I love God. I love people. I work with refugees.
My best experience this year was Easter in Trollheimen with Oddny, Elise, Naomi, and Kristin. We were on mountain skiis, felted with mohair to summit, then waxed to glide back down the pristine slopes of Raudfjell. The sun was majestic against the spring snow and the view from the top was awe inspiring. Laughter and irritation after fall #57 mixed with a little comical cussing made the trip human, but man, we were dancing with the Divine.
Historical Jesus and I have had it out this year. I started my angst producing soul-trip in January by ordering two university text books about the current historical, archeological, and anthropological material out there in the charged atmosphere of academia. Since I’ve read most everything by popular Christian Theologians and authors, I thought I would chip into where our educational institutions start freshmen students at the university level.
What I found led me into a dark hole of inquiry and realizations that I still haven’t completely recovered from. But the exercise led me to one profound conclusion that has mediated the feeling of spiritual and intellectual vertigo: I can’t live without Him.
Jesus is the one who showed up at my lime green trailer on Gilmore Trail in Fairbanks Alaska in 1986 and invited me into an adventure so big and audacious that I am still trying to keep up with what I perceive to be his leading. Any of you know me from those days before 1986 know that I was busting a new level of low in the slime pit of earthling life. Whatever historical challenges or evidence contrary to what I learned at church and in the Christian bubble may be, I simply can’t lean into reality without this soul empowering presence next to me. I can’t.
Call me weak. I call it faith.
This exercise in transcendental meaning led me to read all sorts of new authors. I got into Rabbi Kuschner, Rilke, Kierkegaard, and the South American theologian, Rene Padilla. Having read The Courage to Be, by Paul Tillich and some similar stuff by David Benner, I also read more of Joseph Campbell, the Mythologist who wrote Hero With A Thousand Faces. All of these authors and thinking revolved around the historical Jesus and what His life and message should mean to me.
It was white knuckles for me for a while, and I had many other anxiety producing events threatening and irritating me, but here we are at the end of the year and I’m humming a Joe Walsh tune, “Life’s been good to me so far” and feeling grateful that Jesus doesn’t wrath-out on me when I wonder aloud why he didn’t organize his legacy differently.
Oddny put up with all this theoretical stuff. In Oddny’s Book, theoretical is a four-letter word. She’s a practical hard working, passionate ass-kicker who doesn’t waste time on ethereal thinking. Thanks for sticking with me babe. There is only one you.
My book club (yes, I belong to an actual book club too) brothers Kjaertan, Rune, Ove, Bjørn and Trygve have been an important part of my year. They anchored me in meaningful community where it’s safe to talk, express, and question the sacred parts of life. I am grateful for good friends who share my love for books, ideas, and vulnerability.
To cap it all off I got a hold of A Failure of Nerve thanks to my buds Chris Jennings and Jay Pathak. This book is icing on the 2017 cake. In it author Edwin Friedman unpacks the reasons for a failure in leadership in our institutions, governments, and families. We are concept hostages who need a paradigm shift. This book gives many signs to indicate the way out of this frozen- politically-correct harbor of reactive anxiety, forfeiture of individual identity, and the sort of double speak that Orwell penned as fiction. It’s worth your time to read.
“Leadership through self-differentiation is not easy; learning techniques and imbibing data are far easier. Nor is striving or achieving success as a leader without pain: there is the pain of isolation, the pain of loneliness, the pain of personal attacks, the pain of losing friends. That’s what leadership is all about.”
― Edwin H. Friedman,
I thought Iraq or Bangladesh would dominate my travel and work impressions. They were both arresting and motivating, especially what is happening with the Rohingya people. As it turned out though, nothing was close to Syria. I toured a haunting landscape full of resilient and hospitable people. The scale of their suffering and the lack of external support, the violence and the politics that conspire against hundreds of thousands of beautiful people towards an early death; this and so much more was Syria. I want to go back.
My new friend Bashir Talati put up with a week-long adventure of rooftop sleeping (the only place to sleep is on the roof when it’s 130 degrees outside) under the stars Mary and Joseph sojourned beneath. He introduced me to sheiks, desolated cities, refugee wandering, and profuse sweating as we assessed what small part our team could do in the ISIS wasted areas around the Euphrates River.
Part of my Syria experience was the inspiring fact that all the things the Kurdish leaders in Rojava asked Partners Relief & Development to help with, we were capable of giving. In fact, their single most requested item of assistance was trauma therapy for children who have survived the terror of ISIS. We know how to do that.
Some short quips that summarize 2017 leadership lessons: do not hold strong people back in order to appease emotionally dysfunctional people. Don’t stop strong decisive people of character in order to keep peace. Do not, in the name of unity or community, support the weakest link on your team against the will of stronger members. You will lose the strong ones and be left with a highly reactive and weak team.
When you find a Brad (VP Operations) Hazlett, invest and build synergy. Great things are around the corner, even if tough things cackle in the space between. Be bold.
When your team kicks ass and saves lives. Be proud and tell them they are champions.
Do not own things, people, or events. If you lose something you don’t own it doesn’t hurt. Live free, unattached, with a calm smile.
Let people be themselves. Do not maintain or attempt to control the reactions, emotions, love, kindness or favor of anyone. Instead, work on yourself, uncover self-deceptions and blind spots and breathe deeply because the process is the point, not the destination.
When a person constantly blames others for their problems, walk away. They can’t be fixed. And then with a nod to Epictitus, Aurelius’, and the stoics; most threats won’t actually materialize, so live fearlessly and without anxiety. Accept the battles that do come and fight with integrity.
Finally, if you want a good novel to bake you into a lazy day off in 2018 read Hess’s, Steppenwolf. Sublime and amazing and mysterious– my favorite novel from this year. And for music, tune into Vulfpeck starting with the song 1612 be prepared to put your funky smile on though, cause we are dancing into a whole new world in 2018.
Live a free and full life,