Ben Yosua-Davis


Recordkeeping: Largely Unkept
Frantic Days Spent Cleaning To Impress House Assessor: 5
Complete Assessor’s Reports Given: 0
Number of Criteria For Rejection of Loan That Bank Knew Multiple Months Before Said Assessment: All of them
Number of Cranky Bank Customers Who Will Soon Be Looking For Other Banks: 2
Alternate Financing Options Thankfully Found: Yes
Estimated Days to Sheetrock and Insulate Cabin Eaves: 1.5
Actual Days to Sheetrock and Insulate Cabin Eaves: 12
Amount of Shockingly Obscene Cursing Performed During Installation: I’m Not Telling
Earbuds Lost or Destroyed:2
% of Days With Functional Truck Battery: Approximately 47%
Pipes Frozen in December: Multiple
Heat Cables Installed: Four
Particularly Long Pipes Previously Drunkenly Installed Like the Rolling Hills: 33 Feet worth
Septic Tank Installation Process: 75%
Square Feet of Bowen Possessions to Sort: 425
Exhaustion: Complete
Progress After One Year: Undeniable

I would apologize for not writing more frequently this past fall, but I was too busy putting out fires. Not the literal kind (although those type were recommended to me as a means of renovation when we bought the property), but the sort of metaphorical type which cheerfully immolate one’s best laid plans and one’s schedule.

In the interests of not wasting my word-count (and your time) with all my trials, of which I would gladly share with you in obnoxious detail if you gave me a tumbler of bourbon and a couple hours; here are a couple highlights, (or rather, lowlights) from this past fall, in a couple paragraphs.

The beginning of the fall was dominated by the House Asssesor’s Visit, so that our bank, which was already moving at the speed of a tranquilized slug, would give us a small loan to install such essential things as a septic system and kitchen cabinets. I spent the better part of August and September frantically cleaning the rest of the house and property for the assessor’s visit, which was always Coming Really Soon But We Don’t Know Exactly When. The assessor came; he seemed reasonably comfortable; he didn’t discover any surprises that weren’t on our initial disclosures to our bank, and so I naturally expected a positive result on the loan going into the fall. You can imagine my almost blind fury when the bank manager emailed apologetically to say that our loan had been denied, based on information which we had given the bank a full TWO months before the assessor visited. After a couple polite, but very pointed conversations, the manager, after some attempted prevarication, did admit that we had disclosed said information, that the loan office’s decision did not make sense, and refunded the not-inconsiderable assessor’s fee, but not until a full three and a half months and countless hours of sleep had been sacrificed to the cause. [Thankfully, we had a happy ending to this story so the project can move forward, but hell hath no fury like a completely exhausted home renovator who has had the carpet pulled out underneath him.]

The rest of the year was dominated by insulating and sheet rocking the eaves of the cabin, a process which was delayed twice due to illness, and once started, transformed from a project that was supposed to be one and a half days into one that took a full twelve, and turned my fall into a nightmarish slog that involved (1) developing an uncomfortably intimate relationship with bays in the roof that, in full “good enough” New England carpentry style, varied from 19.5 to 22.5 inches, (2) custom cuts of every piece of anything that was stuck up there, in a space just high enough to ensure that I would hit my heat accidentally at least four times a day, and (3) navigating pernicious rashes up and down my arms and neck that made it nearly impossible to sleep at night (insulation is the most evil stuff known to humanity); all under a very hard deadline which gave everything a shiny veneer of frantic anxiety. I finished in mid-December, got a solid D+ on that job, and am headed into the spring with the hope that tape and mud will cover all my sins.

Other than a day and a half surprise excitement when the basement pipes froze, necessitating a quick trip to the mainland, and several hours in a cold dark basement attaching heat cables to pipes with store brand electrical tape of questionable quality, I have spent the last six or so weeks more or less recovering, as my body informs me, with annoying repetition, that I am Too Old To Be Doing that Shit Anymore.

In what was undeniably a challenging, too-busy fall, it was all of my fellow islanders who leavened my sagging spirits. My garage is steadily filling up with offers of much-needed leftover material, including the perfectly-sized stove that happily sits in the cabin right now. (Thanks Eliza Jane!) Every time I was just about ready to just stop, someone would stop by while I was working to tell me how much better the place looked or what a difference this was making for the community.

I’ve come to realize again, much as I wrote over a year ago, that this isn’t just about renovating an old house, it’s about resurrecting a dead story and giving it new life; so that this place, which was such the site of grief for people on the island: a long-dilapidated memory of better times gone by, is instead a forebear for another beautiful, if different chapter ahead.

On the days when I’m dragging myself back to Hey-Bitty after yet another day of work that I really didn’t have in me, this reminder has only a limited effect; but I’m finding that when the dust settles, I’m again reminded that pounding nails and hanging sheet rock can be holy work as well.

Here’s to another year in this adventure, and to telling more tales like this to all of you.

Here’s also, I pray, to a lot less time dealing with frantically-installed insulation and incompetent financial institutions.

2021: here we come.

