Connections 12.25.2016: Ridiculousness

The whole thing seems ridiculous to me. God Almighty cares enough about this world and the people in it to come down and spend a few years in it and with them. And when God Almighty comes, it’s as a helpless baby who has to be protected, fed, and burped.

Formations 12.18.2016: A Glimpse of Holiness

Angels almost always appear on the biblical scene saying, “Don’t be afraid.” And they are indeed frightening creatures, at least in the book of Revelation and other apocalyptic writings.

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?

Formations 12.11.2016: Even in this Place?

John the Baptist heard the train coming before anyone else, but today he’s in prison. By the river he proclaimed, “Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” (Matt 3:2). Now he sends some of his disciples to find out if he got it wrong, if they should start looking for someone else.

Formations 12.04.2016: Pace Yourself

I was late coming to Advent. The church of my childhood and youth never observed a season of preparation leading to Christmas day. We were left, then, to “get ready for Christmas” the same way secular people did.

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.

Formations 11.27.2016: Paying Attention

As we enter Advent, we don’t only remember Ancient Israel’s hope and longing for God to rescue them. We also recognize our own hope that Christ would come as a fuller part of our world.

Formations 11.20.2016: God Wins

For all of its troubling images of evil and destruction, Revelation ends with triumph and joy. In heaven, the victory of God is proclaimed. The heavenly multitude anticipates the downfall of Rome—its greed, its oppression, and its war-mongering—and the Lamb of God prepares for his wedding banquet.

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.

Formations 11.13.2016: Sing in Time

When I walk into a new sanctuary, I find a pew, pull out the hymnal, and look through it. I see if anyone’s names have been embossed on the lower right corner. I check to see how the church decided to phrase the words on the bookplate dedicating its use to the Lord’s worship.

Connections 11.13.2016: It’s All About the Presence

On the day before Mother’s Day in 2004, my Good Wife and I purchased a slate sign about the size of an automobile license plate from a vendor at the Charleston (SC) City Market. We had two lines of text inscribed on it.

Formations 11.06.2016: What Is God Worth?

Waste is all a matter of what something—or someone, or Someone—is worth. And worth, as you’ve probably heard somewhere along the way, is the basis of our English word “worship.” When we worship God, we’re expressing how much we think God is worth.

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.

Formations 10.30.2016: Start Again

Harvey Thomas Young, a musician from Austin, Texas, wrote a song called “Start Again.” First a poem written on the back of a postcard to his brother in jail, his manager saw it and requested he set the poem to music.

Connections 10.30.2016: Job, Jesus, and Me

At some point in my young life, I began participating in my parents’ nightly prayer time. Using the denominational devotional guide, one of them would read the suggested Scripture passage and the printed meditation, and then say a short prayer.

Formations 10.23.2016: A Festival of Giving

Earlier this month, India celebrated its week-long festival of giving, Daan Utsav. This is a new holiday, first launched in 2009. It isn’t tied to any particular cultural or religious tradition, though an anonymous group of core volunteers manages the campaign.

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.

Formations 10.16.2016: Eager Giving

McCoy Tyner was excited to go to work each night in December 1964. He and the rest of John Coltrane’s quartet were recording A Love Supreme, a musical prayer that became one of jazz’s greatest albums.

Connections 10.16.2016: Suffering. Praying. And…

A parishioner had liver cancer. One day, as we sat talking in his den, he told me that he had recently attended a service conducted by an evangelist who claimed to be able to heal the sick.

Formations 10.09.2016: The Discipline of Giving

Our October unit invites us to think about giving as another spiritual discipline. Maybe this one isn’t so obvious. Depending on your upbringing, you might have been taught that giving, especially giving to the church, was more in the category of a religious duty.

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.

Formations 10.02.2016: Remembering the Tithe

Being told to tithe reminds me of those magazine covers in the grocery store checkout telling me I should use less salt and run more. I know they’re good for me, but I also don’t do them.

10.02.2016: Thank God for Jesus

I think I’d believe in God even if Jesus hadn’t come. I seem to assume that God exists. That assumption appears to be a vital part of who I am, but I can’t tell if it’s the product of nature or nurture.

