Vulnerability Through Writing

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This fall we’ve asked a number of leaders to respond to the question, “What is saving your ministry right now?” Shelby Etheridge Harasty is one of our workshop presenters for the 2016 National Gathering. Learn more about the workshop at the end of her post. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

By Shelby Etheridge Harasty

When I first graduated from seminary I was not looking to preach. Ever. It humbled me, challenged me, and frankly, terrified me to the point that I did not enjoy it. Thankfully, that has changed.

As an associate pastor I preach once a month, maybe twice if it’s a month that includes Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, or another mid-week liturgical event. When the head of staff at our church went on sabbatical over the summer, all that changed. As the acting head pastor I was preaching almost every week, and even when I wasn’t preaching I was still writing liturgy and studying the lectionary to craft the order of worship and work with guest preachers.

There’s something about preaching, about praying, studying, writing and saying your own words out loud that allow for moments of vulnerability that don’t happen much in “regular life.” While my knees still shook every time I walked to the pulpit, I felt the preciousness of sharing something I had written, something I had labored over, put my heart into with people who are both strangers and friends.

379812751_96ea577a0e_oNow that the head of staff is back from his sabbatical and I am back to my “regular” preaching schedule, I miss that weekly opportunity for vulnerability. As odd as it may sound, I treasure the that moment of fear and awe that overtakes me when I start to say that first word of the sermon.

Writing has been a great way for me to continue to challenge myself to be vulnerable. Even though I’m not preaching nearly as much, I can still write. I can still write every week, even every day when time allows. Pressing “send” on a blog post offers that same thrill of fear and awe and vulnerability as that preaching moment.

When I first started in ministry, I didn’t realize that I would find so much grace and strength in vulnerability. Brené Brown is at the forefront of this vulnerability revolution, and she talks about it in her newest book, Rising Strong. She says “Revolution might sound a little dramatic, but in this world, choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance. Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You’re going to confuse, piss off, and terrify lots of people—including yourself. One minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time. At least that’s how I feel most of the time… brave, afraid, and very, very alive.” [1]

And that’s how I feel when I write, when I let words take life and flow from my fingertips. Brave, afraid, and very, very alive.

 

[1] Brown, Brené. Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Revolution. Spiegel & Grau, New York, NY, 2015. page 254.

photo credit: 7/365 5.2.2007 (self): Notes on Takayuki’s workshop via photopin (license)


Shelby’s National Gathering Workshop: Practicing Vulnerability

What does the vulnerability of God teach us about faithful practice at the crossroads? We will combine theological and Biblical reflection with the insights of Brené Brown to develop models of Christian practice that display vulnerability and courage. The practical ways that vulnerability can influence pastoral leadership and congregational ministry will be explored. Finding courage to be vulnerable – as God is – can deepen the ways we lead our congregations and live our lives. Offered Tuesday during workshop block 2. Learn more and register here.

Shelby Etheridge HarastyShelby Etheridge Harasty has served as Associate Pastor at Saint Mark Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, MD, since 2013. The recipient of the Presidential Leadership Award from Union Presbyterian Seminary, she is especially interested in the intersection of art, prayer, practice and justice. She blogs at Courage in the Cracks.

 

Engagement in Church and Community

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This fall we’ve asked a number of leaders to respond to the question, “What is saving your ministry right now?” We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

By John Wilkinson

At our staff meetings each week, we begin with going around the circle and asking people to share “one good thing” from the previous Sunday. It’s a great prelude for all that follows, not a magic corporate strategy but a lovely litany of faith and reminder of the ministry to which we are called.

I am not sure that anything is saving my ministry right now, other than Jesus! But I do know that many, many good things are giving my ministry energy and fueling my passion, for which I am very grateful. Here’s a list…

