Our favorite spot in the new house is quickly becoming the sunroom. This enclosed porch with sliding doors all around, gives us a postcard perfect glimpse of our backyard. It is more perfect when birds, squirrels, rabbits, and other friendly critters occupy the space.
It is a peace-filled space.
The other day while eating lunch on the sunroom, Toddler J and I watched as a squirrel hopped through the yard. As the squirrel started climbing the tree, Toddler J’s eyes lit up and a broad smile spread across her little face. She pointed up as the squirrel climbed the tree. When the squirrel was long out of sight, she was still pointing with excitement and mumbling what I believe was her attempt at saying,”squirrel.”
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
United Methodist Hymnal, #393
Have you ever watched a child play with play-dough? It is a pretty new phenomenon at our house. Baby J hasn’t figured out that she can create things with the play-dough, but she sure loves breaking it a part (an elder in training?). As her little hands grip the play-dough, and squeeze it between her fingers, she pulls the dough a part creating a new piece.
Here is the thing: the play-dough doesn’t put up a fight.
It was made to be pulled apart and molded into new things. The original container-rounded shape of the play-dough is not its intended shape. It was created to be formed into something new. And if, during the creation process, it doesn’t quite turn out the way you wanted it, you start over. You roll that play-dough back into a big ball of dough and you start molding and forming all over again.
I was invited to participate in the Baccalaureate service for EC Glass on June 5, 2016. This is what I shared.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)
This is a season of celebrations. And you have a lot to celebrate – the final concerts, the final games, the final plays, the final exams. There are classrooms you will never walk into again. You have finished, and in doing so accomplished a lot, and that is worthy of celebration.
Mother & Son: The Respect Effect, Emerson Eggerichs, W Publishing Group, 2016
Mother & Son is a new book from Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love and Respect. Through his Love and Respect conferences, Eggerichs focuses on marital relationships. In this new book, Eggerichs turns his attention to the mother and son relationship.
As the subtitle suggests, Eggerichs proposal is that while it is important for a mother to show love to her son, showing him respect is key to his heart. Eggerichs suggests and coaches how respect-talk can transform the mother-son relationship.
Here is the audio of my sermon from May 29, 2016 at Peakland United Methodist Church. The text was Galatians 1:1-12, Luke 7:1-10, and 1 Kings 18:20-39. You can also listen on the Podcast app by subscribing here.
Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship, Charles E. Moore & Timothy Keiderling, editors, Plough Publishing House, 2016.
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” -Jesus of Nazareth
This quote is an appropriate one to begin a collection of stories featuring those who were persecuted because of their faith. And not talking about the elected public official who cried persecution when they refused to do their job. Nor the company that cries persecution because the law requires them to provide services to a gay couple. Nor do I mean the white man who cries persecution when a woman chooses to get an abortion.
Studies have shown that the most influential person for a young person’s faith is his or her parents. The ESV Family Devotional Bible aims to help families read and study scripture.
This hard back Bible includes the entire English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. A fairly new translation, in the midst of quite a few to choose from, the ESV is not all that different from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). The ESV seems to have been presented as an alternative to the traditionally used King James Version.
The ESV Family Devotional Bible includes 130 key stories retold, along with questions and a key verse. There are colorful illustrations for each devotion as well. At first the illustrations were a bit nostalgic, as they reminded me of the pictures in the story Bible at my grandparents’ home. I’m not sure, however, they would be the most kid-friendly today.
Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love, William H. Willimon, Abingdon Press, 2016.
True to form, Bishop Willimon approaches theological themes in a no-nonsense and gutsy matter. This little book (less than 100 pages) is the Bishop’s response to the rhetoric of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. “If not for them,” Willimon writes, “I would not have been asked to write this book.”
Willimon shows no fear in addressing current social topics. He covers it all. The desire for a bigger wall across the border to keep out Hispanics. The call to keep Muslims out of the country. The exclusion of LGBT individuals in the life of the church. And, he even takes on Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race – and Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us, Benjamin Watson with Ken Petersen, Tyndale Momentum, 2015.
“What is under our skin, and under the skin problem in America, is a spiritual problem. Every time we point at someone else or an entire race—reducing them to a single story, diminishing them by stereotypes and assumptions—we overlook our own failure.” (Benjamin Watson)
After the deaths of young men like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, the issue of race in America has resurfaced. Arguably, it has never gone away. Yet with new voices like Bree Newcomb and the Black Lives Matter movement, we are being reminded that racism has not been buried.
Among the many books that have come out since the events in Ferguson, Benjamin Watson’s Under Our Skin seeks to address these contentious issues from a spiritual perspective. What started out as a Facebook status, wrestling with the events in the aftermath of Brown’s death, Watson’s first book uses that Facebook post as a springboard to further explore his thoughts, feelings, and wrestlings with race in America.
Love Kindness, Barry H. Corey, Tyndale, 2016
“We need to keep remembering that we don’t beat an idea by beating a person.” (Barry H. Corey)
There is a deep polarization in Christianity today. Thankfully, it is not around the doctrine that Jesus Christ is Lord. It mostly centers around social issues, and how we respond to them. Barry Corey, the president of Biola University, has a suggestion: Love kindness.
He writes in his Introduction:
In today’s polarized culture, we are often pulled toward one extreme or the other, soft centers or hard edges. I’m proposing a different approach, a third way. Rather than the harshness of firm centers and hard edges, and rather than the weakness of spongy centers and soft edges, why don’t we start with kindness? Kindness is the way of firm centers and soft edges.