Saturday, August 15, 2015

Leaping Out in Faith, Or, I've Been Climbing So Much Lately

I admit it, Amanda and I have totally drank the Kool-aid in regard to rock climbing.

I'm sure that many of you have seen the photos we've been posting on Facebook and some of you have even come climbing with us (we have an open invitation to anyone who wants to come climb... we still have guest passes at the Y and we can probably finagle something with our REI membership if you want to come along for that).

I've been saying that I like climbing so much because it's like a giant puzzle that I can only solve by moving my body through it... it engages me on so many levels. I need to use my critical thinking to see the steps of the puzzle, I need to engage my physicality to actually climb the wall, and I'm also engaged as a part of community; if you want to climb with a top rope or a lead, you need to have someone belaying for you at the bottom. Which also means that every so often you, yourself need to belay for someone else. In this way, everyone gets support from others.

Well, I mean, you also get support from your community because climbers celebrate anytime someone tops out on the wall or solves a particularly hard problem. But this post is about the line that supports us, that binds, that keeps us from going splat on the floor. It's a faithful line that we walk, er, hang on... And there's a particular knot that holds the whole thing together.

The picture to the right is a bracelet that I learned how tie with knots that are used in climbing (I know, chugging the Kool-aid, I know). That top knot is known as a double fisherman's knot or a double overhand knot. It really just ties the tail of your line onto itself so it doesn't get caught on anything. The bottom knot is a double figure-8. It creates a loop so that you can actually tie your harness onto the line (when it includes a follow-through with the tail end). Some climbers have been known to use a bowline on a bight, but the double figure-8 is the more universal knot, both in popularity and versatility. There is also something that approaches mysticism around that double figure-8.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bending and Breathing the Way St. Ignatius Did

This is neither at the YMCA, nor is it yoga... but I'm really
getting into climbing
This summer my wife, Amanda, and I have been trying new things together in terms of fitness and well-being. We've been going to the YMCA more often, taking yoga-based classes together as well as making use of the climbing wall more often. I think I've done more climbing in my life than Amanda has, but she's done more yoga in her life than I have, so I think we've successfully avoided any conditions by which we would be competing with each other (well, that's not entirely true, but I hope you understand what I mean... we're able to avoid taking any grudges home with us).

At the same time, I have been going through the Ignatian examen less and less. That's a confession, not an update that I'm happy to offer. But, that being said, the guys over at Pray As You Go are really awesome with their social media presence and it was through their Twitter feed that I found out they're doing this #31dayswithIgnatius in preparation for St. Ignatius' feast day on the 31st of July. So I went and checked out this page they've set up that gives you the rundown on the examen prayer.

I think it had been a suggestion put out by Pray As You Go via their Twitter account, but for whatever reason I listened to the audio file they've posted as an introduction to the examen (I would recommend it to you, too, if you're at all curious about the prayer... it's on the same page that I linked to just above). What I took away is that the Jesuits at Pray As You Go have framed the examen as a method of praying through the events of your day, not just simply reflecting on them. This phrasing may be obvious to some of you, dear readers, but it's an important emphasis for me, with everything that's been going on in my life lately.

For me, lately, reflecting on anything life-related in spiritual terms has been difficult and uncomfortable. I feel like my spiritual life is going in a direction that I did not want it to go and that I'm prevented from taking it in the way that I thought I was being called to take it (if you need context for this remark, read this post I made a couple weeks ago). So a method of prayer and review that actively invites God to show me divine movement in my life... I've been shying away from the examen because it is difficult for me and causes more discomfort. But lately, I've realized that this sensation is analogous to the way I feel doing yoga.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Coming Back from the North Shore

I usually try to post something every weekend but this past weekend, I did not. I didn't post anything because I was off camping with my wife and some of our friends.

I snapped this one of my friends at Temperance River
State Park and posted it here.
Now that I'm back, I have this sense of longing and I feel like I'm always forgetting something. I think that this sense of emptiness, if I gave into it, could cause me to go back out into the wilderness, thinking that everything is easier there. And I think it is... things seem to make more sense, there is less to worry about. People even seem more honest when you're out hiking through state parks.

And then there's the scenery. We were up on the North Shore of Lake Superior and the vistas were incredible. They were moving. And I know I might be painting a "grass is greener" type of picture, but I have genuinely felt sad here at home now because the potted plants and the mowed lawn outside my sliding glass door don't really inspire the same sense of awe and majesty that I felt gazing at the landscape on the North Shore.

So let's see if I can describe to you what I felt and see what shape it takes...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Still Looking for Direction, or, Death and Resurrection is Tough

This makes me think of the proverb "Still waters run deep."
Picture from
Do you know that deep sense of calm and groundedness that comes with a sense of purpose? Yeah, I have not felt that for a few months now.

Before I get too far into this post, let me say that this is not me describing a crisis of faith. Faith in the God the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer is alive and well in my life, if somewhat obscured by events. I’m also not trying to be barbarous to any person or organization that I have interacted with lately; if anything in this post seems barbarous, I apologize ahead of time. The intended purpose for anything on this blog is to articulate some of the stuff going through my head. I know that this post may seem angsty and petulant, maybe even have a “poor me” sense to it, but that’s not what I’m going for. Like I said; just working out my thoughts about purpose and the uncertainty therein.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Is America So Beautiful? Or, I Didn't Expect to Write a Fourth of July Post

Yesterday was the Fourth of July; Independence Day in the United States of America. Of course, this day means lots of different things to different people (and some people who have no idea what it means). For me, when I began reading through some of the more erudite parts of the Book of Common Prayer, I found out that Independence Day is actually a feast day in the Episcopal Church (listed under "Other major feasts"). So really, we should be having church services on the Fourth of July, even though most of the churchy people that I know are really uncomfortable with bringing in any kind of semi-patriotism into church.

But regardless of any of that, I sang "America, the Beautiful" at church today. All the verses, not just the first one or the last one. I think those ones are sang most often because they are thought to be the most poetic. They are certainly the most platitudinous.

If you've not sang or listened to all the verses lately, here's your chance:

And if you're one who thinks that takes too long, you can read them here

So if you're paying attention, you'll notice that the end of second and the third verse include conditions. This isn't just a song of praise, it's also got some expectations in it:
America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine! 
This morning, as I was singing this, I was realizing that it's not just a Hoo-rah! Murica's the Greatest! song. This one is specifically asking for action on the part of God and on the part of the people present. As I was singing this song, I realized that the prayer it contains is going unfulfilled. 

Our national gains are not divine. Far from it, I think that many of the "gains" are for the privileged and taken from the downtrodden. I'm thinking in economic terms here. Wealth is often collected in the hands of the wealthy, not used for the good of all.

How many "successes" can we say are actually noble? On Independence Day weekend, I'm thinking about the red, white, and blue decisions that come down from Capitol Hill. I don't think there's a whole lot of nobleness there. Heck, I think that the successes we've seen lately have come from the streets. They're hard-won but I'm still not sure I would call them noble.

Self-control is popularly thought to the opposite of liberty and freedom. This always makes me laugh out loud, since I would cry if I didn't. More often than not, I encounter Americans who have an attitude of "In Murica, I'm free to do whatever the f*** I want." But that's not what was intended when our founders started talking about whether we really were interested in protecting Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. 

So that's my soapbox and you can stop reading here if you want. But I know that some of you, dear readers, come to read my blog because I've usually got the "Church, for the rest of us" attitude. And of course, that's true again today. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

I Need #Resurrection, the Likes O' Which Ain't Never Been Seen Before

Oh wait, yes it has. About one thousand nine hundred eighty five years ago in Jerusalem... what.

Any rate, I feel like I've been watching a lot of movies/TV since school let out the first week of June. I feel like I was working pretty hard at the end of the school year, what with my part-time teaching responsibilities plus covering for my part-time colleague. So I have felt that kicking back and taking in some of the entertainment I missed over the past few months is fine. Most of my viewing pleasure has been on Netflix; my wife and I have been getting our money's worth there watching 30 Rock. That's been fun.

I've also been using the Netflix to watch episodes of Arrow. Because superheroes.

Speaking of which, I found out that the AMC down the street has $5 weekday matinee tickets. I took advantage of that last week to watch Avengers: Age of Ultron. I don't really think there's any redeeming value there; it's just fun superhero adventure. I mean, if you really wanted to find literary merit there, you could talk about Tony Stark's hubris and the way that Marvel always portrays its heroes as very human, with many flaws and foibles.

