Showing posts from January, 2014

January 2014 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for the month of January...

1. I'd been hearing good things about a Netflix original show called Derek, created by and starring Ricky Gervais as the title character, a mentally slow man who works at a retirement home. It is, without exaggeration, the sweetest show that I have ever watched. If one is familiar with Gervais' overall style and humor, you may expect certain a certain crassness. There is some of that in the form of one character in particular, but the overall spirit of the show is altogether much different as Derek interacts with the other workers and the residents. Everything about him is genuine: he genuinely wants everyone around him to be happy, is genuinely curious (to the chagrin of one of his best friends), and is genuinely kind. One of the characters--the crass one, as a matter of fact--sums it up in the last episode of the season: "I always take shortcuts. Derek doesn't. His only shortcut is the right one: kindness." I'm glad th…

Five Really Good Reasons to Leave Your Church

Recently, Relevant Magazine posted an article on their website entitled Five Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church. Essentially, it was a lament about the consumerist attitude that some take toward seeking a church, including "I'm not being fed," "I don't agree with everything preached," and so on.

As a pastor, I resonated with some of what the article was going for. It's important to remain in and contribute to a faith community, and if there are certain ministries there that you'd like to see offered, perhaps it's up to you to get it going. Being part of a church is as much about what you add to it as well as what you receive from it. So I think I understand the author's primary intent.

However, not everyone received the article that way. The reaction on Twitter in particular was incredibly nuanced and, oftentimes, polarized. And I understand that as well. While there does exist a certain contingent of churchgoers who hop from place to …

Vintage CC: Doogie Howser, M.Div

My ordination anniversary last week caused me to remember this post from way back in December 2005. I'm not as young as I was when I wrote this, but I'm not far enough removed that parts of this aren't still a regular part of my experience. I've certainly learned to react better to it than I did back then, though. So there's that.

I don't mind being The Young Pastor as much as I used to.

The reaction was almost immediate when I started. 'Oh, he's so young...he won't want to visit the older people.' This quote was relayed to me within the first month. I'd barely moved my stuff into the office and already I was the whippersnapper who wouldn't give the retired folks the time of day.

Being introduced to the community was what really got me, though. First swiss steak supper, I quickly found out that I could only fake a smile and laugh so many times when received with any of the following reactions: 'Oh, you're so young!' 'You'…

On the 9th Anniversary of My Ordination

The big gift that I received for Christmas this year was a new stereo. It's a compact unit in wooden casing, made to look like something you would have purchased in the middle of last century. It includes a radio, CD player, a port for an mp3 player, a cassette deck (!), and a turntable.

By far, it was the turntable that excited me the most. I've never been a record collector, but such an enterprise has always intrigued me. I'm not totally convinced by the argument that they convey a better sound quality, but there is nevertheless something about records that I've always been drawn to, even if I've never really acted on them before now. 
Naturally, it wasn't very long after Christmas that I started hunting around for my first vinyl acquisitions. My sister-in-law, who knew about this present before I did, started me out with a Mumford and Sons record. As I perused websites and considered my options, I finally settled on Oh My God! by Doug E. Fresh and Run-DMC&#…

"Translate for Us" - A Prayer for Christian Unity

Our many voices ring out
Echoing in ornate marble cathedrals,
whispered between clapboards in country meadows,
plainly spoken among the inner city’s weathered brick.

We speak many languages, each from what we know best:
Kneeling or standing, heads bowed or hands raised;
Calling to you out of a vast catalogue of names;
Requests made in simple prose or carefully crafted verse;
However it is that we make sense of ourselves, of our lives, of you.

We hear one another and wonder,
with such unfamiliar dialects and accents;
beliefs strange and quirky;
experiences to be pitied or pushed aside;
how you could listen to them.

But you listen with the ears of grace and hear that we are each needy,
seeking wholeness,

Translate for us each others’ speech.
Help us hear, as you do, those sighs behind our words crying out
to be understood,
to receive justice,
to be seen as human,
to be your beloved,
to find our own missing pieces,
to make our own jagged edges smooth.

Point to th…

Rev. Don Draper

This April begins the first half of the final season of Mad Men, AMC's hit show about ad agencies in the 1960s and their employees.

The show is appealing in that way that shows like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and Boardwalk Empire are. They center around the exploits of a male protagonist whose ways are far from honorable, and yet there is something about them to which audiences are drawn. We are meant to be appalled by their actions, yet we also want to root for them. Most other characters on these shows have their own vices as well; people who could truly be considered virtuous are few and far between. We could chalk this up to basic humanity, or to rough past experiences that help explain current behavior, or imperfect situations calling for imperfect answers, among other possibilities.

The main character of Mad Men, Don Draper, is no different. Over the seasons of this show, we have watched him fall over drunk and blow off commitments. We've watched him manipulate people …

Litany for Remembering Our Baptismal Promises

As part of Baptism of Christ Sunday, we will be observing a Remembrance of Baptism liturgy. Below is the litany I wrote for remembering and renewing our baptismal promises.

For the faith and family into which we were baptized and for which we are daily gaining a deeper understanding, Renew our commitment, O God. To reject what is sinful and to ever more embrace the freedom of new life that Christ gives, Renew our courage, O God. To follow Jesus as Lord, and to rely on Christ as Savior, Renew our trust, O God.
To commit to discipleship by resisting those forces that defile and demean your creation, showing compassion and justice, and making the ministry and life of Christ our own, Renew our strength, O God. To be faithful members of your beloved community in learning, service, and celebration,
Renew our bonds, O God.

Small Sips Broke Its New Year's Resolution Already

How many cyber-calories will that cut out? Zach Hoag has made an ambitious resolution for 2014: he's quitting what he calls the "Progressive Christian Internet." Here's how it works:
No, I’m not quitting blogging or Twitter or de-friending a couple hundred people on Facebook (though I’ll likely do a bit of trimming for the new year). Nor am I giving up on certain topics that might be deemed by some to be “progressive” and “Christian.” Rather, I’m quitting a conversation that has come to define the “Progressive Christian” label online,  a conversation that I have been a part of here and there and on and off over the last year or so. I’m putting the kibosh on what seems to me to be a rapidly devolving, fragmenting, and, yes, schisming ideological experiment manifesting uniquely on blogs and social media. And I’m saying sayonara to the talking (tweeting) heads and childish cliques that often dominate this discussion, a discussion which has at times become a parody of its…

A Ten-Year Blogtacular

Today is my nine-year blogging anniversary. Nine years of writing at this address. Crazy, isn't it? This blog is just a year away from being a decade old.

I'm actually going to be bumping up against a couple big 10-year anniversaries this year and the first month of 2015. 10 years since I graduated seminary. 10 years since I started in full-time pastoral ministry. 10 years for this blog. And then 10 years of ordination. I'll mark each one with at least some expression of thankfulness and some degree of reflection.

If I was processing transition last year, I'd imagine that this year will at least include processing the sheer longevity of it all; what it means to have been doing certain things for a decade, what I've learned, what I may look forward to.

That, and I've occasionally written what I think is some good stuff here, and I'll continue to drudge some of that back up in anticipation of this writing milestone in particular.

So yes, expect a certain amo…

One Word 365: Share

Katherine Willis Pershey did an intriguing thing in 2013: rather than make a series of resolutions, she picked a word that would sum up what she'd strive to do and be through the year. Her word was "advocate," which led to her taking an active stance regarding gun reforms.

Her word for this year is "gentle:"
I want to be gentle with myself. I want to be gentle with others. I'm probably not - okay, definitely not - going to stop being idealistic or perfectionistic, but I can at least practice some gentleness in the midst of all that endless striving.   One of the reasons this word calls to me is because gentleness - along with love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control - is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and it means a great deal to me to hew close to the Spirit when setting this intention for the year. I find this concept simultaneously inspiring and terrifying. I wrote the other day about some of the things I want t…

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