Soul Aid

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5)

Remember the Beatle’s song, “I’m So Tired”?   John Lennon sounds pretty tired until the refrain where he screams:

“You know I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind!!!”

Even if you don’t know the song…you can relate to the scream right?!  So what do you do when your soul screams, “I’d give you everything I got…for a little peace of mind!”  I’d suggest giving some ancient spiritual practices a try.  Now these practices aren’t the goal.  The aim of the practice is to connect us with the Living God in a manner that deeply settles our inner being (soul).  Keep that in mind.

Here’s some practices that help our bodies get in line with the Spirit (we will talk later about specific exercises for the will and mind as well):

  1. Practice stillness.  How often do you take a long deliberate space to just sit still?  I’d suggest taking 5 minutes at the start or close of your day, to sit somewhere quiet with God.  Let your body slow down.  This takes practice!  “Be still …and know He is God.” (Ps. 46:10)
  2. Fasting.  I hear the groans.  Skipping some meals doesn’t sound all that fun, however there can be great spiritual gain as we do…just ask Daniel (see Dan. 1:12).
  3. Sabbath: Taking a deliberate break from work  so you can rest in God’s presence is critical to our life’s rhythm.  We tend to run around as if the world depends on us…when in fact He’s got the whole world in His hands.  Take a break this week.

If you are like John Lennon and need a little “peace of mind (or body!)” step into one of these practices for a season.  They are tried and true helps to restoring our soul!


Get Your Self Together!

You and I hear them all the time.  A person scrambling by moans, “I’ve got to get myself together!”  Another confides, “I think I’m losing my mind.”  Or the ever-popular, “I think I am falling apart!”  Each phrase truthfully captures what is going on in us.

A soul is comprised of: our will, mind, body and soul.  One could sketch it out like this:


Let’s define* each of these:

WILL: The innermost circle is the will — the capacity to choose . The will is what makes you a person and not a thing. It is important but it is also extremely limited.  When people study “will-power” they notice it has a relatively small “fuel tank”.  Hence the infamy of “new year’s resolutions”.

MIND: The second circle is the mind-a person’s thoughts and feelings.  What we “will” is instructed by our mind’s complex processing of thoughts and feelings.  If you have a co-worker who treats you rudely your “feelings” are hurt and your mind records that incident.  Future encounters with that person will tap into these stored memories (thoughts) and feelings and informs our actions accordingly.

BODY: The third circle is the body. Our bodies “house” the less visible attributes of will and mind.   I like to think of our body as our “dashboard”.  It often signals to us what is happening inside our wills and minds.  For example, if you are stressed out your body can feel tense, anxious and worn.  It is sending you tangible signals that your insides are struggling.

SOUL: The final circle is the soul. The human soul is what integrates all of our different parts into a single person.  There will come a day when we will “shed” the body, but our souls will live on.  I have had the privilege of watching people pass from this life.  One minute “they are here” and the next “they are gone”.  What remains is a shell of a person…their body.

* thanks to John Ortberg for the core of these definitions. 

When all is well with our soul, there is a harmony between these parts.  The body is at rest because the mind is at peace and therefore our will is content.  I know what you’re thinking…”can that actually happen?!!”  Yes it can!  But often when life hits we get unsettled and scattered.  Our souls look more like this:


Instead of that settled harmony depicted in the first picture, we are splintered and feel scattered.  For example, if our body feels sick, often times our thoughts  aren’t functioning well either.  It’s also easy to be crabby (feelings) when we’re under the weather and generally our will to accomplish much is shot.  This is when you say something like, “I feel like I’m falling apart.”  In essence you are!  So what can you do to  “get it together”?

The healthy soul would respond something like this:

  • the will would surrender to the mind’s deduction that we’ve “caught a bug”.  Further thoughts would instruct us in what we need to do to care for the body.  Drink fluids, take a rest, etc.  Although this isn’t our favorite place to be our soul would begin to find harmony because our will, thoughts and feelings are working together.

An unhealthy soul would look like this:

  • the will is caught in a struggle because we feel terrible and should take the day off, BUT our boss is a driver and he’ll have a fit if we are gone.  So the mind’s process is impaired with competing thoughts and feelings. We push ourselves through the day and finish with a worn body, stressed mind and a frustrated will.

About now a lot of people say to me, “Mark, reality is my boss is a driver and it would be far more stressful to lose my job, so I choose the lesser of two evils.”  I get it.  But in the midst of living in an imperfect world there are some ancient practices that can help restore our soul.  I’ll pick those up in the next couple of posts.


Mind of Christ

If our minds are, “the process by which we interact with the world around us and the world inside of us”;  what does Paul mean when he says we have the “mind of Christ”? (1 Cor. 2:16b)  Let’s ponder that.

