a requiem

In the past two months, I have moved from lurker to commenter on a number of blogs. It has been a long road for me, filled with success and failure. I have doubted my ability to say something meaningful or to add something to the conversation. I have re-read comments and felt stupid, ignorant, or just grossly inadequate. However, through all of that, I have begun to find a voice, my voice, and I am beginning to like it.

What I have learned though is that voices, especially voices that speak of vulnerability, that speak of desire can sometimes be abused. What is written below is a comment I made on the website www.reallivepreacher.com. You can no longer read the article in question, unless you can find it through the cache at Google (some have had some success at this), but you can read about the aftermath. I was lucky enough to read the article, and this what I thought about it and the conversation that followed...

I have spent the last three or so years of my short life wondering what would happen if people could find a way to live an authentic life that reflected the wit, charm, and mysteries of God. In this recently removed post, I saw myself in the reflections and desires, I saw myself in the brokenness and pain, and I saw myself attempting to be honest with my vulnerabilities.

Preaching and writing, for me, have never been about witty stories, half-baked anecdotes, and vacuous theology; it has always been about being real, experiencing the text and listening, questioning and hoping to hear God. Your stories give me hope that preachers, teachers, doctors, plumbers, bus drivers, whatever can find and share who they are through their experiences.

The comments posted are no more and no less than what I would expect. There is support for the writing, for the man, for the preacher; there is also anger and defensiveness at the reality present. There will always be people who will abuse our vulnerability and then blame us as the victims of that abuse. There will always be people who will cheer from the sidelines while the vulnerable will be left to tough it out. Thankfully, there will always be people who are willing to crawl along the path of our vulnerability with us -to help, to support, to guide, and to see us through- not so that we might feel better, but that we might feel at all.

grace and peace

I wonder...

... what it means that my blogger profile is shorter than my favorite books list.

... about the fact that I was supposed to preach last Sunday and church was cancelled because of ice and snow; so we moved it to this Sunday and the forecast is for ice and snow. Do sermons come with a "preach by" date so that we know when they might go bad?

... what my life would be like if my wife and I weren't going to move so that I could start a doctoral program.

... if I will ever be as good as my friends at some of the things that I admire them for.

... if I will ever be as creative as the people that I admire.

... if I will ever stop questioning why I'm not like someone else and just be me.

... what color my carpet will be after clean up all of the junk that has been sitting on it for months now.

... if I will ever see the same qualities in myself that others see in me.

... what conversations would look like if everyone felt secure, if everyone felt safe to speak, if everyone was treated with the kind of respect a child of God deserves.

... what kind of difference one person really makes. I realize that small pebbles cause big ripples, but they are still small pebbles.

... what will happen if the conversation I created this blog for ever gets started.

grace and peace


She walks through my door and refuses to leave him. She is beholden to the power that he might change, and she will suffer on her cross until he does or death comes. A different day, he walks through the door, shuffling his feet and stares at the ground. He wants peace from the demons that haunt his life. The woman, much too old, and he, much too young, learned the dance that embarrasses adults and brings life to the world. He cannot find the words to describe how it felt, how it still feels, except to say that it hurts.

Abuse, it is all around us, constantly sucking the marrow from the lives that surround us. Instead of spending a lifetime learning about themselves, these people who haunt the couches of my office spend it running from ghosts that are all too real. Once it happens, it rarely stops. Victims are ripped from the present and violated repeatedly. Images skip through their minds, testing their reality, daring them to break the chains that bind them. Some do break free, or at least break their bonds; I am not sure if freedom ever really comes.

I can’t imagine suffering with abuse in secret; I can’t imagine the courage it takes to tell someone; all I can do is applaud those who get help and cry loudly for the justice that they deserve.

The questions of suffering continue though. Where is God when perpetrators seize control and violently take over the physical, mental, and emotional lives of the powerless? How can one find God, find life, find hope, when those they trust steal their innocence? It is hard sometimes to remind myself that God is the great “I Am.” Sometimes it is all I can do just to wade into the muck and crap and try to find something.

