excerpt from On Trusting God – Psalm 91

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust” (Psalm 91).

This is reality. There is no other being in the whole of the cosmos that will not be shaken.

Take a moment and articulate in your own words to God that he is your refuge. Ask him to come and to remove any false refuge you have constructed apart from him. If you can trust him in this, communicate it out loud. Tell him that you trust him to come and remove what is false so that he alone will be left. If you have not yet arrived at this place, tell him so. He’s not intimidated by our weakness. But do communicate your desire to trust him. Invite him to show you the path to trusting fully in him as your refuge.

As he begins to give you practical ideas on how to trust in him in a given area, write it down. Thank God for showing you the path. Tell a friend how you plan to trust the Lord practically.

note: I’m currently in the process of writing and compiling some devotional resources. I thought it would be fun to include snapshots of my process, so you’ll be seeing little bits here and there. Enjoy!

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

Individual Financial Investment

When people ask me how the financial structure of Ember works, I tell them that I raise money for the organization and then each staff member, myself included, is responsible to raise their own salary. A typical response is something like, “Wow, that sounds really hard.” And my typical response… “Yeah, it is definitely challenging at times… BUT I LOVE IT.”

And it’s true! Though it is a challenge, I love that personal financial investment is a large portion of our financial engine, both for Ember, and for our staff. In 2012 God invited Becky and me to begin a journey of leaning into him in an uncomfortable way — classic. As I left my job in business and walked into the wild world of ministry and the prayer room, I saw that I needed him and that I needed people. It’s not that we didn’t lean into him before and it’s not that we didn’t need people before, but this felt like fresh perspective.

I think what actually happened when we decided —or let’s be real, when God decided— that our financial way forward would come through the financial investment of individuals, we came face-to-face with our lack of control. In business, I can generate revenue by working harder to sell a product or by creating new products or services. If I desire to teach in academia, I have a clear track to run on; I get an education, I receive credentials, and I find a job working in an institution that fits those credentials. If I am a doctor, I’ve gone to school for quite some time and followed a clear path for how to be successful and how to gain my needed financial engine and launch into my career. Amidst the system and structures that have been created, it can become easy to think that we make or break our success by how hard we work and how committed we are to the process.

But really, in any vocational path, we are never in control and finances are never absolute, no matter how hedged in we might feel by external circumstances. And as I walked into vocational ministry, I found myself grasping for a guardrail. And I didn’t find one. And this was God’s intention.

Grasping for the guardrail

Oh yeah… This sense of security I have felt in other jobs, is actually fantasy. I think the same realization could as easily happen for someone who is suddenly laid off from their job or when the market is down or when state/federal funding ebbs and flows. We are not in control. There is no guardrail. There is no security in wealth. True security is found in God, the one who says, I will never leave you or forsake you. It is a fantastic filter for, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6).

Connectedness and multiplication

The other aspect of individual financial investment that I really love is that of connectedness and multiplication. If in 2012, I was presented a salary from Norman Community Church that I would receive every month to build a culture of worship and prayer, no one outside of the community would have ever heard from me again. I would have quietly and purposefully given myself to the small context in which I had been given. But raising funding through sharing my vision with others automatically blasted me outside of my small little world and necessitated that I share my story on a greater scale. Both in an initial way and in an ongoing way.

God designed us to need oneanother. Our creator set up the system so that there would be one body but many parts(paraphrase 1 Corinthians 12). When thanking him for contributing to our ministry, a good friend of mine, on several occasions has bluntly stated, “Well, I can’t even comprehend how you can pick up a guitar and actually make music with it. It’s incredible. Of course I want to invest in what you do, because it allows me to participate with you.” Something that comes as second nature to me seems like such a far reach for another. And likewise, something in which I could never dream of excelling, is the most natural and life-giving vocational response to another.

Just a small piece of his creation

Every human being was created to give God glory in a very specific and unique way. How incredible it is to be part of this orchestra that stretches the expanse of heaven and earth. The earth, trees, mountains, planets, stars all give glory to God. The heavenly beings and angels also give him glory continually. What an honor it is to be part of his body, a specific expression of himself, designed with the primary purpose of giving him glory.

As we reach out to bless another’s role in this process, we move from handing God our own unique gift and we delve deeper into our personal kingdom investment through another individual, extending their reach, overlapping and multiplying the enabled continual glory of God. How beautiful.

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

excerpt from 21 Days Simple – Psalm 139

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way (Psalm 139).

Wholeness comes when we give God permission to come into every part of us. Take a moment to communicate your desire for God to bring his power into every area of your being, your experience. Simply say, “God, I give you permission to search every part of me. Show me where I haven’t given you access and influence. Come and bring life to every area within me.”

