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Coffeehouse Contemplative

Coffeehouse Contemplative

By Jeff Nelson
A podcast that explores Christian spirituality beyond the walls of institutional religion, for those both inside and outside the church.
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Everything Is Already Different

Coffeehouse Contemplative

The Rage Room
Anger is one of the most socially unacceptable emotions, in part because it makes others uncomfortable, but also in part because it is often expressed in destructive, harmful, and abusive ways. As a natural human emotion, anger is not wrong in itself, but what we do with it can be. Rather than avoid our anger, we should take time to understand it better, and to discern how best to express it. The Angry Christian by Andrew Lester Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr. Matthew 5:21-26 James 1:14-24 Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
January 16, 2022
Based on a Freudian Slip
Some practices that help reduce anxiety may involve breathing exercises or talking things out with others. But just as effective might be actions that involve taking it out - not on people, but on inanimate objects such as hitting a bag, stomping balloons, or going for a walk or run. Sometimes we need something much more active as a form of release to bring us back to ourselves. Episode 27: Just Vibes Prayer in Motion: Connecting with God in Fidgety Times Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi One Word 2022: Flow Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
January 09, 2022
Just Vibes
The past few years have been marked by anxiety, for both national and personal reasons. So where do we find peace in the midst of this? How may we be able to calm and center our minds, hearts, and spirits not just to survive, but to truly live a life? What sorts of tangible actions could we take to tap into a vibe that sustains us? NEW WEBSITE Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday Prayer in Motion: Connecting with God in Fidgety Times Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
January 02, 2022
The Holiday Special
We are now in the season of Advent, a time of 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas. It's a time of preparation for the celebration of birth, and to reflect on our need for God to do a new thing in the world. So in this final episode for 2021, I want to give a reflection meant to be a help you the listener in your own preparation leading up to this special time. Luke 2:1-20 John 1:1-14 My blog My newsletter My books Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
November 28, 2021
Coffee Meditation #3
Most people associate coffee with the morning, but coffee can be for the late hours of the day as well. For many who drink it this time, it may be when coffee’s practical uses truly come to the forefront.  But again, there can be another dimension to enjoying coffee after hours. Its spiritual potential is just as strong as earlier in the day. Episode 23: Coffee Meditation #1 Episode 24: Coffee Meditation #2 Genesis 32:24-29 Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
November 14, 2021
Coffee Meditation #2
Coffee has a reputation of speeding things up, but I think it can also have an opposite effect.  It can help slow us down and take stock of our surroundings. Coffee may be able to alter and enhance our awareness at the chemical level, but it can also alter our awareness at the mental and spiritual level by helping us take stock of what’s around us and within us. Episode 23: Coffee Meditation #1 Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation Rob Walker, The Art of Noticing Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
November 07, 2021
Coffee Meditation #1
For some, coffee is essential to waking up. For others, it's a common cause and catalyst for socialization. It can aid in our ability to reflect and observe. This episode and the ones that will follow will be a series of meditations less about coffee itself and more about the larger experiences that it helps us enjoy. How to Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday Prayer in Motion: Connecting with God in Fidgety Times Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
October 24, 2021
Selective Forgetting
“Forgive and forget” is one of those terms that people sometimes trot out in times of trauma, especially when one person has inflicted it on another. But forgiveness isn’t that simple, in part because forgetting isn’t that simple. When we experience that level of injury, it lives in our bodies, minds, and spirits. How might forgetting play a role in our healing? Or can it? Episode 21: It Never Truly Leaves Matthew 18: 21-35 Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
October 10, 2021
It Never Truly Leaves
We may tend to frame our need for healing from trauma or loss in terms of "letting go" or even forgetting what happened, as if we won't truly experience wholeness again until this past event is erased from our heart and mind. But rather than erase it from our lives (which isn't really possible), we may instead acknowledge that it is part of us, and incorporate it into our new and emerging sense of self. Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
October 03, 2021
Building in a Pandemic
As we consider the habits and decisions that have brought us to where we are, that will especially include how this pandemic season has forced us to rethink and redirect parts of our lives. We’ve been presented with so many different changed circumstances that we can’t avoid taking into consideration that the question “what are you building” can’t be answered in the same way now. Episode 18: What Are You Building? Episode 19: Church Building Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
September 26, 2021
Church Building
The question "What are you building?" pertains to every aspect of our lives, but let's apply it to one thing: the church. Through this example, non-churchgoers may still be able to see how this may be applied in other ways. Episode 18: What Are You Building? Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
September 19, 2021
What Are You Building?