  • Worship. Worship. Worship.
  • A call to make a difference in public education in Rochester, New York and Monroe County, where concentrated poverty and inequitable access holds children back. Fortunately, through the Great Schools for All movement, we are making a difference in our community. It’s the good and hard work of organizing and coalition building, all very Presbyterian.
  • A transforming trip to Kenya in October, where five of us visited our partner congregation just outside Nairobi. We experienced extraordinary hospitality and learned so much about what it means to be the church. Plus, the sights and sounds of Kenya are indescribable.
  • Challenging and important conversations on race and racism that we are attending in our community and hosting in our congregation, led primarily by Facing Race, Embracing Equity (FR=EE) a local community organization.
  • Our Book of Order, yes, our Book of Order. We utilized a new provision in the Form of Government to transition an interim associate pastor to an associate pastor. We worked closely and cooperatively with our Committee on Ministry, who engaged this new process with great thought. Cheers to a new sense of adaptability for mission purposes!
  • Stewardship, yes stewardship. We are having creative conversations about faith and money and seeking ways to make Stewardship Sunday feel different than it traditionally has.
  • A Vision and Strategy team on which I am privileged to serve in our presbytery. We are working on what many presbyteries are working on, the difficult task of change in a fluid environment. We are putting a heavy emphasis on relationships and also reminding ourselves that a presbytery’s health is closely linked to congregational health and pastoral leader’s health.
  • The East Avenue Grocery Run. What began as a way to reframe a hunger walk and to raise money for our various hunger programs at Third Church has turned into an epic event with over 1300 runners and walkers and thousands and thousands of dollars raised for our hungry neighbors. A wonderful leadership team makes it all happen, meeting rarely. We’ve also involved local businesses and other community groups who normally wouldn’t connect with a faith group, but do for this. It’s been fabulous!

I know that all of the above are very contextual and personal, but if there are common denominators and transportable values, they reside in collegiality and collaboration, openness to innovate, and a heavy reliance on prayer. I am grateful indeed!


john wJohn Wilkinson is Pastor of Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, NY. He has been active on the presbytery and national levels, including on the Strategy Team for NEXT Church, and loves our connectional culture and confessional legacy.

Greatest Hit: Making Space to Engage Our Neighbors

This fall, in addition to sharing reflections on “what is saving your ministry right now?”, we are also bringing back some of our most popular posts over the last couple of years. We hope these “greatest hits” will allow you new insight in this busy time of year. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

This post on multicultural ministry and community engagement is one of our most popular posts in the history of the NEXT Church blog. We’ve updated it slightly below in hopes it becomes a fresh resource as you look towards December.

By Rachel Triska

Several weeks ago, I was sitting in our coffee bar during an event and overheard a conversation that made me smile. A tech company had brought 125 of their employees from across the globe to our space for a major annual meeting. One of the guests was visiting with Kevin (a Dallas cop who runs security for all our events). The gentleman asked Kevin, “So what is this place?” Kevin began to give him our elevator pitch, “Life in Deep Ellum is a cultural center built for the artistic, social, economic and spiritual benefit of Deep Ellum and urban Dallas.” Then he added, “Basically, it’s a church that opens up to the community for a lot of different things. I’m here all the time – art shows, corporate events, fundraisers.” To which the gentleman responded, “You could have asked me for a list of twenty guesses – a church would not have been one of them.”

From the Life in Deep Ellum Facebook page

From the Life in Deep Ellum Facebook page

Joel and I have been pastoring together at Life in Deep Ellum for almost six years. Deep Ellum is a historic neighborhood just outside downtown Dallas. It’s often described as the Brooklyn of the South. Basically, it’s a small neighborhood with a big personality – lots of artists, entrepreneurs and folks who pride themselves on not needing God.

It’s that last characteristic that forced us to think differently about how to engage our neighborhood – traditional methods of outreach were not working. It was my husband who first pointed out what this neighborhood was forcing us to do. It forced us to stop thinking like pastors and start thinking like missionaries.

He was absolutely right. We found that to connect with our neighborhood we had to slow down enough to learn the language, the customs, how to appreciate their sense of humor. Some people might say we’ve kind of gone native. Ministering in this neighborhood certainly changed us.

What I love about thinking like a missionary is it taught me to think beyond Sundays. To think about how we might engage our neighbors seven days a week. That’s how we reached the decision to operate as a cultural center Monday-Friday.

Every Sunday we stack all the chairs in our venue (worship space) and put them away. Our band clears the stage. We take down all our church-specific signage. We clear out because we are making space to engage our neighbors. Those very same neighbors who say they will never go to church but hang out with us in our building all the time. On Tuesday nights a dance company takes over the space. Mondays and Wednesdays we host Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. In the next few weeks we’ll host a book launch for a local author, a closing reception for an art exhibit and have 500 teens in for a spoken word event.

