My Family

I come from a relatively large family. My parents had six kids. Of those six kids, five of us are still here and have had thirteen children between us. Now we’re working on grandkids, though I am willing to wait a bit before I see any coming from my children.

I am currently on my second (and last) marriage and I have three children. Bekah (1995) and Caleb (1996) are my children from my first marriage. I am now married to a wonderful woman named Robyn (since 2002) who works as an RN in Portland. We have a child together named Elwood (2006).

Music

I have been playing and creating music for over 20 years. I studied trumpet in school, and even went to college to study jazz and contemorary music at the University of Maine, Augusta. Unfortunately, I ran out of money and my car ran out of gas. So I gave up chasing my dream of fame and fortune and settled into life. (That means I got married, found a job, had a couple of kids, got divorced, got a better job, drank too much, got married again, went back to school, found my life’s calling, and had another kid.)

But along the way, I have kept playing trumpet. I even picked up a nice set of keyboards and have done some writing. Check out the lyrics on this page. Those are the songs that I have completed. I have a few more songs that I have co-written with a good friend, Jim Braley. We used to be in a little group together called Witness.

Nowadays, I don’t do much playing or writing. But music continues to be a good escape for me. I have picked up a few more instruments (french horn, accordian, penny whistle) and have tried a couple of others (guitar), but trumpet and keyboards are still my main interests.

As for influences, I have far too many to name. But here are a few:

Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Arturo Sanduval, Dave Matthews, U2, Keith Green, Michael W. Smith, Elton John, the Eagles, George Jones, Alanis Morissette, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Andrew Peterson, Tom Waits, Tracy Chapman, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, Trent Reznor, Styx, Led Zepplin, Ben Folds, Billy Joel, Bob Marley, ELO, Queen, Eminem, Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash…

Vegan Living

PopeyeI made the switch to a vegan lifestyle in January 2016. It is easily one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I never knew that I could enjoy it nearly as much as I do.

My youngest child, Ih-z, is the reason why Robyn and I decided to go vegan. We didn’t do it for her health, nor did we force her to do it. On the contrary, Elisabeth was the driving force behind us becoming a vegan household.

In January of 2016, Ih-z watched a preview for the documentary “Cowspiracy” and showed us. That evening, all three of us sat down and watched the full documentary and our lives have never been the same.

Since that change, we have all grown to embrace our vegan lives and mostly eat a whole foods diet. There is still room for some fun vegan foods in the mix. (And “YES”, there are LOTS of FUN vegan foods and restaurants out there.) My wife cooks most nights and uses very little oil or processed items. Eating out – especially while travelling – is a little bit challenging at times, but we have found ways to do that with a little creativity.

All in all, being vegan in our present space in history in not terribly difficult. It takes commitment to the ideal, but I can’t imagine my life being anything different now.

Post-UMC and Why I Left Pre-#GC2019

I have deep love and respect for the United Methodist Church. After all, it is within the UMC that I served in ministry for over a decade as a local pastor. But much more than that, it is also the place that I was formed as a person of faith and met some of the most deeply spiritual people in my life.

So when the UMC entered the mainstream news cycle through the decisions made at General Conference 2019, I found myself refreshing my various news feeds to find the latest updates and opinion pieces. Even while doing it I felt a little odd about it. After all, I had not only “retired” from the ministry at the end of June 2018, but I had also removed my membership to the church and hadn’t attended a worship service in months.

But I still felt sad.

In many ways, I feel that my spiritual path has led me away from the teachings of the United Methodist Church. I have been accused of being a universalist – which is not exactly true but I certainly don’t mind being “accused” of such a wondrous thing as thinking that we all ultimately end up saved in the end. In fact, my theolgy can more flippantly be summed by the phrase “Let Go and Let God” with a heavy emphasis on the letting go part.

For this reason and many more, I decided that being a pastor and teacher in the United Methodist tradition would be disingenuous to the people in my care. I could inadvertently lead them away from the Wesleyan theology present within the greater UMC. And at the same time, I could not be genuinely reflective from the pulpit and authentic to my own spiritual journey if I did not pursue the ideas that I was contemplating.

Once that decision was made, the decision to leave the church as a whole was an easy one to make. If my ideas and understanding of the Sacred in my own life could not be taught from a UMC pulpit, then is also couldn’t be shaped by someone that stood in one. Leaving the pulpit was a difficult decision, but leaving the UMC as a whole was painful.

But I took comfort in the thought that the church would still be there for me if I ever felt like going back. Now, I’m pretty sure it won’t be – – – and certainly not in any way that I would recognize.

So I do feel a small sense of loss. After all, the UMC is the place that comforted me in some serious dark spots in my life. I’ve given a lot of myself and my resources to its ministries. I have eaten countless meals, served on numerous commitees, attended endless meetings, and worshipped so many times at so many altars.

I may share more of my story over the next weeks and months – especially as the UMC gets closer to GC2020. But suffice for now that I am sad for those that are going through this directly.

Changes

Clifford-Brown10.jpgClifford Brown is my all-time favorite jazz trumpet player. If you’ve never heard Clifford Brown, I suggest you check him out. He played quite a bit with Max Roach and they had a similar approach to music and the art of jazz. While Max Roach lived out a full and complete life until he died in 2007 at the age of 83, Clifford Brown’s life was tragically cut short at age 25 in 1956. Even so, Clifford Brown’s influence on jazz music and especially the hard bop genre he helped to create cannot be overestimated.

What I have always been impressed with in Clifford Brown’s music is the way that he moves through the intensive chord changes that are such a part of hard bop music with such intention and fluidity. He bounces through the changes and remains nimble and is able to speak with full musical sentences at a time when a lot of hard bop was speaking with incomplete phrases and short bursts of musical speech. Listen to a piece like “Joy Spring” and you can hear the way that he flawlessly moves through both chord and key changes with seeming ease. Even the 12-bar blues structure is transformed into something new and different in “Sandu”.

I have always marvelled at the way that certain people can embrace not just the idea of change, but the changes themselves. Clifford Brown was a leader in the move from bebop to hard bop and did it in his late teens and early 20’s. It’s an amazing thing to consider.

 

 

You Never Talk to Me Anymore

I’m not sure why I even have my own website. I never post to it. I hardly ever update it. No one really ever visits it. But I have one. I keep it updated so that I will have a place for my email. Because I own my own domain, I also own my own email. Yes, it needs to be hosted somewhere, but it is mine and can’t be taken away.

One of the other things that I have realized is that it also can’t outlive me by much.

Because my website and my email are owned (and controlled) by me, they can only survive if I pay the annual bills associated with it. That means that – at some point after I die – someone will either need to assume the billing or let the service simply be deleted.

There is something oddly comforting about that.

I am a pastor and a person that has been preaching sustainability in both my personal and professional lives for quite some time now. I believe that the idea of true sustainability goes against our human nature as we simply cannot think on such grand terms as sustaining something forever. Even when we think about time and space, we talk about the “beginning of the universe” or the “end of time”. True sustainability is outside of our comprehension. (And, to be honest, I also believe that the place where we should be concentrating our efforts at sustainability is in the present moment – not in some future that has yet to be created.)

So, when I consider sustainability in terms that we can understand, it comes down to leaving as little a footprint as possible. Sustainability has something to do with burdening others. The less we burden others with the choices that we make, the more sustainable that choice, activity, or structure will be.

Think about it —

Right now as a church, we are using countless dollars and human resources to sustain buildings and structures that do not fit the needs of today. But anything that we attempt to build in any permanent way will only lead to future generations looking back at us and asking the same questions that we are asking of the generations that preceded us. Building structures and systems that are flexible and possibly even temporary will allow future users the options necessary to meet the needs of their time.

Or —

If I purchase a house, car, plot of land, or anything else that outpaces my true needs now or in the immediate future, then I will spend a lot of my time and resources (physical, emotional, and spiritual) attempting to keep that thing going. For instance, if my car payment and cost of upkeep costs me 20% of what I make in a month, then I am spending one out of every five hours working to simply sustain my ability to get to and from work. We build entire buildings simply to house the things that we use to travel from place to place. That’s not a sustainable model.

We have made the world so complex that we have decided that it requires at least 12 years of formal schooling to simply exist in our manmade culture. Formal schooling doesn’t teach us anything (or very few things) that would help us if we were to be left alone in the wilderness. Most everything that we are taught simply helps us to navigate the institutions that we have created.

There is so much more to say, and I may even start to use this space to say it.

And if I do, I know that eventually my words will eventually be erased… because they simply don’t matter that much… and because eventually, no one will pay the bill.

Sermon for Tri-State dCOM

Hi all. This is kind of a weird post because it is more of an email with a video. I have been asked to film one of my services at OOB UMC and send it to the Tri-State District Committee on Ministry. I did all of that except for one small point, I didn’t put it in the mail.

So… I have pulled the “sermon” out of the service and uploaded it to YouTube. Here it is:

Sermon from December 12, 2010

I have also uploaded the bulletin from that day. It can be found at this link – Bulletin from December 12, 2010.

Sorry for the delay. And if you aren’t on dCOM, let me know what you think. (I’ll be hearing from dCOM soon enough…)