Advent Calendar 2015

Advent is the time in the church calendar when we wait for the coming of the Christ child. It is marked by the observation of the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. Each Sunday of Advent the church observes a different theme of this journey: hope, peace, love and joy. Candles are lit as the light of the world (Christ) is drawing closer to us.

During this time, we are called not to run to the manger but to wait… that’s right…. wait… for Christmas. Sure some people have decorated their entire house on November 1 but Advent calls us to slow down, be more reflective and wait. It is through this intentionality that we begin to see and experience the message of hope, peace, love and joy in our own lives and the world around us

There is something freeing, however, in slowing down. We are able to take in all that is around us and see how God is moving in our lives in ways that we would have looked right over had we not taken a moment to be reflective and aware.

How are we using this time of Advent to prepare and to wait? Are we rushing from store to store buying mountains of gifts, trying to equate our love for someone by how big the price tag is?

Don’t we want Christmas to be something more than lights, too much food, elves on the shelf and Santa? Why can’t this time of Advent propel us into a deeper sense of the Divine around us and with us? Where are the places God is leading us to? These are the thoughts that we take with us during this journey to the manger.

Use this calendar each day of Advent to prepare yourself for the coming of Jesus into the world.

Each day has a scripture and something to pray for or to reflect on. Let us journey to together to find the Christ-child, the source of all hope, peace, joy and love this Advent.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

 

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Advent Calendar 2015 PDF

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Creative Commons LicenseAdvent Calendar 2015 by Rev. Evan M. Dolive, M.Div. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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Words I Am Learning To Be True

#BringBackOurGirls

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Hundreds of girls have been kidnapped in Nigeria because they had the audacity to want to get an education.

Be in prayer for these girls and that they might be brought back to their families safely.  It’s hard to imagine that so many girls could be taken away.  Social media as been buzzing trying to draw attention to this problem.

Sadly this problem is not just located in Africa but every day women, men and children are sold into modern day slavery and sex trafficking.

Despite all of the rhetoric and differences that get thrown around Christian circles there should be a united front from all followers of Christ.  These girls (or any person for that matter) are not property to be bought and sold and exchanged for goods.  If we truly believe in the divine presence of God indwells within all of humanity then we should be outraged at the actions of this terrorist group in Africa. Not just because they are a terrorist group but because they are stealing the innocence of these girls.

Pray for their safety, prayer for their families who struggle to cling to hope and pray that peace will come to earth and this never happens again.

 

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

In Christ,

 

Rev. Evan

 


Follow the story on Twitter by searching the hastag #bringbackourgirls

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT

Baby, you're a firework

A little over two years ago I started this blog.  I had started writing a religious column for the local paper and I wanted to share those posts with people outside of Southeast Texas.  Over time I began to add my sermons in audio form and even write more article that were only ever published on this site.  Every once and a while someone would comment or like my post which was nice but it was for my own edification and sharing my understanding of the faith I hold so dear.  I loved hearing from people (even people who disagreed with me); it was a good outlet for me.

In March 2013, evandolive.com got a little busier when my open letter to Victoria’s Secret went viral (to the tune of 4 million+ people).   It was during this time that I had the idea for a book.  I began thinking about how in all of marketing there is an element of fantasy and perfection and somewhere along the line society began to blur the two together. Don’t believe me? Try to find a Middle School aged boy who does not think that Axe Body Spray will attract the opposite sex.  Why?  Because this is the core of their marketing campaign. On top of that, how do people of faith respond when the image of God is being distorted to only encapsulate one body type or the so called “ideal body type”?

After working on a proposal, a detailed outline, numerous sample pages and various edits, I am happy to announce that I have entered into a contract with the Pilgrim Press, the publishing house for the United Church of Christ, to publish my first book!

I am very happy, excited, nervous and scared all at the same time.

As of now, the working title is The Distortion of the Imago Dei.

I have been busy getting my idea down on paper (via Google Drive) trying to synthesize it all.

I want to thank you for all of the support you have shown me over this past year; if my letter had not gone viral I am not sure I would be making this announcement today.

Thank you for all your support as I embark on this new journey!

Stay tuned for more updates!

OK… back to writing… I have a deadline to keep.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

 


Photo Credit: “Baby You’re A Firework: Fireworks at Disneyland, Anaheim, California” by Kevin Dooley via Flickr. Used Under Creative Commons License 2.0

The Next Step: Board Certification

Application for Board Certification

Nine months ago started a new (sorta) ministry path and accepted a position as a chaplain in Southeast Texas. Having completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) I had the training and skills to begin this new journey.  At first it was a bit of a “culture shock” from church based pastoral ministry but I am enjoying it.

As part of my position at the hospital I have worked for the last few months on completing my application to become a Board Certified Chaplain through the Association of Professional Chaplains.  Last week after a couple months of writing off and on, I submitted a large stack of papers, reflections and critiques as part of my application.

