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Who I Am

Not your stereotypical pastor

God made each of us unique. Still, there tend to be stereotypes of pastors. They are middle-class types who wear polo shirts (or Hawaiian shirts), live settled lives and have no particular distinguishing features. That is not me. My family background and the diversity of my life experiences have given a distinct shape of my personality.

Hillbilly Intellectual, Blue-Collar Scholar. I grew up living between a hillbilly family with frequent trips to West Virginia and my northern education and personal passion for knowledge. “Normal” for me consisted of Grandparents with an outhouse and a coal-fired furnace. (I still love the smell of coal dust and smoke.)

Intellectual “Normal” was also excelling in academics in a way that surprised some of my northern teachers. (I was a hillbilly kid, after all.) I voraciously learn. No subject has ever bored me (Though a few teachers have.). I graduated from with my BA cum laude in 3 1/2 years. I continually seek to deepen my knowledge in science, politics, economics, social science, culture, philosphy and theology. Knowing about other people and places, their history and perspectives forms a core of who I am. To some extent I can credit my parents for this intellectual/cultural wanderlust.

My Hillbilly roots keep me grounded in “Blue-Collar” sensibilities. I’m impressed by neither wealth and possessions, nor titles and status. At the same time I live and think way beyond the parochial bounds of my hillbilly roots.

Cross-Cultural Wanderer. My father liked to wander. Taking his family north in the great Appalachian migration was only the beginning. By the time I left home my parents had taken me to see 39 states 7(including Alaska), 4 Canadian provinces and a lot of diverse life. In addition my parents were vehemently anti-racist. Though I grew up in a very white suburb I learned very clearly that everyone of every color and background was worthy of my respect and attention.

My father’s wanderlust has continued with me. I have now toured all 50 states (lived in 10 of them) along with Puerto Rico, 10 Canadian Provinces (and the Yukon) 2 Mexican states, and France. My favorite experiences have been living in cross-cultural and multi-cultural settings. Honolulu (with no majority ethnic group) and Federal Way, Washington (where more than 90 languages were spoken) each hold a special place in my heart. I find myself comfortable being the minority ethnicity and language. My friends and ministry have spanned the diversity of American life.

Musical Diversity. In my family everyone learned a musical instrument. I chose the mandolin and grew up playing Blue Grass and listening to Country music. The church we attended worshiped with southern Gospel music on the piano. My sisters, older than me, introduced me to the Beatles and Rock music. My tastes continued to grow as I studied music in High School and early in College. Now my ipod playlist includes Gregorian Chant, Jazz, Baroque, Rock, Ska, Metal, Classical, Country, Romance, African, Latin, and blended genres.

Music plays an integral place in my relationship with God. My diversity of music extends to my personal worship play list. And I often find secular songs about seeking God as meaningful as classic, traditional, or contemporary Christian music.

Redneck Diversity. When you find me relaxing at home I tend to wear blue jeans and an “attitude” t-shirt. I always wear harness boots and western belt buckles. My religious robes are traditional chinese designs. My closet contains traditional party-wear from India. I wear hats consistently – suede Aussie outback hats. I have found myself in events ranging from a reception for South African Bishop Desmon Tutu to a funeral at a Biker bar. (My Harley Davidson 1200 low and my leather duster can be a real asset with the latter.)

God's bottom line. God has formed me to cross territory, cultures and boundaries, and yet remain who I am. I want to know and understand and take the Love of Jesus into each of these situations. Being a sinner still on the road to completely following God's will, I eagerly anticipate all the new experiences and lessons God will bring as I rely on His grace.

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