Word of the Week

I'm so excited to tell you today that there will be a new book with my name on coming your way in 2020.

After writing my first book, Birthed, y'all kept asking, when the next one?

So many of you felt the ending of Birthed didn't fully satisfy your curiosity for what came next in the Hagan family. You had so many questions about the ends and outs of adoption, the birth story of my daughter and what marriage looks like after sharing some of roughest moments for all the world to see.

Well, hear me say, one day this book will be what I'll offer.

I've been working on another memoir about all things unsaid in Birthed about family and adoption and mothering. I started drafting it even before Birthed had a publication date!

I'm half-way to a completed draft and even attended a 10-day workshop last summer, hoping to hone my craft with this book front and center.

But, memoirs, at least the best ones, in my opinion take time. They take years of wisdom to pen. And re-writes. Then more re-writes. More life to be lived.

And it's not time yet for this new memoir to be born.

However, it is the time for another project!

A couple of weeks ago, I signed a contract with Upper Room Books-- a publisher with a great history of putting spiritual formation resources in to the hands of congregations all around the world-- for a book that I feel is timely.

So I am working on this: Taboo Church Talk: A Beginner's Guide to Having Hard Conversations in Faith Communities. The hope is that Taboo Church Talk will be out and in your hands sometime in 2020.

This book will contain teaching sections, encouraging examples of those who are having hard conversations well and discussion questions.

My hope is that small groups of all sorts will choose to study it together.

How did I get here you might wonder?

While I was in the process of marketing Birthed-- a story about long journey with infertility-- I faced challenges I never anticipated.

I was so excited to share Birthed. I felt so happy to be the first pastor knew exploring her own infertility journey in a publication. But, no one (ok, I don't mean to be overly dramatic, some people did, just maybe not as many people as I would have liked) wanted to talk about infertility.

Though these folks might have liked me. Or might have wanted to celebrate the fact that I wrote a book. But the average church person did not want to talk about infertility, especially my infertility. Too weird.

The longer I marketed Birthed, the more I felt like my topic was a cocktail of all the worst things: sexuality, shame, anger, grief, and loss. And my message was the only way you can real heal from pain is to go deeper into your pain so you can birth yourself. A light read, huh?

But, In my creativity of trying to figure out how to get people to care about my book I cared so much about, I discovered this: infertility was not the only topic that no one wanted to talk about in church.

Folks didn't want to talk about:



Mental Illness

Domestic Violence

and on and on.

And in our current political state where everything automatically goes to "are you on my team or not?" I couldn't sit on this idea any longer. I knew I needed to create a resource that helped church folk talk about stuff with each other that was a part of their daily lives including but not limited to infertility.

I wanted to create a resource that would not try to persuade folks to believe in a certain way (aka be more like me) but that would keep people talking to each other. And listening. Then listening some more.

I am writing this book now and teaching it as I write this summer with my congregation, the Palisades Community Church in Washington, DC.

I am writing for all of you out there with a gay son that you love but can't talk openly about in your Sunday School class.

I am writing for all you who attend a church where most of the members are a race that is not yours and nobody speaks of discrimination.

I am writing for all of you who know someone who walks in the doors on Sunday mornings with bruises on their faces but will not say why.

I'm so excited that Upper Room was excited about this project too and is helping me craft it in its best possible form for you or your church group to use soon. 

I can't wait to share further updates with you and plan opportunities to come to your church or small group and talk about in 2020 and beyond.

Most of all, I'm doing a happy dance over here because a new book is coming soon!

Do you think of yourself as a person of privilege?

This is this third in the series of "How do we live in these days?" If you missed last week's post:"Why is my Preacher So Political in the Pulpit?"  check it out. 

Privilege. Such is a word we're never too far from.

To have an honest conversation about race relations in America is to talk about white privilege's role in the formation of almost everything. White privilege has everything to do with the policies of neighborhoods, policing and schools.

The listing of #firstworldproblems is to discuss privilege. When you hear folks complain social media about the garage door opener not working or the line being too long at the drive through or an IPad malfunctioning (while sitting next to an IPhone and IMac that does) it all goes back to privilege.

And the ever so popular discussion about the value of short-term church mission trips (Should we go and help people in that far away place this year?) is always a conversation about privilege.

Having the space and time for me to write this blog now is a privilege.

So what do we do about it? How do live more awake and inclusive lives?

It's not very cool to admit bias, advantage or much less privilege in this world. (I mean, we are). But who likes to talk about it?

Over the Christmas holidays, I picked up Lee Hull Moses' book, More than Enough: Living Abundantly in a Culture of Excess.

What I found in More Than Enough was a conversation partner in wrestling with privilege.

Lee Hull Moses gives us a context for responsible, thoughtful living: her home in Greensboro, NC. She's a wife, a mother and a pastor of a local church. Not that this is everyone's context, but there's a lot to gleam from watching a family being honest about theirs.

We see Lee want to grow her own food in her backyard for environmental reasons (and try!), but find that she's without a green thumb . . .

We see Lee see want to make responsible choices about banking, but struggle with time to actually transfer her accounts to a socially responsible credit union  . .

We see Lee want to support those who make a living wage with fair labor practices, but then fight the urge of convenience when sleds for her children are on sale at the big box store . . .

What I most appreciated about the book: Lee's honesty.

Her careful attention to prose helped me be present to her circumstances throughout the book.  She shows us a longing to live your values in her weekly shopping only to find that her children just want fast food chicken nuggets!

She shows the desire to advocate for moral causes only to find there's not enough time in the week to do the work she's actually paid to do.

She shows the practice of taking a fun vacation with her husband only to find guilt bubbling over about how the money could be better spend helping the poor.

