Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Joy to the World: How to find the holiday spirit again

Had a great time at Shepherd Community in Indianapolis the other night. This is becoming my favorite event of the season. We assisted clients to pick-out Christmas gifts for their children and then wrap them. I have been praying for the Latino mother I assisted with my weak Spanish and glowing heart.

If you don't know about Shepherd Community, check this out.

If you are struggling to find the joy in the Christmas, look for it among those who are hurting this season. Visit someone who is sick, or in prison. Or take some food to someone who doesn't have enough. Perhaps you could donate to a well drilling project for some African village? Maybe you could buy some new clothes--just like the ones you buy for your family--to give to someone who doesn't have enough. Maybe you could watch the video at the web link above and donate $5 or $500 dollars to Shepherd Community?

Joy to the world.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday Mornings

Fatigue wraps its fog around my mind as I trudge my way into an other Monday. Yesterday was a good day. Last night was a short night. This morning came early, sliding sideways down my hill in 4-wheel-drive, on my way to a friend's surgery. He did well.

The morning is gray and dense. Trees and the hills in the distance are merely suggestions, hints that their shaded outlines have material reality. My mind is a similar a fog. I know I'll wake up somewhat tomorrow--a Tuesday tradition. But while I plod along in this misty place, and still try in vain to prepare for Christmas Eve services and the Sunday to come; I'll hold memories of the laughter last evening while gathered around our living room with friends. And I'll grin in the grayness.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More reviews from Amazon...

Another couple of reviews of The Runaway Pastor that I'd like for you to check out. The first is by a guy that is "many years removed from any participation in a church community."

The Runaway Pastor is a novel that provides a catalyst for discussion of what it means to be a pastor. The book led me to wonder what inspires--or calls--an individual to become a minister. As a person who has been many years removed from any participation in a church community, I have often wondered what keeps a person devoted to such a calling day after day. I admire the author, David Hayes, for writing a story that honestly portrays characters with serious flaws in their lives. So often, we look at people who have chosen lives of service as being infallible or nearly superhuman. For me, that applies equally to those who dedicate themselves to serve others in many other professions other than in the church.

Finally, I would say that the characters in this novel are believable and they keep you reading to see what becomes of them. With that said, I feel that there is more to this story that needs to be told. There were so many characters whose lives were intertwined with the story's central character, Trent Atkins. Although I admire the integrity and selflessness of Trent, I feel that his zealous quest for redemption affected so many people around him. As Trent continued his journey to 'find himself', I kept wondering what happened to all those people whose lives he influenced. Did he run away from them as well? Perhaps this is my own wishful thinking, but I would really like a sequel to this novel.
Jim from Illinois

I love this book. When I think of a pastor, I think of someone who has it all together, someone who listens to problems, someone who doesn't have problems. This book made pastors real people for me. I think everyone will be able to relate to this book. I love the characters, I love the way it was written. I can't say enough good things about it. It made me think about my own life and how at times I've wanted to run. And it left me wanting wanting more. Can't wait for the next. There better be a next! Elizabeth from Indiana

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Warm hands, cold hearts

It seems we can come up with all sorts of ways of trying to please God with our worship. The Old Testament prophet Micah employs some extravagant hyperbole to expose the ends we will go to impress God. Yet, he points out that God is impressed when his people humbly serve those who are crushed by life's injustices.

With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:6-8 (NIV)

Today, we believe we can serve him through extravagant and well orchestrated worship celebrations. Many such events boast laser-light shows, smoke machines, and high tech pageantry by every imaginable means. Competitions to provide the coolest Sunday morning entertainment come with high stakes...drop your moxy just a bit for a week or so, and church shoppers will move on to another nearby show.

We also serve God or worship God by giving our tithes and offerings at our weekly gatherings. We dream of them benefiting some poor soul who needs just what our church offers. Do we sacrificially give so that we can have?

And then, at the end of the day we wonder why we are left unsatisfied. We have given our rivers of oil--our thousands of rams on the altar. And they are sold and paid to the bankers who finance our altars.

And those who need justice and mercy, sit in the cold today. They no doubt wonder at the fact that the most grand buildings in their town belong to churches who built them for the glory of God.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Good days...

I had a call last night. A friend's wife wants to meet with her husband and me when we have coffee next week. She wants to "outline and give me content for each chapter of a sequel for The Runaway Pastor, and then write the last chapter to end just the way she is hoping it will." Yes, she had a smile in her voice while making the offer.

So then, yesterday was an unusual day, and a fun one when it came to the book project. I had four people tell me (people that I didn't know were reading the book, and one of them from Oregon!) they had just read the book, and that they really liked it. A couple were getting more copies as gifts. The day before that a few others told me the same. My publisher gave me good news (if somewhat nebulous) about the sales (I'm still wanting to know how many have sold).

Keep spreading the word. I'm counting on you to help me get the message of The Runaway Pastor out there!

This morning I drove north to meet with a church planter in Indy. Exciting work he has done over the past several years. Last night I came up as well to meet with leaders of Shepherd Community. Amazing ministry they are doing in the city. Their 501c3 has adopted 550 low-income or no income families, committing to help educate their children from the womb to age 25. Their goal: "To break the cycle of poverty." I'm encouraged by the way they have made a long-term commitment to the problem in the city...not just a quick fix meal program.

Tomorrow I had plans to see a "retired" (though incredibly engaged in ministry) Catholic Sister who helped mentor me in my early years. She is having another go-round with cancer, and things have gotten tough with her latest treatments. I received word that she will not be able to see me, and it is painful to think she may be failing. But tomorrow is hinting at some mystery weather--perhaps a bit severe--so I'll probably head south toward home a bit earlier than anticipated.

Peace to you.

Monday, December 7, 2009

First snow of a lifetime

Busy, hustling start this morning. People to see, things to do. A dusting of snow--our first of the winter, and our granddaughter's first ever. Stoked the fire, feeding glowing coals from the night before, and warming the cabin from the effects of the cool night. I took food to our German Shepherd; she shivered out of her igloo doghouse, wiggled while waiting for me to rub her head and pat her side before she had a brisk breakfast, then retreated to her shelter.

I had a cup of coffee, on my feet, packed my laptop for the day, and headed out the door. And then I came alive. Something in me caused me to look up and see the smoking chimney at the only other home nearby. White smoke puffed into the cool air and turning back, I saw the same blossoming from our own flue. Warmth from the tended fire at home and next door where my granddaughter was starting her first day with was warm inside.

Don't know why it seemed worth smiling about, but I did. Don't know why it seemed worth writing about, but I am. The ride down Sams Hill was a little more fun than usual today, turning a bit sideways toward the end. But the fire is burning back home, and when I return there to sleep tonight, I'll tend it--and try to remember to smile again.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Runaway Reviews and Special Offer

I am encouraged by reviews people are giving my new novel--The Runaway Pastor. In recent email conversations with a researcher studying pastoral burnout, seems The Runaway Pastor is striking a nerve in the real world of research. These issues are front and center with church/denominational leadership groups. The fallout amongst clergy is beginning to shake the church world.

Copied below are a couple of the reviews found on The first is from a real runaway pastor, and the second from a grateful wife. Both help me feel I've struck a nerve that need twanged.

As a runaway pastor in my own right, this book finally tells the story I believe many people like myself have wanted to share - but couldn't. I believe most Church leaders will catch momentary, if not complete, glimpses of themselves in this book. While some leaders will rejoice about the truth being told in such a real way, I can see others being afraid of what honest conversation this book could bring forth from other friends and followers.

This book fills a void in Christian fiction novels that I didn't even realize existed until after I read it. There are countless other books about issues that plague todays church, but I have come across none that convey them in such a compelling way.

For a first book, the author shows to have the ability to strip the external symptoms of problems and get at the real internal issue of the heart. He does not waste time on contrite ideologies, but instead shows the pain and freedom that accompany real life change. I found myself unable to do anything other than read this book in one sitting.

Don't let the title fool you either, this book is about so much more than a runaway pastor. It is about the runaway in all of us, and the commitment we so often lack to the things that truly matter the most.

And the second from a grateful wife:

My husband and I loved the book. He never reads fiction and found that he could not put the book down. That feat alone makes me very thankful to the author. But I'm also thankful that he addressed some very real issues within this fictional story. I think this would be a great book for our small group to read and then discuss.
And finally, I'm thankful for the ending. Read it!

Your candid reviews of the book at amazon would also be very welcomed!

Bulk or Christmas Orders of The Runaway Pastor.
If you would like to order in bulk (8 or more copies) for study groups, or to give as Christmas gifts, please contact me at the email link on the side ( We might be able to work out autographed editions for larger groups, though Christmas might be a push!

Sharing the Word:
Finally, I invite you to tweet or link this posting on your facebook or myspace page. Each time someone links, it helps get the word out about this book, and the issues it confronts. Thanks so much!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thoughts from another on the hill

Now and then I speak of the hill where we enjoy our life. We live here with family in three different dwellings. From my early 1800's log cabin, I am a minute's walk from my daughter, her husband and our first grandchild. My son-in-law--Matt--is in school to be a counselor, and was assigned the chore of spending time in "self care" this week. He wrote his reflections as a part of the project. Why not sit back with a cup of mulled cider, and enjoy his reflections and wisdom.

As the last of the leaves unwillingly release their hold and float their way to the ground, Brown County seems to settle into the holiday mood. Christmas lights gently frame the downtown streets and the first of the beloved holiday tunes are heard on speakers around town. A mile or so outside of town sits a little cabin-like home, nestled into the densely grown oaks and maples, with the occasional pine accenting the landscape year-round with its green needles. This is my house. And following suit with the rest of our community, we too are getting in the holiday mood. Free time these days is spent sitting around the wood stove with family and friends, tipping back mug upon mug of mulled cider, and counting our blessings that so many are doing without this year.

The economic decline has not passed over our hill. There have been salary cuts, followed by sleepless nights. And there has been a general sense mutually agreed upon frugality. This holiday season will have to be enjoyed in spite of shrunken budgets. But for some reason, there is no disparity in thinking that this Noel will be any less cherished than those passed. No, we will simply have to be thankful for the life we spend on the hill with family. And the gifts we make for one another will be more thought through than another over-priced gift, hurriedly purchased at that god-forsaken place known as the mall.

It was with all of this in mind that I decided to use my Tuesday morning to begin work on a Christmas present for... [name and info removed to save a Christmas surprise!]...a close friend. Plans were easily Googled, and after a trip to Menards, I had what I needed to build the first of my holiday related, wood-working projects. Pulling out the saw horses and table saw I began measuring, marking, and cutting boards to specification. And within the course of two hours had all the pieces needed to assemble what I am sure will be a much-appreciated and well-used Christmas present.

I have always enjoyed wood-working. The sorts of crafts that require saws and drills brings out in me a boyish glee, like sand paper brings out the natural grain in a beautiful piece of walnut. And so having the opportunity to spend two, Tuesday hours putting tool to wood, was for me indeed self-care. Fortunately for me, my life is somewhat conducive to pursuing arts and crafts. My wife and I have made it a priority to allow one another the time needed to pursue those interests that otherwise would go untouched, as often happens with adults who can see no other interest than career and other pursuits of this rat race. It has become the intention and mission of our home to attain a simple life.

This aspiration does not always come at the drop of a wish or will. Sometimes it requires sheer force and fortitude of mind. In the case of this week’s Tuesday, there were plenty of other obligations knocking at my door. And had I chosen to spend my time involved in any one of them, there is not a soul who would say I was being anything other than mature and responsible. However, no one can know what is needed for the health of an individual except that individual. And so I chose to ignore the call of homework, laundry, bills requiring mailing, and the endless list of chores and responsibilities that seem to creep up and jump on your back, as if just yesterday you were a carefree adolescent. Do I really need a reminder that I am not getting any younger? These are the obstacles that I, and every other bill-paying, 401K loving, American adult must hurdle in order to find just a shred of time for self-care.

And there is only one way to get over this hurdle…gracefully. We cannot defend ourselves from the obstacles and complications that arise from being a member of a society that values careers over family, and possessions over simplicity. But we can smile and hold on to the belief that health, although it is not easily attained, is worth pursuing. And in the last moments, a life spent with family around a warm fire will prove to be about the most rewarding of all.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Human hopes, human fears...advent begins.

The seasonal valley we are entering promises to darken around us. The absence of light will send many into depression. We, along with those around us, are concerned about so many things. Steely fear stings us deep within, sending a lump to our throats and causing our eyes to squint in suspicion of our neighbor. Who can we trust?

Yet, hope teeters on the horizon. Perhaps the sun will not set behind the dark peak, but find an opening where rocky cliffs fall to the sea? Perhaps we will have light to guide us the rest of our way?

It is human to hope. It is human to fear.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is O Little Town of Bethlehem. We sing The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee, tonight. In these lines we read again the juxtaposition of hope and fear. The meeting place for these two? What is the location of their coming together? Christ.

And what will be the outcome of the clash? Which will prevail: hope or fear?

You tell me. Conquering foes ruled his homeland. Political division was rampant. The religious elite abused the poor, and held them at arm's length from faith. No one even noticed--and no wonder--when the helpless infant was born to illegitimate parents staying in some animal shelter. The only ones who caught on were some stargazers from another nation and religion, and a few ruffians at the bottom of the pay-scale camping out and watching sheep. Hope? (I've often thought that God could have used a marketing agency.)

And so we enter the holidays shadowed by long shopping lists and in fear of the worsening economy. We grieve loves we've lost, and long for something more. Religion is offering little direction and politicians are only heightening our fears that no one cares about anything but power. Somewhere an unobtrusive God is hiding in an unsuspected location. And our chore is to find the Christ.

Don't bother asking the kings, or the spiritual elite.

Perhaps he's living amongst the poor? (Matthew 25:40 & 45)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Simple Gifts: Thanksgiving Thoughts

Our harvests come one trip to the grocery after another. We can't remember having planted. Our safety through a hard winter is a foregone conclusion. Our shelters are built for us--we merely pay the mortgage. And disease is something we scoff at--H1Nwhat? How can we relate to the seafaring lot who landed on strange shores and scraped a living from the soil thanks to helpful locals? How can we even hope to find a place for gratefulness as we approach Thursday?

Perhaps a dose of one of the classic Christian disciplines might be in line for our holiday maladies. When we are silent, we appreciate our ability to speak. When we practice solitude, we learn to relish the presence of others. When we fast, we appreciate the taste of the simplest meal. When we serve the poor, we are grateful that we have plenty. When we sacrifice, we recognize our abundance.

I love the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts.

Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free.
Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be.
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
to bow and to bend we shall not be ashamed.
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
till by turning, turning we come round right.

Perhaps this week you will find time for the simple joys of simplicity.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Preparing for Advent--One More Time

It is far too simple to stand on the outside, and think I know what is inside. As I approach Advent, it is far too easy to assume that the titles, texts and themes I prepared in early October are completed projects. We know what's going to happen, right? The Word becomes flesh. God is with us. Don't be afraid. A virgin with child. Approaching Advent can feel like a late year return to the same old amusement park, with a well worn season pass.

But this is no time for amusement. "A-muse".
"A" = not.
"Muse" = think.
Not think.

This is not a season to enter with a closed mind or a closed heart. For those who will lead congregations or bible studies or friends in the process of living another Advent, I throw out this challenge: Live it new. Live the story for the first time. Discover the staggering truths of this season just one more time

And let's drop the pretense that we can teach or lead in this mysterious territory. Seek to see the invisible. Try to believe the impossible. Pray that we can explain the unimaginable. And we will approach our task humbly, with wise-men hearts--knowing there is a king somewhere at the end of the journey, but not yet sure where to find him.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The beauty of small beginnings

I made quite an issue of providing artificial kindling this morning. A full double sheet of newspaper, rolled into a long tube and tied in a knot. I put three of those contrivances in the wood stove, arranged a couple of large logs over them and set them afire. When I came back with my coffee a few minutes later, the logs were blackened, the paper was gone and so was the flame.

So stepping through the fog and out to the carport woodpile, I grabbed the hatchet and began to chip off small pieces of a larger log. Slivers mostly. A few cut away from the log as thicker brittle sticks--much larger than slivers, yet unimpressive. Carrying my treasures back inside I arranged them in a hollow pile, then poked the tiniest pieces of newspaper underneath them. Ah, the power of small beginnings.

I knew when I began with the grandiose display of knotted newspaper that my fire had little chance. Heavy logs take time to get in the mood for burning. But the sliver effect--the small beginnings of tiny flickers reaching ever larger tinder...makes ever larger fire. And now the large oak logs have surrendered. The cabin is warming and the box of fire is glowing. And the quiet, day-off morning is beginning.

Small beginnings indeed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Perspective on Winter

November is casting its gray shadows where I live. A friend once gave me sage advice: David, I learned a long time ago not to pay homage to the weather. We had been walking across a broad blacktopped parking lot in an Arizona summer. The temperature was well into the one hundred and teens. Jim was older than I, and had lived his entire life in the Arizona desert. My question had been, Jim, does the weather ever get you down?

Now I'm not going to pretend that dark days don't play their games with my outlook. But I will profess that I love this time of year. My son calls winter his favorite season. There is power in resignation and submission. As I often say: God is God, and I am not. Really, when it comes down to it, that settles lots of things.

Our first winter back in Brown County, we didn't have a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get us up the quarter mile hill and to our driveway. There were a few times when, after several runs at it, I had to park at the bottom and walk up the steep incline--in dress shoes--to make it home. The worse part were the times when the hill had started to melt and then re-frozen. A nice glaze of ice makes going downhill an adrenaline rush that you'd rather not have. Especially since at the bottom of the hill is State Highway 46, and 55 MPH traffic. (Finally I had justification to get my Jeep Wrangler!) My Jeep--or as I call it, my vacation between destinations--makes winter much more bearable.

I guess this is my annual appeal to people who love to complain about the weather (or who think there is something not fair about it, or who think life is better where the climate is different), this is my plea for them to consider letting the elements be the elements. Allow the high and low systems to come and go as they will. It feels good to embrace the brace of winter. And then be grateful when you have a warm place to go home to.

I've had to turn down two people this morning who need help with their rent. They may not be so fortunate as to have a warm place to call home this winter. Now that is something I'm tempted to whine I sit in my beautiful and centrally heated church office.

Friday, November 13, 2009


I get a lot of questions about the price of my book The Runaway Pastor on Several different booksellers are there offering the same book for various discounts (or premiums) as well as varying levels of shipping costs. Yeah, I don't know. All I can say is that I'm amazed at the intricacies of how this business operates. And, I guess I'm just glad that it does.

First of all, this online bookstore (known as the largest bookstore in the world) provides an easy way for a book to be purchased almost anywhere in the western world. They receive the mother of all discounts when selling a book, leaving publisher and author with a very small cut on the deal--so to speak. The large discount they get from the publisher is a small price to pay when compared to the service they provide. Besides, I have no illusions of making money on this book.

Second, the feedback system is amazing. Of course there is the review system. Readers are provided the opportunity to give each book sold there a rating between 1 and 5 stars, then they write and record their thoughts and put them up for anyone to see! If you have read the novel, and if you have ordered from before, I would invite you to review the book there. Thanks to all of those who have.

Another aspect of the feedback system is something I'm just beginning to understand: The book ranking. Each day on the book's page at there is a ranking that shows. At first these rankings seemed insulting. But there are millions of books in the system, and being ranked in the hundreds of thousands, isn't bad I guess. (I've had an occasional gust of the low 20 thousands.) This project is one with no marketing budget, no paid advertising, etc. So if it grows, it will be because one reader recommends it to another, and slowly it gathers a following.

My only hope is that the messages of the book will get through to those who need to hear it. Soon there will be questions for discussion at and bulk discounts from the publisher so reading groups at churches or elsewhere can discuss them. Each one will be keyed to a paragraph or chapter reading from the book. These questions give me hope that people will wrestle with the message of the book. (If you have a suggestion for a question, please send it in.)

Thank you for reading here. Occasionally I will update you about the book project at this place, and more often I'll just write about life from my perspective. Eventually I may use this site for the book, and start another to do such writing. At this point in my life, I feel an urgency for the message of The Runaway Pastor to get out there. And I'll follow that leading as long as I must.

(NOTE: Please check out Zee's blog. She is an incredible young writer I met when she was a little girl in Kiev, Ukraine. Just click on her name in the comment column, and follow through her info to her blog.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blessing, benediction and you.

Such powerful magic--when one looks into the eyes of another and speaks Love...with or without words. As a pastor, I have known this indescribable joy of connection. These connections have been one on one, yet are even more startlingly fulfilling when God's Holy Spirit of Love connects pastor with a congregation.

I often feel this mysterious connection as I bless the congregation at the end of a service. A blessing is a gift I only recently learned to give. I now end a service with something like: You are the people of God. And you are--and live amongst a world full of those--stamped with God's image. Go and be the person and presence of Jesus! It seems so much more fitting than asking God to "protect us on the way home and bring us back next week. You are dismissed."

And we are to be a benediction--a blessing--to those with whom we interface day after day. And so I give you this blessing today.

You are loved by Almighty God. This very day, you are the target of his devotion and affection. Now go and live in God's love and forgiveness, and offer this grace and peace to those around you.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Entering Rest

The earth draws tightly its cloak. The soil begins to harden imperceptibly. Days shorten and nights close in around the garden. Even the most hardy blooms bow for their last curtain call of the the year. Winter is coming; nighttime is calling us to nestle-in. It is time to rest, to let the pace die for a while.

Oh how we wish it were true. More organic cultures follow the seasons like a clock, welcoming the winter's night. They rest and restore relationships--not even considering that these things are preparation for the spring to come. They live the season, and this should be a time for breathing, laughter and snoring.

Not the electric light crowd. Rest is for the weak, not the weary! So we rush and squeeze our tired psyche's for another drop of productivity. Like a child refusing a nap, we neglect the sweet dreams of relationships, hearth and home. These are for weaker folk of days gone by. We must spin on toward our own demise and burn the wick until it meets its frazzled end.

What season will this be for you?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sharing and Tending

I remember the first time I wrote a poem as a child. It was hard to share it with anyone. Perhaps the thought that had meant so much to me--that thing that had pushed me to write in a less than straight-forward way--perhaps it would seem trivial to the reader. (Like telling a girl you liked her, and her returning the note having checked the box that indicated she didn't like you back.) Sharing something exposes you to risk.

And reward. Yesterday I got a note from a woman in Florida who had ordered and read my book--The Runaway Pastor. She said she had started reading at 9 PM and finished it the next morning at 4 AM, after reading all night! That felt good.

But even more gratifying feedback has come to me from some pastors who are sharing raw edges of pain the book exposed. Saying it was "just a little too close to their own living..." for comfort. Yet they read and benefited. One pastor said: "There's a great deal of truth in that fiction." Another resolved to turn his heart back toward family. One pastor and wife told me that friends at their church had recognized their crashing relationship, and had stepped in over the past year to love them toward wholeness. I fear most won't be so fortunate.

With November, the cold weather has returned. Almost like there's a clock that is wound into a new time zone by the change of the month. So I've been lugging in firewood from the pile, and getting fires started in the stove (using the Boy Scout's fire-starters I bought from a friend at church). Yesterday I walked into a warm cabin, stoked the fire and reveled in the task of being a fire-keeper.

The colder seasons are a good reminder to tend the fires that are most vital to our lives. Love your family. Love you Lord. Slow down enough to love the life you've been given.

And as The Runaway Pastor enters its second week of availability, I hope that somehow what I have shared will inspire others to tend to the priorities that our maker would have us keep central.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Season Alone

Where I live, October is tourist season. (Most locals have ceased sporting the bumper stickers "If it's tourist season, why can't we shoot them." After all, tourism makes my home town go, and I happen to be a fan of visitors--and plenty of'em.) But something spectacular happens on November 1.

We have a beautiful State Park boasting dozens of miles of horse, mountain bike and hiking trails. One can walk--and I have--all day and never cross the same place twice. From April through October, there are lots of people puffing along these paths. But Sunday, someone flipped a switch called "tradition," and the park emptied for the season. It is truly amazing.

Last week I stepped aside with regularity for visitors wanting to know "How much further to the lake." Yesterday I had the place to myself. The leaves crunching with my footfalls, the water chattering in the creek and the fleeing squirrels, rabbits and deer were the only sounds that met my ear. Suddenly I remembered that for the next several months, I have thousands of acres to myself. I'll smile and celebrate the remainder of fall--and all of winter--alone with my trekking poles, water filter and the steam rising from my sweat-soaked shirts.

I paused for a while on the last summit, waiting for the sun to drop behind a distant hill. A songbird added its lacy joy to the stillness. I'll be back again tonight or tomorrow afternoon at the latest. One can't afford to waste such glory.

What are you reveling in?

Monday, November 2, 2009

What I'm learning about books.

I'm learning quite a lot these days, and some of it is as a result of The Runaway Pastor. For one thing, it is great to have good friends who encourage you along the way. I wrote this book two years ago, and friends, especially here at this blog site, have encouraged me bit by bit all along. Thank you! It has been fun. I remember putting the first chapters on line just over a year ago, and then hearing back from some of you and realizing that maybe someone else would enjoy/benefit from what was going on in my head.

I've learned that the process of getting published is just as tough as "they" say it is, and that having a determined and effective book agent is important. I've learned that the publishing business is changing beyond what anyone can believe, and that bookstores are in crisis because of the Walmarts and Targets of the world. Those nine and ten dollar hardbacks you are hearing about this season are going to be the end of many local booksellers. Only they can afford to work those prices and even take the losses (in order to get you into their stores). They could completely own the bookstore market within a few years. That is why instead of selling my books to my local friends directly, I supported my local bookstore by selling my books there.

I've learned that is a huge change in the way books are sold. I've learned that I need many online reviews there (your review would be coveted!)and that my ranking in the book world this morning was 27,804th--at the highest I've seen! I hear that is good for a start; but numbers like that--or one that was a hundred thousand higher--will calm any ego trips. I have NO IDEA how many books have sold. Won't know for about a month.

I've learned at a book signing yesterday that no matter the title, many people are interested in this book because they are hurting, looking for hope, and longing to run. I can't tell you how many "Runaway" books people told me I should write. Several people who "don't do church" spoke to me yesterday, and a couple with tears in there eyes. I hope to stay in contact with them. One told me she is looking for hope, yet doesn't know where to look. She knows I'm a pastor in town, and I now know where she works.

I'm learning that a diversion from my "day job" is a good thing. In fact it fits hand in glove. Mostly I'm learning to take a day at a time and see what happens. To stay close to you my friends and to love those that give me a chance. More later.

Peace to you.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy All Saints Day, Hope, and my first book signing.

I woke in the middle of the night and remembered Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration talking to Moses and Elijah. The ancient Celts observed a day near November 1 when they observed a time when a "thin place" exists between our world and the next. Surely transfiguration's mountain moment was such a thin place--Jesus being counseled by a couple of Old Testament heroes who had been gone for several centuries.

Today we wake to a new month and new Sunday. I pray both will be thin places for you. I pray you will know peace with your tomorrows, and a fearlessness in the face of mystery. I pray we can hold confidence in the most trying of times that there is the One who can speak "Come forth!" And that at the end of the journey there will be a "Well done." This morning I long to instill such hope in some dear people.

(Seems "hope" is an abused that has become hollow and less sacred. I wish we could reserve it for use amongst people of faith. I wish it were a word we shared amongst friends and heard only from poets. It should be the domain of intimacy, not fifth avenue.)

Today I'll have my first book signing. The entire process goes against my nature. I've never wanted an autograph, though I guess I have enjoyed a signed book from a few friends. I hope I'll be able to encourage a few friends with some written words in the front of a book.

I hope you will know peace today.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

First Trip to the Cemetery

Remembering my first trip to the cemetery. I was just six. Grandmother had died, and there were red roses on her casket. They gave me one. I took it home and was angry at it. I think I destroyed it, but that memory, like many of my only grandparent is gone. I still cannot smell the rich fragrance of roses and think of anything but that day.

My grandmother had come from Whales when she was an 8 year old child in 1892. Somehow the love of polka music had gotten into her soul, and that is the musical memory she gave me. Singers belted their yodels through her brown record-player speakers, and they echoed them against her apartment walls. She had a bed in the living room I think. I don’t know why. It had a big thick club under it to hit a bad guy if needed. But her heart attacked her before they could, and all I got to keep was a rose.

Her son truly broke my heart for the first time ever. As a 33 year old, I had never missed a day of work because of illness. But I missed one with broken heart right after discovering that my father was dying of cancer. I came in that morning to the office in the back corner of the old Parkview church building—facing the state park and the parking lot. But I couldn’t stay. I cried and Vivian told me she’d explain just before I left for home.

But the days since my father’s passing in 1992 have largely healed the wound of his loss. A deep scar is still there, but I don’t mind its presence because other and more profound impressions upon me have marked me for the better. The joys of his presence and the lessons he instilled were more than worth the agonizing pain of his loss. And that loss still hurts. And those joys and lessons still heal and bless.

When was your first visit to a cemetery? When was your most painful? Do really believe that Jesus conquered death's victory? This is a good week to remember that grave is not all it's cracked up to be.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween, Hanging Out with the Dead and All Saints Day

I once had a mentor and friend who is a Roman Catholic Sister to tell me I should ask my deceased friend to pray for me. That was a square peg in my round brain. Didn't fit. And I responded by asking how I could possibly speak to, or pray to someone who was dead? "Is he?" she asked. I explained that I had performed his funeral, and I was absolutely certain that he was indeed dead.

She just stared at me, as if I were not getting it. And then I did.

"OK, I believe my friend still lives...but in Heaven."

And she followed with, "Do you believe he is in the presence of Jesus...of God?"


"Then he can speak to God?"


"Ask him to speak to God for you, David," she smiled then, as if maybe she had gotten through to a very slow student.

I'm not positive she did. We just don't teach that in our church. OR DO WE?

This week we will recite together The Apostle's Creed, including that we believe in "the communion of the saints." Hmmm. We'll sing the hymn entitled The Church's One Foundation which includes these cryptic lyrics: "Yet we on earth have union with God the Three-In-One. And mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won..." :-0 Then we will read from Hebrews 12:1 about how we are "surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses." I can't see them. Can you?

In my book there is a character that Trent meets in the desert. If you've read The Runaway Pastor, what do you think of Father Timothy?

Just what do we believe about such mysteries?

Oh, well. Just some observations on All Saints Day, which is why we have "All Hollow's Eve," or "Halloween..."

Monday, October 26, 2009


So here I sit in my favorite Monday morning haunt, Muddy Boots Cafe. The autumn sun is shining a faded green through the ivy covered windows, and the table where friends gather is already celebrating friendship, and toasting the past weekend with a locally roasted cup. One of their celebrations this morning is that my novel, THE RUNAWAY PASTOR, is now up on .. How incredibly special it is to live in a place where they greet you by name, know what you'll order when you walk in, and walk your life together with you.

Several people are asking how they can "get the word out about the book." Thanks for asking. First, you can tell your friends about the book. My hope is that this will be read by people who have pastors. I so hope to help people feel a bit of what can go on in the heart and life of their pastor's family. Once you've read it, share the impact it has on you.

Second, if you are on facebook, twitter, or other social networking sites, link the amazon order page with a personal recommendation. Simply say something like "I like this" (or whatever kind of endorsement you want to give it,) then cut and paste this url to your status, a link will appear, then tweet or share it. Thanks!

Third, if you have read the book (and have a positive response :), it would be wonderful if you could give me a review on These reviews help people make decisions on the book, and draw attention to it.

I hate to be so mercenary here, however, my muddy boots friends have reminded me of just how friends celebrate one-another's joys. Thank you for sharing mine, even if it has only been with a quick smile.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I'll post more later. But just saw that The Runaway Pastor is available at Long journey completed. You should also be able to order it at your local bookstore.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Trade As One

A year and a half ago I came across Trade As One. Now I want to share the news with you.

My family has often used the Heifer Project catalog to order Christmas gifts of animals for those who have great need around the world. This is an opportunity to make purchases you can give. There are also means to have a sale at your church for your community through this organization.

Trade as one is an exceptional opportunity to purchase product through fair trade practices. I recommend you check them out. Click here for a video.

And no, the book is still not up on Amazon, but it is in my local bookstore because I delivered it there. I'll let you know when The Runaway Pastor is available at Amazon.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

THE RUNAWAY PASTOR: First Shipment Arrived!

Yesterday, on a beautiful fall day in Brown County, the UPS truck dropped-off my first order of The Runaway Pastor. An hour or so later, my son got home and we opened the first box. So, there it was.

Now if you've known me for long, you know that I am truly unique. (I almost wrote "weird.") I've been known to say on a Tuesday, "Wow, I'm really starting to enjoy that trip to the museum last Saturday." Or, "That concert last week really was good." And it will be the first time I've had either thought. People think I should be excited about stuff, and wonder why I'm not. I don't know, maybe I just have a slow processor or something.

So last night I went to a couple of meetings with friends, and I smuggled one book to one friend, but otherwise ignored the subject. Then today, I went to meet with a large gathering of pastors that I had spoken to last year on the subject of burnout. I was told I should give a copy of my book to the couple that was speaking at the event. So I did. And while there, the leader of the gathering asked me if I wanted to offer to sell my books there. I hadn't thought about that. I stammered a bit, and then gave some lame response, and said "Sure." And I've just returned after signing more than a dozen all got a little more real to me then. Maybe in a few days I'll start enjoying it all. In the meantime, life is good anyway.

Not sure when Amazon will post the books for sale. As of this writing, it isn't there yet. Hopefully soon...keep looking for The Runaway Pastor there.

Grace and peace to you.

Monday, October 19, 2009

THE RUNAWAY PASTOR Release, and First Book Signing

This is the week! My publisher tells me that this is the week when Amazon will begin receiving orders for THE RUNAWAY PASTOR, by David Hayes. Keep checking-in on and you may be the first to find it there. I'd like to ask you to email me when you see it up on Amazon! I'd be excited to know who was first to find it!

I am scheduled for my first book signing on Sunday, November 1st, from 2-4 in the afternoon at THE BOOK LOFT, a hometown bookstore in Nashville, Indiana where I live. It is in beautiful Brown County, and the leaves may just still be good. They are still changing as I write and it is beautiful.

You can still read the pre-edited copy of the first seven chapters by clicking on the book cover to the right, if you'd like to get a jump start on the book.

Keep me posted!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Runaway Pastor: Printing Now--and Availability Questions Answered

If I understand correctly, this week the first copies of The Runaway Pastor will be printed. This is a gratifying moment for me. I am grateful to have reached this point in the journey. I'm not just jumping up and down, or giddy. Just grateful.

Many of you have been asking when you will be able to get a copy of the book. The answer is "soon." Here are the phases as I understand them. First, I will receive a shipment I've ordered as soon as they are available. I'll sell these when I speak, or do other events. Second, bookstores should be able to order through Ingram almost immediately after the printing. However, until a market has been developed, most sales will happen online. Third therefore, will be Amazon sales--which should come about 3 weeks after the first books are available to bookstores. I will have a link at my website (currently under construction)to the book on Amazon. That will be the simplest place for you to get the book.

I believe I will be doing a book signing at The Book Loft, a locally owned and operated bookstore in Nashville, Indiana. This is currently scheduled to take place on Sunday afternoon, October 25. The date could change according to book availability and a newspaper interview that needs to take place first.

I just wanted to update you on the timing of things. And finally, I will soon be moving most things related to the book to the website linked above. This site will be reserved for blogging and possibly introducing new writing in the future. (By the way, there are conversations now about taking down the first seven chapters of the book. So if you think you know anyone interested in seeing those before they potentially disappear, you might send them to this link.

Peace to you. And think of me Friday and Saturday as I drive back across a little more than 800 miles of the Eastern USA. But I'll be heading home, and that sounds nice.

Friday, October 9, 2009

U.S. Americans: Corpses at Play

A dead soul has nothing to offer. That same soul finds receiving too difficult. And though it exposes its every nerve to this world's flamboyant offerings; more and more it finds only a gurgle at the other end of longing's sucking straw.

Attention is difficult to hold. Action, stress and tension are everything. One can no longer settle for stillness. Simple holds as much scent as filtered air. Truth tastes bland. Common makes our eyes droop. Painlessness is numbing. Deafened by the banal, we no longer hear the bird's song, a child's laughter or the falling rain.

We have hidden ourselves in incessant stimulation, with a constant need for more. Entertainment, news, radio--all violent and divisive. It's us against them! Adrenaline--our drug of choice. We curse the storm that disconnects us from our satellites; and grief-filled--we wail: "I'm bored."

Perhaps it would be more accurate to scream at the imposed silence: "You've laid-bare my emptiness, my utter lack of content! You've shown me that I cannot pray, I cannot speak, I cannot love! For I have been exposed by this violent infliction of tranquility--and look! No peace lives within me. I have nothing to offer.

"All of the joys found in sunsets, crashing tides, towering mountains and family's embrace--all of these delights are empty to me. I need more!"

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Christmas in October

I'm spending some study time at the beach. Actually I've jumped the gun by half a week, but feeling the need to get started on my Advent series. I've never planned to preach the stuff leading up to Christmas while sitting in the sun and listening to the crashing surf. But that's just my world. Below the equator, Christmas is at the beginning of summer every year.

And that is what is on my mind: How are my romanticized memories and fixed pictures of what Christmas is all about, how are they "stuck?" What can I not see due to my habitual approach to this holiday? What truths are lacking in my frame of reference? I don't want to preach some western, material-based vision of this day. I find myself praying--Open the Eyes of my Heart Lord. (Also the staple Sufi prayer, by the way.)

I'm thinking of those tending herds at home, or harvesting corn and beans in their fields by night, frightened not by the appearance of angels, but by their bad crop. I'm wondering who will tell them there is one born worthy of their worship. I'm praying for that woman in her latest marriage who once again realizes this is not prince charming. I'm praying for children who will receive no hint of Jesus this season with their many gifts...purchased on credit by parents who are spending their way into financial oblivion.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not recieve him. That's what is on my mind.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pastors and Mondays

Today is Monday, and it's a funny seems a lot like any other day of the week! I cannot believe it! How can this be?? I'm not exhausted, depressed, sad, worried, overwhelmed or despondent. Oh yeah! I'm on vacation. I attended church yesterday. I didn't lead a church. I left afterward and enjoyed the day--inspired by what I had experienced.

But on most Mondays, I am still recovering. Here is a link to an a blog post that you must read if you are--or if you have--a pastor.

I know that two weeks from today it will be Monday, and I will have led worship and spoken God's word on Sunday. I am grateful for that calling and that honor. But I am trying to understand what goes on inside of me that makes Sunday such a challenge. I hope you will read the above link. Very informative.

Christ's peace to you.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Waking again...

I've never heard Bach's Cello Suites accompanied by the crashing surf at sunrise before. I woke-up this morning while walking on the beach. I recognized something spiritual, some awakening in the deep recess of who I am. I saw others combing or fishing or meditating; and I sensed their humanity. I knew them, having never before met them. And Truth danced on the edges of my spirit--Truth that I could describe to myself using words. It had been a long sleep. Open the eyes of my heart...

Yet it is too soon for me to open the steam bath door of my waking spirit, lest all that is gathering go wasted into hollow air. For now, I'll be away. And I'll gather to myself all that is good and beautiful and True. I'll be alone in such blessed company as my wife, the sea and the sunlight reflecting off of the weathered wood that is the deck beneath me.

May you find your place of restoration. I pray God's grace and peace be yours...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Timing for the release of THE RUNAWAY PASTOR, and More Readers Every Day!

Timing. Everyone is asking when The Runaway Pastor will be available for purchase. As I understand it, I will be able to get some pre-publication copies for an early book signing or two in October. But it will be at the end of October, or the beginning of November before Amazon and other online bookstores will have them available. At that time, I will put a link here at this site for you to connect to Amazon for orders.

Readership Growth. The number of readers of the first seven chapters of The Runaway Pastor continues to grow. Three times as many people have gone to those pages online in the past three weeks, than in any previous month. I am getting daily comments from people who have just discovered the book, and are excited to get it.

Several of you have put a link on your facebook status to the book. I am really grateful, and you have no idea how many new people are coming simply because you have linked it. Thank you so very much.

I'm moved by the number of people who are mentioning their own pastors, and their longing to better understand them. That is a major hope of mine: To help people understand the unique struggles, joys and hopes of clergy. There is much hope in my novel, and as you get beyond chapter 7, you will see it more and more.

Friday, September 18, 2009

News About Runaway, and a Sequel on its Way!

Thanks to all of you who have been linking this website to your facebook, myspace, twitter, email and other online messages. The traffic on the site is growing quickly and that is helping to get the word out. Not only is the traffic up, the number of "new visitors" is increasing rapidly.

If you are a follower at this blog, I would love to have your contact info so that I can let you know when things are happening. Send me an email. My contact info is on the right side panel. If you haven't joined yet, it is free of course, and you are still welcome and invited to join as a follower.

I gave myself an hour or so the other day to take time away from my work, and to do some writing. A preface and first chapter of a sequel to The Runaway Pastor are underway! It felt good. My wife and one other reader I allowed in at this early stage have been very complimentary. And it felt good to be back in the world of novel creation, instead of editing and planning.

Did I mention to you that I got a really nice endorsement, and it is (at this point) the lead on the back cover of the book. Those things should be tied up by early next week when I have a quick meeting with my publisher and agent.

Thanks for following along, and for helping me get the word out about The Runaway Pastor. To this point, you are the only marketing staff I have. And you are doing a great job.

My grand daughter just came over--and writing this dropped off the priority list. Later!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Runaway Readers at Record High!

It has really been amazing to see the number of people going to the first seven chapters of my new novel, The Runaway Pastor. There were four days this past week, when the number equaled any thirty days previous. In other words, the word is spreading about the book.

It is interesting and exciting to me that now, several cities in Europe, Asia, Central America, Australia and Africa are showing up on my analytic visitors page. I want to thank you for being so intentional about spreading the word! Your excitement is catching--literally around the world.

As the publication date nears, I want you to know that I appreciate any and every link you add to your blogs, and any mention you give The Runaway Pastor on your facebook page or emails. The word about the novel spreads in amazing ways when you begin doing this. If you copy and paste this URL- -to a facebook, myspace, or twitter entry, then people see the link and often show up and begin reading. Make sure and let them know that for now, anyway, visitors can read the first seven chapters for free.

I will let you know when I have a firm date for publication. I continue to anticipate it being sometime within the next few weeks.

Grace and peace to you.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Great News!

No sooner did I post the request for a web designer, than 4 suggestions were in my in boxes. Wow, thanks everyone. But thanks especially to the one who has committed to doing my site! I am really excited.

And we move ahead...

New Website, Designer, Host Needed

I am in the need for a web designer and probably a web host to update, etc the site. As the book launches, I'm told I'll need to have a regular site that can include a blog, but be a bit more. So this is a call for experts or references. I've resisted this all along because of the expenses...however, I think I have to comply now.

Anyone have a favorite that is very reasonable?

Thanks for now...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Getting a Little Spooked About Publishing

This is weird! Now that the publication of The Runaway Pastor is imminent, more and more things are spooking me. Like a text message I got last night from a mother in our congregation. It went something like this: My daughter (fifth grade) wants to read your book when I get it. What should I tell her? And then there is this, how would you explain to the congregation you have pastored for more than 10 years, that you are having a book published about a pastor who runs from his wife and congregation?

Now you see what I'm thinking. Maybe you have all along. But for every one hundred parts of me that are excited about The Runaway Pastor coming out, there is one little part that is cowering a bit.

So why, so many people are asking me, did you write it?

When I sat down to write this book, I had recently counseled with a successful business owner who had indeed run across three states before turning his pickup and stuffed wallet back toward home and his family. An unmistakable pattern was developing in my conversations with hurting pastors: Several confessed a similar desire to get in their car and drive as far as their savings would take them. The Runaway Pastor was a desperate attempt to empty myself of the question, “What if?”

This pastor/author is convinced that an over emphasis of the business model in the Church has destroyed the ministry of thousands of pastors who were gifted as shepherd-teachers, but not as corporate executives. I hope The Runaway Pastor will provide a glimmer of hope to those already shoved to the sidelines. And perhaps it will encourage some who remain in the fray to be true to their gifts and their families, and as a result find themselves being true to their God.

As some of you know, I was also inspired to write after experiencing burnout. Trying to meet the expectations of too many people led me down the road to exhaustion and despair. I wrote in some measure, for therapy.

Another question people are asking is: "Hey, this guy in your book comes around and does it all right again, doesn't he???" I'll let you decide on that one.

Here is one more invitation for "followers" at this site. Your presence is so encouraging and there are some days when the above questions come up, that I am encouraged to know you are beside me.

Peace to you. It won't be long!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Car Seats and Drop-Offs

I'm feeling like a younger dad again. This morning my wife left early for work up north. I was left to get breakfast and coffee for our exchange student. I got her to school late. I never think to put the top down on my Jeep for know, I just "rough it" in the fog or cold when I'm on my own. And I have been doing things alone for quite a while.)

Due to an illness, I needed to drop-off my grand-daughter at the sitter's. I did put the top up for the baby, no roughing it for was threatening rain! I had to physically climb into the back of the Jeep in order to buckle the car seat contraption into place. (Glad no one was watching.) I really miss the old way of having kids face forward in the passenger seat. I still held hands with her on the way.

My son text-messaged me from his college and we are hoping to have lunch together. These are good times. There are many things about life that are hard most of the time, including right now. But I'm enjoying being a dad, a foreign exchange dad, and a papa.

Seasons change, and so do we. But life moves on and there are blessings all around.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sunday Surprise

I don't know when was the last time I invited people to receive prayer for healing, and the accompanying annointing with oil. I knew that a few of our people had frightening diagnoses last week, and many are living in pain and sorrow. And so, I simply mentioned that if anyone wanted to be annointed (no magic me, no magic oil, but good God), they could come and kneel at the left side of our altar.

I expected that perhaps one or two, or maybe even three would come forward for the prayers of our congregation. I also expected more would go to the right side of the altar, where they could pray unattended and privately, with no one knowing their need.

After speaking the invitation, and as the chorus of a song was begun, my throat closed as did the aisles of our sanctuary. And as eleven people and their families and loved ones stepped forward, I felt again my extreme unworthiness to be the one leading the prayer and applying the oil.

Love filled the room, and peace spilled around the edges of faces. And once again, my plans for a Sunday service were improved upon.

Grace and peace to you as you live expecting the unexpected--and the comfort of His presence.

Friday, September 4, 2009

First Look at New Book Cover

These are exciting days for me. It has been nearly three years since I began writing The Runaway Pastor. And now after a year of seeking publication, we are only weeks away. Thanks to all of you who have followed along and shown interest. You have been very encouraging to me.

To the right you can see the book cover for The Runaway Pastor. I think it came out well. We looked at several proposals, and this one won the day with the publisher and me. Hope you like it.

More soon. Remember to direct your friends here as you are able. From the looks of my web traffic, more people have read the first seven chapters in the past two weeks than in any month previous! Word is getting out--thanks to you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Runaway Pastor: The "Autobiography Question"

As we get nearer the publication date of The Runaway Pastor, I continue to receive many questions about the book and it's topic. I'm excited about the interest, and grateful for the curiosity. Almost every day a new reader writes to me and expresses excitement about the book.

There are two primary issues that are faced in this book, and they both regard vows taken by Trent Atkins: Vows to marriage and vows to ministry. Will Trent and Natalie's marriage be saved? Will Trent's ministry be restored? In The Runaway Pastor, we see him run from these vows, then make choices regarding both of them. These are the issues I hope readers will deal with. My publisher plans an online study guide to lead reader groups through them. Both issues matter in our times.

Many still ask how much of The Runaway Pastor is autobiographical. My best answer is: None, and much of it. None, because I am not Trent Atkins. I've never run across the country or hidden from my wife or a congregation I pastored. Natalie Atkins is not my wife. My wife and I are still happily tucked into our early 1800's log cabin in the hills of Brown County, Indiana.

Much of this book is written however, because I have felt many of the things that Trent experienced before his run. I would definitely say I am not cut out for modern ministry. I love to shepherd, teach and care for a community. But I am not a CEO, CFO or savvy administrator. I have much passion for connecting unconnected people to Jesus; but I have zero passion to grow a mega-church.

And, I have met many Trents. Throughout my ministry other pastors have shared with me their thoughts of quitting, and I remember one particular conversation with a church leader who spoke to me of his earlier years when he would dream of "getting into my car and driving as far as [my] savings would allow." According to several authorities, hundreds (many cite about 1,500) pastors in North America leave the ministry (before retirement) for the last time each month.

That is my best shot at an answer to the questions about autobiography. It will be interesting to see how people respond to the completion of The Runaway Pastor. I have people cheering for a yes on one of the vows and a no on another. Others wanting both outcomes to be yes, and others wanting Trent to just stay tucked away in Southern California, working with his crew and settling with Kim.

Monday, August 31, 2009


I know that official designations have summer lasting another three weeks. But in my simple way of looking at the world, today--being August 31--is the last day of summer. I hiked with a friend at sunrise, which is coming later and later. I used the heater on my Jeep (on full blast) as I drove through the 50 degree morning on my way to the park. I noticed some ridge-top dogwood trees blushing their first maroon colors of the year. The earth is speaking of change, of a season fading and another dawning.

I love change. I often say that I spell change F-U-N. And in my life, many seasons have come and gone. Welcoming children into our home; then watching them take wings and fly. Moving into a brand new work; and then moving on with tears and anticipation of the next. Pursuing one thing with all of my heart; only to find later, perhaps it was worthy of a lesser portion.

Fall is a time of beautiful surrender. Leaves lose their lively green, then let loose and twirl down, after their dying makes them lovelier than ever. The sun fades. The warmth flees into cooler days and longer nights, and my daylight hiking hours become fewer and fewer...but more and more comfortable and indescribably beautiful.

According to scripture, we fade in the same way. We spring up with vigor and life, then fall away under the heat of the sun. And at times my life feels like a wrestling match of struggle with what strength remains within me to stay faithful, God-filled to the end of my days. I long for my life here to leave a legacy, and to fall gently down in a blaze of beauty.

And I invite you to join me in allowing seasonal changes to give you motivation for staying true. Express God-beauty as your season in life dictates. And when the time comes for falling to the earth, perhaps someone somewhere will remember you and where you were in the forest of lives. Maybe they'll walk past your old branch and twig and say: "Right up there is the place where I saw the beauty of my maker."

May it be so.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book Covers and that that

It has been fun looking at bookcover designs for Runaway. Funny how I have such strong ideas about fonts, the feel of pictures, etc.

Also, in doing another run through the editing, I noticed a place where I had meant to write "something like that." And instead I wrote "something that that." I've heard you'll never find all the typos, but thanks to several of you before, and a current reader (C.D.), I think we are bringing this home very well.

Peace to you. Thanks for the kind emails, comments and facebook notes! This is starting to feel real.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Runaway Pastor--A New Novel Is Almost Here

I wrote The Runaway Pastor nearly two years ago. It was a quick and passionate story that came from the deepest part of my soul. I had known the pain of depression, and had spoken with many pastors who were suffering from anxiety and a pervasive gloomy sadness.

As I mentioned earlier, each twist and turn in the plot was a surprise to me. I did not write the book with a pre-planned story in mind. Rather, I sort of felt my way through, and like you I was surprised when characters did what they did.

This book was written as therapy. I had no plans to share it, or to seek its publication. As family members read bits and pieces, I gained the confidence to invite others into the story. Now there have been several hundred people to go to the first seven chapters, and many of you have communicated with me your desire to read more. Well, I guess that time is at hand.

I have hesitations about making the entire book public. But I will because it is my hope that pastors everywhere will be understood in a better way. True, Trent is not every pastor. But it is also true that he represents dozens of senior pastors who have opened up to me before I wrote this book, and many more who have communicated since. So I write for the love of pastors.

I also write out of love for Christ's Church. I know it doesn't seem that way as the pages of the story unfold. But I believe "the person and presence of Jesus" is still a needed reality. I am sad to say that too often that needed reality gets lost in the modern business model adopted many church organizations. And so with this work I seek to challenge the church as we too often see it.

Well, we are moving closer to publication, and I hope you are looking forward to getting hold of a copy as much as so many who are writing me. As the days move ahead, I intend to post a group study built around The Runaway Pastor. Follow along!

Grace and peace to you.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Updates and Fun Days

Hey everyone. I had a great time hiking with some friends last week. I hope to post some pics on facebook soon. Meanwhile, if you go to my profile you will see an album posted by Eric and Joy (fellow hikers). You can read my first impressions of our hike at .

I am making a run through of The Runaway Pastor for errors, and any of you who find typo's or other errors in the chapters I've had up, you are invited to point them out. Soon the final draft will be uploaded, and the publishing process will be underway.

I look forward to changing the format of this blog a bit in order to help get the word out about The Runaway Pastor. There will be a few initial book signings, and various events to market the book. If you would like to have a book signing in your area, I will be sure to make every effort to see it happen. This is all new to me.

I have very few extra hours in my months, and so I'll be finding my way along in this new venture. I know this has been obvious with my absence from here lately. Sorry. I'll get it figured out.

Peace to you!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

This Is It! Runaway Pastor to be published.

I spoke with my agent yesterday, and finally I have some news to give you. If things stay on course, you should be able to order The Runaway Pastor from Amazon or at your local bookstore within the next two months! I can't tell you how glad I am to finally be at this point!

So now I ask you to begin letting people know about this now. Remind them that the first seven chapters are available here, and soon the wait for a hard copy will be over.

I feel this is one of the most important steps I've taken in my life. Perhaps the most important work of ministry. I hope you will agree after you read The Runaway Pastor.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Need of Our Soul

In this week's scriptures, we find people following Jesus in hopes of another free meal (along with the sideshow of the amazing multiplication of fish and bread). Who can blame them? The next meal for these people was often a mystery, represented a lot of work, and cost them greatly. So a hand-out of local staples which didn't require catching fish or baking bread was a welcome reprieve from the standard way of doing life.

In the Old Testament, we find David hoping his armies will take it easy on his son Absalom. When they don't and his son is killed (in the process of trying to overthrow and murder his father) David weeps and grieves the loss. In the Psalm, David cries-out to God, and receives what he needs.

We are an amazing array of need. We wake with the need of companionship and food. So we fine tune the signal coming through a cable or the air, and welcome voices and faces into our room to keep us company. They tell us about our world and weather, then tell us of our needs for deoderant, pills to make us manly and insurance to keep our stuff. The remind us our car is a clunker, we have the wardrobe of a loser, and that a lawyer could help us to sue our neighbor.

And then we go out into our day, full of needs, working hard to be able to purchase all of these things that will fill us and fulfill us.

Isaiah spoke of buying bread that would not fill. Jeremiah tells us of a living well that never runs dry, but that we prefer to dig our own sisterns that won't even hold water. Jesus says He is the bread of life. And we go out looking for something more extreme than God-friendship.

How are you fulfilling your needs?

Peace to you.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reminder: FREE chapters of The Runaway Pastor

I had a great conversation with an old friend this morning. We hadn't spoken in a while, and she was surprised to know that I had written a book, and have another on the way. I told her about this site, and the free chapters available here from The Runaway Pastor. I mentioned to her that just about every day someone new goes to the link to read the initial chapters of the book. A few hundred people, groups and families have done so thus far.

Well, I want to do a little self promotion here, and ask you to let someone know about the link for these free chapters today. If you know of someone that might relate to The Runaway Pastor, send them the link to this blog or to the first seven chapters of The Runaway Pastor.

Soon I hope to be announcing the publishing of the book, and I'm not sure if these free pages will have to be taken down, or if I may even be able to add more.

Either way I'm excited to take those next steps, and I'd like to have a feel for how many people out there are waiting to get a copy of the published product. It helps if those interested let me know. Many have, but there are downloads happenning in most states and several countries. If you are one of those that have not communicated with me, hop on as a follower, or send me an email. I'd love to hear your comments.

And once again, I want to thank you for taking a look into the lives of many discouraged people who are pastors. Remind your pastor that you appreciate them, and try and stay attuned to the struggles they face that might make them want to run away. The book paints the picture which so many pastors have shared with me over time.

Grace and peace to you and to all who go by the name "Pastor."

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Well it has been a while since I've added anything to the novel. I did do a bit of writing last week, with some very interesting implications for the overall story, but I haven't moved it into the computer. (I wrote it by hand.) The new writing will be placed within the first nine, already completed chapters. So, the new writing is not a new chapter, but fills in some blanks for the overall story. It also adds a new wrinkle to the plot. I'm hoping you will enjoy it.

Also, I am trying to read the entire manuscript again, including old stuff which you haven't seen yet...unless you are my friend that typed my 7 year old sloppy notes. Once I'm able to do that, I feel I'll be able to move into new territory again. When I wrote The Runaway Pastor, I did it over the course of a few weeks, and the story flowed out of my mind, and into the word processor. But BREAKERS is an eight or nine year old work in progress, and I don't want for it to feel inorganic or disconnected. Thus, the delay.

This summer has been very busy. If you don't know me, I'm fortunate to have a full time job that keeps me more than full time busy. So this writing has to either be an overflow from my work, or written when I can justify an hour away from work. It will come along.

I should hear soon about the next stage of The Runaway Pastor. It is possible that I will need to put quite a lot of time here at the blog in advertising that book. If so, and if you have been a follower of that book, I'd appreciate you helping me get the word out when that time comes. It will be exciting, and advertising budgets could be limited. Your help will be treasured.

Here's to a great week ahead.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lazy Fascinations: 2

So, I was preparing for this weekend and the story of David and Bathsheba. As trained, I "go looking for trouble" in the story. Before even looking at the text I knew where it would be. The "hint of trouble" would be when he sees her, the "trouble" comes when she gets pregnant--or something like that. Right?

And so the section begins like this: "In the springtime, when kings go to war, David sent Joab..." I'm floored. The trouble begins at the very beginning of the story. David the mighty warrior. David the famous winner of battles, stays in the palace and watches a neighbor woman bathing from his privileged high-up window view. Lazy fascination.

How often do we get in trouble when we aren't focused on the right thing?

Following the "lazy" theme is like following the trail of all temptations. Look into the scene with me, but please cover your eyes at the appropriate times.

--David could have said to himself, "Whoa, I shouldn't have seen that. Beautiful stuff Lord, but NOT mine!" Instead, he asked about her and sent for her.

--When she arrives, he still could have changed his mind. But that would be the difficult thing. And when we have hopped into the lazy river of bowing to temptations, difficulty just doesn't seem right.

--After he finds out that she is pregnant, the hard thing would have been to call a meeting, confess his failures, and resign. The lazy thing was to try and make this look like Bathsheba and Uriah's baby; and Uriah was off to war, where David had sent him. So David does all sorts of manipulative work to bring him back and and get him in bed with his own wife. And Uriah refuses on very noble and non-lazy grounds. Even after David goes to the extent of getting Uriah drunk, Uriah refuses pleasure when the army of Israel is camping outdoors on the field of battle.

(By now this laziness of David's has gotten to be really tough work. And that's the way of laziness and temptation and wrongdoing. Laziness may not be hot pavement burning the soles of your feet, but it is rough pavement on a steep path. And changing direction would force the lazy one to fall and skin their knees, drop their web of lies, and confess their selfish pride.)

--And so now, David decides to have Uriah murdered, in a not so obvious way. And it works.

(Side note: It really bothers me that David is our hero--that David is known as a man after God's heart and the beloved of God. And that Uriah is basically not known. And that Bathsheba is considered some sort of exotic nude pin-up girl that sleezed her way into the palace, and into the linage of the Messiah--I believe. But, that's not the point, this time.)

While on the topic of lazy fascinations, I just had to give this example of huge failure. We need to be reminded that some selfless, tough work could have spared everyone some great agony. But David, who once was full of faith and full of zeal to do the heroic, became lazy and then fascinated with what was not his.

Beware of lazy fascinations. Beware of the lazy river of failure that keeps you in its warm, comfy waters. It does not lead along the narrow way.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lazy Fascinations

"I'm bored." My children were not allowed to say those words while they were growing up. Really. A human brain can always find fascination in something!

Yet, lately I've been thinking about what it is that fascinates us. Do you listen to the news? Do you watch movies? Do you have a favorite TV show? When story telling, every story teller knows that people are hooked when trouble shows up. There is no story without trouble.

Just ask the news people. We wonder why they only report bad news? It is because we would think the alternative boring. Why do many great movies come with warnings about violence, sex, swearing, etc? Isn't it because these things take us out of our "bored" state. They force some excitement, discomfort or fear upon us, and by doing so, we feel somehow awakened. But are we?

Do we suffer from lazy fascination? Do we ignore the glory around us, and wait for someone or some media to present something shocking, in order to entertain us? Could it be that we are bored with the world as we know it, and rather than act to love it into something better, we prefer to lay back and bask in the evil it has to offer?

Simon Weil has said:
Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring.
Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.

What was the last movie you watched? Would your life be better if you were the main character? What was the last news clip you saw? Would your life be better if you and your family had been on the video clip?

I'm just thinking about our lazy fascinations...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer Eden

I wish you could see the view from my dining room window. Stout maples and oaks fall away down the hillside with greens of every shade reflecting sunlight, or resting in the shadows. A breeze teases branches into playing peek-a-boo with those beneath them.

It is just after noon, and the sun is nearly above us, yet only about ten or fifteen percent of the lawn is sunlit. We live in a forest, and it requires effort to hold it at bay.

But where we have resisted its advance, tall fountain grass plants stand like sentinels around an inactive fire pit. A wooden bench and a couple of iron chairs wait together for cool fall days, the dancing flames, smiling faces and singing guitars. Flowers splash varying colors and shades surround tomato, zucchini and cucumber vines; each one in its own turn preparing to offer its produce. And the herb garden breathes its fragrance across our porch and spices our dishes with delight.

When first looking out this morning of my day-off, the sun was only beginning its work. Many flowers remained tucked-in from the night; while a host of beetles were threatening roses, hydrangea and a butterfly bush. The lawn was not mowed and the weeds weren't pulled. There were battles to fight and chores to do. And now the fruit of that labor is sweet.

Much is to be done before Fall. Much to be enjoyed when it arrives.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Promise of Worth

He turned away. The sight was too much for him. A sob erupted as his mind displayed the image. He fought it--and subdued the flood.

It was only a plastic ringlet. Not large enough to fit a child's finger; you would sweep it up with so much dust if it were on the floor. But it wasn't on the floor. Its placement against the tender skin of her back, near her shoulder--the juxtaposition of such innocence and such paste caught him off-guard. Did she believe that this meaningless circle of plastic could enhance her beauty?

Was this his doing? Had he believed that lace and frill could add beauty to one so priceless--to this one so dear?

Garnering the courage required by his questions, he looked-up once more. It was still there. His eyes studied the lace it joined from above and beneath. Surely there was no intrinsic need for the cheap accoutrement.

And then, as if the lens of a camera adjusted its focus from the foreground to some distant vista, he lost sight of the garment, and saw its wearer. The seeing brought some recognition. He somehow comprehended the vast dignity of this person...this soul.

He wondered how any one person could ever expect to possess her? How any mere mortal could be so arrogant as to try? He marveled at the priceless treasure before him.

The music passed like a cooling breeze on a hot summer day. She lifted her arms once, as if to catch it, or send a bit of the sound back to its source. She tried to listen to the words of a man telling her the thing she already knew--she is not quite good enough. But, if she'll repeat some words after him, she'll be OK. Though she had tried the words before, she whispers them again. Her voice is aimed away from the boy she's with. The boy is looking at the plastic ring, and thinking of how she can be used to answer his prayers.

And as they stand to leave, she feels the boy's hand on her shoulder. The man behind them cannot see the plastic ring. The boy's wrist is hiding it.

The boy feels flesh.

The girl feels loved.

The man feels another sob ready to shake him to his core.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wheel Chairs and Walkers

We just finished our monthly Senior's lunch at church. (I guess this is where we get the reputation for being "do-gooders.") Wow, we have a good time.

We begin at the local nursing home, gathering those who want to join us. They are loaded in our van, and several wheel chairs are placed in the back of another truck for the journey. Once here, we reverse the order and unload our friends.

Food is prepared and shared with several of our own and several from the home. There is laughter and much conversation, at least until the eating starts. It gets pretty quiet and serious at that point. Then during dessert, lots of smiles return and friendships are bonded.

As the gang lines up in their chairs or with their walkers, fond farewells are exchanged along with jokes about the need for strong supports under the highway bridge on the return trip. (We do put away a lot of food.)

Today there were college aged guys joining the seniors. We hosted church attenders, but mostly those who don't. And at the end--I had gotten to know a Korean War vet, a shawl-wearing woman finally has a name and I learned something new about an old friend.

When Jesus sent out his disciples to do his work, he told them to take nothing for the journey. Maybe we pack too much when we go to tell our good news? Maybe all we really need to to give away the stuff inside of us--which is leftover from our time spent with him?

I'm not sure. I only know there is a lot of joy in unpacking and repacking wheelchairs and walkers, especially when those using them come equipped with a silent strength of their own.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wet Jeep. Life is Good.

I left the Jeep outside last night with the top down. It began to rain this morning, and I ran out to find that it had done so during the night. So, I splashed as much of the puddle out of my seat as possible, hopped in and drove the moving pool into the carport.

The reason it wasn't inside in the first place? It's a tight fit right now. We have some construction materials in there, because we are building a screened-in porch onto our house.

When I pulled into the narrow spot under roof, I knocked a ladder over and into the side of our other car...removing some paint. Then I ran over a plastic corner of our weed eater. No real damage there, however.

So anyway, I put a couple of towels on the seat and drove to the office. Not supposed to rain any more.

It did. So, standing in the rain, putting the top up, and splashing puddles off of the seats; I got very wet. Fortunately, earlier this morning, I had found a towel I'd left behind the platform after our May baptism service.

So, right now I'm sitting in my office with a nice towel around my wet shirt and back, smiling and thinking what good problems these are to have.

Later this week, I'll be out buzzing around with the top down on my jeep, letting the last of this rain dry into the summer sky. I'll be smiling because any trip in the Jeep with the top down is a vacation--even if I'm on my way to work.

And someday, I won't even remember the gash in my car door (who cares anyway?), or the crease in the weed-eater, or the chills I feel from the cold damp on my shoulders. But I'll be able to sit in the rain, under the roof of my screened-in porch, and enjoy a summer shower.

That's about as close to calming a storm as I'll ever get.

One of my friends always says: "David, we aren't in a fifty yard dash. Life is a marathon." Today is a beautiful summer reminder--an intimate encounter with nature--telling me that life is good...just as it says on the tire cover on the back of my Jeep.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Whirlwind Week: A note about both novels

The past week has been a blur. I'm sorry I've been absent from here. When I've had a moment, I've had to put my creativity elsewhere.

However, I've had some good feedback from Mark Gilroy (my agent) regarding publisher responses to The Runaway Pastor. Still no contract. Some publishing houses still reading it. A cool rejection though! Sorry, can't explain that comment, but sometimes we might be defined by those who don't like our slant. And this one was OK with me.

Also, I continue to believe that some news regarding the publishing of The Runaway Pastor will be coming here very soon. Stay tuned.

Another cool development today. A well known personality who contacted me recently hoping for good news regarding Runaway's. They have committed to endorsing the book and writing some stuff for the back or front cover when it is published.

One more thing, a friend in the business gave me some awesome (and gratis!) advice on BREAKERS. I am so grateful, and hope to begin doing some more work on it before long. Don't be surprised if there is some additional material included in already posted chapters.

Finally, I am a pastor. The busy-ness this week has been intense yet gratifying. I do love the people I work with and those of our community. Tomorrow I will help with a funeral service. Two little girls and their mommy are grieving a daddy and husband and community hero who died too young. I pray for the grace of Christ to bring strength and healing to their broken hearts. I would appreciate you doing the same.


Thursday, June 25, 2009


Thanks for your interest in BREAKERS. I enjoyed getting back to it, and mixing some old writing that used to be in the first couple of chapters (in my original beginning several years ago), with some new stuff.

The skaters/surfers are completely new additions in this edition, and I kind of like them. I think they give us a new way to look at Cam. I really don't know how involved they will be in the ongoing of the book, but since their personalities are in my brain now, they could show up at any time.

I've also redone the scene here with the jeweler and his wife. This used to take place at the time when Kenna first took the ring to Mr. Schultz...making Cam and Kenna's first date at Breakers--the ocean side restaurant--a much different kind of thing. Again, I like seeing the changes and the developments as they are happening.

One more time. As the few of you who know me understand, I have a more than full-time job, and so opportunities to work on this project are rare. Usually they happen late at night when I am really tired; thus I am forced to make many editions and changes the next day or week or whenever another crack of time appears. Thanks for your patience and thanks for your continued interest and kind words. They encourage me.

Well, here is BREAKERS Chapter Nine. Enjoy, tell a friend about BREAKERS if you are enjoying it, and as always please give me your feedback. You can help decide the direction of this book, because I don't know what the ending will look like. However, I do have a master plan idea for an interface between the world of BREAKERS and that of The Runaway Pastor in a future book! (You read it here first.)

Oh, you haven't read chapters 1-8 of BREAKERS? Here they are!

BREAKERS Chapter Nine is on the way!

I wanted to put this out here in case you stop by looking for another chapter of BREAKERS. I am putting the final touches on chapter nine, and I think you'll really like it. It's getting intense. I was laughing one minute and sitting shocked the next minute as I wrote. (Right, I have no idea what's coming in my stories much of the time. It's more fun to let the characters do what the characters do.)

So remind your friends to read and be caught-up on BREAKERS' first eight chapters. And tonight, or at the latest Friday morning, I'll have the next chapter up here. I think you'll like it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Giants and Storms and Overcomers

The storm rises on the sea's horizon. Guts tighten and hearts quicken, but for one-- who finds a cushion and takes a nap as the waves rise and toss the ship.

A giant steps to the front line of battle and his harassment echoes across the psyche's of his enemies. Fear grips all. They neglect offers of wealth and fame in favor of staying safe on their own side of the valley, but for one--who finds it unthinkable to fear such a certain loser.

The one from Bethlehem is aroused by the frightened ones. He stands and speaks to the roaring winds. And immediately there is peace.

The young one from Bethlehem is aroused by the fear in the frightened ones, and the blasphemy on the lips of the giant. He strides forth armed with only a shepherd's sling and fires a single river stone into the giant's forehead and the enemies' hearts. And immediately there is victory.

If the odds remain the same today, you and I live amongst and are examples of those who cower. But the one who calls us invites us to have hearts of valor and confidence in the God we serve. We are designed to overcome.

We are called to slay storms and silence giants all around us.

Peace be with you, as you speak to the winds.