Thank You, Bill Pearce

Bill_MEM_groupAlmost a year after the fact, I learned about the death, on 23 February 2010, of a good friend. I have never met Bill Pearce personally, but he helped me to get through some very difficult times in my life. I’ve lost touch with is work lately and at some other times, but it was there when I needed it most. Bill Pearce may not have been very well known as a celebrity, but he touched the lives of many thousands of people around the world through his music and his nightly radio program, Nightsounds. It was his Nightsounds ministry that played an important part in my life. Now that Bill is no longer with us, I want to remember him for what he’s done for me.

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Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional, by Jim Belcher

A few years ago, I took a seminary elective class in Emergent Christian Spirituality. I had read some things about emergent/emerging Christianity that I found interesting but which also raised questions in my mind. We read and discussed several good books by emergent church leaders or about the emergent church. We even designed our own emergent church service. It was a very good class. I think I gained a good understanding and appreciation for the positive contributions that emergent churches are making and I became quite sympathetic to the complaints they have with their more traditional evangelical church roots. But I couldn’t completely embrace emergent spirituality. I felt like I didn’t have a good home in either camp. I had to agree with some of the problems the more traditional evangelicals see in the emergent church. I wished for a third way. Jim Belcher has articulated that third way very well in his book.

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Posted in Books, Christianity | 3 Comments

To Hear and See Jesus

I read an essay with this title over at The Scriptorium Daily (one of my favorite blogs) several weeks ago and it stuck with me. I’ve reread it several times since and would like to pass it on to others. It not only articulates some of the reasons why I’m also finding it hard to write much lately, but also beautifully expresses the longing I have–in my better moments–to hear and see Jesus; to have more of what I say, write, do and, indeed, for my whole life to be an expression of that hearing and seeing instead of my best approximation. Like the author says, “Pirating Jesus is not good enough.” So, at times I get locked into hesitation about writing and I’m glad when I find others who’ve overcome that same hesitation to say for me what I feel so unable to put into adequate wording.

Posted in Personal, Reflections | 1 Comment

Our Dangerous God

Lately I’ve been spending much more time reading other blogs and neglecting my own. There’s so much good writing out there (if you know where to look), that it often makes me feel like I haven’t much of substance to contribute. But this posting by Jeff Dunn on the Internet Monk about Our Dangerous God, got me to thinking and writing a response. I’ll include that response here as well, but read Jeff’s article first if you’re interested.

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Sacred Companions, by David Benner

This book is an exceptionally good introduction to the meaning of personal relationships that are called “spiritual friendship” and ” spiritual direction”. Good spiritual formation doesn’t happen well on a purely individual level. It’s important to have some trusted person(s) with whom one can discuss just about anything and be vulnerable and open. American Protestant Christianity in particular has been too individualistic for it’s own good. The “just me and Jesus” mindset works out little better than “just me” without a third person who is just as committed to life as a spiritual journey being there to observe and help discern the direction of the Holy Spirit in one’s life.

David Benner does a very good job of clearly describing the qualities and characteristics of spiritual friendship and spiritual direction, how they differ from each other and from other similar relationships like counseling, life coaching, discipleship, etc. and how then can be combined in a small group setting or (even!) within the marriage relationship. I highly recommend this book for those who want a good basic understanding of what it means to be “sacred companions”. This is a much needed ministry within the church today. I’m very thankful for the people who have filled this role in my life.

Posted in Books, Christianity, Spirituality | 2 Comments

The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Henri Nouwen

This book must be among the best of Henri Nouwen’s writing. In it he gives some very deep and penetrating insight o the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and its illustration in Rembrandt’s painting of the Return of the Prodigal Son. Nouwen shares with the reader the meaning he found for his own spiritual journey in studying the painting; how it illuminated the ways he was like the younger son, the elder son and how he felt called to be more like the father. Readers may see similar parallels in their own lives. This is a very helpful book. My own poster of this painting now hangs on the wall of my study.

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Living Before God, by Ben Campbell Johnson

I’ve read many helpful books on spiritual formation in my seminary work, for other classes I have taken, and on my own. I have many more lined up to read. Few that I have read have been more helpful to me than Ben Campbell Johnson’s Living Before God: Deepening our Sense of the Divine Presence. This is one book that I will come back to often. This book had much to say to me about what concerns me most at my stage of life experience. Johnson brings more that 50 years of his own experience in “living before God” to share with his readers in a most personal and engaging way. He shares his life with you, not just his ideas.

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Can We Be Good Without God? (Will We Be Good With Him?)

I’ve had this one in the queue for too long. It’s time to just push it out there.

Can we be good without God? I’ve recently had a very long discussion along these lines with a friend and former colleague of mine over on his blog and in private e-mail. He’s someone who I had come to respect very much in the time when we used to work together. Job changes and a geographical move have separated us for several years, but it’s easy to keep in contact over the internet. We see eye-to-eye on many things. I highly value his technical knowledge and skill and consider him to be one of the most gracious and helpful people I know in his attitude toward others. But we’re worlds apart when it comes to our most basic beliefs. He’s an outspoken and confident atheist. I’m a taciturn, often struggling, disciple of Jesus Christ. Challenges to my beliefs from others have often provoked me to self-examination and searching, especially when they come from friends. Our discussion was lively and passionate but also very civil and respectful. For me keeping those qualities in balance is a highly valued goal, but one that takes lots of patience and practice. It doesn’t come naturally. The particular problem of whether or not our moral reasoning has any adequate grounding unless it is in God as the authority who transcends human opinion and who is the moral architect of the universe has come up for me in personal discussion and in online forums for many years. I’ve touched on the issue in this blog before here, here and here. Two years ago I had the chance to write a short research paper on the subject. I want to leave a link to that paper here for those who might be interested in reading it. I value your thoughtful comments. But there’s also some personal reflection on this that I want to express.

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Posted in Personal, Religion | 1 Comment

Advent 2009

Bethel Church is putting together another Advent devotional calendar this year and again I was asked to contribute. This is my contribution. I’m looking forward to reading what others have written this year.

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Posted in Christianity, Spirituality | 1 Comment

A Grace Disguised, by Jerry (Gerald) Sittser

I wrote this review on the first edition of this book back in 2001 and posted it on Amazon.com. I want to put it here also because I think it’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Read on if you’re interested:

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Posted in Books, Christianity | 1 Comment