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Showing posts from February, 2017

Book Review: Why I Left, Why I Stayed by Tony and Bart Campolo

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I have a new book review up at the Englewood Review of Books. This time I review Why I Left, Why I Stayed by Tony and Bart Campolo. An excerpt:

Early in this book, Bart Campolo shares the story of what led to his leaving the Christian faith. During a ride on his bike, he crashed head-first into a tree that led to weeks of recovering his memory followed by fresh realizations related to identity and belief. Among such realizations came one of the biggest: he, the son of a nationally renowned evangelical leader and speaker and with his own long career as a pastor, speaker, and missionary himself, no longer believed in God.

Bart’s subsequent sit-down with his parents to share this news is told from both sides. Bart shares his anxiety and uncertainty about how they would react, and Tony (and Peggy in her contributed foreword) both tell of their dismay coupled with their resolve to continue loving their son just as much as they did before.

Read the rest at the Englewood Review of Books.

February 2017 Pop Culture Roundup

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Five items for February...

1. This month I read Tranny by Laura Jane Grace, the lead singer for punk band Against Me! She tells the story of how the band came to be and the ups and downs of their development, as well as her concurrent wrestling with gender dysphoria. After decades of personal struggle that included addiction and broken relationships that she eventually identified as her own acting out of her dysphoria, she finally comes out to friends, family, and fans as wanting to transition to being a woman. This was an engrossing read and Grace is as good a storyteller as she is a musician and songwriter. I really enjoyed this.

2. I also read Carol Howard Merritt's just-released book, Healing Spiritual Wounds. Carol details some of her painful experiences with the church, including its response to the abuse she endured growing up and during her time attending Moody Bible College. She uses a great deal of personal story in order to help readers access and deal with their own; …

Pastoral Prayer to Live Differently

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based on Matthew 5:38-48

O God, sometimes we hear what Jesus commands us to do and wonder if he really knows what he’s talking about. When he says, “do not resist an evildoer,” or “turn the other cheek,” or “love your enemies,” we think that he can’t possibly know the way things really work. What could he possibly mean by statements like this? Does he know what it’s like to live in a world that is often callous and cruel and selfish?

And he does know. The same one who made these statements is the one who listened to the stories and experiences of prostitutes who were abused, day workers short-changed at the end of their shift, Samaritans shunned for their foreign beliefs, the sick, disabled, and possessed in need of healthcare, and fellow believers who refused to practice the state religion. He heard these stories while so full of your love and so pained by the suffering we visit on each other.

At the same time, he offered an alternative view of how to live by mercy and forgiveness r…

Book Review: Blessed Are the Weird by Jacob Nordby

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Being creative is the only way we can ever feel fulfilled in life. This means turning our lives into unique works of art that reflect our desires and passions. It also means marching to the beat of our own drum. This book celebrates the weird ones who teach us to do that--who show us that it is not only possible but is also critical to our own survival. - Jacob Nordby, Blessed Are the Weird

Sometimes the premise of a book seems like such an obvious homerun that you can't fathom not finding it enjoyable or engrossing. But a book is more than a premise and thus must depend on more than the idea that led to its creation. The building of the case; the development of the central concept is what separates a book with a good premise from a book with a good argument. And at times when I sit down to read something knowing it has the former, I am sometimes left scratching my head afterward wondering how it never became the latter.

Blessed Are the Weird: A Manifesto for Creatives is a book wi…

Pastoral Prayer to Do Hard Things

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based on Matthew 5:21-37

God of the impossible, we confess that we think most of what you call us to do is way too hard. We hear Jesus’ call to love our enemies, to pray for those who have wronged us, to reconcile with people we have problems with, to guard our hearts and minds against intentions that lead to sinful behavior. Most of this sounds like it’s only meant for people who are much more holy than we could ever hope to be. How can we act as disciples when we have been conditioned so much to approach others with suspicion, fear, and caution?

Your good news for us is that your forgiving and gracious Spirit doesn’t give up on us, and calls us not to give up on one another. Through Jesus you reveal how generous you intend to be with those whom you’ve created, and you empower us to reflect that same love to each other. You move us beyond our grievances, guardedness, and grudges, and readily bestow the courage and humility that we need to do so, if only that we respond in kind to on…

Vintage CC: A Dream Before Valentine's Day

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As the title indicates, I wrote this before Valentine's Day, in February 2010. It came back to mind as I've been thinking on themes very similar to it lately, although I haven't organized my thoughts well enough yet to write about it. But stay tuned, because I think I am planning to give it a shot in the next couple weeks. In the meantime, maybe you're anticipating Valentine's Day in one form or another, whether with a newly discovered love or years or decades into a relationship. I hope this provides fodder for how you think about the day, and about love in general.

I had a dream last night. I had a couple, actually.

The first was about the Batman movie from 1989. It was before Jack Napier became the Joker, and he was arguing with that dirty cop Eckhardt. I was a non-participant in this...in fact I was just making dinner with the movie on in the background.

And then I went from one '80s movie to another, as suddenly I was in Back to the Future Part II. At …

What is Lectio Divina?

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Previously: What Is the Examen?

I've taken to occasionally writing about specific spiritual practices as a way to help encourage Christians--particularly mainline Protestants--to deepen their inner life. I figure that I need to do more than just complain about my and other denominational traditions' seeming aversion to such things, so explaining what various practices are is a start.

Today, we discuss lectio divina.

The term itself started showing up in the 4th or 5th Century, but the practice may be even older. It refers to a way of reading the Bible with God's guidance, although the method and purpose may seem strange and alien to most Christians familiar with Western traditions and views of scripture. It involves a slow, deliberate way of reading a text, seeking how God may be speaking a word to the reader for their unique and particular life moment.

Lectio divina is a contemplative exercise that focuses on the heart rather than the head. It is a way of reading that is…

Small Sips Says It Without Saying It

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Nothing new, but still important. John O'Keefe confesses several things that he feels or experiences as a pastor:
In many [not all] of the churches I’ve served, I’ve felt alone. It’s a weird feeling; I can stand in front of 200-500 people each Sunday, speak, and share, and walk away from that experience feeling alone – and it hurts. Like everyone else, I’m looking to develop deep, honest, open, lasting relationship with those around me. I’ve always felt sad knowing I’m your Pastor, but you don’t want to get to know me; but you expect me to know every detail about the lives of 500+ people – and to be honest with you, I have a hard time just remembering names. This isn't really a ground-breaking article, but I think that these sorts of sharings bear repeating from time to time as a reminder of the unique challenges that pastors face, including pressure to succeed amid volunteers who expect results but aren't always quick to offer assistance or resources, and the loneliness of…