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.”

Continue Reading…

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…

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?

Lent for Newbies

February 12, 2013 — 6 Comments

lent_ash_cross

I didn’t grow up in a high church liturgical tradition, so I knew little about Lent until I was in my twenties. Each year, it seems, I hear of friends and relatives who want to give up something for Lent, but aren’t really sure what, how, or why. So, they usually give up chocolate or beer or smoking and then complain about how hard it is. If you, like me, didn’t grow up in a tradition that observes Lent, but you are intrigued by what you might be missing, I hope you find this post helpful.  Continue Reading…

sistine_smoke

So, Pope Benedict XVI is resigning. The last Pope to do so was Gregory XII in 1415, but his resignation was more of an abdication than a voluntary retirement. The Church was in the midst of the Western Schism. There were three claimants to the papacy and, in the end, Gregory XII resigned under pressure and made possible the election of Martin V two years later.

One must travel back nearly 750 years to find the last time that a pope voluntarily resigned. Pope Celestine V resigned his post in 1294, after filling the See of Peter for a mere five months. Interestingly, one of his most notable contributions during his tenure was declaring that any pope had the right to resign or retire. He then utilized that very declaration to leave his position and return to his pre-papacy life of solitude.

Now, for the second time in a decade, the College of Cardinals will convene to vote on the next man to step into apostolic succession. Beginning in March, the world will turn its collective eye to Saint Peter’s Square and watch until the smoke rising from the Sistine Chapel changes from dark to white, signaling the election of the next pope.
Continue Reading…

crisis chinese

Popularized in a 1959 speech by President Kennedy, it is said that when written in Chinese, “crisis” is composed of the two characters meaning “danger” and “opportunity.” Though the actual linguistics of such a translation are a bit shaky, the sentiment is a good one: crises are crucial moments with high stakes.

The church is not unfamiliar with crisis. Throughout its long and storied history, the church has faced despotism from within and from without. She has been both the persecuted and the persecutor. She has been both endangered by standing against kings and kingdoms, and she has been endangered by playing bedfellow to Presidents and Prime Ministers.

Continue Reading…