Life Story Retreat May 19

Saturday, May 19 9:30am-4:00pm


 Join a diverse group of community members from Southern Oregon for a day of exploring, shaping, and sharing life stories. Set in Ashland’s Green Springs mountains, the retreat will offer participants a chance to explore life experiences in a restful and contemplative setting. The retreat will include:

  • Creative exercises to help you recall and reflect on your own life experiences
  • A process to encourage compassionate listening
  • Instruction to help you shape and communicate your story
  • Interesting people whose rich stories will deepen your connection to others
  • Good coffee and baked goods
  • A delicious lunch
  • A beautiful setting among ponderosa pines and fields of wild flowers

The retreat is an extension of The Hearth’s true storytelling series and offers a chance for community members to appreciate the variety of life experiences that exist within our community.  The day will be facilitated by Hearth founder Mark Yaconelli. For more information go here. All proceeds will support The Hearth: Reals Stories by Regular Folks, a true storytelling series that raises money for non-profits in Southern Oregon through seasonal, communal storytelling events.

To register email Mark Yaconelli at

*Scholarships are available.  No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Feast or Famine April 19

I facilitate a true storytelling series titled “The Hearth.” Our spring theme is “Feast or Famine” and includes stories like “Searching for a Table, Survival Training, An Alaska Winter, Waitressing through Despair, Love and Food, and Coming to my Senses.  The event takes place from 7 to 9pm at First Congregational Church, 717 Siskiyou Blvd. Cost is $5 and all proceeds will go to Rogue Valley Farm to School.  Storytellers include Matt Damon, David Young, Juliet Grable, DavidPaul Doyle, and others.  Music by Duane Whitcomb, Wendi Stanek, Steve Shaw, and special guest Dianne Strong. Hosted by Mark Yaconelli. If you’re in the area, show up.

A Dying Church

[This post is reprinted from Immerse Blog]

“unless a kernel of grain falls into the earth and dies…”

-John 12:24

Maybe the best thing that could happen to the church would be for some great tidal wave of history to wash all that away—the church buildings tumbling, the church money all lost, the church bulletins blowing through the air like dead leaves, the difference between preachers and congregations all lost too.  Then all we would have left would be each other and Christ, which was all there was in the first place.—Frederick Buechner

It wasn’t the first time I had been to a church with a split personality. Seeking to be all things to all people, this downtown Presbyterian church offered two vividly different worship services creatively titled, “traditional” and “contemporary.” I had spent three days teaching parenting and youth classes and, on this final day of my visit, was asked to preach at both worship services. The first service was old-school Presbyterian. The gathered were elderly and formally dressed—ties, jackets, long, floral dresses. There was organ music, “Be Thou My Vision” and other timeworn hymns. The Gloria Patriwas sung as well as the Doxology. There was a prelude and postlude and a choir that processed into the sanctuary. The worship leaders dressed in black gowns and sat in high-back chairs alongside the altar. The liturgy was carefully scripted, the congregation smartly guided by crisp, pastel bulletins.

If 1980s Christian pop music is your barometer of modern culture, then the contemporary service was certainly contemporary. The somewhat younger congregation entered the sanctuary with jazzy, Christian soft rock playing through the sound system. There was a guitar-slinging praise band and a quartet of microphone-wielding worship hosts who walked loosely around the stage, chatting up the audience, encouraging folks to clap hands or stand up and “give God praise.” The music was pop-worship (one song was introduced as “the latest moving up the worship charts”), and lyrics and prayers beamed across a movie screen with backgrounds that morphed into a variety of inspirational nature photos. The pastors removed their ties and black gowns and sat in the pews, standing casually to read Scripture or recite prayers. The pastor later told me that this kind of informal service meets the needs of emergent Christians. Read More

I’m Sorry, We Did Not Recognize You

I attended the Maundy-Thursday service at our church last night (by the way “Maunday” means “commandment” in Latin and refers to Jesus’ commandment to love and serve others with humility).  It was a good old-fashioned small town potluck followed by a beautiful service of candles, somber, heartfelt singing, and some simple rituals that evoked grief and loss.  A woman sitting in front of me cried against her young son’s neck, wiping her tears with his hair.  Once again I was reminded of all the grief that we harbor, secretly within us.

I spoke with Will, a man who spent many years in a simple, poor, spiritual community practicing prayer.  I spoke to him about an upcoming trip to Assisi in Italy.  In response Will told me about being in Assisi on Maundy Thursday many years ago.  In Assisi they have a procession in which they take down the body of Christ from the cross in the San Rufino chapel.  The body is then processed through town, stopping at various cloistered communities where the body is kissed and prayed over by the Sisters and Brothers of the various communities.  My friend told me as the body is processed there is only a simple drum beat as thousands of people sing, “We’re sorry, we did not recognize you.”  Will and I both teared up as he told me this. No need to speak any further. Read More