Dark Before Dawn: A Soundtrack for Lent

I usually put out a playlist sometime around Holy Week. But this year, I started on it way early because we are using so much secular music in worship. Our theme is "Nothing But Time," which lent itself (get it? LENT itself? no extra charge for the puns, folks) to lots of wonderful art support.Ever thought about how much of your stress and anxiety is wrapped up in how you think about time? From the day to day hurry to the broad, existential, why-are-we-here kinds of things. If we could c … [Read more...]

Those Who Do Not Learn From History…

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I'm tired of writing about Kansas politics... So let's talk about Oklahoma instead! I was going to write about the recent ban of Advanced Placement history courses, but thought it would be better to hear from someone who actually lives there and has a connection to that school system. Here's what my friend Aaron Todd has to say from Midwest City. My hands are shaking as I write.  A tangible expression of the mixture of emotions that have been stirred up inside my head and my heart.  I am fill … [Read more...]

Water and Ash

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From dust you were born. And to dust, you will return.Is that a threat, or a promise? On the darkest days, we sense death hovering in our vicinity, like a grey cloud. It feels chilly. It sounds like slow, dirge-y organ music in a minor key. It smells like ash and feels abrasive against our skin—like burlap.Sack cloth and ashes… That’s what we could be about today.Or.We can choose to hear those words as blessing and benediction. From dust you were born. To dust, you will retur … [Read more...]

Six People You Need to Forgive

Ah, the reject pile... No, not photos of people who got kicked out of new member class (KIDDING people, kidding. All means all). I’m talking about scraps of paper, stacks of notecards, and maybe complete folders: containing the anecdote or bit of commentary that didn’t make it into the sermon; the sermon that got started and never took off; Or the series idea that didn’t develop as fully as the OTHER series idea. But there it sits, all the same. Every preacher has this pile. Promise.Other peo … [Read more...]

Breathing Room: the Legacy of Marcus Borg

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Listen, I don’t have a wildly inspiring story about the time I met Marcus Borg, or how one of his books saved me, precisely, from abandoning the church altogether. I did hear him speak once. From the FRONT ROW. And he was gracious, and engaging, and challenging, and yes, inspiring. But I never met him in person. The internet will be full of those stories today—testimony from those who knew him well, or met him briefly at a critical time in their life of faith, and were transformed by both his wor … [Read more...]

Top 10 First World Headlines of 2014

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If I had to pick a word-of-the-year, it would be "privilege."  You either know why or you don't. And if you don't, I couldn't sum it up in a couple of quippy bloggy paragraphs. Truth is, the real defining story of 2014 is the emerging divide between those who talk about/are aware of privilege, and those who say "what are you talking about? We all live in the same world."Privilege is not just about race. Sometimes it is about geography, gender, ability, sexual orientation, state of mental … [Read more...]

In Defense of Innkeepers

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A communion meditation for Christmas Eve...Every good Christmas story has a villain. An Ebeneezer Scrooge. A Grinch. A Mr. Potter.What about an inn keeper? In my memories of childhood Christmas pageants, you DEFINITELY wanted to be an angel. You MIGHT want to be Mary or Joseph—depending on who was playing opposite you. It was totally ok to be a shepherd or a wise man. But the inn keeper? Nobody wanted to be the inn keeper. That guy was bad news. He was the callous, uncaring mogul who o … [Read more...]

The Clergy/Parent’s Christmas Eve Survival Guide

For clergy with small children, it’s kind of a sick joke: your longest work day of the year falls on the night before your children’s earliest morning. You can see it unfolding, but you’re powerless to stop it. You’ll get home around 12:30 or 1am, too jacked up on caffeine and adrenaline to sleep. So you’ll wind down by eating the cookies the kids left for Santa (because, hey, keep the magic alive!) and watching part of the 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon.  You might get drowsy by 2… But hey, … [Read more...]

The Nice List: Songs that Save Christmas

Last week, I wrote about those holiday songs that set our teeth on edge/cause ear bleeding, etc. I got some resounding 'amens' about most of the list; a few "but you left out!"s, and a handful of "what?? I love Josh Groban!" kinds of things.But all in all, the feedback confirmed what we already knew--Christmas music, for better or worse, is really important to us. We have attachments and associations, some of which we don't even understand. And the soundtrack is an important part of the … [Read more...]


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