Thursday, December 15, 2011

Come all you furious

I've had the tune from the old hymn 'Come Ye Disconsolate' in my head for the last while. I'm working on some other words, and here's what I have so far:

come all you furious
rampant and wanton
bring all your terrified
bring all your lust

come to the mercy seat
come wielding hammers
Jesus has plans for you
come, come and see

where are the wanderers?
where are the lovelorn?
come to the walls of hate
come to tear down

fling wide your arms and songs
your pain and your fabulous
earth has no fury
that heaven cannot beat

we are his hands and feet
his knees and elbows
we are his aching heart
we are his fists

watch out you slaveholders
watch out you haters
Jesus lives in us
and he is pissed.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

And now for something completely different (read: practical)

Hi everybody, Dan here:

I don't like to bug people about things like this unless I think it's really important, but this I think is: a petition to increase funding for elementary second-language eduacation. The text of the petition explains it all: learning languages at a young age improves learning across the board, to say nothing of the invaluable tool that is speaking a second language.

I'm sure you'll all take one look at this and think, like I initially did, "yeah, an online petition; who's going to read it?" Hell if I know, but if any online petition has a shot, I figure it ought to be one offered directly through the White House, and what's the worst that can happen if you take about 45 seconds of your time to try it out? If we don't even attempt to participate in the affairs of our government, who else can we blame when it doesn't represent us?

Please read it, sign it if you agree, respectfully abstain if you don't, and check out other initiatives on the site!

Thanks everyone!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Brick by Brick

A new song, posted on national coming out day. I guess I'm coming out angry. And strategically hopeful.

This one's for haymarket, and occupy chicago, and all the people who represent the intimate connections between the two. Which is to say, the people who are building a better and transformed world, bit by bit. You know who you are.

brick by brick
intro: (chords in rise up singing style)
D G DD /G D A A / D D G D/ G D A A

i feel too tired, and i feel overwhelmed
can we make a plan here, or a vision for an end?
those of us who care for justice, those of us whose longing burns
what vision can we muster, can we make the future turn?

D D A A / G G D A/ G D A/ Em GAD

brick by brick, bone by bone
til the people have their justice and their bodies are their own
stick by stick, stone by stone
we are building all together, we are dreaming up a home

D D A D/ G D A / D D DAD/ G A Em/ Bm A D

if i want it tomorrow, then i might as well quit
but if i want it for my children i'll stay in
so together let us promise, and together let us build
brick by brick, bone by bone
stick by stick, stone by stone


the stones i lay today are rage and peace and hope
and tomorrow's might be songs or plans or tears
but if put down enough, with faithfulness and verve
then my people will have walls enough for home
then my people will have walls enough for home

so you'll build a bit tomorrow, and i'll pick it from there
and we'll have a new place to rest next week
and we'll break it down a lot, to move it or to fix it
but hey: if not now maybe next year
if not now maybe next year


oh, give us bricks that last, and give us bones that mend
and give us living wood to grow and bend
and when they try to stop us, we will break them down
brick by brick, bone by bone
stick by stick, stone by stone

our bricks will break their windows
and our bones will block their streets
and our sticks will pound on office doors and drums
and we'll take on every mountain of injustice and of greed
and wear it down to a stone
and wear it down to a stone


they will not believe our families
they will put our kids in jail
they will shut us up and crush us if they can
and you'll find our shelters simple, but you'll find them everywhere
and we'll see who really owns the land
and we'll see who really owns the land

we will build together in defiance and in hope
we will all pile on and show up
and slower than we'd like
but fast enough for us
we will build a new world stone by stone
we will build a new world stone by stone


we are not about to give up
and we're not about to break
but we'll bend and we'll ripple and we'll flow
and when the people ask us how we made the mountains move
(we'll say): brick by brick, bone by bone
stick by stick, stone by stone


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Come to Me

Here's a little song I wrote to accompany my sermon at Peace Community Church a couple weeks ago. As you might figure out via googling/sword drills, it's "on" Matthew 11:25-30. I'll post the chords here, mostly for my own future reference, and if you'd like a recording let me know and I'll link you to the appropriate google doc.

"Come to Me"

They say, 'it's not worth all the effort'
they say, 'what are you gonna do?'
they say, 'what are you thinking?'
'It cannot be changed, at least not by you.'

