Friday, December 30, 2011


All stories follow the same trajectory, touching on issues of relationship, rejection, redemption, and reconciliation. Grace is necessary. And in really good stories, we find it all over the place.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Name

What does it mean to "profess the name"? I've heard an awful lot of professing that didn't have much if anything to do with relationship.

I am convinced it's possible to know Christ, to respond to the inner workings of his spirit in love and obedience, without knowing his name.

Monday, December 26, 2011


October is the busiest month of the year for me. Only July comes close to matching October for office hours, events, and other activities. This year, as I’ve thought about the work I do, the time I spend doing it, I’ve noticed that the work I feel I need to do tends to fill up whatever time I give it. And there’s never quite enough time to get it done the way I want.

I’m learning to recognize that this feeling is a trap. That there’s never enough time. That I have to take control of my schedule and of my life if I want to experience any semblance of freedom.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


People without good boundaries are almost a kind of invasive species -- like cancer. Whether needy or autocratic, they don't know where they begin or end. The result is that they are miserable while also making others miserable.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I continue to be shocked by the level of apparent self-deception -- of victimizers who think of themselves as victims.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety

as long as I’m defining myself
by what I can do for others, I’m failing
to be separate (let alone whole)
Not so many weeks back, I felt overwhelmed by busy-ness. But I also felt the importance of understanding how I got there in order to help protect myself from simply cycling into and out of busy-ness. I want to change.

I gave myself an assignment.

I took most of Saturday as a reading day since reading’s my favorite free-time pastime. And I read a book, Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve. In the book, Friedman makes a connection between Bowen Theory (a family systems theory) and the shadows that we carry with us in ministry.

In one section, Friedman claimed that all emotional systems – families, churches, local and national governments – carry a chronic anxiety load. What matters, however, isn’t so much my activity in the face of that chronic anxiety. The real issue is how I respond to acute anxiety, the sudden changes – both positive and negative – that raise the level of anxiety in the system. Friedman listed four typical responses – fight, flight, freeze, caretake.

I’m a caretaker. My response to anxious systems and situations is to take on extra work, to fix it for others. My problem is one of differentiation, for as long as I’m defining myself by what I can do for others, I’m failing to be separate (let alone whole). I have to learn to separate in order to keep from separating.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


found a
propensity within myself to blur the boundaries.
I have long wished for a place in which I could live what I think of as the integrated life, one in which I can live in, work in, play in, and worship in a single community. My current place of work – a medium-sized church in a medium-sized town – is just this kind of place. I live across the street in the old parsonage. The main floor of my house is where I do much of my programming work with and for youth. I live two blocks from the center of town, so other than for my trips to the seminary on Thursdays, I don’t drive.

The integrated life is good. But I’ve found a propensity within myself to blur the boundaries. Because all is one, I’m thinking and acting as though more and more of my life fits within the boundary of work. And I love my job.

It is not a balanced life.

Not too long ago, I was sick. Sore throat. Earache. Runny nose. Fatigue. I was so tired. That day, thinking about an approaching deadline, I realized that I had to sleep. I had to say no to work. Even if just for a day. But I still went to a lunch meeting. And I still helped with an event that evening. And I spent time in the office, typing this journal entry.

Not working is also work.

Thursday, December 08, 2011



The Loudon County GOP was in the news not so long ago for an email that went out, picturing President Obama as a zombie “with part of his skull missing and a bullet through his head.” People were outraged, and the chairman of the Loudon County Republican Committee issued a formal apology.

“Apparently, some individuals have interpreted an image of Barack Obama that appeared within the e-mail as intending to portray the president as a victim of a violent crime. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we deeply and sincerely apologize to the president and anyone who viewed the image if that was the impression that was left. The LCRC deplores any effort to display, suggest or promote violence against the President or any other political figure.”

Not so many years ago, I might have accepted the apology as written and gone on with my life. But I’ve become convinced through the writings of Henry Cloud that “feelings are on our property.” What was offered above isn’t an apology. It’s an accusation. The LCRC is sorry for my response – “if that was the impression that was left” – not for its actions.

I think this kind of thing happens all the time.

Friday, December 02, 2011


we do not fully know what it means to become human to another
A student called me the other night. He needed help with a paper, but as we talked, it seemed that the task was an excuse, not the real reason, for his call. So I asked a few questions, and we discussed his classes, his family, his friends. Then, abruptly, he asked for advice.

His story is that he made out with his girlfriend’s best friend. She was drunk. He assured me that they did not have sex.

And he is conflicted.

Because of how it felt. Because of what he wants.

He wants to have sex. He also wants to wait until marriage. He wonders if there’s a way around the moral boundaries that up until that night seemed completely reasonable and good.

The nature of desire is multi-layered. And the contemporary struggle for purity involves loneliness and sometimes anguish and sometimes hope. But struggle it is.

For we do not fully know what it means to become human to another.