Book I Read in 2013

My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern BelieverKnowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual KnowledgeInsurrection: To Believe Is Human To Doubt, DivineEmerging Prophet: Kierkegaard and the Postmodern People of God
The Skeptical Believer: Telling Stories to Your Inner AtheistChristology and ScienceThe Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond BeliefThe Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction
Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life EvangelismThe Open SecretHolding Your Family Together: 5 Simple Steps to Help Bring Your Family Closer to God and Each OtherAnatheism: Returning to God After God
The Battle of Corrin (Legends of Dune, #3)The Machine Crusade (Legends of Dune, #2)Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (Gospel & Our Culture)The Fault in Our Stars
To Live as Francis Lived: A Guide For Secular FranciscansA Year of Biblical WomanhoodThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessWhen "Spiritual but Not Religious" Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church
The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy, and FaithThe Bible, Christianity, & HomosexualityI Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't): Making the Journey from "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough"The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in CommunityPastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint

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“this i believe” an Advent Experiment

This advent our congregation will be gathering for soup suppers, holden evening prayer, and a reflection.  We will be modeling the reflection on the radio program “This I Believe.”

One of the things I really like about this experiment is that we are not giving much guidance besides the suggested guidelines for how to write the essay. Mainly this is just helpful hints since the essay can only be 350-500 words.
The essay can be about whatever the author wants to talk about, we have not limited it to faith statements or beliefs about God. In fact, I hope people talk about politics, food, forgiveness, purpose, community, science, or whatever deeply held belief that they hold.

My hope is that our community learns something new about the presenters. In a community where people have known each other for a long time, I hope that they are surprised by what they learn about their friends.  I hope that they are challenged and inspired and find themselves praising God for the diverse community in which they reside. But, most of all, I hope that hope is birthed in them.


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I’ve got this thing about embarrassing comedy

I am unable to watch people embarrass themselves, even in purposeful comic situations. The American version of the television show “The Office” was so painful for me to watch. Every time Steve Carell’s character did something embarrassing, which was all the time, I turned away. I couldn’t look at the screen. It was like if I didn’t look at the screen my I saved him from the shame that he was putting himself through.

I’ve done this in lectures too. In school, if there was a question that was particularly ridiculous, I couldn’t look at the person asking or the teacher. I had to avert my eyes. It was too painful to watch.

Does anyone else do this?  Why? Are you able to name what is happening inside you when this happens?

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Cute Aggression

I was recently watching a Youtube channel called Soul Pancake and came across this…


What I found so interesting is that people are starting to look into that feeling people get when we see a baby who is so cute that you want to bite his/her face. I know that I really have this with my two children and really tiny babies.  My Aunt Lupe, well, let’s say it’s an art for her. She is a connoisseur of such a feeling, indulging many different layers and textures as if it where a transcendent experience.

Until now, I have have never heard an English word for this feeling. The word given is called, “Cute Aggression.”  I am glad that there is now a word in English for this feeling.  In Spanish it’s called “nervio.”  In Chamorro it’s called “magodai.” I think we can say that the U.S. is playing catch up here.

I wonder why, until now, there has been no English word for this.  Is it cultural? Are Latinos and Chamorro more uninhibited than those from the United States?  What is going on here?

It would be fun to do some research on this.



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Steps to Cleaning a Coffee Maker (A Story of Failure)

I was preparing coffee for tomorrow morning and I realized that the buttons were sticking. I couldn’t set the automatic coffee maker.

I decided to try and clean them. This turned out to be a big mistake.

Here is what I did.

Step 1:  Removed Buttons from machine.  Cleaned thoroughly.


Step 2: Try and put button back on machine and realize that I can’t do it.

Step 3: Panic.

Step 4: Plug machine back in and realize that I can’t stand the blinking “12:00” copy

Step 4: Fix Blinking light problem by placing a piece of duck-tape over it.

photo copy 2

Step 5: Drink Beer

photo copy 3Yes, this really did happen.

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Sticky Faith: Your Default Setting

I read some harsh words today in Sticky FaithThey were both Law and Gospel to me.  It’s something that I know I should do, but have a really hard time with it, especially toward my children.  So, here is the quote:

When our kids go through rough spots, whether it is because of circumstances beyond their control or the choices they make, their greatest need from us is gentle stability and compassion. Regardless of the offense, whether getting a D or getting arrested, underneath the rhetoric and even outright outbursts, your child is not doing this to get at you.  Even the most egregious of situations, remember that they are, at the core, suffering, and they need you to care. As Jesus cares for all of us in all we go through, so we too are dispensers of his grace. -Kara Powell & Chap Clark

Its hard for me to default with compassion because in the moment the anger and frustration that are coursing through my body are very real. It’s hard to default with compassion when I just react instead of trying to understand.

My oldest son will sometimes become so tired at night that he starts to act especially aggressive toward anything moving.  He will yell, scream, and be mean to anyone in his path, especially when his extra ordinary requests are not going to be met.

I have also met his attitude not with compassion, but with frustration and equally, if not more, aggressive tones of voice. Recently, I have been trying to meet his aggressiveness with compassion. I don’t always remember.  Instead of letting him be distant and distraught, I have sought to bring him closer, holding him tightly, letting him know that I love him and that he is tired. I’ve tried to meet his aggressiveness with compassion and found that is actually what he needed. He needed to know that while he was out of control, I had him and would love him, no matter what  I wish I remembered to do that all the time.  If my children will embody the faith I practice, I want one of the fruits to be compassion.

So, what’s your default setting?

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Sticky Faith: Chapter 1


I started reading Sticky Faith today by Kara Powell and Chap Clark.

The first chapter lays out what the contents of the book are and some initial research into why “sticky faith” is important. For instance, 40-50 percent of kids will shelve their faith in college.

What popped out to me in the first chapter is that parents are the number one influence on children in matters of faith. Not youth workers, pastors, or other adults, it’s parents that will influence their child’s faith the most.

So, what do you do with your children to show forth the faith?  What would you like to do but haven’t?

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Doubt/Faith Quote

The believer who encounters serious doubt does not renounce his or her faith but rather uses it as an opportunity to affirm it. We may call this acknowledgement of doubt a Holy Saturday experience (a term that refers to the 24 hours nestled between the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ). This day marked a moment of great uncertainty and darkness for the followers of Jesus. Yet, it is precisely in the midst of a Holy Saturday experience that the decision to follow Christ becomes truly authentic. A faith that can only exist in the light of victory and certainty is one which really affirms the self while pretending to affirm Christ, for it only follows Jesus in the belief that Jesus has conquered death. Yet a faith that can look at the horror of the cross and still say ‘yes’ is one that says ‘no’ to the self in saying ‘yes’ to Christ. If one loses one’s life only because one believes that this is the way to find it, then one gives up nothing; to truly lose one’s life, one must lay down that life without regard to whether or not one finds it. Only a genuine faith can embrace doubt, for such a faith does not act because of a self-interested reason (such as fear of hell or desire for heaven) but acts simply because it must. A real follower of Jesus would commit to him before the crucifixion, between the crucifixion and the resurrection, and after the resurrection.

Rollins, Peter (2011-06-30). How (Not) to Speak of God (p. 34). Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.

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Trinity Sunday 2013

“Working preacher” is a website developed by Luther Seminary, I like visit the site when it’s my turn to preach and see what they have to say about the scripture passages for the week. There is always a column by David Lose called “Dear working preacher.” The column gives encouragement and advice about what to preach on for the texts that are assigned for today. Today is the Feast of the Holy Trinity and Dr. Lose’s recommendation is, “do not” preach about the Trinity today. He says that we should preach on hope.

In fact, someone much wiser then me said once, “You shouldn’t talk about the Trinity too long, in any situation, or you will find yourself falling into some kind of heresy.” I think this is probably true. I could find myself emphasizing the oneness over the three-ness, or the three-ness over the oneness, and well Pastor John would be having a talk with me after the service.

The doctrine of the Trinity is hard to talk about because no matter how you dice it, it doesn’t make sense that 1+1+1=1. We affirm the Father is God, Jesus is God, and we the Spirit is God. And yet, we maintain a radical monotheism; that there is only one God. Each is a person, coequal, and co-eternal, and not to be confused with each other.

I’ll never forget the first time I was tested on doctrine of the Trinity.  I was in the third or fourth grade. (I know I was meant to be a pastor).  My brother, my father, and I were standing outside a mechanic shop.  We were picking up a car and the mechanic saw that we were wearing our catholic school uniforms.  Being a friend of my father, he decided to quiz us on the doctrine of the Trinity.  He said, “You are Catholic right?” We said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “You believe in the Trinity. Right?”  We again responded with, “Yes, sir.”  “Tell me” he said, “You worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Do you worship one god or three?”  My brother and I asked for a moment to discuss it -amongst ourselves. We got together bending in a football huddle, because we learned from T.V. that all matters that are important, should be discussed in a football huddle.”  We came with the answer, “Three, we worship three gods.” My father comes back with a swift embarrassed, “no, we only worship one God.” The Mechanic smiled and went back to his business.  Turned out he was a former missionary that had left the church and enjoyed making people squirm with trying to questions the mysteries of faith.

What it means that we worship God as Trinity is still something that we, I, try to get my head around, and when questioned about it, it could be very easy to say the wrong thing.

             We forget that when talking about the Trinity we can try so hard to get our heads around how God works inside of God’s self.  We can try and figure out how each person maintains person-hood while at the same time being intertwined and of the same substance.  Pretty soon the charts and graphs that describe this doctrine and misses the central point of why we even talk about the Trinity. It’s like the doctrine has gone from beautifully flowing lava that encompasses everything in its path and has hardened into rock.

We could spend so much time trying to figure out the Trinity that we forget why we even started talking about the Trinity in the first place. It reminds me of this story that I heard recently.

There was once rabbi who would go to the temple every evening to pray with his disciples. By the temple there was a stray cat who would wander in every evening during these prayers and disturb the peace. So, each evening before prayers the teacher would tie the cat to a tree outside before entering. The teacher was old and passed away a few years later. His disciples continued to tie the cat to the tree each evening before prayers. Eventually the cat died and so some of the disciples purchased a new cat so that they could continue the ritual. After a hundred years the tree died and a new one was quickly planted so that the cat (by now the eighth-generation cat) could be tied to it. Over the centuries learned scholars began to write books on the symbolic meaning of the act.

The disciples had forgotten why the cat was tied to the tree in the first place and it got out of hand.  Likewise, the Trinity can become this doctrine that we accept and try to define and have all figured out, but we need to go back and ask the question why the doctrine developed.

The Trinity arose out of a need for the disciples of Jesus to describe her experience with God.  It’s just that simple.  The church had this profound experience with the incarnate Jesus and continues to have the Holy Spirit among us and we somehow claim that they are all God, while maintaining that there is only one God.

And these experiences are deep within scripture.

The doctrine of the Trinity was developed because the early church was wrestling with understanding that Jesus was God. The disciples experienced Jesus is doing things only God can do: control creation, heal people, and forgive sins.  The scriptures we hold dear claim bear witness to the God they experienced

Yet, Jesus also talked about God being his Father, and how intimately he is connected to God the Father.  Jesus also says things like, “The Father and I are one.” Since we only worship one God, we needed to understand this experience under the lens of monotheism.  The Father is God, but so is Jesus.

The Holy Spirit was seen as divine because there are scripture passages where God is described as spirit.  Then we have today’s passage of scripture when Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” The Spirit of the Lord comes upon people in different stories.  In 1 Corinthians the Spirit has attributes that only God has.

The doctrine of the Trinity explains the experience of the church. It was to help make sense of who Jesus is, how the spirit came like a fire at Pentecost. We see images of the Trinity’s presence during the Baptism of Jesus where the father speaks from heaven and the spirit descends on him like a dove.”  The early church needed to experience

Ok, detect any heresies yet?  Maybe….

Last week my brother calls Enrique, my wife, and asks her if she knows any good books on the Trinity.  She says, “Yes, the Book of Common Prayer.”  As many of you know my wife is Episcopalian and that is a very Episcopalian answer.  But, she is right.  To fully understand the Trinity is not look at doctrines and creeds developed long ago, but, to be in continual fellowship with our Triune God through worship. To understand the Trinity is for the Trinity to be the continuing experience of the Church. And this is done both within worship and outside the church.

There are times where we don’t explicitly claim the Trinity in worship, but Trinitarian elements are always present.  We always pray through Jesus.  Today we prayed, “by the power of your Holy Spirit, you have made us recipients of your amazing grace.” We believe that the Spirit reveals to us the Truth about Jesus in scripture and we are given the presence of Christ himself in our meal.

See the Trinity should drive us into deeper experiences with worship but also with humanity.  By the spirit of God we are empowered to love our neighbors and see Christ in all people that we meet. We see the beauty of God’s creation and await the continual redemption of that creation.  We look at places like the devastation in Oklahoma pray, “God because of your love for us you sent your son to redeem all, so send your Spirit to even more to Oklahoma and redeem all creation.”  Our Trinitarian understanding shapes the way we view the world and experiences that we have. Our Trinitarian understanding allows us to hear and respond to what God is doing here and now and love others as God has loved us.  See if there was a way to describe how God exists within God self I would say that it is love.  God loves the world that he sent his son and empowers us to love us by his Spirit.

I am excited about a God how is not in history 2000 years ago but who is present here and now, who empowers her church to live the gospel and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom that will inherit the earth.

So, next time someone asks you to explain the Trinity, tell him or her that the Trinity is the way we experience God.  Show them scriptures that echo the divinity of each person.  And invite them into that same experience -that same mystery.


[1]  Rollins, Peter (2011-06-30). How (Not) to Speak of God (p. 39). Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.

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Starbuck’s Chaplain: “He’s a pastor.”

After finishing at Fuller Seminary in 2008 I had to complete a final, unpaid, internship.  Luckily, I was able to find an internship in San Diego and we were able to move in with my in-laws.  Since, the chaplaincy was unpaid I needed to find work. I know a guy, who is probably one the better humans beings I’ve met in my life, and he willingly gave me a job, again.  We had worked together previously before I started at Seminary.

So, I started working Starbucks and as a hospice chaplain intern. And interestingly enough I started doing chaplaincy work at Starbucks too. I didn’t mean to.

There was a guy who always came in at night at sat at the comfy chairs tucked away in a corner near our front doors.  He knew what I did with my time outside of work and I knew what he did for a living. We talked God too. They were nice conversations.

I remember one night I was cleaning up the store and he walked in with a friend. He came straight to me and said, “When you get a break I’d like to talk to you.” He was serious.  It wasn’t busy so I took off my apron and sat with him and his friend.

He introduced me to his friend, “This is Josh. He’s a pastor.” Then he said to me, “This is my friend John. His wife died last night from cancer.” He stopped talking and looked at me as if I should start talking. And I did. I don’t really remember what was said, the Spirit does give us the words when we don’t know what to say.

I didn’t know that I would be doing pastoral care on my break at Starbucks but is seems that the Holy Spirit uses even Barista’s to accomplish her work.

Have you been open to the Spirit’s working during the unexpected times? Does God show up where you least expect it?

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