[And to catch up on any chapters you may have missed, click here]


I think it’s safe to say that my last post generated a lot of feedback.  While most of the comments I received were either affirming (thank you, it’s good to know that there are others that feel as I do), or thoughtlessly denouncing (more on this below); I did receive a third set of comments which I feel deserve greater engagement.

I received a few (and, I’m sure that there are a few silent folks out there who felt similarly) thoughtful pieces of pushback, from people who were hurt by my words or took issue with the tone of my analysis. Since my last post appears to have set a bull loose in a theological china shop, I’d like to take a couple minutes to sweep up a few broken pieces and explain some of the choices I made in how I framed the last piece.

First, to answer a couple pieces of criticism with the seriousness that they deserve:

Am I a worker of Satan? Not so far as I know; but I suppose if you go back to the very original Hebrew definition of “ha Satan” which meant tester or accuser, those might in fact describe the tone of my piece very well; so…maybe?

Would I have stoned Paul if I had been in Damascus two thousand years ago? Answer is a definite no. First, I’m more or less a pacifist and secondly my aim is pretty horrible without my glasses, which most likely means that I’d be more of a danger to the crowd than to Paul in any case.

And now, to some of the more serious concerns:

Do I believe that every Christian who belongs to a church is an asshole?

This deserved a little more clarity in my original piece. I don’t believe this (and it would be very awkward if I did, since my wife is a pastor and I work as music director at a church filled with lovely people.) I might have better said, “It is the near-universal experience of people under the age of 35 that American Christendom has become a church of assholes.”

Lest you think that this is some form of intentionally provocative exaggeration, this is actually backed up by empirical evidence, including a study done about 10+ years ago (pre-Trump, nonetheless!) that states that three adjectives that young adults would most use to describe Christians are: anti-homosexual, judgmental, and hypocritical (which doesn’t sound like a bad definition of asshole if you ask me.)

This is not simply a problem of perception: we actually have no empirical evidence that being involved in American Christendom makes you more like Jesus on a behavioral level. If anything, the studies suggest that being an American Christian may have a negative effect on your Christ-likeness when the rubber hits the road (e.g. generosity, being accepting of others, not lying, not stealing, etc.)

Does this mean that I believe that your particular church or you individually are assholes? No. This is about people’s perception and about entire systems, not about specific contexts. But, before you let yourself off the hook and decide that this is a Problem for Other Churches Because Mine is Great, I’d invite you to do some serious thinking about whether your church operates in a more loving fashion or is more aligned with God’s purposes for the world at an enacted level than your local YMCA or *insert preferred non-profit or business organization here*.

Do you really think that the Church, Christ’s body, is dying?

No, I absolutely don’t, and this points to a place where I feel like we need to create a lot more daylight in our conversations about American Christianity between “church” and “Church”. If we conflate church (e.g. every faith community that has the word “church” in their name or worships with Jesus-language on Sunday or every denomination that organizes said faith communities and claims spiritual authority) with Church (Christ’s very body at work in the world through us), we end up in situations where Jesus ends up doing some very odd, oftentimes downright offensive sort of things (see previous question) and seems pretty much under the control of hierarchs and demographic forces.

Rather, I believe that the destruction of the American church is proof of the irresistible vitality of the Church. God does not need to wait on old, death-dealing forms of institutional religion to get their act together when God can make “the rocks cry out.” And so, God is burning down the institutional deadwood so that something new can grow in the sunlight. This is unbelievably painful for those of us who love those old, dead trees; but it’s also tremendously exciting. The Church is the power of the resurrection life made manifest, and that life is more powerful than death, even the death of our dead-but-walking religious institutions.

Your post sounds gleeful at times about the destruction of American Christendom. Where’s your grief?

If you haven’t engaged with a lot of my other work, I could see how you felt this way. I myself am a child of the American Christendom. I grew up in a beautiful, faith, traditionally structured church that gave me the hymnody I sing, my deepest convictions about the Christian life, and a living image of what Christian community is supposed to look like. It was that church which kept me together when I became horribly sick when I was nine and wasn’t able to return to school until I was thirteen. There are many ways that I owe my health and sanity to the group of people and that indeed deserves a lifetime of grief and gratitude.

There were many gifts, held by imperfect hands in the time of American Christendom; and some of those gifts will be lost or their memory forgotten. And for that, I grieve.

I grieve that the hymns that have formed my life will not shape the lives of my children.

I grieve that it’s unlikely that my children will experience a sanctuary full of people enthusiastically worshipping God, easily accessible opportunities to form spiritual community with people their own age, or know a connection to a wider church that is not completely consumed with anxiety.

I grieve that building a ministry is now so damn hard in this environment and every gain is so painfully fragile.

I grieve for the pastors, crushed under the weight of expectations, unprepared by their training, and utterly burnt out; many of whom would much better serve Christ out of the clergy than inside it; but who feel utterly trapped and unable to leave until retirement age.

I grieve for all those wonderful, well-intentioned people connected with old, dying congregations who feel inadequate, terrified, and helpless.

