Episode notes

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. [2] He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.

Psalm 62:1-2 NRSV

When talking about building a relationship with God that is unshakeable, we can’t expect perfection.

Instead, it is a constant understanding of God and his presence. We don’t pursue God; he pursues us in love and our choice is to respond to that love.

When we quiet our hearts in our times with God and go to him for relief and safety, that is when we become unshakeable. Join Russ as he discusses with friend AT Arneson the importance of resting in God alone.

AT Arneson is a Midwest native. He studied public relations, advertising, and applied communications at Loras College, and obtained a Master’s in speech communication and rhetoric at Marquette University, then returned to get a Master’s in theological studies from Harding University.

AT has been the Congregational Evangelist of the Chicago Church of Christ since 2007, working to build the Chicago Church in such a way as to be a pillar congregation in the work of strengthening, planting, and growing churches in the Midwest and around the world.


  1. Psalm 62:1-2 NRSV
  2. Green Bay Packers
  3. 1 John 4:10
  4. The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
  5. Psalm 1:2-3
  6. Psalm 62:5-6 NRSV
  7. New Testament Christianity by J.B. Phillips
  8. BRKN by Madison Ryann Ward

“Now, in a way it is a pity that we have to use the word “faith” to describe the faculty by which the unseen dimension is grasped, drawn upon, and lived by.”

J.B. Phillips

If you want to send an email to the podcast drop us a line at podcast@deepspirituality.com




Welcome to Deep spirituality today you are and I am fortunate to have a wonderful guest with us who is going to help us with our theme. Our theme today is going to be In God alone. You know there are times in life when things get tough. And I know that for most of us, we’ve been living through a pandemic, wherever we are in the world. Whether we’re in the US or we’re outside of the US where we’re podcasting from Silicon Valley, we all feel that sense of stress, that chronic stress. And when you see over 700,000 people die in the pandemic, we face economic displacement, all kinds of things that are on the news that every time we wake up, it seems like there’s a tragedy or a difficulty, it can sometimes be difficult to hold on to our faith. And so today and talking about in God alone, we’re going to be talking about building an unshakable relationship with God. Now, we’re not talking about perfection here. Everybody makes mistakes, everybody blows that everybody sins everybody ends up at least I end up lost. But we can find our way home. And so we’re going to talk a lot about that today. We have an exceptional guest with us, someone who I’ve gotten to know a whole lot better recently, but it’s been in and around the circles I traveled in for a while now. 

It’s AT Arneson and we’re going to discuss this theme. AT is a Midwest native, so am I. 

Studying public relations, advertising and applied communication of Loras College and obtaining a master’s in speech communication and rhetoric at Marquette University. So I’ve got to be careful today because he’ll talk circles around me. The Marquette University as I was telling him, that’s a basketball powerhouse when I was growing up, still a pretty good basketball school now. Then returning to get a master’s of theological studies from Harding University, AT has been the congregational Evangelist for the Chicago Church of Christ, since 2007. Working to build the Chicago church in such a way as to be a pillar congregation in the work of strengthening planting and growing churches in the Midwest, and across the world. And as someone who’s grown up in the Midwest and still shouts, Michigan, and go blue, it’s great to have you today AT with us. And I know we’ve texted and talked about the fact that you are a Packers fan, which that’s a good old Midwest team, I don’t know how you survive in Chicago. Welcome to the podcast AT


Thank you so much. It’s wonderful to be here. It’s an honor to be here. I was been really anticipating this and looking forward to the conversation. And yes, I am a displaced Packer fan living here in Chicago. 


Well, that’s amazing. When I was in school, one of my buddies, his name is Tim Wobben, he was quite a football player back in the day.


He was there and Michigan. Yeah. And of course, we have the lions, which that was a painful upbringing. Still painful today, we’re still waiting. But he was the lone Packers fan in high school of over 2000 kids. He wore the colors, him and his two brothers, it was amazing. The Packers have a great deal of influence in the Midwest, a lot of people don’t understand that. It’s not just a team in Wisconsin, it’s a Midwest powerhouse of a lot of tradition.


I’m glad that you’ve joined us for this theme, In God alone. And I picked a scripture to sort of get us set up for that in Psalm 62, for those who are listening, and I use the NRSV translation, and of course, you know, whatever translation helps you be inspired to read, we hope you use and as I alluded to before, these have been some difficult times and one of the things that can be missed on occasion is our walk with God. 

Let me just read a couple of passages that I’m going to get AT in here because one of the reasons that me and the team here at Deep Spirituality wanted to have AT in is our respect for a he and his wife, Marcy, and what they’re doing spiritually, in being able to watch the Chicago church and also to be able to see his interaction with the people that I know and influence on them. It’s quite distinct and in an inspiring way, and I think all of you out there and want to be encouraged deeply by the conversation we have today and I look forward to what I’m going to learn from AT.  And Psalm 62. In verse one, it says,

“For God alone, my soul waits in silence. From him comes my salvation.” 

We’ll talk more about Psalm 62. But the reason we’re talking about it today it’s It’s easy in this world where there’s so much emotion,


There are financial burdens, there’s emotional burdens, there’s family challenges, there’s health challenges. Sometimes there’s spiritual challenges with the polarization of America regarding all kinds of social issues and political issues. It’s easy to lose our relationship with God, it’s easy to forget that it’s in the silence of pursuing our soul hunger for God, that we find the salvation from so many different things that hit us in our life. 

And so I want to bring AT in and one of the things I wanted to start out with AT is asking you this, what does it mean to you to build a relationship with God? Because everybody has a different view? But what does that mean to you? And how would you, how would you help those that are our listeners to understand what is that and why is that so important? 


