Investing in the Next Generation of Leaders

This last week was somewhat of a milestone in our ministry.

The Senior Leadership Initiative (SLI) Cohort, to which Jen helps to give oversight, met in person for the first time since October of 2019.

This group of nearly 30 leaders represents the breadth of Cru ministries, from Campus to Family Life, Jesus Film to Athletes in Action. City, Josh McDowell and Global Headquarters are also represented as well as participants from Cru ministries serving in a number of overseas locations.

Participants of the Senior Leadership Initiative Cohort 8 graduate from their 2 year development program.

Potential leaders are nominated by their division leadership and encouraged to apply to participate in this unique 2 year development program.

The cohort is divided into 4 modules, lasting 6 months each. Each module has a live one-week conference that delivers content relevant to the theme of that particular module. These in-person conferences are critical to providing a relational component that encourages connection and collaboration among these rising leaders who serve in different Cru divisions.

The cohort was scheduled to meet in person in April 2020 in San Antonio to kick off the 2nd module, but as you know, all in person meetings and gatherings were suspended due to Covid.

The SLI Design team is responsible for developing the next generation of rising leaders who are serving across the multiple divisions and many ministries of Cru world-wide.

The design team on which Jen serves had to pivot and re-imagine how to deliver content and a leadership development experience in a strictly virtual environment.

We are fortunate to have technology platforms like Zoom for connecting virtually, but duplicating a week-long in-person conference into an online platform is particularly challenging.

For starters, nobody really wants to be in a Zoom meeting for 8 straight hours, much less for a full week!

Secondly, if you’ve ever been to a live conference or retreat, you know that there is so much that happens in the margins that just can’t be duplicated virtually. Side conversations happen at your table during the breaks and over meals that magnify the conference experience.

If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that there is no replacement for live, physical interactions with other humans.

Jen and SLI Director Alan Tung recognize cohort participants at the closing “graduation” ceremony.

This last week gave the participants an opportunity to experience those interactions first-hand, as their SLI experience came to a conclusion in San Diego. Because of the proximity of this module to our home, I was able to join Jen for the week and work remotely.

The SLI Design team did an amazing job keeping things together during this challenging season and helping this cohort to finish strong!

In addition, because of how Covid impacted large gatherings and conferences, we were blessed to be able to experience this module in a prime location that normally would be out of reach to us financially. It was certainly nice to be able to experience the week in such an amazing location.

View of North San Diego Bay and Coronado Island from our hotel.

Please pray for these leaders as they seek to implement what they’ve learned into their own leadership situation. Many of these leaders are moving into significant positions of responsibility within the organization. Pray that the leadership lessons they’ve learned will multiply their impact and influence, resulting in many more changed lives.

Thank you for your partnership with us that enables us to influence the next generation of leaders amongst Cru staff as well as Young Professionals in our community and around the world!

The Discipleship Do-Over

They say that if you watch baseball long enough, you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. That adage held true in a recent game when the Dodgers faced the Pirates.

In the bottom of the first inning, Pirates rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes, hit a long fly ball to right field that was ruled a home run. Just like that, the Pirates had an early 1-0 lead.

But immediately after the play, the cameras showed scurrying in the Dodgers dugout, followed by the umpires moving to the headsets for an official review. It was unclear why the Dodgers would dispute the ruling as every replay clearly showed the ball hitting the foul pole, which is considered fair territory. There was nothing to argue….or so it seemed.

After a very brief review, the main umpire removed his headset and clenched his fist, indicating that Hayes was being called out. Just like that, the home run was wiped away, the run was taken off the board and the Dodgers were no longer losing.

Things became clearer when the announcers showed replays of the runner rounding the bases. In his excitement, Hayes neglected to step on first base as he rounded the bag. The Dodgers noticed it and the replays confirmed it. Since he didn’t touch all the bags, the home run was negated and the runner was called out.


Incidentally, the announcers explained later, that a play like this, where a home run was reversed because a runner had not touched all the bags, had not occurred since 1971.


Ke’Bryan Hayes of the Pirates neglects to step on first base as he rounds the bag on a home run. He was called out after a challenge confirmed the gaffe.

The cameras zoomed in on a stunned Hayes in the Pirates dugout. At that moment, I’m sure he was wishing he could have a Do-Over.

