Daily adventures in love

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"Maybe the big things in your eyes are actually really small things," the Rev. Adam Weber wonders aloud, "and the small things in your eyes are actually huge."

Instead of searching for the big things we want to do for God, Adam encourages us instead to look for the places where we can love our neighbors, even the ones who are difficult to love. He's learned that lives can be powerfully impacted by simple things like free cookies and basketball hoops. 

Adam Weber is the founding pastor of Embrace Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in and around Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 

Adam Weber, pastor & author

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Get Your Spirit in Shape features conversations to help us keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. Logo by Sara Schork, United Methodist Communications.

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This episode posted on August 21, 2020.

Transcript

Prologue

Joe Iovino, host: Welcome to Get Your Spirit in Shape, United Methodist Communications’ and UMC.org’s podcast to help us keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. I’m Joe Iovino.

My guest today is the Reverend Adam Weber. Adam is the pastor of the Embrace Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in and around Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He’s also the author of a new book called Love Has a Name. And in this conversation you’ll hear us talk about what it means to love our neighbors and how Adam finds space in every day to prioritize the people in his life over his own agenda because that’s what God is calling him to do.

Conversation

Joe: Adam Weber, welcome to Get Your Spirit in Shape.

Adam Weber: Oh, I’m honored to sit down with you, Joe, just grateful for you and grateful for the podcast.

Joe: Well, you have a new book coming out called Love Has a Name. Tell me about the book.

Adam Weber: Yes, so this book is my second book. And it really actually kind of came from a place of needing to learn what love is all about myself. A few years back I went through one of the hardest times in my life, and actually just to explain, like, I had to make a hard leadership decision, and it wasn’t a popular decision. So really for the first time in my life had a lot of people upset with me and even had people kind of walk out of my life. And I always say one of my gift is (I have very few.) …but it’s the gift of gab, joy and just loving people.

I came to this place in life where it was…I didn’t want to love, really, anyone. I wanted to love my wife, my kids, a few close friends and that’s about it. I can remember in high school I would look at people… Again, my strong suite was joy and just loving people. And I can remember in high school seeing older people who were just mean, angry people. And I used to always think, at what point in life do you become like that? I couldn’t fathom how you’d become like that.

Well, now I’m 38 years old and obviously I ask the same question, but it’s flipped on its head. I wonder how you get to 60 or 70 years old and have a soft heart? How do you get to 60 or 70 years old and assume the best about people? How do you get to that age and truly want to love people, because the older I get the more life takes away your joy, your kindness, your desire to want to love anybody but yourself.

So I kind of went through that time 2 or 3 years back, which is the same time I began to write this book, having no idea that our culture and our world would be walking through what it’s walking through right now. I can’t believe that almost kind of personally what I felt like I went through 2 years ago, our world is walking through right now. And so the timing is just incredible. So again, I didn’t want to love anybody. Unfortunately, that Jesus guy says that loving him and loving others is the most important thing. It’s like, Oh, snap. Okay, well, that’s gonna be a problem.

Even in our world today it’s kind of an interesting dichotomy. We’re really quick to kind of carry the banner of love and shout love, that we should love people, that we should care for people. And yet that applies to really only people that think just like us. It’s like, love, love, love, unless we disagree. Love, unless we look different, unless we talk different. And it’s kind of like, ah, I’m cutting you off; I’m cancelling; I’m backing up. And it almost seemed to me this divide. It’s like we’re shouting love, unless that person is different from us. And then we don’t want to. And again, back to Jesus. It’s like, gosh, that just seems different than the example of that he set for us.

So what does it look like to love people like Jesus. It’s kind of unique that each chapter is the name of someone. No one’s famous. No one has a platform. Some are friends that I’ve known for years. Others are people that crossed paths with for maybe 10 minutes. So it’s the names of people who have either loved me or I’ve tried to love them, combined each chapter with a similar person that Jesus taught. And so it’s just a…it’s a heavy storybook. Just personal stories about these 27 people. And then a heavy storybook when it comes to Jesus, and really sharing the similar people he interacted with and loved with. And Jesus is the one that shows us the example of what love is. Not this yahoo right here. So you’re not gonna get Adam Weber is an expert on loving people. Oh, my gosh. God might strike me with lightning. Instead it’s like, hey, here’s 27 people that we could see glimpses of God’s love through. But often we’re looking to Jesus.

