Living as a contrasting/inspiring/beautiful Community (Romans 12:14-17)

Here’s my sermon from today.

It’s true that sometimes community doesn’t always work out right. Emily and I were a part of a small house church a few years back that used the word “community” as a kind of buzz word but it became rather oppressive because the leader want to maintain total control. So the word “community” can also be used to disguise for people out of step with what it really means. But then there are other times that it not only works, but everything flows just right, and the choreography of a community working together for a common cause turns out to be beautiful.

Continue reading Living as a contrasting/inspiring/beautiful Community (Romans 12:14-17)

Bookface and The Internet Cafe

Today we had our meeting for worship and I spoke on Hospitality based in Romans 12:9-13. Afterward we did a our second “Internet Cafe,” something I made sure to name in a way that would signal my favorite things: the web, food and coffee. This is something we started a few months back as a fun way to learn about using the social web: we make sandwiches, I plug my macbook into our projector and we gather around and discuss using the web.  The first time we did it we discussed our meeting’s blog, RSS feeds, and podcasts. I think it was good not only to help people understand some of the basics of the Web but we’ve seen our blog getting a pretty good amount of use as well, which I assume has something to do with learning how to use it. Continue reading Bookface and The Internet Cafe

Let's have an Christmas this year ChristmasRecently on twitter I said something I’m sure lost me a few followers,  “Let’s make it an amazon free Christmas.” (Though I don’t doubt I say plenty of things on any given day that make people wonder why they associate with me!). But in either case, it’s true, let’s boycott Amazon and every other big corporate chain store this Christmas! This is really how I feel these days. I’m tired of the big company’s crushing all these little local shops. Store after store in our little downtown of Camas is going under and I’ve already mentioned the major bone I have with what Amazon is doing to our independent bookstores. I’ve been boycotting Amazon for all my book buying at least since the time I wrote that post in favor of shopping at places like Fuller Seminary Bookstore, Powell’s books or Abebooks online. But I want to extend this challenge beyond just books to everything that can be purchased on

One thing I find rather tragic is just how many people Christian bloggers are in bed with Amazon. It’s really surprising that even some of the most alternative thinking folks I know become very mainstream when it comes to getting the cheapest possible books (or other products) they can find, or making money on every book link they have in a post (most often with no disclaimers anywhere).

But I should be up front, I really don’t like any big box stores: Wal-Mart, Target, Whole Foods, you name it (though you will spot me at some of these from time to time, I honestly try and avoid them as much as possible).  And I am already boycotting Amazon, so I’m  not generally tempted to shop there; I guess this makes my challenge more of an open invitation than a personal one. I started turning against these, what we might call, homogeneous consumption troughs back when I was in high-school back in Alliance Ohio. We watched Wal-Mart move in, and destroy tons of the local businesses in our small town and in my estimation Alliance has never fully recovered (here’s an interesting profile of a woman who worked at that particular store). That one experience left me a little bitter and started me on another path: I start looking for different ways (and places) to spend my money to support businesses I believed in.

Let’s face it is the Wal-Mart of the Web. They are taking over, cutting costs, and helping to finish off whatever is left of small town America. In the film “What Would Jesus Buy?” Rev. Billy has a funeral for small town America next to the Wal-Mart headquarters; I’d be interested in having an online (blog) funeral for the same thing Amazon is doing to local bookstores, music stores, and everybody else they’ve set their sights on (I highly recommend the film).

Of course, one response to my Amazon-free Christmas twitter remark was fair enough: “The people who supply to or work for Amazon don’t need the money?” He’s right, yes, they most certainly do, or at least some of them do. But why not go directly to the company, or person selling the good and cutting the middle person out? Further, do you really need that thing you’re buying from Amazon in the first place? Surely you’re not purchasing most items to benefit the other person, so one of our first questions should always be: do I need to buy this thing in order to have what possessing it promises? I’ve found that so many of the things I really need, I can find used on craigslist, at a garage sale, or from a friend who is no longer using it (church email groups are great for this kind of thing!). And of course there’s the whole “You don’t need to buy a gift to give a gift,” line that Rev. Billy preaches that is about as Gospel as they come. Making gifts are really one of the best ways to go. Why spend a lot of money (or any!) on Christmas, is that what it’s all about?

But then I ran across this post on the lives of workers and things start to look even less favorable for the corporation ironically named after the very thing it is helping to decimate (paper anyone?). Here are some of the conditions reported from warehouses in the UK that the post highlights:

– Warned that the company refuses to allow sick leave, even if the worker has a legitimate doctor’s note. Taking a day off sick, even with a note, results in a penalty point. A worker with six points faces dismissal.

– Made to work a compulsory 10-hour overnight shift at the end of a five-day week. The overnight shift, which runs from Saturday evening to 5am on Sunday, means they have to work every day of the week.

– Set quotas for the number of items to be picked or packed in an hour that even a manager described as ‘ridiculous’. Those packing heavy Xbox games consoles had to pack 140 an hour to reach their target.

– Set against each other with a bonus scheme that penalises staff if any other member of their group fails to hit the quota.

– Made to walk up to 14 miles a shift to collect items for packing.

– Given only one break of 15 minutes and another of 20 minutes per eight-hour shift and told they had to notify staff when going to the toilet. Amazon said workers wanted the shorter breaks in exchange for shorter shifts.

Inside The Lives Of Warehouse Employees

Now certainly this is just one report and doesn’t cover every warehouse they have (though the are lawsuits in the US for some of the same issues), but let’s not lose the point: these are not statistics that should be popping up in the warehouses of such rich corporations like Amazon (the way they do with Wal-Mart, etc).  I want to raise a basic question about shopping online: with an even greater amount of anonymity that the Web provides businesses, in what ways are you being careful about the impact of shopping for really cheap things from some other states and countries and how it impacts your local communities (and Does it matter to you?) But also, what about that company’s business practices and how it treats its employees, will you support (i.e. give your money to) a company that treats its employees poorly, runs them into the ground and takes advantage of them? At least with Wal-Mart you can walk in and take a look at how people are being treated, and you can ask the employees how things are going for them. Of course, if we know the answer will we respond? This is generally not the case for our online shopping and Amazon is starting to get in trouble for some of its poor working conditions. Let’s respond this year.

So I reassert my challenge, Let’s have an Christmas this year.

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Organizing Ministry in DevonThink Pro

[This is a tutorial on software I use for writing and organization.] When I started pastoring I created a DEVONthink database for all things ministry oriented ((See my other posts on DTP here and here). I personally use a handful of databases regularly to help me keep things organized: academics, publishing, home, blogging, and dissertation (for an alternative approach to this see Tony Stewards’ helpful video). Well, after 6 months my ministry database is growing quickly enough that I’ve had to rethink some of how I organize it. Currently, this is my system (though I’m open for more suggestions):DTP

And here are some of the folders expanded:


My admin folder contains things like elder’s minutes, expenses, membership, my minister’s manual I am compiling, a journal, etc. The missional folder is essentially my projects folder, everything that relates to life in and outside the meeting but that doesn’t pertain to sermons, worship services, etc. I also have a sermons folder, a services folder, and a workshop/retreat folder. (I have to admit I am tempted to change my structure to admin, ethics, doctrine, and witness following James McClendon’s three strands. Ethics would include peace and social concerns type stuff. Doctrine would include membership, manuals, and sermons. And community would include services, retreats, and other things like that. Witness would be all the cultural and missional projects the meeting is involved in.)

What I am most interested in at the moment is organizing my sermons folder. I had been doing everything by month, but realized that it would make it difficult to maintain that kind of folder structure the longer I preach. So I asked my twitter friends what they have found helpful. I didn’t get a lot of responses but I found these helpful:


@cwdaniels, I organized all mine by books. And then usually under topics in that book


@cwdaniels Re: organizing sermons – Folders named with main scripture passage. You can always sort by date using Finder.


@cwdaniels I use a Pulse smartpen and Evernote. Upload notes from the smartpen and copy to evernote according to series. How bout you?


RT @tonysteward @cwdaniels how do U organize UR sermons? // “2009-11-23 Dying to Self”; Apple Spotlight lets me search content if needed

Using DEVONthink to organize your Sermons

The beauty of DEVONthink is that it’s really easy to manage a lot of information and a variety of files types. I use the universal inbox and bookmarklet to pull in images, quotes, documents, pdfs and other information I find on the web (or type of myself in a word processor). These ideas go into either the inbox to be filed later or my folder “Bag o’ tricks.” This folder is for inspiration, examples, parables, and other things that may (or may) not get tied into a sermon or put to use somewhere else.

I’ve got a sermon ideas folder to help with series and other possible messages I am putting together in the future (my goal is to have a basic framework of themes for a years work of sermons together), all that future oriented planning goes into this folder. Finally, I decided to scrap the date model I was previously using due to @ego093 recommendation and just use the “date modified” button if I need to sort dates (you can do this in search mode as well). So the way I am organizing my sermons goes first and foremost by book of the Bible, unless it is in a series then I organize it there first. I can then drop it in by topic if it fits nicely into a potential broad-based biblical theme. The strength of DTP is that it can “replicate” files, so you can select the files from one folder and add them to another without actually duplicating that file (i.e. making your database file size larger). Once your folders are somewhat populated DTP’s artificial intelligence will also help to auto-classify your files suggesting what folders they should go to. I spent about 20 min. today and cleared out my inbox with 70+ files using this feature and it made it much easier to move through and organize everything I had recently collected in there.

