Category Archives: Integrating Spirituality

5 Reasons I Don’t Read (Christian) Chick Books

Data on this blog reports that married men, ages 25-35, with children are the biggest frequenters of this blog. I’m really flattered.

It’s a throwback to being picked by the neighbor boys to be quarterback for both teams during the zenith of my football prowess, ages 9-11. I guess they just trusted my skills. (Or, maybe I was bad at tackling.)

It seems I don’t write like a chick. A Lady. Or what have you.

BUT! I KNOW I don’t seem to read like one.

Case in Point:

I’d love to be involved with the women’s book club at my church. I love books and the discussions that ensue. I put one together for Blue Like Jazz. 3 people came, including me. One of them was a friend I drove to it, because I begged her to come at the last minute. She hadn’t even read the book.

The truth is, in general, I like the richness of mixed gender book clubs, and I like to hear various perspectives (unless it devolves into gender battles and insults, like Sunday School this past week. ACK! The men were PENT UP. Arrows were flying!) Plus, I think, this gender war stuff gets old, fast. Hello, John and Stasi Eldridge, can you hear me? Um. You’re causing infighting. It’s the truth.)

But for the exception of the wonderful Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God, that came up at book club, it’s been just a slew of girly books. I just cannot stop my gag reflex long enough to muddle through something Pioneer or Amish related. I can’t stomach “historical fiction/dreamy (and yet Christian-safe–in-all-the-right-spots) romance–with–a–God-twist”. This dominates our book club. Completely.

Thanks to a reader’s helpful link, you’ll find a really fascinating rendering of this issue here (Newsweek article).

(Bear in mind that my area can’t support a Walden’s Book store in the mall (which shut down a number of years ago) let alone something mainstream like a Boarders. Something like that is 31 miles away. And a cozy and bookish sole proprietorship? HAA! NEVER. So, it could be the situation that I’m just a fish out of water around here.)

So, in a measure of self-soothing, I’ve come up with a quick list-

5 Reasons I Don’t Read (Christian) Chick Books

1. I don’t care about reading gooey, implausible stories about the Amish. I live near the Amish. You know what? They aren’t that interesting.(Basically, they just dress weirdly, frequent “dent and scratch” bargain grocery stores, and have gaggles of children.)

2. I like history, and I like (good) fiction. But, it always seems like the category so-called “Women’s Christian Historical Fiction” is just a mash up that’s two levels closer to crap than anything else.

I feel insulted by everything from the predictable plot-lines, to the saccharine Christian-evangelism tactics that snake through like, well, “like a string of pearls snaking between ample bosoms”.

3. Since I’m not a big fan of the macho man/Christian book market, I can’t start getting aligned to closely with mushy, girly books. It’ll trash my street cred. (Guilt by association, obviously.)

4. If it makes a guy wince to see a chick book, it makes me wince. I just don’t like feeling I should defend my gender for enjoying overly sentimental tripe, that often sacrifices intellectual integrity for dramatic episodes that involve a high- stakes rescue, or a whore-come-home riff. Call me silly.

5. These books all seem to severely lack in the sense of humor department. This. is. not. okay. This is perhaps the biggest reason I just can’t do it. I need more. I want to be challenged. I want to laugh and cry, but not because “his heart has been too scarred to let her love in, despite their undeniable attraction…but he unknowingly gave himself a milk mustache on his curvaceous and stubbly upper lip, and her heart skipped a beat.” (You get the idea.)

If you are a fan of these books (or a writer of them, or an agent of them (like Chip MacGregor, my agent)), I apologize for being so brash. I’m not trying to be a guy about it.


It’s just my opinion that these books are for women what the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show holiday tv special is for men. They offer something superficial, that aims to scratch an itch, but ends up inflaming the whole thing. Less, not more, is the remedy, but no one wants to give it up.

victoria's secret fashion show 2010

Image by cattias.photos via Flickr

I realize writing this will mean I’ll never get a Christmas card from:

For a long list of these books, click here. If you start to feel ill, even at the sheer multitude, I wanna hear from you.

Here’s the surprise ending:
If any of these authors will have me over for dinner, and try to change my mind, I will indulge that. (In stereotypical male form, you may get to me through my stomach. And that’s a chance I’m willing to take, especially if there is PA German Apple crumb pie involved.)

What do you think about this genre?
Are you a woman who gets embarrassed by what’s available in the “Women’s genre”?


Ladies, if you like these books, have your say.


And guys, what’s your take on any of this? (If you were given $20, would you read a “bonnet ripper” and contribute at a book discussion? Or would you just break out in hives?)

My song today, is Mary’s song

The Visitation in the Book of Hours of the Duc...

Image via Wikipedia

This is the season of ADVENT.
Today, I want to focus on Mary’s Song (also called the Magnificat) from Luke 1:46-55.

When I first read this, as a kid, I thought, “Wow, Mary’s getting all charismatic…” I wondered if she would be dancing, or waving her hands, or twirling a flag. Would Elizabeth be worrying about getting poked in the eye?

But today, I rejoice, because I see so much better that God provides. I notice that in this Spirit-filled moment of joy, Mary gets what God is all about. She realizes what God is like, and what he does for people. She comprehends that God remembers (mind you, this does not mean God recalls, like finding a lost memory, but this specific term “remember” connotes that God “keeps in the front of his mind”).

God helps the ignoble Mary’s of the world, and will pick them to play the big parts. [Probably the least likely to be important was an impoverished, young, teenaged girl, from a small hill billy mountain village in the Middle East, right?]

The Magnificat speaks to me personally today, because I feel blessed; and perhaps it will be meaningful for you today. 

I hope you share your thoughts with us today.
Thanks.

46“My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

It seems God has a weak spot for the underdogs of the world.

7 Reasons Why my Blog will make you cry LESS than Jon Acuff’s blog

I’ve known Jon Acuff for few years now. We have the same agent. And he’s even given me an invitation to write on his blog. (Here’s the post). I was a fan of Stuff Christians Like long before Jon wrote his first book, called, well, surprisingly Stuff Christian Like. And even long before he was selling ads to….what?! NBC… (what the heck? wow. whoa. Jon Jon, way to go.) Oh! and even way back (sort of ) when he was using his spy name “Jon Christopher”… seemingly to throw weaker fans off his scent.

This is all to say that this post isn’t to actually rival Jon’s awesomeness, or his blog. (Jon gets more views in two minutes than I get all week.)

In fact, I’ll tell you outright that Jon’s new book called Gazelles, Baby Steps, and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me About Debt promises to be awesome. And Jon delivers in a way that could compete with Octomom. Delivers.

Is this a “coattails post”… like something written to ride on another writer’s popularity and winsome humor to get more readers? Of course. [And frankly, I’d be surprised if you’d need me to ask such an obvious rhetorical question. Will I always ask rhetorical questions?]

Anyway: I highly recommend you order Jon’s book for a loved one for the holidays. It makes a great gift. A limited time special here will give it to you for only $10. Laugh, Learn about Money, and Linger on the comedic stylings of Jon Acuff.

If you’re a Jon Acuff fan, you already know all these things, and I hope you’ve stayed with me. We all must be on the same page. You know this. I know this. Jon knows this. We’re a fan club, er…  family, er…community…team. So we have to move like one. As. one.

7 Reasons Why my Blog will make you cry LESS than Jon Acuff’s blog

Jon Acuff: Funny man. Serious man. Modern Legend.

 

 

1. Unlike Jon, I only rarely talk about orphans. Right now, I’m tearing up just thinking about a person (Jon) writing about orphans. So this has to be true. You need more proof, then click here. Orphans break out the water works like nothing else can. The only thing worse for your tissue stock pile is an orphan with cancer. That cute bald head. The sweet bloated belly. Horrible stuff. I’m changing the subject. ugh.

2. Jon can make plenty of us cry, just by being a tad more serious, on Serious Wednesdays. That’s skill folks. I’ll never do that to you. It just not in me. (I mean I don’t haz the skillz) For future notice, I happen to be sillier on Wednesday than Jon is, thereby making my ability to incite tears pale by comparison.

3. Jon writes touching things about his kids, that are profound and can make your eyes as moist and irritated as rubbing a hot chili pepper on your iris. Go ahead get a chili pepper and see for yourself.

4. Jon raises money for orphans. Frickin’ orphans, dude. If that’s not so sweet to be tear jerking, than you must be the Tin Man–pre-Emerald City–my friend.

