A Worship Hour Outline: Dreams

We come to dream with you, Spirit of Hope. We confess that some of our dreams have been selfish ambitions, and that we have often been driven by personal gain and little interest in others or your will.

Learning to Walk on Water

I once saw a saying that really spoke to me: “Be like Jesus; rebuke the storm, and if it persists, walk on it.” How many times have storms taken control of our lives?

Interviewing Randall Lolley

Among the first questions a friend asked when I floated the idea of a Randall Lolley biography was, “Is Randall able to help?”

Just the Way You Are

Like millions of kids who grew up between 1970 and 2001, our son watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood almost every weekday for many years. Generations of kids loved and trusted this caring adult who spoke directly to them in the most personal and respectful way.

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.

Meditations on Luke: The Last Laugh

The ministry of Jesus is such a ridiculous thing that it draws laughter. Everywhere he goes, he says and does things that are so out of step with what seems to be obvious reality that people think he is crazy. Imagine what the neighbors said when Jesus, somewhere around the age of thirty, walked away from his father’s vocation as a carpenter.

Examining the Wreckage

A poem from On Paying Attention.

I am drawn to plane crashes….

A Wilderness Point of View

In Harper Lee’s classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus tells his daughter Scout that there’s a “trick” to getting along with all kinds of people.

Between What We Dreamed and What We Got

After all those years of stumbling around in the middle of nowhere, dealing with all the conflict and controversy of his contrary constituency, you’d like to think that Moses would get to lead the parade into the land of promise.

Equipping a Congregation for Digital Literacy

Many church members are newcomers to the digital world, and they need extra help navigating this new space. There is some irony in that we have had the technology for years now to reach our homebound members with the Sunday message.

Education Is a Faith Issue

School starts back soon, and my friend Molly Wright visited Stephanie and me in Boone this week. She has been a dear friend since high school, when she was the cool senior who gave me (the lowly freshman) rides home in her Jeep Cherokee.

Leadership on the Edge

It was a wonderful spring morning. The trees were dressing out after a winter of nakedness. The flowers were beginning to decorate the earth.

Human Rights and the Gospel

Jesus’ inaugural address begins with these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.”

Overcoming Ethnocentrism

A major barrier that impedes growth in multicultural, multiracial churches is known as “ethnocentrism,” the tendency to view the norms and values of one’s own culture as absolute and to use them as a standard against which to judge and measure all other cultures. Many times this tendency is cloaked under the attitude that “they don’t do it like us.”

Prayer When in the Wilderness

The wilderness imparted some new insights about the practice of prayer. As the preceding chapters make clear, I prayed virtually every day. Some days I felt circumstances closing in, and as a result, my prayers glowed with a white-hot intensity.

Responding to the Apollo 13 Miracle

We hear a lot about miracles today, and there is a large volume of work addressing the subject—more than I could address in this book. In my experience on the Lunar Module team during Apollo 13, I felt moved in a special way by what I felt was answered prayer and the miraculous recovery of the crew.

The Hybrid Church

The pandemic of 2020 forced all of us into innovation mode for a short time, and in some places there was great pressure either to continue online or to return to in-person worship in the building.

Christian Flag Breaking

An excited patriot handed me one of those 10-inch flags that you stick into your lawn on July 4. The plastic red, white, and blue was intact, but the pole that once held it together was broken three stripes from the top.

Thou Shalt Remember Thou Art Creative

The question I get more than any other—more than “What’s the meaning of life?”, or “Why do people suffer?”, or “Why are the New England Patriots so . . . them?”—is “Can I learn to be funny?”

Live the Stories: Jesus Gives Peter Instructions

Remind the children that many of the disciples who followed Jesus were fishermen before they left their jobs to learn from him. When Jesus died, they returned to their jobs of catching fish.

Meditations on Mark: Family in the Kingdom of God

Few wounds cut deeper than those inflicted on us by our families. I have known plenty of otherwise strong and accomplished adults who still carry in their spirits the pain of broken relationships with parents, siblings, or children. This is an indication of the family’s importance in God’s plan for humanity.

Before I die . . .

When the waitress brought our food, I tried to find a way to ask, “How am I supposed to eat this?” I had to think fast.

Of Spirit and Mind: A Pentecostal’s Battle Against Depression

She stopped eating and looked at me. “Are you serious?” She was more commenting than questioning. “Why would you go see a counselor? They don’t have any wisdom. They can’t help you. Are you depressed?”

Presenting Portraits of Jesus

When Mark sketched out our first Gospel account of Jesus, he was not simply writing a direct history or creating a photo account about Jesus. He was doing something far more significant than recording a Vine. He was providing a testimony about the figure he believed was the most important person who ever lived.

Wrinkles

Most of us can remember the exact moment when we looked in the mirror and saw our first gray hair or the first noticeable wrinkle on our face. We were still young, perhaps only in our twenties.

Souvenirs: A Meditation for Teachers

We collect souvenirs so that we will not forget special people and places. Sometimes the memories that return when we see or touch a momento are more wondrous and inspiring than the actual experience. Often our favorite souvenirs are the simplest ones: a Christmas tree ornament, a shell, or a postcard.

The Helper’s Paradox

Ministering from a stance of personal deprivation is both foolish and ineffective. That is why the Helper’s Paradox is important to remember: The best way to take care of others is to take care of yourself.

Homeward Bound

“I want to go home” is not just the plaintive cry of kindergarten students on the first day of school; it is the longing of every person who pays attention to his or her heart. For some, nothing is better than going home.

Live the Stories: Noah’s Ark

Remind the children of how Adam and Eve made a mistake in last week’s story. That mistake caused the world to be an unhappy place where people didn’t treat God or each other the right way. Begin by asking the children if they know what an ark is. They may respond by stating that an ark is a boat or something that Noah built.

A Column Turned Prayer for Ascension Sunday

God of the true church, we acknowledge that we know these songs we sing too well, some of them even by heart.

Abram, Sarai, and Pharaoh

The Genesis storyline takes a turn when famine strikes. Abram goes to Egypt to live as a resident alien. Before they reach the border crossing, Abram starts to worry.

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?

Waking Up to Routine and Finding Ourselves Surprised

The alarm goes off long before you want it to. The snooze button is not worth it, but it is tempting. You have to get to work. Or you have to get to work at home. Or you have learned that retirement is work.

Don’t Blink

Right now, time itself seems to be doing some weird things. Even when it seems like the days are trudging along, the weeks and the months might then accelerate. There’s a sporadic nature to it all.

Pearls Before Swine

Forgive us, O Lord, for our sometimes judgmental attitude that causes us to be overly critical of others and for our sometimes hypocrisy that causes us to hold others to a higher standard than that to which we hold ourselves.

A Dark Day of Rest

The disciples, the women who had been following Jesus, and the other followers of Christ rested on the Sabbath. Joseph of Arimathea had taken Jesus’ body on that Friday and placed him in a tomb.

A Quiet Life: Living at Peace with One’s Self

One great embarrassment of Christians is that we talk so much and so loudly. Interviews and conversations of all kinds often remind us of a pride of lions feeding, snapping and snarling, each lunging in for a moment and then getting shoved aside by others.

Make the Most of Holy Week

I love worship. If I could spend the rest of my academic career studying worship, I would.

The Wind and the Spirit

What would you do differently if you could start over? What would you change if you could be born again? If I could edit my life, I would skip junior high football, wrecking my father’s car, and the last five minutes of my first date. I would stop my mother throwing away my baseball cards.

Lent Is a Time to Adjust

I once heard it said that you can’t have Easter without Lent; how could you know the joy of the mountaintop without the realities of the valley?

Do Not Resist an Evil Person

How do you respond to someone who does not behave as a Christian ought to behave, whether they are or are not a fellow Christian? The easy answer is to quote Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount, “turn the other cheek.”

Angry

The chances that we will murder somebody are thankfully slim. The chances that we will get angry enough at someone to want them dead…

The Worship Hour: The Second Sunday of Lent

Giver of all good gifts, we thank you again for the bounty you have allowed us in this privileged land, and for the privilege of distributing your gifts to others—that they also may be blessed!

Honesty: Believing There Are No Ifs, Ands, or Buts

This verse is about a merchant weighing out a customer’s goods. When the customer pays for a gallon or for a pound, the Lord demands a gallon delivered, or a pound, and not a drop or a hair less. Don’t even begin to walk down a dishonest path. But the command is about much more than buying and selling; it’s about honesty and truthfulness.

Your Commute as a Spiritual Discipline

My morning commute reminds me that I am not the Christian I should be. I drive nine miles to my job—two miles of neighborhood, three miles of suburban commerce, and four miles of houses.

5 Guidelines for Building a Racially and Culturally Diverse Church Staff

One of the best ways to communicate a goal of racial and cultural diversity is to have a diversified staff. Actions do speak louder than words.

In the Meantime, Part 4

One of the down sides of unemployment is that people think you must have nothing to do. You may get requests for childcare or lunch meetings or house sitting that you have zero interest in doing.

In the Meantime, Part 3

While you are in between jobs, the hours and days may stretch before you in a disheartening monotony. The activities you choose to engage in in addition to job hunting can be life-giving, but they can also be hard to choose for yourself.