Connections 10.22.2017: Steadfastness of Hope

To me, it’s one of the most beautiful words in the English language. Its French, Spanish, and Italian forms are beautiful too: esperer, esperanza, speranza. Hope means much more to me than wishful thinking or unmet desires. It is a lifeline keeping me afloat in a world that is often disappointing and frightening.

Connections 10.08.2017: Paul’s Credentials…and Humility

Paul’s writings can be a tough read. Like many theologians, whether someone relatively close to Paul’s era like Tertullian or someone more recent like Eugene Peterson, he seems to be learning as he goes—making statements, doubling back, almost contradicting himself at times, certain at some points and a bit unsure at others.

Connections 09.24.2017: Somewhere between Heaven and Earth

David is feeling pretty good about God in Psalm 145. Unlike in other psalms, there’s no word about vengeance or swords or wrath. David spends the entire psalm, even through verse 21, proclaiming God’s wonder and nearness and faithfulness. What led him to write this psalm amid all the others so full of lament, fear, anger, and revenge?

Connections 09.10.2017: Praise…and Vengeance

Psalm 149 begins with joy, exuberance, music, praise. It sounds like the best kind of worship service, when everyone’s singing in unison—or glorious harmony—and all are feeling good and right before God. It’s how we want things to be when we go to church with our fellow believers.

Connections 08.27.2017: What about Me?

I write to you today after yet another harrowing time in our nation—a time when any progress we have made in race relations takes a few giant steps backwards. Once again we are reminded that the loud voices of a relatively small group are occasionally more powerful than the quiet voices of the many.

Connections 08.13.2017: To Be Bold…

Surrounded by adoring, needy crowds, Jesus is bold enough to tell them enough is enough; it’s time for them to go home and move forward with their lives. He needs to recharge on his own with the Lord. I love many things about this brief story.

Connections 07.30.2017: God Permits

The almost-comical family dysfunction continues in the story of Jacob’s dealings with his uncle Laban. As a woman in the twenty-first century, I sometimes try to add layers of modern interpretations to Bible stories. Let’s face it, if the incident in our text happened today, it would go differently.

Connections 07.16.2017: God Answers

The dysfunction in some biblical families can be comical. It’s almost like the characters are actually caricatures, drawn larger than life to evoke humor and even a little ridicule. But while these caricatures can make us laugh, more often than not they also make us uncomfortable.

Connections 07.02.2017: God Provides

I work for the Jay’s HOPE Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Macon, Georgia, that serves children with cancer. We give meal certificates and gas cards to families who travel for treatment, take care packages and toys to children who are stuck in the hospital, provide a fun playroom where kids can stop by after visiting the chemo clinic…

Connections 06.18.2017: When God Comes to Visit…

Sometimes our questions don’t have clear answers, and for me, that is especially true of questions about the Bible. Some questions matter a great deal, and many more are merely the result of curiosity. The challenge is to figure out which questions matter and try to find the best answers to those.

Connections 06.04.2017: The God of All People

This morning as I write, the screen is blurry through tears. I can’t stop thinking of an arena full of excited, joyful young concertgoers who had no idea of the horror that was about to unfold when their show ended. Last night (May 22) in Manchester, England, yet another terror attack claimed the lives of innocent people—this time following a concert by American pop singer Ariana Grande.

Connections 05.21.2017: A Ready Defense

I grew up hearing 1 Peter 3:15b: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” At times it was almost a threat: “You never know when someone may ask you about your belief in Christ, so you’d better be ready with an answer!”

Connections 05.07.2017: Suffering with Christ

Friends, I’m not sure that suffering is ever God’s will. Does God let humans suffer the consequences of our choices? Yes. Does God let humans suffer the calamities (natural disasters, criminal activities, sickness, poverty) that befall us in a broken world? Yes. Does God actually make it happen? I don’t know.

Connections 04.23.2017: Four Things to Remember in John

For me, this passage contains some of the most moving and powerful moments in John’s entire Gospel. There are four specific things I love about it.

Connections 04.09.2017: The Hymn of Christ

Some commentators say that these verses from Philippians describe Jesus and his mission in the form of a hymn. If so, it is a magnificent and beautiful hymn that encapsulates everything Jesus is and all he came to do. We are supposed to strive for a mind like Christ’s (v. 5).

