Respect Your Body

As a continuation from my article about my journey with Ulcerative Colitis (UC), I wanted to process through some thoughts I’ve had regarding my journey into health and wellness.

As communicated in my post on UC, I have a high value for physical fitness and exercise. And when my experience of UC would hit peaks of inflammation, it would be challenging for me to get a 30 minute run in without having to stop and find a restroom somewhere. It got so bad in at times that I would actually just run laps around a local park that had a public restroom as geographic center. This would allow me to stop whenever I needed to stop — sometimes 4–5 times in what was intended to be a 30 minute run. The continual impact of running was simply too much for my colon, and honestly, for my emotions as well.

In 2015, while in Tulsa at a family gathering, I was afforded some (much overdue) time with my cousin and good friend, Katherine Shafto — an MD in Minneapolis, MN. Not only does she practice medicine, but she also spends much time and energy dedicated to the study of wellness and nutrition — an incredible combination in my opinion — which has come through her own personal journey in addition to the glaring needs of the medical landscape, which, as she has communicated, is all but bereft of both. As we spoke specifically about my condition and the challenges it presents, she gave me some helpful insight. Speaking from some of her own injury and injury induced physical limitation she could empathize with where I was coming from. While Katherine is not one to draw back from a challenge, she did say that the thing she learned in the midst of her experience was the importance of listening to and respecting your body — a challenging viewpoint in a society that has created disconnect between body, mind, and spirit. If your body is telling you something, instead of fighting it and breaking your body into submission, you should listen to it — respect it.

This was the opposite of what I had been doing. I had been working against what my body was communicating. Instead of stopping to listen and respond to my body with an alternative that would bring positive change to my physical and emotional well being, I was setting up systems and scaffolding to muscle my way through and “make it work.” What Katherine proposed was a complete change in method.

She suggested yoga as a way to stay active while not forcing my body into the unnecessary impact-after-impact demanded by running. The idea that I could simply stop running while still maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle (though foreign) was a breath of fresh air to me — and it came as a complete surprise. I had no idea that I was stuck in my narrow perspective, my normal until I was given the invitation to step out of it.

Yoga, my new normal

Before the conversation with Katherine, yoga had never really been on my radar as a form of exercise that would replace the fast paced cardio that running and swimming provided. I could knock out a run in 30 minutes, while I always thought of yoga as more of a 60–90 minute time commitment. And even with 60–90 minutes, I didn’t expect that it would be much of a cardio option. But thinking through my current setup realistically, my 30 minute daily run had actually become a 60 minute run with a lot of breaks — this was no longer a viable option, physically or emotionally. So I purchased my first yoga mat, the PRO by Manduka, a pair of yoga pants by 4-rth and began my yoga journey.

After some research, I found an instructor, Dylan Werner through an online workout fitness community called Cody. Dylan’s coaching and workout plans hit every point of the spectrum for me when it comes to fitness. While I’m not running long miles, the power holds and vinyassa flows within Dylan’s workouts are plenty to get my heart rate up and get me sweating pretty intensely.

I’ve become a huge fan of the Cody app platform as well… It’s an online community and encompasses a variety of different types of workout plans done via video — even now, just perusing through my app, I can jump into anything from yoga to strength, flexibility to barre, HIIT to weightlifting, and even food health and nutrition plans. If you’re looking for some good workout programs with an element of social accountability and don’t want to mess with going to the gym everyday, check it out. It’s working for me.

This concept of listening to and respecting ones body is a progressive learning experience. Our bodies are in a constant state of change and our circumstances are always evolving. When we set ego aside and ask the honest question, we maintain the coarse to keep up with that change. What does my body — or mind, or spirit — need? a new workout regimen, quiet space of prayer, an earlier bedtime, a later wake up time, time in nature, healthier eating habits, more adventure, less chaos, more structure, less stress, more downtime, less wasted time, more fiction, less instagram, more red wine, less coffee. It’s not about finding one thing and sticking to it. Rather, it’s regularly ask the question, waiting for the answer, and moving accordingly.

Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember

discipleship — love your life

It was about a year ago that I jumped on a plane to Portland, Oregon with my family and some friends to go spend some time with Paul Watson, author of Contagious Disciple Making and founder of the organization by the same name, Contagious Disciple Making, (CDM).

A Little Backstory

For Becky and me, the years leading up to Portland were filled with tension and wrestling through a simple, yet challenging question: what does it look like to be a disciple of Jesus in our context? What does it look like to share the good news of Jesus with people around us? We have been on many sides of this conversation, talking through scripture, strategy, purpose, heart posture. Between the two of us, over the years, we have prayed for healing for people in public, shared Jesus door to door, been on mission trips, shared prophetic impressions with strangers, been apart of groups who do the same. By the fall of 2015 we were in need of perspective. We read Paul’s book, Contagious Disciple Making, and knew we had to meet this guy — a phone call and a few plane tickets later…

I only do what I see the father doing

I won’t go into a detailed summary of the book. Pick it up on amazon, it’s totally worth the investment. I will say, the thing that is so helpful for me about Paul’s perspective on discipleship is that it applies to anyone in any context. His thoughts don’t hinge upon a large budget, a mega church, a salaried pastor and worship leader, or the need to uproot and move to the middle east. What Paul proposes is that anyone can share the good news of Jesus simply by being present in their everyday experience and listening for what God is saying in the midst of normal life. It reminds me of Jesus’ words in the gospel of John.

Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner (John 5:19).

Portland Take-Aways

What we really wanted was for Paul to give us a step-by-step plan for the next 5 years of how to be effective disciple makers in our context, which he did not give us, no matter how many times we begged him to do so.

Though during our time in Portland, Becky had a significant moment with God where he invited her into several action steps for a missional lifestyle, which we have since adopted for our famiy.

  1. Be near to me
  2. Love my words
  3. Love your life

Back to the basics

Be near to me
This is an easy one. Be near to me. As Brother Lawrence simply states in The Practice of the Presence of God,

There is no sweeter manner of living in the world than continuous communion with God.

The Lord has called us first and foremost to love him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. His desire is relationship, his desire is our nearness. Our primary role in communicating the gospel of Jesus is in fact drawing near to our precious savior, alowing our hearts and lives to be impacted by him, as we listen and respond to his words.

Love my words
Jesus communicates, in John 15, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” The love language of God is obedience, it’s loving his words so much that we actually change our behavior, perspective, reality, in order to come into alignment with his words, his truth. There is no life of discipleship apart from obedience. It is wisdom to love his words and put them into practice. Only in adoring his words, will we obtain a lifestyle that will proliferate disciples of Jesus. Without his words, we are simply making disciples in our own image — yikes!  But imagine if we give ourselves fully to adoring the words of God and obedience to those words. There are no marching orders apart from this relational process.

Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name (Psalm 86).

Love your life
God called Becky and me to love our lives. What an odd thing to work out, right?  Ummm… I think I love my life? What does it mean to love my life? What does it look like for Becky to love her life? I interpret this word in the following way. In order to love my life, I must make space to do things in my life that I love to do. Yes? I do love my famiy, I do love my work, I love my friends, but what do I — or in the case of my family, we — love to do? What places do I find myself going? Do I find myself in a specific area of my city? Do I find myself in another city? Do I find myself participating in a particular hobby? Do I find myself at a particular coffee shop, restaurant, bar? And when I find myself these places, doing these things that I love doing… who do I find there? Who has the Lord already placed in the middle of the life that I love? You know what? As I’ve asked these questions… I’ve found myself around people who it makes sense for me to share my life with. I’ve found myself in dialogue with people about things that genuinely interest me, things that I love. And this is what else I’ve found. When I’m in places that I love, doing things that I love, enteracting with people who also love these places and these things, meaningful and spiritual conversation come naturally over time.

Final thoughts

In processing these thoughts, I by no means believe there is some magical method to share the grace and love of Jesus with another human being. The Lord has created us each uniquely, with unique loves and perspectives Rather, using these three lines as a filter for how I posture myself in discipleship has been a freeing and liberating process. It has helped me in sharing my journey as a follower of Jesus in a way that feels genuine rather than textbook, authentic rather than forced. I think it’s easy to search for a method, while missing the relational intention that Jesus has afforded us in this life with each person we intercept — be it brief or long lasting.

