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At Sea with Justin McRoberts

Philosophy Podcasts

A weekly interview show with culture makers and shakers. In each installment, host Justin McRoberts talks with artists, creatives, policymakers, and theologians that are striving and pushing for humanity to reach new heights.


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A weekly interview show with culture makers and shakers. In each installment, host Justin McRoberts talks with artists, creatives, policymakers, and theologians that are striving and pushing for humanity to reach new heights.




Sacred Strides Chapter 9 - Running Hurt

Dan and I have been walking through my most recent book, Sacred Strides. We're going chapter by chapter providing some insights into the stories and some add-ons. You know, kind of not quite behind the scenes of the making of it per se, but more like, what are the themes and why are they important? And do I still believe the things I said when I published this book. This week we go through Chapter 9. Links For Justin: Coaching with Justin Order Sacred Strides Support this podcast NEW Single - Let Go NEW Music - Sliver of Hope NEW Music - The Dood and The Bird The Book - It Is What You Make it Hearts and Minds Amazon Barnes and Noble


Sacred Strides Chapter 8 - Taking a Breather

Today, we're embarking on a unique exploration not just of what's written, but of the stories and insights that lie beneath the surface of each chapter. Joining me on this adventure is none other than Dan Portnoy, a dear friend, and producer. Dan's perspective on my work is truly one-of-a-kind. He's been by my side through the highs and lows, understanding not just the essence of my writing, but the passion and purpose that drive it. Today, we're not just revisiting the chapters of 'Sacred Strides,' but we're also delving into the layers underneath—the thoughts, the motivations, and the untold stories that have shaped this book. And let me tell you, having Dan here isn't just about having a fan in the room; it's about sharing this space with someone who genuinely cares about the work, appreciates the craft of writing, and, most importantly, isn't afraid to dive deep into the discussion, challenging and enriching our journey through 'Sacred Strides.' So, whether you've been a part of our story from the beginning or are just joining us, we're thrilled to have you with us. Let's peel back the layers together, uncovering the heart and soul behind 'Sacred Strides.' Check it out. Links For Justin: Coaching with Justin Order Sacred Strides Support this podcast NEW Single - Let Go NEW Music - Sliver of Hope NEW Music - The Dood and The Bird The Book - It Is What You Make it Hearts and Minds Amazon Barnes and Noble


Sacred Strides Chapter 7 - Tripping Over Myself

We are walking through the book Sacred Strides. Dan is asking questions, and we're re-narrating this book because it's cool. And I'd like to get it in your life somehow, shape, or form. So Dan has known me for a very long time; we've been partners for, goodness gracious, like a couple of decades, and we've done many different works together. And so he has a unique take on my work and what I'm doing with it. And it's been fun to walk through these chapters, have Dan point stuff out, and show me where the work could have made this a better project. - What a terrible podcast! I'm kidding. Join us as we go over the lessons and stories of Chapter 7. Links For Justin: Coaching with Justin Order Sacred Strides Support this podcast NEW Single - Let Go NEW Music - Sliver of Hope NEW Music - The Dood and The Bird The Book - It Is What You Make it Hearts and Minds Amazon Barnes and Noble


Sacred Strides Chapter 6 - Running With Others

This week we take a look at Chapter 6 of Sacred Strides. There's a turn in this chapter and it has to do with value. I get a glimmer of what it is to work hard on something and to do that with friends, true friends. It's been a minute as the holidays and all kinds of stuff happened. I turned 50 this month and in this episode, we explored a bunch - Check it out. Links For Justin: Coaching with Justin Order Sacred Strides Support this podcast NEW Single - Let Go NEW Music - Sliver of Hope NEW Music - The Dood and The Bird The Book - It Is What You Make it Hearts and Minds Amazon Barnes and Noble


Sacred Strides Chapter 5 - Pacing Myself

Welcome to the odd, like a spiral, like a downward spiral of information and conversation that has become this podcast because, in essence, I am the host, and I am hosting Dan Portnoy, who is playing host to me. Let's start calling a media company, Meta. There are lots of triggers going off right now. Some of them are justified, but not all of them. Today, Dan and I walk through the book Sacred Strides, digging into the story and talking about the themes, giving you an opportunity if you liked book, which I think you did, if I'm honest. And give you an opportunity to dig a little bit deeper and hear more about it. And if you have not come across the book or giving it a shot, giving you all kinds of reasons to to do it. This is a chapter chapter five. That is entitled, Pacing Myself or Coffee, College, and knowing my limits. Dan, welcome back to the show. Links For Justin: Coaching with Justin Order Sacred Strides Support this podcast NEW Single - Let Go NEW Music - Sliver of Hope NEW Music - The Dood and The Bird The Book - It Is What You Make it Hearts and Minds Amazon Barnes and Noble