It's real life. Struggles many of have faced.

So in the spirit of Lee's book, in this one post, I do not have the answers for how to wrestle with your privilege. Or mine. But I do have this advice.

Be honest about your privilege. 

For those of who want to do good with our lives. For those of us who know better and want to do better as Maya Angelou would say . . . for those of us who know we could be serving our community in more thoughtful ways.

Start there.

Just say it.

I am a privileged person.

I am a privileged person who didn't make the time to vote.

Or I am a privileged person who bought cheap stuff this week I know came from unregulated factory in China.

Or I am a privileged person who did not recycle though I passed by a big blue recycle bin.

This honesty is not meant to make us feel bad. Or hide in corner feeling judged. No. It's meant to move us forward.

For if there is anything I gleamed from the book, More Than Enough, it is change comes when we try. We can all take baby steps.

shutterstock_190206338For years I've hung around friends who write books. I've observed them. I've admired them. I've taken notes.

Maybe for the reason that before I even said the words aloud, "I want to write a book one day" I knew this would be my journey.

And in sticking close to my book writing friends, I'd observed that those who both write books and maintain blogs (like this one) always took a complete time out when their deadline to their editor neared. (Like mine is now!)

These friends would post messages saying: "Shut down. Coming back in 3 months."

As I'd read these posts (as devoted readers of their work), I wondered why all the drama? How can you not do both? Why aren't you disciplined enough to allocate time for all the unique parts of their writing life?

I boasted internally that when I neared the completion of my manuscript, I'd also have the ability to keep all the wheels going in the air including a blog. Mostly because I'd been working my manuscript it for so long. . .

But here I am with a REAL publication day coming soon.

And I have to confess to you:

I was so wrong.

My writing friends were so right. You can't keep a blog going like normal AND finish a manuscript at the same time.

I can barely find energy to write sermons for Sunday.

As I've been editing like crazy, really like crazy (you can ask Kevin, poor Kevin) there's been nothing left to give Preacher on the Plaza.

It's not because I'm lazy.

It's not because I suddenly care less about the normal things I muse about.

And it's not because I don't want to write weekly updates (or even have my normal put my head on the pillow ideas for posts on a nightly basis).

But, because I've realized one important truth about the writing life: there's a LIMIT to my (or anyone's for that matter) creativity in any given day.

I can only produce so many words or good sentences in a particular amount of time, even if I wanted to give more. I can't.

And right now I need to devote my brightest times of the day to this book manuscript and the sermons that are asked of me on Sundays.

It's killing me because I can't wait to get back to the normal pace of my life.

I can't wait to share with you some of the big picture lessons I've learned about my own story as I've sifted through in an intense sort of way these past weeks.

I can't wait to blog about politics, liturgy, the preaching life or anything really that isn't infertility related.

But for now and for the sake of the quality of words that I hope you one day will want to read, I'm going to get back over there to that other document on my screen and stay at it.

So, in the meantime, you know where I am . . . drinking of the deeper wisdom that in life we might be able to "do it all" but most certainly not all at the same time!

As many of you have heard me muse about, one of the projects I am working on in my "spare" time is writing a book. It's a memoir of sorts about experiences of grief and a look at the topic of grief from a pastoral perspective. When it will be done, who knows? But in the meantime, the project makes me smile just to think about it.  I am a writer as much as I am a pastor.

However, as excited as I am about the writing process and eventually the publication, I have an equal amount of fear. I can't believe that I'm actually doing this. And I can't believe that it will ever be done. And I also can't believe that anyone will like it as much as it brings me personal pleasure to write down.

The best metaphor I have for this project is it is like running a marathon.  It's one of those things that often people say they want to do or need to do, but rarely see to the finish line. It's a discipline that requires constant attention-- work that is often solitary that no one sees or affirms as you "train." It's a BHAG that seems impossible in the beginning, but gets a little easier the more you attend to it. It's a task of building discipline muscles every time you engage in it-- strength that gets you back on track in the writing direction sooner between drafts.

So, as far as I can tell right now, I'm about 1/3 of the way done of this marathon training. But, sadly, it seems I have little to show for it. Though I know what I have is more than those who haven't yet decided to show up at the start gate. At the gym where I actually work out, there's a sign on the front door which say's, "Half the battle is just showing up." I'm hoping this is true of writing too.  

Writing a book, like training for the mammoth of all races can be a lonely task. For hours at a time, you slave away at your computer not quite yet to share your prose with others until it is just right. You keep working and wait for the moment when you can present your offering of "this is my story."  Some people are better at the waiting than others. I am not that kind of person.

I don't love long solitary days, especially if they come back to back in a given week. I need more company than just words on a page. But commitment to completion of this project requires me to remember that sometimes I have to say no to what in the present could be a lovely invitation to a hang out with a friend for the sake of the project. If I'm doing this, I really need to do it. These moments of discernment are hard to adjust to.

For personal encouragement to keep going, I often print out rough drafts of the chapters I complete and place them into a stack with the rest of the finished but unfinished project. Somehow as the pile of papers gets thicker by the week, I feel like one day this just might be a book. A real book. My real book! 

Sometimes if I am desperate for some cheers, I'll post on twitter my chapter count in hopes that other writing friends know what a big deal it is to move from completion of chapter 11 to chapter 12. While it may not seem like a big deal to those on the outside, for me, that one increase in chapter completion is a testament of hours of discipline, focus and resolve to just get it done. It's much like a runner who goes from completing a 10 minute mile to a 9 minute mile. While, yes, it is just a minute, this one minute is a huge accomplishment.

So, I'll keep running (aka book writing) with my eyes on the finish line which I hope I'll get to soon-- at least sooner than never!