Paul’s writing this letter because he’s deeply concerned about the Corinthians thinking. The “process” they are engaging life with is largely fueled by self-centered desires. It’s an, “if I want it, I’ll take it” attitude.  They gorge themselves at communion meals (1 Cor. 11:20-30), or argue over status (see 1 Cor. 1). Racy sexual issues (I Cor. 5) and lawsuits (1 Cor. 6) demonstrate they are not thinking with a “sound mind”, but rather a “fleshly, self-centered mindset”.  So Paul tells them, “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1 Cor. 2:12-italics mine)  He highlights that God gives us His Spirit so we can understand life in a new way (or with a new “process of thinking”).  So now, my “process” of discerning what’s best in a situation considers not only my needs, but God’s desires as well.  I don’t fill my plate to overflowing at communion dinners, because I’m concerned for the people behind me in line.  Arguing over my status seems childish, because I see clearly that everyone matters to God.   Those new thoughts reveal that my mind is actively partnering with the “mind of Christ”.  I think AND live differently now because I have the “mind of Christ”.

What do you think about that?








Mind your mind

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Phil. 2:5)

The apostle Paul talks quite a bit about our “minds”.  In Romans 12 he tells us why- “we are transformed by the renewing of our mind”. (Ro. 12.2)  In other words, our personal growth is deeply impacted by how we think.  So it is important to think about how you think.

But, what is the mind?  When asked this question people often refer to their brain.  The brain certainly is part of our mind, but the two are uniquely different.  The brain is an organ and the mind is a process.  We can actually see your brain in a scan, but we can’t see your mind.  It’s real, but abstract.  It’s visible not on scans, but rather in HOW we think, act, respond and live.  So the mind is, “the process by which we interact with the world around us and the world inside of us.”

Our minds are daily processing a host of things like: “is this person safe?” or “is this really a good buy?” or “why am I so stupid?” or “where is God when bad things happen?”.  All these questions involve an interaction of your personal mind with the world around you. How you respond to them is greatly influenced by your mind.  If you have been poorly treated by people in the past, it is very likely that your mind is slow to categorize someone as “safe”.  The problem with that is how do you actually know they are safe?  If you have been mistreated in the past, you have mixed models of safe and unsafe people.  What features of a person qualifies them as safe?  The gaps you feel in your process can then cause you to withdraw.  But withdrawing provides you with even less interactions and feedback for better identifying safe people.  Yikes! Who can save us from this terrible peril?  Jesus.  Paul declares in 1 Cor. 2:16 that we, “have the mind of Christ”.  Now what does that mean?!  We’ll cover that in my next post.  But for now consider my definition of the mind.  Do you agree?

The importance of going SLOW!

If your team is going to learn and grow…you will have to move SLOWLY!  That is so contrary to our culture’s inflamed pace, but every learning study affirms this.  Look at these educational diagrams and learn!:

For decades now we have known how important a reflective process is for learning, but have adamantly ignored it for convenience sake.  We delude ourselves that we are making learning happen by plowing through reading assignments and regurgitating disconnected facts on paper (ok enough ranting Mark!)

Lets not make the same mistake as many of our educational institution-let REAL learning run its full cycle through some kind of process of reflection.

Now to do that you and I as leaders are going to have to be vigilant in a number of ways:

1. Don’t rush!  The goal isn’t to race through data or meetings!

2. Review often.  Check back with people in and out of gatherings.  Ask them what they are learning and noticing.

3. Practice ourselves.  As leaders we are busy people.  There are a lot of demands on our time.  FOCUS.  Find a way to note what God is teaching us and stay on it like a dog on the hunt.  Do the same for your co-workers.  Stay focused.

4. Make fruit your aim.  Ask, “how will I look/act different if I really get what God is saying to me”.  You’ll know you are there when you see it!  So to the person who says, “Oh God wants me to slow down” ask them, “and what does a slowed down Mark look like?”  They may need time to really think on that…fine give them time.  BUT be sure to come back to it because the clearer they SEE it the sooner they will move towards it.

5 ways to get your energy UP

1. Get up: Sitting paralyzes you.  A recent study found that adults who sat for 11 hours or more a day had a 40% increased risk of dying in the next three years than those who sat for less than four hours a day.  No wonder it’s dead at work!
Read more:

2. Look up: Remember He is with you. Research has shown that people who pray regularly are less likely to become ill and when they do get sick they also recover faster. Studies also show that people who pray have better mental recovery, lower blood pressure and greater emotional resiliency.   Who doesn’t need more emotional resiliency?  Why don’t you pray right now.

3. Drink up: Water that is.  Blood, muscles, lungs, and brain all contain water. You need water to regulate body temperature and to provide the means for nutrients to travel to your organs and tissues. It also helps transport oxygen to your cells, removes waste, and protects your joints and organs.  No water = no energy.

4. Give up: When you notice frustration…let the project go.  You have a few 90 minute blocks during a day to concentrate and do your best work.  When you go past 90 you start to burn up and burn out.  Frustration and brain lock are two key symptoms that it’s time to take a break.  If you are staring at the screen right now…guess what?  It’s break time!