My goal is to sit before my certification board at the national conference in Anaheim, CA this June.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

14 Books In 2014

My new year’s resolution is one that I think many people make: to read more.

I enjoy reading and I even have a Kindle.

I have an ever growing list of books that I want to read, should read and have been recommended to me but by consequence of having a full time job, preaching on Sundays, a wife and two kids, time is scarce.

So this year I am going to make a goal to read 14 books in the year 2014.  I know to some avid readers out there 14 is the standard quota for a week but I am taking baby steps here.

I hope to write reviews on the books I read during this challenge and you never know maybe I will surpass my goal of 14.

If you have any recommendations for me feel free to comment below!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Rev. Evan has
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Picture: “Books HD” by Abeee via flickr. used under the Creative Commons License 2.0.

Have I Become The Christian I Dislike?

I live in Texas.  To many of its millions of residents it is the greatest state in the union.  We like things big and we like them to be bigger than every other state blessed to be in the Union.  Texans are proud of their state; chalk it up to early indoctrination of Texas history throughout the life cycle of Texas Public Education.

But being in Texas, especially East Texas, means that we are sitting squarely and firmly in the buckle of the Bible Belt.  The Bible Belt is a term used to describe the area where conservative Christianity is the prominent player in the state’s religiosity; generally this term refers to a high level of conservative, evangelical Christians.  This does not mean that you can’t find conservative, evangelical Christians outside of this arbitrary boundary but for some reason they seem to cluster in these areas in high concentrations.

I didn’t grow up in a church that beat people over the head in church or judged people for they way they acted.  I felt loved and welcomed in a place where people were friendly and they loved serving God.  I learned about Christ and God’s love for humanity.  It wasn’t until I was older that I began to hear more Christians speak more and more on the necessity of evangelising to people  or even being “saved correctly.”  I can remember on several occasions a certain church in the town I grew up in going door to door and asking people if they were to die tonight would they go to Heaven.  I can remember thinking that it was an odd tactic to get people to come to church.  It seemed so stand offish and so self righteous that it left a bad taste in my mouth.

As I have grown and matured this “I know more than you” mentality of Christianity has been something that I can not stand, especially when it flies in the face of my theology. Theology is a deeply personal thing. Hopefully, people have grown, honed and crafted their theology over time, adjusting and modifying it as time progresses and as contexts and situations change. I know some people will be turned off by the previous statement; please don’t read it  to say that I believe the message of God and/or Christ changes. The message of God’s love, acceptance, forgiveness and reconciliation never changes but how we find and understand it does.  People’s life experiences influence their interpretation but as we grow and hopefully mature in faith we must recognize these changes.  It is when people are unwilling to see another side of the theological coin when Christianity turns into a stalemate. (Don’t believe me?  It is happening in churches all over this country.)

But as I have grown and changed and my level of disdain for pushy, in your face, literalistic, anti homosexual, “turn away from sin you sinning sinners” rhetoric has also grown, I have come to the realization that maybe I am just like those Christians that I dislike. Maybe I believe my way is the highway we should travel, disregarding others along the way.

The denomination that I serve and I am ordained has freedom of belief as main tenet of faith. Maybe this is why I get so upset- many people are being disenfranchised with church or Christianity because they believe or feel that Christianity is whatever is shown on TBN or the 700 Club.  It’s hard not to react when I hear people speaking of the president as the anti Christ (which the word “anti Christ” is never mentioned in the Bible) or how one day we will have to have the mark of the Beast to buy produce at the store or how things were better back in the good ol’ days when “everyone” went to church.

As one of my professors in seminary said just because we have freedom of belief doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as a bad theology. I guess at the core of Christianity we are all called to follow Christ but many Christians claim to be Christ’s followers in name only. Their actions do not match the gospel professed on Sunday mornings.

So maybe I am like those Christians I can’t stand but still I want to foster an environment that welcomes differing thoughts to the table. If in the light of a civil discussion or bible study we can come to a different agreement then that’s ok with me. However, sadly, this is not taking place in many of our churches. We have all been in churches where people of like mindedness get together and espouse the same doctrine and belief structure they have always done.  Why are we going to the Bible to only reinforce what we already know?  (I’m asking myself this questions as well.)

Being aware of my faults I will continue to strive to live out the gospel message as faithfully as possible and along the way I hope to bring others to know the same God of love  and acceptance that I do. I know too many people that have been “burned” by a “well intentioned, God fearing Christian.”  If the church is to survive another 2000 years then we will have to start somewhere.

