Race, Bias & Moving From Micro Aggressions to Racial Affirmation: A Conversation with Betty Mutwiri (Part 1)

Betty Mutwiri is the head of HR Strategy Development at Saskatchewan Polytechnic here in Saskatoon. She is also a leadership coach and heads up the mentoring program at Elim Church. In Part 1 of this conversation with Betty, she shares her heart about recent events surrounding the murder of George Floyd and gives us some practical strategies to help us move the conversation forward.

Specks & Planks: Canada’s Collective Blurred Vision.

Shawnadithit was a slave to European settlers in Newfoundland. She died in 1829 and was the last known member of a First Nation in Canada that was extinguished from the world: The Beothuk.

I want you to let that sink in. A group of humans is gone forever.

These last four weeks have been both encouraging and sad all at the same time. I’ve watched people rally together to protest injustice and inequality that has been systemic and deeply felt by the BICOP community in America & Canada for centuries. I’ve had conversations with caucasian folks that are troubled by the realities people of color face, they want to help, but are at a loss as to what to do about it all. To the point where they are paralyzed in even saying anything on the subject of racism. The conversations have been uplifting, rich and healing in a way.

On the other hand, I’ve been hurting these past four weeks for my Indigenous friends. In no way are they trying to take away from this very important moment in history, so they ally, they raise their voices in support of the black community and they choose to put their pain aside for the time being. However, their wounds are still open. I’ve heard the recognition of their fight in speeches & posts, and I’m thankful that the black community can make this type of connection in the midst of their own pain. It shows a level of solidarity that is needed in times like these.

The Indigenous plight here in Canada is complicated & nuanced. The layers are so deep that it at times feels like a bottomless pit of hopelessness. It must be even more difficult when the people of your own country can clearly see and articulate the problems across the fence with our southern neighbors but have a difficult time honestly acknowledging the racial issues in their own backyard. Let’s be clear, we all know they are there, we just don’t like looking at them.

I’ve been struck by the blatant inconsistency from Canadian political, church, and community leaders who are quick to jump onto the Black Lives Matter (Whether in support of the organization or in affirming the slogan), but neglect to deal with the deep-seated racism towards the Indigenous community that is rooted in the very psyche of Canadian society.

In my circle of church leaders, I’ve watched many make impassioned statements about racism and the need for reform. I’ve heard them blatantly eisegete scripture to make the case for the necessity of violence & riots. I’ve heard them educate others on African American history, all the while not having a clue about the history of their own homeland.

The Beothuk were a First Nation that inhabited Newfoundland. Like all colonial relationships, settlers of  “The Rock” claimed a home that was not theirs and were annoyed by the fact that these first people were “cruel, unreliable and treacherous” towards them.  It was more than a sense of annoyance actually, settlers hated them so much that the Beothuk were “shot like animals,” “mercilessly hunted” and were “regarded as part of the natural game of the country, which white men had the same right to hunt as they had to hunt bears or caribou.” In 1829, a kidnapped & enslaved woman named Shawnadithit was the last Beothuk to ever walk on the planet. She was the end of her nation’s story.

This. Is. Canada.

The Beothuk genocide is part of OUR collective history. And yet the majority of Canadians know more about the African American story than they do about the story of their Indigenous neighbors.

Please hear me, I’m not saying that what you’re doing is bad. It’s good, it’s noble, it necessary. But don’t be so quick to virtue signal, claim to be “woke” or look for splinters in the eyes of others before you’re ready to work hard at taking the plank out of our communal Canadian eye first.

In America and in Canada, The black community’s house is on fire and we have collective responsibility to help put it out. But just down the street, there is another home that is also in flames, and sadly, it’s been on fire just as long.

June is national Indigenous history month. The best thing you and I can do is educate ourselves on the history of Canada’s First Nations. Sit down with an indigenous friend for coffee and ask them how they are doing with the current situation that is going on in our world. Ask them what their experience has been as an Indigenous person in Canada.

You see, learning and listening is the only way forward. We cannot go back and rewrite history, but maybe… just maybe… by learning from one another, we have the chance to write a different future.

*The quotes in this blog were taken from Richard Budgel’s work: “The Beothuk & The Newfoundland Mind.”

Another Article about the Beothuk in Maclean’s by Harold Horwood: “The People Who Were Murdered For Fun.”