Another strength of DTP is that it has a very useful search, can scan in documents and make the text searchable, and the data in your databases are searchable via spotlight as well. Thus, this system has worked very well for me and has enabled me to not pile up too much unnecessary paperwork in my filing cabinet.

If you’re a pastor, a student, a writer, etc. what’s worked for you in keeping all your ideas, examples, stories, and other notes easily manageable (whether you have DTP or not)?

Limiting Access: Flickr and Archiving Our Children's Lives

4073512633_721c123c73_bI’ve been pretty open about sharing our lives online. I regularly post photos on flickr, videos on vimeo, post updates to twitter and facebook and even blog here (on this blog and our family blog “Weird Fishes”) and there about what’s going on with our family. But It’s been an uneasy tension for me. How much of my personal life should be online, how much, and what should remain more-or-less anonymous. For instance, when our daughter was born (almost two years ago?!) we had decided we wouldn’t use her real name online so I posted her full name in an image so friends could get a glimpse, left it on the blog for a day, and then removed the image so Google couldn’t pick up the text. So even though our daughter, who simply goes by ‘L’ on the web, is online in a lot of places, her name doesn’t appear in search engines (so far). I think that’s great, but as she’s getting older, and as our second daughter is due to be born in the next month I’ve been thinking even more about scaling back.

Then after reading the article “Guardians of Their Smiles” in the NY Times we decided to change the privacy settings on our family photos on flickr. It used to be just a site for photos that I took but more and more it is just photos of our family, so I feel that the added privacy is not a bad idea. In the article a woman using flickr to post photos of her daughter discovered that her daughter’s photos were being used in a malicious way on another social networking site.

Now, I am no alarmist and I am not about to get all privacy this and that on you, but I appreciated the question my friend Photo on 2009-09-07 at 09.50 #5Fernando put to me on twitter: “it’s about giving people control over their “digital destiny.” How will the stuff we post hit our kids future relationships?” And this is really it for me. Not only do we not know what it’s like to have our entire lives archived online, we are the ones choosing what to post and what not to post for the public. As I described above, I wrestle with how much to hold back, and how much to announce to the world. I don’t have other people posting my life online for me as many parents (including yours truly) do these days. So I think it’s not a bad idea to slow down, reflect on the questions at hand, and consider limiting family-sharing stuff to friends and family.I think it’s fine to post some things publically, as I’ve shown here with the photo above, so I’m really thinking more in terms of something like flickr acting more like an archive than shared note here and there. I’ll leave the archiving up to my daughters when they’re ready to do it themselves (Lord knows Google’s got a nice archive on me).

What do you think? How have you navigated these questions?

Interventions: Jesus and the New Family (Pt 2)

This is my reflections on Luke 14:25-35 from September 20th, 2009 and is in two parts, both work independently from one another. Part one has been published here.

It was originally titled: Interventions: Discipleship and the Disavowal of all that Obstructs

This part about hating families is at least for me, the most troubling part of the what Jesus says here. This hating business isn’t something that sits well with my 2009 sensibilities: It doesn’t sound very PC Jesus!

How many of you have scratched your heads at this passage before?

What have been some of the ways you’ve thought about it?

It seems to me that this passage on family is very important for understanding this broader call of discipleship and the decisive break that it entails.

There are plenty of ways in which what I believe and what I practice create tension within my own family, and I am sure that you have experienced many of these difficulties as well.

In discipleship with Jesus there will always be a disavowal, often many disavowals.

One meaning of Disavowal is to deny any responsibility or support for something else. It’s a denial of allegiance, it’s a matter of breaking loyalty, or experiencing as I said above, a breach.

Jesus knew, and even experienced in the Gospels, the fact that family networks and possessions can often obstruct our discipleship to Christ.

Joel Green writes:

“Particularly in Jesus’ story of the great banquet 14:15-24, he had introduced the possibility that one’s ties to possessions and family mght disqualify one from enjoying the feast. As Jesus turns to address the crowds traveling with him, he lists allegiance to one’s family network and the shackles that constitute one’s possessions as impediments to authentic discipleship.” 564

But ultimately, if we can move beyond this idea of the fricition follow Jesus creates in our lives, what he is getting at here is not just disagreements that may call our faith and callings into question, here he breathes into existence a entirely new family rooted where God alone is father.

This passage is about exiting one family and joining that new family. But this new family requires a disavowal of the old.

In Jesus’ time, as in our own, a “high cultural value [that was] placed on family network:”

“In this context, “hate” is not primarily an affective quality but a disavowal of primary allegiance to one’s kin. In a way consistent with other teaching in Luke, then, Jesus underscores how discipleship relativizes one’s normal and highly valued loyalities to normal family and other social ties.” (Green)

These family networks, these possessions, even, as with the legal experts, the pharisees and the saducess, our “right beliefs” will mean noting before God. What matters is one’s life and the fruit they produce in complete loyalty to Jesus’ and the reign of God.

In Jesus’ command to “hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters,” there is an utterance that breathes into existence a new family, one that is not bound by blood, protection, patriarchalism, or possessions, but one that is completely voluntary, rooted in practices of the kingdom of God like hospitality and generosity, and marked by love for enemies. This is truly a love without measure.

He was thus replacing patriarchialism, there are now no fathers “with paternity under God.” There is now only one father, the One in heaven who we call abba. The one who we pray to when we say, “Our father in the heavens…” (Ryan Bolger)

This call would have no doubt been rather challenging in such a patriarchical and hierachical culture as 1st cenury AD. Jesus “called his disciples out of patriarchial backgrounds and introduced a “more collegial grouping that would challenge the empire and its way of thinking” (Bolger, 59). He was thus replacing patriarchialism, there are now no fathers “with paternity under God.” There is now only one father, the One in heaven who we call abba. The one who we pray to when we say, “Our father in the heavens…”

In the same way that “Jesus’ ‘followers are not to take titles…are to maintain domination-free relationships in a disciple of equals that includes women. They must do away with the hierarchical of master and slave, teacher and student'” (Bolger).

So in the renouncing of familial ties and possessions, Jesus saying these things are invalid but was “redrawing them, redefining them in order to create ‘something new out of the old.”‘ (Bolger). He redrew these lines and is now head of the table; as the Quaker mantra goes: “it is Christ himself who has come to lead us and teach us.”

Bonhoeffer wrote:

“But the same Mediator who makes us individuals is also the founder of a new fellowship. He stands in the centre between my neighbour and myself. He divides, but he also unites. Thus although the direct way to our neighbour is barred, we now find the new and only real way to him – the way which passes through the Mediator.”

This new fellowship, the new family of God is voluntary but those who volunteered, volunteered for a new life that requires a new lifestyle. “Jesus formed a comunity under God as opposed to existing authority structures; this new family would bring forth the kingdom of God.”

Not everyone followed Jesus to Jerusalem and lived his nomadic life but we shouldn’t be distracted by that fact. Some stayed home, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t also follow him where they lived.

Gerhard Lohfink writes:

The majority remained with their families. But the families of those who remained home were transformed. They became more disposable, more open. They no longer revolved merely around themselves. They offered hospitality to Jesus and his messengers. They entered relationships with one another. Or, in contrast to this, just the opposite happened. Families divided within themselves. Jesus and his movement became a sign of contradiction. Many individuals separated themselves from the old structures and joined the new family of which Jesus spoke. Thus there arose in the midst of ancient Israel – unobtrusively at first and yet irreversibly – the new society planned by God. (44).

Ultimately, this call for a costly discipleship, one that really challenges our loyalties, our allegiances is a call to the Disavowal of all that Obstructs. It is also a call to join a new family, a new people, the people of God who live out a constrast-society, where we may even be joined again by those in our family. But let’s also remember that in our day family may or may not hold powerful influence over us, there are many allegiances we do have that we place all our loyalty in.


  • What does it look like for us to live as this new family?
  • What is our response to Jesus’ words this morning?
  • What are the things Jesus would call us to disavow in our time?

The Unlikely Hero of Psalm 85:1-2

St. Florian's psalter, XIV/XV c.
Image via Wikipedia

“LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin.” (Psalms 85:1-2 NRSV)

Jacob wasn’t exactly a hero in the biblical narrative, at least when you look at even a cursory review of his “adventures” leave him to be a pretty suspect character. He refused to give his hungry brother stew unless he could have Esau’s birthright in exchange (is this the birth of capitalism?), he schemed with his mother Rebekah and then lied directly to Isaac so that he could receive his father’s blessing, and I don’t need to mention (though of course that’s what I’m about to do) the tragic instance that took place with his daughter Dinah.   Yet isn’t it this Jacob whose name is repeatedly invoked in the “God of Abraham,  Isaac, and Jacob”? And of course, Jacob is Israel and the Israelites are God’s people. Jacob is an unlikely hero but he isn’t the only one. Continue reading The Unlikely Hero of Psalm 85:1-2