Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a deacon dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: faith (page 1 of 15)

Book Review: Jesus and the Beanstalk

jesus-and-the-beanstalkJesus and the Beanstalk: Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life, Lori Stanley Roeleveld, Abingdon Press, 2016.

When I started reading Lori Stanley Roeleveld’s newest book, Jesus and the Beanstalk, I connected with it. It was as if Roeleveld had peeked inside my brain and caught a glimpse of the questions I had recently been pondering.

This, I learned, is the nature of her blog and her book. Her writing has an approachable style to it, as if she were sitting at a kitchen table and talking with you directly over a cup of coffee.

It does not take much for us to realize that we live in unsettling, challenging times. There are giant problems everywhere we look and these giants produce obstacles, barriers, and strongholds.

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Book Review: Dear Pope Francis

Dear Pope Francis Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World, Pope Francis, Loyola Press, 2016.

I’m a Pope Franics fan. No doubt about it.

There has always been something different about this Pope. In a time when our culture is hyper self-focused, it is refreshing to have a religious leader who not only advocates, but lives, an other-centered life.

Dear Pope Francis is a children’s book that shows just how far the Pope’s influence reaches. The Pope answers received letters from children all around the world. This is the simple basis for the book. The letters are kept in their original condition, complete with art work. A typed translation is provided. On the next page is Pope Francis’ response to the question.  Continue reading

Pete’s Dragon: Discussion Questions

Petes-Dragon-Movie-PosterPete’s Dragon is the newest family film from Disney. It is a brilliant film filled with adventure, laughs, and plenty of tear-jerkers. It is a great film to take a youth group, or other group, to. You can read my ponderings on the film here.

Below are some discussion questions you can use with your group. I’m sharing them here for those who are looking for such a resource. As a Christian educator, I should tell you, if you use these questions, don’t feel like you have to use them all. If anything, let the questions be a guide to having a conversation around the themes presented in the film.

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Yellow Butterflies

“Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” -Nathaniel Hawthrone

Yellow ButterfliesAs I was preparing worship and a sermon for what would be my last Sunday at Peakland United Methodist as their Associate Minister, the communications coordinator, Kim, shared with me the bulletin cover she designed. It had a key verse from one of the scriptures I was using and a picture of a butterfly. It was perfect on all sorts of levels.

I hesitated to ask her to change anything. Finally, I asked if it would be possible to make the orange butterfly a yellow butterfly.  She gave me one of those, “that’s an odd request” look, and then said, “Sure.”

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Giveaway: Bearing Witness book

51C0M7mo0fL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_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.

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Book Review: Under Our Skin

Under-Our-SkinUnder 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.

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Book Review: How Jesus Saves the World From Us

cover85683-mediumHow Jesus Saves the World from Us: 12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity, Morgan Guyton, Westminster John Knox Press, 2016.

I first met Morgan Guyton about five years ago at a required event for soon-to-be clergy in the Virginia Conference. We, and dozens more, were gathered at a college campus for a week for what I like to refer to as “Pastor Bootcamp.”

The distinct memory I have of Morgan was from an evening at a Mexican restaurant (one of many during the week). Over beer and chips and salsa, a group of us found ourselves in a deep theological conversation. For anyone who knows Morgan, you will not be surprised that he was at the helm of this conversation. In between scoops of salsa, Morgan would raise yet another question. Not to be argumentative, but to authentically seek more knowledge.

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Book Review: Mr. King’s Machine

mr_king_s_machine_0Mr. King’s Machine, Geneviève Côté, Kids Can Press, 2016

“The divine presence of the Spirit in creation binds us as human beings together with all created life.” (World Council of Churches, 1991)

This little book from Geneviève Côte, the third in the Mr. King series of books, has a simple message: Care for creation.

When the cat, Mr. King, discovers some beautiful flowers have been chewed by a caterpillar, he decides to do something about it. His solution is to build a Caterpillar-Catcher machine to track down the flower-eater.

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A Prayer for the World

CTukshqVEAAZdHXI was on my iPhone, causally scrolling through my Twitter feed, when I realized that there were a lot of things being said about Paris. I turned the news on, and saw the reports of what would be multiple attacks across the city, killing hundreds. I like many have been in a state of shock over the events. To the point that my journaling was just a list of words or phrases, no complete sentences, reflecting the impossibility of complete thoughts forming.

Today, I attempted to form that list of words and phrases into a prayer:

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Interview: Rich Wilkerson, Jr.

PastorRichJr_Headshot2Rich Wilkerson, Jr. is known for a lot of things. He is a fourth generation Pentecostal pastor. He took a young adult Bible study into being nine weeks into a new church plant. He is the pastor who officiated the wedding of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. He and his wife, DawnCheré, star in the a new reality show, Rich in Faith, on the Oxygen channel. And this week, he adds author to that list.

Wilkerson’s book, Sandcastle Kings, uses four powerful stories from Luke 7 to explain why spiritual fulfillment cannot be found in ourselves, in other people, in material things, or even in organized religion. By examining the stories of the centurion’s faith, the resurrection of the widow’s son, Jesus’ message about John the Baptist, and the anointing by the woman with the alabaster jar, Wilkerson helps the reader take a closer look at all the ways in which we build sand castles that will one day be wiped away by the storm.

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