What I’ve Been Reading This Year

I sometimes post reviews of the books that I am reading on here (and I’ll continue to do so) but have not in some time. So for the sake of time, I thought that I would share some quick thoughts on books that I have read recently (2015). This won’t be exhaustive, but will provide some insight on what has been on my nightstand of late.


Accidental Saints- Finding God in All the Wrong People (Nadia Bolz-Weber)
This is the most recent book I’ve finished (just the other night). I saw Nadia speak at a recent conference I attended which led to the purchase of the book. I admire her ministry and her transparency in her book- and her recognition of grace in a messy world. I will admit, the cursing got old quick. I don’t think I’m prudish about language, it just got to the point where it did not advance or add anything to the narrative. I found her chapter called “Frances,” which was on Mental Illness to be particular moving and worth buying the book for.


Big Data Baseball: Math, Miracles, and the End of a 20-Year Old Losing Streak (Travis Sawchik)
This was a summer read while I was on vacation. Sawchik tells the story of how the Pittsburgh Pirates finally ended a streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons by changing the way they analyze baseball using saber metrics. Think Moneyball, only better.


The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate: (John H. Walton)
The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2 & 3 and the Human Origins Debate (John H. Walton)
The book of Genesis, especially the first three chapters, is the source of much confusion and misunderstanding. Does it tell us how the world was formed in 6 days? Or something else? Was Adam and Eve real, historical people or archetypes for humanity? John H. Walton gives two excellent books that seeks to help the reader understand the ancient world in which the narratives were written and how they are MUCH different than today. He warns that we cannot read our cosmology and culture into the text, but have to understand how an ancient reader/listener would have understood it. I though these books were excellent!


The Martian (Andy Weir)
I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. As a sci-fi fan I enjoyed the premise and the story. I felt it got a little bogged down in the details at times, but it read as a plausible story rather than some fantasy sci-fi account. I haven’t had the opportunity to see the movie yet, but I am looking forward to it!


Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Laura Hillenbrand).
I am late to the game on this book, but it was powerful. There were several times when I had tears streaming down my face late at night while I read as I considered the brutality that Louis Zamperini faced on the open sea and as a POW in Japan during WWII. I think this is a must read for courage, integrity, and the importance of hope and faith.

That is a summary of what I’ve been reading. I’ve left a few things out, and I start a new book tonight. What have you been reading? Anything good?

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Theology of Grief = Theology of Hope


This past Sunday (November 1st) was All Saints Sunday where we remember the great cloud of witnesses that have gone on before us. During our communion liturgy, we say aloud the names of the loved ones who have gone on before us. It is always a moving experience to name our loved ones and can be a very healing time in worship. We will all grieve and mourn at some point in our lives, the question I raised on Sunday is how should Christians express our grief?

In the account of the death of Lazarus in John 11, Lazarus’ sisters (Martha and Mary) cry out to Jesus, “If you had been here our brother would still be alive.” I have to imagined that those words were said with great pain, maybe even screamed at Jesus. In the midst of their grief, Jesus wept. Jesus gives us permission to weep and grieve our loved ones.

John also tells us that Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” The Greek indicates that Jesus wasn’t just moved, this phrase means that Jesus was angry or upset. But upset at what? By weeping the Mary and Martha Jesus gives permission for our grief- but perhaps the grief of the people present had turned to despair. They believed that Jesus could heal Lazarus while he was living, now it all seemed so hopeless.

As Christians, we believe that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25)- and therefore even in our grief we should be able to proclaim Jesus’ victory over the grave. We may grieve the loss of our loved ones, but through Jesus we can have hope of resurrection. Our lives should declare defiantly in the face of death the hope that we profess of life with God through Jesus Christ. Our theology of grief becomes a theology of hope because of God’s presence with us through all circumstances.

How have you seen hope displayed in the midst of grief?

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Membership Matters

Last winter, our family joined the YMCA here in Dover. We joined for the benefits that the Y provides. The weight room, the indoor/outdoor pools, the children’s sports and the list can go on. We both enjoy the fellowship that happens at the Y as well. There have been a few times, that as a member, I have felt that the Y needed to step up their game. While I never complained, I felt that as a paying member of the YMCA that I was entitled to better services.

Have you ever thought about what it means to be a member of a church?

Being a member at a church (and specifically Hope Church) is not about benefits or entitlement. Being a member of a church does give us exclusive access to the pastor or to God. Being a member of the church does not mean we expect to have our complaints or grievances heard and acted on. Being a member of a church is not about what we get.

Being a member of a church (and Hope Church) is about what we give.

Membership is a commitment on the part of the member to be an active, growing, and contributing part of the local expression of the Body of Christ. Members of a church are to be unified in creating a ministry space that is welcoming to those who are not believers or members. In other words, membership in a church means that we understand that the church is not what I want. Membership means we are committed to working together in how God is calling us to reach the community and world around us.

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Good News Out of China


News broke this morning that China is officially ending their “One-Child” Policy. This policy has been in effect for 35 years in an effort to stem over population and over taxing the economy. China now has a growing economy and an aging work force- so this, in part is an economic decision to have a younger workforce.

The consequences of the policy are well known: Small families, abandoned babies, forced abortions and sterilizations, and heavy fines for those who have a second child. In recent years, the policy was relaxed and some families could have a second child if they were the product of a one-child family (along with the payment of some hefty fees).

As parents of an adopted son from China, we will never no why our son ended up in our family. It certainly could have been a result of the one-child policy (though hard to say with certainty). Our hope is that this change in policy will decrease the number of orphans in China and create new opportunities for families to welcome children into their families.

China is a beautiful country with beautiful people. Perhaps this is the beginning of seismic change where some of the chains that keep the population bound can be loosened. Perhaps it is an opportunity of the Gospel to continue to thrive by coming above ground as people hear about the ultimate family- the family of God.

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Happy Family Day!

Family Picture from July 2015

Family Picture from July 2015

Today is the one year anniversary of Malachi joining our family. I cannot believe that it has been a year already. There has been so much change and growth in him and in our family. I’ve tried writing this post multiple times, but cannot really put into words what it has been like to have Malachi in our family- especially to see the way he has grown over the last year.

Perhaps the biggest change is that Andrea and I have gone from being caregivers to Malachi to being “Mommy” and “Daddy.” In the beginning, Malachi stayed close to us because he was in a world that was foreign and around people who sounded and looked different than him. This began to change around January of last year. This summer, we’ve seen another big move forward in his attachment to us as parents. One only needs to see the smiles when he calls our names and gives out hugs. We are truly blessed!

While here is a lot of joy celebrating Malachi being part of our family, he also had to lose everything in order to be part of our family. Today, we are praying for Malachi’s birth parents. We do not know their names, bu God does.

Words probably cannot express the last year the way that pictures can- so here are some pictures of our journey over the last year.

Picture from Malachi's file. This was our first look at him in May 2014

Picture from Malachi’s file. This was our first look at him in May 2014. The picture was from earlier in the year.

Andrea's first time holding Malachi on September 15, 2014.

Andrea’s first time holding Malachi on September 15, 2014.

Malachi at Fifer's Fall Fest in October 2015

Malachi at Fifer’s Fall Fest in October 2014

Bath time is one of Malachi's favorite times! January 2015

Bath time is one of Malachi’s favorite times! January 2015

Malachi received leg braces in May 2015 to help straighten and strengthen his legs.

Malachi received leg braces in May 2015 to help straighten and strengthen his legs.

2nd birthday for Malachi! (first with our family)

2nd birthday for Malachi! (first with our family)

Even little hipsters need to brush their teeth before going to bed.

Even little hipsters need to brush their teeth before going to bed.

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Pastor Confession

It’s time for a pastor confession…

…I like shiny things.

Whether it’s a new gadget, music, or something else, there is something that lures me in.

I wrestle with this in ministry as well. I have a pull to want worship to be shiny, new, attractive, and cutting edge. If it were up to me, especially a few years ago, I would have a Chris Tomlin/Hillsong United kind of band leading worship (probably scoring a lot of points on Jon Acuff’s metrosexual worship leader scale). Worship would feature slick transitions and great visuals.

My struggle is that while sounding good (and even looking good) is not wrong- I want to be authentic.

Our family attended a church this summer while on vacation. It was our third summer visiting the church. (In fact, when the pastor greeted us he asked, “Aren’t you the family that comes once a year while on vacation?”  My response- “Yes we are!”) When the service began, the worship team was your somewhat typical 20-something hipster dress. The keyboardist/worship leader wore a hat that I could never wear. There were sound problems. The segues weren’t smooth (in fact, there weren’t any, really). But worship that day was moving- because it was authentic. It was a bit messy. It was hopeful. It was seeking Jesus.

As we begin our Fall season of ministry at Hope and Magnolia church, I want to be authentic in worship- in joy, mourning, brokenness, and laughter. I hope that you’ll join me (wherever you worship) in a deep hunger for God to move in our lives.

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The Power of Small Things

File Aug 03, 10 22 07 AM

We are in week two of our series At The Movies at Hope Church and Magnolia United Methodist Church. Each week we are looking at a movie as a parable that can open up dialogue to teach us something about ourselves and about God. This past Sunday, we discussed the Marvel Comic movie, Ant-Man.

What is important to know about Ant-Man is that he is an ordinary guy looking to be a better father and to atone for the mistakes of his past. He has no superhero powers until he puts on a special suit- which transforms him into the size of an ant. His small size allows him to do things that he wouldn’t otherwise be able to do if he were larger. Small things can make a big impact.

In our Christian lives, I think we can often struggle with fleshing out how Jesus makes a difference in our day-to-day living. Certainly, we are forgiven of our sins and called sons and daughters of the King. But how does that look on a daily basis?

Paul, writing to the church at Colosse, tells them about how to live in harmony with one another. He tells the believers that their lives are to be hidden in Christ- which is a beautiful image that other people should see Jesus in our living since our lives are hidden in Jesus. Paul writes to “put to death” sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed”- and to rid ourselves of “anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language.” This is our old life.

Instead, we are to “put on” or “clothe ourselves” with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

Paul doesn’t tell the believers to preach to the masses or to hand out tracts to show a life hidden in Christ. He says to be kind. Be compassionate. Live with humility. Be gentle and patient. Bear with one another even when someone hurts you. Forgive as God has forgiven us.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that my mom told me to do those things, too! It’s not rocket science. What a difference it makes when we show someone an extra measure of kindness, or patience (or when someone shows us extra patience!). Showing other people Jesus through our lives does not have to be difficult. It starts with the small things. Small things can make a big impact!

*To hear this sermon and others, visit hopedover.com to listen to archived sermons.

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