A Bunch of Stories

“I don’t read that article by Ronnie McBrayer,” I heard a critic say not long ago; a critic who did not know I was within earshot. “He thinks the Bible is just a bunch of stories.”

Formations 05.19.2024: How Much More

This week’s text is one of those where an understanding of ancient culture sheds great light—while at the same time destroying a mountain of good, traditional preaching!

This’ll “Get Your Goat”

My southern grandmother had a saying she used most every day: “Get your goat.” It was one of those wonderful phrases that could be employed in any number of relevant situations.

The Good News Really Is Good News

Sharing faith, in Christian terms, is known as “evangelism.” This is the English rendering of a Greek word meaning “to proclaim the good news.” That’s a problem, because the news isn’t always good.

That Dark Thursday Night: A Maundy Thursday Reading

“Go into the city,” he said. “A friend of mine will show you a large, upper room, furnished and ready.” Strange. Peter and I rounded a corner and there, coming out of a narrow alley was a man we didn’t know, but he looked at us as if we were expected.

Can’t Help Falling in Love

If you’re like me, you’ve been in church a long time. You’ve seen the good and bad, the highs and lows, and in many ways, your church experience might best compare to a long marriage.

Truth Beneath the Ashes

Several years ago in Waco, TX, a couple hundred of us gathered for a crack-of-dawn Ash Wednesday service led by a team of seminary students. All kinds of folk—Baylor students, doctors, construction workers, grandparents—gathered at the shoreline of Lent, sleepy-eyed and somber.

Mortal Love

Valentine’s Day fell on February 14 again this year. It’s regular like that. Ash Wednesday, on the other hand, moves around.

4 Truths to Remember When Discouraged

The troubles of this world are ubiquitous. They are everywhere. At work, we are faced with downsizing, cutbacks, and layoffs. At home, our kids are struggling with adolescence and our spouses with depression. It seems that everywhere we turn we are faced with distressing news and disappointing circumstances.

The Greatest Good

My friend Hal never knew what hit him. He was unconscious before he even hit the ground. At least that’s what the script said happened to him. Hal, along with about fifty more of us, was a participant in a disaster drill back when we were in high school.

Take it Outside

It was the early 1980s. It was Texas. It was December. It was a Southern Baptist church. It is customary in Southern Baptist churches to take up an offering during the Advent season to support missionaries overseas.

The Welcome Wagon

When my wife’s boss first moved to our small town it was more than a little culture shock. Raised on the slick windy streets of Chicago, he had mastered the ways of the urban jungle, but this experience had done little to prepare him for the Deep South.

Like a Good Neighbor

A man was going from Indianapolis, Indiana, to Louisville, Kentucky, when along the way he had a flat tire. Stranded on the side of the road, he was robbed, his car was stripped, he was shot, and left for dead.

What THEY’RE Having

While in New Mexico this summer my friends Lauren and Amy and I drove into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains to attend Mass at the historic Santuario de Chimayó.
 It was Pentecost Sunday.

A View from the Pew: Senior Adult Ministries by Any Other Name are Just as Sweet

What a church calls its senior adult ministry says a lot about who they are as a church. The names can be playful, serious, spiritual, frivolous or just plain corny.

Formations 02.19.2023: Solomon’s Charge

In today’s text, a father’s death approaches, and he thinks of the legacy he will leave to his son. Has he taught his son enough?

Formations 02.12.2023: An Imperfect King

In 1 Samuel, one of the first warning signs readers are given of King David’s eventual downfall is his sin with Bathsheba.

Connections 02.12.2023: Partners with God

I grew up in First Baptist Church of Warm Springs, Georgia, a very small town with a huge amount of history.

Formations 02.05.2023: Unfinished Business

Why do we have two different versions of Israel’s history in the Old Testament? The short answer is because humans always rewrite their history from time to time.

Connections 02.05.2023: Who Are We to Say?

For someone who claims to have come preaching to the Corinthians “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (v. 3), the Apostle Paul always seems to me to be very certain.

Connections 01.29.2023: Wisdom for the Here and Now

The city’s residents and visitors included educated Greek philosophers and faithful Jewish scholars alongside many other religious groups and ethnic traditions.

The Strains of Sermon Preparation

In my thirty-five years of preaching, I’ve notice a constant occurrence: Sunday comes every seven days. It’s relentless. The sermon, therefore, can’t be delayed to Monday or another day next week. Sunday comes whether I’ve had two funerals, a wedding, twelve hospital visits, a holiday, or a sick child.

Hallmark Just Doesn’t Get It

I don’t hate Father’s Day; it’s the Tuesday beforehand that I can’t stand. I drag myself to the grocery store, trudge to the card aisle, and stare at the never-ending wall of cards. There are dozens, hundreds of cards to sift through and I know that I will not find what I need the first few tries.

Crossroads: Jesus Is in Charge

As a teenager, I loved volunteering for Vacation Bible School. It felt like a promotion to be able to help. Suddenly, I was in charge (sort of). Instead of listening to what I was supposed to do, I was the one giving direction.

Crossroads: The Empty Tomb

I’ve believed in Jesus for as long as I can remember. I was in church almost from the moment I was born, and I don’t remember believing anything different.

The Sound of Silence

Silence. We experience it so infrequently, most of us wouldn’t even recognize it. We wake to loud alarms, the drip of brewing coffee, running water as we prepare for our day.

A Wild & Precious Easter

I had the opportunity to go on a much-needed vacation last week with my husband to sunny Key West. Because he had looked forward to this for weeks, he immediately wanted to book some excursions. We settled on a jet ski tour around the island and a boat trip that included snorkeling in the middle of the ocean.

Formations 03.06.2022: Born from Above

In the sliver of the Baptist family in which I grew up, Lent was something you brushed off your clothes. Honestly, anything past Christmas and Easter were looked upon with suspicion.

As Slow as Christmas

It was late on Christmas Day; the sun had set and my parents and I were somewhere between Yatesville and Barnesville on our way back home after the day-long celebration of Christ’s birth through the eating of food and the exchanging of gifts.

Lost in Maples

They wander, these children of mine. They wander and they wonder, and then boom, you take them out of their comfort zone and here comes the whining.

Champ and Sara

2021 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the births of Champ and Sara Ruffin. He was born on July 25, 1921, she on September 13. I want to honor them in this centennial year of their births.

Spiritual Growth: Polishing the Cup or Growing in Love?

People enter into the process of spiritual direction for many reasons, and sometimes it takes time and deep listening for me to discern the motivation. “Remember,” a mentor once cautioned, “the real director is the Holy Spirit. Our job is to discern the direction the Holy Spirit is wanting to guide the directee and cooperate with that.”

You (Plural) Are Not Lacking

“You Are Not Lacking.” That was the title of the sermon I planned to preach on Sunday, January 19. But before I got to it, on Friday, January 17, the daughter-in-law of some beloved church members went on a walk near the church in the afternoon and never came home. Her name is Leanne Hecht Bearden.

God’s Feminine Side Is Plain to See

Any half way decent theologian will tell you that God is decidedly not an old man on a throne in the sky. That this image of God persists somehow in the popular imagination, most likely has to do with some language we find in the Bible and the layers and layers of patriarchy involved in the whole shebang.

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Memories do fade, but some stick with you. Sunday mornings are times that I remember, and I’m not talking about church. Now, before you start to judge in any way, the experiences that I have and have had at church stick with me also. But not all of them.

Restorative Forgiveness, a Lenten Devotion

The second grade Sunday school class was visiting in the home of the pastor and his wife. The teacher had issued a strong warning to be careful in Reverend and Mrs. Cline’s home.

The Night Before Advent

The calendar gave us an early Thanksgiving this year and it seems like it has been an eon between turkey and Advent. But I am ready for Advent. I need Advent right now. I need it more than I need Christmas.

Rescue

Batman asks Superman to come to Gotham City and talk to a girl in the hospital. Her foster parents were killed and her foster sister has been taken. To where? Up in the sky.

What Makes You Cry

It was summertime, sometime in the late 1960s. I was, as many children did (and I hope still do), participating in the public library’s summer reading program. I was reading Fred Gipson’s 1942 novel Old Yeller.

What I Wish the Evangelical Church Would Believe About Me

Here is what I wish my friends in the evangelical church would believe about me (for that’s the only person I can speak of) as someone who has gone outside the doors of that brand of Christianity: It was never about leaving Christ.

Jacob and Esau: Grudges and Humility

Like many women in the Bible, my mother waited a long time for my twin and I to be born: ten years. It is only natural that when you wait that long, or even when you don’t, you want your daughters to be best friends.

A View from the Pew: Lessons from Virtual Church

For regular church attenders, the isolation policies and shelter-in-place mandates of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt most acutely on Sundays.

Connections 04.05.2020: The Cross and COVID-19

When the devil tested Jesus in the wilderness, he introduced two of his three challenges with, “If you are the Son of God” (Mt 4:3, 6). In refusing the devil’s challenges, Jesus declined to prove his identity on the devil’s terms.

THIS JUST OUT: Coronavirus and Kindness Are Both Contagious!

The Bible says to love your neighbor. Alternatively, some people on this earth apparently believe that the Bible says love your neighbor unless you are in a pandemic and shopping for groceries.

Lent. The Ugly Step-Sister Season.

Lent… It’s not Christmas, that’s for sure. It’s not a season when we’re hanging the holly and lighting the tree, twinkling and throwing gifts around like confetti and singing carols to strangers. It’s not a season that glitters.

Why I Love the Church Most on Ash Wednesday

I was reared as far from the Church as one can imagine. No Easter, Christmas, or Mother’s Day services for me, so this business about ashes seemed strange and at first a bit silly to me upon surrendering to Jesus at age 20.

Formations 03.01.2020: Keep Still

With the sea in front of them and the Egyptian army at their backs, Moses tell the Israelites, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today….”

Connections 03.01.2020: Replacing the Plug

It’s an image most of us are familiar with: the dropping of a stone into water produces ripples, which represent the ongoing effects of an action.