Many events in our lives or in the world happen because they’ve been building for a while, set in motion days, weeks, years ago by a series of decisions and factors. We may or may not know it at the time, but they helped contribute to where things are today. Are we able to analyze how certain things in our lives built to where they did? Can we pause to look behind and see what we’ve been building now? Matthew 7:24-27 Episode 4: Practice Makes Proficient Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
September 12, 2021
And Then Maybe You Can
After admitting you can no longer do something and entering the bare season after, you may begin to get anxious about how long that season is taking. Maybe the answer involves a slow discovery or comes as a sudden epiphany. Either way, there are certain ways in which we may take active and intentional steps to figure it out. Episode 15: Sometimes You Can't Episode 16: A Bare Season Brian Cook, The Story 2021: As You Can See, I Can't Pay You Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
September 05, 2021
A Bare Season
Letting go of something can feel liberating. But then we may enter a new season where we wonder what's next, and it may take a while to figure that out. What can we do during this bare season that will help us discover what we may be called to produce next? Episode 15: Sometimes You Can't Luke 13:6-9 Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
August 29, 2021
Sometimes You Can't
We receive so many messages around us that no matter how hard things get, we should be able to push through. We're told to never say that we can't. And yet admitting that we don't have the energy, resources, or willpower that we really need could be the first step to greater healing and wholeness. Blog posts: Blank, Can't Handle This Bo Burnham, All Eyes on Me Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
August 22, 2021
Still Here
It's been a long, low creative energy summer. But I'm ready to get this podcast back up and running with some new ideas and a slightly different approach. I hope that you didn't give up on me in the meantime, and that this episode popping up on whatever subscription feed you use is a welcome thing. Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday Episode 4: Practice Makes Proficient Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
August 15, 2021
Aw Hell, There's More
If the concept of hell in the Bible isn’t as clear cut as many Christians believe, what do we do with it? Can we, or should we, retain the idea of hell at all? Most importantly, does hell mesh logically with the idea of an all-loving God who shares God’s grace unconditionally? Given how damaging the idea of hell has been for so many Christians and non-Christians, it’s worth spending more time with to consider how worthwhile it really is. Romans 5:12-19 The Divine Comedy Episode 6: Palm Sunday Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
June 07, 2021
Aw, Hell.
Where did the popular concept of hell as a place of eternal torment come from, and how can we reconcile it with the idea of a God who loves humanity unconditionally? This week begins an exploration of the concept, including a brief treatment of the primary places in scripture on which the idea is based. Love Wins by Rob Bell Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
May 24, 2021
A Theology of Star Wars, Part 2
After publishing last week's episode on a theology of Star Wars, I started thinking that I wanted to continue focusing on the subject. There is so much possibility in just how the Jedi and Sith each approach the Force, that I wanted to explore it more. In particular, the Jedi tend to discourage focus on one's emotions, which ends up having devastating consequences. What can we learn from the mistakes of the Jedi to better incorporate emotion into our spiritual experience? A Theology of Star Wars My books on spirituality and popular culture: Wonder and Whiskey: Insights on Faith and the Music of Dave Matthews Band The Doctor and the Apostle: Intersections Between Doctor Who and the Letters of Paul Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
May 17, 2021
A Theology of Star Wars
Star Wars is one of the most beloved and enduring pop culture franchises ever made. And it's worth asking what we might learn from it theologically. One podcast won't be able to do so exhaustively, but we can at least begin to explore the rich possibilities of this series. My books on pop culture and theology: Wonder and Whiskey: Insights on Faith from the Music of Dave Matthews Band The Doctor and the Apostle: Intersections Between Doctor Who and the Letters of Paul Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
May 09, 2021
I didn't have time to write and record a full episode this week, so instead I take a few minutes to process out loud what it was like to attend my first public social gathering in over a year, thanks in part to becoming fully vaccinated. Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
May 02, 2021
The Call Cycle
There are many signs and symbols that we need to watch for in order to discern our call. But after we begin pursuing it, there come times when we may need to recalibrate, and decide between recommitting ourselves or taking a different path. In that sense, calls can be cyclical, and recognizing where we are in the cycle can help us choose what to do. Anatomy of a Call Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
April 25, 2021
Anatomy of a Call
What comes to mind when you think of the word "calling?" Do you believe that you have found yours, or are you still searching? What goes into seeking a call, anyway? The answers to these questions may not be straightforward, but there are certain signs and elements that we can watch for. Hearing God's Call by Ben Campbell Johnson Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
April 18, 2021
We Should Talk About Burnout
Have you ever walked into your workplace or some other place to which you've been dedicated, and realized you no longer have the energy to be there? Can you name something that you used to approach with energy and passion, that you now regard with cynicism, apathy, or despair? This feeling is called burnout, and we need to talk about it. Just Do Today Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
April 11, 2021
Just Do Today
So many of us live closely by our schedules and to-do lists. But those schedules and to-do lists come with worries and an overdeveloped preoccupation on what comes next. We have both the possibilities and limitations of any given day, and both can be gifts. Matthew 6:25-34 Practice Makes Proficient Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
April 04, 2021
Palm Sunday
Christians know Palm Sunday best as the beginning of Holy Week, during which they are invited to reflect on one of the stories from the Gospels of Jesus' ride into Jerusalem a few days before his crucifixion. It tends to be a celebratory day, as well as a lead-in for what comes later in the week. But the story's implications carry so much more than what we may tend to see. Mark 11:1-11 Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday Prayer in Motion: Connecting with God in Fidgety Times Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
March 21, 2021
A Pandemic Lament
After months of watching lockdowns begin in other countries, it was the United States' turn in March of 2020. Now here we are a year later, and we have experienced and lamented so much. Have we allowed ourselves to grieve over this past year? Will we allow ourselves to deal with lingering effects of grief even after we begin to return to a post-pandemic existence? Psychology Today, When Grief Gets Physical Shoma Morita, Morita Therapy The Endgame of Grief Wanda's Grief Psalm 22 Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
March 14, 2021
Practice Makes Proficient
If you were asked, "What's one thing you wish you were better at," you may actually be able to name more than one thing. We all have activities we wish we could do better, or habits we wish we could develop or break. We may recognize that the key to all of this is more practice -- "practice makes perfect," as the saying goes. But the pursuit of perfection may sabotage us before we even begin. Fortunately, there are other ways to think about practice that are more reasonable and achievable. Austin Kleon, 31-day Practice and Suck Less Challenge James Clear, Atomic Habits One Word 2021: Practice Prayer in Motion: Connecting with God in Fidgety Times Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
March 07, 2021
Everything Is Already Different
It's been about a year since the pandemic lockdowns began. Events have been cancelled or postponed over and over, and life in general has been turned upside down. This entire time--and more frequently now that an end slowly appears on the horizon--many have been talking about going "back to normal." But will everything really be exactly as it was, and will we really want it to be? Ed Prideaux, How to heal the "mass trauma" of Covid-19 Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
February 28, 2021
The Second Lentiest Lent
All the COVID-related lockdowns and cancellations began during Lent 2020, leading someone to create a meme that read, "This is the Lentiest Lent I've ever Lented." This year, we are still faced with going without many of the same things, and questions of where hope and new life may be found are still with us. With all that we've been through and all that we've learned, how might this Lent be a source of renewal rather than added despair? Related blog post: Five Reminders for a Meaningful Lent Benediction: Blessing the Dust by Jan Richardson Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder Find more about my writing at
February 21, 2021
Let's Begin with a Story
The inaugural episode of my new podcast. Many across the spectrum of religious experience and belief carry with them a question: “Where is God beyond what I know? Where is God beyond the walls of my place of worship? Where is God beyond the pages of my sacred texts and songs?" There is no one answer to that. I figured that the best way to begin would be to tell a little of my own story, and why I'm passionate about finding the spiritual in everything. My books: The Doctor and the Apostle: Intersections Between Doctor Who and the Letters of Paul Prayer in Motion: Connecting with God in Fidgety Times Wonder and Whiskey: Insights on Faith from the Music of Dave Matthews Band Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday Music: "Reflections" by Wild Wonder
February 16, 2021