Archives For Personal

Posts related to my personal life and family.

Loss of Lament

June 25, 2014 — 2 Comments


Image credit: philippe leroyer (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Image credit: philippe leroyer (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

On a hot summer night in 2012, I tossed and turned in bed, unable to sleep. I was angry and frustrated. The year before I’d been fired from a large church for “not being a good fit.” After blaming the church leaders failed to satiate my anger, I turned to blaming God. If God was omnipotent and loving, why didn’t God prevent this from happening to me and my family? I’d committed no great sin; there was no moral or ethical failure that led to my dismissal. Yet, within just a few weeks of being let go, my family and I moved out of our house and headed to a duplex on the other side of the country.

As we settled in to our new place, we became quick friends with the couple renting out the other half of the duplex. He was a mechanical engineer from Switzerland and she was a nurse from New Jersey, both in their mid-forties. They’d moved to Oregon from Nashville only a week before us. As we got to know them, we danced around the topics of faith and religion. They knew I worked at a seminary in the area. I  learned that he was an atheist and she was a lapsed Catholic. Both were angry at God and religion.

See, she’d been battling breast cancer for a long time. A few years prior, it had gone into remission (again). Then, in 2010, she lost her house in the Nashville floods. All the church could offer her for why bad things kept happening to her was an paltry, “It’s all part of God’s plan.” She decided that God was a jerk and that she’d done nothing to deserve the tragedies that seemed to follow her around. She left church and never returned. The reason they left Nashville and moved across the country was to try and make a fresh start, to leave behind cancer and chemo and flooded houses and Christianese.

Less than a year after the move, she learned that her cancer was back. She had to quit her job at the hospital and become a patient in it. She underwent round after round of treatment, losing large amounts of hair and weight. That restless summer night in 2012, I’d just had a conversation with her husband who confided in me that things were looking bad.

As I tried to go to sleep that night, I was angry. I was still being angry with God for what had happened to me and my family, and now I  was angry that God allowed our neighbor’s cancer to return. These friends already shouldered more sorrow than was their fair share. So I tossed and turned, anger welling up inside me and, for the first time in over a year, I prayed. It went something like this:

“Who do you think you are, God? You call yourself ‘Love’? There isn’t anything loving about this. What we’re dealing with here isn’t fair. It’s not right. But I don’t want you to do anything for me. You want to do something? Heal HER. Destroy her cancer. Give her hope. Or maybe it would be better if you just left us all alone.”

I waited for the lightning to strike.

It didn’t.

And I felt a little better.


We have lost the art of lament and it is killing our faith.

Western, affluent, success-oriented Christianity is so focused on blessing and praise that it doesn’t know what to do with tragedy or pain. In a weak attempt to offer consolation and hope, we sputter out platitudes about what God’s motivations must be (“God needed another angel in heaven”), what the grieving person should do (“just trust God’s plan”), or what we’ll do on their behalf (“I’ll pray for you”). At our core, though, we have no idea what to do with anger and tragedy and grief, so we do or say whatever we can to put some distance between us and it. In doing so, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to lament.  Continue Reading…

Image by © West Semitic Research/Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation/CORBIS

Image by © West Semitic Research/Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation/CORBIS

Holy. Moly. Found my first blog, ever (I think). The beautiful thing about it is how not-beautiful it is. Spelling errors. No capitalization used anywhere. Theology that I’d argue with now. I almost didn’t import all these old posts I found (2004-2006), but that would be dishonest, somehow. I think it’s neat to see how things shift and change over time in one’s views. So, I have updated this blog to include all the old posts I just uncovered. I have one more batch that I still need to add. But here’s the very first one, as far as I know. From Feb 24, 2004:  Continue Reading…

Tonight, I preached at Theophilus Church, continuing our series through 1 Corinthians while AJ is away. My text was the beginning chapter 3, where Paul is starting to come to the reason that he’s writing the church at Corinth in the first place.

There is a way of reading the scriptures used by rabbis, called targum. Essentially, a targum is an expanded paraphrase on a text. Often, targums were not written down because the rabbis wanted to be clear that the riffing they were doing was not on the level of scripture. Rather, it is a way of re-imagining, re-casting scripture in ways that preserve the author’s original intent while also updating the language and incorporating applicability to the present listener’s cultural context.

I wrote a targum of 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 for Theophilus Church and I thought I’d share it here:

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What Are You For?

June 13, 2013 — 1 Comment

Maybe it’s just the corner of the blogosphere I read. Maybe it’s the particular mix of folks I follow on twitter. Maybe it’s the stuff Facebook chooses to show me in my newsfeed. It sure seems, though, that most the Christians I know are spending more and more time writing about who they aren’t and what they don’t stand for.

I’m over it.

Sure, it is a necessary part of separating who you are from who you are not. It is a vital step in being able to talk about what you think and believe. But don’t get stuck there. Don’t be the anti-whomever, always talking about why s/he is wrong, heretical, or hypocritical. Tell us what you are for.  Continue Reading…

So You Have a DMin…

May 11, 2013 — 4 Comments

I recently graduated with a doctorate in Leadership and Global Perspectives. What does that mean? What are my plans now? Maybe this short video will help explain:

Just Call Me “Bea”

April 30, 2013 — 1 Comment

I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember. I was baptized when I was seven and, except for the prototypical “wandering” that most cradle Christians engage in during their college years, I’ve always identified myself as “Christian” or a “follower of Jesus.” But you can call me, “Bea.”

The image of the lamb in the video above, bounding back and forth as her owner calls her name, but never quite sure where the voice is coming from, describes my relationship with Jesus well. I hear my name being called, but it seems like I’m always mistaking where it’s calling me to. So, I bound with enthusiasm from one place to another hoping that, like Bea in the video, I’ll eventually get it right and end up finding the arms of my Shepherd.

Until then, however, my life must look pretty comical! I bounded out of my undergraduate degree in theater into a seminary master’s program in practical theology. Then, I bounded again from seminary into college campus ministry. Then, hearing my name called again, I bounded onto the staff of a megachurch. Then I bounded into a doctoral program. Then I bounded across the country to work at the seminary from which I’m receiving my doctorate. In each of these instances, I was sure that I was hearing my name called and I responded with gusto! But there’s something in me that makes me think I’ve just been bounding back and forth across the hall… that I’ve not gotten it quite right, yet.

Do you ever feel that way?

At this point, a good writer or blogger would have three simple takeaways for the reader. Brilliant, yet simple insights that would cause the post to be shared among friends, maybe even go viral. At this point, a good practical theologian would write about all the shepherd/flock/lamb imagery in the Bible, ending in some mind-blowing insight. On my good days, I’m that blogger or I’m that theologian. On my best days, I might even be both. Today, however, I am just a silly lamb, listening for the voice of the Shepherd, and ready to bound off again, hoping that it will someday make sense!

Jesus Peed His Pants!

March 18, 2013 — 2 Comments


Sydney, my eldest child, sat next to me during our community’s worship gathering this weekend. She had a cold and her sister and mom were in with the younger kids. It was just me and her. We sat near the back where she could doodle while she listened to the sermon and where her incessant nose blowing would be less noticeable.

Each week, after the sermon portion of the gathering, we take communion. Sydney and I went up together, knelt, and partook. Back at our seats, I continued to stand and sing. Sydney’s eyes wandered over the walls.

Spaced equally around the sanctuary hung fourteen rectangles of muslin, each with a duct tape cross in the center. Each piece of fabric was decorated differently, some ornate, others simple, some with images, some with words. Together, they make up the fourteen stations of the cross.

I leaned down to her and said, “You can go check those out, if you want.”

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After almost three years of being out from behind a pulpit, this weekend I get to share with my home community here in Portland: Theophilus Church. We are nearing the end of our journey though the book of Hosea together and AJ has asked me to keep us moving forward by sharing out of Hosea 13. If you’ve not read that chapter recently (or ever) you should take a minute to do that.

Man, this chapter seems like a really Debbie Downer of a passage, right? Check out this imagery:

[T]hey will be like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears,
like chaff swirling from a threshing floor,
like smoke escaping through a window.

. . .

