It’s in our bones

It’s in our bones

If our bones are alive, if they carry in them strength of our ancestors, trauma of humanity’s transgressions, even predispositions for nutrition… if they—like the Scriptures say—have the capacity to be troubled, to ask questions, to experience restoration, to be reanimated as recipients of God’s ruah (breath), then we have to wonder, what is in our bones?

Do we get him?

Do we get him?

We may have lost a potential friend forever, because we, for all our talk of love and grace and justice, made a mistake in ignorance that we accuse our enemies of making in malice.

Past the paralysis

Past the paralysis

Even if I do feel that paralysis, or when my natural tendency is uncomfortable making waves by speaking out or taking action, occasions arise when the opportunity needs to be created or demands my attention.

Faith and passion for food in holy synergy: a review of “The Just Kitchen”

Faith and passion for food in holy synergy: a review of “The Just Kitchen”

The Just Kitchen isn’t really a cookbook, nor is it a call-to-action collection of essays urging the reader to join the Slow Food Movement or tackle broken food systems head-on (although all these are good ideas to come away with). Instead, the authors ask the reader to plant themselves in a kitchen, suggesting one’s time there is transformative.

Being disciplined

Being disciplined

The Lenten season prior to Easter calls for us to practice spiritual disciplines for 40 days to prepare ourselves for hearing the sacrifice Jesus made that granted us eternal life. Whether it’s daily Bible reading or fasting or even “giving up something for Lent,” these are all ways to affirm the significance of having a more disciplined life.

On celebrating Black History Month

On celebrating Black History Month

There was, and still is, an urgency to publicly proclaim and celebrate the achievements, challenges and triumphs of Black folk. This month, and beyond, I encourage enthusiastic participation in activities, studies, and ceremonies that will increase awareness of our treasured African American history.

Jesus and Samaritans 2.0

Jesus and Samaritans 2.0

Jesus embraced the Samaritans—who were despised by his people—and lifted them up as heroes in many of his stories. His message: Let us, people of faith, embrace those who are despised. Let us live like Jesus and the Samaritans 2.0.

New Year’s reframing

New Year’s reframing

Ringing in the New Year offers an opportunity for new perspectives. There is the look back and the look forward, a combination of life review and life planning. How can or should we make use of this inflection point in light of Christian faith?

I never felt more Baptist

I never felt more Baptist

Walter B. Shurden gets a fair amount of credit for naming the four Baptist freedoms. Still, if I could make a small addendum to his famous book, I’d tack on the freedom of attire and self-expression. This is why you might find a Baptist minister in a robe on Sunday morning or a pair of overalls, perhaps even an apron.

Fostering deep community, strong spirituality, and rigorous discipleship

Fostering deep community, strong spirituality, and rigorous discipleship

In 2024 let’s commit to fostering deep community, strong spirituality, and rigorous discipleship. Baptists of all people should be communal people. Our theological and praxis foundations are built upon the need for us to read Scripture together, engage in social dialogue together, worship together, and share in mission and ministry together. We are not alone together; we are united together in Christ.

Dreams make us change direction

Dreams make us change direction

When we listen to our dreams we are invited to be like Joseph, and the Magi, and walk a different way. We are invited to be like Mahalia and Martin and share our dreams with others. Our dreams have the potential to erode the evils of Empire. We must only find the courage to take them seriously.

Epiphany aha: the Divine crumb trail

Epiphany aha: the Divine crumb trail

In January, Christians all over the globe celebrate the season of Epiphany. We commonly use the word “epiphany” to describe a revelation or an “aha” moment. The scriptures and the season of Epiphany explore the ways God surprises us when we open ourselves to new experiences, adventures, and opportunities God places before us. When we, like the magi, decide to follow God into unknown territory, we discover grace, forgiveness, love, compassion, spiritual insight, and even learn new things about ourselves and God.

‘Next of Kin’: a story of travail and hope

‘Next of Kin’: a story of travail and hope

Like its biblical inspiration, Next of Kin features strong female protagonists, breaking past obstacles of economic ruin and great hardship to find a way forward. The novel is its own story, not meant to present a story simply parroting the narrative beats of the Book of Ruth. Yet in its new setting, the story that the Book of Ruth tells gets a refreshed lease on life.

Taking stock of the life I lead

Taking stock of the life I lead

In a season of life where I need reminding that God can move in profound ways, I’m thankful for the highs that a card in the mail can spark. I’m grateful for the people I’ve met who are out there questioning. And I’m thankful for time, a constructed fabrication or not, as it forces me to pause and take stock of the life I get to lead.

