Showing posts from October, 2016

Vintage CC: Ghosts

In the spirit of the day, I thought this post from April 2013 seemed appropriate, even if it talks about a different kind of ghost. But to me--and I suspect many others--this kind can be way more haunting and way more real.

Moving from one stage of life to another is never a clean break.

We expand our families, we change jobs, we change communities. We may move three states away or from one company to another.

But we're always followed. We're followed by our decisions, our reputations, our identities. Whatever our complete body of work in life has been, including our hangups, our spiritual scabs, our grudges, the times we've hurt others or have been hurt, it all follows us. Our ideas about how life was meant to be or may be someday still follow us.

In some cases, but not always, relationships follow us. Our immediate families, sure. That's a given. Past classmates, acquaintances, co-workers, and friends follow us, too. If not physically, we may keep track of each other…

October 2016 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for October...

1. This month I read Sacred Habits, the third book in the Intersections series of which my own is a part. Friend and colleague Chad Abbott has curated a number of clergy voices reflecting on practices that can help lead to greater creativity in ministry. This includes reading scripture, public office hours, practicing community on social media, alternative worship, and running, to name just a few. I'm in a season where I was surprised at how much I needed this book. The essays are thoughtful and personal, and for me provocative in what can be possible when pastors intentionally nurture their creativity.

2. I also read Very Married by Katherine Willis Pershey this month. I've been glad to know Katherine for almost as long as I've been blogging, and was interested in her latest especially after reading Bromleigh McCleneghan's Good Christian Sex and Glennon Doyle Melton's Love Warrior this year. Katherine explores the joys and struggles of m…

I'm on this week's Pulpit Fiction Podcast

If you aren't familiar with the Pulpit Fiction podcast, Eric Fistler and Robb McCoy take a weekly look at the lectionary texts for the following Sunday as a help to, as they always say, "preachers, seekers, and Bible geeks."

The guys usually take a look at several of the texts, but also incorporate voices from others. They have a regular segment called "Voice in the Wilderness," where someone such as a pastor or Bible teacher records a short reflection on a passage.

With that long introduction, I am the "Voice in the Wilderness" on this week's edition, focusing on 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12. You can listen at their website or on iTunes.

Thanks to the guys for the opportunity. I hope to do it again sometime!

Book Review: Desperately Seeking Spirituality by Meredith Gould

I have a new book review up at The Englewood Review of Books. This time around I review Desperately Seeking Spirituality by Meredith Gould. An excerpt:

Early in Desperately Seeking Spirituality, Meredith Gould writes, “Annoying reminder: spiritual awakening is a process, not a one-time enlightenment event” (7). There is so much to this quote that captures the book’s essence.

First, “annoying reminder.” You will not find here the typical air of reverence, awe, inspiration, and peace that characterizes most books on prayer and spiritual practice. As Gould notes from time to time and as the title indicates, spirituality is not a simple thing to nurture and pursue and it can and does feature moments of confusion, frustration, and irritation.

Read the rest at the Englewood Review of Books.

A Pastoral Stewardship Prayer

based on Psalm 119:97-104

O God, how we wish we could make your presence and purposes our meditation at all times! We come to this time of prayer with so many good intentions about service to you and to others, about generosity to our neighbors and to those most in need. We tell ourselves so often that this is the day we will be more committed, more faithful, more gentle, more hospitable, more open to your guidance.

But then life happens. Bills are due. A parent or child is sick. We have deadlines. We have obligations. We get cut off in traffic. We're actually approached by a person we thought we'd be ready to help. And our resolve begins to deteriorate as we realize what you are really asking of us.

One meditation to which you call us is to be good stewards of our gifts, to manage and share what we have so that others may be blessed. But again, the demands on our lives create complications and we wonder about the most faithful way to proceed. And so we quickly settle back in…

What Is the Examen?

For many years now, I’ve believed that most churches—particularly those in mainline denominations—have many untapped spiritual resources at their disposal that have gone ignored or dismissed for a variety of reasons. This could include but is not limited to an overemphasis on intellectual faculties, minimization of the role emotions play in religious experience, and a conscious decision to prioritize mission, service, and social justice over personal spiritual development.
I certainly would not say that the use of reason and pursuing justice are not important. Quite the opposite, in fact. I would say, however, that many are not able to recognize the role that spiritual practices both classic and modern could play in strengthening and empowering one’s awareness of God’s presence in these activities, and the potential that they have to help ground people of faith in a sense that what they are doing is not for its own sake but because God is calling them.
So I have decided that, rather …

You're Allowed to Laugh in Church

I have a new post up at the UCC's New Sacred blog titled You're Allowed to Laugh in Church:

My church has enjoyed a little bit of fame recently.

It started when I had an idea for our sign that would acknowledge the season and make light of how a lot of grocery stores, restaurants, and coffeehouses serve “pumpkin spice” flavored drinks and confections this time of year.

There it is to the left: “Now Serving Pumpkin Spice Communion.” It’s a churchy spin on the autumn flavor craze, baked in with a slight commentary on how excessive and absurd said craze can get.

And yes, it’s a joke.

Read the rest at New Sacred.

Small Sips Typed "The" and Deleted It

Meditate before mediate. I made that up. Pastoral ministry brings its fair share of anxiety, from busy and diverse days to parishioners unhappy about some aspect of your performance to arguments in committee meetings to a million other things. Carol Howard Merritt acknowledges this, and proposes several small exercises to center and focus before delving into the latest fray:
•Sit down, close your eyes, and breathe. Your breath may be choppy. That’s okay. That’s fear. Keep breathing deeply. Remember that your breath is spirit. God’s Spirit animates you. Wake up to God surrounding you and embracing you.  •I typically imagine one of two things, at this point.  1) You are rising above the chaos. Somehow, try to transcend time and space. Look down on the conflict. See how small it is? See how little difference it will make if you win or lose this? Imagine how large your calling is in God. Now look with compassion on the people involved. Think about what has wounded them. Why are they lashi…

World Communion Sunday Prayer

based on Luke 17:5-10

God of all creation, we can look out at an endless ocean or attempt to count the evening stars and begin to understand how vast your universe is. It is often difficult for us to imagine places a hundred miles away, let alone other countries, and yet today is a day to remember how connected we are to disciples in places so much different than our own. Like grains of sand on a beach or leaves on the autumn trees, so too are your many followers in nations the world over. They strive to follow you where they are just as we do here.

We give thanks for the table you have set for us, and the gifts of peacemaking and forgiveness that we find here. The pieces of bread and sips of cup that we share symbolize something so much bigger, beyond what we can fathom or control. They are your gifts given, and our gifts to receive. And we remember that they are not only for us, but for people in faraway places whom we will never know or meet but who have been called and accepted j…

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