If I'm in your area, I'd be delighted to visit your book club. I'm also glad to phone and answer questions wherever your group meets, or answer by email.

Email your request to


If you've looked around my website you've probably figured out a common theme in my writing and speaking is the relationship between ethical living, spirituality, common sense, and a connection to those around us.

Perhaps you've also figured out that I'm not one of those who subscribe to Mencken's definition of religion as "the nagging feeling that someone, somewhere is having a good time." I believe that a sense of purpose can go hand in hand with a sense of humor as we try to understand those great spiritual issues that both bewitch and bewilder us. In fact if you take a look at my new book, When Your Life is on Fire, you will read of thirteen amazing individuals who speak to some of these spiritual issues with great insight and candor.

I hope what's gathered here provides useful, thought provoking reflection or conversation. Take a look and feel free to email me at


AVAILABLE APRIL 2014! picks When Your Life Is on Fire: What Would You Save? for its Inspiration Gallery!

What would you save if your house was on fire and it contained not only everything you own but everything you are? This is the question writer, psychotherapist, and minister Kolbell (What Jesus Meant) poses to 13 diverse individuals, from such well-known individuals as actor Alan Alda to wounded Afghanistan veteran Don Lange, in this insightful book. Structured around his interviews, each chapter highlights unique and thoughtful responses that delve deeply into the participants' personal lives, work, and faith. Woven together with Kolbell's rich prose and theological reflections, their responses transcend personal narrative and reveal something about how we "derive a sense of the meaning of our existence and the purpose that this meaning invites for our lives." The book is designed to provoke reflection and conversation and includes questions for discussion with each chapter. While Kolbell locates his theology within Protestant Christianity, those he interviews come from a variety of religious backgrounds. Readers who will most appreciate this book are those who, like Kolbell, use a theological lens to find sacred that which provides meaning in life. (Apr.)
Reviewed on 03/07/2014 | Details & Permalink

If your house were on fire, what would you take with you? That, in a nutshell, is the premise behind this provocative book. Kolbell, psychotherapist and former minister of social justice at NYC's Riverside Church, asks more than a dozen people–some famous, most not–that very question and divides them into four categories: seekers, artists, iconoclasts, and survivors. Among those polled are Jane Pauley, Alan Alda, a rabbi, a Buddhist priest, a jazz violinist, a storyteller, an Afghan-war veteran, and the first woman to serve in the city's fire department and also one of the responders at the World Trade Center during 9/11. A house, suggests Kolbell, is more than just a collection of objects. It contains "everything you are." That includes your beliefs and principles, likes and dislikes, fears and memories. Ultimately, in deciding what you will take and what you will leave behind, Kolbell says, "you are declaring a kind of values hierarchy. A fascinating examination of values, morals, and ethics as seen through the eyes of famous and "ordinary" folk.
June Sawyers
Advanced Review – April 15, 2014

When Your Life is on Fire
Erik Kolbell :: When Your Life Is on Fire
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