Posts by: Brian Dolleman

I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

Advent Day 11: Finding God In The Quiet

There is a time for everything. A time to be silent, and a time to break the silence. —Ecclesiastes 3.1, 7

I suspect we are addicted to filling all the spaces with noise. And when I say “we,” I mean us Charismatic Christians – including Pentecostals (who are the worst about this).

Please don’t think I’m attempting to throw someone else under the bus. If anything, I’m throwing myself under the bus. I am both a Charismatic and a Pentecostal (although I prefer the Charismatic label, and would like to add a couple descriptors like “gangsta” and “who loves Catholics”).

I am constantly working to fill all the spaces with noise – background music, words, videos, more words, and more music.

In a recent conversation about a Sunday service at our church, a friend said:

“This could be taken the wrong way, but my favorite part of the baby dedication was when you guys were all done saying stuff and just stood there for a while holding and looking at her.”

Funny how his favorite part was the one without any noise.

Maybe we need less cacophony and more opportunities to, as Depeche Mode put it, “Enjoy The Silence.”

I do think we need some holy… Read More

Advent Day 10: God Is Not Always Silent, And Man Is Not Always Blind

Advent reminds us to be awake, like the shepherds who heard the angel’s announcement. So often we hurry through life not really seeing and hearing… but perhaps we can see and hear.

In Abraham Joshua Heschel’s book “I Asked For Wonder,” he writes:

God is not always silent, and man is not always blind. In every man’s life there are moments when there is a lifting of the veil at the horizon of the known, opening a sight of the eternal.

Each of us has at least once in his life experienced the momentous reality of God.

Each of us has once caught a glimpse of the… Read More

Advent Day 9: Grace Takes Us To Unexpected Places

*picture above: a statue of Mary in a church we visited this summer in Narni (an ancient hilltop village in the Umbrian region of Italy)

And Mary said, My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation forever shall call me blessed of God. —Luke 1.46-48

Mary was waiting – she was engaged to be married. Her whole life and future family was ahead, but not quite yet. Maybe she was excited. Probably she was a little scared. And then an angel visits her and makes an announcement. She questions. She wonders. And then she says yes.

As this shocking news of a God-laid-out-plan for her life sinks in, Mary’s response is to sing. We call this the Magnificat (my soul magnifies) or Mary’s song.

Luke 1.48 records, “He took notice of his lowly servant girl.” Another translation says “He set his gaze upon me.”

There’s something encouraging here… a reminder that God sees, God notices, God pays attention. There are times when I feel invisible, insignificant, small, or lowly in the eyes of the popular or powerful—and yet, God takes notice. He sets his gaze upon me.

Ultimately, Mary responded to God’s invitation with an emphatic… Read More

Advent Day 7: Advent Isn’t A Guilt Trip But It Is A Journey Into Compassion

*Pictured above: Kahal, a homeless man I met this past Spring. He’s worked a number of jobs—in kitchens, landscaping, Uber driver… but has recently fallen on hard times. He doesn’t have an address right now, or a computer, and this makes applying for jobs a challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with Kahal. He was pleasant, intelligent, and kind. He was quick to smile and laugh.

Those who cannot see Christ in the poor are atheists indeed. —Dorothy Day

Advent, the season of anticipating and waiting and reflecting on the arrival of Christ, is a journey that leads us into compassion. We can’t think about Christ’s coming without remembering the humble, low, and socially unacceptable truths of this story…

—a young unmarried minority girl who is pregnant

—no friends or family to call on for help, no place to go for shelter

—needing to squat where it was allowed—in the animal barn of the local inn

How would this story sound if it had played out in 21st century America?

Perhaps Jesús would have been born in the early morning hours at a downtown homeless shelter.

At the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth, he spoke of the final judgment and those who would be… Read More

Advent Day 6: The Littleness of Christmas

When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness. —Bob Hope

One of the reasons I love the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie is because of how it portrays unrealistic expectations and the spiraling descent into reality when those expectations are not met.

Clark Griswold dreams of hosting the perfect and bigger-than-life Christmas with his family… the enormous tree, so many lights on his house that the power plant has to activate its back-up power supply, the perfect Christmas meal (with Aunt Bethany giving the perfect blessing), and the ultimate big surprise: announcing his plans to use his Christmas bonus to put in a swimming pool.

Every big expectation he has of the perfect Christmas fails in one way or another and he begins to unravel. It’s pure… Read More

Advent Day 5: Deliver Me

Singer/songwriter Audrey Assad has a song that she wrote as a meditation and personal application of the twenty-third Psalm. The song is called I Shall Not Want and is on her 2013 album Fortunate Fall.

From the love of my own comfort

From the fear of having nothing

From a life of worldly passions

Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood

And from a need to be accepted

From the fear of being lonely

Deliver me O God

Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, no, I shall not want

When I… Read More

Advent Day 4: Listen To The Art

Boy, I hurried… I hurried for a long time. I’m sorry I did. All the time you’re hurrying, you’re not really as aware as you should be. You’re trying to make things happen instead of just letting it happen. You follow me? —Bob Dylan

The first in the series of the “Love is…” statements found in 1 Corinthians 13 declares Love is patient.

Us Christians have a tendency to get all up in arms over the sins of those people - nameless, faceless, distant, categories of people… and yet, when it’s our son or daughter or sister or brother we manage to hold out hope, believing that anything is possible. We have patience for what we love.

No expectant parent rushes a pregnancy.

Patience says to your empty hands… Read More

Advent Day 3: Hope in the Wait

*photo above: inside Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Manhattan

I am so tired of waiting, aren’t you,
 for the world to become good and beautiful and kind? —Langston Hughes

We don’t like waiting. We want everything right now. Stores announce “Christmas is Here” the day after Thanksgiving… but Christmas isn’t here. Not yet. A more accurate statement would be “Advent is here.” Advent is a word that comes from the Latin and it means “coming.” Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the coming of God’s promise – the arrival of Christ.

I have a tendency to be an agitated waiter—and there’s a rhythm to my agitation… sighing, texting “I’M WAITING,” checking the time again, shaking my head, rolling my eyes, scrolling through my Twitter feed for a momentary distraction, and repeat. When I’m deep in my cycle of agitated waiting, I can feel my blood pressure rise along with feelings of anger and resentment. Nothing good ever comes from this. Agitated waiting doesn’t make me a better person and it doesn’t help whoever or whatever I’m waiting for either.

Waiting isn’t exactly something we’re very good at in 21st century America. We’ve been trained to expect no wait. But maybe waiting isn’t all bad all the time.

Maybe God created the wait for our good.

Expectant mothers and fathers wait. Farmers wait. We all must wait.

The question isn’t whether or not we will have to wait—the question is: what kind of waiters will we be?

A few days ago, my family and I were in New York. While walking down 5th Avenue, my daughter said she wanted to… Read More

Advent Day 2: The Power of a Blessing

*photo above: Callicarpa shrub (Beautyberry) at the Lake Wilderness Arboretum

Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” —Luke 1.42-45

In Jan Richardson’s introduction to her book Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons, she writes…

I find myself compelled by the power of a blessing: how in the space of a few lines, the stuff of pain, grief, and death becomes the very substance of hope. I wanted not only to know more about that place; I wanted to live there. Blessings enable us to perceive the ways the sacred inhabits the ordinary, impressing upon us that every moment and each place lies within the circle of God’s care.

Blessings are often poetic, pulsing with the rhythms of invocation… and taking on the cadence of litany and liturgy. They use ordinary language in ways that can become extraordinary, offering words that arrest our attention and awaken us to how the holy is at work in our very midst.

A true blessing is meant also to provoke us, to incite us to a response. The best blessings awaken our imaginations.

The story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth… Read More