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There has been a tremendous amount of personal and collective grief over the past couple of years. Navigating it all has been hard. And for those in positions of leadership, it’s been all the more burdensome.

So how do we pay attention to the past, look ahead to the future, but live and do the work at this moment? How do we process and grow into all the grief?

Author, speaker, pastor, and leader Jeanne Stevens shares beautiful wisdom with the Be the Bridge community about the difference in blame, shame, and guilt and the need to live at peace with God with ourselves so that we can live at peace with others. She and Latasha Morrison talk about the importance of accessing the presence of God. And they discuss what is helpful and unhelpful in the grieving process. This grace-filled conversation will help you embrace change, appreciate losses, and remember that you are not alone.

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Connect with Jeanne Stevens:

Her Book:  What’s Here Now?
Her Website
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Soul City Church

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Host & Executive Producer – Latasha Morrison
Senior Producer – Lauren C. Brown
Producer, Editor, & Music – Travon Potts
Transcriber – Sarah Connatser

Not all views expressed in this interview reflect the values and beliefs of Latasha Morrison or the Be the Bridge organization.

Narrator  0:00  

You are listening to the Be the Bridge Podcast with Latasha Morrison.

Latasha Morrison  0:06  

[intro] How are you guys doing today? It’s exciting!

Narrator  0:09  

Each week, Be the Bridge Podcast tackles subjects related to race and culture with the goal of bringing understanding.

Latasha Morrison  0:17  

[intro] …but I’m gonna do it in the spirit of love.

Narrator  0:19  

We believe understanding can move us toward racial healing, racial equity, and racial unity. Latasha Morrison is the founder of Be the Bridge, which is an organization responding to racial brokenness and systemic injustice in our world. This podcast is an extension of our vision to make sure people are no longer conditioned by a racialized society but grounded in truth. If you have not hit the subscribe button, please do so now. Without further ado, let’s begin today’s podcast. Oh, and stick around for some important information at the end.

Latasha Morrison  0:51  

Okay, Be the Bridge community. I am so excited to bring to you today a great friend of mine. And some of you may know her, for some of you this may be an introduction. But I have Jeanne Stevens, and I am so happy to have you here!

Jeanne Stevens  1:16  

I’m so happy to be with you!

Latasha Morrison  1:17  

I know. This is good. And Jeanne is the founding and co-lead pastor of Soul City Church in Chicago. I remember when they started and planted this church. It’s one of America’s fastest growing urban churches. Prior to starting Soul City Church, she was the own pastoral staff at Willow Creek, North Point. And when she was here at North Point, that’s where I met Jeanne. She’s a sought after speaker, leader, writer. She’s passionate to help people wake up to their purposes in their pursuit of life of wholehearted freedom. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Jarrett, and their two children. So we are so happy to have you. I’m just trying to figure out. I know what it takes to write a book. How in the world…all this? Pastor, mom, teacher, speaker. How do you do it all? How do you do it?

Jeanne Stevens  2:17  

Barely. Barely, let’s be honest.

Latasha Morrison  2:20  

Right. (laughter) Let’s be honest. (laughter)

Jeanne Stevens  2:21  

We’re starting the whole podcast with confession. You know? Listen, you talk about it in Be the Bridge – confession is critical. So let’s just start right there. Right?

Latasha Morrison  2:32  

Right. (laughter)

Jeanne Stevens  2:33  

Confession. Barely do it. Squeaking by. So thankfully, thankfully, this book that I just released, it wrote me before I wrote it.

Latasha Morrison  2:44  

Oh, so good.

Jeanne Stevens  2:45  

So it really is coming out of the depths of my own journey with God versus me having to go do some, you know, big research project or something like that and then put it all together. It is the work that God has been doing deep in my soul. So it is the overflow of what God has already been moving in and through my heart, mind, body, and soul.

Latasha Morrison  3:09  

I love it. And I just want to take you back a little bit, just take our audience back. For those of you who are sitting here, you’re probably wondering, like, “How does she know Jeanne?” Like, this goes back, this goes back to early 2000s. And actually, Jeanne is very instrumental in just, I would say, in my walk and in walking in my purpose. So when she says she’s living this out, this book wrote her, I am a witness to that. And so, you know, one of the things I met you back in early 2000s. I forget, I think someone may have introduced us. I can’t remember. So if you’re out there listening and you like, “She didn’t say my name!” I forgot your name. I’m sorry. (laughter)

Jeanne Stevens  4:08  

We got a matchmaker out there that we can’t name.

Latasha Morrison  4:11  

I know, right? But you were here in Atlanta doing work. I was on staff at a church also, and probably had been full time for just probably about three or four years at that point coming out of corporate. And we met and then I think I did…I was involved with Youth Specialties. And you were doing some work with Youth Specialties back in the day. And you had done this thing called Her Story. And, do you remember that? I’m taking you back, right? (laughter)

Jeanne Stevens  4:47  

Oh I remember it, I remember it. We are going back. We are going back.

Latasha Morrison  4:52  

We are going back. And this is…I met a lady named Carol Paul, like I remember some of the people I met are people that I’m still like in contact with. And I remember I did a breakout session of like The Art of You – like it was my first time doing it. It was a mess, too. But it was like my first time. But I just remember, like having someone outside of my church see something in me and really try to pull that out and speak that into me. That was just, that was like instrumental for me. And is this something that you’ve always done, like just seeing the potential in other people? Helping other people pursue their purpose and really walk out like their God given calling? Is this something that you’ve always been passionate about?

