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Showing posts from June, 2016

Book Review: Live Like You Give a Damn! by Tom Sine

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For whatever reason, God has chosen to use the insignificant and ordinary to change the world, which should give us all a little hope! I want to invite you to ask the Creator God to ignite your imagination to join others in creating our best communities, our best world, and in the process our best lives--in ways that both advance something of God's purposes and respond to some of tomorrow's urgent opportunities and challenges. - Tom Sine, Live Like You Give a Damn!

I think by now most churches in the United States are at least aware that the way the wider culture views and approaches them is quite a bit different than it was a few decades ago. People no longer feel obligated to be in a pew every Sunday, sports and other activities have made church attendance one option among many, groups like the "spiritual but not religious," "nones," and "dones" are growing larger every year. Younger generations in particular see faith, discipleship, and church …

New Sacred Post: The Blessing of Failures

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Here's my latest at the UCC's blog, titled "The Blessing of Failures:"

As a pastor, I read a lot of books and articles about church practice.

I read about the new best way to organize governing boards and committees that do away with tired forms from the 1950s.

I read about the changes that Christian education programs require to thrive when families and youth have so many more activities competing for their attention.

I read about increasingly creative worship ideas to engage people who need something to stimulate them in ways other than the printed or auditory word.

Read the rest at New Sacred.

June 2016 Pop Culture Roundup

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Five items for June...

1. The second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt released on Netflix in April, and we finally sat down to slowly binge our way through it this month. Kimmy continues her adjustment to life after being trapped in the bunker, this time around finally visiting a therapist whom she finds through unconventional means. Her friends Titus, Lillian, and Jacqueline also get into misadventures of their own, including finding love, protesting the hipsterization of the neighborhood, and trying to maintain her high society status, respectively. But the main story is Kimmy's finally reconciling with her feelings about the bunker, which of course play out in sometimes ridiculous ways. But the wackier moments of this show are always grounded in a warmth that help the viewer care about the characters beyond whatever silly thing they end up doing next.

2. I read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi this month. Kalanithi was a neurological surgeon who, in his mid-30s, wa…

Book Review: Slow Kingdom Coming by Kent Annan

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Out of these experiences I've written this book about doing good without hiding from the bad--both around us and within us--because we're called to be part of God's kingdom coming. We're invited to confess our vulnerabilities in serving justice so we can avoid dead-end shortcuts that damage others and ourselves. We're invited to accept the grace and responsibility of living into our deepest longings for God's kingdom. We're invited to a responsible approach to helping other people flourish in our neighborhoods and in our world, where there is too much suffering. We're invited to be part of deep, lasting change. - Kent Annan, Slow Kingdom Coming

As a pastor, I've been a part of quite a few attempts to raise greater awareness of the world's many needs, as well as to organize projects and programs to respond to at least some of them. My own record of success is mixed, with some catching people's interests and energy and others not so much. In e…

To Life - A Pastoral Response to the PULSE Murders

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I've been wanting to write something about the Orlando shootings, but I don't think that my voice is the correct one for people to hear in this particular case. So I asked my good friend and pastoral colleague the Rev. George Miller to share some of his thoughts instead. With permission, this has been reposted from his blog, where it originally appeared the morning after it happened.

Statistically speaking, we are living in the safest time in human history...ever. But when mass violence takes place we become full of fear.

Right now a 1,000 voices are saying 10,000 things about an event not many people fully know enough facts about.

Again, I find myself numb and unsurprised. Partly, because I'm the son of a NYC cop and have always known these things can always when one is in public. Partly, because I'm a gay man who came out in 1991 at a time when "gay-bashing" was real and we all knew people who were attacked entering, leaving or at a nightclub.

For better or…

Book Review: The Spirituality of Wine by Gisela Kreglinger

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I'm pleased to have made my first written contribution to the Englewood Review of Books, a review of The Spirituality of Wine by Gisela Kreglinger:

My first encounter with this book came about a month before I agreed to review it. While attending the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, a friend and I attended an after-hours wine and cheese party hosted by Eerdmans. As we walked in to the gathering, a woman—presumably the author—was reading an excerpt from The Spirituality of Wine to help set the mood for the evening, which was a relaxed time of enjoying food, conversation, and, of course, wine.

I regret that I didn’t make it a point to introduce myself to the author that night, but I remember the event being a time of joy and fellowship. At least partial credit, I think, could be given to the provided beverages. As I read this work, I naturally recalled that evening’s festivities, as they embodied much of what she describes over the course of the book.

Read the rest of m…

Book Review: Reading for the Common Good by C. Christopher Smith

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We all are called to follow in the compassionate way of Jesus, and central to that calling is the work of carefully reading and meditating on the scriptural story to understand who Jesus is. Not everyone likes to read--indeed not everyone can read--but a vital part of our work as the church is equipping everyone to read to the best of their capability and to participate as fully as possible in our shared work of discerning the shape of our shared life. - C. Christopher Smith, Reading for the Common Good

As a lifelong committed reader, I've been fascinated in recent years by analyses and opinion pieces that try to describe the changing reading habits of our culture. Some lament the popularity of ebooks and openly wonder if we will soon see the death of printed paper works. Others take this worry a step further, suggesting that our collective attention span has become shorter due to screen media such as TV and the internet, which has led or will lead to less of an interest in books …

New Sacred Post: The Sin of Stillness

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My latest post is up at the United Church of Christ's blog: One of my daughter’s favorite shows at the moment is “Thomas the Tank Engine.” I haven’t yet figured out what she likes most about it, whether the stories or out of a growing fascination with trains. I suspect that it’s the latter. A constant theme of this show is “usefulness.” Thomas is always trying to be useful, hoping that he can accomplish his tasks in a timely and efficient manner. He savors the praise of the island mayor when he is told he is a “very useful engine.” I think this message from a seemingly benign children’s program reflects a common aspiration that many have. Read the rest at New Sacred.

Small Sips Wants a Sweatshirt

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Louder for the folks in the back. Richard Rohr has a great post on the relationship between contemplation and activism:
That’s one reason why religion is in such desperate straits today: It isn’t really transforming people. It’s merely giving people some pious and religious ways to again be in charge and in control. It’s still the same small self or what Merton called the false self. Mature, authentic spirituality calls us into experiences and teachings that open us to an actual transformation of consciousness (Romans 12:2).  I think some form of contemplative practice is necessary to be able to detach from your own agenda, your own anger, your own ego, and your own fear. We need some practice that touches our unconscious conditioning where all our wounds and defense mechanisms lie. That’s the only way we can be changed at any significant or lasting level. Some like to hold prayer and action in a strange dichotomy where only one or the other really matters. Rohr's point is that bo…

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