Joe: Is there kind of overarching takeaway that you came away with in writing this book?

Adam Weber: Yeah, I think the overall takeaway, it’s easy to treat other people inhumanely when we don’t see them as humans. Throughout our day, honestly, even myself… A lot of times I get into the rat race of life, or I get into my agenda. And the person that I get coffee from at Starbucks is no longer a human. They’re a robot that I want coffee from. And could you please make sure you make the coffee exactly like I told you to. And our co-worker is no longer a human. Can you just get that done so I don’t look like a fool in front of the boss? And all of a sudden we begin to treat humans inhumanely. And even with crowds it’s easy to create crowds of people like a blur of faces when we do that.

But something completely changes when we know a person’s name. And more than a person’s name—something completely changes when you only know a person’s story. A name oftentimes represents in a fuller sense the person’s story.

Jesus was so good at knowing names. But more than that he was so good at knowing stories.

But I just even think about our angry neighbor who is really uptight. He’s kind of an old jerk, like just go and talk with him. You know, I know he gets uptight when my kids walk on his grass. And he’s really weird. Like, if I mow on his lawn he’s just like really uptight about it. He’s just kind of this old bag of a man. That changes when all of a sudden you find out that same person acting the same way when we find out that they lost their wife to cancer…of 40 years and the last 3 years he took care of her. All of a sudden it’s like we no longer grumble and mumble about him. Maybe we do every so often. But gosh, he must be having a rough day. But all of a sudden we start seeing him as a human, and we hear that it’s actually his anniversary and even though he’s mean and rough around the edges, if we start thinking about it, is there something nice we can do on this day? And a person who sleeps around, it’s easy to joke about them, like, who hasn’t been with her? Who hasn’t been with him? They’ll be with anybody. But it totally changes when you find out that guy or gal was abused. Or, that guy or gal grew out without parents. Then all of a sudden you’ll find non-Christians…you’ll see people who are not followers of Jesus who say, Hey, actually that person’s off limits to talk about. You see rough-around-the–edges people who don’t know Jesus saying, Hey, I don’t want you to talk about her that way. Again, even if the person is no different, it just changes when you find out their story.

When someone knows your name it makes you feel valued. It makes you feel like you have worth. And I’ve found whether it’s a homeless man who walks by my house, or it’s a high-end CEO that I just randomly get to know her and cross paths with her. Both of those people love when their name is used. It’s like, Oh, they see me. They notice me. And there’s something that’s powerful about even asking a person’s story.

The other day there was a gentleman in my neighborhood…he’s a low income man, struggles severely with mental health. He’s a Native American brother, and the other day I just asked him about his parents. I just said, Tell me about your mom and your dad. Are they good people? And he said, My mom is such a wonderful woman when she’s not drunk. And he went from being this stern, hard-faced man to just being this soft person talking about his mom. And I just wondered when was the last time anyone, let alone someone who looks like me, asked him about his mom? And he just began to warmly share about his mother with me. And it was the most beautiful thing. So there’s something powerful about knowing a person’s name and knowing a person’s story.

Again, back to Jesus, one of my favorite stories is the story of Zacchaeus, this rich tax collector. Has money but most people hate him. He wouldn’t have been allowed in worship. His family in a lot of ways would have disowned him. Jesus comes to town and he’s curious to find out more about Jesus. So curious…. And this always just blows me away, that a rich man is willing to climb up a tree to see him. That’s kind of a foolish thing to do. And then Jesus walks buy and the one person we know he knows by name is Zacchaeus. That shares 2 things with me. For the person even listening today, if you find yourself in Zacchaeus’ shoes right now…. Maybe you’ve made some mistakes in life. Maybe you feel shameful. Maybe you feel less than because of whatever it might be. Less than because of your position, your education, your race, whatever it might be. Jesus knows your name. And he knows your story and he wants to come over to your house today. Like, that’s a pretty fantastic thing. Like, whew. I know I’ve had moments where I’ve wondered if Jesus wants to know my name. Or wonder if I’m good enough for him to want to know my name, or if I’m valuable enough for him to want to know my name. But for that person who maybe feels broken or hurt, Jesus knows your name.

