Faster vs Better – Chaplain Thought – Monday, March 30, 2020

One of the companies that I chaplain for has pretty much gone to all work at home during the COVID-19 crisis. Therefore, I am sending out a weekly thought to keep in contact with them. This week’s is below.

Since more of us than normal at *** are working from home, or at least out of the office, I conversed with ******* concerning sending a weekly chaplain thought to everyone. This week’s thought comes from ***’s “Chew on This” Lunch meeting.

Each week a group of ***ers gets together, usually mixed between in-person and Webex participation (presently all through Webex for obvious reasons), to eat lunch, talk with one another about the things that are important to us, and share insight concerning subjects that one or more members of the group may have some expertise within. If you have the chance I would encourage you to attend, I find them very enlightening and enjoyable.  Today we checked in on each other and discussed some of the changes that COVID-19 has brought about for us all. Bradley shared a wonderful video from Simon Sinek concerning communication in this crisis. The video link is below.

Sinek’s point reminded me of a lecture I heard from a communication theorist years ago. I don’t remember his name, nor can I find my notes from 10 years ago to help me remember his name, but his point has stuck with me and changed much of my behavior in daily communication. 

This theorist stated that in his opinion advancements in communication usually lead to easier and faster, but not better communication. He walked everyone through a timeline to describe his point. 

We went from communication through a stationary phone “land-line” with a short line that you had to sit down beside (usually in the house’s foyer or living room), to a phone with a 20’ line (usually in the kitchen) that allowed you to do other things. You could now talk with someone while making your meal but the center of your focus was no longer on the person with whom you were talking. You divided your focus because you didn’t want to chop off your thumb while you were talking on the phone and making dinner. Then we went from the 20’ lines to wireless phones, and then cell phones. Each improvement allowed us to communicate easier and faster but not necessarily better. Now we talk with people while walking and driving rather than waiting to get back to the office or home. We communicate with others while we walk our dogs, rake our yards, grocery shop, and do everything else that is a part of our daily lives, but the price is that we are distracted from both the conversation and the task at hand. It is easier than ever before to get a message to someone, and more difficult than ever before to get a good message across. Texting, chatting, and messaging have each made our communication faster still, but definitely not better. We “talk” all the time without ever actually communicating much of anything. 

When we really want to communicate what is important we need to focus and give of ourselves. In my own faith tradition when God wanted to communicate His truth, He sent the Son, His very own self, to convey His message. His message was Himself, so only His very person could communicate that message. We communicate best when we give of ourselves.

I believe this is especially important when we are in isolation, such as the present moment in our history. Through the many gifts of technology, we have some amazingly fast methods of communication in front of us, that are helpful when we need speed over quality. I am very thankful for texting when someone cancels a meeting and texts me to inform me. Yet in our present social isolation, we need to give of ourselves more than anything else. So maybe use the forms of communication that force us to sit and focus on who we are talking with, rather than just the ones that are expedient at the moment. Webex the person you are talking with and force yourself to focus, or sit down and do nothing else while you talk with someone, maybe even write them a letter (but please don’t lick your envelope). Just communicate with your whole being, rather than communicating while you do something else. We need each other right now.

Please remember if you need someone to talk with about what is important to you I am always there for you and we can communicate in whatever fashion is best for you.

One Thing

One of the companies that I chaplain for has pretty much gone to all work at home during the COVID-19 crisis. Therefore, I am sending out a weekly thought to keep in contact with them. This week’s is below.

Since more of us than normal at *** are going to work from home, or at least out of the office, I asked *********** if I could send a weekly chaplain thought to everyone. I hope you find them encouraging. This week’s thought comes from one of my favorite movies from the 90s, City Slickers.

If you aren’t familiar with “City Slickers” it is about Mitch Robbins (played by Billy Crystal) and some of his friends who go to a dude ranch to learn to be cowboys, and along the way learn who they are too. Mitch begins an initially terrifying friendship with the rough ridden lead cowboy Curly (played by the classic cowboy actor Jack Palance). In the conversation that changes the direction of the movie and Mitch’s life, Curly gives Mitch some advice. 

Curly says to Mitch:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?

[holds up one finger]

Curly: This.

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean anything (my edit).

Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”

Curly: [smiles] That’s what *you* have to find out.

Curly probably doesn’t know it but he is paraphrasing the famous Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who wrote: “Purity of heart is to will one thing.”

Kierkegaard’s point was that when you know what is most important in your life it enables you to not be pulled aside by less important things. Basically, when you know what you have said “Yes” to, and thus declared for yourself “this is most important”, it makes it easier to say “No” to all the things that aren’t as important. These may be good things you are saying “no” to, but they aren’t your “One Thing” and therefore they have to come second in order, and sometimes not at all. This is true in our use of time (as Jackie talked about today in the company “Chew On This” Lunch Conversation), our use of our resources, and most importantly what shapes the focus of our lives. Knowing our “One Thing” helps us to make choices in line with who we want to be.

So what is your “One Thing”?

I think times of crisis like we are going through right now are a good time for us to make sure that our “One Thing” is something worth living our lives for. Does your “One Thing” direct all your other choices? Is your “One Thing” worth living for? Does your “One Thing” lead to healthy choices or has it led to destructive choices?

I also believe that knowing what our “One Thing” is gives us hope in the midst of crisis. Everything else can fall away, but this “One Thing” is what I am focused on. It is what matters. As long as it stands you’re good.

I hope you know what you “One Thing” is, and that it is a good “One Thing” that is life-giving rather than destructive. Mine is my faith and it leads me in wonderful directions.

Please know that I am always available for any conversations you would like to have concerning your “One Thing”.

Stay safe, wash your hands, and use your time in a manner that honors your “One Thing”.

Robert Terrell
Senior Certified Chaplain
Corporate Chaplains of America
1-877-322-CHAP ext. 4311

Prep for Sunday, March 22, 2020 Tapestry Worship “Gathering”

Tomorrow at 10:30 am we will again “gather” together to proclaim that the Lord is worthy. Here are a few things that you could look up beforehand that might be helped during the gathering.

  • Heidi & Adam Holte are singing Jesus Savior Pilot Me. You can find the lyrics HERE.
  • Pam Terrell wrote a responsive reading for the day that will be lead by Pam, Noah, and Robert Terrell. You can find the reading HERE.
  • Clancy Cramer is singing I Wait. You can find the lyrics HERE.
  • There is an arts & craft segment at the end. You’ll need paper, something with which to draw and decorate, safety scissors, and a piece of yarn about 3″ in length.

The video gathering will be on Tapestry’s Facebook ( and Youtube (HERE)pages at 10:30. A Facebook Live event will happen at 10:30 on the church’s Facebook page.

Clive “Running”

Mark G, my friend and past-thread now living in Madison, posted the following wonderful article from The Onion “Nation Demands More Slow-Motion Footage Of Running Basset Hounds“. I know The Onion is satire but I feel like in these there is a great deal of truth in this article. Right now our nation NEEDS more slow-motion footage of running basset hounds.

As you probably know Clive is a giver and when he saw this article he wanted to help. So here you go folks.

Do you know the famous quote from Fred Rogers concerning emergencies? This one:

There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” 

Well, folks, this is what Clive running to help looks like. He’s one of the helpers (ht Pamela). Clive is here for y’all.

2 Things: Journaling & Local Small Churches

I have a love/hate relationship with journaling. For a few decades now, I have carried a journal around with me. I get a little picky about the journals I use. I always use them for various notes throughout my day, sermon notes, lists, doodles, etc., and hopefully for drawings during conversations (it is almost always a good conversation when a drawing is involved). Sometimes, hopefully more times than not, I journal in them about what happens during my days and my thoughts about various things. Then I go for a period without journaling about my days. Eventually, I’ll start up again because I really prefer it when I am journaling.

The reason I bring this up right now is that I was thinking about how this is a good time to be journaling. The things that are going on right now are events that we should think through and consider. I believe journaling helps us do. There is just something about writing on paper that I believe helps in truly considering our days. At least, it helps me to sort through what I am thinking and feeling during tough days, and these are tough days. I also believe this is a good time to journal because these are unique days. This time will be something we will want to look back on, our kids, and grandkids will want to see what we were doing and what we were thinking. So I encourage us all to journal, at least a little bit. If not for us, for our grandkids. Pam has the equivalent of a bullet journal from her circuit riding, Methodist minister of a great-grandfather. It is pretty cool to read what he did each day.

