Posts by: Brian Dolleman

I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

Getting Over My Hatred For Small Talk Means I Need Better Questions

As an introvert, small talk is my kryptonite. I can literally feel the life draining out of me as I’m hit with, “What do you do for a living?” or “Did you see that Mariner’s game last night?” or “How you doing, Bro?” What usually follows are some quick answers, awkward pauses, and a drummed-up reason why I gotta leave now.

I should probably take a class on social graces.

Even among my own tribe—pastors—I fail miserably with small talk. After every conference, I think about how annoying and predictable the conversations were (How you doing, Bro? How’s the church? You guys growing?)… and then I tell myself I need to come prepared with 2 or 3 interesting things to say.

The truth is, I would love to circumvent small talk altogether and move right into some real, true, deep stuff (How has your theology changed in the past few years? What’s one thing you’re too scared to change at your church but you really wish you could? What hurts in your life right now?).

Of course, I have a weird and goofy side too. Sometimes I want to ask… Read More

I Can Wait, Says God, I Like What I See

When we’ve ignored a thousand invitations, there’s still another one waiting. —Ronald Rolheiser

“Covenant” by Margaret Halaska



knocks at my door

seeking a home for his son.

Rent is cheap, I say.

I don’t want to rent. I want to buy, says God.

I’m not sure I want to sell,

but you might come in and look around.

I think I will, says God.

I might let you have a room or two.

I like it, says God. I’ll take the two. You might decide to give me more some day.

I can wait, says God.

I’d like to… Read More

I am You Are We Are Complex.

A few months ago, I stumbled across this quote by the avant-garde Icelandic singer Björk:

I am very stupid, I am intelligent. I’m clumsy, I’m a coward, I’m funny, I’m witty. I’m a five year old and I’m a sixty year old and I don’t want to let any of these things go.


Something about her words rang true to me. Of course, I’d change some of the words to more accurately reflect my quirks and strengths, and I’m guessing you would too… but you see what I mean, right?

I am, you are, we are complex.

There is never just a simple label, one-word descriptor, that can fully represent the complexity of who we are. Maybe it’s a personality thing, but I resist being crammed into a box. Whenever someone has “figured me out,” my soul smirks with delight over this wonderful little secret: that is barely a crumb of who I am.

It’s easy for me to hold this truth that I am complex. More difficult for me is remembering this truth when someone else is bothering me or disagreeing with me or just being stupid. Because everything in me wants to throw a label on them, give a one-word descriptor, and cram them into a box… but that would be intellectually dishonest of me and I know better.

Bishop Jake Owensby recently… Read More

The Illusion of Superiority

We are in a series on the Beatitudes of Jesus at church right now… it’s called “Dance to the Beat.” One of my favorite lines came from a message on humility:

The essence of “God blesses those who are humble (or those who are meek)” is that God can work with people who don’t think they are superior to others—but where there is arrogance and aggression, God’s blessing is not there.

Jean Vanier, in his book Becoming Human, says:

The illusion of being superior engenders the need to prove it; and so oppression is born. A bishop in Africa told me that, even though there were few Christians in the area, he had built his cathedral bigger than the local mosque. All this to prove… Read More

It Doesn’t Look As If There’s A Hero Among Them

*photo above: guys who live in the local group recovery home—helping build 300 bicycles for our Bike Give last month

We are currently in a series on the Beatitudes of Jesus at church… it’s called “Dance to the Beat.” The following is Frederick Buechner’s thoughts on the Beatitudes from his book Whistling in the Dark:

If we didn’t already know but were asked to guess the kind of people Jesus would pick out for special commendation, we might be tempted to guess one sort or another of spiritual hero—men and women of impeccable credentials morally, spiritually, humanly, and every which way. If so, we would be wrong. Maybe those aren’t the ones he picked out because he felt they didn’t need the shot in the arm his commendation would give them. Maybe they’re not the ones he picked out because he didn’t happen to know any.

Be that as it may, it’s worth noting the ones he did pick out.

Not the spiritual giants, but the “poor in spirit;” as he called them, the ones who, spiritually speaking, have absolutely nothing to give and absolutely everything to receive, like the Prodigal telling his father “I am not worthy to be called thy son,” only to discover for the first time all he had in having a father.

Not the champions of faith who can rejoice even in the midst of suffering, but the ones who… Read More

The Irish Word For Forgiveness

Pádraig Ó Tuama, in his book of poems: Sorry For Your Troubles, says…

The Irish word for forgiveness is maithiúnas. It comes from the word maith, meaning good.

The word is the same, or similar, in Cymraeg, Gaelg, and Gaidhlig—other languages spoken across the islands of Britain and Ireland.

To forgive someone is “to good” them. To forgive someone is to treat them with the goodness with which they did not treat you.

Curiously, this syntax arranges power as the possession of the troubled one. It is they who can… Read More

I Go To A Church That Gives Away Bicycles

I go to a church that gives away bicycles. Here’s a little background on that—a few lines from our recent Vision Day message at NWLife…


The cross means life FOR THE PEOPLE

And God wants his church to always be FOR THE PEOPLE

Look, we have too much work waiting to be done—we don’t have time to waste being all political or afraid or selfish. What I’m talking about here is doing stuff: Real stuff. Hands dirty, hearts breaking, brows sweating… behaving like we give a damn—because we follow Jesus who was, is, and will always be FOR THE PEOPLE.

This thing called church is not for profits, it’s not for power, it’s not for popularity…

What’s it about then?

It’s about… Read More

The Light That Sweeps Over The Garden

Wilderness and desert will sing joyously, the badlands will celebrate and flower—Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom, a symphony of song and color. —Isaiah 35.1-2

A sound behind her stirs

A scatter of bright birdsong through the air.

She turns, but cannot focus through her tears,

Or recognize the Gardener standing there.

She hardly hears his gentle question, “Why,

Why are you weeping?” or sees the play of light

That brightens as she chokes out her reply,

“They took my love away, my day is night.”

And then she hears her name, she hears Love say

The Word that turns her night, and ours, to Day.

—Malcolm Guite, from his book Sounding the Seasons


I wanna testify

Scream in the holy light

You bring me back to life

And it’s all in the name of love

—Martin Garrix & Bebe Rexha, In the Name of Love


His life is the light that shines through the darkness—and the darkness can never extinguish it. —John 1.5

We crucified Love.

But Easter tells us… Read More

Lent Day 40… The Old Guard

The old guard… that’s the group that always uses fear to keep themselves employed or in power.

They make change out to be the big bad wolf (or antichrist or whatever). This is actually who was most threatened by Jesus, and this is who killed him. It wasn’t anarchists or the liberals or the foreigners or the outsiders.

Fear can never… Read More

Lent Day 39… Death Machines And Darkness

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land. —Mark 15.33

I have always struggled to understand why today is called Good Friday. What I think would be more appropriate: switch names with Black Friday (the big day of shopping on Friday after Thanksgiving). Call the shopping day Good Friday, and the day of Jesus’ torture and death Black Friday.

But nobody consulted me, so today is Good Friday… the day violence won and the Prince of Peace was slaughtered. Irony seems to ride shotgun with violence these days (or maybe it always has). The biggest non-nuclear bomb our country has goes by the nickname “Mother Of All Bombs,” MOAB. Motherhood and death machines?

And then you have newscasters calling missile attacks beautiful. Brian Williams recently said, “We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean… I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”

The most recent bombing inspired this eager statement from Geraldo Rivera, “Well one of my favorite things in the 16 years I’ve been here at Fox News is watching bombs drop…”

That statement almost sounds like a slight lyrical revision to the old classic Sound of Music tune in the voice of Julie Andrews …

Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Bombs leveling destruction and missiles as they scream
These are a few of my favorite things

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so gleeful. Maybe bombs aren’t good—just like this Friday isn’t really good.

I know that my own death machines (usually destructive words and attitudes—but sometimes actual violence against people or things) don’t bring me joy.

They don’t make my life bright and full of color and sound. Instead, they cloak my world in a heavy, dark fog. They do not inspire joyful sounding songs. Instead, they shroud me in shame.

When Christ was hung on the cross, a darkness covered the land for some three hours. I imagine there wasn’t the sound of celebratory songs during this great smog. Perhaps it was quiet… enough silence and heavy darkness to strike fear in the depths of everyone’s soul. What have we done?

If you have Netflix, I’m sure you’ve seen their original series The Crown about… Read More