Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Monday & Tuesday


  • Woke up around 5am unable to sleep  (I normally rise around 7am) so did Sunday's diary entry. 
  • Then read the second half of the Rule of St. Benedict in the bath. 
  • Out the door a little after 7am to go visit a friend dealing with a recent tragedy.
  • Into the Office. 
  • Spent some working on research for the diocesan Commission on Mission & Development I serve on. 
  • Worked on the bulletins for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day then sent them off to our local printer: Swift Print. I normally don't do the bulletins as that's the realm of our Parish Admin. Roberta but during a short, hectic week I'm glad to pick up some tasks to lighten our Staff's load.  We typically print in-house but, for weeks with four services, farming it out is way easier. And again, it allows our staff to truly have time off and not just double their workload before the days off. 
  • Pastoral Care Updates:  each Monday I check-in with our Pastoral Care Team to get updates on folks and then coordinate visitations for the week. Our Pastoral Care Team consists of me, our Deacon Bill Pelnar, our two "Deacons Emeritus" Marlyne Seymour and Mary Misner, my wife Tammy, Pat Leverick, Terry Cummings and Pat Benson. These are our folks who always know how our flock is doing and often make visitations of our sick and shut-ins. So thankful for each of these dear souls and the ways they are the heart and hands of Jesus. 
  • Check-in with St. John's in the Wilderness, Elkhorn's Vestry (Leadership Team). This Fall I was appointed Vicar of St. John's by Bishop Miller. While I don't lead services there on Sundays (due to my responsibilities at Christ Church) I give them oversight by meeting with their Senior Warden and Vestry, provide pastoral care and respond to emergencies, and am working towards offering non-Sunday worship when I can. 
  • This congregation does amazing outreach: for Christmas they provide Christmas packages (which include gifts and clothing) for about two-hundred families and do similar outreach at Back-to-School; just to name a few things. I'm very eager to work with them to expand the great ministry they currently do and discern with the Lord together what their future holds. 
  • Worked on customaries for Sunday Dec. 29th & Jan. 3rd (little "cheat sheets" with the page numbers in the Hymnal, Bible and Prayer Book for Sunday morning). Why? Because one of the new policies I instituted when I arrived is closing the Office so our Staff can have off the week after Christmas and Easter. They work so hard and regularly go above and beyond the call of duty that after are two busiest weeks of the year I want them to have some well-deserved time off. And one of the Office Staff's major tasks are our Sunday morning bulletins. Creating, printing, collating, stapling, etc. Labor intensive. So... for two Sundays we're doing it "old school" from the Hymnals, Bibles and Prayer Books. Again...it's not really time off if you have to double your workload just to be gone. And I want to make sure they truly have time off. 

  • Home for major house-prep for Tammy's family to come stay here for Christmas + 3. I can't wait. Looking forward to lounging in pajamas with my in-laws and playing board games whilst munching on Christmas cookies and being zany with my nieces and nephews. 
  • Into the Office. Needed to make last minute revisions to all the aforementioned bulletins.
  • Various administrivia in preparation for Christmas Eve & Day. 
  • Off to Elkhorn to drop-off copies of The Purpose Driven Church for my Vestry in Elkhorn at the lovely framing shop of Mike and Sue Bell: Bell's Under Glass.
  • Pastoral Visitations. Over to Walworth to see Deacon Mary and Dan Misner. Mary shattered her ankle in September and has been immobile since. We had a great visit and I got to show her and Dan the new website. 
  • Over to north Delavan to visit Mariann Stewart and bring her Communion. She is 98 and is one of the most prolific crochet-ers I've ever met. There was an article this week in the Shopper (local paper) about the history her families farm, that her daughter / parishioner Mary Stewart still lives in. Their family arrived in Delavan and bought that farm in 1837 and a member of the family has lived their every since: four generations for 178 years. Awesome.
  • Over to visit Dorothy Brown and her daughter and son-in-law Vito & Liz Episcopo. Dorothy turned 100 (one hundred) last month. She is such a beautiful lady, gushing with kindness, joy and trust in God's goodness and care. And Vito and Liz always make me feel so welcome and loved when I visit (Vito makes the best martinis!). I'm always so encouraged by them. 
  • The Missus was sick today (boo!) so we had eclectic fast food dinner and watched Home Alone. And now I am going to eat some peanut buttercup custard from Culver's (one of the many hallmarks of the great State of Wisconsin:  frozen custard) and watch the Office with my Love. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sunday Advent 4