Jeanne Stevens  5:39  

Yeah, well, I love the reminiscing of our story and how we met even though we don’t know our matchmaker. And I love going back and remembering those days of first meeting you. And I don’t know if I would say that it began with me seeing something in you. I would say that our relationship was formed in a communal connection for wanting to be women in the world.

Latasha Morrison  5:44  

Hmm, yeah. Yeah,

Jeanne Stevens  6:09  

That shine bright, that live on purpose, that practice our own wholehearted freedom. And so I think what first occurred was this magnetic connection with us, I would say, Tasha. And from there, you know, this is what we do in the body of Christ, right? We call one another up. And I love that I was able to say, “Hey, you need to do this. You’ve got something in you. You need to teach, you need to preach, you need to bring this to people.” And I would say over the years, you’ve done the same back to me. You know? You’ve called me up and that’s that beautiful iron sharpening iron. And so, I love doing that for people. You know, I think it is the call that Jesus put on us.

Latasha Morrison  6:58  

Right.

Jeanne Stevens  6:58  

I was just reading in Luke five the other day where Jesus calls Peter. And it’s just this beautiful moment. Right? Where they’re out on the lake, they’re fishing. Peter’s like, “Listen, we’re not going out into that deep water because I was there all night, and I didn’t catch anything. And Jesus’ like, “Come on. I know something that you don’t know.” And I think that’s what we do for one another. I think we see into one another. Jesus saw something in Peter was like, “I know something that you don’t know,” or “I see something that you don’t see yet.” “I believe for you in a way that maybe you’re not believing for yourself, yet. I have some faith and I want to lend it in your direction.” And I think that’s what we’re called to do in the body of Christ is to say, “I see something in you. And I want to take you out to the deep where the fish are biting, and I want you to experience full aliveness and purpose.”

Latasha Morrison  7:53  

So good.

Jeanne Stevens  7:55  

I feel like we do that for each other. I mean, every phone call I’ve had with you, every moment we’ve been together, every time when I’ve sent you a text and said, “Tasha, I need some help. I need you to help me see this differently. I need you to hold space for me as I’m navigating a church through a really hard season.” And you’ve done that for me. So, I just feel like it’s a ping pong game here.

Latasha Morrison  8:23  

Yeah, yeah, but I’m glad to see you here. I’m glad that, you know, Jeanne just wrote a book called What’s Here Now:  How to Stop Rehashing the Past and Rehearsing the Future – and Start Receiving the Present. And we’re going to get into the book. But I wanted to just to kind of just take you on that little backstory journey to see how we end up here. And that a lot of times people write books, but then I like it when there’s a book and you read the stuff in it and it’s like a reflection of who the person is truly. You know? Because we all have a lot of great ideas. But I think it’s really important that we walk out what we’re calling others into. And I like when I can see and point to the fruit of that. And you know, especially when you talk about practicing and embracing the presence of God that allows you to embrace life and all the things that are gonna come with it. We are coming out of tough seasons. I know you’ve had some very tough seasons in your life. A few that I know about and a few I don’t know about. You know? We all have had it rough. Even though in the last two years I could imagine being a pastor and trying to pastor and shepherd through the pandemic in Chicago, Soul City Church. I can’t even imagine, I can’t even imagine. I know what we went through here in Atlanta. But I know that just a lot of churches, it has been difficult. How has life been, you know, how has this book…how have you had to come to the realization of this book in your present moment right now as a leader, as a mom, and as a wife?

Jeanne Stevens  10:32  

Yeah. I love that question. Because it really, it lands on how do you allow yourself to be in the here and the now when the here and the now is hard. And the here now has been challenging for all of us. All of us have weathered a experience that in our lifetime we hadn’t gone through. And whenever your current present location is challenging, the mind wants to take you out of the present location. Right? The place where we are, where our feet are planted, is where God has us. Right? But the mind, the mind is capable of going to many other places. And when there is something in your present that feels hard, something in your present, that you want to avoid, something in your present that you wish were different, it is really easy to want to rehash the past or to rehearse the future. You know, to go back to those things that already happened, to kind of try to relive them or change them or to go out into your future and try to control all the things that haven’t happened yet. And you know that the scriptures say that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, which is our hope that we can lean on. But the only place where we can experience God is in the present. You can’t go back to your past and experience God, and you can’t go out into your future. The only place where you have an encounter and an experience, and in this case for our conversation I believe a transformation, is in this now moment. It’s in this now moment. But so many of us, we live in an avoidance of this now moment, and especially in the conversations that you and I have had and the conversations that so much of what I love about Be the Bridge – and we’ll get into our relationship of Be the Bridge and Soul City Church – but so much about what I love about this work and what is so challenging about this work of justice and reconciliation is that oftentimes it’s uncomfortable. And when we’re uncomfortable, we want to leave the discomfort as quick as possible. And so we want to go back to the past or out into the future. And yet this is where God calls us to be. The only place we can encounter God is in this now moment. And it’s the only place where God transforms us. And so I really believe that the present moment is critical to the work of justice, to the work of compassion, to the work of mercy, to the work of reconciliation, because it has to happen in this now moment. Now, there is much for us to pay attention to in the past. Right? That’s where we’re going to look at and we’re going to dig in the dirt of our story and go, “What got us here, we can’t repeat that. And what’s gonna take us out there, we can’t let the past be the indicator of where we’re going.” The thing is, is that we can’t live in those places. The place where we do the work is in this moment.

