The Summer of ’17: Jacob’s Ladder and Esau’s Tragedy

Every year, without fail, we sang the chorus Jacob’s Ladder at church camp. Sung by a hundred Long Island high schoolers, it was interminable. (It never sounded like this. Wow!) We certainly had no idea this was a Negro Spiritual with a history that stretched back 150 years or so.So we sang it. We sang the life out of it. We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,Soldiers of the cross. We sang the next verse. Every rung goes hi … [Read more...]

Summer of ’17: Sibling Rivalry on Steroids

Priscilla and I had three miscarriages before we had our daughter Chloe and son Jeremy. We waited, not decades, of course, but in the uncertainty of whether we could have children at all. Countless visits to doctors, to geneticists. Countless walks. Countless cups of coffee.Then Chloe was born after twenty-seven hours of labor—and whisked off to pediatric intensive care even before we knew her gender. But she soon thrived, and we had the distinct, even unexpected pleasure, of raising our d … [Read more...]

The Summer of ’17: the Amazing Disappearing Man!

When I was a kid, my older sisters would say, “He’s useless.”No. That’s not quite right. They were exasperated, so they’d sigh, “He’s use-less. MOM!”That’s better. No doubt I was the useless younger brother of two older sisters.I probably still am. Both of them are nurses, who have spent hours upon hours actively helping people in need. Me? I teach and write and hang with students—and quip, “I’m the wrong kind of doctor. I’m the useless kind.”Well, today meet useless younger broth … [Read more...]

The Summer of ’17: Fragile

When our son Jeremy was just a kid, he often set himself up in the living room and built Lego gas stations, space ships, and castles. Our living room, where he held sway, godlike over his creation, had six floor-to-ceiling windows, which he faced. This meant Jeremy had his back to me, as he sat, searching, digging, hunting for just the right part--and I stood in the doorway.I watched for as long as I could, until he sensed me, turned around, and invited me to join him. As I watched Jeremy … [Read more...]

The Summer of ’17: a Summer of Trysts and Turns

The lectionary last week ...Wait! Did I start a blog post with the word lectionary?How boring is that?Actually, not at all.For this entire summer, the summer of '17, I'm working with Tommy Williams, the affable and able pastor at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Houston, to offer a series of podcasts that follow the lectionary texts from Genesis. For about 20 minutes each week, we chew over (with surprisingly few belches, given how undigestible some of this stuff is) stories … [Read more...]

Stuff the Style: Reflections on Preaching from Jimmy Dunn

I'm reading through Jimmy Dunn's thick, beautiful, provocative book, Jesus and the Spirit. Enthralled, I've taken to making practical guidelines for the Perkins students who are in my class just now. I just can't resist.I sent one of these wee practical guides to Scot Mcknight just yesterday. Scot studied with Jimmy--fortunate men, both of them--so I thought he'd be interested in the hay I've made of some of Jimmy's book. In fact, I  just finished another one moments ago and thought, " … [Read more...]