  • 8am Eucharist - hard to believe it's the last Sunday before Christmas. Preached on Mary the Mother of Jesus "When God Draws Near...The Lowly Are Lifted Up." How she was one of the "lowliest" in society and when found in an impossible situation and said one of the most faith-filled Yes's to God ever:  "Here am I, the servant of the Lord. May it be just as you have said."
  • 9am Adult Ed Hour - nice big group today. Looked at the Prayer of St. Benedict as one example of the Sermon on the Mount in miniature. Created book-marks for my folks of it. Great discussion. Our Music Team Leader Susanne shared how we may see God's commandments as restrictive "rules" but in actually it's in keeping them that we find freedom. Amen. Amen. Amen.
  • 10am Eucharist - Third Sunday. Our kids all serve on Third Sundays and it's a blast! They have such great pride and a sense of ownership of their ministries. And it's fun liturgically because with so many servers we have the full menu of "smells and bells".  We're starting to have such a big group I think we need to go to two Sundays a month.
  • 11:15am - Red Door Coffee Meet n' Greet. Fair Trade, organic, Wisconsin-roasted, Haitian coffee and the people of God in fellowship. Love it.
  • Greening of the Church - "all hands on deck" to help prepare our Sanctuary for Christmastide. It looks beautiful.
  • During said Greening I rehearsed Silent Night with our Music Team as we need a guitar and Ron, our usual guitarist, just had rotator-cuff surgery.
  • Up to Whitewater with the Missus and the Mancub for our Convocation's first-ever joint Advent Lessons and Carols. Such a beautiful worship service. The choir sounded wonderful:  nothing like a robust choir singing live. The bell choir was hauntingly beautiful. Great time of fellowship afterwards among Episcopalians from across our tri-county area. 
  • Up to Madison to visit parishioner Jo Schulten in-hospital. Prayers for her are appreciated. She's having great difficulty breathing and longing to be home for Christmas.
  • Late night dinner with the family at Ella's Deli in Madison.  Great food (pastrami reuben sizzler...just trust me) and incredibly eclectic decor such as games built into the tables, animated displays from floor-to-ceiling ranging from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band to Popeye to Spiderman. They also have full-sized Carousel outside.
    • We recalled my second trip home of three when we lived in Texas from 2009 to 2014. We loved and missed Wisconsin deeply and being in Texas on a Church-planting salary & schedule, Wisconsin felt like a million miles away, simply because it was so difficult to make the trip. On that trip we were sitting in Ella's Deli, such an other-worldly place, which felt like a pilgrimage...and wondering out-loud as a family if we'd ever move back...then back to Texas where that moment felt like a dream for three years. So to be sitting there last night on what was a normal trip, one hour from home, simply felt like the Lord's generosity in granting the desires of our hearts.
  • It was a long day. Drove home. Watched The Office with the Missus and konked out.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tue, Wed + Thu



  • Convocation Meeting in Lake Geneva. (Convocation = group of 9 Churches in our tri-county area of the Diocese)
    • Met the Rev'd Helen Tester who just arrived this month. We have great camaraderie among this group and lots of fun together. We're excited to be doing more together in 2016.
  • Back to the Church for our monthly Outreach Team Meeting. Christ Church tithes 10% of our income every year. $5,400 goes annually to underwrite a room at Twin Oaks Homeless Shelter. 1% of our budget goes to Theological Education, this year for our two seminarians at Nashotah House:  Pedro Lara and my wife Tammy. The remainder is then distributed on monthly basis to organizations we have a history of supporting (missionaries, local relief agencies & the like)  as well as in response to requests for help. 
  • Spent the majority afternoon working hard on our website with our web designed Allan Aguirre from Planet Blue Media.
  • Had a conference call mid-afternoon in my role as Secretart of the Nashotah House Alumni Association.
  • Monthly Vestry Meeting. "Vestry" is Episcopal-speak for Lay Leadership Team who serve as the legal and fiduciary agents of the congregation. This meeting's focus was on approving our 2016 Budget and felt great:  pledges are up and the budget's balanced. Pledges being up isn't encouraging because of money, but because it indicates an increased confidence and committment to the mission of the Church, and most especiallydeeper discipleship.  
  • Home for more Yahtzee with the Mancub then Netflix with the Missus.

