Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Ash Wednesday for the Common Man
February 10, 2016

You know that time of year when you have to give up sweets/coffee/alcohol, or when you HAVE to eat fish every Friday, or when you promise to quit cussing for 40 days, or the day after the big party on Fat Tuesday? There can be more to it...

Here's a really good description of Lent:

"Lent calls each of us to renew our ongoing commitment to the implications of the Resurrection in our own lives, here and now. But that demands both the healing of the soul and the honing of the soul, both penance and faith, both a purging of what is superfluous in our lives and the heightening, the intensifying, of what is meaningful."  - from "The Liturgical Year" by Joan Chittister

Let's be honest with ourselves, we all have things that we could trim from and things we need to add to our lives. Drop a few pounds, change certain habits, eat better, exercise more, spend more time outside and less time inside on the web, spend more time with family or friends...

Lent is a great time to consider and act upon the changes we each need to make to become more alive.

And today is the day to begin!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

I think everyone is a somewhat familiar with the work of Steinbeck, either through print or film. I became interested while listening to Mumford and Sons Sigh No More.Two of my three favorite songs, "Timshel" and "Dust Bowl Dance," were influenced by John Steinbeck novels. So I added a few more books to my Amazon list.

This past fall, I was watching my favorite Netflix show, Longmire. The hero of the story, Walt Longmire, is a Steinbeck fan. In one of the episodes he has a discussion with future deputies about Of Mice and Men. And that finally persuaded me to read my first John Steinbeck story.

 Enough of the how and why...

I really enjoyed this book, it was a quick read but still a story that pulled you in. I had compassion for Lennie, hated Curley and his wife, admired Slim, and empathized with George. In fact, I think maybe George is the Common Man...stuck in between the downtrodden (Lennie and a couple of others) and the evil (Curley & wife), trying to do the right thing. And as in real life, the right thing is often complicated...

Give this book and read, then listen to some old Mumford & Sons, and then binge watch Longmire. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Third Man Factor

The Third Man Factor by John Geiger
Surviving the Impossible

This is a fascinating read!

Whether you are comfortable with the idea of a spiritual, unseen realm or if you believe there is a scientific explanation for everything, this book will captivate you. The Third Man Factor is the sense of an unseen presence when a person is in a life and death struggle. This being offers guidance, hope, and a feeling of not being alone.

The book is filled with epic stories of survival, scientific studies, and theories about The Third Man. So is it a visitation from the spiritual realm, some thin place, multi-verse experience or is it the human mind, triggered by the conditions to create the experience? Read the book and develop your own idea...

p.s. - I loved the stories of human survival and am almost inspired to go on an epic adventure and see for myself!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sabbath as Resistance

Sabbath as Resistance by Walter Brueggemann

Anxious because of the endless demands of economic reality? This economic reality, or market ideology, creates needs and desires that leave us restless, unfulfilled, inadequate, and in endless pursuit of something to fill us; wanting more, having more, owning more, using more, eating more, and drinking more.

economic reality - market ideology - commodity propelled society -  the way of mammon

It doesn't work.

We (my family, most of the people I know, and our culture in general) are frazzled, overworked, and nervous about something. God's gift, his answer to the rat race...Sabbath practice.

This little book is a great place to start.
Here are my highlights, underlines, and dog-ears:

pg. xiv - soccer practice as one of the "great seductions of Pharaoh," seductions that will take "great communal resolve" to overcome.
pg. 3 - the inexhaustible demands of Pharaoh, the production manager
pg. 12 - the choice of gods
pg. 13 - the commodity propelled society - the advertising game, the educational advantage, the supplementary extracurricular activity, the political effort, the expansive and aggressive military, the abuse of the land, the aggressive and violent past-times
pg. 16 - in this economic reality, neighbors are redefined as slaves, threats, rivals, competitors
pg. 28 - replacing anxious productivity with committed neighborliness
pg. 30 - a system of rest versus a system of anxiety

And then I stopped marking and taking notes because there are so many things, I will read this again, and then again. Outside of the Gospel of Christ, Sabbath might be the most relevant that the church has to offer today.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Resident Aliens

Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas & William H. Willimon
Life in the Christian Colony

