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Jason Micheli —  August 16, 2017 — Leave a comment

Hey Folks!

I wanted to let you know that my publisher, Fortress Press, is running a YUGE ebook sale.  It’ll run August 15-September 15 and in that time you can get my book for the insultingly low price of $3.99. 

Seriously, that’s cheaper than a latte. You can gift it to someone you love (or loathe).

Click here to get it on Amazon.

Click here to get it on Barnes and Noble.

While I’m busy self-promoting, I’ll be on the road over the coming months speaking and preaching. If you’re in the area, check it out and say hello.

August 25-26: Theology Beer Camp – Oklahoma City

August 27: Preaching at Snow Hill Baptist Church – Oklahoma City

September 7: Speaking at Florida United Methodist Clergy – Orlando

September 23-24: Speaking at Camp Phoenix – Richmond

October 1: Speaking at the Loft LA Church – Los Angeles

October 6-8: Speaking at Young Adult Retreat – San Juan Capistrano

February 4: Preaching at Plantation United Methodist Church – Florida

 


The Christian Century this week posted their review of my book, Cancer is Funny, and I’m so relieved it’s an enthusiastic one. I’ve read CC since I entered seminary and this review means a lot to me. Plus, I think the reviewer did a good job of reading me.

The reviewer is Deanna A. Thompson who teaches religion at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is the author of Hoping for More: Having Cancer, Talking Faith, and Accepting Graceand The Virtual Body of Christ in a Suffering World.

This book arrived at my doorstep the day after a friend of mine died of pancreatic cancer—the third friend in six months to die of the disease. What a laugh, that cancer.

My husband winced involuntarily when he caught a glimpse of the title printed in multicolored letters just below a big smiley face emoji with its hair falling out. In our ninth year of communally living with my very own version of stage-serious, incurable cancer, it felt more than a little sacrilegious to have this emoji and thatsentiment adorning my bedside table.

This may help explain why, when I cracked open Cancer Is Funny, I wasn’t smiling.

Less than three pages in, I came to the heading “Cancer F@#$ing Sucks” and considered not hating the book. A few sentences later, the author, a thirtysomething pastor, husband, and father of two young sons, admits, “When I first found out I had stage-serious cancer, I thought my family and I had laughed for the last time.” With that, Jason Micheli starts to gain my trust.

I’m still in the introduction when I meet up with Micheli’s reflections on how in the hell cancer might be funny. Pitching his defense at skeptical readers like myself, he rehearses all the things he doesn’t mean. He’s not referring to the “ha-ha” register we use to avoid telling hard truths, nor to the humor that masks shame or insecurities. “No, when I say cancer is funny,” Micheli writes, “I mean that your pretense falls away, right away with your pubic hair.”

Something—surely not a laugh—catches in my throat.

Micheli then turns to the kind of funny he is talking about. He invokes ancient categories and sages who say that comedy is tragedy combined with the luxury of time. He is keenly aware that for all too many cancer patients, there’s no such thing as the luxury of time. Which means there’s little opportunity to laugh while in the throes of cancer.

Even so, Micheli invites us to consider that when you’re living with stage-serious cancer, time may also condense, and laughter may become possible in ways it wasn’t before: “Who you are and who you’ve been and who you might (not) be are always ever before you, and as crowded as that sounds, it creates room for laughter. For when you don’t know if tomorrow will come, there’s no need to save face for it.”

So laugh he does. And despite my personal vendetta against cancer—or perhaps because of it—I find myself laughing along with him. Out loud. Until tears stream down my smiling face.

The pastor with cancer talks about how his journey requires more of him than he could have expected, including trading in his collar for a pair of parishioner’s shoes. He’s forced into the role of patient, that very sick guy in the hospital in need of visiting, that young man in the prime of life asking existential questions about God’s relationship to a very lousy diagnosis.

Micheli has a remarkable ability to capture the everydayness of life in the “crucible of cancer.” His attention to the tastes (of chemically charged vomit) and the sounds (of the drill going in his backside for a bone marrow biopsy) alongside the emotional upheaval paints the most compelling portrait of life eviscerated by cancer I’ve ever read.

What’s more, Micheli’s is the most vivid accounting I’ve seen of how having cancer impacts a man’s—or, more accurately, this man’s—sense of himself as a man. We’ve gotten to the part of the review where I tell you that Micheli is very practiced at humor involving the male anatomy. He gives readers ample opportunity to appreciate his own estimate of his virility and his in-shape precancer body.

While there may have been more than enough male swagger in these pages for my taste, it sets readers up to feel as gut-punched as Micheli does when, with a knit cap covering his bald head, cheeks flushed with “chemo glow,” and muscles atrophying from four rounds of chemo, he is mistaken for a woman when ordering a pink sangria for his wife at a concert he’s psyched himself up to attend with his family. He’s embarrassed “not only to be mistaken for a woman, but to be taken, as I surely must’ve been, for a homely one. Was I, I wondered in those languid seconds, even masculine-looking enough to pass as a butch woman? And did reflecting on such questions, I pondered, make me vain?

He doesn’t leave it there. We’re right with him as his “anxiety turned to dread” and “dread to panic” as he’s called out for being “neutered” of his former self. Micheli’s wonderment at how none of the getting-through-cancer brochures prepared him for how cancer would “mess with my sense of myself as a man,” exposing a lacuna in resources aimed at helping those of us with cancer grapple with what we’ll lose. But without falling for the “cancer’s worth it because it’s made me a better person” trope, he knows these experiences have changed him; “without feeling embarrassed,” he writes, “I can now cry.”

That Micheli draws readers deeply and firmly into the “parishioner’s shoes” of life with cancer illustrates not just his pastoral heart but also his theology. The heart of the gospel message is not that God became human, he writes, but that God became Jesus. He’s not interested in theologies that counsel comfort because God shared in some generic thing called “human experience,” just as he’s not interested in a generic experience of having cancer. For all of us whose lives are shaped by the conviction that God became incarnate in a first-century Jew, it’s “the distinctive, particular ways we apply his unique story to our own” that link us.

The part of Jesus’ story that Micheli is drawn to amid life with cancer is Jesus’ death. Cancer handed him lots of opportunities to remember that in baptism we are ushered not just into the life of Christ but also into his death. The unique particularities of each of our sufferings with cancer “are ways we live out, live up to, our baptism.”

Life with cancer also heightens Micheli’s conviction that grace isn’t just an undeserved gift, but “a gift you didn’t know you needed until you received it.” Cancer is funny, Micheli insists, in the way it has helped him see what the church actually is: a group of people living into their baptisms, dispensing grace to real people facing their own non-generic crucibles, like their collarless pastor in a parishioner’s shoes.

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I was a guest on Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang this week on SiriusXM. He is a sharp and funny guy and I think it turned out to be a fun interview.

Here it is:

Have Book, Traveling

Jason Micheli —  January 28, 2017 — 1 Comment


As I like to say, I only pretend to be a narcissist on Sunday mornings.

I truly hate this self-promotional shit, but many of you have asked how things are going with the book and what I’m doing with the book in the months ahead. And, I figure, the last thing you want from me is another thee-political post about The Donald so what the hell.

Hey- I learned that the comedy director Judd Apatow has my book and he freakin’ thinks it’s hilarious.

Update:

I spent the past week out in sunny rainy southern California for a gathering led by the inestimable Tripp Fuller and sponsored by National Geographic’s Story of God and Home-Brewed Christianity. Though, with Teer Hardy, I violated Rule #1 it proved a wonderful experience. I got the chance to meet folks in the flesh, whom I previously only knew virtually, like Todd Littleton, Luke Norseworthy, Eric Hall, Nathan Gilmour, and Sarah Heath. There is much about social media these days that is f@#$ed up, but I sincerely believe there’s Jesus good in it too, proved by the ‘friendships’ I’ve forged with folks like these.

Tripp Fuller interviewed me about my book for the Home-Brewed Christianity Podcast on the first night of the gathering.

Christian and Amy Piatt interviewed me for the Culture Cast Podcast the next day.

I’ll post those interviews when they go live.

Luke Norseworthy interviewed me for his podcast, Newsworthy with Norseworthy, the following day.

You can listen to that interview here.

While in SoCal I did a dialogue sermon and a Q/A at the Loft LA, the most diverse UMC I’ve ever experienced. I’ll post that audio when it becomes available.

In the interim, in case you missed it:

I did an interview with Matt Townshend on Sirius that you can find here.

The Kansas City Star faith writer said my book is “a compelling read with just the right message…” Check it out here.

And Hearts and Minds Books named Cancer is Funny to their Best of 2016 List. Check it out here.

Coming up:

I’ll be doing some more radio show interviews on Sirius XM, including John Fugelsang‘s show “Tell Me Everything.”

The Christian Century and Wash Po will be posting reviews of the book (fingers crossed they say it doesn’t suck).

In March, I’ll be speaking at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville and the Progressive Youth Ministry Conference in Asheville.

And reception to the book has been such that Fortress Press has invited me to write two more books with them in 2017 and 2018. Here’s the press release. In addition, I’ve been invited by Eerdmans Press to contribute a chapter on a book about Preaching Romans.

 

 

Ryan Parker is the author of Cinema as Pulpit and contributes to the Pop Theology website. Here’s his recent review of my book:

That we have all been touched by cancer, if not personally, then relationally, is why Jason Micheli’s new book, Cancer is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage-Serious Chemo, is such an important book. It’s also my first must-read recommendation of 2017.


Thirty-something husband, father, and pastor Micheli was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, mantle cell lymphoma, that is so severe it can’t be “staged” like others. It was a diagnosis that resulted in an instant, intensive, eight-week course of chemotherapy that would wreak havoc on his healthy body and lead him to question everything he thought he knew about God and faith. It also resulted in one of the funniest and more insightful works of theology I’ve read in some time.

Cancer is funny for Micheli, in large part, because he has a seemingly indefatigable sense of humor, which, thankfully for us readers, was consistently lost on his doctors and nurses, adding even more laugh-out-loud moments to his reflections. Even in the most painful and humiliating moments of his treatment, Micheli could crack wise. But this sense of humor is not a mask, as Micheli makes himself emotionally and spiritually vulnerable to his audience, laying bare the ways in which this experience almost broke him. I found myself laughing out loud in one paragraph and reaching for the tissues in the next and challenged by his insights on faith and his theological speculations in each chapter.

Cancer is also funny in the ways ways in which it leads Micheli to re-think theology, faith, and Christian practice. At the heart of the book is a central question: “If so much of the Bible’s faith takes the form of complaint, then do we, who rarely address God plainly from the bowels of our pain, preferring instead the niceties of praise and petition, commit something like unbelief” (192). Micheli forces us to consider the ways in which our faith is often incompatible with the very God we claim to have faith in. He adds, “Since we purpose-driven moderns have transmuted so much of the mystery of faith down to its utility (Three Biblical Steps to Success in the Workplace), it’s not surprising how more often than not, our language of faith—our songs, our prayers, our cross-stitched and retweeted pieties—is meant to reassure us that, like State Farm, God is there” (190). Micheli’s book is, in a way, redeeming. It allows us to see anew all the experiences of anger, frustration, doubt, and loneliness (those times when we don’t or can’t experience the Divine—whatever either of those words mean) as potentially (inherently?) sacred and faith-filled.

At the same time, this experience of doubt should force us into a greater reliance on community, which, Micheli suggests, is at the heart of faith. He writes, “Our faith in the suffering love of God is intelligible, then, not through abstract answers to philosophical questions but only through the love of a community who suffer with us” (163). Micheli is quick to point out the particularities of the human experience and argues that, like cancer, there is no universal experience (or one-size-fits-all faith) to which we can all relate. Of course, this isn’t completely true as suffering is universal. It is so prevalent that, as Micheli points out time and time again, even God experiences it. So, as we either suffer ourselves or align ourselves with those who do, perhaps we participate in the Divine.

I’m tempted to just list all of Micheli’s insights here…all of those moments that made me put the book down and walk around. But, seriously, whether you’re professional clergy, a person of faith, or simply have a pulse, you need to buy the book and read it. In the context of his memories of fear, joy, and suffering, their impact is inimitable and undeniable.

