Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: vocation (page 1 of 2)

Book Review: Riley Can Be Anything

Riley Can Be Anything, Davina Hamilton, The Ella Riley Group, 2017.

Do you remember in grade school being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It was a fun question designed to get us to think about vocation. There were lofty dreams of going to space or being a vet or a firefighter.

The question would come again during high school and college as we inched closer to the “real world.” It was a question that could be a stressor in its own right.

To be honest, I never felt like, “I don’t know,” was an acceptable answer.

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Book Review: What Keeps You Up at Night

_240_360_Book.1584.coverWhat Keeps You Up at Night: How to Find Peace While Chasing Your Dreams, Pete Wilson, W Publishing Group, 2015.

Pete Wilson is the founding and senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee. What Keeps You Up at Night? is his fourth book, where the main idea is that God has a purpose for each of us. Though Wilson never uses the word, you could refer to it as your vocation. What keeps us up at night is fear and uncertainty about fulfilling this God-given purpose.

From there, Wilson explores various ways in which fear keeps us from chasing our dreams – or God’s dreams for us. Fear prevents us from living into the holy life God has called us to. Wilson also provides some practical steps to overcome that fear. Prayer and trust in God are the strongest recommendations. Wilson writes:

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American Sniper (2014)

AmericanSniper_PosterNo matter where you stand on the war in Iraq debate, American Sniper is a film worth watching. I was torn when the film was released. Did we need another war film? Did we need a film before we were out of Iraq telling us whether the war was good or bad?

So I waited for the film to come out on DVD and Blu-ray, which happened this week, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.

I was surprised at how good the film was. I know, I know, it was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a  Leading Role (Bradley Cooper).  (It only won Best Achievement in Sound Editing). American Sniper is not an analytical film about war, instead war is the reality of the narrative. It is the story of a father, a husband, and a service man, Chris Kyle (Cooper).

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Deaconess’ Call: Brenda Romenius

I’ve been collecting call stories from my friends who are serving in diaconal ministries – ministries of service – expressed in the United Methodist Church through the provisional and ordained deacon, diaconal ministers, deaconesses, and home missioners.  In this post you will hear from Brenda Romenius who is a commissioned deaconess currently serving as Director of Christian Education at St. John’s United Methodist in Springfield, Virginia.  Here are Brenda’s words: 

“The call” is as unique to each of us as we are unique from each other.  And yet, it is the same because it is a beckoning open to everyone that takes us into a place of service on behalf of God and Jesus Christ.

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Book Review: Just Say Yes

“We’ve never done it that way before.” “You need to go through the proper channels for that.” “We have a process and you need to respect the process.” “That’s an interesting idea. It might not work because . . . .” 

Have you heard those phrases before at church? I know I have. I may have even said a few of them. These are just a few ways that churches say “no.” This approach of doing church – this culture of No – is stalling the church from vital growth, according to Bishop Robert Schnase.

Just Say Yes!Robert Schnase serves as Bishop of the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church. Much of his writing has focused on ordained ministry. But it was Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations that made Bishop Schanse a “church-hold” name. His newest book, Just Say Yes! Unleashing People for Ministry, continues in the spirit of Five Practices in changing the attitudes and culture of churches.

Have you heard the joke about how many Methodists does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is, “They have to form a committee first.” In some churches, committees are where creative ideas for ministry go to die. As churches move from being inner focused to being outer focused, the traditional role of committees is no longer conducive to fulfill the mission of the church. New people to church, especially young people, who come with creative ideas for new ministry initiatives tend to finally give up after the rounds of committee meetings to get one idea approved. By the time the initiative is approved, the need has already been addressed.

For those whose passion for the church has waned due to being told  “No,” more than once. Or for those leaders who recognize that “NO” is leading the church more than “YES,” Schanse’s book is for you. He points out key concepts that can change the culture of a church. And no, changing the worship service times is not one of them.

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“We’re Home”: Star Wars 7 & Vocation

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This week the second official trailer for Star Wars VII was released. In no time, Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere were alive with comments and thoughts about what this means for the movie coming out in December 2015.

In case, some how, you missed it, here it is:

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The Identical (2014)

the-identical-dvd-coverOpening in the 1930’s Mississippi, in what could be a John Steinbeck novel, a man tries to find work to support him and his pregnant wife. He returns home with no luck to find his wife had given birth to twins. Overwhelmed by both joy and dread, the father now has to discern how he will care for these newborns.

While at a tent-revival, the father (Brian Geraghty) hears Pastor Reese Wade (Ray Liotta) give an inspirational sermon, sharing openly about he and his wife Louise (Ashley Judd) struggle to have a child of their own. The father filled with agony for providing for two newborns suddenly has an epiphany. Continue reading

My Call to Ministry Part 1

When I was in high school, through the combined experiences of youth group, being on the Ashland District Youth Council, and participating in a summer work-camp called Richmond Metro Workcamp, I began to experience a call to ministry. I don’t remember sharing it with others. But it did reach a point where they shared it with me. It all became very real when the pastor of the small United Methodist Church where I grew up asked if I had ever thought about going into the ministry. As I finished high school, I was much more comfortable with the idea that God was calling me to ministry.

But, doubt would creep in. I would go to community college and get an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Development. I envisioned myself getting a teaching degree and teaching in a school. After getting that degree, I got a full-time job at a United Methodist church working with their weekday children’s ministry. During that time, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and in about eight months would claim the promise of the resurrection. Those eight months would send me into a whirlwind of thinking and rethinking my vocational call. The reality of death and loss hit much harder than Bambi losing his mother ever did.

This whirlwind sent me through many days and hours pondering in an empty church or walking alone on a nature trail. I was asking myself questions like, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life? What is my purpose?”

Me on my wedding day with the window dedicated to my dad.

Me on my wedding day with the window dedicated to my dad.

My father claimed the promise of the resurrection on Easter Sunday, April 2001. Before he passed, two things happened. I applied to Randolph-Macon College, the college I had wanted to attend since I was six, and I applied for a new job as the Youth Director at another United Methodist church. A week before my father passed, I was hired as the Youth Director. When I told Dad, he replied, “That’s good, Son. That’s what you’ve always wanted to do.” (Two months later, I was accepted at Randolph-Macon.)

In June of my first summer as a Youth Director, I took a small group of youth to Durham, North Carolina for a youth work-camp. The work crew that I was assigned to worked on the home of an elderly African-American woman who had adopted two teenage girls and was battling cancer. I had resolved, subconsciously, not to get attached. I did not want to experience the grief and pain that I had just experienced through the loss of my father.

During lunch on that first day, the youth on the crew had invited the home owner to eat with us and join us for our devotion time. The youth had decided that we would eat lunch in her bedroom because she was unable to move freely on her own. I was the last one to enter the room, and when I did, the home owner announced, “There’s the minister!” I was quick to correct her that I was a not a minister, and she was quick to correct me that I was. “When you walked passed me this morning,” she said, “I felt the Holy Spirit move through you.” Not sure how to respond, I politely said, “Thank you,” and sat with the youth for lunch and our devotion.

Follow Friday: Andrew Taylor-Troutman

I first met Andrew Taylor-Troutman in a seminary classroom. We were both students at Union-PSCE, now Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. I have this image of Andrew sitting in the chapel in Watts as I preached (if you want to call it that) during a chapel service. The Central America travel seminar group was leading worship one week, sharing about the experiences from the trip. I was sharing about our week in Costa Rica and how we experienced God.

That image of Andrew sitting in the old pew listening intently to what was being said and shared, pondering in his heart these things, has stuck with me through the years. Andrew ponders. And his pondering has led to writing beyond a blog. Andrew has two books published sharing his ponderings, Take My Hand, and most recently Parables of Parenthood. Andrew’s published works are both connected to his vocation as a pastor.

Writing Beginnings

Andrew started journaling while in college, but started writing five to six days a week while in seminary as a spiritual discipline. He says:

I used to wake up early just to write! I found that there was a great convergence between my classes, which I wanted to articulate but wasn’t really appropriate for assigned papers. So I needed to carver out some extra time.

Andrew attended a travel seminar in 2008 to Ghana. One of the requirements of the seminar was to submit a journal. While he thought what he turned in was the typical, customary musings of a seminary student, the reaction from Andrew’s professors was extraordinary. “They were extremely impressed,” he recalls, “I wasn’t really thinking about publishing then, but their support did leave an impression on me.”

After seminary, Andrew entered a graduate program at the University of Virginia. After that, he felt a call to parish ministry. During this time, serving a local church, he resumed his journaling. He was no longer writing papers for professors and it served as an outlet to process all the experiences his ministry was providing him. “Which,” Andrew says, “I might term a collision between my head and heart, my graduate study and new found relationships with laity.”

On Being Published

He goes on to say:
Re-reading my journals, I began to notice that my musings were connected with my Sunday sermons. In other words, my reflections on the events of Monday through Saturday were informing my work on Sunday in conversation with the biblical texts. This is the idea behind Take My Hand. I was fortunate that the publisher, Wipf & Stock, happened to be looking for practical theology.

Parables of Parenthood

Andrew has a new book out titled Parables of Parenthood. This began when the Wednesday morning
Bible study group at New Dublin Presbyterian asked him to teach the parables.
Andrew agreed, and he was soon intrigued by the parables contained in more than one Gospel. “In certain cases,” he states, “Matthew, Mark, and Luke received a teaching of Jesus that had been transmitted from mouth-to-mouth and recorded it in such a way as to directly address their current audience.” Because the Gospel writers were writing to different audiences, this accounts for the differences we may see in the Gospels. And in some cases, the slighter the difference, the more profound it can be.
Armed with this analysis, Andrew began to think about how the lessons he would be teaching impact his own life as a first-time father.
Parables of Parenthood is really a Bible study, written in accessible language for a wide audience, that is explained in part by anecdotes from my family life, kind of like sermon illustrations.
Andrew has shared excerpts from his new book on his blog.

On Writing

Andrew still tries to write every day, even if it is just a little. He recalls how his seminary professor Carson Brisson told hims about his older son, a collegiate swimmer, who would swim what appeared to be lazy laps over his Christmas break. When questioned by his father, the son responded that he was trying to get a “feel for the water.” “I try to do that with words,” Andrew says.
This getting a “feel for the words,” includes editing, going over and over a piece until it “sounds” or “feels” right to him. Andrew tends to write by intuition. In other words, he doesn’t know that something is inside of him until he gets it out.
The American poet Wallace Stevens is known for saying that everyone is waiting for the lightning to fall, but while you wait, wait writing. These words speak to Andrew. “Writing is a mysterious process to me,” he says, “but I am crystal-clear that it takes hard work and daily commitment.”
Andrew will be the Peakland Academy guest speaker, presenting on Parables of Parenthood at Peakland United Methodist on Monday, March 10, 2014 starting at 6pm. 

Sermon: Prayerful Justice

My sermon preached at Peakland United Methodist on September 22, 2013 on Exodus 3:1-10 and Luke 18:1-8.

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