But, there is much more that I grieve for:

I grieve for all the people who will have nothing to do with church because they encountered a clergyperson who *everyone* knew had no business being a pastor, but whose destructiveness and sometimes outright abuse was enabled by a conspiracy of silence and bureaucratic inertia that often lasted for decades.

I grieve all the partnerships with non-profits and other organizations left dead before birthing, because of churches that worshipped their buildings and their money more.

I grieve all the children I know who were bright-eyed about God until they methodically and decisively shut out of the life of the congregation because they didn’t act like little 80-year old’s in worship or because people just didn’t care. (And I grieve even more for every time I wasn’t able to do anything about it.)

Grief and lament are absolutely an important part of the prophetic process, and it would be correct to notice that my piece didn’t contain grief. In part, this is because I’ve noticed that grief in church circles frequently becomes a denial of responsibility, a sort of myopic narcissism where we believe that our sadness means that we should saint what is passing. If we grieve for the passing of the American Church, then we should grieve even more for the victims of its many sins.

We need to hold both forms of grief together if we’re going to say goodbye to American Christianity with integrity.

Your writing seems pretty hopeless.

I could push back about that (after all, I think that the conviction that God is at work to liberate the oppressed and set the spiritual captives free is *very* hopeful news), but I understand what you’re getting at. It’s true that I didn’t nod at the new spiritual communities and new prophets that are springing up out of the Christian tradition and suggest God’s resurrection power already at work. (Check out my podcast if you want about one hundred instances of me engaging in this.)

I’ll be honest. I didn’t mention any of this quite on purpose.

In American Christendom, hope often appears to be a synonym for denial. I can’t count the number of times at a conference or judicatory meeting, that I’ve heard, at the end of a recitation of the statistics of our apparently irreversible institutional decline, the assurance “But Sunday’s coming!” or “But we believe in a God of resurrection!” or “God’s doing a new thing among us!” And while these things are all true, they serve to short-circuit the very necessary process that leads us to hope: the acknowledgment of our reality.

The reality is that American Christendom is done. We’re not at Easter Sunday, we’re headed into Good Friday, with a Holy Saturday laying in the tomb after that; and because we are unable to acknowledge the unavoidable reality that death comes before resurrection, what we think of as resurrection is merely life support. I have yet to hear a group of Christian leaders deal seriously with the fact that American Christendom is dead and cannot be revived. And until that fact is publicly acknowledged, lamented, and grieved; true hope will not be able to find a purchase among us.

After having interviewed about a hundred spiritual pioneers over the last five years; I have also become cautious about citing new faith communities or faith leaders as a reason why the American Church can have hope.  Frequently, when this connection is made, anxious organizations and leaders will place the responsibility for their institutional survival upon the backs of these small, frequently under-resourced ministries. I mean this literally. I remember one church planter who told me, “My Bishop said, ‘I’m letting you plant this church so you can grow and make sure that our conference doesn’t financially go under.’” That expectation, stated or implied, is an almost-universal experience of spiritual pioneers in mainline denominations. These communities (and their leaders) neither need or deserve to be our Messiahs; and when they fail to live up to these impossibly high expectations, they are often crucified and discarded.

I do have a great deal of hope. In fact, I believe that the judgment of the American Church is absolutely the best thing that could happen to it. But no, I don’t believe that I should encourage people to hope for a miracle resurrection when what they should do is acknowledge that the patient is dead.

This piece still seems really harsh.

That’s fair. And if it offended or hurt you, I’ll take responsibility for that. After all, intentions are different than impact; and that’s truer on the internet than perhaps in any other social space, especially in the scope of one blog post.

I hope you hear that genuine regret and that, if you’ve made your way to the end of these two-thousandish words, you’ll also better understand why I wrote it the way that I did. I’ve written this exact same post at least four times before over the last five years, and have either not hit publish, or nuanced it with precisely these critiques about grief and hope in mind until it no longer meant what it was supposed to mean. And sure enough, when I watch the responses to those carefully nuanced pieces, I hear people blaming demographic shifts, leadership development, or incorrect theology or political positions (e.g. Those damn evangelicals! Those godless liberals!) rather than taking responsibility for their own spiritual work.

Since my latter years as a church planter, I’ve struggled to find my voice; one that speaks from within that is not forever over-regulated by relational or professional calculus. Most of the time, my words are highly engineered, and almost always tempered to assuage my own anxiety.

As I’ve suffered during the collapse of my health and career, done my work with therapists and spiritual directors and in community; and begun to grow in my own sense of self, I’ve realized how damaging this calculus is to my spiritual health; and I’ve tried, as mindfully as possible, to start speaking out of my own inner integrity, and let the chips fall where they may.

What you had here was the purest example of my rage at the hurt that I and so many people have suffered at the hands of American Christendom and my seething frustration at American Christendom’s unwillingness to take responsibility for its sins (and no, I’m not just talking about evangelicals, in case I haven’t been clear.) It’s unlikely you’ll ever see me post something this angry ever again, and I hope you realize by now (if you didn’t before) that my anger is not the sum of my theology or my work.

