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Reading | That moment you finish all of the core courses in your PhD program and submit your candidacy paper for review is an amazing feeling, and at the same time it is the first time you don’t have any assigned reading! This means you get to look through the stack of books you’ve been holding onto and pick one… but oh man, that’s some pressure. You don’t want to blow it! So, I picked up Robert Capon’s book “The Mystery of Christ… & Why we don’t get it.” From the outset it’s a challenging book on grace that really pushes your ideas to the limit. I’ve loved it so far. You can also check out what I’ve been reading lately over on Goodreads if you’re curious.

Loving | A few weeks of free brain space! Since I submitted my candidacy paper for review (entitled: “The Negro and the Imago Christi: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Souls of Black Folk“) I have a few weeks of a break ahead of me, providing me the opportunity to rest a bit and enjoy a small intermission!

Looking Forward To | My daughter is turning three, and this coming weekend is her “My Little Pony, Purple Unicorn” birthday party. (I can’t believe she’s turning three already! Whoa.)

Challenged By | They say that if you’re not being challenged by something, you’re not really growing. In this season of life I have been challenged by a lot, slowing down to take notice and reflect on those challenges is where the growth begins… That’s what I’m being challenged with at the moment, slowing down long enough to take notice and reflect, to actually create intentional spaces of reflection. I journal infrequently, not because I don’t like it but because as a daily discipline it gets really dry for me. Perhaps an intentional weekly rhythm is more suited? We shall see.

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Reading | As a Ph.D. student I read an awful lot now. And so it’s really difficult to pinpoint one book that I’m currently reading at the moment. You can check out what I’ve been reading on Goodreads if you’re really curious. There are, however two books I read a few weeks ago for a class that I absolutely loved and would recommend: Christena Cleveland’s Disunity in Christ and Manfred Steger’s Globalization: A Very Short Introduction. These books paint an interesting picture of the challenge of globalization in culture at large, and when paired together the Church as a whole.

Loving | I cannot get enough of Volcano Choir’s latest album Repave. Seriously. It’s good. Just check it out on Spotify. A Bonus listen that I’ve been loving the past couple of days is Hillsong United’s Remix Project called The White Album.

Looking Forward To | VACATION! I’m looking forward to a week of vacation along the Gulf Coast, away from the frigid temperatures that has been a tough winter. I’m also looking forward to spending a couple of days in New Orleans with Tracy to celebrate our 12th anniversary. After planting a church in which I did a horrible job of caring for myself in a proper rhythm of Sabbath, I am learning how to step away and trust that God is ultimately in control. I once heard it said that Sabbath time is a revolutionary challenge to the violence of overwork. Or as Chris Hedges put it in his book Losing Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments in America, “When we ignore the Sabbath we destroy that which we should be working to achieve.” May this vacation be a stark and solid reminder of that for me and my family.

Challenged By | As a husband, a dad to a 20-month little girl, pastor, a full-time Ph.D. student, and a man who pursues perhaps too many interests, I am challenged with finding ways to balance everything well. I find there are weeks when I’m successful in one area and fall short in another. I am thankful for the grace I receive when I fall short and at the same time I am challenged by that grace. It is the grace I receive that pushes me to find a greater balance in life.

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Reading | I’m currently tearing through Chuck Palahniuk’s newest book Doomed. It is the second book of the Damned Triology detailing the epic journey of Madison Spencer, a thirteen year old girl who believes she died tragically of a marijuana overdose. Damned chronicles young Madison’s journey through the afterlife and the gross details of hell’s landscape before coming face to face with the Devil himself. Doomed is the second installment of her journey as a trapped soul on earth.
Palahniuk, began this trilogy as an attempt to come to terms with his mother’s death from breast cancer. And although the novels teem with black-hearted satire, in many respects the pages drip with encouragement inspiring us to rethink or even demystify death by stepping outside of life and prodding it from the other side.

Loving | I’m loving the fall weather, the changing of leaves, the necessity of hooded sweatshirts, and the promise of nights around the firepit with our neighbors and a bottle of wine.

Looking Forward To | This weekend I’m heading to Albany, New York with a team to help lead worship and support a new church plant our church is helping get started, Christ Church Albany.

Challenged By | The pace of life in the Midwest is vastly different than I’d become accustomed to. I am currently being challenged to slow down, to allow decisions to percolate longer before implementing them, and to pay more attention to the long game instead of the short term gains.

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Reading | The Open Secret by Lesslie Newbigin is a classic work on the theology of mission. It has been a very affirming read reminding me that “you have already been sent.” (Thanks Jeremiah Aja for that great phrase!) I’ve greatly appreciated his perspective on the Doctrine of Election, which is explored throughout the book. After reading Newbigin it’s becoming more apparent the Reformed/neo-Reformed movements are poor stewards of the this doctrine. It is my perception that the Reformed/neo-reformed movements have divorced the Missio-Dei from the Doctrine of Election. I appreciate how Newbigin couches the Doctrine of Election not in the commonly understood term: “You’ve been chosen for salvation” but rather “You’ve been chosen for the Missio Dei!” It is a not to subtle shift that sends us (the Church) out, instead of sitting in a holy huddle of salvific bliss.