Connections 03.26.2017: Living in the Light

We usually think of light as a positive thing. When darkness falls at my house, I take comfort in the glow of soothing lamps. Both of my girls have small lights in their rooms that stay on overnight. If I’m driving on a dark rural road, I always feel better when I approach city lights once again.

Connections 03.12.2017: Just Believe?

Paul spent a lot of mental energy writing about faith versus works. Having studied some of the history of his time, I understand why this was so important. The new Christian movement broke into a centuries-old religion that relied on sacrifices, rituals, and strict adherence to the laws of the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Old Testament.

Connections 02.26.2017: Jesus Is Lord

Sometimes I need to read about Jesus’ transfiguration. Instead of walking by his side down the dusty roads, listening to his stories about how to live in God’s present kingdom, eating the food from one of his miraculous multiplying meals, watching him heal the sick and bless the kids and care for the poor.

Connections 02.12.2017: Above and Beyond

I am both awed and horrified by these passages where Jesus expands the reach of well-known laws almost beyond human capabilities. What awes me? We can easily list basic rules of humanity, and we tend to think that we are covered. We are obviously better than others who break such foundational rules.

Connections 01.29.2017: The Nature of the Beatitudes

I have also viewed these Beatitudes as something to strive for. Do you want the kingdom of heaven, comfort, the earth, and so on? Then be poor in spirit, mourning, meek, etc. But as I read these again this week, I realized something. Every quality Jesus lists here is either innate or enforced.

Connections 01.15.2017: The Polished Arrow

My older daughter Samantha is twelve. She adores fashion, hairstyles, and accessories. For Christmas, someone gave her a gift card to Claire’s, a small boutique that carries earrings, hair accessories, and other novelties.

Connections 01.01.2017: New Year’s Dawn

It isn’t every year, of course, that Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Sundays. But I think Sunday suits both holidays. When I was young, our family had a piece of brown stone about the size of both of my hands. It was flat, polished on the front, and rough on the edges. I always thought its shape resembled my home state of Georgia.

Connections 12.18.2016: Father of the Forerunner

Two weeks ago, I encouraged us to put ourselves in Mary’s shoes—to truly feel empathy for her when she heard the news that was both devastating and life changing. Can we do some imagining about Zechariah, too?

Connections 12.04.2016: Imagining the Details

This account about Mary unsettles me because it seems to leave out a few things. I remember, very early in my marriage, worrying about getting pregnant too soon. John and I were still adjusting to living in the same apartment.

Connections 11.20.2016: The Perfect City

When I read about John’s vision of the new and perfect city, or about Ezekiel’s similar vision in chapter 47, I picture the settings from books like C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, or J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.

Connections 11.06.2016: Brand New

Our first daughter, Samantha, turned twelve yesterday. Twelve years ago yesterday, at 8:37am, my husband John and I were overcome with awe at the sight of the eight-pound child who had spent thirty-eight weeks inside my body.

Connections 10.23.2016: Lord of All

These are tough times to be active on social media. Hurricanes. Floods. Racially motivated riots. Shootings. LGBTQ rights. A more-contentious-than-usual presidential race.

Connections 10.09.2016: One Foundation

The church I attend is brand new. We became official in spring 2015. Our name is new, our sign is new, and our hymnals are new. Our bylaws are new. We’re so new that our mission is still evolving. But we have a history that stretches backward much longer than eighteen months.

Connections 09.25.2016: The Power of Promise

As followers of God, we are sometimes given the delicate responsibility of speaking for God. But we must also listen to God to be sure we are proclaiming truth instead of opinion or speculation. Isaiah was certainly a prophet who listened to the Lord.

Connections 09.11.2016: The Hope of “That Day”

If you’re a regular reader of Coracle—or a regular participant in a Bible study class that uses it—you may or may not read the Scripture references before you read the articles. Today, I encourage you to look up Isaiah 25:6-10a and read it thoughtfully before you go any further.

