An Inward Sea by Howard Thurman

There is in every person an inward sea, and in that sea there is an island and on that island there is an altar and standing guard before that altar is the ”angel with the flaming sword.” Nothing can get by that angel to be placed upon that altar unless it has the mark of your inner authority. Nothing passes ”the angel with the flaming sword” to be placed upon your altar unless it be a part of ”the fluid area of your consent.” This is your crucial link with the Eternal.

Source: Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart

Recently a friend shared this with a group I was with and it has stuck with me ever since. It is a powerful image and progression that moves to the inwardmost parts. The piece that really connects with me right now is that “nothing can get by that angel to be place upon that altar,” nothing…

New Book on Revelation “Resisting Empire” Coming Soon

Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation, my new book on Revelation, is coming soon from Barclay Press.

I’ve been working on a book about Revelation that offers a different perspective then the “Revelation as End-of-the-World” interpretation.

This book, Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation, published by Barclay Press, is coming out very soon and I wanted to give you a heads up to start watching out for it. It is in e-book form and will be available as an e-pub through Barclay Press, on Amazon, and, as I understand it, through the Our Bible App.

The general premise of the book is that Revelation, drawing on a number of other scholars, doesn’t have anything to do with predicting the end of the world, but rather is about how small, marginalized faith communities resisted and survived empire. The book lays out four practices that the author of Revelation points out are necessary for doing this.

You can read more about the book over on this guest column I wrote for Guilford College Gazette.

Stay tuned, I’ll announce when the book is officially out.

Four Key Aspects to Understanding Renewal in Faith Communities

“Kindness eases change
Love quiets fear”
― Octavia E. Butler

In a lot of my classes and work at Guilford College, I talk about renewal. I think that much of my work is focused around renewal, not because of a failure in the institution but because change is constant, change is inevitable, and with each new shift in leadership, change can be dramatic. These shifts unfold within the larger community and political systems in coordinated and inevitable. Therefore, some intentional approach to renewal is needed and necessary.

Without renewal we get stuck in the past.
Without renewal we devalue all that has been done before us.
We need someways of approach change-work that helps us hold these various pieces of the puzzle together.

Plenty of books have been written on the subject, including my own, which most readers of this blog are familiar with. A few other books that have been instructive to me in the past are: Managing Transitions by William and Susan; A Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman; and Originals by Adam Grant.*

Regardless of what you draw on when you are working within a community, large or small, you will draw on something. We all have our own desires, ethics, and biases. If we’re not paying attention and being intentional with what we do and how we approach this work, it is very possible that we can do more harm than good. Secondly, while it is important to be aware of the things we bring to this work, it is equally important to know what the communities we are in or are working with bring. What are their own contexts, histories, biases, successes and failures? How will all of this play into the final mix?

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Pedro the Lion Rises from the Ashes With Phoenix

With ‘Phoenix’, Pedro the Lion’s David Bazan Emerges from the Mines of His Interiority : NPR:

By offering up his own interior narrative, Bazan holds a mirror to the self-mythologizing we all do in retracing our own steps. To write Phoenix, Bazan spent time in the namesake city; the soaring “My Phoenix” is the kind of anthem that will resonate with anyone who’s left his or her hometown, then returned for holidays, births or funerals. The whole thing clashes and clamors, but a sentimental tug remains, even as that sense of connection and belonging diminishes over time.

There’s bound to be baggage when you go back to a place — both emotionally and geographically — from your past. For both longtime followers and Bazan himself, the record serves as an opportunity, a chance to revisit a place and assess what, in retrospect, has shaped its creator. Phoenix is an unflinching invitation to Bazan’s own personal reckoning. He’s still analyzing the motivations, decisions and actions that have come to define his own history, but in recasting his origin story, he’s also offering the audience an open door.

I cannot get enough of David Bazan’s new album. It’s deep and wide sonically as well as in meaning. Bazan is firing on all cylinders, it’s like he’s tapped into something that has re-energized him. I’m particularly drawn to Quietest Friend where he sings the lines, “I traded my inner wisdom for a jury of my peers.” This has been ringing in my ears since I first heard it. Thank you, David for this album.

Becoming Facebook Free

I’ve struggled with Facebook for some time. For about the last 2.5 years, I’ve basically wanted to deactivate my account and have even downloaded all my information from it more than once in preparation but then I chickened out or lost my motivation. So I’ve settled on not using it but still having an account. By “Not Using It” I mean, that I literally go weeks without checking anything on it, at most spending 5-10 mins a week clearing out notifications just to make sure I didn’t miss something that needs my attention, and removing the app from my iOS devices. But the reality is, I really don’t like Facebook and don’t want to be on there but feel that in some way I’m obligated to have an active profile there.

I don’t like it for three main reasons:

  • I think it is an attention black hole
  • I have found it to have largely negative impacts on community and face-to-face relationships
  • I think Facebook is increasingly unethical and corrupt and I don’t like what they’re doing with our data

To this third point, there is a lot of data and journalism that’s been written about Facebook’s impact on political ads and the presidential campaign, Cambridge Analytica, and more. 2018 was a particularly terrible year for Facebook in terms of their ethical screw-ups. If you are unfamiliar with these events, here are few articles that outline what I’m talking about:

And here are a couple podcasts from Note To Self on what Facebook does with our data, which I find equally troubling:

For me, I can’t help but feel like using this platform is a vote for the platform, no matter what small goods may come from trying to leverage it. This makes me uncomfortable, and yet, I still feel tied to it like so many.

Things shifted for me recently after listening to one of my favorite podcasts called “Rework” by the folks at Basecamp, a company whose values I am inspired by. Their recent episode, “100% Facebook-Free” was deeply motivating. See their post here that goes into a little more detail on the subject.

I was impressed that a business as big as theirs was willing to make a stand against these actions by pulling their company off all of Facebook’s apps: Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp.

Here is how they describe “being a Facebook-free business.”

Being a Facebook-Free Business means your customers can trust that you aren’t collaborators with the Facebook machine. That when you spend your money with a Facebook-Free Business, none of that money will find its way back to Facebook’s coffers.

The rules are pretty simple. Being Facebook Free means:

  1. We do not buy advertisement on Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, or WhatsApp.
  2. We do not use Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, or WhatsApp to promote or represent our business or to communicate with our customers.
  3. We do not assist Facebook in its data collection regime through use of Facebook social Like buttons or by offering Facebook logins.

In short, that the business does not use Facebook or its subsidiaries in any way shape or form to operate, further, or conduct itself.

This all got me thinking about the small steps I could take to get off of Facebook. I tend to think in terms of all-or-nothing and that has made it hard for me to act, but when I think about this blog and my small coffee roasting hobby as two places I could start, I realized I could make some movement. And the values behind both these sites are not reflected in what FB stands for anyway. So last week, I went through Gathering In Light and I removed all FB like links from the site so that FB cannot track your data here. Next, I deleted both Gathering In Light and Fireweed Coffee Pages from Facebook. The next step is to build my email list for Fireweed and then remove it from Instagram (My hope is to do that sometime in the coming months). Because it is so small, something like IG does help with my communication and promotion. However, with a little more work, I can strengthen visibility in alternative ways, making it easier to cut loose from these platforms.

I wanted to share these thoughts with you not because I hope you’ll necessarily follow me in taking these steps, but more to share the process I’m going through to my online life and IRL in alignment with each other. And also to communicate, if you notice why I am not present on some of these other platforms as much or at all. I’m interested in hearing how others process this information and if you’ve taken any steps to protect yourself, your data, and others online as well.

End of the Year Reflections

We had some friends over for New Year’s, which was a lot of fun and just the right way to close out the year. Having a variety of people from across various social groups gather and enjoy one another’s company was a very real way for us to see how far we’ve come in Greensboro over the past 3.5 years. We really are starting to root ourselves, build community, and make this place home.

Finding New Ways to “Not Always Be Working”

In keeping with some of the things I’ve been reflecting on since reading marlee grace’s book, How To Not Always Be Working, over break, I decided to take the opportunity of having a little get together at the house to do something I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while: smoke meat on my charcoal grill. I think this is part of my learning more about Southern culture, and partly because I really love smoke meats that I thought it would be fun to try something new. So, I smoked a turkey. I found the process of learning about how to do it, reading a variety of recipes, and talking to people on the phone who I know are great at smoking meat (including my dad and a good friend who lives in town), really added a whole extra layer of interest to the adventure. It all turned out great, our friends loved it, and I found the whole experience to be a restful one, reminding me that rest can be something that comes in many forms. Here are some photos from the experience.

How about for you? If you have had a little time off over the holidays how did you spend your time? What did you do to rest and “not work?” Make a list of 3-5 things you did to rejeuvenate and stick that list in your notebook. Next time things get a little wild or stressful pull it out and do one of those things on the list. Or better yet, make it a habit to do some things each week that help you pull away from work so you can have increase your self-awareness and care.

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How to Not Always Be Working by Marlee Grace

I got this lovely little book for Christmas from a colleague and read it over break. How to Not Always Be Working: a toolkit for creativity and radical self-care by marlee grace is a gentle but profound book on the connections between, work, creativity, and caring for ourselves in this wild and fast-paced world we live in. The book is full of exercises to get you thinking, poems, stories, and anecdotes that help carry the writer’s overall message. I found grace’s voice to be patient, self-aware, and conversational. As someone who has read and thought a lot about these themes, she held my interest and brought me new insights. I’m grateful for this little book and glad to have read it as we enter a new year. I recommend it to everyone interested in these themes.