Showing posts from April, 2016

April 2016 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for April...

1. Season 6 of The Walking Dead ended this month, culminating in one of the moments I've been anticipating/dreading since I started reading the comics. Jeffrey Dean Morgan made his big debut as Negan, leader of a threatening group called The Saviors who terrorize other surviving communities. I saw all sorts of complaints online after the finale, which I don't think are as warranted as people think. The primary complaint was that Negan's first appearance includes a brutal killing of one of the longstanding characters, but the end scene shows it from the perspective of the character being killed so we don't actually know who it is. I can see why this is frustrating, but I also think the big reveal at the beginning of next season will help kick off the narrative: how the others react and respond to the threat of the Saviors in general. So I'm fine with it. This is still my favorite show.

2. I watched I Smile Back this month, starring Sarah Sil…

Prayer for Easter 5

based on John 13:31-35

Faithful God, we are sometimes tempted to believe that your call to love one another is an easy one. We are saturated by messages of what love is and how to show it, whether through gifts, acts of kindness, welcome displays of affection, or simply the sharing of words. We’re used to showing and receiving love, so the new commandment that Jesus gives his disciples leaves us wanting more, as if following you should be more rigorous and exclusive.

In these times, you bring attention to what love means beyond polite and considerate gestures. You point us toward people who don’t look like us. You set before us those whose identities make us uncomfortable or we don’t understand. You even show us our enemies with a reminder that Jesus said to love them as well. And you help us recall that the times when those we already say we love make mistakes or hurt us are the times when how we respond must match what we say.

It turns out that love is harder than we could imagine.…

Book Excerpt at Holy Experiments

An adapted excerpt from Coffeehouse Contemplative has been posted at Holy Experiments, a blog hosted by the Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ. If you haven't read the book yet, here's your chance to get a taste.

And then you can head to Amazon for your own copy of the whole thing.

The Festival of Faith and Writing

Last week I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. I'd been meaning to attend ever since I first heard about it a few years ago, and this was my first opportunity to go.

The first thing I have to share is that Grand Rapids is a great city and Calvin has a beautiful campus. This was my second trip to Grand Rapids and I've been struck both times by its waterside views. And I didn't look anything up regarding their age, but the college and adjacent seminary have a modern-meets-classic feel to them that, when coupled with its sprawling greenspace, made for an excellent and inspiring setting for writers and readers to gather.

My own time at the Festival was abbreviated. I arrived Thursday in time for the afternoon sessions, the first of which I attended was a panel discussion on how poetry can inform how we compose liturgy. The three poets comprising the panel were all Eastern Orthodox, and had great insight into the differences and simil…

Vintage CC: Sometimes I Don't Want the Church to Change, Either

In this post from May 2014 I tried to capture the difficulty of change in the church, not just for the congregation but also for church leaders. It's not easy work, for many reasons. Since I seem to constantly find myself in situations where something needs to evolve or be let go, I thought it was time to revisit this.

Years ago, when I was pastor of a smallish, "pastor-sized" church, it became clear that our chancel choir was not going to last very much longer.

By the point I had arrived, it was down to a half dozen older women and a director who hadn't meant to be in that role for as long as she was. So when she announced that she was stepping down, there began some conversation first about a replacement, which then became a conversation about whether the choir was a viable ministry at this point in the church's life. We did, after all, have a second musical ensemble that sang more "contemporary" music and that had much higher participation and energy…

Prayer for Easter 3

based on John 21:1-19

Faithful God, in those moments when you make yourself known to us, we become aware of our sins and shortcomings. We recall the ways we have hurt each or other or ourselves. We remember the promises we’ve failed to keep and the flaws we try to hide. We do our best to ignore these for as long as we believe no one will find us out. Yet when we are acutely aware of your presence, they all come rushing back as we realize you are with us. How can we withstand such scrutiny? How can we make ourselves presentable enough for you?

Through Jesus, you bring a response that is affirming and also challenging: “feed my sheep.” Despite our past moments of injury, exploitation, or self-preservation, you change our journey’s direction, showing forgiveness and inspiring transformation. No matter what we have done or failed to do, you move us toward an ever more complete understanding of your love and of our own mission to serve.

O God, we are thankful for redemption that began bef…

Small Sips Don't Stop Coming

This Still Works. March Madness is over, but this article by Ken Carter still makes some important and needed points about the church's decreased "home court advantage," even if he's a Duke fan:
I thought about this context recently in reflecting on the changing relationship of the Christian Church to the postmodern world. Years ago I read an essay written by the missiologist George Hunter entitled “The End of The Home Field Advantage” (Epworth Review, May, 1992). The thesis of his article was that a privileged Christendom had ended, and that practicing Christians lived in a very different context. Twenty-four years later, this insight is increasingly true.  This reality is the result of a number of factors. There is the harm that people of faith have done internally to one another (the movie Spotlight captures this). There is the harm people of faith have done when we have not welcomed guests, notably those in the LGBTQ communities. There is the divided and competit…

Fraternity Hazing and Multiple Paths to Ministry

When I was in college, I pledged a fraternity. I didn't think I would when I started, but I ended up palling around with a lot of the members and decided to go ahead and take the plunge. It was one of the campus activities in which I took greater pride and in which I had many positive experiences.

Anyway. The actual pledging process was two weeks long. It was intensive and involved a lot of memorization and learning about traditions and getting to know the interests of those who'd eventually become my brothers.

Since I pledged, times have changed at my alma mater regarding Greek life. From what I know from those close to the campus, the administration has placed much more strict policies on what constitutes hazing, and has become quite thorough about monitoring them. Changes to the overall program have moved it to something less intensive, spread out over more time.

The culture of the campus in general has also changed. Today's students, so I've been told, socialize a…

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