I imagine their lives in pictures; Rodan’s visions of Dante’s Inferno, the valley of the shadow of death, C.S. Lewis’ visions of hell as separation are pictures that I carry with me. They are places I have been taken. At times light will enter each portrait, and together we are allowed to stare with wonder and awe.

I am most appalled by the perpetrators though. While their act is a deranged grab at some semblance of power or “life,” it is the fact that a lot of times they are victims of abuse themselves. This is no excuse for their behavior, but instead highlights the cycles that happen when silence is the norm.

That is where I think suffering comes from, silence. We suffer when our voices are taken from us; we suffer when God seems silent to our pain; we suffer when we are forced to carry our burdens alone; we suffer when we choose silence out of shame, fear, or anger...

it's all theology

John Patton, in Pastoral Care in Context says the following:

"God created human beings for relationship and continues in relationship with creation by hearing us, remembering us, and meeting us in our relationships with one another." (p.15)

The reason why everything involves theology is that everything involves relationships. From the beginning, this has always been about relationships, I-Thou, I-Me, and I-we. It is the reason I am a counselor; it is the reason I am a pastor. For me, theology is so many things that it cannot be seperated from life, theology is life and life theology. Think about it for a moment and name one thing that cannot be seen in a theological light.

I think of the meeting we had this morning with the staff from a local church. Their sense of feeling overwhelmed by the growth of their church and the needs of their congregation was palpable. Theologically, their struggles are the struggles of every person, what does it mean to be faithful to the call of God in this world; and how do I mediate that call with the fear that wells up inside?

I think of the woman who constantly smothers me at the church where I work. Always at my heels, reminding me that I am "her little angel." Her husband passed away almost 18 months ago and the stability in her life has never been the same. Her struggles with grief and what it means to believe in a God who would "take" the person she loves from her are greater than I can imagine.

I think of all of the lives that intersect mine on a daily basis. A colleague once told me that the reason why her counseling practice was pastoral is because the ground on which she and her clients walk is holy. True, but isn't all of the ground we walk on holy? Is there anywhere that we can go to escape the groans of creation, to escape the feeling that God is with us?

We are all on this planet together, and the life that we lead speaks of the theology we believe. Theology is the language of a journey with the Other; theology is the background in the pictures of our lives; theology is what and how and why I choose to relate to others; theology is meaning in the meaningless, hope in the hopeless, life in the darkest of shadows. It's all theology...

small favors

In the counseling world, you are supervised for a period of time before you are deemed acceptable to practice on your own. So far, my process has involved about 200 hours of supervision, 85 in the Social Work side and 115 on the pastoral counseling side. I never thought I would see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I have about 15 hours of Social Work supervision left before I will be licensed to practice on my own. It is both scary and exhilarating to reach this point in my life.

Along those lines, I had an evaluation from my supervisor this morning. This is a periodic evaluation to gauge my progress and redefine my goals. It went much better than expected, and compared to last year it was a walk in the park. Last year, about this time, I was so depressed that I couldn't see beyond my own nose. I was pretty good at hiding it from most folks; we counselors are tricky in that way because we already know the interventions. In fact, you probably wouldn't have been able tell it about me unless you looked really closely, and I was pretty good about not letting people look too close.

However, through a good course of therapy and a general desire to change and challenge myself, the funk has passed and I have had a good year overall. My practice and my ability to self-supervise (which means that I can examine my own actions and thoughts and screen the necessary from the unnecessary while in the room with a client) have improved dramatically which actually makes me think I might be pretty damn good at this someday.

The struggle that I will continue to face is my own sense of self-indictment. Up until today, I have always feared evaluations, which comes from my ability to be unfairly self-critical. Just as an example, I will work and re-work a sermon in my head and on paper until I have found the perfect blend between creativity and theological astuteness. The head of staff at the church where I serve often laughs at me when I have difficulty with a lectionary passage. I believe that his hope is that laughter will help pull me out of my seriousness and begin to play a little more with the text. It is helpful to have people around that don't let you take yourself too seriously.

As I look back on my day, it was well spent for the most part (enter subdued self-criticism). I spent the evening with several clients and left feeling pretty good about the work we did together. Usually, I can tell when I have had a good run of sessions, because those are the times when the clients do most of the work and I have stayed out of the way. Tomorrow it is back to church to look over the sermon for the tenth time. There is a transition in there that is driving me nuts...

15 yard penalty

Number 84, Philadelphia Eagles, loss of down for illegal use of bad theology...

Read the story here...

I am never quite sure what to think of things such as this; prayers that kicks go through the uprights, statements that God blesses certain teams or has a hand in victory. Do people really believe that God cares about who wins a Super Bowl or an Oscar? Surely there are better things on God's plate than making sure Sammy Superstud wins best supporting actor in a B-movie comedic drama performance...

I like Joan...

... of Arcadia. A decent show if you want something with a little theological meat to dig into (or tofu if you like the veggies).

... Chittister. Read this article on the festivities last week.

excuse me...

…while I whip this out. These are some thoughts in progress based on a blog at Raw Faith.

As I ponder the state of modern Christianity, I am reminded of two things: a disease and a mutation.

The Wikipedia defines disease as the following:

...any abnormal condition of the body or mind that causes discomfort, dysfunction, or distress to the person affected or those in contact with the person... The term disease is often used metaphorically for disordered, dysfunctional, or distressing conditions of other things, as in disease of society.

and mutation as:

...permanent, transmissible changes to the genetic material (usually DNA or RNA) of a cell... Mutations are considered the driving force of evolution, where less favorable (or deleterious) mutations are removed from the gene pool by natural selection, while more favorable (or beneficial) ones tend to accumulate...

Mutations are genetic mishaps, evolutionary problems or solutions to an encounter with resistance in the world. Species evolve through adaptation and change with regard to new stimuli encountered in the world (or mutation). Diseases evolve in the same manner but generally have a negative impact on the structure in which it encounters.

First, if you can imagine it, modern Christianity is nothing more than a mutation. It is merely a mutated form of God’s interactions with the world. The question before me is whether or not this current form is harmful or helpful to the world and the conversation it continues to have with God. Attempts have been made to return to “the early church;” to make this mutation revert to a previous form of existence. In essence, this would be a process of de-evolution which is, in my limited understanding impossible. The modern church cannot devolve just as I cannot will my genes to devolve into a Neanderthal (though there are sometimes when my wife may wonder about this).

Certainly, previous forms are still evident in the world, but the fact remains that the mutation has already occurred and therefore evolution has taken place. There is no return to the originally transmitted form, there is only the opportunity to evolve based on the genetic copy we have before us.

Now the question comes to whether or not the current form of Christianity is a disease (this may be said for other religions, but I cannot speak to their perceived states of being). Do those who call themselves Christians inflict disorder, dysfunction, or distress on the created world? Or are Christians more like bacteria, sometimes helpful and sometimes harmful? If we are a disease on the world, what is the remedy, the course of treatment?


One of my favorite quotes comes from Paul Tillich's book Dynamics of Faith. My friends are probably tired of hearing me quote it, but it has meant a lot to me over the past year. In the book Tillich says the following:

"...serious doubt is confirmation of faith."

Which basically means the ability to doubt is inextricably tied to the ability to believe. Therefore, in order to seriously question one's beliefs, one must seriously believe. The comfort of this quote reminds me of something that a friend and I talked about last night. I don't know if I remember entirely how he put it, but I found it meaningful in my conversation with life.

Last night, he basically said that from what he has learned (he is a doctoral student in Old Testament), that if he were not already a Christian there would not be enough to the Bible to convince him to convert. However, since the history, experience, and traditions of the Christian community are his history, traditions, and experiences, there is not enough reason for him to leave either(I do hope I got that right).

His words, like Tillich's, are a another comfort and another confirmation that I am going to be all right. Since I began pondering his idea, I have come to better appreciate my own struggles with God, the enterprise of the church, and the life of faith. I look at and see his words as inspirational to those of us who find themselves sometimes skeptical in this mad, mad world. It makes me wonder what all us do with the doubts we encounter during the journeys of our lives...

I realized today...

...how much I will miss my friends when my wife and I move this coming summer.

...how much of a gulf there is between the language of theology that I speak, and the language that non-ministers speak.

...that no matter how much training as a counselor I have, I will still screw up in my relationship with my wife.

...that the names Shiphrah, Puah, and Jael will mostly likely not make a significant comeback on peoples’ lists of baby names.

...that birthday cakes are important, especially when you forget to make them.

...how much I enjoy talking about theology and politics and animated television shows.

...how a simple gesture can put a smile on someone’s face.

...that I have really good friends and I am surrounded by people who care about me.

Finally, I realized today that being a minister is not so bad, especially when you are surrounded by people who make it okay to laugh at yourself.

snow day

I saw myself in three cars yesterday. In Richmond, where I live, it snowed a whole 2 inches yesterday. This means that everybody and their mother has to rush out to the grocery store and buy milk, bread, and toilet paper. Schools and businesses shut down, children run wild in the streets, women wail and men cry. And… everyone believes they know how to drive in the snow.

So, there I was in front of the traffic light, in the middle lane of an icy road. To my left was a brand new pickup truck, single row of seats, empty truck bed, and rear wheel drive. To my right a work van has whipped around the traffic behind and skids to a stop next to my car. I am in my mid-sized sedan, warily watching the drama ensue.

Pickup truck guy is trying to make a right turn. He has been doing so through three or four cycles of the light. His idea of getting through the icy patch at the intersection is push down on the gas as hard as he can. Pickup truck guy is basically doing a 2000 pound impression of an ice skate…

Van guy is visibly upset. He too has sat through a number of lights and he just watched another van scoot around the slower moving traffic. Van guy is creeping forward on the packed snow in the turn lane…

I just sit and watch. I am idle guy. I sit and watch the mechanical ice skate on my right and the impatient creeping guy crunching the snow under his tires…

Pickup truck guy has fishtailed his back wheels into the curb so that he is facing against traffic, and he gets ready for another run. Only the light is red and I can’t tell whether there is oncoming traffic. Pickup truck guy doesn’t care, he just guns it and the tires are screaming on the packed ice…

Van guy has attracted a following. Behind him another van has pulled up. I can hear the engines rev, eyes intent on the red light. The line to my left has grown. Partially out of impatience, partially out of the fear that they won’t be one of the three cars to get through before the light turns red again…

I am waiting. I am watching. I am… scared. The last thing I want is for the light to turn green. I think I am going to be the victim of testosterone or impatience. I see my car hideously attached to the fender of the pickup, sliding into the van…

The screeching continues as pickup truck guy slides closer to the intersection, two feet forward, and one foot to the right. There is no stopping him now. I keep waiting for him to catch the pavement and take off, sending the truck careening into the Costco parking lot…

The light changes and it is time to go. Van guy guns it and the screeching begins again. Pickup truck guy has found his footing and is on his way to terrorize another corner. Idle guy, me, I take my foot off the brake and idle forward till I hit the pavement and then give it a little gas…


I first heard of the emerging church movement in an issue of Christian Century Magazine (see the articles here and here). Since that time, I have read several blogs of folks who are involved or intrigued with the "movement." Basically, in my limited understanding, the Emergent conversation is an attempt to bring theology, liturgy and community into a postmodern frame of being.

Its roots come out of the evangelical tradition, but there is speculation that it may appeal to those of us who call ourselves progressive. First and foremost, let me say that I am all for conversation that happens in a genuine community where people are capable and able to simply be who they are called by God to be. This, in essence is what I preach on Sundays, it is what I teach, and it is how I interact in counseling situations.

