Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reading in 2015, Year-End Report

Being a graduate of a liberal arts college, I obviously enjoy reading books (pardon the stereotype...but it my case it is true!). One of my "soft" resolutions at the beginning of the year was to read at least one book per month. I managed eleven; I blame the slackening over the summer on the Chicago Cubs' thrilling season being so distracting.

In any case, here are the books I read this year, in alphabetical order by the author's last name:

  • J. Mark Bertrand, Rethinking Worldview
  • Dale Brown, Starfire
  • Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday
  • Greg Forester, Joy for the World
  • Michael Lewis, Moneyball
  • Russell Moore, Onward
  • Paul Nyquist and Carson Nyquist, The Post-Church Christian
  • Philip Graham Ryken, Loving the Way Jesus Loves
  • Patrick Smith, Cockpit Confidential
  • R. C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas
  • Paul Taylor, The Next America

And I still have the unread part of an ever-growing list of titles accumulated from my daily blog and news reading, so I am already well on my way to lots of reading in 2016. At least in theory...

Friday, December 25, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 25

Wednesday, December 25 (Christmas Day)

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Text by Charles Wesley (1739)
Music by Felix Mendelssohn (1840)

Performed by Celtic Women

Thank you for joining me on this musical journey through Advent.
Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 24

Wednesday, December 24 (Christmas Eve)

Arise, Shine!
Text from Isaiah 6
Musical setting by Dan Forrest (2007)

Performed by the Baylor Concert Choir

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 23

Wednesday, December 23

Love Came Down at Christmas
Text by Christina Rossetti (1883)
Musical setting by John Rutter (1960s)

Performed by the City of London Sinfonia

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 22

Tuesday, December 22

Good Christian Men, Rejoice
Text by John M. Neale (1853), paraphrase of a 14th century Macaronic carol 
Music a traditional 14th century German melody

Performed by the Robert Shaw Chorale

Monday, December 21, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 21

Monday, December 21

O Holy Night
Text by John S. Dwight (19th century)
Music by Adolphe C. Adam (19th century)

Performed by Nat King Cole

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 20

Sunday, December 20 (The Fourth Sunday of Advent)

Of the Father's Love Begotten
Text by Marcus Aurelius C. Prudentius (fourth century), translated by John M. Neale (1854) and Henry W. Baker (1859)
Music is thirteenth century plainsong

Performed by the New Jersey Chamber Singers

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 19

Saturday, December 19

O Come, All Ye Faithful
Text by John F. Wade (1751), Frederick Oakley (1841), et al.
Music by John Wade (1751)

Performed by Celine Dion

Friday, December 18, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 18

Friday, December 18

Joy Has Dawned
Text and Music by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend (2004)

Performed by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 17

Thursday, December 17

We Three Kings
Text and Music by John H. Hopkins Jr. (1857)

Performed by Straight No Chaser

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 16

Wednesday, December 16

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Text and Music traditional English carol, c. 16th century

Performed by Annie Lennox

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 15

Tuesday, December 15

Joy to the World
Text by Isaac Watts (1719), based on Psalm 98
Music by George Frederic Handel (1742) and Lowell Mason (1848)

Performed by Faith Hill

Monday, December 14, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 14

Monday, December 14

Angels from the Realms of Glory
Text by James Montgomery (1816, rev. 1825)
Music by Henry T. Smart (1867), arranged by Mack Wilberg

Performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with The King's Singers

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 13

Sunday, December 13 (The Third Sunday of Advent)

For Unto Us A Child Is Born
Text from Isaiah 9:6
Music by George Frederic Handel (1741)

Performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Chorus with Robert Shaw

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 12

Saturday, December 12

The First Noel
Text is a traditional English carol
Original musical arrangement by John Stainer (1871), this setting by R. Christopher Teichler (2006)

Performed by the Wheaton College Choirs and Symphonic Band

Friday, December 11, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 11

Friday, December 11

O Magnum Mysterium
Text is a responsorial chant from the Matins of Christmas Day
Music by Morten Lauridsen (1994)

O great mystery
And wonderful sacrament
That animals should see the newborn Lord
Lying in a manger
Blessed is the virgin whose womb
Was worthy to bear the Lord Jesus

