Showing posts from November, 2015

First Monday of Advent: Rest

Last year was the busiest Advent season I can remember since starting in ministry.

It used to be that I was amazed at people's perception of how pastors move through this season vs. my own experience: I hadn't ever felt burdened down by the sheer weight and volume of extra activities that come during this time.

Yes, there are special events that come, but those are balanced out by people not wanting to have a lot of extra meetings or interactions due to their personal holiday preparations. What results, from my point of view, was a season surprisingly devoid of busyness and stress, as I'd plan what I needed to plan but not feel too rushed while doing it. That was always my happy little secret about this time of year.

Last year, that changed somehow. There wasn't necessarily anything terribly different from what I've done before. In addition to leading worship on Sundays, there was Blue Christmas, caroling to shut-ins, the youth program, and for the first time for …

November 2015 Pop Culture Roundup

A few extra items for November, because some months are like that. It helped that I had a week's vacation in there. Anyway...

1. This month I read Beyond Resistance by John Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the UCC and contributor of the foreword to my book. Dorhauer takes the reader through a brief tour of the issues facing the institutional church these days, among them being the rise of postmodernism, and explores possible responses to them. He introduces the concept of "church 3.0," which will look radically different from the versions before it (in case you're wondering, 1.0 was pre-Reformation and 2.0 was Reformation to present day). Essentially, he argues that many churches entrenched in the 2.0 way of doing things should just carry on as best they can, while also making room for 3.0, which may have none of the features that many love about 2.0, including Sunday worship, buildings, and professional seminary-educated clergy. I don't read many boo…

Programming Notes

This time of year always brings a few special features on the blog, and as usual I wanted to let readers know about them beforehand.

First, the beginning of Advent will bring my "Mondays of Advent" posts, where I offer reflections on my journey through the season in the hope that they may be meaningful for your own.

Then will come the Year-End Pop Culture Roundup, which is my summary of what I read, heard, and watched throughout the year, and my top choices for each. I always have fun putting that one together.

So that's what you can look forward to seeing here over the course of the next month. In the meantime, I hope you are filled with peace and surrounded by love this Thanksgiving.

Vintage CC: I Can't Fix You

This post comes from October 2012. I've been trying to live by what I say here, remembering that I can only do so much in the face of individual or church-wide problems. I'm not called to fix people's issues, but to walk with them as they deal with them.

When you try your best but you don't succeed 
When you get what you want but not what you need 
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep 
Stuck in reverse 

And the tears come streaming down your face 
When you lose something you can't replace 
When you love someone but it goes to waste 
Could it be worse? 

Lights will guide you home 
And ignite your bones 
And I will try to fix you

Every once in a while, a movie is made featuring an unlikely, unorthodox mentor figure who transcends him or herself in order to help another character see how they can be more than they are. The title character of Mr. Holland's Opus used unconventional ways to get through to certain difficult students, having heartwarming talks with a cla…

Writing as Constant Existential Crisis

Being a writer is weird.

One minute, you're working hard on something. You get past the block, you're tuned in, and the words just seem to flow out of your fingers faster than you can generate them. You're in the zone. It comes naturally.

Then you set it aside for a day. An hour. Ten minutes. And the next time you look at it, you think, "What have I done? What is this pile of filth that I am looking at on the screen? Everyone is going to hate this and I hate myself for thinking otherwise. I need to start over."

And in the moments when you have the courage, or the absolute gall, to release what you've written into the world, and you realize maybe it isn't that bad after all, maybe then you can breathe again. Or not. Because someone who will hate it might still be out there. A few of them might actually make themselves known. And it might cause you to work harder to make your points clearer and your imagery more vivid.

Or it might make you want to throw yo…

8 Reasons the Worship Dichotomy Is Killing Worship

I end up reading a lot of online articles about worship. Every so often, one seems to capture the attention of a decent cross section of my social media newsfeed, usually in service of the same basic point: purporting to lift up the value of "traditional" worship over and against "contemporary" worship based on allegedly objective criteria.

The latest in this vein that has picked up steam the past few weeks is one entitled 8 Reasons the Worship Industry is Killing Worship. Like so many before it, it presents a list of reasons why contemporary praise music is the worst thing to happen to Christian worship in the past century (which is what people said about organs and hymns when they were first introduced...but I digress).

This article includes reasons such as "its sole purpose is to make us feel something," "it hijacks worship," "it's derivative of mainstream commercial music," and so on. While generally these points are worth eng…

Small Sips Is Hunting Unicorns

File under: nice things that will never happen.  Jan at A Church for Starving Artists has been one of my favorite bloggers for many years now. I like reading her because she's constantly needling the church's sacred cows and pushing the church to think about things in new, often radical ways.

So here's a recent post she wrote about members' attendance habits, and whether that might be afforded to pastors, too:
Seminarians considering professional ministry in church contexts are not only choosing to give up their weekends for the foreseeable future, but the realities of professional ministry will also require giving up most evenings and weekdays as well. One stellar pastor I know recently announced to his congregation that he is giving up professional ministry to seek secular work – and not because he was an unsuccessful or unloved pastor. He wants his weeknights back. He wants his weekends back. He wants to be the Dad on the sidelines at soccer games on Saturday or…

Book Review: Sight in the Sandstorm by Ann J. Temkin

My hope is that Sight in the Sandstorm will contribute in some small way to a healing of the terrible wounds between Jews and Christians, and it will also help other “half breeds” like myself. I hope to offer some comfort, including some to the many who have left a Christian church deeply wounded by an abusive system, injustice, or small-mindedness. Jesus opposed all oppression, abuse, and coldness of heart. And for those who have been and continue to be part of the Christian community, while these pages may surprise and bring some discomfort, I hope they will also delight you. And for readers of other religions traditions, or those who identify with none but are curious about spiritual journeys or about this “Jesus,” I hope you will be both interested and moved. - Ann J. Temkin, Sight In The Sandstorm

Some of my favorite seminary memories involve occasional visits to Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis on Friday evenings. I and several friends would partake of the service, respe…

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