Coming Soon: Advent Devotions

keep-calm-advent-is-coming-2

This coming Sunday, November 29, be on the lookout for an Advent Daily Devotional that you can use during the season of Advent on this blog. There will be a new Advent Devotional posted every morning based on the daily lectionary. It will consist of a Bible passage, reflection, and prayer for the day. Be sure to follow this blog or sign up to receive email notifications when new posts are made.

It is my hope that this will help guide you during the Advent Season as we prepare for the coming of Christ.

where are we going?

I am not quite sure what to think of the current state of politics within our country. While, as a pastor, I do not strongly impress my views on others. Whether I vote Republican, Democrat, or even Independent should not truly matter. As we approach Christ the King Sunday, Read More

Book Review: The Abbey by James Martin, SJ

theabbeymartin

James Martin ventures into the world of the novel with excellence! Previously having written other books away from the fiction genre, his offering in The Abbey is great and one that can and should be shared with others on their own faith journey.

Following the story of Anne and one of her tenants, Mark, to an abbey that is nearby where Mark works. Anne’s connection with the abbey through her father is rekindled and the conversation that ensues with a couple of the monks leads to some deeper understanding in her own life. In the meantime, Mark questions what is calling in life may be.

This book would be a great resource for anyone questioning their faith. It may also help someone walk through the death of a child and what that may man in their faith life.

I look forward to the next fiction book the James Martin has to offer.

My Heart Aches

Jean-Jullien_illustration_Peace-for-Paris_attacks_dezeen_square-300x300

My heart truly aches for the world. What has taken place this past week, not just in Paris, but also in Beirut and Syria. The ongoing clash of people that are afraid of other people. Tribe is pitted against tribe! As I preached this morning, this is not the world God has imagined, yet it is one that has functioned out of humanities need for power and fear of others.

We have clearly put Paris in the forefront of everything that has happened in the past week, even though there has been many other deaths around the world caused by violence and hate. Is it because we are like the majority of Parisians, in our whiteness and sameness, that it hits closer to home? I will admit that it hit me much harder than hearing about the Beirut bombing earlier in the week that killed 40 people.

I do not have the answers. I know that we have not seen the end of tribalism or the fight for power. Just earlier I saw that France was bombing the ISIS stronghold in Syria. Is this the right answer? Truly, I do not know. I do know that my heart aches and so do others. Usually, when that happens our first response is for revenge or vengeance. I also don’t believe there is room for reasoning with many of the those around the world that are fearful of the other and take out the aggressions through bloodshed.

All I can do right now is pray for our world. Pray that peace may overcome it and that cooler heads may prevail. May we pray not just for those that are persecuted, but also for those that do the persecuting. We have made so many advances in society through technology and engineering and many other avenues, isn’t it about time that we advance in our love for one another?

do not doubt in your heart

PRinc_rm_arteriogram_of_healthy_heart

This verse has been playing through my head this past week since it was part of the Daily Lectionary. It comes from Mark 11:23

Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.

As I lead Bible Studies or discussion with people I always tell people that it is essential that we look deeply into texts and it is ok to question what may be written and at times possibly even doubt it! It is human nature to doubt and question and this usually happens within our minds. As we doubt and question, it allows us to build an even deeper relationship with God, or whatever we are studying, because we must delve even deeper into the subject and gain a greater understanding.

This verse from Mark struck me differently though because it says do not doubt in your heart. We doubt in our minds all of the time many things, whether it be our own personal actions or those actions of others; it may even be that we doubt God at times. However, it is in our hearts that God has written the law. From a few appearances in the Hebrew Bible this is mentioned, one being Psalm 40:8

I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.

So my question, Is it possible to ever doubt in our heart? For the very presence of God is within our own being and in that we embrace the eternal relationship which is God. May we nurture that relationship as we live into the mystery.

Book Review: Faith Forming Faith by Paul E. Hoffman

What would the church, or the world for that matter, be like if we were to follow in the original teachings and faith formation of the founders of the church?

Paul Hoffman brings this question to the forefront as he examines the adult catechumen and the effect that it can have on a congregation from various perspectives with some great real life stories do backup the practice that he started in his congregation in Seattle. I had the opportunity to attend a three-day workshop with Hoffman and his heart his truly in the right place as he seeks to bring people not just closer to God but to others in relationship as they not only enter as members into a congregation, but also as they commit to the Way in which the earliest disciples followed.

If you want a specific how-to guide, this book will not answer your questions. It will point you in a direction that can have a positive impact on those in your congregation and those that are looking for an authentic community in which to live out their calling as people of God.

This has some meat to it, unlike the typical new members classes that we do as a church that really fail at getting people into a deeper relationship with one another and building a connection within the church. I have done some of these new member classes only to see people fail to make a connection and leave after a short time. Everything must start with a relationship and I believe Hoffman presents a completely open process that leads people to a deeper relationship with one another (especially a mentor that they are give). The appendix does point towards some starting points and provides an entry for congregations and its leaders to enter into a discussion of what it means to follow The Way. There is a commitment required that truly connects the person to the process and they must be willing to be a part of it. While all types of people are in a given community, the ones that are committed and willing to give of themselves are the ones that play a vital role in the future of an congregation.

Book Review: Racing the Rain by John L. Parker, Jr.

This book follows up Parker’s two other books about Quenton Cassidy, Once a Runner and Again to Carthage.  Once a Runner is a book that must be on every runners must read list. I would argue that the other two are just as good.

In Racing in the Rain, the reader has the opportunity to get to know Quenton from an early age and then continue to grow up through middle school and high school. Many of the characters that are present are recognizable from Parker’s other books. This familiarity pulls you deeper into the story and willing to find out more. Parker writes very well and lays the story out in a way that lets the reader in on the mind of Quenton Cassidy and how he became the runner that he is in the other two novels.

This is book, along with the other two, is great motivation for the person that needs a little fire under their butt to get out and run or simply to get active. It may not work for all people, but it has encouraged me to lace up the running shoes and put some time in.

Writing a book or novel?

Last month when perusing Facebook I saw a post from a fellow pastor promoting NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Actually, he was taking a spin on it and asked if anyone would like to participate in NaTheoWriMo (National Theology Writing Month). The goal is to write a novel or book over the course of November that equals 50000 words (approximately 1667 words a day).

As pastors, we write an awful lot during the week and with sermons, newsletter articles, correspondences, and various other writings I am sure that most pastors write several thousands words over the course of a week. I saw this as a challenge and thought that for sure it may be something that I would love to participate in because there are some ideas that I have been wanting to get to paper/computer. I have wanted to try my hand at writing a novel (possibly Biblically based), as well as something theological in nature as I share my story of being called into this crazy and wonderful profession as pastor.

I got as far as thinking through a book, a theological memoir perhaps, with a working title and the direction it may go. However, reality also hit, and I have realized that I am only two months into my new call and there are some other things that I also must commit myself to as I build relationships with the people that we are now living among. So, NaNoWriMo, I am not forgetting about you, and I may actually continue getting some thoughts to screen but my focus at this time is directed to the people that have called me to serve them as their pastor. Next November I may have new stories to share and thoughts to get out that I will not want to forget. Until then I still am looking forward to the challenge.

Book Review: A New Beginning for Pastors and Congregations

What a wonderful resource. This book by Kennon L. Callahan sets up some essential direction for those that are seeking a new call, or have received, and the congregation that is in the process.

Callahan provides some great guidelines from the first day to looking towards the future. Of course, this is not a one size fits all for all situations and congregations, but it does lay some good foundations in which pastors and congregations can build upon. This was a great read for myself as I begin a new call and look towards where God may be calling the congregation.

My one suggestion is that this book would be read prior to a call being extended by both the pastor and the congregation as some of the process is expected to be in place at the beginning, but would also be good for those times when a pastor and congregation wants to begin anew.

Callahan lays the groundwork as well for building a new team as different leaders will come out of the woodwork to support a different pastor with a different personality and leadership style. The four steps that he believes truly beneficial in the process are

  1. Discover your team.
  2. Decide your objectives.
  3. Structure your team.
  4. Coach your team.

These are good points to keep in mind as you move forward. At the beginning relationships must be built and so that you can determine who will fit into those steps. I look forward to seeing how this book will help guide me and the congregation into the future.

Confirmation Celebration!

What a wonderful day we had this past Sunday. Of course we had the opportunity to sing A Mighty Fortress is Our God, because after all it was Reformation Sunday, but we also had the opportunity to celebrate with six confirmands whom had the opportunity to affirm their faith!

I did not have the chance to lead these six youth through confirmation classes as I have not been in my call for even two months. Through reading their faith statements though, I have a sense for what they have learned and the challenges and growth that have already come to them.

It is my prayer that as they continue in their walk that they strive to learn more about themselves and to discern where God is calling them in their lives.

This is a great fun picture from Sunday afternoon!