Over the past few days, I have read and heard several people making wonderful statements about supporting local businesses during this crisis. This is a great idea. I love local businesses. They have a local flavor. I am really thankful for chains when I am on the road and don’t have time to discover a local place, but when I am in a place with a friend who knows the area or have time to explore I would much rather eat at a local restaurant. Some place that “tastes” like that locale. Someplace that I can’t get in any other town. The same is true with other local businesses. They have the flavor of their town.

If it is an option, and for many it won’t be, we should consider buying take out meals from local restaurants and gift certificates from local businesses to help them make it through this rough period.

I believe this is also true of small churches. They have the flavor of their community. There are some wonderful HUGE web-based churches that produce some first-class, professional, smooth videos and teachings that can be consumed on the internet. I’m thankful for them in the same way that I am thankful for Lowes or Menards. Lowes is where I went when I needed boxes in Prattville, Alabama to help my mother move. That’s because I didn’t know what the local equivalent of Franks Hardware was in Prattville. Lowes “tastes” like nowhere. Franks “tastes” like Point.

Those monster national web-based churches don’t “taste” like Point and they probably don’t “taste” like your home either. They are the equivalent of going to a Sandals resort. To paraphrase Douglas Adams writing in the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” they are almost, but not quite, completely unlike your hometown. Those churches probably don’t want to taste like your home because they are trying to reach people all over the US and world. Like Target they are a homogenous. They look and feel a little bit like everywhere, but not really like anywhere. Your local church is trying to reach people in your hometown so it feels like your hometown. Your small local church is different and this crisis is going to be very difficult for many of them. I would encourage you to support your small local church.

The megabox stores are going to survive this crisis, while our local businesses are going to seriously struggle. I fear the same is true for small local churches.

“Threads” this post isn’t meant to worry you about Tapestry. We aren’t going anywhere. Since we don’t have our own building our expenses actually went down because we aren’t paying rent for however long this thing goes on. Yeah for being a nomadic church!

Latest Tapestry-COVID-19 Update

Here’s the letter that I just published on the church website:

Tapestry & COVID-19 – Update 3/18/2020

You may have heard the old joke about how to make God laugh. You tell Him your plans. I don’t think God is actually laughing about any of this, the God of scripture cries over the pain of His people, but the last few days have been a reminder of how quickly plans can change.

First, the Leadership Team has been working out how Tapestry will gather to worship over the next few weeks. The CDC’s guidelines for gatherings keep changing. It has gone from less than 50 people, when we made out least plans, to less than 10. Therefore, as a church, we will no longer work toward meeting in smaller groups in houses and instead do video gatherings, similar to this past week’s, for at least the next three weeks. These video gatherings will be done via Facebook Live (which you can access without having a Facebook account) and Youtube. We hope and pray that by Resurrection Sunday (Easter) there will be some way for us to have some type of in-person meeting. We will broach that subject in the next few weeks. Thee will continue to be lots of changes. We will respond to those changes together.

On these videos, we will once again try to involve as many people as possible in each week’s video. We are going to focus on a theme that came out of last week’s video – Ebenezer. “Thus far has God helped us” and therefore we can trust that He will continue to help us. If you would be interested helps my making a video with your phone of 

  • You praying, 
  • You reading a Psalm, 
  • You sharing a story of when God has helped you during a rough time.

PLEASE NOTE – we are not looking for you to be smooth and polished in these videos. We are looking for you to be you. We are going to lean into who we are and we are gritty. So let your grittiness shine through and don’t worry about it being professional.

If you would like to do any of these, or something else, please contact Robert ( Share your Ebenezer and let’s together remind each other that God is trustworthy.

Secondly, we are recommending that our small groups find alternate methods of staying connected over the next few weeks. Google Hangouts, Skype, or Facebook Video Chat are some available technologies for doing this. We are all self-isolating to protect each other but we also need to fight against the emotional and spiritual isolation that can come with this self-isolation. Please reach out to the people around you. Please reach out to people inside and outside of the church. We have wonderful technology that is so often used to separate and divide people. We can use it so that others do not feel alone.