My attraction is two-fold. First, the understanding that people become post-conservative, post-liberal, post-insert label here. Second, is the emphasis on authentic community. There seems to be a genuine interest in "becoming" more than "doing" church. This is quite a different emphasis and one that I welcome. In the midst of all of this, there seems to be a desire for conversation that leads through "being" more Christ-like and on to acting like the community of faith.

There are some things that make me wary; and the first has to do with one of my attractions. Authentic community, great idea, difficult task. The idea of a community that is one giant enmeshed formless blob is not all that appealing to me. I recently read a blog that speaks, in part, to this concern (you can find it here).

The quote that is used at the top of this post reads "Community is a place where ego dies" written by Jean Vanier, a Catholic priest who serves in an L'Arch community. Now I would agree with his assertion that true community is the place where we are able to reach within and call out the very being that we were created to be. However, I take issue with this notion that the ego is something to be set aside.

The term ego, generally, is misused and maligned (similar to the way that the term schizophrenia is abused and misused) . It is talked about in reference to people who are considered self-involved or in relation to your garden variety narcissist. This use, while culturally appropriate, is not the only use. For me, the ego is a place where we go internally to feel grounded, and it is out of the ego that we can begin to function with some semblance of authenticity.

When I talk about the ego with the people I counsel, I liken it to a whiffle ball that sits at the core of our being. The unhealthy ego whiffle ball has holes that are either too big or too small. Thus, the person who controls the ego either lets too much in or out, or lets to little in or out. With these people, and by these people I mean all of us at one point or another, we find folks who lack appropriate boundaries or are too guarded. The person who is able to maintain a stable ego is the one who is capable of authentic living and sharing within a community.

The question, therefore, is which comes first? Does the person's ego become grounded through their participation in an authentic community, or does the authentic community come about through the gathering of grounded egos. It is equivalent to the chicken and the egg conundrum, and it is unanswerable except to say that they come about in conjunction with one another. I always remind people who become over-involved in community that the greatest commandment was to love God, love ourselves, and love our neighbors in that order.

The next part of the emerging conversation that interests and scares me, is the relative lack of input from a variety of cultures, genders, and dare I say, orientations. I will admit that my reading is limited on this subject, and therefore my questions are born out of knowledge, ignorance, and experience (or lack thereof). Mainly, my lament is that the female voice is not often heard enough when it comes to leadership. The books that are mentioned are by male authors, the articles in publications are written by men, for an example look here. It would be interesting to me to read an article about a feminine postmodern vision of what communities of faith should be.

My final fear is that this conversation will amount to nothing more than a revision of current practices to fit the next generation. When I meet with a person, the first thing I do is ask about their history. This has nothing to do with trying to fix it, solve it, or going back to live it again. It simply has to do with where have they been and how did it get them through my door. We are our experiences, our "baggage." We are the sum total of every encounter we have had with family, friend, enemy, mentor, animal, vegetable, and mineral; and this cannot be ignored.

Ultimately, my hope is that the conversation continues. I believe that there is a place for authentic community that upholds both the value of our individual createdness and the innate desire we have to "be" with one another. I am also not convinced that the church in which I am a minister is completely capable of creating this kind of space. I believe that there is great value in the traditions of my denomination and that true conversation means dialogue, and ultimately that means speaking and listening to the wisdom that surrounds us whatever the source may be.

grace and peace


I spent most of the evening flipping between two very guilty pleasures, Scrubs and American Idol. Scrubs is the kind of show that appeals to my primal sense of humor. The internal dialogue of the main character is what attracts me to the show. Something about his stream of consciousness strikes home for me. The insecurity, insanity, grand thoughts and schemes all register with the way my mind works; and gives voice to that part of me that I would rarely show to others. My wife always knows when I am watching Scrubs because my laughter resonates throughout the hallways of our home...

American Idol is a laugh of a different kind. This is the laughter that comes from two sources in my life. The first is the painful laughter that comes when people put themselves in situations that they have no business being a part of. The second source is the laughter that comes from hearing the truth in rather course and abrupt ways. It is not that I don't have empathy for those who put themselves out there and find their hopes crushed.

