Showing posts from January, 2017

Remember to be Human

You may or may not remember that my word for the year is Engage. I chose that word because I've realized the past few months that I need to be more active in what I do for others and in raising my voice in response to things our current administration chooses to do that I disagree with.

This past week has been exhausting. Trying to keep up with what is happening nationally has been incredibly dizzying and difficult. Nowadays my social media experience is a steady stream of articles and expressions of worry and outrage.

This past Friday I called my reps about some things. I read about the ban on immigrants from certain countries. I took church members to a synagogue to learn more about what people of another faith believe.

On Saturday my eyes were again glued to Facebook and Twitter for the latest on what was transpiring. I watched as demonstrations at airports grew. I made plans to make more calls.

On Sunday, I led worship and made a few not-so-subtle references to the ban and o…

January 2017 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for the first month of the year...

1. My first book of 2017 was Trouble I've Seen by Drew G.I. Hart. Hart challenges everyone, but particularly the church, to be honest about racism and white supremacy in our society. He lays out definitions for terms like these and other relevant ones he uses throughout the book, as well as provides historical background for how they have manifested in the U.S. and elsewhere over the centuries. But his primary concern is how people of faith--of all races--address these issues openly rather than pretend they don't exist (which he would argue is a symptom of the problem to begin with). It's an excellent introduction to the problem as well as a prophetic call to Christians to do something about it.

2. I also read Outlaw Christian by Jacqueline Bussie this month. I wasn't sure what to expect at first, as I've read so many books in recent years echoing similar themes of deconstructing and pushing back against church convent…

Remembering Promises

January 23rd is the anniversary of my ordination into Christian ministry in the United Church of Christ. It's been 12 years now since I made promises to adhere to a certain standard of life, faith, and interaction with those inside and outside the walls of the church.

Every year on or around this date, I try to make it a point to listen to the audio recording of that service, my UCC Book of Worship on my lap, as I pay special attention to several things.

First, the promises themselves. They include things like upholding the faith and order of the UCC, speaking the truth in love while also maintaining the peace of the church, ministering faithfully and without bias to people of the Christian faith, other faiths, and no faith. They are powerful words that I review and renew as an annual Examen, asking forgiveness for when I have not upheld them the way that I should have, and making them anew for the year ahead.

I also listen to the sermon the pastor of my hometown church preached …

Vintage CC: Congregational Subtext

I wrote this back in May 2009. It's always important to identify what the real issues are underneath congregational complaints so that you can separate the distractions from the heart of the problem. But it takes work, skill, patience, and love...and maybe a good mediator.

I don't know how familiar my readers are with a TV show called Coupling. It was a British sitcom somewhat remeniscient of Friends that had a short-lived American equivalent. The American version sucked, the British one is much better paced and had better actors.

Anyway, there's one episode of Coupling where one of the characters, Jeff, talks about a made-up character named Captain Subtext. Essentially, Captain Subtext can detect what someone really means whenever they talk. This eventually leads to a hilarious scene where we're able to see and hear the world through Captain Subtext's subtext-detecting helmet.

Pastor and author M. Craig Barnes makes a similar point in his book The Pastor as Mi…

Energy for the Work - A Prayer for MLK Day

God of love, justice, and peace: we are still daring to dream.

We set aside this day to hear again about that dream; to read words written in Birmingham, to listen to stories of freedom and equality hard-won and to be reminded of the need to march further.

It is a day where we face the temptation to keep such words and stories encased in history where they make us more comfortable, and we may reflect on their meaning, but not too much.

It is a day for you to jolt us from our passivity and to remind us that justice doesn't come by speeches and remembrances, but by continued attentiveness to how all your beloved children are still fractured, still oppressed and oppressing, still crying out for a transformed reality struggling to bloom.

O God, rather than rest on speeches and letters, instead may they serve as energy for the work still to be done. May they be fuel for the inner fire needed for us to help dreams be realized. Amen.

Winter/Spring Reading

Last year I joined Goodreads. It was partially prompted by the publishing of my own book so I could make sure it was added and I could be a "Goodreads Author," which doesn't really seem to entail much.

But anyway, I joined, and quickly decided that I was going to take on a reading challenge of 50 books, which I met and actually surpassed by 10.

The problem I found with doing this challenge was the intentional quickness with which I read. I don't think I savored or digested some of the books I read because the challenge loomed too large inside me.

I am doing a reading challenge again, but I've cut back on the number so I don't feel so rushed to meet it.  I already have a list of books to read (hopefully at a leisurely pace) before summer. Here's what's currently on my nightstand, what I'm anticipating to be released soon, what I've already read since January 1st, or otherwise I've made top priority over the next few months.
Trouble I'v…

Pastoral Prayer for Baptism of Christ Sunday

based on Matthew 3:13-17

God of wisdom and love beyond our knowing, we answer to many names. Some names are bestowed upon us by relationship: grandparent, parent, son, daughter, sister, brother, friend. Some names are entrusted to us, by role or profession, by what we are gifted to do. And some names are forced on us due to a calling to which we are hopelessly linked, or to limit us by one in authority. We embrace some names while striving to reject or shed others, ever struggling to discover our core being.

Above these other voices affixing to us identities of various kinds, there comes one from divine places that claims us as Beloved. As we shudder at the weight of familial roles, as we strain to live up to vocational responsibilities, as we try to shake loose unwanted perceptions, you speak through water and Spirit to say that we are loved eternally and unconditionally, and that you are pleased with us who ultimately return to you as bearers of your life breath.

God of many names,…

Small Sips Mourns the Bothans

Starting with something geeky.Rogue One made my year-end list of best movies. It was a Star Wars movie, so that weighted the scale a little. But it certainly wasn't just due to its association with a beloved franchise, but also its effect on it. Eleanor Tremeer explains how this latest installment--a prequel to A New Hope--changed the original trilogy (POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD):
In Return of the Jedi, when the Rebel Alliance faces the second of what now seems to be an endless parade of Death Stars (I mean, that's basically what Starkiller Base is in The Force Awakens), Mon Mothma explains that the crucial plans to this battle station came at a price. "Many Bothans died to bring us this information." It's almost an offhand comment, and that's the last we hear of these mysterious Bothans, as they are merely tools to establish the gravity of the situation. But with Rogue One we get an up close and personal look at what the Rebellion was really like: The sacrific…

One Word 365: Engage

"Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything." -Thomas Merton

This is the fourth year now that I have chosen to forego the traditional making of New Year's resolutions in favor of just choosing one word to live by. This idea has an official webpage called One Word 365, though I doubt they were the first or only entity to ever conceive or promote it.

In 2016, I chose the word Play:
I want to lighten up, to approach both work and home with more creativity and fun, to mess around with the usual things and see w…

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