I will come upon them like a lion,
like a leopard I will lurk by the path.
Like a bear robbed of her cubs,
I will attack them and rip them open.
Like a lion I will devour them: a wild animal will tear them apart.
You are destroyed, O Israel,
because you are against me,
against your helper.

. . .

Pains as of a woman in childbirth will come to him,

. . .

They will fall by the sword;
their little ones will be dashed to the ground,
their pregnant women ripped open.

Hosea 13:3, 7-9, 13a, 16b

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God, right?

So, where am I going to go with this passage? Well, if you’re in the Portland area on the evening of Sunday February 24, you should come find out. I’ll give you the working title for the message is the same as the title of this post, so maybe that will give you a clue as to what I’m thinking: “Cafeteria Spirituality, A Wild Lion, & the Death of Death.”

What would you draw out of this chapter? Or, even better, what would you want to hear talked about from this chapter?

A couple weeks ago I announced via Twitter and Facebook that I’m editing a book of essays about fatherhood. Here’s a little more information about the project.

The book is the fifth in a series called “I Speak for Myself.” The first book, published in 2011, contained 40 essays from 40 American women under 40 writing about what it means to be Muslim. It was co-edited by a good friend of mine from college, Maria Ebrahimji. Shortly before the release of the book, she and I talked on the phone and she expressed how it was her hope to take the book’s format, 40 contributors under 40, and expand it to other faith traditions.

This summer, the first I Speak for Myself book on Christianity will be released. Titled Talking Taboo, it features 40 essays from 40 American Christian women. It is being co-edited by Erin Lane and Enuma Okoro and has some great contributors. Among them are Julie Clawson, Micha Boyett, Amy Julia Becker, Sarah Thebarge, and others. Last fall, I was contacted again by my friend, who asked if I would help brainstorm some names for co-editors for a book of essays by American Christian men under 40. I sent her a list of names and figured I’d given her all the help I could give.

I was only partially right. A couple of week later, Maria and I spoke on the phone again and she asked if I would consider being one of the co-editors. I was shocked. I mean, I don’t have any “platform,” I don’t have a previous bestseller that will compel people to buy this book, and I don’t pastor some big church with thousands of congregants. I’m not that big of a deal, really. What I do have, Maria insisted, is the ability to pull together a broad number of perspectives around a central topic. And she’s right. Networking has long been a strength of mine and making sure that a wide and diverse group of people speak into a conversation is quite important to me. So, I agreed to edit the book and to find a co-editor with a bit more platform than I.

The next decision was to propose a topic for the essayists to explore. After batting around a couple different ideas, I settled on “fatherhood.” The subject is one with which people from all different faiths can relate: every man is a son, some men are fathers. I think it will be intriguing to see what role one’s Christian faith plays into understanding oneself as a father or a son, or the relationship between father and son. Maria and her business partner, Zahra, agreed. So, off I went on the search for a co-editor.

It is early still, but the book is starting to shape up nicely. I’m excited about the stories that are emerging. There’s a guy who is going to write about losing a child, and another about losing his wife and now raising daughters as a widower. I have a stay-at-home dad who’s going to pen something fantastic, and a dad writing about the anxiety of parenting a pre-teen girl. There’s a new dad writing about his first child and a man writing about being unable to have kids at all. There are more stories waiting in the wings, I’m sure.

Some of the contributors you will have heard of, like Jason Boyett, Andrew Marin, Shane Blackshear, and A.J. Swoboda. Other names will be new to you. All the stories will be worth telling (and I promise not all the contributors are white!). I’m humbled and excited to be part of such a great project. I can’t wait to see how it shapes up. I’ll keep you updated, friend.

My Top 12 Failures of 2012

December 31, 2012 — 1 Comment

2012 Fail

The end of the year generates a lot of “Top ____ of 2012” posts. Instead of looking back at my top posts, or albums, or books, I thought I’d go a different route and look at my top failures of the past year. Why? Well, every failure presents a new opportunity. Though some of the things I list below can be easily explained, even justified, each one presents me with an area of growth for 2013. So, without further ado, here are my top 12 failures of 2012:
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