Catching Up

I’ve not written here in a while, but I’ve been posting elsewhere. Here are a few things that have gone up on other blogs and sites:

Journey Through the Faith Series Everyday Liturgy

Three posts about my childhood experiences in very different faith communities overseas, and how they shaped my own understanding of faith

“A Year in Asia with Anglicans”
“A Year in Asia with Evangelicals”
“A Year in Asia with Bible Christians”

fountain penWhen I was nine years old, my family moved to Hong Kong for a year. Though a child of an internationally transient family, I, until that point, had grown up in a single church in the north central United States and had very little church experience outside our Baptist-in-name-and-form-but-not-denominationally-affiliated. My parents would probably not have defined themselves as fundamentalist Baptists, even my church may not have fit that definition, but it was definitely the direction my young ecclesiology leaned.

And then we went to Hong Kong.

“The Feast of Grace”—Church at Charlotte Blog

We’re surrounded by marred shalom today. We see it in a passenger airliner downed by a missile meant by one warring party for another. We see it in two brothers on opposite sides of the world who have just lost their whole family.

And we can’t do anything about it. But we are invited to be part of the restoration of shalom.

“The Ice Bucket Challenge”The Curator

My parents were always generous donors to many individuals, missions, and charities. They gave regularly through our church. But the moment at the cash register was rare. It wasn’t often that I saw them say “yes” to that kind of request for a cause.

And I knew why the yes had been said. I knew what the pause meant. Those three little letters had made all the difference: ALS.

This one was ours.

“Ask a Teacher Series: Eight Questions from Writers to Teachers, Back-to-School Edition”—WriteWorld

You are communicating ideas. Writing is simply a vehicle for doing that. We’ve got a lovely language that is flexible and strange and has all sorts of cobbled-together rules for use because it’s been a cobbled-together language from the start. And some of those rules are worth noting and remembering and following and some of them should be thrown out the window with the silly people who made them up. English is a living language. The rules you learn today may be out of date by the time you’re forty. Such is the nature of having a living language.

“Exploring Infinity”Church at Charlotte Blog

Last week, I got into a discussion about time and the quantum universe on Facebook. Yes, this sort of thing happens in my newsfeed. A friend who is a physicist had started the discussion thread—he’d been pondering some ideas as he drove home from work, and decided to share them in a group we’re both part of.

I never took physics. I didn’t even take chemistry. I enjoyed science in school, but my math skills are abysmal. When the math required in my science classes got beyond me, I found other sciences to study. But I’ve always been fascinated by science—particularly physics and astronomy—and while much of my friend’s post was beyond my understanding, I still loved entering the discussion with him and sharing my thoughts on the topic.

Catch these posts at the links, and catch up on my past writing here.

Rethinking Scarcity: New Post at The High Calling

Slaten and Rogers

Two artists: Son of Laughter and Jonathan Rogers. Photo by Mark Geil.

I’ve got a new post up at The High Calling today. I was asked to write on the theme of “rethinking scarcity”—and to look at in the context of art. Immediately I thought of the ways the artists I know come together and support one another in their work, forming communities that not only advance the production of art, but also deepen its quality.

“The Industry” is not dead, but it is desperately trying to stay alive in most cases—often at the expense of good art. So those who want to create new art, quality art, honest and true art, are forced (and, I think, will increasingly be forced) to step outside the industries. Rather than seeing this as a setback, perhaps we should look at the situation as a gift—and a challenge:

From the post:
“I expect no one would disagree that creative innovation often arises from scarcity. From Ritz cracker apple pie to the dinners we developed with nothing but a microwave and hot pot during college, some creative spark in human nature thrives when put to the challenge of limited resources.

Likewise, in comparison to the booming creative industries of the 1990s, today’s musicians and authors—even some of those signed with major labels and publishers—are creating within the context of limited resources. While the leaders of the companies that produce and distribute much of our art are cautious about taking costly risks like launching a new artist, rapid developments in technology allow artists willing to take the risk themselves to bypass the industry and get their work into the hands of the audience. Adam Young of Owl City wrote in 2012: ‘Here at the outset of a new century everyone is back at the starting line fighting to be heard. It’s effortless to hear and steal new music so bands have to think of ways to reinvent themselves and turn the box inside out.’

So perhaps it is no surprise that there is a particular richness in some of the art being created today when economics and technology have joined together to topple the industries of yester-year.”

Read more at The High Calling.

New Post at Greener Trees

Hungary Color

I’ve been taking part in a great book discussion group this summer. We’re reading Jeffrey Overstreet’s book, Through a Screen Darkly.

This week I wrote a guest post to host the conversation over at Greener Trees.

Here’s a snippet:

There is power in great beauty. Beauty heals, it soothes, it allures, it inspires. And when we see it, in a film, in a book, in a moment, it can catch us by surprise and stay with us forever.

Click here to read more.

New Guest Post at Everyday Liturgy

I had another guest post go up today at Everyday Liturgy titled, “A Romance It Certainly Is.” Here’s a snippet:

We cannot avoid the reality of this world. We see its dark underbelly in everything from the news to human trafficking to the person who pushes past us in a crowd without apologizing. This world, and we people in it, are broken, cracked, and bloody.

But as believers, we have a second sight of sorts. We see this world as it once was and as it will be again.

Check out the rest over Everyday Liturgy!

The Stories I Rub Shoulders With – New Post at Everyday Liturgy

I have a 1938 edition of Webster’s Students Dictionary: Upper School Levels on my shelf. It’s my go-to resource for the definitions of words I find in old books. Some of them are words we still have today, but so often their connotation has changed.

Take “charity” for instance. Today, the first definition most people would think of is an organization or system for giving to the poor. It’s not a wrong definition at all, but it’s not the main focus the word has always held. “Charity” is an old-fashioned word, one that in my 1938 dictionary is primarily defined as “Christian love.”

That’s a challenging definition. I’m not sure that we could all agree on what “Christian love” looks like.

The secondary definitions begin to give it focus: 2. An act or feeling of generosity or benevolence. 3.The giving of aid to the poor and suffering. 4. Leniency in judging men and their actions.

Interestingly, the organization or institution for aiding the needy doesn’t get mention until definition #5.

I’ve been thinking a lot about charity of late. I’ve been pondering through the idea, and particularly focusing on the “benevolence” and “leniency in judging men and their actions.”

I’ve been thinking about kindness.

Some of these thoughts formed themselves into a guest post for Everyday Liturgy. Here’s a snippet:

Photo by Loic Parent

I read a social media post recently in which the author chastised himself for making snap judgments about the people he was seeing in the airport. I can’t remember who posted it or where, but the author challenged his readers to extend grace rather than judgment toward those we see around us. It was a good challenge, a gentle reminder. But as I thought about it, I realized that my observations of those around me rarely lead to what I would consider judgment.

Read the rest over at the site.

Bent Branches, Straight Baselines

It’s been just over a month now since spring began – slowly this year in Philly – coming at us in fits and starts. I think it has actually arrived now, though there are still one or two trees that are only just leafing out. But the azaleas and the dogwoods have bloomed, so I think it’s really spring.
This slow spring has drawn my attention more than once – trees that often bear the bright of yellow-green in March still showed their naked limbs well into April. It was as if they wanted to say, “See, here’s my structure. These are my bones. You may not have noticed them this winter when your eyes were cast to the ground watching for ice patches. Look up now; see my angled boughs.”
At the beginning of April, my friend David posted a short piece on his blog titled simply, “On Baseball.” In it he quickly and poetically examined the architecture of a golf and baseball, finishing with these words:
Baseball unites heaven and earth: it inscribes a pattern of clean lines, orbs, and diamonds upon the dust from which we were formed and in which we toil, and the lush green in which we find rest. Upon that heaven-and-earth field, prodigal sons set out on barren base paths; and we watch and wait to see if they will make it back home.
The words arrested me. I love clean lines. I love the straight, the symmetrical. There is beauty in a ballpark. But as the trees bared themselves, I had the realization that straight lines are a rare thing in nature. The Creator’s beauty meanders more than man’s.
And when we humans create without the assistance of our man-made tools, our creations are meandering things too, the image of God creating in the pattern of God. As I began to think it through, I realized that the straight lines and measured curves of architecture echo the straight lines and measured curves of the heavenly throne room – and our ideals of beauty find their fulfillment in the descriptions of that place.
Somehow, we find ourselves caught in the middle, loving both the bent branches and the straight baselines. Caught between heaven and earth. Redeemed yet human. Prodigal sons looking for home.
My first inspirations on this topic formed themselves into an essay for The Curator, the web publication of the International ArtsMovement for which I am now serving as an Assistant Editor. 

David’s continued thoughts on the topic have been manifested in a second blog post where he says kind things about my Curator essay and much better things of his own. 

I Write Stories During Sermons

A couple of weeks ago my friend Thomas posted a link on his blog to an article he’d written for The title was, “You Preach, I’ll Doodle.”

It is a great article that looks at preaching in light of varied learning styles and multiple intelligences. I thought it was good enough to share. I did so, tweeting it with the statement: “I write stories during sermons.”

The tweet led to a “tweet-versation” with Thomas, expanding on my original statement. It culminated in a suggestion that I might write something about it as a guest post for his blog, Everyday Liturgy, in response to his article.

And that’s how, today, I have a snippet of a post to share with you. Head on over to Everyday Liturgy to read the whole thing:

“I sit under the preaching of my pastor or other teachers, and I fully intend to keep my mind on what they’re saying. I have out my notebook and my pen for the purpose of recording the points and insights they plan to make from the text. But I have characters teeming inside my head at all times, paused in the living of their lives until I choose to awaken them again, just waiting for their next course of action.”