“I’m Sorry, I Don’t Remember Your Name”

A couple were in worship yesterday who looked really familiar. I noticed them during the sermon, and then when they came up for communion they looked at me knowingly. But I couldn’t place their names.

After the service they greeted me. A few awkward seconds passed after handshakes as they waited for me to say their names. I pretty quickly gave up trying to remember and did the thing I do nearly every week at this church, which is to apologetically admit that I’ve forgotten someone’s name; there’s a lot of people here, so it usually goes over without too much insult.

It only took one syllable of one of their names for me to remember: I married them, a fact they stated directly. How embarrassing. To forget the names of people who entrusted you with their big day. I have done a lot of weddings these past three years, but still; my inability to remember names sometimes is a serious ministerial liability.

They were gracious, of course, and expressed understanding. I resolved right away to send them a note this week saying how good it was to see them, and, of course, apologizing again. Even with that, yesterday may be the last time I see them.

I check my records. Their wedding was in November of 2017. I haven’t seen them since.

No more apologies after this.


Tonight Is The Homelessness Immersion

Tonight is the Homelessness Immersion experience our Confirmation youth do each winter. Friday night and into Saturday morning, students spend time:

learning from leaders who help those without permanent housing, people like case workers and social service staff;

experiencing both the simulated challenges associated with securing housing and the very un-simulated challenges associated with moving around the city on public transit with your possessions strapped to your back;

sleeping in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable–yet warm–building at the invitation of Good Samaritans;

eating only what can be easily carried.

It’s an 18 hour experiential learning opportunity. It’s uncomfortable, but the discomfort is not the point.

It’s a collaboration. It requires cooperation between youth ministry staff and volunteer leaders, social agency staff and volunteers (hat tip to both Chicago Lights and Facing Forward To End Homelessness), and the welcoming members of a second church.

It’s not my idea; it was here when I got here. It’s kind of a tradition, one that changes little-by-little over time and yet retains certain core features that make it what it is.

Here’s to learning and bonding and enduring, all for the sake of a world that doesn’t need any more Homelessness Immersions, when all of God’s children have the shelter their human dignity deserves.


2019 Radio, January Edition

Today’s the last day of January, and I already have a playlist of songs released so far in 2019 to share. It’s 44 songs long.

Of particular interest are new releases by Jenny Lewis, Juliana Hatfield, and Pedro The Lion. Alice Wallace, Liz Brasher, and Neyla Pekarek (the cellist for The Lumineers!) are notable early ’19 new discoveries.

Below the playlist is a bonus: this month’s episode of Hit Parade was all about Lady Gaga’s career, and I loved it. It’s well worth your time.


Snow Day(s)

What do you do with the two days at home that were planned for the ski retreat that got cancelled because of a snow storm? What do you do with the overnight off-sight leader retreat that you can’t carry out because of treacherous travel conditions? What do you do with a Wednesday and Thursday when all your plans and appointments have been scratched out by the coldest temperatures anyone in this city can remember?

It feels like a hidden cost of this weather, all the decision-making effort it’s requiring.


Get To Work

The tap is dripping so the pipes don’t freeze and burst. In the kitchen, the cat is wretching up her breakfast. Typing hurts whenever you hit the “e” key because the dry winter air has cracked the tip of the middle finger on your left hand. The table in the room where you’re working is caked with four day old kid-slime. Your coffee’s gone cold.

Get to work. The impact we need you to make won’t wait for a work environment better suited to your existing achievements and your preferences, the edgy co-working space or the book-lined private study. But if you did it there, you can do it here.

This is it. Now or never.



Ministry involves food. Feeding the hungry and breaking bread among the faithful are two irreducible elements of life in a faith community.

In 2019 that fact demands that ministers know what’s in the bread they’re breaking.

“Is this nut free?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Are you sure?”


A lazy answer, a distracted answer, an inattentive and careless answer here is dangerous. Like, harming the people you’re called to care for dangerous.

Pay attention. Get it right. It matters.

With apologies.


Vote For Burr

I haven’t seen Hamilton, but I’ve heard hours upon hours of it in my living room from my 10 year old daughter, who has seen it. Three times.

I always identify more with Burr than with Hamilton.

His warnings against talking too much and too loud;

“You spit, I’ma sit; we’ll see where we land”

his commitment to delaying decision;

“I’m not standing still. I am lying in wait”

his ideological flexibility;

“I changed parties to seize the opportunity I saw”:

Burr’s defining character traits are maligned by Hamilton, but they seem to me underappreciated virtues, especially in an era of overheated rhetoric.


15 Years Ago

I spoke on the phone today with someone I’ve not seen for 15 years. We recognized one anothers’ voices instantly. A decade and a half: 15 years, gone like that, and here we are talking again, using office phones we weren’t thinking of before.

I spent the rest of the day dwelling on my world of 15 years ago and the people who were part of it yet have ceased to be. Most of them I never think about, just as I’m sure they don’t think about me. But there is one, maybe two, I frequently recall. Our lives make no contact anymore, yet small decisions I might have made here or there might have altered things and made us like the two guys from seminary I know who talk on the phone literally every day about what they ate for breakfast.

Instead we live isolated lives. We don’t call. We don’t email or write prosaic letters. I chose repeatedly not to.

I’m glad 15 years ago happened, back then, only once. Had it continued it might have been corrupted into something you have to maintain for its own sake, rather than something that feeds and nourishes you in a particular season only.


Boys Will Be Boys

A refrain I’ve heard repeated in response to the Covington Catholic video last weekend: boys will be boys.

First it was spit with derision. Boys will be boys.

Then it was intoned as explanation. Boys. Will. Be. Boys.

Videos of my teenage boy self and his fellows are playing in my memory, trying to sort it all out. In one, we’re a couple of months post graduation, drinking and smoking up in a Phoenix hotel room with total strangers, dealers some of us met on the street and invited back to the room to play video games. We are loud, out of control, drunk on cheap beer and the abominable absence of adult supervision. We are a scourge.

Boys will be boys.

In another, my four best friends and I are careening around downtown Denver, running down alleys, climbing statues, ducking into doors left open. Alcohol free, drug free, powered by the communion we feel with and for one another, for this city, for these strangers we are high five-ing up and down 16th Street. We are young and alive and enthralled by possibility. We love everyone.

Boys will be boys.

A lot depends on how you say it.


Quitting The Ski Retreat

The Ski Retreat won. And then it didn’t.

A big winter storm system came east across the midwest and blanketed our route from Chicago to south central Wisconsin with warnings of blowing snow and hazardous travel conditions. I read all the warnings and all the forecasts with my team of leaders, and then around noon I emailed the parents it was cancelled. Too risky to drive 20 teenagers through a winter storm, lofty theological sentiments about communion be damned.

Then I called the house rental, the van rental, and the ski resort and cancelled all our bookings. Even our Saturday night dinner at Upper Crust Pizzaria: cancelled.

There’s something simply doesn’t sit right about killing a ski weekend for . . . snow.