I’ve been taking the first part of my summer vacation this past week, which for me usually means a lot of hiking, reading, and napping while trying to avoid doing any yard work. It’s also a great time to catch up on some stuff that the pre and post-Easter rush prevented, so here’s a little list of random thoughts, observations, and reviews I’ve been considering between naps:
- I dove into a several interesting books. Seeing Black and White in a Gray World: The Need for Theological Reasoning in the Church’s Debate Over Sexuality by Asbury Seminary professor Bill Arnold is a helpful frame for looking at the current crisis in the United Methodist Church. Whereas a lot of people are now blogging and putting together petitions asking for unity at all costs, Arnold argues that there are a certain times that such unity isn’t possible. Sometimes there is no “middle of the road” option. “Sometimes we simply stand at a fork in the road,” he writes. “There is no sense complaining or crying over it. We have only two choices before us.” It reminds me of the old adage that the only things you’ll find in the middle of the road are painted lines and road kill. Sometimes you have to choose and I agree that the UMC is facing one of those times. Asbury Seminary President Tim Tennant has been blogging about this as well and I find his reflection helpful as well. You can check out the series beginning here.
- Another book I found intriguing is Len Sweet’s Giving Blood, which is all about preaching in the 21st century. Sweet, who loves to invent words, touts the idea of using “narraphors” (narrative metaphors) as the basic tool for preaching in an image-based culture. It got me thinking about my own preaching, which is usually heavy on didactics, and considering some new ways to make it more EPIC (Experiential, Participatory, Image-Rich, and Connective). I was also struck by his challenge to consider preaching more as a spontaneous event, much like the Wesley’s mode of preaching. I am a meticulous preparer, but it wasn’t long ago that preaching from a manuscript or using any notes was seen as lazy. I’m reminded of Ellsworth Kalas’ admonition to a “spontaneous” preacher in a class he was teaching. When the student said, “I just stand up and let the Holy Spirit tell me what to say,” Kalas replied, “Well, you might consider that you’re not giving the Spirit much to work with!” I think there’s a balance there but it’s interesting to me to consider how to continue evolving in my own preaching.
- Howard Snyder’s The Radical Wesley is an updated version of his earlier work, newly released by Seedbed. I’ve read a ton of books on Wesley, but Snyder has a way of framing Wesley’s vision and work in a way that is accessible to the modern reader. Snyder believes that “the recovery of some functional equivalent of the class meeting with its intimacy, mutual care and support, and discipline is essential” for a Wesleyan revival of disciple-making in our churches. Our church has begun to move that direction with our emerging emphasis on missional communities. I’m excited to see where that leads us.
- I’ve been enjoying Season 3 of the BBC’s “Sherlock” on Netflix during the break as well. This is some of the best television you’ll ever see. Fantastic acting, interesting plots, some wry British humor. Each episode is about 90 minutes and you’ll be disappointed when they end. Here’s hoping for more seasons!
- Father’s Day was yesterday and while dad’s are usually reticent to receive socks and ties for gifts, I actually asked for socks for my present–specifically, hiking socks from Darn Tough, a company out of Vermont. I’ve tried many socks for hiking over the years, from the basic OD green wool sock I wore in my infantry days to Smartwool socks with polypropylene liners. Nothing compares to these Darn Tough socks, however. They’re padded in just the right places, incredibly comfortable, durable, and generate no hotspots. In fact, these socks have a lifetime guarantee–if you can wear out a pair, they’ll send you a new pair, no questions asked. It’s the LL Bean of hosiery! They’re a little pricey (about $17 a pair) but they’ll last forever.
- Speaking of hiking, I did manage to get out some this week on the local trails. I always enjoy hiking Spruce Mountain as a way of clearing my head and pondering matters substantial and trivial. Jennifer and I also trekked up Stanley Canyon on the Air Force Academy this week, which offers an elevation gain of 1,450 feet in just two miles. It’s really more of a scramble in spots but the views are spectacular. We’re looking forward to hitting some more new-to-us trails as the summer progresses.
- I’m not a basketball fan, but I found myself interested in the NBA finals. The Spurs demonstrated the ideal of what it means to be a team and I became fascinated with the way that concept destroyed the “Big 3” from Miami. It goes to show you that a motivated, cohesive team will beat a few stars every time, whether it’s on the court or in the church.
I’ll be back at work briefly this week and then head off to Pueblo for the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference. I’m sure there will be plenty to blog about from there. Enjoy your week!