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.

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.

Noah’s Lawsuit: Is God Trying to Say Something?

The headline reads like a punchline: “Owners of Noah’s Ark sue over rain damage.” Does God have a sense of humor or what?

Sins I Could Have Committed, but I was on the Other Team

The teachers never checked the area between the gym and the cafeteria—the perfect place for high-stakes penny pitching. Fifth-grade boys lined up during recess and threw pennies at a brick wall.

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.

My Speech to Seminary Graduates

Once again, no seminary has chosen me to give the speech at their graduation service. My mother and I do not get it.

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.

Thanksgiving Supper

At 10:30 on Thanksgiving Day, I am standing in a long line waiting for a box of Thanksgiving. We are not in a restaurant, as you might expect, but in a nondescript building—a VFW hall, Rotary Club hall, or Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall.

Justice, Kindness, Humility

One morning in my eighth grade social studies class, the teacher said, “The world is one-third Christian, twenty percent Muslim, and thirteen percent Hindu.” We thought that was the goofiest thing we had ever heard. Where I grew up in Mississippi, there were four religions—Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and heathen.

Death and Life

We lose so many good people. When Jesus finally arrives at his friends’ home, Lazarus has been dead for four days.

In Silence

That Matthew includes five women on his list is remarkable. Jewish genealogies usually list men only, but Matthew mentions Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Mary by name. He doesn’t name the fifth woman, Bathsheba. He references her using her first husband’s name, the wife of Uriah (v. 6).

Getting It All Together

Jesus’ boat lands on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee—no longer in Jewish territory. This is like landing in Cuba. Along the edge of the lake, tombs are cut into the mountain. The village graveyard is this land’s version of a mental institution.

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.

A Place at the Table

Sometimes it’s easier to be a man. Your last name is not an issue. Wedding plans take care of themselves. Mechanics tell you the truth. You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is “just too icky.” Three pairs of shoes are more than enough. The same hairstyle lasts for years.

Caring for Country

Even standing in line at the National Archives is inspiring. The original Declaration of Independence is on the left: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness . . . . That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

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.

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.