This life has been getting you down
and you're at the end of your rope
when all your plans add up to nothing
the Spirit will give you a little more hope
(she'll say:)

Come to me, all who are weary
and I will give you rest, rest
Come to me, all who are weary
and I will give you rest, rest

This life has been getting you down
this life feels like more and more pain
but the walk gets deeper and stronger
and you find rest out in the reign

You've been doubting the Lord
You've been wrestling with the word
It's not bad to trust and obey
but is it better to argue, is it better to say:


How can the struggle feel like the dancing?
How can the mustard tree feel like a nest?
I don't know how, but this is what I'm preaching
when I trust her the yoke feels like the rest

They say: there's qualifications
to keep out the sinner and the liars
but what he says about the peace of the beloved:
you don't have to be anything but tired


This is what you say to the terrors
this is what you say from the pit:
just one battle is not what we're here for
and the only struggle that we lose is the one that we quit

they are trying to break you
they would love it if you would just burn out
it would be better for the haters if you gave up,
so please listen to my Jesus longing shout:


The Spirit tells us that there's justice bubbling up now
She tells us that we can and we should
such promises that carried on our forebears
she reminds us that they are all still good

So what are you doing in your church or your vigil?
what are you saying in your preaching or your play?
Please remember, whatever else you're doing-
may you make a safe place, and to the people say:


Friday, July 08, 2011

okay to be gay/ thunder

Today at the AWAB member's meeting, we had a couple of young women join us, high-school-age participants in the youth programming at the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America summer conference. At one point, we broke into small groups by denomination: Alliance of Baptists, American Baptists, and so forth. The youth didn't have any particular denominational affiliation, so my friend Francis and I sat and talked with them. They talked about how many young lgbtq youth in their schools and neighborhoods face bullying and violence, about how some of their lgbtq friends were afraid to even leave the house because of threats of violence. And the church is seen, in their world, as complicit in all of this, if not supportive of it. On the one hand, it was pretty heart-breaking to hear all of this, and on the other hand it was so exciting to hear these two young people talk about their energy and passion to change things. We began to talk about what they wanted to do, about ways we could work together, about a vision of sharing a map, proclaiming a web of places that would welcome queer youth. They told us that they didn't know their were groups like AWAB before this week, didn't know there were churches that would welcome all young people. The two young women told the gathered group that, where they're from “Everybody knows that God hates gays.”
Well, they kept strategizing. By the end of the meeting, they asked if they could tell their friends, their fellow students, that people of God loved them no matter their sexuality. The gathered AWAB membership immediately voted to authorize the students to speak with our blessing, and to instruct the board to create a way to officially support their efforts.
At the end of the meeting, I left excited to hear more about their efforts. I expected to hear from them sometime in the next few days or weeks.
An hour later, their new facebook group “It's okay to be gay” had over a hundred members. They and some other peace camp youth posted this message and messages about the love of God to all their friends. One of their friends in Atlanta printed out a bunch of posters with the name of the group, and posted them in her neighborhood. She was afraid that this might provoke violence, so she got her father to go with her as a “dad bodyguard.”
I don't know what will happen next. There's a boatload of Baptists excited about supporting these efforts. But it it is so amazing to have this chance to facilitate a small connection between a group of adult welcoming church leaders and a new generation of young people, facing a new wave of homophobia and violence.
Here's what it makes me think of: on the first night of peace camp, I gathered with some of the other young adults here. At the end of our little shindig, we went around and said something we were hoping for out of this week. People said, “rest.” People said “friendship” and “empowerment” and “hope.”
I said, “thunder.”

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Batman saves the day

I was excited to attend the Annual Conference of the Northern IL Conference of the United Methodist Church, on behalf of The Night Ministry. Often, at such conferences, I set up our little display, and then chat with pastors and lay leaders about our work, having me come visit, ways to get involved, etc.

This time, my assigned table happened to be in a back corner of the conference center. On the first day of the four day conference, I decided I needed to kick my standard display up a notch, in an effort to be noticed by conference attendees.

I drove away from the conference center, looking for stores that might sell helpful materials. Sure enough, within a block, I saw one of those big party stores. I had an awesome moment of deciding which foil balloons to appropriate for my purposes (inspired by the excellent article about balloon banner drops in Recipes for Disaster. Clearly, the appropriate choice for The Night Ministry was Batman. Photos follow.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

ordination song

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending Tom Ryberg's installation at First Congregational Church of Battle Creek. I didn't get to to go his ordination, so I was particularly glad to be present for this event.

In the past month or two, four good friends of mine (and many others too!) got ordained. I wrote them a song. It was particularly interesting to write, because one friend was being ordained to be a pagan high priestess, one to be a local church pastor, one to do international peace work, and one to be a hospital chaplain.

Here it is:

Ordination Song

May you be comfortable in hospitals
and honest at your desk
may you have enough hunger
may you have enough rest

May you have find your joy in loving
may you find your hope each day
may you shout with the afflicted
and with the dying pray

It's not about who you are, it's about what you do
but the work to which you're called will be the birth of you

May you bring to this your full self
your ugly and your great
may you be forever faithful
may you share from every plate

May you bring some names to babies
may you bury beloved dead
may you join hearts and hands together
and may you break the bread

May your words fall like raindrops
or hammers or homes
may the Spirit be in front of you
may you follow where she roams

May your community build safety
and hilarity and peace
may its walls stand for welcome
and its windows for release

May your people love like crazy
may you love them full and free
may you know when to hold on as hard as you can
may you know when to let them be

it's not about who you are
it's about what you do
but the work to which you're called
will be the birth of you

may your wield your power gracefully
may you wield your grace with power
may the years keep you strange
and may you keep strange hours
may your family be glad of
the ministry you do
may you leave the work for others
when you rest and when you're through

this is not a life for glory
it's not wealth or fear or pride
but may it be the best life
and may I be by your side

may you be comfortable in hospitals
and honest at your desk
may you have enough hunger
may you have enough rest.

This link might work to download a rough .wav recording of a slightly-earlier draft of this song:

Friday, April 08, 2011

after one year ordained

Word and font and table.

I'm mostly a Baptist, these days, and when I got ordained, there wasn't any super-clear sense of what it was about. (Well, I was clear about it, but I didn't assume that anyone else was.) But I grew up United Methodist, and they're big into commonality and sharing senses of things, and there was a predominant sense that when one was ordained as an “elder', one was ordained to “word and sacrament” which is to say preaching and communion and baptism. So, I still at least partially think of it in those terms, though much of the preaching and communion I did was before I was ordained, and all the baptisms I've done so far were before I was ordained.

But in any case, as I reflect on the year anniversary of my ordination, here in the not-quite-warm part of spring in Chicago, in a year of tsunamis and revolutions, I'm coming back to those three, and three accompanying dreams.


In the first dream, which I had well over a year ago, I am preaching in an unfamiliar church. At first, people are sitting up front, but then they are sitting farther back. Of course, (this seems obvious in the dream, and it's obvious to my ministry- but more on that later) I leave the pulpit and start preaching at the front of the pews. (Or maybe I am already preaching at the front of the pews, as my childhood pastor taught me.) The people keep moving back, and soon I am halfway up the aisle, because they are sitting in the back pews of the church.
Eventually, of couse, they leave the church, but I follow them, and eventually I find myself in the lawns and orchards outside of their houses, while they try to eat their lunches and read their papers, preaching outside their windows.
When I woke up from that dream, I found it a little sad. But after talking it over with my spiritual director, I thought it was pretty cool, actually. These days I think it is awesome.


In the second dream, which I had a week or two before my ordination, Rachael and I are helping to run some youth or church or education event, which is to say any of dozens and dozens of things we've done, together and individually. Somebody mentions that nobody remembered to bring communion elements- juice and bread. So, I make a grocery store run, but for some reason I have to sneak out, like I'm in a spy movie about someone who's not very good at being a spy.
When I come back, I want to go in the front door of the church, but the lawn and the church building have tilted ninety degrees, so that it's a sheer, grassy wall instead of a lawn. In the dream, I feel nonchalant about this, though I am not much of a climber in real life. So, I shift the plastic grocery bag with the bottle of juice and the loaf of bread to the crook of my elbow, and begin to climb. I scale the lawn, and pull myself up the now-horizontal pillars on the front of the church. Rachael helps me climb up through the doorway, and then we go about our work.


