Thursday, July 2, 2020

Episode 14 The Courage to Read: Scripture, Astonishment, and Transformation

In this week’s episode Dr Brian Russell talks about the profound role that Scripture has played in his life. He reflects on the shift from thinking of Scripture as something I should read to becoming something that I must read. He offers suggestions to capturing a renewed vision of the power of Scripture for a deep dive spirituality. Will you embrace the courage to read?

Bio: Brian Russell (Ph.D.) is a Professor of Biblical Studies and founder of Deep Dive Spirituality. Deep Dive Spirituality serves pastors and spiritual leaders through Dr. Russell’s ministries of preaching, teaching, and coaching. 

Books by Dr. Russell
(Re)Aligning with God: Reading Scripture for Church and World (Cascade Books) 

Invitation: A Bible Study to Begin With (Seedbed)

Centering Prayer and the Journey to Love (forthcoming in 2021 from Paraclete Press)

Recommendations from Today’s Podcast:

Thomas Merton, Opening the Bible 

M. Robert Mulholland, Shaped by the Word: The Power of Scripture in Spiritual Formation

Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading

Social Media:

Twitter: @briandrussell

Instagram: @yourprofessorforlife

Interested in coaching or inviting Brian to speak or teach for your community of faith or group? Email:

Links to Amazon are Affiliate links. If you purchase items through these links, Amazon returns a small percentage of the sale to Brian Russell. This supports the podcast and does not increase the price of the items you may choose to buy. Thank you for your support.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Episode 12: Wesleyan Theology Counseling & the Dynamics of Forgiveness with Dr. Virginian Todd "Toddy" Holeman

In this week’s episode, Dr. Virginia Todd Holeman helps us to understand the interplay of Wesleyan theology with the practice of therapy as well as the dynamics of forgiveness and an embodied spirituality. We also talk about common blocks and blind spots to God’s grace. 

B.S.Ed., Bloomsburg University, 1975
  • M.A., Wheaton College, 1979
  • M.A., Ashland Theological Seminary, 1986
  • Ph.D., Kent State University, 1994

Dr. Virginia Todd Holeman (Toddy) is professor of Counseling. She has taught at Asbury Theological Seminary since 1995.
Dr. Holeman received a Ph.D. at Kent State University. At Asbury Seminary, she has served as associate dean of the School of Theology (1999-2004); acting dean (2004-2005); and is presently the chair of the Counseling and Pastoral Care Department. She was the 2003-2004 recipient of the seminary’s Excellence in Distance Learning Teaching Award. She is a licensed professional clinical counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist in Kentucky. Dr. Holeman is the past president of the Kentucky Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

She has published several books, including her most recent, Theology for Better Counseling: Trinitarian Reflections for Healing and Formation(IVP Academic, 2012), which was selected as a CAPS Book (Christian Association for Psychological Studies). Dr. Holeman’s research interests include interpersonal forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation, counselor education and supervision, and integration of psychology and counseling.

Books by Dr. Holeman:
Inside the Leader’s Head: Unravelling Personal Obstacles to Ministry (with Stephen Martyn, 2008):

Reconciliable Differences: Hope and Healing for Troubled Marriages (2005)

Theology for Better Counseling: Trinitarian Reflections for Healing and Formation (2012):

Books Recommend by Dr. Holeman

Tolkien The Hobbit 
 and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Miroslav Volf Exclusion and Embrace: Revised and Updated: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation

Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Episode 11 The Wesleyan Renewal, Holiness, and Transformation with Dr Ryan Danker

In this week’s episode, Dr. Ryan Danker helps us to understand the context of the Wesleyan renewal in 18th century England in ways that will help us think about Gospel ministry in the 21st century. We take a deep dive into true power and optimism of Wesleyan theology by discussing its proclamation of holiness of heart and life. 

