A jolt from Tolstoy about “the poor.”

A jolt from Tolstoy about “the poor.”

Nothing like a jolt from Tolstoy to start your day. There is something wrong with the order of this world when the rich live off the labors of the poor. They are fed by them, live in the houses they build, and are served by them—and if that isn’t enough, they establish charities for them and think themselves benefactors.”




Posted in Staublog in August 11, 2011 by | 1 Comment »

Six Days After K-Fest 2011.

Six Days After K-Fest 2011.

KindlingsFest 2011 is now behind me by six days. What a magical week! 370 registered; 50+ camped onsite; 50+ kids in the Kindlings Kamp program; 190 buffet lunches served. The logistics are starting to overwhelm our system, but when I think about the transcendent luminescence of what transpired I am in awe. (Photo Jeff Johnson, Brian Moss, Dick Staub and Michael Card).

What a rich banquet was served by our speakers and artists: Jerry Root, Michael Card, Eric Metaxas, Nigel Goodwin, Lawrence McAdams, Susan Osborne, Storling Dance, Theatre, Tony Payne, Karin Stevens Dance, Jeff Johnson and Brian Moss, Tara Ward, Sundance Select movies with Jeff Keuss.

We explored turning mourning into dancing and I watched it happen as tears were shed, hugs offered. I saw the laughter and giggling, dancing, drinking and eating, new friends made. Little film canisters with mourning beads shook to the sound of Grant and team singing Garments of Praise.

Registrants brought visual art and poems, and songs enriching BagEnd. And the budget was met when over $20,000 on donations came in during the four days.

What about me? Six days later, what am I feeling and thinking?

I am exhausted.

I am overwhelmed with gratefulness for the way people showed up

And how God’s presence flowed into this space and the lives in it.

I am moved by the volunteer efforts of so many, especially the people of Orcas Island Community Church.

John Updike said, “I feel closest to God when I am writing.” When do I feel close to God? Many ways, but one of them is at an event like KindlingsFest, which has moved from concept to reality and whose sum exceeds the parts I envisioned.

There is nothing more satisfying then bringing your simple little loaves ands fishes to God and then watching them multiply in God’s hands.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.


Posted in Staublog in August 5, 2011 by | 2 Comments »

The Busiest of Times

The Busiest of Times

The busiest of times are the times I need you most, Oh Lord.

Life becomes a whirlwind each June, starting with my annual trip to the UK for a Kindlings Hearth with Nigel Goodwin at his home on the Isle of Wight. Two special highlights this year included a visit from the David McFadzean Family (David is a Hearth alum) who happened to be vacationing on the Isle of Wight, and a reunion with filmmaker Anthony Minghella’s parents. I met the father on a train a few years ago and comforted him at the loss of his son. This summer they presented me with an autographed copy of The English Patient screenplay.

July arrives and we are in full court press for KindlingsFest, which will be bigger than ever this year. (Starts July 27). There are a lot of details and logistics in this event and one has to keep one’s eye on the ball, which is making sure we intelligently and thoughtfully unfold this year’s theme of “Turning Mourning Into Dancing.”

Summer is party time, fresh Dungeness crab time, visits from family and friends time, and as a result, summer can become way-too-busy time.

It is good, and fun, but busy times can be the best of times and worst of times, so I stand by my opening line, the busiest of times are the times I need you most, Oh Lord.

Remember the old familiar “Slow Me Down Lord” bit?

“Slow me down Lord Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.

Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal march of time.

Give me amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the eternal hills.

Break the tension of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory.

Help me to know the magical restoring power of sleep.

Teach me the art of taking MINUTE vacations, Of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines of a good book.

Slow me down Lord and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.”


Posted in Staublog in July 23, 2011 by | No Comments »

Our nation’s woes. Prayerfully Get to Work.

Our nation’s woes. Prayerfully Get to Work.

(Here is the entire piece I wrote for Religion News Service about patriotic prayer rallies).

The smoke had barely cleared from the Fourth of July
festivities when the headlines spelled out the story of the most dismal economic recovery since the Great Depression.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the economy is lagging on a number of key indicators, including “employment growth, unemployment levels, bank lending, economic output, income growth, home prices and household expectations for financial well-being.”