Latasha Morrison  13:49  

Right. Right. And I know a lot of us, you know, we’ve been doing this work. And then in 2020, it seems like there was a flashlight put on not just the work, but the pain, the history, the context of everything. And I remember just in a moment being so hopeful. Like, “Wow.” Like, you know, watching all the marches, watching some of the conversations and it was not just…when I look back at the Civil Rights Movement, and I look at a lot of those marches, when I talked to my family members who were involved in some of those marches, it was people that look like me. But in 2020, it was people that look like the world. You know? And that was a beautiful thing. But for a lot of people it was a scary thing. You know? It was a shifting, a change happening. And I know we’ve done some work. How have you guys navigated this space of justice, this space of bridge building, as a church community, as we talking about, you know, looking at the past but staying in the present so that it can help chart our future? How have you, as a leader within your church capacity and family capacity, been able to lead out in that?

Jeanne Stevens  15:32  

Yeah, I really appreciate that question. Because the past has so much to teach us.

Latasha Morrison  15:40  

Yes.

Jeanne Stevens  15:40  

Right? It’s just not a place that we can live. And anytime, some of what I talk about in the book, anytime we’re rehashing the past, it takes us to some common places. Right? Blame is one of them, where you want to direct personal responsibility off of yourself. Shame is another one, self hatred at my expense. That’s how you spell out shame, S H A M E. Grief, unprocessed grief, bitterness, and guilt. I think at the forefront of 2020, when the flashlight went on, I think the whole world was collectively holding all kinds of blame and shame and unprocessed grief and bitterness and guilt for where we had been and where it allowed us to be in this present moment. And when we do not face those things, we cannot change those things. And I think that’s why there was so much erupting tension. Because I think that when you say the marches finally looked like the world, I’m like, “Yes, it did.” And I was I was one of them. And, I also know that there were so many that didn’t step in…

Latasha Morrison  15:49  

Right, right.

Jeanne Stevens  15:57  

…and didn’t like the flashlight, because they probably felt some kind of inner grief going on or inner guilt going on or inner blame going on. And they didn’t want to face it. They didn’t want to face it. And what we cannot face we cannot change. And so much of what I love, what I love about our work with Be the Bridge is it’s a facing. Right? You have to face what is going on inside of you. One of the things that I quote regularly from your book, is when you say, “The confession of our entanglement in racism and systemic privilege is essential. It’s essential for complete healing and restoration. And none of us are off the hook.” I read that when I first read your book, and I’ve read your book a couple of times, Tasha. Brene Brown always says that when a book bothers her, she throws it across the room. I read that sentence and I was like, “No! That’s so hard. Oh my gosh, none of us are gonna want to do that.” Right? And yet I picked it back up. And I was like, “Yes, yes. Yes, again. Amen. Amen. Amen. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.” And so much about when we leave the present moment and rehash the past is that there is something in that blame or that shame or that unprocessed grief, that bitterness, that guilt, that the kindness of God wants to lead us to repentance. But if we’re unable to name it and to face it, we’ll never see a change. And that’s why I love what you say here about it’s essential, it’s essential to face those things inside of ourselves in order for us to have complete healing. And I think the sadness that I often find is those that aren’t willing to do the work of justice, those that aren’t willing to do the work of bridge building, they aren’t living in the present moment. They’re rehashing the past. They’re just rehashing the past and they’re holding on to those things that maybe somehow make them feel safer or stronger or I don’t know what it is as to why there’s an unwillingness to come into the present moment and face those things. But yeah, I think that spotlight was long overdue.

Latasha Morrison  19:51  

Yeah, yeah.

Jeanne Stevens  19:51  

Long overdue.

Latasha Morrison  19:52  

Yeah. I think some people find comfort in the past, because they don’t have to deal with the right now. But at some point, we have to deal with the right now. And so when I think about right now, I think about just where, you know, and within our community Be the Bridge we have a very diverse community. And so I think about some of…we just did a, our training director, Sean, just did a session with our back BIPOC community, and it’s called Water in the Wilderness. And, you know, and just really like just shepherding that community. There’s been so much pain and so much hurt, and a lot of it from the church. You know? And I think when I was reading some of these things in your book, I was like, “Wow, this is, this is a good word for us right now.” You know? Because, you know, they’re trying to move forward, but there’s so much trauma attached to the moving forward. But when you say, in your message when you say, “The presence of peace is important for the world right now.” And, when I read that I was like, “That is so true.” Because just feel like people are not well. You know what I’m saying?

Jeanne Stevens  21:33  

They are not.

Latasha Morrison  21:34  

Peace is not tangible for a lot of people. And so what would you say to that community?

Jeanne Stevens  21:36  

Yeah, I would so agree with you. And that quality of peace is so critical to our health, to our wholeness, to our connection to God, our connection to ourselves, and our connection to one another. If I am not at peace, how will I ever be at peace with somebody else? Which is the work of reconciliation. So if I don’t have inner peace with myself and with God, it will be impossible for me to extend the work of peace with you. And we cannot experience the peace of God, if we don’t know how to access the presence of God.

Latasha Morrison  21:38  

Yes, yes. Yes.

Jeanne Stevens  21:38  

And the presence of God, the presence of God is always the here and the now.

Latasha Morrison  22:30  

Yes!

Jeanne Stevens  22:30  

It’s the here and the now. And God is never not present.

Latasha Morrison  22:35  

Yeah, yes.

Jeanne Stevens  22:35  

We’re the ones that aren’t present to the presence of God. And so we won’t experience the exchange of peace if we’re not practicing the presence of God. And I like to tell people all the time, “Listen, if it’s not happening now, it’s not happening.”

Latasha Morrison  22:37  

Right, right.

Jeanne Stevens  22:38  

And yet, so many of us, we’re living in our not happenings. It’s causing a quality of discomfort, disconnection, anxiety, stress; we’re not living in flow, we’re not in that the stream of peace, the river of God, right, where peace flows on the regular. And so it’s no wonder there is so much disconnection in our relationships, that we don’t feel peace with one another, because we’re not experiencing peace with ourselves, because we’re not practicing God’s presence.

Latasha Morrison  23:30  

Yeah. You know, a couple years ago, I heard Andrew Young speak, and I just remember him, there was so much it felt like chaos and turmoil. And I just like, for me, I was questioning everything. I was questioning, like, is this the way you know, Be the Bridge like is this what…you know, like this is too much. Like, I’d rather, like, I’ll go back to corporate. This is just too much. This is too heavy of a burden to carry. And I just remember him talking and recounting the stories of the Civil Rights Movement, his role in it, his friendship, his partnership with King. And I remember him saying, like, “We didn’t know what, like, there was strategy, but there wasn’t strategy. We didn’t know what we were doing.” He said, “But what we did is we were trusting.” And I just remember him just being really steadfast. And he said, “We had to trust and to know that God was with us.” You know? And at that moment, it was like, okay, they were practicing like that presence. They were living in that moment. And I think when we talk about this, in order to have that peace it’s like you have to be steadfast. You have to be able to access the presence of God. And that’s what they were able to do. They were able to access…let me say that over (laugher). They were able to access it. But also to really activate it. You know?

Jeanne Stevens  25:11  

That’s right. That’s right.

Latasha Morrison  25:13  

And I think that was, you know, some of the things that when I look at that movement…and I feel like I was…some friends of mine, we had a prayer for their kids before they went back to school and took off to college. And because we just know people are not well, this world is not well. And one of the things we were telling the kids it’s like, you have to know how to access the presence of God.

Jeanne Stevens  25:38  

That’s right.

Latasha Morrison  25:39  

You know? And for your own life, when your parents are not there, when you’re not at church, like how do you do that. And that was just one of the conversations. And I think when we walk through this book, I think it’s a good tool to teach us how to do that. To live in now and to be able to access that. Because that is the thing that’s gonna carry you, that is the thing that’s gonna chart the path that’s gonna give you your next step. That’s the thing that you got to put your ear to. You know? And I know…

Jeanne Stevens  26:15  

Yeah. And I…

Latasha Morrison  26:15  

Yeah. Go ahead.

Jeanne Stevens  26:17  

Well, I just was thinking when you were talking about that I, it made me think of a quote by Mother Teresa. And she says, “If we have no peace, it’s because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Latasha Morrison  26:20  

That’s good.

Jeanne Stevens  26:26  

If we have no peace, it’s because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. And I think that many of us get stuck believing that peaceful circumstances are what create gratitude, but peaceful circumstances do not create gratitude. Gratitude creates peaceful circumstances. And we are going to develop a sense of gratitude for the here and the now, and a willingness to be in what is happening with myself, with God, and one another, even when the world is not well, like we’re talking about. Right? We can still have a quality of peace, because we’re not looking to our circumstances to create our peace, we’re looking to the Peacemaker; we’re looking to the Prince of Peace; we’re looking to the One that has taken up residence inside and says, “I will give you peace. It’s not the peace of this world. It is a peace that is different. It is a different quality.” And I think, Tasha, when we forget that we belong to one another…

Latasha Morrison  27:44  

Yeah.

Jeanne Stevens  27:45  

….you are my sister. I am your sister. We forget that when we live in that distance, and we’re rehashing the past or were rehearsing the future. Of course, we’re not going to have peace with one another in the present moment. Because we’re not even practicing peace with ourselves or with God.

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Latasha Morrison  29:51  

That’s so good. Because if you can’t access it for yourself, you’re definitely not going to be able to do it with others. That is so good. There’s a part in your book where you talk about shame. And you know, we talk about in this work especially of lament, there’s going to be shame and guilt. And that’s the part where it’s hard for people. Because when people feel uncomfortable or where there’s a discomfort, they automatically can mistake guilt for shame or shame for guilt. People can risk mistake this discomfort for, you know, sometimes it’s not really about shame, but this conviction that’s calling you to something. But I think when we let that play down, we can get into the trap trappings of shame. You know?

Jeanne Stevens  30:49  

Yeah.

Latasha Morrison  30:49  

And so you talk about recognizing shame. And what are some things, because there’s one thing you say, “Guilt says, ‘I made a mistake.'” And then you say, “Shame says, ‘I am a mistake.'” And I think that’s just a really good way, when people talk about like, understanding what guilt, the onus of guilt, but then how shame goes a bit deeper into your self esteem, you know, saying I am a mistake. Can you explain that? Because I think…

Jeanne Stevens  30:50  

Yeah!

Latasha Morrison  30:51  

…this is good work, and a good word for those who are doing that, I guess you would say that deconstruction around some of the stories in history or just your own life. You know?

Jeanne Stevens  31:40  

Yeah.

Latasha Morrison  31:41  

And how you would feel.

Jeanne Stevens  31:41  

Yeah, I knew that I, when I set out to write the book I knew that I needed to write about when it comes to rehashing the past, I needed to do a whole chapter on guilt, I needed to do a whole chapter on blame, and I needed to do a whole chapter on shame. Because they’re like these triplets that often get confused by one another. Right?

Latasha Morrison  32:04  

Right. (laughter) That’s a good way to put it.

Jeanne Stevens  32:05  

They’re not identical triplets. They have a different role that they play in our lives. And just like I said, you know, blame says, “I did something wrong.” Guilt says, “You did something wrong,” or I’m sorry! Blame says, “You did something wrong.” Guilt says, “I did something wrong.” And shame says, “I am wrong.”

Latasha Morrison  32:29  

Exactly.

Jeanne Stevens  32:30  

And you know, they can often be confused for one another. And I think that especially in the work that we do in bridge building, the work that we do in justice, I think that often times, people don’t want to live with the discomfort of those triplets. They don’t want to face if there’s something going on where they feel guilt, or there’s something going on where they feel some shame even. Because shame is really about identity. Right?

Latasha Morrison  33:09  

Right.

Jeanne Stevens  33:09  

There’s something to my core that is wrong. I am not worthy. When we’re experiencing shame, that’s the story of shame:  I am not worthy. And I love what Brene Brown says. She says that if we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.

Latasha Morrison  33:35  

Yeah, yeah.

Jeanne Stevens  33:35  

And so much about bridge building, so much about justice work is seeing one another. And if we’re going to truly see one another, we have to do the work of empathy. And we have to do the work of seeking to understand. But that is, again, that’s uncomfortable work. And yet, I believe that’s the call of God on our lives…

Latasha Morrison  34:02  

Yeah, yeah.

Jeanne Stevens  34:03  

…is to look at those places where we’re trying to not deal with taking responsibility and we’re blaming somebody else.

Latasha Morrison  34:10  

Yeah.

Jeanne Stevens  34:10  

We’re blaming history, which is very popular right now. You know, there’s a lot of people showing up in the world that’s going well, “It happened in the past. It’s not like I’m doing it.” Right?

Latasha Morrison  34:20  

Yeah. Right, right.

Jeanne Stevens  34:21  

But we have to take some collective responsibility. And when we blame, we’re just trying to let go of responsibility. Guilt is this inner feeling of I’m never going to be able to do it right. I always do it wrong. Right? And it’s not actually getting yourself…guilt leads you to the gutter.

Latasha Morrison  34:22  

Yeah.

Jeanne Stevens  34:22  

And that’s not what God’s intent is. Right? The intent is actually for that to metabolize into growth in your life. When you have made a mistake, when you have hurt someone, when you have had a conscious or unconscious bias, then you own it and you face it and you name it, that guilt has no more power in your life.

Latasha Morrison  35:10  

That’s good.

Jeanne Stevens  35:11  

And you’re able to actually bring forth, and shame isn’t going to be able to survive. Because you’re not letting it then rest and metabolize into your life, you’re letting it actually become good soil where growth can actually occur.

Latasha Morrison  35:26  

Yeah, yeah, that’s good. And, you know, I mentioned at the beginning, we were talking about I said that I know there’s a lot of things that this book is something that you’ve had to walk out and walk through. You don’t just write these words, and haven’t gone through anything. Listen, this is like learned behavior.

Jeanne Stevens  35:52  

There’s a lot of war wounds over here. A lot of war wounds.

Latasha Morrison  35:55  

Yes, this is how you encourage yourself in the Lord. (laughter) You know? But there’s this one point where you talk about, because I’m just really thinking about just some things that really could, when we think about the state of where we are as individuals, as a community, as a church, as a family, when we talk about grief, there’s been a lot of grief. You know? I’ve gone through grief; you’re going through grief; I have friends that are going through like deep grief right now. I had a close friend to lose her husband recently. And I know you’ve had to walk through that. But then it’s like there’s this scripture. And I think it’s in Ecclesiastes, where it really…my pastor told me about it and it just really stands out to me in that place of grief. That in the place of grief it’s like, because you are at your end sometimes, you know, you feel closer to God when you assess – access. (laughter) When you access the presence of God, you feel closer to God in that grief. But then there’s this different process of grieving, all of us are different in it. When you talk about growing through grief, it’s like, in that scripture talks about it’s better to be at a funeral than at a wedding. And so when you think about that, it’s better to be in grief because at a funeral you feel closer to God. But sometimes in our celebrations we feel like we’ve done it, we’ve arrived, we don’t need God as much. You know? So I get that. But I do remember just in the grief, like just clinging, having to cling to God because you have nothing else to cling to.

Jeanne Stevens  36:03  

That’s right.

Latasha Morrison  36:53  

And so I would love for you, you know, just in this moment for those that are grieving loss or loss of familiarity, people are grieving the loss of church homes and friends and all these things. How can they really tap into understanding like that this process, although it’s difficult, it can grow you. You know? How does that become a reality when you’re in so much pain?

Jeanne Stevens  38:26  

Yeah. And you named that both of us have navigated through deep, personal losses. Losses of close loved ones and we connected over that. We both lost our father. You know, my husband lost his father in COVID. We both, both my husband and I have lost brothers. But the loss of church homes, loss of communities, the loss of believing that life was going to turn and go a certain way and then you found yourself on an entirely different road. All change is loss and all loss changes us. And so many, specifically talking to those that are listening that are leaders right now, I think that there are so many leaders that are struggling to lead because they are weighed down with so much ungrieved loss in their life. And you’re exactly right, Tasha, because it’s in the soil of loss and grief where God does the deepest and the most transforming work in our soul. The problem is none of us ever go looking for it. None of us ever lay a welcome mat out to grief. We’re never like, “Oh, sure, yes, I would love to experience more loss, more grief, more change, more hurt, more pain, more betrayal.” Right? We never lay the welcome mat out to grief. But that is the soil where…I bet you would say this is true because I know it’s true for me…God has grown profound things in my life that would not have grown had I not navigated grief and loss.

Latasha Morrison  40:20  

Yeah. So good.

Jeanne Stevens  40:20  

And when it comes to the losses in our life, we can either give in to them, and they, you know, just kind of like a huge wave in the ocean, they kind of just push us over, or we grow into them. And I think that when we grow into them, I’ve got this whole section in the book where I talk about what ungrieved loss grows. And I talk about how if you haven’t grieved your loss, it’s going to grow chronic complaining, it’s going to grow a guarded heart, it’s going to grow resentment, it’s going to grow isolation, and it’s going to grow repressed emotions. And you better believe that that is going to show up in the relationships of your life. But if you grow into your grief, right, you let God do God’s work through that loss. And it’s hard. And it’s painful. And most of us want to run the other direction. But what I have found in my life is that when I grow through my grief, God grows peaceful appreciation. God grows an open heart. There’s contentment, there’s connection, and I can express my emotions. And now would I ever go back and write those losses into the plotline of my life? No. You probably wouldn’t either.

Latasha Morrison  41:45  

Right, right, right.

Jeanne Stevens  41:46  

But I can stand, I can stand on this side of the loss with a peaceful appreciation.

Latasha Morrison  41:55  

Yeah.

Jeanne Stevens  41:56  

For what God has grown through the loss.

Latasha Morrison  42:00  

Yeah.

Jeanne Stevens  42:00  

And that is the place of presence. That’s the place of peace. That’s the place of maturation. That’s where the scriptures talk about. God has fully done his work of transforming and renewing our minds. Right? We think differently about the loss than when it first occurred when we grow through the loss.

Latasha Morrison  42:24  

Yeah, yeah.

Jeanne Stevens  42:24  

And it’s not of this world. It’s something that only God can grow in us, as we give ourselves to that growth work. But none of us go looking for it. None of us, none of us stand in line for more loss in our lives.

Latasha Morrison  42:41  

Yeah, yeah.

Jeanne Stevens  42:42  

And yet, God is faithful to use the loss to transform us.

Latasha Morrison  42:50  

You know, one of the things that you say too, is just having walked through it, sometimes we don’t know how to show up for people. And watching other sometimes you don’t have words. And it’s okay when you don’t have words. And I think one of the things you give this great example of, “One of the best ways we can be present to others in grief is to do the following.” You say, “Show up. Speak up. Or shut up.” You know? And I was like, “You nailed it!” And I was like, only a person who has gone through it will know. You know, because sometimes you just need to be quiet…

Jeanne Stevens  43:25  

Yeah, yeah.

Latasha Morrison  43:26  

…and listen, but show up. Show up. And I love you. Like if there’s nothing else just to say, “I love you. I’m here for you. I support you.” You know? And then you end this section, you say, “Loss is never something we would choose.” It isn’t, I would not choose it. “None of us goes looking to take a ride down a chute of pain, but grief has a way of enlarging our souls. And somehow through it, we experience even more of God.” And I think that is so true. And I would say for our community, you know, if you’re grieving something right now, if you’re grieving the loss, the loss of community, church home, all of those things, you know, these are ways that you can show up for others that are experiencing that. But then also understanding on the other side, there can be joy again.

Jeanne Stevens  44:29  

That’s right.

Latasha Morrison  44:30  

On the other side, there will be hope again. And so, you know, let that…you know, as the old folks say, “This too shall pass.” You know? (laughter)

Jeanne Stevens  44:43  

Yup. Now I would I would add, I would add never say that to somebody that has some fresh grief. That’s when you shut up. (laughter)

Latasha Morrison  44:51  

Exactly, exactly. You can say it to yourself, but don’t say it to someone else. This too shall pass. Because I’m gonna want to pop you in your nose. (laughter)

Jeanne Stevens  44:59  

That’s right. That only can be said to the self, not to the other.

Latasha Morrison  45:03  

Yes. Yes, exactly. That’s how you encourage yourself. Right?

Jeanne Stevens  45:08  

That’s right.

Latasha Morrison  45:09  

But you know, I wanted to just hit this before we close because I want you to close with a benediction in your book. But one of the things I want to…I’m gonna go back down memory lane a little bit. And I think I told you about this conversation like a couple of years ago, I’m not sure. But do you remember when we met? We met I think for breakfast one morning? And you remember that? Okay. Do you remember what you told me?

Jeanne Stevens  45:42  

I do remember.

Latasha Morrison  45:43  

Do you remember what you told me?

Jeanne Stevens  45:46  

I think I told you a lot of things.

Latasha Morrison  45:47  

(laughter) Jeanne. Jeanne.

Jeanne Stevens  45:49  

Tasha, I am verbose. I am verbose. So I know I said a lot of things.

Latasha Morrison  45:58  

(laughter) I know, if someone would ask me that question, “Uhh what did I say?”

Jeanne Stevens  46:04  

“What did I say?” (laughter)

Latasha Morrison  46:07  

“I’m assuming it was something good?” (laughter)

Jeanne Stevens  46:09  

“Was it good?” Yeah! (laughter)

Latasha Morrison  46:12  

Oh, my goodness. But I had come in, and boy, I felt like I had been beat down by just the job that I was doing and just so much stuff. And I had learned to like wear this mask of that everything’s okay. You know, I’m a very optimistic person naturally, but then sometimes, like, that optimism, you know, sometimes you need a reality check in that. And I just remember going in that day, and it was just a lot of stuff. I was just really weary. You know? And you asked me, how’s doing and I was like, “Okay.” And then I paused and I was like, “You know what, do you really want to know how I’m doing? Because I can tell you like how I’m doing.” And I think I just stated how I was really feeling and what was going on with me. And then you paused and you looked at me and you was like, and you smiled. And I was like, “Why is she smiling at me?” And you probably do not remember this, but I am not lying! (laughter) And you paused and you looked at me you said, “Okay,” you said, “Now you can let Jesus back on the throne.” And I just remember looking, and I was like…and I just remember this, like this heaviness disappeared. And it was like, and basically the thing you told me it’s like, “because you’ve made an idol out of your church and your pastor.” You know? And I just remember that. And I remember from that day forward it was like whatever scales or whatever things I couldn’t see or I couldn’t, you know, know that I didn’t know that next step, from that point forward, I had clarity. And I feel like with that clarity helped shape me into the person that I am right now, you know, in that moment. And I think, you know, that’s when I read this book, I was like, “This is just so her.” (laughter) “This is just so good. This is so her.” But I mean to know, like, you know, giving people words of hope, words of wisdom in those times of confusion or despair is really critical. And I think this is…the words that you’ve written here can help people in those times. And that helping people can really shape not just their future, but the future of the church, the future of communities, and the future of families. Because when we understand ourselves and we’re willing to listen and willing to be better and do something different, that helps us – and also take responsibility. You know?

Jeanne Stevens  49:12  

That’s right, that’s right.

Latasha Morrison  49:12  

And it was something I had to take responsibility and be like, “Wait a minute. What? Let me get myself together. And guess what, that ain’t gonna happen again.” Like what. I didn’t see it. I was completely blind to it. You know? And I will say that was one of the things, and I know like just when we talk about what is here now. Looking at the now, and understanding the now and having a deeper understanding of the now will give us a path into the next step. You know, and I always say for me, that kinda guides me is like, I’m gonna do the next right thing. I’m gonna do the next thing that I know to do, you know, the next right thing. And so that way, it helps me put things in perspective. Like, I’m not in control of everything. I’m not in control. But I have to lean into the One who controls everything.

Jeanne Stevens  49:12  

That’s right.

Latasha Morrison  49:12  

And so that’s just really important for me. And so I’m so grateful for you. I’m so grateful for your voice. I guess I’m grateful that you moved back to Chicago. You know? I moved away. I came back, though. (laughter)

Jeanne Stevens  50:36  

So you’re saying I need to come back? (laughter)

Latasha Morrison  50:41  

But I’m so glad that Chicago has been kind to you with everything that you guys are doing there in the Chicago world. I know you guys have leaned into some of the Be the Bridge work. You guys read the book as a church. And I want to say that you you guys took a picture, I think I saw a picture that you sent me that you were in front of like your staff or your congregation was in front of the words be the bridge or something like that?

Jeanne Stevens  51:15  

Yeah, yeah.

Latasha Morrison  51:16  

Y’all took a picture like that?

Jeanne Stevens  51:17  

Yeah. Well, you spoke. Well, we did an interview.

Latasha Morrison  51:22  

Yes, yes.

Jeanne Stevens  51:23  

I think that was summer of 2020. Maybe?

Latasha Morrison  51:27  

Yeah, either summer of 2020 or 2021. It may have been 2020 because we were all remote.

Jeanne Stevens  51:34  

Yes, we were remote. And I told you, I called you up and I said, “Tasha, I want to do something crazy. I want to make every person that attends Soul City Church read Be the Bridge.”

Latasha Morrison  51:47  

Oh, yes, yes.

Jeanne Stevens  51:48  

And you’re like, “The whole church?” I’m like, “The whole church. The whole church.” And we did. We bought a copy for every person that attends Soul City Church or that calls it home or, you know, was a part of the community. And we had this big mural in front of our building that said, “Be the Bridge.” And, you know, this was when people weren’t able to come in person, in our city at least, and so they literally had to like drive up to the church, to this big mural, where we were giving out books so that we as a church could go through it together. And we did Be the Bridge groups. We still have Be the Bridge groups.

Latasha Morrison  52:30  

Yeah. Yeah.

Jeanne Stevens  52:31  

And our whole staff went through Be the Bridge together. And you leaned in and spoke into our whole church then. And the same way that you say to me that in that moment when we had breakfast and Holy Spirit got ahold of my tongue (laughter) and talked about who was on the throne in your life…

Latasha Morrison  52:59  

Yeah, yeah.

Jeanne Stevens  53:01  

…the Holy Spirit’s gotten a hold of yours in my life. And, you know, I’ve called you in some really important moments to say, “Help me see. How do I lead? How do I lead through this? How do I lead through this as a white woman that is now leading a multi-ethnic church in this spot and in this season?” In the moments where I feel super deficient, and when I feel like am I the right one to do this? Like, do I even have what it takes? Because I most of the time just feel like God, I don’t know what I’m doing. This is so hard. This work is so hard. And you’ve regularly leaned into me to say, “Well, if it’s not hard then it’s not working.” (laughter) I would appreciate actually a little softer next time. A little bit more flowery. But it’s true. If it’s not hard, it’s not working. And hard is what grows us. Hard is what changes us. And hard is what transforms us into who God created us to be. And we can only do that in the present moment, when we live as the beloved, when we live in our truest identity of this now moment – you’re a beloved daughter of God, I’m a beloved daughter of God – and when I live there and I root myself there and I plant my feet in that here and that now. Even the things that are hard, I can face them. I can face them and grow through them and transform through them because God is with us.

Latasha Morrison  54:50  

Yeah, yeah. So good. So good. And this is I think, definitely a word for now. Even in how people can lean into this work and churches and communities can lean into this work. And it’s that the sharpening, you know, like, it’s not easy, but it’s so worth it. You know, this is difficult, hard work. And sometimes in the difficulty, God gives us words to help chart the path not just for ourselves but for other people. And so, I think that’s what God has done in your book and in the things that is happening in Soul City Church. And I know, churches now are trying to, you know, deal with this newness because as people come back, people are not well and the world is not went well. And just, you know, church is hard. It is difficult work. And also, and having a family and all the other things that everyone does. So, you know, our prayers are definitely with you. And I think you have some words that I want you to kind of close this time out with. But Be the Bridge community, as we prepare to close, we’re gonna have in the show notes all of how you can follow Jeanne and her work and find out more about her, her book, What’s Here Now? You know, there’s so much that we didn’t get to talk about, I wanted to talk about the cycles of works versus the cycle of grace. But I can drop that nugget and have you read about it. But one of the things that I would love to hear from you in this, you know, how have you accessed the presence of God and what has that done in your life? And the second thing would be, if you’ve had to deal with any loss or grief, what are some things that have been helpful to you during those times? So just as you’re listening, just write those things down and share them when we share this podcast. I would love to hear some of that feedback from you. And so Jeanne, if you can just close this out with this benediction that’s from your book.

Jeanne Stevens  57:29  

Absolutely. And Tasha, I love you. And I’m so grateful for you. I’m so grateful for our friendship. I’m so grateful that you continue to press on as a leader. This is critical work, it’s essential work, and I’m with you heart and soul in it. So thanks for having me on.

Latasha Morrison  57:50  

Thank you.

Jeanne Stevens  57:50  

And thank you to the Be the Bridge community. And I’d love to close us with a benediction. It’s called The Beloved Benediction: You are loved. You are loved. You are loved. You can’t do anything to make me love you more. You can’t do anything to make me love you less. My love is safe. My love is whole. My love will restore your soul. I decided you are worthy – worthy of love, worthy of hope, worthy of peace. You are my masterpiece. You don’t need to hustle or strive or put in your time. All you need to do is rest in being fully mine. Be compassionate with yourself, my beloved. Be kind and caring, authentic and true. I see you. I receive you. Won’t you do the same with you? Play and rest. You’re not a machine. You can do many things, but you can’t do everything. So today will you just breathe? Be still. Belong. Believe. Relax, release, receive. Do not fear. I am here, ever present, ever near. No more pretending, no more impressing, my presence is your greatest blessing. So lose yourself in my limitless liberation. Dance and rejoice in my affectionate affirmation. Beloved, you no longer need to simply survive. Now is the time for you to come alive.

Latasha Morrison  59:33  

Oh I love that. It’s beautiful. Amen!

Jeanne Stevens  59:38  

Amen.

Latasha Morrison  59:38  

Thank you so much for sharing those words with us and with our community. So, we’re grateful to have you here.

Jeanne Stevens  59:49  

Thanks, Tasha.

Narrator  59:57  

Go to the donors table if you’d like to hear the unedited version of this podcast. Thanks for listening to the Be the Bridge Podcast. To find out more about the Be the Bridge organization and or to become a bridge builder in your community, go to BeTheBridge.com. Again, that’s BeTheBridge.com. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, remember to rate and review it on this platform and share it with as many people as you possibly can. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Today’s show was edited, recorded, and produced by Travon Potts at Integrated Entertainment Studios in Metro Atlanta, Georgia. The host and executive producer is Latasha Morrison. Lauren C. Brown is the Senior Producer. And transcribed by Sarah Connatser. Please join us next time. This has been a Be the Bridge production.