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

Advent Calendar 2015 word


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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Stop Taking Attendance!

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At a church I used to serve there was a well-intentioned person who after every service would tell me how many people were in attendance. “We had 47 today, Preacher,” he would say. I could hear the disappointment in his voice when he would have to tell me a low number like 35. A smile beamed across his face when we had more than 50. No matter the number, he would tell me without fail.

In every church that I have ever visited or served there has been an emphasis on the number of people that attend the morning worship services.
After years in the ministry I have come to the conclusion that the church needs to stop taking attendance, immediately.

For many churches the process of collecting attendance is to get an accurate account of people in worship, to measure how many people occupy space in a pew. Some churches have note pads in the pews so people can fill out their information and place it in a designated area. Others have a volunteer to manually count the people in attendance. No matter how small or big the faith community is an attendance is taken. Some congregations publish the number of people in their church bulletins or have it on a sign in the sanctuary to compare last week to this week.

For too long churches have measured their ‘success’ and ‘failures’ on the number of people that darken the door on 11am on Sunday morning. The quickest way to get people to wring their hands in worry is to tell them that numbers in worship have dropped. Visions of the church closing its doors will run through people’s minds inciting more and more anxiety.

It’s no secret that the church in the American culture is not where most Christians would like it to be. The church was once the central hub of the community is now a place where people go on Sunday mornings if they want to. The church has been in a decline for some time and I believe this has caused us to become more inward focused. As the church began to experience decline numerically the church’s reaction was to try making everyone left happy including the ministers, elders, deacons, lay ministers, organist and even the custodial staff. The boat was not rocked, things stayed the same, a course was laid in and no deviation would be acceptable.

I believe that this is the wrong approach. One time when I was interviewing with a church for a position they inquired if I had any plans that would help the church grow numerically. The answer I told them I believe with all my heart and prompted a bevy of puzzled looks. I told them that I was not a ‘numbers guy.’ I did not measure the success of the church in how many people showed up on Sunday morning. Is Lakewood in Houston, the largest church in America, a “more successful church” because they average several thousand people each week? No. Most churches just want bodies in the pews and babies in the nursery but this is the wrong approach.

I would rather have fifty people in church on Sundays that went out and touched a hundred people’s lives, than have a hundred people in church that only touched fifty.

The church has become too worried about having more people than the other churches in town. The church needs to stop looking inward and start looking outward. There is a world that is in desperate need of a Savior right outside the walls of the church. The time we spend in meetings or around the pot luck lunch table talking about how big the church was in 1947 is wasting everyone’s time.

I have to admit that even I can fall into this number trap. It can be disheartening when a minister prepares a sermon or the choir works diligently on a piece and only a handful of people are there to experience it. I have to remind myself that the people who are in attendance are there to experience God and worship and that is it. God can use all sizes of churches and faith communities to promote God’s message of love, peace, joy and reconciliation.

I want people to experience God in the same way that I do but I am not beholden to a number.

Let’s start taking a new kind of attendance, one that is centered on the other, not bodies in the pew.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


Photo Credit: “Checked_tick” by Oliver Tacke via Flickr. Used Under The Creative Commons License 2.0.

#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

The Person Who Was Missing From The Nye/Ham Debate

The internet has been a buzz after the “Creation Debate” between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham, the CEO of Answers in Genesis.  The debate focused on the question “is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?”

Ham is the founder of the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky which postulates the world was created how it is described in the book of Genesis and believes that the world is only 6000 or so years old (this model is known as Young Earth Creationist.)  Nye showed another side stating that science and evolution were the models of creation that should be accepted.

Both people gave their reasoned arguments in a bevy of pictures, graphs and charts.  They had their particular point of view and they were showing the world how they understood the world to work.  Ham is a Christian literalist and Nye is a Scientist.  Both are coming from completely different angles while looking at the same thing.  On one hand you have Ham trying to make the model of Creation found in the Bible fit the world around him and on the other you have Nye who uses the empirical method to be certain about his beliefs.  Both of these men were using their view to be the one that should be seen as true and authoritative.  Here in lies the problem.

Alexander Campbell, one of the founders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) articulated the notion of perception when he wrote:

“Just as if A, B and C should each put on different colored glasses;  A puts on green spectacles, B yellow, and C blue; each one of them looks through his own glasses at a piece of white paper and concludes he is right, not remembering that he has his spectacles on.  Thus to A it appears green, to B yellow and to C blue.  They begin to argue on the subject, and it is impossible for any of them to convince another that he is wrong- each one feels a conviction next to absolute certainty that his opinion is right. But D, who has no spectacles on, and who is standing looking on during the contest very well knows that they are all wrong; he sees the spectacles on each man’s face and accounts for the difference.”[1]

Throughout the debate I could not help but to think that one person was missing: the person who doesn’t see religion and science as mutually exclusive.  Where was the person of faith who is OK with a bit of mystery in the world and OK with the notion that the world might not have been created in seven 24 hour days?

The problem with this type of debate is the same problem that people have with the political pundits in Washington: they are too polarizing.  Both sides think they have it figured out.  This is being played out in our society; a Gallup poll stated that 42% of voters claim to be Independent, while 31% affiliate with Democrats and 25% with the Republicans.  People more and more do not like to be “nailed down” in one camp or another.

Some of the biggest complaints I hear from people not in the church or those who recently left is that some churches have “it all figured out” and leave no room for questioning or growing or new ways of looking at something.  Learning, growing, shaping and forming our own ideals is something that we instill in children when we teach them critical thinking.  Why do people in some churches feel they have to become robots of their church or pastor and just spit out what they have been told to believe?

The creation debate more than likely didn’t change anyone’s mind about how the world came to be.  If anything those on either side felt their guy “won” and their view was shown in the best light.  Then there are those who struggle with faith and how the world works in harmony together.

They were left out.

The way I see it is that both Ham and Nye missed the mark.  Ham is using the Bible as a science book– the Bible is a book of faith and people’s experience with the Divine.  Nye did not leave any room for mystery and faith; it was charts, graphs, facts and figures.

There has to be a balance made.  Faith and Science do not have to be at odds with each other.  The debate was too focused on facts and not on mystery.  Where was the presenter who said “I’m not sure how this all happened, but I have faith?”

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


[1] Mark G. Toulouse, Joined in Discipleship: the Shaping of Contemporary Disciples Identity, rev. ed. (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 1997), 42.

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

I’m One Of The Coolest Dads On The Internet??

Today I found out that I was listed in the Top Five Coolest Dads on the Internet by People Magazine!  They ranked me number 3!

Here is what they wrote:

When Evan Dolive, a reverend from Houston heard about Victoria’s Secret’s Bright Young Things collection, he wasn’t exactly running to the mall. Based on observations of the collection – which ranged from polka-dotted hipsters screen-printed with the phrase “Feeling Lucky?” to thongs emblazoned with the words “Call me” on the front – he was worried the iconically sexy retailer was targeting middle school-aged girls. And so he thought of his daughter, a 3-year-old who loves princesses, peanut butter and jelly and drawing pictures for people.

“I want my daughter (and every girl) to be faced with tough decisions in her formative years of adolescence,” he wrote in a March letter on his blog. “Decisions like should I be a doctor or a lawyer? Should I take calculus as a junior or a senior? … I want my daughter to know that she is perfect the way she is; I want my daughter to know that no matter what underwear she is wearing, it does not define her.” –Written by Alison Schwartz on people.com

I am honored to be selected for this list.  As I have said many times before (and will say many times again), I never thought that my letter to Victoria’s Secret would ever garner this much attention.

Thanks to everyone for reading and supporting me on this journey!

A BIG THANK YOU TO PEOPLE.COM AND THE AUTHOR ALISON SCHWARTZ!

If you would like to see the others listed click here for the full article.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Final Sermon at Bethany Christian Church (DOC)- It All Ends With Love

On May 26, 2013, I preached my final sermon at Bethany Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

I was serving there as their Interim Minister.  On June 3, I will be a Staff Chaplain at Saint Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont, Texas.

Leaving is never easy to do but I am looking forward to the new opportunities that await me.

To the members and friends of Bethany, thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Interim Minister.

Sermon Link (Romans 5:1-5)

 

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.