Look: everybody who knows me well knows that I play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. Something about connecting to a realm of fantasy, or cooperative storytelling, or magic or something, makes me want to do it once a week, for a few hours, with some friends. When I don't play for more than a week, I start to have dreams about it. Or I remember my dreams about it better. Or, I have whatever dreams I'd otherwise have, but they have that kind of mythic medievil fantasy tone to them.
In any case, in my dream, I am in some sort of magical or mythic world, and in that world, I am released from slavery. In the dream, I am both the person being released from slavery, and the person who breaks me out. In this world, one of the markers of being an enslaved person is that you're not allowed to have a name, so the closing, climactic scene of the dream is when I-as-liberator carve an initial into a metal ball or helmet as a gift for me-as-liberated. The carving is a letter, maybe a W, and the letter is a name, and the name is freedom.

Word. Table. Font. Preaching and communion and baptism. These three are not even close to the fullness of my call, but it's true that they're part of my call. (Nevermind that I think they are all part of your call, too.) But they stand for larger things, too.
Preaching like I pick up the phone at my office, and somebody wants to come volunteer with us. Preaching like it turns out the hotel workers union needs somebody in a clergy collar to show up and sit with them during contract negotiations. Preaching like dancing, preaching like shooting the breeze with my housemates in the kitchen, and preaching, yes and fully and difficultly and most lovingly, like preaching.
Table like just ordinary sharing food with people, table like deliberately pouring the communion juice so it overflows when I'm officiating as a guest preacher. Table like spending all afternoon making ridiculous pancakes on Shrove Tuesday with my friends, buying candy bars to put in the batter. Table like dinner at the shelter amidst the voguing. Table like sharing coffee and cookies late at night on the street with people experiencing homelessness, and maybe more than that, being so bold as to share coffee and cookies in the suburbs with people experiencing wealth.
And then the font. Sometimes, when I go to a new place, to a meeting with the bank manager that could help our program or to preaching at a new church, and I need to feel a little more centered, I put a little water on my forehead. Font like Jesus keeps re-newing me, whether I like it or not. Font like having a new title in my name that makes people read me a little bit differently, and deciding when to use it. Font like newness and rebirth. Font like the work, and font like the freedom. Font like healing me. Font like liberation.

In some ways, I am only a year in: it's a year since my ordination, anyway. But however you count it, here I am. One of the characters on 30 Rock psychs himself up in the mirror before a big presentation, and I decided to try it, before a church womens' event out by O'Hare. I shifted the rearview mirror of the borrowed car, and looked myself in the eye.
“Okay,” I said to myself, “This is the work you were born to do.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


Okay, so I love this song. And it's as close to a blog post as I'm going to right today, certainly, so here you go:


by Joe Stevens

My haircut don't look right
My clothes don't fit just right
Them boy clothes are too big and girl's too tight
My feet they look too small
And I ain't very tall
I fight with my mom every time I go to the mall
If I can't be your daughterson, I ain't nothing at all

The teachers are all thrown
Public school is a war zone
Kids won't leave me or my Queeny brother alone
Don't get picked to be on teams
Though I'm scrappy and I'm lean
Those girls, they seem to look right through me

My body has betrayed me
My life, the sun is setting, black as night
If I had only known about those girls
Yeah, they saw me all right

I'm obviously a man
But I sit down on the can
I get shots in the leg by my lady's helping hand
My scars run across my chest
Dr. Brownstein is the best
And ain't no one can make me wear a dress

Just because I've done this
Doesn't mean you have to do it too
You don't know what it's like now, do you?
Well, some of you do…

Well, you say I'm going to hell
But I've been down that well
And God is a big boy, he can speak for himself
Don't mess with God's design
But where do you draw the line?
How bout Botox, diet pills, face lifts, braces, deforestation, nuclear warfare, Viagra….
Well, I think I'm doin fine

You're so scared of everything
You shout these rules that you invent
Who are you to force me
To believe what you think Jesus meant?

I grew up in a disguise
The pain has made me wise
Oh, my people stand, be seen, and we will rise
My body is my home
I won't ever be alone
And I found my place behind this microphone

I have chose my consequence
I've chosen my name
And I can be your Daughterson
Cause they're one and the same