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.

Microscope, spotlight, learning curve, stakes—When leadership anxiety gets to be too much

Microscope, spotlight, learning curve, stakes—When leadership anxiety gets to be too much

There was no dress rehearsal or drill for what leaders have had to manage over the past nearly two years. Pastors and lay leaders in congregations have had to learn new technology not just on-the-fly, but with an audience of people they’ve promised to serve. Furthermore, we as a society have been so desperate for Covid-19 to be brief, to be over, that we have failed to adjust our expectations of leaders.

A re-stirring of the personal for 2022

A re-stirring of the personal for 2022

As we politely but firmly usher 2021 out the door, what is to keep us from committing to more person-to-person contacts? Sure, we still have a pandemic going on. But I’m not just talking about in-person encounters. Instead of using social media as our perpetual online broker for human interaction, what about actually talking more with people in 2022?

Midwives at the manger

Midwives at the manger

Each year as we celebrate the birth of Jesus we have another opportunity to bring Jesus into the world without all the baggage of the past. The question is—will we have the courage and intention to do it? Rather than allowing Mary and Joseph to do all the work, we become midwives at the manger, each and every year, partners with God in bringing hope, peace, and the possibility of salvation and justice into the world.

The metaverse and the manger

The metaverse and the manger

We are God’s hands and feet in this world. While grounding ourselves in the manger, we must bring God’s healing to all by reaching for the stars in the farthest realms, including the virtual world of the metaverse.

To teach justice or maintain the status quo?

To teach justice or maintain the status quo?

Those who wish to teach children a faith that calls for civil rights, liberation and justice would do well to look through their children’s Bibles and Sunday school curriculum with a critical eye, asking “How are the Bible’s stories being used and what stories are included? Are we passing on a faith of justice and social action, or a faith of passivity and submission to a sometimes-unjust status quo?” Such questions might lead teachers and parents to adapt curricula, change how Bible stories are used with children, and include more Bible stories that call children, and call us all, to become actively faithful and just Christian citizens.

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

This Advent, may we recognize that Christ is already among us, already at work. We are called to proclaim it: a child has been born for us, a son given to us; Emmanuel, God is with us. God is still with us. We already know the address. The world, however, is still using outdated methods to find its way. The world is still recalculating. There is still injustice, oppression, violence, suffering, and fear—much as in the time Jesus was born—but we know the way. We have the Good News. The journey isn’t complete, but in our faith in Christ, we have arrived at our destination. Christ is among us, now and always.

Christmas, a season for poets

Christmas, a season for poets

The way Thomas alludes to the wise men as “three waves from afar” who kneel in their own way, “offering their gifts to what they don’t understand” sticks with me this season. This striking image suggests we are capable of embracing the truth of the incarnation, even as we are limited in our ability to understand it. To paraphrase Saint Anselm, faith seeks understanding on the way to Bethlehem and beyond.

This Christmas, praying for a shared Jerusalem

This Christmas, praying for a shared Jerusalem

In some Christian traditions, people reflect, pray, and enter into joyful anticipation during the season of Advent. As we focus on themes of hope, peace, love, and joy, we often invoke images of the land of the Bible alongside treasured stories that recount the barriers to—and celebration of—Jesus’ birth.

This Christmas season, we have many reasons to pray for peace in the Holy Land, whose present reality exists far from such an ideal.

Walter Rauschenbusch and our time

Walter Rauschenbusch and our time

Though Baptists in every age can benefit from Rauschenbusch’s theology of the kingdom, I believe his thought concerning the church contains the most fruitful paths for contemporary Baptists. The church is still afflicted by an individualism that has made us vulnerable to the acids of consumerism that would leave us unable to discern our prophetic ministry in the world.

Bethlehem: metaphor for a complicated mess

Bethlehem: metaphor for a complicated mess

This Christmas when I sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” I’m going to be thinking of the song and the town as a metaphor for seemingly unsolvable situations in my life and in the lives of people I know and care about.

Holidays: well-practiced tradition, present reality, and future hope

Holidays: well-practiced tradition, present reality, and future hope

We celebrate holidays because they are a sign and a foretaste of a future realities marked by resurrection, love, and the New Heavens and the New Earth. But that leaves us needing to live into those future promises here and now. We can live lives of joy, tending to the small plants of hope planted during our holiday festivities. This is the work between celebrations: living into the realities of the present by nurturing lives and communities that bear fruit we will harvest, ferment, and drink in celebration the next time the holiday season comes round.

The ethical dilemma of playing “Mary, Did You Know?”

The ethical dilemma of playing “Mary, Did You Know?”

The question we should be asking, and singing, is not “Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?” Instead, we should ask why Mary would not be welcome in many pulpits, and why other women whom God has called, remain excluded from the pulpits and leadership of so many churches.

Count your blessings

Count your blessings

During this Advent season, I invite you to spend less time pondering your problems, and more time counting your blessings. Count the blessings God bestowed upon you in the past. Count the blessings God is bestowing on you right now. Then consider all the blessings God is holding in store for you in the future and even into eternity.

What shall we magnify?

What shall we magnify?

Amid bleak and uncertain reality, how could Elizabeth experience an inner surge of joy? How could Mary sing of her soul magnifying the glories of God—of a divine power who had done great things for her and for humanity? I imagine that the rituals of their religious tradition, intentionally enacted through storytelling, singing, and Shabbat, placed the realities of the world in a greater context, affirming the presence of the Divine, their identity as a chosen community, and the promise of their future.

Starry, starry night

Starry, starry night

The growth of cities, with more than half the world’s population now living in urban areas, means the prevalence of artificial light, or light pollution, blocks the ability of many to enjoy the splendor of the night sky. Increasingly, people live under a blanket of darkness rather than a curtain of stars.

Agrarianism for the rest of us

Agrarianism for the rest of us

Agrarianism is a way of life that teaches us how to till and keep God’s life-giving garden (Genesis 2:15). Although most of us aren’t farmers, we are all called to work, eat, play and celebrate in ways that honor God and preserve the gift of creation.

When hope looks like the night sky

When hope looks like the night sky

God has a way of breaking through walls and into the spaces of darkness and grief. It is in those spaces where God meets us most fully, where we wrestle with God in the darkness of night like Jacob did. The spaces where God punctures the darkness that surrounds us and allows the light to shine through, like the stars in the night. These puncture wounds are my source of hope.

An Advent calendar of ideas for adults

An Advent calendar of ideas for adults

Here’s an Advent calendar of daily ideas for adults, beginning December 1. If you think chocolate would help, buy a bag of Hershey’s Kisses (or your favorite candy), and have one a day, after you do the suggested activity.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the priesthood of all believers

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the priesthood of all believers

So often, ministry is treated as something that ordained people do, but the priesthood of all believers tells us that everyone is called to ministry, and that churches ought to spend considerable time developing everyone’s gifts in ministry and helping them articulate their various vocations. That commitment is centuries old, but it is only in this present pandemic that I am seeing its promise truly come to life. It continues to enrich my own ministry to see it as a shared endeavor with congregants, and I am finding new contours of my own call in the wake of the pandemic. For that, I’m thankful.

Thankful? Even now?

Thankful? Even now?

The Thanksgiving holiday gives us the opportunity to pay attention collectively to what we are thankful for. Thanksgiving automatically puts your attention on what is right, rather than what is wrong.

Once a year is not enough, however, for communities or individuals to practice shifting attention to the many things that are right. Even in this challenging time, every day can give the opportunity to gratefully notice what is working—in the world, in your communities, in your own life. This doesn’t mean ignoring challenges or the suffering of others. Our brains automatically register the negative, however, so it takes extra effort to notice the positive.

The extraordinary gift of gratitude

The extraordinary gift of gratitude

Practicing gratitude is linked to physical health benefits, including improved sleep, lower blood pressure, motivation to exercise more, better control of glucose levels and improved immunity, to name a few. Studies have also found mental, psychological, and spiritual health benefits of gratitude, including increased self-confidence, resilience, optimism, and patience.

Coming full circle: Restoring balance and harmony in the Native American home

Coming full circle: Restoring balance and harmony in the Native American home

Without the full participation of women in decision making and policy making, there exists no balance, which is needed to maintain a healthy existence. This is the Creator’s natural law. When men take away women’s rights to participate in the decision making within the home, the balance of that home is no longer equal, and both natural law and the sacred circle are broken. Chaos in the home is usually the outcome.

What can we do for our troops?

What can we do for our troops?

Provide a safe place to talk. Don’t be afraid to inquire and to ask them to share, but do so on their terms. Incorporate them in your ministry to give them a reference that will help them to concretely see what it means to be part of a loving community. The experience of combat often generates a real sense of belonging and intimacy rarely felt elsewhere, but a loving church with an incarnate message of hope can fit the bill. Nurture them back to the land of the recovering, for we are all recovering in the hands of the Great Healer.

The theological mandate for intercultural ministry

The theological mandate for intercultural ministry

Intercultural ministry calls us to perspective transformation, which entails learning to see in each new cultural context opening up to us values and symbols of culture, interaction with and internalization of the stranger, as with Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10). It is a journey through which we learn to reflect on the ways in which we engage with persons different than ourselves. It is a process by which we also deepen our faith.

A lover’s quarrel with the Church

A lover’s quarrel with the Church

Poet Robert Frost was remembered into eternity for having a quarrel with the world, but even more, for loving the world. God grant that we too might be remembered, not so much for the inevitable quarrels, but for our love for the church… for Christ’s church.

Dividers Anonymous

Dividers Anonymous

The future doesn’t depend on whether progressives or conservatives win. It depends on whether uniters or dividers win. I want to be a uniter. I’m ready to form the first chapter of Dividers Anonymous. I’m ready to change. Anyone want to join me?

Living in God’s time

Living in God’s time

When my father was in the last few months of his life, we bought him a clock. This was a date-and-time clock, intended to help keep him oriented as his dementia worsened. It cycled through the date and time, day after day, until one day in June, it suddenly changed to read “It’s Monday Morning.” No time. No date. Just a day and a general time of day. As my dad’s concept of time faded, somehow this clock changed to this very basic way of orienting to time.

Is it time to separate church and social media like we have separated church and state?

Is it time to separate church and social media like we have separated church and state?

Rather than partnering with Facebook, churches and other religious organizations would do well to maintain a critical distance and a healthy line of separation between themselves and the social media giant. Just as the separation of church and state contributes to a healthy flourishing of faith in physical space, perhaps maintaining a separation of church and social media will likewise contribute to a healthy flourishing of faith online.

Trauma and grace: A response to domestic violence

Trauma and grace: A response to domestic violence

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In the United States, 20 people are physically abused every minute and an estimated 1 in 3 women have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner. Given these statistics, we should expect a number of women and men and children in our congregations dealing with current domestic violence situations or recovering from the trauma of them. What then shall we do?

COVID-19 era leadership

COVID-19 era leadership

The church has been significantly affected by the lingering impacts of COVID-19. The COVID era and its related impacts are here to stay. We would do well as pastors to understand how we can be most effective as we lead.