How to Christmas #2: say thank you

The older I get, the more Grinch-y I am at the beginning of the holiday season. The decorations just seem to be more chaos in the midst of my unfolded laundry. The cards and gifts are names on a list that I’m trying to get done before it’s too late. The extra church services take energy away from accomplishing goals. I remember that I used to really love Christmas but I can’t quite remember why.And then, gifts and cards start coming my way. I receive notes of thanks and news of people I love. … [Read more...]

How To Christmas #1: Listening to Christmas Music

I'm talking about transcendent Christmas music, not Last Christmas by Wham, which seems to come around on my car radio every two songs these days.Songs like For Unto Us from Handel's Messiah or Born on a New Day by the King's Singers or Bach's Magnificat or just about anyone's version of Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming or Noa's version of Ave Maria. You know, those soul songs of this season that penetrate straight through your ears to your soul? Yours are likely different than mine but you know … [Read more...]

What San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala and Bend, Oregon have in common.


On the shuttle at the San Francisco airport today, I sat next to a woman headed home to Oregon. In the few moments we shared, we chatted about where we'd been and where we were going, sharing a moment of connection in our day of travel.I would never have done that three years ago.I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, went to school in Southern California, lived in Budapest, Hungary and then back to the Bay Area for the first 40 years of my life. While my small town grandparents never … [Read more...]

with gratitude to Dallas Willard (1935-2013)

The sermon discussion group got all riled up about the word “saved” in Acts 2:47 this morning when they read, “And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” There is so much baggage to the word “saved” that many of us associate with certain versions of Christianity: those with an agenda, those looking only to save lives after death.Minutes before walking into the discussion, I saw that Dallas Willard had died. I grabbed my well-marked copy of The Divine Conspirac … [Read more...]

Curating Transformation

Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another. Seth GodinI have had the privilege of quite a bit of reflection time this month on the cusp of a few months while our head of staff goes on sabbatical.I have been pondering the heart of my role as a pastor. There are plenty of people who want to define that role for me and I field regular requests to lend my support to worthy causes. Over time, those requests begin to whittle away the “why” of … [Read more...]

Post-sermon Anxiety

When I lay my head on the pillow after a Sunday of preaching, my most common worries are these: Did I make it too easy? Did I wrap up the message too tight? Was there someone there whose life is falling apart that felt excluded from the good news?Yesterday my sermon was full of good news. I preached on our image of God and how essential it is to know that God is with us, for us and ahead of us (with full credit and gratitude to Rob Bell’s new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About G … [Read more...]

What We Do: Good Friday

Into Your Hands I Commit1

This is my first in occasional posts about the church that I am privileged to serve as a pastor. First Presbyterian Church of Bend has been in Bend, Oregon for over 100 years. In the last seven years, it has doubled in size and continues to grow. We are diverse theologically, politically, and generationally. Our community includes lifelong Presbyterians, agnostics bordering on atheism, refugees from many faith traditions, and the spiritual but not religious. We continue to live out a long … [Read more...]

Solitude in Community

In response to the Patheos Progressive Christian question: What spiritual practices are helpful and/or meaningful to you during Lent?The picture in my mind when I think of spiritual practice is being in a room by myself, going inward, connecting with God, connecting with my soul. Prayer, meditation, spiritual reading. These are solitary activities. Necessary, beautiful solitary activities that provide a powerful counter to our outward-facing world that demands constant engagement and … [Read more...]

A Drama Queen’s Lent

For Lent, I am giving up drama.Chocolate is looking like an easier choice.I recognize this is an unorthodox thing to relinquish and I can’t claim to have chosen this discipline on my own. It came to me from that mysterious space in my soul that I have learned to recognize as the Holy Spirit. And it is rooted in ongoing work with my Enneagram type.If you aren’t familiar with the Enneagram, I would definitely recommend some reading and exploring. Start on this website and then read a bo … [Read more...]

Christianity in ashes

I didn’t grow up with it. It was a strange antiquated concept to me. A black smudge on the forehead announcing to everyone you were just that religious or maybe superstitious to risk such public identification with the Catholic church.And then I became Presbyterian. And I realized it wasn’t just a Catholic thing.“From dust you came and to dust you will return.”Startling words in a society that prizes youth and spends fortunes on beauty creams and sports cars.I now pass all of my c … [Read more...]