The body of God

The body of God

When we pray that all of this may be so; when we pray to love all bodies and minds; when we pray to be both broken and whole at once: we are praying to be more like God.

I’m working on my gratitude

I’m working on my gratitude

You have heard how a pessimist says “My cup is half empty” and an optimist says “My cup is half full.” A person of faith says “My cup runneth over.” These are the most powerful four words of gratitude ever written.

“That’s bad! That’s good!”

“That’s bad! That’s good!”

Thanksgiving this year may be an opportunity to go deeper with your gratitude. Around the holiday table, or alone, you might reflect on what you’ve learned from the challenges of this time, and what the less-obvious blessings have been.

Confusing the powers

Confusing the powers

The irony of reading the eighteenth chapter of John’s gospel on Christ the King Sunday strikes me. While America gears up for Black Friday, the Church hears of Good Friday.

Sticks and stones

Sticks and stones

Words once spoken or written cannot be taken back. Words leave wounds. Verbal assaults within the Christian community may wound us personally, but more devastating is the impact hateful words have on the witness of the community of faith in the world.

Going outside

Going outside

As people of the Resurrection, we are called to go outside. Most of the accounts of Jesus’ teachings and healings took place outside rather than inside.

Seeking “forgiveness” at 60

Seeking “forgiveness” at 60

I waited, auditorily enveloped in that stale recorded music loop, to find out if I was going to have to take that monthly student loan payment to my grave. In which case, it was still worth it, because I have already paid my “debt.”

Veterans Day honors service and sacrifice

Veterans Day honors service and sacrifice

With my family’s military ties, Veterans Day has been significant to me; however, it has become even more meaningful over the years and especially since moving to the Hampton Roads area of Norfolk, VA. Veterans Day is a time to reflect on national service and sacrifice.

The Prayer of Jabez revisited

The Prayer of Jabez revisited

The Old Testament prayer of Jabez sounds remarkably familiar. It sounds like a cornerstone of the prosperity gospel: give me more. Where is the Jabez-style prayer for others?

Saying yes to God demands saying no to injustice

Saying yes to God demands saying no to injustice

Against the backdrop of Nazi Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer charged his youngest new church members that “Your Yes to God demands your No to all injustice, to all evil, to all lies, to all oppression and violation of the weak and the poor, to all godlessness and mocking of the Holy.”

Getting our Jesus right

Getting our Jesus right

For effective Christian leaders, Christ is the cornerstone of our leadership as much as he is the chief cornerstone of our faith. This is when our leading becomes servant-leadership and spills over into our discipleship and our evangelism. It is the kind of leadership that we are called to by the one who calls us to serve and to lead others.

Zombie Jesus vs. resurrected Jesus

Zombie Jesus vs. resurrected Jesus

For our churches, perhaps the zombie Jesus memes might cause us to pause and recognize where we have lost our purpose as followers of Christ. Are we following the one who rose from the dead and leads us into new life now, or are we continuing to consume resources to perpetuate old models of ministry that feed ourselves and not the world in need of Christ around us?

The other side of life

The other side of life

For those who are in fields where big questions about life and meaning are constantly at the forefront–like I was until recently–I think it’s easy to overlook just how often the concerns of everyday life take center stage over philosophical ideals.

Disability and the prophet’s call

Disability and the prophet’s call

During all my challenges, I’ve never hesitated to turn to God in prayer, not to achieve a particular result, win an election or to derive a quick answer to a knotty problem, but for the strength, wisdom, and patience to deal with the varied problems of life. Those prayers have always been answered.

Is your pastor quietly quitting?

Is your pastor quietly quitting?

Pastors and church staff are also employees in the workforce. They are not immune to the pressures and economic realities that face the rest of the hustle, burnout, and quietly quitting culture that surround them.

Love and baseball

Love and baseball

Enjoy Aaron Judge’s success, but don’t be afraid to surround yourself with heavy hitters who will improve your own performance.

How much do you love your work?