So here we go, intro to discipleship in three simple —not easy— steps…

Be near to me, love my words, and love your life.

Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember

Reality Distortion Field

I first came across the concept of the Reality Distortion Field (RDF) while reading the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

The Reality Distortion Field (RDF) was said by Andy Hertzfeld to be Steve Jobs’s ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence. RDF was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible… — Wikipedia, Reality Distortion Field

Jobs’ biography and Wikipedia depict both the awe and contempt of being brought into the Reality Distortion Field, but what struck me was the incredible company that was constructed within it. Yes, apple has had a rocky journey. Yes, Steve Jobs had a reputation of being hard to work with. But… I mean… it’s Apple.

As my team and I build Ember, the reality distortion field concept is always humming somewhere in the back of my mind. WE CAN DO THIS — whichever “it” we happen to be discussing.

If I only have external forces, tangible resources, and frustrating obstacles as building materials, then I will never create something newly inspiring. Ember will never offer an experience unavailable elsewhere. If all I have as my blueprint is what everyone else already sees, then I have no reason to build. It has already been done. The problem has already been solved and I am simply franchising someone else’s reality and perspective.

But this isn’t the case.

Ember is the product of a reality distortion field. Each member of our team brings a unique and unseen reality — and together this becomes something that’s never been created and never been done. Ember is unique because no other team has the combined forces of Zack Robets, Stephen Ibach, Emmery Nyanat, Anita Lane, Jordan Solis, and Phil Rice — to name a few. No other organization has the unique combination of personalities and giftings that collectively make up our prayer room and creative endeavors.

Ember is unique. And in it’s otherness it is valuable. Yes, there are prayer rooms. Yes, there are creative companies. But the ingredients that we’ve built into Ember and the perfect combination of people adding them, do not exist elsewhere. People who come to work for us, those who find our prayer room, individuals that happen upon our Ember Perspective podcast are grateful we exist, because of the opportunities or experiences we create that they do not find in other places. My intention is not to sound arrogant, but simply to highlight something. Building from the architecture uniquely imbedded in each of us is immensely important. There is only one Phil Rice. I am the only human that sees the world the way I see it. I should not be ashamed of or hold back from painting this canvas.

When I work with my team, lead my family, interact with those I come into contact with, I distort their reality, I disrupt their perfect internal world, which a moment before was completely devoid of me. I bring my experience, my hope, my faith, my understanding of how the world works and what I think we can achieve. The question becomes, what kind of reality am I imposing? Do I bring with me a reality of hope, faith, and love? Or am I imposing a reality of worry, offense, and fear?

It’s not that we don’t face the brutal facts, as Jim Collins so wisely describes in Good to Great, but rather, we meet those facts with the unique blueprint imbedded within each of us, along with the determination to see that blueprint realized. Even when we have to scrap a method along the way, we always work toward the next method that has the opportunity to take us and our work to the end that we envision.

Here’s to your reality. Cheers.

Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember

Artist & Worshipper

What kind of a person will sign on with Ember?

As we continue to build Ember I am still surprised as God brings clarity of vision and hones our purpose and direction. As things are dialing in, I’m beginning to see the kind of person who would be attracted to Ember vocationally. There are two types of people that I can see as of now. The first is the person who is sold out to the prayer room — they don’t need to be talked into sitting in a room hours on end worshipping Jesus and joining him in intercession for a geographic region. It is their disposition and make up that keeps them in that place. I think this would be the obvious fit for Ember. But there is another person who is has found their home here.

Enter the creative entrepreneur

Ember isn’t a fit for every creative. The prayer room is a massive filter that draws a particular kind of person. And this is totally fine! Anyone who joins our creative team — music, video, podcasting, blogging — isn’t exempt from the prayer room. The prayer room is what fuels all of what we do and who we are, but there is a different way to approach the prayer room for the individual who has value and love for the prayer room but is not joining the team to spend all of their time there.

Ember is a fit for the individual who desires vocational space to work out their creative endeavor in the context of a creative company committed to bringing glory to Jesus.

It is a lot of work, but it is incredibly rewarding work.

Ember gives a platform, a track, and language to this individual. Where at one time, this person may not have had a vocational outlet for their craft, they now have the opportunity to invite the body of Christ around them to support them in their vocational endeavor as an artist worshipper — bringing glory to Jesus, not only in regular sessions of worship and prayer, but also in the multiplication of the glory of Jesus through their art form.

Example 1 — Stephen Ibach, Media Director for Ember
Stephen’s morning begins in the prayer room. He participates and leads worship for several prayer sets throughout the week. On a particular afternoon, his day may transition to recording and editing our most recent Ember Perspective Podcast — consistently taking the substance of hope cultivated in the place of prayer and multiply it through his area of expertise.

Example 2 — Jordan Solis, Manager of Ember Music
Jordan’s morning begins in the prayer room, both as a participant and as a worship leader. She is a musician with a heart for intercession and worship. Jordan came on board with Ember because of a combined desire to adore Jesus continually in the prayer room setting as well as a desire to cultivate her art as a songwriter and recording artist. She spends her afternoons coaching musicians and songwriters in the writing, recording, production, and distribution of their songs.

The creative arts, multiplying the glory of God

See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah … And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship … to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship (Exodus 31).

I appreciate Rick Joyner’s perspective on Exodus 31 in his article, The Holy Spirit and the Arts

Isn’t it interesting that the first person in the Bible about whom it was said that they were “filled with the Spirit” was an artisan, and not a priest, a king, or a prophet? This should give us a definite sense of the importance that the Lord gave to art in His dwelling place, the tabernacle, which was the prophetic model for His church, “the tabernacle not made with hands” (see Hebrews 9:11).

I’m thrilled by the opportunity Ember creates to bring the Lord glory through the arts in a perpetual way. I’m equally expectant to see who the Lord draws into these roles within Ember in the coming months and years. What an adventure!


Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember

Interruption by iPhone

In his book, 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Farriss addresses the question — How much time do you spend looking at your email inbox and is it the most productive use of your time? Personally, my honest answer to the question was staggering. I was checking my email multiple times an hour. My reasoning behind this frequency was that I wanted to keep my inbox clean. An empty inbox is a perfect inbox, right? Tim suggested otherwise. A new email equals a new interruption.

While this may seem simple, it has been hugely helpful for me — things that bring interruption take me out of the present moment. Even a moment of interruption will take me away from the present task or individual I am engaging. In response to this idea, I decided to try a week long experiment. What if I removed my iPhone from the interruption equation for a week? What would I miss? Or would I even miss anything of value? Here are a few small changes that I made during that week that I have since adopted as lifestyle. This has been absolutely groundbreaking for my quality of life. I kid you not — quality of life.

Interruption by email

The first and most obvious response to this concept was simple. Phil… stop checking your email so much. That’s easy to say, but so hard to do, especially when my iPhone tells me exactly how many emails I am missing out on right there on my home screen!

Did you know that you can actually remove that little red alert number in the corner of your mail icon?

Settings –> Notifications –> Mail –> Badge App Icon –> Off

But honestly, let’s be real… why not go a step further and simply turn off notifications all together?!

Settings –> Notifications –> Mail –> Allow Notifications –> Off

Now before you go all freak out on me and tell me all the reasons why you need to know the moment you receive an email… wrestle through the following question. Which is more valuable to you, your ability to read and respond to an email instantly or your ability to be present in the task or with the individual right in front of you? …Insert creative project, task, friend, spouse, child HERE.

Now I understand that there are people who do need to be accessible all the time, but the question is, should people actually be using email when they need a timely response? This might take a little training, but why not encourage people to text you for a more timely response?

The second thing I did was, I removed my mail icon from the home screen of my iPhone altogether. I moved it one over so that it wouldn’t be staring me in the face every time I unlocked my iPhone.

