Formations 01.19.2020: The Wisdom of God

Have you noticed that the message of the cross doesn’t make a lot of sense? At least, it doesn’t easily line up with things that we have heard all our lives. “Look out for Number One.”

Connections 01.19.2020: Team Players

Another college football season is behind us. I hope your team had a good year. I watch a lot of college football.

Connections 01.12.2020: Too Small for Walls

The Newseum in Washington, D.C. closed its doors on December 31, 2019 after eleven years of operation. I hated to see this happen.

Formations 01.12.2020: Cultural Awareness

During my sophomore year of college at Mercer University, I served as a teaching assistant for the freshman experience class. First-year students took this class to establish an initial community of friends and begin exploring different ways of thinking and looking at the world.

Formations 01.05.2020: Dangerous Prayers

I’ve led a fair number of prayer meetings in my time. We all know the drill: you remind those present of matters of concern to the fellowship. Maybe you ask for updates from folks who have more up-to-date information.

Connections 01.05.2020: Heirs of God

The physical tradition of inheritance seems to be fading in our modern times. Over the centuries, it mattered greatly who was the main heir (usually a couple’s oldest child).

Formations 12.29.2019: I Love to Tell the Story

I love the music ministry at my church. Our music minister is an accomplished choral director with a PhD, our accompanist is a highly trained organist and music scholar in her own right, and the church’s musical offerings are always top-notch.

Connections 12.29.2019: Infant Jesus vs. the Empire

This week’s lesson text makes at least three main points. First, God guides Joseph to protect the Christ child. Second, what happens to and around Jesus fulfills Scripture. Third, Jesus’ experience reflects Moses’ experience.

Formations 12.22.2019: A Shepherd’s Perspective

My beloved pastor at the church where I grew up asks church members (both past and current) to submit devotionals for an Advent booklet he compiles each year. Inspired by Luke’s account of the shepherds, I wrote the following story for the 2015 booklet.

Connections 12.22.2019: A Righteous Man

Our lesson text says that Joseph was “a righteous man” (v. 19). We could use more righteous men these days. I say that as a man. I’m allowed to talk about my own kind.

Connections 12.15.2019: Orientation

Picture John the Baptist, leaning against a prison wall. For many months, he has worked tirelessly, pleading with people to repent and prepare for the One who is to come.

Formations 12.08.2019: Happy Holidays

How many traditions can you name surrounding the birth of Jesus? Some of these traditions are purely secular; others are deeply religious.

Connections 12.01.2019: Being Alert

This week we begin a unit called “Advent and Christmas Goals.” Our lesson text calls us to be ready for Jesus to come again.

Formations 12.01.2019: A Frightening Call

Some things haven’t changed since biblical times. For a couple (especially a Christian couple) who is in a relationship but not yet married, the potential for pregnancy can be frightening and even shameful.

Formations 11.24.2019: The Other Side of Sorrow

How could we not conclude a unit on life after death with a vision of heavenly bliss? In Revelation 7, John describes a great multitude gathered around God’s throne.

Connections 11.24.2019: Prayerful Hopes

Since my daughters were very small, I have written them several letters per year in special journals that I bought for them. The earliest entries detail their milestones (“You crawled toward the remote control today” or “You slept in your big-girl bed all night without waking us up”).

Connections 11.17.2019: Keep On Keeping On

I was born and raised in Barnesville, Georgia, which was (and is) about forty miles from the Smyth & Helwys and NextSunday Resources world headquarters here in Macon.

Formations 11.10.2019: Resurrection Hope

Many Americans observe Halloween by focusing on costumes, decorations, and candy for the kids. Some of us don’t know the origins of the day or the one that follows on November 1, All Saints’ Day.

Formations 11.03.2019: The Day of the Dead

The Mexican Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead coincides with Halloween on our calendars, but the two are not the same.

Connections 11.03.2019: A Just and Merciful God

I’m one of those people who has a hard time reading about the judgment of God. There’s plenty of it in the Old Testament, but I tend to think of the New Testament as being more about mercy.

Formations 10.27.2019: Making Amends

Recently, higher education representatives from across the country met in Cincinnati for a conference exploring racial inequalities in higher education.

Connections 10.27.2019: Too Good for Our Own Good

If you are of my generation, you probably know the song “Spirit in the Sky.” You may know it even if you aren’t of my generation. It’s been used in lots of movies, television shows, and commercials.

Formations 10.20.2019: Containing God

There are some impressive houses of worship in this world. Some are centuries-old survivors of war, fire, and poverty. Their stonework and artwork immortalize great architects and artists across the ages.

Connections 10.13.2019: Gratitude

My daughter’s friend Sophia celebrates a birthday this week, one of the first among their group to turn 15. Samantha spent the last several days trying to choose the best gift for her friend.

Connections 10.06.2019: The Least We Can Do

My Good Wife likes yellow roses, so every now and then I buy some for her. One time, I posted a picture on Facebook of some roses I had given her.

Formations 09.29.2019: Living in God’s Son

I began attending church as a baby, so I was encouraged from a very young age to invite Jesus into my heart. Well-meaning Sunday school teachers and preachers told me that if I did this, Jesus would become my Savior, living inside of me.

Connections 09.29.2019: Seeing the Big Picture

Jeremiah’s cousin Hanamel offered to sell the prophet a piece of family land out around Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth, which was just a few miles from Jerusalem. It was a bad deal.

Connections 09.22.2019: God’s Grief

When you go through something that seems terrible and senseless, how do you try to explain it? Many people who face a personal crisis believe that God is punishing or testing them.

Formations 09.15.2019: Kindness for Kaitlyn

Kaitlyn Skidmore was a high school senior, less a month away from graduating, when she was killed in an automobile accident this past April. Obviously, her family and loved ones were devastated by the loss, and her classmates at Jones County High School in Georgia decided to honor her memory in a way that seemed especially fitting.

Connections 09.15.2019: Don’t Be Foolish

Whenever I see a news story about a complicated cybercrime or some other elaborate scheme, I think, “If those people would use their ingenuity and creativity for good, they could help make this a better world.”

Formations 09.08.2019: A Light in the Darkness

I have consciously been on my faith journey since I was about ten years old. Before that, as far back as I remember, my religious upbringing consisted of church three times a week and prayers before meals and bedtime.

Connections 09.08.2019: Grace Greater than our Self-Evaluation

God goes to a lot of trouble to make sure we know about God’s grace and mercy. In this week’s lesson text, God sends the prophet Jeremiah to watch a potter at work.

Formations 09.01.2019: “It Wasn’t My Fault!”

If you struggle to own up to your mistakes, psychological studies indicate you are not alone. Researchers with PsychTests recently analyzed data from over 4,700 people who took their Self-Esteem Test and compared two groups.

Formations 08.25.2019: Strike While the Iron Is Hot

On our recent vacation to Saint Augustine, my family and I enjoyed learning about life in colonial times from a historical interpreter. As part of his tour of Saint Augustine’s Colonial Quarter, he took us to the blacksmith’s shop.

Connections 08.25.2019: From Looking Down to Looking Out

Because of a back problem, the woman had been bent over for eighteen years. She had spent almost two decades looking at the ground and at people’s feet.

Formations 08.18.2019: A Constant Search for Wisdom

Over the summer, my daughters and I have been sorting through the junk stockpiled in our unfinished basement and searching for the treasures. One of those treasures is a huge plastic bin filled with my high school memorabilia.

Connections 08.18.2019: Division

Jesus says that his coming causes division. He highlights the divisions that occur in families. By the time Luke’s Gospel was written, such division over Jesus was certainly happening in families.

Formations 08.11.2019: The Best Laid Plans

There’s an old quip that if you want to make God laugh, all you have to do is show God your planner. When we say something like that, I hope we understand that God isn’t out to get us.

Connections 08.11.2019: From Indifference to Readiness

What does it mean to be indifferent to something? In the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, synonyms for “indifferent” are apathetic, complacent, disinterested, incurious, nonchalant, and unconcerned.

Formations 08.04.2019: What Is the Problem?

Nehemiah continues the themes that thread through Joshua. Where earlier Israelites had rejoiced at the failure of Gilead’s walls, these exiles returning to Jerusalem mourn at the sight of the city’s walls in ruin.

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.