Crossroads: A Blank Slate

It’s no secret that I loved school as a child. One of my favorite parts about going back to school was buying school supplies. Even if I had pens and pencils at home, I wanted new ones for school.

Connections 05.06.2018: Love One Another

“Love one another” (Jn 15:17b). Is there a greater calling in Scripture than this? Is there a harder one? It is often paired with what Jesus called the Greatest Commandment, “Love God with all your being.”

Connections 02.18.2018: Making His Paths Crooked

I have a thirty-minute drive from Yatesville to Macon every morning and a thirty-minute drive from Macon to Yatesville every afternoon. My route takes me through the countryside, so it’s a pleasant journey. The only problem is that I travel east in the morning and west in the afternoon, so I’m always driving toward the sun.

Meditations on Luke: Our Given Identities

When my wife was pregnant with each of our daughters, we felt a degree of stress in coming up with names for them. For one thing, we didn’t want to offend anyone in our families of origin. Use names from only one side of the family and you may alienate folks on the other.

Connections 12.17.2017: The Light of Christ

At this time of year, we marvel at the beauty of Christmas lights. Our family enjoys getting a special treat and riding through our town, admiring neighborhood light displays while we listen to Christmas music. We love to decorate our own house as well.

Connections 12.10.2017: What Would John the Baptist Say?

The other morning I got out of bed before my wife did. When she came into the den a few minutes later, she found me eating my oatmeal and watching the CBS Morning News. The first thing she said was, “Good morning!” The second thing she said was, “Has there been another one yet today?”

Connections 11.12.2017: Give It Some Thought

The story in this week’s Scripture passage reminds me of a part of the John the Baptist story. It’s the scene where “many Pharisees and Sadducees” come to John to be baptized. He doesn’t exactly affirm their decision. “You brood of vipers!” he yells. “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Mt 3:7).

God Only Makes What God Loves

Most of us struggle to believe that God fully loves us (and others) since we do not measure up to God’s law. We hear the constant refrain of “I am not good enough.” Or we wrestle with the “woulda’, coulda’, shoulda’s” of our lives. “God loves us, warts and all,” we say, but that theology falls short.

Crossroads: Staying Connected

I have always loved wisteria. I know that it’s a parasite, but it has always been beautiful to me. One of my favorite parts of driving to my grandparents’ house as a kid was driving past the beautiful wisteria growing in a patch of trees.

Formations 04.30.2017: Casting Anyway

The boat is empty and Jesus, though resurrected, is gone. I expect the absence, of both Jesus and fish, was new for the disciples. I would be surprised if they didn’t go into the night expecting to catch fish, dreaming about their haul. Though they might acknowledge the luck involved, it’s their job to outmaneuver chance and fill their nets.

Formations 04.23.2017: Sitting a While with Thomas

According to a new survey, fully one-fourth of British people who identify themselves as Christian say they do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Hobson urges a certain degree of restraint in our responses to such people. After all, our universal human experience is that dead people stay dead. To say otherwise flies in the face of all that we know about how the world works.

Connections 04.23.2017: Four Things to Remember in John

For me, this passage contains some of the most moving and powerful moments in John’s entire Gospel. There are four specific things I love about it.

Formations 04.16.2017: In Graves and Gardens

As I’ve been asking who needs to hear my story of Easter joy, I’ve come up against another question—what story of Easter joy do I need to hear? And what I hear reminds me of a ghost story I first heard as a seventh grader.

Formations 04.09.2017: Jesus’ Death Foreshadowed

Jesus enters Jerusalem amid cheering crowds inspired by hope in “the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (v. 13). They came out to meet Jesus because they had heard about the raising of Lazarus (vv. 17-18). Ironically, it was this same sign that led to Jesus’ death.

Formations 04.02.2017: Smells and Resurrection

How much is the experience of Lazarus’s death present in his resuscitated life? How does acknowledging his death change her memories of his life? What would Lazarus’s death mean for the life he returned to just after?

Formations 03.19.2017: Light and Dark

I have a friend who cites learning to use the conjunction and more than or as the high point of his education. Conjunctions reflect the way we make sense of information. They allow us to show cause, to distinguish, to divide, to connect.

Connections 01.08.2017: Going Under

I was watching a made-for-television film about Jesus. In its depiction of Jesus’ baptism, he joined John in the Jordan River. As they stood in the river, which came up to their waists, John poured water over Jesus’ head.

Connections 12.18.2016: Father of the Forerunner

Two weeks ago, I encouraged us to put ourselves in Mary’s shoes—to truly feel empathy for her when she heard the news that was both devastating and life changing. Can we do some imagining about Zechariah, too?

Formations 12.11.2016: Even in this Place?

John the Baptist heard the train coming before anyone else, but today he’s in prison. By the river he proclaimed, “Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” (Matt 3:2). Now he sends some of his disciples to find out if he got it wrong, if they should start looking for someone else.

Meditations on Mark: Prepare the Way

This is the promise John the Baptist makes in the opening chapter of Mark’s Gospel. Mark doesn’t begin with the story of Jesus’ birth. Rather, he jumps into the middle of the story with Jesus already as an adult, ready to begin his ministry. This is the urgency in Mark: The Messiah has come.

Formations 12.04.2016: Pace Yourself

I was late coming to Advent. The church of my childhood and youth never observed a season of preparation leading to Christmas day. We were left, then, to “get ready for Christmas” the same way secular people did.

