Love is spelt T-I-M-E

Ortberg – January 11th 2015

I have been struggling with Ortberg of late – not finding the same enthusiasm.  Perhaps this happens with every preacher over time and you must move from novelty and entertainment to value, meaning and relationship (I have a relationship with John Ortberg, even if he doesn’t with me).


Anyway, there is something of a return to form (or a return to listener engagement) here, with a sermon on TIME.  There is the stunning insight that the three years of discipleship with Jesus and the 12 adds up to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours.  But is the Willard inspired piece no experience (life is a set of conscious experiences) and intimacy (shared experience) that really bowled me over.  There was also a lovely reworking of Warren’s aphorism – The best use of time is love, and best way of showing love is time, and the time to love is now.


Gift and Regifting

This is the sermon from January 18th, transcript is here.

This is all motivated going through giving as a key love language, and that if anything is the love language of God, then this is it.

Many ideas come from Peter Leithart’s book “Gratitude: An Intellectual History”.

It says that Jesus is the most influential person in the history of giving, undermining the Roman system of Patronage (quite a lot of detail on this here) which was all about calculated giving, and giving to create an oppressive sense of obligation.  Jesus was completely removed from this idea, and that in this agape took on Rome, and agape one.

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Cranky Beautiful Faith – A Scripture Index

The rowing team – on God’s misfits – Matthew 5 – On being called to preach through the death of a friend

God’s aunt – 1 Timothy 2, Esther –  On Wicca, going to seminary, and the reading of her parents when she came out that she was going to be a pastor (page 18)

La Femme Nadia – on working for the opposition – Romans 7 and her reaction to the Bible

Thanks Elca – Those who come late to the field – Matthew 20 – on her friend Ross being ordained as a gay pastor, the stereotype that pastors wives are school teachers

“Nadia, the thing that sucks is that every tie we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.”  (page 57)

It’s the fact that the trampy landowner couldn’t manage to keep out of the marketplace – the parable of the vineyard and God’s desire for more – Matthew 20

Hurricanes and Humiliation – 1 John 3 (page 59) – on being a hero to someone in need and actually being conned.

I didn’t call you for this truth bullshit – John 3 (page 69)

Clinical pastoral education – on being a hospital chaplain, “you have to stand there and be present to God” , what her parents used to say “Nadia, you could at least come and visit more often as we won’t be spending eternity together”  Luke 23 (page 78)

Eunuchs and Hermaphrodites – this one spoke to me about connection as we were being served in Wagamamas, I need the other (page 87) Acts 8 – the Ethiopian Eunuch (page 87)


I need the other – the Ethiopian Eunuch – Acts 8 – page 94

Whenever I am weak, I am strong (pastoral failure), 2 Corinthians 12 (page 99)

Pirate Christian – getting on with Pirate Pete who should be her enemy (Matthew 5) (page 108)

The Haitian Stations of the cross – Isaiah 62

Demons and snow angels – about the baptism of a man changing gender – Luke 4

Doormats and wrinkled vestments – Forgiveness of enemies – tells the story of the pastor who did the service for murderer Dylan Klebold and was put out of a job – Matthew 18 (page 144)

Ghosts in the kingdom of heaven – meeting a friend from the past, and her true identity – page 152

Dirty Fingernails – Mary meets Jesus on Easter morning – John 20

The wrong kind of different – Hebrews 13, showing hospitality to strangers (page 178)

He’s a fuck-up, but he’s our fuck-up (page 188), Mark 1

Home by another way – A Scripture Index – Pentecost

The gospel of the  Holy Spirit – Acts 2 (page 143)

The sound of three hands clapping – one of my favourite ever sermons – John 16 on the Trinity (page 153)

The cheap cure – The miracle in the water – this was rather a profound sermon when I read it, although can’t remember the exact circumstances exactly which reminds me I must write such things down – 2 Kings 5

Out of the whirlwind – Job 38

Perfect in weakness  – 2 Corinthians 12 (page 170)

To whom can we go – Joshua 24, Ephesians 5, John 6

Famine in the land – Amos 8 (page 182)

The yes and no brothers – Matthew 21 (page 189)

The Wedding Dress – Matthew 22 (page 194)

Bothering God – Luke 18 (page 199)

God of the living – Luke 20 (page 205)

God’s handkerchief – Revelation 7 (page 210) – For all saints day

Home by another way – A Scripture Index – Lent – Easter

Lenten Discipline – Luke 4 – Temptations (page 65)

Life giving fear – Luke 13 – The story of the tower (page 69)

A tale of two heretics – John 9 – The healing of the blind man (page 73)

Meditations on Good Friday and the words from the Cross – Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19

The unnatural truth – John 20 – Easter

Believing in the word – John 20 – Thomas

Hands and feet – Luke 24

Blood of the martyrs – Acts 6, Luke 7

Rest for the land – Leviticus 25

He who fills all in all – Ephesians 1

Home By Another Way – A Scripture Index – Advent – Christmas – Ephiphany

To help me navigate Barbara Brown Taylor’s wonderfully brilliant collection of sermons, sermons that have such a natural flow to them, the odd great phrase, that makes you wonder why you never saw things that way before:

God’s beloved thief – Matthew 24 – The thief that comes in the night (page 1)

Wherever the way may lead – Mark 1 – page 8

Singing ahead of time – Luke 1 – page 15 – Mary and the Magnificat

Past Perfection – Luke 2 – Watchnight (page 20)

Home by another way – Epiphany – Midrash on the story – Matthew 2 (page 27)

The River of life- Baptism of Jesus – Mark 1 (page 32)

Miracle on the beach – Call of the disciples – Mark 1 (page 37)

The Company of Strangers – Luke 4 – Tells great story of going round the room and people being asked when they had met Jesus, and one person who replied “Who in my life has told the truth to clearly that I wanted to kill him for it?” (page 42)

Show me a sign – Judges 6 – Story of Gideon (page 47)

God’s Ferris Wheel – Luke 6 – Beatitudes (page 51)

Thin Places – Luke 9 – Up the mountain (page 57)






The Shocking Secret Happy People Learn

September 21st 2014 – Transcript here.

Philippians 2.

Ortberg talks about the strata in Roman society and the way that the to humble yourself was almost unheard of, and yet the great secret is that happy people are people who have stopped trying to get up the social ladder.  Talks about how remarkable it was that Christ humbled himself.

Talks about how we try get upgraded and asking for a downgrade is almost unheard of, and yet this is what Jesus does.


70 Things from Clergy Wellbeing I couldn’t forget (51-75 – Stress, Woodstock, Spirals)

51. If you can remember Woodstock you weren’t there (and apparently the 90s version doesn’t count)




53. In a Gallup survey by Tom Rath, across many cultures, the following were identified as essential components of wellbeing- Career (in a general sense), Social (happiness of those around us), Financial (have to have enough), Physical, Community (security around us).  This is also the order of importance in which they ranked.  You can do your own survey online.

54. “The most successful places of work see growth of employees as an end in itself.  What’s best for the employee is not at odds with the organisation” – from Tom Rath.

55. Church lifecycle is like a bell curve – you can stabilise, and you can also go beyond the threshold of change.

56. Stressful environments present us with the eternal question mark which scrapes away at our internal teflon.

57. Different people come to seminars for different things – some have huge gaps, some have a little knowledge, and some come looking for pearls.

58. We need to learn to manage our time, but our energy.

59. Going up to Loch Vale is enough, but if you are prepared to climb over the boulder field and up the water fall, you can get to Sky Pond.  Do you want to go there?  You’ve got to climb a waterfall to get there, but it is worth it.


60. If bread can be holy, so also can be its creation.


61. Pizza and ovens and Churches and community are a superb combination.

IMG_3855 IMG_3862

62. Becoming Bread by Gunilla Norris.

63. Apps – Mindful and Insight Timer

64. “They pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs” – Hurricane by Mary Oliver

65. Walking meditation begins with the left foot and might end like this:


66. “I love myself” “I accept myself” “Yes” Yes”

67. Transformation is not likely to happen through singular revelations (“Scrooge” transformation), not straight lines, but spirals – precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, maintenance, action, termination (Prochaska and Norcross)


68. Our wordle



69. There is a high correlation between dancing and wellbeing across all cultures

70. There could only be one choice…





70 Things From Clergy Wellbeing I couldn’t forget (26-50 – Forgiveness, Fitness, Happiness)

26. Beware of Hootie Pie.

27. Lewis Smedes later regretted the second part of the title of his book “Forgive and Forget”.

28. Enright notes four stages of forgiveness – Uncover, Commit, Work, Deepen

29. According to Enright, forgiveness is not the same as justification, leniency, pardon, reconciliation or forgetting.

30. Story of professor at conference who gets people to spend time remembering an episode in their life of which they are deeply ashamed, and then asking the person next to them to turn to them and say the words “Me too.”  Shame derives much of its power from its secrecy, and loses power through sharing – this underpins much of the work of 12 step movements.

31. Hours of sleep before midnight are vital to wellbeing.

32. Excercise should consist of Cardio, Stretch and Resistance

33. Dynamic stretching before exercise, static after, static at night.

34. The move to positive psychology began in the 1980s when Martin Seligman’s daughter kicked over a pile of leaves he had just raked together.  When he complained her, she asked the world’s foremost expert on depression “Why are you always so grumpy?”

35. We overestimate rates of depression and underestimate rates of life satisfaction in others – a diagnosis doesn’t wipe us out.

36. Happiness = Set range (50%) + Circumstances (5-18%) + Factors under voluntary control (32%).

37. Happiness takes practice and is a practise.

38. 80% of factors for your happiness are available to you – Thich Nhat Hanh

39. Positive influences on happiness – live in wealthy democracy, get married, have friends, avoid negativity, get religion.

40. These are things that do not generally make a difference to happiness – make more money (unless you’re wired that way), stay healthy, acquire education, change climate, race or gender.

41. According to Stepen Ilardi , these are the voluntary factors which effect happiness – Omega 3, avoid rumination, exercise, light exposure, social support, sleep hygiene.

42. Breathe – It’ll be okay.

43. mindfulness_poster_UK


44. Mindfulness is attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally – Jon Zabat-Zinn

45. It is worth spending time looking at and smelling a raisin.

46. Albert Ellis says there are four irrational beliefs which cause my unhappiness- people need to like me, I need to be perfect, things must turn out the way I want them to, people must behave the way that I want them to.

47. Two massive trends amongst clergy – I need to be liked, inhibition of anger (even if 5 people in a congregation of 200 don’t like you, that’s still a 97.5% approval rating, what politician would not be desperate for that).

48. Approach life with curiosity – “Gee, I’m being sued, I’ve never been sued before, I wonder what that feels like.”

49. Mom’s advice – Go outside and play, get enough sleep, eat your fruit and vegetables, to have a friend – be a friend.

50. Some books to read





70 Things from Clergy Wellbeing I couldn’t forget (1-25 – Trauma, Dessert, Nutrition, Forgiveness)

Just back from Total Clergy Well-being 2014, one of the most transformational and inspirational, informed and affirming experiences that I and Anna have ever been part of.

Here’s some things we learned:

1. Trauma – in severe or milder forms – may lie at the root of much ministerial dysfunction.

2. CBT has not been so effective in treating trauma.  The most effective treatment, EMDR, was found by accident, by Francine Shapiro.  Those who tried to discredit this treatment not only ended up validating, but also refining it.

3. You can cope with much trauma if you know what your exit strategy is.

4. As well as undoing the power of negative memories, EMDR can also enhance positive ones.

4. Oak Ridge Conference centre at Chaska, outside Minneapolis, is a phenomenal venue.  The dessert selection alone was awesome.  We are missing not having an omelette chef at breakfast time.

5. Guilt is “I made a mistake”.  Shame is “I am a mistake.”

6. Buy from the perimeter of a supermarket.  Avoid the centre – it is a transfat danger zone.

7. Good fat is good.  Carbs make you tired after lunch.  Protein improves meal satisfaction.

8. A glass of milk contains over 100 hormones and other chemicals.  This really messes us up.

9. Omega 3 is just good on so many levels.  Watch out for the level of DPA versus EHA.

10. What fat you cook with matters.  Unsaturated – liquid at room temperature – is good for salads.  Saturated – solid at room temperature – is good for cooking.  The greener olive oil is, the better.

11. With carbs – 3:1 Veg to fruit ratio to sustain weight.  5:1 veg to fruit ratio to lose it.

12. Eat slow – it takes your body 20 minutes to tell you you’re full.

13. Eat in the order of Protein, Veg, Fats, Fruit/Grain, Indulgences.

14. We should drink twice as much water as we eat food.

15. The best you can stay out of trouble is to have an interesting private life.

16. Being clergy is like being a step-parent – coming into a pre-formed family in a parental role.

17. There is a general anxiety out there that Church is not doing well, and that filters down.

18. 5 key areas for clergy well being – Physical wellbeing, Sabbath time, Taking time off for vocations, Reciprocal relationships (being out of role), Sources of joy.

19. An important image for clergy is of being filled up.  The opposite is being burnt out – this is an image from the early days of rockets, where a rocket would continue in trajectory for some time, under its earlier momentum, but without fuel to sustain it further.

20. I am a recovering deity.

21. Where you put your attention is where something will grow – Thich Nhat Hanh

22. Four stages of forgiveness (according to Smedes) – i. Acknowledging your hurt; ii. Blame the other; iii. Give up right to get even; iv. Pray for person who wronged you.

23. In 1997 there was very little psychological literature on Forgiveness.  A key figure in Forgiveness becoming a major subject in the literature has been Robert Enright, a founder of the International Forgiveness Institute (which is what the Church has been for centuries).

24. The remarkable story of the Derksen family – the murder of Candace and the Forgiveness project.

25. The Amygdala is one quick operator.  Normal brain processes are about 800ms.  It can spot a negative person in about 80ms.  To come away from those signals we need to consciously calm down – breathing is key.  It takes men about 20 minutes to calm down and start using there Frontal Lobe for decision making.