Faith Without Formulas

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Beaster725

In 1968 or so, when the rest of the world was reeling with revolution, someone gave me a Jesus Person Pocket Promise Book, a slender little paperback with a list of quotations. Each was a biblical promise. Every promise portended a bright future for me. Every promise promised that things would be okay.I grew up with formulas—as you probably did, too. Study hard, and you’ll get a good job. Be good to others, and they’ll be good to you. Raise a child in the way he (or she) should go, and when h … [Read more...]

Keep a Quarter in Your Pocket

CaineReidge

Deeply felt spirituality. Who wouldn’t want that? Reckless abandon. Religious ecstasy, even.This sensibility lies at the heart of the American religious experience. During the most famous American camp meeting, the Cane Ridge Revival of 1801, one observer looked on in amazement:To see those proud young gentlemen and young ladies, dressed in their silks, jewelry, and prunella, from top to toe, take the jerks, would often excite my risibilities. The first jerk or so, you would see their f … [Read more...]

Pentecost for the Rest of Us

He Qi. "The Holy Spirit Coming." He Qi Gallery, http://www.heqigallery.com/. Used with permission.

When I arrived at church on Pentecost Sunday a few years ago, I sat down in the pews and looked up to see red and orange balloons in the rafters, and a small red candle on the altar. The service bulletin explained that these were meant to symbolize the famous "tongues of fire" of the first Pentecost. After the service was over, I asked our pastor about this. "I don't know what to do with Pentecost," she mumbled.Other churches aren't much better. Mainline Christians (I'm a United Methodist) … [Read more...]

After the Jelly Beans Are All Gone … Comes Pentecost

DSC_0004

Last night, my son and I were chatting about baseball, school, his girlfriend—father and son sort of stuff—before he headed to bed. During our conversation, I spied the remnants of an Easter basket on top of a shelf in the corner of the room by his desk. “Can I have a jelly bean,” I asked. “They’re all gone,” he told me. I love jelly beans. I can do without chocolate bunnies (it still bothers me to bite their heads off) and marshmallow peeps, but jelly beans I love.That’s it, then. It’s offic … [Read more...]

Welcome, Black and Blue Saints

The moaning woke me up. A deep moaning, somewhere between anguish and pain. I lay still on my back for a few moments of unknowing, staring at the ceiling above our bed, at the shoddy patch that ran from one wall to the other above our heads, a sloppily mended crack. Our first house: lavish with wood beams and chandeliers but with a dank basement, a leaky roof, ascetic electric wiring, and a thoroughly questionable neighborhood.Why hadn’t I fixed that ceiling with a baby on the way, I w … [Read more...]