It’s 10am on Saturday, December 31, in Santa Rosa, California. It’s cold and dark and absolutely pouring outside. I’m still in my pajamas and sitting in my bed with my laptop and my coffee. Apple Music is shuffling through my Replay 2022 playlist, and I’m diving into my now-annual tradition of looking through my Instagram and my calendar, reflecting over the last year. (2021 In Review, 2020 In Review, 2019 In Review) I’ve realized over the years that it’s an opportunity for me – if I take the opportunity – to experience God, to open my eyes and my mind and my heart to see how God has been so present through all the moments of this past year. Have you heard of the contemplative spiritual practice called the Examen? “Prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us.” You can read more about this practice here… I encourage you to check it out. It can be so helpful when you want to experience the presence of the Divine in your life… Sometimes it helps to realize God has been here with us the whole time.
Little did I know last year at this time that my 2022 would be defined by two pivotal moments and that the same man would be integral to both. In the early morning of March 3, I had an ischemic stroke. Thank God Alejandro had gotten into town the night before and was able to get me to the emergency room within 30 minutes. I am grateful that my life is (mostly) back to normal, but the stroke, the heart surgery that followed in May, and the months of slow and steady recovery were a huge part of my year. And then on November 23, my dear friend Annie officiated Alejandro’s and my tiny, private wedding in her backyard. Such joy! And although we are not together on New Year’s Eve, we are hoping and praying that 2023 will bring his green card into our lives so that he’ll be here next year at this time.
I’m so grateful to be here today, able to look back with gratitude at all that God has done in my life and in my work. I’m grateful that you have joined me. Grab a cup of something and get comfortable! Here we go…
- I started the year with a New Year’s Day hike with friends from my church, The Quest.
- We launched a book club on Rachel Held Evans’s final book Wholehearted Faith.
- In partnership with The Christian Closet, I launched another support group for gay/bi men in mixed-orientation marriages.
- I tested positive for Covid!
- I blogged about Romans 1, again.
- We celebrated my son Jacob’s 24th birthday!
- I blogged about freedom
- Alejandro visited from the 12th through the 28th.
- We saw The Band’s Visit and it was magical.
- We took Emily and Zach to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and it was thrilling!
- Thanks to my dear friend Valerie, Alejandro and I got away to Dillon Beach for a few days.
- We started having Wednesday evening dinners at The Quest called “Food + Faith.”
- I did a workshop for the (virtual) Q Christian Fellowship Conference called “The Lord Is Near: Exploring Contemplative Spirituality for LGBTQ+ Christians.” Watch it here.
- Later that same day, I participated in the “Q Night Live” concert, playing and singing some original songs, including one I had just written called “Common Sanctuary.” Watch here.
- Alejandro and I had lunch with Andy Wells, author of Tried To Be Straight.
- I was honored to be featured in a great conversation with my friend, author Matt Bays on his Instagram Live.
- I bought an original Jerron Hess. You should too.
- We passed our annual budget and welcomed four new friends into membership at The Quest!
- I hosted a Common Sanctuary conversation about Chosen Family with two amazing women: Annie Steinberg-Behrman and Janie Spahr. Watch here.
- We welcomed author Jeff Chu to our final Wholehearted Faith book club session to talk about Rachel Held Evans and completing her book after her death. It was a beautiful time and a privilege to have him with us.
- I was honored to sing and speak at the service for the unveiling of Warren Ruehle’s headstone.
- I traveled to South America for the first time to spend time with Alejandro in Colombia! We stayed in an amazing apartment in Medellín.
- We toured Medellín and the El Castillo Museum.
- We enjoyed a puebleando (“towning”) day in El Peñon de Guatapé, El Retiro, Guatapé, El Peñol y Tequendamita and literally climbed a mountain.
- We explored the incredible Comuna 13.
- We flew to Bogotá and met up with some new queer Christian Twitter friends: Noe, Melisa y Monica. What an amazing, small world we live in!
- We enjoyed a walking tour of Bogotá and explored the Museo del Oro. Later that evening, we took a funicular to the top of Monserrate.
- We explored the town of Zipaquirá and the incredible underground Salt Cathedral.