Each year, not including Sundays, we see between 10,000 and 20,000 people come through our building. Our coffee shop will serve somewhere around 35,000 cups of coffee this year.

A lot can happen when we think beyond Sundays. One of our friends who first engaged with us via community events says, “What happens here Monday through Friday is why I gave Sundays a chance. And what happens here on Sundays restored my faith in what Christian community can be.”

We use Monday through Friday as an opportunity to redefine for people what it looks like to be the Church on mission. And often, it does open their hearts to what happens on Sunday.


Rachel Triska is the Chief Practicioner at Life in Deep Ellum. Rachel enjoys running, reading the classics, and expressing her inner child while playing with her two daughters. rachel@lifeindeepellum.com

 

Looking for more? Check out the resources below from NEXT:

Praying Through Letters

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This fall we’ve asked a number of leaders to respond to the question, “What is saving your ministry right now?” We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

By Andrew Taylor-Troutman

Bringing home a newborn begs for saving grace, especially if you and your partner already have a three-year-old boy sprinting around the house in joyful abandon. Kathleen Norris once wrote that the etymology of salvation is to make a road wide enough to sustain life.[1] I know my spouse and I continue down the path of sanity in large part because of the saints of our church—the gracious bearers of grilled pork tenderloin and hearty fall soups, the open-hearted givers of homemade lasagnas and made from scratch gingerbread and leafy green salads delivered with a few greenbacks and a knowing wink. Three weeks home from the hospital and I have already burned through two boxes of stationary. How many different ways can you say thank you? It’s fun to try and find out.

Speaking of discovery, this baby’s pull upon our family life is as sure as the tide’s ebb and flow though not nearly as predicable. Yet the man in the moon cycles through his phases above, stoic in light of our little world’s utter transformation. The church spins on, too, the faces of the saints shadowed by the mean hopes and cheap graces of daily struggles. But I realize that I cannot do the things I once did on behalf of the community. There are not enough hours in the day. Whether you are a pastor or not, you know this to be true.

Perhaps you likewise know the late night relief of the baby finally falling asleep, clutching the collar of your old t-shirt like a tiny koala bear. You don’t want to put him down too soon and risk those eyes fluttering wide awake. So your mind wanders and wonders, doesn’t it? The moonlight streams through the nursery window and countless others, the same light that softly falls on your newborn’s slack jaw likewise rests upon the beds of those who have graced your home with their gifts. You remember them in the seeming eternity of this dark night. Remember the anniversary of a death, the eye appointment coming up here at the end of the month; remember the child overseas at war, the grandchild across the country in school. You remember them and theirs and, right after putting the baby down, just before you collapse into bed, you write a brief thinking-of-you-card in chicken scratch hand, a little inky fellow which you manage to slip into the next day’s mail.

What, you ask, is saving my ministry? Between balancing and bouncing, fixing and changing, soothing and bathing and Lord knows all else, I can manage a letter—a written record of a moment of prayer, read by someone else’s tired eyes. And you know what? It’s fun and, perhaps, even opens a little road of a relationship, which if not a definition of salvation, might just lead to a healthy ministry.

 

[1] Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I cite her often in sermons.


andrew tt

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the teaching elder of New Dublin Presbyterian Church. You can learn about his novel, Earning Innocence, on the publisher’s website or his blog.

 

 

Saved by Self-Care

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This fall we’ve asked a number of leaders to respond to the question, “What is saving your ministry right now?” We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

By Shannon Waite

When I think about what is saving my ministry, the theme that has kept popping back up in my head over and over is self-care and the war it can be to claim time for it. True confession: my greatest battle for self-care is with myself. I love my to do lists, but they never end and sometimes I lose myself in trying to complete them. The fact remains, though, that when I take care of myself, I’m a better person and a better campus minister.

I’m still learning how to perfect the art of self-care, but two things I have discovered that work for me is to go on retreats with friends and colleagues and to do something that feeds my soul and passion. It is hard to find time to get away, but it is so worth it. I whined to myself for weeks leading up to my last retreat about the work left to do, but it ended up paying out ten-fold. I came back renewed and having given myself space to rest I had a lot better ideas for our ministry than I had before I went. I also reflected on the life of my ministry with some great colleagues and found support that I had been missing. What feeds my soul is being creative. I make sure to make time to do things that feed that passion. From reclaiming church language and traditions with young people to simply making a craft, it has made a difference.

