Chris Brogan started a wonderful process yesterday, wonderful until it comes to yourself. He realized that many people reading a blog don’t have the writer’s backstory, the stuff of life that came before now. And so he wrote part of his own story and then invited everyone else in the world to do the same thing.  The hard part is writing about one’s self…until you remember that that’s what happens all the time in blogging.

So here is what Chris calls “A quick sketch biography of Jon Swanson”

Most people know me for odd ways of saying things

A few years ago, I went through the process of being licensed as a minister in my denomination. That meant that I could perform weddings and funerals. I had to answer about 30 questions about theology and then had to meet with a group of 4 people to talk about my answers. As we talked, they tried to figure out why I said things the way I did because the answers weren’t the stock answers from Bible college or seminary.

We realized that I think inductively. I read and live and talk and listen and from all that form answers to questions. (This is in contrast to having the answer and looking for the question). As a result of this approach to living, I often have people say, “I never thought of that.” Full disclosure compels me to acknowledge that just as often people say, “What?”

The people I associate with the most are people with broken places and great potential

That, of course, includes humanity, but I find that many of the people that walk through my office and walk through my life are people who are trying to figure out something inside that doesn’t quite work and they want to understand why. Throughout my 15 years in higher education (1985-2000) as a teacher and administrator and then 7 years as part of a church staff, I keep having these kinds of conversations. Which is really, really cool.

People who have influenced my life include…

My wife who shapes me daily, our children who have helped me understand how much God must love me given how much I love them, and most anyone who encourages me.

One challenge I took on and overcame was completing my doctoral dissertation

Because no one could finish it for me, no one was making me do it, no one understood why it was so important to examine texts in the way I was, almost no one has read it and yet it was something that I needed to do (If you want to read it, feel free. 1989, The University of Texas at Austin, “The Rhetoric of Evangelization: A Study of Pragmatic Constraints on Organizational Systems of Rhetoric” )

My early years, before you probably got to know me were compliant (the easy-going child), obedient (the good child), chubby (the non-athletic, didn’t make the 6th grade softball team), musical (organ, violin, tuba, guitar), anonymous, midwestern (Born in Minneapolis, grew up near Chicago), underachieving (high test scores, lower grades), and nice.

You might not know this, but I’m a geek. Oh, wait. Everyone knew that but me until a couple years ago. Nevermind that my first job, starting in 1974 when I was a junior in high school, was as a computer operator on an IBM 370/125-a mainframe. Nevermind that I ran sound starting in college. Nevermind that our first computer was a PC clone (Columbia) that we paid 2K for in 1984. Nevermind that my first video class in college used 1/2 B&W reels of tape.

I’m passionate about helping people emotionally understand the truth of God’s work. Lots of people know lots of facts about God. But I want to help people, including myself, have an emotional understanding, finding out if the facts really have traction for real people in real relationship.

In the next year or two, I hope to grow as much as I have in the last two years.

I’ve been stretching in huge ways, pushing into new media and community and understanding how digital and face-to-face connect, particularly in helping people become whole. Somehow I want the learning to continue and to translate from the theoretical. Thanks to Nancy and Chris and to the blogs on my blog roll from FMC and to Michael and Rob and Paul and Becky and Connie, I am understanding relationship in whole new ways.


Family Photo: Hope, Nancy and Jon (not pictured, Andrew)

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11 responses to “me

  1. That’s just a delightful photo. Sorry Andrew couldn’t be there, but wow! Nice photo.

    Great bio, Jon. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

  2. That Chris Brogan really knows how to get things stirred up, doesn’t he? 🙂

    Great reading this, Jon. Some of the things I already knew — like your stint here in Austin. But I didn’t know about the music. And guess what? We have 3 out of 4 musical instruments in common. Piano is the only one I still play, mostly for church, but I took six years of organ lessons and was first chair, first violin during junior high. Never tried the tuba, though. Wouldn’t want to have to lug that thing around!

    I also love the notion of touching the lives of “broken people with great potential.” In my book, that’s following our Lord’s example. There’s a song that says something to the effect of, “Where others saw a shepherd boy, God saw a King” (speaking about David, Israel’s greatest king). Your ability to look at broken people and aww their potential is a divine gift, and that’s why those people keep coming across your path. Keep up the good work.

  3. perfectionist fixing typo in above comment: to look at broken people and SEE their potential

    aww, I shoulda proofed before publishing!

  4. But connie, you have GREAT potential (and you show it)

  5. Jon, thank you for sharing. I enjoy your thoughtful writings. Tuba, huh? I never would have guessed!

  6. Jon,

    I came across your linked blog while viewing Rick Dugan’s. Good to renew contact. Thanks for your bio. Your parents mean a lot to me.

    Mr. B. J. Slinger

  7. Happy Birthday, Jon. Chris Brogan is a FaceBook friend and collaborator on the upcoming PodCamp Philly. Came across his birthday project and figured I’d give you a shout-out.

    I’m interested in your spiritual journey, although from what you would call the “OT” side. I’m active in my synagogue in South Jersey, and over two summers studied at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, the seminary where our rabbis study.

    Best wishes on the birthday, and your travels. Take good care!

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  10. Gina Mujica

    I may never have read the dissertation, but I sure am familiar with it! I have enjoyed reading some of your blogs and have been challenged by what God has done and is doing in you. You and Nancy have helped support me in so many ways. Thanks for continuing to challenge me today!

  11. I am excited to see the Lord lead you to write for emotional connection to people. That is what I try to do at my website and in my devotionals ( For 20 years I pastored & preached to tell people what to do because of what God said. Now I bless people, telling them what God wants to do.
    Frank Fullard gave you a wonderful compliment on your dissertation. “Is it the best small business post ever? If there is a better one I haven’t seen it yet.” (
    I was led to your blog/website through my son finding Chris Brogan. He was amazed to find out you are a pastor and told me about you.
    God bless you. If you check out my writings, let me know what you think.