- On our final day in Colombia, back in Medellín, we wandered through the Museo Botero.
- As I sat in the airport waiting to go home, I blogged One of These Things Is Not Like the Others.
- Back home in California, I spent a Saturday with friends from The Quest, first volunteering at a local elementary school, then enjoying a family bowling night!
- On March 2, I led The Quest through our annual Ash Wednesday service. It was a powerful, sobering reminder that life is short and fragile, and that we should live well, keep short accounts and do our best to be connected to our own hearts, our loved ones and God. Watch here. After the service, I drove to San Francisco and picked Alejandro up from the airport. We had dinner at Benihana and then drove home to Santa Rosa.
- The next morning, everything changed. Thank God, Alejandro was already scheduled to be here with me in Santa Rosa until the 18th. It was so comforting and helpful to have him with me. My church family stepped up and took care of my responsibilities. But life had to slow down pretty significantly. My next few months were a lot less busy.
- On March 13, I was able to go back to church and share a little bit about my stroke with our congregation. You can watch the video here.
- I had to wear a thirty-day heart monitor so my cardiologist could figure out why I had had a stroke in the first place.
- I blogged Some Helpful Background for Conservative Christians Who Want to Talk with Me About Sexuality.
- On April 3, we had a special worship service service at The Quest, and then we all headed to the movie theater for a special screening of my co-pastor and best friend Tony Gapastione’s first feature film Last Chance Charlene. Such an exciting and meaningful experience, and I’m still in awe of his vision and hard work.
- We celebrated Easter at The Quest, and I was grateful to get to be with my family.
- We started a new book club with Pete Enns’s amazing book How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers―and Why That’s Great News. I honestly can’t recommend Pete and his work with The Bible for Normal People enough.
- We celebrated Alejandro’s birthday on the 21st!
- I got to be the guest preacher at Imago Dei church (virtually, of course) in Peoria, Illinois on April 24. Watch here.
- I had dinner with my good friend Nate Eaton and we enjoyed Theresa Donohoe‘s one-woman show “Born Again in Berkeley” at The Quest.
- On May 1, we celebrated the Journey Center‘s 14th birthday. I continue to be so grateful for this wonderful community and the groups I’m privileged to lead on Monday nights! You can join us any Monday night at 6:30pm PT. Here’s the registration link for the LGBTQ+ group and the registration link for the “All Are Welcome” group.
- I drove to Berkeley to celebrate Annie’s birthday with her and her wife, Victoria. It was the first time I had driven that far since my stroke, and it was challenging, to be honest, but it was a good challenge, and it was so good to be with my dear friends.
- I participated in an amazing weekend sponsored by Christians for Social Action called Oriented to Love. I was excited to meet my longtime Christian Closet colleague Molly Downs-Stoller in person for the first time and to meet coordinator Kristyn Komarnicki as well, a really wonderful woman who I have so much respect for.
- Alejandro flew in on the 18th for another visit and we enjoyed a very late birthday dinner at Lo and Behold Bar + Kitchen in Healdsburg.
- We went to see our friend, Quester Mark Clark star in A Doll’s House, Part 2 at Novato Theater Company.
- On the 27th, I had minimally invasive heart surgery at the Kaiser hospital in San Francisco to close the PFO (patent foramen ovale aka “hole in my heart”) that doctors believe led to my stroke in March. My Common Sanctuary board of directors held a fundraiser for me and raised $5000 to help cover the costs of my unexpected medical costs this year. I am so grateful.
- We celebrated Joshua’s and Ray’s 27th birthdays! Am I really old enough to have a 27-year-old son?
- We started having Sunday Summer Brunches on the first Sunday of every month at The Quest.
- I went to see Hadestown with Emily. It had been way too long since we had seen a musical together, and it was really great.
- I celebrated Father’s Day with Emily and Zach.
- I blogged about a Different Kind of Pride Month.
- I was a guest speaker for Alejandro’s Latin American LGBTQ+ Group sharing about Mixed-Orientation Marriage.
- I got to spend the day at the Windsor Pride Festival representing the Journey Center with my good friend (and our executive director) Mindy Braun. We were right next to the Free Mom Hugs table, and we got to see my buddy Micheal McRae too!
- Went to the first post-pandemic SF Pride with Krystle Jeffers!
- I got to see the amazing, Tony-winning play Dana H. with my friend Mark Clark at Berkeley Rep.
- On the 6th, Alejandro and I celebrated two years together.
- I got to represent Common Sanctuary at the BraveMaker Film Festival at a screening of the new documentary, Mama Bears. I met one of the subjects of the film, Tammi Terrell Morris, and her fiancée, Shadae, and got to sing my original song, “Common Sanctuary.” I even got to reconnect with old friends from when I was a pastor at Peninsula Covenant Church in Redwood City in the early 2000s. A really wonderful evening.
- Our family said goodbye to my former wife’s father, Lou Tondino. He was my father-in-law for 23 years, and he was a great man. He will be sorely missed.
- I got to enjoy a Giants game with my friends Jimmie, Lynn and Susan.
- On the 25th, I headed to Puerto Vallarta for a nice, long vacation with Alejandro. I took the now-traditional balcony shot upon arriving at his beautiful condo.
- We met up with my social media friend Zach Ryan for pizza in Puerto Vallarta!
- Alejandro surprised me with a week-long “vacation within a vacation” to tour several of Mexico’s colonial cities and learn the history of Mexican Independence. On the first day, we flew to Toluca and then took a bus to Morelia and got settled into our hotel. The next day we took a walking tour of the city of Morelia.
- We toured the Tzintzuntzan Pyramids, enjoyed an excursion to Pátzcuaro and Janitzio Island, and then took a bus followed by an hour-long Uber ride to Guanajuato City.
- We did a walking tour of Guanajuato City, spent some time at museums in the afternoon, and started talking seriously about getting married (!!!) at a restaurant called Los Campos that evening.
- Another day of “puebleando” (towning) with Alejandro’s friends Curt & Jose. We explored Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende and then drove to Santiago de Querétaro.
- We took a walking tour of Santiago de Querétaro and then a bus back to Toluca and then flew back to Puerto Vallarta the next morning.
- On the 13th I reluctantly flew home to California. But at least I had a layover in Dallas and got to hang out with my son Josh for a few hours!
- We hosted Theresa Donohoe’s “Born Again in Berkeley” at the Journey Center on the 20th.
- I hosted another Common Sanctuary conversation with priest, playwright, theologian, and writer Fr. Shannon T.L. Kearns about his new book In the Margins: A Transgender Man’s Journey with Scripture. Watch here.
- I kicked off September joining friends from the Journey Center for a guided Labyrinth experience, and it was profound and really meaningful.
- On September 2, Alejandro and I met with our immigration lawyer for the first time to discuss options for green cards and marriage.
- Alejandro arrived for another visit on the 3rd, this time staying through the 24th.
- We saw Stephen Sondheim’s Follies at the SF Playhouse.
- We saw the controversial revival of Oklahoma! and really enjoyed it!
- We started another book club with The Quest, this time on the topic of homelessness. Kevin Nye‘s Grace Can Lead Us Home: A Christian Call to End Homelessness.
- We saw Moulin Rouge! (All these Broadway shows with exclamation points in their titles!)
- We had breakfast with Jake and Kajsa, and then later that day we bought our wedding rings. Very sneaky.
- We celebrated Emily’s and Zachary’s 21st birthday, complete with boozy bingo called by Steve Ausburne!
- Alejandro and I applied for our marriage license in Sonoma County.
- On the 22nd, I celebrated my 51st birthday with Alejandro, the twins and some friends at Russian River Brewery. (And the night before, at Food + Faith in Novato, Quest friends had celebrated me with cupcakes at dinner together.)
- Alejandro flew home on the 23rd.
- I launched my 7th Christian Closet mixed-orientation marriage support group
- I enjoyed a spontaneous virtual Derek Webb concert.
- I blogged for National Coming Out Day: Queer Enough, In or Out of the Closet
- My friend Cara Meredith and I got to see Jennifer Knapp in concert in Berkeley, and I got to see my friend Krystle Jeffers get up on stage and play guitar with her! (Video here.) We even had a really meaningful conversation afterward. Such a cool evening.
