The Storm and the Stone


I was driving on I-94 West, on the way to deal with another layer of trouble. My heart was weighed down and weary. With some semblance of slight perseverance, I decided to listen to a “Faith” playlist I’ve been building in recent weeks. Some of these songs are like spiritual legacy touchpoints. They meant something to me in my spiritual development. However, some of them don’t quite resonate anymore.

Not all the legacy songs are outdated or smack of my own version of “old time religion.” As I drove, one of them grabbed a hold of me and didn’t let go. It’s a song I’ve always felt deeply. It’s called from The Jesus Record by Rich Mullins and a Ragamuffin Band and is simply called “Jesus…”

Back in the 90’s, Rich Mullins was one of my favorite artists. He was a part of the Contemporary Christian Music industry, where the waters can be very shallow and religiosity can pervade. In contrast, Mullins’ lyrics and approach always seemed earthy and real and his music was part of my spiritual soundtrack.

Mullins died in a car accident in 1997. At the time, he’d been working on the songs which would comprise The Jesus Record. The double album was released in 1998, with one disc containing field recordings of Mullins’ demos of those songs. The other disc was recordings of those same songs by his friends and colleagues. “Jesus…” was sung beautifully and hauntingly by Ashley Cleveland. This tragic backstory is part of the reason this song and that album have always meant much to me.

On this day, as I traveled toward trouble, the song set up shop in my heart and soul in a new, richer way.

“Jesus” is a prayer. Honestly, it’s more like a desperate plea. The singer knows all the Bible stories. She’s heard of Jesus’ miracles… walking on water, calming the waves, making a lame man walk again… She doesn’t refer to these in a disparaging or faithless manner. No, it’s clear she believes the stories.

While her belief is strong, her personal connection to that story is lacking. She sounds destitute. The troubles in her life have overwhelmed her and she needs just a touch of that miraculous power. And, it’s almost as if that touch is being withheld from her, even as she endures those troubles.

Jesus… They say You spoke and calmed an angry wave
That was tossed across a stormy sea
Please teach me how to listen, how to obey
‘Cause there’s a storm inside of me

“…there’s a storm inside of me…” The wind rushes. The rain pelts. The thunder crashes. The lightning flashes. I get this. In the midst of my multiple layers of trouble, I feel the storm inside of me all the damned time.

Even as she sings of the storm raging in her, she is not hopeless. She reckons leaning into Jesus is the key. Somehow, she believes learning how to listen and obey can fend off the storm.

The chorus gets right down to it. She wants to move from belief to experience. She longs for more than mental ascent and blind faith. Such things seem irrelevant in the middle of the maelstrom. She wants to feel Jesus’ power at work while the storm rages.

Jesus… write me into your story
Whisper it to me
And let me know… I’m yours

There is hope undergirding this request. Why even ask if there’s no hope that it can happen? Again, she’s leaning in and expressing the desire for more, for deeper. She’s read the story, but that’s not enough: she wants to be in the story. Being written into the story would provide assurance that this faith is directed at something very real and intimate.

Despite the hopeful basis of the chorus, the song ends somberly.

Jesus…They drove the cold nails through Your tired hands
And rolled a stone to seal Your grave
Feels like the devil’s rolled a stone onto my heart
Can You roll that stone away?

Oh, that damned stone. I know that stone. For Jesus, it’s the final “nail in his coffin.” verifying he was dead. For the singer, it sounds like a stone formed by trouble, weighing down her heart, keeping her from feeling God’s presence, love, and power. Perhaps it’s even making her heart hard, like the stone itself.

I know that dynamic. When the trouble just keeps on coming, the pressure, stress, and pain begin to accumulate. The sediment begins to calcify into what can feel like a monolith. That monolith not only lays on my heart but can seem to encapsulate it. Sometimes, in those moments, hope begins to wane. I can feel lost and unsure that help is even available or accessible.

This singer’s experience resonates with mine. Notice, she asks Jesus if he can roll the stone away. “Can you?” is significantly different than “Will you?” Perhaps there’s no question about Jesus’ desire to help. She is wondering if he is able to help.

