10 Favorite Albums of 2014

 

Ryan Adams1. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams

 

 

 

 

young oceans2. Young Oceans – I Must Find You

 

 

 

 

Sun Kil Moon3. Sun Kil Moon – Benji

 

 

 

War on drugs 4. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream

 

 

 

 

J Lewis5. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

 

 

 

 

sharon van etten6. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There?

 

 

 

 

strand7. Strand of Oaks – HEAL

 

 

 

 

tweedy8. Tweedy – Sukierae

 

 

 

 

alt j9. Alt-J – This is All Yours

 

 

 

 

damien10. Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy

 

Best Beers of 2014

2014 was a good year for beer! I’ve broken up my favorites in terms of the most prominent styles that I enjoyed this year and have a miscellaneous section at the end.

Pales/IPA’s

1. Lagunitas Born Yesterday Pale Ale

2. Barley Brown’s Hand Truck Pale

3. Fort George Suicide Squeeze

4. Ex Novo Cardinal Sim

5. Elysian Dayglow IPA

6. Pfriem Mosaic Pale

Imperial IPA’s

1. Laurelwood Megafauna

2. Pipeworks Galaxy Unicorn

3. Bells Hopslam

4. Founders Double Trouble

5. Crux Half-Hitch

Sours

1. Trinity Brewing Red Swingline

2. Crux Fermentation Project – Freakcake

3. New Belgium Le Terroir/La Folie

4. Destihl Saint Dekkera Forsaken Barrel Lambic

5. Logsdon Farms Peche N’ Brett

Farmhouse:

1. Crooked Stave Surette Provision Saison

2. Firestone Walker Opal

3. Pfriem Little Saison

4. The Bruery Saison de Lente

5. The Commons Urban Farmhouse

Others:

Heater Allen Pils

Barley Browns Sled Wreck

Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest

Ex Novo Mexican Lager

Airways PSA Summer Ale

Best Books (read) in 2014

2014 has been a great year for reading. For several years I was averaging 50-60 books a year but last year I really lost interest in reading and I have now realized why. I was reading almost exclusively one genre; non-fiction Christian books related to theology, ministry, and the Bible. Because of that, I became BORED with reading. The more I read, the more I realized all of these books that I was reading were the same and it started to become increasingly dull.  I felt like I rarely read anything new or original, but just a rehashing of things I’ve already read. I needed to get outside of the theological/ministerial realm and read broader which I have done this year.

After reading Cornelius Plantinga’s book (listed below) earlier this year, I rediscovered the value and joy of the novel not only for my own soul and personal enjoyment, but for my preaching, my empathy for others whose experience is different from mine, and an overall awakening of feelings to the joys and sorrows of life.  There was a time when I read more fiction but in the last three or four years the percentage has depleted significantly. I have also been influenced by Eugene Peterson’s book “Take and Read” which is his personal annotated bibliography that I’m slowly working through.

Out of the 60-some books I’ve read this year it was tough to narrow it down to my top 10 in each category but here’s my best shot!

Literature/Fiction –
1. Home – Marilynne Robinson

2. Saint Maybe – Anne Tyler

3. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

4. Dune – Frank Herbert

5. Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

6. A River Runs Through It – Normal Maclean

7. The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell

8. Shampoo Planet – Douglas Coupland

9. The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Murial Barbery

10. A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter Miller Jr.

Nonfiction –

1. Sabbath as Resistance; Saying No to the Culture of Now – Walter Brueggemann

2. Fail; Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure – J.R. Briggs

3. Slow Church; Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus – Christopher Smith

4. A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace – Brian Zahnd

5. Dakota; a Spiritual Geography – Kathleen Norris

6. The Cross and the Lynching Tree – James Cone

7. Families Where Grace Is In Place – Jeff VanVonderen

8. The Little Way of Ruthie Leming – Rod Dreher

9. Bigger Than The Game; Restitching a Major League Life – Dirk Hayhurst

10. Reading for Preaching – Cornelius Plantinga

God of the Oppressed

In light of the impending Ferguson grand jury decision (today?), I am almost positive there will be riots and some destruction of property, buildings, etc in Ferguson. I am also very confident that the violence and rioting will be criticized by white people who do not understand the anger, vulnerability and helplessness that many black people feel. It reminds me of a passage in the introduction of God of the Oppressed by James Cone when recounting his experience as a professor outside of Detroit during the riots of 1967.

He writes, “I intuitively knew that the responses of white preachers and theologians were not correct. The most sensitive whites merely said: We deplore the riots but sympathize with the reason for the riots. This was tantamount to saying, “Of course we raped your women, lynched your men, and ghettoized the minds of your children and you have a right to be upset; but that is no reason for you to burn our buildings. If you people keep acting like that, we will never give you your freedom.” I knew that the response was not only humiliating and insulting but wrong. It revealed not only an insensitivity to black pain and suffering but also, and more importantly for my vocation as a theologian, a theological bankruptcy.”

Likewise, I believe the response of many white men and women will reveal a continued insensitivity to the black experience in America after the grand jury decision is made. Many will talk about how we live in a post-racial time, how race isn’t a factor in the well-being or success or lack thereof of black men and women and in doing so will continue to “humiliate” their black brothers and sisters. People who continue to deny that young black men are not punished harsher for the same crimes than their white counterparts, or that they are jailed more frequently despite the clear facts to the contrary or even shot by police more often.

There still exists such ignorance to the black experience amongst whites, and in some cases a prideful unwillingness to make the effort to explore or seek to understand it from their perspective.

Over the last 10 years I’ve seen too many instances of racial prejudice living in New York City, Tampa, and Portland to not have some semblance of understanding of the frustration and anger that black individuals rightfully feel. I remember one time in Tampa when Kelli and I were entering a restaurant that was close to an apartment complex. As we were waiting outside for a table, I saw a black male jump into a car that a white female was driving. A police office happened to be in the parking lot and immediately pulled the car over. For what? As I sat and witnessed this whole thing, it was obvious that the officer assumed that if a white female was picking up a black male, the ONLY explanation was that he was her drug dealer. The black male was outraged and even sought out our opinion on the matter. He appealed to us and I sympathized with his outrage and sense of unfairness as I watched this play out. The officer was having a very difficult time communicating to them why he pulled them over and finally came up with the lamest of all excuses; he thought their window tinting may be darker than what was legally allowed. He pulled out a device to assess the tinting, all the while trying to see if he could find any drugs in the car that the black man must have possessed. After about 20 minutes he gave up and let them go. It turns out that the man’s skin was too dark for the officer, not the windows.

It’s stuff like this that young black males (particularly, not exclusively) deal with everyday in America. Does that sound like post-racial America? Does it sound like race isn’t a factor today? If you have eyes to see, you can see this kind of thing happen regularly.

I’m not into destroying things or rioting and would never encourage that behavior. I’m more inspired by the non-violent way of MLK. But at the same time I also haven’t grown up being discriminated against, being pulled over wrongfully on a regular basis, having my unarmed friends or family shot by police, or given harsher sentences than whites. I don’t know what it feels like to be at my boiling point with rage.

As a white Christian in America, my role in this is to listen, to empathize and stand with my black brothers and sisters as they grieve, protest, and fight for a change in the structures of society that allow things like this to continue to happen.

Do you remember Luke 9 when the disciples are arguing about which of them was the greatest? To teach them a lesson, Jesus brought a little child to his side and said, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.”

Receiving little children is granting them hospitality, performing actions for them you would normally reserve for those of equal or higher status. Jesus is asking his followers to embrace this upside down system of values and extend service to that social group most often overlooked. Children aren’t undervalued in our society anymore, but who are the vulnerable, who are the marginalized? People without homes? Immigrants? Young african american men?  We could make a whole list. 

And it’s in this idea of receiving the vulnerable that Jesus takes things up a notch. Not only do you have no reason to feel superior to the marginalized, the outcasts of society, whoever you consider those to be (like in the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector right before this passage), but followers of Jesus actually extend hospitality, receive, show compassion towards those very people that society undervalues. 

One of the greatest litmus tests to our faith, our trust in and experience of the gospel is, “how are we receiving, identifying with, extending hospitality to societies most vulnerable?”

We can be the most pious people in the world. We can pray, sing, tithe, fast, read our Bibles, but if we refuse to identify with and serve those that society overlooks, or God forbid, feel superior to them, then we know that we’ve missed God’s heart and we’re working against Him.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that a big test of our faith today includes how we respond to the black experience in American, including Ferguson.

10 Books that Have Stayed With Me

There’s a thing being passed around right now on Facebook about “10 books that have stayed with you.” I’ve only seen three or four friends take part, but mysteriously was not tagged so I thought I would just blog it instead. 🙂

1. East of Eden – John Steinbeck
My gateway into Steinbeck and the classics.

2. Elmer Gantry – Sinclair Lewis
This should be required seminary reading. Anyone who is a pastor should read this at least once!

3. Surprised by Hope – NT Wright
Theologically, this changed a lot of how I think about the world’s destiny and my (our) place in it.

4. When the Church was a Family – Joseph Hellerman
A bold study into the nature of “family” in the Mediterranean world that puts Jesus and Paul’s teaching into perspective into how we should consider our own natural families and the role our church family plays in our lives. Prophetic and scholarly at once!

5. Under the Unpredictable Plant – Eugene Peterson
Another book all pastors should read. I can’t imagine a time when this is out of date.

6. The Divine Conspiracy – Dallas Willard
I’ve read this a few times and refer to it often. One of the most beautiful invitations into the Kingdom of God that Jesus initiated that I’ve ever read. Willard was one of a kind (although he would hate anyone saying that)

7. Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I read this once a year.

8. The Shaping of Things to Come – Hirsch/Frost
This really started a gigantic shift concerning how I thought about the nature, purpose, and function of the church.

9. Lament for a Son – Nicolas Wolterstorff
Haunting, beautiful, and heartbreaking. There is one image in this book I will never be able to get out of my head. Having two sons myself, this was twice as impactful.  Dealing with a loss of this magnitude horrifies me but also makes me grateful for the time I have with my boys.

10. Endurance; Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage – Alfred Lansing
Inspiring and mind-boggling.  Honestly, anytime I’m tired or facing a difficult challenge, I ALWAYS think of Shackleton. Our Hood to Coast relay team was also inspired this year by him.

Fall Reading List 2014

Over the summer, I’ve loved the break from reading non-fiction and theology/church related books and primarily picking up fiction.  I’m still enjoying reading fiction, but there are some non-fiction books that have been catching my attention. I’ve been increasingly interested in the complexities of Vietnam and have read very little about it. I’ve also been interested in the faith communities response and influence in the Civil War (both good and bad.) I’m not reading much theology this fall. A little burned out there still. But I will get to a few classic liberation theology books that I’ve neglected thus far. James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree was powerful and eye-opening so I thought it would do me some good to read more in that vein. Cone’s book has also inspired me to read the poetry of Cullen and some more on Martin Luther King Jr. Enjoy!

Fiction/Poetry:
A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter Miller Jr.
Saint Maybe – Anne Tyler
The Magicians – Lev Grossman
Home – Marilynne Robinson
Annihilation – Jeff VanderMeer
On These I Stand; An Anthology of the Best Poems of Countee Cullen – Countee Cullen

Non-fiction:
Strength to Love – Martin Luther King Jr.
Going Clear; Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief – Lawrence Wright
A Prayer Journal – Flannery O’Connor
Dispatches – Michael Herr
Quiet; The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain
The Civil War as a Theological Crisis – Mark Noll
A Life Worth Living – Robert Zaretsky

Theology:
Kingdom Conspiracy; Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church – Scot McKnight
God of the Oppressed – James Cone
The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It – Peter Enns
A Theology of Liberation – Gustavo Gutierrez

Church:
Slow Church; Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus – Various
Fail; Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure – J.R. Briggs
The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community – Soerens, Sparks, Friesen
Body Politics; Five Practices of the Christian Community Before a Watching World – John Howard Yoder

Inadequate Responses to Abuse and Corruption

I’m as Mark Driscoll news-weary as anyone. I’m tired of seeing it in my feed all the time. I’m tired of reading about it. But unfortunately being in the Pacific NW and living in a city (Portland) where there is a Mars Hill franchise, it’s unavoidable so I have kept up and thought through the significance of all that is being revealed on a leadership and ecclesiological level.  That being said, I’m seeing a lot of people respond in ways that I know are well-meaning but in this case and others like it, are simply inadequate.

We haven’t had a shortage of scandal and outrage in the Church this year ranging from the Sovereign Grace abuse and alleged coverup, to Furtick’s million dollar home and kid’s coloring sheets and now of course to continuing groans of Driscoll’s lengthy pattern of arrogance, manipulation, and control.  For the purpose of engaging this in a healthy and adequate way, I thought I would mention some of the ways that are simply insufficient responses.

1.  What about grace and forgiveness?  Shouldn’t Christians be the most forgiving people of all?

Yes, but that doesn’t mean there are no consequences for your actions. Forgiveness is a process that can and ideally should happen if at all possible between Mark, the leadership, and all of those who have been wronged.  I hope reconciliation is possible and I know people are intentionally pursuing that very thing.  Praise God!  BUT, that doesn’t mean that consequences of sinful or immoral behavior or leadership abuses just goes away.  Should Acts 29 and the board forgive Mark and Mars Hill?  Of course, but that’s not really what’s in question here.  It’s a matter of trust.  Can they trust him?  It sounds like the answer to that is no.  So to continue in partnership with someone you can’t trust is irresponsible and foolish.  There’s nothing “un-Christian” about parting ways.

I think this stems from a particular theological problem.  Many Christians don’t understand that we’re (to simplify a bit) saved by grace, judged by works.  In other words, for some reason Christians think they are going to be exempt from the judgment of God!  Or they won’t be held both held accountable and rewarded (two poles of “judgement” in the NT sense) for the way they lived their lives on earth because they’re “saved” after all!  How wrong this idea is and how unlike the teaching of Jesus, Peter, Paul, or John particularly. Feel free to peruse Matthew 12:35-37, 1 Peter 1:17, Rev. 20:12, 22:12.  Just a few examples that really doesn’t do this concept justice in terms of length or complexity.  But come on, this is a blog post. 🙂

I think JD Kirk rightly points out: “Every time the New Testament indicates the basis of the final judgment, that basis is the works of the people who are being judged.”  In any case, I think it’s a faulty theology that teaches us that we are above or exempt from consequences just because we are Christians and that impacts how we think of other Christian’s when they reveal a pattern of sin.

2.  Why are we talking about this when children are dying?  

I’ve heard this a number of times now online. I’m as shocked and heartbroken over what is going on in Iraq and Gaza as anyone.  But does that make it a waste of time to the people who experienced manipulation and abuse in this community?  Do you think they would see it that way?  It seems pretty important to these people: www.welovemarshill.com and www.marshillrefuge.blogspot.com  And honestly, like I said, it’s an important issue for me as we have a MH in town AND my seminary has chosen to partner with them in starting a Seattle campus.

The real problem is one of logic.  If A is important (kids dying in Iraq), then B (whatever it may be) cannot be simultaneously important or worth discussing.  If this were the case, the entire world would have to investigate and conclude on one thing or issue that was of supreme importance and entirely eliminate all other conversations except for that one thing that we have all agreed on is issue #1.  But until that happens, I choose to believe that one can adequately think about and discuss a variety of issues with a varying level of importance at the same time!

3.  We’ve all got problems and are messed up in some way.  Why are we giving this one individual such a hard time? 

That’s a good question.  There’s no doubt that everyone has their problems.  But not everyone has a HUGE platform, or has been given the authority and responsibility that comes with being a pastor/elder of a church community or speaking into thousands of lives through books, podcasts, and blogs.

Like it or not, pastors and elders are held to a higher level of accountability.  And that is how it should be.  I would expect a higher level of discipline and consequences in my position as pastor in my church, than the average church-goer.  Is it because we’re different in some way from one another or because I’m more important?  Not at all.  It’s because I’ve been gifted a responsibility to the community at large by the other elders and by God and that’s a weighty thing.  So I understand that while I will sin and hopefully repent and confess my sin to a community that forgives me, the consequences of my sin may be greater than other’s who do not carry that same kind of responsibility. (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1)

4. Christians “attacking” other Christians doesn’t look good to our non-Christian friends and does nothing to promote “unity.” 

That’s a fair point and I never want to come across as “attacking” anyone, but do you know what else doesn’t look good?  Trying to sweep abuse and other immoral behavior by Christian leaders under the rug.  Does that establish any kind of credibility with the watching world? Many people suggest just not talking about it, posting about it, drawing more attention to it.  The problem is, a non-response IS a response. It communicates that this kind of thing (whether it’s sexual abuse in the church or leadership manipulation) isn’t important and not worthy to talk about under the guise of “not giving the church a bad name.”

The point is, non-Christians KNOW what is going on because it’s all over the internet whether YOU are the one that posts about it or not.  And ignoring it, not talking about it isn’t doing anything to change their potentially negative perception of the church.  What MIGHT do that is if we recognized how grievous this all is to God AND repent of our own wrong-doings as the church.  Not every disagreement or recognition of wrong-doing is an attack.  There is a way to discuss and even expose the ugliness that happens in the church in a way that is loving and respectful.  And I think that establishes more credibility and trust with friends than trying to make excuses, cover it up, or pretend that nothing is really happening.

I’m also quite certain that unity doesn’t necessitate agreeing on everything or covering up sin.  Can you imagine Paul or Peter saying, “well, I know the people at the church in Corinth are sleeping with prostitutes, BUT we don’t want to rock the boat. Gotta stay unified!”  If we can’t address sin in the church and encourage repentance and reconciliation as Jesus says we should, it makes you wonder what it is we’re building our “unity” around.