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Blog

Some of my written words, thoughts, and ramblings. 

Epic Views and Prayers
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Moving to Lynchburg from Rhode Island, my family traded in the ocean views for the mountain views. We have enjoyed those moments every so often around town when you can get a quick, yet stunning, glimpse of the mountains. They pop out from between the trees or you notice them as you turn off the highway. Certain spots on campus give you the perfect view of Sharp Top Mountain.

Recently, my son and I were driving around Lynchburg and we ventured down a road on which we had never traveled. As our car slowly made its way up a massive hill and reached the top, we were overcome with a majestic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. From the back seat, my son exclaimed “That’s epic.” Ok, he’s only two, so he actually said, “Woah, look at all those mountains, Dada.” I’m pretty sure I kept saying, “This is amazing.” But, he was right, it was epic. In that instant, that road become my favorite in Lynchburg.

There’s something about ocean and mountain views that stir up a sense of awe within me. They make me pause, they slow me down, they calm me, they force me to be present, they remind me that next to their vastness I am so small, and when I’m driving around town, they can get me to start veering off the road.

Studies have shown that looking at a tree for a few minutes can drastically lower your blood pressure and relieve anxiety. Although I don’t have a similar study, I think the same can be said for looking at a mountain range or the vast ocean. Somehow looking at such a sight can settle you, remind you of your foundation, or simply pause to say, “Wow.” Some people argue that little word, “wow,” is the simplest prayer.

And I have to agree. It’s acknowledging the beauty and awe inspiring view of the Creator’s creations. That is prayer.

May you glimpse something majestically epic today.

May the beauty of the Creator’s creations bring you peace.

And may you, with gratitude and awe, pray.

Nathan Albert
Learning to Be
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For the last two years I have been on a contemplative spiritual journey. It has been a journey of recovering the truth that I am a human being, not simply a human doer. As a minister, it’s been a journey of learning to be with God, first, in order to do for God. As a husband and father, it’s been a journey of learning to be present to my family at all times.

Now, as a task oriented, to-do list completer, J on the Myers-Briggs, and Achiever on StrengthsFinder type of person, I like to get stuff done. Yet, in my rush to complete a task I have often ignored people who ultimately matter more than tasks. Sure, I’ve checked something off of my list, but I have neglected the people around me. I’ve been present to my list, but not present with the people I love dearly.

I’ve also seen how easy it so to get lost in our devices, such as our phones, tablets, or laptops, which results in ignoring the people around us. It’s interesting to note that our technological devices were created to connect us and be present with people who are not physically near. Ironically, though, these devices often hinder us from being present with people physically near. The device created to break down certain barriers actually creates more barriers.

So, I have been learning how to be with God and be with people. I have been trying to log off, shut down, turn off notifications, and leave my phone in the other room. I am working to be present with people around me rather than rush to get a task completed. Through it all, I have been learning how to be.

There is a great psalm found in the ancient scriptures. Written from the voice of the Divine, Psalm 46:10 simply states, “Be still and know that I am God.” Some meditate on this short psalm by reading it slowly as written below:

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.

It is in our being and our stillness that we can know the Divine. Learning to be still, learning to be, has been a beautiful life-changing quest. And, I invite you to learn to live as you were created to be; a human being, not a human doer. Be with. Be still. Be.

Nathan Albert
Thoughts on Preaching: Say Less, Preach More
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As a former actor and artist, I have found preaching to be an artistic craft. The sermon is an art form, actually, and delivering a sermon is a performance art.

That isn’t to say preaching is simply a show or a performance. Instead, it is an ancient form of communication that is deep, rich, and beautiful. It is the interweaving of words, thoughts, ideas, truths, stories, and silence that is powerful and passionate.

Preaching is also mysterious. Somehow, as one stands up to speak about the God of Love, the Divine One, the God of Love transforms hearts and souls of those listening. As we preachers craft our sermons, it is a chance to create, play, partner with the Divine. It is beautiful

Lately, I’ve observed that some sermons are really long. Like an hour. As I listen to these sermons, I find myself wondering if sometimes the longer the sermon the less is said. Can anyone relate to this? Half way through the 50 minute sermon, you start wondering if with all this talking if anything good is being said.

And so I’ve come to wonder if the more one preaches, the less is one’s sermon. The longer one preaches, the less one says. The longer one preaches and the more one says definitely means the more the listener forgets. Most congregants can’t remember your three to five points or that clever acronym you created. Most say that congregants remember about 20% of a sermon. So, roughly a few minutes of what you say or one point.

Because of this, I think every sermon should only have one point. And say that one point more than 20% of your sermon so your people remember. Some traditions are better at this than others. I think of the Catholic and Episcopal services I have attended where the sermons can be quite profound and leave me wanting more. Recently, one of the most powerful sermons I have ever heard was 5 minutes and 8 seconds long. It was delivered by Fr. Richard Rhor and I can’t get it out of my head. You can listen to it here.

I think it’s best that we preach who Jesus is and what God has done through Jesus. If we don’t do this, we don’t have a sermon. If we don’t announce Good News for all people, if we don’t announce the Gospel, than we don’t have a sermon and we’re not preaching. We are just teaching some good advice or a moral idea.

So, my advice for us preachers, is let’s say less and perhaps our sermons will preach more.

 

Nathan Albert
Even the Ice Sings Out
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Sometimes a song is all that can be said. Sometimes music is better than words.

And sometimes, a song and music can be heard in unlikely ways.

Recently, I was on a three-day silence and solitude retreat. I am a part of a cohort of ministry leaders and clergy who gather every three months for such a retreat. On a beautiful afternoon with four hours of silence and solitude, I decided to walk around a lake near our retreat house. I made my way around this almost three-mile lake, looking for deer that roam the area, searching for animal tracks, finding the remnants of acorns, listening for the engulfing noises of silence, and watching all sorts of birds fly and chirp around me.

At one point, as I was crossing a bridge I realized that part of the lake beneath me was still frozen. Making my way to one side of the bridge, I saw small currents and waves being made in the lake as the wind picked up speed. These small waves started pushing up against the edge of the ice. Because of the warmer weather, though, the ice was melting and breaking. As these waves began to push against this ice, it made this spectacular sound. It sounded like a wind chime.

I stopped to listen and thoroughly enjoyed this surprising music. It was as if the ice was singing; as if the ice was an orchestra.

Tonight, I was reading my son the bedtime story, Giraffes Can’t Dance. It’s a cute book about Gerald the Giraffe who is quite clumsy on his feet. His village has a yearly dance celebration, but everyone makes fun of Gerald because he’s so clumsy and cannot dance. Sulking alone in the forest, he meets a cricket who tells him to find the music around him and let his body respond. The cricket says, ‘everything make music if you really want it to’ and goes on to show him how wind, trees, birds, and bugs make a melodic tune each evening. Not to spoil the ending of this bedtime story, but Gerald finds the music around him and becomes the best dancer in the village.

And so I was reminded that ‘everything makes music if you really want it to.’ It’s true. Even the ice can sing out. And, it’s just as beautiful as a full orchestra.

Nathan Albert
A Fresh Start and Clean Slate
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Life has brought a new season, which has resulted in a new blog and a new website. Ah, the perks. And by perks I mean paying for a new website and trying my best to figure out how to be all designer and IT-like. 

As of right now, I'm not smart enough to figure out how to transfer my old blogs to this site. So, maybe that just means it is time for a new one. It's been a long time since I've posted a blog. Much of that is due to busyness of life, having a toddler, and working for a church. Sometimes people don't like what you have written, and sometimes those people are in your church. So, it's time for a clean slate; a fresh start.

A fresh start is where I currently find myself. My wife and I recently transitioned out of our roles serving a church. I was there five and half years, while my wife was there ten years. Staff restructuring and budget cuts made it painfully obvious we would be leaving our positions. So, both unemployed, it's time for a fresh start and a clean slate. 

We are entering a season of rest, renewal, and hope. It comes with a few vacations, a new workout routine, a desire to start up my podcast again, and perhaps back to writing a blog or two. I trimmed my beard, got my hairs cut, and am ready for what is next. And somewhere, somehow, we are expectant that we will meet God, doors will open, and our lives in ministry will flourish.

Here's to a new blog, a new website, a clean slate, and a fresh start. 

 

Nathan Albert