Thirdly, if you become sick or need to be quarantined we want to be there for you. Specifically, if you become sick and need someone to get supplies for you or pick up groceries please call someone on the Leadership Team and we will arrange to bring them to you. Cory (920-585-2630), Ellyn (715- 851-6504), or Robert (715-572-2198).

If you develop symptoms or are sick HERE are the CDC’s recommendations.

Not To Be Morbid, But It Is Always Good To Have Your End of Life Decisions Made

Years ago I chaplained at St. Mike’s hospital as a part of my CPE training (CPE stands for “Clinical Pastoral Education” and is the standard in chaplaincy training, it can also stand for “Crying Practically Every day” but that is another story). The worst thing I experience emotionally at the hospital involved an end of life decision that wasn’t made beforehand. It was traumatic being relatively sure that this patient had certain desires but not being able to follow them because nothing had been formalized. The family begged, but neither the physician nor I (at the time at St. Mike’s chaplains were the people behind Advance Directives – I don’t know if that is still true since it is now a part of Ascension Healthcare) could get a coherent word from the patient expressing their desire. It was awful. The family hurt. The hospitalist and I hurt for them, but there was nothing we could do.

So this whole crisis has reminded me to encourage everyone I know to formalize your end of life decisions now when you are able to make them. Make your own decisions so someone else doesn’t have to guess at them or do nothing because they aren’t sure. This has nothing to do with COVID-19 other than it serving as a reminder for me to encourage people to do this. It is a smart idea to have these done – crisis or no crisis. So below are two links, one to a free will-maker and the other to a state by state site for making advance directives (the broader term for living wills).

  • Make your own will at – does this to encourage people to give to non-profits, which I think is an awesome idea.
  • National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s list of Advance Directives for each state can be found HERE.

I’m no lawyer, so if your life is more complicated go talk to a lawyer for a more thorough setup. These two websites work for my simple life. Also, they are free, so that is a bonus. I love my simple life and I love free too.

My hope is that none of us will need to use either of these forms for a very long time. It is just my inner-“Boy Scout” coming out saying “Be Prepared”.

Either that, or my inner-Scar coming out, but I prefer the inner-“Boy Scout”.

Itlay Has Convinced Me That I Would Go To Church Just To Sing

There is a good chance that you have seen some of the videos of Italians singing from their windows during their social isolation because of COVID-19. It is very moving.

Here’s a compilation of many different scenes of singing.

This singing also reminds me of one of the things I love about church – singing with others.

Yes, I love singing with others because it strengthens my faith but that isn’t the only reason. There is just something magical about the act of singing with other people. Especially when it is about solidarity rather than performance. I love it so much that I actually believe that if I lost my faith in Christ (I haven’t) I might seriously consider still going to church just to sing with other people. In my opinion, it is difficult to find such singing outside the church. It happens, but it is rare, and that saddens me.

Hint: The above video has fake audio. They aren’t singing “Roar” by Katy Perry.

Just look at the videos of singing in Italy. They are singing songs that are common to them (patriotic and religious) or they are just playing prerecorded music on a PA and making noise along with the recording. For everyone to sing it requires music that is known by the majority of people involved. Most songs don’t ever get that near to universal, and most venues outside of churches don’t have songbooks or projected lyrics for those who don’t know the song to be able to sing along.

Some pop stars have been tweeting examples of their songs being sung, which are, as you would expect, almost all fake. This makes sense because while some pop songs get very popular only a very few of the historical classics reach the point that most of a neighborhood would know the lyrics. Seriously, how many of my friends and family who read these blog posts know most of the lyrics to Katy Perry’s song “Roar”? I, as the writer of this post, don’t know the chorus off the top of my head (I just looked it up and now know it is “Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh”). Of course, I pretty much only know modern music that my sons have introduced me to, so I may be the exception here rather than the rule.

The church gives you an opportunity to sing in solidarity with others. I’m not really talking about choirs here, though they are nice. As far as I am concerned congregational (crowd) singing is where it is at. That’s where the real solidarity happens. The church is one of the few places where modern American life involves singing with groups that aren’t doing it for performance. It does happen sometimes, like the crowd at a the Tom Petty Wiltern Theatre August 6th 1985, “Southern Accents Tour” concert singing “Breakdown” (this is awesome by the way), but like I said I believe it is rare outside the church.

