Photo by Ed Ouimette (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo by Ed Ouimette (CC BY-SA 2.0)

HUMBUG WARNING: If Buddy the Elf best describes you during the holidays, you’re gonna hate this post.

Have you ever paid attention to the lyrics of the songs that are played around the holidays? I mean, really listened to them and considered their meanings? While many of them do a fine job and bringing glad tidings and cheer, some of them are just awful. Here are 10 Christmas Songs Whose Lyrics Are The WORSTContinue Reading…

Photo by gabrieleventi (CC BY 2.0)

Photo by gabrieleventi (CC BY 2.0)

I’m co-teaching a master’s class with Leonard Sweet for George Fox Seminary students called “Communication in Christian Ministry.” One of the things we want students to come away with is a better understanding of how to strategically integrate online communication and social networking tools into their ministry contexts. The students design a short-run social media project, track and assess interaction, then write up a report on their findings. Their projects are currently underway (check out Ed Pagh’s twitter hashtag #ExtendWorship and Tobyn Bower’s facebook group, “On the Trail” for great examples). Any foray into social conversations online quickly reveals the sometimes hostile grounds that exist “out there.”

With more people and more people joining social media conversations each year, have we lost our manners? In the midst of all the tweets and retweets, likes and status updates, pins, posts, comments and replies, upvotes and downvotes, is there a place for civility online? How can we make our virtual interactions more hospitable?  Continue Reading…

In this video from The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), Roman Krznaric talks about the importance of outrospection and empathy when it comes to social, political, and economic transformation. I think that the same empathic imagination is needed in the church as well.

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"I'm not botherin' you, am I?"

“I’m not botherin’ you, am I?”

When you think of “spirituality,” what comes to mind? Prayer? Yoga poses? Light and peace and health? For much of my youth, “spirituality” was something that only Buddhists or New Age hippies pursued. As a good, Southern Baptist evangelical, I didn’t have “spirituality,” I had my “walk with Jesus.” 

Mostly, this consisted of a daily “quiet time” with God, in which I read a passage out of the Bible, wrote down my thoughts in a journal, and prayed. The undercurrent was one of fear, though. I viewed God as a Divine Curmudgeon, the Great Mr. Wilson in the sky. My attempts at daily discipline were to try and placate him, to show him how serious and studious I was about wanting a relationship with him. And to apologize. Every time I prayed, I brought with me a long list of sins for which I needed forgiveness. I begged God daily to allow the blood of Jesus to cover over my latest transgressions. Theologically, I understood that God would forgive me, but I sure didn’t think he was very happy about it. I figured he was fairly put out by having to hear from me every day about how I’d screwed up since the last time I’d prayed. I felt guilty about exercising the Jesus-Loophole; God had to forgive me because I am a Christian. It’s like he was under contractual obligation.
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A couple nights ago, I received a call in the early evening from a prominent speaker and writer here in the Portland area. He was having a dinner party and wondered if I was free to come and join him and his other guests. He said that most of the people at the party were, like him, from the area and he thought that having me, a Southerner now living in the Pacific Northwest, would add a different voice to the conversation. Though somewhat unsure about what he meant by that, I rearranged my plans for the evening and drove across town to his house.

When I arrived, it was immediately clear that I was late. Everyone else was already seated at the table and finishing up the salad course. Still, I was welcomed and introduced as guest of the host. I looked around the table and noticed that there wasn’t an empty place setting. All the seats were occupied. Slightly embarrassed, the host quickly had people rearrange their chairs and make some room as he retrieved a folding chair from his garage.

I sat down, a little bit lower due to the height of the cool, metal chair, and began to eat the salad placed before me. The shorter chair meant that the surface of the table came up to my mid-chest. I felt a little ridiculous sitting a full head lower than everyone else, like a child invited to sit with the grown-ups. The party staff cleared everyone else’s empty dishes. I shoveled the greens into my mouth, trying to catch up. In between bites, I tried to politely answer the other guests’ questions about my upbringing in Georgia. 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…

Invisible Girls book cover

When I was in middle school, there was this girl in my church that I had a huge crush on. I was a shy, gangly boy, sporting a bowl haircut, glasses, and braces. Each Wednesday night before youth group, I’d put on a Polo shirt, tuck it in to my pleated-front khaki slacks, put on my braided leather belt, and tie up my Converse All Star high-tops. Then I’d try and find ways to get in her line of sight, hoping she’d smile or, even better, start talking to me. It never happened.

After several months, I got up enough courage to call her one Wednesday night after church. I retrieved the church’s photo directory from the kitchen and thumbed through to the “L’s.” It took me 15 minutes to work up enough courage to dial all seven digits of the number and let it ring. Her mother answered. I politely asked if I could speak to her daughter. She said she’d be right back. When she returned to the phone, she informed me that her daughter was taking a shower and couldn’t come to the phone right now. I left my number and a request that she call me back. The phone never rang.

I don’t think she was in the shower after all.  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: