Running Heads

From the editors of Cascade Books and Pickwick Publications at Wipf and Stock Publishers

50 Albums of the Year

Every year I seem to change up how I post my list of favorite albums and songs.

2014 was a good year. I had a hard time selecting my favorite albums. Picking the top album was easy. Sturgill Simpson ran away with it this year as far as I’m concerned. His is one of the few albums where, after a full listen or two, I don’t pick out a few favorites and stick to them. I’ve listened to Metamodern Sounds in Country Music from start to finish countless times this year, and I plan to do it more in the coming years. I haven’t had an album hit me like this in a long time. From there the next ten are pretty close. In fact, the top 20 divides into four groups: 1) Sturgill Simpson is in a group to himself; 2) 2–11; 3) 12–15; and 4) 16–20. I could shuffle 2-11 around and be happy. But I am returning to Glass Animals’ ZABA more than the rest. It is rising above the other nine in this group, so it gets the #2 slot. After that 12-15 are only slightly behind 2-11. Here too I’d be satisfied with a different order. Same for the last five.

There were so many good albums this year I put together a supplementary list of thirty more. One of the things different about this year’s list is that I’ve provided recommendations for all 50 albums. There’s a link at the end of the post to a Spotify playlist with all 126 recommendations. I think my tastes are pretty eclectic. But you will not find any hip-hop or metal (and probably some other lesser known genres). I like hip-hop. Not as much as I did in high school and college, but I still listen to a good deal. I don’t know if it is my age or becoming a parent or what, but I have a hard time with too much violence, bravado, sexism, and other things that too often tend to fill hip-hop albums. I play music a lot at work, making Spotify playlists that then get played at home. Because of this I don’t tend to put hip-hop songs into my playlists for fear of 4- and 7-year-old ears paying attention to what Papa is playing. (They hate Sturgill Simpson, by the way. I’m worried about them.) I’m not completely opposed to violence, bravado, sexism, and such in songs, as you will hear if you happen to listen to the recommendations playlist. And, if I get around to putting together my favorite songs of the year, there is likely to be a hip-hop song or two in the list. As for metal, I simply don’t like it. Never have.

Top 20 Albums of 2014:

  1. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (THE WHOLE ALBUM!!! If you need a place to start, try “Turtles All the Way Down,” “Life of Sin,” “Long White Line,” and “The Promise”)
  2. Glass Animals – ZABA (“Black Mambo,” “Pools,” “Gooey,” “Hazey,” “Toes,” and “Wyrd”)
  3. Hozier – Hozier (“Take Me To Church,” “Jackie and Wilson,” “From Eden,” “Work Song,” and “Like Real People Do”)
  4. Black English – NO (“Leave the Door Wide Open,” “Monday,” “There’s a Glow,” “Last Chance,” and “Hold On”)
  5. SOHN – Tremors (“The Wheel,” “Artifice,” “Lights,” and “Veto”)
  7. Thief – Closer [EP] (“Closer,” “Broken Boy,” ‘Don’t Believe You,” and “Cold”)
  8. alt-J – This is All Yours (“Every Other Freckle,” “Left Hand Free,” and “Hunger Of The Pine”)
  9. Beck – Morning Phase (“Heart Is A Drum,” “Blue Moon,” and “Turn Away”)
  10. Duologue – Never Get Lost (“Forests,” “Sibling,” and “Drag & Drop”)
  11. Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were (“Small Things,” “She Treats Me Well,” and “Time Is Dancing”)
  12. Kishi Bashi – Lighght (“Carry on Phenomenon,” “Once Upon a Lucid Dream (In Afrikaans),” and “Hahaha Pt. 1″)
  13. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso (“Hey Mami,” “Dreamy Bruises,” and “Could I Be”)
  14. Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love (“Scream (Funk My Life Up),” “Better Man,” and “Looking For Something”)
  15. Young & Sick – Young & Sick (“Ghost Of A Chance,” “Glass,” and “Valium”)
  16. Dry the River – Alarms in the Heart (“Hidden Hand,” “Gethsemane,” and “Everlasting Light”)
  17. Bear In Heaven – Time Is Over One Day Old (“Autumn,” “Time Between,” and “If I Were To Lie”)
  18. St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Half the City (“Don’t Mean a Thing” and “Broken Bones & Pocket Change”)
  19. Jack White – Lazaretto (“Lazaretto” and “Would You Fight For My Love?”)
  20. TV On The Radio – Seeds (“Careful You” and “Happy Idiot”)