Formations 11.13.2016: Sing in Time

When I walk into a new sanctuary, I find a pew, pull out the hymnal, and look through it. I see if anyone’s names have been embossed on the lower right corner. I check to see how the church decided to phrase the words on the bookplate dedicating its use to the Lord’s worship.

Crossroads: All Saints’ Day

For me, it is fitting that November 1st is All Saints’ Day. All Saints’ Day is a time of remembering those who have been part of our Christian journey who are no longer with us. It’s a day to remember the people throughout the history of the church who came before us.

Formations 10.30.2016: Start Again

Harvey Thomas Young, a musician from Austin, Texas, wrote a song called “Start Again.” First a poem written on the back of a postcard to his brother in jail, his manager saw it and requested he set the poem to music.

Formations 06.26.2016: Mary Magdalene and the Gardener

Halfway through drafting this post, I realized I was guilty of oversimplification in order to find a moral in this story. I hadn’t determined if I would praise Mary for recognizing Jesus’ resurrection or chide her for missing it at first.

Crossroads: Friends

I was at school when I got the call that she was gone, and a friend of mine found me crying in the hallway. He comforted me and then we went our separate ways.

Formations 06.05.2016: All You Have to Change Is Everything You Are

Why are so many celebrities willing to sacrifice who they are in order to achieve success and fame? Jan Aitken, a life coach based in Dunedin, New Zealand, recently pondered this question after watching a documentary about Janis Joplin, a stellar blues singer.

Crossroads: Recognizing Jesus

Talk about a time when you were surprised by a friend/relative who you didn’t recognize initially, but who recognized you. Was it a time when you got lost and that person found you?

Crossroads: Seeing Is Believing

Has something ever seemed too good to be true? Was it? Talk about a time when you didn’t believe something someone said until they showed you proof. Why didn’t you believe? Did the proof change your thinking?

Crossroads: He Is Risen!

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Easter is such a wonderful time. The dark, somber mourning of Good Friday has passed and in its place is new life, lots of color, and thankful spirits.

Death and Life

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

Connections 01.31.2016: When Death Comes

Death came into my life during the night when I was around ten years old, taking with it a beautiful white dog named Princess. A few more dogs followed over the years, one of which I raised from a tiny puppy.

Connections 01.24.2016: A Wedding in Cana

Jesus didn’t make it a regular practice, so far as we know, to protect people from party disasters. Still, John viewed this miracle as so important that he put it right up front in his story of Jesus and went out of his way to point out that it was Jesus’ first miracle.

Crossroads: Why We Baptize

I have loved Jesus for practically my whole life. I grew up in church, and we were there pretty much every time the church was open. At seven years old, I told Jesus that I wanted him to be my Savior and I was baptized.

Formations 01.17.2016: Being a Better Wedding Guest

Danielle Rothweiler is a celebrity wedding and event planner. In a recent article, she comments that going to a wedding ought to be easy. Unfortunately, wedding guests often provoke the greatest stress in the engaged couple.

Crossroads: The Christ Candle

Light the three purple candles, the pink candle, and the white candle in the center. Say: “Today we light the white candle, the Christ candle, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

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.

Crossroads: All Saints’ Day

Tell your family about someone who has influenced you, but who has also died. It can be someone from your family who influenced your faith or identity, or someone from church who was a big influence.

In Search of Self

Youth are particularly image-conscious. Developmentally they are at the stage where they are trying on selves to see what fits—to see what feels right.

Formations 08.02.2015: Loving—and Forgiving—Our Enemies

Two days after Dylann Roof murdered nine members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the families of his victims posted a YouTube video in which they extended forgiveness and urged Roof to repent.

Formations 05.24.2015: Spreading the Word

“Evangelism” is a scary word for a lot of people. It’s scary for a lot of people outside the church because they don’t want to be the target of somebody’s evangelistic efforts.

Formations 05.17.2015: Bearing Fruit

Before my father-in-law retired, he worked in a factory grading the lumber that would eventually be turned into furniture. As my wife tells it, though, what Otto Piercy really was, was a farmer.

Formations 05.10.2015: Standing on the Threshold

A few weeks ago, I received yet another grim reminder that I am getting old. (For some reason, my wife is doing just fine while I lose ground by the minute!) I attended an orientation for rising ninth-graders at my daughter’s school.

Crossroads: Compassion

How do you show compassion for others? Did you help others when you were a child, or is it something you have started recently?

Formations 05.03.2015: Divine Unity

As we approach Pentecost Sunday on May 24th, we will explore Jesus’ promises to his disciples about the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of Truth.” We will do this through the lens of Jesus’ teachings in John 14–16.

Uniform 05.03.2015: Walk in the Truth

Guiding each unit to your Sunday school classrooms has been a great privilege. I am thankful to have been part of this community that is so committed to helping people see the truth of God’s word in new, personal ways.

Uniform 04.26.2015: A Cautious Faith

“Trust God, but lock your doors.” I remember reading this advice years ago in one of those Life’s Little Instruction books. Sometimes the advice makes sense to me.

Flame: Doubting Thomas, Recognizing Jesus

This Sunday we’re telling the story of Thomas. A lot of the time when we cover this story with children, we focus of the idea of faith and being able to believe even though we don’t see.