A little over fourteen years ago from today, I was face down on the floor of a small Pentecostal church in Nashville, Tenessee having a crisis of faith.  

I was leading a youth mission trip that summer.  I had nearly completed my seminary degree and was about to begin the process of becoming an ordained minister, but I had come to believe I'd made a mistake.  

I just knew I wasn't cut out to be a pastor.  I wasn't good enough.  I had doubts about significant chunks of the Bible.  I struggled to love people.  I really didn't like church all that much.  And I had baggage--lots and lots of baggage.  

As I lay there on the floor, inhaling the musty smell of old carpet and dust, a story from the Bible came into my thoughts--a story from the book of Genesis where the patriarch Jacob wrestled with an angel in the middle of the night.  

Jacob had a lot of baggage, too.  He'd betrayed his family, broken covenants, lived his life on his own terms and always felt like he was less…


Yesterday evening I attended the sweet wedding of two beautiful and awesome people, who I've come to know and care for very much. 

After the ceremony, we all gathered for the reception while we waited for the wedding party to finish with their post-ceremony photos. 

Joy permeated the room.  Laughter was on everyone's lips.  Food tasted better.  The drinks were ambrosia.  The lights twinkled like stars.  All of it was imbued with meaning. 

No matter what was happening outside of that room, for the moment all we felt was joy and hope at the prospect of new beginnings.  For a few precious hours, we all stepped into eternity and simply reveled in it. 

I think most of us long to feel that eternal joy in every moment.  We long to know the kind of peace that comes from a hope that is secured through our trust in God's love and mercy. 

But we relegate most of our moments to "ordinary" status and resign ourselves to days spent feeling as though we're falling short of the p…

One Big Story - Week 3: "Woman On Fire"

The Bible is One Big Story filled with heroes and villains, great adventures, epic battles, love stories and astonishing tales.  It’s also the story of a “once and future” King who picked the most unlikely people to help him share the story of God’s amazing love, and how far God was willing to go to save the world.

Today we are continuing our summer sermon series, One Big Story.  And what we're going to be learning over the course of this summer is one very simple fact:  "God can use you no matter what."

You might think that you aren't good enough to be used by God... You might think you're too old, too young, too busy, too messed up, too much of a sinner... but God doesn't care about that.  God loves you and wants to use you no matter what.

We'll be encountering some of the great characters in Scripture along the way---characters that undoubtedly dominated many a Sunday school class for some of us church-y types.

I'd like to think that this sermon series…

In Between

The Truth must dazzle gradually, 
Or every man be blind--
          - Emily Dickinson 

I experienced an odd feeling today--one that I've had before, but have never really reflected on all that much at the time.  Today was different.   

I was sitting with my oldest and youngest son in a cafe while we were waiting for our lunch to arrive, and I had the strangest sense of the passing of time and the importance of the moment.  

My oldest boy is getting married in September, and presumably moving on to launch a new life with his new bride.  I wondered how many moments like that I would have--sitting at a table with my boys at this age, in this season of life.  

I decided that those moments could be counted on one hand.  I felt a strange sense of the importance of that realization.  It felt like the kind of wisdom that only comes when we are open and vulnerable and knowing that life is short, precious and always on the move.  

We are almost always living in liminal moments... in-between, thres…

Beauty Will Save The World

"Beauty will save the world."- Dostoevsky - 
Today is my middle son's fourteenth birthday.  

A little over fifteen years ago, my wife and I shakingly made our way out of an OB/GYN office in downtown Chicago stunned with the news that the barely three-month-old baby inside her would live. 

A week earlier they'd told us the baby's heart rate indicated the pregnancy was unsustainable.    We were at the office that day because they fully expected to do a procedure following the miscarriage.  

Instead, we discovered that not only was he alive, but his heart was strong and vibrant.

I can still remember the way the cold and mist hit my face on that gloomy, cold December morning.  I could smell woodsmoke in the air from somewhere.  I found myself full of wonder at how the city lights provided a vibrant contrast to the grey sky.  

It was beautiful.  All of it was beautiful.  

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato believed that there were three concepts that constituted all the lon…

Right Here, Right Now

There was this song we used to sing in the churches of my youth entitled "This World Is Not My Home." The lyrics went something like this: 
This world is not my home I'm just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.
When I was a kid, I sang this song with gusto along with all of the saints who gathered for Sunday worship.  We believed those words, too.  They weren't trite phrases that tripped of our tongues. 

We believed that "this world" wasn't our home.  Our home was some imagined glory where people just like us went when they died.  And because "this world" was so awful, we were supposed to say that we couldn't wait until we got to that "home" somewhere "beyond the blue."  

In light of the recent and very public suicides of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion icon Kate Spade... and the nea…

The Face Of The Father

On July 8, 1741, Jonathan Edwards preached what would become his most famous sermon: Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God.  

Edwards must have had a particularly bad week leading up to that sermon because this is what he told his congregants: 
"The God that holds you over the pit of Hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath toward you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire."  This image of God that Edwards painted would become the dominant image lifted up by Christians in America for centuries---one that still persists today.  

In fact, I have had more than a few difficult and painful conversations over the years with disillusioned Christians who can't get beyond the images of a seemingly angry, vengeful God that appear throughout the Bible.   

Sadly, far too many Christians, who lift up the image of an angry God, also seem to be pretty angry…