our new publishing house

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I offered to write a book for Emergent™. They laughed, because I don’t have a platform. It takes a whole lot of promotion and potential buyers to get a traditionally published book to “tip”, and make a profit. So, I understand.

But I did find out that they get about 6 book proposals a day. Of course no publishing house is going to take those on and even attempt to publish them. But we live in the era of the longtail. There is more value in the thousands of unpublished stories of life in the fringes, than a hundred published works by those with a platform.

The Idea

If I can figure out how to track any of these people down, I will invite them to write their book publicly on a site based on a wiki. It will encourage collaboration and community feed back. And when it’s “done”, we’ll publish via lulu.

Take the Plunge

The Church of the Zoo

Today, during work, I was listening to a podcast of WNYC’s RadioLab talking about a ‘tortured zoo director’. It’s worth a listen, because towards the end he talks about how difficult it would be to change the way zoos are built and run, because everyone who works at a zoo grew up with them a certain way, and wouldn’t want them to ever be different.

My mind started drifting to the difficulties in changing the church, because everyone who works for them, grew up liking them the way they were…

Give it a listen, and tell me where your mind drifts.

You’ve heard of the tortured artist. The tortured poet. Did you ever think about the tortured zoo director? It’s tough work being the steward of animals while at the same time being their captor. David Hancocks, a former zoo director, tells us about the paradoxes he encounters in the zoo world and his dream for a future zoo.

[ via WNYC – Radiolab: Zoo Keeper’s Dilemma (January 15, 2008) ]

Stories from the Fringes

It’s time to turn some dreams into reality…

I believe deeply in the power of story. It all goes back to one of my favorite conversations where Tim Costello asked Ivan Illich, “What is the most revolutionary way to change society? Violent revolution or is it gradual reform?” Illich gave a careful answer, “Neither. If you want to change a society, then you must tell an alternative story.” I cultivate a community of missional leaders on EmergingLeadersNetwork.org who are on streets and in the culture, trying to tell an alternative story about God’s relationship to creation through the selfless compassion of Jesus Christ.

The good news is, these people are on the fringes of the institutional church because they are in the center of the world. The bad news is, they regularly feel vulnerable and unsupported out on those fringes. Whenever we gather to tell our stories of hope, reconciliation and justice, we find the encouragement and support we need to press on. Unfortunately, there are many other people out there who have not been able to come to these gatherings, and many more who have not even had their missional imaginations affirmed. They perceive a new movement of the kingdom around them, but might be afraid to act on it, because to do so would meaning doing things they have not seen done before.

Their experience remind me of Peter. One day he has dream. A sheet is lowered from heaven containing many ‘unclean’ animals. God tells him to kill and eat. Peter reminds God that these animals are unclean, and that they should not be eaten. After enough prodding, Peter realizes He should trust God rather than dictating how things have ‘always been done around here’, and immediately, God brought along people to affirm this message that He was moving in new ways. Peter still had to spend some quality time in Jerusalem justifying his actions, but he was faithful, and began sharing the good news of salvation with the ‘wrong’ kind of people, in the ‘wrong’ kind of ways. By being faithful to his calling, and sharing the story of what God is already up to in the world, the church adapted and was broken open for all nations.

My dream is to gather and share the stories of how God is at work in the world and on the fringes of the church to inspire hope and encourage change. Specifically, I will visit the fringes and interview the communities who have responded to God’s call to do a new thing, and share their stories in various media formats through emergingleadersnetwork.org

Resources will include:

  • Full-length audio and video interviews
  • Remixed 3-5 minute summaries of interviews
  • Mini-documentaries of life in the community (experience their life together, rather than talking about it)
  • Photo Journals
  • Text articles w/ Photos (about the communities, and solicited from members of the communities)

In addition to documenting the stories of these communities, I will build the network in these ways:

  • Encourage community members to build profiles and participate on the ELN website
  • Assist in the formation of regional networks
  • Solicit articles
  • Invite local synodical staff, mission directors, seminarians and other practitioners to get involved on the site
  • Facilitate conversations on the site by connecting members who may not have met, and invite them to collaborate
  • Get out of the way

These resources and conversations will be developed and posted ‘along the way’, rather than being published all at once. They will be high quality, with great attention and intention given to usability and accessibility, but they will have a grassroots feel, rather than a polished professional feel. This is intentional. Ideally, members of ELN will feel encouraged and capable of posting their own content and share their own stories right along side the ones gathered in this project.

