Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Runaway Pastor: Prologue?

It wasn’t as if he didn’t care. Indeed, there were many people and things he loved. And he could remember days when a painful depression cursed his every waking thought. No, it wasn’t that.

A nagging web stretched across his path, more disgusting--intimidating--than limiting. It must be cleared away, lest the fibers smother his existence—the question proving to have no proper answer.

Having lived with fiery passion dictating his actions, his every moment; he feared his life held no more tinder. A widening gulf appeared before him; the expanse between his life, and his purpose, seemed insurmountable. A man may, after all, own loves, yet loose direction.

Perhaps this fearsome abyss was that which drove him out from himself--seeking some resuscitating-bracing breath, something after which to dream--for longing was missing in his living.

Friday, December 26, 2008


In my novel, The Runaway Pastor, there is a scene where Trent is asked by a new friend about his faith. Here is the question, and how Trent approaches his answer.

“Talk to me about your faith, Trent.”

She followed his eyes as he looked out over the sea and the moon, and toward the stars. “Love made all of this. Love so intense it reaches out to you and me and says ‘love me back!’ And I do. I love Love back. And Carman—that woman we met today lying on the street—has been so unloved, that Love begged me to love her. So I did.”

“That’s…that’s beautiful. I think. Does this love have a name, or a religious circle where it hangs out?” Kim asked.

“I think Love’s name is Jesus. And I’m not sure where He hangs out anymore.”

So what is your response to this method of Trent sharing his faith?
Will an answer like this ever meet the need expressed by the questioner?
Why didn't Trent use Jesus' name until pushed for the identity of "Love?"
Would you ever use such an indirect approach to answer such a question about your fatih? Why, or why not?

I've been wanting to get some feedback on various sections of the book, so here is an invitation for you to start a conversation.

Are there any other snippets of the novel you'd like to see discussed?


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Magic

A little boy runs to his room on Christmas eve; he climbs up into his bed and underneath the covers. He waits for sleep to claim his excited mind. And as he listens, he hears a stirring in the front room--and he knows who is there. It's the one he met on the courthouse square, wearing the red suit with the white beard. He's come into the boy's house at night. Yet there is no fear. The child is certain the stranger will leave only blessings.

Morning breaks and with wondering eyes he steps into the front room, looking under the tree. Mystery; magic fills the air. He sees it in the misty eyes of his mother and the smile of his father. He feels it in his sisters' giggles. And peace breaks-out.

Growing-up takes the magic out of Christmas. We are certain we will get our gifts because we have our place in the family or business. We buy because we know we should and enjoy doing it. But do we expect anyone to sneak into the place we live--quietly, mysteriously, impossibly--leaving blessings behind? Is there room for a pregnant virgin, or singing angels? Do we listen for Mary's song declaring justice?

Or do we think that any gift, or any good will come only because we vote for change, or work for income, or earn the love of our dear ones? Is there room for magic, mystery or spirit stuff in your adult world this Christmas?

"Unless you become like children..."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More of The Runaway Pastor: Part Four--Parable of the Gym

Well, here is another section of Trent's parable. Thanks for the comments on the last one. This one is a little more edgy than the last, yet, I think it has a lot of truth in it. Trent was hurting when he wrote this, so I guess we can expect him to be a bit to-the-point.

So let me know what you think.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sparks Flying

I remember when I was a kid, scooting my feet across carpet, and chasing my older sisters at the same time, in order to experience the joy of "shocking" them with the spark that would fly off of my finger, and into them. Flash! Out of no where, I was a source of light creating, electricity transferring energy!

During Advent, in these dark days, our church has been reading the longing scriptures of the season. "O that you would make the earth tremble." O how we want to see God do something, and when we are honest, there are at least days when we doubt his moving amongst us. Yet, week after week, as we read from Isaiah and the Psalms, from the Gospel and an epistle--we see that God is up to something.

It seems sad that those who received the assurances of God's coming in the prophets, never saw Jesus. In fact their great great grandchildren's great great grandchildren didn't see him! Think of it! All of their longing, and all of God's promising, did not enter their own reality?!

Must I always see the answers to my prayers in order to believe God is up to something? I want to pray--like so much scooting of my feet over carpet--and then see God at work. O God, give me faith to understand that I may not enjoy the answers to my prayers. That some future generation may reap blessings from my prayers, and not me. But in all things, keep my feet scooting across the carpets and my heart convinced that in some miraculous way, you are sending a shock-wave into some tomorrow.

Somehow I see Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel masterpiece showing God's finger and Adam's. Reaching, aren't we?...ever longing and reaching. As is God.

Well, I plan to post another section of the >Parable of the Gym this Saturday sometime. We have had some good conversations. Thanks to those bold enough to converse on-line. This next entry is a tough questioning of a lot I've given my life to.

Grace and peace to you, and keep the sparks flying!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

More of The Runaway Pastor: Part Three--Parable of the Gym

Well, here it is, Part 3 of Trent's Parable of the Gym. This part of Trent's journal entry may be a bit more controversial. That is not the goal. However, his thoughts are shared by more and more leaders in the church.

A friend sent me the link to the article below. It is from Pastor Walt Kalstead of Phoenix, AZ. Walt pastors a mega church there, and I challenge you to read how his heart is being changed in this article entitled "Showtime." Please check it out! What he says is more important than what I write here.

I've had a handful of opportunities to interview at churches pushing a thousand in attendance during my ministry. It has been a long time, however, since I've had any interest in such churches. I am not saying larger churches are not viable, I am saying two things. First, I'm not a capable enough CEO to do such ministry. And second, a church needing a CEO doesn't interest me.

Well, anyway, click the above link to the third of five parts of Trent's Parable of the Gym. Please comment after reading. Your emails are nice, but the conversation we could have here with your insights will be more stimulating.

Grace and peace to you.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Winter's Bad Rap

I don't know what is so bad about winter. So many comments flying about regarding how much people "hate the cold." I settled into the season with a different frame of mind this year. Here are the things I like about winter where I live.

We have a fire in our living room 24-7 as long as the cold remains. I like a fire, and the old coffee pot filled with sizzling water sitting on top of the wood stove. I love the way our dog curls up near the hearth, and the ticking sound the stove makes as it heats up with fresh fuel. I love carrying in the wood we cut and split last winter and spring. I love teamwork with my son as we tend the fire, one or the other feeding the flames when needed.

Where I live the woods have a different life in the winter. You can see through the canopy for great distances when the leaves are down. You can hear the squirrels skittering across branches, or turkeys from the next valley down stream. I'm able to hike with a vast public land nearly all to myself, with no mosquitoes or thoughts of poisonous vipers we have in these woods. My body warms with climbs and descents in our hills, making a few layers of clothing plenty even in our coldest weather.

I like the family times, when there is nowhere else to be, and we sit with music ringing off the walls of our cabin. Guitars and voices, hand drums and smiles mixing into some warm mystical joy. I like the goose down comforter my wife and I sleep beneath and the cool air in our cabin bedroom when we wake in the dark mornings.

I've lived in places that were warmer, and winter was nice...like spring just longer. I've lived in colder places, where heating was controlled by someone down the street, and I could see the puffs of breath from our children as we tucked them in under many layers of quilt. I have found joy in all of those places and times. I smile as I remember them. I just can't find any reason why weather should bring any complaints from those of us who honor its founder.

When I lived in Arizona, I once walked with a life long resident across a long portion of pavement in the heat of a 115 degree day. I asked him if he ever tired of the intense summer heat. I'll never forget his answer. "David, I learned long ago never to pay homage to the weather."

I guess that may be why I am finding such joy in the first fluffy snows, and the cool breezes with stars behind them, and the joyful energy of my German Shepherd as she runs and plays through her favorite time of the year. Life is too good to complain about weather. There's joy in the air...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas for The Runaway Pastor

This has been an interesting experiment. My site counter shows many people showing up here, and downloading the book chapters or parts of the Parable of the Gym that Trent wrote. Hundreds of people! People have been active on the site from every corner of the US. It is exciting to see. However, while I can see what states and cities are logging on, and how many minutes and pages they visit, and how many clicks into the book happen, I have no list of followers. I'd like to know who is out there.

OK, here are three ways you can tell me you exist. First, you can be a follower. The process for this is way easier than you may think. If you've never done this, but are interested in The Runaway Pastor, do me a favor and identify yourself.

Second, you can comment! It is also an easy process. And you can remain anonymous doing either of these if you name yourself accordingly. But I know these two things seem a bit risky to some of you...you don't want to be seen in the cyberworld. So, there is another option...

Finally, you can simply email me. I'd love to hear from you, whatever you think. This too is very simple. Below my profile, way down the right hand side bar, you will find "Send me an email." And that is where you click and email me.

Also, if you let me know your contact information, I am beginning to build a list of people who would want to know when the book is published. I would love to autograph books that early "followers" buy. (As well as those who otherwise notify me of their interest in the book now.) Remember, I need your contact info, so if you are a follower, but leave me no email or other contact info, I cannot find you.

All I want for Christmas is a good list of those mystery people in points around the country (and globe) who are following the progress of this novel's publication. (I couldn't make those words fit into the "Two Front Teeth" song, but you could try.)

Grace and peace to you!


Monday, December 1, 2008

More of The Runaway Pastor: Part Two--Parable of the Gym

Here is the second part of Trent's journal entry--The Parable of the Gym.

If you have not yet read the first seven chapters of The Runaway Pastor, please begin there by following the link in the top right hand box.

Peace to you.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Advent=Winter Lent

Advent is intended to be "a time between times." Like bleak waiting after dark crucifixion--until the "He is risens!" of bright Easter morning. We are to identify with darkness, hopefulness-tainted-by-fear that our hope is baseless--hopeless; fear that darkness is all-in-all.

Advent is a hallelujah-less time. A reminder time. A reminder that until this season is over, darkness indeed wins, and light lessens with each day. We lose our grip on victory-confidence.

Advent is an adopted , intentional season of despair.
-We confess our doubts--even in our pleading prayers to the Mighty One, who appears anything but mighty.
-We consider, and even participate in the hopelessness of those without Christ's light.
-We wonder if our fears, in this season of darkness, will finally vanquish all hope. We fear perhaps this year the sun will continue to diminish its light-giving until finally...all is dark; forever.

During this season we recognize our desperate solidarity with those who waited 400 years for God to act, and then perished before their eyes could see Hope's coming.

We come to this place with secrets. Doubts, questions, even treasons may lurk in our hearts. Perhaps righteous living seems to have left us empty--unfulfilled. Maybe there is nagging doubt that darkness--sin--would provide satisfaction to our hungry souls?

Advent pulls down the pretentiuosness we hold to. This is a time to admit serpants we'd prefer to dance past, and deny. Now we must pause, identify and own our doubts and fears.

This is Advent, a time between times normal, and festive...or so we hope.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Questions for Parable of the Gym

OK. Many people have been coming to the site since I put the Parable of the Gym up last Saturday. However, everyone seems shy about commenting. So let me try and start you up with the following questions:

First, for those of you who have "studied for the ministry," do you see any truths in Tammy's story? Were your studies what you expected them to be? If you were or are a pastor, does your original call sync-up with the work of being a pastor?

Second, and this is for all of you, what evidences of an insulated/isolated Christian Culture do you see in the novel The Runaway Pastor? What evidences do you see in The Parable of the Gym? What evidences do you see in your own life?

Finally, anyone ticked off about the novel, or the parable? Jump in.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

More of The Runaway Pastor.

Thank you for your responses to the first seven chapters of The Runaway Pastor! I have been overwhelmed by the number of you who have read and responded to the opening chapters of this novel.

Finally, I am posting more of the book. Throughout the first chapters, it has become obvious to you that Trent is hurting. During a later chapter of The Runaway Pastor, Trent is asked to journal a parable that he has been using to describe his troubles with the church. I’d like to use the five parts of this parable to encourage discussion here at runawaypastor.com .

Disclaimer: The views and opinions of the lead character in this novel are not necessarily those of the author of this blog or novel. (A bit of unofficial lawyer language.)

So click here to read Parable of the Gym: Part One. Meanwhile, I invite you to join the discussion by posting responses here and following along as—one at a time—I publish the five parts of the Parable of the Gym.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Posting more of the Book

I will be posting another portion of The Runaway Pastor this weekend.

For those of you who have read the first 7 chapters, you will have something new to read. And if you haven't yet read these beginning chapters, now is a chance to catch-up before the next portion comes out. Also, you could let your friends know.

Several of you must be passing the word about Runaway on, because people from several states have jumped on board here. In fact, today I found that of the more than 200 individual computers have visited to check out Runaway!

And so this Saturday I will put up more of the book. The next five portions are going to be from Trent's journal entries. (Trent is the lead character in the book.) These will be a good place for you to discuss Trent's thoughts about today's church. Your comments, challenges or thoughts could help me write discussion questions which possibly could accompany the book at publication, or be available on-line once the book is published.

You could also challenge Trent's thinking. (I'll be disappointed if you buy everything he says.) So let your friends who are following this story know that more is coming, and to be prepared for discussion in the comments field.

By the way, if you are having trouble posting comments I'll pass on a comment made earlier by a friend: Just so you know, nobody needs to register in order to comment on your blog. They can "choose an identity" and use (1) a Google/Blogger account, (2) an OpenID account, (3) whatever Name & URL/website they want, or (4) be anonymous. It's all right there above the Publish & Preview buttons.

I'll look forward to seeing your comments here.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Evolution or Revolution?

Sitting with a couple of friends. We like to talk about ideas. We were stretching every paradigm available to Kingdom constituents when one of them made a brilliant observation. I won't word it as well as he. But, here is a shot: "Are we speaking of evolution, or revolution?"

By this he was drawing our attention to how change happens in a congregation. If I, as pastor, am leading toward a more organic body--by plugging-in group life, and leading a separate house church--I am working with evolution. Teaching over time. Bending paradigms and tweaking habits.

However, if I take a congregation off in such a tangent that we desert the mission I was called to, and the congregation who called me to it, then I am pushing revolution. Should a revolutionary receive support from that which he or she is overthrowing? Hmmm.

I believe the church is changing, and desperately needs change. I believe it will look much more like the organic house church models, or perhaps like something we haven't imagined. However, I have been asked to teach, lead and love a very teachable, lead-able and lovable people. It is a joy to shepherd where I am.

On the other hand, as my Shepherd calls and leads, I must follow. I believe our faith is purer because of those who have stepped-away from institution and embraced the simple.

In the meantime, I'm grateful for our coffee conversation today. The wisdom shared there gives me sound direction as I continue to follow, lead and pray my way into a future I simply can't imagine. (Further proof that we really do need those around us.)

Grace and peace be with us as we follow the Loving Revolutionary.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Publishing Update

I attended a the Indianapolis Christian Writer's Conference last weekend. It was my first. I learned that it is tougher than ever to get a book published, or even to find an agent to represent you. There is some good news however.

First, my book will be published. More on that later.

Currently I have an agent, and another has my manuscript, and I'm awaiting word. The better news is a major publisher is reading the manuscript. (Note: about 1-3% of what these publishers read, ever gets published. So, this is not a quick or certain process. However, this publisher accepts no unsolicited manuscripts, and mine was certainly unsolicited. So to be this far is very encouraging!)

Also, I have had email conversations with a overwhelmingly successful self-publisher. He has the current best selling Christian title, and no publisher would take the manuscript. His coaching to me is to continue building a following via the internet. This is a slow process, and a new challenge for me.

In my first couple of months online, I've had visitors from 10 countries, and from 29 of the United States. New people look in each day, many for a few seconds, and others for a while. I receive comments on the chapters I've posted, like this one.

I started reading your book just yesterday and have not only finished it today, but have also read all of the blogs and comments up until this one. This may sound silly, but this is the first blog that I've ever read. I've been drawn in. God is using you. I have been challenged and inspired. I agree--your book is for everyone. I'm not a pastor, but I'm married to one. In a way that makes me feel like a pastor since our lives are united as one. I believe that anyone could relate to the characters in your book in some way. I did. Even though I have no idea who wrote this, these messages are very encouraging.

Now, I am moving forward. If no publisher decides to pick up my novel...and maybe even if they offer, I will self-publish with the encouragement of the friend above, as well as several in the business of publishing. I will let you know if or when that happens. In the mean time, your comments, , and your presence as a follower of this blog, and your word of mouth/telling a friend about the novel and the first seven chapters here are helping. Thank you.

If you believe in what is happening, keep praying and letting me know.

Grace and peace to you.

Friday, November 14, 2008


I have often been asked if The Runaway Pastor is a true story, or if it is based upon one. It is based on many true stories.

Many men and women are cut out perfectly for the role of pastoral ministry in this day when "bigger, means better." They are often blessed with the multiple talents of organization, leadership, management, motivation, and institutional development; as well as being gifted with sympathy, the abilities to teach and preach and to make their faith real to "outsiders". These are wonderful people--and rare.

I spend a lot of time thinking these days of smaller, sustainable, organic house churches as a preferable model for some leaders. I am more and more convinced that much of what our success-models have pushed us into, is a lovely and large cruise ship with little ability to maneuver in the post-modern waters of our times. On the other hand, the smaller congregations seem quite adept at relational, conversational, servant-oriented ministry that is so effective in these days.

And don't get me wrong, churches are usually good places with good people. The runaway thing is typically not an issue of some ogre institution chewing up, and spitting out its leaders. No, ministry has simply become a very broad and demanding job emotionally, mentally and physically. And the greater the desire to love a congregation (that for some of us means always pleasing), and to lead a congregation to mega-greatness, the greater the tendency to burn-out.

Some pastors are strong in the leadership/management skill sets, and weak in the caring ones. And others, like Trent in The Runaway Pastor, are the other way around. Churches can be filled with wonderful people, but the institution itself demands a very highly gifted and well rounded person to carry-off the gig. Many find themselves incapable, or tired trying to keep up. That, in my opinion, is where the runaways come from.

I can remember like yesterday, conversations with middle-aged and broken pastors, when I was first starting in ministry. I would often come away from such conversations thinking: "I'll never be like that." Or, "Why are they so negative?" It is true that many pastors never run from their ministry, but wish they could. When they signed-up for ministry, they believed they could spend a lifetime caring for others, teaching and speaking about faith. Their spiritual gifts and their training equipped them for this. However, once in the roles of ministry, they found different expectations, and overwhelming stresses.

And the stigma of having a "calling," is a difficult one to break out of. When I was called to serve as a missionary, and signed a career contract, coming home was the most humiliating step I ever took. (It also, however, saved my family.) We left the US as heroes, and returned perceived as embarrassments to the church. Before leaving, I spoke in large churches, three of our university chapels and many district church gatherings. But after returning, we were not even included in the introductions of "former missionaries" at our own district's meetings. (Like Trent, The Runaway Pastor at Baylor's Bend, I understand now that my [cross-cultural and] people-loving skill sets were strong; however my organizational and institutional motivations and abilities were inadequate.)

Many in the church push young people to profess a "calling," and if they ever testify to such a calling, the mold is cast. I remember my boyhood pastors telling me, "If you can do anything else, and know that God would still love you, do it." But once I said I was called, and after leaving for college to study, even my most sincere doubts of such a calling had to be squelched. From early days in college, and throughout my ministry, the only respectable path has been to keep on plugging.

Today, many pastors quit in their early years of ministry, or even before beginning a pastoral career. (There is probably less of a stigma than there used to be, and a deeper belief in God's grace.) A common statistic now is that half of those who do study for ministry, get out during their first 10 years. I know several young men who went to a denominational school to study for pastoral ministry less than ten years ago. Of the group who took the four year course, none of them are pursuing the job of pastor now. One of them--a recent seminary grad--told a family member that his seminary years and college studies were largely wasted. He's getting out now. Others have diverted into such caring ministries as hospital chaplaincies.

Multiple pastors have told me they spend time dreaming of what else they could do to earn a living. There are web sites for pastors looking for a new start. That is another part of the "trapped" feeling. Training in Greek and Hebrew, hermeneutics, preaching, etc. does little for a resume in the "real world." Pastors have told me of scheming to commit enough of a crime to get kicked out of their church, without going to jail or losing their family. Others have told me they wish they could get in the car and drive as far away as their savings could take them. Others have told me they wish they could die, or become debilitated.

And then there are those who do find a way out. Some, with great wisdom realize their skill sets are welcomed in varying 501C3s, the teaching community, or other professional career paths. Unfortunately, affairs, internet pornography, or complete emotional breakdowns have taken many. And perhaps, the leading way out is actually more of a switching of the channel: Some change congregations and home towns once every two, four or six years....

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Walk in the Woods

I step into my hiking boots, grab trekking poles, hop into the Jeep and go a mile or so up the road from home for an hour of vacation. It's a trail I've hiked dozens of times, probably more than a hundred. I hike to exercise and to "get away."

The trail rambles up and down some nice ridges. I see my share of wildlife here. Squirrels abound, often I meet a few white tail deer and occasionally a fox. There are plenty of birds, and though their songs are thinning for the year, some will sing all winter.

About a mile into the walk, I realize I cannot steady my mind. I can't focus on my surroundings for more than a few seconds...as if by some hidden remote control, my brain channel is changed to troubled people in the church, a project that needs attention, or some fear of a potential brewing crisis.

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." I begin to pray the words of the Jesus Prayer, slowly repeating the plea over and over. "Jesus...God...have mercy on me..." And after a while, I sense these words coming back to me from the embrace of the breeze and the gentle rain: It's yours, you know. This is only for you right now. Six billion people on earth, and this moment and place are for you. And I realize I am in an amazing place, treasured by a million or more visitors each year. And at this moment, all the trees, the valleys and ridges and bird songs and leaf chattering are for me. No one else is here to listen or see or feel the moist beauty.

My hiking place is the popular Brown County State Park. Spring, Summer and especially Fall it is filled with tourists driving, mountain biking and hiking through it's miles of wilderness trails. Last month tens of thousands of cars poured through its gates, riders oohing and ahing at overlooks. But today, mine is the only car in the West Tower lot. I hike for an hour, and see no other human. And such will be the case for most of my hikes until Spring.

These words I hear, they call me into being. They call me from the world of others, to the world where I Am. O Father, teach me to let go of all of the stuff for long enough to simply be... With you. In You. Alone, and yet wonderfully accompanied. And not "because others count on me." But because You love me, and ask me to enjoy my walks in the woods...while I'm walking in the woods. Alone. With You.

You can follow the links below to some pictures of the park. But you will never see the stark November beauty of the trails unless you leave your car--and worries--for long enough to BE here.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tending the Fires

Stubborn fire. Determined fire. Same mystery. I plead with it to roar, and then seek to mellow its force.

The old log cabin I call home is largely heated by a wood stove. It got down into the twenties a couple of nights ago. One of those crisp, starry nights that--like fire--is both inviting and intimidating. And somewhere on the footsteps of evening, I left the stove unattended for a bit too long.

I cracked the door to see if anything yet glowing, and there remained only a few tiny pieces of the last fire. So with kindling snapped off fallen trees from down the hill, bellows kick-started the coals into flickers and finally into full born flame. I added some wood to the fire, closed the door, set the air intakes, and moved on.

Later that evening, the temperature of the room told the tale of an untended fire. This time, in the dark of the woods gathering kindling, I vowed to take no chances. My armload carried enough, then extra, then too much. The next flames would burn all night!

Next morning, in the seventy degree room surrounded by a hard freeze night, I stoked the fire yet again. There were large coals still pulsing behind the glass as I tended the stove I must keep until next March or April.

And this morning again, I keep the fires burning. Rising before others in the home, kindling hope in my mind and stoking silence into my spirit. I must keep warm inside. There are others who count on me.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Opinions requested: Sunday Morning Lean

I'd like to hear from some people who attend church, and who don't attend a traditional worship service--both clergy and otherwise. My purpose is to get a feel for how your spirit leans on Sunday morning when you get up.

I just read a comment from an old college friend on my Facebook wall. He said something like, "I'm getting ready for a fantastic Sunday!"

Pastors, is that the way your spirit leans at seven on Sunday mornings? Please try and reflect here on how your prayers, your mood, your overall spirit feels on Sunday mornings. Hopeful? Excited? Fearful? How does your sermon play into this? How does the service prep effect this?

Attenders, could you answer the same questions? You probably don't have a sermon, or may not have done prep for the service; but how do your prayers, mood and overall spirit feel on Sunday mornings as you prepare yourself for worship.

And for those of you who don't go to worship service, perhaps preferring nothing, or a house church, or... How about you?

I'd appreciate readers letting some others know about this "pole." It would be interesting to see how several of you from all three categories weigh-in.

Peace to you.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Leaves Falling Like Snow

A walk in the woods with Mom. Fall air. The wind sounds like a rushing waterfall once the branches empty. It's power bending mighty oaks, and humming its way through the ridge top. Where leaves still cling, the gentler breezes sound like a chattering mountain stream, cascading through its stony course.

Yesterday, my mother and I took a walk through the forest. This is the week most leaves have chosen to loosen their grip, and submit to flight and then rest. We pause, my octogenarian hiking partner having just climbed more than a hundred feet in the last quarter mile; there is no audible breathing as she navigates tall root stair-steps up the last stretch. We pause, the wind holds its breath. We scan the deep valley we've exited, turning past the ridge top to see the one lying behind us as well--and before us in this journey.

We smile. Few words. And the leaves are gliding to the earth from high above. Multicolored reminders of fearless, beautiful surrender. We whisper of the coming snows, the inevitable surrender of this season to the next. And we hike on.

Life moves on, full of greening and falling. And I will forever treasure the living I have witnessed in my mother. Very little waterfall bluster, or mountain stream chatter. Exemplary greening and giving and sheltering. And as life has demanded, willing surrender in her selfless beauty. Always giving.

Thank you Mom.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Some assistance please!

I'm going to write some housekeeping stuff here. I would truly love to hear from you on these things.

First, is the new format (white instead of blue) easier to look at? Harder to read? I need your votes.

Second, do you know of any good web masters? I'm planning an eventual addition to this blog--a website where I can keep the book up front, while still posting to to the blog.

Third, How can I make commenting easier? My traffic counter says the readership is growing, and there are a significant number of page views each day, with a better than average amount of time on those pages. The number of followers is growing, and I get regular communication from some of those reading the book or blog. (I've had visits from 7 different countries!) However, the commenting has slowed considerably. (One thing I've heard is that in order to comment, some have had to re-register with Google each time. Hmmm. Sorry. I don't get that, shouldn't be so. You need a user name--whatever you want--and a password.)

Finally, I am still struggling with a decision on how far to go with posting the book here. The goal is readership, which would ultimately be best served by publishing. And the theory is that I need at least a few hundred people who would buy the first edition of the book right away in order to defray at least a portion of the losses I'd have from the initial printing.

One author puts his entire manuscript out there, as I have only in part, and lets it sink or swim. If people like it, he figures they'll pay to purchase it.

(Some have flatly asked: "Why do you want this book to be read?" I feel the book challenges us at some core places, and I've already heard from multiple pastors who have implemented new family priorities, recommitted to their spiritual life, or delegated much of their administration. It is so encouraging to hear of these positive changes.)

It has become obvious that people visit this site for the chapters of the book, with fewer visiting to read the regular posts. That is gratifying, but difficult. I can't continue to post things like "First Seven Chapters," without the obvious redundancy. Suggestions?

Finally, ANY suggestions you have for me would be welcomed.

O well. This has been a fun exercise and gives me a chance to write for more than my journal. Thanks for your presence here.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Some words out of nowhere...

I don't know that I'm a "morning person," or not. But when the time changed last weekend, it seemed like a great chance to hold onto my getting-up time, and maybe cash it in for the day an hour earlier than usual. And so the first few mornings of the week have been extraordinary.

The house is quiet. I can read and refocus, and there is not a peep to be heard. No one is at Facebook, and the chatter from the evening before seems less important after it has slept for the night.

And now is my chance. If anyone is going to listen to me this weekend, or anytime before then for that matter, I need to be listening. And so I read my daily dose of five Psalms, then spend some time in the New Testament, and then------it happens. Like a magnet to the left of my reading chair, my Sunday text begins to beckon from the laptop. Emails waiting for attention scream from a still blackened screen. And there is my ritual of running through the news, Facebook, Google Analytics, and checking in at the blog to see who has left a clue of their visit. (This AM, one new person had become a "follower," and another wrote on Facebook that they were enjoying the blog...and I feel another day of existence is justified for one such as myself.)

Do you ever get on with it before getting up to date with LIFE? Maybe, if you are a pastor or Christian leader, you can relate. Maybe, a healthy dose of step-aways would change a great deal for us---diminish the number of runaways. Can one burn-out when standing in such Light?

So I'm writing my blog for the day...speaking before listening much. Forgive me. It's 6:30, I've been up for more than an hour, and I have done many pressing things already. But I need to darken the screen, and seek some light.

Peace to you...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lost in the Glare of the Mighty One

Sometimes I glide into the church parking lot on Sunday mornings thinking the primary task of the morning is to deliver a sparkling, inspiring, exegetically precise, and edge of your seat narrative-styled sermon. I've studied, researched, plotted and charted and come away with the perfect delivery method. I feel ready to come in for a landing--straight into the hearts and imaginations of a waiting congregation.

And then wake-up calls catch me in the lobby. On a day like yesterday I hear for the first time of a son on meth, a sister-in-law with cancer, a daughter-in-law with cancer, a 7 year old with cancer, a teenage daughter who has moved in with a boyfriend, a weeping woman struggling to do what is right when it is so hard, a dear friend--now living in a nursing facility tell me he's hanging in there, a woman with a recurring tumor who is now facing another round of expensive surgeries, and a man who's defibrillator saved him, and he seems a bit shook.

Only moments later, Psalm 107 stormed into our service. I had already cut the 43 verses down to a tidy 9, when I recognized the robbery I was preparing in the form of a responsive reading. Who says worshipers can't focus through 43 verses--two full pages of a Psalm? And so we read them, hearing of the plights we get ourselves into, and the repeating "Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble," and with a crescendo declared in unison: "Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love..."

And together, a room full of people confess the mighty deliverance of our Lord. We are reminded to "cry out to the Lord." And at the end, all proceed to the front of the room--clutching their cares and towing their brokenness--and take the broken bread, dipping it into the cup. To Life! La Chaim!

Afterward, we file out; hugging, holding hands, sharing tears, facing fears and bearing the cancers and heartbreaks and one another out of the room. We have weak shoulders. We can't carry these things alone. But we share One Heart, a given one. And that is everything.

Slipping back into the car, I realized my sermon was far from spectacular. Perhaps that was because I left much of it out--at least a couple hours worth of study time--dumped in the shadow of something brighter. It got lost in the glare of the Mighty One. And I'll settle for that any day.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

First Seven Chapters, and feedback.

One of the most gratifying aspects of putting The Runaway Pastor out here, is all of the comments and communications I've received. It's amazing.

(Once again, here is the link for the first seven chapters:

One way this has happened is by getting an email, or telephone or Facebook communication from someone telling me they are reading the book...following it right here at this blog.

Another amazing thing has been the range of readers. It's a cool thing to look at your blog "Followers" list, and see it grow, especially when the people there are complete strangers.

And then when friends I haven't seen or spoken to for a decade or so, come on board and tell me they are intrigued, it's just flat-out fun.

And talk about fun, it is kind of unbelievable to go to my web counter service, and see that 10, 20, 30 or more people went to the site the day before, and to see the percentage of those who were first time visitors.

Why does this mean so much to me? I believe the message of the book--in its entirety--is important. As you read on, you will learn a lot about Trent's hopes and fears for the church...and I believe they reflect a major portion of our society. The church is changing, and Trent's actions are a symptom--not of the end of the Church, but of a renewal. And that birthing, as with all birthings, involves pain. However, I want to emphasize that Christ's Church is not in trouble. It is only changing.

Once again, my plan is to develop a following for this book, in order to get it published. Christian authors and publishers are telling me that here, on the internet, is the place to gather a market for a book. So if you are interested in what is happening here, tell your friends, and I need your continued feedback via: Email, Comments to posts at this blog, and more people becoming "followers." (It is also helpful when you set up the RSS feed, so that you are notified when there is something new here.)

Some of you are asking just how much of this novel I plan to put up on line for free. I don't know. I do know that once I can be certain of a few hundred copies being ordered, I can proceed with a first edition, and not lose so much in the process. So I'm told this process takes time, but that it will indeed grow if there is a legitimate interest. Either way, I'm OK.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Diminished doom and grins replace whining.

Last evening at our church's Trunk R Treat was a great time. I had my discussion with my friend who had the bone to pick. Wow, let me emphasize friend. "Bone to pick with you meetings" can really jaundice a great friendship, and the dread, or sense of doom can overshadow deeper truth: That we are one in Christ. And so, we sat and spoke about our disagreement over how I am handling the situation, next to a fire, smiling and being kind. And a child came to us with s'mores. I suppose to that child we looked like the friends we are, rather than an argument.

As I walked across the parking lot, between goblins and princesses, I also noticed the wager of email-war I mentioned yesterday--loving on the people around her, and being the incredible person she is.

Weaknesses. A commonality in the body of Christ. All of us broken and picked-back-up. All of us with passions that sometimes get in the way of our kingdom family ties. But after it all--I'm trying to remember--the next time Doom comes to call, it is probably exaggerating its own power. And the Mighty One has won another skirmish in my spirit.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The sense of doom...and A little whining

Warning: Whining ahead.

Well, we just got back from a couple of nice days away for our 29th anniversary. Rest. Quiet. Outdoors. Nice. The effects lasted for about ten minutes after I arrived home and get my telephone calls...

Someone called wanting to meet with me tonight. It's "a bone to pick with you" meeting. This is a good person, and they won't be too mean. But I'm pretty sure I know what it is about...and it won't be easy. It's election time. And everyone thinks I need to take their side. And I never announce any side-taking. And this person has already ruffled a few feathers here and there in the church about voting. And there has been more than the typical number of election-time-forwarded-mass-email-bombs landing in my in box from members, with the addresses of other members...passed back and forth through my incoming mail--angrily--to let me know that all is not well in the kingdom.

O well, today, the last day of my mini-vacation, was spent mostly at home, and in a doctor's office with a loved one. I've only thought of the meeting tonight, and the "ten or so pages" I was told I'm going to need to read before the next morning's follow-up meeting, about 50 times. My stomach twinges or cramps every time.

In a comment to an earlier posting, one of you pastors said something about carrying a constant sense of doom. I've felt that much of the day. Actually, I feel it most days. The KINGDOM is so much bigger than this stuff. But my most sincere praying, and my best discerned sermons can't seem to move people to a Higher Loyalty. (And this is the easiest going congregation I've ever pastored.)

I know of several other tussles in the congregation right now. Fortunately, only a few of them have blazes high enough that I need to stamp on them. Maybe if I catch up on those, I can study for Sunday's sermon...I'm only about six to eight hours behind on this one.

Why can't we all just get along?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Step-Away Pastor

Since the beginning of our marriage, my wife and I have made it a habit to take time away now and then. We've not always been able to afford much of a place, but it has been near ritual to take the time to step away for a while and renew our energies--as well as our promise to each other.

Often people respond to our stepping away with a sort of cynical, prideful jealousy. "Wish I had the time to get away!" Cynical because they think they have no time. Prideful because they assume busy-ness indicates importance. And jealousy, because they choose not to make it a priority to get away--but it sounds so wonderful to them.

The one time in my life that I was tempted to run away from ministry, was the time when I'd allowed myself to go a few years without stepping away on a regular basis. I thought I was so important, that the church I served could not get along without my presence and wisdom and talents for a few days, let alone more than a Sunday or so per year. The ignorance of my ways hit me in the face the day I crashed in burnout and depression. (See http://runawaypastor.blogspot.com/2008/09/when-this-pastor-burned-out.html )

My wood stove kept the house cozy last night, even though outside the temperature dropped below freezing for the first time. Yet this morning, the remaining and glowing coals were few. The wood from last night had burned itself up in the process of keeping us all warm. And so, this morning I had to take a few moments and add some wood. I opened a vent to let in much needed air to breath coals into flames. And then I waited for a cast iron stove to renew its heat and effectiveness. And today, so long as a piece of wood is added occasionally, the house will stay warm.

When writing The Runaway Pastor, I had in the back of my mind a better plan. My wife and I have renewed our commitment to stepping away, to add fuel to the fires that keep our marriage viable, and to breath in the Grace and Peace that will keep others warm in the Presence.

If you lead in any capacity, you cannot do it on burned ash. Choose a pattern of renewal. How can you lead people to quiet pastures if you refuse them yourself? If you are a pastor, learn to step-away. It is so much better than the alternative.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Anniversary to us!

Today is my twenty-ninth wedding anniversary!

Yesterday I preached about Jesus' echoing of the first commandment, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." I'll spare you the entirety of the message, but...

The word we translate as "Love," has a much deeper root meaning than our U.S. version. The better translation might read: "Be loyal to the Lord your God..." Throughout the past 29 years, the romantic edge of our marriage has been wonderful. However, as in any relationship, sometimes romance waned a bit, or took a back seat to hospitalizations or family grief. There are seasons of life which are hard--agonizing even. But loyalty to the promise is enduring.

If you follow The Runaway Pastor to the end, you will experience this faith in, and commitment to the promise as I believe it is intended. One of the most important reasons I wrote this novel is to paint a picture of love as loyalty to a vow, verses "the way things seem to feel right now."

It is my hope and prayer that whoever reads The Runaway Pastor will come-away with a newly deepened commitment to stay true to their initial "I dos." A pastor who recently finished the entire manuscript has certainly testified to that outcome in his life, and for that I'm grateful.

Grace and peace to you.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chapters 6 & 7: The Runaway Pastor

I'm adding two chapters again. They seem to need each other. They also contain a great deal of change. I'll probably not add another chapter for a couple of weeks.

According to my counter, the traffic at the site has grown by about two and a half times since I posted chapter 5. Thank you for telling your friends about The Runaway Pastor.

Each time I add chapters, I remind you that this book is NOT about me or my family. My wife and I celebrate our 29th anniversary next Monday. I am the most blessed man in the world.

Once again, I've provided the new chapters, and then the entire manuscript so far, in two separate files. Please let me know when you find mistakes, or problems. This is a finished novel of which I'm only posting a bit at a time. But if you have suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

For chapters 6 & 7 copy and paste this link into your browser:

For chapters 1-7 copy and paste this link into your browser:

Grace and peace to you.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Shocking Stats about your (?) Pastor

I've struggled today with whether or not to post this. However, I've decided it is vital rational for this entire blog. It also explains the reason I have written The Runaway Pastor, and will help many to understand the plot of the book itself. You may read the first five chapters at the following link:

(Note: The following references partially assume that pastors are male. That is not the case in all settings, including in mine. The statistics however are both frightening and vital.)

"Depression and burnout are at epidemic proportions. If this were the case anywhere else in the world, there would be an incredible outcry. The September/October 2000 edition of Physician magazine reported that 80 percent of pastors and 84 percent of their spouses are discouraged or dealing with depression. Forty percent of pastors and 47 percent of their spouses say they are suffering from burnout. The norm among men in our country who are experiencing depression at any given time is about 10 percent. The norm among pastors is 40 percent."

Goodall continues: "To help me understand the role of stress in a pastor’s life, the executive leadership of the Assemblies of God asked me to participate in a 4-year think tank at Duke University called Pulpit and Pew. A book came out of that study entitled Pastors in Transition. I learned the primary reason pastors quit the ministry is conflict in the church. Conflict never goes away. Many pastors do not know how or when to deal with conflict. Conflict constantly hits them like a baseball bat on the head. They say: “I’ve had it. I’m going to do something different.” Unless church conflict is addressed along with the issues of burnout, stress, and depression, and the underlying causes creating these problems, the church will lose more and more of its fine pastors."

(Source: http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200603/200603_040_journey_pastors.cfm )
Coming Out of the Dark:
Two Pastors’ Journey Out of Depression
With Wayde I. Goodall And E. Glenn Wagner

In my new novel The Runaway Pastor, you can experience life through the eyes of a burned-out pastor. It is my desire to pastors learn to step-away for rest, before they run.

I think it's time this conversation gets a bit more public.

Jump in and comment. What are you thinking?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's one of those mornings...or Thank God for the Psalms

It's one of those mornings...which follows one of those evenings. If you've been there, you know what I mean. One conversation at the end of a meeting...a hurting soul, who hints that it is at least partially your fault, or the church's fault; again.

You know the morning. The night before, you take a while to settle, and get that song out of your head. You read a little extra late, and then wake hours early, for good. And so you get up and start the day, trying to focus on your joys, but with limited success--because you can't wipe away the hurt in their eyes. And you wonder how deep this will go?

Because people who get hurt easily, and add weight to your days, (and exact sleep from your nights) have a way of speaking with others. And even though you know their influence has been weakened by their patterns, their words still register in the minds of those you love, and who love you, and who vote for/or against your leadership.

It's taken a few decades, but I think I'm learning to let it go. (That's probably why I'm up a little after three this morning, huh?) There's nothing like loving a group of people unconditionally...sort of. And there's nothing like knowing that nearly all of those who serve alongside you, love you back, unconditionally...sort of. And they, the weak and the strong, help you hang in, and not run away.

And my pattern of reading five Psalms a morning, and hearing the honesty of the writers, and casting my cares to the night sky, and praying some ancient prayers, and praying some that are new today before the dawn gets anywhere near the horizon; that pattern yields fruit. For there is One who is faithful like the morning, and unconditional like the tide, and who never burdens me with my weaknesses.

Monday, October 20, 2008

THE RUNAWAY PASTOR: What is Trent running from? Running to?

From emails I'm receiving, people think Trent ran from Natalie, and to Kim. Interesting.

I want those of you who have read at least the first few chapters to consider this: Maybe Trent ran from his church work, and to people like Kim, who needed--and wanted--a pastor?

Maybe, he ran from those who needed administrating, to those who needed loved, cared for?

Could that be the attraction to Kim?


Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Runaway Pastor--All Five Chapters

Just wanted to get all five chapters of THE RUNAWAY PASTOR up in one place. Here is the link for all I have posted to date of my new novel:


Yesterday someone asked me why I've written this book? First, so far, you've seen the very hurt version of the lead character Trent. I wanted us all to experience what might happen if a pastor followed through on common escape fantasies. Second, as the book unfolds, readers will see the reason for Trent's anger and escape from his wife and the church: Love.

A friend helped me see that yesterday. We get most angry at those things we most love. Trent must really love the church, and later sections of the novel will help readers see that.

And his wife...This was the most difficult thing for me to write about. I can't imagine running from the love of my life (29th anniversary in a about a week!). But Trent, as the book demonstrates, felt his marriage was broken beyond repair. As the story unfolds, Trent and his wife Natalie will face tough choices. And I believe Trent's heart at the very end of this novel (feels like it needs a sequel) will reveal truth our culture dearly needs to grasp. So hang in.

Finally, someone asked me how much of the novel I intend to put on-line before proceeding to print. The only answer I have is: I don't know for sure. I'm hoping to gather enough readers who would buy the book, to make my publishing it worthwhile. (I've emailed a bit with the publisher of THE SHACK, and he recommends all new authors try to develop an organic market on-line in this way, rather than going through a mainline publishing system.)

So, I'd love it if you let me know if you would plan to buy a copy. No promises on your part, I just need to know as a group of interested people develops. There's an email link in the side bar if you'd prefer to let me know of your interest there, or just comment on the post. Or maybe you just want to keep following for a while, to see what you think...

Peace to you!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hope, Fear, the Emergent Church and The Runaway Pastor

The sea of life is so disturbed with change and conflict that, like sailors in a gale, Christians are scuttling all things unessential. What does that mean? Consider the things (rules, worship style assumptions, etc.) once thought vital for faith in your tradition. Any of them been tossed overboard in the past decade or so? Or have you jumped in yourself?

My novel: The Runaway Pastor is a story of a pastor desperately seeking to know which vows are worthy of keeping: Marital? Ordination? What are the least common denominators of our faith?

Call me an alarmist, but navigating the days ahead may require much, if not most of the things we cherish being exposed as non-essentials.

Now, I still plug into daily times with scripture, and love to read theology and understand tradition. But, I'm grateful that my thinking is also influenced by various emergent Christian thinkers. I am a follower of The Emergent Village, a kind of online gathering place for the emergent church conversation. (Others are plentiful, and I enjoy an occasional visit to theooze.com and other associated links.) In a day when the ocean of faith is littered with things ships once thought essential cargo, I want to see what others are holding onto. I want to know what they are scuttling, and why? And, I'm encouraged that Jesus is the central loyalty in the emergent conversation.

Everyone knows these are changing times. Could this be one of the chief sources of burnout for Christian leaders? The rub can be felt from varying angles: My thinking is changing. How would my congregation respond if they knew? Or, People in my congregation are becoming more theologically liberal (or conservative) in the way they think. How can I keep all of the parties appeased? Honestly now, are pastors to be appeasers, or...?

Henri Nouwen, a prolific writer (now deceased), wrote a phrase that has had a profound influence on me: "Leaving the house of fear." The year I first read it, my advent series became the common response of Joseph, Mary and the shepherds to God's good news: FEAR!--And the accompanying common response from Heaven's messengers: "Do not be afraid." Why? Because this is good news. They were told to focus not on fear, but hope.

I have great hope for the future, and I have no idea what it will look like. I do know that Jesus, as I experience Him and reflect Him in and through His people, will remain on board...even if much I've held to must be scuttled.

Scuttling can be invigorating.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Poverty: Blog Action Day

I write this as a participant in Blog Action Day.

How many of you have had to turn people away who legitimately needed assistance? Often, people call our church needing assistance. Many times we can ascertain they are not truly in need of financial help. But occasionally they are. It is most difficult when someone stops by, you KNOW they need your help, and there is nothing in place with which to serve them.

Two winters ago, a young couple came to our church office needing assistance. They had been living in a tent in a nearby national forest with their three children. This was in the midst of an Indiana winter!

Now my congregation is broke! The haggard couple walked into our almost brand-new multimillion dollar building, their necks craned high to see the vaulted ceilings and lighting. And I had to tell them that we had no funds for them. I gave them some of my own, but not enough to make a dent.

Then, I took them to a less impressive part of the building, and told them the story of the innkeeper, and Joseph and Mary. Then I told them I felt like the innkeeper.

The good part of the story came later in the week when our congregation welcomed them into our youth room to live until they could get back on their feet. As you might guess, the end of the story had sad and joyful tones...

This blog site is a place to discuss pastoral burnout. Maybe being the greeter at a seemingly unfriendly weekday "inn" adds stress to the lives of other pastors.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Runaway Pastor: Chapter 5

Thanks to all who are giving me feedback. Exciting to have a first reader from Europe this week.

However! I had no idea the spot you were in this week. I just spoke by telephone with a friend, and he mentioned reading the last two chapters, but not wanting to comment. And I got to thinking...what can you say about what is happening? What is there to discuss? I know it's a messy situation that Trent is in. (That's why I've told you repeatedly that he is not me. But have I told you lately how much I love my wife? Got a big date planned tomorrow night!)

Well anyway, here is chapter five. The soup gets thicker here, but you begin to see just how lost Trent is. I don't want to give the book away, but Trent will eventually do, um, better... Hang in.


If you'd like the first four chapters as well...http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dhdr3wvs_2d3mg88c3

Maybe for now, you could comment on some of the other posts? I'd especially like to keep the Very Important Question post alive. Could you jump in there?

One more thing: You can sign up to be notified if a new post or even a new comment hits my site at the bottom of the right hand column. I'd also love to have you click on "follower" if you'd like.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How much of this is theological confusion?

So how much does burnout amongst clergy have to do with theological differences? Here is what I mean.

Today I attended a gathering of our local pastors. Each of us is from a different denomination. We get along well. We disagree on some theological stuff, I suppose. It rarely comes up. But when leaders from Roman Catholic, Salvation Army, Southern Baptists, Disciples of Christ and Nazarene churches get together...it is fair to assume that our denominational and theological templates don't match perfectly. We gather with a larger purpose, however, and it is a good thing.

Now one non-clergy person visited us...felt that God is asking him to get the churches together for a "revival." He is a good man. However, the kind of revival he would envision, and the one that others in the room might picture, would be completely different. So we smiled, nodded and moved-on.

But in our congregations, people have received their theological training from varying sources such as TBN, Christian "End of the World" horror novels and movies, their grandfathers, Oprah and even a smattering of proof-texts from scripture. And these people come from one of two camps: "What I believe is the absolute, undeniable, complete gospel truth;" or "What I believe is just one option amongst many...no one can know the complete truth."

And as you read the above paragraphs, you fit into something close to one of the two camps just listed. How can we get along, when there are such emotionally powerful biases in our midst?

And when pastors lead on Sunday mornings, already feeling they are "constantly on trial," how can they stand anywhere with any confidence? I'd say we either preach loud and hard line. Or we teach series of how to do life, that avoid these issues; or we hope people will never find out the deep truths we hold in our hearts.

So, if anyone is listening...what do you think?

Monday, October 13, 2008

How much of this is pride?

We had a good day Sunday. Attendance was pretty good. A great bonfire in the evening; a lot of new people, and many good conversations and friendships developed. And so, yes I was tired after it all, but Monday was good.

A week or so ago, when attendance was weak, Monday was bad. The sermon had been good, several people spoke well of it. Yet, many regulars were gone, and the numbers were down. I wore discouragement all week.

Someone commented on the "A Real Important Question" blog a week or so ago. He said as a pastor, he feels he is "constantly on trial." I can't help but wonder, what if people skipped church because they are bored with my teaching? Leadership? Vision?

How many of our difficulties are based on pride? One of the best friends I ever had once told me: "Remember, this is a marathon, not a fifty yard dash." I've taken a great deal of comfort from that.

But I must admit, whether the race is fifty yards or twenty-six miles, I really prefer my people seeing me way out in the lead. Is "middle of the pack" not good enough for a pastor's ego?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Runaway Pastor: Chapters 3-4

For those of you who are new to the site, I've been posting a new chapter of my novel The Runaway Pastor each week or so. Since beginning, there has been growing interest in the book. That is the purpose of placing the chapters here. I'm hoping to "grow a market" organically here on-line. If the interest begins to fade, I'll catch the hint, and work at this in a different way.

It's bonus week. Instead of adding chapter 3 alone this week, I've decided to add chapter four along with it. They seemed to fit together.

I believe the book could spark some important conversations amongst pastors, as well as with those who care about them. If you believe this is the case, you need to tell me; and you need to connect others to this site. Again, if you don't, you need to tell me, and I'll catch on.

Keep the editing ideas coming, and let me know what you think.

Once more, let me remind you: Trent is not me. Natalie is not my wife. Read that again.

Hey, thanks for following along, and hold on...these are important, yet tough chapters. Feedback please...

Here are chapters 3 & 4. http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dhdr3wvs_3cfsxnr4p

And for conveniance, here are all of the chapters I've put up so far. http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dhdr3wvs_2d3mg88c3


Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Very Important Question!

Is there a difference between the reasons for pastoral burnout, and other professionals burning-out? I think this is an important distinction. Things are tough all over! Are there any unique stresses for pastors?

I'm asking pastors to respond to this question: What unique challenges, hardships, difficulties are there for pastors, as opposed to those in other professions; including professionals in the medical, counseling, teaching and business fields?

Think about it. Be specific. Let's see where this goes.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Helpful Articles

I can do nothing better for a pastor suffering from depression than to point them to the following articles. The only problem is the assumption in these articles that the pastor will be male, and the spouse a wife. But since most ministers I know are such, please read for the terrific insights and statistics within.

Two pastors tell of their journey into depression/burnout and of their steps toward healing. Please read the following articles.


Their wives share the story from their perspective.


Grace and peace to you!


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Here is Chapter 2! Thanks for asking!

The Runaway Pastor Chapter One:

And now Chapter Two:
(You copy and paste the link into your browser window.)

I hope you will read with an editor's eye. I need your ideas and corrections.

Here are a few of the comments you have given me about the first chapter:

I found your first chapter grabbing my attention and identification. Well written and creative. I'm not sure how objective I can be, as being a pastor myself causes me to find more than a normal level of empathy. I am looking forward to chapter 2.


If you haven't read chapter 1, go and read it. Then send the link to all your pastor friends. After they read the first chapter, why not talk about it with your friends. Those who are honest will say their middle name is Trent.


I read the first chapter and was instantly hooked. Looking forward to the rest.

I guess as a rookie author, all of this is pretty exciting to me. So use this blog to record your thoughts on the second chapter.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Joys, not stresses--

I want to speak of joy. Anyone who is or has been a pastor, understands the deep joys involved in the work.

In recent days, I have known days that to some, might seem reasons for burnout. But in the midst of these days, I've found joy. Let me explain.

About four months ago, I received the call that a gentleman from my congregation had pancreatic cancer. I met regularly with him and his wife and other family members over the next weeks and months. We prayed and shared our fighting-hopes and finally, hung our heads together when those hopes were gone.

Then our talks became deeper and more openly loving. I told my friend and his wife that I'd travel to a nearby state with them for his final funeral service. He shared with me some scripture and words that God had given him. I used them in his funeral service here, and at the distant site. He said, "It seems to me that God said 'Trust me.' and 'My grace is sufficient for you.'"

On a Monday, I sat with him, his talking coming in brief whispers. His wife told me he couldn't make it long. A hospital bed was delivered to his home, and his son and I helped assemble it, and put the sheets on. Two nights later, he died. It was nighttime, and the family called, saying I didn't need to come.

I hurried to the home, not stressed, but unwilling to miss sharing love with his family in those mystical moments. We sat together for a couple of hours. It was difficult and sad. It was a time filled with peace. The men from the funeral home came and picked-up my friend's body just before midnight.

We prayed. I went home tired, and so fulfilled. THIS is what God has gifted me to do.

On the night of visitation at the funeral home (the night before the local funeral) I had to leave for a while to see a family who's wife and mother had attempted to take her life. I drove the thirty minutes to see them, and sensed comfort moving from my soul to theirs. Christ was with us midst the beeping machines in the intensive care unit. And then I returned to the visitation--fulfilled yet again.

Again I thought, "This is who I am. I am a shepherd. I love people well, because that's how our Lord made me."

But this week I prepare for next week's board meeting. And that doesn't feel so much like shepherding.


Saturday, September 27, 2008


The Runaway Pastor--chapter 1.I have finally placed the first chapter of my novel on-line. I will post more in the days and weeks ahead. PLEASE understand the following: The main character in the book is not me. His wife is not my wife. His church is not my congregation.

However, I wrote this novel out of experience and after hundreds of conversations with many pastor friends. I love the church and I am grateful to the service that clergy give her. I hope this book provides an inside look into the life of one pastor that came to the end of what he could do.

Please respond. I am posting this in order to gather some interest in the final product, which is not yet published. I look forward to your input and interest. For now it is in WORD format. Let me know if that is a problem.

Here is the link:

Thanks for taking the time.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Over the past two weekends, I've run into runaway pastors. Their pain lies only slightly below the surface. Who can they tell?

Last Saturday morning, at a hotel a couple of hundred miles from home, I happened onto an old friend. He's been a pastor for a few decades. He is the picture of success. The congregation he pastors has grown by about 20-30 times. He has many respected positions in his denomination. He is a winner.

But after asking about how he is doing, tears formed in his eyes. Practiced skill kept them from spilling on the table where we sat. Seems to me, he'd like to run away. I heard stories of depression and feelings of "What else can I do to earn a living?" He is a friend. Please pray for him.

Then he told me of a mutual friend who ran away without a plan. A pastor for years, who kept his secret well--the secret pain he felt--until he could no longer. And recently, he followed through on his deepest desire, and quit.

The weekend before last, I met a woman who is married to one who had a secret. After years of ministry--again as a success in all of our eyes--one day he went to the office and quit. She found out later that day. They were not prepared with other jobs. They are seeking them now, and life is hard. But the sense I get is, he wouldn't change a thing.

One pastor tells me of fantasizing of how he could get kicked-out of the ministry, without losing his wife, or going to jail. It was then he made his plan to step aside...instead of running.

We speak a great deal of sharing burdens with each other. We ask for prayer requests, and others release their worries and pains. But we are the wall. We soak in the sound waves and witness the tears and even share them. And we display the same wall of portraits, with our perfect family and our own ever smiling face--even when the smile is fading--or fake.

Most ministers, when they hurt, keep their pain secret. Must they? Who can they tell?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A bad day earlier this decade

A Move Inland

One day you wake up, shake your head and wonder how you ever got here. And once oriented, you recognize you’ve awakened into a bad dream. You want to go to sleep again. How did it come to this?

I remember the romantic days of dating the ministry. Invitations dared me to bow and give my all to the adventure of following and serving Jesus. There were long wonderful hours of praying and seeking God, constant dreams of doing the heroic for Him. First sermons, new responsibilities—ministry was magic!

The years of God-study were a mixture of diving to the depths of the ocean and sailing its surface. Discovering the vastness of it, yet knowing its enthralling borders alone: Being found powerless in the throws of its surf, and the rip of its tide. Overwhelmed in the glory of it all, surrender was the only option.

But ministry is a move inland, a weekly recitation about the great seas and feeling nostalgic about the surf, while sitting in the mud by a farm pond. Ministry, we soon discover, is not so much a bracing daily visit to the shore. It’s more of a competition to accumulate the largest desert fleet of watercraft and the most loyal cruise customers. Weekly orations about the glories of the ocean soon leave us wondering if it still remains, somewhere beyond all the workshops, magazines, growth conferences—some place toward the coast where the maps say the land is supposed to end.

When I first took a pastorate, and began to shepherd a people, I remembered the route to the sea. I’d rise early and stay up late in order to travel to the place where gulls would scream, and the surf would splash and rush its bitter cold against my hot dry skin. I’d dive and swim and play. I’d pull on goggles to look beneath and grab a board to ride on top. A sunset cruise would cause my heart to fall in love again. Watching a fisherman unload his catch never failed to amaze: the variety of the catch, the majesty and mystery! Oh, and the sudden winds, and slashing storms, and pounding rain, and running away to escape the adventurous dangers of this God.

There is a limit to how well a soul can speak of the ocean, when it sees the ocean no more. When some folks back home prefer pilgrim songs and others pirate tunes, you work to balance the ship. And once, weekly ventures to the sea required the simplest of boats to gather the travelers. Now, we finance, cruise ships and staff them for entertainment and turn in the numbers of how many show-up in the desert… to hear of the ocean… and describe it as best they can… as a muddy pond where cattle drink, and a good cast reaches from one bank to the other.

O, how I long for the sea again. A pond can get you wet—but few loose their lives in it, or find their living in it. Few paint it’s sunsets or dream of the ripples that reach its edge when a catfish stirs the surface.

And so, I tell myself to go to the sea. Take the time, step away from the ship long enough to smell salt air, burn my brow and hear the gulls. And maybe once I’ve gone, I could again bring good enough invitations to the coast, to a people who have settled for farm ponds: Or who, thanks to my lost memories, have heard that’s all that ever was.

After writing this journal entry on July 25, 2007, my heart began to recall a poem I’d memorized as a child. I found it online. And the wild longing for escape defines the longing of my soul so well.

By John Masefield
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sails shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea’s face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the see again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And a quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

When this pastor burned-out.

Two and a half years ago I was in the midst of my Sunday AM teaching, when the plug got pulled. One minute I felt fine. The next I had no strength. After thousands of dollars in medical testing, scanning, sampling, and imaging--it was determined I was a victim of pastoral burn-out.

Most people assume this means I was tired of ministry, or I was bored, or exhausted. No, it meant that one day I was running ten miles for fun; and the next week I could not walk fifty feet without rest and gathering my bearings. It meant I went from being a people-person with no fears; to being a guy unable to walk into a restaurant--or any public place--without an overwhelming dizziness and a threatening panic attack. I needed naps, long ones throughout the day. A counselor told me I was in a "major depression," and I was not able to argue, I could only sob.

I am still a pastor. I have been loved back to decent health by a great group of friends, family, and an amazing wife. And in the process, I have discovered a great deal of back-room whispers about pastoral burnout. As a group, we are warned to avoid it. We hear rumors of its pervasiveness. But I have not found a forum where a pastor can say, "Here is why I burned out." Or, "If I could, I'd do something else." Or, "I feel trapped in the ministry."

Now since admitting my "crash" (as I like to call it), I have heard those words, and many like them from pastor friends. Do you need to talk? Do you need to vent? Here is a place for you to run away, and not leave. Or maybe to receive encouragement to hang-in, or to leave, or...?

All I can say is, I didn't see it coming. But believe me, I had earned it.

So I'm putting this out here. Jump in if you want.


New Book

I have written and am preparing for publication a novel about a pastor who ran away. He lost his passion for ministry midst doing church CEO work. And he lost his wife because he was never home.

And so he made a plan. And he ran away to the other side of the country, and no one had a clue where he was. Hey pastor, have you ever wanted to run?

This blog will be a place for pastors who hurt. I'd like for it to be a grace dispensing place for those of us who haven't run, even though we've considered it. Check in now and then, and soon I'll post a portion of my book. Maybe you'll be able to relate.