Writing When It Hurts

Writer and activist James Baldwin concluded, “The price for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.” When I answered the call to preach the gospel, the invitation was delivered by one of Gabriel’s mail-angels.

Write Something Meaningful

I love writing. It’s rewarding to transform an idea into words that offer inspiration or clarity, or both. Certainly, no one’s writings will be the bee’s knees to one and all, but they might empower two or three. I think the odds of making a difference are in my favor when I collect the gifts given to me by Jesus and faithfully steward them.

All That Once Was Good

Major League Baseball and the burgeoning church down the street from my house: I have developed a suspicion of both of these for many of the same reasons. Don’t get me wrong. I love baseball, and I love the church. But something is not quite right.

Death and All of His Friends

Earlier today, the oldest and I were riding in a car to an appointment. He was having a rough morning of his own doing and I wanted him to get re-grounded before we set off on the day. So I plugged in my phone and I played the Coldplay song “Strawberry Swing.”

Hard Grace

It was extremely important for the church of my youth to prove that every single miracle in the Bible be proven as an historical and scientific fact. A literal seven day creation, the parting of the Red Sea, Joshua making the sun stand still, and of course, there was the story of “Jonah and the Whale.”

Hallmark Just Doesn’t Get It

I don’t hate Father’s Day; it’s the Tuesday beforehand that I can’t stand. I drag myself to the grocery store, trudge to the card aisle, and stare at the never-ending wall of cards. There are dozens, hundreds of cards to sift through and I know that I will not find what I need the first few tries.

4 Truths to Remember When Discouraged

The troubles of this world are ubiquitous. They are everywhere. At work, we are faced with downsizing, cutbacks, and layoffs. At home, our kids are struggling with adolescence and our spouses with depression. It seems that everywhere we turn we are faced with distressing news and disappointing circumstances.

Surrender to Love

My will to live has been stuttering like a rusty old engine. Not because I’ve failed to be Christian enough, prayerful enough, or hopeful enough. Not because I haven’t done the prayer and praise and people and potluck dinners. Not because of anything. My motor just hiccups and stalls; reminding me that in the great spectrum of mental health, I am no Olympian.

Black Holes

In a few months, we may see the first image of a black hole. This is exciting! Scientists trained the radio telescopes of eight observatories ranging from Antarctica to Hawaii to Spain on two black holes, one located at the center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, and another in a galaxy known as M87.

Silent Saturday

God is dead. He left us to pray and they found him in the garden and God is dead. They dragged him before the High Priests and then they took him to Pilate and God is dead. They didn’t care about how many people he had helped or about the lives he had changed. They didn’t care about our lives. They didn’t care about the good things he had devoted his life to and God is dead.

The Walking Dead

Let me start off by just laying it out there. The title of this sermon is “The Walking Dead.” I do not like scary movies or TV shows. At all. “Well, Chris, that’s silly. Scary movies aren’t real.” I know that. I know that the odds of being chased by a chainsaw-wielding maniac are infinitesimally small.

Crappy First Drafts

Crappy first drafts. Anne Lamott phrases it slightly more colorfully, but that’s the gist. Can’t write? Don’t wait for the Almighty to hand you a perfectly formed manuscript from the sky. Put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and just write. Will what you write fall somewhere beneath the quality of a hundred grand emoji? Often yes. Often much less.

Asking Good Questions in Bible Study

Asking good questions communicates at least two things to learners. First, it says they are valued, that each person has valuable contributions to the group. Second, asking good questions says that the leader wants to hear what the learners think.

A Spirit Prayer

O God, Thank you for your Spirit that is with us, within us, and among us.
Thank you for the spirit that we are.
Thank you for the spirit of your creation.

Be a Poet for the New Year

Earlier this month many of us joined a gym, bought exercise clothes, and stocked the pantry with quinoa. We decided to de-clutter our lives once and for all. We planned to try Marie Kondo’s method of picking up every object we own and giving away whatever does not bring us joy.

The Gracefulness of Hope

For many, 2016 is coming to a close with anger, fear and brokenness. How can we move forward? Some of my friends are writing, protesting, wearing a safety pin, donating money or praying. A public school teacher I know has hung signs on her classroom door indicating that every child is welcome and safe in that space.

An Advent Prayer

O God,
As you come to us, please come bearing faith, hope, and love.
We need to trust, hope, and love more.

What Does it Really Mean to Support our Troops?

Another Veterans Day is upon us. If you’re like me, this is one holiday that doesn’t conjure up nostalgic childhood memories or necessitate family get-togethers. In fact, this will only be my 10th Veterans Day that I remember ever caring about.

The Great Cloud

I have been thinking a lot about my spiritual journey recently. The truth of the matter is that whatever has been done to get me to the nebulous “here” of being ordained is not solely my doing. Not even close.

David, a Warrior after God’s Own Heart: Community

We see many of the needs of our returning service members and their families by also looking at Psalm 69 and the life of David, a warrior himself. This week, for our final devotion in this series, I want to focus on verses 12-13.

The Church and Refugees: Better Together

The waiting room of the Health Department is crowded as Rajaa, Sarah, and I make our way to the back of the building. We’re lucky we have an appointment today. Mondays are always busy.

David, a Warrior after God’s Own Heart: Guilt

We’ve been focusing on some of the struggles that veterans face after coming home from war and how we might help them. But we’re looking at those needs through a unique perspective: the eyes of biblical hero King David, who was also a warrior for most of his life.

David, a Warrior after God’s Own Heart: Enemies and Family

Pretty much all of us here have enemies, but I doubt any of us have the kind of enemies that David had. David had been facing enemies since he fought Goliath as a young man. His own mentor Saul repeatedly tried to kill him. The Philistines tried to kill him. In fact, while king, all the surrounding nations were trying to kill him and destroy Israel.

A Prayer about War

O God,
Of the 162 nations in the world, 152 are currently at war or involved in armed conflict. Only ten nations are completely free of conflict.

This I Believe

Every Sunday while growing up, I ran down the aisle at my church and slid in the pew beside Mrs. Rose. Mrs. Rose was the church lady who children regarded with wonder, trying to figure out if she was related to Mary Poppins and borrowed her famous bag every Sunday morning.

David, a Warrior after God’s Own Heart: Depressed?

David is in a bad place. He has been sinking in the miry depths, the floodwaters are rising over his head, and he can no longer get a foothold. He’s in trouble so he is calling out to God for help. In fact he has already been calling out to God. He says he’s been calling for God’s help so much that his throat is parched.

David, a Warrior after God’s Own Heart: Drowning

I’m excited to begin with you a five-part series looking at the life of David through the lens of Psalm 69. We will discuss this psalm from the perspective of David, not just as a king but as a warrior.

Welcoming the Blue-haired Home

When I first shared my experience with a blue-haired girl and her friends, I noted the deep hurt I was hearing. But I also noticed the beautiful community created at this two-week teen writing workshop.

She has Blue Hair. Would She Be Welcomed?

A few days ago, I got home from a summer camp for middle and high school writers. It’s more than just a writing program, though—for many of the campers, it’s the only opportunity they have to be themselves.

She has Blue Hair. She is Not Your Grandma.

Getting to the auditorium late was bad enough. Then I had to find a seat. After several “oh, it’s saved” interactions I finally found seating next to a 14-year-old girl with electric blue hair.

The Sower…and His Sons

Listen, my friends and you will hear,
Some stories that will not be new to your ears.
For today’s translation is sure to surprise,
So pay attention, and open your spiritual eyes…

A Prayer about the Genome

O God, We praise you that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
We praise you for the human genome.

A Prayer for Discourse

O God,
We are in the midst of a presidential election season.
It’s been ugly. We expect it to get uglier.

A Prayer about Violence

O God,
Our society is so violent. Why are people so afraid? Why do they assume the worst of others and see them as threats?

Game of Thrones & Christians: What’s a Christ-Follower to Do?

A family member of mine recently sent me this article (“Can a Christian Watch Game of Thrones?”) and asked me to respond. The author argues that the show contains sex, violence and power struggles without the obvious good versus evil struggle contained in works like the blatantly Christian Lord of the Rings where the reader knows who will win.

His Heart Went Out to Her

There is this simple moment that is essential to my understanding of Jesus. Sometimes I think we see him as almost a miracle-working robot, the unstoppable antithesis of the Terminator. He was sent to our Earth to save, heal, and point others towards God.

Keep Moving Forward

A friend once told me that her favorite season was fall because winter was too cold, summer was too hot, and spring felt like too much pressure. All those blooming flowers and sprouting leaves.

An Open Letter to My Mental Illness

I suffer from a mental illness. At times, it can be crippling and debilitating. I just spent some time in the hospital dealing with my illness. One of the doctors knew I was a divinity student and Christian minister and asked me, “Have you lost your faith?”

The Church’s Insufficient Response to Mental Illness

My church knew some of the problems my mother and our family dealt with as she battled mental illness, but they didn’t really know how to react when I muttered the words, “It was suicide.”

The Blessing of Changed Plans

I like plans. That’s no secret; my closest friends and family always rely on me to be the first to ask, “what are we doing next?” I plan and revise plans and talk about plans and write them on calendars.

Nicodemusly

So in Zimglish, “nicodemusly” means “to do something secretly, under cover of darkness.” This, of course, got me to thinking about other possibilities. Allow me to share some I came up with.

Cookies for Communion

The best gift I have ever been given was a half-eaten, double stuffed Oreo cookie with all the double stuffing licked out. The giver was a four-year-old Guatemalan girl named Marisa.

It’s a Cruel, Cruel World

You just want cruelty to beget cruelty. You’re not superior to people who were cruel to you. You’re just a whole bunch of new cruel people. A whole bunch of new cruel people, being cruel to some other people, who’ll end up being cruel to you. —The Doctor

Gotta Catch ‘em All

A major event came and went on February 27th on which the church as a whole was, as far as I could tell, troublingly silent on. Yes, I understand the issues inherent to suggesting some form of deep homogeneity to our religion.

Experiencing Cotton Patch Moments

Although long a fan of Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch Gospel translation that recasts Jesus in the southern part of the United States in the middle of the 20th Century, it still took some time to develop even a hint of Jordan’s prophetic vision.

You Need Only Be Still (And Then Get Moving!)

I’m not very good at being still. I fidget. I pace. I drum my fingers on counters and chew pencils into nubs. There may be some deeper issues at play, but I have always struggled with being still.

Poor Happens

Poverty is not (proof of) sin.
Poverty is not a character flaw.
Poverty happens to people.

Rejoicing in Heaven?

I had a really neat—and that’s not a term I use very often—experience a few Sundays ago. I’ve been the fill-in preacher at The Rock Baptist Church in The Rock, Georgia for a few months.