This project has no inherent revenue source and will require a full-time commitment. Therefore, I am exploring funding options for equipment, software, travel, and personal compensation.

always taking the right turn when settling for less would be so much easier

Life is made up of opportunities to begin again. Benedictine spirituality builds that possibility and obligation right into the rule… No one, in other words, has a call simply to a particular place, as good as it may be. The call of God is to the will of God. Consequently, though every institution mediates the call of God for us, every vocation trancends any particular institution. The question is always: Is this group, this place calling out the best in me? Is this where I fit? Is this the place where I can most become what God created me to be? Is this the path on which I see the foosteps of God most clearly in front of me? It is not a matter of one place being better than another. It is a matter of finding our way through life with an eye for turns in the road. It is a matter of always taking the right turn when settling for less would be so much easier. It is a matter of seeing change as a creative possibility in life.

via [ The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages ]

Talking Shop


Originally uploaded by dydimustk

According to that little lady, I am Thomas Thomas. I have been called Thomas Thomas before, but usually in a bad connotation:

“Where did you hear that?”
   “From Thomas.”
“You mean, Thomas Thomas?”

Tonight it went a little differently. Her significant other, whom I met and hung out with a couple months ago, introduced me to her as “Thomas”. She replied,

“You mean, Thomas Thomas?”

I thought this was a bad thing, but apparently I actually had a positive impact on Nate. They both reassured me this was a good thing. Whew… (Is it wrong, that I’m relieved when I find out I haven’t screwed someone up?

Anyway, tonight we all hung out at O’Garas and talked about how to be a Christian in community with others in relation to struggling institutions, who can–at times–be less than supportive. The beautiful thing about it all, is that God continues to break through the structures and failures and hurts and show up. Regarless of how dissapointed we may be about the forms, or the leadership, or any of our own expectations. Not only that, but it is explicitly through these broken, struggling relationships that God continually chooses to work.

Gracious God, be with those separated from their families.
Gracious God, be with those struggling to find their place.
Gracious God, be with those learning to live in grace.
Gracious God, be with those who feel they have all the answers.
Gracious God, be with those who don’t even know the questions.
Gracious God, be with those who hate you and everyone who claims to know you.
Gracious God, be with those who love.

Renewing Your Congregation’s Mission

Last Thursday through Sunday I was two hours from home at a little camp in Spicer, MN with about nine churches who are at a point in their life where they need to consider their future–some more so than others. They are all wonderful, amazing, beautiful, interesting people, and they care deeply for their churches.

(Churches are a lot like families, only with a higher expectation to stick it out, and stay together.)

I am on the Transformational Ministry team for Region 3, which is an official way of saying, “I’m part of a group of people who help churches from the ‘Tri-Otas’ (North DakOTA, South DakOTA, MinnesOTA) reconsider what God is up to in the world, and how they can act more like Jesus in their neighborhood.”

Many churches start off with a bang, lots of energy and lots of money. They’re made up of people who feel like they have been given a second chance at life and are excited about sharing that with others. After twenty or eighty years of living together, and getting settled into a particular way of doing things, it’s easy to forget what that initial excitement felt like. Sometimes, they even forget that they were never expected to just hangout with one another in the first place. This is ok. It’s also sad. LIke a 40 year old virgin living at home with their parents. That’s ok. But it’s sad.

So, at these little gatherings, we re-explore the reasons they became a church in the first place. We look at what God has been upto in the world ever since we’ve been keeping a journal about it (le Bible), and provide them an opportunity to take stock of what they have to offer the world, rather than wallowing in the frustration of what they don’t have. It was amazing to watch the transformation. On the first day, many of the groups seem defeated. On Sunday morning, when they shared their six month plans for leading their congregation through the transformation process, they were on fire and passionate.

