Formations 08.01.2021: A Time to Belong

We all want to feel that we belong. From those first moments of playground choices to school lunchroom seats to office conversations over the tops of cubicles, we are often afraid of being excluded.

Formations 07.25.2021: Come and See

It was a significant turning point in my faith when I discovered there is more than one valid, biblical model of evangelism. Growing up, my idea of what it meant to share the gospel was rooted in passages like Mark 5:19.

Formations 07.18.2021: Owning Up

As an only child, I’ll readily admit that there are some aspects of growing up that I missed out on. Some of these things I count as plusses and others I count as minuses.

Formations 07.11.2021: A Fierce Love

Before my children’s births, people told me about the fierce love of a parent. “There’s nothing like the love you’ll have for your kids.” “It’s like watching your heart walk around outside your body.” “You’ll be like a Mama Bear when it comes to your children.”

Formations 07.04.2021: Peace?

Zechariah sees a vision of four riders. Unlike Revelation’s “four horsemen of the apocalypse,” these riders work on God’s behalf, riding to and fro to patrol the face of the earth.

Formations 06.27.2021: Farewell

From May 30, 1982 ‘til September 19, 1998, Cal Ripken Jr. played 2,632 straight games for the Baltimore Orioles, far surpassing the record formerly held by the legendary Lou Gehrig.

Formations 06.20.2021: Perseverance in Preaching

Preaching isn’t an easy gig. It’s much more than speaking God’s truth. It’s living out that truth in numerous practical and not-so-practical ways each week. If you are a pastor, part of a pastor’s family, or close friends with a pastor, you know the dramatic demands on a pastor’s life.

Formations 06.13.2021: #Exvangelical

As I write this week’s reflection, the hashtag #exvangelical is trending on social media. As you might guess, an “exvangelical” is an ex-evangelical, someone who grew up in a particular kind of Christian community—Protestant, conservative, most likely white—but has since left the fold.

Formations 06.06.2021: Conversion, Dramatic or Otherwise

“I used to drink, get into fights, and run around with loose women. But then, at the age of ten, I surrendered my life to Christ….”

Formations 05.30.2021: Using Our Gifts

Every single person—created by God in the image of God—is exceptionally unique. There is no other creature who is uniquely me or uniquely you.

Formations 05.23.2021: Rekindling the Gift

What have you done with yourself during the pandemic? If your answer is, “I stayed afloat,” that’s perfectly okay!

Formations 05.16.2021: Louder than Words

Ralph Waldo Emerson is said to have quipped, “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”

Formations 05.09.2021: Compassionate Healing

If you or a loved one has suffered in any way—due to illness, disease, accident, job loss, failure, etc.—you have longed for compassionate healing.

Formations 05.02.2021: Our Demon-Haunted World

We modern Americans have outgrown belief in demons. To borrow a phrase from physicist Carl Sagan, we no longer inhabit a “demon-haunted world.” We no longer have room in our worldviews for invisible forces of chaos.

Formations 04.25.2021: How Much Farther?

“How much farther?” What child hasn’t asked that question on a trip? What parent hasn’t dreaded that question, knowing that the trip has barely started?

Formations 04.18.2021: The Breaking of the Bread

Gatherings with friends and family vary widely depending on who shows up. But they all have one thing in common: food.

Formations 04.11.2021: Who We’re Looking For

It used to bother me that, so many times in the Gospels’ Easter stories, Jesus’ followers don’t recognize him after the resurrection. To be honest, I suppose that still bothers me.

Formations 04.04.2021: Change of Plans

Have you ever put a lot of effort into a task and then not gotten to do it? Maybe you did a ton of research.

Formations 03.28.2021: God’s Son Is Revealed

This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. Have you ever experienced devastating disappointment—a letdown so overwhelming that your sadness felt insurmountable?

Formations 03.21.2021: A Suffering Messiah?

“You keep using that word,” Inigo Montoya tells Vizzini in the 1987 comedy The Princess Bride. “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Formations 03.14.2021: Pressing On

I’ve always imagined Jesus as fairly unflappable. He always seems to know the right thing to say.

Formations 03.07.2021: The Kingdom Grows

My daughter Samantha is sixteen, and my daughter Natalie is nearly fourteen. Looking at them now as they threaten to overtake my height by a couple of inches, it’s hard to picture them being small enough to carry around—much less being embryos growing inside my body.

Formations 02.28.2021: Let Anyone with Ears to Hear Listen

The other three Gospels have the decency to postpone overt reference to the plot to kill Jesus until about the halfway point. Mark, however, is famous for never beating around the bush.

Formations 02.21.2021: Not Me!

I admit it: I’m a sucker for Family Circus comic strips. Yes, they’re corny. Yes, they repeat the same gags over and over again.

Formations 02.14.2021: Temptations

When I was a teenager, my church youth group leaders spent a lot of time talking to us about temptation. Specifically, they warned us not to get ourselves into situations that would tempt us.

Formations 02.07.2021: Helpmate?

In the second movement of the Genesis 2 creation story, God takes note that the man is alone and takes measures to correct that situation.

Formations 01.31.2021: A God Who Speaks My Language

When I teach Old Testament, I ask my students whom they would cast as God in the six-day creation story in Genesis 1. The answers are usually actors with a deep, commanding voice.

Formations 01.24.2021: The Works of God’s Hands

The writer of Revelation, whom we know was a man named John, gives a glorious depiction of heavenly worship in chapter 4. The images are strange to us—jasper and carnelian, an emerald-like rainbow…

Formations 01.17.2021: A Christ of Cosmic Proportions

There is a Latin aphorism from the earliest centuries of the church that has always resonated with me: lex orandi, lex credendi, “the rule of prayer is the rule of belief.” In a nutshell, this aphorism says that there is a deep connection between liturgy and faith.

Formations 01.10.2021: We Are God’s Workmanship

I grew up on Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Formations 01.03.2021: The Works of God’s Hands

On December 21, stargazers got a rare treat. For the first time since March 4, 1226, Jupiter and Saturn came close enough to each other at night that they appeared as one giant star.

Formations 12.27.2020: Blue Christmas

It’s always good to remember that the Christmas season isn’t always joyful for some of us. Those folks ringing the bells and collecting donations outside your favorite grocery store?

Formations 12.20.2020: The Honor Christ Deserves

My wife and I got married over my school’s Thanksgiving break one year. I was a newly minted Ph.D., with little as of yet to show for it. We arrived at the hotel before our room was ready, so we gave them our luggage and went out to explore the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Formations 12.13.2020: Rejoice!

On January 1, the new year seemed fresh and exciting. Maybe the new decade would even become the twenty-first-century version of the Roaring Twenties! We could only hope. But March came.

Formations 12.06.2020: You Better Watch Out

If your church follows the Revised Common Lectionary, John the Baptist always shows up around this time of year to rain on our Christmas parade. Seriously, who invited this guy to the party?

Formations 11.29.2020: Tilled and Sown

In a normal year, you would find me firmly planted in the “no early Christmas decorating” camp. I love the lights, the greenery, the wrapping paper, the music, and the food.

Formations 11.22.2020: Be Joyful Always

Sometimes it’s hard to feel joyful about other people’s joy. Even when we’re supposed to let a loved one bask in success and happiness, it can be tough to push down our own envy, bitterness, and exasperation.

Formations 11.15.2020: The Day of Atonement

In ancient Israel, the turn of the new year was accompanied by a nationwide spiritual reset called Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It was (and is) the most solemn day on Israel’s liturgical calendar.

Formations 11.08.2020: What Now?

One of my ministry colleagues was once doing a research project on worship practices in American Baptist Churches in Indiana. He loved to tell the story of a particular service he attended with his grown children and his young granddaughter.

Formations 11.01.2020: “There I Will Meet with You”

My husband John, a mechanical engineer, has taught himself the hobby of woodworking. His natural understanding of dimensions, measurements, and loadbearing lend well to creating shelves and tables and even cornhole boards.

Formations 10.25.2020: Stumbling Forward

Paul calls the Colossian believers to lead holy lives. In chapter 3, he lists numerous virtues they are to embrace, love above all.

Formations 10.18.2020: Fools and Their Money

Every year, people lose a lot of money to phone scams. Sometimes, they can lose their whole life savings to scammers who have figured out how to spin a story designed to separate people from their money.

Formations 10.11.2020: The Burden of Temptation

Temptation. It’s woven into the fabric of being human in this world. It’s part of the price we pay for having the knowledge of good and evil. It’s an aspect of free will.

Formations 10.04.2020: What Is God Worth?

Worth has to do with what one is willing to give in exchange for something else. If would be stupid to pay $20 for a soda at the fast food place: It’s only worth a couple of dollars.

Formations 09.27.2020: Persistence

Persistence is one of the key factors that underlies success. Think about the people you knew in high school. It’s likely you can think of somebody in your graduating class who got good grades but perhaps wasn’t terribly successful in life.

Formations 09.20.2020: Stealing the Show

The grumblers threaten to steal the show in this short scene from Jesus’ life. Let’s imagine how it would play out in a community theater production.

Formations 09.13.2020: Grace at Meals

We’re not big “entertainers” in our house. We enjoy having company over every now and then, but we don’t live for it the way, for example, my mother did.

Formations 09.06.2020: Whom Do I Fear?

In Luke 10, a religious expert tries to test Jesus with a question about eternal life. When Jesus answers with reference to the various commandments of the Torah, the expert challenges him further by asking, “Who is my neighbor?”