Yeah, I was really I think one of the things I was really drawn to is just let’s talk about this topic. You know, this is it you’re right, I mean the level of stress in the world right now. People grasping it, spectrums of opinions, and all kinds of things clashing with each other. I just am like, Wow, what a refreshing topic to hit today. And  I even Just a quick comment on Psalm 62 there and I know you’re gonna come back to it, but this idea of, of kind of this sense of, aww okay, I’m with God, my soul rests, you know what I mean? In God alone. 

And, you know, I’m 30 years into this kind of pursuing Christ being a disciple of Jesus pursuing Christianity. And I’ll tell you what, I feel like it’s an ever unfolding process. I was thinking about this, this question, what does it mean to build a relationship with God, and I think that’s a great way to frame it. We’re building a relationship with God. Just like I’m 30 years into my marriage. I was married when I was baptized into Christ. I met my wife when I was 15 years old, and we started building at 15 years old. I was like, it’s funny, we’re like, we’re gonna get married, you know, but we had no idea you got it? Even 30 years and you’ve got to build the relationship. 


And and so those concepts of a relationship just happens is a false concept. You know,  it’s something that every relationship no matter how long you’ve been at it, it takes continued investment, continued to work. And I couldn’t help but think about the idea of we work on our relationship with God from the inside out. This idea of you know, God is not, he’s not looking for me to perform for him. He’s looking for my heart and his heart to be knit together. And I was talking with Marci about this. And I certainly want to invite you into this dialogue here, Russ to I don’t want to dominate this, 


but I’m loving it. Just keep talking, man, I loving it. I’m eating it up



Well, because I’m just like, when I first became a Christian, I was like, Oh my gosh, this is what it means to have a relationship with God. This isn’t what it means to check this box of performative excellence, or you know to go to church, one year straight or something like that. This is what it is to have a relationship with God, it’s from the inside out. And I’m telling you, when I found that 30 years ago, as a 23 year old, married young man with a baby, I was like, Oh, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. 

And when I was talking to Marcy about this, she says, Isn’t it amazing that God is the pursuer through and through in this relationship dynamic? And I think when we think about building a relationship with God, we think of ourselves as the pursuer sometimes. But that’s not that’s not actually what the Bible describes in like, first, John 4:10, right. It’s like this is love that, not that we love God, but that He loved us.

You know, what I’m saying is


we basically are responding to God’s emphatic statement. I want a relationship with you. And so as we build a walk with God, it’s his initiation that facilitates that relationship. He’s pursuing us, and we’re responding yes. You know what I mean? And I love that because then I don’t have to look for God, His presence is there. I just have to, I have to respond to it. And I respond to it through His Word through prayer, through quietness and meditation.


Through new relationships, like you and I are developing, which I’m really excited about and, and through old relationships, God reveals Himself in very powerful ways. 


One of the things that you mentioned a lot of thoughts, but yeah, what is one of the things you mentioned, and I think it’s important, and I’m not gonna, you know, one of the things they talk about with great sports announcers is the really great ones know how to be quiet, when there’s something going on in the game that there’s no words that can describe it. If so, when I’m quiet, it’s because I’m trying to as the Chicago Bulls Coach Phil Jackson used to say, let the Dobermans go. You know, let them run.


But you talked about silence and and one of the things is you were referring to Psalm 61. I love your reference at first John 4:10 and one of my favorite concepts is that He loved us first. 

But when you talked about the silence, what are the things that you look at in your own life or the experience and trying to help people with their relationship with God? The noises that end up getting into our heads in our lives, you could certainly help me out with that, because I’m a very emotional person. And so sometimes my emotions can take over my mind, and I think I’m in my relationship with God, but I’m actually being consumed by all my feelings and all my thoughts, all my worries about my kids, etc. How do you address that? How do you deal with that? How do you talk about that? The noises that come in, and the silence that we need to keep focused on on God? 


Yeah. Well, I’m very extroverted. And my wife is more of an introvert, although she’s great. I mean, she loves being around people. But I think for me, I get a lot of energy when I’m out and around people, and I’m engaging in conversations like this, and I’m being active. And so for me that quietness, that sense of, okay, hold on. I need some quiet time. And I don’t mean a ritualistic quiet time, per se. We may get into that a little bit later as an important part of this. But I’ve got to slow the firing of the amygdala down. I mean, I’m not a neurologist, but


But you slept at a Holiday in slept last night, I bet. 



So when I feel the rising anxieties of life in the world, and I feel the

the stress. Marcy and I talk a lot about a stress barrel, when the stress barrel gets full and starts to overflow. I know I need time, I need that quiet time with God, and I need to make sure. We’re working a lot on using things like meditation twice a day, right now in our lives. We’re doing things like it’s called a breath prayer, where you’re, you’re not having to be creative in your prayer time with God, you’re literally reciting scripture in some recitation process over and over,

camping out on the very words that you’re uttering in this kind of,

I don’t know, I don’t want to call it ritualistic way. But I have been doing a lot of these things to calm my mind in important moments throughout the day, so that I can really practice the presence of God.


It sounds like you’re I love that, that there’s that book Brother Lawrence writes about, there’s a book, the Practice of Presence of God. And one of the things he talks about. I’m going to use my language, he talks about going beyond the quiet time. And of course, we refer to it already, the quiet time is that structural time, preferably in the morning, at least, in my opinion, preferably in the morning, where you read your Bible and you pray, but one of the difficulties is that itself can become ritualistic. 

So what you’re talking about is becoming creative. And meditation is an underestimated aspect of things. When I studied religion in college, one of the things that struck me is that religions, like Buddhism, had a much greater focus on meditation. And it was almost like, Christianity doesn’t have that. But Christianity does have that. But it’s often neglected. And so when you talked about, and I’ve not heard the phrase before the breath prayer, about focusing in on scripture, and what I find is, you know, is you’re talking about almost getting in a rhythm. And the way you recite those, you’re getting yourself in a rhythm. And one of the things that helped me when I was a younger Christian was memorizing Scripture. And that did help me a lot, you know, is that the memorization of Scripture, but This to me is maybe less cumbersome for some people who may have trouble memorizing things, to be able to, to recite scripture and learn how to pray those scriptures. I don’t know  that that struck me. I’d like here a little more about that. And I really want to hear about the stress barrel because I think I own a whole factory of stress barrels. 


Why you know, it’s it’s so I like I have in the back of my little journal here, just some some, some scriptures that I just like to recite, you know, the man who delights in God’s laws like a tree planted by a by streams of water which yields fruit and season is whose leaf does not wither whatever he does prosper today. Today, I recited that just over and over again. God, I love your word. I love thinking about you through through understanding your word and, and through that God, you will bring prosperity to my life. I’m not talking about prosperity gospel, but that sense of peace, that sense of a relationship with God, that sense of everything’s gonna be okay the Lord is near. You know what I mean?

I think that’s really great. And you know, my wife and so my wife, you may know this, right? I don’t know if I mentioned this to you. But for 25 years, we’ve had to navigate what I would call an extreme battle with severe migraines. On her part. And as a result of that, that has forced us into a world where we just can’t keep going. In the rat race of life, like we have to create our home has to be a haven of peace and spirituality, we pray, and I don’t even know how it works. 

So we’re hoping the Holy Spirit interprets these prayers for us. But God puts your, your guardian angels around our home and make you a fortress of peace in the chaos of the world. And so if you walk into our home, the candles being lit the plants in the south window, the greenery, the the way we, the lack of clutter is all an avenue by which we can enter a place of rest and peace and quiet, and make our home that place. You know, if we can’t find that peace out in the world, which we can write, even though God is walking with us in those places, we can come home and create a place here that is a haven of rest, and spiritual protection, a fortress of peace and quietness. And we’ve worked really hard on that now, somebody will go, but aren’t your kids out of the home? And I go, yes, they are. And we earned the peace that we now find in our home.



Well, I don’t, I don’t have that yet. I’m not I’m not there, I don’t have that. I don’t have that. So maybe there’s a room. So maybe what I’ll do is I’ll interview you know, I believe in what you’re talking about. And I think we can tie this into some of the rest of Psalm 62. But I want to come back, you were talking about migraines, I find. I’ve had family members who dealt with migraines.

People that I know, have dealt with migraines. And I think it’s difficult when you don’t have them to completely understand the debilitating nature of the pain that they cause. And I’m glad you brought it up. Because I think there’s a lot of listeners out there who are saying, finally, somebody is acknowledging that this is a real thing, and we have to attack it. Not just spiritually, but environmentally. And by that I just I’m talking about how you described your home, I had a similar experience, I have two kids with special needs is to think you may know and one with autism, Down Syndrome and three kids total in a daughter who just started college this year. And but one of the things we’ve done is it caused me to make decisions about everything from travel to daily schedule, I love to work. So that’s never been a problem. But learning to get going back to your idea about reciting scripture going to work having rhythm and having sanctuary, which the Bible talks about a lot says God is our sanctuary. But I think if God is our sanctuary, then we have to be willing to come into a place of and create a place of peace, I find not only for ourselves in our own relationship with God, like you talked about inside out, but in our own family. 

And what I want people to hear you saying is that you can make a big difference in your job, whether you’re working at a startup, whether you’re working at a fortune 500 company, whether you’re working in a nonprofit or for profit, whether you’re the president, or you’re a clerk. You can make a big difference in your job without losing your mind without letting noise come in, and take over your entire life. But you have to have courage and what you’re talking about with You and Marcy, in my opinion, is you’re talking about faith and courage to say, wait a minute, if we don’t build our life right, we can’t help anybody else build their life. And I like the way you describe everything about how you’re attacking it. And we’ve done a similar thing. 

I had a talk with a friend years and years ago, approximately 17 years ago, and we were standing outside my house. And I was saying how do you how do you juggle, you family and all the responsibility and I was doing a lot of things. And he said, Well, the one thing I can tell you is you’ve got to make your home a sanctuary. And I was like, what? Because when I was growing up as a kid, I made my house a “selfish-uary” It was all about me. And my parents were just actors in the movie called Russ. And so I was like, what’s the sanctuary and he described that after a long day, and a hard day, even I should be able to walk into my home, and not bring the stress of life into it. But walk into this place of spirituality and peace that you describe. 

Obviously, we have our arguments, our battles, our stressors in our families, but it’s still a place of sanctuary. And I think that comes from developing the kind of relationship with God you’re talking about. So I want to appeal to folks that are out there. Maybe you have a chronic illness, and maybe you’re dealing with a health diagnosis that’s particularly disturbing and discouraging. Maybe during the pandemic because of your health or your age or something you’re dealing with, you’ve not been able to go out and see as many people, maybe you just have a lot of worry maybe you’ve lost your job. Maybe your pays been cut. Maybe you’ve moved to a new place and now you regret where you move because you thought it was going to be great and it isn’t. And all those circumstances finding God alone is not just your quiet time where you get

in the morning and read your Bible and pray, but it’s creating an environment in your marriage and your family, where you gain strength from your relationship with God and from each other. And I love the example you’re setting, I’m going to read a couple of more aspects of Psalm 62. And of course, I’m really excited when you introduced the scriptures and concepts that you have. And I know people are going to get a lot out of this already, I’m getting a lot out of it, and I want to go away and, and meditate on some scripture, honestly. What I do is I actually write them down. So I write out scripture over scripture, and it really does something for me. But in Psalm 62, in verse two, again, I’m in the NRSV, who says he alone.

