Showing posts from November, 2016

First Week of Advent: Weeds

Our previous home was in an allotment of McMansions marked by small trees dotting streets every few feet and well-manicured lawns regularly cut and watered.

This neighborhood looked the way it did because our Homeowners Association dictated that individual owners adhere to a certain level of standards and practices. We knew what we were in for when sitting down with the builder to design our house, because at that stage we were told things like what colors for siding and shutters we couldn't choose on account of the houses in our immediate vicinity already having them. Even with this early warning sign of what could later transpire, we agreed to the terms set to us.

We were on a corner lot, which meant a comparably larger area of land and sidewalk to maintain. Our lawn included several mulch beds: one that wrapped around the side of the house and two that rose like islands in our side yard. It looked good when first put in, and we took pride in what we'd accomplished through …

November 2016 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for November...

1. Of course, I've been watching season 7 of The Walking Dead the past month and a half. There are still several episodes to go, but the show has definitely made a significant pivot from the prior seasons of Rick and his group meandering around the countryside trying to find a safe haven while fending off the occasional human antagonist. Now we have multiple established communities, one of them a significant threat to the others. Having kept up with the source material, I knew this shift in storytelling was coming, and I wasn't sure how it would translate to the screen. So far it's been enjoyable--the events of the first episode notwithstanding--but at this juncture I'm starting to wonder how much further the show will go before deciding it's time to reach a conclusion. Not that I'm pining for an ending, mind you. I'm just starting to ask how many more seasons the show has and how they'll proceed. Then again, some TV dramas g…

Pastoral Thanksgiving Week Prayer

based on John 6:25-35

God of grace and blessing, we search for you during this special week to give thanks for your many gifts in all of their forms. We are in awe of the myriad ways you reveal yourself to us: through those we love, through sustenance of mind, body, and spirit, through the crispness of the air and autumn colors still resonant and radiant in the morning's rays.

And yet it is so easy to be thankful when all is going well. We take times of joy, contentment, and serenity as unmistakable signs of your providence and care. We find it much more difficult to find reasons for gratitude when our spirits are disturbed by scarcity, conflict, or anxiety. When there is bread to spare, we find it easy to sense you with us. When our stomachs and souls groan, we don't know where you are or where to turn.

O God, remind us of your faithfulness in both plenty and need. By your Spirit, may we have the humility to acknowledge you in times of relief, and the endurance to remember y…

The Spiritual Practice of Reaching Out

I have a new post up today at the Shalem Institute blog, entitled The Spiritual Practice of Reaching Out. An excerpt:

It began with a quick moment of inspiration. I’d just finished reading a book chapter written by a friend and colleague, and was so struck by their words that I logged onto Facebook and left a note of appreciation on their wall.

This might not sound like a big deal. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t. But as my little post received likes from the recipient and others who could see it, I felt a stirring to do this with every subsequent chapter of this volume, which happened to feature a lot of people with whom I was friends.

Read the rest at the Shalem Institute blog.

Book Review: The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell

What I believe, and have dedicated my life to reversing, is that we have not moved doctrine and dogma to the level of inner experience. As long as "received teaching" doesn't become experiential knowledge, we're going to continue creating a high quantity of disillusioned ex-believers. Or on the flip-side, we'll manufacture very rigid believers who simply hold on to doctrines in very dry, dead ways with nothing going on inside. - Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance

I've been in a few internet arguments in my day. As many as I've been a part of, I can recall no such argument that has resulted in either party changing their stated position or even coming out on the other side feeling like a better, more complete person. The only possibility for the latter, in my experience, is each person in the exchange feeling a sense of confirmation that they are right and the other side is incredibly delusional. Thankfully, I've had enough cyber-scrums to know when to pul…

A Pastoral Prayer for Faithful Action

based on 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Empowering and moving God, we are often tempted to believe that having faith in you is enough. We lull ourselves into a sense of security thinking that if we adhere to a few basic truths about who you are and occasionally worship with others, it is enough to call ourselves followers of Jesus. The concerns of the world and of one another are not really ours, we tell ourselves, so that we may remain within the safe confines of the Temple of Self that we’ve constructed.

But you are swift by your Spirit to warn us against idleness in all its forms. You call us to contribute to our faith community rather than only take from it. You call us to serve alongside others rather than expect to be entertained by them. You call us to match our beliefs with our actions, and our actions with our beliefs, and both with those of Jesus whom we declare is our model for life and faith.

We know that this is more difficult than we’d like, yet by the power and presence of yo…

Is Your Church Physically Welcoming?

I couldn’t see it until she pointed it out to me.
I was teaching a homiletics class for a lay ministry program, which entailed occasional ventures into my church’s sanctuary to hear students preach. One enrollee who had difficulty walking asked if we had a portable ramp for her to manage the two steps up to the chancel.
Deep down, I already knew that we didn’t, but I briefly searched hoping otherwise. After confirming that no, we had no such device available, she needed someone’s steady arm to navigate what to many is the simplest of walks to the pulpit.
Before this encounter, I hadn’t considered how potentially limiting—and really, unwelcoming—the lack of such access was. No ramp for those with such limitations meant that they wouldn’t be able to preach, serve as liturgists, or walk up to the choir loft to sing, among other potential exclusions.
I couldn’t see it, until she pointed it out to me.
Maybe your church has had conversations about how to be more welcoming. Maybe you’ve thought a…

Small Sips Relinquishes Responsibility

Perfect timing. Sometimes, an article comes along at just the right moment that speaks to your own internal stuff. Margaret Marcuson's post on pastoral burnout is such an article. Here she reflects on what she calls the number one reason why pastors burn out:
Overfunctioning: persistently taking on more responsibility than is genuinely yours.  As Rabbi Edwin Friedman says, “Stress comes less from overwork than from taking responsibility for the problems of others.” I first heard that quote over 20 years ago and it ultimately changed my ministry and my life. You’ve heard that quote from me before and you’ll hear it again – it’s that important.. Most of us in ministry are born and bred to take responsibility for others. The thing is that it doesn’t truly help others and it doesn’t help us. Instead, it leads to burnout in us and stunted growth in others. "Taking on more responsibility than is genuinely yours" has, in various ways, been a feature of my entire ministry. Fortu…

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