This is no longer the Real Live Preacher Weblog
The New site is located at:
RealLivePreacher.com - Check it out!

I am grateful to the folks at Salon.com for providing this forum. I support the magazine with a premium membership and hope that you do as well. My new site has all the original content from this site and more. It began in August of 2005.

  Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Anglican Prayer Beads - Rosaries 

Prayer Beads 

Beautiful, handmade Prayer BeadsAnglican Prayer Beads from a hermitage in central Texas. Rosaries. Anglican Rosary 

rlp

Anglican Prayer Beads - Prayer Beads - Anglican Rosary - Rosaries

Anglican Prayer Beads

Prayer Beads

Anglican Rosary

Rosary

Rosaries

Anglican Prayer Beads from the Solitaries of DeKoven, an Anglican hermitage in central Texas. The core members, living in community make these Anglican Prayer Beads as a spiritual exercise and a way of supporting the community. These prayer beads are beautiful Anglican Rosaries, made with precious stones and quality materials.

You will be able to purchase these Anglican Rosaries there starting August 1st, 2006.



6:09:00 PM    

  Saturday, July 15, 2006


Natural Soap

Handmade Soap

Homemade Soap

Beautiful, natural handmade soap from Tennessee. The site is http://www.natural-handmade-soap.net . She sells natural soap and she sells homemade soap. Actually, the soap is both natural and homemade.



9:36:13 AM    

Interested in Bat Houses? My friend Reggie specialize in them. He has made a thorough study of the roosting needs of bats. Bats are also good at keeping down the mosquito population. They make a pretty good mosquito repellent. He sells Bat Houses, Squirrel Houses, and Bird Houses. Check him out.

Do you have a trailer that carries important equipment? My friend Lyle helps secure trailers with specialized trailer alarms and GPS Security systems. Check him out.



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9:30:52 AM    

  Friday, July 14, 2006


The New Real Live Preacher Site is Online!

This will likely be my last entry as a salon blogger. I love the salon community, but I really can't live with the restrictions of the Radio blog software. There's much more I want to do and will do at the new site.

I am grateful to the folks at Salon.com for providing this forum. I intend to support salon.com (my premium membership has lapsed, but I will renew it), and I intend to keep the old site here in some form. I'm deciding between an auto redirect or just leaving this page here.

The new site is at http://www.RealLivePreacher.com. There's a lot of new features. Check it out!

rlp



12:21:28 PM    

Natural Soap

Homemade Soap

I'd like to announce that my wife has begun a website selling soap. We're excited for her. We'll see how it goes. The site is http://www.natural-homemade-soap.com. She sells natural soap and she sells homemade soap. Actually, the soap is both natural and homemade.



12:19:37 PM    

  Friday, July 29, 2005


Click Here For Pictures

I've put pictures from our trip to Galveston online. Caution, this page will take awhile to load if you don't have broadband.



3:28:33 PM    

A Listening Prayer

The idea for this essay came while I was sitting in this swing at Laity Lodge.

I can't imagine absolute silence, neither can I hear it. Even when I'm in a quiet place, my mind produces its own ghostly, seashell sound. The noise in my head is a faint but high-pitched whine accompanied by a lower rumbling that sounds like an engine pulsing away in the distance. These seem to be the default sounds of my brain. It's what I hear when there is nothing else to hear.

About the closest you can come to silence is to become silent yourself and hope for the best. Close your eyes and forsake your vision. Let go of sight and your desperate need to see. Embrace hearing and you will begin to notice the many layers of the sounds around you...

Click here to read the rest of this essay at The Christian Century online.

Archive of Christian Century Articles by Gordon Atkinson


a Christian Magazine 
Christian Writing

rlp



1:01:59 PM    

  Thursday, July 28, 2005


I'm Back

We got back to San Antonio this evening. Tomorrow I'll post a new essay, but for now I'm taking it easy after a long drive.

Galveston was wonderful. We went to the beach and did a bunch of tourist stuff. I'm still getting used to seeing my older two daughters in their swimsuits. Yikes!

Click here for pictures from Galveston.

rlp



11:41:46 PM    

  Sunday, July 24, 2005


Last Minute Vacation

We had planned to go to Houston and Galveston in early August as our family vacation. Complications at my wife's job mean that she can't be gone at that time. So we are headed for Houston and the coast today and won't be back until Thursday night.

I had planned on unveiling the new Real Live Preacher site/software next week. Look for it in the first week of August. Matt Sturges of Correction, off again on again seminarian, published author, computer geek, and gadabout, has undertaken a Real Live Preacher customization of Drupal. Conversation Threaded comments, sign-in for those who want to be known, live chatting, seeing who else is online, and some other goodies. The new site will be at RealLivePreacher.com.

