This place has been fallow for a while.

Let’s be honest, I’ve been fallow for a while.

But, as happens, things change. I find that I’ve had a lot more energy to be excited about the work I do and the things I care about. (And been able to really feel the joy of the reality that the work I do and the things I care about are very often the same.)

So, no promises—to myself, or others—but I’m going to try to give myself this space as a place to wonder again. About ministry, yes. About technology, yes. About the weird and wonderful work and process of being a professional amateur in community building, mission work, and creative art, action, and writing.

I’m sure from time to time it may seem like I’m only talking about one of those things… and that may or may not be interesting. But… we’ll see.


Rainer Maria – Make You Mine (Live)

The band that I miss the most on any given day. The video is authentic to the experience of seeing them: cramped quarters, bad sound, lots of teenagers (and Geoff) screaming along.
Something that I often ponder as listen to the sounds of a crowd almost overwhelming the band: in what ways is this “worship-like” if not worship? Now, it lacks intentionality of doctrine, or purpose, or what have you according to my “Christian Professional” categories, and I think it’s important to say that while Caithlin is wonderful, they’re not worshipping her… but to the lived experience of emotion, community, and connection of those kids in the crowd? It seems like they’re singing their guts out in the joy of song and singing, and not just because it sounds pretty. We do a lot of calling people “unchurched” in my business. We may have to start realizing that plenty of people do some form of “worship” quite often. The role of clergy folks is to learn to translate between our words and songs and rituals and those of the people around us. As a liturgy nerd, its important to occasionally put aside my own judgments about what liturgy is and isn’t, so I can look at what makes various communal actions compelling and engaging.

The Trouble-making Part.

In terms of my ordination process, I have cleared another big hurdle. The New Haven Committee on Ministry voted to recommend me for Ecclesiastical Council (the last big step short of finding a church). It was a pretty serious discussion that we had, one that made me think about a lot of things. I realize that I’ve been wrestling with a lot of theological ideas in my head that may not be the most relevant issues to others. So, it was a very good thing for me to re-center myself and prepare to present myself and speak about my call to the New Haven Association in full.

One question that leapt out at me, and has been occupying my mind ever since. My central image of the church: “God’s Good Trouble-Makers Living in The World,” led to the question: “Do you really think that people are coming to church for that? To hear how they might cause trouble?” A fair and a good question.

My joke reflex kicked in at the time. I said, “Well, one can hope.” Then I continued on with a complex answer that softened things a great deal, and went to how we should be self analytical about our lives and how we are living in connection with the gospel. I talked about affluence and comfort and how those things fit into my conceptions of Jesus’ ministry. At the end, though, I feel like I wasn’t truly myself at that moment.

I went home, and I picked up my bible. I read the stories that move me… there is Jesus, talking about knocking down the temple, telling stories and parables that make people tear at their hair, upsetting all sorts of social boundaries… Why are we afraid to say it? Why are we afraid to say that this was a ministry which found its center in creating deeply unsettling re-imaginings of the world? How did our comfort–not in a deep, existential way, but in a shallow, rote way–become a necessity of our religious expression? The former I feel should always be an expression of church: REAL comfort is so absent from our existences that offering it is trouble-making all its own. The latter: well, that’s just so much furniture for our faith, isn’t it?

Someone asked me to talk about a time I experienced failure in my ministry. I said, just the days that end in “y.” Because of this. Because in the battle between our need for justice and our desire for comfort… well, too often we know who will win, long before we even reach that particular fork in the road. I want to lead amongst a church of people who want a fair fight, at least. I’m still working on how to say that, though.

Starting up again, gender, guidance, and voice.

The semester is off at a great clip. I, of course, celebrated by going to New York for the weekend. And by having a lock-up over how behind I am, you know, in my life. I’ll get over it. Next action, check. Next action, check… and before I know it, I’ll have yet another degree and an imposing job hunt.

Merlin went off on a Pixies and Breeders kick today on his personal site… music that is just inside me, and has been since I was a kid. I think about this a lot: that for a male musician, all the music that I have written or just “heard in my head” had the voice of this under appreciated generation of women in rock and roll from the 80’s and 90’s. The Deals, Kim from Jawbox, Aimee Mann, etc.

While reading through a book about young adults and identity, I came across a whole bunch about the distinctive male-ness and female-ness of various identity development narratives. (Men: Journey/Independence, Women:Integration/Connectedness). It just didn’t ring true for me. Listening to “Gigantic” again, I remembered a teenage feeling that Kim Deal wasn’t a bad role-model at all, and that I wanted to make music like she did, much more than Frank Black.

I remember a professor in college saying something about how she loved a group of poems I had finished because it was like hearing someone figure out how to be a man using poetry. Maybe in my head alone the tone suggested: “it’s like hearing a squirrel invent jam using a graphing calculator.” Nonetheless, I found an authentic voice for myself, one that may please or not on any particular day… but one that was mine for the writing.

As I get to the end of school, I’m asked to again figure out a voice for myself, this time in ministry. Again, the role models are all these tough women who have found their way in the church, sometimes with resistance… just like the women of rock and roll I pay attention to. Again, my integrative task is find my voice in ministry that honors the guidance that they have given me, and that isn’t a clichéd version of what people expect of a “male minister,” (whatever that means.) I don’t know if this has been a process I’ve been highly attentive to, but today I just pondered on it as I smiled and was thankful for women that rock.


Well, so, 31 years ago, Charles Mingus died and I was born. This was:

  • A huge ripoff for the world’s supply of brilliant jazz bassists and composers. I tried, I really did. But… no.
  • A net zero sum for the world’s supply of people who are “eccentric” in their social skills.
  • A huge gain for the world’s supply of ministers AND people who don’t punch trumpet players… if they can help it.

Nonetheless, as I am reminded every birthday, I am reminded again that I should be about the business of making something meaningful from my life. Something passionate, something that is perhaps fleeting, something that is almost certainly imperfect, and yet… something of my world and of myself.

Haitian Fight Song. Because, well, I never knew how much art could do until I heard this song… maybe I was 14? Still amazing.

Holiday Work

This semester was a bear in so many ways. Not the least of these was the very fact that I’m nearing the end of my time in New Haven. As I said way back in the early part of the school year, I’ve really had a sense of wanting to “pass on” my home which I love. I want new people to enjoy its richness in the way that I have. Both New Haven and YDS have been communities that meant a lot to me. Trying to give that to others has been hard work.

Even still, the hardest work has come after the semester. I’ve been preparing all of my materials for ordination. This has required:

  • My ordination paper – about 6000 words describing me, my theology, and my sense of call to ministry.
  • Recommendations – A TON. Written and telephone references make up a large portion of this work. The mentors and colleagues I have had in the past few years are awesome in their support of my ministry, but it takes a lot of organization to keep everyone straight through 15+ recommendations. Also, for those keeping track: it’s advent. Not an easy time for church folk.
  • Updated resume – actually, this document won’t get used a lot in my future, but I have to update it anyway. Most challenging is the tracing of the story arc which takes me from computer nerd to candidate for ordination… as usual.
  • Ministerial Profile – 10 Webpages of information that will be reviewed by my committee and any associations and churches that will consider me for ministerial positions. As any form document would tend to be, this is a bit dry for encapsulating my joy for ministry. (Which checkboxes best describe me as a minister?)

Nonetheless, I’m drawing to a close in some of this work. Which leaves me the standard issue concern over how Sarah and I will work, feed ourselves, and afford a family… you know, ever. But… “God is Good…” Now, on to what is (hopefully) my last Christmas season as a civilian, so to speak!

And so it’s awful.


I’m upset with my town. R said it best: we’re built to handle certain crimes here. Most of them are quick and hot and motivated by money, which lets me say adorable little statements about how systems work together, and crime goes up when the economy goes down, and lets me score some points for my petty little worldview, like if social structures would just follow my lead, there would be an end to suffering and pain and yadda yadda. Pretty egotistical stuff. Pretty much ignoring that whole Kingdom of God thing.

This is different. Someone put someone in a wall. That’s not about desperation (at least in the conventional sense.) Someone found time to hide what they did away, and took what little dignity there might be left to this woman.

Part of my job at orientation was to assure new students that New Haven was wonderful and thriving, and maybe to be careful because, you know, it is a city and all. Ultimately, though, my message was that common sense would keep you safe here. I feel like I lied right now, and I feel like I was naive. I feel like I should have known that there was something senseless here, waiting. I’m not even slightly connected to this poor woman, and I feel… inadequate to the task of even being the vaguest hint of a sliver of a strand of what it would take to undo the kind of systemic nastiness that must be in the world to make this happen.

Reading this book, I was struck by Brueggemann’s point (as I understand it) about prophets and social activists: prophets aren’t interested in the reform of social systems (like activists are)… to pretend that the systems can be changed at all is to be co-opted by the “royal authority.” No, prophets want to imaginatively tear the whole thing down. Their imagination goes beyond some earthly dream of reform, and goes to the godly forming of the new way. I feel like we need to imagine harder right now, and I’m scared that I’m imagining as hard as I can, and it’s not working.

The hope of being found.

It’s been a really hard week. Sarah’s computer died a terrible death, which cuts down on communication even more. Much of the time that I spent with people was with happy couples living together, or just getting together, or other adorableness that makes me a little crazy right now. (This is very par for the course at a Div. School, but sometimes I feel it worse than others.) I’ve made some moves to get to a better living situation for me, one where I get to have the space and time I need to focus and get this last year of work done.

WARNING: TANGENT NOT AT ALL RELATED TO ANYTHING I KNOW ABOUT THE VERY REAL SCARY THING GOING ON HERE AT YALE, MAINLY JUST A THOUGHT: There are lots of people who physically or emotionally missing here at Yale these days, as I’m sure you have heard from the news. (Well, maybe just the one physically missing one.)

It makes one wonder about these undertakings students get themselves into. These are people who are passionately driven by their desire to study and work, so much so that they often forget to take care of themselves, even to eat in some cases. There’s something not surprising about someone vanishing in the midst of us, which feels very dark, and scary. In the cold of the winter, you lose something to the work and the books and the deep feeling that you are not getting to where you want to get to. And so, you start to feel like you might vanish a little. (It’s very “Master and Margarita.”) So, in case anyone ever asks, “Why YDS?” The answer is this: nowhere else do people insist that they SEE you, and HOLD ON TO YOU, even if they don’t know you very well at all. Nowhere else I’ve been can a guy like me be literally existing from hug to hug, even as the one who I love most is thousands of miles away. These folks vehemently refuse to let people vanish, and so I’m proud to hang out with them.

BACK TO REAL LIFE: We’re all doing ridiculous amounts of praying for finding Annie. I might be the only one praying for the editors of the New York Daily News to be hit with something heavy for allowing a false story about her body being found to print without verification (IT WASN’T). Way to torment people already in torment, fellas. You’re a real class act. Ceiling Cat sees you.