I also took advantage of the $5 tickets to see Mad Max: Fury Road. I was really digging that one. It totally lived up to the hype, which for me included the feminist themes. I saw in that one a conflict over the possession or freedom of innocents. But I think some may disagree with me there because of the ultra-violence that Mad Max has always featured. I'd love to discuss that one if anyone is interested... (just contact me and let me know).

Now, the problem with all of these is that there's not a whole lot of redeeming content in them. I mean, I wouldn't go so far to say that any of them are trashy entertainment. But I definitely don't think there's a lot of really spiritually edifying ideas, either. Which is part of why I wrote my last blog post. And how I decided to watch a movie that my wife shared with me when we first started dating: Bella.

By the way, the blog I borrow this poster
from has a decent discussion guide that
connects this movie to scripture

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tom's Got a Short Post About Movies... What?!?

Hi everyone! This blog requires audience participation, so please be prepared!

Some of you, dear readers, who read my blog regularly know that I have done a couple of movie reviews and I've also incorporated a few movies into posts, just based on context. Well, one of the things that I've been thinking about is live tweeting and then reviewing movies that I like.

Well, not just random movies that I like, but rather movies that have themes of resurrection in them. It's one of those things that I'm trying to do this year; by being cognizant of the tone of my blog I want to lift up stories of resurrection. Lifting up stories of resurrection rather than just ranting or bemoaning seems like a much more sustainable way of writing.

But at any rate, I want some input. I'm going to provide you with a list of the movies I'm already planning on watching and then I want you to let me know which ones I should add to my list. I'll be watching and reviewing them in no particular order and I can't guarantee that I'll get through all of them this summer (little do you realize that, as a teacher on summer break, my time is not completely open to loafing about). Nonetheless, I want some input.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Are We in the Eye of the Storm? Or, Jesus Is Sleeping in the Boat Again

This is the stained glass behind the altar at Sacred Heart
Catholic Church
 in Wahkon, MN, where I will sometimes
attend Mass when my wife and I are visiting her parents.

I couldn't help but think of these panels as I listened to this
week's gospel story from Mark.
The Gospel reading for this past Sunday was the story of Jesus calming the storm. Or, if you prefer, it's the story where Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat while his disciples tried to keep the boat afloat. Either way, when Jesus wakes up, he tells the storm "Peace! Be still!" and the sea becomes calm.

He then does that thing where he asks the disciples why they were afraid and he asks whether they have no faith. I can just see that image, where Jesus is kinda shaking his head in a very exasperated sort of way (yes, I imagine that Jesus grew impatient with his disciples sometimes).

While I was growing up, more often than not, this story was taught with a cute little moral at the end like this: "And that, children, is why you should never be a afraid of a storm in your life; whether it's something at school or a misunderstanding between friends or even a real storm. Never be afraid because Jesus is with us always." BLEH.

However, this weekend, I was listening to a priest who pointed out that very often, we feel like we're in the middle of the storm. He paused and pointed out that almost every commentary on this Gospel story says that the boat the disciples are traveling in is an image representing the Church. This priest then pointed out that sometimes we, as a Church, might find ourselves in moment of calm. It's like suddenly, all the criticism and controversy around us in the popular media subsides for just little bit, but it's not the case that we're out of the storm. It's that we're in the eye of the storm.

What that means is that this story of Jesus is not important because we can look back on the storms in our life, but it is important when we recognize we are right in the middle of a storm.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What Do We Give to the Emperor? Or, Jesus Is Into Coinage Now

"Sestertius - Vespasiano - Iudaea Capta-RIC 0424" by Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
An example of a denarius - hover for more info

The Scripture from today's Pray As You Go meditation is the well-known one where the Pharisees ask Jesus about paying taxes. Jesus very deftly asks for a coin and asks whose face is on it. After some rhetoric, he delivers the well-known line "Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and give to God the things that are God's" (if you feel moved to read the whole passage, follow this link).

