Where Prayer Meets the Road

We talk about prayer as if it is always easy, like it presents no complications. No experience required. Anyone can do it. Our prayer directions read: bow head, close eyes, fold hands, and add words. “It’s a conversation.” “Relax, you’re just talking to God.”

The Weight of Pain

Why does pain almost always seem to weigh more, to have more substance, to impact us more powerfully, than joy? For many people, the moments that have been most life-changing have been, not the moments of joy, but the moments of pain.

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.

Hard Things Are Hard

Hard things are hard. Sometimes life is just plain hard. You can’t escape it or get around it; you just have to live through it.

Soul: Fire in Preaching

In my experience, eighty percent of the fuel for preaching comes from sources outside the study. I do not mean scouring the countryside or the urbanside for sermon illustrations.

Crossroads: Anger and Words

“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” How many times did we say this to someone growing up? How many times have you heard it before? When I said this as a kid, it was because someone had said something hurtful and mean to me, and I said it to cover up the fact that those words did hurt.

Helping Each Other Grieve

As well as being a joyous time, Christmas can be difficult for people touched by tragedy or loss in the past year. Grief is isolating. While the rest of the world seems to be celebrating, tragedies years and decades old resurface.

Bringing Our Pain to God

Think about the people you know who are in terrible pain right now. Violence, death, loss, trauma, or physical or mental illness has touched them, even destroyed them. If they should come to worship, is there an appropriate context for them to acknowledge their pain before God?

Headlines

Many mornings when we check the news, the headlines announce an event that will alter the course of our lives. If you had the power to change one headline that has occurred in history, what headline would it be?

Crossroads: He Is Risen!

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Easter is such a wonderful time. The dark, somber mourning of Good Friday has passed and in its place is new life, lots of color, and thankful spirits.

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.

Praying Unbelief

So, I hate to begin with bad news but Jesus knows that we don’t always believe. I don’t know if Jesus uses measuring spoons or cups but he knows the quantity of our faith. Maybe he eyeballs it.

Praying in the Dark

More often than not, we talk to God with the lights on. This is not to suggest that prayer is scary, that there are monsters under the pews or in our prayer closets.

Formations 07.05.2015: Unspeakable Tragedy

What does one do in the face of unspeakable tragedy? In the weeks to come, Rev. Goff will have to deal with the hurt, anger, frustration, and despair of an entire congregation, and entire city, and even an entire country.

Uniform 07.05.2015: The Stranger Among Us

You are sitting with your friends, getting ready for Bible study. It’s a weekly event that you all look forward to—good company along with spiritual growth as you learn about God together. A visitor walks in.

Uniform 06.21.2015: From Ivory Beds to Homeless Shelters

These verses from Amos are a scathing commentary on the lives of the comfortable. Chances are, if you’re reading this article (or discussing it in a Bible study, etc.), you are fairly comfortable.

To Those Waiting and to Those Mourning on Mother’s Day

I don’t know how you feel. And that is my important disclaimer here. I don’t know what it’s like to wait months or even years, only to see a little negative sign that hurts in such a big way.

Busy Is a Sickness

I’m busy. I don’t know about you, but anytime I am asked, “How’s it going?”, I never just say “fine” anymore. Instead, my stock response is always some degree of frazzled.

Crossroads: Praise the Lord!

As I write this, my family is getting ready to remember several losses in our family. On January 25th, we lost my great-grandmother (my mom’s grandmother) and my aunt (my dad’s sister), two years apart.

Formations 01.11.2015: Praying in Times of Tragedy

After showing hospitality to Elijah and seeing her meager provisions miraculously multiplied, we readers might have been lulled into thinking that the widow of Zarephath’s problems were now over.

Uniform 01.11.2015: A Grandmother’s Voice

As I read these words of Jesus this week, I am grieving the loss of my grandmother, who died just after Christmas. My mind is running a constant feed of the time my family and I spent saying goodbye.

Holiday Interrupted

I’ve been busy with the holidays since last week. When the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson was announced, I was picking up extended family from the airport. When a local action took place in my city the next day, I was gathered at my church for our annual Thanksgiving meal and service.

Breaking Things

I am not terribly clumsy and yet I have a way of breaking things. Now, I am not the artist that my cousin Stan was. When we were boys, I dreaded when Stan, who was a few years younger than I, came to our house because he would want to play with my toys and any toy that Stan touched broke.

In Pursuit of the Spirit: Remembering the Saints

October has never been my favorite month. It always opens with such promise and warmth, and then ends with a blustery quickness that is downright abrasive.

Uniform: Seeing through Grieving Eyes

When my 3-year-old is upset about something, he suddenly becomes upset about everything else, too. After suffering from an injury or disappointment, he begins to see all the other things that are out of place in his world.

A View from the Pew: Making the Most of a Ministerial Transition

An unexpected resignation of a church staff member can feel like a punch to the gut. When a trusted staff member resigns, it’s not unusual to feel an acute sense of loss and even betrayal.

Formations 09.14.2014: Reeling from a “Lifequake”

Americans remember September 11, 2001 as a horrific day in which the world was shattered by the destructive acts of ruthless fanatics. According to Dr. Howard Samuels, all of us have also faced smaller, more personal “ground-zero” experiences that have left us reeling, struggling to get back on our feet, and wondering how we could ever survive.

Uniform 08.24.2014: Afflictions, Hardships, and Calamities

This has been a difficult few weeks in the news. This week, we might read Paul’s words to the Corinthians who face “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger” (6:4-5) more as a summary of contemporary news than as a list of Christian trials.

Formations 06.22.2014: Taking Time for the Pain

Scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University believe a pill that wipes out bad memories could eventually become reality. In a recent study, experiments found that mice that were given fingolimid completely forgot about previous experiences that had brought them physical pain.

Mending the Saints: Teaching That Helps Us Heal

If you polled your congregation about why Sunday school matters, would they agree that it does? Would specifics about class content rank high on their response list?
“I love studying those dietary laws in Leviticus.”
“Learning that the Corinthians had more problems than we do actually helped us.”