Crossroads: Love

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel loved by God. I grew up in the church, and I remember standing on top of the pew and sharing the hymnal with my mother.

A View from the Pew: Manger Scenes

Christmas has a lot of baggage to be sure, but there is something special about worship during this overstuffed season that I appreciate.

Connections 12.24.2023: The Light of Christ

On Christmas Eve, many churches hold candlelight services to help people claim the promise of the Christ child amid the busy holiday rush.

Crossroads: Joy

I have a friend named Joy (she’s one of the 8-year-olds at church), and her name suits her personality. She always has a smile on her face and a radiant attitude.

Formations 12.17.2023: Leading the Flock

The little that I know about shepherds came from reading books. I’m a city kid, through and through.

Connections 12.17.2023: A Blessing from the Lord

Recently our teenaged son experienced a rite of passage: we introduced him to one of our generation’s cultural icons, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

An Invitation to Joy

If we relied on Mark, we would have to stretch to get a story worth a Christmas carol. Mark has no shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, no Mary, no Joseph, no manger, no wise men, no Herod.

Crossroads: Peace

dish detergent, water, and food coloring. We started with clear water, and then we began to talk about all the hard things that can happen in life.

Formations 12.10.2023: A More Intentional Advent

When my daughters were small, the Advent season carried a spirit of gleeful anticipation. They couldn’t wait for Christmas!

Connections 12.10.2023: Who Needs Good News?

Advent catches me off-guard every year with the reminder that God may be “in his heaven” but all is not, in fact, right with the world.

Light the Candles and Push Back the Darkness

During Advent, in churches and private homes around the world, candles are lighted and the stages of the journey to Bethlehem are observed. It is the time when we sing familiar hymns commemorating the birth of the Christ child.

A View from the Pew: Who Is the Christmas Program For?

It’s that time of year when the church sanctuary is transformed into downtown Bethlehem circa first century AD, and the parking lot may or may not host some sheep.

Crossroads: Hope

I saw the Star Wars movies much later than many others. I was in my early twenties before I watched any of them, but when I did, I found a familiar story: of hope.

Connections 12.03.2023: Mental Health

I had a phone call with my cousin and lifelong best friend last night. We discussed personal struggles and mental health issues.

Formations 12.03.2023: A Kingdom of Peace and Justice

Isaiah 9 expresses a great sigh of relief on the part of the beleaguered people of Judah.

Flame: Advent Prayer Bags

Lately, I’ve seen a variety of lovely ideas online for helping children and families to get involved with the Advent season. Drawing on some of the ideas I’ve seen, I’ve come up with a little bag of items that will take children through some of the main Advent themes.

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.

Meditations on Mark: Prepare the Way

This is the promise John the Baptist makes in the opening chapter of Mark’s Gospel. Mark doesn’t begin with the story of Jesus’ birth. Rather, he jumps into the middle of the story with Jesus already as an adult, ready to begin his ministry. This is the urgency in Mark: The Messiah has come.

Catching a Glimpse

The first Christmas comes and goes, and most people don’t notice. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and a few others catch a glimpse of what is happening, but they’re just a handful.

Finding the Child for Ourselves

My nephew Connor was born nearly a month early. My husband and I had just visited the weekend before to help my brother and sister-in-law assemble the crib, wash onesies, and set up the changing station.

Crossroads: Love

In the book Love You Forever, both the mother and the son sing these words to each other at different times in their lives: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”

Formations 12.25.2022: Of Course, She Knew

If you grew up in a particular kind of Christian subculture, you can’t beat Mark Lowry for quirky humor and good old-fashioned Southern Gospel music.

Connections 12.25.2022: Pondering Traditions

The other day I saw a social media post aimed at newly married folks. It said, in effect, whatever you do, you do not question your spouse’s family’s Christmas traditions.

A View from the Pew: Dilemmas of Christmas on Sunday

Every five to 11 years, depending on leap years, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, and church-going folks, especially those with small children, face tough decisions.

Crossroads: Joy

God takes the dustiness of our lives—the mistakes and the bad things that happen to us—and uses them to make diamonds. In order for coal to turn into diamonds, it must undergo a lot of pressure.

Formations 12.18.2022: The Blame Game

David used Bathsheba for his own gain, and Scripture doesn’t mince words about this. Most of the action verbs in 2 Samuel 11:1-4 are attributed to David: “David rose,” “sent,” and “lay.”

Connections 12.18.2022: What is Love?

In this final week of Advent, our wait for Christmas Day is in single digits. The winter solstice, the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, is here.

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.

Waiting During Advent

In the Advent/Christmas season, let me encourage you to learn how to wait. I know we don’t want to do that.

Crossroads: Peace

When I was a teenager, my family and I went tubing down a river. Before we got in our rafts, the guide warned us to watch for bears. I knew that bears were dangerous and didn’t want to get close to one.

Formations 12.11.2022: The Idolatry of the Tribe

According to Deuteronomy 23:3, “No Ammonite or Moabite shall come into the assembly of the LORD even to the tenth generation. None of their descendants shall come into the assembly of the LORD forever.”

Connections 12.11.2022: Having Patience

We are often a backward-looking or forward-looking society. It’s hard to stay in the present. Many of us spend lots of time thinking about past decisions, memories, or events that we wish we could do over.

Facing Grief, at Christmas and Always

I am neither a nihilist nor a pessimist. For heaven’s sake, I am pastor of America’s home of Positive Thinking. I am, however, a realist. And as such, I have a theory about life. Here it is: Life is not the last five minutes of the movie.

Crossroads: Hope

When I was a kid, I loved reading about heaven. My mom would read the part in Revelation 21 that talked about heaven. I loved hearing about the pure gold of the New Jerusalem and the gems.

Connections 12.04.2022: Seeking Peace

There are several different ways to “name” the four traditional weeks of Advent as we move closer to the celebration of Jesus’s birth. The most familiar is probably the quartet of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

Connections 11.27.2022: Counting Down

When I was growing up in the Olden Days (you know, the 1980s), my family didn’t celebrate the church season of Advent. Once Thanksgiving was over and December 1 came, we went straight into red and green overload.

Christmas Card Boxes and Advent Calendar

I always keep my Nativity themed Christmas cards because the children, especially at our school, love to look at them and talk about the Nativity story.

Formations 12.19.2021: Angels from the Realms of Glory

Angels are everywhere. That’s not a theological statement; it’s just an observation of life in a modern, Western culture in December.

Connections 12.19.2021: A Friend in Pregnancy

Soon after I became pregnant with our first daughter in 2004, I learned that my best friend—already the mother of two—was pregnant as well.

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.

Formations 12.12.2021: God Will Be Our Shepherd

I’ve met—and am related to—a bunch of farmers and others who live in rural communities. But I don’t think I’ve ever met a shepherd.

Connections 12.12.2021: How to Live

Who knows what people expect to hear when they go out to listen to John the Baptist preach. We do know what they hear.

Formations 12.05.2021: The Lord Looks on the Heart

What is God doing here? God has sent the prophet Samuel to anoint the new king of Israel. The king will be a son of Jesse from Bethlehem. When Samuel sees Jesse’s son Eliab, he’s ready to call off the search.

Connections 12.05.2021: Completed Love

Wouldn’t you have liked to be there on that long ago day when the Christians of Philippi gathered to hear the letter from Paul that they had just received?

A View from the Pew: Lighting the Advent Wreath

With the exception of that time one of the deacons set the church lawn on fire while trying to get rid of fire ants, I don’t remember much fire at church during my formative years.

DIY Nativity Advent Calendar

If you’ve ever thought of making your own Advent calendar but wondered if it would be too tricky, this is the post for you! Here you can make your own Nativity-themed calendar that can hold candy, small toys, or personalized daily Advent activities.

A View from the Pew: Pancho and the Christmas Play

If you’ve ever performed in a Christmas drama you know the truth of the old show business maxim attributed to W.C. Fields: “Never work with children or animals.”

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?