Dec 19

A Week In Review (last edition of 2014)

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Links at your leisure: What happens to holiday traditions when you grow up? Michelle van Loon, Holiday Traditions, Under Construction “Especially around the Christmas season, we may recall the good ol’ days and simply long to return to the past. But as the passage from

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What happens to holiday traditions when you grow up?

Michelle van Loon, Holiday Traditions, Under Construction

“Especially around the Christmas season, we may recall the good ol’ days and simply long to return to the past. But as the passage from Joshua reminds us, the best family rituals are touchstones, not destinations. We have to also be willing to move on and make our own traditions throughout the generations. Nostalgia alone is the emotional equivalent of a mug of steaming homemade cocoa with extra marshmallows. It’s delicious and heartwarming, but isn’t quite enough to sustain us when we’re doing the work of reconstruction.”

What we treasure matters:

John Richmond, We Get To Pick Our Treasures

“Like Mary, I think we get to decide what we will treasure up and ponder. There is no shortage of painful circumstances to which we can turn, but I have far fewer than young Mary had. It is up to me to elect the hopeful, good, and encouraging things.”

 Learning to talk to God:

Karen Bables, Dialogue with God

“I thought about my desire as a Christian (and perhaps your desire) to listen to God in “God language” while I am actively thinking or speaking in “human language.” We always struggle with this concept – as if we have to detach from our human language to hear God language.   When we read about Frank Laubach’s experiments in keeping in touch with God or Brother Lawrence’s extraordinary ability to go about his daily work and still be conversing with God, we think about how unusually gifted those men must have been and toss off the idea of “constant contact” with God as impossible in the  21st century.”

 Advent isn’t the season for hurry-ers:

Virginia Stem Owens, Advent Hope: Redeeming Time

“We consider to be time wasted. We turn time into money by spending it. But time isn’t really money. Nor is it a commodity.

Time is, in fact, invaluable. Indeed, time is beyond any exchange rate. Perhaps we worry about wasting time because we know we cannot acquire or manufacture it.

But what we can do is redeem it.”

Christ never left Xmas:

Chandler Ragland, An Xmas Reflection

“Christians throughout time crafted these symbols intentionally and purposefully because they can communicate powerful messages of God’s truth and love. They are important pieces of our faith even today because they still carry their power if we’ll only let them. Unfortunately, I’m finding that many Christians are forgetting our traditions, our history, and our basic liturgical vocabulary. My assumption is that this is occurring because there is a lack of teaching occurring in many churches. Such a depletion allows for misinformation about our symbols to arise and spread. And there may be no other time in all of the year where this is more prevalent than during the Christmas season.”

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Dec 12

A Week In Review

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Links at your leisure: Remembering the scandalous nature of the coming season: Scot McKnight, Impossible Odds “But right here, among this little trinity of troubled stories, God begins kingdom work. Those are Impossible Odds because none of us would choose these conditions to create a

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Remembering the scandalous nature of the coming season:

Scot McKnight, Impossible Odds

“But right here, among this little trinity of troubled stories, God begins kingdom work.

Those are Impossible Odds because none of us would choose these conditions to create a spiritual, religious, and social revolution. A kingdom revolution begun in a family seen as anything but an ideal family in Galilee.”

Interstellar, C.S. Lewis, and a different take on the end of things:

Doug Sikkema, Building for the World’s Last Night

“But “what if” there’s something more? What if our sci-fi (and other genres) could ask that “what if” question? It seems that it might relieve us from a certain pressure to stave off the decay, entropy, and annihilation that everything seems to tend toward, but it also creates a new kind of pressure, one that science can’t fully take us to.”

Religious, not spiritual, and other advent reflections:

Becca Stevens, A Meditation for Advent

“The season of four weeks during the longest nights of the year to prepare for the incarnation of love in the past, in the present, and in the future. It is called the season of watching and waiting, and it is set in the midst of what is also called the “Christmas Rush.” It’s the oxymoron of theology as we are called to get busy and sit still.”

 When Advent is about suffering:

Jen Pollock Michel, Learning to long with the poor and the powerless

“If Advent is about longing, maybe it is also about unavoidable impatience. The world is not yet put to rights: there is too much suffering and poverty and war. Dimly, I sense the myopia of my privilege, how it affords me distance from the everyday experience of degradation. But if I mean to be formed by Advent, then I must, at the very least enter imaginatively the tragedy of every act of injustice—and seek to relieve it, as often as, by God’s grace, I can.”

 This will either challenge or re-affirm your beliefs, either way it’s a worthwhile conversation (don’t bother reading the comments, seriously, Brian said so himself):

Brian Zahnd, You Cannot Be Christian and Support Torture

“Any thoughtful person, no matter their religion or non-religion, knows that you cannot support torturing people and still claim to be a follower of the one who commanded his disciples to love their enemies. The only way around this is to invent a false Jesus who supports the use of torture.”


What are you reading this week?

 

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Nov 21

A Week In Review

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Links at your leisure: The church calendar is different from your wall calendar and that difference matters (via Scot McKnight’s weekly meanderings): Chaplain Mike, Preparing for the New Church Year (2) “Practicing the Church Year is how we live in the Story. The concept should

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The church calendar is different from your wall calendar and that difference matters (via Scot McKnight’s weekly meanderings):

Chaplain Mike, Preparing for the New Church Year (2)

“Practicing the Church Year is how we live in the Story.

The concept should not be unusual to us. Our families, communities, and nations celebrate special days and seasons annually. We follow a pattern of life that forms our identity. These commemorations reinforce who we are, what we believe, how we live, and what our values are.

Just so, in God’s family, the cycle of the Church Year has been developed so that we might live in the story of the God who created us, redeemed us, and is making us new in Christ forever.”

 A good reminder for those who have been through the Apprentice Series, a good word for those new to these soul-training exercises:

Bill Walker, Social Media, Silence and Sabbath: Three Ways to Counter Misshaping Cultural Currents

“Just like fasting from social media and observing Sabbath, practices like meditation and contemplative prayer are not only intended to further our own spiritual formation. They are meant to grow us into our authentic selves, and into our authentic voices. Only then can the church participate in its mission in a way that shapes, rather than gets misshaped by the dominant culture.”

 Food and mission?

Ruthie Johnson, Meals as Mission: Unity As Our Identity In Christ

“Through the sharing of meals, Christ invites us into a new identity of the Kingdom. In redefining who we fellowship with and how we know Christ, he points to a deeper understanding of unity. He repositions the “Kingdom” as the way we love and relate to others. ‘Kingdom’ now becomes a mission, a demonstration of Christ’s sacrificial love for us. It is a glimpse of the future—where we will experience knownness and oneness in Christ.”

 On the physicality of prayer and spiritual dryness:

Taylor Mertins, Devotional–Psalm 95.6

“Sometimes the physical routines of prayer, the embodiment of time with God, can help us through those times of dry spirituality. Even if I can sense that I am not fully invested in my prayers, when my knees hit the ground and I kneel before the Lord I am drawn back to the importance of what I am doing. Even if I can sense that I am distracted during worship, when my fingers make the sign of the cross I am drawn back to the intense gravity of all who have crossed themselves in reverence throughout the centuries. There is just something incredible about physically embodying our prayers that helps to keep me focused and thankful for the Lord our Maker.”

 Learning from the monastics, simplicity and psalms:

Caryl Hurtig Casbon, Cultivating a Contemplative Attitude

“Living a contemplative life (as far as that is possible in the world) is a source of joy. More important than any spiritual practice or technique is the cultivation of a contemplative attitude, an awareness that you live in the presence of God and God’s presence in you. When this permeates your family life, your friendships, and your vocation, you see everything differently.”


What are you reading this week?

 

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Nov 14

A Week In Review

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Links at your leisure: Moses couldn’t talk good, and other excuses for not following your calling: Phileena Heuertz, What holds you back from being who you are called to be? “How many times have we been like Moses—full of self-doubt and reluctant to step into

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Moses couldn’t talk good, and other excuses for not following your calling:

Phileena Heuertz, What holds you back from being who you are called to be?

“How many times have we been like Moses—full of self-doubt and reluctant to step into our calling? Self-abnegation and sensuality are intricately connected, but at first it is difficult to recognize the connection. Often, doing what feels good (sensuality) means hiding or avoiding one’s potential. When we are subject to the sin of self-abnegation, we are shirking our responsibilities. Fear is usually a contributor. We fear upsetting the status quo or we fear our abilities or we fear the potential for rejection, criticism and failure—so we hide. Hiding feels safe.”

A different approach to the ever present conversation about leadership (with some help from Dr. Seuss):

Troy Walling, Lead With Your Ears

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. – Dr. Seuss

At the heart of most forms of leadership development is the idea of extending influence. Leaders want to influence. Plain and simple. I see nothing wrong with that.

However, if we are honest with ourselves, we leaders desire compliance more than influence. We want people to go where we lead. We want them to obey.”

Some insights you might not expect from the revered Billy Graham:

Aaron Griffith, Billy Graham’s Bible: What “America’s Pastor” Can Teach Evangelicals About Scripture and Science

“Though Graham no longer preaches, he still has an instructive message for evangelicals: evangelicalism flourishes when these Christians focus on how their gospel redeems a broken world—and not on how the world threatens to break their gospel. Graham knew that evangelical Christianity suffers when it hides its gospel underneath distracting bushels, like jot-and-tittle fracases about the age of the earth or the size of Noah’s flood. The point from Graham’s perspective was not so much that one side in these debates is right or wrong.Rather, the point is that this is the wrong kind of stuff to worry about in a world desperate for divine solace and support.”

 Part of a series on catechesis for young people (and all people) in the church (you should check out the whole series):

Jason Micheli, Is Belief Wishful Thinking?

“Is belief wishful thinking?

Of course. Then, most of our opinions, to one degree or another, are wishful thinking. Christian belief, like most beliefs, is wishful thinking not in the sense that we force ourselves- delude ourselves- to think a certain way but in that we decide to think according to Christian belief.”

Leaving the shallow to go deep with St. Augustine (and others):

Brian Zahnd, Saint Augustine and Me

“As I read Confessions on that Sunday afternoon I was deeply moved. I closed the book, set it down beside me, and prayed this prayer: O God, I want to dedicate the rest of my life to knowing you as you are revealed in Christ. As much as I can mean anything in a single moment, I mean this prayer. Help me to know you. Amen.

As I finished my brief, but deeply sincere prayer, something strange happened. I felt something in my chest. Words. I felt words, not in my mind, but in my chest. Words I wanted to speak. I felt I had to say these words to someone: Come with me. Come with me and you won’t get cheated. Come with me. It was a mystical experience — a mystical experience I couldn’t deny or ignore.”


What caught your eye around the blog-o-sphere this week?

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Nov 07

A Week In Review

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Links at your leisure: Re-framing the conversation around singing/music styles in church: Sean Palmer, Singing as a Spiritual Discipline “If you’ve spent more than 10-minutes inside an American worship service, you already know how important singing is. Regardless of the worship style of your congregation, the

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Links at your leisure:

Re-framing the conversation around singing/music styles in church:

Sean Palmer, Singing as a Spiritual Discipline

“If you’ve spent more than 10-minutes inside an American worship service, you already know how important singing is. Regardless of the worship style of your congregation, the music is important, and usually done well. Music has power. It transforms moments and has the power to embed memories and stir emotions. We are moved by the singing and music in ways little else can or does. For most of us, the music and singing of our congregation is one of the major reasons we picked it.

And that’s the problem.”

On following Jesus when it’s not all butterflies and gumdrops:

Marlena Graves, God’s Grace Through the Pain of Pregnancy

“Lest I give the false impression that I am heroic during my pregnancies, let me assure you: I am not. Quite the opposite. Internally, I war against them. I’d like to think I am an icon of grace amid such suffering, a matronly saint, but it’s simply not true. When I am sick, tired, isolated, almost immobile, and feeling useless—I resent it. I get angry and irritable. Impatient. My husband suffers. My children do, too. These are some of my worst moments.

And yet it is here that I see the hand of God.”

Where in the Bible is the “sinner’s prayer?”

Richard Beck, Be Baptized

“The proclamation of the gospel is an apocalyptic event. The gospel isn’t a sales pitch. The gospel is news. In Jesus something happened. The gospel is a revelation. A revelation–an apocalypse–that a new reality has broken upon us in a way that breaks us, a new reality–that the  Kingdom of God has been inaugurated in the person of Jesus–that interrupts and disrupts everything that we thought we knew about ourselves, our world and the cosmos.”

 Counter-intuitive advice on the church:

Scot McKnight, Expecting Less, Discovering the More

“The paradox of real church life is yearning for love and holiness in the midst of sinners who will not this side of eternity ever be fully loving or holy. Hence, the paradox is that we are both saints and sinners — that’s what the church really is. The now of the kingdom is no different.”

 Yeah, you’ve heard about it before, but hear it afresh:

Rob Bell, The Reason Why People Miss the Point of the Good Samaritan Story

“Do you see why I began by talking about the point of the story? You can make it about roadside assistance, which is fine, and maybe even helpful, but Jesus is calling us to something way bigger and higher and deeper and transcendent. Jesus is calling the man to love like God loves. Which means everybody. Even those you hate the most. Jesus is challenging the man to extend divine love to those who are the most difficult to love. That’s where it’s at. That’s the answer to the question. That’s where the eternal life is.”

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