I could go on forever about the lessons I’ve learned in self-care, but to quickly sum it up: surround yourself with good people, allow yourself grace when you make a mistake, and stay true to yourself. The most important part of my lessons in self-care though during hard weeks, is to remember that I am called to this ministry. Remembering that I am not in it alone, I’m surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and that God is here in it with me is one of the most life-giving thoughts that I strive to hold on to.   


shannon_waiteShannon Waite is the Campus Minister at the Campus Christian Community, an ecumenical campus ministry serving the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA.

Yesterday, I Made an Assumption

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This fall we’ve asked a number of leaders to respond to the question, “What is saving your ministry right now?” Today we are excited to feature Angela Williams, who is serving as a Young Adult Volunteer with NEXT this year! She is also working with people experiencing homelessness at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. What is saving her ministry is the breaking down of stereotypes. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

By Angela Williams

Yesterday, I made an assumption.

I was riding high on my white savior complex
Proud of all the work I had done
All the talking
All the listening
All the organizing
All the helping
I had done it.

I was building relationships with guests,
Friends.
But we had parted ways.

Yesterday, I made an assumption.

Two young, black men.
Taut bodies with long dreads cascading,
Sweatpants and t-shirts, with gym bags on their backs
Riding bicycles
Perhaps they were going to the gym to strengthen their muscles.
Maybe they were athletes in high school?

They aren’t like me.
They would think it weird that I talk
to people
On the street,
On the sidewalk,
On the bench,
In the park.

I help people.
I do service.
I am a volunteer.
I work with the church.
I make friends.
I am different.
I am good.

The young men stop.
Open the packs.
I see pieces of plastic loops.
Plastic bags of food.

They give the packages
to people
On the street,
On the sidewalk,
On the bench,
In the park.

My interest piqued:
“Are y’all with an organization?”
One responds,
“It’s just God’s work.
He started, and I joined him.
Have a blessed day.”

Yesterday, I made an assumption.


Angela Williams is a Presbyterian pastor’s kid from Rock Hill, SC, who graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2014. She is in her second YAV year in Washington, DC, serving with NEXT Church and the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, after living in the Philippines last year. Angela is heading to Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary to pursue the Master of Divinity and Master of Science in Social Work degrees next year. She enjoys cycling around the city, listening to live music, and reading blogs. This post originally appeared on her blog.

Greatest Hit: A Child Speaks About Church

This fall, in addition to sharing reflections on “what is saving your ministry right now?”, we are also bringing back some of our most popular posts over the last couple of years. We hope these “greatest hits” will allow you new insight in this busy time of year. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

This post on children in church is one of our most popular posts in the history of the NEXT Church blog. We’ve updated it slightly below in hopes it becomes a fresh resource as you look towards December.

By Steve Lindsley and Lynn Turnage

Hey.child reading bible small

HEY!

Down here….

Yes, thanks.  Hello.  It’s me.  I’m a kid in your church. Nice to meet you.

I’m sure you’ve seen me before.  I’m the one who sits with my family in front of you in worship every Sunday. Remember that blur you saw running around the fellowship hall at the church potluck dinner last week?  Yours truly.  I sang a stellar solo in the children’s choir last month; I’m sure you remember.

Anyway, now that I have your attention, I thought I’d share with you what I need from the church.  Because there are a whole lot of ideas out there about what kids need to grow in the faith and stick with the church when we become grown-ups ourselves.  Thing is, no one’s bothering to ask us kids what we think.  So here are some thoughts to ponder:

Just tell me the Bible story.  I know it sounds simple enough, but it’s amazing how complicated this can get.  Honestly, I don’t need gimmicks, flash, fluff.  If I want entertainment I’ll ask my parents to take me to the movies.  I don’t need a Vacation Bible School that “takes me on an Amazon expedition” or involves surfing, camping or clowns.  And please, don’t let some random B-rate Bible cartoon video do it for you.  I want you to tell me the Bible story. You. Me. The Bible. That’s it.

