I hope you had a great week and (if you're in the US), you're planning on some downtime with family next week. I won't be posting here all week, taking the time to work on a few other projects and spending some moments relaxing. So, until the week after Thanksgiving, enjoy the archives and these gems that I found online this week:
- I'm a big fan of Christmas and start officially celebrating it on November first, well before Thanksgiving. On Knox McCoy's blog this week, I guest posted why I think it's perfectly okay for Thanksgiving to get the shaft. This was fun to write; I try to blend a bit of humor into some of my writing, but I rarely get a chance to work in this many one-liners.
- It's really cool to watch Laura Kimball go for it. She's detailing her journey from gainfully employed to entrepreneur. Thanks for being vulnerable enough to share, Laura.
- This profile of Oprah Winfrey in The Atlantic is fascinating. It shows how powerful an idea is, no matter what precedes it.
- My friend Matt Cheuvront weighs in on plans vs. mission. Do you know the difference?
- "The best way out of a rut is with the smallest step possible." Agreed.
If you like the number 11, you're probably taking the day off work. Where I've been speaking:
- I had a great time speaking to teenagers at First Baptist Nashville on Sunday evening. The topic? "What Story Are You Telling?" I told some funny stories and hopefully connected enough to encourage them to consider their values and how those values are evidenced by others in their everyday actions.
- I also spoke with the Green Team at VF Imagewear on Wednesday. We had a great chat about the current state of the green movement and what it needs to capture more hearts and minds.
Where I'm headed:
- As you read this, I'm on the west coast, getting some work done in San Francisco.
- Next month, I'm very excited to go to Raleigh, North Carolina to speak at TEDxRaleigh. The title of my talk there is "The Revolution of Less." I can't wait.
Sorry for no "Best Links" this week. I'm behind on my reading. But, as a friendly reminder, here's how I use Google reader to stay on top of what's most important.
What was the best part of your week?
What I wrote this week: Richard Dedor let me guest-post on his blog. I talk about stuff and stress and the fact that even though we hate them so much, they're still so hard to shake. But, I give you three places to start. Leave a comment and you might win a signed copy of Simplify Your Life.
Where I spoke recently:
I spent most of last week in Dallas, keynoting the Texas Homeless Network's Conference on Ending Homelessness. It was a blast to connect with 300+ homeless advocates from across the state who are passionately working to end homelessness. In our workshop time together, we discussed Millennials, social media, and simplifying your life. Best of luck to all of my new friends from the event!
Other things I found interesting online:
- Peter Rollins is one of my favorite writers and this quick post is him at his best (story + lesson), helping us remember what we're all working towards.
- Shanley Knox found 10 reasons in a single week on why not to quit something. Bookmark this post and return to it often.
- This post about Steve Jobs has already made the rounds but I can't stop thinking about those grass stains, either.
- Penelope Trunk offers some great advice on when taking a pay cut makes sense.
Don't be fooled by greeting card commercials or sappy Hollywood productions into thinking that life is made up of the highs - weddings, graduations, first dates. Those things are only bookends. If you don't live fully in the middle part - family dinners on Tuesday nights, spilled Cheerios, car rides to and from school, washing dishes together - then you're missing out on life. When you wait for the big moment, a million little ones pass you by. Before you know it, your life is gone. Life looks like storytime on a rainy day. Pull the mattress out of the crib so she can jump on it a few times before she settles in and looks up at you, ready to listen.
Peter Rollins is my pastor. Well, not really (I don't live in Ireland or Connecticut). I don't go to church. But he's my pastor in the way that Alan Sherouse is. Or Ann Pittman is. Or plenty of other friends, mentors, and luminaries are that inform my spirituality and my worldview. In short, Rollins' thoughts on religion are always challenging and intelligent, and usually revolutionary. His newest work, Insurrection, is spot on. Much like his earlier books, he uses contradiction to frame his hypothesis and then takes the reader on a very heady journey to arrive at a place of new thought. Also a master storyteller, Rollins uses narrative to back up his rational argument so that you're never bored or knee-deep in academic jargon. Thankfully, he always grounds his perspective in reality. For him, theology must be lived, tested in the mire and fire of everyday life.
This is why I love to read every word he writes.
He thesis for Insurrection is simple: Christianity, from its very beginning, is a protest against religion. Abandonment is at the core of this very communal faith. And, doubt is the strongest expression of belief.
Rollins is uniquely able to use these seeming contradictions to paint a picture of Jesus and Christianity that is authentic. He takes what appear to be conflicting statements and weaves them together in a way that will enlighten or strengthen anyone's religious beliefs. And at the end of the book, you're simply left wondering why in the world you didn't question the "foundations" of your faith long ago.
To give to someone in need can make us feel good. We can even gain much more than we give in these situations. But what if our real job is not to give to those who are poor but to help create a world where the poor do not exist?
What if the Church should be less concerned with creating saints than creating a world where we do not need saints? A world where people like Mother Teresa and MLK would have nothing to do.
Peter Rollins, Insurrection, pages 142-143
You pull back the curtain as hard as you can and find me waiting there. The fabric, heavy from its length, sways on your command, sending a breeze that hits each of us. Our eyes meet and you let out a laugh that cracks against the moving air. You waddle backwards to get out of the way of the curtain and push it back again so that it hides me except for my toes, poking out from below. You know I'm here, but you grab the curtain again and pull it to reveal me - your dad - waiting for you. You see me again and howl with laughter at your discovery.
Please never forget the wonder of discovering something. Search and search until you find what it is you're looking for and then rest content that your journey is over. Cherish what it is you find, knowing that it is uniquely suited for who you are becoming.
Instead of cloaking me again in drapes, you come behind the curtain with me. The two of us stand; you, barely able to control your laughter, see each second hiding from Mama as an eternity. Our eyes meet again and we both have wide grins across our faces. You can't take it any more so you fling open the curtain and your eyes meet Mama's. Your surprise begets giggles from both you and her and then you're off once more behind the curtain with me to do it all over again.
You're nearly big enough to see out of the window. When you hide behind the curtain this time, you turn around and peer over the ledge to see the tops of trees and clouds. Lost in observation, you let the entire curtain close in around you. The cloth rests against your head, then your back, and around your legs. The calm of being covered up keeps you quiet as you stare outdoors until you decide there is nothing more to see and you spin around again to stare at the inside of the window treatment now mere inches from your nose.
How will you ever get out of here? doesn't cross your mind in that instant. Rather, you reach out with two small arms and try to grab as much of the curtain as you can, taking in the fact that you are little and we are playing in the curtains. The experience of the moment has you captivated and the future is where it should be: as a distant dream.
Please remember how to get lost in something bigger than yourself. Know that vulnerability is the first requirement for intimacy, and that being a part of something larger than yourself helps you understand complex topics like the universe, love, and community.
And don't forget you are always surrounded, that you are never alone, and that we can play in the curtains again, even when you are big.
I was finishing up a client meeting, saying my good-byes and getting ready to head back to the hotel. Then the rumbling started. I made eye contact with Matt and immediately saw what WTF looks like when it’s plastered across someone’s face. It initially looks like surprise that fades to shock and panic, followed by the need to do something - anything - to change the situation at hand. I used to work in the basement of a hotel. They were widening the highway for the better part of a year and that meant blasting into deep rock nearby nearly every day. Around noon and again close to 4 PM I heard a basal rumble for a few seconds. Sometimes, things in my office would rattle. Eighteen floors of concrete and steel were above my head, but I never worried. Any worry that would have popped up would last far longer than the rattling, so what was the point?
An earthquake is different. You feel the initial jolt and then it intensifies. And it keeps on. What you thing may have been a blast or a gust or a wreck turns out to just keep going. As it did, I knew we had to get out of the building. Having never been in an earthquake, I didn’t know if this one was bad or regular, but I knew it wasn’t good. We were on the top floor, so I didn't have that many tons of concrete and steel that could fall on top of me, but if the floor below me gave way, I had a long way to fall.
I didn’t know what the procedure was to leave the building, but I know that I have never wanted to not be somewhere as badly.
I asked where the nearest stairwell was. As I exited my client’s office, people flooded the hall and then the stairway. When you’re making your way out of a building quickly in a sea of people, you start counting floors on your way down, both to know how many you have to go until the lobby and how many floors can fall on top of you.
We made it outside. The streets began filling with people nearby, telling me this wasn’t something that only affected our building. I glanced north and saw a crew working on street repairs. Maybe they hit a gas main, I thought.
As Matt and I turned south, we saw more and more buildings full of people pour out onto the street. Traffic was scarce. “Check Twitter,” I told him. Sure enough, people were lighting it up with quick sentences about what they just felt. Not just people in DC, though. People in New York. And South Carolina.
I texted my immediate family to tell them there was an earthquake in Washington, DC, and that I was okay.
I’ll never forget what it feels like for an entire building to shake like that.
Traffic soon filled the streets. Eventually, people who couldn’t reenter offices went to bars and restaurants to hang out and talk. News - both formal and informal - was hard to come by. Everyone was texting, calling, and checking for updates. Networks were overloaded. The tools and toys we bought promising immediacy seemed to provide anything but in the face of urgency.
We gathered our things from our hotel. With the streets jammed, we walked forever to catch the train to the airport. Plans that we expected to take minutes took hours. Everything slows down in the face of the unexpected.
On the train to Baltimore, people - complete strangers - were talking to each other. When cell phones are jammed and it takes a half an hour to send a text message or check email, you give up. You silence the thing and put it in your pocket.
And then a beautifully odd thing happens. When distraction is removed or made difficult, humans begin to connect with each other. In an instant, unexpected and universal tragedy links us to our shared humanity.
Silent nods were exchanged, as if to say, “I know what you went though. I went through it, too.” And from there, conversation can flow. Understanding can happen. Community can begin.
People show each other pictures of kids. “Where are you from?” starts a story that leads to a reply of another story, and before long, smiles form and people forget the panic they experienced four hours earlier. They’ve made a friend. On a day they weren’t planning to.
This is what’s missing from debates about healthcare and welfare. We don’t consider a shared humanity when we pontificate about tax cuts and debt ceilings. By divorcing the real world of humanness from our larger community issues, we get neither humanity nor community, and we are the lesser collectively for it.
Those who rail against divorce forget that even the best marriage can be destroyed in an instant. People who claim what’s best for you often overlook what it’s like to be you. Death and life happen in an instant - every instant. It’s time we make sure our instants are chances to rediscover what it means to be deeply connected to all of those around us.
None of us hopes for disaster or longs for catastrophe, but we know that out of such rubble can come fertile soil to build possibility. And too often, we forget that what happens to them can happen to us. An earthquake that stretched from Charleston to Boston shook some people out of their isolation and caused them to look at - and not overlook - someone else.
Such is a foundation that we can build a wonderful world upon.
Anxiety [is] a condition that is distinct from the experience of fear. Fear is always related to some thing, such as an enemy, spiders, or cancer. But anxiety has no object; instead, it is a response to the foreboding shadow of nothingness itself.
- Peter Rollins, Insurrection
"Society is filled with forces of mediocrity that are going to battle you for the potential that is within your child. Your time and energy are the greatest weapons against those forces."
- Rafe Esquith, There Are No Shortcuts
On Saturday night, I met up with an old high school friend. He and I went to church together and were part of a very closely knit group of guys. We were best friends. His fiancee was in town. I'd never met her (I didn't know he even had a girlfriend until I heard he was engaged), so I was excited to see the kind of person he had fallen for.
We sampled local beer and caught up. I heard her life story and shared snippets of mine. Through all of this random fact-spitting, my friend asked me, "Are you where you'd thought you'd be?"
Meaning, do I have the job, family, home, happiness I dreamed for myself once upon a time?
"No," I answered quickly.
"Where did you think you'd be?"
"I thought by now I'd be Dr. Davidson, pastor of some established Baptist church in a southern town."
We both laughed. Not only am I not a doctor or a pastor, but the journey of my faith has been a much different ride than when my friend and I were in cahoots as high schoolers. I imagine his journey has been different than he predicted, too. Were he and I to live in the same city, we may be close friends, but we would not attend the same church.
Over the course of our conversation Saturday, it was clear that for he and his future wife, a faith that is free of doubt is important to them. The things they say and believe form a bedrock of comfort, moral clarity, and purpose for them. I do not deny or deride that. But it does not work for me. I have found life to be too unpredictable, too messy, too risky, and too prone to love to believe the way they do.
I have written before about religion on this blog. These posts may serve as a primer for you:
- I Left Church and Found Community
- A Religion is Unbelievable When it Oppresses Women
- Why Churches With Pipe Organs Will Soon Be Condos
- Will She Know What a Pew Is?
I wrote to a friend the other day, "I'm itching to do something religious again." I'm not sure how I'll scratch this quite yet. Stay tuned.
But, I'll close with this brilliant post that was put in front of me (thanks, Lynnette). I hope it helps those of you who are not where you thought you'd be and still not quite where you want to be. Enjoy:
It is not kind to force your soul into a religion that does not love you back.
It does not matter that it was the faith of your fathers. It does not matter if it nurtured you for many, many years. It does not even matter if you made promises to it somewhere along the way. If the religion of your past is bruising your soul in the present, you are not doing yourself a kindness by staying there.
It's time to get the show on the (digital) road. Now that Simplify Your Life has been out in the world for nearly a month, I'd love your assistance in getting this valuable tool out to more and more people. There are two basic ways we can do that together:
- Talk about the book
- Give away copies
I'm looking to do the book blog tour to end all blog tours. And in order to pull it off, I'm giving away one copy of Simplify Your Life each week between now and the end of the year. For real.
So, if you'd like to have your blog or website host a stop, the process is easy. Just fill out the form below and I'll get in touch with you.
We'll email and figure out a time for you to read/review/write about Simplify Your Life and come up with an interesting or fun giveaway for your readers. Then, we'll all sit back and watch as everyone's lives become way more simple.
You'll also be mentioned on the Simplify Your Life book page. I'll also send people your way when your post is up and out to the world.
And there you have it. Commence form completion...now.