Also, here is a list of 308 missing & murdered Indigenous women. Read their stories.

Multiculturalism, Race & The Church: Your Good Intentions Aren’t Good Enough.

I get it. Putting up flags in your sanctuary is suppose to 1) make the people from your church who are not “Canadian” feel at home and 2) show how dedicated your church is to global missions. I get it.

I get it. International potluck nights are supposed to get people to mingle and learn about each other’s cultures. I get it.

I get it. Wearing African garb or wearing an Indian Kurta on “missions” Sunday is supposed to show how inclusive you are as a leader and as a church of all cultures. I get it.

I get it, but it’s not good enough.

A once or twice a year demonstration of intercultural openness does not close the gap on actually understanding “the other.” You see, while you’ve been showing first-generation immigrants that you value them, now second, third, and fourth generation Canadians of color can see right through the facade and want nothing to do with your church. Do they go? Sure they go. They go because they are good kids who want to honor their parents, but they don’t go because they feel valued or included. They can see the lack of representation in leadership. They can see the lack of opportunities for them to lead and be trusted. They feel the tangible subtleties of racist looks that come their way, the under the breath comments, and omitted fellowship.

So how do we move forward with a change that actually makes a difference? Here are some practical ways to advance multiculturalism & the conversation about race in your church:

1) AGGRESSIVELY LOOK FOR FEEDBACK & CRITIC FROM VARIOUS MINORITY GROUPS ABOUT THEIR PERCEPTION OF YOUR CHURCH: I’m going to tell you right now, most people of color are never going to tell you what they really think about your church because 1) the office of pastor is still highly respected by various cultures & 2) most ethnic minorities don’t want to rock the boat, especially in a church. You are going to need to press folks very hard to get anything out of them (especially first-generation Canadians). I guarantee; you’re not ready what most will say, so grow a few more layers of skin and resolve in your heart that it is worth hearing their perspectives. In fact, as Canada continues to progress, more and more people of color will be moving into your community. The survival of your church depends on how you include, treat, and think through racial issues.

2) VISIBLE & INTENTIONAL REPRESENTATION: I’m not talking about putting up a person of color just because. People know when they are being the “token” __________________. Take time to figure out “who” is in your church, which nationalities, cultures & ethnicities are represented and do the work of raising up leaders from within those groups. Get them to pray at a gathering, to read scripture, to do announcements, be on videos, to do literally anything that puts them in the spotlight, even if it’s behind the scenes. It doesn’t matter if your Caucasian donors can’t understand their accents or their mannerisms. Inevitably there will be a young person of the same race/ethnicity/ nationality that will see “themselves” on that stage or in that leadership position. Maybe for the first time, they’ll understand that who they are is valued just as much as the Caucasian person who sits beside them.

3) QUIT THE GIMMICKS: Do you. Stop trying to appropriate other people’s culture to try to relate to them. Remember a few years ago Justin Trudeau and his family went to India and tried really hard to be respectful of the Indian subcontinent by wearing traditional garb, folding their hands every two seconds, and being just soooooo extra. It wasn’t cool. It actually came off as quite disingenuous and for him, it was a PR nightmare with Indians at home in Canada. Let me tell you a little secret Pastor… You do the same thing. Don’t get me wrong, many first-generation Canadians appreciate the sentiment, but it does not translate to their kids or grandkids. Only do the flags, the food & the clothes if it’s coming from a genuine & authentic place personally, as well as corporately.

4) WHEN YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: If you see, hear or smell any kind of racial prejudice in your church, speak to it right away, don’t wait! Racism is a cancer that has no place in a local church. obviously do your due diligence and investigate what occurred. If you brush it off, leave it alone or ignore it, your silence will speak volumes to the people of color that you lead and eventually, they will leave your church for greener pastures or, even worse; will continue to come, but won’t trust a word you say.

5) HAVE A STRATEGY TO TALK ABOUT RACE IN YOUR NEXT GEN PROGRAMS: At some point, prejudice is going to rear its ugly head somewhere in your kids, youth, or young adult ministries. You need to ensure that there is a strategy for preventing, addressing & working through racial issues with leaders, kids & parents. Don’t leave this to chance, otherwise, you’ll be caught off guard and instead of responding to the conflict as an opportunity to strengthen/ unite your people, you’ll be responding in panic. Panic is never your best vantage point to make decisions or address conflict. Be intentional with the next generation, and teach them to value and embrace ALL people.