An active United Methodist, Ryan Danker is a church historian with a passion for evangelical studies, and in particular the early Wesleyan/Methodist movement under John and Charles Wesley. Born in Portland, Oregon, Danker served United Methodist churches in the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. He currently serves as a member of the United Methodist/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Dialogue. He is active in the American Academy of Religion, the Wesleyan Theological Society, and the Charles Wesley Society. Before his appointment at Wesley, Danker served on the faculty at Greensboro College in North Carolina where he was also Special Assistant to the President and a member of the Advisory Board of the Royce and Jane Reynolds Center for Church Leadership. 

  • B.A., Northwest Nazarene University, Nampa, ID
  • M.Div., The Divinity School, Duke University, Durham, NC
  • Th.D., The School of Theology, Boston University, Boston, MA

Twitter: @RyanNDanker

Books by Dr. Danker
Exploring a Wesleyan Political Theology (editor and contributor; Wesley’s Foundry books, 2019) 

Wesley and the Anglicans: Political Division in Early Evangelicalism (IVP, 2016) 

Books Recommend by Dr. Danker
Geoffrey Wainwright Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine, and life: A Systematic Theology 

Robert Louis Wilken The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God

The Book of Common Prayer 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Review of Personality isn't Permanent by Dr. Benjamin Hardy

This is an important book. Benjamin Hardy takes us on a rich exploration into personality and challenges the dangerous assumption that we are fixed types. This book argues powerfully that we are never merely the sum of our past. 

Hardy’s key argument is this: “[Successful people] become who they want to be by orienting their life toward their goals, not as a repeat of the past; by active bravely as their future selves, not by perpetuating who they formerly were.” (p. 9)

I’m a coach and I have used DISC, Enneagram, and Myers-Briggs assessment to help clients grow themselves and their teams. I’ve seen myself grow so I’ve always been careful not to coach people as though they are “stuck” wherever they find themselves. 

This is where Hardy’s work is so important because he writes as an expert in organizational psychology. His work provides compelling teaching on the limitations and dangers of using assessments to categorize people in ways that limit them.

There is always a fear that each of us is merely whatever our “type” is as though we are limited and defined by a self-reported score at a given moment in our history. I had a friend who was denied a promotion in a company simply because he didn’t have the DISC profile of a leader. 

Hardy helpfully dispels the myth of innate or determined personality. These tests may give us insights into our preferences or even provide a snapshot of where we are in a given moment, but it is a grave error to believe that any person is limited because they score X on a personality assessment.

Moreover Hardy presents research that demonstrates that our present and future self is not caused by our past. Or as he says in opposition to Shakespeare: the past is not prologue or at least it doesn’t have to be. Hardy writes for a reader who desires to make changes to her or his life. The good news according to Hardy’s research is that we are not limited by our past experiences. In fact, the key to a new future is our ability as humans to choose a new future and make decisions about what our past means.

Here are the the promises that Hardy makes to his reader (p. 10):
-Discover the myths of personality that limit most people’s potential

-Decide for yourself the life you want to live, regardless of how different it is from your past or present

-Become emotionally flexible so your past no longer defines you

-Reframe your trauma to believe and live like everything in your life has happened for you and not to you

-Become confident enough to define your own life’s purpose

-Create a network of “empathetic witnesses” who actively encourage your to continue moving forward through your highs and lows

-Enhance your subconscious to overcome addictions and limiting pattters

-Redesign your environment to pull you toward your future rather than keep you stuck in the past

Readers of leadership and self-improvement books will detect some of the standard coaching ingredients in the above list. But Hardy adds a key element lacking in much of the literature–his work is research based. Hardy is a recent Ph.D. graduate from a major research university (Clemson). He understands rigorous research. 

He is in a unique space because in addition to his academic credentials, he has worked hard at the craft of writing. His prose style is easy to read and substantive. Moreover he is an entrepreneur with a successful seven figure business. 

But it wasn’t always this way for Benjamin Hardy. He had a traumatizing upbringing. But he found a way forward. He has “skin in the game.” His book is a roadmap to his own journey from humble beginnings to a successful marriage, family, and business.

In other words, Dr. Hardy is a voice worth investing the time required to give Personality isn’t Permanent a careful read.

The chapters build slowly and methodically. I appreciated the illustrations of persons who moved from positions of struggle to success. As Hardy guides us, he includes questions that help us apply the lessons immediately and directly to our life so that we can move forward.

Dr. Hardy delivers on his promises. 

Key takeaways for me:
(1) We need to create labels for ourselves in light of our goals and not limit our goals to a label given us on an assessment

(2) Our personality is dependent on the environment in which we find ourselves. This book challenges us to put ourselves in environments that enhance and support our goals and not merely one’s that reinforce limiting and fixed beliefs.

(3) Personality tests “are fast food for the soul” (55). They give easy answers to explain why a person is or isn’t successful. In other words, they can serve as an excuse for taking true growth, assuming responsibility, and taking action to achieve one’s deep goals.

(4) I’m challenged anew to ask: “What do I really want? What is my highest purpose? Have I found a massive goal that will pull me out of bed everyday with purpose and passion?

(5) Need to focus on one massive goal rather than on a collection of smaller goals. Play big.

(6) Reinforced the essential role that journaling plays in growth by keeping our goals on the front burner and creating intentional space daily for deep reflection and visualization of our preferred future. Hardy provides a map for deep journaling by filling each chapter with questions for reflection.

(7) Critical role that associations play in life. Refuse to be the “smartest guy in the room” and put self in an environment for growth. Build a team of “empathetic” witnesses and encouragers around myself and be that person for others. This is what I’d call “being known by love and serving as a voice of hope for others.”

(8) Be aware of the danger of initial success and achieving a certain level of status. These can kill off future growth. WE move from goal achievement to status/income/image management/protection.

(9) When pondering the meaning of our past experience (good and bad), remember Sean Stephenson’s final words: “This happened for me, not to me.” (146)

(10) Recognize the physiological effects of suppressing emotions and painful experiences.

(11) Absolute necessity of new challenges, meeting new people, and learning to thrive in new environments. Refuse to be stale.

Who do you desire to be and become? What is preventing you right now from moving toward a bigger, richer, better, and more profound future? If this question raises doubts in your heart, perhaps Personality isn’t Permanent may be just what you need today to forward.

I recommend Personality isn’t Permanent with enthusiasm. 

Friday, June 5, 2020

Living as Citizens Worthy of the Gospel (Walking and Talking Spiritualit...

When Paul writes to the believers in Philippi, he is addressing one of the wealthier and more privileged churches in the 1st century. Many in Philippi enjoyed the status of Roman citizenship.

Paul challenges them to focus on a different type of citizenship (1:27 cf. 3:20): Gospel citizenship or heavenly citizenship. It is a cross–centric vision. Roman citizens were not subject to crucifixion so it is profound that Paul focuses on this aspect of Jesus in Philippians 2:5–11. Moreover, Paul calls himself a “slave” in 1:1 and repeats this language when speaking of Jesus in 2:7.

What is the message? The status we embrace sets the limits on our capacity to reach others with the Gospel.

What would this look like for us in the 21st century?

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Episode 10: Religion, Class, and the Racial Divide: Insights from Sociol...

In this week’s episode, Dr. Gerardo Martí takes us on a deep dive into the roots of the political, social, and racial divisions that we face in our world today. 

Gerardo Martí, Ph.D., is Professor and Chair of Sociology at Davidson College, where he teaches on race, religion, inequality, and social change. He was recently elected President of the Association for the Sociology of Religion and is author of several books, including most recently American Blindspot: Race, Class, Religion, and the Trump Presidency (Rowman & Littlefield 2020) and The Glass Church: Robert H. Schuller, the Crystal Cathedral, and the Strain of Megachurch Ministry (Rutgers 2020).

You can follow Gerardo on the following social media platforms:

Twitter: @praxishabitus

Dr. Marti’s published books:

American Blindspot: Race, Class, Religion, and the Trump Presidency (Rowman & Littlefield 2020) 

The Glass Church: Robert H. Schuller, the Crystal Cathedral, and the Strain of Megachurch Ministry (Rutgers 2020) 

Worship Across the Racial Divide: Religious Music and the Multiracial Congregation (Oxford University Press; Reprint edition, 2017) 

Hollywood Faith: Holiness, Prosperity, and Ambition in a Los Angeles Church (Rutgers University Press, 2008) 

Latino Protestants in America: Growing and Diverse (with Mark Mulder and Aida Ramos; Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2017) 

A Mosaic of Belivers: Diversity and Innovation in a Multiethnic Church (Indiana University Press, 2009)  

The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity (with Gladys Daniel, Oxford University Press; Reprint edition [2014])

Resources Recommended by Dr. Marti for Learning about Race, Class, and Religion:
Berger/Luckman The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge 

Etienne Balibar On Universals: Constructing and Deconstructing Community 

Mehrst Baradarn The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap 

James Cone The Cross and the Lynching Tree
                     God of the Oppressed 

Karl Marx Capital 

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership (Justice, Power, and Politics) 

Max Weber Economy and Society 

Links to Amazon are Affiliate links. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Deep Dive Spirituality Conversations–Episode 8: Psychology, Holistic Spirituality, and Our Rule of Life with Dr. Steve Stratton

This week’s episode features a rich conversation with Dr. Steve Stratton. Dr. Stratton (for bio see below) helps us think about spiritual formation through the lens of psychology. We talk about the importance of a holistic spirituality that honors us as embodied persons. You’ll also gain insights into developing a rule or way of life that honors you as a unique person created by God and helps you grow deeper into God’s grace. 

Dr. Stratton recommends these books as essential reading for spiritual formation:

Aelred of Rievaulx: Spiritual Friendship

Karen Horney Neurosis and Human Growth: The Struggle toward Self-Realization

Gerald May Addiction and Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions 

N.T. Wright The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion

Stephen P. Stratton, Ph.D., is Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care and a licensed psychologist (KY) and counselor educator.  Previous to his full-time appointment at Asbury Theological Seminary in 2006, he served as an adjunct professor at Asbury University, where he was the Director of the Center for Counseling for 18 years.  He is a Health Service Provider/Supervisor for the Kentucky Board of Psychology.  

Dr. Stratton holds membership and leadership positions in both counseling and psychology professional guilds, and he regularly presents at the state, national and international conferences of these organizations.  He is currently Vice President for the Kentucky chapter of the Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values In Counseling (KY-ASERVIC).  He also serves as an At-large member of the Board for the Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS). He is a trainer and seminar director for the Prepare-Enrich Inventory (Life Innovations, Inc.) since 2010, and he is a trained facilitator of Immunity to Change workshops (Minds at Work, Inc.) since 2013.  

Dr. Stratton has provided psychological services to adolescents and adults in hospitals, community mental health agencies, pastoral settings, and college and university centers since 1983.  Dr. Stratton has special interest and training in the areas of human relational attachments, sexual/gender identity, contemplative prayer, and the integration of counseling and orthodox Christianity.  
He is part of a research team investigating the experience of sexual minorities at faith-based colleges and universities.  The book based on this research, Listening to Sexual Minorities: A Study of Faith and Sexual Identity on Christian College Campuses was published in 2018.  He is a research affiliate with the Sexual and Gender Identity Institute, where he currently helps to facilitate a longitudinal study investigating the experience of students at Christian colleges and universities across the United States who are navigating faith and gender identity.  He also serves on the Division 36 (Psychology of Religion and Spirituality) LGBTQ Task Force at the American Psychological Association.

In 2017, he received the "Distinguished Member Award" for his teaching, research, and pastoral leadership for CAPS.  In 2012 and 2020, Dr. Stratton was presented the “Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award” by Asbury Theological Seminary for “consistent excellence in the classroom.”  In 2010, he was named “Psychologist of the Year” by the Kentucky Psychological Association for “his innovative teaching and outstanding scientist-practitioner model[ing]” in the state.

He is married to Carol (Lehikoinen) Stratton, and they enjoy connections with their adult daughter, son and daughter-in-law.  The Strattons are active in relational training, experiential worship, and contemplative prayer ministries.  They are congregational leaders in worship and laity training at Nicholasville United Methodist Church.