In many ways, church songs are the majority of our cultural musical heritage. If you want to sing a song that everyone knows the lyrics to, you are pretty much going to sing either a few patriotic songs, a few protest songs, a few classic pop songs, many Christmas songs (which are usually basically church songs), or songs that are a part of a faith tradition. These are basically the only songs we all tend to know. Or if you don’t know them the church songs are probably the only ones you will get the chance to sing with a group. Because outside of the church, you are rarely given the lyrics to a new song that you then get to sing with others.

I sing to myself so many of the songs that I have learned by singing with others in the church. I sing them in moments where I need hope, I sing them in moments when I feel joy, I hum them at all sorts of time. Even when I can’t sing them with others the act of singing them to myself strengthens me by reminding me of the time I loudly confessed the truth of the songs by belting them out with others in a church worship gathering.

I am so thankful that I get to sing with others. I wish we all could right now.

Thoughts on the First Video “Gathering” for Tapestry

Above is the video that was used for our virtual “gathering” for Tapestry church today. Here are a few thoughts of gratitude at the moment.

I am amazingly thankful for the technology that allowed this today and I still don’t want to normally use it. It was great to know that we could do this, but personally I really missed everyone. This might be the only option for a little while because we have several people in our group that are in at-risk populations and we have several people in our group that are in front-line higher exposure employments. We’ll approach the future by trying to make sure that we limit the risk that our family is exposed to necessarily. The simple technology (basically our phones) that we used today enabled us to do this in a format

I am very thankful for the people who jumped up and made things happen. Thursday evening we still had a meeting place and were really just concerned with how we could sanitize effectively. Friday morning at 9:30 am we no longer had a place to gather and had to come up with something else. The plan was finalized and executed by lat night at 7:30 p.m. I have 4 videos from “threads” that I didn’t include in today’s video that I will use in the near future – either at a location or during another virtual “gathering”. Y’all are amazing.

I’m not sure what the immediate future for our worship gatherings will look like. Meeting together? Meeting in homes? More virtual “gatherings”? What I know is that the “threads” that make up this body of Christ will respond. For that, I can do nothing but be grateful.

SIDE NOTE – I didn’t try Facebook Live or Youtube Live today for this virtual “gathering” because I wasn’t comfortable enough with it. Streaming live video from a phone would have been easy but the route we chose was a video that included lots of people at various times. I wasn’t as comfortable streaming a prerecorded video file – which requires an encoder. Now after a little bit of non-emergency tinkering, I have figured it out. Next time we will be able to at least watch the pre-recorded video together live and respond to one another. If we have to do this I look forward to responding to one another and commenting. That will feel even more like home.

In the midst of this weird time of societal distancing live your faith in the God Who is relational and wash your hands … a lot.

God in the Noises of Life

The past two days I have been working with several “threads” to work up something video-wise that would be slightly similar to what we normally do during Tapestry’s Sunday morning worship gatherings. Video church isn’t really us. It works for some people, and I am glad for that. I hope that it will work for us tomorrow, and if it does it will be extremely grateful for that. Tapestry’s worship gatherings typically involve people making statements and questions, and there is usually noise. Lots of noise. The noises of life are actually one of my favorite aspects of worship during Sunday morning with Tapestry.

On a typical Sunday morning at Tapestry, you are going to hear people talking about life during the announcements, there are going to be lots of kids noises, someone walking in later, another person leaving early, and various clicks and spills from coffee cups and other things. I love these noises. I believe they serve as reminders of God being in the ordinary of the day. The Incarnate God isn’t chased away by the noises of life. He is present in the midst of them. They serve as Ebenezzer’s of God’s presence – something to remind us that if He isn’t chased away by the ever-present noises of life He won’t be chased away by the other dramas of life either.

So I was worried that a video “gathering” wouldn’t really be us because of a lack of interaction and a lack of noise. I figured I could work on the interaction by making sure that lots of people were involved. I quietly hoped that when people recorded video on their phones that some life noises would pop in there. A kid sound every now and then, maybe a a pet obviously in the room, or some other normal household sound. The noises of life, with God present in their midst.

Tomorrow at 10:30 am, I’ll post the video that the “threads” made together, so we can worship together during a week when we can’t physically worship together. The noises are there and I believe God is too.

As for the video above, well this is just what happens when Eric makes a video for you. 🙂