Again, that’s all very real to me. When I experience these stony and stormy moments, I can lose sight of who I’ve always believed Jesus is. While my faith is constantly morphing and cutting fat, it is still alive. And I trust God is always trying to pierce through my armor and break the stone. That trust is not built on maxims, quips, or even bible verses. It’s based on my own experience. Too many times, I’ve sensed God’s love and peace busting through it all and invading my heart.

Lately, I’ve felt the storm and the stone, every damned day. At times, they feel all-consuming, and hope seems distant at best. But, I know… even as my eyes moistened while driving toward more trouble and listening to this song, Jesus has always shown up. He has always, eventually, calmed the storm and moved the stone. It just doesn’t always happen as quickly as I’d like. But it happens… every time… eventually.

I Don’t Miss You


I don’t miss you.
I mean, I love you… but I sure as hell don’t miss you.
I’m glad you’re gone

It wasn’t always that way
Man, there was a time… a time in which I couldn’t imagine your absence
Not anymore, not by a longshot

Back then, I saw only in part
Just a glimpse
A snippet
I didn’t see all you were up to
I didn’t see all the hidden pain
I didn’t see all the darkness

Nope, you had me fooled
And even when I saw the glimpse
Even when I blew the whistle
Even when I raised the flag
You were still untouchable, invincible, omniscient, always right… always right…
And always so sure of your rightness
Absolutely sure

But then the day came
Revelation, unveiling, truth shouted from the rooftops
No longer untouchable
No longer invincible
No longer omniscient…you never were
No always right… sometimes right, maybe
Most of the time right, even

But when you were wrong
Wow, were you wrong…
And when you were wrong, you hurt people
You used them, abused them, accused them
All the while protecting yourself
Protecting your secrets
Hiding your scars
Making everything about you… in the name of someone else

But in the middle of the revelation
As the truth was being shouted from the rooftops
I still loved you
I still wanted to protect you
I still wanted to talk… to connect… to walk through it together

That was not to be
You turned your back
You made excuses
And you ran away like a coward

I loved you then
Before the revelation
After the revelation
Even now

But I sure as hell don’t miss you

We Need You


We need you. For real. You have stuff living in you that the rest of us need. You do. Impact is hard-wired into your system.

This is not about blowing smoke up your arse. You’re not perfect. Just like me, just like your neighbor, your father, your mother… just like everyone you know… you are faulty and frail. You are limited.

This is not about making you feel like whatever you do is good. Like, just because you are wired for greatness somehow means anything you think, say, or do is justified in some way. Nah… that’s not real. That’s not true. No, you make mistakes. You hurt others. You hurt yourself. Just like I do. But, this is not about that.

No, this is about the good stuff residing in your heart, in your mind, in your body, in your spirit. Living in you is something divine. Greatness that speaks to something greater, someone greater. Holiness that reflects the holiest.

The trick is discovering how that greatness looks, defining that holiness, and harnessing that good stuff. And when you do, everything changes. I mean, you’ll still make mistakes of course. But, everything still changes. Finding your wiring and then living in accordance with it changes everything.

…how you see yourself

…how you see others

…how you see the unseen

See, you being fully you is not just about you. Yes, it works for you. It gives you purpose and meaning. It makes you more effective in the things you try to do. All that is true. But, as importantly, you being fully you changes the world.

You bring things to the table… talents, skills, passions… that we need. We have oppressed people to liberate. We have injustices needing to be ended. We have poverty ripe for erasure. We have disease to be eradicated. We have a world to be revolutionized. And we need YOU.

So, please, be you. Be fully you.

The Hard Work of Peacemaking


Someone much wiser than me once said, “Blessed are those who make peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Blessed means fortunate or happy. The key there is being seen as a child of God, because the act of peacemaking doesn’t feel especially blessed when you’re in the middle of it.

I’ve tried to be a peacemaker over the years, and I can’t say I’m very good at it. Regardless, I am convinced it is the best way for me to align with how life is designed to work, as best as I can understand those things. However, it is not easy, and it can quickly make me into a target for folks on either side of a conflict.

Sometimes I shy away from the work of peacemaking. It’s easier to choose a side. It’s easier to vilify the other side. It’s easier to dehumanize my enemy. It’s harder to see them as fellow bearers of God’s image because that truth calls me to lean in more, to see the value they inherently carry, and listen more openly. At the end of it all, we may still disagree, but hopefully they’ll know I love them, even if we can’t agree.

Back in my grad study days, I read portions of a book by E. Stanley Jones, called The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person. He wrote a little about peacemaking and I find his words encouraging. Basically, he talked about three different ways we can respond to those around us:

Evil: Someone is good to you, and you respond with evil or hatred.

Normal: An eye for an eye… You return good for good and evil for evil. Makes sense to an extent, but never brings real resolution.

Good: Someone does you harm, and you love them in response. You return good for the evil they gave you. You know, like “turning the other cheek.”

Mr. Jones labels that last way as the “Christian” way, but that word has lost it’s meaning in 21st century America. I think there’s a better word: holy.

Now, I recognize the word “holy” likely needs to be demystified a little. It’s a very churchy word unfortunately. To say someone or something is holy is to say it is unique, set apart, different, etc. It is transcendent in a way.

On the Tomme Suab Show on Converge Radio on Wednesday nights, I’ve been talking about the need for us to make different choices. We look around us and we see all kinds of conflict and turmoil. Division is pervasive. Dehumanizing and vilifying the “other” is the norm. If we want something different, and I really hope we do, it will require us to make different choices. It will require us to live extraordinarily. It will require, if I may, an element of holiness.

Peacemaking is a holy act, which is why engaging in it shows us to be God’s children. Peacemaking requires courage, humility, and a measure of vulnerability. It is not easy. However, there is no better way to approach conflict. In fact, Mr. Jones, who I referred to before, wrote that, of the three levels, it’s the only one that actually has power. Returning evil for good perpetuates evil. An eye for an eye only makes the world go blind (thank you, Mahatma). Choosing to respond to evil with love changes the game.

Stuck (Can’t Nobody Tell Me Nothing)

General Thoughts

Can’t nobody tell me nothing… What a sad statement. These words emanate from a song I seem to hear every day of late. Every time I hear it, I shake my head. My son is into another popular song in which one guy says I ain’t ever gonna change! in a clear, defiant announcement. Again, this makes me sad.

I understand there are likely contextual considerations when it comes to these lyrics. However, the basic premise underlying them is terribly unhealthy. These guys are saying, at the root, I’ve got it figured out. Back off. Can’t nobody tell me nothing and I ain’t ever gonna change reveal a heart that is closed off from feedback. I am now who I will always be and have no intent to grow or develop. That’s a shame.

At 47 years old, I am still, every day, learning what it means to be me, how to love other people well, who God is, and so many other foundational pieces of development for me. I remember the self-absorbed jerk I once was and am grateful that somebody could tell me something (when I was ready to hear it… it took a while). I’m glad that I eventually let myself change. I’m hopeful my personal metamorphosis will continue as long as I have breath.

I hope the same for you as well, because the path to peace isn’t paved with stubbornness and unwillingness to change. Our ability to experience real shalom is dependent upon our ability to recognize our frailties and limitations and allow others to speak into our lives. Outside voices are not always right and discernment is clearly needed. But there is a difference between discernment and completely ignoring what others have to say.

LASKA Is “In the Blossom of This”

Album Releases, Artist Focus

I was not an early adopter when it comes to the LASKA bandwagon. My homie Scott had mentioned the name of the band repeatedly over several weeks, maybe months, but for some reason, I just didn’t take the time to listen. Finally, they were scheduled to play at The Venue, just behind the main room at The Plus and the cover was only five bucks. So, I decided to see what all Scott’s hubbub was about. Turns out, it was a worthy hubbub.

I was captivated by what I heard that night. The combination of beautiful voices (angelic even, according to my man, Ben Shaw), excellent craftsmanship, and creativity were on full display that night. I became a LASKA fan over the course of that set, and the deal was sealed when they powerfully closed the show with their intense epic, The Haunting.

Since then, I’ve had the privilege of seeing LASKA play several more times and they have never, ever disappointed. The Morton sisters and accompanying band members have something special. They are displaying that “something special” in their new record, in the blossom of this.

From the very beginning, as the opening track Paralysis kicks in, the listener is invited into that something… that incredible combination of raw talent, musicianship, creativity, and some innate element. While I struggle to define that innate something, I think it has to do with intimacy. There is something about this record which takes us deeper into the psyche, into the emotional world, of Bex, Hannah, and Mookie Morton. While this intimacy is shrouded in their own personal stories, there is something ultimately relatable for me as I listen…

…the angst of being hurt by someone, yet still wanting to be with them

…the cathartic nature of getting “all this shit out” (from Coffee Naps)

…the longing inherent in To Hold You

These emotional dynamics pervade in the blossom of this and are perfectly entangled in the wonderful talent, creativity, and craftsmanship that has typified LASKA from the time I first listened.

in the blossom of this ends with the same kind of intense feel as their first record, Ceiling Zero, which climaxed with the aforementioned The Haunting. The final track, Sunset Casual, seems to veer away from the relational struggle of the rest of the EP and wades into bigger, more cosmic waters. At first, it may seem to be a little disjointed from the relational angst, catharsis, and longing of the rest of the tracks. However, it seems to be the fitting end to a thread running throughout the EP. At some point, since relationships are so central to human existence, it would make sense for the Mortons to meander from the immediate and intimate to the meaning (or lack thereof) of life overall. Kinda feels like that’s what’s happening here.

From beginning to end, LASKA has created an emotive, intimate, and, from the sounds of it, brutally honest record, one that is well worth the time to listen and feel through. in the blossom of this will be available everywhere March 22nd.

An Ode to Lightning


Honestly, I’m still in a little bit of shock. Less than a week ago, one of my best friends of all-time left us. It was so out of the blue. Bruce was a couple of years younger than me and always seemed to be in good health. It’s so, so surreal that he’s gone. My heart is broken.

I‘m hurting, but I cannot imagine what this is like for Bruce’s wife and two young boys. Crystal was the love of his life. His boys no longer have their daddy. It’s just wrong. And then there are his parents.  I can’t imagine losing your son. I don’t want to imagine. Again, it’s just all wrong.

Over the last six days, I’ve grieved a lot. I’ve not full-on cried yet, but I’ve had tears in my eyes on multiple occasions. During work meetings earlier this week, it was all I could do to stay focused on my incredible teammates as we handled our tasks together. And yet while I’ve been sad, I’ve also smiled a lot.

One of our mutual friends sent me a text earlier this week with the following quote: “da dink dink dink.” I know that means nothing to all but a very few people. But to a select group of friends, it ought to bring a smile when they think of Bruce. It takes me back to the first time I heard him utter those “words.” WCW Starrcade ‘98. Bruce’s living room. And every time some wrestler got knocked out of the ring or took some kind of tumble, Bruce chimed in with “da dink dink dink.” It was one of those silly little things that made us laugh every damned time.

Pro wrestling was a huge connection point for Bruce and me. It’s what drew us together in the first place. I remember the first time he and I began to hang out was at a church youth group function. We must have started talking about wrestling, because before long we were inventing a new backbreaker move (which would be called “Thunder Road”) out on the church grounds. We attended one of our youth group functions as a tag-team with his brother and with Bruce acting as our mouthy manager. We were, as my Mom would say, “ate up with it.” Those were fun times.

Whenever we would goof off with wrestling moves, one of the main dynamics was his “slightness” and my not-so-slightness. He was 5’9” and weighed just above a buck fifty. I was 6’1” and outweighed him by well over 100 pounds. And yet, when we wanted to act like a tag team, we acted like The Hart Foundation (look it up, kids). However, he always wanted to be Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart (the huge powerhouse of the team) and I always wanted to be Bret “Hitman” Hart (the smaller, quicker guy). Neither one of us, apparently, knew how to stay in our proverbial lanes.

All that wrestling stuff led to us making our own wrestling videos. Four volumes came to be over the years, chronicling the incredible rivalry between “Lightning” Bruce Dallke and Ed Thunder over the ever-prestigious championship belt (made of cardboard, construction paper, wood, or whatever else we could find). There was much silliness, smiling, and unrivaled wrestling action (tongue firmly planted in mouth).

One of my other favorite memories of Bruce was our trip to Minnesota from Virginia back in 1995. We drove up to my old college to see some of my friends before they graduated. We didn’t intend to, but we ended up driving straight through to Bloomington. We had a great time, but toward the end of the trip, I began running out of money. Bruce became my sugar daddy and even bought us both matching University of Minnesota basketball jerseys (one of which he would use in one of our wrestling videos when he was The Minnesota Mauler). He was so patient with my foolishness.

When it was time to head back home, we learned that it was much easier to drive straight through on the adrenaline we gained from the excitement of reaching our destination. That adrenaline was non-existent on the way home. We were tired by the time we got to Chicago and ended up stopping at the Indiana-Michigan border for the night. We were worn down. The next day, we stopped somewhere in Pennsylvania for some McD’s. Bruce was in the habit of giving me the pickles from his burgers since he didn’t like them. Well, tensions must have been high, because when we were sitting in the car eating, I asked him for his pickles and he strongly declared, “No,” got out of the car, and literally threw the pickles in the garbage. I think he put up with a lot of crap from me.

Back in early 1999, I was living in Poplar Branch, North Carolina with my parents and I was terribly lonely and depressed. Bruce was a pillar for me those days and we were together virtually whenever we had free time. One evening, he attended a church service with me at a small Pentecostal church in Grandy. There was a special speaker that night: a lady who was prophesying all over the place. Everybody was going up front and everybody was going down (“slain in the Spirit”). Well, time passed, and it seemed virtually everyone in the auditorium had gone up except for Bruce and me. The lady looked right us and invited us to come down, so we did. There we were, attached at the hip as per usual, going up to experience whatever was going to happen.

I remember two things happening when we went up there: Bruce going down like a box of rocks and the lady telling me that I was going to move. I told her that I knew that already (I was planning on moving back to Minnesota) but she said “No, you’re going to move again.” As it turned out, she was right on multiple levels, but most immediately… my van blew out its transmission three hours into my move back north. I came back to my parents’ home with my tail between my legs. Here’s where Bruce comes in…

He and I talked and decided I would move in with him in his one-bedroom apartment. Right… a one-bedroom apartment. So, where was I going to sleep? In his hallway. Yeah, we were young and not very wise. We made all the preparation and erected my bed in that hallway. I didn’t even last through one night. In my depression and emotional disarray, I got up and went driving around town. The next day, I told Bruce I needed to back out of the deal. I don’t know what kind of bind I put him in, but I’m sure it wasn’t painless. And yet, he patiently and lovingly walked with me through that super weird period in my life and remained my friend despite my flakiness.

Eventually, I did in fact move back to Minnesota and then to Wisconsin in 2005. Obviously, I didn’t get to see Bruce very often. He was in my wedding in 2001, but then shortly thereafter, he and Crystal found each other and started their new life in West Virginia. After that, I only got to see him a few times, but those times were sweet. And, honestly, they were sweet because of how sweet that guy was.

Bruce Dallke was one of the most loyal and patient friends I’ve ever had. Yes, he called me a “clown” on occasion (although I likely deserved that designation every single time). But, man, he was such an amazing friend. I don’t understand all there is to know about heaven and what happens after we die, but I sure hope Bruce is sipping on some Dr. Pepper, listening to some Galactic Cowboys, and running the ropes with Eddy Guerrero.

Five Years, a Radio Show, and Looking Forward

Healing, TS10

Grateful. I think that’s the place to start. When I stop to take a breath, when I take a moment to ponder this path, I feel grateful. I feel other things too. I feel deeply loved. I feel fortunate. I feel purposeful. However, my predominant response is gratefulness. This Tomme Suab thing started a little over five years ago as a simple blog in which I hoped to shine some light on some of the incredible musicians with roots here in western Wisconsin. Over these five years, it’s grown into something more, something deeper.

Tomme Suab’s central focus is to help whoever engages with it to experience a deeper level of peace. You can read more about that focus here. I won’t get into all the details of how we got there from that original vision, but the process has been sweet. I started out sharing about locally-rooted artists, but eventually I was privileged to spread the word about artists from all over, connecting with folks from all over the States, as well as a few from other spots around the world. It’s crazy. I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with Converge Radio here in Eau Claire as a member of its Community Advisory Board. I’ve had the opportunity to book shows on behalf of Converge and even presented the first ever Tomme Suab Presents show a few weeks back (thank you, Jessie Smith!). And then there were those weekly TS10 playlists.

I’ve loved making mixtapes ever since I was a teenager. I still remember trying to record my favorite songs off the radio with my cassette recorder (look it up, kids). When I eventually got a dual cassette deck stereo system, I would record songs off my tapes and records (I had some sweet vinyl back in those days… you know, before all the cool kids were into that) and mix them the way I wanted. That evolved eventually into iTunes and Spotify playlists. And then finally, I began putting together weekly playlists for Tomme Suab which I shared every Monday. These playlists were called the TS10… may they rest in peace. The TS10 weekly ritual came to an end just a couple of months back.

In July, I hosted my first ever Tomme Suab Radio Hour on Converge Radio. That show began as a platform from which to launch the TS10 each week. However, before long, it only made sense to let the TS10 end and focus my playlist passions on the radio show. The Tomme Suab Radio Hour has been running strong every Wednesday at 5pm Central (with a replay on Saturday afternoons as well) on 99.9 on your western Wisconsin radio dial and streaming at Converge’s website. Doing this has been a great source of joy.

Since I’ve been so focused on the show, I have, unfortunately, neglected virtually the rest of the Tomme Suab effort. So, not much new has emerged here on the blog of late. However, that will not continue. The Radio Hour is a vital part of TS’s overall mission, but it’s not going to be all there is. The show is only a step in the ongoing evolution of Tomme Suab. There will be more writing focused on artists, provocative music, social issues, faith, and any number of other subjects which fall in line with the idea of experiencing deeper peace. Rumor has it there may even be a podcast coming up, as well as a Tomme Suab YouTube channel with some original content. Maybe you’ve noticed that the site has a new, fresher feel to it visually as well.

I’m so grateful for these past five years and the ridiculously cool experiences it’s afforded me (I was able to actually contribute to the 2018 version of Eaux Claires… more on that later). But this thing is just beginning and I’m excited to see where this path leads. I’d love for you to walk that path with me!


Merry Christmas… I Think…


Merry Christmas (whatever that means)! That “whatever that means” isn’t mean to be snarky. No, not at all. For some of us, that may be a pretty simple idea, the idea of “Merry Christmas” that is. Of course, it depends on who you talk to. Your typical American might mention Christmas trees, lights, and presents. A historian might speak of the early Catholic Church’s attempt to co-opt a pagan celebration which occurred every year around this time. Your conservative Christian-types, like me, would speak of mangers, wise men, and the birth of Jesus. The idea of “Christmas” can have a variety of connotations depending on the individual’s belief system, understanding of history, personal experience during previous holiday seasons, and so many other potential elements.

But here’s the thing, Christmas is about all these things… Yes, it is a great reminder of the miracle of God becoming a human baby boy, amid all the muck, mire, and discomfort associated with childbearing and birth. Yes, it is a cultural celebration, here in America, that is a grand conflation of celebrating the incarnation, the legend of Santa Claus, and a number of American and European traditions, most of which have nothing to do with Jesus. Yes, it is a commercial season in which many retailers’ fiscal year is either made or broken. Yes, celebrating December 25 as Jesus’ birthday is rooted in the early church’s attempt to Christianize a pagan celebration. Christmas, as we celebrate it in 21st century America, is a great conflation of Christian tradition, western cultural celebrations, and spending money.

So, what if we let it be what it is on this Christmas Eve? What if we were to just be honest that it’s a fun cultural celebration that can be a reminder of the great miracle of God becoming one of us? What if we forgot about the so-called “War on Christmas”? What if we took off all the pressure and let it be what it is?

To my Jesus-following friends, I pray that you and I will learn to celebrate the miracle of Advent every day of the year… not just on December 25, but also on January 7, and April 15, and August 21 and every other day on the calendar? I mean, that feels appropriate for those of us who have pinned our hope on Jesus. AND, I pray that we’ll be able to be present with those around us this season. That we will truly love those around us… even Uncle Steve, no matter how belligerent he gets during the turkey dinner.

To the rest of my friends, I pray strong connection between you and your loved ones. I pray for good times, rest, and sweet, sweet Christmas presents. And, I pray you’ll get along with Uncle Steve as well.

To all of us, I pray for the peace inherent in the angels’ message to the shepherds in the traditional Christmas story. It’s not a fake peace. Not a peace that comes by ignoring our differences and disagreements. I pray for shalom: genuine well-being. Peace with God, peace with others, peace within.

Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth!