Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Breakers and Breaks

Over the last few weeks I've re-entered and posted a chapter of my novel Breakers once per week. I'm sorry that Monday has come and gone with no new chapter.

I do hope to be able to tackle this again soon, however, with Easter fast approaching, everything is in overdrive. Please hang in with me, and I'll post some thoughts of the day until I get a significant break. Usually I write on my day off, but I didn't have one last week, and yesterday when I took a half day, it seemed more appropriate to hike 12 miles than to write. (I just read that sentence again, and fully agree with me!)

Thanks for your kind notes and presence here. FYI. I haven't posted anything new of The Runaway Pastor since last fall, yet in the past 30 days, 20 people from 4 different countries have downloaded the first seven chapters. This is to say that interest in that book continues to grow, and that is why I began this blog in the first place. Please let any reading friends, or friends interested in the state of the church know about Runaway.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Touch and the Art of Being Real

As we've been tossing about the concepts of "connecting" and "human touch" this week, another way of touching has emerged in my thinking. How is it that I touch, most often anyway? I mean, I am a lover. I love people...deeply. (Just can't help it! I think it has something to do with my Programmer:-).) And as I think of ways we touch one another, words come to mind. Yes, speech is another, and possibly most powerful means of impact.

I'm encouraged that this focus on physical touch has gotten so much attention here. But now, let me try and communicate about words as touch.

Usually when we speak with one another, we by necessity keep a certain spiritual distance. Our bodies or their sound-waves are in proximity, but we keep our souls (Greek--"Psuche"--English "psyche.") back at a comfortable distance. It takes a special boldness, not to mention time, to enter into soul-level conversations. But it seems to me that only in such conversations--where honesty reigns--is love able to happen. And truly, only in such conversations can soul (psychological) damage or repair be done. This is because it takes honesty to touch.

(I'd like to take time to relate the involvement of "spirit" here, perhaps later.)

We can do the "How are you?" -- "I'm fine!" conversations all day long, and never touch a soul. We can speak of weather or sports and never hurt or encourage a soul. For there is no need to reach with one soul to another in such conversations. And sadly, we too often become trained to live and converse on a banal level of "cliche."

But enter the arena of honesty--conversations where we tell a friend they have offended us, or have a character issue we believe needs confrontation--and you know there will be contact. And great hurt or great healing is possible. Because souls are super sensitive. They feel pain with the slightest "touch," and ecstasy as well. And change, or healing in this case, can only happen through such touch. How often do we risk such intimate interface?

And when we look in one-another's eyes and say a genuine "I love you"--and we mean it--and the hearer hears it, then we touch. Like a mother's gentle fingers brushing a child's back, comfort tingles it's way into some deep place, and CONTACT is made. Touch has happened. As a favorite author of mine says, a "psyche is stroked." (See Susan Howatch Anglican Series.)

Be real. Prayerfully make your words healing touches. And risk impacting the reality of another mortal's immortality.

Grace and peace to you.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

At Home--Away from Home

There have not been many times in my life that I did what I did just a few hours ago. It took raw courage, or it took confidence in a friendship.

Tomorrow is my weekly day-off. On Fridays I typically spend my time away from the phone, avoid work emails, and enjoy life with my family. This afternoon I received word that a very important person in my life (and in my congregation's) was having open heart surgery tomorrow. It was scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

And then, this evening after my hike, I was informed that things will begin in the morning at 6 AM...an hour and a half away. And that is when I did what requires either raw courage, or just good friends. I called one of several couples that would have welcomed me in there home tonight; this couple lives 5 minutes from the hospital I'll visit tomorrow. I said, "Hey, could I crash at your place tonight?"

Twenty seconds later, I ended the call and packed my toiletries and a book bag. Twenty minutes later, I was driving north.

This week, for some reason I've been writing of intimacy, touching and connecting. Tonight I'm staying with friends that I could call in the middle of the night and they'd let me in with a "welcome." Last night, a dear friend "crashed" at our place on his way south to do some business. No warning needed. He's one of us.

If you are younger, I'd recommend you build up an account of dear friends. Friends you trust and love, and that you'd do anything for--and visa-versa. What greater treasure could there be?

Tomorrow night, my wife and I have a couple coming for the weekend. They too fit this description.

Connect away! And peace to you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Importance of Human Touch

I continue to meditate on the words I posted regarding Connection in my recent post of that title. You might want to read that along with this one.

I had a pastor friend named Howard many years ago. He once told a group of us that he wanted to buy his newspaper from a girl at the check-out lane. (Mostly women worked the check-out lanes at our local grocery.) We asked him why? He said, I started buying my paper from the metal box on the street. Then one day I was in near the store and went in for my paper. When I gave the woman a dollar, she returned the change and her fingers touched my palm. I knew I'd never buy a paper from the metal box again."

Now Howard was a happily married man. There was absolutely zero sexual overtone in what he said to us that day. He was introducing a devotional thought about how Jesus' touch was so key to his healing ministry.

Today, medical doctors speak of the same. That human touch is healing...vitally so. Babies must have human touch to thrive. Children find human touch natural--hugging, holding your hand, climbing into your lap and kissing a loved-one's cheek. Teens however, are forced to drop this habit in our society. (I wonder if we were more intimate in our non-sexual world, would there be less unhealthy sexual craving?) One of the articles below speaks of this.

I was told when entering the ministry that I should never hug a person in church. I break the rule with regularity. I know there are those uncomfortable with hugs, but there are others who know how to hug in a caring/non-sexual way. And this touch is so healing. There is an 87 year old saint in our congregation who won't let a Sunday pass without hugging me, and telling me she prays for me. She says she needs the hug.

Henri Nouwen speaks of a young mentally handicapped girl who asked for a blessing during one of his workshops. He gave her a canned sign of the cross, and said a quick blessing. She said, "No, I want a real blessing." He was moved to wrap her in the folds of his outer priestly robe and tell her how wonderful she was, how important to God and himself. Then he observed her spiritual radiance and renewed strength.

Now here is a disclaimer. I do not know the authors of the articles listed below, nor their affiliations. However, they seem to do a nice job of expressing the need for human touch. They seem to emphasize strong ethical/moral borders when it comes to touching. But they do suggest the vital need we humans have to be touched.

This link is to an article about the importance of touch for healing of our children. It also addresses briefly the taboos that are involved come adolescence.

Here is a blog post with more information about the necessity of human touch.

Well, I hope I haven't offended anyone. But in a world of cyber-connecting, I felt the need to emphasize the necessity of true connecting.

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. And may he find someone to touch you with his grace.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009


It's Tuesday night. This is the evening that my wife stays up north with my mother, between her Tuesday and Wednesday of work there. This is the night my daughter and her husband cook for me, and we enjoy some time together. And this is the night that, after hugs and good-byes, I am home alone.

After a Sunday of connecting and loving, I must be pretty intentional about down time. I need time to love and be loved by the Author of Love. I need to be recharged. But...

Isn't there just something addicting about connecting? We need human connections. Listen to the words I received in a recent email from an acquaintance:

As I took communion, I prayed, as always, that God's grace would cover the sins in my life. I sat back down, on the aisle, and wished that God could speak to me somehow and let me know he had not given up on me. Then, it happened. A tall, elderly lady in a turquoise dress walked down the aisle after taking communion. As far as I know, I have never seen her, nor she me. We did not make significant, if any, eye contact as she began to pass by me. As she passed me, however, she reached out her hand and laid it on my shoulder for a moment, in a gesture of tenderness and comfort, it seemed to me. I felt it was God's hand using her hand to tell me He is still there, loving me, pursuing me, waiting for me. It's one of those things that sounds so small, maybe, in the retelling, but I left church feeling that God had spoken to me personally, through the touch of that lady's hand.

Beautiful. The person and presence of Jesus offered through the touch of one of his own...who was sensitive enough to understand who needed Love's touch.

I can't get Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel's painting out of my mind right now...God's finger reaching and Adam's reaching and....CONTACT. I think I'll drop by facebook to see if there are any messages for me...

Where can you offer connection?

Monday, March 23, 2009

BREAKERS: Chapters One through Three

Hope you had a great weekend. I had a chance on Friday (my day off) to do the third chapter. This has really been fun for me. Like I said earlier, this book crashed with a hard drive several years ago, and I had only printed out a bit of it. I began writing it about 8 or so years back. So Cam and Kenna are like old friends, and they struggle with stuff that interests me. I've always hoped for a chance to get back to Breakers. Thanks for encouraging me along the way. I'm grateful.

You can click here to go and read the first three chapters of the book.

Again, your comments both spoken and written are appreciated. I welcome any suggestions, editing or ideas for the book. Just send them to me here or on my email, which is listed along the side bar to the right. Example, I'm not married to the title of the book. Maybe you would like to suggest another? Have at it.

I'll look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for reading. And if you like it, tell your friends please!

Peace to you.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Beatles/A Hymn/and A Sunday Morning Pastor

Before reading, please sing the Beatle's Eleanor Rigby. Done? Make sure the chorus is playing in your head... All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong? Ahhh, look at all the lonely people...(repeat last phrase.) So, are you with me now?

On Sunday mornings, I awake thinking of the day ahead. I rise earlier than most any morning of the week and go downstairs to my chair. I pray. I seek strength. I rehearse my sermon for the morning--sifting it through my spirit and hopefully a Greater One. And I feel alone.

Around the area where I live I know there are people, preparing to rendezvous with me at the "meeting place." (I always like that Quaker title better than "church.") I begin seeing their faces. There are parents who are hurting for sick or rebellious children. Elderly who are wondering if they can make it again ("Just hanging in there," I'll hear one say in another few hours). There are some couples struggling to stay faithful--or who have no idea their spouse is. There are teenagers doing life as if it feels like walking through deep oncoming water--or motor oil. There are single people wishing they were loved. There are people awaiting a diagnosis...cancer? There are children who will run to me for a hug. (God bless the children.)

And somehow in the strange way we do church, I will be a key to providing hope and healing to all of these.

I pray for the strength--the faith to perform.

I weep here alone in my chair, before anyone else gets up.

And I go to facebook hoping for a friend. One pastor after another has already been there, or drops-by while I am. Some mention sermon topics, others psych themselves up with a positive statement. And none of us comment on the others, or speak using the chat feature. We post no notes to each other. What can we say? We are storming the beaches today, and once again, we wonder if we'll survive.

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from ?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong ?

Father mckenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near.
Look at him working. darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there
What does he care?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Eleanor rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father mckenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?


And there is another text, this one by Edwin Hatch:
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love,
and do what thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until with thee I will one will,
to do and to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
till I am wholly thine,
till all this earthly part of me
glows with thy fire divine.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Chapter 3 of BREAKERS is Coming!

I have chapter three of Breakers in the bag, and plan to post it next Monday--March 23. I wanted to let you know if you checked back in.

I'm not sure how far I'll be going with this. The Runaway Pastor takes some powerful twists and turns after the first chapters, and I've been hesitant to post more than the first seven chapters of it. I don't want to give up too much of a book we are trying to market. But Breakers is a different thing. I probably have an estimated 16 chapters printed on this one, and as I remember, nothing too much is "given away" at the end of them. So I may just go for a while. Or maybe a publisher will jump in and say, "Wow, that's a best-seller in the making! Let's buy it!" Well, if that happens, all of you "comment and encourage" people won't be forgotten:-).

Hey, speaking of publishing, I want to put in a mercenary line or two here. A blog of this sort is a free way for me to have people read what I've written. And a few hundred different people from all over the country and around the world have shown interest in The Runaway Pastor already. That is gratifying, and has happened largely through word of mouth advertising by people like you. Thanks. And, if you like what you read here, please pass the word along. Tell friends, copy and paste the URL to people you think might like this theme.

If you haven't guessed, there is a thorny issue (at least one) in the plot of Breakers. A Christian minister guy is getting somewhat interested in an irreligious girl. This story is allowing me to explore questions of the walls which separate us...especially those that Christians seem to erect that Jesus didn't.

I've spent my life crossing borders of suspicion, culture and class. I've never met a person in which I don't see the stamp of the image of God. I believe deeply in all people--that each of us are potential representatives of the love of God. Breakers is giving me the chance to work out this idea.

By the way, this book probably needs a title besides this working one. Got an idea? Maybe after you read a bit further you will? I've also thought about "Worlds Apart." That feels a bit clumsy though.

Keep your eyes out here next Monday for chapter 3 of Breakers. And have a few friends look in as well.

Peace to you.

BREAKERS: Chapters 1, 2 and 3

Hope you had a great weekend. I had a chance on Friday (my day off) to do the third chapter. This has really been fun for me. Like I said earlier, this book crashed with a hard drive several years ago, and I had only printed out a bit of it. I began writing it about 8 or so years back. So Cam and Kenna are like old friends, and they struggle with stuff that interests me. I've always hoped for a chance to get back to Breakers. Thanks for encouraging me along the way. I'm grateful.

You can click here to go and read the first three chapters of the book.

Again, your comments both spoken and written are appreciated. I welcome any suggestions, editing or ideas for the book. Just send them to me here or on my email, which is listed along the side bar to the right. Example, I'm not married to the title of the book. Maybe you would like to suggest another? Have at it.

I'll look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for reading. And if you like it, tell your friends please!

Peace to you.


Monday, March 16, 2009

BREAKERS: Chapters 1 and 2 and I think the link works!!!

Well, thanks for your interest. I can't believe how many people have already downloaded the first chapter. Last night, after an incredible day (Worship, performing a wedding for a girl I met the day she was born over 21 years ago, and attending two birthday parties) I had a chance to type in most of the next chapter. I finished chapter two early this morning.

Here are the first two chapters of my first experimentation with a novel--which has been buried for seven or eight years. I call it Breakers.

Grace and peace.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

BREAKERS: Chapter One

Well, this is bold. Only because we are in "wait mode" for The Runaway Pastor to be marketed, do I introduce a book I've started, lost much of (due to a hard-drive crash) and put away for years.

Breakers is the first book I wrote. I hope I've gotten better since I wrote this--and yes, I've edited a bit as I've typed it back into the laptop. I do love the people of the story. They are kind of like friends I met seven or eight years ago, and always wondered how their story ended. Maybe you can help me decide.

I'm certain there will be multiple/many/a lot of editing errors. But here you go. It's a short chapter, but it is a start. And after posting, I'm heading for a night away with Shelly.

BREAKERS is here----

If you like it, spread the word! You may need another chapter though.

Peace to you!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

C.S. Lewis Poem: As the Ruin Falls

As the Ruin Falls

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love --a scholar's parrot may talk Greek--
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.

C.S. Lewis

Wow! Now that is poetry about the true human condition. Phil Keaggy recorded this to a hauntingly beautiful tune, and I learned it by heart as a result of the music when I was a teenager or college student. Good theology.

Grace and peace to you. I hope to post the first chapter of a new novel (Breakers) here within the next few days!

Monday, March 9, 2009

An Important Question for Readers of this Blog: Another Book Start?

Thanks to all of you who check in here. It is fun to follow my analytics program, and see the daily traffic from around the country, and even around the globe.

I can't help noticing though, that since I've quit posting new sections of my book, the traffic has slowed somewhat. And it was fun back in the days last fall when I would add a chapter of The Runaway Pastor each week. Well, I have a new idea.

While my agent is out marketing the The Runaway Pastor, would you like another story?

Several years ago, I started a novel. Each year between Christmas and New Years, I'd take the time to write, just for fun. Those who saw it, were compelled by the story and the unusual plot. I called it Breakers.

Well, anyway. I'll ask any of you who show up here. Would you be interested in me posting the first chapters of another novel? (A crashed hard drive lost most of the book, but I had printed a hard copy of the initial chapters.) Are you interested? It might even spur me to finish that one. I really did like it, the story is the favorite I've ever thought up! Let me know...


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Scrapping Religion; Bringing Hope

I used to see self-denial as a bummer. A cruddy way to do life, but necessary none the less if I wanted to "make it" to heaven. Today, while the "way of the cross" is sometimes tough and requires sacrifice and discipline, I often find myself wanting to laugh my way toward Jerusalem.

For me, "self-denial" has always meant guilt about any personal gain or joy; it has looked like side-stepping pleasures and sins so that Icould end up in Heaven. Here is what that formula looks like:
The "cross way" of living=misery and self-denial now, in order to know pleasure someday.
(Just how far is that from the suicide-bomber's promise of virgins in paradise? And in our culture, which view of paradise wins?)

But for Jesus, the cross was always about liberation for OTHERS. Or:
The "cross way" of living = self denial in order to rescue and offer life to others.
And for Jesus, the Kingdom was present now, and later it would be an eternal blessing. Remember how he taught us to pray: Your (God's) Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

How do these two views of self-denial play themselves in light of his Kingdom? A few examples:
I used to see littering as "bad." Now I long to see God's creation made pure and beautiful as my King wants it...the way God called it "good."

I used to see an "alcoholic" as disgusting; now I see a broken person needing loving rescue.

I used to avoid some movies because they might tempt me to be bad, or warp my sensitivities. Now I watch some darkness to understand the distance we've traveled from God's plan and hopes for us. And when I'm tempted by evil, I tell God, and ask for the strength to bring about God's loving reign with my living.

I usually thought of adultery as tempting, yet bad because it would damn me. Now I see the carnage it brings into the lives of husband and wife, children, and all who know and love them. Adultery is bad for the planet--the cosmos. It deals a blow to the Kingdom of God's love.

Church attendance used to be "have-to" thing in order to keep me preserved for heaven. Now, I recognize that God has designed his loving kingdom to restore all humanity and all creation, and that Kingdom renews creation only as God's people come together and then go to give and serve as "the person and presence of Jesus."

Devotions used to be something I did in order to stay good. Now, my devotion is to be the person and presence of Jesus in order to bring in his reign.

Denying myself now means sacrificing my own dominance, in order to join and facilitate the loving reign of Jesus the healer of all creation. His cross is my joy to carry, and sometimes suffer under. Today, my vision for the future is bigger than my own mansion in "glory." I dream of a world where my grandaughter's generation will know peace, wholeness and healing. Someone else finding their significance in God's present love and real world changing reign is a bigger deal to me.