It has more to do with the human condition that is displayed throughout the process. I can't sing, but that doesn't stop me from crooning in my car on the way to work, or prancing around the house when no one else is home. I can always turn the music up louder if I begin to actually hear my voice. However, I have a realistic view of my talents and gifts and know that I would never consider auditioning for a show whose purpose is to rate people on their ability to carry a tune.

My laughter comes when people do not have an accurate appraisal of their talents and gifts. We cannot grow up to be anything we want to be, that is the greatest lie told to children. We can grow up to do great things, but we can't do anything. We all have gifts and talents, God given abilities, that are specific to each individual. Our task in life is to be that person, the one who realizes their gifts and exploits them in a way that enables us to reach our fullest potential in conjunction with the needs of God's kingdom in the world.

What American Idol gives me is a small dose of people who just don't get what life is about. I admire the plucky spirit that goes into an audition hoping to realize a dream. I laugh at those who enter it without a realistic appraisal of their gifts and then expect things to be handed to them. The difference between these people and the ones I see in a counseling session is that these people are oblivious, arrogant, and narcissistic; the people who walk into my counseling office are sometimes the same, but have felt the sting of reality in their lives and they realize that they are no longer entitled to believe that they can do anything they set their minds to.

What a disservice we do to children when we tell them they can do anything, be anything. Wouldn't we be better served by cultivating the individual talents and gifts of our children in a communal atmosphere so that they might see what teamwork and community is about? Wouldn't we be better off teaching kids about how the gifts of one can benefit the whole? I don't know the answer to this, I don't even have kids yet, but I still wonder... and I laugh...


Tolerance is no longer acceptable. Tolerance is placating, it strips people of the power of their beliefs, it is hierarchical...

Tolerance is what we do when we believe that our beliefs are better than another's, but we will be big about it and not tell them they are wrong...

Tolerance is not enough anymore. It doesn't change attitudes, just the rhetoric... I don't just want to be tolerant any longer.

I just don't know what else to be...


Sometimes I feel so uninteresting. It is as though I am sitting on the side of the interstate watching the traffic pass by. I have a life, a wonderful life, with a beautiful wife, and not a great deal of strife. But sometimes it feels so banal.

For instance, I was reading the newspaper yesterday afternoon. The front page and two full middle pages were taken up with an article touting Jerry Falwell’s new law school at Liberty University and Pat Robertson’s at Regent University. I was livid. Why is it that everything these nutcases do is front page news in Virginia? Why do they deserve three full pages in the Richmond newspaper, some 60-80 miles away? Where are the progressives, the moderates, the people with common sense?

I really can’t understand their ministries. I have always understood ministry to be about reconciliation, hope, and most of all love. But something just doesn’t feel right when I read articles and see Jerry and Pat on the television. Every time I hear them speak, I come away feeling dirty.

It is a depressing thing to see people use God’s name to spread fear and make people dependent and powerless. It is horrible when people’s ego centers are torn away and they become automatons, performing at the will of those who hold the power. It is horrible when God’s name is woven into the rhetoric of war, wealth, and terror.

It is horrible feel as though you sit on the side powerless yourself, unable to move, to create change; afraid to call yourself minister, especially a Christian minister, out of the fear that you will be lumped into the same category as these conmen on television…

no dollar

I pulled into the parking lot of a local fast food place today. As usual, I was in a hurry before my first client. I was about to open the door and head in when I heard someone mumble something behind me.

I turned to see a man; he was a good bit shorter than me, long graying hair with a beard to match. He smelled better than I expected, and was dressed in clean faded fatigues.

He mumbled something incoherent, and I replied with a cursory “excuse me?”

Again he mumbled and pointed down the street, and again I said, “excuse me, I didn’t understand you.”

He replied, “Got a dollar? They have a dollar menu down there,” pointing towards another fast food place.

