3 thoughts on walking your unique path — Phil Rice

I will be measured only by what He asked of me [his path for me]

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I will not be measured by what others expected of me, I will be measured only by what He asked if me. 

This is from my process in the article Church. Do I fit the model? more than organization. And I think it’s worth spending a little time expounding…

This is reality. I will stand before God one day. I will be measured by my obedience to him in how I walked my singular path, not in the way I walked parallel to the path of another. We glean from one another. But at the end, we stand before God —alone— accounting for our purpose and life. Kind of a heavy statement. But like everything else, we have the opportunity to walk these things out with slow, simple, intentionality.


1. Live as the exception

Don’t assume that just because this is how everyone does it, that this is how you must do it [whatever the “it” happens to be]. The common way forward is not your compass bearing. Your way forward is your compass bearing.

And the great thing is, we each have the opportunity to live as the exception. We are so uniquely gifted and diversely wired [and diversely weird] that we have the opportunity to chart a course that is unique to us and our own flavor.

When I was in the throws of starting Ember, there were plenty of reasons why it would fail and only a few reasons why it would succeed. I scribbled ‘live as the exception’ on a note on my desk and looked at it every day [sometimes several times a day… what a wild ride]. I wasn’t saying, ‘Man… I’m way better than everyone else, of course I can do this.’ It was simply a commitment to myself to fully be myself in my role and to reach past what was expected. It was about approaching this [differently].


2. Fear is not a good enough excuse

Fear is not a good excuse. But it is a good indicator of something that I have an opportunity to move beyond. I like the way Kris Vallotton said it, ‘the dogs of doom stand at the doors of our destiny.’ I’m into that. What are we afraid of? How can we move beyond those doors?

Fear of lack should not keep us from our path. We can always get by on less than we think we can. What if we have to downsize [or have a few roommates! which is one of our favorite things, btw…]? What if we have to sell one of the cars [or buy an old one… or drive a scooter, hey!]? What if we have to relocate [or not relocate]? For our family, these are completely valid solutions for being financially freed up to follow the road that God has set in front of us. The adventure far outweighs the cost of things. [Tim Ferriss has a really simple and fantastic exercise called Fear Setting to pinpoint and move beyond our fear. check it out.]

Fear of reputation should not keep us from our path. What if no one is into what I’m [selling, making, writing, creating, producing]? What if no one agrees with my [thoughts, perspective, religious beliefs, political persuasion, food choices, lifestyle decisions, career path]? Well… what if they don’t? I find that there will be those who don’t agree with you. All that means is that you are actually articulating something out loud. But you will also find others who are more in line with your way of thinking than you thought. You will most likely find someone who loves your creations/perspective.


3. God refreshes and revives along the way


As I am true to myself and the path God has placed before me [the life I was made to live], our conversation [mine and his] about that path is authentic. I find that I need him more as the path winds and turns. This path is uncharted. And there’s no one else on it.

I’m led by God. I’m truly able to know him as the good shepherd. I don’t need to be led by another when I already know the direction or the outcome. I need a guide when I only know the next step… and then the next step after that.

Through the process of walking the path in front of me, God really does refresh my inner being, my heart. How cool to be able to know him in such a way that daily, we have interaction about real experience [reviewing financials, raising children, completing projects, engaging people, navigating marriage, hiking in nature, walking downtown]. He is with us and desires to guide us on our path that he intended for us. We will find life there. We will find him there.


And remember, this life [your path] is a beautiful adventure

As I mentioned at first, when I stand before God at the end of my life, I will not be measured by what others expected of me, I will be measured only by what He asked if me. But what he asks of me so aligns with who he created me to be. This is not a bleak existence. This is a beautiful adventure.

Any thoughts?

I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments section. These 3 thoughts are by no means all encompassing. What makes up your 3?

Phil Rice


find me social —Instagram —Twitter —Facebook —Soundcloud

find me here too —philrice.blog —Practical Spirituality —Ember


Church. Do I fit the model? more than organization — Phil Rice

Is the conversation really about organization?

Take away our buildings and our branding, our programs and our structures, our worship bands and our sermons, until all that is left is Jesus and his people and… I believe that we would still have all the necessary components for church (tweet, Phil Rice).

