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Showing posts from January, 2018

Discovering Your Role

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I used to be a regular participant in theatre. For a while, it was one of the most meaningful activities I was a part of, for multiple reasons. It brought me out of my shell during a time when I was hesitant to apply myself in much of anything. Walking onstage for my first audition was a revelatory moment in that it felt very natural, as if this moment could have happened much earlier if I’d allowed it.

In those years I had the opportunity to play parts such as Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet,” Stephano in “The Tempest,” the title character in “The Importance of Being Earnest,” and Sam Weinberg in “A Few Good Men” (Kevin Pollack’s character in the movie version). Being a part of these casts, working together to rehearse and anticipate bringing forth our production for an audience on opening night, was life-giving. It helped give me focus and discover talents that I didn’t know I had.

I recall one memorable exchange that I had with a director after I wasn’t cast for a play. As many othe…

January 2018 Pop Culture Roundup

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

1. One of my first books of the year was Endure by Daniel D. Maurer. I've enjoyed several of Maurer's other books the past few years and was glad he'd produced another. Here he explores different spiritual assets for being resilient during hard times. The bulk of the book is stories from people who have had to navigate some of life's most difficult battles, including a family of Syrian refugees, several women caught in the cycle of abuse, and a member of the military. In each story, Maurer identifies one of the primary spiritual assets each relied on to get them through, such as acceptance, forgiveness, hope, and gratitude. The stories were compelling and heartbreaking, and Maurer teased out themes very well while being true to what each person shared.

2. I finally watched the movie Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as two Portuguese priests who travel to Japan to look for th…

Pastoral Prayer for Hesitant Disciples

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based on Mark 1:14-20

Faithful God, your call to us seems so complicated and scary. We wonder if we must really leave everything behind; if we can't take any time to count the cost before dropping other obligations to follow. Can you guarantee our safety, our well-being, our comfort, our success? Are we really meant to drag our nets to catch others, bringing in whomever is swept up in the good news, without stopping to check their background or beliefs? What kind of a life will this be, if we have the courage to say yes?

While your invitation to us is short on guarantees, it is long on grace. As you mean to extend God's many gifts to others, so do you also share them with us. As we wrestle with the potential places to which your Spirit may send us, we need reminders that as you mean to make your love known to them, we are just as fortunate and blessed recipients of that same love, and such a divine embrace is to be shared rather than hoarded.

O God, we are all beggars helping…

Vintage CC: Five Really Good Reasons to Leave Your Church

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This post comes from January 2014, which I fired off in response to a Relevant Magazine article. I didn't expect what it would lead to: it went viral that week, it continues to be one of my best-viewed posts, and it even led to a radio appearance a few months later. I think it still holds up well, because all of these reasons are still very real experiences for thousands of people wondering whether it's time to move on.

Recently, Relevant Magazine posted an article on their website entitled Five Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church. Essentially, it was a lament about the consumerist attitude that some take toward seeking a church, including "I'm not being fed," "I don't agree with everything preached," and so on.

As a pastor, I resonated with some of what the article was going for. It's important to remain in and contribute to a faith community, and if there are certain ministries there that you'd like to see offered, perhaps it's up …

Book Review: Seven Stories by Anthony Bartlett

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If you are picking up this book for the first time do not doubt that it contains the germ of something capable of transforming everything. Not only does it show that the God of the Old Testament is consistent with the God of the Sermon on the Mount, but it carries a sea-change in the meaning of church. Rather than an institutional guarantee for an afterlife, Christian identity is a profound journey of human change in this life, one always intended by a God of unimaginable love and vitality. The resurrection of Jesus is a pledge of a transformed Earth where all of history is invited into a fullness of life, a time and place where violence has no part. - Anthony W. Bartlett, Seven Stories

Not all Christian education curricula with a progressive bent are created equal. Some are very good at providing background information but short on providing resources within itself for actually teaching that information to participants. Others seem to assume that participants already know or agree wi…

Winter/Spring Reading

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Now that we are at the beginning of a new year, I have to compile a new list of books to read. Between the obligations of writing a manuscript and preparing for Lent and Easter, I'm not sure how quickly I'll be able to get to them. But there they'll sit on my nightstand, beckoning in those free moments.

So here is at least a sampling of what I'm planning to read between now and summer:
Vital Vintage Church by Michael PiazzaWildwood by Colin MeloyCold Fire by Kate ElliotBehemoth by Scott WesterfieldEndure by Daniel D. MaurerThe Walking Dead Volume 29 by Robert KirkmanElectric Arches by Eve L. EwingSpiritual Friendship after Religion by Joseph A. Stewart-SickingFinding Seekers by Bruce TallmanCourageous Faith by Emily C. HeathThe Very Worst Missionary by Jamie WrightEverything is Flammable by Gabrielle Bell So, a few churchy/spirituality books, a few novels, some poetry, and a couple graphic novels.
What's on your list for this first part of 2018?
As always, I need t…

Small Sips Has An Excuse for Book Hoarding Now

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Well, if you insist. You know how you sometimes have more books on your nightstand or on your shelves that you have all the good intentions in the world to read, but feel bad because you can never quite get around to them? Jessica Stillman says that's okay, and observes why it's actually a good and healthy thing to surround yourself with more books than you'll ever read:
An antilibrary is a powerful reminder of your limitations - the vast quantity of things you don't know, half know, or will one day realize you're wrong about. By living with that reminder daily you can nudge yourself towards the kind of intellectual humility that improves decision-making and drives learning. "People don't walk around with anti-résumés telling you what they have not studied or experienced (it's the job of their competitors to do that), but it would be nice if they did," Taleb claims. Why? Perhaps because it is a well known psychological fact that is the most incomp…

One Word 365: Breathe

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For the past four years, I've made it part of my New Year's observance to participate in One Word 365. The premise is that, rather than making a list of resolutions that you won't keep anyway, you just choose a single word to live by for the entire year. I have found this to be more of a rewarding exercise than not, so I plan to continue it this year.

For 2017, I chose the word Engage:
Since late in the evening on November 8th, I have been wondering what I can do and who I can be in this new moment my country finds itself in. Many of my friends are scared, as am I, about what might become of civil liberties, government assistance programs on which many rely, and the overall cultural climate in which those with hateful beliefs toward minorities have felt emboldened and empowered. Also since that evening, social media for me has been more of a chore that has left me tired and heartbroken. Many use these platforms to vent their frustrations and fears, and while I have been a…

I'm on Pulpit Fiction This Week

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To ring in the New Year, I have contributed the "Voice in the Wilderness" segment to the latest edition of the Pulpit Fiction podcast, which takes a look at the lectionary texts each week leading to the coming Sunday.

This time around, my assignment was Genesis 1:1-5. You can listen at their website or on iTunes.

Thanks to the guys for another chance to contribute.

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