Sacred Strides Chapter 4 - Finding My Stride

We are marching back through the book Sacred Strides, looking at different chapters, chapter by chapter. We're on Chapter Four, digging into elements of the book that will just kind of follow the arrows that the book provides. Because when I write, and I wrote this book, I never really intended for a book to be a whole thing. I intend for a book to point to other stuff and you are in the culture around you. So we're following those arrows and having the conversations around him. So welcome. Links For Justin: Coaching with Justin Order Sacred Strides Support this podcast NEW Single - Let Go NEW Music - Sliver of Hope NEW Music - The Dood and The Bird The Book - It Is What You Make it Hearts and Minds Amazon Barnes and Noble Links For Justin: Coaching with Justin Order Sacred Strides Support this podcast NEW Single - Let Go NEW Music - Sliver of Hope NEW Music - The Dood and The Bird The Book - It Is What You Make it Hearts and Minds Amazon Barnes and Noble


Sacred Strides Chapter 3 - Staying In My Lane

Another episode with producer, Dan Portnoy, marching through the book Sacred Strides. We're going to dive into Chapter 3 today - Staying In My Lane. This is a chapter about limitations - something we love to talk about. Links For Justin: Coaching with Justin Order Sacred Strides Support this podcast NEW Single - Let Go NEW Music - Sliver of Hope NEW Music - The Dood and The Bird The Book - It Is What You Make it Hearts and Minds Amazon Barnes and Noble Links For Justin: Coaching with Justin Order Sacred Strides Support this podcast NEW Single - Let Go NEW Music - Sliver of Hope NEW Music - The Dood and The Bird The Book - It Is What You Make it Hearts and Minds Amazon Barnes and Noble


Sacred Strides - A False Start

We are doing a series in and by which we're digging back into and through the book Sacred Strides - chapter by chapter talking about the dominant themes in the book or extras on top of the book what you know what it looks like to apply some of the things that I get to in the book. Dan, who's been a friend for a long time and has produced this podcast from its beginning, has a really unique perspective on my work and on me as a worker. And so it's fun to talk about my stuff and have Dan poke around a little bit at, "Hey, what's behind this or underneath this? What's after this?" And so we've enjoyed doing this podcast series up to this point and we expect to continue to, and we think you are as well, judging by the numbers, the metrics. So this is chapter two of the book Sacred Strides, and will you please welcome Dan Portnoy to the microphone? Let's dig in. Links For Justin: Coaching with Justin Order Sacred Strides Support this podcast NEW Single - Let Go NEW Music - Sliver of Hope NEW Music - The Dood and The Bird The Book - It Is What You Make it Hearts and Minds Amazon Barnes and Noble Links For Justin: Coaching with Justin Order Sacred Strides Support this podcast NEW Single - Let Go NEW Music - Sliver of Hope NEW Music - The Dood and The Bird The Book - It Is What You Make it Hearts and Minds Amazon Barnes and Noble


Sacred Strides - Getting Off on the Right Foot

Dan and I are doing a series of podcasts focused on my book. Reintroducing folks to the book Sacred Strides. We began last week with an overview of the book before it got into the introduction. And like why I wrote the book and some surrounding themes. This week, we will dive into Chapter One and talk about it. Dan is going to draw some stuff out. One of the things that's great about Dan and my partnership with Dan is that Dan has a unique perspective on the work I'm doing. Working more collaboratively with people is an enjoyable part of being an artist. So, welcome to this episode of The @Sea Podcast and interview with me, conducted by producer Dan Portnoy, centered on the book Sacred Strides. Here We Go. Summary The book "Sacred Strides" with Justin McRoberts and Dan Portnoy. 0:07 Balance and prioritization in life and work. 1:15 Work-life balance and prioritizing projects. 5:43 Work-life balance and self-care. 9:39 Creativity, passion projects, and work-life balance. 14:24 Creativity, identity, and disillusionment. 19:38 Balancing work and family life as a creative professional. 24:09 Vulnerability and parenting with a focus on emotional connection. 30:23 Observing the Sabbath in modern times. 33:32 Scheduling and organization strategies. 42:04 Creative coaching and planning. 45:09 Creativity, work ethic, and entrepreneurship. 48:42 Identity and relationship with God. 53:12 Belovedness and rest for a deeper understanding of oneself. 57:08 Links For Justin: Coaching with Justin Order Sacred Strides Support this podcast NEW Single - Let Go NEW Music - Sliver of Hope NEW Music - The Dood and The Bird The Book - It Is What You Make it Hearts and Minds Amazon Barnes and Noble Links For Justin: Coaching with Justin Order Sacred Strides Support this podcast NEW Single - Let Go NEW Music - Sliver of Hope NEW Music - The Dood and The Bird The Book - It Is What You Make it Hearts and Minds Amazon Barnes and Noble


