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.

Easter dancing

Easter dancing

I need to share a secret burden I have been carrying for too long. It is a little embarrassing and will require your strictest confidentiality.

Let’s talk politics

Let’s talk politics

If you’ve ever prayed, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth” you have prayed a deeply political prayer, whether you realize it or not.

He said, “How can you call yourself a white Christian?”

He said, “How can you call yourself a white Christian?”

I can’t let people who think, eat, sleep, or breathe racism believe that their actions have an impact on me. As hard as it will be, I need to take their words, stir them up with Jesus, and give them back. Perhaps in doing so, I will catch them in the web of Jesus. That’s how I call myself a Christian.

Churches address crisis in Ukraine

Churches address crisis in Ukraine

Since the war began, Christian leaders have been almost of one voice in offering words of comfort and solidarity to the Ukrainian people, asking God’s blessing on all who suffer violence and the effects of war—and giving reproof to the Russian leaders who have directed the invasion.

Standing on numinous ground

Standing on numinous ground

Seeing photographically is not a natural gift the photographer is born with. It comes by practice and concentration, and by training the mind to notice lighting, juxtaposition, angles, contrast, irony, humor, emotion, and beauty. In a similar way, people of faith can train their senses for seeing spiritually, noticing the numinous spirit to where they step—not just in a garden, on a mountaintop, or in nature, but in common life.

Repenting . . . made less easy

Repenting . . . made less easy

For Christian believers, to repent means turning our lives to the way of Jesus. Rather than wearing ourselves down running the well-trodden path of the rat race, we Christians seek to trace our way through the contours and questions of the gospel.

Women mayors: Breaking glass ceilings and being cut by the shards

Women mayors: Breaking glass ceilings and being cut by the shards

In recognition of Women’s History Month, it is fitting to celebrate the continuing progress of women as elected mayoral officials. Yet, while women continue to make strides as elected officials, they are also being cut by the shards of the ceilings they break, suffering the brunt of abuses when their policies clash with constituents.

The soul of the Union

The soul of the Union

Victory demands a country and a free world united against the archaic proposition that war, not peace and justice, is the way to solve our problems.

A slow church alternative to door-to-door evangelism

A slow church alternative to door-to-door evangelism

The conversations were an exercise in slow church. They took time but they were worth every second. Because of those conversations the ministry at Judson Church is now more focused and is directed not by what we think others need and want, but by what they have told us they need and want.

Testing positive

Testing positive

What is a Christian leader’s responsibility to the overall mood of an institution? Is absorbing rage that comes their way simply part of the job? Are leaders required to act happy, even when angry people are treating them badly?

As Putin orders troops to separatist regions of Ukraine, the prelude to God’s beautiful salvific offer is once again ignored

As Putin orders troops to separatist regions of Ukraine, the prelude to God’s beautiful salvific offer is once again ignored

Yet again the elaborate rituals inaugurating Lent will be staged with bloody hands. The penitential promise will again be ignored. Sacred music will compete with the loud recoil of guns. Sackcloth and ashes will be replaced with body armor. Ukrainian and Russians will offer competing prayers for safety and victory. The gods of redemptive violence will receive all the offerings.

Black theology—a radical view

Black theology—a radical view

There was a gap in American theology, and Cone filled that gap with a God who dared to put on skin and become flesh for the world. It is now time for humanity to follow the one who became human so that we can truly be all that we were created to be, the authentic expression of the Creator—love.

Walk out and look up

Walk out and look up

We think of the season of spring as the beginning of life, but in fact, spring is not the beginning. It’s the manifestation of the transformation happening inside those great trees right now, in the winter.

Fetishization of impartiality and the gospel

Fetishization of impartiality and the gospel

Concerns for the mighty and the oppressed sit uncomfortably side by side. I believe this is often due to the fear of being called out as “biased,” “political,” or “ideological.” As an antidote, some churches adopt the stance of impartiality, sitting on the fence on important moral issues such as reproductive rights, or challenging imperialism, racism, and xenophobia.

“All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake” (Book review)

“All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake” (Book review)

How do we prepare for the uncertainty at hand yet retain the “radical hope” for the future? Miles writes, “Our only options in this predicament, this state of political and planetary emergency, are to act as first responders or die not trying. We are the ancestors of our descendants. They are the generations we’ve made. With a ‘radical hope’ for their survival, what we will pack in their sacks?

In times like these, we need faith

In times like these, we need faith

We need to reclaim a generation with the love that comes from God through Jesus Christ. They need to know that we are here to listen and show compassion. They need the support of advocates who are willing to provide mental health counseling services. They need us to be unflinchingly present and unafraid to stand with them in this time of struggle.

Dr. Henry Mitchell: A celebratory journey

Dr. Henry Mitchell: A celebratory journey

Rev. Dr. Henry Mitchell’s recent death at age 102 leaves a treasured legacy within Christendom, the academy, and the Black church. His influence on Black preachers and the Black church is incalculable. His biography is one to be studied during Black History Month and any other month.

Have enough sense to dim your lights

Have enough sense to dim your lights

King’s illustration about diming your lights demonstrates his point that when it comes to hatred, the vicious cycle will never end until someone has the sense to break the cycle with love rather than hate.

Haunted by King

Haunted by King

From the day I first saw that black-and-white photograph until now, I continue to be haunted. Each visit from the ghost of King in handcuffs has made me feel uncomfortable about our current and unresolved human condition.

Martin Luther King and the purpose of education

Martin Luther King and the purpose of education

An education system that results in a marginalized people with a subordinated sense of self or an inflated elitism by those in the majority must be regarded as immoral. However, when education can inspire a critical consciousness, people gain a greater awareness of self, which engenders dignity, fuels a transforming sense of agency, and inspires hope.

Building the Beloved Community

Building the Beloved Community

The Beloved Community requires constructing a society in which neither punishment nor privilege is tied to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation and where our diversity as a community and nation is celebrated and embraced as a source of strength rather than weakness.

A letter from Paul for 1956 . . . and 2022

A letter from Paul for 1956 . . . and 2022

Readers in 2022 have the dual task of hearing King’s word to the Montgomery faithful and acknowledging how in need of this word we are as well. The work of civil rights is far from over, and the past few years in the United States have demonstrated deep rifts in the way our politics, economics, and society function.

Honoring Martin Luther King’s leadership and faithful Christian example of peaceful resistance to oppression, violence, and inequality

Honoring Martin Luther King’s leadership and faithful Christian example of peaceful resistance to oppression, violence, and inequality

Now is a good time to reflect again on King’s model for nonviolent protest to bring about peace and justice to a world still marred by injustice and violence. We should not only look for ways to name the evil in our world but look for paths toward redemption and reconciliation with others. And we must do these things in love for God and neighbor, or else we will be shaped by our hatred and fear of the other.