To Explore

Here to share an amazing link that just could not wait for the next Reading Stack installment:  You must check out Plough.

From the website: Plough is an award-winning international magazine of faith, culture, and society that appears weekly online and quarterly in print. We also publish a line of books, including literary nonfiction and fiction, children’s books, Christian books, and graphic novels. Founded in 1920, Plough asks the big questions: How can we live well together, and what gives life purpose? Join us in breaking fresh ground for a renewed world.

Plough is the publishing house of the Bruderhof, an international movement of Christian communities whose members are called to follow Jesus together in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount and of the first church in Jerusalem, sharing all our talents, income, and possessions (Acts 2 and 4). Bruderhof communities, which include both families and single people from a wide range of backgrounds, are located in the United States, England, Germany, Australia, and Paraguay. Visitors are welcome.

qcoversPlease visit the site and read a few of their online articles. Content is organized in a few different ways depending on interests (faith, life, justice, community, culture) or medium (magazine, books, events). You can even sign up for free daily prayers sent straight to your inbox. Enjoy exploring the rich resources offered!

Why Bother?

why botherToday’s recommended read is Why Bother? by Jennifer Louden.

From Amazon: In Why Bother? personal-growth expert Jennifer Louden challenges you to open your mind, your heart, and your life by following where the question leads. Through reflection and stories from others, Louden demonstrates how to bother when it feels impossible or like too much work, whether after professional defeats, heartbreak, illness, or life-changing loss. She shows why you must prioritize what’s calling you at any time of your life, especially when you’ve sidelined your dreams to raise kids, pay the rent, or take care of aging parents. And crucially, she shows you how tapping into your deepest desires can give you the energy to move forward―even when the world seems in such dire straits. It’s time to reclaim the dignity and beauty of your desires. It’s time to get your bother on.

Reading Stack

It has been a tough and challenging time for humanity, hasn’t it? It’s hard to know what to say or where to begin. Today, I’ll refer you to the words of others who have helped me think about and process the hurt, pain, confusion, and sadness so many are feeling.

  • In Reaping the Whirlwind, Eric Crawford (WDRB) works through his feelings after being asked to comment on the recent shootings and protests in Louisville. Take your time with this one and pour over what he has to say. His writing is well worth it.
  • Esau McCaulley, a priest in the Anglican Church in North America and an assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, has written A Nation on Fire Needs the Flames of the Spirit for Christianity Today online. Based on his most recent sermon, this essay discusses how Pentecost can help the church find its voice during times of racial strife.
  • I’ve been blessed to be invited to join my best friend’s Sunday School class that meets over Zoom every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening from North Carolina. We recently read and discussed Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor, which offers “a way to find spirituality in those times when we don’t have all the answers.” It couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. I highly recommend it.
  • Last, but most definitely not least, I found the text of the prayer given by Rev. C.B. Atkins, pastor of First Baptist Church Bracktown in Lexington, KY, during one of Governor Beshear’s press conferences. It was so moving to listen to Rev. Atkins’ words; I pray you find as much in the printed version:

“Let us pray together. Eternal God, the God of all people, because you are omniscient, there is nothing we can tell you that you don’t already know. So let me start by thanking you for clearing up busy schedules, for allowing us to pause to collectively acknowledge you today. We are aware that not all storms come to disrupt our life, some come to clear our path. Your ways are not our ways and your thoughts are not our thoughts. Isaiah reminds us that there is no searching of your understanding. So we did not come today to call you on the carpet to explain, we came to thank you for your power and willingness to sustain. 

“Worldwide COVID-19 has claimed 350,000 reported deaths, 100,000 in the United States, and 400 in Kentucky. These are staggering numbers of the arresting reality of this horrific pandemic. Still I refuse to be guilty either as a messenger of God or a man of color.

“I’m mentioning the racial pandemic that has been devastating a segment of your people in this country for over 400 years, emboldened now afresh by people in powerful positions in public places. It is not that the minority population has been silent, but rather that the majority population has been deaf. The high number of deaths from coronavirus has been needless, and the continuous deaths of innocent black men and women in this country is senseless.

“Frantic searches are underway in laboratories around the world for a vaccine for COVID-19. But even if one is discovered, and I pray it will be, but if we ignore the cure for that pandemic as we have ignored the cure for the racial pandemic, having done so for political, economic, and aristocratic expediency, then all efforts will ultimately be in vain.

“I pray God that you strip us of the false assurance that grows from pride in our powers and ignorance of our ignorance. After you strip us, then bathe us in compassion so our shared pain will generate a powerful passion that will eventuate in reaching a divine purpose.

“As dark as this day may be, I am assured you did not bring us this far to leave us now. Hatred, divisiveness, and even death are but finite happenings. We cling to an infinite hope. You’ve already given us the panacea for this and all pandemics. You have told us what is good and what you require, that is to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before our God. You have not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.

“If your people who are called by your name would humble themselves and pray, turn from our wicked ways and seek your face, you promise that you will hear from heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land. Comfort us, oh God. Guide, guard, and govern us. God of all nations. Known by many names. Do it through Christ Jesus my Lord. Amen.”

-Reverend C. B. Atkins 5/28/2020

An Author’s Legacy

Today’s read is Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans.

From Amazon: From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Held Evans (1981-2019) comes a book that is both a heartfelt ode to the past and hopeful gaze into the future of what it means to be a part of the Church.

Like millions of her millennial peers, Rachel Held Evans didn’t want to go to church anymore. The hypocrisy, the politics, the gargantuan building budgets, the scandals–church culture seemed so far removed from Jesus. Yet, despite her cynicism and misgivings, something kept drawing her back to Church. And so she set out on a journey to understand Church and to find her place in it.

Centered around seven sacraments, Evans’ quest takes readers through a liturgical year with stories about baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, marriage, vocation, and death that are funny, heartbreaking, and sharply honest.

A memoir about making do and taking risks, about the messiness of community and the power of grace, Searching for Sunday is about overcoming cynicism to find hope and, somewhere in between, Church.

Personal Note: An open mind and a willingness to have your beliefs and notions challenged are required when reading Rachel Held Evans. She can be polarizing — readers seem to either love her or hate her — but no matter how she makes you “feel,” she will always make you think. And she will always… always… remind us of just how much God loves us. Sadly, Rachel passed away last year after a short illness; I’m so thankful to still have her words.

Poetry as Prayer

poets prayToday’s read is When Poets Pray by Marilyn McEntyre.

From Amazon: Poetry and prayer are closely related. We often look to poets to give language to our deepest hopes, fears, losses—and prayers. Poets slow us down. They teach us to stop and go in before we go on. They play at the edges of mystery, holding a tension between line and sentence, between sense and reason, between the transcendent and the deeply, comfortingly familiar. When Poets Pray contains thoughtful meditations by Marilyn McEntyre on choice poems/prayers and poems about prayer. Her beautifully written reflections are contemplative exercises, not scholarly analyses, meant more as invitation than instruction. Here McEntyre shares gifts that she herself has received from poets who pray, or who reflect on prayer, believing that they have other gifts to offer readers seeking spiritual companionship along our pilgrim way.  Poets include: Robert Frost, Wendell Berry, Thomas Merton, Mary Oliver, and the psalmists.

From the book…

“A Prayer in Spring” by Robert Frost

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
To which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends he will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

Prayers for Privileged

prayers peopleToday’s read is Prayers for a Privileged People by Walter Brueggemann.

From Amazon:  In Prayers for a Privileged People, this much-published author sculpts as carefully as if with chisel prayers on behalf of those who are people of privilege and entitlement …. These prayers of wisdom and prophetic power remind us that when things go wrong, when we are afraid, and when we feel prodded by those who lack voice, there is a conversation we can have amid the promises and commands of God.

“This is a beautiful collection of poetic and prophetic prayers, words to be prayed with, mulled over, pondered, savored and challenged by. For in this little text, we glimpse a side of Brueggemann we may not have known through his rich Scripture studies alone. Here, he draws on not only his extensive years of study and teaching of the Psalms and the prophets, but his own faith immersion in the church year and in the liturgies of the church.” –Rev. Patricia Farris, Senior Minister, Santa Monica First United Methodist Church

About the Author:  Walter Brueggemann is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary. A past president of the Society of Biblical Literature, he is one of today’s preeminent interpreters of Scripture.

Finding Stillness

Poss prayerToday’s read is The Possibility of Prayer: Finding Stillness with God in a Restless World by John Starke (Lead Pastor at Apostles Church Uptown, New York City)

From Amazon:  The world clamors for efficiency and productivity. But the life of prayer is neither efficient nor productive. Instead, as we learn in the psalms, prayer calls us to wait, to watch, to listen, to taste, and to see. These things are not productive by any modern measure―but they are transformative. As a pastor in Manhattan, John Starke knows the bustle and busyness of our society. But he also knows that prayer is not just for spiritual giants. Prayer, he writes, is for each of us―not because we are full of spiritual wisdom and maturity, but because we are empty. Here is an invitation to discover, via the church’s ancient rhythms and with Starke’s clear, practical guidance, the possibility of prayer. Here is a book about prayer that is really a book about the whole Christian life.

From the book…

Seeking the Lord is not just asking something of God. In Hebrew, “seeking” is a relationally heavy word. It has elements of waiting, listening, and speaking. It suggests face-to-face conversation. Do we think of prayer like that? As seeking out a face-to-face exchange? “I sought the Lord,” David says, “and he answered me.” [Psalm 34]  Back and forth — prayer is dialogue. That means we will need time to listen. How often do we listen in prayer? Would you characterize any part of your spiritual life as “listening?”