Friday, August 07, 2009

Support Update

We had a very encouraging response in July, and we've been able to chip away around $4,000 from our deficit. Thank you so much to those of you who have been praying for us and to those who have generously given because you believe in what God is doing here. We are not out of the woods yet, but all the signs are indicating that we're going to make it through this. If you are waiting to send in support until you saw how this turned out, please don't delay, we are still in a $6,000 deficit. Hearing the reports of the beginning of a turnaround in the economy give us hope, but we also know that the pattern of the kingdom of God is that poverty has never stopped God's people from generosity. In fact, we find our most generous givers are those who have the least! This shouldn't be surprising considering the gospel: he who was rich became poor so that we might become rich. Were it not for Christ's poverty, we would be poor and afflicted and without hope. Yet just as He clothed undeserving Adam and Eve, he gives us grace-clothes too! Keep praying.

Let's Go Ride a Bike

"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle."
Ernest Hemingway

I recently sold my too large guitar amp and got Katie and I a couple of 1970's bikes off craigslist. I had no idea how much I would enjoy riding mine. My bike is a 1979 Raleigh Sprite, which is a road bike for people who are intimidated by road bikes. It's actually comfortable, the handlebars swoop up so you're not hunched over, it has narrow road tires and it's surprisingly fast. When I first started up our big hill, I thought I would never make it to the top. Now two weeks later I am trucking up the hill and loving it. My childhood bike was a single speed, and I remember being "that kid" that always got left behind in races on our street. So for most of my life riding a bike has been associated with pure misery. It's the above Hemingway quote and the now 10 gears to choose from that have liberated me from that old way of thinking about bikes. Turns out there is a whole sub-culture surrounding these "hybrid" retro bikes, the motto being "not sport...transport." Within this culture there is a general disdain for lycra wear, low handlebars, and grim expressions and a love for cargo bags, bullet headlights and taking in the local scenery. I'm loving it!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer News | Important Support Update

Dear friends and supporters,

Greetings from sunny New England!

I wanted to give you a brief update on what's going on with us this summer, as well as fill you in on our support status. If you normally skim these letters, please go ahead and scroll down to read our financial report.

Summer News

The amazing weather this summer (we haven't had to put in our window-unit air conditioner yet!) has provided our family with lots of time to spend together outside. Nadine, who just turned five on June 30th, is following in her mom's footsteps and has embraced her inner artist. She carries a notebook around with her outside and makes sketches of everything she sees. We can't believe it, but she will be starting kindergarten in the Fall. She is so ready, and so are we! Lucie (18 months) is taking her time learning how to walk, but she is definitely in full on "sponge" mode, curious about everything and wanting to do everything her big sister does. She is fascinated by shoes and could sit and try on mom and dad's shoes all day long if we let her.

In the summer, ministry slows down for us and takes a different form. We have been visiting family and taking time to reflect and be renewed in the gospel as a family. I went to the PCA General Assembly in Orlando in June, and then we spent a week in Memphis shuttling between our parents' homes and trying to visit friends and supporters as we could. And the last week of this month, I will be teaching 3rd year staff and interns at our RUF staff training in Atlanta. August 7th and 8th our student leaders will convene at our house to pray before the semester begins (we'll do a prayer walk around campus) and we'll also be planning our ministry for the Fall.

Important Support Update

As I'm sure you're aware, most ministries that are not internally self-supporting (like campus ministries) are really struggling financially right now. In my last update, I told you we were doing ok, but nearing a significant deficit in our account without a turn around in monthly giving.

This past month, while we saw an encouraging increase in the number of churches and individuals that have begun to partner with our ministry, our monthly giving has dropped to a level that is not sustainable for much longer.

I have set aside most of my planning and preparation work for this upcoming school year to focus on raising the money we need to continue ministering here at UConn.

We are now currently running a deficit of $10,000. You need to know that RUF has a policy that when a ministry account hits a $15,000 deficit, all programming expenses are frozen (that's the money we use to run our ministry).

Just so it's clear, if the deficit were to hit the $15K mark, my salary would not be frozen--we would still be able to put food on the table and pay our bills. But if the deficit were to grow beyond that mark, my salary would also be frozen. If that were to happen, the ministry wouldn't fold, but I would have to leave the field and focus entirely on raising support. Obviously that is not what we want to see happen, nor do we think it will reach that point.

One more important thing to keep in mind for a little perspective on all this is that major commitments from churches in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Alabama and Tennessee have not wavered and in fact, have increased in response to what God has done in our ministry over the past five years. We have recently received a three year commitment of $6,000 per year from a PCA church plant in Connecticut, and our home church in Coventry, CT still gives us over $30,000 per year in support, which has not changed. It is our monthly giving from individuals that has taken a huge hit, falling from an average of $5K per month to $2K per month. We are hoping year end giving this coming December will be a big help, but without some of that being given now, we won't make it that far. Some of you know that Katie works part time from home as a graphic designer, which is a big help, but her salary pays for our yearly plane tickets to visit family and nothing more.

At one level, one that mostly reflects my sin and pride, it is difficult to write a message like this. My pride says how can I, especially during this difficult financial season, ask people to give so sacrificially? But I have to remind myself that this ministry has never been our family's property or our "business"--God will do with it what He wills, and He is in the business of advancing His kingdom through those who go (that's us) and those who send (that's you!). To keep silent, to in pride bear this burden alone, would be robbing God's people of your part in His kingdom work here. And He is certainly at work, with many of our graduates moving to towns and cities throughout New England and truly beginning to infuse life into churches and communities from Connecticut to Vermont!

If nothing else, would you join with us in earnest prayer that God would provide? Strangely (or maybe not so strangely), we are not in a panic about all this. There have been times when Katie or I have been frustrated or discouraged, hurt or disappointed, but to be completely honest, this isn't one of those times. God has led us to this point and has confirmed again and again our calling to this work among college students in Connecticut. And our time here has made abundantly clear to us that our gifts in ministry are best suited to serving His church in places where the gospel is rarely if ever heard. This is definitely one of those places!

So we would ask you, if you feel your heart inclined toward us and our ministry here, please take a few moments and either

1) Call RUF at (678) 825-1070 (please mention either our name or RUF at UConn with your gift). If you have stock you would like to give, RUF can help you arrange that as well. Or...

2) Go online to and give what you can.

Right now the most pressing need is for one time gifts, but if it's possible to give even $10 a month, that will be an enormous help. We know many of you are struggling too, but if many people give a little, we will be ok. Please don't put this off if you are intending to give. Our family and the students at UConn thank you!

Hiding in Christ's riches which abound to us,

Joey for Katie, Nadine and Lucie

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Irony + David Foster Wallace

Full disclosure: I've never read anything by DFW. I have a few friends who are huge fans. The quote below is from this New Yorker article:
"His goal had been to show readers how to live a fulfilled, meaningful life. Wallace’s desire [was] to write 'morally passionate, passionately moral fiction.' The default for Wallace would have been irony - the prevailing tone of his generation. But, as Wallace saw it, irony could critique but it couldn’t nourish or redeem."
The reason I post this is because I had a weird thing happen at summer conference this year that to me proves that irony is the "prevailing tone" of generation Y as well. Several of my students asked me if we could all get together and talk about the out of control irony and sarcasm that goes on among students in our group. A couple quotes that came out of our discussion: "We never really get to know each other because there are walls of irony separating us from each other"....and... "people coming into our group probably think 'these people love being together and know how to have fun but don't really know each other AT ALL.'" Of course it made my stomach turn because I feel like I have spoon fed sarcasm to our students, mostly because I'm scared to know them or be known by them.

We read 1 Thessalonians 5:11 and had a wonderful time of particular repentance among our students, especially our seniors, and I was left thinking: this should have happened a long time ago and I'm a moron for not picking up on it sooner. It felt nourishing and redemptive. I mentioned to one of our students: doesn't it make your soul come alive to imagine actually letting someone know you?

If only I had the courage to believe the gospel myself!


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Best of 2008

Here's my belated top ten albums of 2008, for the two people who still read this blog (I know it's my own fault since I update it quarterly).  

10. April, by Sun Kil Moon
Mark Kozelek (also of Red House Painters) does it again.  Don't let the spring title mislead you, this is (like all of his stuff) autumnal music at its best.

9.  Lambchop, OH (ohio)
For anyone else, a remarkable accomplishment.  For Lambchop, another year, another album.  I could listen to Kurt Wagner sing grocery lists, but these lyrics are some of his best.  

8. Microcastle, by Deerhunter
Agoraphobia (the fear of wide open spaces) was just sitting there waiting to have a song written about it, and Bradford Cox got it right.  Lyrically unsettling, consistently pretty pop songs.

7. Re-Arrange Us, by Mates of State
The pop album of the year.  

6. Vampire Weekend, by Vampire Weekend
The hipster backlash is over, and what's left is a great Afro-pop album with awesome songs.

5. Vid og Vid, by Olof Arnalds
Probably my most listened to album of 2008.  Simple, beautiful acoustic songs (in Icelandic) reminiscent of Joanna Newsom. 

4. In Ear Park, by Department of Eagles
Best first half of any album in 2008.  "No One Does It Like You" is my song of the year.

3. Third, by Portishead
Every song is intriguing, original and unexpected, start to finish.  And it sounds like the band is done with their "album per half-decade" pace.

2. Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust, by Sigur Ros
Not sure why this didn't end up on everyone's year end list.  Truly remarkable music.

1. Fleet Foxes, by Fleet Foxes
No one came close this year to what they achieved here.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Everybody Hurts

This one is for all the recently arrived freshmen on campus at UConn.  I recently came across this tribute album to Automatic for the People (free to download).  The band Bodies of Water covers "Everybody Hurts" (scroll down to the bottom of the page to download the song).  Like me, you've probably heard that song so many times you're sick of it.  Well, this tribute gives it new life.  Here's Bodies of Water commenting on the song.  I think this relates perfectly to the need for community and what sharing each other's burdens really feels like:

 "Everybody hurts - Take comfort in your friends"

It could be that we're encouraged to take comfort in the fact that our friends are the most prevalent example of mankind living in pain (since they, like everybody else, hurt). Does being reminded of the unexceptional nature of our individual pain assuage it somehow? Maybe … at least if we appreciate the ubiquity of pain we can’t pity ourselves.

It could be that carousing with your friends (and knowing they’re available for carousing) is the most comforting thing about them.

In the end, I think "Don’t throw your hand" is the soundest advice in the song. As bad as you feel and as messed as you are, whatever you take comfort in or don't, just don't start throwing your hand around.

An interesting note: I thought this meant hurling your severed hand, while Meredith thought that it meant waving your hand around spastically, like a baby. Whatever. It's gross and weird.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Update on our hymn project

Isaac Wardell at Bear Creek Studios, Seattle

We're done!  The record has been mixed and will be released nationally on a to-be-announced major independent label in the coming months.  The title will most likely be "Come O Spirit!  Anthology of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Vol. I."  Thank you to all who have supported this little-now-big project from the beginning!  Isaac will be bringing house shows to Indianapolis and St. Louis next month.    

Track list:

1.  Hard Times Come Again No More (v: David Bazan)
2.  Come O Spirit! (v: Aimee Wilson)
3.  He Never Said a Mumblin' Word (v: Sufjan Stevens and the Welcome Wagon)
4.  It Is Finished (v: Trent Dabbs)
5.  How Calm and Beautiful the Morn (v: Joseph Pensak)
6  Lord I Believe (v: Liz Janes)
7.  Be Still My Soul (v: Sarah Fullen)
8.  Jesus, Saviour, Pilot Me (v: Laura Gibson)
9.  Just a Closer Walk With Thee (v: Damien Jurado with Rosie Thomas)
10.  I Sought the Lord (v: Leigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer)
11.  Kyrie Eleison (v: My Brightest Diamond)
12.  Mourner's Prayer (v: Denison Witmer)
13.  Open Thou Mine Eyes (v: Kate York)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Favorite Records of 2007

Because year end lists are so fun!  BTW if you've never read it, please do yourself a favor and check out Steve Turner's Imagine:  A Vision for Christians in the Arts.  And why not buy one of these records and try an exercise in discernment!  (

10) "Andorra" by Caribou
Gorgeous Beach Boys harmonies, Allman Bros. "Live at Fillmore" drums, with restrained electronics mixed in.  The first five or six songs are all great, the second half tends to drag.  

9) "At My Age" by Nick Lowe
I put off getting this on emusic for too long.  Lowe wrote "Cruel to Be Kind" to give you some context.  Great song choices--I'm still trying to figure out which ones are originals.  Self-assured, bright and very British music with minimal production and a great horn section throughout.  

8) "Cease to Begin" by Band of Horses
Great Neil Young inspired tunes following in the vein of the Shins.  They've almost surpassed their Sub-Pop mentors--these songs have better hooks and are less self-aware than anything off "Wincing the Night Away." 

7) "God Save the Clientele" by The Clientele
You won't like The Clientele the first time you hear them.  It took me a good while to "get it." 
As British as you can get, Alisdair is an incredible lyricist and an even better mood-setter. These songs are the brightest he's written and this is now my favorite Clientele record.

6) "Raising Sand" by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant
T Bone Burnett produced this release, which I got to hear two months early from my friend who works at Rounder (thanks T!).  Perfect song choices for their voices, and a Lanois-esque southern gothic vibe.  Hard to believe that Alison Krauss's voice could get any prettier--it really is next to Robert Plant's harmony.  

5) "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter" by Josh Ritter
I got into "The Animal Years" late in the game but jumped on this one right after it came out. 
These songs are much better than anything from his previous release.  This one feels like a classic album from the 70's.  

4) "Armchair Apocrypha" by Andrew Bird
Maybe my most listened to album of the year.  Plucking violins,  guitars with just the right amount of tasty reverb, and great jazz inspired songs.   
3) "Magic" by Bruce Springsteen
Just got it.  Some critic said this was almost better than "Nebraska" so I had to check it out.  It's not anywhere close to "Nebraska" but EVERY song is great.  So unpretentious, soo good.

2) "Neon Bible" by The Arcade Fire
I got to see them at the Judson church in Washington Square.  Even though the sound was horrible, it was one of the best shows I've ever seen.  This is a great follow-up to "Funeral." 

1) "In Rainbows" by Radiohead
Glimpses of OK Computer, lots of guitars, huge atmospheric bridges, and Thom Yorke's inimitable voice.  I paid $7.