Truth Beneath the Ashes

Several years ago in Waco, TX, a couple hundred of us gathered for a crack-of-dawn Ash Wednesday service led by a team of seminary students. All kinds of folk—Baylor students, doctors, construction workers, grandparents—gathered at the shoreline of Lent, sleepy-eyed and somber.

Meditations on Luke: The Depth of Darkness

One the greatest measures of human creativity is our ability to rationalize almost anything. No matter how destructive our actions, no matter how foolish our choices, no matter how selfish our behaviors, no matter how dark our impulses, we can always come up with a good excuse or a reasonable explanation for them.

Formations 04.09.2023: God Isn’t Finished Yet

We can debate why some in the Corinthian church denied the resurrection of the dead. We can be confident, however, that no one took this stance because they had a scientific worldview.

Brokenness, a Prayer for Lent

God, it takes courage to be the creatures
you made us to be.
Year after year we add to our experiences of the world,
pushing against our limits
to find out what will budge and what will not.

Formations 04.02.2023: Welcome

I have always loved the images describing Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem. It truly is triumphal. Crowds of excited people lined the street.

Formations 03.26.2023: Sticking Points

This week’s passage tells the story of a character conventionally called “the rich, young ruler.” You might be surprised to learn that this is a designation we never actually read in Scripture.

Connections 03.26.2023: Restoration

As I grew up, skeletons always made me think of Halloween. Whether it was a homemade costume, flexible paper decorations hanging on school walls, or plastic bones sticking out of the yard.

Connections 03.19.2023: How Long, O Lord?

At least fifteen times in the Psalms, the psalmist asks God “How long?” How long will God allow God’s people to suffer (Ps 4)? How long will God hide God’s face (Ps 13)?

Crossroads: Ashes

I always feel the weight of the ashes on my forehead on Ash Wednesday. It wasn’t until I went to a Catholic middle school that I began participating in Ash Wednesday services. From that first Ash Wednesday service until now, it never ceases to amaze me how much I feel those ashes.

Crossroads: Jesus Is Transformed

I became a Christian when I was seven years old. For as long as I can remember, church has been an important part of my life. I loved going to church as a kid and I loved Jesus (and I still do!).

Death and Life

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

Crossroads: Our Wisdom vs. God’s Wisdom

There are many instances in my childhood where logic got me into trouble. It usually began with me saying “I told you so” and you can guess that it didn’t end well.

Formations 04.17.2022: Views of the Tomb

It may be tough to find something new to say about this familiar passage. I wonder, though, if we don’t do a disservice to our students—and to the text—by looking for novelty rather than resting in wonder.

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.

The Sound of Silence

Silence. We experience it so infrequently, most of us wouldn’t even recognize it. We wake to loud alarms, the drip of brewing coffee, running water as we prepare for our day.

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.

A View from the Pew: Breaking Out of a Slump

If we’re honest, we all have slumps. Forgive the overuse of sports metaphors, but no matter the game, slumps are real, observable, and unavoidable.

Lent Is a Time to Adjust

The church year has brought us to Lent, the time of penitence and self-reflection before Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I once heard it said that you can’t have Easter without Lent; how could you know the joy of the mountaintop without the realities of the valley?

Formations 03.06.2022: Born from Above

In the sliver of the Baptist family in which I grew up, Lent was something you brushed off your clothes. Honestly, anything past Christmas and Easter were looked upon with suspicion.

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.

A Dark Day of Rest

The disciples, the women who had been following Jesus, and the other followers of Christ rested on the Sabbath. Joseph of Arimathea had taken Jesus’ body on that Friday and placed him in a tomb.

Formations 04.04.2021: Change of Plans

Have you ever put a lot of effort into a task and then not gotten to do it? Maybe you did a ton of research.

Connections 04.04.2021: Here, There, and Wherever

Look at Mary. She is right here. She is standing outside the tomb, weeping. She has already discovered the empty tomb.

The Wind and the Spirit

What would you do differently if you could start over? What would you change if you could be born again? If I could edit my life, I would skip junior high football, wrecking my father’s car, and the last five minutes of my first date. I would stop my mother throwing away my baseball cards.

Formations 03.28.2021: God’s Son Is Revealed

This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. Have you ever experienced devastating disappointment—a letdown so overwhelming that your sadness felt insurmountable?

Connections 03.28.2021: The Humble King

Jesus’ words imply an invitation to his disciples: “So come along with me!” Jesus’ words also imply an invitation to those of us who are also his disciples: “Come along with me!”

Lent Is a Time to Adjust

I once heard it said that you can’t have Easter without Lent; how could you know the joy of the mountaintop without the realities of the valley?

Formations 03.21.2021: A Suffering Messiah?

“You keep using that word,” Inigo Montoya tells Vizzini in the 1987 comedy The Princess Bride. “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Formations 03.14.2021: Pressing On

I’ve always imagined Jesus as fairly unflappable. He always seems to know the right thing to say.

Restorative Forgiveness, a Lenten Devotion

The second grade Sunday school class was visiting in the home of the pastor and his wife. The teacher had issued a strong warning to be careful in Reverend and Mrs. Cline’s home.

The Worship Hour: The Second Sunday of Lent

Giver of all good gifts, we thank you again for the bounty you have allowed us in this privileged land, and for the privilege of distributing your gifts to others—that they also may be blessed!

Formations 02.21.2021: Not Me!

I admit it: I’m a sucker for Family Circus comic strips. Yes, they’re corny. Yes, they repeat the same gags over and over again.

Connections 02.21.2021: Looking at Rainbows

Ever since I took my first Old Testament course in college—and that was a long time ago—I’ve heard that the rainbow in the Noah story represents God’s unstrung war bow.

Flame: Palm Sunday Spinner

We are getting into Easter planning mode at the moment and needed something a bit different for Palm Sunday. This is a great activity because somehow the hosanna appears on the palm leaf. The children love watching the trick of the eye happen!

Connections 04.12.2020: The Risen Christ

I listen to a podcast called “Gone.” In each episode, hosts Richard and Molly discuss something or someone that went missing and has never been found. One of the podcast’s taglines is, “Just because something is gone, [it] doesn’t mean it can’t be found.”

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.

Connections 03.22.2020: The Church of the Shepherd

There are local churches called The Church of the Shepherd or The Church of the Good Shepherd. Those are good names. After all, as Psalm 23 affirms, the Lord is our shepherd.

Lent. The Ugly Step-Sister Season.

Lent… It’s not Christmas, that’s for sure. It’s not a season when we’re hanging the holly and lighting the tree, twinkling and throwing gifts around like confetti and singing carols to strangers. It’s not a season that glitters.

Why I Love the Church Most on Ash Wednesday

I was reared as far from the Church as one can imagine. No Easter, Christmas, or Mother’s Day services for me, so this business about ashes seemed strange and at first a bit silly to me upon surrendering to Jesus at age 20.

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….”

Connections 03.01.2020: Replacing the Plug

It’s an image most of us are familiar with: the dropping of a stone into water produces ripples, which represent the ongoing effects of an action.

A View from the Pew: Taking a Personal Spiritual Retreat

I’ve never hiked the Appalachian Trail, but I know people who have. It sounds like something I would want to do, but then again, maybe not.

All Is Joy

My youngest children are just old enough to have developed a growing curiosity about Lent. They are asking more questions about why and how we Christians observe this liturgical season.

Crossroads: Good Friday

Have you ever had a week start off well, but by the end of it all hope seems lost? Terrible things happen all at once, and you just aren’t sure how you’re going to make it another hour, let alone another day. We’ve all had bad weeks and perhaps you have had a week so terrible that you just couldn’t go another step.

Easter Sunday Isn’t Like the Others

The long Lenten journey to the cross and ultimately the empty tomb is nearly finished, and Easter is just around the corner.

Praise, a Lenten Devotion

I recently attended a session of my son’s Science Explorers club. The children were learning about rocks. Who knew there were so many different kinds of rocks?

Crossroads: Palm Sunday

I wonder if Jesus felt that odd mixture of anticipation and disappointment when he entered Jerusalem. He enters Jerusalem triumphantly, riding on a donkey, with people spreading out their cloaks on the road and others waving branches in the air, shouting, “Hosanna!”

The Bell Lap, a Lenten Devotion

In long-distance swimming, the last two lengths of the pool are called “the bell lap.” When swimmers reach the final 2 lengths of the pool in competitions, an official rings a bell.