Let’s come to the table under the banner of Christ in all its many forms. Just as Christ humbled himself so we must put aside anxieties, stereotypes and preconceived notions about others; just as Christ did not think too highly of himself (even though he was divine), neither should we think that we are more than fallible human beings.  We have no secret knowledge, just an understanding that God manifests Godself on this rock to show humanity a new vision– giving and serving  others. Thinking that we have it all figured out or our ticket is punched is a rejection of the grace of God and the teaching of Christ.

In Christ

Rev. Evan


This piece is also published on Sojourners

Review: “Soul Repair: Recovering From Moral Injury After War”

English: A folded American flag held by a Unit...

English: A folded American flag held by a United States Marine at the funeral of Douglas A. Zembiec. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have never served in the military.  I have had family and in-laws who served this country in a variety of capacities though the armed forces.  Now more than ever, the public is keenly aware of the movements and campaigns of the US military are leading in the Middle East and around the world.  New stations cover a returning solider, coming back home to a throng of people cheering and waving US flags; we get choked up when we see a solider surprising their family; we stand and clap during sporting events when a service person is recognized on the jumbo-tron.

While all of these things are wonderful expressions of thankfulness and gratitude, what about what is going on in the inside of the solider, inside their mind, their heart and their soul?  Can one ever understand what life is like in service to the country?  Can one ever understand the what life is like in the line of fire? to shoot a gun? to have bombs go off near you? to lose a friend? to kill someone?

How does one (if ever) reintegrate into a fast paced, self centered, on the go American society?

The book Soul Repair: Recovering From Moral Injury After War takes a look at the notion of moral injury in returning combat veterans.

Moral injury results from having to make difficult moral choices under extreme conditions, experiencing morally anguishing events or duties, witnessing immoral acts, or behaving in ways that profoundly challenge moral conscience and identity and the values that support them. Moral injury is found in feelings of survivor guilt, grief, shame, remorse, anger, despair, mistrust, and betrayal by authorities. In its most severe forms, it can destroy moral identity and the will to live. The struggle of combat veterans to return to civilian life can be even more difficult than serving in war and last a lifetime. (taken from http://www.brite.edu/soulrepair/)

The book profiles five different soldiers from different campaigns that the US has been involved with and their struggle with their own morality and faith and how their soul was injured during their deployment.  The book is written by Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini who both had family member serve in combat; both articulate that their loved ones were not the same people after their deployments.

This is an eye opening book to the pains and injury (not just physical) that combat has. I guess sub conscientiously knew it but I never connected the dots.  This text brings moral injury to the forefront, to a place where we as a society and nation are faced with it.  By hearing the stories of struggle and pain that the soldiers went through the reader is taken to a different place, into a world that most of us are not privy to.

The book states that returning combat vets are at a statsically greater risk for suicide and violence; this leads many to think that the pangs of war and combat are deeper than just what is reported on television.

Soul Repair does not hold back on its critique of the Veterans Administration and the US government for not support returning veterans.

Selected Quotes:

Moral injury results when soldiers violate their core moral beliefs, and in evaluating their behoavior negatively, they feel they no longer live in a reliable, meaningful world and can no longer be regarded as decent human beings. (page XV)

Veterans who struggle with moral injury are struggling to recover their lost sense of humanity, which they require to reintegrate into the human community. No easy shortcut can bring them home. (page 54)

Engaging in collective conversations about moral injury and war can help us all to strengthen the moral fabric of society and the connections that tie us to the rest of the world. Our collective engagement with moral injury will teach us more about the impact of our actions and choices on each other, enable us to see the world from other perspectives and chart pathways for our future. (page 114)

The Disciples of Christ in 2011 voted to look into the notion of moral injury and how the church can help veterans from all campaigns with moral injury. Thanks to a grant Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas opened the Soul Repair Center.

I support the work of the Soul Repair Center and I pray that it will be used for the healing and restoration of all people who are faced with moral injury.  The authors note that the church used to assist with the transition of those returning from war who had “shed human blood.” They had to undergo “a rehabilitation process that included reverting to the status of someone who had not yet been baptized and was undergoing training in Christian faith. … this ancient form of quarantine was required because early Christians understood that killing or participating in war, regardless of of the reasons, injured the souls of those how fought. (page xviii)”

I recommend this book to anyone who has or has had a member of their family in military combat, no matter how long ago.  Moral injury is something that has been with humanity ever since the first war broke out.

 

Book Link
5 out of 5 stars
★★★★★
In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Guest Post: The Problem of Human Trafficking is Too Big-Why Bother Trying to Help?

Kimberly Rae is a best selling author, blogger and world traveler.  She blogs about a variety of topics but one that is close to her heart is human trafficking.  She was kind enough to blog about my letter to Victoria’s Secret and I am happy to have her as the first guest author on this blog.  If you would like to be a guest contributor, click here for more info.

Below is her guest post; be sure to check out her site- www.kimberlyrae.com


The Problem of Human Trafficking is Too Big-Why Bother Trying to Help?

A 15-year-old girl and her 14-year-old cousin got permission to walk down to a local Wendy’s late one night to get a couple of Frosties.  While they were walking, a car drove up, and by the end of that night, these two girls had become just a tiny, tiny addition to the thousands of minors trafficked in the United States of the America, the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Now those two girls have been rescued and are home again.  The older girl tells her story in a video on the website www.truckersagainsttrafficking.com, a video that will hopefully be part of required training for men joining the trucking industry in the future.

Why?  Because things will never change unless people care enough to act.  I think many of us look at the huge statistics and decide, why bother?  There are 20 million slaves in the world today. It’s a problem too big, one person can never make a dent in it.

That’s true to an extent.  Each of us on our own are pretty powerless to change the huge statistics.  None of us can expect to do the impossible.

However . . . we can make a difference in one life.  It may not seem much, but if that one person was your daughter, or your friend, or yourself, wouldn’t you want someone to “bother”–to put forth the effort to make a difference even if they couldn’t save everybody?

I would.  As I place myself in those young girls’ shoes, being forced to sell myself to strangers, staying because of threats against my family or my own life, I know I would desperately want to escape but likely not have the courage.  Or the resources.

But if someone came along, someone who didn’t just look through me but really saw me, if they cared enough to ask one or two important questions, then make just one phone call–a call that would deliver me and give me back a future, I would reach out for the freedom offered me.  I would grasp hold of the possibility of a future and a hope.

Isn’t that, after all, what Jesus gives us? (Jer. 29:11)

And wouldn’t He rejoice to see us doing that for others?

That’s what happened recently when those girls who’d been trapped for 10 years in a home in Cleveland were rescued. All across our country, girls (and some boys too) are being taken, trapped, and forced to sell themselves against their will. A major part of this happens within the trucking industry. Girls are taken to truck stops, where they are forced to go from truck to truck, offering their “company.” They even have a name. Lot lizards.

But things are changing. Thanks to Truckers Against Trafficking, men are finding out that many of the girls they see do not want to be there, no matter how they pretend. Truckers are making phone calls to the human trafficking hotline—1-888-373-7888—and girls are being rescued.

One man called in his suspicions and, without endangering himself, caused the rescue of 9 young girls and broke down a 13-state trafficking ring.  Just one person!  Just one phone call.

Helen Keller once said,
“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

If this can be said and lived by a woman who could not hear or see, shouldn’t we be inspired that we can do our part, too?

So let’s stop looking at the massive need, the big statistics, or our own limitations.  Instead, let’s become aware, and be ready to respond if God places someone before who is in need. Our actions and reactions may make all the difference in the world to someone who right now is trapped, and desperately wants to be free.

Go with God,
go for God,
go because God goes with you.

For of Him, and to Him, and through Him are all things, to whom be glory forever.  Amen.
Romans 11:36



Author Photo More Square

Kimberly Rae has lived in Bangladesh, Uganda, Kosovo and Indonesia. Her Christian suspense/romance novels on international human trafficking (Stolen Woman, Stolen Child, Stolen Future) are all Amazon bestsellers. Rae is currently working on a new series on trafficking for teens. Find out more at www.kimberlyrae.com or like Kimberly’s facebook page, Human Trafficking Stolen Woman, to get updates on the fight against human trafficking.

What A Difference 3.8 Million People Make

Two months ago today I clicked publish on a post about Victoria’s Secret Spring Break Collection called “Bright Young Things.”   The aim of the letter was to let Victoria’s Secret know (as well as whomever would listen) that I disliked their marketing to a younger demographics and how they set up an unattainable standard of sexuality and beauty.

To date the letter has been read/viewed on this site nearly 3.8 million times from all around the world.  The letter is still be read today and shared over the internet.

To date the letter has been shared on Facebook over 765,000 times, on Twitter over 5100 times, almost 100 times on LinkedIn and over 550 times on Google Plus.

I want to take this time to say thank you for everything!

Because of the exposure I received, I have begun to contribute to a few websites- the Good Men Project, Sojourners and RadicalParents.com.  I am humbled and honored to contribute to these great sites.  I will try to post my articles here whenever I can.

I have been completely overwhelmed by all of this and I all of you to thank.  Without you sharing, liking, emailing and commenting- none of this would have ever happened.

I still have not had an official response from Victoria’s Secret (and I do not expect to), but another clothing company did.

About month ago Fruit of the Loom contacted me to let me know that they had seen my letter online.  They liked it and wanted to send my daughter “age appropriate” underwear.   They sent my daughter 10 pairs!  She was so excited to get them in the mail.

Fruit of the Loom

I want to take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to Fruit of the Loom.  Thank you for generosity and for thinking of my daughter! (The items pictured can be found here and here.)

Thank you again!  Keep reading, sharing and liking!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan