Help Hugh Get A Sabbatical Month

Note: I was given a month of sabbatical time away from my work at Love Wins in September, in order to rest and write. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I am going to have to fund some of the expenses myself, and we just don’t have it. So this post is me, asking for help.

I had originally planned to post this as a gofundme, but a) those fees, y’all and b) I screwed something up and they are investigating whatever I did. So I thought I would just post it here.

At the end of this post is a series of ways you can contribute, if you wish.  – Thx!

12307446_991346640906551_2273628715678451558_oAbout me and my work

Nearly 10 years ago, I founded Love Wins Ministries, a small ministry of presence and pastoral care for those experiencing homelessness here in Raleigh, NC. During that time, we have created an intentionally diverse, open and affirming worshiping community made up of people who are housed and people who aren’t that meets every week, following a huge community meal.

About five years ago, we realized that being homeless means you have nowhere you are allowed to be, and that the opposite of homelessness is community. So we created the Love Wins Community Engagement Center, a place of radical welcome and hospitality for people experiencing homelessness to go during the day. A place they can be loved, be welcome and build community.

In 2013, the City of Raleigh threatened to arrest me, and people like me, for sharing food with hungry people in the park. That started a nearly yearlong struggle we termed #Biscuitgate that ended in our favor, with the end result being The Oak City Outreach Center, which has provided nearly 200,000 meals to hungry people in the last two years.

And last August, my wife had a heart transplant, for which we are extremely grateful, but which can disrupt your life just a little bit. It was a time of incredible stress, and wiped us out financially, from which we still haven’t recovered.

And all of that has left me emotionally and physically drained.

I’m tired, y’all.

The problem:

I don’t make a lot of money (I’m ten years into this work, and in my state a brand new, right out of school 24 year old elementary school teacher makes more per month than I do), but I need some downtime. I need a time of renewal, a time to work on the vision for what the next ten years of ministry will look like, and a time to pay attention to my own self-care.

Love Wins Ministries doesn’t really have the funds to cover much – we are very grass-roots, with no denominational or grant support, and all of our funding coming from individual donors (Our average gift is under $50). We are now in a position, with staffing and funding, to give me a month away from the day-to-day, so that I can have some time to reflect and to write in order to plan the direction of our next ten years.

The plan:

I intend to spend this time of Sabbath, spent reading and writing, which are my preferred self-care techniques. Thanks to some generous supporters, my wife and I will be spending five days in a condo at Carolina Beach, followed by another seven days at Jekyll Island in Georgia. I will spend my mornings writing, and my afternoons getting caught up on my reading, preferably while listening to waves crash against the shore.

Then we will come home, and I will fly out to California for a three day writer’s retreat some people I know are putting on, and then I will return home. The rest of the month will be spent with me taking care of myself, while continuing to write and read and plan here at my home in Raleigh.

The Costs:

The beach condo’s are gifts from supporters, and thus don’t really cost us anything. The flight to California and the writer’s retreat registration fee has been covered.  The $2400 I am still raising money for is to cover:

  • $1360 for food while I am traveling
  • $500 for lodging while in California
  • $610 for travel costs to Carolina Beach and Jekyll Island

Should the place to stay while in California come through, that would reduce the goal by the $500 I have budgeted.


So, you are asking for us to fund your vacation?

Nope. This is a time of writing, reading and renewal. I don’t want to burn out, and the only way I can keep going is to stop and recharge. And at the end of this time away, there will be a book manuscript to show for it, as well as a well-rested, recharged, Hugh. If it makes you feel better, call it writing leave.

Dude. You’re writing a book?

Yes! I will be writing a (yet to be titled) 35,000 word Love Wins manifesto on Hospitality. It will be built around the six principles of Hospitality we have identified at Love Wins Ministries, and is basically a “how and why we did it.” It will show a way to battle the social ills of the world (such as homelessness and hunger) by building communities and extending hospitality.

You’re writing 35,000 words in 30 days?

Well, about a third of it is already written, and most of the rest of it is outlined. My goal at the end of this time is a useable manuscript.

I’m broke. How else can I help?

Thanks for asking!

  • You can share this blog post with your friends.
  • You can pray for us that this will be a fruitful and generative time, or if you don’t pray, we will take happy thoughts and good mojo, too!
  • Since this is a time of discernment about what is happening next for me and the ministry, if my work has impacted or inspired you, I would appreciate your writing me an email (hughlh at gmail) to tell me about it.

How to help

The easiest way is to send funds via PayPal. Should you wish to send an old-school check, you can send it to:

Hugh Hollowell
PO Box 26874
Raleigh, NC 27611

*If you need a tax receipt for your donation, please email me (hughlh at gmail) before you send money.

Thank you. Seriously.

I hate asking for help, but I really need this time away. My soul hurts, y’all. Thank you so much for your help, and know that I really, really appreciate it.

There Are No Secrets

Reuven Anati, the Blacksmith

I presented last weekend at The Wild Goose Festival, and it went really well. Afterwards, I spoke to a guy who told me about this passion he had, but he was having a hard time getting any traction because, “I’m just not a good storyteller like you are, Hugh.”

Please. Give me a break.

I am a good storyteller. I admit it, and I am proud of it. And I work really, really hard at it.

In the last ten years, I have read more than 100 books on storytelling, salesmanship and presentations. I have taken classes on presenting, I have invested thousands of dollars to learn how to tell stories better. I have a shelf of books in my library 5 feet long, packed with those books, which are all dog-eared and marked up. I write thousands of words a week of stories, and publish less than 10% of them.

I am a good storyteller because I decided to be good at it.

It’s not as if storytelling and speaking well in public was something innate, like red hair, parceled out at birth by a benevolent deity. It isn’t. It isn’t art. It’s craft.

And craft can be learned.

I failed writing classes – whole classes – in college. I once had an English teacher suggest I would be better suited for a vocational career, such as the building trades. And yet most of my income can be directly attributed to my words. It’s a skill. And thus can be learned.

Once you realize that most of life is composed of crafts – skills that can be learned and even mastered by nearly anyone willing to learn and practice – life seems a lot less scary, and much more manageable.

It also means you have a lot more control over your life than you thought you did. And have fewer excuses.

Because the guy who got the promotion instead of you because he is better at presentations wasn’t born with the presentation gene. He learned how to do that. The person who got the big book deal because they submitted a great book proposal wasn’t born with spontaneous book proposal knowledge. They learned how to do that.

And thus, so can you.

I think this is both self-evident,and alarmingly rare.

Go on any web forum for writers, and on the first page is someone asking how to get published. It isn’t a secret. There is a wall – a literal wall – of books at any chain bookstore on the subject.

It isn’t hidden in the ancient scrolls, guarded by the wise old man at the top of the mountain. How to find a market, do your research, write a proposal, submit it in keeping with the publisher’s guidelines – all of that is easily findable.  And that is how you get published.

But that isn’t what we imagine happens. We aren’t really sure what does happen, exactly, but it must have to do with art and secrets.

There are no secrets. There is only work, and craft, and skill.

Six Things Straight Christians Can Do After Orlando


I don’t normally blog about current events – that is what Facebook and Twitter are for – but I wrote a version of the following on my Facebook page late last night, and people are finding it helpful. And while it was written for straight Christian allies, it is pretty much good for everyone. -HH

I was out of town, with my phone turned off, this weekend, and when I turned it back on Sunday afternoon, discovered the horrors that happened Saturday night in Orlando. On the drive back home, I tried to process it all, and I spoke to some wise friends about what we white straight Christian allies can do to help.

I have come up with six things.

Check in

Sunday was an incredibly hard day for the LGBT community AND the Muslim community – today won’t be much better. If you have friends who are Muslim or who identify as LGBT, check in with them. Tell them you love them, and that they matter. If you don’t have any Muslim or LGBT friends, well, you should fix that. In the meantime, go by the Islamic Center and the LGBT Center in your town and offer to help and listen.

Speak out

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Silence is violence. Please speak out in favor of your LGBT relationships, express your love for your LGBT friends, be vocal about your position of inclusion and affirmation, be vocal in your support of Islam and our Muslim brothers and sisters. To not speak out is to do active violence against the LGBT and Muslim communities.

Curate and Amplify

Over the next few days, there will be many voices who will use this tragedy to push their harmful agendas of hatred and violence. We have an obligation to curate those voices and to refuse to amplify them. Do not share their posts, do not link to them, do not acknowledge them. They thrive on the attention – we can starve them out.

Conversely, please share, retweet, repost and otherwise amplify LGBT and Muslim voices.

Step Back

The Muslim and LGBT communities do not need our leadership or our input– they are quite capable on their own. Instead, they need our support, our love and our solidarity. Please, don’t make this about you. Be quiet, show up, and listen.

Pray with your voice, with your feet, and with your vote

By all means, pray. But then get off your knees and work for justice, build relationships, bug the crap out of your elected representatives and set about the hard, banal work of building the better world we all dream is possible – a world built by countless small decisions, each which is individually insignificant, but that collectively moves us toward a more just world.

Don’t be afraid.

And lastly – the world can seem a scary place on days like today. And while the reality is that the world is actually safer than it has ever been, the media cannot sell that story – so they sell you a story based on fear. They literally make money by making you afraid. Don’t listen to those people.

And please remember – that contrary to what the media is telling you, despite the rumors you hear and the things you see – Love does, in fact, win in the end. And if Love has not yet won, it is because it is not yet the end.

Much love,



Six Rules to Avoid Election Fights on Facebook

~ The argument

For a lot of us, Facebook is an excruciating place to be right now. It feels like everyone has lost their minds, and everyone is angry. Virtually any comment on the election is going to stir up anger and discontent, and don’t even think about polite disagreement!

I am really active on social media, and have developed a principle and, out of that principle, six rules for my interactions on Facebook around politics (or, in fact, any controversial topic). They seem to work for me, so I thought I would share them with you.

The principle is this: There is no such thing as online relationships. There are only relationships.

So, I ask myself how I would handle this if we were face to face. We have had elections for generations – how would we handle this if there was no Facebook? If instead of a meme on your Facebook wall, you put a Sander’s sign in your yard – How would I deal with that?

