Somewhere on the road to Tucumcari, New Mexico, we got behind a semi truck painted with the question “Did you pray today?” on the back door. The sign rounded out its message with the stencil of a man pointing an accusatory finger.  Did you pray today?  You had better pray.  Or else. I wonder how many passing drivers knew what to do in response to this sign.  You see, most of us do not know how to pray.  Anybody who’s ever… Read more

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Shortly after moving in to our apartment in Cuzco, Peru to start a mission term, we set about getting to know our neighbors.  There we were, all nestled together at the back of a little court, brick and cement built up in tight quarters.  We were on the ground floor, and as a bonus, our apartment came with a tiny grass and garden space where our sons played.  It was our refuge from… Read more

Once, when I was a bored teenager, I invented a challenge for myself.  I was selling Christmas trees on our family’s Christmas tree farm, and in between dragging, shaking, baling, and lashing long trees on short hatchback roofs, I found myself with nothing to do.  There I was, standing beside the chainsaws and stump trimmings, idle and young.  Trouble brewing. “Hey,” I said to my friend and coworker.  “Wanna bet that I can throw this little tree stump over the… Read more

Sometime during the summer swelter, our family made the trip to a water park in a neighboring town.  It had slides and beach chairs, a lazy river and a wave pool–and a funky climbing wall angling out over the water.  Kids lined up to give it a try.  They scrambled up, touched the top in triumph, and then dropped back into the pool. I thought I would be able to handle this climbing wall.  After all, the climbing wall on… Read more

You are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:31 As the chill night has fallen this winter, a little red-capped bird has taken refuge in the grapevine wreath hanging beside our front door.  He tucks himself in behind the decorations for the night.  We don’t see him until we open the door to walk out, and then he disappears in a flutter.  This little bird reminds me of the words of Scripture, how “even the sparrow finds a home” in the… Read more

Back when I was a graduate student in the big city, I got befriended by a young Salvadorean Jesuit named Kaiser.  We started out studying New Testament Greek together (in Spanish, which pretty well crossed all my wires).  Our relationship grew from there, and Kaiser ended up inviting me to his thesis defense and later ordination in downtown Boston.  The Lord’s table factored highly in both settings.  Kaiser spoke of the “Eucharist,” a term that comes right out of the… Read more

Once, when my wife and I were returning to the U.S. after a visit to her home country of Peru, we were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the airport.  They never told us why.  As far as we could tell, the man who reviewed her passport on entering looked at the wrong page and saw the wrong visa and registered the wrong validity dates.  He must have pressed some hidden button while we stood there unsuspecting, all the… Read more

It’s Christmas, and the sky is zagged with lightning.  No one’s dreaming of a white Christmas around here.  It’s thunderstorms today.  But hey, we had our biggest snow of the year on Easter morning, so why not thunderstorms on Christmas? Lightning on Christmas seems like it should be a metaphor for something.  God’s kingdom breaks into the world with the birth of Jesus, the one who John the Baptist promised would come to baptize with “the Spirit and with fire”… Read more

It’s autumn.  Things are dying, and I don’t like it. Maybe it’s my lament that the tomato vines have crumpled and the beans succumbed and withered.  Maybe it’s my despair over the browning earth, scorched by frost and wind–winter’s shock troops.  Maybe I just don’t like being cold.  But I have a hard time letting go of autumn. It seems to me that you can let go of the season in two ways.  You can pray to push the frost back, stomp your… Read more

Everything’s falling apart on me, God; put me together again with your Word. (Psalm 119:107 The Message) What do we do when things fall apart? Because they will.  We’ll snag on life’s gnarl and come undone, thread by thread by spooling cord.  Things won’t go as we planned or hoped.  I once knew someone who, reflecting on a struggle, said, “It’s like someone just pulled a string, and I fell apart.”  That’s how it feels.  Someone got hold of our string…. Read more

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