6) GET INVOLVED WITH RACIAL RECONCILIATION INITIATIVES IN YOUR COMMUNITY: Right across this great nation, the conversation surrounding racial reconciliation is different in each community. Take the time to figure out where the conversation finds itself in your area and get involved. If you’re a leader who is an ethnic minority, you have a duty to shine Christ into the conversation. If you’re not, you have a duty to listen, to hear the stories of the past, and to help advocate for a different future. Throughout history, the church has been at the forefront of showing angry, hurt people a better way than violence and hatred. In moments like the ones we find ourselves in currently, you have a responsibility as a leader to provide the stability and perspective that many are needing. Speak out, but also call people “UP.” Call your community to the best version of itself and provide a vision of hope for a better future.

The path to change here is a long, slow, and painful road. This is not an urban or rural issue. Racism is a sin issue, and just like all sin, it is seeded in the hearts of men and women. Good intentions can’t change any of that, only the power of the gospel can. You & your church hold within yourselves the message of hope, reconciliation, and change that can move mountains, destroy oppressive systems, and set bound people free. Your church should be a safe refuge for ALL people, no matter how different they are from you. Your good intentions don’t matter, It’s what you do that does.

The Numbers Game: How Numbers Help “Small” & “Big” Church Get Better.

Numbers don’t lie. Well… actually, It depends on how you look at them.

In the church world, weekend attendance is an important number. It sets the parameters for your church’s 3 “Is.” Income, influence, and impact.

More people in attendance means potentially more income. It also means that you’re having more influence on the thinking, opinions, and formation of individuals/families. Finally, the more people that attend your church the more impact you can have on the community that surrounds you. It’s not brain surgery, rocket science or any other idiom that makes sense for something that is not hard to understand. Also, it’s not wrong for pastors to admit that they would like more people to attend their churches. I actually think you should be suspect of a leader who doesn’t want to see their church grow and reach more people. Growing churches are a good thing.

I work at what is considered  to be a “bigger” Canadian church. We serve just under 1500 people on a weekend. That’s a lot of people. There are other churches across Canada who serve more people than we do and I think that that is amazing. In a post-Christian context like Canada, the very fact that churches are growing at all is a miracle. At this point however, our church’s leadership could tap itself on the back, say that we’re doing a spectacular job and just go on with our day sipping on Shirley Temples and getting ready for the easter season.

But what if we looked at the numbers from a different perspective?

There are approximately 300,000 people who call Saskatoon and the surrounding areas home. Let’s be EXTREMELY generous and say that 10% of people within YXE who identified as “Christ followers” attend churches across the city for weekend services… That’s 30,000 people. That then leaves 270,000 who are either un-churched or de-churched (this is a whole other post) who are not part of a church community.

As good as serving 1500 is, we can do better. I suspect every church can do better. Whatever context your church finds itself in; whether you’re in a rural, suburban or urban setting, the likelihood is that no matter how “small” or “big” your church is, relative to the population of your village, town or city… You can do better.  Just do the math:

Take your church’s overall weekend attendance, divide it by your village, town or city’s population and… Voilà! You get the percentage of people from your community who are being affected in a SIGNIFICANT way by your income, influence, and impact. Now, I guess you could make the case that in 2020, regular church attendance is more of an every 2 to 3 week deal for most people/families. So, be generous with yourself and double, even triple your percentage number. I bet you can still do better relative to the total population that is around you.

If you’re pastoring a “smaller” church; don’t play the “we’re too small to do anything” pity party. The opportunities you have to get into people’s lives and have an impact on your community are astounding. Quit looking at the “bigger” church’s grass and wishing it was yours. The only reason it’s greener is that there is more manure over there. Thank God for what you have and be faithful to share Jesus with the community he’s put you in. Ask him for creativity, out of the box thinking, funding and love for every single human that lives around you.

If you’re pastoring in a “bigger” church… You’ve still got A-LOT of work to do. You’re doing a good job, but you can do better. There are thousands of people in your town/city who have no clue that Jesus loves them and that he’s pursuing them for relationship. You have resources and staffing that other churches can only dream of. How are you leveraging all that God has blessed you with? Are you utilizing significant amounts of resources to equip your people to reach the post-Christian community just outside of your doors?

