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.

In the Meantime, Part 2

Last week we considered Entertainment and Physical Activity, two activities we might fill our time with in addition to job hunting while we are in between jobs.

Faith, a Prayer for Epiphany

God of life,
God of all our becoming
winding
changing
hopeful
fearful years—
we praise you
for your faithfulness.

In the Meantime, Part 1

When you are working, sometimes you find yourself wondering how to squeeze in your whole to-do list each day. You face various demands that pull you in all directions, and at the end of the day you may find yourself completely exhausted.

Holy Ghosts: Deadly News (For Raymond)

The news came crawling
Like dreaded, deadly spiders into my ear,
Spewing their gossip like a lethal poison.

The Social Implications of Salvation

The Christian’s aim, Rauschenbusch believed, was not to pass through an evil world in safety, leaving the world’s evil unshaken; rather, it was to seek a moral and religious transformation of humanity in all of its social relations.

We Need the Hope of Christmas Now

Simply and directly, our world is not what it should be. And the Advent and Christmas season offer the expectancy of what should be.

Mission and the Families of the Earth

The story of ancient Israel offers one powerful example of the way gives meaning to each particular family. The challenge is to find the point of intersection between the story of the family and the purposes of God in the world.

Skipping Christmas

For centuries, Christians have celebrated the birth of Jesus by coming to church to sing, pray, remember, give thanks, and recommit our lives to Christ. What were we thinking?

How Will They Remember You When You’re Gone?

This past week, I conducted a celebration of life service at a beloved church I serve. The packed sanctuary was a reminder to all who were present of this church member’s caring spirit.

Evangelical Common Worship on National Holidays

In general, we come to common worship from a week in which a secular society has tried to shape our identity as something radically different than what Scripture says it is.

God Can See in the Dark

I can’t see in the dark. It’s a fact of life. I’ve proven it many times, getting up in the night, foolishly believing I can navigate through the house without turning on a light, and then tripping over a sleeping dog.

Seeing People, Learning Lessons

In a city like the one where I live, most growth is up. So all of us spend a lot of time on elevators. Thus we all know elevator etiquette: Do not speak to anyone. Do not make eye contact. Stare at the numbers as the floors change.

9 Tips for Interpreting Scripture

Many of us grew up hearing preachers proclaim, “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.” By now, I hope we realize that the task of biblical interpretation is a tad more complicated.

Satisfaction: A Meditation for Teachers

Concluding a school day is a lot like finishing a meal—you know immediately whether or not you feel satisfied. When the day is over and we close and lock our door, we know immediately whether we feel full or empty.

My Undelivered Stand-up Routine for Those Not Likely to Come Back to Church

How is everybody doing tonight? You look great. You’re less sober than the people I usually talk to.

The Struggle to Cope with Time

The prayer, “So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart,” serves as the turning point in the larger prayer of Psalm 90. The human experience of time is a major theme of the psalm as a whole.

Unless You Come unto Me as These

This one is going to be a problem for us. You know that most adults have forgotten that they were children once upon a time. In fact, how long has it been since most adults have included “once upon a time” in any sentence?

Naming Our Demons

In the ancient world, people believed that knowing a person’s name gave them a degree of power over that person. You might use your knowledge of someone’s name to give the person a blessing or place a curse on him or her.

Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, my grandmother, and bad theology

My favorite grandmother took her own life in 1950—eleven years before I was born. My other grandmothers were fine (my father’s father provided me with four grandmothers), but my father’s mother is my favorite.

The Identity Crisis in Unemployment

When I got home from my last day of work, I put my key in the door and it struck me that something was wrong with my key chain. I panicked for a second, thinking someone had stolen my keys.