Loving | I’m absolutely loving John Mayer’s new album Paradise Valley. It’s by far his best since Continuum. In fact, I would say that it is the closest to attaining that same bluesy vibe that made Continuum and the John Mayer Trio so good.

Looking Forward To | I can’t wait for the Sentralized Conference at the end of September! (If you’re not registered you probably should!) I can’t wait to hang out with some of my favorite people in the world! (And I’m pretty sure the conference will be good too.)

Challenged By | This quote in conjunction with reading Newbigin’s The Open Secret has challenged me greatly this month:

“The gospel will lead you to love your city as much as your church, for the church exists for the city, not for itself.”

This quote (and Newbigin) remind me a lot of Jeremiah 29 – “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you… Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” We (the Church) exist to bless the city, to show the generosity of God through how we love and serve without abandon. When we do this we show the world the nature of God and the tremendous generosity he has shown us as his people/children.

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Reading | I’ve been sitting with Diana Butler Bass’ work A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story. It’s definitely a take off of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, with the stated purpose of looking at the history of Christianity from its inception. This is definitely a fascinating read, and even though you can read Butler-Bass’s ideology and biases into the text and how she wants you to emerge on the other side, it is still a valuable read in understanding how we got to where we currently sit as a Church today.

Loving | We have lived in Springfield, Illinois for a little over 2 months now and I’m absolutely loving our neighborhood. The brick streets are fun to walk/run down, our neighbors have been extremely warm and inviting–in fact, a couple from down the street stopped by a couple of weeks ago to deliver a welcome card and some Rice Krispy Treats. There is a neighborhood potluck coming up soon, and a couple of other parties we’ve been told about as well that shuts down our little street and allows the neighborhood to mingle. With a few new people joining our neighborhood (houses selling) in the next couple of months, this is a great opportunity for us to meet everyone!

Looking Forward To | This past week we had record low temperatures during the evenings which meant I got to try out the fire pit Tracy’s parents gave us! I’m looking forward to the fall and sitting outside around the pit more often with neighbors, friends, bottles of wine, books, and new craft beers.

Challenged By | I’m challenged by Springfield. Living in San Francisco for the past 5 years I grew accustomed to the instantaneous judgment or startled looks of indifference when people found out I was a pastor. It was easy to change their perception. Despite being the object of judgment or people quickly writing you off as a human being, I appreciated the sheer authenticity that arose out of those moments. Springfield, however, is far different. No longer am I the object of judgement but now, when people find out I am a pastor, they immediately feel judged by me. You can see their entire demeanor change as they slip on their pious mask. Authenticity is quickly lost and a wall is quickly erected. This is a vastly different challenge, one that saddens me, makes me wonder how it got this way, and instills in me a great sense of conviction for how to move forward.

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Reading | Christopher Heuertz’s book Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Communiyt has been an amazing and very difficult book to read. It has been difficult simply because it is challenging me every step of the way, pushing me to think differently about some of my own failures in attempting to create sustainable community while. In fact, this has been a very emotional read. This is a book I wish I would have read years ago, however I’m not quite sure I would have listened in the same way. Perspective changes everything.

Loving | Two days in South Lake Tahoe are providing us with some much needed rest from the stress of packing and buying a house, the emotional goodbyes and final days in the city we love. I love the scenery, the fresh air, the cold breezes, and the fireplace in our hotel room. This is one of those moments you know you need, to refresh your soul, for your heart to recoup, and your mind to slow down.

Looking Forward To | Driving across the country with my wife as we shift from mourning our move from San Francisco to emotionally preparing for our new adventure in Springfield, Illinois. We have been looking forward to this drive as a sacred moment in our journey, a marker for what has been and the beginning of something new.

Challenged By | Grieving well the loss of something you can’t quite put into words. This has been a very hard and emotionally exhausting season of transition as we leave the city of San Francisco. I have been heartened by this quote from A.A. Milne (author of Winnie the Pooh):
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

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Reading | Parker Palmer’s book A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life has been a good read lately as he describes and lays out how a “Circle of Trust” or “Discernment Circle” functions. I have really enjoyed the conversation in the book surrounding the posture of listening and how, pastorally, to create a space safe enough for the soul to speak.

Loving | Terrence Malick (Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line) has written and directed a new movie called To the Wonder that I simply can’t watch enough. I have now watched this movie three times and each time I have been moved to tears at the end. There’s something about the prayer of St. Patrick at the end of the movie that, after being engulfed in the story, moves me in ways I cannot describe nor express:
(Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ all around me…)

Looking Forward To | A couple of days in Lake Tahoe to relax and dream about what is possible in this next section of life. Lake Tahoe is a two-day stop in our week long drive across the country to our new home in Springfield, Illinois.

Challenged By | In this season of exit and this season of preparation, I have been challenged to embrace what has been and turn towards what is next. It is a difficult thing to say goodbye and grieve while also preparing your heart for the amazing journey that lies ahead.