Seven Tips on Leading Camp Songs in School Chapel

So, you have gone on retreat, or to camp, and you have had an amazing experience of God, and now you want to share that with your local congregation! Awesome! That is exactly what God wants us to do with our passion and our gifts: Share them with others. However, sharing the gift of music is not as easy as it seems, and is not always received the way you intend it. To help avoid some of the pitfalls of sharing your music in Church, here are seven helpful hints by someone who is not musically trained, but has been a camp counselor, youth minister, priest in the Church, and school chaplain. I have seen this done well, and done not-so-well.


The Politics of God’s Kingdom

For a long time I have said: Wherever there are people, there are politics. Politics are the distinctive ways of organizing a community, ensuring justice and fair treatment for all members, and creating social structures to make it possible to live into those supreme values which the community serves. And make no mistake: Every community has its supreme values, its gods and masters, which it sacrifices for and serves. It may be power or profit or praise or pride or possessions or position. It may be God or gods or kings or supreme rulers or parties or free markets or liberty or control or ideology. But every community serves some set of supreme values. And every community creates structures and strictures and sanctions and stimulus packages to enact those values. 

So, unless we are going to live alone on a desert island, we will have politics because we will live with people. We were made for community. So it isn’t a question of IF we will be political, but HOW we will be political. And this is where I think the Way of Jesus offers a different kind of politics: A Way of Love. Not a way of imposing politics on others by force, but a way of inviting people into a politics of full human flourishing. Not a way of violence and exclusion and coercion. But a Way of healing and inclusion and persuasion. Not join us “or else death!” but join us “because of life!”

The Politics of the Kingdom of God is wholly different from the politics of the world and its crumbling fiefdoms. It calls God’s people out of partisan politics and into a deeper walk with Jesus; Out of step with the world and into step with Christ’s Spirit; Out of faith in parties and politicians and into faithfulness to the Father. Where each decision is not made to advance an ideological platform, but to love our neighbor in concrete ways; To judge situation by situation, and person by person, so we choose the most good and the least evil; The most life and the least death; The most love and the least hate; The most compassion and the least apathy. Because, as Saint Irenaeus reminds us, “the  glory of God is humanity fully alive”, but the death and destruction and degradation of any of God’s children dishonors the One who made them. So vote with ballots as a necessary evil when you must. But vote with Christlike words and deeds every day in every situation with every person God brings into your life. 


The Metaphysics of Materialism

Materialist determinism is a perpetually popular view in the modern world. It is the metaphysical viewpoint which denies metaphysics by positing that: 1. Reality is made of matter and only matter. The only reality is matter and the physical forces which operate within material interaction. This raises the thorny question of what exactly matter is. But let’s bracket this and assume there is something called “matter”, and it is the only constituent of reality (as opposed to “spirit” or “mind” or “consciousness”). 2. The events in reality are causally determined by material laws and forces, such that even the workings of mind and consciousness are determined by the physical states which preceded them. There is no free will or choice. All are illusory experiences formed in brains after events have happened. All phenomena can be fully explained in a mechanistic way through the matter and forces at work in an event, without any reference to choices or intentions or motives or thoughts.

However, as elegant as materialist determinism seems to be, it has some rather impractical and non-elegant implications. 


Should we rethink the dates of the New Testament?

Recently, New Testament scholar Jonathan Bernier has put forth a powerful proposal about  "Rethinking the Dates of the New Testament". He shows that in the era of modern Biblical scholarship, there have been three basic kinds of dates proposed for the writing of the New Testament:


Why God cannot be evil

Recently I was in a discussion in which someone asked whether God could be evil. Is it possible that the Ultimate Reality that is the source of all other realities is actually malevolent? Fortunately, it is both an evidential and a logical impossibility for God to be evil. God cannot be evil due to both an a priori reason (a reason which comes prior to experience in the world) and an a posteriori reason (a reason which comes from reflection on experience in the world). 

Twitter Gospel

A friend talked about summarizing the Gospel in 280 characters for Twitter. So here’s my Twitter Gospel. What is yours?

The Good News is that the LORD of Love is drawing us ALL into God’s embrace through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, as God journeys with us through our hells &  heavens, and guides us in our trials & triumphs, so we may share fully in God’s Life and Love and Light.

I even have a 9 word version:

Christ shows God. 
God is Love. 
Love heals all. 



Beware of Prophets for Profits

“Think again Sunshine!” Pop-intellectual Jordan Peterson has released a video in which he takes the role of a prophet and tells all Christian churches— Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox— how to do outreach and what our message should be. It is a video in which an exemplar of unhealthy right wing “good think” lobs rhetorical grenades at unhealthy left wing “political correctness” in the name of a religion and a God he himself does not embrace. His central thesis is that young men are burdened with a version of “original sin” experienced as guilt and shame for three overstated reasons, promoted by his enemies such as Derrida and Marx, deconstructionists and cultural Marxists. 


The Spirituality of Physical Training

Lord of Life strengthen us in Spirit, body, and soul: With our mind, heart, and will in your loving control; So we can heal our world, and make your children whole.

One of the driving concerns behind my entire life project is integral holism: To help us become healthy and whole in body, spirit, and soul. I believe the integration of bodily health and activity is foundational for our spiritual vitality and psychological wholeness. As a Christian pastor, my primary means of accessing wholeness and purpose and integration in life is through the God of Love revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Followers of Jesus are not usually known for their dedication to physical training and integration. But I think this is a mistake. After all, Jesus usually met people's bodily needs by feeding and healing them, before he taught them spiritual and ethical truths. And the "abundant life" promised by Jesus has physical as well as spiritual dimensions, such as making "our daily bread" a central concern in Jesus' model prayer.

Just as Jesus combined both physical and spiritual dimensions in his ministry, I usually combine my spiritual training with physical training, staying mindful of my diet and rest, exercise and mobility. This practice uses many of the spiritual-physical insights we find in Christian asceticism, as well as Hatha Yoga, and modern ideas of physical mobility, to create a method of living which not only connects us with Christ, but also makes us the strongest version of ourselves, which is holistically holy and wholly whole. 

Training to become our Strongest Self

Lord of Life strengthen us in Spirit, body, and soul: With our mind, heart, and will in your loving control; So we can heal our world, and make your children whole.

"Who are you training to become?" This is a phrase I have written on the squat rack in my home gym, and at the top of my training log. Because what we practice is what we become, and how we train shapes who we will be. So, who are you training to become? This entire instructional manual, which unpacks my core training principles, is an attempt to help us all train in such a way that we become who and what we want to be: That we train to become our strongest self, our wisest self, our best self.

So, since this blog is a summary of my entire training program, we need to start by defining "training". Depending on where you look, you can find many definitions for training. Training can refer to "developing a particular skill or type of behavior through practice and instruction". In a purely physical sense training often refers to "preparing oneself through diet and exercise in order to be fit". Or in its most general sense, training can be "to grow in a particular direction or into a required shape". All of these overlapping definitions share my idea of training: Training is "activity with intensity directed toward a purpose". 

Creating Goals to become your Best Self

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3.12-14)

I originally wrote this as part of a training manual for how to integrate physical training with the rest of our lives. But I realized this section deals with ideas and practices that will help us attain excellence in any part of our lives. Because most of us want to be the best version of ourselves. But we often lack the tools to develop goals and plans to help us get there. And "failing to plan is planning to fail". To attain our best self, our strongest self, and our wisest self, we have to intend to become this, imagine what it might look like to be this, and plan the best way to get from where we are, to where we want to be. The material found here is helpful for this. And although most of the examples used here come from physical training, the underlying substance applies to becoming great in any endeavor.


Weekly World Scripture Readings

From childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through the faithfulness which is in Christ Jesus. Every Scripture that is God-inspired is also useful for teaching, for correction, for restoration, and for training in justice, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. [2Timothy 3.15-17]

This schedule of readings comes from my Daily Prayermap, and is an update on a previous blog about how to read the whole Bible. It is designed to take the reader through the entire New Testament once per year, and the Old Testament (including the Hebrew Bible along with Christian Deuterocanonical literature) once every two years. This is a “weekly” reading plan instead of a “daily” reading plan, because with my schedule I often have no time to read for a day or two, and then a couple of hours for reading on another day. So, a weekly quota of reading works better for me. Also, I have arranged readings by theme or topic, instead of using Biblical order (which would put all of the Gospels in the first half of the year, while also disconnecting historical literature while reading through the Old Testament).

The strangest thing about Stranger Things

We did a marathon of the newest half season of Stranger Things over the last couple of nights. As a spiritual guide, I think the strangest thing about Stranger Things is their ability to reimagine evil as demonic, predatory, grotesque, and cruel, while taking into account our newest understandings of trauma, in a way that is robustly super-natural as well as meta-scientific.  We have allowed people to reimagine wicked demons and evil spirits for an age of quantum physics. 

However, this is not the truly strange part. 


So-called Empty Rituals

In the Episcopal Church we have a bunch of rituals, such as standing, sitting, bowing, crossing, eating little white wafers, and everyone drinking from the same fancy metal cup. But every group of people who gathers together on a regular basis develops rituals: Handshakes and high fives. Nicknames and catch phrases. Ways of entering and exiting and walking and sitting. All the way up to songs and chants, flames and incense, pictures and clothing, symbols and fancy hats, statues and architectural styles. Humans are ritual beings and we can’t stop creating rituals even if we tried (and we’ve tried, oh boy we’ve tried). 


Should Holy Communion be open or closed?

One of the hottest debates of the Episcopal General Convention this year is the subject of “Open” versus “Closed” Communion. The battle lines have been drawn. On one side are those who want communion open to “all people” as “God’s people”. They feel that closed communion is “theological insider baseball” used as an excuse for “gatekeeping” by a hierarchy which implicitly denies God’s Love for all. On the other side are those who fear lack of adequate preparation for reception of the sacrament for those who are not baptized into the Covenant People of the Church. For these people, it isn’t gatekeeping, but maintaining the vital link between the “sacrament of new birth” into the Covenant Family in Baptism, and the “family meal” which is served in the Eucharist. 

Let's explore this issue, shall we...


The Ethics of Lesser Evils and Greater Goods

As an ethics teacher and pastor I have noticed that many people reflexively think most choices are a stark contrast between “good versus evil”. In reality, very few choices are that clear cut.


Is Love stronger than hate?

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with loving devotion." (Jeremiah 31.3)

Jesus said: "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." (John 12.32)

Some have wondered what will win in the end: God's Love or human sin and hatred. Hate from a finite being is by definition, finite hate. Love from an infinite Being is by definition, infinite Love. The quantitative and qualitative difference between finite and infinite is by definition, infinite. Therefore God’s Love is infinitely more powerful and persuasive than even the greatest amount of finite hate, and that infinite Love will not give up or let down until it has, after ages of ages, transformed all finite hate into infinite Love. 


Where Freedom and Determinism Meet

It was God who created humankind in the beginning, and he left them in the power of their own free choice. If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. He has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose. Before each person are life and death, and whichever one chooses will be given. (Sirach 15.14-17)

So every now and then I see some supposed scientific reason why free will does not exist. This week it is quantum mechanics that supposedly rules out free will (although I’ve more frequently seen quantum mechanics cited as a reason why freedom is an irreducible aspect of the universe). However, let’s say for argument’s sake that there is a way of conceiving the universe as a completely closed system such that, if we know all inputs, we can accurately predict all outputs. In principle, this means all things are determined and there is no free will (no freedom at all in a strong sense). So what are we to make out of these mutually incompatible conclusions that quantum physics can be enlisted to support EITHER determinacy OR indeterminacy?
This is a bunch of incoherent babble to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2021 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, please cite me. You can contact me at natebostian [at] gmail [dot] com