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Showing posts from March, 2014

One Way? Week Five: "I Can See Clearly Now"

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Several years ago my wife decided to change her hair color from very blonde to very brown--while I was away at a week-long conference.  We had been married for ten years at that point, and I had known her since we were thirteen. For every one of those twenty-odd years her hair had been very blonde.  Until that week.

When I got off of the airplane and began walking to baggage claim, I walked right past the seat where she was sitting, and even glanced at her as I went.  A thought passed through my head when I glanced, "She's kind of cute," it called out as it passed.  Then another thought came rushing in and sort of shouted when it arrived, "THAT WAS YOUR WIFE!!!!"

I stopped in my tracks and turned slowly around.  Sure enough, there she was smiling at me, resplendent as a brunette.  I gave her a big hug and exclaimed about how different she looked with her new color.  Then I made the mistake of telling her about the "She's kind of cute" thought, …

One Way? Week Four: "Like the Woman At The Well"

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When I was a youngster I wasn't exactly what you might call "easy on the eyes."  Not that I am now, mind you, but back then---things were pretty messed up.  There is a school photo I recall that stands out far more than any other.  I was perhaps twelve years old at the time.

For some reason I was clad in a dress shirt, a sweater vest and a clip on tie that had the most garish decor could imagine silk screened on it.  My hair was sort of plastered to my head, my ears were sticking out and my enormous glasses sort of rounded out the ensemble perfectly. My eyes are crossed pretty severely in the photo on account of the fact they tend to do that because I am blind in one of them.  Sometimes, like in this photo, they cross more than others.

To sum things up... I was looking good.  Here it is:

When I think about that photo, I just want to reach into it and put my hand on twelve year old Leon's shoulders... and shake the living crap out of him. "Dude!  Could you mak…

Leading With A Limp - A Primer on Broken Leadership: Book Review

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Dan Allender's book Leading With A Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness confounds me.  It took me a while to work my way through it--a few steps at a time while I was working on other books and projects.

As a result, I think I have two views of the book, which makes sense because honestly Leading With A Limp feels like reading two different books.

First, I have to say that there are enough quotes on leadership in Leading With A Limp to fill up a hundred of those inspirational posters you put around your office. Allender is that good.

Here are a few that lit my fuse so to speak:

A good leader will, in time, disappoint everyone.  Leadership requires a willingness not to be liked, in fact, a willingness to be hated. 

Leadership will always require one person to stand closest to the edge and say, "Let's jump."  

The difference between a manager and a leader is the internal urge to alter the status quo to create a different world.

See what I mean?  That…

The Age of the Spirit: A Review of Phyllis Tickle's Latest Book

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I remember the first time I heard Phyllis Tickle speak I was at a pastor's conference in San Diego, sitting in a roomful of pastors from all over the United States.  It was February and the weather in San Diego was---perfect, as it always is in San Diego.  I am sure that most of the pastors gathered there that day were more prepared to enjoy some nice weather and like me were quite unprepared for the knowledge Phyllis Tickle was about to throw down.

She related to us that the Church was about to go through what she called a "500 year rummage sale," a phenomenon that has occurred every five hundred years in the history of the Church.  The first of these 500 year rummage sales occurred, according to Tickle, with Jesus in "The Great Transformation." Five hundred years later, the Church experienced "The Great Schism" when the Eastern Orthodox and Western Roman churches separated.  Five hundred years after that the Church experienced "The Great Refo…

Pastrix: A Review of Nadia Bolz-Weber's Memoir of a Cranky, Beautiful Faith

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Nadia Bolz-Weber defies your categories.  In fact, she takes your categories, tears them into pieces, wads them up and throws them back in your face.

Bolz-Weber is a loud-mouthed, heavily tattooed, often-profane former stand-up comic, who also happens to be an ordained Lutheran minister.

She's also a recovering alcoholic and a former fundamentalist Christian, who discovered at an early age that the conservative faith of her childhood was something she didn't care to embrace.  Weber spent years in addiction of one sort or another, but always seemed to find her way back to God--despite her objections.

Her latest book Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint tells the story of her pastoral calling in a rambling but engaging narrative filled with memorable characters, unforgettable moments, theological reflections on life, the universe and everything and a few curse words.

When I say a "few" curse words, I mean more than "some," but not…

One Way - Week Three: "For God So Loved"

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I can't find my birth certificate.  I thought I knew exactly where it was, but it's not in the file marked "birth certificates" in our family filing cabinet.  My three son's birth certificates are there, and my wife's as well.  Not mine.

I can get another one, I suppose.  It will take some emails, perhaps a letter, maybe even a phone call and some proof of my identity--apart from my birth certificate that is.  I had to have an official copy at some point over the past twenty years because I was issued a passport, and then reissued one ten years later.  I am not sure exactly why this bothers me.

It shouldn't bother me really.  I don't need to put my birth certificate on the wall of my office to prove that I am alive---do I?  The proof of my existence is that I am typing this, walking around, talking and such.  Regardless of whether I have a certificate to prove it, I exist.

Recently, I heard a story of a lady who stopped receiving her social securi…

A Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor: Thoughts and Reflections

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The first short story I ever read written by Flannery O'Connor was "Good Country People."  I think I read and re-read it five times that first sitting.  It was so thoroughly Southern and shocking--so full of religious imagery and violence. I couldn't shake the feeling that somehow it was a story about me--even though such a thing was impossible.  
"A Good Man Is Hard to Find" soon followed, and I was confronted with O'Connor's uncanny ability to take a thoroughly irredeemable character and then somehow redeem her through suffering, shame and degradation.  As I read, I found myself in turns glad that Joy/Hulga was getting her comeuppance, then full of pity afterward.  
There was something about the way O'Connor wrote that resonated with my often self-loathed Southernness, and made me almost proud of it in ways I could not fully describe.  Proud in the way that one might show a scar from a particularly nasty accident that almost took your life---…

Sabbath As Resistance: A Review of Walter Brueggemann's Latest

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Years ago I attended a Presbyterian minister's conference for the express purpose of hearing Walter Brueggemann teach.  He was the featured speaker at the conference---or should I say he was supposed to be the featured speaker.  I can't remember exactly why he couldn't make it at the last minute, but I do remember being fairly bummed about it.  You simply don't get too many chances to sit at the feet of one of the most esteemed Old Testament scholars in the world, after all.

Brueggemann's work has in alternately inspired and convicted me whenever I've had the opportunity to study it. My personal library is stocked with more than a few of his books.  But I have to say that his latest, Sabbath As Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now has had the most personal impact on my life.

This short study of the Fourth Commandment is, in my opinion, the perfect Christian counterpart to Rabbi Abraham Heschel's seminal work The Sabbath.  Brueggemann reads the Sab…

Why "Jesus Feminist" Might Just Be The Best Book You'll Read This Year

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My life in the Church has been defined by extremes.  Until I was 18 years old, I attended fundamentalist Baptist churches, and was educated in fundamentalist Baptist schools.  Then, until I was 24 years old, I fled the Church and essentially became an agnostic.  When I finally returned, I joined a Presbyterian Church, and eventually went to a Presbyterian Seminary to become a Presbyterian minister.  
So when it came to certain doctrines--like the roles of women in the Church, for example--I went from one extreme to the other.  I started off life in a culture that was so patriarchal it made Abraham look wimpy and have spent the last sixteen years in one that affirms the role of women in every aspect of Church leadership.  
I am telling you this because I know what it looks like when women are relegated to subservience in the Church as opposed to when they are not.  I prefer "not" by a long shot.  I am also telling you this because you need to know the location from which I w…