As we coach and mentor Young Professionals, it seems like we’re often encountering people who wish they could have a do-over.

Many don’t like their jobs or are struggling with their career choice. Others lament the amount of debt they committed to, having believed their education would ensure them a well-paying job that would render such large financial obligations moot.

Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time and change our decisions, but we can seek to leverage our experiences and all of our learning for God’s kingdom purposes going forward.

That’s what our friend Grace is doing.

We actually knew Grace from our days back in Davis when she was an engineering student involved in our Cru ministry. Grace graduated and got a job working as an engineer.

Grace is living in our area and Jen reconnected with her a few years ago when we started ministering to Young Adults. Though Grace had worked for many years as an engineer, she didn’t really like it. When layoffs forced her out of a job, she took some time to consider what she really wanted to do.

I realize that not everyone is in a position to be able to consider a career change, but Grace was in a situation that allowed her to consider what was important to her and how she could best utilize her talents and passions to serve the Lord and make a difference in the lives of others.

Grace is an artist at heart and she’s looking for ways to use her creative abilities to minister to others.

Jen and Grace meet in person for the first time in over a year!

Recently, Jen asked Grace if she would connect with another Young Adult Jen has been coaching. Jen thought it might be helpful for this person to have someone else in their life who could provide additional spiritual input and emotional support.

It turns out this other Young Adult also has a creative bent, allowing Grace to connect with her in a way Jen could not.

Our vision is to help Young Adults thrive spiritually and live with purpose. We want to multiply our lives into others so that we might see an army of Young professionals mobilized to make a difference in their families, their jobs, and in their communities.

We are constantly reminded that ministry is messy. We’re no longer ministering to students who have limited responsibilities and unlimited dreams. Instead, we’re coaching and counseling Young adults, who sometimes are struggling to meet the increased demands of life and who often are facing the stark realty that life is not exactly how they imagined or expected it to be.

Our hope is to help them experience Jesus in their current reality and imagine new dreams that would enable them to make a significant contribution to God’s Kingdom purposes!

Would you pray with us as we seek to see Young Professionals like Grace mobilized to multiply their lives into others?

We are grateful for you!

MacBooks, Craiglist and a Guy on Rollerblades

A few years ago, I listed a used laptop on Craigslist. I got an email from a guy named Hugo and I drove to a Starbucks near him to show him the computer.

A few minutes later a guy comes cruising by on rollerblades, and it turns out, it’s Hugo!

Hugo and I are connected on various social media platforms. Hugo is an active guy, who, in addition to roller-blading, loves the outdoors. 

We sat down and chatted for a few minutes and I learned that Hugo was a UCLA grad who knew some of the same people I knew who had been involved with Cru and Destino at UCLA.

Hugo ended up buying my computer and he and I kept in touch as he would occasionally contact me with computer related questions.

About a year ago, Hugo contacted me again because he had an issue with the computer I had sold him a few years back. We met up and I helped him fix his computer issue.

We were connected on Facebook and I would occasionally see Hugo’s posts about life. In a lot of ways, Hugo represents the typical Young Professional to whom we minister. He loves God and he’s passionate about the underprivileged and less fortunate.

After college, Hugo had to deal with school loans (and is now debt free!) yet hasn’t found his sweet spot professionally. Hugo has struggled to figure out exactly how he can best serve God and fulfill his life mission. He’s not quite sure what His unique calling is or how he can best leverage his talents, experience and passion into a life of purpose and meaning.

When we met up a year ago, I shared with Hugo about our ministry to Young Professionals and some of the specific opportunities we offer, but nothing concrete really materialized.

A few months ago, Hugo contacted me again. His computer had died and I later learned that he was nearing completion of his grad school application and everything he had worked on, including his personal statement, resume, letters of reference and the application itself were irretrievably lost. It was a moment of panic and anxiety as the application deadline was quickly approaching.

Hugo needed a computer fast in order to finish the application on time and he later told me that he decided to reach out to me as a “Hail Mary” attempt at locating an inexpensive computer. It just so happened that I had just listed each of the twins’ old MacBooks (the same model that just crashed for Hugo) on Craigslist. When I told Hugo about the laptops I had listed, he said it gave him a glimmer of hope that this incredibly stressful situation he found himself in might actually work itself out.

