Showing posts from September, 2016

September 2016 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for September, plus one...

1. I read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child this month, the play that takes place a few decades after the events of The Deathly Hallows. Here we meet the various offspring of Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Draco as they attend Hogwarts and navigate the world of magic and hormones just as their elders did. This time around, Albus Severus Potter is wrestling with issues of identity, friendship, and finding his place in the world...and of course gets himself in trouble along the way. The older generation has its own problems, particularly Harry, as he continues to figure out how to be him even long after the Battle of Hogwarts, especially as he seeks to relate to Albus. Because it's written as a play, I finished it in a few hours and there aren't the usual side plots that the novels did. But it's a great new story that revisits many beloved characters and recalls some of the most notable events of the past books.

2. I also read Falling Upward

Book Review: Hearing God in Conversation by Samuel C. Williamson

Prayer is not a one-way street with us shouting petitions to God, and Scripture is not a one-way street of God broadcasting his commands at us. Both prayer and Scripture involve both hearing and speaking. We are participants, not spectators; dancers on the floor, not observers at the tables; actors on the stage, not onlookers in the theater. We are involved in a divine dialogue. - Samuel C. Williamson, Hearing God in Conversation

Let's be honest about something. There are a lot of books in the world about discerning God's will, listening for God's direction, and striving to hear God's voice in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It could be said that my own book fits into this category.

I recall that one of the first such books I read was one titled The Bush Won't Burn and I'm All Out of Matches, a reference to Moses' spectacular experience of hearing God speak through a burning bush, which kicked off his lifelong journey of leading the Israelites out f…

Preaching As Free Therapy

I take preaching very seriously. That's not to say that my sermons are always incredibly serious. It's just that I think the call to stand up in front of a group of people and attempt to describe what God might be up to in their lives is something to be undertaken with great care, preparation, and respect. There are many important functions of the pastoral office, but to me preaching is near the top of the list in terms of its potential to shape a congregation's life, and thus something to be given due attention.

As many teachers and writers of preaching might tell you, a sermon is not the thing you write in the pastor's study, nor is it the stack of paper--if any--that you set on the pulpit. A sermon is a moment in time. It doesn't actually exist until the preacher starts speaking, reacting to the words they've prepared, the energy of the congregation, and the energy within the preacher themselves. And if the preacher has done their homework through the week,…

I Take Speaking Gigs

Are you looking for a speaker for an upcoming event?

I am available on a limited basis for keynote speaking, workshop leadership, retreat facilitation, or book-related engagements. I've spoken or could speak on themes related to clergy vitality, discernment of call, ministry, spirituality, preaching, and/or writing/blogging. I'd also be happy to come speak about my book, Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday.

For inquiries, hit up the brand new Speaking/Workshops tab on the Pages bar.

I do have a few events scheduled this fall, if you're interested and close by:

Oct. 29 - Joint book signing, Eastern Ohio/Western Reserve Associations annual meeting, Solon Community Church, Solon, OH

Nov. 18-19 - “Drawing a Spiritual Roadmap for a New Religious Landscape,”Penn West Conference Academy for Ministry Refresher Course, Living Waters Camp and Conference Center, Schellsburg, PA

If you'd like to add something to the list, drop me a line and we'll try…

A Pastoral Prayer of Remembrance and Healing for 9/11

God of healing and peace, we awoke this day with images in our minds as vivid and visceral as the day we first saw them. We recall our whereabouts, the churning of our stomachs and tears in our eyes, the voices of loved ones over the phone, and the desperation with which we attempted to make sense of a senseless act. And in many ways, we're still trying to give name to all that a day of such tragedy, horror, and suffering even so many years later meant and means for us now.

We take time to remember not just the events themselves, but people past and present affected most intensely. We remember victims' families and the loss with which they still strive to cope. We remember first responders still seeking treatment from physical and mental effects of their fulfilling their duty. We remember entire races and religions living under intense suspicion for the actions of a few. We remember any and all who wrestle with what it means to live a life of forgiveness, peace, and justice i…

Vintage CC: September the First

I wrote this short reflection in September 2011. I make no secret of my absolute love for the fall months, and this year its arrival has brought especially intense emotions that I wasn't prepared to experience. It startled me just how happy I was to see this season return. So in that spirit, I re-post this piece.

It was mid-August. I woke up and began my day in the usual way: Coffeeson was up first, standing outside his room saying, "Daddy? Daddy, where are you?" Glancing at the clock to make sure it was an hour when normal people are awake, I rolled out of bed to collect my toddler and to get us some breakfast.

He with his juice and Pop-Tart, and I with my coffee, I pulled up a window shade and was greeted by a realization: we were receiving our morning sun's rays from a different angle, casting the shadows of late summer. I can't really explain this; they're just different, you know? In addition to this, the clouds were a little more prominent, provid…

Why I Run

Ever since seminary, I've been trying to be more conscious of my health.

In those days, I had taken to eating McDonald's a couple times a week including as a late night snack. I was drinking soda and alcohol just as often. I largely stayed away from vegetables and fruit. And the rigors of graduate school had me frequently sitting somewhere reading and writing without a lot of physical activity.

All of this added up to a lot of weight gain and the potential for worse physical problems given my family's health history.

Those years featured a lot of false starts and good intentions when it came to changing habits. Multiple resolutions to watch my eating and head to the gym usually petered out after a week or two. I recognize now that I'm a stress-eater, and I experienced quite a bit of stress in those days.

My last semester, I finally decided to get serious. I really did start going to the gym 3-4 times a week, I cut out fast food completely, and I severely limited the a…

Small Sips Has a Pumpkin Head and Briefcase

Anyone gonna listen this time? So, you know the old canard many have been pushing for decades that conservative churches are growing because they're conservative and liberal churches are shrinking because they're liberal? Many books and articles (like this one) have been debunking it, but with little attention paid. People have been content to keep believing that Right Doctrine (TM) is the reason their church is doing so well, while that silly little progressive church down the street is struggling.

Tom Krattenmaker is the latest writer to come along to attempt to disabuse people of this notion, including the important point that actually evangelical churches don't seem to be growing that much any more either:
The Southern Baptists — the premier evangelical denomination — have reported membership declines nine years in a row. Overall, white evangelicals have dropped from 21 percent of the population in 2008 to 17 percent in 2015. (It’s important to count white evangelicals…

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