“He alone is my rock, and my salvation, my fortress, I shall never be shaken.”


One of the things I want to mention here for all of us is, and you’re exemplifying this, and Marcy’s I don’t want to leave Marcy out. And I would say Gail, for me, she is the reason that I became focused on and devoted to God early on in my Christian life, in my leadership life, I was relying a lot on talent and personality, I’m not saying I had a lot of talent, I just was relying on the whatever I had. And I was relying on personality. Even in my leadership, I was oftentimes pointing to what I knew or what I’ve been taught, or what another human being had told me. And the evolution of my life was one failure. That was a big part of my spiritual life. Just constant failure, rise and fall, do great and then crash, do great and do crash, until I came to the conclusion that the most consistent part of my crashing spiritually was that I did not have a single minded devotion to God. And like, that’s what Psalm 62:2 is saying he alone is there has to be a singularity, almost where you’re saying, Look, more than anyone else. God is my source more than anyone else. I’m trying to please Him. Because when I do those things, I love people more. When I do those things. I love my family more. When I do those things, I gain greater internal strength. 

And he says he alone is I think he says three things here. He’s my rock, my salvation and my fortress. Now I’m going to ask you, we’re doing a little Aaron Rodgers, and we’re moving away from the playbook we had, I’m going to ask you different kinds of questions, because you’re making me think about this. But when I listen to you talk, and I see this with Gail and all the things that she’ll text me scriptures or talk to me about them or concepts she’s getting about God or things, she’s thinking about God. And oftentimes, when I’m getting a little more wrapped up in people, she’ll bring me back and say, well, don’t you think we ought to be thinking about what God’s trying to do here? But when I hear you guys talk, and I think about us,


And when the psalmist writes, My, my, my, I think he’s saying, this is personal. I don’t, I’m not doing church, because I want to be part of a church community. That’s not my highest joy. I’m not being a leader, because I feel like I’m supposed to be a leader and serve people. That’s not my highest reasoning. My highest reasoning is pretty, very personal. God is my rock, my salvation, my fortress, and then he says, I shall never be shaken. And he’s, it’s just personally for some people I’ve talked to and I know this was way it was for me. It’s not personal yet. I’ll tell you a story. And then I want to let you jump in. When I was a fairly young Christian, I was in the dorm, I was living in the dorm in Boston there and


I’d heard a sermon that morning, and the sermon was on the cross. And the guy preaching said, you should always feel a lot about the cross, you should be motivated by the cross. And I sat there during the sermon and thinking, I don’t know that I feel that. So I went home, and I was thinking about it still. And I called up, you know, one of the great influences on my life and I said, Hey, I got a question. I don’t feel that there’s something wrong with me, am I not, you know, there must be something wrong. He says, you know, you don’t always feel it every day. I don’t think you should be overly concerned about that. As the years went by, I realized I should have been overly concerned about it. Because what it was assigned for me of is I was a much emotionally suppressed and shut off. Part of the reason I wasn’t feeling a lot about the crosses, because I wasn’t dealing with my own emotions, and God had not yet become emotional to me. I was dutiful. I was ritualistic I was really working hard to get that quiet time down every morning, which was difficult for me, you know, to wake up every morning and try to have a quiet time was really hard. So it wasn’t personal. It was until years later, failure, suffering embarrassment.

Struggling with Do I even want to stay a Christian? It wasn’t until those things that I began to realize this has got to become more personal for me. So when I listen to you talk, I think one of things I hear in you and Marcy is very personal. Even the difficulties you guys have gone through, it’s made it personal. And I want you to talk for a little bit to our audience about how important is that in any tips you have about what can a person do To Make God very personal. So it’s not just because I go to church, it’s not just because I don’t want to go to hell and be condemned, or I’m afraid is that I truly am. Personally, I’m gonna sound like a cliche, in love with God, and move by him on a daily basis. Maybe you could talk about that for a little bit for me.


I mean, my heart is bursting it within me Russ,  because this is you’re hitting something that just so so important to me is, you know, this idea that Jesus is Lord, period, end of sentence, not Jesus is Lord so that this comes my way for Jesus’s Lord, if this thing, this thing can happen for me or Jesus, Lord, because well, what other options? 

No. you know, it’s funny as a little boy, in some ways, I grew up my first 10 years of life, we’re very, you know, kind of just family oriented holidays together and all this. But at some point, my parents started to struggle in their marriage. And there were times of separation, where we would go with my mom, and then they get back together and try to work it out, then they separate get back together. And somewhere in there, I started talking to God as a little boy, And, my dad was a proclaimed atheist at the time, we didn’t really go to church. But at some point, I was trying to make sense out of life back then. And I would try to explain something to God in some weird prayer type thing as a little boy. 

And I would say, Well, God, you know, me, and you understand what I’m trying to tell you. And that was really formative, because when I became a Christian, I was like, Oh,  I’m actually coming to know the God I was talking to my whole life. I knew God was there, but I didn’t know how to connect with God. And so for me, I never aspired to lead at the Chicago church or attain some level of leadership or, you know, it was always God, I want to be close to you, I want to walk with you and and you put this word shakable or unshakable is really an important concept, because I was thinking about that. What is our relationship? How does our relationship with God become unshakable? One thing first of all, it’s got to be authentic. It can’t be based on… it’s got to be that that heart is is all there.