When we met up for the exchange, Hugo said, “a year ago, you were telling me about some opportunities you have for Young Professionals and I wanted to hear about those again if they’re still available.”

I was smiling inside because I had been wondering if I should mention to him again about my role in helping Young Professionals.

On Strava, I often see Hugo hiking, cycling and enjoying God’s amazing creation with friends!

Hugo and I have now met a few times for coaching and our conversations have been really encouraging.

Hugo has been very appreciative of the opportunity to connect, learn and grow. I’ve appreciated Hugo’s vulnerability and genuine willingness to allow me to come alongside him as he continues in his professional and spiritual journey.

If you think about it, please pray for Hugo. He’s been accepted into USC’s graduate program on Public Policy but is weighing whether the cost of the program will be worth the benefits the program will provide.

This is a common issue with Young Professionals as they navigate and deal with the high cost of higher education relative to the advantages and opportunities that education provides in our current environment.

I’m continually amazed at the many ways God orchestrates circumstances in order to fulfill His greater purposes in our lives. I love how even random events and situations, like selling an item on Craigslist, can lead to an on-going relationship and meaningful connection!

Evangelism in the Digital Age

Every day thousands of people around the world connect to the internet seeking answers to their questions. The internet has actually made it easier for spiritual seekers to seek out spiritual information because they can do it in relative anonymity, which turns out to be very beneficial, especially if you live in a country that is hostile to religion in general or Christianity specifically.

Cru has had a digital presence for many years with the creation of our everystudent.com and everyperson.com websites.

Using strategic google advertising and marketing, articles that appear on our sites are viewed by thousands of people from around the world each day, with millions coming to know Jesus as a result.

A few weeks ago, I contacted Marilyn Adamson, who directs our online evangelism efforts. I’ve known Marilyn since 1998, when she and her husband were on a summer missions project that Jen and I attended in Myrtle Beach. Her husband Mike was one of my trainers that summer as Jen and I were being trained to become new Cru directors at UC Davis.

I e-mailed Marilyn to let her know I was available to connect with Young Adults who might come to Christ through our websites and who continue engaging with us via one of our Follow-Up platforms, such as StartingWithGod.com.

Marilyn promptly e-mailed me back to tell me that the timing of my e-mail was “quite interesting.” We set up a phone conversation where she told me she had just been approached by someone who wanted to help Cru expand their online evangelism efforts by utilizing Facebook advertising.

Cru’s evangelism efforts had mostly been promoted through google advertising so Facebook would be a new avenue of engagement.

Marilyn was apprehensive about moving forward with Facebook advertising because she just didn’t have the capacity to monitor and manage our Facebook page (everystudent.com). But my “timely” e-mail made her think that it could work if I would be willing to manage and oversee the Facebook page. I agreed to help.

After a few days of nosing around the site, I noticed a lot of activity and interaction, mostly from people reacting to the articles and videos they had seen, or users posting positive comments of approval. But from my vantage point, it was hard to know whether the ads were really making an impact. I simply didn’t have access to the marketing data that would give an indication of the effectiveness of our campaigns.

I e-mailed Marilyn about a week later to share my insights. She quickly responded telling me how thankful she was that I was monitoring the page and weeding out spammers and scammers and interacting with people who were wanting to engage.

She then told me something that floored me. She said that in just the few weeks they had been promoting the site through targeted advertising, over 330 people had indicated decisions to place their faith in Christ!

A few days ago, I saw some “Insights” that Facebook sends their users regarding the amount of traffic and activity on their page.

I was amazed to see that in the 28 day period shown, our ads reached over 7 million people, with over a million people engaging in some way with the content being published (Likes, comments, sharing, etc.).

Social media is a mixed bag these days and I’ve written about the downsides of social media in previous posts here,  here and here. But there are positive aspects to it as well and it’s not likely to go away as it has been firmly planted within our culture.

One positive benefit of social media is it allows us to get the gospel to millions of spiritual seekers very quickly and we can reach people in locations that would be very difficult to get to personally.

If you would like to use everystudent.com or everyperson.com articles to reach people in your network of relationships, consider sharing an article to your Facebook feed or other social media platforms and invite your friends to read and discuss with you. It’s an easy way to share your faith with others!

A Divine Appointment in a Grocery Store Parking Lot

I pulled into the parking lot at Stater Bros., a Southern California grocery store near our house. I needed to pick up just a few items and though I had intended to swing by much earlier in the day to avoid the after-work crowds, I had been delayed for reasons I can’t even remember.

As I got out of the car, I heard someone address me with the question, “Dave Lowe?”

Michael Acuna is a former Cal Poly, Pomona student and current assistant basketball coach at Bethesda University.

I looked to see a guy standing in front of my car wearing a mask, glasses and a hat. I didn’t recognize him immediately with all of his facial features covered. He had recognized me though before I parked because I wasn’t wearing a mask or hat until I got out of the car.

He realized I didn’t recognize him so he re-introduced himself.

“Michael Acuna….from Cal Poly, Pomona Destino.”

Michael is a guy I had connected with a number of years ago when Jen and I were in our Regional positions with the Cru campus ministry.

Michael was a student involved in Destino, our Latino focused campus ministry.

I hadn’t seen Michael in several years but we were friends on Facebook and Instagram and I would occasionally see posts from him online. As Michael updated me on his life, I learned that we live very close to each other.

I gave Michael an update on us, including our transition a few years from ministering to college students to focusing on Young Professionals. As I shared about some of the resources we provide, such as Leadership Development Groups and coaching, Michael’s eyes lit up.

“I could really use some coaching”, he responded.

Michael and I were able to exchange contact information and we’ve connected virtually a few times now to talk about how we can move forward in a coaching relationship.

My encounter with Michael is just another example of how God is always working behind the scenes to orchestrate events and work out His divine plans and purposes.

Michael and I taking a selfie in the Stater Bros. parking lot.

A few days ago I was reading in Mark 1, which starts off with these words: “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ.”

What’s interesting though is that Mark doesn’t really talk about Jesus for another 8 verses. If the gospel is about Jesus and Mark is going to talk about the beginning of the gospel, why does he delay mentioning Jesus and instead spend 8 verses talking about an obscure verse in Isaiah, followed by a description of John the Baptist preaching and baptizing out in the wilderness?

It’s true that Jesus is the central figure of the gospel, but the story of the good news incorporates so much more.

This passage is a reminder that even before Jesus arrives on the scene, God the Father is working behind the scenes preparing people for the arrival of the king.

Henry Blackaby said it well in his popular book and workbook “Experiencing God” when he said, “God is always at work around us…”

It’s true. God is ALWAYS working, often in ways I’m not aware of. He’s orchestrating events and arranging circumstances to accomplish his purposes and ultimate plans.

This is why I don’t believe my chance encounter with Michael was accidental or coincidental. It was providential.

How about you? Who are the people and what are the circumstances God arranged to prepare you for the arrival of Jesus in your life?

If God can arrange circumstances to help you encounter Jesus, how might he be using your current situation and circumstances to  prepare you for something greater that you might not even be able to imagine at the moment?

In Philippians 1:6, Paul said that, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Before Jesus ever arrived on the scene of your life, God was working to prepare you. And now that you know Jesus, God is still working in you to bring growth and development and perhaps opportunities that you never dreamed of!

You can read more of my thoughts on Mark 1 on my January 13th entry of my DailyDevo blog. 

Discipleship and Change Through Coaching

Eric, with now wife Suemi, as a student at San Jose State University

I first met Eric thirty-one years ago. I was a brand-spanking new staff member with Cru at San Jose State University. It was a Friday night and we were hosting a Prayer night at the Crusade house where I lived with 12 other guys.

Eric opened the front door and walked in, looking for a friend who lived at the house. He felt like a deer caught in the headlights as he realized there was a prayer meeting happening. To avoid embarrassment, Eric played coy, acting as if he had intended to join.

Later that next week I met Eric on campus and we got into a deep spiritual conversation. Though Eric had a Christian background, he had never placed his faith in Christ, until that day.

Eric, taking time to reflect on God’s Word. As a new Christian, Eric spent the summer of 1990 on a Cru missions project in Santa Cruz getting vital discipleship training.

Over the next four years, Eric and I developed a close friendship as I helped him grow in his newfound faith. Since that time, we’ve stayed connected and remained friends, occasionally connecting as families as the opportunity has presented itself.

Earlier this year, I contacted Eric about coaching. I was looking to gain experience in implementing the training Jen and I had received last fall and I needed people to help me get started.

Unbeknownst to me, Eric had specifically prayed last fall that the Lord would give him wisdom and help him make progress in an area of his life that he’s struggled with for a long time – his health…specifically, his weight.

For years, Eric has tried to gain control of his weight, with very mixed results. There was a certain sense of urgency this time though as Eric’s doctor presented certain health related realities that were a direct result of his weight.

Can you relate? Is there an issue you’ve struggled with for as long as you can remember? It may not be weight or health-related but we all have areas in our lives that seem to hold us back.

Eric in 2002, attending a Sacramento area Cru Vision Dinner.

Eric and I officially began our coaching relationship right before Covid hit and the primary issue we’ve been tackling is Eric’s goal to lose 90 pounds.

If that sounds like a big goal, it is. Coaching isn’t a panacea. It’s not the silver bullet that solves all issues or problems. Primarily, it’s an avenue for self-discovery that empowers those who want to see growth and change make progress in areas that matter most to them.

For Eric, the journey has been long and hard. There have been many ups and downs. But with setbacks, coaching provides a structure for support that makes it a bit easier to keep going instead of throwing in the towel.

Eric has now lost 45 pounds and is half-way to his goal. He feels better, has more energy and is starting to see improvement in some of his weight-related health concerns.

Recently, I asked Eric about the spiritual connections he’s made through his weight loss journey.

Eric and I using Google Meet for a virtual coaching call.

Eric said that he came to realize that losing weight was about more than just eating the right foods and exercising more, as important as those things are.

“There comes a point where you realize you can’t just will yourself to get the results you want to achieve. We lack discipline, focus and will power.” Eric went on to explain that we need help from others, whether that’s in the form of support and motivation or instruction and tools.

What Eric described to me is a picture of grace. Grace is applied when we can’t reach a standard we’ve set on our own and we need help to reach the goal.

Jesus is the ultimate grace-giver. He came to die for us, achieving the standard of righteousness required to experience a relationship with God that we couldn’t meet via our own efforts.

God answered Eric’s initial request from last fall by bringing others into his life to support him in his journey. I’ve been blessed to play a part in helping him hear the Lord’s voice through our coaching relationship.

How about you? What are the areas where you need the Lord to give you wisdom and grace to move forward to see significant life change? Who can you invite into your process to provide support and encouragement?

Coaching is an avenue that can help you gain greater awareness of your situation and provide support and encouragement to help you achieve goals that may have seemed out of reach.

Faulty Earbuds?

My typical running gear includes dri-fit shirt, sunglasses, running hat and earbuds to listen to audiobooks or music.
Photo by Dave Lowe

A few weeks ago, I left the house for my daily run. I had my phone to track my route and also provide the tunes to keep me moving during the 6 mile trek.

As I was nearing the end of my run, I noticed I was not getting any sound out of my left earbud.

I tried pushing the earpiece harder into my ear, but that didn’t work. I wondered if maybe the earphone jack was not in all the way. No, that wasn’t the problem.

I jiggled the wire, thinking maybe there was a short. That didn’t work either. I started thinking maybe these earbuds had reached the end of their lifespan and I was bummed at the thought of having to buy new ones. I’ve been told I’m cheap that way!

When I finally got home, I thought I’d try one more thing. Perhaps it was a software issue. I figured a reboot of my phone would solve it if that was the issue. But that didn’t work either.

I had one more idea to determine if it was a problem with my phone or the earbuds. I decided to plug the earbuds into my computer and listen to some music. If the earbuds still only gave sound out of only one ear, then I would know it’s the earbuds and not the phone.

However, as I was getting ready to plug the earbuds into my computer, I looked more closely at the earpiece that wasn’t producing sound and I quickly realized the issue. There, in the small opening where the sound was supposed to come out, was a small glob of ear wax that was fully covering the opening.

The opening on these earbuds is small. It doesn’t take much to clog the opening, making it harder for sound to come through.
Photo by Dave Lowe

Yes, I know it’s kind of gross, but we all produce the stuff, and to be honest, I really can’t tell you the purpose. I just know that when I removed the small piece plugging the hole, I was suddenly able to hear perfectly again out of both earbuds.

I had a problem hearing and all of my initial thoughts were that it was a problem with something else – my phone, the earbuds, the jack, the wire, etc. The reality is that I was having issues hearing clearly because of me – something I produced and wasn’t even aware of.

