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 Weekend Wanderer: 8 May 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.


Marva Dawn“Remembering Marva Dawn, a Saint of Modern Worship” – I first encountered the writings of Marva Dawn while preparing for ministry at Northern Theological Seminary. That is also where I also first heard her in person at a conference organized by Bob Webber, a friend and mentor during those days before Bob’s passing in 2007. Her books Sexual Character, Truly the Community, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down, and Keeping the Sabbath Wholly have influenced me significantly. Here is a tribute to Marva Dawn by Mike Cosper at Christianity Today. “When a mentor saw me struggling with worship in our fledging church plant, he handed me a copy of Marva Dawn’s Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship in this Urgent Time. I wondered what a Lutheran and a lover of historic worship practices would have to say to a congregation whose traditions came more from indie rock shows than any church.”


refugee resettlement“Biden raises refugee ceiling, and faith-based groups brace for rebuilding work” – From Emily McFarlan Miller and Jack Jenkins at Religion News: “Faith-based refugee resettlement groups are celebrating President Joe Biden’s decision to raise the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. for the remainder of the federal fiscal year to 62,500, even as they acknowledge that they need to rebuild their capacity after years of cuts under the previous administration. The announcement from the Biden White House comes after significant pushback from the faith-based groups that form the backbone of the nation’s refugee resettlement program after the president signed a memorandum last month aimed at speeding up refugee admissions that did not touch the historic low set by former President Donald Trump.”


Fleming Rutledge“The Body of Christ in an Empire of Lies” and “On writing political sermons” – In these two posts, seasoned pastor and theologian, Fleming Rutledge, offers some pointed and poignant advice to pastors for the current moment. Rutledge is perhaps best known for her masterful work, The Crucifixion: Understanding the death of Jesus Christ, which has won acclaim from across the theological spectrum (see this, this, or this). Whether you agree or disagree with her, Rutledge’s commentary and advice in these posts is worth reading and grappling with, something I continue to do as a pastor and preacher in these divisive and challenging days.


madmenThe Spirituality of Solitude: In the Poverty of Solitude All Riches Are Present” – Ben Self at Mockingbird: “In a post a couple weeks ago, I used the paintings of Edward Hopper to suggest that there is an important difference between loneliness and solitude, and that despite our understandable exhaustion with the loneliness of these times, we may strangely come to miss certain aspects of solitude when this pandemic is over. But what is it, more specifically, we might miss?…On the one hand, we most naturally try to remedy the pain of being alone — our loneliness — through contact with others. But paradoxically, we also seek to remedy that same basic pain — but the pain of being separate from God — through solitude, separation from others. Thus, it is our very loneliness that can drive us both into the arms of others and away from others into solitude, to spaces where we might be ‘alone with the Alone.'”


Barons - memory reading“Why we remember more by reading – especially print – than from audio or video” – Linguistics professor Naomi S. Baron in The Conversation: “During the pandemic, many college professors abandoned assignments from printed textbooks and turned instead to digital texts or multimedia coursework. As a professor of linguistics, I have been studying how electronic communication compares to traditional print when it comes to learning. Is comprehension the same whether a person reads a text onscreen or on paper? And are listening and viewing content as effective as reading the written word when covering the same material? The answers to both questions are often ‘no,’ as I discuss in my book How We Read Now, released in March 2021. The reasons relate to a variety of factors, including diminished concentration, an entertainment mindset and a tendency to multitask while consuming digital content.”


kovacs-1“Underwater Photos Taken During Blackwater Dives Frame the Atlantic Ocean’s Stunning Diversity” – Grace Ebert at Colossal: “After sunset, self-taught photographer Steven Kovacs plunges into the open ocean around Palm Beach to shoot the minuscule, unassuming creatures floating in the depths. He’s spent the last eight years on blackwater dives about 730 feet off the eastern coast of Florida in a process that ‘entails drifting near the surface at night from 0 to 100 feet over very deep water.’ Often framing species rarely seen by humans, Kovac shoots the larval fish against the dark backdrop in a way that highlights the most striking aspects of their bodies, including wispy, translucent fins, iridescent features, and bulbous eyes.”


Music: Jpk. (feat. Solar. & I. Erickson), “By Your Side”

The Weekend Wanderer: 25 January 2020

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.

 

gettyimages-527604357_custom-e2d96b35f284dfaaaabdf4c688bf48114e889b15-s1400-c85“Most Americans Are Lonely, And Our Workplace Culture May Not Be Helping” – There is an epidemic of loneliness in the United States that has been well documented for several years, but has reached a crisis point recently. Many point their fingers to technology or social media, but it may be that our work context, specifically relationships or lack thereof at work, are contributing to loneliness as well.