30 more in alphabetical order:

  • Arthur Beatrice – Working Out (“Midland” and “Carter-Uncut”)
  • Bad Suns – Language & Perspective (“Dancing On Quicksand” and “Salt”)
  • Broods – Evergreen (“Mother & Father” and “Bridges”)
  • Chet Faker – Built on Glass (“Talk Is Cheap” and “1998”)
  • Chris Staples – American Soft (“Hold Onto Something” and “Black Tornado”)
  • Deptford Goth – Songs (“Relics” and “We Symbolise”)
  • Fink – Hard Believer (“Hard Believer” and “Looking Too Closely”)
  • Gramercy Arms – The Seasons of Love (“Always in Love” and “Winterlight”)
  • The Hoosiers – The News from Nowhere (“Somewhere in the Distance” and “Make or Break – You Gotta Know”)
  • Horse Feathers – So It Is With Us (“Violently Wild” and “Why Do I Try”)
  • Horse Thief – Fear in Bliss (“Devil” and “Let Go”)
  • How To Dress Well – What Is This Heart? (“See You Fall” and “Repeat Pleasure”)
  • Jessie Ware – Tough Love (“Tough Love” and “Sweetest Song”)
  • The Kooks – Listen (“Forgive & Forget” and “Down”)
  • Kyla LaGrange – Cut Your Teeth (“Cut Your Teeth” and “The Knife”)
  • Lo-Fang – Blue Film (“Look Away” and “When We’re Fire”)
  • Lost in the Trees – Past Life (“Past Life” and “Rites”)
  • Matthew And The Atlas – Other Rivers (“Into Gold” and “Counting Paths”)
  • MØ – No Mythologies to Follow (“Maiden” and “Glass”)
  • NEEDTOBREATHE – Rivers In The Wasteland (“Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now” and “Brother”)
  • Owen Pallet – In Conflict (“I Am Not Afraid” and “In Conflict”)
  • Owl John – Owl John (“A Good Reason To Grow Old” and “Red Hand”)
  • The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Days of Abandon (“Kelly” and “Life After Life”)
  • Robert Ellis – The Lights From The Chemical Plant (“TV Song” and  “Only Lies”)
  • Stars – No One Is Lost (“From The Night” and “Look Away”)
  • Submotion Orchestra – Alium (“Time Will Wait” and “Rust”)
  • The Trouble With Templeton – Rookie (“Whimpering Child” and “Glue”)
  • Vance Joy – Dream Your Life Away (“Riptide” and “Best That I Can”)
  • Walk The Moon – TALKING IS HARD (“Shut Up and Dance” and “Avalanche”)
  • White Sea – In Cold Blood (“Prague” and “Future Husbands Past Lives”)

Playlist of the 126 recommended songs.

“The Biblical Cosmos” video promo

Jess, my youngest daughter, has very kindly created a short video promo for my latest book, The Biblical Cosmos. Thanks to Ellison for doing the voiceover.

The book is available from Wipf and Stock (for $21.60) or ($23.44) / (£13.22) or anywhere worthy.


You can read a free sample of it here.

Avoiding Plagiarism

This past week bloggers accused Malcolm Gladwell and The New Yorker of plagiarism. That’s especially notable because of The New Yorker’s famously rigorous fact-checking and proofreading. I’m not impressed with the case that Gladwell plagiarized, but the allegations remind us how much easier it is to track possible plagiarism in the age of the Internet and search engines. It’s ironic in that the Internet and search engines also make it easier to commit plagiarism and, arguably, the total amount of plagiarism has increased in the digital age.

The Gladwell case is specious in part because magazine journalism, without footnotes, cannot as fully (at least without considerable clumsiness) cite every distant allusion. But in book publishing, with our apparatus of footnotes, we do not have that excuse. Here are some guidelines authors can consider as they (you) write their books and seek to avoid plagiarism.

1. Avoiding plagiarism begins at the research stage. You know the old saw, “Originality is a matter of forgetting where you read it first.” Notetaking and other research, at even the earliest stages, should include careful citation of sources. Otherwise it’s simply too easy to later adapt something whose origin you’ve forgotten, and claim it as your own. Pastors especially should be aware of this caution. Since their books often involve adaptation of sermons, Sunday school lessons, Bible studies, and the like, if they’re planning to write and adapt some of this material, notetaking from the beginning should include indications on where quotes and unique information came from.

2. Avoiding plagiarism isn’t accomplished simply by changing a few words from a source. It isn’t enough to crib a quote and merely change some wording. Plagiarism includes the lifting of unique information, and not merely wording. So if you’re borrowing a unique idea or information, that calls for citation.

3. Avoiding plagiarism calls for special sensitivity with metaphors or similes. These figures of speech are original and need citation every time. Borrowing them without attribution is behavior as welcome as a fart in a clown car. Of course, there are many metaphors and similes that have entered the common parlance (like “fart in a clown car”) and have no clear originators. In such cases no attribution is necessary—but then other rules can come into play, since lively and effective writing avoids cliches.

4. Avoiding plagiarism has no technological fixes, but there are some helps. Plagiarism is prevented by assiduous research (with sourced notetaking) and by honorable sourcing and citation in the published piece. There are no simple (or complex) technological fixes for avoiding plagiarism, then, but there are some devices now developed that can provide an assist. These are websites and apps (such as Grammarly) into which you can paste your work and have them surf the net to detect similar or identical wording in other documents. Obviously, this does not detect the borrowing of ideas, but it may prevent you from inadvertently quoting another source whose origin you’ve forgotten.


Haunted by the Bomb: Enhanced Interrogation, Police Brutality, and American Values

Two days ago, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the “Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program.” The report is controversial for a number of reasons, but the part that is getting the most press has to do with the question of efficacy. Did or did not the enhanced interrogation/torture of detainees make Americans safer?

Defenders of the CIA argue it did. The authors of the Senate report argue it did not. I think the question about efficacy can probably be answered, though just yesterday CIA Director John Brennan argued that it cannot be answered (to be more specific, Brennan described as “unknown and unknowable” the answer to the question of whether the worst forms of treatment yielded vital intelligence that either was obtained or could have been obtained by other means). Continue reading

Skepticism and Years of Jubilee

The title is a trick. The two things—skepticism and years of jubilee—have nothing to do with one another in my post today other than I want to say something about both of these things without making two separate posts. So first skepticism…

I am pretty skeptical by nature, I think. Lord knows I’ve nurtured that trait as well over the years. So it was pretty easy for me to have my doubts about the integrity of the first ever College Football Playoff selection of teams. I know there were all sorts of criteria and data that went into the selection of Alabama v. Ohio State and Oregon v. Florida State. And these four teams all have good cases for being in. I’m not arguing that, so no comments explaining to me why such-and-such team deserved to be there. Still several things make my skeptical antennae buzz:

  1. Everyone who stands to make money from this must be thrilled! ESPN, NCAA, the conferences with their championship games, makers of swag, the hosting sites, etc. We’ve got four nationally popular teams. Three of the four are storied programs, and Oregon, though not as storied, has implanted itself in the national psyche with the help of the little Swoosh emblem and a long string of successful seasons. Having either Baylor or TCU (or both!) in the final four would have, no doubt, kept almost everyone but the Big 12 from making as much money as they stand to make with the four teams we have in place. I have a funny feeling that if it was Oklahoma or Texas instead of Baylor or TCU, the committee might have had a tougher decision to make. The results this year will almost certainly force the Big 12 to push for a championship game, either by expansion or by exemption, because, hey, there’s money to be made!
  2. And, while we are on money, according to Forbes we have the #3 most valuable team going up against the #9 most valuable team in the Sugar Bowl. While in the Rose Bowl we have #19 going up against #23 (or so; FSU was listed just outside the top 20; TCU and Baylor were not on the list anywhere!). The rich get richer!
  3. We also have two intriguing story lines: the last two Heisman winners going up against one another (Mariota is near certain to win the Heisman this year!); and a reunion of an old rivalry in Saban v. Meyer. What story line would Baylor or TCU have given us? Private Christian school v. Goliaths. Cinderellas are more important to March Madness.
  4. The talk for several weeks leading into the final week of play was whether TCU should be in the final four ahead of Baylor, since Baylor had won the head-to-head game. The committee conveniently got to avoid that dilemma. I’m not convinced the committee would have made a different decision even if the Big 12 had declared an outright conference champion.

My skepticism has not quite reached the level of conspiracy theory, but I wouldn’t be surprised. To add insult to injury, the highest ranked team not to make a big six bowl game is Kansas State, also of the Big 12.

Now to years of jubilee…

I have twins who turn 7 today. The story behind their birth is filled with highs and lows—we were told we lost one during the pregnancy; we feared we lost the other; later the doctor discovered BOTH babies still there; Gail got put on bed rest just before we were to move to Eugene and then again later in the pregnancy; the boys arrive a bit early and have to stay in the NICU for 18 days. Fortunately the final result was a high one, even if their first Christmas was in the hospital.  Today, these two boys are full of energy and life. So while we will not be taking a year of respite (Gail and I could use one though!), we will celebrate their jubilee year giving thanks for God’s goodness these past 7 years.

Alexander on the day of is birth seven years ago.

Alexander on the day of his birth seven years ago.

Alexander just a couple of weeks ago.

Alexander just a couple of weeks ago.

Oliver on the day of his birth.

Oliver on the day of his birth seven years ago.

Oliver just a couple of weeks ago.

Oliver just a couple of weeks ago.

I did say years (pl.) of jubilee. The second bit on this topic comes from the recent presidential address given by outgoing AAR president Laurie Zoloth.

Dr. Zoloth used her presidential address to call on her colleagues to plan a sabbatical year, a year in which they would cancel their conference. In her vision, they would all refrain from flying across the country, saving money and carbon. It could be a year, Dr. Zoloth argued, in which they would sacrifice each other’s company for the sake of the environment, and instead would turn toward their neighborhoods and hometowns.

Read the full NY Times piece here.  I wonder how seriously this idea will be considered.

Gone Girl

I have just finished reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, a novel that has also been adapted for the screen starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike—but I have not yet seen the film.

This is a remarkable book in terms of its structure, characterization, and plot. The two main characters are a husband and wife: Nick and Amy. The structure is interesting because it alterantes back and forth between the two main characters, including Amy’s diaries. It begins with the disappearance of Amy and the developing suspicion that Nick has killed her. The characterization is interesting because ultimately most of the characters in the story are not likeable in a conventional sense. And the plot is engaging because there are so many twists—the reader is taken in one direction, only to have the story turn in an unexpected direction. It may not rise to great literature, but it is certainly an engaging read.

Gregory of Nyssa on 1 Corinthians 15:28

I recently read Gregory of Nyssa’s In Illud: Tunc et Ipse Filius. It is a short but fascinating piece on 1 Corinthians 15:28.

“Then the Son will be subjected (hupotagestetai) to him who has subjected all things to himself”

This was a text that some were using to argue that the Son cannot be equal in divinity to the Father, because he will be subjected to the Father.

