Keep Conversations Going

What happens when you are in a conversation with someone and they share a belief, or statement that clashes with what you believe or where you stand on a topic?  What is your first response?  Are you quick to defend or correct?  Do you go silent?  What could you do to keep the conversation going, which will also keep the relationship going?  

This was the topic of our recent lifeGroup leader retreat.  We actually took the time to practice having conversations and trying to respond in a new way.  Here are some of the statements that we tried.


“Tell me more.”

“Seems like you’re really passionate about this, can you help me understand?”

“You sound really sure about that, what’s led you to that conclusion.”

“That’s interesting. I’ve never heard that perspective before. Where did you learn about that?”


We do not have to debate or argue or correct people who think differently than we do.  We can seek to understand, listen and learn where the person is coming from.  Listening, and asking clarifying questions will keep the conversation going.  If you disagree on one topic or one issue, there may be several other areas you have in common with the person.  


We all learned an important lesson at the leader retreat as we took the time to role play and practice having conversations.  Practice helps.  The first time it was very uncomfortable. The second, third and fourth times were a little easier.  Practicing in a safe place gives us confidence for when we are in a real situation.  

Perhaps you could practice in your own lifeGroup using the above statements, or you could practice as a family.  Conversations with clashing viewpoints can be very difficult because there is usually a lot of emotion and passion attached. Take a deep breath, and ask the Holy Spirit to give you the words to speak and the heart to listen and understand.  Respond like Jesus did.  He did not condemn.  He did not condone.  He cared.  Surprise people with grace and love the next time someone says something you disagree with.  Hopefully the conversation will continue and you will build trust in the relationship.  Practice listening, you might be surprised by what you learn.

10 Things I Would Tell Myself At My High School Graduation

High School Graduation. I left home the day after mine. Moved into a garage in the back lot of Tommy Bartlett's in Wisconsin Dells. Lived off of Dinty Moore Beef Stew. Worked at Robot World and Exploratory. Don't laugh. Anything for money before College.

Turning 50. Now my children are leaving home. I’m moving into a new season of my life as papa. I’m working at being faithful to my life’s purpose.

In the spirit of the season, in honor of my last High School Graduate, and in the shadow of my 50th year of life, I would like to share a few of the things I’ve learned.

10 words of encouragement I would like to share with my High-School-Graduating Self.

Here they are:

Never forget to...

1. Ask for Help

You cannot do everything yourself. In this age of individualism and rugged independence, you can miss out on tremendous blessings and friendships if you don't learn to rely on others. Relationships are reciprocal, and mutually beneficial.

2. Master the Fundamentals

Daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, yearly rhythms are built into the order of life. Find your rhythms and don't accept artificial solutions that promise relief and never give rest. Avoid complicating your life by overextending yourself, many are dying from the pace they've set. Read more here.

3. Be Yourself First

Don't have too many advisors. You know your own best answers. You were never created to be someone else-you are truly one of a kind.

4. Enlist Invested Partners

There are interesting people and there are interested people. Surround yourself with interested people. The key noticeable attribute of these people: they listen with curiosity, genuinely care, and love being with you.

5. Own Your Replenishment

Do whatever you need to do to figure out what replenishes your spirit. Make sure you intentionally include those moments within the normal rhythms of your life. Relentlessly defend that rhythm, others won't defend it for you.

6. Try New Things

You can't fail. You might just discover your next favorite thing. You could uncover a talent or calling that is yours to live.

7. Laugh More Often

Life is short. Life is hard. It is easier to live with a smile.

8. Release Your Quirkiness

You have interests and passions that others won't understand. There will always be somebody who can connect with your unique preferences. The world needs YOUR quirkiness.

9. Broaden Your Learning

In an age of specialization, don't be too quick to narrow your focus. Develop a comprehensive base. Your life's work will more likely be a portfolio of skills.

10. Live Beyond Failure

See #6. There is life beyond death, opportunities beyond dead-ends, new hope beyond broken dreams. So, when you experience the end of something, take a deep breath and step forward with a bold curiosity that asks, "What's next?"

What would you add to my list?



Your Personal Ministry Area

God, people, and place are inseparably bound to one another in a relational way.

Ask yourself this question, "Have I ever experienced God separate from people and/or place?"

Our contexts for life consist of the people around us and the places where we engage them. We all have experienced God many times and ways (after all, he is ever-present), and we cannot separate our memory of these experiences from the places we were and the people with whom we were engaged.

This is our human reality: God, people, and place go together.

It makes sense, then, to define the geographical space where we spend most of our time and have the greatest opportunity to engage people for ministry. For most of us, this is our neighborhood. Let's call this place our Personal Ministry Area (PMA) and take a look at some practical reasons for defining it.

Our Neighbors are of Unsurpassable Worth

Establishing a PMA recognizes that our neighbors are created by God and of unsurpassable worth to Him and, therefore, to us. Because they are worthy of God’s sacrificial love, they are worthy of our love, time, and attention as well. Establishing who our neighbors are creates opportunity to invest in them and to make praying for them by name or address a priority. In other words, by defining a geographical space that constitutes our neighborhood, we define an area for which we are responsible to shepherd spiritually.

Our Neighbors Share Community Experience

Establishing a PMA provides opportunity to make relationships with neighbors with whom we share common community experience. Together, our neighbors and we share the same community problems and are equally a part of the solution.

A hangout I enjoyed in my neighborhood in Minnesota was a coffee shop located a block from my home. This past summer the city of Minneapolis did some major roadwork that significantly inconvenienced several hundred neighborhood residents. Just mentioning the roadwork at 12th and LaSalle began many of the conversations that I had with my neighbors in this coffee shop. Because of our shared inconvenience, we had almost immediate rapport. Why? Because we shared the same space and the same issues inherent within it. Consider for a moment, what is going on in your neighborhood right now (good and bad) that affects nearly everyone who lives there? Such things are immediate conversation starters with your neighbors.

It’s also true that just as people within our personal ministry area share community problems, we also share together the responsibility for solutions to those problems. Our PMA helps us to discover the ways neighbors can work together for the neighborhood’s well-being. The good news is that all neighbors, including ourselves, have something to contribute to their neighborhood's well-being. The degree to which we ignore a person, family, or group of people is the degree to which our neighborhood’s well-being will be diminished.

Our Neighbors Deserve Our Unbiased Attention

Establishing a Personal Ministry Area commits us to the well-being of every person who lives within its boundaries and combats the tendency to not listen to people and groups we in some way find offensive or with whom we just plain differ. Yes, this happens. I have consulted with churches that do not seek out certain groups of people due to their own stated bias and prejudice. Committing to every person within our PMA helps avoid this.

Our Progress Thus Far

This article has focused on the reasons for defining your neighborhood geographically. The next question is how do we go about doing that. What criteria and tools do we use? Soon I will post on the blog step by step "how-to" instructions. Until then – peace in the neighborhood.

For Reflection

  1. What biblical examples can you recall that shows that human experience with God is inseparable from people, and place.
  2. Do some prayerful soul searching. Are there people and/or areas in your neighborhood that you avoid because of negative bias? To develop relationships with these neighbors, prayerfully contemplate one thing you can do today to begin melting barriers and initiating reconciliation.



Worship, Serve by Holding Space




The following is excerpted from an article by Heather Plett, “What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone,” and explains how to be present for someone we observe to be in a difficult situation. What better way to show God we love him, and thank him for designing us to live in close communion with others, than to care for others in times of need?



What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone

The author with her mother [Image credit:]When my Mom was dying, my siblings and I gathered to be with her in her final days. None of us knew anything about supporting someone in her transition out of this life, but we were pretty sure we wanted to keep her at home, so we did.

While we supported Mom, we were, in turn, supported by a gifted palliative care nurse, Ann, who came every few days to care for Mom and to talk to us about what we could expect in the coming days. She taught us how to care for Mom, offered to do the difficult tasks, and gave us only as much information as we needed. Ann gave us an incredible gift in those final days. Though it was an excruciating week, we knew that we were being held by someone who was only a phone call away. Since then, I’ve often thought about how Ann was much more than what can fit in the title of “palliative care nurse.” She was facilitator, coach, and guide. By offering gentle, nonjudgmental support and guidance, she helped us walk one of the most difficult journeys of our lives. Ann was holding space for us.

What does it mean to “hold space” for someone else?

It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.


To truly support people in their own growth, transformation, grief, etc., we can’t do it by taking their power away (e.g. trying to fix their problems) or overwhelming them (e.g. giving them more information than they’re ready for). We have to be prepared to step to the side so they can make their own choices, offer them unconditional love and support, give gentle guidance when it’s needed, and make them feel safe even when they make mistakes.


Holding space is not something that’s exclusive to facilitators, coaches, or palliative care nurses. It is something that ALL of us can do for each other – for our partners, children, friends, neighbours, and even strangers who strike up conversations as we’re riding the bus to work. Every day is an opportunity to hold space for the people around us.

8 Tips to Help You Hold Space for Others

Here are the lessons I’ve learned from Ann and others who have held space for me.


1. Give people permission to trust their own intuition and wisdom.

2. Give people only as much information as they can handle.

3. Don’t take their power away.

4. Keep your own ego out of it.

5. Make them feel safe enough to fail.

6. Give guidance and help with humility and thoughtfulness.

7. Create a container for complex emotions, fear, trauma, etc.

8. Allow them to make different decisions and to have different experiences than you would.


Holding space is not something we can master overnight, or that can be adequately addressed in a list of tips like the ones I’ve just offered. It’s a complex practice that evolves as we practice it, and it is unique to each person and each situation.


The article in its entirety, including explanations of each of the tips listed above, may be found at, and there are hard copies available outside of Elsa’s office.

1 Habit That Might Just Save Your Life

What if I told you to pick 1 habit that might just save your life? 1 habit that would stimulate other healthy habits…

Could you identify 1?

In a recent blog, called Life in Rhythm I described how God established the rhythm of life at creation, and orders our days, weeks, months, seasons and years.

Drilling down a little deeper, I want you to consider for a moment that there are habits that are so foundational to your life, that those habits will naturally spill over into the rest of your life.

I’ve been discovering recently that there are a few habits that are so foundational to my health and wellness that I cannot afford to miss them.

The ah ha came for me in a recent article from Inc., entitled The 1 Habit That Can Make the Most Positive Impact on Your Life:

“…keystone habits are good habits that lead to the development of other good habits (made popular by Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit).

 Here is an excerpt from the book on exercise:

‘When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly. Typically people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. It’s not completely clear why … ‘Exercise spills over,’ said James Prochaska, a University of Rhode Island researcher. ‘There’s something about it that makes other good habits easier. (p. 109)'”

Read the entire article here.

What habits spill over into other good , healthy habits?

Hmmm… This may take some thought, some consideration. I found that I had really never thought of my habits this way. And another thing that alarmingly caught my attention:

As a Jesus-follower, I am learning to resist the temptation to compartmentalize my faith. My life, the entirety of it is lived in Jesus. There is no part of my life that is not impacted by Jesus. So, any healthy habits that spill over into other habits are what I call Life in Jesus Keystone Habits!

What are your Life in Jesus Keystone Habits: habits that lead to the development of other good habits?

In addition to exercise, which the article references as the #1 Keystone Habit, here are a few other “Life in Jesus Keystone Habits” I’ve identified for myself:

  • Getting up at 5 am

  • Morning Pages-

    Julia Cameron, in her book “The Artist’s Way” introduced me to this exercise of writing long hand three pages every morning.

  • Praising God for something each day and sharing it with someone

  • Learn something

    …from a blog post that teaches me something new, read a book, listen to someone ‘s passion

When I do these 4 things faithfully, regularly, consistently, I benefit greatly. I eat better, sleep better, am more positive, productive, and peaceful. When I don’t do these Life in Jesus Keystone Habits, I am vulnerable to the unhealthy patterns that keep me stuck in my flesh! Yuck!

Once you have identified your Life in Jesus Keystone Habits, share them with a friend who can check-in with you and encourage you to keep going.


  • Identify your Life In Jesus Keystone Habits
  • Share them a trustworthy friend and give them permission to check in with you.

In my next blog post I will share with you how to make the things you’ve identified as Life in Jesus Keystone Habits actual habits!

Share your Keystone Habits with me!