Category Archives: Faith

2017 Goals

No resolutions this year, just simple definable goals.

2017goalsHealth Goals:

  • Lose the last 20 pounds (be The Guy)
  • Keep my blood glucose within ADA ranges and work toward the lower ranges
  • Maintain a minimum of 150 active minutes a week

Creativity Goals:

  • Add six more songs to my guitar competence list
  • Finish a writing project
  • Create a minimum of one good photo a month

Activity Goals:

  • Bike the Cap2Cap from Richmond to Williamsburg
  • Explore the parks nearby
  • Log a minimum of 1000 miles on the bike

Fun Goals

  • Visit five more historical sites
  • Go to the beach at least twice
  • Visit 20 wineries

Real Life Goals:

  • Find a new job
  • Find a new church home
  • Get involved with community group(s)

All of these are doable, one (the 1,000 miles) is a real challenge.  But it will be a very good year if I can hit all of them.  Let’s see how we do.

Hoping that the new year is what each of us desire.


Filed under Creativity, Diabetes, Faith, Family, New Beginning, personal, Photo, RVA, Travel, Weight Loss, Wine, Writing

Creativity and Faith

I’m not sure I have spent as much time on anything in my life as I have on the time topics in the title.  Once upon a time, the Christian church was one of the great supporters of artistic creation.  Today, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that one of the great stumbling blocks facing the future of the institutional church is that it has largely turned away from creativity.

Some, I know, will instantly say that the sooner the institutional church dies, the better the faith (and the world) will be.  While I am often a vocal critic of the institution, its politics and inertia inspired blindness, I’m not quite ready to give up on it just yet.  We are called together in our life in faith.  When two or more are gathered together in one place, there had better be some kind of structure.  Otherwise, nothing gets done.

Some will also raise the cry that there’s plenty of creativity in the church, right now.  To that I’m afraid I have to say while there are pockets of creativity, I’m not seeing the creative being celebrated in large swathes of my faith.  Creativity does not thrive in places where absolute fidelity to tradition, history and “how it’s always been done” is paramount.

I love classic church architecture, far more than most of the modern church design I’ve seen.  There is a church not far from where I used to live that I thought was a warehouse for years, till they finally got the sign up on the highway side of the building.  Once buildings were built to symbolize the glory of God.  Today they could easily be movie theaters or warehouses.  There is lots of fine church music that has been around for years.  Too often it is treated like a museum piece, to be carefully preserved just the way it has always been.  There is some fine modern music as well, but there’s plenty that isn’t.  Being old doesn’t make something good, but neither does being new.

The classic example (one of many) can be found in my own tradition.  As Episcopalians, we are part of the Anglican tradition.  We are largely defined by our Book of Common Prayer.  It provides the pattern of our life in faith and worship.  And it is real easy for us to treat that book like Holy Writ, never to be changed, never to be interpreted in any way other than the way it was by our predecessors.  If we are not careful we will be permanently turned towards the past.  And there is now new creativity there.

Creativity is a matter of weaving together what has gone before with what is available now.  It’s not easy.  Being creative never is.  It’s trial and error.  It’s an ongoing process.  That makes people uncomfortable.  But that’s an important part of creativity as well.

Let me give you an example of what I see as a great  creative response to worship space.  It combines the traditional and the new.  If you ever get the chance to visit or worship at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral.  It draws on the architecture of a fourth-century basilica with some amazing modern touches.


The basic form is classic church architecture but without traditional pews.  This allows all kinds of unusual options for worship.  Note the raised chancel area in the back of the photo.  The curved benches can serve as choir or for a variety of other uses.  Note the high-tech lighting that creates an almost starfield effect.  I’ve been in some fabulous churches and cathedrals.  None have affected me the way this one did.

Here’s a slightly different view, note the rectangular box on the right.  That’s a baptismal font.  One that the person being baptized can kneel in the water.  Next to it, and if memory serves, with the water able to flow from the traditional basin font into the larger font.  Again, the intersection of the ancient and the new.



Imagine if we took the same approach to our music, our worship, our liturgy, our teaching, and preaching.  Creativity is a gift of God.  Might be nice if we shared it with Him occasionally.

Just a thought.


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Filed under Creativity, Episcopal, Faith, Uncategorized

I Hope You Fail

(I am bringing back some posts from a previous blog I no longer maintain.  They are pieces that I am proud of and that I believe still have value.  This was first published in March of 2006)

It goes against everything we seem to hear about how to deal with you these days. We’re supposed to enable you and validate you and set you up to succeed. And the more I think about it the more I think you, my young brothers and sisters, are being set up for a failure of monumental proportions. I think we need to make sure that you’re given every opportunity to fall flat on your face. To auger in, to crash and burn, to have the wheels come off. In short to fail. Maybe even spectacularly.

I know, you thought I was your friend. I really am.

That’s why I want you to fail. Actually, I want you to be given the opportunity to fail. The real problem is that adults spend a lot of time and energy trying to make sure that you are given opportunities to succeed. When you were little the “circle of protection” needed to be very tight around you. Little kids don’t have any idea what can be real trouble for them so their parents and families and teachers need to watch over them pretty closely. Trouble is that a lot of adults are continuing that same process even as you grow older. While you don’t want to hear this either there is still a need for some adult supervision even for 14,15,16,17 and 18 -year-olds. If we’re really trying to prepare you to become adults capable of going out and surviving on your own we need to let you fail. And we need to let you figure your own way out of a goodly portion of those failures too. Because it’s not enough just to try and fail. You need to know that you can work your way out of it, figure out the solution and make it work.

FailwDon’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of success. I won’t kid you either, failing really stinks. It hurts and it can hurt for a long time. But it’s necessary so that you know that it’s survivable. You know what can be the strongest part of a bone? The place where it was once broken. The time is coming very quickly for you when you won’t be able to rely on Mommy or Daddy or whoever to pull you out of every problem. You’re going to find yourself out there on your own, there won’t be a convenient adult to step in and “fix” things. Yes, I know the general consensus among youth is that all these “meddling” adults are a pain and you wish they’d go away. But let’s be honest, that’s really only when things are going well, right? It’s kinda nice to have them around to take charge (and responsibility) when things go whacko, isn’t it? There have been plenty of times when I’d LOVE to have someone step in and fix up a few details for me. Trust me it doesn’t happen. The success that comes easily doesn’t feel nearly as good as the success that you know you’ve really earned.

For my fellow parents, teachers, youth ministers I need to acknowledge that we have the hardest part in all of this. We have to be willing to step back a little farther, NOT run in at the first (or second, or maybe even third) sign of trouble. Worst of all we’ll have to deal with their pain after the failure. And that is really hard. In the end, we need to remember that we really are preparing them to thrive on their own. It’s no surprise to us that it can be a cold, hard world out there. What we can do is make sure that we’re always there to help our youth figure out what went wrong, to ensure that failures don’t become too calamitous and to let them know that failure is not the end of the world. We can’t (and shouldn’t try to) prevent them from falling. We can make sure that they always have a safe place to fall. In the long run, I believe that we’ll see them succeed more often, growing more confident and able to deal with anything that life can throw at them.

So let the opportunity to fail begin.

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Filed under Episcopal, Faith, Thoughts, Writing, Youth Ministry

Doing a Little Design

I have no delusions that I am a graphic artist.

None whatsoever.

But on occasion over the last couple years I’ve had to try a little here and there.  What I discovered was that I kind of enjoy the process.

creativity-illo-2As discussed here before, it shouldn’t be about whether or not you’re “good” or “professional”.  It’s about expressing the inner creativity that I believe all of us have.  I enjoy cooking and the creative process that goes along with that.  I enjoy writing.  I enjoy photography.  I have a long term, nagging desire to draw.

If you push several of those things together you end up doing a little graphic design.  Good, bad or indifferent, I enjoy the creative process.  I also turn out some work that is at least OK.

My latest foray into this involved some graphics I need for my other blog.  I’m hoping to start turning out a podcast that is associated with my radio show.  The goal would be to get it up at the iTunes Store.  The best practice for that is to have a logo.  I didn’t have one but I knew what I wanted.  So I fired up my favorite image editor (I use Serif PhotoPlus X4.  Serif is an English company and their software isn’t well-known here in the States but I use several pieces of it and really like it) and tried my hand.  Here’s the iTunes logo for when I need it:



I kind of like it.  Not sure I’m done.  I’m thinking I may go with some color on the gradient instead of just the black.  Even at thumbnail size the important details (the primary words of the title) should be visible.

Perfectly acceptable, meets my needs.  I’m basically happy.

And look, I created something!

I’m working on another “primary” design for the show and website but I’m not happy with it right now.  Need to fix a part of the design that just doesn’t read clearly.  When I’m happier with it I’ll share that too.

The creative journey continues.


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Filed under Creativity, Faith

September 11 Remembrance

This post originally appeared on a blog I no longer maintain.  It’s been sitting in my files.  Today is a day to remember.

(I posted this originally in 2007. In the intervening years we’ve lost Lee as well. So this year it becomes a tribute to the 9/11 victims and my friend)

I saw that my buddy Lee had done a Sept. 11 post

So I thought I’d put a link to the my post about 9/11 from back when I commented on it.

I never have. That surprised me as I looked back over the last 4 years of posts. Of all the things I’ve talked about I’ve never written about that day.

wtc-9-11I remember it clearly. There was a staff meeting that day so I’d driven up to Buffalo (an hour and a half drive)for the 9 AM meeting. In fact I had turned off the radio just a few minutes after the first plane hit at 8:46 AM. We had just gotten settled into the meeting with the sliding doors closed when there came a banging. Two members of the office staff came in, one in tears. The only TV in the building was with us and they needed to check the news. Something had happened at the twin towers in NYC and they had a friend who worked there. So we turned on the TV…

You know what we saw. And you know how we felt. It is a shared moment for our nation. I remember thinking in those first few moments “It’s not an accident, it’s a terrorist attack”. For several years after college I’d been fascinated by terrorism and how we respond to it. What I saw and what little we knew at that time just screamed terrorism.

And then the second plane(9:03AM)

and the report that a plane has crashed into the Pentagon (9:37AM)

and the FAA grounds all planes (9:45AM)

and then the south tower collapsed(9:59AM)

and then another plane crashes in western Pennsylvania (10:03AM)

and then the north tower collapsed (10:28AM)

Sometime shortly after that we were sent home. We prayed for everything and everyone and Divine protection and went home in a state of shock.

The diocesan offices are not too far from the airport so you see a fair number of planes if you look. I remember driving home thinking that there had never been a day in my life like this one. When virtually NOTHING man made was in the air above me. It is one of the strangest and most enduring feelings from that day.

When I saw the photo Lee was using I knew I was going to steal it. We need to remember how horrible that day was. We must never forget. But not as just as a goad to our fear and self interest. We must remember as a call to all that is good in our nature. It must serve as a call to make the world a better place rather than only a safer place. A better place WILL BE a safer place. A safer place is not always a better place.

Today is a day to remember.


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Filed under Faith, personal, Thoughts

Creativity and Fear

Based on what I’ve read and heard over the years the single greatest obstacle to creativity is fear.

Not lack of talent, or lack of time or lack of inspiration.


creativity-illo-2Certainly I have spent a great many years struggling with that.  persuasively convincing myself that I shouldn’t even try because I won’t be any good.  That I’ll embarrass myself.  That people will laugh.  Or perhaps worse, they will shake their head in pity.

I also know the counter argument, which says that I shouldn’t focus on what others think, that I should create simply for my own joy and fulfillment.  While I intellectually understand and agree two things fight against  the idea.  First, because my “core creative”, the impulse at the center of who I am in creativity, is a performer.  There are few places in the world where I am more at home, more filled with joy and contentment than on stage.  I like, no, I LOVE being up in front of an audience.  I LOVE the feeling of drawing them into a story, of lifting them then gently lowering, of igniting their laughter, their emotion, and their understanding.   So to suddenly tell me that the audience isn’t really important goes against my creative core.  I am not built to grind away quietly in a corner.  It isn’t who I am.

Who I am creates the other problem.  Many years ago I went through a standard end of year performance evaluation.  Item after item was ticked off with highest marks.  Except one.  “Sets goals unreasonably high, expects too much of himself”.

Guilty as charged.

I have love/hate relationship with this part of my life. It’s a great support for the fear in me.  “Why do something if I can’t do it to the standard I expect?”  In my life I have been around all kinds of wonderful Creatives.   I’ll probably never be as good as any of them at any of the things they do.  One of my life long creeds has been “Good enough isn’t”.  I don’t want to settle.  So I push.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  My desire to go for my best, to never settle for good enough has brought me a lot of success in my life.  The danger is sacrificing the good for the perfect.  When I become focused on trying to “perfect” something I get intimidated.  I can let “not perfect” equal “sucks”.  Then  I let the fear win and I just walk away.

I tend to overlook (because I don’t want to work that hard) that there is always a process to learning.  That practice and repetition are of immense value in growing.  It’s okay to suck at the beginning.  The goal is to not suck at the end, even if it’s still not perfect.

Maybe I’m reaching an age where things become a little clearer.  Maybe I’m just dense and it’s taken this long to sink in.  It’s not a binary system.  Not perfection or suckage.  It’s finding MY place on the spectrum, pushing to whatever my abilities level is.  In doing that I fulfill the potential that is within me.  I become more complete, more rounded, more whole along the way.  Maybe not every part of my creative life is for the moment of communion with the audience.  Maybe some of it is just for me.

That might be okay.

We’re on a journey to find out.


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Creativity Overload

I love the act of creativity.

Sometimes I forget that it is the act of creativity that is important, not what is created.

creativity-illo-2Because ours is such a “produce, produce, produce” society we are discouraged from being creative because we don’t believe we’ll create something worthwhile.  What we either forget or fail to realize is that the greatest artists have turned out mountains of crap on the way to where we know them.  They had to learn the craft of what they do.  The greatest guitarist of all time (whoever you may believe that is) began by picking up the instrument for the first time, awkwardly placing their fingers on the fret board and strumming some wretched approximation of what they were trying to create.  Writers wrote crap.  Painters painted crap.  Singers sang crap.  Actors acted crap.

By coming back again and again to the act of creation they got a little better.  Then a lot better.  Creativity is an ongoing process.  A living process.  So anything that stops us from entering into that process slowly kills the creativity within us.

What’s killing my creativity is that I’m so excited about all my ideas.  You see I REALLY enjoy being creative.  I enjoy trying my hand at different things.  I want to write and play guitar and draw and paint and carve wood and act and photography and probably a half a dozen other things that I’ve forgotten for the moment or haven’t discovered yet.


That doesn’t work.  I talk a lot about the challenge of the rocks and piles.  All the things I want to do are individual rocks and they are stacked in piles.  The work pile, the creative pile, the travel pile, an endless row of piles with many, many rocks in each one.  The sheer volume of the piles overwhelms me into paralysis.  Which should I do?  If I do this then I can’t do that.  Maybe I won’t enjoy this (won’t know till I try), maybe I won’t be any good at it (being good at it isn’t always the goal.  Sometimes you need to do things for the sheer joy of doing it).  I can create a whole new pile just of reasons why I’m not getting started on something creative.

The cure for the rocks and piles issue is simple – just pick a rock.  Sometimes time and fortune forces your hand and you have to pick a specific rock.  There are plenty of times when all I need to do is just pick something, anything and get started.  It’s like priming a pump or jump starting an engine.  Once I get rolling things suddenly begin to take on a life of their own.

I am blessed that, by and large, creativity and the creative act are avocational for me.  I don’t have to pay the bills through it.  So I can do whatever I want in pretty much any order I desire.  In reality there are two areas of creativity I should be working (writing and guitar playing) and one I must (the prayer discs I wrote about HERE.  I am making 21 sets of them as gifts for a group of pilgrims who will be leaving in about a month.  So I must finish them).  I’ll look at the other two areas in later posts.

For the moment I need to remember the joy the act of creativity brings me.  I need to ignore the pile of excuses and silence the inner critic voice.  I need to forget trying to produce and simply create.



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Filed under Creativity, Faith