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Showing posts from March, 2017

March 2017 Pop Culture Roundup

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Seven items for March...

1. I read The Year of Small Things by Sarah Arthur and Erin Wasinger this month, which chronicles the life of two families striving in their suburban surroundings to live radical lives of discipleship to Jesus. They, like so many others, have read writings by "new monastics" such as Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartsgrove, but want to know how to do it where they live and while raising families. Arthur and Wasinger tell of their households spending a year seeing how the different values of such radical communities might best translate to their own context. They discover and describe how to be faithful in ways such as living simply, supporting local food supplies, managing finances, pursuing justice, and showing hospitality. The results are helpful and accessible, and I think this book serves as a great practical guide to those wondering how to do these things where they are instead of moving into a commune.

2. I also read Scrappy Little Nobod…

Should the Headlines Make Your Sermon?

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I have a new post up at the UCC's blog, New Sacred, entitled Should the Headlines Make Your Sermon?:

If you watched this year’s Super Bowl, you might remember several ads that lifted up messages of inclusion, diversity, and kindness. They were reportedly in production for months, but given the nationwide atmosphere they seemed especially relevant, drawing expressions of gratitude from some and derision from others.

The thing about these ads, though, is that none of them mentioned any politician or hot-button issue by name.

Read the rest at New Sacred.

Learning from Lenten Failures

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Lent, Day 23.

Previously: For Now, Just Live, Go Ahead and Give Up Chocolate for Lent, Homebrewing Salvation, My Easter Burden

Lent is halfway over, and I haven't been very good at keeping a prayer discipline. It's one of the things I said I'd do during this season, and the most generous thing you could say is that it's been hit-and-miss.

I have a devotional book, and I also have a lot of excuses why I haven't read much of it.

Early mornings are my preferred time and even with Daylight Savings my kids have been waking up at the same time. During the day I'm in the office, or visiting, or exercising, or waiting for my son to get out of school, or driving the kids somewhere, or going to an evening meeting.

Night time then becomes the best case, right? By then I'm more content to pick up a different book or catch up with The Magicians or just talk with my wife for a bit before we both pass out.

So the pastor/spiritual director/guy who wrote a book about the im…

My Easter Burden

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Lent, Day 17.

Previously: For Now, Just Live, Go Ahead and Give Up Chocolate for Lent, Homebrewing Salvation

It all started with a story about Arby's.

It was my third Easter sermon as a pastor. I opened with a story about waiting at an Arby's drive-through. In those days my car had several bumper stickers on it, including a UCC one with an older saying, "To believe is to care, to care is to do."

A couple kids in the car behind me seemed to notice it, because they quickly scrawled a message on a piece of paper and held it up for me to see in my rearview mirror: "Satan is God."

I immediately knew they were only doing it for a reaction. Just two young guys having a laugh. I'd heard far worse from non-Christians trying to get a rise out of me, and my faith had been through far more challenging things.

That's why I used that experience in an Easter sermon. Because that note didn't surprise me, much the same way that the only thing left that could sur…

Be Active and Know

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I have a new post up today at the Shalem Institute blog, entitled Be Active and Know. An excerpt:

To help him with his schoolwork, we’ve purchased several fidget cubes for our son. If you aren’t familiar with these, they are small six-sided objects, each side with a series of buttons to press, switches to click, balls to roll with your thumb, and so on. They were born from educational and psychological theory stating that having something to fidget with can actually increase one’s focus and attention on the main task at hand.

Read the rest at the Shalem Institute blog.

Vintage CC: No Perfect Time

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This post comes from March 2012 while I was being guided through the Spiritual Exercises. One meditation that I was invited to observe was to get up sometime in the middle of the night and spend an hour imagining being with Jesus in his prison cell. This is my recounting of that experience. Close to five years later, I'm still haunted by its revelations.

At first, it is as if I am looking in at the scene from afar. I am hesitant to enter fully, wanting instead to get my bearings, to see the room before being in it. And this is what I see: a bare dirt floor, grimy walls that I'm hesitant to lean up against, and a single small window high up, the moon providing the only light.

He is the only prisoner being kept here. He seems unaware of the slime of the wall, sitting and resting his back against it. He has bushy hair and a beard, though his complexion is darker than most expect. He is shackled by thick black chains both on his hands and feet, as if he really has anywhere to go. …

Homebrewing Salvation

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Lent, Day 11.

Previously: For Now, Just Live, Go Ahead and Give Up Chocolate for Lent

I've been learning how to brew beer the past few weeks. Doing so has been an aspiration of mine for a couple years, and my wife's celiac diagnosis has recently added to the motivation as I'd eventually like to try making something gluten free for her. But we've agreed that I should get the basics down before attempting that.

I just finished brewing a double IPA. It's finally done after five weeks of boiling, fermenting, bottling, and carbonating. There was some trial and error along the way that included me having to mop an unfortunate amount of the end product off my kitchen floor, but things like that are part of the learning. But ultimately, I have to say that it tastes pretty good.

If there's one thing I can say about my experience of brewing my first beer, it's that the process is certainly not a fast one. If you want to end up with something truly satisfying, it can&#…

Small Sips Is Making Two Lists

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So. What you gonna do? John Stoehr suggests that this political moment in America is presenting progressive Christians with an opportunity, if they want it:
It's unclear whether Christian conservatives know the price they have paid. By going all-in with Trump, they have seriously undermined, perhaps bankrupted, their moral authority. The movement's big wheels are scrambling to contain dissent bubbling up from their ranks, from young evangelicals appalled by the older generation's attempts to rationalize Trump's corruption, views of immigrants and his endless, breathless lying. Allowing the Christian right to crash on its own might seem like a victory for liberals, but it's not. The Christian right could limp along for years if allowed to. Liberals need to recognize this moment as an opportunity. The right's former moral authority must be supplanted by a new moral authority, one equally rooted in religion. But how can liberals, especially white liberals with an …

Go Ahead and Give Up Chocolate for Lent

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Lent, Day Five.

Previously: For Now, Just Live

Regarding my Lenten discipline this year, I'm feeling very basic. I'm giving up sweets.

I'll also work my way through a devotional book and engage in daily prayer, but I felt inspired this year to refrain from the two donut runs I make on the weekend, the two cinnamon crunch bagels I eat every week, the Girl Scout cookies and Easter candy that will soon appear in my house, the late-night ice cream, and the rest.

All of it gone for 40 days.

I realized how compulsive I've been about indulging in this lately, so Lent has provided a good opportunity to go without for a while.

Others I know are doing something similar: chocolate, soda, Facebook, alcohol. It's a fairly traditional practice that many are observing in their own way and according to their own sense of what might be best.

Unfortunately, it's been the trendy thing the past few years to write pieces criticizing those who "give up" something for Lent…

Pastoral Prayer from the Wilderness

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based on Matthew 4:1-11

O God, we need to be honest and just tell you how hard things are. We’re being pulled every which way by demands placed on us by our schedules, by high expectations to be good parents, spouses, and workers, by what we think others want from us and by what we want from ourselves. And we have questions about you. How are you everywhere including in what we’re facing? How are you loving us despite our sins and shortcomings? Where are you in the world’s suffering? How much church involvement is good enough? What am I really supposed to be doing to follow Jesus in my own life?

We bring all these demands and expectations and questions and lay them down here because we don’t know what else to do with them. Some days it’s all we can do to get from our morning alarm to our evening routine while shouldering all of this in between. We have our own ways of distracting ourselves, of taking the edge off, of becoming numb for a while, but they don’t really make the difficult…

For Now, Just Live

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Lent, Day One. Ash Wednesday.

The first time I realized that I was eventually going to die, I was probably about six years old.

The moment is still vivid for me. I was in the living room of our home, playing with action figures with cartoons on the TV. While standing at a small end table staging a fight between two of my toys, the thought simply emerged, causing me to pause and stare into space as I allowed it to sink in.

"Someday I'm going to die." I didn't say it out loud, but those five words just hung there in my consciousness for a minute or two as I reflected on what it meant. There'd be no more playing with action figures, no more cartoons, no more me.

Someone that young, with so much life ahead, can only fathom it so much. But for a little while, it hung over my head like a cloud.

I didn't really resolve anything. No moment of panic or peace followed. Instead, I began to think about what I'd do in the meantime, like finish the battle being waged i…

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