Cancer is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage-Serious Chemo (Fortress Press, 226 pgs.) is available here. For those of you in Los Angeles, Jason will be speaking at Westwood United Methodist Church on Sunday, January 22nd, at 10:00 a.m.

Book Launch Roast Notes

Jason Micheli —  December 16, 2016 — 1 Comment

15350442_903671816401166_318112112921664168_nTwo friends in my congregation organized a Friar’s Club Roast of yours truly at the local country club to kick-off my book’s release. It turned out to be a hilarious evening.

As part of the night, Dr. Tony Jones, author of Did God Kill Jesus? and the one who first encouraged me to start this blog, to launch our podcast, and to write the book, came from the Twin Cities to be a featured roaster. Also on tap, Dr. Jeffrey Pugh, author of Religionless Christianity: Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Troubled Times and Professor of Religion at Elon University, was another guest roast master. Along with my friend and mentor Dr. Dennis Perry and a host of others.

The Roast Master for the night was my dear friend Brad Todd, a frequent guest on Meet the Press who runs OnMessage Inc and is one of the architects of Trumpocalypse.

I’ll post the video when it’s edited, but here’s the manuscript of my roast of all the roasters at the end of the evening. Obviously the humor here is blue and the language profane so be warned.

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I want to thank you all for coming out to tonight to Mt. Vernon Retirement Home, for this occasion where you numb yourselves with alcohol while listening to me talk about myself nonstop. Or, as my wife likes to call it, marriage. Who knew when I arrived at Aldersgate Church over 11 years ago that one day you’d be willing to sling back liquor and cough up $75 a head just for the privilege of hearing me get mocked and ridiculed and raked over the coals.

The jokes on you. You could get that for free after every 8:30 worship service. Well maybe not quite as biting as the jokes have been here. Some of the teasing from you all tonight has cut pretty deep, so deep…I almost don’t have the heart to tell you I found out just yesterday I’ve only got a few months to live.

Oh, come on. Knock it off or I’ll let Dennis have the mic again.

In this whole process of writing and publishing my first book, I’ve had a lot of highs- and not just from the medicinal marijuana Steve Larkin sold me at his discounted geezer rate. I’ve had a lot of highs during this publishing journey. Tonight’s not one of them, but it’s is an experience.

But seriously, if I’d known that Megan and Libby Todd, the Immelda Marcos of Old Town were going to go to all this trouble, I never would’ve pretended to have cancer. Now I feel bad. With Dennis taking a sabbatical every time Donald Trump gets a new wife, cancer’s the only way I could get a little time off.

Let that be a warning to you Karla. You’re probably going to have get AIDS in order to get a vacation.

[This is where Ali wanted me to add the disclaimer that ‘AIDS isn’t funny.’ However next fall Tony Jones is publishing a book by that very title, AIDS is Funny.]

First, I think I need to say it’s not easy to be the final speaker at such a dud of an event- especially when you consider that as a preacher I’m used to speaking at church, not the Mt Vernon Nursing Home, and most of the time at church the only person who’s been drinking is Steve Larkin.

Dr. Tony Jones, Dr. Jeff, Dr. Dennis Perry, Dr. Maureen Marshall…just looking at a lineup of pretentious prefixes like yours, I think I speak for everyone when I say…I expected you guys to have more talent. All you had to do is make fun of me. How hard is that? That’s easier than making Melania Trump jokes at a MENSA meeting.

I’m like the Gallager of the theological world. I’m my own punchline. Tonight should’ve been like shooting fish in a barrel.

You all gave up your Friday night for this? I mean, Giada Hot-Laurentis is at a Cooking Festival at the Washington Convention Center right now, tonight. I appreciate the sentiment but if this were the first and only good Matrix movie, Giada was the smokin’ hot red pill and you, by being here tonight, chose the blue one.

Of course, Dennis has been chewing those little blue pills for a while now but for the rest of you…

I want to thank Brad Todd for being the Roast Master tonight. Even though tonight was a dud, Brad’s a good guy; in fact, my brother-in-law, Mike, dates Brad’s wife.

When I heard Brad was the MC  for tonight I got excited. This event should be good, I thought. After all, Brad does political advertising for Republicans. Bullshit is his job.

You might recognize Brad from his gigs on Meet the Press where he somehow manages to make Chuck Todd look well-tanned and camera ready. Brad was excited to MC tonight too; in fact, Brad is happy to have anything to do these days besides pretending he’s happy the Donald got elected President.

But he did get elected and people like Brad convinced people like you to elect him. You just remember that…when you order drinks tonight at the open bar on Brad’s tab.

Of course, I have to thank Megan Gianchetta for brainstorming and spearheading this event tonight. Megan’s a great friend and because she’s a friend I know how happy she was to have something to do other than breastfeed for a change (she’s gluten free).

Seriously though, it’s no exaggeration. I know Megan’s breasts better than my wife’s or the future first lady’s. Maybe you didn’t notice but Megan delivered their 11th son in between cocktails tonight.

And my friend Andreas Barrett is here tonight. You might not know- after my wife, Andreas was the first person to mouth kiss me while I lay in the hospital. You also might not know that Andreas Barrett is a huge fan of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, which just proves the liberal media elites don’t produce any real news. If Andreas had heard anything but fake news from Rachel Maddow the last 8 years there’s no way he’d still be wearing his Cosby sweaters out in public.

Speaking of lesbians, my assistant Terri Phillips is here tonight too. Not only does Terri make our church hum, she’s also the only straight person to have ever worked at the Walt Disney Store.

My mother, Sue, is here tonight from Richmond. Her on-again, off-again foot on the gas only made her carsick four times during the trip. Truthfully, without my mom, I wouldn’t be nearly narcissistic and dysfunctional enough to have written a book.

Over the years, some of you ladies at Aldersgate- I’m thinking especially of Juanita Csontos and Val Gass (bless your hearts)- I’ve told you how you’re just like a mother to me. Well, here she is. Talk to her for a few minutes and you’ll see what I mean.

Megan had wanted me to roast my wife, Ali, tonight too. But I’ve only recently recovered from the chemotherapy drugs that rendered me impotent and I don’t want to push my luck tonight.

But, I digress.

In between child deliveries, Megan told me that I was supposed to roast my roasters. So here goes:

According to the late Steve Allen, the “art of the comic roast lies in the speaker’s ability to hug the line of what’s appropriate and clean without going over the line.

I think we can all agree that’s a skill I have in spades.

Rotation of Roasters

Jeff, you are the greatest contemporary theologian in America. Dr. Jeffrey Metaxas of Elon College, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

Jeff, you are a great man, as you told me yourself right before we started tonight.

I asked Stanley Hauerwas- a mutual friend, who recently preached at Aldersgate, what I should say about you. Stanley rubbed his bald head and told me: ‘Jeff is an asshole.’

If any of you have read Jeff’s new book on the End Times you know that back in the day Jeff was a follower in a batshit crazy end-times cult.

Jeff my mom read your book and she asked: ‘He was a follower in an End Times cult? Why not a leader?’ And then she sighed and said ‘That’s a shame.’

He never got to be a leader of that batshit crazy end times cult so he left it…for the United Methodist Church, which was an easy transition, requiring only that he give up most of the illicit drug use.

Jeff you are the most foul-mouthed, vulgar, profane, and inappropriate United Methodist Elder I know. In other words, you give me something to aspire to.

Dr. Maureen Marshall– I hope you’ve had your rabies shots.

Just kidding, I love Maureen like that TSA Agent who winked at me once.

For those of you who don’t know, Maureen is the Polit Bureau-approved principal of Stratford Landing Elementary School. Thanks to her inspiration, communion will now be levied by a meals tax.

This June, I drove all-the-way, non-stop to Ft. Apache, Arizona with Dr. Marshall. And Laura Paige Mertins and Karli Eddinger went with us because that’s a 70 hour drive, that’s way too long a drive for just one designated driver.

Except, her taste in road trip music could lead you to drink that much. You try listening to CC and the Music Factory and Barry Manilow on an endless shuffle loop and see if that endless array of Jersey walls across Oklahoma don’t start looking like Elysian Fields to you.

Kelly Wolschlager I mean Garr – I’ve known Kelly longer than anyone else here, including Dennis and my wife. In those terrible Social Darwinism years of Middle School, Kelly has the distinction of being the only- the only real live, human style- girl who was always nice to me.

And as a Nurse Practitioner, Kelly was there for us several times during my illness. In those sad, neutropenic times, I routinely would say to Kelly “I don’t want you to see me like this.”

And Kelly would always say “I’ve seen worse.” I always thought Kelly meant “I’ve seen worse cases of cancer.” But now that I’ve seen the pictures she’s shown, I realize she meant “I’ve seen YOU worse.”

And I have no idea how many other pictures from my Middle School years Kelly might posses so I just want to say tonight…Kelly, you are the nicest, kindest, warmest, most compassionate and beautiful person I’ve ever known…

Andrew DiAntonio – I’m glad to see you decided against the sweaty crotched stained basketball shorts and flip flops that was your Aldersgate employee “fashion.”

Andrew, our former Youth Minister. Andrew, I never got the chance to tell you before but you earned every penny the church hardly paid you. It’s funny timing- tonight- only yesterday we finally received all the parent permission slips for your last youth mission trip.

But, Andrew, we were so close. I thought I knew you. We worked so closely,  planned confirmation together. We traveled together and slept together in Guatemala. We ministered together through some pretty tragic times. We knew each other well. And I’ve always been perceptive. I’ve always had really good radar (or so I thought).

I don’t know how I missed all the clues: the fake spray-on-tan, the fastidious man grooming and neatly trimmed beard, the man jewelry, the love of Jersey Shore, HBO’s Rome, the Cher poster in your office.

I don’t know how I missed it. And it makes me sad the church was never the open and affirming space where you could come out of the closet and let us all know that you were in fact…an Italian-American.

Tony Jones – Tony, I’ve never said this to anyone before but you are the greatest  contemporary theologian in America. Or, as his wife says, Tony’s narcissism has prepared America for the Trump era. Speaking of his wife, you might not know that Tony trains and raises hunting dogs. It’s true. He gave it up though when his wife complained that you can’t mount Christian Orthodoxy on the wall nor can you grind it into sausages.

In case you didn’t hear it in his voice, Tony’s from Minnesota. Whenever you wonder how heartland, midwestern Minnesota goes blue every year just consider that Tony Jones is to the left of Garrison Keillor. Tony is my editor, publisher.

Just yesterday a number of you who’d pre-ordered my book forwarded me the emails you’d received from Amazon telling you that my book which released yesterday would get to you in February. It speaks for itself, Tony’s great at what he does.

And not just with me. I don’t want to spill any secrets, but Tony’s also the editor of other forthcoming titles like ‘Zika is Funny,’ ‘Gonorrhea is a Giggle,’ ‘Herpes is Hilarious,’ ‘Leukemia is a Laugh,’ ‘Testicular Cancer is a Tickle,’ and ‘Syrian Refugees are a Riot.’

(It’s a niche market.)

Finally of course there’s Dr. Dennis Wayne Perry, a man whose name will go down in history with names like Michael Scott, Gomer Pyle, and Roscoe Peco Train. I think I speak for everyone at Aldersgate when I say:

‘Huh, I completely forgot that worked here.’

Over the years, nearly every day Dennis has actually worked I’ve spent with him, which is to say: Holy Week.

I’ve known Dennis for over 20 years, and the only thing I think when I look at this man is ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’

Megan asked me in between breast-feedings, but why would I roast Dennis tonight and tempt the providence of God to afflict incurable cancer-stricken me as he’s afflicted this man?

Why would I tempt God to reduce me to a humorless, passionless, useless husk of my former self, haunting the halls of Aldersgate Church like some walking, talking VH1 Behind the Music cautionary tale of former potential wasted.

Many of you know that the church world is littered with ministers whose success eventually went to their heads: Billy Graham, Jimmy Swaggert, that lady with the purple hair on TBN.

But not Dennis Perry. I’ve worked with this man for 11 years, and I can assure you this man has never overreached. He’s never attempted to do anything that was in any way different from the last thing he did.

And that kind of unchanging sameness is just so refreshing in a church.

Instead of roasting Dr Perry, I should close tonight by honoring him.

Sure, what bankruptcies and sexual assaults are to the President-Elect, sabbaticals are to Dennis Perry but, I can assure you, this Rev works hard for you. Any one on staff can tell you, Dennis is working on the same thing on Thursday that he was working on on Monday.

He never gives up. He never throws in the towel even though he types like a stroke victim relearning the use of their limbs.

Dennis Perry works hard. He’s not a quitter.

Not like that quitter Hillary Clinton. Conceding?! When Donald and Brad Todd both sharted in their pants when they found out they’d won?

I can tell you Dennis Perry never concedes in the face of reality.

Here in the Beltway Democrats whispered for months that Hillary Clinton was too old to be President.

Nonetheless, Dennis Perry doesn’t let his worn-out body, rapidly fading mind, and prehistoric job skills stop him from showing up to work at least a couple of hours a week to take credit for our work.

No sir, he’s not a quitter like Crooked Hillary.

And instead of closing tonight with a roast of him I should honor him. After all, Dennis interrupted one of his sabbaticals to come visit me when I was in the hospital and here he’s interrupted another sabbatical to be here tonight.

For that, we should honor him, not lampoon him.

In these hyper-partisan times, Dennis Wayne Perry is perhaps the last remaining bipartisan citizen among us.

He expresses his ‘reach across the aisle’ spirit by sharing the same hair stylist as Gov. Mitt Romney. And in his work ethic and career achievements, Dennis strives to perfectly embody Barack Obama’s famous line: ‘You didn’t build that.’

We should honor this man, not ridicule him.

Because Dennis Wayne Perry- he’s not just a great man. No sir. He’s a great boss too.

Having Dennis Perry for a boss is almost like not having a boss at all. You have the freedom to do anything- just ask our most recent Bishop.

All it takes is telling Dennis Perry: ‘Remember, we talked about this two days ago.’ And Dennis will agree, pretending to remember the conversation we did not have two days ago. He’s a great boss.

He doesn’t deserve for me to finish tonight with a roast of him. I tried to tell Megan but she was too busy open-air breast feeding their 14th son. I tried to tell Brad but he was too busy preemptively taking our civil liberties away.

I tried to tell them that Dennis Wayne Perry doesn’t deserve for me to rebut his roast. He’s a sensitive guy. He’s not Andreas Barrett sensitive, but he’s a sensitive guy.

Dennis has been sensitive- some might say touchy- ever since his twin brother made millions by recording ‘Islands in the Stream’ and starting a successful franchise of Fried Chicken Restaurants.

You all know how much I love Dennis, but you might not know that I harbor some unresolved anger towards Dennis Perry too. You see Dennis Perry wouldn’t perform my wedding to Ali, 10 or 12 years ago. I’m not sure which.

Dennis wouldn’t perform my wedding, which is preposterous because we all know Dennis Perry will marry anyone. He’s the Johnny Cochran of the wedding industry. From drive-by I-Do’s to Destination Nuptials, Dennis Perry will marry any biped with a faint heartbeat and a damp, sweaty roll of quarters.

But he didn’t marry Ali and me, and, truth be told, I’ve always been a little bitter about that, and that’s why I think we should focus on praising Dennis not poking fun at him.

For example, a lot of you give me credit for my ability to use words, like foreskin, to create mental pictures that stick with you long after the sermon ends.

But we should give credit where credit is due. I’m a novice compared to Dennis. Just consider this verbal-visual gem that Dennis once served up in a word picture that sticks in the mind like genital warts: ‘One morning when my daughter was a little girl she snuck into our bed and aroused me.’

Absolutely brilliant! He said that 10 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. I might have just said something wooden and pedestrian like ‘my daughter woke me up.’ But this man, this man is a master wordsmith I can’t possibly ever hope to match.

And Megan should’ve asked me to close tonight by celebrating him for it not roasting him.

I mean- what would a roast of Dennis even look like? Me making jokes about how old Dennis is? How lame would that be?

I guess I could stand up here and joke that Dennis’ life is like a glass that’s half empty, but technically at his age the glass is 9/10 empty, and we all know that last third is always just backwash.

And yes, I know I make jokes on Sundays about how Dennis is old and forgetful and lazy and complacent. But that’s just a preacher’s exaggeration.

I’ve known Dennis for 20 plus years. His forgetfulness and laziness and complacency have nothing to do with his age.

I knew Dennis when he was young and, other than the obvious physical and mental deterioration, he’s the same person today he was then.

The first time I met Dennis was in a worship service my mother forced me to attend when I was a teenager. I’ll never forget that sermon.

At the beginning of the sermon, Dennis had us turn to our neighbors to share something, while he tried to come up with a sermon in his head.

After we shared with our neighbors, he told us he had three points for us and asked us if we were ready. We said yes and he began to preach.

He preached for about 20 minutes and then he told us what his second point was.

That was the first time I met Dennis.

What really matters though is that Dennis was the first person I called when I learned I maybe, probably, had cancer.

What really matters is that Dennis was the first person who showed up.

And when you think that person is probably the person who’s going to do your funeral, you take a good, long look at that person.

What matters is that Dennis was there before I went into surgery. He was there with Ali while I was in surgery, and he was there for us for the 12 months of shit that followed.

And so were all of you. In different ways.

Some in ways I name in the book.

Others in ways I’ll name in the 2nd Edition (if you buy enough copies).

One of the arguments I make in the book is that Christians don’t have an explanation for suffering because any god that can ‘explain’ suffering and evil and tragedy isn’t a god worthy of our worship.

Christians don’t have an explanation for suffering.

We have a community of care.

That’s an argument I could not have made without all of you-

from Terri leaving beer on porch to Teer and Andreas and Karli showing up in my hospital room, to Mikey moving in with us, to James and Paul and LP driving me to chemo, to Megan and Libby organizing events like this to Andrew and Brad and Tony emailing with me and Jeff encouraging me. Shit, this has already gone on too long. I can’t name you all.

I’d dedicated this book to all of you, but then you roasted me.

So, I just want to say from the bottom of my heart: Go to Hell.

 

Have Book, Will Travel

Jason Micheli —  December 14, 2016 — 1 Comment

img_2522I want to thank all of you here on the blog who’ve supported my first book, Cancer is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage-Serious Chemo. The response has been tremendous.

Now, I’m in the shameless self-promotion stage of the writer’s life. I’m okay with that though because I believe in the book and believe an honest wrangling with pain, fear, and faith can be helpful to everyone.

We’re all terminal cases after all.

I’ve got a few gigs lined up.

I’d be happy to consider speaking or preaching to your group, gathering, or church- or to talk on your podcast.

Give me a shout out: jamicheli@mac.com

theology-beer-camp-2January 19-22

I’ll be doing an interview with Tripp Fuller @ The Home-Brewed Christianity Theology Beer Camp

Sunday, January 22

I’ll be preaching @ The Loft LA Church

 

 

progressive-youth-ministry-e1439238507268March 8-10

I’ll be a presenter at The Progressive Youth Ministry Conference

Sunday, March 12

I’ll be preaching @ Bryson City UMC

 

 

unknownMarch 22-26 

Virginia Festival of the Book

Sat March 25, 2017 @ McLeod Hall, UVA School of Nursing @1pm

  • Main Festival of the Book event

Sat March 25, 2017 @ Pub Theology/Student Gathering (Tentative)

Sunday March 26. 2017

  • Preaching @ Wesley Memorial UMC @ 11am
  • Preaching @ Wesley Foundation Worship @ 5pm

And don’t forget:

You can get my book direct from Fortress Press. Discounted. No shipping.

Just use promo code at checkout: TFTP30.

Good through Dec 18.

Micheli_WebAd_300x250For Episode 57: Teer linked up with an all-star lineup for a conversation about Jason’s new book, “Cancer is Funny.”

Rolling Stone writer and author of Learning to Breath Fire, JC Herz offered her thoughts along with Tony Jones, author of Did God Kill Jesus?, Todd Littleton, host of Patheological Podcast, Jeff Pugh, author of Religionless Christianity, and Kendall Soulen, Professor of Theology at Emory University.

All of them chimed in on why cancer is funny and why this book is needed in our theological discussions. And Taylor Mertins intros with a reflection that made me tear up putting this post together.

All of the guests know Jason from different arenas of Jason’s life and because of that you will hear differing perspectives on Jason’s newest book.

Buy the book! In case you needed a reason:

15317970_10211005366952360_5805070194313765446_n

In case you needed another reason, listen to the podcast below.

The Cracker & Grape Juice team will be part of Home-brewed Christianity’s Theology Beer Camp this January in L.A.. There’s only 15 tix left so if you’d like to be a part of it, check it out here.

You can download the episode and subscribe to future ones in the iTunes store here

We’re breaking the 1K individual downloaders per episode mark. 

Help us reach more people: 

Give us 4 Stars and a good review there in the iTunes store. 

It’s not hard and it makes all the difference. 

It’ll make it more likely more strangers and pilgrims will happen upon our meager podcast. ‘Like’ our Facebook Page too. You can find it here.

Oh, wait, you can find everything and ‘like’ everything via our new website: www.crackersandgrapejuice.com

If you’re getting this by email, here’s the permanent link to the episode.

r-S93UWAI’ve never pressed the flesh with Todd Littleton but he’s my biggest fan and claims to have a man-crush on me (he apparently has a photo of me in his study). Neither of those may be truth but there’s no doubt I’m grateful for the way God brings friends like Todd into my life, even friends through this un-incarnational means called the internet. As friends should do, I know better what I think and write because Todd tells me what I think and write.

Todd came into my life at the same time cancer intruded into it so it seemed especially appropriate that as my book, Cancer is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage-Serious Chemo, releases soon he would be the first person I talked with about it.

Coming up, I’ll be on the Lectiocast with JR Daniel Kirk to talk about the book and in January Tripp Fuller of Home-Brewed Christianity will interview me as part of HBC’s Theology Beer Camp.

On Friday, 12/2 here in DC two friends in my church have organized a Friar’s Club Roast of yours truly to kick-off the book. Clearly, I’m an easy target so it promises to be a great event. And, it’s off Methodist premises so there’ll be libations available too.

social-media-buytickets

As part of the night, Dr. Tony Jones, author of Did God Kill Jesus? and the one who first encouraged me to start this blog, to launch our podcast, and to write the book, will be here from the Twin Cities to be a featured roaster.

Also on tap, Dr. Jeffrey Pugh, author of Religionless Christianity: Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Troubled Times and Professor of Religion at Elon University, will be another guest roast master. As will my friend and mentor Dr. Dennis Perry and a host of others. The Roast Master for the night will be my dear friend Brad Todd, a frequent guest on Meet the Press who runs OnMessage Inc and is one of the architects of Trumpocalypse. If you didn’t vote for the Donald this is your chance to roast Brad too!

So, if you’re on my blog list and live in the DC area come on out for a laugh with us. If you’re in my congregation, definitely come. I freaking dedicated the book to you all; it’s the least you can do! 

Details:

Date – Friday, December 2, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Location – Mt. Vernon Country Club

Get your tickets by clicking here

Okay, here’s the interview with Todd. If you’re getting this by email, the link to the audio is here.

 

social-media-buyticketsT-minus 20 days until my book Cancer is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage-Serious Chemo releases.

Two friends in my congregation, friends whom I don’t deserve but for whom I’m exceedingly grateful, have organized a Friar’s Club Roast of yours truly to kick-off the book. Clearly, I’m an easy target so it promises to be a great event. And, it’s off Methodist premises so there’ll be libations available too.

As part of the night, Dr. Tony Jones, author of Did God Kill Jesus? and the one who first encouraged me to start this blog, to launch our podcast, and to write the book, will be here from the Twin Cities to be a featured roaster.

Also on tap, Dr. Jeffrey Pugh, author of Religionless Christianity: Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Troubled Times and Professor of Religion at Elon University, will be another guest roast master. 

As will my friend and mentor Dr. Dennis Perry and a host of others.

The Roast Master for the night will be my dear friend Brad Todd, a frequent guest on Meet the Press who runs OnMessage Inc and is one of the architects of Trumpocalypse. If you didn’t vote for the Donald this is your chance to roast Brad too!

So, if you’re on my blog list and live in the DC area come on out for a laugh with us. If you’re in my congregation, definitely come. I freaking dedicated the book to you all; it’s the least you can do! 

Details:

Date – Friday, December 2, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Location – Mt. Vernon Country Club

Get your tickets by clicking here

In case you don’t think this will be funny, here’s how my son, X, roasted me at church 3 years ago:

 

 

MicheliCover_FINALHey Friends,

Yes, that’s right the blog is about to enter the shameless self-promotion stage my first real (not e-book) book Cancer is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage-Serious Chemo. It releases from Fortress Press just 24 days from today. To promote it I’ve got some speaking gigs, preaching spots, and print and podcast interviews lined up and hope to add more. I’ll put out more information about those later.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share the press release from my gracious and fantastic publicist, Kelly Hughes.

Yep, I’ve now got the same publicist as Pope Francis.

Weird, but it’s a sign the book doesn’t suck.

Shameless self-promotion aside, I am excited because I believe in the book which, really, means I believe cancer touches just about everyone, if tangentially, sooner or later and I believe just as strongly that everyone could benefit from some theology made to order for when shit gets real.

So, please, tell others about the book. Leave a review on Amazon when it comes out (the reviews help others find it in Google searches), and order some to give out to friends and family who might be helped by it.

But if they’re the tight-sphinctered churchy type, warn them first that it contains some naughty words.

Here’s the official Press Release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Public Relations DeChant-Hughes & Associates Inc.

Pastor Keeps the Faith, and Keeps It Funny, in Face of Stage-Serious Cancer

It’s universally acknowledged that cancer sucks. Mantle cell lymphoma, a rare and aggressive type, is especially sucky. It almost always affects only men in their old age—not 37 year olds like Jason Micheli, a pastor, husband, and father. “I like to think I’m unique in all things, and it turns out I am, in the case of diseases,” he says. But here’s what Micheli wants you to know if you or someone you love has cancer: “Cancer is funny, too. No, wait, it really is. Any ailment that results in pubic hair wigs being actual products in the marketplace simply is funny.”

This type of bone cancer is so deadly that his doctors didn’t classify it with the normal four stages, they call it “stage-serious.” As he struggled with despair and faced his mortality, he resolved that cancer would not kill his spirit, faith, or sense of humor. Bracing, irreverent humor animates his new book, Cancer Is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage-Serious Chemo (Fortress Press, $24.99 hardcover, December 1, 2016), “a no-bullshit take on what it’s like to journey through stage-serious cancer and struggle with the God who may or may not be doing this to you,” Micheli says. “I hope this book will help you or someone you love laugh through the crucible of cancer.”

“After eight cycles of nine chemo drugs, I believe laughter is still the best medicine,” he says. “Laughter is the surest sign you’re not alone, because joy is the most unmistakable indication of God’s presence.”

A sense of humor—Micheli’s is dark, ironic, and leavened with a charming silliness—is especially helpful during chemo treatments, he found: “Being deadly serious here of all places is the surest way to feel seriously dead already.”

The laughter that Micheli encourages is not to be confused with happiness. “I have stage serious cancer, I’d be crop circles crazy if I were happy about it. Instead it’s laughter that feels like joy, that traces the line between disaster and the farce that we call life, feeling free—genuinely free— to be myself with others and before God.”

Micheli is used to people assuming that clergy are “officious and tight-sphinctered”; he notes that “the populace considers Christians to be uniformly unfunny.” But then it’s not so difficult to make them laugh. Except, of course, for the people who give him blank looks, not sure if he’s joking.

A pastor and theologian, Micheli’s reflections are not trite. He writes about being stricken with lethal cancer in the midst of a promising career and raising two young children. He struggles with what he believes. Figuring this out for himself—not to mention explaining it to his congregation and his sons—makes theology now a matter of life and death.

By turns laugh-out-loud funny and heart-wrenching, Micheli’s story shows how to stay human in dehumanizing situations—how to keep living in the face of death. He reflects on:

  • The absurdity of chemo: “The only way for doctors to save your life, just as Jesus warned, is to bring you as close as possible to losing your life without actually killing you —though I doubt that poison derived from mustard gas was what he had in mind.” He notes the warning label on one chemo drug: “May Cause Leukemia.”
  • Questioning faith: “Do you believe any of this? That those who trust in Jesus even though they die yet shall they live? The question had never even occurred to me until my own death became something less than what my trade calls ‘speculative theology.’”
  • Indignities of cancer and chemo: From the “tumor baby” he carries, a 10 x10 inch tumor he dubs “Larry” that is “about the size of a Stephen King novel” to “needing help to pee into the plastic jug because you don’t have the ab muscles to do even that for yourself.”
  • God and “our” cancer: “I didn’t need a God who shared my pain, because it was our cancer—my wife Ali’s and mine. I desperately wanted a God whose own life can show me a way to live in and through it.”
  • The Christian fear of fear: “Other Christians treat fear like it’s more cancerous than cancer. I was afraid because I loved. I feared what cancer would do to my sons, to their happiness and joy and innocence and faith.”
  • Being a pastor with cancer: “I feared what cancer would do to my congregation’s faith when they saw one of their pastors handed a huge crap-flavored lollipop.”
  • When cancer comes in handy: “Cancer is not without its uses. It’s like having an ace in the hole you can play whenever it suits you without ever leaving the card on the table.”
  • Suffering: “Only now that I was suffering more than I ever had in my life did I learn how Christians do not have an answer for suffering or evil.”
  • Battle metaphors: “The language of fighting doesn’t really work for cancer. The ‘it’ in ‘Fight it, Jason’ was Jason. The ‘it’ was me —indelibly me. The cancerous cells were mine, only doing something differently and far more efficiently than my healthy ones.”“Cancer doesn’t make you wonder, ‘Why me, God?’ Only a dick would get caught up with that kind of question,” Micheli says. “No, cancer throws you in the scrum and makes you ask, ‘Why them, God? Why us, God? Why this world?’” Still, by the sixth round of chemo, he had to keep reminding himself that it was not God doing this to him.

    After eight excruciating rounds of chemo, Micheli’s tumors were gone. Doctors don’t talk about remission with mantel cell lymphoma—he could still have mantle cell percolating in his bone marrow—but it’s as good news as he could have hoped for. “I don’t know what the future will bring. I don’t know if this story is over,” he writes. “In whatever life my family and I have left are more marvels than we can count.”

     

 

 

Cancer is Funny: Blurbs

Jason Micheli —  September 17, 2016 — 5 Comments

MicheliCover_FINALOther than a headshot for the dust jacket, my book with Fortress Press, Cancer is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage-Serious Chemo,  is all finished and due out 12/1. Stay tuned and, if you’ve not already, you can pre-order it here. And if you know someone touched by cancer in some way, make sure they get one too.

One of the humbling humiliating experiences of book publishing, I’ve discovered, is asking other people not only to read your book but also to blurb it. I can only liken it thus: “Will you take me out on a multi-hour date? Oh, and pay for it, too?”

I realize there’s no way to share these without humble-bragging, but some of my reviewers went out of their way to provide not only thoughtful but emotional blurbs for Cancer is Funny. I thought I would thank them by giving them a shout-out here on the blog before you can see them on and in the cover of the book.

Drumroll:

“What gets lost in all the stories about the decline of religion is how many people have left church because they find its leaders uninspired and institutionally minded. Jason Micheli is neither. He is as funny as he is smart and both come through in refreshing, irreverent ways in Cancer is Funny. If you’re spiritual but not religious or if you’re religious but have forgotten how to be spiritual, Jason Micheli reminds us that God can be found in the world beyond the Church, even in incurable cancer. And Jason shows us with raw candor that wherever God is to be found, joy and laughter are possible.”

—Diana Butler Bass, author of Grounded: Finding God in the World—A Spiritual Revolution

“Jason Micheli is one of the most hip, funny, deeply-theological-without-being-boring pastors in my church today.  Jason is an engaging, always substantive-without-being-showy communicator of the faith.  Now that he’s got Stage Dangerous Cancer Jason’s wit, faith, and genius turns even that tough journey into a pilgrimage toward God.  Only Jason could transform cancer into a source of comedy but also a great occasion to teach the rest of us how to think like Christians about life, sickness, death, and God.  Jason is able to do this because he, as much as anyone I know, believes in a living, redemptive God who is with us, in good times and bad. A funny, faithful book.”

– Will Willimon is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry and United Methodist Bishop, retired.

“Jason Micheli is the bravest motherfucker I’ve ever met. It takes a lot of courage to keep faith with God while you’re saying, “Fuck you cancer, and your little tumor Toto too.” But not only does he keep faith; it deepens because he becomes a theologian of the only theology that matters—the theology of death and life, you know, the theology of when shit gets real. Writing with the wit and brutal honesty of Annie Lamott, Michelli takes his readers on a shakedown cruise of pain, suffering, and discovery where we all meet God, perhaps for the first time. Get this book, bitches.”

– Dr. Jeffrey Pugh, Professor of Religion, Elon University

“Illness creates loneliness but Micheli resists that development by sharing his struggle with cancer. He does so with good humor which is not only a gift because, as he suggests, cancer is only funny in a tragic way, but also the most fundamental quality for a well-lived and faithful life.”

– Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Emeritus Professor of Divinity and Law at Duke University

If smart-ass humor is the best evidence of fighting spirit, Jason Micheli is Charles Bronson of cancer patients. He disrupts all the cliches of cancer chronicles: he’s not old or saintly and peddling comfort or resolution. He’s a preacher who’s not at peace, a GenXer who acknowledges that irony is his security blanket. Staring down the barrel of a life-threatening disease, he proves that irreverence can be the flip side of faith.

— JC Herz, author of Learning to Breathe Fire

“Sometimes you read a book you have to finish. Sometimes you know you have to read it again. On occasions you read a book that makes you think, laugh, drop some tears, & want to grab a drink with the author. Jason has done that, plus I have a list of people who will be getting this book as a gift. If you love solid theology, powerful testimony, & a text you will ruminate over, you will love this book.”

– Tripp Fuller, author of The Home-brewed Christianity Guide to Jesus

“Coming to terms with death ain’t easy. And yet, as Jason Micheli says, none of us is getting out of life alive. Thankfully Jason Micheli has given us a surprising book like Cancer is Funny, which, it so happens, is as hilarious as it is thoughtful and deeply faithful. Cancer is Funny is funny. It’s also personal and reflective, urgently so. It will not only teach you about yourself, it will teach you about God too. A riveting journey through the suffering that, as he puts, God may or may not be doing to him- a question everyone of us has asked, or will some day soon. Don’t be fooled by the title. Suffering, it turns out, can lead to laughter because you can’t face death without rediscovering the wonder of life.”

– David Fitch, BR Linder Chair of Evangelical Theology, Northern Seminary and Author of Faithful Presence

“Don’t let the title of this book fool you.  It’s about cancer, and it’s funny, but it’s also profound, honest, and deeply faithful.  Jason Micheli is one of the best theological communicators I know.  This book will move and instruct everyone who has a mortal body and a questioning spirit.”

– Dr. Kendall Souled, Professor of Systematic Theology, Emory University

“Cancer Is Funny is a stunning monument to human perseverance and divine grace amid the specter of finitude. The very fact of its construction, like that of the ancient pyramids or the Taj Mahal, is as improbable as it is awe-inspiring and beautiful. The result is a wonder to behold. Jason Micheli is that rare Christian minister who serves up truth unvarnished, live-blogging with graphic honesty his experience of ingesting deadly poisons designed to spare his young life, against sobering odds, from an unforgiving cancer. Fasten your seatbelts, dear readers. There is turbulence ahead. Prepare to laugh and cry. Prepare to live and die.”

– Robert C. Dykstra
Charlotte W. Newcombe Professor of Pastoral Theology
Princeton Theological Seminary

“Put down that outdated magazine in your oncologists office! Cancer is Funny will take you on a journey from Jason’s mind all the way to the inner parts of his body that ends up revealing his soul.   Jason lays himself bare so that you can look, laugh and feel better during the often faith-testing, twisted ride that is cancer. What is funniest is that this book will grab you and remind you of what matters in life.”

– Brian Stolarz, Attorney and Author of Grace and Justice on Death Row