Showing posts from September, 2014

National Coffee Day

Today is National Coffee Day, which I as a coffeehouse contemplative always make a point to celebrate on this blog.

I first started drinking coffee in college, as perhaps many people do. But it didn't start with late-night cramming or paper-writing. Instead, it was an early morning in a hotel in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Classes were already out for the year, but I traveled with a group from Heidelberg's campus ministry to a young adult ministries conference sponsored by the National Council of Churches called Come to the Feast. We'd taken a big van down and wanted to get an early start on the long drive back to Ohio.

I was having some issues with the hour, so I opted for a cup of coffee to help me out. At that time, I needed cream and lots of sugar, which is blasphemy to me now. But the overall experience was marvelous, and that was the beginning.

Since then, coffee has accompanied many hours of reading, writing, waking up, hanging out with friends, and prayer. I associ…

September 2014 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for September…

1. While reading up on a certain Seattle megachurch's ongoing drama, I came across a statement from one of their many satellite campus worship leaders, Dustin Kensrue. This was from an article on Facebook, under which were a bunch of comments joking about a Thrice reunion. So my natural question was, "what the heck is Thrice?" So I fired up Spotify and picked an album at random (Major/Minor, if you're really curious), and encountered this Creed/Alter Bridge/[insert typical Christian rock band here] sound: the lyrics hint at spiritual themes, the music is inoffensive hard rock. I wasn't really drawn in by it, but I wasn't turned off either. I then found out that their earlier stuff is harder, and clicked on Identity Crisis, which is more of a thrash metal/punk sound, but still with the vaguely religious lyrics. But the latter was more interesting to listen to.

2. I recently readThe Mainliner's Survival Guide by Derek Penwell, the r…

Short Prayers


The Meeting

The opening of the door causes a small bell attached to the frame to jingle. The scant number of patrons and workers remain fixated on their own tasks and conversations. I gently stomp some of autumn's excess moisture off my shoes before moving further into the room, navigating around a few tables to reach the counter.

The barista, a younger woman with a lotus tattoo on her wrist and a streak of red in her dark hair, greets me with a soft smile and asks, "What can I get you?"

I look up at the chalkboards listing the options, glancing out of the corner of my eye to spot the one with whom I am meeting. I just go with a simple mug of the house blend. After I pay, I make my way over to the table by the window where my partner sits by himself.

He's dressed simply, a grey turtleneck sweater over dark blue jeans. His black peacoat is draped across the back of his chair. It's all familiar to me as I remove my own coat and similarly arrange it on my own seat. I sit acros…

Book Review: The Mainliner's Survival Guide by Derek Penwell

The purpose of this book, however, is not to lead cheers for the death of mainline denominationalism. But neither is the purpose to help mainline denominations hang onto dying systems just a little bit longer. My purpose is to help mainline denominations and their congregations get a correct read on the situation, embrace death as a liberation from having to “succeed,” and learn how to live. - Derek Penwell, The Mainliner's Survival Guide

I don't visit popular bookstore chains very often any more. There are at least three reasons for this, the first two of which are more practical. First, I don't really have the time. The closest store to my house is a good 15-20 minute drive, and I haven't been able to justify the trip. The second reason is related to the first, in that ordering online is faster and in many cases cheaper. I suppose I'm contributing to the death of the physical bookstore in this way, which I feel bad about, as I do think there is something valuable…

Frequently Asked Questions About Spiritual Direction

I've received a few questions lately about spiritual direction, and it seemed worthwhile to address some of the most common I've heard and even asked myself the past few years in one place. This list isn't exhaustive, but hopefully it hits most of the obvious ones.

What is spiritual direction? Spiritual direction is helping another nurture his or her relationship with God. They do this by making suggestions regarding prayer practices, listening to and helping name another's experience, and celebrating, honoring, and respecting how the person and God are relating to each other. For a much longer explanation, read this.

How is spiritual direction different from meeting with a pastor for counseling? People seek pastoral counseling for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's for advice about a difficult life situation, sometimes it's for resources regarding a faith question, sometimes it's for a referral to some other service that could help address a need. And onl…

Small Sips Needs To Get Out More

Free-range pastors. Joseph Yoo shares some thoughts on pastors keeping office hours, and how helpful such an expectation might be:
Whether good or bad, the pastor becomes the biggest representative of the church. The reputation of a church often hangs on the reputation of the pastor. If you truly think your pastor is wonderful, then why are you keeping him in the office and not allowing other people to get to know him?  That's not to say that the pastor should forgo office hours completely. Some time in the office is important. But the church should encourage the pastor to get out more. If your pastor talks about inviting people to church, hold her accountable by making her go in the community and start connecting with non-church members and invite people to partner with what God is doing in your faith community. Let your pastor engage with people of the community more by perhaps letting him set up shop at a local coffee cafe to get the feel of the people who live in the area. Enc…

The Process of Change

I'm a big fan of change, especially in the church. My upbringing as a pastor's kid kind of ingrained change into me; it helped me accept change as a natural, inevitable fact of life. This has been a helpful asset for me in ministry.

The church needs to change. We've been hearing this for years via countless books, articles, speakers, workshops, conferences, and blog posts. It's a new era and a new culture, we're told. The church can't just make the same assumptions about its place in the world any more. Both in terms of the way it functions internally and the way it interacts with the surrounding community, the church needs to face the reality of each and make changes accordingly.

There are at least two ways to go about making changes.

The first follows the adage "it's better to ask forgiveness than permission." I've used this method plenty of times as I've tweaked worship, altered the way I structure confirmation and other programs, esta…

Vintage CC: Gas Bubble Smiles

Coffeedaughter's first birthday is today, so this post from just last year, September 2013, came to mind. Much of this has has played out: she's discovered her own laugh and reasons for happiness, and they have been a joy to see develop. I've loved this first year with her, and look forward to what the next will bring.

If you attend more than one wedding that I officiate, you'll likely notice that my homily is some variation on the same theme: today is not the most important thing. Today you are awestruck, and everything is beautiful, and everyone is smiling, and the future is as pure and pristine as it possibly could look through the lenses of this big overly expensive celebration. Tomorrow, of course, it will all be different: everyone will have gone home, and there will be bills to pay and careers to juggle and inevitable hard situations to manage.

It's the classic "wedding vs. marriage" schtick that many pastors talk about in many weddings on any give…

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