Formations 09.25.2016: Hope in Christ’s Appearing

In the religious circles I tend to run in, there are a lot of people who grew up in churches that were saturated with the teachings purported experts on end-times prophecy. They grew up with that kind of theology, but somewhere along the way, that theology got, well, left behind.

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.

Formations 09.18.2016: Holiness

They told us to find something holy. We went up and took the Bible off the lectern in the fellowship hall and brought it back to the table. That wasn’t it.

Connections 09.18.2016: Getting Personal

Speaking in generalities is one thing. Getting down to specifics is another. Generally speaking, believing that God runs the universe is easy, but trusting God to take care of you is hard.

Formations 09.11.2016: Encouraging Others

Legendary football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant once explained that his coaching philosophy involved communicating three things to his players: “If anything goes bad, then I did it. If anything goes semi good, then we did it. If anything goes real good, then you did it.”

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.

Formations 09.04.2016: Examples

The Thessalonians imitated Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. But they couldn’t do that forever without becoming examples to the many churches around them.

Connections 09.04.2016: Dystopian Visions and Utopian Prophecies

Two books I read during my high school years (and yes, I read more than two!) that influenced me significantly were Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and George Orwell’s 1984.

Formations 08.28.2016: Clinging to the Past or Embracing the Future?

In 1950, there were 67,000 coal miners working in eastern Kentucky. By 2014, however, that number had declined to only 7,000. The industry is clearly in a state of steep decline, and this has huge repercussions for those who have made their living in the mines.

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.

Formations 08.21.2016: Complaining Together

In March, I listened to a Tiny Desk Concert while working on my thesis. I wasn’t paying attention to it until I heard the first line: “I wish I could write songs about anything other than death.”

Connections 08.21.2016: Places in our Hearts

Robert Benton’s 1984 film Places in the Heart takes place in 1935 Waxahachie, Texas. Royce and Edna Spalding own a cotton farm. Royce is also the local sheriff.

Formations 08.14.2016: Singing the Blues

In a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, Ted Slowik explained how, as a white kid growing up in the suburbs, his views about race were shaped in part by exposure to blues music.

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.

Formations 08.07.2016: Obadiah

The truth is that we don’t know who Obadiah was. Some people even think his name, meaning “servant of the Lord,” was just a title. Whoever he was, he came from a world that was falling apart.

Connections 08.07.2016: Safe in God’s Love

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor recessions, nor politics, nor presidential elections, nor terrorism, nor racism, nor sexism, nor homophobia, nor the internet, nor arrogance, nor ignorance…

Formations 07.31.2016: The Things that Drive Us

Even though I grew up in the Midwest, my family roots are in Kentucky. It’s where most of my extended family lives, where I attended seminary, and where my thoughts always turn on the first Saturday in May.

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.

Formations 07.24.2016: And Again

Jephthah speaks when he shouldn’t and doesn’t when he should. For getting these backwards, he kills his only daughter. It all begins after God’s spirit comes to Jephthah.

Connections 07.24.2016: Hope Called and Love Answered

I remember an old Gospel song: “Justice Called and Mercy Answered.” Were I to write a song based on Romans 5:1-11, I’d call it “Hope Called and Love Answered.”

Formations 07.17.2016: Deborah the Judge

We traditionally call the biblical heroes who flourished from the settlement of Canaan to the rise of the monarchy “judges,” but that doesn’t quite capture their role.

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.

Formations 07.10.2016: When Laughing Is Scary

May I begin by apologizing for what is to come? I was taught to do my best not to offend people, but this text makes it hard. In fact, I’m convinced that Judges 3:12-30 offends nearly everybody’s sensibilities in some way.

Connections 07.10.2016: Privilege

We hear a lot of talk these days about privilege. Since I’m one of the privileged, I try to take such talk to heart. I try to be aware of my privileged status and of the pitfalls and advantages that accompany it.

Formations 07.03.2016: Breaking the Cycle of Failure

She’lah Shreve is a graduate of George W. Carver High School in Birmingham, Alabama and is soon to begin his studies at Lawson State Community College. There was a time, though, when it looked like he would never graduate at all. Tenth-grade chemistry threatened to be She’lah’s downfall.