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About Jon Swanson
Once upon a time, Jon thought he would use his PhD in Rhetorical Theory and Criticism to teach college students how to analyze speeches. Instead, he has been helping people read the Bible for more than thirty years. In small groups and conversations, he tries to listen to the text, listen to people and connect the two in ways that are practical and often unexpected.
Jon has been a communication prof, college administrator, and an associate pastor. Currently, he's a hospital chaplain and a consultant.
He and Nancy have been married since 1983 and have two married children and a daughter in heaven. Jon and Nancy walk at least two miles a day, conversing the whole time.
Jon has been blogging since 2005. In 2008, he started 300wordsaday.com, where he writes in simple language about following Jesus, 300 words at a time.
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You are stepping in front of a group of people who are two days after the hardest moment of their life and are having the saddest day of their life, and you have to summarize someone’s life, give it meaning, and help people take their next step.
If you are in a church tradition that gives you all the words, use those words. But if you are reading this book, all the words weren’t enough. And many books tell us how to do things with great authority. They say, “This is THE way.”
But you aren’t looking for THE way. You are looking for help to figure out YOUR way to do a service to honor someone.
And I want to give you that help.
With more than thirty years of helping people communicate, of helping people think, of helping people sort through hard situations, I can offer you frameworks, options, and samples.
You’ll still have to do the hard work, of course. But this short book will help.
We’ll cover the service itself, starting fifteen minutes before and ending at the cemetery. We’ll talk about how to start, how to decide what goes in the middle, how to build a message, and how to finish the service. We'll talk about the particular challenge of a funeral for an infant.
I'll give you several samples of messages, a few checklists, and as much encouragement as I can fit in a small book for a tough time.
“This is hard.”
With those words, a hospital chaplain acknowledges the pain we feel after the death of someone we love. And then he slowly reflects on our questions:
- “Why can’t I think?”
- “Why am I sad when they are at peace?”
- "Why do people say stupid things?"
- "Is this my fault?"
Formed in hospital rooms and walks down hallways, this short book is like a conversation with someone who understands loss, with words of clarification for our feelings and space to write what is worth remembering in the future.
This book is helpful for people in the hours and days after a loss. It's helpful for pastors, friends, and family members wanting to know what to say and what not to say. It's helpful for anyone who, at some moment needs to hear, "This is hard."
When a hospital chaplain prays in a hospital chapel every Sunday, the prayer represents the conversations with people and God that have happened that week. The words to God on behalf of the people must reflect knowing that people are living and dying, knowing that the listeners are facing good diagnoses and bad, the beginning and ending of life.
This is a collection of a year of those Sunday morning prayers, based on Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary.
Lent for Non-Lent People is a daily guide to prayer, fasting, rest and following Jesus for people who want training wheels for Lent.
The first seven chapters are each divided into seven readings, allowing for daily readings, starting the week of Ash Wednesday (2/17/21) and going through Easter (4/4/21). The final chapter provides several strategies to take Lent into the rest of the year.
Topics include Lent as an experiment in habit, Lent as finding living food, the forty day fasts of Elijah and Jesus, the conversations Jesus had with several women, having a cup of tea with Jesus, 7 lessons to learn from sleepy disciples, and the difference between routine and ritual.
The way we live is a routine. When we get up, which path we take to work, what we do at work, how we spend our time when we have a choice, how we react when we don't have a choice. A routine is simply a set of thoughts and behaviors performed consistently. Gymnasts have routines. Parents create bed-time routines for their children.
We often find our routines to be routine, unexciting. We want to change them, to find excitement. And change is exciting. It throws everything off. But eventually, even the novelty becomes a routine and becomes routine.
Unless we find a template, a proven technique. Someone else’s routine. I’ve done this often, looking at time management tools, attention management tools, life management tools. So have you. When we’re done, we have built a collection of techniques. And we live our routine better, but sometimes we still wonder why we are doing this.
That’s because routines are about how to live. They need to have a why.
There are lots of whys available as well. And rather that look at all the options, I want to pick one and look at it.
Matthew 5-7 is known as "the Sermon on the Mount." I invite you to spend some time with me looking at this sermon, this teaching, where Jesus describes learning a new routine. Jesus answers a simple question: What does the routine of the kingdom of heaven look like?
What others are saying:
"I started reading this out loud. There were pages that made me smile, laugh and cry. I have to finish this and see how it ends. And then read it again. And share with others. And I heard voices as I was reading out loud:
Mine, which I am familiar with.
Yours, which I have heard before when I read 300 words a day as my morning devotion.
And God's voice too."
"Jon makes Jesus real. A real person, with real friends, doing real work. Jon understands the disciples as people, human in all their struggles and failings, continuing to miss the point of their Friend's guidance, support, advice and comfort. In so doing, he connects us not just with words or sermons or commands, but a framework for following Jesus and permission to get it wrong while working to get it right."
Are you feeling disillusioned this Christmas? Do you need help to focus on what really matters? What if you could talk with a friend of Jesus and ask how he feels about Christmas?
In Saint John of the Mall you will experience 26 conversations with Saint John, a white-bearded man at a shopping mall, that will lead you to peace and ease your frustration.
Like you, Dr. Jon Swanson, a pastor and professor, has often been frustrated by Christmas. Let him (and Saint John) help you find hope and rest this Christmas. Click Add to Cart for this Advent devotional like none you have read before.
Advent is a season to help us get ready for Christmas. By spending time slowing down our busy schedules, we can prepare our hearts and minds to remember Christ's first coming and to anticipate the second. Or we can open calendar boxes with chocolate.
That's in a usual year.
In 2020, all our routines have been disrupted. We could use some help with making sense of the year. And Advent is a perfect season for looking back and looking forward.
Giving a Year Meaning: A Healing Journal for Advent 2020 walks you through this Advent with reflections and activities designed to help you find meaning and healing. Rather than wise sayings or interesting stories this is a journal that will invite you to reflect on things we may have missed during the year and then take steps to remember and recover those things.
For example, some of us have forgotten to smile. Some of us have missed out on comforting others in their pain because of our own distraction. Some of us have gotten pretty upset with others. Some of us have forgotten what did work.
Developed by a hospital chaplain, this journal gives us all the experiences that can help.The journal runs from November 29 (the first Sunday of Advent) through December 31, one entry every day. It can be completed alone or as part of a family or other group conversation.
And they wait with great anticipation. They check the TV listings. They clear their schedules. Even though they can watch the recording over and over again, they wait eagerly for the coming of the “Charlie Brown Christmas.”
If you are like those people, then Luke wrote about you. He wrote about that kind of anticipation, that kind of looking forward, that kind of longing.
For the 25 days of Advent, this collection of reflections will remind us of people who were anticipating, some even craving, the arrival of the Christ.