I think there’s a spiritual illustration here. Often I’m wanting to hear from the Lord and He’s not responding, at least not the way I want. I wonder why He’s not answering my prayers or responding clearly to my requests.

Sometimes, the reason I’m not hearing from God is because of me. Sometimes the Lord IS wanting to speak to me but my attitude, or my heart blocks my spirit from hearing the Lord.

I’ve found that there are often several reasons why I’m not hearing from the Lord.

A primary way the Lord speaks to us is through His Word. Yet, it’s easy to get distracted by other things.
Photo by Nick Bondarev from Pexels

One reason I sometimes don’t hear from God is because of unconfessed sin in my heart. Psalm 66:18 says “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my Lord would not have listened.”

Sometimes, I’m not even fully aware of my own sin, such as unresolved conflict or anger. This is why it’s so important to invite the Lord to examine our hearts and reveal to us any areas in our lives and hearts that may be keeping us from experiencing His presence (See Psalm 139:23, 24).

A second reason I may not be hearing from the Lord is distractions. Sometimes Jen will be telling me something important but my focus is on something else, like my computer screen or the TV. I find that when I’m not fully engaged in what she’s saying I often have to ask her to repeat what she’s just said.

I often do the same thing with the Lord. I read my Bible but my mind is thinking about something else. I’m spending time in prayer but distracted by notifications that are popping up on my phone.

I cannot always expect to hear directly from the Lord when I want. But as a follower of Christ, I can make sure that the airways are clear and that there are no impediments that would keep me from hearing His voice when He does speak to me.

What keeps you from hearing clearly from the Lord?

What have you found to be helpful in keeping you focused and tuned in to hearing the Lord’s voice?

We appreciate your continued prayers for us as we continue to wait on the Lord during this challenging season!

If you’d like us to pray for you, click on the Prayer tab and send us your request!

Developing Resilience

What is resilience? Is it a skill? Is it an ingrained character quality?

A Picture of resilience – a lone tree somehow thrives in a harsh environment where plant life is sparse
Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Marcus Buckingham, researcher and developer of the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment addressed this question last month at the 2020 Global Leadership Summit, which Jen and I had the opportunity to attend virtually.

Buckingham and his team of researchers were interested in understanding this quality of resilience that some people seem to have, which gives them the ability to face incredible challenges without breaking or buckling.

Buckingham’s research determined that resilience isn’t a skill but a quality that can be developed. His talk focused on how to build resilience in others and in ourselves. Specifically, he shared 3 different ways we can build resilience in ourselves.

Resilient people have learned the importance of rest and recovery
Photo by Shane on Unsplash

First, Buckingham talked about a concept he called Agency, which simply refers to items we can control. One of the things we can control is the rhythms in our lives. Remember the morning and evening commute? As much as you might have hated that time in the car, it created an obvious separation between home life and work life. For many, that natural break is gone, disrupting the natural rhythm that existed.

The research on resilience, according to Buckingham, suggests that resilient people work hard and then take a break – they recognize the value of recovery. This sounds a lot like the idea of sabbath (rest), doesn’t it?

What are some ways you can create natural breaks in your schedule that would lead to rest, recovery and resilience?

Secondly, Buckingham elaborated on the idea of Compartmentalization, which means that different parts of our lives have different feelings and different outcomes. The most resilient people seem to understand that we have many different lanes in our lives and if we’re not doing well in one lane, there are other lanes. This doesn’t mean we deny the things that are going bad in that one area of life, but it’s a realization that there are other areas where I can see success and progress.

We all have different areas or lanes in our lives. If we’re struggling in one area, we can still succeed and see progress in other lanes.
Photo by Andrew McElroy on Unsplash

Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book Changes that Heal calls this the Good/Bad split, referring to our tendency to look at life as either “all good” if everything is going well, or “all bad” if something unexpected or undesirable happens.

The truth is, life is a mixture of good and bad. Resilient people are able to separate the good and bad and recognize that even when things happen that we wouldn’t prefer, there are often many other things that are going well which we can celebrate and for which we can be grateful.

What are the different lanes in your life where you’re seeing success? How can you leverage your experience in those areas to help you in the areas where you’re struggling?

According to Buckingham, the third way to develop resilience in ourselves is through our Strengths in Work. Resilient people have figured out how to utilize their strengths to derive meaning, purpose and joy from the circumstances they’re in.

