Showing posts from October, 2014

October 2014 Pop Culture Roundup

Six items for October…

1. The final season of Boardwalk Empire concluded this month. I always wanted this show to be my next Sopranos, but it never quite worked out that way. There have been stretches where the plot has moved slowly, which has allowed for deepening of various characters, and you have to hold to certain rules when people are based on real historical figures. This makes it sound like I didn't enjoy the show, but I did. This last season, a brisk 8 episodes, jumps ahead to the Great Depression where several major characters have either died or stepped back. And since this is a gangster show, we had to have some big characters die along the way as well. But besides all that, we get flashbacks to Nucky's gradual rise through the ranks of the Commodore's Atlantic City operation and the lessons he learned along the way about how to get ahead; the connections he made in order to get there. This was an entertaining series and I'll miss what it provided on fall S…

The Future is Indeed Uncertain

Years ago, I was getting ready to officiate a wedding. This was a smaller affair, with mostly immediate family as the guests. The couple were two Baby Boomers, each with children who were the only ones serving as the attendants, and there wasn't really any flash to the proceedings. I like those.
The offspring arrived before many of the other guests. As I was milling around in the narthex, straightening up, keeping myself occupied until the time of the ceremony, I overheard them joking about how long it had been since they'd set foot in a church. These were people probably in their mid-20s. That part was informative, although my self-conscious side couldn't help thinking that their conversation included a little chuckling directed at me, their generational contemporary, choosing such a silly and increasingly obsolete vocation.

This is but one anecdote, but similar attitudes and actions are apparently playing out in droves. In fact, not only is "None" the fastest …

Book Review: Resurrection City by Peter Goodwin Heltzel

Improvisation is not just a principle for music and theater alone; it is a principle for life and love. Living is improvising. Analyzing the art of improvisation in jazz music can help deepen our understanding and practice of love. Individual jazz musicians learn the jazz tradition and different musical practices so they are ready to sing their own song. In addition to their technical knowledge of music and their performance experience, jazz musicians learn how to listen, to become part of a community where they seamlessly integrate their musical voice in an ensemble. - Peter Goodwin Heitzel, Resurrection City

One of my favorite metaphors for how God interacts with the world is how musicians play jazz music: there is a general structure to it, but both God and humanity are free to interact in ways untethered to pre-determined notes. They instead may act, react, improvise, move in and out of each other's harmonies and melodies within a structure, but not in a way dictated by the ot…

Michigan, General Seminary, and Mars Hill - A Follow-Up

The other week, I wrote a post about Michigan football, and the similarities between some of its institutional decisions and a few church entities, namely General Theological Seminary and Mars Hill Seattle. Each had made choices that in the public eye ranged from questionable to outrageous, and then made things worse by circling the wagons and bending over backwards to justify them to others.

To recap:

Michigan's staff had allowed a player with concussion symptoms to continue playing, then issued a series of statements ranging from defensiveness to pleading ignorance to an admission of wrongdoing piled under excuses.General Theological Seminary fired eight faculty members after they organized a walk-out to demand an audience with the trustees.Mars Hill Seattle has been dealing with a swarm of controversies, mostly related to allegations of Mark Driscoll abusing power, and being abusive besides. Nine pastors from Mars Hill's various churches signed a letter bringing such charge…

Vintage CC: The Taskmaster

I wrote this in January 2012 during one of the many times I wasn't sure whether I wanted to keep blogging. As my 10-year blogging anniversary looms in just a few more months, I recalled this post. As it turns out, some of the times when I like blogging least are when I produce what I think is some of my better stuff.

I am hunched over my computer keyboard in the late afternoon, feeling my eyes turning red and dry from exposure to the screen's penetrating light. I've barely filled a page, mostly single-sentence paragraphs, and it's as if they mock me for not writing more.

I reach for my coffee, freshly steaming in a mug I'd received before leaving for college. It's been washed so many times that the seal of my alma mater has faded, a dull brown against black rather than its formerly brilliant gold.

It is worn, and I am worn. But I know that I need to finish, and soon.

I take a moment to read over my work again. My attention wanders back to my drink, and I su…

Book Review: Made in the USA by Alisa Jordheim

Most people think I'm a little unconventional. They ask me why I travel the nations to walk the "red light" districts, why I attend court regularly in support of kids giving testimony against their traffickers, and why I'm writing about this horrific issue. The answer: I'm compelled. Compelled to make a difference. And most importantly, compelled to make you aware that this crime is real and is likely happening on your campus and in your neighborhood this very minute. - Alisa Jordheim, Made in the USA

I remember the first time I heard statistics about sex trafficking in the United States. Several years ago, a report was released listing some of the top hub cities where people are pulled into "the life." Several big cities such as Atlanta and Houston were listed, and 4th on the list: Toledo, Ohio.

There were two things about this revelation that surprised me. First, Toledo doesn't seem on par with the other cities on the list. Atlanta and Houston are …

Lessons for the Church from Michigan Football

Those who have been reading this blog for a reasonable length of time know that I am a big Michigan fan. I was born near Detroit, spent the first eight years of my life in various communities around the state, and even though I've been a resident of Ohio for over four times as long as I ever was in Michigan, I've always remained loyal to Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons, Lions (more or less), and most importantly to me, Wolverines.

If you're a fan of college football, then you're likely aware of what has been happening in Ann Arbor this season. Head coach Brady Hoke has been quite embattled, both for on-field results (a 2-4 record amassed so far) and for player safety issues: the hot topic after Michigan's loss to Minnesota wasn't the loss or how badly the team played, but the handling of quarterback Shane Morris, who even after exhibiting concussion symptoms was left in the game.

The aftermath of that incident didn't improve. MGoBlog sums up the three ways Mich…

Small Sips Cares About Stuff

Hey. This is important. We're in the midst of Mental Illness Awareness Week: Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. During the first full week of October, NAMI and participants across the country are bringing awareness to mental illness. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care. Each year, the movement grows stronger.  We believe that these issues are important to address year round, but highlighting these issues during Mental Illness Awareness Week provides a time for people to come together and display the passion and strength of those working to improve the lives of the tens of millions of Americans affected by mental illness. This week includes the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding this Thursday, some resources for which are included at the link.

There is still an incredible amount of stigma surrounding mental illness which has only been made…

World Communion Sunday Invocation

Faithful God, whose creative power spans the entire world, we rejoice in all that you have made and have called good. This is a day to remember our faith connection with people and places near and far, where worship and practice look different from our own. You hold us in communion: one Lord, one faith, one baptism. By your Spirit, continue to unite us that we may ever seek to fulfill Christ’s prayer that we may all be one. Amen.

A Meditation for World Communion Sunday

Note: The following meditation borrows from the general format that Ignatius of Loyola used in his Spiritual Exercises. It begins with a time of quiet preparation, proceeds with a series of contemplations that invite you to imaginative reflection and prayer, and concludes with a time to consider how this meditation may influence or inspire your engagement with the world. I hope that this is a helpful tool for you in anticipation of this special Sunday.

First, take time to center yourself in God's presence. Take a few deep breaths. Choose a word like "peace," or "God," or "love" to repeat when you exhale.

Next, visualize the place. Jesus has invited you to a meal. Imagine receiving this invitation, and the feelings it evokes in you. Picture a setting where you regularly share food with others. It is a place of comfort and camaraderie. Take time to notice the sights, sounds, smells, tastes. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere, the mood of the room. Picture…

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