Showing posts from November, 2017

Book Review: A Bigger Table by John Pavlovitz

When we look to expand the table, we will invariably be pulled in all directions by those who are more interested in claiming ownership of our allegiance than extending grace to the other. The more I've sought to be about the work of loving all people, the more I've come to see how that will really piss off some people. Jesus didn't meet with just those who were deemed his social equals or those who could further his cause or those who would boost his platform (In fact, he specifically warns against such self-serving hospitality; see Luke 14:12-14.) He had friends in low places too. That was the strategic beauty with his invitation, Jesus affirms the value of his disparate meal companions to them and to those watching from a distance. - John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table

Before I read anything by John Pavlovitz, I heard him. He was a guest on one of my favorite podcasts a few months ago, during which he talked about his journey through faith and the church. Having been a pasto…

I'm Writing Another Book

With the ink now drying on the contract, I can share that I am working on my second book, to be published sometime in 2018.

The tentative title is Save Your Sermons: Spirituality and the Music of Dave Matthews Band. The premise is pretty much what it sounds like: I'll analyze the spiritual themes of some of DMB's lyrics, drawing out some general points and considering what the band's music has to teach us about spirituality.

Some of it may be explicitly Christian, some of it not so much. I don't want it to be a straight-up "Gospel According to Dave Matthews" sort of book; I'm going to let them lead the way and speak for themselves on these issues.

I'm working with Wipf and Stock this time around, and as mentioned the plan is to have a finished product out sometime next year, probably summer at the earliest but maybe closer to fall. Over the next few months, I'll say more about the content and how it's all progressing, both on here but also o…

November 2017 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for November...

1. We went to see Thor: Ragnarok on opening weekend, featuring the title character encountering Hela, the goddess of death, who threatens to destroy his home world of Asgard. During this conflict, he winds up on a different planet where he reunites with the Hulk and his brother Loki, along with other new and familiar faces. As Marvel movies go, the Thor chapters have tended to rank lower on my list. But this was fast-paced, funny, colorful, and served as a fitting completion to this character's arc before he rejoins his many colleagues for the newest Avengers movie next year.

2. I also watched the movie Lion this week, starring Dev Patel as Saroo, a man from India who became lost when he was 5 years old, was adopted by an Australian couple, and goes on a search for his original family 25 years later. The first half hour or more of the movie was painful as we watch young Saroo, suddenly alone, try to make sense of his surroundings, with some adults more…

Pastoral Prayer for Thankful Remembrance

Faithful God, we hear the encouragement to give thanks always and in all things, but we don’t often feel very thankful. We see and read news of people struggling to have basic needs met in places devastated by disaster. We feel stress and strain in our own lives due to illness, busyness, and uncertainty about what tomorrow might bring. We wonder about the future of the church, and we struggle with what it means to be faithful and effective, as well as what effectiveness looks like.

So we bring all of this to you, hoping you will help us find reasons for thankfulness in the midst of trying and difficult circumstances. We lift prayers for our world, for the many areas racked by problems in our own country, for our communities, for our church, our families, and for ourselves, seeking cause for thanksgiving and opportunities to share it with others in need of its reassuring light.

O God, help us rejoice. Help us give one another reasons for relief and gratitude. To you we share all …

Vintage CC: The Process of Change

I've written many blog posts over the years about change in the church. This one comes from September 2014, and doesn't focus so much on the need to change so much as two basic approaches that one may take depending on the circumstances and one's best read of the specifics.

I'm a big fan of change, especially in the church. My upbringing as a pastor's kid kind of ingrained change into me; it helped me accept change as a natural, inevitable fact of life. This has been a helpful asset for me in ministry.

The church needs to change. We've been hearing this for years via countless books, articles, speakers, workshops, conferences, and blog posts. It's a new era and a new culture, we're told. The church can't just make the same assumptions about its place in the world any more. Both in terms of the way it functions internally and the way it interacts with the surrounding community, the church needs to face the reality of each and make changes accordingly…

Find Your People

I sometimes have trouble fitting in to groups. It's not that I'm incapable, but certain situations have caused me to wonder whether I'll be able to gel with certain sets of people.

You know this feeling. I'm not alone or unique in this.

Sometimes it's because we can't really talk about common interests: we don't like the same music, we're on opposite sides of a sports rivalry, we haven't seen the same movies or read the same books, we're too far apart spiritually or politically to understand each other.

Sometimes it's the social dynamics at play. I make my living regularly interacting with a group of people, but there are certain professional expectations to uphold and friendship beyond friendliness can be tricky. When I move on to another church or when a member decides to seek out a different faith community, things can get even more awkward.

It can be difficult to find your people.

What does that mean? Who are your people? They're t…

What is Body Prayer?

Previously: What is the Examen?, What is Lectio Divina?, What is Fasting?, What is the Labyrinth?, What is the Liturgical Calendar?, What are Prayer Beads?

You can find an endless supply of resources that will tell you all kinds of proper techniques for prayer. Many of them will encourage you to find a quiet and secluded spot, breathe slowly, and sit as still as possible.

For various reasons, a lot of people can't do parts of that at any given time. Maybe there's too much crammed into the day to find that quiet and secluded spot. Maybe you aren't capable of sitting still and would rather move around more or you've had a particularly rough day and have energy to burn.

Fortunately, there are forms of prayer that involve active movement, some of which I've written about already such as walking a labyrinth and using prayer beads. (See the links above for more information.)

But both of these fall under a much larger umbrella of spiritual practice called body prayer.


Worship Wrinkles

I recently attended a ministry workshop stating that when it comes to Sunday worship, a church should plan 52 unique celebrations a year.

I've been thinking about that quite a lot, as this has been an issue lately in my own setting. Not too long ago, I realized that I'd become too comfortable with what I've been doing since before I began here. I've been using a basic order and just plugging in new words and songs for each spot.

When I attend certain churches I've been a part of, I've noticed that the order is the same since the last time I was there. It could be years since I've attended, but when I walk in I know that the liturgy is going to be basically the same as last time.

Many find comfort in this, not just for their own church but for the larger tradition that they're a part of. Some take this as a connection that they can feel with the Church Universal, that no matter where they go they'll be worshipping much the same way as fellow pilgrim…

Small Sips Will Bless the Rains Down in Africa

#YouToo. If you were on social media a few weeks ago, you most likely saw at least a couple of your friends take part in the #MeToo hashtag, which highlights how pervasive sexual harassment and abuse is; how many, particularly women, have experienced it personally in one way or another. For me it was powerful and convicting just how many people I knew had the courage to take part; more eye-opening is how many couldn't or didn't feel up to it yet had still endured abuse in some fashion.

Marchae Grair has a different take on the hashtag by turning it back on the perpetrators:
You touched without permission.You silenced with intention.You were the problem.

You are the problem. Yet there is no hashtag about your story.  Because you’re not pushed to process and you’re not pushed to stop.  You’re allowed to keep living, even as you kill something in others. I saw more than one response to this hashtag suggesting that victims shouldn't be the ones sharing their stories. Instead, i…

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