I remember that first night in November when I put down the potatoes and the knife and hid in the garage while my fingers tapped for forty-five minutes. I had felt that kind of creative electricity only a handful of times before. It was a little like being tipsy and hyper focused at the very same time; exhausting, a little scary and a lot of fun.
I had been talking about a blog for a couple of years, but I never trust myself easily.
I don’t know what came over me.
I sent those 1,138 words to a friend that night while the soup simmered on the stove and asked if she would help me find a way to share what I had written. I wasn’t sure she wouldn’t be offended by my plea for free help. I knew she loved me, but you didn’t ever want to be THAT guy who asks creative friends for free work. In the end, the electricity won out over the self-conscious nerves and desire for propriety. There’s a lesson there, take it if you need it.
Thirty minutes later, she sent me a website with my name on it and with that first post already up. I shared my first writing when it was only a couple of hours old. A lot has changed since that first night, hiding in my minivan during that November downpour.
After watching me toil and spin these words for almost a year, another friend showed up at my house last night with a serious question she wanted me to answer. She asked me to tell her exactly what I was doing here with all these words. I am writing and people are responding and participating and sharing. But where do I want this to actually take us? Is this a fun hobby? Is it a job? Is it a mean trick I fell for when I told my boss I needed to teach less so I could write more before I knew where my family of six would make up the financial difference? I seriously gave up the grocery money before I knew how I would replace it. I’m either nuts, completely fooling myself, or really onto something. Time will tell.
She kept on asking me really hard questions because she knows me better than anyone and she knows I’ll never push myself to answer. Pushing has always been her job, not mine.
I’ll paraphrase what she wanted to know. Do you want to be a speaker? A preacher? Do you want to publish books? Do you want a podcast? Do you want to create an online community where people can bring their questions about faith and doubt and God and immense suffering everywhere we look and Donald Trump and the one holy and apostolic church?
I’ve avoided wrestling with the questions my friend asked last night for all these months. I feel, in a lot of ways, like I’ve been writing away like shooting a shotgun out into the world without a clear target in sight and little pellets landing all over the place. I’m not saying it’s been wrong or ineffective but I know my friend is right. It’s time to set some intentions for this space and all the time and effort I have shifted from other things to be here.
I am so incredibly grateful for the people I have connected with here and I want to serve all of you better than I have these last ten months. You’ve stuck with me in the weird and the wild and I know I don’t deserve you. The people who read my words are the gift I was never brave enough to ask for and one of the great surprises of my life. You are grace and mercy and new beginning to me and I mean it, I’ll never get over the last ten months, not ever. And so, as much as I’ve hated commitment with my whole heart for my whole life, I want to honor you the way you’ve honored me.
I didn’t have a well-formed answer when my friend sat with me in my dining room while my kids watched too much tv and the baby crawled between our laps. She told me I had to find the answer. I told her I would try.
Today, I did. Here it is, a long-winded manifesto.
I want to build a life where my daily work is pointing to the light that is already shining in the darkness to anyone who wants to listen, in any format I can position myself. In the short term, that looks in my imagination like concentric circles where I am writing and connecting with people on social media most days and my website and newsletter each week. And between you and me and the world wide web, I’m working on something that might be a book one day. Out one circle farther, that will look like the podcast my friend and I are plotting and planning to begin recording soon. One circle out from that will look like dipping my toes in the water and saying words out loud in front of real live people. A little farther looks like a solo subscriber podcast and online community where I can share more personal thoughts on faith and justice and grace and offer weekly blessings and prayers, centered on hope and light and defiant resistance against the dark. These are my wildest dreams for us.
One of my favorite ways to remember God is as the one who pounds swords into plows and sets people to work restoring and rebuilding all that’s been wrecked and stolen and broken. This is the God who has met me in the dark time and again. He sets the table before us, a feast in the middle of the war that has seemed at times to be never ending. He brings the finest food and the best wine and every good thing and I want to find my place at the table of God and remind people that the table is wider and longer than we ever dreamed. And because you have been so good to me as I have waited for these words to come, I want to make a few promises to you in light of the table, the feast, the dark, and the God who brings the best wine.
With every word, I want to always remember the marginalized, the pushed out, and the forgotten. I want to remember that I was born and bred and raised and educated in privilege in almost every way a person can be privileged. I want to use my words and my privilege to bring the outsider in and to get my shoulder up under a corner of the burdens other folks are carrying around. I promise I won’t do this perfectly and that I will keep trying to do better.
I’m all tied up with the story and the words and the person of Jesus and I don’t think I can separate that from any part of my life. But I promise to always try to communicate about Him in a way that leaves room for you and your feelings and thoughts about him and the whole stumbling church. I have somehow gathered together readers from both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between. I promise to honor the image of God I see in each one, whether or not we share the same beliefs about the man from Nazareth named Jesus. You do not need to be Christian to be welcome here. You don’t have to be on that trajectory to be welcome here. You do not need to be a person of faith to be welcome here. I promise to never try to manipulate or convert you. I have to tell my stories or I will die, but I will try to remember that they are just that: mine.
There are readers here who claim Jesus as their own and those who know Him as a historical figure. Some of you truly believe the Bible is the only book needed to answer all of life’s questions. Some of you have a much more nuanced and complicated relationship with the book. Some of you have never cracked it. Some of you have been so harmed by it’s weaponization you are brought painfully low by it’s mention. I promise to do my damndest to honor you and be kind to you when I talk about the Bible, always remembering you and your experiences.
I promise to honor the beauty as well as the suffering I see in you and in the world. I’ll try to never minimize things that matter or answer big questions easily with sweet and useless words.
I promise to point you toward home and keep inviting you to the feast without pushing you, because I know from experience this is all really hard to reconcile and believe sometimes.
I promise to keep trying to do the work that brings the light, in everything I write and say.
I promise to keep writing and speaking words that bring light and life into all that’s still dark so that together we can see the Kingdom of God coming. The feast is already prepared, and I believe He is calling each of us to the place He set for us at the table.
Thanks for reading, folks. Thanks for subscribing, and sharing with your friends and all your kind words all these months. Onward and upward.