You know, Marcy, and I, I was thinking about Psalm 46. Of course, you know, there’s this There’s that famous passage in Psalm 46. You know, 10 Be still and know that, God, that’s, I know that this is God. But you know, what I realized is that entire song, Psalm 46, you get to the end, be still and know that I’m God, everybody loves that passage. But that entire song is a journey on how to how you get to that place of stillness, and that place of understanding. This is God. It’s so because it begins with God is our refuge and strengthen, ever present help in trouble? I believe, this is my own personal story Russ. My own relationship with God has has been fortified and not fortified beyond measure, but fortified to where it is now, through the challenges my wife and I have faced. You know, at 34 I was diagnosed with cancer,, you know, my wife’s migraine journey.


We’ve been through some things with our children. I think we’ve all been through things with our children lately. We had a family crisis one time where when the phone rang, Marcy fainted, and at  being distraught, and I had to scoop her up, and I scooped her up in my arms. And without thinking in my head, I just said, hon, we will never blame God, we will only turn to God in this moment and praise Him. He’s the only path through it. And then we’re coming up on the one year anniversary of our son was actually wounded, severely wounded in a gun shooting, gang related gun shooting in the city of Chicago a year ago. 

And so I say all that to say, Russ that my walk with God has been fortified and founded on those parts of the journey as much as anything in our lives. And if it wasn’t, I mean, in literally in those times, I was just like, God, we you are the only option you are, who were will cling to I hope that’s not a rambling statement. 


Oh, are you kidding? Are you kidding? First of all, Marcy and I are 100% on the same page. I fainted multiple times. 


Are you serious? 


Yeah. Well, one, it’s it’s genetic in my family, but the first time the first family really one, one of our son was having an ultrasound. And I was trying to make sure he stayed in place and stayed still for the ultrasound. And then I was like, I feel kind of I gotta go to the bathroom. I feel kind of weird. And on the way I fainted. Then he was an orange was a seeing an oral surgeon for his wisdom teeth. And things look like they might not be going so traditionally normal, and it was like are we going to have to put him in the hospital or something and I fainted. So Gail has had the she’s had to watch me faint multiple times. And It’s funny because I’m very calm in circumstances that don’t involve my family having pain. But if anybody in my family is experiencing pain, I do it because that is there’s something about the emotional connection of family that if something’s going on in family, it goes to the, to use what you mentioned, it goes to the shakable foundations of us in and I remember when my oldest was diagnosed upon delivery, we didn’t know what’s going to happen with Down syndrome. I didn’t even know what it was. And the first thought I had was, Okay, God has a plan here. And I’m not saying that in that cliche, religious kind of, you know, the Lord will take care of us, we’re gonna be all right. I just went, this is the only place that I can go. 

And so what you’re talking about what I’m talking about, is our relationship with God is forged. In reality, not in fantasy. It’s not this world of pretend where sure, everybody has a great quiet time when everything’s going great. Everybody does that. The real test, what is it James 1 is the real test is when the trials come and the difficulties come.

And  the hard things come, that’s when you find out how shakable or unshakable your relationship with God is. And that’s where it’s built. 

I want to say to those who are out there who may be struggling right now, and I know there are a lot of people, on any given day who are struggling, you may be struggling with even COVID-19, you may be struggling with just some kind of difficulty or animosity within your family, within your church over all the political things. Do we wear a mask? Do we not wear masks when we get vaccinated, all these things, racial issues, all the different stuff going on? That’s one of the challenges of not not allowing ourselves to be shaken off of God. I’m going to read Psalm 62:5 

“For God alone, my soul waits in silence for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and salvation, my fortress, I shall not be shaken.”

And when you talked about talking to Marcy and saying, we’re gonna, we’re gonna hold on to God, we’re gonna stick with God, the first thing came to my mind was that, that line, my hope, is from him, let me ask you this, because you have a lot of responsibility. There probably, you know, people who lead companies, for sure, listening to this. We also have, I’m glad you brought up your dad was, you know, he was, uh, I think he said he was an atheist. When you were growing up, you know, my dad was a little bit more religious. My family, though wasn’t, and we didn’t go to church. But what’s funny, and here’s where we can act. I started saying prayers, and I was a little kid, because I was afraid I was gonna get drafted, and have to go to Vietnam and die. And so I got very obsessed with, I’m gonna die if I have to go to war. 

So two things happen. I said, I want to be a nuclear physicist, because if I’m a nuclear physicist, I’ll make bombs and I won’t have to go to war, they’ll put me in the lab. That was my conclusion. And then I said, God helped me live. And that that was my little prayer help me live. And I didn’t really stick with it. I became an agnostic, you know, after I got through that period, but I think it’s important people understand your relationship, God can begin any different way. We have a lot of people listening who are agnostics, or atheists who just who like spiritual principles. And what I’d say is your relationship with God can begin in a different way. So if you’re listening, and you’re like, I’m not sure I want to be a Christian, I’m not sure I want to do all that stuff. But I do want a relationship with God. Well, no, this it can begin. And it can grow from anything, as long as you decide to give God an opportunity to help you and not allow yourself to be left alone. 

So when you were when you’re giving people leaders, especially when you’re talking to leaders, and and I assume you do this, and you’re trying to help them with their relationship with God, I’m going to do a little little turn here with you. Are there any things you tell leaders who have a lot of responsibility because it’s easy to have not just the noise of your own personal life, but it’s easy to have the noise of your responsibility? Remove God and I know, in different places, I’ve been there people that are, you know, executives that are supervisors, product managers, and they’re trying to have a relationship with God, but they’re under some tremendous pressure to deliver on a daily basis. There are church leaders that are out there that feel overwhelmed by the needs, or sometimes by the criticisms, and by the negativity that flows up and at them sometimes because of something they’ve done a lot of times just because of the environment of life. Are there any tips you’d give spiritual leaders


business leaders, people working in, you know, the social sector of life entrepreneurs that are doing social entrepreneurship, whatever it is, what tips do you give people about? How do you get that relation with God to be outstanding? Because if you have leadership, you probably need a stronger relationship with God, than if you’re just taking care of yourself. What are your thoughts? 


I love the way you dress, it makes this conversation so easy and super engaging. Yeah, we talked on this level all the time, I, I try to keep things very much in the realm of relational, not institutional. It’s super important. If you come in, if you walk into a staff meeting of the Chicago church, for instance, we have 55 employees here. You know, you walk into that staff meeting, there’s going to be some banter, there’s going to be hugs, there’s going to be you’re going to see an environment of relationship relationship. And I think in our relationship with God, there needs to be authenticity, relational rapport with God, a sense of, you know, there’s a time to be formal and there’s a time to be informal in your relationship with God. But on a leadership side, Russ, I think, for me, a couple things I just jotted down as you were mentioning, this is I think we have to have a very much live in a failure tolerance environment. In our professional lives. And the reason I say that is I think, I think in the world right now, we need people who are kind of heroic in their ability to press in with good ideas and press in with love. You don’t I mean, yet press in with kindness, it’s so easy to default to the the cultural context of, of conflict and biting and devouring each other. And I think we need, we need to find that so I think we can’t be afraid of failure. If we press in on love. And someone doesn’t love us back. We’re okay with that. Because we did the right thing. You don’t I mean, yeah. And so then the the metric itself isn’t whether we convince that person or not, it’s whether we did the right thing, in accordance with the Word of God and in accordance with our conscience, and so on and so forth. Our spiritual conscience, i The other thing I say to people is we’ve got to constantly strive to increase our most emotional capacity. Oh, beautiful. And the reason I say that, to me, the number one quality of a spiritual leader in the context in which I work is what is their emotional capacity? And is it flexible to expand, because what takes leaders out more than anything I’ve ever seen is they hit their emotional ceiling, and they can go no further, and therefore they are stuck. We have to have the ability. And this is where trials are really important in our lives. You know, when I went through my cancer diagnosis, I was a young evangelist, who’s like, we’re gonna change the world, we’re gonna change the world, and I’m just preaching, like, I knew everything about everything in the world, right? And then you hear no, the tumors malignant, I’m like, I’m just devastated. You know, I go, Yeah, we’re gonna change the way to die. I guess we’re not gonna take so well, in what I had to realize there is Do I have the emotional capacity not to change the world, but to get through this moment. And, and, and because changing the world requires a moment like that, to get through to have the characteristics and the qualities. So I’m always saying to young leaders of particular, don’t be afraid to come to the edge of your comfort zone. And take one more step. Don’t be afraid to get to the edge of where you’re comfortable and in control everything


into that mysterious next level of what might happen next. If I push my comfort zone boundary, if I step into the realm of it’s a little bit out of control, and I think we need to challenge ourselves that way. 


Well, you know, that’s one of the things that, you know, I was I wrote down in thinking about my relationship with God and a conversation I was having with a young leader who’s just started his new job after graduating college. And I was explaining to him and I wrote the word, the phrase down emotional deficit. And I said, it seems to me and I said, I’ve been there before, that you’re operating at an emotional deficit most days that you’re not replenishing. And I think when you talked about emotional capacity, one of the reasons I like reading different translations of the Bible is I do think some translations speak more emotionally than other translations. And sometimes, you know, people become wed to various translations. When I was

in my 20s, I’d go to Christian bookstores to get a Bible. And I was reading the NIV at the time, and the NIV was like, in the corner, kind of over on the side and the KJV, the King James Version was the featured version. And I was like, Hey, I’d like an NIV. And people look at me, like why do you want the NIV you know, and so there’s, there’s a tendency to react to that. But there are more emotional relationships more there are their translations. I think they’re a little bit more emotional. And the reason I mentioned is because

Sometimes we can be in our, this is just my personal view, we can be in a religious lane, where we’re reading, you use the term ritualistically, I use a term with a form of religiosity where we I would describe religiosity is the distance between a prescribed or a, almost a sanitized faith versus an authentic faith, we’re pushing past following the rules and having the right behavior. And we’re getting into the messiness of what it is to be human. 

And so when I look at that, I have looked at myself and said, there have been times where I’ve burnt out. Because I was not replenishing emotionally, I might have been reading the Bible and praying, but there was no recovery. And I think that one of the things I’ve seen in my life is early on very few people. And I’m not saying this is their fault, I had to discover this I had to pursue, to go back to and Marcy said about, you know, God is always pursuing us, I had to decide to pursue God, and, and pursue his purposes and his plan for my life. And believe, I think the voice translation in Romans 8:28 says, that he wants us to have a good and beautiful life, I did learn, I did decide to trust him with that, and what is beautiful look like, because beautiful sometimes to me, is different than God, but God, you know, he has the right one in mind. But it took a lot of me dismantling the scaffolding of my life, and saying, I’ve got to rebuild myself. And I’m talking about this because I, I’m a very, it sounds like you are to I’m a very different leader than I was 20 years ago, than I am today. Honestly, I’m a very different leader than I was five years ago. And I had a conversation with someone who knew me, you know, 40 years ago or something. And


the person’s opinion was that I should, you know, think, think a certain way. I know you he’s like, I know, you should you think this way is what you want. I go, I’ve changed, but you may not know me as well. And part of the reason I changed is I had to break through a strong barrier than I developed when I was a kid. 

