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Showing posts from May, 2014

May 2014 Pop Culture Roundup

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1. We watched American Hustle this month, which I've been wanting to do since it was in theaters. Christian Bale and Amy Adams play con artists who are busted in an undercover op by an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) and forced into helping him work to take down a New Jersey politician (Jeremy Renner). Jennifer Lawrence is also involved as Bale's manipulative and dysfunctional wife. There's actually plenty of manipulation to go around, and I often wasn't sure who was conning who, which made for some extra fun. There was also an underlying theme that we often con ourselves into seeing what we want to see, whether it's actually true or not, which various characters play to their advantage as well. The film is well-acted with great performances all around: Bale and Adams as old pros trying to survive, Cooper as the agent increasingly desperate to make his operation work, Lawrence as the wife who refuses to be left behind or left out but also not very self-aware. I still w…

Sometimes I Don't Want the Church to Change, Either

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Years ago, when I was pastor of a smallish, "pastor-sized" church, it became clear that our chancel choir was not going to last very much longer.

By the point I had arrived, it was down to a half dozen older women and a director who hadn't meant to be in that role for as long as she was. So when she announced that she was stepping down, there began some conversation first about a replacement, which then became a conversation about whether the choir was a viable ministry at this point in the church's life. We did, after all, have a second musical ensemble that sang more "contemporary" music and that had much higher participation and energy, so we wouldn't be without vocal music. Between that and the clear signs that the choir had neither much participation nor energy, maybe it was time to give thanks for what it had been for the church for so long, and let it go.

Unsurprisingly, this move came not without some measure of grief. We always had a choir, af…

Almost a Spiritual Director

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A single sheet awaited each of us, as had been the custom for the past two years. Rembrandt's "Woman of Samaria," printed in color, served as our greeter with the story from John 4 underneath.

"I'm going to read through this twice. After the first time, we will each say a phrase that speaks to us. After the second, I will guide you through a meditation." It was as she said: the reading was slow, deliberate, quietly spoken as if to invite us to savor each word.

It had been some two and a half years since I'd begun the 19th Annotation version of Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises. It had been one and a half since the opening retreat of the program. And it had been nine months since I'd begun seeing my own directees for my practicum. Here tonight, a phrase near the beginning, "he had to pass through," spoke to me. Jesus had to pass through Samaria. I had had to pass through each of these beginnings and phases, and now we were here,…

Small Sips Is An Adult

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We're adults, just not adults like you're adults. Rev. Mindi writes about the challenges that younger adults face when trying to be heard in their churches. A prominent problem is how they are viewed to begin with: Look at your church board. Is there anyone under 40 on it? Anyone under 30?  I have seen this happen in the churches I have served. As a young pastor, I’ve been called “kid” many times. Ironically, when my hairdresser recently asked me about coloring my hair I said no. I need my grays that are streaking in. However, the larger issue is that regularly, people in their 30’s and 40’s in the churches I have served and known are referred to as kids (because everyone probably remembers when they were kids and their parents probably still attend that church), but what’s worse, they are often treated like kids. I have seen adults in their 70’s and 80's scold the 40-year-olds in the church over various things—their attire, their tattoos, the way they teach Sunday School…

Vintage CC: What I Would Say at a Seminary Commencement

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Today marks 10 years since I graduated from my seminary alma mater, which brought to mind this post from September 2011. After seeing so many pastors experience one or more of the things described below, it made sense to give voice to it and to encourage people no matter where they end up.

I fondly remember sitting where you are right now. After years of study and planning and dreaming, I sat in a church pew having just received my degree, the apex of my educational life, and I clearly remember opening the cover and just staring at it. This anticipated moment finally made real, I actually had to convince myself that it was so. I had spent so many years first in undergrad and then in this Masters program wrestling with eternal truths, using the best Biblical and theological scholarship available to me. Aside from that, I had spent three years immersed in a culture of liturgical experimentation and of justice preached to us by prophets ancient and modern. They were years of envisio…

"We Dwell With You" - A Prayer for Mother's Day

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Based on Psalm 23

Some welcome today
bounding into bedrooms with cards decked in crayon and glitter;
favorite meals shared with smiles;
appreciation shown and leisure encouraged;
a day reflecting joy and love and care.

Some observe today in other ways:
awaiting a phone call that won't come;
clearing freshly cut grass from a headstone;
grieving biology's betrayal;
wishing the past could be forgotten or changed.

Today our prayer might be one of gratitude or regret,
adoration or anger,
fulfillment or emptiness,
celebrated affection or lamented absence.

For those who have been motherly to us,
those guides along right paths;
those who joined our weeping in dark places;
those whose pursuit was constant even if not desired,
we give thanks.

For those bonds unformed or broken,
those sources of comfort no longer present;
those dark places created rather than companioned;
those still waters desolate and dry;
we seek mercy.

Whatever our household has been for us,
gather us into yours
whe…

Summer Reading

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This past week I finished both my last paper and my last verbatim for my spiritual direction program. All that's left to do is attend two more classes and finish up the two individual prayer retreats I'm guiding, and I'll be ready for certification as a spiritual director. Woo!

I plan to write something more about that later, but in the meantime, no more classwork means that I can finally start reading for fun again. And over the course of the past few months, I've been building up the stack on my nightstand in anticipation. Here's what it looks like as of this morning:

Dark March by Colin Fleming

Finding God in All Things by William Barry, SJ

Another Country by Mary Pipher

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

Speak to Me That I May Speak by W. Dow Edgerton

Hustling God by M. Craig Barnes

The Walking Dead comics, volumes 8 & 9

The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest

Yeah, a couple spirituality/ministry books. But also zombies. And steampunk. And car…

Three Types of Church Reformers

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Regular readers are aware that I'm training to be a spiritual director through the Ignatian Spirituality Institute. As the name implies, I've been spending a lot of time with Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises and all that they entail.

The Exercises are centered on the life of Jesus and feature quite a bit of meditation on Gospel texts to that effect. In addition to scriptural contemplation, however, Ignatius also included a few other meditations meant to help those journeying through the Exercises consider Christ's call in their lives.

One of these additional meditations is known as the Three Classes, or the Three Types of People. The basic setup, or first prelude, is to envision three people who have been given a large sum of money. They find this gift an obstacle to their growing closer to God, so they consider ways to remove the burden.

Each does so in a different way, and to varying effect. The first thinks and talks over what to do, but ultimately never ac…

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