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:

Continue Reading…

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:

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!

label maker

This week Dave Fitch wrote a post in response to Tony Jones’ and Doug Pagitt’s frustration with Fitch labeling them, and Emergent, as part of the protestant mainline. In the post, Fitch responds to their objections and defends his choices. Regarding the act of labeling he writes, “labeling, carefully and generously done, is an exercise in furthering the conversation.” In response to his specific labeling of Jones and Pagitt as mainliners he writes, “[l]ooking at their theological positions as articulated over the last 10-15 years, especially when we were reading/listening to them more carefully, I still think theologically they both lie comfortably in this camp” (emphasis added).

First off, allow me to admit that I have not read the book in which this labeling occurs (sorry Fitch and Holsclaw!), so I may be missing some pieces here. Even so, I submit that Jones and Pagitt are not as offended by the label as they are by being labeled. Let me explain.  Continue Reading…

Jesus Peed His Pants!

March 18, 2013 — 2 Comments

Sydney

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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That's me, moderating the question and answer time with Rachel Held Evans and Roger Olson.

That’s me, moderating the question and answer time with Rachel Held Evans and Roger Olson.
Photo credit: Loren Kerns. See the original image.

Yesterday I had the honor of being part of a seminar called “Does Evangelicalism Have a Future?” put on by George Fox Evangelical Seminary as a part of their Ministry in Contemporary Culture series. I first proposed this seminar a year ago, for somewhat selfish reasons. I wanted to get two people that I greatly respect (Roger Olson and Rachel Held Evans) in a room together to hear them talk about a question that I’ve been struggling with for the past several years. In the marketing for the event I wrote,

In a time when “evangelical” has more of a political connotation than a convictional connotation, we need bright voices that can help sort through the noise and imagine a way forward for those who call themselves evangelical.

I still call myself evangelical, but find that I must often follow that with “but let me explain what I mean by that.” In the US, and likely elsewhere, the word “evangelical” has become synonymous with white-male-fundamentalist-Republican-Christian. Those of us who don’t fit that description often find ourselves using the evangelical moniker to our own detriment. It would be so easy to just stop using the word, but I’ve found that problematic as well.

Continue Reading…