Book Review: Shameless by Nadia Bolz-Weber

In her latest book, Nadia Bolz-Weber, opens up a topic that many in the church attempt to stay clear from. While the entire basis of our life on earth is contingent upon our ability to have sex, it has often times been a taboo subject within the church. Many times the church has went to extremes to steer clear of the topic or at its worse, to speak of the evils of it.

I did not grow up in the church and therefore was not too aware of the purity movement that happened within it. I heard a few things along the way, but at that time it didn’t affect me so I did not pay too much attention. It is the purity movement that she directly addresses in the beginning of her book and bringing to the forefront the harm that is has caused over the years.

Like many of her other books, she brings in many stories from her parishioners that help support her thesis. She also speaks of the holiness of being with God and each other. As she compares the two she says that “holiness is about union with, and purity is about separation from.” I believe that it all comes down from this as we are a holy people that are called to live with union with one another.

To attempt to say what is holy and not holy of others is in direct competition with God. God has created each of holy. Every sing part of our bodies. To be with another person in being welcomed into a holy experience. There is nothing that we should be ashamed of. We should not let others make us feel any less.

There is no shame to be felt in our bodies. “God is made known: in the miracle of our infant bodies, so recently come from God that you can smell God on their heads; in the freedom of our child bodies as they were before shame and self-consciousness entered into them; in the confusion of our pubescent bodies and the excitement of our teenage bodies as they become familiar with desire; in the fire and ice of our young adult bodies as they connect with each other; in the goddamn mind-blowing magic of our baby-making bodies; in the wisdom in our aging bodies; and in the so-close-to-God-you-can-smell-God beauty of our dying bodies.” God wants us to be one with our bodies and to know them intimately as they are created in the image of God.

This is a tough message to share as we have avoided the conversation for far too long. It is about time that someone like Nadia brings it the forefront. She has also included some great resources for individuals and congregations to reach out and learn more.

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Living in the Mystery

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It has been quite a while since I read The Shack  by Wm. Paul Young. I recall being touched by it when I first read it, and was kind of excited to find out that it was being made into a movie.

I am not going to say that either the movie or the book is the answer to many theological questions. I do believe that it has the power to relate the Trinity to people in a way that they may be able to understand. Quite often we will try to equate the Trinity to different things in our lives that come in threes; such as ice, water, steam. These analogies quite often fall flat. How can we have relationship with ice, water, and steam, or any other analogy that we may make up in our mind.

The personification of the Trinity is wonderful, as God is portrayed as a woman mostly, and a man at one time. Jesus is a relatable loving character, and the Holy Spirit is represented by a woman that seems to radiate God’s love in all she does. Together, the great I Am.

The Shack takes us on a journey of whom God could be. Does it say that this truly is without a doubt who God is? No, it does not. One line in the movie from Papa (God), is “I am who you need me to be right now.” God is present with us in everything, and may just perhaps be with us in the form that we need most at the present time. If we need a little tough love, then God is there to give it. If we need to be loved unconditionally, then God is there with love that overflows.

The question of theodicy (why does God let bad things happen) is discussed, and within a right frame of mind. God does not allow the bad things to happen. We live in a world that is full of sin and evil happens whether we want it to or not. God is present with us and weeping with us the same time that we are.

Forgiveness is a major theme of the movie and book as Mack encounters the evils of his past as well as the evil of his present as he learns to live with the death of his youngest daughter. To forgive is Christian and if more people would learn to do so, the world would be a much better place. If we would not be so quick to react, and more patient to forgive, love would grow and the gospel would be proclaimed.

Be on the lookout for other themes in the movie as well. From resurrection, to baptism, and communion. Who wouldn’t want to sit around the table having a meal with the Trinity?

I believe that it is truly worth the two and a half hours to sit in the theater and watch this incredible movie. Better yet, invite some friends to join you so that you can have a great conversation afterwards.

The World Has Not Come to an End

Though it may seem like it.

What a bitter election season we have just experienced. I sat down last night to watch the returns with a pit in my stomach that must have been anticipating the outcome that I would wake up to this morning. No matter which candidate won, there would be people not happy with the outcome. I went to bed with an inkling of how the populace voted and what the outcome was going to be. Hoping that by chance I would wake up in the morning and it would have just been a bad dream.

The thing is, I am a white Christian male, what do I have to fear? I am in the majority and apparently that majority voted for drastic change in Washington. Just from watching the returns and listening to the pundits talk, the racial divide is still strong in America. We clearly are not a unified nation. If we truly want to move forward, we must be able to look beyond these labels.

Regardless of who won the election, my calling has not changed. I am called to serve God and proclaim the good news that is the gospel. A gospel which comes down to the lowly and the least of these. A gospel that leaves no room for misogyny, racism, sexism, xenophobia, or fear. I will continue to stand up for those that feel excluded and will continue to speak of the love of God for all people. I will continue to preach a gospel that proclaims the inclusion of all people. I will stand up for the creation God has granted us.

My prayer is that we can come together in unity. A unity that will break down any walls, real or proposed. A unity that encourages conversation. A unity that encourages strengthening relationships. I believe that America is already great because it is composed of a great diversity of people. There is nothing to go back to. We can only move forward.

I cannot even pretend to know how my LGBTQ friends and family feel this morning. I cannot pretend to know how my African American or Hispanic friends feel this morning. I do know that many have expressed fear and anger. May we step up as a united people to combat any hatred that is spread and bring about the love of God. God is good. In this we pray.

Halfway Through Marathon Training!

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After today’s 14 mile long run, I am now halfway through my training for the Detroit Marathon. Woohoo!!!!!!!

I have been tested through this time as I wonder why I decided to run 26.2 miles. The truth is that I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and wanted to do it before I turned 40. Training has been going great and so far I have only missed one run during my first 10 weeks. I have stayed for the most part injury free, except for bloody nipples (owww!!!!), and a couple of nasty looking toes that will probably kiss their nails goodbye.

I racked up 95 miles for July and will be on track to top 100 miles for the month of August. I have never put these types of miles in before, and I may be crazy, but it feels great! I never thought a 10 mile run would seem easy.

Now, you are probably wondering why the cute picture of the puppy. As I told you before I wanted a little extra motivation for the marathon and would be raising money for an organization. I chose Leader Dog for the Blind because of the connection I made with them nearly 20 years ago through the Lions Club and the proximity to where I am living now. We may possibly be getting a Leader Dog of our own to raise as well! We get to pick him up on August 19 and pictures will definitely be shared. We are so looking forward to giving back and helping raise a Future Leader Dog for a person that is sight impaired. I have set a lofty goal, and I know that through everyone’s help I can reach it. You can go to my Leader Dog Fund Raising page and all funds given will immediately get to them. Thanks for your generosity and keeping me in your prayers as I train and my family as we adjust to life with a new puppy.

Pushing It To The Next Level

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Here we go!!!

A funny thing happened along the way as I look towards turning 40. No, I am not there yet, but it is less than a year away! I started running about 9 years ago, and at that time it was more of just something I thought I would try.

This is after growing up and participating in sports where running was the punishment. I played one year of football when I was in fourth grade and because I did not hit properly the coach made me run around the entire area where we were practicing (which was at least a 1/4 mile). That was enough of me playing football! I played tennis all four years in high school and of course some running was involved but I did not think anything about it. I had friends that played soccer and ran cross country, and I thought that the distances they were running were just insane.

So, here I find myself now. Approaching my 40th birthday with a new goal on my mind. That goal is to complete the Detroit Marathon on October 16; my first full marathon before I turn 40! No, I just did not decide to do this on a whim. Since 2009 I have ran 5 half-marathons and a 25k. So much for the boy that grew up detesting running.

My official training started this morning with an easy 4 mile out and back run that felt pretty good. I am motivated by many things while I look towards race day. They are, not in any particular order:

  1. Setting an awesome example for my children.
  2. Maintaining my health and losing weight (Can I get down to 170 by race day?).
  3. Running the Marathon with my sister (and perhaps beating her). A little sibling rivalry is healthy right?
  4. A sense of accomplishment that I have truly pushed myself to a new level.
  5. And many, many more…

Running for me is a sense to connect with God and is a time of contemplation. For this reason I usually prefer to run by myself. I do listen to podcasts usually while I run and the one that I listened to this morning was true motivation. Runner’s World has just started producing two podcasts that are wonderful and the Human Race  podcast that I listened to this morning feature a conversation with 85 year old Sylvia Wiener, who has completed 75 marathons and thousands of other races after surviving the Holocaust. Stories like this are great motivation as well.

I encourage you to listen to yourself and by chance even to where God may be calling you to push in your life. I know that as I push towards this next goal that I am not alone as Jesus is right along side me and that I can count on all of your support and love. I’ll be sure to keep you updated about my training and other opportunities.

 

 

My Favorite Podcasts!

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So, do you have any favorite podcasts? Do you know what a podcast is? I have been listening to several favorites for the last couple of years as well as adding some newer ones recently.

For those of you still wondering what a podcast is then here you go. A podcast is a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically. As an Apple person, I have these podcasts automatically downloaded to my phone weekly.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite podcasts.

For fun I like to listen to:

Serial – produced by NPR and hosted by Sarah Koenig, this podcast is in its second season as it investigates the case of Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier,  who was released by Al-Queda in a controversial prisoner exchange. Sarah does not take any sides, and presents some interesting facts. The first season centered on Adnan Syed, a convicted murderer, whose conviction and guilt is in question. This is worth your time!

This American Life – another great podcast produced by NPR. This weekly radio show is hosted by Ira Glass and heard by millions of people. The topics vary from week to week, yet they are very relatable as you can imagine some of the situations happening in your own hometown.

KCRW’s Left, Right & Center – This podcast was referred to me by a friend and it brings the political issues of the week into conversation. All viewpoints are presented which does not favor one line of reasoning over another. The hosts of the show do a good job of keeping discussions on a level basis and arguments rarely get heated.

Marathon Training Academy  – for those of you that are runners, this is a great podcast that gives you smart tips for staying healthy while running as well as recaps of races. The guests that hosts Angie and Trevor Spencer have on the show range from authors to ultra runners. I have truly enjoyed this podcast and it motivates me to keep on running. They even have a MTA group that you can become a part of that is very interactive and supportive.

For those of you that like to delve deeper into theological questions and dialog these podcasts are great for both study and reflection. Some even address issues within the church.

200churches – I recently was introduced to this podcast and the creators goal is to present great ideas to small churches, 200 attenders or fewer in worship weekly. I have only listened to a couple of episodes and it has already gained my following.

Preachers on Preaching – this podcast is produced by The Christian Century magazine and is fairly new as well. Each episode has a different pastor discuss their experience with preaching and how they get to sharing the Word.

Working Preacher – this podcast is produced by professors at Luther Seminary, an ELCA seminary. This is a great resource, as well as their website,  for sermon prep.

Pulpit Fiction Podcast – another great resource for sermon preparation. This is probably one of my favorite go-tos if I am struggling to find something in the lessons during the week.

Home-brewed Christianity – Tripp Fuller brings this podcast to life with more in-depth theological discussions. He has some great guests on it all of the time and has actually just recently released a new book.

On Being  – this podcast could be placed in either category. It is great fun listening to some people’s thoughts regarding their faith and viewing themselves as spiritual beings. Krista Tippet asks great questions which truly allows each guest to show their true being. Humanity is at work in this podcast and can be easily related to faith.

Podcast: OnBeing

I subscribe to many different podcasts that I listen to during the week (another blog later down the road). One of the most recent ones that I have listened to is an episode of OnBeing by Krista Tippett. Her interview with Martin Sheen is wonderful as he shares his faith with her and where he currently is as a person and activist. Simply one of the best OnBeing interviews I have listened to. Check out the website.