Performed by the Westminster (London) Cathedral Choir

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 10

Thursday, December 10

What Child Is This?
Text by William C. Dix (c. 1865)
Music a traditional 16th century English melody, harmonized by John Stainer (1871)

Performed by Josh Groban

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 9

Wednesday, December 9

Jesus, Joy of Highest Heaven
Text by Kristyn Getty (2011)
Music by Keith Getty (2011)

Performed by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 8

Tuesday, December 8

See Amid the Winter Snow
Text by Edward Caswall (1858)
Music by Sir John Goss (1871)

Performed by Erin Bode

Monday, December 7, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 7

Monday, December 7

O Little Town of Bethlehem (with Away in a Manger)
Text by Philip Brooks (1868)
Music by Louis H. Redner (1868)

Performed by Kari Jobe

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 6

Sunday, December 6 (The Second Sunday of Advent)

Once in Royal David's City
Text by Cecil F. Alexander (1848)
Music by Henry J. Gauntlett (1849)

Performed by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 5

Saturday, December 5

Breath of Heaven
Text and music by Chris Eaton and Amy Grant (1992)

Performed by Amy Grant

Friday, December 4, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 4

Friday, December 4

Mary, Did You Know?
Text and Music by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene (1991)

Performed by Pentatonix

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 3

Thursday, December 3

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
Text from a 3rd century Greek Eucharistic chant based on Habakkuk 2:20, English translation by Gerard Moultrie
Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams based on French medieval folk melody (1906)

Performed by Fernando Ortega

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 2

Wednesday, December 2

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
Text by Charles Wesley (1744)
Music by Rowland H. Prichard (c. 1830), arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams (1906)

Performed by Ashley Spurling and Red Mountain Music

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Day 1

Tuesday, December 1

O Come, O Come Emanuel
Text is a 12th century Latin hymn, translated into English by John Neale (1851)
Music is the 15th century hymn tune VENI VENI EMANUEL

Performed by Selah

Monday, November 30, 2015

Musical Advent Calendar 2015, Introduction

Happy Advent!

I am excited to announce my fourth annual Music Advent Calendar. Many of my readers are familiar with this, but a brief explanation for those who are not:

Every day from tomorrow, December 1, through Christmas Day, December 25, I will have a YouTube video of a Christmas- or Advent-themed song featured here on The Rubio Room. As in past years, the 25 selections are a mix of songs from across the centuries and musical styles, and an equally wide variety of artists perform the songs. Each day's selection will be live at 5am Central Time. You may visit my website each day, subscribe to the blog's feed via your news aggregator, or subscribe to the blog by email (see "Follow by Email") in the right column.

Please, share the Music Advent Calendar with your family, friends, colleagues, and others. May the joy of Christ's first coming and the hope of his second be yours this Advent season.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Life Update, Fall 2015

Dear Readers,

It has been something like 100+ days since my last post here at The Rubio Room. This morning I started work on my annual Musical Advent Calendar (watch this space on December 1), but I really did not want that to be the first post immediately following the one from June, so here I am. And I actually do have a lot to share from the last three months, if you will allow me a personal post about some of the highlights.

Work at Wheaton College

The spring/summer saw the departure of two members of the Conservatory staff. Heading into the fall and the new school year, my dean, Dr. Michael Wilder, asked me to assume some of the responsibilities left behind. In addition to continuing my role as Assistant Manager of the Wheaton College Artist Series, with responsibility for concert production, the student staff, and many audience development and marketing tasks, I now spend some of my time involved with Conservatory operations and special projects. One of my recent projects involved coloring.

Seating Chart for the annual Conservatory Children's Concerts

Naomi visited!

Just before the new school year began, Naomi, my girlfriend, visited Chicago for a few days. I took her to her first Cubs game, and we also heard a Grant Park Music Festival concert with Kurt Elling, visited Oak Park's Thursday Night Out and Farmers Market, and spent some much-needed time together.

Naomi and I at Wrigley Field. Cubs had an exciting win that day!
Artist Series

Just last weekend was Opening Night for our 66th season. Camerata Chicago, with special guest Sylvia McNair, presented an all-Gershwin concert. It was a spectacular and satisfying evening.

Soprano Sylvia McNair waves good night at the end of the Opening Night concert

Music Ministry

Calvary Memorial Church recently called a new Pastor of Worship and Music, Josh Caterer. (I would link to his biography on the church website, but he is so new it is not yet there.)

Two weekends ago was the first time the Chamber Orchestra worked with him. It was a great collaborative effort, as we joined with Josh to lead the congregation in two songs, the classic "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" and the modern song "Behold Our God."

The Sanctuary Choir resumed rehearsals two weeks ago. I missed that over the summer, and am glad of the chance to sing in a choral setting again.

New Apartment

In the midst of a very busy September, I somehow found time, with the help of my dad, to move to my new apartment. Don, my roommate, and I really like it. Separate dining room, fireplace (albeit non-functional), bits of stained glass, enclosed back porch, and a lot of improvements made just before we moved in.

View of the dining room (foreground) and living room (background)
And there was so much more beyond those highlights in the last few months. I heard the National Brass Ensemble in concert at Symphony Center, followed the Chicago Cubs as they secured their first postseason berth since 2008, had the privilege of witnessing the wedding of one of my best friends, and began leading my small group.

Life is good, as they say. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lunch with Kent Hughes

In 2015, Calvary Memorial Church marks its centenary. We celebrated this milestone with four days of events stretching from last Wednesday to today. Wednesday was a special worship service, Worship Through The Ages, with a message from our most recent former senior pastor, Dr. Ray Pritchard. Friday evening was a celebration program and reception. Saturday morning we hosted a 5k to raise funds for our outreach ministries. And today after services we had an all-church cookout. It was a very full and very successful time of celebration. Four very different events, but all centered on the theme of celebrating 100 Years of Making Jesus Christ Known in Oak Park & Around the World.

I think the most significant part of the last few days for me was not at one of the events, but at lunch on Friday. For Friday evening's program, our senior pastor, Todd Wilson, invited his mentor and former senior pastor, Dr. R. Kent Hughes (author and senior pastor emeritus of College Church in Wheaton), to give the charge to the church. Todd and five other Calvary pastors and directors and I had lunch with Dr. Hughes earlier in the day.

Dr. Kent Hughes (center) at lunch with Calvary pastors

Led by Todd, we all picked his brain over the meal. I mostly listened, because it was a special treat for me to just hear what he had to say about leadership and ministry. I found what he had to say valuable and wholly applicable to my service in the local church but also to my work in arts management, teaching, and many other pursuits, both current and desired.

There are three pieces of wisdom in particular I would like to highlight here.

1. God made you to be you, so live your passions

2. Hire people superior to you.

I would generalize this to simply surround yourself with people superior to you, for situations where one is in leadership but not necessarily an employer

3. Take your ministry seriously; don't take yourself too seriously

Again, I would generalize that to say take your calling or profession or work seriously; don't take yourself too seriously.

It was a really great conversation with this elder statesman of the evangelical church, and a privilege to have Dr. Hughes for our celebration this weekend.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Articles of the Week: Pentecost

Tomorrow, May 24, is Pentecost Sunday, the fiftieth day since Easter Sunday, and the day the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles. Here are a few articles on that topic from my reading this week...

Tish Harrison Warren, writing for Christianity Today, draws on insights from both ancient and modern theologians as well as her own experiences to explore maternal symbolism as it relates to the Church. "This Pentecost," she writes, "we celebrate the beginning of that great work of sanctification, the birth of our mother, Christ's bride."

Over at the The Economist's Prospero blog, Johnson writes about the significance of translation to the advance of Christianity. On the first Pentecost, as chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles tells us, a large crowd each heard the apostles speaking in his (or her) own language. It was a miracle that day, and the miracle continues, a bit less dramatically but no more importantly, through ongoing missions work in Bible translation.

And finally (though this piece was actually from last week), Russell Moore writes at his blog in response to the recent Pew Center study on the record-low number of self-identifying Christians in America. Moore writes, "The future of Christianity is bright. I don't know that from surveys and polls, but from a word Someone spoke one day back at Caesarea Philippi."

And here are Keith and Kristyn Getty and company singing "O Church Arise."