Interestingly, Mayo Clinic research indicates that you don’t need to fill up your whole week with those invigorating activities in order to create resilience. If we can fill up just 20% of our schedules with the kinds of activities that bring life to our souls, we can develop resiliency that enables us to withstand the more difficult life circumstances which we may encounter.

What are the things that bring life to you? How can you inject a few of these joy-producing activities into your schedule to help build resilience?

Young Professionals face unique challenges, even apart from Covid, that makes resilience an important quality to develop. Many are struggling to find a supportive community while dealing with extreme financial issues and an uncertain job market.

We’re privileged to be able to help Young Professionals develop resiliency through coaching, Strengths assessments and awareness and Leadership Development.

If you’d like to learn more about resources and opportunities we provide to help people grow in their resilience, please contact us!

Hope and The Shawshank Redemption

Here’s a simple litmus test to tell if a movie deserves to be in your Top 10 list of favorites.

Imagine you’re channel surfing and you see a movie playing that you have to watch, even though you’ve seen it dozens of times before. That movie, which you find yourself tuning into any time you see it on the TV is likely one of your favorites.

I have several movies that fit that category for me, including Braveheart, Tommy Boy and The Shawshank Redemption.

“The Shawshank Redemption” is one of those movies I find myself watching any time I see it playing on broadcast TV.

Recently, Pastor Rick Warren gave a sermon on “Experiencing Hope During Difficult Times.” I was reminded of The Shawshank Redemption, since one of the main themes in that movie is “hope”.

The Shawshank Redemption is based on a short story by Steven King (yes, that Steven King), but it’s not a horror movie. It’s a movie about prison. Some have dubbed it the greatest prison movie of all time.

The story centers around Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) who is wrongly convicted of double murder and sent to the notorious Shawshank prison to serve back to back life sentences.

Dufresne quickly befriends Ellis “Red” Redding, played by Morgan Freeman, a murderer who has already served 20 years of a life sentence, and though he sees the error of his foolish teenage act, nevertheless, sees no hope of ever being paroled.

There’s a critical scene about midway through the movie. Andy receives an unexpected shipment of books and vinyl records for the prison library and decides to blare music from an opera record to the entire prison population via the prison loudspeaker system.

This infuriates the warden, who punishes Andy with two weeks in “the hole” – solitary confinement in a room with no light source.

When Andy emerges from confinement his inmate friends are amazed to see him so upbeat after such a harsh punishment.

“Easiest time I ever did” is Andy’s response. “I had Mr. Mozart to keep me company.”

Fear Can Hold You Prisoner.
Hope Can Set You Free.

Andy’s prison-mates are understandably confused. Andy explains that Mozart is inside…in his mind and in his soul and then he declares, “there are places internally that they can’t touch.”

Andy’s friend Red asks, “What are you talking about?”

“Hope”, Andy replies.

Red gets a stern look on his face and says, “Listen here friend. Let me tell you something about hope. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. It’s got no use on the inside. You better get used to that idea.”

Pastor Rick, in his sermon, stated that we can have hope because we know that the situation we’re in is temporary….it will pass. He encouraged us to focus on that which is eternal instead of things that are temporary.

This is certainly good advice, but sometimes hard to implement. It’s difficult to focus on “eternal” things when there are so many immediate needs staring at you in the face, and often screaming for your attention.

We personally know people who have lost their jobs, are struggling financially, have lost their housing, have lost loved ones, are scrambling to figure out childcare and schooling options for the fall, are dealing with major health concerns with limited access to doctors, and many more issues that are magnified and amplified in this current Covid environment.

How exactly do we experience hope when there is so much pain and struggle in our lives?

I think Andy Dufresne provides a clue. Hope is something internal, rather than external.

Hebrews 6:19, speaking of Jesus, says,

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (emphasis mine)

The context of this passage is that Jesus is our High Priest. Through His death, He provided atonement for sinful humanity, making it possible for us to experience a relationship with Him.

For the Christian, Jesus is our anchor. He alone provides hope and meaning because He alone can provide ultimate fulfillment and purpose in life.

Where is your hope anchored?
Photo by Ron Smith on Unsplash

But what about all of the tremendous struggles we are facing? They seem overwhelming!

