It’s been a year of change and with that, a year of deep and irretrievable growth. A year ago I was wondering how God would provide after the unemployment ran out. The government had sent me a letter that shared their view, that with 30 years of people skills, I would probably be unemployable. I almost got a job in hospice chaplaincy. In the midst of all the wonder, God put forth silence and community as His extended grace. Both were meaningful in such beautiful ways.
Silence lets all your thoughts have a voice. They come clamoring out of the diminished din of life and make known their claims. Voices from childhood, voices from adolescence, voices of friends and enemies, voices of the dead and dying, broken, beautiful and striving…they all come. It’s as if all the insecurities of your life have chosen the same train to the home town of your mind and they’ve all come to stay at your house. When you open the door to see who’s knocking, they rush past your feeble defenses to inhabit every nook and cranny. And even though you re-assure yourself they will leave, you don’t really believe it because, after all, they are you. They are moments of your journey, long buried, who want their moment in your mind’s eye. And so you placate and pander until you realize it’s you who will be leaving…and looking back, you can see that was the best thing, the thing you needed, to move forward. Silence did that for you.
Community shows up, not in attaboys and affirmations, but in passing glances that turn to linger and make a mental assessment, an emotional sticky note, that leads to quiet phone calls and gentle cups of coffee where the conversation is much less important than the presence…the knowing that you weren’t alone. There are some who say,” Let me know if you need anything.” and then there are those who hover on the edge of your life, waiting to step in when the unspoken falter is self evident to the perceptive hearts eye. Them, I love, treasure and embrace.
You often won’t find out who you really are, until you get the chance to live without obligation. What do you invest in when your time is bound only to you? We expect that to happen at retirement, but sometimes it comes early. Are you ever ready?
This year has been a project of freedom unfurled. Believing that God had shared a plan with me, my wife willing to go on that journey, we launched into the unknown fully available to knowing and aware that it would ebb and flow in ways unexpected. Here is a slight reminder of the view from our table as we sought to serve well, love deeply and share much.
Music– We put on four concerts this year, featuring 20 artists doing 15-20 minute sets. Three concerts were held at the Bridge House in Milwaukie, OR and the fourth concert was held at Laurelhurst Village, 30th and Stark, Portland OR. The money raised went to micro business expansion in Africa, rebuilding a community in Nepal, helping a family whose daughter was severely injured by a hit and run accident and our own home school co-op, Heartlife Imagineering. Total funds dispersed were around $7500. Also we produced a song for a family whose son committed suicide, ” The Last Rodeo for Montana Brantley” (https://youtu.be/3Z7lS-Qy4Vc), mentored musical artists over the summer and helped another artist create her first demo. The studio sustains a vibrancy in community because it connects on so many different levels. Whether you are a performer, a writer or a wannabe…the time spent in creative endeavors opens up your heart to growth and self understanding.
Heartlife Imagineering Home School Co-op– In 2007, fourteen students asked to participate in a new way to engage education. A character oriented, arts infused, core subjects valued process unfolded over the next seven years. Eight months of study that led to three or four weeks of travel, ending in a two evening celebration of all they had learned. At the end of 2014, Heartlife was put on hold due to my lack of funding. My time with Heartlife had been subsidized by Bridge City Community Church, where I had been an associate pastor. Rather than shut the school down forever, the core leadership put it on a one year prayer hiatus. As the summer of 2015 unfolded, folks started asking about the school, which hadn’t been operating for a year. The leadership team agreed that if enough folks showed up, we would re-open. And that’s what happened. We opened with twelve students, two tracks of learning in the core classes and enough enthusiasm to get the whole process rolling. Our eleven ( lost two and gained one ) students range from sixth through tenth grade. Our TREX ( TRavel EXperience ) will take place in May and will cover northern Washington to Montana to Arizona and back up through California. I’m at the school most of three days a week, supporting the staff, teaching Language Arts, Character Class and Math…and getting schooled in pingpong, our school sport.
Mentoring- This has been a year of deepened intention concerning building and supporting relationships. In the past two years I have become a facilitator of the Kendall Life Languages Profile. Basically, it asserts that there are seven ways we communicate, grouped into three areas- Cognitive, Emotive and Kinesthetic. When we learn to understand our own filters ( how we share and receive communication ) it creates opportunity for greater thoughtfulness in sharing with others. This past year I had my whole family take the assessment. It was horrifying to discover that not one in my family communicated like I did ( my first two languages are emotive and all my kids have a cognitive language as their first language ). So, when I was doing my emotive best to share my perspective, they were going ” where’s the logic? “. And though frustrating, it has created an opportunity to have more insightful relationships.
This process has turned into a tool that has allowed me to start serving the families in my community. Imagine taking a twenty minute assessment that gives you clarity in teaching your husband, wife, kids on how to be understood more clearly by you and you, by them. There are four families and twenty plus individuals who are using their findings to create better communication strategies and it is a privilege to be part of that journey.
Along with the KLLP ( Kendal Life Languages Profile ), I have been working with a dozen students/young adults on building an intentional life. Starting with the premise that we have three initial choices in life: Spiritual engagement, Physical engagement and Intellectual/emotional engagement. Out of what we build within us, we choose to invest in our Resources ( time, money, talent, effort and attitude ), building Relationships ( starting with ourselves ) and finally, figuring out how we are going to Serve the world we live in. The SPIRRS orientation begins a collaboration for figuring out where we are investing our lives. Using SMART goals ( Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound ), we put ourselves in motion towards the dreams we have. Sharing in community allows for a graceful ( hopefully ) accountability. Over time, progress is amazing. All this to say, I’m working with students who want to have a different life and this is the framework that guides the discussion.
Works in progress-
1. The Walla Walla Arts Project. Last year I spent four weekends at Walla Walla University working with students on how to write their own worship journey. Starting this year I had purchased some time at a retreat space in Redmond, OR, that would have facilitated beginning that initiative. Due to hectic summer scheduling, the creative beginning was unable to come to fruition. I thought I was done with the project. Then Don Veverka discovered two students who were already in motion on the very idea that I cared about. So, a professional grade recording booth has been moved into a garage just blocks off campus. Curt Lamberton and Tim Oliver are building the dream. Sometime this spring, the first sounds will be captured and the wild ride begins. I’m planning to be in College Place for a long weekend, every two months to support as I can. Sometimes it will be a listening ear, sometimes a cup of coffee and if I’m lucky, sometimes it will be joining in the background vocals.
2. Funding- For the past twenty five years it’s been a struggle to fund ministry that supports students. Working for a church or denomination helped my family eat and stay out of the rain. Churches and denominations aren’t always adept at raising funds for the little people. So, with the help of a kind lawyer, we started Inner Anvil Ministries, a 501c3 geared towards investing in the lives of young people. For the past fifteen years I’ve kept the fundraising to a minimum. However, in my dialogue/prayerlife with God, He has asked me to invite everyone I know to invest $10 a month for one year. It’s taken me over a year to be ready to make that ask. This is the year.
3. Expansion- I’m good at two things: creating community and spending money. Our passions help unite both. This coming year I am hoping to be able to hire local mentors to expand the number of students I can reach. I am hoping to gather the musical community to continue supporting third world projects and local endeavors as well. I’m hoping to help hire a full time position in Walla Walla to coordinate and direct the WW Worship Project ( hopefully, Curt or Tim or both will be interested ). God has shown up in a mighty way over the past year and I want to stay in the flow of His vision for my life.
Thanks for taking the time to read this far. It’s a lot and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. If there is any way I, or my connections, can serve you…I would be delighted. You can reach me at 971-570-2253 or [email protected]
Hope to share the journey with you soon.