And that principle has led me to developing six rules for how I strive to interact on Facebook. I don’t always get it right, but I am trying really hard.

* * *

Rule #1: Own your space

On Facebook, we all have our own profile page. When we post things, that is where they end up. I find it helpful to think of that wall as someone’s front yard.

In our front yard, we self-express. In my front yard, I have rose bushes, peach trees and wild flowers. My neighbor has mulch and rocks, and another neighbor has a broken down car. Our front yards are the “us” that we present to the world, and we decorate them in ways that tell the world who we are.

So, decorate your yard. If you support Trump, put a sign up in your front yard – it’s your right. Heck, put up 50 signs and a Trump flag. Likewise, if you love some Bernie, then post away about him – on your wall. But don’t put signs up in my yard – which leads us to…

Rule #2: Respect other people’s space.

Actually, that’s pretty good advice anytime, online or off. If Hillary is your person, there is nothing wrong with putting a Hillary sign in your yard, or a meme on your Facebook wall. But don’t put a sign in my yard, or post a meme on my wall.

And just like you wouldn’t (I hope) put graffiti all over a sign I had put on my yard, don’t go on my wall and start attacking things I post there. Because remember – the goal of posting things is self-expression. Not argument.

If we were having a cookout in my yard, grilling hotdogs and hamburgers, most of us recognize that it would be rude of you to come in my yard and start telling me all the awful things that happen to animals in the industrial food system. Because I wasn’t inviting debate – I was trying to have fun with my friends.

If I did want to educate people about the harm their eating habits cause, by far the most effective way to do that would to do it with people I have developed trust and relationship with, and who have invited me into their space. In other words, people with whom I have a relationship. So always…

Rule #3 Respect relationships

It might be my most consistent, longest held position, but people matter. Relationships matter.

Whoever get elected this fall, we are going to need each other to survive. Not because the candidates are so bad, but because we are humans, who need each other in order to survive.

So, privilege relationships. Whose yard do you feel comfortable walking into in the real world? Whose yard do you feel comfortable critiquing? People we have a relationship with.

So, if you and I don’t know each other, and you post a sign in your yard I disagree with, I am not going to jump your fence and tear it down. If I am trying to understand your position, I might ask you about it if I see you in the yard, but I seriously doubt I would put up a counter-sign in your yard. So if I don’t know you, and you post something to your wall I disagree with, I am going to just walk on by. Or if I am curious, I might ask what you meant. But I won’t start dueling memes with you.

Likewise, if we have a good relationship, and you post something to your wall that I disagree with, I might say that in the comments. But I won’t say you are a jerk, or call you a baby killer – any more than I would say that to your face, standing in your front yard if you had a bumper sticker on your car I disagreed with.

Rule #4: Ask non-judgemental questions, and listen to understand, not to respond

Any hope we have of positive change in this world is going to come about because we listen to each other. And we cannot listen to each other if we are talking.

So, if your relationship permits, or if they invite comment, ask serious, nonjudgmental questions, and really listen to the answers. There is a world of difference between telling someone Senator Clinton’s stance on Syria factored into your deciding to not support her and calling her “Killary” and saying she is a murderer on a massive scale.

Would you say that to this person if they were really in their yard? Would you say it in that tone, and ask it that way? If not, reframe it, and then listen to the answers. And thank them for sharing their thoughts. Explain yours, without attacking theirs. If they seem open to it, offer critique of ideas, without attacking people.

If they ask to not continue this, disengage. This often looks like, “I don’t want to argue about this” or “We will have to agree to disagree”. When people say they do not desire to debate you, listen to them, and step out.

And recognize you are probably not going to change their mind. And that is OK. Because it was on their wall, and you are going to respect their space. Right?

Rule #5: Remember that Facebook is an opt-in medium

If your route to work included going past a house with an ugly yard, you can always choose another route to work. In the same way

That means you get to decide what you see on Facebook. If your brother-in-law’s annoying pro-Bernie meme’s bother you, then unfollow him until after the election. If your friend from high-school you haven’t had a voice conversation with in 32 years freaks you out with her conspiracy theories, then feel free to unfriend her, or perhaps just unfollow her.

You can control your privacy settings so only your friends can see what you post. You can set it so only your friends can comment on your posts. You can delete comments on your posts that offend you.

You are in control of your experience on Facebook. If you don’t like what you are seeing there, it is up to you to change it.

Rule #6: Understand that this is what democracy looks like.

In a democracy, we each get a vote and an opinion. We get to own them, for better or worse. And we all have the right to our own. And the only way to make sure we get to exercise our right to our own opinion is to fight for the rights of others to express theirs. If they don’t have the right to express their beliefs, it isn’t democracy.

Debating ideas with people who want to debate them is good. So is leaving people alone who want to post their sign in their yard to express their support of a candidate. Both are necessary parts of the process, and both are worthwhile. By respecting the process, and by respecting each other, we make this country better.

* * *

So those are my six rules, and overall, they work for me. I get in very few Facebook arguments, and when I have, it’s because I have violated one of my rules.

How about you? How are you navigating Facebook this election season?