And then on the flip side…. This is the part of the story we maybe don’t want to think about. But Jesus knows the name of the Zacchaeus in our life—the person that we don’t want to love. I mean, Zacchaeus is hurting people and wronging people. As good Methodists he’s living an injust life. Like, to a good Methodist we would not like Zacchaeus. So I just wonder who in our life have we maybe wanted to treat inhumanely because of their actions, because of their maybe vulgar life? And yet Jesus knows their name, too. And so that’s a challenging thing, but that’s really the takeaway. Something changes when we know a person’s name and their story. We can’t help but have compassion well up within our soul.

Joe: And it must take some time. I mean, it feels like you need to slow down to be able to do that. Some of the examples you shared of, you know, walking into Starbucks and actually recognizing the barista as a human being, or your neighbor. You have to actually pause and do that. Right?

Adam Weber: You do. And not even that long. It’s almost more of a mindset than a time length. It’s really like slow down our mind.

Even this morning, I was sitting outside of a coffee shop and there was a dad that came in the coffee shop. He was carrying a carseat with a baby. I said, How’s your day? And he said, It’s a handful. And I said, I’ve been there. And it was just this moment of like, he sees me. I saw him. He went in and got coffee, came back out, and instead of sitting far from me… (I was the only person sitting outside.) …he ended up sitting at a table as close as he could to me. I mean, that’s just an interesting thing, that he would do that with a baby, knowing that I’m working. And he actually wanted to be in close proximity to me. And I got up and I actually had to go. Right when he sat down I had to go. But I turned around again and I said, Doing okay today? He’s like, Yeah, just trying to do one thing at a time. And I said, Enjoy each minute with the little one. MY youngest is 5. And just take one thing at a time. And that’s all we said, but I just… In that moment I felt like, you know, he’s caring for this little one. I don’t know the situation with the mom. I don’t know if he’s a single father or he’s happily married with the mom. I don’t know the details, but maybe he hasn’t felt noticed. I just want him to know ‘I noticed you. I see you. And keep doing…you’re doing a good job as a father. Like, keep going; be encouraged. My youngest is five, but you’ll make it. If this young kid…I promise you’ll do… And it’s just those simple things.

That’s true with that person. It’s also true with our co-worker. Just that pause moment. Even for me. I’m a do-er. Like, I want to go check listing. One of the things I’ve been trying to do with the people who report to me, though, is just at the start of our meetings, Hey, you doing okay? Instead of, Hey, this is what I need from you. You doing all right? Anything I can pray for? It just totally changes things.

Joe: In this working from home environment that a lot of us are in right now, it’s interesting that all of our interactions have gotten fairly formal. Like, we’re on the phone or we’re on a Zoom call like we are now. Or…. We don’t have that chit chat time at the desk or just passing somebody that we used to have. And I think we do need to become very intentional about making that time. And I like that idea of just taking a moment before everything starts and saying, Hey, how’s it going? How’re you doing? And it’s hard. Do you find that people sometimes aren’t completely honest with you? We’re conditioned to say, ‘Fine.’ How are you? Fine. Whether we’re fine or not.

Adam Weber: I think we absolutely are conditioned to lie. It’s not even a matter of time as much as it’s a matter of where your head’s at. Like, how fast your brain is moving, because I think people can recognize that in you immediately. People know what kind of timeline you’re on. Like, and you’re not looking for the answer.

Yesterday, I got together with a group pastors. It was the first time our area pastors got together and we got together sitting 5-6 feet apart from each other. And we were talking about, like, what are our churches doing for this and that and whatever else. I knew I had to go and so before I went I just said, Hey, how’s everyone doing? I’m not talking about your church here for a second. How’re you doing? And there was a man that quickly jumped in and kind of shared some things, like, exciting things. Like, I’m doing really, really well. That kind of stuff. You know, I was like, Oh, that’s so good. Like, man that’s really, really exciting. And it would have been really easy to transition to the next thing on a high notes. But I just said, I just want to ask that question again. Is everybody doing okay? And quickly a man who hadn’t spoke said, “It’s been really hard.” And I said, No, no pressure at all. I was like, If you want to share…. And he just began to list off all the hard things that’s going on right now in his life as a pastor. I’m like…okay, he could see my posture, my heart. Even though I had to go. I was actually wanting to hear his answer. This morning I’ve already wrote him a note that’s gonna be sent in the mail. It’s thanking him for being honest. His honesty actually encouraged me.

So I think people will notice. And I think that’s…. They’ll notice the Jesus inside of us.

Jesus was never in a hurry. Interruptions became his agenda. Like, interruptions weren’t interruptions. Interruptions were like, oh, actually that’s what the Father wants me to do right there. And I think when we begin to have that space and maybe for me there were things that were hard to surrender when I started following Jesus. My private life was one of them that was really hard for me to surrender. Like, dating relationships. Another thing that was hard for me to surrender was money. I didn’t start tithing until I was in seminary. So that was a hard thing for me to surrender. But the hardest thing for me to surrender is my time. ‘Cause I’ve got an agenda. Like, I’ve got things that I need to get done today. Like, even today I’ve got a to-do list that I’ve already been working on. So, for me one of the hardest things to do is just to say each morning, God, today’s yours. One of my prayers often is: help me to find one person a day that I can go out of my way to love. And when we begin to do that it turns into one of the coolest, rad-est, most bizarre adventures that you’ll ever be on. And not adventures like the trips they take on “The Bachelor” or you’re traveling the world and it’s awesome. It’s an Instagram life. It’s almost the opposite. It’s things you can’t capture by picture. Things that maybe don’t make headlines in newspapers. But I think catch the eye of God. And they’re the things that he writes home about. And so that’s one of the coolest things for me, is turning every day into an adventure by just saying, Hey, God. Today is yours. I’m surrendering my time again. Help me find one person that I can love.

Joe: Part of your life being an adventure is that you went from planting a church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to becoming one of the fastest growing churches in the United States. What does it feel like? When you look back on that journey, how did you get from point A to point B?

Adam Weber: I think if anything it’s just been a simple willingness to yes to anything that God calls me to. You know, on the outside I think we see kind of like, oh, we’ve got 2 books, a major publisher, growing a church, multi-site, all that kind of stuff. More, more and more I’m beginning to see that I think the greatest ‘successes’ (I’m putting that in quotes.) of my life will be the small, simple things that no one knows about. And those are things that I think God just continues to say, Hey Adam, will you be faithful with little? Like, are you okay with being faithful with little? Because if you are I’ll give you the ability to be faithful with much. And so … I’m getting emotional. That’s the thing that I want to be faithful in, just that simple obedience of saying, God, I don’t want to help this person. I do not want to stop and talk to this person. I don’t want to listen to them. I don’t want to serve them. I don’t want to forgive them. I’m like… I mean, I’m a stubborn mule. I mean, each morning I wake up and my moods are rebellion and the rope is like as tight as it can get. But I think it’s just that obedience of saying, God, I’m so tired of trying to do what I want to do. I only want to do what you want to do because when I do what I want to do it’s miserable. Even if I accomplish what I think I want, it’s empty. So God, I just want to faithfully follow you. And I think that maybe that simple faithfulness is what God is just blessed. Like, honestly, because it hasn’t been me. And I couldn’t write up the story that I’m living right now. And it’s most imperfect broken, wonderful ways.

Joe: When you say that in the mornings that you kind of say, God, what do you want me to do today? Or, surrender your day to God. What does that look like? Like, how do you know what God is asking you to do?

Adam Weber: I live in probably in Sioux Falls, one of the most diverse neighborhoods, in every shape and form. And so I honesty… And the reason I live in our neighborhood is not because I have this heart to go live in a diverse neighborhood. That would be the right answer. The honest answer would be, my house is one of my dream houses in Sioux Falls. And the only reason I’m able to afford said dream house is because of where it’s located, in the very interesting part of town that most people try to avoid. I very shallowly moved to the neighborhood is why I moved there. So it’s each morning it’s just waking up. So, one of the examples, I would say…and I’m gonna try to make this as simple as I can. So this is about 2 summers ago.

I get out of my driveway and I’m leaving my driveway and there’s 2 African American boys in the back alley playing hoops. And I so I get up to them. I roll my window down, and I said…. I didn’t actually look at the hoop. I just say, Nice hoop. I was being friendly. I didn’t realize the status of their hoop when I said that. And Dwight is one of ‘em, he and a friend sassed back and say, Why don’t you get us a hoop? Why don’t you get us a new hoop? And they pointed. And I looked up and the bang board is all broken out. Yeah. But that morning I’m like, Okay, Sassy Pants. So I rolled my window up because I was just kind of going… I waved and rolled my window up and I’m like, Get him a new hoop. Who’s he talking to? Even though this is just me talking to myself. And then I hear God, as clearly as I can, not audibly but in my soul, almost with the same sass as this kid had, Why don’t you get him a new hoop? Because I don’t want to get him a new hoop. From there to the church I hear God repeatedly, with the same sass, Why don’t you get him a new hoop? Because I’m going to work on a sermon to talk about You. And that’s why I can’t get him a new hoop. Why don’t you get ‘em a new hoop? Why don’t you get ‘em a new hoop? Why don’t you get ‘em a new hoop? I’m like, Oh, my gosh.

So I call a friend. I’m like, Hey, I think I might try to find a hoop. And he’s like, sounds like you’re getting him a new hoop. That’s what my friend said. I’m like, Well, that was the most unhelpful thing ever. So what I did…. I ended up posting on Facebook, I’m looking for a hoop. There’s 2 neighbor kids that could use a new hoop. Within 30 minutes a single mom from my church reached out and said, Hey, we have a hoop. We’ve barely used it. The boys don’t play with it. It’s yours. I had a dad reach out whose son has leukemia that says, Hey, if you don’t have a pickup; I have a pickup. And so many people have blessed our family, I’d love to bless somebody else. And so can I pick up that hoop and bring it to you? And then literally 10 minutes later one of the local basketball coaches direct messaged me and says, Hey, how many kids are there because I’d love to get 2 basketballs, clothing, jerseys, a bag…a gym bag. Like, I’d love to hook ‘em up. So, I’m like, Oh, my gosh. That’s amazing.

So I stopped by the house the next day. I knock on the door. The mom comes out. I’ve never talked to her. She comes out and at first she’s really defensive thinking he’s in trouble or thinking I’m mad about something. So, I said…I was like, Do you have 2 sons that play? And she’s like, I’ve got one son named Dwight, and then one of his friends is back there. And I said, I noticed the hoop is kind of busted up. If it’s okay, tomorrow I’m gonna drop off a new hoop, a basketball, bags, shirts, all this kind of stuff. And she just melted, What? And I’m like, Only if it would be a blessing. She’s like, That’d be amazing. I said, There’s only one stipulation though. The hoop, it’s from you; it’s not from me. Oh, yeah. And she said, What? And I said, The hoop is from you. I honestly didn’t…. I tried to say it in the nicest way. I actually didn’t want to give them their hoop. I felt like I didn’t have…. You know, and she’s like, That’s amazing. What? Like she was so grateful, hugged me, all this kind of thing.

The next days the father shows up whose son has had leukemia. He said, Thank you so much. So many people have blessed us. And so we get the hoop. Everything’s awesome. Now the thing that I would say for the listener, whenever you do something, if you have any strings tied…attached to those things, it’s no longer love. It’s an obligation. If there’s any ability…like, they’re gonna say how thankful…he’s gonna play basketball there every day. If there’s any strings attached you’re no longer doing it in the name of Jesus; you’re doing it in your name. If you’re doing it in your name make sure you tell as many people as you possibly can, so you get all the glory because God’s not gonna mention it.

So I do this…. They’ve been back there playing hoops constantly. And more than that, Dwight and I have formed an incredible relationship, and he’s become a friend of mind. The other day I was out planting…. He has a friend named Tay that I’ve gotten to know, too, as well. The other day…. Tay is usually very, very quiet, doesn’t say a word, all this kind of thing. The other day I was planting bushes and Tay approached me. I looked up. It kind of scared me because I didn’t even hear him. And he had a cream pie, a Little Debbie cream pie. And it was almost his way of saying, Hey, I’m gonna offer something to you. And I want to bless you. And you know, a cream pie, I could buy more than Tay, this 5th grader could. And yet that was one of my greatest gifts I’ve been given, was a cream pie. It’s just been this relationship that started from this simple willingness to say, Yes, God. Even at a point this last week, 2 nights ago, Tay stopped by my house, knocked on the door. And he said, I’m selling Rice Crispy bars. And I said, Oh, I love Rice Crispy Bars. How much are they? He said, a dollar apiece. I’m, like, Oh, awesome. I’ll take 2 of ‘em. And he said, Thank you so much. I said, What do you need money for? And he’s like, I’m trying to raise money for new basketball shoes this year. I don’t have shoes, and I’m like, Man, I’m so glad that I got these Rice Crispy bars and got to help you do that. So it’s just that small, simple voice that God just begins to turn into something so much greater than ourselves. That’s just a small example. I think it’s just those nudges.

Even this morning with that guy, the dad carrying the car seat. I actually didn’t want to say hello to him because I had things to do. But I just felt God say, Say hello. So I said hello.

This is kind of a random thing that I do. I wouldn’t actually encourage anyone to do this. Every so often, though, I’ll hold a sign. I’ll go sit on a street corner with a sign that says, Need Prayer. And so I’ll sit with that. But lately, the last 2 months, I haven’t even needed the sign because people just started stopping randomly. So I don’t sit in the same place, but the other morning I was on my way to work, and I just felt like God was just like, Just go sit. Just go sit for 30 minutes. Chill out, Mr. Driven.

I’m like, Oh, okay. As I got my chair out I audibly prayed, God, if while I’m here for 30 minutes one person comes, it’ll be worth it. I sat down. Before I could get in my chair a woman from our church pulled up and said, What are you doing here? And I’m like, I’m kinda crazy. I don’t even know what I’m doing here. And she said, I can’t believe you’re here right now. My son is a senior in high school and he’s really, really struggling. Would you mind praying for him right now? And I said, I’d be honored to pray right now. This is our last summer. Really, really quick story. I felt like I was supposed to make chocolate chip cookies. I’m like, I don’t want to make chocolate chip cookies. It’s like, just go make chocolate chip cookies. So I asked my daughter, Kay, would you want to make chocolate chip cookies? I knew she was gonna say ‘yes.’ She loves ‘em. So she said, absolutely.

Quick side note. If I offer you or anybody food, kindly say ‘no.’ Don’t eat it and throw it away. Don’t even give to somebody else. But the one exception is my chocolate chip cookies are amazing. I mean, they’re so good. It’s my grandma’s recipe. It’s fantastic.

So we made cookies. I tell my daughter… (I call her baby.) …I said, Baby, would you want to make a sign that says Free Cookies? And so she says, Yes, I’ll do that. So we go. We sit on our street corner right in front of our house with a sign, 2 lawn chairs. And I’m like, God, why are we doing this? This is a waste of time, away from the time with my daughter, I’m like, I love that. This is such a waste. It’s like, what are we doing? What are we doing? I don’t want to do it. Again, like, I’m a pastor. I don’t got time. I don’t got time to bake cookies. You know? And for anybody listening, you’re a teacher, you don’t have time. I mean, like, all of us could get on our ego. Like, you’re a business person. Like, you don’t have time to do this. But God’s like, Okay, I want you to just go out there and make cookies. So I’m sitting out there. And people start showing up immediately. People are coming getting cookies. People on our block. Low income. High income. White. Black. …are stopping by getting cookies. Anybody you could think of is getting cookies. At one point there’s this little girl, Native girl, that comes up and she gets a cookie. I remember just kind of praying for her silently. So there’s all these different people that come. Forty-five minutes come and I’m like, Okay, that was a waste of time. That was waste.

Six months later a group of friends and I…. Another time I felt God nudge me. We went to the local food pantry and we took free family photos for people. I asked a professional photographer friend if she’d be willing to take pictures. And then I asked Facebook friends if they’d be willing to donate 8 x 10 frames along with balloons and all this kind of stuff. So we had helium balloons for kids to distract them. Take a picture for your mom and dad, and we’ll give you a balloon. So they’d come in, they’d get their picture taken, they’d eat their meal at the banquet, and then they come out and have their free 8 x 10 photo. All these people are like, I’ve never had an 8 x 10 photo. This is our first family photo. And they were beautiful photos. My friend is so good, too, it’s awesome. When all of a sudden this man came. I thought he was angry. He just came up and he said, You! I’m like, me? You! I’m like, I don’t think it’s a good thing. And he’s like, were you and a little girl giving out cookies one day? And I was like, Oh my gosh, he got food poisoning and he’s here to…. I thought this not a good thing. And I was like…. For the first time in my life I didn’t want to brag about my cookies. I’m like, Maybe. And he’s like, this man is amazing. From the first moment I thought this might be positive. And I’m like, Okay, yeah, I’m amazing. And he’s like, No, I had just lost my job. I was walking home. It was one of the worst days of my life, was starving. I saw you and your daughter…little girl…outside. I knew I didn’t have any money. So I crossed to the other side of the road to avoid you. And then you yelled out ‘free cookies.’ And he said, first off, that was the best cookie I’ve ever had. I’m like, God keep us humble. He’s like, Secondly, it was just this moment that God reminded me that he still loved me. Okay, just lost everything. God just told me that he wasn’t done with me yet. That’s awesome. That was last year.