People continue to ask why I’m not part of the local church, and in the asking is precisely why. We have lost a sense of church beyond organization and branding. I have not left the local church (tweet, Phil Rice).

These are a few thoughts that have sparked some passionate and productive conversation about the church gathered. I thought I would take a moment to add to that conversation. I would just like to say at the onset, thank you to everyone who has already vulnerably shared their thoughts and perspective on the subject. So let’s deepen the convo… yeah?

A traditional picture of church

When we begin to talk about church, for many of us [especially those of us who have grown up in midwest America], a very specific picture comes to mind:

We are greeted at the door or foyer [fancy word for entryway] and are ushered into a [hopefully] friendly and warm environment of people mingling and catching up on a week’s worth of highlights. Typically what follows includes a time of corporate worship, where we join the gathered assembly singing songs to God, led by an organist, a rock band, or something in-between. We are welcomed by a man or woman of the community who stands up at the front of the group to communicate the happenings of the larger community and invites us to pray for specific needs there in.

We are then invited to participate in donating financially to the community by the passing of a plate or basket. A leader of the community will then stand and share with us, his or her thoughts on a particular passage of scripture, value, or vision for the community. Usually, a song is played at the end of our time together, giving us a chance to reflect on or internalize what was communicated. Then we head back out to mingle for a few more minutes, grab a cup of coffee from the coffee pot [or espresso machine, or perhaps pour over bar?], pick up our kids in a different area of the building where they have gotten to have their own time together. And finally, we head home or to lunch or to wherever we go.

And we love it

Whether you’ve attended a gathering like this or not, you’ve been exposed to pieces and bits of such a gathering. Both the symphony and the rock concert give participants a place to lose themselves in music, lyric, sound. The CEO of a company will regularly gather the team in-order to communicate a value or practice. Every year United Way invites entire cities to donate finances as a means to help those in need.

And we love all these things! And rightly so!  There is purpose and intention behind them.

We love it… Sometimes

There are also times where the music doesn’t quite hit us in deep places — a symphony goer that finds themselves at the rock concert, a CEO or manager has too many meetings [or not enough?], too regularly, and of course… if someone is asking us to donate to something that we don’t have a value for, we may give once, or twice… but if they knock on our door for the 7th week in a row, I imagine we will [very politely] communicate that this will be our final donation to the cause.

A different way forward [just a few Phil Rice thoughts]?

There are many communities or individuals that my church example and say, ‘Yeah, that sounds about right [with a few adjustments here and there].’ And, you know? Many people fit right into this world and need not look elsewhere.

Some might even say, ‘Well, our church is different, because we do ABC instead of XYZ.’ Or, ‘Phil, your description of church was about as vanilla as it gets and I’m offended by how you portray it. Our weekly meeting is way more exciting/intimate/deep/rich/provoking than that!’ And that’s totally fine! You can be offended at me. But the fact that you relate to my description in any way, communicates that there are several key rhythms that most of the church prescribes to, yeah?

Something I’ve observed is that some people don’t fit. I’m not talking about not fitting in one church [read “organized church gathering”] over another… I’m saying… they’ve tried them all and they don’t fit the model. And that’s okay too.

What happens if I don’t fit the model?

Often, those who don’t fit the traditional structure of church are encouraged to:

  1. Look into overseas missions — what nation do you have a heart for? let’s send you!
  2. Attend a ministry school — let’s hone your gifts and really let you go for it…
  3. Lead a small group — I love your passion, I want you to reproduce that in others…

There is nothing wrong with shaking things up a little! These are good options. And they are perfect for some! But… they are not for everyone and I think it’s important to add more dimension to the conversation.

What if we gather around the problem we’re solving for?

As disciples of Jesus, there are so many areas of society in which we belong. We have so many diverse opportunities to bring our perspective and our light into our world.

If this is really true, then why would we think that we must all gather the in the same way? 

Some additional thoughts in the following articles
-> Not At Church — Phil Rice
-> What Is Spiritual Authority? Am I Under It? — Phil Rice

I will be measured only by what He asked of me

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I will not be measured by what others expected of me, I will be measured only by what He asked if me.