Introduction to Sacred Strides

Welcome specifically to this new series. It's going to be a deeper dive into the book Sacred Strides, which I released earlier in the year. And I get to spend some time talking with my friend Dan Portnoy, who is also the producer of this show. So if you've been around the @Sea podcast for any amount of time you have benefited from and enjoy Dan Portnoy his work, I deeply value him as a friend and really value him also as a work partner. So what's gonna happen is instead of me just talking about the book, or trying to interview myself in some sort of like, like comedic Monty Python style, although that was, that was an that was an idea entertained. Dan's gonna ask me some questions beginning with this first episode, talking about some of the history leading up to the release of the book, why it was important and what I was hoping to do with it. Links For Justin: Coaching with Justin Order Sacred Strides Support this podcast NEW Single - Let Go NEW Music - Sliver of Hope NEW Music - The Dood and The Bird The Book - It Is What You Make it Hearts and Minds Amazon Barnes and Noble Links For Justin: Coaching with Justin Order Sacred Strides Support this podcast NEW Single - Let Go NEW Music - Sliver of Hope NEW Music - The Dood and The Bird The Book - It Is What You Make it Hearts and Minds Amazon Barnes and Noble


Coaching, Spiritual Direction and What Comes Next

Several years ago, six-ish, I think I don't really remember. Years ago, I started making myself available to artists, to ministers, to entrepreneurs, folks who had worked in fields that I had worked in, and I started doing so for free. And I wasn't calling it coaching. At the time, I was just making actual meetings to answer questions, and they were questions that had been coming up. And if you've been in an industry for long enough, this happens to you, as folks start asking you, Hey, how did you get there? Or what did you do about this? Or hate if x happens? Do you have a solution for scenario questions begging for some sort of wisdom from someone who's further down the line? So it's a little bit natural. And it was at the time, it felt like a very natural outpouring of me being in music and art and in religious practice. for a really long time, folks started asking questions. I started making it a serious thing by setting meetings, now called coaching. At the same time, a number of those same folks were asking a lot of questions about religious practice. And it wasn't just a matter of, "How do I build a church?" It was a matter of these things I used to do in my life that had me feeling connected to myself, to God, and to the people around me. These religious practices don't work the way they used to, or I don't feel as connected to those kinds of things, spiritual dilemmas, not always even dilemmas or crises, just hangups, and stalls the same way that folks who get stalled or hung up in art practices, folks are getting stalled and hung up in religious practices. And again, all that makes just some basic sense. If you've been around long enough, you end up having these conversations. Nowadays, as I look back over the course of the last, maybe a decade or so, there's a bit of a trend, I'm noticing, and I think it's associated with or at least it is pointed to by the rise of coaches and spiritual directors. So, I function as a coach. And as a spiritual director. It's actually most of what I do with my time now is that I'm hired to provide coaching and spiritual direction. And I don't think it's just because I've been around and I have something to bring to the table. I think there's something happening. Culturally, institutionally, societally, maybe there's some sort of spiritual movement. I don't like to dig into those terms all that often. But there's something more going on than just that. I have been around long enough, and I'm taking on more and more of these clients. I think there's something in the water. I think there's something in the culture. In fact, I think it's the very same thing that propelled me and the small team of folks that I work with to launch this podcast; it is the desire to navigate wisely and well. Waters we just aren't sure of and don't feel confident in. Now, some of those waters are institutional and cultural, some of those waters are very personal, they're interpersonal, they're actually deeply, individually personal. And as I read the lay of the land, in all of those spaces, there is an increasing number of people, or so it seems, who simply don't feel equipped, in and of themselves, much less in relationship to the institutional, cultural spaces, they're used to trusting, they don't feel equipped or prepared to navigate. What comes next. The mistrust of the tools we were using internally, institutionally, and culturally? Well, I think you are as familiar as I am with that mistrust, as it was projected in all kinds of critical criticisms and critiques, and most of them, or at least a lot of them were, were spot on and really helpful, that there was a critique of, of institutional religion, a critique of higher education, there was a critique of even mental health practices, there was a critique of interpersonal and individual religious practice, there was a critique of the economy, there's a critique of politics, everything it seemed, was on the table for critique everything it seemed, was...


Why I Don't Like All Things In Moderation

I used to think the phrase, everything in moderation sounded like wisdom. I mean, it was the piece of wisdom folks would dole out when we talked about work-life balance and we talked about alcohol. And we talked about video games, everything in moderation, everything in moderation seemed like the thing that one would say that the goal would be to find the correct balance between all of these things. And that meeting in the middle of all things is still his dominant value. I just got an email, actually, from a work friend with whom I'm putting together this project. And there are differing opinions about how to spend the time on this retreat. And one of the participants said, Well, we will meet in the middle where everyone is happy. It says the notion that somehow there's this middle space between all things, and if we can just find the middle space between all things. Everything in moderation, we'll all be happy. And I'm just kind of over it. I no longer think that everything in moderation sounds like wisdom. I think it sounds impossible. I think it sounds not quite impossible. I think it sounds unhealthy. Now, I note some of that because I get prickly and nervous around any rule that I want to apply to all of life. That here's this rule, and it works for everything. And the phrase, at least the way we apply it, everything in moderation tends to get applied to everything that this will work for everything. As I said, it's about alcohol, it's about, it's about relationships, it's about how we're going to spend time, on a retreat, we'll find the middle space. In the middle, everyone will be happy. I'll find a middle space between my work and my happiness, right? It's just too easy, the harder work of life. And I think the more fruitful work of life. And I think those two things tend to come together and have more to do with paying attention to my life as I'm living it. And in other words, there are things that I don't want to make any time for. It's not a matter of moderation. It's not a matter of how much the how much is none. I don't want that at all. But even that, as a life rule, doesn't really fly in the long run. What flies in the long run is actually the short run. In other words, I need to pay attention to my life as I'm living it, to have a pace of life, to have a community of people around me, to have life practices that allow me to take some steps. And the nowhere I am to look at my own energies, my own interests, my own desires, what's available to me inside of me. What are my heart's desires? What are my limitations? Am I tired, or am I not tired? Then, I look around at the opportunities and challenges around me and make decisions based on where I am and what's available to me internally and externally. Living life paying attention to the life I'm living is more challenging. It's a more regular, and I think, more fruitful practice than just saying everything in moderation. Now, you might be thinking what I'm thinking, which is that it sort of lends itself towards that Ecclesiastes chapter that gets quoted in song, that there is a time for everything. And a season for every activity under the heavens, a time to be born at a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill, a time to heal, a time to tear down, and a time to build a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance a time to scatter stones. And a time to gather them and on and on and on. There's a time in your life and in my life for going way overboard. For spending way too much time, too much in quotes. Applying yourself to a certain practice or spending 90 hours a week on that startup project. There's a time for that. There's also a time in life to pull your hands off the wheel, hit the brakes, and just pull over and do nothing for a season. It's not a matter of moderation. It's a matter of attention. What season Am I in? What's available to me right now if I'm 23 to 29 years old, and I've got ideas for him....


Great vs. Good

A few weeks ago, I was in the middle of a call with a client, an artist I'm coaching. When? Well, we talked about the project he was doing, which is a project, by the way, that he'd been dying to do for three or four years. We finally created the time we got some money involved. And he was able to put this project together. And what he said to me in the conversation, he said I know that it's good. I just wished that it was great. So we dove into that. But what's the difference between this being good and being great, and the more he talks, the more he self-identified with that tension. In fact, at some point, he said, I know that as an artist, I'm just good. But I wish I was great. Which then begs another series of questions. And it's led to this reflection, and we've talked three or four times since then. So we've talked about these things. And this reflection comes from those conversations, that in every facet of his career, he will look at what he was looking at, what was in front of him, and what he was able to bring to the table, and he could identify that it was good. And he wanted more, that the songs are good. He just wishes they were better, and he thinks he'll probably get this many streams. He wished that he would get more and that he would sell this many vinyls, but he wished that he could sell more. And in every facet of his professional life, he was happy that he had achieved what he achieved, that it was good. And he wished there was more. Now, I don't disparage that kind of thinking, and I think I want to be better. And to grow is fantastic. The problem I started to identify was with the word greatness. I think it was in that conversation, and oftentimes, it is a kind of distraction that instead of saying this is where I am, and I want to take steps from here forward. greatness in the conversation I was having with him was this image somewhere out there, always just beyond his reach, that he was striving towards. He wasn't working from what was true and good about him into a potentially joyful future. He was working away from what was true and good and established in him towards some other thing. Greatness oftentimes can be a terrible distraction from what is. And oftentimes, it's actually rooted in the same system of metrics that steals the joy of our actual processes. In other words, instead of saying, This feels good, this is good. I'm taking joy in this. And I want there to be more of what I have because it is good. Greatness inserts itself as this mist, as this idea, this disembodied image four steps beyond where I am, and says, it's not enough for you to be as you are. You shouldn't be happy, you shouldn't be satisfied, you shouldn't take true joy, it isn't actually good. And it won't be until you get here. The problem with that, if you've been in the cycle before, is that you can work and get to that point, that next step that used to be four steps away. And then once you're there, greatness, quote, unquote, greatness, this image, this misses out there somewhere, the idea will still reinsert itself and say, well, that's fine that you've come this far, but you shouldn't be happy. You shouldn't take joy. It's not good enough. You need to have more. Another way to talk about the way greatness steals joy is the way we enjoy our sports or our music, that you can say, hey, this is my favorite band. And then, as soon as we've talked about our favorite bands, we often move into this conversation about the greatest band in that genre, that it's not enough for this person to be good at what they do. They're not the greatest. And if they're not the greatest in this genre, then you like what they do is a kind of compromise. It's fine that you like this artist, but you really should like this artist. That's what's best: greatness as an idea steals the joy of what makes art, actually art. Greatness can steal the human joy of the process of creation. I think there's something magical to the way of the very beginning...


Steph Curry, Marshawn Lynch, Rest and Value

During the first round of the 2023 playoffs, Stephon Curry of the Golden State Warriors, my favorite team, was on the sideline, and his head coach, Steve Kerr, came to him and said, I'm going to rest you for a little while to save your energy. Now, let me hit pause here and confess, admit to pointing out, yes, you are getting a sports analogy. And so if you're not a sports See, type person, and you're not down with the sports ball, I'm sorry, I'm sorry for several reasons, one of which is that they are just such great analogies and images. Sports really do provide some wonderful parallels to the practice of life in general. So yes, I'm a sports fan. And yes, I like the Golden State Warriors. I love Steph Curry. And having lost both my other teams to Las Vegas. I'm celebrating and savoring my relationship with the Golden State Warriors. So with a few minutes left, I believe in the third quarter, head coach Steve Kerr comes to Steph Curry, potentially the greatest point guard in the history of basketball, and says I'm going to arrest you. Now, that is the kind of rest you and I, most of us, are used to not only getting but seeking. It's the kind of rest that is contextualized. By work, I am resting right now from work I've been doing so that I can get back to work and do it more effectively. And better. That's a certain kind of rest. And it's not a bad kind of rest. It's just limited that kind of rest in the long run, won't actually get to the depths of my soul, my being, and help reframe not just my work but my life and my orientation, even towards the work that I'm doing. In other words, there are different kinds of rest. And we kind of need all of them. Steve Kerr knew that Steph would just call them stuff out here. needed some rest in order for the second half to be everything. It could be for Steph Curry. And it turns out it was Steph dropping 30 points in the second half. And we beat us collectively. I took part in this victory. We beat the Sacramento Kings in game seven, a game seven in which Steph Curry scored 50 points, which at the time was the highest point total in all NBA history and a game seven. He's just fantastic. That was the rest he needed in order to do the job. And the value of the rest was predicated on its effectiveness on the work. And part of what we learn is that rest exposes our values, rest points at the things we think are most valuable about ourselves. And at that moment, the most important and valuable thing about Steph Curry was his ability to score. If all of the rest of my life is angled at setting me up so that I can work more efficiently, then what I expose in that kind of rest is that I believe my highest value is my productivity. Rest is a way it's a metric by which we understand, evaluate, and expose our own values. Which is why Sabbath Keeping is such an absolute scandal. Because what it says to the culture around us is that there are things more important about me than what I do for you. And you'll hear great athletes or great artists say something along those lines when interviewed, especially deeper into their careers, that there's more to them than basketball, there's more to them than rock and roll. There's more to them than what they do with even the best of their talents. About three years previous before that basketball game Marshawn Lynch, who had played in the NFL for a number of years, including for the Raiders, when they were in Oakland, gave an interview about football and, ultimately, about rest and rhythm. And he was asked to some degree, like what his advice would be to younger players, and you can read the entire thing. Or you can watch the video, which I would suggest you do for so many reasons whether or not you're a sports person. It's actually a fantastic piece of communication, what he says to the young the advice he would give to young folks, this is you said I've been on the other side of retirement, and it's good when you get over there. And you can do what you...


Re-Evaluating Our Metrics For Success

One of the conversations that I've been in for many years led to the desire to put together the book, Sacred Strides. And one of the conversations that comes up now that the book is out in the world has to do with burnout; you have most likely been around or been privy to or been in a conversation about burnout. One of the pivotal scenes or moments in the book sacred strides is one in which I point out how many folks actually experienced burnout in the ministry field. That's something along the lines of three out of every five persons who functions as a minister experiences burnout. 60% of the people who work in ministry claimed to admit to experiencing burnout. Usually, with statistics like social stats, the number tends to be a little skewed. Because with something like burnout, there tends to be kind of a shame piece where folks don't want to say they're burned out, so they don't. So if it's three out of five, and if it's 60%, by stats, you can assume there might be a few more folks than even that. Psychologically, when we talk about burnout, we're not just talking about being tired. And I think that's super important. There's one thing to be tired of. And there are certain kinds of tiredness that are actually really good for burnout isn't just about being tired. If you research burnout through the National Institute of Health, you'll see a definition of something along the lines of that burnout is a psychological syndrome emerging as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job. So it's not just about the hours we put in; it's not just about the difficulty of those hours or the tasks we're up to. One way to talk about this is that burnout has as much to do with feeling misplaced and misused in our jobs and now in our lives as it has to do with the amount of time and energy we're spending. In other words, I can put in the same amount of time, with the same intensity, in a different place and not feel burned out. Another way to get into this conversation is to talk about metrics. Part of our sense of misplacement in our work lives oftentimes has to do with the metrics we're using for really just success. What makes me successful in this job can be a question that either sets me up for burnout or sets me up for healthy patterns of self-actualization and fulfillment. And so one of the gifts that a regular practice of rest does is it actually gives me altitude, not just to evaluate my experience of my job, but to actually evaluate the metrics I'm using when I think about how the job is going. So a couple of simple examples is I'll work with church leaders, who were trained in the metrics of numbers, and putting butts in seats, or conversions, or some sort of numbers-oriented metric. And because that's the metric they're using to evaluate success, anything that might add joy takes a massive backseat to achieve those numbers. And burnout comes when those numbers don't show up. Even if other aspects of the job that are truly life-giving to me are actually in place and going well. Same Same. I'll talk with artists who are bent on selling, and they're supposed to, or they think they're supposed to make a living, quote, unquote, make a living in the arts. And this will want to two ways with artists one, it'll be that they have a part-time job, or maybe even a full-time job, and they're trying to do their art on the side. And the burnout comes from recognizing, like, I don't want to try to hold both these pieces. And I need to actually take a season and full-blown invest in just my art for a season. Or at least as often. They recognize that tangling up their passion projects with the propensity or the need for sales is actually stealing joy. And they're experiencing burnout. because sales are displacing them, it's the thing they don't want to associate with their artwork. Again, one of the only ways to get out of the tube in our lives so we can pay attention to those metrics and how those metrics are shaping our...


A Short Reflection on Vacation

I have had a somewhat unusual summer. And so far as I've taken a little bit of actual vacation time, I actually don't vacation much. I've never been one to enjoy vacation very much. Which isn't to say I don't like getting away. I do like the getaway; I like having days off. I like adventure, all that kind of stuff, vacation. It just has had historically this really odd association to it. Some of it has to do with childhood stuff, I think. But a lot of it just has to do with the experience I've had when taking vacations, and maybe you're like me in this, that for many, many years, I would be on vacation. And it would I would find it profoundly disappointing or profoundly unsatisfying. And then I'd come home from vacation and feel like I either wasted my time or I felt tired, or I would re-enter my life like something other than refreshed and ready. So the book Sacred Strides actually commits a couple of pages in a chapter to a conversation about vacation and some reflection on our American practice of getting away and taking vacations; I've got some criticisms of how we do it. And I won't read that chapter right now. It's some stuff we'll do later on. But part of what I've figured out as, as I come to those criticisms has to do with the way I have learned to approach time away, time off, and vacation. So here's the thing that I recognize, I learned, and part of why I'm enjoying vacation time in the summer. So when I leave for a vacation, when I'm on vacation, I don't actually like having a plan. That's not to say I don't want to know where I'm going; I want to know where I'm going. I want to have a destination for sure. I want to know that I've got a place to stay, and there'll be food to eat, etc. Outside of that, I really like to keep things kind of loosey-goosey and make decisions as I go along to be stuck with, like, here's the agenda, here's what time you're supposed to be there. Here's what time it's over like. Like, that's how I live the rest of my life vacation time away. I really like not having a plan. But the problem with not having a plan is it leaves me open to impulses. And then the question is about the nature of my impulses. And in the past, this was part of my historical pattern. Because I like my work, and I like my job so much that left to do nothing, I'll just kind of gravitate towards a project or gravitate towards like doing something maybe creatively or even logistically, like that's my natural impulse, my natural pattern, because I've developed that at practice that. And so I'll spend my quote-unquote vacation time tinkering with ideas and with projects or work stuff that I would actually just be happier doing back home, in my office space where all my stuff's available to me. So I would live in this tension like, I'm only half here, the impulses, I'm actually giving myself over to find a deeper, more comprehensive fulfillment when I'm at home in my office. That doesn't tell me I spent some time over the course of years in the practice of rest, paying attention to those impulses in me; why do I gravitate towards work? Some of it really does have to do with my joy. At work, I actually love what I do. But there was this other thing that I didn't recognize in me until I started paying attention. Because an impulse is a momentary explosion of interest or desire, that means that our impulses, which were the way I was thinking about my impulses, have a lot to do with knowing what I want. And in a lot of popular religious culture, all impulse is considered problematic. And sadly, I think that's because, in a lot of our religious contexts, all desire is painted as problematic. And I had spent very little time in my life, slowing down enough to pay attention to different wants in my life. So I could verify I could acknowledge, and celebrate my desire to make something I want to make good things in the world. That's a good thing to want to do. But outside of that, I think I was nervous. Actually, no, I was...


False Self, Religious Disarray, and Joy

The more conversations I have about the book sacred strides and dig into the themes in the stories, the more I find myself going back to some of my own source material, which is not to say the stories I wrote about my own life, but the words and the reflections and the teachings of the people who informed that life again, it's not experience that we learn from it is a reflection upon experience. And some of the people I've read over the course of the last 15-20 years had been very, very helpful in clarifying and helping me to learn from my experience, maybe none more, quite as profoundly as Parker Palmer, when it comes to vocation, you may or may not have read the book, let your life speak is really a book about vocation. It's about how we do what we do and who we are in it. In that book, he writes about self-care. And it's linked to service, which is a conversation I end up having, specifically with pastors, but with pastors and artists in my coaching context, but also, again, in the conversations I'm having on the other side of releasing the book sacred strides in a chapter called selfhood, society, and service, he writes this self-care is never a selfish act. It is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer. Anytime we can listen to the true self and give it the care it requires. We do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we will touch. There are at least two ways to understand the link between selfhood and service. One is offered by the poet Rumi in this piercing observation. If you are here faithfully with us, you're causing terrible damage. And then what Palmer does is he writes his own rendition of that same line, and I like this better. He says if we are unfaithful to our true selves, we will extract a price from others. Friends, I don't make massive sweeping cultural analyses all that often. But I'm somewhat comfortable saying that some of what we're seeing in the disarray of religious life, organized, institutionalized religious life, is not because organized religion is bad. It's not because institutionalizing things that matter; that's not negative in and of itself. Some of what we're seeing in the disarray of organized, institutionalized religious practice in America has to do with the number of false self-actors who are organizing and leading religious spaces, spaces that promise a pathway to the true self. So folks like you and I are showing up in institutionalized, organized religious spaces, hoping, dreaming, and wanting a pathway to wholeness and to belovedness. And those spaces, far too many of them, are being led by persons who are not living out of or even truly pursuing their own wholeness. They have given themselves over to this utilitarian mindset that basically convinces folks like myself when I was living in the pastorate that I can't bring my whole self to the table because it's not what these people want. These people do not want a person who is still in process; they want me to have answers. They want me to have strength all the time. They don't want me to have limits; they want me to be available all the time. That the requirements of the job, the demands of the job, the expectations that people come to that job with and for actually invite me into something more like a divided life. I cannot give you my whole self. I don't really want to, and I don't think you want me to either, but I will give you the best of my false self. Meanwhile, that's going to cost everybody in the long run. And that's part of what we're noticing now is we're going to witness and are witnessing the dissolving of the disintegration of persons and religious leadership. These are not on the whole persons that showed up with corrupted mindsets with ulterior motives. These are oftentimes women and men who showed up to serve in ministry positions. As pastors and caretakers of a place of love. They wanted to do the work itself, and then the demands of the...


Hard Weeks, Integration, and The Gift Of Rest

My last couple of weeks, two weeks really almost at the mark right now, have been turbulent; I would say they'd been rough. But that's mostly just been turbulent. It's been hard. Not because I wasn't a part of and doing some really great things, I was. I had a wonderful time in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and I was in Santa Cruz with Young Life staff. And I was doing things that were wonderful. I was only somewhat present in some of those things. Because internally, I was really having a hard time. And while there are a number of factors to that, one of the main factors is the two weekends ago was Father's Day weekend. And it's almost always a tricky, sticky, and other kind of icky weekend for me; as a dad, I love being celebrated. Obviously, I like being with my kids. But man, as time has passed, I just miss my dad more on those days. The older I get, the closer I get to his age; when I lost him, the harder it is to miss him when I miss him. So it happens more. It happens less frequently than it used to happen. But when it happens, and it's exacerbated by an entire holiday celebrating fatherhood, woof. That was a predominant factor. So in the meantime, I'm having these incredible experiences. And I get to do this incredible work. And I'm with these wonderful people. And I'm living in some form of disintegration, not terrible. And this is part of how we live a lot of the time. I didn't have space. I didn't have room, and I didn't really want it to. I didn't. I didn't have space; I didn't have room to actually deal with all that was going on in me. I needed to be present for what was in front of me. That's part of how we live; that's kind of unavoidable. I can have internal struggles; I can be doing something really incredible and wonderful, but I have to be in both places and both things at the same time. So I live a little bit divided. But I didn't have time to let my soul catch up with myself entirely. This brings me to this; my friend Daniel introduced me to this John Dewey quote, the reads; We do not learn from experience; we learn from reflecting on experience. So I don't learn from experience; the thing I'm in doesn't really teach me anything directly. I can have all these experiences; I can receive all this data. I can have all these feelings. And then, at some point, the gift of rest as a practice is I let my soul and my experiences catch up with me. And intentionally, we call this the examine, look through what's going on in me. And then I can learn I just had not until a couple of days ago had the time to let my life catch up with me so that I could be integrated and be whole, which is one way to talk about belovedness. In the book Sacred Strides, in the introduction, I lead out with this story, this image about jogging with my dad for the last time. Their story reads like this from the book. Running together with my dad was a key connection point until I lost him to depression and suicide in 1998. To this day, I still remember our last run. It was really hard. It was hard for him physically; it was hard for both of us emotionally. We barely got into the four miles that we planned to run before he started falling apart. His left knee hurt from a foul he'd taken a few months previously, and he couldn't maintain his rhythm or his pace. He limped back to the car. And I remember him trying to hide his face. So I couldn't see that he was crying. I'm sorry, I can't keep up. He said. I was in my mid-20s At the time, and I was in decent running shape. But I didn't need him to keep up. I just wanted him to be with me. Because I loved him. I know now how hard it was for my dad to believe the simple truth that he was just playing loved. I moved around to his weak side, lightly grabbed his wrist, and threw his arm over my shoulders, and we finished the last half mile that way, arms around each other. Walking step by step together, his weakness meant room for strength in me, which meant connection. And that's all they ever wanted....


