New Houses from Old Bricks

September 24, 2009

New home for New Houses

Filed under: Uncategorized — by newhousesoldbricks @ 5:41 am

New Houses has moved to a new site! This is the result of a mini-discernment process: should I start a new website for my book, or should I just make it possible for people to order it from my blog? Ultimately, I figured that it’s already challenging enough to integrate the pastor and author aspects of my vocation/self/life, without adding to the challenge by separating them in cyberspace! So I chose the latter, and had to move off of the free site.

Please come visit!


September 11, 2009

Balloons and book are here

Filed under: Discernment,spiritual life,Vocation — by newhousesoldbricks @ 5:41 pm
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all on camera 9.08 106My favorite time of year has arrived: The Great Reno Balloon Race. Dozens of hot air balloons lift off together on three consecutive mornings. They float gently over town, wherever the wind takes them, and for the past two years, it has taken them right into my neighborhood. The first time, the balloons, like a stork, dropped a gift that helped lead to my book coming out next month.


August 31, 2009

God, hear my plan

Filed under: Discernment,spiritual life,Worship — by newhousesoldbricks @ 5:25 pm
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Yesterday in worship I made a Freudian slip that made me glad I wasn’t on a microphone at that moment. While my colleague was presiding and the assisting minister was leading the Prayers of the People, I was participating in the congregation’s response to each petition: (assisting minister) “God, in your mercy,” (people) “hear our prayer.”

One of the petitions was for our congregation’s strategic planning process coming up, a huge endeavor of discernment which involves the whole congregation and lasts almost a year. Apparently I was thinking hard about planning during that petition (or I was just worn out toward the end of our third worship service that morning), because instead of responding “hear our prayer,” I said, “hear our plan.” (more…)

August 25, 2009

Hope for Lutherans’ discernment

Filed under: Community,Discernment,ministry — by newhousesoldbricks @ 4:40 pm
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Last week, the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in which I am an ordained minister, decided to open the ministry of the ELCA to gay and lesbian pastors and other professional church workers living in committed same-gender relationships.

I’ve been surprised to find myself connecting this juncture in Lutheran denominational life with a strange, uncomfortable, and heart-breaking period in my own life–a period of discerning separation and divorce in my marriage. To me, it feels as if the ELCA right now is like a “marriage on the rocks.” Even more surprisingly, this gives me tremendous hope for the future. (more…)

August 9, 2009

Subversive acts

Filed under: Community,Discernment,spiritual life — by newhousesoldbricks @ 2:30 am
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subversive gardening 002subversive gardening 005“In our time cooking from scratch and growing any of your own food qualify as subversive acts.”

This is from Michael Pollan, whose book In Defense of Food I just finished reading. As my status update on Facebook, that quotation received so many comments from friends (many of whom had also read the book) that it seems worth further exploration.

Here are some photos of my own little “subversive” garden (complete with the subversive beans and zucchini that keep getting further and further outside the boundaries). It may not be the White House garden, but so far I’ve harvested some beans, tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs. I’ve also been thinking about what else I do, or could do, that qualifies as “subversive” in similar ways.

Here’s a partial list: (more…)

July 14, 2009

Checking in

Filed under: Uncategorized — by newhousesoldbricks @ 4:09 am

With so many people on summer vacations, ’tis the season for “away messages” on emails. Here’s my “away message” for this blog, for these days while my posts are fewer and further between:

“Thank you for visiting New Houses from Old Bricks. I am currently editing my book for publication, and since I have just enough energy to do that and work at my day-job, I’ve been taking a few weeks off from blogging. I’ll be back as soon as I can, and will post information about the book here very soon.

The working title/subtitle is The Treasure Hunt of Your Life: How the journey of seeking your calling becomes an adventure of encountering God and finding yourself. I check in periodically while away, so if you care to comment on the book title or an experience with editing/self-publishing a book, I’ll get the message. Thank you.”

See you soon…and in the meantime, Happy Bastille Day!

June 30, 2009

Faith’s risky adventure

Filed under: Bible,ministry,spiritual life — by newhousesoldbricks @ 12:02 am
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sheep--riskyLast week’s theological insights came from kids at Vacation Bible School, where I was leading “Bible Journey,” one of the activity stations that groups of school-age kids visited each morning. Before we began on the first day, I asked the obligatory question: “Who can tell us what a ‘journey’ is?” My favorite description was from a little girl: “It’s like going somewhere, like an adventure.”

It was my favorite because one of my long-standing pet peeves with church in general is that we too often domesticate the whole business of church and discipleship. Sure, we talk about following Jesus, which is indeed an amazing and often risky adventure. But then we focus on God’s protectiveness, safety, home, and shelter, and we end up domesticating discipleship by draining it of all its adventure and risk. Certainly, I’m grateful for all those protective and safe aspects of God, too, but churches get off-balance when then overemphasize them. When they do, they often struggle to reach men and boys of all ages, and they struggle to retain young people at the time in their lives they are most interested in risky adventures: when they are teenagers and young adults.

Since that’s a frequent rant of mine, I was even more thrilled at the end of the treasure story on the first VBS day. I asked the group a common Godly Play question: “I wonder which part of the story is most about you?” A little boy responded, “The adventure part!”

On Thursday, we came back to this theme with the story of the Good Shepherd, a combination of John 10 and Psalm 23. (more…)

June 20, 2009

Just tell me what to do

Filed under: Discernment,spiritual life — by newhousesoldbricks @ 5:44 pm
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In former posts, I’ve alluded to doing rehab over the past year for pain in my crooked back (or the past six years, depending on how you measure it). I’ve also alluded to getting my car rear-ended a month ago, which further messed things up in my own rear end and back. Both have taught me unexpected lessons about spiritual discipline.

With my back, things don’t seem to be getting much better. This is really frustrating because, in my world, if you do everything right and follow instructions, things should happen the way they’re supposed to (=”the way I want them to”). I’m a good patient in physical therapy who does what I’m told: exercises, walking in the pool, rest, ice, medical appointments 4-5 times a week, you name it. So when things don’t seem to be working, first I doubt myself and ask for better instructions. Then I start having doubts about the instructions themselves, and eventually about the professional who’s giving them. 

Doubting the instructions isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Bodies do respond differently to different treatments. What works for someone else may not work for me. This past week, I finally got it: that is precisely why physical therapy is not merely a list of instructions, “if A, then B.” It’s really a series of experiments, a set-up for progress through trial and error. (more…)

June 19, 2009

Birthday wondering

Filed under: Discernment,ministry,spiritual life — by newhousesoldbricks @ 4:20 am
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birthday candlesToday was my birthday. It wasn’t one of those very noticeable numbers, unless you consider that I grew out of my own “target audience” today. In my years of talking and writing about young adult ministry, I’ve always been in that age group. I called it 18-30 for a while, and then it morphed into 18-35. Today I turned 36, and now I am officially and unavoidably a not-young adult. (No one I know extends the “young” description past the early 30s, unless you count sociologist Robert Wuthnow, who defines “younger adults” as 21-45 in his book After the Baby Boomers.)

In these last few days of young-adulthood, I have been preparing to teach the Bible-story learning station at my congregation’s Vacation Bible School next week–five mornings of church camp with games, songs, crafts, snack, and, of course, Bible stories. Our Children & Family Ministries Coordinator wrote the curriculum with some friends, so I’ve been learning their way of telling the stories, inspired by a method called Godly Play. With roots in Montessori teaching methods, Godly Play helps children enter into stories with imagination, intentionally leaving things open-ended.

I’ve been quite taken by this imaginative open-endedness, which is summed up for me in the way Godly Play leads children into “wondering.” The storyteller “wonders” out loud throughout the Bible story, for example: I wonder if the merchant has a name? I wonder how many sheep the Good Shepherd has? I wonder if you have ever been close to treasure? I wonder if you know a place like this? I can’t wait to try this with kids next week and see what happens. But in the meantime, the “I wonder…” mantra has cross-fertilized my annual birthday-contemplation. Here are some “wonderings” on this birthday (not exactly the “top 10,” but the first 10 that come to mind)… (more…)

June 9, 2009

The tyranny of seeds

Filed under: Bible,Discernment,spiritual life — by newhousesoldbricks @ 5:17 pm
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mustard seedsAs I look ahead to this Sunday’s texts, I see a theme that used to be one of my favorite topics: seeds. Today, it’s not my favorite topic, as I’m pretty annoyed with the seeds I know.

Annoyance doesn’t make much sense, because these seeds are just doing what they do: they’re growing. About a month ago, I hopped on the grow-your-own-vegetables bandwagon and planted a vegetable garden from seeds. I’ve been composting for a few years now, so I had mixed in a heap of compost to prepare the soil for planting. So, it’s not only the seeds I planted which are now growing–there are all kinds of who-knows-what plants growing out of the compost. (I used to think this was kind of cool. Now that I have a plan for my garden, thankyouverymuch, I find it, well, annoying.)

So now my garden is full of green things–almost none of which I can identify, having never grown vegetables from seed before (or grown them at all, for that matter). I’m afraid most of them are acorn squash, which I have no interest in growing. (Note to self: squash seeds go in the trash from now on, not the compost!) And even if I knew which plants to take out, I can’t really do the weeding now after a minor car accident which makes that kind of kneeling/bending work difficult. So I think it’s going to be survival-of-the-fittest out there for a while.

Which brings me to Mark 4:26-27: “Jesus also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.’ ” Kingdom of God aside, that’s pretty much how it’s working out there in my yard. Jesus goes on to compare the kingdom to a mustard seed, a tiny seed which was known for getting into gardens and growing all over the place (even more than acorn squash).

Unlike me, Jesus does not seem annoyed by this. Perhaps his approach to planning gardens is different from mine.

Photo: “Mustard Seeds Germinating” by Swami Stream, licensed by Creative Commons.

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