Last year, I began my first sermon series as a lead campus pastor at a small church for college students. The series was titled, “Dust Makers,” referring to the story of Jacob wrestling with God through the night (Gen. 32), the concept emerging from the evocative rabbinical phrase: The dust from their struggle rose up to the Throne of Glory. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would end up as the only study I executed from planning stage through final sermon, yet I could not have chosen a better concept to guide my community toward a more generous and expansive contemplation of Christ and the Bible. The unique flow of our small band of spiritual misfits was open and authentic, with space to flex into the ambiguities of how life, faith, and Scripture intersect.
Approximately one year later, I lost my position as pastor for that community, short-circuiting many of those wonderful conversations. Now I find myself in a complicated position: I desperately want to pastor those students who still desire it, yet I also feel a deep need to grieve.
This site will play host to both impulses: continuing those discussions that have accompanied my students, family, and friends over the course of my ministry, and attempting to work through the uniquely stinging pain only a betrayal of vulnerability can bring. I hope to bring the ethos of our Dust Makers discussions to bear in these writings, hence the site title.
To that point: an obvious caveat is that most of my thoughts stem out of the Judeo-Christian tradition. For better or worse, these are the waters in which I’ve swam my entire life–I was weaned on these stories; baptized into, trained up, and released into the world to talk about them. While I now find hope and Life in this tradition, I have been into the depths of rejection, doubt, and unbelief, yet have found that I could not let go of these stories, or at least they could not let go of me.
So, while I no longer hold to some of the more exclusivist claims found in our conservative branches, I do find in these stories an abundant reservoir of language for how to interact with whatever it is that Whoever it is, is doing here. I can no more define God than stand in the same river twice, so I won’t be handing down Divine dictums, but simply looking into these stories and asking what they get right about the human heart and its relationship with the Divine. I deeply believe in the importance of scholarly analysis, and careful readers will hopefully see the fruits of such thought peeking through, however, I also believe we too often approach the Bible as something to know and master rather than to experience relationally. We treat it as an archaeological dig: uncovering old bones and attempting to reposition them into lifelike poses, finding it informative yet nonetheless dead.
But the Bible is not the bones; it is the story of when those bones were covered with flesh, and the hearts within beat faster at the sight of a loved one’s face. To read the Bible aright is to experience its relational dynamism: honoring scholarly pursuit by learning the reality of its past, stripped of any patina of infallibility, yet following this with a contemplative heart in search of the Word of God within the words.
My plan is to regularly release various types of writings on this site: blog-style personal reflections, commentary on current events, and discussions on the Scriptures. While I am largely writing for myself, I am also writing for you. Whether you’re one of my students, family, a friend, or just some random passerby eavesdropping on the conversation, I hope some of this will be of service, bringing Life into your life through these questions and hopes and fears. If nothing else, perhaps you’ll be able to hear those words upon which all authentic community is based: Me too.