Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
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Called Out Episode 007: AJ Swoboda

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This new episode of Called Out features a conversation I had with AJ Swoboda, an author, professor, and pastor from Portland. Although I’ve connected with AJ quite a bit when we were both pastoring in Portland, I also grew up int he same town as AJ. We went to the same high school, same church, and same youth group, though we were 3 years apart. Small!

I talked with AJ about how he went from being a music and drama student to a pastor, what ministry in the urban core of Portland is like, and why he’s published a book on the importance of Sabbath rest.

You can listen to the full episode below (click here email readers).

Or find the episode wherever you listen to podcasts, including:

Apple Podcasts || Soundcloud || Stitcher || Overcast

Other links from the episode:

-AJ’s new book Subversive Sabbath (out this week!)

-AJ’s church in Portland, Theophilus

-Links to all of the other books AJ has published.

-Theme music by Shoring.

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The Beauty of Lament—My Review of Sandra McCracken’s New Album

I had the unique privilege to write a review of Sandra McCracken’s latest album (out yesterday) for The Gospel Coalition. You can read the whole review HERE, but here’s the introduction:

As many as 40 percent of the Bible’s psalms could be categorized as psalms of lament. Their words pulse with protest, indignation, complaint, and sorrow, even as they contain hope. While the modern worship movement has done much good, it has largely missed the importance of lament.

Artists like Sandra McCracken help us recover this biblical tradition.

McCracken’s new album, Songs from the Valley, feels like a natural progression from her previous two studio albums, Psalms and God’s Highway. The psalms drive us to God, seeking his light in the darkness of earthly toil. They give voice to our protests and frustrations. They provide a framework and vocabulary for approaching God, even when he seems distant.

The protests and expressed frustrations of lament might seem beneath the Christian believer, but they are all over the pages of Scripture.




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The Best Things I Read This Week

1. Rachael Denhollander’s interview with Christianity Today about her courtroom appearance in front of Larry Nassar, and why she lost her church by standing up for sexual abuse victims.

If you haven’t watched the impact statement she gave in court last week, I’d start there. This interview highlights that the Gospel is not merely about forgiveness, and when we only focus on forgiveness we miss out on God’s justice. While what Rachael has to say is sobering as a pastor (“It is with deep regret that I say the church is one of the worst places to go for help”), I truly believe she has the kind of perspective on sexual assault that we must listen to.

For more background on all this, you can also check out Rachael’s editorial piece in The New York Times.

2. The increasing amount of people who struggle with anxiety has been a topic of interest for me for quite some time. You can listen to my podcast episode on the subject here. One of aspect of it that deserves consideration is what parts of modern life lead us toward anxiety, instead of away from it. Brett McCracken shares that Netflix, and its rampant use among younger audiences (including myself) pushes toward anxiety in many ways.

“When everything is at our disposal, on our timeline, and to our liking, we’ll naturally experience stress under the weight of consumerist freedom and FOMO. Will we make the wrong choice?”

3. Ministering to Millennials in a Secular Age by Derek Rishmawy. This is an excerpt from a larger book featuring different authors writing individual chapters titled Our Secular Age, released by The Gospel Coalition.

My favorite aspect of the article is how Derek pushes the reader away from a “the sky is falling” mentality toward tools for engagement: “We need to refuse the temptation to despair, or to engage in a morose, crippling nostalgia for some mythical, lost Golden Age of Faith.”

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Called Out Episode 006: #MeToo

called out episodes

time cover metooThis new podcast episode topic needs no introduction. The #MeToo hashtag is almost universally known. Not only did it lead to the “Time Person of the Year,” but it has become a nightly news segment, and overtook the Golden Globes earlier this month.

In this episode you’ll hear some personal stories, some encouragement for steps forward for those who are affected by sexual assault in their past, and encouragement for others who are close with individuals who have been affected.

You can listen to the full episode here (click here to listen email readers):

Or find the episode wherever you listen to podcasts, including:

Apple Podcasts || Soundcloud || Stitcher || Overcast

Links to items that were discussed on the episode:

-Mary DeMuth’s memoir Thin Places and her book Not Marked.

-Mary DeMuth’s podcast ReStory.

-Justin Holcomb’s book Rid Me of My Disgrace.

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How it All Began

It all started on a pool deck when I was in between jobs, during the summer of my first year of marriage. I figured I was starting seminary so I needed to get used to reading, so I read for hours on end every day, rereading old favorites and new finds, immersing myself in the world of theology.

Theology is simply the study of God, but in those months it became a place to call home—a centering place—where I wanted to know God more for the nurturing of my soul and in order to be able to lead others on that same journey.

Those poolside reads were a critical time in my life. I had made the choice to leave the vocational field I had spent the previous 4 years getting a degree in. Seminary was not so much a decision based on calling, but more so a wild guess. Like, “God, maybe this?”

Word by word, page by page, book by book, God ignited in me a desire to know Him more deeply. Reading, studying, it was work, and yet, a joy. In all my years of work and study, I only knew work, the joy in it helped me realize I was going in the right direction.

It took many years for my calling to get clarified. It took the input of trusted colleagues, many “am I going the right way Lord?” prayers, and many moments of doubt where I felt incapable and unqualified, but really my calling toward being a minister of God’s people began on the deck of a pool, when I sensed I was being drawn toward a vocational home.

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Best of 2017

While history will likely remember 2017 for mass shootings, protests, hurricanes, floods, and the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, here’s a few other things that deserve mention from this past year.

Best Album

**Listen to my “Best Albums of 2017″ Playlist on Spotify below (or find it directly HERE)**

I believe that music is best listened to through whole album releases, not just individual songs. So while I appreciate a lot of individual songs I want to highlight some of the great albums released this year. I’ve included my top 5 here, but the playlist includes my top 13 albums.

“A Deeper Understanding” The War on Drugs

If you’ve followed me on Twitter or Instagram this one isn’t a big surprise. The War on Drugs are nostalgic and relevant with lyrics describing the struggle of navigating life: “Am I just living in the space between / The beauty and the pain?”

I love the sound of the Bob Dylan-esque vocals mixed with the guitar sounds that successfully bridge the gap between days gone by and the grit of Los Angeles alleyways. There’s a subtlety to it, yet it never seems to hold back. The New Yorker’s album review picked up on this saying, “Rather than knock you over, it slowly fills a room, and lingers.” Great album.

Apologies to: “Work Songs” by The Porter’s Gate Worship Project and “We’re Not Going Anywhere” by David Ramirez and “The Nashville Sound” by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and “Melodrama” by Lorde.


Best Movie


You’ll be hard-pressed to find a comparable film. The loudest in-theater movie I’ve ever seen. Featuring three separate timelines, all operating simultaneously within the film, Dunkirk shows the reality of impending doom within war in a unique way.

Apologies to: “Silence” and literally every other movie released because I think I watched three or four movies all year.


Best Book

“The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb” by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel

This book will push at least one of your buttons at some point. Inspired by Paul’s push toward weakness as power in 2nd Corinthians, Kyle and Jamin rely on trusted leaders within various spaces of the Christian faith to chart a course toward a new and more faithful way of ministry and leadership—the way of the Lamb, or as they call it in the book, the way from above. A truly great book.

Apologies to: “Liturgy of the Ordinary” by Tish Harrison Warren and “Strange Days” by Mark Sayers (read my favorite quotes from the book) and “Uncomfortable” by Brett McCracken

goggin strobel

Best Show

“The Crown”

Season one was worth the price of admission just to watch the interactions between the Queen and the Prime Minister, played by John Lithgow. I’m in the middle of season two, so I can’t comment at length on it, but I appreciate the show’s ability to display the pomp of the royal family, and the humanity of it as well. If you have any interest in leadership, it’s a must watch.

Apologies to: “Stranger Things” and “Mindhunter” and “This is Us” and “Better Call Saul”


Best Podcast

“The Bible Project”

I have no idea how these guys pump out episodes every week, while also continuing to produce videos that are far and away better than anything available online about the Bible. I can’t recommend this podcast highly enough. You’ll be hard pressed to keep up with every episode, so choose a few series to listen to, to start with.

Apologies to: “Word Matters” and “Revisionist History” and “Called Out” (duh)

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