As he highlights areas where you have not given him full access to areas of yourself, write them down, share them with a close friend and communicate how you plan to give him access moving forward.

Note: 21 Days Simple is a Devotional eBook I’m writing. Thought I would release some snippets along the way. Enjoy!

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

Leading My Family

I’ve been asked on several occasions what it looks like for me to lead my family. And while I don’t think there is one specific answer to this question, I wanted to take time to unpack the topic of from my perspective.

Google’s definition for leadership is “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.”

In my opinion, good leadership is not simply accomplishing a goal, but rather accomplishing a goal in the healthiest and best way possible as it pertains to a particular group. While in many team environments, there are times when the make up of a group changes — people join, people leave — in order to better suit the goal, this is not the case for my family. We are committed to one another before we are committed to achieving a goal or working out a value. And so, it is important that everyone in my family agrees on the goals or values we are going after together.

Specifically as it pertains to leadership in my family, I feel that my primary role is to create an environment where each member— Becky, Demma (5), Cedar (2) — can thrive as an individual and that our family is able to thrive as a whole. In certain spheres, I have heard spiritual authority communicated more as a paternal dictatorship — whatever dad says goes — but I do not find this a helpful way forward for our family. It’s not that one wouldn’t accomplish anything with the dictatorial mantra, but for us there is a better way. “Whatever dad says goes” naturally removes the individual influence, strength, and perspective that resides in each member of my family. There is no empowerment here, there is no growing together, there is no honoring one another. In my opinion, in an autocratic family environment, we resign our ability to bring positive empowerment and impact to one another and to those who come in contact with our family.

Leader as gatekeeper

I like to think of my role as spiritual leader of my house more as a gatekeeper than as a dictator. Consider the cultural environment of a home as the makeup of what is and is not allowed into the environment. If honor is something that is fostered in a home, then the culture will reflect a spirit of honor. If fear is perpetuated in a home, then the culture of a home will reflect a spirit of fear, permeating it’s members. If individual empowerment is fostered, then there will be a sense of ownership over the vision and direction of the family.

Leader as champion and encourager

To lead my family well also necessitates that I champion each member of my family, continually communicating the value of the individual as greater than any particular structure or method. If we build a system around the idea that we all best function at 6am, then, while Ceder and I would thrive, Becky and Demma would never feel like they were able to hit a stride in this particular family rhythm. But, if we built a regular family rhythm at 2am, Becky and Demma would be fully awake and alert while the boys would have fallen asleep 4 hours prior and wouldn’t have even made it to the gathering.

Leading an environment suited for thriving

Several years ago, Becky came to me and communicated her need for personal creative space in her regular life rhythm. While she loves our family and loves her role, the demands on her time taking care of the kids and meeting the demands of the home was giving her little room for personal creativity — a value that makes her come alive and helps everything else work well. It was out of this wrestle that came her photography company – KET Photography. Thriving looks different for every family member and in every phase of life. Leadership in this sense is being aware of the needs of each family member and being willing to rethink structure — creative problem solving — in order to help promote individual and family wholeness.

Leading by real time example

Lastly, when I think through leading my family, I think of values I would like to see worked out in our family and how we —me and Becky— will bring them into our family. We go first.

Since Becky and I want our kids to be good at conflict and to be quick to forgive, then we should be resolving conflict in front of them and asking one another for forgiveness while Demma and Cedar are watching! Sure there are times when we need to resolve conflict alone, but to work through the small ones with the whole family present sets a context for what mom and dad consider a healthy way to work through conflict and forgiveness.

We also want Demma and Cedar to know that God speaks and desires relationship with them. So, to foster this in our family, Becky and I ask Demma what she hears God saying to her on various topics. One way we foster this is during our Sabbath Dinner — more on our Sabbath Dinners. Becky begins our dinners with a motherly blessing, which can include what she feels God communicating to each person present, including Demma and Cedar. When Becky doesn’t include this bit of the prayer, Demma notices and asks when she will do that part again! She already has a sense for the Lord’s presence with us. The last time Becky didn’t add this portion into the blessing, she asked Demma to ask God what he thought about each person at the table… it was so powerful.

The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion — Paulo Coelho

Being lead by the Holy Spirit

The most important dimension of leadership is to be ruthless about who I am following. If I am allowing my choices to be dictated or influenced by the “worries of this world and the deceitfulness of wealth” (Matthew 13), then I am leading my family away from the fullness of life for which we are purposed. But, if I regularly quiet my spirit and allow God to speak truth to my heart through scripture and by his Holy Spirit and if I am actively responding and wrestling through the truth he presents, then I am leading my family in the direction we were created to go. Our heavenly father is an incredible leader. He is kind. He is gracious. He is wise. He has simply called us to listen for his voice and to follow. And he will lead us as we lead those with whom we have been charged.

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember