Thursday, June 11, 2015


It has become a familiar refrain. As a parent helping two young boys process difficult and often overwhelming emotions it has proven invaluable. “Use your words,” I say often in response to the whining, amidst the stomping and screaming. I’ve seen the results – not immediately - but over time and with practice and patience, they are indeed finding their words.

And it can be easy to forget how truly difficult that can be – not just for children but for adults as well - to comply with this seemingly simple request. How often do I fail to use my words to express how I’m feeling, to ask for help, even when I have a pretty clear handle on what is troubling me? And, of course, many times still I, too, can’t actually find the words. This last few months has been one of those times.

We recently decided to move from Nashville to Charleston. And while Jill and I have both moved many times, this decision has been more challenging in a number of ways. Jill has commented that it’s the first time she’s decided to leave somewhere before it felt time to go – to which I’ve often quipped, “Yeah, I guess we’re ‘Seinfelding.’”

I think it’s been hard because it feels like an actual uprooting. We have grown to love this place. It is Nashville where we bought our first home together. It is Vanderbilt where we became a family of three and then four. It is East Nashville where family and friends helped us stumble into this new role of parent. It is 401 N. 16th St. – our “baker’s bungalow” - where we played “tickle-monster;” these Lockeland Springs sidewalks where we went on “super-hero patrol.” It is here where I found myself living out a great turn of phrase from a Rockwell Church song - I “stopped growing up and started growing in.” It is here where we together began in earnest to make a home.

It’s been hard because the dynamics have changed. Decisions are now made with someone and, at least for the time being, for our two little ones. I have been rather adventurous through the years but there is a new level of responsibility and accountability that I’m learning to balance along with self-interest.

It’s been hard because there is so much that I do not know. I do not know if I’ll be able to find another employer like Gilda’s Club Nashville; a special place that offers rewarding work and an all-too-rare work/life balance that allows me to be the husband and father I aspire to be. I do not yet know what house we will live in, if our neighborhood will have the same feeling of community, if the boys will make the transition to a whole-new-everything smoothly. And yet it is here, fortunately, that I have grown – through the exploration of theological education as well as the demands of parenting – to be more comfortable with uncertainty; more willing to release the illusion of control; more at peace with the unknown.  

Of course, amidst the unknown, here is what I do know. I know that I want my sons to know their grandparents well. I want to spend time with family and friends while the getting-is-good and be a go-to person when time is running short. I want to be planted firmly and deeply wherever I am. I want to know a place intimately, be able to recognize the subtle changes and appreciate the beauty that is only recognizable from deep familiarity. I want to contribute to a broader community beyond my personal network. I want to know and be known more fully. I want to be more at home in this world.

I do not know how long we will be in this new place despite our expectations that it will indeed be awhile. But I do know that I plan to be all in. We will unpack all the boxes and finally hang those pictures on the wall. We will meet our neighbors and invest in making our community a better place not just for our two sons but for those around us – particularly the less fortunate.

And I know, too, that I am good enough, that we have enough; that we will receive enough; not in some perfect-as-we-planned-it way but rather in a pretty-as-graffiti/this is our unique journey/make a mosaic out of our fragments sort of way. And I sense, somewhere deep down below the anxieties and uncertainties, that this move is the next important step in making a home.

And so, for us, this process of making a home involves replanting ourselves closer to family; it includes a renewed commitment to cultivating the meaningful relationships that have supported us along the way – that have been the water and soil and light we needed at each moment – and to nourishing some fledgling relationships that we hope will blossom further.

But this next step of making a home has been hard because it is drawing us away from a place that already feels so much like home. And so, for months it seems, it has been difficult to find my words. Instead, I’ve been grumpy and sullen, restless and impatient, leaving those around me to wonder what is wrong, what is brewing underneath.

So, now it seems high time that I use my words. I am sad to leave a community that embodies many of the values that I hold dear. I am anxious that we may not find a fit that feels so comfortable, so natural. I am uncertain if the boys will remember this place and just how special and formative it was for them. I am frustrated that doors have not opened as easily or quickly as I would have liked. I am grateful for the kindness shown our family; for neighbors who housed us during a renovation debacle; for classmates and colleagues who fed us to help ease the transition into parenthood; for child care providers and teachers who nurtured and challenged our boys to grow. I am eager to get a kayak to explore my new surroundings. I am excited about the wide-open possibilities of a fresh start. I am buoyed by the boys’ enthusiastic anticipation of being much closer to their cousins.

 Anderson and Nathan, this move has been  undertaken largely with you two in mind. It is  a commitment to building a family, it is  another step in making a home. Wherever  life will take you, will take us, we want you to  be deeply grounded in where and from whom  you have come – with all that that  encompasses. This is a gift we want to give  you; and also a gift we know we need, too. Poet Mary Oliver asks, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” As for me, I will endeavor to live intentionally, give generously, experience fully, love wastefully. I will make a home. Thank you Music City for the song; we will be singing along for many years to come. And thanks to each of you – neighbors, friends, colleagues - that have made it special; have made it home. This is home, and yet we are now home-coming.

* Images courtesy of Anderson Design Group -  in Nashville of course

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Pointing Back to Coach Dean Smith

Late in his coaching tenure at UNC there was some hushed speculation regarding whether the game might be passing Coach Dean Smith by. I’m ashamed to admit that I occasionally entertained that possibility. Now I know differently.

As UNC and Tar Heel nation work to recover from a painful chapter in our storied history; as we reflect on the professionalization of college athletics and the rampant self-aggrandizement inherent in the “brand of me” & “an army of one;” it seems clear to me now. The game wasn’t passing him by, we were losing our way.

Now, I know we can’t go back to some naively idealized version of the good ‘ole days. But it is certainly possible to reclaim & recommit to values & virtues that have always served us well beyond the court or field. Let’s remember that sports are a powerful means to an end; not the end of wealth or fame although that comes for a very elite few. It is the means to the end of teamwork, determination, hustle, learning to celebrate with humility and deal with disappointment & failure with grace. It is a means for developing perseverance and resilience and a means for camaraderie & connection. It is a means for learning to be coachable while also honing your leadership skills.

Sports are indeed a great laboratory for learning how to win…in life. And Dean Smith kept his eye on that ball; that winning in life is more important than winning on the court and that winning in life is about so much more than money or immediate success. Winning in life is about relationships – about making a difference; whatever difference one can make…and then pointing back to whoever helped you score.

Despite our frequent desire to claim otherwise, there are no self-made people. Dean Smith understood, taught & modelled that so much better than most. Whether you are a Tar Heel or not, you’re part of a team. You have a role to play. And, like it or not, we need each other. 

My coaching will likely never take place on anything bigger than a little league field. But I hope that the way I coach and parent and mentor and live will reflect much of how Dean Smith coached; will reflect the Carolina Way which at its core is simply a way that leads to humility, growth, the intimate connections of community, generosity, and meaning from this precious gift we call life.

Friday, December 13, 2013

All the Little Lights

Just so you know - our holiday cards are not yet on the way. In fact, they haven't even been ordered yet. But this post contains a lot more than I could include in a card anyway. It's my humble contribution to the holiday spirit that surrounds us - the feel good videos on facebook; the glow of decorated homes in the neighborhood. Now, a piece on grief & darkness that I recently shared at a candlelight remembrance service might not be your primary idea of holiday cheer but I hope you'll read it anyway. Because, most gatherings of family & friends usually have at least a minor bittersweet element, right? Each year brings change - much of it welcome. But each year, too, brings absence, unwelcome change. An uncle too ill to travel this year; a friend with whom we are no longer on speaking terms; a parent or child that has died. And holidays have a way of accentuating those voids in our lives. So, as we gather to break bread, tell stories, reconnect & laugh - let us cry together, too. Because all of it - the good & the bad, the pretty & the ugly, the joy & the sorrow - are what bind us together. 
All The Little Lights
Gilda's Club Nashville
2013 Night of Remembrance

And so we gather together to contemplate the darkness – by sharing the light. Just as the glow of the candles now illuminates our space & your faces, so the lives of our loved ones are reflected in who each of us is. Of course, there are sentimental recollections of good memories – of poignant & tender encounters – of infectious joy. And yet, we must acknowledge, too, that it has not always been easy – or pretty – and yet it has been real. As Leonard Cohen reminds us, “Love is not a victory march. It is a cold & it is a broken hallelujah.” It is our shared experience. It is your story. It is a flame that will not be extinguished.

“Light & Dark” as a metaphor permeates our culture, our process of meaning-making, our faith traditions. Perhaps you recall as a child singing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” And there is the lovely concept of Tikkun olam which calls for humanity to work together to “heal the world” by “gathering shards of divine light.” And many of you are likely familiar with the Sanskrit salutation, Namaste, which has many interpretations - one of which is “the light in me honors the light in you.”

Recently, I heard theologian & Princeton professor, Dr. Elaine Pagels, speak at Vanderbilt. As she talked about the shared creation story of the world’s three Abrahamic faith traditions she caught my attention with the observation, “Darkness is, light must be created.” Darkness is, light must be created. We are that light. Of course, all the faith traditions have their brightest of lights - a messiah, a prophet, a guru - but, I believe we, too, contain & create that light. Our loved ones have created that light for us. And so we gather tonight to create, gather & reflect the light - the love - that we need.

I heard a song recently called “All the Little Lights” that describes this process of creating light this way:

“We’re born with millions of little lights shining in the dark
And they show us the way
One lights up, every time we feel love in our hearts
One dies when it moves away”

“Darkness Is.” Thankfully, for most of us, Darkness is not all of our reality but it surely is a prevalent component of this strange & difficult & beautiful thing we call life. And it is a part of life that we, too often, are tempted & encouraged to avoid, ignore, even deny. I heard an interview recently with Paul Bogard – an English professor at James Madison – about his book, “The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light.” Now, he speaks of our literal “fear of the dark”; how we are illuminating every room, every stoop, every street corner of our planet to the point that stars are rarely seen in the night sky of our urban areas. Our fear of the dark is driving us to the delusion that we may be able to eliminate it. And it seems we are encouraged to approach emotional darkness in much the same way. But in Bogard’s book he talks about how two English poets of the Romantic Movement, Samuel Taylor Coleridge & William Wordsworth, would meet in the middle of the night to walk the streets together – talking, taking in the sky & stars.

Night Walking – what an interesting metaphor for what we are doing here. And if we allow ourselves to enter a dark space we are quickly reminded, of course, of how our eyes adjust – opening wider to accentuate whatever light exists. We begin to see familiar things in new ways. As priest & writer Henri Nouwen explains, “As soon as we feel at home in our own house, discover the dark corners as well as the light spots, the closed doors as well as the drafty rooms, our confusion will evaporate, our anxiety will diminish, and we will be capable of creative work.”

So, given this darkness-avoidant/grief-avoidant milieu in which we find ourselves it is particularly important to acknowledge & affirm how courageous each & every one of you is for being here tonight. I mean this sincerely. It can be hard to allow ourselves the room to grieve, much less find the oh-so-critical public spaces like this to mourn. Having a safe space – to question, to explore, to lament, to grieve, to mourn together - is what makes Gilda’s Club so special – so unique – so essential. And even as we continue to care for so many important people in our lives, we must continue to make time to care for ourselves.

So I invite you to consider your presence here - the grieving process - as a spiritual practice; it is an important act of self-care; it is an expression of gratitude & tribute; it is an important step toward meaning-making.

May your presence here - to contemplate your darkness – help you see in new ways. As we reflect on the light of the lives that have touched us deeply, as you rekindle the light within you, as we honor the light in those around us – may each of us find healing; may we together – heal our world.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Breaking Open

Each month I reflect on what life brings & allow that to lead me to an appropriate blog entry.  Usually the prompt comes from some personal encounter or conversation.  However, like most of you, over the last few weeks I have watched the Boston bombing horror unfold.  It is remarkable how so many of us are touched - even from a distance - by such an event.  We find ourselves reflecting on how "I've walked right down that street," or "I stood & watched someone at the finish line of a marathon."  Shocking & senseless tragedies like this remind us of the fragility of life.  As a parent I find myself with a deeper ability to empathize as well as a heightened sense of worry & fear.  We find ourselves grieving for people that we have never met.  This may seem strange until we recognize that while we are indeed grieving for those families we are also grieving for ourselves.  Our culture is one that largely denies grief and so many of our losses go un-grieved.  We are encouraged to "be strong," "move on," and consoled that "they are in a better place."  It is when we are profoundly affected by some seemingly distant tragedy that we must recognize the inadequately & un-grieved losses in our lives.  We would be wise to heed these reminders to slow down, sit with our grief, appreciate the everyday glimpses of beauty, and cultivate a spirit of gratefulness.    

So now, just a few weeks later, the lights are already beginning to fade.  The country's attention is moving quickly to new stories of tragedy & loss.  This is when I imagine the long, arduous journey of grief is really beginning for the families of those who died, for the scores who are reconstructing their sense of self without a leg - or both.  The cameras are gone.  The house is empty and quiet.  The void becomes unavoidable.  And so, for the people of Boston, for all of us, for the strength & resiliency of the human spirit I offer this reflection on grief that I delivered last spring at a night of remembrance for a cancer support agency.

All That We Let In: Breaking Open with Grief

The arrival of spring is usually welcome with its warmth, its songs, its fragrances.  And yet many of us here may find it bittersweet to participate in the changes of spring without the physical presence of those who have been so important to us.  And so, as we gather to remember them – we also gather to re-member ourselves.  Perhaps more accurately we gather to acknowledge the remembering & re-membering that we do every day.  We gather to name our losses, to share our suffering, to open – together – to the overwhelming waves of grief that we so often try to hold at bay. 

You are indeed courageous for being here today.  For we are rarely encouraged to express our grief – much less embrace it.  It tends to make those around us uncomfortable, awkward, distant.  And we, too, are frightened at times that we will lose control, that we will be overcome, that we will find ourselves in the words of poet Mary Oliver, unable to find “foot-hold, finger-hold, mind-hold.[1]”     

Of course, there are appropriate times for holding our grief at bay.  There are errands to be run, work to be done, relationships that must be tended.  And also, we need a break – time for rest and renewal.  Yes, there is a time for every season – even a time for healthy distraction – a welcome lifting of the weight that threatens to crush us.  Life still requires much of us – even the bereaved – and yet our grief requires much of us, too.  It needs attention, it needs intention.  It needs to be named, opened, explored.  And so we gather today to create a safe, sacred space to let the waves wash over us.  We learn when swimming in the ocean that we must lean into – even dive into – the waves so that we are not knocked down & sent tumbling out of control.  And so we must periodically – in times like this – lean into – dive into our waves of grief.

As a chaplain I encounter suffering daily – physical, emotional, spiritual pain, grief in so many forms.  I hear the questions – the really big questions.  I used to think I was supposed to respond with answers, to offer certainty and reassurance.  Now, I know better – I imagine each of you here, as you grieve and have supported others in their grief, has learned that most answers offered by others ring hollow, that we can’t give another person hope.  And yet we can still do something of tremendous meaning.  We can sit with each other in silence, walk beside each other along the journey, we can listen as others ask the questions, and we can “live the questions[2]” together.  In the words of singer/songwriter Emily Saliers, “I don’t know where it all begins, I don’t know where it all will end, but we’re better off for all that we let in.[3]”  

Better off for all that we let in you may ask?  We are often tempted or even taught to close ourselves off from the bad stuff.  And yet it is only by remaining open – yes, open even to the grief of loss - that we then also remain open to healing.  After all, Kahlil Gibran reminds us that our joy and our sorrow are inextricably intertwined.  “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”[4]

So, your experience of grief, your questions of loss, may be quite distinct from others around you depending on what season you find yourself in.  Perhaps your grief looks like the fall with her leaves scattered on the ground around you resembling a room in your home left untouched/unchanged; memories still so colorful that it may not yet feel like an ending.  Or you might find yourself in winter – where it’s barren, cold, all seems lifeless, you are closed off, zipped up, and hunkered down.  Maybe you would name your grief now as spring – with glimpses of beauty returning but there remains a chill in the air, an uncertainty lingering regarding whether or not the new buds will indeed bloom or be victims of a returning frost.  It might even look like summer – there’s a new intensity to your days, activity and life are bustling again, and yet there’s a dryness in the air, and those violent afternoon storms keep interrupting your sunny days.  

Whatever the season, may you continue to find the courage – like you have by being here today – to be open to what your grief is saying, offering, demanding of you.  Kate Braestrup, a wilderness chaplain with the Maine Park Service, offers this wish.  “If your heart must break – may it break open.[5]”  And so I offer these wishes for you:  Now that your heart is broken, may it break open rather than apart…

Open to…a hand on your shoulder from a person too wise to speak
Open to…the condolence card from a friend too scared to call
Open to…the song that brings tears rushing back
Open to…the music that washes you clean
Open to…doors that need closing
Open to…relationships that need mending
Open to…granting forgiveness
Open to…receiving grace
Open to…questions that have no answers
Open to…answers that you do not want to hear
Open to…feeling - something, anything to get beyond the numbness
Open to…change, small steps forward, to get beyond the stuck-ness
Open to…the anguish in the face of a stranger
Open to…the joy of a holiday season
Open to…the fall leaves that signal endings
Open to…the spring blossoms that declare new beginnings

I don’t have many answers but this, I believe with all my heart, is true: We are indeed better off for all that we let in.  May it be so.

[1] The Swamp, A poem by Mary Oliver 
[2] Letters to a Young Poet, a book by Rainer Maria Rilke.
[3] All That We Let In, A song by Emily Saliers of The Indigo Girls.
[4] On Joy & Sorrow, A Poem by Kahlil Gibran
[5] Marriage & Other Acts of Charity, A book by Kate Braestrup

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hope Springs Eternal

It is no wonder that Easter is the highest of high holidays for Christianity.  It’s a remarkable story.  And beyond the miraculous it is a very human story of hope and healing.  Christians celebrate that God has come to be in solidarity with humanity & so the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, & resurrection is one that inspires many to strive to reflect in some small, imperfect way the image of God in whom we have all been created. 

In particular, Jesus’ journey from Palm Sunday to Easter includes so many familiar aspects of the human experience – the praise & acclaim from riding high on Palm Sunday to the lowest of lows soon thereafter – rejection, denial, abandonment.  There is betrayal & forgiveness, uncertainty & reassurance, suffering & simple acts of kindness.  There is grief & joy.

So, it is with our journeys as well.  Every day, right now, not just in hospital rooms but also in our homes, our communities, & throughout our world there is uncertainty & anxiety. Those who were riding high that now find themselves in a valley of fear from a shocking diagnosis, a sudden surprising turn of events; there are broken bodies, broken lives all around us.  Yes, we must admit that we, too, are broken.  

And yet there is hope all around us, too – hope for healing.  Yes, miraculous hope for cancer to disappear, for heart disease to be cured.  But also, if we have the eyes to see it, we learn that even when cure is not possible, healing is always within grasp.  And that healing takes many forms – healing of fractured family relationships, healing of spiritual distress & despair.  And this healing arrives in so many ways.  A prayer, the tender care of a nurse, a walk in the woods, a listening ear of a social worker, by saying “thank you”, “I’m sorry,” & “I forgive you”, in the smile of a stranger, a gentle touch, the simple presence of our loved ones around us. 

And so during this miraculous time of Easter let us rekindle our hope for healing in all its forms, our vision of life abundant for all, the promise of new beginnings, and the reassurance that hope springs eternal.  May it be so. 

Note: I wrote this reflection in April 2012 as part of an Easter sunrise service that I led at a local hospital where I served as chaplain.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Standing in the Gap

He had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye as I entered the room and introduced myself.  Mr. Cook (not his real name, of course) was preparing for surgery that he hoped would give him a new lease on life so I encountered him in a reflective state of mind.  He confessed that he was a former pastor who had “given up a great church and left the ministry many years ago to tend to an ailing parent.” 

Through the years he had continued to reflect on his pastoral experiences and now they seemed to provide a sense of purpose for his upcoming surgery.  “I’m not sure I’ve done much with my life these last few years.  It’s mostly been about me.  This may sound strange but only after it all did I realize what a privilege it was to share the darkest and most challenging times with people.  I guess I really didn’t do much.  I would just show up – and listen…and, you know, stand in the gap with ‘em.  I think I’d like to do that again.”

Standing in the gap is a great way to describe much of what is done here at the hospital.  As clinical professionals you stand in the gap between pain and comfort.  As behind-the-scenes support staff, you stand in the gap between frustration and peace of mind.  As a chaplain I stand in the gap between busy treatment plans and a patient’s longing to be seen and heard more fully.  Regardless of our job titles we find ourselves standing in the gaps between isolation & community, shock & acceptance, and hopelessness & meaning.

 It takes real courage to enter these uncomfortable in-between spaces with patients, their families, and our colleagues but as we do, we come to realize that holistic healing requires more than medical expertise – it requires compassion and generous listening.  The simplest of gestures – just being there and being you – can make a difference, maybe even be enough.  I hope you find it reassuring to know that while your expertise may be what helps mitigate pain, it is your presence, your willingness to stand and serve in the gap that reduces suffering.  Thank you for all that you do to make this a place of healing no matter the prognosis or outcome.      

This brief reflection was originally printed in the staff newsletter at the hospital where I completed a 12-month chaplain residency.  Fortunately, my divinity school experience offered a complementary balance of classroom education & field learning - thinking & doing - which required me to use, & begin to integrate, my head & my heart.  A core requirement in most divinity school/seminary curriculum is called systematic or constructive theology.  The title suggests a lofty aim.  John Calvin spent more than 1600 pages outlining his best articulation of “an orderly, rational, & coherent account of Christian faith & belief.”  And there have been many great minds throughout the centuries from Augustine to Aquinas to Schleiermacher who tried their hand at this formidable task.  

So, as you might guess I did not produce a theological magnum opus during my four brief years of professional studies.  And, in many ways my time at the bedside revealed, for me, the futility of such an ambition.  I don’t wish to disparage the great theologians as I benefitted greatly from reflecting on their methodical consideration of critical elements of religious faith.  Instead, what I find myself mulling over now are a seemingly random hodge-podge of important insights & poignant experiences that require further reflection.   I’ll call them “fragments of light.”  And standing in the gap is the first of these I offer for your consideration.  It is my hope that as I ruminate on these “a-ha” moments, these glimpses of the divine, these momentary connections to a “ground of all being”, I may begin to assemble these pieces into something resembling a theological mosaic.  And I’ve learned that this messy process qualifies as “doing theology.”  We can all claim the title of theologian when theology is rightly understood as “God-talk,” as a consideration of ultimate concern.  Simply put – God is love – and standing in the gap is an act of love.

And so I walked away from this encounter with Mr. Cook with the commitment to recognize the gaps that present themselves and to stand in them with those I encounter.  We all have gaps in our lives.  We all have opportunities to stand in the gap with others – yes, family & friends but also neighbors and total strangers.  Singer-songwriter Lori McKenna, in her song “Falter,” implores us to stand in the gaps upon which we stumble.   “Why don’t we open up?  Knowing that we all falter.  When will we learn, when will we learn, to reach out for each other?”
Indeed, when will we learn that we are only good enough...together?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Capable of Creative Work

I’m back and promise – well hope – to keep the entries coming a bit more regularly from now on.  But, this blog is called “good enough” for a reason.  Anywho, I launched Good Enough Together in October with a very brief overview of my intentions and some highlights of my insights and aspirations.  Now, I’d like to explain further my purpose for this blog.

In some ways it feels vain to implicitly suggest that you all – the public or at least my extended network of friends & acquaintances – might need to hear something that I have to say.  Of course, I have an ego & I won’t deny the secret hope/delusion that this blog will become followed by millions leading to a publishing deal.  But I am confident that my desire to blog and my decision to post publicly is grounded in a deeper & ultimately more beneficial motivation.  This is about my desire to flourish - not in some competitive manner but in a way that honors what I have been given & those from whom I have received so much – my parents, my wife, my family, my friends, my mentors, my critics, my Creator.

So, let’s start at the beginning.  Why do I write?  I write because it serves me.  Writing is a process of discernment and discovery.  Henri Nouwen describes the value of writing this way:
“Writing is a process in which we discover what lives in us.  The writing reveals to us what is alive in us.  The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write.  To write is to embark on a journey of which we do not know the final destination.  Thus writing requires a great act of trust.  We have to say to ourselves: ‘I do not yet know what I carry in my heart, but I trust that it will emerge as I write.’  Writing is like giving away the few loaves and fishes one has, trusting that they will multiply in the giving.  Once we are to ‘give away’ on paper the few thoughts that come to us, we start discovering how much is hidden underneath these thoughts, and thus we gradually come in touch with our own riches.”  Yeah, what he said.

And it is not just about me.  I also write because it offers the opportunity to say things that I might not normally have the time or courage to say in a face-to-face conversation.  It offers a depth of exchange that so few of our interpersonal communications allow for amidst the hustle & bustle of life.

So, why post some of my most personal thoughts and fragile insights?  I share because I long to be more fully known.  I share because I want to take a stand.  I share because occasionally it creates a unique opportunity for others to open up – or at least recognize that they are not alone.  Sharing cultivates connection and intimacy.  Sure, it’s risky but I have found it to be incalculably rewarding.  My time as a chaplain brought this into focus for me in palpable & transformative ways.   

Of course, I have to remind myself that my writing is “good enough.”  For so long I have not written & shared because I was waiting until I could articulate perfectly or at least achieve that high standard of “publishability”.  I have been protecting myself from criticism.  I have played it safe at the expense of my learning and growth.  So, I am acknowledging that I am an amateur writer that will only improve by sharing my words and receiving feedback.  And whether speaking, writing or singing, this is my voice.  This voice will be so many things at once.  It will be poignant & it is sure to be cheesy.  It will be cowardly & courageous.  It will be confident & it will be tentative.  It will be liberating & oppressive.  It will be in-tune & out-of-key.  But it is my voice – a voice no more or less important than any other voice – that I have learned needs to be part of this cacophony of sound that occasionally blends together to make music.  I choose to sing not because I judge myself a great singer but because I have a song, as Martin Sexton croons, “burning a hole in me.”  I believe each of us does.  That is a premise of my emerging theology of which I’ll share more in the months to come.
So how has divinity school contributed to this journey – this process of discovery and growth?  It humbled me by helping me to more deeply recognize the unearned privileges of being white and male.  It introduced me to the stories of the minimized, ignored, neglected & oppressed – those voices that are often silenced or misrepresented by the “winners” who write history.  It emboldened me through a newfound camaraderie with historic voices of courage & dissent – like Arius, Teresa of Avila, Michael Servetus, Howard Thurman, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Albert Camus, Dorothy Day, and Elizabeth Johnson.  It inspired me through relationships with colleagues who modeled a fierce and unwavering advocacy for social justice.  I cultivated skills of listening, reading generously, critical thinking & writing.  I learned the importance of consulting primary sources and the responsibility to be precise in my use of language.  It provided time & opportunity for reflection that enabled me to “connect the dots” of my story, weaving my experiences into a narrative of meaning & thus hope.  Thomas Merton articulates the necessity of action that is grounded in much more than good intentions:

“He who attempts to act or do things for others or the world, without deepening his own self-understanding, freedom, integrity, and capacity to love will…communicate to them nothing but the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness…his doctrinaire prejudices and ideas.”

So, in future posts I will share what I wrote along the way as well as compose new collections of observations.  I will reflect on the brilliance & eloquence I encountered in the midst of reading more than 25,000 pages of theological texts.  I will share stories of profound encounters with suffering people.  It is my sincere hope that this process will indeed deepen my self-understanding and capacity to love and thus minimize the spread of my contagions.  My ultimate aim is again expressed eloquently by Henri Nouwen. 

"The greatest trap in life is not success, popularity, or power but self rejection.  As soon as we feel at home in our own house, discover the dark corners as well as the light spots, the closed doors as well as the drafty rooms, our confusion will evaporate, our anxiety diminish, and we will be capable of creative work." 

Thank you for reading, for listening, for accompanying me into my "dark corners and drafty rooms."  Thank you, in advance, for your compliments & critiques.  Thank you for not only indulging but also affirming me as I strive to continuously emerge into a more full, more integrated, more whole self - in relationship with others, in community with you.  I hope you will respond in your voice, with your stories.  We have much to learn from each other.  We are capable of creative work. We are indeed good enough together.  

[I also learned the importance of sighting sources so I need to give props to my professor and academic advisor, Dr. Bonnie Miller-McLemore, for the mantra of “good enough” culled from her book Also a Mother: Work & Family as Theological Dilemma.]