Like a Rolling Stone (The Radar is On)

I’ve been reading Life by Keith Richards and it’s fascinating for all the reasons one might suspect: the inside rock’n’roll story, the gossip about Mick, and the revelations about where the songs came from (Jumpin’ Jack Flash is a good one).

All that aside, what interests me about this book is not juicy stories of debauchery and came-from-nothing-to-make-it-big exuberance, but the insight it provides about longevity.

The Rolling Stones turn 50 this year. 50 years as a band. That’s a great marriage. No one stays in the game (let alone on top of the game) for 50 years in the music industry.

I don’t know the secret to that yet. I’ll let you know if I find out. But along the way Keith has some great insights to a whole bunch of things…creativity, cultural change, doing what you love to do.

Here’s a bit about the creative process (he’s talking about songwriting but I think you can insert writing, preaching, anything creative):

“Because you are playing, working, every day…ideas are flowing. One thing feeds the other. You may be having a swim or whatever, but somewhere in the back of the mind, you’re thinking about this chord sequence or something related to a song. You might be getting shot at, and you’ll still be ‘Oh! That’s the bridge!’ And there’s nothing you can do; you don’t realize its happening. It’s totally subconscious, unconscious or whatever.

The radar is on whether you know it or not. You cannot switch it off.

You’re constantly on the alert…You start looking around, and everything’s a subject for a song. The banal phrase, which is the one that makes it. And you say, I can’t believe nobody hooked up on that one before!”

Flaubert, Discipline, and Originality

I’ve never been a highly disciplined person. I have had to work at an organizational system that keeps me afloat, finally settling in to something reasonable in the last couple of years (thank you moleskine day planner).

In fact, younger Steve kind of rebelled against the whole idea of discipline, schedules, order, and various other synonyms. The reality is, whether one is spontaneous or structured, relational or task oriented, a “p” or a “j” (a little myers-briggs reference there for you), we all need some sort of structure to help us get through life, let alone the day.

Artists call it framing. The “framing information” lets you know if you are at an opera or a rock concert, whether this is photography or painting. In other words, there is no work without the frame.

(Keith Richards says, that for the musician, silence is the frame. I kind of like that.)

We need a frame so that we know what we are looking at, watching, reading, etc, and we need a frame to help us know what do, how to prioritize, and how to make decisions. Even those who espouse total freedom and throw off constraints are choosing a frame and making a decision about priorities.

I came across a quote recently that really drove all of this home for me. It’s from Gustave Flaubert, the 19th century writer:

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

Oh man, I love that. I’ve never been so excited about organization in my life!

I don’t know what kind of frame you have or need. I don’t know if you need a google calendar, or a smart phone, or a good old-fashioned day planner and quad pen (my preference), but if you want to accomplish things…if you have goals and aspirations and dreams…prioritize, create a system (your frame), say no to some things (and throw some stuff away), and get to work!

The breakthrough moment for me: organization leads to originality. I’m in!

Retreats, Wiffle Ball, and Tacos

Last Monday and Tuesday, the Sojourn staff got away to New Hampshire for some evaluating, planning, and sports. This picture makes it look like all we did was play, but we really did work…a lot…and in to the wee hours of the night. Progress was made. I think last year helped clarify some important things for us, and this next year is going to be a time of growth. Just a gut feeling.

On a different note: Amy, and our friend Aleyda (umb student), made tortillas on Saturday. Amy made flour and Aleyda corn and they were both excellent. Especially when stuffed with delicious meat, guac, and salsa. So good!

Birthday, Community, Etc

Yesterday was my birthday. Thanks for all the love everyone! It was a fairly normal day overall…carrot cake for breakfast (thanks babe!), went to the eye doctor, ran some errands, did some work, tried to stay cool (the first day of summer came in with a vengeance: 97 degrees!), and then hung out with our student summer community (see pic). They sang me happy birthday and gave me some great cards. Love it!

A Current of Anger

Quote of the week from the fascinating book: The Road Trip That Changed The World by Mark Sayers.

“We attempt to escape the mundane through seeking out transcendent experiences. Yet the essence of transcendence is rooted in ‘the other,’ the transcendent is mysterious because it is not known, it is otherly. The culture of illusions, peddling pseudo-transcendence, will always leave us unsatisfied because it does not lead to another, it simply leads back to ourselves.

Underneath all of these pseudo-events there is a dark side to the ‘whoosh’ culture, a current of anger, a resentment against the ‘dream not coming true,’ about the ideal being crushed by reality.”


Last week I had the opportunity to sit in what essentially amounts to a living room with 47 other leaders and Rob Bell. And for two full days (9 am to 9 pm) we talked about leadership, creativity, spiral dynamics, how to handle criticism, exegesis, raising kids, the eucharist, and surfing (along with various other topics). It was all over the place, but completely awesome.

I really appreciated the way Rob ended our time: he served us all communion. He talked about how the word eucharist can mean “good gift.” That Jesus’ body, broken and poured out, is God’s good gift to us. As leaders we almost always are serving other people (sometimes literally serving others the eucharist), and that we need to be put back together and poured back into. And that is what those two days were all about.

I needed that.

There are a million other things to say about this time (I have over 20 pages of notes), but I’ll leave you with these three:

  1. I appreciate Rob because he doesn’t hold back. It’s immensely clear that he throws himself completely into whatever it is that grabs him…whether that’s searching for the perfect taco or preparing for a talk, he goes all out.
  2. I appreciate Rob because he knows the ups and downs of pastoral leadership. He has many metaphors to describe it too (i.e. pastors are not “ecclesiastical punching bags”)! He gets it and he wants to pastor pastors through the ups and downs as much as possible.
  3. I appreciate Rob because he walks the line between humility and confidence with a great deal of grace. He’s a totally normal dude. He makes his kids breakfast everyday and drives them to school. He remembered someone at the conference because of a conversation they had after a tour stop in 2008. He also was named one of TIME’s 100 most important people in 2011. He’s very down-to-earth, but he knows he has a voice and he is confident in what he has to say.

I am extremely grateful I had the opportunity to be a part of this experience…it was life giving and timely. Good for my soul!

Vacation, 3rd Tri, Perfection, etc…

What a week this has been! Vacation is wonderful. Sometimes you don’t realize how much you need it until you are in it. One of my favorite books is The Old Man and The Sea by Hemingway. At the end of the book, the old man questions himself: “What beat you?” And he answers this way: “Nothing, I went out too far.” And that is how I feel about this last year. This week has been good for my soul, a pulling back in and putting back together.

Amy and I spent last weekend in the Berkshires eating wonderful food, resting, celebrating, and having great conversations with our good friends.

Then I jumped on a plane to southern california and spent two days with Rob Bell and 47 other people who love Jesus and lead and create and also needed to be put back together. More on this next week.

Then 12 hours of reconnecting with some more great friends, and then back on the plane.

Upon returning home my body, unsure of the time zone, could not sleep so I watched the Giants game that night…just so happened that Matt Cain throws a perfect game!

And then, we went to the doctor yesterday and everything continues to check out well as we enter the 3rd trimester…3 months until we get to meet our new family member!

More updates and thoughts to come…it’s been a good week!