Without a thought I replied, “No, sorry I don’t” and turned to walk away. I felt justified because I didn’t have a dollar. I had a five and a twenty in my wallet, but no dollar. It was for my lunch, and I was in a hurry.

I walked in, ordered my sandwich, and looked in my wallet. Beside the five and the twenty were four one dollar bills. I looked out the window to see him cross the street, and I stood there frozen. I watched as he disappeared, and my heart filled with a raging emptiness.

I just stared for a moment and time stood still. A thousand possibilities filled my mind and leapt into my heart. My feet would not move. He reappeared, further down the street, approaching people waiting at the bus stop still searching for that dollar.

I have waited for moments like this, moments to prove my mettle and put actions to my beliefs. I watched my moment walk down the street. I could have bought him lunch alongside me; had him order what he wanted and paid for it with ease. But I couldn’t be bothered.

“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”

I have spent more time thinking about that 30 second encounter than it would have taken to buy him lunch. It is so hard to see God, and willingly do nothing to help.

Wherever you are, dollar man, I am sorry. Please forgive me. I will try to do better next time, when your brother or sister comes to me again. Just, please, forgive me…


I just finished updating my PIF (Personal Information Form) for the church. This is basically the form that tells the world about me and what I believe, what I've done, and so on. I really liked one of the questions and thought I would include it here...

What are the key theological issues currently facing the church and society, and how do they shape your ministry?

I believe the key issue that the church faces today is: what does it mean to be prophetic? As the people of God, we are called into community to help bring about the kingdom of God on earth; and therefore, we are concurrently called to be both separate from and a part of the world.

Prophecy, in its truest form, is about reminding and acting out changes God wishes for this world. In the Hebrew Bible, prophets spoke out against injustice and called the people of God to a better way of living. Prophets railed against those who perpetuated oppression and broke the backs of the powerless. Prophets spoke out against corrupt rulers and called for compassion towards the weak and the helpless.

In our society, prophecy has been co-opted by those who wish to spread fear. Prophecy has been used as a tool to condemn differences rather than condemn injustices. The greatest challenge the church faces is to redefine what it means to be prophetic. The church has the obligation to reclaim this important voice and use it in the manner in which it was intended, such as was done when the General Assembly chose to divest from companies that do business with Israel’s government.

Being prophetic means that we are not always popular. It means that people will be upset at some of the positions that are voiced. However, it also means that we are being true to the call of God on our lives. My ministry, preaching, and teaching are all attempts at listening and sharing this prophetic adventure.

I am allowed 1500 characters to answer this question, so an economy of words is necessary. However, I am not sure that more words are needed...


I just spent the last hour or so setting up my new email accounts. My last email addresses lasted just about 8 years. It's hard to say goodbye to them, but it is also time to enter the 21st century.

This whole escapade reminds of some of the clients I see, and the things they choose to hold on to. It is hard sometimes looking from the outside in on a set of problems or psychic blocks in the lives that are laid before me. Sometimes I find myself able to empathize and meet people wherever they are; sometimes I can't ever get there no matter how hard I try. One of the most frustrating events is to get close to finding out who someone truly is, only to have them scamper away and slip from my grip.

Churches have this sense about them as well. Part of me wants to treat it like one big therapy group, with everyone acting out their particular neurosis at any given moment. Mostly, I am reminded of how hurt so many people are, and at how their lives, my life, is full of success and disappointment. Where can you go for support, if you can't go to your church? Where can you be real, authentic, and open, if you cannot be such a person within your community of faith?


It's Monday morning and I am doing my best to avoid my sermon and all that it entails. I'm not quite sure what to make of my resistance, other than just to acknowledge it and move forward.

My wife and I spent the weekend with her parents. It was a good visit which was initiated by the desire to see my new (7 month old) nephew who lives with his parents in Seattle. This was the first time that I had the opportunity to meet him, and he is the smartest, most well-behaved 7 month old I have ever seen. At least until we decide to have children...

I am always afraid that I will break babies. Visions run through my head of dropping them, holding them the wrong way, or of them just crying all the time. So part of my day Saturday was spent dealing with the minor neurotic nuisances that have kept me away from children. It was a good experience to get past them. The thing I remember most is walking outside with Jack (the 7 month old) and whispering in his ear. I remember saying over and over again, that no matter what happens, no matter what he does, I will always love him, I will always be there...

When I returned to the church, there was a note in my mailbox telling me that I will perform my first Baptism at the end of the month. It seems I have traded one anxiety for another...


In my home, we do not have cable television. As a result, we receive roughly six stations over the air waves. One of these stations happens to be Trinity Broadcasting Network, or as I like to think of it, That Biblical Nuisance. Last night they had several doomsayers on television talking about the relevance of the recent tsunami to the "predictions" in Revelation. The question that came to mind was: When did faith become synonymous with fear?

I am not a millennialist or a prophet of doom; nor do I suscribe to the "left behind" theory of the end of the world. It has nothing to do with enlightenment, I can be just as ignorant as the next person. For me, it comes down to not playing God in this world, and not playing God with the faith of others. There are many mysteries in the relationship between God and the world, and it is not my responsibility to solve them. It is my responsibility to accept them and help others do the same. I just don't get why we have fabricate significance or make everyone afraid when we can't understand why something might have happened. Fear fosters dependence not faith...

begin again

It is what I do best, wake up, shower, dress, eat, and thus I begin again. This morning was no exception, except this morning began a little earlier. Awakened by a dream of creeping bugs, consciousness came quickly; and it was only after a clean sweep of the bed that I could begin what would amount to a three hour nap.

The real morning began in a physical and mental fog. Hazy from a long winter nap, I snapped at my wife and then quickly apologized. I pouted over the prospect of another day and another fifty cents. I am a minister, so a day and a dollar don't quite coincide.

My world is multi-faceted, divided between days and hours, roles and responsibilities. On Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday I am a run of the mill pastor with an office, a congregation, and clear set of responsibilities. On Tuesday and Thursday, I am a pastoral counselor and social worker, with two offices, a number of clients, and ample time for creative activities.

Back to that fog… it happens every so often, I wake up and the world seems dark, deep, and formless. The last thing I want to do is “be pastoral.” Thankfully, my vocation teaches me to compartmentalize my life in order to be available to the quandaries of others around me.

After a stiff cup of coffee, my fog begins to lift. Memories of creepy bugs seem distant, and the sun rises on my internal landscape; and none to soon, this is supervision morning. In my world, I am still a green therapist, intermediate by some terms, experienced but still unsure, mature with a long journey ahead. So, I am supervised.

At 8 AM, I get to play supervisor with a colleague, this is always a learning experience, much like painting a picture with someone standing over your shoulder. Then from 9 AM to 11 AM, I am the project. Two hours of “growth opportunities,” time spent examining my work and my state of being. It is generally a positive time, always challenging, and rarely comfortable.

By 11:15, I have called my wife and left a message apologizing for my abruptness and thanking her for her grace. Then I am off, holing myself in an office, adhering to the disjointed life of a therapist who does good work, but is not well known. I will be home by 8 PM, when the last client leaves…

Life, though, is more than seemingly mundane experiences and time schedules. For me, it is about experiencing the holy in the middle of hell, the sacred in the midst of the shitty. I am not a pastor who sugar coats the pain in this world. I don't believe faith is a magic bullet we can hide behind. The journeys that we undertake in life are filled with potholes, dead ends, and construction zones, but as long as we can muster the courage to keep moving, the journey continues.

Most days, I struggle with what it means to be a pastor, a guide, or a shepherd in a world where religion has become a vacuous attempt to entertain the masses. I long for depth, meaning, and authenticity to find their places in our lives, but worry that in a world where microwaves work too slowly that that time may never come...

Observations, experiences, and questions, that is what I am pretty good at, and that is what I offer, I hope you will do the same...

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