Ken’s Pen Jan 2015

Pastor’s article for St. Paul’s UCC newsletter.

The season of Lent approaches, beginning with Ash Wednesday service at 7pm on February 10th and walking through Holy Week, ending on Easter, March 27th. During this season we remember the 40 day temptation journey of Jesus in the wilderness. We repent because we know that God calls us to a new and brighter future, and that we must let go of “the sin that clings so closely, and run with perseverance the race set before us…” We are empowered and motivated to do this because of “the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

On Sunday mornings during Lent we will explore a vision of human wholeness called a Synchronous Life – one that balances and harmonized the positive energies in all six domains of human life – Physical, Spiritual, Emotional, Relational, Intellectual, Occupational. We will explore together how we can move from dis-function and dis-ease to wholeness and flourishing – for ourselves, our community, and the world. Elsewhere in this Newsletter you can read more about the Synchronous Life Model for Wholeness. We will gather on Wednesday evenings to hear some from our church community share their visions of a hopeful future. These stories will be part of our Lenten Vespers Suppers that include a light meal, scripture, song and prayer.

Can I Shine Your Shoes?

(Another installment of “Maybe I missed something here…”)

My son and I had just completed our visit to the World Aquarium, and were headed toward Dealey Plaza and an early supper. We were walking a side street in downtown Dallas, still in our Sunday church clothes, when Jeffery smiled and lifted a hesitant wave as we walked past. We returned the gesture as he quietly called from behind, “Excuse me.”

File Jan 24, 6 00 29 PMWe stopped, turned, and matched his few steps it took for us to be within handshaking distance. I extended my hand and said, “I’m Ken.” “Jeffery,” he replied, and turned to my son and shook his hand also, receiving his name as well. Jeffery continued, “I’m wondering if I could shine your shoes, or wash your car? Anything to earn a little money.” Over his shoulder was slung a red partially opened Jansport backpack perfect for schoolbooks. His black wool cap logo matched his sweatshirt, “(NS) Never Satisfied ~ We Trust“. He explained that these were a gift from someone handing them out on the street last night.

My brain, while trying to engage as a fellow human being, also revved up on the “What’s the most helpful way to respond in this situation?” question. A quarter century ago I was the founding director of a Saturday soup kitchen at First Methodist Church, Lubbock. Two decades ago I worked with homeless vets who were residents of an inpatient care and rehab domiciliary program at that Dallas VAMC. When I encounter homeless individuals, I’m wired to relate in a relational and strengths-focused way. I want to honor and respect the unique humanity of each person, and offer what I can to help a person move toward flourishing – in his or her life as she or he understands it.

I didn’t need my shoes shined, and only had $2 in my pocket which seemed insufficient for a shoe shine either way. And I didn’t want to stick around to have my car cleaned, whatever that might entail. I said we were headed to eat, and that he was welcome to join us. He nodded and I asked where he would like to go. “Well, there’s a Williams Chicken near by.” “Sounds fine,” I replied. “We’ve been to Poppies, but not Williams. Let’s go.” We talked along the 3 block journey. I mostly asked questions, though tried not to interview or interrogate him. (I may not have been successful.) We also shared some of our own life stories. Relational includes mutuality, after all. Even with strangers.

We got to the chicken place, 1/2 block from the West End Dart rail station and 1 block from the downtown Dart transfer station – an area with lots of foot traffic. Because the restrooms are only for paying customers, we had to request the key so that we could wash our hands. Time to order. Jeffery was thoughtful about not
assuming – asking before increasing his order beyond some williams chickeninternal threshold he’d determined. I nodded
both times, and then we ordered as well after studying the menu. When we received our food and I’d paid, we sat down, the three of us, and enjoyed our fried chicken and sides. We continued to talk about where we were from, what we’d been up to, and where life was heading. The food was good, and so was the conversation.

Jeffery is black. In fact we were the only non African American folks in the restaurant. While aware of this fact, it did not register that race was a significant factor in this encounter. I didn’t (and don’t) think that Jeffery selected us because we were white. I’m confident that I would not have related to him differently if he were other than African American. My son and I talked briefly about this on the way home, and he noted his awareness of how we had showed up in the midst of what seems like a stereotype.

And then I read on Sandhya Jha’s Pre-Post-Racial America: Spiritual Stories from the Front Lines  this repost from Steve Williams sharing this story told by Professor Steve Locke.

Now I’m not so sure. Did I completely miss something in our encounter with Jeffery? Was I so set on my own interpretation of the event that I didn’t pause long enough to wonder how he might be experiencing it in light of recent events. Was I living out #whiteprivilege?

I saw a homeless man, and I know from my own experience and others’ research that isolation and invisibility are common psychic challenges faced by individuals living in homelessness. Dining With someone is a way to counteract those forces. It is a way to say, “I see you, and respect you, and am happy to share table fellowship with you.” Sure, it was on my dime, so he wasn’t a totally free participant (#myprivilege). That much is clear. I’m not sure how to navigate around that except to say, “Here’s some money for dinner, and we’d love for you to join us.” Unfortunately 1) as already stated I didn’t have the cash for that, and 2) I’ve been around enough people hustling on the street to know better than to hand over cash. I do sometimes, but it’s rare. And he wasn’t working a hustle, he was actually hustling – trying to find work to earn money. In my mind (though not his experience perhaps) race is not a factor in my calculation of how to respond. Perhaps it should be, at least in my sensitivity toward the other and what they may be anticipating, experiencing, or thinking.

I also didn’t honor this man’s request to earn his own way. That much I knew at the outset, but didn’t see a good way around that, except to perhaps say, “All I have is $2. Why don’t you give me whatever level of shine you think that buys,” knowing all the time that would be a merely adequate tip on top of the charge for a decent shine.

So maybe in some way my wrestling, and this writing, help to make up the difference in whatever was lacking in my (our?) attempt to honor Jeffery and his humanity. I hope so. While I’m not color-blind, I also try to not let my vision be color-centric. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can all do better in situations like this. My heart longs for the day when such encounters don’t happen, because people like Jeffery are able to avoid finding themselves in such humbling situations to begin with. I hope my work and life, as expressions of my discipleship to Jesus, help bring about that day.



Multivocal Story: My Path To Being a Realtor

Dan’s story is a great example of why I do the work I do. Pastor? Yes. Realtor? Yes. Many other things in his multivocal life and ministry? YES! If you know folks like Dan who are serving in pastoral ministry AND doing other kinds of work that they find personally fulfilling and financially rewarding, please point them in my direction. I’d love to hear their stories.

Source: My Path To Being a Realtor

Gathering thoughts and voices

My external life and work reflect my inner heart and mind – multivocal. I almost always have at least 3 trains of thought going at any one time.

They may be bullet commuter trains, or workhorse engines, but they’re continually running, and not always in the same direction.


Sometimes the tracks go off in all sorts of crazy directions…..
….. or are they coming together from disparate places?
I’m not sure. Maybe both. Either way, this also describes the way I approach my work – bringing together multiple streams of thought, and then sending them off in far-flung directions.

My challenge is not so much holding all my trains of thought as it is communicating them in a way that makes sense to others, which they can retell, and into which they can find their own points of connection. This is one of my primary goals for the coming months – finding ways to clarify and articulate my own multivocal tracks into one meta-narrative or central story that holds it all together.

(At this point someone is saying, “Isn’t the unifying story The Gospel, the unifying character Jesus, or God?” Yes, but while true it is so broad and vague as to be next to useless for this exercise in particularity of vocational expression. The question is not “who is God?” but “who am I becoming because of God?” Jesus is God incarnate – telling us all that we need to know about God, or more accurately all we can know. How is my unique life to be an extension of that witness – how am I to incarnate God in the world?)

The primary trains of thought in my professional / work / ministry life right now are:

  • Vocation – “The voice with which our lives speak good things into existence in the world.” Research and teaching (writing and speaking) on how this understanding of vocation is essential to human life.
  • Multivocal – Discover how vocation is manifest through the six domains of human flourising, and how you can become more fully yourself, more fully whole, by discovering, developing and deploying your vocational identity in each part of your life.
  • Synchronous Life: Six Domains of Human Flourishing – developing, using and sharing this model for understanding human wholeness, and the place of vocation in it.
  • Coaching & Consulting – Leadership and Life Coaching, Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Care for leaders of ministries and nonprofits
  • Pastoral/Parish Ministry – serving as a leader in a particular Christian congregation, including preaching, teaching, worship leading, leadership development, pastoral counseling…
  • AltrCall – Gathering and Sharing Stories of Vocation. A gathering and exploration of stories of calling that include but go way beyond the norm and the expected. Clergy and Laity who are finding new ways to live out their call to ministry. Some will bear a family resemblance to things you already know. Others will be as if seeing ministry for the first time.
  • Entrepreneurship – supporting entrepreneurs in business, community nonprofits and ministries through coworking and other modalities that bring together leaders and innovators in collaborative relationships, experiences and spaces.

All of these make use of my skills in research, writing and speaking, strategic thinking and deep listening and connected yet differentiated relating. My great hope is that my work will enhance the lives of leaders across multiple sectors of society, with a special passion for those serving in congregational and community based ministries. I believe my greatest contribution and impact will be in helping these kinds of leaders to not only survive but to thrive personally and professionally – in every area of their lives. If this happens, then they will have the resilience, humility and humor to persevere in the midst of opposition and press on toward the goal of the high calling – “till justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” (Amos 5:24) Until from them flow forth streams of living water. (John 4)

Because I’m able to hold all of these in my heart, head and hands at one time, I’m unable to see simply and clearly where the center may be, the narrative thread that runs through and holds them all together so that others can make sense and use of them.

I’d love to hear from you. What do you see that communicates best (and worst) in all of this? Where are the gravitational centers? Where do you find most resonance with your own thoughts and the conversations you hear in your world?

A Hard Day’s Work: why we work

I find this a useful summary reflection on some reasons why we work. It covers a lot of ground. Importantly I think is the glaring omission that work is enjoyable and rewarding. While this is in part an outgrowth of the 11 reasons Campbell lists, I think the experience of work can be rewarding in and of itself – whether its the satisfaction of physical labor in the garden or around the house or on the job, or at the end of a long day or season of mental effort. Work can and should be fun. Additionally, Work is a social experience in a variety of ways – both working along side others and the ways that our work impacts others and contributes to their lives. That said, MurrayCampbell has done us a good thing by capturing these thoughts.


In the words of the little known group, The Beatles,

“It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’d been working like a dog

It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log”

Why do we work?

Some people have an altruistic view of work, motivated by the belief that they are contributing to the benefit of society. Others see working as a necessary evil; it’s what we have to do in order to provide for my family. Many Christians have been taught that the value of work doesn’t extend much beyond earning an income to support family and church, and giving opportunities for evangelism. While both these reasons are true (and incredibly important), in the Bible we find a far richer and broader picture of work.

Here are 11 reasons why our work matters

1. We are made to work

“God blessed them and said…

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