Book Review-What We Talk about when We Talk about God

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What We Talk about when We Talk about God Rob Bell

New York: HarperOne, 2013.

Emotional Response-3

Scholarly Response-3

In this book, Rob Bells tells us God is always with us, God is for us, and God is moving us forward. If you have never heard any of these things or if you need to be reminded of any of them, this books is for you. In these pages, you’ll find Scripture, modern culture, science, and a variety of other sources cited to talk about how we talk about God.

For me, there was too much technical science. Others might not be bothered by this, but it was too much for me. In II. Who Ordered That?, I felt like I was watching The Big Bang Theory without the funny parts–just the boys (as my parents call them) talking about things that do not make sense to me, and yet, I kept reading because I wanted to see where he is going.

All of this science talk is Rob Bell’s way of opening the reader to the complexity of what we know. We can be _______ and _______. It doesn’t need to be either/or. And what goes into the blanks is limitless.

Probably (or most likely) because of my own experiences of God and where I’ve studied, much of what was said in this book wasn’t new to me (except some of the very detailed science stuff!). And yet, like everyone I need to be reminded. I appreciate this book for reminding me of how big God is.

As a warning, some people find the formatting of Rob Bell’s books distracting. It is true he does include lots of white space on every page. I use the white space as a reminder to slow down. I will say that this same formatting happens in every single one of his books I’ve read.

“Like a mirror, God appears to be more and more a reflection of whoever it is that happens to be talking about God at the moment” (2). This reminds me of Anne Lamott’s quote, “You can safely assume you have created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” See I told you I really do like Anne Lamott.

“We are both large and small, strong and weak, formidable and faint, reflecting the image of the divine, and formed from dust” (56).

“To be closed-minded to anything that does not fit within predetermined and agreed-upon categories is to deny our very real experiences of the world” (80).

“For many people in our world, the opposite of faith is doubt. The goal, then, within this understanding is to eliminate doubt. But faith and doubt aren’t opposites. Doubt is often a sign that your faith has a pulse, that it’s alive and well and exploring and searching. Faith and doubt aren’t opposites; they are, in turns out, excellent dance partners” (92).

“There is the unexpected subversion of the cross, turning so many of our ideas about God on their heads, insisting that God is so for us that God is willing to take on the worst the world can bring and suffer it, absorb it, and feel it, right down to the last breath” (144).

“Imagine that–religious people quoting the Bible to defend actions that were the exact opposite of the intent and purpose of those very same scriptures! It’s possible, then, to be quoting the Bible out of the conviction that you’re defending God’s way when in fact you’re in that exact moment working against how God wants to continue drawing and pulling and calling humanity forward” (161).

“Jesus doesn’t divide the world up into the common and the sacred; he gives us eyes to the sacred in the common” (184).

Candy Cane Hot Cocoa

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I know this is not tea. I love hot cocoa too. And we are smack dab in the middle of candy cane/peppermint season, so I wanted to share a delicious gift I received last Christmas. I have a crafty friend who makes amazing homemade gifts. Last year she created different flavors of fudge, vanilla, this hot cocoa, and lots of other delicious treats I cannot even remember but throughly enjoyed.

In this busy, busy season, take time today to sit down with a favorite beverage. You might sit by a window and watch snow fall. You might sit by a candle and watch the flame dance. You might sit at your favorite coffee shop and watch people hurry past you. Just sit for a minute and enjoy a drink that makes you happy. And maybe give God a prayer of thanksgiving for the person who created your drink. God, Thanks for my dear friend who made me this tasty cocoa mix that provided many yummy beverages. Amen.

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.



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

Emotional Response-3

Scholarly Response-2

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


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.