—can do to improve the health of my soul. As it reads in the Psalms, “I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77:12)

It’s been fascinating to learn that meditation not only helps our spiritual lives, it also actually changes our brains, which, in the end will change our minds. Here’s an excerpt from Huffington Post that discusses these findings:

    “Quite literally, sustained meditation leads to something called neuroplasticity, which is defined as the brain’s ability to change, structurally and functionally, on the basis of environmental input.

    For much of the last century, scientists believed that the brain essentially stopped changing after adulthood.

    But research by University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson has shown that experienced meditators exhibit high levels of gamma wave activity and display an ability — continuing after the meditation session has ended — to not get stuck on a particular stimulus. That is, they’re automatically able to control their thoughts and reactiveness.” (Amanda Chan, Nov. 23, 2011)

Amazingly, this research shows how meditation changes your brain and can also change your mind.

Is it any wonder that scripture strongly commands us to meditate, and also points to the impact this will make on our minds and on our life? Consider the wisdom from Psalm 1:

    Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
    or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
    but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
    That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
    and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

And in Isaiah 26:3 we see a connection between our minds and our peace;

    You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.

Ultimately, the Spirit of God can govern our mind, which will yield life and peace. (Romans 8:6). So this Christmas, consider what difference opening your mind to God could achieve. What difference might that make in the kinds of decisions you make and relationships you build?

Through a focused effort in meditation on God as described in the definition above, you will open yourself up to exactly those kinds of changes in your brain that will allow God to move powerfully in your life.

By: Mindy Caliguire (@mindycaliguire)
Transformation Ministry Team, Willow Creek Association
Founder, SoulCare (a Spiritual Formation Ministry)

If you’re looking for next steps:

    – Practice ten to fifteen minutes of silent meditation each day.

    – Ignore the tendency to be strategic or intentional—and please please don’t cram anything else in!!

    – The only “end” is to still and quiet your soul (like Psalm 131:2), and to consider/meditate/focus on God.

    – Learn about A Leader’s Soul, 7 week online learning course.

Guarding Rhythms in a Busy Season

Most people mark the rhythm of their holiday season with parties, community events, and family gatherings. In the world of ministry-especially in churches-calendars are also filled with programming meetings, extra services, strategic planning events, year-end giving campaigns, and outreach efforts.

During our monthly webcast, Rick Gannon, Sr. Pastor of Palm Valley Church in Mission, Texas shared ideas for how to care for your own soul, and guard your spirit again the chaos of this season.

Here’s a link to view the statistics that were referenced in the video.

Praying for your soul in this season,
the WCA team (@wcagls)

Preparing to Receive

So often in leadership, we’re preparing to give. Give messages, give leadership, give encouragement, give vision… lots and lots of giving.

Think of all the hard work that goes into preparing to give… we do research, we explore alternatives, we put ourselves in someone else’s place before giving encouragement or feedback… lots of preparation.

Over the next two days, more than 70,000 leaders will stop virtually everything else in daytime hours—for one simple purpose: to receive.

These are not selfish people, not starry-eyed dreamers who prefer to listen to others than engage in the battle themselves. Quite to the contrary… to my observation, Leadership Summit attendees are typically hard-driving, hard-working activists more accustomed to the “giving” side of the equation than the “receiving” side.
And so it can be tricky, even though we’ve set aside the time, to actually receive. I think we would all agree, it’s not worth devoting two days of one’s life to an awesome conference experience unless you actually receive what has been given.
But it’s all too easy to miss it. So here are a few thoughts on receiving well…

    Take a few minutes to reflect each day about a major concern, dilemma, or decision you’re facing—and ASK GOD SPECIFICALLY for his direction and leading. Then, pay careful attention to each session, each creative element, each hallway conversation… in what way each day has God responded to your request? Even God’s silence on a topic can be valuable to note. Imagine Jesus asking you personally, “What do you want me to do for you?”

    Over the next few days, you’ll hear a gazillion new leadership ideas, which may have the inadvertent effect of leaving you feeling something like this: “If only I had more ______ (money, expertise, time, staff, training…)”. In preparing to receive what God has for you, like the young boy who shared his few loaves and fishes in order to feed five thousand, be willing to offer Jesus what you actually do have, not what you don’t. Imagine Jesus asking you, “What do you have to offer?”

    Go for it. Don’t hold back. Let God move into the deepest places of your soul. Decide in advance to drop your defenses. This is not selfish at all… let this entire experience meet you very personally, just where you are. Don’t settle for letting a barrage of inspiring thoughts and moving experiences float through the upper levels of your imagination. Allow God’s spirit to move into the deeper places… stay there as long as you need to stay. Allow God “full access”. Imagine Jesus asking, “Are you ready for more?”

The ultimate, inevitable outcome of letting yourself actually receive for a few days? You will give to others out of what you actually receive. It cannot be otherwise. While it may be true that “hurt people hurt people”, it’s also true that:

• Inspired people inspire people
• Taught people teach people
• Blessed people bless people
• And Changed people change people. Open yourself wide to change.

By: Mindy Caliguire (@mindycaliguire)
Transformation Ministry Team, Willow Creek Association
Founder, SoulCare (a Spiritual Formation Ministry)

Space of Holy Mystery

Tara Owens (Senior Editor at Conversations Journal) gives her insight into listening- really listening.

Do you need to put aside some of the things that are occupying your mind and make a space of “holy mystery”?

By: Willow Creek Association (@wcagls)

If you’re looking for a next step….
  • More from Tara on spiritual practices, Strengthening Weak Knees (via Conversations Journal).
  • You might consider registering for The Leader’s Soul, a 7-week online course that will raise the issue of your own soul. The soul health of the leader has a significant impact on the spiritual transformation of those you’re leading.

Quitting for All the Wrong Reasons

It was a hot Oklahoma day in late May when I was thrust into my first ministry job. With very little experience, I eagerly said yes to serve 12 months with the youth ministry staff. Excitement covered every aspect of the new adventure, and much of my confidence came in the promise that I would be mentored and trained to grow into the role.

Everything was great…until July. The youth pastor who hired me and two other legacy players left the team. In less than two months, a friend and I were running the entire youth ministry.

Twelve months turned into four years as God grew my heart for ministry. Although I learned a lot by trial and error, my desire to do more was trumped by my lack of development for leading a ministry.

I started my search for an education program. After lots of searching, I found a fantastic three-year program that included hands-on training, seminary education, and mentoring that focused on my spiritual development. I packed up, said goodbye to the church I loved, and started the next step on my journey.

Every once and a while I look back and say ‘What if?’ What if I stayed in that ministry job that I wasn’t quite ready for and just kept trying harder to figure things out? When I imagine my tired soul in the middle of the demands of ministry, I’m thankful I choose the path to learn how to lead from a healthy soul.

Like many friends in ministry, I received great advice, but never gained the tools to develop a healthy rhythm or learn practical ways to stay connected to the vine while caring for so many people.

I think church leaders can lead from a healthy soul but it starts by doing ‘something’ about it. Maybe you’re like me, and you need to find a program. Not everyone has 3 years to devote to the type of training I had. So maybe you just need something build into you for a few months. Whatever your ‘something’ is, I hope you find it because your soul health is the core of your leadership. I believe it is possible!! And I’m thankful for the ministry work I now get to do with The LIFT Project because it offers leaders the chance to do ‘something’.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic- What do you think would happen in our churches if we started investing in the next generation so that they learn to lead from a healthy soul? What if leaders who have been at it for years started to prioritize their soul health and urged their staff to do the same?

