Category Archives: Reviews

The Power (and Difficulty) of Forgiveness

Of the many things to be considered today the thing that stands out to me as I sit down to write this is the film we watched this evening called “The Power of Forgiveness.” Four of us from our meeting traveled to St. Luke’s Episcopal in downtown Vancouver to watch this documentary on various (difficult) acts of forgiveness and how various religious (and non-religious) people have thought about the practice. The film discusses a number of different people who have wrestled with very difficult crimes against them. From the 2006 Amish school shootings in PA, to September 11 and even Auschwitz this film covers a lot of ground with a complex topic, but in a way that makes it real and palatable.  Continue reading

Favorite Music of 2009

Here’s a list of my favorite, or at least most listened to, albums from this past year.

Elvis Perkins In Dearland

Elvis Perkins in Dearland’s self-titled, second album arrived this year and it has been in constant rotation on the record player since it’s arrived. It is seriously one of our daughter’s favorite albums, she loves all the upbeat songs especially. I loved the first album, Ash Wednesday, and listened to it none stop while I was in England for three months. Whenever I listen to that album now I can’t help but remember that time in our lives, Emily was pregnant with our first daughter, and I was studying away at Woodbrooke making great life-long friends. Their sophomore effort is even better than the first, the songs are very diverse, deeply emotional, spiritual and psychological. Do yourself a favor and listen to them. Here’s how:

If you follow this link, you can preview a number of songs on google’s search page.

Here’s a full concert on NPR.

And here are two videos from the new album that are marvelous.


Continue reading

Freedom Friends Church Faith and Practice

Freedom Friends Church in Salem Oregon is currently an independent meeting that has recently written their own Faith and Practice. A number of Friends, Monthly Meetings and Yearly Meetings, have been interested in reading about this unique meeting and some of the practices they espouse. I have done a decent amount of research on the meeting for my our studies, comparing its similarities and differences with the emerging Church and the simple fact that they put together this book was very helpful for me.

They are releasing a hardcover version of it in the next week or so, here is the blurb I wrote for the back of the book:

Freedom Friends Church have created one of the first postmodern Quaker Faith and Practices to date. Here is a Faith and Practice that is creative and actually fun to read. This is because it is not only relevant both to the concerns of their own faith community and the larger societal context, it is also deeply rooted within the historical practices and theology of Friends. If there was any question whether the heartbeat of Quakerism still had a pulse, FFC has shown that the tradition is not just alive, it is kicking: the Quaker faith is indeed fit for the 21st century. This kind of hybrid Quakerism, this remix of tradition and innovation, is a promising future for the Friends Church.

Their Faith and Practice is well worth checking out.

Check Out The Kingdom Experiment (Book Review)

I recently subscribed to the new magazine Generate, which I highly recommend for all of you in church ministry and thinking about alternative, ‘emerging’ ways of ministry. It is a great magazine (first one just came out this fall). I read through the whole thing in an evening I enjoyed it so much!

Anyways, the great editors of Generate sent a gift to those of us who subscribed early (at least that’s how I understand it), a book called, The Kingdom Experiment. And I’ve read through most of that as well! Besides the book having a catchy cover and nice design inside (made by the same people who did the design for the book “Jesus for President.”), it’s a really great book I recommend you checking out. What I like about it is that it works through each of the beatitudes, it gives a good introduction into each phrase but then the rest of the chapter are suggested experiments to try that in one way or another embody that beatitude. I like the guidance the book gives while allowing for a great amount of creativity. They also suggest doing it with some friends and journaling along the way. I look forward to doing this with some of the Quakers at Camas.

From their website:

What is The Kingdom Experiment?

The people are starting to catch on. There’s this guy who has spent his life working in his dad’s wood shop, making beds, stools, and some real nice end tables. But, around the age of thirty he gets to thinking a career change is necessary. Only problem is he wants a position that is seemingly already filled, the job of priest. Doesn’t stop him. Call him an entrepreneur of sorts, cause he begins preaching and healing in ways no one has ever seen— without the employment of the temple. And to top it all off, he starts collecting a good fan base—lots of people begin showing up to all his public appearances.

One day, he climbs up on a mountain and says there is a new kingdom at hand, and that this kingdom will be contradictory to everything they have known before.

And the people get the feeling this is only the beginning. You see, they were expecting a king arriving in grand fashion, but instead they got a carpenter, turned speaker and healer, who was about to shake things up a bit.

The Kingdom Experiment is a challenge to live this kingdom intentionally. It won’t be easy. And it may get uncomfortable. But if you commit to live what a carpenter started 2000 years ago, you too will experience the kingdom He spoke of.

How it works:
1. Read and discuss each chapter with your group
2. Pick one of eight experiments (challenges to live intentionally) to do throughout the week.
3. Journal your thoughts and experiences
4. Share your experiences as a group the following week

The point of The Kingdom Experiment is community. And to share stories while we’re at it. To grapple with what “good news” means in the context of this specific time and place. The Kingdom Experiment is an 8-week challenge, but who says it has to end there. Hopefully, this way of living becomes a habit. We wouldn’t complain if it did.

You can get the book here. (But always support your local bookshop first if you can!)

Food, Inc. Documentary on Where Our Food Comes From (Review)

Official Food IncThe tag line for FOOD, inc. is “You’ll never look at your dinner the same way again,” and well, they’re right. This for some of you may be the very reason why you decide in advance to not watch it, or to not read the rest of this post, but let me encourage you to a little bravery: what is happening in our food industry, what is going into our food, what is happening to the earth hosting the growth of this food, what is happening to both the animals and the people who are growing and raising this food, and what’s happening to the people eating this food, is something that concerns you, your family, and our children future. This is the kind of stuff you really want to know about. And far from being a scare-feast, this film is well documented (and yes, some of the details are disputed as in all documentaries) and the big picture it paints is one of needed change, rather than simply doom and destruction. This is the kind of film that motivates, and leaves you, or it at least left me, feeling like I can actually do things to respond (that don’t all include shopping more!).

Food, Inc. is a 2008 documentary by the filmmaker Robert Kenner, which came out this June. It gives us a look into America’s food industry, where our food comes from, the conditions for both the workers and  animals on those industrial farms, and some of the bi-partisan politics behind what is happening. It is also recieving a lot of rave reviews (see listing below) at such sites like Rotten Tomatoes which has given it a score of 97/100,  the consensus being that it is: “An eye-opening expose of the modern food industry, Food, Inc. is both fascinating and terrifying, and essential viewing for any health-conscious citizen.”

The film really is an unveiling of much of what is going on behind closed doors (complete with footage from hidden cameras, etc.). There was a day and age when humans were directly connected to the our food source, we knew where it came from, we knew the names of the people who grew it (or were the ones growing it), and all this organic, free-range, grass-fed blah, blah, blah, needed no labels because it was the expected and natural way of life. But as Michael Pollan has said:

“The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000, but the image that’s used to sell the food … you go into the supermarket and you see pictures of farmers. The picket fence and the silo and the 1930s farmhouse and the green grass. The reality is … it’s not a farm, it’s a factory. That meat is being processed by huge multi-national corporations that have very little to do with ranches and farmers.”

Food, Inc. brings us into the stark reality of the multi-national, uber-powerful, industrialized food factories. It confronts us with some really difficult facts, images, and stories. At times during the film I felt scared because it feels so big, at other times I found hope because there are many stories in the film about what individuals and families are doing to respond. I found the story-telling to be powerful, the voices and people interviewed to be true-to-life, and the overall narrative to be not simply doom-and-gloom filmmaking but left me with the feeling of a heavy burden that needs to be and CAN be responded to. This is a well made film and not just informational but entertaining to watch. It is, in the words of the NY Times, truly and activist film. That is, it calls for action around a variety of deeply important issues.

Here are some of the more astonishing statistics from the film:

  • In the 1970s, the top five beef packers controlled about 25% of the market. Today, the top four control more than 80% of the market.
  • In the 1970s, there were thousands of slaughterhouses producing the majority of beef sold. Today, we have only 13.
  • Prior to renaming itself an agribusiness company, Monsanto was a chemical company that produced, among other things, DDT and Agent Orange.
  • In 1996 when it introduced Round-Up Ready Soybeans, Monsanto controlled only 2% of the U.S. soybean market. Now, over 90% of soybeans in the U.S. contain Monsanto’s patented gene.
  • The average American eats over 200 lbs. of meat a year.
  • During the Bush administration, the chief of staff at the USDA was the former chief lobbyist for the beef industry in Washington (And Obama is making similarly poor choices).
  • 1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 will contract early onset diabetes; Among minorities, the rate will be 1 in 2.
  • E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks have become more frequent in America, whether it be from spinach or jalapenos. In 2007, there were 73,000 people sickened from the E. coli virus.

My favorite part of the film was certainly Joel Salatin, a self-described “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist farmer” (who apparently loves Wendell Berry) and is well-known from Michael Pollan’s must read book, the Omnivore’s Dilema. In fact, my wife says Food, Inc. could be thought of the movie version of the book, so if you find yourself really interested in knowing more Pollan’s book would be a great next step after watching this. Anyways, Joel is kind of a super-hero when it comes to farming (see his webpage here). He’s growing everything as completely natural as possible, keeping a live the art of farming and gardening the way it was meant to be done. Joel’s approach is radically counter-cultural to the massive industrial sized meat-factories, and that’s the appeal. He’s actually making a living, loves his work, and enjoys educating others not on just what to eat, but how to really farm.

The film left me with lots of questions and a lot of energy to begin making even more concrete steps to eating well. We at the Daniels ranch at doubling our efforts to cut meat out of our diets (I ate meat at three meals this past week), supporting the local farmer we buy our eggs and most of our veggies from, and looking into ways that we can produce more of the things we want to eat. I find it really fulfilling to be more involved in these ways with our meals,  when we pray over dinner saying, “God, thank you for this food you’ve provided,” it feels more connected for me.

If you’re interested, here is a list of places where You can see the movie. Of course, you can always get it on Netflix and rent it (at the library for free) now that it’s out as well.

Here are some suggested responses.

Also, they recommend participating in Go Meatless on Mondays

A couple more reviews:

Dive! The Film: A Review of Jeremy Seifert's Documentary on Dumpster Diving

Dive!At Camas Friends Church, we’ve been doing a monthly film and discussion group we’re calling “Last Sundays for the Earth.” The purpose of the event is to watch a film, or have a person come in and facilitate a discussion, around issues in sustainable living (and what we can do about it as the church). The first film we watched was Al Gore’s documentary on Global Warming, “An Inconvenient Truth.” This last month we watched a film by a good friend of ours, Jeremy Seifert. Jeremy and I went to Fuller Seminary and church together. So I felt a personal connection to the film, plus most of the people in there are friends of ours!

Dive! is a documentary about dumpster diving, but it is about much more than that as well. It is about the hunger crisis in our nation, and world. It is about the amount of waste that we pile into our landfills at an alarming rate. It is about the realities of consumerism’s over-consumption and the impact this has in our day-to-day lives. But of course, this is all told while watching Jeremy and company dive in dumpsters.

As a documentary film it is well done. It is about 45 minutes long and not only holds the attention, it is both creative and provocative. There are a variety of statics drawn up using food items found in the dumpster, a great soundtrack (from Jeremy’s band Jubilee Singers), and lots of creative editing along the way. There are a number of intriguing interviews, and compelling research to go along with the issues this short film documents. The filmmaker obviously did his homework.

One thing that I find compelling about the film is that it is personal. Jeremy’s family and friends are involved, it is a glimpse into their actual lives. It is a personal film, a personal call from someone who is responding the best way he knows how. It’s not the kind of high brow morality that calls you to live a certain way while it’s obvious that the prophet isn’t doing it him or herself (and isn’t this one of the tensions in Gore’s film on global warming? All the audience knows that he flies all around the world piling up more carbon waste than many Americans will in a lifetime). There is no such thing in this film. So the film is close, it feels like something I can actually take part in, rather than something more abstract and distant like global warming. And surely, responding to the details of Dive! is in line with being conscious of the devastation of global warming.

Refreshingly, the film’s response doesn’t involve consumerism! Unlike so many “change the world” gimmicks, you don’t actually have to buy anything to respond to this film. In fact, there is no suggestion anywhere in this film that one should buy this or that in order to respond to hunger and waste, in fact, if there is a response it is to start buying less, scaling back, being careful of what it is you buy, what packaging it’s in, and making sure that you use what you have instead of throwing it away. Of course, another response is to become a freegan and start your own dumpster diving cohort.

Finally, one other thing I love about this film is that a genuine conversation takes place through the movie. It starts out with Jeremy and his friends dumpster diving, but over the course of the film you see that he is struck by the amount of waste they continue to find, this in conjunction with the growing food crisis that was all over the news last Autumn really woke Seifert up to what was happening in the world. He told me over the phone, “In the physical act of jumping in a dumpster and eating waste something happens, the reality strikes you of what is taking place.” This caused a kind of outrage for him. After quoting the answer to his question “What kind of society creates this much trash?” from Dr. Timothy Jones, “The kind of society that would waste this much food is one that doesn’t value the earth or the products it produces. It’s in our own personal detriment to continue the process,” Seifert told me that what needs to be regained is a sense of wonder and awe towards creation. Abraham  Joshua Heschel said, “Forfeit your sense of awe, let your conceit diminish your ability to revere, and the universe becomes a market place for you.”Getting that wonder back is essential. For Jeremy, “If you have that sense of awe and wonder and you see it being abused and mangled there’s that sense of outrage that leads to response.” And the rest of the film traces some of the personal response that he and his friends undertake.

Response? : Eat Trash

There are many things that can be done in response to what you learn in this film, but Here’s what he writes in his own words about response:

For me, an important first step to really caring about the issue of food waste was hopping in a dumpster, bringing home the food, and eating it. Eating trash is a subversive act. It goes against a culture of over-consumption and gratuitous wastefulness. Experience that initial rush, shame, fear, and exhilaration of “stealing” trash and eating it will change you in good ways.

Second, I think it’s important to go to your local grocery store and ask what they do with their food waste. They might not tell you. Or they’ll dodge the question by listing organizations to which they donate. Ask them about all the FRESH food–meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables. Ask them if they would be open to allowing you to pick this food up and bring it to a nonprofit that serves the needy. Do all of this with a pleasant tone, big smile, and servant’s heart.

Bring a copy of THE GOOD SAMARITAN ACT….download here.

Third, you’ll need a place to bring the food, so you’ll have to locate a shelter or food bank in your area that could use the food. This is where logistics comes into play. They’ll need to be able to immediately use or temporarily store fresh food….shelving space, refrigerators, freezers. This step actually happens at the same time as visiting your local grocery stores. You will probably need a letter from the shelter or food bank stating their needs, requesting donations, and naming you or your family/friends/organization/church as the volunteer designated to pick up the food.

The feedback from the film showing was tremendous. People seemed to love it. There was great conversation afterwards and a number of people felt like this is the kind of thing a lot of people can relate to and connect with.

I highly encourage you to find a screening near you or pick up the film for yourself and show it to your faith community, it will be well worth every minute.

Resources for Studying the Disciple's Prayer (Matthew 6 and Luke 11)

This Sunday morning we are beginning a series of discussions around the Disciple’s Prayer in Matt. 6-913 and Luke 11:1-4. The Our Father (Catholic) or Lord’s Prayer (Protestant) is also known among Quakers, and Anabaptists as the Disciple’s prayer, that is, it is the disciples who should be praying this prayer, and this one of the key points I will be stressing. The Disciple’s prayer, is a prayer of discipleship, it is meant to form us, both in the kinds of things we pray for (and the language that gets used) as well as the very way we live out those prayers. The prayer is something that I have deeply loved for a number of years and use daily in my own spiritual formation, so I really look forward to doing this. As many of you long-time Gathering In Light readers will know, it’s also something I’ve written on a lot.

Here’s a list of books ((Disclaimer – All links above include affiliate links to Powell’s, if you purchase a book at book after following a link of mine I received a small percentage of the sale. The money goes towards upkeep of the site and of course more books.)) I’m working with during the series, some explicitly deal with the prayer, others mention it, and others simply give background. I have placed stars by the ones that have been influential for my thinking up to this point on the subject.

Book List for The Lord’s Prayer

Elton Trueblood – The Lord’s Prayers

James William McClendon Jr.

  • Systematic Theology Volume 1: Ethics
  • Systematic Theology Volume 2: Doctrine*

James Mulholland – Praying Like Jesus

Stanely Hauerwas and William Willimon – Lord, Teach Us: The Lord’s Prayer and the Christian Life

NT Wright – The Lord and His Prayer

W. D. Davies – International Commentary on Matthew 1-7

Dallas Willard – The Divine Conspiracy*

Gerhard Lohfink – Jesus And Community*

Glen Stassen and David Gushee – Kingdom Ethics

John Howard Yoder – The Politics of Jesus

Joel Green – Commentary on Luke*

Do you have any favorites?