I love the world of blogs. I don't think blogs are long form journalism, but they are part of the conversation in my head. Here's my top 10 list of blog posts that helped change me in 2014.
An Introduction to in360 Talks - Bruce Reyes-Chow suggests a presentation style where the presenter use 20 slides. Each slide gets 18 minutes of air time resulting in a 6 minute presentation. As a writer and speaker, any limiting style like this is ultimately helpful to me.
Capsule Kitchen Challenge - Courtney Carver, one of my favorite minimalism writers shared a challenge - Pick 33 food and drink items to use for 3 months. Now, I love to cook and this seems a little crazy. But I appreciate the idea of limiting for the sake of lessening stress. Thinking about meals is a lot of the thinking I do in a day. And sometimes it's more stressful than helpful.
A Lamentation for Gaza - Rabbi Brant Rosen posted this stunning interpretation of Lamentation on August 9. Lamentations is traditional reading for this Tisha B'Av, a day of mourning the destruction of both ancient temples in Jerusalem. posted on August 1.
If you can't sell it, you can't build it - Seth Godin is my muse of choice these days. In the past two years, I've accomplished more than I ever thought possible on the business side of my vocation. (We started a small business venture in the community and we merged two churches).
Rooster Soup, Gospel Values and Creative Fundraising - Andy Greenhow and Casey Thompson share their story on the NextChurch blog. They crowd sourced a business venture at their church, a hybrid soup kitchen they call Rooster Soup.
Twitter feed from the Council of Jerusalem - Carol Howard Merritt is a treasured colleague of mine. Here is a funny post that I enjoyed but the truth be told - many of us rely on Carol's wisdom when it comes to what's happening in the culture of church.
The Power of a Purchase Pause - Again Courtney Carver converts me with her ideas of minimalism. This one - this is a go to method for maintaining less things. (And if I'm honest, I failed at this just last week.)
An Invitation to Listen - Erin Raffety returned to the basics of Spiritual Disciplines this past Lent by writing through her reflections on Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. Here she invites us into an honest conversation about the discipline of Silence.
Tuesday Prayer - I'm part of a ginormous group of clergy women who call themselves RevGalPals. Each Tuesday, there is a prayer that comes out on the blog. This one from September 30 stuck with me.
3x Breakfast Oatmeals & Copenhagen - Green Kitchen Stories provides three basic oatmeal recipes (protein boosted with eggs, carrot and rye and sweet coconut).
A couple months ago, I visited the new Barnes Museum in Philadelphia. An advertisement for the Cezanne exhibit had caught my attention. Paul Cezanne was a French, post impressionist artist. His work bridges the 19th century to the 20th century, impressionism to cubism. Matisse and Picasso are both known to have said Cezanne is "the father of us all."
When I think of Cezanne, I think of apples. Turns out that alone would make Cezanne happy. He wanted to make the apple - an ordinary object - spectacular. He wanted to give us the ability to look at the simplest things and see detail and I'd even add emotion. For me, he succeeded.
The Barnes Foundation has an impressive Cezanne collection on its own. By the time we meandered through the museum, comparing Cezanne and Renoir along the way, the apples in the special exhibit seems almost too much to digest. Pun intended.
The art, and music, from the turn of the 20th century speaks to me. As far as art is concerned it's the deeper colors, the stronger lines, the harshness of the figures and scenes. It's like the world lost its soft light or rosy edge. I wonder if that's what drove Cezanne to paint apples after apples? When the world is losing its soft edges, do we seek out the simple pleasures? Chaos and disease, poverty, mass human growth and change - an apple in the middle of the day sounds like a really good plan to me.
I didn't study art; I studied music. Essentially this means that I don't have the experience of a high school art class where all eyes are placed on a still life set before the class. I have tried on my own, colored pencil in hand, to capture everyday objects on paper. Suffice it to say, I do better with words than with drawing. And so walking through hallways filled with Cezanne's capture of the apple, the table, the glass, the skull, the flowers, I mostly wonder how did he capture both the image and the essence of something deeper using paint? How did he do that? How do others do that?
The picture that stopped me in my tracks was one similar to this still life. It contained a glass half filled with liquid. How do you paint glass? I stood in front of it for a long time until my eyes saw the picture behind the glass. The glass reflects that which is around it. Maybe I would've learned this in a beginner's art class, maybe everyone else knows how to paint glass. The painting behind it, the action or objects behind the glass is what gave shape to the glass.
I certainly can wax poetic about the need to see things in context or widen our lens to see what is behind, under, beyond what we see naturally. But I mostly just wanted to look at the painting, to take in the extraordinary captured in the ordinary.
Phyllis Tickle, as always, offers an accessible historical perspective on the Christian church. As if watching a slide show of time, the reader glimpses the journey of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. This doctrine, Tickle believes, is influencing the current religious landscape.
Tickle does what she is known for, she constructs a playground for people trying to understand the changing religious landscape, particularly in the United States of America. Her main audience is liberal evangelicals, those who grew up in evangelical churches but have begun to question some of the social justice issues often left out of the conversation in those circles. This world is more and more “spiritual but not religious,” Tickle offers a historical reason why that might be true. She argues that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was bound to make a reappearance.
The Age of the Spirit describes the historical journey of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Her historical journey begins in Nicea and ends at Azusa street, an event 100 years ago. It is not a theological exposition, if history and theology can be separate. Tickle is not comparing various expressions of the Holy Spirit within Christianity.
I, too, believe the Holy Spirit is influencing the current religious landscape. Tickle offers an explanation of "how this might be true." She does not argue "in what way.” This is an faithful work. We need historians like Tickle. But I was left wanting a book about the Holy Spirit. Having grown up Pentecostal, now turned Presbyterian (USA), I am longing for an academic comparison of the various expressions of the Holy Spirit in Christianity today. And if I'm even more honest, I'm longing for someone to connect the belief in the Holy Spirit in the Christian tradition to the expression of what seems to be belief in the Holy Spirit in other religious traditions in the world today. But that is outside the scope of this book.
"It is an inward journey with outward manifestations. It means being myself.
It means knowing myself.
It means loving myself." (page 105)
The Liberation of Sophia is the journey of liberation narrated by David Hayward through drawings of his inner self, a young woman named Sophia. Besides each drawing, David narrates the journey of liberation chronologically.
David Hayward, or the nakedpastor, is equal parts edgy and endearing. There are drawings of his that provoke me on a sunny afternoon and other drawings that smoothly accompany my morning cup of coffee. I stumbled upon him sometime during a season of my life where I was entertaining quite a bit of doubt. David is a pioneer in creating community for people who entertain doubt... and hurt because of doubt. Although his own story is about liberation from church leadership and "all that entailed," he remains a pastoral force. Early on in Sophia's story, he says, “I'm going to be a pioneer. I'll do it alone if I must. But I'd love some company.” As part of his liberation, and what first drew me to his online presence, David created TheLastingSupper. TheLastingSupper is an online community that cultivates relationship for people who want to be spiritually independent and free. At his core, he is pastor and protector of a flock.
I've been following the Sophia series of drawings as they have unfurled. I have this one hanging in my study; it's called “Crouch.” The first thing I did when the book arrived was look for “my print.” I read the story beside "my picture" and it wasn't the meaning that I had given it. The story of liberation is universal but not universally the same. The drawings and the story are tethered by our own experiences, which David makes sure to encourage along the way.
My journey of liberation is told through these pictures but not in the same order as David's journey. The story that I would have put beside my picture was found later in the book, beside a drawing called “Wisdom.”
I chose to read the story until my heart said stop. Looking back, there were obvious breaking points, markers along the journey: exposure, shame, confusion, waiting, gratitude, longing and transformation. I enjoyed reading and resting with Sophia.
I have decided to maintain two copies of this book on my shelf - one to keep and one to gift.
I saw Chef at the local artsy theater where Jon Favreau served up light, summer enjoyment. Was it an Art film? Not sure about that. Independent film. Sure, I'll buy that. But honestly... The music drove the story.
The tension between the front of the house and the kitchen or the owner and the chef made for a mostly believable story. But the real tension in this film is between the food critic and the chef. Certainly criticism hurts. But can it cause a meltdown that would initiate a full vocational reinvention? And let's be honest – who gets to throw a public fit only to turn around and fall into the job that will provide reinvention? And after the reinvention, who lands an even better job? The answer to that question... a privileged human being.
Even with that, the music drove the story with the chefs behind the chef (John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale) providing the fun. If I were to cook in a kitchen, I hope to be surrounded by people with this kind of humor and energy.
Two things I recommend: Check out the soundtrack and look for a cubano sandwich to try. They sound amazing!
I'm surrounded by books that promote wholeness – a book to deepen my prayer life, a book to love people different than me, a book to journal my way to creativity, a book that will lead to liberation. All of those subjects belong in the conversation about wholeness. Wholeness is a winding endeavor and yet Mary Tuomi Hammond covers a key leg of the journey her book, The Road toward Wholeness.
She begins her jaunt toward wholeness by describing the problems with perfectionism and burnout. I've experienced by personally and as the pastor of a church, I encounter these concerns regularly. A healthy Christian community, just like other community organizations, is filled with faithful volunteers. Upon reading Hammond's resource, I found myself wondering about balance, boundaries, and conflict in the context of promoting service to others. How do we promote individual health while also encouraging the need for faithful, sacrificial volunteerism? Hammond offers a wonderful resource for Christian communities to answer that question together. Using examples from the Bible, she illustrates many facets of wholeness in Jesus' life. Use it as an individual, share it with a friend, start a book group. Along the road to wholeness, we are all bound to end of on the leg of the journey about which Mary Hammond reflects.
Wally Lamb has not created a character that I didn't believe in.
I've read The Hour I First Believe and We Are Water and She's Come Undone, which happens to be the most commonly read based on my conversations.
Although the book's protagonist is Delores, the character I enjoyed the most was her psychiatrist, Dr. Shaw. Maybe I like him because of my vocation lately or maybe because of my own experience with therapy. Early in their relationship, he suggests a radical course of treatment where they would reenact her life together, stage by stage. In so doing they would recreate the narrative. Stage by stage, age by age, they undo her pain.
When I picked up the book, I assumed the story was about her undoing... But in the opposite direction. And for sure, the first 200 pages turned from horror to trauma as if the intent was to describe her undoing in colorful detail.
When I use the term "undone" I picture a sweater unraveling or a knot loosening... I picture something that is supposed to stay done but through actions stronger than itself it fails to stay "done." Delores' life has me wondering about things in life that have been wrapped up tight, meant to keep safely "done." I wonder about the control we wish to have over events, places, things, people in our lives. I wonder about the energy we exert to have things done the way we like it. And I wonder and I realize that things come undone. Sometimes on accident but Dr. Shaw believed they could be undone on purpose.