Showing posts from February, 2016

Craving Connection

A few years ago, I met a novelist whose work has stuck with me ever since I first encountered it. When I heard they'd be speaking at a large denominational event I'd be attending, I made sure to pack my copy of the book that had touched me so deeply; that I pick up and read again every few years.

I remember the talk they gave. It was informative and thought-provoking; an interweaving of theology, science, and the daily struggle to be. I took copious notes that I still have in one of my Moleskines somewhere.

But after, there came a time to approach this person with their own book. I wonder now how many times they've seen this cover; how many times they've had their work returned to them, if only for a moment, this same ritual playing out time after time after time.

And I had to wonder how tired they and every other writer, artist, musician, and performer has become of it. Maybe some don't ever get tired. Maybe some feed off the energy and attention. But maybe some…

February 2016 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for February...

1.  I read The Jihad of Jesus by Dave Andrews this month, the review for which you can read here.

2. Coffeewife and I went on a geeky romantic date to see Deadpool over Valentine's weekend, starring Ryan Reynolds as the title character. I started laughing during the opening credits and never looked back. Deadpool is known for his one-liners, breaking the fourth wall, and violence, and this had all of those in abundance. After being diagnosed with cancer, Wade Wilson volunteers for a program that gives him the mutant power of fast healing but also leaves him horribly scarred all over his body. From there he embarks on a mission of revenge which only becomes more complicated when the guy who did it kidnaps his girlfriend. The whole thing is fast-paced, witty, and even at times touching. It earned its R rating and not everyone will enjoy it for that reason, but we sure did.

3. Since I heard about it last year, I've been anticipating the TV version of T…

Prayer for Lent 2

based on Luke 13:31-35

Faithful God, we confess that we don’t always know the things that make for peace. At times we’re at odds with family members over issues big or small. At other times we clash with co-workers over processes, goals, or behavior. At other times we see people on the news with whom we can’t fathom interacting without conflict. Sometimes our struggle is internal as we fight with ourselves over who we are or want to become. In the midst of these thoughts, peace is elusive. We don’t know the steps to establish it or we gave up on its pursuit long ago.

We hear Jesus’ desire to gather us like a hen and her chicks. It may be difficult to imagine you bringing us together so, let alone some of those with whom we’d be sharing your embrace. We are beckoned by the one whom we call the Prince of Peace to a higher way. You know it is not often easy for us, yet your Spirit continues to nudge and prod us along, we wandering baby fowl, toward greater community.

O God, show us peac…

Watching the Winter Sky

I used to like snow, but I don't any more. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

While growing up, I loved it. It was a gift that kept giving. During my elementary years I lived in a rural area where snow days were more prevalent. A lot of those county roads were hard to navigate if winter acted just harshly enough. The parsonage I called home sat on a hill that made for some magnificent sled riding. My friends and I spent hours in the cold trying to see how fast and far we could go, trudging back up, and doing it all over again.

I remember some evenings after dinner when the sun had already set and all my brother and I had was the light shining over the adjacent church parking lot, when the flurries would blow and we would get in some extra trips down the hill before bed. Sometimes I would just lie down and look up at the pitch black sky, watching the white flakes pass overhead. This brought a peace, a wonder, that I'd anticipate feeling again with every evening op…

Book Review: The Jihad of Jesus by Dave Andrews

For many people jihad and Jesus are totally contradictory, mutually exclusive options. You must choose the one or the other. You cannot have both. Given our present situation, Muslims would tend to choose jihad, Christians would tend to choose Jesus. But it is my contention that--rightly understood--you can't have one without the other. In spite of the fact this may seem heresy to Muslims and/or Christians, I contend that you cannot rightly pursue jihad without Jesus, or rightly pursue Jesus without jihad. - Dave Andrews, The Jihad of Jesus

I admit that I don't really know that much about Islam. I could tell you a little about the five pillars and a few other very basic tenets, but beyond that I freely admit my own ignorance of the second-largest religion in the world.

That isn't to say that I'm not interested, or that I haven't tried to do better. I occasionally have the privilege of attending interfaith functions and hearing from my brothers and sisters of that f…

Small Sips Keeps Writing

Important. Just read it. Aaron Smith at Cultural Savage writes about his struggle with depression and anxiety, and how sometimes he'd just rather not take his medicine:
Here’s the thing, that part of me that doesn’t want to take the drugs is convinced that maybe I’m not really sick. It is a constant thought in my messed up head. Maybe I don’t really have bipolar. Maybe my anxiety disorder is just me not wanting to deal with life. Maybe I’m just making it all up and I’m really “normal”. Maybe I’m not crazy after all.  It’s an attractive thought. It would be nice to not have to live with the reality of mental illness, the panic attacks, the mania, the depression. It would be nice to hold down a decent 40 hours a week job. It would be nice to not feel my emotions without them overwhelming me. There is a real attraction to the thought that I’m just making this all up. I don't really have thoughts on this. I mean, in the sense that I have any deep insight to what he's talking a…

Why I Wrote a Book on Spirituality

As the release of my book inches ever closer, and in light of the conversation I've experienced this week that both inspired and resulted from Wednesday's post, I thought I'd offer a quick list of reasons why I wrote the book that I did.

The discussions I've been a part of this week helped generate this list, mostly in terms of helping to clarify the intended audience. I'm grateful for that, and I hope that in looking over this list maybe you or somebody you know might keep my book in mind when it comes out in a few months. And if this doesn't sound like it's for you, that's okay, too. Blessings on your journey either way.

Anyway. I wrote a book in spirituality...

...because Christian spirituality and spiritual practice actually does have a strong theological foundation and isn't as gooey as you think...

...because the Christian church existed prior to the Protestant Reformation, and they actually had some pretty good ideas about how to draw closer…

Our "Spiritual" Problem

For the past few weeks, my denomination, the United Church of Christ, has been sharing a series of new memes on social media. The goal as I understand it is to reboot the "God is Still Speaking" campaign of a decade ago, and to let those outside of our churches know how inclusive we can be of people who have experienced rejection in other places for a multitude of reasons, or who are wondering whether there's really a place for them in the church at all.

I've appreciated some of these memes, and have been happy to share them in various places.

But then there are others like the one above. And while I just ignore most of those that have made me cringe or with which I've disagreed, this one caused a pretty strong reaction within me because it reflects several things about the UCC--and perhaps by extension most mainline denominations--that I just can't shake off.

Granted, I am not the target audience for these. I admit that. And it may be that those for whom th…

Book Update - Hypothetical Questions Answered

What's been up with the book, man? A few weeks ago, I received all my material back for editing. This process mostly involved eliminating passive voice, which I apparently use quite a bit and now I can see everywhere in everything I read. I've also developed an irritation toward certain other words and phrases that I think I overuse, but that's my own issue.

Anyway. I've finished edits and have returned everything. There'll be a bit more tinkering, proof-reading, and final processing. The next update hopefully will feature a release date and extensive encouragement to pre-order copies for all your friends.

What's the book called? The official title is Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday. It explores how spiritual practice, prayer, and spiritual direction help cultivate an awareness of God in daily life.

Why should anyone care about this topic? Whether one self-identifies as "spiritual," "religious," "spiritual …

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