Monday, May 18, 2015

On Professional Confidence

Over the weekend, I had the chance to talk by phone with one of my Wheaton College roommates. Paul is currently serving in the United States Navy, and at the moment he is at Naval Station Norfolk in the final major portion of his training as a helicopter pilot. He reflected to me that at this stage, he feels more "trusted" by his superiors than in previous stages and as a result he feels more confident in his work.

I realized that, even in my very different lines of work, I feel the same. Like Paul, I am now four years past completing my undergraduate studies, and within the last year I have felt more confident in my work. I credit it to accumulated experience as well as being trusted and empowered to take on greater challenges and responsibilities by my superiors.

I have had a number of people who in the context of being my boss have also served as professional mentors to one degree or another. They have continually encouraged me and challenged me, and I know that I am indebted to them for the professional success I have had to date. Having a tremendous education such as I received from Wheaton College was a huge foundation (apologies for the hyperbole, but anyone who knows me knows it is hard to resist when talking about Wheaton), but I know that my professional mentors were (and are) profoundly significant in my young professional years.

And so, for any more junior young professionals reading this, let me say two things. First, be patient with yourself if you feel that you have yet to "achieve" anything. And second, keep learning, and find professional mentors who can help you keep learning.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Holy Week and Easter 2015

I am sitting at home, reflecting on a very satisfying Holy Week and Easter Sunday. As always, I spent a lot of time at my church, Calvary Memorial of Oak Park, over the last few days. I did not myself take any pictures, but I have plenty of images and moments from the last week in my mind. A few to share with you...

Last Sunday, Palm Sunday, we had the annual palm parade, with all of the children's Sunday school classes marching around the Sanctuary waving palm branches during the singing of Paul Baloche's "Hosanna." From my position in the audiovisual control booth, I saw every child walk past, all looking so excited to be part of the service.

Wednesday evening was dress rehearsal night for this weekend's services. We had a full schedule, and it was a very successful evening. I felt very good about the coming services at the end of the rehearsal. It is always satisfying just to see all the musicians come together in rehearsal and get a teaser of what the services will feel like.

Thursday evening was our Maundy Thursday service, a relatively new service for Calvary (this was only our third year celebrating Maundy Thursday). Seminary student and lay worship leader Erik Johnson prepared the songs and led our time of singing, and Nate Friedrichsen, our pastor of community engagement, gave a message focusing on the two cups: our cup, the cup of God's wrath, that Jesus drank for us, so that we could drink his cup, the cup of the new covenant. As I reflected with a friend afterward, I had never thought of it that way, and the image was helpful. The Maundy Thursday service had a great "family" feel, as it should. We celebrated communion at the service, and because we only had one service for that occasion, it allowed for informal and non-curtailed mingling afterward. I found myself at Red Mango with a few friends from the young adults' group after the service!

Friday evening we had our Good Friday services. I was the worship leader for the service, guiding the congregation through a liturgy of Scripture reading, corporate singing, and songs offered by the Sanctuary Choir. Gerald Hiestand, our senior associate pastor (our equivalent of an executive pastor) gave the evening's reflection, "Acquainted with Grief." It was a service of contemplation and commemoration, and I was privileged to have that leadership role in it.

Saturday, for me, was a work day. It was the day a few of us staff are at church, very busy getting ready for the following day. The redecorating and setting up for Sunday did not take long at all though, and only heightened our excitement for Sunday.

And then there was today, Easter Sunday. With my alarm set for 5:00 AM, I woke up instead at 4:45 AM, and found myself at church by 6:00 AM. I completed my walk-through and got everything open and powered up and before long the band, choir, and orchestra arrived for our warm-up rehearsal, and then it was time to celebrate!

It was, on the whole, a very good morning at Calvary. Everyone was in a good mood, the congregational singing (of classic Easter songs both old and new) was robust, the snacks were delicious, and by the time we reached mid-morning the sun was shining, dispelling the early morning cloudiness. God was praised for his victory in Christ. The resurrection, as Senior Pastor Todd Wilson said in his sermon titled "This I Believe" from 1 Corinthians 15, is God's "authenticating signature" on the life, teaching, and death of Christ. And we celebrated that signature in joyous fashion.

Such a great week. I was so blessed to be part of it. And, by the grace of God, I did not find any of it stressful or even draining, really. All by God's grace. Soli Deo gloria.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Millennials, Technology, and Compassion

I recently wrote a piece exploring technology, compassion, and the role each -- and could -- play in my generation, the Millennial generation. It was published this morning at Thin Difference, a leadership blog/website I follow. My article is a call to action to my generation, to use the technology we have to be compassionate. Please read!

My full, updated bibliography is here, or via the link at the top of every page on this blog (mobile users, please find it in the drop-down menu). Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

America Under Construction

Last week I took a vacation to Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia. I saw a number of friends (mostly from my Wheaton days), did a few touristy things (including a concert at the Kennedy Center, something that has been on my bucket list for a while), and relaxed at my parents' vacation timeshare resort in Alexandria.

One of my activities was a visit to the United States Capitol. The Capitol dome is currently surrounded by scaffolding, the most visible element of a major restoration project.

The United States Capitol, looking southeast from the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street

The image of the Capitol dome under construction reminded me of a scene from my favorite TV show, The West Wing. Josh Lyman, the Deputy White House Chief of Staff, is meeting with a candidate for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, preparing for the Senate confirmation hearings. They are vigorously discussing race relations in the United States, and the candidate, Jeff, asks Josh to take out a dollar bill and look at the back. Josh does, and Jeff points out that the pyramid on the Great Seal is unfinished.

"The seal is meant to be unfinished," Jeff says, "because this country's meant to be unfinished. We're meant to keep doing better. We're meant to keep discussing and debating..."

What if we were to remember that more often? In these days of ideological battles, when our country seems so polarized, what if we were to remember that this grand idea called America, this grand experiment in freedom and in government by the people's representatives, is unfinished? If we did not expect it to be perfect (the word "perfect" means "complete"), would we find it all less frustrating, and perhaps double down on our efforts to work together as a nation?

Friday, January 30, 2015

On Arts Entrepreneurship

"Arts entrepreneurship" is a term that, besides being a mouthful, is probably unfamiliar to most. It is a newer concept and a newer discipline. So new, in fact, that it was not part of my liberal arts-influenced Conservatory undergraduate education, which I finished not quite four years ago. Essentially, it concerns the contemporary dynamic of being and working as a professional artist of any trade.

I do not consider myself a "practicing" artist, I consider myself anchored much more on the managerial/administrative side of things, but I certainly have more than a few friends who are "practicing" artists, and some of the concepts within arts entrepreneurship apply to me anyway given the day and age and society in which I live.

But enough from me. The reason I bring it up at all here is because I came across two pieces on the subject in my reading, and thought it was time I prove that this young professional is paying attention!

The first piece is from the current issue of The Atlantic, and traces the history of the professional artist's relationship to society at large and then analyzes the current relationship. It is a lengthy piece with quite a bit of substance on some major themes.

And the second is from the blog of the director of the arts entrepreneurship program at Arizona State University, Linda Essig. She offers a summary of the responses of her students to the prompt: "What does it mean to you to be an arts entrepreneur?" These students are just a few years younger than I, yet their thinking is different from the conversations on "life as an artist" I remember having in my undergraduate senior seminar. The field is continually changing, as I am able to see in my work for the Wheaton College Artist Series, in which I interact with a lot of younger, emerging artists, and also my conversations with current students at Wheaton College.

In any case, it is a topic I think I may need to start reading more about, as it will become continually more and more relevant to me personally and professionally.

Update January 31:
I found out that Linda Essig wrote a brief response to the essay in The Atlantic. She highlights the importance of the audience in the arts world. She writes: Artists "need to think of the audience for the arts as partners in an ongoing two-way relationship in which art is not consumed, but appreciated."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

On Waiting


Not quite a common theme for this season of Epiphany. The longing of Advent has since given way to the feasting of Christmas, that great turning point of redemptive history.

And yet, on the macroscopic level, waiting is the order of business for this time, these centuries between Christ's first Advent, the one celebrated every December, and the second, the one we are not yet able to celebrate because it is not yet here.

I came across two articles in my reading this week, this first full week after the Epiphany, on that theme, which I will highlight here along with my reflections after reading.

The first, by Jeff Strong for Christianity Today, focuses on an often-overlooked fact of the Christmas story (I confess I had never given it much thought), the fact that the shepherds and the Magi both returned, as far as we know, to the same lives they had had before. The next night the shepherds were back out with their sheep, and the Magi eventually made it back to their homeland and continued their scholarly pursuits. A little anticlimactic, when one actually considers that point.

And yet, it fits. After gathering for worship on Sunday mornings, a local congregation returns to their homes, and the next day to their places of work and study. But were the shepherds and Magi any different when they returned? Are we any different when we return from our weekly churchgoing?

The second article is more specifically about waiting. Amber Haines writes for The High Calling about a time in her life when she was very impatient for God to fulfill the promise to make all things new. But without waiting, without unmet desires, what use would there be for hope?

Are there times when we go through the motions of going to church and more often than not find ourselves bored with waiting for God to act? Or are we allowing this time of waiting, while in the midst of the everyday between Sunday and Sunday, between the first and second advents, to transform us?

Most people, being human, hate waiting. I hate waiting in traffic, in line, for the commercial break to end, for a response to that "urgent" email or text message I sent just thirty seconds ago, or for the brainwave that will allow me to finish this sentence. But I know that God is never behind schedule. If God has yet to act, it is because it is not yet time.

"It takes courage to return in a culture that continually invites us to move on," Strong writes. "We believe that Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith," Haines writes, "and waiting becomes an active engagement with hope at its core."

We cry, "Come, Lord Jesus," and rightfully so. But sometimes, the response is, "be still and know that I am God."

Monday, January 12, 2015

From Meadowgate Farm

This past weekend, members of Adelphoi, Calvary Memorial Church's young adult community, gathered at Meadowgate Farm (the retreat home of one of our elder's in-laws) in North Central Illinois, for our winter retreat. There were seventeen adults and three children, and we made good use of the home's nine bedrooms and plentiful common areas. A relaxed schedule of games, conversation, and an almost constant flow of food was the order of business for the weekend.

Meadowgate Farm, outside Orangeville, Illinois

Saturday morning sunrise over North Central Illinois

Kirk Baker, who with his wife Amy leads the young adult ministry, led our group devotional times. His topic for the weekend was, simply but profoundly, growth. He challenged us young adults to think 20, 30, 40 years into the future: would each of us be more mature in Christ at that point? We are always and constantly responding to something, to some situation or another, he observed, and it is the sum of those responses over time that either make us more like Christ or less. This is the process of sanctification, essentially.

The next question Kirk had for us was what role does the Cross have in our sanctification. It has a crucial role, we agreed (I use the word "crucial" intentionally as it has as its root the Latin word for cross). On his handout, Kirk had written about the Cross: "Through Christ his out poured grace we experience comfort, cleansing, and the power to change." In our Saturday evening devotional session we looked at two passages from Paul's writings (Galatians 2:20 and Romans 8:9-10, to be specific), which describe this concept. Our discussion further led us to the conclusion that not only does the indwelling of the Spirit allow us to have godly responses to temptation and difficulty situations and circumstances, but it allows us to receive grace and have the courage to continue when we fall and do not have godly responses.

Thanks, Kirk and Amy, for leading our time of rest and reflection over the weekend!

About half the members of my small group were able to attend the retreat. In the back, from left to right, are Jill, Jason, and me, and in the front are Adriana, Matt, and Charlene.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Reading List 2014: Year-End Report

In July, I reported on the books I had read in the first half of 2014. Here is the promised companion post, with the books I read in the second half, again in order of completion:

Joseph A. Michelli, Leading the Starbucks Way
Jeremy Begbie, Resounding Truth
Todd Wilson, Real Christian: Bearing the Marks of Authentic Faith
John Mark Reynolds, When Athens Met Jerusalem: An Introduction to Classical and Christian Thought
Ken Follett, Edge of Eternity

Not as many as I had hoped I would finish in 2014, but still an average of one per month. And I still have the unread part of that list I made a year ago, so I am already well on my way to lots of reading in 2015. At least in theory...