Formations 07.28.2019: I Pledge Allegiance

The American Pledge of Allegiance is a product of the 1890s, written by a young socialist pastor named Francis Bellamy in a time when big business was ushering in an age of materialism.

Connections 07.28.2019: God Offers Hope

Yesterday, my husband and I saw a local community theatre production of the haunting musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Based on the animated Disney movie, it features the same songs and several new ones.

Formations 07.21.2019: God’s Promises

Like the story of Jericho, Joshua’s speech demands responsibility, creativity, and humility. There are too many layers for anything less. Here, Joshua speaks of God.

Connections 07.21.2019: Starving for the Word of the Lord

Vacation Bible School (VBS) season is winding down. I grew up in the era when VBS food consisted of cookies and Kool-Aid.

Formations 07.07.2019: The Battle of Jericho

At this year’s Tony awards, the musical Hadestown won the award for best new musical. It retells the story of Orpheus and Eurydice as if it took place in some kind of depression-era, post-apocalyptic company town.

Connections 07.07.2019: Our Faith, Their Health

Naaman was the general in charge of Syria’s army. He was important and powerful. He also had a disease. Because Naaman was important and powerful, he had servants.

Formations 06.30.2019: Doing Hard Things

On the fourth anniversary of the fatal racially-motivated shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, a film about the attack hit theaters.

Formations 06.23.2019: The Kingdom Has Come

The novel Slaughterhouse-Five offers two stories about Billy Pilgrim’s life. In the first, Kurt Vonnegut tells of Pilgrim’s, and his own, experience as a soldier in World War II.

Connections 06.23.2019: Christian Clothes

Some people try to express their convictions and commitments through their clothing.

Formations 06.16.2019: Choose Your Next Words Carefully

I am an adjunct university professor, which means I assign research papers. I am also an editor, which means I often regret assigning research papers.

Connections 06.16.2019: Great Responsibility

“With great power comes great responsibility.” In Stan Lee’s original 1962 comic book Amazing Fantasy #15, a slightly varied form of this sentence appears as a caption below the last panel. In the 2002 Spider-Man film, Peter Parker hears these words from his beloved Uncle Ben.

Formations 06.09.2019: “I Will Send the Spirit”

In the 1992 song “Anthem,” Leonard Cohen offered these now classic words: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” The insight comes lyrically through the acknowledgment of liminal spaces—birdsong in the morning or peacetime between war.

Connections 06.09.2019: All Flesh

When the Holy Spirit fell on the gathered believers on the day of Pentecost, they began to speak in the languages of the people who had come to Jerusalem from many other countries for the festival.

Formations 06.02.2019: God Made Us for a Purpose

When my daughter was three or four, she became fascinated with our church’s music minister and his “batond.” She had a little yellow fairy wand that she loved to wave around while she sang.

Connections 06.02.2019: More Important than Knowing the End

People have always wanted to know when “the end” will be. How much longer will the earth last? What age will I be when I die? When will God solve this problem for me? What’s the date of Jesus’ return?

Formations 05.26.2019: Timothy and Epaphroditus

In the last two years of his life, my grandfather Bill and I often talked about the last verse in the book of Judges.

Connections 05.26.2019: Seeing and Being Seen

Darkness can be frightening because it can keep us from seeing things that are there. That’s why if we get up in the middle of the night and don’t turn on a light, we might stub a toe on a piece of furniture.

Formations 05.19.2019: Teamwork

My campus ministers in college were a husband-and-wife team who shared between them responsibilities for the spiritual care of students on two campuses in neighboring cities.

Connections 05.19.2019: “The Second Death”

This passage offers some of the most hopeful promises in the Bible. In the first part, death is overcome! In the second part, God rebuilds Jerusalem as a place of hope and strength and newness.

Formations 05.12.2019: Jason and the Others

In this stage on Paul’s journey toward preaching in Rome, we encounter a verse that questions the arc of Luke’s two-volume history.

Connections 05.12.2019: There’s Someplace Like Home

I was sitting at a table with other ministers. We were at a workshop, and the leader had asked us to discuss issues we were struggling to come to terms with.

Formations 05.05.2019: The Power of Encouragement

Seventeen teachers in Houston County, Georgia picked a student who inspires them and took the time to say “thank you.”

Connections 05.05.2019: Every Creature, and All that Is in Them

The vivid descriptions in the book of Revelation are both beautiful and haunting. Centuries of biblical scholars and interpreters have taken a stab at explaining the meanings behind John’s visions.

Formations 04.28.2019: Witnesses to the Resurrection

I’ve noticed that Easter brings my attention to the place I call home. Often, it has been the geography of my particular neighborhood.

Connections 04.28.2019: Living in the Center

This Sunday we’ll study the final lesson in a unit entitled “Easter at the Center.” The unit title reflects two truths, one simple and one profound.

Formations 04.21.2019: Go and Tell

I believe in evangelism; I’m just not very good at it. I might attribute my aversion to sharing the gospel to my introverted nature or to my general Midwestern hesitance to open up about the things that matter most to me.

Connections 04.21.2019: Leaving the Tomb Behind

When a loved one dies, their absence is so intense that it can feel like a presence. Somehow, the space their body used to take up still seems to hold them.

Connections 04.14.2019: From the Colt’s Journal

Nobody asked me if I wanted to participate. But I was used to such treatment. I was hanging out, munching some grain, minding my own business, when two fellows came along and took me.

Formations 04.07.2019: The Greatest in the Kingdom

I spent a semester as Dr. David Garland’s teaching assistant when we were both at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Garland was a master of the pithy comment.

Connections 04.07.2019: Looking for Jesus

Jesus’ last days are filled with longing, heavy with sadness, and intense with foreboding. He reveals over and over again that he knows what awaits him in Jerusalem.

Formations 03.24.2019: Lead Us Not Into Temptation

I didn’t know there was a TV show called Temptation Island until I started researching for this article. The premise of the show is to put four unmarried couples who are “at a crossroads in their relationship” in an island paradise.

Connections 03.24.2019: An Invitation

In the New Revised Standard Version, the title for this section of Scripture is “An Invitation to Abundant Life.” In some Christian traditions, the main focus is the afterlife.

Formations 03.10.2019: Renaissance

Five years ago, the city of Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. At that time, the city’s debt topped $18 billion.

Connections 03.10.2019: Remembrance, Gratitude, and Celebration

In our Scripture passage from Deuteronomy 26, we learn about three ways God wants us to respond to the gifts God gives: remembrance, gratitude, and celebration.

Connections 02.24.2019: Life after Death

Who among us has not wondered about the afterlife? Especially when someone we know dies, we cling to the few descriptions the Bible gives us about what we imagine as “heaven.” God is usually depicted as speaking from heaven, as in Psalm 33:13.

Formations 02.17.2019: You Shall Be Holy

This week’s text raises our attention to holiness. In the process, I’ve noticed two questions I’ve been struggling with lately—who are we, and what does it mean? As Moses relays these codes for holiness, he begins with identity.

Connections 02.17.2019: “To Infinity…and Beyond!”

“To infinity…and beyond!” is the catchphrase of the Toy Story movies’ character Buzz Lightyear. The statement is nonsense. For one thing, infinity isn’t something you can go to.

Formations 02.10.2019: First Things First

We usually associate the ten commandments with Mount Sinai. They appear for the first time in Scripture in Exodus 20, following directly after the scene in last week’s lesson where God speaks from Sinai with thunder and lighting, thick clouds, a loud trumpet blast, smoke, and an earthquake.

Connections 02.10.2019: A Mature Belief

Like Paul, I have grown as a believer—though maybe in a less dramatic fashion. I was born into the church and attended faithfully throughout my childhood and young adult years. Though I faced plenty of doubt and uncertainty about the things I learned, I can look back now and realize that I was devoutly Christian.

Formations 02.03.2019: The Giving of the Law

The windows in my apartment face southeast. This doesn’t matter except that we’ve started keeping the blinds open in the kitchen. While I make coffee, I’ve begun noticing the sun’s rising—fiery fields degrading into sky.

Connections 02.03.2019: The Greatest of These is Charity

Modern English versions of the Bible use “love” to translate the key word agape in 1 Corinthians 13. That is indeed what it means. The correct translation isn’t without problems, though. I might say, “I love the Atlanta Braves.”

Formations 01.27.2019: Naysayers and Detractors

The other Synoptic Gospels at least give Jesus a chance to get going before people start resisting his message. True, Matthew tells of Herod’s attempt to destroy Jesus while he was still a toddler, but Jesus never took flak for the things he said and did until he dares to heal a paralyzed man’s sins in chapter 9.

Connections 01.27.2019: Fulfilling the Prophecies

During his traveling ministry, there were few places where Jesus encountered no one who questioned him, doubted his claims, or requested proof that he was actually who he said he was. According to the Bible, no place was worse about this than his own hometown.

Formations 01.20.2018: Reading Openly

After a month of holiday traveling, it is the banquet table that I notice most readily in the passage. I’ve sat around at least four family tables this month, and I’ve remembered some others I’ve known. One was my grandparent’s dining room table in Mobile.

Connections 01.20.2019: The Best Is Yet to Come

“Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now” (v. 10). That’s what the steward of the wedding feast, who has just tasted the water that Jesus turned into wine, says to the bridegroom.

Formations 01.13.2019: The Point

My wonderful daughter isn’t on the autistic spectrum, but I bet she can see it from wherever she is. Over the past seventeen years, I have learned that there is often a very thin line between the traits of a gifted child and the traits of an autistic one.

Connections 01.13.2019: Humility

John the Baptist was a celebrity. He had all the right factors to create interest and even obsession among the people who had encountered him or even just heard of him. Young. Strong. Eccentric. Intriguing. Tantalizing.

Formations 01.06.2019: Jesus Is Baptized

At the time of writing, forecasts indicate that the rain out my parents’ window will continue for another week. I tend to take overcast wintry weather in stride, but this is bad news, at least for my drive home to Macon. Mark, however, proclaims good news and its beginning (v. 1).