We'll launch it when I get back. It's gonna be fun!

rlp



2:11:03 PM    

  Thursday, July 21, 2005


The Future of Real Live Preacher

In the late Spring of 2004, I met my dear friend Ben for lunch. The expressed purpose of this meeting was to have a serious conversation about my life. Specifically, how I was managing it. Ben is one of those people who really means it when he says, �So tell me, how are you doing?�

My answer was �Not very well, but I know why, and there�s nothing that can be done about it right now.�

Though he knew most of the story, we rehashed the whole saga of Real Live Preacher. In late 2002, I was feeling drained from trying to be the pastor of a church while running a web design and hosting business all by myself. In order to relieve my small church from the financial burden of supporting a pastor�s family, I had chosen instead to have a �real job,� as I sometimes liked to say.

I always felt like I was doing each job with one hand tied behind my back. I never felt like I was doing anything well, and I could never get used to that. As a pastor, I expected as much out of myself as any full time pastor. As the owner and sole employee of The Aspen Group, my clients expected me to take care of their websites, and I took pride in doing so.

I had two jobs and neither were the sort of job that allows you to clock out at the end of the day. A web server runs 24/7, and your clients expect that their sites will be online at all times. Most of our crashes and problems have always happened at the WORST possible times. There were times when my heart would start racing every time my mobile phone rang.

A church is similar in that it is always on your heart. There is always a part of you that is wondering how people in the church are doing. There is always a part of your brain working in the background, thinking about the sermon and the bible study that come every Sunday morning.

Weekends? Holidays? I had no idea what those meant.

So I started a little blog to let off some steam. I never expected much would come of it. And then this Real Live Preacher character rose up from some unknown, nether region of my soul and began having his say.

Real Live Preacher scares the hell out of me. He really does. There is no controlling him.

It was like a magic trick gone tragically wrong. I waved a wand and turned two jobs into three. Any sane person would have shut down the blog immediately. After all, it didn�t bring any money to the family, so it should have been the first to go.

Only I couldn�t let go of it. I fell in love with writing, you see. I had always loved writing, but I had never given myself permission to throw myself into it, heart and soul. But Real Live Preacher, he doesn�t care about money or health. He just does whatever he wants. In this case, he produced well over 200 essays and got a book published in two and a half years.

That�s a lot of writing for a guy with two jobs, especially if you consider that I put about 10 to 12 hours of work into an essay. Understand, that�s after I get the idea. None of those are pencil chewing hours. And then there were the emails. I know I have to set my own boundaries with email, and I do a pretty good job of that. But these were emails that no one could igore.

"Dear rlp, my fiance was killed in a car accident. He was a Christian, but I am not. His family wants me to say something at the funeral. I'd like to read something from the bible, but I have no idea what to read. You're the only minister I know. Do you have any suggestions?"

"Dear rlp, I'm 17 and I think I'm gay. I'm scared to death to tell my parents and the people at my church. Do you think I'm going to hell for this?"

You know, that kind of thing. I dare you to not answer email like that. Double dare you.

So in the Spring of 2004, with a new facial tick, headaches that sent me straight to bed when they hit, and a few other symptoms, I admitted to Ben that I wasn�t doing all that well.

�But,� I said defensively, �The chance to write like this may only come once in a person�s life. I just can�t walk away from it.�

Ben was understanding, but rightly reminded me that my wife and three children were more important than anything short of God. And to tell the truth, I think the way to please God is to give myself heart and soul to them anyway. I might as well just go ahead and put them first in my life. I don�t really know what it means to put God ahead of my family anyway. I�m hoping God is okay that my boundaries are a little sloppy when it comes to Jeanene and the three sisters.

So I told Ben I was trusting that somehow I would find a way to drop one of the three things I was doing. I wasn�t going to leave my church. They might run me off someday, but I�m not leaving anytime soon. It�s probably the only Baptist church that would put up with me anyway. I couldn�t bear to stop writing. And I couldn�t afford to let go of my fifty paying web clients.

It was a quandary. I vowed to make a decision by the Fall of 2004. That October my book came out. That was fun, but there wasn�t any money in it. For those of you who are wondering, I�m not embarrassed to tell you. I made $3600 from that book, all of it an advance. Given that I spent eighteen months writing the essays and a year getting the book out, that doesn�t come out to very much per hour, if you do the math which I have not because it would be too depressing.

But still, it was a book, and a book was a sign that perhaps I could find a way to make writing pay a little. So in the fall I told Ben I needed a little more time, and now here we are in the summer of 2005. I didn't sleep through the night even once from January to May this year. My increasing depresson and anxiety attacks became critical, and I began to take medication.

Apparently my body was making a few decisions of its own.

I now see that poor management of my life took a toll on my daughters and my wife as well. We�re all going to be okay because we adore each other, but love needs more than just words and sentiment. Relationships need time and nourishment, and I've been neglecting my relationships the last couple of years.

Yes folks, Real Live Preacher is indeed a real human being, and he can�t do everything he�d like to do all at the same time. But you knew that because I�ve never claimed to be anything other than a man with his own particular set of flaws.

It�s time for me to put my money where my mouth is. I have to let something go. I will no longer do three things. I can do two, but not three.

So I choose to let go of web design, perhaps forever. I found a partner who now handles the paperwork and that stuff, and we hired someone to answer the phone, email, and do regular updates for our clients.  For the time being, I don�t make any money from the Aspen group, though I still own it along with my partner, but that�s okay with me.

So writing for Real Live Preacher will be the other thing I do in life besides being a pastor. I feel a sense of personal calling to writing. It's meaningful to me, and I feel that it is a worthwhile thing in the world. It�s a small way that I can work for goodness and be creative to boot.

I will have to be open to finding ways to make money as a writer. That's always tricky. I've enjoyed the fact that anyone can read my work without having to pay for it. I want that to continue. This probably means a paypal donation button will appear here in the near future. I don't particularly like the feel of that, but I guess there's nothing wrong with it.

THE BIG NEWS is that some serious changes are ahead for Real Live Preacher. All good ones. The biggest change will begin in about a week. I'll give you a hint - Drupal. That's all I'll say for now.

I've made my choice. I choose Real Live Preacher. I choose happiness and health. All that remains is to see where this is going to take us.

gordon



10:22:02 AM    

  Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Way Back When

Clarence of "Can You Hear Me Now" has been a blogging friend since the early days of Real Live Preacher. He has a WONDERFUL story online about his life as a boy in the mountains and backwoods. This is a lifestyle that is just about gone. You better take every opportunity to hear from the people who lived it.

It reminds me a bit of "Brother to a Dragonfly," by Will Campbell. He's the man who wrote the blurb on the back cover of my book.

rlp



10:13:42 PM    

Annie Dillard on The Spiritual Journey

I will never forget the first time I read Annie Dillard�s work. The book was her Pulitzer Prize winning work of non-fiction, �Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.�

�My God,� I thought. I�m falling in love with this woman�s mind.�

I was hooked and have now read all of her major works. She is my favorite writer and the single greatest influence on my own writing. I was flipping through �For The Time Being,� looking at my highlighted passages when I came across one with several stars by it. I�d like to offer it to you because Annie Dillard says something that seems true to me, and I think she says it in a way that I could not.

Enjoy:

�Spiritual path� is the hilarious popular term for those night-blind mesas and flayed hills in which people grope, for decades on end, with the goal of knowing the absolute. They discover others spread under the stars and encamped here and there by watch fires, in groups or alone, in the open landscape; they stop for a sleep, or for several years, and move along without knowing toward what or why. They leave whatever they find, picking up each stone, carrying it for awhile, and dropping it gratefully and without regret, for it is not the absolute, though they cannot say what is. Their life�s fine, impossible goal justifies the term �spiritual.� Nothing, however, can justify the term �path� for this bewildered and empty stumbling, this blackened vagabondage � except one thing: They don�t quit. They stick with it. Year after year they put one foot in front of the other, though they fare nowhere. Year after year they find themselves still feeling with their fingers for lumps in the dark.

The planet turns under their steps like a water wheel rolling; constellations shift without anyone�s gaining ground. They are presenting themselves to the unseen gaze of emptiness. Why do they want to do this? They hope to learn how to be useful.

Their feet catch in nets; they untangle them when they notice, and keep moving. They hope to learn where they came from. �The soul teaches incessantly,� said Rabbi Pinhas, �but it never repeats.� Decade after decade they see no progress. But they do notice, if they look, that they have left doubt behind. Decades ago, they left behind doubt about this or that doctrine, abandoning the issues as unimportant. Now, I mean, they have left behind the early doubt that this feckless prospecting in the dark for the unseen is a reasonable way to pass one�s life.

          Annie Dillard - For The Time Being (169-171)

rlp



11:46:22 AM    

  Sunday, July 17, 2005


I'm Back

I�m back from Laity Lodge. It was a very nice week for me, a week of rest and quiet and with no stress or tasks waiting to be done.