How much do you love your work?

Even a job you love can become a drag–witness much of pastoral ministry during lockdown, or ministry through a time of church conflict. There is much you can’t change about the reality of this ministry challenge. Still, consider how you might change what you bring to it.

How’s it going?

How’s it going?

The parallels between our pandemic-affected lives and the lives of the prophet Haggai’s contemporaries in post-exilic Jerusalem are unmistakable.

The song goes on, despite the world at its worst

The song goes on, despite the world at its worst

Earlier this year, Salman Rushdie said that “song is stronger than death.” I continue to pray for Rushdie’s recovery and return to whatever public life he can in the future. His song will go on long after his death, which I hope will be by natural causes long into the future. The song of the human spirit in its fullness cannot be quashed or quelled.

The Cherokee National Holiday 2022 in perspective

The Cherokee National Holiday 2022 in perspective

Some holidays spark the heart in a way others don’t. Christmas is probably a prime example. The Cherokee National Holiday (CNH) is one of those for me. It celebrates the signing and ratification of the Cherokee Nation constitution of 1839, and is a true celebration of Cherokee culture.

The spiritual and church websites

The spiritual and church websites

In an informal, non-scientific examination, I searched for church websites pretending to be a person seeking a deeper experience with the Spiritual. An encounter with the Divine? That’s what I was looking for from a website.

On getting into Pokémon Go in 2022

On getting into Pokémon Go in 2022

As a pastor who moves around a lot and likes to play with others, Pokémon Go has been a passport into seeing the place I live, and the places I visit, with an additional and engaging layer.

This ain’t living!!!

This ain’t living!!!

Marvin Gaye’s 1971 hit “Inner City Blues” reflected the existential crisis of those suffering from high inflation, low wages, increased taxes, and the rumblings of war to name a few. It appears that today’s America is repeating history.

Not THAT kind of Evangelical

Not THAT kind of Evangelical

You’re not that kind of Evangelical, but too many people in the pews are. And some of the culture and beliefs of Evangelicalism have allowed their bad fruit to flourish.

Discipleship in the heat of things

Discipleship in the heat of things

Being a follower of the Jesus way is a challenge during the best of times. The question, during these hot August days and nights, is “Are we becoming better disciples of Christ?” This time of year, when tempers often flare, are we being true to the one Lord to whom we profess our faith and loyalty?

The beauty of life amid the gloom

The beauty of life amid the gloom

Reading Ecclesiastes with a senior citizen group was a deep experience. Together with a group of folks who have lived long years and seen much along the way, I discovered Ecclesiastes as that sort of deep wisdom that only becomes clear after you have lived a bit.

A legacy of reminding

A legacy of reminding

It has been my life’s goal to be a reminder… to remind others of God’s love, compassion, grace, justice, and mercy. Like the Prophets of old, I have sought to remind people to be faithful to the Divine. Such is the very work of the Holy Spirit, and such can be our own humble ministry to those around us.

Christian Nationalism is a danger to our nation

Christian Nationalism is a danger to our nation

It’s time to defend Christianity from Christian Nationalists. What seems like a fringe movement in American politics today can become a danger to religious liberty tomorrow for all Americans when the power of the state is used to advance the work of any group that presumes to speak on behalf of the whole church.

Begin retirement with a Year of Jubilee

Begin retirement with a Year of Jubilee

For the ancient Hebrews, the year of Jubilee was not meant to be a long planning session for the future, nor a long break only to return to the past. It was to make them holy. They were different. Their world was different. When retirement comes, take a Year of Jubilee.

The pleasures of routine—even in prayer

The pleasures of routine—even in prayer

There can be a lot of “should” in the spiritual life—I should pray more, go back to in-person worship, read the Bible more. What it would be like to make pleasure rather than duty one of the motives for spiritual practice? What spiritual activities do you enjoy, and can you do more of them? Can you make a routine of them?

