My Friends Make Stuff: New Books by Rachel Hackenberg and Bob Harris

Two new books for your consideration today! SacredPause-209x300Sacred Pause: A Creative Retreat for the Word-Weary Christian by Rachel Hackenberg is one of those books that makes you breathe more deeply just flipping the pages. I perused it in the dentist’s waiting room recently, and was so immersed that I forgot the sounds of suction and dentist’s drill wafting through the open door. No minor feat.

The book, with sections like “The Verb Became Flesh” and “In the Shadow of Wingdings,” is an invitation to explore the language of our faith in fresh and inviting ways, through impromptu poems, images and even doodles. I liked the section in which she likens Jesus’ words “my yoke is easy” with those elastic strings that tie her kids’ shoes together in the Target shoe section. Lovely! So much of the language of scripture relies on metaphors that aren’t immediately accessible to a non-agrarian, technological society. How can these words come alive again?

In the Presbyterian Church (USA), we have a prayer in our book of worship that we pray before reading scripture. It says in part, “O God, amid all the changing words of our generation, speak your eternal word that does not change.” Over the years I’ve grown dissatisfied with this prayer. Our lives our changing all of the time. Our God is improvisational, I believe. So I’ve added a phrase: “speak your eternal word that does not change and yet is ever new.” Hackenberg’s book helps us hold those two ideas in creative tension. Check it out here.


81x1FbpNupLEntering Wonderland: A Toolkit for Pastors New to a Church is a new book by Robert A. (Bob) Harris, a friend and colleague in this presbytery. Since retiring from parish ministry, Bob has been working as a coach, helping pastors set good goals and move forward in ministry.

As the name implies, the book is aimed at pastors who have recently arrived in a congregation. It features an approach to getting to know the leaders and many in the congregation, assessing them as spiritual leaders, learning where the minefields are, clarifying expectations, and a host of other things. Bob served as my coach when I first arrived at Tiny Church and I’m thankful for his guidance in helping my ministry get off to a good start there.

But the book is not just for pastors new to a church; the book has a wealth of resources and ideas that can help pastors and church leaders.

Entering Wonderland is published by Rowman and Littlefield, who took over Alban Institute's publishing arm. Check it out.

What are you reading these days?

No time for books? Here are my most popular posts.

I Kinda Wish I Was Fat

Several months ago I wrote a post wondering whether we could reclaim the word "fat." I'm still not sure it's something the culture can or will ever get on board with. But if nothing else, it's worth pondering as a mental exercise: can we redeem words that have been used to shame? That question has spiritual implications, by the way.

Anyway, if you were still trying to get your mind around my argument, check out this video (3 minutes) of a woman responding to YouTube commenters calling her fat. (Once again let me remind you that Internet comments are the best proof for total depravity that we have. Score 1 for the Calvinists.)


I almost wish I were still [overweight, fat, BMI 29, insert descriptor here] just to stand with this sassy gal.

BTW, rarely have I heard the words "f*** you" delivered with such joie de vivre. It's bleeped out, but still. If that offends you, don't watch.

(h/t: Keith)

Sabbath Verbs

Last week I was talking to some folks about the different verbs that I've heard associated with the act of Sabbath. I spent a little time this morning with my imagination (and with exploring some of these words. I wonder which verb sounds most gracious to you. Which one opens up a different understanding? What verbs would you add? Whether you're into Sabbath practice or not, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. What I notice is how active and volitional these verbs are for something that is, at its heart, a "non-doing." But I am finding this year that it is not that simple---it's not just a matter of stopping. It really takes an act of will.

This isn't a particularly elegant poem, but I'm counting it as one anyway for National Poetry Month.


To keep the Sabbath:

to clutch it, to possess it, to hold it close to one's heart. to not let anyone take it away. to hold it for a period of time. to guard it jealously. to store it, to maintain it in good condition. to hold in custody, to save it, reserve it. to tend it, as a garden.

(to work for one's keep: for one's subsistence)

A keep is also a tower or fortress. Make the Sabbath a keep, a place to retreat to, a place that is strong and fortified, a place in time.


To observe the Sabbath:

to watch it, to regard it, to pay attention to it. to show reverence for it, to perform duly. to inspect. to obey or comply with. to perceive. to notice.


To remember the Sabbath:

to recall, to bring to mind, to remain aware of, to have something come into mind again,

(to mention to another as sending kindly greetings---remember me in your prayers)

to re-member: to put back together what has been dismembered.


To practice Sabbath:

to do it again and again, to perfect one's technique, to set new goals as one improves. to do something as a habit, to train or drill to give proficiency. to follow as custom. to exercise or pursue as a vocation.