Please Help Simpson Shelter With Your Vote.

2013.02.20 Please Help Simpson Shelter With Your Vote
You can help a homeless shelter win a $25,000 kitchen makeover with a few clicks. Simpson Shelter’s work is important to so many men and women. Will you please help?
The Family Handyman magazine and IKEA are co-sponsoring a contest called “Rescue Remodel” running through March 30 to award one community organization an IKEA kitchen makeover worth up to $25,000. Here’s what the contest says:

Deserving community organizations from across the country were nominated by their communities to win an IKEA® dream kitchen through our Rescue Remodel Contest. The organization with the most votes will receive a dream kitchen renovation valued at $25,000. And since it’s all from IKEA®, it will be full of smart and innovative ideas to make their lives a little bit easier so they can better serve our communities.

I make no comment on whether the other four organizations up for the prize are worthy. Obviously, they are. They’re all very worthy and deserving of such generosity. What I can tell you, however, is that I’ve witnessed first-hand what Simpson Shelter does for homeless men and women. Volunteers from across the twin cities metro come in to cook and serve meals which they, the volunteers, also bring. They do this in the kitchen in the basement of Simpson United Methodist Church – a basement which is now fully dedicated to providing services for homeless men and women who need help.  Volunteers from the church and other organizations join in with a small staff to offer services for homeless persons in crisis, in need, and in hope of transitioning to being a person with a home.
And at this shelter, it’s not just beds and it’s not just meals. It’s savings accounts. Volunteer social workers. Volunteer lawyers. Volunteer health care professionals. Showers. Donations of hygiene products, socks, underpants. A comfortably couch and a big screen TV. Dignity. It’s a monumental undertaking and while I would prefer there would be no need for homeless shelters, there is need. And Simpson Shelter does amazing work to fill that need in their own little way.
Here’s a brief video from Simpson Housing Services and I have a little to add below:

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Follow-Up on Desmond Tutu and the Three-Mile-Per-Hour God.

2013.02.12 Follow Up on the 3MPH God
Speaking of interfaith worship, last month I wrote about Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s concept of the “Three-Mile-Per-Hour God.” I have finally re-discovered the video footage online!
The Seeds of Compassion conference has video archives but I cannot figure out how to access them. But I found it at the University of Washington’s online UW-TV website. You can both stream and download this and other videos from the conference for free. Considering how long it took me to find the footage again, I would download it if you fall in love with this image of God as much as I have. I don’t feel like I’m in a position to take out the piece in question and embed it here, so all I can do is point you in the right direction and get out of the way.
If you go to the 48-minute mark of this video, you’ll see

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Reconciliation Is the Long Game.

2013.02.12 Reconciliation Is the Long Game
LCMS President Harrison issued an apology for the way he asked Pastor Morris to apologize. You can read my thoughts on the initial apology from last week.
At this point, I’m waiting for someone to apologize and explain those responsible for sacking the people who have just been sacked, have been sacked.
There are three new letters, one from District President Yeadon, one from President Harrison, and one “Statement of Reconciliation” from Yeadon, Harrison, and Pastor Rob Morris. You can read all three letters in their full context at There are some interesting pieces to President Harrison’s letter I’ve been thinking about:

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A Closer Look #5 Teaching as a Sacramental Act

A Closer Look

Today I have a review of Teaching as a Sacramental Act by Mary Elizabeth Mullino Moore, a professor-turned-dean and ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. I found a lot of inspiration on Moore’s book and hope you’ll give it a closer look. You can also read, rate, and comment on my review at Amazon.

We collect wisdom and this is a wisdom book. Teaching is quickly described as something which is not “about,” “for,” or “by way of” the sacraments but can be approached in such a way that it is a holy experience, it becomes sacramental (5). In this way, one can set aside the frenetic energy sometimes needed to teach and take time and energy to focus on the art of teaching as a blessing. Professor Moore collects the wisdom of inspirational Christian and spiritual leaders who, coming from different contexts across time and space, have all influenced her theology of teaching. Perhaps it’s because I’ve already drank from the well of so many whom she affords attention that the wisdom seemed to run so deep (Maya Angelou, Rita Nakashima Brock, Walter Brueggemann, Martin Luther King,

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Sorry, God, That's Not Our Policy.

2013.02.07 Sorry God That's Not Our Policy
This morning I read a news story explaining that the pastor from the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in Newton, CT had to issue an apology to the LCMS president for participating in a prayer vigil two days after the murder of innocent adults and children because leaders of other faith traditions also participated.
Here’s a highlight from Pastor Rob’s apology letter (read the entire letter for context here):

To those who believe that I have endorsed false teaching, I assure you that was not my intent, and I give you my unreserved apologies. If any of you know church members or friends or family who are now confused because of my participation, believing that the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod fully endorses the doctrine of anyone else who was on that stage, please correct this confusion lovingly, and I will personally be happy to help in any way that I can. Feel free to pass on my apologies for having given that impression.

Here’s an excerpt from LCMS President Harrison’s open letter response (read the entire letter for context here):

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My Two Nights on a Hermitage Retreat.

No electricity.
No plumbing.
No clock.
All wonderful.
I spent Monday afternoon through Wednesday morning in a space called Pacem in Terris, a spiritual retreat center in central Minnesota. Its roots are in the Catholic tradition and its doors are wide open. My seminary offered students a blessed discount rate for this experience and after discussing the opportunity with my wife, I elected to go. I’m so grateful to her for saying “Yes, and…” to this one. She elected to hold down the fort at home so I could try to surprise myself and be open to God surprising me, too.
What follows is a brief reflection on my hermitage experience. It’s stream-of-consciousness style and just as much about my processing the experience as it is hoping to entice you to try such an experience. Whichever reason shows through clearest, I hope you’ll enjoy. Stick around for a gallery of photos at the bottom of the post and you can click each photo for a much larger version and then scroll through them. You can also click any of the photos in this post for larger versions.
What Got Me There.
I needed a break. I’d been in full-time classes for six months straight. My supervisor is on sabbatical so I’ve

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When (Not) to Press for an Excuse.

2013.01.27 When Not to Press for an Excuse

I’m in a position through my vocation to throw a lot of opportunity at people and see what happens. Some of them leap at it, some need a little more coaxing, and others always have an excuse.

I recently asked several people to step up for a service opportunity. A small handful said “yes” immediately. I got a few excuses, too, nothing out of the ordinary. Then there was this young man who simply told me this:

I can’t, sorry.

In a strange way, I sort of respected him more for

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Love When It's Hard.

2013.01.24 Love When It's Hard
Have you ever looked back and realized in the midst of other overwhelming emotions, you forgot to love?
Today I read the intriguing essay, “Why I Hate Loving Mark Driscoll” by Christian Piatt over at Red Letter Christians today about his reactions and rebuttal to Mark Driscoll’s recent tweet about President Obama. As I read his article, much of what he wrote resonated quite strongly with how Mr. Driscoll’s comments made me feel, too. Then I got to the part where he wrote about the difficulty in loving Mark Driscoll and how

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Dr. James Dobson's Theology Is Heartbreaking.

2013.01.15 James Dobson Is Wrong
Dr. James Dobson addressed the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on his weekly radio program last month. You can listen to the entire 25:55 episode to hear the founder of Focus on the Family in full context. Below is a the piece of what he said that has left people like me in disbelief:

Our country really does seem in complete disarray. I’m not talking politically, I’m not talking about the result of the November sixth election; I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.

I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed 54 million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences, too.

And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the scripture and on God almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on.

I am constructing my theology. I don’t have it all formed yet. And really, forming never stops! And yet, something about this does not sit well with me. When I read this and listen to it, I believe Dr. Dobson is intentionally implying God has judged the US because there is legalized abortion and legislation and conversation surrounding marriage equality and the tragedy at Sandy Hook is a direct consequence of God’s judgment as we “turned our back on God” for these reasons.
I have three thoughts on this:
1. I think Dr. Dobson’s timing is unfortunate at best.

Dr. Dobson made these comments on Monday, December 17, 2012. That’s three days after the slayings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Only one day after the first memorial service for two of the victims, two boys aged six. One day after persons of faith experienced what their own pastor had to offer on the situation and one day to process what one of their most trusted faith mentors offered in prayerful thought. One day after people were back at back at work, back at school, back to regular ol’ “weekdays.” That’s not a lot of time.
The following phrase gets used

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Community Breathes In, Breathes Out.

2013.01.017 Communities Breathe In, Breathe Out
Communities, like any civilization or organization, are born, live, and fade. To focus on how communities live, one must consider how they breathe.
As persons enter a community, they are drawn in with long, life-giving breath. The lungs of gathering fill and persons interact intensely, vibrantly, like tiny little oxygen molecules do their tiny dance. And just when it seems like the lungs of gathering can’t hold a single more person, yet another is breathed in, and another, and another.
Communities also breathe out. Persons leave gatherings for many reasons. Time, distance, disagreement, misunderstanding, shift in passion, unplanned or uncontrollable disruption. When a community breathes out it doesn’t mean it’s dead. When a community is at its peak capacity and starts the slow leak or even the blustering gale scattering its members, it can feel like death because it isn’t “what it used to be.”
But that’s how community works.
We are breathed in, we are breathed out. When we

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