5. When Jon cries, we cry. More proof here. Don’t miss the comments section. About 400 people admit to crying. Unbelievable. I never cried in an airport except when I’ve been with a TSA.

6. Jon loves his wife, and it shows. Witness this. Honestly, where the heck are my tissues? (I don’t know if people even know if I’m married-which I am. There I said it.)

7. Jon is generous. He’s always helping out struggling writers, ahem, and plenty of other people. Plenty. It’s almost too good to be true. (I have NEVER given iPads, or shuffles, or really any Apple products at all. I’m so lame, but unfortunately not lame enough to stir your tears of pity.)

Have I made my case?

(If you enjoyed this post, please come back soon, or click the “update button” for … you guessed it–post updates. Thanks.) 🙂

P.S.
If you are a blogger that offers fewer crying opportunities than Jon does, tell us your blog, and we’ll stop by.

Evangelicals and Lack of Tradition

This year, the Christian calendar begins November 28th. It is the Season of Advent.

Advent House

Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran and many mainline churches observe the Christian calendar. The topic for each Sunday is predictable. Scripture from the lectionary guides the themes, liturgy, sermon, art, and music of that particular time. Traditional? Yes. Useful? I do believe it is.

It provides congruence. Most Evangelical pastors are accustomed to, more or less, speaking about what’s been on their mind recently. This is carefully referred to as “what God has laid on their heart.” (And you’d be a fool to question the movement of the Spirit, right? Maybe a fool, or maybe a blasphemer…if you spoke your thoughts.)

In general, it’s not a terrible thing to follow the leading of the Spirit. (If that is truly what is happening. But, that’s another post entirely!) But does this unformatted contemporary formula help cinch together the Story of God, the Christian Story, and bring a cohesive message of the Gospel, in history and depth, in a palpably connected way? Or, is the shoot from the Holy hip often more of a “bang here and a bit there,” approach?


I’d like to hear your take on it?

I tend to think a healthy mix of several Christian traditions could be very spiritually useful in contemporary times. We are already malnourished on a sound bite way of life as is it.

Chaplain Mike, a one-time Southern Baptist preacher, who blogs at imonk does the whole topic much more justice than I can. I strongly encourage you to link to his specific post with the link at the bottom, if you’d like.

Witness this poignant quote found there:
(It really hit home with regards to my Christian church experiences.)

“Part of the problem is that evangelicals really don’t have traditions,” said Carter. “Instead, we have these fads that are built on the strengths and talents of individual leaders. … But a real tradition can be handed on to anyone, from generation to generation. It’s hard to hand these evangelical fads down like that, so it seems like we’re always starting over. It’s hard to build something that really lasts.”– Joe Carter as quoted by Terry Mattingly

My main resource for this post and a really helpful article is here at imonk. It is most helpful for Evangelicals, and I challenge you to consider a deeper appreciation for the Christian calendar year, starting this Sunday, November 28th.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday Meditation – Thanksgiving

Pa. 1942 Thanksgiving (creative commons)

Book of Common Prayer
A Litany of Thanksgiving
836    Thanksgivings


Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so
freely bestowed upon us.

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and
sky and sea.
We thank you, Lord.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women,
revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.

For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and
our friends,
We thank you, Lord.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.

For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you, Lord.

For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering
and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.

For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
We thank you, Lord.

For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.

Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and
promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;
To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the
Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

See also The General Thanksgiving on pages 58 and 101.
From the Book of Common Prayer online: here.

Chocolate

Wilbur Chocolate Company

Image via Wikipedia

What you see here is a cup of “Turbo” and the Dark Chocolate Crepe (filled with mascapone cheese, fresh strawberries & dark chocolate truffle ganache. Served with more strawberries, fresh cream & chocolate drizzle) from Cafe Chocolate in Lititz. I only wish I had more than my poor quality camera phone to capture it.

WHAT AN EXPERIENCE. If church were like this place, well, we’d all go a lot more, and be heavier. Heavier, but probably happier too. Jolly. We’d be jolly.

Their signature beverage is the Turbo. Made with West African %60 chocolate cocoa, frothed with organic milk, and infused with a shot of smooth Espresso. Image a rich, creamy, chocolaty goodness that sort of shoots you into euphoria, on a Japanese magnet propelled train.
Pleasurable? Yes. Think of your best worship experience with God…and then add fudge.
Okay, don’t do that. I think I went over the line there, plus, it’s like comparing apples with oranges, or chocolate bars with communion wafers.

It’s the kind of drink that can make you cry or sing (or in my case, both). Since God made chocolate, it was eventually a worship moment for me.
And thank goodness for smelling salts!

Lititz, Pa is also the home of Wilbur Chocolate, a very superior confectioner, and the now famous yearly Chocolate Walk. With Hershey Chocolate close by, this whole area of Lancaster County is sort of a Mecca for chocolate lovers. Also Sturgis pretzels is there in Lititz; and they boast America’s first commercial pretzel. You can make your own pretzel on their tour, and eat in fresh out of the oven.

Oh happy day! 🙂

HAVE YOU BEEN TO LITITZ?
What is your favorite chocolate goodie?

Praying the “Daily Office”?

The Manuscript Room:  Book of Hours

Image by peterjr1961 via Flickr

Marine of the Korean War in prayer

The Anglican (Protestant) tradition uses the ancient Christian spiritual practice of praying the daily office. The daily office (aka Conical hours, divine hours, Liturgy of the Hours, or fixed hours of prayer) are fixed times of prayer set throughout the day. Millions of Christians the world over are in prayer at these times, and this routine allows space for communion with God, and the potential for continual spirit of God-awareness in regular life.

It encourages followers of Christ to accomplish that which the Apostle Paul admonished, to “pray without ceasing.”

Here are the “divine hours”:

The daily offices of prayer

 

This practice is particularly powerful when done in community. A retreat, or trip with others could include the teaching and experience of the daily office. And, one does not need a priest or clergy to “do it right”. If a group is devoted to celebrating the offices, all that is needed is the cooperation of others to commitment to it in heart and mind; and reverence and regularity.

To learn more, I offer these good resources:

Basic Helpful and  Informative article.

Daily Office, which one can follow online.

Praying the Daily Office I:  (Anglo-Catholic Style Daily Office) Traditional Anglo-Catholic Offices in the American PDF

 

Book of Common Prayer (England, 1559)

Praying the Office II. (Quick Reference Guide To the Prayer Book Offices)

 

Have you ever prayed the offices/divine hours? Would you consider praying the ones that wouldn’t interfere with your sleep?

To be continued…

Sunday Meditation – A Celtic Prayer

Celtic Knot by Denise A. Wells

Image by ♥Denise A. Wells♥ via Flickr

• Carefully read this prayer, and meditate on it today. You may reflect on it in the comments section, if you feel so moved.

O God of the weak

O God of the strong

O God of the righteous

O shield of homesteads

 

O may I find rest everlasting

In the home of Thy Trinity

In the Paradise of the godly

In the Sun-garden of Thy love.

from Carmina Gadelica

Resource:
pg 19 Celtic Prayers to Guard and Guide You

Good Books Publisher ISBN 1-56148-335

 

Welcome to my Dojo

KARATE!

It’s so cool.
I have half a mind to buy a karategi just to feel feisty and strong.

I took a 10 week Karate course when I was about 12. I’m not sure what belt that would translated into now, but I’m pretty fierce, so maybe a corduroy one or plaid (tartan preferably) . And, frankly I’d rather a drawstring than a belt. It does the job without giving your attacker a chance to strangle you with your own accessories. Always a plus.

The spiritual life isn’t something we do, like I did with Karate. It’s like Mr. Miyag said in 1984 in his backyard surrounded by all the cool classic cars, “…Either you karate do “yes” or karate do “no.” You karate do “guess so,” (squish) just like grape.” Mr Miyagi compared training in the art of karate to crossing a road. One can’t “kind of” cross a busy road, or it’s a squish like grape moment.

waxing on before chopping the red block (click to find source)

This website is a bit like a dojo–a spot to learn and train. But, it’s not a dojo as well. For one, I typically a wear bathrobe, or pajamas when I’m writing, not a fancy martial arts getup. The other reason is that when we enter spiritual mentoring and training it is best as a face-to-face and life-to-life lifestyle decision. We simply can not just try it on, like Halloween costume, or take it on a spin, like a hobby.

(Also I take liberties around here to throw in breaks in dojo stuff with general zaniness and humor. And that’s just plan too silly for a real dojo.)

SO! If you took on Christian spirituality and development like training at a dojo, what would you like to know? What problems, or questions would you have? What would you need?

A dojo-like community makes better disciples. That’s one of the aims here. I thank you SO MUCH for reading. And, I invite you to be a part of it a bit more by clicking the subscribe button (marked as “Alluring Button”).

Even though, I might not be your sensei, but I’d like to know.

Did you ever try Karate?
What was your favorite Karate moment? (films included)

Hiya!

Guest Writer: Shane Tucker ‘Aesthetic Spirituality’

I invited Shane to post here, chiefly because I feel a kinship to Shane. The artist and the spiritual formation learner I am jives so nicely with Shane’s outlook, and what he does as his life’s work. Writers, artist, thinkers, creatives, musicians, and so forth bring vital perspective to Christian Spirituality, and walking with God. Shane tends to this group, which is not an easy task.

Shane Tucker

 

Who is SHANE TUCKER?
Shane lived in Ireland for eleven years with his wife, two daughters and son. Now, he serves as Creative Director for ‘Dreamers of the Day‘ [www.dreamtoday.org] – a network utilizing the arts, spiritual disciplines, evocative messengers, and symposiums to engage people in their journey with Christ. He is passionate about seeing people live into their purpose in life, and he finds applications for that as a ‘soul friend’ (spiritual director) via Soul Friend (www.ArtistSoulFriend.com). He can be reached via either website or at shane dot tucker at gmail dot com.

Please enjoy Shane’s post, and feel free to offer your insights, comments, or questions.

Aesthetic Spirituality
by Shane Tucker

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
-ThomasMerton

We have an innate quality to notice beauty at every turn. To know that something is ugly or unattractive we must, of course, know that true beauty exists . . and in some way, to have experienced it. We resonate most strongly with that which seems to offer wholeness or a sense of completeness to our lives. That resonance may also be experienced as a deep hunger. Seldom do we know ourselves well enough to be able to express those yearnings in a coherent fashion. Itʼs in those times we need a bridge – something enabling us to connect, to integrate disparate elements into a whole. . . into a sense of being whole.

Art – any method or medium of creativity – can often serve as this necessary bridge, this connection, between what we know and what we long or yearn to know. Art gives us the tools, the words, the motion to live into what we sense is already there, but as of yet remains unseen. In this sense, art itself is a means by which we find ourselves by moving beyond ourselves. Through art (the highest sort) we are transported into places and spaces where we can lose ourselves. Itʼs a gift to be fully present to, and fully absorbed into, a situation or individual where weʼve forgotten to be concerned with our own desires or even aware of our image before others. Iʼve had a few experiences like this directly and by extension.

One of those experiences occurred three summers ago while I was attending a festival of creativity in middle England. I sought out a band I wanted to become acquainted with and unexpectedly, during their set I was in continual awe. Through their skillful use of music and visual elements, I was caught up in the moment and I forgot myself. Classic. Iʼve had similar experiences standing on green, broad, bald hilltops around Ireland as I drank in the arresting landscape around me. Another example are Christmas mornings since my three children arrived on the scene. Experiencing the uninhibited enthusiasm and joy demonstrated by these little people as they open gifts and share their excitement with the family – these are moments of pure bliss.

In times such as these we are given the gift of losing ourselves . . more specifically, concern for ourselves. The end, however, is not the experience of forgetting oneself in beauty, wonder, and awe; or even that of knowing a deep resonance which affords us the equivalent of tonal tonic through lifeʼs journey. Itʼs knowing Him. I hear, see, touch, taste and feel the Creator in this God-saturated existence called life. Heʼs made Himself ever- present in the created order and ever-accessible. He has, in fact, painted Himself into the portrait, written Himself into the narrative and sung Himself into our lives – even into existence, in Jesus Christ. When we recognize His overtures of love, our moment is to respond whole-heartedly, in trust, recklessly abandoned. In His hands, we then become the artwork by which He invites others to lose and find themselves in Love.

“Those who want to save their lives will lose them. But those who lose their lives for me will find them.” – Jesus, Matthew 16:25

by Shane Tucker / Soul Friend (Spiritual Director) / www.ArtistSoulFriend.com

Thank you, Shane.