When I was about seven years old, I got my feelings hurt. And I shut off emotionally. And I remember it, I shut off emotionally. And then by the time I was like, 12, I was like 11, I was like, I want to be Spock, Star Trek sparks my man, he feels no emotion, therefore He feels no pain. And, and I was and most of my pain was over being rejected, not being included in a group not being liked by some little girl that I might have liked, whatever it may have been. And it wasn’t until I think, really my early 30s, that I began to get my hands around the emotional part. And I’m saying that because I work with leaders a lot, who their talent is extraordinary. Their ability to execute is better than mine. But there’s not a value for this emotional part of, of life in relationship with God. And I want to go to a book you introduced earlier, because I really think when you’re talking about emotional deficits, emotional capability, we’re moving into the realm of love. And there’s so many great scriptures on this. I think the best book on it is Hosea, if we don’t ever experience God’s love, we never get secure enough to become vulnerable emotionally. And then we never Ephesians 3:18 Get the strength internally that comes from letting God’s love strength emotionally. And then we can’t love other people. And then what I noticed is a lot in the spiritual realm. Even with all the political things that go on the polarization that goes on, Christians have to remember, we’re supposed to be the ones who love


and that can be like, oh, yeah, yeah, I’m gonna love in a minute. Once I get my point across. And I want to read f1 John 4 for which you already introduced, beginning in verse 16, for everybody, and then I just want to have you respond, however you want to respond to what I was talking about. It says, and so we know and rely on the love God has for us and that’s the emotion to me the emotional connection to God and strengthening and so we know when to rely on the love God has for us God is love. AT referred to that a while back in our podcast, whoever lives in love lives in God and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us, so that we will have confidence in the day of judgment in this world we’re like Jesus, there’s no fear in love. The perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. Some translations talk about not me complete in verse 19. We love because he first loved us going back to what at hip before because I thought it was so perfectly positioned for us as an access point on the a podcast.

45:00 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they’ve not seen. And he has given us this command. Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. So when I look at that I go and unshakable relationship with God. And I’m taking this based on what you shared today. At the end of the day, the best way we can know we’ve got one as our emotional capability, which translates into our willingness and our ability to love other people. What do you think you can certainly disagree? Or re educate me? What do you think?


that’s my favorite, one of my favorite chapters is right there in first, John 427 times a Godly love is referred to in that one chapter for us. I mean, 27 times John is just like driving home the very point, I did want to say, you know, perfect love drives out fear is right there in the middle of what you read there. And, you know, I’ve come to having endured the things we’ve endured in life. Marcy and I were talking the other day, I cannot imagine being the man I am without the gifts those trials have given me. And, and one of the gifts that I, I feel like I’ve been given is, is this idea that and this is this, I hope this sounds right. But a fear realized is a fear relieved when Gods involved fear, a fear that is experienced.

 So let’s say, What’s your greatest fear out there? There’s somebody listening, and you say, Man, I’m really afraid this will happen to my kids, I’m really afraid of this diagnosis, or I’m really afraid, I’m going to go broke. Well, a fear realized, when God is involved, is a fear relieved. And if you told me I was going to be a cancer survivor, I would have told you that scares me to death. But now what the gifts I’ve been given through that experience, or gifts I can now give to others. And, and I’ve had opportunity that so many times,


I get worried about folks who want to kind of unnecessary eyes themselves up the right word. Yes, yes. And that’s the size themselves to the pain of a trial they’re going through. Because then you are now you’re no longer in the classroom that that trial is providing. And you’re no longer gaining that expanding emotional capacity that that trial is providing. And that’s what that’s what 1 Peter, Peter writes to some people in a really tough trial, he says, but these have come so that your faith of greater worth in gold will be proved genuine, it’s there’s a refining of us going on. But if we’re if we’re taking away that pain through unspiritual means, then we’re then we’re losing the opportunity to grow and expand our own cells and push that, that that fear boundary and become courageous humans, and then ultimately, limiting the capacity to love. Having gone through cancer, having a wife who suffered migraines, watching a son who’s been shot in the streets of Chicago, knowing what this city is enduring, even at this hour has expanded my ability of concern and love and compassion. For those who also go through these things. I just praise God for those gifts. I can’t imagine not having them. And I’m so grateful to be sitting here. You got to survive them. You know, I had to live through it. 


Yeah, that’s key.


But, but but but I’m telling you, I just we talk about it all the time, as painful as some of these things were and are, what we gained from them are beyond measure in their richness.


And so what you know, when I listened to you one, it,would not be an overstatement are hyperbolic to say it’s it’s breathtaking, the way you describe the fear.

And that when it’s realized, as I listened to you, there’s a freedom that comes. And, and I think a lot of us live in fear. And so we’re not free. And we try to avoid pain, that my philosophy is, suffering is inevitable for every human being. But those with faith, they can see the purpose and suffering, those without Faith, they just suffer.


And you’re describing faith, in some ways, is having a living faith, not just one that is a church faith, odds are not, you know, like I go to church, and therefore, like you said earlier, I have perfect attendance at church, and therefore I have faith or I’ve never missed a quiet time. And therefore I have faith or you know, I don’t send like you. That’s one of my favorites because I came to the church, a total pagan, like, there was not a spiritual bone in my body. There were some philosophical ones, but at all. And so to me, everything about church was strange, you know, and when I read the list of sins, I was like half of those are my schedule. So what am I going to do now. And I was definitely seen as an outsider when I came inside, but I want to read this quote, JB Phillips, he writes a translation of the Bible.


And he also writes a book on New Testament Christianity. He says, And now in a way, it is a pity that we have to use the word faith to describe the faculty, by which the unseen dimension is grasped, drawn upon and live by. And one of the things he talks about there is the unseen dimension. And he says that he describes faith as a faculty the same way that

intellectual thinking is a faculty the same way emotional intelligence is a faculty, that it’s underestimated how much it should be used as a sense. And when you described it, you basically were describing faith as something that was allowing you to navigate the life traumas.


And I appreciate that. And I want to put that in front of people, this quote by Jeb Phillips, that faith is a faculty, it should be something in your repertoire of life that you’re using all the time. It’s like when we walk around, we’re using our eyesight, we don’t close our eyes and walk, we go, I know, I gotta keep them open. We got to keep faith active. So we can navigate this life. Now, as I was listening to you, and I’m going to get you, I’m going to get you to give a thought on this. Why? And I’m making an assumption in this question. So if you disagree with the assumption, please push back on that I’m very comfortable with any kind of pushing back. But

why don’t we hear more sermons? Like, the way you’re talking today? Because I feel like that’s not something common. Where you flip on a podcast, you go to church, and the sermon is not on on, you know, how do we do this is a Christian. It’s not on? How do we solve this problem. As a Christian, it’s sometimes maybe once a month, maybe every two months, something where there’s just teaching, that allows the individuals sitting there to be swaddled up by the extraordinary privilege, opportunity and blessing it is. To know God, I know when my worst moments of my life, my worst spiritual moments, my worst financial moments, the only thing that put a smile on my face was Psalm 37, the light yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Maybe you think there’s a lot of these, this being taught, but it seems to me that there should be a moratorium on behavioral Christian teaching sometimes for a few weeks. And there should be in advance of this kind of teaching. But what are your thoughts you can disagree? Or you can hone it, make it sound better, or whatever? Just give me your thoughts on that?



Well, I think that’s a really we’re going to enter into a long podcast format here, because I think we could talk for an hour about this. I think we sometimes have and self included, we can get spiritually lazy as leaders. Yeah. And so we… I think we use the wrong value system, when we’re trying to accomplish something in a sermon. And I think we’re using metrics that are common, and seeable, as opposed to built on faith. You know, there’s Marcy has a hold my wife, she’s taught me so much, right? I mean, yeah, but you know, this idea. The second Jesus is asked, What’s the greatest command, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And the second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself. There’s an assumption there. The assumption is that we love ourselves.


Yeah, the love that we love that we give to others is a love that comes from a place within us because we love ourselves, love, we love ourselves. And this idea of you’ve got to be well, within you in order to love others and be that bright, shining light to the glory of God out in the chaos and darkness of the world. And I think we’re forgetting that as leaders, we need spiritual wellness to happen in everybody’s life. And I think if all of us just decided to invest in our relationship with God, to not not commit the it’s called a spiritual bypass or pass through where you’re, you’re reading something to give it to somebody else. You know what I mean? No, this is for me, and I’m going to take care of me and then from there, I’m going to have, I’m going to be a healthy person so I can give something to other people. And I think a lot of us are just depleted right now, boy. And so then I think we’re we’re

We’re an inch deep and a mile wide in our in our responsibilities and we need that that inch to become an ocean depth of spirituality that we’re all striving for right now. I just heard a statistic recently, Russ 1500 ministers a month are resigning. And across the US, and I just think we’re humans. We’re reaching our capacity points. And it’s really important right now that we dig deep. We invest in the right things. You know, what, when’s the perfect time to plant a tree 20 years ago?


You know what I mean? So, but once the net What’s the second best time to plant a tree right now? You know, I mean, it’s like, wow, you know, and I think I think, you know, I think we got to plant the tree, put the seed in the soil and let it grow. So that 20 years from now, we can look back on that journey and go, Whoa, that was worth it. That moment of planting that seed was worth it. 


Yeah, I love that story. In God alone. I think we’ve gathered some treatment today. And I know our listeners are able to benefit from it. You know, there’s some young listeners out there who may be listening to me going that old guy’s got these old stories. I don’t know, you know, but

I hope you understand that the journey I’ve taken and the journey that he has taken is one we just wanted to share not speaking from points of perfection, but from experience of the turbulent challenges of life and seeing a path through those to the opportunities that God wants to give us. Madison Ryan Ward is one of my favorite singers. She’s new on the horizon. I think she played volleyball, believe it or not at Oklahoma. And some people don’t listen to popular music, they only listen to different… I don’t know what they listen to. I listen to popular music. And the reason I bring this lyric up is for those of you out there who are listening, who AT and I hope we’ve encouraged you. And we hope if you’ve made it to the end, I’m going to give you this little treat of Madison Ryan ward. I just want to read the lyrics because she has a song called Broken and it’s about a relationship that I think about not only the relationships with people, not only romantic relationships, but our relationship with God. But she really writes eloquently, I think about the struggles, 

she writes, I don’t want to argue. I don’t want to fight. I just want to know where you went. When you left me that night. I don’t want to be here lying on the floor, picking up the pieces you left when you walked out that door and I don’t know why. But it’s still open. You left me tired and lonely. And I can’t believe I’m still waiting around. I don’t want to cry but you know me so well. I just want to hold back the tears. They keep coming. You may not love me now, but at least you love me then you left me broken. 


If you feel broken

by anything in life by the struggles, the difficulties. What we try to do today is talk about how God wants us to be mended and how walking with him can do that. I think 80 today for helping us guide us and directing us through his life. I want to thank Marci as well for helping us within God alone. You can find all kinds of articles at Deep spirituality.com you can also find our podcast but this podcast and wants to come are the previous ones as well as the ones to come. And you’ll be able to find the show notes. A lot of the references there is some pretty cool phrases and scriptures that he referred to we’ll make sure we put those in the show notes so you can look at them. And depending on what our producers decide this will be a one episode or a two episode one because he and I got rolling and we thought we were on a phone call helping each other spiritually. And we forgot you were listening. Thanks a lot, everybody. And please keep listening and share these podcasts and articles with others to help them on their journey.

About the show

The Deep Spirituality Podcast is a show about having spiritual conversations. Join our Editor-in-Chief Russ Ewell and guests as they have candid discussions on spiritual topics ranging from faith to anxiety to vulnerability, inspiring you to go deeper in your relationship with God and have challenging and honest conversations of your own.

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