His path for me is what determines the rhythms and patterns of my life. If traditional patterns and structures hinder my ability to walk the path that He has put before me, then it is of the most timely importance that I drop them and begin to ask, “How then shall I live?”

The same goes for my spiritual family and for yours. His path for us [insert your ‘us’] determines the rhythms and patterns of our life together. And if any of the patterns or structures hinder our ability to walk the path He has set before us, then it is of most timely importance that we move out from them in pursuit of the question, “Jesus, since this is the path you have set before our family, how then shall we live?”

Any thoughts?

I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments section. Please feel free to share how my process hits you personally. As I said, this isn’t about a right and wrong way to gather. So let’s be honoring and respectful of the perspectives of others as we do so. Let’s glean from one another and better our perspective.

Phil Rice


find me social —Instagram —Twitter —Facebook —Soundcloud

find me here too —philrice.blog —Practical Spirituality —Ember

Not at church? — Phil Rice

I want to continue the Phil Rice story in unpacking one way that my family and I have been walking out Practical Spirituality in our own world.

While on the earth, Jesus did a pretty incredible thing [a pretty incredible series of things]. Though for now, let’s just focus on a single piece of the puzzle. Jesus, Emmanuel — God among us. This piece of who Jesus is has always resonated with me. Jesus, came to the earth, he left his home, he left his omnipresence, and he became a man. He did this in order to relate to me [you] specifically, he knows me, knows my culture, knows the human condition. He’s in. Talk about being spiritually practical [and actionable].

I love this about Jesus… but I’m having trouble with it… so take this as a Phil Rice wrestling through a thing, kind of thing [Mmk?].

So, if you’re up for it, I’d love for you to join me in walking through a few thoughts.

Jesus [Emmanuel] left his palace in the sky [the description of this place is pretty wild… you should check it out if you haven’t] — Ezekiel 43, Revelation 4, Revelation 21. He left his culture, his closest relationships, his servants [can’t relate there… or with the palace in the sky actually], his place of influence… and he came to a new place. He came to the earth, he was born into our world [like really born… slimy, bloody, bodily fluid born]. He lived the life of an outcast. He didn’t fit into his family. He didn’t fit into his culture. And he definitely didn’t fit with in the religious system [he didn’t fit in so much that those overseeing the system actually killed him].

Why did he come to us? Because we wouldn’t go to him.

So, why did Jesus come to us? Because we wouldn’t go to him. Every time God tried to reach in to communicate his desire for nearness with humanity, we eventually silenced him in one way or another. So he came to us.

No problem so far? Cool… well… here’s the Phil Rice wrestle… no… actually, here’s a brief story…

At the end of 2015, Becky and I said goodbye to an amazing church community here in Norman, Oklahoma. This community and its leadership impacted our lives in ways that have changed us forever. In the fall of 2015, it was decided that the organization would fold. Families and individuals sought the Lord for what was next [from beginning to end and beyond, an incredibly painful and challenging season of time for everyone involved]. In the end, people landed in one place or another. Many families joined other church organizations in the area, a few families continued meeting together regularly in homes, and then a few of us just waited. And, to be honest, two years later, Becky and I are waiting.

Waiting for what?

Something that Becky and I immediately noticed in January of 2016 was the state of our calendar… it was empty. For the first time ever [like…ever], it was empty. We went from being at the center of a large community of weekly gathering, passionately worshipping, friend inviting, communally praying, followers of Jesus… to just being… us. No plan, no strategy, no organizational mechanism to move us forward. We were us. And, you know what we found? It was so refreshing.

It wasn’t refreshing because we didn’t love our church community of 12 years and grieve it’s end. It wasn’t refreshing because we were so glad to be done with church. It was refreshing because there was space. There was space to listen to God and to one another. There was space to ask questions about what it could look like for Rice party of four to follow Jesus together. Those 12 years were a most incredible bootcamp. We were given tools, values, perspectives, and then… we were released into the wild with a piece of rope and a snickers bar. Going to find another bootcamp just didn’t feel like the answer for us, we were ready, we were waiting… we are waiting… but waiting for what?

Here’s the Phil Rice wrestle… the magnetic pull of organized church

Our family calendar reflects the values of our family, explicitly or implicitly. When Becky and I were part of a church community of 200 people, our calendar was magnetically pulled toward the center of the community — the relationships we were pulled towards, the activities we participated in, the practices we adopted. This would probably be true of anyone in any group. And… We loved it. We loved the people, we aligned with the practices. We were in.

But then we looked around. And we found that our calendar was filled to the brim with meaningful activities with other Jesus followers. We had created our own palace, filled with all the comforts of adoring Jesus in a culture that adores Jesus. We gaped when we realized the level of energy we [personally] were spending managing “discipling relationships” with people who were already followers of Jesus and how little of our energy went to knowing and discipling those still on the path to knowing him.

That’s not to say we didn’t reach out to people outside of our palace to invite them in. We did. But it just wasn’t their palace. It was’t their culture. Don’t misunderstand, we had individuals meet Jesus through our community of friends and join our community. Their lives were impacted, they were impowered, and I love their stories. But it took a lot of social bravery on their behalf to leave their culture and to come into ours. But what of their friends and what of their families? What if they weren’t as brave?

Is there another way we could approach some of this?

I can’t help but ask the question. Does the way we organize hinder many from experiencing God’s spirit through genuine, real relationship with the Jesus follower? Does the way we organize bar the Jesus follower from being the extension of Emmanuel, the God who brings relevance from within a culture, simply because there isn’t relational time on the calendar?

So here we are… in the midst of the wrestle

So here we are. Two years later. Just us. We haven’t joined a church. We haven’t started a church. Now, we do have close friends who also follow Jesus. We share meals and experiences with these friends. We’ve had book clubs with these friends. We are even in group therapy with some of these friends [are you part of a small group? … um… I go to therapy?]. But something really helpful is happening… there’s no magnetic pull to the palace at the center. Because there’s no center and there’s no palace.

Taking our cues and taking our time

In the spring of 2016, we spent some time in Portland with Paul Watson — read his book, it’ll change your life… not kidding. We walked away from our time with him with 3 things God spoke clearly to us.

  • Be near to me
  • Love my words
  • Love your life

I can honestly say, if we’ve done nothing else these last two years, we’ve done these things. We have sought to be near to the Lord. We have continued to meditate on his words and we have listened for his direction. We’ve loved our life. We’ve given ourselves permission to love things, to enjoy things… What if I took this pottery class? Or I went to yoga in the park? What if we started this book club? How about a special dinner Sunday evenings with close friends and family, giving us space to remember God’s goodness together? What if my business went in this direction or yours went in that direction? And we’ve found ourselves among lots of different people. We’ve had real conversations about real things. We’ve listened. We’ve shared. We’ve received. We’ve offered help and experience.

We’re taking our cues from Emmanuel — God with us, God among us. We left the palace. And now we’re asking God, What does it look like to bring light and understanding to places without? We don’t have lots of answers, but we do have our questions, our compass bearing. So, I guess it’s not really waiting at this point. It’s simply listening for his voice at each step and knowing that we are on the path he has set before us.

Any thoughts?

I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments section. Please feel free to share how our process hits you personally. As I said, this is a journey— an un-plotted map on an extended adventure. We would love to glean from your experience.

Phil Rice


find me social —Instagram —Twitter —Facebook —Soundcloud

find me here too —philrice.blogPractical Spirituality —Ember

Turnkey Church?

Thoughts continued from Organizational Turnkey and the Great American Detox

I think the turnkey approach can be incredibly helpful in many industries and organizations… but in my opinion, local church is not one of them. To reiterate, this is my opinion, and I’m voicing it, hopefully, to relieve some pressure that many of our local church communities can so easily begin to feel — finding themselves taking on things they were never meant to take on, carrying things they were never meant to carry, and trying to be something they were never meant to be. Because of the way we, the church, have looked to marketing and business as the way we build, organize, and strategize [which are, at times, incredibly helpful tools], we have unfortunately also taken on this pressure to offer every spiritual service imaginable — often for the sake of marketing or more simply, appeasement — going back to our turnkey definition from my previous entrya complete product or service that is ready for immediate use. Is it necessary [or healthy] for a local believing community to be a spiritual one-stop shop? Is there a subtle cost that we are paying for over time?

For the body does not consist of one part, but of many… If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has arranged the members of the body, every one of them, according to His design. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body (1 Corinthians 12).

Paul’s admonition has often been directed toward the individual, but not typically toward the local congregation of believers. Yes, each community of believers is made up of many gifts. But to say each groups is to carry the fullness of the glory of Jesus [his entire body], would not be correct, as it’s missing entirely the purpose of the whole, universal, catholic body of believers — the one body of Christ. There are not local bodies of Christ… There is only one body and He, the head, has invited us to be part of what He is doing.

Despite this reality, our churches and leadership teams feel pressure to be the best in every area — Hollywood caliber teaching, rockstar worship experience, over the top youth and children programs, small groups geared toward the older generation, the newly married, the not married, the young families, the empty-nesters, the un-nested. What we do in the name of excellence, if we are not careful, becomes an aside that distracts us from the very identity the Spirit of God has spoken into each distinct expression of his body — communicating a unique piece of His heart and character.

So where do we go from here?

We have each been uniquely created. We have each been uniquely gifted. Would it not also be true that each community of believing people would also be unique in composition? It takes courageous leadership to communicate this is who we are, this is what we are best at, this is our contribution.

Let’s courageously ask ourselves… What is my contribution? What is my part? Where do I come alive and how do I bring God glory from this place? How does he want to impact my world? 

And leaders, let’s ask the same of our local expressions… How has the Spirit of God identified us? Who has he called us to be? — And taking it one step further — What areas are we weaker in? — And another amazingly courageous step forward — What other groups, communities, organizations are strong in these areas and how has God invited us to join together in order to further his kingdom in our region?

Instead of reinventing the wheel — the wheel that we really don’t have time, energy, vision, capacity, to build anyway — what if we walked out of our house and looked down the street to see if anyone else had already built it. What if, when we do find someone with the wheel we are missing, we ask them if we could come down to their house to use their wheel too?

It could really position us to keep doing what we do best. And, you know what? As we get to know the folks who’s wheel we are using, we might even become friends.


Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

Turnkey organization and the great American detox

Here’s a starting place:

google search turnkey defined -> of or involving the provision of a complete product or service that is ready for immediate use

A complete product or service that is ready for use. I walk into one grocery store to get all the groceries I need. Oh yeah, and I’ll grab a pack of batteries while I’m there… and maybe throw in a pack of white v-neck tee’s while I’m here… Oh… and I’ve been meaning to get my oil changed. I’ll do that here too. Convenient.

Why should’t I get my oil changed while I get my groceries and the newest blu-ray release? What’s wrong with capping a burger and fries with a McLatte? Nothing is necessarily wrong with it… it’s convenient. And if you don’t mind your latte tasting kind of like that burger and fries, then go for it.

There we have it… a complete product or service that is ready for IMMEDIATE use — so convenient.

But, do we lose something in the turnkey rat race? Do we lose something when we can walk into a place and get everything we need and everything we want? Does some inner fortification of my soul die within me when I open a single iPhone application to make 99% of my purchases, promising to arrive at my doorstep within 48 hours? I mean… it’s totally convenient… but is there a hidden cost somewhere flying just below the radar?

I love the german originated Aldi Grocery Stores for this very reason. It’s the consumer’s AA rehab protocol. Americans Anonymous — My name is Phil … Hi Phil… and I’m American. I feel entitled to get anything I want, whenever I want… I need help. Aldi stocks one kind of most — not necessarily all — grocery items. One week they may have lightly salted cashews and only lightly salted almonds the next. No apology. They have found a way to simplify their business model and have somehow convinced their patrons that we are not entitled to get everything we want. Thank you Aldi… I needed that. Want a shopping cart? That will be $.25. Oh, don’t worry, you’ll get your quarter back… after you return your shopping cart exactly where you found it. Grocery sacks? That will cost you a few pennies as well. Or, you can use these boxes that we have lying around after stocking the shelves. Need something that Aldi didn’t actually carry in stock this week? Sorry, maybe try next week. The best way I can describe this transcendent experience is #thegreatamericandetox — sometimes… it’s healthy for my soul to not get what I want.

Thanks Aldi.


Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember