Showing posts from August, 2016

The Sitdown

I pull into the garage, the late afternoon heat immediately welcoming me home as I step out of the car. It's been a long, surprisingly full day at the church including a lesson plan to write, a sermon to practice, several phone calls to folks I hadn't seen in a while, and a few hours at the local assisted living place where a handful of my parishioners reside. I'm ready to relax, to get out of my dress clothes and await the arrival of my family.

The door's hinge squeaks as I trumble into the house, leather work bag bumping the frame as I enter. How long had that squeak been there, exactly? Do we have DW-40 anywhere? I could look after changing. Also, the kitchen light is on. I usually turn that off when I leave. I guess I forgot this time...

I stop as I enter the kitchen. He sits at the table hunched over a mug. Without much movement, his eyes meet mine. His tie hangs loose as mine does, his glasses perched on top of his head as mine often do when I'm in deep thou…

August 2016 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for August, plus one more...

1. I read Good Christian Sex by Bromleigh McCleneghan this month. Sure, the title's provocative. But it's hard not to be when writing about a view of sex that is faithfully Christian. The big spoiler: there are other ways to think about it besides "nothing before marriage." Bromleigh discusses topics like fidelity, respect, self-discovery, enjoyment, and truthfulness. She places all of this alongside Biblical narratives, ethical concepts, and a lot of honest personal accounts from her own experience. It's thoughtful and funny, and presents alternative way to view sex and relationships in healthy faith-based ways that recognizes the complexity of humanity and how we interact. Given how many books are devoted to a very strict view of such things that has ended up damaging a lot of people, I found this refreshing and I wish I'd read it when I was 19.

2. I was excited to hear news of the classic book The Little Prince bein…

Pastoral Prayer for Those Doubting Their Call

based on Jeremiah 1:4-10

Moving and equipping Spirit, we feel your prods and nudges toward the path that fits us best. Your call is unmistakable, but we really hope you're speaking to someone else. Through eye contact avoided and voices trembling, we object to the role you wish us to play. We're too young, too old, not experienced, not qualified, our pasts too checkered, our future too murky, such that we raise our protests hoping you'll turn to another instead. Yet you persist, responding, "Don't say that. I'm talking to you. I've created you, I love you, I'll lead you." And while consolation may still elude us, we nevertheless understand that you really were speaking to us, and you meant it.

And so we turn outward to survey a world bruised, torn, and injured. We see violence and oppression ravage places far and near. We see disease slow lives once vital and vibrant. We see teachers and administrators return to buildings we hope will be places o…

Fall Reading

As much as I enjoy making a summer reading list, I don't think that such things should be confined to one season of the year. So I've taken to making a list of what I'd like to read as the weather starts to cool and in between reveling in/grousing about football.

Here, then, is what I'm planning to read between now and when I post the big year-end roundup for 2016, in no order:

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle MeltonVery Married by Katherine Willis PersheyThe Walking Dead Volume 26Solutions and Other Problems by Allie BroshFoy: A Novel by Gordon AtkinsonFalling Upward by Richard RohrNot a Silent Night by Adam HamiltonSacred Habits by Chad Abbott, ed.Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
A wide variety, as always. Many of these will be released over the course of the fall months, so I might even find some additional titles in between.

What will you be reading as the leaves begin to change?

I can recommend one book if you need help.


I've heard it said that your vocation is where your passions and gifts meet what the world needs. Or at least, that's my own iteration of similar statements.

We often speak of "vocation" in ministerial circles, intertwined with or substituted for "calling." I suppose that it depends who you talk to and the point that someone is trying to make whether they use one or the other. But for me they're interchangeable. If nothing else, a vocation could be a longer-term thing; what you end up discerning, discovering, and living into over a lifetime, while a calling could be the more specific position in which you live it for a season.

Or maybe it's the other way around. Or maybe both.

Anyway, we ministry types usually would rather talk about "vocation" or "calling" than "job." We give what we do a more heavenly spin that way: it isn't just work and isn't just for the money (given the average pastor's salary, it'…

Vintage CC: What the Ocean Taught Me

I wrote this in June 2014, I believe near the tail end of our annual trip to Florida. We enjoyed our latest week there earlier this summer, which brought this post back to mind. I'll always have a love and thankfulness for my time near the Atlantic.

I didn't grow up near the ocean, but I've grown up knowing it.
My introduction came during the many childhood summers spent in Long Beach Island, New Jersey with my entire paternal side of the family. We rented a beach house usually not more than a modest block away from the Atlantic Ocean.
The Atlantic, so it goes, is a rough-and-tumble ocean. Its waters tend to be gray and its waves a bit more choppy than its Pacific cousin, which is known for its easygoing clear blue. But this was my ocean, the one that showed me sand shrimp scurrying into the muck under the receding surf; the one that taught me when to jump and when simply to float and bob, and what happens when it gets into your sinuses and what tides are more favorable for p…

No, the Church Isn't More Important Than Family

My wife and I had a conversation not too long ago about what we see ourselves doing the next decade or so. We're in the middle of some home renovation projects, and that helped provide the context of what we discussed, centering on the question, "How can we stay here for a while?"
I grew up a preacher's kid. Before I myself entered full-time pastoral ministry, the longest I'd lived anywhere was about 5 1/2 years. This included a move in the middle of junior high, which was incredibly difficult for multiple reasons. Remembering all of this, I vowed to try to create something different for my own family so they could avoid experiencing some of the things I did. So by the time my wife and I stood in the kitchen just talking some of this out, we agreed that once our firstborn gets to middle school, we'll do our best to see him and his younger sister through the same district to graduation.

This has certain implications for someone in a profession that tends to f…

Sighing Through Song

I'm glad to have once again contributed a post to the Shalem Institute blog, entitled Sighing Through Song. An excerpt:

It’s different for everyone, yet all know this experience. A woman driving home after receiving good news at work finds an uplifting song on the radio that speaks to her newfound joy. A man back from a hard visit with his mother in the nursing home starts his Spotify playlist of slower, reflective tunes that names his sadness and frustration. The hymn “Abide With Me” causes tears from within a grieving granddaughter who didn’t expect them. A father and toddler son dance playfully to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” allowing them to share laughter together.

Music has power to tap into or produce emotional responses. We use it to evoke desired reactions or to help sustain a mood. We play it for others to tell them how we’re feeling. We play it for ourselves to figure out what’s happening within us.

And we sometimes use it to draw closer to the divine presence wi…

Small Sips Bad Jesus Good

It's about time. In last month's Small Sips I linked to a roundtable discussion of people recovering from the effects of I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. Lately Harris himself has been showing signs of remorse over how much his book negatively influenced people's approach to relationships:
HARRIS: I think I'm finally at a place where I'm really trying to listen to those voices. And I think it's taken time for the consequences of the way that people applied the book and the way the book affected people to play out. And so I'm hearing these different voices saying, here's how your book was used against me, here's how it was forced on me, or here's how I tried to - no one forced it on me, but I tried to apply it and it had this negative consequence in different ways.  I'm trying to go back and really evaluate, you know, where did my book contribute to that? Where was it too stringent? And where was that me and what I was writing, and w…

This Is How We Eat: Ethics in the Zombie Apocalypse

I have a guest post up at the blog Super Hero Ethics entitled This Is How We Eat: Ethics in the Zombie Apocalypse. It was great to let my geeky side out to do some fun writing; I should do that more often.

An excerpt:

I’ve been a fan of the zombie genre for years now. I think I can trace my fandom back to when my wife gave me a copy of The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks for Christmas, an incredibly detailed introduction to what causes zombieism, the characteristics (including strengths and weaknesses) of such creatures, and strategies for seeking refuge, choosing weapons, and what essentials to carry with you from one location to another after society has become overrun.

The brilliance of this book lies in the serious tone with which the author approaches creating his universe. He maintains an earnestness throughout, whether describing the most effective ways to neutralize a threat or how to assess the best options to set up camp for a while. He completely commits to the narrative…

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