Showing posts from July, 2015

July 2015 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for July...

1. I binge-watched my way through season 3 of Orange is the New Black this past month. There was a different vibe to this season than the last, with no big baddie tying many of the inmates together. Instead, a variety of smaller storylines shuffled the characters forward, seemingly with an eye toward how things would blossom in the next season instead. However, we did see most characters' experiences with the themes of parenthood and faith: many flashbacks tended to focus on these, and several storylines featured them. Perhaps the one overarching story featuring every character was a private company taking control of the prison, which brought significant changes to the system and way of life for everyone, usually not for the better. And the very last scene is the adding of beds and the ushering of busloads more inmates into the building, signaling a drastic shift for the population. It was a transitional season, during which we saw some of the better and mor…

A Prayer for Pentecost 10

Based on John 6:1-14

Faithful God, sometimes we look at what we have and worry that it’s not enough. The demands for our time, our energy, our resources seem greater than what we can give. So often, we manage our gifts out of anxiety instead of abundance. Rather than appreciate what we have, we agonize over what we don’t have. Rather than give thanks for the people and possessions with which we are blessed, we complain that we “only” have so much. We say to ourselves, “Here is what we have, but what is it among so much need?”

Through Jesus, you call us to a different vision. You invite us to consider how, through your Spirit, you cause greater blessing through our sharing than we can imagine. You stretch our loaves and fish beyond where we think they can go for our own sustenance, and for that of others. You are generous with your love and forgiveness, and encourage us to be just as gracious.

We pray that your love and grace will be felt with these whom we lift up to you…

O God, in s…

On Being a Stubborn, Self-Reliant Perfectionist

So. I more or less have a completed draft of a manuscript for my book. But it's way too early to celebrate and it's way too early to provide any idea at all regarding when I'm taking next steps toward publication.

The reason for that is I haven't actually submitted the manuscript yet. And the reason for that is I've cobbled together a small team of readers to check out a few chapters that I'm not happy with.

Let me tell you how big of a deal that is. I am one of those people who usually finds it very difficult to ask for help. I can point to causes in my life history that may have conditioned me to resist such acts of humility. No, if there's an instruction booklet handy or if there's enough leeway in whatever I'm doing to learn from my mistakes and avoid asking another to shoulder my burden (you know, like I'm always preaching to my congregation to do for one another), then I'll try to plow through as best I can.

Now, when it comes to my w…

A Prayer for Pentecost 9

Based on Mark 6:30-34

Faithful God, through Jesus we experience your desire for peace and renewal. You call us away from busy workdays, from impending deadlines, from daily home maintenance lists, from worries about loved ones, from rushing kids to practices, games, and performances. Speaking into our frantic days, you say, “come and rest a while.” We confess we don’t often hear your invitation over the many demands on our time and energy, and yet you are persistent: “come and rest a while.” You remind us of our need to be still, to rejuvenate physically, emotionally, spiritually. It all eventually begins again, but without such reminders, we only hurtle closer toward burning out.

As you call us to a place of rest, we’re not sure we can lay down our burdens for too long. The demands on our time are real, and affect our and others’ livelihood. But within your invitation is the assurance that these heavy loads are not ours to carry alone. You send us your presence through this communit…

Vintage CC: New Jersey Summers

I wrote this post in July 2010 as part of a series where I looked back on meaningful summers of years past. I think about the summers I spent in New Jersey often, as they were my childhood in a nutshell. This summer has brought some of those memories back to the surface, as they all do, so this seemed worth revisiting.

I lived most of my childhood in my imagination.

One could say that about most kids. But there seems to come a point very early on with most kids where they realize that the boys should be playing the sport du jour during recess and the girls should be giggling and talking and whatever else they do. Call me stereotypical, call me sexist, but think back to what most boys and girls on your elementary school playground were doing on a typical day. Yeah, that's what I thought. Whether this is by nature or nurture, it's what tends to happen.

I was not athletically gifted. I'm still not. I learned to play various sports growing up, but learning how to play th…

A Prayer for Pentecost 8

Based on Galatians 4:4-7

Faithful God, you share your love for us in so many ways and in so many different places. We tend to stray from paths on which you guide us; we tend to stammer in response to your call; we are sometimes stunned at what you ask of us. But you remain steadfast in your care for us, and when we consider the weight of that love against our own fleeting discomfort, we are humbled and transformed. We return, thankful for your abiding through our stubbornness.

On this new day of possibilities and promise, you share again your concerns for us and for our world. All around us there is heartbreak and loss, uncertainty and backsliding, addiction and illness, burnout and despair. When our own resolve is shaken by life's pain, yours is our rock on which we lean and rest. You are for us a constant source of renewal and resurrection.

We pray that such renewal will come to those whom we remember in prayer this morning...

O God, once again we realize we are not our own mas…

What's Love Got to Do with Marriage Equality?

It was the first day of the UCC's General Synod when the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges was announced, the landmark case that has made it possible for LBGTQ people to marry the one they love in all 50 states. I was at home at the time, my trip to Synod delayed by an appointment to have a company come work on our house for the morning. So I followed as best I could on social media, knowing that 10:00 a.m. ET was the hour I was waiting for.

Shortly after 10 came the ruling. Finally, in my own state of Ohio as in the other states across the nation where it was not yet a reality, people have the opportunity to marry the one they love regardless of one subgroup's objection. I thought of the many committed couples I know, those who received such a license already in a state that had already allowed for it, as well as the many others yearning for such a day when their relationship could be formally recognized by civil authority, and I was overcome with emotion…

Small Sips Doesn't Have a Fog Machine

But how do you really feel? Many have reacted to a recent Pew Forum survey with the latest indications of church decline. Many are naturally talking about the church dying. But Maggie Nancarrow sees it a bit differently:
The Church is not dying. The Church is failing, and there is a difference.  The word “dying” is passive. It is as if we are sitting around quietly wilting away why the culture around us turns against us and decides that they’re not interested in God anymore. It is as if gradually nobody wanted to play with us on the playground anymore. It suggests that we did nothing to engender this reaction. And friends, let’s be honest–we did.  But, let’s not go on a guilt trip. The point is that I have never noticed or perceived that people were not interested in God anymore. People are incredibly hungry for God. It isn’t that people don’t want to experience God. It is that The Church of the 1950s is failing to be a place where that happens. When the church becomes the establishme…

Sundry Thoughts on General Synod

As I mentioned the other day, the 30th General Synod of the United Church of Christ took place in Cleveland at the end of June. Since this was basically in my backyard, I was eagerly anticipating this event ever since it was announced two years ago. This was my fifth Synod, although I hadn't attended one since 2009 in Grand Rapids.

I wore a few different hats during this Synod, although none of them were that of a voting delegate, which was a first-time experience for me.

The first hat was that of a volunteer through the Ohio Conference, which served as the host conference for the event. Each volunteer is required to sign up for at least two shifts, so I chose to usher at the Friday and Sunday worship services. This also afforded me a major discount at registration, which didn't hurt either.

The second hat I wore was as co-moderator of the UCC 2030 Clergy Network, which planned several activities throughout Synod for younger authorized UCC ministers. The first was our Pre-Syn…

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