The Ground Is Wise

Yesterday I helped a family plan the memorial service for their mom, who passed away a little over a week ago. 

She was a sweet, kind soul who was always so gracious to me when I would see her on Sunday mornings

I had the opportunity to visit her shortly before she died, and it was all grace to be able to say goodbye to her---a holy moment if you will.   

But these kinds of things always get me thinking about my mom, who passed away nearly three years ago.  I miss her.  Every day.  But lately, I've been missing her more than usual. 

My mom always had a way of taking even the worst situations and finding the good in them.

The grace that she brought to tragedy and trial was often the very thing that would help the rest of us see the silver linings in the clouds that enveloped us. 

Throughout these last few months, I have often wondered what she would have said about all that we are going through---with COVID, and all the conflict over politics, injustice issues... 

I've even asked her…

Head vs. Heart

I know I've mentioned this here before, but when I was a teenager I was on the Bible Quiz Team for my church, and I was also on the Team for the Christian school I attended. 
Our Quiz Teams won national championships, so it was kind of a big deal to be on one.  Not to brag, but I was pretty good... really good, in fact.  
We memorized entire chapters of the Bible in preparation for these quizzes, which meant that I was memorizing at least 5 chapters from the Bible a year, and this went on for several years.  
The fundamentalist Christian communities that we were a part of when I was growing up valued the memorization of Scripture.  You were expected to have Bible knowledge---to be able to quote Bible verses at the drop of a hat.  
On the other hand, I spent almost zero time really trying to study and understand what we memorized--apart from very shallow, literalistic, and uncritical interpretations.  
When I was a young teenager, I received a lot of affirmation for my head knowledge of…

If Atlas Falls

For some strange reason, I've been doing a lot of thinking about facing the unknown lately... That was a joke, albeit a very poor one.  Everything is just so damnably uncertain, isn't it?  It's dizzying to try to comprehend it.

Most days I can sort of fool myself into thinking that everything is fine... that the bad news in the world is happening somewhere else.  But now and again it hits home that things are not fine.  In fact, they are pretty far from fine.

And it's in those moments of clarity that I start wondering about the future, and what it could look like.  I begin to think about how long it will be before we'll be able to go to the movies... to a concert... attend church together in-person, and I am tempted to retreat back into the fantasy of everything being fine.

This is why it seems to me that now more than ever we need better ways to think and talk about what is happening around us.  We need to be able to place our current situation within a larger, cosmi…

The Most Integral Part of Faith Formation

One of the low moments of my pastoral career came out of the blue on a  Wednesday evening some years ago.  
A church member whom I loved dearly came to meet me an hour before I was scheduled to teach a class, and informed me that he and his wife were leaving the church.  
He then proceeded to berate me for thirty minutes on all of the things I'd done wrong in his mind.  He told me that I'd become "too liberal,"  and that I was "watering down the Gospel," by talking about grace too much.  
Then he told me that I was doing the people in my church a disservice as their pastor because I was leading them to doubt rather than to certainty.  
It was apparent that anything I had to say in my defense would fall on deaf ears, so I told him I was sorry I'd let him down, and wished him well.  
He didn't know, and I didn't have the energy to tell him of the anguish I'd experienced due to a crisis of faith I'd only just begun to emerge from at the time of …

Focus Week Six: The Unknown God Made Known

This is the sixth week of our eight-week long sermon series entitled Focus: Take A Closer Look.  

Throughout the first month of this series, we learned that even though we struggle sometimes to see Jesus at work in the world, we can learn to trust in what we can't see because of what we can see. 

And then we can't help but see Jesus everywhere.  This enables us to get to know Jesus even more fully, which in turn enables us to share what we know.  

Last week we began a new phase of this series that will take us through the month of July, and we'll be learning what it means to show Jesus to others.  

Today we're going to be talking about what it means to be a positive influence. 

I want you to think about someone in your life who was a positive influence on you.  Maybe something they said changed your life.  Maybe they did something that transformed you.  

Just picture them in your mind right now... and think about what you might say about them.  

One of the staples of college …

Searching For God

In his excellent little book of parables from his native India, Anthony de Mello shared the following story that spoke to me: 

A neighbor found Naruddin on hands and knees. 
"What are you searching for, Mullah?"
"My key." 
Both men got on their knees and began to search.  After a while, the neighbor said, "Where did you lose it?"
"At home." 
"Good Lord! Then why are we searching here?"
"Because it's brighter here."  

"Mullah" is another word for "Teacher," or "Holy Man," in case you were wondering.  Don't you just love this little story?  Is it just me? 

Here's why I love it so much...  we tend to look for the things we've lost everywhere except where we lost them.  Doesn't that ring true for you?  

Think about it.  You lose your car keys and you start off looking for them all over the house.  You look everywhere.  And then... you say, "Let me retrace my steps."  It feels like…

There's A Light

There's a lamp in my bedroom that has a faintly illuminated "on" switch that can't be seen in the light of day.  But when the room is in darkness, what was a faint light by day, creates a glow that bathes an entire wall.  

I've read that one of the many factors that need to be considered for a good night's sleep is the absence of artificial light like my lamp.  Apparently, even if you are asleep, your body "knows" that there's light shining, and won't fully slip into deep rest.  

This got me thinking about light and darkness, and how we perceive both in the world around us.  

Fr. Richard Rohr has written extensively about the fact that even when we are peering into what appears to us to be total darkness, it isn't.  

You see, all around us in the darkness, there are subatomic particles known as neutrinos that are zipping about---by-products of atomic reactions, traveling at near light speed.  

And these neutrinos emit light that we can't …