- We concluded our Grace Can Lead Us Home book club with a visit from author Kevin Nye himself. Really meaningful conversation.
- I visited my parents and siblings and their families in Indiana for a week at the end of the month. It was the first time I had been home since the summer of 2019, and it was a really meaningful time. I’m so glad I went.
- It’s always a joy to meet internet friend IRL. I got to meet my friend Gordon Petty at his home in Warsaw and have brunch with my friends Clayton Gladish and Jeffrey Long in Goshen. So grateful!
- At one point, Mom, Dad, Sarah, Micah and I had dinner at Olive Garden and realized that it had probably been 29 years since the five us had been alone at dinner together. The OG Nightingale Five!
- I got home to California just in time to celebrate Trunk or Treat with The Quest. It was another amazing day with hundreds of friends joining us from the neighborhood! I love that we can “Keep Church Weird” year after year with this amazing faith community.
- Alejandro flew to California on the 4th and we had dinner together at Chalkboard in Healdsburg.
- We celebrated our friend Phil Rountree’s 70th Birthday Party at The Quest and then headed to San Francisco to see a show called Mighty Real at Piano Fight w with our friend Sharon DeGraw.
- We celebrated Kajsa’s 25th Birthday on the 13th.
- We spent the November 14-17 at a condo in Tahoe City. It was so nice to get away and enjoy what we knew was a little “pre-honeymoon.”
- We got back from Tahoe just in time to celebrate The Quest’s annual Thanksgiving feast “Bowla.” It was a beautiful time of fellowship and delicious food!
- Hey look who got married!
- After our little back yard wedding, we had a beautiful lunch with Annie and Victoria in Berkeley and then drove up to San Rafael, where I participated in an interfaith Thanksgiving service for the Street Chaplaincy. Emily met us there and sang three songs with me. Then Alejandro, Emily and I had late-night Chinese food and celebrated Thanksgiving and marriage. It was a really special day.
- We spent Thanksgiving with Luanne, her mom and the kids. Jake and Kajsa were in town too.
- Alejandro flew home on Saturday the 26th. It was harder than usual, knowing that he can’t come back to the US until his green card arrives, but at least we are in process now. We trust God.
- We celebrated the First Sunday of Advent with my kids in the Quest Band. I always love playing with them. What a gift.
- I started December with a cool opportunity to sing and tell stories in a show called “The Naughty List,” first at Martuni’s in San Francisco and then at The California Theatre in Santa Rosa. I hadn’t done anything like this in a very long time, so it was a lot of fun to put together my set and create something new.
- I got to be a guest speaker at a support group for women in mixed-orientation marriages.
- We had a great annual budget meeting at The Quest, and then I got to celebrate Christmas at my friend Doug Martin’s open house.
- Krystle Jeffers and I played music and led worship at the Journey Center Advent Service on the 18th.
- I got to have Christmas with Jake and Kajsa a few days early before they left to spend the actual holiday with her family in Washington.
- We shared our final Food + Faith meal for 2022 together at The Quest.
- On Christmas Eve, about a hundred of us gathered together in The Quest’s sanctuary and celebrated the light of Christ coming into the world. It was a moving time, and I thank God every time I think about the gifts of my life, my family, and this amazing faith community. You can watch the service here.
- I am so grateful for the meaningful time spend with my family this Christmas.
As always, this post has taken much longer to write than I originally planned. But I’m so thankful for the opportunity to look back, to reflect on the year that has passed. We never know what 365 days will bring, do we? I could never have imagined what 2022 had in store for me. And the reality is that God has walked with me through all of it. And so as I look forward to 2023, I do so with an open heart and mind, trusting that God will be walking with me through whatever this new year brings as well. Thank you for your love and support, friends. It really does mean the world to me. Happy New Year!
It is SO good to take this journey over the past year with you, dear Matt. Thank you for sharing and for the wonderful photos! I always give thanks for you, for how God’s Spirit flows through you to touch and encourage others, and for the gift you and Alejandro are to each other. May 2023 be filled with blessings and adventures!