Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ok, I Did It

At 10:48 PM CDT on Halloween 2010 I deactivated my Facebook account. I read all the tearful good byes from friends. Thanks. I’m glad my posts occasionally brightened up your day. Even Facebook put up some photos of me and Melinda and Jenna and my friend Jimmy and told me that if I deactivated my account Melinda would miss me and Jenna would miss me and Jimmy would miss me and would I like to reconsider and just receive fewer emails from Facebook. Melinda isn’t going to miss me – I’m married to her. Jenna isn’t going to miss me – she’s my daughter and needs her tuition money. Jimmy isn’t going to miss me. We are going camping together next weekend.

Here’s the deal – I want to work on one-to-one relationships with the people in my life as much as possible. Relating to people en masse lacks something important to me and leads to an online persona. I had to do enough of that as a pastor. It is not where I want to live. So, if you are one of my former Facebook “friends,” take my invitation seriously.

Email me and tell me what is going on with you and I’ll do the same. Ask for my cell number if you don’t have it and give me a call or text sometime or send me yours and I’ll do the same. Or download Skype and text me that you want to meet there and we can talk face to face or chat over a cup of coffee. Or, First Prize, let’s actually find a time to visit.

And I’ll continue writing this blog once or twice a week, reflecting on life and sharing that with whomever might be interested. But in this case, I’m mostly writing for me. I’ll write it whether anyone reads it or not. (You can “follow” my blog and have an email sent to you that tells you there’s been a update, if that helps.)

Thanks for the time on Facebook. I look forward to the Journey continuing.

BTW, I just got home from the farm about an hour ago. I'll write about that tomorrow, hopefully.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Dear FB,

This is difficult to say, but over the past few weeks I have come to finally admit that our relationship just isn’t working out. I have tried, but the feelings are gone and I don’t think they are coming back.

I remember when we first met – the hours spent sitting with you on the couch, telling you things about myself, showing you photos. I told you about my favorite books and movies, my favorite music and pastimes. I told you where I’d travelled and what I’d done. I would check in with you several times a day, letting you know what I was thinking, what I was doing. You sat with me in airport terminals and coffee shops. You always had some gossip or trivia about our mutual friends. Then when I got my iPhone, it was like you were with me all the time.

We have had some difficult moments – times when I thought what I shared with you was private, only to discover you’d shared it with the world and I had to tell you not to do that anymore. And sometimes you’d suddenly change with no warning and I’d have to get accustomed to the new you. Recently I felt you have become too possessive, wanting to know exactly where I am at all times. And I refused to play your games or start a farm with you. But we made it though those seasons.

I will treasure some things about our relationship. Before I met you, I was virtually friendless. Then you came along and brought the party with you. Suddenly, I had more friends than I thought possible. They poked me and gave me gifts. They wrote on my wall and sent me messages. We chatted. You reconnected me with at least a dozen people I had not contacted in years, and now I hear from them regularly – or at least I see their status. I want you to know that I honestly appreciate that. That would not have happened without you.

Now I have exactly 1120 friends, so many I can’t really keep up with them all. In fact, I can’t really keep up with any of them. Our relationships have grown shallow and superficial. We share trivia, jests, and pointless observations. Is this all there is to a relationship? I have the sense that I’m staying in touch with people, but really I’m not.

Don’t take this personally, FB. It is not about you, really, it’s about me. I just cannot feel committed to our relationship any more. Maybe my expectations are unrealistic, but I want something more real, something deeper, and I just can’t find it with you, in spite of all the time we spend together. I’m not blaming you or any of your more than 500 million active users who spend more than 700 billion minutes per month with you. And I’m not judging you or them, either. It’s not about that.

In a good relationship, one hopes to become a better person. I’m not sure it has worked that way for us. Honestly, I think you have helped me become a bit more narcissistic. That’s not your fault – it’s mine. Although you told me that more than a thousand people needed to know tiny details about my life and thinking, I believed you. Admittedly, I often wrote status updates or posted photos, not to inform, but to impress. (And, ironically, I’m breaking up with you in a blogpost for all the world to see. Clearly I have a way to go in recovering from our years together.)

So I’m going to break this off. I’m returning all the photos, the flair, and the notes I wrote you. You can keep them. And if it is alright with you, I’ll continue relating to some of my friends in other ways, although I’m not sure how. Being with you so much has gotten me out of the habit. Perhaps if they want to know what is going on in my life without actually talking to me, they could read the blog that I have neglected since you and I have been seeing each other ( At least there I try to reveal myself a bit more authentically. Or perhaps I could go back to emailing people rather than sending and receiving FB messages, which just show up as an email anyway ( Perhaps they could call me or I could call them and we could have a conversation (cell phone number available by email request). Or we could sit with my friend Skype and hear each other and see each other. Or, possibly, we might even sit down, face to face, and talk. I don’t know how I will get along without you right now, but I know I must.

So this is goodbye. I promise not to talk bad about you to others. Please, don’t call and beg me to reconsider. But I do hope we can still be “friends.”

Virtually gone,


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Leaders are Readers

I received notice this week that on November 11, Leadership Network is hosting a live, online event on the topic of Leaders & Readers. Six authors will share their thoughts on the role that reading has played in their leadership experiences, drawing content from their latest books. On that day, the audience will be able to participate in the conversation through live Q&A.

Leadership Network invited me to share my thoughts on the following three questions…

1. How would you complete this sentence: “I believe that reading is valuable to leadership because…”?

2. Do leaders read differently than non-leaders? How?

3. What are 3 books that have most influenced your leadership and why?

So I have decided to take them up on it. From the time that I first began to make sense of words on a page as a pre-K, I have been fascinated with reading. The public libraries in my city and the libraries at every school I have ever attended have been among my favorite haunts (and they still are). The evolutionary process after that was powerful: I discovered bookstores, then bookstores discovered coffee, and then showed up and I could browse the bookstores without leaving my desk! My office walls are lined with books. Our study at home is lined with books. My laptop contains a couple of thousand volumes. I have pretty much been obsessed with reading most of my life. What difference has that made for me? What is the connection between my reading and the fact that I have been involved in leadership most of my life as well?

I believe that reading is valuable to leadership because a reader is often a person whose mind is working. Assuming I am reading books that challenge my thinking, that present ideas I sometimes take issue with, that introduce me to new ways of thinking, then reading is an act of mental growth. In a world that changes as rapidly as ours, leaders cannot afford to be people whose minds are stuck in a former paradigm. Leaders are people who must be able to learn their way through the changes in order to thrive. A supple, working, thinking brain is a leader’s greatest asset. The act of reading helps keep that asset sharp.

Do leaders read differently than non-leaders? That is difficult to say, since I’m not so familiar with the reading habits of non-leaders. Leaders do not so much read for entertainment, I think. The leaders with whom I associate do read voraciously. They love books and they love ideas. They read fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose, theology and economics, classics and contemporary. They read to stay up and they read to stay grounded. Reading keeps leaders connected not only with the leaders of the present, but also with the leaders of the past. It is a common “complaint” heard among my peers that our conversations are too expensive – they send us to Amazon for another order as we share what we have been reading.

Which three books have most influenced my leadership (excluding the Bible, which is the easy answer)? Murray Bowen’s Family Therapy in Clinical Practice is a collection of Bowen’s essays and lectures over a couple of decades, exposing the development of his thinking about how natural systems work. This thinking, and that of many of his disciples such as Roberta Gilbert, Ron Richardson, Edwin Friedman, and Michael Kerr has informed my thinking about what it means to lead with an understanding of natural systems. Early on as a pastoral leader, I recall reading Tom Peter’s In Search of Excellence and being challenged to think about what excellence should look like in congregational life and leadership. A third influence has been the works of Wendell Berry (pick one – how about his collection of essays, The Art of the Commonplace?) I was introduced to Berry by Eugene Peterson’s comment in his Under the Unpredictable Plant, in which he encouraged pastors to read Berry and substitute the word “congregation” wherever the farmer/writer/poet Wendell Berry used the words “land,” ”soil,” or “farm.” Then, Peterson said, we’d understand something about what pastoral leadership is about. That advice has been fruitful for me. That also illustrates the way that books lead to other books and writers introduce their favorites to the reader like good friends.

When I had my head buried under the covers as a preteen, reading by flashlight so my mother would not know I’d not yet gone to bed, I never expected to be a writer myself. But a few years ago I joined two friends and colleagues in a project that led to our writing The Leader’s Journey: A Call to Personal and Congregational Transformation. There have been other pieces as well. And currently I am working on a couple of projects. I do hope that my writing has the effect of helping readers become leaders and of introducing leaders to ideas that will shape their work.

Be sure to join us on November 11 for Leaders & Readers, you can register free at