Exchanging agendas with God: the beginning of discipleship

Exchanging agendas with God: the beginning of discipleship

At some point, if we are to become disciples of Jesus Christ, we have to make a holy decision to follow him. The precise details of how a disciple accepts the call of Christ and begins the journey of discipleship vary from person to person. But in every case the starting point involves an exchange of agendas between the disciple and Christ.

How still we see Christmas today

How still we see Christmas today

Whenever we move from one place to another, whatever the reason, we end up letting go of some traditions and adding new ones from the new place we call home. What are some Christmas traditions you used to practice and what are new ones that have gained new meaning?

Advent and AI

Advent and AI

The spiritual invitation of Advent and Christmas strikes me as precisely the opposite of “AI” or “hallucinate,” two words of the year for 2023. This season is all about paying attention, waiting, watching, listening. It is about bringing our fully embodied, fully incarnate sensory selves to be as present and intimate and awake as possible with the ever-astounding mystery and glory of being itself.

Joseph, backup quarterback

Joseph, backup quarterback

In the gospel narrative, Joseph is the backup quarterback. Mary is the star. And that is as it should be. Yet Joseph was faithful, devoted, and played his part well before he faded from the scene not long after the birth of Jesus.

Four ways to prepare for Christmas

Four ways to prepare for Christmas

From the word Advent also springs the word adventure. Imagine considering that there are adventures of faith for you. What would an adventure of faith look like? How would life be different if you actively chose to pursue an encounter with the Divine? To help prepare for those adventures of faith, consider four ways to prepare spiritually for Christmas.

A tender God

A tender God

May we remember something that is as true of God during Advent as it is at Christmas, just as it is true on Good Friday and in the Easter narratives of Thomas and the resurrection. That truth is this: we serve a tender God.

With the poor and meek and lowly

With the poor and meek and lowly

In his new book “Jesus the Refugee: Ancient Injustice and Modern Solidarity,” D. Glenn Butner Jr. appeals to Christians to see the ignoble reality of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt as a story that keeps repeating in human history and in this morning’s news headlines.

I put my grief in a suitcase

I put my grief in a suitcase

I’ve lamented my way through my time at Yale Divinity School, crying out in both pain and gratitude because I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and because my grandparents were not there to see me receive my Master of Divinity. I am becoming more fluent in the language of lament, learning its hollow vowels, complex conjugations, and myriad metaphors. And I thank God that God’s still patiently listening for my voice, even when I don’t really want to talk.

Cats and church growth

Cats and church growth

Just like meeting a cat when they make you break out in hives, meeting people where they live, where they grow, where they love—in the sacred interiority of their homes—is not an endeavor without risk. But it is in these spaces where we move from encountering the world and expanding the reach of Christian community, into what it means to make and build and sustain and nurture the relationships on which a truly redeemed world relies.

The Christians of Gaza

The Christians of Gaza

The voice of Palestinian Christians frequently speaks clearly in response to violence and injustice. The present war is no exception. Whether the church around the world listens or not is another question.

The relationship of hope and fear

The relationship of hope and fear

During Advent, many churches will sing the hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” with its lyric “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” We sing these words, but do we wonder why there is a relationship between hope and fear?

When hope is a four-letter word

When hope is a four-letter word

This Advent, I find myself again wondering where we can find hope in the midst of the tremendous suffering in our world. Amid public and private suffering, hope feels like a four-letter word.

Why you should buy your pastor an e-bike for Christmas

Why you should buy your pastor an e-bike for Christmas

In the winter of 2013, I started an experiment of walking, taking public transit, and bicycling for my job as a pastor. This fall I added a new form of transit, an e-bike. E-bikes are not for everyone, but they can be an alternative to cars for many, especially pastors.

Seasonal affective disorder and the gifts of advent

Seasonal affective disorder and the gifts of advent

This year, my sun lamp is my Advent wreath. I can’t explain how this works exactly. It only has the one light; there’s no way to turn on more and more of it as the Sundays of Advent pass. But I want to mark this beacon of light with some sort of reverence this December, to bless it in this season of darkness.

The joy that comes from Jesus

The joy that comes from Jesus

Advent reminds us that the best things in life are not the trinkets, toys, thrills, and temptations of this world that come from the outside in an attempt to give us a temporary thrill or some short-term pleasure. Life is about the gifts that God provides that work from the inside out and sustain us even when everything is not going our way. The themes of Advent point us to those gifts of hope, love, peace, and joy.

New church growth metric: How many dogs did you meet this week?

