Formations 12.24.2017: A Song of Joy and Sorrow

Because I live a few blocks from a hospital, ambulance sirens, and the occasional helicopter, form one pitch in that harmony of creation I hear. For what they signal—coming help and immediate danger—these sounds are above all interruptions demanding drivers to make way.

Formations 11.26.2017: Innocence, Guilt, and Technicalities

The first time I heard Les Misérables, I was fifteen or sixteen. My mother had picked me up from school. Somewhere between learning it was her favorite musical and the grocery store, I asked her what it was all about. She began with the bishop.

Formations 11.19.2017: Faith and Violence

Herod Agrippa I was the grandson of Herod the Great and a nephew of Herod Antipas. The book of Acts remembers him mainly as a persecutor of the early church. Somewhat like the Apostle Paul, this king’s zeal for the law was apparently what drove him to persecute the church.

Crossroads: Ascension

When I went away to college, I only moved to the other side of town. But even though I was still in the same town, my mother still had to leave me at Mercer. After we finished getting my stuff unpacked, there came a time when she had to go and I had to stay. She gave me a big hug and left me.

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.

Formations 05.28.2017: The Lord’s Will Be Done

About poems, the poet Richard Hugo says there are two subjects—the triggering and the real. The triggering subject compels the poet to write, but poets must uncover the real subject as they write. Though the triggering subject is necessary for creation, Hugo recognizes that writers’ perceived responsibility to it may stop a poem before it even starts.

Meanwhile…

All Philip knows as he starts walking is what the angel said: At noon, take the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza (v. 26). Most of us get a gentle nudging, an inkling of what God wants us to do. Philip got a timetable and directions.

Formations 05.21.2017: Anonymous Strangers, Angels, and Pixies

I’ve never (that I know) met an angel. The closest I can claim was more of a pixie. Here’s how it happened. I had a pretty rough time my first semester or so. I was living farther from home that I ever had before. I struggled with some of the new concepts and approaches my professors were teaching me.

Formations 05.14.2017: Philip’s Samaritan Ministry

This week’s text begins when Philip, scattered from Jerusalem with most of the other followers, goes down into Samaria. Immediately he starts preaching and healing. There’s great rejoicing and unity. Even Simon, who had been practicing magic and confusing the citizens, believed Philip and was baptized.

Connections 05.14.2017: Stones

The symbolism and wordplay in this text fascinate me. In verse 4’s simile, Jesus is “a living stone,” and in verse 5’s metaphor, Christians are “like living stones.” Now, you know and I know that stones can’t live. We also know that we’re in the realm of symbols here, and in a symbolic world, stones can live if that helps the writer make the desired point.

Formations 05.07.2017: Unsung Heroes

The Jenco Awards are cash awards for people in Appalachian Ohio “who have performed visionary leadership in the service of others in the region.” The award was founded in 2001 by Terry Anderson, a journalist and former Athens County, Ohio resident. They honor Father Lawrence Martin Jenco, a Catholic priest.

Crossroads: Waiting

Have you ever had to wait for something that you were sure was going to happen? You wait with nervous anticipation, excited and scared at the same time. I went to Paris when I was 16.

Crossroads: The Presence of the Holy Spirit

Several years ago on a weekend retreat, I gathered with a group of teenagers in a dimly lit room to share an Agape Love Feast. Earlier, we had set up the room with candles, a plate of bread, and a large cup of grape juice.

Formations 05.22.2016: Casting a Vision

One of the key skills of any leader is motivating his or her team, and there is no shortage of advice about how to do it. Much of this advice, however, though true, is also rather basic.

Formations 05.15.2016: Unfamiliar Truth

C. S. Lewis, himself a Christian convert, wrote some pretty original and fantastic fiction, most of which didn’t even take place on this planet as we know it. The books in his Narnia series were the first stories I remember my parents reading aloud to me when I was a kid.

Crossroads: Ascension

New chapters are exciting, but also a bit scary. Moving to college was an important step for me, and it was part of being able to do things on my own. The disciples face a new chapter of their own that begins in the book of Acts.

Formations 05.08.2016: Tongues of Fire

In today’s text, the Spirit comes attended by astounding supernatural phenomena that capture the attention of the pilgrims in Jerusalem. These phenomena do not automatically inspire faith, however; some onlookers wrote the whole thing off as the disciples simply being drunk.

Crossroads: Doing What’s Right

In November 2014, a 90-year old pastor was arrested in Florida for feeding the homeless. You read that correctly: he was arrested for trying to help the homeless. The city of Fort Lauderdale passed a law saying that it was illegal to share food in public.

Formations 05.01.2016: Biding our Time

On an average day between 6:30am and 7:30am, you’re probably waking up and getting ready for the day. Then you either head to work, run errands, do housework, or take care of others in your home.

Uniform 11.29.2015: Teaching God’s Word

When Paul’s missionary partners Timothy and Silas arrived in Corinth, they found him “occupied with the word” (v. 5; NRSV supplies “proclaiming,” which is not in the Greek text). What was he doing with the word with which he was occupied?

Formations 11.22.2015: The Greatest Commandment

“What is the greatest commandment?” the legal expert asked. It was the perfect opening. If Jesus had wanted to say something like “All Scripture is equally important,” there was his chance. But he didn’t take it, because he didn’t believe that was true.

Uniform 11.22.2015: A Pathway for Sharing Christ

Derbe. Philippi. Thessalonica. Beroea. Athens. And on and on the journey goes. Paul and others made the trip without jets or cars—and probably even without horses.

Uniform 11.15.2015: From Derbe to Philippi

The late comedian Mitch Hedberg talked about people who helped their friends move. “I like to help my friends stay,” he deadpanned. I think that one of the basic questions of the Christian life, not to mention of human existence, is whether we should go or stay.

Formations 11.08.2015: “My Feet Are a Big Fabric”

The Universal Translator is a staple of the Star Trek science fiction franchise. It is a device that instantly translates speech from one language to another, allowing Captain Kirk and his crew to communicate easily.

Uniform 11.08.2015: A Fence around the Kingdom

Women deacons weren’t widespread at the time, but the church my mother attended had made the change to their constitution, ruling that the office of deacon was open to qualified “people” rather than just “men.”

Uniform 11.01.16: God Releases the Captive

Peter was in jail, bound by chains, surrounded by guards, and in danger of being executed. He was in those dire circumstances because of his faithfulness to Christ. Many Christians around the world experience persecution because of their faith.

Uniform 10.25.2015: A Help or a Hindrance?

When someone is doing a truly good work, most of us want to help them—or at least not hinder them. This time last year, I worked at an annual fundraiser for a local nonprofit that helps families with children who have cancer.

Uniform 10.18.15: Peter Takes a Risk

Sometime back in the mid-1960s, a friend of mine invited me to accompany his mother and him on a trip to one of the beautiful state parks in our state. The main event on our itinerary was swimming in the park’s lake.

Uniform 10.11.2015: A Credible Witness

Few childhood stories have lessons as powerful as that of the boy who cried, “Wolf!” Most of us are familiar with the tale: Assigned with the task of keep watching over a flock of sheep, a boy finds the job boring and thankless.

Uniform 10.04.2015: The Spirit Is Not for Sale

“Simony” isn’t a word that we hear every day. As a matter of fact, I might never have heard it had I not taken Church History in seminary—or if I didn’t watch “Jeopardy.” Simony is the buying and selling of church offices.

Uniform 09.27.2015: Dancing in the Silence

At a Baptist Student Union meeting in college, I heard a charming story about a dancer who was on stage, in the middle of a performance, when her music stopped. If you’ve ever stood in front of a crowd for any reason, you can imagine how she felt: heart pounding, stomach clenching, face flushing.

Uniform 09.06.2015: Praying for One Another

In a song of my generation, the singer pleads, “Tell me what you want and I’ll give you what you need.” I’ve learned over the years that my prayers often go like that—I ask God for what I want and God gives me what I need.

Formations 08.23.2015: Leaving Isn’t Easy

About a year ago, author Beverly Gooden started a movement that went viral. She was frustrated and saddened by a popular argument that criticized victims of domestic violence, and she wanted to help the world understand.

Formations 06.14.2015: Spreading the Word

Advances in technology and the expansion of social media mean that practically anyone can be not only a consumer of local news but also a shaper of its content.

Formations 05.31.2015: Flip-Flop or Change of Heart?

The few times I’ve been invited to take part in a council of ordination, I have always asked the candidate to talk about a time when he or she changed their mind.

Uniform 05.24.2015: The Gift of Interpretation

One of my favorite television series is the BBC’s Doctor Who. This long-running show features the Doctor, a time-traveling alien who looks like you and me but has an exceptional time machine/spaceship called the TARDIS.

Crossroads: Leaving and Coming Again

When I was eight years old, my parents sat me down one day and told me we were moving. At first, I was a little concerned and confused. I had always lived in the same house in the same town, so I wasn’t sure if I would like moving.

Crossroads: Paying Attention

Have you ever fallen asleep or started daydreaming in a class, meeting, or event? Perhaps nobody noticed, but you left not really knowing what took place at that particular event. Or perhaps you had to give an answer to a question you hadn’t heard.

Crossroads: Redemption

I became a Christian when I was seven years old. Having grown up in the church, some of my earliest memories were of learning who Jesus is. There’s not a time that I can remember when I didn’t know who God was.

Uniform 03.16.2014: Passing It On

When I tell my mother that I don’t feel old enough to have been a mom for nearly ten years, she laughs and says, “Try being a mom for nearly thirty-seven years.” To which I reply, “Thanks for reminding me how old I am.”

Crossroads: Conflict

When I was in the sixth grade, my church split. It wasn’t over doctrine, but instead was the result of a conflict between the pastor and the minister of music. This conflict grew from an argument to people taking sides, and the eventually splitting of this church. Both the pastor and the minister of music left, and the church was never the same.

Crossroads: God Doesn’t Play Favorites

As the first girl in the family in 35 years, I was the favorite grandchild. Growing up, my grandmother (Shug) did things for me that she didn’t do for my stepbrother. I lived closer to her than he did, and so we got to do fun things together that she didn’t do with him.