Whole Truth

“The ‘eye gate’ and the ‘ear gate’ are no longer enough. There must now be as well a smell gate, a taste gate, and a touch gate. Truth is not just for the ears, eyes, hands. Truth is for the whole body” (Leonard Sweet, The Dawn Mistaken for Dusk).

For a related post, see here.

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Last Child in the Woods

I debated reviewing this book on the Desperate Pastor blog, because it's not a book on leadership, pastoring, ministry, etc. But I could not shake the belief that it is an important book for the Church and for church leaders.

I'm talking about Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. The author's premise is that today's children face a "nature deficit," one that negatively affects imagination and creativity and leads to numerous dysfunctions and disadvantages for them and for the society they will live in as adults.

The book hit home with me. Though I grew up in the Cincinnati suburbs, I spent more waking hours in the woods than in my house, it seems. I fell in love with Creation. It shaped me in many ways, as it did most kids of my generation. These days, however, only the most aware, conscientious, and involved parents can tear their children away from TV, computers, video games, smartphones, and other indoor and relatively sedentary pursuits to go outdoors and explore creeks, climb trees, turn over rocks, and get dirty.

Louv explores the current and coming outcomes of this "nature deficit." He warns of effects on education and national parks, science and society--all of which concerns me. But I couldn't help but consider the impact of this deficit on the church, as well as the possible role the church has played in the problem and can play in the solutions.

Sure, much of our children's church experience and Christian education takes place (and maybe always has) indoors. But what will happen in a generation or two if church leaders have a shriveled sense of the splendor, beauty, intricacy, and majesty of Creation? What effect will a "nature deficit" have on how future Christians and church leaders read and understand and teach the Bible? Will our theology suffer? And what role should the church be playing in addressing this societal shift? Are there ways for the church to champion Creation in constructive ways? Should more churches--even in urban settings--be helpful in getting kids outside, taking them camping, teaching them to garden, taking them hiking, giving them never-to-be-forgotten experiences in nature? Is this one of the ways for the church to connect our spiritual mission with a cultural need?

I think these are important and urgent questions. I recommend Last Child in the Woods, and hope it will spark something for you.

Church of the Week: Centennial Chapel, Christ Church, Cincinnati OH

On my recent visit to Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati (see here), I was delighted to be taken on a tour of the church, without which I may never have seen the church's beautiful Centennial Chapel.
The Centennial Chapel opened in 1917, the year of the church's centennial. During World War I and World War II, it was open to the public twenty-four hours a day. After World War II, it was re-dedicated as a memorial chapel for all fallen soldiers. 
The side altar (above) contains a painting of the Holy Family that has been attributed to Rubens, the Flemish Baroque artist. 
Opposite the main altar in the chapel is a tapestry created from a Raphael sketch of the miraculous draught of fishes. 
It also happened that I got to see the Holtkamp organ in the Centennial Chapel the day before it (the console and pipes) was scheduled to be disassembled and donated to Trinity Lutheran Church in Medina, New York! 

The Centennial Chapel is the site of Christ Church's 8 a.m. Sunday Holy Eucharist Rite, as well as the weekly "Music Live at Lunch" programs presented every Tuesday, I believe. The acoustics in the chapel must be amazing. 

It is a lovely setting and I would love to worship someday in this distinctly medieval chapel. 

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A Prayer Milestone

For decades as a pastor, I worked hard and long and spent myself over and over again in the service of God and his people. In that respect, I was like most of the other pastors I knew.

And also, like most of the other pastors I knew, I advocated prayer, preached on prayer, and taught prayer, while knowing full well that my prayer life was no model. Though that eventually changed, I know what it's like to live with that contradiction.

So this would be a shameless plug if it weren't for that. I recently posted the three thousandth prayer on my daily prayer blog, One Prayer a Day. Whether or not you're as desperate as I have been as pastor, it could be a helpful resource to you. Simply subscribe to it via email or your blog reader (or add it to your browser's bookmarks) and every morning you'll have at least one prayer to start the day.

Church of the Week: Christ Church Cathedral, Cincinnati, OH

I had the pleasure of fulfilling a long-time goal just over a week ago, when I worshiped with the church at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. I grew up knowing of this nearly two-hundred-year-old church (they celebrate their bicentennial in 2017) but had never attended.
I was immediately and warmly greeted upon entering fifteen minutes or so before the start of the 10 a.m. service. A family at the front was receiving final instructions for a baby baptism to be held in the service, and the choir was warming up. 
The church filled quickly. Following the stately processional, complete with incense (oh, yeah!), the organ and choir provided accompaniment for the liturgy of the day which was printed in a sixteen-page program (with an additional four-page insert for announcements). The organist was finestkind. The choir was excellent--especially the sopranos. And the liturgy was ably and feelingly presented. 
I loved that the program included helpful explanations and elucidations of the liturgy, its components and its meaning (see above).
The baptism (above), performed by the Very Reverend Gail Greenwell (dean of the cathedral), was delightful, a perfect blend of formality and informality, deep meaning and familial comfort.
I learned by reading the program (yes, I'm one of those few who actually read the program) that since I was there on the first Sunday of November (which was also All Saints' Sunday), a guided tour of the church was offered following the service. So I stayed.
I'm so glad I did. The docent, whose name I forget, is also a former history teacher, retired lawyer, and the church archivist. He could not have been kinder, more thorough, nor more knowledgeable. He offered numerous fascinating details of the church's history, architecture, and art, and took me (and one other participant) many places I could never have found or appreciated otherwise. Having been fascinated throughout the service by the glass rosette in the ambulatory (visible past the altar in the first two photos, above), which glimmers with a rose or pink hue as light shines through the crystal design, I was glad to get a closer view.
The cloister and columbarium (above) provides a beautiful setting for prayer and contemplation.
And I got to visit the library, too (above), which is not just well stocked with religious books but also benefits from a long-ago endowment that provides for the purchase of every New York Times bestseller. I love churches with libraries intended for actual use! 

Two other stops on the tour will be featured in the weeks to come on this blog. Christ Church Cathedral is located at 318 East Fourth Street (though the entrance to the church on Sundays is from Sycamore St. Sunday services are held at 8 a.m. (in the Centennial Chapel) and 10 a.m. (in the main sanctuary), with a 5 p.m. Sunday Evensong service on first Sundays of the month, October through May). 

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Simple Sermon Outline: When You Face a Difficult Decision

Here is another "Simple Sermon Outline" intended to ignite (not replace) the process of prayer, study, and creativity for any desperate pastors out there in Pastorland who take seriously the task of study and preaching but may be up against a wall and fresh out of ideas. The entire original script for this one is available at SermonCentralDOTcom, here. But the simple outline is as follows:
When You Face a Difficult Decision
Numbers 11, Exodus 18

1. Acknowledge the problem and define it clearly (Numbers 11:10-13)
2. Admit your limitations (Numbers 11:14)
3. Accept wise counsel (Numbers 11:14, Exodus 18:18-21)
4. Assess your resources (Exodus 4:2)
5. Allow others to help (Numbers 11:16-17)
6. Act accordingly (Numbers 11:24-29)
7. Abandon all else to God’s care and wisdom (Numbers 11:26-30)

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(image: MorgueFile free photo, courtesy of "OldGreySeaWolf")