A January 2008 Note From Bill Dahl
|A Note from Bill Dahl
January 31, 2008
George Barna wrote me this past week and said (among other things), “I hope the website does well this year without your presence. That's a big step of faith.” When George speaks, I listen…always have…always will. I am still learning to actually listen for the wisdom in the simple, ordinary things that I overhear, read, or are spoken to me during the course of everyday life.
During 2007, I began to truly recognize how God was using the most incredibly ordinary circumstances and people to speak to me in very powerful ways. 2007 was an incredibly busy year for me both personally and professionally. Yet, as August 2007 approached, I could sense the power of God’s Spirit leading me to change direction. As the first of December 2007 rolled around, I had accepted the necessity to change….to take a big step of faith.
The Porpoise Diving Life site has never been about me. Yet, as the site began to take on a profile and audience vastly larger than this guy’s simple mind could have ever imagined, things changed. The activity around the site, the book, the audio book, my literary reviews of the works of other authors in the faith & culture genre, and my own writing became increasingly time consuming, and honestly, too much about me. My wife and I have lived our lives as servants, not sages, as The Porpoise Diving Life book should clearly illustrate. As Eugene Peterson has written, “Nobody aspires to be a servant. We have a higher opinion of ourselves.”
In 2007, I wrote some 40+ full-length articles, songs, and poems, produced an audio book, read some 70+ books, wrote reviews and interviewed authors. All this after my real job that requires 50+ hours a week, community involvement (which I had to scale back), being a husband, dad grand-dad, outdoor lover, and photographer….Come to think of it, the description of my life in 2007 might sound like yours. Yet, to share another tidbit of wisdom that George included in his correspondence to me that is pertinent here (although out of context), George wrote; “don’t want to mistake activity for impact.” Amen!
The “pod” of people frolicking in The Porpoise Diving Life continued to grow throughout 2007…exponentially. At the end of January 2008, there are readers in 137 different countries. I began using “Guest Editors” in 2007 to use the “platform” of The PDL to provide a place where new voices can have a chance to be heard. This will continue in 2008. My hope is that during 2008, the readers of the PDL will begin to write Day 81 – 120 (as I have authored Days 41-80).
The PDL has also provided me with the opportunity to meet tons of new folks and dispense thanks and encouragement to all the writers and readers, from around the globe. I’ve also spent a bunch of time in the blogosphere, listening to all of you.
In 2008, I am on sabbatical. Here’s what I’m going to focus on in 2008 (as it relates to my reading, thinking, communicating and writing):
1. Spending more time developing my ability to sit with Jesus…listening to Jesus. Then acting on what He speaks to me.
2. I have several new books I’m in the process of formulating more tangibly. I’m going to focus on that.
3. Being “open” to exploring new opportunities to serve others that may entail a significant lifestyle change for me and my family.
4. Working with others who are gifted in speaking into the lives of the ordinary, everyday people who inhabit this planet.
5. Read more stuff I want to, rather than feeling like I have to.
6. Doing another film project in 2008 (I was involved in one in 2007).
7. Taking hikes and long walks with my black lab puppy, Reggie, taking photographs of the signatures of Jesus in the outdoors.
8. Pray, pray, pray for each and every request for the same that comes our way.
Focusing on the above in 2008 means that I will not be doing some of what I’ve been doing in 2007. Here’s what I’m not going to do in 2008:
1. I will not be contributing to the emerging church dialog through articles I author in 2008.
2. I’m not going to be reading most blogs, like I did in 2007.
3. I’m not going to review books for publishers in 2008 and then write reviews and interview authors (some exceptions noted – they know who they are).
In 2008, The PDL will continue to be published monthly with Guest Editor’s at the helm. Over the past 5 years of navigating the seas of the emerging church, I have become familiar with something rather interesting that the platform of The PDL will attempt to champion in 2008: Providing a place for the ordinary voices that need to be heard, that seem to be drown out in the white noise of it all. I hope you will continue to read the PDL and come with the anticipation that God has something to speak to you through the voices of others.
I’ve often said, “reading and writing helps me process my own spirituality.” I guess what I really said was “I’m still passionate about learning, changing and growing more fully in Christ.” Reading, writing and encouraging others are simply tools I have been blessed with. It’s a gift and a spiritual discipline God has developed and incorporated in my own ongoing human development, sharing the blessing of the same with others.
At the end of 2007, I recognized that I’m tired. However, ‘balance’ is a tremendously important concept to keep in mind, and evaluate from time to time.
So, yes George, speaking solely for myself (although I believe I have loads of company), following God’s leading to a return to balance, is in fact, a big step of faith. It requires a wholesale re-evaluation of the seductive trap of mistaking activity for impact. It requires letting go of old patterns of behavior and embracing new ones.
George Barna’s simple words to me this week helped put all of this in perspective. Why? Because I’m learning to actually listen for God’s powerful wisdom relayed in the simplicity of the everyday. As Peterson writes, “Words are never mere words --- they convey spirit, meaning, energy and truth.” Well --- If we’re actually listening.
May you and yours be buoyed each and every day in 2008 with the final words that George shared with me and mine this week: “He's certainly a big and loving God.” Yes George, He most certainly is --- big and loving enough to continue to speak into the lives of ordinary people like us, who must take a big step of faith, re-evaluate our activities and trust Him for the outcome.
What’s Bill Dahl doing in 2008? “He’s just following a big and loving God.”
1. Peterson, Eugene The Jesus Way – A Conversation on the Way Jesus is the Way, William B. Eerdsman Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI © 2007 by Eugene H. Peterson, p. 171
2. Peterson, Eugene Eat This Book – Way A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, William B. Eerdsman Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI © 2006 by Eugene H. Peterson, p. 50