By: Devon Noonan (@devoncnoonan)
Content Development, The LIFT Project
Willow Creek Association (WCA)


Imagine actually being there in real time
when Jesus was walking on the earth,
among crowds, healing them one by one…


i imagined You yesterday–
You with a crowd

hand on shoulders
top of head

grasping both hands with a strong firm grip.
looking squarely into eyes


do you believe I can do this?

holy eyes searching the inner landscape
sensing where shreds of faith could be found
within the sick soul

live silence
search mode
looking deep into eye windows

the crowd on their toes

unspoken lightning fast dialog
Jesus to cells
analyzed spirit computations
cell to cell system to soul
deep calling to deep
cutting through
mining true trust
activating healing
deep well resources
is there enough there?

the faith within
answers the inquiring gaze
rapid rush of healing


healing accomplished

loving gaze
child, go in peace

remember this

By: Greg Ferguson
Co-Producer/ Experience Designer,
The Global Leadership Summit
Whoosh is also posted on Greg’s blog,
10,000 Pages



Symptoms of the Soul

Church leaders often unintentionally neglect the health of their own souls in their busyness caring for the souls of others. If this is true for you, you’re jeopardizing not only your own spiritual health, but your effectiveness as a leader—because the soul health of the leader has a significant impact on the spiritual transformation of those you’re leading. Here are some common symptoms of the soul.

When your own soul has been neglected, what tends to emerge? We often hear:

  • Self-absorption
  • Shame
  • Apathy
  • Toxic Anger
  • Physical Fatigue
  • Isolation
  • Stronger Temptation to Sin
  • Drivenness
  • Feelings of Desperation
  • Panic
  • Insecurity
  • Callousness
  • A Judgmental Attitude
  • Cynicism
  • Lack of Desire for God.

On other days, when our souls are thriving from a deepening life with God, we find:

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Compassion
  • Giving and Receiving Grace
  • Generosity of Spirit
  • Peace
  • Ability to Trust
  • Discernment
  • Humility
  • Creativity
  • Vision
  • Balance
  • Focus
  • Energy for Work

So, how’s your soul these days?

By: Mindy Caliguire (@MindyCaliguire)
Transformation Ministry Team, WCA
Founder, SoulCare (a Spiritual Formation Ministry)

*Reposted with permission from Mindy’s Soul Care blog

Looking for a next step….

  • Sign up for The LIFT Project. The class begins with a self-assessment on the current state of your own soul and a general understanding of soul health. Assigned work includes interaction with written materials and video teaching from Dallas Willard, Bill Hybels, Lance Witt, Mindy Caliguire, Juanita Rasmus, and Wayne Cordiero.

The Hoarder Mentality

Last week our team spent time with Henry Cloud planning for the upcoming Transformation Intensive and discussing ways that we can help churches improve their culture.
In his book Necessary Endings, Henry defines pruning as the process of proactive endings. He says, “The hoarder mentality thrives in garages, but in business and people’s lives, as well” (p. 180).
Henry challenges us with this principle from John 15:2. Growing doesn’t always mean taking on more. You may have to ask “Which one am I willing to give up to have the other one?” Is it time for you to look at your ministry and identify ways for pruning to take place so that the ministry can grow?
  • Are there good things that need to stop so your can focus your energy and resources on something that is more strategic to your mission?
  • Is there a staff member that has a toxic attitude and although you’ve talked to them about it many times and given them time to improve, they are not?
  • Do you have programs that you believed would really serve your congregation and for whatever reason they just aren’t effective?
In the words from Henry’s book, “How well are you maximizing where you are right now and how ready are you to do what is necessary to get to the next place. Sometimes that depends on ending some of what is happening today” (p. 250).
Praying for your endings.

By: Lori Hermann (@Lorihermann)
Executive Producer, Transformation Ministry, Willow Creek Association

Looking for next steps…
  • Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud
  • You may also be interested in The LIFT Project, which offers an e-learning course on “A Leader’s Soul.” The course will cover stories and theories on how to keep a soul healthy while pouring into the hearts and lives of others