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.