Many commentaries that I have heard about this passage have to do with worldly things going to worldly powers, while our hearts and spirits should be dedicated to God. I have also heard commentaries that have to do with the nature of giving itself (in fact, the meditation that I linked to above suggests one such approach). But as I was listening to the meditation, I had a realization: one way or the other, Jesus is acknowledging that there are multiple Lords that have authority over us as humans.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

What Has Tom Been Up to Lately? Or, We've Missed You on the Blogosphere

I've not been writing for a while. And while I think it's understandable, given everything that's been going on lately, I still would like to share a little of the why I've not been writing for the past month.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

What If Aronofsky Had Taught Noah In My Sunday School Class?

Today I'm writing about Darren Aronofsky's film, Noah.
For production info and cast list, check out
the movie's IMDb page

Yes, it came out last year. So I'm late to the game (I only recently watched it on Netflix).  But maybe I made up for that by live-tweeting when I watched it?

Yes, it was hotly contested because many Christians of a more biblically-literal persuasion tried to boycott the movie because it was itself not accurate to the Bible (and I will point out a few of those inconsistencies with a rant). But that really only made me want to watch it more.

Yes, I am going to give you all the spoilers along with my commentary. But now I've warned you so you can decide for yourself whether or not you want to wade into these waters (that pun was not intended).

When it comes right down to it,  I thought that the movie was visually stunning and completely captivating, even if it was Biblically inaccurate. But it was also innovative. I've grown tired of all the kid-friendly, feel-good representations of this story; the watery account of divine genocide (yes, yes, that's right... you did just witness me firing shots at my deity).

But enough with the intro. We'll get started, shan't we?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What Is It to Believe in Jesus, or, To Have a Life of Faith?

Isn't it just crazy when different media you subscribe to suddenly align and seem to be giving a similar message? That's what has happened to me in the last week.

 It started with Pray As You Go. The scripture that was read was a passage from John's gospel that comes right after Jesus fed the five thousand. The crowds follow Jesus, as he has left in a boat, and when they encounter him again he criticizes them and says, "You are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life" (NRSV John 6:26-27). It seems like a critique aimed at all of us, and for my part, I feel like I am being taken to task for not seeking the ways of God.

But at the end of the prayer, I was left with an idea that came straight from the Gospel itself: "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."

Monday, April 13, 2015

Baseball and Scripture Are #Twinning

I'm often asked whether I'm named after the Apostle Thomas. To which I respond, no, I'm not. I'm named after Tom Kelly, manager for the Minnesota Twins baseball club during their 1987 and 1991 World Series wins.

I then usually launch into the story that my parents have told me, about how I was supposed to be named after my grandfather, Juel Adrian Monson. They were going to give me the name "Monson" and call me "Muns," as my grandfather was. But as soon as I came out, both of my parents agreed that I wasn't a "Monson," I was a "Tom." My father will usually give an addendum and say that it wasn't until well after I had been born that he decided I was indeed named after Tom Kelly.

So names are strange, interesting things. For example, the Apostle Thomas (who we recently heard about in the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Easter) is said to be called the Twin. Why was he "the Twin?" Well, biblical scholars tend to agree that his given name was Judas, so he was called the Twin in order to distinguish him from the other Judas, son of Simon Iscariot.

But at any rate, it's actually true that the name we have today, "Thomas" is a transcription, through New Testament Greek, of the Aramaic name תאומא (te'oma), which means "twin" (and makes me think that maybe all managers of the Minnesota Twins should be named Tom or Thomas). But this particular apostle is also called "Doubting Thomas." Which is, I think, a custom that causes grief for people who may tend to act like he does in this story of Jesus' posthumous appearance. I mean, I should know; I think I'm one of them.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Lord is Risen! Or, What Is This Madness? This Is An Empty Tomb!

My wife, Amanda, took this picture
as we kept vigil last night.
I'm a Vigil-goer, so as I write now on Easter morning, I have done my waiting and said my prayers by candlelight. I have renewed the vows of my baptism and I have heard the story of the empty tomb, where Jesus could not be found. But then, of course, I did find him in the Eucharist. After the strange, awkward day of Good Friday, the day we could not make Eucharist, the day that we had to share the leftovers from the Last Supper on Thursday (I'm only now realizing the irony in that), Jesus could not be found among the dead because he was among the living!

In the past few years, the idea that has fascinated me about the Easter story is that the women found an empty tomb on Sunday morning. Which means that, if they were being diligent and went to the tomb at first light, Jesus must have risen sometime during the night. While everything was still shrouded in darkness and there was no clarity, Jesus rose and made his way out. Today, especially, I feel connected to story because I woke up early and could not get back to sleep (I must have too much joy this morning!). So I want to take a closer look and walk with those women on their way to the tomb...

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday and Veneration of the Cross

By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?

They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,

although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain.

Isaiah 53:8-10

The worship space at St. Christopher's, prepared
for Good Friday

"Good Friday is a very solemn day and it feels heavy to me." These words were spoken by my pastor in his sermon during the noontime liturgy today. I agree with him. Good Friday is a very heavy, uncomfortable day.

At the Altar of Repose, or, Stay Here and Keep Watch With Me

I took this during my Holy Hour this morning

I was at the Altar of Repose this morning just after daybreak. I don't really know when it was that they would have arrested Jesus, so I don't know whether or not he would have still been here, praying. But I am here because I promised to keep a watch. I am praying and contemplating and trying to find my way through all the overwhelming toil of the world.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Re-entering Jerusalem with Jesus for the First Time, or, I Think I Would Fall Off My Donkey

So today is Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday, depending on which particular denominational tradition you come from. This morning while I was worshiping with my faith community, I came to the conclusion that this first day of Holy Week is one that just fundamentally feels off, and I think it's for a very good reason. I saw it stated well this morning on Twitter:

Chris Balding's tweet resonated with me because it's a good summation of what my experience of Palm Sunday has been. We start off shouting and happy; Jesus has come into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey! He is regarded as the King of Kings and the Messiah! We can honor him with palm fronds and lay our cloaks on the dirty ground for him to walk on. But before we leave church, we are the ones who are shouting for him to be crucified.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Headed Down to San Antonio for #ADDD15 and the AED Board Meeting

Last weekend, there was not post on my blog. If any of you, dear readers, were crestfallen, I heartily apologize. But the reason that I did not post was because I was on a plane, heading to San Antonio to hang out with a bunch of deacons!

Some of the incoming board members and new board officers
at a celebration of ministry Saturday night

Saturday, March 14, 2015

I'm a Dreamer, I'm a Leaner, I'm a Flying Lemur... Steve Miller I Am Not

Those of you, dear readers, who know me in person (and maybe some of you who I have only connected with online have inferred this; I shouldn't presume so much) will know that I have a tendency to live in my head. I think about things. A lot. A large reason why my wife and I got hitched was because we help to keep each other grounded, and I think she may keep me more grounded than I do her.

But nevertheless, the point of this is that I'm in my head a lot. I have a goal in mind for just about everything I do, and in the rare occasions when I don't have a goal, I'm very much on edge. If you're into Myers Briggs personality types, you may understand this more clearly when I say that I am an INTJ. That means that I go into everything with a strategy, an end goal, and I expect things to come out a certain way (I'll throw in this anecdote to emphasize the point: my mother has often told me that when I was younger, the only way to get me out of the house was to tell me the plan for the day. But if the plan changed while we were out, she would need to tell me multiple times and explain why we were changing the plan so that I would not flip out. It's a true story).

You know I had to throw a church meme in here somewhere...

So, speaking of which, where am I going with this post? Well, I've been having trouble with my formation coursework. Those of you who come visit my blog regularly will not be too surprised to read that, since I have a noticeable gap in posts through most of last October and November. The biggest reason why I got back on my blog writing was because my grandmother passed away and I needed some way to articulate all the stuff that was bouncing around in my head (yet another symptom to show that I can get pretty far into my own head at times).

What I'm trying to say is that I found some insight to the pathways of my own brain recently when I listened to an episode of The One You Feed, which is a podcast I listen to fairly regularly. The specific  interview was with Gabriele Oettingen, who is a Professor of Psychology at New York University and the University of Hamburg. Her work has actually been regarding the perils of positive thinking, which is where I got hooked and decided to listen to the interview. She shared some of her findings and many of them rung true for me in the face of the challenges that I've been facing. I would like to share some of those reflections with you.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Something Like a Fireside Chat, or, Knock-Knock, Who's There?

Hello to all my dear readers,

This weekend is the official start to my spring break from teaching at the charter school where I work. Not that it's going to be a huge break, since my wife and I aren't traveling and there is plenty of work in preparing for the return from spring break. But I'm taking some time for myself; going running a few times and I'm working on a larger review of a really compelling interview that I listened to recently (it was an episode of The One You Feed, if anyone would like to listen to it before I publish my review and commentary).

All that being said, what I'm wanting to do this week is take a step back and share with you all the ways that you can connect with me and be a part of creating a larger conversation on the Interwebz. Because, truth be told, I don't just publish this blog because I need an outlet for all the ideas bouncing around in my head (although that is one of the reasons I publish this blog). I also write and publish what I do because I want to spark conversations online.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Prayerful Community at #CP15MN, or, Some Combination of Those Words

Last weekend, on Saturday-Sunday February 21-22, a group of 14 twenty- and thirty-somethings gathered for a retreat called Common Place. It happened at the ECMN Retreat Center on the campus of Shattuck-St. Mary's school in Faribault, Minnesota. Amanda and I were two of those 14 and, after this weekend, I would not hesitate to call any of the other attendees friends.

Thank you, ECMN for the uploading of the pictures!

The theme of the Common Place retreat was "Stories and Silence." There were five stories and five accompanying silences that happened, and I was asked to provide one of the stories. Initially I was told that my topic was "Prayer/Community." That seemed very broad and I felt totally unqualified to talk about community, but as I thought through it, a couple of stories came to mind, so I thought maybe it wouldn't be that bad. However, when I arrived at the retreat, the schedule said that my topic was "Prayer in Community." Then, shortly afterward, it was said as "Prayer and Community." Personally, I'm a bit of a grammar nerd so the conflict between preposition and conjunction was really messing with me. Before it finally came time for me to share my story, we settled the issue by calling the topic "Prayer-in-slash-and-slash-slash-Community." So I guess we just made it work.

[Before I go any farther, a statement of full disclosure: This post is a compilation of my notes and some responses from a Twitter poll that I took in preparing for my story. It's not the exact product that I presented at the retreat, but I hope that you find it worth the read here on my blog.]

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stumbling into Lent, or, Welcome to the Desert

So I am totally unprepared for Lent this year.

Shrove Tuesday (or Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, depending on your tradition) totally snuck up on me. I mean, it's been on the calendar for a couple weeks and I knew that I was going to help out making pancakes at church. But the day that it actually happened, I hadn't made any time to prepare myself for this celebration or the season that was to follow it.

What would I do without imgflip?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same, or, Leaving Epiphany and Lent to Come

I'm being a total geek right now... I'm looking back on the Revised Common Lectionary readings for this past Sunday while also preparing for tomorrow. Epiphany has had a fascinating theme this year, although I'm not sure whether it's been obvious (I'll admit that my geeky perspective may put me in a different place than everyone else).

The theme has been change. Jesus is changing everything around during the season after Epiphany this year. And Lord knows that if you change a couple things around on church people, everyone gets grumpy. But nonetheless, Jesus does it. And he, himself, is changed as well; the reading for this coming Sunday is the Transfiguration of Jesus.

This is a picture of an icon of the Transfiguration that I keep by my desk.
It was written by one Fr. Giuliani.

It's really fascinating for me, since we read about Jesus' Transfiguration every year (Matthew in year A, Mark in year B, and Luke in year C) on the Last Sunday after Epiphany, just before we go into Lent on Ash Wednesday. And my fascination grows deeper when I realize that Ash Wednesday keeps this theme of change, except that it could be said more accurately as repentanceRepentance comes from the Latin word that means "to turn," so we are still talking about a change here.

If you'll humor me, I'd like you to come with me, just for a little while, as I go down this rabbit hole of geekiness...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

What Is a Congregation? Or, Let Me Show You Some Shapes

Many thanks to my wonderful wife for making this for me on Canva!