This left me rather glum and took a bit of the glow off the patriotic fervor of the Independence Day celebrations. We once were able to throw off the Brits, but it seems we can’t break free from this bad economy.

Then an e-mail came in with word that help was on the way.  Religious folks who feel politicians should stop running for something and start standing for something had finally found their man: Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Perry has called a Day of Prayer and Fasting on Aug. 6 in Houston, and has invited his 49 fellow governors to participate in the event at Reliant Stadium.

Perry’s proclamation added to the list of woes, citing the global economic downturn, economic disaster, terrorism and wars around the world. “Given the trials that have beset our country and world … it seems imperative that the people of our nation should once again join together for a solemn day of prayer and fasting on behalf of our troubled nation.”

The news forwarded by a dear friend didn’t have the desired effect on me.

Over the years I’ve watched Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and others call Americans together for various prayer events with a lot of speeches and a little prayer. They’ve filled stadiums as religious celebrities march onto the stage to urge God-fearing folks to take their country back for God.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a follower of Jesus, I believe in prayer, I love my country and I honestly do not wish to judge the motives of folks planning these public displays.

But let’s at least be honest and admit that most of our nation’s economic woes can be traced back to our disobedience — individual and collective — to the laws of common sense that are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Read the Bible and you’ll discover our faith frowns on debt big time. Yet by 2007, U.S. households collectively borrowed the equivalent of 127 percent of their annual incomes to fund purchases of homes, cars and other goods.

Maybe instead of big public prayer events, God-fearing folks ought to stay home, balance their checkbooks, cut up their credit cards, live within their means and then privately ask God’s forgiveness for mortgaging their children’s future.

But it doesn’t stop there.

According The New York Times, during this current economic crisis the compensation of the 200 highest-paid chief executives at large corporations increased by 23 percent in 2010 over the previous year.

Maybe instead of the hoopla of big public prayer rallies, God-fearing folks ought to join with other stockholders and demand that executive compensation be brought back to the land of reality.

The White House Council of Economic Advisors reported that the government’s stimulus package cost taxpayers of $278,000 per job created.

Maybe instead of the fanfare of big public prayer rallies, God-fearing folks who have gotten their own financial house in order ought to demand that their government do the same.

“Pray as though everything depended on God,” St. Augustine once said. “Work as though everything depended on you.”

I am not opposed to public prayer on behalf of our nation, I guess I just think it is time to prayerfully get to work.


Posted in Staublog in July 12, 2011 by | 1 Comment »

Coffee with Susan Osborn, Wendell Berry and Angeles Arrien

Coffee with Susan Osborn, Wendell Berry and Angeles Arrien

My meetings with Susan Osborn have become a highlight of my week. Today the appetizer was her emerging thinking about the difference between belief and faith and how rigid “belief” (aka dogma) makes for bad art. I added there is a continuum between certitude (dogma) and the unknown (mystery) and the closer to the fluidity of mystery we are the better the art we make.

Our main course was a Wendell Berry poem: “Willing to die,
you give up your will,
keep still
 until moved by what moves all else,
you move.” Here Susan was reflecting on the artist’s technical skills versus vulnerability attained by yielding of the will. I think it was Puccini who said of a technically perfect soloist that she would never be great because her heart had never been broken. Great art flows from brokenness combined with practice, skill and craft.

For dessert Susan told me about the work of Angeles Arrien, a cultural anthropologist who among other things talks about what all cultures have in common when dealing with crisis: on one extreme is denial and on the other is self-indulgence. I can deny my pain or indulge it. The artist finds creative space between these two extremes.

These were the seed thoughts of our weekly confab. I’m so excited she’ll be a KindlingsFest as one of our artists-in-residence. Her art will take us on a unique exploration of our theme Turning Mourning into Dancing.

(photo is of Susan and Nigel at Pike Place Market getting flowers for a Hearth Retreat)

This online FB exchange made clearer what Susan and I were discussing:

Jim Janknegt: Italians seemed to have quite a bit of certitude and made some pretty terrific art. Perhaps their dogma included mystery?

Dick Staub: This is a great point, but would you agree their certitude still contained mystery, beauty and awe (as opposed to doctrinaire literalism)~I’m thinking of Fra Angelico’s Annunciation as an example.

Jim Janknegt: I agree, they were dogmatic about mystery! 🙂 Mystery being the realization that what we do know about God is certain but incomplete, as there is much about God beyond our capacity to know. And I love Fra Angelico. He is my patron saint being one of the few artists ever beatified. I hope to get to San Marcos in Florence some day.

Dick Staub: You’ve captured what I was trying to say perfectly!




Posted in Staublog in July 1, 2011 by | 2 Comments »

Harry Potter @ The Kindlings Muse

Harry Potter @ The Kindlings Muse

I just returned from the UK. Adjusting to time zone changes while trying to get back in the swing of things. It is a beautiful evening on Orcas, which makes me really excited about the upcoming KindlingsFest 2011. Just posted our June Kindlings Muse @ Hales ~ J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter with Dr. Jeff Keuss, Rev. Jennie Spohr and Suzanne Wolfe. Enjoy!


Posted in Staublog in June 29, 2011 by | No Comments »

Biology of Misfortune, Some Folks Lives, and God.

Biology of Misfortune, Some Folks Lives, and God.

While daughter Jess was at her accidental pig roast, Kathy and I had a fascinating dinner discussion Saturday with Jill Boyce and her husband Dr. Tom Boyce regarding his theory of “A Biology of Misfortune.”

It prompted me to go online and there I found a You Tube of a panel in which I learned that Tom’s research shows that early childhood is a “crucial time for establishing the brain architecture that shapes children’s future cognitive, social and emotional well-being …children growing up in a disadvantaged setting show disproportionate levels of reactivity to stress, and it shows at the level of hormonal studies, neurological brain imaging studies and at the level of epigenetic profiling.”

His work draws on pediatrics, genetics, sociology and economic and he believes “the nature versus nurture debate is all but over, they are intertwined.” Jack Shonkoff, MD (Director, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University), the symposium organizer, commented on Boyce’s research: “Tom’s work is so important, because what biology is telling us is that maybe the reason we’re not getting a bigger bang for the buck in early education is because … there is a biological embedding of adversity in the early years … enough to diminish the impact of rich learning experiences.”

Sunday Grant did a masterful job on the Philippians text, “God who has begun a good work in you will complete it…” Immediately after we counseled with a young woman who was in grief because her dog had died, and deeper grief at her own sense of aloneness.

Monday I saw Steve on the ferry and gave him a lift to the hospital for a checkup. We explored the modifiers of the word “wit,” nitwit, halfwit, witless, and concluded that we were each ½ wits that combined together became a whole wit!

Steve asked me why some peoples lives fall into place and others don’t? I mentioned Tom Boyce’s research, on the “biology of Misfortune,” but also played him the Paul Simon song, “Some folks lives.”

“Some folks’ lives roll easy as a breeze, drifting through a summer night, heading for a sunny day. But most folks’ lives, oh they stumble, Lord they fall, through no fault of their own, most folks never catch their stars.

And here I am, Lord, I’m knocking at your place of business, I know I ain’t got no business here. But you said if I ever got so low I was busted, You could be trusted. Some folks’ lives roll easy, Some folks’ lives never roll at all, Oh, they just fall, they just fall; some folks’ lives.”

Determinant genetics and God juxtapose uncomfortably unless you know of Tolkien’s invented word, “eucatastrophe.” His invention combines the Greek words for good, “eu” and “catastrophe,” a synonym for misfortune.  Boyce is describing catastrophe’s impact on our lives. Tolkien viewed God’s intervention in history as “a “eu-castrophe,” a good catastrophe.

Is not God one factor in resetting our biology in the aftermath of misfortune? What is the relationship of the “biology of misfortune” and the “theology of misfortune?”

Steve put it this way, “All I know is I need God.”

Now on the Isle of Wight, thinking of another Island, Orcas, where dwell such interesting folks as Tom, Steve, Grant and a young woman whose misfortune is the loss of her dog.

