Showing posts from June, 2018

Book Review: God and Hamilton by Kevin Cloud

I believe that in the musical Hamilton, Miranda has turned preacher, or perhaps prophet. The story he tells about the life of Hamilton reverberates with the central truths of the Christian Scriptures. It becomes a thin place for us, reminding us of the presence of God among us. It points us toward love, grace, and redemption, and inspires us to transform our lives as a response to this transcendent experience. - Kevin Cloud, God and Hamilton

I was a relative latecomer to the Hamilton phenomenon. It was probably 6 months to a year after the musical had debuted on Broadway, and then it was only by happenstance that I'd even heard about it. A family member had been dropping the show's name in social media posts a handful of times until I finally became curious enough about what she was talking about to do some research.

A Spotify listen later, I understood. Hamilton is a creative and daring presentation of the life of Alexander Hamilton, a Founding Father perhaps most known for t…

A Prayer for Stormy Sailing

based on Mark 4:35-41

Faithful God, the storms of our lives are overwhelming us. The waves are so high, crashing against what we've counted on for safe passage through tough moments. The wind is so strong, bending our usual tools for navigation and coping to the point where we're worried they'll break. What we've relied on before doesn't seem to be enough this time. And along with everything else, we confess that our trust in you may not be what it once was, either.

We cry out to you, "Save us! Don't you realize what is happening? Don't you care? Are you going to do anything?" We wonder if you're sleeping, laying down on the job while we fend for ourselves. We wait and watch and long for you to appear in our storms to say, "Peace! Be still!"

And you do, although it is not in the way we expect. At times you calm the storms blowing against us, at other times you quiet those that rage within us. If you do not banish the rough seas, you…

Vintage CC: Why I'm Giving Up Aspiring to Be a Writer

In honor of the release of my second book, I thought I'd pull up this post from March 2015. As it happened, I only wrote this a few months before landing the opportunity for my first book. But by that point I was resolved to begin thinking about myself in a different way. As far as I was concerned, 10+ years of regular writing was enough of a sign that I could call myself a writer. That I've been able to sign book contracts since then has been a bonus.

I have been keeping this blog for over 10 years. That's a long time and a lot of words. Near the beginning, it wasn't something I took too seriously.

But as tends to happen, I started reading other blogs. Some seemed similar to mine: light reflections on ministry or daily life or whatever passing thought that popped into the person's head and demanded sharing.

Other blogs, however, were Serious Blogs by Serious Writers. Each post clocked in at thousands of words and garnered hundreds of hits and had dozens of comment…

Brand vs. Ethics (book excerpt)

Below is an excerpt from Wonder and Whiskey: Insights on Faith from the Music of Dave Matthews Band.

During a 1999 appearance on VH1 Storytellers, during which artists would not only play songs but also talk about the inspiration and meaning behind them, Matthews included “Christmas Song” in his setlist. While introducing the song, he stated that his inspiration for it came from a quote by Oscar Wilde: “If Christ was alive now, the one thing he wouldn’t be is a Christian.”

Per Matthews in the song, Jesus shares his own sense of purpose, which is to enlighten and inspire; to show people how to live and how to treat one another, as well as perhaps provide a sense of hope. However, Jesus also voices a concern that the way people will receive and implement his message will be very different, and much more violent. Rather than bring hope, peace, and love to a hurting world, people will interpret or use Jesus’ life for purposes such as angling for political power or governmental control, excl…

Frequently Asked Questions About Wonder and Whiskey

Now that Wonder and Whiskey: Insights on Faith from the Music of Dave Matthews Band has officially been released into the world, here are my answers to what I presume are some of the most common questions that people might have about it.

Why does this book exist? The short answer is: because one day I said, "Why not?" The longer answer goes like this: On a whim, I put together a proposal for a book focusing on DMB for a theology and music series that a division of Wipf and Stock is putting together, figuring that I knew their catalogue thoroughly enough that I could easily contribute to what this group was doing. I was told that my approach didn't quite fit with their intent, but I was encouraged to submit my idea separately. I did, and then didn't hear anything back for what seemed like forever, so I figured it wasn't going to happen. And then out of the blue one day, it did.

Okay, but whyDave Matthews Band now? It's been a long time since "Crash Into Me…

Wonder and Whiskey: Insights on Faith from the Music of Dave Matthews Band

Now available through Wipf and Stock!

Dave Matthews likes Jesus, but not dogmatic beliefs about him. He openly wonders about God’s existence while singing of showing love to each other as life’s highest ideal. His songs celebrate making the most of each day’s pleasures because we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, but also caution against overindulgence. His music wrestles with deep questions about identity and mortality, while proposing that upholding others’ worth is one of the most important roles we can fulfill. Wonder and Whiskey is an exploration of the lyrics of Dave Matthews Band as a multilayered call to be present in the moment, both for oneself and others, as well as how these ideas intersect with the highest aspirations of a lived Christian spirituality.

Order at these retailers:

Wipf and Stock
Barnes and Noble

This book is for... of Dave Matthews Band interested in an analysis of music from across their catalogue...

...general music fans wanting …

Book Review: God, Improv, and the Art of Living by MaryAnn McKibben Dana

My latest review for the Englewood Review of Books is part of their Eastertide 2018 print issue.

This time around I've reviewed God, Improv, and the Art of Living by MaryAnn McKibben Dana. My review appears alongside many others, which you should also check out.

Click here to learn how to get your own physical copy.

And keep up with the Englewood Review in general. It provides a great way to hear about new books related to progressive theology, justice issues, spirituality, and popular culture.

Small Sips Bids Farewell

Closing time. After this month, I am retiring this blog feature. I think Small Sips has run its course and it's time to envision something new. Maybe it'll get a reboot sometime down the line, but for now I'm letting it go.

The name Small Sips lives on, however, as that's what I've entitled my new author newsletter, which you should totally subscribe to.

Well. It's true. Jan Edmiston reflects on how hardly anyone cares about what mainline denominations do:
And even Church People care at different levels about Church World: Level One:  There’s a church in town and I’ve participated at least once.Level Two: I participate fairly regularly in that church.Level Three:  I’m a leader in that church.Level Four:  My leadership in church has expanded to connections with other believers outside my particular congregation.Level Five:  Church people know me as a church leader.Level Six: I go to church conferences in my geographic area.Level Seven: I spend money and/or take vac…

The Blessing of Failures

As a pastor, I read a lot of books and articles about church practice. I read about the new best way to organize governing boards and committees that do away with tired forms from the 1950s. I read about the changes that Christian education programs require to thrive when families and youth have so many more activities competing for their attention. I read about increasingly creative worship ideas to engage people who need something to stimulate them in ways other than the printed or auditory word. I read about fantastic new mission and evangelism programs that “meet the culture where it is” and promise to be the next new big bold wonderful ministry to 21st century seekers. Some of these are more concerned with big picture inspiration, calling the church to have the courage to think and act in new ways. Others are more practical, detailing how a faith community might pursue its goal to provide the envisioned model or program. Far and away, a feature common to many of these writings is the s…

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