by David Benner

October 6, 2020

As I was starting to tell others that I was considering becoming a spiritual director, a friend suggested Sacred Companions by David Benner. I’d read, and valued, Benner’s The Gift of Being Yourself, so I didn’t waste much time getting Sacred Companions into my reading queue.

The subtitle of the book — The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction — helps frame how Sacred Companions serves as a helpful introduction to the practice of Spiritual Direction. Benner frames it within a continuum of sacred friendships — the kind of companions we have in life where our soul, our inner life, is able to be made known to another:

A soul friendship is therefore a relationship to which I bring my whole self, especially my inner self. And the care that I offer for the other person in a soul friendship is a care for his or her whole self, especially the inner self.

I’d never heard of spiritual direction until about 15 years ago, and it was even somewhat mysterious to me about 5 years ago. I think there is a growing need for it, and thankful to see awareness of it has grown in many of the Christian streams where it wasn’t very well know before.

But, of course, many people still just see it was somewhat mysterious, like I did a few years ago. Here are a couple of Benner’s quotes that help fill out my own understanding of the work of spiritual direction, along with some thoughts about each:

I use the term spirituality to refer to a person’s awareness of and response to the Divine. On the basis of this I would argue that to be human is to be spiritual.

This is core to spiritual direction, as the heart of the practice is to come alongside another and help them to hear and respond to the “Divine”. It’s not mentoring or coaching, so much as helping to create space and awareness.

While counselors and therapists have an important role to play in restoring wholeness that has been lost, spiritual friends and directors have an equally important role in helping others become all they were intended to be.

I think would have triple underlined this if that was a feature on my Kindle. I’ve benefited from therapy. I have therapist friends and deeply respect the work they do. It is necessary. But I appreciated this comparison. Much of my own journey and teaching has been around the theme of vocation…learning to recognize who we were created to be and how we can partner with God. I see Benner saying here that therapy can help restore our wholeness, while direction can help move us toward our vocation. There is room for both and they often can complement each other.

My own focus on spiritual direction aside, this is a book that those who want to be followers of Jesus in community with others would benefit from. While he does focus on spiritual direction as a particular expression, overall the focus is what the title implies: being a sacred companion to others. It is a book about being in relationship that invites souls to shared. We are as isolated as ever, and as we find ways to be physically present with others again in the coming months, there is an invitation, and a need, to also be spiritually present with others.

Moving into a New Season

I’m beginning training to be a spiritual director

September 23, 2020

It’s been right about two years since my last Sunday with the church we started in Austin. We recognized our family could not thrive health wise in Austin. It was a somewhat fast, and very hard, decision. But it was the right one as we have seen improvements in our family. And the church, of course, is doing just fine without me.

I didn’t leave Austin looking for another pastoral job in a church. It felt like any new church role would be held in an unfair comparison to the church we loved so deeply in Austin. There was also the grief of leaving, and it felt like it was good to have time away from the strain and demands of leading within a church.

A year ago, I was feeling some longing to return to ministry, and sent out a few resumes. Some I never heard back on, though I did go through several rounds of interviews with one. It was a helpful process, as I sensed in the midst of it that my immediate interest was not to return to formal leadership in a church.

I felt like the kind of work I wanted to do did not match well with what most churches are looking for. The parts of ministry where I always found joy were in teaching, or walking alongside others in their spiritual journey. There were parts of the organizational leadership and planning that I enjoyed, but they weren’t what got me out of bed in the morning.

So, as I near the end of my fifth decade of life, I’m moving toward a new season of spiritual leadership. In the midst of my hunt for church roles, I began considering what it might look like to become a spiritual director. As I imagined and prayed about that work, the passion and the interest grew.

And so here we are.

This week, I’m beginning in a training cohort to be a spiritual director through Sustainable Faith. I’m hopeful for more opportunities to sit with people as they consider how God has formed, and continues to form, them toward wholeness and vocation. I’m hopeful for opportunities to do some teaching and writing around spiritual formation. And most of all, I’m hopeful to embrace life beyond 50 by making an effort to be generous and humble in how I offer my own learning and experience in a way that will benefit others.

September 21, 2020

About two months ago, I started hearing and seeing Roam Research mentioned across the span of podcasts I listen to and sites I follow. I dabbled with it a bit, but in the last week or two, I’ve gotten hooked.

I wish I would have had this for the last 15 years to capture and link book notes, writings, or ideas I’m working on. But, finding a lot of satisfaction in slowly migrating different notes into it and seeing them start to form.

by Lee C Camp

July 27, 2020

I already wrote a little about this book on Instagram when I was only a few chapters in:

I would hope anyone who identifies as a Christian in the United States might consider reading this. Following Jesus doesn't line up very well with being a Republican or a Democrat. It's a matter of putting hope somewhere else. I … hope that you might read it too, and think deeply about it in the months to come.

If I were to add to that, I'd say that this book gives you permission to think beyond your party when choosing how to vote. And that undersells it — the truth is, party loyalty is a form of idolatry that leans on a collective and broken ideology…regardless of party.

The book is based on 15 'propositions' to weigh as one chooses how to vote. As a teaser for the book, here are those propositions:

Proposition 1: History Is Not One Damn Thing after Another

Proposition 2: The End of History Has Already Begun

Proposition 3: American Hope Is a Bastard

Proposition 4: Christianity Is Neither a Prostitute nor a Chaplain

Proposition 5: The United States Is Not the Hope of the World

Proposition 6: The United States Was Not, Is Not, and Will Not Be a Christian Nation

Proposition 7: How Christian Values, and the Bible, Corrupt Christianity

Proposition 8: Every Empire Falls

Proposition 9: Christian Partisanship Is like a Fistfight on the Titanic

Proposition 10: Hostile Forces Have a Role in the Unfolding of History

Proposition 11: Christianity Is Not a Religion; Christianity Is a Politic

Proposition 12: Liberal Political Puissance Is Not the Goal

Proposition 13: Exemplary Political Witness Is the Goal

Proposition 14: Christianity Is Not Countercultural

Proposition 15: Christian Engagement Must Always Be Ad Hoc

July 24, 2020 7:57 am

Play ball!

(Yes, it started yesterday, but it only counts when I get to watch the Angels.)

July 11, 2020

And the other message from this is, I think, to religious conservatives: Please calm down. Yes, the culture is against you and winning the debates you haven’t yet figured out how to engage. But you are not doomed or persecuted by the state. You have largely won the judiciary over to a strong defense of religious freedom. Your side keeps winning again and again in court. I can see how woke intolerance is real, but you have one branch of government still firmly on your side — and for the foreseeable future. Quit your whining about being persecuted, and figure out how to convey the truths of Christianity in a way that can win over the deeply troubled souls of your fellow Americans. There’s a spiritual void out there waiting to be filled, dangerous cults are filling it, and you’re wallowing in self-pity. Snap out of it.

July 9, 2020 10:10 pm

So far so good with iPadOS 14. I mean, I’m handwriting this post so I guess its kind of awesome.

July 9, 2020 8:05 pm

Installing iPadOS 14 beta on my iPad Pro. Surely I won’t regret this, right?

No betas on my Mac, though. Something has to hold things together…

June 29, 2020

I read this story the week it was posted on MacStories, and have thought back to it many time since. I keep passing it along to others in conversations about iPads, but never shared it here, so…here we are. I love my iPad Pro and if I didn’t do coding, I think I’d go almost full-time with an iPad anymore. This article shows why it is so versatile and powerful.

by Cal Newport

June 15, 2020

Usually my book posts are prefixed with “Recent Reading”. But I fell off that wagon about 3000 miles ago. Some books, just stick with me, though. And if that does’t merit a post, what does?

A few weeks ago, I decided to review my notes from So Good They Can’t Ignore You, because I just keep thinking back to it since I read it last year. This book isn't as well known as Cal Newport's more recent books…but it should be. It's older, but it seemed timely for this season of my life, and I want to re-capture some of Newport’s key points.

His core idea is that we need to make our pursuit of meaningful work to be craft-centric, rather than focused on pursing something we’re passionate about. When we focus on passion, we turn our ideal job into something that we are trying to consume. It’s all about what we can get out of the job — how can this job fulfill me or give me meaning. It’s an approach to your job or career that is oriented only on what you can get from it really for you own benefit. And when the passion isn’t there, then things start to fall apart.

His argument, instead, is that we should be ‘craft-centric’. We should base our work on what we can do well, and learn to do even better. When we know we are investing ourself in making something that is good, and of value to others, the focus turns to the value we bring others, rather than what we get out of the work. And ultimately, that becomes more fulfilling to us too.

In some of the final chapters, as he talked about putting this into practice, he talks about the trap of productivity. That’s a topic I’ve dabbled with a lot. My goal for productivity initially was to be so productive with the work that I have to do, that I can protect space for the work that I want to do. I still hold this idea, I think, and I wouldn’t dismiss it.

But his take is that the focus on productivity alone loses impact, because we start to measure all of our time merely based on what we can get done in that time. We see each block in the calendar as currency to invest in getting things done. And I can say this one is all the more true for me now as I’m working mostly hourly as a freelancer. Every hour not spent in work is missed opportunity to support my family. It’s both motivating and dangerous.

When we are craft-centric, there is a desire to keep improving that craft. Sometimes, the work of improving might feel in tension with being productive. There is a value from learning how to do that craft or work better that might not come when we just do the work in front of us. I know firsthand that in web development, there are new technologies or tools that I might not discover if I just keep doing the work I’ve been hired to do the same old way. And I certainly want to go to a doctor that is finding time to read medical journals of some kind and keep up with the latest discoveries in how to offer the best care for my family.

Of course there is more than this to the book, but that idea of craft-centric is central to the book, and my key takeaway.

I’m in a season of heavy reflection to determine my next steps. It’s helpful for me to think about what I already do well, but also can continue to improve how I do it, so that I can find the most fulfillment by offering that craft to others.

June 12, 2020 2:44 pm

Haven’t been keeping up with recent reading here, but have been reviewing notes from some of the books I read in the last year or so. Realizing it might be more beneficial to circle back and post reflections of books that are still sitting with me months later.

June 11, 2020 9:44 am

Now there are at least three ways to consider establishment violence. First, it may be considered a procedure for maintaining societal equilibrium. This is the “law and order” view. Establishment violence emerges to maintain the status quo against criminals and sinners. Here laws (including God’s revealed laws) are made by those who benefit from the social order in order to maintain their privilege. From this perspective, Jerusalemites would have the criminal Jesus crucified, for example, in order to maintain order in their city and region, for their own benefit.

Hits pretty close to home...doesn't it?

June 8, 2020

Late last week, we launched a new website for Mom’s Modern Mixes, a baking free of gluten and the top 8 allergens. I built this site in collaboration with The Label Collective, who did the design. Like most of my work, this one was built in WordPress. In this case, it is a mix of Beaver Builder as well as some custom coded page templates.

My favorite website projects usually involve two elements: 1) helping someone pursue a dream, and 2) building a brand new site from the ground up. All that to say, this one was one of my favorites because it checks those boxes. But it moved into a more meaningful level, since our family deals with allergies firsthand, and I recognize how valuable this product will be to many people.

I hope they have great success, and I’m glad I could play a small part in it.

June 1, 2020 8:50 am

Jesus tells us that we had the best practice hospitality now, as the day is coming when the messianic banquet is going to involve are sitting down with a bunch of unfamiliar dinner guests.

Read this morning, and it seemed timely. Hospitality is the practice of welcoming the stranger. Today, maybe that's not a meal together, but it certainly could be listening to the perspectives of someone's experience that you don't understand.

May 22, 2020 9:01 am

In order to resist cynicism and indifference in the face of the modern destructions of the life of the earth, we need to elaborate a new ecological spirituality. Those whoo begin to love life, the life that we share, and the life of the earth, because they love God, will resist the killing of human beings and the destruction of the earth. This new spirituality regards the earth as a sacrament, because it conceals in itself the mystery of the presence of God.

January 16, 2020

Last summer, I setup a subscription to Drink Trade for all my coffee enjoyment needs. I had previously subscribed to some roasters who sent me a new bag on schedule, but I usually didn't get to pick what it was. DrinkTrade gives me a variety of roasters and origins to choose from each time, and other than a letdown or two, all of them have been great. Bonus points for making it really easy to adjust my ship date as needed.

January 16, 2020

For the last few months, I've been working alongside The Label Collective as a WordPress developer. Evidity, my first project with them, launched last month.

I've always preferred writing code over using pre-built themes, but have seen that there are instances where a small site can be put together more efficiently using a builder theme. This was my first site using a Beaver Builder and it worked out well. As builders go, it seems to be the most lightweight and responsive, and most user friendly as I've trained clients to do updates.

January 1, 2020 10:54 pm

Did a slight refresh of my site tonight, moving the focus back to blogging rather than my freelance work. Most of my work comes through referrals anyway.

by Steven Pressfield

October 7, 2019

Alongside his fiction writing, Pressfield has found a market for books about the creative process. The War of Art was a formative book for me, and Do the Work was a helpful follow-up.

The Artist’s Journey follows in the stream, while pulling concepts from Joseph Campbell’s heroes journey — another topic I have deep appreciation for. Put those pieces together, and it seems like this book should have hooked me. But, my attention span wasn’t having it. Either Pressfield has gone to the well one too many times in writing these books, or I’ve gone to the well way too many times in reading books about the creative process.

October 3, 2019

Since I also just posted my quick thoughts on Why We Sleep, this is the author’s TED talk on the subject. It certainly can’t capture all of the book’s content, but it hits the highlights and serves as a good teaser for what the book offers.