Posts

Trust Your Heart

Image
Throughout my career as a pastor, I've generally been good about trusting my instincts when making decisions as a leader.   I've learned valuable lessons by making mistakes, to be sure, but for the most part, I've been able to navigate challenges and crises by listening to friends, church members, trusted advisors, and my heart.  But during the Covid years, pretty much all of the frameworks I'd constructed, the way I had learned to be a pastor, and the entire way of "doing church" were thrown out the window.   When you're largely disconnected from all of the ways that you usually find your way through difficult times, it's disorienting.   And so I found myself doing a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking, second-guessing my decisions, and feeling that I couldn't trust my instincts and probably shouldn't listen to my heart in the same way I once had.  You may have had some experience like this in your own life. You may have made enough mistakes

The Room Is On Fire

Image
It's both amusing and horrifying to read about the machinations of our national politicians in our current cultural climate.  The recent brouhaha over all of the classified documents that ex-presidents and vice presidents somehow carried home after their terms in office is a perfect example of how our nation's government has become a theater of the absurd.  From what I can gather, if the person you voted for did something wrong, it's okay.   In that case, they just made an honest mistake.  But it isn't okay if the person you didn't vote for did something wrong. In that case, they are an evil person bent on betraying their country to the highest bidder.  On the one hand, it's a "witch hunt" if the authorities go after your guy, but it's "seeking justice" if they go after the other guy.  Meanwhile, only a few of our politicians seem interested in addressing the issues that matter to their constituents' well-being.  They just keep pander

Of Dorothy, Oz and Technicolor Dreams

Image
In his excellent book The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows , author John Koenig fashions a word based on Dorothy's experience in The Wizard of Oz film version .   The word Koenig creates is ozurie : feeling torn between the life you want, and the life you have.  Koenig also wrote a beautiful and poetic narrative describing how this word captures how Dorothy must have felt when she woke up back in the black-and-white world of Kansas, as opposed to the technicolor world of Oz.  He writes:  And yet even as she makes her way to school the next morning, she no carries with her a certain unshakable awareness--that her gray gingham dress is secretly blue, that her charcoal hair is actually a rich auburn, that the sky catches fire when the sun goes down.  I was intrigued by this because even though the film version of the story ends with Dorothy back in Kansas, she doesn't stay there.  She returns more than once in L. Frank Baum's books about Oz.  But still, the lingering question in

Of Stars & Experiencing Faith

Image
Sometimes you read a poem and wonder if it was written just for you.   Then you realize that the person who wrote it did so 150 years ago, and it's merely the timeless nature of what they were able to capture that speaks to you.  And that's kind of even more awesome.  Today, I read this beautiful poem by Walt Whitman, and it has had me thinking about it ever since:  When I  heard the learn'd astronomer,  When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,  When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,  and measure them,  When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured  with much applause in the lecture-room,  How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,  Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,  In the mystical moist nigh-air, and from time to time  Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.   Like many 19th-century poets, Whitman would often make the first line of his poems their title, so this one is named "When I

Present in The Presence

Image
As helpful as video conferencing through Zoom or other virtual gathering spaces was when the world was shut down, we all know they aren't like the "real" thing.   Even now, as so many of my meetings are still virtual, I've discovered a renewed joy in chatting with someone at my favorite coffee shop.  There's something irreplaceable about seeing someone's face in three-dimensional relief and picking up on the nuances of their expressions, the subtle messages of body language, and so much more.  Plus, the coffee at Summer Moon Coffee down the street from the house is just freaking amazing.  I wish at this moment I was there drinking some. But I digress. One of the many things that I have learned because of the challenges we all faced during the Covid years (funny that we refer to them that way, now) is that it's much harder to assume the worst about people when we're close to them.  We do too much of that in our ever-increasing virtual worlds, don't

How Do You Show You Love God?

Image
If you visit my church online or in person, it won't take long to figure out that the words "Love God, Love Everybody" are essential to us.  Those words are repeated on Sunday mornings in various ways; we incorporate them into the liturgy, announcements, offering moments, and sermons.   They are also printed on just about all of our print materials, and there are signs affixed to the walls in at least two different places in our buildings, including right in front of our sanctuary.  You might also encounter any number of people wearing their "Love God, Love Everybody" shirts on a Sunday morning with the logo below on the front:  From time to time, I get asked about this phrase and why and how it is the vision of our church.  The how part is complicated.  The story of how "Love God, Love Everybody" became our vision is too long for one blog post.   [Shameless plug moment: I just finished writing a book about how "Love God, Love Everybody" beca

Are The Meek Really Blessed?

Image
One of my favorite moments in Monty Python's classic Life Of Brian, a not-so-subtle critique of organized religion,  is when two of the main characters in the film stumble upon Jesus delivering the Sermon on the Mount.  Unfortunately, they are so far behind the crowd that they can't hear what Jesus is saying, so they keep getting it wrong.  Here's one of those exchanges from the script after Jesus declares, "Blessed are the meek."  MAN #2: You hear that? Blessed are the Greek. GREGORY: The Greek? MAN #2: Mmm. Well, apparently, he's going to inherit the earth. GREGORY: Did anyone catch his name? MRS. BIG NOSE: Oh, it's the meek! Blessed are the meek! Oh, that's nice, isn't it? I'm glad they're getting something, 'cause they have a hell of a time. That scene cracks me up every single time I see it.  To begin, it's gently poking at how we tend to romanticize the moments when Jesus taught the multitudes, and then it also hits pretty har