I then set a specific time each day (or every few days) to check my mail. I allotted about thirty minutes to an hour each day around midday to work through email. Messages I needed to go back to found their way into my calendar. Emails I could reply to quickly got a short response. And in cases where I knew the person would be sending me timely information, I simply asked them to give me the needed information in a call or a text.

Interruption by text message

Once I worked through this filter for email, everything else fell like dominos.

Why do I need to be on call 24–7 for the off chance that someone will possibly send me a text message?

Once again, here is the question to wrestle through. Which is more valuable to you, your ability to read and respond instantly to a text message or your ability to be present in the task or with the individual right in front of you? …Insert creative project, task, friend, spouse, child HERE.

Our information infused culture demands that we respond immediately to every ping that comes our way. There is an overarching sense of rudeness or that it is uncourteous to wait an hour, or heaven forbid, three to four days to respond to a text message! But why? It’s true… we may miss out on the most recent series of .gif files filling our message app from one of our many group texts or we may even miss the reminder to say happy birthday to so-and-so on their actual birthday and we may have to recover the next day… but, think about the trade off! We are being given the opportunity to be present within our day with the people and projects that are right in front of us, and in doing so, we are taking back control and determining our own priorities.

Once again, to respond to this practically, I did the following.

Settings –> Notifications –> Messages –> Allow Notifications –> Off

WHAT?!?! Can we really get away with this? Of course we can.

I am now able to check my text messages a few times a day on my own terms. I receive no alerts and there are no numbers next to my messages icon.

A side note, if I’m waiting on on a specific email or text from a specific person and don’t want to wade into the abyss of my inbox when I’m not ready to do so, Seri comes in very handy.

Holding home button –> ” Seri, read any unread message — or email — from so&so.”

If you do in fact have an unread message/email from this person, Seri will read it to you and ask if you would like to reply, without ever opening your mail or message app. Pretty cool.

Interruption by phone call… gasp!

Since I was on a roll, I thought… why not? There’s this handy feature on the iPhone called Do Not Disturb. This feature allows calls, texts, notifications to ping your phone and not make a sound. I know, wild. So I took a step deeper into my experiment. Unless I am waiting on an important call, I leave my phone on Do Not Disturb all day long.

Settings –> Do Not Disturb –> Manual –> On

There is one exception to Do Not Disturb mode. My wife. Solution — a cool function of Do Not Disturb is the option to allow calls from your favorites list. So, my favorites list consists of my wife, Becky. If I’m waiting for a call back from someone, they get to land on my favorites list until I get the call. Other than that. Anyone who calls will get a response from me when I have time in my day to check and respond to my calls.

Settings –> Do Not Disturb –> Allow Calls From –> Favorites

Phone –> Favorites –> + (add favorite)

The opposite problem?

You may be on the opposite side of the spectrum… You never get back to people and you need to check your email/text/whatever more often. I feel like the same rules apply. Don’t let it take over your life or your thoughts, but don’t ignore communication either. Find specific space in your week for checking and replying to your pings. Reply to the necessary and disregard the unnecessary. Just because you received an email/text/voicemail/direct-message/etc… doesn’t mean you are obligated to reply back. Before you set out to please everyone in the world, make sure you are taking care of yourself and are making time for your nonnegotiables.

Non interruption by lifestyle

What started as a week long experiment has become a lifestyle. I have yet to miss out on anything too important. And even for those moments where it would have been nice to be alerted immediately, the trade off is worth it for me. I feel more centered in my life and more present in my projects, with the people I work with, with my wife and kids, and with my friends. Even when I have a little extra time here or there, instead of going to my creative distractors I can simply stand in line at the grocery store and ponder a question I’ve been working through, open up my kindle app and enjoy a few minutes of reading, or even spend a moment in thankful prayer. Or I can just take it all in — How do I feel? What do I see? What do I hear? What do I smell? I can choose to be present in my life experience. Its opportunities like these that help me slow down and take pleasure in the present moment. And I much prefer life as a series of creative, meaningful, and enjoyable moments.

Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember