Last week I was on an early morning flight trying to sleep and was awoken by the shrieks of a little boy, who looked to be about 5 years old. He was jumping in his seat and launching into the seat in front of him. His mom’s body posture was withdrawn and indifferent. Admittedly, I wished she would distract him into a quieter activity and silently gave thanks to God for giving me two girls.Into the hushed space between the little guy’s shrieks, the young woman next to me yelled out, “He’s not … [Read more...]

the dangerous ambivalent leader

A few years ago when I was a new parishioner at a big church, I grew incredibly frustrated at the slow or non-existent response to my e-mails and offers to help. I was studying theology, passionate about church in the changing religious landscape and home with two little kids. I had time on my hands and pent up vision and energy. I know that the pastors were insanely busy but they also missed gaining a very willing volunteer. I ended up putting that energy into graduate studies and becoming a … [Read more...]

Living Between Denial and Despair

As the reports and tributes about Joan Rivers poured in last week, I was particularly struck with the fact that she is remembered for her honesty. Writer after writer commented that her gift was naming the absurdity and tragedy of life.The New Yorker reported that a few years ago, at a comedy club in Wisconsin she did a bit about Helen Keller and a heckler complained that his son was deaf and he didn’t think it was appropriate. Joan’s response? “Let me tell you what comedy is about. … Comedy … [Read more...]

Minute by Minute: My plan to get through 2014

I was recently asked to define self-care. The first thoughts that came to me were the typical answers: a massage, a day totally off work, exercise, sleep. All good examples of self-care. However, as I went deeper, I realized that every time I am intentional about something, about ANYTHING, I am caring for myself. I am taking the time to act from my soul. The most arduous task done from the soul is an act of self-care. The most luxurious task done without soul is empty of care for the self. … [Read more...]

How to Christmas #3: Be the adult in the room

Family situations can put us right back into our childhood roles. We walk into the house or pick up the phone hoping that those on the other end will have grown¬–they will have stopped the passive aggression or the guilt-trips or the emotional abandonment. But likely, they haven’t.One thing that I find striking about the stories of Jesus early childhood is how early he seemed to have figured this out. Maybe it is the ultimate proof of his divinity that he didn’t seem to get easily caught up … [Read more...]

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...]