Laity Lodge is run by the sort of contemplative, quiet, and gentle Christians that I wish everyone could know. People gather in peace from all denominations to celebrate our shared commitment to Christ.

The lodge itself sits on the crystal-clear Frio River. From the balcony of the lodge, you can easily see every fish in the river below. I watched a lovesick turtle chase his intended from one bank to the other one morning. He never caught her. She would dart into the plants on the bottom to hide, while he, confused, would paddle in circles waiting for her to come up for air.

I did indeed get to meet Dale Bruner. More than that, I became good friends with him and his wife Kathy. At the end of the retreat I got to drive him back to San Antonio to catch his plane to California. We talked theology the whole way. Man, what a thrill for me. Dale is VERY much interested in the theology and exegetical work of Martin Luther. I left committed to purchasing Luther�s commentaries for myself. That�s a frightening thing because I used to be addicted to buying books. I�ve been on a self-imposed program of book-buying abstinence for about four years now. Like any addict would say, I feel sure I can handle it this time.

Coincidentally, I recently started a humorous essay called, �Martin Luther, Diet Coke, and Canned Soup.� Meeting Dale has inspired me to finish it. Look for it in a week or so.

I also met a lot of dear Christian people from all around the United States, some as far away as Georgia, Washington DC, and California.

I got a lot of writing done during the week. I even completed an essay about my evenings sitting in this swing and listening to the sounds of the night. I�m sending it to Christian Century on Monday. If they don�t accept it I�ll post it here.

Inspired by Susan at Visual Voice, I have purchased a very nice digital camera and am trying my hand at photography. I used the macro function to take some close-up shots of insects and flowers at Laity Lodge. Click here if you want to see some more pictures, including one of me at the site of some dinosaur fossils. WARNING: This page may take awhile to load unless you have a broadband connection.

Now This Was Fun

I officiated at the wedding of two bloggers who met online and came to San Antonio to be married on the Riverwalk. Since they met in the blog world, they thought it might be appropriate if Real Live Preacher did the ceremony. WHILE I RARELY AGREE TO DO WEDDINGS FOR PEOPLE I DON�T KNOW, for some reason I said yes to this. I wore my blue jean priest shirt, the one I only wear when I�m being RLP.

It was fun, but not something I plan to do often. In this case, I had corresponded with the bride through her blog, Zelda Pinwheel. I felt like we had something of a relationship. Enough for me to be comfortable doing the wedding.

The wedding itself took place on the roof of the Plaza Room of the Hyatt Regency, overlooking the Alamo itself. I got a nice panorama shot from the roof.


Click for larger image


The three of us at a Jazz bar on the Riverwalk

rlp



8:43:04 PM    

  Monday, July 11, 2005


In Other News...

Area Pastor's Silly Menagerie of Toy Animals
Stolen A Second Time

Yes, the little collection of toy animals that was outside our church is now gone, apparently for good. A family that occasionally attends our church had a family reunion at our facility on Saturday. We like to make our building available for people in the community. Sunday morning when I arrived before dawn, the headlights of my car shone upon an empty rock.

The last time this collection disappeared, I found them in the building. This time they were nowhere to be found. Perhaps some child attending the family reunion took them home to love them and play with them. That's what children often do when they find toys laying around outside.

And after all, isn't that what toys are for?

I found that I wasn't the least bit sad about it. They appeared mysteriously, and I still have no idea how they got there. And now they have disappeared just as mysteriously. Really, wouldn't life be dreary if you didn't have a little mystery now and again?

And what kind of a church would we be if we didn't notice and love the little mysteries of life along with the big ones?

Laity Lodge

I'm heading to the "hill country," as the area north of San Antonio is called, for a retreat at Laity Lodge. Laity Lodge is a wonderful place, and the big news is that the featured speaker is none other than one of my personal heros, Frederick Dale Bruner. Bruner wrote a two-volume commentary on the gospel of Matthew that I adore. It is the only commentary that has brought me to tears. Yes, it's that good. I'm thrilled that Eerdmans has brought it back into print.

Dale Bruner is one of three or four people that I am trying to meet and thank sometime in my life. His writing has meant so much to me that I want to thank him in person. Next on my list, Annie Dillard and Anne Lamott. I'm less confident that I will meet either of them, but a guy can wish, right?

Anyway, I'll be gone until the weekend. No email, no real live preacher, no mobile phone. Just me, pen and paper, prayer, reading, and conversations with new friends.

See you when I return.

rlp



1:03:57 PM    

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