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Showing posts from April, 2015

Spiritual Fever

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As spring has arrived, so have my seasonal allergies. I've been coughing and sneezing, and my nose has been like a faucet the past few weeks. As if that wasn't enough, however, I recently had to deal with some sort of viral infection that only seemed to make all of this worse. My being prone to illness has increased exponentially the past few years as our kids have attended school and daycare. Last year was one of the most disease-ridden year in our household that I can remember. It was very rare that all four of us were healthy at the same time.

The clear sign that I was dealing with more than allergies was the low-grade fever that slowed me down for most of the day last Wednesday. Almost as soon as I woke up, I knew that something was off: I was cold, felt slightly off balance, and had a general sense of lethargy that I couldn't shake. A flick of the temporal artery thermometer confirmed it, and I relegated myself to doing what work I felt motivated enough to do from ho…

Do You Really Want Church to be Authentic?

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For the past few years, as certain authors, speakers, conferences, and church models have become popular, so have certain buzzwords to describe what the church should be in the 21st century. These words have made their way into many such conversations on social media, in print, and in planning meetings. Most of them at least started with good intentions, but as with anything else have fallen in danger of overuse or their definition or application watered down so as to render them meaningless.

I think of words like "relevant," which to me originally was meant to describe a way of being the church that really connects with people's lives. A relevant church will address, or relate to, what is happening in the world around it. This may include attention to justice issues, making use of cultural touchstones to help convey a spiritual message, and generally not shying away from what people experience in their everyday lives when they aren't engaging in church activities.

April 2015 Pop Culture Roundup

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Five items for April...

1. I recently read Blessed Are the Crazy by Sarah Griffith Lund, a short memoir about her family's experience with mental illness. Sarah interweaves stories of both her father's and brother's struggles with bipolar disorder with some of her own faith development particularly during her college years, as well as some of her experiences as a pastor. Her upbringing, made particularly difficult by her father's outbursts, leaves an unavoidable mark on her faith, yet she is still able to take solace in a Christian community and a loving God as she seeks comfort and answers to lingering questions. Sarah's book is intensely personal, and she sets it forth as encouragement for others to tell their own stories of mental illness in order to help remove the stigma and get the support that is so sorely needed for those who suffer from it and their loved ones alike.

2. Like many others, we binge-watched our way through the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy…

You Should Read There's a Woman In The Pulpit

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Not too long after I began blogging, I stumbled across a blog ring known as the RevGalBlogPals, a network of blogs written by clergywomen spanning multiple denominations and ministry vocations. The "Pals" in their name allowed for male supporters like me to join in on the fellowship and mutual encouragement. Over the years, I've been glad to call them colleagues both online and in person.

The RevGals have blossomed into a full-fledged non-profit, complete with a national director. They organize continuing education events, host book discussions, and provide support and encouragement for one another in a variety of ways.

Even after so much progress, there remains a "stained glass ceiling" in many places against women serving as clergy. Many female colleagues and friends of mine still encounter attitudes, opinions, and biases in the church that I as a male have never had to deal with. These range from comments on their appearance to questions about balancing mot…

Embracing Who We Are - A Prayer for Easter 3

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Based on 1 John 3:1-7

Faithful God, we give ourselves to so many things. We give our time to work projects, deadlines, and daily task lists. We give our energy to loved ones in celebration, sympathy, and support. We give our identity to careers or family or a desire leave a legacy. We give our treasure and resources to what we value the most. We give out of our abundance or scarcity, out of our need or desire, out of joy or anxiety. At times we give so much that we wonder whether there is really any of ourselves left.

We long for a reminder of what you have first given to us. You give us the gift of breath in our lungs and blood in our veins. You give us the rhythm of life in our chests and the spirit of life in our bones. You give us forgiveness that transforms us, grace that reassures us, and vocation that moves us to serve. Most of all, you give us love that touches our deepest nature: we are your children. By this we have been called, and by this we are meant to live.

May this s…

Vintage CC: "You always have the poor with you"

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This post from March 2010 came to mind the other day after I read a commentary pointing out that a pizza place had nearly a million dollars raised for them by those who support their denying service to LGBT people while homeless shelters and soup kitchens struggle for funding. The Bible passage discussed here is a common answer for Christians wishing to justify this view. So here I go analyzing what Jesus really meant.