Invested faith

Invested faith

Jesus told parable after parable about seeds, trying to teach his disciples that the abundance of God is available to us all, that we can build a world where everyone thrives if we have the courage to live with open hearts and open hands, meeting God anywhere God’s work of justice and healing is happening. In response, I became the unlikely founder of an investment fund: Invested Faith.

The four qualities of an effective hybrid church

The four qualities of an effective hybrid church

Prior to the pandemic, churches had become experts at what they did. For the most part, there was little room for experimentation, backtracking, the rethinking of processes and systems. Today, however, we are faced with a new challenge as we consider how to engage what can at times feel like two separate congregations—one in the pews and one online.

Are you worried?

Are you worried?

I still worry. But at least I understand more deeply that it is a waste of energy. God gives me the ability to make choices in the present to make at least a small difference in the world.

Divided we stand

Divided we stand

What if unity in the midst of a broken and fractured Christendom looks not like remaining a part of the same church gathering but rather continuing to engage in relationship—continuing to love—those people with whom you disagree?

A righteous remnant in a wicked world: Amos 5:13-24

A righteous remnant in a wicked world: Amos 5:13-24

In the language of the biblical prophets, the remnant is that small minority that is not swept away by popular opinion or by fear of any negative consequences. They are a righteous remnant in a wicked world. I thought about the word remnant when I watched and listened to Liz Cheney during the January 6 hearings.

Yemen needs good neighbors

Yemen needs good neighbors

As Christians, we should care deeply about what’s happening in Yemen. Jesus shows us how. Yemen needs some good neighbors. As the people of Yemen experience deprivation and war, we can care, we can stop long enough to see, to learn, and to look for our opportunity to reach out and serve.

Declarations of freedom: Reflections on Juneteenth and the Fourth of July

Declarations of freedom: Reflections on Juneteenth and the Fourth of July

For 246 years, we have been working on this experiment to form this more perfect union. We have not yet arrived. But if we can bring together celebrations of freedom like Juneteenth and the Fourth of July, recognizing the inalienable rights of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or any other attribute by which we seek to divide, we will be closer to our goal.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of answers to complicated questions

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of answers to complicated questions

A powerful reexamination of heart and soul is what led our forebears to create the United States of America. I am not proposing simplistic answers to complicated issues like mass shootings, but we must start somewhere. May we have the courage to faithfully reexamine the difficult things in order to move toward that more perfect union.

Here I am

Here I am

We must take the lesson of Moses and make ourselves visible. We must be present, alive, and awake in this moment. We must be here. This requires each of us to face our challenges head-on if we are to tackle the challenges our society confronts.

True human encounter

True human encounter

The Incarnation is emblematic of God’s encounter with us. God’s human form in Christ is to be fully immersed in the human condition so that we too may know God.

Inspiring civil disobedience

Inspiring civil disobedience

Civil disobedience against injustice has long been a part of the world’s moral fabric. Sometimes it has come with magnificent public attention, while other times it passed unnoticed when only one person took a stand for what is right, true, just, and God-like. And yet, few will ever know the ripples of inspiration that one person, like Henry David Thoreau, can make or the impact they will radiate for generations to come.

The church and the consumer

The church and the consumer

In 2022, it seems as though we have the fundamental choice to either employ big data or reject the consumerist entanglement. My hope is that churches veer toward the latter and become messy places once again.

I can’t go back home

I can’t go back home

In the midst of deconstructing and reconstructing my faith, I can no more return to the faith I once had than I can return to my childhood home.

Spending a year in the Women’s Lectionary

Spending a year in the Women’s Lectionary

In this month of Pentecost, and Pride, and Juneteenth, we are offered the time to reconsider our use of language, and especially our use of language over time. It’s one thing to theoretically say God is all genders. It is another thing altogether to express the many genders of God in corporate worship.

America’s existential crisis

America’s existential crisis

Amidst America’s ongoing existential crisis of violence, peace is not something that will happen if we turn our heads and look the other way. It is not going to simply manifest because we have prayer vigils for victims of violence, give words of comfort, and walk away doing nothing.