This is a very thought provoking book about the church regaining its sense of mission in a culture that desperately needs good news. Many highlights and things worth considering:
  • pg. 4 - they come out of the gate firing, "North America is a place where people have absorbed just enough Christianity to inoculate them against the contagion of the real thing."
  • pg. 26 - Harry Truman calling the first atomic bomb "the greatest thing in history" and our moral incapacitation.
  • pg. 28 - the challenge for a bold church, "each age must come, fresh and new, to the realization that God, not the nations, rule the world." The American church is too cooperative with the systems of power and the economy to come to this realization...
  • pg. 29 - the Fox Theater story
  • pg. 32 - very challenging ideas on democracy, individualism, and freedom as the tyranny of our own desires.
  • pg. 35 - liberal (not the current label) democracies using war for moral coherence.
  • pg. 42 - faith in the Omnipotent State, religion in the Empire
  • pg. 47 - in a time where the church is giving lip service to being like Christ, Christ-likeness, and/or following Jesus, we forget that "the Cross is a sign of what happens when one takes God's account of reality more seriously than Caesar's."
  • pg. 48 - a church that asserts that God rules the nations and he transcends boundaries.
  • pg. 62 - the church fights with weapons of witness and love not violence and coercion.
  • pg. 77 - church not as community for the sake of community but a community formed around the truth of who Jesus was and is. Continued thoughts on community on pg. 78
  • pg. 84 - the Sermon on the Mount as indicatives, promises, instances, imaginative examples of life in the Kingdom of God.
  • pg. 94 - the world needs the church but not the way we normally think...
  • pg. 123 - the pastor as a cult prostitute
  • pg. 125 - lonely leaders
  • pg. 128 - academic interpreters of Scripture and where it has led.
  • pg. 131 - materialism, self-deceit, and insecurity and security as the ultimate idol
  • pg. 138 - the church as another helping institution?
  • pg. 142 - the church lives in a buyer's market, the customer is king.
  • pg. 149 - the church suffering from suffocating niceness and domesticated metaphor.
  • pg. 161 - Academia not preparing pastors for the work of a pastor...
  • pg. 167 - power of the clergy lies not in cultural significance, but in the truth of Christ

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A World Lost

A World Lost by Wendell Berry
A Port William Novel

When the world seems to spinning hopelessly out of control, either by my own doing or by the doings of everyone else, I know it's time to read a Wendell Berry book. Whether it's a collection of his poems, a collection of his essays prophetically laying out the problems of our modern and civilized times, or, in this case, a Port William novel, he writes in a way that soothes my soul.

The Port William novels are a collection of stories from a small farming town in Kentucky. The stories cross the fields and faces and generations of this town where life moves with the rhythm of the days and seasons.

This particular story is of a boy growing through the simple life of a small town boy and into a time of grief and struggle and then into becoming the kind of man he was destined to be. I won't give any more detail than that, but read the book and be consoled by a story well told. And be comforted by these words on the final page:

"I imagine the dead waking, dazed, into a shadowless light in which they know themselves altogether for the first time. It is a light that is merciless until they can accept its mercy; by it they are once condemned and redeemed. It is Hell until it is Heaven. Seeing themselves in that light, if they are willing, they see how far they have failed the only justice of loving one another; it punishes them by their own judgment. And yet, in suffering that light's awful clarity, in seeing themselves within it, they see its forgiveness and its beauty, and are consoled. In it they are loved completely, even as they have been, and so are changed into what they could not have been but what, if they could have imagined it, they would have wished to be."

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Three Hardest Words

The Three Hardest Words: In the World to Get Right by Leonard Sweet
From the back cover:
"Popular culture has ruined love's reputation by redefining it first as romance, and then as lust...to fully understand love, we also need to find out who we are in God's eyes and whom we are commanded to love."

Here are some provocative thoughts from the book:

pg. 49 - the verbs we use with "kingdom" and the verbs the Scriptures use with "kingdom." We use words like build, bring in, advance, establish, achieve. Scripture uses words like enter, find, cherish, given...see the difference?
pg. 77 - pop culture as the dominant authority figure for most of our "stories"
pg. 82 - BRILLIANT!!! "our first act of autonomy is to limit our autonomy."
pg. 83 - the USAmerican church has sold itself out to a culture of self-absorption and consumption. Period.
pg. 97 - the Jewish folk tale of the Pike
pg. 99 - "Salvation is basically the unleashing of the latent." Think about that for a minute or two and then think about what you believe about salvation. The book goes on to say, "salvation is not primarily about the afterlife or heaven, but about the integrity of our life in the here and now."