At our Communal Word discussion group last night, we talked a lot about John 12:1-8, which is this Sunday's Gospel text according to the Revised Common Lectionary. For several reasons, I anticipated that the group would spend some time with this passage over the other two, and I was not disappointed.

First off, here's the passage in full:
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound o…

My Failure Reflected

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As some readers may be aware, I'm part of a blogging network that reviews books. I receive a number of emails every year offering the latest selections available, and I can pick and choose which ones intrigue me enough to read for review. Some of these books fade from my memory as soon as I'm finished with them. They end up being an obligation to fulfill. Others, however, linger in my thoughts and make their way into sermons and other writings. These have much more of an impact and expand my view of the world. It's always my hope that every book I select would do this, but unfortunately not all do.

Last month I read and reviewed a book called Desire Found Me by Andre Rabe. I knew nothing about mimetic theory before picking it up, and changing that was certainly a big reason for requesting a copy. There were even parts that caused me to think it might end up more in the obligation pile than the impact pile, but in the weeks following the completion of my review, I find mys…

Small Sips Made Too Short of a List

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Yes. Gordon Atkinson reflects on the importance of an open heart:
A friend recently told me that he had good evidence to suggest that perhaps 25% of Muslims worldwide support acts of terror as a means to achieve what they perceive to be righteous goals. I don’t know where he got his numbers. I don’t have the energy or knowledge to dispute them. But what do these numbers mean to me?   Tomorrow I will pick up my daughter and her friend Zohal and drive them home from school. Zohal and Lilly have been friends since elementary school. She and her parents are kind and good people. And she is brave to wear her Hijab in this climate of anger and fear.   For the sake of Zohal and her parents, shouldn’t I keep my heart open? For the sake of the one, shouldn’t I remain hopeful that not all is lost? It's easy to stereotype an entire group, but what about the actual flesh and blood people who are harder to treat as inhuman? Of course, if one simply avoids ever meeting someone outside one'…

No, the Risen Jesus Isn't a Zombie

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In the past few years (probably longer), it's become a common joke to refer to Easter as Zombie Jesus Day or something to that effect. It might actually have been around longer than that, but to me it's been more noticeable lately. The pic to the left was one such mention of it that I saw on Facebook yesterday.

See, he rose from the dead, just like a zombie. Get it?

Sometimes the line between humor and criticism is blurry, and whether this is meant as one or the other varies from instance to instance. Nevertheless, the claim that Easter features a zombie Jesus is misrepresentative of Christian theology and the zombie genre. As it happens, I'm a big fan of both, so I feel some measure of responsibility to delve into the differences between Christian belief about the resurrection, and zombie mythology.

Let's begin with how zombies are conceptualized. At its most basic, a zombie is a corpse that has been reanimated. While not every story features an explanation of how th…

Easter Sunday: Life

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I can feel the sun on my skin. The warmth of my face is a relief after such cold days. My pores open; I am being cleansed.

The frost is disappearing, the birds join in song at morning's arrival.

I no longer fear the light the way that I did. I thought that I was safer in the shadows, but out here I am free to move.

I wanted this all along. I didn't know it until now.

The day is new, and so am I.

It is time to live.

Holy Saturday: Silence

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I can't hear.

I can't hear words of hope. I can't hear encouragement to pull myself together.

I can only hear emptiness.

Tell me why this has happened. Tell me anything to make the silence go away.

If someone doesn't say something soon, I'm afraid I might hear something I don't like.

False relief is still relief. If I keep saying it, at least it won't be quiet any more.

I don't know what happens now.

Good Friday: Darkness

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In the darkness, the only discernible colors are muted grays and blues. The bright vibrancy of the day makes way for night.

The dark reveals fears I didn't know I had, and the unknown is even more threatening. My accusers are relentless; my shame is on display. The loudest voice screams from within.

I can't see hope. I can't see anyone. I can't see anything.

I'm surrounded, but it's just me now.

Maundy Thursday: Denial

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It will soon be evening. During the day, the expectations of others determines everything. The crowds press in, demanding my best at all times.

So long as my true self remains hidden, insulated from trial and testing, all should be well.

Maybe a meal with friends will make gentle my appetites and anxieties. Or maybe being with others bring greater odds for all my flaws to become the meal's centerpiece.
But really, it's just dinner. What could go wrong?