Small is beautiful and local is magic.



Posted in Staublog in June 23, 2011 by | 1 Comment »

A Happy Dad: Yoda and Accidental Pig Roasts.

A Happy Dad: Yoda and Accidental Pig Roasts.

Among life’s greatest joys and mysteries is that of being a father.

Two quick examples today from two of my four wonderful kids. (I’ve got stories about Josh and Heidi too but not today…yet!)

Daughter Jessica is 27 years old, lives in New York, yet sends me this text yesterday: “Accidentally in Virginia for a Pig roast with Amy. Call you tomorrow. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY.”

How does one accidentally end up at a pigs roast in a state miles away? If you know daughter Jessie you understand completely.

Daughter Molly, 19, gives me this Father’s Day card this morning. The heading? If Yoda were a dad… The message: Reckless you are. Borrow the Car, you may not.”

My kids make me laugh. They reveal my dark side in ways nobody else can, which gives me a chance to grow and become a better person. They draw me out of myself and into community. Given my love of ideas and the philosophical my kids along with my wife keep my head tethered to my neck.

Love to my kids. Thanks for making me the luckiest dad in the world.



Posted in Staublog in June 19, 2011 by | 2 Comments »

Thoughts on K-Fest, following Jesus in the world and the heartache of the local church.

Thoughts on K-Fest, following Jesus in the world and the heartache of the local church.

Haven’t written in a week, but there is a lot on my mind.

First. My head is crammed with details for our KindlingsFest event July 27-30, which is bigger and better than ever. If you haven’t registered and plan on coming~ please do now! We are heading into overflow seating.

Second. Island friends are stretching me as I think about how to follow Jesus in this world. Susan sent me the tightrope picture with the comment: “inspired about the tightrope walk you are doing… with such humor and grace, skill and apparent joy.  As they would say in Japan, “Omedito!”  Congratulations.  This is clearly your vocation.”

She also sent this amazing poem by David Whyte

This is not the age of information.

This is not

the age of information

Forget the news,

and the radio,

and the blurred screen

This is the time

of loaves

and fishes

People are hungry,

and one good word is bread

for a thousand.

Third. Thirty-five years ago when in seminary I thought about “the church” until my head hurt. What is a local church? What is its mission? What to do with Jesus desire that we be one in stark contrast with the reality of denominations, house churches and the entrepreneurial, franchise start-ups popping up everywhere? Why are churches often so dysfunctional? Why are so many churches people eaters? Why do pastors lose their humanness? How did the celebrity church with its attractant pastor ever happen? What is the nature of apostolic succession. What to do about the power struggles in most churches?

I guess, the truth be known, I was relieved when God called me, not into the church, but into the world, to understand faith and culture and interpret each to the other, because walking that tightrope was more exhilarating than stepping into the morass of church goofiness.

But the questions never went away and now that I am professionally involved in a local church, they are pressing in on me again. I hope I do not become unhealthily preoccupied with church issues, because I think it is counterproductive, but when I look at the next generation, I realize their primary questions are ecclesiological, and I must say, their solutions so far don’t seem promising to me.

So I feel compelled to think about it, to apply what I know in one local church setting, and then to pass on what I learn, if anything.

Whatever I do, I don’t want to forget “This is the time of loaves and fishes and people are hungry.”


Posted in Staublog in June 15, 2011 by | 2 Comments »

Your One Thing

Your One Thing

In City Slickers, Curly (Jack Palance) asks Mitch (Billy Crystal) if he knows the secret of life. He then raises one finger and says: “This.” Mitch replies cluelessly: Your finger? Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean s–t. Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?” Curly smiles and says, That’s what *you* have to find out.

Here are a few not-so-random thoughts on the one thing.

“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things (food, shelter, clothing) will be added to you.” Jesus.

“Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” The Dalai Lama.

For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” The Apostle Paul. For me to live is MONEY, and to die is to leave it all behind. For me to live is FAME, and to die is to be forgotten. For me to live is Power, and to die is to lose it all. For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Warren Wiersbe.

Psalm 27:4 One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple.


Posted in Staublog in June 8, 2011 by | 1 Comment »