  • Early meeting @ Church with Lukas Janaky, owner of the newly opened LSJ Music Co. downtown to help us trouble-shoot our P.A. System. He's 23 and opened his own, excellent business. In the last year and a half he's become a dear friend and someone who is always ready to lend a hand. I have so much respect for Lukas.
  • Inaugural Men's Bible Study on 1st John. So excited to be spending time with these guys and studying God's Word. 
  • Coffee with parishioner Ken Oliak. Ken is a retired Superintendent of Schools who has great leadership savvy. He's one of those great souls who loves you enough to the tough stuff and is a source of incredible wisdom and experience. So grateful for him.
  • Monthly Pastor's Lunch at Kunes Ford. Greg Kunes, the owner, is a modern day Boaz. He uses his prosperity to be blessing to those in need. One of the many things he does is host lunch for local pastor's so we can meet to encourage one another, connect and consider how to work in-concert. Love this group of folks. 
  • Off to Willowfield Nursing & Rehabilitation Center to lead the worship service, which I do the 3rd Wednesday of each month. The fire alarm went off the entire time I was there. It was crazy. The residents couldn't leave the room we were in so we continued on with the service with my screaming my sermon over the WONK! WONK! WONK! WONK! of the fire alarm. Preached on the Magnificat, one of my favorite sermon themes. We also sang Christmas Carols. I love getting to worship with these dear ones.
  • Chief O'Niell was outside with the Fire Dept and so got to visit for minute. He's such a sweet guy. We' conspired to have a Blessing of the Fire, Police & EMS Crews this Spring. I can't wait!
  • Back to the Office for administrivia, work on the website and a final look at weekly e-News before it went out.
  • Long day, headed home to spend the evening prepping our house for Tamm'y family coming for Christmas!

  • Into the Office. Check-ins with staff then off to...
  • Vintage on the Ponds Nursing home to lead worship service which I do the  3rd Thursdays. Sang Christmas Carols and then preached on the Magnificat (again) but this time didn't have to scream over a fire alarm. This is such a sweet group of folks who are so engaged in the sermons. And boy do they sing! 
  • Back into the Office to communicate with our speakers for A School For the Lord's Service. I'm getting very excited about this class we're presenting on the Sundays in Lent. We have an amazing line-up of speakers. 
  • Phone call with my dear friend Fr. Jim Fosdick, he is the priest of St. Mary of the Snows in Eagle River, WI. He's so passionately committed to our Lord Jesus and is an amazing balance of truly evangelical and truly catholic; and thoroughly missional. So in an amazing god-incidence he mentioned a book he thought I'd be interested in:  The Benedictine Parish from Akenside Press. Would you believe I was reading that very book the last two nights?! This launched a great discussion about The Benedict Option, a Benedictine endeavor he's discerning in Eagle River and then I told him about A School For the Lord's Service. One of those amazing, synergistic moments.
  • Took the Mancub to basketball practice and "office" from courtside...
  • Worked on finding transcription software to turn audio files into text documents. Hoping to publish some teachings from Bishop Godfrey I have an mp3.
  • Created some publicity materials for A School For the Lord's Service.
  • Buddy Jon and I took Mancub and his kids to the Archery Range.  Becoming a Thursday night staple during this Winter.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sunday Advent 3 & Monday 12.14.15



  • 8am Eucharist:  "Rose" or Gaudete Sunday. One of my favorite days to preach all year. The major theme is "John the Baptist is the Apostle of Joy". Yes, he is. 
    • Deacon Dave Radzik, a recent Nashotah House grad and transitional deacon, served as Deacon at both services. He's a great guy, big-hearted Bostonian. It's been a joy geting to know him this past year.
  • 9am - Adult Ed:  Continuing our discussion of the Sermon on the Mount. I'm beginning to think these may be the most important 3 chapters in the entire New Testament.
  • 10am Eucharist:  our Seminarian Pedro Lara preached. It was fine sermon. One of my joys in this season is mentoring new clergy-in-formation like Pedro and Deacon Dave. 
  • 11:15am - Red Door Coffee Meet 'n' Greet, a.k.a. "Coffee Hour". I am so proud of the fact that we serve Singing Rooster Coffee. Fair-trade, organic, roasted-in-Wisconsin and grown by our brother and sisters in the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti.
  • Had the Laras over. I love their friendship and our Sunday afternoons of planning and mentoring. They prompted a great discussion about what a uniquely Latino Anglican culture should be and how it can address cultural issues such as Marian idolatry, machismo, godly masculinity and femininity and discipleship within Latino family culture. Pedro and Gloria are going to change the world. Look out!
  • Pedro and I then made a hospital visit together to one of our parishioners whom I got a phone call about after Church. Please pray for Jo.
  • Back to the house and got Pedro's feedback on our soon-to-lauch website. 
  • Sundays cook me. By earyly afternoon every last introverted ounce I have is wrung out of me. 
  • Mancub and I made choc. chip. cookies then watched the Battle of Five Armies while we played Yatzhee.

