My Gospel Terror, Acts, & Letters [photo sermon]


Acts-bible-lomo

Each week, WordPress has a Weekly Photo Challenge, where they give a theme and invite people to highlight photography representing that theme, accompanied by a few meditations on it. OccasionallyI try and write a “photo sermon” or meditation based on those themes, accompanied by a photo of mine . This week’s theme is “Letters“.

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I grew up in church and grew up loving the Bible. I did devotionals and sat in Sunday School classes for the vast majority of my life. And yet, it wasn’t until I got to my junior year of college and took a class on the Gospels that I read any of the Gospels all the way through. Sure, I had probably heard most of the Gospels preached on or excerpted in devotionals and books, but I had never read a Gospel from beginning to end.

At the time, I thought it was because they seemed too holy. It felt like too much for my young soul to handle to read the very words of Jesus on my own. It was too weighty for me and scared me. Maybe I just wanted to wait until I could drink whiskey or wine while reading them.
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Good Morning (prayer)! [photo sermon]


ultimo-coffee-cortado

Each week, WordPress has a Weekly Photo Challenge, where they give a theme and invite people to highlight photography representing that theme, accompanied by a few meditations on it. OccasionallyI try and write a “photo sermon” or meditation based on those themes, accompanied by a photo of mine . This week’s theme is “Good Morning“.

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In one of those oddities of tire human condition, I love sleep, and yet I avoid it like the plague. I have a terrible sleep schedule. My sleep pattern is a microcosm of my lack of discipline in many parts of life, and maybe even an extremely low level of self-harm, where my body and heart wouldn’t really know what to do if it were consistently well-rested. There’s something about a constant weight of tiredness that—maybe—makes one feel “productive”, even as it steals productivity away from you.

This is a lie. I know. I’m working on it in therapy.

In some Christian circles, people claim “life verses” for themselves; bits of the Bible that they feel speak to them so deeply that the words amount to a blanket summary, call, encouragement, guiding principle, or telos to their life. People usually pick a “life verse” that speaks to what they want their life to be or how they want God to work in their lives.

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My Walk to Church: One Shot, Two Ways (a photo sermon)


rittenhouse-alley-church-hor

For those new to  the blog: each week, I try and write a “photo sermon” based on the themes of the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is “One Shot, Two Ways“, which is a silly title to describe taking two shots, from the same place, at the same time, but trying to make them very different.

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Whenever I walk to my church, it’s one of the strangest experiences for me. I grew up in the South, when Sunday morning was a time of slow traffic, long lines at Donut shops, and lots of people milling around as they meander their way to their respective churches.

Not so, in Philadelphia.

As I walk down the few neighborhood blocks that stand between my house and the city center, I’m quite often by myself. I occasionally have my heart sink when I see a woman making the “walk of shame”, where she’s walking home in the same dress and heels from the night before, trying to fix tussled hair and making sure all of her personals are still in her purse as she walks. It could just be the time of morning and a potential hangover, but she never looks happy.

I usually see runners. They enjoy being able to run on the city streets in the cool of the morning with no annoying pedestrians to dodge. I also see a fair share of dog owners, still in pajamas, annoyed that their pet couldn’t hold it for a few more hours and give them more sleep.

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Foreshadowing the City [a photo sermon]


philly-traffic-skyline-sunset

For those new to  the blog: occasionally, I try and write a “photo sermon” based on the themes of WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is “Foreshadow“.

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Foreshadowing is a huge part of the Christian faith. The opening words of the Bible offer us the problem that the rest of the book will explore a solution to. It says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” From the beginning, “heaven” and “earth” are two different things, in two different “places”. God intends to bring them together and make them one. How will he do it? The book invites us to read on.
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WordPress Weekly Photo Post: Fresh


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This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Fresh“. I’ve been spending a long four-day weekend at my girlfriend’s family dairy farm, where she grew up, for her birthday. We’ve had fresh raw milk (oh how I love thee!), fresh raspberry pies, fresh air, and enjoying these fresh blueberries we picked at her grandmother’s farm next door. It’s been an incredible weekend of love, celebration, and a good ol’ hymn sing (the highlight of my time).

It’s really amazing the difference that fresh can make in our lives.

See my past Weekly Photo Challenges here.
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Two of my best friends got engaged this weekend. This is a very good thing.


david-ej

[Appropriately, this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is the topic “Companionable“. I could think of no better picture to post and story to tell than this.]

That there is a picture of David and Elizabeth Jane. (They’re in the process of converting to the Orthodox family of the Church, where the ring is on the right hand.)

David here is my oldest friend. Being bad at keeping friends that don’t live near me, this means that our friendship is about five-and-a-half years old. Not a crazy long time, I know. But for what we lack on the front-end duration of our friendship, we definitely make up for it in our desire to stay friends for decades to come.

We’ve seen each other through spiritual darkness, relational pain, and dramatic theological changes. He’s an amazing drywaller, photographer, writer, farmer (as of recently), and general human being.

And he got engaged to an incredible woman this weekend.
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The Lord is Fleeting [photo sermon]


train-knitting-fleeting

For those new to  the blog: each week, I try and write a “photo sermon” based on the themes of WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is “Fleeting“.

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A garden cool. A God at leisure. Lovers conspire. Nectar tasted.

The God is gone.

He appears in visitors and shapes and shadows, and as a voice to an ancient Babylonian:

“I will make you…”

The Babylonian’s faith is counted as righteousness, and deservedly so, for this man doesn’t hear the voice of God in any way for decades. (And I get mad when his voice leaves me for months.)

This God lets his people sit in slavery for hundreds of years. When his Chosen asks to see his Glory, He offers only the briefest glimpse of his back. When His People stray at Sinai, He still offers to give them every benefit that He promised–the land, the victory, and their identity. The only difference: He would send his angels with them and withdraw his own Presence.

They freak out.
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Fleeting: our Societal Anger; our National Substance


This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Fleeting“. I’ll be posting a more meaningful “photo sermon” based on this theme later in the week, but I saw something last night I wanted to share.

This blog has not shied away from its concern over the civil liberties and privacy issues that have been exposed this week. I hope to post some more in-depth thoughts on these specific revelations later today or tomorrow. For this photo post, though, I ran across a couple of images that show just how fleeting any American societal anger, attention, or protest really is.

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Weekly Photo Post: The Sign Says [casual fri]


This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “The Sign Says” (okay, as of today, this technically last week’s theme). Anyway, the prompt was to post pictures of signs that we’ve taken and why we picked them. So here a few signs I’ve taken pictures of over the years. This post is just a fun one. Nothing profound here. Enjoy.

sucks-coffee

Now, even in spite of my coffee snobbery, I really do love Starbucks coffee and (some of) their espresso drinks. So this isn’t a knock on them–I just thought this sign was hilarious.
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From Above: What’s better than Tom’s shoes? I’ll show you.


otto-shoes-guatemala

WordPress’s Photo Challenge theme for this week is “From Above

I have been very proud, up to this point, of not having ever posted an Instagram picture of my feet. I don’t know where that trend came from, but I’ve bucked it for so long. Until yesterday.

That’s when I received the above shoes in the mail.

No, those are not Tom’s, the shoe company famous for its idea of giving away one pair of shoes to a child in a developing country for every pair that is purchased.

Instead, they are Otto’s.

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Change: God is Real [Guatemala, Day 4] [photo sermon]


church-philly-bw-cross-market-east

For those new to  the blog: each week, I try and write a “photo sermon” based on the themes of WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is “Change“. I thought I’d take this chance to begin processing my time in Guatemala with Lemonade International.

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I don’t struggle with the plurality of beliefs about God. If there is a God, I am quite confident (as arrogant as it may sound) that Christianity is the proper understanding of Him.

Rather, my struggle is with the sense that God is there at all. Many of the posts on this blog have dealt with my open acknowledgment of my “inner atheist” (as I’ve called him several times), and how I’ve tried to deal with him.

I don’t know that I need to expound on this too much, as I’m confident many of the readers here get this already, but just in case: this doubt is not intellectual; it is existential. I often miss that abstract sense and “feeling” of God’s existence. Continue reading

It’s Still Easter: a Theology of Color [photo sermon]


philly-tree-pink-spring

This week’s WordPress Photo theme is “Color“. Rather than simply writing about different pictures I’ve taken, I’m instead trying to write “photo sermons” based on these topics. In these posts, I want to try and use the photo itself as my “text”–trying to see how God reveals himself in his “other” book, in addition to the Bible.

In our last photo sermon, I talked about how I love that Easter comes around Spring time and so the natural world beautifully reflects the spiritual truth being celebrated. Also in line with this truth is the fact that Easter–just like Spring–is not just one day–it’s an entire season in the Church calendar.

It takes time for beauty and truth to get into and blossom within our souls. It takes preparation and anticipation for the roots of our hearts to quicken like the trees around us–to feel life coursing in them once more.

This is beautiful. And it doesn’t need to be this way.
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Palm Sunday: Future-Tense [photo sermon]


church-easter-tree

Continuing WordPress’ uncanny timing of photo challenges with the Christian Church calendar, this week’s theme is “Future-Tense“. In essence, they’re wanting pictures that anticipate something to come; something that’s being waited for; some future thing who’s presence is felt in the picture, even in its absence.

This is most appropriate today, as it’s Palm Sunday of 2013.

It takes some real significance for an event from the Bible to find itself as a major Church Holiday. Considering that, it can be odd that Palm Sunday is one of these: there’s nothing really unprecedented or special about it in and of itself.

There are other places in the gospels where Jesus is proclaimed king, proclaimed Messiah, prophecies are fulfilled, large groups believe in him, and even several times he enters Jerusalem. So what’s so special about this moment?

The future.
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Marveling in the Cross: Lost in the Details [photo sermon]


pma-cross-skull-pma

For several months now I’ve been doing the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. Honestly, I’ve gotten a little tired of that, so I’m going to start mixing it up with some weekly “photo sermons”, taking the weekly theme, picking an appropriate photo, and writing up a short meditation on the theme. We’ll see how it goes. This week’s theme is “Lost in the Details“.

One of my best (and oldest) friends is named David Schrott. He’s an incredible photographer, and an even more incredible man of God. He’s currently been spending an extended period of time back in his hometown of Lancaster, PA, recovering from surgery.

In this time of recovery, he’s only grown in his intimacy with God, his love as a friend, and the depth of his experience of spirituality. Recently, when I asked how he’s seemingly unlocked this door to the depths of the spirit and, as he puts it “longing for the resurrection in ways I never have”, he simply said this:

“Suffering! Without it, it is hard to long for anything but immediate pleasure.”

I love that guy.

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