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Showing posts from September, 2015

Five Tips for Being a Writer

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It took me a long time to realize and accept that I'm a writer. I thought that I needed to contribute an article for a notable magazine or website or sign a book contract in order to do that, but that is simply not the case. I'm pleased that some of those things have happened in recent years, but for a very long time I operated under some false assumptions that you can only consider yourself a writer if you achieve some measure of success.

Simply put, writers write. If you write something, you're a writer. And some writers want to write things that reach a wider audience, whether through a personal blog, periodical, or book. That takes a little more effort and discipline. It's not impossible, but it does call for intentionality. So a writer who wants to set some higher goals will need to buckle down in order to pursue them.

I'm far from an authority on what works, as I'm still discovering that myself. But here are five things that I've found helpful to do …

September 2015 Pop Culture Roundup

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Five items for September...

1. I read and enjoyed Stagg vs. Yost: The Birth of Cutthroat Football by John Kryk this month, which chronicles the early days of college football when the Ivy League schools ruled the East, and a handful of schools that would eventually be part of the Big Ten ruled the West. The teams in the West really revolved around the rivalry between the University of Chicago coached by Alonzo Stagg, and the University of Michigan coached by Fielding Yost. Access to a large volume of official documents from both schools as well as personal correspondence allowed Kryk to reconstruct the ways teams even in the earliest days constantly tried to one-up each other for recruits, including cutting corners and offering benefits. The big takeaway is that there was never a "good old days" where college football was pure; free from all the temptations and extra incentives offered to today's players. I had a personal interest in learning more about one of Michigan&#…

Invocation for Pentecost 18

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based on Mark 9:30-37

O God, who through Jesus calls us to service, we confess that we don't always understand or wish to accept what you ask of us. We are caught up in our own desires for recognition and security that we miss how you define what is the greatest way to live. In our time together this morning, center us in childlike faith and wonder, that we may more clearly see what it means to love you, one another, and ourselves. Amen.

New Sacred Post: God Is Still Tweeting

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My first post is up at the United Church of Christ's blog, New Sacred.

The piece is entitled God Is Still Tweeting. An excerpt:
I have decided to follow Jesus.It was probably about four years ago when I resolved to do this, and it has changed my life significantly. I anticipate each new insight that he shares with me and with my fellow followers, which range from reminders of his most fundamental teachings from his Galilean ministry, to opinions on coffee and college football.Yes, ever since I started following @JesusofNaz316 on Twitter, my life has never been the same. Read the rest at the link above.

Vintage CC: Owning a Moment

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I've been thinking lately about my tendency to collect things, and this post from February 2012 sprung to mind as a result. Of course, that's not the main point of this post, which I can now appreciate in a new way since writing it. This also seemed timely given recent society-wide conversations about religious freedom and privilege. I think it holds up pretty well.

One of my favorite traveling memories is of the day Coffeewife and I drove into New York City with my brother and his then-fiancee. We'd taken the trip to see my grandparents in Tenafly, a short 20-mile car ride away (accounting for traffic, of course). It was early January, which in that region means freezing temperatures and the sort of wind that feels like it's going to cut right through you. We bundled up, layer upon layer, and made our way to our destination.

We parked in a nondescript parking garage, but a parking garage was not what we went to see. The sights, sounds, tastes, and smells were just…

What Critics Get Wrong About Spirituality

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In recent years, spirituality has received a great deal of attention in popular discourse, mostly due to the phrase "spiritual but not religious" (SBNR) with which many have resonated. In fact, this phrase has become its own category, now showing up on religious worldview surveys. And then, predictably, there are the books, articles, and think pieces that have analyzed this term, attempting to define it in order to celebrate or dismiss it, depending on which circles you run in.
The original intent of SNBR as I understand it is the rejection of institutional belief and practice in favor of something with less structure; that feels less constricting. It also tends to be a rejection of oppression and exclusion exhibited by more formal religious expression. So one may believe in something transcendent and pursue that belief in their own way.

A common critique of the SBNR identifier is that it's actually beyond definition. It's too vague, too soupy, too individualistic. …

Fandom and Faith

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I get excited about the fall months for many reasons, among them being the return of college football. I've been especially excited for what Jim Harbaugh will bring to my favorite team, the Michigan Wolverines, after a decade of futility.

Leading up to the season, I thought a little about the parallels between sports fandom and a life of faith. You'd be surprised how often I'm able to find such parallels, actually. The way I see it, there are different ways of being a fan, as there are different ways of approaching how one believes and lives as a Christian. I shared some of this in a sermon not too long ago, but thought I'd flesh it out a little more here.

Here, then, are some of the ways one approaches being a sports fan and its faith equivalent.

Unquestioned loyalty - This is perhaps the most typical, or at least the ones most prominent in public settings. This sort of fan allows his or her favorite team largely to dictate decision-making and relationships. Events bi…

Small Sips Hopes the Meme Is Still Funny

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Other possibilities might include, "Really?" "Are you sure?" "Seriously?" Stephen Mackey offers five questions to ask before taking a ministry position:
“Do you feel called to this church?”  As we talked about this (very) common interview/friend-counseling question, we concluded that this is a flawed question.  It is flawed because it confuses calling with leading.  Hear me out: this is more than semantics. The distinction between calling and leading changes the questions we ask about which job (ministry or secular) we take and ultimately influences where and how we will impact the world.  When we ask, “Am I called to this place?” we are implicitly asking, “Is this the one right place God has for me?” That’s a lot of pressure, with a lot of shady implications for the future. Much of what Mackey explores relates to how we use the word "call" and its variations. We can wrap what we really want in theological language without it being a genuine pat…

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