Numbers don’t have to define us, but they can and should be used to motivate us. Jesus also dealt with math equations when it came to this very subject. He said this:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.?  -Matt 9:35-38

Plentiful harvest –  few workers = Still a lot of work to do.

We can do better. let’s ALL get to work.

Being Relevant Isn’t So Relevant.

The opportunities we are missing because of our obsession with our aesthetic should sober us to think differently.

Just because you serve high-end coffee on a weekend doesn’t mean you’re actually speaking to a person’s soul. Don’t get me wrong, for all the Christians you serve; a delicious americano can help them engage at the early service, but for the people that have no idea who Jesus is, your church cafe is just another option for great coffee in your city.

In his book “The End of Absence,” Canadian journalist Michael Harris suggests that within our current cultural climate, people in society are making a trade. They are trading absence for constant connectivity and ultimately, the trade isn’t a fair one. He suggests throughout the book that the constant connection that we experience is actually counterfeit and that the space every human has been born with (absence) to think, to process and to be confronted with themselves is disappearing. It’s making us less human. Harris goes on in the book to demonstrate “how” our lack of absence affects and cheapens the areas of life that have traditionally been essential to the human experience (Family, relationships, work, etc.) It’s a brilliant book. His insights are invaluable and by the way… Michael isn’t a follower of Jesus.

While the evangelical Christian sub-culture is trying to figure out how to be relevant to non-believers, non-believers are trying to figure out how to find serenity and peace. They are in many ways bypassing what seems to them to be a pretentious spirituality.  Am I saying that there is no room for cultural expressions within churches? absolutely not. What I am saying is that those expressions had better be grounded in a community of people who have a depth of spiritual maturity. A spirituality that helps people throughout their journey on the continuum of faith.

We work hard to offer people lights, lattes, and leather jackets. We think that they are looking for an engagement of their senses. What we’re missing is that a world that is addicted to being digitally connected needs space where face to face community happens. A place where the emptiness of the counterfeit can be traded for genuine absence and contemplation. In the last two thousand years, the church has been at its best and has been most effective when it was able to offer the societies that it served two very simple things: Truth and community.

You’re not a castaway as a pastor because you lead a church predominantly made up of seniors who still sing hymns. If you can lead and teach your people to leverage their experience and spiritual maturity to engage their own neighborhoods, your church will be packed in no time. Not one millennial is going to care if the music is “lit” if one of the seniors that you lead takes the time to speak grace and truth into their lives. If the holes of mentorship, fatherhood/motherhood, and guidance are filled; many millennials would trade all the bomber jackets in the world for a stable friendship like that. The same is true of every model and type of church.

Being relevant isn’t so relevant anymore. With access to the world with a single click, people can find relevant content in seconds. Most churches cannot compete with the inundation of relevant options. Where we have the opportunity to excel in our current cultural milieu is to offer what we’ve been able to give to people for the last two millennia: Truth and community. How you do that is up to you. Just don’t be so relevant that you miss giving people what they actually need.

Remember the commission we’ve been given: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NLT

Call people to Christ. Make them part of the family. Teach them what Jesus actually said.

Truth and community.

6 Ways to “Win” In Ministry When You Have ADHD

You’re flawed, but you’re not a failure.

Vocational ministry is a double-edged sword for a pastor with ADHD. For most people who suffer from this disorder, organizational skills, time management, and administration become huge nightmares for the leader with ADHD, the church team that surrounds them and the congregations they serve. Missed email, tardiness, and unfocused conversations can have a huge impact on the work that so many pastors are passionate about. Here are a few stats that put some of this in perspective:

  • Less than 20 percent of adults with ADHD have been diagnosed or treated, and only about one-quarter of those adults seek help.
  • More than half (60 percent) of adults with ADHD surveyed said they had lost or changed a job and attributed the job loss to their ADHD symptoms. More than 36 percent reported having 4 or more jobs in the past 10 years, and 6.5 percent responded they have had 10 or more jobs within the past 10 years.
  • Adults with ADHD are likely to have an anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, or other comorbid psychiatric disorder.
  • About 50 percent of adults with ADHD also suffer from an anxiety disorder. Adult ADHD symptoms that coexist with an anxiety disorder or other disorders may significantly impair the ability to function.
  • According to one study, a person who has ADHD is almost twice as likely as one who does not have ADHD to be divorced. A different study suggests that 58 percent of relationships with at least one person with ADHD are clinically dysfunctional—twice that of the non-ADHD population.

This ADHD thing is no joke. It affects every part of your life and when you’re in a position of leadership, it can devastate the potential impact and influence you could be having with those you lead. It feels like an unwinnable fight, but it’s not. Don’t ever expect to become an administrative Jedi, but, there are strategies and tools that can help you cope with the reality of your disorder.

***Before we get into specific strategies and tools, the first step is to get assessed by a psychiatrist. Don’t play games. If you’re an adult reading this, you don’t have time to muddle around. If you’re pastoring, in a relationship/married or have kids you’re already dealing with very tired people. Everyone is being nice to you, but deep down they are exhausted of dealing with you. It’s not that they don’t love you or think that you aren’t a talented leader; it’s that they’ve been selflessly picking up after you. Getting a private assessment puts on paper the exact type of ADHD you have, the severity of it and recommendations for specific strategies that can help you. It’s physical evidence that there is a problem.

  1. Get Friends: I don’t mean people you hang out with once in a while. I’m talking about friends who are like family. People who love you enough to tell you the truth about how your actions and behaviors have affected them. At the same time, you need friends who will love you unconditionally and journey with you as you figure things out. You’re going to need people in your corner. Ministry is hard and it’s lonely. Having friends that can shoulder you, call you out and push you are an invaluable resource for anyone, but especially for a pastor with ADHD.

    2. Get a Counsellor: Get an ADHD specialized therapist. These people are trained to deal with ADHD brains. They understand the neurology, as well as the behavioral challenges you face. They will be able to give you advice and help you strategize. Don’t cheap out! The cost at first is high, but over time you shouldn’t need to see your therapist as much (That’s the point of going to counseling). It’s well worth the investment for yourself, your family and your church.

    3.  Get Active: Dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels spike when you’re physically active. For someone with ADHD “Exercise turns on the attention system, the so-called executive functions — sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention,” It doesn’t have to be CrossFit. Even a 30-minute walk outside can do the trick.

     4. Get Administrative Help: Depending on the size of your church, you might not be able to afford an administrative assistant. You can, however, invest in resources that automate administrative processes for you. Online software like Planning center, Text in Church and anything by Google (docs, calendars, sheets etc.) can help you organize and follow up with your congregants. If you still need something to help you prioritize; the Productivity Planner is an amazing tool that keeps you focused. It integrates the Pomodoro technique which is such a helpful strategy for someone with an ADHD brain. If you’re willing to do some research, you’ll find that the number of resources and aids are endless. You have to find what works best for you. You’ll never be an amazing administrator, but you’ll be able to keep up…Mostly.

     5. Get a Hobby: Ministry lends itself to workaholism. A pastor with ADHD who is passionate about helping others spiritually will spend all of their time and energy doing church work. A characteristic of ADHD is something called “hyperfocus.” Hyperfocus is the tendency for children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) to focus very intently on things that interest them. At times, the focus is so strong that they become oblivious to the world around them. Hyperfocus is the flipside of another ADHD symptom, distractibility. The drive to be “successful” and to accomplish a lot for God’s kingdom can drive a pastor with ADHD to work non stop, obsess and ultimately burn out. Find something you can put time and energy into that is not ministry. It will bring a level of fulfillment to your life and it will keep you balanced. You can even combine this with getting active. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure it is detached from your responsibilities at the church.

6. Get Honest: Stop acting like there is nothing wrong with you… There is. The only way you’ll ever feel like you’re winning at life is if you admit that there is something abnormal about your situation. If you have diagnosed ADHD and you’ve been hesitant to share it with people in your church, you need to get over it. If you’re a good pastor, you’ve taught your people to live in the tension between grace and truth. Although your team and your church might be frustrated with you, they love you. If they know that there is something wrong and see that you’re doing everything you can to cope with your ADHD, they will be more than willing to journey with you. If there has already been a lot of damage done because you’ve tried to deal with your disorder on your own, humble yourself and ask them for forgiveness. Your pride has gotten the best of you and whether you know it or not, it’s killing you.

I hope you’ve noticed I didn’t say anything about medication. Taking meds is a very personal decision. Studies are clear that a combination of medication and therapy is the best course of action for adults with ADHD. But maybe you’re nervous about meds. Make sure you talk to your family doctor about all the benefits, side effects and potential pitfalls. ADHD meds are NOT a silver bullet. They help, but they are not the ultimate solution for coping with your disorder.

