A Few of the People…

I bet you if I had met him and had a chat with him, I would have found him a very interesting and human fellow, for I never yet met a man that I didn’t like. {Will Rogers}

Here are a few of the interesting people I’ve encountered today:

A courier standing in line with me at the bank. As we talked about his job, I asked him if he had ever transported something really weird. “A body chopped up into parts,” he said.

A friend at breakfast. I discovered he likes peanut butter omelets.

A guy waiting, as I was, for the bus. He calls himself “turtle man” because, as he told me, he moves slow – but always forward.

Everywhere we turn, we encounter people with stories and hopes and fears and interesting names. We discover people who will help us see our world with more richness and texture. We find people like us, people different from us. We find strangers who may turn into friends.

Tell me, brother, how do you see the sun standing from where you are today. {Michael Houser}

Dave Matthews is My Farmer

Well, actually Dave is our friends Evan and Missy Hansen’s farmer, but the Hansens share their extra eggs with us, so it’s essentially the same thing. Essentially.

Dave Matthews (a local icon who got his start bartending and playing at Miller’s downtown) and his wife Ashley Harper purchased several adjoining farms a few years ago and named their venture (appropriately), “Best of What’s Around.” The farm is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, where individuals buy seasonal shares or trade working on the farm for receiving the farm’s bounty.

I don’t know how much time Dave actually spends on his farm, but I love to imagine him in overalls, with a straw hat and chewing on a long piece of golden wheat, gently caressing a turnip while he tries to read the weather. Not that I think about this stuff often, not at all.

Miska and I actually purchased a share of produce from Horse and Buggy, another local food cooperative. Horse and Buggy food comes from a local Mennonite community. So, while the Hansens have a rock idol on their side. We like to think that we have God on ours.

I’m a Homeboy

I’m now legit.

This morning, biking toward downtown and around the first corner from our house, I passed the bus stop where one of my neighbors sat waiting for the 10:52. I hadn’t seen him in a while and stopped to say hi.

“I’ve been looking for you,” he said. “Just the other day, I was thinking, where’s my homeboy?

L – E – G – I – T.

Jokes on Me

This week, I feel as though I entered into a cliche, Christian subculture joke: You know your kids have been raised in an emerging* church if

On Tuesday, the fam went into Starbucks on The Corner at UVA. When Wyatt went into Bucks’ upstairs, taking in the warm, earth-tone walls, the ambient light, the numerous chairs around tables, the art on the walls, the leather couches, he said, “Mommy, is this a church?”

I’m still pondering what I think about that, a lot there actually.

*for those fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with all the nuance of Christian subcultures, emerging has often become a catch-all world for new forms of Christian theology and worship – a word that, in actuality, mainly means nothing. But emerging does own the annoying stereotype of being fascinated with all things hip and trendy, a “relational authenticity” that can very much be its own version of plastic.

The Donut Man

Allow me to introduce you to my new best friend: The Donut Man.

His actual name is Matt Rhodie, and his business is called Carpe Donut. But I think of him as the Donut Man. Every Friday, he sets up gypsy (his travelling culinary magic machine pictured here) on a corner in downtown Charlottesville, where he begins his craft, concocting divine goodness. Matt’s recipe consists of made-from-scratch organic flour, organic eggs, local apple cider and organic spices. He cooks the donuts on the spot and serves them hot. Matt keeps it simple, one kind of donut: fresh, hot, large, covered in cinnamon and sugar. And after you’ve finished one off, you just pray to God that the world won’t end before you have a chance to have another.
Rhodie calls his donuts “the culinary equivalent of crack cocaine.” I’m witness to his claim; he’s not over-reaching.

Today, I took my youngest Seth for a hot one. But one simply wouldn’t do, and later, he worked Miska over for a second trip. Tonight, Seth gave me a big hug and said, “Daddy, you’re the best daddy. Thanks for getting me what I like…like donuts.”

So, if you live in Cville and have yet to find Carpe Donut. Do not delay. Life is too short. If you are not local, then here’s another reason to move. Or at least to come visit so I can buy you the best donut you will ever eat. Ever.

All Souls Virtual Home

All Souls, our just-forming church community in Charlottesville, has a new virtual home. It’s definitely a transitional site, as we are – well – in transition. If you want to stay connected with what is happening with our community, you can find it here.

All Souls Charlottesville

Three months ago, we moved to Charlottesville, Virginia. The transition has been slow and bumpy and beautiful and rich. It takes years, I think, to truly be part of the fabric of a place. But we are on our way. We love our city. We love our neighbors. We love the conversations we are having and the people we are meeting.

We are helping to form a new church community here, and I’m eager to introduce our new tribe to you:

We are just in the early stages, meeting people and learning our city’s story. Some friends have moved with us, and a few more are coming over the next months. A few new C’ville friends are joining in. We imagine the formation of All Souls will be slow and prayerful with lots of listening and paying attention to what it looks like to be a people living with open hearts toward each other and toward our city. You can peek at our new web home, though we probably won’t have much up there for a bit.

Jefferson on Hope and Fear

I’ve been reading a biography on Thomas Jefferson. Of course I have – our home sits under the shadow of Monticello, and silhouette images of Jefferson (with cohorts Madison and Monroe flanking) scatter our city. Before we moved, more than one person talked about the “ghost of Jefferson” that pervaded the ethos of Charlottesville. Jefferson founded UVA, and the architectural grace of the place speaks “Jefferson” ever bit as much as the university’s philosophical roots.