Deconstruction and self-doubt

Deconstruction and self-doubt

Deconstructing my faith as a pastor was a strange thing. On the inside I was wrestling with deep questions about the faith I had built my life and career around, desperately seeking the truth while at the same time recognizing that what I would uncover could mean separation from my community and uncertainty about my next paycheck.

Vengeance personified: A review of “The Batman”

Vengeance personified: A review of “The Batman”

While the Batman mythology revolves around demented yet broken villains bedeviling Gotham streets and frequently the nightmares of its populace, this film by Matt Reeves sets up interesting questions about recovering from trauma and learning to live in a way that works more toward tikkun olam, the repairing of the world, more than meeting violence only with more violence.

Why would a loving God allow…

Why would a loving God allow…

I am haunted by a question a church member asked me: “Why would a loving God allow my husband to be taken from me?” I was her pastor, and I had no satisfactory answer that could ease her grief. Hers was the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people?

A time to break silence

A time to break silence

Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam in the 1960s, we can raise our voices on behalf of the one who said that we should care for and comfort and bring relief to the strangers, and the oppressed, and the impoverished. In light of events in Ukraine and at our southern border, it is once again “A time to break silence.”

Bamboozled and hoodwinked

Bamboozled and hoodwinked

In this global society, where we can connect at the touch of a screen to anyone around the world, everyone is our neighbor. May we not become conditioned by only what we are exposed to. May we find the emotional bandwidth to see all that is happening in the world and be sensitive. May we extend mercy to all of our neighbors. We must recognize that there is more to the world than what is being shared by those with personal agendas.

The assault on our republic

The assault on our republic

Not only are our fellow citizens dying in mass shootings, but our republic also is under assault. The integrity of the public arenas that constitute the lifeblood of our republican order are imperiled by the threat and fear of violence.

The effects of pandemic brain fog on mental health: God’s grace is sufficient

The effects of pandemic brain fog on mental health: God’s grace is sufficient

Many of us who have survived the past couple of years have come away with significant pandemic-related “brain fog.” Forgetfulness, confusion, agitation, fear, anxiety. You might have encountered a spike in any or all of these and more. The question marks continue to appear as COVID-19 cases come and go in different parts of the world. If you do not seem to be your old, pre-pandemic self, you’re not alone.

What to do if your ship is sinking

What to do if your ship is sinking

Over 100 years ago, Ernest Shackleton embarked on an expedition to cross the Antarctic continent. He never made landfall, but what could have been a disaster became a leadership triumph. We’re not on a life-threatening exploration gone wrong. However, church leaders face real challenges now and going forward. Following Shackleton’s example can help you navigate the challenges ahead with clarity and grace.

It’s OK to not be OK

It’s OK to not be OK

Churches can be a vital force for their community’s mental health by gathering community, lifting up others in prayer, and creating safe spaces where access to community support is not predicated on falsely claiming that everything is fine.

Substitute pastor

Substitute pastor

Karl Barth famously said: “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.” I’d suggest that the newspaper can stand in for many activities that broaden our awareness of the world. We can read a newspaper, yes. But we can also go to the mall and interview people, or put up a table at the farmer’s market, or, as I have, sign up to substitute teach.

Seeking justice? Use consensus.

Seeking justice? Use consensus.

We too often see time as an enemy, but if taking the time necessary to thoroughly explore a topic, so all understand the complexity (or simplicity) of an issue, isn’t that time well spent?

Wandering in the wilderness

Wandering in the wilderness

It’s been a month and a half since I deconstructed my faith and became an exvangelical, and the best way I can describe this season is that I’m wandering in the wilderness.

Beyond the cross

Beyond the cross

The work done on the cross through Jesus’ death reveals that from the darkest moments of life, “hope springs eternal.” It is that hope that we hold on to as we suffer shame and disgrace. It is that hope that gives individuals strength to continue to stand through the chaotic winds of life.