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.