Collateral Kindness

On Friday our family was the recipient of an act of kindness that still has us talking. Some new friends who have quickly become dear to us were moving from one Chicago neighborhood to another. Neither of them drive so they asked if Maggie or I would be willing to drive their rental van. We wanted to say yes, but the tumult of adoption had us tired and hunkered down. After so much exposure to uncertainty our vulnerable selves were needing some quiet time at home, getting the feel of this family of four.

We really wanted to say yes, but instead I sent an email to a handful of friends from our church and explained the situation. Honestly, I wasn’t sure anyone would respond. After all, these were friends of ours not theirs, and we wouldn’t even be there. Did I mention the move was going to happen on a Friday evening? Despite my skepticism, within twelve hours three friends had volunteered to help. They were nonchalant about it. Of course we’ll help. Why wouldn’t we?

Providentially, on Friday evening we drove to a going-away party and discovered on the way that it was less than a mile from where our friends were moving. The moving van was arriving about the same time we got to the party, so we swung by our friend’s new apartment. Something about seeing those three friends from church so cheerfully helping this couple they’d never met really moved Maggie and me.

It was their kindness that got to us. I’m so used to people prioritizing their own stuff – I know the tendency in myself very well. But here were three friends who gladly set aside their Friday evening to drive a truck, carry some boxes, and fight rush hour traffic for people they may never see again. (Though I hope they will see each other again!)

I won’t attempt any big conclusions or parallels here. It was simply a refreshing experience and a reminder about how very important one’s decision to be kind can be to others, even to those who are not the immediate recipients of the kindness.

Our New Son

I’m so happy to introduce you to our new son, Winston Swanson.

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It was less than a month ago when our adoption agency contacted us about a birth family who was interested in meeting us. I won’t go into the details here, but over the past few weeks we’ve shared a lot with these two impressive people. We are beyond honored that they chose to place this beautiful boy with us.

It’s been a strange month, in part because we’ve not been free to share this process with many people we care about. The nature of adoption is so tenuous that we felt it best to share our great news only after things had become official. Today is that day!

We’re all a bit bleary-eyed and emotionally spent around here. But we’re happy, so very happy.

I look forward to introducing him to you in person one day soon.

Installation Sermon

David Swanson:

It was about this time last year when our church installed me as their pastor. The following is the sermon I preached that day, in which I did my best to articulate my understanding of the role and call of a pastor.

Originally posted on signs of life:

On Sunday I was installed as the pastor of New Community Covenant Church in Bronzeville.  As a church planter I’ve functioned as the pastor, but the church decided this was an appropriate time to affirm their call to be their pastor. It was a special service and I was reminded of God’s faithfulness and this church’s commitments to following Jesus.  Here is my sermon (lightly edited) along with some photos taken by our friend Esther.


So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. -Ephesians 4:11-13

Thank you for calling me to by your pastor. I wouldn’t be…

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The View From Here

Well, there actually. We returned yesterday from a perfect week in western Illinois. Thanks to some generous friends who insist we use their cottage, our family has developed a wonderful rhythm of rest and play every summer. We’re glad to be home but you’ll have to forgive our occasional daydream about the lazy days back at the cottage.

Bridge over the Illinois River, near Lacon, IL.

Bridge over the Illinois River, near Lacon, IL.

“…in trouble most of the time.”

The language of prayer occurs primarily at one level, the personal, and for one purpose, salvation. The human condition teeters on the edge of disaster. Human beings are in trouble most of the time. Those who don’t know they are in trouble are in the worst trouble. Prayer is the language of the people who are in trouble and know it, and who believe or hope that God can get them out. As prayer is practiced, it moves into other levels and develops other forms, but trouble – being in the wrong, being in danger, realizing that the foes are too many for us to handle – is the basic provocation for prayer. Isaac Bashevis Singer once said, “I only pray when I am in trouble. But I am in trouble all the time, and so I pray all the time.” The recipe for obeying St. Paul’s “Pray without ceasing” is not a strict ascetical regimen but a watchful recognition of the trouble we are in.

-Eugene Peterson, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer (1989).

The View From Here

Each summer for the past few years our little family has retreated a couple of hours west of the city to a friend’s cottage. There we spend a week together  cooking, exploring, swimming, and swinging in the hammock. Also, reading. That last activity requires stacks of books – no e-readers for this family – and so a trip to the bookstore is always in order in the days before we leave.


That’s Eliot getting a jump-start on one of his selection in the basement of our favorite used bookstore, Powell’s in Hyde Park. His mother was poking through the mysteries and I was choosing a couple of  P.G. Wodehouse paperbacks. All signs are pointing to a great time at the cottage.