ChatGPT and a Better Theology of Work

I have been, in some way, shape, or form, engaged in conversation about AI technology and our relationship with technology for a really long time. In 1999, or 2000, I read Ray Kurtzweil, his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines. And I was shocked if it was way beyond my understanding the terms he was using the vision he was painting of how life would work in relationship with technology like I didn't have a context for it. And then as time went on, and this is part of what good books do as they provide us with language for things we haven't encountered, yet, I started seeing some of his predictions come to life that we would become not just more dependent upon the machines we use, we become more like them. And they would become more like us; it was a fascinating sci-fi-ish kind of adventure for a long time. And now, I'm going to hit pause here for a second because the place I'm not going to go is this place of sort of Luddite ism, where, like, I'm anti-technology; I'm actually not anti-technology; I love that I'm looking around at the tech in front of me and actually love all this stuff I really like having around me. And at the same time, I become increasingly aware, the older I get, of the ways in which the tech around me, the instruments, and the devices around me, and my use of them have actually detracted from my experience of living in my own body. And living as a human. There are ways in which all of this stuff has made my life way better, way easier, and sometimes more enjoyable. And there are ways in which I'm not as fully alive as I could be. If I wasn't as dependent on some of the things that I use technologically. This brings me to this because I'm someone who has been in this conversation and talked about it publicly; folks will send me things every once in a while that they're encountering. And a friend of mine recently sent a tweet thread that they were reading about chat GPT showing up in their workplace. The thread was critical of chat GPT, but maybe not in the way you would think. So Chad GPT had been used to write this vision statement for an organization that this person was working for. It's a charitable organization that helps people in various ways. And the meeting he was in was about vision; it was about who they are as an organization and what happens next. And normally, once a year, once every once in a while. He and the rest of the team and some board of directors types would get together in a room they would talk about, are we on a mission? Are we on? You know, are we living on our vision? Are we who we think we are? It's a very human question. And how do we continue to live that out? And then they would, over the course of time, have this conversation in a meeting, and people would write down these things. And then, they would pass all these notes on to someone who would then write them out. This is who we are. And this is how we're going to execute on who we are. And they would live that out over the next few months or years. This article, though, was put on the table; this document was written by Chet GPT, and someone in the company said I can expedite this process. I can make this faster. I'm just going to plug in the information and make these asks to check GBT, they brought the document, and they were working then from this document that a bot had written a chatbot had run. Now his critique wasn't just that someone's job had been taken by a chatbot. And oftentimes, it would have been him that was part of why he was writing. And normally, he was the person that would impasse these notes. And he'd spend a few hours over the, you know, every day over the course of a week or so to compile them and write a document; he'd been replaced. So there was that there a sense of, like, my job has been replaced, and I'm bummed about that. But it wasn't just about not having the job to do. He actually talked about missing the process, that instead of sitting in the room with these people that he works with,...


Sabbath Rest and Making Moments

You have used the phrase or heard the phrase, 'let's make some memories' or 'let's make some moments.' If you pay attention to the podcast, you know that for the last few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about the passage of time. It's one of the things that came up a lot as I wrote the book Sacred Strides. I'm not just thinking about the way we experience time; I'm thinking especially about how we experienced the time that has passed. And I think, less than experiencing time, the way the calendar dictates it in blocks and then lists, I think we experience time more. So in moments, these clusters of emotional explosion, or implosion, in my reckoning, I think these life moments happen in two ways. Or at least for me, they do. There are probably several more; this is just my little spectrum. One of those ways is moments, I find myself in things like birthdays, or finish lines, you will get tired of me talking about turning 50 This year, but I do; I turned 50. This year, it's a big deal for me. I'm having a moment. My son, this week, turned 13 years old. He's now officially a teenager. That's a moment. Finish lines are a moment I crossed the finish line of a half marathon, I was having a moment. publishing this book was a moment. Now these are things in which these are moments in which I find myself that other people, to some degree, have set up; I'm sort of in the moment. But the Publisher Set the deadline for the publishing of the book. And I didn't turn my son like butter until he turned 13. That's just how things happen biologically over the course of weeks, months, and years. Those are the moments that are orchestrated by other people or other systems around us. Sometimes those moments are random; you look up while dancing and think, oh, my gosh, I feel fully alive right now. And you're having a moment. What makes these moments tricky is that they require us to recognize them. They're just happening all the time. Yeah, we can have the birthday on the calendar. But we do that because we know that at that moment, I'm going to want to pay attention, which is to say, I'm going to want to offer myself more completely in that space. Because I want to know that this is important. While it's happening, that's kind of what makes that moment, a moment that I know it's important. While it's happening. Learning to live that way. And to recognize those moments is a practice of awareness and receptivity. And one of the things a regular practice of rest does is it provides space in which I can practice this kind of awareness and receptivity. That before too many days have passed, I can stop, and I can look back at a few days and let my soul catch up with me and say, That was really good, or That sucked. Or, man, I missed that. The sacred book strides are itself a collection of moments; it was necessary that as those moments arrived, and especially in the short times afterward, I actively created space to hold those moments differently, more intentionally. And learning to live that way, in a posture of awareness. And a posture of receptivity is actually what sets me up for the second kind of moment, the ones I get to set up and set out to make with those that I care about. I don't want to live my life more deeply now that I know, or at least think I know, that I experienced my life this way in these clusters of emotional memory. I'm conscious of that in my planning. And I think specifically, I think strategically about how I might set myself up and set myself up with those I care about to have and Sharon, those kinds of moments, the kinds of moments that actually enrich and deepen our lives. It goes really quickly, friends, this life. One of the ways we slow down this passage of time so that we don't look up and think Oh, my God, where did it all go? Because we slow down to recognize the moments we're in, recreate space in our lives to look back at the time that has passed, so that it didn't just pass, we can see ourselves in our lives....