Thursday, December 29, 2016

Top 12 Posts of 2016

2016 has been deeply satisfying for me personally. This is ironic, considering the tumultuous waters we have traveled as a nation and the looming crises internationally. By the grace of God, the collective lament and angst and fear has opened doors for me to write, teach, and speak in ways that are more culturally connected than ever before. This is evident on my blog, as I've come out of my academic cave and touched on issues of race, immigration, social media, vocation, politics, death, and tough questions of the faith.

Perhaps you haven't read it regularly, and you'd like to catch the highlights. In case you blinked, my blog changed titles this year, and so did I! Here are the posts that have (mostly) generated the most hits this year. I've skipped a couple and added one of my own favorites.

On race, immigration, and politics
2/1   refugees and religious extremists -- what to do?
7/12 an open letter to people who think they're white
7/14 so you think you're white
11/7 election day encouragement

On living life fully in God's presence
4/4   learning how to celebrate
5/18 a simple path to joy, part 1 and part 2
11/2 the surprising beauty of unanswered prayer
12/7 undone by the Psalms

On finding our vocation
1/3   leaning in
4/12 lasting impressions and do-overs
7/4   perspective on cape perpetua
7/26 quilted hearts: mentoring for the long haul

Friday, December 23, 2016

Naked Bible Podcast Interview

While I was in San Antonio for the Society of Biblical Literature meetings in November, Dr. Michael Heiser interviewed me for his "Naked Bible Podcast." The Naked Bible is among the top 25 Christian podcasts today, and I was honored to contribute to it. Dr. Heiser, a specialist in Hebrew Bible and Semitics, is known for his work on the 'Divine Council' in the Old Testament and his podcast is making biblical scholarship accessible to laypeople. (I highly recommend his introductory podcasts on the Divine Council!)

In the last 20 minutes or so of Episode 131, Dr. Heiser and I discuss my dissertation, which will come out in print in the BBR Supplement Series, published by Eisenbrauns. I have not yet blogged about my dissertation, so if you're curious about my academic work, this podcast is a great way to find out more. As a special bonus, the beginning of the podcast features Dr. Heiser's interview with Dr. N. T. Wright about his recent book entitled, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus' Crucifixion. Reverend Wright's work has been profoundly helpful to me personally and is setting the trajectory for the direction of scholarship for decades to come.

I hope you find it helpful!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

undone by the Psalms

Tomorrow is (barring a snow day) the last session for my Psalms class at George Fox University.

The Psalms have undone us.

They have stripped us of pretense, caught us unawares, awoken our senses, and shocked us out of our numbness. They have invited us to do the unthinkable -- to say what we really think, and to say it straight to God.

Our mentors this semester have been Walter Brueggemann and John and Kathleen Goldingay, as well as each other. The Goldingays have helped us to think about how to read the Psalms -- even the ugly ones -- as Christians, and to read them boldly.

Brueggemann has opened up new ways of thinking about the Psalms in relation to the world we inhabit. He has repeatedly issued an invitation to name reality. From his perspective, the psalms are far from tame and tepid. They are unruly and dangerous.

Even though I've come to expect this language from Brueggemann, his writings on the praise psalms caught me off guard. Praise psalms are the ones I used to think were typical, predictably cheerful. But Brueggemann woke me from my readerly slumber, highlighting five things about praise in his book, From Whom No Secrets Are Hid: Introducing the Psalms:
"First, praise is an act of imagination, not description. It sees the world through the lens of faith and dares" to suppose that there is more than meets the eye (46, bold added).
"Second, hymns of praise are acts of devotion with political and polemic overtones. . . . The very act of praise itself envisions a new world, a different world, a world alternative to the one in front of us. Indeed, hymns of praise are acts of defiance of the world that is in front of us" (47, bold added). 
 "Third, the Psalms voice and are embedded in a larger narrative in which [Yahweh] is the key character and lively agent." This narrative is necessary to the act of praise. It is not vague and spiritual but particular and embodied. "Each generation [is invited] to be a continuing participant in that narrative" (47, bold added).
"Fourth, doxology is the exuberant abandonment of self over to God. . . . Our self-yielding praise is a measure of our capacity to give our lives over to God" (47-48, bold added).
"Fifth and last, the hymns of praise with their exuberant self-abandonment without reservation into the God of large and particular narratives are quite in contrast with what we currently call 'praise songs' . . . [which often constitute] not a ceding of self, but a pre-occupation with self and a private religious expression that lacks depth or breadth" (48, bold added). 
If we really catch hold of this we'll turn everything upside down.
To praise God as king of all the earth relativizes the power of any human ruler.
To praise God as redeemer recognizes both pain and rescue, bondage and freedom.
To praise God as creator acknowledges a personal power behind the beauty around us.
To praise God necessarily involves all of who I am, without pretense, without reservation.

Even here, even in the psalms I thought were business-as-usual, I am undone.

Do I dare to praise?

Do you?

Do we?
"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD." (Psalm 150:6)