Showing posts from August, 2014

August 2014 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for August, plus a few more…

1. We watched Sharknado 2: The Second One on the SyFy Network late last month. Or more accurately, I watched it and Coffeewife suffered through it. The basic gist is pretty much what it sounds like: Ian Ziering and Tara Reid reprise their roles from the first movie, their characters traveling to New York. In very short order, a huge storm begins to brew over the water, sucking up tons of sharks as it heads to shore. The majority of the movie is the two of them running around through the city along with other nominally recognizable actors, some of whom get appendages bitten off or just plain eaten along the way. There are explosives, baseball bats, and a buzz saw arm prosthesis used for defense, among other creative weaponized items. Like its predecessor, the movie knows exactly what it is and doesn't try to be any more, and that's why I've taken found them such a guilty pleasure, to Coffeewife's eternal dismay.

2. I have been a bi…

A Spiritual Director, Seeking Direction

In one of the cabinets of my office, I keep a small glass holder big enough for a single tea light candle. I received it my very first semester of seminary, during which I'd taken a class called Spiritual Formation. The professor, a soft-spoken gentle spirit, led us each week in reflecting on the writings of figures such as the Desert Fathers and Mothers, Teresa of Avila, Francis of Assisi, and Ignatius of Loyola. We learned about lectio divina, walking the labyrinth, prayer postures, and many other time-tested spiritual practices and disciplines.

This class was an oasis during a rough period of adjustment to this new life chapter; a balm that helped make a jarring experience of transition more gentle. I recall the night I received this candle holder: we were studying the practice of sabbath, during which we were invited to light a candle to mark the beginning of this time of rest. For these exercises, we were often invited to find our own quiet corner of the administration build…

Listening to Ferguson

It started with a police officer shooting a young black man. Not much else offered, not much else known.

It happened in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. This was probably what got me to notice first, as one of my seminary field placements was in nearby Florissant. Both of these communities house large African-American populations, and I experienced a small taste of the racial tension that exists in those areas while serving there.
Before too long, news of this shooting gave way to something else. I watched as people shared firsthand accounts of something larger on Twitter. On the one hand, people began organizing protests, raising questions about what happened leading up to Michael Brown's death, expressing anger that the killing of a young unarmed black male had happened yet again. On the other, there were accounts of the police department's response: silence, followed by heavily armored and armed officers intimidating, arresting, and firing tear gas and rubber bul…

The Tattooed Pastor

This is a topic I don't write about often. In fact, I can only think of four blog posts in nearly 10 years where I mention it with any depth, the last one of which was at least four years ago.

So, I got my fourth tattoo on Friday.

The typical person wouldn't know I had any, let alone four. The only ways people find out is if I or somebody else tells them, or if there's some occasion that calls for no sleeves or shirt. I don't really hide them, but I don't really broadcast them either.

First and foremost, my tattoos are mine. I consider each very carefully and have gone years in between getting each one. They're permanent body art, after all. From my point of view, it's not something you rush into doing, although countless spring breakers might disagree. Each of them have to do with who I am, what I represent, what I think, what I want to remember. I don't do cartoon characters or sports logos or tribal designs. I don't want to get something that se…

Small Sips Is Standing On A Desk

You can't come until you're ready, which will be never. Tim Wright wrote a thought-provoking piece the other day about the implications of Sunday School for congregational life:
Admittedly, there are many reasons why each generation in our culture is increasingly distanced from the church.  Some have to do with societal shifts that have nothing to do with the church.  Some have to do with the inability of the church to articulate the Gospel in compelling ways.But perhaps one of the reasons has to do with the Sunday School shift…as we shifted kids out of the main worship experience, en-culturated them in their own program, and robbed them of any touch points with the rest of the body of Christ.  Another way of saying it: by segregating our kids out of worship, we never assimilated them into the life of the congregation.  They had no touch points.  They had no experience. They had no connection with the main worship service—its liturgy, its music, its space, its environment, and …

Mid-August Musings

When you have three church members die within the span of a week, your schedule kind of gets made up for you.

This has been the case the past few days, as we first said goodbye to a dedicated member last Thursday. She was "one of the saints," as a retired colleague once referred to another such lady; a teacher and leader and friend to so many.

This was probably the first funeral that really affected me, a sign of deepening relationships that was inevitable. It was just a question of when. As it turns out, in this case, the answer is about a year and a half.

The second, held yesterday, also caught up with me. He was our town's unofficial historian, a lover of his lifelong home. He even wrote a book about it filled with memories and pictures collected over decades. His high school stood where Coffeeson's elementary school stands now, the main hallway filled with memorabilia from the former building, which he helped coordinate. When I learned that last year, I now can&…

Seven Things I've Learned About Blogging

This blog turns 10 years old in January. I'll save the big celebration for when the milestone actually hits, but in the meantime, I've been thinking a little about this medium and what I've learned about it over that span of time. These lessons have been trial-and-error, and others may disagree with me based on their own experiences, but I figured I'd jot down a few things that hopefully may benefit others. Even after so long, I don't consider myself a "social media expert" by any means (partially because I think that title is laughable), but I've figured some things out and wanted to share them.

1. Quality, not quantity. This is easily #1 with a bullet. In the earlier days of the blog, I pretty much stuck every thought I had on here. I ended up posting 3-4 times a week, many of them fairly short and poorly thought out. There were several detriments to this, the first being that I simply wasn't often generating good content. The second was that po…

Why Hymns Are (Sometimes, for Some People, in the Right Context) Better

In recent weeks, I've seen several people link on social media to a blog post entitled Why Hymns Are Better. Strangely, the post was written nearly two years ago, but it looks like it's been enjoying a resurgence of late.

The post delineates some of the typical reasons I've heard over the years for hymns' superiority over and against "contemporary" worship, or praise music: according to him, hymns are higher quality musically, lyrically, and theologically. It also includes a critique of using screens rather than physical books or printed words that include the notes, which is more of a marginal issue than central, but a certain amount of touting traditional "high church" worship in general over and against recent modern innovations commonly associated with casual "low church" forms is to be expected in these cases. Also woven in is a discussion of the highbrow intellectually-stimulating nature of hymns vs. the emotion-driven nature of pra…

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