What do you most want to do? What will you do?

My goal in life is to read and write – and through these activities to make a difference. And along side this WORK, to be near or on the water, with my beloveds.

I think I’m wired the way I am for a reason – all pathology aside. My personality and my gifts and my strengths and my abilities and my experiences and my education and my connections and my unique point of view all somehow work together to make me who I am. (perhaps there’s other stuff in there too…)

A colleague and friend asked me several years ago, “What do you most want to do?”
My answer: “Sit on the porch overlooking the water and write.”
“Well,” he asked after a pregnant pause, “What do you need to do in order to do that?”

What indeed.

I also recognize that the VAST MAJORITY of the world’s population have, do, and probably always will work at things to feed and shelter their families that are in no way connected to their passions and dreams and personality. They do what needs to be done. Perhaps it is expressly western privilege that leads me to think I can and should do otherwise.

And, there is plenty of other meaningful work that I find very rewarding. I LOVE congregational ministry. Sermon preparation and delivery, worship planning and leadership, leadership development, teaching, strategic planning, community engagement, pastoral visitation, EVEN MEETINGS. I find meaning and purpose in all of it. The casual conversations at a Thursday morning men’s breakfast coffee klatch at McDonalds are enjoyable and important. This week I led 16 octogenarians and above in a brief service of Eucharist and Ashes. I could tell by their expressions that this was incredibly important to them, and thus an immensely important way for me to spend an hour of my time.

I don’t want to be one of those people who delays the pursuit of life’s passions for retirement, only to drop dead of a heart attack the next week. My ow grandfather died at age 59 on the dais during the hymn of preparation for the sermon on the Monday of Holy Week. I never knew him, but by all accounts he lived a rich and full life and did the things he found important, worthwhile and meaningful. That’s what matters. Whether he had unfulfilled hopes and dreams for himself and others, I don’t know. That’ll be a good conversation with my own father and uncle soon. A neighbor of mine lost his wife of 50+ years 6 months after moving into the first home they ever owned together – he was career military so they’d always lived in base or government owned housing. He’s going on to live a rich full life, but I wonder if they’d have done something differently had they known. I’ve seen so many clergy suffer severe health problems within 1 year of retiring, as if their body said, “Finally, I can rest long enough to be sick because you’re not dragging me around every which way.”

The most important impact I make is in the lives of my wife and two children. That is completely clear for me. There is no argument that can prevail against it.

AND, I think I have something to contribute to the larger world, to the church, and to the conversation about how leaders in ministry can flourish and thrive in the coming decades. This matters, because communities’ health and well-being is greatly impacted by the organizations and institutions within them. Individual and grassroots resilience can overcome immense dysfunction in local institutions. Even so, everyone benefits when local congregations, nonprofits, education, government and businesses are healthy.

And organizations can not be healthy if their leaders are not healthy.

And it is incredibly difficult to be a healthy leader in the midst of a dis-eased institution.

Thus, supporting leaders in today’s institutions matters. It creates direct impact in the real lives of individuals and households throughout our communities, regardless of population size or demographic diversity.

If I could find a way to impact that system from my study, I would. At present, I don’t know how to do that other than by pastoring a local congregation, serving in nonprofit leadership, offering coaching and consulting, and showing up in local communities. If you or someone you know wants to pay me to research and write perhaps in an international think tank on leadership impact, please let me know.

Until then, I look forward to seeing you in church, in a coworking space, or at the local coffee shop.

Why writing is important…


via Why Talk Therapy Is on the Wane and Writing Workshops Are on the Rise – NYTimes.com.

I recently began leading a new workshop composed of students in their 50s and 60s. All have children and busy careers. And I sometimes wonder, as I look around the room, why at this late stage they’ve chosen to write at all. I fear that perhaps I’m giving them false hope. But it’s hard for me to remain cynical when I think about their motives. What they’re seeking is exactly what I wanted: the refuge of stories, which remain the most reliable paths to meaning ever devised by our species.

A few weeks ago, we critiqued a novel excerpt about a trio of fractious sisters who travel to a family reunion in the country of their birth. The author was prone to comma splices and garbled exposition. But I spent most of class gently suggesting that she work to expose the dynamics roiling beneath the family bickering. Afterward, she told me she was grateful the class had discerned what the piece was really about. She paused, shifting from one foot to the other. “It’s tough with my sisters. There was a lot of unhappiness.”

I have no idea whether my student will do the lonely, dogged labor necessary to get her novel published. I’m not sure that’s what matters in the end. What matters is that she and her comrades have found a way to face the toughest truths within themselves, to begin to make sense of them, and maybe even beauty. In a world that feels increasingly impersonal and atomized, I can’t think of a more thrilling mission.

How can this experience be made more accessible to folks who don’t think of themselves as writers, but have this same need? Are there ways that congregations and community groups can offer, teach, model and recommend this way of working through our individual and collective angst? What place does story telling have in our lives? Where are we telling and participating in stories rather than just being passive observers?

Writing is Breathing

Its funny and sad how quickly I forget this is true of me. It hasn’t always been so, but I find that since college it has become increasingly important in my life. I wonder sometimes if all people have a creative spirit that crys out for expression. My theology says yes, but my experience suggest not – or perhaps I need to expand my own definition of ‘creative’. Surely engineers and scientists create. Hobbies of collecting and organizing have within them a sort of creativity. I don’t know. What I do know is that writing is one of the most important disciplines in my life – and I’ve been thirsting due to it’s lack.

Writing brings a rhythm to my thoughts, which is were I live most of the time anyway. And writing also incarnates that which is mental and spiritual – it is an act of making concrete, through pen or keyboard, that which previously only existed in the ether of my self-knowing.

Writing is a way of expelling harmful things, just as waste CO2 is spent when we exhale. Thoughts and feelings and impressions can build up over time – the failure to release them in this way may cause me to faint.

Writing is also, in a strange way, an opportunity for me to inhale new and fresh ideas – a way to receive them, touch them, experience them concretely rather than just have them float by.

This rhythm then, the exhale and inhale of ideas brings life to my spirit – inspires me. In Hebrew – ruach – and in Greek – pneuma – the same word can mean either breath, wind, or spirit – or more than one of these at the same time. So my own spirit, and God’s Spirit, and the wind of my own hot air and the cooling breeze or empowering wind of God, and the natural, necessary, ongoing breathing of my own life – along with God breathing into me continually the Breath of Life – in each and all of these ways is writing breathing for me. There may come a time when I am not able to write as easily. I pray if that day comes, that I will know I have not wasted these days, and that I will receive that new life with hope in God.

For now, though, I breath, if irregularly – sometimes quickly, other times slowly. Now shallow breaths, later deeper breaths. I take a breath in and hold it, allowing my lungs to process as much oxigen as possible, before I finally release in gratitude.