Mortal Love

Valentine’s Day fell on February 14 again this year. It’s regular like that. Ash Wednesday, on the other hand, moves around.

Seeing People, Learning Lessons

In a city like the one where I live, most growth is up. So all of us spend a lot of time on elevators. Thus we all know elevator etiquette: Do not speak to anyone. Do not make eye contact. Stare at the numbers as the floors change.

Pearls Before Swine

Forgive us, O Lord, for our sometimes judgmental attitude that causes us to be overly critical of others and for our sometimes hypocrisy that causes us to hold others to a higher standard than that to which we hold ourselves.

Facing Grief, at Christmas and Always

I am neither a nihilist nor a pessimist. For heaven’s sake, I am pastor of America’s home of Positive Thinking. I am, however, a realist. And as such, I have a theory about life. Here it is: Life is not the last five minutes of the movie.

Persecuted

There are people all over the world who are being persecuted—truly persecuted—for righteousness’ sake, for the sake of their faithful witness to their relationship with God and to the ways of God’s kingdom.

Opened Heavens

Jesus’ baptism somehow prompted an amazing representation of the thing that Jesus’ life in its entirety was about: the barrier between heaven and earth was penetrated and the way from heaven to earth and from earth to heaven was opened.

As Slow as Christmas

It was late on Christmas Day; the sun had set and my parents and I were somewhere between Yatesville and Barnesville on our way back home after the day-long celebration of Christ’s birth through the eating of food and the exchanging of gifts.

Champ and Sara

2021 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the births of Champ and Sara Ruffin. He was born on July 25, 1921, she on September 13. I want to honor them in this centennial year of their births.

What Makes You Cry

It was summertime, sometime in the late 1960s. I was, as many children did (and I hope still do), participating in the public library’s summer reading program. I was reading Fred Gipson’s 1942 novel Old Yeller.

Connections 04.05.2020: The Cross and COVID-19

When the devil tested Jesus in the wilderness, he introduced two of his three challenges with, “If you are the Son of God” (Mt 4:3, 6). In refusing the devil’s challenges, Jesus declined to prove his identity on the devil’s terms.

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.

Connections 02.23.2020: Holy Imagination

Our high school English teacher Mrs. Powers was teaching us about similes and metaphors. “’The baby is like a rose,’” she said, “is a simile.”

Dead Skunk (Possum, Squirrel, Armadillo) in the Middle of the Road

I tend not to notice roadkill until it’s too late. I’ll be driving merrily along, and I’ll feel that little bump from running over something that’s already dead. If my Good Wife is a passenger in the car I’m driving, she’ll cringe when I run over a dead animal.

Connections 11.25.2018: Because Christ Reigns

As you probably know, we had an election back on November 6. As of this writing, they’re still counting votes here in Georgia and in several other states. As the process stretches on, one can detect a touch of holiday rancor in the air.

Follow the Leader

One day, Jesus asked his disciples what they were hearing people speculate about him. They offered various answers. Then Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was. A disciple named Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

Connections 08.19.2018: Really Real

I can still see the beloved pastor of my growing up years standing behind the communion table, speaking words meant to prepare us for the Lord’s Supper. They went something like this: “Now we know that the bread isn’t really the body of Jesus.”

Faith and Science

Every great once in a while, my father, the late great Champ Ruffin, would decide it was time to get a new used car. He had one main criterion for any vehicle he purchased: it had to have four doors. The reason was that we transported “the ladies” (as he called them) to church every Sunday.

Black Holes

In a few months, we may see the first image of a black hole. This is exciting! Scientists trained the radio telescopes of eight observatories ranging from Antarctica to Hawaii to Spain on two black holes, one located at the center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, and another in a galaxy known as M87.

A Spirit Prayer

O God, Thank you for your Spirit that is with us, within us, and among us.
Thank you for the spirit that we are.
Thank you for the spirit of your creation.

An Advent Prayer

O God,
As you come to us, please come bearing faith, hope, and love.
We need to trust, hope, and love more.

A Prayer about War

O God,
Of the 162 nations in the world, 152 are currently at war or involved in armed conflict. Only ten nations are completely free of conflict.

A Prayer about the Genome

O God, We praise you that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
We praise you for the human genome.

A Prayer for Discourse

O God,
We are in the midst of a presidential election season.
It’s been ugly. We expect it to get uglier.

A Prayer about Violence

O God,
Our society is so violent. Why are people so afraid? Why do they assume the worst of others and see them as threats?

Nicodemusly

So in Zimglish, “nicodemusly” means “to do something secretly, under cover of darkness.” This, of course, got me to thinking about other possibilities. Allow me to share some I came up with.

Rejoicing in Heaven?

I had a really neat—and that’s not a term I use very often—experience a few Sundays ago. I’ve been the fill-in preacher at The Rock Baptist Church in The Rock, Georgia for a few months.

A Prayer for Freedom

O God,
We thank you that in Christ, we are free under grace.

Live Forever

Glenn Frey will live for as long as the world continues. That’s because he will live on in his songs. Now, before some of y’all get your halos twisted in a knot, let me say that I do believe in everlasting life.

Telling the Truth

I’ve been thinking about truth telling. Our son is a writer. He’s also a cicerone. A cicerone is to beer as a sommelier is to wine. So Joshua is a certified, card-carrying beer expert. When it comes to beer, he really knows his stuff.

Christmas Time

When I was a child, I was very confused by the tense of the verb “to be” used in the Christmas hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful.” We’d sing, “With angelic hosts proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

A Prayer for the Gullible

O God, Sometimes I am going to be gullible. Sometimes I am going to be too trusting so that I too easily believe what someone tells me. I suppose I should ask you to keep me from being gullible. But something else seems more important.

A Prayer for Adversaries

O God, Thank you for the relationships we have with some and for the connections we have with all. Thank you for the people who are our adversaries.

Reading through the Lens of Jesus

Jesus opens up the depth of meaning in the Scriptures so that we can find depth of meaning in our lives and in our discipleship. In relationship with Jesus we become participants in the kingdom of God.

A Prayer for Refugees

O God, It must break your heart to see so many of your children so desperate to flee their homeland that they put their lives and the lives of their children at such risk.

You Are Where You Are

In last month’s Kaleidoscope post, I listed several presuppositions for approaching our study of the Bible as if we are looking through a kaleidoscope. This month I’d like to think about the first presupposition: each one of us stands in a unique place.

Kaleidoscope

Most of us probably had at least one kaleidoscope during our childhood and so we know what one looks like and what it does. It’s a tube with a lens at one end through which someone looks, telescope-style.

Ecumenical PB&J

I have often joked that I was Baptist before I was Christian—but it’s not entirely a joke. To me, it all comes down to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Context and Community

It was the summer of 1976; I had just finished my freshman year at Mercer University. I was serving as the Associate Pastor for a small Baptist church way out in the Georgia countryside.

It’s Mrs. Key’s Fault

I took a lot of classes at Lamar County High School during my years there (1972-75). While I benefited from several I was most influenced by two: Creative Writing I and Creative Writing II, both taught by Mrs. Vivian (JoJo) Key.

Full Circle

My Good Wife and I have been discussing what to call our spread in Yatesville; it just seems like it needs to have a name. I tried to think of something biblical.

About Those Sins

At the end of his song “These Days” the prophet Jackson Browne sings, “Don’t confront me with my failures; I had not forgotten them.” Preach it, Brother Jackson! I haven’t forgotten mine, either.

Michael Ruffin to join staff of Smyth & Helwys Publishing

Smyth & Helwys Publishing is pleased to announce that Michael L. Ruffin will be joining its staff as a Curriculum Editor on May 1.

Of Scripts and Improvisation

If you have ever watched a Christopher Guest-directed film you know what a treat the experience is. Waiting for Guffman is about a small-town community theater troupe the members of which think that a Broadway producer is going to attend their production.

Breaking Things

I am not terribly clumsy and yet I have a way of breaking things. Now, I am not the artist that my cousin Stan was. When we were boys, I dreaded when Stan, who was a few years younger than I, came to our house because he would want to play with my toys and any toy that Stan touched broke.

Banana Pudding Discipleship

Occasionally I am brought up short by the realization that some people have never had real banana pudding. If you are wondering what I’m talking about, you are one of those people.

Stop Making Sense

When I was a child, little made sense to me. I did not understand the purpose of life….Sometimes I would ask a grown-up person to explain something to me and those I asked generally obliged. Their explanations made no sense to me but they seemed to make sense to them.

A Prayer for Ferguson

O God, We don’t have to tell you that the city of Ferguson, Missouri is coming apart at the seams. Please give the people there peace with justice and justice with peace.