Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I've been thinking it might be time again to do a little auto-bio for those who don't know me in person. I never know when somebody might stop by here, and I usually find it something of an annoyance to read a new blog and not be able to find out anything about the blogger. So here's me:

I was born and raised in suburban Detroit ("where the weak are killed and eaten" as local t-shirts say), the middle child of Victor and Carol Baxter. Dad was and is a programmer with the IRS Detroit data center. Mom mostly helped raise us at home and has worked as a librarian among other things. My older brother, Scott, is pursuing graduate studies at Purdue currently.

I attended Houghton College from 1986-1990, where I met some wonderful professors and friends. I had been raised as a baptist, and Houghton is a wesleyan school, so I naturally became a prebyterian. This does make sense once you know that I have a strong contrarian streak. During my time at Houghton I picked up interests in history, economics, New Testament studies, music and literature, just to name the larger ones.

After college I struggled to find work (I'm not sure this struggle is near over yet) and spent time at McDonald's, a financial services company and a large regional retail store. I also attended Oakland Hills Community Church, where I learned a lot about what it means and looks like to participate in a church. Some marvelous folks there helped shape my character and see my weaknesses and strengths much better. One of these folks was Doug Vos, who taught me an enormous amount about entrepreneurship and character. Once you start down the road of seeing the links between jobs and slavery, it's hard to look back.

In 1995 I started my own cleaning and janitorial business. I can't say that I was very good at this, but I did find some success for a time. A large part of my business became a single janitorial contract with a medium sized company where one of my church friends worked. About the time that contract started, my college buddy Kirk Nelson began trying to talk me into moving to North Carolina. I visited him a couple of times, but told him it would be unlikely as I had this fairly lucrative contract now and was hoping to firmly establish my business. As it turned out, I lost my contract in the spring of 1996. I was devasted, especially since that was over 70% of my income. After taking some time to recover it occured to me that I no longer had my strongest reason to stay in Michigan. I told Kirk that if he could find me a place to stay, I would move down. I did this in July of 1996.

The next few months were among the most fun and exciting of my life. I quickly became involved in a new, large church. My friends there were very social and we had a lot of card games that went into the early morning hours. I attempted to re-establish my business, and learned that sometimes God listens to me when I pray hard enough. It's hard to say that last part in any sort of fancy way, but that was one of the bisggest lessons of my life and it took a lot of desperation to learn it.

In the fall of 1997 my church sponsored a square dance at the Fred Astaire School of Dance (sorry, they don't seem to have a website) and it was there that I first met my wife. I took a while before I asked her out, but once I did I was pleased to discover that we had a number of friends in common. Eventually we married in October of 1998. It has taken from then until late last year to pay off all of our accumulated debts, so we are now able to start doing some saving, which is good considering our expectant state.

In late 1999 I started studying the art of piano tuning and repair and began to pursue that career in 2000. I have found it difficult so far to build up my client list, but progress has been fairly steady. I'm able to do a lot of reading and study during my non-work times, especially during times where I'm stuck away from home between appointments. My main areas of study/interest have been New Testament studies with a particular interest in the historical/social context of the NT, ethics (by which I mean the works of Stan Hauerwas) and just a large variety of other stuff that strikes me as interesting, as well as (good) novels of various kinds.

Some of my recent activities have been leading a men's singing group at church, helping serve the children's choir (also at church), teaching a Sunday School class on the context of the New Testament, taking a mission trip to Kiev, Ukraine, and working with the high schoolers, again at church. I will, God willing, be leading a team back to Ukraine in July. (For John and Alexandra: looks like we'll be going to Lviv, and I'm not sure if we'll make it to Kiev, but I'll try to see if we can arrange it.)

Anything big I left out or that you might be curious about?

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