That’s where I’ll leave it by now. If you’re one of those people who was hurt by my writing, I hope you feel a little more heard now; and I also hope you can also hear why I wrote what I did in the way that I did. [And I’m always happy to continue the conversation via email as well.)

Onwards into the mess together.

Ben Y-D





Regardless who wins this election, there is one thing I’m sure of:

The American Church is done.[1]

In a very public way, evangelical Christians have been the most powerful force for evil in our country over the last four years; and have energetically made themselves into flagrant hypocrites for enthusiastically supporting the most un-Jesuslike political leader this country has ever seen.

Mainline Christians have been utterly impotent when it comes to mounting a compelling spiritual response, consumed as they are by their fear of conflict, terror of institutional decline, and profound spiritual apathy that gives them no better response to the last four years than perhaps “Be a secular progressive and use some Jesus language!”

All this means that publicly, American Christianity now stands for:

  • Caging children
  • Destroying the Earth
  • Sexual Assault
  • Serial Hypocrisy
  • Inciting Violence
  • Undermining Democracy
  • White Supremacy[2]

In other words, any claims that American Christendom ever had to moral authority have now completely collapsed.

I realized this morning that If I had not grown up steeped in both scripture and Christian community in the best possible way, there is no way I’d ever be a Christian; precisely because all my deepest held values stand in direct conflict to those above. American Christianity has become the Church of Assholes, with Jesus as the chief one, proudly validating every worst expression of what it means to be human.[2.5]

And if that’s true for me, then why in God’s name would anyone, especially anyone under the age of about 35 ever consider Christianity as anything other than a vile, anachronistic expression of hatred that deserves to be relegated to the dustbin of history?

For those of you who are churchgoers, the bottom line is this: your particular Christian tribe is toast.

Your church will most likely not grow, as you’re now nested in a religion considered so profoundly toxic by the people around you that being Christian could be considered an active moral embarrassment.

Your judicatory bodies and your local church will almost undoubtedly collapse under the weight of financial pressures and turn to dust before your sleepy, tradition-worshipping members wake up to the fact that the time to change has more or less passed.

Your children, unless you approach their spiritual formation with an incredible amount of intention, will likely leave the religion of their youth as soon as they can; judging (with some truth) that mom and dad’s religion doesn’t seem to be helping anyone become a better, more joyful, more loving person.

And what will be left besides dust and ashes?

Probably just a few groups of people living life together with great fidelity, structured in a way that they can sustain themselves with very few financial resources, as this American Christianity fades into memory and they themselves re-learn what it means to follow Jesus when they’re not utterly co-opted by imperial, capitalistic, industrial modernity.

And lest you think that your church or denomination will escape what I’ve just described: remember that God is the cause all of this.

For God heard the cry of those oppressed by those who claimed God’s name,

God sent the prophets whose voices were silenced by false religious leaders,

God saw the shameless acts of infidelity, in action and inaction, by those who were so audacious as to claim to be God’s very body;

And God saw how their ears were deafened, their eyes shut, to God’s persistent calls to repentance,

And so, in God’s fury, God used Donald Trump to make a public mockery of the American Christian myth[3]; to expose its spiritual nakedness, to make its name a byword, and, in doing so, to guarantee the downfall of those who would blaspheme the love of God through their hateful words and actions.

You cannot stand against this God, because God is working for the liberation of God’s hurting people and to free those who have been spiritually trapped by that which has called itself of Christ but has been of Satan.

And so, if you’re not having conversations about selling or renting your building; about cutting your pastoral staff, about figuring out how to configure your ministry so it can run without giving for decades; and more importantly, if you’re not covering yourself today in sackcloth and ashes; if you’re not on your knees, begging for God’s mercy and forgiveness; if you’re not reaching out to every one of your traumatized neighbors to apologize for your church’s hypocrisy through action or silence, and then serving them with desperate, openhanded intention:

Then don’t expect to escape the wrath that is to come.

[Wow, this post generated a lot of feedback. My response to some of your questions can be found here.]

[1] Whenever anyone says “American Church”, just a reminder that you should mentally adjust to “White American Church”.

[2] You could probably add, for a certain demographic: Pews, Grandma’s Favorite Old-Time Hymns, and Those Easter Flowers as well.

[2.5] After getting your feedback, I’m now aware that I wasn’t clear enough here either. No, I don’t think all Christians are assholes or that Jesus is an asshole. Rather, this is about perception. It’d be clearer to say, ““It is the near-universal experience of people under the age of 35 that American Christendom has become a church of assholes.”

[3] To be clear, I’m not saying that God was the reason Donald Trump was elected. That was our own damn fault. Rather, that God worked through the election to expose the hypocrisy of the American church.


Dumpsters Filled: Two
Trash: Endless
Plaster: Also Endless
Wiring Run: Infinite
Plague Furniture Removed: Three
Parlor Organs Dismembered: One
Hours Worked: What Is the Meaning of Time Anyhow?
Exhaustion: Perpetual
Progress: Made

These last few months have been a slowly-accelerating slide into blurry mania. All my markers of time: prayer at the beginning of each work day, the blessing every time I enter the house, the meticulously-kept time sheet, the blog posts at the end of the day; smeared away into smudgy recollections of endless trash bags and wiring, sore muscles, needy children, short nights of sleep; and constant renegotiation with myself about when I’d *finally* be able to stop.

There are a few scenes that shine for me from the foggy rubble of these last few month’s memory:

First: I rather thought demo was that Thing You Did With SledgeHammers While Nordic Heavy Metal Plays Loudly in the Background, but if you’d like a house to enjoy after your demolition, it has required a combination of crowbars, screwdrivers, reciprocating saws, with some judiciously deployed profanity and subsequent grunts of triumph when your foe (foe, thy name is over-excellently installed Kitchen Cabinetry) comes tumbling to the ground.

Second: My declining mental capacities were almost certainly the greatest ongoing threat to this project and my sanity I’ve dropped my letter grade from B+ to C- in my electrical tutelage, frequently outright missing verbal directions, making stupid mistakes, and learning things at a pace that I often find tremendously frustrating, as it feels like my brain is wading through deep sludge.

I kept losing things: my earbuds, my best hammer (I’m now down to one small, largely symbolic around-the-house hammer, which makes a demure “tink tink” every time I slam it onto a nail), multiple masks multiple times (they keep turning up and disappearing), writing implements, and one glove, which apparently I had absent mindedly mowed and now lies in a tattered ruin at the bottom of my truck.

It’s all made doubly difficult by the fact that I’ve never done ANY of this EVER before; and so I have no vaguely remembered, demi-internalized skills from when I was twelve , no frame of reference from which to deduce correct decisions, and therefore labor under the constant feeling that I’m about to make a Stupid Mistake (which I quite frequently am.)

That, combined with my grandmother passing, the world’s news, our government’s aggressively idiotic response to this pandemic, and I’m pretty sure that it’s a miracle that I could still put on my shoes in the morning and get to work without an accident (although there was a near miss with a tree last month, when I briefly drifted off into daydream land on my way home. Sorry mom!)

Third: And yet somehow, rather in spite of me, and through the offices of Best Friend Ever John Flint, who, despite being the least morning person I’ve ever met, has dragged himself out of bed at ungodly hours to help me, Electric Sensei Kim, Specs, Polly, Alden and Olivia (known as our Island Family), Dave Campbell’s bushog, our future next door neighbors who gave us their old washer, Jonathan and Ehrhardt, who helped demolish a filthy plastered room, and the other people who I’m definitely forgetting, we’re making it.

The basement is cleaned out and has been bleached twice. John is in the cabin, if your given value of “in” does not involve drinkable water, a workable stove, or a thunderstorm-proof roof (all of which should get fixed momentarily.) We’ve filled TWO huge dumpsters to the brim and then some. The lawn is mowed. The most disgusting rooms in the house have been gutted to the studs, and the parlor organ, generational home to a truly staggering number of mice, has been dismembered with a reciprocating saw and sent to its eternal rest.

Do I feel triumphant? Honestly, not really. Triumph is a feeling that belongs only to the energetic. We’re resting at my parents’ house for a couple weeks (after proper quarantining and whatnot), and the days have been defined by sleeping and, well, sleeping.

I do, however, feel relieved. Almost all of the most time sensitive items have been taken care of. The hump, (or at least A hump) has been gotten over. The house project can hopefully now take on reasonable proportions rather than That Monster That Eats Up All My Time Because I’m Paying For That Damn Dumpster Just to Lie There and John Will Soon Have to Live in A Tent.

This is good, because, of course, it never stops. Soon we will be home; where the daycare is still closed, where I now have a new job, and where our island still needs careful love and tending (a task which my utterly heroic wife has been engaged in since this all began.)

Hopefully, this next season will be, if not easy, at least a little less frenetic.

And involve less trash.


Holes Dug: One
Dumpsters Delivered: One
Items In Said Dumpster: One
Concern About Dumpster Deadline: Rising
Items Lost on Saturday: Three
Items Found: Two (Upon roof of car, after driving most of the way down the road wondering what that banging noise is)
Number of Senselessly Tiny Outlet Screws That Some Moron Decided to Put In Sideways Several Decades Ago Removed: Countless
Number of Loud War Cries Uttered As Basement Junction Boxes Removed: Many
Functional Truck Tires: From 2.5 to 3.5
Deep Trenches Dug Under Old Tires So New Ones Could Be Installed When the Jack Wouldn’t Go High Enough: 1
Functional Car Batteries When Over-Confident Owner Went To Drive Newly Four-Tired Truck: Zero
Cabins De-Wired: 1

I have a well-earned reputation for not possessing great technical proficiency at, well, anything practical.

I’ve earned this reputation in part from many years of publicly-practiced abstracted absent-mindedness, in which I will contentedly read or just think with such abandon that small trivial matters such as Why Did I Just Put My Cup of Tea In the Refrigerator? or What Did My Wife Just Say to Me for the Fourteenth Time? never particularly register.

It also stems from the fact that I never got much beyond the Can-Mow-His-Own-Lawn and Change-His-Own-Tires stage of hands-on competence. When faced with a task that goes beyond these narrow bands, I have a tendency to engage it with aggressive over-optimism, before discovering that you need more than a masters degree and two screwdrivers to do most home repairs. (I still remember the time in my young adulthood when our friend, a librarian nonetheless, pity-bought us a hammer that I still use to this day.)

However, during this past summer, in the frantic run-up to preparing the house for Child Number Two, I had to step outside out of my very well-defined comfort zones to erect a backyard fence and the paint over half our house. I went in determined that damn it, anyone who got a masters degree couldn’t be as helplessly incompetent as I was, and so, come hell or high water, I was going to learn SOMETHING. Much to my surprise (and with the help of many people who are far wiser in the ways of the paintbrush,) I not only discovered that I was capable of driving fence posts and painting respectable straight lines, but that I actually enjoyed the work.

Being the aggressively over-optimistic person I am, this naturally led me to assume that the next stage of my education should be the complete renovation of not just one outrageously filthy house, but also a cabin, a garage, and a barn; hence why I spent most of the last month and a half on my knees silently mouthing expletives as I dug holes in the mud, or on my knees silently mouthing expletives as I unscrewed improperly installed outlet covers in our cabin, or reclined gingerly in my office chair, silently mouthing expletives as I bought a set of knee pads on Amazon.

I’ve been aided in the last month by two exceptionally patient masters at their craft; Bo Beaupre of Chebeague Sand and Gravel, (who’s first name, as you undoubtedly would never guess, is in fact Jean Louis), who can make an excavator dance a graceful ballet while effortlessly performing the sort of geometric calculations necessary to make sure that your poop flows away from your house instead of towards it. The second is the aforementioned Kim Boehm, proprietor at Chebeague Island Electric, who has become my wiring sensei over the last month.

My apprenticeship with Bo consisted of a full day knee deep in mud while we dug a very deep trench and inserted a pipe in the cabin foundation to let the basement’s small pond’s worth of water drain to a more convenient point farther down the hill: a process which involved a shovel, the use of a very fun electric jackhammer (sorry mom) and one moderately successful attempt at outrunning a small flood that was extremely excited to be released from its long confinement.

My apprenticeship with Kim has involved, after many quiet nights making bell hooks (note that I refer here to the manipulation of wire and not the educational theorist, a necessary clarification which should tell you a lot about the practical proficiency of my social circles) and a lot of hands-on work on site.  Kim instructs me in a concept, such as how to run wires or the inner mysteries of that Miraculous Tool known as a Dremel, gives me a sheet of assignments and lets me go to work, while thankfully putting up with an over-numerous deluge of anxious e-mails asking ridiculously small questions for clarification. In another week, the cabin will be wired, I will have done well over half of it myself, and I have begun to learn what requires maniacal precision and what falls comfortably within what every craftsman (or woman) calls “the margin of error”.

Incidentally, most productivity gurus say that this is exactly the type of high-value leisure activity that we should all trade our Netflix for. And while this is not quite leisure and involves a lot more Hauling of Trash and Falling Down Wells than any of these authors envisioned, I’m enjoying the deep satisfaction that comes with hard-earned moderate proficiency in something that is undeniably practical.


Garbage Bags: 15
Garages Cleaned: One
Boxes of Almost Definitely Toxic Chemicals Packed: Four
Random Car Parts Discovered: Dozens
Cabins Wired For Electrical Service: ONE!
Pride Felt By Said Writer For His Middling Assistance: Limitless
Rain Barrels Full of Rabbit Pooped Shoveled: 2.5
Rabbit Hutches Disinterred: 15
Moldering Tropical Birds Discovered: One
Turkey Skeletons Unearthed: One
Bunny Suits Used (and Discarded): Six
Holes Dug: 1/2
Wells Fallen Down: One
Truck Name: One

Well, it was a busy month on the house, one that promised an exciting report until it was upstaged by this last week, which can only be reasonably called Utter Batshit Insanity. With that in mind, I offer you an update, primarily to fill your life with a thousand words on a topic that is both lighthearted and utterly trivial considering Current Events.

First, (and this is clearly the most important thing that happened this last week), our truck has a name! In a closely-fought contest, in which all nominees established substantial voting blocs, Rusty edged out Hey Big Truck (or HBT) by one vote. HOWEVER, as my wife told me, her vote should really count for three, since she’ll be living with the darn thing. (I’ll note that this was confirmed in my Facebook comments, which of course means that it’s true.) She then informed me that the truck’s new name was most definitely Hey Big Truck (or HBT or Hey-Bitty) and not Rusty, to which I said, “Yes dear.”

(In a much less competitive competition, HBT’s song is now the Sanford and Son’s theme song, which I invite you to hum whenever you see me rumbling by.)

I’ve now had a chance to drive the truck quite a bit, and am pleased to say that it generally starts on the first try, will get into gear with only minimal grumbling, and only makes one disturbing sound, which I’m rather sure is due to a tire having reached the end of its useful lifespan.

I will save all my newfound electrical, chainsawing (yes mother, I used a chainsaw again and I LIKED it), and excavatory experience for another post, and instead focus on the most exciting that happened to me this last week, which is that I fell down a well.

Let me begin with a handy pro tip, brought on by my own hard-earned idiocy. If you have a dug well, do not drive a pickup truck over the top of it while going down a hill questing for the walkout door to your basement. Secondly, if you do drive over said well-cap, please do not say “That’s looks a little tippy” while placing your foot with insufficient tentativeness upon it, thereby causing the well cap to tip over and you to fall halfway down it, saved only by your spider-like reflexes (I don’t naturally have Spider-Like reflexes, having embodied the motto, “Clumsy, but Durable!” for most of my lifetime, but apparently the threat of broken legs will do wonderful things to your hand-eye coordination), which will enable you to catch the top of the well before you discover first hand that A) Yes, there is water at the bottom of the well and B) It’s a damn long way before you’d reach it.

On the positive side, after I pulled myself up and spent a couple minutes limping around while turning the air blue; I was no longer feeling significantly under-caffeinated, and, as I said to Shelby, my other Best Friend Ever who was helping me clean out my prodigally filthy basement, “I guess I now have the title of my next blog post!” (Yup, those were my literal words.)

Once you’ve done that, the rest of the work is just details. Along with the help of John, we began tackling the Ground Zero of the house and managed, over the course of a day to remove four boxes full of definitely toxic chemicals, fifteen (!) rabbit hutches of various shapes and sizes, fill what I think is two and half rain barrels full of straw and rabbit dropping, wrestle one (surprisingly nice) pool table and accouterments into HBT and up into the garage, and make it nearly half of the way across the basement before running out of time and exhausting our gag reflexes on one turkey skeleton and a moldering dead tropical bird that was, for some unknown reason, snugly ensconced in a small Styrofoam container.

It really is work best done with friends and Shelby, who has now worked with me on the house on a couple occasions, demonstrated both an incredible capacity for hard work and a mind for effortless organization that has kept her two far slower companions pointed in the right direction. I appreciated this many times when, several times, after hours of seemingly fruitless work, I really wanted to curl up in a corner and cry, (if I could have found a clean one, that is.)

There is now visible progress. The basement has been downgraded from Nightmare-From-Hell to merely Very Filthy, the garage’s detritus has now been organized into neat piles, awaiting disposal or sale; the cabin is wired for electricity, and the basement of the cabin is 75% clear of excess water.

This is good, because the May 1st Move-In Date for Future Tenant/Best Friend EVER John Flint has gone from a spring hypothetical to a whispering suggestion that I have a Hell of a Lot More to Do Than I Bargained For In A Lot Less Time Than I Thought, which has meant that I’ve been stealing every last conceivable second for weeks to try to keep us on track.

Well, at least I won’t lack for stimulating activity during Pandemic 2020! (And, if you’re feeling bored and think that picking up trash in the dark sounds like a delightful diversion, have I got a deal for you!)

O God,

The rock on which we stand

In the midst of troubled waters.


We confess that our power is not sufficient for this moment,

That our talents, our treasure, even our love

Cannot match the need and suffering that is before us.


And so we gather, to boldly ask you for your gifts,

For the gift of compassion, for those who are hurting and afraid

For the gift of anger for those who have no choice but to work or to parent or to suffer

For the gift of calm, unbreakable steadfastness when we are told that there is simply not enough, even of hope


We come to ask you for your hidden gifts:

For the whispers of Sabbath,

Of hope blooming in the cracks,

Of slow joy growing in the unkempt places of our lives,


And so, before we return to our world

With its ever-steady drumbeat of fear

And frantic not-knowing


Give us, in this moment, one sacred pause

One breath

One sound of sheerest silence


So that we may turn our spirits to you

The bearer of our burdens

And return refreshed.



Ben Yosua-Davis, 3/17/2020


I’ve now processed the brilliant set of suggestions that you e-mailed, commented, called, buttonholed, and messaged me with and ruthlessly culled them down to five. If your name did not make the list, please do not be personally offended. While your suggestion was no doubt wonderful, I have to live with it more or less forever, which means while it would not doubt be perfect for you, it may only be, say, 80% optimal for me.

There is also a bonus poll, as I got not one, but two (!) suggestions for a theme song for the truck. So after you vote on the name, check out the undercard and weigh in on appropriate music as well.

[crowdsignal poll=10512288]

And now, our two contenders for the truck theme music.

[crowdsignal poll=10512758]

Voting closes in one week (March 6th) so vote early and often! (If you can fool my fancy polling widget doodad, that is.)




Trucks Acquired: One
Age of Truck (Years): Forty
Color: Black/Rust (literally, rust)
Engine: Functional
Transmission: Crankily Automatic
Tires: Bald As Me In Ten Years
Cap: Previously One, Now Zero
Name: TBD

After much anticipation, the legendary island truck has finally arrived and I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am.

I am one of those Not-a-Car Persons: the type who like vehicles with good gas efficiency, who will defensively assure that you that YES, they CAN change their tires and their own oil, and who view everything underneath the hood with the same apprehensive incomprehension you might treat a multi-tentacled sea creature.

However, my heart is softening just a little bit, after Cliff Habig and Mary Hoffman (who will now officially have a broom closet dedicated in their honor at our new house) reached out to me after my last post to say that they had a truck, and if I could drive it, then I could keep it.

This took some doing, and a lot of very patient tutoring from Specs Eaton, who loaded me up with all the essential waking-up-an-old-auto supplies; and Joe Ballard, who was driving home after his own vehicle mishaps when he saw me gazing in dazed confusion under the hood, stopped his truck in the middle of the road, helped me confirm that indeed it would start up; and then came back later to tow the vehicle out of the snow, keeping close watch as I drove it carefully (hey, those brakes haven’t been used for a LONG time) home.

The cap, after three hours of work, with lots of help from one John Flint (e.g. Most Amazing Friend Ever), several broken bolts, and a fair number of curses, is now removed. It has driven wonderfully exactly two times since. It is currently sitting in my driveway, awaiting the fixing of an electrical problem which everyone assures me is Very Simple to Figure Out and Nothing to Worry About, which no doubt, under my inexpert fumbling, will quite easily be fixed after several more hours of hard work and a lot more profanity.

And despite all that, I find myself slowly falling for this rust-touched truck that’s older than I am (1979 GMC Sierra 1500!), that tends to stall out if you put it into reverse before the engine wakes up (the truck’s a cranky riser. This reminds me of Some People I Know But Will Not Mention Because I Live With Them) and which starts getting testy if you push it much beyond 35MPH.

Almost as big a problem as the lack of functioning electronics is her lack of a name. And…this is where we get our First Reports From the Island Frontier House Poll! Take a look at the pictures, check out John’s imagined soundtrack for our latest acquisition, call upon perhaps your own history with this august island vehicle and suggest a name either below or on Facebook. I’ll cull through your nominations for names I can live with and then….you’ll all vote on them next week!

Trips Made to Frantically Trim Beard So Gas Mask Can Fit: One
Mice Discovered Dead In Their Own Feces: Two
Chicken Incubators Discovered In Bedroom: Two
Dog Memorabilia Unearthed: Innumerable
Mummified Cats Discovered In Basement: One
Trash Bags Taken Out: THIRTY ONE
Trucks Acquired: I’m SO CLOSE (Wait For Chapter Six Or Just Look in Our Driveway!)

When in doubt, just pick up crap.

This is actually a pretty good life motto, but right now it’s a fairly successful work strategy.

John (aka Recurring Character, AKA best friend ever) and I spent the better part of six hours working in Ground Zero of the house, taking out the better part of thirty bags of trash from two rooms. We found a lot of ossified food, lots of cookware that was definitely not worth saving, and made a mutual covenant to Never Open The Refrigerator Door Ever Again.

Gas masks are mandatory at this juncture if you enjoy breathing and would like to continue doing it long-term. John, proving that he may be more committed to the process than I am, shaved off his beard to get a good seal on his gas mask. I, on the other hand, had to make an unplanned trip back home for an emergency shave and vigorous beard trim when I realized that the house was seeping into my lungs. (In case you’re wondering whether I’m rather possessive of my facial hair, let me answer by informing you that Melissa has never seen my chin and never will.) This keeps the smell down to a manageable hum, which turns up its volume quite suddenly whenever we stepped out the house, took off our masks, and inhaled a deep breath of fresh air, only to realize that the potent eau de cigarette and urine can be smelled quite well from up to thirty feet away.

While we threw away most of what we found, we did discover some Interesting Stuff: an old record player, a huge pile of dog-related knicknacks, some photo albums (with some wonderful pictures of the old barn) that we’ll send back to family or the historical society, a packet of old recipes written on index cards, and other odds and ends, all stowed in whatever usable containers were on hand.

As you might imagine, we also discovered some Interesting Stuff of a far less pleasant variety: a few snowdrifts of loose tobacco and bird feathers, mice in such a vigorous state of rigor mortis I could use them as hammers, and the half-rotting skeleton of a couch, among other things. This discovery process was capped off when I took a field trip to our basement (hey, there’s a FULL pool table hidden underneath the rabbit hutches!) to get some measurements for our septic system. I suddenly heard John say, “That’s the creepiest stuffed animal I’ve ever seen or…” and glanced over to discover that the “or” was a fully mummified cat, so stiff that it would have put those mice to shame.

That (combined with the fading daylight, my stiff back, and the end of our first fifty contractor bags), proved to be the climactic end to our day, whereupon I drove home, proceeded directly to the washer, stripped gingerly, commended my odorous clothes to the Cleaning Gods and then dashed up to our shower where I washed and shampooed twice with fervent vigor.

People tell us that it looks like progress is being made (e.g. those foolish people are actually doing something), largely from the army of thirty some-odd contractor bags in the front yard. (Not that there wasn’t trash in the yard beforehand, but I guess this qualifies of being trash of a Purposeful Variety, which proves that those owners are actually Up to Something Worthwhile.)

After a day of picking up crap in the cold, I’m actuallybeginning to agree with them.

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