Your life in pastoral ministry is not doomed. You can be a thriving leader who raises their capacity level and serves their church with excellence. Don’t believe the lie that you’re a screw-up and that you’ll never get it together. It’s not true. God has a way of helping those who seek Him for help. The very fact that you are reading this blog post is evidence that you want to get better. You are not alone, God has more for you than you can imagine and he’s using you in spite of your disorder.

ADHD Pastor // Part 2

“This doesn’t change anything. I’ve checked out and don’t know how to check back in.”

Her statement was as if a ton of bricks had come crashing down onto me. After the rollout of the assessment results and the official diagnosis, Carrie and I went to a local coffee shop to talk. I naively hoped that hearing that I had an actual neurological disorder would turn everything around. I wanted her to “love” me again and forgive me for all the horrible ways I had hurt her so that we could live happily ever after. I’ll just put it out there… I’m an idiot.

It was at that moment that I realized I couldn’t keep chasing her. I couldn’t keep trying to fix our marriage. If there would be any hope of us ever having a great relationship, I had to start figuring what was going on inside of me. The ADHD had absolutely influenced my thoughts, actions, and decisions, but it didn’t justify any of them. I knew at that point that I wasn’t going to get support from her. Honestly, I don’t blame her. She had supported and carried me for years. She was tired, disillusioned and was not in a good place personally.

The day after the diagnosis I went to my family doctor and asked to be put on medication. I showed her the assessment and she agreed it was worth trying. I also started doing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). I had read that a combo of meds and therapy was a strategy that seems to help most adults with ADHD to learn how to cope. I also found an amazing counselor. His name is Dustin and I love him.

Through all of this, my work life didn’t suffer. It became a safe haven for me. My bosses are the most amazing men I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. They supported, encouraged and walked me through the darkest period of my life without any judgment. They called me to integrity, to fight for what was right and always pointed me to Jesus. I am forever grateful for Marvin, Blaine and the whole Elim team . I’m a better man, husband, father, and follower of Jesus because of them.

I started meds in October and didn’t get fully regulated on them till January. The months in between were confusing. I felt numb on the meds. Even Carrie would tell me I was like a zombie which was very hard to hear. I took my meds daily, I did my CBT worksheets as much as I could. Slowly, I started to change. Some of it was the meds, but a lot of it was that for the first time in my life; I felt like I was winning. I could remember things. I wasn’t as emotional. I was completing tasks that normally would have overwhelmed me. I was enjoying moments with my kids and was not distracted. I could actually pray and read the Bible without losing attention. Friends were noticing that I was calmer and present when I was talking to them. I was changing and it was affecting everything.

Carrie through this whole process was still hesitant. Were these changes real? At the end of January that year I had just come home from speaking at our church’s young adult retreat. It was like any other normal Sunday night. Carrie and I talked after we put the kids to bed. She said she had noticed the changes in me, that things were different but that she was also afraid that everything would slip into the same tired patterns we had always known. I honestly thought that this was it. I thought that this was the conversation where she would finally tell me that she had made her decision to leave. Instead, that night she decided to meet me in the middle and to give our marriage another try.

The journey since then hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. I’m still on meds and I will be for the rest of my life. I’m still practicing the principles I learned through CBT. I still have off days where I forget things, can’t accomplish as much or am just simply struggling. But overall, things are completely different. I’m different. I’m married to my best friend… We’re actually friends. Our relationship is no longer co-dependant, it’s a partnership. Carrie doesn’t complete me, she’s not my soul mate… She’s the person I choose to do real life with. It’s sweet and it’s stable.

I finally feel like I contribute to our family’s success. Carrie went back to school and completed her education because I was able to handle things on the home front (imperfectly of course!). We started a business together that is succeeding in ways that we could have never imagined. Our kids have a dad who is present. Our life is not grand, it’s mundane in many ways, but it’s the life we are building together now, all five of us.

God took the mess I had made, and like a good parent gave me the tools I needed to clean it up.

Part 3 tomorrow // Tools to help you lead in pastoral ministry when you have ADHD.

ADHD Pastor // Part 1

” Have you ever been tested for ADHD?”

My wife and I were in a counseling session when the counselor blurted out this question. I immediately dismissed it. I had only ever associated ADHD with elementary school-aged children. I was definitely not a child. I was a full grown man in his 30’s who was on the brink of losing his marriage, and here was this therapist associating my behavior with a disorder that only hyperactive kids on Ritalin have. I was insulted… But I was also desperate.

After we got home, I fell into a web MD vortex of self-diagnosis. The scary part was that everything I was reading wasn’t just applicable, every case study was like reading my own story…

For the first time, it seemed like things were making sense. There was potentially a reason as to why I couldn’t be content with the positions at the churches I had worked in. There was a reason why I was a strong starter, but couldn’t keep things together over the long term. There was a reason why I could never remember to bring milk home or show up for supper on time. I was frustrated with myself. My family was frustrated because I was letting them down. Something needed to change and maybe, just maybe there was something to this whole ADHD thing.

I found a psychiatrist who specialized in adult ADHD assessments. I made an appointment and tried not to throw up every time I thought about how badly I was screwing up my life and the lives of the people I loved most.

On the surface, things looked ok, but I couldn’t keep anything together. I never remembered important info, I was late for everything and my wife felt like she had a fourth child. She not only had to keep everything together for our three kids, but she also had to deal with the fact that her husband was completely unreliable. My kids were constantly having to put up with a dad who would either show up late or not at all for their activities.

The lead up to the assessment was awful. Carrie was convinced that if I was diagnosed with ADHD that I would use it as a justification for all the neglect and pain that I had caused her over the years.  I was scared. I was lost. I knew that if the results came back as positive, I had no more excuses. I couldn’t hide behind being a busy dad or an overworked pastor. If there was finally a reason for all of it, there would have to be a major overhaul in my life.

It was three sessions in total. I shared every detail of my past, the struggles I had experienced as well as the patterns that seemed to reoccur over and over again. We talked, I did tests and then… I waited three weeks for the results. Those weeks were awful. There were so many “what ifs” rolling around in my brain.

The day finally came. I met Carrie at the therapist’s office. She read out the results. It definitely was ADHD. I found out that ADHD is the umbrella term. There are three different kinds: Attention (ADD), Hyperactivity ( in adults it shows up as impulsivity) and finally, a combo of the first two. Of course, I have the combo and on a scale of mild to severe, I’m three-quarters of the way to severe. It was bad. I was in shock. Carrie was crying and said: “I wish we would have gotten this diagnosis three years ago!”

She was done, I felt like a failure and only God could clean up this mess.

Part 2 tomorrow.

Ugly Soul.

You can’t photoshop an ugly soul.

There is so much good that comes from social media. I’m not hating on any of it. The more I read about it, the more I think about the applications, connections and the reach it has, I’m blown away.

I can remember a world where reaching millions of people with what you ate for supper was impossible. Hitting up a “party line” with friends or jumping on ICQ was the latest and greatest and honestly, it was great. I can remember being in a high school COM class where we developed film in a darkroom and half the shots were garbage because you basically had to be a professional photographer to work a camera. Things have changed and in my opinion, for the better.

The thing I can’t shake, the one flag that I can’t seem to ignore is the way we think a VSCO’ed pic or a viral video of ourselves can hide the ugliness in our souls.

Of course, no one wants to see a back picture of themselves, the same was true in the ’90s. I think that’s very human and normal. What I mean is that this social media era is teaching us that if you’re pushing out enough beautiful content, you can justify having an ugly soul. You can “do you” as long as your followers have images and videos that help them forget how ugly their souls actually are too.

Our tendency to mask ourselves, our propensity to hide is nothing new. We don’t want people to see who we really are, what we are really going through because that level of vulnerability is terrifying. I heard Jay-Z one time talk about going to counseling after he cheated on Beyonce and how he finally understood why the guys in his neighborhood would always say “What you looking at? You got beef?” It wasn’t that they even wanted to fight! What they were really saying was ” I don’t want you to see my pain or who I really am and I’ll protect that facade at all cost.”

I read this again today: “…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

Aren’t we exhausted yet of trying to beautify our ugly souls? God sees through all the filters and angles. He’s not interested in who we are portraying ourselves to be. He sees us. I mean REALLY sees us. He’s not put off or intimidated. He sees the masterpieces he can make out of our ugly souls. He has a saviour complex that wants to save us from the impossible work of beautifying them ourselves. He’s the only one who can.

You can’t photoshop an ugly soul.