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Transformational Engagement is Hard Work

None of us have an infinite capacity to absorb the suffering of the world (and each other.) The process of transformationally engaging with the people around us is exhausting, inch-by-inch work, and unless we carefully tend our own well-being, we *will* burn out before we manage to make much of a difference.

With that in mind, take care of yourself people. (And if in your hearts of hearts, you know you’ve really been putting your best energy into Netflix and hanging out with people of your own ethnic/ideological enclave, then for heaven’s sake, come out and join us in the work.)

Need a place to start? Here’s what I (and a few of my wise friends) suggested as starting points:

1) Pray. I’m pretty sure I’d be twice the asshole I am currently without the Spirit’s help.
2) Get off social media, at least for a few hours, at regular intervals.
3) Intentionally enjoy being a dad. (It’s easy when you have a son like mine.)
4) Un-selfconsciously embrace stupid things. I have a 3DS that I play constantly, delicious epic fantasy books I can sink hours into, an increasingly fanatic attachment to basketball (I literally listen to more basketball podcasts than any other form of audio media), and a large liquor cabinet.”

Listen to novels. This helps me both during the day to disengage mentally from the work of always processing (even when I’m not engaging) AND also to distract me from my own thoughts when I am trying to fall asleep at bedtime or when I am awake in the middle of the night.”

“For myself, I try to balance the talking with the listening. Really listening, and if I can’t hear it anymore to say our loud, “This is important and I want to keep going, but I might need a break to process more.” Since the election, with difficult topics, I try to give myself and the other person that time to “digest” what we’ve been learning. I try to read as much as I can stomach to really know what I’m talking about (or hearing about) to reinforce anything I need to know. And then I play. Games, movies, songs. I try to get out of “headspace” and just be.”

Read
Say thank you a lot
Take a walk in nature
Get some exercise
Laugh”

“Yogalates, walks in the woods, Netflix, essential oils, drinking water.”

“Sleep!! Even a nap midday if you can manage it (not everyone naps well or has time). A couple of hours, or a good night’s sleep always resets my stress levels. Even if stress or anxiety returns as it is bound to do, the rest can adjust your perspective.”

“Time in nature is my balm, I find it very easy to stay present during my time there. The ritual of making a pot of tea and hunkering down with a great book is so comforting.”

 

How Do You Stay in the Game?

I’m discovering that the work of genuine encounter and authentic dialogue is really exhausting.

If you’re actively engaged with that work, either on social media or in-person, please make sure you’re being kind to yourself. (I’ve added a few things I do below and would love to hear what you do as well.)

And, if you’re not actively engaged with that work, and have a little extra energy, would you please share the load with us?

Here are a few things I do:

1) Pray. I’m pretty sure I’d be twice the asshole I am currently without the Spirit’s help.

2) Get off social media, at least for a few hours, at regular intervals.
3) Intentionally enjoy being a dad. (It’s easy when you have a son like mine.)

4) Un-selfconsciously embrace stupid things. I have a 3DS that I play constantly, delicious epic fantasy books I can sink hours into, an increasingly fanatic attachment to basketball (I literally listen to more basketball podcasts than any other form of audio media), and a large liquor cabinet.

5 Reason Why Your Ministry Should Podcast

My Podcast Set I

1)      Podcasting is a big deal, especially with young people.

From their start in 2003, podcasts have become the fastest growing media in the United States. In 2016, 40% of all Americans had listened to a podcast, 25% listen to a podcast at least monthly, and half of all those listeners are between the ages of 12-34.

2)      Podcasting build relationships faster than print does.

I talked with an author who told me that for publishers, 5000 monthly listeners are worth the same as 50,000 monthly readers on a blog. The average listener hears five podcast episodes in part or in their entirety every week. That level of engagement allows you to quickly build community with whomever you reach.

3)      Podcasting is effortlessly versatile.

Want to post sermons? Conduct interviews with religious leaders or ordinary church people? Highlight community-created poetry or music? Share your own thoughts on current events? Anything that can be recorded can be posted easily, depending on your goals.

4)      Podcasting is cheaper than you think.

My near-professional setup cost about $150 for a microphone, studio headphones, and the world’s tiniest sound booth, plus $12 a month for a podcast hosting service that connects it to Itunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and my website.  You can edit on any average laptop and there is powerful free sound editing software that provides easy post-production polish.

5)      Podcasting is easier that you think.

Yes, there is absolutely a learning curve at the beginning. However, if you are willing to pay attention to how you setup your recording space, getting an acceptable sounding podcast doesn’t take much time, especially if you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. My podcast, which involves theme music, separately recorded intros and credits, mixing, and editing, takes me about two hours of editing time per episode.

Want hands-on help setting up a successful podcast for your church, ministry, or creative work? I’m teaching an eight-week, hands-on apprenticeship that will take you from the basics of sound editing, to learning how to conduct interviews, to launching your own podcast, starting in September. It’s called “Podcasting and the Art of Sacred Listening”, and if you register before Labor Day, you can get a $50 discount by entering the code “PODCAST2” when you check out.

Register at https://www.academymwf.com/browse/journey/courses/podcast

 

Christianity is a Shocking Religion

“Christianity is a shocking religion, although many of its adherents have managed to protect themselves from its terrible impact. Tears, an awareness of one’s psychic fragility, and a deep sense of peace and joy are not the most obvious marks of believers today. Yet the shock of Christianity remains: the shock of its materialism in its particularity; the shock of its calling us to a messy and untidy intimacy. It claims that the flesh matters. It insists that history (the particularity of time and place) matters. Above all it claims that, in the end, nothing else but love matters.”

Much of the discipline of the desert is concerned with keeping the shock and promise of love alive. Without the occasional abrasive brush with the unexpected, human life soon becomes a mere matter of routine; and, before we know where we are, a casual indifference and even brutality takes over and we begin to die inside.”The shock breaks open the deadly ‘everydayness’ that ensnares us and brings us something awesome and terrifying to our reluctant attention: the believer’s name for that ‘something’ is God.
 
God ceases to be a subject for philosophical debate, still less the object of our part-time and casual allegiance. This God is no hobby. God is felt in places too deep for words; in depths beyond ideas and concepts. God is felt in pain, sorrow, and contradiction. This, in itself, comes as shock, since we tend to make religion only of our better moments. Our worst moments tend to be repressed and denied. When that happens, we begin to lie to ourselves, and when we do, the very fabric of our life begins to fall apart.”
– Alan Jones, Soul Making: The Way of Desert Spirituality

Reports from the Spiritual Frontier – My Bi-Annual Update

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Every so often, I like to check in about how my podcast is going. (I tried to do this quarterly last year, and was half successful. (What? Ben? You have a podcast? I must have missed your obnoxiously ceaseless social media posts! Yup, listen here!) With that in mind, here’s a check-in on how everything is going, based on the questions I asked myself when I first started this experiment.

1) Am I having fun?

Oh God Yes. I get to interview the most amazing people for a living. (Okay, it’s a very small living, one that I barely have to report on my taxes, but STILL.) I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it is to talk to some of the most wonderful saints-in-the-making I’ve ever met about the deepest passions of their lives.  I sometimes hang up the proverbial phone after an interview and say to myself, “Wow, that was a truly holy moment.”

2) Is it sustainable?

Yup. My audience is growing, I have one sponsor, a lot of incredibly invested supporters (shout outs to: Paul Nixon, Beth Estock, and the Missional Wisdom Foundation) that give me encouragement and energy (and share generously when they like an episode.)

It’s always been my secret dream to be able to make a living doing creative work: this year it’s finally starting to feel like it might actually be possible.

3) Is it making a difference?

Yup. My podcast audience, much to my terrified delight, has exploded the last two months, seemingly without any particular extra effort on my part. This month, I’ve already passed 1300 listens and 300 total likes on Facebook. I’m hearing from people I don’t know about how my podcast is impacting their lives and I know that other people are using my episodes to tell the stories of spiritual pioneers as part of their work of advocacy.

I don’t know if this type of growth will last forever. I have no clue what’s driving it. (And how is it that I have over a hundred listens from TOKYO?) But to my fans and to the podcasts gods, I say thanks.

4) Am I learning?

Yup. I feel pretty confident about the nuts and bolts of conducting and producing interviews.

Of course, now that I’ve learned the basics, I now have new challenges popping up. My last series on immigration died a sad, silent death, because I lost five of my seven committed guests. While that’s a lot any way you look at it, it points out to me that I really should be recording episodes for September in July, so I can make up for lost guests (or lost health.)