Connections 08.28.2016: The Command to Love

My daughters are eleven and nine. From the time they were old enough to understand, my husband and I have established rules for them. These parameters help them learn everything from necessary safety precautions to appropriate social behaviors.

Connections 08.14.2016: The Hardened Heart

If I asked you what verse in today’s passage is most confusing, which one would you choose? Paul’s writing, like the writing of many great theologians, can be just as bewildering as it is inspiring.

Connections 07.31.2016: Seasons of Spiritual Life

One of my favorite contemporary Christian artists is Nichole Nordeman. Her songs range from poignant reflections on the seasons of life to grateful awe to bold declarations of uncertainty and doubt.

Connections 07.17.2016: “Can I Get in Line?”

Andrew, my five-year-old nephew, is a great source of joy in our family. Born at 29 weeks, weighing about 2.5 pounds, he lived in the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital for 65 days before my brother Dusty and his wife Christy were able to bring him home.

Connections 07.03.2016: Beneath the Surface

“A World Gone Wrong.” What a timely unit for these difficult days in our world. If you’re like me, you check the daily news with a guarded heart. In the past several weeks, I’ve read about a mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, politicians smearing each other’s campaigns, and social media users cursing each other out for personal stances.

Connections 06.19.2016: I Will…

Think about any relationship that you value: close friendships, spouses or partners, children, relatives. I bet you could tell me a story about the cycle of love, betrayal, judgment, restoration, and second (third, fourth, fifth…) chances within these relationships.

Connections 06.05.2016: Perhaps…

I read the Scripture passage for today’s lesson and thought, “Well, that’s cheerful.” Of all passages in the Bible, the hardest ones for me are those that speak of God’s laying waste to lands and people and animals—sometimes, it seems, indiscriminately.

Connections 05.22.2016: Like a Child

My older daughter, Samantha, is eleven years old. Though reserved and quiet around new people, she is at least polite, and she becomes more animated when she gets to know them better. As a baby, though, her encounters with new people went a little differently.

Connections 05.08.2016: The Struggle for a Grateful Heart

Bold, shocking, and even offensive to some, Anne Lamott writes about the rawness of the spiritual journey—especially for a person who has lost much, made big mistakes, and still managed to find God in the process.

Connections 04.24.2016: Rejoicing in the Found

The story of the prodigal son is one of the most confounding, ridiculous, and beautiful passages in the Bible. I can think of a few headlines that might apply: “Spoiled Rotten Kid Wastes Parents’ Money, Gets Rewarded.” “Father Accused of Enabling Ungrateful Son.”

Connections 04.10.2016: A Fool for You

In my reading today, one line that Jesus says stands out to me: “Simon, I have something to say to you” (Lk 7:40). That Pharisee named Simon, who had invited Jesus into his home but showed him little hospitality, watched a woman’s extravagant love for Jesus and muttered to himself.

Connections 03.27.2016: The First to Know

When I was seventeen, my church put on an Easter play that one of our members wrote, paraphrasing directly from various Scripture accounts of Jesus’ last week, his death, and his resurrection.

Connections 03.13.2016: Safety versus Sacrifice

We draw ever closer to Good Friday—the day when we honor the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, who gave up everything for all the people of the world.

Connections 02.28.2016: The Feast of Booths

I am not a camper. I like the idea of communing with nature, gazing at the stars, sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows, and falling asleep to the sounds of the night.

Connections 02.14.2016: The Feast of Weeks

Have you ever planted a seed and watched it grow into food? Sadly, I haven’t yet undertaken that experience—hindered by fear of failure and, to be honest, resistance to such a level of responsibility.

Connections 01.31.2016: When Death Comes

Death came into my life during the night when I was around ten years old, taking with it a beautiful white dog named Princess. A few more dogs followed over the years, one of which I raised from a tiny puppy.

Connections 01.17.2016: The Story of Forgiveness

I’ll be honest. I was kind of hoping this was Mike Ruffin’s week to write. A bride worth waiting for and the most beautiful bride were surely easier topics than this week’s unfaithful bride.

Connections 01.03.2016: The Story of Love

I grew up on Disney princess movies, many of which had this plot: A girl lives with her father (or horrific stepmother) because her mother suffered some fatal accident or succumbed to sickness.