“Ask A Reverend” Periscope

Posted April 17, 2015 by bluejeremiah
Categories: Uncategorized


I’ve been trying out a new app under the Twitter umbrella called Periscope – using the tagline: Ask A Reverend” and my twitter account: @johnnyleestiles. It’s live video streaming of whatever happens to be happening at any given moment (yup, some of which can be pretty mundane). But every now and then you catch some great sunsets, strolls along Venetian streets, or some crazy shepherd bringing in the flock from a pasture in the UK. Even if you don’t have the app you can watch what’s streaming online, here: http://onperiscope.com/ …for now, at least. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Tribute to “Doc” West – As Long As The River Flows Free

Posted April 14, 2015 by bluejeremiah
Categories: Music, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , ,

When my dad died a few years back, I inherited a whole stack of sheet music – songs he’d played in bands growing up, songs he’d written, even a love song for mom.

But buried deep at the bottom, were a dozen or so songs written by dad’s friend, “Doc” West, most of which were never published or even set to music, as far as I know. I have the originals, yellowed a bit with time, hammered out on a typewriter.

This song I have recorded (written in 1975) is about a young man growing up under the burden of violence and racial tension. I can only imagine that the author (Dean was his real name) struggled with the same questions of identity, depression, or possibly mental illness that Johnny Ray Eagle did.

Doc was the first person I ever knew who committed suicide. He was my next-door-neighbor at the time, and ended his own life a couple years after writing these songs. I spoke with his widow a couple years ago and asked if it would be okay to write some music to go along with them. She gave me her blessing to put some of these songs out there. So I did.

I hope you enjoy it. But even moreso, if you or someone you know has had suicidal thoughts or concerns please seek help. A great place to start is the NAMI website (National Alliance on Mental Illness) right here: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Suicide

Makin’ Music

Posted April 1, 2015 by bluejeremiah
Categories: Music

I’ve been writing music again.  Here’s a song I recorded this week. More on SoundCloud.

George and Mary (Tompkins) Sanborn

Posted February 24, 2014 by bluejeremiah
Categories: Geneology

Tags: ,

george_mary_sanborn2And now, for a little historical break: This is about as far back as I can go on my mother’s paternal side. George Edward Sanborn is my great-great-grandfather. He is said to have been born in Columbus, WI and Mary Tompkins is said to have been part French and Ojibway. This is their wedding picture. The little I got from my grandfather was that George died in 1905 and had a brother (Joshua) and Mary died in 1911.

covered wagon in Albert LeaIf you visit the museum in Albert Lea, MN you can see a covered wagon with a plaque bearing their names. This is my mother, Carol (Sanborn) Stiles, who passed away in 2010.  The hoops on this wagon are the original hoops from the wagon that brought George and Mary to Minnesota in 1872.

wagon plaque Albert Lea

George and Mary had six children: Addie, Eta, Charles, Lizzie, Lida, and Clara (seated between George & Mary).

georgemarysanbornfamIt’s amazing to me that these photos have been preserved, but so few stories remain of the faces behind them.  I do know who the children married: Lizzy married Charles Lewis; Lida married Pete Bayers; Charles married Anna Alm (my great-grandparents); Eta married John Ray; and Addie married a preacher by the name of John Morran (pictured below) and one of their children was named Jessie.johnaddiemorranjessie

Outside of that, there’s little else I have, save these photos from 100 years ago.georgeandmarysanborn george_mary_sanborn

Bare Trees In Winter Winds

Posted December 11, 2013 by bluejeremiah
Categories: Uncategorized

So, it’s -13 degrees out there this morning (with a -29 windchill) and winter’s just getting started! It’s days like this that we can always be glad we don’t live in Dome Argus, Antarctica, where the coldest temperature on record was -135.8F!

So, I wrote a poem about the cold of winter (more like a prayer, really), seeing as how we got our arctic blast unusually early this year.
Bare tree in winter
A new day is dawning as the air grows cold
and trees shed their last layer of undergarments.
Naked, they face the winter.
No pretense of color.
No shade of foliage.
Just bare branches contorting in the air.
“We will sleep now,” the trees seem to say,
but there is an agenda under all that bark, expanding and contracting.
Something is happening to ensure the buds have their say come spring.
How are you preserving us, O Lord, through the winter of the soul?

 The family is off and running now and I should be, too,
but there are words to share between me and you.
Words that beckon from the deep, where, unclad, we go
unafraid of scorching fire, wind or snow.
Because I am me and you are you,
there’s no use fighting the way we do.
So shed those leaves and stand up tall
there’s really nothing to fear at all.
Though winds may howl and some real loud,
your bark I biting back so proud.
All of this goes on as the world passes by.
They never see the glory of what makes us you and I.
So keep my heart wrapped up inside this wood and bark,
especially when gale-force winds grow strong and days turn dark.
I’ll sway and move so gently within this patch of earth
until the Son comes calling to create in me new birth. 

Like those bare trees, swaying in the winter wind – there is much going on in our own lives (just below the frost line) to prepare for the growth to come. It may not seem like that at first glance. Spring has all the flowers and Fall has those bright colors.  But winter is also a time of growth, so deep and silent we might just miss it – sort of like a baby born to a peasant girl in a stable.  So, how is God preparing you in ways you cannot see?  As we say ‘goodbye’ to 2013 and look forward to the New Year 2014 ahead, may Jesus be born in you, growing stronger each day. May that ‘son’ shine on you, filling you with all the warmth and strength you will ever need in this winter of our lives!

Here’s a song I wrote recently

Posted November 18, 2013 by bluejeremiah
Categories: Uncategorized

Love, I’ve seen enough to know that I’m running low
I won’t make another day with this
Love, I’ve had enough, I’m running on empty
This is not what it was meant to be

Please, take your love away, I don’t think that I
Can take another day of this love
Please, it’s better off this way, why don’t we just ‘call it’
Call it another day when true love slipped away

Love, you were right there
Always beside me
When I turned away without a care
Love, I didn’t see
How you were waiting
To open your heart to me, so…

Please, don’t take this love away, I don’t think that I
Can make another day without you in my
Life, your love makes me strong, where did I go wrong
Can we start all over again?

‘Cause my heart is breaking open when I
Think of all the lies I believed in
Can we start all over again?

Please, it’s better off this way, I ain’t to proud to beg
To make a brand new day in my heart, won’t you
Please, don’t take your love away. What else can I say?
I can’t walk away from this love

No matter what it takes, we’ll find our
Way — if our heart breaks then we will
Say together, “Can we start anew?”

Please, don’t take your love away
I can’t bear the thought of not
Having you today in my life…

John Stiles

Posted November 7, 2013 by bluejeremiah
Categories: Uncategorized

John Stiles

John Stiles is a pastor at First Lutheran Church (Brainerd, MN). He is a Minnesota native with 20 years experience in public ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. John’s hometown is Albert Lea, MN. He graduated from Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD with a BA in Elementary Education and earned his Masters of Divinity at Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, IA. John has served 4 congregations in Minnesota (Fairmont, Mankato, New Brighton, and Oakdale) prior to accepting the call to Brainerd. John is married and has two children. He writes music, knits things to wear, and drives cars that were made the same year he was.


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