Gregory’s response, following Origen, is that the Son here is submitting to the Father as a human being; indeed, as the representative human being. As such, his submission to the Father is a submission to God on behalf of all humanity, nay, all creation. Creation submits in Christ’s own submission. And so, when creation is subjected in Christ, God will be all in all.

I think that this is exactly right—not simply as a quirky-but-interesting later spin on the text. I think it is what Paul is getting at.

Given that, it is perhaps not surprising that 1 Corinthians 15:28 was the most commonly appealed to text among the early Christian defenders of apokatastasis.


A New Heaven and a New Earth

Some years ago, when I was an editor with Brazos/Baker Academic, I acquired a project that has just now come to fruition. That book is J. Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Baker Academic). Richard’s work is a sweeping—and exegetically detailed—survey of the argument that the earth is not to be left behind at the end of history as we know it. Instead, God will transform the “old” heavens (which are a creation of God themselves) and earth, because all creation is a part of God’s salvific work through Israel and Jesus Christ. Richard’s account is grounded in the early chapters of Genesis, with the image of God including humanity’s co-regency in seeing creation reach its full potential. He sees the imago Dei as a concern throughout the Old Testament and into the New. He builds on the clear Old Testament lack of a disembodied heaven as the final destination of humanity, and points to prophets such as Isaiah and their hope for a healed and perfected earthly realm. Firmly grounded, he then looks to New Testament eschatology (such as the “groaning” creation in Romans 8 and, especially, Revelation 21–22), and offers a “holistic eschatological” reading of texts that have often been thought to hearken a once-for-all destroyed creation (such as as 2 Peter 3:10–13) or promise a final destination in paradise immediately after death (John 14:1–3).

A bonus to this masterful treatment is Middleton’s appendix, “Whatever Happened to the New Earth?” Here Richard explores the history of eschatology, especially with an eye for any hope of a renewed creation. He finds the early church fathers weak in this regard. Origen develops an entirely disembodied eschatology. Others, such as Justin and Irenaeus, affirm a millennial reign that includes creation, but see it fading away into a final paradisal state that is altogether spiritual. Methodius offers conflicting accounts, on the one hand seeing the millennial creation give way to a spiritual state, and on the other hand arguing, “God did not establish the universe in vain, or to no purpose but destruction . . .”

But this early hope for at least a millennial new creation dissipates in later church history. Augustine, says Middleton, espouses the view “that the ultimate goal of earthly history is a heavenly realm beyond history.” This Augustinian expectation holds through the Middle Ages and, to some degree, the Reformation. Luther and Calvin can speak of a new heavens and new earth, but typically refer to the final state simply as “heaven.” A similar tendency holds into the modern period, with important exceptions. John Wesley, in his later years, appreciated more and more the value of earthly creation. In his sermons “we find Wesley’s explicit and sustained focus on the ultimate redemption of the entire cosmos (including ‘brute creation’).” In the nineteenth century, Ellen G. White’s Seventh-day Adventist Church looked to a renewed and restored cosmos. And important exponents of the Stone-Campbell movement did as well.

It is in the twentieth and twenty-first century that we have seen something of a boom in holistic eschatology. George Eldon Ladd’s writings “articulated a consistent theology of the redemption of the created order.” Reformed writers such as Anthony Hoekema and Vern Poythress have done the same. The Kuyperian or Neocalvinian tradition (with representatives such as Herman Bavinck and G. C. Berkouwer) has as well. Contemporary writers in this tradition and promoting a cosmic, material redemption include Brian Walsh, Sylvia Keesmaat, Al Wolters, Steven Bouma-Prediger, Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Paul Marshall, Michael Goheen, and Craig Bartholomew. Wesleyan writers such as Howard Snyder, in his Cascade book coauthored by Joel Scandrette, Salvation Means Creation Healed, have also contributed to this trend. But, as Middleton puts it, “In recent years, . . . perhaps no biblical scholar has given the New Testament teaching of the redemption of creation such wide exposure as N. T. Wright.” The prolific Wright has especially explored the topic in his popular Surprised by Hope and in the scholarly book The Resurrection of the Son of God. 

Of course, it remains to be seen if the holistic eschatological perspective will spread through the entire church and become dominant. I hope it will. If it does, Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth will surely be seen as a key text in that shift.


Welcome to the World Lewis Amondson!


Many of us at Wipf and Stock are busy catching our breaths after a very busy time in Southern California for the 2014 meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society, the American Academy of Religion, and the Society of Biblical Literature.

But there has been little rest for one of our weary—my colleague Christian Amondson, to be specific. This morning, Christian and his wife Katie welcomed their second son into the world—Lewis Edward Amondson, 7.94 pounds, 20.5 inches. Welcome home Lewis!

It’s a privilege to spread the great news about Christian and Katie’s baby here on the Running Heads blog. If you haven’t already, make sure you take some time to read the amazing family story that Christian blogged about yesterday. It’s truly one of the most amazing family stories I’ve ever heard.

An Ugly Duck Finds a Home

It’s weird, cause my folks had just been in town and had never mentioned it. But as I was checking stats on my phone after a run a message popped up. It was an email from Dad that read: “My Brief Medical History.” Dad was at the end of a battle with prostate cancer, and he was looking to make a full recovery. So I didn’t think much of it. But in reality I had no idea what I was about to read.

This may seem like on odd segue, but my father was adopted when he was four months old. Just as it was part of the story his parents told him growing up, it was also part of the story he told me as I grew up. I always knew that my cousins and aunt and second cousins on my Dad’s side of the family were not “blood” related. That didn’t make them any less my family, but I sure didn’t look much like them.

As you can imagine, on more than one occasion growing up I had asked Dad if he was curious about his birth family. He always replied with a smile and a clam assertion that he really didn’t want to know. He truly loved his Mom and Dad and didn’t see any need to find any other parents. But at the age of 66, now that his mom and dad had passed away, my dad finally decided to check into his birth history. He did it, as the subject line indicated, to find out about his medical history. It’s funny what can happen when you open doors that have been long shut.

I opened Dad’s email and found a letter that had been written in 1948 by a ward at a maternity home in Tacoma, Washington. The purpose of the letter was to make arrangements with the State of Washington Adoptive Services to take on a soon to be born little boy: my dad. The letter told the story of two teenagers who, though deeply in love, had gotten a bit ahead of themselves. Being that this was 1948 and the cultural mores were what they were, “Eva” was sent by her folks to have her baby in secret. She was nineteen. “Jerry” was still in high school, and they realized they were not in a place to get married. So they decided—with some input from their parents—to give their baby up for adoption. According to the letter, though Eva’s parents had hoped she would continue on in college and pursue a career, Eva’s intention was to marry Jerry and start a large family. Jerry, the letter also noted, planned to graduate high school and start a career as a printer.

The letter also included three descriptions of their baby—who they called “Baby Jerry”—as a newborn. He was very thin and quite strong. He had a sunken chin. He had bright eyes and was very attentive.

As I read the letter I was overwhelmed with a sense of sadness and a sense of awe and gratitude. This description of my father was almost exactly how I would describe my own son, Max, when he was born. If Eva and Jerry had kept their baby, neither Max nor I would be here. But what a horrible loss! I can’t even imagine the pain of having a child and needing to give him away to strangers (and as was the custom in 1948, strangers you would have never met or know anything about). That night I would go on to share the news of this letter with my church at our gathered worship, and noted how amazing it is that God brings such goodness out of such pain and brokenness.

I sat in stunned silence on my porch and read this letter over and over. And then I called my dad and we talked. He wasn’t too sure he wanted to explore it further; after all, he had just been after some medical information.

Well that lasted for about a day. My sister called me the next day to tell me that she’d found Eva and Jerry on Facebook. From that point we were on the hunt. We were able to piece together that they had at least four kids and a lot of grandchildren and great grandchildren. Most of them lived in the Seattle area. And wow, this guy looks exactly like Dad! And, holy smokes, this guy looks a lot like me! Through a little more digging we found out that not only did Jerry and Eva marry and have a big family, but that Jerry actually had along career as a printer at the University of Washington, where my dad had gone to college!


It was surreal.


Needless to say, we got very excited. My sister and I started encouraging Dad to send Jerry and Eva a letter, and though at first he was a little apprehensive, he agreed. I told him that these folks loved each other, and you were their little baby. Of course they want to hear from you! But the truth was, I wasn’t so sure that was the case. I mean, we honestly didn’t know what to expect: was this a deep dark secret that they would rather just keep in the past? Had they ever tried to look him up themselves? Did any of their family even know he existed? But we had made a plan, and together we worked on draft of a letter over the course of that Thursday. Then, with both excitement and trepidation, Dad mailed the letter with a clutch of photos of himself from infancy to his present age, all sent overnight to Seattle via certified mail (this allowed him to get tracking updates).

Dad said he was pretty nervous that he was dropping a big bomb on these poor people.

Saturday morning I received the emails from Dad with the tracking updates: the package has left the post office and is with the driver. The driver is scheduled to deliver by noon today. And then . . . nothing. Noon came and went. Then at 12:51 I received a forwarded email from Dad:

“Wayne, thank you for this important bit of info. We have been praying regularly for you for years are so pleased to know (and relieved) that you are a Christian first and foremost. . . . We appreciate you keeping this under wraps until we can inform our other kids which will occur in the not-too-distant future. Praise the Lord for His bountiful blessings. More later. With our love to you and all your family. Eva and Jerry.”

From there a flurry of emails were exchanged between Dad and Jerry. Then they talked on the phone. Jerry made it very clear that he wanted Dad and our family to be part of theirs lives, should we want that too. But, they also needed to plan a meeting with their other kids to let them know they had an older brother. “They’re going to find out that we aren’t a pious as they thought,” Jerry said.

On October 26 (our son’s birthday) Jerry and Eva had their three other sons over to their house and had their daughter in the meeting via Skype. As you can imagine, it was quite a shock when they learned they had an older brother they had never known of before, but that night our family got to meet theirs on Skype. It was amazing, and I had to eventually pull Dad away from the computer so we could have dinner.

Soon after we all began to make connections with our new family members on Facebook. Then a big (re)union was planned. We all drove up to Seattle on the weekend of November 9th and spent three very full days meeting and getting to know our new family. It was exhausting and exhilarating. We had close to 40 people packed into my “Uncle Steve and Aunt Kathy’s” house over those days. We told stories and laughed. We ate food and laughed some more. I found out that my cousin Livy’s knees bend backward like mine, and that Jesse has the same weird cowlick on the back of his head. Max ran around without his shirt  like a wild man and had the time of his life. It was like meeting the family you’ve always known and loved. It felt like being home.

And Grandpa Jerry and Grandma Eva both took turns hugging me, staring into my eyes, and telling me that they loved me.

As we made our journey home I told my wife (Katie) that I felt so worn out, but so full. It was like finally finding out that you are really a swan and not a duck. Not to take away from the family I’ve known my whole life and whom I love deeply, but there is something amazing about finding relatives who look like you and who share some of the same weird quirks. After feeling like an oddball most of my life, I finally realized I’m pretty cool after all: I’m like my people.


Here’s some photos:


Me and Eva

Grandpa enjoying the view.

Me and Eva and Jerry

Me and Grandpa and Grandma

Dad Jerry

Dad and His (Bio) Dad

Me and jerry

Me and Grandpa… similarity? Methinks so.

Me and Jesse

Me and Jesse… the back of our heads look even more alike.

Jerry Livy Brigitta

Grandpa Jerry, cousins Livy and Brigitta.



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