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Showing posts from November, 2014

November 2014 Pop Culture Roundup

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Six [EDITED: SEVEN] items for November…

1. I read Lila by Marilynne Robinson this month, which is the third (and presumably final) book in what has become a trilogy, first with one of my all time favorites in Gilead, and the follow-up, Home, which in some ways is the same story from another character's perspective. In this third installment, we focus on Lila, the mysterious young woman who wanders into John Ames' church one Sunday, and eventually marries him. The reader is given hints of who she is in the previous books, but this one fleshes her out immensely. We learn about her past, which certainly has not been an easy road, as well as her attempts to settle into life in Gilead as a preacher's wife (also not an easy road). Robinson paints a word picture of a woman whose finding a community begins to make gentle her deep scars and trust issues. I think I liked this one more than Home, but Gilead remains my favorite of the three.

2. I've been keeping up with the latest …

Programming Notes

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Our heading into the heart of the holiday season always signals that a few things are coming on the blog.

First, the Advent season will bring what has become a blog tradition, that being my Mondays of Advent series. Each Monday of Advent, I'll write a reflection about my own journey through this special time leading up to Christmas. I've come to treasure this as a spiritual practice, and I hope that it might aid some readers' journeys as well.

Next will come the Year-End Pop Culture Roundup, the culmination of another year's worth of reading, watching, and listening, where I name some of my favorites that I've experienced over the course of 2014.

But before we get to all of that, I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving. May you find time to remember what makes you most thankful, not just this week, but always.


Vintage CC: Blue Christmas…Before Thanksgiving

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I wrote this way back in November 2005, when I was feeling particularly bad about the upcoming season. In fact, it was the first time I'd felt that way about Christmas approaching; when the commercialism had just taken its toll on my psyche. I've retained some of that over the years, but I've also made sure to look for the blessings, just as I did so many years ago. I hope that readers will be able to find such blessings, too.

I woke up this morning to find the light dusting in the field that I had wanted so badly a month ago. It's perfect for today, two funerals and two grieving families in ten days. We'll celebrate two baptisms in Advent, so hope looms on the horizon as it creates an irenic scene in my backyard that Thomas Kincaide couldn't match on his best day.

I've never felt the holiday crunch the way I do this year. We'd ventured to the mall the other week and I couldn't bring myself to take more than three steps into a women's clothing …

When Pastors Play God

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In recent weeks, much has been written about the ongoing saga of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, particularly the accusations leveled at embattled pastor, Mark Driscoll, who finally resigned his position. The alleged actions for which he came under fire included bullying in meetings and other contexts, having the church pay a company to help put his book on the bestseller list, telling a room of people that "I am the brand," and pushing out other pastors in his church network that raised these issues to begin with.

All of these actions signal an incredible narcissism; a need to protect one's position atop a great mountain removed from scrutiny and second-guessing, with questionable tactics employed to keep oneself there or to be elevated higher.

When you declare "I am the brand" in a church context, you've replaced God with yourself.

Of course, it's easy to level criticism at someone like Driscoll. He's a public figure who easily dug himself into hole…

Liturgy for the Christ Candle

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Note: Every day this week, I'm sharing original liturgy that I've written for lighting the Advent candles this year. I share them in case people are still searching for such resources leading up to this special season.

Previously: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love

Call to Worship

A light has dawned, and it fills the earth. God is doing a new thing; it is good news for us.
We who keep parts of ourselves in the shadows are invited into the light; to embrace the new life God shows us. 
Go to Bethlehem to see the embodiment of God’s grace. Go to experience God’s love in human form.
We must go in order to see for ourselves. The light of the world beckons to us. 

(Pause as the Advent candles and Christ candle are lit.)

Rejoice and be glad for the possibilities of this good news!
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among all whom God favors! 

Invocation

We are startled and surprised by the many ways you appear to us, gracious God. As we tend to our mundane tasks, the sudden brilliance of y…

Liturgy for the Fourth Advent Candle: Love

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Note: Every day this week, I'm sharing original liturgy that I've written for lighting the Advent candles this year. I share them in case people are still searching for such resources leading up to this special season.

Previously: Hope, Peace, Joy

Call to Worship

Our journey through Advent is nearing its close. We’ve joined in hope, taught peace, and rejoiced with one another.
Led by the Spirit, we have remembered some important truths revealed by the One whose birth we seek. 
The flame symbolizing love is the latest to mark our journey, and it is perhaps the brightest of all.
Love seems to be the simplest, and yet is the most difficult. We take this moment to be reminded yet again. 

(Pause while the fourth Advent candle of Love is lit)

The light of love illuminates the path ahead of us. It is the path that the One soon to be born will bid us follow.
May God embolden our hearts to love others as God first loved us. May this time of worship strengthen us for this call. 

Invocation

Eve…

Liturgy for the Third Advent Candle: Joy

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Note: Every day this week, I'm sharing original liturgy that I've written for lighting the Advent candles this year. I share them in case people are still searching for such resources leading up to this special season.

Previously: Hope, Peace

Call to Worship

We have called one another to hope, and we have sought peace with one another. Now comes a reminder to rejoice!
We look forward to a time when God will bring joy to the world. For so many reasons, we need this joy ourselves. 
The demands and reminders of this season may make joy difficult. This is why we come together to worship.
We as a worshipping community are called to point out joy to one another. We set our lights on a lampstand for all to see. 

(Pause while the third Advent candle of Joy is lit)

Rejoice in the Lord always! Again, I will say rejoice! The Lord, our source of joy, is near!
May our lives and spirits be brightened by this worship moment, and by those with whom we praise God’s name! 

Invocation

Gracious God, we …

Liturgy for the Second Advent Candle: Peace

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Note: Every day this week, I'm sharing original liturgy that I've written for lighting the Advent candles this year. I share them in case people are still searching for such resources leading up to this special season.

Previously: Hope

Call to Worship

This season of waiting continues. We have come together to encourage each other as we prepare.
We’ve already reminded each other to hope. We eagerly anticipate the arrival of Emmanuel, God With Us. 
One hope stirring within us is for peace. Our world cries out for peace in so many ways.
We wonder where peace is to be found in troubled times. We look to the Prince of Peace to answer our anxiety. 

(Pause while the second Advent candle of Peace is lit)

The light grows brighter in this darkening season. Unto us a child is to be born who will show us the way of peace.
May this assurance quiet our restless souls. May this time of worship make gentle our racing hearts. 

Invocation

You say to us, “Be still and know that I am God,” yet it is ha…

Liturgy for the First Advent Candle: Hope

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Note: Every day this week, I'm sharing original liturgy that I've written for lighting the Advent candles this year. I share them in case people are still searching for such resources leading up to this special season.

Call to Worship

Lift up your eyes and your hearts. From where does your hope come?
Our hope is in God, who made heaven and earth; our hope is in Jesus Christ, for whose birth we wait. 
What keeps you from hoping? Bring it to this time of worship and offer it to God.
We come to worship to renew our hope. We come seeking a light for our way through the darkness. 

(Pause while the first Advent candle of Hope is lit.)

People of God, may this candle serve as a reminder of the hope that is within us.
Though it is one single flame, it is enough. We press on through our fears with the Spirit as our guide and source of courage. 

Invocation

God of Hope, you light our path. When we feel drained, defeated, and downtrodden, you tend to our souls. When our bodies and hearts are chi…

5 a.m.

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Before the sunrise begins lighting the sky, long before anyone else in the house begins to stir, an alarm pierces the quiet. Through foggy eyes, I fumble around to shut off the noise, and then take a moment to get my bearings.
I shuffle into the bathroom, where a change of clothes laid out the night before awaits. I put myself together to make my way downstairs, where the morning's first task awaits. 
I flip on a few lights in the basement, still a little groggy. Through the haze and after a few minutes of stretching, I climb on to my elliptical machine, I set my program, I press Play on my iPod, and I go.
For the next 40 minutes, this is my only concern. No phone rings. No emails demand my attention. My entire family is still sound asleep two floors above. The church won't expect my presence for hours. This time is truly, completely mine. I grimace and push, I mouth the words to a song or catch up on a favorite podcast, I wipe the sweat from my forehead. For a short time, th…

Small Sips Needed Another Angel

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No earthly good. Funeral director Caleb Wilde has some opinions on how focusing too much on heaven during times of mourning can hurt the grief process:
It’s unhealthy because it can too easily take away your grief work.  It’s a “get out of pain for free” card that all too many play to the detriment of their personal growth.  In the same way that I disdain a person buying a fake online PhD, so do I distain this attempt to skip the labor of grief, the growth of grief and the personal evaluation that inevitably comes with death.Heaven’s the trump card.The “Easy Button”.We become so heavenly minded that we’re no good at grief.  We can become so heavenly focused, that we forget the here and now.  We see death as unreal, as almost fake; and we become just like our view of it. Pastoral colleagues and I regularly grouse about cliches that usually get tossed around in times of loss. "He's in a better place." "God needed another angel." "It's part of God's pl…

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