As we navigate life’s current realities, I realize how important the body of Christ is. We need others who can come alongside us when we’re struggling and offer real, tangible, material help, while reminding us of God’s goodness and pointing us to the hope that only Jesus can provide.

At the end of The Shawshank Redemption, Andy writes these fitting words to Red – “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.”

How are you doing in this current crisis? Are you more like Red – tired, disillusioned and lacking hope?

Or are you more like Andy, with a hope anchored to an internal, immovable source (Jesus).

Whatever your situation, let us know how we can pray for you! (Just click the Prayer tab at the top of the page)

Personally, we are grateful to our family and many friends who have been a source of encouragement and hope to us through the many struggles and trials we’ve faced over the past few months and years. You have helped us to continue to keep our hope anchored in Jesus!

The Struggle for Change

I’ve been on a diet since 2005.

At the time, I realized I had gained over 30 pounds since college and I decided I needed to be more proactive about my weight and overall health. You can read about my initial weight loss journey here. (https://bit.ly/Mar05-LD)

Photo by Jamie Matocinos on Unsplash

Since losing those 30 pounds fifteen years ago, I have found that keeping the weight off isn’t easy.

There are so many forces working against us, including, but not limited to donuts, chocolate, french fries, chips, cookies, ice cream, pizza and cheesecake.

Donuts and junk food are just a few of the challenges that face those who desire to get fit!
Photo by Jae Park on Unsplash

There are other non-food forces working against us as well, including lower metabolism and energy levels, slower recovery rates, and of course, Netflix.

The truth is that losing weight and maintaining fitness requires a certain level of surrender. I’m free to eat whatever I want and exercise as little as I want (or not at all), but every choice has its consequences. If I want to maintain a certain weight and fitness level, it will require some sacrifices and some intentionality.

With my 55th birthday approaching, I decided to once again embark on the fitness roller coaster in my attempt to lose 10 pounds. If I’m being honest though, my interest is not just in losing 10 pounds. What I’d really like is to get rid of this spare tire around my waist. I’d like to look different!

I’m doing the work, but so far, I look more like the guy on the left than the guy on the right!
Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash

I’m four weeks into this current program and every day I’m reminded why so many people give up. It’s HARD work. And while I’ve made some progress on the weight loss portion of the goal, I’m not sure I’ve made any changes to my waistline as my desired 6-pack still looks more like a keg!

I’m reminded that transformation isn’t immediate. Change takes time.

I think that’s true in our spiritual lives as well.

Years ago, I heard a speaker ask this question: “What do you want to become?”

He said that the choices we make today shape the person we will become in the future. I remember him saying these memorable words, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

In Matthew 16:24, Jesus said to his disciples,

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Many people become Christians because they want forgiveness and eternity in heaven. They want the eternal benefits that come after they die. This isn’t bad or wrong, but Scripture is clear that Jesus has a different purpose for those who follow Him – TRANSFORMATION.

Jesus’ desire is that we would become more like him – that we would be a reflection of His character to those around us. The theological word for this is sanctification, which simply means that over time, my life becomes more and more like the life of Jesus.

Sanctification isn’t easy though, because it requires surrender, discipline and intentionality, just like dieting. This is why Jesus said that those who would follow Him must DENY themselves.  If we want to change spiritually (and physically), we have to deny that part of us that just wants to sit on the couch eating donuts and binge-watching Netflix!

Spiritual fitness. like physical fitness, requires sacrifice, intentionality and training
Photo by Tomasz Wozniak on Unsplash

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul compares the Christian life to a race. In order to win, strict training is required. Paul says that he beats his body and makes it his slave so that he might run the race and win!

Paul’s language shows the reality that our bodies don’t necessarily want to comply with our demands for discipline and training. We know this intuitively when it comes to fitness training or other skills like musical talent, but we don’t always think of our spiritual growth in the same way.

As Jen and I continue to minister to Young Professionals, we’re asking them this question, “What do you want to become?”

As they wrestle with the challenges of becoming the Christ-followers they desire, our job is to come along-side them, as coaches, and provide encouragement and support to help them “win the race.”

How about you?

What do you want to become?

How are you doing in this race Paul described? Are you winning or are you finding it to be a struggle?

If you’d like to share your thoughts, concerns or prayer requests, you can reach out to us through the Prayer Tab!

 

Butterfly Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash