Book Review-An Angel Just Like Me

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An Angel Just Like Me Mary Hoffmann

Pictures by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1997

As Christmas approaches, Tyler wonders why none of the angels look like him? He searches high and low for an angel to place on his family’s tree. Join Tyler in his search and see what tops his tree on Christmas.

This book is a wondering book and hopefully will make you wonder too. What did Jesus look like? Do all angels look alike or does one look like me? What should Santa look like?

With Christmas right around the corner, what are you wondering? Find a friend or family to ask questions with or you can leave your wondering questions in the comments.

Worship Words- Advent Candle Lighting Week 2-Peace

For the second week in Advent, we focus on peace.

In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

 

Light two purple candles.

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Prince of Peace, reveal yourself to us today. We need peace in our lives, our homes, our families, our church, and our whole world. Help us to slow down and seek out the peace you provide, so we may become peacemakers for ourselves and others. In your name, Prince of Peace, we pray. Amen.

 

Also published by liturgy link on November 11, 2014.

Book Review-Oh God (x3)! Young Adults Speak out about Sexuality and Christian Spirituality

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Oh God, Oh God, Oh God!: Young Adults Speak Out about Sexuality and Christian Spirituality. Heather Godsey and Lara Blackwood Pickrel, editors.

St. Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press, 2010.

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I wanted to like this book. I wanted to use this book as a conversation starter at my former church. Sadly, it took me three tries to finish it. I’m sharing this review because I’d love for someone to write a book about what I had hoped this book would be.

In the introduction the editors said, “These voices are primarily from white heterosexual individuals” (2). This was my first problem with the book. I knew too many stories similar to the ones shared. I wanted my eyes to be opened people whose stories I have not heard.

While no book can include all topics, I was hoping to find stories about unplanned pregnancies (adoption, abortion, and keeping a child), couples who do not feel called to have children, dating (and even meeting potential dates) post-college, and how having a child changes things in relationships. The diversity of God’s children could have been highlighted in this book by sharing a variety of stories from a wider spectrum of people instead of just a select few.

This book would not work well as a conversation starter or small group book at my last church. That makes me sad. I’d love to hear suggestions for other books that talk honestly about sexuality and Christian spirituality.

My Favorite Tea Shop

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McNulty’s is an experience. It is a small shop filled with rows of glass containers each containing a different kind of tea. You’ll want to lift many lids and enjoy the smells of the teas. If you have questions, they will be happy to answer them. And when you’ve find made your selections, your teas will be poured into their white bags for you to take home and drink.

My favorite tea from McNulty’s is Flowery White Pekoe. It is full of flavor. It almost tastes like flowers (but in a good way).

If your life or travels don’t take you to Manhattan, you can order McNulty’s online. It will arrive quickly for you to enjoy.

Book Review- Waiting for Christmas by Kathleen Long Bostrom

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For the season of Advent, one of the book reviews each week will be for a children’s book. I think Advent and Christmas have inspired some of the most lovely children’s books. I suggest you go to your local library and check your bookshelves and find a children’s book to read this time of year. If you have a child to read with, please do. If not, it is perfectly okay for adults to read children’s books!

Waiting for Christmas: A Story about the Advent Calendar Kathleen Long Bostrom

Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zonderkidz, 2006.

This book tells us that the season of Advent is our time to prepare and wait for the season of Christmas. As Christmas seems to begin earlier and earlier each year, this book may be good way to remind us of the important of waiting. Having an Advent calendar is a great way to visualize how long we must wait for Christmas.

The book includes many options for counting down to Christmas. The only problem I have with this book is that Advent is not always 24 days. Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas. People like to start counting down to Christmas on December 1. This year Advent begins on November 30, so there are 25 days in Advent in 2014. Nevertheless, this is a good read for all ages about the season of Advent as we all wait for the birth of Jesus.

Worship Words-Advent Candle Lighting Week 1-Hope

Advent is the season of the church year that prepares us for Christmas. Advent is four weeks leading up to Christmas. One way that Advent is celebrated is through candle lighting. To participate in this candle lighting ritual, you’ll need three purple candles, one pink candle, and one white candle. You could make a fancy Advent wreath (see pintrest for many ideas) or you can purchase 5 votive candles and light them. Any way that you decide to do this is fine. I just hope you’ll participate in the season of Advent as we prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus on Christmas.

The first week of Advent is all about hope.

Think about hope as you read Lamentations 3: 21-24,

“But this I call to mind,

and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,

God’s mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

“therefore I will hope in the Lord.”

 

Light one purple candle

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Gracious God, As the Advent season begins, we cry out to you. We come to you looking for hope. When everything else we rely on fails us, our only hope is in you. When we do not understand what has happened, we hope in you. We can hope for better days because we trust you. We know you and we know you are here with us no matter what we are facing. Some of us see only darkness this time of year. Some of us find life overwhelming. Some of us are filled with Advent joy. Wherever we find ourselves today, Loving God, remind us that our hope is in you. Be with us on this journey. Amen.

Also published in liturgy link on November 11, 2014.

Book Review-Some Assembly Required

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Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son Anne Lamott with Sam Lamott

New York: Riverhead Books, 2012

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I enjoy reading Anne Lamott’s books. I enjoyed this one even though it wasn’t my favorite. She chronicles her grandson’s first year in great detail. It is readable and relatable. It is an amazing gift to her whole family. I prefer Traveling Mercies, Plan B, and Grace Eventually. I recommend this book if  you enjoy Anne Lamott’s writing. If you have never read Anne Lamott before, I’d encourage you to start with one of the three books I mentioned earlier.

One thing that keeps me returning to Anne Lamott is her honesty. In the midst of ordinary situations, she reminds us to look for God not because she always remembers but because she tries. She encourages us to keep trying as she keeps trying. She has surrounded herself with people who remind her to look for God. Are you surrounded by people who place you back on the right path if you fall off? Am I? Do others help me look for the good and God in those I meet? Anne Lamott’s books don’t make her look like a saint. They share her story as she strives to follow Jesus and her humanity is why I find her inspirational and fun to read.

“Finally I thought to pray–it had completely escaped me that I believe in divine mind and comfort. I’d forgotten that if I said the Great Prayer–Help–I would experience that God was with me” (20).

“Maybe what we say to each other is not so important after all, but just that we are alive together, and present for each other as best we can be” (62-63).

“It would be great if God were up there shoving ever-resistant people like me through the maze, toward presence and serenity. But noooooo. It’s Free Will 101” (64).

“My pastor Veronica says that peace is joy at rest, and joy is peace on its feet” (212).

“Despite our great love and art, we are a violent species. Cain is still killing Abel, and that was meaningful for people like me, who can write to bear witness, remind others of this in the hopes of preventing such madness in the future” (265).

Worship Words-A Prayer of Thanksgiving

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I hope you’ll spend the day with people you love doing something you enjoy. I’m sharing this prayer a day early in the hopes you might disconnect from electronics for a little bit tomorrow. Also, I hope you find time tomorrow to say a prayer of thanksgiving for all that God has done for us. You are welcome to use this prayer if you are not yet comfortable praying in your own words. Happy Thanksgiving!

On this Thanksgiving Day, let us not forget to start by saying thank you to the Creator and Source of all for which we have to be thankful. Loving God, we thank you for those with whom we spend this day. Thank you for family, friends, and strangers. We thank you for the food we share and remember those who do not have enough to eat. May today’s feast inspire us to share what you have given us with others. As we enjoy a day of relaxation and rest, we ask your blessing on those working today–the people working to keep us safe and healthy, the people working so others can eat, and the people working because they desperately need the money. We pray for families and friend who wish they could be together today. We pray for people who struggle to feel thankful this day. God, we ask that you give us thankful hearts, not just today when it is easy to be thankful, but everyday. Amen.

This prayer was published by liturgy link on November 19, 2014.

Book Review-Worship Come to Its Senses

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Worship Come to Its Senses Don E. Saliers

Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996.

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Although this book about worship is nearing 20 years old, its ideas are still relevant today. Instead of arguing over the style of worship, we are encouraged to bring awe, delight, truth, and hope to worship. Like all good things we do, worship requires preparation-not just from those leading worship but from all participating. How can you prepare? Come to worship ready for the experience, ready to encounter the other and the Other, and open to the ways God will speak to us. When we are prepared to meet God, we might just find that God is here already.

One theme that flowed through all these aspects of worship is that this happens best in a community where people are known. You might have moments of awe or delight on a retreat by yourself or with stranger. In order to keep these four aspects of worship alive and well, we need to situate ourselves within a community where we plan to listen for God and listen with each other. It is not a short-term process. Crafting worship requires much time and energy and many people sharing their gifts. Likewise, participating in worship requires our openness to what God is saying to us and those around us speaking truth and hope.

What I found so refreshing in this book is that problems with worship were described and solutions were offered. Too often books about worship say that each church is so unique that a solution cannot be offered. This book does the opposite. It shares concrete examples of what can be done to bring awe, delight, truth, and hope back to our worship. Now, don’t be overwhelmed thinking each worship service must inspire each of these things in every worshiper. That is not the point. Our worship planning and our worship preparation must include these ideas so over the course of our time together people have the opportunity to experience these things and know that they are all part of our faith journey.

I recommend this book to pastors, church people with worship responsibilities, and anyone who deeply love worship and wants to think more about it. [Read more…]

Book Review-Night Visions

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Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas Jan L. Richardson

Cleveland, Ohio: United Church Press, 1998.

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Sometimes I wonder if I like the idea of the season of Advent more than I like the season of Advent. A time to prepare sounds good. I’d love a time to prepare. A time to wait sounds important. I’d love to be able to be a person who waits patiently. I don’t do well with the waiting or preparing. What I do hold on to each year is the candle lighting. I love the light shining in the darkness of this time of year and this Advent season. Each Monday in Advent, I’ll share with you some Scripture to read and a prayer for your candle lighting. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating Advent in this way.

Advent is almost here again. And I will admit that I struggle to keep up daily practices. Weekly practices have more flexibility and forgiveness built in, and so I find myself drawn to the weekly practice of candle lighting. I recognize that what works for me may be very different than what works for you, and so I recommend for those who love daily readings, Jan Richardson’s Night Visions. The art and words are beautiful, heart-breaking, and inspiring. This book will take you through Advent, Christmas, and into Epiphany. If a daily reading works for you, I invite you to be challenged and supported by this book. And, if a daily reading isn’t for you, I still encourage you to get this book and read it at a pace that works for you.

“This season beckons me to ask, what am I preparing for? What is the way that is being prepared within the wilderness of my life? What does it mean for my own life to become a path, a way of welcome for the Holy One? How do I give myself time to notice the ways that the path unfolds before me and within me? What are the acts of preparation that bring delight to my daily life? Whom do I ask or allow to help me prepare?” (39).

“As I cross the threshold into a new season and a new year, the bag prompts questions. What do I need for the journey ahead? What would I put in the bag to take with me? What objects, words, blessings, hopes, charms would I keep within its colors against my chest as I meet the coming days? How will my actions in the year ahead stretch my own thresholds, my own boundaries, and bring me closer to others–to the ones such as those who fashioned this very bag? Or do I need to leave it empty, to wait and see what will fill it this year?” (120).