This year the first Sunday we had services back again…. South Dakota, we’re the only state that didn’t fully shut things down. It tells you a little bit about South Dakota. We do have the Internet and electricity, but kinda. But the first Sunday back there was a family that came in, who wanted to have 2 kids but hasn’t been able to. And they just went through the foster care process. And they just got their foster kids. After the service they come up. It’s 3 Native American kids. And they walk up. The youngest one had to have been 4 or 5 years old, and he says, I know you. And I’m like, Oh, okay. And I’m thinking to myself, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know who I am. I know you. You live close to my dad. And then the girl…. There was a girl. She was probably 12 years old. She said, We know where you live. One day I stopped by with my dad, and I got cookies from you. Wow. It was the girl that I had prayed for that day. Wow. I said, I prayed for you that day. And she said, What? I was like, I don’t know what it was about you. You just seemed so beautiful and yet it just seemed like maybe some things that you were walking through were really hard. And I just prayed for you. And I just wanted you to know that God loves you. That’s what I prayed. And she just got like emotional. And later that day the foster parents reached out and said, I can’t believe our foster kids knew who you were. And we talked about you all the way home. All I could think about was me not wanting to make cookies. Me, like, ego trip, too busy. Like, I don’t have time. This is stupid. What’s this gonna do? Cookies? Are you kidding me? Let’s go change the world, God. Like, let’s go do big things. And God’s just like, Adam, you’re not catching onto this. Maybe the big things in your eyes are actually really small things. And the small things in your eyes are actually huge. I want to do more of that. I want to just be available. And each day I just want to…. Instead of like…. I white-knuckle my day and my schedule. It’s like, that’s my time. And that’s my resources and my agenda. And God’s just like, I don’t know if you’ve heard this, Adam. It’s better to give than it is to receive. And if you just start giving, like, hold your hand like this. I’ll start doing things that you can’t believe. And I’ll bless this other stuff that you’re interested in and passionate about. But if you’ll be faithful in these small things that are actually really big things, I’ll do awesome things through you.

Joe: Adam, on that I think I’m gonna say, Thank you very much. This has been a wonderful conversation, and I really appreciate all that you do and all that you share, and your willingness to be so open and honest and vulnerable.

Adam Weber: Well, Joe, again it’s just an honor. I hope some of my craziness can encourage somebody, can connect with somebody. I just…. The last thing I’ll leave the listener with is to know that you’re so loved by God. I mean, he just delights in you so much. Not because of what you do or because of your title, or because of your past, good, bad or otherwise. He just so delights in you. And he just wants to be with you today. So that’d be my hope today just right now…. Maybe you just need to take 5 or 10 minutes and just be still. There’s a psalm you need to read or a story from the gospel you need to read, just to sit with God and just allow him to love you and know this whole new way that we can love other people. So, Joe, seriously. Thank you so much for the work you do and the ministry you have. And it’s just an honor to cross paths with you. Thank you.

Epilogue

Joe: That was the Reverend Adam Weber, pastor of Embrace Church, a United Methodist multi-site congregation in and around Sioux Falls, South Dakota and one of the fastest growing congregations in the United States. To learn more about Adam or to order his new book, Love Has a Name, go to UMC.org/podcasts and look for the episode page of this conversation. We’ve put some links on there to help you find what you’re looking for.

There’s also a link on the page to my email address. I love hearing from you guys about what you like about Get Your Spirit in Shape, and maybe a couple of guest suggestions. Thanks for listening. I’ll be back soon with another conversation to help us keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. I’m Joe Iovino. Peace.