11. My mom is alive and well, healthy and full of cheerfulness and kindness at 89. We get to see her almost every day, and I can't begin to express how grateful I am for a mother so full of love, encouragement, and warmth. I can't imagine what life would have been like without her. Well ... I wouldn't be here, for one!
12. Of all the people I've ever known, my brother Peter is among those I respect the most. As a kid, he had to put up with a big brother who way too often teased him and way too seldom appreciated him. But now, older, whenever I think of my brother, I am inspired by his great heart, hard work, and solid character ... not to mention his superior golf game.
13. Grace. We'll celebrate 37 years of marriage in a couple months, and I'm really impressed with how two people who are so different (ENTP, INFJ) could make such a great team ... raising amazing kids, helping start a wonderful church, supporting one another in so many projects and adventures, and being good to each other through all life's ups and downs. I couldn't be more grateful for Grace as my partner in life.
14. Rachel: The only thing better than having Rachel as a daughter is seeing her thrive as a mom. I feel like she's not just one of my kids; she's a great friend.
15. Brett: The only thing better than having Brett as a son is seeing him thrive as a dad. And I feel like he's not just one of my kids; he's a great friend.
16. Trevor: As a child, Trevor became known as a cancer survivor. Now, as an adult, he is a phenomenal human being who brings a smile to my face and warmth to my heart whenever I think of him.
17. Jodi: We share so many things ... a love for music, a love for good literature, a love for the outdoors. One of the highlights of my sabbatical was having her invite me to come out west and teach her to fly fish ... something new to have in common.
18. My kids' spouses ... Jesse, Breana, and Owen are as much a part of our family as our biological children, and I am so grateful for each of them.
19. In-Laws: I think of how much my brothers- and sisters-in-law have meant in my life over these 60 years ...
20. Cousins/Aunts & Uncles: I think of the great blessing of extended family ... from shared vacations to family reunions years ago, and now, to rare and special chances to reconnect (often at a memorial service to honor and celebrate the generation that is passing).
More tomorrow ...
As many of you know, I've been on a sabbatical coinciding with my 60th birthday, which is today (May the Fourth Be With You!). This has been a rich, rich time of looking back (with gratitude), looking within (for greater self-understanding), looking up and around (for guidance), and looking ahead (with anticipation).
A while back, I got an idea for a new practice: each year, to write a list of things I'm grateful for ... one for each year. The idea was to do this spontaneously, stream-of-consciousness. (For my very-very spiritual friends, I intentionally decided not to put God, faith, etc., first, but to see where these elements of gratitude came up in my list spontaneously.)
Here's my list, just as it flowed. I'll post ten per day.
1. The gift of life. I've been given 21,900 days, 525,600 hours, and 3,120 weeks. How many breaths? How many heartbeats? How many mornings to awaken, and nights to sleep? Each day, each breath, each moment is a great gift. Thanks be to God.
2. The gift of good health. I survived three illnesses that, had I been born 100 years ago, would have killed me (appendicitis, 2 simultaneous tick-borne diseases that affected my liver and heart, and melanoma), not to count all the other ways I could have kicked the bucket early. The fact that at 60 I feel absolutely great ... Thanks be to God.
3. The gift of clean air to breathe. I've spent time in cities where the smog was thick, and I am so grateful that each morning I can step outside and take a deep breath of clean air. Thanks be to God.
4. Clean water to drink ... I realize that 750+ million people don't, and this is a great blessing which makes me want to help everyone everywhere have access to clean, safe drinking water.
5. Great food to eat ... I remember my mom's home cooking and all the great Italian meals Grace and I have shared. I also think of my favorite kinds of cuisine ... Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Cambodian, Indian, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern ... And then there's my dietary nemesis: tortilla chips and fire roasted salsa. I think of wonderful meals I've enjoyed around the world, from Costa Rica to Burundi, from Sweden to New Zealand.
6. Sanitation and Health Care ... to have a toilet is a blessing 2.5 million people don't have. And to have access to good medical and dental care ... I am blessed indeed.
7. Good Faith: I was born into a Christian family, and I became a committed Christian by choice as well as by heritage ... but I eventually learned that for some people, their faith does them more harm than good. So I am grateful that I've been guided into an understanding of God and faith that have been a doorway into greater life and freedom rather than a passage into a prison cell, and I'm grateful that my only options weren't fundamentalism or faithlessness.
8. Homes: I think back on all the homes I've lived in. As a child and teenager, I lived in Olean, NY; Rockford, IL; Caroga Lake and Johnstown, NY; Kensington, MD; and Rockville, MD ... and I have wonderful memories of each home. When I got married, Grace and I rented and apartment in College Park, MD; then bought our first home in Riverdale, MD, then moved to another place in Riverdale, and then moved to Laurel, and then here to Marco Island, FL. When 60 million people in the world are refugees or displaced, I think of what a blessing it is simply to be safe and at home.
9. Neighbors and Neighborhoods: My parents taught me to appreciate the value of neighbors and I think about how my neighborhoods have shaped me ... from gaining a love of nature in Olean, NY, to the amazing educational opportunities of growing up in Maryland with its great schools, and now, to living between the Everglades and the Gulf of Mexico. I am thankful for neighborhoods of racial, religious, and ethnic diversity ... and for folks who watch out for each other.
10. My dad. He died two years ago, leaving me a huge fulness rather than emptiness ... He filled me with encouragement, curiosity, energy, a strong work ethic, strict (in the best sense) morals, a deep faith, and a restless hunger for adventure and experience. Even his quirks and weaknesses brought great blessing to me. I can't say enough about how grateful I am for him; I only hope I will leave a similar fulness in my kids' lives.
Beauty and wisdom ...
First, thanks to all who have invited us. We received more invitations than we could accept, but we're hoping that in many cities, multiple hosts can collaborate, and in some cases, we might be able to schedule additional events next year. We'll be responding privately to all those who invited us in the next week or so.
We'll be sharing more details soon. But for people like me who like to plan ahead ... here's where I'll be this fall. In each US city, I'll be doing an afternoon event for pastors, and a free evening event open to the public:
Tuesday 20 September: Seattle, Washington
Wednesday 21 September: Tacoma, Washington
Thursday 22 September: San Francisco, CA
Friday 23 September: Los Angeles (Encino), CA
Saturday-Sunday 24-25 September: San Diego, CA
Monday 26 September: Phoenix, AZ
Tuesday 27 September: Denver, CO
Wednesday 28 September: Dallas, TX
Thursday 29 September: Chicago IL
Friday 30 September, Minneapolis, MN
Tuesday 1 November: Nashville, TN
Wednesday 2 November: Charlotte, NC
Thursday 3 Noveber: Atlanta, GA
Friday 4 November: Boston, MA area
Saturday-Sunday, 5-6 November: New York (Manhattan)
Monday 7 November: Washington DC (Maryland)
In between these two dates, I'll be in the UK October 8-15 (more information here):
Saturday 8 October: Oasis Church Waterloo London SE1 7QP
Sunday 9 October: Mint Methodist Church Centr Exeter followed by Exeter Cathedral
Monday 10 October: City United Reformed Church, Windsor Place, Cardiff, CF10 3BZ
Tuesday 11 October: St Martin in the Bull Ring, Birmingham B5 5BB
Wednesday 12 October: St Columbas Parish Church, Gallowgate Street, KA30 8LX
Thursday 13th October: Manchester Cathedral
Friday 14th October: St Thomas the Martyr, The Haymarket Newcastle NE1 7PF
Saturday 15th October: St Marks Church, Leeds Road, Harrogate, HG2 8AY
When politicians try to make Syrian refugees a wedge issue, remember what you see, hear, and feel from this video.
Here's the Q:
Many of your books have impacted my life for good, especially Everything Must Change. The book was published in 2007. Is there any way to get updates on the chilling statistics on the prosperity, security and equity systems you catalogued? Have wealthy benefactors like Bill Gates made a difference? It would be wonderful if you could write a sequel to Everything Must Change.
Sincerely, and with thanks for the difference you have made in my life.
Here's the R:
Thanks so much for this question, and these encouraging words. Someone recently tweeted that my books seem about 15 years ahead of their time ... I would love the chance to update EMC with current statistics. Alas, this is a decision made by publishers and is (at this point) out of my hand. It's very gratifying to see Bernie Sanders and many others addressing issues that fewer people were willing to listen to back in 2007.
My book that will be out in September, The Great Spiritual Migration, will in many ways address the positive question of "how do we change?" that flows from EMC.
Sometimes, religious and political leaders are unaware of the hidden currents beneath the legislation they support. Sometimes, even worse, they are aware. The rest of us need to develop insight into the unintended (and harmfully intended) consequences of laws.
From my friend and colleague, Rev. Dr. Wm. F. Barber ...
When I wrote WMTRBW, I hoped that churches could use it either for a season or a whole year ... as an "alternative lectionary" to frame sermons and worship, as a curriculum for small groups and youth groups, even as a framework for a kids ministry program. It has been deeply gratifying to see the book work in all these ways and more.
If you'd like to consider using the book to give your group or congregation a season-long or year-long overview of the whole Biblical narrative and an orientation to the Christian life, you'll find lots of resources here.
A number of groups have contacted me with questions like this:
Our congregation is journeying together through We Make the Road by Walking. Many have found it very valuable. We have used the book for both preaching themes and small group discussions each week. We are set to complete the book later this summer and are beginning to ponder where we go from here. Do you have any suggestions on a good follow-up resource that will help us grow forward?
Someday, I may try to write another 52-chapter resource that could be used as one-year companion to WMTR. But for now, I can recommend my book Naked Spirituality. It could provide a 12-week curriculum that would be a deeper engagement with the spiritual life. Groups around the world have used it in this way with similar results. The book includes discussion questions, and this website includes resources that various churches have shared. I hope that will be helpful!
I'm about halfway through my first-in-my-life sabbatical. I've been home without a single plane trip for about four months. It has been amazing and wonderful simply a) hanging out with Grace, b) spending many each day hours outdoors (hiking, kayaking, fishing, bicycling, etc.), c) enjoying my home and yard, d) plotting future goodness with some creative friends, and e) being quiet and listening to the silence. Good for my soul.
I also completed my next book, which will be out in September. The new (and final!) title: The Great Spiritual Migration. More on the book (and a speaking tour) soon.
I've been working with a wonderful professional coach, seeking help in discerning priorities for the next ten years (60-70). My coach has in turn solicited input from a number of my friends and colleagues. I'm not rushing the process, but so far, it has been fruitful and meaningful ... a great gift.
My flight-free record is being broken this week. I'm an Auburn Senior Fellow and will be with my colleagues in Colorado for a retreat for a few days. This is a special group of people whom I have grown to love and respect deeply. As always, your prayers are appreciated, and please know how grateful I am for a network of friends and allies like you who share the same soul-hunger and thirst for "justice, peace, and joy in the Spirit."
I recently read your book: “A New Kind of Christianity” and would like to offer these shared comments for you. Ø I can identify with your searching and yearning for God;
Ø I can feel the anguish you must feel in dealing with the darkness that accompanies the spiritual journey;
Ø At times the silence becomes like an enveloping cloud in your walk with God
Ø Jesus, the face and human gift of God to humanity has given himself to us from ancient times through the Israelites, the prophets, judges, his apostiles and the church of ancient times to our present day.
Ø To me He is present and found in the sacraments and liturgy of the Catholic Church, particularly the Eucharist.
Ø We humans find Jesus not as an intellectual quest, but as a quest in Faith connecting with Him in our hearts and in one another.
Peace and Joy be with you and yours.
For many people, Holy Week is a time of triumphant faith. But for others, it raises all kinds of questions and doubts. Here is a meditation from Duane Clinker especially for the latter: http://loveandresist.blogspot.com/2016/03/an-apology-for-faith-in-love-by-duane.html
After his death, instead of being crushed as the empire expected, his followers actually grew and spread his words and actions throughout the empire. They spoke brutally of death, but also of a kind of resurrection powered by Love. In those first years they often seemed to lose every sense of class bondage and they shared what they had. Many followers suffered similar fates as he, but they kept on as if something was burning now that could not be extinguished by swords or crosses or personal affliction. And, as foolish as it sounded, they testified, and acted like they were still experiencing this Jesus as a living presence; as if they knew that history could change and that nothing could separate humankind from this kind of Love.
It was as if they had seen, in the vulnerability of God, a kind of God who was with us in the pain of creation, ain the contradiction of life, as a kind of answer that involved human action in the direction of the universal Love that creation had loosed.
I think there is a rumor that you are on sabbatical right now. You have come to our mind and been part of our conversations many times over the last little while. We thought it was high time to send you the note of encouragement we keep wanting to send. It's a simple message.... and that is that we are very grateful for the work you are doing in chopping a path through the woods for folks like ourselves who are in a place of grief when we see the current political climate in the United States, the exclusion of our LGBT brothers and sisters in fellowship, or the hateful rhetoric spoken against friends of other faiths who are teaching us so much about what it means to trust God. Thank you for your bravery in embracing people who are seen as a threat to the culture of "Christianity." It helps us to feel less alone, knowing that you are quietly standing in the place of love, rather than fear.Thanks, friends. We're all in this together! If you're looking for kindred spirits, check out: http://convergenceus.org/ and http://www.theopennetworkus.org/#home
We're not alone!
A reader writes:
I told you I would update you on how it is going at First Presbyterian Palo Alto using your book for our Sunday worship, and I am pleased to say it is going really well! People in the congregation have so many positive things to say. They are remarking that we are preaching on passages they have never heard (especially when we were in the OT during the fall). People are also responding positively to getting a larger view of the story arc of scripture. For me personally, it has challenged me to not get lost in the details of these long passages and try to preach about the core truth that is being communicated. So I want to thank you for providing this valuable resource!!
Also, Rob Martin, my supervisor and the head pastor here, is a hymn writer. He wrote one inspired by your book, and we thought you would like to see it, so I have attached it.
Rob graciously gave me permission to include his lyrics here:
We Make the Road by Walking Forth (Sung to the tune KINGSFOLD) Words by W. Robert Martin, III
We make the road by walking forth
In faith and not by sight,
A journey of discovery
With challenge and delight.
This path takes us to wider realms
Where joy and faith can grow—
As Christ, beside us on the way,
Guides gently where we go.
We make the road by walking forth
In hope and not in fear
A byway built on trust and love
That brings the Spirit near.
This path shall cause the blind to see
The mute to find their voice
The last to boldly lead the way
The hurt to cry, “Rejoice”.
We make the road by walking forth
With joy and not regret,
A path where all are truly loved
And long-held needs are met.
This path will lead us to a place
Where hate will finally cease
As we, who journey on the Way,
Proclaim God’s promised peace.
A reader writes:
I am currently doing my first close read of Brian's book A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (2010). This act alone was a major step for me, as I have been "warned" repeatedly about the "danger's" of Brian's work for the Christian faith.
I am so glad that I am reading Brian's work first-hand for myself, bypassing the self-sppointed critics and so-called defenders of the faith. What a breath of fresh air!
As someone with earned graduate degrees in anthropology and the philosophy of education, I can honestly say that Brian's attempt to integrate the best insights from developmental theory and theology in his work is nothing short of brilliant. As a Christian and college instructor, I find his questions, insights and genuine humility refreshing in this ever-changing and volatile period of church history. My only regret is that it has taken me this long to digest and assimilate Brian's work. Thankfully, I am now a part of a faith community that spends a lot more of its time listening, learning and loving others instead of lecturing and sounding false alarms.
Keep up the great work, Brian.
My old friend Bruce Johnson is a savvy business consultant, and in a recent article, he challenges businesses to learn their NPS - Net Promoter Score.
The key insight - that some business customers or clients will leave a business so thrilled that they'll tell their friends - applies to churches as well.
The article (and its predecessor, also worth reading) is important for pastors and other church leaders to consider leading up to Easter Sunday, when most churches experience a surge in attendance.
Here's Bruce's question, recast for churches:
On a scale of 0-10 with 10 being highly likely, how likely is it that you would recommend our church to a friend or colleague?
In other words, will people have an experience at your church this Sunday that is so remarkable and meaningful that they'll be spontaneously talking about it on Monday and Tuesday at work or school or in the neighborhood?
What will be remarkable for them? Unexpected friendliness? Delightful creativity? Extraordinary insight? Deep emotional connection? Moments of beauty and transcendence?
Remember: what will be most remarkable for your first-time visitors will probably not match with what your most vocal critics talk about. (Sadly, the critics get too much of our attention most of the time!)
In these final days leading up to Easter, why not invite your team to brainstorm three to five ways to make this Sunday so extraordinary, so remarkable, so moving and delightful and joyful and meaningful that they can't help but tell friends about it on Monday?
You never know: seeking to be remarkable could become a habit. (Thanks, Bruce!)