5. Team up: Yes two heads are better than one and many hands make the work light.Scripture says, “Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively.” (Eccl. 4.9)  Sometimes just teaming up with a friend to think things through brings new creativity and energy.

Personal energy crisis?

Imagine you have a big gas gauge on the back of your hand.  What does it say?  E?  Half full?  Life’s continual demand is always guzzling gas from our tanks.  Hence the oft quoted moan, “I don’t have enough time!”  But time is only part of the equation.  Energy is what matters.  If you have time, but no energy what will you get done?  So energy management is probably the most critical metric.  I’ve found this particular tool helpful:

Take the personal energy audit and come back in the next few days to learn how you can fill up again!

Tough times give us a great place to practice

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1.2 NLT

The trouble with trouble is that it is extremely challenging to do what James instructs us to in verse 2.  But moving on in the text gives us great incentives.  Verse 3 tells us that our endurance can grow.  This is critical, because next time trouble rolls around we will be just that much more able to rejoice.  Furthermore verse 4 tells us that continued practice brings a “completeness”.   James says, “you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”  Wow, think of the trouble you could give the devil!

Here’s an important distinctive: mature people are not necessarily more blessed or gifted than others; they simply practice more.  Scientists have investigated this question of expertise — specifically, skill at a level that seems unobtainable by normal, motivated individuals. In one study, researchers led by Florida State University professor K. Anders Ericsson studied musicians at a Berlin conservatory. Students were divided into three skill levels, including one the faculty had identified as having the best chance of becoming world-class soloists. The researchers had the students keep diaries of their schedules and looked at such information as when they started playing and their practice habits as children.

The results were clear-cut, with little room for any sort of inscrutable God-given talent. The elite musicians had simply practiced far more than the others. “That’s been replicated for all sorts of things — chess players and athletes, dart players,” says Ericsson. “The only striking difference between experts and amateurs is in this capability to deliberately practice.”

So this is my exhortation.  Practice joy in those troubling moments.  Pray for wisdom and worship for grace space…but seize the moment!  Each time you practice you are laying the solid groundwork of spiritual maturity and increasing your capacity to face trouble with God-fueled joy!

The difference between being busy and getting hurried

What’s the difference between being “busy” and being “hurried”?  Is there a difference?  I believe there is absolutely a difference between the two.  Think about it…Jesus was incredibly busy…but I seriously doubt he was ever hurried.  So in the midst of intense public demands and incredibly trying human needs Jesus found a way of being “unhurried”.  I suspect we can too.

Now, there are a number of distinctions to note between hurried and busy.  The first distinction is that busy is something that is out side of our hearts and souls.  We have places to go, people to see and problems to address.  Those are very real, but those are not “us”.  Hurriedness, on the other hand, is very personal and internal.  It is a sense or motive for how we approach those people, places and things to do.  So pay attention to what happens to your “internal clock” when busy times hit.  This is why Paul urges us to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5.25).  In light of this, I try to pause during my day and listen for just how high my heart is “revving”.  I do this during meal times and between appointments.  If I notice I am running on panic, I enlist God’s help immediately!  Why don’t you pause right now and listen for the “idle of your internal engine”.

A second distinction to note is how hurriedness produces a sense of isolation in us.  We become so preoccupied with our “stuff” that we race past the grace-packed awareness of God with us.  By losing that precious sense, we are soon running on our own strength and limited resources.  This leads to a certain sense of doom and panic because we know we are going to “run out”.  Dallas Willard says, “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day because it will keep you from experiencing God’s goodness and care for you from one moment to the next.”  This can also happen with the people in our lives.  We stiff arm family and friends because we are “so busy”, but in doing so we are isolating ourselves and allowing hurry to set the pace.  What helps me combat this isolation is having a few people who watch out for me.  I have told them the warning signs to look for and they have full permission to apply the “brakes” when necessary!  Do you have people like that in your life?

Finally, when I am in touch with God’s leading there is a sense of accomplishment and completion.  It probably mirrors the Genesis account of God reviewing his construction and announcing, “it is good”.  If that sense is lost, I notice a growing feeling of meaninglessness.  I am doing a lot, but not getting a lot out of what I’m doing.  Days bleed into weeks which fade into months and I’m not sure what I’ve done and why.  For me having weekly times to plan and review time helps immensely.  I do this in a devotional manner where I am conversing with God and praying through my calendar.  By doing this I re-yoke with Jesus and experience the ease of His yoke which is gentle.

Want to write a book?

If you are at all like me writing a book may seem to be a daunting task.  While it is a challenge it certainly must be do-able: consider the millions of books to date!  Today I spent 8 solid hours organizing and planning my first book.  It was unbelievable how easy the pieces fell into place with just a little bit of coaching from David Sluka.  Please check out his very affordable and extremely helpful workshop at: