Formations 12.06.2020: You Better Watch Out

If your church follows the Revised Common Lectionary, John the Baptist always shows up around this time of year to rain on our Christmas parade. Seriously, who invited this guy to the party?

Formations 11.29.2020: Tilled and Sown

In a normal year, you would find me firmly planted in the “no early Christmas decorating” camp. I love the lights, the greenery, the wrapping paper, the music, and the food.

Formations 11.22.2020: Be Joyful Always

Sometimes it’s hard to feel joyful about other people’s joy. Even when we’re supposed to let a loved one bask in success and happiness, it can be tough to push down our own envy, bitterness, and exasperation.

Formations 11.15.2020: The Day of Atonement

In ancient Israel, the turn of the new year was accompanied by a nationwide spiritual reset called Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It was (and is) the most solemn day on Israel’s liturgical calendar.

Formations 11.08.2020: What Now?

One of my ministry colleagues was once doing a research project on worship practices in American Baptist Churches in Indiana. He loved to tell the story of a particular service he attended with his grown children and his young granddaughter.

Formations 11.01.2020: “There I Will Meet with You”

My husband John, a mechanical engineer, has taught himself the hobby of woodworking. His natural understanding of dimensions, measurements, and loadbearing lend well to creating shelves and tables and even cornhole boards.

Formations 10.25.2020: Stumbling Forward

Paul calls the Colossian believers to lead holy lives. In chapter 3, he lists numerous virtues they are to embrace, love above all.

Formations 10.18.2020: Fools and Their Money

Every year, people lose a lot of money to phone scams. Sometimes, they can lose their whole life savings to scammers who have figured out how to spin a story designed to separate people from their money.

Formations 10.11.2020: The Burden of Temptation

Temptation. It’s woven into the fabric of being human in this world. It’s part of the price we pay for having the knowledge of good and evil. It’s an aspect of free will.

Formations 10.04.2020: What Is God Worth?

Worth has to do with what one is willing to give in exchange for something else. If would be stupid to pay $20 for a soda at the fast food place: It’s only worth a couple of dollars.

Formations 09.27.2020: Persistence

Persistence is one of the key factors that underlies success. Think about the people you knew in high school. It’s likely you can think of somebody in your graduating class who got good grades but perhaps wasn’t terribly successful in life.

Formations 09.20.2020: Stealing the Show

The grumblers threaten to steal the show in this short scene from Jesus’ life. Let’s imagine how it would play out in a community theater production.

Formations 09.13.2020: Grace at Meals

We’re not big “entertainers” in our house. We enjoy having company over every now and then, but we don’t live for it the way, for example, my mother did.

Formations 09.06.2020: Whom Do I Fear?

In Luke 10, a religious expert tries to test Jesus with a question about eternal life. When Jesus answers with reference to the various commandments of the Torah, the expert challenges him further by asking, “Who is my neighbor?”

Formations 08.30.2020: The Gift of Laughter

Infertility is no laughing matter. One of my friends suffered through years of pain, expensive infertility treatments, marital stress, and pregnancy loss before she and her husband finally agreed to take a break from trying to have a child.

Formations 08.23.2020: Finding Joy

Are you tired of the global pandemic yet? It’s certainly wearing on me. My family and I have spent the spring and summer hunkered down, avoiding crowds, wearing our masks, and missing our friends.

Formations 08.16.2020: Laughing through Tears

Twenty years ago, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was applauded as a groundbreaking TV program. Despite the fantastical premise—a teenage girl who fights vampires—the show explored characters and emotions in ways that aren’t common even today.

Formations 08.09.2020: The Gift of a Cheerful Heart

As a young mother at church when my girls were small, I would watch the older women, hoping for some insight and wisdom. Some days I just needed assurance that my kids would get through early childhood and still leave me a little sanity.

Formations 08.02.2020: Taking Words with You

There have been times when I have done something wrong, realized my fault immediately, and blurted out an apology, a sincere but entirely unrehearsed expression of regret. When you let your anger or sadness control your tongue, that kind of apology is definitely the way to go.

Formations 08.02.2020: Wrestling with God

Have you ever wrestled with God? I know I have. Lately, the struggle goes something like this: God, please help. I’m overwhelmed. My loved one is hurting, and I don’t know what to do.

Formations 07.26.2020: A Mother’s Love

Hosea 11 begins with God lamenting Israel’s rebelliousness. Like a wayward child, Israel has rejected seemingly everything that God has ever done for them.

Formations 07.19.2020: God’s Indictment

As I read the words of God’s indictment in our lesson text, I wondered how many times people have read them over the centuries and thought, “The prophet is talking about our world today.

Formations 07.12.2020: Forgiveness and Moving Forward

Benjamin Watson, retired football player for the New England Patriots, has said that he forgives former teammate Drew Brees for insensitive remarks about protests involving the American flag.

Formations 07.05.2020: For Better, For Worse…

A 2019 study confirmed what many people have no doubt long suspected: People who cheat on their spouses are likely to be untrustworthy in other areas of life.

Formations 06.28.2020: The Beloved One

Who is your best friend? Why would you give the person that title? The word “best” implies the one at the top of the list, a single person.

Formations 06.21.2020: The Family of God

The scene with Jesus’ mother and the Beloved Disciple at the cross is unique to the Fourth Gospel. In the Synoptic Gospels, however, there’s another story with a similar them.

Formations 06.14.2020: At Jesus’ Side

Biblical scholars debate the identity of the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). Tradition identifies him as John son of Zebedee, but the Gospel of John itself is more tight-lipped.

Formations 06.07.2020: Come and See!

Who are your favorite celebrities? What draws you to them? How do you think you would react if you got to meet them in person?

Formations 05.31.2020: Pentecost

Everybody knows about Christmas. Even people with only a passing familiarity with Christianity embrace the Christian ideals of generosity, joy, and goodwill to others when December 25 comes around.

Formations 05.24.2020: Receiving the Spirit

I had just finished my sermon on the Holy Spirit and the ways God empowers us to participate with God in ushering in the kingdom.

Formations 05.17.2020: The Responsibility of Power

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being an adult. My best friend and I had a favorite game to play every time we were together: we called it “apartment.”

Formations 05.10.2020: But I Don’t Want To!

What would it take to get you to do something you really, really didn’t want to do? Imagine: You’re a typical first-century peasant in a small village where everybody knows everybody.

Formations 05.03.2020: Well Pleased

Several years ago I had the privilege of baptizing my daughter. Our church was without a pastor at the time, and given the choice between me or our children’s minister, I got the call in the bullpen.

Formations 04.26.2020: More than Hope

What do you need most right now? While we’re all in this pandemic together, our individual situations are unique. Our pain is our own. Our grief is ours to bear.

Formations 04.19.2020: On the Threshold of Resurrection

Liminality is a word anthropologists use to describe experiences that happen on life’s borderlands. Coming from the Latin word for “threshold,” a liminal experience involves crossing from one state to another.

Formations 04.12.2020: Giving Things Up for Lent

John places Jesus’ “cleansing of the temple” near the beginning of his Gospel rather than at the end, as the Synoptic Gospels do. In John, this symbolic act foreshadows the many controversies that Jesus will face and that will eventually end with the crucifixion.

Formations 04.05.2020: Zeal for God’s House

I’m writing this article in a time of trauma all around the world. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has reached every continent except Antarctica. People are sick, scared, isolated, and anxious for what lies ahead.

Formations 03.29.2020: Things or Experiences?

New research from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin suggests that some purchases are better than others at providing happiness.

Formations 03.22.2020: Things or Experiences?

New research from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin suggests that some purchases are better than others at providing happiness.

Formations 03.15.2020: God’s Law vs. God’s Love

Many memories of my life as a church member—at various churches over the years—are beautiful, positive, and sustaining. But some are difficult, burdensome, and troubling.

Formations 03.08.2020: Love Your Enemies

I’ve got to confess, it’s hard to find a good current-event angle on Jesus’ words about love and non-retaliation during an election season!

Formations 03.01.2020: Keep Still

With the sea in front of them and the Egyptian army at their backs, Moses tell the Israelites, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today….”

Formations 02.23.2020: The First Passover

Have you ever known someone who has lost a child? Maybe you have personally suffered that loss. I have been granted the awful privilege of walking with some families through this nightmare, and I can tell you that I have seen no comparable grief.

Formations 02.16.2020: What God Thinks of Injustice

Some of us have had our fill of biblical stories in which God uses divine power to punish humans.

Formations 02.09.2020: Finding Ways to Serve

As of last month, the Australian bushfires had already burned more than twelve million acres and killed two dozen people and more than a billion animals. The whole world grieves the continuing losses.

Formations 02.02.2020: Moses’ Early Life

Ever since I had children, I can’t read this old story without feeling the intense fear of a mother who is terrified for her child. In my mind, I picture her filling his belly with her breastmilk to make sure he won’t cry out in hunger on his journey.

Formations 01.26.2020: Caring about the Right Thing

There’s a Greek word in Philippians 2 that is hard to translate simply. In verse 2, Paul writes, “Be of the same mind.” A more literal translation would be “Think the same thing,” but even that isn’t quite right.

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.”