 

Pieter Brueghel - Tower of Babel“From context collapse to content collapse” – From Nicholas Carr: “Context collapse remains an important conceptual lens, but what’s becoming clear now is that a very different kind of collapse — content collapse — will be the more consequential legacy of social media. Content collapse, as I define it, is the tendency of social media to blur traditional distinctions among once distinct types of information — distinctions of form, register, sense, and importance. As social media becomes the main conduit for information of all sorts — personal correspondence, news and opinion, entertainment, art, instruction, and on and on — it homogenizes that information as well as our responses to it.”

 

114757“Kristie Anyabwile: When Women of Color Write, the Whole Church Gains” – “Over the years, Kristie Anyabwile has found herself returning to Psalm 119 during her daily devotions. ‘The psalm itself is full of reminders of the beauty and the benefits of God’s Word,’ she says. ‘It has always drawn me in. It not only encourages me, but it helps to whet my appetite more for God’s Word.’ It was during one of these times of personal study that she birthed the idea for His Testimonies, My Heritage: Women of Color on the Word of God. The multiauthor book—which received an Award of Merit in this year’s CT Book Awards—explores the 22 stanzas of Psalm 119 through exposition, essays, and poetry.”

 

Screen Shot 2020-01-24 at 8.28.57 AM“Beyond charity: How churches are helping food deserts” – Our church has been involved at different times and in different ways with trying to help with food security in our part of Milwaukee. We have a long way to go and have tried various methodologies, and are always looking for new ways to develop. I was encouraged to read this article about churches stepping beyond simple forms of help into more systemic approaches to resolving food deserts.

 

bonhoeffergandhi“Read the Letter Dietrich Bonhoeffer Wrote to Gandhi” – One of the most influential seasons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life and ministry came while he was studying in the United States at Union Theological Seminary. It was not necessarily the studies there that influenced Bonhoeffer, but his exposure to the African American community in Harlem and Abyssinian Baptist Church. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bonhoeffer was also influenced by Gandhi. A recently discovered, unpublished letter of Bonhoeffer to Gandhi reveals some insights into what Bonhoeffer was looking for in this figure from across the globe.

 

Screen Shot 2020-01-24 at 8.21.10 AM“Ian McKellen’s unearthed Lord of the Rings set diaries will take you there and back again” – While I am not always a fan of great books turned into movies, our family has a deep love for the The Lord of the Rings trilogy both Tolkien’s original writings and the movies directed by by Peter Jackson. Ian McKellen’s role as Gandalf is a stand-out, which shouldn’t surprise those of us who know McKellen first as a Shakespearian actor and later as a film star. I hope you enjoy these glimpses into McKellen’s journals while on the set of Lord of the Rings.

 

Music: Nils Frahm, “A Walking Embrace,” from All Encores.

[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.]

Solitude Brings Coherence

We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness. Only discord can come of the attempt to share solitude. True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources. In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures. One returns from solitude laden with the gifts of circumstance.

– Wendell Berry, “Healing,” Stanza IV in What Are People For?

Wendell Berry’s statement that we lose loneliness by entering solitude seems completely counter-intuitive. Most of us are afraid of solitude for the very reason that we feel, in being alone, we will necessarily become lonely. But it does not have to be that way.

As Berry mentions, it is often in the “wild places” are where I feel most at ease in solitude. The fresh air, the rugged wildness, and the scurrying of creatures around makes me aware of both my smallness in the vastness of God’s creation, yet also God’s infinite attentiveness to the cosmos He has made. In the midst of this, nature’s contours soothe my soul. I am sure this soothing arises in part because, as Berry writes, in these wild places we are without “human obligation.”  In wild places we are away from people we feel obligated to engage with and things we feel obligated to do.

Both for good and ill, it is in solitude that we hear inner voices. Words that have been floating around inside of us – whole streams of though – suddenly take on such clear force that we are at times overwhelmed. We wonder, “Where did that thought come from?” Or, “I haven’t thought about that in awhile.” In reality these thoughts and ideas – these inner voices – are ever-present yet go unheeded because of the clamor of people and things in our daily lives. The voices and thoughts are there, but until we quiet ourselves enough, both externally and internally, we often either suppress them or ignore them.

When we are attentive to these inner voices and more intimate thoughts, we have the opportunity to come to a more comprehensive internal order with God and ourselves. We bring those clamoring voices to the living God and ask to hear His voice in it all. The unheeded voices that were always there speaking messages of fear or hurt or joy to us have been heard, conversed with, and brought to greater resolution in conversation with the God who hears and knows us. They grow quiet now. God’s voice becomes more solid, enduring, and strong. It is in this journey that we achieve a sense of coherence. We become less divided and distracted.

It is from this order and coherence that God sends us out with the ability to more fully engage with others and the created world. We become more fully present and able to connect with those around us.  We are in tune with God and the cosmos because of His work in our turbulent souls. With the Spirit’s power strengthening our will we can face the things that come into our daily lives, both planned and unplanned.

In solitude the various slivers of our distracted and fragmented selves come to a greater unity in God’s presence. That greater unity enables us to receive people into true relationship and bring our tasks toward completion. It is that powerful reality mentioned in the psalms:

Teach me Your way, Lord, that I may rely on Your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name. (Psalm 86:11).

The Weekend Wanderer: 31 August 2019

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.

91885“What Majority-World Missions Really Looks Like” – “Beauty Ndoro is part of a growing movement of international missionaries sent out from the Global South, which includes Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. According to Christianity in Its Global Context, 1970–2020, a report by The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 66 percent of all Christians will be from the Global South by 2020, up from 43 percent in 1970. This could reach 75 percent by 2050. Christianity is surging in these regions, even as North America and Western Europe see the number of religiously unaffiliated growing at an increasingly rapid pace.”

 

91883“In Christ, Alone: Most Believers Say They Don’t Need Others for Discipleship” – Christianity Today reports on a recent LifeWay Research study on spiritual growth in the life of American Christians. The trend toward individualism continues in most American churches and Christians. However, it is worth paying attention to this: “Hispanic and African American churchgoers may represent an exception to the overall trend, showing even greater progress in discipleship while deepening community ties.”

 

Liz Dong“Confessions of a Chinese Dreamer” – Here is Liz Dong, sharing her story of faith, immigration, and God overcoming the idols of her life. “The summer of 2009 was one of the scariest times of my life. I should have been excited about heading to Northwestern University on a scholarship. Instead, I struggled to sleep. As a first-generation Chinese immigrant with a precarious immigration status, my future rested on my academic performance. I didn’t have safety nets if I fell short.”

 

McCarthy The Road“God, Morality, and Meaning in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road – As an undergraduate, I studied English literature at Wheaton College under the tutelage of some amazing professors, like Alan Jacobs, Jill Peláez-Baumgaertner, Leland Ryken, and many more. They taught me many things, including a love for a wide-breadth of literature, appreciation for the craft of writing, and savoring the intersection of faith and the arts. I read widely, yet there are a few books I return to often. One of those, for me, is Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Road, which I just finished reading again this past week. While this book is intense and sometimes gruesome, the combination of carnage and beauty, death and hope, in the midst of the world that seems alternately godless and God-rich is marvelous. Here is an essay specifically on McCarthy’s themes of God, morality, and meaning in this outstanding novel.

 

college classroom.jpg“The Loneliness Crisis on Campus” – I started my full-time, vocational ministry career working with college students who attended the various campuses in the city of Milwaukee. Now I have my own college student attending a Big10 university. Here is an article from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on the loneliness epidemic gripping students on university campuses, and what it means for ministry to college students today.

 

p07l27rv“What the Voice Inside Your Head Says About You” – From the BBC: “Psychologist Russell Hurlburt at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has spent the last few decades training people to see inside their own minds more clearly in an attempt to learn something about our inner experiences at large. Though many individual studies on inner speech include only a small number of participants, making it hard to know whether their results apply more widely, Hurlburt estimates he’s been able to peek inside the minds of hundreds of people since he began his research. What he’s found suggests that the thoughts running through our heads are a lot more varied than we might suppose.”

 

Cantor-Dark-Side-of-the-American-Dream-683x1024“Paul Cantor and the Dark Side of the American Dream” – Titus Techera reviews Pop Culture and the Dark Side of the American Dream: Con Men, Gangsters, Drug Lords, and Zombies by Paul Cantor. “Paul Cantor has a new book on popular culture, completing his long-term project on the American dream. His previous book, The Invisible Hand In Popular Culture, established how real the American dream is and how it connects freedom and success. His new book, Pop Culture and the Dark Side of the American Dream: Con Men, Gangsters, Drug Lords, and Zombies, examines the dangers of individualism: apathy and violence; the yearning for success whatever the cost; and the ongoing failure of confidence in America.”

 

“Everything Is Waiting for You” – a poem by David Whyte from River Flow: New and Selected Poems.

 

Music: James MacMillan, “Seven Last Words from the Cross,” performed by the Dmitri Ensemble directed by Graham Ross.

[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.]