I am humbled to be a part of this process with these people. I would love to just spend a year with any/all of these communities and walk with them through this difficult transition time. Maybe someday I will be freed up for that kind of ministry. Until then, I am happy to help lead these retreats. Meanwhile, I am developing a web resource and community site for the congregations who have been through the training, as well as any group that might be considering this process.

Daily Bread

During Evening Prayer we pray,

Lord, You have always given
bread for the coming day;
and though I am poor,
today I believe.

And lately, Kim and I have been praying this prayer before dinner,

Bless, O Lord,
this food we are about to eat,
and we pray You, O God,
that it may be good for our body and soul,
and if there is any poor creature
hungry or thirsty walking the road,
may God send them in to us
so that we can share the food with them,
just as Christ shares His gifts with all of us.

It is becoming more and more difficult to live with this disconnect between our will and our reality. We honestly would be willing to open our apartment to anyone who walked by hungry. But the reality is, we would never know. And while we are more than happy to have sent a check to Second Harvest, we would also like to learn how to open our doors to our neighbors.

Because there is still a difference between feeding 5,000 who are hungry again the next day, and sharing a meal with others, in remembrance of Christ’s body broken for us. Neither go away hungry, but only the later go away fed.

After writing this post, I read our meditation for the day, and feel an even deeper need to find the hungry in our neighborhood.

Seeing the Miracle of Multiplication

The opposite of a scarcity mentality is an abundancy mentality. With an abundancy mentality we say: “There is enough for everyone, more than enough: food, knowledge, love … everything.” With this mind-set we give away whatever we have, to whomever we meet. When we see hungry people we give them food. When we meet ignorant people we share our knowledge; when we encounter people in need of love, we offer them friendship and affection and hospitality and introduce them to our family and friends.

When we live with this mind-set, we will see the miracle that what we give away multiplies: food, knowledge, love … everything. There will even be many leftovers.

[ via Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey ]

I am trying as hard as I can not to sing an inauthentic, dispassionate song

Below, I suggested that the church needs more fools, and my friend John Pederson had an intriguing response, “There are plenty of other agnostics out there that need a secular Jon Stewart.”

I followed up with him, and his response has infected and affected me in some purpose-shifting ways, so I really wanted to share our exchange here. He generously obliged.


I’m the dictionary definition of agnostic. Mostly because I’ve never seen anybody in “my circle” model passion about faith. AKMA was probably the first. As I told him, “I can even listen to small chunks of country music if, and only if, I truly believe that the singer is deeply passionate and authentic about what he/she is singing.”

I apply the Cluetrain 95 Theses to just about every aspect of my life. As I quietly re-examine the issue of religion, I look for authentic, passionate voices. Labels and institutions turn me away. Heck, I was raised “Presbyterian” and don’t even know what that means.

When you said “fools”, I though of Jon Stewart. He’s the master of passionate, authentic, funny. On the surface it feels like comedy…another way to approach the “label” or “institution” of news. There’s a much deeper level that’s always at play. Though it’s satire, Jon Stewart is dead serious in his beliefs and message.

Thanks for making me think.

My response:


Thank you so much for taking the time to share those thoughts. I had a feeling that was the direction you pointing with that statement, but I didn’t want to assume.

I resonate very deeply with everything you wrote. And I have had a long tension with the church, which I am still trying to sort out. I think the only thing that keeps me engaged in that whole “world” is that I perceive that Jesus guy to be very authentic and passionate, and I’m daily confused by how many people who claim to follow him live and act in ways entirely contrary. (I also don’t understand how any government thinks the way to represent the people is by constantly lying to them…)

And, between you and me, you may have given me an unofficial mission for my life: to become the John Stewart of “supposed christians”.

I seriously hope–and I’m not joking–that you will take it upon your self to tear into me anytime you hear me singing an inauthentic, dispassionate song.