  • Breakfast with a new friend and colleague Fr. Larry Glenn. He's from Bushnell, IL the home of the legendary Cornerstone Music Festival. Tammy and I were "corner-stoners" for many years.
  • Back into Office. Wrote some Thank You's and then administrivia. 
  • Celebratory Lunch for my Secretary Linda Lemmon's last day of the season. She goes to Texas for the Winter and her "alternate" is Jean Reszka. Our entire staff are so dedicated and I'm so humbled by their Christ-like, sacrificial service to our congregation. Linda picked the local sushi joint for lunch. Yum!
  • One hour drive to Gaspard's, Inc a Wisconsin owned and operated,  Made In The USA, vestment company. Went their to pick up our new frontal. I've been the one dealing with them and so wanted to inspect it onsite before it came to Delavan. It's gorgeous. Love the folks at Gaspard's.
  • Used the drive time to listen to a short and long lecture by Rod Dreher on The Benedict Option. I'm fascinated by this idea. And I think it has real merit.
  • 2016 Budget Committee met to finalize our Budget for next year. Pledges are up. Some expenses are down. And it's balanced. Huge thanks to this excellent Team, to our parishioners who give generously and sacrificially and above all to God Almighty, Jehovah Jireh.
  • Home for Yatzhee and Lord of the Rings with the Mancub then watching the final episodes of the West Wing with the Missus.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thursday 12.10.15


  • Ahhhh... A day with no meetings...no one-hour drives...just some rare time for quiet, uninterrupted focused-task work. 
  • Into the Office and started with some administrivia.
  • Worked on the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.
  • Wrote a teaching on the Daily Office. The Daily Office is both one of the greatest discipleship tools in Christendom and one of the primary reasons I am an Anglican.
  • Spent the entire 2nd half of the day working on the new website. 
    • Sorted a couple hundred photos and chose the "cream of the crop", wrote new content, made edits / corrections / revisions.
    • Uploaded all of this to Treehouse DFW who are our web-designers. If all goes as hoped for we'll launch this baby new week! 
  • Took Mancub and his buddy to his last basketball game of 2015. 
  • Dropped off buddy at his house and spent the remainder of the evening visiting with his Dad, my great friend Jon. Kids lit the Menorah for Channukah night 5 then had a really great and personally helpful conversation about everything ranging from pastoral leadership to the Church calendar to the nature and call of the Church in the 21st century. I can't thank the Lord enough for my friend and brother Jon. He is the incarnation in my life that "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." + Proverbs 17:17
  • Home for some West Wing time with the Missus.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wednesday 12.9.15


  • Into the Office...
  • Phone call from a classmate from Nashotah House, wonderful to connect with her. She was calling to request my reference for a candidate for Ordination. Great conversation about this candidate and then a nice time catching up. 
  • Met with Parish Admin. Roberta to go over communications for this week. 
  • Spent time briefly working on the new website then...
  • 30 minute drive to Burlington, WI for...
  • Monthly diocesan Multicultural Ministry Team. We've got a rather exciting project we're working on regarding Latino Ministry in our Diocese. 
  • Drive back. Spent it listening to some differen teachings on "The Best Use of Social Media."  Social Media is the lingua franca today and I want to keep up with how best to use it and which tools serve which purposes best (don't want to assume I know what I'm doing).
  • Video Conference Call for the Nashotah House Alumni Association. It's a privilege to serve my alma mater as Alumni Secretary.
  • Meeting with our Church's Musicians Ron & Susanne Nelson to finalize music for Christmas. They both exemplify faithfulness and dedication and bring incredible passion to our music ministry. So thankful for their partnership in the Gospel and their friendship.
  • Dinner at our place with our Seminarians the Laras and parishioners the Greens who's oldest daughter I baptized on All Saints. Ryan Green will be inducted into the Navy next Tuesday, please keep their family in your prayers as they transition into this new season. Great time hanging out. Their little girls are all the same age and have such fun together, such a joy to see.
  • Laras stayed to discuss an exegetical paper and sermon Pedro's working on for class. Excited for Pedro to preach it this Sunday. 
  • Mancub off to bed. The Missus is also working school work for seminary. So this guy's going to settle in and watch Lawrence of Arabia and chill.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Monday 12.7 & Tuesday 12.8

Long but good day yesterday MONDAY...

  • First task of the week: Pastoral Counseling Session with a non-member of the Parish. Some conversations just aren't much fun, but they are necessary. 
  • Weekly check-in with my Sectretary Linda. 
  • Weekly meeting with my Parish Admnistrator Roberta. Primary task was finalizing the December "Good News Letter." (Our monthly print newsletter).
  • Miscellaneous Administrivia.
  • Looked over our 2016 Calendar of Events. Added events to our online Parish Calendar (soon-to-be published). This particular work was done from the corner of the gym during Mancub's basketball practice. With a smart-phone, laptop and cup of coffee; I can Office from anywhere.
  • Back to the Office to continue working on Calendar and Events specifically.
    • A School For The Lord's Service: Lessons For Christian Leaders From The Rule Of St. Benedict
      • Details coming soon!
    • Our 2016 Worship Schedule looking over Feast Days, Baptismal Feasts, Holy Week, etc. 
  • One hour drive north through rural southern Wisconsin to Nashotah House Theological Seminary where I serve as the Secretary of the Alumni Association. 
  • I'm continuing to listen to G.K. Chesteron's Orthodoxy. His prose is so rich. Every sentence could be a "sound-byte." And I'm beginning to understand why he's been dubbed "The Apostle of Common Sense."
  • Attended the Ordination to the Priesthood of Jason Terhune, a recent graduate of the House. Wonderful ordination liturgy in Adams Hall. Jason is a great guy, a gifted leader, servant-hearted, godly and skilled. It was a joy to see these things about him called forward into the priesthood.
  • Late-night drive home. Heavy fog. 
  • One hour drive in to Milwaukee for monthly Fresh Start (new clergy) Meeting. It was at St. John's by the Lake which holds a special place in my heart as having "opened the door" into our move to Wisconsin. Love the folks in this group, we're all two years or less in our Cures (church-speak for "gig") and it's a blessing to share what's going on, encourage one another, know we're not alone, share great ideas and laugh. 
  • Back in the car for an hour-and-a-half drive to Beloit. Sometimes I feel like I live in my blue Subaru Outback: affectionately dubbed "Old Fashioned."
  • Tuesday afternoon off for home-school with the Mancub then...
  • Basketball Game in-town. We walked to it. Love living in a walk-able community. Mancub's skills improve daily. Put the ball up numerous times in one quarter. And they won!
  • Back home, created our Convocation e-Announcement for Lessons & Carols.
  • Downloaded "Fuse": a video-conferencing technology in preparation for a meeting tomorrow.
Time to get my head in the Scriptures. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sunday Advent 2 / Chanukkah 1


  • Early am - Mancub's shoes were visited in honor of Saint Nicholas of Myra with some chocolate gold coins and a pair of white "Raybans" (the kid's got style, what can I say). 
  • 8am  Eucharist with Healing Prayer & Anointing with Oil
  • Adult Ed Class on the Sermon on the Mount
    • Fun discussion that went all over the place. Love this class!
  • 10am Eucharist with Healing Prayer & Anoitning with Oil
    • Preached on the Song of Zechariah (Luke 1:67-79): "When God Draws Near We Are Set Free."  Shared how Zechariah says we're "set free...to worship God." And how Paul tells us in Galatians 5:1 "It is for freedom that Christ set us free." Therefore, if we've been set free we ought to live like free people, not like we're still in prison. 
      • I shared the tragic story of my father's cousin who struggled with freedom his whole life. He went from high school to serving in the Army during Viet Nam. While in the Army he committed a crime that landed him in prison for roughly a decade. He got out when I was about 10 years old and I remember the only time I met him, he came over to our house for dinner and to visit. Being in prison he worked out a lot and I remeber him being hugely muscular, like a super hero. He was very kind and polite and humble. A few months later my Dad heard that he'd stolen a car and was back in prison. He visited him and asked why. His cousin said he didn't want the car, he just didn't know how to live on the outside. He had been set free, but he didn't know how to live as a free person. So he stole the car in order to go back to prison. Which is where he lived the rest of his life by continuing the cycle. Tragic. I balled all the way through the Creed after preaching.  
    • How do you live like a free person? Walk in the ways of God's commandements. Imagine a four-block radius where no one ever... 
      • lied
      • stole 
      • cheated on you 
      • wanted your stuff 
      • worshipped _________ instead of God 

      • honored their parents
      • committed violence
      • and dedicated an entire day every week to worship and rest and relationships 
    • Imagine...never locking your doors...never looking over your shoulder...never wondering if they're lying to you...never feeling like you need to walk faster to your car when "they" come around the corner. 
    • That's freedom! When God Draws Near We're Set Free. Free to worship Him without fear. We're set free to live like free people. 
    • Healing & Anointing - one of the most powerful pieces in the life of our congregation. There's an incredible history of healing ministry at the Red Door Church in Delavan. Numerous testimonies of miracles both in days gone by and this last month! I love that our service goes ten minutes longer on "healing sunday" because so many come for prayer, laying on of hands and anoitning with oil. And I love that my hand is drenched in oil by the time it's all done. What a great symbol. 
  • After Church
    • Red Door Kids Training. This is when children practice serving as acolytes, crucifers, altat servers, etc. I'm having so much fun with these kiddoes. (We just started a couple months go). They take such pride in serving Jesus at the altar. And they're getting really "tight." They all know their tasks and are doing them with precision...like the Elves in Lord of the Rings.  I'm so proud of them and thank God for them. They are the future of the Church. 
  • Quick tacos for our Seminarians the Laras then...
  • Annual Ladies Advent Tea. Hats. Gloves. Tea and cakes and savories. Gentlemen Servers. Loads of fun. The guys had a blast serving our dear sisters and hanging out in the kitchen. And the ladies always have a fun time.
  • Big kudos to Pat Leverick who organizes this event and gets gift for everyone. Pat is amazing!
  • Got word that one of our diocesan priests Fr. John Splinter was hit by a car and is in hospital awaiting surgery for a broken hip, prayers ascending. 

  • Celebrated the first night of Chanukkah with our dear friends the Adams. Jon and I made the traditional latkes...delicious! And with a hat tip to Adam Sandler, drank a "gin-and-tonica." Lit the Menorah and thanked God for His miraculous provision for, and protection of, His people throughout history and today. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Some Of My Favorite Books

This list could be huge so I'm going to limit myself to twelve which have either impacted me the most or to which I frequently return (the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer are givens). In no particular order...

  • Surprised By Hope by N.T. Wright
    • The bodily Resurrection of Jesus is at the center of everything in our Faith. The goal when we die is NOT to go to heaven. It is to be bodily resurrected and live in the new heavens and earth as a royal priest. Is your mind blown? Good. Read this book. 
  • A Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman
    • Effective leaders are self-differentiated. Don't know what that means? That's why you should read this. Relationships are the name of the game. The best book on leadership and relationships I've ever read. I was introduced to this by then-Dean of Nashotah House, Bishop Ed Salmon, who invited our Senior Class to meet him at the local pub on Wednesday nights to discuss this and he'd buy the first round. Now how can you pass that up?
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    • The chapter titled the Grand Inquisitor is my favorite piece of literature. Dostoyevsky summarizes human sin, world history, politics, religion, greed, freedom-and-slavery all in one mythical conversation which is an exposition of Jesus' Temptation in the Wilderness. It's one thing to write compelling theology. It's masterful to turn that into great literature. 
  • Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth E. Bailey
    • A new favorite. I loathe what I call "Hallmark Card Christianity." A Christianity that is divorced from the culture in the which the Scriptures were written with its idioms, languages, religious and political systems, and values; and instead anachronistically imposes its own familiar culture onto what the Bible says. Centuries of heretical theology, not to mention bad art and music, have dominated much of Christianity because we impose our culture onto the Scriptures instead reading it in its own cultural setting. 
    • Kenneth E. Bailey spent 40 years in the Middle East, mastering its languages, living among people who share the culture of the Bible (such as Bedouin shepherds) and studying the Judaism and early Christian Faith that are still alive and practiced the same way today in that part of the world. 
    • He dispels many myths and paints a rich, truthful picture of the world of the Bible and what its content means. Reading the Bible in light of his wisdom is like the difference between watching the Andy Griffith Show in color instead of black-and-white. You've always known who Opie was, but how could you have gone all that time and not know he had red hair?
  • The Ecclesiastical History of the Church of England by the Venerable Bede
    • The Venerable Bede was an 8th century monk in England writing about "recent events." He describes how the Mission of the Church arrived and expanded throughout England. I especially love the account of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne: such a wonderful example for believers of how to be an Evangelist & Leader.  It's filled with colorful accounts of saints, miracles, preaching, healings, kings, sabotage, betrayal and the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in England. As a Church-planter, I've often said "Everything you need to know about Anglican Church-planting can be found in the Gospels and Acts, the Book of Common Prayer and Bede's History."
  • For The Life Of The World by Alexander Schmemann
    • (The book, not the recent film series). Father Alexander Schmemann, memory eternal, was a Russian Orthodox priest, author and dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York. This book covers issues such as the secular vs. sacred, human-kind's vocation as royal priests, and the seamless relationship between the liturgical worship of Church within her sanctuary and her mission outside of it in the world. My entire theology of worship, liturgy and mission is informed by this book. 
  • The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren
    • Every Christian congregation exists to fulfill the Mission of Jesus through five purposes: Worship, Discipleship, Fellowship, Ministry and Mission. If a congregation is 1) not balanced in all five and 2) does not order it's life with, and on, purpose it will die on the vine. While I'm obviously not a Baptist / "Seeker-Church" guy, the biblical leadership principles and structures Warren lays out are universal and excellent. If you're congregation is struggling with health and/or growth, read this.
    • Before I ever read this the principles in it are something Bishop William Godfrey, the Missionary Bishop of Peru, taught me. In 17 years he grew the Anglican Church of Peru from one congegration into four dioceses.  How? He balanced the purposes of the Church and he did it on purpose. Where did he find this? Not Rick Warren, but as he's said, "It's all right there in the Scriptures, the Canons and the Prayer Book." Bishop Godfrey is one of my greatest living heroes.
  • The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
    • I love all of Tolkien's work for the rich languages and cultures he creates as well as the themes of the most unlikely, weakest candidate being the one chosen to vanquish evil. I especially love the last few chapters of this book. After throwing the Ring into Mt. Doom, Frodo and Sam have a discussion about what it means to return home and how once you leave home you can never really return, because it's no longer the place it was when you left it. As someone who has lived in four different places and cultural settings in my adult life, this chapter has been a great comfort in different seasons. 
  • The Orthodox Way by Kallistos Ware
    • The best brief overview of the Christian Faith I've read (and I've pored over many as a pastor trying to find one great, brief volume). Deep yet accessible. He's writing from an Orthodox Christian perspective, obviously, but presents the universal truths of the Faith beautifully with a particular bent towards the development of one's interior life and prayer. His chapter on "God As Trinity" is the best explanation of the Trinity I've read.
  • The Rule of St. Benedict by Benedict of Nursia
    • Bishop Godfrey of Peru, whom I'm honored to call friend and grateful to call a mentor, says "Everything you need to know about pastoring can be found in The Rule." The first time he said this I wasn't sure I believed him. But once I spent some time actually pastoring I realized how right he is. I keep a copy in my choir stall in the Sanctuary now to read a chapter when I pray the Office. If you want to lead others like Jesus, study The Rule.
  • Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger
    • I'm fascinated by organizsations that have become legendary doing only one thing well.  Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans makes one thing:  beignets. Apple makes one phone, one desktop and (essentially) one laptop. In 'N' Out only makes burgers.
    • Simple Church talks about being focused, simple and clear about what your Mission is and then aligning everything you do around that. I think this is one of the most effective ways to lead an organization. 
    • Know and articulate the singular reason you exist, align everything you do with that and get rid of the rest, and then measure if you're actually doing it or not on a regular basis.

Tuesday 12.1.15


  • Breakfast at Sunmist with one of my parishioners, who is a Baby Boomer, who asked "How do we reach Millenials?" An excellent conversation with this dear brother ensued. Isn't it the question these days?
  • Back to the Office. Administrivia and returning calls / emails. Then some writing work for our Newsletter.

  • Tuesday afternoon off for home-school with the Mancub.
  • Dropped Mancub at his Basketball Game. The Missus texted that he scored his first basket of season. Go Mancub! Wish I could've seen it, I was en route to...
  • Hour-long drive through rural southern Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine, the natural beauty I get to drive through here is truly one of the fringe benefits of ministry in Wisconsin. 
    • Note:  "kettles" are the geographic feature dotting this area which look like a...kettle...that were carved into the ground and "moraine" is "any unconsolidated form of glacial debris that is in currently or formerly glaciated reqions of earth" such as Wisconsin. Per Wikipedia.
  • Monthly diocesan Commission on Mission & Development Meeting from 5 to 8pm. This Team discusses how to best equip, resource and encourage congregations in our diocese who are struggling and those who want expand their leadership and ministry. Love this group of people and the ministry we do. We're very excited about the upcoming diocesan Leadership Days we're having at Nashotah House. 
  • Drive home in the freshly falling snow while listening to the audiobook of G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy. I have many opportunities for one hour drives by virtue of being a priest in southern Wisconsin. And I always keep a good audio book on-hand to listen to in the car. It's an important way for me to utilize what would otherwise be wasted time. Some audio books I've especially enjoyed are...
    • After You Believe by N.T. Wright
    • The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren
    • The King Jesus Gospel by Scott McKnight
    • Sitting At The Feet Of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler & Lois Tverberg
    • The Challenge of Jesus by N.T. Wright
    • Simple Church by Tom Reiner & Eric Geiger
    • Prodigal God by Tim Keller
    • The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • My former Rector, Bishop Stewart Ruch, once shared his reading discipline. He is "always reading a book on theology, on leadership, and a novel." I've tried to adopt that as my own rule, although I'm a bit anemic in the novel department. I think this kind of balance is important for Christian leaders and I believe it reflects the three most important skills we need to excel in: Theology, Leadership & Creativity. 
    • Obviously theology undergirds everything we do:  every prayer we pray, every piece of advice we give, every confession we hear, every sermon we preach. Leadership is the frame-work upon which all of our other skill-sets stand. We have to be skilled and ever-growing leaders who teach others how to lead. And reading novels unlocks our imaginations. In fact, I just listened to these words by G.K. Chesteron last night whiich elucidate why this is essential...
    • "Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathmeticians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, kin any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination."
  • As long as we're talking books I'll share some favorites.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sunday Advent 1 & Monday 11.30.15


One of the things I love about our Anglican Tradition is the Collects (prayers that communicate the day and/or theme we're celebrating) and I especially love the Collect for the 1st Sunday in Advent...

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; thatr in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorius majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through himwho loves and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


  • Said Eucharist in the Chapel with the Decalogue (Ten Commandments)
  • Adult Ed Hour on The Sermon on the Mount
    • I'm thoroughly enjoying this study. Just a reminder of how true a statement it is that Jesus was the best Teacher who ever lived. Amazing.
  • Sung Eucharist in the Sanctuary with the Decalogue 
  • Our sermon series for Advent is "When God Draws Near..." and this week's theme was "...Our Hearts Become Strong." I shared the story of the great Antarctic Explorer Sir Earnest Shackleton's rescuing his entire 27 man crew from over a year trapped on polar ice floes in 1915 by a daring 800 mile voyage across the open Antartic Ocean in (essentially) a rowboat. Not one of his men suffered injuries greater than frostbite. His men's hearts were made strong because they knew "The Boss" would come back for them. Just as Jesus says in today's Gospel "when you see these things happening, stand up, raise your head, for your redemption is drawing near."

  • Had a lovely afternoon with our Seminarians Pedro and Gloria Lara and their daughter discussing the season of Advent and doing our Advent Family Devotions together. We feasted on Appetizers from Chili's compliments of a gift from my new friends Tom and Lisa Seward.

  • Read my hero Fr. Alexander Schmemann's Introduction to Liturgical Theology to revisit his excellent treatment of the Christian Calendar and how much time he spends emphasizing that the foundation for the Christian Calendar is a Messianic drawing-forward of the Jewish Calendar. This issue of the Jewish & Christian Calendars and their rhythm of Feasting & Fasting is dear to me and, I believe, so essential to discipling people / forming them in the Faith (see Leviticus 23). One issue I continue to press into is "When did the Christian Calendar become divorced from the biblical Jewish Calendar and Why?" and "If it wasn't for a good reason, why are we not correcting this?"I fear I may be swimming against a tsunami though. 
MONDAY 11.30.15

  • Prayed Morning Prayer from the Daily Office in the Sanctuary. 
  • Time in the Office on Administrivia and reviewing my Calendar for the Week.
  • Spent the majority of the day helping one of our parishioners move: an older, single woman with no family. Was rejoicing to see how the Lord provided her with a beautiful new apartment. 
  • Continued moving help. Note: the drive on ES through southern Wisconsin between Elkhorn and East Troy never ceases to be breathtaking.
  • Wrote one of my articles for the Parish Newsletter based on reading from Schmemann. 
  • Mancub's Basketball Game. He put up a nice three-pointer. His skills are getting better and better and he's becoming more confident. I'm not a sports guy but I LOVE watching his games.
  • Homework with Mancub.
  • Watched an excellent documentary recommended by my dear friend Fr. Mario Bergner "Winston Churchill - Walking With Destiny". It's on Netflix.