Remember: I can’t sit still for long.  I know, shocker.  Don’t blame me; God made me this way.  Anyway, just make your story-telling segments a little shorter and cut to the chase, and help me experience the story with as many of my senses as possible.  And when it comes to worship,  give me something to do – “worship bags” with chenille sticks, or some paper or mandalas and good crayons or markers would be great (although I’d suggest changing them out frequently so I’m not coloring the same picture of Jesus every week).

Give me, at the bare minimum, an hour a month with the pastor.  This would be awesome. Because sometimes it feels like you all think that I’m too little or too young for the pastor.  Which is just silly, if you ask me (see: scripture on Jesus and the children).  So give me time with him or her.  Let them tell me a Bible story or take me on a nature walk or just have doughnuts with me.  You tell me all the time how important the pastor is. Well, I’m important too; so it’d be the perfect match, right?

My best adult teachers/leaders/volunteers are the ones that I KNOW care about me.  Makes sense.  Because they’re not there out of some sense of obligation, or because they were guilted into it by a desperate teacher recruitment committee member.  They’re there because they want to be there, because they genuinely like me.  And because they like me, they tell the stories better, play the games better, teach better. So I learn more.  And I make an adult friend too.  Because I really like it when someone calls me by name and says “HI!”  The don’t have to comment on how cute I look, just call my name in a nice voice.

Give me some responsibility in the church. See, here’s the thing: you expect me to be a bystander in church until I hit some age (18? 22?) when voila!, I’m suddenly supposed to dive in and do everything.  Honestly, that’s silly.  If you want me to grow up committed to and participating in the life of the church, you need to empower me to do that now.  I’d make a great usher on Sunday morning.  I know I could help serve food at the weekly homeless meal if you’d be there to help me.

I like to be with my family and all ages together in worship.  There’s this tradition a lot of churches have in worship of escorting the kids out to some remote location following the “Children’s Time.”  Personally, I’m not a fan.  You think I don’t want to be in worship during the sermon because it’s “boring.” I actually listen to what they say and it sticks with me – as you are well aware in other contexts, I’m great at remembering everything you adults say.  All things being equal, I’d rather stay in worship with my church family – we call ourselves a family, right?  I might get a little antsy (worship bags will help).  But I promise you I won’t fall asleep like that dude in front of me every week.  Surely you’ve seen him.

So that’s it, I guess.  Mainly just focus on telling the story and letting that be the focus.  If you do that, I have a pretty good feeling I’ll stick around in church for a long time.


Steve Lindsley is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC.  Lynn Turnage is Director of Children and Family Ministries at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, NC.

Looking for more? Check out the resources below from NEXT:

Image: Andi Berger/shutterstock.com

Finding Care in Fast Times

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This fall we’ve asked a number of leaders to respond to the question, “What is saving your ministry right now?” We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

By Chris Tuttle

It was another busy Thursday night, shuffling between meetings.  I was getting (another) cup of coffee, grabbing a stack of papers off the copier I was going to need.  I was moving too quickly, not doing anything as well as I would like.  It’s that time in the fall when ministry disappears in between kickoff of the programmatic year, stewardship, then, before you know it, Advent.  A lot has been changing around here that is exciting, but change produces anxiety.  Stewardship season produces anxiety.  And when people are anxious, they are not likely to be at their best.  In these seasons when the pace becomes overwhelming it’s easy for me to lose perspective, to forget why ministry matters, and what a privilege it is to do this work.

photo credit: Life of a New Yorker via photopin (license)I noticed an older gentlemen coming towards me down the hall.  I didn’t really have time for him, but he stepped in the way.  I began my normal, “Hi, good to see you,” and blow right by move.  He’s a newer member and has come with great enthusiasm.  “So much is happening around here,” he said. “It’s wonderful.  Thank you for your work.”  I feigned gratitude, smiled, and, in retrospect, he could tell.  But he stepped in front of me again, and put his hands on my shoulders.  “I go walking every morning.  And when I walk in the morning, I pray for you.  I want you to know that.  When I walk in the mornings I pray for you.”

As the pace picks up I remember those prayers, and give thanks to God for the kind people around us who persist in their care for us, whether or not we are in a position to receive it.


chris_tuttleChris Tuttle pastors at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Durham, NC and serves on the NEXT Church Advisory Team.

The Church Has Left the Building

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This fall we’ve asked a number of leaders to respond to the question, “What is saving your ministry right now?” Sarah Butler is one of our workshop presenters for the 2016 National Gathering. Learn more about the workshop at the end of her post. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

By Sarah Butler

What saving our ministry now?

Two and a half years ago, I came to Trinity Presbyterian Church as a redevelopment and interim pastor. Trinity had shrunk from almost two hundred members 10 years before to less than 50 when I arrived.

The problem? It was easy for members to exit the church but almost impossible for new people to get in. You simply couldn’t find us.

Our church, the lovely, was on a narrow side street with no parking. When I told people about the congregation and its address their first question was, ‘Where is that?’ We began to tell people that we were a block north of a well known bar.

Of course the church’s problems did not end when you found a parking space. The church building was on five different levels and it was impossible to go anywhere without going up or down a flight of stairs. The layout was such that an elevator was impossible.

trinity pres holiday innAnd then, like Elvis, we left the building. We moved into a brand new Holiday Inn on a busy street with plenty of parking, and no stairs anywhere. There was a built in sound system and video and they even make coffee for us and clean up the mess!

The Wednesday Bible study is in the food court at the local mall and the church office is housed with another church nearby.

Now I tell people about the congregation and where we worship and they say, ‘I see your signs all the time!’ We often have visitors and the church has already started growing. Of course our joy has grown faster than our numbers. But this is the good news!


Sarah’s National Gathering workshop: Reaching them ALL

Only 30% of the population learns by hearing, yet most sermons and liturgies are geared to reach that minority. This experimental, experiential workshop will explore different learning styles, discuss how to reach the other 70% and help to plan innovative, creative worship experiences. Attendees will take a learning style assessment prior to the workshop. Offered Tuesday during workshop block 2. Learn more and register here.

sarah-pic-teachingSarah Butler is an working artist, writer and second career teaching elder of a congregation in the midst of redevelopment where worship is aural, oral, visual and conversational.

A New Take on Examen

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This fall we’ve asked a number of leaders to respond to the question, “What is saving your ministry right now?” We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

By MaryAnn McKibben Dana

What’s saving my ministry these days is a five minute journaling practice I’ve been doing each morning (and most evenings) for the past few months. I’ve tried various journaling methods off and on for years. Something about holding the pen in my hand allows me to focus my prayers in a way my monkey mind can’t do by simply sitting quietly. And now that I work from home “for myself,” I have lots of possible things vying for my attention and time. I was looking for something short and focused that could bring clarity and discernment to my day.

8Y0EDX4VP9Many of us are familiar with Julia Cameron’s morning pages, which she calls her “spiritual windshield wipers.” This practice serves the same purpose, but instead of writing stream of consciousness, I write short pithy statements. Whereas morning pages are like an epic poem, this is journaling as haiku. I adapted it from Tim Ferriss, an author and entrepreneur. He’s a little too “guru” for me, but I think he’s hit upon a good structure to get the day started with intention.

Here are the questions for the morning:

Three things for which I’m grateful:
1.
2.
3.

Three things that would make this a fruitful day: These don’t have to be things I want to accomplish, but they usually are. Most of us have way more than three things on our daily to-do list, so it helps to be clear on the most essential items.
1.
2.
3.

An affirmation: 
I am…
I have three kids, so “patience” shows up a lot here.

I’m curious about:
This is something I’ve added recently, thanks to Brené Brown’s work. This is often where I think about my reactions to things and wonder “What was THAT about?!” 

As for the evening practice, it is similar:

Three things to celebrate about the day:
1.
2.
3.

One thing I could have done better:

Those of you who know the Ignatian examen will recognize threads of this practice in these questions. The questions are framed in terms of gratitude, and there is ample space to acknowledge the times I’ve fallen short—to see them written in my own hand, and to let those moments go—to let God absorb and hopefully transform them.


mamd profile picMaryAnn McKibben Dana is a teaching elder in the PC(USA) whose ministry consists of writing, speaking, and freelance writing/consulting with non-profit organizations on their social media needs. She is a member of the NEXT Church Strategy Team. Connect with her at her website, The Blue Room.