This week I want to participate in the first round of a three-part BLOGFORCE Challenge from the Acts 8 Moment (click on the banner to learn more about the challenge and the organization). But the first thing I want to describe is how the prompt is phrased. The prompt said "What is the mission of the congregation? How should it be structured to serve its mission?" And so what I need to do is describe how I do not consider myself any kind of expert on how to structure a congregation... I don't think I have the gifts of management to determine how to position a group of people like that. Or at least I don't feel I have the gifts to describe it as an action plan. What I do is describe the shape of the thing, as I see it in my head. And in that way, there are two images that I want to describe. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

"The Upstart, Jesus," as Told by the Dramatist, Mark

Borrowed from "Getting to Know the Evangelists"
on the St. James Cathedral, Seattle website

I really like the Gospel of Mark.

Which means that I'm in luck, since this week's lectionary for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (Feb 1) is the second week in a row that we have a reading from Mark.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

"Hello My Name Is..." or, Can You Hang On? I'm Getting a Call

I need to give credit to for the generator

In a sense, this is the post where I get to act like Yoda, since he gave warning about giving into this particular set of feelings. If Yoda is any kind of reliable source, there are only bad things that come from giving into one's anger.

If you like this, it's a free download at FBCoverStreet

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Respect Ma Authorit-ay!" or, There is a Prescription for Treating a Servant

UPDATE: After I made this post on my blog, a very well respected deacon-mentor of mine made a comment on the post and, to a certain extent, punched a lot of holes in what I presented. However, she is much more credible than me when it comes to describing the role of deacons in the current Episcopal Church... you may want to consider skipping straight to her comment... I think what she wrote is a lot clearer than what I wrote. 

A while ago, I was listening to a daily meditation from Pray As You Go, which is an incredible podcast resource for pray and meditation, if you have not encountered it yet (I have a little summary of it on my "Resources" page, or click this link to dive into PAYG on your own). But the meditation on the particular day I have in mind was based on Ephesians 6:1-9. Here is the text:

As for children, obey your parents in the Lord, because it is right. 2 The commandment Honor your father and mother is the first one with a promise attached: 3 so that things will go well for you, and you will live for a long time in the land.[a] 4 As for parents, don’t provoke your children to anger, but raise them with discipline and instruction about the Lord. 5 As for slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling and with sincere devotion to Christ. 6 Don’t work to make yourself look good and try to flatter people, but act like slaves of Christ carrying out God’s will from the heart. 7 Serve your owners enthusiastically, as though you were serving the Lord and not human beings. 8 You know that the Lord will reward every person who does what is right, whether that person is a slave or a free person. 9 As for masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Stop threatening them, because you know that both you and your slaves have a master in heaven. He doesn’t distinguish between people on the basis of status. (CEB)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Resurrection Stories from "Les Misérables," or, I'm Starting the Year with a Movie Review

So now that I've finished my first post of the year and announced that I'm reinvigorating the tone of my blog, it is time for something completely different: I'm going back to movie reviews!

Yes, yes, I'm going to review Les Misérables, even though it's nothing of a new premier. My wife and I sat down and re-watched it recently. I've always liked the 2012 movie (as well as the 10th and 25th Anniversary concerts), but the more I stay with the story and experience it, the more I realize it's got a lot to say about human suffering and redemption. It may be no surprise to some of you, dear readers; you may be way ahead of me on this one. But for me, it's the title itself; sometimes it's translated from French as The Miserable Ones, and sometimes it's published as The Victims or The Dispossessed, so these ideas of human suffering may be no surprise. But nonetheless, I want to write about the theme of redemption in the story because the process of discovery has been so profound for me.

Monday, January 5, 2015

What Is the Gospel News? or, Stuff I Will Be Blogging About in 2015

Here is my first post for 2015! That's very exciting, just simply out of a child-like glee for new and shiny things. However, this post is not going to be my "5 predictions for the Church in 2015," or "Here, before all my dearest readers, I resolve to do thusly..." The only thing that I'm going to resolve to do in 2015 is try to consistently write a "5," rather than a "4" in the year.

Although, that being said, I do want my first blog post for 2015 to set and reset the tone of my blog for the year. You all know, dear readers, that my blog is pretty churchy. I am guilty of these charges. And while I would not say that I am preparing to make a major tone shift, I think that there are repercussions that I want to embrace. What I'm talking about is being conscious and focussed on the gospel news in regard to what's on this blog.