There’s a lot that could be said about Jefferson, much to admire as well as much to regret. I respect his commitment to freedom, but I wince at how that freedom stopped abruptly short for slaves and women. I resonate with his passion for classical learning, but I can not share his trust in the ultimate power of reason. I love his desire to build “an academical village,” but I notice how his idealogical commitments at times kept him from seeing truth in places he didn’t want to look.

I’ve run across pieces of wisdom I want to ponder. I will share one. In 1816, Jefferson wrote one of his many letter to John Adams. I steer my bark with Hope in the head, leaving Fear astern. I like that. Alot. I think our world needs these words; I know I need these words.

Poetic Patience (or No Place for Tourists)

If we wish to understand [a place] it must not be as tourists or inquirers, it must be with the loyalty of children and the great patience of poets. G.K. Chesterton

A few nights ago, several friends from out of town visited. We went to dinner @ West Main over on, well, West Main. The waitress asked if we were from around here (something about our zillion questions and fascination with their pepper jack macaroni and cheese must have sent signals), and one of my friends answered, “No, just visiting.”

And the words came from deep inside me. “Not me. I’m from here.”

Charlottesville is my home. I’m throwing my lot in with this city, these people. I don’t know how long it takes to become a true local, years at least I imagine. But I have the time.

To know a city is more than an ability to recite its demographics or to point out its prominent sights (of which there are many here). To know a city is to know its story, to have taken the time to rub your soul along the city’s texture, to see the scars and to hurt along with your neighbors over the many places that have yet to heal – to hurt not with the phantom pain of empathy (only) but with the true pain of shared experience, shared hope, shared grief. As Lilla Watson said, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” I want my liberation, my welfare, to be bound up with the welfare of my neighbors, my city. To weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice, a wise poet once said.

So, I’m often asked these days what exactly we are doing as we begin the long process of forming a spiritual community in the way of Jesus. Well, I’ll be speaking in churches and having meetings with city leaders and spiritual leaders. I’m working on a strategic plan and doing a bit of fund raising. I’m doing some work on grounds (the Wahoo’s name for “campus”) at the University of Virginia. But, truthfully, in this season, my best work is the simplest kind. I walk around. I meet people. I hear stories. I bike down the street. I take my boys to school. I read the local papers. I listen to more stories, like Johnny’s story of how he and his dad Ernie opened Ernie’s Frye’s Spring Garage 43 years ago – and how he is going to have to close it down this year. I hear stories from various new friends I can find most any day on the downtown mall. Stories of Vinegar Hill, the historic African American community that was tragically dismantled decades ago. Stories from my neighbor who is pretty angry at the multi-million dollar bricking project downtown, angry at the money being spent on aesthetics when her son can’t find a job. Stories. Stories. Stories.

These are the stories that make a place what it is. And, if I want to be immersed in this place, if I want it to be truly home, then I must listen. I’m hoping to have the patience of a poet. I’m not just a sightseer, dropping in, snapping photos and moving on. I’m here to stay. I think this must be one of the implications of Incarnation – that we enmesh ourselves into the narrative and the contours of the places God has given us to love.

All Shall Be Well

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. {Julian of Norwich}

Tonight, Miska quoted this line from Julian of Norwich, these words we have both come to love. As she spoke it, tears came. Oh, I do love her tears. Our recent weeks have been full of upheaval and chaos. And there is more to come. That is the way of things when you are finding your way in a new city, a new home.

I dropped Wyatt off for his first day of first grade on Wednesday. He was nervous, but he was a trooper. He’s always been keenly sensitive to transition and change – and well, there’s been loads of both for him here lately. And that day asked a lot from him. There Wyatt stood among a line of kids he didn’t know with a teacher he didn’t know at a school he didn’t know on a street he didn’t know in a city he didn’t know. The whole thing overwhelmed me – and he’s only six. When Wyatt turned to wave his final goodbye, I cried. You have to let go, though. You have to remember: all shall be well.

Here, I’ve been struck with the overwhelming sense of what it is to be the outsider. I’m the outsider in my neighborhood. I’m the outsider in the bookstore and coffee shop, at the neighborhood park, as I tool around town. The outsider in most conversations, in almost every social situation I encounter. Truthfully, this is good for me. I want to always remember the loneliness of not being known, of there being no one in the room who can honestly say, “I know who you are – and I believe in it.” Right now, the aloneness is thick, but this I believe: all shall be well.

As I sit in our house tonight, I have no idea how our next few years will take shape. I don’t know what kind of community we will come to give ourselves to. I don’t know the places that will tug at our hearts or the sadness we will encounter or the fresh hope that will touch our soul. However, I do believe that God is generous and kind and is bent on the ultimate restoration of all things. So, this is why I agree so zealously with Julian. Not because of some self-help mumbo jumbo insisting that smiley faces will win the day – not at all. I simply believe that in the end, after all the tears and the pain and loneliness and the disillusionment and the chaos – in the end, when the final pages of our lives are written (whenever and however that will be done), we will truly be able to say with rested and joyful hearts: and all manner of things shall be well.


(and as my new friend Ed, who reads tarot cards most days on C’ville’s downtown mall, answered when I offered him the same salutation: and peace on us all)