The Weekend Wanderer: 20 November 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


facing disagreement“Helping Believers Navigate the Difference Divide” – Todd Fisher at Churches for the Sake of Others blog: “On election night 2016 my family and I were living in London. When we heard the results the next day, I’m embarrassed to say I felt thankful to not be in the U.S. My response was less from a political opinion and more from a sense that contentious times were ahead. I thought we’d be at a safe distance from such divisions. When our time in England came to an earlier-than-expected conclusion in the summer of 2017, I knew we were headed back to a divided homeland. Of course, little did I know just how divided things would become. Like many, I’ve found myself at a loss in recent years. We are not just fractured as a nation, not merely divided in local churches, we are experiencing strife like never before in families, homes and the most intimate of relationships. And this was before March of 2020. The pandemic and ensuing unrest of the last 19 months has served to accentuate, highlight, make clearer the differences between us. So what to do? How can we as believers navigate the divide of difference? How do we embody a different way and work towards reconciliation? How to lead when the ‘two or more gathered’ seem increasingly far apart? Ultimately, how do we engage the person in front of us in the manner of our Jesus?”


Brest Bible Exposition“A Belarussian Bible exhibition in troubled times” – Johannes Reimer in Evangelical Focus – Europe: “Very few cities of Europe are so connected to the Bible translation as this is the case with Brest, a Belarusian city at the border to Poland. Brest is 1,000 years old and has been under different European rulers throughout her history. In Reformation times the city was ruled by the Lithuanian Grand Duke Mikolai Radzivill the Black (1515-1565), who became Reformed and ordered the second ever Protestant translation of the Bible into a European language – Polish. The Brest Bible was published in 1563 and became a foundation for several Bible translations in different Eastern European languages. Among others, the translation into modern Belarusian by the Baptist pastor and social reformer Lukash Dziekuc-Malei (1888-1955). Dziekuc-Malei lived and worked in Brest prior to World War II. The National Library of Belarus together with the regional Gorki Library in Brest organized a symposium in 2021 honoring his extraordinary contribution to the Bible translation into the modern Belarusian language and published the procedures of the conference.”


church loneliness“The Riddle of Church Loneliness” – Susan Mettes in Christianity Today: “I can’t remember at what point I realized that I would probably go two years without a hug. Nobody knew how much worse the pandemic would get, but I knew I would be stuck in place for the duration. My friends felt a world away. Phone calls with my family had become strained. I couldn’t tell how they were really doing or articulate how I was handling the stress. (Not all that well: I had stopped showering altogether, and I was watching the Lord of the Rings movies repeatedly.) I believe winter was approaching when the realization about huglessness hit me. Holidays loomed in the near future, and I wondered if I could deal with a Thanksgiving by myself, with horse meat instead of turkey. I was in Central Asia. It was 2004, in the thick of the bird flu pandemic. That period, when I was a Peace Corps volunteer, was one of my deepest experiences of loneliness. I was in a community where only one person I knew spoke English well. I could talk on a pay phone with people in the United States—through a very bad connection where I could always hear a third person breathing on the line—once every two weeks. I got sick a lot. I didn’t bathe much since the Turkish bathhouse was open to women just one day a week, during a time when I was scheduled to teach. People I didn’t know would come to my house to ask me to help them cheat on their English tests. I started talking to myself.”


dostoyevskyembed“Dostoyevsky Stricken: A God-possessed man reacts to suffering” – This several-decades-old article from Malcolm Muggeridge is found at Plough: “Like so many of my generation, I first read Dostoyevsky’s novel, Crime and Punishment, when I was very young. I read it like a thriller, with mounting excitement. Later, when I came to read Dostoyevsky’s other works, especially his great masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov, I realized that he was not just a writer with a superlative gift for storytelling, but that he had a special insight into what life is about, into man’s relationship with his Creator, making him a prophetic voice looking into and illumining the future. I came to see that the essential theme of all his writing is good and evil, the two points round which the drama of our mortal existence is enacted.”


Barna Pastors Poll 2021“38% of U.S. Pastors Have Thought About Quitting Full-Time Ministry in the Past Year” – From a recent study by the Barna Group: “Recent data collected from Barna’s pastor poll indicate that U.S. pastors are currently in crisis and at risk of burnout. Notably, in 2021 alone, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of pastors who are thinking about quitting ministry entirely. With pastors’ well-being on the line, and many on the brink of burnout, 38 percent indicate they have considered quitting full-time ministry within the past year. This percentage is up 9 full points (from 29%) since Barna asked church leaders this same question at the beginning of 2021. A deeper analysis of these data show that some groups are faring worse than others. One of the more alarming findings is that 46 percent of pastors under the age of 45 say they are considering quitting full-time ministry, compared to 34 percent of pastors 45 and older. Keeping the right younger leaders encouraged and in their ministry roles will be crucial to the next decade of congregational vitality in the U.S.”


library“Intermission: From The Library” – Paul Kingsnorth at The Abbey of Misrule: “If you are anything like me, you can sense on the breeze that things are accelerating out there. ‘Events, my dear boy, events’, as the last old-school British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, once put it, are moving in such a way as to force many hands. I’ve been saying for a year or two now that we are living in apocalyptic times, and I mean that literally. The Greek word Apokalypsis means unveiling – or, of course, revelation. In Apocalyptic times, things are revealed which were previously hidden. The world is shown to be a different shape to the one you thought you were living in. This is rarely comfortable. If you pay attention, it may change your life. We each have to decide what to do with what is revealed to us.”


Music: Shawn E. Okpebholo, Two Black Churches – “Movement 1: Ballad of Birmingham,” Performed by Will Liverman (baritone) and Paul Sanchez (piano).

The Key Nutrient of Blessing [Psalm 1, part 3]

Psalm 1

When Kelly and I were newly married we had a knack for killing the house plants we had in our apartment. One day, we saw one of our neighbors, an elderly woman named Elsie, digging a plant we had killed out of the dumpster. We watched as she took it back in her apartment, left to wonder what she would do with the pot or how she might reuse the soil. It was only later that Kelly discovered that Elsie’s apartment was filled with house plants that she had carefully nurtured back to life. Every plant needs healthy nutrients to experience life. Without those required ingredients, it will die.

The same is true in the spiritual life. The first two verses of Psalm 1 set the tone of how God brings blessing – life – into our lives. Pay attention to verse two with me for some insight into the nutrients required.

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.

If the environment for growth is related to our relationships and our activities or choices, then the psalmist shows us that the essential food for growth is the Scripture or, as stated here, ‘the law of the Lord.’

The word here is literally the ‘Torah of Yahweh.’ The Torah could refer literally to the law of Moses, or the first five books of the Bible. It is more likely here, however, that the phrase refers to the instruction God gives to human beings for their guidance and livelihood. It does not seem like too far of a stretch to include the entire Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, as relevant to this Psalm.

The Psalmist tells us that, in contrast to one who takes up wicked and ungodly relationships that slowly drag them down into a life of ruin, the truly ‘blessed’ person – the person who experiences the full joy of God’s plans for humanity – is the one who takes delight in and meditates upon God’s instruction.

There are some who come to the Bible with a sense of weariness day by day. Surely, there are times when it is hard work and discipline to get focused on reading the Bible, but the writer’s description here is quite different.

The psalmist says this reader of God’s instruction finds delight in it daily.  Because the Scripture is the powerful and truthful instruction of God, it is not just something we have to read but it is actually a source of deep joy and life for us. It is the place where blessing is found. If we really believe that the Bible contains the instruction of God, we will soon be able to exclaim words similar to those found in Psalm 119:

I rejoice in following your statues as one rejoices in great riches….I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (Psalm 119:14, 16)

Secondly, we come to the Scripture to meditate upon it. Meditation doesn’t mean that we hit some gongs and sit in the lotus position. What it means is that we consider it deeply. We do not simply read it and pass on, but we take time to mull it over. We read it and chew on it, as one author says, like a dog chewing on a bone or like a child who could read the same short book over and over again. We allow our minds to be deeply shaped by the instruction of God instead of by the foolishness of the wicked, or sinners, or mockers mentioned in verse 1.

When we take delight in and meditate upon the Scripture it becomes the food by which we grow in experiencing the blessed life with God. It becomes the source by which, as Paul writes in Romans 12:2, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Like a plant, we were made to grow. But we need to have the essential food for growth or we will not grow at all.

Would you say you are getting the right nutrients for blessing in reading Scripture regularly?

What hinders you most from finding delight in reading God’s word?

What might it look like to take a step forward in reading Scripture regularly?

This is the third in a series of posts on Psalm 1. You can read the other posts here:

The Weekend Wanderer: 18 September 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


“Expect No Ethnic Majority in 2065 America. How Can Churches Fight Fear and Embrace Diversity Now?”Suzanna Edwards at The Better Samaritan: “If you think the U.S. is a melting pot now, just wait another 30 years. By 2065, the White demographic will cease to be the majority, and no single race or ethnicity will constitute a majority. For many people in the current majority, this statistic is cause for fear. But if we let go of our fear and embrace diversity, we will not only be better off, but we will look more like the kingdom God will raise up in glory. The New Samaria, or ‘Samerica,’ as author Alejandro Mandes refers to it, represents the increasingly multiethnic population in the United States. That’s what he unpacks in Embracing the New Samaria (NavPress, 2021), with the goal ‘to help Christian leaders learn to see, love, reach, and ultimately be the New Samaria in a way that brings true transformation to our churches and communities’. Mandes guides readers through each of these steps, providing his own perspective as a non-White evangelical and allowing readers to expand their own views regarding multiethnic communities. Each chapter concludes with a reflection section, complete with challenging questions, spiritual exhortations, and recommended action items.”


american-bible-society-german-bible-large“Bring Your Bible to Class — or Church” – Wesley Hill at The Living Church: “As I prepare to begin my 10th year as a seminary professor, I’m going to begin the biblical capstone class I’ll be teaching by recommending that my students consider taking up a habit they’re likely unfamiliar with: bringing an actual, physical, printed-and-bound Bible to class. My reason for the recommendation isn’t just about nostalgia, though I did grow up carrying a Bible to church each Sunday. The first Bible I recall as being “my Bible” (the possessive pronoun being a piece of Christian-speak that seems to have burrowed its way into the instinctive vocabulary of the faithful) was the Youthwalk edition of the New International Version, given to me by my parents while I was still in middle school. I liked the swath of deep purple that stood out on the cover, but I don’t recall reading it much, aside from thumbing through it to find isolated verses, old favorites that I had already memorized, or gathered that I ought to have memorized. It wasn’t until I was in high school, when I acquired a faux-leather-bound study edition of the New King James Version, that I started reading larger chunks of Scripture, often while sitting at church when I grew bored with the sermon. That’s how I learned my way around the Bible, stringing the verse-pearls I already knew onto a more extensive narrative, historical, and theological thread.”


Workplace spirituality“Why Intel and other top companies make room for religion in the office” – Kelsey Dallas at Deseret News: “Intel has been a star in the technology world for nearly half a century. One secret to its success is a little more spiritual than you might have guessed, according to CEO Pat Gelsinger. In a recorded message that will play during an international conference on business and religion this week, Gelsinger highlights the competitive advantage that comes from building a culture that celebrates personal faith alongside other employee traits. At Intel, workers are free to ‘bring their entire self’ to the office, he says. ‘When we take into account everyone’s nuanced differences, we put our organizations in a position to capture truly sustainable business advantages,’ Gelsinger says. Intel put itself in that position in part by enabling employees to form resource groups based on religion, says Sandra Rivera, the organization’s former chief people officer and current executive vice president, in the same video. Currently, Intel has seven such groups, including one for atheists and agnostics, she says.”


Ambivalent Embodiment“Ambivalent Embodiment: Lessons from pastors’ work in the pandemic” – Peter Hartwig in Comment: “‘There’s something funny about the term embodiment, in the sense that it’s already an abstraction,’ says Dr. Elizabeth Powell. ‘By saying “yes I’m going to write or think about embodiment” it’s already saying we’re in a position in which we look at our bodies,’ as opposed to being in our bodies. She makes a good point, the irony of which is nearly tragic. Embodiment is the term we have come up with to refer to the fact that we human beings experience our lives and our selves through our bodies. Everything we do involves our bodies in one way or another. The creation of art, the completion of work, even the generation of thought all require a body. So, too, our bodies are our way of interacting with the world around. No relationship or interaction we have happens without our bodies; they are just about the most concrete, practical, down-to-earth thing about us. So when I said yes, I’m going to write and think about embodiment, I figured I would need an anchor, something to keep me out of the clouds of theory and speculation. Who better to anchor me than pastors? After all, it has been pastors who have faced the pandemic head-on.”


Walter Wangerin, Jr.“Philip Yancey: My Benediction to the Beloved Storyteller, Walter Wangerin Jr.” – Philip Yancey at Christianity Today: “Last week, Walter Wangerin Jr. passed away, and a unique voice fell silent. His wife Thanne (short for Ruth Anne), his family, and a few close friends from Valparaiso University were with him when he died. I first encountered Walter as a speaker at a conference in which we both participated. A slender man with a handsome, angular face and a shock of dark hair, he stalked the stage like a Shakespearean actor. I thought of the accounts of Charles Dickens sitting onstage in the great halls of England, reading his stories to a mesmerized audience. Yet Wangerin was neither reading nor sitting. He was performing in the purest sense of the word, weaving stories and concepts together in erudite prose, directing our minds and emotions much as a conductor directs an orchestra’s sounds—now meditative and melodic, now electrifying and bombastic. We got to know each other mainly through the Chrysostom Society, a group comprising 20 or so writers of faith. Walt usually sat quietly on the margins, stroking his then-shaven chin while observing everything around him with piercing blue eyes. He rarely showed emotion, and when he spoke, he acted as a peacemaker, calming the heated arguments that sometimes emerged from the gaggle of writers. A pastor by profession and calling, he seemed thrilled simply to be in the company of writers.”


Little Miriam RESIZE“In Golan Heights landscapes, photographer reimagines biblical women’s stories” – Nadja Sayej reviews Women of the Bible by Dikla Laor in National Catholic Reporter: “So often when many of us think of women in the Bible, Eve comes to mind. But who else? A self-published photography book, aptly called Women of the Bible, by photographer Dikla Laor, celebrates dozens of biblical women and aims to shine a light on the important roles that biblical matriarchs played in the holy texts. ‘While biblical women have been instrumental to the foundations of human history, the details of their lives are hazy and their voices unclear, often glazed over in stories that are so dear to our hearts,’ Laor told me. ‘The unsung power of the women from the beginning of time is a story begging to be told.’ Placing biblical women center stage in biblical history is part of the approach for the recreated scenes.”


Music: Third Coast Percussion, “Niagara,” from Paddle to the Sea.

The Weekend Wanderer: 10 July 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


“The Platform is Not the Person” – Scot McKnight in his TOV newsletter: “We all present ourselves to give good impressions to others. Ordinary community members want other ordinaries to think of them in positive ways. More public figures in a community do the same, sometimes with a more ramped method of image management. Teachers do this in their teaching, pastors do this from the platform and pulpit and in various communications, neighbors can be quite busy in managing what other neighbors think of them. Authors present themselves in their writings in a way that readers trust and then think of them in those terms. What about social media? Not a few critics think the whole thing is little more than image construction and management. I’m not so cynical, but let’s not be naïve: our social media is a forum of self-presentation. Let’s call all this self-presentation the platform. On the platform we create a persona, and the persona is what we want others to think of us, whether we are curating that image or not. Others generate impressions of who we are on the basis of our public presentation. Untangling persona and platform from person, personality and character require discerning eyes, wisdom, and discernment.”


green-burial“Green burial as an act of faith” – Dawn Araujo-Hawkins in The Christian Century: “Hoeltke started looking for a more Christlike alternative to conventional US burial practices—and she found it in the resurgent green or natural burial movement. Broadly speaking, green burial means caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact. That usually includes forgoing any chemical embalming, opting for a shroud or a biodegradable coffin instead of the more popular steel or fiberglass, and skipping the cement vaults that typically enclose a coffin in the ground. It can also mean being buried in a cemetery that practices land conservation efforts. And for some people, like Hoeltke, natural burial also involves a more participatory burial process: washing and dressing your loved one’s body at home, accompanying them to the grave site, physically laying them into the ground, and then fully covering their body with dirt. ‘It’s a really beautiful experience. And I know that sounds crazy, but I’ve seen the beauty of what can happen,’ Hoeltke said.”


“On Re-Reading Acts” – Alan Jacobs at Snakes and Ladders: “I’ve been re-reading the book of Acts, and my chief response this time is: It’s wonderfully encouraging to see how bluntly and unapologetically Luke records a chronicle of confusion, ineptitude, and misdirected enthusiasm. The apostles are often a collective mess, and Luke does nothing to hide that from us. I find this strangely consoling. It’s also fascinating to note how little the apostles understand the message they been entrusted with. They know that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah of Israel, and they know that the Christ’s own people rejected him and demanded his death – but beyond that they’re a little fuzzy about what the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus mean.”


faith doubt“Writing in the Sand: The Poetry of Doubt and Faith” – Christian Wiman in Plough: “A few years ago I was asked to give the convocation address at Yale Divinity School, where I have taught for the past decade. Not only did I happen to be reading George Marsden’s biography of the great eighteen-century minister and theologian Jonathan Edwards, who was both a student and tutor at Yale, but I happened to have paused at precisely the moment when Edwards himself was about to address the student body. Teaching in an institution to which I would not have been admitted as a student (bad grades, bad ‘life choices’), I was flattered by the association, and it occurred to me that many of the students in attendance might be as well. To be welcomed into a place with so much august history, so much intellectual curiosity and attainment, so many great names – surely it’s worth a moment of pride. But maybe just a moment….What I do have instead are two things. The first is a first-century Jew from Nazareth well known for his oratorical skills but nevertheless, at a crucial moment in his ministry, remaining silent and writing in the sand. It is a strange moment – and one of my very favorite stories from the New Testament. I’ll come back to that. The second thing is another form of writing in the sand: poetry.”


Wendell Berry's radical conservatism“When Losing Is Likely: Wendell Berry’s Conservative Radicalism” – Brad East in The Point: “The lesson: “cultivating our own gardens and learning the virtues we have forgotten will not suffice to save the world.” Scialabba is surely correct about that. But I think he is wrong about Berry, and in a way that opens the door to larger questions. Those questions concern the connection between public justice and private virtue—or, put differently, whether justice is at once a private and a public virtue. Furthermore, they raise an issue facing a variety of factions and social movements across the world today: namely, whether it is possible to live with integrity, not to mention a clean conscience, when the causes in which one believes and for which one advocates are likely to lose.”


Patriotism?“How Do Christian Patriots Love Their Country Well?” – David French at The Dispatch: “Yet five years later, as our nation picks up the pieces from one of the most divisive, cruel, and incompetent administrations in the modern history of the United States—one in which the pursuit of Christian power led to prominent Christian voices endorsing nation-cracking litigation and revolutionary efforts to overturn a lawful election—the Christian “deal” looks bad indeed. When push came to shove, all too often the pursuit of justice yielded to the pursuit of power. The cultural shockwaves are still being felt. They’re rearranging not just America’s political alignments but our language itself. Is “Evangelical” more of a political marker than a religious identifier? Does it even carry true religious meaning any longer?”


Music: Mordent.IO, “The Foundation”

3 Transformational Ways to Read Scripture

This past weekend in my message, “The Messiah’s Call,” I emphasized the importance of regular, transformational reading of Scripture. If we are going to truly hear Jesus’ call toward discipleship, we need to put ourselves regularly before the Scripture, asking God to speak into our lives.

For some of us, this is an easy practice to develop. We have experience with reading the Bible and we may have figured out what works well for us. For others, this may seem overwhelming or hard to figure out. Because of that, let me suggest four ways we can read Scripture for transformation. Each of these approaches to reading Scripture are things I have written about previously, so I hope you don’t mind if I refer you to other blog posts about them.

First, let me encourage us to consider slowing down to read Scripture meditatively through the ancient practice of lectio divina, or divine reading. These three posts will help you familiarize yourself with this practice:

Second, if you have never read through the Bible in a year, let me encourage that practice. There are many Bible reading plans that you can access, such as Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s plan or the One Year Bible reading guide. Several years ago, I invited our entire church to read the Bible in a year and I have an introductory letter about that: “Guidance for Reading through the Bible in a Year”.

Third, while reading the entire Scripture through methodically can be powerful, I have found that a helpful balance to that is slowing down to memorize passages of Scripture for ongoing meditation and prayer during the day. Read this post for guidance on Scripture memory: “Tips and Tools for Memorizing Scripture.”

What have been some of the ways you have most transformationally engaged with reading Scripture?