January 2000 -- "Stevie Deacs"
Tim Youmans talked me into going as a sponsor on the FBC Shawnee youth's mid-winter retreat. Was this episode really in the same decade I'm now in? Wow. Anyway, I had never really been interested in youth ministry and, of course, was planning an academic career in philosophy. But everything changed as a result of that weekend when I connected with the teenagers (now all adults) who were there and God used them to call me back into full-time ministry. It was on the 2001 Mid-Winter retreat that I then met David Breckenridge, who was, at the time, pastor at Rolling Hills in Fayettville, Arkansas. From that meeting I got the youth job at Rolling Hills. And the rest is history. Oh, and "Stevie Deacs" is what Will Sims starting calling me and then the rest of the youth too.
January 2001 -- "Dr. Jones"
As Ken Merrill walked out to call me back into the meeting of my dissertation committee, he greeted me as Dr. Jones. It was a nice moment. This wasn't a turning point that opened up a whole new future (though many of the churches that employed me have been drawn to me because of the Ph. D.) but because it ended a chapter. In a lot of ways this was part of the end of the "Nineties" for me as a chapter in my narrative.
April 2002 -- Visiting Helena, Arkansas
I have written and spoken often about this one day which changed me forever. It was an eye-opening, first-hand encounter with the issues of race and poverty which persist in our country; something I knew intellectually about but had never really, truly seen. This event would be combined with my reading in theology and biblical studies (Yoder, Hauerwas, McClendon, Brueggemann, Cone, etc.) and Wendell Berry poems and my growing dissatisfaction with American politics to drive me further to the left on a host of theological, political, and ecomonic issues.
June 2002 -- Sitting at the Picnic Table with Harry Wooten and Susan Austin
We were at Austin College in Sherman, Texas for youth camp and I was hanging out with Harry and Susan (and maybe also Chris and Joey, I can't remember for certain) just talking about what I can't remember. But my deepening friendships with Royal Laners that weekend, coupled with Tim Youmans recommendations, would lead to my 2003 move to Dallas, Texas.
May 2003 -- Conversation with Laura Picazo after reading a Howard Fineman article
Fineman's article in Newsweek was about the access to the Bush administration of powerful right-wing evangelicals and how in 2000 Bush had hoodwinked moderates in the GOP who felt that he was really more like his father and was just using the language of the evangelicals to guarantee their support. On the phone discussing this with Laura she simply asked me, "Why do you still consider yourself a Republican?" We figured out that there was no good reason, and so I abandoned the political identity I had espoused since 1988. I have since considered myself an independent, though for registering and voting purposes in Oklahoma I've had to more closely identify as a Democrat.
October 2003 -- Hanging out with the Roeschleys' on Halloween
I first had a youth Halloween party that night, to which I went dressed as "the Paint Nazi," what the kids called me during and after our mission trip to Helena that summer. I had packed another set of clothes to change into when I got to Lucas and Sarah's. But as I had picked out what to wear, I realized that I wanted to wear something that made me sexually attractive to John, Sarah's brother, who would also be there visiting. John had had a crush on my for three years, according to our group of friends who often picked on us. I was later to spend time analyzing my clothing choices that night and deciding to settle the question of my sexual orientation once and for all.
December 2003 -- The Closing Benediction of Angels in America
After a couple of months of prayer, reflection, and struggle, the closing benediction of Prior Walter at the end of HBO's six-hour film of Tony Kushner's play finally once, and for all, gave me the courage to settle the question of whether I was gay or not. By the end of the month John Beard and I had begun our brief relationship, and I had begun my journey out.
This was clearly the most significant year of the decade. The events and decisions of the previous years played themselves out in various ways, most of them awful.
April 2004 -- MyQuest begins
Matt Maddox had mentioned, after my December 2003 Christmas letter, that I should blog. Tim Youmans started one, and I asked him all about it. And then I had things I wanted to say, particularly in opposition to the Bush administration. So, I started this blog. The second post, "Former Republican Against Bush" became a big hit, for a time setting atop the Google search "Former Republican" and providing hundreds of hits to this website. Blogging was SO 2004 and has never been quite the same. I made many new friends. Entered into many fascinating conversations which sprawled across our webpages. Angered some youth parents. Made coded references to my coming out. And more. This was also the testing ground for my writing which developed into a side gig in the latter years of the decade with my writings for HNOKC.com and, currently, The Oklahoma Gazette.
January 2005 -- Scot Pankey calls Dan DeLeon
Scot was the new youth minister at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas and called Highland Park Baptist Church where Dan was the youth minister because Highland Park was an Alliance of Baptist Church and Scot wanted to know what Alliance church's did for youth camp. The Alliance of Baptists is the most liberal group of former Southern Baptists and are open and affirming as a denomination. Dan immediately told Scot about the Southwest Baptist Youth Camping Association and told him to call over to Royal Lane because we were members of the camping group; Scot was already familiar from having briefly attended Royal and knew me and Harry. Dan then called that year's camp director Brian Abel who then called me to ask me to reach out to Scot and invite him to camp planning in Austin the next month. At that meeting CoH was invited to camp for the year (it was non-controversial at the time . . . emphasis on "at the time"). On the way we were talking about our jobs and Scot suddenly said, "Our church in Oklahoma City is looking for a pastor; you'd be perfect for that. . ."
March 2006 -- He Walks into Galileo's
I was there having dinner with Paula and Pam Schonauer and Judy Hey and Linda Baker. The Soulforce Equality Riders were there having dinner as well and were about to present on their work; we had just spent the day at OBU. And then this incredibly handsome, well-dressed guy walks in the door. I was immediately attracted to him. Then, all these people yelled "Michael" and went to hug him. Who was this guy? Fortunately he knew Paula and came over to our table to talk to her and we were introduced. Michael Cich was his name.
March 2008 -- Rusty Calls for a Comment
Rusty Surrette, reporter for News9, was breaking the story on Sally Kern's anti-gay speech and wanted a comment, which I provided. This ended up propelling me to the forefront as a public spokesperson for the LGBT community here in OKC, including my appearance on Flashpoint soon after, repeatedly being calld on to comment on Rep. Kern's actions, and culminating in my receipt of the Cimarron Alliance Foundation's Torch Award this fall.
February 2009 -- John Updike Died on January 27
I was reading all the memorial material I could get my hands on and was very excited to receive the next issue of The New Yorker, which I knew would have a lot. On February 7 it was a gorgeous, unseasonably warm day here, and I decided to walk around Edgemere Park while reading the New Yorker's coverage. One excerpt of an Updike short story mentioned something like "and a girl was waiting for him who would marry him if he asked." And the thought crossed my mind, "There is a guy who will marry me if I ask. Why haven't I asked?" So I did.