To A Colleague and Friend, A Short Tribute

November 2012, Art of Hosting Faith Based Communities, Salt Lake City, Utah

I have been fortunate to have some outstanding friends and colleagues over the last twenty years. Together we have wandered, and charged, our way into important work that has been impactful. Together we have dared to listen well for what our hearts called us too, which included going against a norm or two. Together we lended, and received, courage to be in some of the meaningful work of our times.

One of those outstanding friends and colleagues is a person I spoke with yesterday, Kathleen Masters. She’s in the picture above at the event we first met at (black sweater, glasses) — The Art of Hosting Faith Based Communities, from 2012. Kathleen reached out to me in 2012 first asking about bringing 3-4 people. She called back again asking about 5-6 people — would it be OK? She did the same again and asked about bringing 10-12 people. It was awesome — we made it work, which I didn’t know in 2012, but “making it work” would become a cornerstone for our good efforts together over then next seven years.

I want to underline “outstanding” with Kathleen (and Kathleen, I ask for your patience as I write a bit about you —  just enjoy a tea as you read, and know that there are many of us that celebrate you!).

Our context for speaking yesterday was a continuation of coaching sessions that have now taken place over the last seven years. That and several significant projects that brought some of the participative leadership set of frameworks and practices to Kathleen’s work with The United Methodist Church, Church and Community Ministries.

It’s a challenging time for the UMC. Soon they convene to vote on splitting their denomination. Kathleen and I spoke a bit about that yesterday, with some heartache, and reiterated a principle that we discovered and practiced together — “don’t blame each other for complexity (when it is a property of a system that has emerged from much more than any individual action. Rather, remain awake and in relationship.”)

Kathleen is winding down her formal job with UMC. She’ll transition to retirement soon. I have to name that it has been utterly fulfilling to offer some accompaniment to Kathleen as she has offered her gifts with her colleagues. I have to name that it was really something to write The Participatory Leadership Journal with her a few years back. It is a primary resource that I continue to offer to people in faith communities seeking to improve their leadership and hosting skills.

Kathleen is a very thoughtful and kind person — this is how I’ve known her over these many years. She’s generous in spirit and deed. I’ve seen her stand for those marginalized and underrepresented. I’ve seen her do so with notable cleverness, skill, and big heart.

In yesterday’s conversation, this dear friend and colleague named a bit of what was important learning for her. I could say, “these days,” knowing that there is particular challenge and heartbreak in the UMC tradition. But Kathleen was speaking a bit more broadly.

“In times of tumult, it is important that we speak honestly and openly about that. We must speak truth to one another. We must do out best together, everything from drafting off of each other in support to sharing the burden. We must acknowledge a lack of external control, but do all that we can, despite this, to cultivate internal peace, kindness, and generous spirit.”

Kathleen — your gifts are many. I’m grateful for these years of journey together.

But Lasting — On Friendship

I wrote this poem after a time of having friends in my home for a few days. We were in simple community together. Stories. Meals. Laughs. Tears. Some blue skies. Some early spring leafing of trees.

Got me thinking about family of blood and family of friends.

As an honoring of friendships that are family, I offer this poem.

But Lasting

Thank you friends,
for coming this way,
for these days together
in joy, play, and thoughtful connection.

Those twenty minutes
sharing stories from the day
much different.

I think these are moments
of family,
but lasting.



Last summer, I was spending some time with a friend who was struggling. He was losing sight of his path and gifts. He was filled with doubt. He was in a lot of pain. He was lost in the tall grass, so to speak.

It was a bit difficult to watch. But, my job as friend, included helping him remember a bit more of himself. Pulling back some of the grasses. With honesty, yes. This wasn’t about fabricating sunshine. But also with affirmational support.

All of us forget. All of us need out friends to help shine a bit of light on what feels utterly lost in the shadow of personal, but is actually, quite communal and universal. I’m glad for these friends in my life.

I wrote a few words to give him. Core bits about being loved, enough, and gifted.

Funny how it works, that often, our affirmations and guidance and reminders that we offer to others, are what we need to hear for ourselves.

Rest in what is.

You are loved, just as you are.

You are enough.

You are wildly exciting
in your spirit, heart, mind, and belly.

Let go of all the chatter.

Rest in what is.


Presence First

It was many years ago now that I asked my good friend and colleague Toke Moeller, “If you had one tool, what would that be?” We had just completed an Art of Hosting, the first in North America, helping to further encourage the body of work that is participative leadership. We were at the Marsh House at the Aldermarsh property on Whidbey Island in Washington State. The building and retreat center were empty, 30 bodies had scattered out into there varied destinations, after having been together for three wonderful days together. This was 2002. Toke’s response, in the quiet of this now empty building, was “presence.” His words echoed just a tiny bit in the empty meeting space. Those words have not stopped echoing in me.

It was only a day ago that in conversation and planning with another friend and colleague, Christina Baldwin, I heard similar words. She was sharing what was the essence for her, a version of response to “Why circle?” “Presence,” she began, “is what changes how we are together. Presence is what people are longing for. Presence is what people are struggling to have in a world that requires tending through multiple distractions. Circle helps to create this.”

There it was again. Simplicity. If in doubt, give energy and attention to presence. Showing up to listen to silence together. To listen to each others words. To listen to what is in the middle of those words and that silence that glues them together.

Both of these people, Toke and Christina, are woven into my soul. They are both kind and gracious. They are both welcoming. They are both fiercely committed to good. My friendship and growing up with them is one of the things I’m most grateful for in my life.

And there are days, for all of us, when returning to the simple advice from friends that travel life together, is the only thing that seems to matter.

Presence first.