65 – The Sacred Journey – Joe Chambers and Jeremy Frye

65 - The Sacred Journey - Joe Chambers and Jeremy Frye

Joe Chambers and Jeremy Frye join Tom and Sean to talk about their Sacred Journey Retreats and how they bless ministry families. These free retreats, at the base of Mt. Princeton in Buena Vista, Colorado, are offered every year and focus on learning to rest in our belovedness in Christ. Show notes will be available on hoperenewedpodcast.com

Joe Chambers

Joe Chambers is the pastor of Mountain Heights Baptist Church and, along with his wife, he hosts the Sacred Journey Retreats in his home at the base of Mt. Princeton in beautiful Buena Vista, Colorado.

Joe says, “I don’t believe anyone remembers and applies anything apart from stories. Therefore I am always looking for and seeing stories in all of life. The greatest story ever told is the riches-to-rags story of Jesus Christ becoming a man, living a perfect life and dying on a cross so that an old sinner like me can know that I am forgiven, loved and never alone. I believe I have been put here to tell people that God is not mad at them and to show them the way Home.”

Joe lives in Buena Vista, Colorado. 

Jeremy Frye

Jeremy Frye is a spiritual director, supervisor, retreat leader, and Director of Sacred Community for Anam Cara Ministries. One of his deepest joys is companioning people on their journey toward living into and out of their belovedness. His vocational pilgrimage began with serving for 20 years in full-time pastoral ministry in the local church, which has given him a profound understanding of and compassion for those whose personal spirituality and professional contexts converge (sometimes easily and sometimes causing great distress). He is deeply acquainted with grief and loss as well as the good but difficult work of the disordering and reordering of one’s faith. Jeremy has completed a certificate in Soul Care from the Soul Care Institute, through Fuller Seminary, a 2-year apprenticeship in spiritual direction through Anam Cara, and is currently enrolled in the Companioning Center’s program for Supervision Training. Jeremy lives with his wife, two children, one dog, six chickens, and whoever else needs a place to rest their head at An Téarmann (Gaelic for the refuge), their home in East Nashville, Tennessee.

Show Notes and Links

Sacred Journey Retreats:

  • Contact Joe – joseph.o.chambers@gmail.com
  • Contact Jeremy – jeremy@anamcara.com

An earlier episode: Episode 28 – A Journey Into the Wilderness with Joe Chambers

The Soul Care Institute

Anam Cara Ministries

Crossroads Counseling of the Rockies

Mountain Heights Baptist Church

Transcript of the interview with Joe Chambers and Jeremy Frye

Jeremy Frye  00:01

One of the big things that we focus on is learning to recognize and rest in our own belovedness, that we are the beloved of God. And when we can learn to rest in that space, then everything else, you know, then then the load, the yoke is easy, the burden is light.


Joe Chambers  00:23

Welcome to Hope Renewed, helping you find new hope when ministry leaves you hopeless. The Hope Renewed podcast is brought to you by PIR Ministries. Here are your hosts, Tom Jameson and Sean Nemecek.


Tom Jameson  00:42

Today, we are glad to have good friends, Joe Chambers and Jeremy Frye. With us here on Hope Renewed. Joe and Jeremy, welcome.


Jeremy Frye  00:50

Thanks. It’s good to be here.


Joe Chambers 

It is wonderful to be here.


Tom Jameson  00:54

Joe, we’ve had you on the podcast before and just a fascinating time to hear your story. So, Jeremy, tell us a little bit about yourself, your spiritual journey, and your ministry journey.


Jeremy Frye  01:06

Yeah, you bet. I was raised in the church, my parents, I tell people I started going to church nine months before I was born. My parents came, went to the church that they were married in, I grew up in that church. I started serving in that church with my mom and Sunday school when I was you know, 13 or 14 years old. Since the call into ministry, in middle school, and then that ended up leading me down a path towards going to Bible college. And while I was in Bible college, served at my home church as the, as the worship leader. I had a band and so my church thought it wise to ask my 17 year old self with all of my 16 year old friends to lead worship for the church. And we did for several years, and then served at another small church, following that sort of multiple year internship before moving to Colorado, and served in Colorado for 18 years as a pastor and in the same church there. And my spiritual journey has sort of taken me a lot of different places. I am a denominational mutt as they say. I had a grand I had a grandmother who was raised Pentecostal and was a Pentecostal worship leader and part of that sort of movement for a long time and a mom who was raised in the Baptist church and I grew up in the Christian church, Church of Christ movement and then served in a Baptist church for a lot of years. And so my kind of all over the place denomination really and, and have experienced a lot of really good things from all those different spaces and, and also, you know, experienced kind of the difficulties of those different spaces as well. But my spiritual journey really has led me to. . . seven or eight years ago now, really began to explore my own faith journey and, and started to think, Well, man, if this is all there is this sort of constant serving this constant being engaged with all of the all the boxes that have to be ticked to serve to serve in sort of traditional pastoral ministry. If this is all there is this. I don’t know. I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if I can keep doing this. This doesn’t seem sustainable to me. I had a daughter at the time that that was four, and a just had a brand new baby boy. And life was getting real hectic. And so and I wasn’t slowing down and life wasn’t slowing down. And I, I just kind of came to this place where I knew that I needed to, to do some more internal work. Not because I was feeling like I was headed down a path that was necessarily bad. I wasn’t in, I didn’t feel like. . . I just didn’t feel like life wasn’t working. I just felt like I couldn’t handle it anymore. It wasn’t sustainable for me. And that led me down a kind of a path towards what what does it look like to care for my own soul so that I can better care for the soul of souls of others. The people that I lead and the people that I work with and which is how I met Joe, through some of that work, we were serving on a ministry, I don’t know, a board together and started realizing we kind of shared some some heart and some you know, thoughts around a lot of different things and and just started talking. . .


Joe Chambers  05:00

We were snarky together. We were making fun of the whole process and being bad.


Jeremy Frye  05:09

That’s true. We were. That that happened. But, and we also had, had recognized through some conversation that that we were on some similar journeys, when it came to, to just what does it mean to be to enter to be be a pastor, and be be a sole care provider, as one who has really done their own work and has done the deep work to take care of their own soul? You know, and growing up in a space where the idea of, you know, self-care was selfish, you know, that was a change for me and something but something I knew I needed. And so I and so that exploration kind of got me connected to Joe. And then as we had sort of experienced this for ourselves, just realized, man, we we would this this is needed in, in the world that we operate in, and how do we how do we then offer this and care for others? So


Tom Jameson  06:10

What would you say that was more a journey of recapturing your faith or diving deeper into your faith?


Jeremy Frye  06:17

Yeah, it was that. It was both. There were pieces that I felt like I was losing. And there were pieces that I felt like I needed to lose. And some pieces that I felt like I had held on to out of fear, and held on to out of like, well, if it’s if it’s if this isn’t it, then what is it? But and some of that was learning to let that go and to recognize that there was then a sort of deeper experience a deeper journey that to be gone on.


Sean Nemecek  06:50

So Amy, and I had the privilege of being with both of you this summer at one of your Sacred Journey retreats. It was wonderful. I’m curious to hear the story. We’ve heard a little bit from Jeremy but just the bigger story of how these sacred journey retreats got started.


Joe Chambers  07:09

Well, I guess I’ll, I’ll start with it. This. My wife and I have for years wanted to, we thought we thought we wanted to have a bed and breakfast for ministers. And when we retired, we thought that would be attorney we’d like to go down. But when I’m when we move back to Colorado, which is both she and I’s home state, we reconnected with friends that I’ve known since 1987. And Mike and Carolyn, and who happened to be Jeremy’s mother in law and father in law. And but Mike and Carolyn and Lynette and I had been friends for years. And so we just started talking one day and thought, You know what, this station in our life, we’re both at that time, late 50s. We thought this would be a good time for us to give back to the generation that is following in terms of ministry, and we dreamed up the idea of having a retreat. And the four of us were going to host it in his home in Breckenridge and then some one one retreat would be in our home and Buena Vista, both very beautiful places, kind of resort places, places where people might want to come and as we were dreaming this up and thinking about it. One day I said to Mike, I said, What makes you and I think that anyone’s going to want to come here what two broken down old retreads like you and I have to say, and this is what Mike said, because we live in a beautiful place. And he’s right about. I mean, who wouldn’t want to come to a home at the base of Mount Princeton for our retreat? Who wouldn’t want to come to a home in Breckenridge where every bathroom in the house has a bedroom? I mean, this is Mike built the house. So it was just a beautiful kind of beginning. And the more we talked about it one day, we were dreaming up you know, somebody one of the guys said, Well, that was helping Mike What are we gonna call this retreat, we just call it a retreat, or we’re going to call it? And I went Soul Care retreat. No, that didn’t work and I said something else and then I looked on my bookshelves look for a title and suddenly Frederick Buechners book, The Sacred Journey was right there at eye level on my bookshelf behind me. And I went how about The Sacred Journey and in unison, all of them said, That’s it. And so that’s how the title of our retreat came from Frederick beginners book title. And the more of them Mike and Carolyn, Lynette and I, we just love doing it together. And then along the way, Jeremy went through the Soul Care Institute and Jeremy now had started having those conversations that Jeremy referred to, and we would, I think have To the first one or second one, Jeremy, I can’t remember we invited Jeremy to participate. And Jeremy and I just started to work. It just seemed like we work well together. Kind of like in a jazz ensemble. When you’re in a good jazz ensemble. I mean, I’m told, I don’t play an instrument, but they can almost anticipate where the other person’s going. And they can, they can riff off of one another. And Jeremy and I started doing that together. And it became pretty clear that this was turning into Joe and Jeremy’s retreat, not Joe and Mike’s retreat, and that transition occurred organically and naturally, and with the blessing of everyone. And then then Jeremy, so Jeremy, and I started doing these retreats together along with my wife. I think we’ve, we’ve finished our last or ninth one last week. And so we’ve done at least seven together. So that’s kind of how it started.


Tom Jameson  11:02

And we’re going to delve into a little bit more of what the retreat entails. But you both also serve pastors in unique ways outside of the retreat setting. Just briefly, tell us tell us about your ministry. And what are you seeing in the lives of pastors? What trends are you noticing?


Joe Chambers  11:22

Well, I, I work with a counseling center here in my, in my town, Crossroads Counseling of the Rockies, and it’s a Christian counseling center. And about the beginning of COVID I was invited to be a part of that as a pastoral presence. And so, folks have been coming to this particular counseling center since 2001, from all over the country, many of them ministry leaders. And so Pete Kuyper was the Co-Founder of the ministry, asked me to come alongside and provide soul care. And he felt like that many of the pastors that come there, while he is a Christian therapist, a Christian therapist does not know what it’s like to sit in a board meeting when the board kind of turns on a pastor. Or he doesn’t know necessarily what it’s like to be caught up in some of the politics, internal politics, of church and all the unique things, the isolation, the loneliness, the grind of ministry. And so having a seasoned pastor come alongside and be a pastoral voice and to operate, and kind of work on the interior life of the, of the folks that come for the counseling intensive, seemed like a good fit. So we started doing it, and it’s worked really well. So the therapist, at the current, at the counseling center work on the clinical side of things, the pathologies that are involved in what causes people issues, and I work on their, the contemplative life, and let’s talk about your prayer life, and how do you engage in the Scriptures? And how do you care for your own soul? And what’s going on inside? How do you hear God? All of those kinds of questions. So we’ve been doing that since the spring of 2020. And my goodness, that has opened up all kinds of opportunities for follow up soul care sessions from folks that have come through here. And then invitations to go present some of the soul care work and teachings that we do to some churches, staffs. So from Bakersfield, California, all the way to Orlando, Florida, we’ve done kind of work with staff from some of these larger churches. I’ve been to one in Nashville and the largest church in Nashville. So that’s how I’ve got involved in and, and so I do a lot of soul care sessions away from the counseling center and just affecting. . . The hour right before we started this conversation. I was on a zoom call with a pastor from Orlando, Florida, and did some soul care with him. So that’s, that’s how I got involved in what I do.


Jeremy Frye  14:17

Yeah, and for me, after serving for 20 years as a pastor, I transitioned from full time pastoral ministry in the church to really serving. I went through some, a lot of training have become a spiritual director, and a lot of the work that I do is with pastors and ministry leaders, a lot of the directories that I meet with our pastors and ministry leaders, we come alongside people from all different spaces, not just ministry spaces in the organization that I work with, but we definitely, I definitely have a lot of work, do a lot of work with pastors and what I seem to, what I’m finding is that pastors are just really tired. And they’re, you know, worn out and exhausted, burned out on religion, stressed about the fallout of COVID still, you know. Joe, and I’ve had conversation that we don’t really feel like COVID, the fallout of COVID is over, especially for pastors and ministry leaders. There’s just a lot of, you know, as things get back to normal, whatever that means, that there’s just a lot of, of stuff that’s going to need to be processed moving forward. And so, and I’m seeing that in my spiritual direction practice that there are a lot of pastors that are just kind of, floundering isn’t the right word, but definitely trying to sort of figure out navigate what a new normal looks like, and what does it mean for them. And, and although a lot of people in the, through COVID ended up in a space where they were sort of, in a forced sabbatical for a long period of time, a lot of pastors really had to step it up and learn how to do stuff online and learn how to care for people remotely and learn how to, you know, and so, you know, I know that that the beginning of COVID, I was still working in a church and my hours work did not decrease when COVID started, they increased significantly. And that, you know, it took its toll. And I think it’s taken its toll on a lot of pastors.


Joe Chambers  16:26

Yeah, I’m seeing what I what I’ve feel is happening is that now that a semblance of normal has come, that it’s almost as pastors can step back a little bit and take a deep breath, and feel like okay, is this normal? But then suddenly, all of the and dealt with trauma is starting to surface, because pastures through COVID, we’re in a lose-lose situation. If you have tried to comply with the Health Department requirements, there were people that were upset with you. If you chose not to comply, there were people who were upset with you. It’s one of the first times in my maybe the first time ever for me, since 1984, being in ministry, where you were in a situation where you were going to lose no matter what decision you made. And it wasn’t going to be a small loss, it was it was going to be a huge loss. And, I think that got put on a shelf for a lot of ministry leaders, especially pastors. And then when the relief and the urgency of the moment kind of past now that stuff on the shelf is starting to come off the shelf, and, and surfacing. And that’s where that’s where the work starts to begin. And God can do some deep work when that stuff starts to surface. But they all we all I should say we all need guides, we need companions for the journey, when we have to start dealing with that stuff coming off the shelf. And that’s where my ministry and soul care and Jeremy’s ministry and spiritual direction comes into play. That’s where I have a spiritual director that has helped me process. I have colleagues and friends that have been my companions and have helped me and that’s extraordinarily important. And we recognize that not every ministry leader has that not every pastor has that. So ,we try to position ourselves to be that if they so reach out and choose.


Sean Nemecek  18:42

I imagine that many of the people who come to the sacred journey retreats are these weary, burned out tired people. So, that brings up the question Who should attend a sacred journey retreat? Who should not attend a sacred journey retreat?


Joe Chambers  19:00

Okay, let me answer the question about who should not. If a person does not like Eugene Peterson and is hostile towards Eugene Peterson, who thinks Eugene Peterson has done great damage to church, that’s probably a person that’s not going to feel very welcome in my home. My protective nature is coming out. So, other than that, that’s my only caveat. You don’t have to love him, but don’t not like him. But anybody, so we’ve had missionaries, we’ve had therapists. And sometimes they come with their spouse, sometimes they come without. So, it doesn’t . . . in ministry leaders and the thing we. . . it doesn’t it’s not a . . . It’s free to the ministry participants. It’s not free. So, we don’t charge anything for these. And we want this to be an experience of grace and compassion. There are some parts of our retreat that we really feel powerful about, especially in the rhythms of how we approach those retreats. And Jeremy could probably speak to that pretty well.


Jeremy Frye  20:25

Yeah, I think the one of the things in the reason that I think, basically anyone would benefit from one of our retreats, except that the person who does accepted doesn’t like Eugene, is that really what we are, what we tell people at the beginning of our retreat is that this really is a retreat, I think, oftentimes, you go to a retreat, and what that really is, is some sort of workshop where you’re really sitting in a in a room all day and taking notes and doing a lot of things. And although we do have some teaching, art, we try to keep that sort of measured, and that it is not, it doesn’t fill up the day, we provide a lot of space we want we provide a lot of room for conversation and a lot of space for rest, a lot of space for refreshment. Really encourage people we’ve even we even tell people at the beginning of the retreat, like we’re going to be offering some teaching times. But if what you need while you’re here is to just go take a nap or to go for a walk, do that. We think that what we’re teaching has value. But we also understand that the reason you’re here is to, is to experience rest in a way that you maybe haven’t experienced in a long time. And that means that we prepare really great food for people and we make we make a lot of room for people to pull us aside and say hey, can we talk for a few minutes, and sit on the on the deck and just have conversations. And so, these the slowing down, I think is one of the big things that we offer. We encourage people to turn off their phones. And you know, a lot of times it’s pastors that are there. So, we encourage them like during the during your break time, don’t be writing your sermon for Sunday. Like don’t do those things. Slow down with us. You know, and then we invite people into some different practices throughout the week that that are really invitations to a different way of maybe entering back in. We talk about different ways of engaging with Scripture, we talk about what it looks like to rest at different phases of life. One of the things that I think Joe and I bring together is that we are in different phases of life and ministry, Joe is an empty nester and me in the thick of, you know, having little kids at home, and what does it look like for someone in Joe’s phase of life to stop and to take a break and to rest on a regular basis to enter into a Sabbath space every week? And then what does that look like for me because we ministered to people in both spaces. And people, so people who have little ones at home and people who are at the you know, towards the end of their ministry career. And we offer we offer this retreat to people in all of those spaces. And so, one of the things that we’re able to do is say, look, we know that this looks different, depending on where you are in life. And we and it can be done. It can be a little a different a different way of being is possible.


Joe Chambers  23:29

Yeah, so we practice the. . . we for many of them we teach Lectio Divina, we teach the prayer of examine, and we offer and we encourage Nap-tio Davina in the afternoons. . .


Tom Jameson  23:46

(laughing) The divine nap


Joe Chambers  23:48

That’s right, the divine sleep. But those practices, for some, are new. They have not experienced Lectio, they’ve not experienced the power of examine, or centering prayer— the contemplative life. And so, for many of them, they have been so focused on caring, and running the machinery of a church, and caring for the others they have. These ancient paths are unfamiliar to them. We our theme verse for our retreat is Jeremiah 6:16. Talks about the Lord thus says the Lord. And I’m not gonna quote it right . . .


Jeremy Frye  24:26

Stand at the crossroads and look, look for the ancient paths. . .


Joe Chambers  24:30

. . . for the ancient paths and walk in them and you will find you will find rest for your soul. So we introduced that as these are the ancient paths. They’re well worn by the poets and the pilgrims and the saints, but have maybe overgrown over the last few 100 years in modern life. They the whole idea of actually practicing Sabbath Keeping. I will ask ministry leaders, how’s your Sabbath Keeping? And they will look at me and say, well, you know, COVID was tough. It’s a tough season for us, but it’s a better than it used to be. But then I often will say, well, so, you know, that’s in the 10 commandments, right? Yeah, I know, but it’s a tough season. And then I’ll say, so how’s, how’s the adultery going? No one ever says, well, this is a tough season, it’s high stress. (laughter) I’m cutting back, it’s not as bad as it used to be. And I’ve seen that murder and stealing. So, you can if you’re giving yourself a pass on Sabbath Keeping, that you wouldn’t do that with the others. And it is meant to be funny, but it’s also meant to show the gravitas, or the lack of gravitas that we give back.


Jeremy Frye  25:52

And it’s so interesting, because if you look through the commandments, especially when Moses reintroduces them in Deuteronomy, he spends the most when, he spends the most time on Sabbath, the explanation of why it’s celebrated, you know, he gives more time to that than anything else in in the, in the text. And so, it’s really just an interesting thing that we have minimized it so much. And so even part of our practice, we gather on Friday evening, and I, I introduce every, to every group, a Sabbath liturgy that we do in our home, that just invites people to stop and there’s something about saying, we’re going to, we’re going to take some time to, to mark the beginning of this time that we’re stopping. And then as we close our retreat, we do a sort of, it’s in the Hebrew community it’s called of Havdalah, it’s the closing of the Sabbath time together. And it’s a way to sort of gather the gifts of the Sabbath. And we and so we introduced both of those practices, because we’ve, we really believe that it’s, it’s so it’s a missing piece in so many pastors lives. And at the same time, it’s so vital for, for our, just our ability to to stay connected in our, in our, just for our own souls, we need that stopping. So it’s we’ve really emphasized that in our retreats,


Joe Chambers  27:28

let me tell you this quick story from our retreat that happened last week. Up in Portland, Oregon, we did our first off site retreat, and it was in it was in the state of Washington. Yeah, but we blended in Portland. But anyway, it was about sixteen folks there. And when we did the Havdalah exercise, and we in that we asked what was illuminating for you what was what reminded you the aroma of Christ and what was intoxicating to you, because there’s a fruit of the of the vine there and practice that we do. Which was Welches, just by the way, just to let you know, it’s grape juice. Just in case any Southern Baptists are listening. Because this was a Southern Baptist group, to be honest. But one of the things that we when we did that, and Jeremy and I both were so pleased with this is that of the of all of the things that was said probably over 50%, the things that was treasured, was not the teaching, it was the space for rest. To me that, that spoke volumes. And we both walked away thinking that that was the best. One of the best compliments we’ve ever received was the space for rest and silence. Jeremy is famous for starting our retreats by saying, Joe and I are very comfortable with long periods of silence. And I usually say, you will not be comfortable, but we are. And what was commented on was the silence and the space for rest was one of the most illuminating things for them.


Tom Jameson  29:18

It just it sounds like you know, as you’ve delved into this pattern, in offering these retreats that at the heart of it is this desire to create a conviction and all of us about the need for and the ways to experience rest, experience soul rest, and to learn about those, you know, to wait for the Lord, as you mentioned Jeremiah, and I was thinking of Psalm 62. You know, my soul finds rest in God alone and having a conviction. I mean, is that fair to say that that would be the primary focus of your retreat.


Joe Chambers  30:00

100% Yeah, rest for your soul and learning to care for your soul, so that I can care for others. And learning to care for your soul, even if you don’t care for others. I mean, if learning to care for yourself, loving your neighbor. . . I often will ask this question of myself, Jesus said, love your neighbor as you love yourself. And I’ve often turned that and said, Would my neighbor experienced the Agape love of God based on how well I love myself? And the answer is no. I mean, I am hard on myself, often I’m my worst critic, I do not give the Agape love of God to Joe. And if I, if I gave that volume of love to my neighbor, my neighbor would never know God. So, I take it very seriously, that caring for my soul is the best way for me to care for others. Because it will flow from an over it will come from an overflow of Agape, in my soul to my neighbor, or to my congregant, or to my wife. But it has to start, I can’t give away something that I do not own or do not possess.


Tom Jameson  31:12

And that kind of takes that away from the argument that says, well, this is all about navel gazing, and just, you know, self-gratification. And . . .


Joe Chambers  31:21

I haven’t seen, I haven’t seen mine navel in a long time! Um, COVID. But, yeah, I mean, this, that’s not the point, the point is not about, if my, I think I saw a Fred Buechner or save this, at the end of the day, the real test of your, of your Christianity is how well you love others. And if my soul care does not cause me to love others, more deeply, more, more selflessly, more like Christ loved, if my sole care isn’t doing that, if my faith walk isn’t doing that, I’m doing it wrong. The summum bonam of all our life is to love others with the love of Christ. And if my faith is not creating that in the relationships immediately close to me and those radiating out from that, then I’m doing it wrong. It’s just not right. So, I the test for me is how well do I love others? How well do I solve conflict? How well do I engage the people that are very hard to do,


Jeremy Frye  32:28

And that really speaks to sort of the, it’s not a different theme, but it is sort of how we get to this place of rest, which is. . . One of the big things that we focus on, is learning to recognize and rest in our own belovedness. That we are the beloved of God. And when we can learn to rest in that space, then everything else, you know, then then the load because the yoke is easy, the burden is light, right? When we can recognize that before anything else. I’m the Beloved, if I can sit with that, and rest in that, that, that just opens up space in my own life in a way that that just doing more and that serving more and proving, you know, proving that I can that I can love people well, just doesn’t do, right, that redoubling of my effort. You know, one of the things that that, you know, we’ve Joe and I have talked about is that no one, we are both busy in a lot of ways. But we’re busy without being hurried. And I think and some of that really is rooted in when you can rest in the reality of your belovedness in God that no matter what else happens, the truest thing about you is that you are the beloved. Man, there’s just a way to you can breathe, differently. And I think I think what has been true for many pastors and was true for me is that I wanted other people to believe that. But I don’t know that I believed it for myself for a lot of my ministry, I have met with pastors who have made that very statement to me. And I think that’s true for everyone. I just don’t, man, I just don’t know about myself. If it’s an end. So how do we really teach it? How do we how do we help the people that we have been charged with as pastors to care for the souls of to know and to rest in their belovedness if that’s not settled in our own hearts, and so that’s a piece that we that’s another piece that we really focus on, but that really is still an invitation to rest.


Joe Chambers  34:47

And I read Can I read for you? This is a little awkward because Sean’s wonderful wife, Amy, is a beautiful poet. But I wrote a little poem In a text that I wouldn’t say went viral, but a lot of people really glommed on to, can I read it for you to hear? I don’t know why I asked because I’m going to read it anyway. (laughter) So I just texted this to a couple of friends and they just loved it. And But anyway, this is what it says I’m no poet. But here we go.


My Deepest Truth

Before my first sin,

Before a single star or

a subatomic particle

was ever spoken into being,

I existed in the mind of God

as his beloved.


Before I was a sinner

I was a son.

That’s the deepest truth about me.


Deeper than my sin

is my belovedness.

It’s the deepest truth about me

because it was the first truth about me

and the last.


I posted that on Twitter, and a man I’ve never met, he said, Pastor Joe, I’m 65 years old. And I have never felt like I was the beloved of God, I’m going to ponder what you just posted. And hopefully it’ll sink in. And I just went, Okay, that’s why we do what we do.


Jeremy Frye  36:25

And that has been the experience of many of the people who attend, you know, we got a letter last week from a gentleman he in his 80s. It was at our retreat, who wrote us a letter at the end of the retreat and just said, I came to this retreat, not knowing what to expect, what I for sure didn’t expect that I was going to encounter a God who loved me the way that you guys have helped me see this, that and just talks about, you know, I didn’t know how impoverished my soul was, until I came here. And you guys helped me see that I am the beloved of God.


Sean Nemecek  37:07

There are so many pastors who enter into ministry, because they’re looking for people to love them. And they’re trying to love others while loathing themselves, rather than loving themselves. And this message that Joe, I think you’ve joked that this is the one sermon you preach over and over again, the life of the Beloved. This message is, is really what these pastors need to hear and, and not just hear it, but experience it and see it lived out in your lives. And so, this leads us into what are you trying to teach people? What will people learn at the sacred journey retreat? You have certain plans, for them, that you take them through. What are those things that you’re teaching?


Joe Chambers  37:59

Well, we begin by teaching about how we move through our life, there are some stages of faith development that we walk folks through, and we call it the river of faith. And we move through, when a person becomes aware of God, and then they enter into a disciple or learning life, and then they move into a productive life. But inevitably, there is waterfalls and rapids that cause their lives to come undone. And so, we describe those, those experiences. And then we talk about what happens after the waterfall. And the beauty of life after a waterfall experience where maybe your, your faith, it goes into crisis mode, or your life falls apart, or any number of traumatic things can happen. But after the waterfall, there’s also a beautiful time of looking inside me and learning and reevaluating things, and coming to terms with the new reality that there’s more than just coming to faith in God and learning about God and then getting plugged into the machinery of production in the Evangelical world. And then we talked about going down the river further and you start to think about how I can help others how can I reach out how can I be a guide? How can I love others well, and bring them along, and then the last part of that particular teaching, and we talked about living a life of love and loving everyone loving them with the love of God. And so that’s one of the things, we also really began to talk about the identity piece. And Jeremy does an incredible work with some of the practices that can open up some space so that we can continue to hear the voice of God. When it comes to the beloved being called the beloved and he can talk about that particular part. We call it the rule for life or rule of life.


Jeremy Frye  40:03

Yeah, so we will definitely, after we talk about identity and talk about just this recognition of, of our belovedness, that that, we begin to then talk about some practices and the recognition that those practices are not ins in and of themselves, I think oftentimes, when people begin to first explore the concept of a rule for life, or the concept of spiritual practices, the practices sort of become, oh, that’s, if I do the practices, that’s, that’s going to fix things for me. And the reality, one of the things that we talked about and really emphasize is that the practices are not, they’re not a silver bullet, they don’t fix anything. All the practices do, is make space in our lives to hear the voice that calls us beloved, because we need to be reminded of that. And so, it’s not the practices, you know, reading your Bible more is not the answer to a life that is, is, is full and, and whole. Encountering Jesus is that, right? And so, the practices are simply ways that we make space to have an encounter with God on a regular basis.


Joe Chambers  41:12

Which includes engaging in the scriptures on a daily basis.


Jeremy Frye  41:15

Absolutely. But the, but the, when the when we look at it, and we recognize that our understanding, why we’re engaging in that, is so that we might have an encounter with Jesus so that we might hear the voice that calls us beloved, then the motivation for that is completely different. You know, our, our, our engagement with scripture probably slows down a lot. You know, we talk in most of our retreats about, you know, the, our tendency to be like, oh, I’m gonna read through the Bible in a year. You know, and, and Joe and I, neither one will come out and say, like, don’t do that, but,


Joe Chambers  41:52

But I roll my eyes.


Jeremy Frye  41:56

You know, but what does it look like to slow down and allow the text to read us and to really speak to us in ways that we don’t slow down enough to listen to, for most of our lives, we talk about Sabbath keeping, we talk about prayer practices, we talk about the importance of companions for the journey, you know, that I am of the opinion. And this is not just because I’m a spiritual director, I am of the opinion that every pastor ought to have someone in their lives that is not connected to their work, that they can go and sit with someone that is safe, because there are so few safe places for pastors. And when we’re having to deal with and unpack and sort through our own crisis of faith, our own the struggles that we’re dealing with, to have someone who doesn’t care about our denomination, who doesn’t care about how big our churches who doesn’t care, you know, that could not care less for any of that. But it’s just present to us to listen with us to how the Holy Spirit is working in our lives. We believe that is of absolute importance for pastors, and everyone else. But I think for pastors, it is it’s such a vital piece of our sort of building a rule for life, that we have a safe space, where we can sit and process our own journey. And so we talk about those practices. That’s part of what we do in our retreats, and then we and then we move on and begin to talk about,


Joe Chambers  43:29

We talk about trying to figure out our purpose, our significance. My dad, my dad, did he when I became a pastor in 1984, he called me and he said, Joe, you’re gonna have to discover the gospel according to Joe. And I was 26. I went, I don’t even know what that means. And he said, well, you don’t get to make up a gospel. But just like there’s a gospel, according to Matthew and the Gospel, according to Mark, Luke, and John, all said the same gospel but said it in different ways. You’re going to have to discover the gospel according to Joe. And I was 26 at the time and I was clueless. I now do understand. He was saying, I have to find my unique voice. What is my sermon? Sean, you chided me a bit about what is what is the one? What is the one thing what is it about you, that draws people into longing for being the beloved? What is it about you that points people to God? What spiritual gifts? What talents? What? What do you bring into this that is so unique to you, that others experience the aroma of Christ? How and another way of thinking about it is, I believe the longer I walk with Jesus, the more I’ll talk with a Galilean accent. That there’s just something about he’s, he’s been with the man from Galilee. I can tell and I want to I want to I want that. So we spend a goodly amount of time trying to help folks kind of parse and we tell our stories, how we’ve come to understand that Jeremy tells his I tell mine, what, why we’re on the planet. And that’s, that’s a huge part of what we believe is important. Because when you can figure out the Gospel according to Sean, then you stay in that lane, you don’t have to do more than you, then God’s shaped you and gifted you to do you know exactly your place in the orchestra. Don’t try to play somebody else’s chair. I mixed the metaphors all over the place on that one, didn’t I?


Sean Nemecek  45:43

The freedom and the ease that comes from knowing your shape, your ministry, your calling, your gospel is so amazing. It keeps us from trying to check all those boxes that Jeremy was talking about earlier.


Jeremy Frye  46:01

And it’s what’s beautiful about that, too, is that one of the things we really talk about is how it’s not. Often, our vocation may be a part of that unique way that we’ve been called to be in the world. But when it really comes down to it, our significance isn’t doesn’t require a particular job. You know, I think for so many pastors, our identity is so enmeshed with our work, with our call so to speak, that we don’t know how to disentangle those two things. And so when we, you know, when something happens in our lives, where it maybe I can’t be in ministry anymore, maybe that’s because of some personal failure, maybe it’s because I, you know, a health problem or something like that, we get to a place where we go, Oh, I’m, you know, who am I, if I can’t be a pastor at a church? And the reality is, is that our significance is not our job.


Joe Chambers  47:07

It transcends what we get paid to do. And so I know what that is for me. And Jeremy understands what that is for him. And what we have learned is that if I if I step out of the pastorate, I’m still going to do what I’ve been put on the planet to do it, it’s in my, it’s in my soul. And it’s the way I express my belovedness to this world. And it’ll happen if I’m a Walmart greeter. It’ll happen if I’m a pastor. And so all of those things are super, as you mentioned Sean, freeing, I mean, you just don’t feel the pressure to perform and to achieve. And yet achievement happens, stuff happens, people are drawn to someone who is a non-anxious presence, because they’re not trying to validate their existence with ego stuff. And I think that’s, that’s our goal in the sacred journey.


Tom Jameson  48:07

And you know, this, this whole battle that that an individual have, who’s a pastor against the pastoral persona? It’s, it’s tough to set that aside. I mean, how have you seen that when pastors come to the sacred journey? And are maybe struggling with disassociating their value their identity with their vocation? Are there particular things that you found are helpful to share with them or ways to address that?


Joe Chambers  48:46

Yeah, it’s, it’s, I have come to believe that there are two things that will move people towards what we’re trying to describe. And one of those is pain. Pain pushes us towards living a life of belovedness and expressing that in unique ways to the world. Pain will force us push us that way, or beauty will pull us, beauty will compel us. And I don’t have to. . . I don’t have to create the pain for the participants in our retreat, they often come there with their own pain. What we try to show is that, that pain is the friend that nobody wants, that pain can be the place of deep awareness and deep discovery. And then, so we just let life do that. Life has a way of creating its own waterfall. But we also try, what Jeremy and I try to really do, is paint a vision of a future. That life is so beautiful, there is an abundant life, Jesus said there was, and to create that and to share that in the stories that we tell of our own journey, and to and to point to the new heavens and the new earth, that are talked about in Revelation 21. And to really try to articulate a beautiful future, from a good and beautiful God. And hopefully that beauty will pull people into that understanding that they are not what they do. They are bigger than that. They are, they’re deeper than that.


Jeremy Frye  50:31

I think the truth is that everything that we do is really drawing people into, the whole retreat, is really designed to help people begin to disassemble that. That way of being in that way of thinking about pastoral ministry, I, you know, at our last retreat, I there’s an analogy that has been really present to me for a long time. When I was called into ministry, I thought, you know, I was called into ministry and an era when what that meant was that you could be a pastor or a missionary. And so, you know, I stepped in, and I jumped into ministry, and I, and, and I struggled my whole life with some of that, because what “Pastor” means for most people is something more like a CEO. There’s this role that is, doesn’t look very pastoral, it looks like a bunch of responsibilities that aren’t Shepherd responsibilities. And a few years ago, I was, I was thinking a lot about that, and my own sort of journey of, of recognizing that God has called me and God has called me to be a shepherd. But that didn’t necessarily mean that I had to be serving in a local church in the way that in the sort of traditional way that I that I thought it meant. And the story of David came to mind. When David goes to the valley to talk to his brothers to bring some lunch to his brothers. And he finds out that the Goliath has been taunting the Israelites and, and he says, you know, this isn’t okay, like, we need to take care of this, you know. And Saul, Saul says, Yeah, you go do that, right. And then he says, but here, put on my armor, put to take my armor and put on my armor. And David gets kind of gets in this armor and goes, this is not me. You know, I’m a shepherd, I need the tools of a shepherd to do what I’m going to do, not the tools of a king. And what I realized for me, and I think what is true for a lot of people who are called to be pastors, is that they have spent a lot of their lives in what I refer to as ill-fitting armor, because they’ve been told that to be a pastor is this list of things, that that really doesn’t connect to the shepherd-heart that God has given them to shepherd people. And yet, the invitation of the sacred journey is to say, you’ve been called to be a shepherd. What does it mean, to step out of the armor, to stop trying to be a king, and to and to be a shepherd. And that’s really been, I think, I think that’s part of the invitation of the sacred journey; to live into what God really has called you to be as a shepherd, and not try to be something that you’re not.


Sean Nemecek  53:35

So just, as we’re talking, I’m thinking, there might be some pastors who are out there saying, This sounds wonderful, it sounds great. It sounds a little bit too good to be true. I just, I just want to say it’s not. Really what you guys are describing is exactly what Amy and I experienced when we were there. The Sacred Journey is a ministry of presence. You guys just provide a calm, welcoming and Christ-like presence to everyone who’s there. And you do it not just through teaching, not just through, you know, good food. But there’s other things that go on during the sacred journey. Could you just, I know you’ve hit on them a little bit, but can you touch on those just once more? What happens besides teaching besides eating?


Joe Chambers  54:29

Well, sleep, rest. We My home is at the base of Princeton, Mount Princeton, 14,000 foot mountain and so folks have gone for walks. They experienced that. We also have at the end of the day, right before the great silence. We call it the great silence at night. We have listening groups, and Jeremy and another person who works with our with our ministry called, her name is, Sandy. It will lead in group spiritual direction, which is new for a lot of folks that haven’t experienced something like that. And we have the ladies meet in one place and the guys will meet someplace else. And Jeremy leads in that group spiritual direction for the guys and Sandy leads for the ladies. And I go to bed because I’m an old guy. So those are those are some other things. But the walks the sitting and just being we have a hammock people. Oh, and cornhole! And Amy won, I think. So. . . (laughter) Yeah. So that’s what I’m thinking of. Jeremy?


Jeremy Frye  55:44

Yeah, just lots of spaciousness, lots of room for conversations. We make ourselves available during those times of just of rest to say, Hey, if you just want to have a conversation, we’re available for that. But you’re right, Sean, a lot of it is just a ministry of presence that we want. We want to be available to you, or unavailable as much as you need us to be.


Joe Chambers  56:06

A ministry of absence is also. . . (laughter) Can I tell you two quick stories that, that blew us away. We did a retreat. I want to say it was maybe a year or two years ago, I can’t remember. This couple came and they had a new baby. I think it was just learning to walk in that right, Jeremy? (Yeah.) And so they we normally say no kids, because we’re just not set up for that. Right. But she said, most she sleeps all the time. So and I’m thinking that’s usually means no. But they brought their little one, and the little one did sleep the whole time. But when we had meals, the little one just kind of walked around. And and then of course, we had some grandparents there that just love that little one there. But the compliment that was shared at the Havdalah was this. What we loved about being in this home, was that every day felt like Thanksgiving. And when she said that, I mean, my wife started tears in her eyes. And I had a little bit of leakage in my eyes. Because we just think, you know, the best part of Thanksgiving is that there was good food. There was good fellowship, there was just a sense of welcome. And man, that was the highest compliment. Wasn’t my teachings. It wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t necessarily the food, it was the, it was the atmosphere. And we love that. The other compliment that I wanted to share with you as weird when I was doing some soul care with an Episcopal priest, and he looked at me after our time together and he said, How did he put it? He said, Joe, Pastor Joe, I’m gonna have to change my opinion about Southern Baptist after having spent a week with you. And I said, I wouldn’t do that. You should not judge Southern Baptists, by me, I’m an outlier. What we also find and you said, you mentioned this, Sean, that is it too good to be true. We also know, we know, we know that we invite people to live the way that we have discovered to live. Not everybody wants to live that way, or is ready to live that way. And to hold that loosely in our hands is also a spiritual discipline that Jeremy and I have had to work on. We are I would call ourselves evangelists for the contemplative life. And like all evangelists, you share the good news, but not everybody responds to it. And we have we have to come to terms with that’s okay or maybe not yet.


Sean Nemecek  58:54

So, if someone wanted to learn more about your sacred journey retreats, how could they do that? How could they sign up for one?


Joe Chambers  59:02

Well, I’m sure you’re gonna have show notes. What we could do is we have a website and we’ll leave that with you. We also can, they can reach out to us through our email addresses and we can leave that in the show notes for you also. But it’s first come first served we can only handle it our home. Most all of the retreats happen in my home by the way we we can’t hold everybody in our our home but we have cabins or yeah just gonna call them cabins or people have mother in law homes or you know, extra rooms and they’re really nice. I mean, I think the home use you and Amy stayed in, Sean, was really nice. Steve and Cindy Blondes’ place and so we provide really nice places for folks to stay that are around 10 minute drive from our from our house. Then we come to our house for the meals and for the teaching times and then folks can go back to their space. But it’s first come first serve, we can only handle about four couples, five at the most. They don’t have to be couples and sometimes the guys can folks will come without their spouse. But that’s about the limit on our space in Buena Vista. We can do larger like we did last week. There were 16 there, but it was at a conference center. So, I would say, email would be the best way. And we’ll leave you that email addresses and website. And it’s free.


Tom Jameson  1:00:34

Which is amazing to consider. And we’ll be sure to include access to your other ministries, your soul care and counseling in the spiritual direction so that folks can get in touch with you. We like to end our podcast by giving our guests an opportunity to answer a question we ask every time and so I’ll ask Jeremy, I’ll ask you to answer this first. And then Joe, what words of hope would you like to offer to our listeners today?


Jeremy Frye  1:01:08

Hmm. You know, I think the words of hope that I would offer are simply that there is another way to live. The rat race that you’ve been in. It doesn’t have to be that way. There’s another way to live.


Joe Chambers  1:01:25

I guess I would say to quote on the Makrina Whittaker. Oh, God helped me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is. The deepest truth about everybody is that you’re the beloved of God. So just relax.


Sean Nemecek  1:01:42

Guys, I want to just thank you so much for first, allowing Amy and I to come and be part of one of these Sacred Journeys. It was one of the highlights of our summer. Joe, thank you again for being the voice for our intro and outro on Hope Renewed. You’ve upped our quality level quite a bit there with that, but also thank you both for taking your time and being generous with us today.


Tom Jameson  1:02:09

Jeremy, I want to thank you for being the softer side of the pair. (laughter)


Joe Chambers  1:02:16

We’re gonna change the name of our retreat to good cop and bad cop retreat. (laughter)


Tom Jameson  1:02:22

And we want to thank our listeners as well. You can access our podcasts and leave comments at hoperenewedpodcast.com We would love it if you would do that. And it is our prayer that your hope is continually renewed as you fix your eyes on Jesus.


Joe Chambers  1:02:40

Thank you for joining us on Hope Renewed. Please, help us reach more pastors by sharing this episode with your friends. If you enjoy this podcast rate and review us on Apple podcasts, Google, or Spotify or your favorite platform for receiving podcasts. Thank you. This means the world to us. The Hope Renewed podcast is brought to you by PIR ministries. At PIR, we partner with God and the church in the work of pastoral renewal and restoration. Pastors, our goal is to help you cultivate new hope for healthy life and ministry. We do this by building relationships. We train both pastors and churches to promote a culture of ministry health. If you’ve experienced a forced exit from ministry, we provide a process of restoration for you and your family. We also have proven resources and tools to assist you in the challenges of ministry life. To contact us, or to learn more about PIR visit PIRministries.org


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The Hope Renewed Podcast is presented by PIR Ministries. Visit us at pirministries.org

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