New church growth metric: How many dogs did you meet this week?

Do you want to know if your work as a pastor is having an impact on the community? Do you want to know if your church is transforming the lives of those outside its walls? If so, stop counting how many people attend worship or walk through your doors during the week. Rather, adopt this new metric: how many dogs did you meet this week?

Celebrating Advent and Christmas amid a war

Celebrating Advent and Christmas amid a war

On November 10, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem published a Statement on the Celebration of Advent and Christmas in the Midst of the War. I realized I needed to put the letter in front of our church council to see how, as a congregation, we might want to respond in solidarity. I’d like to invite you to do the same.

Saintly ways: reading the lives of the saints today

Saintly ways: reading the lives of the saints today

Roman Catholics and Protestants alike benefit from being in dialogue, from sharing our stories with one another. For we enrich our understanding of what God is doing in the world and that the Spirit of God never ceases in empowering the faithful, especially in times of crisis and challenge. Yet stories of saints need to be read with care, lest in our telling, we are reinforcing uncritical readings of those stories that valorize issues of gender, power, and beliefs or practices best left in the distant past.

Bearing witness to the suffering of both sides

Bearing witness to the suffering of both sides

As we sat in a Shabbat service in solidarity with our Jewish neighbors over the past week, we saw unbelievable pain and grief. We also witnessed the mourning of our Palestinian siblings at a vigil. As Christians, we must bear witness to such grief, but we must not make the mistake of only seeing one side’s pain.

The love of Daniel Tiger

The love of Daniel Tiger

Just as Christ commands us to believe as a child, Fred Rogers, and now Daniel Tiger, keeps reminding us that we won’t always be the best, but we all deserve the chance to try to be the better version of ourselves. The Imago Dei. The one that God sees when God declares us beloved.

Pastoral care: don’t get hooked

Pastoral care: don’t get hooked

Pastoral care is an essential part of ministry. Individuals and families in the congregation are under our care. However, it’s easy for pastors to get sucked in doing more for people than is good for them—or for us.

We must deal with our public grief

We must deal with our public grief

When loss occurs, grief inevitably follows. Yet in public life, grief from our collective losses seems to routinely get short-circuited. We seem incapable of allowing it into our lives. But that stymies our shared project of creating communities that thrive, because it causes so many of us to pretend or wish our losses never happened. For others, it means a retreat from public life entirely.

PLEASE! Not in my name!

PLEASE! Not in my name!

I join with millions of people around the world pleading with America’s government to cease financial and military support for the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. Further, I join with a global community in calling for an immediate ceasefire and an end to this war. All lives matter!

Beyond the legacy church building

Beyond the legacy church building

Too often a legacy church survives, or not, because of choices made about the church building. Fortunately, my 150-year-old congregation transformed the overwhelming burden of supporting our legacy church building before it was too late, but not without significant conflict and risk. Here’s what we’ve learned.

Trading my stole for an apron

Trading my stole for an apron

When I see an apron, I think of service. I think of hospitality. I want my apron to remind me that to follow the lowly Galilean, I’m called to a life of service and hospitality, which embraces the personal and works to strip away anything disingenuous.

And the cares of tomorrow can wait ‘til this day is done

And the cares of tomorrow can wait ‘til this day is done

When Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote “Why We Can’t Wait,” he was correct. Day after day, our voices and actions are called upon to labor for justice. Yet burnout is counterproductive to our advocacy for the least of God’s children, which may be why Jesus told his followers, and us, not to worry about tomorrow.

Harrowing history

Harrowing history

“The American Way: A True Story of Nazi Escape, Superman, and Marilyn Monroe” traces seemingly disparate loose threads that come together – largely connected by the complicated figure of comic book publisher Harry Donenfeld.

“Contend O Lord, with those who contend with me…”

“Contend O Lord, with those who contend with me…”

Many male clergy routinely disrespect women, including fellow clergy, through words, actions, and thoughts. None of this is by coincidence or happenstance, nor does it happen in isolation—it is both by design and a perpetual product of society’s, including the church’s, refusal not just to explicitly acknowledge sexism and misogyny but far more critically, to do the dire work of repenting and addressing these ills in ways that do not require women to “to do the work.”

Separation of church and state does not mean the church is politically innocent

Separation of church and state does not mean the church is politically innocent

We must disabuse ourselves of the false notion that the church is apolitical. We must overcome the concept, so commonly taught among us, that we might somehow, in separating church from an influence over the state or the state having influence to keep us from being church in certain ways, arrive at some spiritual state of political innocence in which spirituality or religious life is not political.

The Gospel according to Bluey

The Gospel according to Bluey

Bluey brings to life characters who appeal to parents and children alike, and even to folks who don’t have kids but watch the show for its meaningful message. A message, I believe, possessing pieces of gospely good news.

Walking around a Confederate cemetery

Walking around a Confederate cemetery

As I walked around a Confederate cemetery, I wondered what other choice the young soldiers buried there could have made. The values they were raised to believe to be true were affirmed by their schools, their textbooks, their newspapers, their families, friends, their whole culture, and worst of all, their churches.

Why we need to be American Baptist

Why we need to be American Baptist

Amid today’s political polarities and culture wars, American Baptists have significant contributions to make to American society, particularly in the recognition of women in ordained ministry and the rightful place for all religions to provide spiritual life and practice to all Americans and residents from all corners of the world.

Are you creative?

Are you creative?

A colleague of mine once presented a theological paper where he made an excellent case that the image of God was creativity. I’ve never forgotten this idea.

Kids who die, adults who contribute

Kids who die, adults who contribute

The things that cause kids to die in this country – hate crimes, suicide, racism, neglect, abuse, hunger, war, gun violence – were no different in Langston Hughes’ day than they are now, and they ought to spur us not just to act but to move. What movements ought we to be crafting to love and protect children?

Still masking after all these years

Still masking after all these years

We saved lives in 2020 with social distancing and with a vaccine in 2021. We have the potential to save them today if we resist the push to all or nothing and instead focus together on how we can reduce harm.

Remembering Olive Tiller

Remembering Olive Tiller

“She was willing to be a leader when needed and a follower when needed.” Such virtue is among the greatest needs—but least celebrated—of our movements.

Calling Pastor AI

Calling Pastor AI

Remember all those committees and board meetings? We don’t need them now. Pastor AI takes care of everything, and everyone gets what they want.

Estimada Interrupción: la discordia abre paso a la experiencia nativa, brindando una plataforma para la voz nativa

Estimada Interrupción: la discordia abre paso a la experiencia nativa, brindando una plataforma para la voz nativa

Las comunidades nativas, aunque dormidas bajo el peso del silencio forzado, la pesadez de los ciclos de abuso y el mensaje persistente de que fuimos eliminados, eliminables y derrotados, ahora podemos reclamar nuestro idioma, nuestra cultura y nuestra capacidad de amar y proteger a nuestros niños en nuestros hogares, en las escuelas y en la iglesia.

The mystery within the clergy soul

The mystery within the clergy soul

Clergy will find some collegiality with Sidney Chambers in James Runcie’s Grantchester Mysteries book series (and the two priests of the Grantchester television adaptation). The times are changing, the pastoral calling continues, and those in service of a parish call keep the faith, sometimes even despite themselves.

Save one life. Start there.

Save one life. Start there.

We know that saving one life does not save the world. But we have to start somewhere. And once you get started, you might be surprised at the chain reaction of actions that you spark in your community.

Calling all prophets

Calling all prophets

The end of the relevance of the church will not come at the hands of a pandemic, AI technology, or a particular party gaining power; no, it will come at our own doings. It will come when prophets stop speaking.

Keeping Sabbath

Keeping Sabbath

Keeping Sabbath runs counter to the ways of the world and the powers that be, but keeping Sabbath is a reflection and a reminder that we are not the pinnacle of creation. Rather, the enjoyment of God and God’s creation is.

Butterfly lessons for a climate-changed world

Butterfly lessons for a climate-changed world

Like the monarch butterflies, themselves facing the stresses and challenges of a changing world, we as a species need to embrace the radical art of transformation and migration that butterflies teach, because there’s a truth and a challenge that’s now as close as the air we breathe: in our climate-changed world, we cannot be done with our changes.

Cruel summer

Cruel summer

As the heat of the summer continues on and likely becomes more severe next year, as Christians we must remember our command to creation care and reexamine our choices. Climate change isn’t a political issue, it’s a grim reality that is facing us all.

Did Jesus preach about being woke?

Did Jesus preach about being woke?

An image I recently saw on Facebook depicted Jesus preaching to the crowds, with the phrase boldly proclaiming: “Being ‘woke’ is literally what Jesus preached about his entire life.” Is that accurate? “Woke” wasn’t in use the way it is today when Jesus preached, but would the core of his message qualify as being “woke” as we understand it today?

Our backstories tell the whole story

Our backstories tell the whole story

Discover your own backstory because it will permit you to empathize with others’ backstories. Take time to share your backstory with others, always being mindful to allow time for them to also share theirs.