Connections 05.29.2022: What We Mean by Freedom

It’s hard to write on days (weeks, months, years) like this, when the heaviness of current events makes any attempt at meaningful words feel futile. I know it’s hard to teach and to preach at times like this, to offer both condolence and challenge where each is needed.

Connections 05.22.2022: Embracing the Moment

Quite a while ago I saved a quotation from Thomas Merton and added it to the slideshow of photos that make up the screensaver on my laptop. It is a reminder that proves helpful again and again in my military family’s life.

Connections 05.15.2022: Open Doors

Over my four decades of involvement in church life, I have heard all kind of arguments against letting certain kinds of people into the group. There have been a lot of closed doors.

Connections 05.08.2022: Show and Tell

Between Saul’s conversion in the first part of Acts 9 and Peter’s inclusive dream in Acts 10, two healings take place. Peter was going “here and there” among believers and made visits to the “saints” in Lydda and then in Joppa.

Connections 05.01.2022: The Unsaid and the Unseen

Between Saul’s dramatic conversion and the beginning of Paul’s ministry, the storyteller of Acts records four chapters in which Saul is “radio silent.” We don’t hear the voice of the typically talkative Apostle between Acts 9:20 and 13:10.

Connections 04.24.2022: Taking a Stand

Imagine taking a stand for something, being arrested for it, getting out of jail, and going right back out to take another stand, knowing you might be arrested again…or worse.

Connections 04.17.2022: The Mystery of Faith

As we edge toward Easter, the coming springtime and the celebration of new life seems almost absurd alongside the constant barrage of disruption, distraction, and disunity in the world around us.

Connections 04.10.2022: Course Correcting and Re-Commissioning

I grew up in churches where the Roman Road and the Great Commission were foundational stepping stones lifted from Paul’s teachings and laid end-to-end in a clear path for understanding the way to salvation.

Connections 04.03.2022: Knowing Christ

One of the questions evangelists and ministers often ask is, “Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?” I heard this question numerous times as a young child.

Connections 03.27.2022: Going Home Again

In the mid-1980s the movie Peggy Sue Got Married was one of several Hollywood-ized versions of “the good old days.” In it, Peggy Sue mysteriously time-slips from her 25th high school reunion back to senior year.

Connections 03.20.2022: For the Hope of Figs

Cliffhangers are great plot devices; they keep you turning the page, or seeking out the sequel, or coming back for the next episode. “Same bat time, same bat channel.”

Connections 03.13.2022: The Last Will Be First

A consistent theme of Jesus’ earthly ministry was inverting cultural expectations and standards. Think of how many times he met with the lowest classes of his society.

Connections 03.06.2022: Into the Wilderness

Before the season of abstinence and introspection begins on Ash Wednesday, people are anxious to enjoy extravagance and excess.

Connections 02.27.2022: The Weight of Sleep

When I read Luke 9 in preparation for writing this post, I expected to be amazed again by the dazzling transfiguration of Jesus and surprised again by the appearance of Moses and Elijah.

Connections 02.20.2022: Mercy and Justice

In this passage from Luke, Jesus urges us to display humility and mercy in our interactions with other people, seemingly turning justice upside down.

Connections 2.13.2022: Following the Money

In our world, money is power. Modern culture is consumerist and competitive, and in polite society we’re not supposed to talk numbers, even while we hustle to climb every available ladder.

Connections 2.06.2022: The Fear of Fish

Frustrated and exhausted fishermen ended their long workday—their long worknight—cleaning their nets. They shook out the catch: nothing salable or edible, just a few minnows.

Connections 01.30.2022: God Is Still Calling Us

Have you ever heard God speak to you? I have. In forty-four years of life, I’ve felt the nudging of God in many small moments. That voice hasn’t come to me out loud, through fire, or in any other spectacular way.

Connections 01.23.2022: Homecoming and Holy Tears

My 13-year-old son hates it when I cry. When he was little he would automatically fetch a box of Kleenex for me whenever we watched a movie with sad parts (looking at you, Moana and Coco).

Connections 01.16.2022: The Near Future

Sometimes when we Christians think about the future, we think primarily about what we presume to be the distant future. We think about going to heaven or about Jesus coming back. We think in terms of everything being all right one of these days.

Connections 01.09.2022: God Is Still Delivering Us

I volunteer for the Jay’s HOPE Foundation, a nonprofit based in Macon, Georgia, that serves families battling childhood cancer. Through free family events, care packages, gift cards for meals and gas, and much more, Jay’s HOPE offers support to families.

Connections 01.02.2022: Exiles

The prophet Jeremiah preached in the last quarter of the seventh century and the first quarter of the sixth century. About a hundred years before Jeremiah, the Assyrians had destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel.

Connections 12.26.2021: Christmas Clothes

When I was a boy, my parents had a Christmas routine. My father would go to one of the department stores in our small town, where he would engage the help of the wife of the couple that owned the store in selecting a dress as a Christmas gift for my mother.

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.

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.

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?

Connections 11.28.2021: Ready and Alert

Here at the beginning of Advent season, we’re getting excited about Christmas. The Thanksgiving festivities are over, the family’s gone back home, and we’ll be eating leftover turkey for a week.

Connections 11.21.2021: The Truth

Try to see things from Pilate’s perspective. The local religious authorities have brought a man before you. They accuse the man of being a criminal.

Connections 11.14.2021: Misunderstandings and Understandings

Hannah’s story is filled with misunderstandings. First, Peninnah thinks that Hannah’s inability to have children grants her license to torment Hannah for her childlessness.

Connections 11.07.2021: Ruth and Boaz

Most of us enjoy love stories. Some of my favorite television shows have the best love stories I’ve ever experienced: Pam and Jim on The Office, Ben and Leslie on Parks and Recreation, and David and Patrick on Schitt’s Creek.

Connections 10.31.2021: Make a Move

My friend Maren used to live by what we kids called a “hanging tree” or “screaming tree.” There are a few of these around my hometown of Beaufort, SC, all large oaks with a sturdy branch growing horizontally over the road.

Connections 10.24.2021: Reassuring Permanence

One day during lockdown last year, while I was on the phone with my mother, she asked me an unexpected question: Did you watch the queen’s speech?

Connections 10.17.2021: Christ’s Submission

The word “submission” has negative connotations in American English. We tend to envision something like slavery, where one person is oppressed and controlled by a person in power.

Connections 10.10.2021: Sympathizing with Our Weaknesses

When I was in middle school, I came across Psalm 127:2 for the first time. Amongst other things, the verse says that God “grants sleep to those he loves” (NIV). I didn’t take that well.

Connections 10.03.21: A Theory of Everything

I readily admit that I don’t understand what most of that means. But I appreciate and admire the goal. It would be great to have a theory that explains everything that exists—from the tiniest to the largest—in the created world.

Connections 09.26.2021: Esther’s Courage

As a little girl in Sunday school, I learned story after story about the male heroes of the Bible. Although the women who populate these stories were mentioned, it was years before I recognized the significance of their contributions.

Connections 09.19.2021: High Standards

This week’s lesson text praises women who are wise, righteous, industrious, and productive. Those are good ways to be. It also instructs husbands and children to praise such women.

Connections 09.12.21: Embracing Wisdom

We hear a lot of debates these days about what constitutes knowledge and what characterizes wisdom. Some of us may even engage in such debates.

Connections 09.05.2021: Fairness

“It’s not fair.” From an early age, most of us understand what injustice feels like. My sibling got more presents than I did on my birthday. The referee favored the other team.

Connections 08.29.2021: Pressing On

I wonder if any of you ever find yourselves running into the same kind of barrier that I find myself running into. It’s the barrier that stands between me and the goals that I have set for myself.

Connections 08.22.2021: A Broad Focus

The construction of the Jerusalem temple had been completed. King Solomon was presiding over a dedication ceremony. He addressed the people of Israel who had gathered for the occasion.

Connections 08.15.2021: Pursuing Wisdom

In today’s passage, we have an earnest king. Solomon loves God and is trying hard to live like he should, “walking in the statues of his father David” (v. 3).

Connections 08.08.2021: Complications

I’ve recently read a novel and watched a television series that each featured a similar subplot. The main character in the novel and one of the lead characters in the series each had a mother whose choices and resulting circumstances.

Connections 08.01.2021: Self-Awareness

At the end of our Scripture passage, David says, “I have sinned against the Lord.” But that is only after he hears Nathan’s story and absorbs the prophet’s accusation.

Connections 07.25.2021: Needing Jesus

When my children were small, they wanted to be near me constantly. I work from home, so this meant that almost as soon as I grabbed a few quiet minutes to edit a Bible study lesson or book chapter, a little girl’s voice would call out to me, wanting one thing or another.

Connections 07.18.2021: On the Fringes

We sometimes hear of or talk about people living on the fringes. We usually use the phrase to refer to those who live on the fringes or edges of society economically, socially, culturally, or politically.

Connections 07.11.2021: By Association

We tend to avoid guilt by association, but being linked to someone else’s reputation isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Take for example Herod Antipas’s association of Jesus with John the Baptizer.

Connections 07.04.2021: Finding Home

For many of us, “home” feels like the safest, most comfortable place. It’s our favorite place to be, and that’s mostly because of the people who are there with us.